Tuesday 31 March 2020

Planning a Napoleonic Adventure....Part 28

So it is March 31st and the end of the first quarter of the year. What a life changing and momentous twelve weeks it has been! I hope everyone is safe and well and also that this dreadful virus is speedily overcome so that we can get back to what will undoubtedly be the new normal.

Phew! I was down to my last tin before this most welcome package arrived this morning - talk about in the nick of time!

I am working from home up until the close of business today when I have placed on a 3 month furlough. SWMBO has a list of DIY jobs large enough to have its own post code (and as fast as one thing gets crossed off so another gets added!) and so it is probably just as well that my electrician son is at home as well. It is strange getting used to being in close proximity with the family when we are normally spread to the four winds!

My grandson is with us at present and it will be his 10th birthday tomorrow. I am going to introduce him to the delights of wargaming this week with a small action (I am thinking 6 units a side) using my Spencer Smith ACW figures and probably the Portable Wargame as the rules of choice. I will be posting this on the blog once fought - probably later in the week.

Yesterday the last small order of Del Prado figures arrived and these 20 odd figures have been based and prepped ready to paint. I shall do these next before the French as most of these are for the armies already completed. In retrospect I wished I had tackled the French first rather than both allied armies although it doesn’t really matter in the overall scheme of things as they all needed doing!

In the meantime though, here are some pictures of what has been completed so far.

British cavalry, command and artillery.

British infantry - guards, highlanders, rifles and line.

Prussians, Brunswickers, Dutch Belgians and a single unit of KGL rifles.

Prussian and Dutch Belgian cavalry and Prussian artillery.

The French part of the collection is by far the largest of the three forces, especially in respect of cavalry and artillery. There are currently eight units of horse with a further five on the horizon which is an impressive total for sure. I am reckoning on around ten or twelve twelve figures infantry units of which four are from the Guard - one each of Grenadiers, Chasseurs, Tirailleurs and Voltiguers.

The armies as they stand are far larger than I would usually use for Command and Colours but this is fine as I fully intend using other rule sets that need units rather than individual figures.

It is getting there, slowly but surely.

Monday 30 March 2020

Del Prado Units Number 1....Dutch Carabiniers

3rd Dutch Carabiniers being inspected by a passing general - in this case Jean Victor de Constant Rebecque

Of the three regiments of Dutch - Belgian heavy cavalry at Waterloo the 1st and 3rd regiments were Dutch whilst the 2nd was Belgian. All were similar looking with regimental differences being limited to (as far as my limited research has taken me) facings. I have a single unit of these fellows in the Anglo - Dutch army and I rather like them. The pose is one that I favour for horse units of any type really, standing at the halt ready to move.

I would have preferred this pose for the Horse Grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard but instead we have them sitting bolt upright on horses at full gallop - far too animated for my taste as even the Guard Chasseurs are only ambling along at a steady trot.

This post is designed to be the first in an occasional series featuring completed units from my Del Prado collection. The figures themselves are due to have a second coat of gloss varnish with the bases finished in matt but other than that they are in pretty good order.

The Dutch component of my collection will be expanded in due course as I rather like the idea of adding some light cavalry and artillery at some point but that will be something to think about in the future.

Saturday 28 March 2020

Planning a Napoleonic Adventure....Part 27

The remaining British infantry figures after the first coat of green on their bases

This morning was spent on the annual jet washing of the patio and drive - a job that one always feels better about after having done it rather than actually doing it! So after four hours eliminating algae, bird excrement and other assorted stains I had accrued sufficient brownie points to be able to tackle the above this afternoon.

The British army have had the first coat on their bases which means that I shall be able finish them tomorrow. Whilst working my way through the figures I was able to decide what was going to be what in respect of the overall organisation. I also came to a decision about what to do with the rather large quantity of ‘Guards’ figures I own. Large quantity is a relative term in that it means within the confines of the collection rather than in actuality!

Two of the Guards infantry figures. Note the white trousers and the shako cover

One of the main aims of this using this collection was to utilise as many figures as possible without having to buy in a whole of models from other manufacturers. Of necessity I will have to do this as there are some units and figures that simply do not exist within the Del Prado range. I was rather stuck in respect of the British as the collection only featured a single line infantry unit along with a highland regiment, the Rifles and the Guards. In order to expand the troops of the line somewhat I have decided to use some of the Guards infantry as troops of the King’s German Legion.

The Guard figures are rather on the large side so they will stand out more on the table top and to differentiate them from the KGL I shall merely paint the German’s trousers grey. Rather surprisingly the Guard range does not include anything like a sensible command group so these will need to be acquired at some point. Actually the line infantry themselves only feature drummers and standard bearers so I will also need to get some officer figures for them also.

More by chance than design the infantry of the collection when used on a large scale non grid based game - I am thinking perhaps A Gentleman’s War or possibly something by Neil Thomas, not to mention Dan Mersey - seems to be heading towards 12 figures units including command. This is fine as using the figures with a variety of rule sets was always my intention, hence the individually based figures.

The only cloud on this particular horizon at present concerns my standard base green of Humbrol Satin Mid Green 131. I am down to one and half tins from which I need to give the British a second coat and then start on the French. I need some more paint as my local supplier has run out (I had the last two tins a couple of weeks ago) and although I have ordered half a dozen tins online I am not sure when these will be likely to arrive.

How very vexing!

Friday 27 March 2020

With Lawrence in Arabia*

* Not the book of the same name by Lowell Thomas but a good title for this post!

All being well and with a fair following wind we should soon see the launch of the latest volume in the ‘Portable Wargame’ series by Bob Cordery - The Portable Colonial Wargame.

The cover for Bob’s latest tome - nothing smacks more of Colonial Wargames than Redcoats and arid, rocky desert in my opinion (with apologies to the non-arid, rocky desert Colonial gamers!) with the obligatory horde of revolting natives.

The provisional contents of the book and of particular interest for this post starts on page 142 - Early twentieth century colonial wargaming

Some time ago I acquired from Irregular Miniatures two 15mm forces for a planned Arab Revolt style set up. I have the Arabs and Turks and whilst what there is would be more than sufficient for a game I decided that a few bits and pieces should be added. I wanted to add some regulars to the Arabs - Armoured Cars, machine gunners and some mountain artillery - but never got around to doing so.

You may recall that I even went as far as to expand the revolt to  include a naval dimension and even at one point thought about adding in Madasahatta. As usual the project suffered from advanced ‘mission creep’ and quickly grew out of control so, like many ideas before, the whole concept was quietly shelved and some of the material disposed of.

Well, Bob’s very timely new book will help to resuscitate the idea albeit in a more manageable form. Aside from the forces I already own I will need to add an Imperial force and for some unaccountable reason I am seriously thinking about something ANZAC themed. I say unaccountable because this was certainly not the original plan! I have yet to finally decide on this but I reckon it would make an interesting force to raise - shades of the Lighthorsemen perhaps? Naturally the naval dimension will feature but on a much smaller scale than previously.

The first step though, would be to acquire the armoured cars, machine guns and mountain artillery to support the Arabs.

A selection of Irregular Miniatures 15mm Arabs - all suitably generic in a Hollywood kind of way and usable for a variety of things (including Beau Geste but that is another kettle of fish altogether).

A selection of Irregular Miniatures 15mm WW1 Turks. I rather like the portly looking commander and the rather natty looking staff car. I have artillery and machine guns for them and indeed, I just uncovered a couple of hard plastic German 105mm howitzers that could be used to increase the Turkish artillery park

I will need to refresh my memory in respect of the Arab Revolt but that will be no hardship and of course, this will need to be fitted in around the Napoleonics.

David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia it is then....

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.” T. E. Lawrence

Scotland the Brave and Highland Flinging

The highlanders now with some artillery support. All have the first coat of green applied to the bases. As an aside I also tackled half of the British cavalry and mounted commanders yesterday so progress continues apace albeit slightly down from the previous day.

Perhaps it is hangover from the days of Airfix soldiers but I think it is fair to say that I have always had a soft spot for the famous highland regiments of the British army. Their distinguished fighting record and I guess uniqueness in terms of dress, traditions and sheer romanticism makes them an almost obligatory unit for a horse and musket British Army.

The DelPrado collection features the figures you see above and they are rather large in build (along with the British Guards unit). I am rather taken with this and the poses certainly take me back to my Airfix Napoleonic days. I can remember fielding two Charge sized regiments each ot 48 rank and file with one unit have the kneeling firing figure in the front rank and standing at the ready in the second whilst the other was kneeling at the ready with the figure standing firing at the rear. Both of which were well supplied with musicians and standard bearers with the obligatory mounted colonel.

The two units eventually became two thirty figure formations organised as per Bruce Quarrie and of course these were then painted. One unit had blue kilts and facings (the 42nd) whilst the other had green for the 79th. I never bothered to paint the tartan and contented myself with plain blue on the grounds that it would be next to impossible to see the detail at table ranges in any event!

The raw material I am working with - note the paint loss on the officers sword arm

The view from the rear

The range does not include a standard bearer figure nor a drummer. I rather like the idea of adding these but I would prefer to represent each of the three regiments rather than just the 42nd. This will mean some brush work and it also means that I will not be looking to add too much in the way of command types. A 12 figures infantry unit really should only have 3 such figures in my opinion so I am torn between the drummer or a single standard bearer.

Changing the facing colours will not be too taxing but painting tartan is a whole different level of pain so I need to think carefully about this - and any pointers would be gratefully received (although offers of tartan paint will be treated with disdain!).

The army also features the Scots Greys so when completed my army will have a reasonable Scottish contingent of four units.

I believe that the forthcoming expansion number 7 for Command and Colours: Napoleonic - La Grande Battles, features for the British both highland and KGL units so it would be interesting to see how they tackle (if that is the right phrase) the renowned ‘Devils in skirts’.

Colonial period highlanders - 20mm Jacklex figures, ideal for the Khyber Pass

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Planning a Napoleonic Adventure....Part 26

Scotland the Brave! The Highlanders underway. One coat of green on the bases and they look better already. I also assembled the guns for the British with three of these destined for the foot artillery and two for the horse.

Work is moving along with the Del Prado collection at a steady pace. Yesterday I managed to get the second coat on the bases of 143 foot figures meaning that the Prussians are done along with the Belgians, Brunswickers and a unit of KGL Rifleman. I am really pleased with how this is rolling along and this evening saw me making a start on the British.

The first up are the Highlanders you see above. These are large figures compared to the rest of the collection, in fact I reckon they would easily fit in Foundry, Front Rank or Perry. They represent the Black Watch but the tartan is a bit of a mess. Ideally I would like redo the tartan and indeed, represent some of the other kilted units at Waterloo but that will be something to think about later.

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Mystery Figures and Forward Planning

The above fellow is listed as ‘36th Belgian Chasseurs advancing from Braine - BEL 41 Private Marching with Fixed Bayonet’ on the Del Prado figures list. I have around forty or so of these with ten having had their trousers painted grey. Realistically I only need around half that number so what to do with the rest? What indeed....

It is fair to say that the figures that make up the Del Prado Relive Waterloo range are a little like the Curate’s Egg i.e, good in parts. There seems to be a couple of designers at work (I have no idea about the origins of the figures) and overall there seems to be two mains styles, at least within the ranks of the foot figures. The British Guards and Highlanders are huge figures that would easily fit in with things like Foundry, Front Rank or similar whilst the rest are rather more modest in their overall build. One such fellow is the chap you see above.

He is wearing a Belgic shako and the large shoulder rolls are quite muted on the figure and so could easily disappear altogether, either filed away or merely painted over.

I am thinking that he could be used for some late Peninsular War Portuguese troops, possibly even as the famous Cacadores. A quick thumb through the Blandford title shows the famed ‘Barretina’ shako in use although it was phased out in favour of the British stovepipe version which in turn was phased out in favour of the short-lived Belgic shako. I reckon it will do for the Portuguese - there, I have traumatised the Napoleonic purist - so that is where my thinking is at present.

My grateful thanks to that very nice chap MSFoy for his input on the whole Portuguese headgear dilemma.

Having a small Portuguese contingent will enable me to look at some of the later operations in the Peninsular which will give me some variety from the more usual 1815 period games I will be playing. More to follow on this in due course.

The above unit came from the collection of Eric Knowles and is intended to be a Belgian unit for 1815 (I think). As was usual for Eric there is a mixture of ranges within the unit and one of the Dutch figures (top left) has been converted into a standard bearer. Most of the unit is, I believe, Hinchliffe but the two officers (top right) look to be Minifigs S Range.

I came across the unit above mixed in with some 18th century units from the collection of Eric Knowles. Originally they were on bases but time had meant that a number had fallen off so I opted to finish the job and so you see them above. They fit in rather nicely with the Del Prado collection so I may well see about a repaint into something else.

ACW troop permutations

Finally, I had a mess around trying out the ACW collection with the new movement trays. I am rather taken with the notion of using a single 2” square base to contain a gun and two gun crew and indeed, this may well be the standard I opt to use going forward along with the 4 infantry or 3 cavalry. 

I am still undecided about the movement trays though - to paint or not to paint, that is the question....

Monday 23 March 2020

Napoleonic Basing Conventions

I was delighted to receive my order from Warbases this morning so after having taken all necessary precautions - opening and disposing of the Jiffy bag and then hand washing - I was able to take a look at what I had ordered and more importantly, how it would work with the Del Prado Napoleonic collection and also the Spencer Smith ACWs.

I messed around with a few variations on a theme as the pictures will show.

This is what I call ‘Command and Colours Standard’ where the infantry are 4 figures strong, the cavalry are 3 and the artillery is a gun and two crew. 

The above is the projected ‘Portable Napoleonic Wargame’ standard whereby an infantry unit has 6 figures across two bases, cavalry have four and a gun and the two crew are on separate bases.

I am really pleased with these bases and will certainly order some more in the above sizes. I will also add the following - 75mm x 25mm, 25 x 25mm and 75mm x 50mm. I plan to paint these in due course using Humbrol Satin Mid Green 131 but I plan to do something with the interior of the base that is in line with what I have planned for the hills.

Sunday 22 March 2020

Planning a Napoleonic Adventure....Part 25

“Give me night, or give me Blucher!” The Prussian infantry and artillery contingent which add some regulars and jägers in due course.

Pushing ever onwards above is the latest batch of base painting for the Del Prado collection. These are the Prussians and by comparison with the British and French are relatively poorly served in respect of the range of figures available. There are foot artillery gunners and two types of Landwehr and that is it. In due course I shall add some regular infantry and jäger types but for now that is all there is. 

The bases have had their first coat of green and the top coat will be this evening. Once they have dried tomorrow I will be tackling the Belgians and Brunswickers. They have no artillery or cavalry (with the exception of the Belgian Carabiniers) which again is something I will look to address in due course.

Once again I am really pleased with my choice of basing and when the sabots I have ordered arrive I will have a better idea about how I will use them.

There will be a post showing the army in its entirety in due course, at least of the portion I have when that is ready.

Saturday 21 March 2020

Planning a Napoleonic Adventure....Part 24

Dutch-Belgian Carabiniers at the top (8 figures) and two 6 figure Prussian Dragoon units and two 6 figure Prussian Hussar units. Three mounted generals (Blucher, Bulow and Rebecque) together with 4 guns.

I have just completed the painting of the bases for the Prussian and Dutch-Belgian cavalry together with three mounted generals. Once these have dried overnight they can be returned to the loft so that the next batch of figures can one done to join the box of Prussian and Dutch-Belgian infantry that I will tackling next.

The bases really made the figures ‘pop’ and I am really pleased with how they look. Once again, getting up close and personal with the figures does show up the ‘dinks and scuffs’ but I am fully prepared to deal with this in due course. The plan is to paint all the bases and then matt varnish them prior to the painting stage which will then be finished off with a generous coat of gloss varnish for that ‘old school’ look.

I also assembled the artillery component of the Prussian army - in this case four ex British 6 pounders. The British supplied a number of guns to Prussia when she was throwing off the French yoke during 1813 and many of their batteries were made up of British guns although I am unsure how many.

All in all a good start to this phase of the project and I hope I am able to sustain this over the next few weeks.

Friday 20 March 2020

Planning a Napoleonic Adventure....Part 23

The style of base I am going for rather than the slot per base variety. This will give me more choice about units sizes as well enabling a particular scenic effect I am considering

It has finally happened in that I am now working from home for the foreseeable future. I am not surprised by this but I am fortunate in that pretty much most of my job (I am a recruitment manager) I can manage from home. As long as the WiFi is ok that is!

From the hobby perspective the big advantage of this is that I now have potentially an extra couple of hours a day spare as I will not have to worry about the commute. It is time that I should look to use wisely.

With this in mind I shall push on with painting the bases of the Del Prado collection and will also look to tackle the MDF hill sections I have. In support of this project I have ordered in some movement trays from Warbases. These are in two sizes - 25mm by 50mm and 50mm square. The smaller base can hold two foot or one mounted whilst the larger can hold two mounted or up to four foot figures.

The use of these movement trays will make life easier for a number of alternate rule sets I shall be using above and beyond the individually based Command and Colours derivative I am planning on using.

Thursday 19 March 2020

The Self Preservation Society

An absolute classic and quintessentially English film - Michael Caine starring in the 1969 crime caper: The Italian Job

I had a little play around with the lyrics to this song (the link will take you to the correct version) to reflect the times we are currently facing. Make no mistake, these are serious at every level of our society but I am a great believer in the value of humour to bring a sense of perspective to things. I am not talking about laugh out loud stuff, just things to take a little edge off all the seriousness. I hope you enjoy it in the spirit with which is was written.

(With apologies to Quincy Jones)

This is the self-preservation society
This is the self-isolation society

Go wash your hands, but not your boat race too
Leave your Barnet Fair you got a lot to do
Put on your Face Mask and then Sanitise
Cause toilet rolls ‘n stuff are hurrying by

Get your skates on mate, get your skates on mate
No pasta rice or anything else today, eh?
Drop your plates of meat right up on the seat
This is the self-preservation society
This is the self-isolation society

Gotta get some bloomin food on
Gotta get some bloomin food on
Jump in the jam jar gotta get straight
Hurry up to Tesco’s don’t wanna be late
Check the old’uns?
Tickety boo
Tickety boo
Gotta get some bloomin food on

Self-preservation society
This is the self-isolation society
Put on your headphones and some videos you’ll shoot
Write your lists and say goodbye to the commute
Don’t forget the old’uns living near
Stay alive and get right out of here

So get your skates on mate, get your skates on mate
No walking around for you today, eh?
Drop your plates of meat right up on the seat
This is the self-preservation society
This is the self-isolation society

Stay safe and stay well.

A Game of Armoured Combat

Giant fighting war machines ranging from 20 to 100 tons and with enough firepower to, in the words of Private Hudson from the film Aliens: “Fry half a city with this puppy!” What’s not to love?

Although the Del Prado Napoleonic collection is still very much front and centre in respect of my gaming activities, there are a couple of other things I have on the go. I should qualify that statement by saying that ‘on the go’ may be a tad on the generous side as these are projects for which the only progress that has been made thus far is the acquisition of the raw material to undertake them!

I have already mentioned about my WW1 naval fix via Avalon Hill’s Jutland but the subject of this post is something altogether very different - or perhaps not.

I enjoy a variety of Sci-Fi gaming backgrounds and currently Red Alert by Richard Borg - a Command and Colours game - and OGRE by Steve Jackson are my particular favourites. I also have Abaddon - another Richard Borg game - which features large piloted fighting machines called ‘Links’. Of course the premier game of Sci-Fi armoured combat involving large fighting machines is Battletech.

The contents of the base game

Battletech has been around for over 30 years in one form or another and it has both a large and global fan base. There is a whole background supported by numerous novels and of course a very healthy supply of models in both metal and plastic. When an updated version was announced - last year as I recall - my curiosity was piqued and so I made a mental note to acquire a copy at some point. The game appeared to be in relatively short supply in the UK and so despite my admittedly languid efforts I was not able to get a copy. Fast forward to this year I have finally been able to rectify this and so am now the proud owners of not only the game you see above but also a second set of the miniatures as well as the hardback edition of the complete rulebook.

The base game comes with 8 Battle Mechs ranging from the largest to the smallest and these are made from a toughened polythene material. They are really nicely done and the beauty of this game is that you do not need many to have a good game so my collection of 16 models will be more than sufficient for my immediate needs. The game is hex based and as can be seen from the accompanying pictures, using Heroscape tiles would be a really good option to explore.

Painted versions of the base game Mechs in use with Heroscape tiles (of which I have rather a lot!).

There is also a set of fast play rules for the system called Alpha Strike - an introductory version is available as a free download covering pure Mech battles - which are available but are pretty expensive - perhaps something for a later day.

The game is quite detailed - almost skirmish like - and so Mechs have a bewildering array of weapons and armour combinations to play around with depending on the type being used. Damage is recorded on control charts that feature hit location and the armour value thereof. Being giant fighting machines also means that melee combat features with some more predisposed to this than others - especially if your Mech does not have any arms!

The earlier comparison I made with naval games was due to a couple of reasons. Both (usually) reflect damage to specific systems via a damage record sheet, both require minimal amounts of models to have a really good game and finally there is plenty of variety within the four notional types of Mech in the game - light, medium, heavy and assault (you get two models of each type in the base game).

As a Sci Fi side hustle for me this game will tick a lot of boxes. To begin with painting 16 Mechs will present little difficulty and will be something I will enjoy. I can (finally) make use of the substantial amount of Heroscape terrain I have and I am safe in the knowledge that there is more than sufficient online resources and background material to tap into should I wish.

Besides, the models are really good!

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Look Closely

I do not consider myself a poet as such but I occasionally feel the need to throw a few words together when something is playing on my mind. As usual it will be over written but I offer no apologies - it is the way I am.

Look Closely
Look closely at the sunrise
Its light and warm embrace,
Uplifting and full of hope
as it grows a brighter face.
Look closely at the sky
Azure blue and covering all,
A deep and serene calm,
That holds the earth in its thrall.
Look closely at the land,
Fecund earth and flora abound,
From the gentle sway of the field
To the forest acres found
Look closely at the sea
With waves foaming at the shore
Of hidden depths, of teaming life
Of tides flowing evermore
Look closely at the beasts,
At fin, feather, fur and scale
On plains, in forests or in the sky
With beak, tooth, claw and tail
Look closely at the people
Of different race, colour or creed
All trying to live, thrive and survive
United by design but divided by need.
But softly, take a closer look.
Look closer at the sunrise,
Remorseless, relentless, pitiless and supreme
Heats the planet more than ever
Like an apocalyptic dream
Look closer at the sky
Scarred daily and without care
As planes and demonic factories
Spew poisons in the air.
Look closer at the land
See the cracked and tortured earth
See ever shrinking forests with
Scant hope of rebirth
Look closer at the sea
Choking, dying by our hand
Oceans of plastic, of rubbish, of debris
Neither prepared for, nor planned
Look closer at the beasts,
Harried, hunted and full of fear
Thoughtless exploitation diminishes
Their numbers year by year
Look closer at the people
The haves and the have nots
Of disunity, disharmony, disorder,
Of intrigue and petty plots
But what can we do?
However painful it may seem
Or unusual it may feel
We must join in common cause
With global issues we must deal
Our planet is big enough for all
But is crying in silent pain
For far too long too few
Have been the ones that gain
The Giant corporations
Ensure that ‘That is mine!’
Monopolise ‘Their’ given space
To soothe their bottom line
Production, prices, profits all up
With scant regard of the cost
To people and the planet exploited
Then on the scrapheap tossed
Governments use high words
To justify their aim,
Then cover truths with disinformation
Thus removing them from blame
The homeless person, the refugee,
The stateless and alone,
All are the same under the skin
As a ruler on a throne
We should relearn to care
And we should relearn to share
There is a world aplenty
All should enjoy whilst being fair
To Leaders in business
And in politics to
Words are no longer enough
Just go ahead and do
Set aside all petty squabbles
Think not of them and us
Forge a global collective spirit
Of humanity, simple, without fuss
Big things have small beginnings
A journey starts with a single step
If we each change just a little
Then progress we can accept
Think not of me and I
Instead look to us as one
Join together in common cause
To make sure that journey has begun
We are all in this together
From the humble to the high
We must look, listen and act
Before too late, time passes by

David Crook

Monday 16 March 2020

The Great War at Sea via Jutland

Avalon Hill's Jutland - a Jim Dunnigan designed game from the early 1960s.

Long time readers of the this blog will know that I am fond of WW1 naval games and in particular the game published by Avalon Hill based on the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Jutland is a unique game in that it does not use a grid based playing area as the ship counters are deployed directly on a tabletop or other large playing surface. It is, for all intents and purposes, a miniatures game. I have spent many happy hours playing this game and many unhappy ones trying to turn the game into something a little more 'wargamey' but with mixed success. There are variants and optional rules aplenty contained within the pages of the old Avalon Hill General magazine as well as the Boardgamer that followed it.

A compilation of the articles that appeared in the Avalon Hill house magazine: The General

I have pretty much everything that was published about the game  - certainly from the two sources mentioned in any event - as well as a whole selection of variant counters for other nationalities. I have not invested in the Tsushima variant for the Russo Japanese War although I have the articles, scenarios and ship charts for the same. I have the order/damage pads, game movement and range finding devices and the rules but what I do not have is the complete game itself (actually there is also a set of search cards available that I have yet to acquire but for completeness sake I really ought to!).

The copy I own is incomplete and indeed whilst I have everything from the game itself sourced from various suppliers it has been very much on my to do list to obtain a complete version - and I have!

It is going to be a real pleasure to be able to store most of my Jutland collection in one box - I still have the counter sheets for the Austrians, Russians, Turks, French and Italian fleets to punch out - as it is currently located on a shelf in a less than orderly fashion. I am also hoping that this will now enable me to spend some time organising the system for use in the man cave - especially with the Mediterranean plot maps I have. There will be a frenzy of photocopying and printing to attend to but the great thing is that it would be ready to use more or less at the drop of a hat.

I have given some thoughts about how best to make use of the material I have for this game and to be honest at this stage it probably does not involve using models although who knows?

Plenty to be getting on with in the meantime though!

Sunday 15 March 2020

Planning a Napoleonic Adventure....Part 22

A selection of Prussians with a Dutch-Belgian officer on the right. These are figures that I need some more of - 2 for the Prussian Officer on the left and 1 each for the remainder.

I have finished sealing the bases for the remaining troops of the Del Prado collection - this being the Prussians and Dutch-Belgians. This means that I am now in a position to start painting the bases prior to the touching up of the dinks and scuffs as well as the planned paint conversions and the refurbishment of the French Dragoon regiment.

I also need another two figures for both of the above although it is proving difficult to identify the pistol wielding British Officer

I am feeling particularly pleased with myself over this as it means I can get to the enjoyable part of the process - the painting, and I never thought I would be saying this! I have identified a few more gaps in the collection - nothing major and certainly not enough to stall the project - which I am in the process of filling. For the most part these are odd figures here and there and have only arisen as I have changed my organisation slightly.

I plan to get the Tradition order together sooner rather than later and it will now be smaller than I originally planned, primarily due to the acquisition of the Dragoons and Chasseurs a Cheval from Mr Fox.

If I were to be using the figures as direct 1 for 1 replacements of Command and Colours blocks the collection as is would be fine. However, as I am looking at other rule sets then the need for command figures becomes more pressing and this is what I shall be tapping into Tradition for.

Now we get to the good bit!

Saturday 14 March 2020

Dragoons and WW1 at Sea

French Dragoon regiment number 17. Now off their bases and I have a much clearer idea of what restoration work needs to be undertaken. It is a lot but it is manageable and appears to be limited to the green and white areas.

It has been an eventful week with the effects of Covid 19 beginning to be felt in many areas of our daily lives. I am not working from home yet but it will only be a matter of time methinks! Whilst thus far we have not been directly impacted by the virus we have taken the decision to cancel our planned holiday to Greece later this year as a precaution. We have certainly not been alone in making this decision but I think it was the correct course of action - better safe than sorry.

Whilst this has been going on - and as a distraction of truth be told - I have resumed work on the Del Prado Napoleonic collection. I have sealed the bases for the British cavalry and gun crews and the infantry will be next. I shall get them tackled this evening and so the Prussians and Dutch will be tomorrow. I am then ready to start on the bases which, given the imminent likelihood of having to self isolate, means I will have plenty of time to finish them!

I also undertook some work on the Dragoon regiment that Mr Fox passed over to me. They are now off their bases and I have also had the opportunity to take a much closer look at them. From what I can see the main problem appears to be with the green paint used for the jackets and saddle cloths. I suspect that theses figures were originally painted with a mixture of enamels and acrylics because the enamel paint seems fine. There are a few little scuffs but it is the green that is the main problem.

I reckon that by repainting those areas affected by the loss of paint using an enamel these will come up really nicely. A new base and coat of gloss varnish with a freshened up green and white would work wonders and so that will be another of the restoration/refurbishment jobs I will undertake.

Oh yes indeed! Lots of maps and ideas for scenarios - I want to get a copy of the WW2 version as well.

I received an email from Naval and Military Press during the week featuring the above book on special offer - £10.00 down from £40 - so I immediately ordered myself a copy. The book is a large format hardback and it is outstanding. As you can see from the contents below the coverage is vast and global. It is a valuable addition to my WW1 naval library and a book I will doubtlessly refer to a lot.

Take a look at that little lot - A WW1 naval smorgasbord!

It has been a while since I looked at WW1 afloat but perhaps this will give me the inspiration to revisit it again, probably via Avalon Hill’s Jutland and its variants.

Meanwhile though, on with the Del Prado Napoleonics.

Thursday 12 March 2020

"I must go down to the sea again....."

This is the first edition and came to me in an unpunched and unused condition. There are some issues with the rules in that they are quite 'bloody' but the updated version available as a 'living' rule set from the GMT website goes a long way to addressing this.

There is a lot of counters in the game and best of all the ships have names rather than id numbers which is a massive plus in my book!

An important part of my planned Napoleonic adventures is of course the naval dimension. Over the years (although not recently) I fought a number of games set during the age of sail and they are enormous fun. I have probably fought more board games on the subject than using models - mainly because the work needed to produce the ships required is far more labour intensive than I would like. Time is the factor for me and so painting and rigging dozens of 1:1200th scale models is beyond me - having said that I am looking at 1:2400th, possibly even 1:4800th as an alternative but that is something that is a long way down the list. I am currently looking at the Trafalgar book by Peter Dennis with his famous 'Paper Boys' cut out ships as a quick alternative but we shall see.

A follow up volume covering ships that were not at Trafalgar - especially the smaller ships, frigates, brigs and sloops, not to mention merchantmen - would be really useful!
The main board game covering the period that I have used the most is of course Wooden Ships and Iron Men published by Avalon Hill. I actually preferred the miniatures rules that the boardgame originated from - Ship 'o The Line with the main difference between the two being that the board game was fought on hexes whilst the miniatures rules used squares and was far more detailed.

Two classic games covering the war at sea during the age of sail

An honourable mention should also be made of the old SPI game Frigate (designed by Jim Dunnigan of Avalon Hill Jutland fame) with which I remember fighting Trafalgar.

Much as I enjoyed Wooden Ships and Iron Men it is not without a few problems. The level of detail is such that it works best with around a dozen or so ships a side in my opinion and anything larger quickly becomes very unwieldy (probably much like the real thing!). I want to fight manageable fleet actions so I needed a set of rules or a board game solution that would allow for this type of engagement. the end result of my search led me to the game you see at the beginning of this post.

Sample counters from the game. Note the Leader counters

 To describe the game I can do no better than to quote boardgamegeek: 

Flying Colors recreates naval actions during the height of the Age of Sail, from small engagements to full battles involving dozens of ships in each fleet. Play is fast, furious, and does not require the pre-plotted movement found in many other naval games. Instead, a simple initiative and command system allows players to activate and maneuver their fleets in a realistic manner, indicating how older commanders adhered to rules of engagement where more forward thinking commanders, like Nelson, could retain control of their fleets after the first broadsides began to be exchanged.

Rather than focusing on the abilities of individual ships, Flying Colors uses broad classes of vessel within each "rate" and concentrates the players minds on maintaining command of their fleets using a simple command system.
This is not a strategic level game where one piece represents several ships. Flying Colors includes 300 individually named ships rated for size, gunnery, boarding ability, and damage capacity. Also included are nearly four dozen individually named commanders, rated for their ability to control their formations as well as the impact of their presence within the fleet. The game system provides what naval enthusiasts will expect in a tactical Age of Sail game: broadsides, rakes, anchoring, wind effects, weather, shore batteries, and much more. All this is packed into a short, accessible rulebook.
Included within the game are 17 historical scenarios ranging from the Battle of Minorca (1756) during the Seven Years War to the Battle of the Capes during the American Revolution and on through the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) during the Napoleonic Wars. The battles range in size from small engagements playable on a single map through huge engagements like the Glorious First of June playable on three maps. Players are also free to create their own variants and "what-if" scenarios using point values for each ship. Most scenarios can be played within a few hours and two players can complete even the largest within a day. Several are also well suited to solitaire play.
Minorca, 20 May 1756
Cape Henry, 16 March 1781
Virginia Capes, 5 September 1781
Frigate Bay, St.Kitts, 26 February 1782
The Glorious First of June, 29 May through 1 June, 1794
Audierne Bay, 13 January 1797
Cape St.Vincent, 14 February 1797
Camperdown, 11 October 1797
Bec du Raz, 21 April 1798
The Nile, 1-2 August 1798
Goza de candia, 18 August 1798
El Ferrol, 25 August 1800
Copenhagen, 2 April 1801
Algeciras Bay, 6 July 1801
Gut of Gibraltar, 12-13 July 1801
Cape Finisterre, 22 July 1805
Trafalgar, 21 October 1805
Cape Ortugal, 4 November 1805
1st edition Components:
  • 840 full-color counters
  • Three 34x22 full-color maps
  • Rulebook
  • Playbook
  • Pad of Ship Status sheets
  • One 11x17 Player Aid card
TIME SCALE : 5-10 minutes per turn
MAP SCALE: 100 meters per hex
UNIT SCALE: Individual Ships
As is usual with my approach to board games I have several cunning plans for this game - some of which even involve playing it as written (that would be a first!) - and models will certainly feature at some point. Having the names on ship counters is a blessing though and is certainly a viable short term alternative to using models. Although my land based Napoleonic games will be firmly set in the 1812 to 1815 period it will not stop me from thinking about the naval dimension in some way.
I have missed looking at matters age of sail naval related and so the arrival of this game is very timely. It is altogether at a different level to what I was previously considering - frigate sized actions, possibly using Black Seas - but am looking forward to seeing what it has to offer.
In the meantime though, and as a moment of whimsy, have a read of the poem below. It certainly inspired me and the title of this post!

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.