Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Wild Geese.

 I think its fair to say that I have a soft spot for the exiled 'Wild Geese' who fought for the French after the overthrow of James the Second. Couple that with me attending and hopefully participating at Partizan in 2015 I have felt the need to paint up the said Wild Geese.
 This is the regiment Dillon part of the brigade. I am now painting my way through the Clare regiment, and judging from how things are going I wouldnt be surprised if I didnt do another of the regiments. It actually reads like I have no choice, which just shows you how strange wargamers can be.
 The figures are from the wonderful Crann Tara range by Graham Cummings who commissioned this figure for his Jacobite Wars. I can honestly say this was one of the nicest figures that I have painted, a real joy actually.
 Preparing for a public display has always given be encouragement to paint, and when Graham came up with the idea of Partizan, it gave me a right kick up the bum. So needing [not really] more French I thought why not do some Irish. Of course there would then be a need for Fitzjames Horse to go with the Wild Geese. It looks like its redcoats for the next couple of months.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The empty Throne.

Yesterday I took a day off work, originally it was to allow me to prepare for a night on the drink and to attend a Paolo Nutini concert in Newcastle.
 Anyway by chance I discovered that Bernard Cornwell was doing a talk at the Harrogate Historical Book Fair, so I decided to get up early and drive down there for 09.00.
 Naturally the talk would be mainly about the release of his two latest books, Waterloo and The Empty Throne.                                   The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate was mobbed by 09.00, and why would it not,considering how successful an author Bernard Cornwell is.
   I must admit I did enjoy the hour long talk, which covered not only some anecdotes from his early life as an adopted child, through his time in Northern Ireland during the troubles up until the current times. Mr Cornwell is a very good raconteur both verbally and with the written word.
 There was a Q.A session which was also interesting. My question regarding the Starbuck series was answered clearly and with no messing. There will be no more books in that series, purely because he cant face starting more research and because he recognises he is getting old. Mr Cornwell is 70.
 He has started the next part of the Alfred series and envisaged a series of 12 books in total.
 He also intends to write one more Sharpe book, going back to the late campaign in Spain circa 1813-1814.
He also talked of the BBC2 series that has started filming based on the Alfred series, and how he had no intention of reading the scripts or being on plot because he didnt want to spoil the whole event.
I cant wait for this series even though the director is the same guy that had done the Tudor series.
  During the early part of his talk he mentioned about the historical research he had to do regarding his books, and the realisation that he could not write a story and guarantee that it would be totally accurate. This was borne out by some helpful soul e mailing him to point out in the Arthur series that there were no Snowdrops in the Dark Age period! [I bet that person was a wargamer]
 Similarly during the question and answer session a voice piped up from the back with a question/observation regarding the Alfred series where Uthred nearly captured back his castle.
The questioner in a rather indignant voice wanted to know how Uthred had intended to gain entry through the inner gate of the castle, when he had no means of entry. Mr Cornwell carefully explained, and I must admit I was impressed with the authors depth of knowledge regarding his books that            Uthred knew the inner gate was never locked when he had bluffed his way through the outer gate, and would have succeed, if not for the guard dogs. One nil to the author.
 The incident took me back to a show many years ago where John and I were displaying the Battle Of Austerlitz in 6mm.
 We had made all the terrain especially for the game,painted up every unit that we knew had been there, and I had even been able to get made all the Russians in bicornes and early shakos. We even had our own lighting and a video playing of the battle, I dont think I could have done anymore.
 Until a skinny disheveled person piped up, ''I say I dont think there was any swans on the lakes behind the Pratzen Heights!'' Well of course he was correct in that the lakes were famously frozen over, but me being the anal wargamer I was then, thought that the swans may add some interest to the table for none wargaming persons, really a bit of artistic licence. It just shows you cant please everyone all the time.
  I still see that guy at various shows, and he is still the same knacker he was back then.
 Anyway I digress. So I got my Waterloo signed by Bernard Cornwell, shook his hand and thanked him for the pleasure he had given me. I would recommend that if he is in anyone's area giving a talk, go and see him, he was well worth the £11.00

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Stand To, Shildon County Durham.

 Its a very brave person who decides to hold a new wargames show in the United Kingdom. One will be competing against a lot of shows that have become established and a lot of traders who tend to pick and choose their shows carefully to save on costs etc. Anyway the Wear Valley Wargamers are to be applauded in attempting to drum up wargaming support in my county, hence John and I attended Stand To at the Locomotion Railway Museum to stage a game.

[ Caption] The actual train used in the Railway Children, NB Jenny Agutter's hat on the front of the train] I was disappointed that she wasnt there, draped across the front.
 The show was never going to be a major event, but if it helps get ordinary non wargaming people interested then more power to the show. I sometimes forget when I am in my wargaming bubble, just  how popular trains are with the public, especially children. As a result there were a decent amount of families coming through the doors to be confronted by five games, and twenty wargames traders.
 And to be fair, it seemed to work. Certainly there seemed to be a lot of fathers and their sons, [aged 8-15] [not the fathers] who wanted to find out a bit more about wargaming.  Better was the fact that World War Two is of interest to the children through school projects so the children knew something of what was going on.
 Entrance is free to the museum, and what better way to spend a few hours in a train museum and then stare at some burned out men playing with toy soldiers. I honestly think it worked, and the venue seemed perfect for this type of event. I dont know if the traders had to pay anything for a stall, but hopefully it was just a token amount as it was always going to be difficult to make a sale to the non wargaming public. Saying that I saw one trader who I have never seen before with some fantastic scaled and painted World War Two aeroplanes that seemed to be doing well.He also had some beautiul 20mmm painted dicast tanks that were perfect to use on a wargames table.

 I thought it was a good time to air my 15mm desert war units, and John suggested using the Blitzkrieg Commander rules to make it easier to play. [that was for my benefit]
 Loving losers I wanted to use my 1941 Italian army, and as usual they didnt disappoint. Saying that I achieved a record 11 blunder throws! which scuppered any chance they had. [Thats 11 double sixes by the way in the command phase]

 The gents from Westerhope Northumberland kindly made the trek south, and put on their wonderful cut price wargame for the benefit of the public [ and me]
 Here's Brian showing off the result of his 5 and 2 diet. I apparently was very rude about him in an earlier post. So I can only apologise for that, he was a very good sport by the way.
 I would like this bombard, purchased from the Pound Shop and included in a large bag of soldiers.
 The men from the Westerhope group looking quite intimidating, they're actually pussycats really, with my favourite game of the year.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Stadden Grenadiers.

 These chaps have been gathering dust for over two years. My wife kindly bought them for me as a Christmas present. After that they just sat in a box with other piles of metal. I would like to thank Graham Cummings of Crann Tara fame for give me a necessary kick up the a##e, when he came up with the idea of putting on a SYW game at Partizan.
 These Stadden figures have been around a lot of years, but they are still up there with the best.
 Anyway I have completed them, which is great, all I need now, as you will have realised is the standards. Normally I wouldnt take any photographs until the unit is finished, but I know I may have to wait awhile for the standards. I am just pleased that they are painted. Of course I will now have to add a couple of Saxon regular units to the contingent. Starting with the Von Bruhl Dragoons.

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.

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