Saturday, July 27, 2013

Russian generals

Lee over at "A Napoleonic Therapy Project" has just finished some Russian & Austrian generals for me and they really look fine. He's done some cracking work on them and more than that donated his fee to the Kathryn Casey Memorial Fund, the act of a gentleman of the first water.

I would suggest making your way over to his blog and having a look at some of the really fine work he's been turning out of late as well as the stirring of an interesting looking Command & Colours Napoleonics variant for the American rebellion.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

British Shermans & Progress in the War Room

Group shot

I've been working on some armour for my '44 British army.  These are three Plastic Soldier Company Shermans (thanks Ben!) with a few extra bells and whistles added. They were painted as set out in the instructions from the Flames of War website. 

Sherman the first

This was made up with just a few little pieces of stowage and a HAT tank commander added. The stowage was a mixture of Hobbyden, Italeri and Valiant small packs. 

Sherman the third

Again made up straight from the box with some green stuff camouflage and some S&S stowage and a few bits and pieces added from the Plastic Soldier Company sprue. 

Sherman the third

And finally, the last Plastic Soldier Company Sherman with some Hobbyden boxes at the back, green stuff nets up front and some Plastic Soldier Company bits here and there. I had actually thought I had gone a little overboard with stowage on some of these, but when I saw some of the pictures out there of both tanks in action and the kits available to 1/35 scale chaps, I realised that I had been rather restrained. 

Everything but the kitchen sink. 

Though no doubt there is someone there who makes 1/35 scale kitchen sinks. These boys aren't finished yet and they need some decals and a spot of weathering, but on the whole I'm very happy with them. They have a suitably late war gypsy look about them without having gone completely overboard and they are good robust kits so I hope they will stand up to plenty of wargaming use. 

And lastly because I had it lying around and it seemed to be silly not to give it a go while it was lying around, an Armourfast Cromwell. I have another one of these with some scrim and other bits attached, but I ran out of black spray. I'll also want to attached some pennants and decals to this, but I'll have to look at what is available in the decal box and work from there.

In other news, the ceiling rose and lamp for the War Room is up.  This is a lamp that my inlaws got me in Berlin a couple of years ago. It's rather nice and it made from vellum.  

It also comes with this fantastic counterweight arrangement which allows the lamp to be raised and lowered over the game table. 

Next step, shelves and floor staining!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Monday Papers: Part Nine

Major Hutton, one of the fathers of 
historical fencing as we understand it today.  

I enjoy fencing and regret that I no longer have the time to devote to it that I used to. I have no particular interest in Olypmic fencing, which always seems to me to resemble nothing so much as a high speed game of tag, but historical fencing interests me greatly. I remember having a conversation with a friend who asked me why I studied something so idiotic.  His point was that given that I was unlikely to compete as a sportsman (as it wasn't Olympic fencing) and that my chances of ever having to participate in a real sword fight were slim; I appeared to be wasting my time.

I think the thing is beautiful and worthwhile in and of itself.

Before men like Major Alfred Hutton took an interest, theatrical fencing was usually conducted with rebated foils regardless of period - it was in the late 19th century that he introduced historical fencing to the stage.  I particularly commend his book "Cold Steel: A practical treatise on the sabre" to your attention.

It must be remembered that sword are killing instruments and were the subject of considerable debate amongst professional soldiers. The sword as a cavalryman's weapon probably reached it's zenith with the advent of the 1908 Pattern.   The debate centred around whether it was better to engage with the point or the edge. I'm agnostic on the matter, as it assumes that there is only correct answer, while in actuality both have their purpose.  Which is "better" is really more a function of terrain, position and the nature of engagement than any inherent virtue.

I suppose my interest in fencing was first kindled by seeing the wonderful sequence between Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood.  It was heady stuff to a boy of nine and the base it laid was further strengthened by the masterful work of Bob Anderson in The Princess Bride. 

Oh to be a beau sabreur!

I can pretty much guarantee that this chap is not a Krav Maga enthusiast

I've drifted in and out of martial arts and if I've learned anything, it's that there is a large element of PT Barnum in the advertising of whatever chop sockey mucking about one is taking an interest in.  Fashion is also a concern - kicking things was all the rage in the 1980s, ground fighting was the new, new thing some years ago and combatives or "reality based fighting" is its successor.

I was asked by a friend of mine, who was the victim of an assault, if he should take up martial arts in order to prevent it happening again. It's a loaded question - my friend belongs to a group likely to be assaulted (he's a male in his early twenties) and it's been a traumatic experience for him, a chap who hadn't been involved in fisticuffs since school.

I would respectfully suggest that unless you actually enjoy martial arts as a hobby - regular training is probably not worth it as it is unlikely to benefit you significantly in terms of self defence and there are far more efficient ways of getting fit. The vast majority of martial arts are geared toward the sporting arena. There is no shame in that.  It's foolish to criticise a fork for not being a spoon.  Some of the fittest men I know are boxers or ju-jitsu enthusiasts, but the thing itself and not some abstract sense of security is the reward.

There are no guarantees in this life, but I would argue that the majority of people whose business does not bring them into conflict with others are unlikely to be involved in fisticuffs.  It is a black swan event and most likely the engagement will be over before it's begun because the aggressor has size, aggression, terrain and surprise on his side.  That said, a little knowledge is useful. I did a Krav Maga course a couple of years ago and found it very helpful.

Krav Maga is an Israeli fighting system. There's a story behind it - but that's not particularly relevant.  It is rather brutal and at its worst involves more than enough eye gouging, ear tearing and biting to land anyone in the dock. But, while KM is notorious for it's no holds barred approach, the basics mostly revolve around how to escape from confrontation, break holds and a couple of strikes that should dissuade those attackers who are in search of easy prey rather than an actual fight.  For the average person that almost certainly more than they will ever need.  One of the key skills taught is how to recognise a dangerous situation and retreat from it and while I've certainly never used any of the eye gouging or associated horrors, the situational awareness was to me worth the price of entry alone.

A single two day course will cover a great deal of what KM has to offer and it is very unlikely that the average Joe will ever require any more than that.

I'm fascinated by the law. Even if you personally never come in contact with the courts, they will shape your actions, your daily life and the social mores of those around you.  And yet the law itself, for all it's being laid down in black and white is often subject to interpretation and debate.

The other point about the law is that it is vast and ones knowledge of it is rarely as good as one thinks it is. I regularly have to scurry off to to check things that I'm relatively sure of, but just want to double check.  A knowledge of the law can inform one as a citizen and can often help resolve issues before they arise and I would urge anyone to who has any interest at all to look up the relevant wikipedia article for their country and spend fifteen minutes on it, if only to learn the difference between Civil and Criminal Law.

It would appear that there are people who share my enthusiasm for the law and who take a particularly active interest in it and its interpretation.  I have only met one of these gentry in person and his legal theories had a great deal to do with the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights of 1688/9.  I can genuinely say I was enriched by the experience. Sadly, I do not believe he felt the same.

I respectfully suggest that anyone with an interest in the law could profit by reading this article, which I put forward with no comment other than a excerpt from an opinion written by Chief Justice John D. Rooke of Canada.

Note: The acronym OCPA stands for Organised Pseudo-legal Commercial Arguments.

"The bluntly idiotic substance of Mr. Mead’s argument explains the unnecessarily complicated manner in which it was presented. OPCA arguments are never sold to their customers as simple ideas, but instead are byzantine schemes which more closely resemble the plot of a dark fantasy novel than anything else. Latin maxims and powerful sounding language are often used. Documents are often ornamented with many strange marking and seals. Litigants engage in peculiar, ritual‑like in court conduct. All these features appear necessary for gurus to market OPCA schemes to their often desperate, ill‑informed, mentally disturbed, or legally abusive customers. This is crucial to understand the non-substance of any OPCA concept or strategy. The story and process of a OPCA scheme is not intended to impress or convince the Courts, but rather to impress the guru’s customer."

And now pardon gentles all, I must be off.

Edit: And for those readers from Great Britain & the Commonwealth, Mrs. Kinch and I wish you joy of your new Prince.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Regiment Gluchow

Pictures of the Regiment Gluchow from Our Man in Budapest 

These are Russian cuirassiers for Command & Colours Napoleonics. The figures are Zvesda Russian cuirassiers and I think they are particularly lovely. 

Officer & Bugler

Having finished what was probably one of the longest weeks I've spent in work ever - I will hopefully get a chance to make some more progress on the War Room. I would at least like to finish off the ceiling and get some start on the woodwork. We shall see. 

Rear view

The Gluchow Cuirassiers were originally a unit of carbiniers in the 1790s and were converted to cuirassiers at that time.  They served with distinction at the Shevardino Redoubt at the battle of Borodino. 


They served in the Russian army that harried Napoleon out of Russia and also in the 1813 campaigns, being awarded a St. Georges standard for their service. 

Troopers from the side

As I always play the allies, I have never actually had the chance to play with cuirassiers (I've always been on the receiving end), so I'm looking forward to seeing just exactly what sort of damage I can do to Frenchy with these. 

The last thing many a Frenchman every sees

You can hear the thunder of hooves



Banner flying

I must also thank Uwe Wilde of History in 1/72 for his assistance with flag information. The man is an endless flood of erudition. 

Charging off into the sunset.

Le Blesse

I am always eager to have casualty figures as they greatly simplify the business of keeping score when playing Command & Colours Napoleonics. The figures themselves are still with Krisztian in Budapest, but hopefully by the time I get my greasy paws on them, I will have been able to get a table into the War Room.

In other news, welcome aboard to some new followers.

Pierre le Poilu
Surfless in Chicago
Captain Richard's miniature Civil War

Friday, July 19, 2013

Shut it!

These are the English cops and robbers figures that we commissioned from Elheim a while ago, painted by the redoubtable Mr E.  I think you'll agree that they cut something of a dash.

From left to right, they are Detectives Carter & Regan, Bill Savage (of 2000AD), Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt, Jack Carter (of Get Carter) and Ronnie & Reggie Kray.

These figures are available from Elheim.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mini update

I managed to give this chap a wash of Devlan mud. So far it looks relatively well Steve. Good call. The tank has received two additional dry brush coats. I'm not so sure about the second one. I don't think it made much of a difference. Not bad for 10 minutes work at the painting table.

Now sleep.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Papers: Part the Eighth

Philosopher Reading by Rembrandt 

It's been a while since I written one of these, it seems silly to post them on a day other than Monday and I just haven't had the time to prepare one in advance.  That and I suppose I haven't seen things that stuck me as worthy of your attention. 

"Play the argument, not the man."

Lloyd again - this is something that is I often find myself struggling with. I'll freely admit there are people I don't listen to because of who they are or because of the political party they belong to. It's a habit I'm trying to break. While I certainly acknowledge the fact that private persons are under no obligation to give anyone a hearing, it's probably a good idea if they do.

That said, there are only so many hours in the day.  I believe I will be honouring this one in the breach more often than not - but I will be trying.  I suppose I think of this a bit more often because I seem to find myself holding the minority opinion in my social circle.  It does I suppose, concentrate your mind wonderfully and force you to think through your own positions in greater depth. Curiously enough I don't think it leads to this sort of carry on.

Going back to the ad hominem attack, it is similar to the trend to substitute biography for literary criticism. The work is no longer discussed because the critic is more interested in discussing the life of author.


I normally try to use these posts to bring worthy things to your attention.  This may not be worthy - but it is hilarious. I've been giggling and humming "potato-na" to myself for days.  The gibberish language is apparently a mixture of English and French, but as Franglish goes it's rather good.

Jolly Old Saint Nick

It seems crazy to be talking about Christmas given the heat we're having - but Ian has decided to cast a broad net this year and the call for subscribers to the Wargamers Secret Santa has begun. I really enjoyed this last year and will be looking forward to it this year. You can find the rest of the details here.

Dr. Ă‰douard de Pomiane

Dr. Ă‰douard de Pomiane was a French scientist of Polish extraction.  I discovered his book "Cooking with Pomaine" last year while on holiday. I am a very poor cook - but I've taken to Pomaine in a way that I didn't expect. Mrs Kinch is an excellent cook and somewhat daunting to have around when you're a beginner. I've found that the best way to approach the problem is to simply present her with a fait accompli; prepare a meal before she has a chance to venture an opinion or advice, which generally leads to her taking over proceedings.

You can find a short TV series taking in some of the sample menus from his "French Cooking in Ten Minutes " here. 

I cannot recommend this chap enough.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Painting British Shermans

Flames of War Sherman Tutorial video

With my British infantry nearly finished, it's time to get weaving on some armour. I'm not a particularly confident painter of vehicles as most of the chaps that I know that are tend to begin their advice with "First spend €300 on an airbrush". That sadly is not an option, but I've found the Flames of War tutorial videos an admirable corrective. I have finally finished stowing and otherwise messing with my British Second World War Armour which consists of three PSC Shermans, two Armourfast Cromwells and a two Armourfast Achilles. I may add additional tanks in time, but seven is sufficient for most Memoir '44 scenarios for the time being. 

I started this chap as a guinea pig for the technique. He is a PSC sherman with stowage from the Hobbyden resin range and some S&S metal bits, as well as some things I made out of clay because I couldn't find my greenstuff. I had hoped that the dry clay would prove stronger than it is. I will be using greenstuff in future. I started by spraying the tank with a coat of Tamiya Dark Green and then added a Devlan mud wash as these were the closest colours to those mentioned in the video. 

This was my first time using Tamiya spray and while it wasn't bad, it didn't perform quite as well as the Army Painter and Games Workshop sprays I'm used to.  I will be giving the other tanks a blast of Chaos Black spray before I spray them with the Tamiya. Lesson learned. 

I try to get a little modelling done as soon as I get home from work as I find it an admirable way of digesting the events of the day (or in this case, the night) - but I ground to a halt after I applied a dilute wash of Devlan mud as it would need to be completely dry before I proceed. Next step is two dry brushing of Russian uniform and detailing. 

With my advance stymied in that direction and eager to preserve operational momentum I decided that I would try another experiment.  I am adding a small force of Soviet paratroopers to my Cold War forces.  I remember reading about this chaps as a schoolboy. The school library was stocked by whatever old boys had lying around taking up space, so it was a somewhat heterodox assortment. One of the results was that along with a lot of Waugh, a great deal of Irish language religious poetry and books about Cuba, there were a number of those part work collections that were popular in the early eighties. These were usually magazines collected in binders and were about how the Russians were ten foot tall invincible supermen. 

Soviet paratroops were a particular bogey man, though by the time I got around to reading them the Soviet Union was a thing of the past. 

Trying to replicate the colours of the camo suit with what I had on hand, I failed miserably. The result was a drab sort of mess. This was my second attempt and one which surprised me, a coat of GW Goblin Green with patches of Goblin Green mixed with white. The result is reminiscent of mint icecream, but looks right to my eye at wargaming range, though a little bright up close. 

Now I better get a wriggle on if I'm to make Evensong. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Battle of Bruyeres

I'm heading into a longish stretch at work*, so when my pal Sydney pitched the idea of an impromptu Memoir '44 game, I put the call out. We had obviously caught a number of the fraternity at a good time as we managed to get Mr E, Capability Savage, Douglas McKenzie, General Du Gourmand, Sydney and Uncle WestProg on board in relatively short order. 

As the weather had been so fine, I decided to set up outside in the garden as it would have been a mortal sin to be inside on such a day. I took the opportunity to crack open the new Memoir '44 Equipment Pack and set up one of the Overlord games. This scenario was the battle of Bruyeres in the Vosges area of France. The Germans were defending the town of Bruyeres, while the Americans tried to take it.

The German forces start quite thin on the ground and the Americans enjoy a significant edge on numbers.  Both sides have special units, though I think the Germans have a slight advantage in that respect with a Tiger tank unit on their left and some specialist artillery, though Mr E's attempt to mask the American firepower with smoke from his Nebelwerfers was rendered moot by McKenzies near laser like precision with his artillery. 

Capability Savage demonstrating his new beer opening technique.  Indeed ladies and gentlemen, that is a gardne fork. 

Douglas McKenzie's artillery obliterate Mr E Nebelwerfers
"They'll werf no more nebels, my good man!"

Now as it happened I ended up playing on the German side because Du Gourmand was late. This was actually because I'd forgotten to confirm with Du Gourmand was actually happening, once I actually called him to inquire - there was a smell of burning rubber and he arrived slightly out of breath about the same time as I had hung up, despite being, so far as I can tell on the other side of the city. 

He did mention something about having to get changed in a telephone booth, but I'm sure it was lost in translation. 

Savage's tanks continue to batter the German defenders. 

Du Gourmand takes over as the German Commander in Chief. Victory is assured. 

Though he looks sceptical as soon as Mr E points out that McKenzie appears to be rolling dice blessed by Jesus Christ himself as another unit bites the dust. It's almost as if the Germans were the bad guys or something. 

Uncle WestProg shores up the left flank while Du Gourmand declares Bruyeres a "fortress town".  I'm baffled as to how Savage managed to wear a leather jacket in this weather. 

And McKenzie annihilates Mr E's Tiger. 

McKenzie's dice continue to be amazing as Mr. E, now bereft of cards to play is reduced to "rolling his initiative" (a manoeuvre with gives him a 4/6 chance of moving a unit and nowhere near as good as having an actual card). Mr E: "Dear Leader, we're down to jazz hands out here."

The game ended rather closer than we expected with a narrow American victory.  In fact, I'm not abosolutely certain of that, which considering I can remember particular incidents from the game, but not the game itself - which I think is a sign of an engaging game. 

We kept playing after it got dark - Capability Savage is not flinching because I let a flash off in his face, but actually because he had an asbestos canape at a gallery opening before arriving and I think it was repeating on him. 

We played a second game after Uncle Westprog had to go home. I took over as the American commander and led the US forces to a defeat so crushing it will probably go down in the history as one of the blackest days of American arms. Our plan which involved me stalling in the centre, while Mr E used his artillery superiority on the right to shell the Germans out of their holes and Du Gourmand led a Patton-esque slashing charge on the left. 

Capability Savage pauses to offer homage to the Dark Gods that watch over Graphic Designers 

It's a risk with any game involving dice and cards and the agony didn't last too long as McKenzie's dice were on fire yet again, decimating Mr E's artillery and crowding him with an armoured assault. McKenzie played well as he is a skilled and aggressive player, but it's rather unusual for one player to account for over 70% of the victory points.  

To the unitiated this may appear like Savage is about to throw dice at me because I keep blinding him with a flash. Nothing could be further from the truth and this gesture is actually part of a ritual dance, common in his part of the world, the actual significance of which is lost on me.  It probably loses something without the savage idols to which it is generally offered, but I think it maybe something to do with clients supplying copy on time? 

By the end of the game, we actually had a friendly fire incident due to poor visibility. Now if only we could have one of those in one of my Napoleonic games.  I must invest in an outdoor light for the summer evenings. 

McKenzie using his phone to illuminate his troops. 

The evening was a success and I was very happy to have the chaps over. One of the advantages of having such a good group is that the clean-up is minimal and takes under ten minutes when everyone lends a hand.  All of which propitiates the Memsahib.  The Equipment Pack proved it's worth. To be honest, I bought it initially because I like to support Memoir '44, I didn't really expect to get much mileage out of the pieces, but the scenarios look good. There were a lot of special rules in this particular scenario, Uncle Westprog was joking that it almost looks like a real wargame now, but they were actually relatively easy to understand. 

A good evening. 

*The thirteen day week, even those swine in the Directorate of the French Republic stopped at ten.