Monday, May 25, 2015

Post Exam Relief

HAT Hadendowa Camelry

I finished my last exam on Friday and it's been a huge relief.   Mrs. Kinch and I had sort of put things on hold until they were done, but now that they are over it's great to be back to something approximating a normal life.  Unfortunately, one still has to pay the piper, so I finished exams and headed straight back to work.  It's good to do be able to get back to a bit of honest graft without having to think about the academicals for a little bit.  I'm reasonably sure that I achieved a pass mark in all six exams, there's one that's a little shakey, but if I have to repeat it it won't be the end of the world. 

With hopefully some Napoleonic games in the offing and the continuing adventures of Lt. McKenzie on the Northwest Frontier to chronicle I am of course, doing the only rational thing under the circumstances.  I've started gluing together some Hadendowa Camelry for the Sudan. Why? God only knows, I saw them in the pile and I liked them.  There's tons of other figures I should be attending to, but...

"You may have your Pay-than, yer Zulu and yer Burmese, but Fuzzy is the finest of the lot."

 Or so it would appear. 

Their nice simple figures in that oddly rubbery HAT plastic.  They go together well and I had considered pinning them in place, but they seem to stick well with superglue and a coat of PVA will do them no harm. 

The work of Kinch Senior

This is something of an indulgence, but it would be a shame not to share the work of the enomously talented Kinch Senior Esq. with you. Kinch Senior has been given a commission by a group that do the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage to do a piece for their club house.  The above is a prayer to Saint James in Irish and English. 

There are times when familiarity dulls my appreciate of how talented an artist my father is and then he produces something like this. 

Detail, note the layers of paper. 

My father is a calligrapher by training and inclination, but he has more recently experimented with writing in pencil and then cutting the paper to make a reverse, negative image. In this piece, he has used layers of paper to create a multi-coloured image and it's simply wonderful.  Well done Dad. 

Speaking of things that gladden the heart. I saw this grey gentlemen on my way to work the other day.  This was about as close as I dared get, but he was beautiful don't you think?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Muskets at the Movies: Black powder battle on film - Part Two

5. With Fire & Sword

I have no idea if this is representative of 17th century Eastern European conflict - but the scenes with the winged hussars were breath taking.  I always thought the winged hussars looked rather silly, but actually seeing them in the flesh making it clear just how intimidating these fellows were.   I have been unable to find a full version of this film with subtitles, but I would quite like to see the whole thing. The film is based on a novel Henryk Sienkiewicz, who so far as I can tell was Poland's answer to Sir Walter Scott. I have it on my kindle, but it's in the queue with Mor Jokai and some of the Russians.

6. Ride with the Devil

Now Ride with the Devil is a film about the Kansas-Missouri war during the American Civil War.  It was a bloody guerrilla conflict that was intimate as it was brutal with Confederate partisans called "Bushwackers" fighting with pro-Union "Jayhawkers". The battles portrayed in it are skirmishes, but they seem to convey the frantic nature of the fight in a way I've rarely seen captured on film. Jonathan Rhys Myers is particularly good as fanatic partisan.

Compelling stuff.

7. Last of the Mohicans.

This is one of the first films I ever saw in the cinema on my own.  It was a revelation when I was small and I went to see it several times in the cinema.  I with some friends that I played Warhammer Fantasy Battle and we argued all the way home on the bus home about the volumes of smoke produced by the cannon.  I had been lobbying for the introduction of smoke rules (culled from Featherstone's Complete Wargaming) into WFB to make our battles more "realistic".

The folly of youth.

The siege in particular was very impressive. The regulars get a pretty bum deal in the movie as a whole.  Hans Zimmers score is fantastic. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Airfix Imperial Guardsman

Photo by TK

This is the latest from our unnamed genius in Budapest - who I shall call Mr. M. This is an old kit, an Airfix French Imperial Guardsman that I found in a box of stuff at the back of a model shop, along with a collection of other old Airfix kits. It seemed a shame to leave him there. Mr. M has done a really bang up job on this chap, very neat work.  TK sent me some pictures and I look forward to taking delivery.

For all his finery, Francois here strikes me as being all business. Like Cassius, he has a lean and hungry look.

He thinks too much, such men are dangerous.
Photo by TK 

Francois is clearly on a green field, possibly a shell torn field in Belgium, I imagine.  I'm quite looking forward to seeing him in the flesh as I want to get a closer look at that face.

But this one of the Emperors Immortals will be guarding part of the bookshelf once he arrives, along with his hussars and lancer brothers.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Muskets at the Movies: Black powder battle on film - Part One

The ornery wargamer confronts the perplexed cinephile. 

Wargamers are an odd bunch.  Tribal, querulous and deeply opinionated, but I think one thing we all agree on is that we love films.  While a lot of us have rather high opinion of ourselves as "historians", we often demonstrate as a tribe a deep love of battles on film, no matter how inaccurate or wonky. Zulu, for all its faults, launched a thousand wargamers. I still get chills whenever I hear men of Harlech...or the coming thunder that "sounds like a train in the distance". 

Films must be films.   They are required to make a crust for those who make and them and entertain those who care not a fig for the the correct facing colours on the Chassuers in the second scene. That said, having seen Hollywood horribly mangle police work (something I actually know something about), I think there's an argument to be made that they often get quite a lot right. 

With that in mind, I offer to you, my own list of top ten movies with black powder battles.  It is highly subjective, intensely personal and was not, I hasten to add, picked on artistic merit.  What I have picked is films that I think demonstrate some aspects of blackpowder warfare. 

10. The Patriot

This film has gotten a lot of flak over the years and deservedly so.  However, appreciated as an American propaganda piece, it does its job. But, more importantly for our purposes, it does get a lot of things right.

The troops fight in line and discharge musketry at cruelly close range.
The guns fire solid ball and it's results are shown with awful effect.
Musketry produces smoke and lots of it.

For those points alone, it would be worthy of inclusion, but to be fair, ignoring the antics of SS Penal Battalion Child Catcher Von Tarleton - there are some nice moments in this film.  I like Mel Gibson films, he's made more good ones than bad, and I think some of the comic acting with his children is done with a wonderfully light touch. The scene with the rocking chair is very nicely done and worthy of inclusion in a better film.

More of that please, Mr. Gibson.

9. Ran

This is pure hallucinatory genius. The toll of the musketry is shocking - the presentation of the battle almost as an abstract painting is one of the most extraordinary things I've ever seen.  I have no idea if Early Modern Samurai Battle looked anything like this, but it is worth seeing.  Kurosawa also managed to tell the story of a battle well, I understood what was going on, and to a greater or lesser extent it made sense.

That is a hard thing to do and to be commended. As to it's realism? Of those things of which we cannot speak, let us me silent.

8. Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)

This made a very profound impression on me as a small boy. It's total hokum of course, but it is glorious, a curious mashup of the Mutiny (or maybe the first Afghan war?) and the Crimean War. It's based on the Tennyson poem anyway rather than any -ahem- deep reading of history. Something of a guilty pleasure - I love the final scenes, but now know how many horses were killed to create them.

There will never be a more exhilarating charge on screen.

Part Two to come. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Victorian Volunteer Regimental Name Generator.

A fine body of men, click below to discover the name of this august corps

I have been advised by no less an authority than the Reverend Michael Peterson as follows,

"Any unit that can mix Place Name+Utility+Weapon (e.g., Singapore Telegraph Howitzers) is a unit I'd want to be part of."

With an endorsement like that, who could but revel in the possibilities presented by such a military formation? In that spirit, I offer you the Victorian Volunteer Regimental Name generator. 

Please click on the link above to call this enthusiastic amateurs to your colours. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The PO Rifles

Post Master McRandall & Senior Clerk Dornan

A while ago HAT offered a number of their figures early to chaps who were on their forum. Being excitable and possessed of poor impulse control, I got one of everything and ended up with some Ruga Ruga and German Askari.  I have absolutely no interest in the German colonial campaigns, so I put the figures in a box and forgot about them. 


I was reading John French's excellent book "The British in India" published by Wargames Foundry and one of the things that struck me was the sheer number of volunteer, yeomanry and mosstrooper* style units that were on the strength.  These generally wore civilian kit, possible with a sun helmet and a few pieces of webbing. I have been tempted by the Mutiny for the longest time, but I thought that these chaps could be easily modified with a few cuts here and there.  

Looking at it now, I might trim McRandall's revolver. I left the long barrel, I think it's meant to be an Artillery Luger, mainly because it reminded me of those massive cap and ball things used in the 1850s, Colt Dragoons and Adams revolvers. That sort of thing. 

Painted up with a generally civilian looking appearance they could serve in the Mutiny, as African explorers or some manner of European volunteer unit later in the Colonial period. I was thinking they could be something like the Meerut Post Office Rifles or something. 

I undercoated them white and then painted them with thinned Vallejo acyrlics. I had a little bit of fun adding some highlights here and there, to make the colours pop a bit. I think they've turned out rather well if I say so myself.  They are actually a little more uniform that I expected they would be, but that's probably down to palette choices. 

It's unlikely that I'm going to be able to game the Mutiny any time soon, so I would say that these chaps I probably bound for Central Africa or Afghanistan. I don't recall reading about any volunteer units made up of British civil servant in Afghanistan, but there was probably something of the sort. 

If nothing else, it would probably motivate me to finish Churchill's History of the Malakand Field Force. I'm happy with how these turned out and it would have been a shame to let these otherwise fine figures go to waste. 

*Noted Flashman fans. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Turbaned Gentleman & Friends

With my current yen for The Sword and the Flame, I was looking at what exactly was needed to get a game going.  Now my copy of the rules is the 20th Anniversary edition which include rules for The Sword in the Jungle. 

The Sword in the Jungle is a small unit version aimed at African exploration in the late 19th century. There hasn't been much in 1/72 plastic aimed at this particular period, but HAT recently released some Ruga Ruga which include some rather excellent African porters, like this chap. 

And his friends here, there were very simple to paint, just a quick blast of Army Painter brown spray, a wash of Army Painter dark shade and then a few quick dabs of colour here and there. These were taken with the Macro function on my DSLR and I reckon that while the painting might not pass muster under that sort of scrutiny, at three feet they look very well. 

Several Sword in the Jungle scenarios call for porters, so I have based up a unit or two. I don't think I'll be straying to Africa just yet, but these were a pleasant quick paint. A welcome distraction from my books to be honest. I took more care than usual, because they are so simple to add a few spots of highlighting here and there. 

My experiment with conversion is a qualified success.  This chap started life as a German Askari before I attacked with malice afore thought and some green stuff.  He looks reasonably well, though I am kicking myself.  I had intended him for India or possibly Afghanistan.  However, astute readers will realise that he is rather beardless for those localities, perhaps players will not notice once he's on the tabletop. 

He turned out probably better than I had any right to expect, but I'm still annoyed that I forgot about the beard. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Let us now praise famous blogs

Where are we going?

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and the subject of blogs came up - and rather more shockingly it became apparent that my pal didn't follow "The Campaigns of William Augustus Pettygree".  In the unlikely event that any other blog readers would be so unwise - I thought I should bring it to your attention. 

And what shall we find there?

Bill's "The Campaigns of William Augustus Pettygree" blog is a chronicle of the exploits of this particular officer as he serves Queen & Country on the North West Frontier and beyond. Bill's hall marks are...

- engaging photo narrative made up of posed pictures with figures in between games. 
- truly vast games with hundreds of beautifully painted figures and massive tables. 

The whole setup can be searched and viewed from the links at the side and stretches over an unbelievable sixty plus episodes. The games usually use modified Batailles de Anciens Regieme (BAR), but there are skirmish games in their as well. 

Love that elephant

Probably one of my favourite posts was Outpost Number 3  which managed to combine a photostory with campaign logistics and a parade of wonderfully painted figures. Story AND game AND miniatures showcase all in one package. 

Just fantastic stuff and if you want to see exactly how good the hobby can be, you owe it to yourself to take a look at Pettygree. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

1/300 scale Second World War Fighters

Me-109G in 1/300

Update: I have since been in touch with TK and found the link to his blog

You can find it here

My pal Kristian has taken to playing wargames with his young son Arpad, who is a big fan of Second World War era planes.  Previously they've been playing with 1/72 kits, but found it a bit awkward. With that in mind Mr. K pulled out the sculpting knife and produced the above. He plans to do a Mustang, a Lightning, a Yak-3, a Stuka and a B-17. 

No Hurries ? Or Spits? For shame Mr K!

And from underneath

TKs questionable plane choices aside - this is a lovely little model and is available for the princely sum of €1.50 or €3.50 painted. Leave a comment if you'd be interested in one and I'll put you in touch. I was trying to find a link to his blog - but can't seem to put my hand to it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A scrimmage at a border station

It's all gone a bit Maiwand frankly...

Afghanistan 1878: Lieutenant MacKenzie of the 117th Infantry ("The Royal Mallows") has been dispatched with a patrol into the Chamla valley on the Northwest Frontier.  In the valley there is a small abandoned outpost at the Multani crossroads.  Orders are to investigate the outpost and ascertain whether or not it can be rebuilt and re-occupied. 

Shall I have your uniform pressed and the usual Webley laid out Sir? 

MacKenzie surveys the field of battle

I've been itching to give "The Sword and the Flame" a go and the opportunity presented itself the other day.  We've played some games with these before but they've always been with the Sikh Wars variant, so this was the first time the rules were played straight. I sent my pal, the Unlikely Douglas MacKenzie, the above invitation and he responded that he would be delighted to come and play. 

We had a very pleasent lunch laid on by Mrs Kinch and then set to business.  I snapped a couple of pictures while we were at it. 

Suddenly the wily Afghan appears from ambush

The Mallows objective was to get to the end of the valley within 24 turns and determine what state of repair the outpost was in. Lt. MacKenzie, whose biography is something of a mystery to me (a Scottish connection, I think?), had been given a patrol of 18 men to accomplish this.  With his trusty Sergeant O'Savage at his side, what could possibly go wrong? 

As it turned out - plenty. MacKenzie sent two scouts forward and split his patrol into two ten man sub-sections.  The scouts spotted a group of tribesmen in ambush overlooking the road, but were immediately felled by jezail fire. 

Fine beard acting on that man

This did not sit well with MacKenzie who maneuvred to bring fire to bear on the tribesmen as he was damned if he was going to leave those chaps to the kyber knives. 

Egads - we've been over run

Unfortunately at this juncture, while Sgt. O'Savages men were moving to outflank the Afghans they were charged by a group of swordsmen who were also lying in ambush.  These wily frontier sorts charged and treacherous forgot the turn sequence, the net result being that the Mallows didn't get to shoot before they were engaged. Several were cut down and the remainder fled, I didn't realise my mistake until O'Savage was about to remove the stragglers from the board edge.

We resolved this by allowing them to rally automatically and they returned to rescue their wounded, but sadly not before O'Polemarch was put to death. Poor fellow. The Martini's of his friends took swift revenge and sent the surviving swordsmen running for the hills.

I wonder what's over there? 

MacKenzie reformed his reduced command and made for the hill overlooking the outpost. Spotting the Afghans inside, he re-read the rules on going prone and ordered his men to get their heads down.  

As this as this happened, a troop of spearmen lead by the tribal leader, moved to outflank them. 

Riddle 'em Ted!

The Mallows slithered back below the crest of the ridge and MacKenzie ordered independent fire as they were charged by the tribesmen. This is an optional rule in the Anniversary Edition of TSATF that allows the player to expend two ammunition counters for a bonus to his shooting.  This proved very wise.  If the spearmen had made it to contact the isolated and prone Mallows would have been in for rough handling. 

The torrent of fire downed half the spearmen and the tribal chieftain triggering a morale test for the whole force. 

The Mallows take charge

With the last native charge broken, MacKenzie sent his men crawling forward on their bellies, while continuing to snipe at the demoralised men in the outpost.  These took flight leaving the outpost and the field to MacKenzie and his men. 

A group photo of the Royal Mallows 

These are Italeri (ex-ESCI) figures that I picked up from eBay with some other painted Colonials. Not the nicest work in the world, but they'll serve. They came with some Gunners and Natal Native Horse - which I shall endeavour to work them into the mix somewhere.  I shall have to pick up some more British infantry if Lt. MacKenzie's career to advance much further. 

I enjoyed the game immensely, even if I did make a hash of the turn order, for which I feel quite guilty. Capability Savage showed up briefly for a glass, but was called away on urgent business. I hope that we'll be able to get a few more games in over the summer.  A very welcome distraction from my studies.

Now that MacKenzie  is in possession of the outpost, we shall have to see what comes. 

Although at quite a cost.  Five dead and three wounded - the tribesmen of the Chamla valley are not a gentry to be trifled with.