Thursday, January 15, 2015

Too much for the Mahdi


I do not often plug things here - but I recently received an email that Science versus Pluck by Howard Whitehouse is now available (after some time out of print) from wargames vault for five dollars. 

SvP is a wargame where the players take on the roles of British or Egyptian army officers in the Sudan during the late 19th century. The Umpire devises the scenario and controls the Dervish forces.

As a sourcebook on the Sudan in the late 19th century it is excellent value, but even if you have no interest in the period or the conflict, there is a lot to be learned here. The author manages to create a wargame that grapples with logistics, scouting, coping with a hostile environment and even dealing with the press is a way that still makes for an entertaining game.  The best description of SvP I have heard is that it is a Generals roleplaying game.  I have never played SvP straight, but I have used the ideas in it to play Napoleonic games, early Colonial games and on one occasion, a Romans versus Britons game using counters. Like Paddy Griffiths seminal "Napoleonic Wargaming for fun" this is a book that will you probably read more than you play, but is so brimming with ideas and imaginative approaches to perennial wargaming problems that I think any wargaming library is poorer without it.

I am led to believe that a hard copy edition will be forthcoming, which will include some scenarios. The only weakness I think in the book as is is that it does not come with an example scenario, but in the mean time, you could spend the price of a pint on far sillier things and not enjoy them half so much.

Whole heartedly recommended. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter Trees

The full effect

Last year, I picked up a white hex mat with snow effects from Hotz Mats. It's a fine mat and as good as any that that company have produced.  But adding my usual trees to it, all of which are deciduous efforts in green and tans, made it look very odd. With that in mind, I decided to experiment with some bare limbed trees. 

This a Woodland Scenic tree armature stuck to an MDF base with some texturing added. This was then painted brown, dry brushed white with some Constables Snow. I gave the armature a drybrush of white as well which brought up the texture.  

Some PVA daubed on the branches

After that I added some dollops of PVA to the branches and the base and dunked the whole lot in a tub of "Snow" from Army Painter. I'm in two minds about this actually.  I think the snow on the ground looks very well, but I'm not sure about the snow on the branches. 

Branches unadorned 

This is an armature with snow on the base and a drybrush of white on the boughs. I was thinking of adding heavier solid blocks of white paint along the tops of the branches.

More like this

Either way, I'll be varnishing the result within an inch of their lives, but I think the paint version might be more resistant to the vicissitudes of campaigning. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

There is nothing like a hussar

You know what they say about men with big plumes?

Again, our unnamed man in Budapest has come up trumps.  This is a MB models 54mm French hussar, who I think you'll agree is really quite the thing. 

I'm in two minds as to where he is ultimately going to live, possibly on the bookshelf in the bedroom gaily trotting between the Henty's and the Haggard for eternity. Or on my writing desk, we shall see. 

A moustache for ladies who really should know better. 

Not my work I hasten to add, but I am very happy to have him.  He has a certain something about him, the French have a word for it, but sadly, I don't know what it is. 

This collecting toy soldiers just for the hell on it nonsense rather than for the infinitely more sensible collecting toy soldiers for wargaming could be catching. It's a good thing, I'm a strict Calvinist soul with iron self discipline who never gives into temptation. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Crimean Reinforcements

1ieme Battalion Zouaves

I took delivery of some reinforcements from Mark for the Crimea today. Proper photographs of his handiwork will have to follow, but for the time being some snaps from my phone will have to do. These are the first battalion Zoauves, who cut up rough at the Alma if memory serves.  Mark did some of them with green turbans, which shows up in some of the visual reference. We were having a chat about it and Mark reckons it might be a 19th century fashion statement, though apparently the green turban is the privilege of the Haji. 

4ieme Chasseurs a Pied

The Chasseurs are a little more sedately dressed than our North African friends, but still have that light infantry dash about them. They look rather well don't you think? Hopefully we shall see them storming the Alma before too long. 

Kuban Foot Cossacks

I really rather liked the flag with these fellas. These are a particularly piratical bunch and as a result of some of the poses, a somewhat smaller unit that I usually field. I used the old Gilder trick of using larger bases. The gentlemen on the right with knife for example is taking up the space usually reserved for two other ranks. 

Ingermanland Hussars

These I believe are the poor fellows who ended up facing up the Argylls at Balaklava.  They look rather dressy and I think they might end up on temporary transfer to my Napoleonic forces. 

A thin streak of red...

I have a unit or two of the Argylls, so they may be coming to grief sooner rather than later. 

No. 60 Don Cossacks

These are Strelets Don Cossacks, nice figures and quite robust. Again, suitable for Napoleonics as well as the Crimea. To be honest, the amount of overlap between the two periods is substantial. 

Kuban Foot Cossacks

These chaps will be doing duty as Russian light infantry in Napoleonics and in the Crimea. They could probably be found running around the 20th century if one was so minded, but I think we might steer clear of the grubby petrol age for a little while longer.  

Kuban Foot Cossacks

Another unit of Cossacks. These fellas give me the final light unit required for Borodino and some of the other large Russian scenarios.  Actually depending on how you want to rate 'em, they could pass for either light infantry or militia.  

On the whole, the Crimean project is looking rather healthier for this injection of manpower. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Thinking on 2014

Looking back at the year with the rather 
fancy bust of Wellington that Mrs. Kinch got me. 


I have all the figures I'm likely to need for this project. The vast majority of them are painted. I've written and played one campaign, though the final battle remains to be completed, in this setting.  I don't think I'll be adding anything much to this collection.  I have sufficient to play the games that I want to play.  One of the advantages of the setting I suppose is that as you are making up the scenarios yourself, you just use what you have. 

Verdict - Multiple games played, one campaign (almost) complete. Collection finished. 

Memoir '44 in 1/72 - MISSION COMPLETED
This has probably been in a very quiet way 2014s success story. There are some figures that I would like to pick up to play the very occasional scenario here and there, but for the most part the back is broken on this one. We've played two one day campaign games, one set in Normandy and the other at Kursk, both of which were well received. 

Mid-Late War British - Complete, barring some specialised armour and a couple of dozen paratroopers. 
Mid-Late War Americans - Complete, barring a couple of dozen paratroopers.
Mid-Late War Germans - Complete. 
Mid-Late War Soviets - Complete. 
Partisans & French Resistance - Complete. 

I may add a few bits and pieces here and there, but I can play a lot of Memoir '44 games with the assembled toys here.  No doubt, I will experience a rush of blood to the head and decide that I can't live without a Blitzkrieg era force of Frenchmen. Capability Savage of Arabia is no doubt getting measured for one of those special scarves for swanning around the Western Desert in, but for the moment I'm happy with the state of affairs here. 

Verdict - Multiple games played, two campaigns played. Collection (mostly) finished.

Command & Colours: Napoleonic - The Rajah of Kalaah-Akaata - MISSION STALLED

This has definitely fallen foul of lack of time. Haven't played any games. Scratched some ideas in notebooks. That's about it. 

Verdict - No games played. 

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - Dollying up - MISSION STALLED AND PROBABLY ABORTED

Curiously enough - this mission has been pretty much comprehensively trashed by the simple fact that I made a lot more progress with the rest of the Napoleonic armies than I expected.  That and as I don't really anticipate putting on games at conventions anymore, there's less motivation to put together talking points. 

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Russians - MISSION NEARLY COMPLETE

Another success story. We played our one day Borodino campaign and it was rather successful. With the exception of two units of Guard Light infantry, a couple of horse artillery batteries and a second unit of Guard Grenadiers, there's not a lot that needs to be done here. We've played a couple of games and I'd like to play some more, but there's plenty of time for that. 

Verdict - Probably half a dozen games played, one campaign day played (which was a great success).

Son of Bride of Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Russians - The Crimea - MISSION COMMENCED

This was the surprise of 2014. Not something that I contemplated really making a go of and it just sort of sneaked up on me. We've played two games, but I think there's a lot to be said for a campaign that re-uses so much of the Napoleonic collection.

Verdict: Eh - doing well I think. Du Gourmand and I are still tinkering with the rules of course. 

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Austrians - MISSION PARTIALLY COMPLETE

The Line infantry is completely done and there's a start on the Grenadiers and the Grenzers. The artillery are completely covered, barring horse artillery. Cavalry are the stumbling block here. 

Verdict: No games played. 

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Prussians - MISSION COMMENCED

A great deal of groundwork done here.  More painting to be done, but I pretty much have all the figures required. 

Verdict: No games played. 

The Sword and the Flame - MISSION STALLED

I had sort of expected that this would be the big deal of 2014. I was totally wrong on that one. John Cunningham gave this a shot in the arm with the sale of some Colonials in December. It won't be going anywhere for a while though. 

Verdict: Still struggling toward Khartoum. 

Not dead, but sleeping. 

So out of ten projects. 
Three are complete or so near to being so as makes no odds. (Memoir '36, Memoir '44 and C&C Russians)
One is over two thirds there. (C&C Austrians)
Two are aborted or on long term hiatus. (C&C Dollying up and Cold War)
Two are stalled (C&C Kala Akaata & The Sword and the Flame)
The other two are ongoing. (C&C Prussians & C&C Crimea) 

Not a bad year for wargaming all told.  Better for acquisition than play, but one follows from the other. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Holidays & a touch of Dutch.

Mrs. Kinch really did an excellent job didn't she?

On the 20th, I handed in my last two essays and began two weeks of glorious time off from school. I will be working over Christmas, but to be honest, only working one job is going to be a wonderful relief. All the better, on the 21st we had the annual gathering of friends of the Kinchs. Mrs. Kinch did a wonderful job making sure everything was ready and it was great to see everyone.  It was just a wonderful convivial time and the company were in such good spirits. It was the best. 

A picture stolen from the Internet. Much like my bicycle.

I indulged in some unmanly winging in my last blog post - something of which I am too often guilty, but I was well and truly browned off having had my debit card and my bicycle stolen.  I managed to cancel the card, though whoever ended up with it attempted to use it some hours later. Just goes to show that there is no harm in taking that sort of action quickly. 

I was particularly miffed about my bike, mainly as I'd had some work done on it the week before and had some parts replaced. But lo and behold, I was in the library the following day polishing off my Constitutional Law essay when I saw a young fellow pushing a bike down the street. I looked a second time and then realised that it was very familiar. 

I think he realised he was for it when I let out a roar of anger and he took to his heels, dropping the bike, I'm lucky he didn't mount it or he'd have smoked me completely. So one escaped miscreant, but I got my bicycle back which was a huge relief. Cost me the price of a new lock, but on the whole, I count myself very lucky. 

You may remember this fellow from 2012, when I warned Alan that he would progress with glacial slowness. I was not wrong it would appear. This is a 17th century Dutch musketeer and a very fine fellow he is.  I despaired of ever finishing him and when Krisztian offered the services of a friend of his with an interest in large scale figures, I jumped at the chance. 

I must say Krisztian's pal has done a bang up job, really fantastic and certainly miles better than I would have done. Harry Pearson in "Achtung Schwinehundt" makes an argument that toy soldier collectors are a different breed to wargamers and he is no doubt right.  I am definitely a wargamer, but every so often I have a hankering for a beautiful thing for it's own sake and this Dutchman is the fruits of the hankering. 

The builder, I'm ashamed to say I don't know his name, has altered the model somewhat, but I think it makes it all the better. The animation of the face and the naturalness of the pose are just breath taking. 

 It is a bit silly that a material thing can bring me so much pleasure, but that it does so is inarguable. I'm still debating where I shall put him when I finally take delivery, but he really is fine. His brother, a trooper of the Lifeguards, sits on my desk and is very pleasant to look at. 

I think he may live on my desk as well or possibly the mantle piece in the War Room, but we shall see. Though going back to my previous blog entry on him - I realise that I never did finish "With Pike and Dyke" by GA Henty.  I must go back to that. 

Just look at that face and the delicate blending on the fabric.  There's a character to give King Phillip a sleepness night or two and no mistake. 

One of having a little time with nothing more strenuous then some desultory Christmas shopping was I had the chance to do a spot of reading. This presented itself by chance more than anything and I really enjoyed it. Christie is really more Mrs. Kinch's thing than mine - but this is probably the least Christie-ish of her books that I've read. 

The novel is a short one, more of a collection of short stories really.  The protagonist is an Englishman called Satterthwaite who meets a mysterious character, named Quin, who inveigles him into solving mysteries and righting wrongs. The stories have a strange almost dreamlike quality to them. There is a good deal of contrivance, but the thrust of the storytelling carries the stories along without you wondering too much about it. 

In many ways, the stories are reminiscent of the best of GK Chesterton. They have a curious fairytale logic about them that I found quite enchanting.  I had not suspected that Christie would be able to carry off that sort of thing, but she did and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I shan't write more, so as not to spoil them, but they are well worth reading and quite short. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Getting there

Getting this home is one of the best jobs of the year

Mrs. Kinch and I were talking about the year in review last night and it appears that 2014 will not be one remembered with great fondness. I think in retrospect that view may have been somewhat coloured by the fact that yesterday did not go brilliantly, but every household has its own troubles. 

In light of recent events in Pakistan, our problems are shown to be so utterly trivial that allowing them to spoil things seems a shabby and unmanly thing to do. Work and school are stretching us, but alot of that pressure will be coming off on the 20th.  

In the mean time, I think we will focus on those many things that we have to be thankful for, not least the arrival of our magnificent Christmas tree. Mrs. Kinch did a cracking decorating job on it and also on the floor of the living room, now newly washed, stained and varnished. There's a rug coming for it, but that won't be until the New Year. 

I lack the words to describe how happy this makes me. It is the everything of home. 

A horde of dastardly Frenchers

In between wrestling with Constitutional Law essays, our finances and the logistics of Christmas, I had a chance to unpack some French infantry that I picked up from a chap that was selling a diorama. I based these last night and they look very fine. I'll be substituting some of my French line in great coats for these fellas and transfering the great coated men to my 1848 forces. 

Anyway this Criminal Law essay isn't going to write itself. More in a few days. 

A very Merry Christmas to you all.