Wednesday, 31 August 2011

That chess thing again

I had a conversation with a non-wargamer at the weekend. She was aware of wargaming through a mutual acquaintance but didn’t really understand it. She opened the conversation with the normal “What’s it all about” “what do you actually do” that you so often get in these situations. I went into the standard type of explanation expecting to get to the dice rolling bit and have the “so it’s all luck” conversation.

But it didn’t turn out like that.

In fact the next remark was “Isn’t that a bit boring compared to chess”? The key part of this thesis was that if you always refight historical battle then they’ll always turn out the same way, whereas every game of chess is different.

I have to say that nonplussed me a bit. Apparently the reason is that every time you play chess it has so many combinations and playing different people makes it different too. I was instantly reminded of one of the best jokes from the Edinburgh fringe this year:

“I was playing chess with my friend and he said, 'Let's make this interesting'. So we stopped playing chess.”

I retorted that with a wargame you change the opponents you play as well and that results and so on varied. I think at that point the discussion sort of petered out as drinks and food came round.

There is a point, to a certain extent, that in a refight by slavishly sticking to historical deployments may force games to run in a certain way. A few years ago I ran refights of The Trebia on the Society of Ancient stand (sometimes up to a dozen times a day, - hence the soubriquet “Trebian”) and after a lot of games you could tell which way the game might go. I was using 8 units a side (compared with 16 in a chess game) but the combat system was a bit more variable so it wasn’t completely repetitive. I always used historical deployments and painted the starting positions on the board to ensure that certain bits of the game ran identically in each playing.

Phil Sabin’s view is that one of a great commander’s most important skills is deployment. This means that in his set of rules for classical ancient battles (either “Strategos” or “Lost Battles”) the opening turns involve the opposing sides deploying. That’s one of the limiting factors in chess. I so much want to see someone do an offset deployment.

Any way, on a different note I’ve decided to indulge myself. Rather than research an army and a war in massive detail and labour over rules and so on I’ve decided just to buy an army for the sheer fun of painting it and owning it.

It’s one I’ve wanted since fresher year at university when I first came across the commander in one of my earliest lectures (Dr Moore, if I recall correctly). I have no intention of buying its opponents or any other bits and pieces. I know what rules I’ll use (if I ever play with it), and for the first time pretty much ever I’m going to buy it straight off an army list (not very WD at all) because all I want to do is paint it and own it. I don’t want to discover that the troop types I want to buy aren’t in the army after all. I just want them, with their cool sounding names. I’ve even decided to change my basing and painting style for this one as well.

No clues as to what it is, - except it is in 15mm and it’s from a manufacturer I’ve never used before. Guesses are welcome.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Old Friends

Let me introduce you properly to some really old friends. You've seen them from a distance in recent blogs, but I think you should get to know them better and understand a bit of their history.

I'm talking about my WSS Anglo-Dutch.

I painted this army in my first year at university. So that would make them well over 30 years old. They were painted in record time during, I think, Easter vacation. I remember painting them in a very short time, and I remember it being sunny when I did so. So I reckon Easter, not Christmas. Certainly not summer.

Anyway, why did the army come about? Simple answer, -  I needed an army so I could get a game at the university club. Prior to going to university I'd done a lot of fantasy wargaming with Middle Earth armies using the Minifig "ME" range, so I took these up with my home made adapted rules. I discovered in short order that the club did not do fantasy. It only did proper historical games. I got a few games by taking along my ancient naval ships, but I needed to branch out. Pete Berry, now of Baccus fame, was at this time obsessing about the Great Northern War and Charles XII and had an army based upon Spencer Smith plastic figures. No one had an army to give him a game. I'd always had a passing interest in the career of the first Duke or Marlborough, so I said I'd put together an English army.

On getting home I ransacked my airfix collection and tapped up my main wargaming friend at home for spare figures. At this point I was working to the theory that what really counts for wargaming figures is the hat. If that's right most people won't notice the rest.

Royal Orkney's in that odd pose
So, every Washington's Army figure was pressed into service as infantry, with hat swaps to force figures from other ranges to make up the numbers.

Massed heavy dragoons
For cavalry I salvaged large numbers of airfix French cuirassiers and swapped the helmets for tricorns carved off every Washington's Army figure that was no use in an infantry battalion. And there's quite a few of them (8 in a box of forty figures, - those crawling figures, the barrel guys and those chaps carrying the wounded fellow).

Dutch cuirassiers
That gave me some British Heavy dragoons and some Dutch cuirassiers. A few French Waterloo artillery men and their guns were likewise hat-swapped to give me an artillery train.
Those Grenadiers

Finally a composite battalion of grenadiers was added, made up from the eponymous airfix packet, with bearskins carved into mitres.

My painting guide was Rene North's "Military Uniforms" from the Hamlyn all-coloured paperback range, supplemented by the newly published Osprey "Marlborough's Army", - which I suspect might have been the first Osprey MAA book I ever bought. My painiting style was "minimalist" and I ignored most of the carved detail on the figures.

English battalion, with home drawn flag.
But that army did me sterling service. I used it every week, pretty much, for two years or so. It usually got beat (we were playing WRG 1685- 1845 rules), but I had a lot of fun with it. By the end of my uni career it was looking a bit shabby, with paint flaking off and it generally looking like it had seen better days.

By my final year it had almost been retired as we moved on to other things, but I kept it as it really had no value to anyone else.

Fast forward possibly 20 years and I find that the WA & Cuirassier figures have been re-released. It doesn't take long to decide I'll at last put together a French Louis XIV army to face my Anglo-Dutch, although they didn't get much use due to a lack of satisfaction with rules.

Massed English foot
Last year I got a set of WSS period rules (not BP, - "Beneath the Lily Banner") so I thought I'd tart both armies up. I retouched their paint work (which meant pretty much repainting some units completely, but in the same style) and applied the Ronseal varnish. Finally I added two flags to each infantry unit.

The Dutch, with flags from
So, you can rhapsodise about what ever 28mm figure manufacturer is flavour of the month, - how good the poses are, how good the detail is, and so on. I'm keeping my airifx boys, and if I see any more lying about at shows, I think I'll add a few more.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Nobody likes a bully

Nobody likes a bully, so your parents tell you, when you get home from school having been thrashed soundly during break (also “All bullies are cowards – stand up to them”). Neither of these statements is true. Bullies always have an entourage and in my experience standing up to one rather than running away was just a way of being punched earlier in the process.

So, it shames me to admit that in the third and final session of our Black Powder WSS game that I was a bit of a bully. Phil, as the French general, didn’t object on each occasion that I suggested there was more play in the game, although he was correct that the game was unwinnable for him. It was just that Chris and I hadn’t actually won it. So I made him continue to play whilst his units were slowly and steadily beaten into a bloody pulp.

In my defence I would say that I didn’t see it as so black and white as Phil did, and my Dutch colleague had spent a while manoeuvring his troops into a favourable position (despite very poor command rolls) and to my mind deserved to be allowed to let slip his dogs of war, so to speak. He’d been so patient and it seemed cruel to say we had to finish just as we got to the exciting bit for him.

Admittedly this was the equivalent of the bully’s mates piling in and kicking the weedy kid whilst he was on the ground, but it was all done in the best possible taste.

So, in summary, on the Anglo-Dutch left the French cavalry tried a “ride round” to get at the artillery, whilst my remaining Dragoon regiment thundered into the flank of some rallying French cavalry. This move nearly came unstuck as I mistook another rallying unit for a pile of dead in the corner of the table. Luckily they failed their command roll.

The brave English cavalry launch another victorious charge

On the right a fierce fire fight between the Dutch and the opposing French brigade resulted in heavy losses and the eventual destruction of the French, the supporting English artillery playing an important role. This freed the Dutch cavalry to launch an assault of the French infantry clinging on between the two villages.

Look at that! Successful charge launched across about a third of the table
The middle was a near run thing (prior to the Dutch arrival) as punching through the middle had turned my initial victory into a Cannae-type pocket, with French infantry closing in on the flanks and pouring in musketry of variable effectiveness.
Looking fairly bleak in the middle
The combat resolution systems for both firing and hand to hand allows for massive variability but are usually very decisive so you are never sure if you’re going to win or not but you know it is going to be over quite quickly. The arrival of the Dutch cavalry finally bailed me out before I lost too many units.

That's more like it! The Cavalry at the top of the picture get stuck in
On the whole we’ve had a good three weeks. The game would have been over more quickly if we’d used the brigade morale rules (my fault, - I just completely overlooked them on my re-reading of the rules). We’ll play BP again with my WSS figures, and probably use “The Last Hussar’s” modifications, which are known as “…& Blenheim Palace”. You can find them on the internet through a simple search in google.

At the end of the game we had our usual last cup of tea of coffee in the kitchen and started to hatch a plan for a sort of group project to do some “Old School Wargaming”. It’ll be a slow burner with no pressure to get everything finished, so it might be quite a refreshing thing for me to do. Just need to source some appropriately 1970’s style tricorn wearing figures in 30mm (which is what we used to call large wargame figures when they were properly proportioned.).

Sunday, 21 August 2011

SCW Eye Candy

It is now nearly a year since I received my first batch of Peter Pig Spanish Civil War figures. These were three of the boxed armies - Falangists, Peninsula Army and International Brigades. I started painting them in mid-November last year, having picked up a few supporting armour vehicles and artillery at Derby in the preceding October. Since the I have augmented their number with packs of Moroccans, more guns and quite a few more regulars. And I've pretty much finished them all, except for a few odd figures that aren't enough to make up bases and some command figures I'm not sure what to do with yet.

The forces (all Peter Pig unless otherwise indicated) currently consist of:

4 Battalions of IBs
2 Battalions of Asaltos
4 Battalions of Workers Militia
4 Battalions of Popular Army
1 Battalion Falangists
4 Battalions Nationalist Regular Army
3 Banderas of Legionnaires
6 Tabors of Moroccan Regulares

8 Panzer 1s, inc 2 command vehicles (Skytrex)
1 Lancia armoured car (QRF)
2 BT-5s (Zvezda plastic models)
7 T-26s +1 being converted to command vehicle
5 Renault FT-17
2 FA-1 Armoured cars (QRF)

3 French "Soixante Quinze"
1 37mm Anti-tank gun with pneumatic tyres
3 37mm Anti-tank gun with spoked wheels (Irregular RUG)
3 45mm Anti-tank gun with spoked wheels (Irregular RUG)
6 77mm Krupp field (Irregular RUG)
3 120mm Schneider howitzers (Irregular RUG)

I'd still like to add some Carlist infantry, and some heavier artillery for both sides, but for now  that's it. Here are a few gratuitous pictures of the completed articles.

Three Pz 1As & command vehicle, crewed by Condor Legion. In German field grey with brown overbrush. Buildings by Hovels

120mm Schneider Howitzers with PP Nationalist crews. Walls by Javis.

Popular Army battalion

SFL Bandera & Moroccan Tabor

Popular Army bn in Adrian helmets with 75s & Renaults. Very French

Popular Army close up with casualty marker

Soixante Quinze

IBs in olive grove. Trees from Pet Shop (aquarium matting)


Anarchist militia. Bridge by Peter Pig, stream sections homemade

77mm Krupp, 45mm Atk, & 37mm Atk by RUG with Observer group.

FA-1 Armoured cars, BT-5s and T-26s.Wayside shrine from Hovels. Roads homemade

Falangist militia

Nationalist Regular Army

Pz1s in Spanish camouflage with Lancia Armoured car

Friday, 19 August 2011

Wargaming in Winter

Thursday night saw the second session with the Black Powder WSS game. We all had our winter woollies on and the heating turned on as we were in the garage and obviously as it’s the middle of August the temperature barely got above freezing.

We’re making slow progress, partly due to the rule book page turning, but also because we’re a sociable bunch. I think I’m also not driving the game as much as usual. When I’m working on my own rules I need to get results in an evening and so push the game along. With someone else’s system I don’t find the pressure so great.

Having said that the game moved on quite a bit. The cavalry action on the Anglo-Dutch left flank see-sawed, first seeming to be an overwhelming English achievement before the French managed to turn it about – partly through rallying some units that had only been forced to retire, rather than being broken completely. I think I need to re-read the sections on how you can make a charge as my initial reading suggests that the interpenetration rules enable you to charge through one of your own units. Having used this tactic a couple of times, - it enables a front line of troops to absorb a load of fire so that the charging troops only have to suffer closing fire before melee – I have to say it looks a bit odd. But then the break test is particularly brutal, most of the effect comes from the die roll and not any modifiers, so there’s only a limited amount you can do, tactically, to offset outrageous bad luck (although in fairness the rules do ensure you don’t get stuck in interminable rounds of mind-numbing melee combat).

In order to have some period flavour in the game I made the Anglo-Dutch cavalry “Heavy Cavalry” and gave the infantry “First Fire”. I also made one unit of French cavalry Carabineers who were also “Heavy Cavalry”. This unbalanced the game a little bit, so the buildings on the table as on the French half of the table to give them a more defendable line without overdoing it.

Phil, playing the French, took full advantage of the buildings to anchor his line and this is proving to be problematic for us Anglo-Dutch.

Anyway, as said above, after initial good fortune the Anglo-Dutch left wing, consisting of English cavalry, has finally been driven off through the French concentrating all of their cavalry against them and pivoting the attack on an occupied building.

The English cavalry on the attack. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course this does mean that there are no cavalry to oppose the brave Dutch boys under General von Kemp on the right. Alas for him, however, the cramped conditions and the activation system is making it rather heavy weather for him. However I think he is winning the infantry fight, just, and if he can get our massed artillery into play then maybe it’ll all conclude quicker than expected.

The Dutch cavalry mass on the right. Rather timidly

The infantry firefight in the middle seems to be in the balance, with one or two units broken on either side. The English forced the centre with a stunning bayonet charge from their support line. However breaking their opponents unmasked the guns deployed behind which then opened up and broke the previously victorious battalion. I’m faced with the need to exploit this breakthrough quickly before Phil’s horse can turn in on the flank. I have a reserve unit hurrying across to provide a block, but the absence of an ability to form squares may play me ill. On the other hand I’m not sure I want to be doing that anyway in the face of the French cannon.

We wound up earlier than we probably needed to and retreated indoors for hot drinks. There’s more to do next week if the players are willing.

I suppose this blog is both relevant and out of date at the same time. The BP supplement for the 18th Century is now out and about and there’s some comments coming through. I’ve looked at the TMP thread (see comment on the recent BP blog of mine for the link) and had a poke around the yahoo group.

Not having seen it the reviews & comments are making me think it’s a mixed bag. The elements that made the original BP popular are clearly there, and those who loved that aspect of BP are going for it here. That is the big glossy format, with big glossy pictures and jauntily written battle reports.

The unique selling points of the volume however aren’t getting a universal thumbs up. What this book is supposed to give us is an 18th century supplement, - ie rules, unit values and (yuk) potted history for all the major conflicts. Given the subject matter the coverage is going to be brief in a book of this size and the author is already on record that he had to pare the information down quite a bit (not as much as Ford Prefect and the revised entry for Earth in the H2G2. No one would describe the 18th century as “mostly harmless”). That means that corners will be cut and so errors will creep in. My reading of the various boards and groups would indicate to me that a lot of 18th century enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting this so the can officially join in all the BP fun the Napoleonic and Colonial wargaming chaps have been having. And some of them aren’t impressed, - there’s a high level of pedantry (in the best possible sense) being spread around. Whether you think the errors are material or not is a moot point. I wouldn’t turn to a book like this for my historical background anyway (okay so I have a thing for Osprey books, but I read proper history too, you know.) However there are points coming out as to whether the rule modifications are right or not, which is more of a concern. There’s a posting saying that someone had a successful 7YW game, but without knowing what the rule changes are it is difficult to say. An outline of what they’ve done would be helpful. Or as I said, I’ll have to flick through a copy on a stand somewhere. Or talk to someone playing it at a show.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Filthy Lucre

You may have noticed I’ve now got ads. Sorry. It’s an experiment to see how it works after I got prompted through my dashboard. If they get too intrusive then they’ll be got rid of.

I’m afraid this is the inevitable consequence (for me) of finally looking at the stats for this blog. If you don’t write one of these you won’t know, but blogger has a page that shows you a breakdown of access to your blog, - how many hits & when, plus what blogs get hit the most and where the hits come from.

I get most of my hits from the UK and the USA, although I had a regular in Iran for a while, and quite a few Russians.

In terms of getting hits on blogs my experience would suggest that mentioning Edward Woodward and Battleground is a sure fire way of generating wargaming hits. Although I wrote that particular blog in November 2009 it still regularly generates the most hits each week. Along with a short piece that I wrote that mentioned wargaming and Christmas shopping in the same blog. Oh, and any piece that references or quotes the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

So, feel free to click on the adverts, because I'm not allowed to. If they offend you, let me know through the comments. Be aware that every penny they generate for me will be ploughed back into the hobby.

Although I have to say it has amused me what links I got first. There’s clearly a clever algorithm that works out what to give your site, based upon what you right about (so why Tim Gow gets Voyages Jules Verne holidays on his blog is a mystery. I’ve actually used them several times, and I don’t get the link) but in my case because I write quite a bit about what I don’t like I ended up with links to Battlegames magazine, 28mm figure manufacturers and a site promoting Swindon.

PS this is quite a brief piece as I’ve been a bit out of it this week. Went in for the kidney stone treatment by ultrasound. For those of you familiar with the works of Hawkwind you’ll know the symptoms of being subject to a Sonic Attack are:

You will notice a vibration in your diaphragm.
You will hear a distant hissing in your ears.
You will feel dizzy.
You will feel the need to vomit.
There will be bleeding from orifices.
There will be an ache in the pelvic region.
You may be subject to fits of hysterical shouting, or even laughter.

Well, I can tell you that 3 or 4 of those are actually true, but mostly you feel like you’ve been repeatedly flicked by a ruler then kicked severely in the side from behind. Bit like being at school really.

And they only do one stone at a time, so I’ve got to go back.

And I think the dizziness is caused by the pain relief, not the sonic attack*.

*Technically it’s called “Lithotripsy”, but Sonic Attack sounds better.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Black Powder & Real Life

The table set up
So the plan was this. Use the big table. Use all of the figures. Play a Black Powder  War of Spanish Succession game. I’d got the table set up earlier in the week, got the figures out and tried to re-read BP. This latter part kept being interrupted by stuff happening, but no worry, -I had Thursday afternoon off to swot the final bits up.

In practice the Thursday off bit didn’t work out as planned. I knew I had to take my father to hospital for a pre-op check (nothing serious, - cataracts), but that shouldn’t take very long.

Hour and a half late going in we were. 90 minutes. Yes, 90 minutes late. And then my mother (bless her) realised she need to get some food in, so having done the hospital we’re off down Sainsbury’s. Where, for the first time in ages, she had one of her “note sure what I want sessions”, - basically 20 minutes shopping cost me 40 minutes.

Now that’s not significant, except it then pushes me in to rush hour coming home so I end up getting home later than I would normally do from work and the two or so hours to sort stuff is no longer available to me. However, I take 5 minutes to look at the table and make some quick changes, - namely removing the large built up area in the middle of the board. No scenario, however, just a line up and thrash it out battle.

No worries. There’s several of us got copies of BP, so lots of people to help out on the rules front. Except our BP expert has dropped out and of the two players who turn up one (let’s say Player A) has the same level as knowledge as me (quite fairly he pointed out it was my game so he expected me to have a fair idea of how it all worked) and the other (let’s say Player B), - well it’s his first game with the group for months and last probably looked at BP last year.

Rather than me umpire I teamed up with Player B against Player A. After all I fancied pushing the toys around. And we were Anglo Dutch, so I got the Anglo, and he got the Dutch.

We didn’t finish the game. After all friends who haven’t met for a while want to chat as well as play. And we were slowed down a bit by the constant flicking backwards and forwards through the rule book. I criticised BP for a lack of an index yesterday, which I feel is essential in a book with nearly 200 pages. However, to be fair, the contents list isn’t bad and the cross referencing is adequate but there’s still too much of the rules being scattered about the book amongst the matey-style text.

Having said that, when things moved they moved quite nicely. We were using Generals with a value of 8 – typically competent Generals under the rules – which means that command failures occur if you roll 9 or more on 2D6. That’s slightly more than a 1 in 4 chance, which is quite high.

The infantry close for a firefight.
The French went first and stepped forward. In response the Anglo Dutch centre stalled (that wretched comand role) and the right wing got in a tangle as the Dutch tried to negotiate round a wood and a small built up area. The left wing was the success where the Britsh Heavy Dragoons charged in on the French cavalry and managed to break the lead unit and the one behind them with a "sweeping advance". We're a bit light on the rules so I may have got away with murder on this wing. However the key tactic seems to be to induce a counter charge to seperate cavalry from their supports. Elsewhere the action still hangs in the balance (or is woefully indecisive depending on your point of view).

Show here are some gratuitously posted pictures of the game with little context.

The victorious British Cavlry now look a bit isolated

The French centre cavalry wait to deliver their attack (note Airfix cottage!)

The Dutch cavalry work their way round the end of their infantry line

A grand panoram. The Dutch are off table at the bottom (bits of La Haye Saint farmhouse in view)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Mr Grumpy's Got His Hat On

Tonight we’re doing Black Powder in the War of Spanish Succession. I’ve gone for the full sized table – 12’ x 5’ – and will (as is my wont) use all of my figures. My battalions are a bit “sportier” than those recommended in the book, being ex-WRG 3 element, 12 man, units. I think they look good with the flags without being completely over the top.

They’ll no doubt be an update on the game in due course. It’s been a while since we’ve dabbled with Black Powder so I had a quick re-read of the rules. I’d forgotten how badly written and laid out the book is. The actual rules themselves are simple and effective (so, make it clear right now I LIKE THE MECHANISMS) but they are really poorly laid out, with key information scattered around seemingly at random. There’s a contents list, but no index so there’s lots of page flicking backward
 and forwards to find what you want. A quick refresh isn’t exactly quick to do, and the speed with which quick reference sheets popped up on the Black Powder fanboy group would indicate that the QRF in the back of the book isn’t up to snuff. (BTW It was pointed out to a friend of mine by one of the authors that the rules weren’t written for people like me. Whatever that means. People who like to play wargames and paint their own toy soldiers, I’d guess.)

In fairness to the fanboys there’s been some really good discussion on the WSS seeing as the rules, whilst claiming to cover them, actually don’t. So I’ve got some useful ideas from there. (The “It doesn’t cover WSS” issue still rankles me a lot, - I really do feel I was sold a set of rules under false pretences, - it says WSS in the introduction, it has a section of “history” in the back, and the people demo’ing the game said it did. It’s a big, poorly laid out book. How are you supposed to know the rules don’t work properly for WSS?*)

So we have the opportunity for Warlord Games to sell us some supplements to fill in the gaps. The first one of these is now available for pre-order on the website. Note that this means that the rules that should have been in the first book are not available as a free down load. You have to pay to get what you’ve already bought. The author says that the book has rule modifications, lots of background on the various conflicts and the write up of quite a few refights. All perfectly interesting stuff, but as I already understand the period and have a shelf full of books I don’t need a potted history (although I accept a lot of people do want this, so okay for them). All I want is the rules I’ve already paid for.

 You can hop over to the Warlord games website and get more details on the offering. There’s a long essay by the book’s author explaining what he’s tried to achieve, which all sounds really worthy. They’re called “Last Argument of Kings”, which is a fine name, and number 100ish pages in full colour. With a softcover (not “Paperback” you note) they retail for £18.

Although you do get a free figure if you pre-order. Which is nice.

I may just try to pick up the gist of the changes from the fanboy group and flicking through the rules at a show and then write my own changes.

* It has pointed out to me that I can make my own changes. As regular readers will know I don’t have a problem with writing my own rules or adapting rules for other purposes. The point is that I bought a set of rules that purported to cover the period but didn’t. if they hadn’t I would not have bought them. Ironically I might have bought them even if I’d known they didn’t do WSS with the intention of adapting them, but that would have been my choice.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

How Annoying is That?

I said recently that Peter Pig were releasing some new figures for the Spanish Civil War range and expressed my hopes for what these might be.

My preferences were driven by the fact that over the last 12 months I have acquired probably close to £300 worth of metal from Mr Pig’s SCW range and I’m looking to fill in some holes. What I don’t want to do is replace what I’ve bought and painted, so I’m not crying out for re-sculpts of the existing range.

Well, it’s a bit of both really. The Nationalist basic packs have been retired and replaced by new sculpts, adding some extra poses and what you might call “greater granularity” in the pack contents. Previously you got a mix of advancing & firing figures in each pack. Now there’s a pack of each pose type, which is certainly an improvement. The poses on the website look excellent, with the normal Peter Pig animation. His figures really do look alive, and whilst they are bulking up a bit they haven’t been down the gym & on the steroids like most of the Warlord 28mm and their ilk.

From the pictures posted so far the figures are in the fairly standard Spanish uniform, with the waisted jacket, slight jodhpur-ish trousers and gaiters. They have the “Y” belt webbing and pouches, and of course, the gorillo cap (or chip bag hat, if you prefer). As such they can be used for any regular forces almost. Some with helmets would be good, so unless these are done we need some spare heads to swap over.

Alas for me I don’t actually need them. Not at the moment. I might want to add some more Peninsula army type units so they’ll do for that (they’ll have to – the old packets have been retired) and that also means they’ll be in different units so if there’s a size difference I can keep them apart. Of course if some more useful figures with the helmets come out then I’d take those instead.

Well, it’s an exciting start, and they show that Martin Goddard is probably the best sculptor of 15mm figures around. Hopefully there’s more to come, but if he’s going to do this sort of thing for the rest of the range he’s got a big task ahead of him. These ones were planned as far back as Partizan this year, so project that forward for a pipeline for a similar batch of figures, and take out time for doing some new WW2 SS figures then factor in the end of the summer holidays (Martin is a teacher and will have to go back to work) and you can see we might be waiting for a while for the next lot.

My concern would be that he’ll target the International Brigades next. Whilst these have a high profile in the non-hispanic literature they’re only a small part of the war. In that respect their role was a triumph for communist propaganda. What games need are lots of militia and Popular Army, and although you often see the former the latter are less common. “Uniforms” aren’t nice enough I expect when you can spend your time painting people in monos with red & black neckerchiefs.

So, next up some Carlist Requetes, please?

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Somethings I saw over the weekend

Firstly, if you haven't noticed, Peter Pig has announced that there will be some additions to their Spanish Civil War range. Personally I'd like to see some more packs of Carlists and a Carlist command pack with a Priest. I think he also needs to do some gunners in the spanish helmet. My main hope is that the figures will fit with the existing sculpts. Some HMGs & LMGs in spanish helmets would be good too.

Secondly last night Mrs T & I went to see the JJ Abrams' film "Super 8". Have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it despite large bits being very predictable. The young cast were very good and there was one scene which I commend to you all as wargamers and modellers.

The central protagonist is supposed to be 12 or 13 and he makes model kits (the film is set in 1979 so this is plausible). At one point he's sitting in his bedroom with a young girl who expresses an interest in the models (along the lines of "They look do you do that?").

Now I'd guess any wargamer/modeller who gets round to talking to girls when he is young has this moment. When the opposite sex expresses an interest in the hobby and you try to explain it. Of course you don't know if she is really interested or just doing that thing girls do when talking to boys sometimes in pretending to be interested. And you're a bit embarrased at someone being interested in something you do (instead of it being described as uncool or childish when you secretly suspect it might be). Anyhow, he explains dry brushing to her. Yes. A big budget action sci-fi film with a scene in which drybrushing model kits is explained. He even explains that you can buy, like, 24 different shades of grey.

It took me back years.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Another one on the pile

Having sort of decided that I would put the book buying on hold after the last blog Mrs T and I went out for a stroll in our local market town.

It has quite a nice indoor market and some very good second hand charity bookshops. I struck gold in the market. There, on the stand, was a book with a faded spine on which I could make out the word "Durruti". Could this be a book about the famous Anarchist leader from the Spanish Civil War?

Yup, - sure enough it was an English translation of his biography (which was written in French by one of his colleagues, Abel Paz) which was published in Canada. in the 1970's. And it was priced at £1. Yes. One whole English pound. Less than the price of a cup of coffee from Starbucks (not that I drink coffee). Easiest decision of the day.

And if you detect an air of smugness it's because it currently retails on Abebooks at c£13 (including postage) for the cheapest copy but is more typically c£20 all in.

Okay, so it's another anti-Franco book but it is the first book I've found written by a Spaniard, and it is contemporary. And it only cost me £1, and I can sell it on for lots more*. Did I mention that?

* Not that I ever sell books on. They're too much like friends, I'm afraid.

Friday, 5 August 2011

If you only buy two….(or maybe three)

Most wargamers have a lead or plastic mountain. You know, that collection of figures and equipment bought with the best intentions of really getting stuck in and finishing off but then Real Life happens so you never have enough time but you have a chance to go to a show which you do because you feel like you deserve it because you’ve been so busy what with one thing and another and you see another lovely collection in a period you’ve always wanted to do so you have to buy them and you end up with a really big pile of figures to paint when you haven’t finished the last lot so you just add them to the pile and end up with the longest run on sentence you’ve ever written. Or not.

I suspect board wargamers have the same problem. I had it in the 1970’s when I was an SPI / Strategy & Tactics subscriber. Games came every two months which I never had time to learn, plus I was going out and buying other games as well. And within my group of gaming friends we only ever had one copy of any given game so learning the rules fell on to one person and then we’d all drink too much to understand what was going on so it was just easier to go off and play Kingmaker on the grounds it was brilliant and we all understood it.*

I fear I may be getting this problem with books. I keep an eye on subjects I’m interested in through and also the Amazon market place and when books drop to a price I’m prepared to pay I buy them. Last year I made it worse by spending several days in Hay on Wye as I wrote about at the time ( It’s nearly 12 months on from then and a few of the books I bought still haven’t been read (mostly the stuff on the War of Spanish Succession). And in the interim I’ve acquired quite a few more volumes, mostly on the SCW, but also some old friends from university days I lost track of and books I’ve always wanted to read (Lucy Hutchinson’s English Civil War memoir, for example).

The book I’m reading at the moment is making this situation worse. I am working my way through Hugh Thomas’ epic study of the Spanish Civil War, which runs to over 1,000 pages. Of course as it is a serious historical tome it has its fair share of footnotes, which in this instance are actually printed at the foot of each page, rather than being consigned to the back of the book as is the current fashion. This makes it easier to follow the references, - sometimes when I get engrossed in a book I stop flicking to the back to check the footnotes, - but when they’re at the bottom of the page, well……

Thomas’ footnotes are quite good as well, telling you not just the source but also indicating its importance and so on. So I’ve been reading the book then thinking “Oh…that book looks interesting…perhaps I should read it as well…”. Then I go off to Abebooks and find it’s at a reasonable price and then…

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may know that I’ve been concerned about the fact that my contemporary sources for the SCW are mostly Republican and mostly British. Well, I’ve managed to address the latter but not the former through the purchase of an English translation of Andre Malraux’s “L’espoir”, a novel that tracks the fortunes of an IB unit or two in the early years of the war. Apparently it is reckoned to be the best novel of the SCW, beating “For Whom…” by Hemingway. I read Malraux’s novel about the Chinese Revolution (“La Condition Humaine”) for A Level and really enjoyed it, so I hope I’m in for a treat with this one.

Then I found a reference to a book on the SCW written by the Daily Mail’s foreign correspondent, Harold Cardoza . He followed the Nationalists around (I’ve referred to him before – he’s the one that told Peter Kemp that Guernica was a hoax perpetrated by the Republicans, - see blog and wrote a book about his experiences. I’ve managed to track down a 1938 edition published by the “Right Book Club” so I’m awaiting that eagerly.

Having done this I then came across a reference to a book written at the same time, published by the “Left Book Club”. This one was written by the delightfully named Frank Jellinek, who was the special correspondent of the Manchester Guardian (as it was then known). He, as you might guess, was working in the Republican zone. And there’s a copy on Abebooks that’s just about within my target price range.

Well, you’ve got to, really, haven’t you? So that’s three more books on the book mountain.

Will I ever learn? Will I ever buy a Kindle? Will I fill my children’s rooms with books when they leave home? Will I ever buy as many books as Mrs T?

Stayed tuned for answers to these, and other questions. Perhaps.

* I don’t buy board wargames now. In fact I don’t buy a lot of proprietary games at all. However I have got my name down for Warfrog/Treefrog’s forthcoming Discworld board game called “Ankh-Morpork”. I saw the designer, Martin Wallace, demonstrating it a CoW in 2010 and, in some small way, helped push it along. It looked to play really well, and the quality of the artwork is stunning. An absolute must have for anyone who has a birthday in September or is intending to celebrate Christmas this year or any other gift giving festival.

Monday, 1 August 2011

If you only buy one...

I was just perusing my bookshelves and realised how easy it is to acquire lots of generalist history, - especially "Battles in Britain" type books.

If I was to be allowed to keep only one (Desert Island Disc style), or if I had my time over again and only bought one, it would be this one, without a doubt.

Richard Brook's book is the best of its kind. All the information you require (or is available) no ridiculous speculation and good clear maps where ever it is possible to supply one.

The accounts vary in length, depending on the battle, and it isn't a small book. It has good numbers for the battles, and nice clear who was in charge/who died tables. It claims to be comprehensive and I have to say I've never found a battle missing when I've gone looking for it.

I obviously have monographs on various battles in Britain (Foard on Naseby, for example), and other more detailed works (Wanklyn on the Civil War, for example), but if I want a summary of any battle in Britain, this is where I go first.

The various period sections are divided up by short essays drawing the reader's attention to salient points and developments. These are very readable in their own right.

I think it benefits enormously for being written by a wargamer. If you don't have a copy, seek it out. You can get a second hand copy for £10 on Amazon if you don't want to stretch to a new one.