Friday 31 August 2018

A Return to the Swampy Bayous....

Bob Cordery's excellent book on naval wargames using a grid - and with much more besides. Note the rather fetching scratch built models in action on the cover.

My relationship with the American Civil war has been a chequered one for sure. I have bought and sold more material for this period than any other I can think of over a period of some forty years or so. Age has mellowed my temperament somewhat and so I am now able to see the war between the states with a greater sense of objectivity about the military and naval challenges the conflict offers the wargamer. My recent acquisition of the four volumes of Battles and Leaders and of Thunder Along the Mississippi have reinforced my intentions with the period and I would also add that Battle Cry - the Richard Borg designed Command and Colours boardgame - was probably the instigator of this apparent renaissance.

My situation at present with the ACW is that aside from a copy of the aforementioned Battle Cry my only investment in the period is around 40 1/600th ACW ships from the Peter Pig Hammerin' Iron range, together with some scenery. For figures I was considering using a fusion of Tumbling Dice and Peter Pig 1/600th figures in support of the ships or alternatively my block armies. Readers of the blog will no doubt recall a couple of river based games I fought using a combination of the block armies and my scratch built river forces. Two of the most notable games can be found here:

Raiders of the Lost Arkansas

The CSS Arkansas in trouble....

The Attack on Fort Duvet

...and about to be so again!

These games were fought a long time ago and reading the blog posts associated with the great scratch building effort I undertook to produce a pair of river fleets (there were over fifty ships in the collection eventually of which around a third were painted - only the ironclads for both sides) reminded me of how much fun I had actually building the ships.

I enjoy scratch building and whilst I do not profess to be a super detailed modeller producing ships for the American Civil War is not difficult. My old friend Bob Cordery has produced some really nice generic ship models and indeed, details how he made some of them in his very useful book Gridded Naval Wargames. Bob is very fond of making what he calls 'Cartoon Style' models - models that have the overall profile of the intended ship but with length shortened whilst being exaggerated in respect of height, typically with the use of Hexon tiles in mind. The big advantage of this is that whilst the 'footprint' of the model is small in relation to the height it looks better alongside the figures being used. Using the cover of Bob's book as an example these models look absolutely perfect alongside his Sudan collection.

Two of Bob Cordery's 'Cartoon Style' models shown to good effect.

I think for my planned needs I probably have too many models to consider with the Peter Pig collection - which was also true of the scratch built collection of several years ago. Dare I say it? It was a classic case of 'project creep'.

With this in mind I have taken the decision to part company with the Peter Pig collection (this time for definite!) as I want to build the models rather than use commercially available versions. It will take longer to get them into action but since I only envisage needing around a dozen models it should not be too onerous.

I have learned a lot from the original scratch building project in terms of construction techniques to know what I need to do this time around as the models will be more generic and will also be larger than the previous versions. Whereas I was modelling specific ships before this time around I shall focus more on the type being represented.

With the above in mind I have been quietly stockpiling building materials and so hope to start work once the WW2 ships have been finished.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

A Balkan Intrigue

A selection of uniform styles for Russia and Turkey from the Crimean War to that of 1877. For my part the Russians will be wearing the kepi whilst the Turks will have the classic Zouave style uniform with a turbaned fez.

It has been a busy weekend on the domestic front but I have managed to nail a few things down in respect of my modelling and painting arrangements and also with the Balkan project.

After some internal changes concerning the man cave and our lounge I now have some dedicated storage space downstairs. By deploying my fold up table and desk lamp when needed I will be able to paint and construct models to my hearts content - without the trip and monastic retreat into the man cave when I want to do anything. The man cave will now be primarily a library and gaming room.

I have finally settled on the shape of the Balkan project and so the initial forces will be Russian, Turkish and Greek. There will be a number of Balkan irregular types thrown in to the mix that can be used as allies where required or as forces in their own right. I have yet to scope the back story in detail although I have the basic framework in place. 

The armies will be ‘based upon’ rather than detailed representations which will suffice for my needs. There will be plenty of colour for sure and the naval dimension will also have a lot to offer.

My criteria for this project are very simple - I shall be using Spencer Smith 30mm figures exclusively, the figures will be painted in an old toy soldier style which will mean gloss varnish, plain bases and block colours with no shading or highlighting and the basic organisation of the forces will based on that from Charge! For the naval side I suspect that the Portable Naval Wargame will be used or possibly something from David Manley.

The rules I envisage using are Charge! (The Victorian version), the Portable Wargame, The Men Who Would be Kings, A Gentleman’s War and possibly the Neil Thomas 19th century set for when I am feeling serious.

I am unsure about the naval dimension merely because I have not researched the fleets sufficiently but I will probably make use of what I can from the Peter Pig ACW range or else raid the Tumbling Dice 1/2400th series - mainly because they make a lot of Victorian-era ironclads. There is also the possibility of scratch building which could be fun. 

However, before all this fun and games commences I need to get back to the WW2 ships and my change of plan in respect of the destroyers for the British and Germans. With this in mind a small order will be winging its way to Navwar very shortly.

Sunday 26 August 2018

Answering the The Eastern Question

The Greek army for the period under consideration - I rather like that very elegant looking lancer officer. I will take a look at some other sources for some closer details but reckon that the ACW kept wearing infantryman from Spencer Smith could serve quite nicely if one was not too pedantic about minor details.

OK then. You probably remember me mentioning an idea I was flirting with based on the Western Balkans and the Adriatic and set around the 1865 - 1875 period. This would involve the Greeks, Turks (via those areas that were still technically part of the Ottoman Empire) the Russians and the British - the latter as I wanted them still around occupying the Ionian islands. All of this came about as a result of my recent holiday in Corfu and seeing all the British buildings in the old fortress. The British had a governor on Corfu from 1815 until the mid 1860s when the Ionian Islands were passed over to Greece. For a variety of reasons I opted to shelve this in its intended form with the view to revisiting it at a later date.

Well, the later date has arrived via some further research into the period from the start of the Greek War of Independence until the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War.

Over the whole period the permutations of alliances and influence was, to say the least, rather complex.

Initially the plan was to maintain Ottoman territorial integrity to ensure that Russian influence was in the area was kept honest (thus pleasing Austria). However, the notion of Greek independence had gotten a hold in the minds of many influential people across Europe and so the idea of autonomy for the region but under Ottoman suzerainty was mooted. This did not go far enough and so the French, the British and the Russians sent forces to support the Greek rebels - especially as things were going so badly following the arrival of the Turkish allies from Egypt. At this stage a concerted effort from the Turks may well have ended the Greek resistance but for the Allied naval victory at Navarino in 1827. 

The French then sent an expeditionary force to help with the subjugation of the remaining Turkish garrisons and remained around until relieved by the Bavarians when Prince Otto arrived to assume the kingship of the newly independent Greece.

The Russians went to  war with Turkey in 1828 as the Turks, in retaliation for the Russian involvement at Navarino, closed the Dardanelles strait to Russian shipping.

The Battle of Akhalzic 1828. Note the white trousered Russians and the rather nonchalant drummer!

With Greece now an independent nation and supported by both Britain and France the Russians continued to be the champion of the Slavic peoples and thi ultimately led to the war in 1877 as the Turks went from being a cause celebre to (almost) international pariahs. Britain and France (not to mention Austria) were always mindful of the Ottoman geographical situation and usually were supportive of their territorial integrity - especially where Russia was concerned.

I have thought about all the permutations of historical alliances and how this could translate into an 1865 to 1875 style set up. 

You will have no doubt noticed that at this point I have made no mention of imagi-nations. This is deliberate as I genuinely believe that the situation is this part of the world during the period under consideration was diverse enough generate sufficient interest using historical forces. However, therein lies a potential stumbling block. The forces I would consider for this will be made from Spencer Smith figures and so I am limited to an extent what can be produced. In fact it is fair to say that the armies will not be accurate representations of their historical counterparts - rather they will be ‘based upon’.  If tweaking a historical period and producing armies that are loosely modelled on their actual counterparts constitutes ‘imagi-neering’ then so be it. In any event the background is the thing and the armies (and navies) will be there or thereabouts in terms of what they look like and what would be available.

For the period in question the Spencer Smith ACW kepi wearing infantryman will be well suited for use for the Russians, the French, the Serbians and the Greeks (if one is not too fussy about the headgear). The kepi wearing cavalryman will be useful for both the Greeks and the Russians whilst the ACW Zouave will of course work for the Turk - as well as for many of the Ottoman Balkan subjects although I will need to lose the back pack. I can raid the other Spencer Smith ranges for assorted Balkan irregulars, other cavalry types and even, if needed, Bavarian infantry.

I have yet to finalise the shape this project will take and it will be very much a ‘what if’ style of set up. The troops fielded will be ‘based upon’ their historical counterparts and so in true Hollywood fashion ‘and resemblance between persons or events living or dead is purely coincidental and not intentional.’

That’s the plan anyway and so the Grand Duchy of Artois and the Electorate of Kronenbourg will appear in their 18th century guise in due course - as I always intended.

Friday 24 August 2018

Thoughts on Imagi-nation Uniforms

A selection of French Zouaves wearing the turbaned fez. Note the 'camp follower' on the shoulders of the right hand figure!

My recent blog posts concerning imagi-nations have generated a number of comments that have given me much to think about – for which I am very grateful to those that took the time to write in.

In the interests of clarity I would like to detail what it is I am going to do and how in respect of the Spencer Smith project.

Initially I will be producing a pair of 1860/1870 armies organised as per Charge! and intended for use with a number of rules sets including A Gentleman’s War, Charge! (there is a Victorian variant on the Old School Yahoo Group as I recall), the Portable Wargame and The Men Who Would Be Kings (yes I know they are designed for Colonials but they would work well enough for what I am planning).

I was considering using the ACW figures as intended to support my 1/600th naval collection but have decided instead to follow the imagi-nation route as this will give me a lot more creative licence. The forces in question will be supported by a full back story complete with the all-important map (which will naturally feature some water for the naval side) and the essential dramatis personae.

At this stage I have not settled on the two armies yet  - whether they will appear as Kronenberg and Artois or Fezia and Rusland. The figures I will be using initially are kepi, trouser and tunic wearing ACW types and so there will be plenty of historical examples of similar uniforms to serve as inspiration. The kepi, trouser and tunic combination was a very popular style of uniform for the 1860 to 1870 period until the Prussian style came into vogue (and I am indebted to Bob Cordery for mentioning that to me). Aside from the American Civil War, uniforms of this type featured in the Italian Wars of Unification and the Pacific war amongst others which means that the standard kepi-wearing ACW infantryman is a very useful figure indeed. Fezia on the other hand, will be a little more problematic as there is but a solitary Zouave figure in the Spencer Smith range wearing a turbaned fez.

The Zouave style of uniform was again very popular for a while during the period in question and so would allow for some elements of the exotic in the armies under consideration. Should Fezia make an appearance then this fellow would serve as the rank and file for the regular army and probably as a Bashi-Bazouk style irregular alongside the Croats, Pandours and other assorted Balkan types available from Spencer Smith.

The Spencer Smith ACW Zouave - again wearing the turbaned fez

The 84th New York Zouaves from the brush of the very talented Jim Duncan 

Chronologically speaking I am approaching this toy soldier project from the wrong way round. I hope to tackle the 18th century in due course but for now the third quarter of the 19th century will hold sway. Of course there is also the small matter of the Napoleonic Wars ‘twixt the tricorne and kepi period….

....And the naval dimension....

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Just my imagi-nation....Once again

Founded in 1664 the Electorate of Kronenbourg changed the spelling of their name in 1715 to remove any Gallic overtones.

The Grand Duchy of Artois dates from 1366 and has been bickering with Kronenberg on and off since 1700. Aside from border disputes and police style actions there has been at least three wars directly between the two sides

In my last post I mentioned about the two ‘imagi-nations’ I came up with several years ago, originally for an 18th century set up. The Electorate of Kronenberg and The Grand Duchy of Artois were inspired by Messrs Grant, Young and Lawford and took their names from two well known beers. I liked both the names but ‘Germanised’ the spelling of Kronenbourg so it looked less French. I had great fun looking up names of German and continental beers for the regiments in the army of Kronenberg and the names of wines for those of Artois. As an example the senior heavy cavalry regiment in the Kronenberg army is the Holstein Kuirassiere whilst Artois has the Cuirassiers du Chablis. You get the general idea. I also toyed with the idea of having a ‘British’ force where all the units were named after cheeses but the idea never really matured….

My own opinion is that one has to make a huge leap of faith to produce an imagi-nation to its fullest extent. By its fullest extent I mean designing uniforms and standards etc as well as the terrain and the whole back story because, let’s be honest, most imagi-nations are very much personal affairs meaning that inevitably a carefully painted unit of one’s own design will not find favour with the more serious historical fraternity – other than to admire the brushwork perhaps. You would also probably have a job selling them on should the need arise. If I am honest this had always been a problem for me as I am a notoriously slow and reluctant painter so painting something with little resale value was not something I was keen on. Churning out a unit based on a whim is all well and good as long as one is fully committed to the cause and is in it for the long haul. I am far more relaxed about this kind of thing now – I am pleasing myself primarily after all - and so ‘imagi-neering’ is a lot more viable. I suppose I am at that stage of my gaming career when the idea of ‘pleasing myself’ rather than ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is far more important!

Messrs Young and Lawford mentioned in Charge! about the advantages of using mythical armies and of being able to design one’s own uniforms and standards etc. I have no problem with this and have even worked on the basic colours used for each side. The end result will not surprise you in that the main coat colour for Kronenberg infantry is dark blue whilst those of Artois are mid to light grey. Regimental facings would be applied to the usual places – turnbacks, cuffs etc and the cavalry would usually be more colourful and not follow the uniform conventions of their foot compatriots.

For the 18th century I would opt to use the Spencer Smith War of the Austrian Succession range rather than the later and more traditional figures seen in The Wargame. I would do this simply because the choice is far better and more complete than the original eighteenth century range and the figures lend themselves to an easier paint job.

There is also the possibility of pitting the two opponents in later years so it would be possible to raise Napoleonic forces – again, Spencer Smith have a small Napoleonic range - and then the same for the third quarter of the 19th century – naturally with a naval dimension adding to the fun. Producing pairs of armies for three different periods is obviously a long term project but it would enable different types of games to be fought as tactics and technology evolved. One could ensure a degree of continuity between the combatants and their units which helps to flesh out the story.

For me at the present time the great debate is whether to go historical or imagi-nation for my Spencer Smith project and if the latter will Kronenbourg and Artois see the light of day or will those old adversaries Fezia and Rusland cross swords once again?

I have time to think about this and so am not going to make any hasty decisions – I have done this far too many times in the past and have lived to regret it – as I have a number of supporting ideas to consider as well.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Charging into Battle via The Wargame

From the Spencer Smith Miniatures website. 

My previous post generated a some very thought provoking comments for which I am, as ever, very appreciative of. Those stalwarts of the wargaming blogosphere Archduke Piccolo and Ross Macfarlane and several others have given me much food for thought over both Charge! and The Wargame and the impact both have had (and continue to do so) on the wargames world in general.

The idea of fighting battles using the rules from either Charge! or The Wargame with 1/600th scale figures on the face of it seems slightly left field for sure but I believe it is doable. Whether or not I do it is another matter entirely but the idea has certainly put a 'burr under my saddle' so to speak! I think that the biggest challenge is representing a unit by a single base of figures rather than by using individual models. A roster would seem to be essential for this but there is also the thorny question of representing various formations on the table top - the inevitable column, line and square etc. One could produce bases for each unit in the required formation but this would add to the amount required and the time to paint, not to  mention storage and cost. Like I say though, it is doable and I am sure that someone will find a way!

On a more practical level I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts that I am shall be embarking upon a modest old toy soldier Spencer Smith based set up. It will be quite low key and the unit organisations will be modelled on Charge/The Wargame and so each side will consist of an infantry regiment of 48 rank and file plus officers etc, a cavalry squadron of 8 troopers and an officer and an artillery battery of two guns and crews plus command. I will also furnish a commander for the force with perhaps and ADC and an escort. the figures will be individually based (I suspect that movement trays will make an appearance though!).

The figures I will be working with initially will probably be for the ACW although the thought of imagi-nationing them is a very tempting one - originally this was the plan for the Western Balkans project with ACW kepi wearing infantry doubling as 1870's Russians. As it stands at present the ACW troops will probably be used as is and so my fondness for Kurz and Allison prints may at last find a 3D outlet!

Mention of imagi-nations (and let's face it, I have done so on more than one occasion!) reminded me of a pair of protagonists I came up with many years ago inspired (unsurprisingly) by the two combatants that Charles Grant used to maintain. My two forces went under the names of the Electorate of Kronenbourg (spelt Kronenberg as this was more 'Germanic' looking) and the Grand Duchy of Artois. As you will have guessed these are German and French based. I also stipulated that all of the Artois units were named after wines whilst the Kronenberg versions used beer as their inspiration. I still have the unit names for both sides in a notebook.

I actually did a lot of other work for this in that I drew up a map with the principal cities and forts (not to mention ports and harbours) for both sides and had even started on the dramatis personae to add to the background. I even got as far as looking at both protagonists at different times so the potential for a Napoleonic version and a late 19th century (well pre 1870 in any event) set was also considered. If you recall I also planned the same for Fezia and Rusland. There was also going to be a naval dimension.

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of both Charge! and The Wargame (and also Battle: Practical Wargaming) and so revisiting them as often as I have has given me not only a huge amount of satisfaction and pleasure but has also made me realise an inescapable truth. I am still thrilled and inspired by their writing and the imagery they conjure up. So why shouldn’t I use them for my wargames?

Seriously though, it may be thought by some that I am stuck in some kind of wargaming time warp and so have ignored the last forty odd years of wargames developments. In response to this I can only offer the following. I have used many different sets over the years for many different periods of military history – some good, great even – some bad and some truly dreadful. With a couple of honourable exceptions most of these have disappeared ignominiously back onto the book shelf or, more usually, have been sold or given away. As I keep coming back to certain periods of military history so I keep coming back to certain rules sets. If I am honest the catalyst for this line of thinking probably goes back to when I took part in the refight of Leipzig 1813 using Little Wars (complete with firing cannon and party poppers) last year. A set of wargames rules over a hundred years old gave me one of the greatest days of wargaming I have ever had the good fortune to take part in.

Charge! and The Wargame are not perfect by any means (show me a set of rules that is!) but for entertainment value they are a hard act to follow – so why should I try to? 

Whether I opt for historical or imagi-nation forces for my Spencer Smith project has yet to be finalised but I take comfort in knowing that whatever path I decide to follow for this particular endeavour it will be fun. Surely that is the whole point of it?

Friday 17 August 2018

Granting a Wargames Wish....

Part of the Eric Knowles book collection passed over to me by Bill, his son.

Way back in May of this year I was surprised and delighted to receive a number of wargames books from Bill Knowles from the collection of his father, Eric. Aside from cleaning them up a little and glancing through them I must confess that they have sat on the bookshelf patiently waiting for me to do something with them. A couple of weeks ago I moved Grant's The Wargame down from the loft onto the single shelf I am allowed in the lounge for books (Laurel has very minimalistic tastes in decor and does not really like seeing lots of books lying around....) where it sits in pride of place next to Charge! and Battle: Practical Wargaming - a holy trinity if you like.

I should point out that my copy of Charge is not the one you see above but another softback version produced by (I believe) Ken Trotman (I stand to be corrected on this) that features coloured covers rather than black and white. I want to get a hardback version at some point but that is another story.

Anyway, to cut a long story short I decided to revisit The Wargame as although I have had a copy of Charge! in the collection for years (and have frequently 'dipped into' it for light relief, nostalgia and inspiration) The Wargame has always eluded me. It has been nigh on thirty years since I read this and so I figured it was high time I did so once again.

Needless to say I was very pleased that I did.

I had forgotten how logical Grant was in how he drew up his rules. They seem to be in marked contrast to the efforts of Messrs. Young and Lawford and I found myself wondering how they managed to game together so successfully for so long! I have said before that Grant's rules and approach provide a more, dare I say it, scientific game than Young and Lawfords. Both are enormous fun and I have used both on occasion and they complement each other very nicely indeed.

I was quite taken by a comment in the foreword by Brigadier Peter Young in that he says that "They (Charge! and The Wargame) differ also in a more important aspect. The latter are based on Napoleonic warfare while the Grant rules rest on a study of the wars of Frederick the Great. In fact either set will, with slight modification, serve for any period from the Thirty Years war to the American Civil War." I always thought that charge was firmly rooted in the third quarter of the 18th century.

I have fought actions using both Charge! and The Wargame sized units which is again a lot of fun albeit an expensive proposition these days.

It suddenly occurred to me though that there is a mad but viable alternative to huge armies of 28mm figures to game a la Grant/Young/Lawford.

Yup, you've guessed it - 1/600th!

Another chance to look at Scott MacPhee's quite delightful 1/600th scale French Napoleonics.

Now I know on the face of it this would seem slightly north of bonkers but it is not such a mad idea. Taking the infantry formation seen above one could readily deploy an infantry regiment with the command in its proper place on a single base. Movement distances, ranges, measuring devices could be scaled down accordingly and the only real issue would be the removal of casualties - this could be readily handled via a roster sheet. I am sure there are a few other rules wrinkles that would ned to be ironed out but as a concept I think it has some mileage.

I shall give this some further thought and who knows? The Electorate of Kronenbourg and the Grand Duchy of Artois may yet see the light of day....

Thursday 16 August 2018

More thoughts about the size of it....

Panthers on the prowl - PicoArmour 3 mm models painted by Scott MacPhee

A very impressive 3 mm Napoleonic French battalion - again from the brush of Scott MacPhee

Another 3 mm French Napoleonic infantry battalion (based with a 60 mm frontage) and some rather dashing Hussars. Scott MacPhee once again!

As part of my 1/600th project I reasoned it would be a good idea to have a look around at basing and painting techniques for these diminutive figures and so a trawl of the internet was instigated. I came across the above on the blog of Scott MacPhee and was frankly gobsmacked! The Napoleonics are exquisite and with the number of figures he uses for his units one really gets the impression of a 'proper' looking formation on the tabletop.

It also reminded me of the old chestnut about using more smaller figures for a unit to give a better visual impression offset by the need to paint more of them!  

One of the key things I have learned about painting such small figures is that the aim is to give a good impression of the formation you are representing. this means that much in the way of detail can be safely ignored as it is the 'en masse' look one is trying to achieve. So picking out key colours is important for the overall look. For 20th century troops this is probably less important given the duller palette required.

Seeing the above has given me plenty of inspiration and much to consider. I think the main point I have stumbled across is the realisation that in this scale one can field units on the tabletop that look like units on a battlefield.

That is an exciting prospect for sure!

Wednesday 15 August 2018

About the size of it....

From the Tumbling Dice Website - a selection from their WW1 range - and I have seen these 'in the flesh' so to speak when they have appeared at various shows

Not sure if this is 2mm or 3mm but you can see the potential with these diminutive models.

Now the real work begins and so I have taken my first steps into a wider universe. I have prepared an order for some 7mm dice frames as well as the bases I need for the 1/600th scale ACW ships. In the  meantime I shall look to assemble the ships and ready the infantry – which at this stage will also include support weapons (machine guns and mortars) and the artillery for WW1. I have a selection of tanks for the period as well which will probably feature and I will also look to add some aircraft at some point.

For the actual painting I shall experiment with a variety of techniques but at this stage I am thinking a black undercoat with the uniform colour dry brushed and then pick out some details – flesh, weapons and packs etc – where I can.

In respect of the infantry I will need to clean up the strips and cut them in two – as there are no gun crew figures available from Tumbling Dice I shall use a pair of infantry from the loose order strip (therefore a single strip will provide the crew for four pieces) and possibly something left over from the support weapon pack as there are some useful types contained therein. Mention of support weapons – in this case machine guns and infantry mortars – has reminded me of the question of how I should be representing them. I am thinking of using a 20mm square base for machine guns and a 20mm round base for mortars as this will enable easy recognition on the table top although I have yet to finalise this. The key decision I have taken though is that they will not be on a full sized base.

Following on from my post of yesterday I have spent some more time considering the whole ‘hexed playing area’ scenario. I have nothing against Hexon and indeed, have previously owned the same. For my needs it is a little on the large side given that the figures I am using for this project are so small. Heroscape would work well although the hexes are a little on the tight side for my planned 40mm bases. In retrospect using bases with a 30mm frontage  may be better but even using 1/600th models these will look a little crowded. I have a number of ideas that my Heroscape will be useful for but I am conscious of the fact that if you fill a hex with terrain then adding a large base of models  will look a little untidy to say the least.

If I am honest the thought of using 1/600th scale armies is very appealing and certainly there is a large selection available. Most of my gaming these days is solo and so setting up a large table with hundreds of larger figures and terrain to match has certainly lost its appeal up to a point. Having said that I am not so lacking in soul that I am entirely abandoning larger figures as I have in mind a 30mm old toy soldier style set up (more of which later) and will get some models together for What a Tanker or similar but overall smaller is definitely the way forward for me.

My planned hypothetical Balkan set up will see the light of day but probably not in the format originally mooted and certainly earlier that the 1870s. I have found myself drawn to the period of Russian and Turkish cooperation over the Ionian Islands with a dash of Great Britain and of course the French. This is very much set in the 1800s so at his stage I am unsure how best to tackle it and in any event will need to do some further research on the period in due course.

As ever, much to ponder methinks....

Monday 13 August 2018

"The time has come...."

"The time has come,' the Walrus said,
     To talk of many things:
     Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
     Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
     And whether pigs have wings."

Whilst I am not comparing myself to a Walrus and my wood working skills would never qualify me as a carpenter, I am becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that I need to start walking the walk rather than just talking the talk in respect of my wargames project list. I have wittered on about various ideas and schemes for months now and in truth for the most part progress has been minimal.

This in itself is not unusual for me as my enthusiasm and attention span can be notoriously short-winded. I need an injection of inspiration to push on with something, anything even and so I shall be attacking a project that has been mentioned before albeit slightly out of sequence with my long term plan.

I am of course referring to the 20th century 1/600th collection. There, I have said it.

There are a number of reasons for this with the main one being that I reckon I can turn this around relatively quickly. I have a rather cunning plan I want to try in that the infantry component will be used initially for the Great War – the Tumbling Dice artillery are WW1 vintage in any event – with WW2 featuring later with the addition of period and nationality specific equipment - tanks etc. The infantry will look fine for either war in this scale. Ironically I have some WW1 vehicles that will feature for the 1918 period but obviously not as significantly as for WW2.

I have more or less settled on the basing I shall be using for these models and so either a 40mm square or a 40 x 30mm base with a dice frame for recording hits is currently the preferred choice. As I intend making use of Heroscape tiles (which are around 45mm across the flats) I will need to think carefully about terrain as the model base will in effect take up more or less the whole hex. I have seen some great examples of Memoir 44 hexed terrain tiles on the net where the terrain is confined to the edges of two or three sides and so leaving enough room to place a base of models on it. This is a neat idea and I have seen similar for use with Hexon. An alternative will be to use the Memoir ’44 board with hexes being 54mm across the flats. I am rather taken with this idea – perhaps getting the map boards copied and mounted flat and into something more of a permanent fixture rather than folding away. One could even make a home grown hex board if required and again, this is an option I am considering simply because I can get the hexes the size I want.

Bases will be made up as follows. I will be using four pairs, each of two figures on the infantry base – this is a single strip of Tumbling Dice loose order infantry cut in half -, three vehicles on the armour base and two guns and crews on the artillery base. This follows the 4, 3, 2 Command and Colours/Portable Wargame standard and I see little reason to do anything different. The dice frame will be used to indicate the current strength of the unit using a small d6 or similar.

For rules I fully intend using Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame or possibly even his Memoir of Modern Battle (MoMBAT) which are an older set he drew up. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that using these models for a conventional Memoir ’44 game will feature as well. There is also Rommel – a set that I am really excited about.

I have plenty of bases to start this project with and an order for the 7mm dice frames (they are pretty cheap) is being put together. I have sufficient hexed playing surfaces to use initially so this will not be a priority just yet as the models must come first - and will be dealt with in tandem with the WW2 warships..

Wednesday 8 August 2018

A Thirst for Glory: Sir Sidney Smith

Tom Pocock's biography of Sir Sidney Smith or the Swedish Knight as he was known following his service in the Swedish navy in their war against Russia.

The latest addition to the bookshelves helps to round out the Mediterranean section of my library and is by one of my favourite authors. Sir Sidney Smith was never accorded the celebrity status and reverence enjoyed by Nelson and indeed, always seemed to be in his shadow but his contribution to Great Britain's war against Napoleon was invaluable. In later years Napoleon himself said that Smith "made him miss his destiny" following the unsuccessful siege of Acre at which Smith commanded. 

Smith had the uncanny knack of offending his superiors and of 'rocking the establishment boat' so to speak  and so was only reluctantly given credit and recognition for his efforts. This was a continual distraction for him and unfortunately he was not afraid to voice his opinions and feelings on the matter - which further alienated his superiors and the government.

There is a lot of scope for smaller actions in the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars - both from the naval and land side and so this book will be very useful as Sidney Smith certainly had a very varied career in the area.

A Thirst For Glory complements Pocock's Stopping Napoleon: War and Intrigue in the Mediterranean as well as Remember Nelson, his biography of Captain Sir William Hoste. I should also include his biography of nelson as well and I am happy to say I have all of these in the library! 

Monday 6 August 2018

Using 1:600th scale figures

Apologies for the repeat picture as this has also appeared in an earlier post. What you see are some Tumbling Dice cavalry and close order infantry alongside some Perry Travel Battle buildings and some Renedra plastic bases.

With the increase in temperature over the weekend (not to mention a few other domestic issues) I was not able to get any painting done in the man cave. This has put my WW2 ship painting schedule a little behind and this will not be helped by the new bathroom that is being installed this week.

As is my usual modus operandi when there is 'stuff' going on of a domestic nature I tend to take what time I can when I can to consider matters hobby related - yesterday was a good example of this - so I found myself with a couple of spare hours in the evening. In truth I was not especially motivated but I made myself get on with something, the results of which are in this post.

I have an interesting selection of 1:600th scale figures, vehicles and terrain pieces. Initially the collection consisted of Peter Pig blocks supporting their ACW naval range. The infantry and cavalry are in blocks, skirmishers are on a strip in a variety of poses and the artillery is deployed to fire with a limber on the same base. The artillery piece is of a block trail type as befits the ACW.  There is also a rather nice mounted command base. the infantry are some four deep with a pair of standards cast into the block. The accompanying terrain includes a resin farm and some metal buildings - designed for harbour use - together with some wagons. There are also some resin fieldworks and a couple of forts again, designed with their naval range in mind.

Given the generic nature of these models my initial thoughts about using these was not for the ACW. The infantry blocks look too deep for my taste for the period and are better suited to something earlier in my opinion. I am seriously thinking about the Napoleonic Wars with these although it will be a while before this is realised.

The Tumbling Dice models have the advantage of being individual figures rather than blocks. They are cast on strips and whilst being more detailed are still suitably generic enough to be useful for pretty much anything. the loose order strip has 8 figures grouped in pairs which could easily be cut into half for such things as 4 figure fire teams in the 20th century or earlier skirmisher types. the close order strip I would use for the later half of the 19th century, in conjunction with the Peter Pig command base and artillery. The artillery available is of WW1 vintage and not only are the guns separate but also the limbers and wagons. there are no gunners as such but the loose order strip, cut down would furnish usable crew figures.

My WW2 vehicles are from Tumbling Dice and at present consist solely of tanks. The range includes a few variants of specific types and some assault guns but is short of transport and nationality specific artillery and anti tank weapons. The 3mm models produced by Oddzial Osmy and Pico Armour are a little on the small side compare to the Tumbling Dice kit but that is not a problem for the numbers I would need to use.

As it stands at present I am looking to produce three or four generic looking 20th century forces with nationality specific vehicles and kit dropped in as required. In a way this will be a step up from the block armies as, for example, a Khaki brown figure in this scale could be used for a number of armies from the Balkan wars onwards.

I rather fancy something from the latter 19th century using the Tumbling Dice range but am undecided as to what. I shall give this some thought.

In the short term though I need to get the WW2 ships finished just as soon as the temperature is a little less lethargy inducing!

Sunday 5 August 2018

A Matter of Life and Death

It has been quite a week. It has been a week of loss and the inevitable reflection about the nature of life and death and one’s place in it.

On Thursday I attended the funeral of an old gaming friend from back in the old Newham Wargames club days. I first met Pete in the very late 1970s and was in his orbit up until around 1998 - when we moved away from London. I should point out that some of the ex Newham crowd live quite close by to where I am now living and so perhaps, it was not surprising that my gaming tended to be more locally based. For sure I bumped into some of the former Newham based gamers that were more London facing - usually at shows and such like.

Pete was one the crowd that I did not stay in close contact with - not from any intent you understand; merely that life, children, house moves, deaths and job changes meant that before I knew it twenty years had gone by. Ironically when another member of the former Newham crowd moved to my neck of the woods the plan was meet up with Pete at one of our old stamping grounds from back in the day. Sadly I was unable to make this but I was looking forward to the next meet up that I would be attending.With Pete’s untimely passing this will not now take place.

Pete was a larger than life character in every way. He was funny, very well read and with a hugely diverse range of interests of which Wargaming was just one. I recall many games of Magic: The Gathering with him and we also avidly gamed the Battletech Collectible Card Game. He was fascinated with old musical instruments and was also a former Viking reenactor. I used to meet him for lunch when he was working in the city and we always had a good laugh about something or other.

When I heard about his passing my first reaction was one of guilt. Guilt for not having stayed in touch with him and guilt for not meeting up with him when I had the chance to do so.

I carried this feeling with me when I attended his funeral and so felt awkward being in the presence of those that had much closer and more recent acquaintance with him. I needn’t have worried. I cannot say that I was welcomed home like the prodigal son - it was rather more muted, as befitted the occasion - but I was welcomed within the spirit of old comradeship and shared grief which made me feel a whole lot better. During the wake I discussed, almost sheepishly, how I felt with a couple of people and was reassured by all that life, in all its complexity, can play havoc with our best intentions and that merely being there, at the end, was sufficient. It meant a lot to me.

If I have learned one thing from this it is the value of true friendships - of friendships that last the passage of years and circumstance. 

Of my old friend Pete I can say only this. He was a good friend at an important and formative time in my life and so I hope his journey to Valhalla is a safe one.

Whilst coming to terms with Pete’s passing we have also had to deal with the march of time with the eldest of out three cats. Earlier today we had to say good bye to her - she was 18 and a half - as she had recently lost a lot of weight and was clearly not in the best of health. She was a very affectionate cat and was always parked on someone’s lap so her loss will be felt keenly.

I have had better weeks for sure.

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Waddington's Campaign Revisited

The original box art from 1971

The stylised map of Europe, divided into squares, that served as the battleground

Way back in the early days of this blog I wrote a series of posts about the Waddington's board game of Campaign. I mentioned that I first acquired a copy of this game for my twelfth birthday in 1972 - and I still have the same edition!

Basically Campaign is an abstract strategic level game based on the Napoleonic wars. I have played this game hundreds of times over the years and have, at various times, flirted with making an advanced version but, like so many of my good ideas, it withered on the vine so to speak.

I was recently approached by a gamer that had a copy of the game but not the rules and was keen to find out if I had a spare set. Well, I thought I had but after a lengthy search remembered that I had passed these on as the result of a similar request back in 2014. What I did have though, was a copy of the rules that I found on the net - I have been unable to find where though.

It occurred to me though that perhaps I should make these available because after all, two such requests in the last nine years would certainly warrant this....

So for those that are interested in the rules of this piece of board gaming history please see the below and enjoy. Or not.


"An exciting strategy game in which each player can become a Napoleon or a Wellington leading his army across Europe. Famous battles can be refought and alliances can be made and broken with this compelling game of military and political strategy." Stock No.417 Game suitable for older children (say 10 upwards) and adults. Two to four players.

Contents: Playing board made up of three sections of thick card joined together, each leaf 9.5"X19.25" (24.5X49 cm). Four sets of army pieces in red, white, blue and light green, comprising 1 General, 9 infantry and 9 cavalry units. 6 sets of 4 town cards of different colours, 4 alliance cards, 2 dice, 6 page rule book and a 4 page "The Years of Napoleon" guide. Still on sale in 1977 cost £5.50.

The game does not correspond with a particular battle but is inspired by the Napoleonic wars and the game can be won either by the outright defeat of your opponent or (more likely) by acquiring towns controlling large areas of territory. The board is a representation of Europe and western Russia and is divided into six areas of roughly equal size representing France, Prussia, Russia, Austria, Italy and Spain. Each country has four provincial towns and five of the countries used as starting countries also have a capital city. Parts of the board, particularly the central area have areas of impenetrable mountains, forests and sea which restricts the movement of the troops. The game can be played in an introductory version and then with additional rules as a standard game. Depending on the number of players each player selects a county or if two players two countries but France and Prussia cannot be used at the same time. The two dice are always thrown together and are only used to move the pieces and are never used to determine the outcome of the attack. The throw can be used all on one piece or many pieces. The full throw does not have to be used. The pieces are placed in a set format on the country selected with the General on the capital square and four infantry and four cavalry. Each player has the five town cards of his own country.

The pieces move in set ways. The General moves one square in any direction. When it attacks it has a value of one and when defending a value of two. The General is the only piece that can capture a town by simply moving onto it. Cavalry has to move two squares at a time and must move horizontally or vertically never diagonally. Infantry move one square and only diagonally. Pieces cannot pass through opposing lines unless there is a clear gap of at least one square. Infantry and Generals can pass between adjacent units of their own side. A piece is attacked and taken and removed from the board when superior pieces (two for Infantry and Cavalry and three for a General) are positioned on adjacent squares (not moved to the opponents position). Also pieces can only attack along a line in which they are allowed to move. Only one piece can be attacked in a turn and the player has to say which piece he is attacking before the move is made. You have to think carefully about which pieces you are using with each other. You will find that it is important to bear in mind that infantry pieces start on adjacent squares and can never move to a adjacent horizontal square and can only move diagonally. The same applies to cavalry it cannot move to an adjacent horizontal square. Therefore to be able to attack an opponent you either need two cavalry pieces that can move to the same square, two infantry pieces that can move to the same square or an infantry piece and a cavalry that can move to adjacent squares. The General can move to any square and can therefore be used to attack with any other piece. If you have just infantry and cavalry you can find out frustratingly that you have two pieces that cannot be used together. It is also good strategy to try to capture pieces that can attack together. If a General is captured he has to move back to his starting position and has to miss a turn but he may not be attacked again until after this second turn. Consequently you try to avoid having your General captured at all costs.

When a General captures a town the corresponding town card is claimed from the other player. A capital can only be captured after the provincial towns have been captured. Where more than two players are playing you can agree to ally with another player and exchange alliance cards. An ally cannot cross into his ally's territory without his consent. Alliances can though be broken simply by breaking the alliance during one turn and then attacking the next turn giving the former ally one turn to re-deploy. The game is won if the player captures all his opponents capitals or captures 8 towns of any colour but not including the 4 in his own country. You also win if your opponents General is left with no troops.

The rules for the standard game have additional rules as follows: Towns are red towns or yellow towns, when a player captures a red town at the end of the turn he claims the town card and the piece shown on the town and places this piece adjacent to the town. The player who lost the town also has to remove the piece of the same type that is closest to that town. In the standard game a piece being attacked is supported by any other pieces adjacent to it. Therefore a closely grouped force can be very difficult to attack as you need to attack a piece with two other pieces and have one piece able to attack and neutralise any adjacent pieces. The standard game also makes it even move important not to let your General be captured as it has to return to an enlistment area with all his troops. He can though recruit some additional troops depending on the number of red town cards he holds to compensate for the fact that all his red towns will be venerable. The player then has to mobilise his troops by using the next few turns to move on to the capital city area.

Campaign is basically a pure strategy game. It you are in a position to attack a piece you will take it. However, there is some luck depending on how high a movement throw you have. Sonia and I have enjoyed many games of Campaign but have not played it with more that two players. It does though work well with two. It can though be frustrating if your attack force becomes incompatible but you really need to use the General in attacks for the maximum effect. However, it is quite a disaster if you let your General be captured. The game can take a couple of hours to play and is usually resolved by a player obtaining the required number of towns. Sometimes the game can also be frustrating as it is difficult to retain towns and you can have the situation of a General taking a chance and moving quickly from red town to red town with another piece retaking towns. The box, cards and board are very colourful the pieces fairly abstract."

It is safe to say that the game itself is not a detailed simulation of warfare in the age of Napoleon but it does feature some subtle concepts. Using the dice for movement means that moves have to carefully considered as large forces will move slowly but are harder to defeat whilst small, fast-hitting groups are vulnerable to counter attack.

It is one of my favourite games and certainly had an influential part in my wargames career and for the choice of period I was first going to fight - the Napoleonic Wars.