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.

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Enduring a Prolonged Tantalean Punishment

Ancient Greece? It’s taking the Myth….

So here we are at the beginning of October and I can honestly say that the last three months have flown by. Work has been very busy and the domestic round has been equal to this meaning that my hobby time has been less than I would like and even then not usually when I would like it! As is my usual modus operandi when faced with a lack of time I tend to withdraw into planning mode - and the last few months have been no exception.

The two big projects that have taken up a lot of my time recently are of course Eric’s WW2 collection and the humongous pile of boardgames I purchased to sell on. The latter went extremely well - there are a few items left but suffice it to say the disposal of the main bulk was both speedily and profitably dealt with - and in the short term has enabled me to lay in some supplies for future projects. The projects are of course the Xenos Rampant/Space Hulk idea, Aliens (I came very close to changing my mind about Aliens but have recovered from the rather rash ‘wobble’ of intent!) and the Commandoes/Market Garden. Market Garden would of course be using Eric’s stuff but to be honest, in the cold light of day the collection would hopefully have been sold on before I get around to fighting it! The Commandoes are a different issue as my idea around these has shifted slightly - for reasons that I will outline later in the week. I will not go into details but suffice it to say my Commnado fix will be at more skirmishy level.

I am waiting on an email from Warbases in respect of my 60 triremes so once they arrive I fully intend pushing them front and centre and ‘blitzing’ them in one fell swoop. No harm in being optimistic!

Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame has stalled slightly but the main bulk of it has been drafted and when certain things have come to pass I shall punch on and finish it. As usual there are some models to be built - I still have around half a dozen partially assembled - to round out the ACW collection, including some terrain. I also need to square grid something for them to fight over!

I have everything I need for the 1943/44 Over the Reich “Mustangs” project other than decals and time to paint the 1:300th models so my birthday present of a copy of The Mighty Eighth was most welcome.

Similarly I also have everything I need for the 1914 ‘Not quite Madasahatta’ naval campaign in the shape of some 1:2400th Tumbling Dice loveliness - the model of S.M.S Scharnhorst is magnificent, as is H.M.S. Swiftsure and yes, I have both of their respective sister ships as well!

There is plenty to be getting on with and thanks to the great boardgame sell off I had a reasonable warchest to flesh out and realise some of more outlandish ideas such as….

….Aeronautica Imperialis and Adeptus Titanicus - I will leave that there for now.

I cannot complain about my project palette at all as there is plenty for me to do BUT - there is always a but - getting the time to realise them has proven to be really tricky.

It is the very definition of a Tantalean Punishment….