Thursday 29 September 2022

Thoughts about the Land of the Rising Sun

I know, I know - the Test of Honour rules were not part of the birthday haul but I couldn’t resist it! The two boxed sets of figures and The Book of Five Rings are both welcome additions to the collection.

I spent some time reviewing parts of the birthday haul and how they fit in the overall scheme of things. The 28mm Samurai infantry and cavalry box sets finish off rather nicely the selection that recently returned home - I now have 30 infantry and 22 cavalry along with around 50 or so Ashigaru which should be more than enough for my planned Lion Rampant sized set up and also for Test of Honour sized skirmishes.

I also had a closer look at the sprues for the figures. Initially these looked rather daunting - anything up a dozen pieces per figure - but on closer inspection I now feel rather more confident dealing with them. They are quite fiddly for sure but with care should go together well enough. I am looking forward to having a go at these once the ACW ships are finished.

The book is quite lovely. The cover is silk effect and the text is supplemented with a vast array of contemporary artwork on top quality paper. I have this book on my Kindle but owning such a lovely looking physical copy is a real treat and hugely inspiring to look at.

Of course before all this oriental goodness can take place I will have to finish the ACW stuff and also make sure that I have the requisite tools for plastic modelling - everything I have thus far has been used exclusively for ‘woodwork’!

Wednesday 28 September 2022

The Birthday Haul

So, aside from the Bombay Sapphire, Cobra beers, fruit pastilles and chocolate brazils the serious stuff includes a box of Samurai cavalry and one of infantry, guides to the warships of the late Tokugawa period (the Boshin war and the Satsuma rebellion) and the uniforms of the war of the Triple Alliance. Finally, a lovely edition of The Book of the Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi.

Today has been a really good day. Laurel and I ventured out to a ‘cat cafe’ for lunch which was enormously therapeutic - a chilled environment with eleven cats wandering about and doing that feline thing which usually involves eating, sleeping out chasing random bits and pieces around the floor - and for  many positive reasons it ticked a whole lot of boxes. 

This evening, once the children were home (it seems a little strange to talk about a 34 and 26 year old as children but I guess the parental gene overrides the years involved!) we had a really tasty Indian takeaway and then the present haul was unveiled. 

Suffice it to say I was hugely delighted!

KAPOW!! 1,000,000 and 62

Well blow me down! 1,000,000 page views (bots notwithstanding….) and nearly (at 10:33 last night I was 60 views away from the million but it was reached on the 27th) on my 62nd birthday - who would have thought it!?

Nearly an uncanny coincidence for sure, but a welcome one. 

This blog has been and continues to be for me so much more than a mere list of ramblings about various projects that have waxed and waned over the years - it is an integral part of my hobby and I am truly fortunate to have built up a modest following of kindred spirits that enjoy what I do and offer help and support in equal measure. I have allowed personal real life stuff in, all the while knowing that there is a sympathetic and supportive pair of eyes somewhere out there that will interact with me and provide a welcome distraction.

To everyone that has read or commented on my numerous flights of fancy over the years I extend my sincerest thanks and gratitude. 

It means a lot.

Taking stock of a million page views and reaching 62 would, in certain quarters, be viewed as something to look back on with satisfaction and a degree of pride and for sure I am both of these things up to a point. The point is of course that never-to-be-scratched itch of things new and shiny or even of old things that are new and shiny that drives one onwards. I reckon I am good for enough content for another million page views although another 62 years may be a challenge….

Thank you all once again.

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Strike of the Eagle - The Polish Soviet War 1919 - 1920

Rather dramatic looking box art!

Close up of a game in progress

The back of the box

What about that for a map!

I am a sucker for a bargain - especially when it is a board game that is pristine condition and covering what, for me, is a period of history that I am unfamiliar with. So it was that I spotted the above board game on jolly old Facebook marketplace for a really attractive price I thought - hello, that looks interesting…. The rest as they say, is history.

This is the opening blurb from the 8 page rule book:

“The year is 1920. WW1 has ended, but the battle for Europe has just begun. Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin plan to spread the worker’s revolution by blasting through Poland in order to support the growing communist movements in Germany, France and Britain. Only the armies of Poland stand in the way of the Bolshevik state.”

None of the Great War trench malarkey with this - we are talking huge movements from Kiev and Minsk to Warsaw and the German border - compete with tanks, armoured cars and planes as well. The game is card driven and block based with blocks representing anything from 1,500 to 8,000 men.

The production quality of this game is really high featuring a mounted map that uses linked towns and cities together with road and rail networks, numerous counters, two decks of cards controlling the opposing forces and of course the blocks (that will need stickering) representing the units and key commanders.

There is also a potted history of the war together with scenarios ranging from the start of the conflict to the end. The game is also designed for two to four players.

I have recently been reading Antony Beevor’s new book on the Russian Civil War which overlaps this conflict so having this game makes for a useful addition to the collection. I also have David Manley’s excellent Steamer Wars Russian Civil War supplement so between the two I am sure that something may arise project wise. Time and research may or may not prove otherwise!

Monday 26 September 2022

ACW Naval Endgame….Part 4

Eleven of the eighteen. The original ‘double enders’ are top left whilst the improved version are the two in the centre of the bottom row. The three hull pieces on the bottom left of the pictures are in fact one model - the lower hull, the gun deck and the main deck being three parts. Anything not undercoated will be attended to today.

Now that a suitable head of steam has built up in respect of the final round of ship building I have also been turning my thoughts and efforts towards completing the rules. I am happy these are complete and as it stands all I need to finish them is to revise the Confederate ship details and write up some explanatory notes to go with the combat example pictures I took yesterday. Once these have been dome I shall be pinging off the result to the play testing dream team for a final review for typos or any clarification that may be needed. 

There are a few other writing tasks that need to be undertaken before the rules go to print. To begin with I shall be including a battle report - I have an idea for this but have yet to formalise it - as well as a brief guide to building the models I have used. There will also be the traditional introduction and acknowledgements as well as some designers notes or ‘how I got to where I got to’. There are some other bits and pieces to be included as well.

All of this is a reasonable amount of work although much of the preliminary spadework has been done - it is pretty much just a case of tying several threads together.

Meanwhile though, on with the models….

Sunday 25 September 2022

ACW Naval Endgame….Part 3

Union wooden steam frigate versus casemate ironclad - for the former this is unlikely to end well….

I spent some time yesterday sorting out the Union ‘double enders’ and am quite pleased with the end result. Some careful cutting and filing was all that was needed and so I was able to quickly get them caught up in terms of the stage of their construction with everything else that is currently on the modelling tray. This means that I have now have eleven models in active construction with a further seven to build. Of the remaining seven there are three that are casemate ironclads and the remainder are assorted gunboats.

Today I shall be working on the models again as well holding the photo shoot for the rules - this will be showing firing arcs and some combat examples.

Busy, busy, busy….

Saturday 24 September 2022

At Last!

An original edition still with the counter sheet and without all the scribbles over every scenario! This copy was originally purchased in the USA, travelled to Athens and from there to Helsinki - from there it came to me although it did take some 29 days!

In the great box of books debacle of a few years ago one of the items lost in the ether was my copy of the original edition of Volley and Bayonet by Frank Chadwick and Greg Novak. It has been a challenge trying to get a replacement that would not cost an arm and a leg. David in Suffolk very kindly let me have a photocopy of the rules and I was finally able to score a set on eBay but these were the set that had copious notes scribbled across all the scenarios. I had basically given up getting a full set and as a last throw of the dice put a shout out on the Facebook Volley and Bayonet group. 

Bingo! A very nice chap living in Helsinki was happy to part with is set and despite it taking 29 days to get here it finally arrived this morning.

What with them arriving and the wet room finally being commissioned as well as Turkish takeaway this evening the weekend suddenly looks rather more appealing!

Friday 23 September 2022

ACW Naval Endgame….Part 2

U.S.S. Sassacus - a ‘double ended’ gunboat - a lovely looking model which my own version will be (very) loosely based upon!

The central box like structure is what has caused a minor delay (actually the second minor delay but hey ho!) as the version I have is slightly too large.

Yesterday evening I spent a short while up in the man cave working on some of the remaining ACW models. The theme for the evening was largely funnels and pilot houses as for all of the models currently under construction these items needed to be made. Funnels are easy as all I do is to cut off a suitable length of dowel rod of the appropriate width and file the ends flush. These are then mounted on a craft stick for sealing, undercoating and painting - usually a uniform black.

Pilot houses are essentially box like structures but a long running problem I have had - and it is one of those that would be really easy to remedy except that I never seem to think of it - is that I do not possess any square shaped rod to cut them off in a similar way to the funnels. My solution is to merely stick two strips of basswood together and cut off the pilot houses as required. With careful sanding the ‘join’ usually disappears and sealing, paint and varnish do the rest.

Neither of these phases are difficult to accomplish but for whatever reason I had not gotten around to it. Having done so it means that nine models can now be completed in the short term with a further four being further along the production line.

One small problem did occur though. If you recall I had ordered from Warbases the revised hull templates for the Union double ended gunboats. Due to a misunderstanding I had to reorder the lower level hull template - the one that is the first layer of the hull. At present these are still in the postal system so I thought I would make a start on the upper hull. For this particular model the hull is quite simple in that the central superstructure essentially forms a box that encloses the paddle wheel. The only problem is that the ‘box’ piece is slightly too large. My schoolboy error in this case was using the wrong size hull to make the new templates from. The error is very small but to correct it would require some careful filing on both sides of the hull which I am not really sold on doing. As it happens I do need something else from Warbases so may well opt to design the correctly sized piece instead. Entirely my own fault - I should have paid more attention when getting the order together!

Thursday 22 September 2022

A Change of Pace

The Battle of Atlantic - a rather fanciful but hugely evocative image from the series of ACW prints by Kurz and Allison

The boardgame of the campaign published by Battleline in the late 1970s

Whilst the final stages of the ACW project are under way - at least that of the naval side - my thoughts have been turning towards the land side of the War between the States. For the most part I have been looking at how this can tie in with the naval side - meaning largely the western theatre - and I am happy that this will work well enough. However, I have a hankering for something exclusively land based and so have been thinking about the Atlanta Campaign of 1864

I rather like the very asymmetric nature of the campaign - the Union outnumbered the Confederates heavily, more so in the latter stages - and the tactical challenges faced by the Confederates as they were successively outflanked and forced back to Atlanta itself. When the city eventually fell the road was open for Shermans’s ‘March to the Sea’ - cutting a swathe of infrastructure destruction across the southern heartlands. I actually fought an action loosely based on the campaign using my block armies and the Axis and Allies gaming maps which made for a lively game. My working premise is that whilst the Confederates are continually retreating they can still inflict some telling blows on the Union forces. Essentially it is a long fighting retreat and let’s be honest, history is replete with them!

Could the Confederates have won? Certainly not but I believe that they could have slowed the Union advance rather more effectively. Unfortunately the temperament of the two Confederate commanders aided the Union cause as Johnstone was overly cautious whilst Hood, has replacement was the polar opposite - with servers consequences for the South. W.T. Sherman versus the cautious Johnston and the ‘hellfire’ Hood with the Union general being lauded as ‘the first modern general’ by no less a personage that Basil Liddell-Hart. What could have possibly gone wrong? Well, actually quite a lot - at least for the Confederates anyhow.

Sherman once said that “Grant supported me when I was mad and I supported Grant when he was drunk. Now we just support each other”. Certainly an interesting match up of command.

For me there is definite potential for a series of linked games using my block armies. The aims of each side are quite simple - the Union needs to get to Atlanta whilst the Confederates must delay and tie up as many Union troops as possible. In many ways I am reminded of the Kobayashi Maru exercise from Star Trek - the famous ‘no-win’ scenario - but without the benefit of Captain Kirk’s reprogramming!

My ACW library has yet to feature any specific titles about the Atlanta campaign - for the most part Vicksburg has taken up most of studying time - but this is something I will look to address.

Meanwhile though, back to the floating part of the ACW - the ships!

Tuesday 20 September 2022

ACW Naval Endgame….Part 1

U.S.S. Ozark and….

….C.S.S. Selma minus the supporting frames (designed to maintain the structural integrity of the hull) - both of these pictures are of the Peter Pig 1:600th scale models cast in resin.

At the present time fitting in anything modelling related requires careful planning and so I have reverted to ascending into the man cave for short bursts - usually around half an hour or so - with a quite focused plan in mind. This evening I needed to fashion three funnels and work out a good way to make six pilot houses.

The funnels are for the U.S.S. Ozark (x 2) and the C.S.S. Selma (just the one!) and the pilot houses are for these two as well as four gunboats. As is usual with my rather undisciplined modelling technique the pilot houses enquired a modicum of improvisation but I have nailed what is needed! Very simply it was two lengths of basswood strip glued together and then cut to size.

I also have a far clearer idea of the models left to build - 12 of them are underway with 4 yet to tackle - which sounds a little strange but throughout the life of this project many of the models have started off very much ‘on a wing and prayer’. For me to say that I know what I am building and on the scale I am talking about  - 16 models is just under a quarter of the overall total - is actually a pretty big deal. 

The big push is on now and so I am going to really give it my all as finishing the models and getting the rules ready for publishing has now assumed the status of a wargaming odyssey.

The Portable Ironclad Wargame

From one of my more memorable actions - The C.S.S. Arkansas meets the Union fleet

One of the sources of inspiration for the rules soon to be unleashed on the unsuspecting public!

The project of nearly three years is in its final stages. I have the bits and pieces I need for the final 16 ships (I was going to build 10, decided that 12 would be better and then settled on 16…) and the final draft of the rules is very close to be shipped off to the play testing team for what I hope will be a ‘typo and grammar checking’ exercise. I have a raft of pictures to take to support the rules - firing arcs and combat examples - as well writing an introduction, fleshing out the bibliography and penning a section about how I built the models I have been using. I also have to design and fight a battle that will be appearing in the book and will demonstrate the rules in action.

It all sounds a lot but in truth much of what I need to do is already at varying stages of readiness. The plan is for the rules to be appearing in print as part of Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame stable at some point during Q4 - in other words in time for Christmas! They are to be published in hard and soft back and I believe a PDF version will also be available.

I am officially excited about all of this so had best get a wriggle on and get it all finished!

Saturday 17 September 2022

Balsa, MDF and Lashings of Glue….

The model at the top of the picture is now ready for sealing, undercoating and painting - the hull at the bottom has not really had much done with it - note the two ship’s boats placed just so that you can see them.

That may give a slightly better view - any thoughts on the hull template at the bottom of the picture?

A problematic kind of day - don’t ask -  but I was able to get some work in on the final batch of models for the ACW project. Now the sensible thing would have been to finish up the models already under various degrees of construction but, hey ho, a modest challenge presented itself and it would have been churlish to turn it down….

I also thought that it would be good to share the state of play of the build so far and of the ship’s boats that Warbases have come up with for me.

Onwards and upwards!

Friday 16 September 2022

Last Lap with the End in Sight

C.S.S. Mississippi - guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of any Union gunboat in the vicinity. I am building one of these to go with the C.S.S. Louisiana and the C.S.S. Manassas.

I must get around to fighting that particular action - perhaps over the coming weekend

C.S.S. Selma - I am looking forward to making this!

My order from Warbases arrived containing the final pieces for the last of the ACW ships. This means that I shall be knee deep in MDF for the next couple of weeks as I endeavour to bring the collection to a close, ideally by the end of the month so I had better crack on! When I say close I naturally mean that it will be as far as I want to go for the present - no doubt the odd model or two may be added as and when needed in the future. The final collection will number around 75 or so scratch built models which is a pretty good going in my opinion! The rules are entering their final stages and the plan is to have them available in print a little later in the year - certainly in time for Christmas.

The lower hull for the revised double ender Union gunboats. The deliberate mistake concerns the side sponsons - they should only be on the second layer as these are where the paddles are.

True to form there was a small issue with the order but nothing that a swift exchange of emails couldn’t put to rights. I have more than enough to be getting on with in the meantime as I currently have 11 models in various stages of construction/painting and a further 4 to start from scratch. The pair of double enders with the wrong hull shape will be finished and just rebadged as something else. There was enough variation among converted civilian steamers that it really should not be an issue and besides, the vast majority of the collection is largely ‘based upon’ rather than museum levels of accuracy!

Another thing I will need to do will be to furnish some hexagonal terrain tiles for river banks or coastal areas. I have a birthday coming up so may treat myself to a selection of Hexon terrain pieces or then again may just get some laser cut MDF versions and do my own thing with them.

Right then, head down and get on with it!

Thursday 15 September 2022

Making This Up As I Go….

A very useful ‘Back of Beyond’ style map for a DBA 1500 - 1900 based campaign. The map appeared in Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog along with some other inspiring ideas for campaigns set in the region. It just needs an inland sea large enough for battleships to be perfect!

I had a very interesting and thought provoking conversation with Bob Cordery last weekend which was further enhanced by his recent blog post which you can read here

The idea of ‘imagi-nations’ is something that has always been there or thereabouts throughout my gaming career and I have often dabbled with the concept albeit somewhat on the periphery. If truth be told I have often made some great plans for something imagi-nation based but invariably have never really followed through with any of my own ideas. The closest I ever got to gaming something ‘homegrown’ was the based on the North West Frontier of India and set in the fictional Roghan Valley and gamed some ten years ago. My plan at the time was to raise the forces in 54mm using Armies in Plastic figures and indeed, I even went as far as acquiring everything I needed. Sadly over time the idea withered on the vine and the figures have long since departed - they were last seen heading to Yorkshire - although I still managed to fight a game which appeared on the blog - Striking the Match - as one of the early encounters using my block armies.

This whole idea was very modest in scope and was literally confined to the valley itself. The troops were largely representative of a typical frontier defence force whilst the tribesmen were the usual mixture of assorted occasional friends or implacable enemies - usually depending on the value of the Imperial subsidies. It was relatively tongue in cheek in a Carry On Up The Khyber kind of way. As envisaged it would have led to a modest sized campaign featuring around half a dozen battles or so.

The terrain was based on a typical NW Frontier valley, the Imperial troops were fictitious as were the tribal types. In essence it was a kind of Hollywood ‘based upon’ style of set up. I think the initial idea was sound but the planned execution was a little on the ambitious side and besides - there was no naval dimension to speak of!

At no time have I taken the imagi-nation bull by the horns and created armies etc completely from scratch. I had plans to do this with two forces set during the latter years of the 18th century and inspired by Charge! And The Wargame and these went by the names of the Grand Duchy of Artois and the Electorate of Kronenbourg (the latter was founded in 1664). My plan was to have the Artois forces units named after wines whilst those of Kronenbourg were after beers. For the record I never quite sampled each of the namesakes of the intended units (I did give it a good go though!)!

Building something completely from scratch is quite an undertaking and requires a lot of work and dedication. Henry Hyde’s new tome on Wargames Campaigns touches on this in some detail and I have seen firsthand how Bob Cordery set up both his World of 1891 and more recently his La Belle Époque set up. Archduke Piccolo is also very active in this regard and so checking out either blog has been a continual source of inspiration for me. One must also tip one’s hat to Tony Bath’s Hyboria set up along with those of Henry Hyde and the late Charles Grant and on a more personal level, that of Eric Knowles’s Madasahatta.

For me personally I seem to prefer to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ and make use of existing fictional set ups. I have enjoyed many games using Bob Cordery’s Fezia and Rusland (from his world of 1891) and indeed, actually got as far as producing ships for both sides but that was it. 

If I am honest then I would say that I am a little nervous at the idea of designing armies and navies completely from scratch - especially the uniforms and equipment etc - and would probably opt to use largely historical armies in fictional settings or rebadging actual armies into something else. Having said that my planned late 19th century Madasahatta style set up using 20mm plastics will involve a degree of artistic licence in a Hollywood ‘based upon’ approach. A good example of this is the British infantry as depicted in the film Zulu - they looked the part but there were sufficient historical holes to drive several buses through. The Battle of the Bulge and the tanks used is another example.

In many ways I feel at a kind of crossroads in respect of certain elements of my wargaming. I enjoy both historical and imagination based wargames but am leaning more and more towards the latter. Having said that old habits die hard and so my imagination based games will always have a degree of historicity attached to them - as is only fitting.

Where to now?

The most likely project for me in this regard will undoubtedly be the Madasahatta effort although I have something else in mind that is currently piquing my curiosity so to speak. I have this idea about extending the scope of the Roghan Valley to include elements of Central Asia - especially if I can fit in an inland sea (think the Caspian or even they Black Sea) - thereby allowing the Russians in (shades of the Great Game) with a Turkish interest as well. I am looking to acquire a copy of Eagle Games ACW game for the figures which will not only give me a couple of Portable Wargame sized armies for the War between the States but also some kepi wearing Russians. Not entirely accurate but close enough for my purposes and with an inland sea naturally the naval side will get a look in!

I have also been thinking about how to go down the Shogun book route and add European style troops to fight the figures from the boardgame of the same name. That would make for an interesting match up methinks.

As ever then, there much to think about and I am sure that ideas will be formed and discarded with monotonous and inevitable regularity!

For now though, I have just received my order of custom cut ship parts from Warbases so you know what that means….

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Revisiting a Test of Honour

A sprue of Samurai on foot. There are plenty of options for heads and personal weaponry - a basic foot figure is made up of the torso in two halves, two legs two arms and a head and then you add the weapons of choice

I have spent some recently revisiting the Test of Honour Samurai skirmish game - the one that I had given away only for it to return some years later - and after having looked at it with a fresher and perhaps rather more objective pair of eyes I am thinking that it is not half bad! I am unsure as to why I did not take to it the first time around although I suspect it may have had something to do with the complexity of assembling the figures. These are 28mm hard plastic but are typically made up of around 10 or more separate parts - thank goodness you do not need that many figures for a game!

As mentioned previously, I will need to add a box each of Samurai infantry and cavalry as currently there is only 10 of each. This would be sufficient for Test of Honour but seeing as I am looking further afield into Lion Rampant territory I will need more of each.

Terrain on the left sheet and at the top of the right with various game counters below. All the counters are double sided and so the small dwellings on the flip side are depicted as on fire.

The game itself itself is designed for a 3ft square playing area and it includes some press out card terrain tiles for the figures to fight over. There is now a substantial choice available of suitable dwellings and other terrain pieces (both resin and MDF) so acquiring a few bits and pieces would certainly not break the bank.

As to the figures themselves, obviously care and patience will be required in assembling them. Painting will be a challenge but given the low numbers involved hopefully it should not prove to be much of a problem (famous last words eh?).

I can see myself raising two regular forces and perhaps a third of miscellaneous Ronin types. I am seriously considering painting the two regular forces in the colours of Lords Toranaga and Ishido from James Clavell’s Shogun - mid brown for the former and light grey for the latter. In a moment of whimsy I thought perhaps some European types would add to the mix - certainly the book Shogun has some potential for this - which would open up a whole new dimension to the set up. 

First things first though - for now I need to get some of the additional plastic figures (luckily I have a convenient birthday in two weeks time!) - and so I received the welcome news yesterday that my Warbases order in en route meaning that the ACW ships will once again be front and centre for the final big push to the finish line.

Monday 12 September 2022

That Was The Week That Was….

From the first edition of the Test of Honour Samurai Skirmish game - the battle guide has a series of scenarios that get more involved as the players gain experience with the rules.

The rear covers - note the painting guide. The only painting guide I have ever followed in my entire gaming career was the one included in the rules for the GW game Battlefleet Gothic. The models were also the very first I ever painted using solely acrylic paints and they came out really nicely if I say so myself! I will certainly try to follow this when I eventually get to the painting although that is a long way off at present.

It has been a hugely busy few days at Maison Crook as the work commenced on converting our en-suite into a wet room. As is usual when any kind of home renovation/refurbishment/remodelling is undertaken the disruption spreads far and wide. As I type this downstairs at my workstation in the front room - known as ‘the office’ - I am looking out of the window and seeing a whole pile of plasterboard, timber, shower accessories and a tangle of pipes and rubble. Our builder estimates another couple of weeks to be fully finished so the disruption will continue.

Needless to say little has been done in respect of gaming or model making but now that we seem to be on something of a more even keel I am hoping to resume my regular short sessions in the man cave so that the ACW ships can be finished.

I have been catching up on some reading in the meantime and have had a couple of very good conversations over the weekend that have given me a few things to think about so all is well and I am sure I shall be back hard at it in the shipyard in due course.

Matters Samurai related have kind of been front and centre recently - at least reading about the Sekigahara campaign has, along with various sets of rules including those for Test of Honour: the Samurai skirmish game. There is a second edition of this game available and so I would be keen to see what the differences, if any, are. Having gone through the figures available from the collection that returned from Mr Fox I am pretty well set up for Ashigaru - both melee and missile (bow and shot) - but will need to get some more foot and mounted Samurai as there is only 10 of each. I mentioned that Mr Fox had also very kindly sent me a copy of the unit types for use with Lion Rampant which has proven to be very useful in organising what I will be able to field. I also note that there are plenty of suitable buildings available in MDF so terrain will not be an issue when I get to it in earnest.

History Made and in the Making

I have few words to add to the mountain of worthy posts and bulletins concerning the passing of Queen Elizabeth the Second and the accession to the throne of her son, King Charles the Third. Rest in Peace Ma’am and thank you for your unstinting years of service. God save the King.

Wednesday 7 September 2022

Old, New Friends and New, New Friends

Welcome home! The Test of Honour base game plus a shoebox full of Samurai/Ashigaru sprues and a box of Ashigaru missile troops and two rather useful ACW titles

Yesterday evening I paid a visit to my old friend Mr Fox to collect some bits and pieces and have a catch up. If you recall I had mentioned previously that he was the custodian of a whole pile of Test of Honour 28mm Samurai plastics that had been adorning his loft since I gave them to him a few years back. These are now back with me and so plans can move forward for some man to man skirmish/Lion Rampant style action in due course.

Neil had been a busy chap and time was spent looking over some of his collections and I only wish. Had some pictures as what he showed me was quite simply splendid. The whole Rampant series has really resonated with him and so he showed me his Seven Years War, Napoleonic Peninsula and War of the Roses collection and quite lovely they are as well! I have yet to get a copy of Lion Rampant 2nd edition but for sure it is on my to get list - it is my birthday later this month so a copy features on my Amazon list!

Neil is very generous with his painting and modelling tips and so was happy to take my barrage of questions in a ‘Yoda and Luke’ kind of way - pearls of wisdom that I fully intend using when I get to the painting.

Definitely a new one for me - Acting Ensign John W. Grattan served in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron between the years 1863 and 1865 and witnessed some of the most significant naval operations of the war. Very useful indeed!

I had some books for him and he for me although he latter was quite impromptu but hugely appreciated. In truth two of the three books coming back my way originally came from my collection when I abandoned the first ACW project some years ago. It was great to have them back on the shelf!

Neil also generously donated to the cause the book you see above which after a cursory flick through looks like it will be a cracking addition to the ACW section of my library.

It was a very pleasant evening all round and my thanks once again to Mr Fox for his generosity and the iced cold one that cane with it!

Monday 5 September 2022

19th Century Naval Conundrums

The Battle of Riachuelo during the War of the Triple Alliance

Now that the ACW naval project is gradually winding down I am able to at last really think about what comes next. Regular readers of the blog will no doubt recall several ideas cropping up and in truth, there is a pleasing smorgasbord of potential conflicts to explore from a naval perspective. I suppose in many ways the key thing I have borne in mind with all this ‘mental meandering’ is the need for what would be a different style of tactical challenge. The ACW offers everything from river based gunboat skirmishes to high seas ‘runners and raiders’ with coastal actions thrown in for good measure. In short it is replete with potential and indeed, one could game the ACW afloat exclusively and have a very rich and longstanding seam to tap into. 

The War of the Triple Alliance and the later War of the Pacific both have much to commend the naval wargamer. The forces are relatively small, the ships are an interesting mix of purpose built warships and converted civilian types, ironclad, wooden vessels, screw and paddle wheelers are all in evidence. There are river based actions for the former and largely coastal for the latter. Between the two wars you have pretty much everything that the ACW had in terms of variety of gaming potential.

David Manley has produced an outstanding supplement for each of the South American conflicts - there are even counters for the ships featured - which include a complete campaign system as well as potted histories of the wars, scenario ideas and ship specifications so pretty much everything you need is to hand. He is even designing STL files of the major ships for those of the 3D printing fraternity. In short, these are essentially the complete package for the would be gamer in the period.

3D printing is not an option for me as my shipbuilding is firmly wedded to the use of lashings of MDF, cardboard, bamboo skewers and wooden cocktail sticks!

I am keen to explore both conflicts but I have this nagging feeling that for the moment they are rather too close to the ACW in terms of gaming. I am conscious of the fact that perhaps I need a bit of a change especially if I am tackling another naval project. Having said that many of the ships from both wars would be easy enough to build but in the cold light of day I am unsure if at his stage I want to. It would feel very much like making the models because I can rather than because I should. The same could also apply to the Boshin War - I am keen to tackle this but again, would it feel a little too similar to what I have been doing for the past two years or so?

The same could also be said about the Russo-Turkish War up to a point. 

All four of these conflicts will get their fair share of attention in due course but for now I really need a change of tack.

I want to maintain the ship building enthusiasm because I enjoy the whole process of turning a picture or a plan into a model that looks similar to the original, more or less!

Winding the historical clock backwards one of course hits Age of Sail territory. From the time of the Spanish Armada up to the Napoleonic Wars there is plenty of potential and again, I have enough model building ideas for a couple or three projects. This will require more time and effort to organise compared to the later options I have in mind.

Winding the historical clock forwards a few decades then we have my yet to be finalised ideas surrounding Madasahatta circa 1900 or even East Africa during the Great War - Lake Tanganyika and the Rufiji Delta. These are suitably different enough from the middle years of the 19th century to be worthy of serious consideration and besides, I rather fancy tackling something a little later.

For now though, I shall concentrate on finishing the ACW models so work will resume in earnest as soon as the Warbases order lands.

Friday 2 September 2022

The Paraguayan War Afloat

 The War of the Triple Alliance - afloat

The indefatigable David Manley has done it again! Another campaign style supplement for his Dahlgren and Colombiad and Iron and Fire rules available from the Wargames Vault. This has been a long time in the making - over ten years in fact - but in my opinion it has certainly been worth the wait.

Fought along the rivers and tributaries of the River Paraguay the opposing sides featured purpose built warships including ironclads, converted civilian screw and paddle steamers, wooden barges armed with 8” guns and carrying 500 troops and flat bottomed wooden gunboats called Chatas. 

The supplement includes a brief history of the war, a campaign system including maps and counters representing the major ships and shore batteries, an overview of the models available (Mr Manley has also prepared some files for the 3D printing fraternity) and full specifications for both Dahlgren and Colombiad and Iron and Fire.

In many ways the war along the rivers had a number of similarities with that fought along the Mississippi during the American Civil War, indeed, the main Paraguayan fortress at Humaita was compared with Vicksburg although better defended from the land side due to the extensive swamps.

The tide turned in many ways when the Paraguayans were unable to pay for some British built ironclads due to their economy crashing - instead Brazil brought them!

So what does this mean for me?

What indeed! I would like to tackle this as a project at some point but for now it will have to be filed under ‘pending’. On the face of it the whole set up appears to be a little too similar to what I have for the ACW on the rivers although once I have read about it I am sure that opinion will change.

Definitely one to do at some point and my congratulations to David Manley for producing such a top quality ‘oven ready’ supplement.

How long my resolve will last is however, a moot point….

Thursday 1 September 2022

A Tale of the Samurai

The Seven Samurai with Toshiro Mifune looking suitably Toshiro Mifune like… An absolute classic film in every sense.

My first real involvement with anything Samurai related came about via a role playing game called Bushido published by Fantasy Games Unlimited (and still available) in the early 1980s (possibly late 1970s). The Newham Wargames Club took it enthusiastically - Mr Fox still has some of his painted 28mmNaismith figures from the period - and when Dixon Miniatures launched their range it seemed like a golden age was upon us. One of the big highlights of the time was a visit to the National Film Theatre in London’s West End to watch Akira Kurosawa’s epic of the Seven Samurai. Eric Knowles and his son Bill (Bill was the game master for the Bushido campaign in which yours truly featured as a warrior peasant….) were in attendance along several other luminaries of the old Newham Wargames Club. The film was hugely inspirational and is one of my perennial favourites.

Anyways, the years rolled on and here we are now in 2022 with the Samurai itch still in evidence although about to be scratched in a number of ways!

The figures from Shogun….

….and the massive box they live in. Note the rules and scenario book from….

….Command and Colours: Samurai battles.

To begin with I have a copy of Command and Colours: Samurai Battles which is fully labelled and with the terrain tiles and counters carefully punched and trimmed. I also have my recently acquired copy of Shogun - the large, Risk style strategic level game that includes some 400 plus 1:72nd scale hard plastic figures that are fully compatible with some of the available sets - notably cavalry (missing from the game), command and even artillery if you wished. This was going to be my preferred choice for army level style games - using the figures from Shogun along with the Command and Colours rules or possibly something Portable Wargame or DBA based. 

There is another option to explore and one that will present a real challenge but at the scale I am thinking it should work out reasonably well. 

A few years ago a Samurai skirmish game called Test of Honour was released by Warlord Games (now with Grey for Now Games) that included all you needed to set up small scale skirmishes during the era of the Samurai. The game was designed for around 20 figures or so which is fine but I wanted something a little larger. Anyways, I acquired a copy of the starter set and some of the additional figure packs (no metals) but for one reason or another it never really got off the ground. I remember being less than enthusiastic about the rules (not sure why though) and so the entire collection of the plastics were donated to Mr Fox. They are still lurking in his loft and following a brief exchange of emails and a quick chat last night the whole shebang will be winging its way back to me.

What on earth am I thinking of? Two scales of Samurai? Am I mad? I suspect the answer to all three would be something like: not sure/yes/probably….

I rather like the idea of using the larger figures for man to man skirmishes but also for Lion Rampant sized actions. The smaller figures will of course be used for battles. So, I am now looking at not one but possibly four Samurai themed projects - large battles using 20mm, man to man and larger skirmishes using 28mm and the Boshin/Satsuma Rebellion in 20mm and also afloat.

I think I need a lie down, pass me a futon please whilst I compose a Haiku and look at the cherry blossom…