Monday, 30 April 2012

Finally facing my Waterloo....Part 2

The 'Prince of Wales effect' Scots Greys cavalry charge - aficionados of the Red Arrows will know all about that one!

It has been a busy day for a number of non-wargaming reasons but I have managed to give a little shape to how I would go about tackling the 1815 Waterloo campaign using my Hexon terrain, 'Napoleon' by Columbia Games and a version of Bob Cordery's 'Memoir of Battle' 19th century rules with a nod to 'Volley and Bayonet' and a sprinkling of yours truly for good measure.

The ground work has pretty much been done in respect of the forces but with a rather novel twist. Back in the day (roughly 10 years ago) I went through a rather lengthy process of converting all the Columbia Games divisional sized units into, in effect, Volley and Bayonet brigade sized formations - with a strength point and morale rating as required for those rules. In effect I would be using divisions as brigades on the table top which was driven by the collection I owned at the time. The armies would be made up of corps which  would consist of, for example, four bases of infantry, a base of skirmishers, a base of cavalry and a gun. Now if you extend this basic principle into Memoir of Battle speak you could say that the above formation would be represented by 4 x 4 block infantry units, a 3 block skirmisher unit, a 2 block cavalry unit and a 2 block artillery unit.

This then, will be the basis for the order of battle for the three armies - in effect a 4 block regular infantry unit will represent a division.

There is one small issue though that would need to be addressed - the application of morale and physical unit strength. As the rules stand units of better or worse than average quality are represented by the addition or subtraction of a block/figure which would give a regular infantry unit a range of from 3 to 5 blocks/figures. This is fine if the units are uniform in strength which of course for 1815 they most certainly were not.

I spent some time pondering the unit strength/morale issue and how to best replicate this within the desired rule system and have come up with the following. Units will be represented on the table top by the number of blocks equal to their strength rating. This is very close to the standard 4 - 3 - 2 infantry, cavalry and artillery unit size. However, and this is where the unit roster comes in, the number of 'hits' a unit can receive is equal to its morale value. Unit blocks will only be removed when the hits remaining get down to the number of blocks in use. For example, the Old Guard division under the command of Friant has a strength of 5 and a morale of 7. This means that it will deploy with 5 blocks but the first two hits scored against it will be recorded against its roster details. The third hit will mean the loss of a block. An advantage of this method is that small units with high morale will be around for longer and also it means that from a campaign perspective units will have a little more durability. Units that have a strength rating higher than their morale will lose blocks on their first hit to bring their strength and morale into line. This also raises the issue of reductions in combat efficiency due to losses which I will give some thought to although I suspect that the system employed in Command and Colours: Napoleonics whereby the number of combat dice is reduced based on the unit size may be the solution.

On with the roster sheets and the inevitable rules tinkering....

Oh, and I will need to watch the film again - purely in the interests of research of course....;-)

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Finally facing my Waterloo....

Warning: Prolonged exposure to such imagery will result in an acute attack of  'War Games Project Syndrome'

You know how it is. You are busy tidying up the man cave when you happen to come across an old notebook full of ideas from way back when and before you know it, you are looking at the relevant section of the library and thinking to yourself - "Mm,....I wonder....!?"

I had one of those moments today.

I was in the man cave busily gluing the frames to the hardboard for the new gaming 6 x 4 ft table top when I had occasion to delve in the back of the cupboard for some more PVA. I came across an old box file and curiosity got the better of me and I opened it. There was plenty of odds and ends contained therein but what caught my eye was the three notebooks that at first I did not recognise. I should point out that it is my invariable custom to take a new A5 sized notebook with me when I go on holiday for any random scribblings I might care to make. These were old - old as in ten years or so old. Two of them contained a number of ideas for Victorian Science Fiction land ironclads whilst the third, and the oldest, contained a lot of notes and rules ideas etc for the 1815 Waterloo campaign.

At this point all thoughts of PVA were forgotten.

The notes consisted of a summarised version of the tactical rules from Columbia Games board game: Napoleon (covering the 1815 campaign at divisional level), a self-penned DBA inspired set of Napoleonic rules and also a conversion of the three armies order of battle  from the board game to that using the system from Volley and Bayonet by Messrs. Chadwick and Novak. There is a dedicated 1815 scenario booklet available for Volley and Bayonet (and I am referring to the first version of the rules - not the current set) but these are at Brigade level rather than Divisional - the board game has a block representing a Division whereas the Volley and Bayonet system uses a base for a Brigade.

Whilst reading these notes I was taken back to a DBA based set of Napoleonic rules called 'Le Petit Empereur' that I had acquired the three armies for use with - 15mm Naismith figures on 40mm square bases - and used successfully on a number of occasions. The figures went a long time ago - to a Frenchman in fact - but the desire still remained, albeit lurking at the back of my mind.

It would not be a difficult task to bring the orders of battle up to the latest rules and techniques I am using - Memoir of Battle or similar; even Command and Colours: Napoleonics - and to marry the result to the map movement system from the board game to produce a stonking 1815 block based campaign. I have everything I would need to undertake this as a project to hand (the red and blue blocks are finished and the remainder would be the work of a couple of evenings at the most). I could even 'hex' the campaign map for strategic purposes and scan it in for plotting moves on.

No prizes for guessing what or where this is - funnily enough my block armies look very similar....

Do I want to do this? Of course I do - 1815 is to far in my genetic make up to ignore the call. Should I do this when I have a number of other projects either on the go or yet to be started?  That is a tough one BUT - I am fortunate in that this would fall firmly in the realm of being a 'cerebral project' - that is all the work I would need to do to get his off the ground is very much paper (or PC) based. It would not interfere with the ACW river stuff as the painting for the ships is still underway; nor would it effect the NW Frontier kit as I still have a number of areas to cover before that kicks off. Angels 20 Battle of Britain models are few in number and once I have the decals will not take long to finish.

In the end I suppose a game is better than no game and so if this is as achievable in the way I would like it to be and as I think it currently is then all should be well.

By the way, the frames on the two halves of the new table top are now glued in place and are under a large number of weights. Tomorrow I shall be drilling, screwing and hammering so it should be finished, barring any unforeseen problems pretty soon.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Taking the Biscuit....Literally!

If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes!

Well I never! Just when I think I am back in a sensible frame of mind with some definite projects I can progress with and complete something comes in from the left field to upset the proverbial apple cart. I am talking about biscuits - and not the edible variety either. I mentioned in my previous post that I was visiting the local timber yard for the wood for the frame of my folding 6ft by 4ft gaming table. This was duly obtained (at a cost of £7.50 for the three 14 ft lengths) and as I was waiting to pay the man my eye was drawn to a bag of shapes hanging above the counter. These shapes were roughly 2 1/2" long and in a rough oval shape. My first thought was - ship hull shapes! The shapes are called biscuits and are used in biscuit joints (where dowel pegs used to be used) for joining panels and such like. The idea is that a hole is cut into either piece of wood requiring joining  and the biscuit is placed in between and glued. The biscuits are made from wood and designed to expand when in contact with PVA, thereby filling the join. My subsequent research has shown they are available in different sizes (from around 3" downwards) and appear to have a width equal to just under a third of the length and usually with a pattern embossed on them - this is to provide a 'key' for the glue to adhere to. Cost wise you could probably get a bag of a hundred or so for around the £6 to £8 level.

So what has this got to do with anything?

Well, the shape is virtually ideal for the basis of a ship model although I suspect they will need to have some work on them before use. I would have to see what effect PVA has on them when used as either a sealant or to assemble a model with. The embossing present could probably be filed smooth - at least for the areas of the ships deck that are exposed. They are quite thin but I reckon that they could be doubled up is need be. The sides would need to be sealed as they are not smooth and the plywood effect is quite noticeable. I would suspect that one end of the shape would have to be sharpened to get that pointed bow effect

I am quite excited about this because it could be the answer to the problem of uniform hull shapes and the cost is such that they will certainly not break the budget. I intend acquiring some of these to experiment with and will of course post the results on the blog in due course.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Wooden it be good....

Not quite as bad (I hope!)

I have had a very productive and, dare I say it, inspirational day. It kicked off with a visit to my local joiner for some 'block chopping' and general advice about matters woodwork related. The blocks will be ready for me to collect first thing Tuesday morning and so the relabelling to the new design and standard can at last be completed. Roy, the joiner, is also cutting me some movement trays from some hardboard off cuts which will be sized as per Volley and Bayonet (mostly 3" squares). In the meantime I will need to finish the designs for the 'modern' equipment which should not take too long all being well. Whilst at his workshop I enquired about the possibility of 'routing' MDF with a square grid. The short answer was that his company did not a machine to do this so it would have to go down the manual route (no pun intended!). He did give me some useful tips as to the best way to tackle this though which is handy should I decide to try it. The final piece of advice he gave me was in connection with joints - specifically the joints I will need for the frame for my planned folding 6 x 4 ft gaming table. The best type of joint is a simple butt joint which is a relief as even I can manage to do that without too much difficulty! I have all the PVA, panel pins and long wood screws - plus the hinges so all that is missing is the timber which I shall be acquiring tomorrow - all 36 ft of it!

I also sorted out the ACW ship models and the news with these is actually pretty good. When work on these ground to an ignominious halt I had already half painted some 16 models of the 32 remaining so picking up on this should not be too demanding. I had already printed off the flags and name labels and have sufficient clear plastic for the bases so I have absolutely no excuse for not getting on with them. By way of additional support I will make sure that the grey set of blocks are labelled first so that a typical 'Blue vs Grey' ACW action can be fought. This will mean of course I will be forced into looking at the relevant chapters of  'Battles and Leaders' - how we suffer for our hobby eh?

Finally, I had a minor reorganisation in the man cave of my paints and modelling stuff which in itself was no big deal but it felt so much better after I had done it!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Using your Sloth

What a life - hanging upside down in a tree eating and sleeping most of the day....

It has been a rather strange couple of months since my last contract ended in early March. Even allowing for the inevitable job hunting via the internet and agencies; the endless amount of paperwork that has needed completion and not forgetting the rather large (and mostly completed) DIY list that SWMBO kindly provided I fully expected to have rather more time available for gaming related stuff than when I was at work.

This has been true, up to a point.

The problem is though is that I have found it really difficult to get motivated towards undertaking anything that would require a sustained effort. I often suffer from these periodic bouts of lethargy but this one seems to lasting longer than usual. So with this in mind and following on from an email exchange with Bob Cordery I have finally decided to get my act together and start something - or rather start something and finish a couple of things off.

The repaint of the Angels 20 Battle of Britain aircraft can be started but I am waiting on ordering some decals first of all. In the meantime though, I have managed to acquire all the paints I shall need and some rather nice modelling masking tape as well. To tell the truth I am looking forward to getting cracking on this but there is no urgency as the models are usable as they are.

I am visiting my joiner/carpenter chap tomorrow in order to get the last of the blocks chopped into halves - this will mean I can press on and get the remainder finished to the new standard. I also have to mess around with the rules to accompany them but that falls into the realm of a cerebral 'while-the-TV-is-on-with-nothing-in-particular-so-I-can-use-my-netbook' moment and thus does not count as time usage as such.

The other project that has pricked my conscience sufficiently to warrant a concerted effort to complete is of course my ACW river collection. I STILL have some 32 models to paint of which half have been started and I still have a couple of cat related damages to repair (the General Bragg, times two). I duly got the collection out to take another look at them in order to goad myself into action and I have to say that whilst it has not ignited my creative juices with a bang at least there is a flicker of enthusiasm there!

Scratchbuilt ACW City class river gunboats - all of 'em!

You will note that there has been no mention of anything naval related (at least not of the blue water variety) nor the 54mm North West Frontier set up. Of the former this is simply because I feel like I need a break from it and for the latter I have come up with a short term idea involving an old set of grid based rules designed for larger scale figures called Volley Fire. These used to be available from Irregular Miniatures and although abstract and very stylised do give a challenging game.

The best description of my current frame of mind is not unlike that of somebody whom has first gone to the local gym after a long absence. Everything seems to take twice as long and the pain afterwards seems quite severe with aches in places you had forgotten you had. Still after a few sessions you soon get back into the swing of it and I am sure that once I have shaken off my circumstantial sloth I will also be in fine fettle; lean, trim and hungry (in spirit if not in body!) and ready to dive in to which ever distraction trips me up first!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A Border Incident....Game Number 7, Part 2

Columns of Blue infantry prepare to assault the Red position - note the 'loose' formation of either sides light infantry and the deployed artillery.

After the dust had settled I revisited my notes on the recent game and duly pondered several points arising. As mentioned I used Bob Cordery's 'Memoir of Battle' rules which are based on the Command and Colours system of Richard Borg with a dash of Morschauser thrown in for good measure. They work absolutely fine although I need to ensure some 'block-centric' points are incorporated. More of these later but my first thought concerns initiative.

As the rules are written the first phase in a game turn is the artillery fire phase. This is simultaneous and any damage inflicted takes effect before either side has their game turn. It makes for an interesting game mechanic and is certainly something I am going to keep. I mentioned initiative intentionally as this phase comes after artillery fire. In most sets of rules I have used where initiative features it usually does so at the start of a game turn. With this in mind I intend to try the rules with the first two phases swapped around so the the revised order of a game turn is now  - initiative - artillery fire - player one - player 2. For me this would appear to make a more ordered game turn sequence (more strictly perhaps, a more familiar game turn sequence). If this feels better then of course I will need to tinker with the naval version - Memoir of Battle at Sea; the infamous MoBaS. The great beauty of this game system in any event is that I believe such changes are able to be incorporated with the minimum of disruption. I will try this next time out and see what happens.

Using the blocks raised a number of issues that I need to consider. Firstly, in effect these represented individual figures with a typical line infantry unit consisting of four such blocks, cavalry with three and artillery with two. By careful positioning of the blocks within a hex a bonus is gained in that formations can actually be represented. This was more by chance than design but it does have implications for movement, combat and facing.

Regular troops must have their constituent blocks touching whilst deployed light infantry or most irregular troops can have their blocks loosely distributed around the hex. It is also possible to represent columns and even squares if needs be, simply be careful arrangement within the hex. I shall draw up some permitted formations as examples and will hopefully be able to illustrate these in due course.

I will still be making use of a roster for my games - if only to add some soul to the army being represented - and will be making some movement trays with a magnetic strip system for use in unit identification purposes. The roster will also be used for aiding with the calculation of army level exhaustion points, as well as recording the quality status of the units being used.

All in all then it can be seen that as usual my well developed desire to tinker with a perfectly good rule set has surfaced once again - I only hope that it is for the right reasons and not some misplaced moment of whimsy!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Angels 20....Reflections on the Game So Far

A Hurricane taking some extreme evasive action over the Channel whilst a 'yellow-nosed bastard' looks on....

I have to say I am really enjoying Axis and Allies: Angels 20 and the opportunity it has given me to revisit the model making of my youth - well the painting part in any event. As models go these aircraft are not bad. They are very much designed with the gamer in mind as there are very few 'bits' that can be broken so no lost propeller blades or machine guns. I have sourced (courtesy of Mr Fox to whom a huge thanks is hereby awarded!) some suitable 1/100th decals for both the RAF and the Luftwaffe for the battles of 1940 - including the tail swastikas for the Germans. I have pretty much all the paints I need from stock and I am not ashamed to say that I shall be using Humbrol enamels for the task!

Sighing for a Merlin - the squadron identifying letters need only the addition of the letters 'O and V' after the 'K' to send a very clear signal to the enemy raiders....

The RAF will be pretty typical for the period although I am sorely tempted to try and source the Polish aircraft emblem (the red and white squared affair) in miniature for the Hurricanes to place just under the cockpit. For the Germans the 109s will be in what I call 'Hollywood' scheme - that as seen in the film, complete with red spinners, so the infamous 'yellow-nosed bastards' will be no more. I shall acquire another two starter sets as I want to use four each of the Hurricane and Spitfire for use over Malta although the 109s of that vintage should the F version. There is an F in the models available but as I need four of them and do not want to buy the booster packs I suspect that a long trawl of Ebay may be needed

OK, a little off the wall I know - FW 42s in action over the English countryside....

As far as the game itself is concerned it is enormous fun and feels pretty convincing. I have played many games of aerial combat using board game rules (Battleline's Air Force, Dauntless and the Expansion kit being the main one) and without exception these seemed to have been of progressing complexity. My own view is that as you are trying to game something that was historically at very high speed with reactions being limited to seconds then how on earth can you get close to that with written moves and combat tables needing a degree in maths to calculate? The game is fast and for me that feels correct. As mentioned previously I was initially wary of the concept of 'difficult manoeuvres' including both climbing and diving requiring a successful dice roll to be actioned but have warmed to it. The fact that you need to avoid flying straight and level is well represented and whilst in a combat zone foolish is the pilot that neglects to take any kind of evasive action at the end of his move! The scale are fudged and I particularly like the idea of having 6 levels of altitude only - in a nutshell these could be anything although you are not allowed below level 1 or above level 6 so the implication is that 1 is the ground and 6 is 30,000 feet. I am hoping that someone 'reverse engineers' the aircraft data cards so you can see how they are made up in order to represent your own aircraft. My only gripe concerns the infamous 'special abilities'. This was a bugbear of mine for the naval game in that whilst they add a novel twist to the game I am less than convinced that they should be in play every time.

I have mentioned in the past that the whole Battle of Britain 'thing' is a subject of which I have an inordinate interest and so I am very pleased to have this system to use and some very nice models to use with it. Getting back in touch with my inner 'Airfix Spitfire/Commando Comic book/Battle of Britain spirit' is an unexpected and wholly delightful pleasure.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Matter of Size

The gaming area in my man cave is currently set up on a 5 x 3ft table which is sufficient for my usual 13 x 9 Hexon based playing area. I have been thinking for some time though about ways I could expand this and think I have a workable solution in mind. The plan is to build a folding gaming table top using hardboard with a frame and supports that can be deployed on my table as either a 6 x 4ft or a 4 x 3ft when folded in two for storage. The space I currently have means that it is not a good idea to have a 6 x 4ft table set up permanently (it would be a little cramped) but by choosing the option described I can make use of the larger playing area as the need arises. The hardboard has been acquired and cut and I am just awaiting the delivery of the hinges. Once this is place I can then see about what size of  timber I will need for the frame and work can then begin in earnest.

I will need to acquire another couple of sets of Hexon to cover the increased area and possibly some additional terrain but I reckon that my existing collection would probably suffice. It will make my naval games look a little easier on the eye as the sea room will be much greater and also the 54mm collection will look a whole lot better. I do not intend painting the finished playing surface but will rely on coloured cloths as required instead.

I only hope the table underneath will be able to take the weight as it would be hugely embarrassing if it were to collapse during a critical part of the action!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A Border Incident....Game Number 7, Part 1

I must apologise in advance for the somewhat hurried nature of the text of this report simply because the game was very much a spur of the moment thing. I suddenly had a couple of hours spare (the uncertain weather playing havoc with my exterior painting activities!) and so decided that the my Hexon land based material, plus the new smaller blocks and the rather nice Noch N Gauge trees I recently acquired all needed to be given a run out and the action that follows is the result.

A state of war exists between Redland and Blueland. Since this is a fairly normal occurrence between those two worthies the actual reason as to why this has come to pass is of little relevance. The armies have mobilised and whilst that of Blue was carried out with rather more urgency the armed forces of Red were not far behind. However, Blue had stolen a march on Red and a small force had crossed the border intent on securing a vital village as the precursor to a much larger attack. Through various means Red had gotten wind of this plan and so had hastily scrapped together a small force tasked with holding the small village until the rest of the army could concentrate to defeat the attackers.

The attacking Blue force consisted of four units of line infantry, two units of light infantry, two units of cavalry and two artillery batteries.

The Red defenders had two units of line infantry, two of light infantry, a cavalry unit and a battery of artillery.

For the purposes of this game each line infantry unit consisted of four blocks, cavalry and light infantry of three blocks and the artillery of two blocks (although in the pictures they have two guns and a command block). The rule used were Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle (the 19th century set) and the playing area was 13 hexes by 9.

The Blue force at the start of the action - the line infantry and a battery of artillery using the road with light infantry screening either flank and the cavalry deployed on the right

The Red force deployed with the artillery in the centre ahead of the village and the light infantry on either flank - in the woods on the right and on the hill with the cavalry in support on the left. The line infantry is deployed in the village.

The invading Blue force, with all due speed and urgency moved straight up the main road, confident in their numbers and the quality of their commander's plan. At this stage the Red defenders were happy to be passive spectators. The only activity was a speculative long range artillery shot from the Red guns against the leading Blue line infantry unit which resulted in a hit (and the loss of a block).

First blood to the Red artillery - although the outcome was to inflict a retreat due to the cramped nature of their position the unit was forced to take a casualty instead as they were unable to comply with the 'Flag' result.

Swiftly realising that to continue down the road was to court disaster the Blue general reacted swiftly and so three of the four marching columns of line infantry swung off the road heading for their left flank in order to make use of the terrain to shield their movements and to attempt to carry the enemy position from the end of the village rather than the centre. Meanwhile the Red light infantry and cavalry on their left flank spied approaching Blue horseman and so made ready to engage them. For their part, the Blue cavalry advanced with their own light infantry covering them from the hill, almost opposite their Red counterparts.

After some long range skirmishing from the respective light infantry a Blue cavalry unit was forced back to reorganise (the 'Flag' result) whilst the Red light infantry sustained not only a 'Flag' result but also a hit. Meanwhile in the centre the Blue artillery has deployed and is about to come into action - the opposing Red artillery being singularly ineffective.

The next phase of the battle proved to be of dramatic importance as the Blue artillery, with its opening salvo, managed to virtually destroy the sole Red gun battery deployed to fire down the full length of the road! Meanwhile the rest of the Blue force pressed on - the flanking cavalry again attempting to force a conclusion with their opposite number and the plucky light infantrymen on the hill.

The Red artillery after its battering from the Blue guns - the white markers are purely as an aide memoire for yours truly!

The battle on the hill between the Red and Blue cavalry, ably assisted by a unit of light infantry apiece, continued with much enthusiasm but little tangible effect. the horsemen galloped hither and thither and the light infantrymen fired off at every opportunity and at anything in range. The Red cavalry again repulsed the Blue horsemen and the light infantry managed to not only damage the oncoming riders but also to chase them back, thereby stabilising the flank, if only for the time being.

The Blue cavalry flank attack is temporarily rebuffed (the shock was so much that my hand shook taking the photo....).

All the while the Red army stayed rooted to the village and thus far, with the exception of the artillery and the left flank light infantry, they were holding their own. This could not last though as ominously, large clouds of dust from what must be a substantial body of troops was seen on the right flanks and so the light infantry unit deployed in the woods nearest this expected advance readied their weapons with nervous expectation.

The Blue left flank attack gets under way, ably assisted by the supporting light infantry and the artillery that managed to silence the last of the Red guns. Not visible in the picture is another Blue infantry unit just below the two that are seen breasting the hill.

On the Red left flank the gallant light infantry and the cavalry again returned to the fray but the luck that had thus far sustained them in their unequal fight at last deserted them and both the cavalry and the light infantry were ridden down. The cost to the Blue force though was considerable and this 'success' was at the cost of having each of the two units reduced to but a single squadron.

The brutal battle on the flank which left the field held by barely a couple of squadrons, such was the carnage involved (and the effects of some rather good dice rolling!).

The situation for the Red defenders was now looking desperate. Blue had managed to roll up the Red left flank (albeit at a cost) and their right flank was about to begin its assault on the only Red unit in range - the light infantry currently deployed in a small wood at the end of the village. The fight was short but with only one outcome. Three Blue units engaged the light infantry and whilst they suffered some casualties the result was never in doubt. The shattered survivors fled in small groups or were quickly rounded up as prisoners leaving the Blue force in position to take the village by assault if need be. With both of his flanking positions destroyed, his cavalry and artillery out of the battle, the Red commander decided that discretion would now be the better part of valour and so ordered the retreat with the remainder of his force in order that they might fall back on the main army. The day belonged to the invaders.

Something wicked, this way comes....the demise of the Red light infantry faced with impossible odds

To be continued....

"We who are about to BUY, SALUTE you!"

Today is the SALUTE in London - probably the largest wargames show in the UK. I will not be going (in fact I have not done so for a number of years) but I shall look forward to reading all the after action reports and will take vicarious delight in the accounts of the bonkers amount of retail therapy that usually results.

To those that are going and are also in the blog universe I ask only this - make sure there are plenty of pictures!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Tale of Two Books

"The Book's afoot Watson....!"

Like many wargames enthusiasts I am very fond of the works of Conan Doyle and indeed, I own a number of his titles through Professor Challenger, Brigadier Gerard and of course, Sherlock Holmes. I have all the Holmes stories in hardback, paperback and electronically on my reader and so I was very pleased to see the title above  in, of all places, our local branch of Homebase - the DIY store. Our local branch of this retail chain has a small bookcase of donated books for 30p each with the proceeds going to a local charity. I had a quick look at what was available and this was the only title that caught my eye and what a little goldmine it is. Aside from overviews of all the stories there is also a full listing of all the characters and the stories in which they appear as well as much other background material. The author, Michael Hardwick, has also collaborated on various similar guides including such TV series as Upstairs, Downstairs (the original with the late and great Gordon Jackson), the Pallisers and a number of other Holmes derived stories. A nice addition to the library for 30p!

"Row, row, row your boat, gently down the strait....!"

The second title is one that I have really enjoyed reading and it will come as no surprise that I am already thinking about the gaming possibilities. Salamis by Barry Strauss has had me enthralled from the first page to the last and takes as its subject matter the great naval battle between the Greeks and the Persians in 480 BC. The descriptions of the principal characters and the technology involved in operating an ancient warship is first class and the narrative is positively gripping. The author has also written a book about the Spartacus Slave War which is equally good (I own a copy of this) and one that I have my eye on covers the Trojan War. I have no idea how best to game ancient naval warfare although my recent acquisition of the hex based WRG Ancient Fleet action rules (circa 1973!) may have the answer. I also happen to know that Tumbling Dice have just launched a range of 1/2400th scale ancient warships although I plan to make some models using the Universal Warship principle in due course.

Will it be sooner than I think? I don't know, and that is the truth!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Minifigs Warships - Reborn!

I have at last managed to get a full set of photographs of the masters for the relaunched Minifigs Warship range from Dave Ryan at Caliver books and so have taken the liberty of providing the full list as available from him with the appropriate pictures. The prices etc are available from Caliver Books themselves.

Miniature Figurines Early 20th Century Warships – 1:1800th scale (150ft per inch)

1. Late Pre Dreadnought – based on the Lord Nelson/Agamemnon Class Battleship (2) 76mm 

2. Second Class Pre Dreadnought – based on the Swiftsure/Triumph Class Battleship (2) 82mm

3. Early Pre Dreadnought – based on the Majestic Class Battleship (9) 83mm – Also usable as the Centurion Class (3 of these although these were shorter by between 30 to 50ft) and the Royal Sovereign Class (8) although these had their main guns in barbettes rather than turrets and so will need replacing.

4. Later Dreadnought – based on the Iron Duke (4)/King George V (4) Class Battleship 97mm – Also usable as the Orion class although these had the tripod aft of the fore funnel.

5. Later Battle Cruiser – based on the Lion/Princess Royal Class Battleship (2) 97mm – Also usable as the Queen Mary

6. Pre Dreadnought – based on the Canopus Class Battleship (6) 84mm – Also usable as Formidable (3), London (3), Queen (2) and Duncan (6) classes.

7. Early Armoured Cruiser – based on the Drake Class Cruiser (4) 84mm – Also usable as Cressy Class (6), Diadem Class (8) and could also be used for the Monmouth Class (10) with the removal of a funnel and slightly redeploying the remaining three.

8. Later Armoured Cruiser – based on the Devonshire Class Cruiser (6) 81mm

9. Small Light Cruiser – based on the Arethusa Class Light Cruiser (8) 82mm

10Light Cruiser – based on the Weymouth Class (Light) Protected Cruiser (4) 77mm – Actually a Light      Cruiser and usable for the Bristol (5), Chatham (6), Birmingham (4) and Birkenhead (2) classes.

11Early Battle Cruiser – based on the Invincible Class Battle Cruiser (3) 93mm – This looks more like the follow on Indefatigable class but has the turrets in the wrong place – the two innermost were ‘wing’ turrets

12. Early Dreadnought – based on H.M.S. Dreadnought (1) 83mm – Also usable for the Bellerophon (3) and St Vincent (3) classes although the tripod mast was ahead of the fore funnel rather than aft as in the Dreadnought herself.

13. Late Protected Cruiser – described as an Early Turret Battleship 69mm – Actually a 3 funnelled cruiser suitable for use as Challenger (2), Hermes (3), Arrogant (4) and Topaze (4) classes. Also usable for the German Bremen class (7). 

14. Early Protected cruiser – described as an Early Turret Battleship 67mm - Actually a 2 funnelled cruiser suitable for use as Edgar (7), Royal Arthur (2) and Blake (2).  Also usable for the German Gazelle class (10) 

15. Transport Ship 71mm – Typical merchant steamer.

16. Transport Ship 66mm – Smaller merchant steamer

17. Transport Ship  – Typical small steamer described as a Minesweeper 36mm

18. Victoria and Albert Royal Yacht 75mm – Victoria and Albert III, launched in 1901.

19. Destroyer 46mm

20. Destroyer 47mm

21. Destroyer 45mm  

22. Destroyer 46mm  

23. Destroyer 50mm   

24. Destroyer 53mm

All the destroyers are typical of the various designs built for the Royal Navy culminating with the largest being settled on in the ‘River’ class -  most which are represented by model number 24.

25. Submarine 42mm – Typical early period submarine.

26. Submarine 45mm – Typical later period submarine.

26....the end?

      There you have it - the full range with pictures (as mentioned, for prices you will need to check with Caliver Books) and it is fairly safe to say that these models are not going to win any prizes for technical detail and accuracy but what they lack in this area they surely make up for with pure 'old school' charm! 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

In the footsteps of T.E. Lawrence

A newer edition of Doughty's classic work - alas abbreviated!

It is no secret that I am great admirer of T.E. Lawrence - especially his activities during the period of the Arab Revolt during the Great War. In fact the whole region of the Middle East has long held a fascination for me and dovetails in nicely with my interest in the Ottoman Turks. I will get around to gaming the revolt at some point but not for the present as I have too many other distractions to service. The reason for mention of this interest of mine is because today I was absolutely delighted to acquire another copy of Arabia Deserta by Charles M. Doughty.

The main interest for me of this book is that Doughty spent some two years travelling around Arabia during the 1870s and his resultant travel guide (Arabia Deserta) was considered to be an epic of its kind and one of the finest books of its type ever written. The original edition was in two volumes and weighed in at some 600,000 words and was published as a limited edition of 500 copies only in 1888. Lawrence campaigned long and hard to have the book republished and so it was in 1921 although again it was a limited edition. In 1931 Edward Garnett was tasked by the publishers, Jonathan Cape, to produce an edited version of around 130,000 words as a popular edition. I have a copy of this and it is fascinating read albeit a little disjointed although given it is less than a quarter of the size of the original this is perhaps understandable.

The Edward Garnett 1931 edition

Lawrence used this book extensively and looked upon it with almost Bible-like reverence as the guide for many of his travels across the Middle East. In fact, the edition that Lawrence campaigned to have produced in 1921 contained an introduction written by him which is happily reproduced in the new edition I have acquired.

Needless to say this came from a boot sale for £1 and the book is quite simply beautiful. It contains a number of full sized plates of paintings from various Middle Eastern themed collections as well as a number of photographs taken by such famous travellers as Gertrude Bell and Captain William Shakespear (I kid you not!). As an aside I would like to find out more about the good Captain as apparently he travelled across Arabia with a case of wine and a collapsible bath tub and a huge plate camera!

Aside from the pictures this edition has been very carefully considered in terms of the content and so whilst abbreviated from the original the story has a much more structured approach than that of Garnett's version. Between the two books then I should have a far better idea of what the whole title covers and just why Lawrence was so enamoured with it.

All in all it is very good material for a desert loving Englishman!

From a gaming perspective this kind of book is a priceless resource to the background of what the desert was like in the 1880s and the use of this information for the creation of any number of imagi-nations is obvious.

Wilfred Thesiger, the noted explorer and himself a traveller of the desert described the edition I have just acquired as being "The very essence of that perceptive masterpiece."

I shall enjoy this and no mistake.