Tuesday 28 December 2021

Rude Health?

 Before I go off on one, may I wish everyone a Happy New Year and lets all look forward to a new year full of games, shows and wargames.

Anyway onto other subjects. 

Prior to Christmas I was reading through some old Military Modelling magazines circa 1979, looking at the excellent and in fact never bettered series of Battles of the English Civil War written by the much missed Stuart Asquith.

I came across an interesting aside in the then the monthly Observation Post that was the regular feature written by the late Terry Wise, another great wargamer and all round decent man. Terry was concerned about the rising cost of figures and gave various examples of how prices had risen as quality had improved.

 Naturally he wasn't complaining about the improvements in figure sculpting but predicted what would potentially happen should prices increase exponentially whilst quality was also improved to such a level that each figure would need to be given a top painting job which would thus decrease the size of potential wargamers armies given the time needed to produce such a masterpiece which would put off a lot of potential wargaming recruits amongst other things.

This was touched upon in this months Wargames Soldiers and Strategy by Rick Priestly who certainly knows what he is talking about.In Rick's case it concerned his taste for old Minifigs, where he pointed out that older wargames figures were designed to give us 'units' of satisfying visual appearance based around their uniformity, ie same pose and the fact you could fit them closely together when needed to represent a close order unit.

 As Rick stated,modern game miniatures [his description] have basically abandoned any restraint as regards, size and pose dictated by the need for close order basing. As he points out most newer designs suffer from [ my opinion] from having eaten too many pies. Try basing four Victrix plastics on a 30mm by 15mm base which used to be a standard size for old 25mm figures. And yes I really like Victrix figures and think they are leaders in the sculpting of wargaming figures. Basically they had outgrown their purpose which was to represent a unit of soldiers marching and based on a carefully researched frontage that was properly scaled to represent the actual amount of space they would inhabit. 

Going back to the Terry Wise Observation Post, the conclusion he came to was as follows;

''If we continue to concentrate on high quality models of the collectors calibre then 'big battalions' men, such as myself will become as rare as ham in hamburgers and our hobby will be considerably reduced in scope with the emphasis on the convenient and comparatively cheap skirmish and board game.''

Battle Gaming written by Terrry Wise about painting and collecting armies and refighting history.

So what is my point. Well its several things really. Its is increasingly obvious given the continuous and never ending release of wonderfully sculpted figures to play the never ending number of specific rule-books then what Terry Wise predicted has come to pass. 

We now see beautifully sculpted figures that clearly deserve a top paint job on offer. Couple this with the inevitable well produced rule book and most likely scenario book the age of big armies is coming to an end. To be replaced by skirmish games, and small numbers of figures.Games Workshop were the first and still most successful, but there are many small companies out there desperate to compete and succeed. 

Basically between the high cost of these figures, actual physical size, complexity of design and actual subject, ie Silver Whistle, historical wargamers fielding big armies will simply disappear over time, as wargaming morphs into gaming. 

I confess I bought some of these figures a few weeks ago at Battleground. They are about 45mm in size and made of resin and are licensed from a company based in the USA. Frankly they are fine looking fantasy figures which I felt would paint up well and I saw as a bit of a challenge. Their price? £5.00 each so hardly big battalion recruits. But they are not suitable for the wargaming I know but totally suitable for skirmish gaming.

Most wargamers enjoy buying better and newer figures, I certainly do, but its increasingly obvious that if you have a limited budget collecting large armies isn't going to happen anytime soon. Couple this to the way military history is now being taught and of course viewed by the chattering media classes , wargaming is heading for a few issues.

Which leads me on to an article I read in the latest Wargames Illustrated, [ and yes I do read current wargaming magazines post 1980] It was an article written by Barry Hilton who I know and admire as a great wargamer. Barry and I have known each other for years from the show scene and I have nothing but admiration for his games, rules and figures even though we do disagree about his views on John Churchill.

Barry produced an article titled Rude Health?  and amongst the subjects he touched upon was the dreaded fashionable term ' inclusivity.'  Barry wrote that many genres of our hobby are based around small forces of Europeans killing, exploiting or otherwise subjecting people of colour. 

I must admit it spoiled my sleep as I thought about this claim. I thought of all the armies I had painted, all the games I had took part in and all the books I had read. 

Im ashamed? to say none of them concerned exploiting, killing of subjecting any person of colour, ie not European. So does that make me subconsciously racist for not including this in my hobby?  

Or does it in fact reflect that the vast majority of wargamers like to game periods in history where European nations fought it out for whatever reason. Im afraid even though I like to use armies of the  underdogs I never saw any enjoyment in mowing down the dreaded 'fuzzy wuzzies' with a Gatling gun. Somehow it seemed a pointless event. But each to their own and lets be right, the Brits fought a lot of thrilling small actions where we came off second best, but of course the new moral judges ignore those occasions. 

As the wonderful Rudyard Kipling observed;

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.

 But obviously poor Kipling is now one of the many pariahs identified by some mindless clown.

Frankly it shouldn't bother me, but it does. Wargaming should be a wonderful experience and God knows finding pleasure in harmless pursuits is becoming harder by the day, as some clown points out how wrong thinking or saying or doing something that was once innocuous is now akin to being identified as a witch who needs burning at the stake.  

 Obviously there is a group of wargamers who like researching colonial and 'small wars.' But it never floated my boat although I love re-reading my Flashman books. But does that make them pariahs?

 Not to me, but no doubt there will be some nonentity, desperate for victimhood who will prostrate themselves across a table crying racist etc at some bemused overweight wargamer waiting to dice for his Zulu impi. 

I like to think Barry wrote his piece to fit in with the theme of the Illustrated which concerned 'small wars' etc. I hope so. As for his views as to why Salute was down re numbers etc I will leave to another day, especially it touches upon that dreaded word, 'Brexit.'

 I suppose its indicative of the hobby that where once wargamers could read about actions from the English Civil War but now have to cogitate about why we dont have more women, one legged lesbians or coloured chaps in the hobby, as if it would make a difference to me throwing a one. [apologies to any of the minorities I may have insulted.] 


Saturday 18 December 2021

The last post before Christmas.

I am always surprised at how Christmas sneaks up on me, its not like Im not reminded continually that its approaching, but I always tend to ignore the warnings and potter on with unimportant stuff, like toy soldiers. I mentioned that at Battleground I was very kindly given TWO regiments of painted Garrison foot by John Coutts of the Westerhope group. Unless you know John you wouldnt realise how important an occasion it was to receive something free from John, because he gives nothing away for nothing apart from diseases. Anyway this is the first regiment, now touched up and rebased and can I say how much I enjoyed doing them up. I wanted to give them an eye catching standard so opted for Charles Gerard's. So joking apart I would again like to thank John for his generosity even though I have lost sleep as I think of the saying, 'beware Greeks bearing gifts.'  

Next is my Burgundian organ gun for my Billhooks project. Im not certain Charles would have possessed such a fine looking piece but what the heck. The piece and figure are from the 3D company Sundred Miniatures. Having bought a couple of things from 3D companies I can see the future starting to unfurl itself. Yes the figures are made from resin, but as technology brings down the prices it is only a matter of time before 3D printers etc are in most homes and we will be buying the figures directly from the manufacturer and printing them ourselves.
I thought plastic would cause metal figures issues, but I foresee  3D printing making further inroads into the production and sales of metal. No doubt there will be wargamers who stick with metal, but simply from a weight point of view plastic and resin will begin to dominate our hobby eventually. So if anyone wants to offload their obsolescent metal figures, painted of course, well Im your man. 

Another block of Burgundian pike of the Ordonnance. I must decide how many to paint before things get out of hand, but at the moment I dont mind gluing them up and splashing a bit paint on them.

                                   Skirmish crossbowmen, cheap and cheerful in Billhooks.

 Burgundian crossbowmen in their closer order, naturally with pavisse to make them look prettier. Im afraid thats how I look at my toys. Will they look pretty. Perhaps that explains why I keep losing games. 

Finally in this batch, another commander. This one represents Antoine the Bastard, brother of Charles the Bold. I have always found it interesting how the Burgundian dynasty were awarded nicknames although Im not certain Antoine liked his so much.
This will probably be my last post before Christmas even though I am hoping to stage a game later next week. So everyone have a nice time and get the gifts you deserve. 


Friday 3 December 2021

A groundhog moment, as I return to the past.

Its been a pretty crappy week all round, as Ive been sleeping more than a brown bear in Winter courtesy of my reaction to the booster jab. So my ambition to get a decent number of new units on the table was scuppered.Then my poor sister slipped on ice and ended up in AE after breaking her hip, so really Ive got nothing to whine about.

In the late 1980's I had a very large Burgundian army made up of numerous figure companies, most who have either disappeared or no longer are floating my boat. Of course in my great scale swap I sold the lot and started in 6mm. Ah, the impetuousness of youth. 
Whilst at the Battleground show the other week I had a long talk to the wargamer/collector who bought the Burgundian's. He still had them, but could I hell prise them out of his fingers. To be honest I knew I would never get them back, but shy boys get no toys as they say.. 
With the hardback rule book of Never Mind the Billhooks expected in the next couple of months with new European armies for the same period included I wanted to collect a small Burgundian army to use. They were never the most effective army to fight with and given they faced the Swiss who were at their murderous best who can be surprised, but they were beautiful to behold and as a wargaming army they always look pretty as they rout off table.                                

In my original army the Ordonnance pike were made up of the small Hinchliffe range, some Garrison a couple of units from Essex and then a lot of the original Citadel range, now owned by Foundry. My favourites however were the specific range produced by Corvus. Not the Corvus that now produces figures under the name Corvus Belli, but simply Corvus.

The small company had some beautiful figures for the war, including handgunners and crossbowmen with loose weapons. They also did a lovely coustillier, all very delicate but anatomically correct. For my gendarmes I used the old Citadel gendarme range again sold by Foundry with a mix of Essex, Vulcan, Garrison, Hinchliffe and for the mounted archers, the old QT figures. To be honest, like all magpies I was attracted to anything that glittered. 

 The artillery?   Corvus produced some lovely delicate field guns and crew with pavisse mounted on the carriage, I really liked those guns. I also chopped about a few Hinchliffe wagons and limbers to make an interesting Burgundian wagon train. 

 Charles the Bold was the Citadel mounted figure in full bard and if I remember correctly it won the single figure category at the very early Stockton wargames show.

And now? In the interests of saving cash I have naturally opted for the Perry plastics and mixed them with metal standard bearers where possible. But of course that is never enough and although they wear earlier costumes I've lashed out on a unit of Claymore Castings crossbowmen with pavisses. If there is an issue with the plastics its probably the chopping them about and gluing them up and the fact they are pretty stiff in some respects. But they will do.  

Im afraid the standard of painting of my replacement Burgundian army will be fairly basic, like Dave Bickley, Ive realised that painting eyes etc are no longer necessary. If they look right then they will do for me. To make the units look better I have always thought that great looking standards will improve even the most basic paint job. Unfortunately my go to flag producer, Pete's Flags only sells one sheet which is a real shame because Pete's are the best.  
So Ive mixed in a few Perry cardboard standards and flags from the Freezywater range with a lick of paint on them. Its not ideal but they will do I suppose. I dont plan how big an army will become and usually paint units until I realise Ive too many, so here are the first tranche of Burgundian's.
If anyone has any ideas what happened to the old Corvus range I would love to know. Ive an awful feeling they were simply scrapped and ended up in a skip somewhere which would be a real shame, they were a very decent range of figures.

My first commander. He is actually an Englishman who fought for Charles and unlike those dastardly Italians didnt sell out his employer, more fool him.
As a tester I usually paint up a couple of small dioramas, this one is telling his mate, the Swiss are coming. 
As an aside, I was reading through some old [naturally] Sword and Lance magazines.They were produced in the 1970's by one of my first boss's and were in the main a magazine about military matters and models with a smattering of wargames matters. I managed to track down a decent number and have enjoyed reading them between naps.

 Anyway in the magazine was a two parter regarding wargaming the Ancient Persians written by Derek Sharman who in  County Durham was a real driving force in wargaming and the creation of the Durham Wargames club. He also ran the only wargames shop in the area.

His forte however was his ancient Persian army which I had the privilege of using once under his supervision. It was quite a sight laid out across a ten foot square wargames table. What struck me in the article was Derek stating his army consisted of 18,000 figures built up over a period of eight years. I never saw his entire collection which was probably just as well but it made me feel a bit better.

 Its always nice to know there is someone more afflicted than you irrespective of whether its alcoholism or collecting toy soldiers.


Monday 29 November 2021

Booster Day, hip hip hooray.

Last week was a strange one for me. I finally received my booster and then later the same day John and I fought a 240 point Never Mind the Billhooks battle. I was desperate to field my Irish light cavalry and the church I had bought at the bring at buy the week before painted by Gerry Miller. Yes Im a child, I admit it.
Normally I pad out my wards with levy archers which are cheap and give some firepower cheaply. Strangely this time I opted for better quality infantry, three pieces of artillery and my Irish gallowglass.
Of course, John being a difficult so and so opted for lots of levy archers and two units of light cavalry. So outnumbered, and threatened by flank turning cavalry I settled on the idea of  refusing one flank and piling in with my fleet footed Irish. Sounded good in my fevered mind, yes the booster was kicking in.
Sadly for the Irish it was one of those battles where the enemy archers were very effective, my artillery couldn't hit a barn door and my Gallowglass died gallantly.At one stage I felt I was actually winning the encounter as my Irish cavalry and Kern support routed a unit of Lancastrian cavalry. That feeling didnt last long unfortunately. My Kern died quickly and then John had the temerity to handgun my artillery which was a mean trick but very effective.

John's sacrificial light cavalry unit riding into oblivion. My Irish cavalry charged home and were supported by some Kern who appeared from the wood. I think it was my only victory and for a few minutes I was deluded enough to think I could win the encounter. 
Henry Tudor, as usual skulking behind loads of his men. There was no chance of getting at him.
Sorry about the image. Kildare pointing the way off the field of battle. It didnt save him or his gallowglass, they were slaughtered when the finally managed to charge into a Lancastrian men at arms unit. It was a comprehensive defeat for the Irish Yorkists. But a really enjoyable game and the church looked 'churchly.' If you know what I mean. After the battle I had to take to my bed literally. I found the booster knocked me for six.I was laid up for four days! Still Im grateful for having the vaccine. 


Monday 22 November 2021

Battleground 2021.


What a pleasure to finally be able to write this post about the Battleground show at Stockton on Tees. Of all the wargames shows I attend when able this has always been the one I've enjoyed the most. It was always the most laid back and friendliest show from its inception back in the 1980's when it was run by those wargaming enthusiasts, Tom Davidson and David Clemmet until the challenge was taken up by Leon of Pendragon Miniatures when the original show had to close. 
It was never the biggest, but being at the end of the campaigning season it was always the show that got me enthused the most, and I still dont know why.
I knew it was going to be a good day as the sunshine blazed as I drove towards Smoggyland. Sunshine can be an unusual event down in Mordor, hence its name. Leon had laid on refreshments even before one entered the hall and I was able to pile into a very large bacon roll as I stood outside admiring the sunshine. Only £3.00 for a big butty, followed by free entry and free parking. What's not to like. 

John and I used to put a game on every year but prior to Covid we realised it was time to let others do all the hard work. Yes I do miss not having a game on but to be honest the effort is very tiring. Because of Covid concerns, Leon had spread everything out to allay any fears for the punters. It was a pleasure to walk freely around the hall but still have a lot to look at and of course buy. 

I must apologise for the poor images I took. I dont know how this happened, but it did sadly.
It was good? to see the Westerhope posse back at the show resplendent in their new more masculine coloured shirts, although they were easier to detect when they wore their day glo pink shirts. Here we have poor Malcolm beiung badgered by one of the Westerhope miscreants, probably was asking for a handout. Its tough in Westerhope, North of the river.
The group have entered the 21st century now and displayed their thousands of Warlord plastic ACW units. If I was younger it would have been the way I would have gone although some of the add on units are very pricey. Brian [ the sensible one] looked very happy keeping an eye on the gobby one [John]annoying the life out of wargamers attempting to enjoy themselves.

And to show you what I mean here he is begging off some poor punter. The man has no shame.

But after god knows how many years he very very kindly 'gave' me two units of painted Garrison ECW figures. So all is forgiven, especially as they were nicely painted and will look great in my armies.To be honest, they are great set of gamers even if they do come from North of the river.

Battleground is more than staging a game and meeting up with old faces is a pleasure. Additionally Leon had managed to organise the bring and buy which I always like to attend.
Not having any thing I needed I came away with a beautiful English church and surrounding graveyard created by Gerry Miller for a modest price, and I mean modest. I insisted Gerry sign the piece simply because his work is always quality. I also picked up a large bag of Wars of the Roses sprues at a knock down price. Frankly for a man who didnt need anything its always amazing what you DO need. 
Later in the day a gentleman appeared at the bring and buy selling off the armies of a deceased waramer. The boxes were full of old school ancient armies using early Mini Figs, Garrison and Hinchliffe figures. Sadly this is becoming more common, but I suppose the figures will continue to be used                                                        
It was a desperate temptation not to buy up all the Garrison Persians but somehow I didnt sucumb, probably more to do with space than anything else.

One game that deserves a special mention is Joshua's Game which is being used to raise funding for a very good cause. All the figures are being donated to Joshua's father by wargamers from around the World, based and painted by them. The armies will then be auctioned to raise funds in Joshua's memory. There were some lovely looking units.  

3D printing is starting to become common and John and I bought some beautiful sculpts from a stall selling printed Reaper Miniature figures. I dont do fantasy, but I do admire great figures. I came away with several groups of humans. Not cheap but very good figures.

Did I tell you about the cheap refreshments? Well the tea is only a £1.00 a mug, so really anyone who attends could probably feed a family of four for a tenner, such is the generosity of Battleground. As this nightmare recedes put this show in your wargaming diary, its a great day out. So thank you Leon for all your hard work.

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