Thursday, 31 December 2009

Minor irritations and potential disasters

Dammit! I've got mice.

I was poking around in the chest of drawers I keep my scenery bits in (well some of them) this afternoon, and discovered a pile of white polystyrene crumbs. They'd been chewed off the "Tomb of the Phruti", the most sacred site in the whole of Zambola. It could start another Civil War when President Jog-Jog finds out.

I thought at first that the tomb had just started to crumble through age and poor construction, but the little black mouse droppings amongst the polystyrene gave the little critters away. I'm not sure whether to paint over the damage or try to polyfilla it. If Eastern Zambola wasn't so arid I'd put glue over it and sprinkle flock over it to make it look overgrown. May be I can move it into my jungle temple box.

I suppose this is a consequence of storing so much of my stuff in the garage, but I don't really have a lot of choice. I got caught a few years ago when a load of old carpet underlay I used for WW1 shelled landscape got turned into a nest.

Anyhow, I've done a quick run through the rest of my stuff and seem to have got away with it otherwise. Most things are in sealed boxes & ice cream tubs which act as deterrent. I really don't want to get into setting traps. Not because I have a problem with killing the pests, it's just so messy if they don't get killed outright, or get decapitated.

Annoying news also arrived today on the basing front. I mount most of my figures on the Peter Pig pre-cut plastic bases. I like these as they are robust, inexpensive and don't warp out of shape. For larger models I use modellers' plywood, which I get from the local model shop. They have a thickness that is identical to the Peter Pig base, so I don't get height mismatches between figures.

Over the last few days I've managed to get round to finishing off my Sudan campaign wagon train. We've played "Science v Pluck" over the past few years, and I think the players are ready to deal with a proper sized baggage train, - one that doesn't fit into a square comfortably. I've also got plans for a balloon section, so they can do some aerial reconnaissance. Hopefully over the summer, when I get the big table set up in the garage, we can play a series of linked games based round the Suakin expedition. The picture shows where I'm up to, - a couple of mule carts, some small horse wagons & a couple of limbers. I've got two more horse wagons, two more limbers and two large four horse wagons to go. Add to that half a dozen camels and a few pack mules and you have quite a collection.

So the remaining wagons and horses are painted and varnished, but when I come to base them up I'm out of plywood. No worries, I had to go into town this morning anyway, so I take a sample of wood with me and call into the model shop. Conversation goes like this:

Me "Can I have a sheet of this thickness ply, please?"

Shopkeeper: "Let me have look. Hmm. I've got slightly thicker or slightly thinner"

Me " Well, I really want this size. Can you check again?"

Shopkeeper: "Don't ever recall seeing anything like this before. Where did you get from?"

Me "I bought it from you earlier in the year."

Shopkeeper: "Ah........"

I'll give him a couple of weeks to see what he can find. In the mean time I'm left with sanding down hardboard, which I fear may warp once glue, polyfilla'd and covered in sand.

If he can't get any, this could be serious.

(The thickness is 1.3mm, just in case any of you out there can point me at a source.)

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Musings on Christmas

Time to do my "What I got under the tree" post, I suppose.

First off this blog is being typed up on my new Netbook. I have to say I'm impressed so far. It is rather odd to consider this is not supposed to be used as a laptop or a PC, but it has got 1GB of memory and 160GB hard drive. Ridiculous. Plus it can sit on your lap without cutting off the circulation and it allegedly has 6 hours of battery life. It also comes with a dual boot Andriod environment (?). Let me know if you know what that does.

All I have to do is chose a mobile broadband supplier, then I'll have something more interesting to do on the train on my frequent trips to London.

Any how, here's a picture of it showing this blog entry being written.

My final thought is that kit this powerful and cheap means that the computer moderated table top wargame is probably actually achievable if anyone really wanted to do it.

I also managed to pick up a few extra packets of Peter Pig ECW cavalry, just to round my forces off (I changed from a four base per "Regiment" structure for my horse to a three base structure during my game development, so my original purchase of figures left me some odd ones). Of course, I forgot to order any bases for them and I seem to have done the sums on what I needed wrong, so I shall be placing a follow up order as soon as the Piggie website opens in the New Year.

Finally a brief word on the Christmas cracker. Whilst we all tend to focus on the awfulness of the jokes, they sometimes provide unexpected bounty. My 20mm Ancient Britons are fleshed out with the odd Christmas Cracker figure, and there are other plasticy bits in other armies too. An earlier blog has featured this year's surprises, - the Killer Wind up Christmas Puddings. However, I think the most useful thing I ever got out of a cracker is featured in the picture to the right. If you can't tell what they are, they're toenail clippers. Whilst I'd never put them anywhere near any part of my feet, they have proved terrific for clipping off odd pieces of metal from figures. You know those irritating bits where the figure won't lie flat so you can get a knife at it. They're really useful for clipping away that bit of metal between the base and raised hoof of so many galloping horses.

And if I don't blog again for a while, Happy New Year.

First Ever Championship Game (revisited)

Since I posted earlier on today, I've had some pictures and comments from Phil.

This first one shows my Peter Pig Legionaries deployed deep. I love these little guys, - they really look like they mean business. This picture also shows my portable in house game board, which is painted sandy colour to match my figure bases.

For a technical wargamers analysis of the game, over to Phil:

"The game, of course, was settled by the initiative roll that caught your general with the outflanked cavalry (won against the odds), the successful break off of my exhausted cavalry unit (50/50, but with a 1:6 chance to gift you the unit), and the initiative on the last turn (won with the odds) which allowed me to start with game-winning flank melee (again, close on the odds in that melee, but you needed to beat me on the dice to survive). Very close, and I could not force my way to a winning position once the quick breakthrough option with the camels and similar stratagems had all failed :O( (so taking the 1:6 risk to get the flanking position was really my only option) ."

Sounds like I did okay, but Phil is a very generous opponent. Strangely, however, Phil's comments don't mention the bizarre incident that normally turned the game, which became known as the attack of the killer wind up Christmas Puddings. These can clearly be seen in formation trying to turn the flank of Phil's line.

First Ever Championship Game

Well, I finally broke my Society of Ancients Championship Game duck this year, - something I thought I'd never do. As a wargamer I've mostly eschewed structured competitions, - I've had a foray into the world of Armati tournaments which was fun enough, but not something to do every week.

When I started wargaming at University the SoA championship sort of encapsulated all that was wrong with the hobby. The obsession with who was a 2 or 3 pointer, the requirement to play one set of rules, the pages it seemed to take up in Slingshot. I just didn't want to have anything to do with it. Then it seemed to die, - I don't know why, but it just went away.

And now it is back in its first return year, with the accent on meeting other Society members, play what ever you want, all managed through the internet. Still wasn't convinced I'd bother to take part, but I reckoned without President Steele.

Phil Steele's enthusiasm for the hobby and the Society of Ancients is legendary. He is tireless in promoting the SoA round the country, often seen on the stand, presenting prizes or taking part in competitions. He's set himself a target of playing a certain number of championship games and has been steadily picking off the local wargaming populace. He got me cornered last night, so we set to at a Roman Civil war style game of Armati.

We played Armati as I don't do FoG or DBx and AMW is a bit unbalanced for this type of thing (tho' we're working on it). I like Armati, - it's a good, clean system that makes sense and works really well for "battle line" games. Plus I used to play it a lot and got moderately proficient.

Quick read through, I reckoned, and I'd be away.

Oh, how we forget. All those little nuances. Firstly picking the army. I have a choice of Trajanic Romans, Parthians and Germans in 15mm (like, no one uses Wars of the Roses stuff...). So I got hold of the lists and dragged the boxes off the shelves, blowing off the dust.

Hmm. Parthians, - all that light cavalry, - gotta know what you're doing with that. The Germans, - all that slow moving warband stuff. No one wins with that. Erk. So the Trajanics. I had a couple of goes at putting together a proper Roman army, ignoring all the gimmick options (not sure what you do with camels).

Besides, if you pick a Roman army it should be stuffed full of legionaries.

There's a lot of stuff I'd forgotten about playing competition Armati. There's an awful lot of space on the board. I prefer wall to wall troops in ancient games as I reckon that's what battles mostly looked like.

I won't provide a battle report, - personally I don't like them. But here's things I learnt too late during the game:

1) Camels deny impetus (aargh!!!!)
2) It's not always a flank attack, even if it looks like one.
3) Always think a move ahead with your general to stop him being surrounded and killed.
4) The game's not won until it's won.
5) That initiative roll thing is really important
6) Sometimes you can kill things too quickly. I never did get the routed into flank affect.

It went down to the wire, - President Steele won, killing four key units to my two. However, if I'd won the intitiative in the last turn I'd probably have run out winner. Losing my general figure early in the game sort of gave it away. Tense right to the end.

Anyhow, we rounded off the evening with some excellent whisky cake and a conversation that put most of the wargaming world to rights. That's what it's all about sometimes.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Rules I Like (Part 1)

Yes, I know you're all thinking what poor sap blogs on Christmas Eve. Well, I've got in from work early, shovelled the snow, made a cup of tea and now there's cooking stuff going on in the kitchen, so I've just ducked out of the way.

Only to be interrupted as the microwave has just stopped working. There's that smoky electric burn smell hanging around the kitchen now. It's not the fuse, - it starts up then stops after 30 seconds. Lights and display still work, turntable rotates but then it stops and shuts down.

Luckily there's a spare one in the garage, previously used by one of the younger Trebians at University. Excuse me whilst I go and get it.

Real life, huh?

Right, back to the subject. Firstly I have to say that just because I like a set of rules doesn't mean I play them regularly. This is more the first part of a series about rule sets I like because of things about the way they're written, or because they broke new ground, - not because they have lots of pictures, or feature loads of army lists of are written in the greatest prose since Dickens.

I was prompted to think about this because of my last blog, when I used Slim Mumford's rules to illustrate a point. They are one of the sets that I like, although I rarely play them.

One of the sets that makes me wish I'd thought of the idea is "File Leader" by Pete Berry. I've just had a look on my shelves and I seem to have lost my original copy from when they were first published, but I've got the 1994 re-print which illustrates this blog.

So why do I rate these rules? In some ways they are derivative. The morale tables, for example, are a direct copy almost of those in the WRG 1685 - 1845 Rules and often don't work that well. The move sequence is a simply "I Go - You Go". Troop classification is entirely normal, with no clever twists.

The firing system is simple and effective, but nothing special, and the hand to hand rules are clunky and require too many sums to get them to work.

The combat effect system is quite clever, however, as a unit can elect not to lose figures by giving ground. It simulates well the reluctance of units to close when under fire. If you press home you will take casualties, but if you won't take casualties you can't win.

However what makes "File Leader" special in my eyes is how it is just "fit for purpose".

The problem with many rule sets for table top games is the level of resolution. Many games have a limited number of units a side and might represent nothing more than a Napoleonic division. In order to fight battles that actually took place then you need masses of figures and more space than most people have. They also end up playing really slowly because of the level of detail in them.

On the other hand such rules don't scale down well, either. If you try to fight a typical English Civil War battle most rules are overkill. In many of the minor actions there's often only a few companies aside, - 2,000 men or so - especially in the early period Irish conflicts. You can try to scale down your George Gush rules or whatever, but they're still not written for this type of combat.

File Leader has as its basic unit a company or cavalry squadron, and they behave as such, not as cut down regiments. Before they came along games were either big battle or skirmish. The idea that you would work at a level between the two didn't seem to have occurred to anyone.

Having set that as the level of resolution for the rules the command structure is very neat, with officers really being needed for companies to function and co-ordinate with each other. This is done simply and elegantly.

And finally the Officer Incident tables. Rather than have the simple "Roll a 6, he dies" type of resolution for officers foolish enough to get near combat, there's a graduated scale to see if he is hit and then 60 different outcomes from Death to Capture and Lucky Escapes. Most of these have a different effect on the troops under the officer's command. They add real period flavour and enjoyment to the game without being unnecessary chrome.

As far as I can tell File Leader is unique in addressing this level of combat resolution. It has been written specifically to address type of combat, and so is precisely "fit for purpose".

Subsequent versions have been published for the French-Indian Wars ("Ranger") and the American War of Independence ("Minuteman") which I've never played, and the Indian Mutiny ("Sepoy") which I have. We, as a group, have used File Leader for the Dutch Revolt, French Wars of Religion (with slight changes) and hopefully next year for the Elizabethan campaigns in Ireland, - when I've painted the Irish Kerns I bought on an impulse at Derby this year.

Any how, that's my first pick for Rules I Like. Comments, as ever, welcome.

Merry Christmas to all of you out there in the blogosphere.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Don't Lose The Plot

I watched the last "Games Britannia" last night. It covered the computer game boom from the ZX Spectrum (wonder where mine is now), through Lara Croft up to the Grand Theft Auto family of games.

Looking at that last sentence, the word "of" between "family" and "games" is really rather important.

Any how, the basic thesis was that modern computer game design with character interaction and linked plot but with the capacity to roam free is a development from D&D style RPGs. It's a persuasive argument as most computer games bear little resemblance in style and game intention to any traditional boardgame. Previously it was remarked that RPGs grew out of table top wargaming.

I think that point is not as well made as it could be. I don't think RPGs are descended from the traditional competition structured game. It is more the case that RPGs grew out of wargame campaigns or more free-style games. You can see the direct antecedents in Tony Bath's legendary Hyborian Campaign which seems to have taken on its own life and direction.

There are similar imaginative strands in an odd set of rules published by the Society of Ancients. Slim Mumford's "Medieval Warfare Rules" were originally written in the 1960's and were republished in 1984. Clearly the print run was optimistic as you can still buy them 25 years later.

The interesting thing about these rules is that they seem to have developed organically in response to what the players were doing in the medieval world being created. There are boat rules and siege rules, all brought about I suspect because it happened to come up in a game Slim's friends needed to play from the campaign they were in.

It is this harnessing of imagination that is one of the things that attracts me to wargaming as opposed to having a model train set. I do the modelling and terrain building, which I accept is therapeutic, but if that was all I wanted I'd just build the railway layout. And whilst I admire a good game design and play commercially available games they tend to force me into a straight jacket I don't want to be in. I have a fair amount of admiration for what the guys that wrote FoG have done, - it is quite an achievement and is a beautifully balanced game. I just don't want to play it as it doesn't let me go where I want, - which in skiing parlance is mostly off piste.

So I write my own rules (which alternately amuse and irritate the Monday Night Group), and I enjoy matrix games, simply because they require imagination and drive a narrative for the game that would otherwise not exist. And what is more, the players between them develop the story line which can, and does, run away from the umpire.


(BTW If you don't know what a matrix game is, let me know and I'll do a blog on it).

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Advantages of Being a Wargamer (3)

One of the things I've loved about being a wargamer is the people you meet on the way. Even if you don't see someone for years, you sort of pick up just where you left off. The problem is that you often only bump into people at shows and do the "we really must catch up properly" thing, but then stuff gets in the way and you never do.

Anyhow, we needed to be Up North this weekend, so we decided to make the most of the opportunity. A quick e-mail to Pete Berry of Baccus miniatures and we agreed to meet up. Timing prevented a wargame (plus Christmas Shopping to do at Meadowhall), so we met up with him and his good lady wife, Helen. They booked us in to a very pleasant Italian Restaurant on the Eccleshall Road in Sheffield, where we spent an enjoyable evening catching up on all things wargaming and family related matters, with copious amounts of wine and some lovely food. Rounded off by stepping out of the restaurant, and getting a taxi immediately. Almost a perfect Wargaming for Grown Ups evening, (in that we had a lovely time and still no figures got painted).

I first me up with Pete when I went up to University. although he'd just graduated he still called into the University Wargames club. Pete has had an important influence on the way I wargame, his drive is always to do things properly to the best of your ability, and if you don't like something don't just moan about it. Do something. Write your own rules, set your own standards, and in Pete's case as well set up your own figure company as well.

Whilst at Uni he was one of the prime movers in setting up large , multi-day refights of big Napoleonic battles at the club. In my first year the club put on Durrenstien, a massive battle fought in Austria between the Russians and the French which is mostly unknown. By pure chance some of the photos I took of the game all those years ago fell out of a file as I was tidying up a week or so ago.

For those of you who know him, you'll recognise a young Pete leaning against the wall in the background. The chap kneeling on the table in the brown jumper is now ProfessorDaniel Szechi, currently of Manchester University History Department, and one of our foremost experts on the Jacobite Rebellions. I notice on his biog on their website that he doesn't list wargaming as one of his hobbies. Shame on him.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Odds and Ends

Oh, er, what? Just got in from a visit to the Big City, where I had a Big City Christmas Lunch. Best not to try to paint, even with patented Trebian method as will all look a mess. Better just veg in front of TV and watch Spooks or some such thing.

I did catch the latest episode of Games Britannia last night, which was a slight disappointment. It was focusing on the rise of the modern commercial board game, in particular the Big Three, - Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble, - but whilst it was good on the plagiarised origins of Monopoly, a lot of the rest was a bit sloppy. Lots of clips from vintage programmes from the 60s, 70s, and 80s about board games, including one I remember first time round which concentrated on Margaret Hiron (who I always feel is over-rated as a games designer).

It had a serious nod towards D&D and RPGs in general, with reference to tabletop wargaming, but I felt it was light on the modern game scene. They didn't interview Martin Wallace of Treefrog, for example (unless that was in the last five minutes as my digital recorder was playing up a bit).

Any how, worth catching up on i-Player, but don't be distressed if you missed it.

Now I'm off for a lie down. Another day of inactivity on the wargaming front.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Squares, Games and why I don't like Chess

There's been a renaissance in the last 5 years in square-based games. The "Red Square" games produced by Richard Brooks & Ian Drury, together with the work done by Bob Cordery has influenced quite a bit of what I've done in the last few years. Similarly Kalistra's "Hexon" terrain system encourages the use of zone-based rules systems. Personally I'm more a fan of squares (even off set squares) than hexes, as at least it makes the table look like a map rather than a hex grid.

Squares give you a number of advantages, - no need to measure, clear definition of what is fighting what, and freedom to use any basing system you want for your figures. On the other hand, I can't get away from thinking why don't I just design board games instead? Then I'm left with thinking that I like the aesthetics of the figures and the tactile nature of pushing them around, so I'll just go with the squares.

Recently I've been trying to have it both ways. I've been using Richard Brooks' English Civil War square based rules (published in WD's "Nugget" journal), called "Victory Without Quarter". However I play them without squares. Cunningly, I call my version "Victory Without Squares". (That only really works as a joke if you know the name of the original set of rules).

Any how, I achieved the non-squareness element of my version by substituting 4 inches for "square" everywhere it appeared in the rules. The first playtest was a complete shambles, but I have a working set now and have dealt with most of the problems that popped up because stuff was nolonger lined up. If anyone is interested in how I solved the problems, post me a comment and I'll e-mail them to you or something similar.

Which brings me to the BBC4 TV series "Games Britannia" presented by some chap called Benjamin Woolley. I caught up with the first one on i-Player. Woolley is a man who rhapsodises about being trapped in the house at Christmas and having to play boardgames.

Now it is traditional these days to regard that as totally horrific (same as you're not supposed to enjoy Christmas anymore), but actually it sounds brilliant to me. I've loved boardgames from small, despite having an older brother who always made sure I lost (he's paying for it now, - hasn't beaten me at a game for years). Anyway, what it means is you have a presenter who loves the subject, and that always helps.

The first episode covered medieval games (backgammon, nine men's morris, chess etc) up to about the mid Victorian era when chess pieces were formalised and snakes and ladders type games appeared. I found it interesting , - even if his belief that a game was unique because each side had different victory conditions struck me as odd. Has he never played "Escape from Colditz"??

I recommend a look if you haven't seen it, - there's another one on tonight at 9pm. However, it did remind me how much I don't like chess. As ever it was described as the "ultimate game", and one of the best wargames.

No it isn't. It's not even remotely realistic as a wargame. Where are the hills? What about the odd river or forest? Why can't I deploy the pieces where I want? Why put my cavalry behind my infantry?

The Great Commanders of history beat their opponents by how they deployed as much as how they handled their troops in combat. Ever seen offset deployment on a chess board? I don't think so.

Humph. It'll never catch on, I tell you.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Real Life (Part 6)

Some times Real Life gets in the way and it isn't a problem. Whilst preparations have been underway for a while (and I have noted a number of Christmas Dinners already) Christmas has sort of kicked off properly. Last Friday evening we had a short and jolly ECW knockabout game (massive Royalist win due to their cavalry exploiting a poor Parliamentarian deployment) and rounded it off with some Ferrero Roche - won in a raffle - and some homemade mince pies.

Saturday was decorations and tree day which meant the traditional "Finding Out the Fairy Lights Don't Work" game, followed by the "Oooh! No One Makes Them Bulbs No More" event at the local hardware shop. Which leads to the "Soddit, I'm Buying LEDs - They Don't Have Bulbs" real-time simulation.

Putting up decorations always prompts me to look at the wargaming applications of the various bits of ephemera you acquire. So far I've got using Baubles for Hot Air Observation Balloons, but I'm not convinced they're big enough. Any other udeas, just leave a comment.

Sunday Morning's painting session has been disrupted by Christmas Card writing. This always leaves me resolving to arrange games with those people I haven't seen in the last year. Maybe this next year I'll actually do it.

Better get back to compiling Christmas Playlist for the MP3 player.

And planning how I'm going to fit in painting all that stuff I ordered for Christmas.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Local Colour

A bit of a change again, here, with a sort of real-live battle report.

First of all, a confession. I’ve lived within comfortable travelling distance of Northampton for many years and I have never walked the eponymous battlefield. Disgraceful, I hear you all say. In my defence I actually live closer to Naseby, and that's a battle I've always been interested in.

There are two other reasons why I’ve never bothered to tread the ground. Firstly, I’ve never had much interest in the Wars of the Roses until recently. I mistakenly believed it was too much sterile bashing each other at short range with poleaxes. I see now that there is a lot of that going on but there are also some interesting wargame problems to solve, especially around the role of leadership. Hence you find me as a member of the Lance & Longbow Society and the proud possessor of two nearly finished Peter Pig 15mm armies for the period.

The other reason is that I knew, as did anyone else who first looked at the period in the 1970’s, that the battlefield was under the railway line, Victorian jerry-building and the Carlsberg brewery. In terms of a battlefield in England it was about as badly damaged as you could possibly imagine. Just the sort of thing that provoked the Battlefields Trust into being set up. In fact I’ve driven over the bridge across the River Nene and the railway line many times, sighing at the sad destruction wrought on the site.

And so I thought until last year. I’d been steadily wading through the collection of books on the period I’ve been acquiring from second hand internet sites (God Bless You,, including Haigh’s “Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses” and the Poleaxed Sourcebooks, and eventually I’d been left with my latest general history book, - Richard Brooks’ “Cassell’s Battlefields of Britain and Ireland”, which claims on its cover to be uniquely comprehensive.

I read the Wars of the Roses section, and was impressed with the no-nonsense approach to describing the battles. And then I read the description of Northampton, and discovered that he thought the traditional view of the battle has it in the wrong place. It isn’t under the brewery. It’s up on the hill, near the golf course. Why does he think it’s there? Because the only solid reference to the location says it is between Delapre Abbey and Hardingstone. The traditional site has it between the river and the Abbey, - too far to the north.

As I happen to know Richard and we were due to meet up for other reasons I suggested we go and have a look at the battle site.

The site isn’t hard to visit. Most of the grounds of Delapre Abbey are open to public access, and you can park in the street next to it. If you park near the side road up to the Abbey, you can walk up and look back at the traditional battlefield site. It’s then that you realise how wrong the more usual interpretations are.

Even at this point there is quite a dip down to the river & railway, which are at the bottom of the hill – an area known now as Far Cotton. The photo shows the traditional battlefield site, looking towards the North, from the direction of the Yorkist approach. As you can see it slopes down quite a bit, - you can't see the bottom of the trees and some of the horse boxes from the local pony club are obscured.

The position makes no sense. The Lancastrians have their back trapped against the river, and they are downhill of their opponents. And what’s more this area was (and has been in recent memory) a flood plain. If, as has been suggested, the “quenching” of the Lancastrian guns was due to the river flooding, then the whole position would be under water. There would be no tent for Henry VI to have waited in, -it would have floated way. When the area flooded in 1998 the whole of this site was completely under water. Even if the Lancastrians started at this point they would have moved as soon as the river started to get swollen. The area below Delapre Abbey down to the river Nene (pronounced “Nen”, by the way, not “Neen”) is pretty much completely flat. The ground only starts to rise the other side of the access road to the abbey. I would hazard a guess that historically the area below there was water meadow before it was built over. It is certainly flood plain.

In fact, the reference to the guns being “quenched” comes from Davies’s Chronicle and reads “for that day was so great rain, that the guns lay in deep water and so were quenched and might be not be shot.” It seems to me if the river had flooded there would be a more direct reference to this. To speculate further this could just as easily be a reference to the gun pits in the fortifications being filled with water.

So having concluded that Richard was correct in his analysis, and armed with his book open at page 238 we turned our backs to the railway line and walked up the slope to the alternative site of the battle.

Unfortunately the site isn’t easy to assess even away from the built up area. The edge of the road, - where the Yorkist left flank would have been – is now wooded. The trees look to me to be quite a bit less than 600 years old so would not have been there then. They obscure completely the Eleanor Cross, the best known landmark in the area, from the entire battlefield. What’s more the Yorkist forming up area is also now quite heavily wooded.

However, all these criticisms not withstanding as you walk up the slope the likelihood of the revised site being correct becomes more apparent. Although the position isn’t on the brow of the actual hill between Hardingstone and Delapre itself it is on a plateau sort of half way up the slope. There is a flat area that is probably large enough to deploy Henry VI’s army. The approach to it from the Yorkist position is on a slight downward incline, but is also quite uneven. In fact it looks like the only area large enough and flat enough to deploy the army. This picture shows the view looking towards the south.

At this point further analysis becomes difficult. The local council has stuck Delapre golf course across half the site (to use Mark Twain for the second time in my blog, - "golf - a good battlefield ruined"). A modern drainage ditch cuts through where the Lancastrian left flank would most probably have been. In addition the land has been levelled off to provide a tee point and greens. It is a tragedy for me that having discovered that I can actually visit the site now that there are plans to extend the golf course further across, which will destroy completely any of the original ground that is left. The picture shows one of the drainage ditches. The golf course is in the right.

So we walked to the edge of where the Lancastrians would have been deployed, and then cut back across the field towards the road, through the area where Lord Grey betrayed his monarch, and let Edward of March across the barricade and ditch. Which leaves me almost with my final thought. What the remains of the site needs is a full geo-physical survey to see if the line of the ditch can be detected. If it was there then it looks like it would have cut across the strip farming of the time, and so be visible. What chance is there of that?

After this walk I went back to get some pictures with young Master Trebian, who is a bit handy with a camera. We went up after we'd had a summer of rain, and I can tell you the water table is quite high up there. In fact, this last picture shows a pond that actually forms in wet summers on the brow of the hill, about where I reckon the battleline would be. Surely enough to quench those guns?

Catching Up

I think I should open a Twitter account. Then I could tweet about how I don't have enough time to blog about how I don't have enough time to paint toy soldiers.

It's been about a week since my last proper blog, - a week in which much was not achieved in so many spheres of life.

Having said that I did make some progress this week. I had to make a longish train journey on Tuesday and that gave me a chance to finish Antony Beevor's "Stalingrad". I've not read a lot about the Easter Front (despite having played in an Eastern Front campaign that stretched over about 10 years), and this has been on my list to read for over 5 years because everyone says it's good. And I quite enjoyed "Enemy at the Gate"

I picked up my copy from a second hand bookstall on a local market a month or so ago. It cost me a few pounds. Must say it was one of the best pound for pound buys I've made recently. It is a really well written book as a piece of history writing, not just as a resource for wargamers.

There are many lessons to learn from it (not just "Don't invade Russia without winter clothing") - for example the perils of working in an organisation where it is dangerous or near impossible to give bad news or disagree with the boss.

I still don't think I'll start to invest in Eastern Front armies, - for a start I've still got too much to do elsewhere. And one book doesn't count as research.

My last thought on this is that I'm not aware of anyone who makes a range of emaciated Germans, dressed in Russian cast-offs and rags. I've remarked elsewhere that if anyone makes Zombie SS/Wehrmacht figures they'd be ideal for the last phases of the battle.

Talking of last phases I'm virtually at the bottom of my bag of ECW figures to paint. I've got three sticks undercoated on the desk (see early post on painting toy soldiers if this means nothing to you). That's one infantry regiment and four guns and crews. After that I've got a couple of sticks of cavalry and a few officers. It may all be over by Christmas.

That leaves me in the "sweep up phase". That's when I look at what odds and ends I've got left and see if I need to buy a few more packets just to use them up and leave me with as few unused figures as possible. I also have a look at the gaps in my storage boxes to see if the odd extra regiment is needed to fill up the spaces. So, an order off to Peter Pig in a couple of days.

Then - what next? I've been considering putting together a Peter Pig Scots Covenanter Army, but if I do that I'll need to buy a New Model Army as well. Severely tempted by that, but I was thinking of looking at a different period. Quite like the idea of a 20mm plastic Alexandrian Period Indian Army.

Still, enough for now. Need to do some on-line Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


Milestones reached today:

1) No of hits now over 1,000

2) No of followers now in double figures

3) No of blogs over a quarter of a century (ie 25 to you and me)

4) First Corporate Christmas Dinner today

5) First window screen scraping of the Winter

6) First Texan taught to sing "On Ilkla Moor Baht'at"*

Seems like it's been a good day. Shame "Finished ECW armies" isn't amongst them.

* Only partially succesful