Saturday, 29 August 2015

Op14 in the East - part 1

Weekday evening games have been a bit of an endangered species over the last 6 - 9 months. However as the project I'm on ramps up (and as my employer sells buildings and moves more people into fewer spaces) there's an increasing requirement for occasional working from home. That means I can get home from work in time to fit a game in.

This Wednesday was one such day. Hopefully the first of many between now and the end of the year when my contract is up. A quick email exchange indicated there were three Monday Nighters available so I just needed to sort out a game. After kicking a few ideas around I thought it would be interesting to go back to the Russian Civil War and see how Op14 will work for it. I spent part of the weekend rooting through my books to try and find a suitable scenario and in the end gave up and just put on the table what I wanted to see. I think lots of cavalry and sweeping movements are the order of the day if it can be achieved.

The game is suggestive of the White drive towards Moscow by Deniken's army of the south. They got two infantry corps and two cavalry corps. The Reds have three large infantry divisions and the possibility of reinforcements in the shape of a cavalry army.

The Whites are on the right of the picture, formed up to cross the river. Infantry & cavalry units can cross the river with relative ease but artillery and vehicles have to cross at one of the towns/villages. The management of the traffic jam round the crossing points would be a major problem for the Whites.

I'd set it up for two White players and one Red. I was expecting players to arrive at different times so I was going to take the Reds at first because they'll be fairly static initially. The White commanders I was happy to have kick off at different times so they'd add the second corps attack when a player arrived and I'd hand the Reds over when it got exciting and the cavalry arrived.

Chris K arrived first and took the left flank of the White army. He lined his artillery up to blast away at the brigade/regiment defending the river crossing, whilst sending the cavalry across to try and turn the flank and capture the railway station, cutting the line.

Chris soon had his troops in position for the attack but held them back until he felt he had effectively suppressed the defences with his guns. The face down chit indicates an artillery hit. It will be flipped to reveal the effect when the attack goes in. That isolated brigade is looking a bit exposed. As the shells started to fall I considered dropping them back to get them under command, but then thought again about what the Cheka would think about that and left them there.

As it turned out a couple more turns of artillery firing preceded the assault and when it came in the pile of potential hits turned out to be all hits, so the attack was a walk over. Of course in Op14 it wasn't without consequences, with a couple of White battalions being rendered hors de combat for the rest of the day.

On the positive side for the Reds this had all taken quite a long while. We were now at midday in game time and the Whites were still effectively on the river line. Their right wing had stalled completely due to the absence of their commander.

Whilst the assault on the town was being worked through Chris succeeded in infiltrating his cavalry corps round the outside of my position in very open order. It looked like he'd be able to get to the station and capture it, but...what's that in the distance? Could it be some proletarians on horse?

By this point we'd played about a couple of hours with no sign of our other two players. It turns out they were both held up unavoidably so part of the scenario didn't fire as well as it could have done and we stopped.

I've left the table set up as we can pick the game up in the future if there is any appetite from the players. Either that or I can solo through a few turns over the bank holiday weekend. Having put all the toys out it would be a shame not to get some value out of them.

There are some bits of Op14 I need to look at and I need to revisit the orbats for both sides for future games. The basic unit size is 4 brigades, - anything between 4,000 and 8,000 men - and RCW armies are not necessarily that big, so a bit of downsizing might be on the cards.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Who'd a thought it?

I see Warlord Games have announced a range of Doctor Who(TM) figures and a set of rules to go with them.

This isn't the first range and set of rules to be produced. Harlequin Miniatures produced a range at the back end of the 90's (ie before the Russell T Davies renaissance). Now, I'm a bit of a Whovian so as a wargamer I suppose I should have been in the target audience.

Even so  I missed the range when it first came out and didn't really pay much attention when I did hear. Then I saw some of the figures and realised that they were really good. I mean really, really good. So when the figures came down slightly in price and the company did some bulk discount orders I was in.

I painted the figures back when I could do fine detail and had the time and patience to do shading and so on. They're what we would call 28mm now, but I don't know that a scale was ever published. The character figures (several Doctors & assistants, Weng Chiang, Mr Syn, Bok, the Master plus others) I painted to display standard and they're in a cabinet in the dining room. The others were painted and varnished to use as figures in a game, but they still came up okay.

The figures actually looked like the people they were supposed to be and were well proportioned. The UNIT troopers are well built, but then they're professional soldiers. However they are slim and weedy next to GW muscle men. Yeah. They look like people. See it is possible.

Here's a small squad of UNIT troopers, with the Brigadier in the centre (I have another Brigadier in the famous sweater and cap but he's in the display cabinet) and the UNIT Land Rover in the background (plucked from a remainder bin in Forbidden Planet, Birmingham).

This Brigadier figure suffers a little bit from where the face fitted in the mold, but it's a nice pose and he has a nicely chunky Browning automatic.

I painted him with brown leather gloves, because he always seems to have dressed that way.

One of my favourite characters.

The bazooka team came out okay too. I'm not sure the loading pose is entirely correct, but who is arguing when faced with Daleks? It's funny how variable the effect of these weapons is against Dalekanium.

These came from a UNIT heavy weapons pack, which included a mortar and a Bren gun team.

The bad guys were very well realised as well. Here's some Ice Warriors with an Ice Lord on the right. Another personal favourite, and sadly not a fixture of the latest series, especially as they are from Mars.

The Yeti were robots, of course, controlled by the Great Consciousness (reprised by Richard E Grant in a recent series, sans Yeti alas). Deeply scary as they inhabited the Tube in one story.

Of course no collection would be complete without some Daleks. Here are a couple of standard Daleks flanking a demolition Dalek, from the Sylvester McCoy story "Remembrance of the Daleks".

This was a much under rated episode, which featured the first levitating Dalek on screen. Well worth revisting. In the background are a couple of Dalek troopers from the Peter Davison episode "Resurrection of the Daleks".

Finally here's unit battling it out with some Ice Warriors. The game -  "Invasion Earth" -  came with some cardboard buildings, which you can see in the background. The telephone box was obtained for me by Phil. Can't remember who it is by.

Okay. An excuse to get the new camera out. Fair cop.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


Last March I asked those of you who read this to help towards preserving the Wars of the Roses battlefield in Northampton by completing a survey (link) being compiled as part of the battlefield Conservation Management Plan (CMP). Many of you did and the plan was compiled and accepted by the local council as a basis for preserving and developing the site to enable the battlefield to be understood and explained.

Well, we need your help again. Since then one of the local land users (a golf club) has tried to do some unauthorised development by digging up the land to put down a car park.They got caught and were made to pay for some proper archaeology to be done first. That having been completed they have now submitted a planning application for said car park.

We are now in the public consultation period and we need to mobilise again people who care about their heritage. The Battle of Northampton is important in British history. I explained a little bit why here and those reasons are not going away. We need you to go on to the Northampton Borough Council website and object to the application.

At the time of writing there were more than 60 objections posted on the planning page, but more will help. Quantity as well as quality of objections is important.


This is quite straightforward. Go to the planning  website  and search using reference N/2015/0785.

This is the same place you can view the planning application. Click on the Comment button and fill out the form. It is really that easy, so don’t put it off.

Every objection is valuable and will count in favour of protecting the site.

So far in addition to members of the public objections have been made by the Richard III Society and The Tudor Society.

What are the grounds for objection?

If you’re a bit unsure precisely what you want to say, here are our top 7 list of points to make:

  1. This is a registered battlefield protected by the National Planning Framework which says that any development on the site should be wholly exceptional. The application does not say how this car park is exceptional. The application does not explain why additional parking spaces are required. We believe it is not for the benefit of the golfers themselves but a separate commercial enterprise to ‘sell’ parking spaces to workers on Brackmills Industrial Estate. A comparison undertaken that compared the number of cars and number of golfers clearly demonstrates this.
  2. The council’s own Conservation Management Plan (“CMP”) for the battlefield was adopted as part of its planning decision framework. The CMP says the council should resist further development within the Registered Battlefield. The application fails to address how it complies with this section of the CMP. The CMP effectively acts as a local designation of the heritage asset and implies that substantial impact on the battlefield occurs with any further development on the registered battlefield. The Council needs to take this into consideration when reaching its decision.
  3. The application claims that there are no finds of archaeological importance, and this has been reported in the local press. This is contrary to the archaeological report*. A well preserved French medieval brooch has been found and lead shot which if dated back to the battle will alter what we know about the early use of small calibre hand guns. 
  4. The ball pit and trench is an addition to the application for the car parking spaces and should be applied for separately. Crucially it falls outside the area which was surveyed by the archaeologists investigating the proposed car park area. There is no evidence to suggest that the site of the trench is made up ground and given the significance and sensitivity of site, it needs a full archaeological survey before any planning permission can be considered.
  5. The area concerned is green space and parkland, there for enjoyment and use of the community. This development would considerably erode that sense of open space, which once gone, will never return. Whilst the application makes provision for the protection of any further archaeology below ground, it does not consider the environment that will be destroyed in its creation.
  6. None of the local stakeholders such as the Delapré Park Management Committee, Friends Of Delapre Abbey, the Stables  or local community groups have been consulted on what is essentially a major change to the parkland.
  7. By allowing this application it will be condoning the Golf Clubs’ earlier action of illegally carrying out the work without prior planning permission, and against the CMP. The Golf Club attempted to present the Council with a fait accompli when they knowingly started to dig up the site following a previously failed planning application and it would seem to be an offence to any form of legal process that they should be able to reap the rewards of this action.
  8. Don’t feel constrained to these points. If something else makes you feel we should object, include that as well. We have to show the Council we care.

Thanks for taking the time to do this. It means a lot to those of us fighting to preserve the site locally that people from all over the country care about our heritage. It'd be really cool if someone living in one of our colonial namesakes in Pennsylvania,  Massachusetts, North Carolina or any other state I've overlooked helped out as well. Or Western Australia. Or New Brunswick.

*The archaeological report is attached to the planning application, confusingly in two parts. Part one is under “Archaeology Report” and part two under “Photographs”. Once you have found the application as above, click on "Documents" then navigate back to the oldest page.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Gone West

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they say. Occasionally Phil & I wargame with Richard who organises the SoA game days. When he last came up and spent a day in Shedquarters we discussed his upcoming project to build his own wargames Shed at his new house. He had planning permission for a two car garage, and felt that the enclosed space could be used for something a bit more...special.

He has taken a while to deliver, but a few months ago he confirmed that he was done and that he wanted to hold a grand opening games day with me & Phil, Who could say no?

Cleverly Richard has preserved the garage look of the building by leaving on the wooden doors. Opening them, however, reveals a set of double glazed doors behind each.

The interior is not very garage like. It has a big table with flaps that fold down to make small tables if needed. This, I am assured, was a design feature based upon the removable inserts in my table at Shedquarters. Here the centre flaps have been put up to link the two tables we used during the day.

The footprint of the building is much bigger than Shedquarters, as you can see. The size is misleading as I'm using a super wide angle lens, but the table is 6 foot wide compared to my 5 and he has shelving down both sides. He's also got proper plumbing

First game was some Ardennes based PBI. Richard has an "Easy" Company (they were based near his village), and I had Phil's German engineers.

This is the main assault engineers half track, with the crew next to it, ready to come on as reinforcements (they never did).

This is my company commander.

We were using modified PBI & playing a scenario. My recce vehicles drove up the road until a die roll stopped them. Right in the middle of the village next to the cross roads, surrounded by close terrain. Whoops.

Richard had some dug in infantry support artillery, so I had to be careful.

I had a half track mounted platoon, so I sent this on a wide left hook. It was supposed to hide out in these buildings and suppress the target with massed fire before I launched an assault.

On the other side another platoon was mounted in a collection of soft skins. Due to the vagaries of dice rolling my Platoon Commander got to the objective first in his Kubelwagen. With his trusty LMG armed side kick he was able to shoot off or pin the US counter attack in the square right in front of him.

When the smoke and dust settled and he had unpinned there were quite a few dead Yanks in front of my position. That bazooka was a worry for my armoured cars who were struggling to get enough APs to bug out.

At this point we had some important decisions to make. What should we do about lunch? Should we snack over the table, or go to the pub. A quick bit of critical path analysis soon established that as Phil & I both had to drive home in the evening, going to the pub and drinking at lunch time was the best option.

As it proved to be.* After a couple of pints and some food Richard proved unable to make a saving roll whilst I couldn't stop rolling sixes.

Eventually my left flanking force broke through and I seized the road junction (objective number 2)

By this stage even some serious pointing by Richard was unlikely to save him.

And we ended like this. I was holding two out of three objectives and most of Richard's on table stuff was dead.

In fairness to Richard, Phil's Germans are a bit of a beast to take on. They're armed to the teeth and they're German. Which is pretty good under PBI.

We then switched to the other table to play with Richard's Wars of Spanish Succession stuff, using rules he had written that we had tried back at Shedquarters. I had the French, Phil had the British & Allies.

We had a lot of toys on the table. Richard wanted to see if his rules could handle a big game.

We opened with a cavalry melee on my right. The white rings represent disruption. Get 5 of those in a turn and it starts to get really unpleasant.

The melee see-sawed too and fro

And fro and too. I got the upper hand, but it was a bit fraught, giving our rules writer lots of food for thought. He wants to capture a lot of period flavour, but the level of resolution and the DPs are probably a bit fiddly.

The infantry lines slowly closed on each other. Richard has random movement  in inches using an average dice to determine how many. You can double it if more than 12" apart. My view is he should start the armies closer together.

Back to the right flank cavalry. It still goes backwards and forwards, but by this point I have broken one of Phil's units, so I'm starting to get the upper hand.

And still the infantry advance on each other. Actually, by this point Phil has formed up and stopped moving.

I'm definitely winning the cavalry battle now.

At last the infantry open fire on each other. After some rounds of firing I've forced Phil to do a passage of lines and bring up his reserves, proving that if you have the bigger army it is often a real help.

My final shot of the day. We had to call the game off at this point as it was time for me to head home. It was fun pushing Richard's toys around, but we had a discussion and agreed that there's some work to be done on either these rules, or a fresh set that really work on brigade resolution.

A brilliant day's gaming. Really pleased to have been invited to help open "Shed West" officially, and I hope to be invited back again. In the interim I think I shall be looking at my table configuration in the light of what Richard has achieved.

Now, menu for the next day looks something like this..."Science v Pluck", "AK 47 Republic" & "Beyond the River Don". Something to look forward to.

*On a side note Richard's local is "The Cloven Hoof", the pub from the classic Dr Who episode with Jon Pertwee in it called "The Daemons".

Thursday, 30 July 2015

1264 and all that

I met Richard Brooks through WD. He writes good wargames rules for refighting historical battles (especially if you want to play solo) but he also writes military history books.

I've written in favour of his Big Book of British Battles before, which if you don't own it, you should. His most recent publication came out on 20th July.

It's in the Osprey Campaign series and it covers the Evesham and Lewes campaigns and the struggle between Henry III and Simon de Montfort.

It is quite possible that you don't know that the whole business kicked off in 1264 in Northampton (I do, because I'm a member of the Northampton Battlefields Society) when Henry III attacked the town.

Any how, in October last year Richard e-mailed me out of the blue and asked for help on the book. Knowing I was local he asked me to go down to the area where Henry's forces broke into the town and take some pictures. The town has changed a lot, - the Cluniac Monastery of St Andrews is no longer there, although it is remembered in the street names of St Andrews Road and Lower Priory Street. The building of the railway line and station in the 19th century played havoc with that area as well. However, comparing maps from the 17th century to the modern maps indicate that actually the point where they crossed the River Nene is mostly unchanged. The line of the Monastery walls is also still very well preserved in the street plan of the modern town*.

So I went down to the area with my trusty (now ex) DSLR and shot off a dozen pictures. One of them made it into the final book, - bottom right hand corner of page 25.

What also made it in was a reference to the commemorative plaque just up the road from where I took the picture, which I think Richard didn't know about.

If you have the book and are curious about the plaque, this is it:

What did I get for my afternoon's snapping? Well, apart from taking the chance to wander round a bit of the town I hadn't really looked at before, this week a copy of the book arrived in the post.

So, thank you Richard.

And to the rest of you, go and get a copy. It's a quality piece of work by a military history writer who is also a wargamer, so he tends to write about stuff wargamers want to know.

*Northampton town centre street plan is mostly unchanged from... well as far back as you can track it.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The People You Meet

I'm working in a sort of temporary office at the moment. I'm permanently based in a hot-desking area (yeah, I know) and there are other people working on different bits of the project co-located with us.

Yesterday the bloke sitting opposite me (who I have spoken too occasionally but we have not exchanged names, - we are British, after all) remarked that the word "schema" was derived from a Greek word used to describe a unit of Alexander's cavalry.

Now my ears perked up at that point. I queried the statement, and remarked that I was familiar with the term "agema" but not "schema" in that context. A short conversation followed. His claim to knowledge was based on doing classical history at university, - although he did the Peloponnesian Wars, not Alexander's campaigns.

I pushed back with the comment that I was going to claim an area of more recent expertise as I had box loads of painted plastic Macedonian cavalry figures because I'm a wargamer.

Turns out he hasn't, but he has got loads of other painted plastic figures, which he stores in a shed in his garden. Never gets round to playing with them, of course.

And he's an occasional reader of this blog. So, hi there Mark.

Now I have been accused from time to time of doing obscure periods. The recent Pacific War and previous Taiping Rebellion spring to mind, but I have nothing on this guy. After all you can buy figures for both periods and soon there'll be Ospreys on both of them too. Mark had to commission a bloke to make a range for him.

They're for the Sokoto Caliphate.

This was based in the area of Northern Nigeria at the back end of the 19th century. They thrived right up to the point when the British decided they shouldn't.

Well, when I say a "range" there's two figures, although they come with 7 head options, so that's quite a lot of variety you can get from them.

They're 20mm, and why he commissioned them from a German company I can't say.

It's not a range I'm going to buy into any time soon, I have to say. I mean, they're clearly going to get completely stuffed by Mr Tommy Atkins and his chums.

Besides, I've got loads of other stuff to paint first.

Anyhow, if it floats you particular boat, you can order the figures from here: Sokoto Caliphate figures.

You see, there are more of us about than you may think.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Early Birthday Present

Several years ago I inherited my son's Canon EOS 350D. It had a sticky shutter release and when he traded up I took it over and had it repaired. It has done me good service not only with my toy soldiers but also in my trips round the world with Mrs T.

Alas the shutter release has become sticky again, so I went into the local camera shop to have it looked at. Same problem, same price. Is it worth having it done every three years?

The shop (Skears Cameras up the Welly Road in Northampton) is a terrific little shop, doing its best to compete with the internet. Having premises slightly out of the town centre helps. Plus they're very helpful and they will price match and so on. And they sell second hand cameras.

Sitting in the window was a brand new looking camera body for a Canon EOS 550D for about £200. This is the camera my son had traded up to. A quick check on my smart phone revealed it was out of production but still very well regarded. A quick text to Master T confirmed he was still in love with his camera, so I took the plunge. Well, birthday is only a couple of months away, and they gave me a trade in for my previous model as well.

When I got it home it was like it had never been used. The box was in perfect nick and all the accessories were in there, some still in their packets. It even had a spare battery. The strap had a slight, - very slight - discolouration - but that was all. The original receipt indicated it was 4 years old, but you'd never know.

And this model takes SD cards rather than flash memory, so much easier to upload photos.

Is it any good at taking pictures?

Bit early to say yet, but here are some pictures of some recently completed Chilean infantry:

This lot are a National Guard unit of the second campaign. They are distinguished by having  grey trousers. I've painted the kepis without the normal covers to give them a splash of colour.

The Cazadores del Desierto from the second campaign, who wore grey uniform jackets and white trousers.

Both units side by side.

The main problem with these pictures is the light, because they were taken on my painting desk, just using the flash. I'm also getting used to using an SLR with a decent sized LCD screen, rather than using the view finder. Not sure which is best.

More to follow, no doubt.