Friday 19 April 2024

A Wings of Glory Mat

Measuring 39’ by 27” the above depicts a town built around a river. The mat itself is neoprene so it rolls up nicely and stays flat when deployed on the table. Needless to say I have plans other than pure aerial actions for this!

I have been sorting through the final part of my recently acquired Wings of War/Glory collection - the aircraft are nearly ready to be photographed - and so in the meantime I wanted to share a picture of one of the ‘official’ gaming mats.

I am quite taken by the mats, especially as they can be used in quite a compact space. the one you see above could readily be used for a game with half a dozen or so aircraft, a size that suits me splendidly!

Wednesday 17 April 2024

More on Wings of War and Glory

Rules and the scenario book - I will be collecting a rather better copy of both shortly - as well some of the Litko flame and fire markers. These are not included in the game but came with the bulk of the collection. They are safely tucked away in a polythene bag.

After a hectic session of wheeling and dealing my collection of models etc for Wings of Glory is pretty much where I want it to be. For sure there are a couple of holes - I would love to get a further brace of Fokker D7s as well as a pair of Bristol Fighters - but I have sufficient models for a variety of actions.

I shall be doing a photoshoot once all is organised but to give you a taster of what to expect the collection looks something like this:


4 x SE5a, 4 x SPAD 13, 4 x Sopwith Camel, 4 x Sopwith Snipe, 2 x DH4 and 2 x RE8


7 x Albatross DVa, 1 x German badged Sopwith Camel*, 4 x Fokker DR1, 2 x Fokker D7, 2 x Roland, 2 x Rumpler, 2 x Halbastadt and 2 x Hannover.

I also have an observation balloon.

All of the models are stored in bespoke blue foam trays and the entire collection lives in a box roughy the size of two standard shoe boxes. 

I have four of the gaming mats. These are as follows: East and West sectors, No Mans Land and Countryside. Each mat is roughly 3ft by 2ft and are of the neoprene variety.

Some of the models will be getting some minor paintwork or insignia changes but nothing as drastic as full on repainting. There is no real hurry to do this but it will be fun to personalise the collection. Naturally my thoughts are not limited to solely using the Wings of Glory system - I have plenty of other sets of rules to play around with, some free table based, others on hexagonal grids - but for now the key thing is having the models ready to use at the drop of a hat. In many respects aerial games are not unlike naval in that one usually does not require little or anything by way of terrain. It is also as compact for storage.

* Otto Kissenberth flew a captured Sopwith Camel in combat and scored his 20th aerial victory (a SE5a) whilst doing so. The Camel bit him back shortly after though, as he crashed after the engine stalled shortly after taking off. A heavy impact crashing from some 40 metres seriously injured the German flyer and ended his war for him.

In Other News….

I have been told that my current position is at risk of redundancy and so I am currently going through the consultation process. The company is looking at other alternatives for me across the group and of course I am looking at other options out in the world. To be honest if all goes to hell in a hand basket it would not be the end of the world as I am due to retire in 2026 in any event. It would be nice though, to have the choice as to when I retire!

Sunday 14 April 2024

Wings of War and Glory

Using pre-painted 1/144th scale models and a card driven system for moving and adjudicating damage, Wings of Glory (originally Wings of War) is a hugely popular system for gaming WW1 aerial battles

I have always enjoyed WW1 aerial games going back to playing Avalon Hill’s Richthofen’s War in the late 70s/early 80s at Newham Wargames Club. This then evolved into Wings - the S Craig Taylor designed  game published by Yaquinto - along with Aces High/Blue Max. At the time I never considered using models although I do remember building some 1/72nd aircraft ‘back in the day’. 

Fast forward to the around 2004 when a game called Wings of War was launched that used 1/144th scale models that were ready painted to use straight out of the box on the tabletop (or one of the official gaming mats). The game really took off (pardon the pun like comment!) and numerous expansions and extra aircraft were made available. I bought into the system but for reasons lost in the mists of time I passed the collection on to Mr Fox some years ago who regularly takes the game to the club on Wednesday evenings. 

The game itself is quite simple to play and makes use of manoeuvre cards graded by type - the more manoeuvrable the aircraft the more cards it has - and a deck of damage cards for use when firing. It is easy to pick up and a popular choice for club nights.

I wanted to get back into the game (and WW1 aerial as a whole) but at present the range of aircraft that is available is quite modest and as a result tends to be eye-wateringly expensive. A new version is currently in pre-production which should ease the supply situation somewhat. However, by virtue of some selective acquisitions I now have the makings of a pretty good set up for use with the original game and for the several other rules sets I have for the period. I have around amassed around 40 or so models along with four of the ‘official’ gaming mats and assorted other bits and pieces which is probably about as much as I will need for the foreseeable. Most of the ‘official’ scenarios use a modest number of aircraft so the need for a massive collection is not so imperative - half a dozen or so models a side would be a fair sized action.

The collection covers a variety of the main types in action but at present there are few notable exceptions to the set up - which is based on the 1917/18 period - but the usual suspects are there - SE5a, Sopwith Camel and Snipe, DH4, RE8, Albatross DVa, Fokker DR1 and D7, Roland, Rumpler, Halberstadt, Hannover and SPAD 13, along with a balloon - so the scope for a variety of actions is certainly broad enough. I would have loved to have gotten a couple of Bristol Fighters but that would be for another day methinks. As mentioned there will be a certain number of paint conversions but nothing too drastic - one can only have a single all red Fokker DR1 after all!

The Reason Why

As my recent flurry of ‘retirement front loading wheeling and dealing’ draws to a close - there are a couple of  pieces of the puzzle outstanding which be addressed shortly - I have to say that I am overall very pleased with how it has played out. I have  acquired a good selection of quality material which will give me an endless variety of games to enjoy both cheaply and efficiently and more importantly will range across my myriad historical periods of interest. Although the emphasis has been more towards board games, I shall still use model ships and aircraft and even dabble occasionally in the odd skirmish style set up. For now though, and for the foreseeable future, using pre-painted models represents a massive time saver for me which is particularly handy given my current domestic circumstances.

Time is (as ever) my greatest adversary….

Monday 8 April 2024

More on Flat Top - and a surprise!

Exactly how I remember it from first buying a copy way back in 1978. A simple but striking box cover.

My enduring obsession with the board game Flat Top has reached its climax - and in a very unexpected but welcome fashion!

I have two copies of the Battleline version of Flat Top - one consists solely of the contents as the box had disintegrated beyond the point of salvaging whilst the other is rather grubby around the edges - and three of the Avalon Hill version. One copy is in pretty good condition whilst the other two are box weary to lesser or greater degree. All five copies are complete and indeed, the Avalon Hill versions are unpunched.

I really wanted to get a decent copy of the Battleline version - the striking box cover is pretty faded on the one box I have - simply because on balance I prefer it to the later version. Now I was not seriously looking for a copy until a casual trawl through evil bay revealed a chap in the US that was selling a batch of Battleline Games that had belonged to his late father. These were found in an attic and for the most part the collection (there were thirteen games in all) was still in shrink wrap and with only minimal storage wear. A copy of Flat Top, along with Air Force and Dauntless were amongst the items on the listing so I dropped the seller a line to see if these three could be sold off separately. The answer was an emphatic yes and with each game costing a mere USD 30 a title I immediately ‘pulled the trigger’.

The package arrived this morning and whilst Air Force and Dauntless will feature in a later post (there is a good reason for this), my attention was focussed on Flat Top. It is absolutely pristine and even has that wonderful ‘new board game smell’ about it. For no obvious reason I turned the box over to see how the underside had fared over the 47 years since it was produced when I found the following.

After years of singing the praises of Flat Top and pretty much all of S. Craig Taylor’s games - including the Air Force trilogy, Wooden Ships and Iron Men (and Ship ‘O the Line), Wings and the Avalon Hill Smithsonian series - I now have a signed copy of one of my all time favourite games, by probably my all time favourite designer!

I am really pleased with this and you can rest assured that if I ever had to dispose of everything else in my collection this would be the one thing I would keep!

Now it could be thought to be a tad on the excessive side having essentially six copies of the same game, albeit in two sets of three - the Battleline and Avalon Hill versions. I would certainly agree with this but there is a kind of method in the madness. For more years than I can remember I have really wanted to play Flat Top on a Kriegspiel basis. In other words, each side has their own copy of the game with the third being held by the umpire. This would be the ultimate version of the game and to be honest trying to organise it would present some challenges in terms of organising players etc but boy oh boy, it would be a rollicking, rip-roaring and nerve-shredding experience!

I am dead chuffed.

Sunday 7 April 2024

Thoughts on the American Civil War

Not seen this for a long while - a brigade level tactical board game covering the American Civil War and published by Yaquinto. My curiosity was sufficiently aroused so that once again the wallet fell open….

Although my interest in the American Civil War has been primarily directed at the naval side I have not been averse to fighting the odd land battle or two. In recent years this has been via Battle Cry - the Command and Colours game designed by Richard Borg - or more usually a variant of Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame. I have an unused 18mm WoFun collection for the period - these are the original WoFun release and not the later Peter Dennis penned versions - that I had half an idea of using with either of the above mentioned rules in support of my naval endeavours but as yet have not done anything tangible about it. 

Battles and Leaders is a tactical ACW boardgame set at brigade level that was published by Yaquinto back in the very early 1980s. It is scaled at 50 metres per hex and a unit counter represents around 200 men. There are separate counters for leaders and skirmishers and the former have a rating for charisma - as well as a rather evocative ‘leader injury’ table.

This is a board game that is very much of its era - lots of charts and tables - but beneath it all there is an interesting system that offers a little more ‘meat’ in terms of detail compared to, for example, Battle Cry.

I will take this game as it is although the potential for using the WoFun collection is certainly there. 

Something to think about anyway.

In other news, the final phase of my recent bout of ‘wheeling and dealing’ is coming to an end. I have a few surprises to unleash - actually not really that much of a surprise overall - but regular readers of the blog will recognise the inspiration behind them!

Thursday 4 April 2024

Taking to the Air

Different eras but using similar systems - plane to plane combat old school style with hexes and counters! Naturally models can be used.

My ongoing mission to stock up with some selected boardgames continues apace and boy oh boy did I score big time! 

The backs of the boxes. Yes, you can fly a Zeppelin in Wings, along with the giant bomber of the same name!

Wings is an S Craig Taylor designed game of aerial combat during the Great War produced by Yaquinto Games, way back in 1981. The system is essentially a development of that used in Air Force and Dauntless which cover WW2.

My copy of the game is unpunched and one of the big advantages of Yaquinto was that their counters were nice and thick and cut out easily (I never punch counters out - I always use a scalpel to free them). A number of large sized reference sheets, two counter sheets, three map boards, some terrain overlays, fifty aircraft data cards, the rule book and even the original d6 are in the box, the lid of which has some minor storage wear. I could not be more pleased to have this game as the acquisition of it coincides with something else currently underway - details of which will posted in due course.

Spitfire, produced by 3W Games, uses a similar system to Aces High which started out as a magazine game, supplemented by an expansion called Blue Max. As I recall the two were then combined in a boxed version. This is rather niche in a way in that it focuses very much on the Blitzkrieg era of WW2 including Poland, France, the Battle Of Britain and some of the early air battles over the Balkans. It is good to see coverage of the Polish and French air forces (the latter appear in the Air Force expansion kit) and an expanded early war orbat for the RAF and Luftwaffe. Due to the similarity between this system and that of Air Force it would not be difficult to adapt them to Air Force.

I rather fancy the idea of using Defiants!

There is one missing link in all this retro aerial goodness and I am hoping to be able to rectify this shortly….

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Planning for Lissa

A very useful title - especially the overview of the technological evolution that culminated in the Battle of Lissa. This is one of a number of references I shall be using.

Firstly, I hope everyone enjoyed the long Easter weekend and managed to keep the chocolate consumption to a reasonable level! Seriously though, I hope the break was a good one, however you celebrated it.

One of my jobs over the weekend - which turned out to be a rather busy one - was to punch out the counters from my newly acquired copies of Ironclads and the Ironclads expansion set. The former was completely unpunched and the ship data cards needed separating. The latter was partially punched and so I spent an hour or so armed with a scalpel and cutting mat along with a stack of grip top polythene bags. Both boxes have now been properly sorted out and are ready to play - the only thing missing was a pair of D6 - one red and one white.

As the Expansion set includes European vessels of the period this was going to be my first port of call in terms of the ships involved in the scenario for Lissa. 

I plan to include a battle report based on the famous sea fight of 1866 but on a slightly reduced basis. The action will feature the leading formations of both the Austrian and Italian fleets as these were the only ones engaged. It will also reduce the number of model required although this still stands at twenty four all told. Inevitably this will impose a minor delay in the publication of the revised edition of the Portable ironclads Wargame but I reckon it will be worth the wait.

This will be the largest action fought using the Portable Ironclads Wargame and is rather different from usual coastal or inland waterway type of action and I am really looking forward to it!

For of all though, it is the model making and so having learned an awful lot during the ACW build I am confident that I have the basic construction technique ‘dialled in’. I even have the flags in readiness!

Friday 29 March 2024

A Lissa Through the Looking Glass

Back in the collection once again and this time for good!

I am fairly confident that most, if not all, readers of this blog will know that I am a great ‘churner’ of my collection. I also enjoy the whole ‘wheeler-dealer’ side of the hobby - buying and selling and so forth. Over the years I have bought and sold bits and pieces and in rather more cases that I care to admit, have repurchased items that had been disposed of in a somewhat over enthusiastic fashion.

A case in point is the classic board game, together with the accompanying expansion, of Ironclads, originally published in 1979 by Yaquinto Publications. 

One of the advantages of the aforementioned ‘wheeling and dealing’ is that one builds up a great network of contacts. Thanks to this I was able to secure the three games you see above for some surplus bits and bobs - the only monies involved was the cost of postage.

The base game covers the ACW and is quite a detailed system - very much of its time. The expansion adds to this but also includes the ships for the War in the Pacific and also for the Battle of Lissa. The latter is really helpful for the following reason.

I shall be building the ships and refighting the battle of Lissa using The Portable Ironclads Wargame and it will be included in the new book.

The scenario for the Battle of Lissa in the expansion kit focuses on the action between the ironclads which is exactly what I shall be doing and for this endeavour I have been fortunate to secure the services of the legend that is Nick Huband for testing and research purposes. Nick lives a quick twenty minute drive from me and so the plan is to ‘try it on the dog’ at some pint, I mean point!

Das Boardgame…..

Another old fiend that came as part of the exchange deal was board game Submarine. This was originally a Battleline publication but was added to the Avalon Hill range when they took over the company. The game covers Submarine warfare during WW2 and all of the combatant nations get a chance to be the hunters or the hunted. I really enjoyed this ‘back in the day’ so am looking forward to trying it once again. There are a number of articles in the Avalon Hill General covering the game and there is also a variant using coastal forces so Vosper, MAS boats, Elco, S and R boats feature. I shall take a look into this.

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Flat Top and The Avalon Hill General

I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy reading the Avalon Hill General ‘back in the day’.

With grateful thanks to Ed who kindly pointed me to the correct edition of the Avalon Hill General magazine for details of the Flat Top Midway scenario. This was found on a very handy website called View From the Trenches and to anyone that is interested in any of the Avalon Hill catalogue of games this is an absolute goldmine of a resource!

As well as the scenario there is also an overview of the changes between the Battleline and Avalon Hill editions - including some rule tweaks - as well as a modest errata. Both of these are really helpful to me as I work out how to get the best out of the two games.

There are other useful bits and pieces contained therein for Flat Top including a scenario for Wake Island (I have seen this previously) as well as incorporating the British into the game, together with some background information on the Royal Navy. 

The funny thing with this current obsession of mine is that I do not in the least feel the need to get any models to game it with - having said that I have been casting an eye over Dauntless, the game that covers aerial combat in the Pacific or possibly Mustangs with models in 1:300th.

No ships though…. :-)

Monday 25 March 2024

Flat Top vs Flat Top

The old (bottom) and the older (top)!

When Avalon Hill took over Battleline Games the first thing they looked to do was to bring the production quality up to their usual standard. For the most part this meant changing the box art, updating the rules, moving to mounted mapboards and ironing out any component issues. This was for the most part a really good idea but for me and as an aside, it never worked for Air Force and Dauntless. The newer aircraft charts for these two games were not easy to read, especially when you had clocked up as many air miles with the original versions as I had! Anyway, I digress, so back to the game in hand, Flat Top.

The two rule books - Battleline on the left and Avalon Hill on the right. The Avalon Hill version is laid out far more efficiently than the Battleline version but it comes at a cost - 36 pages to 32. Having said that I am very used to the earlier version!

The Avalon Hill version made several changes to the Battleline version. To begin with the two part map board was mounted which makes for a steadier playing surface. Usually the game has very few counters actually on the map so one could say this was probably a little indulgent. Where most counters are usually deployed is on the task force cards against the carriers or land bases. For example, the U.S.S. Enterprise has a maximum aircraft capacity of 33 (the game scale is 1 factor equalling 3 actual aircraft). These factors can be represented by individual 1 factor counters or any combination of counters with higher values - there are also 2s and 5s available. Each carrier or base has aircraft at one of three stages when on the deck so to speak - just landed, readying or ready - and these are reflected by the corresponding boxes. You can see then that having a little more elbow room for a myriad of counters is definitely a better idea! In this case the advantage lies with the Battleline version in terms of size but with the Avalon Hill version for being slightly more convenient as it is split into two halves.

The Battleline version on the left with the split Avalon Hill version on the right. Definitely more room with the earlier edition although being in two halves is quite handy - shame the box sizes for aircraft counters have shrunk somewhat!

The map itself is slightly larger and more significantly, the Avalon Hill plot maps are much more user friendly than the Battleline version a they are larger and much easier to read and write on.

Advantage Avalon Hill methinks - the larger format is easier to read and write on although taking up a lot more table space that the earlier Battleline version.

The most significant change for me though, concerns the counter mix. The Battleline edition contained 800 counters whilst the Avalon Hill version tops out at 1300. The colour choice for the counters between the two editions has changed. In the Battleline version the US counters are green whilst the Japanese are yellow. In the Avalon Hill version the Americans become yellow whilst the Japanese are now red. I have no idea why these were changed in the Avalon Hill version but I have to say I prefer the older Battleline types. So why all the additional counters then?

The reason is simple but in turn it does raise a question or two. 

Midway. The Avalon Hill version features all the ships that were involved in the Midway operation and a suitably increased support counter mix to support them. The only snag is that nowhere in the Avalon Hill edition is there a Midway scenario. I will check back on the Avalon Hill General (their house magazine) but I am not sure if there was ever a Midway scenario for the Avalon Hill Flat Top. Given that they already had a Midway game in their catalogue perhaps this was behind the omission but why bother adding in the extra counters?

So was there ever a Flat Top based Midway scenario? Well the simple answer is yes, but in a roundabout way. Yaquinto Games published CV which was a game covering the Midway operation using the Flat Top system and once again, by S Craig Taylor. I owned a copy of this back in the day - as I recall I purchased this post the Battleline Flat Top but pre the Avalon Hill version. It was a cracking game albeit limited in scope. I seem to remember that the Japanese player could win easily by sinking American ships and so quite often would ignore Midway until after enough material damage had been inflicted on the ships of the USN. If I remember correctly there were a couple of rule refinements to the Flat Top system but without a copy in front of me it would be difficult to say.

So where exactly is all this going? To be honest I am not sure. Flat Top is not a game that lends itself easily to solo play although with some thought it could be done - perhaps purely on the tactical level although half the fun of this game was finding the opposition before they found you. It is something I would like to investigate further but then I have the later Smithsonian games of Midway and Guadalcanal that cover much of the same territory and look as though they will be more solo friendly.

Having looked closely at the two games I think on balance I actually prefer the original Battleline version rather than the Avalon Hill. The main reasons for this are the counter quality and the air/task force charts are better. Having said that the counter selection from Avalon hill, together with the plot maps, is far better. I am actually not that bothered about the mounted mapboards, mainly because there are usually so few counters on them. I can definitely see me using the Avalon Hill plot maps with the Battleline map.

The plot maps will come in very handy - I have a heap of 1:2400th 1914 ships waiting patiently for their turn in the painting queue - and the whole topic has given me something to think about from an aerial perspective (thoughts of Dauntless are looking large once again!).

We shall see but in any event, I am really pleased to be in this situation with the return of an old friend and the gaming memories that came with it!

Sunday 24 March 2024

Getting Reacquainted With an Old Friend

The rules and newly sorted counters. It looks untidy but there is a system. Each side has an around a dozen bags of units and these are in turn placed in a large grip top bag. The game markers (the blue counters) are kept separately in three smaller bags. Trust me, it all makes sense!

The plot map. The Avalon Hill version is split into two halves and covers a slightly larger area - in a later post I will ring the changes between the two versions

I spent a pleasant couple of hours going through the contents of the Battleline edition of Flat Top and sorting out the 795 counters into the various types. It took a lot of grip top polythene bags for sure! The game cane with the original plastic trays but I have never been a great fan of these - I prefer having counters bagged up and readily identifiable. I say 795 counters because there is actually 800 but of these five are blanks and they were missing so technically the game is incomplete but everything that counts is still there! Even the plotting pad is barely used although a lot smaller than the AH version which is in two parts and covers a wider area.

After I had sorted the counters I took some time to read the rulebook once again - the memories certainly came flooding back! The rules seemed to ‘pop’ out of the pages as game mechanic after game mechanic suddenly became comfortingly familiar, along with reminders of some cracking games in years gone by.

I reckon I picked up my copy in 1978 and at the time I was living at my late grandmothers in East Ham. Her flat was a twenty minute walk from Eric Knowles’s shop The New Model Army Ltd, home of the Newham Wargames club. My Saturday routine was invariably spending half a day at the shop gaming in the cellar, made suitably dramatic by the prospect of carbon monoxide poisoning as the air circulation was non existent! Invariably by Saturday evening meal prior to going out ‘on the town’ was a traditional East end speciality - pie and mash!

The East End breakfast of champions - no eels in sight though! Stewed eels I don't mind but I draw the line at the jellied variety!

Why am I mentioning this? Well, we had this for dinner last night, courtesy of my son, and whilst munching my way through the two pies, double mash and liquor (the green sauce you see) with the obligatory chilli infused vinegar I was suddenly transported back to pretty much any Saturday night in 1978 - probably reading the same set of rules over dinner or probably sorting out the same set of counters.

Cripes! That was 46 years ago….

In respect of Flat Top I am reminded of a well known quote that actually predated my acquisition of the game and in its own way has also had a profound impact on my gaming life.

“We meet again at last. The circle is now complete….”

Friday 22 March 2024

Putting the Top in Flat Top!

The box may be faded but the contents are complete and in great condition for a game getting on for nearly 50 years old!

At long last I have managed to track down a modestly priced copy of the original version of Flat Top - the game of carrier battles in the South Pacific during 1942 (excluding Midway) by S Craig Taylor and published by Battleline way back in the 70s. I can remember playing this to death ‘back in the day’ and whilst I also own the later Avalon Hill version (still unpunched) the earlier version has a special place in my gaming heart!

Why get this when I have the Avalon Hill version which is superior in just about every way? Well, that is an easy one to answer. It was challenging but fun, as long as you had an opponent that was prepared to play. At the time I was lucky in that my usual gaming partner enjoyed board games rather more than using models and so we played this, Avalon Hill’s Jutland and the Air Force trilogy to death. 

The Battleline version of Flat Top came in at 800 counters whilst the Avalon Hill edition has 1,500, together with mounted mapboards and a plot map in two halves. the rules have also been updated slightly. Crucially it also includes the ships for the Midway operation which the earlier version did not. The Battleline counters are chunkier than the Avalon hill version.

In a sense the Battleline version is rather more specific in its approach which is an advantage - especially as it is punched and ready to go! 

The rest of the South Pacific collection. 

In addition to this version of Flat Top I also have S Craig Taylor’s two Smithsonian series games - Midway and Guadalcanal - which cover much of the same topic but crucially in a simpler fashion. 

The one game that I am missing from this sequence was produced by the same designer when he moved across to Yaquinto Games. This was called CV and covered the Midway operation. Like many boardgames I have owned this ‘back in the day’ but no longer have a copy.

I suspect that will be next….

Tuesday 19 March 2024

En Garda - Where the only blades are on Propellors!

Better known as the Italian Job or “You are only supposed to blow the bloody paddle wheels off!”

The indefatigable David Manley - writer of rules, guru of all things naval and all round good guy - has been a busy chap and produced a new title in his ‘Steamer Wars’ series. For the benefit of the uninitiated these rules are designed with low level gunboat style operations in mind and often feature extemporised warships - the original rule set covered the WW1 Lake Tanganyika operations so you will get the idea of what I mean. Thus far there have been two expansions - one covering the Russian Civil War and the other tackling the operations during WW1 along the Danube.

The set that started it all. WW1 on Lake Tanganyika - going forth with Mimi and Toutou

The newest title covers something I had certainly not heard of and this is the naval engagements that took place on Lake Garda during the war of 1866 - probably better known for the battle of Lissa. The Austrians and Italians feature and as well as a dedicated set of rules there are also ship specifications for the combatants, a potted history of the fighting, a campaign system and for those that are 3D printer equipped, he has designed some files available from Wargames Vault of the ships available. 

The Russian Civil War expansion

I am probably biased in that David is a good friend of mine but take it from me, this series (in truth as are all of his rules) is well worth investigating if you want something naval but low key and requiring but a modest amount of preparation and models. You can also be guaranteed that the rules work and the information and research therein is of a very high order!

Plenty of inspiration here for sure!

Before you ask I am already thinking about scratch building the models for this (along with Lake Tanganyika but that is another story) and I really hope that David continues with this series - I rather fancy something for the great rivers of China, real ‘Sand Pebbles’ territory!

All of these rules are available from the Wargames Vault under David’s Long Face Games banner - this also includes all of his other rules.

A really useful book covering the ships mentioned in the rule sets above. There are a number of Osprey titles that cover similar as well.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the above title that is an absolute goldmine of information about the ships and gunboats used on the world’s rivers and lakes. Methinks I will be dragging my copy off the shelf again soon!

Friday 15 March 2024

“Zulus….120 of ‘em!”

At long last - I have only been on the lookout for these for around three years….

Back at the Cavalier show in February I got talking to Dave, the proprietor of 1-72 Model Figures about the semi-legendary and seemingly nigh-on impossible to get hold of box of Unmarried Zulus produced by Hat Industries. Turns out he had six of these ‘back at base’ and so after a brief exchange of emails a parcel arrived yesterday with two boxes of them - 120 figures in total.

One of the four sprues in each box viewed from the front. There are two figures holding captured rifles to the box holds 8 out of 60 or 16 over the two sets. Possibly a little on the high side but close enough for my needs.

The reverse side of the sprue.

These are for my 20mm soft plastic Zulu War project in which the British rank and file and mounted troops have been sourced from the board game War in the Age of Imperialism. 

The main reason I was so keen to get this set was due to the fact that the majority of the figures are one piece castings so no separate shields or weapons (with a single exception). The ESCI Zulus feature separate shields and weapons and these are, in my opinion, a royal pain to deal with. The only drawback is of course that these are Unmarried Zulus and so lack the distinctive head ring that the married veterans wore. The tribal figures from the aforementioned board game may be usable in this case but I will need to check. In any event there is another box of Hat Zulus that features the married types although guess what? That is currently equally as difficult to get a hold of! 

Expect a further update on this project in 2026…. :-)

Thursday 14 March 2024

“This War Without an Enemy”

The box lid….

…and the underside

The English Civil War is one of the periods of history I have never been able to make my mind up about! I have gamed it using figures (not mine I hasten to add) and have gone through not one but two WoFun collections - the 28mm version is now with Mr Fox - and a very fine job he has made with them using a DBA inspired set of rules and some custom movement trays - and the 18mm version which has also gone. I built up a small collection of reading material for the period but for whatever reason it never really got off the ground for me. Even watching the film Cromwell a couple of times failed to really engage me. It became one of those periods of history that I would be interested in only under certain circumstances  such as a visit to a castle or Manor House that featured during the war, possibly viewing some museum exhibits or similar and so it not a long stayer as such. In many ways I had the same feelings about the American Civil War on land, the saving grace for me in this instance being the naval side.

This War Without an Enemy is a board game produced by Nuts Publishing and offers a strategic game of the period of the civil war using blocks for units and notable personalities and a card driven area movement system. Unit blocks have a number of hit points that can be reduced by damage and tactical battles are resolved on a stylised battle mat - I have the neoprene version of this along with the game printed version.

The rules, playbook, unit and personality blocks and the two decks of event cards that drive the game

Scenario set ups for 1642 and 1644 - there is a full campaign game covering the entire war

A close up of the unit and personality blocks

The neoprene version of the tactical battlefield map.

I really enjoy block based games and in many ways - cards excepting - this reminds me of Napoleon by Columbia Games. That also features a separate stylised battle board for resolving tactical battles - a pretty neat idea akin to a figures based campaign where the units are moved on a map and the figures are deployed on the tabletop for the resolution of the action.

Anyways, an opportunity arose for me to pick up a secondhand copy at a price I could not refuse and so here I am, once again looking at the ECW and ruing the disposal of the 18mm Wofun and of the books I had acquired. I am not so fussed about the former but the latter will require some eBay attention methinks! Luckily most of the books I had - no more than half a dozen or so - are for the most part readily available and more importantly are not expensive.

For the record whilst I was typing this I had the theme tune from the BBC TV series ‘By the Sword Divided’ running in my head - is this trying to tell me something?

No figures were harmed or purchased during the writing of this post…. :-)

Wednesday 13 March 2024

More on Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame

A ‘Pell-mell’ affair as the Union attempt to force a conclusion against a mixed Confederate force. Note the monitors bombarding the fort at the top of the picture.

What’s in a name?

Work has continued, albeit rather sporadically, on Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame. After a bit of a rethink I have reverted to the original title rather than describing it as a ‘Revised and Expanded Edition’ as I think this better reflects the contents. To be honest it is largely a moot point because in essence a ‘Revised and Expanded Edition’ is exactly what the new book will be. However, following on from the precedent set by Bob with the Portable Wargame, I reckon that calling it ‘Developing’ is more in keeping with the overall Portable naming convention. So ‘Developing the Revised and Expanded Edition of the Portable Ironclads Wargame’ it is then….Only kidding, just ‘Developing’!

There is also an important new addition to the new book. As well as including rules for using a square grid as well as the original hexagonal version I will also be including rules for using single hexes and squares rather than two. The rationale behind this is that the use of single grid areas works better for smaller scale models. For example, a single Hexon tile, measuring 4” across the flat sides, will happily take a 1:1200th scale model. For the record I am looking at 6” grid areas for my own collection but then my models are rather on the large side!

Freebie Alert!

In the meantime though, I do have some welcome news. I shall be publishing an errata for the original book which will be available as a free PDF. I will make it available on the blog and also a couple of the facebook groups I belong to - The Portable Wargame and Gridded Naval Wargames. This is by no means an onerous document - thankfully - but it will help to tidy up a few things. I will be working on this over the next couple of weeks and will advise when ready.

Monday 11 March 2024

The Tactical Board Game….Part 1

Over the past year or so I have been quietly amassing a selection of tactical board games. For me there are many advantages in pursuing such a path and I am sure that a fair few of these will strike a chord or two!

Convenience. After readying a game for tabletop action it simply a case of setting it up, fighting the battle and then putting it away in its box. No fuss and very simple indeed!

Storage. A game in a box and boxes are easy to store.  

Cost. A premium quality tactical board game may set you back around the £100 mark but for that you will get two or more side to fight with, the playing area and any terrain applicable - usually printed on the map or in conjunction with terrain overlays. Compare that to amassing similar forces using models and factor in the cost of paints, brushes etc.

Time. When your new board game arrives getting it table ready can usually be managed in an evening or two. Compare this with the time to assemble and paint two forces of models.

On the Grid. This is I guess where things can get a little muddied. I am a committed grid based gamer, so much so that grids are pretty much all I fight over these days. This makes the crossing the psychological hurdle into board games very much easier - in fact I probably took this leap several years ago with my block armies.

I have made no secret of the fact that I am a reluctant painter and so giving up on producing armies is not really a great sacrifice. I will still tackle skirmish type stuff and of course anything naval, aerial, deep space or vehicular will continue as normal and indeed, I still have a few projects in this regard that require some attention in due course.

Without further ado the following are a selection of the tactical games I have - a couple of which are repurchases - and a bit of an insight into why they are there.

Command and Colours. Of the above titles the Samurai and Jacobites are self contained in that there are no expansions. The American Revolution has a single one which includes the French whilst the Medieval title will probably feature several expansions. The first of these covers the Crusades which I will certainly get when available.

In many ways the above games from the Command and Colours stable represent a step up from the original Battle Cry and Memoir 44 in that in addition to the usual command cards there are some bespoke tactical options that further nuance gameplay. Memoir 44 moved in this direction as did the Ancients and Napoleonic versions but only after several expansions. This definitely adds to the playing experience and decision making. For me the issue with Memoir 44 and the Napoleonic and Ancient versions is that to get the full experience one has to be fully invested in the system which means acquiring most if not all of the expansions. I have in the past gone down this particular rabbit hole but from here on in I intend to be far more selective about any game that needs multiple expansions!

A reworking of the old Yaquinto game ‘88 features combat in the desert and is both very tank centric and detailed - detailed as in types of ammunition used and part of the target hit. Beautiful to look at and with everything up to and including Tigers in Tunisia.

The Panzer series was originally published by Yaquinto back in the day but the series has been updated and given a makeover by GMT Games. This will allow me to indulge my fondness for armoured battles in the desert. It is not the only tactical level game I have for the desert but the other one will feature in part two of this post. 

In many ways my drift into board games for tactical battles was inevitable given the reasons above. I would add though that when the time comes for our inevitable down sizing I will be handily placed and without masses of painted figures and terrain to worry about.

Horses for courses and all that.

Friday 8 March 2024

Hitting the Beach - Heroes of Normandie Style

The scenario pack sleeve - yes it really does feature a ‘hero’ character that looks like the above!

The back of the outer sleeve - note the use of squares.

Following on from recent post about Heroes of Normandie the first of the two expansions I was able to source has arrived. The D-Day Scenario pack consists of six double sided geomorphic terrain boards and three sheets of counters. The former features everything you would expect in a littoral based game so the sea, beach, defences and the beginnings of the hinterland are covered whilst the game counters include a lot of offensive and defensive stuff - bangalores, grapnels, shovels, flamethrowers etc for the former and various beach defences for the latter. The US have an engineer type unit whilst the Germans have a fortress style garrison. All very ‘Saving Private Ryan’ - in fact there is a set of overlays available from one of the associated Facebook groups that feature Captain Miller and his unit from the film, the idea being you could print them off, mount them on suitable card and away you go. 

The rest of the contents look something like the below:

Two of the game boards. These are 7 x 7 squares and the squares themselves are 40mm across. Ideal Portable Wargame sized actions methinks - certainly for 15mm although 20mm would work (vehicles typically deploy over two squares).

Landing craft, beach defences and part of the Atlantic Wall

The Germans and yet more defensive positions

A close up of the units, in this case the Germans. Everything you need to know about the unit is featured on their counter

The Americans along with some hardware for tackling the defences and yet another piece of the Atlantic Wall.

I have scored a couple of other bits and pieces in support of this system - a couple of terrain packs and an upgrade kit that takes the core system up to the current version of the rules. In terms of the terrain boards I now have eighteen - six each from the base game featuring generic Normandy countryside, the D-Day set mentioned and also from the Carentan set - these feature a number of buildings in a village/town style setting. With the various terrain overlays I am pretty much set up for a wide variety of battlefields to fight over so my plan is that once I have organised the collection I shall be able to do exactly that.

This mini project certainly satisfies many of my ongoing and circumstantial requirements in that when stored it will be be fairly compact, the production quality is very high and so is visually very good to look at and above all of this it is a fun system.

Looking forward to this!

Tuesday 5 March 2024

‘Allo, Allo’…Revisiting Heroes of Normandie

You can probably guess how this is going to go….

The back of the box - very high production values and a square grid to boot. I can see myself rewatching any number of WW2 war films for inspiration….

I have a diverse range of interests when it comes to gaming WW2. Growing up as part of the ‘Airfix’ generation, supplemented by Commando and Battle comics and umpteen war films I have probably gamed more facets of WW2 than any other period - land, sea and air from man to man skirmishes to entire strategic level campaigns - so I can safely say I have been there, done that and brought the tee shirt! Having said that I do not profess to be an authority on the period, nor do I claim to have tried every possible gaming type - just a whole lot of ‘stuff’.

Way back in 2020 I picked up a copy of Heroes of Normandie by Devil Pig Games (sadly the company has gone but the game designers/owners will be setting up again at some point) which is WW2 gaming based on Hollywood, complete with cartoon looking characters. All very tongue in cheek but the game is surprisingly nuanced in that whilst the action is fast and furious the combat outcomes feel about right.

There are umpteen expansions around although these are getting more expensive as the rarity factor kicks in. At the time I mentioned that I rather fancied the D Day scenario pack and also Civilians Under Fire - the latter for the French Resistance.

Anyways, I have acquired a basketful of Heroes of Normandie stuff from a gaming chum and have the D Day set and Civilians Under Fire currently winging their way to Maison Crook courtesy of eBay.

The rules and scenarios from the core set and the campaign guide from the Carentan expansion

The Operations Folder contains the play sheets and the hardback rulebook. These come togthere in a slipcase.

The newly acquired set consists of the base game, the Carentan campaign pack, Lord Lovat’s Commandoes, a US army box and also one for the Germans. There is also the Heroes Compendium which includes a hardback updated version of the rules including the ‘Shadows over Normandie’ Weird War 2 stuff and a series of quick reference sheets. All in all a great little collection.

There are other bits and pieces I could add but this little lot will be more than sufficient for the time being. There is also a lot of material on a couple of the Facebook groups I belong to in the shape of extra scenarios etc. There is even a set of counter overlays for the rangers from Saving Private Ryan if you wish although the film was far more serious than many.

What does it all mean then?

Well, I have a number of, for want of a better expression, serious tactical WW2 games including Lock and Load Publishing’s Heroes of North Africa, the Motherland (Eastern Front) and in Defiance (the Western European Blitzkrieg era) along with Panzer: North Africa for my desert based tank fix. I also have Combat Infantry and Combat Infantry: Eastern Front by Columbia Games which are pitched at battalion level.

“Listen carefully, I will say this only once….”

Heroes of Normandie is first and foremost a tongue in cheek take on WW2 in the best traditions of Hollywood and the Commando comic books - all of which have given me much pleasure over the years - and so offers me an almost cartoon style WW2 gaming experience. In short, a lot of fun!

Going forwards

As mentioned in my original 2020 blog post there would be scope for using figures with this game if required. The model count would be very low and so would certainly be doable if required. That is something else to think about though and certainly not just yet!

Thursday 29 February 2024

A Most Welcome Addition

Back in the library - at last! Note the rather intriguing CD….

As anyone that knows me will agree I tend to be rather impulsive when it comes to starting and stopping projects. I believe that age has tempered this slightly but memories of regretted disposals often come back to haunt me - especially when I end up acquiring the same at some point later. I have learned to live with the embarrassment though!

The contents and how useful is that!?

So it was that my original copy of the above book found its way into the collection of Mr Fox sometime ago - before lockdown as I recall, so we are talking around five years ago at least. Now I have a reasonable selection of books on the warships of the American Civil War but I was keen to get a hold of this one again but the prices on a secondhand basis were frankly ludicrous. 

Anyway, a recent trawl through eBay had a copy available on a ‘buy it now’ basis and so I did! It duly arrived this morning and a most welcome surprise was hidden, Journey to the Centre of the Earth style, in the dust jacket. 

I will need to play around with the CD as I am currently unable to open the files as I use a Mac and this is a Microsoft based disc so currently is unable to run EXE. I am not tech savvy enough to be able to do this easily so will try a few of my IT contacts to see what I need to do. In any event, given that this information has been added to a CD I am wondering if it is available online to download from somewhere as presumably this is in the public domain.

I shall look forward to seeing the contents though for sure!