Saturday 23 December 2023

On a Wing and a Prayer

Naturally the Blue Max and Aces High will be required viewing for research purposes….I may even look at Dawn Patrol

The back of the box

Phew! It has been an insanely busy week or so since my last post - work and the domestic round being the guilty parties - so I figured it would be a good time to rectify this regrettable oversight!

With the Christmas break fast approaching - I now off until the second of January - I am determined to fit in some gaming ‘me’ time at some point. This usually means not a lot but I have organised some quick wins that should be achievable. To start with I have some ACW ships to finish as well as a few to start building - luckily these are for the most part simple gunboats and so should not take too long.

Given that much of my gaming these days tends to be solo it is probably surprising that I have not really gone for any dedicated solo boardgames. This is changing though and I suspect that a few others will appear within the collection over time. Western Front Ace is exactly what it says on the lid in that you start off as a new pilot in 1916 and then attempt to stay alive, complete missions, shoot down enemy aircraft, stay alive, gain prestige, promotion and awards, did I mention stay alive? The game is quite brutal and in this sense represents the usually very short lifespan of a Great War Scout (fighter) pilot rather well, some may say rather too well! There are all the usual types represented and one can campaign as one of the historic aces if desired. I am looking forward to this - the game was acquired secondhand but was barely punched and in fact the previous owner only flew twice.

I have a WW2 updated equivalent of the classic Avalon Hill game B17 - Queen of the Skies called Target for Today (there is also an RAF themed version called Target for Tonight) which expands the bombers available to include the B24 which should be fun to do. Although the game is designed with the 8th Air Force in mind it also covers the 15th and so missions over Italy and the Balkans etc will feature - along with Romanian IAR Fighters. Again, this will keep me busy.

I have some reading to catch up on and have a feeling that some books may feature for Christmas but that will feature in a later post.

Tuesday 12 December 2023

One Year Ago….

One year ago - I was (and still am) dead chuffed to have gotten this into print!

The contents.

The year since the Portable Ironclads Wargame was published has flown by! I would like to thank everybody that has acquired a copy and hope that you have enjoyed the book and have even gotten some games in using the rules. If it served to push undecided gamers over the edge into gaming the period then even better!

The book is not without its faults and time and hindsight has a great way of making one look at something with a fresher pair of eyes. Thankfully the problems are not massive although I must confess that I have winced at some of the language used - there was much bloviation for sure! Some of the explanations in the rules could use a little tidying up as well. There is a lesson to be learned here in that what I had written occasionally did not tally with what I thought I had meant!

I had always planned to produce a follow up volume and that is still the plan although it has changed shape slightly. Rather than being a volume consisting merely of optional rules and updated ship specs I have taken the opportunity to rebadge it as a fully revised and expanded version. I thought long and hard about this but my reasoning is quite simple. It is easier to write it this way and will enable me to iron out any remaining wrinkles from the Portable Ironclads Wargame in a tidier manner and without having to go back and forth between volumes. In truth this revised and expanded edition is, upon reflection, what the original title should have been.

So what will be in the new book? Without going into too much detail I plan to include the following:

The rules - tidied up from the first edition and including all the planned optional rules - there will be explanations about these as well as I believe it is important to understand the whys and wherefores. This section will also include the use of a square grid as well as the original hexagonal version.

Expanded ship specifications for the ACW and including those for the War in the Pacific.

A couple of battle reports.

There is something else I am thinking about but have yet to finalise the details…..

A lot of the groundwork for this has been prepared so now the long and laborious task of getting numerous scribbled notes and partially drafted chapters into some kind of order can continue in earnest. There is also the small matter of some further models to be made and of testing a few bits and pieces.

To those that joined me on the first step in this endeavour I will say only this - many thanks and get ready for the next phase!

Sunday 10 December 2023

A Laminated Alternative

The first side - the mats are referred to as Able, Baker, Charlie and Dog

And the reverse. These mats came originally from that all round good chap the legendary Archduke Piccolo to whom I extend my grateful thanks (and apologies it has taken me so long to get around to laminating them!

I am not a fan of paper gaming mats or board game maps printed on thin card. I realise that the latter is usually designed to get the game underway ‘straight from the box’ and that the maps in a board game are an essential part of the game itself. In my experience neither option tends to last well with repeated folding and the inevitable wear along the folds being the main reasons. Years ago I had a set of gaming mats from Axis Allies: War at Sea and also the land based version laminated. This helps to preserve the playing area at the minor inconvenience of them being unable to be folded again. That is not a problem for me as I keep them on my gaming table under a piece similarly sized plywood. They are ‘shiny’ but I can live with that - along with having to secure multiple sheets when required using blue tack or similar - they can slid around if you are not careful so I usually deploy them on top of a cloth which stops any unwanted movement. As an alternative to using a printed gaming mat the biggest single advantage is of course cost. With this in mind I decided to revisit laminating as an option as I have various bits and pieces that could work using this method.

Earlier this week then,  I dropped off a further four Axis and Allies mats - these feature smaller hexes than my original versions - along with with four Axis and Allies: Angels 20 mats (actually two of these are from Bandits High) and a couple of quick reference sheets that are larger than A4. The Axis and Allies mats - these are from the collectible WW2 game - are double sided so there are eight battlefields with even more if they are combined. The hex size - 2” across the flat sides - would only take a single block from my block armies so I would probably opt to use the ‘2 hit and gone’ option from the Portable Wargame, failing that the counters from the travel version of the game Othello which would enable me to use ‘full strength point strength points’ (the usual 4, 3 or 2 standard). These maps are certainly very usable for small scale actions with perhaps half a dozen or so units a side. In fact a single mat would fit on a tray (just about with the ones we have at home - the lid of a 32 litre plastic storage box works just as well!) so a truly ‘trayble’ top wargame.

A nondescript piece of north European real estate - the hexes are 11cm across the flat sides

And an equally nondescript Pacific island

The aerial maps feature two sets each of two sheets. The first pair, from Angels 20, feature an aerial view of a fairly anonymous piece of real estate - representing ‘somewhere in Southern England’ - whilst those from Bandits High feature an island . This is intended for the Pacific but would be equally usable anywhere really.

The mats do slid around a little but as mentioned, placing them on a cloth tends to keep them in place. To join sections I would probably see some file strips or even, and I have done this before, small pieces of blue tack or similar.

I have some other mats and maps that will receive similar treatment in due course and as a cheaper alternative to buying a bespoke cloth I reckon they tick a number of boxes. It also means that the mats or maps will last longer at the minor inconvenience of not be able to be folded.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Midway to Scratching an Itch

Perfect for a Sunday afternoon chasing aircraft carriers across the Pacific!

I have often waxed lyrical about Flat Top - the game of carrier battles in the Pacific during 1942 by my favourite game designer, the late S. Craig Taylor (of Air Force and Wooden Ships and Iron Men fame - again, some of my favourite games) - and although I have played it countless times in the past (marathon weekend sessions with an old gaming chum of mine) it is a game that needs dedication on the part of the players to get the best from it. It is complex but only because the subject matter of carrier operations is as the game mechanics are relatively straightforward - as long one is methodical in one’s record keeping that is! The original Battleline version did not cover Midway but when Avalon Hill updated it the ships for that operation were included although the scenario was not. The boardgame CV, by the same designer and published by Yaquinto, used a near identical rule system to Flat Top and was exclusively devoted to the Midway operation. Anyways, fast forward to early 1990s Avalon Hill produced the Smithsonian range of boardgames that were intended to be entry level offerings to encourage new gamers. Along with Mustangs (which I have and it is a peach of a game), Midway featured as well as Guadalcanal, with the latter covering much the same actions as Flat Top only in a simpler way. By a strange coincidence Mustangs, Midway and Guadalcanal are all designed by, yes you’ve guessed it - the late S. Craig Taylor!

If Mustangs and Midway are anything to go by then it seems as though Taylor had looked at his original designs and pared them back to capture the essence of the subject matter rather than slapping on infinite layers of complexity. I like to think that experience and evolution of gaming systems had honed his approach! His original games were detailed and required dedication to get them to work but the end result felt right - at least in terms of the all important flavour.

At the time the Smithsonian series of boardgames was launched in the early 1990s I was rather unfairly quite dismissive of them. Why would I need simpler version of games covering those areas I was interested in when I had enjoyed their more complex forebears? It was quite shortsighted of me at the time and given that I now prefer games that are simpler in execution was a situation that needed to be addressed - and so I am! The catalyst for this was undoubtedly my acquisition of Mustangs - only then did I realise that S. Craig Taylor was behind it as one can certainly see the Air Force influence in the game - so when I saw that he was also behind Midway and Guadalcanal I naturally had to get them. They are a simpler option to Flat Top and therefore more gamer and time friendly.

I was able to score the above game on evil bay for a very good price and have also managed to get hold of a copy of Guadalcanal for the same cost. At first glance through the rules it is really clear where they have been developed from. The one thing I was pleased to see is that there is rather more rounded combat system via the use of a battle board. It is stylised but works well enough and indeed, it has given me a number of ideas away from the Pacific.

The components are typical Avalon Hill quality with a pair of mounted search boards and a mounted battle board. Larger than usual counters are used for the main surface vessels with destroyers being represented by divisional or flotilla counters. All of the usual suspects for Midway are represented, both afloat and in the air so carrier strikes featuring Zeroes, Kates and Vals for the Japanese and Wildcats, Devastators and Dauntless dive bombers feature - along with a whole raft of patrol and recce types.

Search boards - the very definition of find, fix and strike!

The battle board. Really keen to give this a spin and yes, I am already thinking about uses for this away from the game!

Organisational charts for Task Forces and Air Groups etc - possibly a little on the small side but with a counter count of 199 all in it should not be too much of problem

The mechanics are simple - the idea is to first find your target and then hit it with whatever you are able to muster at the time and that is in range. Careful planning is needed because is you get it wrong your carefully prepared airstrike will hit empty space which then means it has to return and be rearmed etc. I am not sure to work this aspect as a solo exercise but will give it some thought. What I will be able to do though is to fight out the actual air strikes and even surface actions (more applicable to Guadalcanal really).

I cannot see myself tackling this with models at present - for one thing I would need way too many ships and then there is the aircraft to consider. However, as a quick fix for that Pacific itch it certainly ticks a lot of boxes. I am really looking forward to getting Guadalcanal though as the variety of naval operations to game has more to offer. For now though, Midway will be a great appetiser! 

Tuesday 28 November 2023

The Nelson Touch

All of these are approaching 50 years old and for sure there is probably more updated material to be found but for all that they are hugely useful. The two titles in the bottom row are recent hardback editions.

No, not THAT Nelson, rather it refers to Richard Nelson - author of the three titles you see above and the inspiration fr my MDF trireme project, focusing on the Battle of Salamis during the Greek and Persian War.

All of these titles are useful in their own way and the book on Salamis is one of my favourite wargaming titles. The Warfleets title also includes the authors ancient naval fleet action rules so again, is pretty helpful in respect of my Salamis project. 

Two rather more modern works. The Persian War title fuses extracts from the great historians of the period with a modern overview of the war.

These five titles form my entire ancient naval library although I shall add the relevant Osprey titles in due course to round it out. It is nicely compact and largely self contained.

Ancient Naval Thoughts

Although my initial plan is for a refight of Salamis I can see no reason why this set up should not cover other actions in the period and indeed, I fully intend to look at other ancient match ups - the Punic Wars could be fun - although I will need to adjust the design for such things as the use of the Corvus or fighting towers and similar. The triremes have been designed without masts but it would be a simple matter to adjust the hull to accommodate them - simply drilling a hole would suffice - and to make some drop in masts and sails. I could not have the holes pre drilled as the hull section is in effect on its side - the top surface of the model is actually the cut side of the MDF. For now though, I will make do with counters to identify if a galley has the sails deployed.

The hexed playing surface will need to have hexes that are 2” across the flat sides for the models (these are 40mm long and designed for one model per hex) which will be handy for when I tackle my 1:2400th WW1 stuff - these models will occupy two hexes. 

Plenty of stuff to be getting on with then - I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Saturday 25 November 2023

Triremes and Salamis

A box of MDF goodies that will eventually become sixty triremes

After what seems like an age my order for sixty triremes has arrived from Warbases! The delay was entirely my fault but they are here at last and are now officially on my to do list. As this lot are destined to be used for a Salamis style action - actually the Greek and Persian was period as a whole - I shall be organising them into their respective contingents and I have a cunning plan to help with the identification. Each contingent will have a colour used on the bows and stern with flagships featuring some fancier decor. For the record I will not actually need sixty but I wanted a few spares for experimentation purposes - mainly the painting.

An imperative now is to source a suitable cloth and to complete the rules - these are based on those found in the book Salamis by Richard Nelson.

I shall be off over the Christmas and New Year holiday so hope to get some painting done, models built, drafts written and above all, the odd game or two!

Wednesday 22 November 2023

The Portable Ironclads Wargame - Revised and Expanded

 “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”. One can usually rely on Winston Churchill for an appropriate quote!

It is hard to believe that it is nearly a year since the Portable Ironclad Wargame was published! Aside from being dead chuffed with getting into print I am also hugely grateful to everyone that has purchased a copy - rather more than I expected for sure! 

For most of this year I have been occasionally scratching about working on the follow up volume, provisionally titled: Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame. The ideas are all in place and much of this has been drafted and could be polished into something usable relatively easily BUT, and it is a big but, I am now no longer convinced that this would work as I envisaged. 

The Portable Ironclads Wargames works well and I am happy with the scale and scope of the rules. For sure there are certain parts where my meaning may be a little unclear - show me a set of rules where this is not the case and I will be properly impressed - and there is the occasional error but by and large it works as intended. As mentioned previously, there was much left out in the way of optional rules and more significantly, the use of a square grid as well as hexagonal. Developing the Portable Ironclad Wargame would have addressed all these points. 

There is one fly in the ointment though, a burr under the saddle, a speed bump, call it what you will. 

I am now of the opinion that rather than drafting a volume that merely adds to the existing one I would be better served by revising and expanding the original title. This would have the advantage of having everything in one place - especially important in respect of the rules - as well all the other ‘good stuff’ - the after action reports, the ship specifications, modelling ideas etc. I believe that this will be a far better approach than merely bolting on a volume of optional rules, expanded ship specifications and anther after action report.

So this is now what I am going to do.

For gamers that have purchased the original volume this news will make little difference as presumably they would have looked to acquire the Developing title when ready - assuming that  the first book ‘floated their (ironclad) boat’ that is. The revised and expanded edition will be in effect the Portable Ironclad Wargame as I always intended it to be.

As a taster the revised and expanded edition will include the following:

Updated rules to include a couple of minor changes from the original version, optional rules, the use of a square grid as well as a hexagonal one, expanded ship specifications to include the War in the Pacific, another after action report (possibly two), more modelling ideas and an updated bibliography.

I am not going to rush this - in any event my domestic situation currently leaves me with little time for much in the way of creative effort - and so I am working towards publication at the latter end of next year, possibly earlier depending on how things come together.

As ever I will post on the blog any significant updates or milestones as and when they occur.

Friday 17 November 2023

More on the Desert

I had a spare half an hour yesterday so decided to take a closer look at the board game No Retreat: The North African Front. As mentioned previously, the production quality is top notch so I decided to share some pictures of the same but first of all….

Inspired by his very readable guide to the Zulu War I decided that the above would be a useful addition to the library - how right I was!

Along with the above, my copy of Dan Mersey’s book A Wargamers Guide to the Desert War 1940 to 1943 arrived - and very useful it is as well! I have also made a start of reading Brazen Chariots - considered by many to be tremendous book on armoured warfare during the period - and from what I have read so far I heartily agree!

For the boardgame below are a selection of pictures of the key components.

A game with nice and clear large sized counters

The first of the maps - nice and compact 

Ideal for the Benghazi Handicap

Derna to Bardia via Tobruk

Meanwhile, to the north, Crete features as a separate game

Finally, we get to El Alamein.

So as you can see the maps are nicely done and offer a lot of potential for a series of linked scenarios or a mini campaign. I forgot to mention that the game itself uses actions cards as part of the game sequence so one never knows what is going on “on the other side of the hill” so to speak.

This has the potential for a lot of fun!

Thursday 16 November 2023

Cars, Fighters, Tanks and…. Triremes!?

609 Squadron for the Spitfires (top) and 242 and 303 for the Hurricanes. 

For the Germans we have both ZG and JG 26

It has been a busy few days and no mistake! On the non gaming front the big news is that I have at last taken the plunge and replaced our venerable 20 year old Honda Civic for something that is larger, more ‘upright’ and technologically updated! There was nothing wrong with the Civic but it sat quite low and so getting in and out was getting less and less easy for me - ironically Laurel could manage rather better - and it was also showing signs of age (rather like its owner!). It had been using rather more oil that one would expect and so it was time to jump before being pushed so to speak. In truth it had been a magnificent and trouble free servant for the fourteen years I had owned it and, to be honest, I will miss it.

I am now the proud owner of a 2020 Nissan Qashqai which has all the technological bells and whistles the Civic did not. More importantly, there is more storage space, the seats are higher off the ground and the whole thing feels more substantial on the road. I was quite surprised at the 1.3 engine, being of the generation that equated engine size with power, as it delivers over 150 BHP and at driving speeds has plenty of, what is the technical term? Oh yes, that’s it “Oomph!” 

On the gaming front a number of things have fallen into place. To begin with, my order of decals for the 1:100th Battle of Britain project have arrived for the USA. These were produced by Miscellaneous Miniatures and are quite simply outstanding. I have sufficient for the 24 aircraft of the first wave and so all that needs doing now is get the map sheets laminated - I am doing this as the cloth has not worked out - and then start on the painting. The map sheets are from the Angels 20 base game and represent a fairly anonymous looking aerial view of some countryside - that from Bandits High (the largely Pacific facing other entry level game) features an area of coast and again, is suitably anonymous looking. For a change I would use it for Battle of Britain games without any problem.

A low counter density strategic game of the war in the desert - sufficient to channel one’s inner Rommel

The back of the box - note the clear and easy to read counters

The Tank part of the title refers to a cheeky little acquisition I made from a local chap of a copy of the boardgame No Retreat: The North African Front. This is a strategic level game of the war in the desert but is handled in rather a unique way. The designer is not a fan of long maps of the desert on the grounds that there is a lot of unused space. He argues that most of the key actions in the war were in effect localised and so maps can be used that focus on those areas rather than overall. There are game mechanics in place to cover the movement between sections as part of the overall campaign - significantly this is a great mechanism for the linked scenario or mini campaign approach. As an extra bonus there is also a game based largely on the rules for the desert version which covers the German airborne invasion of Crete. 

At the time of writing there are further titles available in the series - Russia, Poland/France and Italy I believe. Definitely worth a look and with a production quality that is really high - individual counters with rounded corners and mounted map boards. 

Ooops! An oversight on my part that has now been rectified!

The last part of this post is rather embarrassing! You may recall that a while back I had finalised the design of a 4cm long generic looking MDF trireme, the idea being that this would be used for a refight of Salamis. To cut a long story short and after several minor tweaks the design was finalised and so Warbases sent me the quote for the cost of the 60 models I would need. I thought I had answered his in the affirmative and so was merry waiting for the invoice to arrive so that I could formally order the models. 

It turns out that I has in fact neglected to do so this but had thought I had and so was waiting for the invoice to arrive. Now Warbases are routinely very busy so the long wait was not a problem initially. I began to wonder if I had been forgotten and so decided to send a gentle reminder. It was at this point I realised my mistake and so I contacted Warbases whilst apologising profusely for what was in fact my delayed response! The invoice came back to me within a day…..

Sunday 12 November 2023

Tanks for the Memory

Available from the Wargames Vault (not sure about printed versions in the UK) and look like a ton of fun!

Way back in the days of my youth, when Airfix ruled the world and liquid poly, enamel paint and banana oil were ‘bang on trend’ I dabbled, along with a good many others gamers ‘of a certain vintage’ in WW2 games that inevitably featured tanks. Usually a lot of them. I can recall many exciting games fought using unpainted Airfix polythene Pattons and Centurions - doubling as whatever we needed them to represent, in true Hollywood style - and Charles Grant’s Battle: Practical Wargames as the rules of choice. The polythene 25pdr and Quad tractor served as whatever anti tank gun was needed and the sole SPG Airfix produced usually served as the venerable Stug in all its various guises. Of course as experience and disposable income grew then kits became obligatory - I can remember being properly thrilled when Matchbox launched their range and had great fun building Chaffees and Jagdpanthers - an unlikely combination for sure!

The games I played back then were fun and probably more hysterical than historical but nevertheless were an important part of my wargaming career, so to speak.

Fast forward to today and purely by chance I now have the wherewithal to be able to tap into the armoured carnage of yesteryear on a trial basis but with a veneer of respectability. 

Dan Mersey needs no introduction from me - his Rampant series is well known and extremely popular - and so when I discovered that he had written a couple of set of rules (actually one set but available for two theatres) specialising in armoured warfare my only question was ‘where do I sign?’

Armoured Storm is designed for battles with 15 to 30 tanks a side with infantry, artillery and aircraft etc very much in the supporting cast. At first glance it looks cheerfully gamey and so will doubtless offend the purist but hey ho - this is designed to be a tank game pure and simple.

It looks a blast and the scale is very much at the commander of an armoured formation rather than individual vehicles. Tanks have varying abilities and the game centres on using these to their best advantage - it would not be possible to do everything with everything at once so careful planning is needed. This captures the flavour of WW2 tank combat nicely - move then fire, fire then move, manoeuvre to cover etc - so the game becomes a real tactical challenge. I have more than enough materials at home to give these a spin but curiously enough the one theatre I am lacking anything for is the Western Desert. At least I was, until now…. 

Oh Yes Indeedy! Gotta a love a tank or two!

I freely admit to be a ‘desert loving Englishman’ and so the prospect of pitting Valentines, Matilda’s, Crusaders and others against an assortment of German and Italian armour has a real appeal. To me it is armoured warfare in its purest form - no inconvenient cities or industrial sites to hamper movement - just sand, slopes, wadis and sundry other natural phenomena. The two volumes you see above look at the war in the desert from the perspective of armoured warfare and how this evolved over the course of the campaign - both from the tactical and technological standpoint.

I shall look out for a copy Tank Battles in Miniature: The Western Desert and also Mr Mersey has a title on the period which, if his book on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 is anything to go by, will be a helpful volume for sure.

One of the best accounts of the desert war in tanks  is called Brazen Chariots and it is also on my to get and read list.

Monday 6 November 2023

South Pacific, 1914 - Madasahatta Style

Not for the faint hearted but a great doorstop of a game - carrier battles, air strikes, naval battles - you name it, it’s all there. One of my absolute all time favourite boardgames.

Way back in 2020 I was able to reacquire a copy of the Avalon Hill version of S. Craig Taylor’s epic boardgame Flat Top, covering carrier battles in the South Pacific in 1942. It is a game that is a hugely rewarding experience to play, albeit requiring a lot of time and commitment. I recall playing the original Battleline version to death ‘back in the day’ but as yet have not done so with the Avalon Hill version you see above.

I had a brainwave, triggered off by all things, reading about Von Spee’s voyage across the Pacific from Tsingtao to the Coronel and the Falklands via the islands of Samoa. The brainwave is quite simple. Let us  suppose for one moment that the Far East Squadron headed to the Solomon Islands after leaving Tsingtao. This has a certain historical resonance as originally this chain of islands was split between the British and the Germans although neither country expended much in the way of resources there.

Let us imagine that both nations HAD developed their colonies including garrisons etc and suddenly you have a theatre ripe for gaming in. 

Even better, the plot maps already exist in the game Flat Top for the naval side. For the allies the Australian Navy will feature as the prominent force with the Royal Navy providing senior command and a few big and shiny ships no doubt! The Germans will have whatever escaped from Tsingtao plus a smattering of AMCs and sundry other assorted scrap metal. It will be a naval campaign of small scale actions and raids, set against a backdrop of restless natives, European soldiers of fortune, traders, missionaries and colonial garrisons. 

THIS IS NOT A NEW PROJECT - just a bit of a variation on an existing one….

Thursday 2 November 2023

Better Paint than Never!….Part 2

A Hurricane sporting the iconic early war Battle of Britain style camouflage used by the RAF. 

My second set of Vallejo paints, this time for the RAF, arrived yesterday evening - and rather nice they look as well!

The back of the box sporting a selection of types.

At present I have eight Hurricanes and four Spitfires but am seriously investigating whether or not I could source a Bolton Paul Defiant, just for the sheer hell of it! On the Axis and Allies Angels 20/Bandits High group there is a spreadsheet that covers a wealth of aircraft types for WW2, far beyond the ‘official’ types depicted in the game which is really useful. As spreadsheets go it could use a little tidying up and reordering so I will have a go at that and will eventually print a copy off, along with the fan produced bomber expansion.

In other news my cloth arrived and will be going straight back for a refund unless an exchange is an option. The quality is excellent but it is a seascape with hexes that are not white but pinkish! I could have used it but for the pink hexes….

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Better Paint than Never….

Early war Luftwaffe colours - also useful for the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. Vallejo produce another two Luftwaffe sets to the best of my knowledge - one for tropical and maritime aircraft and one for late war.

I have often mentioned about my general aversion to painting - specifically anything ‘organic’ - and that my basic technique is still rooted, for the most part, in 1970s vintage Humbrol enamels. By degrees I have been moving over to acrylics and whilst I have a selection from several manufacturers my preferred choice are this produced by Vallejo. Much of the ACW naval collection was painted using a combination of acrylic and enamel but as the enamels are being send up so the acrylics become more and more essential to my palette.

OK, I know, it has only taken me forty odd years to make the leap of faith into a new style of paint but better late than never!

I noticed that Vallejo produce a number of themed sets of colours and so was delighted to see that these included aircraft. A quick look at their list and I settled on the set you see above for the Axis and Allies 1:100th scale Battle of Britain Luftwaffe set up and a similar set for the early war RAF. The latter set should arrive in the next day or so, along with my hexed cloth, so it only leaves the decals to be ready and I have everything I need to get ‘airborne’.

A selection of schemes from the period using the paints enclosed.

I shall be adding Stukas and Heinkel 111s in due course - both are such iconic aircraft it would be rude not to! 

Tuesday 31 October 2023

At Long Last!

Oh yes indeedy! If this does not reignite the flames of the ACW project and much more then I dont know what else will!

Finally, after years of trying to track down this particular edition of the two volume set, I am at long last the proud owner of Battleships in Action by H.W. Wilson. To say that I am beyond chuffed is probably an understatement as this has been a ‘Holy Grail’ set for me for ages. Starting with the early British and French ironclads leading into the American Civil war and taking us through to looking at submarine warfare during the Great War, the series covers pretty much everything I am interested in afloat during the period in question.

Dated? Yes, certainly in terms of the writing style but for me that only adds to the experience. Factually correct? I am sure that more modern works may have better detail but taken in the spirit of the times it will be more than sufficient for my purposes.

Absolutely. Chuffed. To. Bits!

Monday 30 October 2023

Summer, 1940….

A very good read about what it was like flying a Spitfire during the Battle of Britain along with the aircraft data card from Axis and Allies: Angels 20

Plans for the Axis and Allies Battle of Britain project received a welcome boost on several fronts over the weekend. 

To begin with I received the shipping notice advising me that my 6ft by 4ft plain hexed blue cloth is en route. The mat features hexes that are 4” across the flat sides and I am hoping that the shade of blue used will enable me to fight both aerial and naval games. I opting for a plan mat so no waves or clouds etc - just a piece of blue cloth. There are some wonderful fully detailed gaming mats available and they look splendid but I wanted a plain version as I believe it will suit the appearance of my simple looking ship models more effectively. Simple paint job - simple terrain!

The final two starter sets of Angels 20 arrived so I now have all the aircraft I need for the first wave. As mentioned previously this consists of the following:

4 x Spitfire

8 x Hurricane

4 x Me110C

8 x BF109E

The RAF will be represented by 609 squadron (Spitfire), 303 squadron and 242 squadron - both flying Hurricanes. For the Luftwaffe I will be using 8/ZG 26 for the 110s and 9/JG 26 for the 109s. The decals for these are currently being produced in the US and for sure they will be on the blog when ready.

Finally, I have ordered in a couple of Vallejo paint sets - one for the RAF and one for the Luftwaffe - for the brushwork.

The models come pre-painted but I really want to put my own stamp on them. Originally I wanted to paint the Luftwaffe aircraft in the scheme used in the film The Battle of Britain but had a change of heart, so historical it will be.

The two Hurricanes units I have raised (each of four models) more or less picked themselves as to the formations represented - 303 was of course the Polish squadron whilst 242 was largely manned by Canadians under the redoubtable Douglas Bader. The Spitfires of 609 squadron came about largely due to the book you see in the picture above that was kindly given to me Mr Fox some time ago. Aside from being a cracking read, having the same name as the author was a coincidence too tempting to ignore! To the best of my knowledge though, he was no relation!

Friday 27 October 2023

The Windfall Battleships

The front cover….

….and the back

The latest addition to my naval library is Aidan Dodson’s book: The Windfall Battleships - Agincourt, Canada, Erin, Eagle and the Balkan and Latin-American Arms Races, published by Seaforth. 

This is a peach of a book covering as does the design and service of the ships mentioned as well as the commercial and political shenanigans around selling state of the art naval hardware to countries that would struggle to afford and maintain them. As well as plenty of plans and photos - many of which I have not seen before - the book includes details of both the Balkan and South American naval arms races and also a listing of ships ordered and being built at foreign shipyards. 

Any mention of ‘Balkans’ will always get my attention and with the coverage of the Turks, along with some cracking ‘before and after’ photos of the numerous Turkish rebuilds, the book is a veritable goldmine for any Ottoman Navy aficionado….mentioning no names, naturally.

The goodies do not stop there as the coverage of the South American naval situation is, if anything, me detailed. 

The chapters include the following:

1. August1914 and Beyond

2. The Latin-American Connection

3. The Balkan Connection

4. With the Grand Fleet

5. Alternative Service: Erin, Canada and Agincourt

6. Alternative Service: Eagle

7. Ends and New Beginnings

8. The Ageing Queens of Latin America

9. Retrospect

Aside from notes, bibliography and index the appendices also includes the following:

Warships Under Construction for Foreign Powers in August 1914

There is a rich vein of potential gaming goodies in here and all featuring navies that are modest in size and  easily modelled. The range of ships that were designed and not built, ordered and not paid for or built and requisitioned is vast and for the naval gamer this is like manna from heaven. 

As I flicked through the pages I found myself pondering a little over what Eric Knowles would have done with such a book…

Very highly recommended!

Thursday 26 October 2023

Angels 20, Bandits High!….Take 2

The rules are the same in each base game, the theme for Angels 20 is the Battle of Britain whilst Bandits High features the Pacific. The booster packs expanded the range and included Russian, Finnish, Italian, French, and Romanian types together with more USA, German, British and Japanese aircraft.

Did this once before, got rid of it and then a chance encounter on evil bay at a price that was far too 
hard to resist - I am back again in the world of 15mm WW2 aerial combat! 

Angels 20 was the first release, way back in 2011, and the box contained a pair of Hurricanes, a Spitfire, a pair of Bf109Es and a ME110. The set I got also had another pair of Hurricanes, a Spitfire and a BF109E. The set uses the Battle of Britain as its theme and I think that originally I should have stuck with this. As it turned out I went a bit all over the place and ended up with a collection covering much of the war in the air during WW2 but unfortunately the entire range never covered enough aircraft to flesh out multiple theatres. More were made available in booster packs but for the most part the range was restricted to single seat fighters - the larger models were the 110, a Stuka, a Sturmovik and the P38 - and the 110 and P38 were only in the two base games. Anyways, with this second coming I plan to focus solely on the Battle of Britain!

This will probably raise a few eyebrows when you read about the next purchase, again at a very reasonable price, of Bandits High - the second starter set, this version themed around the Pacific. The sole reason I purchased this was that the collection consisted of no less than 16 aircraft - so the 6 from the base game and 10 others! I only needed two of the models from the extras - a 109 and a 110 - but the others will be useful, if not for me then I know of a good home they could potentially go to. I should also mention that each base game contained a full set of the aircraft data cards so I now have all of these.

I am waiting on two further copies of the Angels 20 base games - again at a really good price - which will mean I will have 8 Hurricanes, 4 Spitfires, 8 109s and 4 110s. Fortunately a range of aircraft in 15mm is available from Old Glory so I can add Stukas and perhaps some bombers in due course. 

The models are pre painted but can be repainted as required and that is the plan in due course. I need to source some decals first though. 

The rules themselves are a lot of fun to use but are definitely at the gamier end of the scale. Needless to say I have a couple of other sets to play around with including Mustangs the Avalon Hill game, Check Your Six and Bag the Hun. 

For a playing surface I will have a 6ft by 4ft medium blue coloured cloth complete with a hex grid (did I mention the rules use hexes?) which should give me enough sky to fly around in.

Friday 20 October 2023

“Busy little creatures….”

On the left is the next expansion - containing Spunkmeyer and Ferro, the drop ship crew,  along with four ‘specialist’ aliens - whilst the two on the right are reboxed scenery items including alien eggs, facehuggers, crates, very 1980s looking computer terminals and best of all - sentry guns! The Alien warrior box contains a dozen of them - eight ordinary aliens and four of the specialist featured in the rules expansion. It now means I have all the characters and 32 aliens.

I will be completely honest in that I did have a bit of a wobble with this particular project and at one point was looking at ‘outing’ it, given the vast array of GW 40K Space Marines and Tyranids I have to work through. In many ways I think I looked at it from the wrong direction - initially I had discounted using the Aliens collection for Xenos Rampant simply because the actual troop composition is limited to just over a dozen figures. This would limit it to a succession f endless refights of the film - not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with that! However, a closer reading of the Xenos rules has revealed some useful information in that I could easily make up a force using them. With this startling piece of information I decided to persevere (not that I needed much persuading!) and so acquired that which you see above. 

As it stands at present I now have everything I need for this project - of course an APC might be nice (and yes, you can get them 3D printed from somewhere!) but for now I will content myself with what I have.

The plastic mountain is growing….

Monday 16 October 2023

SELWG O Again?

Most of the ‘haul’

I spent a rather pleasant afternoon yesterday at the Lee Valley Leisure Centre for SELWG - the show organised by the South East London Wargames Group. Before getting into the heart of this post I should mention that I did not take a single picture of of any of the games - excellent though they were - simply because I only had my phone with me and rather foolishly it did not have much of a charge left in it! To be honest my show pictures tend to be variable in quality so I shall leave it t others of the blogosphere to share theirs!

For me it was all about meeting up with gamers and just chatting about gaming related stuff . I had an interesting conversation with Nick Huband and David Barnes of The Ragged Soldier blog abut Peter Laing figures and of Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame system. We also touched on conversions of Airfix figures, Spencer Smiths and other esoterica - all good stuff. Both David and I encouraged Nick to turn his hand to blogging as his collection of Peter Laings thoroughly deserves to be seen by a wider audience - they are quite simply wonderful to look at. I am visiting his house later in the week and will get some pictures for the blog.

The 1953 edition of Pierre Clostermann’s outstanding memoir.

Unassuming looking but make no mistake, this is a true classic!

That very nice Mr Barnes presented me with a copy of ‘The Big Show’ by Pierre Clostermann. As a pilot of the Alsace squadron and attached to RAF, Clostermann served from 1942 until the end of the war in Spitfires, Typhoons and Tempests and his account is a thrilling one, albeit laced with the remorseless toll taken by high intensity operations and the loss of friends to enemy action or accident. I am delighted to have this book in my collection so once again many thanks to Mr. Barnes. 

The Haul

I picked up a few bits and pieces I was after but sadly not all. The two supplements for 0200 Hours will be useful - I had a need for some Partisans and the Desert Raid set will come in handy for use with Undaunted: North Africa. I picked the Undaunted: Reinforcements expansion - this is the second edition of this set as it has addressed the previous issue with different card backs from the base games - for the extras contained therein including a solo system which will be handy. I passed on Undaunted: Stalingrad but did pick up Undaunted: Battle of Britain which I am really looking forward to trying out.

As usual for me at these shows my usual condition of entry is whether or not Dave Lanchester is present as I routinely help him pack up at the end of the day. Filling a transit van full of books and display paraphernalia is a physically demanding undertaking and so my shoulders are feeling it this morning! I only found out yesterday that he was involved in the testing and deign of Bruce Quarrie’s Napoleons Battles in Miniature - the original orange coloured Airfix magazine guide. How about that then?

All in all a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

In answer to the question posed in the title of this post - SELWG O Again? I would have to say a wholehearted yes!

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Lock ‘N Load Tactical

Initially daunting to look at but not as complex as it appears - the core of the core rules is probably only a quarter of the page count if one confines oneself to WW2 - and no, I am not!

I am feeling rough. I have a cold that has morphed into a chesty cough (I am prone to these) coupled with a head full of cotton wool, itchy eyes and that occasional spaced out feeling. It is not the dreaded lurgy but it does seem to have taken a while to sort itself out with fluctuating degrees of severity. It is tiresome and draining but hey ho, the show must go on!

Anyway, enough of me and my woes and onto the meat of this post!

Lock ‘N Load Tactical is a board game system covering the period of WW2 up until modern times at squad level. Gamers of a certain vintage will recall Avalon Hill’s Squad Leader and the later Advanced Squad Leader for the WW2 period and Lock ‘N Load is pitched at a similar level in terms of scale and complexity - squads and individual vehicles with counters for support weapons and crews etc. The Core rules you see above run out at a little over an eye-watering 270 pages but, and it is a significant but, the font used for the text is thankfully on the large side which means that it is a lot easier on the eyeballs that the ‘bible print’ it could have been. The core rules within the core rules ring bound edition consist of around 120 odd pages but even then this includes a whole raft of stuff that may not even be used in a game and is in there for completeness. 

To support the above rules I have copies of the following games that were released.

Heroes of Normandy

Heroes of the Motherland (Eastern Front)

Heroes of North Africa

Heroes of the Pacific

All of the above are standalone titles that all use the same rules and with theatre specific adjustments. The other copy I have is Heroes of ‘Nam, again using theatre and period specific adjustments where needed. Fr the record in this variant Choppers and Claymores feature!

Most of the scenarios use a single map sheet that is around 8 by 14 hexes. One particularly nice thing is that. Have the full set off of ‘X Maps’ - these are copies of the original version but with a larger hex size (and as a result are larger overall). These are are really useful as the game is quite counter intensive with lots of status markers to use. Having a larger hex makes it a little easier to handle.

The combat system reminded me of the original Squad Leader in many ways although this uses opposed dice rolls.

I have a lot of work to do to sort out the boxes full of counters to my own system and so a game may be a while away but based on the easy to read albeit large rule book it will be something to enjoy.

The games are well supported and there are other modules available - even a specialist solo system - covering specific campaigns. There are also a range of compendiums with extra scenarios etc should the need arise. There is also a battle generator supplement for the Normandy set which will be very useful in due course.

The Big Advantage

Having several boxes full of large sized beautifully detailed counters would certainly avoid the need for a lot of brush work and models - especially when one has tastes as varied as my own! As it stands my thoughts are running towards 28mm for the 0200 Hours skirmishy side of things and 15mm for anything larger than squad level style actions- I can cheerfully accommodate these using Lock ‘N Load - perhaps something akin to a Portable Wargame or Memoir ‘44 scale engagements. 

Anyway, back to the Lem Sip….

Thursday 5 October 2023

SAS, Commandoes and the Like

Stealth, secrecy and surprise - ideal for the wannabe Milk Tray man….

It never ceases to amaze me how an idea can potter along a given path and then BAM! Something comes in out of the blue and moves it along in a different direction. So it has in this case!

A while ago I was posting about Commandoes, prompted in part by the rather large quantity of unpainted types in Eric’s WW2 collection. It acted as a spur for some further research into typical Commando type activities - raids, assassinations, kidnapping, demolition, intelligence gathering etc - and so I picked up a couple of books and looked long and hard at, of all things, NW Europe post D-Day and potentially using Rapid Fire Reloaded. I have always rather liked the idea of Commando operations - a surfeit of comics and war films was probably responsible for this - but had never really looked into it in any great detail.

I very quickly realised that using Commandoes in, for want of a better expression, a battle setting kind of missed the point. For sure they were used in such a fashion - the special service brigades saw much in the way of distinguished service - but I really wanted to look at the raiding and undercover mission aspect of their service. This would mean a skirmish level approach which suits me for a number of reasons, the main one being that relatively few figures would be needed and I could spend time developing the scenarios.

The front of the boxes….

….and the back - note the figure selection.

Back in 2022 Grey for Games, working with Wargames Atlantic, published 02 Hundred Hours: Night Raids in World War Two. This is designed as a skirmish level game were you plan raids and try to carry out the mission on the tabletop. Stealth is the key as invariably the raiders are outnumbered so none of that  charging in with all guns blazing malarkey! I looked long and hard at it at the time but never progressed the idea, mainly due to the initial outlay required at the time. 

Mr Fox had acquired some fencing and a useful ‘sleeping sentry’ (always good for silencing in a suitably dramatic way) and some extra dice.

This woeful state of affairs has been rectified though, courtesy of my old friend Mr Fox who had invested in all the initial releases with a view to running it as a club night game. For one reason or another this did not happen and so his collection has found its way to me. 

All told across the three sets (the base game and a pair of expansions) there are nearly 70 figures which will more than satisfy my needs - the only thing I may add would be some partisans - as there is a good selection of characters and rank and file types. 

This is all cloak and dagger stuff, none of your armoured divisions roaring into battle with massed artillery and waves of supporting aircraft - we are in man to man territory here. 

As to when I shall be able to get this to the table lord alone knows, but the key thing is that it is safely tucked into the ongoing project list. Its turn will come.