Saturday, 3 June 2017

The End of an Era and The Start of a New One

Gosh that was a long time ago! Block armies with an early version of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame

It has finally come to pass. As of the close of play 31/05 I am once again among the ranks of the unemployed. I had been with my company for a shade over four years and so whilst the pay off was hardly retirement money it will suffice to keep us going for a few months. It is no secret that the job was demanding - I was working for a recruitment company - and that it took a lot out of me and many aspects of my life suffered as a result. I will not miss the commute and given that the job was largely sales based in an extremely competitive market with a very modest base salary the money will not be a major miss either! I am exploring a few options a little nearer to home so am confident my absence from gainful employment will not be a long one.

In the meantime though I am looking forward to getting some quality life time back - or should I say hobby time - so I fully expect to posting on the blog more regularly than I have been of late. This will also mean more time for gaming, painting and modelling so in a way I rather glad of the opportunity to tackle a few things.

SWMBO and I are off on a belated honeymoon on the 12th of June for a couple of weeks so I am looking forward to relaxing in the sun with my good lady wife, a fully loaded Kindle, a notebook or two and my IPad. I have a few ideas (I always have a few ideas....) I need to add some weight to and also I need to order the project list into something that is viable. Needless to say I will report all in due course.

It is good to be back.....

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Of Charity Shops, Boot Sales and Holidays

Once again life has gotten in the way of anything gaming related so the posts have been pretty sparse. For a pretty significant event (which for legal reasons I am unable to elaborate on....) this state of affairs may well be changing soon and all will be revealed at he appropriate time.

There is a certain style about reading a book by an author with a double barrelled surname....

Last weekend (14/05) SWMBO and I did our annual boot sale in which we attempt to fit a lorry load of surplus clothes, household items, CDs, DVDs and other bits and pieces into the back of our trusty 2003 Honda Civic - and usually manage to do so, albeit with much cursing and shoving. We had a very successful day and as is our usual routine some of the items that had not been sold are then donated to one of the local charity shops - in this case for a local hospice. I duly carted four boxes of stuff to them and whilst they were sorting the items out I happened to notice the book you see above. The very nice lady noted my interest and told me to take it.  A free book from a charity shop? Well she took the view that as I had just donated a whole pile of stuff they could afford to forego the GBP 1.25 it would have cost me.

I have read 'A Good Dusting' before and it is a quite tidy history of the campaigns in the Sudan so I was pleased to add this to my modest collection of books on the subject. It is a book club edition rather than the originally published version but that matters very little unless you are a purist over such things. Just the inspiration one would need for some mini campaigns Portable Wargames style.

A great doorstop of a tome and a steal at £2.00 - pity about the dust jacket though

The second title is rather more imposing and is a copy - sans the dust jacket - of Lachouque and Browns seminal history of Napoleon's Imperial Guard: The Anatomy of Glory. This was acquired this morning from a boot sale for the princely sun of GBP 2.00 so I am feeling rather smug at the moment. The book has a small dent on the cover and some 'foxing' of the pages but all the maps and plates are intact - and very nice they are as well.

At the time of writing we are still no nearer getting the kitchen sorted out - we have now been some thirteen weeks without a kitchen floor and having to go back and forth to the garden shed for certain essentials is fast becoming a chore. At least it is not the winter though!

We are also some three weeks away from our belted honeymoon to the Cap Verde Islands so I have been quietly adding titles to the Kindle for my holiday reading. I shall also be taking the IPad and a couple of notebooks to get some ideas together but the most important thing is that my wife and I will be able to R-E-L-A-X for a couple of weeks - and after the year we have had that in itself will be most welcome!

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Portable Travel War Battle Game....Part 3

One of the things I really enjoy about blogging (and have missed due to the paucity of posts I have written over the last year or so) is that often one is lucky enough to get a comment or comments that really strike a chord - the kind of thing that really makes you think about what it is you are doing and how you are doing it. I had such a comment in my last post from Steve-the-Wargamer and it is to him that this post is dedicated, ably supported by Arthur Harman - and this is no way a criticism of these two worthies. Originally I was going to merely answer the comment but my thoughts took it into a post so I thought, why not?

I have been a wargamer for some forty odd years yet I do not possess a single painted army. I have owned numerous over the years but am blessed/cursed with a very short attention span so many ideas tend to come ago - usually with the amassed material being offloaded at a discount to either the club, my circle of wargaming friends or, more usually, eBay. More recently I have been working in a job that, to be frank, leaves me little time to consider anything gaming related - especially in respect of the work needed to get armies assembled for use on the tabletop. The problem is that I am generally guaranteed to run out of steam with a particular project long before it is ready to be used and the lack of time available tends to make this worse. It was for this reason I made such an effort with my huge collection of block armies - I can game with them in pretty much any period I fancy with the block colours being the sole difference between the two forces. This worked really well as the Games folder on the blog will testify. The blocks however, are not figures.

I have always liked using figures but I am very particular about the type I use. I do not like 28mm as I believe that for armies the figures require too much in the way of work to get ready as well as more space than I have readily available - not to mention terrain and practical considerations like storage. I take my hat off to those who choose this scale and can produce large and fantastic looking collections - it simply is not me. The closest I would get to using this scale would be for skirmish level games - but these are not 'war' or even 'battle' games. I suppose I am a little old fashioned in that I like my armies to look like armies which means a lot of figures. Messrs. Young, Grant and Lawford were able to do this using 30mm figures and large tables - neither of which I have access to nor the inclination to replicate. At a smaller figure scale though that is a different story.

I like figures that are simple in terms of details simply because they are easier to paint and are more forgiving of a basic painting style. I really like the flat colours and gloss varnish approach but most modern figures simply do not look right with such an approach and it is also difficult to find professional painters that want to 'dumb down' their painting skill (and the cost). Detailed figures need a detailed paint job which takes time or money so you can see the problem I have - no time to paint detailed figures and no interest in doing so, nor the finances to consider the professional approach. I am kidding myself if I think otherwise. Smaller scale figures are a different kettle of fish though.

These days even 6mm is fast becoming more detailed and needful of a modicum of effort. It is a scale I could be comfortable with - the same applies also to 10/12mm although they are also becoming more and more detailed with the corresponding increase in time and effort. The downside of course is that there is nothing available hat could be described as suitably generic in a chocolate box kind of way. One could dive into a number of ranges if one wished but, as a crude example, a Napoleonic 1815 British infantryman will always look like one (unless one used them 1812 Americans of course....).

The figures contained in the Perry set have struck a chord with me for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are very generic. They are loosely based on a homogeneous composite of Napoleonic uniforms so the difference between armies can be limited to the uniform colours used. As they are so generic there would be no twinges of conscience when painting up, for example, a French Fusilier figure with a green jacket for an imagi-nation type army. Using a generic troop type in this case is a positive advantage with the useful feature of doubling up as a proto-historical type when needed. If the scenario being fought represents, for example, a battle from the Peninsula War between Wellington and Soult (or whoever) then as long as the two forces can be told apart (mainly red or blue) then who cares? I certainly do not - which means I will probably be burnt at the stake for heresy. The fact that the Perry figures are completely generic is for me a positive boon. I will paint them and will differentiate nations by the uniform colour - possibly even a standard or two - because that is basically what I have been doing with my block armies. The figures themselves will cover a time span or around forty years if you are not too fussy - and believe me I am not!

I could have used historical figure ranges but that would defeat the purpose of what I am trying to achieve.

As far as the terrain in concerned I am really pleased with what is available. For sure one could make or buy something similar but again, that would take time and to be frank I could not do it as well as the Perry twins have done. The permutations of board set up are not endless but should serve to give sufficient variety for all but the most pedantic gamer, especially when one is using scenarios to define victory conditions - terrain will assume much more importance. My thoughts at present run to using a 6 board set or 30 by 20 squares as this will give the army feel I am looking for. this is a personal choice as I believe I could have endless fun merely using one base set.

For the 20th century I shall be using Tumbling Dice 3mm figures and the vehicles available from Magister Militia. Interestingly enough the buildings look fine with these figures so straight away the base set of terrain will be usable for both early years of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The rules are actually not bad within the context of what the Perry twins sought to achieve - I would have no problem using them as they are written. I may add a couple of house rules to go with them but then to be fair what wargamer worth their subscription to whatever society/magazine they take has not 'tweaked' a set of rules in some way?

From my point of view the Perry set has an awful lot to commend it and in many ways is ideally suited to my present circumstances. I appreciate that it may not be all things to all people but then within the diversity of our hobby it certainly serves a need. I also acknowledge that the sum of the parts could be acquired more cheaply but in many ways this would defeat the object of the set.

I would like to end this ramble by thanking both Steve-the-Wargamer and Arthur Harman for giving me pause for thought - which is something I do not get much time to do these days!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Portable Travel War Battle Game....Part 2

Only two copies of the above....for the moment that is....

Well I have gone and done it. I am now the proud owner of not one but two copies of the Perry's Travel Battle boxed war game - and I am very glad I am!

I am not going to write a detailed review of the box and all that is in it - mainly because there are already several very good ones in the blogosphere - but I am going to explain why this set is for me, an outstanding investment. With this in mind I shall outline what I am thinking of in terms of using this wonderful idea.

There have been a number of comments concerning the figures contained therein - especially in respect of the scale chosen - 8mm. I rather like these figures and the fact that they are slightly wooden  in pose and stylised in terms of uniforms and so will suit my modest painting ability very nicely indeed. These are ideal for the 'imagi-nation' gamer but could also serve as historical types if you are not too picky with the details. When painted in traditional national colours they would look close enough to the real thing in a 'Hollywood' kind of way so as to please the historical gamer....well sort of. I do not see the fact that no other manufacturer produces models in this scale as being a problem as I am sure that the Perry twins have a long term plan in mind and have not just produced this item as a one off. For me there are only a few holes in the figure mix that would need addressing and in a way I hope that the Perry twins keep the range restricted as bringing out too many troop types would detract from the concept of the game in my opinion. With the core set I would like to see some Czapka wearing lancers, some bearskin wearing infantry, some skirmishing figures and a static command set for the overall army command.

There has been many comments made about using other scales of figures - 10/12mm or going down to 6mm. For me - and I tested this last night - the 3mm models produced by Tumbling Dice look perfect on the terrain and fit the buildings very nicely indeed. This is a scale I have amassed a modest collection in and it would look superb on the terrain boards - particularly for anything 20th century.

The terrain boards are very nice indeed and I know that there have been all kinds of comments about the terrain being fixed and the only way to have a different type of playing area is to rotate the whole board. I agree with this up to a point in that it would have been nice to have the woods and buildings free standing but with the variety of boards set ups you can conjure up - especially if you use more than the two boards contained therein - with them fixed in place it is not a showstopper by any means.  I would like to see some plain terrain boards with no buildings or woods and perhaps a board with some form of waterway but that would be enough methinks. Having some freestanding terrain items would be useful and I feel sure this is in the mix somewhere along the line.

As far as the rules are concerned after the first reading they actually seem quite reasonable and certainly are in keeping with what the game is all about. These days I tend to read rules whilst thinking about what needs to be done to 'improve' them and I reckon that this set will stand a certain amount of tinkering. In any event my first thought was to make use of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame system as an alternative.

Overall Impressions

You will no doubt have gathered that I am rather taken with this set and that I fully intend to use it not only as is but also with some ideas of my own making - specifically for the 20th century. I think it represents pretty good value for money (yes I know there have been comments along the lines of being able to get much more in metal figures - 6mm or 10/12mm) as a complete package and I hope that the Perry twins have some further ideas to add to the range or at the very least to make the individual components  available separately.

I am very excited about the potential of this product and am looking forward to getting some painting underway - and I never thought I would hear myself saying that!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Portable Travel War Battle Game

The latest from those awfully nice Perry chaps

I happened to be idly browsing the net when I was drawn to the Perry Miniatures website - and look what I found!

Coming next month is a Portable Wargame on a grid and based on an idea from some 25 years ago. Needless to say I am very interested in this and I reckon that several other gamers of my acquaintance will be as well.

The advert on the site reads as follows:

TravelBattle-Pre-Order-Available 22nd April
TravelBattle is a complete table top miniatures game in a box. 
It is intended for gamers who have limited space, or those who are traveling on a long journey or holiday and need a gaming fix! 
All the playing pieces are made of coloured plastic, and include two 3 dimensional green terrain boards with separate woods, grey buildings and red and blue armies. The size of the miniatures is 8mm. 
The two terrain boards are designed to be placed together on any edge, giving the potential for 16 different battlefields. The 1" grid marked on the boards excludes the need for rulers to be used in the game. 
The simple rules system should allow a game to played within an hour. 
The two armies are generic Napoleonic forces of equal size and composition which make up three brigades for each side. There is a simple painting guide in case you which to enhance your armies and terrain boards. 

160 x Infantry 
24 x Cavalry 
4 x Guns and 12 crew 
6 x Brigadiers 
2 x 10" 3D Terrain boards 
6 x Buildings 
4 x Dice 
1 x Set of rules

I can hardly wait to see this and hope that it spawns a whole world of other 'stuff' along similar lines. I am already thinking about my 3mm project using the terrain boards - the 1" base sizes I am using would work ideally with this.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

50 Years Young (and Lawford of course)

One of the most inspirational books in my library - this is the paperback version (not the soft back white cover edition) but it does have the coloured covers.

It is hard to believe but Charge! Or How To Play War Games by Brig. P. Young and Lt.Col. J.P. Lawford is fifty years old this year. That's right, fifty years old!

The influence this book has had on the Wargaming fraternity is profound and indeed, I am sure that for many gamers of a certain vintage it was instrumental in them immersing themselves in our hobby. I know from my own perspective that back in the early 1970's this book was part of my 'holy trinity' of titles that were almost on permanent loan from our local library - the other being Grant's Battle - Practical Wargaming and Terry Wise's Introduction to Battle Gaming (Featherstone was a later influence for me by a couple of years or so).

I have enjoyed many Charge! based games over the years and I am sure that the whole 18th century 'imagi-nation' trend owes this book a huge debt.

The book has everything - a potted history of the war game, basic and advanced rules with examples of play and a couple of highly enjoyable scenarios. The book finishes up with a brief guide to collecting and painting model soldiers and a list of suppliers.

It was and is a fantastic book and the wargaming fraternity owes the two worthies a huge debt for introducing us to 'a magnificent indoor sport'.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Enemy on the Euphrates

Fancy that, ANOTHER Arab Revolt - this time with Lawrence on the periphery.

Mention the Arab Revolt and one usually conjures up visions of Peter O'Toole and the haunting strains of Maurice Jarre's sweeping soundtrack - complete with camels. As much as I am interested in that particular affair there was a much bigger turn of events it what became Iraq after the end of the Great War.

At one point the Imperial garrisons faced an uprising of around 130,000 tribesman of assorted types, all hellbent on securing independence - or, to be more accurate, going back to how things were before the British got involved. The whole of Middle East was in turmoil after the defeat of the Turks and the British and French managed to make a pig's breakfast of handling the area.

From the gaming perspective this is a very rich seam to tap. For example we have armoured trains, river gunboats, relief columns, marauding tribesman, religious fanatics, aircraft and armoured cars. The British fought the Arabs and the Arabs fought amongst themselves so the potential from a gaming perspective is pretty darned impressive.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different at the end of WW1 - it is certainly a seam I shall be tapping into.