Wednesday 23 December 2009

**Seasons Greetings and all the best for 2010!**

I realise that this is probably a little on the early side but given that I shall be otherwise engaged for the next few days I wanted to take this opportunity to extend to one and all the very best wishes for a super Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

The family are recovering by degrees (and many thanks for all the good wishes - they have been much appreciated) and the last of the prezzies has been acquired and will be wrapped and tree bound early this evening after the last of the food shopping has been tucked away. The beers and wine celler have been placed on Defcon 2 or yellow alert in readiness for the digestive onslaught and I am at the happy stage of 'if-we-have-not-got-it-then-we-wont-be-getting-it'. It will be nice to have the break and it is my avowed intention not to set foot out of the door until boxing day!

In closing then, I hope that everyone has a great time and that Santa has remembered at least a few of the items on your lists - socks are useful but not as interesting as an Osprey or a battle pack of some description!

**Health, wealth and happiness is the toast - Cheers one and all!**

Sunday 20 December 2009

Bah Humbug!!!

You know I sometimes wonder if old Scrooge had the right idea about Xmas! As I write myself, SWMBO and Holly have all been struck down with the dreaded lurgy and so festive cheer is in pretty short supply in deepest, snowbound Rayleigh. We had to go food shopping and so the car obligingly needed a twenty minute warm up and scrape (Honda Civics do not appear to cope with the cold as well as Volvo Estates.........) with yours truly wishing heartily that he was back indoors, in the warm; preferably under a pile of duvets. To be fair, it was actually quite painless when we got to the supermarket but when we returned home I was presented with a couple of cold related DIY jobs. To start with the lock to the back door had frozen solid and the cat flap was in a similar condition. I discovered the latter when the offending feline, Misty, our nine year old Persian Tom produced a lake of nature's finest the size of Tanganyika behind my back. He then calmly went to the back door, miaowed to be let out and so I duly obliged (this was of when I discovered the cat flap was stuck). I turned around to grab my trusty tin of WD40 and saw the said lake. Why the stupid b*****d hadn't done this the other way around will remain one of life's unsolved mysteries - its probably a cat thing and my last sight of him was of him picking his way gingerly across the lawn avoiding the snow with the amount of dignity only a pedigree cat could manage!

Cursing a cruel fate I set about tackling each of the tasks in turn and was well into them when the thought suddenly struck me. This minor weather blip has caused all manner of mechanical glitches of the frozen kind so how must it have been on the Russian Front 1941 - 1945 when temperatures down to minus plenty and then some were the norm during winter. It certainly puts a perspective on the sheer scale of the weather issue. If a simple thing like a back door lock and a cat flap can keep me amused for a couple of hours whilst suffering from a relatively minor winter ailment imagine trying to get a tank moving whilst suffering from frostbite, bronchitis and sundry other more serious cold related unpleasantness whilst people were busily trying to perforate you in numerous and interesting ways..........

Anyone that has not read Guy Sajer's - The Forgotten Soldier should do so for a fraction of the point I am clumsily trying (and he was much better able to) to make. It is also something that should realistically be factored into any winter or extreme weather games - the issue of winter mechanical reliability.

As mentioned yesterday, my new Bulgarian 75mm artillery has arrived for the Balkan Wars set up so I can at last tackle the serious business of preparing to get them (and of course the Turks) painted.

Friday 18 December 2009

Let it Snow, let it snow, let it snow...........

I have spent the last two days drugged up to the eyeballs and festering under a pile of jumpers and duvets. I have succumbed to a chesty-throaty-cold-flu type affliction and am feeling pretty sorry for myself as a result. Then came the snow and I had to drag myself around to the doctors for some prescription drugs in four inches of the white stuff. It was horrible, especially as I was given the wrong prescription (it was made out to a David Cook!) but did not realise this until I had gotten to the chemists. So I then had to stroll back to the doctor to get the correct version. I was not best pleased as you can imagine!

I will have to go back to work on Monday so am hoping that the intensive regime of medication will kick in and get me there - sadly I don't get any sick pay!

I have managed to resolve the Bulgarian 75mm gun situation though so all is not lost!

Thursday 17 December 2009

Bulgarian Artillery

This is proving to be a little bit of a challenge. According to Vachkov in his book 'The Balkan War 1912 - 1913' Bulgarian field artillery was based primarily around the 75mm QF Schneider - Kane 1897 ordered from Creusot. He also includes a photo of the said gun which looks suspiciously like the famed French 75mm. There are some photos of Bulgarian Artillery in action with a gun that looks very much like the French 75mm. My sources are a little thin on this subject but my feeling is that the gun the Bulgarians were using was in fact a Creusot manufactured version of the famous French 75mm that was similar to look at - especially in 15mm. I am unable to find any reference to this and so am wondering if this was in fact a cheaper, almost export version of the 'Soixante-Quinze'. The Krupp gun supplied by Irregular looks identical to the 1912 Schneider 75mm supplied to Serbia but I cannot be certain. Bulgaria made use of 75mm Krupp artillery of a non QF variety so I think that some further research may be needed. In any event, I am able to use the models provided although I will be acquiring the Creusot built Schneider 75mm as they are better suited to the army.

Should any readers be able to shed any further light on this I would appreciate it - as would my 15mm Bulgarian gun crews!

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Flags for the Memory

I have placed a modest order with Irregular for a few additional figures and gunners and the process of preparation is underway. Thanks to the input from various folks a number of questions I have had have been tackled via the war games bush telegraph. My thanks then, to Messrs Fox, Hardman and Cordery for various inputs - it is much appreciated chaps.

The one issue that is a little thornier though concerns regimental flags. I have seen some pictures of Bulgarian flags - of a pattern a little earlier than the Balkan Wars - that look very similar to Prussian/Russian types but I have no clue as to whether or not this is a standard version or whether the colours are regimental specific. There is always the old standby of the national flag which I could use if need be. I did find a Bulgarian military website, in Bulgarian, which had some great photographs on it but frustratingly little detail as far as flags are concerned.

The Turks are a little easier in that all their flags appear to be red with a white crescent with a stand of arms or crossed cannon barrels in gold with a gold fringe.

I suspect that just using the national flags in each case will have to suffice in the absence of anything more concrete.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Irregular Balkan War 15mm Figures

I have now had a chance to have a closer look at these figures and am thus in a better position to comment on them. I have not bothered to photograph the figures as there are some very nice pictures on the Irregular Miniatures website: so reference should be made to them for closer examination if need be.

These are very nice and certainly look the part - I was particularly taken with the Bulgarian Infantryman advancing as he has a variant with a blanket roll over his shoulder as well as one with the large furry sheepskin hat that certain formations used due to shortages of uniform items. They also feature the leather leggings that were a civilian item of clothing but again, pressed into service due to equipment shortages. The challenge I will have though will be locating details of what Bulgarian infantry flags looked like as standards were still carried (as they were for the Turks as well) in action. There are 3 infantry poses - the two advancing mentioned and a figure kneeling firing. With the revolver wielding officer and the standard bearer there is sufficient variety to be able to mix up the bases pretty well. The final infantry type is the HMG and crew of two - the firer is cast on the weapon whilst the number two is separate. There is a slight variation in these figures in that one of the number twos has a blanket roll whilst the other does not. The cavalry contains a mix of figures with sabres drawn at rest on the shoulder with carbines slung or with the carbine held upright and resting with the butt on the riders thigh. The horses are mostly standing or pawing the ground so the whole unit (8 figures) will look as though it is at rest which I prefer for my cavalry units. The field artillery is from the Really Useful Gun range and consists of a pair of Krupp 75mm field guns and Schneider 12cm howitzer. The gunners are in standard 'serving' poses so need little comment from me. I am not convinced that the guns are correct though - the Bulgarians did capture rather a lot of Turkish artillery (the Krupp 75mm variety) and made use of the same but their main pre war outfit was the the French Schneider QF 75mm which looks very different to the German piece. I will take this up with Irregular and see what they have to say. Finally, the Bulgarian staff officer (which I am using as the overall C in C) is a delight - fully bearded (considered the height of fashion and virility in certain Bulgarian quarters!) and wielding a sword as he no doubt urges his countrymen on to tackle the hated Turk!

On the subject of the Turks, they are even nicer and most of the comments applicable to the Bulgarians are equally usable for the army of the Porte. No blanket rolls or woolly hats but fezzes that are nicely defined. The Cavalry are lance armed types which are very nice and well suited to overawing the locals! Once again I will need to check the artillery as the field gun is the 77mm gun which was in use by the Germans during the First World War. The version that should be use is the 75mm Krupp 1904 variant of the 1896 gun - how similar that is to the 77mm I will need to check with Irregular. Finally, mention must be made of the Turkish General figure - he is absolutely glorious; overweight, wearing a full length greatcoat and looking not unlike Nazim Pasha so I am very much looking forward to painting him.

Aside from the artillery issues mentioned I will only need to order a few additional pieces from Irregular to round off the collection. I will need some more gunners and perhaps some extra advancing figures just to give a little extra variety to both forces. I need to consider supply wagons as well - mainly ox-driven. In any event, I am really looking forward to tackling these figures - the only issue I have is to find two differing shades of khaki to paint the armies with. The Bulgarian khaki is 'browner' whilst the Turkish is 'greener'. Oh, and the flags!

Saturday 12 December 2009

"Some Damn Affair in the Balkans....." Part.2

Absolutely staggering!!!! Irregular Miniatures must have the finest mail order service in the universe! I finished my email exchange with Ian Kay at Irregular late on Friday afternoon after the order was placed. It arrived this morning!
This is first class service and no mistake and I shall certainly be looking long and hard at their catalogue for some other bits and pieces for the collection.

The figures are pretty good and are close to 15mm and so seem a little on the small side against, for example, Essex. They are a little rough in finish but not excessively so and will look fine when painted. The figure mix (bearing in mind you have to rely on Irregular's choice of models when purchasing a pack type deal) was not too bad either although I will need to add a few foot just to round up the unit sizes. Also, the gun crews are only 2 figures in the pack rather than the 4 that usually get when buying a gun separately. All in all then, first class service and a very good selection of models for the price.

Friday 11 December 2009

"Some Damn Affair in the Balkans......" Part 1

The deed has been done and those very nice chaps at Irregular Miniatures are busy beavering away on my order. I opted for a version of their Oh! What a Lovely War! Battlepack which Ian Kay very kindly tweaked to reflect the Balkan Forces more closely than the better equipped WW1 armies. I usually avoid this ‘pack’ type of approach as I am a little fussy on the choice of figure poses preferring to have units in a single advancing pose. However, as the pack deal price represents an enormous discount over buying bespoke as it were (basically you have to have Irregular’s choice of figures), I really had little choice in the matter! In any event, the variety of poses available will look suitably active as the adversaries attempt to come to grips across the tabletop!

The forces will be quite modest in terms of the number of models but will certainly have sufficient variety for all manner of one off games and scenarios using my rules of choice for this period: When Empires Clash by Bob Cordery. Each side will have 48 infantry, 8 cavalry, 2 x MGs, 2 x Field Guns and a Howitzer and a command group of a general, a cavalry trooper and a foot officer. This seems a little on the heavy side in terms of equipment but as mentioned, I really wanted to have the choice. The Infantry will be based in 3s and the mounted in 2s all on bases of a 40mm frontage. I have chosen the Turks and Bulgarians to begin with but will add the Greeks and Serbs in due course. Hopefully the Montenegrins will be ready at some point (Ian at Irregular has them on his ‘to do’ list) so the next battlepack will be Greeks and Turks with the final one Serbs versus Montenegrins. I know that the latter is not a historical match up per se but it is a viable way of taking advantage of the battlepack concept. It means that the Turks will be the biggest single force with the ‘allies’ having greater numbers overall.

Of course having Turks from the 1912 era does raise the question of perhaps some Italian opposition - in conjunction with some Sanussi tribesmen for the Italo-Turkish war at some point. My knowledge of the Italian army of the period is very limited and so I am unsure of what figures, if any, would be suitable for them in 15mm. The Sanussi are also a challenge as although they are ‘Arabs’ they have more of a wraparound headscarf than the usual Bedouin headgear. At first glance they look more like long robed and bare-legged Afghan tribesmen so I will need to research this further in due course.

The naval side has already been taken care of with all the fleets represented (and ready to use) in 1/3000th scale with the exception of the Italians. This will not be a problem though as the redoubtable Mr Fox has a large collection of Italian ships, no doubt desirous of trying to force conclusions with the fleet of the Sublime Porte.

Thursday 10 December 2009

The Die is cast, the Votes are in...............

............and the winner of the 20th century mini, DBA-sized project is................................pauses for dramatic effect and the associated drum rolls...............................THE BALKAN WARS!!!!!!!!!!

It was a no-brainer really although the Arab Revolt came a very close second - failing only because I cannot see any suitable figures for the Sanussi; either in 15mm or any other scale!

The order to Irregular will be on its way this weekend so watch this space for progress.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.............

It was an exhausting weekend and assessment day yesterday and tonight sees the final college session so after that I shall be able to sit and draw breath! I hope it will all be worthwhile and that a training/teaching position will result.

In the meantime preparations for Xmas have been proceeding apace with yours truly dropping several broad hints about what he wants on December 25th!

I still think that small is beautiful and so will be pusuing the DBA style forces mentioned in earlier posts. I must confess that I am intrigued by the prospect of the Arab Revolt and have been looking at it anew - particularly the Sanussi invasion of Egypt. Turkish backed tribesmen with regular infantry, MGs, artillery and hordes of Bedouin opposed by Imperial infantry, yeomanry cavalry and Rolls Royce Armoured Cars certainly has my vote as a gameable period!

Much to ponder methinks..............again!!

Thursday 3 December 2009

Decision, Decisions, Decisions...............

I must apologise for the paucity of my posts this week – the new job and several acres of rain forest being used in my final college assignments have taken their toll of what remains of my grey matter! I have a very busy few days coming up so will probably not be in a position to post anything further until next week when hopefully the dust will have settled somewhat. In the meantime I will offer up one of my occasional rambles for your perusal and comment.
By way of a diversion from the aforementioned college and work related ‘stuff’, I have been following with much interest Bob Cordery’s work contained within his inspirational blog in connection with the Modern Morschauser rules and am very excited by the possibilities they offer. They are a simple grid based set of rules designed by Jo Morschauser for the modern period (for modern read WW2 and earlier – basically the first half of the 20th century) and are ideal for fast play, solo or club night games. The original rules are very old – early 60’s vintage in fact – and Bob has been bringing these back to life and updating the core ideas in a more usable format suitable for today’s audience. They are very simple but challenging and make use of a square grid for ranges and movement. They suit my own ideas as to how rules should be written and games played and so I am eagerly looking forward to Bob’s final version of this set and fully intend using them for my own projects – in whatever form they eventually take! I remember reading somewhere that “anybody can write a complex set of wargames rules; writing a simple set is much more difficult”. How true this is and so, in my opinion, simpler sets covering a couple of sides of A4 should be more than sufficient for an evening’s entertainment. Simple does not have to mean simplistic and I could use the old standby of chess being a simple to game to play but rich in mental challenge.

I am hoping that my as yet unfulfilled interest in the Spanish Civil War may become a reality using these rules and so I have been dragging out the Peter Pig catalogue to see what is available for this conflict. My other two 20th century periods of choice – the Balkan Wars and the Arab Revolt – will be fought using another set of Bob’s rules - When Empires Clash - which are also available in a Colonial version for the small wars of the 19th century. As I mentioned earlier, take a look at Bob’s blog for some really informative and inspirational stuff, it is well worth a visit!
It has been quite liberating to take a step back from my ongoing naval considerations as they have taken up much of my gaming and modelling time this year and so a change of direction is most welcome. I was undecided as to whether to use 20mm plastic or 15mm metal but my current thinking is that 15mm will have the advantage of ensuring that I only need one scale of scenery. The associated considerations of cost and space are also significant so I am therefore thinking that from a practical perspective 15mm should be the preferred scale. Initially I was a little disappointed by this as I have always enjoyed 20mm plastics and the associated kit bashing but given that I will not actually need very much in the way of vehicles it will be a sacrifice I can live with. The Ottoman Turkish 18th century/Napoleonic army I have is in 15mm and also this is the preferred size at the club for DBA games so it makes even more sense for me to work in this scale.

As you may have gathered the three 20th century projects I have in mind (i.e. I would like to tackle each of them but will limit myself to just one to start with) are the Balkan Wars (Irregular Miniatures), Spanish Civil War (Peter Pig) and the Arab Revolt (Minifigs). I am really unsure as to which to tackle first although I suspect that either the Balkans or the Arabs will feature in the final showdown!

I intend to post an argument for and against for each of these periods and am unashamedly using the blog as a sounding board for the ideas around each of these periods/projects.
So there you have it - I know what rules I shall be using and what figure scale I will employ. I have the three periods mapped in my mind for consideration and have already identified the figure manufacturers I shall be using. All that remains for me to do is to decide which period will come first and that will be the next challenge!

Sunday 29 November 2009

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I finally remembered exactly what I had purchased the two Renault FT17 kits was of course for the Spanish Civil War. I was really into this period a couple of years of ago (or rather, I amassed a number of books and rule sets with a view to gaming it at some point) but abandoned it as I was unable to drum up any support at the club. In the light of certain rule developments over the last year or so I could revisit it quite easily on the same scale figure wise as the Balkan Wars. Even the naval side is of interest although, like the Balkan Wars, it was a relatively low level affair in terms of numbers. All the major vessels are available in 1/3000th from Navwar as well.

I need to add this back to the project list - if only so as I have a good excuse for revisiting the Hemingway title of the same name as the title of the post!

Thursday 26 November 2009

Back in the Rat Race...........

I am very happy to announce that after 258 days of unemployment I have FINALLY managed to secure a short term contract back at work in the city -HUZZAH!!!!!!

The job is at a lower level than my previous position but is most welcome all the same. With college coming to an end in respect of my teaching qualification the timing is first class as I will be able to catch up on a load of stuff without the college assignments intervening before I tackle the next stage in January. It also means that I will be able to afford Christmas!

Guess I will need to look long and hard at what I shall be up to on the gaming front. Now, just where did I put that projects list?

Monday 23 November 2009


As a extension to my earlier mention re the 20th century project and the Risk based 18th century version I found myself considering the concept of using Imagi-nations rather than 'real' ones. Within the wargaming world there is of course a historical precedent for this - one only has to read Charge! or The Wargame to see this in action, and great fun they are but how does one reconcile the hours of research into a particular army or period against what, in effect, are 'fantasy' set ups? My own opinion is that I am a student of military history first and a wargames player second. By this I mean I am more familiar with the actual nuts and bolts of a given period in terms of tactics, technology and strategy (dare I say it, the art of war) than, for example, the composition of the umpteenth Regiment of Foot and whether or not the sleeves had four buttons or six. That is not to say that the study of such minutiae is not important - it is, and I am properly impressed with anyone that tackles such detail and incorporates it into their games and collection. I suppose that is probably why I enjoy boardgames so much - military history without the painting!

Seriously though, I am fast becoming a convert to the concept of imagi-nations as they provide a 'freer' environment for gaming - you can use whatever you like - as long as its in period. There has ben a great discussion on about the armies used in the book Charge! Basically, it was a collection of units that were split up into armies as the game dictated. Certain units saw service on both sides and this got me thinking about how I should pursue my own ideas. Charles Grant in his book Battle! Practical Wargaming often mixed and matched forces based on the models available - Airfix WW2 Russians with Minitanks Hanomags anyone? The reference to unscrupulous arms dealers originally came from that book. Bob Cordery in his excellent blog has many posts devoted to imagi-nations and I have to confess that this has inspired me mightily - especially in respect of the 20th century. With this in mind, and in order to use as much of what is available figure and kit wise, I am going to give some serious thought to the much considered but never realised Balkanized country set up - a pair of nations, bordering either the Aegean or Black Sea - one under Russian influence, the other under the Sublime Porte and set in the early 1920s with lots of WW1 surplus kit to play with.

For the naval side I have a collection of Minifigs ships just waiting for a paint job and with the vast array of magnificent WW1 Aircraft available from Wings of War this becomes truly a multi-dimensional affair.

Imagi-nations are certainly not to everyones taste and to be honest, I can see the reservations as well as anyone (unique uniforms and equipment being the obvious one) but that said, I think they have a very valid place in the scheme of things - in effect, it is a translation of the standard military Redland versus Blueland scenario using whatever models the gamer wants.

Besides, variety is the spice of life and it would be a sad state of affairs if we all did everything the same!

Sunday 22 November 2009

Living in the Plastic Age.....................

Between large lumps of college assignments and the more mundane business of trying to find a job I have given some additional thought to the question of my small 20th century mini project. I have decided to apply some fairly rigid restrictions to the amount of material I shall be acquiring for this, as yet undecided diversion, in an attempt to stretch my creative spleen, so to speak. I have decided then, to limit the total cost of the project to £25. I have also decided that it would be a worthwhile idea to expand the time frame to take advantage of the deluge of figures available for the ancient and dark age period - given my previous intention of tackling a pair of matched DBA armies. At current prices the figure I have quoted equates to perhaps four boxes of figures or a couple of boxes and a pair of plastic kits.

This is a challenge that I shall enjoy attempting as it will serve to really focus my efforts on exactly what I can produce within the imposed budget. Checking out what is available in 20m plastic has been a very therapeutic experience as the choice available now is absolutely staggering. is a brilliant website full of all manner of reviews and pictures of figures on the sprue and painted.

I must confess to always enjoying working with 20mm plastics - even in the days of purely Airfix figures and Humbrol paints - and nowadays they are both easier to use and paint. I know there is the old argument about meaningless poses in the box but this is a small price to pay because in a set of 48 figures (on average) allowing for example 16 figures being 'unusable' that still leaves 32 usable figures at an average cost of £5 to £6 a box. Taking 32 figures at £6 a box is a mere 18.75p a go which competes very favourably with 15mms.

I am not suggesting that this will be all things to all men but certainly it has its attractions for me. By keeping the numbers small I can ensure that not only will I be able to complete the project but also that I will be gaming to the measure of the available material.

A very good gaming friend of mine has established by way of a tradition, a Christmas project. Every year, over the Christmas break (I should mention that he is in fact a teacher so has rather longer over the festive season than most people) he undertakes a top secret project to be rolled out in January. Taking a leaf from his book perhaps that concept is what I should undertake this year with the 20mms, in whatever form or period they eventually take.

Saturday 21 November 2009

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.........Part 2

Events have moved on from my previous post and I have been pleased with the response it has received from various quarters. The second part of this project is the announcement that I have drafted a set of spaceship combat rules based on my earlier DBSA naval gridded set. These have been drafted in their entirety should anybody want a set but they are completely untested. I will not be able to test them for a while as I am busy with college stuff for the next few weeks as well as preparing for an assessment day with a Financial Services training provider (I am really pleased to have been given the opportunity for this) with a potential job offer at the end of it (Huzzah!!!).

My blue gridded cloth will suffice for use with these rules as the blue is a very nice 'night' shade so I will be able to give the rules a run fairly soon. Fortunately, the members of SEEMS have a multitude of space ship fleets ready at a moments notice to do battle so this wont be a problem.

As it stands at the time of writing I am in the unenviable position of having a set of rules but no models to game them with. This minor oversight will soon be rectified however, and in quite a novel and inexpensive fashion..................................;-)

Wednesday 18 November 2009

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.........

I have always enjoyed battles with spaceships and more recently, gaming them. Through my first tenative steps via Waddingtons 4,000 A.D. (I still have a copy of this from about 1974!), then Full Thrust by GZG (especially the great Star Trek variant), Battlefleet Gothic by Games Workshop and latterly Star Wars Starship Battles; the idea of great planet busting starships several kilometres in length going at it hammer and tongs is a concept I find strangely appealing. I am not concerned with gaming in 3D with such things as height considerations (although Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan featured this very idea) as at the scale I want to fight (we are talking fleets here!) it would be way too complicated to employ. So, 2D it is, which nicely opens up the first statement: "A 2D space combat game is a naval game by any other name." This is true, and however much we try to disguise the fact with pseudo-scientific techno babble when you break a space combat game down to its bare bones you have guns, torpedoes, armour and variable amounts of damage. I realise that some Sci-Fi purists will probably now be lining up to burn me at the stake but I genuinely believe that this is the case. True we have phasers, lasers, photon torpedoes, proton torpedoes and various forms of defensive shield but these are the aforementioned guns, torpedoes and armour. What is needed then, is some way of reinforcing the Sci-Fi aspect of the game as clearly the weapons will not suffice. I am happy with using naval mechanics for firing and damage (with reference to armour/shields) but certainly not for damage control (the curse of the damage record card!) and also, more significantly, for movement.

Taking the concept of space conflict using spaceships as a whole - and with reference to a host of fiction on the subject - it can be seen that whilst the actual combat has a common theme (weapons blazing away at an enemy) the way that they get to grips has some pretty major differences. I mean movement or, more specifically, how a ship moves through space. this is to my mind the key for a good space combat game. I have considered four basic ship movement types as follows:

  • Saucers

  • Rockets

  • Starships

  • Solar Sailing Vessels

Of these, the most visual is the Starship type as personified by anything from the Star Trek universe or even Star Wars. Overall they seem to be able maneuver pretty easily and within our game are probably the closest to 20th century warships as they move. Solar Sailing vessels use the solar wind or gravitational effects to 'slingshot' through space; rather like the wooden sailing vessels of Nelson's era. Saucers are fast and highly maneuverable which ties in with the reported sightings of UFOs that make the news every so often. Rockets move at a set speed in a straight line and have limited maneuverability but are able to change the ships heading whilst still travelling in the original direction. To turn the ship, or to be more accurate to head off in a new direction, requires the rocket to use thrusters to overcome the speed travelled in order to move off so, in other words, the faster the rocket is travelling, the further it needs to move before it can move in a new direction - rather like aircraft turning.

The great thing about space combat games is that like naval games, they can be done very much on the cheap as the amount of kit required is quite small (although I dare say any die hard Battlefleet Gothic players would probably disagree!). It is surprising though just what can be pressed in to use as a spaceship.................................;-)

There is a point to this post (albeit arrived at in my usual rambling fashion!) and all will be revealed in due course but I just wanted to share the germ of an idea and to see what response it generated. Suffice it to say, it will be worth it.........................;-)

Monday 16 November 2009

The Next Great Adventure....Part 2

It is funny how an idea can grow from the most unlikely sources - another example I guess of synchronicity in action - and so it was I found myself browsing the Hat Industrie website to look at what there is in the way of 20mm plastics, ostensibly to see what was around in the 20th century stakes. There is some very nice stuff on there; particularly on the World War 1 list - and I noticed that the Aussies are being represented by ANZAC infantry with a heavy weapons set on the way and also, a box of the famed Lighthorsemen - including dismounted figures and a horseholder. With the Turks being represented (together with heavy weapons including artillery) already the fact that Hat have also released the old Airfix Arabs you can see where this is heading. All that is missing is some Imperial infantry and artillery and the Middle East is a goer! Chuck in some Indian troops and the possibilities are huge. I note also that the Germans in East Africa are also being readied - the Askari are already in production - and that such things as native bearers and Ruga Ruga are also underway.

The Colonial range is also developing nicely and if the NW Frontier ever gets a shout then I shall be all over them like the proverbial rash - Malakand field force anyone?

Lots of possibilities with this little lot and so I need to get my thinking hat on - 15mm metal be blowed - this will be a whole lot more entertaining!

Sunday 15 November 2009

The Next Great Adventure

Now that the naval rules project is pretty much complete (at least this phase of the project is!) I am able to sit back and ponder the myriad of projects that I can undertake next. The historic projects are rather on the large side and these are as follows:

  • 15mm 18th century Ottoman Turks
  • 15mm Balkan Wars
  • 12mm Risk 18th century Imagi-nations
  • 1/3000th WW1 French Fleet

These are the projects that I would ideally like to start but suspect that this will not happen for a while due to time constraints (aka lots of college stuff). I actually need to buy the models for both the Balkan wars and the 1/3000th French so that will cause even more of a delay. I must confess that I quite fancy a quick historic project that will be compact in both terms of scale and cost. Several ideas spring to mind - most of which involve 20mm plastics - so I will give this some further thought. Something 20th century would be fun, especially as it will give me an excuse to make some kits again which is something I enjoy.

What I have available within my collection that is in need of attention is primarily Science Fiction based. I have a number of models for various ideas and these are as follows:

  • Ottoman Turkish Dirigible Fleet and the RNAS Red Sea squadron
  • Ottoman Turkish and Imperial Land Ironclads forces
  • 2mm GZG OGRE models
  • 28mm Combat Zone near future marines (think Aliens!)
  • Various Space Hulk ideas
  • Spaceships - lots of spaceships
  • Robots - lots of robots
  • 1/2400 ACW ironclads
  • 1/2400 16th century galley fleets

On balance I really do not have any excuse for embarking on any new projects but I am quite sure that most (if not all!) war gamers need very little excuse to dive in to something extra!

Of course, I also want a good excuse to try out some of the Army Painter Quickshade I recently acquired secondhand...................;-)

Friday 13 November 2009

DBSA - The Great War at Sea Gridded...A Footnote

With a huge sigh of relief I sat down to consider what needed finishing off on the rules for the final version. The short answer is not really very much and so I have listed out that which needs attention as follows:

  • Map movement
  • Scenario types for one off games and some victory conditions!
  • Minefields
  • Submarines
  • Merchantmen and raiders
  • Air assets
  • Shore defences - forts and gun batteries etc

I also need to work on the ship specification charts for the Royal Navy and the High Seas Fleet - and the Japanese and US Navy. I have most of the detail for these already in place but I need to tweak a few things as my ideas have evolved over time.

I will be consolidating all the written stuff into a single file in due course (probably with a few format changes for tidying up purposes) but in the meantime the rules and the ship specifications are available on request should anybody want them - just ping me an email.

Thursday 12 November 2009

An Archimedes Moment....At Last!!!

EUREKA!!!!!!!!! The DBSA The Great War at Sea Gridded Naval Rules have finally hit the jackpot and WORK!!!! I cant begin to tell you how pleased I am to be at this point with the system. The game at the club featured Black Sea Fleet Russians versus Austro Hungarians and it went pretty well. I used my gridded cloth (11 by 14 squares) with the combatants approaching from diagonally opposite corners. The Austrians fielded a pair of Dreadnoughts, a pair of pre dreadnoughts, a pair of light cruisers and four bases of destroyers whilst the Russians had three dreadnoughts, a protected cruiser, two bases each of destroyers and torpedo boats.

The forces went pretty much full tilt straight for each other but it was gratifying to see proper screening of the heavy units by the escorts in the case of the Austrians - Mr Fox (despite his recent illness) displayed his customary naval cunning in this respect - although they paid a high price in that both the light cruisers (acting as flotilla leaders) ended the action in a crippled and sinking condition. The same thing happened to the Russian cruiser and all the destroyer bases received some damage both from their opposite numbers and the unwelcome attention of the vast array of secondary weapons from the respective battle lines.

I appreciate that is a little vague but all will be clear when I run the solo game. Tactically (and in terms of the game itself) it went very well and 'felt' right although one off naval games tend to be rather heavy on escorts as the natural war gamers tendency to chuck everything in against the opposition with little thought as to the aftermath usually comes to the fore.

Movement finally makes sense and works well - the use of the diagonal plane and 45 degree turns is a winning combination and also has the added advantage of ease of plotting for map moves etc. Even the split move idea worked well - I will make a card of some sort with long or short on each side to use as a visual reminder as to the speed for the turn.

Combat was good - results seemed about right and were heavier than the previous edition - this was what I wanted to enable greater decisiveness in the action. The only problem was that I had failed to allow for extreme scores against destroyers - this is easily rectified though.

Now that the main system has been proven to work I want to expand the rules in two directions. Firstly, I want to extend the set to cover up to 1945 - this means air power and such things as radar etc. I also, more importantly, want to introduce a simple plotting device to accompany the tabletop game to give some background to the action. I shall do this in conjunction with specific scenario types - either mutually agreed or randomly generated. This will make the games more 'formed' and with specific victory conditions which should serve to alleviate the kamikaze escort syndrome to an extent.

Once again I find myself extending my grateful thanks to many people for their unstinting help with this project thus far; in particular the aforementioned Mr Fox, Chris Hardman, Bob Cordery and Aussie Paul, all the members of SEEMS (especially Dave Kightly and Laurie)together with everybody that has read and commented on the blog on the evolution of this so far. Many thanks to one and all - I could not have done it without you!

Sunday 8 November 2009

3rd Balkan War Afloat....Part 2

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!! I am hanging my head in shame at the extent of my folly! There I was, all set to game the clash of the dreadnoughts from the 3rd Balkan War when I made a horrible discovery. I had rushed into print the wrong version of the rules I was going to use and to compound this error I had then inadvertently saved over the wrong set. this was not fatal but it did mean I had to spend some time on the PC trying to sort out my self inflicted debacle. After much trial and effort (as well as muttered curses!) I finally managed to get the latest version sorted out and saved in an easily recognisable format.

Needless to say, after that little administrative faux pas I was not able to get the promised action underway. No matter, Ishall press on and will tackle the same next weekend and during the week (on Wednesday) the postponed match up of Black Sea Fleet Russian versus the Austro-Hungarians will take place at the club. This should be good for plenty of action methinks - especially when the respective dreadnoughts start trading salvoes.

Apologies to all that were expecting to read the report of the Greeks and Turks bashing each other - it will have to be a pleasure deferred!

Saturday 7 November 2009

3rd Balkan War Afloat

For my solo play test I am planning to run the 3rd Balkan War Afloat which will see the Turks attempting to regain some islands lost in the 1st war. This means that both sides will have access to the hypothetical hardware that was either built and requisitioned or laid down but not completed. That means dreadnoughts - and how!

This will be a serious play test with records of dice rolls, moves etc and hopefully some pictures. I will try and get some maps done as well for the after action report which I shall try to write up either this evening or tomorrow so watch this space!

Friday 6 November 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of a Naval Wargamer...... Part 2.

After my angst-ridden post of yesterday and an evening of soul-searching I managed to tweak the rules into something a whole lot more palatable. The movement now includes the use of diagonals and the combat has been streamlined. I have changed damage effects slightly so that now hits are scored based on the margin of victory i.e. up to 3 over the target score is a single hit, 4 or 5 is two hits and 6 plus means a cripple or a sink if torpedoed. It eases the maths required and is faster in resolution. Hits still need to be rolled for to see what they are (normal, flood or fire) only now torpedo hits are solely flood damage. Again, this is a speed issue so it makes life a little easier.

I hope to try these on a live audience next week at the club with a solo run out in the interim - I also want to get a new playing surface sorted out as well so I can photograph the action as well. this will give the after action reports a little more spice!

Thursday 5 November 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of a Naval Wargamer.......

..........Are indeed many and varied! This Wednesday at the club saw yet another play test of my DBSA - The Great War at Sea Gridded naval rules. If you recall I may have mentioned that this week would see the Black Sea Russians taking on the Austro-Hungarians owned by Mr Fox. Sadly, he is suffering from a dose of the screaming awfuls and was too ill to attend (wishing you a speedy recovery old boy!) and so once again the Greeks and the Turks took to the sea to try the fortunes of their respective flags. The action was loosely based on the Battle of Lemnos and the result was a Turkish winning draw in that whilst both sides lost a base of destroyers and a battleship (a Greek Hydra class and the Hayreddin Barbarossa) the Turks were rather more successful with their gunnery and had inflicted damage across much of the Greek navy. I shall refrain from describing the action in detail simply because all it did was to highlight some basic problems with the rules.

Movement needs to be revised - although the existing system of 90 degree turns and square displacement means that you are able to cover every square on the table it looks a little odd in practise. I wanted to avoid using diagonal movement because of the problems it causes (greatly exaggerated in my own mind I hasten to add!) but am now going to including it - mainly because a naval game needs manoeuvre and every tabletop admiral I have ever gamed with are usually inordinately fond of it! The 'distortion' caused by moving in the diagonal plane opposed to the orthogonal was something I wanted to avoid but given that the speeds are so low (an average of 3 or 4 squares being 28 knots maximum) there is no need to add the complication of staggered movement. Basically, a square, is a square, is a square. The only thing I have added to this as a sop to the distortion is to have a maximum speed of 4 squares when moving in the diagonal - this as a result will only really impact on certain destroyers.

Combat works reasonably well although I will be making it a little more decisive. To be fair, many of the ships in use had, to put it politely, seen better days and so were pretty dire in terms of capabilities. Having said that, the results thus far have been quite historical i.e. lots of shooting with the occasional hit being scored and that is fine but not hugely exciting as a game. As a result, I have tweaked some of the factors, simplified the ranges and changed some of the modifiers. That sounds pretty drastic but it is not as bad as it appears.

With these changes/amendments/revisions it means that I will be redrafting the rules once again. Still, as somebody once said, "If you wanna make an omelette, first you gotta break some eggs.........!"

On the plus side I feel now as though I am quite close to getting these rules to where I want them to be and I must again thank all the stalwarts at my club and the readers of the blog for indulging me with the numerous play test sessions - I am sure it will be worth it in the end!

Monday 2 November 2009

DBSA - The Great War at Sea Gridded...Further Points

Now that the core rules are pretty much done I have been giving some thought to the extra bits and pieces to add to them - optional rules and various other goodies. As a start point i have a list of the following:
  • Minefields
  • Weather and visibility
  • Campaign Rules
  • Points Values
  • Submarines and Raiders
  • Air stuff

Points Values will be the easiest and is merely a mechanism for organising games. I would probably use something similar to HOTT and as an initial thought I was reckoning on using the vessel defence value (allowing for inferior or superior status) as the points cost. If using a 24 point fleet then a maximum of 12 points can be spent on ships costing 4 points or above. I would need to double the cost of torpedo boats and destroyers simply because they are based in pairs. I will consider this further and report any further ideas.

Saturday 31 October 2009

'Gladiators, I Salute You......' Part 2

I finally managed to get the bases finished on my Ludus Gladiatorius pre painted 28mm Gladiators after a wait of about 18 months! The base was quite simply two layers of sand applied with PVA and matt varnished - simple but effective. My good friend Mr Fox has colour coded the edges of the individual bases to match the counters that come with the game. I have chosen not to do this simply because the counters are printed on card that is only slightly thicker than paper and they are irritatingly fiddly to use, also, I prefer the black edging. I plan to print some out on sticky labels and will mount them on tiddly wink counters for ease of use. I may in the future get another set of the base game and paint the shields a different colour to give some additional variety.

Friday 30 October 2009

Playing Surface Blues

One of the problems I am experiencing at the moment with my gridded blue cloth is that it is a little on the dark side and so difficult to photograph with my camera clearly. Whilst I am happy with the blue I use for the ship bases I need to get some 'lightness' on the playing surface but in such a way that the ship bases merge satisfactorily. I don't want to repaint the ship bases so will have a look at whether or not a lighter shade of cloth or board would be more suitable. I had an idea about washing a light blue cloth/board with blue ink or some such which would give a good sea effect and blend in with the models bases.

I am not averse to buying seascape type game mats but with finances as they are it is not an option at the moment so I will check out my local art shop for some ideas and inspiration.

Thursday 29 October 2009

Mediterranean and Black Sea Fleet Lists

You may recall from my previous posts that as a result of my 'tweaking' of the DBSA - The Great War at Sea Gridded - rules I am working on will require some revision of the existing ship specification charts. You may also recall that these charts were originally drafted whilst I was on holiday in Turkey earlier in the year. The lists of ships started life as the ship specifications charts from Mike Fischer's 'Easy Ships' hex based rules available free from ; together with ship counters you can print off of just about everything that floated from 1890 onwards. I printed off his ship charts (a really handy reference and no mistake) and used them for the information I needed for my own tables. It was a lot easier using them than lugging copies of Jane's or Conway's around that's for sure!

As the rules have changed somewhat over the past six months it would now be a good idea to revisit the ship charts and ensure that they are reflecting my current thinking on the subject. I have added protected cruisers, old battleships, coastal defence battleships and torpedo boats so at the very least these categories will need changing. The other significant revision is in connection with speed as I am now using the method employed by Barry Carter in his excellent Naval Wargames so individual ships will have their actual speed more accurately reflected. this task will not take too long to tackle - particularly as initially I am confining my efforts to the Mediterranean and Black Sea so the Royal Navy and High Seas Fleets will have to wait their turn; as will the Baltic Russians.

Once completed, these will of course be available to anyone that wants a copy - as are the latest version of the rules.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Action in the Black Sea, 1915 - A Reflection

It never ceases to amaze me how, when a set of rules that have been carefully scripted to within an inch of their life still seem able to throw up all manner of wrangles when you first use them. The rules in question were not quite in that heinous position but nevertheless, a few revisions were in order. Naively I assumed that just a couple of key strokes would suffice but whilst doing this I was suddenly hit by a thought, indeed it was a thought I should have had at the outset. Basically, what did I want the rules to achieve?

I pondered this and came up with a number of observations that are worth setting down; if only to remind myself why I chose the approach that I did.
  • No ship damage record charts
  • A gridded playing surface
  • The ability to differentiate between ships notionally of the same type
  • Recognisable damage effects e.g. fire and flooding
  • Be easy to pick up by non naval gamers
  • Be suitable for large scale actions i.e. squadron and fleet sized

From the perspective of the above list I have achieved all the aims I set myself but I am still feeling a little 'short changed', as though something is missing from the whole. I pondered this further and came up with the simple expedient of needing to prepare a comparable strategic campaign system for use with the tactical rules. Campaigns, mini campaigns or even linked scenarios are very much a personal favourite of mine - even to the extent of writing up the after action report with more 'story' to it than the game would suggest - and are something I enjoy organising.

So I need to add a campaign system to the tactical rules - this will not be a problem to design but I cannot foresee myself tackling this anytime soon!

The VSF bolt ons though are a very different kettle of fish.........................;-)

Monday 26 October 2009

Action in the Black Sea, 1915

As promised, I have managed to carry out a solo play test of the latest version of my DBSA Great War at Sea Gridded rules. Due to space limitations I had to fight this on my 3ft by 2ft table which meant a grid surface of 6 squares by 9 (using my 4" squared cloth). The forces were quite small but representational of the Turkish activity towards the end of 1914 - before the quantitative Russian superiority began to tell. initially I planned to describe this action on a turn by turn basis with die rolls and all the usual flam and para diddle but will instead opt for the after action report style; in keeping with a description of an actual engagement. A number of issues arose from the game - all of which will give me further thought as to how best to take the rules forward. It will be interesting to see if any readers can identify the points to which I am obliquely referring

Somewhere in the Black Sea, north of Zonguldak, 0800 hrs. 25th October, 1914........

A strong Turkish squadron under the command of Admiral Souchon on board the battle cruiser Yavuz Sultan Selim (ex SMS Goeben) was patrolling along the northern Black Sea coast of Turkey with the intention of intercepting a rumoured Russian sortie aimed at the disruption of the Turkish inshore coal traffic. The squadron comprised the Yavuz Sultan Selim (flagship), the light cruiser Midilli, the protected cruisers Hamidiye and Mecidiye and four destroyers - two Samsun class (French Durandel types) and two Muavenet-I Milleye (German S165 types). the formation was heading due east with the Midilli in the van, followed by the Yavuz Sultan Selim, Hamidiye and Mecidiye (all in line ahead) and the destroyers on the port beam with the lead ship - the Muavenet-I Milleye - parallel with the flagship with the three others to the stern. In effect, half the destroyers were providing close escort to the flagship whilst the others covered the protected cruisers who in turn were operating in close formation to the rear of the flagship.

The Russian squadron was operating to the north east of the Turks, heading due west with the pre dreadnought battleships Evstafi and Ioann Zlatoust in the van with the Pantelejmon close behind, in company with the protected cruiser Pamiat Merkurija. The new and powerful Bespokoiny class destroyers (two of them) were deployed directly to the south of the lead battleships (on the port beam) with a pair of the Leitenant Puchsin class torpedo boats directly behind.

Sailing as they were, into the morning sun, the Turkish squadron was unaware of the approach of the Russians and so continued to steam due east at a leisurely twelve knots, oblivious of the enemy. Not so the Russians however as a sharp eyed lookout on board the Evstafi saw the approaching columns of smoke to the south west and raised the alarm. With a flurry of signal flags, the Russians immediately increased speed and the three battleships swung to the south west before resuming their heading due west. The new and powerful Bespokoiny destroyers, in a flurry of spray and smoke, accelerated to near flank speed and immediately roared away due west - crossing the rearward wake of the battle squadron - with the intention of engaging the Turkish squadron from the rear. The remaining Leitenant Puchsin torpedo boats and the protected cruiser followed the rapidly diminishing shapes of the Bespokoiny destroyers but with no real hope of catching them as their best speed was some twelve knots slower but the gallantry of the gesture was not lost on the Russian commander. Shortly before 0900 the guns rang out from first the Evstafi and then the Ioann Zlatoust at a range of some 16,000 yards with the only target in view (and range) - the light cruiser Midilli.

The arrival of several salvos of 12" shells in close proximity of the light cruiser caused Admiral Souchon to observe, somewhat laconically, that "My word, they are shooting at us!" Whilst the impact of this unpleasant and unexpected turn of events was being fully digested by the Turkish naval command a large black cloud of smoke and a flash of vivid red was seen from the bridge of the flagship - the Midilli had been hit.

The 12" shell from the Ioann Zlatoust had fortuitously exploded on impact and the main blast has been directed across the stern. However, it managed to set fire to one of the ships boats as well as the flag locker and so was easily extinguished by the relieved damage control party.

The Turks were galvanised into action and whilst action stations was sounded on the flagship, the destroyers immediately headed south east - the Muavent-I Milleye formatting with the flagship in a close escort role and the Samsun as escort to the Hamidiye. The Mecidiye was unable to conform with this as the frenzied high-speed maneuvers of the Turkish destroyers had given her little sea room so her captain prudently kept his distance from the maelstrom of criss-crossing wakes until the new formation had taken proper station. The Midilli maintained her position in the van of the squadron but increased speed to her maximum 28 knots and executed a breathtaking turn due north whilst the rest of the formation fell in to her rear.

Meanwhile, the Russian battleships maintained their formation but swung due south, in anticipation of the Turks using their superior speed to try and isolate one of their number. The destroyers and torpedo boats continued their wide sweep to the west and the Bespokoiny class ships were easily outstripping the older Leitenant Puchsin torpedo boats and the hurrying Pamiat Merkurija. The Russians again opened fire with their target being the hapless Muavenet-I Milleye. Despite the speed of the destroyers and their frantic evasive manouvers the superior weight of the Russian battleships secondary armament fired to telling effect. Almost immediatly one of their number was left ablaze and drifting helplessly; shot through by superbly accurate gunnery.

Desperate to get a telling blow in (and to relieve the pressure on his weaker ships), Admiral Souchon swung the vast bulk of the Yavuz Sultan Selim through 90 degrees so she was facing due north and then called for maximum speed. Deep in the bowels of the mighty battle cruiser the stokers rose manfully to the task and so the great ship surged forward at 27 knots, across the face of the Russian battle line. The Muavent-I Milleye, despite the pounding from the Russians and the loss of her sister ship, sped forward in concert with the flagship whilst the two cruisers and the remaining destroyers continued east at top speed. The Turkish squadron was becoming widely seperated with the slower Russian battle squadron in the centre.

The Russians battleships continued heading south whilst the destroyers, torpedo boats and the cruiser carried on with their wide sweeping turn - the Bespokoiny destroyers fast disappearing in the distance, so great was their speed advantage.

The unexpected turn of the Turkish battle cruiser and subsequent race across the line of the Russian battleships and taken the Russians completely by surprise and so the fire from them was ineffective. Sadly for the Turkish Admiral, the violent manouvering he had subjected his own ship to had also served to throw his own gunnery into disarray as, despite at one point being less than 8,000 yards from the rear Russian battleship - the Pantelejmon - he was unable to inflict any damage on his opponent.

By this time, Admiral Souchon had lost contact with his protected cruisers and the remaining destroyers (now heading north with the Russian destroyers in hot pursuit) and so, in order to avoid a damaging close range exchange with the enemy battleships, he reluctantly broke off the action and signalled to his scattered charges to rendezvous north of the scene of the action.

This signal however, would prove to be too late for the Muavent-I Milleye as, whilst they were coming about to conform with the flagship, they dallied for too long under the guns of the Pantelejmon and were immediately and fatally subjected to a withering barrage of assorted calibre guns which left the gallant vessel on fire and sinking. To further add to the chagrin of the admiral, the Bespokoiny class destroyers (with the Leutenant Puchsin torpedo boats and the Pamiat Merkurija protected cruiser gainfully trying to keep up with their speedier compatriots) managed to catch up with the rear of the two Turkish cruisers - the Mecidiye - and promptly proceeded to torpedo her, leaving her crippled and dead in the water.

With this final exchange the action drew to a close with the Russians suffering little or no damage. The Turks managed to lose a protected cruiser (soon to be repaired and taken into Russian service as the Prut) and a couple of destroyers but significantly, the lose of German prestige in the eyes of the Ottoman government was immense.

The rules worked pretty well but I need to tweak some of the factors - it is too easy to score with secondaries at long range and also, predreadnought battleships are a little on the tough side. The Yavuz was largely ineffective, even at close range so I need to consider this a little further.
I also need to think about drybrushing he cloth with some white as it comes up way too dark for photos!
The picture shows the Russian battleship Ioann Zlatoust steaming into action - no doubt to inflict further damage on the Turks.

Friday 23 October 2009

DBSA - The Great War at Sea Gridded

One of my ongoing projects, as readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed, is my attempt to 'grid' a version of Phil Barker's DBSA rules. This has been an ongoing saga for a number of months now and I came very close to abandoning the effort as I was getting in a flat spin over some of the mechanics. I think now however, I may have just about cracked it. The latest version incorporates some of the tidying up as a result of the recent playtest (Lepanto 1915) and I am now fairly satisfied that it is about ready. I will give this version a test at home and will persuade the club to give them a spin at some point as well. I will need to rework the ship specs to incorporate the change of movement rates as these are been altered and I have tweaked the turning rules. Firing has changed slightly - or rather I have added a couple of modifiers - and I have clarified LOS and some damage results. I will also need to write them up as a 'proper' set of rules with a playsheet rather than just as an expanded playsheet.

I am quite sure that further tinkering will be needed but probably not anything major. Ideally I would like to extend these rules to incorporate WW2 naval actions as well so obviously I will need to consider air power.

Should anyone want the latest draft of the rules then please let me know and I will be happy to send a copy on. As ever, I would appreciate any thoughts or observations.

The picture is of the German Battlecruiser Seydlitz and she is one of my favourite warships. Note the airship overhead - makes me even more determined to organise the Ottoman Air Fleet!

A Pharoah Way to Go.............

As a result of a number of fortuitous boot sale acquisitions I was able to engineer a trade for a number of titles I was keen to add to the collection. The two titles in the picture are a graphic example of this and very pleased I am to have them. As mentioned previously, I have acquired a Napoleonic era Ottoman Turkish army and given their activity in Napoleon's Egyptian and Holy Land adventures they are very timely additions to the library. Volume 1 covered the french whilst volume 2 covers the Mamelukes and the Turks; together with the British - so the possibilities are many and varied. There are plenty of figures around in 15mm for this (I shall be using Minifigs to go with the Navwar stuff I have) and as the scale of operations is fairly modest the project will not need huge amounts of kit to realise. It would certainly be a colorful undertaking and no mistake!
I would look to tackle the armies on a DBA basis with perhaps no more than 20 or so bases of figures a side for a representational look rather than 'normal' sized units. This will mean that the use of Tabletop Battles as the preferred rule set is a distinct possibility.

So, Mameluke, Turkish, French and British armies to consider - and an active naval scene as well - which again certainly gives plenty of variety!

I will sit down and think about the feasibility of the said armies - I always find this a therapeutic exercise - and calculate costs etc. The Turks I have little problem with although I will need to add some of the Nizam-I-Cedid troops to the existing collection. These were the new army raised by the Sultan using modern methods and training as opposed to the traditional Janissaries (who hated them with a passion!).

Much to ponder methinks!

Tuesday 20 October 2009

The Practical Wargamer

An unusual post, to be sure, but one certainly of interest. The table you see in the picture was acquired free of charge and is of a sturdy, fold up variety. It is 3ft by 2ft (exactly) which means that it is ideal for use with Tabletop Top Battles by Mike and Joyce Smith or any of Bob Cordery's When Empires Clash rule sets - all I need to do is to grid an appropriately coloured cloth to drape over it and I will be in business. It also serves as a handy table for anything else you care to name. It would also be an ideal DBA/HOTT table as you would have spare space on the surface for placing casualties and assorted gaming paraphernalia.

The box with the lift out tray I acquired at the lazybones boot sale for £2.50 and it is really useful. I wanted something like this for transporting figures etc on club nights and which was sturdy enough to withstand the inevitable bashing around in the car. Transporting figures etc and storing them is the bane of most wargamers lives and I for one am quite lazy about making custom boxes etc. As a result I am always on the look out for such things as box files and other such storage items. The trays contained within the box (I think it was designed for the artist although it was unused) are around 30mm deep which is a little limiting but ideal for 1/3000 and 1/2400 ships and anything 6 or 2mm. Certain 15mm armies could fit in them although such things as lance armed cavalry may be a little problematic. Certainly the 12mm plastic Risk figures fit in very snugly.
The Black Sea Russian navy is currently residing in the top shelf whilst I ponder the best way to store the rest of the fleets and also given that potential new addition to the 1/3000th naval collection may require rather more room than is currently available........................;-)

Monday 19 October 2009

Warlords of the Air

As part of my ongoing house cleaning of projects and gaming ideas, I came across my assembled but as yet unpainted Ottoman Turkish Dirigible Fleet. The models are really nice and originate from Brigade and are in need of some time and attention. I have had a bad time with the models for the Turks as whilst I really like the models Brigade have produced (they have a HUGE range for this period) I have often thought that they don't quite tick the boxes for how I envisage the Turks to look. It is a personal thing I am sure and no reflection on the Brigade design team! I have, in the past, scratch built many dirigibles - they are really easy to make - and every so often I get the urge to create some original models. All of my first generation dirigibles are now in the collection of Steve Blease of Wessex Games, the originators of Aeronef (along with Matthew Hartley), THE Victorian Aerial wargames rules that are fast approaching a second edition. Finishing the models I have would be a quick win as painting them is an easy task - unlike the Aeronef that need a little more work. In the meantime I shall mull over the future of the Turks I have - whether to finish them or build them from scratch - and also the fate of the opposition I have for them. I had planned to fight a VSF version of the WW1 Arab Revolt and to be honest, probably will still do so at some point, and the opposition consisted of a Royal Naval Air Service Red Sea squadron consisting of old aerial colonial cruisers and monitors - very much a second division force but sufficient to show the flag and keep the natives honest.

A bit of a ramble I know but in closing I have added a couple of pictures of some of my old scratch built kit for the Balkan Wars with the hope it will inspire readers to inspire me to get on with it! The names on the bases are taken from actual naval vessels of the period.

Sunday 18 October 2009

"Gladiators, I salute you...." Proximo aka Oliver Reed

Whilst in a frenzy of bite-sized projects I dragged out another 'quick win' in the shape of my two sets of EM4 Ludus Gladiatorius with 10 pre painted figures. All these need is to have the bases sanded and painted and are then ready for use. I have always enjoyed Gladiator games as they are cheap and easy to stage and there is a lot of 'kit' and rules available to use with them. On a historical note I once considered a Spartacus Slave army for DBA in 15mm but it never got much beyond the planning stage. I may revisit it at some point especially as I note there is now an Osprey campaign title devoted to the uprising.

"We who are about to die salute you!"

Saturday 17 October 2009

Terminator Marines - dont you just love 'em!! Part 8

The red marines are now complete and despite the best efforts of my camera to the contrary, they look rather nice. This was a much simpler undertaking than the blue marines as all I needed to do was to repaint the weapons and chest eagles and add the trim to the command figures shoulder pads. As before, the eagles and trim was painted using GW Burnished Gold and the hardware was drybrushed in GW Boltgun Metal. Some GW Desert Yellow was dusted on the sand bases as well, to add a little depth. The picture did not come out too well as the flash flooded the detail so I may change this later - the shading effect has been lost somewhat! Once again, a coat of GW Purity Seal satin varnish was added to give a lovely sheen and to enrich the base red.

I must confess that for 20 year old figures they have scrubbed up pretty well and will continue to cause mayhem across many a stricken hulk for hopefully another 20 years!

Thursday 15 October 2009

Terminator Marines - dont you just love 'em!! Part 7

As an extension to the two forces of terminator marines I have decided to paint the 10 scout marines that came with the GW game Tyranid Attack, which I own a copy of. I shall paint them up in the chapter colours I have used already i.e. red and blue, and I will also see about trying to source some figures from the old MB Games boardgame Space Crusade for use as the marines. These figures are also quite 'wooden' in terms of pose but they will fit in nicely with the 1989 to 1991 vintage plastic figures I have thus far. I still have another 27 Genestealers to paint to add to the 40 I already have and then of course there is the 6 Tyranids.............;-)

As I have a large chunk of this stuff already to use adding a few additional pieces is not too onerous - especially as the models are already on tap. Small, bite-sized add-ons is the way to go at the moment so the 10 figures referred to above will be a pleasant diversion from college assignments - as there are so few of them at least I wont feel guilty about spending too much time on them!

Terminator Marines - dont you just love 'em!! Part 6

At last the latest addition to the forces of the empire in the shape of 15 terminator marines have been completed. These models are the first plastic terminators that GW produced and all have had the aerials removed from the top of the model. They are pretty wooden in terms of pose but they are fine for all that. Just to recap, they were painted using a combination of enamels (base coat and black for the weapons and eagles), inks (well ink actually - overall full strength GW blue) and acrylics (GW Burnished Gold for the eagles and officers trim and GW Boltgun Metal drybrushed over the hardware) and some GW transfers for the shoulder flashes. The base was two layers of sand drybrushed with Desert Yellow and the whole lot was varnished with GW Purity Seal satin varnish. The Red marines will now go under the brush for a refurb to bring them up to the current standard.

Monday 12 October 2009

Late 18th Century and Napoleonic Ottoman Turks

This was a piece a pure indulgence; occasioned by my recent birthday and the receipt of £40 as a present from my son (bless him!). I am now the proud owner of a Navwar 15mm army for the Ottoman Turks for the late 18th century and Napoleonic period. The army may seem like an odd choice compared to some of the more obvious choices but the Turks in the period saw a reasonable amount of action - against the French in the Holy Land and the Russians most of the time - at least on and off until 1812). Napoleon's Egyptian campaign has always held a fascination for me as it combines many interesting facets - an exotic location, exotic opponents, relatively small scale, exotic locations (did I mention that?!) and a glimpse of the, yes you've guessed it, the exotic. The army itself has a solid core of Janissaries with hordes of Albanian Mercenaries and Anatolian Sekhans backed up by Suvarileri line cavalry and Sipahi light cavalry. The Turkish army of the period was best at ambush and guerilla type operations as the quality of training was pretty poor, even with the Janissaries. They were brave fellows though to be sure - especially when defending or attacking fortified places. The Mamluk armies of Egypt (Egypt, whilst conquered by the Turks in 1517 was pretty much self ruling as long as the tribute to the Sultan was paid on time) consisted of good quality cavalry and hordes of abysmal infantry so there is another avenue to explore. The figures were designed (I believe but would need to check this to be sure) by the same guy that does most of the designing for Minifigs and so using figures from them would present no problems from a compatibility perspective. Then of course, there is the British.................;-) Before anyone asks though - I have absolutely no idea when these will get a coat of paint although my only plea is guilty to the charge of restocking my unpainted lead mountain and associated project list!

To enter in the spirit of the age (not strictly accurate but I am sure you will get the point) I will leave the final word of the subject with a certain Mr Percy French who can sum it all up far more eloquently then I ever could.


byPercy French

The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah,
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir.

If you wanted a man to encourage the van,
Or harass the foe from the rear,
Storm fort or redoubt, you had only to shout
For Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
In the troops that were led by the Czar,
And the bravest of these was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

One day this bold Russian, he shouldered his gun
And donned his most truculent sneer,
Downtown he did go where he trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Young man, quote Abdul, has life grown so dull
That you wish to end your career?
Vile infidel know, you have trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

So take your last look at the sunshine and brook
And send your regrets to the Czar
For by this I imply, you are going to die,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

Then this bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk,
Singing, "Allah! Il Allah! Al-lah!"
And with murderous intent he ferociously went
For Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

They parried and thrust, they side-stepped and cussed,
Of blood they spilled a great part;
The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes,
Say that hash was first made on the spot.

They fought all that night ‘neath the pale yellow moon;
The din, it was heard from afar,
And huge multitudes came, so great was the fame,
Of Abdul and Ivan Skavar.

As Abdul's long knife was extracting the life,
In fact he was shouting, "Huzzah!"
He felt himself struck by that wily Calmuck,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

The Sultan drove by in his red-breasted fly,
Expecting the victor to cheer,
But he only drew nigh to hear the last sigh,
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

There's a tomb rises up where the Blue Danube rolls,
And ‘graved there in characters clear,
Is, "Stranger, when passing, oh pray for the soul
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir."

A splash in the Black Sea one dark moonless night
Caused ripples to spread wide and far,
It was made by a sack fitting close to the back,
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps,
'Neath the light of the cold northern star,
And the name that she murmurs in vain as she weeps,
Is Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

Alternate verses:

The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
They could jockey a stallion, ambush a battalion,
And blow the froth off a beer

But needing a man to encourage the van,
Or harass the enemy's rear,
Or storm a redoubt, they would always send out
For Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Shakespeare it is not - but great fun all the same!

Sunday 11 October 2009

...And now, the end is near.................

The boot sale season is winding down as the weather begins to move into winter Yeuch! mode - damp and drizzly as I write this. Stoically though, both of our preferred bootsales are going to continue until the weather renders them untenable. I will continue to go until the mud seeps over the top of my wellies! Seriously though, I managed once again to pick up a couple of goodies at the much mentioned 'Lazybones' boot sale at Rettenden. Firstly, for the princely sum of 20p I acquired a copy of Donald Morris's The Washing of the Spears in paperback. this book has been on my 'to read' list for ages - I realise that it is a little dated - Ian Knight has covered the ground in exhaustive detail - but it is a classic and worthy of attention. The second title is a combined Blandford title published by Peerage and covers bombers and fighters of world war two. A handy reference for the bookshelf and a snip at 50p. The final item is the two disc special edition DVD of the classic film The Mission starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons. It also features that hauntingly enigmatic soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. All I need now is two hours spare to watch it in...........;-) This cost me a £1 and was in unused condition.

The blue terminators have had the shoulder transfers added - not without a few dramas though and I must get some of that decal coat to apply them with. I am hoping to have them finished fairly soon.

Friday 9 October 2009

Terminator Marines - dont you just love 'em!! Part 5

I finally managed to get some time in on the blue marines this evening - the first layer of sand for the bases has been applied. My technique for basing these is to paint the base black (not all the mk.1 terminators had black bases - as there was originally only one model type the sergeants had a red base!) and then coat the top with PVA. This is then dipped into sand and the excess is lightly brushed off. I then give this a coat of gloss varnish before repeating the process. This is then gloss varnished and coated with a matt varnish over the top to finish it off. The two coats of gloss varnish serve to seal the sand to the base. This time however, I will be using some paint on the sand - if only as a highlight.

I have also received the scan of the Colonial Marines in Space Hulk contained in the Ragnarok Compendium from Mark Kitching to whom I extend my most grateful thanks. This are even better than I remembered and so I will have plenty of inspiration for 'Aliens' style games going forward. Aside from the normal Colonial Marine hardware (pulse rife, pistol, SMART gun etc) there is also some suggested rules for Sentry Guns which I had forgotten about and so was delighted to see.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Space Hulk Part 2

It was an enjoyable game of Space Hulk at the club last night - for a change I was using the Marines - and now that there have a been a few such sessions of familiarisation I am able to move onto the next phase: namely running one of the campaigns. This suggestion was greeted with enthusiasm by the attendees and given that there is quite a lot of 40K stuff at the club it will be pretty easy to set up. I am more than happy to run this as, to be honest, it will not need a vast amount of work to organise. From a time perspective (given my college obligations) it will fit in nicely as well - no late nights drafting scenarios etc! In my present circumstances I have absolutely no qualms at using 'pre-designed' gaming material in the interests of saving time; my feeling is that it is better to get a game in rather than none at all.

For the record, the marines won the scenario - we played 'Cleanse and Burn' and managed to get away with losing only 3 marines. Much muttering was heard from the various Genestealer commanders at the continued quality of the marines dice rolling.......................;-)

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Space Hulk

Just a quick post to say that this evening will see a Space Hulk taking place at the club which should be fun. My new blue marine squad is still waiting to be finished so the original red models will be used. I have managed to get the bits and pieces I need for the scratch built remote sentry guns and will post to the blog when they are ready. A simple model but it took an age to get the look right. I also have an idea for rules for them as well and best of all, a SFSFW acquaintance is going to send me the Colonial Marines adaptation that appeared in a very early edition of the society's journal - Ragnarok. This will be useful as it means that troops less heavily armed than terminator marines can be used with the correct weaponry. I also have some very nice figures that could be used for Colonial Marines from EM 4 miniatures. Of course, they will need painting............;-)

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Boot sales, Assignments and Tai Chi

This is a mixed post and no mistake! After the recent upheaval of my daughter's hospital visit it was with some relief that this weekend saw a return to what passes for normality in my household. To that end, we visited the famed 'lazybones' boot sale at Rettenden on Sunday and boy did I do well! The three books in the picture above came to £5 in total and are now residing in the fast filling library in my 'office'. Russia's War by Richard Overy tells the story from the Soviet perspective which I am sure will make for interesting reading. The Russian campaign of the last war is one of those periods of history I would love to game in some fashion but I have never gotten around to it. I used to really enjoy playing Cross of Iron (the first and IMHO best expansion for Squad Leader) and one of my most read books is Guy Sajer's The Forgotten Soldier which is set across the Eastern Front. I would prefer to game this at an operational level using something like Megablitz or Divisional Commander rather than tactical as the idea of irresistible force meeting an immovable object has an appeal all of its own! The other two titles will sit firmly in my rapidly expanding Dark Age Britain collection. I have always had a soft spot for the age of King Alfred and the associated Viking 'stuff' so this is a welcome addition. The Arthurian title is yet another twist on the story and will provide much food for thought.

The next bargain cost me £2 and is a complete copy of the game Cathedral. The idea of this game is to occupy the most amount of a medieval city within the perimeter walls by placing buildings to cover the ground and deny it to your opponent. The buildings are plan and in two shades of brown except the cathedral which is black. the game is good fun but true to my wargaming heritage I was mainly interested in the buildings. These would need painting and as mentioned are plain with no surface detail. In terms of size they would probably suit 6 to 10mm figures but I plan on using them for my 12mm 18th century Risk stuff when I ever get around to it. They would be very easy to paint into representative horse and musket generic buildings and so £2 for 29 buildings and two bridges is a bargain!
I have just completed my first assignment for college and have already hit a small problem. Not one that is difficult mind, just one that is probably a reflection of one of my more endearing habits. The assignment was fairly modest - 500 to 700 words outlining the role and responsibilities of the teacher in the teaching cycle - and so I attacked it my usual gusto and managed to complete it in 1,348 words...................As a result I have spent the last two days whittling it down to a more modest size and finished up with 864 words! My mission statement of never using a sentence when a paragraph (or two) will do just as nicely may need some drastic revision!
Finally, I fulfilled a long held ambition to start Tai Chi and so had my first session yesterday. I really enjoyed it although initially had all the grace and poise of an overweight Walrus attempting to do the Tango. It is not easy and is all about control my young padawans....;-). I ache in places I had forgotten I had although not in a major 'I-have-just-run-a-marathon' kind of way. The thing that struck me as odd though was the fact that some of the 108 moves have had their names 'updated' from the original Chinese descriptions. For Example, the 'Crane spreading wings' is now known, rather less poetically, as the 'unscrewing the light bulb' move. I know which one I prefer!!