Sunday, January 30, 2011

Command & Colours: Napoleonics Travel Edition

First attempt at a travel edition of C&C: Napoleonics 2mm figures from Irregular on a standard game board

A thought struck me this evening while I was fixing aperitifs for the family Von Kinch. I had been musing over the problem of how to make a travelling version of Command & Colours: Napoleonics. While I will in a few months or so have a home with a dedicated wargames room and table where I can set up my 6 x 4 foot hex mat and use my 20mm figures.

Wargaming is a social activity, the much missed Paddy Griffith compares hosting a wargame to hosting a dinner party in the closing paragraph of Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun, one of the finest short works on the hobby ever written. He was absolutely right. I play with my fellows because I enjoy their company and having never taken an interest in football, my conversation would be sadly limited to work or talking about a funny, little war that you've probably never heard of.

One of the chief virtues of the Command & Colours series was that they were simple, boxed games that could be played to a conclusion in the course of having a few drinks and small enough they could fit on most pub tables. It was possible to replace the plastic figures with 6mm chaps and dolly up the set somewhat with the addition of model trees, buildings and hills and still have a game that fit in a satchel or briefcase. Command & Colours: Ancients never really took off in the same way that Battlecry or Memoir '44 did amongst my social circle simply because sorting blocks is a dreadful bore.

The Frence left, 2mm miniatures from Irregular

What you can see above is a set up of the Maida scenario from using 2mm figures from Irregular miniatures Horse & Musket collection. Each base of 24 infantry or 12 cavalry represents a block, artillery blocks are shown as a gun team and limber, while general officers are a small base with some individual riders on them. Lazy swine that I am, I haven't painted the generals yet.

British line infantry are shown in line, French in column, Light Infantry for both sides are arranged in open order with skirmishers painted green as rifles.

I think the smaller figures answer admirably, though there will be some difficulty in distinguishing between similar troop types, like for example Guards and Grenadiers. I had thought that 6mm figures originally, but then realised that they would be unaffordable at present. The 2mm figures give a pleasing impression of mass, however I shall have to set myself to the task of determining how exactly to distinguish between the Portuguese infantry and the French in this scale.

An initial investment of £30 provided all the figures (and more) that you can see here. I think we shall have to have some playtesting to see how well prospective players cope with the smaller figure while struggling with the manifold challenges of the stress of command, poor pub lighting and being slightly toasted.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


That's me in the blue...

I am delighted to say that I'm finished my training. Mr & Mrs Kinch Snr, Mrs Kinch and some friends came down to see my passing out parade and a good day was had by all. I was honoured, and very, very surprised, to receive an award or as Mrs. Kinch put it, "a gong for being a swot".
The graduation ball was great fun as well, particularly as it was a chance to meet everyone's wives and girlfriends. It was interesting seeing the wilder chaps on their best behaviour.

So that's it. Now back to work and reality.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Portuguese Cavalry

Portuguese Cavalry
(actually French Carabiniers by Newline Designs)

The two chaps pictured above are officers who'll be joining my Portuguese forces, their arrival means that their comrades, along with cazadores (Revell British Rifles) and John Cunningham Sepoys can be shipped next week to Mark for painting.

Command & Colours: Napoelonics has had a broadening effect on my collection as I scrabble to fill the orders of battle necessary. This is no bad thing as it does mean that a lot more colour and interest is being injected into the collection. The net effect is that I've begun to muster forces that are - quelle horreur!- neither French nor British.

I haven't gone completely barking however, there are no Dutch-Belgians yet, as I'm concentrating on the Peninsular battles. I have some Portuguese infantry from Ykreol, which I bought during a sudden rush of blood to the head, they aren't exactly pretty, but hopefully Mark will be able to dolly them up a little. I'd been scouting around for Portuguese cavalry and not having very much luck, when I mentioned the matter to Sean at Newline Designs, who recommended French Carabiners as a possible substitute. Mounted on horses with British saddlery, they look the part.

What really boiled the old noodle was the Portuguese Heavy Cavalry. I was not alone in this. However, Foy had the understanding to realise that the Portuguese were substituting for the Dutch-Belgians rather faster than I did. I did spend rather more time than I would like to admit trying to find these gentry.

I think I may have inadvertently found the wargamer equivalent of a glass hammer and a long weight.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Heavy Dragoons & Colours

British Heavy Cavalry by Newline Designs

While I was away at the Puzzle Palace, a packet arrived from Newline Designs and was waiting for me when I came home. It was a small order that I'd placed with Sean before Christmas to fill a few holes. I was short an Ensign and two field officers for my 5th Dragoon Guards and a few other bits and pieces.

I took my shiny new drill to the Ensign Friday night and had the chap ready to lead a review within fifteen minutes. This did set me to thinking that Mark's painted colours are nice, but printed colours might be nicer. I've never really messed around with printed flags, but I know several wargamers of far greater skill than I who swear by them.

Then of course, for every one of those you have a deranged Scotsman like Phil Olley, who handpaints his colours on linen. One can only hope that he will bite some of us less talented sorts and the condition is catching.

Negotiations regarding our new home are ongoing as there was some damage done to it over Christmas due to the neglect of the owner. It's not a major issue, but it does mean that some work will have to be done immediately before we can move in and there is some dispute over how much the job actually costs. This is a minor blip in the ongoing saga, but one that demands more phonecalls and organisation.

And lastly, before I forget Newline have just released the first few packs in their range of Sikh Wars figures. The greens look very fetching indeed and as it is likely to be the last purchase I make for a while, I decided to take two battalions of Sikh foot. I am delighted to see that this conflict is finally going to be covered in my favourite scale, my mind is already dancing with the possibilities of refighting Sir Harry Smiths Aliwal, the "...battle without mistake."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Rolls

A Rolls Royce Armoured Car by Frontline Wargaming
Grauniad moment: Above amended to read Frontline Wargaming,
rather than Newline Designs.
As I've said before, I have have a terrible tendency to flit between projects and I have been half heartedly chipping away at a small Very British Civil War Project. The conceit for those of you not familiar with it, is that Edward VIII does not abdicate and manages to get his chum Oswald Mosley into government. This radicalises the populace and before you know it, fascist jackboots are kicking in doors and there are militias sprouting up all over the country. The Reds are turning on the government, Liverpool has declared independence, the Scots are looking distinctly shifty and Mosley is attempting to restore order by shooting anyone who disagrees with him.

The whole thing is inspired by Sir Ian McKellen's magnificent version of Richard III which depicts Richard as a black shirted fascist. It's visually very attractive and I tell myself that I'll be able to use the figures for Operation Sealion games, which I've run rather successfully before.
There is a description in the main book of a Mosley-ite armoured column whose mission is to decapitate the Anglican League, the armed wing of the Anglican church who have taken a dim view of the King a)marrying a divorcee and b)foisting a tyrant on the country. In a thoroughly bizarre way this made perfect sense to me and I found the idea of an Anglican League force very attractive and reminiscent of "Went the Day Well".

My objective is complete a small Mosley-ite force who will be opposed to the death by my Anglican militia in defence of God, country, jam and Jerusalem. The Mosley-ites will be Regular Army types with some party members, though I'm not sure what to use for them. I'll have to have a look at Richard's army in Richard III. The Anglican militia will be partisans and Home Guard of various sorts, probably with some Regular Army support.

I was putting in an order with Frontline Wargaming , a Christmas present for Donogh as it happens and I decided to add in a little something for myself while I was at it. I've always liked the look of the Rolls Royce Armoured Car myself and thought that nothing could be more appropriate to a British Civil War scenario. The model arrived well packed and I put it together in a few minutes. The finish is a bit rough, but I managed to clean most of the flash and rough patches away with my penknife after fixing Mrs. Kinch a predinner martini. I had finished the work by the time she had finished the martini, so it wasn't a long job.

I then of course dropped the model (the Garibaldi may not helped) and snapped the barrel of the Vickers from the turret, which is why the turret is looking a little underdressed. That said, a nice little model and very, very cheap.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Commands & Colours: Napoleonics - First Brush

Finally managed a game of CC:N on Saturday. Savage and I spent a very pleasent afternoon in the pub playing and replaying the Maida scenario that I posted about earlier. We were later joined by Gorman, who with his usual flair led both sides to victory in successive games. Gorman was also a first time player and was glad of the opportunity to finally try out his new toy.

First impressions were not overwhelming as the first forty minutes of game time were taken up sorting blocks and setting up. If I'd been thinking I would have sorted the units in advance which Gorman has done with his C&C: Ancients set, but as it happened this was no great hardship as I had good company. On the other hand it did mean that we played the same scenario five times as we had little desire to fumble with blocks again. Savage did suggest that Risk style figures with card tokens would have been a better way of solving the problem.

Thank the Lord, I'll be replacing the blocks with figures shortly. They really irked me.

We found ourselves having some difficulties with the rules, but nothing that wasn't resolved after a brief consultation. We over-rated musketry rather spectacularly at first, forgetting that Crossed Swords do not count in ranged combat - but fixed that once we re-read the rules. Artillery is very much a supporting arm and will not be a battle winner on its own, but properly supported and put in a position where the opponent can be made to dawdle under the guns, they can be lethal.

Cavalry didn't get much of an outing as there was only a squadron on the field, but we did use the square, flight and other special rules and they seemed to work. I'll withold judgement until we manage more cavalry heavy scenarios.

The main fight of all five battles was the infantry battle and we gave these rules a thorough work out. While French and British infantry are rated much the same, British troops have a bonus in firing while French troops have a bonus in melee. This is not to say that British troops didn't charge and French troops didn't shoot, but that a smart player could do very well by playing to his strengths. Most of the French victories involved a flank attack or cannonade to disrupt the British line followed by a brigade strength assault led by a General. One British victory came about during an unsightly scrum that developed in the first game and the second when an unsupported French assault force attacked the centre of an unbroken British line and were shot down and then counter-attacked by the redcoats.

Savage did have some choice words to say about the art in the game, but I'll save those for another day.

So far every Richard Borg game that we've played goes through this process -

Step 1. The rules are read.
Step 2. ...and are pronounced as unplayable. Heads are sadly shaken and there are sorrowful mutterings about how "Borg has really gone off his rocker this time".
Step 3. The rules are read.
Step 4. The game is played. All the rules that seemed inexplicable suddenly begin to make sense.
Step 5. More games are played. The subtlety and simplicity of the game design become apparent.
Step 6. The game is hailed as a triumph, as we knew all along that it was.

I recall the Pacific Theatre expansion for Memoir '44 coming in for particular stick when the rules came out, but before we got to play it.

In other news, there is now a website supporting the game similar to the fantastic site support for Command & Colours: Ancients. There isn't a huge amount there at present, but I'm sure that will change with time.

I forsee a long and happy life for this game amongst my circle.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A diversion

Three SHQ castings from their BEF range
(contents of BF 3)

I have a terrible habit of flitting butterfly-like from project to project. That said I do give projects my all when I am interested in them and my pal Donogh has said previously that he'd never met a man who had more of his collection based, painted and ready to go.

Above you'll see three castings from SHQ range of early war British infantry. I purchased these on a whim while getting my Portuguese infantry as I have sufficient German toys to do most early war Memoir '44 scenarios, but no British. These British could also be used for 1938 British Civil War scenarios, so on mature reflection, I'd be mad not too right? I've always had what Mr. Kinch would call "a strong weakness" for the early part of the Second World War as my childish education in that portion of history came from Commando comics, which often focused on that "Britain stands alone"* period 1939-1941.

The castings are up to the usual SHQ standard, there's an officer, a senior nco and a rifleman. There's some problems with the officer, whose Webley is missing a barrel. I can trim it a bit and remove the revolver so that at least he'll just look like he's pointing somewhere.

*Alone, utterly alone, except for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, bits of Africa, India, part of Ireland and probably hundreds of places I've forgotten.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Undercoated Austrians

Undercoated Austrians by HAT, Officers and Musicians by SHQ

I have returned to the Puzzle Palace, so there's precious little wargaming going on. There is however plenty of drill, followed by drill, some drill and when we feel like a change, some more drill. Two points that struck me this morning in the midst of square bashing.

1. When marching in close order, the average Johnny's view is severely circumscribed. It is very difficult to see what is actually going on, even in the front rank because of the need to maintain the dressing and look to your front. In the rear ranks you're following the chaps in front and have an excellent view of the back of his head and not much else.

2. Even in a relatively small, company sized formation in good conditions (i.e. not with cannon going off and donkey wallopers galloping by) it can be difficult to hear vocal commands. Music is far better at both providing a cadence and communicating an order to the group.
I'll be passing out next week which will be a big day out for the family and will mark the end of two years of work. I still can't really believe it.

I took some pictures of my Austrians before I left. I undercoated them white in the vague hope that it might do for a basecoat. I've never really painted white uniforms before, so I'll take look around and see what is the right way to go about it. I will probably subcontract the job, but in a way that actually makes it more important to get some instructions as the painter can hardly be expected to read my mind. I'm still unsure about what regiment to pick, though my natural instinct is to go with one with red facings. Hoch und Deutchmeister perhaps?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Radetskys Marches by Mike Embree

The cover of Mike Embree's new book, Radetsky's Marches

Gentlemen, you'll find above a picture of Mike's new book, which will be due out in the near future. It's published byHelion and you can pre-order it from here.

The publishers bumpf is here, but essentially the book tells the story of Field Marshall Joseph Radetsky von Radetz, a kindly octengenarian who led the Austrian army to victory at Custozza in 1848 and Novara in 1849.

Radetsky is interesting for several reasons -

...firstly, he was eighty two when he fought and won the two battles mentioned...

...his coat of arms features for no discernable reason, aspade...

...and lastly, he was a superhero whose sheer power possessed Johann Strauss Sr and enabled him to write a piece of music that allowed horses to dance.

There is a story, probably aprocyphal, that General U.S. Grant used to keep a particular private, known for his simplicity, at his headquarters, this man's job was to read General Grants orders before they were sent on the basis that what this man could comprehend, no other could misunderstand.

I've served as that private soldier for Mike on a couple of occasions and if the rest of the book is anything like the sections that I've read, we're in for a treat.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Austrian Standard Bearers

SHQ Austrian Ensign from Pack AUA21 - German in Shako command
Also pictured, Games Workshop Hand Drill

I'm a cautious modeller and one that is always seemingly convinced that he's going to "spoil it" or make a mess of things. I have little enough confidence in my own painting or modelling skill, which I suppose is one of the reasons why I like using the services of a professional painter. The results make not always be as good as my own, though they are infinately faster, but it does rather take the tension out of the experience.

That said, once I find something that I'm comfortable with, I'll plough along happily enough, so when the time came to finally use my shiny new Games Workshop drill, there was trepedation at first, followed by a sudden desire to drill everything I could find once I established that I was unlikely to destroy the figure, my hands or anything else for that matter.

The figure on the right is the Ensign as supplied, while the chap on the left has had some surgery. I have some figures with lead flag poles and to be honest, they are never completely satisfactory, so I took the plunge and cut away the pole with a sharp Stanley blade. I then drilled the figures hands and slid in some brass wire and the job was done. I only wonder why I didn't start doing this years ago.

Advice for the Hand Drill Naif

1. Work in an area with plenty of light and wipe your hands before you start. If like me you don't have a vice and are reduced to holding the figure to be drilled in your sweaty paw, be careful. Stabbing yourself in the hand is best left to the professionals.

2. Take your time, withdraw the drill and check that you're at the right spot. Clear the spoil away as you go.

3. If you're in any doubt about how to use your new drill, go to a Games Workshop store. One of the glassy eyed cultists behind the counter will be delighted to show you to how.

Austrian Infantry by Mike Embree

Austrian Infantry (artist unknown)

I was writing yesterday about the need to learn more about the Austrian army. I had a few idle moments last night and had a look at the information that was available on my phone, which was when I found this, an admirably clear introduction to Austrian Regular Infantry.

I also noticed that it was written by a friend of mine, Mike Embree. This of course begs the question what else Mike has been hiding under a bushell.

Mike doesn't interest himself in Napoleonics these days which is a pity, but it does mean that he can devote his time to writing books about his new period, the mid 19th century. He's an active member of the Continental Wars Society. His last book, Bismarck's First War explored the Danish-Prussian War of 1864 in great detail. The conflict is an unusual one in that the methods with which it was fought are comparable with the Franco-Prussian or American Civil War, but the Casus Belli and the general air of the thing retain the whiff of the 18th century.

Mike's strength is the clarity of his prose* and his tenacity in pursuit of original sources. If the book has a weakness, it's that the publisher did not see fit to give sufficient space to the plethora of maps, etching and illustrations that Mike managed to track down. Mike has a new book in the pipeline, but more on that anon.

*I finally understood the Schleswig-Holstein question - though I'm still at a loss as to why one would go to so much trouble over two buckets of paint and a duck.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Austrian Johnnies off to fight the French

One of the perils of gaming with 1/72 figures is that they are damnably cheap - the problem for impulsive types like your correspondent is the habit of buying several boxes on a whim. I know very little about the Austrian army during the Napoleonic wars, just what I've picked up in the course of things. Therefore, I am still at a loss as to what I was thinking of when I bought six boxes of HAT Austrian infantry. Similar motives were no doubt behind my purchasing of several boxes of Zvesda Black Hussars, beautiful figures for a period I don't play and an army I don't field.

However, I was in the mood to do a little work the other day while on leave and the Austrians were the only figures that I hadn't packed. The officers and drummers are from SHQ miniatures, whch are a good fit. I've organised them as per the regulations laid down in Charge!, but I think I shall have to do some reading before I work out how I shall have them painted. I generally choose what regiments to field using a simple, but foolproof method...

British Regiments
1. Do I need the unit to fill out a particular order of battle?
2. Does the unit have a snazzy uniform?
3. Do I know anyone currently in a successor regiment?
4. Are they Irish?
5. Is there an amusing fictional regiment that I could use?

French Regiments
1. Do I need the unit to fill out a particular order of battle?
2. Has the unit lost its Eagle or taken a severe whipping? (The French are the baddies in my games and naturally it cheers me immensely when they lose)
3. Does it have a snazzy uniform?

I don't have the knowledge of the Austrian army that I do of the French and the British, nor do I have the same emotional attachment, so it may be some time before I settle on an appropriate regiment.

Now to get to the ensigns..

Saturday, January 15, 2011

American Militia

SHQ American Militia of the War of 1812
(Left to right - Militia man loading, Militia Bugler, Militia advancing, Ensign, Officer)

After some messing about, I took delivery yesterday of an order from SHQ. It contained an interesting assortment of chaps, but today I'm turning my attention to the American Militia.
I had sworn off the War of 1812 as a dangerous diversion that dangled the superficially attractive proposition of burning the White House while drawing resources away from the main effort, the ever important Operation Kicking the French in the pants. Despite appearances I've managed to keep to my promise, for the above Militia will be mustering with my Portuguese troops.

I'm using the round hatted figures from HAT Spanish Guerrillas set as Portuguese infantry and I've painted most of a battalion. These figures will allow me to finish the battalion and field the valiant Pork and Beans on the field of honour in the very near future.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another Boer War picture...

Another "fixed" image and a somewhat more traditional British uniform.
The colour is a better reflection of the reality.

Gentlemen, I took another picture while I was visiting Mrs. Kinch's great uncle and here it is. Donald Featherstone wrote of the Boer War in "Featherstone's Complete Book of Wargaming" as the grandfathers war, a title that I think was not particularly apt in 1991 when the book was published, though I think it was certainly a fair description of his own feelings on the war.

A strange incident occured to me some years ago, when I was still working in the Cathedral and which proved to me that events that we think of as history can still evoke powerful personal feelings in those still living.

A South African chap with what I would call a strong "Boer" accent was visiting the Cathedral and approached me to ask why there were monuments to Irishmen who had served in the British army during the First and Second Boer Wars. His point was that there were none to the Irish that had fought on the Boer side.

I had begun to frame an answer, when the situation changed rather suddenly as he had been seized by the elderly gent who was standing beside. This gentlemen who had an eighty year connection with the Cathedral and was approximately half the South African's size, took his larger opponent by the collar and said firmly, "Because we don't build monuments to traitors, Sir." The South African was then frog marched out of the Cathedral, protesting as he went and was never seen again.

It emerged that my elderly friend's grandfather had served in the First Boer War and he had been very fond of the old gent, with the result that he took any aspertions being cast on his grandfathers service as a personal affront. And that gentlemen was the only case of 21st century fisticuffs that I know of that took place over the First Boer War.

Yet another instance, I suppose, of being a handshake away from history.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Battle of Maida

The Battle of Maida by William Heath

One of the things on which you can rely is wargamers inherent need to tinker (yes you Cordery, see me after class), so it came as no surprise to me that only a week or so after the arrival of Command & Colours: Napoleonics, new scenarios started to appear.

What did surprise me was that the first was one I had considered writing up for myself, the Battle of Maida.

This is a battle that has always held a fascination for me, though one I'm hard put to satisfactorily explain. It was a small fight, a skirmish really in Napoleonic terms, though but it did give a boost to the morale of a British army that* had been staggering from disaster to cock up and back again for the previous decade.

In brief, the strategic picture was as follows, the British and Neapolitans were in possession of Sicily, while a French army was menacing Naples proper. The Neapolitan royal family, who were some queer fish, had fled to Sicily, but were eager to regain power on the mainland of their kingdom, while the British were happy enough to maintain Sicily as a naval base. The French who are doing a capital job of alienating some of the worst ruled people in Europe by being their usual charming selves have beaten down almost all resistance except for a fortress at Gaeta and an uprising in Calabria.

The British decided to land a force of some 6,000 men commanded by General Stuart in Calabria to annoy the French. The French despatched a force of similar size under General Reynier to crush the British. General Reynier's force was made up of scarlet clad Swiss, two battalions of the Polish-Italian legion, some light infantry, a single battery of horse artillery and a handful of cavalry. General Stuart who after landing seems to have done very little beyond waiting for the enemy turn up, met this force with a mixed bag of infantry and three guns of the RHA.

The French advanced in column, attempted to form line and were shot down by British infantry who then counter attacked with a bayonet charge. The French fled the field, but were not pursued by a British army entirely destitute of cavalry.

And that is it, albeit it in very broad strokes and recounted from memory.

The attractions of Maida are I think, the compactness of the action, the fact that neither General covered himself in glory, which leaves the player in the enviable position of showing how it *should* have been done and the exotic troops involved, Swiss fighting on both sides, Corsican Rangers and what would eventually become the legion of the Vistula. Only the lack of cavalry prevents it being the perfect wargaming engagement in my view.

For those who would like to know more, I recommend The Battle of Maida by Richard Hopton, which I borrowed from Donogh. An interesting companion to this is Counterpoint to Trafalgar: The Anglo-Russian invasion of Naples by the magnificently named William Flayhart. This was again stolen from Donogh, who was so lacking in common decency that he stole it back, damn his eyes.

Hopton does the job of a craftsman and describes his battle well, but Flayhart is even more interesting in that he manages to write a gripping book that is the anthesis of what one expects from a Napoleonic history book. There are no battles, little glory and a lot of diplomacy and skullduggery. Don't let the lack of violence put you off, it's fascinating stuff and vividly illustrates the problems of coalition warfare.

Maida is also interesting in that it has had an enormous influence in the historiography of minor tactics of the Napoleonic era. You can find a discussion of this particular academic donnybrook here.

But the fact remains that I have been pipped at the post and Mr. Laurence Cutner of Canada finished his Maida scenario first. I haven't played it yet, though it has been receiving favourable attention on Board Game Geek.

You can download it here.

*Barring some success in Eygpt.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The simple creatures hope he will...

...impale his solar topee on the tree.

A "fixed" version of a
very dark photograph taken on my camera phone

I found myself in Mrs. Kinch's grandparents house this evening for dinner as Mrs. Kinch was organising the feeding of her grandfather and saw no reason why I couldn't be added to the ration strength there. This is always a pleasent experience as I get to chat with Mrs. Kinch's great uncle and grandfather while she is banging pots in the kitchen.

They are two magnificent men, both founder members of the Model Soldier Society and inveterate collectors of militaria and particularly in Mrs. Kinch's great uncles case, historical trivia - his knowledge of Wellington's funeral arrangements, 19th century Parisian courteseans or conspiracy theories about Garibaldi is second to none. He told me today that we live a handshake away from history and that I had shaken the hand that had shaken the hand of Field Marshall Lord Robert's batman and a confidant of the Empress Eugenie.

Magical stuff.

My father once had dinner with Marshall Petain's brother when he was fourteen, though he only realised who the chap was years later.

A handshake away, gentlemen, we live a handshake away.

While I was making my way out the door after Mrs. Kinch had scampered off to choir, I paused to take a picture of the above display which is on one of the landings. I believe it's Boer War though I've never seen a sun helmet quite like it - the picture was very dark (it's not a particularly well lit house) and I have had to mess around with it a little.

I would be very interested if any of the mess can shed any light on the matter - has anyone seen anything quite like this before?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reasons to be uppish...

A desk very similiar to my own

I've been feeling under the weather of late, but have perked up immeasurably in the last day or two. Some time off to spend with Mrs. Kinch helped a great deal, though she is poorly at the moment with a bad cold. I also had a great night out at a friend's thirtieth birthday, which goes to show what all right thinking men have known since 'Omer smote 'is bloomin' lyre; that laughter, drinking, smoking and good company are the best medicine.

In other news, our prospective house is somewhat damper than I had hoped when we went to visit it on Friday. Apparently despite my requests and the estate agents advice, the executors did not see fit to turn the water off during the recent cold snap. The damage isn't terrible and far worse things happen at sea, but it does look like it may delay proceedings for a few days, which is very irritating.

However, I have managed to organise all the relevant pieces of paper and our solicitor is merely waiting for the hard copy of the revised mortgage approval to arrive, before swinging into action- so there are reasons to be distinctly uppish.

Mrs. Kinch surpassed herself this Christmas in terms of presents, having bought and restored an Edwardian writing desk for me. I haven't managed to see it yet as it is in storage in her Grandfathers house, but it's very similar to the one above if poor camera phone pictures are to be believed. I am indescribably pleased by this magnificent gift and only hope I'll get some use out of it this year.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Memoir '44 - Winter Wars

Baby, it's cold outside.

Unfortunately my scheduled Command & Colours: Napoleonics game was cancelled, but I did manage to get a game of Memoir '44 - Winter Wars in on Friday.

Winter Wars
is a new expansion for the Memoir '44 family set during the Battle of the Bulge. It comes with two new card decks, special rules for fighting in snow and a dozen scenarios. We played the Pieper at Stoumont scenario. This was interesting for a number of reasons, firstly because it was a breakthrough scenario, which doubles the depth of the board and secondly because it gave us a chance to use the new Breakthrough card deck that came with the expansion.

The deck increases the number of cards from a normal Memoir '44 deck with two of most special cards like Behind Enemy Lines and Barrage included, but also an interesting wrinkle added to the standard cards. While formerly, a card allowed you to activate a number of units either in the left, centre or right of the battlefield, the new cards also create a new type of unit activation called On the March.

On the March units may move, but not battle which means that a player no longer has to choose between activating units in the battleline and moving up his reserves. This isn't really an issue in regular games because the battlefield is quite compact, but in the deeper Breakthrough game this can lead to a situation where the game can slow quite a bit because not enough units are being activated each turn and therefore they cannot cover the ground in a reasonable time.

The second addition is the Snow Deck, an idea first used in the Stalingrad expansion. This is a deck of special cards that players can use outside the normal turn sequence. These usually modify the effects of a standard card and add a little more uncertainty to the game.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game though it took a good two hours, which is a long time for a Memoir '44 game. I felt the Breakthrough deck added to the experience by adding a bit more movement to the game and allowing the use of reserves. The Snow Deck threw in a few unexpected twists and turns, but didn't derail gameplay - like most special rules and random events decks, what Donald Featherstone used to call "Military Possibilities", they worked best as a seasoning, adding flavour to the game without overwhelming play.

I must say I'm also growing fond of the Breakthrough format and card deck, which gives a lengthier, meatier game.

Another very solid performance from Richard Borg, recommended.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

This man in his own country...

Some of John's chaps ready to be sent off to the painters.

This man in his own country prayed we know not to what powers.
We pray them to reward him for his bravery in ours.

Hindu Sepoy in France - Rudyard Kipling

It would be boorish to tease an already long suffering public with regard to these capital fellows, you'll find below a complete listing of the figures available below.

The figures are available John Cunningham and you can find his details here. I'm assured that further figures, including one at porte arms and a drummer, will be forthcoming. These are nice, clean castings, roughly of a size with HAT figures which demanded only a little cleaning up with a file to be ready to go. My photo doesn't really do them justice, but I'll add some further pictures.

for Wellington in INDIA

SW 1 Madras officer marching
SW 2 sepoy advancing
SW 3 Bombay Grenadier priming musket
SW 4 in busby, loading
SW 5 Bengal sepoy, standing firing
SW 6 at ready
SW 7 Madras priming
SW 8 loading
SW 9 firing
SW 10 at ready
SW 11 Bombay grenadier officer marching
SW 12 grenadier advancing
SW 13 loading
SW 14 firing
SW 15 at ready
SW 16 in busby priming
SW 17 firing
SW 18 advancing
SW 19 at ready
SW 20 officer marching
SW 21 Bengal officer marching
SW 22 sepoy advancing
SW 23 priming
SW 24 loading

“ Wellington in India, a Wargamers Guide “ by C.S. Grant and Stuart Asquith
"Armies of the East India Company 1750-1850" by Stuart Reid
"Assaye 1803" by Simon Millar

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Having your own toy soldiers.

Brigadier (then Lt.Col) Young's book on the Arab Legion.
I am sure it is gloriously unpartisan.

An addendum to my piece on having figures painted for one, Brigadier Peter Young, a man whose wargaming credentials are impeccable, did not paint his own figures. In fact, the current Brigadier (the Grant, rather than the Young) makes reference in The Wargame Companion to painting some regiments for his predecessor.

Of course, he did take having his own toy soldiers a little far in that he did have his own Legion
at one point as well as raising a corps of re-enactors, but these are forgiveable indecretions.

Brigadier Peter Young DSO, MC (bar) did it, therefore it must be alright!

Painting Figures

HATs new Chasseurs, now available in marching poses.
It is a little worrying how exciting I find this particular development.

The always interesting Prometheus in Aspic had an interesting post about painting wargames figures over Christmas. His argument is I think a valid one, there are those of us who simply do not have sufficient time to paint all the figures that we would like to play with and are willing to pay for the privilege. I used to be a far more prolific painter than I am now, but I simply don't have the time that I did then.

There are those who feel that professionally painted figures are never really your own. I've never seen the point of this. I like painting and building terrain, but I don't feel my experience or enjoyment of the hobby is lessened by using figures painted by others. No less a gifted artist than Alte Fritz, whose skills with a brush are irreproachable makes extensive use of figures painted by others, so it doesn't appear to be a case of those who can't, don't.

I, like Prometheus, do some finishing on the figures that I commission. I always do the bases myself, mainly because I find that it is usually the base rather than anything else that ties a group of figures together. Most of my commissioned work is done by Mark Bevis, who I can recommend for his speed, economy and extensive knowledge of uniforms and kit.

A review of my forces finds me facing a shocking lack of French Light Infantry. I have one battalion of the Legion Irlandaise, who were light infantry, but who are hardly representative of the breed. I haven't managed to get my hand on a box of the new HAT Chasseurs yet, but in the meantime I'm busying myself by trying to send off as many troops to Mark as possible so that he can make a dent in them while I'm elbow deep in sanding floors and the like.

With that in mind, I've prepared some of John Cunningham's sepoys for the brush.

This week is also looking good for gaming as I've managed to organise to play my new Command & Colours: Napoleonics game on Thursday and hopefully get some Memoir '44 in on Friday.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Christmas Miracle

A work in progress.

Ressurection is traditional at Easter rather than Christmas, but I'm back on my feet again. It has emerged that I did actually have swine flu, but that it seems to have subsided except for a rather impressive cough at present.

Unfortunately this has meant that life has consisted almost entirely of work and as much bed rest as I have been able to cram into 24 hours. Our Christmas was effectively written off which is unfortunate, but hopefully I'll be able to take some time off soon and we'll be able to spend some of it together when we're both awake and upright.

Naturally enough this has meant that there has been very little wargaming and Mrs. Kinch's great uncle's gift, pictured above, has been delayed. I have never painted such a big figure before, so I'm learning as I go along. The shading typical of 28mm figures isn't necessary and I've been working with flat colour so far. Getting consistent coverage has been difficult, but a little ink to tie layers of colour together seems to have worked.

I stickered all my Command & Colours blocks over Christmas, a long job, but I wasn't fit for anything else. However, the process did answer my questions about French dragoons as the plain "heavy" (i.e. non-cuirassier) cavalry pictured are dragoons. I'm still puzzled by the pictures of Portugese light and heavy cavalry, but that is a matter for another day.

To all a very happy New Year!