Tuesday, June 25, 2013

That battle

The Battle of Albeura by Barnes Wollen

There is often one battle that strike the imagination of the wargamer, some sort
of Ur-conflict that he encountered at a sensitive moment that has just sunk in
and will not be shaken. One finds oneself refighting it in different forms (how
many science fiction Normandy landings have you seen?) or using it as a touch
stone, constantly referring back to it.

Some wargamers refight "their battle" dozens of times, others embark on huge
unworkable projects in order to recreate this one perfect moment.

What's yours ?

I was thinking about this myself and there are a couple of contenders. The

common denominator appears to be that I first discovered them when I was around
eleven or twelve.

Agincourt, Waterloo, Albheura or Maida.

The Battle of Maida

I've wargamed Maida about half a dozen times and it is usually my model for a

small black powder engagement. It would be perfect if there was only more

Albheura was seared into my memory by reading "Soldiers" by Richard Holmes and
his account of the battle for the Buffs standard. I get chills when I think of
the thunder of hooves and Colonel Inglis calling "Die Hard!" through the smoke
as he lay bleeding. Never gamed it though. Soon.

                         The Duke of Wellington at Waterloo by Robert Alexander Hilingford 

Waterloo & Agincourt need no explanation, but I think that Henry V was the first Shakespeare
play that I read for myself and for pleasure had a lot to do with it. After Henty and
other stuff about both battles, reading my father's copy of "The Face of Battle" was a revelation.

What was the spur for your battle? Was it a movie? Zulu definitely launched a thousand
colonial wargamers? Did Charlton Heston send you up the Nile to Khartoum? Or did Sam Peckinpah send you packing for the Eastern Front?  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Davout & Lasalle

Louis-Nicolas Davout, Marshal of the Empire

Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, "The Hussar General"

Lasalle & Davout for those of you keeping score at home. I was aided somewhat by the fact that the previous owner had carefully labelled them underneath the base. 

Another long day in work, Mrs Kinch has gone to bed, I think I shall occupy myself with some basing as I'm not fit for much else. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Basing

Two French Generals

I've a heavyish week at work and a few writing jobs to get done in addition to that, so I've restricted myself to basing - which at least lends itself to being done at odds hours and in small bursts. I've started doing the basing of my Mysorean matchlock men (see at the back), but the heroes of the hour are two very old Hinton Hunt French generals. These were part of a collection bought some time back and their paintwork while somewhat chipped is still mostly good. 

To the side gentlemen

I was considering repainting them, but it seemed bad form, so I'm merely rebasing them and giving them a quick blast of varnish to prevent further damage.  These are old campaigners and it wouldn't do to disgrace the uniform of the old corps by a later imposition, they shall serve as they are. 

And a shiny sixpence to the bright lad who can identify them. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What I did on my holidays by Conrad Kinch aged 33 and a quarter

A book that just keeps on giving

Back to the grind again, but Mrs Kinch and I spent a very pleasent few days in the country. It was a perfect holiday of long sunny, slightly boozy days, spent reading or going for little walks.  I did some writing while I was away, but most of it was spent in pure indulgence. 

I reread the Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, which a fine book and well worth reading.  I gave a copy to a friend of mine, who complained that he thought some of the twists in the plot were old hat for mystery stories. I then had to explain to him that this was the Ur text and that many commonplaces of the mystery novel were first coined in it's pages. I'm always amused, rereading it that such a liberal book should have created so conservative a genre.  

The charge of the Sikhs

I also took with me, two volumes of "Great Battles of the 19th Century" by Henty, Forbes et al. I always enjoy these, though I'm told they are available online somewhere. I read the account of the Battle of Novara with considerable interest as it was somewhat more picturesque (though less accurate) than the account I read in the book below. 

I was glad to finally be able to go back to this book and give it the detailed reading it deserved. I have written about this work before and it was a real pleasure to give it another go, particularly as I've learned rather more about the Siege of Venice and the doings in Hungary since my first reading. This led to all sorts of dangerous thoughts about Sardinian armies for the Crimea that could do double duty...

A bear

One of the hazards of visiting the country is that assorted rural types attempt to practice upon you. Mrs Kinch and I had gone for a trot in the afternoon and were busily engaged in touring the local castle.  While we were there, we were introduced by one of the locals to his "dog". The photograph does no justice to the sheer size of this animal, who came clear to my hip (I'm 5'10) and was extremely friendly. 

But as I said, country people will try and convince you of practically anything. 

While we were away, we also managed to see the garden at my mother in laws place. I know nothing about it, but it is rather pretty isn't it?

Another view. 

I brought some figures away with me, but completely failed to get any painting done, more of a problem of the good company and the pleasent reading than anything else. As I unpacked my kit on returning home, these fellas were staring reproachfully at me from the top of the drinks cabinet. 

As you can see, Flashman and Sissi were beside themselves upon our return. They had obviously missed us. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes.

I should be in bed, as I will have to sneak into work tomorrow morning to finish a few small jobs and that will necessitate rising disgustingly early. Fortunately, work, duty and all such stuff will be able to go hang as Mrs Kinch and I will be retiring to the country for a few days. I'm sure I shall return in a much better mood.

I can't really believe that this happened five years ago and is now providing the excuse for our little getaway.  Anyway, I have packed books, paints, toy soldiers, alcohol and other necessities in a bag. I may have to get smokeables in the morning.

I shall see you all on upon our return.  Don't get up to any mischief.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Another video

Another video from the game on Saturday, admittedly of the same engagement from a slightly different angle.   I took quite a few photos, but they are all on my camera and therefore a little more difficult to get at.  I'll say one thing for mobile phone cameras, while they may not be as fancy as a Digital SLR - the pictures are a great deal easier to manipulate and use. 

Work has been rather busy lately and there hasn't been much home time.  We've been working longer shifts than usual, so I haven't been my usual sparkling self when I get home.

However, even when one is very tired - there are jobs that's don't demand too much brainwork. Basing these Mysoreans is one of them. These are metal figures produced by Uwe and painted by Krisztian. I'm looking forward to returning to the sub continent. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Holland Game

A brief video from our game on Saturday. This was a great success and we managed to get three games in during the day with eight players a side.

Unfortunately, I haven't had much chance to update recently, but in the meantime have a look at this.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Monday Papers: Part the Sixth

Girl reading a letter by Vermeer

Tick Tock 

I have always been fascinated by time - the sheer depth of Creation has a majesty that is almost intoxicating.   Recorded human history stretches back approximately 6,500 years, while the Earth itself is vastly older. But considering human history measured in generations, rather than years, there are only two hundred and ninety  generations between us and the men that lived in Sumer.  The past is both near and far away simultaneously, utterly remote and yet always with us.  Considering Creation as all things that are, we are very young indeed, sharks for example have been about for nearly four hundred million years and that is quite a few generations indeed.

Fiction rarely conveys the breadth of time well, but there have been some notable exceptions. I read "The First and Last Men" by Olaf Stapledon, a future history of the human race in secondary school and was very impressed with it.  I'm less impressed by the philosophy these days, which is bleak enough, but it is still a considerable literary achievement in that it manages to communicate the astonishing depth of time and the transience of the individual.  It is a fine book and well worth reading.

On Exactitude in Science

I've always been interested in maps - I think spurred by my father. He received a gift of an etching when I was very small called "Map of a city found in a dragon flies wing".  It was a map of an imaginary city in the style of the Roque maps of London and Dublin, but with each house formed from one of the cells of the wing.  Dad told me there was a house on fire in the city. Despite many hours of careful study, I have yet to find it. I still check whenever I visit the parental home.

The Strange Maps blog is a treasure trove of similar maps, maps that have never been, maps that show unusual things, like the consumption of icecream in the United States or the optimal borders of Poland. If geography is destiny and we are shaped by the environment we inhabit and the environment we imagine we inhabit, you could do a lot worse than visiting the Strange Maps blog. 

Far from the Mahdist crowd

I've been taking a more than usual interest in the British Empire of the 19th century over the last week. This was almost certainly spurred by playing "The Sword and the Flame" and is likely to continue for a while. This happens every so often, usually after I've reread some H. Rider Haggard, an author I am hugely fond of and who was one of the great storytellers in a time blessed with a superfluity of them.

However, rather than re-read "She" again - I came to read "The River War" by Sir. Winston Churchill. It isn't my first time reading it, but as an example of well written narrative history it is hard to beat and it repays study. Churchill may have been an egotist, but he was also a stylist and the sheer brio of his prose never fails to engross me.  The Dover edition is a good one, but if you can't wait to get to a book shop, the always fine Mark Smith of Simpsonville, North Carolina has recorded a free audio edition.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Tears of Vercours

I wrote this some time ago and never posted it, I'm not entirely sure why. The campaign that it refers to can be found here. In fact, I've just added a page with the battle reports, which you'll find above. 

The flag of the Free Republic of Vercours

The girls and boys came over to play last week, which was good fun. Mrs Kinch and her cronies retired to the parlour bearing crotchet and bottles of wine, while we fought over the Vercours Campaign. Memoir '44 unlike many wargames in the English speaking world has a very strong connection to France, mainly as it was part comissioned by the Historical Section of the French Army as part of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

A meeting of Maquis

We played the Vercours Campaign because it was the game that I could do in 1/72. I have an extensive Second World War collection in 6mm, but it doesn't have the same feel. There is something to be said for 6mm, it's a fine scale and played on a six foot by four foot board it would certainly give a closer figure scale to ground scale look, but I like playing with bigger toy soldiers, so 1/72 is the thing.

Maquis being executed by the German army

I enjoy wargaming. I like playing with toy soldiers - it's a wonderful hobby and I have made many firm and lasting friendships through it.  It does make one pause for thought on occasion - when you consider the reality that the game represents. There is a moment in the series, "The World at War" powerfully narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier, where he describes some footage of German prisoners of war struggling to gather potatoes thrown from a truck. I can't find the footage or the quotation online, but he muses how long it will be before children forget that is a real man and a real potato.

I don't think there are any great moral struggles to be had in wargaming, there are things that are not done of course, but that applied to all aspects of life. There is too much evil in the world to worry about what games men play in safety and comfort. There is a point to it I suppose, as a thought experiment - but I'd it's about as morally dangerous as a performance of Titus Andronicus.

I rather like David Mitchell's take on the whole thing.

Rape & Pillage

The Maquis are interesting though, often ill organised, always poorly armed, they possessed a courage that was beyond description. Though I disagree with him, often violently, I have always respected Albert Camus's great novel of resistance, "The Plague." It's a curious book, written about men working to defeat an outbreak of bubonic plague in an Algerian city, though it is often cast as an allegory of the French resistance.

Curiously for a book by an avowed atheist, I find myself thinking of it when I'm having difficulty living a Christian life.  It recognises that all lives end in defeat. That struggle is necessary and worthwhile despite the fact that it is boring and ultimately futile.  I reread the passages regarding the death of Father Paneloux on occasion, but I've always had a soft spot for this passage.

"What's true of all the evils in the world is true of the plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves. All the same, when you see the misery it brings, you'd need to be a madman, or a coward, or stone blind, to give in tamely to the plague."

"Paneloux is a man of learning, a scholar. He hasn't come in contact with death; that's why he can speak with such assurance of the truth-with a capital T. But every country priest who visits his parishioners and has heard a man gasping for breath on his deathbed thinks as I do. He'd try to relieve human suffering before trying to point out its goodness."

"Tarrou nodded. 'Yes. But your victories will never be lasting; that's all.' Rieux's face darkened. 'Yes, I know that. But it's no reason for giving up the struggle.'"

"I've seen enough people who die for an idea. I don't believe in heroism; I know it's easy and I've learnt it can be murderous. What interests me is living and dying for what one loves."

"There's no question of heroism in all this. It's a matter of common decency. That's an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is – common decency."

I suppose that is what I think of when I think of the French Resistance. They were vicious enough in their turn - but I suppose it is easy to say that in warmth and comfort with a full belly.

The fact remains they were a victory for decency.