Saturday, 30 October 2010

It's That Between Armies Feeling

I finished my Covenanters in the week. They just needed the flags doing, which took me a couple of evenings or so, but they're now done. Except for the box dividers which I'll do Sunday morning.

I don't paint flags anymore, - my hand isn't steady enough and in truth I've never been able to paint a straight line free hand. Add to that I'm too cheap to buy them from flag companies and you can see that the only option is to draw them on the PC.

Draw is overstating it really. I use Serif's "Drawplus" which enables you to assemble geometric odds and ends together. I think the results are okay. This one is my version of quite a well known standard. I couldn't quite get the text right on the middle right of it but as it's 15mm square when printed you can't read it anyway.

When doing flags I tend to base them on real flags but don't stick slavishly to the historical prototypes. Partly that's because our records aren't that complete anyway and partly because I know I'm going to end up using my regiments in a variety of historical re-fights and whatever flags I've painted the battles will have featured regiments I haven't done.

I print my flags out on paper and I don't bother "texturing" the backgrounds. I know it is quite the thing these days to paint "ripples" on flags and so one, but I've seen reproduction flags in real life and they don't look like that. They look quite a lot like what you get if you fold paper into "fluttering" shapes. It works for me, - although the best flags I've seen on an army are done by Phil Steele who paints on fine tissue then glues onto thin toothpaste tube style foil.

Having finished the Covenanters I become subject to that odd feeling I always get when I finish an army. I almost resent that everything is done. The creative link to the figures is done. It's rare that I go back and add to armies these days once they're done as I plan what I want to paint and buy them all up front. That's different to two of my oldest armies, -my 25mm Huguenots and my similar scale Henry VIII English. They started off with a few infantry figures and grew as I saw other figures I liked. That process is pretty much over now as no one makes figures that size anymore. But I love those armies.

So now I'm at a bit of a loose end. That's not to say I haven't got figures to paint, -I've got 500+ SCW figures to do. However I can't start them yet as the research hasn't been done, - not just the uniforms, but the organisation for the type of game I want to do as well. So I can't start to paint as I'll end up painting figures that I can't use as there'll be unsuitable. For example I reckon I want to do the game at a more operational level so I think I'm going to have battalions made up of four 30mm x 30mm bases with 3 figures on each. But exactly what mix I'm not sure. As the same figures can be painted as regular troops, falangists, or anarchist militias pretty much then I need to work out what mix of each I need.

So I'm researching at the moment prior to painting*. But I've got a big box of figures and I want to paint. My fingers itch because I'm not painting. It's like some type of windrawal. My evening routine is disrupted. It's worse than being stopped by real life.

Actually I've just remembered...there's some 28mm 16th Century Irish in my box that need doing...maybe that's the answer.

*Actually I've taken some time out to read Robert Rankin's "Retromancer", so this isn't strictly true.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

How I wasted my Saturday

I bought a new laptop last weekend. It arrived on Tuesday, together with Office 2010 & a new external hard drive on Tuesday.

I copied my old laptop data over to the new external drive on Wednesday. it took less than 24 hours, which was a a surprise. That put me in pole position to set up the new laptop this weekend. Got up early (well early for me for a weekend) so I had a good four hours to set it up, install my graphics programmes, copy files back, set up e-mail etc etc.

So here I am at 5:30pm and I'm just installed my second graphics package and I've just put in the Office 2010 DVD (BTW typing this on "old faithful", my daughters old laptop I had repaired three years ago).

Nearly 10 hours this has taken me. Most of the morning got wasted with the patent Samsung Recovery Software which partitioned my hard drive whlst my back was turned, then kept telling me the partition wasn't big enough. Eventually I've had to uninstall this lovely piece of software and relying upon any recovery being done in the boot up screen.

Once I got over that hurdle it was time to go on line and down load virus checker etc. That went okay but then the Microsoft updates started. I mean this is Windows 7, the most up to date OS Microsoft have.

127 updates had to be installed, causing multiple reboots. I nearly sent the bl**dy thing back.

(Okay I can hear you Macboys laughing. Give it a rest).

And then I had to take out Macafee which was making it slow to a crawl as it argued over checking rights with Avast.

So, another hour on and I've got Office 2010 installed.

I think I'll save iTunes until Sunday.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Things that occurred to me today

1) Bl**dy H*ll it's gone cold. Had to de-ice the car & I'm now working in my jacket.

2) There are too many game systems based on alternative history. Space 1889 was a good joke, well done, but now everything has gone of the rails. Weird War 2, Nazis on dinosaurs, British Civil War. No one just interested in proper history anymore. Why? Is it just too hard? (I could put WHAB in here as well, but that might be viewed as cruel).

3) Working my way through books on the Spanish Civil War. All pretty unpleasant, as was the Russian Civil War*. So why would anybody create a set of rules/figures (see above) wishing it on their own country?

4) Why does every new 28mm figure get greeted with howls of joy & "they're great!" type postings even when they are hideously deformed with hands like dinner plates and faces like pandas (yes, Wargames Factory, I'm talking about you).

5) What happens to all of those paint brushes I buy?

6) Why do paint pots dry out when the lids are all on perfectly tightly??????

*Actually can't really think of a pleasant civil war, so this remark is a bit fatuous. Although if I had to pick two Civil Wars NOT to be involved in the RCW & SCW would be near the top of my list.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Battle of Lansdown meets Real Life, & wins

Since I started work on my English Civil War armies over the last year or so it became my intention to refight all of the battles from the Bishops War to Naseby that were fought in England (can't be bothered with Ireland and that Montrose stuff with its Irish super troops et al).

My intention started to seem viable once I'd worked out my ECW rules "Victory Without Squares", based on Richard Brook's Red Square system. With a figure scale of 1 base = 200 men, and 4" = 250 yards I can get pretty much every battle on my table top with my figures. Except Marston Moor perhaps.

I have no intention of fighting them in order, - that would be excessively nerdy. And it would be nice to visit the battlefields before I do them, although I suspect that won't ever happen.

However in the case of Lansdown I've driven across the battlefield on numerous occasions, and in particular known the infamous Freezing Hill Lane quite well. Plus I've got John Wroughton's recent book on the battle. Admittedly I haven't read it yet, but I own it, which is the important thing.

I was going to research the game Thursday evening and Friday lunchtime, but due to some unforeseen Real Life events (including the head gasket blowing on Miss Trebian's car) I didn't quite get all of the reading done. However I had just enough time to put together an army list for each side and knock up a quick battlefield layout. See, - Real Life, sometimes I'm unstoppable.

The armies were:

Commanded by Sir William Waller & Sir Arthur Haselrigg (Cavalry)
1 Brigade of Infantry (4 shot, 2 pike)
2 Companies "Commanded shot"
3 Companies of Dragoons
2 Regiments of Cavalry (each 6 bases in two ranks)
1 Artillery battery

Commanded by Sir Ralph Hopton, Sir Bevil Grenville (Cornish foot) & Prince Maurice (Cavalry)
1 Brigade Cornish Pike (6 pike)
1 Brigade of Infantry (4 shot, 2 pike)
4 Companies "Commanded shot"
2 Companies of Dragoons
3 Regiments of Cavalry (each 3 bases in one rank)
2 Artillery batteries.

The table looked like the photo below, with Sir William's forces arrayed on Hanging Hill, the cavalry deployed facing each other to the West, and the rest of the Royalists poised on Freezing Hill to the North. The Cornish pike are in the middle on Freezing Hill Lane.

The armies were commanded by Ian, as Sir William, Will, as Sir Ralph, and Phil (when he got there, - about turn 2) as Sir Bevil.

Here's a close up picture of the Freezing Hill deployment, showing the Royalists raring to go. Their artillery is deployed well forward, - a good move I thought to enable them to soften up the nasty looking Parliamentarian position.

The Parliamentarians are in a pretty strong position. Waller was well known by the end of the war as a good reader of ground, and you can see it at Lansdown. The approach to Hanging Hill is very steep (not as steep as the photo, but you use what you can) and he dominated it with earthworks. His flanks are secured by wooded areas plus the ground to the top of the photo is even steeper than that in front of the position.

The game opened with the cavalry skirmishing whilst the infantry awaited the arrival of Sir Bevil. In a brilliant one - two with a couple of his cavalry regiments Prince Maurice broke one of Sir Arthur's units, despite the Parliamentarians having a number of advantages. In truth you can't beat good die rolling. You can see the Parliamentarians streaming away to the rear, one of Maurice's Regiments in hot pursuit. Right at the top, next to the boundary tape you'll see that the Royalist dragoons have dismounted, in order to better defend themselves against the onrushing Parliamentarian cavalry (!). In the middle the Parliamentarian dragoons are advancing to sieze the cornfield on their side of the road.

With the arrival of Phil "Sir Bevil" Steele the Royalists really decided to get stuck in. Not wishing the pike assault to be disrupted by dragoon fire from the flanks the other Brigade of foot was thrown forward on the flank. In the cavalry action Hasilrigg decided to dispose of the dismounted dragoons before getting stuck into the Royalist cavalry. By this point the Royalists not pursuing the fleeing Parliamentarians were both Unsteady (hence the markers) so it might have been better to get stuck in earlier on but you never know. Mysteriously the Royalist guns opened up counter battery fire, ignoring the position they had to attack, whilst Waller's gun tried to unsettle the Cornish pike.

The Cornish pressed on up the Lane, braving the hail of shot from the hill, their progress due in no small part to the inspirational presence of Sir Bevil. On their left the Royalist foot had driven the dragoons back from the hedgeline, making them Unsteady in the process. The cavalry action was now over, the Parliamentarians completely routed due to some stunning die rolling. The stage was all set for the final assault on the ridge.

Lead personally be Sir Bevil the first charge up the hill wasn't completely successful, although it did make Waller's infantry Unsteady. More importantly, however, it pinned them in position as the other Royalist infantry fought their way up the slope and dislodged the dragoons who were now holding the earthworks. All it needed from the Royalists was one last push from the Cornish to keep the Parliamentarians in place so their comrades could turn the line.

So, one last charge went in, which resulted in the Parliamentarians being pinned in position, and shaken. In the melee Sir William was unhorsed, but ALAS! Sir Bevil was tragically slain at the head of his troops, who were broken and fled down the hill. However, this was the last hurrah for Parliament....

The remaining Royalist foot had managed to see off the dragoons and formed up to give Waller's men a decisive volley in the flank, causing them to break and flee. Fortunately for Sir William he was back up on his horse and able to flee with them. So, a win for the Royalists, again with heavy casualties, but on this occasion having destroyed the Parliamentarian field force in the West.

All the players claim to have enjoyed themselves and we got it all done in about two hours. I do need to go back to my sources and see that I did get the deployments and so on correct. I didn't give Waller a position to fall back to, so his hanging on to the ridge line was a bit enforced, and cost him dearly. On the other hand he came out really badly in the cavalry fight due to some better tactics and some incredibly good die rolling by Prince Maurice.

Still, that's one battle in the bag. What next?

Monday, 11 October 2010

Another Farewell

I kept sitting down to write this piece and could never think how to start it, or what to say. Earlier in the year we lost Paddy Griffith. In August we lost Terry Wise. If Paddy was the bigger influence on my wargaming life, Terry was someone who was with me through his writings from my earliest days in wargaming right up to now.

My mate, Derek, acquired Terry's "Introduction to Battlegames" when we were both in primary school. It's an odd book, full of bits and pieces. I remember being particularly struck by Terry's plastic figure conversions. What struck me most was his conversions from archers to men-at-arms using the Airfix "Sheriff of Nottingham" set. Not because of the skill in the process, but the simple question as to why you'd do it. At that time I was trying to lay my hands on as many archers as possible as sticking people full of arrows was a battle winning strategy in the games we played.

I knew him most, initially, through his magazine articles. These appeared in "Military Modelling" at first and then he started writing "Observation Post" in "Battle for Wargamers". He also wrote the article on the Edward Woodward wargaming TV programme which I quoted from extensively earlier in the year.

Over the years I acquired a number of his sets of rules. Somewhere on my bookshelf is his Airfix Magazine guide to the American Civil War, plus a number of his Athena Publications from the early 1980s. In truth his rules style didn't really fit what I wanted to do, but even so we used his Thirty Years War set to refight the Battle of Arques when I was at university. It went rather well except I had to leave with a bout of food-poisoning part way through.

In addition to his wargames rules I have a number of his other books. He wrote many Osprey books ("more than a dozen" according to the Osprey site) covering all periods from Ancients, via Medieval to Napoleonics. Of all of his books there's still one I use on a regular basis, - that's his book on military flags published by Blandford Press in 1977. Covering 1618-1900 there's barely any of my armies that don't carry a flag based upon the illustrations or descriptions from that book. If you don't own it, go and buy it now.

(He also wrote a few books about Polar Exploration and Whale Hunting, - the latter from his personal experiences working on a whaler in the late 1950s. And a science fiction novel. He loved writing. In the mid 80s he gave up work and went to University to study English Literature. He gave it up after a year as he found they couldn't teach him anything.)

I met him personally at CoW in 1981 when I suppose he must have been in his late 40's. He was a genuinely nice bloke and I realise now that he did more to bring along some of us youngsters than many of the other members did. I recall late night chats over a mug of tea in one of those odd little kitchenettes Knuston Hall used to have on various landings with lots of affection. On reflection it was a bit like wargaming with your dad but without any of the inhibitions that might come with that (thinking about it Terry was the first Grown Up who ever put the "f-word" in a letter to me, so not much like my Dad really).

After that initial meeting we corresponded regularly and met up at shows like Northern Militaire because we were both based in the North. He was probably the first "Grown Up" wargamer I actually met. He had a family. He had a proper job. He had a history. He wrote articles about building terrain properly, using proper tools. He painted his figure bases with emulsion paint. It never occurred to me until now that I owe him that as well.

As I said I met him at the various shows in the North. He used to put on big display games with his club mates. He really sets the standard for how this should be done. Not because of the quality of the painting or scenery (good tho' it was) but because he used the games as a platform to talk to people about the hobby and to encourage them to get involved. He made wargaming accessible. He didn't just pile tables with masses of lead in some sort of macho "we've got more stuff than you" way that so many show display do these days

As ever when I got married and moved south we lost touch. Pre computers and e-mail there was always something to do other than write letters long hand. The last time I met him was at one of Paddy Griffith's mega-games at Sandhurst ("August 1914") where he played a much put upon British commander who acquitted himself rather well. I was a fiendish Hun in that game so our paths didn't really cross. He'd dropped out of WD a few years beforehand at this point as we weren't doing what he wanted to do. Our loss, rather than his.

So, farewell Terry. 75 years isn't bad, but it isn't really enough. Another regret that I never met up with you again after all these years. There always seemed to be enough time, and now there isn't. And thank you. Thank you very much, - you were nothing other than a wholly good influence on me and you are one of those people in my life I am pleased and proud to have met.

Rest In Peace.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Sunday at Derby

In contrast to yesterday the weather was dreadful on the drive up. Like REALLY awful. Hammering rain and it was my turn to drive as well.

Anyway, on-site before pretty much everyone else so the plan to hit the traders again before the public didn't quite stack up. When they opened up I spent out on 25 pdrs for my XIVth Army and Panzer 1's (A+B) for the SCW all from Skytrex.

The gaming public was (well still is - it's lunchtime) a bit thin. Well it's Sunday and it's raining so the crowds aren't out. So far we've run TEITR three times, but all good games. Particularly as the aim is to reach out to non-wargamers. One game had a wargamer and his wife, plus another non-wargaming lady who happened to be standing next to the table.

Then she came back with her two children and played again. I don't know your names, but you made the day for me, - especially as you won with absolutely no room to spare.

As promised here's the picture of you all, together with the dead elephant.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Pachyderm Down!

Post lunch managed to get in quite a few games of TEITR. All of them were Roman wins although one went right down to the wire with elephant dropping dead the square in front of the hastati. The critical moment is captured in the picture on the left.

The other nice thing about shows is that you get to catch up with old friends, - and not just those who want to sell me stuff. And some of them even sit down and play the game. This time round I met up with an old wargaming friend I haven't seen since university and several people I first met through the old AK47 Day that used to be held in June.

I did a proper tour of the trade stands in the afternoon, but managed to hold on to most of my cash. I got a few guns from Irregular from their "Really Useful Guns" range. I find these good value and they fit most periods. I picked up 9 for my SCW forces for £11.25 in total. I'm still in the market for crews, but I'll get them from Peter Pig when I order my T-26s. Overall though I mostly couldn't find what I wanted at the price I was prepared to pay. Whatever happened to special show deals.

On the other hand as I bought a big pile of books recently so I avoided most of the book stands except for the SCW stuff. Shame as there's quite some good stuff on offer for the ECW and the Sudan.

Any how we're done by 5pm and Will's finished his games - one win, one loss - so we're in the car and off.

Back again tomorrow, - why not pop by the SoA stand and say hello?

Derby Update

On site by 9:00 and set up by 10:00am. Quick tour of the trade stands and find a couple of SCW Ospreys (including THE book for £15 at Caliver Books)

It's now 12:25 and I've run The Elephant in the Room about 4 times, - and we've had two elephant wins. Which is a big surprise to say the least. Oh, look, there's a picture courtesy of President Steele, showing my bald head to particular effect. This games was a father/son combo, - the son on the end would rather play Nintendo DS, so they were at a bit of a disadvantage.

President Steele is also doing a good turnover with "Greyhounds in the Slips", whhich is also giving him an opportunity to do his best Olivier by declaiming from his copy of Henry V.

Well, it takes all types.

Since we got here we seem to have lost Will who has gone to play Armati. No nbews on his successes or otherwise so far.

To Derby With An Elephant

Oh My God It's Early!

Today is Derby Old Glory World Championship thingy, so I'm up early waiting for my lift. Sure enough pretty much dead on 7:30am Will turns up so Mrs T goes back to bed and we're off. It's a beautiful autumn morning with the mist lying thick over the valley, and the sunshine picking out the treetops. Oh to be in England.....

I normally do two displays a year for the Society of Ancients, - Milton Keynes "Campaign" and the Derby show. They're pretty much the closest to me depending on whether or not there's a show at Birmingham. MK is great because the public have free access, and I do Derby's close and it's got trade stands.

Actually a number of years ago I took part in the Armati competition at Derby. Had a thoroughly good time and finished about half way up the time, but it isn't really me.

Anyhow, back to this year. I'm taking "The Elephant in the Room", and President Steele will be there as well with his "Greyhounds in the Slips" so we'll be promoting the wargaming usage of dominoes pretty heavily. The games make a good pair as they're quick and easy to play and they have a slightly different way of resolving combat and so on compared to the "normal" wargame. They're both also visually quite striking, - GiTS uses 90mm knights & TEITR uses a 54mm elephant.

So, Derby it is. I'm looking forward to meeting the great wargaming public, some old friends and some traders willing to part me from my money (wothcha Dave Lanchester!)

Update later.