Friday, 30 March 2012

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye....

A blast from the past

This is the end of week four of my unemployment but despite the lack of paid employment I have certainly not been idle! SWMBO has a list of DIY jobs that seems to get longer each day but the accrued brownie points will be put to good use; of that you can be certain! I have 95% completed the repaint of the shed and have jet washed the decking as well as weeding the front drive. Luckily the weather has been unusually mild!

Enough of this domestic trivia and on with the good stuff!

I am saying hello to a copy of a 1973 vintage WRG rules set covering ancient naval combat from 1,000 BC to 500 AD by Richard Nelson. I was really pleased to get these as ancient naval is something I would like to try at some point (along with the 16th century). The rules themselves seem fairly straightforward and are also hex based which was something fairly radical for a set of miniatures rules 'back in the day'. One note that caught my eye though was the fact that for sources of models the rules stated that Miniature Figurines produced a 1/1200th scale range. Methinks I shall have to take this up with Dave Ryan for sure!

On another old Minifigs slant I am reminded of the fact that many years ago they produced a range of troop blocks for, I believe, the ancient and the horse and musket era. I have seen some of these in use for a Napoleonic battle a number of years back and unless I am much mistaken Tony Bath used them for some of the larger actions of his famous Hyborian campaign. Again, another one to take up with Mr Ryan!

I have waved goodbye to a vast chunk of 1/3000th scale nautical kit as I am abandoning using this scale for my naval games. The only reason for this is simply because I now find them to be too small which seems odd when I am looking at using models that are considerably over scale for my nautical fix. This means that the Turks, Greeks, Russians, Spanish Civil War and North Atlantic convoy set up are no longer. The proceeds have been earmarked for a number of ideas - one of which will be the acquisition of some of the newly released Minifigs ships as well as some building materials and large chunk of acrylic paints.

I am also looking at Axis and Allies: Angel 20 simply because it is far too good a game to turn down and has an inbuilt limiting factor in terms of the amount of models you could realistically deploy on the standard game map. At the present time it would be a fairly small project but I am quite sure I am not the first person to say that - or the last!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Axis and Allies: Angels 20

Oh dear, oh dear.....

I had a really good evening at the club last night playing the latest addition to the Axis and Allies miniatures games - Angels 20 which, as the title implies, is devoted to aerial combat during WW2 - initially between single seat fighters (although a Me 110 appears in the starter set). The game is based on a hex and you get everything you need to start with in the basic game. The models are OK - they are not super detailed - but are fine for gaming pieces and are made from hard plastic and scaled at 1:100th - ideal for all those Flames of War players.

Mr Fox provided the toys and now owns the Essex equivalent of the 8th Air Force in terms of models! We played a couple of games - the first saw a pair of Finnish Moraine MS 406's versus a Polikarpov I-16 and a Yak 1. The Rata died heroically but managed to take down a 406 with its final burst of machine gun fire. Meanwhile the Yak had separated out of the action with the view to making a diving swoop on the remaining 406 which had already suffered some damage. The 406 sullenly refused to cooperate and dived away and out of the fight at the first opportunity.

The second game saw yours truly (enthused no doubt by the events of the preceding game - I was Comrade Crook for my sins) driving his preferred aerial conveyance for WW2 fighter combat - The FW190 D. This aircraft, with a Me109 G took on a pair of P51 B Mustangs. It was short and glorious as one of the P51's obligingly left its '6' exposed to the tender mercies of a one hex range burst from pretty much everything the FW190 could throw at it. The remnants of the P51 showered the countryside like a veritable blizzard of confetti....

FW190 taking off

The game system will be familiar to anyone that has played the naval game and so great fistfuls of dice are used. All the usual aerial manoeuvres are included and the game also take place in three dimensions with a simple but effective mechanism for representing altitude.

I really enjoyed this game and despite my original misgivings can see a whole lot of potential as a pick up and put down game. Certainly I shall look to acquire some models for it and so my blue Hexon will gain a further dimension, literally.

As ever many thanks to Mr Fox for the toys and his usual umpire thing and for letting me fly the Fw 190!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Block and Tackled....Part 4

The second sheet - the first has 48 infantry and 24 cavalry

I have finally managed to complete something constructive - the new red set of half sized blocks are now finished. All told there are 128 blocks - 64 infantry, 32 cavalry, 16 artillery and 16 command. I shall tackle the blue set bearing in mind that blue and red are very common colours for military map unit symbols. I intend to make some movement trays as the intention is to use the half blocks in the same way  as one would use bases of figures - typically with four for infantry, three for cavalry and two for artillery.

I am planning to run an inaugural game using the new blocks and the recently acquired Hexon terrain over the next few days - I am unsure of what to fight at this point - so may well try and get the grey set finished as well.

Hmmm....Blue and Grey? Looks like a dive into Battles and Leaders may be in order!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Dozen Good Reasons Why Boot Sales Are A Good Thing!

Yours truly in action (Barbecues are definitely a 'man' thing)  - judging by the smoke it is very much a 'can you tell what it is yet?' moment! NB No chicken drumsticks or sausages were harmed during the staging of this picture....;-)

 Today has been magnificent! To begin with I had the word from Dave Ryan of Caliver Books that the Minifigs warships are at last available again (see my previous post) - a fact of which I am both highly delighted and very proud about! The weather has been magnificent and so we finished the day with a very unseasonal barbeque - I kid you not and there is even photographic evidence available for the less than convinced!

The best bit by far though was the fist visit of the year to the Saturday variant of the Sunday 'Lazybones' boot sale. Regular readers of the blog will no doubt have seen numerous posts over the last couple of years where I have picked up the odd treasure or two at any one of a number of boot sales in our area. Sometimes you do not get a thing; sometimes for several weeks in a row. I have been very fortunate overall and could be well satisfied with my successes thus far but today was the best ever. I am still in something of a state of shock at my good fortune so will let the pictures do the talking for a change!

All four volumes of the acclaimed Battles and Leaders

Three volumes from the Cassell's History of Warfare series

Both volumes of Peter Hofschroer's history of the Waterloo campaign from the Prussian perspective

Finally the Crusades, American Revolution and some battles from the Bible

With the exception of the Battles of the Bible all of these are hardback and in pretty much pristine condition. They all came from the same seller and the cost of this shelf full of books came in at a measly - pausing to pinch myself as I am still struggling to get my head around it - £13.50!

All I need to do now is to find somewhere to park this little lot!

Hot Off The Press....

....and now available from Caliver Books.

Minifigs 1:1800th Scale Early 20th Century Warships

This is the first of the good news for today - there is a whole more to follow!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

An Indian Feast

With my ongoing liking for all things Indian related I was absolutely delighted to relieve myself from the mind numbing torture of endless job applications with the arrival of the three books pictured above, courtesy of the occasional goldmine that is Ebay.

The first is a real treat. Armies of India by Lt. Gen. Sir George MacMunn (ISBN 0947554025) was first published in 1911 and the deceptively innocuous cover conceals a real period piece chock full of gorgeous plates (in the style of the front cover) of a whole variety of Indian Army units - infantry, cavalry and artillery in parade dress or in service attire. The text is written in a style typical of the period but covers a surprising amount of ground from the battle of Plassey up until the turn of the 20th century.

The second id a book club edition of the Philip Mason's classic 1974 account of the history of the Indian army - A Matter of Honour. I read this book years ago and was absolutely enthralled by it and so was really happy to finally acquire a copy. The coverage is similar to the previous title although extends the period up until the end of the Second World War and covers the role of the Indian army during both World Wars but sadly there are no colour plates contained therein!

The final title is on I have been after for an absolute age and completes the trilogy of books concerning the Duke by the American historian, Jac Weller. Wellington in India (ISBN 058212784 x) covers the early campaigns of the so-called 'Sepoy General' against the armies of Mysore and of the Mahrattas. Many years later the Duke was asked what was the best thing he ever did on a battlefield and he answered in a single word: Assaye. For an account of the battle see the following:  Battle of Assaye

I have absolutely no intention of producing armies for this particular campaign although using the blocks is certainly a viable option.

I also own Weller's Wellington in the Peninsula and Wellington at Waterloo and both of these titles are really good single volume histories and are very high up on the list of books I would never part with!

I must confess to being very pleased at these new additions to the Indian section of my library and so will explore the gaming potential in due course - after I have caught up with reading them that is!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Can You Tell What It Is Yet?....Part 2

Not much time for anything remotely interesting today due to the ongoing job search and some 1:1 scale painting of the shed variety! I did snatch an hour or so though to mess about with the selection of assorted woodwork on display in yesterday's post. The idea is to be able to use a number of standard pieces to be able to produce a variety of simple ship models on an as needed basis. My initial experiments are for the pre dreadnought era but the technique could easily be used for other periods with a little forethought and planning.

The two models depicted are not assembled in any way and are by no means the finished article but serve to illustrate the concept. First of all we have a battleship inspired by the King Edward VII class.

Almost a King Edward VII

At the moment I only have 3/4" and 1/2" dowel sections for turrets - when available I shall use 1" diameter for turrets mounting 11" guns or larger. Obviously the turrets will also need to have some gun barrels added as well! The bridge is way too heavy and I will also trim the rear quarters of the hull. The Hexon tile is shown to illustrate how she fits. The superstructure is made up of trimmed blocks.

Another view of the King Edward VII 'concept' model

I also messed around with what would be a standard type of battleship and is modeled on HMS Canopus. The model has a central box type battery which is easily represented by a couple of blocks and would therefore be very suitable for 'mass production'.

Another sample model  - this time of a more 'standard' pre dreadnought configuration

I am not at this stage intending to model specific types as generic is very much the order of the day. I am intending using three hull sizes and three turret sizes although aside from the circular variety I will also have the option of using some square types as well.

Another of the 'HMS Canopus' type battleship mock up - obviously the bridge is not the finished article and the small matter of gun barrels needs some urgent attention!

Where exactly is this heading? Well to be honest I am really not sure at this stage but I was so intrigued by the idea that I simply had to try it out for myself. To be honest, I am sold on the concept in a big way and not only for this period of naval history but for a number of others.

My conscience has nagged me incessantly about my ACW project of last year and whilst I have built a number of models for this they are not built in the same way. This will be one to ponder - along with some ships for the Napoleonic Wars, the Armada, 16th century galleys; not to mention some ancient triremes....;-)

Monday, 19 March 2012

Can You Tell What It Is Yet?

Wooden it be a good idea to make something from this little lot?

No? Then you are in good company because neither can I just yet - although I do have a (number of) cunning plans under consideration. In a nutshell what you see above is the result of yet another visit to my local joiner/carpenter chap and his wonderful array of power saws and such like. I have had another four boxes of blocks cut on a 75/25 basis (the earlier were on a 50/50) and also some test pieces of assorted diameter dowel rod. Oddly enough the latest block chopping is not at this stage for use with the block armies; rather they are for use in model making.

Now looking at the selection of assorted shapes above you could be forgiven for thinking that the curse of unemployment has finally addled what remained of my grey matter - but you would be wrong! These shapes are very much the tip of the iceberg in respect of what they can be used for and given that much of what I am considering is invariably 'boxy' in style then perhaps you see where this is going - or not!

I have absolutely no plans to emulate those marvellous models that Bob Cordery has produced as these are too large for my purposes (and for the record that is a statement of fact!) but his 'cartoon ship' idea in conjunction with Hexon is an absolute winner and so much of my remaining mental capacity has been juggling ship designs for the pre dreadnought era around a size of around 4" for a battleship and with everything else scaled back accordingly. The models are designed to fit on a single Hexon tile AND to be used in conjunction with 15mm figures (not that I have any - nor any intention of getting any!) and so are 'cartoon' in aspect, being not to scale lengthwise and vertically exaggerated. A good example of the concept in action can be seen here wargamingmiscellany and this illustrates the the type of model I am aspiring to. I am looking at models that are going to be generic and simple to look at and to make. The best analogy I can think of is the naval equivalent of an old style toy soldier.

I have a couple of designs that I am looking at and some of the provisional sizes to work to for which, as ever, I must thank Bob - as well as some stonking models featured on his blog by way of inspiration. With all of this amateur carpentry my local joiner is proving to be very useful for cutting purposes and using power tools for square cuts saves a lot of time and anguish - particularly with dowel rod, which is really useful for turrets and funnels.

In the meantime though - I have a load of labels to place on the new smaller blocks, some trees to finish off and the small matter of the NW Frontier to attend to although I have a very good excuse for not attending to that particular project in other than a written way - I need to acquire a usable selection of acrylic paints!

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Roghan Valley, North West Frontier, 1895....Part 2

Of Gaming Considerations

The early foundations are in place in respect of the background to my NW Frontier adventures and there will be much more to follow in due course. the one thing I wanted to get 'bedded down' at this early stage though was the type of actions I want to be fighting with the 54mm set up and indeed, other mediums. At the base level there is the skirmish game and not only is 54mm an ideal scale for such activities but there are also a couple of very welcome additions to the idea of such an undertaking. To begin with, the Colonial era is a very fertile source of inspiration for small scale games at skirmish level and so the prospect of table top deeds of 'derring-do' straight out of G.A. Henty and  others would be hard to resist. There is also the compelling factor of not needing many figures to be feasible and this is a very important consideration given the number of figures I shall be needing overall. At this point in time I do not have a suitable skirmish rule set I can use but am sure that I can find something suitable from somewhere.

The skirmish level game obviously lends itself nicely to the continuing back story of the Roghan Valley in particular the exploits of the main characters (and those yet to appear). It also serves to give me a short term focus in respect of what I need to paint and so the collection will be used as it grows.

The next level up will be the 'unit' based game and I am spoilt for choice for rules to use for this. At the moment using a hex based system such as Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle is my preferred choice but any one of a number of other sets could also make an appearance as the mood takes me. Funny Little Wars will feature in due course - hence the recent acquisition of some 'firing' artillery. I also have in mind a large scale frontier uprising which will probably be fought using the blocks and involve map moves and all the paraphernalia of a full blown campaign.

The first priority though, is to tackle the figures themselves and for that I shall need to invest quite substantially in some acrylics....;-)

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Roghan Valley, North West Frontier, 1895....Part 1

Setting the Scene....The North West Frontier, 1895

The Roghan Valley - note the entrance to the Dhansak Pass with the Black Mountains in the distance 

Some fifty miles due east of Peshawar and twenty miles from the railway to India lies the Roghan Valley, the traditional homeland of the Basmatis. This peace-loving and deeply spiritual tribe have farmed the Roghan Valley for generations; its fertile land watered by the Tandoo River and warmed by the tropical sun. Fruits and vegetables of all kinds grow in abundance and rice is harvested in the lowlands near to the river. Of course such a treasure in a hostile and harsh environment would never be left to its own devices and so the Basmatis have been conquered innumerable times over the centuries as their bounteous land attracted successions of invaders. In spite of this the peaceful farmers live on, regularly exchanging one set of overlords for another as the years roll ever onward, in time with the waters of the mighty Tandoo River.

Lurking high up in the hostile peaks a typical group of fearless Jalfrezi warriors prepare to spring yet another ambush

By far the most persistent raiders of the Roghan Valley are the fearsome Jalfrezis. Over the years the Jalfrezis have ruled over the Roghan Valley, exacting tribute from the peaceful farmers but have always periodically been distracted by inter-tribal warfare North of the Dhansak Pass - usually against the Bhunawalis but occasionally against the Yuzahankis. Although the Jalfrezis are redoubtable warriors they are relatively few in number and so such distractions usually mean that they abandon the Roghan Valley to pursue their activities elsewhere, and usually at the expense of the Bhunawalis or the Yuzahankis.

Up until the outbreak of the Second Afghan War the British were happy to pay a subsidy to the Jalfrezis in order to ensure that peace reigned in the valley but when the tribesmen threw in their lot with the losing side during the war the payment was promptly suspended. In the aftermath of the events of the Second Afghan War the British decided to take a more direct line in respect of control of the valley and so a small fort was erected at the village of Dovecot to guard the Dhansak Pass and a garrison installed. The fort was some distance from the Governor's Residence at Disimla - roughly thirty miles away - and so the garrison regularly rotated between the two locations.

The Governor's Residence at Disimla - the foreground is used for the annual cricket match between the Governor's Eleven and a side from the garrison at Dovecot.

For a number of years peace and tranquillity reigned over the valley and so the usual activities of a British garrison town came once again to the fore; cricket matches, hunts and innumerable cocktail parties, balls and receptions of every kind quickly filled the social calender for the officers and senior officials of the outpost. It was a time of golden days and exotic nights with not a cloud on the horizon to spoil things. That would soon change though, and in the most dramatic of fashion.

The Jalfrezis

All the while up in the hills, the Jalfrezis plotted. When not engaged in exacting revenge for a slur against their honour (whether imagined or real) and usually involving much bloodshed; the Jalfrezis where inveterate plotters of the highest order. Much of this stemmed from the generations of having to play one tribe off against the other  merely in order to survive but the current round of continual scheming was centred around one man. The one man in question was none other than the renowned 'Tiger of the Hills', Sher Khanaj. For some thirty years Khanaj had ruled over the Jalfrezis with a rod of iron. He was ruthless in the extreme, brutal and cruel and had terrorised the Basmatis incessantly. Extortion, torture, desecration of holy places, fire and sword were his stock in trade right up until the moment he chose the wrong side in the Second Afghan War. With the humiliation of defeat his reputation was in tatters and so he took to the hills and aside from the occasional nuisance raid on the Roghan Valley has been quiet ever since. Despite his diabolical reputation defeat had mellowed Khanaj over the years and so much of his public bellicose persona was purely for effect. He lived off of his former notoriety and since this was sufficient for a number of lifetimes it meant that is was very easy for him to stir up the tribesman with visions of plunder and glory. He was no fool though and so periodically the sword was unsheathed and fire and bloodshed would result - enough to stoke up the embers of his reputation but seldom enough to cause a response. He shared with his adopted son a passionate loathing of all things British and although in private he no longer believed that anything was to be gained by going to war with them was content to plot, scheme and intrigue against them through the person of his son. In truth, as he grew older his interests moved into more aesthetic pleasures and he became a passionate and enthusiastic poet in the style of (so he liked to think) Omar Khyyam. This love of poetry, coupled with the sensual pleasures of the harem, and served to soften the edges of the old tyrant but all the while, the terrible beast within continues to watch and wait and bide its time.

Shere Khanaj studying poetry - from a ceramic currently in the regimental museum of the Malabar Horse

The fearsome visage of Ram Ditin, the adopted son of Shere Khanaj - his identical twin brother was taken to England where in later life he took to the stage as a comedy actor of some repute 

His second in command and adopted son was a different story altogether and was much like Khanaj in his early days only far worse. Where Khanaj had mellowed in his later years his son, Ram Ditin,  had only grown more explosively violent. He was deadly with a scimitar, a crack shot with a Jezzail and shared with his father a fanatical hatred of all things British. He was secretly plotting (at least he believed so - Khanaj was well aware of this apparent duplicity) with both the Bhunawalis and Yuzahankis to launch a massed attack against the British with a view to driving them from the frontier. Ordinarily this would not have been a major problem as plots like this were usually a rupee to the dozen on the frontier but for two very significant factors. Firstly, Ram Ditin, without the knowledge of his father (and this was absolutely correct), was in contact with the Russians (more importantly Russian gold) and secondly, there was the prophecy of a chosen one appearing on the frontier heralding a brave new infidel free world (under Jalfrezi rule naturally). Ram Ditin was salting the hill tribes with mention of this chosen one in an effort to drum up the support required for a massed uprising. If the spiritual dimension was deemed to be insufficient persuasion for the more undecided of the hill tribes then the prospect of vast sums of gold, courtesy of the Russians, would provide a compelling additional incentive.  Khanaj himself was unconcerned by this latest rumour of a 'chosen one' for the simple reason he already had his own 'chosen one' acting as his own personal spiritual advisor. The self-styled 'Prophet' Abul was as devout and pious as Ram Ditin was mercurial and brutal. His role was to ensure that the spiritual well being of the Jalfrezies was above reproach and that generous donations to the coffers of Shere Khanaj (minus his own commission of course) were regular and forthcoming. Shere Khanaj was astute enough not to enquire as to the level of Abul's commission as the benefits of having a revered holy man in his personal retinue far outweighed any monetary considerations. For his own part Abul played the part of the dutiful and humble cleric in public whilst maintaining a private lifestyle of opulent decadence (his commissions were extremely generous) and with many investments overseas - in case of every eventuality, good or bad.

The self-styled 'Prophet' Abul - the mercenary cleric in the employ of Shere Khanaj

Shere Khanaj was aware of the intrigues of his son but chose to ignore them in the main as he would not dare raise the Jalfrezi banner in anger without his say so and so long as this state of affairs continued then peace, albeit an uneasy one, would prevail.

The Jalfrezis themselves are of Pathan stock and are skilled and deadly adversaries. Their preferred weapon is the long barreled Jezzail and a fearsome array of edged weapons. Most warriors are usually festooned with daggers and scimitars of various kinds and they use them at every opportunity. Their usual mode of warfare is typical of the region; ambushes and raids or long distance sniping. Added to this is the customary charge into contact whilst screaming hideous war cries that is guaranteed to strike fear into even the hardiest of opponents. They are a proud and haughty race and can be by turns the most faithful of friends or the most implacable of foes. As Harry Flashman observed you needed to know to the second when one mood became the other because very often your life depended on it. Aside from the usual weapons of the frontier tribesman Khanaj was extremely proud of his artillery. He had acquired a brace of ex American Civil War 12 pounder Napoleon field pieces (a persistent rumour in the hills was that the Prophet Abul had engineered a deal for the weapons, subject of course to his usual consideration....) which he had used on a number of occasions but thus far not against the British.

Honour and reputation amongst the Jalfrezis is of paramount importance. Any slur against the family or tribal name could never be left unpunished and many a poor soldier has lived to regret abusing a Jalfrezi whilst in his cups for as sure as the sun will rise the following day so he will feel the burning flame of vengeance being meted out on his person.

The Roghan Upland Field Force

The garrison operating in the Roghan valley when in the field goes under the title of the Roghan Upland Field Force as it usually comprises elements drawn from both the fort at Dovecot and the Governor's residence at Disimla. The whole force is equivalent to a slightly reinforced brigade and unusually contains a larger proportion of British troops than usual. The full order of battle comprises the following units:

  • 1st Battalion The Isle of Sheppey Light Infantry 
  • 1st Battalion The Queen's Own Medway Fusiliers 
  • 4th Peshwari Rifles
  • 6th Kashmiri Rifles
  • C Squadron, 13th Malabar Horse
  • F Battery, City of London Artillery Regiment - the Bishopsgate battery
  • One company, Royal Engineers
The whole force is under the command of Brigadier General Sir Charles Vere Cramp - whom, with his wife,  the Lady Isabella Victoria Cramp, also act as the Governor for the valley. The two roles are difficult enough to manage individually but combined are nigh on impossible and so Sir Charles normally leaves the military responsibilities to his second in command - Colonel Bindon Oliver Goff V.C.

Brigadier General Sir Charles Vere Cramp

The Brigadier, whilst still a game old chap, is really past his prime in terms of commanding troops in battle as years of hard riding, drinking, fighting and a couple of bouts of malaria have dimmed his enthusiasm for frontier soldiering somewhat (he struggles to mount a horse even for a parade, in part due to the jezzail bullet through his right leg) and so leaving the martial responsibilities of the region to his second in command, the gallant, suave, much decorated Colonel Bindon Oliver Goff V.C. was the obvious choice to make. Acting in a largely civil capacity has given Sir Charles plenty of first hand experience with which he is hoping to make use of with a nice governership back in India - as far from the frontier as he can get if possible. Certainly Lady Cramp is keen for this to happen and so watches like a hawk over both her husband, the ambitious Colonel Goff and the Jalfrezis with equal attention. She is a most formidable woman and is living proof of the old adage of 'behind every great man, there is a great woman.' Sir Charles is convinced that he is in fact in charge when in actual fact it is the Mem Sahib who is the driving force behind the civil administration of the valley. Possessed of a razor sharp intellect she has the measure of Colonel Goff and his unbridled ambition but is able to contain the worst of his excesses by a combination of charm, practical good sense, diplomacy and downright cunning when necessary.

Colonel Bindon Oliver Goff V.C. - depicted in later life 

Colonel Goff is a regular fire eater and sees the crushing of the Jalfrezis as something of a personal crusade - at least the credit for such an undertaking should see his promotion - and so is provocative at every turn when left to his own devices (and out of sight of the Brigadier and more importantly, his wife). He is largely dismissive of Sir Charles but cannot ignore the influence of his wife and so waits patiently for the chance to demonstrate his martial prowess when, inevitably, the frontier bursts into flames once again.

Of the troops forming the garrison of the Roghan valley little need be said. The British infantry units are both Kent regiments although the rivalry between Sheppey and the Medway is renowned. Both units are near to full strength and are largely old hands of frontier warfare. A peculiarity of the command structure within the Roghan valley though is that the British battalions do not have any command higher than company level due to the fact that it is seldom operating as a whole formation. Each garrison - Fort Dovecot and Disimla - is made up of a number of companies with the garrison commander effectively a brevet colonel as the need arises. The Sheppey and Medway battalions are usually split in two between the garrisons whereas the native infantry are only ever used in complete units. 

The native troops consist of a battalion of the 4th Peshwari Rifles and one of the 6th Kashmiri Rifles. These are supported by C squadron the 13th Malabar Horse. Whereas the native infantry are only ever used in complete units the cavalry are routinely broken down to troop level and are deployed in both locations. 

The Peshwari Rifles at drill

The Malabar Horse in action

Similarly, the artillery and engineers are usually split between Fort Dovecot and Disimla. Whilst the artillery consists of modern weaponry the machine gun complement still consists of Gatling Guns as the newer Maxims have yet to reach the frontier.

Taken as a whole, the troops tasked with guarding the Roghan Valley from the depredations of the Jalfrezis (among others) are perfectly suitable for the role envisaged. They are a well trained and equipped body of men and should, all things being equal, be more than sufficient to cope with pretty much anything short of a full scale invasion. Such confidence is not misplaced - at least not in the opinion of Colonel Goff - and so the officers and men stand ready and vigilant, all the while scanning the distant highlands for any signs of trouble.

In Conclusion

While the sun is busy never setting on the British Empire; the endless round of the social whirl continues to spin and all the while the hills chuckle with the sounds of furtive plotting. Sir Charles hopes for continuing peace, Colonel Goff for war and all the associated glory and all the while the Jalfrezis are veering first one way towards war and paradise and then the other towards peace and sullen subservience. Intrigue and duplicity, skulduggery and double-dealing are all fermenting and bubbling away in the hills whilst the peaceful Basmatis continue to tend their crops and observe their spiritual  devotions and the waters of the Tandoo River continue to flow unhurried, untroubled and ever onwards....

Monday, 12 March 2012

Block and Tackled....Part 3

New labels, same old idea....

One of the things that Bob and I touched upon during out far reaching conversation at Sidcup was what can best be described as the 'prototype effect'. In a nutshell, I have the tendency to rush headlong into projects and happily assume that the first draft is the finished article whereas inevitably it is not! This has tripped me up on more than one occasion in the past - usually around the drafts of rules - as the recent MoBaS episode has testified. With this in mind I decided to be far more systematic in my approach to the labels for the new half sized blocks. Rather than convert the originals (samples of which appeared in part two of this sequence) to the smaller size I opted instead to start from scratch and draw up not one but two master sheets per colour. The first sheet is solely infantry and cavalry labels whilst the second (illustrated above) also includes artillery and command versions. For the olive, brown and grey sets of course there will be vehicles and such things as anti tank guns and mortars. All colours will gain machine gun labels as well.

These look much better and I am pleased I took a little more time and forethought as the finished article looks far more professional. The labels are of a uniform size of 1" by 5/8" and fit the new half block very snugly. Once I have finished drafting all the label types I will make them available via a download as readers may find them useful for campaign markers or similar.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

I have been to....Skirmish at Sidcup Grammar School

Today has been a really good day. To begin with, the weather has been absolutely glorious; I have been to Skirmish in Sidcup and I spent a very pleasant afternoon wandering along the local river bank with the family (the tide was in and lots of small craft were in evidence) to feed the local water wildlife with my grandson. All this followed by a very nice roast chicken dinner - it doesn't get a lot better than this!

Skirmish in Sidcup is a delightful show to go to with a very nice balance of games and traders and of a size that is not like an assault course to negotiate. A couple of games caught my eye including a 1/3000th WW2 Java Sea battle fought using General Quarters and a very nice Gladiatorial Combat game using a set of rules using dominoes and available from the Society of Ancients. The terrain was cleverly done using Heroscape tiles and the columns from a wedding cake! There was also an interesting looking French and Indian War skirmish and a  WW1 action with some really stunning looking trench works.

Java Sea WW2 - Japan versus just about everybody else!

Very well organised by the Privateers of London - cheers chaps!

Gladiators having a pizza the action - Dominoes, get it?

I was also delighted to catch up with Bob Cordery for a chat and an exchange of goodies - I am now the proud owner of another five boxes of blocks and some very nice additions to the library including a Conway's Battleships of the World 1906 to the Present Day. Many thanks Bob - you can rest assured that this will be put to very good use! We caught up on a number of ideas relating to cartoon ships, working with wood and finished up with the stated intention of getting a game in at some point which I shall certainly look forward to.

Bob 'No I am not scratchbuilding the fleets for Tsushima in wood' Cordery striking a reflective pose.

I also made the acquaintance of a number of legendary bloggers including the renowned Angry Lurker; the head of the Posties Rejects and also Big Lee (and yes he is rather large as well....!). We discussed much of importance in the world of war games, not least of which the various nefarious means employed to get new purchases into the house without the respective SWMBOs knowledge - I am sure there must be megagame in there somewhere....;-) We also agreed that blogging is definitely a good thing and also how much it has enhanced our enjoyment of the hobby - especially in the 'finishing projects' stakes.

The Angry Postie and the Lurking Reject - thoroughly decent chaps and it was a pleasure meeting them at last - also Big Lee although I could not fit him in the picture without standing somewhere over the river in Essex....;-)

On the subject of new acquisitions I had a very rewarding day and even better, a very cheap one. I managed to score a copy of the Encyclopedia of Cruisers of World War 2 by M.J. Whiteley for a fiver, a box of 54mm Armies in Plastic NW Frontier British Infantry and four 54mm cannons. The cannons came from a traders rummage box and cost the princely sum of 25p each - I was very pleased by this although Bob rather disdainfully observed that they didn't fire....;-)

Some of the new acquisitions for the collection - note the £1 artillery park!

All in all then, it has been a fantastic day all round, more so as this is my first week of unemployment and so anything good and positive is most gratefully received. The final picture of the day was taken when we were on our walk along the river - I am not sure of the origins of this particular vessel but as I watched it beating upstream I found my mind's eye for some unaccountable reason thinking back to the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan....

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Skirmish 2012 - Sidcup Grammar School

Tomorrow sees my first show visit of the year at Sidcup Grammar School in Kent - around 30 miles away from  sunny Rayleigh. This is one of my favourite shows as it is a nice and compact 'old school' type of event. It has that rather laid back feel about it rather than the usual scrum at such things as Salute. Originally it started life as a Plastic Soldier Fair but has grown into a treasure trove of bits and bobs and I am looking forward to going and having a good old rummage through some spares boxes and hopefully grabbing a bargain or six!

The link gives the details of what is there and how to get there.


I hope it will as good as on previous occasions - and that has been of a uniformly high standard!

Friday, 9 March 2012

MoBaS - Future Developments

Now that I have core rules 'done and dusted' my thoughts have naturally turned towards how the rules can be developed and expanded for later periods with the obvious inclusion being WW2 and the 1930s which will of course mean aircraft. This will be some way off simply because I have so many things to do in the meantime but another thought came to me earlier today concerning using the rules for fleet scale actions. As they are written they are ideally intended for a player to control around a dozen or so models and to be played during a typical club night of perhaps two to three hours. For this they are absolutely fine but I am less convinced that something larger would be quite so accommodating. With this in mind a further development will be a fleet level version - either a tweaked version of the existing rules or perhaps a standalone set.

I may also apply the system to specific types of naval combat - away from the usual surface action - I am thinking of submarine warfare or even coastal forces. As this will involve a lot of night actions this is where using a grid really comes into its own for naval games. Plotting movement for ships out of sighting range using a map and then transposing the action onto the tabletop becomes relatively straightforward.

There are many paths to explore with this rules concept and over time I fully intend doing so!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

MoBaS - The Grand Finale

Last night saw the final play test of the latest version of MoBaS  (MoBaS 2.0 Dreadnoughts) at the club but with a subtle twist - this was fought 'off piste' as it were - or rather off the grid. I am happy to report that the game went very well and resulted in a narrow Turkish victory - all the mechanics worked very nicely with the revised firing and the tweaked torpedo rules coming up trumps. There was a few facing and firing arc issues (I have been spending far too long on grids and so had forgotten about such niceties!) and the use of a free table was was greeted by a truly Cowardesque comment from Mr Fox along the lines of "Anybody can drive a ship along a grid!"

I will provide a full off grid optional variant for the main set for those that wish to use the rules in this fashion in due course. I also think that the game may have benefited from using larger measurement increments - I used 4" to the hex when perhaps 6" may have been better - this would have given A class guns a range of 36" rather than the 24" they had. It is funny that distance and range 'compression' does not seem quite as noticeable when using a grid as opposed to a 'free' table.

I am really pleased with the way the rules have worked out and once again would like to thank all those readers that have commented, encouraged and tested them to the nth degree - as ever this kind of support is the life blood of an evolving rule system.

It does mean though, that after what seems like an age I am finally done in respect of the rules for this period of naval history - 1890 to 1920 - but MoBaS will live on into the 1930s and 1940s when I can get to that particular period.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Block and Tackled....Part 2

The left hand units are for the smaller blocks whilst the right hand ones are the original types

In between signing on at the local job centre, preparing for the game at the club this evening and trawling the internet for job opportunities I managed to spend a little time tinkering with the label designs I have for my block armies. Essentially all I have done is to take the existing label and reduce it by fifty percent in the horizontal axis and that should do the trick quite nicely. I will not now have to use specific open order infantry or cavalry blocks as units will be made up of a combination of the existing large size blocks and the newer smaller versions. As it stands at the moment the 'standard' sized units will be equivalent to four blocks for infantry, three for cavalry and two for artillery - the similarity between units from Battle Cry and Memoir '44 is intentional. I have also decided on using movement trays for units with some  form of a magnetic strip with the unit id in place. Being magnetic means that all I would need to do would be to print the names as appropriate and then fix the label in place. The movement trays will be the same size as those used in the Volley and Bayonet rules which is a 3" square for an infantry or cavalry brigade or 3" by 1 1/2" for an artillery unit.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Block and Tackled

There's one, there's another one....

One of my ongoing projects involves the use of wooden blocks to represent generic units in a variety of armies across the period of, well, the gun. Using my existing collection I have so far managed to fight a dedicated Napoleonic action and an 1890's based battle between Fezia and Rusland. Future pland include supporting my ACW riverine set up, the Balkan Wars, WW2 and indeed, pretty much anything else I fancy from 1700 upwards. The Blocks I am using are absolutely fine as they are but would benefit from having an additional smaller size for use as detachments etc. I have managed to get around this problem by an almost 'smoke and mirrors' approach. The best example of this is the light infantry block - this has two standard infantry symbols, much reduced in size, on a green background. It works but was only ever going to be a temporary expedient.

I have been in contact with a local joiner/carpenter and have managed to get three and a half boxes of the blocks I am using cut in half on a power saw (I have no idea what it is called but it looked like a small scale band saw!). This is a big step forward for the project as the smaller blocks will be far better representations of small detachments, batteries, or even as step markers for gradual unit reduction - something like the way blocks are used in Command and Colours Napoleonics.

I also have in mind plans to use these smaller blocks for large scale naval games in due course with some simple aerial outlines for the ships prepared using MS Paint and printed on sticky labels. One for later perhaps but certainly doable.

On another point, my joiner, who is a very accommodating and helpful chap, is also able to get some  'Monopoly' style ship hulls cut from off cuts for the price of a beer! Bob Cordery is currently pioneering some ideas around cartoon sized warships - designed for use with 15mm figures - which would certainly make for some visually impressive games and so have a source of cheap, pre cut hulls would save a lot of time during the construction process.

Much to ponder here methinks....;-)

MoBaS V2.0 The Dreadnoughts

I have uploaded the latest version of MoBaS (Memoir of Battle at Sea)  including the recent revisions and also including the dreadnoughts. I will also be uploaded some ship specifications over the next couple of days and expect there to be perhaps one final version of the rules to follow. This will include suggestions for gaming on a normal playing surface rather than a grid based one if desired. I shall be trying this particular variant out at the club on Wednesday evening.

The link to the current version of the rules can be found here:

MoBaS 2.0 - The Dreadnoughts

Sunday, 4 March 2012

On the North West Frontier....Part 4

After the general all round buzz of yesterday and the news re the ships today saw yours truly returning to rather more mundane matter in the shape of the huge pile of assorted 54mm figures I have for the NW Frontier. Thus far I have mapped out how I am going to organise the collection and also trialing a couple of painting techniques. I also took the opportunity to open the additional boxes of infantry I had acquired (3 each of Indian, British and Afghan types). The figures themselves are very nice and quite old school in there demeanor but the most obvious surprise was that every single one of the nine boxes had additional figures above and beyond the advertised '20 in 10 poses of 2 each'. Taking into consideration the figures contained in the Fort Kandahar play set I now have an additional 12 figures for each of the three forces! One of the boxes of Afghans contained 27 figures which compensated for the two broken types from another of the boxes.

I don't know if this is usual for Armies in Plastic boxes but it mean that I have an extra 36 figures to play around with - more importantly, I can relegate some of the more unusual poses to the spares box!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

"Being pleased to inform their Lordships.....

....that Dave Ryan of Caliver Books is currently undertaking to produce a range of 1:1800th scale generic pre dreadnought and WW1 era warship models and that the same will be available to purchase very soon."

More to follow in due course but for the present I am just going to enjoy the moment - once I have managed to get the smug grin off my face....;-)

The Missing Link - H.M.S. Canopus

HMS Canopus - "Gonna need a moment alone boys....!"

After what seems like an age of trawling through Ebay; missing auctions that went of my price range and general harrying of people across the globe I have FINALLY managed to source a copy of HMS Canopus or, to describe correctly in BMC speak - the mysterious battleship B1. The casting is not perfect - there is a little bit of a mould alignment problem - but there is nothing a little TLC with a file could not put right. There are also no masts to speak of - this is a problem on all the models I own as some had them so badly damaged that it was easier just to cut them off. Again, should anybody want to add them then drilling out some holes and making use of wire or even some of the mast structures available from Brigade models would be viable option.

I cannot begin to describe how pleased I am to have finally acquired this model and the best news of all - details of which will be available in due course - I am in the advanced stages of negotiating to have these models placed back in production and available once again to grace the tabletops of the world. Again, this is really good news and the potential for 'imagi-nations' is huge.

It has been a long and very often frustrating road acquiring this little lot but I am pretty pleased to have gotten this far and am looking forward to seeing how these models will be used in the future and by whom!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

On the North West Frontier....Part 3

It has been a grim week so far. Not in a health way - everybody is hale and hearty in that respect - but on the job front. My contract is up tomorrow and thus far I have nothing else lined up. It is not the end of the world but sadly having to deal with agencies, make a thousand phone calls, send untold numbers of emails and worse of all, listen to the same old drivel over and over again from the aforementioned  agencies! It is soul destroying and so I have been more than a little tetchy as a result.

Still, by way of light relief I thought I would share the details of what has thus far been acquired for the 54mm project. The cornerstone of the collection is the fort.

Fort Kandahar with a few reinforcements

The fort comes in a set with 20 each of British, Indian and Afghan infantry and by way of a bonus my set actually contained 25 Afghans and 24 Indians! In addition I have three extra boxes of each of the infantry sets; two each of Afghan and Indian cavalry and two boxes of British artillery. The infantry have 20 figures per box whilst the cavalry have 5. The artillery sets contain a gun and 5 gunners.

My plan is to organise the infantry into companies of 16 figures and an officer, the cavalry will be in squadrons of 8 with an officer and a gun battery will have two guns and 8 gunners plus an officer. Gamers of a certain age will probably recognise the organisation as being based on that used in Charge! Initially there will be four companies (the Afghans will be organised similarly) per side with the Imperial force having two companies each of Indian and British infantry. For the size of playing area I have (soon to be expanded to 6ft by 4ft) the set up I am planning will fit quite comfortably. There will be some spares earmarked for future use and the inevitable conversions for personalities etc.

I was also pleased to note that you are able to fit four infantry, two mounted or a gun and crew on a single Hexon tile so this opens up lots of possibilities in respect of rules - I am thinking various permutations of Command and Colours for a start, with a dash of MoB. The possibility of using a Victorian version of Charge! (which if I remember correctly are in the files section of the Old School Wargames Yahoo group) is also one to ponder but first of all, I need to plan the painting.

I am undecided as to the approach to adopt in respect of painting - currently I considering either an 'old toy soldier' style or flat colours with a an Army Painter dip. What I will do is to paint up one of each and see which looks better before taking the plunge. The Afghans will be painted first simply because they will be more varied in respect of clothing colours and so will be more fun to do, pure and simple!

A further cause for celebration arrived this morning courtesy of Ebay. The following two books have been added to the library and both are welcome, and in the case of one in particular, timely arrivals.

Happiness is a new, or nearly new book!

The Malakand Field Force by Winston Churchill (ISBN 0850522609) is the story of the Pathan Revolt in 1897 and is one of my favourite books. I have an electronic copy of this on my reader but not a 'proper' version so this was very welcome. I also landed a copy of Byron Farwell's The Great War in Africa (ISBN 0670802441) which covers operations both in East and West Africa during World War One. East Africa during WW1 is a fascinating theatre of operations and has lots of potential for campaigns and certainly the exploits of Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck formed one of the sources of inspiration for the famous Madasahatta campaign organised by Eric Knowles.

So aside from the ongoing job dramas things have not been too bad on the ongoing projects front!