Saturday, 30 April 2011

Desert Fort

Well, I'm back from my sojourn to all parts foreign.  Suffice to say that the 6 day voyage back from St Helena to Cape Town was uneventful save for the incessant pitching of the RMS St Helena in force 7 winds and the fact that our team "The St Helena Flying Club"  nearly won the ship's general knowledge quiz.  Maybe next time.

And after having been without internet access for so long I had I've been trawling through my favourite sites looking to see what you've been up to.  Being a fan of all things Airfix I came across this interesting post at the Don't Throw Bloody Spears at Me! blog.
I had the Airfix Foreign Legion fort when I were a lad and it was nice to see it in action again.  And in homage to it here is my current version of this classic that I made in 1/300  for use with my DAK forces.  Construction materials comprised polystyrene sheets and cardboard all coated in Woodflex.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Travelling Man

Well, it’s been a quick six weeks but this will probably be my last post for a while. We’ve been on St Helena since the end of February and now it’s time to go. I’ve not dwelt on island issues in this blog apart from highlighting some of the interesting East India Company fortifications that the island has to offer. If you want to see more of the island, visit the memsahib’s blog so you can see what the place looks like.   And me being silly.
The journey back to ‘civilisation’ is a long one as there is no airport here (yet) so we have to take the RMS St Helena to Cape Town, which takes about 5 days. Only Tristan da Cunha is more remote (one of the group is actually called Inaccessible Island).  It took three days sailing from Ascension Island to get here in the first place so this leg will seem quite a cruise. I don’t think I will ever get used to the beef tea served at 1030 every day although I will be quite the expert at deck quoits. Thereafter we’re staying in South Africa for a week or so and hope to be back in Scotland by May (we can fly the last bit). 
There are a few days to go before we leave the island in fact but Cable & Wireless cut off the internet early in case you forget to pay... so I’ll be offline from this weekend unless I can hook up somewhere temporarily. However, I’ve one or two things to do before we leave.  One of those is to visit Longwood House, where Napoleon spent the last years of his life. If it’s at all interesting I’ll do a post about it when I get back. 
Finally, I just wanted to say that it’s been great here and the people are so friendly. Imagine nearly everyone you pass in the street saying hello and almost every car driver waving as they go past. The terrain and landscape is fantastic and the precipitous roads and hairpin bends a joy. And of course the ecology, wildlife, landscape and relaxed lifestyle here are amazing and in some cases unique, all of which is worth preserving. 
I hope that we’ll be able to come back here one day, but in the meantime this is the Wishful Wargamer logging out for a few weeks. See you when I get back. 


Thursday, 7 April 2011

Wish List No. 2

This continues my ramblings on current wargaming periods and what I’m planning to do down the line and when I get back to Blighty.

20mm ACW
We’ve quite a few 20mm plastic ACW figures stored away that get an airing now and then (see earlier posts).  We started out with home grown rules but have used Circa 1863 (slightly modified) for a very long time.  However, I’m looking seriously now at Regimental Fire & Fury (and vanilla F&F) which would mean wholesale rebasing.  It’s possible that I may just start again with a 15mm ACW project (Geoff already has).

My cavalry is actually all 30mm plastic Spencer Smiths (there weren’t any 20mm plastics when I did them as Airfix had stopped making the 7th Cavalry at the time) but I now have some Revell ACW cavalry to paint up, which are very nice figures.  There’s plenty of terrain available though some of this needs ‘refurbishment’ and there are one or two additional buildings I think are necessary.

I bought two whole AK47 Version 1 Peter Pig armies on ebay last year and they’ve never been used; and I have a well thumbed copy of the Version 1 rules but may need to upgrade.   After playing the computer game Operation Flashpoint (and ARMA/ARMA2) for years, I’m keen on supplementing one of the armies with some BMPs, which are on my to-do list.

As an alternative to AK47, I downloaded a copy of Ambush? some years ago (before Jerboa went commercial) and they look like a good free modern infantry combat set for low level warfare, so I am keen to try those out at some point.

I’ve got various 15mm (up to 20mm) African style modern buildings half made, including shanties, a hotel and 1950s style airport terminal, which I’ll need to finish off (watch this space). Some of these are generic enough to be used for other earlier periods in arid terrain (also watch this space).   In addition, other terrain pieces including walls, palm trees, thorn trees, banana trees (after seeing them here), advert boards (Welcome to the Rumbabwe Hilton!) and factories are planned.  Figures may need rebasing also as they’re just PVA and flock at the moment.

WW1 Naval (General Quarters)
I have some Navwar 1:3,000 scale German and British warships (mainly cruisers, destroyers and some merchantmen) and have had one or two WW1 games using General Quarters 2 which is a fine set of rules.  The plan with these was to run a solo campaign in Berthier based on commerce raiding in the far east and/or Indian Ocean. I’m hoping to have a few more games with what I’ve got and intend to build up fleets gradually.

More wish-lists later.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Wish List No. 1

When I started this blog I characterised myself as a Wishful Wargamer: someone who spends most of the time looking out the window thinking and much less time at the workbench or wargames table doing. This tendency is exacerbated when living on a remote, and admittedly tropical (it’s raining, actually), island (as I am now), mainly because: I’ve no wargaming kit with me at all (apart from copies of DBA 2.0, Regimental Fire & Fury, Great Captain, etc.), everything takes months to get here, mailing costs are high and anyway by the time anything arrived I’d be off the island and gone.

So, I’m currently spending a lot of time thinking and planning, perhaps when I should be doing something else. Anyway, here are some of the projects I’m thinking about and hope to get going again when I get back to Scotland at the end of April. Note that these represent periods where I’ve got the armies and resources more or less in place already and the wishfulness relates mainly to tweaking forces, adding terrain items and arranging and playing games. Subsequent posts will dwell on periods I’m aspiring to but haven’t started yet (but may do).

15mm Ancients

I’ve got a 15mm 500pt DBM Lydian Army - mostly Chariot figures (Magister Militum now), which I really like. I bought the first of these in 1994 and it took me 15 years to get them all painted (yes, really). I’ll probably stick with DBM as we’ve had some great games with it (Geoff has an early Achaemenid Persian army (Essex) which can be a challenge), although we might try out Great Captain (if I get time to read it here) or maybe even FOG instead. I’ve also got a copy of WRG 6th edition at home to use some winter weekend.

The Lydians need some additional odds and sods to be perfectly compete and I really have to rebase them properly (plain painted cardboard won’t do anymore). There are also one or two terrain items still to be made including scrub/rough going using sisal brush bristles and I’ve always fancied some walled vineyards and olive groves so these are on the list to make.

1/300 ECW

We’ve enough Heroics and Ros figures painted and based up to play DBR comfortably and have had some good games with them in the past. After reading Angus Konstam’s Journals though, I’m minded to try out Very Civile Actions as an alternative although I’m not sure how it will translate to 1/300 scale.

1/300 WW2

I’ve got enough Afrika Korps (DAK) vehicles and men to be getting on with here. We normally use Rapid Fire for our 1/300 games but incorporating more detailed AT fire tables and rules based on those in Bruce Quarrie’s Airfix WW2 Wargaming guide. Our experiments with WRG’s 1925-1950 rules proved that these were too detailed for 1/300 scale gaming.  Following recent discussions on various blogs it may be time to get Operation Warboard out again though.

I’ve made quite a few 1/300 desert buildings but still have one or two desert terrain items to make to be really ready though, although some of these (rocks and such) can be used with the Lydians (see above) and other planned periods. We had started an Operation Crusader campaign using the Berthier Campaign Manager a while ago and may need to kick start this again.

We also have some 1/300 forces for France 1940 and I have a long term plan to build up Russian and German armour for late Ostfront. Terrain and buildings for 1/300 ECW works for the French countryside nicely.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

St Helena - Sandy Bay Lines

Although James Bay at Jamestown on the north side of the island is its most sheltered anchorage (see earlier post), there are quite a few other potential landing places around the island’s precipitous coast, all of which were fortified in one way or another.

One of these is at Sandy Bay on the exact opposite side of the island from Jamestown, where the Sandy Bay Lines were constructed in the mid 18th century. Below is a plan from 1825.

As you can see the lines originally blocked off the two possible landing points in this area: at Sandy Bay Valley (the larger of the two) and Broad Gut, separated by a rocky promontory (Beach Hill). Here is a photo of the lines from 1863. 
The fortification and parade ground on the Sandy Bay Valley side has now been completely removed and/or washed away, but the small section at Broad Gut (in the background of the photo) is still there and in quite a good state of repair. Here are some pictures I took of this when we visited.
You can see the two gun positions in the top of the wall and at the far end an archway through which a stream flows into Sandy Bay.
The second photo is looking down from Beach Hill, where there is a (recently constructed) ‘battery’ with gun, probably a 12pdr smoothbore.

Given the history of this remote island an attempt by loyal French forces to land somewhere, bypass the defences and rescue Napoleon from Longwood, before whisking him off to Brazil or elsewhere, might make an interesting skirmish mini-campaign. And an excellent opportunity to use the Fire & Steel skirmish rules available from The Keep, should I ever get around to it.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Russo-Japanese War - Berthier

In my previous post I showed you a copy of a very nice map I’d found of the Japanese Empire 1904/05 that could be used as a basis for a Russo-Japanese War naval campaign.

As I’m keen on the Berthier Campaign Manager I thought I could use the Grid Map function and prepare a campaign map from the original map.  In case you are unaware of this little programme that comes with Berthier, Grid Map allows you to use a bitmap image of a real map and to impose a grid over it. 

The squares can then be marked with different colours which represent various terrain types, that can be given different attributes in the campaign.  For example certain units cannot move over defined terrain types (such as land), which makes sense in a naval campaign. 

The file can then be saved and used as the basis for your Berthier campaign.  Anyway, after a short time I came up with this:
If you compare it to the original map you can see that it has turned out quite well (I think so, anyway).

Note that as it is will be a naval campaign I haven’t specified the different types of land terrain (which seemed a bit notional on the original map anyway); however, I have marked railways in green, towns/ports in purple (magenta?) as these may be strategically important and the Yangtze River in buff (it's muddy), as this could be navigable for some ship types.