Sunday 30 September 2018

Went the day well....

This morning Laurel and I decided to visit our local boot sale as the season is drawing to a close. This year has been quite modest in terms of acquisitions - at least it has been for me, Laurel and Holly always seem to have bags full of stuff to bring home - aside from a couple of books and some trees a short while ago.

Today though, more than made up for it!

The box was battered beyond saving and the polystyrene packaging was haemorrhaging bits everywhere in the house but the contents are absolutely pristine - not bad for £5!

All hardback and all in pristine condition. The Overy title I acquired simply because it is better condition than the version I own (which is now going spare should anyone be interested) and the Storm from the East brings back fond memories of watching and enjoying the BBC series. The three above cost me £2.50 in total!

Needless to say I was really pleased with the North African village as it will be ideal for a whole range of projects beginning with the French Foreign Legion and also serving during the Great War and WW2 for Tunisia.

Anyone Beevor’s Stalingrad is a book I have read before but have not gotten around to acquiring a copy. The Russian Campaign is one of those things i will get around to tackling at some point - all the games of Panzerblitz and Squad Leader: Cross of Iron have certainly left their mark!

I have had a hankering for a Mongol Army for ages but have never really done anything about it. It may see the light of day at some point especially for something like Lion Rampant.

I feel rather pleased with myself and for only £7.50 the above represent a pretty fair return on the day out!

Saturday 29 September 2018

Another year, another time and another place....

Yesterday, the 28th of September, was my 58th birthday and first of all I would like extend my thanks to all for the good wishes - as ever they were much appreciated.

The Clock Tower in the centre of Sheerness. When I lived on the island there was no red in the paint job - just sky blue and light green. It was also the tradition that on New Year’s Eve that revellers should climb to the top although the local police put a stop to that!

It was not a significant birthday in the accepted sense but circumstances this year have given me much food for thought about myself and my place in the grand scheme of things. The three deaths I have experienced this year have affected me hugely and those, together with the reminder from HMRC that I can retire in a mere eight years, have given me much food for thought. I kept thinking about the years and where they had gone and so I resolved to reconnect with my youth so as to capture once again that sense of wonder and optimism before life had eroded it all away. As I had taken the day off work I decided to revisit my childhood home and so Laurel and I went to Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey for a wander about. Time has not been good to the place and the town itself seemed incredibly shabby. It also seemed a lot smaller than I remembered. For all that though I was delighted to tread once again the pavements of my youth and to immerse myself in a time when everything seemed a lot simpler and the sky was the limit. It is difficult to describe the whys and wherefores of my needing to do this but I only know that I feel a whole lot better for having done so. In many ways it was acknowledging an ending or, to borrow from Churchill, it was the ‘end of the beginning’ and so I feel I have finally closed that particular chapter of my life. My world has evolved, as they tend to do, into a very different animal from way back then with different priorities and responsibilities and with a life far removed from my childhood.

At last! A complete copy of the Kurz and Allison prints.

The list of battles the prints cover - note the two names of the authors of the Forewards.

I did rather well for my birthday and the family have surpassed themselves. My son financed my new copy of the Kurz and Allison print collection as well as the 1:4800th WW2 ships (and a couple of other bits) which are on order. He also provided the wherewithal for Laurel and I to enjoy a very nice meal out. My daughter presented me with an ITunes gift card which will be used to good effect - there are a couple of albums I am after as well as some films for the collection. Laurel presented me with some aftershave and also a couple of tickets to go with her to see Caro Emerald (the Dutch jazz singer) next month which I am really pleased about as I have managed to miss her the last three times she has appeared at Southend. It has been a good birthday and no mistake - with friends and family of today and yesterday making it so.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Kurz and Allison....Postscript

All mine. All paid for. All the prints intact!

All's well that ends well so they say. Following on from the great Kurz and Allen book debacle I am now a much happier chap as I was able to locate a further copy of the above - with ALL the plates present and correct! It was slightly more expensive than the original copy but is in better overall condition (actually merely having all the plates would constitute being in better condition but you get the drift!).

I shall be using this as my, ahem, 'uniform reference' for the Spencer Smith Old Style Toy Soldier ACW project which I am looking forward to getting underway just as soon as the Confederate half arrives.

With the other copy I shall carefully remove the remaining plates with a view to framing them. I also have another idea for them which I think is rather novel and should prove very popular - no details as yet as I need to think about this carefully.

Once the new copy arrives I will of course look to review the prints in full and share how I shall be making use of them for the ACW project.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Big Ship, Little Ship....Cardboard Base...

1:4800th scale HMS Hood courtesy of MY Miniatures. The model is roughly the same size as the Axis and Allies plastic version (a shade under 2 1/2") although not as tall.

Following my recent forays into the American Civil War and the Colonial (not to mention the Napoleonic naval aside of my previous post) era it is almost with a sense of relief that I am at last back in the grey wastes of the North Atlantic in early 1941. If you recall my plan originally was to use the models that come with the Axis and Allies strategic World War 2 board game as well as a similar game called Global Conflict. The scales for these models are fairly elastic with the destroyers coming in at around 1:2400th and the larger ships – which are roughly the a similar physical size – coming in at a relatively smaller scale. Initially I was going to use them as is but had a minor relapse as whilst the odd variation in scale is OK visually the difference in scale between destroyers and battleships was difficult to ignore. I opted to get some 1/3000th models from Navwar but these also look a little oversized alongside the models I have and so I shall be exchanging them for something else. As an experiment I can chalk this up to experience!

For the most part the capital ships from the two games mentioned are around the 1:4000th to 1:5000th mark with 1:4500th being the average. The 1:3000th models looked OK with certain combinations of types but wrong where it counted i.e. destroyers alongside the capital ships. Then I remembered 1:4800th as a scale.

I had posted about this scale a few years ago but like many ideas at the time it fell by the wayside. These models are small but not as much as 1:6000th and they will fit in alongside many of the major Axis and Allies capital ships. Using this scale also means that I can keep to 3” squares for the rules I shall be using (Barry Carter’s WW1 and 2 set with a side dish of Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames)  as well as having access to a pretty good range of ship types available from the manufacturer – MY Miniatures.

The selection I need will be fairly modest and painting them will be very straightforward indeed. Naturally the models will be based using my tried and tested technique of ‘waves, wakes, names and ensigns’ and I already have a cloth I can grid, even a large MDF board if needs be, to use with them when they are finally ready.

The 3” square grid is probably going to be my naval gaming standard as it will enable me to use the very small WW2 (and WW1 in due course) models as well as the larger scratch built ACW and other vessels I am planning.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Splicing the Mainbrace - Squared, not Hexed....

A real blast from the past but a superb set of rules devised by the late S. Craig Taylor. Sadly I now only own a PDF version of the rules without the Armada supplement (although I am pretty sure I could lay hold of a copy of the same).

Way back in the late 1970s and early 1980s I became interested in Napoleonic naval wargames, almost as an extension of my Airfix Napoleonic fixation that I moved to London with. My old friends Messrs. Fox and Hardman had already gamed the period extensively using a variety of rules with a selection of models that featured some early Navwar resin castings. The games looked really interesting and as I recall the period was in fact my very first taste of naval wargames. I cannot recall how it came about but amongst the three of us we landed on the set you see above - a set of square grid based naval rules that eventually morphed into the award winning hex based board game Wooden Ships and Iron Men by Avalon Hill. Actually the rules you see above came out after Wooden Ships and Iron Men but the original set predated the board game by some years - the BattleLine edition incorporated some ideas from the board game but stayed loyal to the square grid.

The award winning Avalon Hill game Wooden Ships and Iron Men. A great game but the square based miniatures rules are superior in my opinion - and that is coming from someone that has played both -  extensively!

The rules (currently out of print and have been for some time - there are some legal issues around who owns the rights to them) are detailed and feature plenty of charts and tables. The ship record cards used are also quite detailed and so you could be forgiven for thinking that they are somewhat over complex - especially when you compare them to the simplified version that became Wooden Ships and Iron Men.

Using the miniatures rules the denizens of the old Newham Wargames Club fought many actions both large and small including a rather large game at Present Arms that yours truly ruined due to a self inflicted injury....

I had started on a Russian navy of all things (I was building a Russian army at the time) and as I recall managed to get half a dozen or so models built and painted. Sadly by the time they were ready to use the club had moved on to the Armada period and I had moved away from the area.

Although we fought some very large actions using the original tabletop rules - before my injury we had planned to fight the Glorious First of June at the Present Arms wargames show - the rules were well able to cope with the numbers involved despite their apparent complexity. The same level of detail worked equally well for smaller actions.

The use of a square grid has a useful advantage for naval wargames (and indeed for land based versions as well) in that you can use the eight most common compass points. The rules allowed for diagonal movement and firing and this worked very nicely indeed. Having eight points of the compass to use for direction also allowed for more intricate movement without the need for a protractor or the appropriate measuring gauges.

Ship combat used a system of factors based on the broadside of the firing ship and modified for range, ammunition being used, target facing and crew quality. The firing ship would also specify if the ship was firing at the hull or the rigging. This procedure would yield a hit table number and so the appropriate table - hull or rigging - would be consulted and a pair of d6 rolled to ascertain the damage. The d6 used needed to be two different colours as the results were not added together but treated as a whole number. The range thus ran from 1,1 to 6,6.

All the usual pieces of chrome from the period - boarding, using full sail, firing from anchor, organising prize crews etc - were included as well as a brief summary of the major navies and names of the ships therein.

The grid size used was 1 1/2" squares for use with 1:1200th scale models, 3/4 " for smaller scales. For my own future purposes I am planning on using a 3" square - which should give you an idea of where this may be heading.

I really liked these rules and when I eventually get back into 'wind and water' Napoleonic naval gaming they will be my first choice to use.

Thursday 20 September 2018

Armies for the Portable Wargame....Part 2

Rebels Advance! Spencer Smith Confederates from the superb collection of Jim Duncan

Following on from my earlier posts I spent some time thinking about how I am going to organise the Spencer Smith ACW collection – in particular the basing. Originally my plan was to base the figures individually as per Charge! and The Wargame and then Bob Cordery’s new convention he is using for his extensive Del Prado Napoleonic collection. After some careful consideration I have decided to use neither method – which is typical of me!

For a variety of reasons I shall be basing figures for the most in pairs. For infantry this is two figures on a 2” by 1” base and for cavalry two figures on a 2” square. There will be single figures used for various things with the basing being a 1” square for foot figures and a 1” by 2” for mounted. For use with the Portable Wargame or anything Battle Cry/Command and Colours based I shall be using the following convention. A strength point equals two figures so a four point infantry unit will have four bases each of two figures. Cavalry will have three bases each of two figures whilst artillery will have a gun and four gunners – a base of two and a pair of singles.

I have opted to use these sizes for a number of reasons but the main one is so that units on the tabletop have a little more presence.

With my current line up for each force being 48 infantry, 16 cavalry and three guns with 12 gun crew you can see that the numbers involved are not only small but can be divided up in many ways to suit the rules being used. For the Portable Wargame the army could consist of six units of eight infantry on four bases each, two units of six cavalry on three bases each and three guns each with three gunners. You can see that from this organisation there are four mounted figures left over – this is intentional as these could be used as couriers, ADCs or as an escort squadron to the C in C. For larger battles I would represent infantry units with two bases each of two figures, cavalry units with a base of two figures and one single whilst artillery would have a gun and a pair of gunners in support. 

I am also keen to use the collection with the Neil Thomas 19th century rules so using units of 4 bases for infantry and cavalry means I could field six infantry and two cavalry units – which is fairly close to the maximum size of one of the force options suggested for the pitched battle scenario contained in the rules.

My order to Spencer Smith for the Confederates I need (and a few additional Union types) is in and my MDF bases are on their way so within the next few weeks I shall everything in place to start work on this project. 

In the meantime though, I need to get the WW2 ships completed (still!).

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Spencer Smith Miniatures and the Zulu War

BZ12 - Infantry standing, pointing backwards. I rather like this figure and reckon he would make a great NCO.

Over the last couple of months I have been browsing the Spencer Smith Miniatures website on a daily basis. Ignoring the myriad temptations it has in respect of STS, the Classic range, Jacklex, Tradition etc the list I have naturally been drawn to is what I would call the original Spencer Smith ranges. For most of us this means the 18th century, the Napoleonic wars and the American Civil War. However, there is also another range included in this section for the Zulu Wars.

I have seen examples of figures being used and well documented from the first three periods but never from the Zulu Wars. As an aside if any readers have done so I would be keen to hear about it.

The range is quite basic and there are a few gaps in the figure selection but there is sufficient variety available to be able to get together an old school style Portable Wargame sized set up. There is no artillery available for this range so one could convert the ACW gun crew to suit and use the artillery piece from that range if one was not too pedantic.

I have posted a selection of figures from the range but suggest looking at the website for the full listing.

BZ3 - Infantry standing firing

BZ4 - Minute man advancing - the catalogue is wrong in this case as it should read Infantryman Marching

BZ13 - Natal dismounted cavalryman standing at the ready

BZ14 - Mounted Lancer + separate lance

ZZ6 - Zulu attacking with Knobkerrie or Assegai (both weapons moulded together with a separate shield - shown with an Assegai)
ZZ7 - Natal native auxiliary standing with shield (can also be used as a Zulu)

The British range has the usual Zulu War thrusting and lunging selection of figures whilst the Zulus themselves include the obligatory warrior in a British tunic and a rifleman as well as an Induna.

The figures appear to be more detailed than the other ranges in this series - ACW, Napoleonic and 18th century - so I am thinking that they were a later range. In any event I will ask Peter Johnstone at Spencer Smith to see if he can shed any light on their history.

The Zulu War for me has enjoyed a chequered career in terms of actually gaming it. My research into the war seems to stick at the first invasion and the actions thereof. I have owned a selection of books over the years that has passed through my collection but I still get inspired by watching the film Zulu for the umpteenth time.

At the risk of offending any devotees of the period I have always looked at the actions as being rather limited from a tactical point of view. I have in the past likened it to the old arcade game Space Invaders where unlimited numbers keep on attacking and are scythed down in droves. However, this somewhat blinkered view has changed over the years as gaming the period presents both sides with opposite tactical problems - which for me is now the basis of a very interesting game.

My order to Spencer Smith for the remaining ACW figures I need will also include some samples from this range - just to see what they are like of course....

Monday 17 September 2018

Armies for the Portable Wargame

The Dutch Belgian contingent of Bob Cordery's humongous Del Prado Napoleonic collection. With infantry and cavalry units using two bases it is possible to represent formations on the table top. The multiple bases have a two inch frontage whilst the separate command figures use one inch. With thanks to Bob in advance for the use of the picture.

What with Spencer Smith ACWs and the French Foreign Legion I have been recently thinking about Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame and how my planned armies will fit in with it. One of the great things about the system is of course the simple fact that armies do not need to be huge. In terms of the usual playing area for the rules in the past I tended to opt for a Command and Colours sized 13 x 9 grid. This was for when I used Hexon and also on the occasion when I dabbled with Heroscape. I no longer have the Hexon but I do have rather a lot of Heroscape which will be used in due course. For a square grid typically I use 12 x 8 or possibly 8 x 8 when the need arises.

During the long development process of the Portable Wargame via its various predecessors I often fought actions with my block armies. The actions I fought - all of which are in the games folder - varied in size in terms of the composition of forces. Usually it was an attacker vs defender scenario with the latter typically outnumbered. In terms of strength points the largest games tended to have around 45 to 48 for the attacker with the defender sometimes half of that. Working on the basis that a strength point equals a figure you can see straightaway that armies are, dare I say it, DBA-ish.

Taking the playing area I mentioned as a guide and using a 48 point army it is fair to say that the space will be a little on the crowded side when you remember that a single unit occupies a single grid area. Consider the following force:

8 x Infantry @ 4 strength points each = 32
4 x Cavalry @ 3 strength points each = 12
2 x Artillery @ 2 strength points each = 4

Total 48 points

This equals 14 units that will occupy 14 grid areas - so you can envisage the potential traffic jam and congestion. The sweet spot for me in terms of strength points tends to be around the two to three dozen mark which would translate into something like the following example:

6 x Infantry @ 4 strength points each = 24
2 x Cavalry @ 3 strength points each = 6
2 x Artillery @ 4 strength points each = 4

Total 34 points

The above force is 10 units strong which would fit rather more comfortably on the playing area with some space for manoeuvre.

I should point out the forces above are purely representational and naturally can be adapted to suit the particular army or even the tactical situation for the scenario being fought. Also, the above assumes that both forces are on the tabletop to begin with which is obviously not always the case.

A welcome twist to this is the new convention that Bob has demonstrated with his planned Portable Napoleonic Wargame book. He has adopted for his extensive collection of Del Prado Napoleonic figures a system whereby the figures do not directly represent strength points. In this an infantry unit is represented by two bases each of 3 figures, cavalry two bases each of two figures and the artillery a gun model and a base of two gunners. In effect this could be described as being 'one and half figures per strength point'. This looks better as the ‘units’ appear larger. The results of using this method can be seen on Bob’s blog. It occurred to me that this could be extended slightly further by allowing two figures per strength point so that a four strength point infantry units would have eight figures, a three point cavalry unit six figures whilst the artillery would have a gun and four gunners. One could base the figures in pairs and so the typical 4, 3 and 2 point infantry, cavalry and artillery standard would revert to losing a base of figures per strength point hit. As I recall I am pretty certain I have seen this style of basing used for American Civil War Command and Colours games being fought using a variant of the Battle Cry board game.

So what does all this mean in practical terms? I am rather taken with Bob's new basing convention and after having discussed this at length with him I have a far better understanding of the rationale behind it. The 'units' on the table have a little more presence and it is possible to represent formations at a simple level. The trade off is that markers or a roster would need to be employed when recording hits as for cavalry and infantry a single strength point loss does not equal a base of figures.

The two figure strength point option is worth considering if one wanted units with a little more presence although for my purposes the 'one and half figure strength point option' will suffice. 

Sunday 16 September 2018

I have been to....Skirmish in Sidcup, Kent

After the minor hiccup of the Kurz and Allison title it was with some relief that I spent a very enjoyable Sunday morning at the Skirmish Toy Soldier Show in Sidcup, Kent. I really like this show as it is quite small, is easy to get to (around 35 minutes in the car) and can be done and dusted in a morning. It is normally on twice a year but I missed the early 2018 show - I have a feeling it was when the ‘Beast from the East’ was in full fury - so was really keen to get there this time.

It was a low key affair and the trade stands were  definitely down on previous years. If I am honest I wonder how long they will keep this on for as it seemed quite sparsely attended. There were a number of games being run, one of which really caught my eye, as well as a rather nice Bring and Buy.

Of the games the one that really caught my eye was a French versus Berber action set in somewhere in Morocco in 1918. The games was called ‘Action at Sidi Khup’ took me a little while to work that one out! This was run by Skirmish Wargames and featured some really nice terrain. Sadly I did not take many pictures but trust me, it looked very nice indeed.

The French force had been tasked with repairing a derelict fort to which the Berbers took a dim view.

Fort Soixante Neuf or something similar. Note the legionary washing line....

The bring and buy was pretty busy and quite unusually for me I managed to snag a couple of bargains. I consoled myself that this went some way towards easing my disappointment over the Kurtz and Allison book.

Tomorrow’s War is Osprey’s ‘hard’ Sci-Fi skirmish rule set. This normally retails for £25 I believe - mine cost £6. The Paraguayan War is published by Foundry and is probably very expensive - mine cost me £10 which was pretty darned good in my opinion!

The big news from the show though was that I was able to catch up with three of Posties Rejects - Ray, Big Lee and Postie himself. We discussed matters many and varied, had a laugh and I was honoured to have been asked to attend the Shed of War for a game at some point. There was mention of some kind of strange initiation ceremony but I did not like to dwell on that, at least before lunch in any event...

Bob Cordery was also there and we were able to transact a small amount of business and discuss matters Portable Wargames related. I always enjoy discussing stuff with Bob as it is always a sensible and rewarding conversation. I am quite sure I must drive him bonkers with questions about ‘stuff’ but he always comes back with rational and plausible explanations. I will not go into detail but I have a more rounded and in depth understanding of some of the key Portable Wargame concepts and how these can be used almost as a wargames toolkit.

Thought provoking for sure and exciting with it.

As a result of our transaction I am now the proud owner of some extra sand coloured Heroscape tiles, a couple of Games Workshop gaming mats - one green and one sand - and a box full of metal Spencer Smith ACW figures. The latter will dovetail nicely with the small selection I have and so, aside for the bases and a couple of figures I will need to order the ACW Kurtz and Allison project is now on the runway.

It has been a quite superb day.

Saturday 15 September 2018

DISASTER!!! Kurtz and Allison debacle....Part 2

After an email last night and a phone call to the dealer in question this morning my Kurtz and Allison debacle has been resolved in a professional and courteous fashion.

The bookshop owner could not have been more apologetic if he tried and conducted the whole issue in an exemplary fashion. In a nutshell I have a full refund and as the book is in effect unsaleable he said I may as well keep it.

I was so impressed by the obvious sincerity that I have registered on their mailing list and left a small ‘wants’ list with them. The dealer may be down half a book and the cost of postage but he has gained a client.

Old fashioned courtesy and quality customer service will get my business any day!

In respect of the book itself I have a rather novel idea. As it is in effect ruined I am tempted to carefully remove the prints - which are high quality and on heavy paper - and get them framed for the man cave.

I still want to get a full copy though!

Friday 14 September 2018

DISASTER!!! Kurtz and Allison debacle....

Today had been quite a positive day. It is Friday, the weekend beckons and then of course there is the small matter of Skirmish at Sidcup on Sunday. I had a stimulating wargame related email exchange with Bob Cordery and Irregular Miniatures confirmed a few details about their French Foreign Legion figures which was very helpful. I then heard from home to the effect that a large flat parcel had arrived.

I knew what this was and so walked from the train station with a spring in my step and looking forward to opening my parcel.

I was in no hurry as there was a very nice Chilli to eat for dinner first of all.  Small talk with the family was over with as was the clearing up so i sat down to open the mysterious package.

The dust jacket was as described - a little ragged around the edges - and the overall condition of the book was very good - as you would expect for a book with a cover price of US$ 250.00 (I kid you not).

Something was not quite right.

The book is supposed to contain all 36 of the ACW prints in chronological order.

18 prints had been cut out of the book and were missing and one more had been cut out but was still in place so proceeded to fall out when I opened the page anyway.

I am slightly north of way beyond disappointed....

Practical Wargaming by Charles Wesencraft

A blast from the past - another quality addition to the library of old wargames classics

I am rather embarrassed to admit that my recent outpourings of praise for Charge! The Wargame and Battle: Practical Wargaming were not extended to include the above - which is a major oversight! I remember borrowing the above from our local library and being bedazzled by the contents. The rules were very practical and I always thought quite advanced at the time - an impression reinforced by reading the above again after a gap of some forty years.

This is a good book to read and offers many well thought out and practical ideas on how to fight tabletop battles from the ancient period up to the Franco - Prussian war. I am very pleased to have gotten an original version of this book although it is available from John Curry as a part of the History of Wargaming project.

Charles Wesencraft is right up there with Featherstone, Grant, Young and Lawford in my opinion and I still cannot believe I missed him out.

As an aside many years ago he wrote an article for - and I may be a little hazy on this - the Battle magazine Christmas Special with his thoughts on a set of grand scale Napoleonic rules using a single figure to represent a battalion. As I recall he used the 1812 campaign in Russia as an example as he wanted to fight large battles and so he used the Corps of Marshal Ney to demonstrate how this could work. If any readers have a copy of this in their collections I would love to see it.

I remember writing to him asking about the rules and he sent me a rather nice explanatory reply with the full text of the rules. Again, if any readers have a copy I would be really grateful to see the same.

The shelf devoted to wargame books is certainly filling up!

Thursday 13 September 2018

The French in North Africa

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was currently amassing research material for my forthcoming North African colonial project involving the French Army of Africa and their Berber and Tuareg opposition. With the exception of a couple of Osprey titles I want to get I think the latest acquisitions to the library will more or less provide everything I am likely to need by way of background reading. I already own Martin Windrow's outstanding Our Friends Beneath the Sand covering the period 1870 to 1935 as well the critically acclaimed history of the Legion by Douglas Porch. It is probably fitting then that both of these authors feature in the latest crop of secondhand acquisitions.

From battling with Berbers to....

....tussling with Tuaregs. 

I am rather embarrassed to say that this is the second copy of this book I have purchased - the first went during one of my periodic clear outs!

I was particularly pleased to get all of the above in hardback rather than soft cover and the three volumes combined came to a little over £20 which is pretty good. Aside from some slight sunning on the Sahara title (which one could argue is pretty appropriate really!) and 'the dust of ages' they are all in fine fettle.

Both the Porch titles will be invaluable given their coverage but it will present me with a delicious dilemma. Do I opt for the Moroccan Berbers or the Tuareg version? With the Portable Wargame i could even consider both as the armies are quite small.

One to think about going forward methinks....

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Kurz and Allison Civil War Prints

This is the book I have been really keen to get a hold of. I finally tracked a reasonably priced copy down and am waiting to take delivery. Naturally I am very excited about this and for a variety of reasons the timing is extremely fortuitous....

The Battle of the Wilderness - one of the 36 prints produced by Kurz and Allison

I am really pleased to have finally tracked down a copy of the book published by the Fairfax Press in 1987 that includes reproductions of all 36 American Civil War prints produced by Kurz and Allison. In fact it is possible to buy actual prints from the series but I doubt I would have room to display them all - not to mention the fact that SWMBO would probably take a dim view of such imagery adorning the lounge! I was not sure I would be able to get a copy of this as secondhand versions seemed to be exclusively available in the US for, frankly, silly money - especially when you factor in shipping and customs etc. I know it would be posted as 'printed matter' but the HMRC can be a little belligerent about these things on occasion...

For those that are interested I got this for £12.80 all in which I am very pleased with. I will post a fuller review when it arrives.

The reason I was so keen to get this book is because my plan is to use the uniform details depicted in the prints as the basis for my old school Spencer Smith 30mm collection. Taking the pictures above as an example you can see some quite wonderfully neat and tidily attired gentlemen going about their martial endeavours. It is very stylised for sure but but for me therein lies the attraction.

For the most part it is safe to say that Union troops looked a little tidier than their Confederate opposition - a situation that deteriorated even further for the South as the tide of war turned against them and the blockade of their ports tightened. certainly one would not have expected to see troops such as depicted above in 1864!

The wooden and stylised nature of the Spencer Smith 30mm ACW range is ideal for replicating on the table top those images from the great war between the states.

I am really looking forward to starting this project.

Monday 10 September 2018

Adding to the Library (Again!)....

Rather embarrassingly this is the second copy I have purchased of this title - the original I fear met a sticky end along with my copies of Conway's Fighting Ships (since replaced)...

Now available in paperback from the Works although I opted instead for this rather spiffy hardback version - to replace a copy that originally went 'oop North....

Working on the basis that more is less I am now being VERY selective about the books I add to my collection. The past couple of years have seen a huge number of titles heading out the door and, if truth be told, probably more than was prudent - the two books above being  good cases in point.

Needless to say the first title - which has a rather nice ACW section - will be very useful for my two immediate projects whilst the second will come in handy when I take to air once again. I suspect hat a couple of repeat watches of The Blue Max and Aces High will be in order first...

Preparing for the ACW Big Build

A selection of scratchbuilt ACW ship models built by Jack Alexander of Jacklex fame

The 1:600th Peter Pig ACW ships have finally gone to their new homes -  say homes because the collection has split into two parts. I probably lost out on the deals financially but not so much as to make it too painful on the finances. As wargamers I am sure we are all familiar with the curious concept of diminishing returns and of buying things that seemed like a good idea at the time!

The only part of the collection I have retained is the hexed Hammerin' Iron gaming mat as this will play - at least initially - quite an important role in my ACW project. The hexes for this mat are 5.5" across the flat sides which means I can build larger models than for the 4" Hexon version. This also means using a more robust building material so I shall be taking to Basswood rather than Balsa. i will need to lay in a supply of suitable construction materials and tools as most of my modelling gear is designed with Balsa, card or plastic in mind.

The models will be 'cartoon style' in that they will be taller in relation to their length so as they can appear alongside the Spencer Smith figures should the need arise. As the collection is very river focused I expect some combined operation type games or at the very least making use of naval gunfire support.

When I built a similar collection a few years ago the models based on specific types. This time around I shall avoid this as I am more concerned with using generic types. The river fleets featured a whole raft of converted merchant types, ferries, passenger vessels and many other assorted types that were pressed into service and whilst specific purpose built types existed I am thinking that the former motley selection would be more fun build. I shall certainly include some specific types - probably around a third of the collection - but I want to have some fun with this.

A monitor and casemate ironclad trade blows at close range. Taken from Bob Cordery's book Gridded Naval Wargames

In Bob Cordery's excellent Gridded Naval Wargames book he provides some construction details for a typical casemate ironclad and a monitor type warship which are very helpful and will certainly provide me with some valuable guidance.

The biggest difference with these models though is that not only will I not be basing them but I will also be giving them fictional names.

There is a very good reason for this and all will become clear in due course....

Sunday 9 September 2018

The Portable Foreign Legion

Eevee (named after a Pokemon character) taking her ease in the office aka the isolation tank or even ‘juve cube’

It has been an interesting weekend. To begin with we have a new addition to the family in the shape of Eevee - a four year old female cat courtesy of the Cats Protection League. We made the fatal mistake of going to one of their cat homing shows and so lo and behold - the feline contingent at our house is now back up three following the recent loss of our beloved Maisy. Eevee is in isolation at present until she settles in a little more and then we will introduce her to the rest of the gang - no doubt to much hissing, spitting, tail bottling and vocal indignation!

Laurel and I had a quick run out today - not to a boot sale - and I had high hopes of getting some essential modelling bits and pieces courtesy of the Works and Hobbycraft. Sadly I was disappointed on both counts which was a tad frustrating. I wanted to get some supplies in for the great ACW ship build but came home empty handed. As these models will be larger than those I built a few years back I want to use Basswood for the hulls and superstructures as it is a more durable than Balsa. I will take a look online and am sure I can get the material I need - and knowing the prices in Hobbycraft probably for cheaper as well!

Enough of the frivolity and on with the main point of the post.

I have more or less worked out the composition of the forces I shall be raising for the Portable Foreign Legion and indeed am also pretty sure about the figures I shall be using. Initially the set up will be for Morocco so Berbers will be the opposition of choice. I want to be sure that I get these right as they will also be featuring alongside the Turks against the Italians for the war of 1911/12 as well as for the Great War and after. I reckon that after this project is complete I will have Portable Wargame sized armies for around six forces. That sounds a lot but each one will be pretty small - which is one of the great attractions of the Portable Wargame.

The Legion will have a couple of cavalry units in support - Spahis and Chasseurs D’Afrique as well as artillery and some Turcos. At the moment I am looking at either Minifigs or Irregular Miniatures but have yet to finalise this. I am waiting on a specific book to arrive before I make this decision.

I will also need to think about some terrain to go with this project as for Morocco we are not just talking about sand. At this stage I am thinking about rocky outcrops and some buildings but I will need to be sure about the table footprint of the models I use.

I am waiting on my small order from Navwar for the ships for the WW2 project and the plan is to finish those before starting anything else. 

Friday 7 September 2018

Victorian Science Fiction

I remember it well and as I recall my sole contribution to this was the section on the Turkish Army and the suggestion that 1:1200th should be the scale of choice so as to be compatible with Aeronef. 

Many of my recent posts have been quite reflective in nature. I offer no apologies for this as events of this year have given me much pause for thought about things I have done and things I have yet to do whilst I am still able. From the perspective of this blog it has manifested itself in my revisiting many abandoned projects and taking a second look. For sure there are many that were lost in time and will remain so but there is the odd few that have surfaced that have given me a few ideas.

I should qualify this by saying that the contents of this post fall definitely in the hibernation state - projects that WILL be looked at in due course and not consigned to the landfill of my gaming history.

Victorian Science Fiction is something that I have enjoyed reading about via Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and others and a number of years ago I was very heavily 'into it' via Aeronef (from 1999 as I recall) and the follow on rules set in the same timeline called Land Ironclads  both published by Wessex Games under the stewardship of Steve Blease.

Enormous fun and responsible for launching an enormous range of models available from Brigade Models and even a few suitable types from Irregular Miniatures.

Aeronef, written by Steve Blease and Matthew Hartley, covered Victorian airship combat with everything from single seat heavier than air craft up to giant sized armed dirigibles. It is huge fun to play and there were many exciting games fought at SEEMS back in the day. The rules were supported initially by Brigade Models  and the range of nations represented and classes of vessel is enormous. As an aside Brigade also have another set of rules available called Imperial Skies which cover a similar type of combat but with an alternate timeline and a rather more detailed approach.

My own contribution to this was limited to scratch building air fleets for the Turks (no surprise there!), Greeks and Bulgarians using mainly converted model aircraft bombs - the nations represented, being minor powers, mainly relied on dirigibles for their fleets - and lots of plastic card and sprue. I also made use of that rather nice small kit of the Hindenburg for a couple of ships including a Turkish aircraft carrier. This was of course before Brigade released any Turks....The scratch builds went to a new home as Steve Blease took them off my hands. I am sure I have some pictures kicking around somewhere of the models but they were built a couple of computers ago.

I penned a couple of articles for the journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Wargames Society (SFSFW) around the back story of the Turkish air fleet -the Ottoman Air Fleet or OAF for short - and one of the extraordinary things that came out of this was the start of my 'long range' friendship with Paul O'Grady of The Man Cave fame. I say long range for the simple fact Paul lives mostly in Australia. We have met a couple of times when he has been in London and have swapped wargaming stories as well as downed a few beers as one does in these circumstances...

I really enjoyed working with Paul on this one and we planned to write a follow up. Sadly we never got around to it. Note the very attractive walled town scratch built by Steve Blease using a CD for the base and with the walls and buildings fashioned from plastic sprue.

Paul and I co-wrote a mini campaign supplement for Aeronef which was hugely satisfying and a very enjoyable experience. We planned to follow this up with a further adventure but life got in the way and the idea faded away.

I was rather more involved with Land Ironclads in that I penned the section on the Turkish army and proposed using 1:1200th as the scale of choice to tie in with Aeronef and the proposed naval set called Aquanef. The armies raised for use with the rules largely featured the extensive range of figures in 2mm available from Irregular Miniatures. The Land Ironclads themselves again were produced by Brigade. I played this game many times on a solo basis and it was great fun. I even got around to converting some Irregular Miniatures models into something a little more Victorian looking - well I added funnels and flags so that should count!

Aquanef  - the naval set - was to have been the naval set to tie in with the others. The game was play tested at a show by Steve Blease I believe but he rules never made it into print as far as I know. I can remember play testing an early version of the rules at the club featuring a battle between two undersea Aquanef. The game featured a 3D system with 5 or 6 depth levels ranging from the surface to the 'Stygian Depths'. The show play test featured surface and subsurface elements with the surface ships based on upturned clear plastic pint glasses and sea coloured CD bases. I would have loved to have seen the rules come to print but alas it was not to be.

What does all this mean then in terms of where I now? Well I am not planning on rushing out an order to Brigade Models anytime soon but there is some potential to bolt on some land elements to the 1/600th models I have. This idea has some mileage especially as Brigade produce some rather nice Martian 'not quite War of the Worlds' fighting machines. I think the point here is that should I wish to I could readily tackle some Land Ironclads style actions merely by investing in a few models and using them in conjunction with the kit I already have. Whilst it is not on my immediate agenda it is something work remembering for the future.

Aeronef is something else. There are models aplenty available but with my usual degree of perversity I would prefer to build my own. Sadly my time is rather limited at present so this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

I have rather enjoyed this little ramble around a piece of my wargaming history and I fully intend not letting the whole VSF thing sink without a trace again - I will do something with it in time.

Thursday 6 September 2018

"The minds, they are a-changin'...."

Kurz and Allison - The Battle of Five Forks

I have at last got my small order to Navwar in the post which means that work on the stalled WW2 North Atlantic naval project can resume once the models arrive. I shall be pleased to get this off the paint tray as it has dragged on for longer than I would have liked. Changing my mind about the models to use (if you recall it was a destroyer related issue - the models are too large) midway through the first batch did not help, neither did the summer heatwave!

I have made enquiries about the models I shall be using for my Portable North African Wargame and so expect to start acquiring material for this shortly. Initially it will be the Legion and the Berbers but phase two will see the addition of the British and some Turkish advisers for the Sanussi revolt during the Great War. This will give me a good excuse to get some Rolls Royce Armoured Cars! The beauty of this project is that, in true Portable Wargame style, will be pretty compact in terms of the amount of material I will be need.

The biggest single piece of news though, concerns the 30mm Spencer Smith Balkan project.

For a variety of reasons I shall not be pursuing this. The figures I shall be getting which are from the classic ACW range will instead be used as intended - in other words they will be used for the ACW.
I shall still be organising them using Charge! as a guide and with figures based individually. I will also use the wonderful Kurz and Allison prints as my painting guide so expect a suitably garish (and glossy) old school toy soldier vibe with them! I shall use the armies with a variety of rule sets with the Neil Thomas 19th Century set added to the Portable Wargame, Charge! or even Battle Cry as the mood takes me.

I have opted to do this simply because the variety of troop types for the Balkans is much larger than the Spencer Smith range can readily cope with. 

The naval dimension in support of this project will be scratch built and the plan is to have generic looking models that will fit on to a 5.5" (across the flat sides) hex. This means they can be slightly larger than my previous models. I also intend painting these in what I would describe as an old toy soldier style so clean and tidy and stylised.

The Grand Duchy of Artois and the Electorate of Kronenbourg will appear in due course but in their 18th century plumage - as I originally intended.

Wednesday 5 September 2018

"For the Glory of the Legion"....Part 2

March or Buy? More Hollywood than history....

In my previous post I outlined my thoughts around the French Foreign Legion project (more accurately I should refer to it as the Berber project being as how they will feature more often than the legion should my Great and Interwar ideas come to fruition!) and the choice of figures I would be using. I mentioned that I would be using 15 mm figures from the extensive range produced by Minifigs and available from Caliver Books. As well as the Legion I shall add in Turcos, Spahis, Senegalise Tirailleurs and the Chassers D'Afrique amongst others whilst the opposition will comprise Berber tribesman for the main North African theatre and Tuaregs for the Saharan. I should point out that whilst the Tuareg are of Berber stock they look rather different to the more usual Berber types.

That well known bon vivant, wit and raconteur Geordie and Exiled FOG posted a number of comments on my previous post which certainly fired up the creative juices so to speak; chief of which was a link to the recently released battle set produced by Italeri - Beau Geste - the Algerian Tuareg Revolt 1877 to 1912 and is pictured above.

What you get for your £59.99 from Hannants

On the face of it this set looks like a great idea as you get 150 figures, a rather splendid looking fort produced in MDF and a small set of very useful accessories - everything you might need to kick start a set up. So far so good. What lets in down though and is the reason I will not be buying it are the figures themselves. These are the old ESCI French Foreign Legion and Muslim Warrior sets and for a fuller review of these sets read here.

The figures are not bad from a detail point of view but both sides suffer from some problems - the 'Arabs' more so. I am by no means an expert on the subject but the set consists of Afghans, Bedouins, Berbers, Tuaregs and even Mahdists - each of which wore quite distinct dress. This would mean that should one wish to raise a purely Berber force then one would need to invest in a number of boxes to extract the appropriate figures - which is hardly economic. The figures for the Legion also have some issues around uniform details and equipment but this would be less of an issue.

I do not consider myself to overly picky but for my purposes this set simply does not work as I have no need for Bedouins, Afghans or Mahdists. I have no problem with 20mm as a scale, nor with using plastic figures but this set does not seem such good value when you think about the extra figures you would need to inject a degree of accuracy.

In many ways this is a real shame as the idea is sound and the fort looks very nice indeed - an update on the old Airfix version produced in the current material of choice, MDF.

Many thanks to Geordie for flagging this up for me.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

"For the Glory of the Legion"

Embattled Legionnaires in action 

The Colonial era (for the purposes of this post I mean the ‘Waterloo to Mons’ timeframe) is an extremely popular period for fighting battles with model soldiers and rightly so. The troop types are colourful, exotic even and there are tactical and operational challenges aplenty. Coupled with the availability of figures in every imaginable scale as well as an ever-increasing range of written material and dedicated rule sets it is easy to understand its popularity. I would also add the asymmetrical nature of most games – usually in terms of numbers engaged, weaponry and tactics employed and motivation.

It is probably safe to say that the big three periods for the Colonial scene within the timeframe mentioned are the Sudan, the Zulu Wars and possibly the NW Frontier.  This is very much a generalisation on my part and I have no desire to offend anyone that operates outside of these three. I have taken part in games from each period and have enjoyed them immensely but, aside from a very brief flirtation with 42mm figures for the Zulu War some years ago have never really mined the periods mentioned. For sure I have acquired and disposed of a number of books over the years but by and large have not really invested in them to any great extent. I have also gamed both the Zulu War and the NW Frontier using the block armies but other than that not a thing.

Whilst for the most part I have not really committed to anything in great detail  I have made a couple of forays into 54mm of all things for the NW Frontier and The Foreign Legion using  Armies in Plastic figures but both of these have fallen by the wayside – mainly because I would be unable to source many of the figures I would ideally need at a cost I would be prepared to pay.

With the advent of The Men Who Would be Kings I considered investing in a 28mm Foreign Legion set up but again was not thrilled with the prospect of 28mm figures although there are a good selection of available. With this in mind I quietly parked the idea – this is an important point as ‘something Colonial’ is not a new project as such; rather it is one that has been kicking around for some time (probably around 15 years or so as near as I can recall) but for the life of me I was unable to think about how best to tackle it. Fate however, stepped in to lend a hand and rescued the notion from the project backwater it was currently residing in.

I have a modest collection of books on the French Foreign Legion of which Martin Windrow’s excellent ‘Our Friends Beneath the Sands’ is the leading tome alongside a couple of his Osprey titles and the work by Douglas Porch on the Legion (more about him later). I was glancing through Martin Windrow’s superb history this weekend when I came across the section on Morocco which triggered a long forgotten memory. I have in my collection a book I acquired ages ago called ‘Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua 1893-1956’ by Gavin (Ring of Bright Water) Maxwell. I dug this out of a box that was destined for a local charity shop and am very pleased that I did. After a little further ‘Google Fu’ I discovered that Mr. Porch had also written books on the conquest of Morocco and the Sahara – both of which are now winging their way to me – so I would have plenty of background material to work with.

So where exactly, is all this leading? Well, I have mentioned that a Colonial set up is definitely on the cards and indeed, has been for some time. I am great admirer of Bob Cordery’s Sudan set up for a number of reasons, chief of which is that he has proved time and time again that one does not need huge resources and large armies to be able to fight very satisfying wargames. His collection, when used in conjunction with the Portable Wargame is fully in tune with how I want to run my games. All that was needed was a subject that could inspire me to take up the baton.

For a variety of reasons this will be in 15mm. The main reason for this is because I can make use of the extensive range of suitable figures from, of all people, Minifigs. There is sufficient variety of troop types for the French (I am thinking circa 1911/12) which are all suitably exotic not to mention the usefulness of the Berber tribesmen whole will provide the main opposition. Mention of the Berbers is important as these will also form a substantial part of the forces for the Sennusi when fighting the British in WW1 They could also fight alongside the Turks against the Italians in 1912 or indeed, against the Italians themselves, not to mention the Spanish during the Rif War. There is plenty of potential for a variety of games across the Colonial, Great war and Interwar period using what would be a unified rules system in the shape of the Portable Wargame. One could even consider escalating the Agadir Crisis and factor in the Germans as well – that would bring in the naval dimension, at least at the gunboat level. Crucially for me the amount of figures required will be relatively small and being Minifigs should be fairly to painless to paint – even for me!

Sunday 2 September 2018

Playing Surfaces and Boot Sales

Earlier today I managed to spend a little time in the man cave reviewing the various playing surfaces I own and what I shall be doing with them. My table is 5ft by 3ft and I have two 3ft by 2ft boards - one green and one sand coloured - which have been marked off in 3” squares meaning that they are 12 squares by 8. I also have a fold up 6ft by 4ft board which folded makes two 4ft by 3ft surfaces.

Taking all of that into consideration you can see that I have a pretty good selection of playing areas to use, albeit at the smaller end of the scale. The 6ft by 4ft has been used a couple of times but not recently and will only come out on special occasions for large actions. The two 3ft by 2ft boards came to my from Bob Cordery and all I did was to cover one with a piece of hardboard to represent a desert surface and then grid each one using a couple of Letraset permanent marker pens. I made some hills to go with both and already have a selection of buildings to use - roads and rivers were cut from strips of felt.

The rather nice chessboard that, since I acquired it, has never seen a chess piece (despite the fact I enjoy the game). Very suitable for use in a desert or arid setting.

The other playing surface I have - remember the Portable Wargame was originally tested on a chessboard (8 x 8 squares) - is a a wooden chessboard I picked up from a boot sale some time ago. This was a home made effort with 6cm squares and could be used for desert or arid battlefields more or less as is. I needed to reglue  the edges of a couple of the tiles but other than that it is fine - it even has the felt pads on the underside to stop it scratching anything. I have a number of ideas for things to use this for and the size of square is ideal. All will be revealed in due course.

Three books and 4 bases of palm trees (there are two on each base) which will be used with a particular project I have in mind. The top two titles are in pristine condition but the bottom one is slightly shelf worn. Everything you see above cost me a mere £2.60!

On the subject of boot sales Laurel and I, together with our daughter, Holly, paid a visit this morning to our local car boot and I managed to score some goodies. I must confess that my boot sale pickings for this year have been pretty thin thus far so I was really pleased to get back into scoring form once again.

The Great War at Sea by Lawrence Sondhaus is a relatively new history - published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press - and makes much use of newer sources so in a sense is quite a modern history. My interest in the period is well known so I shall enjoy this book for a fresh look at the naval dimension of the Great War.

More than Courage by Phil Nordyke is the story of the US 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War 2. As part of the 82nd Airborne Division the 504th saw extensive action during WW2 from Sicily to Central Europe via Naples, Anzio, France, Holland, Belgium and on into Germany itself. This is a combat history and makes use of many first-hand accounts and interviews thereby giving the view from the frontline added relevance compared to a more general history. A quick skim through has already thrown up plenty of ideas and I reckon the Chain of Command/Bolt Action devotees would enjoy this.

King, Kaiser and Tsar by Cathrine Clay is not a military history per se, rather it is an account of the family ties between the three rulers during the run up to the Great War. I am a sucker for this type of thing and justify it on the grounds that this type of book helps to set the scene and place things into their historical context.

The trees will be used for a particular small scale project I have in mind - more of which in due course.

All in all then it was not a bad day out.