Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Back to Broadside

Seven months ago I attended the 'Broadside 2021' show at Gillingham - back in the early days of the Omicron variant, all of us masked up and a bit nervous.   This Saturday I was able to return, unmasked and much more relaxed, to the same venue for Broadside 2022. For a dedicated royal jubilee avoider, it was a nice change from beacons, street parties and trooping the colour. 

And need I say, it was a good show; one of the smaller events, perhaps, but that makes it very manageable and relaxed.  The program listed a dozen display games and about 30 traders, plus commercial demo games, painting, and quite a few 'flea market' tables.     I took a few pictures of some of the games that caught my eye : 

First, Deal Wargames Club's  'The Real Guns of Navarone',  liberation of Elba, 1944, in 20mm scale and  using Rapid Fire rules.  This is what my childhood gaming buddies and I were aiming for with our Airfix figures.. As you can see, the hall is spacious and quite well-attended.

Shepway Wargames Club  'Viva La Revolucion'  Mexico game with Crush the Kaiser rules.  Great  terrain - and you can't fault a game with a train in it - and full marks for the sombrero sported by one of the players. I liked the figures,  non-uniform but in a nice 'limited palate' style  :


Next a near-contemporary game, Skirmish Wargames 'The First LRDG 1916-1917', set in the Egyptian Desert.  I liked the aircraft 'flying' on a plastic beer glass, and I gather all the vehicles were converted from those 'collectable' model vintage vehicles which were common a few years ago -  and now easily acquired in charity shops. 



More aircraft : SEEMS 'One Day in the Battle of Britain' - a right old melee with nice 1/144 scale models. 


Last and absolutely not least,  the show wouldn't be complete without Postie's Rejects. Big Lee's 'Beau Hunks'   French Foreign Legion game in 15mm with The Men Who Would Be Kings rules, incorporating a 'game within a game' involving Laurel and Hardy, inspired by their film which contributed the title. I admit I didn't really follow how that worked, but it looked splendid and they were clearly having a good time, and they won 'Best Game' with it - congratulations! 

( that fort concealed large amounts of cake! )

On other blogs you'll see many more and better pictures of these and all the other games, in particular Ray 'Don't Throw a One', Richard 'My Wargaming Habit' and Big Lee's 'Miniature Adventures' (featuring their game) - all highly recommended.

The day wouldn't have been complete without some shopping, and I was quite pleased with my acquisitions, which had a strongly WW2 bent. I'm still looking out for material for the 'D-Day Dodgers' in  Italy 1943-45, and I picked up some more troops : 

The heavy weapons will complement the Indian infantry I acquired at SELWG last year, and the Moroccans  will add even more variety to the polyglot Allied forces.  This does rather leave the opposing  Airfix Germans looking a bit lacking in variety - I think perhaps some Fallschirmjager may need to be acquired, and of course the Italians themselves need to be represented. Hmmm.. more shopping, then?

The flea market was well worth a look, and the  chaps from Rainham wargames club had a selection of various vehicles at a very good price. I think maybe  WW2 gamers can  tend to get a bit obsessed with tanks, but I reckon you can't have enough light vehicles and transport, so I was very pleased with this little lot: 

if in doubt, get a Bren carrier..
I also picked up some paint, and some nice 'gunpit' type terrain items (can't remember the trader, sorry!) which will come in handy for dug-in defensive positions and some flags for 7YW Prussians. Finally, my  'impulse buy of the month' was  a set of rules for a period that I don't do, and possibly never will - 'they just looked interesting' - oh dear! This way madness lies. The nice chaps at Real Time Wargames were the beneficiaries ( they had a nice-looking Indian Mutiny game in 10mm scale, which I forgot to photograph - I bet Ray did, though ) , anyway I will draw a mildly embarrassed veil on that!

 I spent a pleasant three hours at the show and thoroughly enjoyed it, so many thanks to all concerned - and if you are within range this time next year, it's well worth a visit. 

( Finally as a slight aside, I realised that 10  minutes walk from the venue was Barnsole Road Primary school - which I last will have seen  at the end of summer term in about July 1970. 

 It didn't look to have changed much - can't say the same for me! A nice bonus piece of nostalgia, glad I took a look ). 

Now I really need to get on with some more painting and some gaming - I think the show has been good for inspiration. I hope it's entertained you a little, too!


Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Now there was a painter... two coats, one afternoon!

Having acquired a copy of Bob Cordery's 'Portable Wargame Compendium', I thought I might try out the '3 by 3 Fast Play' game setup that features heavily in the book. This  would  require a suitable gaming board/table, and I happened to have a cork noticeboard, originally bought for possible boardgame use. Assuming a grid of 6-inch squares with 'reserve' areas at each end, I needed an area of 30 inches by 18 inches, and the corkboard was amply sufficient.   So, taking advantage of a sunny Saturday:

Take a cork pinboard..

prime with diluted PVA glue..

apply green paint ( two coats )..

Mark the grid corners

Ready for battle!

All done in an afternoon, and I think it will be fine! The green paint is artfully the same shade as I use for figure bases  ( from B&Q, it glories in the name 'Ribbit' ), and the grid was marked with a permanant marker pen.  The grid squares will easily take two units as specified in the rules - or even two for each side at a pinch, I hope.  Bob's book has a section with many suggested terrain setups, so I borrowed one of them for the trial layout above - the board easily accomodates six units per side.  I am thinking of maybe painting the other side too, in some sort of sand shade,  for possible Ancients or Western Desert type games.   

Next, I'd better try actually playing a game..


p.s. need I explain the title?  ( though I admit I only knew it from Peter Sellars on Parkinson - I didn't realise he'd nicked it.. )   




Friday, 13 May 2022

Perks of the 'Job'

This is by way of a thank-you  note to Bob Cordery  of Wargaming Miscellany and The Portable Wargame renown :  last week I received a copy of his latest publication, The Portable Wargame Compendium.  And a splendid work it is, too,

100 pages of fun..

This is a softback, about 100 pages, in 'American Letter' format ( 8.5. x 10.5 inches ) which is new to me, but nice and roomy, and pleasant to handle.  It's a collection of pieces exploring variations on Bob's  Portable Wargame format,  dominated by the 'Fast Play 3 x 3'  variant suggested by Mark Cordone, which is of course included here.  There is an array of 'FP3x3' variants:  Colonial , WW2 (both small infantry actions and Operational level), a Punic War campaign, ECW, 'Little Wars'  H.G. Wells style ( with a 3 x 3 Hooks Farm Scenario ), and Sci-Fi - and then ideas on Generalship and Army Composition, Flank Marches, and a Terrain Generation system.  I can't fault Bob's work rate ( and the other gamers and bloggers involved ), given that I gather Mark C only put his '3x3' idea onto social media in about January of this year!  There are also three chapters not related to '3x3',  including   one very useful one describing the  Snakes and Ladders Campaign System devised by Peter from Grid based wargaming - but not always  blog,  and one giving a Fantasy rules variation on The Portable Wargame (step  forward, Maudlin Jack Tar and  Tradgardmastare ). Finally, The Portable Eighteenth Century : Horse and Musket Wargame Rules, by - well, modesty forbids.. 

There are battle reports for three of the 'FP3x3' rulesets, and nice colour pictures of  the resulting quick and simple games. Here is Bob's WW2 Infantry Combat game,

   and one of Martin Rapier's 1st Punic War battles, using 20mm figures originally based for DBA. 

I could be tempted by the Ancients version - there's a 'Command and Colours Ancients' set around here somewhere, which would provide instant armies.

I can see that the Fast Play 3x3 versions could be great for those times when you just fancy a game to 'scratch the itch',  but haven't got a lot of time, or as an introduction for gaming beginners, or for smaller actions in a campaign that maybe don't warrant a large setup, so I'm sure it will interest a plenty of people ( it already has, of course!).  One of the most interesting ones for me is Arthur Harman's ECW variant - Arthur has sagely spotted that a frontage of three grid areas is highly appropriate for armies which had a quite rigid order of battle consisting of an infantry centre, and two wings of cavalry. His set looks to be among the most detailed, and may thus be a bit more than a quick and dirty game - intriguing. 

So, thanks very much indeed Bob, for the excellent book and for including me in - in reality, Bob did all the work, I just agreed that I'd be honoured if he put my 18th Century amendments to his rules in his book!  The whole thing has a rather nice feel  of variations on a theme, which reminds me of some of Donald Featherstone's collections such as Advanced War Games , War Game Campaigns and Solo Wargaming, bringing together a pot-pourri of ideas around a central concept - there's bound to be something that gives you some inspiration. Given that Bob has  been having some health issues recently too,  I reckon he's done a great job! Well worth a look. 

Now I am casting around for a '3x3'  grid, and have just noticed an unused cork pinboard . width 22 inches, so should easily fit a grid of 6-inch squares.. now where's that green paint I use for basing? Watch this space..

Thanks again, Bob!   Meanwhile Keep well, and safe, everyone.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Prussian Blue - 40 Years On

 A sort of historic day, albeit very personal, today. I'll explain.  Well over 40 years ago, the childhood me discovered wargaming, and subsequently spent all my 'holiday money' one summer on a copy of Charles Grant's 'The War Game', from a little bookshop in Looe, Cornwall.  Thoroughly enthused by the world of the VFS and Duchy of Lorraine, I dreamed of my own imagi-nations, while also becoming aware that 'proper'  wargaming figures were available, beyond the Airfix plastics in the local toy shops.  Further pocket-money was duly saved up, and a mail order placed with Miniature Figurines in far-off Southampton - for a whole 'Grant-size regiment' of about 50 figures. These would have cost about £5 to £6, and may have represented most of the 'defence budget' at the time. Hence an  obvious flaw in my childhood strategy is apparent - how did I imagine I would ever get a whole army? 

Anyway, it was a Prussian Line Musketeer regiment, and in my enthusiasm for fictional nations, and having no idea how to paint such figures,  I haphazardly slapped on some mid-blue ( rather Bavarian-looking, but I think it was 'Prussian Dragoon Blue' ) Humbrol enamel paint. Done! They were able to take the field, the only metal figures among a rainbow collective of mixed Airfix Napoleonics and  AWI, all painted in equally slapdash and equally non-historical colours.   Of course they were terrible paint-jobs, but the games were fun, and at least the advent of WRG 1685-1845 rules eventually allowed smaller and more economical units! And then my enthusiams moved on, and the imagi-nations ( and really, wargaming as a whole ) were forgotten, and the lone 'Grant regiment' sat in a box, in my parents' loft, equally forgotten and neglected. 


1970s paint job ( MC12, Prussian Dragoon Blue? )

These  unloved figures probably spent over 30 years in more than one loft - at least my folks were kind enough not to throw them out when moving house - until finally, and by chance largely thanks to another 'imagi-nations'  enthusiast, Henry Hyde and his 'Battlegames' magazine, my interest was revived. The opportunity duly appeared to buy some of the late Eric Knowles' Seven Years War figures, and  that led to the blog you are reading now.  And of course, now I have the chance to use my long-neglected Prussians. So, a year or so ago they went into a bath of 'Clean Spirit', and away went the Humbrol enamel.

back to bare metal - more or less

Finally, I'm very pleased to say that  yesterday afternoon  I sat in my partner's sunny garden, with 16 of these under-employed veterans, and finally bestowed on them their rightful reward - smart new coats of ( acrylic ) Prussian Blue.

Early days yet, but it's a step 'vorwarts!'

Now I'm the first to admit my painting skills have not necessarily improved in the intervening decades (and my eyesight, certainly not!) , but I think I have a bit more patience, better information and better equipment.  I will certainly be taking more care, and  I hope for a decent enough result, which will allow them to finally take their place on the battlefield once again, as the Prussian 9th Line Infantry ('Jung Kleist' ), and try conclusions with the dastardly Austrians. It feels somehow very 'right' to do this, and there's a strong sense of connection with my younger self across the decades,  and of course an awareness of the passing of time - where did those decades go?  If the little metal men have feelings, I hope I am making amends for all those lost years, and I hope to give them back their pride. Let's hope they fight like good Prussians!   I hope to show these again once they are finished - meanwhile, keep well, and safe, everyone.




Friday, 22 April 2022

"You've had the Cowboys..."

 .".. now try the Indians". That was apparently the advertising slogan for a London building firm with South Asian proprietors some years ago - and good for them, I'm certain it worked a treat ( only bested by a plasterer I once used, whose business card said  'for surfaces rendered' ). But I digress.

'Time and Space' for hobby activities has been in short supply recently, but I hope to get a bit more time now, and I want to  try to get back to some painting. I thought I'd give these chaps  a go: 


I think my 'D-Day Dodgers' Italian Campaign's allied forces need to reflect the multinational nature of the real thing, and I know that Indian troops made up a significant part of the British Imperial army in Italy, so I reckon these are a must.   I picked up this set at SELWG Last year, and it's about time they came out of the box.  

No less than 56 figures on 4 sprues, which is probably more than I will need!  A nice variety of poses, armed with rifles, revolvers, Stens and Brens.  Here's a  slightly blurry close-up: 

The guy at the top centre looks rather splendid, that bandolier-style belt almost looks like the '12 apostles' of a 17th-Century musketeer. It'll be interesting to see how he turns out. 

It will be good to have a go at these - on thinking about it, I reckon these will be the first figures I have painted representing people of a non-white ethnic group ( which really only shows how little painting I've done! ).  In keeping with the existing British and German figures in the collection, they will be based singly, which should allow them to be used for pretty much any WW2 period  rules. 

Finally a  couple of little resonances, which gave me the 'nudge' to look at these. Firstly, I have been employed by an Indian company for the past few years,  which employment looks likely to end in the next few months. It occurs that these chaps may be a little memory-jogger for my time with my 'offshore' colleagues.  And lastly, a  reminder of  contemporary realities - the maker of these figures is of course Strelets, and they were made in Ukraine.

Given that, I feel I'd better make as good a job of them as I can.  I'll post again soon, I hope, to show how they turn out. Meanwhile keep well, and safe, everyone.

*** UPDATE ***  many thanks to the most excellent blogger  Nundanket  ( in fact, I should of course say 'Nun Danket' to you ),  who pointed out that the incongruous 17th Century-looking figure is indeed a quirky bonus feature from Strelets - a  different 'Streltsi' figure is included in every sprue of their range. See this page from Plastic Soldier Review for more details. Has anyone actually built up a 16th/17th Century Russian force from these? It could be fun, but you might have to buy quite a strange selection of other figures!  


Wednesday, 6 April 2022

I couldn't walk away..

Shopping at our local supermarket a few days ago, I took a quick look at the charity bookstall near the exit, It's usually 99%  trashy novels,  but every so often something interesting comes up - and lo and behold...

Last year we visited some 'senior' friends, and  Lawrence of Arabia came up in conversation. One of our  friends  ( who is now in his 80s ) said 'When I was a child, I knew a man who knew T.E. Lawrence'. Interesting in itself,  but when I asked who the mutual friend was,  he replied  'he was called Basil Liddell Hart'.  Imagine my surprise:  it turned out that Liddell Hart was a friend of our friend's family - indeed our friend remembered,  aged 7 or 8,  playing Croquet with Liddell Hart! It's not recorded who won, though I fancy he said Basil wasn't actually very good at croquet tactics..  I've never tried reading Liddell Hart, but remembering that conversation, I could hardly leave this book on the stall. 

Not only that, but also  this  rather nice old volume :


'Imperial Services Library, Volume VI', no less: published 1963, with illustrations by the author. The gentleman seems to have  produced a whole series of similar books ( 'A History of the Regiments and Uniforms of the British Army' etc ) ; this one is described as 'not only a history of every regiment which was first formed in London, but it also describes the uniforms they wore'.  It makes a point of including volunteers , militias and territorial untits,  not just regulars. Rather nice illustrations, too, both  monochrome sketches and colour plates, like this: 


Now I freely admit, this may not be a 'reader', rather a 'pick up and browse now and again' book, but at the very least the pictures are rather fine.   The various volunteer units look interesting and unusual, too - they may tempt me to read properly.   I have a very bad habit of being unable to stop myself 'rescuing' literary waifs and strays like this, so I couldn't walk away, could I?  They were in need of  a good home -  and   I  would assume  these two volumes must have come from the same collection, so it would be a shame to part them, wouldn't it?   So I laid paid the princely sum of 50p each, and here they are.  Two more for the reading backlog - when I retire ( which may be coming up sooner than previously  expected ), I may just turn into Mr Bennet, rarely leaving my 'library' and being very happily lost in books.  Keep safe, and well, everyone.




Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Conclusions at Zouache - finally

Turn 9 situation - Austrians holding out well

We left ( far too long ago, unfortunately )  the Prussian attack on the Austrians at  Zouche, in my 'Soldier King' inspired campaign,  after Turn 8. As a quick recap, at the Western road the Prussian cavalry force of three regiments of elite Cuirassiers had scattered a defending regiment of  poor-quality Grenzer foot,  and now came up against the sole Austrian Heavy Cavalry unit, who had gamely engaged them - but how long could they last?  In the North, the main Prussian column of Infantry and artillery  were hoping to recover after the chaos and confusion inflicted by the rampaging Schwarzer Hussars, and another Austrian Light Cavalry unit - and were preparing to   launch a major assault on the  Austrian foot regiments of the Botta d'Adorno brigade holding  the river crossing.  Well,  I finally found the time to finish the game, and now I can give an update on how it turned out. So, without further ado.. 

Grenze Hussars causing more mayhem, briefly

Turn 9 was notable mainly for cavalry action : at the West road, the lone Austrian Cuirassier unit found itself attacked by twice its number of elite  Prussian 'Heavies', but held its ground in the resulting melee, even forcing one enemy unit to retreat. In the North, the Austrian 1st Grenze Hussars charged and ran amok, forcing both the Prussian field gun and 1st Jaegers to retire,  following-up twice and finally being halted by 1st von Kleist foot.  Once again the Austrian Light Cavalry brought disruption to the Prussian main force. Would they ever press home their attack? 

In the event,  next turn things began to go the attackers way at last - the Austrian 1st Hussars took hits in melee with von Kleist  and from a volley from Prussian Jaegers,  and were destroyed as a result - and the quality of Prussian cavalry began to tell at the Western road, with the Austrian cuirassiers reduced to 1 remaining Strength Point ( SP ). The final Prussian unit ( 3rd Jaegers ) arrived on the table, giving them five regiments against the two Austrian foot units holding the North bridge - and the 1st von Kleist foot were first to charge against the 1st Botta regiment in its defensive position. The melee was initally inconclusive, but continued for the next four turns with losses on both sides, 1st Von Kleist actually fighting  both Austrian regiments at various times, and  allowing the rest of the Prussian foot to come up into firing range. Losses at end of Turn 10 were level, at 11 SP each - bad news for the weaker Austrian force. Was the tide beginning to turn?

Von Kleist charges - with powerful backup

Prussian pressure was maintiained in Turn 11, starting with their howitzer scoring a  hit which finally broke  the Austrian Cuirassiers.  Their place was taken immediately by 2nd Grenze Hussars, but the chances for one Light Cavalry unit agains three Prussian Heavy Cavarly regiments did not look good. and they straight away  sufffered a first 1SP loss in melee. Meanwhile in the North, the two Botta foot  regiments each lost 1 SP, attacked by the Prussian foot using both  musketry and the bayonet.  Losses now Prussians 13 SP, Austrians 14 SP - 6 Austrian losses in only 2 turns, and  now only 2 SP between them and Exhaustion Point. 

On the next turn, in the West a combination of howitzer fire and Prussian charges pushed the Austrian 2nd Hussars back over the bridge, allowing Prussian cavalry to finally cross the river.  In the North, Prussian foot continued to advance, as the  Austrian 1st Botta regmiment remained locked in combat with 1st von Kleist, holding on determinedly to their fortified postion - von Kleist did however manage to force 2nd Botta to retire, back over the bridge.   But that very determination to hold their ground  cost the Austrians  dear,  when on Turn 13  1st Botta suffered another hit in close combat with von Kleist, and yet another from a volley by 1st Jaegers,  and took  2 SP losses rather than be pushed out of their defensive position - these were the 16th and 17th  Austrian SP losses, which took them to 'Exhaustion Point'.  From now on they could make  no aggressive moves, only hold on or retreat.  Turn 13 had certainly been unlucky for General Dachs.

Turn 14, Austrians hard pushed in the North ( profusion of pennies indicating losses ) 

On Turn 14 the Austrians started well, their gunners scoring  a hit that finished off 1st von Kleist foot, worn out by its multiple charges on the Austrian foot.  But Prussian musket fire from their Fusiliers and Jaegers scored a further two hits on 1st Botta foot -  this time they retreated to avoid destruction, being pushed back over the bridge to join their 2nd Botta comrades. In turn, 1st Botta's own fire at least drove  2nd Jaeger back.  

Turn 15, the last of the game - the depleted Austrian forces won the initiative die roll but could make no aggressive moves, and elected to simply stand - but their gunners scored a lucky hit which killed the von Kliest's brigadier, who had joined the Prussian Fusilier regiment after his own troops had been knocked out. This unfortunate gentleman's loss cost the Prussians 3 SPs - dangerous for them.  Their own howitzer ended a successful day by  hitting and finally eliminating 2nd Botta regiment. Knowing that exhaustion loomed, the Prussian commander urged his cavalry  on in a last charge, with 2 Cuirassier units slamming into Austrian 2nd Hussars, who lost 1 SP but held on agianst the odds. A general advance of Prussian foot in the North looked to finally cross the bridge against little opposition.

Final charge of  the Prussian Heavy Horse

And so it finsihed,  as the end of  Turn 15 brought welcome darkness to the exhausted troops. Exhausted indeed - a tally of the losses came to  Austrians 19 SP,   Prussians 21 SP - both sides well and truly passing their respective Exhaustion Points.   So, in terms of the tabletop game, a draw - but from the campaign perspective, I think quite a bad reverse for General Dachs and his Austrians. They  suffered the complete loss of five regiments, who will be eliminated from the campaign game ( units only 'damaged' by partial loss of strength points will continue, and re-gain strength as further recruits come in ).    The Prussians lost only a couple of regiments, albeit experienced ones, though they were unlucky to have one brigadier wounded and one killed, costing 5 SPs in all - if not for those two losses, they would not have reached Exhaustion Point.   

I should put in a word for the gunners - though unable to open fire until Turn 7,  the Prussian howitzer took 3 SPs from the Austrians, delivering the final  coup de grace to both the Austrian Cuirassiers and 2nd Botta regiment. The Austrian field guns scored no less than 6 SPs of hits against the Prussians, battering the Fusilier regiment for 2 SPs, finishing off 1st von Kleist and finally killing its Brigadier!  Only the Prussian field gun did badly, spending a lot of time trying to avoid the attention of various Austrian Hussars. 

How it ended  - darkness will be welcome to all

Phew. I have limited time and space for games, and this took  four gaming  sessions, spread over 6 weeks - I didn't mean to  be quite  so slow!  But worth it, I think, and good to run a slightly larger game and prove it could work in the limited space. Bob Cordery's 'Division Level' Portable Wargame rules turned out to be just about right for the task. At least with a small table, simple hex terrain and relatively small forces and units, the setting-up and dismantling of the game at each session was quite quick. 

So, where next with the campaign? Well, winter is coming - both sides will go into winter quarters and try to raise new recruits to their armies.  But they may also take the opportunity to open negotiations  - in particular the Austrians must be worried about the losses they have taken, and the threat to their 'home' territories. Perhaps it's time for diplomacy?

As usual, I hope you've enjoyed following this, as I certainly did playing and writing it up. Time for  a change of period next time?  Meanwhile thanks for reading this far, and keep well, and safe, everyone.