Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas !

Just a quick post to say a very Merry Christmas to everyone following, commenting, reading or just visiting this blog over the year.  I hope you and your families all have a fantastic Christmas Day tomorrow.  Thank you all so very much for your company, conversation and inspiration in 2012.

After a frantic Christmas Eve with the family, I’m looking forward to sitting down and doing some painting for Curt’s Analogue Hobbies Challenge – this was the marshaling of my first batch of poilu, plus some suitably French inspiration, a couple of days ago!  Joyeux Noël mes amis!!

Thursday 20 December 2012

And so it begins …

And so the 3rd Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge has begun.  This wonderful competition promoting blogging and miniature painting around the world started very early this morning in Canada at 12:01am.  Being at work at that precise time in a very rainy London I’ve not yet got near a paint brush, but all that will hopefully change this evening.

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of blog posts, I’m hoping to paint up just over a hundred 28mm French Poilu from Scarab Miniatures as part of a Verdun project I’ve been planning for a year or so.  I've also decided to make the Challenge an occasion for some blog posts relating to the various offensives around Verdun in 1916 and 1917.  Hopefully, in the New Year, once I’ve got some figures painted and varnished, I’ll be blogging some wargames battle-reports focused on Verdun scenarios.

Alongside this, I’m planning to post half a dozen Verdun-themed books reviews (starting with the very interesting “The Road to Verdun” by Ian Ousby, which I’ve just finished), a boardgame review (Roger Nord’s “Verdun: A Generation Lost” from ATO), a couple of Verdun scenarios for “Through the Mud and the Blood” and a couple of other surprises.  There you go, see how I’ve sneakily covered myself in case I don’t get around to those surprises!

It’s a long time since I’ve felt as excited about a painting project as this. The thought that all the painting needs to be done to be eligible for the Challenge by 20th March 2013 is going to be a great motivator. Although of course, in the greatest of French traditions, expect insouciance and laissez faire and even the occasional Gallic shrug from me at certain times during the painting frenzy!

I’ve also changed the look of the blog slightly to reflect the project in hand. The background shows French deployments in the battle to retake the Hauts de Meuse in August 1917. I’ve changed the image of the German command group to show some Stosstruppen (which seems more Verdun-themed), although hopefully I’ll have a new banner of grizzled Poilu as the banner image very shortly.

Until then mes braves!!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Stosstrupptaktik – The Missing Map

As I mentioned in one of the comments on this Blog last night, the map for “Stosstrupptaktik”, the pre-game which accompanies my article “SturmAbteilung Vor!” in the TooFatLardies “Christmas Special”, went walk-about from the final version which was published.

I have no idea how this happened.  I’d done the map weeks ago (it was one of the first things to be finished).  Richard had done a splendid version for the magazine.  And yuletime gremlins had removed it.

Mea culpa, mes braves.

Anyway, here’s the map (my original) in both .jpg format and with a PDF in the right hand “Playtesting Scenarios, Campaign Diaries and Play-Aids” section.  It’s nothing very grand, but I hope that makes the pre-game in the magazine make sense now!

Monday 17 December 2012

SturmAbteilung Vor!

You wait all year for a project to be finished….and two get done at (almost) the same time! You’ll remember that I was really struggling a few weeks ago to get any closure on a couple of projects.  It felt a little like I was project plate-spinning in a fashion much beloved from British family game shows of the 1970s. In the end, the darkest hour came just before the dawn.  

I managed to finish the ruined Rattenloch last week, and finally got to the end of writing my article “SturmAbteilung Vor!: A set of rule adaptations for using Stumtruppen, Stosstruppen and Ersatzstosstruppen in “Through the Mud and the Blood” for the TooFatLardies “Christmas Special” on Saturday morning.  OK, so it’s not the shortest title ever.  But it hopefully “does what it says on the tin”.  

It took me a while, but I got there in the end.  The "Special" should be available on the TFL website HERE by the time you read this.

In the end, I ended up with three or four times the material I finally put into the article.  I was rushing to leave stuff out, rather than force everything in.  Some sections are a lot briefer than I have wanted, and quite a bit of material about the creation, or fabrication, of the “stormtrooper myth” in the 1920s and 1930s didn’t make the cut.  I felt in a wargaming magazine I should concentrate on the hard facts mostly: organisation, tactics, deployment, military theory and battlefield practice.  Like all great projects, it’s unfinished – but it’s as finished as I could get it in the space Rich and Nick allowed me.

For those interested, here’s the introduction, reproduced by kind permission or Richard and Nick:

If a group of wargamers were each to pick one formation to recreate in miniature out of all of those fighting on the Western Front in the Great War, it would be a safe guess that a sizeable number would choose a formation of German stormtroopers.  And that choice would be hardly surprising.

We think we know about these troops:  the image of their stallhelm and their bread-bags of hand grenades seem as distinctive as their innovative methods of fighting.  We have probably all seen the same photographs, of groups of aggressive, athletic, young men posing for the camera in a rear area, awaiting battle, perhaps a MG08/15 light machine gun at their feet or a MP18 Bergmann sub-machine gun carried proudly at the front of the formation. 

We think we know these troops, and how they should be used in our wargames.  Infiltration.  Aggression.  Storm.  Attack.  Speed.  Surprise.  We see them in our mind’s eye looming, masked, out of a cloud of phosgene gas.  A visceral, near-feral, uniquely Teutonic whirlwind tearing through their opponents.  “This is the New Man.  The storm soldier, the elite of Middle Europe.  A completely new race, cunning, strong and packed with purpose….the axis of the future” wrote Ernst Jünger in 1925.  We think we know all about these men, and their way of warfare.

And then we look closer.  We read further and look at some of the revisionism about the stormtroopers…or is that sturmtruppen … or stosstruppen … or ersatzstosstruppen?  What exactly were these formations?  Were they all the same?  Were they that different from British or French troops? How did they fight, and was it always in the same way? And what happened to them after the Kaiserschlacht, the Götterdämmerung on the Somme?  And perhaps, slowly, we start to see a far darker sub-text, one which unrolls through the early literature regarding stormtroopers in the 1920s and into the nationalistic writings of the 1930s.  We begin to wonder if there is a “Stormtrooper Myth”, or worse, mis-information.”

So, if you’re curious, and you’d like to read more, you now know where to go!

So the desk is just about clear for the next project.....  

Tuesday 11 December 2012

One project ends….another (almost) begins

I finished painting the ruined version of das Rattenloch late last night.  It’s been a journey, I can tell you!  Ruined buildings always seem to take me far longer to finish than their intact equivalents, perhaps by an order of 50%.

I’ve detailed the full progress of the build in Richard Clarke’s and Nick Skinner’s “TooFatLardies Christmas Special 2012”, together with a set of thoughts and guidelines for building ruined terrain.  I thought it was only fair to post a couple of pictures here to see a small snippet of what you’d be getting before you rush out and purchase this fine publication.  Rich has told me that the “Special” should be available by next Monday (17th December) direct from the TooFatLardies site at the very reasonable price of £6.

I should add, dear readers, that I receive not a penny, euro cent or dime for my contribution to the Special.  That’s not a complaint!  But somehow I thought I’d mention it in case I was suspected at diverting people’s hard earned cash into my own pockets.  Perish the thought!!

For long time readers of this Blog, here’s a comparison shot, before the railway-artillery and after (so to speak), of the intact Rattenloch and the ruined version.

So, one project over and another about to begin.  I am talking, of course, about the exciting news that I’m taking part in the Analogue Hobbies 3rd Annual Painting Challenge.  This should be a great deal of fun, and already I feel a bit of a buzz about getting back to painting miniatures after a slightly frustrating autumn of real life work pressures and terrain building in the hobby. 

One of the suggestions this year is that the aspiring competitors paint their figures according to a “Personal Challenge Par”.  I’ve been thinking where my “Par” is likely to land, and which painting project theme I want to follow.   It’s a tricky decision.  I have a few projects on-going at present, but the  Analogue Hobbies 3rd Annual Painting Challenge seems a great opportunity to make a bold statement and try and paint through a whole new collection of figures.

With this in mind, and true to the fantastic spirit of the contest, I’m going to be focusing on ……  cue drum roll …….

 ……. painting up the force of French poilu from Verdun 1916 which I bought from Rob Broom at Scarab Miniatures back in (embarrassingly) December 2009.  These wonderful and characterful sculpts have languished in a cardboard since I bought them from Rob at the Gripping Beast Great war Games day in Evesham in December 2012.  And yes, it is about time I painted these figures and finally worked out how to paint Horizon Bleu!

The Analogue Hobbies 3rd Annual Painting Challenge starts at 12.01am on 20th December – so watch out for updates, folks, although you'll see any new painted miniatures on Curt's Analogue Hobbies blog first by a day or so.

And for those waiting for the Picts to appear – yes, OK, once I’ve done the les Poilu, the Picts are definitely next!

Tuesday 4 December 2012

More work-in-progress shots of the ruined Rattenloch

In an attempt to actually finish things, here’s some work-in-progress shots of the destroyed version of das Rattenloch.  I’ve loved making this ruined bunker from the Siegfried Stellung, the destroyed version of the intact bunker I blogged this summer here.

I don’t want to show too many of the work-in-progress pictures here, as I’ve done a full article for the TooFatLardies Christmas Special setting out some of the thinking behind the building, and wargames buildings generally, as well as some far more colourful photos!

The above photo just shows the undercoating stage of the bunker, after the remaining walls, rebar and damaged wall sections have been finished and glued in place.  I’ve since added some more elaborate rusting rebar,  destroyed communications wiring and some sandbags around the main vantage points.  There’s also a few more touches I’m in the process of adding to try and really bring the model to life.

Here’s a close-up shot of some of the destroyed wall sections, with Milliput concrete effects….

I’ve continued looking for images of destroyed bunkers online.  As you can see below, again with images taken by photographers from the Mannerheim Line in Finland, I’m not at all sure that many bunkers would actually shatter in the way I’ve depicted on the terrain model.  However, I think its reasonably clear that some took a terrific amount of damage and were capable of collapsing.  So, in the end, I’m fairly comfortable I’ve stretched history slightly, but hopefully in a dramatic fashion which adds to the theme of the games I've got planned.

I’m looking forward to getting the final destroyed version of the bunker onto the wargames table around Christmas or New Year and having my clubmates tentatively exploring what may be lurking in the concrete fractured and unstable remains of das Rattenloch in a number of scenarios. I'm hoping to post the scenarios here on the blog when we've played them through, hopefully in January next year.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Dragonmeet 2012 – The Verdict

As I mentioned on Friday, I spent yesterday in Kensington, South London at the Dragonmeet 2012 convention, London’s leading roleplaying and board games convention.   I’d been before a few years ago – my friend Mike who came along as well reminded me there were a couple of times we visited in the early 2000s.  How time flies!
So, how was it this time around?  In a word it was excellent and really inspirational, and not just for the reasons I thought it would be.  By the end of a very full day I was pretty much buzzing with ideas, as you’ll see below.
But first, let me take you through what I really liked about the show and what I saw.

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