Tuesday, September 29, 2015

TIckling along, but I think I'll stay a brunette

Basing trees

Without too much time to bless myself with, I have been trying to find small jobs that I can finish.  With that in mind, I tackled my remaining trees. These were all based (after I secured some more glue sticks) in an afternoon spent with Mrs. Kinch, which was rather fun.

A HO Scale shepherd and his flock

Along with the trees, I found a little box with this chap and his pals in it. A HO scale shepherd and his flock.  I have no idea where these came from, perhaps I bought them, who can say? 

Taking the sheep dog for a walk

I've no idea what I'll use these for, but they're based now and usable.  They'd make good camouflage tokens for Very British Civil Wall or just general set dressing. 

Some of the sheep

Static grass seemed a touch du trops for such a small figure, so I relied on the old Games Workshop early nineties expedient of wood glue and sand, painted green and then dry brushed yellow.  It looks fine. 

Blood in the water

Meanwhile, I'm back at school - which sadly is no where near as amusing as this song. Jurisprudence & Human Rights are proving fun, Equity and Company Law, not so much. 

En avant!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Oman's History of the Peninsular War - Vol. 3

Just downloaded Felbrigg's latest, a recording of Volume 3 of Oman's massive history of the Peninsula war.  I've enjoyed the first two volumes and I'm about two chapters into the third, which is just as good.  Great stuff to listen to while you're painting. 

The recording is available via Audible and is about $24, which is around $1 per hour of recording. Good value in any man's language. 

For anyone with an interest in the Peninsula war, the Napoleonic period or military history in general, recommended. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Airfix Polish Lancer

If you can't smell the horseflesh and feel a little thrill of exhilaration 
when you see this magnificent sight, we probably don't have a lot in common. 

This chap is currently charging across my desk as I write this and he is without doubt one of the most fabulous models I have ever seen.  The kit itself is the venerable Airfix Polish lancer, the assembly and painting was done by our mystery man in Budapest.

The delicacy of the work on the lance and bridle is astonishing 
 The Polish lancers of the Guard were originally a small almost ceremonial unit made up of the sons of Polish aristocrats.  There appears to have been a squadron who acted as an honour guard to Bonaparte in the 1806 campaign and the regiment was formally raised as an addition to the Guard in 1807.  

Another view 

The Lancers saw action in Spain, most notably at Somosierra Pass where they took part in a headlong charge down a narrow pass, routing the Spanish defenders, but at considerable cost to themselves. This charge took place under the eye (and it must be said at the direction) of Bonaparte himself.

It was a light cavalry action in the style of the more famous Charge of the Light Brigade with the lancers charging straight at a series of batteries.  The Spanish gunners fought their pieces, but their supporting infantry fled and unlike the more famous incident at Balaklava - there was immediate infantry support of the cavalry attack.

The sense of movement that the painter has managed to impart is extraordinary 
Unfortunately, this fellow took some knocks between Budapest and Dublin and is currently in the hospital wing of my desk, but rest assured what minor work he requires will be done shortly and he will be back in full charging form very soon.

I would comment on the quality of the build and the paintwork, but I think my gushing on the point is growing monotonous. Suffice to say, I consider myself very fortunate to be able to add this dashing beau sabreur to my collection and if you would like to view some more of this artist's work, I will be adding a page very shortly.

Monday, September 21, 2015

In my previous life I was the Duke of Wellington - Waterloo 2015 - A Funny Little War

This apparently is available on cafepress

A note with regard to photographs - I have taken care to upload full sized versions of all the pictures that I took.  Because of the nature of the game and the terrain, examining them as is will probably not be very enlightening.  I would encourage you to click on them to make them larger and take a closer look. 

Last week, I took part in a Waterloo Bicentennial Game organised by the Funny Little Wars fraternity. I traveled over to London to take part and it was just wonderful. I met some friends like Tim, who I have known through the blogosphere for years, and others like Bob & Paul, who I'd met in person before. I also had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of some new friends and take part in what was without doubt one of the highlights of my wargaming career. 

Played on a gloriously sunny day this was an epic undertaking involving a lawn area of nearly sixty yards by thirty, over 2000 1/32 scale soldiers and ten players.

The Field of Mars
(shot with the viewers back to Wavre, looking along the Allied position, the 
small cluster of buildings in the left middle ground is Placenoit)
(click to embiggen) 

French Hussars scouting in the distance
(click to embiggen) 

This is a highly subjective, deeply partisan and necessarily fragmentary account of the game. Those of you might prefer a more coherent narrative, should turn to the efforts of Messrs Gow, Cordery and Carrick.  I was enjoying myself far too much to pause to take many pictures and I suppose in many ways, my favourite parts of the battle are absent from this record because I was having far, far too much fun doing to think about recording the moment for posterity. 

A view from La Bella Alliance Farm (I think) - while the French lay out their forces.
(click to embiggen)  

The game began with us laying out troops using small flags, these were thrust into the ground to mark the location of troops, while we unpacked the boxes.  This actually got a little confusing at one point, when I accidentally deployed troops meant for Bob's flank in the centre. 

At the models eye view, the lawn does not seem so flat
(click to embiggen) 

Many wargamers revel in games that involve vast numbers of figures and there is a joy in ranks and ranks of toy soldiers that thrills the heart. But, what impressed me about the game was how open the battle was. Lines formed and columns marched and match stick cannon fire flew across the field, but despite the number of troops, the game never felt claustrophobic. The sheer size of the play area swallowed up even the huge number of troops we were using and left the game feeling quite open and fluid.  

There are a fearful lot of those Frenchers
(click to embiggen) 

Even the huge column of several hundred French figures here didn't feel too weighty and there was none of the wall-to-wall troops that many big games become. There was plenty of maneuvre to be done, which kept the battle short and lively. 

French cavalry probing our line
(click to embiggen) 

These fellows scouted out the defended villages of La Haie Sainte. I had held them with infantry, but did not reveal the artillery I had concealed there until the French cavalry were charging in to assault the squares I had strung between them. 

The Mont St Jean position, which ably defended by "Dead-eye" Carrick
(click to embiggen) 

For the most part, with the exception of some trees and a few buildings, we left the ground to be the ground so to speak, but it wouldn't be Waterloo without the Mont St. Jean ridge.  Bob and Brian kept a goodly portion of our infantry on the reverse of the slope, ready to meet the French attack. Our general plan was to play the French out for as long as possible, so that the Prussians could arrive. 

Mark (or should that be Marc?) moving his French rotters down the road towards La Haie Sainte
What insidious devilry could he be planning? 
(click to embiggen) 

I think I may have broken the code...
(click to embiggen) 

A view of the Allied position before lunch 
(Mont St. Jean to the right, La Haie Sainte. Placenoit out of shot to the left)
(click to embiggen) 

I can not understate how much I enjoyed this game. I am generally the game organiser and the host, so I rarely get to play without having half an eye on what is going on in the game as a whole. Now it is a role that I relish, but it was a departure for me to arrive to play a game and not really have to think about the setup or the scenario or anything other than playing the game for it's own sake. It was a very enjoyable experience.  I think it helped that I purposely decided that I would not think of Waterloo while we were playing.  So rather than trying to map what was occuring to my understanding of the battle, I focused on playing the game as game. 

A brigade of Frog cavalry hoving into view 
(click to embiggen) 

This had the strange somewhat counter intuitive effect that moments in the game seemed to mirror those of the actual battle without us actively attempting to do so.  There was a massive French cavalry attack on my squares in the centre that could have been directed by Sergei Bondarchuk himself.

My brave Scotsmen prepare to receive them in square. 
(click to embiggen) 

Meanwhile, the RHA have been moving up to support the Prussians who were coming in  on our left
(these were some really beautiful old plastics painted by Brian, wonderful)
(click to embiggen) 

I'd been shoring up our left flank with the Household cavalry supported by some Dutchmen, dancing around and generally trying to look intimidating so that the French didn't attempt to drive a wedge between us and the Prussians. Fortunately Blucher - ahem - I mean Anthony cracked on in a style that would have made the mad old hussar proud.  To be honest, he channeled Blucher so successively that the only question is whether he's stopped screaming "VORVARTS!"(1) at things.

My gallant lads shortly after sending the flower of the French cavalry to the knackers yard
(I really wish I had taken more photographs of this...)
(click to embiggen) 

Meanwhile, over on the Allied right, a massive cavalry battle was developing
(click to embiggen) 

The French punched through the Allied line
(click to embiggen) 

The lone survivor of the 18th "Drogheda Cossacks" scoots for the rear
(click to embiggen) 

But he has found spiritual solace
(click to embiggen) 

Blucher (left) and others look on while Mark defends Placenoit from the advancing Prussians
(click to embiggen) 

After the massive cavalry battle on the right, the Prussians began to arrive in force. The French guns ably manned by Mark and Mike (who has curiously managed to be almost entirely absent from these pictures) simply could not knock down enough of them. 

Just look at all those lovely, lovely sausage munchers go
(click to embiggen) 

Mark attempts to stave off the advancing Prussians, just as the game is coming to a close
(click to embiggen)  

So, there you have it.  The game ended after a sort of happy blur - to be honest, I think the only thing that could have made it better was if I had been able to get a little bit more sleep the night before. I'm totally smitten with the idea of garden wargaming now.  It was really interesting to see how the change in the nature of space totally transformed the game. Now Mrs. Kinch runs to a (though I say so myself) very fine flower garden, but there is no lawn to be had. 

Another aspect that complete transformed the game, which has been totally absent from our indoor Little Wars games has been the dips and rises in the ground. No lawn however well tended is entirely flat and it was very surprising to see troops disappear from sight, once one got down to fire ones cannon from the models eye view, into dead ground that was totally invisible when viewed from the lofty height of a 5'10. 

The game was wonderful.  The company was wonderful. The spectacle was probably never to be repeated. I cannot say enough good things about the experience. 

However, it has left me nursing imperial ambitions regarding nearby lawns and muttering greedily about yardsticks and movement trays.  

I think Little Wars will have to ride again. 

(1) Reports that a wargaming Englishman was removed from a Tescos somewhere in the midlands last Thursday after repeatedly screaming "FORWARDS MY CHILDREN! DEATH TO THE FRENCH!" at the dairy counter are unconfirmed and no doubt scurrilous. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Terrain update

The old reliable Airfix control tower

I'm back from London a week and the Waterloo game was excellent. Truly superb.  But writing a report and sorting out pictures has been somewhat time consuming and between work and returning to college, I've had my hands full.  To relax, I've conducted a bit of a clear out of the War Room and finished off a few things that were within an asses roar of completion. 

To be honest the significance of the numbers is lost on me, but they were in the original kit. 

Now as it happened, my kit was so old that paper components had perished, but Capability Savage ran me up some stickers that look just like the originals. The tower itself I painted last year (or was it the year before? I forget) while ill with pneumonia, but I had not added the stickers. 

In addition, I have mainly been basing trees. 

There's also been a mass outbreak of forestry as I dived into a bag of MDF bases and started basing every tree in sight. This is lovely work, quite undemanding and very relaxing. 

Static grass. 

Rinse, wash, repeat.  

There's something rather zen about the whole process. Who knows, perhaps there are a mob of Buddhist monks somewhere who decided to jack in the whole mandala business and are knocking out trees for wargaming to beat the band. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

18th (King's Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)


"For King, for Law, for Country we strive."
Motto of the 18th Royal Irish
A rum looking lot of fellows, to be sure. 

I'm going off to London in about ten days to take part in a Waterloo bicentennial Little Wars game which I'm particularly looking forward to. Not least because I will get the chance to catch up with some of my fellow bloggers, young Masters Gow and  Cordery. It will also be a chance to play Little Wars in the open air with matchstick firing cannon, as God (or in this case HGW) intended. 

However casting my eye over the order of battle, there was a distinct lack of Irish units on show.  Having given this two perhaps three seconds thought, I realised that this state of affairs could not stand.  The phrase that has launched a thousand disasters danced through my brain. 

"Something must be done."

In this case, something meant contacting my old chum Shifty "Cut me own throat" Gow, who set me up with ten 54mm hussars which I believe fell off the back of a passing expeditionary force and into his white van. This is not the start of a new collection, I hasten to add. Starting a second collection of Napoleonics in a new scale would be the mark of a man so lost to sense that he might marry a horse (or wargame in 15mm). 

No, this is a small unit of Hussars being brought over to the UK to fly the flag so to speak. 

The unit in question is the 18th Light Dragoons otherwise known as the Drogheda Cossacks.  I have written about them before, but in brief, they were a hard drinking, hard fighting lot and developed a lamentable reputation for looting, being described by irate Dublin man Sir. Arthur Wellesley as "...a disgrace to the name of soldier..."

But they did the business in their time, proving I suppose the old adage that saints rarely wear regimentals. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Waterloo Day: Quatre Bras - Part One

The French players led by General Du Gourmand examine the field, while 
Icecream checks the rules on his phone. 

I wrote some time ago of the Waterloo Day we planned for the 200th anniversary of the battle.  I gave a rough description of what occurred, but I think the time has come to give an excellent days gaming it's due.  

General TK views the few Dutch and Belgians arrayed against him. 

Quatre Bras was quite a demanding scenario to write to be honest, as I wanted to capture some of the pressure the allies must have felt, hanging on for dear life while the Duke marched to their aid. This necessitated beginning the game with very few troops on the table, which leaves players with little to do.  I'm not generally a fan of this, but I did my best to find a compromise that allowed the game to proceed at a decent clip and get everyone involved while still keeping the essence of Quatre Bras. 

Kellerman's light cavalry moving forward

I allowed the players to do their own deployment so the French reversed their left and right with Kellerman's cavalry on the right.  Du Gourmand was definitely channelling Ney as he chivy'd his fellows forward.  

General DeCasey began to wonder if the suspiciously empty allied half of the board meant that the Belgians were hidden in ambush. 

"No" says General Du Gourmand, it's not a trap, I've read the 
scenario - now get a wriggle on and get 'em!

The first cavalry skirmish on the allied left. 

The break point for both sides was eighteen units, that is, if they could wipe out eighteen enemy units, they would drive them from the field.  However, this would be lowered to thirteen units if you also held Quatre Bras. The Allies obviously enough began in possession, but were seriously outnumbered, thirty two units to seven at one point, so the pressure was on the French to get to grips and in jig time. 

Ended badly for the Dutch as the Polish lancers  sliced through their opposition and drove the supporting infantry into square. 

"It's OK boss, I've got this under control."  

This was not the first time command relationships in this game were based on something other than unalloyed truth and integrity. 

General Ney examines the situation on the French right as McShannon pours on the pressure. King Billy (centre) ably portrayed by the Unlikely Douglas McKenzie is beginning to feel the pinch.  

"How many Frenchmen are over there?" 

Icecream begins to realise that there are a lot of men in blue coats coming. 

Fortunately, the red coats had started to arrive, just as the last Dutch infantrymen were being unceremoniously booted out of the woods. 

General De Casey looks distinctly unimpressed with the number of Allied reinforcements. 

"The code word is Get 'Em Boys!"

General Du Gourmand gives General McShannon the benefit of his wisdom.  We gave the Allies two "hesitation points", which forced one player to miss a turn in order to model Rielle's hesitation to close.  Rielle had faced Wellington in the Peninsula and was not sure that the apparent Allied weakness at Quatre Bras wasn't a variation on the Duke's ploy of concealing the main strength of his army. 

These hesitation points were represented by small individually wrapped cheeses from Lidl, which had to be offered to the "hesitant" player with the phrase "Sir, of course you could do that, but would not rather enjoy this delicious piece of cheese."

Icecream came back what he described as "...the most insulting unFrench cheese" I could find. I regret to say we did not take a picture, but I believe it was a Lidl variant of Laughing Cow. 

TK looks chipper as he drives the Allies out of the woods. Quatre Bras is now in range of his artillery. The Allies have managed to bring on some reinforcements, but they are mostly on the right. 

Icecream moves some Hanoverian landwehr onto the board, while Marshall-Ney-for-a-day (Du Gourmand) takes over the reins of the French right. General De Casey had to head home as he had just recently become a father. It was good to see him, even if only for a little while. 

Little Miss DeCasey is a beautiful, but demanding mistress. 

"I thought I ordered you to charge!"

Marshall-Ney-for-a-day comes down to the French right to find out how things are going, only to discovered that despite the recent reinforcements of cuirassiers, General McShannon had not pressed the beleaguered Belgians.  

"But they were right there, you had them right where you wanted them!"

"What were you thinking?!?!"

This was probably one of the best moments in the game, not least because General Du Gourmand is a notoriously cavalier subordinate himself who routinely disregards orders in his usual pursuit of l'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace! He trusts in that classic Irish saying, "It is easier to ask forgiveness, than permission" and hopes that success will pardon his disobedience. 

He said afterwards, "Really, it's only funny when I do it."


General McShannon looks on while Marshall-Ney-for-a-day delivers a classic evil villain, why-am-I-surrounded-by-idiots-speech to the door. 

Marshall-Ney-for-a-day seeks spiritual solace. 

Which appears to do the trick.  Icecream (right)appears skeptical. 

"McShannon, I can't help but feel we got off on the wrong foot, but we really need to push on here.  If you drive him back, we can turn the whole position." 

"There are damn few of them there McShannon and best we wallop 'em before their mates turn up."

TK keeps 'em rolling forward

The pressure is building in the centre.  Wellington arrived, but the French are closing in on Quatre Bras.  Casualties are mounting on both sides, but with the Allies holding the cross roads they could afford to spend more blood if it meant halting the French advance. 

Suddenly Picton!

After a really hard run of luck on the Allied left, the 3rd Division finally showed up. General Von Kerrigan celebrated in the most Picton like manner he could think of - waving a top hat in the air and shouting! 

With more redcoats coming onto the field and his hoped for big push on the right having failed to materialise, Marshall-Ney-for-a-day considers his options. 

Will the 3rd Division be able to stem the French tide on the left? 

Can Quatre Bras be held in the face of overwhelming numbers? 

More soon gentlemen.