Thursday 20 June 2024

WW2 At Sea

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

The moves leading to the destruction of the Bismarck

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Further Thoughts on WW2 Aerial Games

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 This is no longer available as it has been replaced by a version covering the Battle of Midway which includes F4 Wildcats and the Japanese Zero

The contents - not the painted aircraft.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 14 June 2024

The Continuing Saga of the Man Cave

The man cave nerve centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for a rethink methinks….

Sunday 9 June 2024

Jack Alexander of Jacklex Fame and a Tale of Two Bobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe, who knows?

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

Friday 7 June 2024

Reorganising the Man Cave and a Naval treat

Oh yes indeedy!

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

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

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

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

Can’t be bad eh?

Sunday 2 June 2024

The Naval Sitrep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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