Monday, January 27, 2014

Moving on

A quick snap of some Russian Dragoons

The last few days have been busy enough and I'm finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of finishing the sort of boxes in the War Room. It does mean that there is a collection of odds and ends scattered all over the table made up of orphaned units, extra figures and things that don't quite have somewhere to go yet.  Savage and Tootsie came over for dinner which was great fun. Savage made some suggestions about how to dolly up the A4 files boxes I use for storage which we'll be investigating. They are a great solution to a storage problem, but while they are practical, they're far from elegant.
In the meantime, I've been busy basing and organising units like the Russian Dragoons above in order that I can store them properly.

I was give this DVD has a Christmas gift from an old friend and it's actually pretty good. Low key, nicely written and well acted, there's a lot to like in "Ripper Street".  There have been some odd choices made in it, which are a pity, but on the whole I'm expecting good things.

Hannibals Elephants getting a bit of a work out. 

I finally finished "The Fall of Carthage" by Goldsworthy and the final third of the book did not disappoint.  I shall definitely have to read more of him, I thoroughly enjoyed it and am now casting about for another book to read. This actually reading physical books again could prove to be habit forming. 

Anyway, that's my rest days finished for another six days, back to the grindstone. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Fall of Carthage by Adrian Goldsworthy

One of the simple pleasures of the War Room has been a place to retreat to and read. I can happily ignore whatever jobs need to be done around the house and just lose myself in a book. I've been reading on my phone lately, using the Kindle app, and while that certainly has it's place - it's no substitute for a lump of dead tree between two covers. 

I have gotten into a terrible habit of starting books and not finishing them, but I'm determined to finish this one which has been holding my attention.  It's an over view of the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome and I think it helps that it doesn't go into too much detail. This is a general book for a reader that has little is any prior knowledge of the period and it's certainly filled in quite a few gaps for me. My knowledge of Republican Rome was pretty much limited to some lectures and Tom Holland's "Rubicon". 

Anyway, getting to the meat of the matter. 

The Fall of Carthage is a single volume history of the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. It's paper back and I don't think it cost me much more than a tenner. It begins with a quick introduction to Rome in the time of the Republic and what little we know about Carthage along with some information on the conduct of warfare, both land and sea, during the period. The author then deals with each war (there were three) in turn, sometimes splitting each section up by theatre and sometimes treating the naval and the land campaigns seperately. 

Things that have struck me so far (I haven't started the section on the third Punic War yet). 

- Our sources are so limited, basically one Roman writer (Livy) and one Greek (Polybius) and that's most of our knowledge of the period.  Goldsworthy is to be commended to the regularity with which he admits his frustration with the limited information at his disposal. 

- The Romans were dogged. My father always taught me that character trumpts intelligence nine times out of ten, but the Romans were defeated time and time again and simply would not quit.  There's a lot to dislike about Republican Rome, but there's something admirable about their strength of purpose, their patriotism and their refusal to admit defeat. 

- Perhaps it was a childhood being brought up on pictures books, but I had always imagined that the Romans were rather good at siege warfare.   The vast majority of sieges in the Punic Wars appear to be resolved by treachery, blockade or escalade. None of the jolly siege machines that I remember so vividly seem to make an appearance. 

- The lack of sources means that in many ways there are few characters. Hannibal is a mytery and most of the Romans are smothered under layers of stereotypical hagiography that there is no real sense of the actors as men rather than ciphers. This is something a change for me, as I'm so used to being able to read about Napoleonic generals who were funny or mean or chivalrous or liked hard boiled eggs. 

On the whole, recommended and a book that has definitely given me a better grounding in the field. I might even manage to get back to that copy of Lazenby's "Hannibals War" that Donogh gave me all those moons ago. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


In an attempt to keep moving forward on things I've been making bases as fast as my paws and paint drying time will allow.  Working on the basis that "little and often" is the way to approach this sort of dull job, I've been trying to do ten-fifteen minutes work every day on them. 

These are steel bases that I get quite cheaply from Jim over at Products for Wargamers. He makes them up specially in batches of fifty. They're sturdy, light and I've had no problems with them so far. 

I then give them a quick blast of black spray. I've found black is best as a neutral colour and it shows up stickers and other markers well. After the black is dry, two coats of spray varnish and we're done.  

Once the varnish is done, two pieces of magnetic sheet are stuck to each piece and all that remains is to add a unit label and assign them to a box.

I sprayed my last base this morning and hopefully I'll have enough in that to finish basing the entire collection. At least until I start collecting Austrians in earnest. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Foreign Correspondent

This arrived in my inbox this morning and it made for some very pleasant reading over my coffee and porridge.  I think it's bi monthly, but it's well worth a look either way. 

This issue is relatively representative and includes. 

The Villa Corsini and the siege of Rome 
- fascinating description of a proposed participation game at Salute. The siege of Rome has always intrigued me. Having walked the ground, I am still astonished that the Romans managed to pull off a cavalry charge up stairs! 

The Belgian Army in the Franco-Prussian War 
- not really my period, but interesting. 

A Revolutionary Hero of 1848/49
- contemporary obituary of General Schurz, veteran of the 1848/49 unpleasantness and the American Civil War.  

The Winter Campaign 
- piece about the Russo Turkish war of 1877. 

Kissinger, the difficulties of terrain
- plea for help in representing the above in a wargame. 

War Correspondents of 1895
- contemporary piece on journalists. 

A French Marine Infantryman of 1870
- article on making a 1/6 scale model soldier. 

At £6 for a digital subscription and £7 for a paper UK sub, I think the Correspondent helmed by the redoubtable Ralph Weaver is probably on of the best deals going. For further information, contact the Continental Wars Society. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The archaeology of collecting

One of the things that keep cropping up as I clean out and organise the War Room is that I keep coming across the remains of old projects. 

These are Italeri British Light Dragoons, I started painting them about six years ago and I think I got about eight of thirty finished. I'm not sure what exactly I should do with them, I have absolutely tons of British Lights so there's no need to add another two units. 

My options are I suppose, dispose of them somehow, sell them or paint convert them to something else.  

Something to mull over in the flurry of basing and tidying. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A make and mend sort of day...

The current state of the War Room

...or in actuality, more a make and mend sort of week. I've been pushing away at a re-organisation in the War Room for the last while. Sorting the Napoleonics has been a big job and trying to get everything fixed to sabot bases and in boxes has taken ages. There's still quite a bit left in it and I'm finding one of the really tricky part is working out when a box is finished. 

I can fit nine bases of troops in a single A4 document box and of the time this is easy. Nine units of French line, all done. The point where it gets tricky is working out which sorts of units go together when I have less than nine. My master plan is to attach labels to each unit and to each box, so that each unit will have a permanent home. 

The problem is of course, if I cram nine units in every box, what happens when I add that one last unit for a particular scenario. A certain amount of wiggle room is required.  The trick is how much. 

Russian Napoleonics/Crimeans 

I took deliver of the last few drummers and officers for my Napoleonic/Crimean crossover Russians from Old John this week and I will get motoring on them shortly. The uniform is simple enough, so I expect Mark will blast through them depending on how much work he has on.  In fact sorting out the Russian army is another one of my jobs as it is entirely possible that I might be able to play some of the Russian scenarios relatively shortly. 

Of course, the business of earning a crust has conspired to tear me away from hobby pursuits. 

I've always really like this scene, though paperwork is rarely as entertaining as this. There's just so much of it. It's like a tidal wave of ironing. There's always more to do. 

It's from Hot Fuzz, which is a wonderful movie and one you should see. 

And then there's this, which is just superb. Mrs. Kinch was making Shepards Pie last night and forgot that she only had four potatoes. She added turnip, swede and carrots to the mash and a dash of tobassco to the mince and frankly gentlemen, Empires have fallen for less. Wonderful stuff. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Looking for an ID.

Mrs. Kinch's great uncle got this recently. He's an avid collector of militaria and found this carte de visite in a junk shop. 

He reckons that this chap is certainly Second Empire, isn't any more certain than that. I reckon that he may be a Garde Mobile, but I'm certainly willing to be proved wrong. 

Any better ideas? 

Multipurpose Russians

A tray full of Russians

It might seem a bit previous to be working on Russians before we've played all the scenarios in the Spanish expansion, but not only am I thinking ahead with regard to my Napoleonics, the little grey cells are positively vibrating with wizard schemes for the Crimea. 

These chaps are all being prepared to be sent off to Mark as soon as the last few standard bearers and musicians arrive from OldJohn. 

I shall have to write a review of this one, it's holding my attention so far. 

In fact this whole idea started with OldJohn, who has a lot to answer for frankly. Essentially it started like this, Old John pointed out that the undress uniform of the Russian army stayed essentially unchanged for about fifty years. While the Russian infantry of the Napoleonic Wars wore shakos and gaiters and all that, they usually kept them packed away for good wear. Victory marches that sort of thing. 

In the field, they were more likely to wear a sort of flat cap like the one pictured above and a great coat. This uniform persisted and was still worn during the Crimean War. 

Now as it happens, I have five or six battalions of Napoleonic Russian infantry in shakos and fine fellows they are too. However, I realised that if I added some units of flat capped infantry, not only would it finish off my Napoleonic army - it would also give me the start of a Crimean army. 

Note the Crimean era Russian trying to do for one of the Light Brigade.

To be honest, a lot of this Crimean fancy has been spurred on by Bob the Painters 20mm Douglas Miniatures blog, which is about his extensive Crimean collection. This blog is a treasure trove of beautifully painted 20mm Crimean war figures and is criminally under-subscribed, so I would go have a look if I were you. 

A Russian infantryman (or possibly a gunner) next to an artillery caisson

Speaking of blogs that are worth a look, Uwe's History in 1/72 blog is always worth reading, but it featured a particularly interesting post about an exhibition in Germany about the Napoleonic wars 1813-1814.  There are some wonderful pictures there, both of artifacts and of model soldiers. 

Note the chap in the curiously Crimean uniform in the picture above. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014: Plus la change

This cat and I have a great deal in common

So, 2013 is in the can and we're gearing up for the new year. It's been a fairly tumultous year here, but from a wargaming perspective there have been a couple of major changes. 

- The War Room. I didn't have a room in which to play games this year and I think it showed in the number of games that were played and the fact I made far fewer blog posts. That is not to say that we didn't get to play games, there was Little Wars and the Cabra-Kildare War and plenty of Cold War shenanigans. There just wasn't quite as much as I would like. 

Better set my mind to changing this. 

- The Cold War Project is beginning to take shape. I still have a lot of writing to do on this, but its beginning to reach a sort of critical mass. A lot of preparation and reading have gone into this one. 

- Writing. I got a lot more writing gigs in 2013 than I did in 2012, almost exactly twice as many in fact. A great of this has got to do with Miniature Wargames and many thanks due to Henry Hyde for taking pieces from me. There have however, been a few commissions that weren't for Miniature Wargames and weren't even wargaming related, which were nice.  More on them anon. 

No luck on fiction unfortunately and not on the novel front, but I shall simply have to apply myself. 

- Napoleonic Armies. Despite the fact that we got precious few games of Napoleonics in, my Napoleonic armies have grown quite considerably.  The Spanish are almost done and are simply lacking a few units here and there. The Russians are certainly over the half way mark and thanks to the purchase of some complete units from Krisztian, I've made a start on the Austrians.  Quietly confident, that we will at least get through the Hundred Days and all the Spanish scenarios this year. Possibly not the cavalry engagements that require ridiculous amounts of horse, but quite a few. 

- Rogue Trader 40,000.  There have only been a few games of this in 2012 and I'm not sure that Savage Worlds wouln't be a better fit for the kind of rpg with figures sort of games that I enjoy running. However, as a means of getting to play games with old friends, most of whom don't care for historicals, this has been a great success. 

- The Sword and the Flame. If I have a wargaming regret for 2013, it's been not playing more of this game. We've only managed two games and they've both been crackers. Raising forces for this may take a while, but I think it will be worth doing. 

There have been other ups and downs outside this wargaming life. 

- The house is further along and we're almost done in the kitchen and bathroom. The War Room just requires decorating, but the structural stuff is all done. 

- Mrs Kinch and I are both fitter and trimmer than we were last January.  This has come with its own challenges, I spend vastly more time stretching in the gym than I used to, but there have been concrete improvements in my strength and stamina in the last twelve months. Consistency and forethought are key. Mrs Kinch is still working away at swimming. 

- I've managed to achieve more of a work/life balance and become a more regular attender at Church, the lack of which was making me unhappy.  I've also managed to get more involved which is good. 

- I'm learning to drive and I am well on my way to sitting my driving test this year. Passing it will be another story of course. 

- I passed a professional exam, which I'm happy with. 

- Mrs Kinch has had more professional success in the acting line this year than ever before despite a number of quite serious health scares.  I am fiercely proud of this. 

All in all, we've a great deal to be grateful for and can look forward to the rest of 2014 with cautious optimism. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, may it be blessed, peaceful and prosperous.