Monday 30 September 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 48

Complete with nautical niceness - and actually not a bad read this month either! (Not that I buy this very often....)

Saturday just gone saw my 59th birthday arrive and herald what was a very busy weekend. SWMBO and I headed up to Norwich to celebrate my brother in laws's 70th birthday with a grand family Sunday lunch. I say grand intentionally as his four children and their partners (with the sole exception of the New Zealand contingent that were over for a couple of weeks and were represented by his daughter and one of her two children) and a number of grandchildren were also present, as well as a very well behaved dog! As we were also visiting other family the weekend seemed to consist of getting in and out of the car, drinking numberless cups of tea or coffee and saying hello and goodbye. Aside from driving through a part of the city itself we did not get a chance to do anything 'touristy'.

Laurel's stepfather whom we visited on Saturday has at long last realised an lifelong intention to assemble a HO:OO model railway. Needless to say this was of interest and so I passed an hour or so looking at his progress thus far and comparing notes about terrain. He had some quite wonderful card terrain pieces that I was very taken with and I came away with a spare catalogue of the same and plenty of inspiration for scenic ideas. Undeterred by the fact that he and his culinary expert of a wife live in a converted cowshed with but a single bedroom he has set up his railway in a rather ingenious way. The whole thing - about the size of a double bed - is suspended from the bedroom ceiling and can be lowered or raised by the use of a ropes and pulleys on either side. Quite what his wife makes of having the Flying Scotsman and assorted other engines over her head I never did find out....

We arrived home around 5pm yesterday and after the inevitable unpacking and a much needed cup of tea I was able to get back to the 30mm ACW guns. I have taken a slight step back with these although it has not impacted on progress. I was not happy with some of the odd pieces of metal present here and there so I took an emery board and knife to them - not in a massive way - to complete the clean up. They now look far tidier and I was able to repaint the offending areas as well as the wheels. All I need to do now are the wheel rims, some carriage fittings and the gun barrels and they will be ready to varnish. I am torn between drilling out the muzzles and then painting the inside black or just putting a black spot there instead. I will get the carriages finished first and then decide. In any event I am looking to have these completely finished by the weekend when I shall carry out the grand photoshoot.

Wargames Illustrated October 2019 (number 384) is now out and contains a warship sprue from their forthcoming game of Napoleonic naval combat: Black Seas. This is due to be released this month and if the models I have in my possession are anything to go by they alone would justify buying the game. I purchased two copies of the magazine which gave me a sprue with a single frigate and one with  two smaller vessels. They look very nice indeed and the modellers amongst us could really produce something special looking with them.

Now here is a plea. If any readers of this blog routinely buy Wargames Illustrated and have no use for the model please let me know and I would certainly take it off your hands!

Many thanks in advance.

Friday 27 September 2019

Old Friends and New Ideas

A really good set of grid based Napoleonic Naval Wargame rules that are about to receive a new lease of life

Wow! That was a year that went very quickly! In September of last year I penned a blog post about some ideas for - and here follows the link - Napoleonic Naval Wargaming using an old set of rules from the early to mid 1970s. These were called Ship 'O the Line and were written by the well known game designer, the late S. Craig Taylor. I am a huge fan of his work which also includes such games as Air Force and its expansions, Flat Top and Wooden Ships and Iron Men.

The award-winning board game of Wooden Ships and Iron Men which featured a simplified version of the original tabletop rules and used hexes rather than squares for movement and firing.

I am not about to repeat the previous blog post verbatim although I will reference one of the comments I received and apologise profusely for not following up on the request raised! The ignored party will know who they are (and apologies once more!).

I finally got around to organising the printed copy I have of the rules into the appropriate folder and naturally whilst doing so I skimmed through them. When I say skimmed through that is of course David Crook-ese for 'read from cover to cover'.

Several things struck me. To begin with, 'back in the day' the nautical chapter of the denizens of the sadly defunct Newham Wargames Club routinely used these rules for large actions. For sure you had to write individual orders for each ship but it never seemed to be the cause of massive delays in the running of an action. Looking at the rules now I am thinking that they are perhaps best suited for squadron sized actions or smaller because they are rather detailed.

Having said that the rule book is rather deceptive. It is some 32 pages long but half of this consists of optional rules and there is also a several pages of ship names and suggested ship characteristics for each nation - which goes way beyond the usual British, French, Spanish and  American to include the Baltic fleets, Holland, Portugal, some of the Italian States, Russia and Turkey.

The rules themselves are easy enough to use although they are quite chart and factor heavy - this is a regular feature of Craig Taylor's designs - and I suspect that writing orders for individual ships may seem like a chore these days. Personally I have no problem with this although it would present some challenges for solo play.

Where is all this going? Well, there are a couple of things I have been thinking about at a low level. To begin with there is the forthcoming launch of the new Warlord Games age of sail wargame - Black Seas. The models for this are large - 1:700th scale I believe - and the focus of the game appears to be lower level actions - lower level in terms of the number of ships on the table that is. I could see myself using the models with the Ship 'O the Line rules as the numbers needed would be quite modest which is in keeping with my current 'low level naval action' ethos.

The Napoleonic naval section of my library is poised and ready for when Black Seas appears and the models certainly look nice. Cobbling up a couple of forces of around half a dozen ships or so would be an interesting project and is one that is certainly on the menu for due consideration.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Planning for the ACW

An antique map of Essex from around 1850. Note the coastline and inland waterways - ideal for lurking ironclads.

Now that phase one of my ACW collection is virtually ready to hit the table - the guns will be ready by the weekend - my thoughts are already moving towards the setting for my games. I have something suitably old school in mind and that would allow me to create something rather unique and personal. I want to design my own theatre of operations for the ACW but not based on anything in the USA. My plan is to use a map of my home county of Essex that will be, for want of a better word, 'Americanised' to suit my own background. 

Essex is blessed with a number of rivers and small islands meaning that the potential for riverine and coastal actions is certainly present. By adjusting some of the place names - for example adding 'ville' at the end of an actual town name - and inventing some notable personalities for either side one has created a viable theatre of operations that can then be tweaked as required. I have already given this aspect some thought and have a shortlist of Union and Confederate commanders to call upon. I want to allow these characters a personality that can influence events of the tabletop - and not always in a good way!

The Duke himself as Captain Nathan Brittles from the classic John Ford Western 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon'

By extension the ships of the opposing navies will have fictional names and this has proven to be a very enjoyable task indeed as I have been trawling through various books and films for ideas. I reckon that Nathan Brittles is a great name for a river gunboat or ironclad of some kind!

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 47

Not a great picture for sure but you can see the overall style. An earlier post on the blog explained the story in more detail.

The 30mm ACW collection infantry, cavalry and gun crews are finished! This has been a wonderful project to run and it would not have been possible but for the generosity of Old Painter Bob - Bob Kett of 20mm Crimean War Wargaming & Other Stuff fame. If you have a passion for what I call 'new old school' wargaming then his blog is a great place to spend a few hours browsing.

I first became acquainted with Bob via my ongoing disposal of Eric's collection - particularly the Minifigs element, of which he is a fan. During our various email exchanges (as well parcels flying backwards and forwards) I mentioned about my 30mm Spencer Smith ACW Kurz and Allison project, for which I had acquired the figures. At this point he mentioned that he had started an ACW collection using both metal and plastic Spencer Smith figures - some painted and some still in the raw plastic - that was now surplus to requirements so would I be interested in them?

The parcel duly arrived and I was frankly gobsmacked by the contents. I quickly decided that the plastic element would be surplus to requirements and so these were passed on to a gentleman in Wales. The metal element was painted exactly in  the style I was planning although not strictly in the Kurz and Allison fashion. they were however, close enough as makes no difference. The collection would need completing - at least to bring up to the strength I initially planned - and I had for the most part sufficient figures already to do so but there was a minor problem. The figures that Bob had used for the Confederates were not the same as I had planned to use so a small order was sent to Spencer Smith for the correct versions. Picky I know but bear in mind I was after a stylised and wooden look for the two armies.

Then came the moment of magic.

As a throwaway comment I nonchalantly asked Bob if would not mind painting up the extra figures I needed so that I could replicate the contents of the board game Battle Cry. To my delight, surprise and eternal gratitude he agreed to do so and so now my painted collection stands at 44 infantry, 6 gunners, 9 cavalry and three guns a side.

The figures needed rebasing as Bob used multiple bases and I wanted the figures individually based using MDF. This has now been completed and a few bits and pieces of touching up have been undertaken - nothing serious, just the inevitable wear and tear of the odd paint chip.

I have gone for 25mm circular bases for the foot and 'pill' shaped 25mm by 50mm bases for the mounted troops. These were sealed in matt varnish, given two cots of Humbrol Satin 131 and then matt varnished. When I post the pictures you will see what I mean.

On the subject of pictures I apologise that there are no pictures of the refurbished models yet. This is simply because by the time I get home in the evening the light is really poor and taking indoor shots under artificial light makes for horrible images. I really need natural daylight to show the figures in their best light. I may be able to get some pictures this weekend but I am going away for a family do first thing Saturday morning so it may be a little rushed. In any event I need to finish the guns for the crews to man. The picture above is of the figures that Bob had painted in their original guise so you can see what I mean by the technique. All I have done is to rebase and freshen them up.

In closing I would like add a couple of things. I am sure that most readers of this blog have been the either the recipient or benefactor of a fellow gamers abandoned project. This can be large or small and may or not involve goods or monies changing hands. This in itself is one of the great things about our hobby in that for most part we are generous souls. An extension of this is when a gamer uses their own time to assist in another gamer's project - often to the detriment of their own pursuits. This is altogether a different order of generosity and so these two reasons - material goods and time I would like to extend my most grateful thanks and appreciation to Bob.

Well done that man!

Monday 23 September 2019

Old School Miscellany with a Cat

A real blast from the past and once opened and properly stirred was as good as new!

The Weekly Sitrep will feature some good news re the ACW collection but for now I wanted to share some old school items that may be of interest. The first item you see is an unopened tin of Humbrol enamel paint - in this case from the Aunthenticolour range. Wargamers of a certain vintage will no doubt remember these tins that were used ny many a gamer in the days before acrylics were readily available. I own around three hundred tins of Humbrol enamel of various ages and still have around thirty or so from this range. I have two unopened tins of French Artillery Green and for the life of me I cannot remember why I acquired these because at no time during my gaming career have I ever considered a French army that would use this colour! They are about to be put to good use though as my 30mm ACW artillery pieces are going to be painted in this hue.

For the record some of these tins of paint must be around thirty five to forty years old!

As well as revisiting my collection of very old Humbrol enamels I also came across these two items that were presented to me along with an assortment of wargaming books by Bill from the collection of Eric Knowles.

I remember back in the day owning a couple of the Shire Publications wargames titles (which I believe are available from John Curry as part of the History of Wargaming project) and seeing these pads advertised but never owning either. Of course nowadays producing such things would be a whole lot easier with the mass availability of home computers but at the time they would have useful.

I was rather interested by the inside cover of the wargames order pad which you can see below.

The inside cover complete with order notation suggestions and an example of the system in use.

The order pad itself. Neither of pads have been used and to be honest the squares for orders are rather on the small side but it is useful all the same.

I had planned to add the John Curry produced compilation of the Shire rules to my collection - not because I am likely to use the rules again (I did back in the day a couple of times with my Airfix 1815 Allied army) but because they do form a part of my own wargaming story.

Mango in the infamous box - this time carefully positioned on the floor and at the other end of the lounge away from the painting table! I knew she would not be able to resist the temptation!

I have some pretty good news re the 30mm ACW collection but that will appear in the Weekly Sitrep which I shall be posting tomorrow - and when you read it you will understand the delay....

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Fire and Furry....A Tail of the ACW

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but in this case it is just the one - and I will leave the choice of expletive to you....

I had a rubbish day at work yesterday. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did (with but a single redeeming bright spot) and so the endless stream of client and candidate related mishaps seemed unrelenting. I was hugely relieved when eventually it was time to make my weary way home! As I headed out from the office a WhatsApp message appeared from my beloved timed as having been sent at around lunchtime.

“What is under the cat do I need to move her?” Said the message (and see the picture above for what she was describing). I looked at the above picture with a sickening feeling and was really not sure how to respond. The scene was from some five hours before I had seen it and I was willing to bet that Mango, the offending feline, would have moved on to pastures new so the damage, if any, would have already happened. This was the icing on the cake of a horrible day as far as I was concerned.

When I eventually got home, cursing a cruel fate and generally feeling sorry for myself, the first order of business was to see what had happened. The first thing that struck me was that everything that was on the top of the box (which was closed) was now inside which in itself was a shock. For the record the top of the box had a newspaper, two emery boards, a bamboo skewer, a paint brush, two packs of MDF bases and some grip top plastic bags, not to mention a newly bladed modelling knife. Mango has completely ignored all of these anti cat obstacles and had calmly curled up on top of them and on the box and had gone into a blissful and no doubt untroubled sleep.

It what universe could that position have possibly been comfortable? Not being a cat I have struggled to understand how she was able to manage it, especially due to all the paraphernalia she was curled up on.

The box contained two Spencer Smith 30mm ACW cavalry units and six guns. The cavalry were deployed facing each other with the swords pointing towards the centre of the box, guard of honour style. Mango is a small and light feline – if it was her daughter then the table would probably have collapsed – but her weight was sufficient to stove in the box lid and so her weight was supported by ten cavalry swords with the obvious result – swords bent into passable impersonations of fishing hooks. I was able to straighten them out (some of them are now weakened on the bend so to speak) and by a copious application of super glue have hardened the weapons (oooer missus) sufficiently to render them proud and erect once more….

The box now has a cat proof cover that will enable her to sleep on the box rather than in it.

If she dares that is….

Monday 16 September 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 46

September of course means the Skirmish show and whilst I did not take many pictures I was rather taken with this 54mm Mexican Revolution game organised by Skirmish Wargames. The information sheet said 'please take one' so naturally I did!

The rules are homegrown and the figures are from various sources and feature a number of very nice conversions. The buildings have appeared on many a stricken field over the year!

Apologies for the quality of  the pictures but I hope they give you a good feel for what was happening.

Now I am embarrassed to admit that whilst I have seen this club on numerous occasions at Skirmish (usually fighting games on a grid) I cannot for the life of me remember who they are! This time it was the Spanish Civil War using Peter Pig's Bayonet and Ideology rules and 15mm models. I really liked the way that the square grid was marked out using flocked dots to mark the corners. 

Messing about on the river (well watching it anyway) - dinghys, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards doing what they do best. Also available was the cheapest cream tea I have ever seen at £1.20 each!

A busy week for sure and a lot happened!

Work on the ACW 30mm collection is moving along nicely and the bases for the Union and Confederate infantry, gun crews and mounted command are now at the varnishing stage. The cavalry of both sides has had the first coat on their bases and so I am expecting to have them ready for varnishing alongside the rest of the collection in the next couple of days. There is a degree of minor touching up on some of the figures - mainly just some exposed metal here and there - which will need to be done before the gloss varnish can be applied. I have had a change of heart and am now going with matt varnish for the bases rather than the shinier alternative. Once all this has been done I can finish off the artillery pieces. All they need is some gloss varnish, 'blacking' of the muzzles (I was going to drill these out but am now not going to bother) and painting of the wheel rims to be ready. I am quite pleased with the progress so far although it has taken me longer than I anticipated.

Something for a little later and worthy of a Portable Wargame set up or even a Memoir '44 variant

Yesterday saw my second visit of the year to the Skirmish show held at the Sidcup and Chislehurst Grammar School. It is always a good way to spend half a day and I was able to catch up with the core of Postie's Rejects - Ray, Lee and of course Postie himself. the pictures tell most of the story and my only purchase was a copy of Antony Beevor's The Battle for Spain in hardback for £6 which I was very pleased with.

The afternoon saw SWMBO and I attending the local Hullbridge Regatta. Now Henley it is not so no straw boaters or jugs of Pimms in evidence but it was a nice afternoon by the river and with the pleasure of listening to a really good local blues band belting out some very good Santana covers.

All in all a productive week and weekend.

Friday 13 September 2019

Tudor Rebellions

"I can resist anything except temptation...."

I mentioned in the last Sitrep about the two rebellions of 1549 – The Prayer Book version in Devon and that of Robert Kett in Norfolk. Inspired my recent visit to ‘Prayer Book Rebellion’ territory and the prospect of visiting Norfolk at the end of the month I figured, as is my customary wont, that undertaking a little research would be appropriate. Mention has already been made of the magazine articles devoted to each but I wanted something a little more tangible. I have no plans to undertake either rebellion as a figure based game but certainly there is potential using blocks or similar. Having said that perhaps a DBA style set up or even one for one of the Rampant series of rules by Dan Mersey may be an idea.

In any event any such undertaking is so far down the project batting order that you would need the Hubble telescope to see it!

There is something quintessentially English about the Tudor period. For my own part my interest usually only goes as far as the Armada or the exploits of the various ‘Sea Dogs’ but there is a lot more to explore. Deep down I suspect that my interest is more about the English taking their first tentative steps on the world stage against a backdrop of domestic change.

Anyway, coming back to the subject in hand, I did a little trawl of the net (always dangerous when the inspirational urge is upon you….) and came across the above book by Julian Cornwall. It is not a military history per se; rather it is a social history of the background to both revolts but it does have a good account of each campaign. It is a useful addition to the library although as mentioned above it is unlikely I would game it in the foreseeable future.

One for the ‘to do’ list methinks.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

ACW Collection WIP....Part 2

The Kurz and Allison print of the Battle of Antietam

A detail from the same picture - note the stylised nature of the uniforms.

I spent some time yesterday evening painting the first coat on the bases for the Union infantry and gun crews. This evening I will repeat the process for the Confederates and then will tackle the cavalry. I am using a Humbrol satin enamel (as per how the original painter tackles his models) green (number 131) and am wondering if going overall satin for the figures and bases would be the way to go. It means the models would be shiny but not excessively so. Something to think about for when they are ready.

The models are not quite Kurz and Allison in respect of uniforms but they still have that simple and very effective look about them.

I am hoping to have then ready over the coming weekend and will of course be posting pictures of them when they are finished.

Tuesday 10 September 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Numbers 44 and 45

The bridge at Clyst St Mary - scene of a battle and the subsequent slaughter of some 900 Devon and Cornwall rebel prisoners

An oversight on my part for sure - I managed to forget to write this last week following on from my ACW collection post so apologies for the delay!

From Wednesday of last week SWMBO and I headed west to stay near our friends place just outside of Exeter. For a variety of reasons we did not get out and about very much other than the daily six minute drive from the b and b we were staying at to their house although a couple of walks with the family dog did take place. We stayed at small Devon village called Clyst St Mary and the significance of this is that there was not only a battle fought there but also a subsequent massacre in 1549 during the Prayer Book Rebellion. The whole area of the rebellion is within that locale and being Devon is still relatively untouched or developed although Exeter itself seems to be getting bigger.

Whilst I have not explored the area of the campaign, nor indeed the campaign itself, in any great detail (I have driven though or arond the area many times) it is something I would like to do in due course as it took place over a fairly compact area amongst some wonderful Devon countryside. Even the place names that featured in the Rebellion sound evocative and, well, country like: Fenny Bridges, Ottery St Mary, Clyst St Mary, Sampford Courtenay, Crediton and Woodbury Common - all solid rural sounding place names.

From a gaming perspective I recall a number of years ago my old friend Chris Hardman et al were involved in running a game based on the rebellion with the royal army consisting of Italian Arquebusiers, Landschneckts and German troops against bluff and hearty Cornish and Devon yeoman featuring longbows and bills etc. I will have to ask Chris about the game as it was a while ago.

I discovered, after some trawling of the net, that an article by Andy Callan appeared in Miniature Wargames Number 13 and featured a solo campaign game for the rebellion and this was used to very good effect on the following blog: Heretical Gaming written by JWH.

As an aside the other rebellion from the same year - that of Robert Kett in Norfolk - also has a personal connection in hat my sister in law and her family live walking distance from the rebel camp at Mousehold Heath near Norwich. 1549 was a busy year on the rebellion front!

Work will resume on the 30mm ACW collection this evening and I am aiming to have the whole lot finished, photographed and blogged over the course of next weekend. When this is done I will need to think about the accompanying naval elements but I have a couple of plans in mind for this - more of which later.

Monday 2 September 2019

ACW Collection WIP....Part 1

Says it all really - but not that I am having trouble opening an umbrella....

Work on the figure element of the 30mm Spencer Smith ACW collection is moving along nicely although it is about to stop as I shall be away for a few days in the West Country. I have based 100 foot and 24 mounted figures - remember these are based individually - on their MDF bases and have also sealed them using matt varnish. A bonus of doing this is that the varnish has completely evened out the basing colour green. As the first batch of figures were done some time ago the colour appears different to the more recent addition. It was quite noticeable for sure. Whilst I am happy for the figures to be gloss I wanted the bases in matt. There will be a little touching up of the lower leg areas on a few figures as well as some boots that need some TLC - on other words black paint - before an application of gloss varnish.

I never thought I would hear myself say this but I have really enjoyed handling figures and using a paintbrush on them! I know I did not paint them but I always feel that doing something to them kind of makes them your own in a way. Silly I know but I can't help it!

I am not going to show any pictures of the figures until I have finished them so although I will post updates the eye candy will be a little way off. Allowing for my few days away I reckon a couple of weeks at the latest.

They will be worth the wait....