Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A mule by Frederic Remington.

In the run up to the exams, even the tiny amount of wargaming related stuff that I have been doing of late has had to go by the board. But I took delivery yesterday of a small package from Irregular miniatures yesterday that cheered me up in immensely. According to Charge! an infantry battalion should be accompanied by at least two baggage animals and a vivandiere. I have gathered together quite a collection of camp followers, but I needed some more baggage animals and Ian Kay of Irregular Miniatures was able to provide.

I have no camera with me, otherwise I'd post a proper picture, but the figures themselves are very nice, well proportioned, relatively clean of flash and a varied enough to be interesting without being so differant as to be difficult to paint. I've always used Irregular 6mm and 2mm figures before and found them very good and this standard has been maintained in their 20mm range. I also picked up from dead/wounded British soldiers for use with En Avant! and while such figures are never going to inspire fondness, they look well for what they are and will do the job.

Baggage for the artillery will obviously consist of caissons and such, though I'm a little lost as to what cavalry baggage would consist of.

More to follow exams permitting.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"There's obviously no piss for the wicked"

Officer Crabtree* (played by the magnificent Arthur Bostrum), that I might someday aspire to such heights of professionalism and linguistic ability.

The last few months have been overwhelming and as the end of my phase one training comes into sight, I can look back on the first period of nearly four months where I have done absolutely no gaming whatsoever. My painting output has been diabolical; exactly three Riflemen since I joined the service. This is not for any lack of interest or desire on my part, but because of a simple lack of time. My new home is one that takes the idea of continuous assessment very seriously and my weekends pretty much belong to Mrs. Kinch, so there has been precious little spare time for other pursuits.

That said I've found the training a very positive experience, I hope (fingers crossed) to pass out of phase one and onto phase two soon, without having to repeat any exams or any such nonsense. Mrs. Kinch and I will be visiting Hanover towards the end of June during my two weeks leave.

That's not to say that there hasn't been any advances made on the wargaming front. I have started using a painting service and as a result I am on the way to completing my medium term wargaming goal for this year. I had hoped to assemble two small armies for Charge! It looks like this shouldn't be a problem as despite my (very) limited at funds at present, channeling the money I usually spend on figures into painting means that I should have both armies finished within a month or two.

Of course, the plan has changed slightly since I wrote it.

The original plan was to assemble a reinforced brigade force, consisting of....

General & Two Aide De Camp

Two Battalions of Foot

One Battalion of Light Foot

One Regiment of Horse

Two guns.

One caisson

The idea was that this force could be used for Charge!, broken down to its component companies to be used with Richard Borg's forthcoming Command & Colours Napoleonics and for my own Peninsula roleplaying game, "The Halberdiers".

The new plan is for a slightly adapted order of battle, so that the troops mustered can also be used with Jim Wallman's "En Avant" ruleset, a very simple set of rules designed to teach Napoleonic tactics to the general public at the National Army Museum. I've played "En Avant" several times and enjoyed it greatly, which means in classical wargamer style, I want to destroy it and remake it in my own image.

The new order of battle is as follows.

General & Two Aides De Camp

Three Battalions of Foot (one of which may be light, but will be of the same strength as a regular battalion)
One Regiment of Horse
Two guns & Teams to draw them.

Baggage to the scale of two baggage animals and two camp followers or one wagon per regiment.

The current rate of progress is as follows.

General & Two Aides De Camp - French complete, British two thirds complete.

One Regiment of Horse - French complete (barring basing), British a work in progress.

Three Battalions of Foot - One French battalion complete, two others two third finished.

British, one battalion complete, two others works in progress.

Two guns & Teams to draw them. - British complete barring one team, French guns complete, but no caisson or teams.

Baggage - Two wagons and four baggage animals done. Camp followers a work in progress. I've been looking at some very pretty Fine Scale Factory Vivandieres for these, though I think it would be best to paint what I have first before investing further.

Beyond writing a review of Paddy Griffith's "Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun" which I haven't managed to finish yet** (sorry John!), that's been it for the present.

My serious exams (legal & policing, etc) are coming up over the next ten days, so I don't expect to be able to post much for a while. But I thought a short post might be in order, just to fly the flag.

Your obedient servant, etc.

Conrad Kinch

*For those of you not familiar with this paragon of the policeman's art, I would suggest hunting up a copy of "'Allo 'Allo: The War Diaries of Renee Artois".

**I'll sav you the trouble of reading it; buy this book, it's superb.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dublin Horse Police

Thanks to the wonders of this fascinating modern age in which we live, I'm writing this on my shiny new laptop on the train back to college. The first week went well and if I had any doubts about this being the profession for me, they've been dispelled. The academic course is rigorous and the physical jerks are a bit daunting, particularly is you're as sedentary a chap as I, but I'm looking forward to the challenges.

The college was originally a barracks built in the early 19th century to quell domestic unrest and resist the French in case of another invasion attempt. A great deal of work has been done since then of course, but you can still see the basic structure of the barracks concealed under modern glass and paint. There's a reassuring quality to that, at least for me, a sense of a continuity. I think I've managed to work out, while strolling between the canteen and gym, where the old cavalry lines were. There are phantoms of Kipling's army here, the long past scent of blackball and wet serge and the acrid tang of horse piss.

I was also surprised to learn during a lecture on policing in Ireland that the first uniformed police force in these islands* was the Dublin Horse Police, who were founded in 1786 in order to quell riotous behaviour and general mayhem. I had alway assumed that the Met was the eldest police force, but it seems I was wrong.

There's been precious little wargaming activity these last few days. To be honest our feet didn't hit the ground during the first week, but I did bring down a small selection of figures and a travelling paint set.

Thus far I've painted three horses, which will eventually mount French Dragoons.

One idea I did have was for our upcoming large scale Little Wars game at Leprecon on the 28th of February. We bought approximately 640 Accurate British Infantry of the America War of Independancw, in amongst these were a great number of Sergeants carrying spontoons, rather more than really seemed necessary.

So to do something unusual with these figures, to celebrate my new profesion and to draw attention to Little Wars prisoner rules. I have come up with the following Little Wars house rule. It is totally unplaytested and will be of use only in the largest of games.

New Troop Type: Military Police

The Military Police come in two varieties, Horse Police and Foot Police.

The number of Military Police is determined by the scenario, but a player may not field more than one for every eighty men. If you are using the points system laid out in Little Wars, a Horse Police costs twice as much as a regular cavalryman, while a Foot Police costs twice as much as a regular foot soldier.

Horse Police are mounted and count as cavalry in every way. Foot Police count as foot soldiers.

The following exceptions apply:

A single Horse Police figure may take control of any prisoners within 12 inches, relieving his comrades of the burden of escorting them to the rear. A single Horse Police figure may excort up to twenty prisoners without assistance.

A Foot Police may similarly take control of any group of prisoners within six inches, relieving his comrades of the burden of escorting them to the rear. He may control up to twenty prisoners without assistance and may also declare one building per game to be a POW cage.

Once a building is declared a POW cage, the Foot Police figure must be placed outside it and may not abandon his post until the game is over. A POW cage may hold as many prisoners as the building itself may physically fit, so long as the men are standing with the entirity of their bases flat on the ground or thirty, which ever is the larger number.

Men that end the game in a POW cage are counted as having been escorted from the field.

*Trying to find a politically neutral term for "The British Isles" is something of a chore, "These islands" is the best I've managed so far. "Britain, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall" is clunky and "The North Atlantic Archipeligo" doesn't exactly trip off the tongue.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye...

Kinch, man of destiny, sets out on a new career.

...cheerio, as I go, on my way.


I got the final call at 13.23 yesterday. At that time I was informed that I had been successful in my application to join An Garda Siochana* and that I had been accepted as a recruit.

It's been a long road with a long way still to go, but I look forward to the next two years with a new buoyancy and optimism. There are going to be challenges, separation from Mrs. Kinch, living with my in laws at weekends, study, poor pay (just for the first year), long hours of shift work and all those other problems associated with the profession of being a guardian of the public peace.

But there will also be many compensations, a job with meaning and purpose, a camaraderie that I've long envied and a pay and benefits package that make me feel confident that I will be able to fulfill my responsibilities as a husband and (hopefully in the not too distant future) as a father.

Big changes ahead.

*The Irish police force.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Grand Old Duke of York.

Prince Frederick, I sympathise.

I'm feeling something of a kinship with the Duke of York and Albany at present. My big development may or may not be in the immediate future. It's currently stuck in the sort of limbo that would, when I was in the Army Reserve, result in us spending a great deal of time getting on and off trucks or sitting in trucks with nothing to do beyond singing "The Grand Old Duke of York" or the company song "Yogi Bear."

I should know by Monday for definate, but I'm packing in the expectation of going. Mrs. Kinch is bearing all of this with amazing good grace and a calm that is usually associated with women who are rolling bandages and loading muskets in Residencies surrounded by the angry Pathan. I've been told that a single bookcase will have to do me for a year and I'm spending my spare hours, packing and assembling the few books that will be sustaining me for the year.

At present there is a great deal of Napoleonic history, a selection of books relating to my gaming projects, some books on the Risorgimento, the complete Annotated Sherlock Holmes, the complete Brigadier Gerard, a smattering of C.S. Lewis, a complete set of Allan Mallinson and Patrick O'Brian and a little poetry. I'm taking the opportunity to ditch those books that have just become an encumberance, but in a strange way the experience is liberating.

I know that I will get my other books back, but picking a years worth of reading in one go is very interesting, much like deciding on travelling companions for a long journey.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

All Ahoo.

An artist's impression of the Kinch household over the last few days. His charity is only exceeded by his draughtmanship.

The Kinch household is all ahoo at present and there is a great deal of packing, sorting, putting away and boxing up taking place. There are some big changes coming, I can't quite own up to what they are just yet, but hopefully that will alter.

It looks like Mrs. Kinch and I will have to move house shortly, with Mrs. Kinch moving home while I will be living an itinerant existance for a year or so. We've been planning for this for over two years, but it's all come to fruition with astonishing suddenness.

Now while all this means that there will be major real life changes coming, the more proper subject for this blog is what those changes will mean for my wargaming.

Firstly, a great deal of my stuff will have to be packed away and scattered around the various family homes, so that I will be unable to get at it for a while.

Secondly, I won't be free during the evening to ramble down to the pub and partake of Thursday evening wargaming. The Halberdiers will continue as it is mainly a weekend and internet based thing, but my involvement in other forms of gaming will be sadly limited.

I reckon my gaming will take three forms over the next year.

1. Roleplaying.
The Halberdiers & a sometimes game of Call of Cthulhu.

2. Memoir '44
I bought the carrying bag for this game a few months ago and packing gave me the opportunity to try it out. For a bag designed to carry two copies of Memoir '44 and copies of the Terrain Pack, the Eastern Front and the Pacific Theatre, it actually holds two copies of Memoir '44, two of all the above supplements, extra map boards and the Mediterranean supplement, as well as the Air Pack and Hedgerow Hell. I thought I was mad to spend that thirty odd quid on a bag, even one that came with a new map and scenario, but Richard Borg has always justified my faith in him and it emerges yet again he was right.

For those of you not in the know Memoir 44 is a light Second World War boardgame that plays in about an hour. Commissioned to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, it has been a great success and now has supplements that allow you to refight battles in the Mediterranean, Pacific and Eastern theatres. Two copies of the game allow you to play a six to eight player variant with chain of command rules that have greatly enriched our wargaming over the last few years.

Playing the new breakthrough variant with Fitz over the last few days has rekindled my interest in the game; as it's slim and portable I think this will be forming a large part of my wargaming for the next year.

3. Figure painting.

My new years resolution in terms of figure painting is paint more cavalry. I've been casting my eye over the new Tabletop Teasers book and I lack the squadrons required for most of the Teasers, unless of course, I play them with my 2mm Napoleonics.

That might be cheating a little bit, but they are eminently portable and I can fit all the figures, terrain, etc that I need in a small box that I can take to the pub...

...maybe just for the bigger games.

One of the advantages of spending weekends at my inlaws will that I will sometimes have access to an honest to goodness table, something I can genuinely play games on, rather than the small coffee table or the floor option that do duty at present.

I could probably get some of the smaller teasers off the ground with 20mm figures if I use small units, eight troopers to a cavalry squadron and sixteen men to a battalion of infantry.

My medium term, six month, goal is to paint enough small squadrons to play a few Teasers and finish at least one full cavalry regiment for both my British and my French forces.

My long term, twelve month, goal is to paint sufficient figures to field two small forces for Charge! These will be individually based, so they will also be useful for the Halberdiers and for other games.

I have a fair start made at these, but think I shall make more progress for having a plan.

A Small Army of All Arms for Charge.

One mounted General Officer and two mounted Aide de Camp.

Two regiments of Foot each consisting of.

One mounted Colonel.
Three Captains.
One Ensign.
One Regimental Sergeant Major.
Three Sergeants.
One Drummer.
Forty Eight Other Ranks.
One Pioneer
Two Pack or Bat Horses.

One regiment of Light Foot

One mounted Colonel.
Two Captains
One Regimental Sergeant Major.
Two Sergeants.
One Bugler
One Pioneer
One Pack Mule
Twenty four Other Ranks

One regiment of Cavalry

One Colonel
One Trumpeter
Two Captains
One Ensign
Twenty four Troopers.

One Battery of Guns.

One Mounted Battery Commander
One Officer
One Sergeant Major
Ten Gunners
Two Guns
One Caisson

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Brother Against Brother & The gun that fired the shot that launched a hobby.

Can you get any more old school than playing on the floor?

I've learned several things in the last few days. Brother against Brother is a very pleasant man to man black powder skirmish game that hares along at a very acceptable rate and will probably (with some tweaking*) form a part of the Kinch arsenal for some time to come, handling as it does horse, foot and guns without recourse to sums.

Mrs. Kinch and I spent some quality time together as we'd not seen much of each other over the Christmas, including some very profitable moments spent doing damn all of use.

In the words of that great philosopher-hobo Mr. David Lister of Deep Space Mining Craft Red Dwarf.

"Even vultures need time to put their feet up and read "What Carcass?" Magazine."

With that advice for the ages ringing in our ears, Mrs. Kinch and I settled down to an evening spent watching Poirot mysteries, wargaming (Myself) and crotchet (Mrs. Kinch).

Pictured above you will see the fruits of the solo Brother Against Brother game played that evening. Four sections of Frenchers versus two of Redcoats, the result was a French victory (boo!) despite their having been hammered by lucky early volleys. Two sections marched up the Redcoat's position and engaged them in a desultory long range fire, while their compatriots flanked the position to attack with the arme blanche.

The British attempted to disengage after decimating the French covering party, only to be engaged by the flanking party in a close fought close combat, that resulted in both sides fleeing the field. The second British section fired and knocked a few of the foe on the head, only to be charged again by a French section that had not bothered to reload. The resulting kerfuffle left the French masters of the field.

All in all, including set up, consulting the rules and such, this little engagement took about an hour.

The refreshments did not include tea (sorry Steve), but took in a very palatable Chateauneuf du Pape and an amiable Grahams Tawny. Sadly, I did not finish the Tawny in one sitting, for which I shall have to port fine myself come the next Halberdier's game.

Which go to show that drinking and gaming are pass times that go very well together, though not so photography. My father would beat me if he saw the lamentable state of the shots above and he'd be right to do so.

Lessons learned.

* Brother Against Brother is a fast and pleasant game. The morale system shines.

* Firepower seems a little overpowering, even though I was using smoothbores most volleys told and told hard. I may be missing a trick here.

* Melee is a dicey business for all concerned, which is as it should be.

* Setting your camera up on a tripod and setting it to take pics at five minute intervals is a truly awful way to document a game.

Other Lessons learned (following some very kind clarification from members of the BAB list)

* Sections may not move if they do not have a company officer within six inches of their section leader. This means that these officers spend great deal of time running about chivying sections hither and thither.

* Company officers may move on any friendly sections card.

* The penalty for "Rested Weapons" in the rulebook is typo.


* There is also no bonus of reserving your first volley or account taken of gunsmoke. While this would introduce an element of record keeping, I think they would benefit the game. Further play will determine if such additions are warranted.

The Rolls Royce of miniature cannon, the Britain's 4.7 inch naval gun.

I was also given just after New Years this magnificent piece of work as a Chrismas gift by a friend of mine. A very thoughtful and wholly undeserved gift that works as well today as it did when it was made. Actually handling one of these made a great many points made by Wells in "Little Wars" much clearer. The firepower of the guns is not as overpowering in the rules as written, because the range is not as great as I thought it was and the projectiles provided are smaller than I imagined.

Fitz and myself spent a pleasant afternoon taking pot shots with match and cocktail sticks. I think the natural progression is to soak the match sticks in paraffin and set them on fire...

*It is the mark of the war-gamer that no shop bought set of rules is ever...quite right. I have sworn to play at least another five games of Brother Against Brother before doing anything to the ruleset. Too often I find, gamers alter some aspect of a game before they play it and end up complaining of things that the game designer was aware of and had accounted for in play-testing, his simple and elegant fix to the problem having been crushed beneath of the chariot wheels of indiscriminate tinkering.