Saturday, 29 August 2009

"Thats no moon! Thats a space station!"...Obi Wan (Ben) Kenobi

After a very busy week or so (what with interviews, college applications and the small matter of a family wedding) it was something of a relief to get back to the serious business of bargain hunting at our local Saturday boot sale. First up was a completed kit of the Death Star from Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. This football sized plastic model has been assembled and painted but is sadly missing the base - a glass tumbler was used for the photo. I was particularly pleased to get hold of this as my gaming friend and disciple of the Dark Side - Darth Fox has a collection of Star Wars spaceship models from the collectible miniatures game produced by Wizards of the Coast. The model would be quite a small Death Star compared to the size of the other models but large enough to use as the centre piece of a rebel assault - the scale issue is largely representational after all.....................;-)

This cost me £1 which when you consider its galaxy smashing ability is not too bad!

Next up was a couple of paperbacks - one of which was a replacement and the other a new and welcome find. Starship Troopers is one of my favourite Sci Fi novels and I had been after a replacement for ages. The Master of the World I have not read and it was on my hit list for some time given my interest in Victorian Sci Fi. These two came to 30p in total!

Finally, a hardback copy of the Sharpe Companion by Mark Adkin. This is basically a guide to the Napoleonic Wars as depicted in the Sharpe novels and is full of interesting facts, maps and anecdotes - primarily covering the war in the Spanish Peninsula although the affair in Belgium in 1815 does get a passing nod! This was the princely sum of 50p.

All in all then, it was a great day out and a very cheap one as well!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Space Hulk 3rd (Limited) Edition

When my antipodean gaming chum, drinking partner (difficult given the 12K miles separation!) and first class chap Tas, of fame told me of the imminent release of the 3rd edition of the classic 'Aliens' inspired game Space Hulk I was properly excited at the prospect. This game is tremendous fun and I can remember many great sessions of alien mayhem when the first edition came out in the 80s. I had quite a large collection based on this version (now in the collection of Mr Fox) but missed out when the second came around. That has recently been rectified as I have managed to source a copy in exchange for my efforts in the previously mentioned 18th century ebay extravaganza. The number of models in the game is small and the subject matter for painting does not present too much in the way of a problem (even for me!) so as a mini project thus ticks all the boxes. Coupled with the copy of Tyranid Attack acquired in the same way as the aforementioned Space Hulk I have the makings of a reasonable 28mm Sci Fi set up that will not be a major hassle getting ready to use. With this in mind I took a gander at the GW website to see the 3rd edition and how it could be added in to my existing set up. I have to say, I was quite disappointed by what I saw.

The figures look absolutely gorgeous but they are character figures - not rank and file (at least IMHO) types. The components look fantastic but I have to say that they are really not what I am looking for - the marines seem to be too fussy with loads of banners and scrolls etc on the armour. This is a part of the WH40K I really struggle with as to me it looks plain wrong having all that flam and paradiddle stuck on a suit of powered armour. Some of the poses look great as one off figures but would you want a unit of marines pulling up floor plates or holding the skull and spine of a dead alien? The 2nd edition models are far more suitable for my low key and subtle rank and file marines (?) and so I shall pass on acquiring a copy of the 3rd edition.
I must confess to liking my sci fi game rules brash and noisy but the whole WH40K thing has never really ticked the boxes for me. I love the figures and support material etc but only where they overlap with my own thoughts on the genre. That said, Space Hulk is a genuinely tense and exciting game (especially with the timer in use with the first edition) and can easily be expanded to incorporate many varieties of sci fi figures. The fact that terrain is gridded as well makes it even more attractive.
"In Space, no-one can hear you scream....................................."

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Wargaming in the Age of Reason

As many readers of my blog may already know, I am a great user of ebay - both for buying and more especially selling. I have also sold on ebay on behalf of many of my gaming friends and it has been great fun. Recently I disposed of an enormous quantity of material - books, figures, boardgames and rule sets for a friend of mine that was moving house and needed to downsize his collection. It was a fascinating exercise - seeing how tastes and collections have evolved over the years. In return for the not inconsiderable effort involved in listing, photographing and shipping the sold items received for my troubles a number of selected titles from the items he was dispensing with. I was pleased and so was my friend and it just proves that money does not need to change hands for a bargain! I am currently involved with a similar exercise for another friend and the main bulk of the material being disposed of is a large collection of painted 25/28mm 18th century figures - mainly Minifigs, Garrison and Hinchcliffe from the late 70s and early 80s, all painted to a very good standard, typical of the times.

The 18th century is a great period to game in and is almost de rigeur for those that wish to set up fictional armies rather than historical ones. This, one would suppose, is the legacy of Messrs. Grant, Young and Lawford and I have absolutely no problem with this. I have had many truly epic games using Charge! and using these figures (at least the Prussian) when multi player games involving 100s if 1,000s of figures were seemingly the norm. The two that spring to mind were a refight at Minden (where yours truly gained a wholly undeserved reputation for 'borrowing' cavalry reserves......) and also the Siege of Vienna. I was the garrison of Vienna and the action took place in the cellar at The New Model Army shop in Manor Park on an 'L' shaped table about 20 foot long. It was tremendous fun although the now Turkish speaking inhabitants of Vienna may disagree............;-)

I have listed the Prussians on ebay under my userid of drcroguejedi should you wish to take a look and the picture at the top is just one of the units up for grabs.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


I mentioned on the previous post that I would detail the latest additions to the Rayleigh Factorium Library during the recent visit to our preferred boot sale i.e. the 'Lazybones' boot sale at Rettenden in Essex, about ten minutes in the car from my house. The above three cost the princely sum of 50p each and are satisfying additions for the reasons listed. The Vietnam title is a single volume history of the conflict with lots of maps, photos, diagrams and details of tactics and hardware in use. It is an excellent primer to the conflict and from a gaming perspective the war can be tackled on a modest budget. There is a plethora of books kicking around on the war and so having this volume is, for me, a good starting point should I wish to pursue gaming it. Great potential for a credit crunch wargame!

The second title - Celt and Saxon - covers the so called Dark Ages in Britain and the ongoing struggles between the various tribes and invaders over the years of 410 to 937AD. I must confess that the study of this period of our nations history has grown on me over the years and it has much to offer from a campaign perspective and again, at quite a low level as the armies can be well catered for even using a DBA type of system. A couple of 15mm Dark Age DBA warband type armies for the period would not be beyond even my limited painting ability!

The final title is a potted overview of ancient warfare from Sumeria up to the fall of the Roman Empire. In a book of 250 pages it is certainly not by any means an encyclopedia of the period - more like an overview and primer and as such would be good for the newcomer dabbling in the period. I have a number of titles covering the ancient period and so this is a little on the lightweight side for me but I will read it and will probably then offload it - either at the club or on ebay. It did however, provide the heading for this post which translates as....................................."If you want peace, prepare for war."

A truism consistently forgotten down the centuries!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Life, the Universe, and Everything in it....

It has been a busy few days in the Rayleigh Factorium and most of this was of a non-gaming nature. To begin with (and I might add on my Son's 21st birthday....), we had a split water pipe in the garage that was leaking water (not excessively) over an electrical junction box with the result that for around six hours we had neither water (switched off at the mains) or power (also off at the mains). As we were also having some friends up from the West Country for the weekend I am sure you can imagine that SWMBO was less than impressed at this turn of events. All of the months of preparation (which made Desert Storm look like a Sunday school outing!) were coming unravelled at an alarming rate and the whole four days of festivities was fast descending into chaos. Luckily our tame plumber, electrician and all round good guy was able to rescue us. All was restored late in the day but as a result the huge weekend food shop for the descending throng (well both of them!) was delayed until Friday and so the whole weekend, whilst great fun, was pretty darned hectic - hence the lack of posts.

We did manage to hit our favourite boot sale on Sunday and I scored a couple of goodies - details of which will follow later. Apologies for the somewhat rushed nature of this post but what passes for normal service will be resumed in a day or so!!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

WW1 In and around the Black Sea

Readers of the blog may recall a little while ago I was making campaign type noises for the Balkan wars and for the extension into the Black Sea during WW1. I have amassed the fleets in 1/3000th for use with both these conflicts and am toying with the idea of using the campaign system described in the boardgame The Great War at Sea: The Mediterranean (also featured in an earlier post). Imagine my surprise and delight when looking at the website I came across a game that had been run set in the Black Sea during the early years of the war - covering both land and sea aspects. I will copy this down and will study it further and see where it takes me but certainly it bears investigation. The picture above is the campaign that was used and full details of this, and much else of interest can also be found on the site.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Cry Havoc!...and let slip the Blocks of War!!!

I mentioned earlier that I would need to source a suply of blocks to be able to give this 'project' some viability and think I may have found it, albeit somewhat unconventionally. Colombia games ( produce a series of block based boardgames on a number of military themes. I own their game Napoleon (covering the my old favourite, the 1815 campaign) and it sudenly struck me that they might offer a replacement service for the blocks contained therein - in the manner of many games companies. Sure enough, after checking their website they sell hardwood blocks in both 20mm and 24mm square at 20 cents each for the smaller size. these blocks are very high quality and I reckon on needing perhaps 60 a colour so the cost would be modest - even allowing for shipping from Canada.

Suddenly this is assuming a life of its own.........;-)

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Non Figure Wargame

Whilst sorting through my collection (as I periodically do - usually in the search for some items to list on ebay!) I came across some draft rules I was experimenting with a short while ago for a generic Horse and Musket period wargame using wooden blocks rather than figures. Before continuing I should point out that I am an indifferent painter of figures and to be honest, I only really enjoy painting 'machine' type units - hence the interest in ships and sci fi type stuff. If it is organic then I seem to get in a flat spin at the prospect of painting it! It was this in mind that I embarked on a project painting Cuisenaire Rods for use as wargames units. sadly this did not amount to anything usable - the basic problem is that I was trying to use blocks almost in the same way as figures and it just looked plain wrong. I would use a 2 x 1cm block to represent an artillery piece with 2, 3 or 4 1cm cubes as gunners. So after a couple of weeks of effort and frustration I gave it up as a bad job and abandoned the idea. The exercise did give me much food for thought however and so the next evolutionary step will be more in line with how I think blocks should be used i.e. as whole units, rather like the blocks employed on military maps.

I have absolutely no problem with using blocks instead of figures and in fact, given my interest in numerous periods it probably be an advantage to use them rather than model soldiers. For example, a red block could represent a British unit anywhere from Marlborough to the Sudan. A Blue block would be even more versatile - Napoleonic French, ACW Union, Prussian and so on. My problem is with what to use for the blocks and how to make them aesthetically pleasing. I suppose really I am looking at something akin to Kriegspiel type blocks but for a more modern type of game (modern as in using the gaming techniques of today rather than as a description of the period under consideration). Armed with a supply of blocks and some appropriate sticky labels (I would need to draft in help for that as my PC artistic skills are minimal!) for the types represented then I would be well away. Maps would be easy to construct so no worries on the terrain front and the whole thing could be as cheap as you like. Just because there are no figures on the table does not, in my opinion, make it any the less of a wargame - it is just a different slant on the hobby. In point of fact, the Command and Colours Ancients boardgame system by Richard Borg uses blocks with sticky labels on for the units and these could very easily be used for a tabletop game if required. Columbia games also use blocks in their award winning series of strategic level games and certainly, poring over a map and moving blocks of troops around is probably more in line with the generalship experience than using figures.

Before I am hung, drawn and quartered and then burnt at the stake as a heretic I must say that I have absolutely nothing against using figures for wargames - at the moment I am looking at a couple of figure based projects myself - and I will continue to use them myself as the occasion warrants. However, it is my opinion that if the aesthetics can be gotten right then the use of blocks is a perfectly viable supplement to the use of figures. My problem is getting the aesthetic part right!
P.S. If using blocks was good enough for the Prussian General staff amongst others then who am I to snub my nose at history?

Thursday, 6 August 2009

A Piece of Gaming History

This post is one of pure, nostalgic self indugence so I offer no apologies if it appears to be a touch 'rose-tinted spectacles' in its content. Back in the very early 70's, when yours truly was a mere slip of a lad and such things as PCs, laptops, mobile phones and Nintendo Wiis were the stuff of science fiction, we amused ourselves with playing football and other outdoor pursuits when the weather permitted, or made airfix kits by the shed load and played boardgames when it was too inclement to venture out. Actually the first kit I ever made solo was a Revell Polikarpov I-16 but I suspect that is being a touch pedantic.......Boardgames were another matter all together and I can remember receiving for my 12th birthday a copy of the Waddingtons Boardgame called Campaign. Boy was I pleased! I can safely say that that game (which I still have incidently) and the surfeit of bagged Airfix kits and boxes of figures around at the time was probably the main catalyst in my lifelong addiction to wargaming. The game is a stylised and abstract strategic level game based loosely on the Napoleonic wars. It features 6 countries - France, Spain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and Italy, each of a capital city (of 9 squares) and 4 major cities. Although there were 6 countries on the map the game was for 2 to 4 players only and Italy was always neutral. Prussia only appeared in the 3 player version. Each Army consisted of 4 cavalry pieces, 4 infantry and a general. Movement was determined by a dice roll and generals could move in any direction, infantry only diagonally and cavalry moved 2 squares orthagonally. Unlike DBA you could move a piece as far as the dice roll would permit. Moving large formations required higher dice rolls so quite often they would sit still if the dice were unkind. Combat did not use the dice (other than for moving into contact with the enemy) and worked on the basis that if either an infantry or cavalry piece was contacted by two enemy pieces then it was removed from play. A General needed to beaten by three enemy pieces in contact. He was not removed from the game but was driven back to his capital city and all his army had to go with him. The General was also the only piece that could capture a city and a capital city. Capitals could only be taken after the nations four other cities had been captured. Tactically a square of 4 pieces was a good formation as each piece was supported (i.e. in contact with) and so had to be neutralised by an enemy piece before another piece could be removed. A further complication was that infantry could only attack diagonally whilst cavalry used orthogonal attacks. Alliances between countries could be made (and broken) and it was almost an unwritten rule in my gaming circle that if anyone player looked to have a potentially winning advantage then he was fair game for the opponents to ally and keep him firmly in his place! I must have played this game hundreds of time over the years and devised all manner of 'refinements' for it - terrain effects, squared maps based on actual battlefields, differing troop types and even artillery grand batteries. I own several copies of this game - the others acquired from boot sales and charity shops - and have often looked at it with the benefit of many years gaming experience and pondered how it could be made into a more adult version. It would not be a hard task to employ DBA type combat mechanisms with the game pieces (coloured red, white, blue and green) to make a hybrid board/wargame. It may not have the appeal of painted figures but it would still be a wargame and would be as cheap as chips - knocking up a gridded map to use with the pieces with the terrain drawn on with coloured felt pens is not beyond even the most hamfisted of artists - self included!
Campaign, Airfix and Charge! - I suspect that many gamers 'of a certain age' have had cause to appreciate (or blame!) some or all of those for their lifelong hobby!

Items on the Agenda..Part 2

...................of course, I had forgotten to mention that there are a couple of boardgames I am on the hunt for which can be included in the PROJECTED section - not to mention the perennial problem of the Arab Revolt and how best to game that! Luckily for my Colonial/Small War forays I need not worry about rules as I have the set of choice already availale from the pen of the prolific Mr. Bob Cordery - 'When Empires Clash'.

One less problem to think about........;-)

Items on the Agenda

After having aired my career aspirations to the cyber world I decided that now would be as good a time as any to sit down and list EVERYTHING that I have on the go as either an actual or projected project. The main reason for this is so that I can prioritise my efforts and see where any funding may be needed. The list is not too onerous on the actual side but the projected version needs some work in terms of size.


ACW 1/2400th ships
ACW 1/2400th land stuff
2mm Sci Fi (OGRE and mech stuff)
1/2400th 16th Century Galley Fleets
28mm Combat Zone Sci Fi Figures
Basing for 10 EM4 Gladiators
2mm VSF Land Ironclads
1/1200th WW1 Minifigs Ships
1/1200th Aeronef Fleets
WW1 Naval Rules
Balkan Wars - Naval and Land
Terrain for any or all of the above.


NW Frontier
Balkan Wars
1/3000th WW1 French Fleet
A couple of War at Sea mini campaigns
Army level horse and musket rules (and armies to use with them!)
1/2400th Armada Fleets
15mm Pirates (HOTTs?)
15mm DBA armies (probably a matched pair)

Of the projected stuff all will need resourcing to a lesser or greater degree so I will need to decide at what level this will happen.

As ever, much to ponder methinks.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of the Unemployed Wargamer

As many of you that read the blog may be aware I was made redundant from my last job some five months ago. you may also be aware that I worked within the financial sector, in the city of London to be exact, as a Compliance Officer with leanings toward Operational Risk (in which I am qualified to advanced level). After five months of trying and shed loads of interviews, applications, phone calls and letters I am still no closer to getting back into employment. This enforced absence has given me a lot of time to think about what I want from a career and how I should try to achieve it. The upshot of this soul searching is that I have decided to pursue a long held ambition to work in the field of further education - more specifically adult education and in a lecturing/training capacity. My plan initially is to sit the appropriate teaching exams whilst additionally studying to the appropriate level in my preferred subject - history. With this in mind (and certainly taking the financial side into very careful consideration) I shall be starting the first primer course in September with the main course taking up next year. I estimate that it will be around the two year mark before I shall be back in gainful employment (although I will of course be taking advantage of any temporary positions that I can fit around my studying) so my gaming activities will need to take a financial back seat as the basic mechanics of living will take priority. This is in itself a welcome challenge in many ways as it means I will need to fully explore the concept of the credit crunch wargame and ensure that I get the maximum return from any outlay into figures, models and books etc.

I am looking forward to the challenge of all this and the blog will be peppered with the odd mention of my academic progress thus far as well as updates on the gaming front. The medium of the blog has been for me an absolute god send as it has enabled me to not only air the concept of a particular project but to also receive much useful feedback and observations which is fully appreciated and valued. This has been particularly beneficial as for the first time in a long while I have actually been finishing things rather than abandoning halfway when something more attractive comes along!

I hope this entry has been received in the spirit with which it has been written and that those followers will continue to do so for the reasons mentioned. I just needed to make my situation known and in the public domain.

Thanks in advance for the continued support.

Monday, 3 August 2009

The Story So Far.........Part 2

You know how it is, you sit down with the best of intentions to tackle a job (in this case the ACW Ironclads sitting on the paint tray) and somehow, you just cannot seem to get started and when you do, disaster usually strikes. Well it was hardly a disaster but the painting was a little on the sloppy side and so I gave up after twenty minutes or so. Unfortunately, whilst my painting is firmly in the ACW at present my head is still wrestling with the new set of 1890 to 1918 rules that are going to replace DBSA - The Great War Gridded and so I guess this is the problem.

I felt that I had gone about as far as I could with the DBSA derived set and whilst it was enormous fun with the research and play testing sadly they do not tick enough boxes for me. The new set are a country mile away from the mechanics I used previously and are similar in two respects only - they are on a grid and no book keeping will be involved.

Thanks to the kind auspices of both Borja Sierra and Mark Dudley from two of the Yahoo groups I belong to (Naval Wargames and Old School Wargaming) I have a couple of (photo) copies of a set of Skytrex WW1 Naval Rules by John Hammond that made use of Fred Jane's Gun Rating for naval ordnance. This data will be used in the new set and I will be using a dice per barrel for the basic gunfire hit mechanic. Most gamers enjoy rolling great fists of dice so this will be a welcome addition. These rules are in fact pretty close to the play testing stage so I will report on progress as it occurs.

The Story So Far.........

Just a quick catch really to let you know what has been happening in the Rayleigh Factorium. The ACW ships are still underway - I have not touched a paintbrush this weekend but will resume this evening. The small extra order from Tumbling Dice has arrived and the model of the French Ironclad Gloire (that I shall be using as USS New Ironsides) is absolutely gorgeous! My other small order for some 2mm Sci Fi stuff for the OGRE project has also arrived and is very nice as well. As mentioned previously I have everything I need for this and as soon as the ACW stuff is ready I shall press on with this - prior to starting college. I have also changed the storage system I use for the 1/3000th ships. I was using magnetic strip on the inside of some polythene storage boxes I acquired from the local branch of Hobbycraft but the strip would not stick for very long and would curl up at the edges. I then had a brainwave and by using double sided sellotape was able to line the boxes with paper and then stick the strips onto this. the result is much better as the adhesive used on the magnetic strip 'takes' far better on the paper. The boxes themselves are 34 x 31cm and roughly 25mm deep so are a very handy size for the fleets I have thus far. I am also looking long and hard at the land element of the ACW Riverine stuff I have - the solution is fairly radical and I hope to have some pictures ready in the next couple of days.