Friday, July 31, 2015

1st Hussars

(click to embiggen)

After all that time stealing other mens glory - I thought it might be time to post some pictures of figures that I've painted myself.  These are hussars of the 1st Regiment of Hussars in the French service.  They were originally know as the Hussars of Bercheny, but were renamed during the Revolutionary unpleasantness.  

I love commanding cavalry on the tabletop, but I hate painting them. With that in mind, I purchased some French hussars from a german collector last year.  Now as it happens, I managed to get enough figures to do one and a half units.  

(click to embiggen)

So I gritted my teeth and based up some extra Italeri hussars that I had lying around and painted up the spares.  These fellas complete one unit and I will have to paint up officers and a bugler for the second. 

The first served at Eylau, Friedland and Leipzig so they will see some service against my Russians.  

Not the finest paint job ever to grace a toy soldier, but they fit with the rest of the unit and that's the main thing.  

(click to embiggen)

I don't have any Napoleonic games planned right now and I do actually have three units of Chasseurs in stock should I need them, but occasionally one needs more than three units of French lights cavalry for large games. 

Not that there any of those planned right now. 

To be honest, there's probably dozens of things I should have painted before these (and I have another four lads to go!) like for example Afghan jezails,  VBCW BEF and Crimean turks, but I suppose this just goes to show the innate perversity of the wargamer. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rambling Kinch - Cork Train Station

A pretty poor picture, but needs must. 

Mrs. Kinch and I were down in Cork for a wedding a while ago and we enjoyed all the hospitalility that Cork city is known for.  The bride was beautiful, the groom was lucky and I had a happy excuse for wearing dress uniform during the Guard of Honour.  Mrs. Kinch and I danced the night away and had a simply wonderful time, which while entertaining for us, probably makes for dull reading.  

But, what is probably of more interest to readers of Joy & Forgetfulness is Engine No. 36, a restored Victorian steam engine which sits in Kent Railway station.  I know nothing about trains, other than that they are infinitely preferable to car in my book, but I'm told that if one likes trains this one is of interest. 

This while illegible at this resolution, should be readable when clicked on. 
(Click to embiggen) 

Engine No. 36 was built in Liverpool by Bury, Curtis and Kennedy in 1847.  She cost £1,955 sterling and was brought to Ireland to run services between Dublin and Cork for the Great Southern and Western Railway. She remained in service until 1874. 

The engine itself is quite big, though smaller than the contemporary types, and just looks great in its green paint and gleaming brass.

The staff of life

One things we did learn while we were in Cork was that "Gurr cake" was called "Chester cake" in the south. For those who are unaware, Gurr cake is a sort of compressed fruit slice made up of the remainders of other cakes, dark rum and raisins.  I used to get mine from the small shop behind school and it is indelibly linked with that time and place in my mind.  Wonderful stuff. 

To learn that that it had a different name in Cork was an awful shock - I'm anxious to try some next time I'm down there, just to confirm that it is inferior to the Dublin made variety. 

Chester cake indeed. 

It'll be dogs marrying cats next. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Plastic Soldier Company: The Great War - First Blush

Kinch (and friends) setting out to the post office to collect the expected parcel.

So my kickstarter goodies arrived from the Plastic Soldier Company, a copy of Command & Colours: The Great War. Savage and I gave it a go and we found it a very interesting addition to the Command & Colours stable. There are a number of additions to the system which pose a number of challenges. 

HQ Points - These are the currency used to power your artillery and Combat Cards. You can pick them up at the end of your turn or by rolling stars on the combat dice.

Combat Cards - These are used in addition to the normal Command cards and represent things like Box Barrages, Gas Attacks, Stretcher bearers and Mata Hari amongst others. These can be played in your turn alongside a Command card or in your opponents turn.  These range from the nice, but not critical, to complete game changers.   Most of these cards require HQ points to be activated which should prevent them from derailing things.

Might need something a mite bigger than a Webley.

Reserve Artillery - this is an off board unit that allows you to drop barrages anywhere on the board. How powerful those barrages are is dependent on how many HQ points are used. What's interesting about this is that the barrages are potentially devastating and can effect up to seven hexes. However, they are only really devastating against units that are bunched together and in the open. Spacing your units out and keeping them in trenches can mitigate a lot of the worst artillery can do to you. That does of course mean surrendering the initiative to your opponent.

The chances of wiping a unit out are pretty slim, but successive barrages can whittle down units and make them more vulnerable to an assault.

Another thing about Reserve Artillery which is new is that it can alter the terrain on the battlefield. Drop sufficient HE on a hex and there is a possibility that your target becomes a smoking shell hole. It's not sufficiently likely that I would build a strategy around it, but it does make big barrages more worth while.

We've only played the first engagement, a fictional training scenario,  and thus far the gameplay is easy enough that two veteran Memoir '44 players picked it up pretty much immediately.  We worked out all the new moving parts pretty quickly, what we're still trying to do is work out what they mean and how a canny player will use them.

General observations so far.

1. Troops need to minimise the amount of time they spend in the open or they will be severely punished by artillery and mortars. The fact that Reserve Artillery can range the entire board means that you cannot disregard weakened troops in the communications trenches.

2. Specialist assault troops like bombers need to be hoarded and used carefully.  They can be devastating, but they are just as vulnerable as regular troops.

3. Simply hiding in your trenches and hoping that artillery will do the job simply leaves you open to counter attack by an aggressive player who is willing to spend time to build the hand of cards he needs.  Artillery will contribute to, but cannot secure victory. It simply isn't powerful enough.

4. Command & Colours Napoleonics and Memoir '44 both allow players to play a little bit fast and loose with their strategy because cavalry and armour units give enough movement to the board that sudden and dramatic plays can rapidly alter the course of a battle. Command & Colours: The Great War to my mind rewards a careful player who builds a plan, works out what combinations of cards will work for the forces he has in hand and then builds the hand he needs.

Of course, doing that before the other player does it to you is the trick.

On the whole, I am cautiously optimistic about the game. We knocked a game out in under an hour and most importantly it felt very different to previous incarnations of Command and Colours. Careful planning and managing supply (both of HQ points and cards) were very important and at least to me, it had that all important "feel" of the period.

Am I going to play this again?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Naval Officer

From a distance

I had picked up a Naval Brigade Gardner gun with some HAT figures last year, but they'd sat in a corner unused for the last while.  Our Afghan adventures do not have much call for Naval Brigades.  But I needed some extra officers and managed to pick this fella up without realising.

Up close

Having started him and realised that he was not the infantry officer I was looking for, it seemed a shame not to finish him. So the latest addition to the Crown forces is this naval looking character from Hat Gardner gun set. And what is he exactly, well I'm not sure.  I think I shall leave it to no less an authority than H Rider Haggard, describing his first encounter with Captain Good in "King Solomon's Mines", to explain. 

"The other man, who stood talking to Sir Henry, was stout and dark, and of quite a different cut. I suspected at once that he was a naval officer; I don't know why, but it is difficult to mistake a navy man. I have gone shooting trips with several of them in the course of my life, and they have always proved themselves the best and bravest and nicest fellows I ever met, though sadly given, some of them, to the use of profane language. I asked a page or two back, what is a gentleman? I'll answer the question now: A Royal Naval officer is, in a general sort of way, though of course there may be a black sheep among them here and there. I fancy it is just the wide seas and the breath of God's winds that wash their hearts and blow the bitterness out of their minds and make them what men ought to be."

From the rear

I shall have to wait until we reach the Sudan, before I make much use of him - but in the mean time, painting him was a pleasent way to spend an hour. 

And who wouldn't want to make the acquaintance of one of Natures Gentlemen?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I am a basing fool

More French infantry, ready for varnish. 

The death march of rebasing continues, but the end is inching closer. I'm about half way through a batch of 100 French infantry. The cavalry are pretty much done, though I've a few stray figures to paint in order to finish off two units of French hussars. There will probably be more stragglers, but really I'm actually in a pretty good position - being able to add whole units to the order of battle without too much work.  Might be time for a new muster photo series?

I'm also not the only one that has been basing, I would urge you to go have a look at Unfashionably Shiny, where DC has been expounding on how he bases.  It's pretty thorough and well worth alook.

The Mad Minute

The Mad Minute is an exercise used in the British Army prior to the Great War which each rifleman had to attempt each year. 

From wikipedia, 

"The Mad Minute is best known as a bolt-rifle speed shooting event, which was derived from a pre-World War I rapid-fire exercise used by British Army riflemen, using the Lee–Enfield service rifle. The exercise (Practice number 22, Rapid Fire, ‘The Musketry Regulations, Part I, 1909) required the rifleman to fire 15 rounds at a “Second Class Figure” target at 300 yards. The practice was described as ; “Lying. Rifle to be loaded and 4 rounds in the magazine before the target appears. Loading to be from the pouch or bandolier by 5 rounds afterwards. One minute allowed”."

I note the unusual grip of the bolt and the use of the middle finger to fire, which I haven't seen replicated in any Great War figures. The Mad Minute was most famously used in the early border battles of the Great War. 

The video above is from a YouTube channel called "BritishMuzzleLoaders".  The author is a Canadian re-enactor and firearms enthusiast and has plenty of videos that are well worth looking at. Proving  yet again that our cousins in the terrifying reaches of the Great White North can not only fend off venomous beavers and savage man eating moose, but still manage to find the time to put together truly polished YouTube content. 

Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Muskets at the Movies: Black powder battle on film - Part Three - The Final Countdown

Kinch has 'is popcorn and is ready to go

Unlike Bob or Foy, I am really terrible at maintaining blog posts that are series. Not for me Hoopdoodle #241 or "I have been to...", I tend to get distracted by something shiny and forget to do anything further. So in the interests of breaking that particular habit, here is the final post in the series "Muskets at the movies."

4.War & Peace 

To be honest, this is on the list for the sheer mass and scale of humanity that are present in the battle scenes. I haven't watched it since I read the book, but my overwhelming  memory of the film was spectacle. Particularly in these CGI days, it is worth noting that those are real men and real things happening on screen. 

The Russians certainly do things in a grand style. 

3. Glory 

I love this film and there is a lot to love about it. It has an intense evocation of time and place, a powerful ensemble cast, a brilliant score and great script.  I was surprised that Denzel Washington got the Oscar, not that his performance wasn't good, I just thought that Freeman and Broderick were better. But disregarding it's value as a very fine film, Glory does seem to me to be a convincing portrayal of black powder combat in American Civil War.  The general amateurishness of the armies, the long range fire fights, the sudden and brutal hand to hand combat are all captured perfectly on film. 
But the stand out moment for me in Glory is a scene in a hospital where the action isn't shown. It's all done in closeup and I really captures to my mind the horror of the pre-chloroform surgery.  The story is told entirely through Mathew Broderick's face and the dialogue. It would have been easy to have done this gratuitously, but everything about this particular piece of cinema is perfect.  I have not been able to find a better quality recording of the clip, but there is a clip below. Be warned, it is not for the faint of heart or the easily upset. 

2. Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon is a film like Glory - it's just a great show.  The acting, the music (I can't hear Sarabande without getting chills), the sets, the whole thing is just fantastic.  But in addition to being a great film which you should see regardless, it does get a lot of things right in it's portrayal of black powder battle. The stand out scene for this is the "nameless skirmish" where British and French infantry face off against each other during the Seven Years War.

There's a lot to like in this scene, but the fact that they have the appropriate number of men, performing (to my inexperienced eye) the appropriate evolutions at the appropriate pace and you get to see it up close and in long shot is worth the price of entry alone. The stately pace of 18th century battle along with its gruesome aftermath are enough to stir the blood of any wargamer.

1. Waterloo

The scene above is the most extraordinary depictions of black powder battle I have ever seen. War and Peace may have had similar scale, but the tidal wave of horseflesh washing around the infantry squares is simply breath taking. The battle scenes are excellent, the acting is top notch and the casting is second to none.

In as much as a film can, I also think that Waterloo also manages to give some sense of what occurs when a general is commanding, the decisions that he makes and the agony of making hard choices with limited information under time pressure. Steiger is a marvelous Napoleon, Dan O'Herlihy is superb as Ney and I will always have a soft spot for Christopher Plummer (Wellington) and Jack Hawkins (Picton).

The shots of the attack on Hougomont are particularly good.  The action fills the frame in the foreground, but you can still see the reserves moving up in the background.  To have accomplished such a thing in a time before CGI is an extraordinary achievement.

I can't say enough good things about this film to be honest.

So there you have it.  A short and very subjective whistle stop tour of black powder battle on screen.

Any glaring ommissions?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

Mrs. Kinch and I were away for a few days in the country.  It was a blissful holiday, which mainly involved sleeping for forteen hours a day and sitting in the garden, reading and drinking gin and tonic.  

While we were away I finished "Imperial Sunset", RF Delderfelds account of the final years of Bonaparte's Empire.  It was very readable and delightfully gossipy in much the same way as his March of the Twenty Six. It's always intriguing to read a book written by someone who disagrees with you on a fundamental level. Delderfeld is very much an advocate of Bonaparte and distributes praise or blame based on loyalty to him. He is also good at giving a sense of the social side of the Napoleonic Empire, though I'm skeptical of his analysis. Something I've noticed that when trying to get a series of events in history straight in my head is that it is often the lighter books that help me remember.  I am much better at remembering a constructed narrative even if I think part of it is wrong.  It is easier to account for a slanted narrative than to try and remember a series of events dispassionately recorded. The authors skill as a novelist is used to good effect. 

Good light reading.   Recommended. 

Not quite as impressive as Stryker's collection of cavalry - but getting there

Hobby wise, there hasn't been much going on.  I've set up the great basing project in one corner of The War Room.  A couple of this years Ebay purchases and other bargains have been sitting in boxes for a while and need to be converted to the Kinch house style. 

So there will be lots of little painted me being glued to bits of MDF, their bases covered in filler and painted and then hit with a spot of static grass.  It's not a bad complaint to have to be honest, but it's not the most lively hobby activity either.  I shall have to find something suitably riveting in the audiobook line. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

General George Washimelon

               George Washimelon

Mrs. Kinch are away for a few days - but we spent a very pleasant afternoon last weekend with some expatriate American friends at an early 4th July BBQ. 

The above was my contribution to the communal pot - General George Washimelon; pre painted, scale uncertain, antecedents doubtful, limited edition one of one. 

But more on him anon.