Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kaiserlicks & Khan!

Kaiserlicks advancing under fire. 

I'm sitting here with my copy of Command & Colours: Austrians or at least I'm sitting in the same country as it. It has arrived, but has been seized by customs where it will be held until such time I pay additional duties, there will of course be a fee for paying those additional duties.  

What made the situation all the better was the news from Du Gourmand that his copy had arrived, undetected by Customs and that he was playing it at the time. I think it was the mocking laughter over the phone that made the moment all the special. 

As Mr. Shatner would put it. 

My vengeance will be swift and terrible and will probably involve inflicting exercise on Du Gourmand in merciless amounts. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Carlo's Conversions

This chap has a great deal of explaining to do.

I've been toying with the idea of wargaming the mid 19th century for a long time now and I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to come to it gradually. Neil Thomas's book is very nice. Ordered from bookdepository on the recommendation of a friend. A handsome book, a mix of potted history and solid wargaming stuff. I liked his approach, small armies and small tables. I doubt the rules will lure me away from my favoured horse and musket set, but I might nick bits and pieces for my own Crimean adventure and dare I say possibly Italian or Hungarian entanglements. I was sorry to see that he didn't cover Radetsky at all, who really is a favourite of mine, but the Garibaldini seem suitably fearsome. I enjoyed the discussion of why the rules worked the way they did. There's a shedload (that's an Imperial shedload, rather than metric) of historical scenarios, there were a few that I missed, but on the whole it's a very good selection and there are some nice generic scenarios for pickup games. A book I will want to reread to get the most of it, but I think a fella could have a very good time indeed with some of Peter Berry's Bacchus figures, this book and a two by two board.   

I on the other hand am wedded to 1/72.  There aren't that many ranges for the period, barring Strelets luxurious Crimean range and some Irregular Miniatures. I had come across a bag of American Civil War plastics while I was clearing the box room and wondered aloud to a group friends on email what could be done with them. I got involved in a discussion about how one could do 19th century wargaming used conversions and through Old John, I met Carlo (who doesn't appear to have a blog).  

Papal Zouaves - Tumbling Dice figures
(spellcheck appears to be trying to correct this to Papal Suaves) 

I got talking to Carlo and shortly thereafter, an absolute torrent of pictures arrived. Carlo plays the Neil Thomas rules above and consequently can get away with quite small armies. He is a man of incredible inventiveness and real skill when it comes to looking at a wargames figures and realising the possibilities contained therein.  He has very graciously given me permission to post some of his conversions here. 

Garibaldini from American Civil War plastics

More Garibaldini 

I can spot quite a few Italeri plastics in there I think. 

Piedmontese Line

I think the marching figure is an Airfix - but I'm not 100%. 

Austrian Grenzer Infantry from American Civil War Airfix figures

1866 Hanoverians from Airfix Federals 

Danish Infantry from American Civil War figures

 Considering the extraordinary variety of armies Carlo has managed to churn out using these figures, as well as the pictures I haven't shown you plus some Scandinavians from Old John, there's a galaxy of things that can be done. I fear something has sneaked onto the project list. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The First Carlist War by Conrad Cairns

I was dimly aware of the First Carlist War after reading a little bit about the Portuguese Civil War of the time when it came up in an Allan Mallinson novel, but I'm always interested in what Savage calls "...a funny little war that no-one else has ever heard of..."

If like me, you were a little fuzzy on the ins and outs of it, here is my Cliff notes summation of the conflict.

The First Carlist War is one of a series of Spanish Civil Wars that ended with that one that happened in the 30s that Picasso painted the picture about. The ostensible cause of the whole thing was an 18th century style succession crisis. Ferdinand the VII of Spain died leaving his infant daughter Isabella as his heir with his fourth wife, Christina as Queen regent. Spain had been ruled by salic law (check here for details - but basically no female succession) and the most likely male heir, Juan Carlos took umbrage. 

Ranged on either side were absolutists, traditionalists and reactionaries of various stripes for the Carlists and liberals, centralisers and constitutionalists for the government. There was a strong current of regionalism running throughout the entire conflict, the Carlists were strongest on the periphery (particularly the Basque country, Aragon and Catalonia) and a great deal of opposition to the government forces seems to have been framed in terms of defending regional independence from a centralising middle along with the usual 19th century grab bag of tradition v. modernity, sacred v. secular, centre v. periphery and aristocracy v. bourgeosis. 

Militarily, the government forces held large parts of Spain and the Carlists sallied out of their regional bases on expeditions, but were never able to convert their tactical superiority into strategic victory. Both sides indulged in the sort of beastliness that 18th century wargamers tend to prefer to forget and the main loser was Johnny Spaniard. Cairns doesn't dwell on this, he doesn't really have space to do so, it's a short book after all, but he doesn't gloss over it either. 

Conrad Cairns is a fine writer with an admirable gift of clarity, I recognised his game from his previous "African Knights" book for Foundry and he manages to cover the basics here swiftly and well. There are probably better books on the First Carlist War (though I don't know of any), but this one manages to communicate the broad strokes in little more than a few pages and that is not to be sneezed at.

The book itself is a perfect bound softback from Perry Miniatures and costs £15 plus postage. As can be expected of any book that comes from the Perry's the layout and art are good. The book is broken into several sections, a brief introduction, followed by an outline of the war in the different regions and an assessment of each of the warring armies. This is followed by a section of uniforms, quite detailed in the case of the government forces and understandably woolly in the case of the insurgents. The book is rounded off with some tactical analysis and case studies examining some of the more interesting battles. I haven't quite finished it yet, but I feel confident enough to recommend it on what I've read so far.

You're paying about as much for an Osprey campaign title with a lot more uniform detail that one would expect. A book aimed solidly at wargamers and one that hits its mark.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Little Victories

An absolutely stuffed recycling bin

Well things are proceeding, but damned slow. I'm held up somewhat by a work injury which is nagging and painful  but not particularly debilitating*. Anything to do with the back is a pain, but as it is keeping me from the gym and on a succession of pills I've been a foul humour.  I'm just about keeping afloat in work, but it's hard to get any of the extras done as it's making typing difficult and bah, humbug, fiddlesticks - that's quite enough self pity right there. 

Frankly there are folks out there with bigger fish to fry.  I would suggest you go have look. 

My pal Donogh taught me something once that was worth knowing; you never clean up a room in one go. There is always a point at which you have to look at the chaos around you and say "Well, I'm going to pick this one thing up and put it in it's place. Then at least I will have that done." I think the lesson of that phrase is that even small amounts of progress are still progress and the persistence is a virtue worth cultivating. With that in mind, though I haven't been able to clean the floor of the War Room to start staining it, I've at least been able to clear most of the box room. 

Part of that has been a major campaign to downsize the plastic mountain - which mainly consists of cutting figures off sprues and chucking them in zip lock bags.  It is extremely unlikely that I will be buying plastic figures anytime soon, but if I do - they're coming of the sprue immediately. I've been at this for a couple of days and I'm only close to being finished. 

That said, it is a collection ten years in the making. 

A magic box full of soldiers

It's amazing actually, I had four boxes of figures on sprues or in boxes and I've opened everything up and bagged them.  The resulting figures fit in one box and are a lot easier to get at and handle. The recycling bin is almost full and there are still some chaps to cut and bag, but it has freed up a considerable amount of space. 

It's been fun in ways. I hadn't realised quite how many extra British and French infantry I'd collected. 

It's not much of an achievement, but at least it's something. I shall keep trying to pile these little victories on top of each other. 

And stop snarling at the cats when they jump on me when I'm trying to do my stretches. 

*For those of you with any interest in how I came by it - I would suggest watching this instructional video as it illustrates a very similar situation, albeit with less crashing, falling off things and manly whimpering. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Little Wars - Part two

This was our four or fifth battle and was another stand up fight for posession of the central town. Arranged on one side were Donogh, General T and General C. Opposing them were General G (note American Civil War beard), General L and General Russian Chap in a Cap.

This was a fast moving game as both sides made considerable use of the possibilities of concealed box movement to move troops quickly around the battlefield. The objectives were as before, points for casualties after twelve turns and a bonus for possession of the town. 

I'm going to have to give more thought to the use of the boxes as I think there needs to be more clarity about when one reveals troops and so forth. Both sides used these quite a bit and there was one moment where two lots of concealed cavalry managed to charge each other without revealing before hand.  Bit of a bug that and something I shall have to give further thought to. 

Team D, T & C seizing the town. General C definately one of the better sort of girls, did some fine shooting in this game. 

Donogh lining the fences with troops, this proved to be a key point in the battle as the other team were unable to dispute their poessesion of it.  This was mainly down to good shooting on Donogh's part and canny deployment of the artillery, who were mostly placed on the flanks.  This meant that when they were menaced by enemy troops, they were normally firing at least in semi-enfilade.

A pensive General T reviews the situation.
The battle was swinging like a door at this point with the central town being the pivot, Team Russian Chap in a Cap were beginning to pile pressure on the defenders of the town, but were coming under pressure themselves on the opposite flank.

General L sadly didn't uphold the distaff sides reputation for accurate gunnery.

Here she is trying to "shoot in" a cavalry charge supported by infantry on the defenders of the town.

Despite one lucky shot which manages to clip the rail fence they are hiding behind and cause a whole line of casualties - it is too little too late. 

The gallant mortar crew

The mortars were singularly unsuccessful in this game, not least because NERF guns are too powerful to fire in a parabolic arc with any certainty.  I'm thinking about some sort of flipper or catapult device to hurl the party poppers. 

These brave chaps detonated the magazine rather than lost their gun. 

General C & T having a conference after the successful attack on the enemy mortar. 

General G fires defiantly at the advancing enemy

But to no avail

This game was probably the most clear cut of the games we played over the weekend. I attribute that to Donogh and General C's good shooting, well sited guns and economy of force. They were far more aggressive about seizing the key terrain and holding it as well as concentrating their forces. 

I still need to think of a better way of handling howitzers though.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Testing Tables & a nostalgic moment

At the War Room chugging slowly towards completion, I've been turning to the question of what sort of table I can fit in there.  In an ideal world, I would have a twelve by four which would allow me to run Overlord games at home, sadly unless structural walls are coming down, that isn't going to happen. 

However, I have had a great deal of fun playing Breakthrough style games and I've decided that these should be the limit of my ambition. I can always play Overlord in a smaller scale like 6mm as I have suitable Second World War Eastern Front and American Civil War Armies. With that in mind, I laid out my mats and had a look at how they stack up. 

A normal game setup will require something that's six feet by four or possibly five to allow for dice, cards, drinks and so forth. A breakthrough setup will require something six by six and a half feet. I have an old army table that is about five by three, so I could add an MDF top to it possibly with a leaf or two and at least have something temporary rigged up. I would definitely like to see how well the room works with such a table, before buying an expensive piece of furniture. 

All of this stuff is in the future of course, but it was nice to daydream about it. 

The War Tomahawk of Big Chief Kinch

All the clearing and unpacking meant that some old boxes unopened for several house moves were discovered. I found this in one of them. Dad made me the tomahawk above.  No store bought toy could have filled me with great joy, though it is a lot smaller than the might axe I remembered. 

Thanks Dad. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembrance Day

Memorial Day 
"Dulce et decorum est"

The bugle echoes shrill and sweet,
But not of war it sings to-day.
The road is rhythmic with the feet
Of men-at-arms who come to pray.

The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.

Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel,
They kept the faith and fought the fight.
Through flying lead and crimson steel
They plunged for Freedom and the Right.

May we, their grateful children, learn
Their strength, who lie beneath this sod,
Who went through fire and death to earn
At last the accolade of God.

In shining rank on rank arrayed
They march, the legions of the Lord;
He is their Captain unafraid,
The Prince of Peace . . . Who brought a sword. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The War Room Updated

The first picture on the wall

More work on the War Room - the skirting boards are done and all that remains to do is to sand, wash, stain and varnish the floor.  Then I'll have to build a table. But most of the books are out of the dungeon, I've been up and down the trap door like a jack rabbit for the last few days. Things are in no sort of order and are all abit higgledy piggledy, but I'll sort that out given time.  

Empty boxes that once held books

Emptying the box room is proving useful as we'll be stripping that next so that it can be turned into a study. I'm also considering adding some pins to the support underneath the bookshelf pictured above so that I can hang my hat collection underneath 'em. 

Mr & Mrs Kinch on holiday 
(bucket and spade out of shot)

In other news, Mrs Kinch and I will be away to Berlin at the beginning of December. Mrs Kinch is very keen to do the Christmas Markets and see the Zoo, but I might squeeze a few hours in unsupervised so I was wondering if the assembled company had any suggestions as to good model shops in Berlin or something of Napoleonic interest. We will be travelling with my parents in law and my mother in law has told me that we will be visiting a place that sells death masks and that no War Room is complete without a bust of Napoleon and possibly a death mask of Frederick the Great.  

Any suggestions will be gratefully received, but may not be heeded. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Little Wars - Part One

I've been meaning to put this report up for a while, but there was the problem of getting several dozen photos off my camera and the days have been just packed. However, I managed to get my ducks in a row and here they are.  One of the advantages of Little Wars is that it is an extremely accessible game being as it is written for boys of twelve years of age to a hundred fifty and the better sort of girl.  As a result - the Little Wars area was a stopping point for many of the shorter wargamers.  

Now, I generally use aliases for players pictured on Joy & Forgetfulness, with children I've gone a little step further and obscured the face of the player in question. For any of the parents reading this, unaltered copies are available on request.  

This isn't a legal requirement or anything like that - it just struck me as a good idea. 

The Immortal Wayne (left) and General T locked in mortal combat. 

This picture represents the second or third turn in this game which was a pitched battle lasting twelve turns.  The game would be decided on casualties with a points bonus for the central town. 

An invasion force from the Bishopric of Gormanstein has invaded the Grand Duchy of Little Siskington and is attempting to wrest the mineral reach province of Targentium from them.  The Gormansteiners have brushed past the initial resistance (an earlier game, unpictured, in which Old John led a gallant attacking force to a pyrrhic victory) and are now facing the Siskingtonian field army.  

The boxes allow troops to be concealed during the opening moves of the game and are only revealed when the player wishes to fire or when they are struck by a Nerf pellet. In this case, both sides loaded their cavalry into one or more boxes and fought a bloody battle of charge and counter charge in the first few moves. The result was that General T's force of horse was wiped out. 

The Don (left) and the Immortal Wayne discuss tactics. 

The Elder Wargamers deployed all their cavalry on the right with the infantry in the centre (behind the yellow building) and their guns weighted towards the left.

There appears to be a lot of unseemly skulking going on - I detect an American influence

Both sides hid behind the buildings which inhibited their firepower and made it hard to reach a decision. The result was a considerable expenditure of ammunition with little result.  To give some idea, each gun may fire two shots per move and each twelve infantrymen in a line could fire one shot also. This was a twelve turn game and I issued each side sixteen rounds per gun.

The Gormansteiners attempt to rush the guns deployed on the heights. The Don punishes them, but will it be enough?

The Elder Gamers took the heights on the left which allow them to punish the Siskingtonian troops contesting the town in the centre. However, General T has launched a rush on their position, using the boxes to mount a feint to conceal his intentions. The Don managed to reveal the attacking force before they closed, but much depended on how many men he could knock down before the attackers managed to close.

General T and his trusty second in command, General A, view the situation

The Don does some execution, but the Siskingtonian attack is ultimately successful and they manage to take the hill and the Gormansteiners gun, which they soon press into service.

The Immortal Wayne in typically "Sarf London" style shooting his gun sideways at the advancing Gormansteiners. 

Flanked, the Gormansteiner infantry send their gun to the front to return fire.

No luck with that shot...

...better reload...

...and see if this works better with the gun the right way up (it did). 

Eager to reply, General A slams another round in. 

With predictable results (he missed). 

The situation as it stood, midway through the game. Note the Gormansteiner  cavalry attempting to flank the Siskingtonians at the bottom right. 

At this point, the Siskingtonians had lost all their cavalry and were bitterly contesting the town. They had however wiped out the left wing of the Gormansteiner army and now had the heights which commanded the town.

An inconsequential fire.

The musketry without result continues in the centre.

General A hands over some casualties to the Immortal Wayne. 

General A and General T confer again. 

General A has been tied up with skimishing, while General T's bolder move has taken the hills (and their guns) on the left hand side. This allowed him to pour fire on the Gormansteiner position and forced them to split their infantry force, but not before he had caused serious casualties.

A young General leads his troops while his proud father takes a picture. This photograph represents everything that I wanted this game to be. Small boys (and some not so small) crawling around on the floor playing with toy soldiers. 

General T had wanted to play the game and his Dad, who is I think a card gamer, hung around to watch him play.  In the end, the bold move to take the heights, didn't happen soon enough to swing the balance in favour of Little Siskington.  At the end of the twelfth turn, The Don and the Immortal Wayne managed to maintain the slight lead of 118 points to a 109 points. But it was a damned close run thing and watching General T's Dad observing the fall of shot and advising him on how to correct his aim warmed my heart indeed.

Congratulations to the Don and the Immortal Wayne. Commiserations to Generals A & T.