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.