EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Friday, January 19, 2018

Meanwhile where the Hosts Gather...

A slightly modified Dragon Rampant game is now posted on my Gathering of Hosts Blog.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

They Shall Not Pass (wrap up)

An old version of the Tin Army gave a really good game yesterday but it had so many holes and unaddressed issues in it that a quick assessment was that there were good reasons why I abandoned that line of attack several years ago. However, the search has led me back to the Square Brigadier before I streamlined it. So I'm pretending that the 3rd game never happened and am presenting a quick glimpse of the revised old style Square Brigadier game instead.

May as well call this lot British and German. Probably the autumn of 1914 and the British are trying to avoid being cutoff. 
The rules were basically a late 19thC version of the War of 1812 one that I did in 2016. Two dice for stationary fire, 1/2 dice if 1/2 move, no separate melee phase, attacks resolved 1 on 1 when they happen, 1/2 casualties for cover etc. My old pinned/disordered/give ground rule for this period was also restored and updated. Together these small, simple things made all the difference in the feel.
The game was a bit too fast paced and exciting so I forgot to stop for pictures. Here we are on Turn 6. The British appeared to be in good shape to break through and escape before the main German force can deploy.
 The end result was the best game of the 4 and makes me wonder why I had thought that I had to stream line a simple game that had worked. I never quite get everything in properly in the first draft (link) but its available playable (unless you are planning to do amphibious ops, engineering etc)
About turn 10.
I think saboteurs got at the British dice.
Sadly, just when I'm keen to get back to building the British/Faraway forces, I need to switch my attention to Prince Valiant and start working on my Huzzah! game for a week or two at least.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

They Shall Not Pass! (2)

That first game was quick and enjoyable, perhaps too quick, but more than that, it felt a bit too abstract. I had a similar feeling  after a couple of games last fall.
The Faraway column pushes past the Oberhilse outpost. 
I decided to play again with some variations that I had briefly experimented with at times over the last 3 years.  I also changed the armies and added a unit or two since my conversion from OHW had been flawed the first time.
The Faraway infantry and artillery pounded the Oberhilse blocking force while the Lancers manoeuvred onto their flank.
The second game was even more enjoyable and lasted slightly longer but some of the changes were merely different rather than better. The changed battle plan and different forces unit were probably more important.
The 1st or Green Squadron of Lancers met a wall of modern rifle fire and melted away but the Khaki Lancers routed the first line of infantry before being repulsed. It looked like the way was open. 
 One of the best changes was one I experimented with in 2014. Instead of sticking with my 15 year old practice of having fire or movement, I switched the play sequence to A moves, B shoots, resolve melee, B moves, A shoots, resolve melee. I also allowed units that only moved 1 area on their turn to fire.

I liked the feel of that sequence but revising the infantry organization didn't feel worth the effort.
Faraway's infantry attack went in. 6 dice for 5 or 6 vs 2 dice. Result: The attack was repulsed all along the line. Then the Oberhilse cavalry struck from behind before they could rally. Game over!
I need to write up a revised Quick Reference and then well, then I guess I'll need to play again.

Friday, January 12, 2018

They Shall Not Pass! (1)

Far off in Atlantica, an Oerberg raiding party set out to drive past Faraway's outposts and evade her patrols so it might wreak havoc in the rear and resupply themselves.
The Oerberg raiding force swiftly bypassed the redoubt on the hill only to find a hastily assembled reinforcement deploying across the road in front of it. 

The trap closed as cavalry backed by an armoured car appeared behind the raiding party.

An attack by the armoured car drove back the Oerberg rearguard while the blocking force held firmly. It was time for the Oerbergers to "Do or Die". Long Li faced about to act as rearguard while the rest of the force pressed on.

The armoured car proved itself vulnerable to direct HE  from Long Li and a desperate charge by mounted Oerbergers and Volunteers carried the 4.7", driving off the Faraway infantry blocking the road. Only two squadrons of cavalry were in position to catch up if they had the initiative to seize the moment.

 Luck was with Larsen's Lancers. They not only seized the initiative but they rode over the enemy, scattering the Oerbergers to the winds. They even overran Oom Bob. The raid had been dispersed in the nick of time!
Oddly, on the same day, away across the mountains, a similar incident occurred between the forces of Oberhilse and Faraway, but that's a tale for another day.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Time to play with toy soldiers!

OK, that's enough serious stuff.  Historical wargaming is hard work! 

An outpost manned by MacDuff's Rifles falls in when a dust cloud is seen on the road from Belmont to Poplar Grove.
Its hard to believe that the year is 11 days old and I haven't played a game yet! That will change in the morning.

I half thought the 1st game of 2018 would be the same period as the last of 2017 but where would the fun be in that? Anyway, there is more work to be done on the Quebec and Acadia front before I'm ready to play another game. 

On the other hand, neither the latest additions to Oerberg's army, nor Faraway's new Rolls Royce,  have seen action yet. In a fictional land full of toy soldiers, it is never hard to find someone ready to fight and this is my favourite collection and period although it saw limited action last year.    Done!

To get in the mood I visited Project Gutenburg and downloaded Ian Hamilton's March by Winston Churchill. There is nothing like one of Churchill's newspaper columns to put a fellow in the mood for sending toy soldiers into action.

Thomas's Incursion Scenario.
Coming Soon!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Highlanders and History Books

One of the good things about turning my mind back to the Seven Years War in America is that its got me finally reading some of the histories that have been written this century. Its not that there is any challenge to the overall traditional story line, but there has been some correcting and explaining or expansion of detail and more inclusion of the Canadian rather than French point of view.

And here they are, my Willie Highlanders! I've seen better but I've painted worse! 
(I haven't decided on a basing finish for the collection yet so left these  plain green for now.) 
I used to wonder how the British so quickly dragged 6,000 men and 6 guns up such a steep wooded slope as described by Parkman and others and speculated how much easier it would have been if the road that now runs from the Anse au Foulon had been there. I also wondering why the defence was so inadeqaute and how a supposedly timid officer who had bungled the defence of a fort, could be exonerated and given such an important outpost, supposedly running away and being shot in the butt. Certainly Parkman does a pretty thorough character assassination of him but then one of his main criticisms of the French Aristocracy is that they liked brightly coloured clothes and were Roman Catholic.

Well, a slim history of Fort Beausejour I picked up in New Brunswick a few years ago presents a rather different picture of the Beausejour matter, which helps to explain why de Vergor, the decorated veteran who was twice wounded in defence of Louisburg in 1745, was  exonerated for surrendering an indefensible fort earlier rather than later. This year, Peter MacLeod's Northern Armegeddon helped clear up the Anse au Foulon matter.  It seems that the track followed by the main British army was actually a wagon road and apart from the camp at the top of the cliffs, there was an abatis and barricade across the road manned by an alert garrison with de Vergor at their head.  Too bad for him his authorities had ignored an engineer's suggestion that the entrenchments and abatis be extended in either direction to prevent outflanking because the advance party of light infantry and Highlanders drifted too far down river and instead of attacking up the road they had to pull themselves up the steep cliff, arriving behind the defenders while they were busy repelling a frontal assault. Rather than running off when awoken in his tent, De Vergor was at his post and again wounded twice and captured with half of his little garrison while the rest retreated and joined in the skirmishing that went on all day. 

Anyway, there are lots more such trivial bits including a fresh look at the details of the line infantry clash which lasted longer than the single volley of legend, the effect of the broken ground which the French regulars attacked through, more details and accounts of the fighting before and after the French assault and so on. The real meat of the book though is the inclusion of first hand accounts and more details about the summer and fall, the raids up and down the river including the scorched earth ones, the bombardment, the supply system, the naval issues and so on.

There are many excerpts from diaries from both sides, including Canadian civilians and a young First Nation's man, as well as British navy and army. These really seem to bring it all to life and make it easier to relate to, almost familiar in some ways. 

(Kindle version available)

His second book, Backs to the Wall, looks at the winter for both sides and the French counter attack. It is, if anything, even more interesting. Certainly some of the first hand British  accounts of the fighting during the St. Foye battle give a rather different picture of what it was like to fight in an 18thC linear warfare battle than your average wargame summary.

(Kindle version available)

Both books recommended by me.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Middle Age and Guile

There is no doubt that my eyes are not as sharp nor my hand as steady as  they were when I was a young and enthusiastic 18. 

About 1/2 way through trying to paint a simplified version of diced hose as a break from painting tartan, I started to crack. Painting Old Toy Soldier Style on old 54mm toy soldiers, in batches of 4, is soooooo much easier and more enjoyable than even simplified detail on a batch of 12 30mm Willies!   

Still, can't quit now so I fell back on 2 old tricks: I broke the unit into two smaller batches and then painted one figure all the way through as an example and encouragement. 

Not done yet!
When I started to get interested in old toy soldiers, I was pretty horrified at Britain's habit of representing Black Watch kilts as dark green with a single black over stripe but to be honest the effect is actually pretty realistic, more realistic than any painting style that allows you to see the sett from across the table. However I wanted to match the way my first 30mm figures were painted over 40 years ago.  

Back then, armed with years of wearing one to Black Watch cadets and with a copy of Blum's Model Soldiers to hand. I did a DARK blue base with a wide over stripe grid of dark blue-green with brighter green squares where the green lines cross then added thin black stripes down the centre and edges of the green stripes and again through the centre of the blue squares formed by the green lines. 

That is not only a simplification of the actual sett (pattern), it is also waaay too complicated for a wargame model.
Not Master-Class painting but just fine for my table.(Oh my, those hose are cringe worthy at any distance!)
 This time I omitted the medium green squares and reduced the number of black stripes. At arms length I struggle to see the difference between the old and new figures but they give a good impression of my old kilt. 

Me in 1972! The old photo was faded a bit even before I scanned it a few years back and lost most of the rest of the colour! That's a dark green dress coatee for reference.

My kilt was a generous gift by the Black Watch Cadet Corps after my last parade as Corps Sergeant Major.  I still wear it on occasion. (It used to be a bit big for me....).

Friday, January 5, 2018

First Onto the Painting Table for 2018

Cha togar m' fhearg gun dìoladh!

(That's "Nemo me impune lacesset" for those who don't read the gaelic.)

The wounded veteran on the right has donated his arms and been pensioned.
(Yes, arms as in musket and arm, brave laddie

Yes, this should be Fraser's 78th for Quebec but the existing company was painted as the Black Watch at Ticonderoga over 40 years ago so the 2nd company follows suit. Anyway, recent evidence suggests the 78th wore government tartan not the modern clan Fraser tartan so with their buff facings they would look much the same as the Black Watch did before they went Royal.

I ordered these Willies about 10 years ago in hopes of taking them to a 1:10 Ticonderoga game in the US but it didn't happen. (I don't remember now if I didn't go because the game was moved or cancelled or if it went ahead and I couldn't go for some reason.) Since I have resurrected the 30mm 1759 collection and these are about the only full game-unit's worth  of ready-to-go castings on hand for any of my collections at the moment, I thought I might as well start with them.

There was a bit of flash and supporting sprue on the castings and they needed some serious twisting and animating to get them to hold their muskets  but they are very flexible and lively. I had of course opened a few of the packets ten years ago and despite my best efforts, a sword was missing  and possibly two muskets although I think that its actually that the 2 chaps with broadsword in hand had cast down their muskets before charging into the little plastic bag like their ancestors did before charging at Quebec. (Which is why Fraser's suffered the heaviest loss - men with broadswords in the open being at a distinct disadvantage when attacking sharpshooters in the woods). At any rate, I replaced a spontoon-less sauntering officer with a leftover original standard bearer and was able to umm "borrow" a musket from a wounded veteran who lost a leg in battle many years ago.

These figures would respond well to detailed painting with slightly exaggerated highlights and shading or to shading by ink washes or similar, BUT I like the simple, fairly clean, glossy toy soldier look that I used on the British Grenadiers and line infantry when I finally painted them a couple of years ago. Oh heck, why overplan? I'll trust to my guiding spirit when I sit down for another painting session!

Now, do I hold off on a game until these are finished, or do I give my eyes and back and hands a break from painting and just grab some figures off the shelf for a quick game while waiting for winter to stop alternating between arctic freezing and cold rain?   

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Number 11: See the Pyramids Along the Nile

While digging out my 30mm figures for the Quebec game, I came across the abandoned beginnings of my 25mm Horse and Musket Turkish army which has been looking for a reason to be. I also came across a handful of test castings from 25mm Prince August Waterloo moulds I'd been given but had no reason to use. It took a couple of days for me to finally see the obvious connection.
My Turks in the backyard  3 years ago.
Roughly 20 years ago, one of my first 54mm projects (yes a deliverable with plan and target date) was to assemble a convention game based on the action at Rosetta during the 1807 British invasion of Egypt. I got side tracked into Colonials and the War of 1812. The Turks became the army of the Emir of Wadi Foulyam and fought 1850's British instead. Both armies have since retired to the England where the weather is more conducive to wargames in the great outdoors.

Retired Cairo Janisaries in a Garden  Wargame last fall. Photo snitched from Brian Carrick's Collecting Toy Soldiers Blog.
I made the 25mm Turks back in 2011 to use against Ron's SYW Austrians but after one game we were onto to something else. I never got to making cavalry or enough infantry for a proper game and since that first game, they've only been out once, a solo game 3 years ago (see 1st picture).
The moulds being made back in 2011.
The Waterloo moulds were given to me by a friend who needed a home for them but I don't want to go there. Its always seemed a shame not to use the moulds though and my sole Turkish cavalryman is a conversion from the  French lancer mould.

I'm not sure  why it took me so long to figure out the obvious. Reboot the 1807 Anglo-Turkish War but using 25mm homecast figures. The Highlanders will work fine, the British and Foreign infantry will have the wrong hats and the cavalry will probably need some converting but it'll be cheap and I'll finally have a good reason to use my little bits of 25mm desert terrain. It should also help scratch my exotic "Colonial" itch!

In any event, this just leaves one open spot in my list of 12 collections.

It'll probably also take some time though since there are a lot of other things to do. Its just good to know why I'm keeping these figures and moulds and to have a reason to cast and paint up a few when in the mood.
My Turks (with French allies) facing Ron's Austrians in an early Portable Wargame in 2011.
Of course, a One Hour Scenario wouldn't need a lot of troops.... so who knows? "Home by Christmas" maybe?

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018: "Plan? There ain't no plan!"

Welcome to 2018!
All pictures except the Marx WW1 picture  were selected from 2017 posts.

The last few years have seen unrelenting  plans to reduce, consolidate and complete collections (not "complete" complete, just "completed to usable, presentable, minimal opposing forces" complete). On almost every front these plans have been a dismal failure again this year despite a very enjoyable hobby year where every single "Keeper" collection saw action as did several "dropped but not disposed of" collections.

(Aside: I use "collection" rather than "project" as they have no planned "final state" but are intended to be ongoing, "living" collections. )

It did not escape my attention that several of the supposedly "to be disposed of if some suck..errr.. umh..helpful person!... should volunteer to adopt them" collections also saw action on the table. It has also not escaped me that the clutter is worse not better and the cupboards are overflowing.

Rather than reinforce failure, I am going to switch my plan to an attack on several fronts.

Recast and new 54mm Britain's

The essential end goals remain the same although I have honed them:

1) I want everything to "fit" in the available space without excess clutter so that my hobby room is a comfortable place to be and a suitable place to invite guests into, including chairs and a place, other than the gaming table, to put a coffee mug.

2) Every collection I keep must be of sufficient interest to me to see action at least once every three years. The rather rare collections that are complete but no longer of interest ( "Been there, done that, don't want to go back.") or were abandoned before being table ready, as well as all the remaining flotsom of figures without a home, will be disposed of if possible. A very few items might be able to hang on for "sentimental" reasons even if not having serious gaming potential. (Anyone for Marx 6" WWII wargames?)

3) At least some parts of the collection must be large enough to stage a multi-player convention game without using the same collection year after year,

4) Many, if not most, of the collections should be aimed at small, quick games,

5) The drain on finances, including infrastructure, must be minimized and room for imagination and creativity maximized.

4cm Elastolin "Vikings" 

As part of this consolidation I have increased the maximum number of authorized collections  back up to a possible 12 from 8. The current list of active collections (See: My Active Collections Pageis now 10 in 4.5 scales (25mm/30mm being 1.5). When I compiled my first 'White Paper on Defence' ,around the turn of the century, it was in excess of 20 collections in 9.5 scales so this is still progress.

Our combined 16thC Anglo-French game at Huzzah.
The major activity, which I hope to start this winter and finish in late spring, is to carry out some simple games room renovations to make the atmosphere less clutter friendly by rearranging/reducing furniture, adding more shelves, gutting the cupboards to improve use of non-display storage, and ditching anything which is being kept "because" or with a view to one day painting and selling it. It also involves a repaint in lighter colours.

The tricky part is that I have not found the 4'x6' table particularly suitable. Its bigger than I need for small games but not as big as I'd like for bigger games while being more awkward to manoeuvre around than a smaller table and having more room underneath for "stuff" to hide in. I am 90% resolved to reduce the top to 4'x4', a size that has worked well over the year. In the short term, I will be able to temporarily re-attach the missing 2'x4' piece  but the plan will call for a larger temporary top for occasional bigger games when funds allow.

Homecast 40mm early 20thC figures, mostly Zinnbrigade.

Postage rates and oversupply have made most of what I have or could have available to sell not worth the effort so I have only been selling things that I care about but don't have room for. Most of what is  left are bits and pieces, left over plastics, kits and miscellaneous painted units which need a home but also need work. As the clean out progresses, I will add a "Surplus to requirements" blog page and post things from the cupboard, both unpainted and old painted figures available on a first come basis for the cost of postage.   Eventually, unclaimed items will be melted down and recast if metal or reluctantly sent to the dump if plastic unless one of the used goods for charity places will accept military themed toys. (None of them seem to sell any, even the Dollar Stores and toy departments rarely carry any here these days).

I'm not sure what to do with my handful of old small, skinny, 30mm Marx figures, both the hard plastic WW1 "Over the Top" figures and my remaining WWII Battleground soft plastic figures, but they are all more than 50 years old and rather fragile. It is probably time to let go of them while there are still collectors around but then again, maybe their own dedicated display shelf might be enough to reduce the temptation to clone them, add machine guns, artillery and diecast tanks and play post WW1 games with them. 

I am finally pretty comfortable where each collection is heading and what its unique contribution is except when it comes to the 20thC. All three of my post WW1 20thC collections had been moved to the "inactive, consider for disposal" column, however, all three saw action this year.

They were all used to play Portable Wargames so I know who to blame for my starting to think about keeping them again! (Thanks Bob!)

My small 1/72nd Russian Civil War collection is a problem. This is partially a matter of being somewhat uncomfortable about handling the politics, history and the carnage fairly when its not MY history and I'm always reluctant to turn anything with high suffering into a 'game', especially when there are civilians involved, hence my no longer playing Indian or Viking raids with VP's for rape, pillage and etc. I'm pretty comfortable about misrepresenting and cleansing my own history and culture, less so about those of others.

There is also the matter of 20mm figures not being nearly as large and fun to paint as they were even 5 years ago! This issue will be quietly left open for now.

RCW Portable Wargame in progress in September. 

Every now and then I get an urge to play with tanks but I don't really enjoy making model vehicles and its a rare itch anyway. The history is a bit close for comfort, more current events than history in my mind for anything in the last 100 years and the attraction is more movies and newsreels than a genuine interest in armour penetration, section tactics and the like, and my interest in the operational level is even lower and my interest in reading up even lower again. I didn't want to do the cold war but haven't been clever enough about a fictional setting for my mind's satisfaction. The armies are also incomplete, in a disorganized mess and need teeny, tiny, fiddly reinforcements.

Various 1/72nd models and figures in a fictional setting.
My 54mm post WWII thing was based around a Britain's B.A.T. gun that was a present when I was a kid and a handful of well played with toy soldiers.

No decision has been made yet but I'm not sure I have the energy and interest to bring up to scratch either of my two battered, "off the active list", post WWII collections.

Since I periodically get to play WWII games with my friends using their stuff, I'm seriously thinking about purging everything post 1940. (54mm tanks take a LOT of storage space.)

Atlantica already has one clunky pre-WWII tank......

I still want "something with tanks" so it would make sense to just add some relatively accessible 1/43rd diecast Renaud, Somua M13s or 35t tanks to my fictional, early 20thC, 40mm forces for fictional post Great War games.

Time will tell!