Sunday, 30 November 2014

ACW Adventures in Basing No.7

Well, I finally got around to basing the (mainly) Airfix ACW artillery to go along with all the other Airfix figures I'd based last year, ostensibly for use with Regimental Fire and Fury, but could work for Black Powder, etc., (of course it turns out it was 2012 that I did most of time flies).   First, however, I thought I'd show you a conversion that Geoff did from some Esci Crimean War Russians.
Clint Eastwood thoughtfully keeps a cannon ball warm under his poncho
As you can see this group is replete with a model of "The Man with No Name", although you'd be sure to remember the name of a guy loading up your artillery piece if he was wearing a poncho and sombrero.
Here are some before and after shots from basing up the Union artillery.  I decided that I wanted them on 40mm x 60mm bases, and to avoid having to send off for more pre-cut mdf, I just glued two 40mm x 30mm bases together, edge on, and put some thin card on top to strengthen them.
Once fixed together I gave the bases an undercoat of basic earth colour and then glued the figures on.  And here is the same treatment with the Confederate artillery.
As usual, I decorated the bases by covering them in PVA glue and then dipping them into this big tub of shelly sand I collected from a local beach a few years ago.  A few stones and other bits and pieces were added for effect.
Once dry I just added some more patches of PVA and finished off with Javis flock.  Sometimes I paint the sand earth colour and dry brush before flocking, but considered this time that it would be too awkward to try that with so many figures on the bases.

So, not sure what's next up, although I did find a box of Union artillerymen that I had converted from Airfix Napoleonic Royal Horse Artillery some time ago, so I expect they'll be next, once I get some suitable guns ordered (or converted).

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Claymore 2014

Well, yet again it's been some considerable time since I posted on my neglected but definately not forgotten wargames blog.  I've been away a lot, see.  In fact, since my last post I've spent two weeks in Spain, two weeks in northern Uganda, a week in the Netherlands and to top it all a few days in Dumfries and Galloway.  I've forgotten where I actually live.

Still, I did manage to get to Claymore last month, as is our solid tradition, although there is a lot going on in Scotland at the moment but no doubt normal service will be resumed after 18 September (or not, as the case may be).  However, overall it was as well attended as ever, although I did think that the traders were particularly out in force, at least in the atrium area.  Anyway, here are some pictures and impressions from the show (apologies for the poor quality of some photos as I had forgotten my proper camera)
Forcing the Dardanelles - looking North towards the Sea of Marmara
Games that caught my eye included this impressive WW1 Dardanelles game using 1/3000 Navwar ships and General Quarters 3. This was put on by (I think) the Gourock Wargames Club and was of particular interest to me because a) I've got quite a few WW1 ships that need an airing and b) I am currently working on a (real world) project involving a new bridge across the Bosphorus, up near the Black Sea, at the diametrically opposite end of this vital and historic sea route.
Things start going wrong early - but hey, that's WW1 for you
Anyway, even from the wargame you could see that it was never going to work - what were the Admiralty and Churchill thinking?  (Under-estimating foreigners as per usual I shouldn't wonder).
F&DWC Indian Mutiny game
Then there was this excellent Indian Mutiny game from Falkirk & District Wargames Club.  I was told that the figures were mainly Mutineer Minatures (who also had a stall nearby).
F&DWC Indian Mutiny - mainly Mutineer Minatures
A particularly colourful action was a Macedonians vs Thracians game put on by Kirriemuir Wargames Club, using the Crusader rules.
'Heads I Win, Heads You Lose' was the intriguing title of this game
Figures were Foundry and Old Glory and had all been professionally painted by 'Fernando of Sri Lanka'.  I was embarassed to mentioned that it had taken my 15 years to paint my DBM 500pt Lydian Army and by the time I'd finished DBM had gone out of fashion (but I digress).
A ruined temple - those Thracians were right philistines
Other games included a sprawling divisional level early WW1 game put on by the Tyneside Wargames Club using a variation of their Great Captain rules.
Look, most of Belgium and western France on one table
I also liked the ACW game by the Iron Brigade.  Not sure what rules they were using.
ACW Iron Brigade game
And there was something I'd not seen before which was a Black Powder refight of the Battle of Waterloo using 54mm figures, including Timpo, Airfix and other manufacturers.  I think it was scaled down a bit.  The erratic Congreve Rocket was fun though.
So there you have it.  Another year gone and another Claymore attended.  It is always inspiring and I have decided that, now I'm not travelling so much, I am going to get a lot more wargaming done this year.  I should admit that I make that resolution every year after Claymore but I think that this year it will be different because it's certainly time for a radical change in how we do things around here...

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

This Week, I Have Been Mostly Reading...

...Magazines.  Well things are moving again, sort of, in that I've been doing even more reading.  I don't often buy wargame magazines these days (infested as they often are with too many space marines, zombies and in-your-face marketing) but here are the latest ones I've been looking at.  First up is Wargames Illustrated #314 from, what?  Is it really December 2013?  I'm really falling behind...
Anyway, this one featured the War of the Spanish Succession (WSS), which is this decade's new period for me.  Lots of nicely painted figures and an excellent overiew of the war as well as accounts of various WSS battles, including Blenheim (obviously) as well as one that Marlborough wasn't at (Cassano, northern Italy 1705) all very enjoyably written by Simon MacDowall of the Legio Wargames website and blog.  And all this plus an article on Jutland and some ACW stuff and only two pieces relating to Flames of War products, so I think we got off lightly there.

Then there was the impulse buy this weekend.  We had to try out Edinburgh's new tram and so we ended up in the Gyle Shopping Centre and, with nothing much to do whilst my son was engrossed in his Godzilla 'zine, I bought Minature Wargames #374.  The principal motive was that it has an article by Dr Kerry Thomas on mass painting of 15mm horses, which I often find difficult.  And what with quite a few WSS Blue Moon 15mm cavalry to paint (as Danes) I needed some ideas and inspiration.  Job done.
A bit more variety here though, it has to be said, particularly with an article on Chotusitz 1742 (War of the Austrian Succession) which isn't quite WSS but is in the right half of the appropriate century for me these days.  There is also something on the first part of an 18th century campaign system that looks promising (although to get the full flavour it appears that it may be necessary to purchase one or more of the Age of Absolutism books from Caliver).  I will draw a veil over the fantasy/futuristic product reviews and the new boardgaming columnist and all those hexes and dull cardboard counters.

I should add that I have never thrown out a wargame magazine in my life and therefore I was also able this week to pull off the shelf and review this timeless classic, Minature Wargames #1.
Well do I remember as a Glasgow University student walking by a newsagents on Byres Road in 1983 and seeing this and rushing in immediately and buying it (for 75p).  I could not believe that there was an actual real wargame magazine in print!  And it's a classic too, with articles by George Gush, Paddy Griffiths, Phil Barker, Terry Wise, Ian Weekley (always with the qualifier "of Battlements" lest he be confused with any other bearded Ian Weekleys out there) and of course good old Duncan Macfarlane, WI's first editor.

The thing is that I didn't remember that it included a guide to painting 15mm figures and a (free) futuristic space strategy game to be played out on a hex map.  Isn't it funny how some things don't change.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Battle Notes for Wargamers

As a wishful wargamer, some might say an almost entirely virtual wargamer, I tend to spend most of my time musing on and vaguely planning wargame projects, rather than actually getting any gaming done.  This is mainly because of that old issue of time, which is particularly relevant at the moment because I am about to go off on two consecutive two-week business trips, the first one to Uganda (again) and the second to Uzbekistan (again), so I won't even be near getting back into the saddle until late May.

Wargame books are therefore a very important way of staying connected to the hobby (and my own nostalgic take on it) and when I'm on the internet browsing for things, the 'classics' are the ones that I am invariably drawn to, even if I've not read them before.
Main map for the St Nazaire raid (hand tinted).
In this regard finding a copy of Donald Feathstone's Battle Notes for Wargamers on eBay for £2.99 last week was too much of a bargain to resist.  The copy I received was in very good condition, apart from a bit of spotting on the fly-leaf (oo-er) and the fact that some previous owner has carefully coloured in some of the maps.  Still, for £2.99 it's value for money.
Detailed map for St Nazaire raid.
The book is basically a series of wargame scenarios based on real battles through the ages, stretching from Pharsalus in 48BC to the (Korean War) Pork Chop Hill in 1953.  Of particular interest to me are the Battle of Wynendael (1708) part of Marlborough's campaigns in the Low Countries and the St Nazaire Raid (1942) featured here.

For each scenario there are two maps, comprising a sort of strategic map and a detailed table top map that can be used for the wargame.  The scenarios also include various rule ideas, what ability commanders should have, how to inject the element of surprise (not telling the players what battle it is seems to be the simplest method), tips for making terrain and other ways to game the scenario specifics for each battle.
Overall it is a worthwhile book to have if you are interested in scenario ideas and it complements the excellent Scenarios for Wargames (1981) by Charles S Grant, which provides 52 fictitious scenarios to fight though based on various wargame problems. I understand that John Curry has an updated and revised version of Battle Notes in print currently.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Sturdee's Squadron

This idea for an early WW1 naval campaign based on the exploits of the German East Asia Squadron commanded by von Spee, using Navwar 1/3000 scale ships and the free and versatile Berthier Campaign Manager software, keeps going round in my head (inspired by Geoffrey Bennett's excellent Naval Battles of the First World War).  I've already painted up the first two forces required and have now finished off von Spee's nemesis at the Battle of the Falklands, Sturdee's Squadron.

After having destroyed Craddock's forces at the Battle of Coronel on the west coast of South America (bar the Otranto and HMS Glasgow), the British despatched a much stronger force under Sturdee to the South Atlantic to deal with von Spee once and for all.
HMS Defence
This included the armoured cruiser HMS Defence (1908), which Craddock had been expecting before he set off to fairly certain death against von Spee at Coronel.  However, HMS Defence had been diverted away from Craddock on orders from the Admiralty, though they didn't bother to tell him that.  If HMS Defence had been there it might have made a significant difference at Coronel, with its four 9.2" main guns and ten 7.5" secondary armament.

Sturdee's force also included HMS Cornwall (1904) and HMS Kent (1903), the sister ships of HMS Monmouth (1903) that had been lost at Coronel.  When refighting the Battle of the Falklands the ill-fated HMS Monmouth can stand in for HMS Kent.
HMS Cornwall / HMS Kent
Other ships in the squadron included the fast but unarmoured light cruiser HMS Glasgow (1911) and her sister ship HMS Bristol (1911), as well as HMS Carnarvon (1904), which appears a sturdy looking vessel, if you pardon the pun.
HMS Carnarvon
However, the main feature of Sturdee's squadron were the two fast, modern and heavily armed Dreadnought battlecruisers, HMS Inflexible (1908) and HMS Invincible (1909), each equipped with eight massive 16" guns.
HMS Inflexible and HMS Invincible
These had been released from the Grand Fleet and their unexpected presence in the South Atlantic resulted in the destruction of the East Asia Squadron, partly because von Spee could not believe the reports that two tripod masted warships were anchored in Port William until it was too late.

Anyway, all in all, I've now got plenty of ships for covering all of the actions in the Pacific and South Atlantic and I intend to use the random 'army plans' feature of Berthier to allow some different scenarios to be played out, for example allowing Craddock to actually have HMS Defence at Coronel (or even HMS Canopus, which missed out on the destruction because of engine trouble).

Other scenarios could involve von Spee taking his captains' advice and deciding not to try to attack the Falkland Islands, but rather to continue up the eastern South American coast picking off allied merhantmen, or perhaps cross to the eastern Atlantic to try to elude the Allies and eventually get back to Germany.  Hopefully more on that in subsequent posts.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Lost at Sea

Well, this is my first post this year, and in fact the first one since September.  Basically I've been away a lot, starting with Montenegro in September, followed by a week in Uganda and then another long week in Uzbekistan in January.

I've also been working on a project in Ukraine so it seems that I am the go-to person in my company for countries brought to you by the letter U.  And in fact with three out of a possible four in the bag (USA, UK and UAE don't count) I was thinking that perhaps Montenegro was an adminstrative error and it should have been Montevideo instead, thus completing the set.

But I haven't stopped thinking about wargaming all the while and in fact I took my copies of the naval rules General Quarters 1 and 2 with me all the way to Karakalpakstan in western Uzbekistan for some light reading and a reminder of normality (particularly as my luggage never made it further than Tashkent for the week).
German wrecks
Anyway, here are a few things I have been working on should I ever have time to get some naval wargaming done.  Yes, scratch built sinking ships in 1/3000 scale to go with my small (yet growing) fleet of Navwar WW1 ships, not to mention the splash markers that I prepared earlier.
Bottoms up
I made these from some spare bits of balsa sanded to shape, polystyrene off-cuts and pin heads for the turrets (where visible).
British wrecks
They have yet to be used in battle but I have plans...which no doubt I'll get around to once I get back from Uganda and/or Uzbekistan, which ever one I have to go to first.