Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It is written.

New Toys
- carefully smuggled into the house while Mrs. Kinch wasn't looking...

It would appear that fate is in favour of my Indian project as two seperate events have occurred in the last twenty four hours to push it that little bit forward.

Firstly, I discovered that one of my favourite Librivox readers Mark Smith of Simpsonville, North Carolina has recorded The River War by Winston Churchill, an account of the reconquest of the Sudan. This will certainly help pass the time while painting, I've only listened to the first chapter so far, but Churchill writes as well as ever and Simpson's work is professional in every sense of the word - bar getting paid.

Secondly, I had to do a work related errand in town today which brought me past Dublin's largest model shop. In a triumph of good intentions over experience I thought I'd have a look inside while being relatively sure that I'd picked it clean the previous week. It was not to be. The staff were in the throes of unpacking a new shipment of figures (an uncertain and occasional happening) and I fell upon them, a being devoid of reason or conscience.

A box of HAT Cossacks to be converted into Pindari, which will bring my horde of irregular cavalry to 24, which is plenty for the time being.

A box of Zvesda Turkish cavalry to be added to another box, which will give me two small units of armoured Bargir cavalry and one slightly larger unit of regular Silladar cavalry, with drummers and standard bearers to taste.

Lastly, a box of HAT Indian War Elephants, these are rather out of period and will have to get the full Broadway treatment before they can be unleashed on the field of battle. The mahout I will certainly keep possibly with the addition of a turban, but the elephant itself will need a howdah, jingals, etc.

Mrs. Kinch's state has been downgraded to Threat Level Moderate - Subject cranky and likely to attack if not keep supplied with soup, tea and hot water bottles.

More news when I have it, gentlemen.

The Idle thoughts of an Idle fellow.

Kinch at rest - A Study from Life by Vernet
(private collection)

Mrs. Kinch continues poorly, though she soldiers on quite as implacably as usual. Her drama class did their show on Sunday and did her proud by all accounts - the house is awash with flowers. There was something of the Russian ballet instructor about her heading out on Sunday morning, those middle aged woman on crutches - their ankles and knees used up by a lifetime of twirls and jetee - who impart the fruits of years of bitterness and experience to callow youngsters between cigarettes.

I spent the day playing with a spot of paperwork, disinterestedly picking at a steak, taking a little whiskey for my health and sombrely decorating the cat, post whiskey, before I was packed off to bed.

I have however come up with a plan for my Indian project, which is to use Charles Grants "Insurgency" scenario from the Tabletop Teasers Book as a shopping list. The scenario is designed for a set called "Wellington in India", but should give me a good starting point.

I am at my most dangerous when armed with a plan.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cheer my solitude with sweet sounds.

I've been working nights for the week and have had little chance to do much of anything, domestic concerns have held sway. The Tyranny of work, study and home as been near total.

I was sent the above video the night before last and it cheered me mightily.

There has been little progress on the wargaming front, though I intend to make some inroads into my Indian project during my next few days off and get my Waterloo PBEM campaign in order.

I have yet to pick a name for my Indian kingdom and have done relatively little reading for the project beyond casting an eye over the Osprey on the battle of Assaye. I think Donald Featherstones "Colonial Warfare: India" and the always fascinating "Encyclopedia of 19th Century Warfare" by Byron Farwell will be my first ports of call. What I think I'll do is work out what sort of games I want to play, then puzzle out what sort of military establishment will allow me to play those games and then design the principality to suit.

Based on what I've read thus far, I think my hypothetical Raja will have a force made up of...

Compoos - Indian troops drilled in the European style with battalion guns.

Bargirs - Heavy cavalry with lances, mail, etc.

Silladars - Medium (?) cavalry, a sort of light cavalry under discipline.

Pinadari - Rampaging cossack types, who fulfill the traditional role of hussars without the magnificent hats.

War Elephants - The need I feel for one of these defies all reason and sense.

Sredni Vashtar Cultists - These gentry will almost certainly bear a striking resemblance to the Kali cultists from Temple of Doom.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Whistling does work...

I knew they'd come back when they were hungry!
- not a great picture, taken rather hurriedly on my phone again.

As you can see the Esci Arabs did turn up - it was only a matter of importantly ignoring them.

Snickering - Sadly, it is on the cards that Mrs. Kinch may require surgery. That is not to say that it is a definate, but we're bracing ourselves.

As for the thorny issue of "casualty marker versus knocked over toy soldier" a rather clear headed friend of mine clarified the issue over coffee last night. As I do not have sufficient casualty markers to do the job at present and I must perforce have some visual indicator, knocking chaps over is the way forward. Should I ever acquire a sufficiency I can try the casualty marker method.

Abdul - The Raja of something or other will most likely hold sway in the early to mid 19th century so that my redcoats can stretch their legs and to avoid the necessity of finding the Raja's forces a new opponent. It will also give me the excuse I need to purchase some of John Cunninghams sepoys . I have had designs on these for a while, as they are as trim and well turned out a set of fellows as ever put Johnny Pathan to flight also his Akali, though some ecumenical shennanigans will be necessary to put Sikh and Hindu in the same camp.

I am off to work for the night - with visions of be-howdah'd War Elephants dancing in my head.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Whistling in the dark.

shady customers to a man hopelessly devoted to looting, murder and rapine.

Forgive the lack of clarity, this picture was taken with my snazzy new Iphone which while a life saver in many other respects is simply not as good a camera as my camera is. Though in its defence it is a much better phone than my camera and a distinctly better navigational aide. When it comes to buttering bread, the honours are about equal.
Above you will find some Pindaris that I made the other day. After the exertions of the week (and exertions they were) I had set aside some time to spend in drunken buffoonery, a harmless pastime that has given me much innocent fun over the years. While recovering from the after affects of having rectified this shameful neglect I read an inspiring blog post.

This set me to thinking about Subcontinental imaginations. I think in some ways I would find greater freedom in writing about an Indian imagination than a European one because I know rather more about Europe than I do about India and more importantly, I know what I don't know about Europe. Known unknowns often have a brutal way with my creative juices.

So Kipling had his Kaffiristan, Howard his Nagdragore, Mallinson his Chintal and Kinch his...?

Who knows. What I do know is that it was to be populated by four boxes of ESCI Arab warriors, until I realised I couldn't find them. I searched the house, a raging hangover as naught before my desire, but to no avail. While searching, I did find a set of HAT Cossacks that I didn't know I had and more out of a desire to do something, I set about turning them into rampaging Indian mercenaries. After some in depth research (I believe I looked the cover of "The Nizams Daughters" twice) and some careful snipping of furry hats and a quick application of green stuff turbans, my fictional Raja had his first troops.

I trust that my ESCI Arabs will now realise that I will simply carry on without them and they had best come out and show themselves.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grim visaged war.

Align Center
The crisis point in "Hold the Pass", a British column assails advancing (but disordered) French grenadiers. War Artist - Donogh O'McCarthy RA - internationally renowned whippet fancier.

Gentlemen of the Mess,

Address yourselves to the above picture taken from a sketch by that notorious roué Donogh O'McCarthy RA late in the battle.

Ev Avant works off a roster system where casualties are not removed, but a unit loses morale points. However, in the past players have complained about not being able to "read" the morale state of units and being left totally in the dark. To that end, I've had some casualty markers painted, though insufficient for every unit thus far. In the interim I've taken to removing figures from bases and leaving them face down on the board to represent those poor unfortunates laid low by sabre and musket.

I'm not absolutely convinced by this approach myself, but it has the advantage of...

a) giving the players some sort of indication of what's going on.
b) not requiring me to transport additional models.

and it does impart a sort of jolly-toy-soldiers feeling to the proceedings.

So, what say you? Should I forge ahead with my casualty markers or remain with the current knock 'em down system?

Your obedient servant,

Conrad Kinch

Not dead, just busy...

The Connaught Rangers turning to enfilade a mistimed charge by the Hussars of Conflans.
Official War Artist - Donogh O'McCarthy RA

What with settling in to the new posting, starting house hunting, mortgage application and organising a new bike, things have been rather busy of late. This has been complicated by a recent bereavement so time has been in rather sort supply.

I managed to make it to most of Leprecon which was great fun as always, despite Mrs. Kinch doing her back in a rather spectacular manner that involved night time ambulance rides and other assorted silliness. We played several games of En Avant which went very well.

The first game we played was Advance Guard from Steve's rather excellant site here.

The game was played on a four by six table with two battalions of foot, one of horse and one gun a side, the general idea being that both players are playing the advance guards of forces advancing to contact who discover that their inteligence about the situation is not all it could be. I will not go on further for risk of spoiling of the scenario, but it's cracking good fun and an excellant starter scenario for any ruleset. Highly recommended and my thanks to the Brigadier for writing it and Steve for republishing it.

The rules used were En Avant by Jim Wallman and can be found here. They're a diceless setthat rely heavily on an Umpire, but I rather enjoy umpiring so this is no burden.

The game played in about an hour and a jolly time was had by all, especially an old friend of mine, who isn't really a wargamer, but who managed to lead the British to victory.

Post Match Analyis

- inexperienced and gung ho players tend to use cavalry as shock troops, rather than allowing the infantry and artillery to pave the way for a devastating cavalry attack. This usually results in players "pushing the big red button" early on and frittering their cavalry away at the start of the battle.

- the idea of En Avant! as a Napoleonic roleplaying game is a good one and new players tend to find it easier to understand the mechanics of the situation when it is presented in this manner.

- for new players learning to manage the traffic jam of troops in a confined space is key.

Probably the key moment of the game happened rather early on when the French cavalry "balaklava'ed" and rashly charged the British guns. The British guns took to their heels, but the cavalry took a volley from the Connaught Rangers for their pains and lost the French General de Brigade to a stray round. This paralysed the French for a few key turns and probably cost them the game.

Our second game was "Hold the Pass" from Charles Stuart Grants "Scenarios for Wargames". This was a very tightly contested game and ended in a narrow British win after playing out the full twenty four turns.

Bizarrely enough the key moment of the battle occured when a British column crashed into a French line and routed it. Poor old Charlie Oman would have been horrified.

The day was also brightened by a very thoughtful birthday gift from Donogh of a copy of Phil Olley and the Brigadiers latest work - The Annexation of Chiraz.