Tuesday 30 January 2024

Thoughts on Firing

Pipe cleaner bow waves and cotton wool gunsmoke - the former indicating ships that have moved this turn, the latter for ships that have fired after their movement. Looking at the above you can see that the current game turn has ended and only the sloop would be free to fire at the start or end of its next move, the other two would have to wait until the end of their movement. If a ship does not fire at all during their turn then any smoke markers are removed. The markers you see will be replaced with something a little more aesthetically pleasing in due course!

During the recent test of the alternate move sequence and move/fire, fire/move idea - both of which seemed to work quite well - I was reminded of one of the small niggles that seems to have grown into something requiring a bit of a rethink. The offending system is of course that of firing.

I am happy with the two step approach - rolling to hit and then rolling for damage based on any successful hits scored - and would still like to use this but I am now less convinced that reducing the number of D6 rolled to hit by range makes for a fun game. All too often ships are rolling single D6s at range which just seems a little flat. I am now leaning towards allowing the full number of gun dice to be rolled, regardless of range but with modifiers to the D6 rolls to reflect diminishing accuracy. This is complicated by two things. Firstly, under the existing system potential hits are scored with a roll of 4 or 5 for a single hit and a roll of 6 for two hits. Clearly this is problem when using specific scores to hit because one could then have the situation where a maximum range shot requiring a 6 to score a hit would in fact mean that the roll of a 6 would score two hits! 

My solution would be to shift the 4 or 5 equalling a single hit and 6 being two hits to the damage resolution rolls so that firing to hit would be the number of gun dice the ship carries modified by range. The idea I have in mind looks something like this:

Guns with a range of 4 (penetration factor of 2 or less)

1 - 3, 4, 5 or 6
2 - 4, 5 or 6
3 - 5 or 6
4 - 6

Guns with a range of 6 (penetration factor of 3 or more)

1 - 3, 4, 5 or 6
2, 3 - 4, 5 or 6
4, 5 - 5 or 6
6 - 6

Damage rolls would follow the normal 4 or 5 for a single damage point and 6 for two damage points - this of course being modified by the penetration factor versus the armour factor. 

It is very early on with this alternative idea but I believe it has potential. My rationale is that rolling great handfuls of dice is an enjoyable mechanic and makes for a banter filled game! 

Monday 29 January 2024

Front Loading for Retirement*

An excellent book and crying out to be Portable Ironclads Wargamed! But how or even when?

Assuming I ‘go the distance’ then at the time of writing I have 973 days until I retire - not that I am counting! I will retire when I am able to and if my current employment sees fit to put me out to pasture sooner then so be it. It would not be the end of the world if that happened - the house is paid for and we are financially ok in a modest way. From a personal perspective it would mean that I could spend more quality time with Laurel - which seems an odd viewpoint when I am working fully remote at home - and the pace of our lives would be a good deal less frenetic. I will have to see how things go but the relative nearness to the big ‘R’ means that decisions need to be made in respect of many things - the inevitable down or right size into a more manageable property - and of course, my collection.

In many ways I have been moving towards this over recent months, years even, with a series of disposals and selected acquisitions, all of which are designed to be as compact as possible. There are several decisions that have already been reached - more by chance than design - but I seem to heading in the right direction. More or less….

1. No more large armies 15mm or upwards. Aside from lacking the inclination to build large armies the associated cost and space requirement is too high. Any ‘armies’ I look to build will be confined to 6mm or smaller (more of which later). I shall still use 28mm for skirmish sized actions - 0200 being a case in point - or possibly even a dabble into Rampant territory but of necessity this will need to be carefully planned and managed. I have a WoFun ACW collection in 18mm which will go against this ruling, mainly because the armies take up so little space. I may even dabble further with WoFun but who knows?

2. Aircraft and ships will remain a constant as either take up little space and terrain requirements are fairly modest. I especially enjoy making ships and so see no reason to stop!

3. Boardgames. I have a long history with boardgames and with the choice and selection available there is plenty to keep me going. I have consciously moved towards tactical boardgames or specifically designed solo types. I have a couple that qualify as strategic level and indeed, I may well explore this further but ina measured way. The tactical games I have chosen are mainly those that cover periods of history I am unlikely to ever translate into miniatures based games. As a confirmed grid based wargamer the transition from miniatures to counters/blocks or back again is a very easy one to make!

For Tactical combat on land these include various Command and Colours titles (Samurai Battles, Jacobite Rising and American Revolution), Lock and Load (Heroes of North Africa) and Flying Pig Games (‘65, Night of Man). I also have both editions of Combat Infantry by Columbia Games - NW Europe and the Eastern Front for WW2. Finally, I have the full set of the Undaunted series.

4. Small but perfectly formed. I have acquired a collection from the painting legend and all round good chap ‘Lee Gramsom of nine 3mm ancient DBA armies with camps terrain and a set of painted gaming boards as well. I shall be meeting up with him to take collection of these probably on 25/02 - the day of the Cavalier show at Tonbridge in Kent. These are quite exquisite and painted to Lee’s usual outrageously high standard! I used to play a lot of ancients back in the day and enjoy DBA so this collection, in its bespoke storage box will be an ideal way for me to dabble once again. 

5. Mention of skirmish/Rampant style set ups includes such things as the aforementioned 0200 (WW2 night raids) along with Sci Fi Stargrave/Five Parsecs from Home/ Another Glorious Day in the Corps style games. Rampant will be reserved for something special - I have not decided yet but I have a few things in mind.

I do not own vast armies of painted figures and so by keeping to skirmish sized actions in 28mm I can keep things within modest bounds - an important consideration for storage space when the inevitable down/right size comes and for being doable. The biggest single part of my collection is probably the library. Again, I have made strenuous efforts over the last couple of years to keep this within sensible bounds. It is slightly larger than I would like but I have in mind some disposals that should get it to where it should be. This will also have the advantage of enabling me to organise it rather more effectively. As with every part of my collection there is an element of ‘churn’ as things come into or drift out of fashion - the butterfly will o doubt still be fluttering!

If I was to score myself out of ten as to where I am at with this overall retirement vision I would probably give myself a 6, bordering on a 7. There is work to be done but I at least have a handle on what needs attending to and so the overall picture is slowly coming into focus. At least I still have potentially 973 days to get where I need to!

* I am indebted to Aly Morrison for introducing me to the concept of Front Loading for Retirement - many thanks old chap!

Thursday 25 January 2024

Thoughts on the Revised and Expanded Edition

With apologies for the poor picture quality, the newly commissioned C.S.S. Tennessee steams gallantly towards the Union blockading ships.

As mentioned in my recent post I am planning to fight a small test action this weekend, pitting the newly commissioned C.S.S. Tennessee trying her luck against a Union sloop and a monitor. In many ways this will be similar to Hampton Roads with the exception that the old navy sloop will not be aground! I also mentioned that there are a couple of optional rules I am trying out that, assuming they are successful, will appear in the Portable Ironclads Wargame Revised and Expanded edition later in the year.

The two rules cover the turn sequence and firing and  remember, these are optional.

Alternate Movement.

In the original version of the rules players rolled for initiative with the winner having the choice of moving first or second with all their ships. As an option I am allowing players to alternate movement based on the initiative roll. My rationale for this is that I believe it will better reflect the organised chaos of most ACW naval actions as ships jockey for position whilst being mindful of the opposition. If using this method then some means of marking a ship that has moved is required and for this I shall be using sort lengths of white pipe cleaner folded into a ‘V’ shape and placed on the ship’s bow. This represents a bow wave and so as each ships moves it will become clear who has and it is an easy way to keep track. When all the ships are thus adorned the turn is over and these markers are then removed during the first phase of the next game turn.

Move and Fire, Fire and Move.

This option changes the sequence of play in that the firing phase is dispensed with as it now fits in with movement. The plan is for ships to be able to fire at the start of their move or at the end. Ships that opt to do the latter should have a marker representing gun smoke placed by them which then stays in place until the end of the ships next move (these are not removed at the start of the next turn. In effect a ship that fires at the end of a turn will not be able to fire again until the end of the next turn, assuming it wants to. If it does not then the smoke marker is removed and the ship is then free to fire either at the start or the end of the following move.

Both of these rules will force extra decision making on the respective commanders as timing suddenly becomes critical. In truth I was a little wary of these ideas as I figured that it may slow things down a little but but careful ‘marker management’ all will be later and besides, seeing bow waves and gun smoke adds to the visual appeal which is no bad thing.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

‘65….A Bump in the Boonies*

The box featuring a ‘grunt’ suitably festooned with ammunition….

….and the rear of the box featuring an area of ‘bandit country’.

With one eye on the inevitable ‘right-sizing’ in a few years I have been realigning much of my collection so that it is portable and does not take up vast amounts of space. For me this translates into boardgames rather than models - with of course some notable exceptions - so that the eventual move should be as painless as possible. Large armies will no longer feature so the block armies or 2/3mm will be the order of the day. 28mm will be for skirmishes up to ‘Rampant’ level. Note that ships, aircraft, starships or Battlemechs are not included in this!

As part of this process you may recall a while ago I acquired a whole bunch of WW2 tactical games published by Lock and Load. The rules are outstanding but for a variety of reasons they never really caught my imagination. Everyone I know that games the system swears by them but somewhat perversely I suppose, I am not one of them! What had caught my eye though, was a boardgame published by Flying Pig Games called ‘65 - Squad Level Combat In The Jungles Of Vietnam. This was might up my street in terms of the scale of the game and so I attempted to source a copy. It proved to be an almost impossible task to get a copy in the UK and I was on the verge of giving up when a gaming chum pointed out that a set was up for grabs on Ebay.

I duly ‘watched’ the listing and then on the last day entered a bid, then another, then another after that until eventually the auction finished and guess what? I had won it! It was a little higher than I expected but still an absolute bargain.

The game itself contained all the currently available expansions and although the counters were punched out it was unused. I am a little fastidious about boardgames in that I much prefer mounted map boards and chunky counters and so ‘65 delivers this in spades. The counters are 1” squares or larger and the map boards are suitably ‘Nam looking - loads of trees, rice paddies, small villages and so on. One of the expansions features a cityscape - Hue in this case - so going full on “Full Metal Jacket’ could be fun to try out.

The other expansions include the USMC and ANZAC forces as well as some additional cards and, best of all, a solo system. Gameplay and combat is driven by cards and is quite fast paced and with plenty of decisions to be made every turn. In short, it is a great tactical game.

In years gone by I would have thought about how to use figures for ths and indeed, I acquired a whole pile of ESCI US and VC 20mm figures and developed a version of Memoir ‘44 to use with them but, like so many ‘good ideas at the time’ the enthusiasm faded, mainly due to the work involved to get it to the table.

I can feel a re-reading of ‘We Were Soldiers Once….’ Coming on - I might even watch the film again!

*A Bump in the Boonies was the title of a set of Vietnam wargame rules by Cliff Mitchell and published by Gosling Press. 

Monday 22 January 2024

Assaulting the Jailers….Game Number 76, Part 1

An early plan of the fort….

….and an aerial view - probably a drone shot methinks.

After having finished the C.S.S. Tennessee it would be somewhat churlish to not put her through her paces on the tabletop. Whilst I will refight Mobile Bay in due course (I will need to model Fort Morgan first) in the interim I will look to pit the Confederate ironclad against a monitor and a sloop, almost Hampton Roads like. It will also be a good way of testing a couple of the optional rules that will be appearing in the Portable Ironclads Wargame Revised and Expanded Edition.

The action will be fought using the revised firing arcs - this is a minor change fro the original rules and is the only one of any impact - and the optional rules will cover alternate movement and changes to the firing. I will not go into details here but I reckon that these will certainly add to the decision making!

This will be a simple battle but in my experience games involving fewer ships (or indeed any type of unit being represented) tend to focus the mind somewhat - at least that is my opinion!

In the meantime though, I will need to think about how best to model Fort Morgan. An idea I have been pondering is to make a baseline style model - David Manley suggested something similar to a DBA style camp or BUA (built up area) which seems like a good idea.

As far as this test action is concerned it will be the first time I have tried the optional rules so keeping it fairly simple seemed like a sensible approach. The plan is to fight the action over the coming weekend so I shall get the necessary paperwork ready over the next few days.

Looking forward to it!

Friday 19 January 2024

C.S.S. Tennessee - Mobile at Last!

There she is - C.S.S. Tennessee all set to take on the Union fleet in Mobile Bay

After a largely straightforward build - helped by the somewhat more measured approach I adopted rather than my usual ‘headlong, bull in a china shop’ technique - the Confederate ironclad the C.S.S. Tennessee is ready to join the rest of the collection. As ever the model is more ‘based upon’ rather than strictly accurate but I think she conveys the overall sense of menace that the original ship had. So, the hull is the wrong shape - as are the gun port covers - and she has the earlier pattern naval ensign as well as missing the deck cowl vents (also missing from the other models in the collection!)  but other than that she is good to go! 

‘Purely Representational’ a wise man once said….repeatedly!

As deployed on my hexed cloth

I really enjoyed this build, certainly more than I expected to given the shape of the casemate. She will make a powerful addition to the Confederate fleet and it means that I now have all the Rebel ships for Mobile Bay - the others being the C.S.S. Selma, the C.S.S. Morgan and the C.S.S. Gaines. I could probably rustle up sufficient Union ships for the battle although the ‘lashed together’ wooden vessels may require a little thought, not to mention the Confederate Fort Morgan. 

C.S.S. Tennessee in the van with the C.S.S. Selma following closely. In flanking positions are the C.S.S. Morgan and the C.S.S. Gaines

During the course of this build I have been thinking a lot about the ACW collection and what else is needed for it. The answer is of course, plenty! There are ships I want to model as well as some terrain pieces but in the short term I am thinking around half a dozen more models (three of which are already under construction) and a large fort will suffice. The other bits and pieces can be dropped in as and when the mood takes me. The important thing is that I now have a sufficient variety of models to fight just about anything from the war between the states. 

It is a great place to be in!

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Assembly finished….Now for the painting

Sealed and ready to paint. The actual ship appeared to have a rather tall and quite slim funnel although this may have been a replacement after she was captured. The flagstaff I found in a spares box and was originally going to be used to fashion gun barrels from. Note the hole drilled for the flagstaff - the funnel is glued directly to the roof of the casemate. The ruler is so you can see how big she is.

After a quick half hour session in the man cave at lunchtime the C.S.S. Tennessee is now ready to be painted. I had some deck detail, cut a suitable length for the funnel and managed to find a piece of previously painted cocktail stick to use for the flagstaff - very much a case of ‘here’s one I prepared earlier!’ 

The whole thing was coated with a sealer which is now drying prior to undercoating and then the final paint job.

According to most of the pictures and plans I have seen of the actual ship itself there should be a pair of funnels forward and two pairs aft, along with the deck mounted chains leading to the rudder aft and he anchors on the bow. As I have not depicted either of these parts on any of my previous models it seemed fairly pointless starting now despite the actual ship becoming unmanageable due to having the steering chains  severed by gunfire during the fateful battle of Mobile Bay. I have instead opted for my default deck detail of hatch covers! 

Strictly speaking the hull should also have an angle leading to the waterline which I probably could have done using my Dremel but for the fact that by the time I had thought about this the models was more or less complete - especially the casemate.

Once again then we have a ‘purely representational’ or Hollywood ‘based upon’ style of model - a fact of which I offer no apologies for! ;-)

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Fitting out

The business end - I was struck by the angular shape that seems to feature in more and more modern warship designs.

The view from the stern. Note the steering cover on the stern.

Two posts in one day?! I can’t remember the last time I managed that!

Further progress with the C.S.S. Tennessee. After having cleaned up the filled sections I then set about adding the gun port covers. These are not the right shape but hey ho - neither are the vast majority of all the others in the collection! I drilled out a hole for the flagstaff and added a piece of plastic card to the stern - this is the cover for the steering assembly. 

The next step will be to organise the funnel and the flagstaff. I always paint these before I fix them to the model as I find easier than having to paint around a circle! Once these have been sourced the whole lot can be sealed prior to undercoating.

She will be ready to join the rest of the collection by the weekend.

Now, about Mobile Bay….

More on C.S.S. Tennessee

A plan of the actual ship. Due to constraints of my available modelling material - I use a uniform hull template for most of the models I have built - the final model will be ‘based upon’ rather than an accurate depiction.

The view from the forward port quarter….

….and the same from the aft starboard quarter.

Finally an overhead view showing the distinctive pilot house. Note the ‘softer’ sweep of the stern - a big improvement on the rather dumpy version I have used for the rest of the collection. Ho hum…. I will certainly NOT be rebuilding the earlier models!

The new routine in have settled into seems to work quite well in that by spending the half an hour or so on hobby time - the practical side of it, that is - it is quite surprising what one can get done! The case in point is of course the current build of the Confederate ironclad the C.S.S. Tennessee.

Yesterday evening I was able to apply filler to the casemate angles as well as modelling the pilot house. The plan for today is to give the filler a final smooth over with some fine grade sandpaper (more likely an emery board!) and this evening I shall apply the gunports and the stern rudder housing. I shall also be thinking about the final and flagstaff. Assuming all this is completed satisfactorily then tomorrow will see the sealing taking place with a view to starting the painting on Thursday. In any event she will be ready either by or over the weekend.

More pictures will follow in due course.

Sunday 14 January 2024

Building and Boxing

I am feeling rather virtuous today as I not only made a major step forwards with Eric’s WW2 collection but I was also able to get some modelling in.

From the bow - the yawning gap you see will be filled.

The view from the stern. The pilot house will fully enclosed once I have decided how best to do that. Again, notice the yawning chasm of the casemate corner crying out for lashings of filler!

Eric's collection previously made use of a wide variety of box sizes as well as some wooden drawers - most of which were solidly built (meaning heavy) but had seen better days. The upshot of this rather haphazard system was that it took up a substantial amount of space. Eric was meticulous in respect of his organisation so every box and drawer clearly identified the contents so the random selection of storage worked well enough but I needed to be able to properly tidy things up so took the decision to decant the collection into boxes of a uniform size. I duly ordered a pack of 20 boxes from Amazon and somewhat naively thought that would be enough….

I have filled 19 of them - 9 British, 5 American and 5 German but the latter also have 2 box files and 8 Airfix series two boxes. The German collection is very ‘Eric’ in that the artillery component is prodigious along with an impressive amount of armour - no Tiger 1s or Panthers though which was a surprise. Mind you, the pair of Jagdtigers, a Sturmtiger and a trio of King Tigers made up for this shortfall. Did I mention the eleven 88mm guns?

Now that I have decanted this lot it will be a whole lot easier for me to tidy the whole lot up into some kind of order for disposal but that will be for another day. I can now organise each box full in a far more leisurely fashion and without battling precariously balanced piles of odd sized boxes - rather like playing Jenga with odd shaped blocks. At least doing this has reduced the footprint of the collection in the man cave!

On the building front I was able to get some more work in on the C.S.S. Tennessee. As you can see the main parts of the casemate are not in place and the angles will be filled with filler. The plan is to tackle the pilot house tomorrow along with the filling so by the middle of the week she should be finished bar the painting. My building technique struggles with angles so it was quite a relief that this went relatively smoothly - I am crossing my fingers when I say that!

Friday 12 January 2024

More on the Great Game

At last - back in the library! A secondhand hardback edition that set me back the princely sum of £7.45. What a bargain!

My copy of Peter Hopkirk’s magisterial book: The Great Game - On Secret Service in High Asia arrived this morning and so I am ready to plunge in to Pax Pamir and its head spinning subtlety and nuance filled gameplay.

The book is in pretty good condition with the dust jacket intact except for some slightly scuffed corners. It also has that ‘secondhand book from an indeterminate origin’ smell but nothing to be upset about.

The high regard in which this book is held in is best summed up by the comment on the rear of the dust jacket by no less a personage than Patrick Leigh Fermor, the famous travel writer and kidnapper of German Generals.

“The Great Game is absolutely marvellous, the best thing I’ve read for ages”.

High praise indeed!

Thursday 11 January 2024

A Great Game about….The Great Game!

Pax Pamir - a game of political skullduggery set in Afghanistan during the 19th century

The back of the box showing some of the components

I would not usually bother showing the inside of a box lid but this is really lovely to see

The ‘Great Game’ of course refers to the political shenanigans ‘twixt the British, the Russians and a whole host of Afghanistan and central Asian territories during the 19th century. The gist of it was that the British were wary of Russian plans and influence so close to India - and the Russians were wary of the proximity of the British to their own central Asian spheres of influence. For the locals it was a case of attempting to  trying to play both ends against the middle and either working with either of the great powers or attempting to form a viable coalition to be able to stand alone - an undertaking that would be a challenge given the regional propensity for double dealing, skullduggery and intrigue. This is a rude and very simplistic overview of what went on and so for more detail about theGreat Gameclick on the link. An essential read would be Peter Hopkirk’s excellent book ‘The Great Game’ - a copy of which I have winging its way to me courtesy of evil bay as my own sadly disappeared during the great missing box disaster of years gone by.

Pax Pamir is a game based on the situation in Afghanistan following the collapse of the Durrani Empire. Essentially players represent Afghan leaders, all of whom are attempting to forge a new state. It is a game of alliances, backstabbing, bribery, assassination, currying favour in one hand whilst wielding a knife in the other and all the while contending with the British and Russian ‘Ferengi’ (foreigners) - who can used or abused as required (usually the former). The game is designed for 1 to 5 players and events are driven by cards which interact and effect the course of affairs in many different ways. As a largely solo gamer having the ability to play this single handed against what looks like a quite challenging solo card deck is a real bonus although playing it with five people would be a blast. Sadly it would probably be too long for a club night but perhaps it will be something to think about going forwards.

A selection of the game components - note the use of period artwork

The map and more of the components - cards, coins and coalition blocks.

Production quality is quite frankly off the scale. The game cards (there are 142 split across three types) all feature coloured artwork and are beautiful to look at. Personalities from period along with troop types and special events also feature. All the playing pieces are top quality and the version I have contains the optional metal coins as well as the card counters included. The game map is actually printed on linen and has a kind of period feel to it - a nice touch.

Yup! Flashman makes an appearance!

I am really pleased to have gotten a copy of this game as the period is certainly an interesting one and is replete with gaming potential. A few year ago I flirted with a fictional NW Frontier setting - the Roghan Valley - and fought a couple of actions using my block armies. It was all good fun but for one reason or another I never really pursued it. Whilst Pax Pamir is not a Wargame as such I hope that by playing it I might dabble in some games set in the Roghan Valley once again.

We shall see!

Sunday 7 January 2024

Back in the Ship Building Groove

Back in the ship building groove indeed - and a cracker to start off with! Note the hull shape. This has rather more sweeping lines leading to her stern than my usual and rather blunt standard type.

A tentative restart but a welcome one for sure! I had a few hours in the man cave this afternoon - initially to sort some boxes out but that took me a lot less time than envisaged so I parked myself by the modelling table and got busy.

The first thing I noticed was that one of the hulls I had been working on would not be quite right for the model I had in mind so I set that to one side - I have an alternate idea for it so all was not lost - and so instead set to scratching an itch that has been itching for sometime now. I am referring of course to the Confederate ironclad the C.S.S. Tennessee of Mobile Bay fame. 

To be honest I was not looking forward to this as she has a rather unusual casemate with angled corners and with the pilot house built in rather than parked on the roof so to speak. I had all manner of problems making octagonal casemates previously as my usual building technique works best with right angles! I ended up using filler for the angled corners but don’t tell anybody….

The two previous octagonal casemate ironclads - C.S.S. Virginia II in the middle and for the life of me I cannot remember off the top of my head the name of the other!

Anyway, the picture you see at the top of this post is where I am at thus far. Once I have added the front and rear of the casemate I shall use a smaller piece of balsa wood to fill in the pilot house with filler applied in the angles. Although it can dent easily the balsa wood insert will be protected by the two raised casemate sides as well as lashings of sealer, paint and varnish so should be ok.

Depending on how it works out I may well build another copy of this ship except with a Union flag - I did the same for the Atlanta and both versions still need to have their spar torpedo apparatus added.

I have to say that it felt really good being back in the gluing, filing, painting and varnishing business!

Friday 5 January 2024

The Personal Portable Wargame

Remember this? The four double sided maps I have (courtesy of Archduke Piccolo with eternal thanks!) from this series are now laminated so no more ‘paper fold’ ridge lines! These are going to see a fair amount of use over the coming months.

With the plan being to focus on the revised and expanded edition of the Portable Ironclads Wargame you could be forgiven for thinking that I have been distracted away from it already - not so! I should perhaps qualify this though, hence the title of this post.

I think it is fair to say that the Portable Wargame is a popular, well established and supported system that has an ever growing band of devotees that seem to bend and stretch the core mechanics in many different and unimaginable directions! I have said so before and will continue to do so that it is testimony to Bob’s original design that it seems to be able to withstand any amount of tinkering without breaking! In short, it is a tool to be used as required by the individual player or players depending on how they wish to.

I am a huge fan of the system in its various iterations and so plan to make use of it over the course of the coming year with the block armies once again taking to the field. The only limit I have set myself is that I shall only be using the maps I have recently had laminated (the picture above is one of them) and that the armies will be quite small - ranging from 6 to 9 blocks a side. Sadly I do not have any desert style maps so will have to forego these for the time being. No matter - there is more than enough variety in the verdant parts of the globe for me to enjoy!

The decision to use such a small playing area was driven largely by practicality in that I wanted to be able to fight a battle on my lap, rather on a tray on my lap. The map just about fits on a tray (at least the ones we have) but works better on the lid of a 32 litre plastic storage box which has the advantage of being able to take the associated paraphernalia required to fight a battle, dice, notepad, pencils etc.

The big advantage of this is that I can sit on the sofa whilst gaming rather than heading for the man cave to do so. I am also hoping to be able to play any of the solo board games I have in a similar way.

So, a mini portable wargame is the plan - all I need to do now is to plan some games!

Thursday 4 January 2024

The Portable Ironclads Wargame - Revised and Expanded Edition….Part 1

C.S.S. Selma and Louis(iana)….Pictured here mainly as I rather like these two models! The model of the Louisiana has a rather long story leading up to how you see it now - she was one of my very first models and has been modified several times. I have a couple of spare frames (as seen on the Selma) that I have found a couple of uses for so expect to see another model duly equipped!

After a year of tinkering, fiddling about, musing, jotting down ideas and then discarding them I am now at last in the position of being able to start the work in pulling together all the strands of what will be The Portable Ironclads Wargame - Revised and Expanded Edition. This is going to be my main project for the year with everything else being dropped in as and when required - this is the reason I have been squirrelling away various solo boardgames - things that will not need much in terms of effort to get to the table. I have a goodly selection to mess around with and with plenty of variety so I will be able to indulge as and when. In fact over the Christmas break I quietly set about getting counters punched and trimmed, cards sleeved and shelf space allotted. It was all very therapeutic for sure.

Right then, so what will this new edition look like?

To begin with the core rules from the original title will be largely unchanged and those changes that have been made are really more about interpretation and clarification than anything else. For the most part the extra rules are very much at the players discretion - they can be used or not. There will be a full set of rule adaptations for use on a square grid as well as hexagonal - squares were always my preferred choice - and as mentioned, a number of extra rules that can be dropped in as required to suit the players preferences. 

The ship specs for the ACW will be greatly expanded and a few errors corrected. I will also be including specs for use with the War in the Pacific and possibly something extra by way of a surprise.

Work in progress. The masts are not fixed in place and this is the same seven models that have sat on the tray for around three months now….time to do something about that methinks! Note the hull at the top of the picture - destined to be something rather essential if refighting Mobile Bay…

Naturally the ship yards will be busy to cater for all this - I still have a number of ACW ships in various stages of construction sitting on my shelf of shame - and fortunately the number of models required for the War in the Pacific or the ‘surprise’ are relatively few in number.

If I am completely honest then it is fair to say that last year I found it difficult to build up a head of steam for this. Various ‘real life’ issues - nothing catastrophic but certainly time consuming and definitely energy sapping - wreaked havoc with any thoughts of schedules or an organised approach. So what is different now?

Well, a lot of the work required exists in one form or another and so knitting it all into a coherent whole is definitely achievable. Now that I have a chance to review everything it is in pretty good shape and a good foundation to push on from. 

The plan now is to formalise the chapter headings - I always find this to be a useful exercise as it serves to focus the mind - and then proceed to work through them. From a practical perspective there will be playing surfaces to be organised, models to be built and battles to be fought, along with the all-important pictures.

I am really keen to push on with this now - the creative juices are at last simmering nicely!

Wish me luck…. ;-)

Monday 1 January 2024

New Year’s Eve and New Year Ideas

Old school rules in hardback from John Curry’s History of Wargaming project, the latest naval title from the prolific Angus Konstam and a study of the redcoats of Queen Victoria from Ian Knight


It has been a busy old Christmas break and at last 2024 is upon us. Christmas was very kind to me in terms of the ‘haul’ - aside from the books you see above there were also a number of choice comestibles including not one but two litre bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin - as yet unopened I might add!

I also picked up a copy of a book from a local indoor market - £7.99 down from £24.99 so even the memsahib was impressed! 

The Old West Skirmish rules were the original Western gunfight rules and I remember fighting many a close fought and desperate action with them. I even remember converting various 54mm figures to use with them. Great fun for sure and larger scales definitely work well for skirmish games in my opinion. 

The Convoy is real ‘Cruel Sea’ territory and a thrilling account of how ASW was painfully perfected with frontline experience. A sobering account of the full cost of the Battle of the Atlantic.

Warriors in Scarlet covered the experiences of the Victorian soldier whilst red coated and in building and defending the empire. Ian Knight needs little introduction and so this will be a book to savour - with nary a project coming out of it!

I can resist anything except temptation…..

On a brief run into the local village market I happened to pick a copy of the book you see above for the princely sum of £7.99 instead of the RRP of £24.99. Chock full of information and colour plates this has given me a definite dilemma in respect of my Battle of Britain Angels 20 project. I have sufficient models to be able to cater for ths although would need to add the Italians. Something to think about for the new year then.

End of the Year Stuff

It has been a challenging year for sure and so I am looking at 2024 with a certain degree of trepidation but for all that, a degree of optimism - probably misplaced but hope springs eternal and all that! My main focus for the year will be the Revised and Expanded Portable Ironclads Wargame and all the bits that go with it - models and scenery mainly. I hope to get a few other bits done but we shall see how things plan out.

In the meantime though, I hope that 2024 proves to be a good one and that all your projects roll on and into fruition at some point.

We can but hope!