Monday, February 28, 2011

The world is too much with us.

Paper models courtesy of Fiddlers Green

The last few days have left little time for blogging as between work and attempting to get our Mortgage cheque clearance, I have been exploring interesting new avenues of sleep deprivation.
Mrs Kinch has been off doing the state some service during our elections.

I must say I'm ambivalent about the result. That old anarchist slogan "It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always gets in" is one that has always been close to my heart. Though one aspect of the election did fill me with a deep sense of unease.

In the mean time back to wargaming, I managed to get a game in on Thursday night - sadly just with blocks, but it was fun nonetheless and entirely contrary to expectations and experience, I won. I had intended to do a report, but Donogh beat me to it, so you can find his view of the battle here.

Leprecon is hoving into view and I find myself in the embarrassing position of having packed material that I'll need for the convention, which is extremely irritating. I shall have to dig out Donogh's zeppelin, figures and other things in order to fulfill my commitments. Very irksome.

This week I shall have to...

- Finish writing a live action roleplaying game based on "Yes Minister".
- Get together my bits and pieces for a run of Jim Wallman's Tank Duel.
- Assemble my forces for Command & Colours: Napoleonics in 1/72.
- Finish Donogh's zeppelin, once I've found it.

All while, hopefully buying a house, we shall see how I do.

Addendum: The buildings above are available from Fiddlers Green. I printed them on heavy paper and started using them some seven or eight years ago. Since then they have done service in Ireland, Spain, England and Russia, with few casualties. Cheap, easy to transport and pre-painted, I commend them to the attention of the cash strapped wargamer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cavalry: Its History and Tactics by Louis Nolan - Part II



Having spent a day locked in mortal battle with mortgage providers and their eternal engines of lies - I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is every possibility that Mrs. Kinch and I will be getting keys to our new home next week. I'm not putting much store by that prediction, but we shall see.

In the meantime, I have been spending time waiting in offices waiting to see people, which has meant I've been able to spend some quality time with Louis Nolan.

He continues in much the way I expected, the British cavalry are too laden down with equipment to be really effective and everything much be done to reduce the amount of weight carried by cavalrymen. I was particularly amused by his plan to transfer older and -ahem- heftier troopers into the infantry once they reached the age of 35.

Nolan also maintains that the troop rather than the squadron was the proper unit of maneuvre, but that certainly no unit larger than a squadron should be deployed in line. Because cavalry is more reliant on speed than weight or numbers, the smaller, handier unit can exploit opportunities that would pass larger units by.

Another point that Nolan is enthusiastic about is the need for appropriate intervals between troops. His point was that without proper intervals it is almost impossible for disordered cavalry to reform without crashing into their fellows and disrupting the order of the whole line. It also compromises the speed of manuevre. He claims that the search for the "press of cloth" has led to large units closing up too enthusiastically in the charge with the result that the inner files become compacted and lose their order.

The preferred method of attack should be echelon allowing the sub-units to maneuvre to best effect and allowing sufficient space, should the attack fail, for the sub-units to retreat in good order. One point that I had never considered was that he condemned the issuing of homogeneous uniforms to cavalry, arguing that cavalry regiments should be dressed distinctively so as to make it easier to rally them on the field.

Lieut. Gen. Sir Charles James Napier also sticks his oar in, in excerpts from his Defects, Civil and Military, of the Indian Government, in which he deplores the effects of westernising Indian irregular cavalry, who he states are far superior horsemen when left to their own devices. He also picks up Nolan's (though perhaps Nolan took it up from him) point about weighing down horses with equipage.

What does all of this have to do with wargaming?

Well, that depends on - the skirmish wargamer will find a great deal of material here, seeing as there is a wealth of minutia offered. The wargamer on a broader canvas will still find much food for thought, though in more general terms. A great deal of ink is expended discussing how cavalry ought to be used on the battlefield and assuming ones rules are good ones, a good player may find himself evaluating his decisions rather than his rules after reading this book.

Still recommended. I may have to look over the Command & Colours rules and see what can be made of them in the light of Nolan.

The image above is taken from Iron Maiden's "The Trooper", a good pounding metal tune. It was inspired by the charge in which Nolan lost his life. I've often felt to be a little too wordy to be a really brilliant, but this is not the first time that charge has been leveled against Maiden, you can have a listen here.

Old Kinchs figures lie a moulderin' in a box...


A forlorn and somewhat mouldy box


I store my 1/72 scale figures in file boxes, which has been a success so far as organising them is concerned. It's not the most attractive way to store figures, but it does work - though Savage has come up with a cunning plan for adding fake book covers to them. The idea being that when placed on a shelf, the box will look like a large book.

Savage came up will all manner of smart ideas for bookcover designs that would incorporate information into the cover. The colour of the cover would indicate which nationality the troops inside belonged to, a logo which arm they belonged to and a "title" to indicate the regiment.

Therefore the box contains the 4th and 88th regiments would have a red cover (British troops), a stand of arms on the spine (infantry) and a title, "Adventures with the Fourth Foot and Connaught Rangers".

This is no doubt, a long way off as I will obviously have to organise somewhere to put them - but the grand plan develop a minor setback today, when I went to inspect boxes in advance of a game next week and discovered that some of them had mould growing on them.


The field forge of the 13th cuirassiers

I moved the boxes to a new location, have been cleaning off the mould as best I can with a cloth and hopefully while the boxes are a little damp at present - this won't effect their strength and durability in the long term.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cork Hills


(Corunna, inexplicably sideways and resisting all attempts to turn it)


The hills of Cork....

...which are as nothing compared to the bewildering and irrational behaviour of their rivers, which seem to conceived solely with the purpose of upsetting innocent Dubliners.

The last few days have been very eventful and I can't say that I'm unhappy to see the back of them, they have however left precious little time for wargaming or indeed sleep.

Bob Cordery over at Wargames Miscellany has been experimenting with foamcore for use as hills in his portable wargames project. I have had some success with using cork for the various Command & Colours games. You can see above the Corunna scenario laid out using my 2mm figures, woods and buildings and using some of the river tiles from the game.

As you can see the look isn't too bad and I've found the cork a very durable and hard wearing material to work with. I've traced a card hex from the boxed game onto a cork tile and then cut the resulting shape out with a sharp craft knife. Sticking a couple of hexes together allows you to make larger hills, though after experiments with bespoke hills, I found that it was generally easier to produce a variety of shapes of between one and four hexes in size and put them together as needed.

Donogh has commented that the 2mm figures are swallowed up by the board. I can't say I mind myself, but I can see his point and have been looking over the options offered by Irregular Miniatures. They offer blocks of troops up to 96 men strong, which might be a little too big for the hexes, but would certainly make it easier for the uninitiated to manipulate them.

There is of course, the option of placing the figures on larger bases and using a marker system, but this would miss the point of using figures in the first place.

Oh and by the way, one of those clever Johnnies over at ccnapoleonics.net have come up with another Corunna scenario, this one using the Breakthrough format. You can find it here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Large Scale Figures




A Crimean Officer of the 19th Foot


I finally finished my Roll Call Crimean Officer - which is meant as a belated birthday gift for Mrs Kinch's great uncle. I'm relatively happy with the figure, my first of this size (120mm) and it has certainly been a learning experience. The figure itself is cast in resin and comes in multiple parts. The resin needs to be washed and trimmed, as there are large pieces of sprue still attached. This is not quite as easy as it looks and requires a firm hand, patience and plenty of sandpaper.

Once assembled with superglue, I undercoated the figure white and painted him with my normal vallejo acrylics with virtually no shading or highlighting. There is little need to in this scale, the light does the work for you. I'm not convinced my choice of glossy black base and I may repaint it in a warmer brown to give an effect of the mahogany type before he takes up his new billet. I'm hoping Mrs Kinch's great uncle will name him, he has a rather excellant collection of old teddy bears all of whom have names. My favourite by a country mile is Paget Soames.


Some years ago, Mrs Kinch and I were married. It was a wonderful day, but one that was not without its troubles the week before. The main problem being the fact that the venue that we had booked for our reception effectively withdrew eight days before the wedding - anyone who has attempted to book a venue for 170+ persons in Dublin city centre at a weeks notice, can attest I'm sure to the fact that it is an impossibility for anything less than a Kings ransom.

Enter stage left, the man of the hour, Mrs Kinchs uncle - who put his Georgian town house entirely at our disposal. He and his family took time off from work and college to clear the bottom two floors of their home and plumbed in extra bathrooms in order to accommodate our guests. There are some debts that can never be repaid, but when I discovered that the relative in question liked 120mm models - I think I may where to begin.

With that in mind I purchased two new figures, a British officer of Waterloo (who may have to be transfered into the 88th) and a trooper of the French Dromedary Corps. Time will tell how well I get on with them.

Who knows, I may even get better at this modelling lark.

Danger to Quatre Bras!

The Black Watch at Quatre Bras by Woolen

Disquieting news has just reached me that a request has been presented to the authorities in Genappe to have the historic farmhouse at Quatre Bras demolished to make way for a development.

Domminique Timmermans is rallying the troops to save this historic site. More information and advice on how you can help (all that is required of you is an email gentlemen) can be found here.

I will be writing to express my objection to any such move and I would encourage all others to do the same.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cavalry: Its History and Tactics by Louis Nolan

Louis Nolan - he died as he lived, on horseback

Louis Nolan was an odd old soul - born in Canada, he served first in the Austrian cavalry and would end his life in the British service. Known most famously for his role in the "Charge of the Light Brigade" during the Crimean campaign. I have been unable to find any reference to his having seen action in India, it would seem that he first saw active service in the campaign that ended his life. Yet he was a thoughtful officer and gave a great deal of his time to attempting to improve the state of the British cavalry.

Along the way, he wrote two books - but of particular interest is "Cavalry: Its History and Tactics" first published in 1853, but republished by Westholme in a handsome hardback in 2007. It's a nice book and I much prefer the experience of carrying a book with me, but for those of us without the €30 to spare, it can be found here.

I have only read the first fifty pages or so, but the central points so far are -

- firearms are anathema to cavalry because they dissaude men from closing with cold steel.
- armour is a waste of time, because...
- speed, good horsemanship and sharp swords are the most important attributes of cavalry, with them all things are possible, without them mounted men are merely more expensive infantrymen.

General Flashman famously described Nolan as "...a cavalry maniac who held everyone in contempt" in his memoir of the Crimean campaign and I can see his point. There is a great deal of scorn in this work, though I have only read a quarter of it so far. I suspect the message at the beginning, that light cavalry are the apotheosis of the mounted arm will be much the same in the end.

In many ways Nolan reminds me of specialist trainers in the college, each man a prophet for his discipline and holding all others in contempt, if he regarded them at all. The chap who taught the correct use of the notebook held all other things cheap, while the handcuffs instructor maintained that once you'd mastered handcuffs all other aspects of the job would simply fall into place, while the legal instructors thought that anyone who didn't master the finer points of their discipline was an idiot.

It is unlikely that I will get the opportunity to read much more this week, but we shall see how the thing develops.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mystery Gun

The Mystery Gun


I was over visiting Mrs. Kinch's great uncle the other day when this caught my eye. It's a firearm of somesort, percussion cap, no makers mark that I can find, though it's missing some of it's brass fittings. However, it's been hanging on the wall for so long that it's become part of the furniture and it was only when I actually took it down that something odd struck me.

While it looks like a musketoon or something similar, the flared end would suggest that it is a blunderbuss type weapon. However, on closer inspection the flaring doesn't extend any further down the barrel, which differs from other blunderbusses I have seen. It offers the appearance of a carbine with a flared barrel for no easily discernible reason.

Why make a flared barrel if the firer can't fit shot, rusty nails and the like down it?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Battle of Corunna - Part III

The Death of Sir John Moore 1761-1809 17th January 1809
After William Heath

My apologies for the unbecoming maudle of yesterday.

On returning to the battle of Corunna, there are some other points of interest.

Sir John Moore was a distinguished soldier and is widely credited for having introduced the light infantry creed into the British army during his time as a brigadier at the camp of instruction at Schorncliffe. This appears, at least according to "The British Light Infantry Arm", an extremely engaging volume by David Gates, who later went on to write "The Spanish Ulcer", to be an overstatement. Moore was certainly friendly to the idea of light infantry, but it appears that junior officers (whose names I can't swear to, as my copy is already packed) provided most of the inspiration on this count.

What did mark out Moore was his humanity and his belief that men were better led than driven There is an episode in Christopher Hibberts history of the Corunna Campaign where he describes Moore mortgaging the lives of two men who were due to be hanged. He stayed the sentence of execution conditional on the good conduct of the rest of their regiment. This appears to have worked, but I doubt it was a man management style that would have found much favour with the peer.

Moore has also been featured in Bernard Cornwell's latest work, The Fort, set during the American War of Independance, where he fights dastardly Continentals for the King with a very satisfactory outcome*. My old friend GA Henty has also given Moore the full treatment in his "With Moore at Corunna", a Henty I haven't read but that I shall have to make time for.

However, if Moore's fame is remembered in the 21st century, it shall be because of the poetry of the Reverend Charles Wolfe. Wolfe was an Irish poet, who was widely believed to have been the real father of nationalist leader, Teobald Wolfe Tone. He wrote his poem shortly after the battle of Waterloo, though it did not achieve real success until ten years later when it was championed by Lord Byron, who was presumably taking time away from other persuits.

The poem itself, "Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna" is a little gem and I have always had a great affection for the last line. The ryhme scheme and cadence is well matched the subject matter, the slow beat reminiscent of a funeral march.
Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O'er the grave where our hero we buried.
You can find the rest here.

And finally, just to drag this back to wargaming - a clever Johnny over at http://www.ccnapoleonics.net has come up with a new variation on the published scenario covering the battle. What's interesting about his version is that it uses the Breakthrough format from Memoir '44 and the specialised card deck from Memoir '44 - Winter Wars. I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I'm looking forward to it - my previous games of Breakthrough have been very satisfying.

It just goes to show that young Cordery is not the only chap who can't leave well enough alone.

You can find Michael Dippel's new Corunna scenario here.


*Though being a Bernard Cornwell novel, it turns out it was those wascally Chwistians awl awong.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Battle of Corunna - Part II



The French counter-attack
the British advance at Piedralonga


On re-reading my post of yesterday, I realised that I hadn't included half the things I wished to and had just produced a somewhat lacklustre potted history of the battle.

For those of you who would like to know more, I recommend Christopher Hibbert's brief volume on the battle. This is classic Hibbert stuff, merging a well written and clear narrative with an admirable eye for personal stories, nor does he flinch from describing the appalling breakdown in discipline and control that occured on the retreat. Recommended.

Of course, for them as like to lift a heavier weight of paper, there is Volume One of Sir Charles Oman's History of the Peninsular War. It is an excellent book, but be warned - I have never met anyone who was able to buy just one volume of this work.

But returning to the game...

We played this several times and I believe the honours were about even. I remember two battles clearly - the first resulted in a messy scrap around Elvina which both sides simply trading blows until someone broke. Both players were new to the game and this precipitated an infantry bloodbath with virtually no involvement by the other arms. I think the issue there is that new players, particularly if they are Command & Colours veterans, rarely grasp the effect of casualties reducing firepower until they've played the game.

I found it interesting that both players were aware of this intellectually and had had it highlighted to them prior to the game, but didn't really seem to take it onboard until they had tried their old tactics and failed. A life lesson there perhaps.

The second battle saw a repeat of the abortive French assault on the centre, which was followed by a British assault on the left which was spectacularly successful, mainly I believe because the British player grasped that reducing the overall strength of the force infront of him was more advantageous then trying to pick of individual units.

The French then tried to press the British right with a cavalry charge that lost some of its punch through sloppy execution. The British formed square and as the French were unable to bring guns or infantry to bear on the squares, the French cavalry were seen off.



The situation after the
French counterattack at Piedralonga

(blogger seemingly will not allow me to un-italicise this text)

The second battle saw a repeat of the abortive French assault on the centre, which was followed by a British assault on the left which was spectacularly successful, mainly I believe because the British player grasped that reducing the overall strength of the force infront of him was more advantageous then trying to pick of individual units.

The French then tried to press the British right with a cavalry charge that lost some of its punch through sloppy execution. The British formed square and as the French were unable to bring guns or infantry to bear on the squares, the French cavalry were seen off.

The lessons that have been learned

- unsupported infantry advanced are a decidedly chancy business and generally lead to bloodbaths decided by dice rather than skill.

- cavalry charges should be supported by foot or guns in order to exploit infantry squares, also the timing of attacks (with regard to cavalry overrun) needs to be carefully considered.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Battle of Corunna

The Battle of Corunna
Command & Colours: Napoleonics style

Much like the Battle of Maida, I've always had a soft spot for the Battle of Corunna. It formed the climax of my Napoleonic roleplaying campaign, called "The Halberdiers".

The players were all subalterns in the 46th Regiment of Foot, "The Kings Royal Corps of Halberdiers" who arrived with their regiment in the aftermath of the Treaty of Cintra and formed part of the advance into Spain. There was much skullduggery, intrigue, heroism and climbing of the greasy pole - and great fun it was too. I look forward to returning to it once we've moved house.

The Strategic Picture

The French had been beaten hollow at Rolica and Vimeiro in the previous year, but had been allowed to evacuate Portugal under the shameful terms of the treaty of Cintra. The British army kicked its heel in Portugal for quite some time, while the Spaniards set about the French in a jovial throat cutting sort of manner. The Spaniards had a notable victory at Bailen and London was all afire to help the gallant Dons kick the French in the seat of the pants.

Sir John Moore was dispatched to effect this seat kicking at the head of the British army. After advancing into Spain to support the Spaniards, he discovered that the first thing the Spaniards had organised after victory at Bailen was "the split"*. The Spanish command was hopelessly fragmented, mutually antagonistic and vastly overconfident - meanwhile Napoleon, who despite his many faults could never be accused of taking things lying down was about to cross the Pyrenees at the head of 200,000 men.

You will notice that at the beginning of the previous paragraph, I said, "the British army". While this is perhaps not strictly true, Britain had other troops mostly engaged in colonial security operations and home defence, what was certain was that Moore commanded the only field army Britain could deploy at the time. This inescapable fact informed his every decision. He could not afford to spend men with the prodigality of his opponent.

Moore advanced into Spain and had reached Salamanca before discovering that his new Spanish chums had been thoroughly whipped. He advanced further in the hope of distracting Napoleon's forces and giving the Spanish some time to regroup, eventually turning tail and making for the sea when the French began to pursue in earnest.

Moore's army marched through freezing conditions to the sea port of Corunna, losing nearly two thousand effectives to hunger, straggling and hypothermia. It was during this retreat that he lost the services of one Richard Sharpe...


When called upon to fight, the army did well, but with the exception of the rear-guard who were constantly harrassed by the French van, discipline was not good and collapsed completely on several occasions. Once Napoleon realised that he would not be able to cut Moore off, he withdrew, leaving matters in the hands of General Soult, known amongst my circle as "The Duck of Damnation".

Moore and the army made it to Corunna, but the transport ships had yet to arrive. When the French arrived a day later, Moore turned at bay and began preparations both to evacuate and to fight. Steps were taken to blow up the powder magazines and slaughter the army's horses. This episode forms part of Allan Mallinson's excellent Rumours of War.


The Tactical Picture

The two armies were posted on heights facing each other. Running in the valley between the two armies were streams which flowed to the sea. The heights of San Christobal anchored the British right, with the village of Elvina in the centre and Piedralonga on the left. When the French did not attack immediately, Moore thought that they might not attack at all and began the embarkation. However, French piquets drove in their British counterparts and an attempt was made to outflank the British leftl.

Meanwhile Soult established his batteries (he enjoyed a superiority in guns of two to one) on the heights overlooking Elvina. What followed was a prolonged shin kicking contest as the French drove out the British and were then driven out in turn, who were then counterattacked and so on. I imagine the impetus provided by charging downhill into the village helped feed this particular fight. Moore was attempting to rally the survivors of one of these counter-attacks when he was hit by a cannon ball. This hampered the defence, but the brigade commanders managed to fend off of the further French attacks, including an attack by the French horse on San Christobal, until Soult gave it up as a bad job.

By night fall, both armies were in much the same position as before, with losses of 1,500 men on the French side and 900 on the British. The British slipped away in the night, embarking on their transports while Spanish troops held the citadel to cover their escape.


*I imagine this taking place, Brendan Behan like, in a shadowy bodega where the wine and hot words were flowing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vivandiere


Vivandiere Figure - Unknown Maker

This little figure belongs in Mrs Kinch's great uncles collection, he says he picked it up in France at some point during the last twenty years or so. To my eye, she looks like a Revolutionary-era Vivandiere. In brief Vivandiere or Cantiniere were women who were allowed sell food and drink to the troops. I'm in favour of camp followers generally and vivandieres in general, they add tone. The Brigadier obviously agreed with me as they are listed on the strength of the example regiment in Charge!

My mother in law also collects prints of Vivandieres, though most of these refer to a comic opera called "La fille du regiment". For an entirely differant (and probably rather more accurate) picture, there is a vivandiere in R.F. Delderfeld's "Seven Men of Gascony" that's a pretty tough customer.

My "official" French vivandieres are camp followers in great coats from Uwe Emke's Wurtemberg range. My other camp followers are in civilian clothing as there isn't a manufacturer that makes vivandieres in full fig, at least that I am aware of.

I haven't yet thought of an in-game use for them, but on the table I usually leave them tending the baggage animals and supply wagons. I am of course, more than open to suggestions.





Monday, February 7, 2011

Newline Designs Chasseurs

Little and large
Newline Designs Chasseur & Hat Marching Chasseur


Spending a very pleasant evening with Mrs. Kinch - who is engrossed in her Harry Potter Wii game. I've always liked the books, but Mrs. Kinch is obviously getting rather more from the experience than I am, seeing as she is leaping about the room using the motion sensitive controller as a "wand".

Meanwhile, I am (pardon the pun) pottering about with some of HATs very handsome Marching Chasseurs. I am very much of the opinion that marching figures are perfect for horse and musket wargaming. However, I have met a slight problem - I field battalions of 48 other ranks, HATs marching box holds 32 figures and buying a second box seemed like an extravagance. I bought some Newline Chasseurs to bulk out the unit - but as you can see Foy's reservations were well founded, they look rather weedy next to their HAT brethren.

Fortunately, another box of chasseurs isn't going to break the bank - I may have to find the Newline lads a new home though. I should hopefully finish these chaps this evening and get them off to Mark in the morning. They're destined to join the first Legere at Maida.

Of course, they will need a flag. Any recommendations from the mess?








This week.

WB Yeats and Maud Gonne from Hark, a vagrant.

In a desperate and no doubt vain attempt to prove that I am not a complete obsessive mono-manic who lives, breathes and thinks toy soldiers every hour of every day, I thought it might be worthwhile I bring your attention to some of the interesting things I have encountered this week.

I have been reading...

...Michael Lewis's piece in Vanity Fair on Ireland post bailout.

I've probably arrived rather late to the party at this one, but it struck me as a well written piece. There are inaccuracies, I have no idea what possessed the man to think that Irish politicians were required to give speeches in Irish, and the article has been widely slated on the Irish talk radio for those inaccuracies. However, once you cut out the human interest stuff and get to the meat of the matter, the writing on finance is well presented and interesting.

Lewis is the man behind Liar's Poker and The New New Thing and could probably write an engaging book about paint drying. That said, I've yet to spot a single moral impulse in any of his books.

I have been watching...

...the Hurt Locker.

Deep within my black misgynistic heart, I was delighted when Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for this film. In much the same way that there has only ever been one great Rock & Roll song written by a woman, Kathyrn Bigelow is the only great female director of action films I have ever come across. Near Dark and Point Break are as near perfect as they could be.

The Hurt Locker is the story of an (improbably small) sapper unit in Iraq who spend their time defusing road side bombs. It's best appreciated for what it is - a beautiful action film. Speaking as a chap who works in what is considered a "risky" profession, I can't imagine anyone working with the protagonist for more than a single shift, but that wouldn't have made for a particularly interesting film.

In brief, Bigelow has been described as a "painter with explosions", this film does not dissapoint on that score.

And lastly...

I've also been looking at Hark, a vagrant - a web comic written by this charming young lady. Her subjects are mainly literary and historical, the example above is representative and her wit and lightness of touch are evident in every frame.

Anyone who can write and draw a comic about Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley's martial problems is worthy of your attention.

Tomorrow, back to toy soldiers. I promise.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

An experiment - or is the video working?

video
120mm Roll Call figure
Officer of the 19th Foot in the Crimea

Today was Mrs. Kinch's great uncles un-birthday.

He has been loudly telling anyone that would listen that his ninetieth birthday was due this week and he didn't want any fuss made of it for nearly a month now. So naturally we didn't make a fuss, but we did all happen to drop by the house casually, while coincidentally holding a succession of cakes and books about war, grande horizontales and cinema.

My contribution to the proceedings was the (just finished, the video is of work in progress) chap shown above, an officer of the 19th Regiment of Foot made by Roll Call, which he seemed to like. I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting to family and sitting with Mrs. Kinch's grandfather, who despite a heart problem, dicky legs and the frailty natural to a man in his early nineties can still swear like a sailor when presented with a picture of this man.

Pleasant dinner of egg and chips with Mrs. Kinch and thence to bed.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Remote Control Aircraft & Fireworks



There is no combination of the above words that can fail to please me.

I am an old school sort at heart, I like serried ranks of uniformed men, the elegant ballet of horse, foot and guns. I'm very much of the opinion that once cavalry stop playing a key battlefield role, all the heart has gone out of the business.

And then I see something like this and it reminds me that H.G. Wells used to fire lead shot at his beautifully painted figures and that a little sound and fury is no bad thing. For those of you who cannot watch this footage, it is three minutes and forty seconds of pure joy - remote control zeppelin busting. Make time.

Mystery Gun

The Mystery Gun


I was over visiting Mrs. Kinch's great uncle the other day when this caught my eye. It's a firearm of somesort, percussion cap, no makers mark that I can find, though it's missing some of it's brass fittings. However, it's been hanging on the wall for so long that it's become part of the furniture and it was only when I actually took it down that something odd struck me.

While it looks like a musketoon or something similar, the flared end would suggest that it is a blunderbuss type weapon. However, on closer inspection the flaring doesn't extend any further down the barrel, which differs from other blunderbusses I have seen. It offers the appearance of a carbine with a flared barrel for no easily discernible reason.

Why make a flared barrel if the firer can't stuff shot, rusty nails and the like down it?

GA Henty

It is not commonly known that during the
Abyssinian campaign GA Henty survived on
African swallows that nested in his beard

I'm rather a fan of GA Henty. He formed a large part of my youthful reading and along with Rosemary Sutcliff and Henry Treece, sparked an interest in history that has lasted to this day.
This heroes are all generally cut from the same stuff, a young chap down on his luck who wandered out to the edge of the Empire and did well rising after a series of haresbreath 'scapes and dangers endured with a untrembling stiff upper to a position of power and influence.

This was stirring stuff for young minds and I always lapped it, despite some of the stories being a little hard to believe. I remember there a novel where a chap became Colonel of a Regiment at the age of 18. I must admit this didn't strike me as incongruous at the time, but I believed some pretty duff stuff at the age of nine*. Which is not to say Henty is without merit, he espouses some very solid old fashioned values of courage, modesty, noblesse oblige, self-reliance, social conscience and honesty that are very laudable and that I think a lot of contemporary children's fiction could benefit from.

Henty's descriptions of military campaigns are often very good, informed by his own experience as a war correspondence. George MacDonald Fraser says as much in his notes to Flashman on the March, which chronicles the Abyssinian campaign which Henty reported upon as a correspondent.

Henty's work is now in the public domain and can be found on Project Gutenberg and also on Librivox.org. Mike Harris of Librivox.org has been doing some excellent recording of Henty's work and I thoroughly recommend them. I have enjoyed listening to his recordings of "On the Irawaddy: A story of the first Burmese War" and "Among Malay Pirates: Tales of Peril and Adventure."


*I believed some truly odd stuff at that age, my atheism and professed communism not withstanding, probably the oddest thing I believed at the time was that breasts were prehensile.
There is a long and not particularly interesting story behind this one, but suffice to say that a cousin of mine somewhat oversold Molly Ringwald's performance in "The Breakfast Club".

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A gentle criticism of Command & Colours: Napoleonics


The offending cover
(with explanatory notes)

Explanatory note -

I was playing Command & Colours: Napoleonics the other day with Savage - or more precisely was engaged in the labourious process of sorting blocks prior to play when Savage began pouring forth wrath in a manner rarely heard from so amiable a soul. I should point out that Savage is a graphic designer by vocation and quite devoted to his craft.

He did not think very much of the artwork on the box cover. I found this funnier and funnier as he got angrier and angrier, until the other drinkers in the pub began to think there was something wrong with us.

I mentioned it to him later in an email. This was his response. It lacks some of the vehemence of the original, but I think the spirit is there.

Rant??? RANT!!! It's the truth, as handed down by the Gods themselves, inviolate and as obvious as the fact that the bugger's missing his sword!!!!

Right, first thing; the box design is a bit shit, innit? But that's okay. Napoleonic game, red, white, blue. Obvious but forgivable. Expected even. Grognard game box design is a bit like an old pair of shoes. They look crap, they smell a bit, but they are comfortable. If a grognard game looked cool and current and fun, the sort of people who like them would just walk by it, unaware that the lush and exciting box they just passed contains the sorts of hexes and small counters that makes their beardy little hearts sing.

So fine, the box design is a bit rubbish. Actually no, it's alright, it's perfectly forgettable, it's a box. However. HOWEVER!!!! This is the part where I need to get a stick to clamp down on so I don't bite my own tongue off in rage.

There is a picture on the box, where the white part would be if the designer had just gone with the safe plan of 'slap a French tri-colour on it and go to lunch'. There is a picture, or there would be a picture, if there was not instead the ruins of a picture, the remains of a picture, the empty husk of a picture that if it was a body would be arse up in a ditch with a couple of police detectives standing around it, tutting into their take-out coffees and vowing to find the monster who did this.

It's not a great picture.

It was once a grand picture. There's some fancy blokes with big hats, and some swords, and the odd horse. Actually I'm not sure about the horses, I can't recall the minor detail of whether there are horses or not, because even now, days after the event, all I can see are the mistakes. The monster...

There is a tool, called the magic wand. It's in Photoshop. You can use it to select pixels that share similar characteristics over large areas and then do things to them. Change the colours, tweak other values, disappear them. Or you can use it to destroy dreams. It's versatile like that.

In this case it's been used to play a version of Operation, plucking out random parts of the characters. That fellow at the back is missing the blade of his sword! The guy at the front is missing half of his neck, and the top of his sword! Even worse, the other guy at the back has had his head bisected by an invisible sabre! Where is it?! In fact, fuck that. Where is the dread shade that wields the terrible Nega-Sabre??? He's just not fucking there! There's another bloke missing the top of his hat. The horror.

Oh wait, there are horses. One of them gazes out at the viewer, his eyes wild with fear as he witnesses this pictorial Apocalypse. It's fucking carnage. There are bits of sky hanging off arms, there are weird outlines hinting at where pixels cling to the shapes that are no longer there. No wonder these chaps are crying ballyhoo and charging about! Some mad sky god has descended to measure out disaster upon them, one clumsy sweep of his mouse at a time.

War is already ugly, there was no need for this. Those poor bastards.

And now that the background (and bits of the foreground, and some ears, and a hat, and a bit of sword) has been erased, what has the perpetrator of this felony decide to replace it with? I honestly don't know, but it looks like a pink cloud. After exhaustive hours of research I cannot confirm if any Napoleonic battles ever took place under the shadow of Candyfloss Mountain, but I FUCKING DOUBT IT!!!!!

Did I mention that when I spoke to Richard Borg in Febuary of 2009, this games release was being delayed? The reason? They were waiting to finalise the artwork.

...

Whoever you are, you goddamned son of a bitch, I hope you rot in French hell.

Epilogue - Savage was later found, naked and covered in woad, burning the box cover artist in effigy. His thoughts on the subject have been published with his blessing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This amused me greatly...



...and is probably all the better for not being explained.