Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 13

A few things to report this week starting with the big news that my planned book has passed the first hurdle with the publisher. Essentially the proposal was accepted and will now be presented by the commissioning editor to 'El Grand Fromage' so to speak, for final approval. In the meantime I need to get some good block based pictures taken to support this final push so no prizes for guessing what I shall be up to later!

Plenty of inspiration in this one and needless to say I have a couple of ideas!

Last week of course the release of the latest title in the Daniel Mersey 'Rampant' series of wargame rules for large scale skirmish games - Rebels and Patriots, penned primarily by Michael Leck and covering the wars in America from the French and Indian up to the Civil War. I for one was eagerly awaiting this and alongside the others in the series and Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame are by far and away my favourite rule sets of the moment.

The weekend saw the first of the boot sales in our area (it was an indoor version) and despite being tempted by a couple of things I managed to emerge from the hall with my wallet intact. This was just as well and my beloved then suggested a quick trawl of the local high street charity shops - I never need asking twice when she does - and picked up the title below.

South Pacific, torpedo boats and a future US President to boot - something for the Cruel Seas collection and I am sure this will useful when I eventually get the game....

I should be getting a draft PDF of the flags I shall be using for the command blocks at some point this week which I am really pleased about as it means that I can really press on with some gaming ideas I have.

It should be an interesting week.

Sunday 27 January 2019

Cruel Seas in the Pacific and the Doldrums

I was aware of the whole ‘JFK and PT 109 saga’ but not the fine detail as my interest in the naval war in the Pacific has previously been limited to playing Flat Top by Battleline and Avalon Hill.

My wait for my review copy of Cruel Seas by Warlord Games continues but I know they are on the case. In any event I have been rather busy over the last couple of weeks or so with work and also getting the proposal organised for my book so I would not have been able to do much with it even if it had arrived. I have amassed a small selection of books on the subject of WW2 Coastal type warfare and the book above is my latest acquisition, courtesy of a local charity shop.

Despite having a long standing interest in coastal warfare during WW2 it is not something I have gamed very much and my knowledge on the subject is rather limited. The books I have acquired so far cover a mainly European focus - the North Sea and the English Channel - by I would be keen to explore both the Mediterranean (that would be my preferred choice) or even the Far East.

Three books became four with the Domagalski title. I also have a copy of Conway’s 1922 to 1946 and a number of titles on my Kindle - including Schnellboote.

The following titles I have on my Kindle in addition to the aforementioned Schnellboote.

Night Action - MTB Flotilla at War by Peter Dickens
The Battle of the Narrow Seas by Peter Scott
Dog Boats at War by Leonard Reynolds
Gunboat Command by Antony Hichens

I will try and get hard copies of the above if I am able to although it is not a priority at present.

There have been some quite exquisite paint jobs in evidence for the models in a couple of dedicated Facebook groups and I am really keen to tackle this once my review copy arrives. Needless to say I already have a few ideas about how to expand the scope of the game but will wait and see how viable it is once I have my copy.

(Sighs deeply at the passing of yet another day without a delivery....)

Thursday 24 January 2019

You Win Some, Zulus Some....

OK so the lyrics were adapted for the film and the singalong never happened but what the hell, this never fails to inspire me!

"Men of Harlech stop your dreaming
Can't you see their spear points gleaming
See their warrior's pennants streaming
To this battle field

Men of Harlech stand ye steady
It cannot be ever said ye
For the battle were not ready
Stand and never yield

Form the hills rebounding
Let this war cry sounding
Summon all at Cambria's call
The mighty force surrounding

Men of Harlech onto glory
This shall ever be your story
Keep these fighting words before ye
Cambria (Welshmen never) will not yield"

I suspect that here are few, if any readers of this blog that are not aware of the 140th anniversary of the opening of the Zulu War of 1879, immortalised on screen by the film Zulu (and you could add Zulu Dawn if you wish).

The film Zulu is quite unique for me because this particular film, alongside the Battle of Britain were the only classic war films of the era that I saw on the big screen. I should qualify this by saying that I saw Zulu about five years after it came as a Saturday matinee performance - not when I was four years old! It is a great film to see on the big screen and even now, after having watched it umpteen other times on a variety of televisions, PCs and tablets, I can still recall how it made me feel listening to the beating of shields, that hair-raising Zulu war cry - "Usuthu!" and of course "Men of Harlech!" Stirring stuff indeed.

Fast forward to the last few years and my interest in the conflict from a wargames perspective has been, well to be frank, quite lazy really. I have owned a number of books on the subject and have even gotten as far as investing in some figures for it but like so many of my best intentions the enthusiasm waned and so off they went. I had a small set up in 15mm Essex as well as some Newline figures which were very nice indeed. Further back I even dabbled in a 42mm set up from Irregular Miniatures but again, my short attention span once again consigned the collection to Ebay.  If I am honest my interest in the war kind of hits a roadblock at the end of the first invasion which is a shame as there is much else to look at. I believe this is the reason for my apparent lethargy - I cannot seem to get past Isandlwana or more likely, Rorke's Drift.

The advent of the block armies gave me an opportunity to fight a couple of games set in the war of 1879 and these were enormous fun to do. From the gaming perspective I find the war an interesting one to fight because the two sides are so different. Simply put one side needs to close to be effective whilst the other needs to keep their distance to do so. This makes for an interesting tactical game.

The two block games I fought set in the Zulu War

Should I tackle this period using figures then it would be using the range available from Spencer Smith and I would opt to paint them in an old toy soldier style. There are some quite exquisite figures around for the war but I prefer the simpler style of older figures - they suit my painting technique far better. For the time being though, I shall be using the block armies as I have done so in the past.

I am looking at the Portable Wargame as the rules to use with the block armies and The Men Who Would Be Kings for the figure game in due course.

I suspect I am probably not the only one that is watching either of the films if they have not done so already - my viewing of Zulu will be for the commute to and from work.

This will be a pleasure.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

WW2 Blocks, Hexes and Squares

A WW2 game fought using an early version of the rules that would eventually appear as the Portable Wargame. Germans attacking US troops during 1944.

Part of my block army collection includes units for fighting actions set during WW2. In the games folder there is a number of games I fought ranging from the pine forests of the Eastern Front via France and Belgium during 1944 and the Greek Islands in 1943. They were all good fun to fight and I used a combination of both a hexagonal and a square grid.

The only hexagonal playing surfaces I now own are the laminated and geomorphic maps that originally came with the Axis and Allies WW2 collectable miniatures game and these have seen much service with the block armies. Unfortunately, as far as I know, they never produced a desert map  which is a shame. There is of course the old standby of the Memoir '44 map boards but these are a little on the small side for the blocks - as are the Heroscape tiles I still have unless I use a single block units.

Bob Cordery has, through the medium of his Portable Wargame series of books, outlined the advantages and disadvantages of squared, hexed and offset squared grids which was very useful. For my own part I am leaning more and more towards using a square grid for those games where I need to use one. The biggest hurdle in using a square grid has always been the old chestnut of allowing for diagonal movement and firing. There are ways to allay this and I have previously mentioned the system adopted in the Napoleonic naval rules 'Ship 'O the Line' originally published in the early 1970s (and the forerunner of the excellent Avalon Hill board game Wooden Ships and Iron Men - ironically using a hex grid rather than the square version of the original rules) which adjusts diagonal distances to match as closely as possible to the orthogonal versions.

Within the Portable Wargame I simply allow a unit to make a single diagonal move during its movement as the rates are quite low so the distortion is minimal. This has the effect of really opening up the board especially if you also extend the same to direct fire. Essentially you can work with 8 possible directions of movement or firing rather than the 6 of a hex. I would also argue that it is easier making terrain to fit in a square rather than a hex!

Using a square for naval games has the advantage of being able to reference natural compass headings and again, with 8 directions available rather than 6. As movement is an important consideration for naval gamers again you can see the practical advantage of using squares.

Taking the above into consideration I have decided that my games will primarily be fought on a square grid. Using the diagonal option from the naval rules mentioned as a guide means that a square grid is far more open and, dare I say it, natural in respect of facings etc.

The original 'brown' vehicle labels I designed using MS Paint. The set includes tanks, self propelled artillery (open topped) and anti tank vehicles, armoured cars, half tracks and trucks. I produced these in three colours with light grey and olive green joining the brown types above. I also toyed with the idea of producing a set with a sand coloured background for use in the desert but never got around to it.

When I decided to include WW2 in the great block project I was really torn as to how best to represent vehicles. Tanks, SP Guns, Armoured Cars, Trucks, Half Tracks and all the permutations associated with them really gave me some problems as I was unsure whether to draw representational types or to go down the military map symbol route. After much thought I decided to go down the military symbol route and opted to use combinations of blocks to represent specific types. For example, an armoured infantry unit would consist of three infantry blocks and an armour block. You can see what I mean looking at the game above.

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 12

Apologies for the delay with  this post - I had started drafting it Monday (my usual time) - but a couple of work issues intervened.

The latest version of the classic Risk. The figures are vaguely Napoleonic and consist of a firing infantryman and what looks like a light dragoon type cavalryman.

Work on the book has been pretty solid this week with a number of keys points highlighted and some important conversations had. All is well. With luck and a following wind I should be submitting the proposal in the next week or so for the commissioning editor to do his thing and then we shall see what we shall see!

This really is a peach of a book

The arrival of Bob Cordery's latest Portable Wargame title covering the Napoleonic Wars and my reading (and rereading of the same) has been an extended pleasure this week and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It has given me much food for thought for a number of reasons and so it will be as no surprise to learn that I hope to fighting a small action with the block armies over the next week or so to 'get my hand' in so to speak.

Over the past few years I have squirrelled away a number of plastic figures from various versions of the classic board game Risk. I currently have two sets of the figures from the Medieval version (roughly 18 to 20mm), fours sets of generic 18th century figures (two each of the 'thick' and 'thin' versions), a set of the Napoleonic versions with the infamous kneeling infantryman and a couple of sets of the Lord of the Rings set - these are all around the 10/12mm size. All are very useful and I am sure I will get around to doing something with them at some point. I always make a point of looking out for these at boot sales as they can normally be picked up for pennies.

More Risk - this time the infamous 'infantryman kneeling at the ready'

For inspiration as to what can be done with these figures then the blog of that renowned fashionista, bon vivant, wit and raconteur, aka Kaptain Kobold produced a couple of armies for the Great Northern War, complete with a number of conversions. He has used these very effectively in their own right as well as part of an ongoing campaign being fought using Sam Mustafa's Maurice rules. I have posted about his adventures with these figures previously and I am inspired every time I see them!

The generic late 18th century figures available in an earlier version of the board game Risk. Note the differences between the two infantry types.

For my own part the 18th century figures (the link shows the differences between the two types) have a number of possibilities which is why I am always looking out for extra sets and indeed, many of the variants of Risk contain much usable material.

In other news my naval adventures are a little on the quiet side at present - my review copy of Cruel Seas is still yet to arrive - although I am hoping that will be changing soon. I have a cunning plan in this respect, a plan that will save me LOTS of time and resources.

More to follow in due course.

Sunday 20 January 2019

The Block On Effect

So much for me scaling back the blog posts due to readying my book proposal! Well at least this post is relevant to the book and so scrapes in under the wire as being worthy of mention....

A welcome bag of blocks - three quarter size. Note the Jutland ship block - I have both fleets ready in this fashion - and also the small quarter size block destined for use as a command, unit identifier and facing piece.

Now that the Christmas and New Year festivities are over I took the opportunity to tidy the man cave in readiness for the spring campaign season. The focus gaming wise will be very much Portable Wargame based so I took a close look at what I have completed and what will need attending to - both for the block armies and terrain. Whilst doing this I came across a bag of blocks that I had not done anything with other than having a quarter section lopped off. These quarter sections are what I shall be using as command blocks with the national flag and unit identification number. This in turn will help to tie in the game narratives to the action and indeed, is essential for helping to tell which way the unit is facing.

A closer look at the sizes and the Jutland based block

Back in the day I had made use of the three quarter sized sized blocks to stick the printed Avalon Hill Jutland counters I have (since replaced with the real thing). I had flirted with making some ship labels for naval gaming sing the blocks but never really pursued the idea with any great conviction. The upshot of this is that I found a carrier bag full of three quarter sized blocks - some 150 or so - that I had forgotten about.

Now here is the thing. I need to make a further set of blocks with black and white as the main colour - for use as Austrians primarily - which would mean getting these blocks cut into a 30mm and a 15mm size. Aside from getting to the chap that cut the originals for me this would presents little difficulty. The only thing is I am now seriously thinking about a naval block system and so will need a quantity of the three quarter blocks. I have plenty of time to think about this though and for sure I will need to park the idea for a while.

My proposal for the book is virtually finished - I merely need to check a couple of points of detail - and so that will be winging its way to the commissioning editor in about a week or so. I will then need to wait whilst he does his thing and then, all being well, we should be good to go come early March. Then all I have to do is write it....

Wednesday 16 January 2019

The Portable Napoleonic Wargame and the American Civil War

Here at last and available in multiple formats as per Bob Cordery's excellent blog

I arrived home from work last night to a most welcome surprise, albeit with one of those 'heart in the mouth' moments! My copy of Bob Cordery's latest book in the Portable Wargame series: The Portable Napoleonic Wargame.

Never a good thing to see but fortunately all was well.

I say heart in the mouth because, as you can see, the postal system was less than gentle with the package but mercifully the book was well protected and therefore in pristine condition.

Bob is going from strength to strength with his writing and this really is a peach of a book. It is very much in the vein of a tool kit for gaming the Napoleonic Wars in a variety of formats. I can do better than quote the back cover and say:

"This book has ten chapters, four sets of rules, three exemplar battle reports, four appendices, a bibliography, and over one hundred and forty illustrations."

I would urge anyone with an interest in the wars of Napoleon to buy this and even if that is not your thing then the chapter beginning on page 140 will certainly be of interest. Bob has listed all the wars up until 1865 that the rules could be used as a basis for and in fact, for my own purposes the Kurz and Allison 30mm Spencer Smith ACW project would be an ideal candidate. I would go as far as saying that any hardcore ACW gamers would find this book to be really useful.

In closing the only thing I would like add - apart from thanking Bob for publishing the book - is that I am REALLY looking forward to his planned Portable Colonial Wargame although this will be some time away methinks!

Monday 14 January 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 11

Cruel Seas....coming to blogger near you soon....:-)

As work on my book enters a far more time intensive phase so my blogging activity will be correspondingly reduced. The Weekly Sitrep will continue and the odd major event will feature - I am thinking of Cavalier in Tonbridge next month - but anything else will be banked up or accommodated in my Monday morning roundup. It is not a big deal as such but I do need to focus my efforts in the short term whilst I ready the proposal.

This week has seen yours truly spending a lot of time on the book as well as attending to a couple of block-related administrative tasks. I sorted out the small quarter sized blocks - these have been earmarked for use as command blocks with the national flag - and have readied a list of the number and nationality of flags I will need and have sent the same to my 'flag man', Tony at Brigade Models.

I must confess that this was not as straightforward as I imagined it would be as several nationalities went through a number of versions of what would be a national flag. For example our Teutonic friends went through three during the period I am interested in - even more of you allowed for each of the German States prior to unification. I have opted for a Prussian, an Imperial German and finally one for Nazi Germany. It is a small detail for sure but one that will add immeasurably to the look of the thing as well as serving to indicate a unit's facing.

The only flags I will need to design myself would be for tribal African types - Zulus and so forth - various Islamic types - Afghans, Arabs and Mahdists - and finally something for Native Americans. I will have a trawl of the interweb to get some ideas and see what I can come up with.

A Zululand Flag about which I know nothing and so will need to research this in a little more detail methinks

By now Cruel Seas has been around for a while and judging by the various reactions I have seen it has certainly provoked some opinions! There is already a large errata available and many of the issues raised seem to be about the apparent rush into production the game had. I have seen some quite superb looking models on various Facebook groups as well as a number of after action reports all of which is good to see - regardless of whether or not there are teething difficulties with the game itself. My overriding thought is that anything that places naval wargaming into the public gaze is to be applauded and if enough people support this then it will continue to grow. Who knows? Warlord may even think about producing further naval games on the back of this success because let's face it, it has been just that, warts and all.

I have yet to see my review copy (requested well before the release date) but after a long conversation with them on Friday this is in hand. To their credit the chap I spoke to could not have been more professional and apologetic about the delay although it will mean that my review will be one of the last published for the game!

Monday 7 January 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 10

Go on, you know you want to!

Welcome to the first Weekly Sitrep for 2019! I have spent a fairly productive week working on my army level horse and musket rules for my book and I am pretty pleased with the progress I have made. There is a long way to go but early indications are quite positive.

I have really enjoyed dipping into the Kindle version of David Chandler's Campaigns of Napoleon and am pleased I was able to get this - it is certainly easier than lugging the book around!

I have cobbled together a small order to our friends at Warbases for the additional bases I need for the Kurz and Allison ACW project as I have opted to base the figures individually rather than on multiple bases. I could always get movement base sabots if I needed to. The main reason for this is the forthcoming publication of Rebels and Patriots - the latest title in the 'Lion Rampant' series by Dan Mersey and others as individual bases loom large with this.

The biggest (and best) news this week though is the publication of the latest volume in the Portable Wargame series by Bob Cordery - The Portable Napoleonic Wargame.

I have seen the draft version for this and am awaiting my own copy so I will not review this at the moment. Suffice it to say though, Bob has done it again and this book should be on the bookshelf of any wargamer with a smattering of interest in the wars of the Corsican Ogre!

Buy a copy and you will see what I mean....:-)

Thursday 3 January 2019

Army Level Napoleonic Considerations

Another map of Waterloo showing the topography in a little more detail. Note the areas of higher ground missing from the previous map.

As part of the preparation process in respect of my Corps level horse and musket rules I am currently revisiting some old friends in respect of the books in my Napoleonic library. Needless to say 1815 features quite prominently although there are other titles on the wars against Napoleon present. What I am looking at are orders of battle for the three combatants.

I am planning on three types of game which will use broadly similar gaming mechanics with each tailored to suit the command level of the action being fought. The levels of command can best be shown as follows:

Level of Commander    Main unit of Command    Sub unit of Command

Army                              Corps                                   Division
Corps                              Division                              Brigade
Division                          Brigade                               Battalion

Using the above structure as a guide my plan at this stage is to use a single half block to represent each sub unit. This means that a Army level Main unit is a Corps which is turn made up of Divisions acting at Sub units and consist of a half block for each division and any accompanying cavalry, artillery and other assets. The end result is a formation of around half a dozen or so blocks depending on the organisation being represented.

Moving down a step and the Corps level game then the Division is the Main unit and is made up of a number of Brigades, again with each being represented by a single half block. As Divisions varied in composition in respect of the number of constituent Brigades these could also be anything from two half blocks upwards in size.

Finally at the lowest end of the scale we have the Divisional level game where the Main units are Brigades with the Sub units being individual Battalions.

From the outset you can see that there is a degree of similarity in the composition of the units at each level of action being fought. A Corps in the Army level game may have three divisions of infantry (represented by 3 half blocks), some cavalry and artillery (represented by a half block each) meaning the entire formation may consist of around 5 half blocks. A Division in the Corps level game may have 3 Brigades of infantry (again each of a half block) as well as some supporting cavalry and artillery (represented by a half block each). Finally a Brigade in the Divisional level game could typically feature three or four Battalions each of a single half block with supporting cavalry and artillery again represented by single half blocks if required.

Taking all that into consideration it would be beyond the realm of possibility to have a Main unit from each level of game that is the same size on the tabletop e.g. a Corps of 4 Divisions, a Division of 4 Brigades or a Brigade of 4 Battalions (admittedly this would be rather on the large side!). The use of a unit roster for recording combat losses and also 'what goes where and with whom' is essential given the variable scale of engagement I am considering. With these rules your printer will be your friend!

A print of the battle by William Heath. Coincidentally the pseudonym he used in the 1820s - Paul Pry, after a snooping theatrical character - is the name of a public house in my home town of Rayleigh. I was struck by the similarity of style with the later works by Kurz and Allison depicting the ACW and providing the inspiration for my Spencer Smith project.

Thoughts on Scales

This is very simple in that the only scale I am going to be consistent with is that a single half block will equal one unit/formation. The ground scale is fluid and so will expand and contract as required by the command level of the game being fought as will the associated battlefield topography.

Thoughts on Combat

This will be D6 based and the only constant is that a single D6 will be used for combat by each individual half block regardless of type. There will be no modifiers to consider as such as combat results will be dependent on the effects table being used which will take into consideration such things as terrain, range, attacker/defender situational advantage/disadvantage, troop quality - you know, all the usual stuff.

Plenty to be getting on with then.

Wednesday 2 January 2019

Finally facing my Waterloo....

Even after nearly 50 years of reading about it, watching it and gaming it using figures, cardboard counters and blocks the Battle of Waterloo still has the power to move, excite and fire my imagination!

When you look at the map above what do you see? This is a stylised interpretation of that most famous of battles: Waterloo in 1815. Looking closely you can see some of the major topographical features - the road network, towns and villages, woods and waterways - and the approximate starting positions for the major formations that took part in the battle. The map also shows the various attacks and counterattacks that took place during the battle and the approximate times these occurred. The terrain appears to be flat with no significant relief to be seen so we can safely assume that the countryside the battle was fought over was, by and large, gently rolling fields and meadows. As a high level map this does the job reasonably well.

Looking at the way the units are depicted on the map one is straightaway faced with a number of questions. What does each block represent? What units are where? How strong was each unit? Who commanded what?

If one could enlarge the map scale then these points, rather like focusing a camera, become clearer in that one would expect the various blocks to subdivide into smaller blocks e.g. a corps block would split into divisional blocks which in turn would break down into brigades then battalions. All the while the terrain would become more detailed so that if one were to look at a map of the battle at battalion level it would look very different to the above.

This is a very obvious point but what it serves to show is that a single block labelled similarly to the above could serve quite happily as anything from a corps to a battalion. As long as one preserves the appropriate level of detail in the organisation of the forces, the terrain being fought over and the scope of the rules being used for the scale of action being depicted all should be well.

The best way I can think of to describe the above is when you are coming in to land in an aircraft. As you descend to earth the details in the countryside become larger and clearer the closer one gets to the ground and so by extension should the armies being represented and the battlefields one is fighting over.

Due to my lifelong interest in the campaign of 1815 I shall be using this as a test bed for the army level rules I am devising and indeed, depending on how it works out it may even feature in my book but there is  a lot of ground to covered before we get to that stage.

The first step I shall be undertaking is to, in effect, translate the orders of battle into game sized units. At this stage the only decision I have reached is that a single half block will equal a brigade sized formation so a typical division will contain a number of these (typically anything from 3 to 6) plus the all important command/identification block. In order to achieve this I shall be making use of the Napoleon Returns Volley and Bayonet supplement as well as the order of battle from Columbia Games: Napoleon (3rd edition). I will also call upon the various books I have about the campaign in my library. This should be fairly straightforward although I will need to be careful not to overdo the artillery element.

As far as the rules themselves are concerned I have a number of avenues I am investigating but at this stage it is fair to say that the end result will feature a number of game mechanics that have been seen elsewhere although with a couple of 'Crookisms' thrown in for good measure.

Onwards and upwards then!

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Big Ideas and Small Steps

First of all, a very happy new year to one and all! Ours was a quiet one spent listening to a classic 70s/80s soul/jazz and funk playlist on YouTube whilst waiting for the midnight hour and the fireworks accompanied by a couple of very nice Gin and Tonics. It has been a number of years since we went out to see in the New Year but it does not matter as we still ritually link arms and sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at the appointed time - this year with our 8 year old grandson as well which he enjoyed immensely.

My main gaming effort for the coming year is of course my book. I am really excited about this (naturally!) and will be providing regular-ish updates as it progresses. I have the framework pretty much nailed down and without giving too much away it is devoted to fighting a variety of battles using block armies rather than figures. It is very early days and so I am not expecting it to be viable for publication until the latter part of the year. There will be play testing to be undertaken, photoshoots to be organised, not to mention proof reading of the initial draft - or in other words plenty to be getting on with.

Without going into finite detail I intend having three sets of rules and example games for each level of battle - from army sized engagements through divisional level down to battalion/brigade sized actions. There is a lot of other stuff that will be included and it is worth pointing out that the rules contained therein would be equally at home using figures so for non block gamers try not to be put off by the fact that the title will include the word BLOCKS!

I am starting at the top with the rules in that the army level game will be the first set that I tackle. The rationale for this is simple because when I first devised my block armies they were intended for use on a large scale. I allowed myself to get distracted in a way by the use of Command and Colours type rules culminating in Bob Cordery’s excellent Portable Wargame series. I have no regrets about following this tangent but it was never what the block armies were all about. Without a doubt Bob’s rules have given me much pleasure and indeed, they have established themselves as my ‘go to’ system for lower level games but recent events (mainly Andy Callan’s outstanding War of the Spanish Succession game using full sized Jenga blocks - the rules for this set up are superb) have served to remind me of what I had originally intended gaming with the blocks.

My plan was to be able to fight large scale Napoleonic battles - both historical and fictional - involving multiple corps on a 6ft by 4ft table. The forces used would follow historically accurate orders of battle where applicable and the basic half block would represent a brigade sized formation. A roster system would be used for recording combat losses as well enabling the all important order of battle to assume its rightful place in the order of things.

The rules I am working on for this project have received inspiration from various sources but, and this is the key point, they are intended to fight an army level GAME rather than be an uber-detailed simulation. They will be stylised and with a degree of abstraction but they will (hopefully) capture the all-important ‘feel’ of the period in question. My aim originally was to be able to fight Waterloo on a 6ft by 4ft table and so it will be no surprise that this particular battle will feature as part of the play testing, possibly even in the book itself.

There are a few other bits and pieces that will feature in the book and indeed, in many ways it would be very easy for a further volume to follow as the ideas I have would certainly be sufficient to write one!

With matters block-related being very much ‘front and centre’ it means that everything else will need to be self contained and modest in scope. Cruel Seas will feature (assuming it ever arrives that is...) and also some other WW1 and WW2 naval stuff but in a manner that may surprise you. Aside from these there is of course the Spencer Smith Kurz and Allison ACW project. I now have everything I need for this in terms of figures but, inevitably there is a curve ball in the shape of Rebels and Patriots - the forthcoming ‘Lion Rampant’ style rules due out later this month. Individual or multi-bases? That is the question!

Well that is me, so I hope that your own project list for this year works out - probably better than mine if truth be told if past experience is anything to go by!