Monday 30 July 2018

Meandering in the right direction....

After the weekend I have had this is a most welcome restorative - and it is hugely inspirational.

For a variety of reasons this weekend has not been a great one. True enough the weather had broken – we now have a garden water butt that is three quarters full – and it is a little cooler but I was not able to venture into the man cave for any painting. I was however, able to make progress with some organisational tasks associated with my ongoing project list. To be honest this is itself has thrown up a number of unforeseen issues but nothing that a clear head cannot overcome. 

The more I read it the more I like the cut of Sam Mustafa’s WW2 rules: Rommel. There are some really neat ideas in these rules and I am looking forward to using them in conjunction with my 1/600th scale Tumbling Dice 20th century armies in due course. The great thing with using this scale is that the armies (and by that I mean the infantry and support weapons) can be really generic and used for a variety of periods. I intend producing forces in three colours – grey, brown and olive. These basic colours will suffice for both world wars and by adding the appropriate vehicles etc specific nationalities can be modelled. As I have mentioned before this idea is really and extension of what I did using the block armies. 

The Tumbling Dice infantry is available in both close and loose order and so for my purposes will mean the former for something late 19th century and the latter will be used for the 20th. I have a couple of ideas I am exploring with this lot and should anything crystallise from it I will post the details.The Peter Pig 1/600th troop blocks will be used for something horse and musket based – looking over the models I am now convinced these would be ideal for use in a Napoleonic style set up – although this would be some way down the track given the other ideas I currently have in play.

Mention of Peter Pig of course raises the issue of the 1/600th ACW ship models I have currently ‘swinging around the (painting) buoy’ so to speak. Well, one of the organisational tasks I alluded to was to work out base sizes for the models with a view to placing an order for the same. This has now been done – well apart from placing the order that is – and I hope to get this under way over the next few days if I can. One piece of welcome news though supporting this project is the recent acquisition of the book you see above. I have barely had a chance to skim through this so far but it looks very promising indeed, not only for the ACW but for a few other ideas I an flirting with.
The great thing about this book for me is the simple fact that gunboats, whilst lacking the glamour of their larger battleship and cruiser brethren, often saw more action and at a scale that is easily workable on the tabletop. My 1/600th adventures will feature gunboats where possible and that is something I am looking forward to.

Friday 27 July 2018

The Look of the (ACW) Thing

The storming of Fort Wagner - note the monitors providing fire support

I have always enjoyed the series of chromolithographs produced covering battles of the American Civil War by Kurz and Allison. These pictures had a naïve simplicity about the subjects depicted and are stylised, almost comic-like in their depictions of battles. The figures are quite stiffly posed and every time I see one of their prints I have the words 'Spencer Smith' screaming in my head! As well as the ACW Kurz and Allison also produced pictures in a similar style covering the Spanish American war in 1898.

The Battle of San Juan Hill with the Roughriders leading the assault

I shall try and find a catalogue of their prints as it would be something nice to add to the library. My set of Battles and Leaders features four of their prints on the dust jackets and just seem so evocative.

You may recall that I mentioned I would soon be coming into some Spencer Smith ACW figures which, along with the small number I already have will be forming the nucleus of my Balkan project by the simple expedient of alternate paint jobs.

I am having second thoughts about this.

I am becoming more inclined to use the Spencer Smiths as intended and tackle the Balkans using another medium - as yet I am undecided as to how best to do this although I have an idea I am exploring.

Alongside Kurz and Allison being a source of inspiration I was recently reminded of the superb work of Jim Duncan using Spencer Smith figures. These look superb and I would recommend reading his full series of blog posts about the same - very inspirational!

Standard Union Infantry from the collection of Jim Duncan

Berdan's Sharpshooters - again from Jim's collection
The quantity of figures I will need to realise this project is very small and as previously mentioned would be organised as per Charge!
NOTE: The two pictures above are copyright to Jim Duncan and are included purely to illustrate his superb technique painting these figures - many thanks Jim!

Thursday 26 July 2018

A Heatwave that is Too Hot to Handle....

Relentless and remorseless - readers of a certain vintage will recall the similar weather during 1976

This is the other Heatwave with their album Too Hot to Handle - coincidentally it was released in 1976....
I am probably not alone in suffering from what can best be described as heat-induced lethargy. The man cave is currently doing a passable impersonation of a blast furnace and so painting is proving very challenging. Even with the Velux windows open it gets very uncomfortable very quickly and so I have decided that discretion is the better part of valour and I am leaving the brushes well alone for now, at least until the weather eases off slightly. I should also throw in the mix the effects of the heat during the dubious delight of my daily commute on a crowded train....
So no painting and, to be frank, not a great deal of anything meaningful  but what I have managed to do though, is to sort ‘stuff’ out. 

Sorting ‘stuff’ out can mean different things to different people and in my experience can range from putting some backs in the correct space on the shelf to a major overhaul of one’s den. Usually though it tends fall between the two. In my case books certainly featured but I also moved some games around and well, found a few things that had slipped under the radar for a variety of reasons. 

I always find doing this kind of thing to be very therapeutic because after all, you are doing something.

For me, this time around meant rediscovering my box of 1/600th scale figures and vehicles (mainly Tumbling Dice and Peter Pig but with a few packs of Magister Militum vehicles for the Great War included), together with a few items of terrain. 

The 1/600th scale figures originally came about as an accompaniment to the Peter Pig ACW ship range with Tumbling Dice featuring on the back of having seen some painted example at a couple of shows. Whilst the Peter Pig troops are blocks the Tumbling Dice are individual figures (cast on strips), even infantry in close order. 

I have a number of plans for this collection with the Tumbling Dice models being primarily for 20th century (at this stage I am thinking about Sam Mustafa’s Rommel for WW2) although the cavalry and close order infantry may well turn up for something 19th century related. The Peter Pig blocks however will be for something more mainstream horse and musket – as a long distance project they may well see the light of day for something Napoleonic.
I suppose the point of this post is that even whilst the sun is playing havoc with people's attention spans and energy levels (it certainly is mine!) there is always something that can be done that is not too draining.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

A Facebook Diversion

I would not describe myself as a massive social media user as such (gasps of disbelief at this point....). For sure I write this blog and comment on others occasionally. I use Facebook on a random basis – mainly big events or holidays with the occasional dash of topical whimsy, usually involving either the cats or something edible. I suppose that some may consider this a lot but I don’t feel that it is. However, I have just completed something which has given me a lot of pleasure but also a certain degree of vexation. I am of course referring to the 10 film challenge.

The idea is a simple one, select a film a day for 10 days that you would watch repeatedly, describe briefly why you would and then nominate someone else to do the same. I have now completed my 10 but the vexing thing for me was limiting my selection to just this amount! 

The whole challenge has given me much food for thought – not only picking 10 films but also why they have for me such repeat watchability.  

When I started the challenge I wanted to make sure that any films that already been featured by other people were not included so in a sense it was almost a kind of race. Even so, I still had plenty to choose from. 

The one thing struck me though whilst I was going through the list – and picking just 10 films was incredibly difficult, I could have easily made it a lot more! – is how much the visual spectacle has influenced my wargames. 

My list boiled down to the following and I should mention that these are not in any order and neither to represent my top ten – they are merely those that have an infinite degree of repeatability for me. I should also mention again that I left out films that had already been mentioned by others taking the challenge. 

The Seven Samurai

El Cid

The Adventures of Robin Hood

The Battle of Britain

Lawrence of Arabia

Blade Runner

Where Eagles Dare



Heartbreak Ridge

Most wargamers I know are adept at picking historical holes in the films we watch – I am no exception to this – and yet we still watch them. As a classic example I have lost count of the number of times I have seen, for example, Zulu, yet I would watch it again. I know there are many inaccuracies in the film but that does not stop it from being a superb and stirring piece of entertainment.

I like to think that the films I watch work for me in many ways the same a wargame does – it is a medium to impart a sense of what the action could have been like. In short it works for me if it imparts the correct degree of flavour and the more it does so the better the sense of enjoyment.

Monday 23 July 2018

Hammerin' Iron Revisited....Part 2

One to look out for methinks

It is funny how a throw away comment can spark a whole sequence of events. In this case we are not talking about something new - rather it is more a case of taking one's thoughts into different areas. You may recall from last post I was talking about ACW river operations and my plans around these since I had recently (re)acquired my Peter Pig Hammerin' Iron hexed cloth.

So lets see - ACW ships - check, ACW naval rules - check and ACW naval cloth - hang on, the cloth is not only ACW surely?

At this point along came that well known bon vivant, wit and raconteur - Geordie who commented on my last post and casually mentioned the Dardanelles.

Dardanelles? Now my interest in matters Ottoman Turkish is well known and after a quick look at the possibilities of using the cloth for this I was struck by a thought - which in turn led to several others.

I was thinking about gunboats and where they have fought. There are quite a few large rivers that have seen actions using gunboats - the Tigris, Yangtze, Nile and Danube spring to mind with the 'Great father of waters' the Mississippi naturally featuring for the ACW. It would be churlish to limit myself solely to the ACW when there are so many other opportunities to explore and with the added attraction of not needing very much in the way of material.

David Manley has produced a set of rules for fighting on the rivers of Europe during the Great War called River Wars which would be a good source of information for ship types etc as well as being a pretty good set of rules as well although sadly are not hexed. There is also a supplement that covers the Russian Civil War and the base set called Steamer Wars that tackles the Lake Tanganyika expedition.

I was browsing the net for further inspiration when I came across the following website that provided me with yet further inspiration although I doubt I would game gunboat action in 1/1200th as the ships would be a little on the small side but 1/600th would be perfect.

From the Peter Pig range there are a few ships that could be readily converted into other types and there is also the possibility of scratch building - a route that Bob Cordery has followed very successfully.

So what does all this mean for me in real terms? Well, the provision of naval support via gunboats and actions involving the same is something I will be tackling for the ACW for sure but I am very tempted to expand this into the Balkan project in some way if I can. Should this not work out I could easily look to tackle something on a standalone basis - the Tigris during WW1 would be an obvious choice (I have a couple of very good books on the subject) but for sheer variety of nationalities the Yangtze during the interwar period has much to commend it.

I suddenly have this compelling urge to watch Khartoum and the Sand Pebbles again....

Saturday 21 July 2018

Hammerin’ Iron Revisited

The Peter Pig Hammerin’ Iron cloth. Personally I think it is not ideal but will suffice for my immediate needs. Note the strategically placed Kiwi Fruit holding down the corners whilst Hovis the Hedgehog - our doorstop - looks on impassively.

Actually the title of this post should really read ‘Peter Pig 1/600th scale ACW Revisited’ as I am more concerned with the components rather than the rules of the same name! I mentioned a while ago that my collection of the aforementioned 1/600th models was now safely back at Maison Crook - including ships, terrain and troop blocks - but only yesterday did I take (re)delivery of the Peter Pig playing cloth designed to accompany their rules.

Hammerin’ Iron is party of the RFCM (Rules For the Common Man) stable and so are fun, easy to use and give a great game. They are not super detailed or realistic but have more than sufficient period flavour to make then a very popular set. I have fought a couple of games with these and they are hugely entertaining. I own the latest version of the rules and a copy of the land expansion for the earlier edition. For some reason Peter Pig did not include the land rules in the revised version - I am unsure why but it is in my opinion a great shame as they are also great fun and use the 1/600th scale troop blocks from their range of ships and terrain.

Now here is the thing. My plan for the models is very simple as I shall be focussing on the river battles leading up to the fall of Vicksburg and later. I shall be using a version of the rules that Bob Cordery has written in his latest book - Gridded Naval Wargames. I say version as the redoubtable Mr Fox has tweaked them very slightly to add some extra depth. I have a few ideas around this myself so will probably tweak the tweaks to bring them into line with my own ideas on the subject - primarily around ship classifications.

The cloth that Peter Pig sells to support their rules is hexed and covers a playing area of 7 x 13 hexes. As you can see there is a shoreline along both sides  meaning that the blue of the water represents a river. The hexes themselves are 12cms across the flat hex sides. There is sufficient room onshore to deploy the odd fort or field works but the land is not hexed as such, only where it is contact with the water.

In my opinion this is probably not the best way to have done this as I believe it may have been better to have had just one side representing the shore so that their would be a little more ‘sea room’ so to speak. Having said that it does make for a potentially cramped playing area which probably captures the essence of river fighting better. The purist may be offended by the inland waterways of the US being blue in colour but at least there can be no doubt where the wet stuff is!

Once I have some ships ready to use with this (when the WW2 models are finished) I will iron the cloth to flatten out the creases and can then store it flat.

As I say, it is not perfect but will serve for the immediate future or at least until I can come up with something a little more tailored.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Revisiting Risk: Europe and Hollywood Medieval Gaming

The box art - this is not like a 'normal' Risk game, in fact I think it is closer of Axis and Allies in many ways.

The rear of the box showing the components.
The map board - very useful as the basis of some stylised campaigns.
The figures - and they are very nice indeed!

Finally, a game in progress with what looks like Scandinavians and Arab/Turkic types fighting over France....

There are many periods of military history that I have an interest in – there are also many periods of military history that I am unlikely to raise armies for. The Medieval era for me very much falls into the latter category. Of course systems like Saga, Lion Rampant, DBA/HOTT and the Portable Wargame mean that smaller armies are required with the obvious advantage of needing less figures and are therefore much quicker to get into action. That is the theory anyway…. 
If I am honest I have a strange relationship with the Medieval period. I cannot say I am well read on the subject as the only things I have studied at any great length have been the Mongol Conquests or the Crusades and even then only intermittently. I have fought a few games in the period but not for some time. I have come to the conclusion that my ‘interest’ in the period is largely what I would call a Hollywood one in that my ideas of warfare in the period have been firmly influenced by the films I have seen. With this somewhat lackadaisical approach to historical accuracy it is fairly safe to assume that any armies I undertake will probably be of the ‘based on’ variety rather than being super accurate.
That is why I was so pleased to have  acquired a couple of copies of Risk: Europe way back in November of last year.
As mentioned in a previous post this version of Risk is unlike any other and in fact is more like an Axis and Allies style of game. The troop types have various strengths and weaknesses – for example you are not able to attack a castle unless you have a siege weapon – and although the armies are made up of the same types of figures (missile troops, hand to hand fighters, cavalry and the aforementioned siege weapon) the game uses different models for each army. The figures are pretty generic and represent eastern and western European forces, Scandinavia and Arabic/Turkic. They are small 20mm scale moulded in a kind of soft plastic. 
A single copy of the game will net you four armies each of 12 foot, a dozen missile troops and 35 hand to hand fighters with around 4 siege engines – of differing types. Having two sets of the game gives a little extra flexibility.  
Much as I am intrigued by the game in its original form the likelihood of getting sufficient people in the same space-time continuum to actually play it is unlikely. However, as a low cost option for some Medieval mayhem you could do a lot worse. The two sets cost me £20 so there is a lot of figures there and all the other material  - the stylised map of Europe for example - would come in useful for campaign purposes.
These are not on the radar for anytime soon so no decisions really need to be as such in respect of painting or basing, even which rules to use with them. In a moment of weakness I may cobble up a couple of DBA/HOTT forces - these would be great to use for a fantasy set up methinks - as a side hustle so to speak.
Something to think about then.



Monday 16 July 2018

Battle! Practical Wargaming

The original version of Charles Grant's classic title devoted to WW2 wargames.
The edition currently available from Caliver books. There is a lot of additional material in this although the photo quality for the original chapters is quite poor - even in the original 1970 book they were not great!

Another of my ‘go to’ wargames books – although not recently which is rather surprising given my WW2 project – is Battle! Practical Wargaming by Charles Grant. If I am honest I would say that I preferred this to his book the Wargame, probably as when I first read it, I was heavily into WW2 courtesy of Airfix and numerous copies of Commando comic books! 
The subject matter is WW2 land warfare using 20mm Airfix infantry and Roco Minitanks (for the most part). The rules were simple and Grant unashamedly used vehicles for what they represented rather than what they actually were. I recall copying his idea for a conversion of a Russian infantryman kneeling firing into a bazooka gunner using some wire and fashioning a radio operator from the smg carrying squatting figure by the hugely technical use of a small square of balsa wood and a another piece of wire. I also remember making the measuring stick for antitank fire with the angle of strike device as well as the various other templates the rules used. It did not stop there either as I also used to make tanks from cigarette and match boxes as well as buildings and ploughed fields from corrugated card. It was all great fun and driven by my modest financial circumstances.
I fought many games with these rules when I was a teenager on the Isle of Sheppey using unpainted plastic figures although the vehicles, at least when they were kits that is,  were painted. For some reason we never bothered with the Airfix polythene vehicles.
In the book Grant covered most of the usual WW2 tabletop features we are familiar with although there was no mention of aircraft. I enjoyed reading his rationale behind his rules and his comments on visibility and the effects of chance in wargames have stayed with me. I flirted with the idea of ‘hexing’ the rules but did not really pursue it to any great extent. I also enjoyed the actions he fought using his rules. 
I would happily use these rules again and I seem to recall that someone had updated them to include more complete vehicle lists and certain missing weapon types. I believe that a modern version also exists. 
When I first considered using 20mm infantry figures from the Axis and Allies board game my initial thought was to use Charles Grant’s rules as they are simple and great fun to use. I suspect he would not have been overly concerned about aesthetics in respect of what equipment was being used by whom as the game was the thing.
A great set of rules.


Friday 13 July 2018

Greece is the Word....

Another gem from the pen of David Howarth of Waterloo: A Near Run Thing fame 9and some other great titles as well!)

As part of my research into the Western Balkans pre and post Greek independence I was reminded of the above book in my collection by David Howarth. One of his other works has the dubious accolade of being one of my favourite books – A Near Run Thing, his account of the Battle of Waterloo constructed from the reminiscences of various participants. I picked The Greek Adventure up from a boot sale a couple of years ago and there it has sat on the shelf waiting for me to read it. 
Much like the author’s work on Waterloo this is by no means the most detailed account of the Greek War of Independence but what it lacks in detail it makes up for in respect of being a rattling good read. As a primer attempting to make sense of what was happening it would be hard to beat and it has certainly given me much to think about for my Balkan project.
The War of Independence was disorganised, chaotic, anarchic even as initially there was little thought by the local populace beyond removing the Turks and resuming the almost clannish/tribal way of life that had persisted for centuries. The idea of a Greek nation was firmly in the hands of exiles and westernised merchants living abroad and hoping to bring the benefits of the modern post American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary world. These groups (including the inevitable secret society committed to freeing Greece from the Turks found a willing audience in the aspiration of the Philhellenes of a united Greece along the classical model - despite the fact that classical Greece was always a collection of states rather than a unified entity.
In many ways Greece was rather like Scotland with its clans or even the North West Frontier with its tribes. The biggest difference though is the naval dimension as both the maritime and island Greeks were (and still are) very good sailors, certainly better than the Turks.
Reading Howarth's book has given me much food for thought about what I shall be gaming and how I will be doing it. Certainly the earlier period (by that I mean the period of the War of Independence) has much to commend it in an anarchic sort of way rather than the later 1875 to 1885 when things were a little more settled.
Much to ponder methinks!

Thursday 12 July 2018

Churchill and Madagascar

The set completed at Salute earlier in the year by the addition of the East Africa volume - which features the invasion of Madagascar

The dedicated title written by one of the editors of the set above.
Way back in April at Salute I picked up the final volume of a 'series' of books covering WW2 in the Mediterranean. These books, from the Pen and Sword 'Despatches from the Front' series, are compilations of official reports interspersed with a brief narrative to place the reports into context. As these are official reports the language can be a little stilted at times but they are a goldmine of information for anyone interested in the 'reason why'. I have really enjoyed dipping into these and they have proven to be very useful as well as being full of gaming ideas.
The East Africa volume is probably my favourite simply because of the sideshow nature of the campaign and my soft spot for such things. As mentioned this book also touched on the Madagascar operation and so when I saw that one of the editors of the series had written a dedicated book on the operation I immediately acquired a copy - and very good it is as well!
I can do no better than quote the Amazon description of John Grehan's excellent title thus:
"In the spring of 1942 Britain's far-flung empire was in the greatest peril. North Africa was being overrun by the German Afrika Korps and in south-east Asia the forces of Imperial Japan had captured Singapore and were threatening India. Only the most urgent reinforcement of both war fronts could prevent disaster. But Britain's shipping routes to Egypt and India passed the island of Madagascar. If the Japanese Navy, operating out of Madagascar, could severe Britain's communications with Cairo and Delhi, then the whole of North Africa and the Indian sub-continent would be at the mercy of the Axis Powers. In a desperate race against time, and under conditions of the utmost secrecy, at Churchill's instigation Britain planned to seize Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, before the Japanese could strike. An overwhelming force was assembled and despatched as part of the largest convoy ever to have left Britain's shores. Yet the expedition's commanders were faced with not just military but also political obstacles, because the forces occupying the island were not those her enemy's but those of her former ally - France. The Secret Invasion is the first book to examine in detail this crucial campaign which was Britain's largest amphibious assault since the First World War and the first large-scale combined air, sea and land operation Britain had attempted"
So, British and Commonwealth troops fighting the Vichy French to ensure that the Japanese could not take control of the island and threaten the Cape.
There is a lot of potential here and it is certainly an interesting, if little known, campaign.

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Charging into a Wargame

The two books that have had the most lasting impact on my own wargaming odyssey.

Covering the same period, using the same large units and the with same use of the imagi-nation for the forces used therein.

I am sure I am not alone in having an enormous amount of affection for the above seminal books on wargaming: Charge! by Messrs. Young and Lawford and the Wargame by Charles Grant. In a moment of whimsy on a particularly irritating train journey I went through a mental exercise of thinking about the wargames books I have read and what has stayed with me the most. Furthermore, from those titles what, if anything, would be relevant to my gaming today.   

Taking the two books together the first thing for me is the difference in style. Charge! reads far better in my opinion than the Wargame but the latter is far more, dare I say it, analytical in content. In that way they complement one another rather well. Both titles use the 18th century as their period of choice and also make use of large units of individual figures and fictional armies. Indeed Charge! goes even further and actively encourages the formation of fictional armies rather than historical ones. Finally, both titles include actions fought using the author’s rules.

I think it is safe to say that as far as wargaming is concerned these two books more or less single-handedly instigated a whole plethora of ‘imagi-nations’ – helped by the actual historical patchwork quilt of small states across central Europe at the time.

For a long time the idea of fictional armies was very dear to me until, dare I say it, ‘history and accuracy’ took hold. I have no axe to grind in respect of the purely historical gamer - the person that builds historically accurate armies based on a specific campaign (or part thereof) and that plays their games set solely in that era against armies of the appropriate opposition.
I often wonder though, if one is missing a trick by following such a course - I am pretty sure I have over the years.
One thing that did occur to me though concerning both of the above books was their use of what are nowadays unfashionably large units. Taking as an example one of their suggested infantry regiments/battalions - the exact nomenclature is not really important - of some 48 rank and file and half a dozen officers and supernumaries, drummers, sergeants and standard bearers etc one has sufficient figures to break the unit into smaller units which would fit in well with alternate rules. Taking Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame as an example a standard infantry unit consists of four pieces. I say pieces intentionally as each piece could have a single figures or a base of figures contained therein. This means the 48 figures could furnish units of 12 x 4, 6 x 8, 8 x 6 or 4 x 12. It matters not as long as the four bases for the unit are manned.
What is the point I am trying to make? Well, I have been a huge fan of the above rules for as long as I have been wargaming and whilst I can never see myself whole fielding armies using their suggested organisations I can see no problem raising a single infantry regiment in that fashion. The same would apply to the cavalry and artillery organisation. There is something very atmospheric about having separate command figures, musicians and standard bearers etc for the horse and musket period rather than having such worthies assimilated 'into the brown' on an anonymous base of multiples.
The days of massed armies in 30mm are passed for many of us - time, expense and the sheer effort involved of churning out a couple of armies of several hundred figures is prohibitive - but I for one am loath to lose sight of the legacy of Messrs. Grant, Lawford and Young.
With this in mind I shall be organising the units for the Western Balkans and the North West Frontier as per those laid down by those worthy gentlemen. My sole concession is with the cavalry as 3 troops of 8 figures for a regiment is a little unwieldy for my taste. I suspect that two troops of the arme blanche would be sufficient for my needs. Any additions to a force would be added using the company/troop/section organisation so preserving the Charge/Wargame effect.
I have organised the first two armies for the Western Balkans on that basis and at this stage will be amassing the figures accordingly from Spencer Smith.

Monday 9 July 2018

Revisiting Across Four Oceans

The Across Four Oceans logo

Way back in 2012 I posted about a set of WW2 Naval rules inspired by Axis and Allies: War At Sea available from Boardgamegeek. The set was called Across Four Oceans and there is a link to them in the post mentioned.

The rules and fleet lists. There is a tactical and an operational set of rules designed for campaigns.

Whilst is the very warm man cave (sweating profusely I might add!) I came across my folder with the rules contained therein and so thought I would take a further look.

I am very pleased I did.

A number of years ago Mr Fox and myself spent a lot of time (and money!) amassing fleets using the 1/1800th scale models available as part of the Axis and Allies: War at Sea collectible miniatures game. We had some superb games at the club using the huge cloth that I had marked out with 8" offset squares. The rules were simple and involved great handfuls of dice. As a game it was enormous fun but it always felt a little like a Chinese takeaway - satisfying in the short term but leaving you hungry for more shortly after. Our enthusiasm waned and the fleets were disbursed to the four corners of the globe. The models were nice but the scale was a little on the large side for anything other than large playing areas - meaning the dining table was out. You could use the rules with smaller models but this was not an option we ever really thought about - which in itself is surprising as there are plenty of 1/3000th scale fleets at the club.

Across Four Oceans have essentially taken the Axis and Allies system and 'wargamered' it. The rules are far more detailed and are designed for use on a hex grid although there is a hexless variant. Aside from the tactical rules there is also a very nice set f operational rules that can be used for campaigns.

I have the rules and three fleets lists printed off - the Royal Navy, Kriegsmarine and the Italians - but there are a whole host of others as well. These also include aircraft.

I shall spend some time rereading these as, on the face of it, they offer a complete system for WW2 naval gaming including air operations. They also have the additional scale of detail that the Axis and Allies rules lack.

For my part using these rules would make my WW2 project easier to initiate as a lot of the work has already been done. I also think that using the models I have from the Axis and Allies strategic board game on a 4" hexagonal grid (or even gridless) this could work very nicely from a space perspective as the size of the models would not look out of place on a tabletop.

As ever, lots to think about.

Sunday 8 July 2018

Memoir ‘44: A Request

Just a quick post for today. If there are any readers of the blog that have Memoir ‘44 or any of the expansions and have no use for the miniatures or terrain tiles/counters contained therein please let me know as I will happily take these off you.

There is a cunning plan in mind.....

In other news I have - despite the temperature being north of 30 degrees in the man cave - managed to get some more painting done on the WW2 ships so am in good shape to have these ready for the end of the month.

And of course there is the small matter of a World Cup semi final (potentially a final as well!) to consider.

It’s coming home? I suspect France/Belgium/Croatia may have something to say about that!

Friday 6 July 2018

Ali Pasha of Janina (not the Tortoise)

A little earlier than the period I shall be gaming but it would be churlish not to factor him in somehow some 50 years later!
I first saw this book a while ago and have to say that my curiosity was piqued! With my thoughts plated firmly in the Western Balkans and the Ionian Islands it seemed like a good idea to invest in a copy - purely for research purposes you understand....
I have yet to read it and so will quote the back cover instead so you can see why I am so pleased to have this.
"The Authors chart the rise of Ali Pasha from Albanian Brigand to a player in world affairs.
Ali Pasha carved his own semi-autonomous empire within the Ottoman Empire and much of Greece.
An astute politician and skilled general, Byron called Ali Pasha the Mahometan (Muslim) Bonaparte.
During the Napoleonic wars Ali's favour was courted by all sides; he allied himself first with the French and then the British.
Ali's actions and eventual demise hastened the decline of Ottoman rule and the commencement of the Greek War of Independence.
The epitome of an oriental despot in Europe, Ali became a living legend and Western visitors such as Lord Byron queued up to visit his court in Yanina (Ioannina)."
I am hoping this book will help to flesh out the background to my planned Western Balkan undertaking and when followed by the Greek War of Independence should give me plenty of information to ponder for my project.
Ali Pasha the Tortoise is another story altogether but worth a look all the same.
Ali Pasha the famous Tortoise


Using One's Imagi-nation....Part 3

Spencer Smith ACW Infantry in kepi advancing - this will the basic infantry figure I will use for the Russians circa 1875 to 1885. There are a number of incorrect details but they will be painted to look the part.

ACW Union Cavalryman. This chap will be used as a Russian Dragoon, again with the appropriate paint job.

The ACW gun crew pack - I will need to swap a some heads for the other non-kepi wearing nationalities but luckily not that many!
The ACW Zouave. Turkish or Albanian methinks although I may do something with the backpack - possibly just removing the bedroll.

From the 18th century range you have a Pandour which would be useful alongside....

….his Slavonian counterpart.
The above are a small selection of the figures I shall be making use of from the Spencer Smith SSM range for the Western Balkans/Ionian Islands set up. The British will be sourced from the SSM Zulu Wars range. I shall try and keep the conversions to a minimum (although the Greek Evzones will be interesting!) and so am relying on the paint job to set the scene so to speak. The figures are going to be block painted with no shading or highlighting, gloss varnished and will also be based individually. Furthermore the bases will be unflocked. I have opted for individual bases for a number of reasons but mainly to give me sufficient flexibility in terms of the rules I shall use as not only the Portable Wargame feature but also A Gentleman's War and The Men Who Would Be Kings.
I am trying to get a proper 'old school toy soldier' look with this collection and this will also be carried over into the terrain I shall be using.
The forces raised will not be large by any means - the Russians are currently at around 60 foot (which includes gun crews and command), a dozen or so mounted and a couple of guns.
The naval dimension is something I shall be looking at over the weekend whilst I am painting the Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine....MUST STAY FOCUSSED....MUST STAY FOCUSSED....

Wednesday 4 July 2018

Using One's Imagi-nation....Part 2

The Ionian sea and the islands therein

During my recent holiday on the island of Corfu I learned a number of interesting facts about the place - facts that have given me much to think about from a gaming perspective. I was vaguely aware of the British connection with the island (and indeed, with the '7 Islands' of the Ionian sea) but not that it was in fact ruled as a protectorate for some fifty years up to 1864 complete with a Lord High Commissioner. I was also not aware of the combined Russo-Turkish occupation during the early years of the Napoleonic Wars.

The flag of the Ionian Islands. Note the lion of Venice from the days of their occupation of the islands. 

Against the backdrop of the crumbling Ottoman Empire, the rise of an independent Greece and the unification of Italy the area has seen a lot of activity from any one of Britain, France, Italy, Venice, Russia, Turkey and of course, Greece herself.

The potential from a gaming perspective beyond the purely historical is pretty substantial and for me at least captures the all important naval dimension. I have been mulling this location over as a going concern since my return from Corfu and reckon there is certainly some mileage to be had from the area if one applies a little 'imagineering' to the theatre.

I am currently thinking about using this setting as the basis for an 1880s (actually around 1875 to 1885 thereby straddling the Russo Turkish war) set up with Portable Wargames armies made up from a selection of metal Spencer Smith figures. These figures, which have adorned both the internet and the written word since (in the latter case) the 1960s are very basic, crude even, but have the huge advantage of being cheap, fairly generic looking and able to be painted simply. This is a HUGE advantage for someone like me for sure!

I am sketching out a rough background to see where it goes but the basic assumption is that the British still hold the Ionian islands as a Protectorate. The Greeks want the islands but dare not challenge the British. The Turk/Albanians would also like them as well as reincorporating Greece into the Ottoman Empire. The Russians will act as a safeguard for Greece against the Turk/Albanian menace (all the while being carefully watched by Austria and being supported by Serbia) whilst the British are content to sit back and watch. Then there is the Italians who are keen to announce themselves on the international stage by reacquiring the islands formerly owned by Venice.

I have yet to flesh out the full details but this is where my thinking is headed.

Using Spencer Smith ACW Union infantry I can, with a simple paint conversion (and purists of the period look away now!), raise Russian, Serbian, Greek, Austrian and Italian infantry. the British are available from the Zulu Wars range - redcoats and all - whilst the ACW Zouave can pass muster as any amount of Turkish/Balkan types. There are a few 'specials' that may need some conversion - the main one being of course the famous Greek Evzones.

Greek Evzones wearing the famous Foustanella pleated kilt.
This idea is designed from the ground up as a Portable Wargame project and indeed, the only way I would have considered undertaking such a thing is simply down to the availability of Spencer Smith figures in metal. I am aiming for a specific look to the collection - the traditional shiny toy soldier approach - and these figures are the best way for me to achieve this.
The naval dimension will feature but as yet I have not given it too much thought.
In other news work on the WW2 ships has started again following my holiday with the plan being to get them finished by the end of the month. I have also nailed down more details for the NW Frontier although this is (and indeed always was) very much a slow burner.
Best crack on then.

Monday 2 July 2018

Using One's Imagi-nation

My streaming head cold has abated somewhat but a growling chest, rasping throat and a cold sore large enough for its own post code remain (the after effect of the streaming nose). No other family members have been suffering and so I am confident that this current malaise was acquired courtesy of the three hour flight home from Corfu but I digress....

As is my wont I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about gaming 'stuff' and in particular the whole 'imagi-nation' thing and how and why one would use such a vehicle for one's gaming. There is no simple answer to this and I suspect that many gamers have their own ideas as to why and to what extent such a course is followed. I use the word extent deliberately as there are imagi-nations and imagi-nations in my experience and it is interesting (to me anyway) to see how far along the path gamers go when choosing this route.

There are many gamers that indulge in imagi-nations to a greater or lesser degree and I apologise in advance if I have not mentioned any particular favourites - this is not intended to be a definitive guide to the subject; rather it is just a casual overview.


At the top of the list is full blown made up country set in a particular time frame with assorted armies based on that particular era. This gives a player free rein to use whatever forces he or she likes and to create units, uniforms, personalities and all the other wherewithal to set one's games in. the obvious choices in this regard would have to be (and this is by no means anything like an exhaustive list) something like Tony Bath's famous Hyboria ancients campaign or Grant's 18th century set up. Henry Hyde is currently plotting something similar set in the 18th century in something akin to the Indian subcontinent. Bob Cordery has also set up a 'world' for 1891. There are many others.

Henry Hyde's big picture....

….and a small detail from the Dahlia and Chindrastan map featuring the dedicated Madasahatta Archipelago with the capital Knowlesabad

Running something like this is a real labour of love and goes way beyond painting up some figures and fighting battles on the tabletop. I also believe it is ideally suited to the solo gamer as they can immerse themselves fully without worrying about prejudices from live opponents - those that don't get what you are trying to achieve. In my experience if the background, however colourful it may be, is historically credible then most gamers will happily take part in it if asked. When I say historically credible I of course mean that if something is being offered as an 18th century set up then the table top action should of course be in line with expectations.

Eric Knowles Madasahatta

Next up is the imagi-nation populated with historical troops - for which I would say Madasahatta. For the most part the troops were, for want of a better word, conventional WW1 Colonials with the locals being based on various historical tribal types. This option would be easy for the dedicated historical gamer to dabble in something a little out of the ordinary but again, it relies heavily in my opinion on the credibility of the background offered. My planned adventurs

The final category is not really an imagi-nation per se; rather it is taking an historical country and adding troops that were never there. From own experience to me this means the Turkish South East Asian Fleet and supporting ground troops based on Sumatra during the naval campaign devised by Eric Knowles as a follow up to Madasahatta.

For my part I have always been (and this may come as a surprise to many) slightly torn about the whole 'imagi-nation' concept from a practical perspective - although certainly not from a theoretical one. I would prefer to design my own uniforms and populate my own countries but of course, once you go down that path it means you have a collection of painted figures that may or may not be suitable for something historically based. Some gamers can be very picky about such things although most of my crowd would not be overly concerned matching their historically accurate figures with some 'never wozzers'. It would take a leap of faith to cross that particular Rubicon fully in my case but it is something I am coming around to more and more.

For a variety of reasons I have been looking long and hard at some 'imagineering' for a particular idea I have in mind. Previously I had made much use of the ideas of other people - nothing wrong in that - but I have come to the conclusion that there is always something that does not hang right in other people's worlds. This is by no means a criticism as many of these are far more detailed and ambitious than I would have attempted. In order to satisfy my own requirements I believe I will have to do my own thing and so this is what I am going to. I will offer no details at present but suffice it to say it will feature the second half of the 19th century with an optional follow on up to the Great War.