Tuesday, 27 July 2021

On the Starting Block

 


Preliminary ideas for troop type tokens with a few more to add. Very much a first draft (and with number five needing a little trimming!)  and work in progress but you can see the direction my thoughts are heading in.

I plan to have these tokens produced in laser cut MDF, 3mm thick. They will be quite small as they are designed to be placed on an existing block as required so I reckon they will be no larger than 11mm by 11mm. When ready I could use them as they are or could paint them. In the interest of economy I was thinking of using black as this forms a good contrast to the block colours. I also plan to have a only one such token per unit as having one on each block would not only mean I would need a lot of them but also the chances of them falling off would be far greater and so rather irritating during the heat of battle!

Most of the initial batch above are very much geared towards the pre gunpowder period. This was intentional as whilst I already have some suitable labels for the mechanised era I had nothing for the period prior to the 1700 to 1900 period.

I am rather excited about this as once realised it will increase the scope of gaming activities immeasurably meaning that I can fight battles from the time of the Pharoahs up to the present day using my core block collection with the appropriate token as required.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Back to Block


One of the blocks I use - 29mm x 21mm x 12mm or half a Works style ‘not quite a Jenga block’. 

 I have taken a good look over my block army collection and have more or less settled on what I want to do to increase the scope of how I can use them. I have decided not to draw up any more labels but will instead opt to use some specially designed MDF tokens that will sit on the top of the appropriate block as required to designate specific troop types.

The plan now is to design the symbols that I want - these will not be counters as such - and then to submit the designs to Warbases for them to work their magic for me. At this stage I envisage using a single token per unit as required - for example a bow token would be deployed on a standard infantry or cavalry to indicate an archer or mounted archer type formation. Command and Colours: Medieval uses a counter in this way to distinguish bow armed cavalry so my idea is really just an extension of this.

For the modern period my initial thoughts are for token to represent HMGs, mortars and anti-tank units.

Another significant use will be to identify skirmish style formations or detachments. 

Getting the designs for the tokens right should not be too difficult and having these separate from the block increases their flexibility as well as meaning that I do not as many of them.

So, on to the planning!

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Warriors of the Steppe

 


The first edition of James Chambers work on the campaigns of the Mongol armies

My back continues to give me grief. It tends to be worse in the mornings - presumably as a result of being upright after sleeping - and after a period of walking around (along with the ongoing ankle/leg situation). I have decided that getting on in years is not without its disadvantages from a health perspective! Seriously though, the back has dragged on for more that I would have thought so a trip to the GP will inevitably follow at some point. In the meantime the man cave is largely off limits, along with lifting and stretching so the great reading frenzy continues instead of modelling.

I first came across the book above during the mid 1980s (the book was originally published in 1979) and for the life of me I cannot think why I did. At the time I would have been far more likely to have looked books on the army of Attila the Hun or even that of Parthian/Sassanid Persia. In any event it is a cracking read and I remember being suitably inspired to think about raising a Mongol army for use under WRG 6th edition. As I recall that particular army featured a lot of Regular B cavalry….

I actually fought using a Mongol army against the Teutonic Knights whilst taking part in an impromptu all day DBA session in my garden using cardboard cut outs for the armies in the absence of figures. The Mongols lost. Fortunately Light Horse as a troop type has fared rather better under DBA 3.0 and so are better able to make use of their advantages in mobility. 

One of the projects on my ‘to do’ list features the Crusades and of course the Mongols appear in this, if only on the periphery - not that the Mamlukes (another idea for an army I had at one time - there seems to be a common thread here - I really like cavalry armies!) thought so at the battle of Ain Jalut

I always intended using the block armies for periods other than the usual horse and musket games I have fought. In order to do this I have two choices. I can either design more block labels that would better represent the myriad troop types from the earlier (or later) period or I can use markers of some kind with the blocks as they are. I certainly have sufficient spare blocks for the former option but I am leaning towards the latter and producing a range of MDF tokens that can designate what the block is actually representing. For example, a bow and arrow marker could be placed on the block to designate that particular weapon rather than having separate archer labels. This is what I am currently planning for the blocks.

The Mongol Conquests had a lasting impact on much of the Middle East and I recall reading somewhere that the devastation visited on the region set back the development of Islamic culture by several centuries. How true this is I cannot say but certainly the impact of the Mongols was a major blow.

For my own part I like the idea of an army with superior strategic and tactical mobility that would probably not be out of place in a WW2 Panzer Division. Something to think about for the future methinks.

The last word should probably be left with Genghis Khan himself (allegedly):

“The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.”

Sound words indeed, so sound in fact that Conan the Barbarian said something rather similar….

“To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”

Art imitating life perhaps….


Wednesday, 21 July 2021

A Bridge Too Far....


 "This will be a tale to tell your grandchildren...and mightily bored they'll be!"

Yesterday, in the blistering heat of the middle of the day, I attended the funeral of an old friend.

Mick was many things in that he was sociable, articulate, a musician (drums, guitar and the mandolin), an occasional wargamer (with an elastic interpretation of the rules for the most part....), an enthusiastic reenactor, a life long West Ham supporter, eater of unbelievably hot curries  and a dog lover.

For the most part that is how I remember him until the wheels fell off. 

Mick experienced a number of mental health issues that made life for him and those that knew him a challenging and occasionally exasperating experience.

I can remember visiting him in hospital during one of those episodes, back in the early 1980s,  and being surprised to see him sitting on a balcony with a cigarette in one hand and his guitar in the other, strumming a few chords and appearing for all the world to be at peace with himself. Of course this was not the case and his mental condition waxed and waned from good to bad over the last thirty of years or so. When he was in a good place he was like the old Mick but it never lasted and so the demons would reappear to torment him to a lesser or greater degree until he regained a degree of equilibrium. 

In these dark moments it was depressing to see, distressing to experience and draining for all concerned.

For all that he soldiered on - he had long since given up work after taking a medical retirement - and made a life for himself that occasionally dovetailed with that of his friends. In his later years he was supported by another member of the ex Newham Wargames crowd with his family that lived nearby and that was a huge comfort although not without the occasional 'wobble'.

He was a keen dog lover and last four legged friend he owned was called Rommel and when he lost him at the end of 2017 he was deeply upset to the extent that he vowed not to get any further pets. It also triggered a downward spiral that took him a while to recover from. 

I used to be in regular contact with him but with changes in my domestic situation I kind of lost meaningful contact with him for a number of years - I will admit that this was by design on my part as at the time his ongoing situation was causing a degree of tension at home. I used to meet him for lunch in the city occasionally but even that became difficult to manage.

I will say that initially I felt somewhat uncomfortable to have effectively lost contact with him and yet was attending his funeral (I was reassured by friends that I no cause to feel that way - Mick's path was his alone as is our own) but as anyone that has had experience with any kind of mental illness will know sometimes enough has to be enough - especially when it impacts on one's own family. 

It would be easy to say that in many ways Mick was the author of his own ills but the truth is far more complicated than that. For sure he did some things that did not help his situation but for the most part he always seemed to muddle through - at least until the next episode anyway. Sadly, and with the benefit of hindsight the cycle of highs and lows makes for depressing reading. Mick could have been so much more but his health - his mental health initially but his physical health later - seemed to dictate what he could and could not do. To be honest it is the general consensus of opinion that he did not help himself or at least if he did it was at a minimal level.

I last saw Mick three years ago - ironically at another funeral - and although physically ill (he was a heavy smoker and COPD was the inevitable result) he still was able to remind me of the refight of Operation Market Garden we undertook back in the mid 1980s using a board game for the map and Squad Leader counters for the units. Mick was in charge of the Allies whilst yours truly had the Germans. Naturally much fun was had quoting chunks of dialogue from the film A Bridge Too Far including his personal favourite:

Lt. Gen. Horrocks: "Now, I've selected you to lead us not only because of your extraordinary fighting ability, but also because in the unlikely event that the Germans ever get you, they will assume from your attire that they've captured a wretched peasant, and immediately send you on your way."

For my own part I will remember him for the good and whilst his problems were always there or thereabouts his sociability, personality and good humour were what made Mick, Mick. I will miss him, despite having little contact with him for some years.

In closing I hope that he has at last found in his passing the peace that eluded him in life.

R.I.P Mick

 


Saturday, 17 July 2021

We will, we will Block you….

 


Army Blue from the block collection with the direct types shown to good effect on the inside of the lid.

A curious thing has occurred over the course of my temporary back affliction. As I have been reluctant to do anything that involves carrying or moving with any degree of acrobatic contortion - entry to the man cave involves an ascending right hand turn with a twist, imagine the start of an Immelmann turn that flattens out at the highest point - I have been contenting myself with catching up on my reading.

This has proven to be a rewarding but frustrating experience. As I have been reading about various periods of military history - no details as yet, it will spoil the surprise - my natural inclination is think about how to game them. This will then mean a couple of hours of researching figures ranges, thinking about organisation, looking for additional books and all the various other assorted tasks one associates with a new project. These days I tend to see reason for more often before ‘pulling the trigger’ so aside from the time spent usually little is lost.


A picture from a while ago of the block army collection in its entirety - there was an awful lot of ‘not quite’ Jenga blocks involved in the production of this lot!

Enter stage third left the humongous collection of block based armies I have. You may recall that these were originally intended to be used to experiment with rules and periods before committing to a figure based set up. They have served me really well in the past and I am pleased that I got them to where they are. I want to take them further though.

It does not bother me using blocks over figures in conjunction with 3D terrain and so I am thinking that what free time I have now that I am back at work may be better served by adding to the blocks rather than replacing them wholesale with figures.


The blocks in the top half of the picture I use for tribal types whilst below you can see some of the 20th century options. These are the types I am address in a far more aesthetically pleasing way - but not with figures for the moment!

One of the ideas I am thinking about involves the use of figures for an army command base - almost a mini diorama style affair with perhaps the C in C himself and an ADC/staff officer type. Block units of infantry and cavalry will benefit from a standard of some kind - I have experimented with this previously but have yet to get it how I would like. Finally, WW2 would see the use of MDF tokens of some kind to differentiate weapon types etc. 

If it all sounds very abstract and stylised then that is exactly what it is - and I have no problem with it being so. I have invested too much time and effort in producing the block armies to give them up so I plan to take them to the next level and if this means that figure based solutions are pushed down the batting order I can live with it. 

The ideas I am pondering at present would also enable me to explore the ancient/medieval period as well so I will report any progress as and when I make any.



Wednesday, 14 July 2021

“The sentries report Zulus to the southwest….”

 


Yet another title from my collection that had mysteriously vanished but has now happily been reacquired! Limited to the early part of the war but really good all the same with some wonderful artwork.

I am still flirting with the idea of some Portable Wargame style forces for the Colonial period based on the contents of what is in the War in the Age of Imperialism board game. If you recall the standard infantry figures is 20mm tall and is based on a standing firing British infantryman (therefore usable for a number of types) so my rather vague plan was to acquire some boxes of figures from Hat to complete the project. That is still a viable option although I have been looking at other scales as well.

No matter - it is the book that is the thing. 

My Zulu war library is very small and to be honest is probably more in tune with the film Zulu than the whole conflict. The period certainly one of those that I come back to repeatedly and from a gaming perspective the asymmetrical nature of the opposing sides makes for all manner of tactical challenges. In its crudest form one could liken the war to the old arcade game of Space Invaders - a relentless and numerically superior foe against a smaller number of far better equipped soldiery. One could also extend the analogy to the film Aliens.

I have fought a couple of games set in the Zulu war using my block armies and they were great fun. Essentially if the Zulus can get into contact then they can cause all manner of problems whereas the British need to be fighting them at arm's length so that their firepower can be used to its best advantage.

I was delighted to reacquire the above book and whilst there are a couple of other titles that would add to the collection I am in no hurry. What I am confident in though, is that I have the rules and the background information necessary to organise a great set up for this most iconic of Colonial campaigns.

All I need to do is to decide how! 


Saturday, 10 July 2021

More Projects? Moi?…..I Couldn’t Possibly Comment….


Two new additions to the library 

 I have just finished my first week back in the office and my back continues to fluctuate from bad to worse to actually not that bad - with the latter condition being firmly in the minority at present!

After a very restless and uncomfortable night in bed - I will not dignify it by saying that I slept - I was greatly cheered by the arrival this morning of the the two booklets you see above.

Arriba Espana is a very workmanlike production by Bob Cordery featuring not one but two sets of rules. There is an updated version of his Arriba Espana Spanish Civil War set and then a Portable Wargame set for the period. This is a very clever production in that the Portable Wargame version incorporates some ideas from the original set so one has the best of both worlds in terms of flexibility - a relatively detailed set of rules for the period as well as a Portable Wargame version.

In addition to the two sets of rules there are a number of very well thought out scenarios - including a mini campaign based on Jarama - that are usable with either set as well as a useful bibliography.

I have to say that I really like the idea behind this latest adaptation of the Portable Wargame - having an updated version of a popular and more formal rules set with a degree of crossover into the PW ‘engine’ demonstrates once again that the core system can be happily ‘sliced and diced’ to suit one’s specific gaming requirements. A worthy addition to the stable and no mistake.

I have a modest amount of gaming history with the Spanish Civil War - primarily the naval side if truth be told - and whilst revisiting it as a going concern is not immediately on the horizon having this book would certainly give me a good choice of rules to use - along of course along with Trebian’s latest rule set: “For Whom the Dice Rolls” (which are currently on my ‘to get’ list). From a Portable Wargame perspective raising a couple of small forces to my usual size certainly appeals but it wold certainly be some way off.

Arriba Espana is available from Amazon and a big thank you to Bob Cordery for my copy.

Wargaming in the Sugar Islands Campaign is altogether a completely different kettle of fish. To begin with  it is not a set of rules but a guide to the Seven Years War campaigns involving the British and French on the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. The sugar islands were valuable but unhealthy places and the campaigns fought over the them (including the later French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars)  have suffered far more from various ailments - yellow fever amongst others - than from enemy action. There is a lot of potential for the type of small scale actions I enjoy - coastal raids and similar - so it is certainly something I could look at at some point. 

Again, I have some history with the Seven Years War although my interest these days is far more likely to cover the far flung reaches of empire rather than mainland Europe. The French and Indian War, Clive in India and the operations in the Caribbean are of more interest to me although I have never considered raising armies for them. The booklet is available from the Crann Tara range now produced by Dave Ryan and Caliver Books. 

The Crann Tara range of 28mm figures for the 18th century is absolutely lovely and was originally the brainchild of that all round decent fellow, Bon vivant, wit and raconteur, Graham Cummings, to whom I indebted for my copy of the booklet. 

So have I signed up for yet more projects? The short answer is no, at least not in the immediate future to be honest. I will not rule either period out long term though - the idea of Portable Wargaming them is definitely appealing and indeed, I tend to look at pretty much any potential project through the lens of the Portable Wargame.

Many thanks to both Bob and Graham - these two booklets have been far more effective in raising my mood than copious amounts of Bio Freeze, Deep Heat and assorted drugs!


Thursday, 8 July 2021

A Great, Great War Selection

 Four days into being back in the office and if feels as though I have never been away! Our suite is lowly taking shape and the phones will be finally sorted out today. My back was improving but I must have slept awkwardly last night - no doubt as a result of over exuberant celebrations following England's victory against Denmark - as it has been particularly tiresome this morning. I am hoping that I will be able to revisit the man cave this weekend but will have to see.

As I am currently unable to get up into the man cave at present it has given me the opportunity to catch up on some reading and to support this I have managed to score some bargains courtesy of eBay. These are all in good, second hand condition just as I like them! 


Brassey's Naval Annual for 1913 - this is the David and Charles reprint


At long last I have a hardback version of the late Richard Holmes's 'history - come - travelogue' covering the the retreat from Mons to the Marne and introducing Thatch, the horse that ate Europe!


I was also pleased to pick up a copy of this by way of a support to my WW1 East African naval project(s).

(Note that the above pictures are taken from Google images and are not of the copies I have as the books are at home and I am some thirty odd miles away!)

All three of the above are useful in different ways. The Naval Annual of 1913 is full of useful stuff and includes charts of specifications and plans of the many of the major ships of the world's navies as well as chapters on various naval topics. It is an interesting snapshot of naval practice and theory on the eve of the Great War.

Riding the Retreat by the late Richard Holmes is one of my favourite books about a pivotal episode in the history of the British Army during the Great War. The book is a thoroughly entertaining travelogue as the author and his three companions ride the route of the BEF as they retreated from Mons to the Marne as well as a good overview of the campaign and the make up of the army of the period. I have fought a number of games based on the retreat using my block armies and also with the redoubtable Mr Fox. Attempting to emulate some of the more Bacchanalian exploits of Richard Holmes and his companions - they seemed to have eaten (and drank) very well on their travels in the various places they stopped or stayed - is not recommended for the faint hearted! Mr Fox and I did enjoy making the effort though, probably much to the detriment of the action we were trying to fight....

Finally, The Forgotten Front. This book covers the whole of the East African theatre so includes Von Lettow-Vorbecks campaign, Lake Tanganyika as well as the Kongsberg affair. A very welcome addition to the library and one that will be very useful.

I am pleased to have added these to my collection and I am sure to get much use out of them.


Tuesday, 6 July 2021

(Bad) Back in the Office


A rather eclectic selection - all destined for disposal 

For the purposes of this post I am of course referring to pre pandemic and rather more optimistically perhaps, post pandemic! I have been away from the office on furlough since the very start of the pandemic  and yesterday was my first day back full time in our new suite. The day went as well as it could - the commute was fine with everyone socially distanced and with masks in place. Our new office - which is the same building as our old one, we have merely moved up a floor - is quite small but large enough for our needs once it has been sorted out. That was the task for Monday and much progress has been made in sorting out files etc. The technological side of it has a few teething issues but all should back to normal in a few days.

My role in all this was limited as I have done something to my lower back which means bending and lifting anything larger or heavier than a bag of sugar is pretty uncomfortable. It seems to be worse when I ‘transition’ from laying or sitting down to being upright. Walking about is easy enough as long as I watch what I am doing. It has of course meant that trips up into the man cave have been temporarily put on hold with heinous impact on my modelling of ACW ships i.e. nothing has been done at all!

My desk in the office has been sorted out though and I was pleasantly surprised, albeit it rather short lived,  to find the books you see above. These were acquired from eBay in the months leading up to the start of the pandemic and were a snapshot of what was on the project schedule f two years ago.

I know why I did not take these home and the memories came flooding back as to why. Aside from the condition of the books being below my minimum acceptable standard they all have one thing in common - they all have rather effusive dedications inscribed on the endpapers. 

There are a few things I always try to stick to when buying books.

1. I prefer a hardback version if possible

2. I have a pathological aversion to anything decided as ‘ex libris’

3. The same as 2 except relating to ‘book club’ editions

4. No hand written inscriptions of any kind

It always irritates the life out of me when sellers on eBay do not mention about any of the above!

The books in the picture are now surplus to requirements (the Gill title has been claimed) so if anyone is interested drop me a line to drcrook@btinternet.com and we can work something out. They were not expensive when I purchased them so they will not be so now.

I will not bore you with the whys and wherefores around getting these books but I did want to mention one of them. 



I believe the above was one of a series of similar studies that are worth getting hold of if you can



The Palestine Campaigns by Colonel A. P. Wavell (yes, THAT Wavell) was originally published in 1928 but this copy is of the third edition, 7th impression published in 1940. It was slightly updated to reconcile with the official history of the Palestine Campaigns and the book itself is a really useful guide. There are plenty of detailed orders of battle, several maps (including some fold out types), a history of the campaign as well a useful chapter on the lessons learned and the value of cavalry.

I am interested in the Middle East during the Great War but, unsurprisingly perhaps, this only extends to the Arab and the Senussi Revolts. It is an interesting read though with plenty of inspiration for some WW1  cavalry heavy actions for a change.


The view from my desk. The building you see in the centre with clouds above it is the ‘old lady of Threadneedle Street’ herself - the Bank of England.


Saturday, 3 July 2021

Readying another Project


Mimi and Toutou during their trials


A cigarette card depicting the two motor boats in transmit during their epic journey to Lake Tanganyika


 A rather nice model of Mimi

Now that the work on the remaining ACW ships is underway I am the fortunate position to be able to think about what will come next. I have a number of 28mm gunfighters to paint and the ships for Lake Tanganyika to build, both of which are fairly modest in terms of size which will suit my reduced hobby time rather well. As mentioned I am back in the office from Monday on a full time basis so everything gaming related will take longer and knowing my butterfly like attention span it makes sense for me to take on small and achievable projects.

The Old West will be a simple ‘paint and play’ set up with very little in the way of research other than watching a few old favourite films - probably spaghetti Westerns methinks - but Lake Tanganyika will need a more formal approach. I have a modest library about the War in East Africa and the operations on the Lake which will be revisited - the book ‘Mimi and Toutou go forth’ by Giles Foden is an excellent read for this and I am trying to track down a copy of ‘The Phantom Flotilla’ which also covers the naval expedition to the lake. Byron Farwell’s ‘The Great War in Africa’ as well as Charles Miller’s ‘Battle for the Bundu’ are another couple of books that cover the topic.

Producing the ships will be easy enough as there are very few to speak of! I am deliberately avoiding anything to do with building these at present as I want to finish the ACW ships first. I am confident though, that I have sufficient material to build them from my modelling stash.

David Manley’s excellent ‘Steamer Wars’ were written specifically for the Lake Tanganyika campaign and as well as a nifty set of tactical rules there is a full campaign system as well as a copy of the lecture about the expedition given by the commander - Captain Geoffrey Spicer-Simson  contained within. They are available from the Wargames Vault along with a couple of expansions to the basic set - one for European river warfare in the Great War and the second for the Russian Civil War. There may be more to come going forwards - I would rather like a supplement covering the Tigris operations and possibly even something for the great rivers of China - real ‘Sand Pebbles’ stuff.

Given the overall size of the Lake Tanganyika project I can see little reason for not using Mr. Manley’s set as written - it would certainly save me a heap of time for sure. Purely in the interests of research I suspect that I will also be watching ‘The African Queen’ again.

Another naval chapter of the Great War in Africa concerns the German cruiser S.M.S. Konigsberg. Her short but troublesome career afloat took on a extended leased of life when her ten 4.1” guns were salvaged  after she was sunk by Royal Navy monitors and were used to support the German East African land campaign. I have a hankering to tackle her story with some more scratch builds - these will be really pushing the envelope for my building technique - but that will be a project further down the list.

Building the models for either project will be using my fairly elastic interpretation of scale so the largest model for either will be around 6” long. Mimi and Toutou will be around an inch!

Friday, 2 July 2021

Facing the Final Curtain


The beginning of the end. The top five are for the Confederates whilst the three below them are for the Union.


The U.S.S. Sassacus - I shall be building a pair of these useful ‘double ender’ gunboats. The model is from the collection of that well known naval rule writer, Bon vivant, wit and raconteur, Mr David Manley to whom grateful (and embarrassed) thanks are extended!

 “And now, the end is near….” I must confess to being a fan of ‘Ol Blue Eyes and as I was coincidentally listening to him whilst starting work on the remaining ACW ships it seemed kind of appropriate that ‘My Way’ was the accompanying soundtrack!

My order fromWarbases is in the post so I made a start on the hulls of the remaining ten ships I had planned. These will be split equally between both sides - five models each - and the picture above features eight of them. The other two will be a pair of ironclads for the Union - one of which will be another City class gunboat.


Mmm…I wonder these could possibly be for?

I must admit that I had fell a little flat with this project when I realised that I had messed up what I thought was the final order but after a couple of weeks of revitalising myself with a few other bits and pieces am now raring to go again. It is a shame that I was unable to finish these before going back to work but what is left to build will not take too long to do. 

When the final ten models are built I fully intend having a full fleet review and will also then turn my attention back to the rules as well as thinking about a few items of terrain. Next up on the project list will be some old West gunfighters and the small matter of the ships for Lake Tanganyika in WW1.

It is certainly good to be back at the modelling tray!

Thursday, 1 July 2021

The Great War in Africa


A cracking read and with a huge amount of gaming potential. Although published after Madasahatta I am pretty confident that Eric would have loved this!

 Now here is the thing. As you know both SWMBO and I are regular visitors during the summer months to a number of local bot sales and charity shops. As a rule any purchases made at either tend to be inexpensive and so do not really make a dent in the budget. I am always on the lookout for military or gaming style stuff and even if I do not want it then the chances are I can usually find someone that does. Amongst my circle I have a rule whereby if anyone takes an item this acquired off my hands it will be at the price I paid for it. Occasionally I will buy an item that will be sold on and a couple of times I have done rather well as a result!

I digress.

The pickings for me from boot sales or charity shops have been rather slim recently so I then have an occasional trawl through Facebook marketplace or even eBay to see if there are any bargains to be had.

The book you see above is just one of these. I saw this listed as an auction on eBay and placed a very low bid for it. Imagine my surprise and delight when I won it for the starting bid of £1.99 plus postage!

I have owned this book in the past but it, along with a number of others, mysteriously vanished a few years ago whilst we were having some work in the house done. As an aside I have a feeling the box may have been thrown out inadvertently - the pain of losing a pile of books (including a full set of Conway’s fighting ships covering 1860 to 1946, happily these are now replaced) is still very raw!



The front of the flyer….


….and the reverse.

The book is in really good condition and contained within it pages was a copy of the original press release ‘flyer’. Farwell tells the story of the war in Africa well with unsurprisingly the story of Lettow-Vorbeck campaigns occupying a large portion of the book. Lake Tanganyika, the Konigsberg and South West Africa all feature and so the book forms a good primer to this theatre of the Great War.

I am delighted to have this back in the library and even more so given how inexpensive it was!

In other news….

I had the email to say that my Warbases order was on the way so I will finally be able to crack on with the last of the ACW ships. Work had begun on cleaning up the old west gunfighters I have prior to painting them and I have seen some ridiculously cheap MDF buildings that I am tempted to get although I have not discounted building my own yet. 

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Drifting with the current

 I am now in my last week of furlough and shall be back in full time employment from 1st July although not back in the city until the 5th. With the self inflicted faux pas over my Warbases order I will not be able to finish the ships for the ACW collection before going back to work which is a shame but cannot be helped. The remaining models will not take long to do in any event and considering that I have built 50 of the planned 60 it is not too shabby an outcome. The short interlude has given me time to put my head above the parapet and look at some other bits and pieces I have on the horizon and the first of these concerns the whole skirmish wargame genre.

I have fought numerous skirmish games over the years but for the most part the rules I have tried seem to have ranged from the taxing to the downright unplayable in terms of complexity. I currently have a Fistful of Lead and Galactic Heroes along with some of the offering from Ganesha Games - these are set below the number of figures used in a game of, for example, the ‘Rampant’ series by Daniel Mersey and others. My current old West set up using Deadman’s Hand looks like a step in the right direction for me in terms of the level of detail although I have my own ideas about what a skirmish game should look like which may or may not sit well within the mainstream.

For me a skirmish wargame should have no more than a couple of dozen figures in all and will often be less. I would be looking at perhaps half a dozen or less on one side with the other typically being more. Whilst my thoughts were moving along these lines I was struck by the similarity of how I fight my ‘normal’ games - often with half a dozen units on one side and more on the other.

Thinking cinematically - the figures in a skirmish typically fall into three categories. Principles, supports and extras. At a simple level this could readily translate into elite, trained and raw or similar. It follows that the principles are usually the key to the story so it follows that they ordinarily will be able to do more and probably better than the extra used for the crowd scenes. 

This is where the Portable Wargame comes in. If we took a principle character as having 5 strength points, a support 4 and the extra 3 as a baseline then we have a useful framework to work with. Those strength points (probably not the best description for them in this case but it will do to start with) could be used as other things as well so, for example, a principle might have 5 actions which in turn dictates what the character can do during a turn. It could also be used for initiative or indeed anything one needs it to.

Essentially the principle characters should usually be more able than the extras.

A key point for me in all this is the importance of a well thought out scenario which should be the framework on which the skirmish is based. Key ‘action points’ within the skirmish should be properly planned beforehand so that when such an event occurs it can be handled quickly and efficiently. In may ways the design of a good skirmish is almost as involved as that for a role playing game. The scenario should be a framework that allows for the unexpected because that will always happen!

 From personal choice I would be using a grid to fight over as this makes life a whole lot easier in that the inevitable ‘micro measuring’ is at one fell swoop removed. For what I am thinking about I shall be using a 2” square grid with an area of 9 by 12 squares. By a strange coincidence this is also the size of the playing area I use for full sized battles involving units.

I believe that with a modicum of effort it should be possible to produce a set of skirmish rules based on the  Portable Wargame that would serve as the basic engine for all manner of genres. That is what my recent ‘drifting with the current’  has been pondering, initially with VSF in mind but with other ideas circulating in the grey matter.

First things first though - the remaining ACW ships need to be built and the Old West figures painted so it is no surprise that these are now on the painting tray waiting for some TLC.


Thursday, 24 June 2021

Belated Father’s Day Post

 


The haul - note the two boxes, front and centre….

Last Sunday was of course Father’s Day in the UK. I have to say that I was spoilt rotten by the children (32 and 25 years old respectively so calling them children seems a little odd - perhaps offspring would be better!). Eight bottles of Italian beer, four packets of fruit pastilles (I have a well known fondness for these) and a box of mint flavoured Matchmakers. My son (who is a very good cook) made a superb breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon with coffee - in the Ian Fleming James Bond books this was 007’s breakfast of choice - which set the tone for the day. I would also add that between the two fo them I received some £75 in gift cards for the online retailer named after a South American river (I saw that used on another blog and it seemed too good not to use it myself!).


Always nice to add a couple of hardbacks to the library!

I have used half of the value on the two titles you see above that I have my eye on for a while. Operation Pedestal is the newest title by Max Hastings and is the story of the famous convoy that saved Malta during WW2 from imminent starvation but at a very high cost to the Royal Navy. The whole thing would make for an excellent campaign to refight. 

Note to self: WW2 naval? You have not done any of that for a while have you? Hmmm…

Conquistadores tells the story of the Spanish conquest of the Americas and again, is an epic tale. For the record I have no intention of tackling Aztec armies although having said that I note that Wargames Atlantic are bringing out 28mm plastic Aztecs and Conquistadors at some point so perhaps a skirmish level set up might be doable.

All in all Father’s Day was a very good day for me although my wallet may not be thanking me in due course!

In other news…



They don’t write them like that anymore….

A gentleman that I have had a couple of transactions with over the last years or so (books) is having some building work done and so as part of the inevitable preparation for this he had a sort out of bits and pieces. Among the assortment of goodies he came across the above set of wargame rules. Knowing of my fondness for ACW naval he very kindly sent them to me! 

The rules themselves are quite old school and are very much a product of the times (they were published in 1984) in terms of rule techniques. It was only when I looked at the back cover that I realised that the rules were copyright to none other than John Armatys. I had the pleasure of meeting him at COW (the Conference of Wargamers) in 2019 and took part in his Operation Market Garden game. 

So to Rob Grace many, many thanks for the rules old chap - they have given me a couple of ideas I had not considered for my own rules.

Finally….

It has been a good week for the most part in that the collection has gained some new bits and pieces (not forgetting Deadman’s Hand) and I have a clearer sense of purpose about things. A small order has gone into Warbases to rectify the shortfall from what I thought would be the last one but I am OK with the wait. 

On a more sober note I found out over the weekend that an old denizen of Newham Wargames Club (actually an occasional member as I recall) and former ACW reenactor via the Southern Skirmish Association has passed away after a long illness. 

Mick had more than his fair share of health issues over the years but I remember him taking the part of the Allies when we ran Operation Market Garden using the board game Hell’s Highway. It became a matter of pride that we were able to bounce vast chunks of dialogue from the film A Bridge Too Far off one another with his particular favourite being from Lt. General Horrocks:

Now, I've selected you to lead us not only because of your extraordinary fighting ability, but also because in the unlikely event that the Germans ever get you, they will assume from your attire that they've captured a wretched peasant, and immediately send you on your way.

R.I.P Mick.




Wednesday, 23 June 2021

The Wild, Wild West….




A box full of Old West goodies….


….don’t take my word for it - check out the contents!


There it is in all its glory.

The very first Western gunfight games I took part in were back on the Isle of Sheppey during the early to mid 1970s. The rules we used were the Old West Skirmish Set by Messrs. Blake, Curtis and Colwill (I believe they were the worthies involved) and the scale was 54mm. For figures we used a variety of Timpo and Britains figures with a few conversions thrown in for good measure. I still wince at the memory of when my newly finished conversion - loosely based on the character of Manalito from the TV series The High Chaparall - lasted until the second game turn when he was shot and suffered a serious leg wound, thus effectively rendering him ‘hors de combat’ for he remainder of the game!

When I joined the Newham Wargames Club after moving to London there was still a healthy dose of Old West games being fought but the move to using Once Upon a Time in the West certainly dampened my enthusiasm. The rules seemed very complex and although there were some very nice touches I found them to be a little more complex than I would have preferred.

Fast forward to SEEMS and gunfights have been fought on numerous occasions using a variety of rules and with 28mm now being the preferred scale. 

I have mentioned in the blog wanting to tackle some skirmish level games and so when I saw the above starter set I was very tempted. Everything one needed to start gaming in the box - that seems to be the way of the world these days - and at an attractive price (£40).  Over the course of last weekend I finally succumbed and so the package arrived on Monday morning (first class service by Great Escape Games I have to say). I am really pleased with this, in fact so pleased that I order some additional figures and a copy of the campaign supplement which arrived this morning! I now have 21 x 28mm metal gunfighters of various sorts to paint, a blacksmiths shop to assemble (produced by 4Ground and it is a lovely model) and ideas for some Old West games in my head. 

The basic idea is that players have a gang of around 6 to 10 models and the game is card activated. Regardless of how the rules work - and they seem very ‘slick’ indeed - I also have A Fistful of Lead to use so I am well served as far as game systems are concerned.

The thing I am really looking forward to though is painting the figures - they are really lovely castings!

As far as buildings are concerned there is a bewildering variety to choose from at all levels of budget. I only need a few and to be honest I am very tempted to build them myself,

In the meantime though, I have to get a further order in to Warbases as I rather messed up the last one as I had forgotten to get a number of essential pieces for the remaining models.

Onwards and upwards though and so I shall make a point of catching up on some Westerns during my daily commute which starts on 5th July.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

The Age of Imperialism on Mars?


Back in the day that was a lot of fun!

 I have always been keen on Victorian Science Fiction. I have been an avid reader of Wells, Verne, Burroughs, Conan Doyle and others for many years and collection of the works by these worthies nestle safely in my Kindle (and via the Kindle App on my trusty IPad). Many years ago I contributed to a set of rules called Land  Ironclads - published by Wessex Games and set within the Aeronef late 19th century universe. Brigade models have a huge range for both rules which I believe are available from the Wargames Vault. My input was limited to the section on the Turkish army of the period although I recall suggesting that the scale of 1:1200th for the vehicles was adopted to tie in with the Aeronef models. 


This was a great collaboration with Aussie Paul - we had a lot of fun with this for sure!

It was all enormous fun at the time but enthusiasm waned and I never really raised much in the way of forces for it. I did rather more with Aeronef though and scratch built Turkish, Greek and Bulgarian aerial fleets and collaborated with Aussie Paul on a mini campaign supplement that again, is probably on the Wargames Vault somewhere. The scratch builds were solely dirigibles and I remember hoovering up vast quantities of plastic aircraft kit ordnance - dirigibles look like bombs after all - and churning out loads of models. It was all great fun.

At the time I had not read John Carter so did not get the whole Barsoom thing. As I remember correctly Space 1889 was already established when Aeronef was launched so the VSF in that universe was largely confined to the planet earth. There were plans for a naval version - Aquanef - and even for a space version - Astronef - but these never got beyond the testing phase which was a pity really,

Anyway, what is the point of all this meandering reminiscing? 

I always rather liked the idea of Redcoats on Mars but was not totally sold on the Space 1889 interpretation. As an aside I wonder how many of us when looking at a fantasy/science fiction setting are truly invested in what the creator intended? For me I like elements of the 1889 version as well as bits and pieces from John Carter but the way I see it it can be sliced and diced however you want - in much the same way as any earth bound imagi-nation.

Whilst wading my way through the Age of Imperialism figures and looking through the Plastic Soldier Review for inspiration (and yes, there has been rather a lot!) I came across a box of Sea People infantry from Hat. Something clicked. The figures have a suitably exotic appearance and lord alone knows why but they screamed out to me ‘Red/High Martians’! 




I reckon there is some mileage with these figures for what I have in mind!

Don’t worry, the sun has not totally addled what is left of my grey matter as the next set I looked at was of unmarried Zulus and British Zulu War Command so normality of sorts has kind of returned.


One of the best books on the subject by the indefatigable Ian Knight. I simply had to dip into this book again and yes, I will probably watch Zulu and Zulu Dawn again - purely in the interests of research naturally…..

I rather liked the ideas of Flyers operating over the Martian landscape - Sky Galleons of Mars style - and was thinking about all the leftover and so far unused MDF templates I have kicking around. I reckon producing some self designed models for this would  not be too difficult - along with some Martian style ground vehicles - perhaps with the Martian types modelled on some of those wonderful looking Chinese/Korean/Japanese warships of the 16th/17th century.

Designing a VSF setting to suit one’s own purposes should be no different than any other imagi-nation and it is one of things that you either enjoy doing or not.

Luckily I do.

So, it looks like a small force of redcoats will be assembled with Zulu and Martian opponents. For the latter I shall look to make some flyer/aerial gunboats and perhaps even some Land ironclads. 

First of all though, the small matter of the remaining ACW bits and pieces - and I am including figures in with this as well!


Monday, 14 June 2021

War in the Age of Imperialism


The selection of figures for one of the six combatants in the game. The other colours are blue, green, yellow, grey and purple. There are horses for the two types of rider included. The grouping into 6s and 4s is intentional and indicative of where my thoughts are heading! The above would serve as a small Portable Wargame style force in its own right. 

 You may recall my recent blog post in which I met up with Bob Cordery and took delivery of a copy of Eagle Games: War in the Age of Imperialism. This is a huge ‘Risk with resource management’ style of light wargame notable for two things - a huge map board and the 816 plastic pieces that come with it. Of these it is the 1:72nd (or close to) scale soft plastic figures that are of main interest.


Front and rear facing views of the figures. The two types on the left are (in the game) explorers and engineers. The infantryman is obvious whilst the two riders are cavalry (the the carbine) and leaders (with a sword).


The artillery piece manned by the explorer and the engineer for scale

I finally got the chance to sit down and take a closer look at what was in the box and I am really delighted that I did!

Using the top picture as a guide you can see just how many useful figures there are in the game. To begin with there are 180 infantry standing firing - these are the overall totals of the six colours available - with 72 carbine armed cavalry and 60 with swords. Add in the 48 each of the explorer and engineer figures and 60 artillery pieces you can easily begin to see exactly why I was so pleased to come by this set.

The whole set up is crying out for imagi-nation style use and by dipping into the currently available ranges from manufacturers like HAT and others it would be really simple to add those specialist types one needs. For example, Hat produce a boxed set of British Zulu War command as well as artillery, wagons, and other bits and pieces. With some careful thought beforehand the contents of this game opens up a huge amount of potential for all manner of things Colonial related - as long as one was not too fussy about details of uniforms etc (which I am not!).

I have not worked with soft plastic figures for many years but now have something of a plastic mountain across the medieval, ACW, Colonial and WW2 periods so the time is nigh for me to start doing something with them. The big plus is that it is now a lot easier working with them than way back in the 1970s!

As a matter of some urgency I am now on the lookout for the ACW set and others from the range. As the foundation of a period specific set up they are really useful.


Sunday, 13 June 2021

Boiling Hot Boot Sale Bargains


Two unexpected but welcome additions to the library. The SAS title is a more weighty tome than the title might suggest whilst the aircraft book is big, brash and glossy! At a mere 30p each they were an absolute bargain!

 It is a Sunday morning in June and whilst usually at this time of year SWMBO and I are normally found in foreign climes (Facebook continually reminds you with memories of the days in question - this time two years ago we were in Cuba….) when we are not then our local boot sale is the next best thing. Wandering around in a boot sale in the hear we have today was a tiring experience for sure but SWMBO, my daughter and I all came away with some goodies.

Boot sales are funny things in many ways. When they first start up they are primarily made up of people disposing of their bits and pieces - which is preferable to what usually happens next. After a while as the sale in question becomes more popular so the dreaded traders start moving in until eventually you end up with what is more like a glorified street market selling all manner of ‘tat’. Our local boot sale was starting to head in that direction but recently the trend has been reversed so that ordinary household sellers are once again in the majority.

Anyways, the two books you see above were added to the library - both are in pristine condition and they cost me 30p each. That is right, 30p each!

I would not describe myself as a SAS fanboy as such but I am interested in their WW2 operations, along with the SBS. Raids are great for gaming as one does not require much in the way of material to put on a cracking little action. I have a hankering for some operations in the Aegean at some point, probably with a naval angle - shades of The Guns of Navarone - so anything WW2 and ‘special forces’ related will always catch my eye.

The aircraft book is a big, glossy, coffee table style book with some very nice full page colours plates and cutaway diagrams. There is technical detail and to be honest nothing contained within the pages of this book was of earth shattering originality as most of the information has been recycled ad infinitum over the years across many other publications. Still, the eye candy is very nice indeed and for 30p I was not about to complain!

Today was the first time for some weeks I managed to buy anything - picking have been very slim - so the two new books are a welcome addition.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

More Additions to the ACW Naval Library


Absolutely delighted to add these two books to the library - £27 for Lincoln’s Navy and £5 for the Confederate. Really high quality content that will help round out my ACW naval collection - at least until I get the other dozen or so titles I am after!

 My recent series of assorted disposals gave me a modest war chest for some bits and pieces and the latest additions arrived this morning. You will probably not be surprised to learn that there is a tale behind this!


An admirable book but damaged beyond my standard for a ‘new’ book so was duly returned. I may well add it at some point but there are other titles I want beforehand

You may recall my recent post (02/06) about the Confederate Navy book that arrived slightly damaged. The damage was actually rather more than I initially thought so I opted to return it for a full refund. The book had been described as being ‘like new’ - it most certainly was not which was a shame really but there you have it.

Meanwhile, the two titles you see above that arrived this morning I had originally been ‘watching’ on eBay and were both listed by the same seller. Note the author of Lincoln’s Navy - the same chap that had written the book I had earlier returned on the Confederate navy. I ordered Lincoln’s Navy from the seller that both volumes listed but initially had decided against the Confederate title as I had the version by the same author on its way (the one that ultimately had to be returned due to damage I had originally ordered before pulling the trigger on the Lincoln title). 

If you are following all this then well done!

The new Confederate navy title (the one in the picture just in case you have lost track!) then appeared listed with another seller at a much lower price than the copy that was listed by the seller alongside Lincoln’s Navy. So, as by now my damaged book was on its way back to its seller and I had been refunded I opted to bid on this book instead.

A confusing tale for sure but it worked out alright in the end!


Page 1 on the Confederate nay contents….


….followed by page 2.


The contents of Lincoln’s Navy

Both titles are not encyclopaedic in respect of the ships that served etc but instead cover much ground in respect of the organisation of the navies and how they worked and what went where and why. It is all very valuable material and I will be sure to make good use of it.

All’s well that ends well and all that!

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Resourcing Projects




 Oh yes indeedy! This time I intend hanging on to it!


The back of the box detailing the scenarios and showing the figures

For the first time since I do not know when I had the pleasure of meeting up briefly with Bob Cordery to exchange some bits and pieces and to ‘shoot the breeze’ about matters gaming related and life in general. Bob looked well and was in his usual good form as we chatted about ‘stuff’ after having transacted the all important business. 

The business in hand meant that a large box of goodies was heading my way whilst a much smaller box was heading to Bob. 

Battle Cry was the first Command and Colours I played and the version you see above was the anniversary 2nd edition which included rather more scenarios than the original version as well as better figures. You will probably not be surprised to learn that I have owned this game previously but had passed it on (and immediately regretted it) so to have it back in my collection is a real pleasure. My Spencer Smith project was based on this and to be honest the idea of revisiting the concept again using painted figures is certainly appealing. I could paint those included in the game but would need to get rather more of them as I plan to use the 6 infantry figure standard on two bases for my armies with four figures for cavalry and two or three gunners for artillery. It is something to think about to tie in with the naval project.


A large box full of useful goodies and a massive game board


The back of the box - I now want to get the ACW game in this series, again, not for the game as such, just the components aka: The Figures!


The all important ‘bits and pieces’ - I am confident that I can find uses for most of what is the box!

The second game from Bob’s collection is something a little different and to be honest the sole reason for me getting this is the for the game components. There are 816 pieces in this monster of a game and to be honest I doubt very much if I will ever play it as intended. Whilst the figures in this will not win any prizes for detail they are suitably generic looking to be usable for a whole variety of things - and that is the plan because by dipping into any of the current plastic figure manufacturers (Hat springs to mind) one can round out the forces available. I actually rather enjoy working with plastic figures  - it takes me back to those Airfix armies of yesteryear - but these days the need to convert figures is not quite as essential as back then, simply due to the choice currently available.

I now have a good selection of board game plastic figures - all of which are around the 20mm size - from Risk: Medieval, Axis and Allies and now the two games above. There are some plans afoot which I will get to at some point but for now having the raw material to hand is the key. 

It was really good to meet up with Bob again, albeit briefly, and I am really pleased that he offered these two games to me so I now need to get my thinking cap on!