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!