Sunday 31 May 2020

Deserts and Tropical Colour Schemes

Getting closer to the end - thank the maker!

Bit of a mixed bag in that my gaming time has been severely curtailed due to the amount of decorating and DIY that has been ongoing. I have tackled a few things - details of which later - but to give you an idea of the scale of exactly what has been happening at Chez Crook.

Painted the shed
Painted the garage doors
Painted the second bedroom
Painted the downstairs cloakroom
Painted the lounge
Painted and repaired the fences both sides
Resealed and refurbished the decking
Ripped out and disposed of two alcove’s worth of wood and MDF units
Jet washed the patio and drive

The lounge needs a second coat on the woodwork - as was pointed out by Mr Fox the floorboards have been holystoned to within an inch of their lives - and the all new tropical white scheme has made a world of difference in respect of the all important lighting.

On the gaming side I finally managed to get up into the man cave to continue labelling Command and Colours Napoleonic blocks - the Russians in this case - and I managed to get all the infantry completed. The cavalry and artillery I will do tomorrow and I am hoping to get the remaining blocks completed over the coming week. I also have the the Medieval set to tackle which I will do immediately afterwards.

I have also been thinking more about the 1:600th collection and what I will be doing with it. If you recall all the figures are Tumbling Dice although I am making use of Peter Pig ACW artillery and the command groups. The reason for this is the only artillery available from Tumbling Dice is WW1 and WW2 - all of which feature gun shields.

The collection will be split up into two in that I have earmarked the close order infantry and cavalry to the 19th century and everything else to the 20th. That explains the need for the Peter Pig ACW figures.

As it stands I am looking at one of two sets up for the 19th century - either the British Invasion of Egypt or the Russo Turkish War. For the former there is the possibility of exploring the Sudan - 1:600th scale Mahdists? Whatever next? - and the latter has an interesting naval perspective. Of course the prospect of Nile gunboats is an interesting one....

For the 20th century the choice is wide and I currently wrestling with a number of options. The Arab Revolt (either the Senussi or the more traditional Revolt in the Hejaz) is really tempting alongside the regular operations in Palestine. I also rather fancy the WW2 Tunisian campaign and then on into Italy or even the South of France in 1944.

Whilst the continual rumination is ongoing I took a step back and decided that a game was in order and so I have set something up on a Portable Wargame basis that will be appearing on the blog in a couple of days.

Watch this space then!

Friday 29 May 2020

Just Deserts

Best read with the film soundtrack playing in the background and sitting in 30+ degrees of sunshine!

Of all the theatres of the Great War the ones that will always capture my attention are invariably about as far removed from the Western Front as you can get and also usually feature camels. I am of course referring to the desert - be it in North Africa or Arabia. I have recently looked at the Senussi campaign as well as the fighting over the Suez Canal and in Palestine and of course, the great Arab Revolt, of which T.E. Lawrence was a part. Again, my interest in the life and exploits of Lawrence is well known and so whenever a new work is published about him or the campaigns he was involved with there is a good chance it will pique my curiosity.

Lawrence of Arabia On War by Rob Johnson (published by Osprey in hardback) examines the context of his war in the desert, and his ideas on war itself.

This is looking at the Arab Revolt from a different perspective as it not only looks at how it meshed in with the operations of the regular forces but also how the irregular forces could be accommodated and utilised to their fullest advantage - always a challenge and subject to a continual juggling act by Lawrence (not always successfully either).

The Arab Revolt is ideal Portable Colonial Wargame fodder (and I have a supply of 1:1200th scale desert buildings, some 1:600th Rolls Royce armoured cars and am casting covetous eyes at some Tumbling Dice aircraft in the same scale) and so this is something I will need to look very carefully at again. I will game it at some point but at this stage I need to be sure about the best way to do so.

In the meantime though I will probably watch the film again - purely for research purposes naturally....

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Colonial Thoughts

Red coated chaps, Victorian liveried warships, camels and the desert - what’s not to like?

I am not sure that this would really qualify as a Colonial war as such although later events after the invasion certainly did! I picked up a copy of the above book from a branch of the Works a couple of years ago but have been unable to lay my hands on it. With this in mind I secured another copy as not only is it a really good read but it also provides some valuable background for one of my 1:600th plans.

Armed with the above and a copy of the Portable Colonial Wargame there is a lot of potential for a nifty set up and certainly the troops will look the part with the all white Egyptians offset by the red coated British. I have a whole pile of really useful scenic items courtesy of Brigade Games and even some palm trees. Scratch building the naval side would be fun although it would be very much on the basis of what might have been rather than what actually took place.

Something different to think about.

Monday 25 May 2020

Of Lounges, Del Prado and Spencer Smith

The lounge before and....

....and mostly after. The contents are currently residing in the kitchen and on the landing!

There has been little gaming related activity over the last few days as we are having the lounge refurbished and redecorated. It has meant a lot of furniture moving, hole filling, unit removal, painting and a trip to the recently reopened recycling centre. It is all progressing well though and with luck the main bulk of it will be finished by the weekend.

Aside from some block labelling the main thing I have been doing is thinking and this has given greater form to a couple of ideas I am considering.

I will be reorganising and rebasing a substantial part of the Del Prado collection as per the Portable Napoleonic Wargame. I had intended to do this originally but allowed myself to get slightly sidetracked by the scale of the collection and the seemingly endless possibilities it offered. The big advantage of organising the collection in this way is that the additional figures I want will be far less. My plan is to organise brigade sized formations that can be scaled up as required for larger actions. The figure selection available in the Del Prado range lends itself far more amenably to this approach than building recognisably structured units with command groups and subunit distinctions

The only difference between how I will be basing the figures compared to the system in use in the Portable Napoleonic Wargame is that foot command figures, skirmishers and gunners will remain on their round bases and I will not be basing the guns. I will be starting this as soon as we have the lounge sufficiently advanced along the the road to completion that my absence will not incur the displeasure of the project manager!

Old Painter Bob has advised me that the end is in sight for painting of the remaining figures of my 30mm Spencer Smith ACW collection. This is great news and so I need to get back to work on the Texans and the two sharpshooter units I have planned to finish the collection with. These will be staying on their individual bases for use with a variety of rules where single figures are preferable.

I have rather a lot of Spencer Smith ACW figures left over so am looking at using these in a number of ways. To begin with, the figures would drop very nicely into two forces for the War in the Pacific. The uniforms are very colourful and as the kepi was very common some paint conversions would be easy enough to tackle. Another idea I am considering is something along the imagi-nations line with Fezia and Rusland featuring. There are also a couple of Colonial options that are nagging away at me so there are plenty of options for me to explore in due course.

As an aside the scratch building I have mentioned previously was very much Fezia and Rusland in mind.

So there you have it and as ever, much to ponder. I just need to be able to get back to it!

Thursday 21 May 2020

Casting As Persians

A great doorstop of a tome with an outstanding level of coverage - take a look at the contents below.

Everything you wanted to know about the armies and Sassanid Persia but were afraid to ask

Many years ago, whilst still a young boy, I remember receiving a book as a Christmas present called ‘The History of the World’ by the splendidly named Plantagenet Somerset Fry. I was hugely inspired by this book and the wonderful colour illustrations therein and there was one that always stuck in my mind. There was a chapter about Persia (I think) and the picture at the head of this was of a Parthian horse archer shooting backwards - the famous ‘Parthian Shot’.

Fast forward to the Newham Wargames Club and the advent of WRG 6th edition ancients and I found myself looking at figures for a 25mm army consisting solely of Cataphracts and horse archers. I never got around to it though as the Carthaginians appeared and so my efforts were directed at the exploits of Hannibal. There were two later Persian armies in the club at the time - both of the Sassanid era and  in 6mm and 25mm - and they had a fearsome reputation. The 6mm army was around 20K points worth whilst the larger version was a far more modest 4K or so. Both had the full range of Clibanarii, Cataphracts, Elephants and levy infantry and as mentioned, they were fearsomely effective. I managed to beat the 25mm version with a late Roman army - one of my last games with 6th edition and long after the Carthaginians had headed off to pastures new - by the simple expedient of covering the entire front of the army with caltrops and using bolt throwers as anti-elephant guns! I must admit that I was rather in awe of the Sassanid Persian army and it was certainly one that I rather fancied owning at some point.

I should perhaps point out that to anyone owning a Carthaginian army under WRG 6th edition any army that featured extra heavy or super heavy cavalry armed with lance was considered to be the height of luxury....

I digress.

Fast forward to (more or less) the present and the world is a very different place. The latest version of Command and Colours covers the start of the Medieval period and features the late Roman and early Byzantine wars, primarily against, you guessed it, the Sassanid Persians. Our friends at the Plastic Soldier Company have just launched a brand new set of rules for the ancient period with some supporting figures in 15mm cast in a new plastic/resin material and available in army packs for, you guessed it, late Romans, Sassanid Persians, Goths and Huns.

Aside from the WRG Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome and the follow on Dark Age volume (there is the inevitable Osprey and I seem to recall something published by Montvert on the Sassanids) my library is a little light on this army so when I saw the title at the start of this post I thought that would rectify this. It is hugely impressive and one of those books that ticks so many wargaming boxes. I have not decided how to progress this beyond the Command and Colours option but having some comprehensive background may stir some future developments.

We shall see.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Russians and Turks Afloat

Paddle steamers, ironclads, spar torpedoes and the Mesudiye in her original configuration - what’s not to love?

There is a tale behind this and it is one to tell your grandchildren (and mightily bored they will be). The Russo Turkish War is one of those conflicts that for me probably has more potential than was actually historically realised. It is a conflict in a long and depressing sequence (especially for Turkey) between two antagonists that routinely displayed bravery, heroism, stoicism and criminal incompetence depending on which day of the week it was.

I enjoy all these facets of a conflict and so having an insight to the naval dimensional well is all to the good in my opinion.

I bounced a fairly innocuous comment off of David Manley - my ‘go to’ oracle on matters naval related - about the war and he pointed me at the above book. This was duly ordered (courtesy of the balance of an Amazon gift card) and arrived today.

I was really surprised by a couple of points concerning this book. To begin with it is roughly A4 sized  - I don’t know why but I expected something akin to an Osprey campaign style title - and it is also around half an inch thick, albeit a soft back (which is a shame).

What an absolute treasure this is! Aside from details of the naval operations of the war there is a whole raft of information about the ships involved supported by numerous line drawings, maps and technical details.

I have been messing about with some scratch built models for the war and so this book is a really timely addition to the library - especially as the side profiles of the ships involved will help with the models.

Very highly  recommended and my thanks to David Manley for bringing it to my attention - cheers old chap!

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Thoughts on the Del Prado Collection

Del Prado Polish Guard Lancers - very nicely painted by Old Painter Bob from the original Dutch Lancer figure

First of all I hope everyone is well and thriving. I have been a little on the quiet side for a few days, not for anything serious, just that we have been rather busy on the domestic front. We Are embarking on refurbishing and redecorating our lounge which has meant ripping out two sets of units, sanding around 35 square meters of flooring (only 25 of which are the lounge, the balance being the hall and the home office) and lots of filling and painting. I have been tackling a few gaming related projects but nothing too onerous.

The main thing I have been involved with is reorganising my collection of Command and Colours Napoleonic blocks. I recently took delivery of the blocks from the base game and several of the expansions courtesy of that very nice chap ‘Lee so my collection now consists of virtually three complete sets. You could be forgiven for asking what could I possibly want with this amount of blocks but there is a method in my madness. I am fully prepared to fight some truly humongous Napoleonic battles - Leipzig anyone? There is a further expansion pending that covers this type of action in more detail and includes not only named commanders but also some extra units - highlanders, KGL and French Allies so the series should be complete.

On the subject of the whole Napoleonic thing I have been giving my Del Prado collection a lot of thought. The upshot of this is that I think I may have missed a trick with it. I based up the entire collection on individual bases with the intention of ensuring that I had the maximum amount of flexibility in respect of the rules I could use. This is perfectly sound and practical but it does come at a price. I have been thinking about the collection in terms of units rather than figures and this means not only numbers as well as organisation of command elements etc. This is not a problem as such and indeed I have mentioned often enough about what I want to add in due course - extra units, command figures etc. These are very much staples in respect of raising armies in most quarters but it does raise the question of what figures to use. I have more or less answered that one but it will require a certain amount of time, effort and resources on my part.

I have allowed the collection to take on a life of its own and in a much larger way than I initially intended.  If you recall my original plan was to stick to Command and Colours (1 figures = 1 block) or the stylised unit approach of the Portable Napoleonic Wargame. I seem to have moved away from this idea, presumably because of the ‘Ooh shiny!’ Nature of seeing all this Napoleonic loveliness in the man cave.

In retrospect I think I would have been better off sticking to my original plan as it would mean that the collection would remain within reasonable bounds. I am a huge fan of what I would call smaller wargames as my gaming needs are now firmly planted in the 5ft by 3ft table bracket. Anything Portable or grid based will hold sway so the forces used will be smaller - certainly smaller than the way the Del Prado collection is heading!

Anyways, to cut a long story short, I am planning to reorganise the collection along the lines suggested in the Portable Napoleonic Wargame. It will be usable for other rules but the key thing is the collection will have an initial focus rather than trying to be all things to all men.

Tumbling Dice 1:600th figures alongside Travel Battle buildings and Renendra bases

I have also been looking long and hard at my 1:600th collection and there are a few ideas that are gradually coming together. No details as yet but suffice it to say there will be a post in due course. What I will say though is that they will involve Travel Battle and the Portable Wargame in various ways.

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Ships in the Night

Coming to an African delta near you soon - S.M.S. Konigsberg, scaled at 1/1800th

Whilst I was rummaging around in the man cave I rediscovered the free promotional sample I received from Topside Minis based in the US. These are full colour and scaled ‘top down’ views of warships and aircraft from Tsushima to WW2. The scales available are 1/1800th, 1/2400th and 1/3000th and you cab buy them with the appropriate bases - obviously when shipping from the US this would add substantially to the cost due to the weight. They are also available in PDF format which would also reduce the cost.

The images are printed on very durable matt self adhesive paper and certainly look very impressive deployed on the tabletop. I finally got around to mounting the free sample I received on the base provided just to see what it looked like ‘up close’.

Assembly consisted of cutting to the black border and sticking on to the plywood base provided - simplicity itself! If I opted to use this system then I would certainly colour the base edges.

If I was to pursue this as an alternative to models then I would look to order the printed sheets and then source the appropriate bases in the UK. It is something I am thinking about as a quick and easy solution to raising the forces I want to use - certainly storage of the assembled fleets would be very easy indeed.

There is one personal issue with this. My warships models have always been based sailing right to left with the name along the bottom and the ensign in the top left corner looking down in the model. As you can see the Topside standard has the ship facing the other way around!

Something to think about and to get used to!

Monday 11 May 2020

Back in the ACW

A rather dashing Union cavalry commander. The Confederate counterpart is the same figure as I wanted hats rather than Kepis. Spencer Smith 30mm old school and glossy!

Part of my recent figure reorganisation concerned the Spencer Smith 30mm ACW collection. The two armies fit quite tidily into box files and there is sufficient room therein to accommodate the few additions I have planned. I probably mentioned that this collection originally came to me from that indefatigable painting machine - Old Painter Bob, and that he kindly offered to complete the units I have to the same standard. Essentially this is to round up the units to replicate the organisation used in Charge! This means infantry regiments with 48 rank and file, cavalry squadrons of 8 troopers and gun crews of 4 gunners. The command elements and musicians are above and beyond this number.

The whole collection when complete will consist of each side having 3 line companies, 1 elite company (Zouaves for the Union and Texans for the Rebels), 1 sharpshooter company, 1 cavalry squadron and 3 guns with crews.

Old Painter Bob sent me a picture of one of the two Cavalry commanders he is working on for me and so I thought I would share it with you. It is absolutely lovely and I am really happy with it. I mentioned to him that I wanted plenty of braid in evidence and so he has really taken this on board. Seeing this has certainly made me look to the figures I will be painting for this collection - the Texans and the two sharpshooter units.

If you have not done so then taking a look at Bob’s blog is a real treat. His painting style is classic old school and it looks lovely - all glossy and shiny (sounds like a shampoo advert!). His recently completed 25mm Prussian army is a thing of beauty.

Once the final figures for this collection are in place I shall certainly look forward to gaming with it although it is good to go at present.

Sunday 10 May 2020

Man Cave Redux

The view from the loft entry hatch - the brightness on the right is one of the two Velux windows in the roof. I have the blinds permanently drawn when I am not up there to prevent ‘sunning’ on the spines of the books in the library.

Another view - this time showing the table to better effect. Under the large brown throw are my various gaming mats and under the table itself is a whole pile of boxes of figures from Eric’s collection

As it gave me a lot of pleasure to tidy up I thought it only right and proper to share the fruits of my labour so here it is - the new and improved man cave! Actually it is not that much different from before - no major layout changes, just a major reshuffle of the contents - but it is good to see all the same.

The smaller unit on the right hand side of the central storage unit contains a selection of boardgame pieces earmarked for various projects as well as figures for painting at some point. I also keep my basing supplies and odd bits and pieces for modelling at some point. My work station is by the window and the gaming table is 5ft by 3ft and currently has a whole pile of Command and Colours Napoleonic blocks awaiting a new home. There is also the copy of the complete Kurz and Allison prints - the copy that had some plates removed - that I intend removing the remaining pictures from at some point.

It is a very restful place to work and indeed, just sitting up there and chilling with some music is also a delightful way to pass the time.

Saturday 9 May 2020

“Yes, Wonderful Things!”

Small, manageable and I even have the figures for it. It will be pretty straightforward to organise and a good primer for a larger version at some point

It has been a week of reflection; a week to regroup, rethink and above all, to reinvigorate. It has taken many paths - support from friends and family, plenty of fresh air and being busy and just letting thoughts wander where they will, unfettered by self imposed obligations or responsibilities. Plenty of sleep - although still unsettled I have been able to substitute quantity for quality - and sensible eating and drinking have all helped.

Life goes on.

The Del Prado collection is now in its new quarters which means that I can work on it as and when I want to rather than feeling obliged to do so. It will be at a much more sedate pace which will be far more readily enjoyable. I have pottered about with some scratch building which is something I have missed doing and is wonderfully therapeutic. It is scratching a particular itch and is something I want to do more of. No details as yet but suffice it to say ships will be featuring.

I also took advantage of not feeling particularly energetic to tackle something rather mundane but curiously satisfying in the man cave. I suspect that I am not alone in having a vast library of photocopied rules and magazine articles, either obtained by our own devices or from friends, that has been acquired over time. I decided that sorting this lot would be a good idea and so I spent a very pleasant and inspiring afternoon doing just that. There was a veritable rain forest of stuff, most of which had never been used since printed and in some cases going back some 20 odd years. It was hugely enjoyable consigning most of it to the recycling although whether or not I will regret it going forward is another matter!

I will not bore you with a detailed list of what I found and kept but there are a couple of highlights - the Howard Carteresque ‘Wonderful things’ of the title of this post. A couple of years ago I managed to get a PDF version of the BattleLine age of sail wargame rules Ship ‘O the Line. I was really pleased to get these but the PDF did not have a copy of the Armada period supplement. Well, I found an earlier photocopied set that were given to me by Mr Fox that had the said supplement! I was really pleased with this as I had the in mind for something.

Another thing I found was a set of rules for relighting the battle of Waterloo on an 8 x 6 hexed grid. The system is called Waterloo A La Carte and for the life of me I cannot remember where I got these from. If anybody recognises the map please let me know.

Finally there was a pile of stuff based on a WW2 campaign set around some imaginary Greek Islands which, given my interest in the region, was a welcome find.

It was a simple thing to get done but I am very glad I was able to do so. In many ways it has enabled me to reset my hobby mojo so that it is once again enjoyable rather than being a chore.

I also have a lot of people to thank for lending me a degree of perspective.

Onwards and upwards, or something like that.

Monday 4 May 2020

May the Fourth be with you....

A long time ago on a blog far, far away....

It seems an appropriate day to post a very quick message.

Gentlemen, I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the messages of support following my recent post - be they blog comments or personal emails - and so would like to thank you all most sincerely. I am feeling much improved although with little reserve for the present so will be continuing with my regime of casual meandering.

I will not go into details as to the circumstances of my, how shall I put it? Malaise, so to speak - suffice it to say it was a curveball event that caused the crash.

I will be back firing on all cylinders in a few days and will reply to all in due course - but for now I am just chilling.

So thank you all once again - the generosity of spirit shown is very much a restorative tonic - and remember....

The fourth will be with you....always.

Saturday 2 May 2020

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....

I do not suffer from depression in the clinical sense. I have experienced a mild form once that required a visit to the doctor - I did not take the offered medication - but other than that my mental health has been fairly robust over the nearly sixty years I have been on this earth. For sure I have made some monumental errors of judgement over the years - errors that caused a good degree of, shall we say, anxiety - but despite the ongoing peaks and troughs have always managed to maintain a modicum of sang froid if you like.

I really feel like I have hit a brick wall at the moment. I have a golden opportunity to tackle umpteen projects but nothing seems to be registering at present. I have not been sleeping particularly well (although last night was an exception - the light went off and I was asleep before the room went dark)  and feel as a result, rather listless, lethargic and sloth-like.

There is no one reason I can pin this on, rather it is a combination of circumstances and situations.

I know it will pass in a day or three but in the meantime I am just going to allow myself to meander. I have put everything gaming related (other than reading old blog posts) to one side and will pick something up once I am feeling ‘on my game’ again.

In the meantime, take care and stay well and I will see you on the other side.