Sunday, March 31, 2013

Christ is risen!

Bach - Easter Cantata

A very Happy and Blessed Easter to you all. 

Capability Savage pays a call

The scene in the drawing room shortly after Capability Savage's arrival

I was lying prostrate in my sick bed yesterday when I was roused into an approximation of life by loud roistering and an intense stench of linaseed, lamp blacking and turps.  I made my way downstairs to find Capability Savage in occupation in the drawing room. 

He was in fine fettle and despite the presence of a confused looking German hedge fund manager (CS seemed to be trying to sell him my mantel piece), an unmarried Thai lady and a small dog, had not managed to cause too much damage unsupervised. Greeting me in typically hearty fashion, he dispatched the German (without the mantle piece) and the Thai lady (with the dog), and produced a bottle of alcohol hand sanitizer mixed with orange squash. 

This he pronounced, "An excellent vintage. I'm thinking of laying down a case or two for my nephews majority," and offered me some, but I demurred. Reason, piety and a desire to return to good health setting me against it.  

We talked long and played the Czarnowo scenario from the new Russian book. 

The field of battle

Czarnowo is a straight up attacker defender sort of affair.  The Prussians have been beaten at Jena-Auerstadt and the French are now advancing through the Polish mud to deliver the kicking that will end at Freidland. The Russian army were retreating and Napoleon characteristically enough was determined to strike them a blow. Ostermann-Tolstoy (one of those Tolstoys) was equally determined to hold his position. 

The game was a close one and had a number of interesting victory conditions. The French gained points for emptying the Russian redoubts (of which there were three). The Russian gained a point so long as they held the eponymous burg of Czarnowo on the left. Either side could get another point by holding both the bridges over the Wkra on the right. 

I've found generally that this sort of game, that is one that has victory conditions like that, demand a great deal of close attention. It's very easy to lose focus and get sucked into a fight with no purpose while your opponent is manoeuvring to advantage. 

The French sledgehammer advances on the Russian right

Savage threw his infantry forward on my right in typically aggressive fashion. I was hoping to push on my left where I had  numerical and cavalry superiority, but his constant attacks meant that I didn't have the opportunity to do. It was a close game. Savage weakened my centre, while I hammered his left. 

Heroes of the Day

In the end, the game was decided in the centre. I managed to get my Heavy Cuirassiers into the fight, smashing the French lights that had taken the redoubt. The game ended seven - three, but I think Savage had some bad die rolls and was too eager to go into square.  I managed to put him into square with Cossack cavalry, which was awfully obliging of him. This cut down on his cards in hand and left the squares vulnerable to Russian guns. 

I think Savage had had some Domestos that disagreed with him - but he perked right up after he found the Dishwasher tablets. He was still smiling when he was taken away in the ambulance. 

Also, I saw one of these on the Internet. 

I want one. Though I'm not sure where one finds 1/72 scale oxen. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Krazy Kinch's Klearout

Come buy my camel! 

I did a clearout this morning and picked out some things that are surplus to requirements. Payment by PayPal   as gift only and buyer pays postage, drop me a line in the comments (comments with your email address will not be published) and we'll take it from there. 

Airfix Westland Scout £5 (sale pending)

Airfix Westland Gazelle £5

Revell Typhoon £5

Airfix Bofors £3 (sale pending)

Italeri Quad Tractor £6 (sale pending)

A much "pre-loved" Sherman £1 (sale pending)

Frontline Wargaming Tiger £3
(£1 for the dinky armoured car) (sale pending)

Hanomags & Hanomag with gun (sale pending)
Panther (sale pending)

HAT Russian Great War Infantry

Thirty one bases in total £10

Ten Carama diecast jeeps £1 each(sale pending)

A metal 54mm knight  £3 (this is heavy and I imagine postage will be hefty)

About twenty Ceasar resistance fighters £2

Italeri (ex-ESCI) British Light Dragoons & Italeri Hussars £3

ESCI British Light Dragoons £3

HAT Spanish Geurillas £5
Italeri French Foreign Legion £3

I'd be interested in any of the sets below for trade. 

The Lady with the Lamp

An artist's impression Florence Nightingourmand

Mrs Kinch was rehearsing last night and Cousin Basil is on tour, so I had expected to spend last night with the cats.  It's not that I mind their company (I've been teaching Flashman to play chess), but after a week of close proximity we've used up our store of conversation.

However, just as I was settling down to another dull game of chess - Flashman will insist on overextending his knights - I was visited by a mysterious figure. Mrs Kinch had said something about sending someone over to look after me, but I was little inclined to the company of a hired nurse. Clad in a dark shawl and swaddled in a large, malodorous travelling cloak, she staggered in out of the billowing snow clutching a lamp.  Muttering something about "Not giving up the ghost," she produced a bottle of port from beneath her bonnet.
It was then that I became suddenly faint and collapsed into a chair.

When I came to, I realised that this was none other than my old enemy, General Du Gourmand, cunning disguised in female attire. He produced further comestibles from his gussets and then retired to chance. Once decently dressed, we sat down to give the new Command & Colours Napoleonics Russian Expansion a try. 

As you can see we made shift for ourselves.

We did justice to the cheese board and had a rare old time, though sadly Du Gourmand had to do most of the drinking and as I wasn't quite up to it. He bore this with his usual beatific grace. He is as ever, an example to us all.

There was one fraught moment, when I told him that while it is not normally my habit to put untested condiments in front of guests, but that I hadn't had a chance to try the chutney myself yet. However, I added that I was sure it would do honour to the family of Capability Savage. Apparently Du Gourmand had something of a near death experience recently with one of Capability Savage's pork scratchings and was very suspicious.

There then followed an ugly scene where a sick man was frog marched upstairs and forced to swear on a testament that our artistic friend had no hand in the making of the chutney. I did so swear; it was made by his mother and it was excellent.

Glorious field of grief

We played five battles over the evening and I'm sad to say that each one was a French triumph. We began with Craonne, an outing from the 1814 campaign that I have fond memories of. My earliest memories of wargaming relate to a book called The Sandhurst Book of Wargames by Paddy Griffith. I used to play it with my father, mainly Acquitaine at which I was undefeated, but there was a game about the battle of Craonne. I was beaten hollow when I was nine and I was beaten hollow again.  

Montmiral followed as it turned out we were playing the scenarios in reverse order. Sadly my cavalry on the left were unable to cut the mustard against a superior French force despite a good showing from my infantry, the result was another French victory. 

Champaubert was an interesting battle - not least because facing an opponent with total cavalry superiority is a dicey proposition at the best of times. Not tho' the soldiers knew, some one indeed had blundered. This wasn't the drubbing that I was expecting given the circumstances, mainly I think because I managed to get my infantry into the fight. It's a tough one for the Russians as one is trapped on the horns of a dilemma. The superior French force can take its time picking you apart, unless you're lucky enough to deal with his horse early.  The Russian general has an insufficient force to attack, but cannot afford to lie supine in defence. One we will play again. 

I had cherished hopes that at least the Crossing  of the Berezina might prevent my being out for duck, but it was not to be. While Du Gourmand's devilish luck definitely played a significant role in my disaster in previous games, this one was absolutely down to foolish play on my part. I didn't read the description of Grenadiers properly and failed to put my attack on the right together correctly. This silly play let a victory slip through my finger tips. 

Krasnoi is a battle that I'm not even slightly familiar with. It forms part of the retreat from Moscow and unsurprisingly the French player is attempting to withdraw his troops from the board. It's also unusual in that it's the only scenario thus far where the Russian player has a card advantage, though the French player can whittle this down by evacuating his men, which also scores him victory points. A two card combination (and a pretty unlikely one at that) allowed Du Gourmand to put himself half way to victory by the second or third turn and I was unable to make up the distance. 

The Russian scenarios feel more balanced than the Spanish ones and I think with practice and a bit of thought, victory will come. 

And so, disguised once more, Florence Nightingourmand disappeared into the blizzard with only a tightly knotted bonnet and a rude hand gesture to mark his passing. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

British armour

A collection of British armour

I've been wiling away the odd hour assembling part of the collection of British armour I've gathered since Christmas. The Plastic Soldier Company Shermans were from Rosbif and the other armour were from my Secret Santa. The Secret Santa was excellent fun and well done to Ian and Cath for organising it.

I was casting around for information on how to dolly these up which led to a rather frustrating trip to the box room with a lot of coughing and spluttering. Now say what you like about the Flames of War chaps - but they do know how to run a website and while it wasn't quite the same as being able to poke away with my Osprey in front of me, there was some very useful information there.

Amongst other things I found;

Armourfast Achilles with stowage from S&S

I've decided that I'm going to (probably vainly) attempt to emulate the sort of gypsy look that you see in pictures of late war British armour. Lots of tarps, bundles, small packs, jerry cans and so forth. If I could find a bicycle anywhere I throw it on the back. The Achilles in particular look a bit empty and my spares box isn't overly blessed with tank crew, so I'm going to have to improvise. 

Armourfast Cromwell with a Plastic Soldier Company tank commander

Making tarps, camoflage nets and so forth out of green stuff is not beyond the wit of Kinch, so there will be plenty of that. I've been ransacking by bits box for other pieces, which I will add with time. In a rare fit of order - I also collected all my decals and filed them away in a cigarillo box, along with a cigar box for stowage. Though in terms of stowage, I seem to be using it as fast as I can find it.

A Plastic Soldier Company Sherman with a HAT tank commander

I've also taken the opportunity to have a bit of a clean out - so keep your eyes peeled as there may be spare figures going a begging. If you've any particular stuff that you want or have to trade, let me know in the comments and I'll see if I can sort you out. Myself I'm looking for assembled British Second World War  artillery (though Napoleonics, Crimean figures and anything suitable for VBCW would also be welcome), though if you're reading this you've probably about as much idea as what I'm looking for at present as I do myself. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Monday Papers: Part One

Portrait of a man reading by Rembrandt

One of the problems of the Internet is that there is quite a lot of it and despite being quite a conservative soul, I'm fond of it.

I must say that having a considerable portion of the knowledge of Mankind accessible via a machine that fits in my pocket is probably one of the more exhilarating aspects of life in a 21st century that has proved relatively disappointing thus far.

However, the flood of text and ideas is such that separating the wheat from the chaff can prove problematical. With that in mind, I'm hoping to start a set of regular post highlighting things about the Internet that I have found interesting or useful. There will be some wargaming content, but there will be other stuff also - I hope at least some of it proves of interest. 

Doctor Alexander O'Connor is a friend, a loyal opponent and thoroughly good company. He is also considerably cleverer than I am, though I flatter myself that I have better jokes. His blog features a similar weekly round up, which is where I stole the idea from. He runs rather more to technology and philosophy than I do - but he is worth reading. You can find his Weekend Reading here.  

Polemarch is an odd fellow and I think the first post-modern wargamer that I have encountered. He is very similar to Doctor O'Connor in some ways in that he never fails to make me think.  He is what Chesterton describes as a fellow with his heart in the wrong place - I am struggling to think of a single occasion where we have agreed. That he is wrong is clear, at least to me, but that he continues to be wrong in such an engaging and well written fashion is the reason I never fail to read him carefully and with attention. You can find the Polemarch here

"Then none was for a party; then all were for the state; 
Then the great man helped the poor, and the poor man loved the great. 
Then lands were fairly portioned; then spoils were fairly sold: 
The Romans were like brothers in the brave days of old. 

Now Roman is to Roman more hateful than a foe, 
And the Tribunes beard the high, and the Fathers grind the low. 
As we wax hot in faction, in battle we wax cold: 
Wherefore men fight not as they fought in the brave days of old."

Horatius - Lord Thomas Babbington Macaulay

I discovered Babbington-Macaulay late in life and I have been doing my best to rectify this serious omission ever since. Read Horatius, it's a long story poem of the sort they don't write any more and it thumps along like the heartbeat of the messenger bringing you the story in person.  I read it two year ago and it squirreled it's way in to my heart like no-one has since Joyce Kilmer. There may be better poetry out there, but I don't remember it.

His "History of England from the Accession of James the Second" may be Whiggish, partial and thoroughly dated. It is still however a skilfully written account of human drama, a story that encompasses the low as well as the high in time when history was mainly an account of the doings of Monarchs and Princes.  I've read plenty of history that informs, but Macaulay makes the period live through the beauty of his prose and his eye, and sympathy for, the frailty of persons.  I've yet to find a decent print edition, but if you're looking for an introduction, you can read him here.

Failing that there is an audiobook version produced by the volunteers over at Librivox. The quality of the readers varies, but this link has a lot more good than bad and will certainly give you enough to know if you've a taste for more.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Soviet Shermans III: Disaster!

I varnished my Soviet Shermans this morning and saw most of my hard work disappear. This is the result. There is still some sign of the pigment, but it has darkened rather spectacularly and has almost become invisible. 

I was sent a link to this tutorial done by Piers on the Guild. He recommends using a pigment fixer rather than just mixing them with water. So the trick appears to be, varnish, add fixer, then add pigment. I shall know for next time. 

Sadly, none of the local hobby shops appear to have fixer in stock, so I think it may be a while before I get a chance to rectify my mistakes. However, it's been a learning experience and I'm glad that I at least gave it a try. However, this being sick nonsense is really beginning to get on my nerves. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Soviet Shermans II: Weathering

After posting some pictures to the Guild - I got some advice on how to approach weathering.  The lads thought that I had put things on a bit heavy handedly and that the best thing to do was wipe away most of the pigment with a cotton bud.  

This I think you'll agree has improved things immeasurably and the tank looks more like a weathered and beaten war horse and less like something that's been through the second and third days of Glastonbury. 

I was particularly pleased to see how the detail that I painted on the tracks and road wheel remerged from under the deluge of mud. Things are looking a bit better.  A quick spray of matt varnish and I think they should be ready for the tabletop!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Soviet Shermans

It's all gone a bit Scutari really

I'm at home at present, sick in bed and thoroughly browned off with the whole experience.  The local sawbones says I should be back in action shortly, but it's very irritating.  In the meantime, I've done some work on two Armourfast Shermans that I dug out for the Kursk game, before Donogh came to the rescue with his T-34's and I realised that there weren't any Shermans at Kursk. 

These are common or garden Sherman M4s with a 75mm gun. They were sprayed with a Tamiya spray for Russian armour and then given a slight highlight. Tracks were painted a dark grey, mixed by hand, as I couldn't find anything suitable from my paintbox. 

Decals were by the redoubtable Plastic Soldier Company from their Russian decal range. I am new to decals and I find applying them a nerve wracking business, but these seem to work alright. I only tumbled to the dodge of adding gloss varnish first after watching this video tutorial.

I have tried adding it to the blog entry, but Youtube doesn't seem to be co-operating. 

I must thank reader Mr E for his kindness and patience while teaching me the rudiments of applying decals. 

The other new departure was trying out some pigments for weathering. I added MIG Black Smoke to the muzzles of the guns, which seems to have worked somewhat. The MIG European earth, which I mixed with a few drops of water and then dabbed on doesn't seem to have come out as well. I haven't varnished the tank yet, so perhaps that will darken it somewhat. I know some painters use gloss varnish as a medium, so I might give that a try. 

Lastly, I also tried some chipping though I think I may have been a little too cautious about it as I don't see it in any of the photographs. This essentially was trying to represent areas of chipped or worn paint by dabbing grey onto the tank with a sponge and then highlighting with a pencil. 

I'm still not sure I'm happy with the weathering, but we shall see if it is improved by a coat of varnish. I fear that once I've added this much detail to some of my tanks, I'll have to do the lot. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

We have been to...Waterford

General Thomas Francis Meagher

A few weeks ago, it seems like an age now, we went to Waterford for a few days. It was a well deserved break, though one that was all to short. Mrs Kinch, Cousin Basil and I relaxed, used the poor and the gym in the hotel and went out for little expeditions. Waterford is a lovely town and I would like to go back there, but I thought I might share some of the pictures I took there. 

This chap is General Thomas Francis Meagher was born in Waterford. His varied military career included service in the Young Irelanders and the US army during the American Civil War. Meagher was one of those called "a political general". His real skill was in the raising of troops rather than the leading them into battle, a characteristic he shared with General Sigel.  I've no great sympathy for the man - but to slight him for being good at one thing and bad at the other seems silly. 

Artifacts associated with Meagher's brother Henry, including a cameo presented to him 
by Pope Pious IX, a chap who would not be my favourite Pope.

Henry Meagher served in the Papal Guard for seven years and these artifacts belonged to him and did not as our tour guide informed us belong to Thomas.

The estranged wife of a Sir Thomas Wyse married one of the Bonaparte's - this plague was on her home up until relatively recently.  Curiously it seems to memorialise her first husband. 

A sword presented to Meagher by the Napper Tandy Artillery company of New York

The Fort Sumter Medal and the Kearny medal, both presented to Meagher

John Redmond MP

John Redmond MP was also from Waterford and is many ways probably one of the more admirable figures in Irish history.  

Bridge Plaque erected by the Protestant controlled Corporation to record the opening of the Timbertoes Bridge. 

While 1829 tends to be the date bandied about with regard to Catholic Emancipation in Ireland, it is often forgotten that the majority of the heavy lifting was done forty years previously. I like this plaque mainly because deciding to commemorate the Catholic Relief Act of 1793 with a bridge seems at odds with most of what we are given to understand of the Irish history of the time.  I love the willingness of ordinary people to just get on with it. 

A rather splendid Georgian spread

This picture was taken in the Bishops Palace which has been wonderfully restored and features a very well presented and organised tour.

King Billy 

Again from the Bishops Palace - sadly, my camera phone did it little justice. A man whose reputation in the historical record was done a great deal of good by being preceded James II, I've always thought.

A very bad picture of Lord Roberts of Kandahar

Bobs as he was always known was born in India of a Waterford famiy.  They had some artifacts relating to the family in the Bishops Palace, though without much context.

"E's a little down on drink, 
Chaplain Bobs; 
But it keeps us outer Clink
Don't it, Bobs?"

                                                                                 Bobs by Rudyard Kipling

A letter written by Bobs to his grandson explaining he should stay in school and not run away to the Great War.

Some artifacts (sadly unlabeled) of Lord Robert's family

A 28mm Diorama in the medieval museum. Quite nicely done I think you'll agree. 

Close up

This was the best I could do pressing my phone against the glass

A 1/300 (ish) model of Waterford around the 13th century (if memory serves). 

Waterford was a centre of the wine trade in Ireland at the time and local merchants had great success selling Irish produce in France and importing wine. Curiously enough, Waterford is also the oldest city in Ireland as it was founded by Viking raiders several decades before Dublin. The Viking were driven out, only to return in 912 AD, but you can't have everything.

Most of Waterford's medieval troubles appear to have grown from it's importance as a commercial centre as various pretenders to the throne attempted to take the city in order to finance their operations. It's motto, "Waterford remains the untaken city" is a reference to it's (almost) perfect record of withstanding sieges.

Doesn't it look sharp? I think I spotted some Timecast buildings in there. 

Archery has always been important to the history of Waterford. 

Richard de Clare, otherwise known as Strongbow, took Waterford with a force up mainly of archers. Traditionally not an Irish strong point - Henry VII made a gift of bows, arrows and strings to the city in 1487 as a reward for their loyalty. Contemporary Irish military thinking was much more of the "...ambush him with a giant axe in a bog somewhere..." school, which to be fair was a pretty good bet considering the terrain.

A curiously unattended and apparently fully functional crossbow - Cousin Basil and I were restrained from putting this to the test by Mrs Kinch, whose keen eyes had noticed what the tour guides had not. 

The Great Charter - obviously "cut and paste" has improved somewhat since then

Waterford was made a royal city in 1171 by King Henry II. The great charter above certainly contains 12th century pieces and was stitched together in the 14th century to demonstrate the antiquity of the city's claim to a wine monoply.

A wall piece - 15th century I think? I'm no medievalist. 

Henry VIII's cap of maintenance

This was a special hat that Henry VIII wore while collecting taxes I believe. He gave it to the Wyse family, William Wyse being the mayor at the time, as a sign of his particular esteem for the city of Waterford.

On examining it, he appears to have possessed a very large head.

The flag of the Irish Brigade hanging in Doolan's Pub

And after all that culture and a very fine meal in a French restaurant whose name escapes me, we went to Doolan's pub which I can recommend unreservedly. It reminded me of those "proper boozers" that are an endangered species in Dublin these days and we had a great night.

We really enjoyed our time in Waterford. I'm looking forward to going back there.