Wednesday 10 July 2024

A Naval Wargaming Miscellany*

*With apologies to Bob Cordery for borrowing part of his blog title!

Shown for completeness - volume one and the newly acquired volume two of the German Capital Ships and Raiders series

It is a bit of mixed bag this post as there are a few periods being covered - it just seemed tidier to roll them all into one!

First of all is the book section. I am delighted to have been able to score volume two of the  German Capital Ships and Raiders of WW2 series - highlights of this volume include the Channel Dash, operations against the Tirpitz, Barents Sea and the North Cape - and the Malta Convoys title was a 50p charity shop find! I have owned Six Frigates previously but this was one of the titles that vanished into the Bermuda Triangle a few years back - at least I think it must have asI do not remember selling it!

Warlord Black Seas 1:700th scale galleys - large and small. These and the Xebecs below feature in the Black Seas Holdfast supplement and form part of a cunning plan….

The Xebecs involve rather more work than the Galleys - they require sails for one thing - but for all that they are lovely looking models

I mentioned in my last post about the two types of ship above and my recent acquisition of a bundle of Black Seas stuff. These would be the first Black Seas models I will assemble and there is a rationale behind this. They have a limited amount of rigging which will be easier for me to cut my teeth on before going full on ‘age of sail modeller’ on the more conventional vessels of the period! For the planned 1st Barbary War of 1801 to 1805 I will not need many models being well supplied with frigates, sloops, brigs and schooners. I do not have any of the big US frigates but that would be easily rectified (and currently is being so).

This will not see the light of day for a while, simply because Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame is back in the frame, but it will certainly be a different type of Napoleonic era age of sail game. Besides, it is about time I tackled some grown up modelling!

Monday 8 July 2024

Of Wind and Water - Revisiting the Age of Sail

The rule book and supplement that includes rules for using Xebecs and Galleys and a whole host of other stuff besides.

I was rather taken with the idea of Warlord Games age of sail game Black Seas when it was released and even acquired a few bits and pieces for it but for a variety of reasons it never really got going - a fact of which was probably due to timing as I was then knee deep in MDF ironclads and similar!

I am keen to revisit the period at some point but had always planned to eventually scratch build the models - I had perfected the construction technique with the ACW frigates and sloops - although this project was some way down the batting order so to speak.

Anyways, to cut a long story short, I was recently gifted a selection of Black Seas kit - the base game plus extras, including a signed hardback edition of the rules - and so I once again find myself on the horns of a dilemma. Do I pass this on and stick with original plan or do I embrace Warlord Games?

The answer is that is was very nearly the former but I have now settled on the latter - for one small reason.

The Shores of Tripoli? We know a song about that….

Another eminently suitable board game for solo play now in the collection

Xebecs and Galleys and a cracking board game about the First Barbary War (1801 to 1805) fought between the young US Navy and the Barbary Corsairs, followed by the Bombardment of Algiers in 1816 by the Royal Navy, served to fire up the creative juices (the butterfly is highly delighted with this turn of events for sure!) and so a swift trawl through eBay secured some additional models (the aforementioned Xebecs and Galleys) so I now have pretty everything I need to have a crack at this rather different Napoleonic era naval war. It also has the advantage of being relatively small scale which is just as well given that rigging will be involved!

The Shores of Tripoli refers to the involvement of the US Marines in the conflict and the line appears in the famous Marine Hymn.

From the Halls of MontezumaTo the shores of Tripoli;We fight our country's battlesIn the air, on land, and sea;First to fight for right and freedomAnd to keep our honor clean;We are proud to claim the titleOf United States Marine.
Our flag's unfurled to every breezeFrom dawn to setting sun;We have fought in every clime and placeWhere we could take a gun;In the snow of far-off Northern landsAnd in sunny tropic scenes,You will find us always on the jobThe United States Marines.
Here's health to you and to our CorpsWhich we are proud to serve;In many a strife we've fought for lifeAnd never lost our nerve.If the Army and the NavyEver look on Heaven's scenes,They will find the streets are guardedBy United States Marines.

Sunday 7 July 2024

Boot Sale Bargain - At Last!

This has got carnage written all over it!

Cue the Conan soundtrack album - or maybe not!

Despite the erratic nature of the weather recently - wind, rain and blue skies, usually in quick succession and in no particular order - Laurel, holly and I popped out for a short while to the local-ish boot sale for a few hours. As expected it was quite sparse in terms of sellers and none of us were expecting any great bargains.

Until I saw the above that is!

This is a tongue in cheek game of back stabbing, stealing treasure and (hopefully) killing assorted monsters and is described as being a dungeon crawl without the role playing stuff. I am all for fun games, if not down right silly even, as they are a nice change from the more serious games we routinely play.

The game is complete and to be honest looks barely used and cost me the princely sum of £4 which is a small price to play for the laughs this will generate.

One for the family at Christmas as well - it will make a change from Monopoly (and the ‘frank exchanges of opinion’ that usually ensue!) - as it is designed for three to six players.

Boot sale pickings have been very slim of late so this was a most welcome way to break the dry spell. I may even look out some of the other Munchkin titles. Just for a laugh naturally!

Friday 5 July 2024

WW1 In East Africa

When I saw this advertised there was only ever going to be one outcome….

The back of the box

One of the inspirations for the famous Madasahatta campaign organised by Eric Knowles, in which both Bob Cordery and myself took part in (Bob published the campaign journal, complete with the full back story and a biography of Eric following his death), was the campaign conducted in East Africa by the German commander Paul Von Lettow Vorbeck.

I have a soft spot for many aspects of this campaign - the operations on Lake Tanganyika as well as the hunt for the Konigsberg for example - and given that is it quite low level in terms of the numbers involved (although not the area of operations!) it would translate into a Portable Wargame style set up, complete with a naval dimension.

The game itself features a mounted map board - always a bonus - along with the associated charts etc for initial deployments and reinforcement schedules. A nice touch is that all the key naval vessels get their own counter (including Mimi and Tou Tou!) and also the salvaged guns of the Konigsberg! The rules are quite straightforward and are contained in a 16 page booklet. All in all then, it is an easy game to play and one that is crying out to be used as the basis for the figures/models based table top set up.

I do not have any figures for the period - the block armies would suffice - but I do have a selection of models for some of the naval protagonists as part of the planned Madasahatta: The Sequel, set up.

For the present though, I shall go back to Battle for the Bundu for some extra inspiration!

Tuesday 2 July 2024

Returned, Relaxed, Refreshed and Recharged!

The view from the terrace

Our home for the week - very spacious and powered chair friendly

Paella night - it tasted as good as it looked!

One of the two tour minibuses…. 

Another view - the coast is over to the right

Despite the sign the water was perfectly drinkable - greasy as a mountain stream in fact (we were around 1800 feet above sea level)

Laurel and I have just returned from a week in the Andalusian mountains, around an hour from Málaga, and so I am feeling all of the above! It was the first time we have been abroad since our Cuban trip in 2019 and also since Laurel’s surgery in 2022. I am happy to say that, aside from some confusion in Malaga airport on our return, the trip went really well and whilst there were no trips to anything of historical interest we are planing to return next year and with a trip to the Alhambra Palace, possibly Cordoba as well.

As an accessible venue our small hotel was perfect (there were only 6 guest including us!) and the owners and staff did everything they could to make us welcome and keep us well fed. 

For Laurel and I it was very much a trial run - she was nervous about coping with the travel - but I am delighted to say that it all went swimmingly! 

Being knee deep in the heart of what was Moorish Spain certainly served to reignite my interest in the period of El CID and also the events leading up to the fall of Granada in 1492. From a wider perspective my old standby of the Barbary Corsairs has also quietly crept up on me - more of which later.

It is good to be back and we are already planning for next year.

In the meantime though, my next post will outline a few plans and ideas that have taken a more definite shape.

Thursday 20 June 2024

WW2 At Sea

Needless to say Volume 2 is now on the ‘to get’ list!

The moves leading to the destruction of the Bismarck

The rear cover - there are some very interesting looking titles there for sure!

I have a longstanding interest in WW2 afloat via many different rule systems and board games. The Pacific theatre I have gamed almost exclusively using boardgames - Flat Top mainly - whilst the North Sea and Atlantic have seen me using models far more. Having said that, the Avalon Hill game Bismarck has featured on more than one occasion.

I saw the above book at a price that was difficult to refuse - so I didn’t!

I would certainly like to get volume two and although this type of history can sometimes make for a dry read, the level of detail and the how, why and when of the decision making processes, make it invaluable for the budding tabletop admiral.

Do I need another naval project? Well, if I did it would not be a huge undertaking to cobble together a couple of representative forces for the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine so who knows?

I suspect you can probably guess the outcome…. :-) 

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Further Thoughts on WW2 Aerial Games

The original starter set for Blood Red Skies. This is no longer available as it has been replaced by a version covering the Battle of Midway which includes F4 Wildcats and the Japanese Zero

The contents - not the painted aircraft.

Six of each - every time I see these two quotes from the Battle of Britain run through my mind!

I certainly did not see this one coming! A gaming chum of mine was having a clear out and so sent the above collection to me for dispose of as I saw fit. Imagine my surprise then when I realised that not only was it an unpunched and unused copy of Blood Red Skies but also that the six Spitfires and six Me109s were painted! It has presented me with something of a conundrum as these are scaled at 1:200th as opposed to the 1:100th of the Axis and Allies: Angels 20 collection or the 1:300th of my 1944 skies over the Reich/8th Air Force set up.

The extras. I will not need the box of Zeroes - mainly as I have the Midway version on order - but I will certainly hang on to the Saburo Sakai ‘ace’ box. I will get some opposition for the Mustangs - perhaps some 109Gs or FW190s, possibly even some Me262s if I was feeling brutal. A box of P47s for the Americans might be useful as well….

I must admit that 1:200th makes better sense in terms of a scale for WW2 aerial games and having three scales in my WW2 aerial collection probably does not!

The rules for Blood Red Skies, after closer reading, make a lot of sense but they should not be thought of as a set of plane to plane combat rules. They are more concerned with the use of formations and so for the veteran plane to plane aerial gamer they require a rather different approach. 

They are also not grid based which would be a first (actually a second if you counted my Wings of War/Glory WW1 collection) for me as all of my WW2 aerial adventures have been firmly hex based.

With the caution and careful forethought that I am renowned for (really!?) I have taken the decision to invest a little further in the game as I reckon it would better suit the types of action I want to recreate.

With this in mind I will probably offload the 1:300th and the Axis and Allies collection in due course but we shall have to see how this works out first.

Friday 14 June 2024

The Continuing Saga of the Man Cave

The man cave nerve centre

After what seemed like an age (in fact in total only around a full day spread over three) I have finally managed to get the man cave reorganised. In truth the changes are quite minor - it was more of a tidy up than anything else -  but the impact is significant nonetheless. The first change is that I have done away with the smaller dining table that I used as a modelling work station. The space vacated was then filled with a new storage unit which is much more efficient by virtue of the four shelves it contains. For the most part nearly all of my modelling had been carried out using the larger dining table - 5ft by 3ft - as I like to spread out when painting etc so losing the dedicated work station was not a great sacrifice. Of course it will now mean that I will have to put everything away should I want to use the table for a game but that is a minor issue. The new storage unit now has all of my modelling equipment and materials in one place which is certainly more convenient than previously.

Most of the boardgames. The right hand side is the new section - you can tell by the very light coloured end panel and lighter coloured shelves! For the record the bottle of Pimms is not mine….

The main bulk of my boardgame collection is now concentrated in one place, as are those games that will require some construction to get to the table. 

The new storage unit where the modelling work station used to be. All of my modelling tools, paints, glues and building materials are now all in one place.

Most of the library. I have two shelves of books in the lounge as a kind of ‘ready rack’. The block armies reside on the left and the top two shelves of the middle section consist of folders of rules and a selection of non historical reference material

Three shelves of modelling supplies and some odds and ends - mostly spare copies of Flat Top along with my treasured copy of Waddington’s Campaign

The main gaming table has stayed where it is - originally it was along the opposite wall - and I have taken the opportunity to lose a couple of office chairs so now there is only one. In the unlikely event that I have a guest in the loft then naturally I will import a chair from somewhere if needed!

The one thing that did surprise me though, was that despite all of my recent disposals there is STILL rather more ‘stuff’ than I thought!

I suppose my ‘front loading for retirement’ might have been rather too effective….

Time for a rethink methinks….

Sunday 9 June 2024

Jack Alexander of Jacklex Fame and a Tale of Two Bobs

ACW Buildings - Jack Alexander built these with the large one being based on a building from, I believe, Gettysburg itself. They need a little tidying up around the edges but other than that are pretty much good to go straight into action!

I am sure that most readers of this blog will have seen the news recently of the passing of Jack Alexander, a veteran wargamer and designer of the 20mm 19th century Jacklex range of figures. To cut a long story short Jack was, leading up to his death, building a 28mm ACW and Colonial French set up (I believe with the Mexican adventure in mind at some point) using a mixture of Perry plastics and metal figures.

Bob Kett (of 20mm Crimean War Wargaming and Other stuff fame) is a good gaming friend of Bob Black with the latter being one of the celebrated ABC wargamers - Jack Alexander, Bob Black and Alan Cook - with the latter having sadly passed away a couple of years ago. Bob Kett mentioned to me that Bob was working with Jack’s family to dispose of his various collections and that would I be interested in taking the 28mm stuff? To be honest I had no need for this but suggested instead that if it was donated to the club it would mean that more gamers would be able to make use of the material and thereby help to extend Jack’s memory. Bob Black contacted Jack’s family and they were delighted with this suggestion and so last week I drove to his home in North London for a flying ‘grab and go’ style visit.

Bob Black is a top chap, very much an old school veteran gamer and he had all the items duly packed and ready for transport. I would have loved to have been able to spend some more time with him but sadly had to get back. Bob told me that Jack was fond of having units in unit sized boxes and so this was pretty much how they were stored, along with rules, scenarios and four buildings including one based on a building that featured in the Battle of Gettysburg. There was also a single sprue of 28mm plastic AWI Militia which I am sure will be put to good use by, in this case, the club chairman. 

The rules and a cavalry based scenario book. There are also a whole pile of the Long Road North downloadable scenarios included - Mr Fox will be delighted with these methinks!

Bob admitted that Jack’s painting of this latest project was not the best but as he was in his late 70s when he started it he could be readily forgiven. Having said that the figures could be easily refurbished up to a more amenable tabletop standard with some TLC - fortunately the figures are based individually which is handy as the intended rule sets - bear in mind we are looking at the ACW, the Mexican Adventure and even the Franco Prussian War, all of which are gamed by the club (not the Mexican Adventure to the best of my knowledge) - are the various ‘Rampant’ rules by Dan Mersey: Rebels and Patriots and The Men Who Would Be Kings. 

I was surprised at the amount of French - Foreign Legion, Zouaves, Turcos, Senegalese Tirailleurs and Chasseurs D’Afrique along with artillery and machine guns - and reckon that there is the makings of a good Colonial set up along with elements that could be readily used for the Franco Prussian War. As mentioned, the paint job on pretty much all of these is very basic but the models are very nice and so with a little of the aforementioned TLC some very nice units could be added. 

There are also a smattering of unpainted Perry plastics - the original ACW infantry set (roughly two boxes worth) and the artillery set (again, roughly two boxes worth) - which I may well find a use for despite my aversion to painting - surely even I could manage to paint some plastics? 

Maybe, who knows?

In closing then it only remains me to thank the two Bobs - Bob Kett for thinking of me and to Bob Black for facilitating the transfer. I am confident that the denizens of SEEMS (South East Essex Military Society) under the able stewardship of the redoubtable Mr Fox will produce something worthy of Jack’s legacy - be it ACW, FPW or Colonial or more likely, all three!

Friday 7 June 2024

Reorganising the Man Cave and a Naval treat

Oh yes indeedy!

It has been an insanely busy few days as work on tackling the domestic ‘to do’ gets underway in earnest! I will not bore you with the details but one of the tasks is the reorganisation of the man cave. Given my recent change in circumstances (aka redundancy) reorganising the man cave will be my reward for tackling a myriad of other domestic chores and the work is scheduled to start on Monday. I am really looking forward to it as it will give me a chance to reacquaint myself with what I shall be doing gaming wise in the future. Look upon I t as a kind of new beginning - at least that is how I see it!

In order to undertake this task a swift visit to Ikea was called to acquire a side panel for my IVAR storage set up - this will enable me to double the shelf space in the area where the main unit resides. I have decided that going there on a Wednesday morning during the school term is probably the ideal time to visit - it was quite a calm and relaxing experience! Does that count as a redundancy bonus?

The book you see above has just been added to my collection and sits alongside the 1898 and 1905 reprints. I have fond memories of the 1914 edition as it was my first source of reference for Eric Knowles South East Asia naval campaign in which I took command of the Turks. Yes, you read that correctly - I was in charge of the Turkish South East Asia fleet and so my lifelong interest in the Ottoman military began - thanks to Eric!

The price of this latest addition to the library - a mere £5….

Can’t be bad eh?

Sunday 2 June 2024

The Naval Sitrep

A great doorstep of a tome - chock full of naval goodies!

Several pieces of news to report - some good and some bad unfortunately.

Tony Anderson, the owner of Navwar, specialist in 1:3000th and some 1:1200th model ships has passed away. I have no other details at this time. I have been acquainted with Tony via Navwar since the early 1980s and the visits to his shop in Seven Kings were always great fun. Tony was a veritable encyclopaedia of naval knowledge and by his own admission could talk at Olympic level for England. I am sure that many naval wargamers will miss him (I certainly will) and as to what will become of Navwar I have no idea. R.I.P Tony and grateful thanks for the wonderful models produced over the years.

David Manley, the prolific writer of rules, trainer of naval architects and all round good guy recently announced that his Long Face Games label is now ten years old. During this time his output of rules and more latterly STL files for 3D printing has been relentless. I am sure that many naval gamers are familiar with and have made use of his rules and I am sure that there will be a lot more to come. I would like to extend my own personal congratulations and best wishes to him and will look forward to the next ten years!

Way back in the early 1980s I used to play a lot of predreadnought era battles using 1:3000th scale models and a set of rules called Devil at the Helm. The navy I used was a French one that eventually expanded to include the Great War. It was great fun to use and I fought many actions against Mr Fox’s Austro Hungarians and Italians. 

I recently acquired a selection of 1:2400th scale British and German ships for 1914 (based on the German East Asia Squadron) and have had half an idea about using the maps from Flat Top as the basis for a naval campaign in the period. Either that or something spun off from Madasahatta - another idea I have flirted with off and on.

For reasons unknown the French never featured in Madasahatta so I am thinking of rectifying that and building up a small French squadron for 1914. It will be in 1:2400th and will feature a lot of Colonial style  second line ships - meaning lots of old scrap metal and trust me, the French had plenty of ships that qualified in that category!

The book you see above is an absolute goldmine of information on the warships of the French Navy over the period covered. As I scanned through the pages a lot of memories came back when I recognised some of the names. My original fleet (long gone) was in 1:3000th and consisted of Navwar models. The new version will be a lot smaller in terms of numbers for sure!

Friday 31 May 2024

The Eternal Napoleonic Enthusiast

Loads of Command and Colours block and card driven goodness - just as well I am currently, to use the theatrical expression, ‘resting’ as there are an awful lot of blocks to be labelled!

Back in the early days of my wargaming career my main passion was the Napoleonic Wars. This coincided with the release of the film Waterloo and of course, the Airfix 20mm range. I suspect that many a wargamer of a certain vintage could tell a similar tale! The years have rolled by and historical periods have come and gone in and out of fashion during my wargaming journey but the Napoleonic Wars was always there or thereabouts, waiting patiently for the command, “Now’s your time, Crook!” (Or something similar….).

Now that I am staring down the barrel of premature and enforced retirement following my recent redundancy, my planned bout of ‘front loading’, aka laying in gaming supplies for the additional spare time I will have (even allowing for the ‘to do’ list of domestic chores!), has proven to be one of my better decisions. The material you see in this post is a direct result of this.

Whilst no wargamer will ever admit to having everything they need I am happy to say that I am probably closer to this ideal than I have been for many a long year! I think that main reason for this is that I have made a number of decisions that have shaped my collection in a more orderly fashion based upon, dare I say it, that which I am most interested in as opposed to those occasional bouts of whimsy - ‘ooooh shiny! - in the face of something new and tempting.

1815 from the strategic angle and of course a naval game - I also have a copy of Wooden Ships and Iron Men lurking around, together with S Craig Taylor’s splendid grid based ‘Ship ‘O the Line’

The Napoleonic Wars has just about everything I need from a historical period gaming wise on both land and sea. Everything from skirmishes with a handful of figures up to army level battles with the added bonus of a healthy and rewarding naval side. There is no shortage of printed material as well as a healthy selection of fiction based on the period. Chuck in the occasional foray on the big and little screen and you have it all.

Since moving away from the Isle of Sheppey in 1977 as a dyed in the wool Napoleonic gamer I have tried just about everything else from the time of the Pharaohs to ‘Cold War gone hot’ type games and so Napoleonics kind of fell by the wayside a little as I explored many new and shiny things. Some of the latter have stayed with me - especially naval and aerial - but always there was that gnawing away at a corner of my soul, a reminder of glorious days gone by as armies of painted plastic 20mm Airfix figures went into battle, marching to the tune of Bruce Quarrie’s rules to do battle amongst the Merit trees and walls, repurposed Airfix Waterloo Farmhouses and pan scourer hedgerows. 

I have no plans to paint any Napoleonic figures anytime soon. I have everything I need for tabletop battles via Command and Colours (I have the whole lot) and my block armies for anything higher level. I am undecided about skirmish level games but who knows? Maybe the brushes might come out at some point but certainly not in the immediate future. In fact, the only thing that is likely to be painted anytime soon for the Napoleonic wars is most likely to be ships.

Now I had planned to explore age of sail gaming using scratchbuilt models in the same way as I did for the ACW. This idea is still hanging around but for now I am looking at something rather more ambitious - simply because I should have the time to do so.

What does this all mean?

I had always promised myself that I would go back to the Napoleonic Wars in a meaningful way - my brief foray into the Del Prado collection was a pointer in this direction - but the biggest obstacle was always the land side and painting a collection to use. With the benefit of experience, coupled with the block armies, Command and Colours, the Portable Napoleonic wargame and my planned excursion into naval using models I can at last give the period the attention it deserves. 

Monday 27 May 2024

Humbled. Truly….

Just a quickie to thank everyone that has commented about my news and offered words that have been really comforting and encouraging. At present I am feeling rather philosophical about things and fortunately both Laurel’s and my own chesty ailment seems to be over the worse so things are a little brighter than last week. Probably the best way of describing how I am seeing things is as follows:

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Onwards and upwards!

Thanks all!

Friday 24 May 2024

Goodbye to all that….

It is what it is….

It has been a challenging week. Laurel and I have been struggling with chest infections, sore throats and in her case, a severe sinus infection. My original final redundancy meeting was scheduled for Monday but instead took place today. The result was still the same.

I am now officially redundant.

At 63 years of age.

Reckon that is ‘Game over Man!’ As a wise Colonial Marine once said.

Overall my feelings are mixed but for now I shall be taking stock etc so will probably not be posting for a couple of weeks.

In the immortal words of a former governor of California - ‘I’ll be back….’

Saturday 18 May 2024

Wings of War/Glory and “Der Tag”

Transatlantic goodies - one more parcel to come!

The first two of three deliveries from across the pond arrived this morning and has enabled me to complete the British component of my Wings of War/Glory 1:144th 1918 set up. This consists of the following:

4 each of SE5, Sopwith Camel and Sopwith Snipe
2 each of Bristol Fighter, RE8 and DH4.

Bristol Fighters - if you look closely you can see the twin Lewis gun option used on the white half winged aircraft 

A pair of Sopwith Snipes

A rather natty looking Sopwith Camel

The last of the Germans are in the final parcel due to arrive shortly and so they will be represented as follows:

7 Albatross DVa, 1 captured Sopwith Camel, four Fokker DR1, 2 Fokker D7 and two Fokker D8 (the monoplane fighter I have christened the ‘Stachel Special’)

There are also two each of the following: Halbastadt, Roland, Rumpler and Hannover.

In an ideal world another brace of Fokker D7s would be nice but they are not essential. 

“Der Tag”

Monday, May 20th at 4:30pm I shall learn my fate in respect of being at risk of redundancy. We shall see how it goes.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

My Own Private Kobayashi Maru

The Kobayashi Maru scenario was first encountered in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Captain Kirk’s solution to the scenario passed in Starfleet history and was, as Spock observed, unique.

I am currently going through what is proving to be a rather torturous redundancy consultation at work. Thus far the number of meetings has exceeded the normal number required to execute such a procedure as points are being batted back and forth.

It is exhausting and not without a degree of stress attached to it.

I am pretty certain that the outcome is inevitable but I am determined to leave no stone unturned in an attempt to stave off the end and have begun to see this very much as my own Kobayashi Maru - the ‘no win’ scenario of Star Trek fame. It is after all a test of character and so I am determined to fully engage with the process rather Han going meekly into the wilderness.

I am only two years away from retirement in any event but would have preferred to have reached that particular milestone under my own steam as I believe the likelihood of me securing another role where I can work on a fully remote basis is pretty slim.

Another incentive is that the ‘to do’ list being prepared by Laurel for me is large enough to register as a roundabout on Google Maps….

Thursday 9 May 2024

A Waterloo Footnote - Literally!

The front cover of the digital version….

….and the contents.

The footnote to page 4 - I cannot help but be delighted by this!

A short while ago mention was made of a book that was freely available on the net written by the esteemed author and historian, Charles Esdaile. The book was entitled Wargaming Waterloo and at the time I thought ‘Oooh, goody!’, downloaded it onto my IPad and then proceeded to forget about it!

Imagine my surprise and delight then, when my old friend Bob Cordery emailed me this morning and drew my attention to the footnote on page 4 of the text (see the picture above). So I am now contained in a footnote in an academic publication about gaming one of the most famous battles of all time that coincidentally happens to be a personal favourite of mine!

I had no idea about this and so naturally am rather pleased to be so noted. I did chuckle at ‘The many projects developed by Crook’ part of the footnote - I wonder if the esteemed Prof. Esdaile knows how many of these projects I have started or more importantly, how many I have finished!?

The three blog posts can be found here:

Waterloo A La Carte….Game Number 56, Part 1

Waterloo A La Carte….Game Number 56, Part 2

Waterloo A La Carte….Game Number 56, Part 3

I should also point out that the above idea was not entirely original in that I adapted a similar hex based concept designed by ‘Old Trousers’ ofNumbers, Wargames and Arsing About’ fame. The idea was originally mentioned in the following blog post:

“Yes, Wonderful Things!”

Hard to believe this was four ago - the figures have long gone and so I now have another method of getting my Napoleonics fix, but more of that at a later date.

Many thanks to Bob Cordery for bringing this to my attention!

Sunday 5 May 2024

Bank Holiday Weekend Boot Sale Bargains

Very different but welcome all the same. 20p for the Duggan title and £1 for the Macintyre. 

A short while ago Laurel took delivery of a powered wheelchair for use outdoors and what a boon it has been! It gives her a huge amount of independence which is especially useful when out shopping and in this case, visiting our new local boot sale.

Her chair is not really designed for use on grass and so the boot sale we visit takes place in a park and ride car park just off the A12 near Chelmsford and so is fully paved.

My personal boot sale pickings have been pretty slim this year so I was delighted to come away with the goodies you see in the picture above. 

I have read Count Bohemond by Alfred Duggan but had not seen the title above so was very pleased to get his for the princely sum of 20p. I am rather fond of the crusades so this was a welcome addition to my fiction library. 

The Naval War Against Hitler I have not seen before but for a £1 it was definitely worth a punt albeit probably a little dated.

A nice sized and unused cutting mat for £1 and a brand new (still with tags etc) laptop case for £3 - not that I have a laptop but it will be useful for my IPad and keyboard combo and headphones.

All in all then not a bad haul and a pleasant way to spend a sunny Sunday morning!

Friday 3 May 2024

Air Force, Dauntless and the Expansion Kit

The circle is even more complete! Note the Avalon logo on the Expansion Kit box - this was produced shortly after they had acquired Battleline. I had a small problem with my copy of this as it was missing a Yak counter as well as being Avalon Hill thick counters as opposed to the chunkier Battleline versions. The seller speedily rectified this and so I now have a full set of the Battleline counters! Spitfire is included for reasons you will see in the post.

Way back in the late 1970s and following on from buying Flat Top, I came across the Battleline board game of Air Force. This is a game of tactical plane to plane combat over Western Europe during WW2 and was designed by S. Craig Taylor. Very much of its time, it was fairly chart heavy and required written moves. For all that I spent many happy hours playing this series of games with actions ranging from single plane versus plane engagements right up to using the full counter mix of US bombers (36 aircraft in all) is a series of daylight bombing raids over the Reich. As I recall I even managed a refight of the climax of 633 Squadron and true to the film, only a single badly damaged Mosquito made it back. It was and remains one of my favourite board games. The game included counters for the following aircraft types:

Air Force

Great Britain

Spitfire, Hurricane, Tempest, Mosquito, Wellington and Lancaster


P47, P51, B17 and B24


ME109, FW190, ME110, JU87, JU88, HE111, ME262 and even the V1!

With the exception of the V1 each aircraft had a data card showing what could be done and when in terms of movement, weapons fit, ammunition capacity and damage. A number of variants existed for most types and indeed, later versions of certain types had their own data card so, for example, the Me109 has a card for the E, F and G version and each card usually features some additional variants so the overall pool of aircraft is quite wide (more so when you take into consideration the types available in Dauntless and the Expansion kit).

Dauntless was released after Air Force and featured the Pacific theatre. Naturally there were a number of US types that could also be used in Europe so the rather slim pickings for the Americans found in Air Force received a welcome reinforcement! The game also included expanded rules for attacking naval targets as befitted the theatre. This standalone game included the following aircraft types:


U. S. A.

Buffalo, Wildcat, Hellcat, Corsair, Dauntless, Avenger, Helldiver, Devastator, P38, P39, P40, P61, A20, B25, B26 and B29


Zero, George, Tony, Oscar, Tojo, Frank, Nick, Betty, Val, Kate and Emily

The Expansion Kit

The final part of the series was an expansion set that added to both Air Force and Dauntless as well as including the French, Italian and Russian air forces. The rules booklet added to the series with some detailed rules for determining pilot quality on a national and year by year basis so, for example, the Japanese started the war with very good quality aircrew but by the end were largely ‘green’ with the exception of the very few ‘aces’ left flying. The Luftwaffe followed a similar pattern although not quite as extreme as for Japan. 

The following aircraft counters were included:

Great Britain

Stirling (spelt Sterling on the data card!), Gladiator, Beaufighter, Beaufort, Sunderland, Swordfish, Blenheim and Typhoon, 


B25, B26, P63, Catalina, A26, P36 and C47


Me410, He219, HS129, FW200, HE177, DO17 and they also have the HS293 guided bomb.


Jill, Dinah, Claude, Sally, Frances, Peggy, Judy and Nell


G50, MC200, MC202, SM79, CR42 andBR20


MS406, D520, BR693, MB152, LEO451 and Potez631


Yak, I16, PE2, Mig3, LAGG3, LA, IL2 and Il4

As with the other games in the series a number of data cards for variants of the counters were provided and indeed, some of these featured aircraft from Air Force and Dauntless. An example of this would be the ME109K and the Spitfire Mark 14. 

S Craig Taylor mentioned in the designers notes of his WW1 game Wings that Air Force, Dauntless and the Expansion Kit were based on a system that was no longer ‘state of the art’ when his Great War aerial game was released in 1981. Wings represented his thoughts on aerial combat as a result of playing experience, further research and thoughts on the subject since the release of the Air Force family. Whether or not he planned to update the Air Force system to the Wings standard is unknown although elements of this system appear in the board game Spitfire that covers the early war period up to 1941.

In the meantime though, there is much in the way of fan made additions to the Air Force design available on BoardGameGeek or the dedicated Facebook group. The latter also addresses one of the perennial problems of Air Force, the difficulty in tailing an opponent although most enthusiasts probably have their own workarounds.

The acquisition of the above three games represents the end of a journey for me in many ways as these, along with Flat Top, Bismarck, Jutland, Submarine and a few others were all games that I derived many happy hours of gaming from. 

Is this a nostalgic indulgence, perhaps even an attempt to recapture past glories? 

In part the answer is probably yes but with a degree of qualification. In my opinion these games are extremely good at what they are representing and so as a kind of ‘toolkit’ for scenarios they are incomparable. For sure the rules are unfashionably comparatively detailed when compared with today’s offerings but they work in respect of the flavour of what they are representing. All could readily be used with miniatures and indeed, I have done so in the past with some of the naval titles and am planning to do so with the WW1 Wings of Glory models using Wings. I may even extend this into WW2 using the Air Force series along with Mustangs - its direct descendant.

As it stands now there is probably just one other game from ‘back in the day’ that I want to add to my collection and I am not ashamed to say that this will be purely for nostalgic indulgence - details as and when I get my hands on a copy!

Thursday 2 May 2024

The Circle is Now Complete….

Big, bold and beautiful - Flat Top does Midway, S Craig Taylor style!

At long last I have finally acquired a copy of the Yaquinto Games board game CV - A Game of the Battle of Midway designed by S Craig Taylor. I owned a copy of this ‘back in the day’ but it was moved on sometime back in the late 1980s as I recall and so it is a real pleasure to be reunited with it.

The game uses the Flat Top system but with, according to the designer, “reflects two more years of research, playtesting and just plain thinking and arguing about the topic of WW2 carrier operations.” It will be interesting to ‘ring the changes’ between this and the earlier Flat Top system

As a result of this acquisition I now own all of S Craig Taylors carrier games - Flat Top (both the Battleline and Avalon Hill versions), Guadalcanal and Midway (the Avalon Hill Smithsonian games) and now CV. This means that I can now cover carrier battles in the Pacific up to the end of 1942 at two levels of complexity - overkill perhaps but having the choice is important because it will mean that I can ease newcomers into the subject. As much as I like the Flat Top system it is a lot to digest for the inexperienced gamer so an easier introduction via the Smithsonian games would make sense.

Carrier battles work best with multiple players and work better still if there is an umpire to control the chaos. That is my ultimate goal.

Monday 29 April 2024

No Mans Land

All quiet on the Western Front - note the scarred landscape and the beginning of the ‘Green Fields Beyond’

One of the four gaming mats that I won for Wings of War/Glory is a stylised representation of that most typical feature of WW1 - the shell cratered, mud churned and trench riddled terrain known as ‘No Mans Land’. This could equally be used for pretty much any sector of the Western Front and so is a really useful and atmospheric mat to use. Given that war in the air often operated over such terrain - reconnaissance flights, aerial observation and so forth, not to mention tactical bombing etc - I am expecting to be using this mat a lot once I can take to the air with my collection.

On the subject of getting some games in my plan is make use of the upcoming back holiday weekend to give the game a spin - nothing fancy, probably just a ‘one on one’ duel - as I ease my way back into the system.

In the meanwhile the search for other aircraft continues and as mentioned - I am only looking at around half a dozen models or so.

In other news….

I have had my third consultation interview at work for the potential redundancy and should nothing positive turn up this week (I am interviewing for three roles internally) then ‘Der Tag’ is scheduled to be on or around the 7th of May. 

We shall see what happens.

Thursday 25 April 2024

Farewell to Shogun

I am unsure what the Japanese for ‘a bit like the curate’s egg’ is but the good parts were very good indeed!

A day later than usual I managed to watch the series finale of Shogun - the ten part mini series based on the novel of the same name by James Clavell.

My feelings about this production have probably been influenced by having read the novel umpteen times - almost to the point that I can quote vast chinks of the dialogue and text etc from memory! 

I enjoyed it for what it was - a bold and beautiful production that was visually stunning to look at and with a real feel for the subject matter but all the while ‘based upon’ the novel, which in turn was a fictionalisation of the actual historical events of the period.

For me, therein lay the problem. Without giving too much away the production played fast and loose with the events in the novel - certain incidents were out of sequence and others were changed entirely - which personally I found to be a little on the irritating side. If I were a purist I would say ‘butchered’ would be a more accurate description, perhaps with a more surgical degree of precision but chopped about all the same. I realise that adapting a book to the screen requires certain changes but I am not convinced this was for the better. Again, I blame my familiarity with the novel for this apparent ‘nit picking’. 

I also felt as though the pacing was a little uneven although trying to condense the story into ten hours of screen time was never going to be easy. In many ways it felt rather like watching an extended highlights series with the highlights sometimes in the wrong order. 

One of my tests of the value of watching something on the screen usually runs along the lines of ‘is there a game in that?’ Absolutely - my enthusiasm for all things Samurai remains as high as ever and indeed, revisiting my project for the period in some way will definitely be on the cards at some point so Shogun served its purpose in that respect.

So in conclusion I can safely say that I enjoyed it for it was but the 1980 series was closer to the book and so I shall make a point of revisiting it in due course.

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Latest Acquisitions for Wings of War/Glory

Probably the most famous aircraft of the First World War on the left whilst on the right, the mount of an equally famous pilot but for all the wrong reasons….

I spent a very pleasant couple of hours or so yesterday evening with the redoubtable Mr Fox at his home, discussing matters of great import - well great to us anyway - and transacting some business. Essentially it was a swap deal - my excess Wings of War/Glory WW1 aircraft (20 in all) for a whole pile of Aeronautica Imperialis goodies - details of which will feature in a later post.

Anyways, as part of the horse trading (no actual horses of course, unless you count those of the engine power variety which, given the subject matter was WW1 aircraft would be kind of appropriate….) I took delivery of the models you see above.

The Triplane needs little introduction (that is the third ‘Red Baron’ I have in his triplane guise) but the Fokker D7 may be a bit of a surprise. It was the mount of one Hermann Goering who finished the Great War as a holder of the Pour La Mérite - the famous ‘Blue Max’- and the commander of Jagdgeschwader 1, the unit previously commanded by Baron Von Richthofen. 

I shall be repainting two of the Fokker DR1s I have - I rather fancy an all black version - but will probably leave the D7 as is.

The SE5 of Canada’s leading fighter ace - Billy Bishop

I also acquired a British SE5a but in the colours of the Canadian fighter ace, Billy Bishop. By a strange coincidence my wife’s late brother, Gordie the former paratrooper, who lived in Vancouver, was a member of the Canadian Legion - affiliated with the British Legion and providing a similar function for ex servicemen. The coincidence part is that the branch of the Canadian Legion Gordie belonged to used to meet at a local pub called, you’ve guessed it, the Billy Bishop.

I am really pleased to have these models in my collection and so would like to thank Mr Fox for making them available.

He really is a thoroughly decent fellow!