Thursday 28 December 2023

Santa was good to me.

In the spirit of nostaga I thought an image of my refight of the Battle of Blenheim featuring the great Charles Wesencraft commanding the Austrians. A very young Neil Reidy probably laughing hysterically at some of the banter I would have been throwing at Charlie.

 Well felicitations and a Happy Christmas to one and all. One hopes that Santa was good to you and provided the necessary figures/paint/books etc,etc to carry on with this wonderful hobby.

Without attempting to sound like the rich kid when he is given a new Raleigh Chopper bike, I am very happy with the presents I received from my family. Even the oversized slippers are perfect for my poor feet. But the four wonderful books I have received from the overweight, rosy faced itinerant are perfect. Granted I did drop ridiculous hints via my Santa's list, but it seemed to work.

And the common theme, well in the main its nostalga. I have the original War Game Companion which was published originally in soft back so when it was announced it had been updated, I simply had to have the book.Like many of a certain age The War Game was the start of everything. Until I found this book I was lost and really struggling to understand what I was attempting to get into. But this book set me straight and was also a wonderful read. 

Next we have Charles Stewart Grant's Wargames Retrospective which was a great surprise. I cant wait to read this book and hopefully sink into a miasma of nostalga. Charles is a cracking bloke and writes in a form very similar to his father. Simply a no nonsense and readible form.

Then we have Tony Bath's Ancient Wargaming which contains chapters regarding his Hyboria campaign and who actually won. I have always been envious of this campaign which ran for several years and I dont think was ever bettered. I am lucky enough to own the original Campaign book and also one regarding the wargaming armies of Hyboria. The whole concept has always fascinated me.

Finaly I have a new book, yes I do like new stuff. An updated Hail Caesar supplement regarding the Romans. It should be up to the usual high standard and I cant wait to read it.

I was lucky enough to locate more early Slingshot magazines just before Christmas that have gone a little way to completing my collection, although I still need? the very early years and also the elusive 1970 booklets. Anyway included in one of the magazines was a small article about recommended fictional ancient historical novels. As a consequence I bought these two books from ABE UK. The novels were written by Rex Warner, a professor specialising in Greek and Roman history. I liked both books. They arent Alfred Duggan quality but do offer up another viewpoint regarding Caesar.Definately worth a punt if one likes ancient fiction.


Sunday 26 November 2023

Battleground 2023.

Yesterday was the day that the run up to Christmas began. Well it is for me as I attended the wonderful Battleground Wargames Show held between Stockton on Tees and Middlesbrough.

  Leon of Pendragon Miniatures has organised this for several years now and rescued it from extinction. The hard work this man has put in is now paying off in spades as over 700 punters walked through the doors. Other clubs should take note at how Leon has turned the show around and made it a great day out, to buy, chat, listen and just enjoy.

 Its free entry, easy access from a major road, the parking is free, there were two lectures and the food was cheap [ are you listening Leeds] and good quality. No cold bacon sandwiches here and definitely no oat milk for one's tea.  So how were the games? Well they were good, obviously not up to Partizan standard but diverse enough and interesting enough to enjoy. What I like is the table top sale which has always proved great value. But this year I managed to ignore temptation and only bought one book.

 Battleground is one of the few shows where Tiger Miniatures appear and I was able to buy some [okay quite a few] of their lovely renaissance Irish range. So another unit of Gallowglass and some great Irish horse oh and a unit of war dogs.  

 I stuck to my wish to not buy figures, for buying sake although I must admit I nearly bought about 100 well painted Mini Fig medieval figures at a ridiculously low price. So I spent more time being a nuisance chatting to anyone who made the mistake of stopping. I felt like the nutter on the bus, but without their whacky charm. 

 It was great to see a lot of old faces and know that they were still pottering about [ hello John] doing a bit of wargaming between ailments.

 So thank you Leon, for all your hard work and well done for bringing a show back to health.

Image at 1.00pm, still loads of punters milling about looking for bargains, others were listening to a lecture about the border reivers.


Thursday 23 November 2023

Today I lost Four hours of my life I will never get back.

   Life is full of disappointments, failed romances, jobs that dont work out, ambitions that are never achieved, and to be honest after a while you realise that is just how things are. The rough with the smooth, and then you have Ridley Scott's latest film, Napoleon.  

 I will admit Im a Napoleon nut. It was what got me into wargaming and over the next 50 odd years I bought ever increasing numbers of books, figures, visits to museums in an effort to learn as much as a could about the man. Eventually I realised that I had to scale back my interests and sold most of my book collection and all my armies but the interest has remained. 

 So when it was announced that Ridley Scott was making a film about the great man I was very excited. The Duelists is one of my favourite films. The beauty of the film backed by a wonderfully interesting story based on fact has always been a great film to continually return to. And then we had Waterloo, which is another of my favourite films. Yes it has its detractors, but it captured the battle and certainly Rod Steiger was a very believable Napoleon.

So today I frantically went to see the latest interpretation of the great man's life, and what a life he led.

 I had sensible expectations, I didnt expect that any battle scenes would be accurate but I knew the look would be right, the soldiers correctly attired and that the viewer would glean a little about the man.

 Sadly, very sadly I can honestly say it is one of the worst films I have ever had to sit through. Ignoring the lack of historical accuracy, the actual film is a car crash and I cannot believe that Ridley Scott actually directed the whole sorry mess. 

 Looking for excuses for him, the subject was huge and Scott unfortunately thought he could cram Napoleon's amazing life into 2+ hours and allow the viewer to come away understanding what actually occurred. He failed spectacularly on that score. 

The dialogue? Christ it was at times infantile and at other times just laughable.

Phoenix reprised his role as Emperor Commodus and introduced some very odd sounds that frankly made Napoleon sound like a nut job. At other times it was difficult to understand the dialogue which I suppose could be seen as a blessing.

 We never found out why men were prepared to follow the Emperor through thick and thin, simply because the character was one dimensional. 

As for the action, well all I can say is the uniforms were accurate.

Whoever did the advising regarding the actual battles should be taken out and shot. Did anyone know that Napoleon led a mounted charge at Waterloo, or had the military foresight to camouflage his artillery at Austerlitz? And for me the worst bit, when Wellington aka Rupert Everitt meets Napoleon face to face on the Bellephron. Yes I know its a film, but it didnt really have any purpose in the story. It would have been better to have chosen Stephen Fry using one of his funny voices and hrumpping a bit as they talked, at least it would then be intentionally funny.

 The only redeeming factor was the lady playing Josephine, oh and Miles Jupp as the King??? Francis.

 I do like Miles, he is a very funny guy. The rest? It was a pile of s@@@@. 

Oh I forgot, the end. A closing shot, a silhouette of the great man staring out to sea before tipping sideways off his seat. It reminded me of Captain Pugwash without the detail. 

 Save your money and buy a copy of The Battle of Austerlitz starring Jack Palance, at least that was funny.


Wednesday 8 November 2023

How does one answer the impossible question.

I follow a lot of wargaming blogs and one of my favourites is the Palouse Wargaming Journal written by Jonathan Frietag. I think its fair to say Jonathan is a pretty intelligent American chap who can analyse information regarding wargaming and make sense of the data. His latest post concerns information gleaned from the Great Wargaming Survey. 

By counts, less than 4% of survey respondents maintain no surplus of unpainted figures.  Almost 41% of respondents have between 100 and 500 unpainted figures.  About 82% hold fewer than 1,000 unpainted figures in their storeroom.  Still, the remaining 18% of wargamers hold more than 1,000 unpainted figures.  Why maintain a stockpile of so many unpainted figures?  When is enough "enough" to have on hand? 

    I actually complete the survey every years, God knows why, but I like to think my information could be of use to someone, God knows who, anyway Jonathan posted about that old elephant in the room, the dreaded lead pile, or to appear more relevant the lead, plastic and resin mountain. 

Unlike Jonathan I am more a pragmatic [ thick ] about the whys and wherefores of wargamers buying figures that they then squirrel away and then forget about them. When I was working I would buy figures that I honestly thought I would need when I retired, fully expecting I would have more time but less cash. Well we all know that isn't what happens don't we.

As I've matured [ ie got mouldy] I've realised that I buy extra figures for more pleasurable reasons. Like a lot of humans, we like to shop and it gives us pleasure, well until you realise you didn't really need them.

When I first started wargaming in the very early 1970's I held down two jobs, one before school and one after school, I was more interested in pleasure than education. Anyway using all of my hard earned cash I remember buying every box of Napoleonic Airfix French from my local model shop and guiltily rushing home to my bedroom where I piled up the hundreds of figures cut from their sprues. Once done I realised I needed to paint them all to make the purchase relevant. Talk about disheartening. I learned a lesson from that crazy purchase, dont buy plastic. Okay, I actually realised that one had to be more disciplined in buying wargames figures. Buying metal soon brought that lesson home, oh the cost.

And now? Well I've realised I have more painted units than I can ever use. Proper armies made up of units that have never been on the table, and yet I will still research figure producers and also second hand sources. Why? Simple gratification.

At the moment I am buying early ancient figures for my Greek and Persian armies, even though I've got two perfectly good ancient armies using a mixture of Victrix, Warlord and North Star figures. I will over time replace all these figures with poorer quality, well in comparison to most of the newer ranges, ancient figures by Garrison, Mini Figs, Hinchliffe and hopefully Warrior. The reason has to be nostalgia, an illness recognised by the troops fighting in the American Civil War, a wistfulness to return to a time when all seemed well, or in my case because I find the early ranges charming and naive without being ugly.

 Do I need any more figures, absolutely not, in fact I am attempting to move on a lot of unpainted ECW castings, by moving on I mean virtually giving them away, and yet most wargamers arent interested, and why would they when there are so many wonderful new figures out there.

I know several mature wargamers who have thousands and I mean literally thousands of unpainted castings. They are carefully boxed waiting to be painted. Sadly we all know they will never be painted and more likely will end up in a skip or simply melted down. But did it give the wargamer pleasure? Probably until they look at the ever burgeoning piles of metal gathering dust and cobwebs. 

Like all addicts and I think I am one, you always know someone worse than you, until you realise there is no one worse and you are the go to example that other wargamers point at.

So why do we do it? Why is there a need to possess more of a thing we really don't need? One of the triggers for me is when I see some well painted old figures, that have been lavished attention and love by some wargamer. Do I need them, certainly not, but if possible I will attempt to buy them simply because they are in my eyes desirable and will fit nicely into one of my armies.

Simply put, I cant let a bargain slip by and I use the word bargain loosely. My weakness will always be figures painted by the wargaming greats, Charles Grant Snr. Tony Bath, Donald Featherstone and Peter Gilder. Unfortunately these are financially virtually unattainable for me until people of my age have gone and then they will be simply scrap and of no interest to most wargamers. Bleak, but probably realistic simply because the new generations of wargamers have new heroes and certainly like other figure ranges better.

I feel I'm getting away from my rambling point which is that every wargamer is thankfully different, each has their own predilections. It is a subject that can probably only be answered by a very clever person and certainly far clever than this thicko. All I know is that I recognise the issue, feel guilty sometimes about it and then go back to enjoying the purchase and hopefully the painting of the said figures. So really my lead mountain isn't a mountain, its a painted mountain, which makes it okay then.

Oh and if any collectors feel the need to offload any of their unwanted, painted or otherwise older figures, I am your man.


Thursday 26 October 2023

220 points of Irishmen walk into a bog.

I love the Never Mind the Billhooks rules. I have done since they were offered as a freebie during lockdown. When Andy Callan released the Deluxe vesrion I started building extra armies to use. Burgundians naturally, Swiss obviously and because I already had a few Kern and gallowglass I set to building an Irish army. Like all my projects I painted more units than I will ever need, but thats the way I am. 
So when it was my week to stage a game I decided that John and I should fight in Ireland with my Irish.
We opted for 220 points which gives a lot of units but a much more satisfying game for me and John.
The native Irish aren't allowed any artillery in the rules, very, very few fire arm troops, too expensive and only a small number of bill and longbowmen. Oh and the cavalry as they should be are light ones although one is allowed a unit of Lord Deputy spears that are quite good melee troops, apparently. My deputies ward consisted of three units of levy bow [ cheap] and one unit of veteran billmen.

Because each gallowglass unit  has to have a minimum of two kern skirmish units I fielded four units of these annoying little buggers. I added Scottish mercenary axemen and a lot of bonnact, ie. formed kern. I attempted to make the terrain Irish like with three bogs and a lot of hills.
John fielded a typical WOR Lancastrian host, but with no artillery and no mounted heavy cavalry. I was initially glad of this, but during the actual game it didn't matter too much.
One of the mistakes I made was to amalgamate my gallowglass and bonnact into blocks in order to be able to issue orders. I also put my levy archers in long lines, again because of the lack of order chits. Each commander had only two orders to give each move.
I wont bore anyone with what happened in each move, lets just say I lost by the margin of 14 chits to 2. Thats a very sizeable defeat as two chits equals one unit. My Irish are fast, they pack a punch but die very easily if facing an arrow storm. My skirmishers weren't allowed to be effective and my mounted spears were wiped out in one charge where I also lost their commander.
  Was it a good game? Absolutely. Will I field the Irish again? Definitely. So well done again Andy for writing a great set of wargames rules.
I will be at Fiasco this Sunday, so if anyone wants to accost me, you are more than welcome.


Saturday 21 October 2023

Trigger Warning, these images may be upsetting to wargamers under the age of 35.

Its been tough taking the brush back up. From being a painting fury I suddenly stopped, a bit like Forrest Gump when he stopped running. There was no reason, well none that I would admit to, but I stopped. 
I'm still not my prolific self but at least I have slapped a bit of colour about and actually feel motivated enough to want to. I don't view myself as some radical environmentalist, in fact the urge to set about a few oil protestors comes over me now and again. Its probably my age. Anyway, as followers will notice I like old figure ranges and did enjoy building my two ECW armies.
So looking at my burgeoning Persian army and following a few bloggers who think the same I decided to revamp my Persians, replacing my Victrix figures with old and I mean old ranges, especially Garrison, Lamming, Hinchliffe and Mini Figs.
Personally I'm happy buying up old and badly painted stuff and going from there. I like the challenge and somehow feel it speeds up the process of getting them on the table. Accuracy? Maybe, although the Mini Fig PB ranges were designed using the original Wargames Research Group books and that'll do for me. No doubt if I turned up at the Ancient Societies bash there may be a few tuts but hey ho.
Re-reading the best article that has surfaced in the Wargames Illustrated recently regarding nostalgic collections etc I was inspired to replace any ancient Persians that were created after 2000. 
  A base of Mini Figs, PB ancient Persian archers, best viewed from a couple of feet away. I did enjoy giving them a bit of attention, but obviously not to everyone's taste. 
Can I say I still love the beauty of a lot of new figures, especially Ebor Figures, Antediluvian Miniatures, the Perry brothers etc. etc. but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and just think how much I am contributing towards saving the planet for the next generation of wargamers.
This week John and I had a great game using his wonderful Warlord Epic ECW armies, painted as 30 Years War protagonists. We opted for a set of rules I used to enjoy, Baroque. I had forgotten just how good they are and although it was a struggle getting my head around a few issues about when to roll high or low, not that mattered. I always roll the wrong way. The rules really allowed the game to flow and for me gave a great period feel to the battle. Oh and the Epic figures looked brilliant. 


Tuesday 10 October 2023

Never rely on a Bavarian

Before I provide a synopsis of my Edgehill refight I thought it would be nice to provide images of one of the few things Ive completed lately. I had seen the review of a new wagon created by the brilliant plastic company called Dungeons and Lasers. Dave Thomas stocks the series and I bought the wagon as soon as I saw he had one on display. Yes its a fantasy piece, and yes it is scaled for about 35mm, but its a lovely model and I would recommend it to anyone who likes such things It was very easy to construct and a real pleasure to paint. I attempted to do a neat job on the piece and although I will never produce a wagon as lovely as the top painters I still like it. Next time you are passing Dave Thomas at one of the shows, buy one, you wont be disappointed. 

Anyway Edgehill. John and I fought the battle using the updated Pike and Shotte rules provided in the Warlord Epic ECW box. I hope that they will release a version for those who dont collect Epic figures. I added a couple of extras, in that I had managed to obtain a number of incident cards that cater for the battles of the ECW and John and I drew two each. Usually the cards are things like, brigade commander is late for breakfast, minus one to command etc. I thought it would add a bit of friction. Once used one was allowed to roll for an additional card if one rolled a six. We never managed that.
Only Rupert was given a command rating of 9 whilst most other commanders had the usual 8 rating, although Ballard for Parliament and Byron for the Royalists were given a 7 rating. Strangely it didn't seem to affect their commands too much, whereas Rupert!!!!!
In order to reflect the lack of firearms of the Royalists and the well provided Parliamentarian foot, there was a disadvantage for the Royalist firing and a plus for those damned rebels. Given the advantage one would expect the Royalists to attack with pike as quickly as possible. To also reflect history the brigade of Charles Essex was given a 'wavering' classification when fired upon. So given that its sometimes best to follow history I thought I would produce a cunning plan...... 
Sadly it was more Baldrick than an Alexander. The Royalists led by me managed to confound history.
My Rupert was more poltroon than a prince as he continued to fail his command rolls and allow the best cavalry on the field to stand and be shot at by the rebel commanded shot. Couple that to some absolutely dire morale throws I struggled badly.
Given the size of the cavalry commands it only takes three hits to shake a unit, remember that each two actual figures represents a troop of 50 men the rebel commanded shot and medium gun began to take their toll on the stationary royalist cavalry.  The red and yellow tokens shows the shaken and disordered status of my cavalry as their horses chewed grass and waited.

In the Royalist centre I had to use Charles to get Byron's command to advance. Unfortunately they advanced piecemeal and John was able to break up the Royalist infantry by some good firing and smart marching. One can see the Kings Lifeguard shaken and exhausted with little in the way of meaningful support. I did manage to drive the wavering brigade from the field,... eventually.
On the left the Royalists made a better fist of things and Wilmot leading the cavalry steadily chewed up the rebel cavalry who suffered from the shooting of my supporting dragoons. Of course it couldn't last and John managed to cover his right by marching a foot regiment into the front of my cavalry where they stood like a stonewall, to mix up my history a little.  After three hours of battle, I had lost two infantry brigades and a cavalry brigade, John had lost two brigades but was in a far better position tactically. 
                      So Charles led his pensioners from the field and cursed Rupert as he did so.
          To cheer up Charles I held a small review of Ruperts best cavalry, much use they were,...not.
Yes I lost, yes I am a crap general but can I say it was a very good game with some tense and exciting moments. The actual refight is doable for most ECW wargamers and I would recommend the purchase and use of Stuart Asquith's excellent series of battles for the civil war.                                                                                               As for Rupert, who calls their child Rupert for God's sake?


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