Thursday, 21 May 2015

Mini-project: Great War Miniatures Highlanders

In the theme of “small is achievable”, I’ve started a mini-project this week. Again, this is really to try and get the painting fingers moving agin after a few months away from the brushes.

I’ve had a number of the splendid 28mm Great War Miniatures Highlanders in my lead mountain for a few years now. I’ve painted a few of these in the past, but only a handful. A rummage through the assorted boxes in the study revealed many more. 

I’ve selected a handful – ten in fact, to start with – for the next mini-project. Just enough to stay focused, and not enough to intimidate. The figures are terrific, with a mix of steel helmets and Tam O’Shanters, and they’ve been sculpted by Dave and Aly with a typically large pack and entrenching tool, making them perfect for 1917. I’m planning to paint them up as the 8th (Service) Battalion of the Black Watch (largely recruited from Perth and Fife), which took part in the Arras Offensive, Passchendaele and the Cambrai offensive, all from 1917.

I also wanted to try and create some casualty/ shock markers for the unit. No one makes suitable figures, although I did have a go a year or so back at converting some old glory British casualty figures. The kilts were a bit tricky, but I’m hopefully they’ll pass muster from a distance. 

 As for the figures, I’m particularly looking forward to the trews on the officer figure, and the piper.

I’ve ordered a copy of Trevor Royle’s “Flowers of the Forest” for a bit more background to Scotland’s Great War history. Oh, and I’ll be picking up a bottle of Lagavulin this weekend, just in case some spiritual inspiration is required. 

And finally, let me leave you with some photos of the amazing and wonderful country which is Scotland (courtesy of the very talented Stephen Emerson). Gratuitous, I know, but beautiful, all the same.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

“Operation Gericht”: Verdun 1916/ Partizan & Evesham 2014 – player briefings and scenario

I should have posted the player briefings and game background to the "Operation Gericht" wargames, staged at Partizan and Evesham in May and June last year, a long time ago.

I’m sorry this never happened, although in my own (poor) defence, I wanted to pull together the various forum posts and game scenario backgrounds for the players into one handy document.

I actually finished doing this in February, but I’ve only just remembered that I never posted it. And it’s about time I did!

So, on the right of the blog, you’ll find the “Operation Gericht” scenario in the box marked “Playtesting Scenarios, Campaign Diaries, Play-Aids and Painting Guides)”. This should link to my Google Drive, with free access to all. Let me know if you have any trouble accessing it.  It’s a fairly chunky document, weighing in at 18 pages, and pretty image-intensive.  Let me know if you have any trouble accessing it.  If it proves to be too large, I’ll also upload a text only version of the scenario.

 Thanks to everyone who played the games last year, and to Phil Hawkins for his splendid photos from the Evesham games.

And of course, comments always welcome on things I should have done better!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Getting back up to speed

Yes, it’s been a while, hasn’t it! What is it about twenty-first century life that means that you try and save up some time for your hobby, only to find that ….. well, things just crop up to stop you. It’s been a frustrating year for me in hobby terms, with a few false starts, a couple of blind alleys and a cliff-edge or three. I’m sure you know the sort of thing.

But, thank you all for sticking with this blog. And, as my wargaming chum Mike Whitaker once memorably recommended in his blog, I’ve stayed “on the bus”.

So here’s what I’ve been up to recently.

I’ve placed the Tirailleurs Sénégalais on the back burner for the time being. They’ll be back, possibly this autumn. A brief hiatus, but nothing more. Coming back to a “large” (also known as “over-bloated”) project can be daunting and intimidating. One of the things I found coming back to the hobby was that a large half-finished project doesn't encourage you to get started again. The very size of what’s remaining is a disincentive. It’s like being constantly reminded of your failure to complete something.

So, I’ve opted for something much smaller. I’ve managed to paint and finish a small group of German trench sentries and some tempting targets for British trench raiders to try and capture. Nothing remarkable, but the Brigade Games and 1st Corps sculpts were fun to paint and, above all, they were something achievable.

I found having just a handful of figures to paint was reassuring. I could feel I was “getting somewhere”, even speeding up a couple of times to get the first figure done.

I’ve vague plans for the next set of figures to paint. And, probably on the same basis, a handful of Great War Miniatures highlanders look manageable.

As well as painting, we’ve been play-testing TooFatLardies’ new supplement for “Chain of Command”, entitled “Fighting Season” at the St. Albans wargames club. This supplement recreates fighting in modern-day Afghanistan. It’s early days, but Richard Clarke has posted some very thoughtful material on his blog, “Lard Island News”, addressing some of the ethical issues with wargaming this conflict. He’s been joined by some excellent blogging by both Benito and Mike on their own blogs, Gaming with TooFatLardies and Mad Padre Wargames.

Here are some photos of the play-test games.

The next edition of Wargames Bloggers Quarterly is also out – available here. WBQ4 like its previous three issues is a great combination of fine writing and wonderful photographs. Huge congratulations to everyone who worked on it. WBQ4 is an excellent addition to the stable of hobby magazines, all the more so as a free and entirely volunteer driven publication.

And, finally, I did make the trip to Salute this year. I also took the time to hook up with other Bloggers at the meet-up. I’ve been remiss in posting photos of the day, but I hope the photos below make up for that (including Michael's spectacular "Stockholm 1392" game). It was great seeing you all there!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

WBQ3 - Wargame Bloggers Quarterly - is published

The other piece of good new is that the third edition of Wargame Bloggers Quarterly is now available, free of charge.

You can pick up your issue HERE

And yes, the editor for this issue, the super-talented PK, very kindly has featured my "Operation Gericht" game from Partizan in the Park last June, with the photo from the Germans' flammenwerfer attack in the second game making the cover.

I was very grateful for this honour, and it came as a complete surprise when I found out.  As I mentioned before, all of the four Operation Gericht games we played last year, at both Partizan and Evesham, were great fun and huge thanks go again to everyone who took part in wonderful spirit.

I promise to get around to posting the backgrounds and scenarios to the "Operation Gericht" game here shortly.

As for Wargame Bloggers Quarterly, I've taken the reins as editor for the next issue, number 4.  The first three issues will be a very hard act to follow.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Painting Challenge 2015: French Soixante-Quinze and Trench Raiders

It's taken me quite a while to get started with this year's Painting Challenge, hosted by Curt Campbell over at his splendid blog "Analogue Hobbies".  Nothing but the usual excuses, I'm relieved to say - general family stuff, work, winter colds - although my daughter's swimming routine which starts at 5am every Friday morning is pretty much wiping out Thursday evenings for me.

So, in brief, these chaps have been much delayed making it here on to the blog.  Which is a shame, as they were fun to do.  First up, there's two French 75mm artillery pieces from 1917, with 28mm Brigade Games late war French crews.  The guns are made by Great War Miniatures and fit together very easily.  The guns can be mixed very well with the Brigade crews.

Also, I wanted to paint up a small force of French Trench Raiders from the First World War.  I really struggled to find any detailed information about French raiding, although I found enough to be able to tell that it certainly happened.  Without photos, it was a bit difficult to recreate that these chaps might have been equipped with.  I therefore too the easy route for figures, converting some Musketeer Miniatures British trench raiders, and some Brigade Games French officers, with the addition of Woodbine Miniatures heads.  I have a vague plan to do some trench raiding later this year as a fill-in game at the club, with the French and German raiders mutually looting each others' trenches and amassing all kinds of interesting loot.  Possibly not the most serious of games, but certainly fun nevertheless!

The next figure is the first test figure for the Tirailleur Senegalais.  I tried a few times to get the figures skin tone right, and what you see here is the result of some experimentation.  I also wanted to try and ensure that the tone can be achieved with simple Vallejo Model Colour paints, so that it should be easy to replicate for me, and for you!

I'd like to post the paint formula for the skin tone for the Tirailleur Senegalais, and also the Tiralleur Marocains I did last year, on the blog in the next few weeks.  I just want to paint a few more figures before posting anything - which, conveniently, gives me a chance to ask you what you think.  Does the skin tone look OK?

The figure is one of the very nice Old Glory 28mm French casualties, with a Woodbine Miniatures head-swap.  The black port on the base is to fit a casualty or "shock" dice into.  Grassy tufts from Silfor.  There are 80 of the Tirailleurs to get through, all of which I have converted (and yes, my fingers have almost recovered).  Fortunately, I think the uniform colour - a kind of khaki/mustard/ochre dye tone - seems to be a lot easier to get the hang of than Horizon Bleu. Again, any comments welcomed!

I couldn't resist a photo of the French Soixante-Quinze side by side, with both intact and destroyed guns.  I tried to get the ground work consistent, with suitably autumnal leaves and more grassy tufts across all of the bases. 

Next up, hopefully some more painting for the Tirailleurs - I've a couple of infantry sections and a Hotchkiss machine gun I'm working on - plus a couple of other things, including the latest edition of Wargame Bloggers Quarterly, which is just about ready to roll off the presses!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Rangeworthy Heights: January 1900 - Second Boer War AAR

Happy New Year!

It’s been a while! My blogging, and painting, has rather fallen off a cliff since November, but I’m hoping to get on track during the start of the New Year. Although I am still painting figures (in a slow and disjointed fashion), I thought it might be more fun to start out with a couple of AARs featuring the forthcoming new Boer War rules from TooFatLardies.

You may remember we used these for several playtests a few years back. We took a break from working on them, but Richard Clarke has placed them back on the front of the line for completion later this year.

Called “A Mere Question of Pluck”, they simulate the field actions of the Second Boer War. They have both a “tactical”, and a “grand tactical” mode, and represent brigade actions and upwards. As such, they are perfect for the various battles of the War, such as Colenso, Talana Hill, and Spion Kop (among others). Our figures are 6mm, produced by Pete Berry at Baccus 6mm. We think they look excellent on the table, and have the major benefit of being easy to paint.

The battle we fought last night was the action on the 19th of January 1900, on the Rangeworthy Heights to the south west of Ladysmith in the colony of Natal. We played this action before, in the “tactical” scale of the rules in 2011. Rich produced a report on his blog HERE

Last night’s game was using the “grand tactical” scale of the rules.

The table for the game we used last night was 6’ x 5’. The game took 3 hours and 45 minutes. Rather than produce a “they moved, then we moved, then they moved and fired” report, I’ve placed the main actions of the game as captions to the pictures below. I hope they are easy to follow, but please let me know in the comments if you prefer something else.

I thought it might be useful to try and gather a couple of the themes from the game:

  • We played through the game in just under four hours.  This was a large game, but easilt fitted into an evening's play.  We placed the British under a time clock - they had to achieve their objectives by 6pm (in game time), after starting the deployment at 8am.  
  • Time constraints focus the players. The time clock we used (christened by Rich as being "Tick, Tock, Dong") is wonderfully simple, but speeds up game as it progresses.  The "clock" is actually 6 cards, held in a separate deck.  One "Dong" and five "Tick Tocks".  At the end of each turn, a single card is drawn.  If the card is "Tick, Tock", the hour (in game time) does not advance.  If the card drawn is "Dong", the hour does advance (8am...9am....and so on).  On a "Tick Tock" being drawn, it is removed from the Clock deck permanently.  The result is that there are multiple times at the start of the game when time seems to be moving slowly - essentially, being when "Tick, Tock" cards are being drawn at the end of each game turn.  However, once the "Tick Tock" cards are used up, time moves very quickly indeed.  A wonderfully simple device for propelling time faster towards the end of the game - precisely when the British want, and need, more time to complete their objectives.
  • Boer vedettes - memorably described by Rich as "scruffy blokes smelling of horse p*ss with a rifle" - are as entrancing to the British players as a hypnotist's pendulum.  They inflict shock (only) but can harass, fragment and dislocate a smooth British advance.  Dealing with them slows the British players' advance, but ignoring them is nearly impossible - as was the case historically.  All British players, so far, have struggled to deal with them effectively (including me).
  • British artillery is a battle winner.  Correctly deployed and commanded, it is devastating.  However, the command structure of the guns, requiring draws of a "Staff Card" is (as historically) cumbersome unless the British commander remains with the guns.  Command choices such as these are critical to British success.
  • Commanding the Boers requires sure-footed thinking, and good anticipation.  Once deployed, they are costly to move and/ or redeploy.  They can be tough, but they are not regulars.  They can trade land and positions for time, but eventually they have to stand and fight.
It'll be fun to see how these themes develop as other groups of playtesters worldwide enjoy the rules.  
Head over to the TooFatLardies forum for more details if you're interested in playtesting.  The best post for that can be found HERE.

Also, you may well be very interested in Rich's report on this very same game, which is available at the Lard Island blog HERE and was posted within minutes of this post.


Next up, (finally) contributions from me for the Painting Challenge! (after posting on the Painting Challenge blog site in a day or so).
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