Saturday 19 September 2020

So here I am in day two of the latest lock-down although my council claims its not really such but in fact now titled 'restrictions?' Its semantics really because either way it just piles more misery onto ones shoulders.I wont bore or depress any followers with what is happening because no doubt others will be suffering the same. The images are of a couple of some beautiful castings I was kindly given by fellow sufferer Iain Macmillan who very thoughtfully sent me them to cheer me up. They are Les Higgins 30mm figures and to be honest I have hankered after the seated drummer for many a year.

 They may be old but are anatomically correct, a joy to paint and basically damned good figures. On the old Facebook one of my nemesi?? Ian Smith was taking the Michael out of me about all things nostalgic and he has a case in some aspects of the discussion, but these figures show why some old ranges deserve recognition.

After receiving my latest Miniature Wargames edition I was interested in the article by Conrad Kinch re the Waterloo Uncovered Project. This is the same group that staged the giant Battle of Waterloo wargame eons ago [last year]. I enjoyed the weekend and was naturally interested in the appeal that Conrad was making for contributors for their latest project.  

James Cowan is a trustee of Waterloo Uncovered, a charity that supports wounded ex-soldiers come to terms with their conditions through the medium of archaeology.  Every year, the charity conducts a dig at Waterloo and, as well as uncovering new perspectives on the battle, the many soldiers who attend enjoy being part of the project.  In the first few years, the focus was at Hougoumont but recently work has expanded to other parts of the battlefield.

One of the techniques employed by Waterloo Uncovered has been to compare the diorama built by Captain William Siborne with the modern archaeological evidence.  It occurred to James that it would be good to construct a new diorama of the battle in homage to Siborne, but taking advantage of modern scholarship.  While Siborne’s work was pioneering for its time, much has been learnt since.  James had been collecting 20mm figures for many years and had amassed around 40,000 metal and plastic soldiers.  This was quite a large number in its own right but nothing like the numbers needed to replicate the battle at one to one scale.  Given that the French started the battle with 72,000, the Allies had 64,000 and Blucher brought about 40,000 of his Army onto the battlefield, this would require 176,000 figures.  At the rate he was painting (about a 1,000 a year) it would have taken James a mere 136 years to complete the project.  

This harsh reality caused a re-think!  The first thing to do was to cut numbers from one to one, to one to two-thirds and then to write down numbers because of casualties. Once the extremities of the battlefield had been removed, this reduced the requirement to a mere 100,000.  Secondly, he has been able to persuade two other major collectors to join the project and has hopes others will do so as well; thirdly, he has increased production by assembling an army of volunteer painters, each taking on a unit.  James’s father, Edward is an experienced model maker and has taken on the construction of all buildings, producing 1/72 reproductions of Hougoumont, La Haie Sainte, Papelotte, La Belle Alliance and Plancenoit.  

In consequence, the model is growing very rapidly.  The plan is to hold an interim exhibition at the UK’s National Army Museum in June 2021. This is the home of Siborne’s main diorama (a second one is in the Royal Armouries at Leeds).  Given the unfinished nature of the project and given the limited space at the National Army Museum, the plan is to show various sections of the battle, namely Hougoumont, La Haie Sainte, Papelotte, Plancenoit and La Belle Alliance.  In subsequent years, the main French cavalry attack, The Grand Battery, and D’Erlon’s Corps will be added.  Eventually, the full battlefield will be shown on an area about the size of a tennis court, although the actual shape resembles an octagon.

But while progress has increased dramatically, there is still plenty of room for more volunteers.  The attached spreadsheet shows completed units in green and units underway in amber.  We are looking for volunteers to complete any of the units listed in red.    

The diorama consists of a mixture of metal and plastic figures.   Figures are 1/72 or 20mm.  Like all scales, this is a fairly elastic term, varying in height from the smaller Newline (metal) and Airfix (plastic), through to the larger Art Miniaturen (metal) and Zvezda (plastic).  15mm/18mm and 25mm/28mm figures are out of scope.  

Painters are expected to be competent and capable of fine detail, but collector standard is not required in these numbers. When sent in, figures should not be attached to scenery but can be flocked.  The finish should be matt varnished, not gloss. Examples of work completed are in the attached pdf.  

The team are also looking for collectors who have decided that there is no point in their 20mm or 1/72 armies sitting in boxes in the attic  and would like to see their figures displayed in what will be the largest diorama of its kind ever constructed.  Once the work is done, contributors are asked to accept that their figures become part of the diorama and cannot be returned.

So I decided to offer my services. I mean its not like Im doing that much and my social calendar is buggered anyway. It must be well over 40 years sincee I tried to paint 1/72 plastic figures, and most can remember as the paint pinged off the swords of their Airfix figures. So Ive volunteered to collect and paint 350 French line dragoons. It will be an interesting problem, because of the repetition required and no doubt will become a bit of a chore, still its for a good cause and keeps me out of punching some none wearing mask person. 

This chap is my sample figure to understand the issues etc for painting these figures. It is from the Italieri range and they are very nice to be honest if a little delicate.So I only need 18 boxes of them and a couple of jars of green etc. Hopefully I will be able to carry on painting my ancients etc in between all that green paint. 


Monday 7 September 2020

Inclusivity anyone?

 I suppose it was inevitable given the current crazed atmosphere in the western world that some worthy would produce a piece in one of our wargaming magazines regarding, our perception of history, stereotypes and inclusivity.

The piece in question is in issue 110 of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy written by a gentleman called David Hiscocks and titled Challenging Historical Stereotypes. Before I start I will stress I don't know this chap,have no axe to grind against him and he is entitled to holding a viewpoint etc etc, however I do have a few views of my own re the article and why it was written.

 If one reads the article it seems on the face of it a well written piece regarding how its important that our historical wargames are based in fact. I am all for that and despair at the paucity of knowledge that some wargamers show regarding their latest army. 

What I find tedious is the inevitable tick boxing that he displays from his opening paragraph re the ''sheer variety of people of all beliefs?? cultures and backgrounds from all over the World who I have met through this hobby.''


 I know some wargamers from Westerhope near the wilds of Newcastle and they inhabit what I see as an alien culture but apart from them, I havent wargamed with many Buddhists or members of the Hare Krishna group. Inclusivity is one of the stock words that has been imposed upon the world. 

If we aren't inclusive then we are clearly not very nice and must work harder at making certain all peoples and sexual orientation are encouraged to play with toy soldiers, even though the vast majority of the Worlds population really aren't interested in our hobby and frankly wouldnt be seen dead anywhere near the people who inhabit our firmament. Why would they?

 It isn't that we discourage these billions. They simply have better things to do with their time. Admit it, we are part of a niche hobby viewed by outsiders who know of us as a bit 'strange' at the very least and as 'warmongers' as one women wrote about me last year. I actually took that as a complement to be honest by the way. But I have always found wargamers very welcoming, perhaps too welcoming sometimes.A bit like the staff in a Games Workshop shop.

 Apparently David's group have been exploring the issues caused by a reliance on national characteristics in wargames and of playing games based in the context of morally questionable events. They sound a fun group and very worthy but it is many many years since I discussed the infamous concept of National Characteristics. 

Remember Joseph Morshauser and Bruce Quarrie? I possess both authors book's and treasure them, but I remember the arguments re the fighting capabilities of various Napoleonic armies and why Napoleon's Polish allies were better fighters than the poor Spanish in the wargaming press etc and it was very pointless back then. It was only later did one realise that it was all bollocks and that no nation possessed super troops but that in some instances they were better trained, equipped, motivated etc and it had very little to do with where they were born or what colour their skin was.

 Back then it was an attempt to add detail to the wargame where once we had simply rolled a dice and knocked figures over. Now its apparently a social crime to declare that a Spanish enlisted man didnt want to fight whilst the Pole was motivated by the hope of an independent country. Apparently using stereotypes is akin to being,... that over used word a racist. 

Mr. Hiscocks provides us with an example of stereotyping; apparently in the  second world war the  Italians were viewed as surrender monkeys and the Waffen SS as effectively supermen dressed in cool uniforms by wargamers. [I hope he has never read a Commando comic.]

 One talks of stereotypes but I defy him to find many tankies who doesnt recognise the individual bravery of the poor Italian grunt or that the Waffen SS were made up of a lot of disparate groups of misfits fit only for murder and other war-crimes. He talks of wargamers making generalisations but then commits the same crime by claiming that we still believe the propaganda that was generated during the actual conflict!

Inevitably given the current discussions on the web regarding our 'heros' he mentions how Churchill had paid tribute to the heroism of our Imperial Indian troops and claims that such praise is used to justify the fighting qualities of these troop types in wargaming. I think he must be talking of the Flames of War rule-books but I may be wrong. 

 Of course he has to drift into politics by claiming that Churchill et-al  also held offensive beliefs which lie at the root of such quotes! Perhaps it never occurred to David that Churchill was simply praising a group of brave men who stood beside us when others from the sub continent were attempting to break away and ally themselves with the Japanese. But no, Churchill must be tagged as a possessor of offensive views and dont forget he believed in the empire and its benefits for our subjects so is guilty as charged.

  He goes on to make the point that wargamers need to develop rules based on training? or fighting doctrine and apply them where relevant. Well good luck with that idea because what's written in a training manual is only relevant until the bullets fly and then it all goes out of the window. 

 He makes a good point that wargamers should seek to understand why troops fought differently, but he clearly doesn't see that this has little to do with stereotypes but simply researching the history of a campaign, general etc and attempting to form a balanced view regarding why one side lost and the other won.

In this day and age Colonialism is viewed as repugnant apparently and of course to wargame that period in history is morally so. Naturally this causes Mr Hiscock to agonize over this issue and as he writes;

 '' A problematic element peculiar to colonial wargaming is the risk of perpetuating Nineteenth century Imperial attitudes that are now rightly deemed offensive, such as expressed by Rudyard Kipling's Fuzzy Wuzzy.'' [Reaches for the smelling salts and sobs into his cashmere jumper.]

It was inevitable that Kipling would get a mention as he seems to be the go to arch villain of the woke brigade. I assume he has read the poem but somehow has managed to miss the whole point of Kipling's poems which were to show the bravery and pathos of the ordinary soldier and his opponents. 

They had very little to do with extolling the virtues of the Imperial dream and more to do with displaying the good humour of the average British Tommy who was attempting to survive in a hostile and dangerous environment. [More stereotyping I assume] but of course a little knowledge is a dangerous thing but where Kipling is concerned I am very protective of this national treasure.

David ploughs on arguing that people like Kipling created an image used by wargamers whereby the natives were mere cannon fodder for the Imperial hordes, when the reality was something far different.  

 To help the reader make up their own mind I recommend that they read the poem and I attach the opening verse;

We've fought with many men acrost the seas,
An' some of 'em was brave an' some was not:
The Paythan an' the Zulu an' Burmese;
But the Fuzzy was the finest o' the lot.
We never got a ha'porth's change of 'im:
'E squatted in the scrub an' 'ocked our 'orses,
'E cut our sentries up at Sua~kim~,
An' 'e played the cat an' banjo with our forces.
So 'ere's ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your 'ome in the Soudan;
You're a pore benighted 'eathen but a first-class fightin' man;
We gives you your certificate, an' if you want it signed
We'll come an' 'ave a romp with you whenever you're inclined. 

One can see how it drips with Imperial arrogance and how the myth of the poor native was perpetuated by the wargamer of such a morally repugnant period.
He goes on to describe that through his research he had discovered that the Fuzzy Wuzzies had actually been equipped with modern weaponry and as a consequence using this knowledge coupled to period appropriate tactics? and fieldcraft [they sound like latter day scouts] they can out manoeuvre the clumsy Imperial opponents [stereotypical view anyone?]

He finishes his piece with the conclusion that by understanding our history and ignoring stereotypes we can better understand our shared martial history which is fine, of course he then spoils it by adding,
 ''while this does not make these events palatable it will ensure that we are not accidentally risking projecting outdated ideas into our games in the name of entertainment.'' [God forbid that should happen.]

 So what have I learned from the two pages in the WSS? 
1] As I have advocated for many years, wargamers need to know their subject and read books and then read more books to understand the armies they are using. Its not rocket science but for some it is becoming an issue. 

2] All war is morally repugnant but unfortunately is such a fascinating subject crammed full of wonderful people, monsters, acts of heroism and acts of stupidity that it needs to be studied, understood and yes used as a means of entertainment, as long as no one gets hurt. 

3] That some educated wargamers need to get a life and perhaps question why they wargame in the first place. If they feel so strongly about historical games  then perhaps they should consider the new range of uniformed rabbits that have sprung up on the wargaming firmament. They seem fairly innocuous.

4] That slowly but surely certain woke individuals are turning their thoughts towards the poor wargamer and his outdated views. I proudly admit that I am out of step with these modern attitudes and will also admit I see the hobby as a wonderful way to spend a few hours without thinking one jot about the opponents figures I am attempting to massacre. I will however refuse to ever apologise for my love of such a hobby and I suffered years of this crap when I was gainfully employed so being a contrary so and so will poke at the pomposity of individuals who feel we need to be more.... 'woke' as it were.  
 And finally........... 
5] That the author should steer clear of the wonderful wargaming rules written by that arch Imperialist, Howard Whitehouse.


Wednesday 2 September 2020

Scale Gallop!

I haven't posted any images for a while now, I'm not certain why but I can only think and blame it on the virus situation. I've stated before there is a definite lethargy emanating from the whole lock-down thing which has affected me. Anyway I thought I should do a review of my Persian army which was started when lock-down was imposed.
A big attraction of the Sword and Spear rules is that for a decent battle of a few hours one usually will need 16 and 21 units or elements. This is for a 500 point army which I can assure you is sufficient to give a tense few hours. Unfortunately I did what I always do and simply put my head down and started painting figures.The result is I now have numerous Persian troop types and far too many for a simple 500 point game. I now claim its so I can fight a Hail Caesar game when I want except after using the Sword and Spear rules I think I would find Hail Caesar a bit simplistic. Luckily I have done the self same thing with the Greek army which again has too many units for a decent sized Sword and Spear game. 

 I have recently completed reading an excellent account of Antigonos the One Eyed by Richard Billows and am now inspired to start a Successor army except I have actually planned how big this should be and intend to stick to the plan.The account is a first rate study of this generals life and provides enough detail to select the correct troop types for this larger than life general. So its pikes again Im afraid.

Having been inspired by the excellent blog of Rob Young who is building a Persian army, except it contains all the corps recorded by Heroditus so should be definitely classified as an army. Rob is lucky enough to own some of the late Charles Grant's ancient Persian army which he is incorporating into his own army. Anyway I saw the old Hinchliffe Immortal figures and had to own some myself. These are my take on Grants lovely figures.

Rob also had some cataphracts belonging to Charles Grant and yet again I wanted some even though it is very debatable they possessed many in reality. I also added a few Persian medium cavalry again plagiarized from Rob.

                 One real issue in using the Hinchliffe ancient figures is scale creep.

I have figures from Hinchliffe, Foundry and Victrix. The 25/28mm is dramatically different. More gallop than creep. The Hinchliffe were first sculpted in the late 1970's, the Foundry in the 1980's and Victrix in the new millennium. To be honest I dont mind too much and luckily I havent used any of the early Mini Figs or the scales would be even more dramatic.It must be all the good food more modern figures are fed.

One observation I do have re the three ranges is how femur the Foundry cavalry are and I have had to pin two horses already when they snapped off their bases. Hinchliffe never budged.


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