Tuesday, 23 September 2014

In Answer to Staying Alive, PART TWO.

I have had to split my post into two, to comment on Barry Hilton's latest article. Barry goes onto the thorny question of shows. Now again I've prattled on about this before, and I agree with Barry in the main.
 He touches on Salute calling it a one day frenzy, which it is. The problem is where it is held, London.
Now I wont dwell on my views that London is not England, but it is a very expensive place to hold an event, hence Salute being one day.
 But really Salute should be a full weekend end affair, Friday to Sunday evening. I defy anyone to appreciate what is actually going on at Salute in the time they have there, its just too much.
 Its easy for me to suggest a weekender sat up in the North East, but gents it perhaps time to rethink the show. It cannot get any bigger and remain a one day affair.
 The answer is move. I know the club is a London club, but perhaps considering a move into the outskirts of London may bring down the overheads and also allow you to get cheap rates on hotels around a new venue.
 Are there too many shows? Probably, will this change? Not anytime soon.
 Ideally five or six large shows throughout Great Britain over at least two days would work, but there would be problems. The small one man traders would or could be frozen out by bigger traders, the people organising the events could be a bunch of knackers and mess up the event, the shows could just turn into bigger versions of the shows they are meant to replace.
I have bored on before about, the need for wargames shows to have more than just trade and the odd game. So what would make the event a better prospect?
 Again everyone has a different idea about what makes a good show. For me, its good quality games that inspire. Its a decent spread of trade. Its having easy access, good cheap parking, and decent reasonable priced food. But also its the opportunity to just sit and talk to other wargamers from around the country.
 I sometimes think I behave like the nutter on the bus, I will talk to anyone, and usually do. But what could be better than talking about the hobby you love. So ideally there needs to be time to do this, which in my view means staying overnight in the venue or near the venue.
 Therefore cheap lodging would be a must.
 Some guest speakers would be a real treat, and I dont mean just wargamers, although that would be good.
 What about historical fictional  authors such as  Bernard Cornwell. Probably not cheap, but it would be worth a go. Remember next year is Waterloo year, what better than have Cornwell deliver a talk about his book.
 Then there would be a need for competition, and again not just tournaments. A decent painting competition, a judging of the best games, and why not an award for the most affable/professional trader [ now theres a one to conjure with]
 As regards Barry's views about manufacturers Im not certain what he sees can be done. Every trader and figure maker is looking for the next fad, period etc. If one appears to be selling it is logical that other firms will attempt to tap into the success, that is life.
 In wargaming the trend for wargamers to finance their own small ranges seems a great thing. If bigger companies want to replicate the trend and produce a bigger version of a range, what is the harm.
 How many figure companies have made their version of the French Imperial Guard Grenadier?
 and still wargamers buy them. So for me I dont see a problem there.
 As regards personal hygiene, well unfortunately that is not only a problem with wargamers, although there does seem to be quite a group of wargamers who really need to take a bath.
 Usually it seems to be men of a certain girth, style of dress and frankly look. In some ways I pity them, I always have a mental image of them returning to their homes after a show, and their mother waiting to make their teas and ask them if they had met any nice girls at the toy fair
[ as if that is ever  going to happen smelling like a pair of used underpants and pushing toys around a table]
 Anyway, as for the verbal violence, I think I have only had one or two experiences of this type of gamer, and even they were pretty ineffectual, anyway sensible argument and debate is a good thing.
 So here endeth the lesson, not that I think I have taught anyone anything, well apart from, 'SOAP is CHEAP......    



In Answer to Staying Alive, PART ONE.

Before I go off on one, the photographs are from the wonderful new Cran Tara range, well the fusilier is. A great range in the making and at a very good price. Give them a go, you wont be disappointed.
 Right onto other matters;
I finally got around to reading the latest Miniature Wargames magazine [which didnt take very long] and paid particular attention to Barry Hilton's article Staying Alive. Andy of Old Glory fame had posted earlier last week about the article, and kindly mentioned that I had been posting about most of what Barry was writing about. Its a bit disconcerting that every time I think Ive had an original thought I find at least ten other people think the same. I suppose that's because I am the typical average man in the street in most respects.
 Anyway I digress. Barry writes about the state of the hobby and his concerns for the future. Well Ive thought a lot about this, perhaps too much really, especially as I cant see me leading the wargaming public into the next century or whatever. Regarding the question of young blood which Barry started with, this is a concern for most wargamers I think.
Hell who is going to get my collections when I shift this mortal coil? There are many problems regarding the lack of youngblood coming into what is essentially a niche hobby.
Firstly its a hobby, so its not cool for a lot of young people.
Secondly there is the question of education and I mean at school. I dont know what is taught in British schools anymore. I get the impression that our wonderful history and achievements are underplayed, probably as being too imperialistic. I know there seems to be a fixation with the damned Tudors, and the Second World War, where we fought the Nazis [ notice its no longer the Germans] Hardly a good grounding for a wargamer.  If there is one king who should have been shot at birth it is Henry Viii, what a disgusting individual he was, and what a mess he left our country.
 Thirdly is the basic interaction of young people playing board games with other people. I can still remember playing Diplomacy with other school friends, and  wishing that we had real armies to carry out the action parts of the game. And then of course there was the fact that we had parents and relations that had actually been to war and experienced the fear etc. There was nothing wrong then as we played Japs and English [ stand by for someone taking offence at the word Japs!]
  Our comics were awash with violence and heroism, and boy did I love reading the magazines. Its never going to happen nowadays, I can see Mumsnet now [ and of course that twat Vine] .
  Fourthly is the fear of being classed as [strange or worse] by actually engaging with young people, and encouraging them to attend clubs to wargame. This is clearly a problem now that such clubs need character checks etc. God help any genuine Scout Master.
 I know a lot of clubs have introduced age limits to get around the need for the CRB checks.
So discounting the negatives, what are the positives. Well I think children are still interested in all things military and if given the chance history.
Also there is still Games Workshop. I know a lot of kids pass through the Games Workshop phase, which can lead to greater things.Although as that company tears itself apart in the pursuit of profits, I think their influence is going to be less and less.
 Through the internet, there is greater access to blogs, etc which if they are interesting enough would perhaps capture some would be junior wargamer as they trawl the net looking for porn.
 By the virtue of actually being grey, we wargamers now have grandchildren. Well use this asset, engage with them. After I saw the Westerhope display at Newcastle, of cheap plastic soldiers, a little light came on. What a great way to engage young children in a war GAME. Simple rules, a simple but fun scenario, big figures that can be dropped and knocked over, what a great way to spark a child's imagination. From little acorns and all that.
 Which leads me on to where I was at odds with Barry. A central governance as Barry termed it.
 In this age of rules and more rules I am set against this idea. Bearing in mind I have enforced the law for well over 30 years, I know that more laws do not necessarily make for a safer society, similarly a central committee with rules does not guarantee a healthier wargames hobby.
 What I have seen of certain wargamers who have attempted to create such bodies at club and national level,  I wouldn't let them near my hobby. Years ago WRG looked like they were heading for wargaming domination, with all their tournaments, rules etc [ funny enough that was why John and I formed the Independent wargames group] and we all know what happened to them [thats WRG ].
A marginalised, forgotten group.
 There was the World Federation? and other well intentioned attempts to create one voice. It was never going to happen in Britain. I know the USA have attempted this feat, but there seems to always be a lot of discord if one reads the letters pages of various magazines of old. The beauty of wargaming is that most people have a different idea of what they want, how they achieve it and basically a different view on the history they enact.
   I can see why Barry would want a central organisation and logically it makes some sense, but being a Scot I thought he would have held the opposite view, of less control. But what do I know.  Perhaps its time for a conference of wargamers,to sit down and debate the future and the need for an organisation. A pound to a penny however that it would end in tears if not real violence.
We are a pretty diverse group, and actually I'm proud of that.
  Who else would play with toy soldiers,and risk ridicule and sometimes even disgust for daring to do so.
 Lets just celebrate our differences and instead talk more to each other, invite other groups,clubs and wargamers to play a game, interact at more shows and generally put ourselves about a bit more. Insularity is the one thing that will kill this hobby dead.  

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Favourite wargames poses.

Graham Cummings, of Cran Tara Fame, has been asking for suggestions of poses for his range of figures for the French Guard at Fontenoy. He wants to commission some different types of pose that I think will give move life to the unit, I may be wrong in this, but I think Graham is looking to have a unit that tells a story.
 The most famous images of the French Guard at Fontenoy is the one that graced the cover of the late Charles Grants book, Fontenoy, which is a wargaming classic.
 I think the poses in this painting would be perfect for a wargaming unit. The officer lining up his men, the NCO, standing at attention watching for any wavering fusiliers,the guardsmen, standing with musket at high porte, what a cracking unit this would make if Graham can get the painting replicated.
 I have just finished reading a biography of Maurice de Saxe, who obviously commanded the French at Fontenoy, and one of the things that he would have liked to have done away with, was the French armies tradition up until that time, of allowing the enemy to fire their muskets first, to disconcert the enemy by the French soldiers sang froid!
  Apparently the thinking was that the steadiness of the French soldiers acceptance of causalities would show the enemy what they were facing and disconcert them?
 Unfortunately at Fontenoy, the volley from the English guardsmen wiped out the front ranks of the French Guard, and allowed the survivors to take the sensible option of legging it.
 The other practice that Maurice wanted to do away with, was the tradition of the French officers standing in front of the ranks,facing the enemy, God help you if you were hated by your own men, never mind the English Army. Anyway, I hope Graham reads this post, and takes up my suggestion, and rewards me with a buckshee unit of the Guard for the idea. One can dream.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Border Reivers 2014

Well today was the Border Reivers Show at the Gateshead Stadium.
The venue is better than the Newcastle Arena venue which suffered from shit lighting and because it was based in the main foyer, the show also suffered from an impersonal feel to it.
 Gateshead is better, but not ideal. But then not many shows have really good venues. I like the York venue, but I know other wargamers don't. I also like the Derby venue, but again there was complaints about the noise and also the building.
I will come back to the venue malarkey in a moment.
Anyway, Border Reivers. Its nice to be able to actually have a show to go to, but like buses they come along in two's.Tomorrow is Partizan at Newark.
  No doubt there will be some nice games at that show, with some wonderful figures painted up to a great standard. Reivers certainly was not  up to that standard, but I still enjoyed the show, and in particular I was very impressed and inspired by the Westerhope Wargames Group, '£60 Wargame'.
 The idea was simple, but like most things simplistic it worked very well.
Basically buy loads of large plastic figures and accessories from Poundland, Poundstretcher and the like, give them a quick paint job and away you go.
 The game was a medieval one, with working catapults, siege towers, a castle and lots of figures all for £60.00!
 The terrain was plastic grass, and away you go. My grandson is only three, but what I saw from Westerhope got me wanting to copy the ideas and put on a game for him.Well done gents, a great game and a great idea. I would love to see this featured in Wargames Illustrated!
[I dont think thats going to happen somehow] Talking to Charlie Wesencraft, he was really impressed by the game, and was envious of the set up. Now that's a complement.

  I had a good look at Graham Cummings Crann Tara range for the Jacobite wars. This is a great range, which I know will grow quickly. I treated myself to a regiment of Irish Piquets, standing in reserve. I know I dont need them, but they were just too well sculpted to not buy. I have already started undercoating the figures. I also got some Seven Years War wounded figures from my old workmate Stu at Colonel Bill's, again these are wonderful figures, which are seated looking knackered, so I had to buy a cart to go with them.It will make a nice diorama. I also found a small biography of Marshal Villars, of Blenheim fame. It looked an interesting purchase. So with more paint, that I really dont need, more paint brushes and the figures,I had a fruitful few hours.  

 I loved the figure of the king, with his faithful hound.

  Members of the Westerhope group, looking pensive.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Like giving birth to an elephant!

This unit has been a longtime in the painting. I originally bought this unit from the author Iain Gale at least a couple of years ago. The unit was painted but was too small for my normal regiments, so after buying some extra figures, it just sat in a box gathering dust.
 Anyway after some cogitating I decided to paint it up and complete the unit. The trouble was I ended up virtually repainting the figures to fit in with the rest of my army. I have finally completed it and for some reason it proved a difficult set of figures to paint. I'm not certain why, as normally I enjoy painting Willie figures.
 I hope to take this unit along to Partizan 2015 in May with my small contingent of troops for the AMG game. I did cheat a bit I'm afraid as it doesn't contain the customary 36 figures. I later realised that I also have a half painted Minden Miniatures regiment that I have painted in the same facings, sat in a box somewhere. I cant decide what Im going to do about that though.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Blenheim,the refight.

Well I have returned from my break in Cleethorpes/Grimsby where I took part in the Grimsby Wargames Club re fight of the battle of Blenheim, done in 28mm!
Firstly I would again like to thank Paul Robinson for his immense efforts in staging this re fight. I know how much effort normally goes into such things, but Paul exceeded this by not only painting extra figures [all done beautifully  I may add] but also laying on additional personal scenarios for each player in the battle, entertaining us the night before, and generally being a perfect host.
 Secondly I would like to thank all the Grimsby club members who either took part in the refight or acted as umpires. The whole set up was an absolute pleasure.
 An additional observation was regarding the actual wargames club itself. I dont think there can be that many wargames clubs who actually own their own clubhouse, and I mean a bone fide brick building.
 The setup is probably the model of how a wargames club should work.
 I think its fair to say that I have come back re invigorated as regards wargaming in general and inspired about staging or participating in a historic refight.
 What better way to spend a couple of days than talking about wargaming and then playing in a lovely looking battle.
 I hope Paul will be writing an article of all his efforts, so I wont dwell too much on the detail of the battle, other than to say the allies won [ narrowly] and John Churchill [Me] enhanced the wargaming world with his tactical nous, although my dice throwing still causes me pain.
 Anyway I have taken a few photographs of the event, which I hope can do the battle some justice.

The original allied set up facing towards Blindheim.

Some of the extra figures painted up by Paul for the game. As per the wargame rules, the newly painted unit in the white [Spanish I think] did bugger all and routed at the first opportunity.
 Obergalu Village.

                                                                                                 Blindheim Village

These Austrian cuirassiers while looking the business, flattered to deceive and failed badly in the fight around Oberglau village.
 The next three photographs dont really do justice to the painting standard of the figures. I hoped that I would be able to sneak them off the table but I failed. They were all painted by Andy of the Grimsby club.

My troops in the centre, lead by Charles and John Churchill showing how it should be done. In reality I spent a lot of time scampering back over the fascine causeway as the French turned my troops back. 

The French Musketeers attempting to hold up [and succeeding] in holding up my pursuit of the routing French Guard who are at the edge of the table doing what they do best, running away.
 The French reserve brought on by Tallard,

 A great game and a great weekend.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Did they deserve the title' Great?'

I was re reading the latest Wargames Illustrated last night, and after reading Barry Hilton's article Personality Crisis I got to thinking as one is prone to do about history's treatment of certain of the 'great' war leaders.
 Now I know Barry, and we always say hello when I see him at various shows, in fact I always seem to come away with a feeling of inadequacy when I have seen some of his wonderful games.
 However, I do think he has it in for John Churchill. I am currently reading Winston Churchill's biography on his great relation and I know it may be a little biased, but to be fair Sir Winston does try to show both sides of the argument about the Duke of Marlborough.
 Barry blithely describes Marlborough as 'dropping his old drinking buddy'. Now I know Barry is just playing a bit of devils advocate, but reading about all the problems Marlborough faced during his tenure in charge of the Dutch/ Imperial forces and what he was able to achieve in spite of these issues, I think it could be argued John Churchill deserved the title 'Great', not that it would have gone down too well at home.
 Now the famous Greats, I think deserve to be looked at more closely. Frederick the Great in my eyes, and it is a personal view, was a little s@@t,, but of course Frederick the S''T doesn't have the same cachet.
 The one description that I feel sums Frederick up, was when he was applauding and laughing at some of his grenadiers beating up a Silesian peasant in order to get information.
 This is the man that legged it at Mollwitz at the first sign of defeat. Personally I think the Prussian rank and file carried Frederick to his title of 'Great', not that they received any thanks, after the war.
 As this is only a post I am unable to really elaborate on this point of view.
 This leads me on onto that giant of the battlefield Charles Xii of Sweden. In my eyes, he comes across as a complete inadequate. Again his army was a superb tool, and I think even Augustus the Strong of Saxony could have led it to victory.
 I am always suspicious of people who turn down the offer of a good time from a beautiful woman, in this case the mother of Marshal de Saxe, and instead leg it out of the door, only returning when the Countess Kongismark had rode away. I think his encouragement to hanging women and children in Poland in an effort to get supplies out of them shows the real stature of the man.
 I cannot argue with his bravery, or should that be recklessness but his legacy was to ruin Sweden.
No wonder that there is a strong suspicion that an assassin actually shot him through the head, to relieve everyone's misery.
 And then of course there is Alexander the Great, who I have alluded to in a previous post. The army that he inherited from his father Philip was far superior to any other army at that time. Quality and high morale will always beat numbers and poor morale.
 Alexander believed too much in his own immortality and not enough in what he was trying to achieve.
 His successor generals showed a far higher standard of tactical skill in their wars and most had a clear strategic goal. If greatness means having Colin Farrell play you in that dreadful film, then you can keep greatness.
 So where is this leading one may ask, well being a sad male I like lists, and I think it would be an interesting experiment to compile a list of commanders that deserved the title great, but never received the plaudit. For me it would have to be Marshal Davout who far outshone the rest of the marshalate and it can be argued that even Napoleon was envious of.
 The period when he commanded the third corps in Prussia and Russia showed the stamp of the man, and yes I know his troops were of a very high standard, but it was Davout that oversaw the training of them. I know its all subjective but greatness should be grasped and fought for, being able to write French poetry and playing a violin hardly constitutes greatness.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating