Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Freemasonry of the Hobby

Regard that elephant drawn gun!

I am continually astonished by the generosity of what I have come to call "the Freemasonry of the Hobby".  I received an email just the other day from a fellow wargamer named Nick from San Francisco, who wrote to tell me that since I seemed to have a yen for Ghurkas, he had some going spare. Not only are they painted, but apparently they will be supported by a mountain gun. 

I was very surprised by Nicks extremely generous gesture, though I suppose in some ways I should not. The wargaming fraternity has shown itself prone to these sorts of kind acts over the years. Wargamers who are separated by time and tides have repeatedly shown themselves willing to volunteer their time and their precious model soldiers to one another.

I have sent a few of those packages myself on occasion, but it seems to me that I always reap rather more than I sow. 

Appropriate headgear is a necessary adjunct to any properly organised wargame

Nick has sent some pictures of his recent Sword and the Flame games.  This was based on the final scene of the film "Gunga Din" and depicts an assault on a Thugee temple. 

What really strikes me about these pictures is the composition of the table. The figures, the terrain and the whole set up both work as a game, but are also pleasing to the eye. The colour palette fits, the table is not too crowded with troops and the whole thing has a sense of  balance and a sense of proportion that is very pleasing. 

Advancing with the sword and the flame

Though I also like the fact that this is clearly a game in play. Nick's table and setup may be beautiful (and it is), but it is also a thing to be used and played with.  I sometimes find the succession of beautiful pictures of figures on beautiful landscapes in the wargames press as little dispiriting sometimes, because at times they feel a bit divorced from the hobby as I experience it. 

Admittedly, that experience usually involves some Crimean Russian grenadiers masquerading as line infantry, a cat draped around the Pathan fortress and a forgotten sherry glass obscuring the gunners field of fire, but Nicks game pictures are not without the odd dice stubbornly sneaking into the pictures. 

Infantry advance supported by lancers

Nick was also generous enough to write some very kind words about "Joy & Forgetfulness" as a blog, which I shall not repeat here for fear of giving myself a big head, but thank you very much. 

A very impressive Thugee Temple

I think I may have to slip a mild relaxant or something in Capability Savage's cooking laudanum.  He may get very ambitious if he sees this Thugee temple. These fay artistic types are prone to sudden fits of enthusiasm. 

I think I see Gunga Din sounding the alarm from the top of the tower. 

Representin' and keepin' it real

There is one point of Nicks that I would like to address before I finish this post.  In his email, Nick wrote;

"[...]I find it difficult to believe that you're still in your thirties; 
your writing feels more mature, even Edwardian ;)."

Some of those gentle readers who are kind enough to give "Joy & Forgetfulness" their attention seem to be under the impression that it is a relic of a mythical bygone age. An elegant blog from a more civilized time, if you will.  They are sadly mistaken. 

"Joy & Forgetfulness" is as gritty a slice of urban realism as one could wish for. It is as raw, street and so close to the bleeding edge that it is in serious danger of cutting itself.  I know that I do not always publish explicit content - but that is only because I do not wish to make the blog entirely unsuitable for those of a delicate or excitable nature (wives, servants, Frenchmen, etc). 

Now, if you'll forgive me,  I must go and see my man Du Gourmand about hip hop the hippie the hippie, to the hip hip hop and we won't stop, then rock it to the bang, bang boogie, say up jump the boogie the the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.

Because, what you read is not a test, I'm bloggin' to the beat, 
and me, Du Gourmand, and our chums are gonna try to make your game elite, 

You see, I am Conrad Kinch and I'd like to say "hello" 
To the black, to the white, the red and the brown, the purple and yellow, 

But first, I gotta blog, blog the bloggie...

...and that's quite enough of that...

...I think I may have to lie down for a moment. I've come over rather queer. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Indian Pondering

Sikhs charging tribesmen in Afghanistan
From Great Battles of the 19th Century
(click to embiggen)

So I've been thinking about the order of battle required for Afghanistan.  The Sword and the Flame doesn't actually require that many figures and I've managed to get by with only one unit of Indian infantry so far, the Ludhiana Sikhs. 

Looking through my boxes of toys, I've found a box of HAT Indian Infantry, which would give me another two TSATF platoons worth. If I use half units for the Second Afghan War, that should put me well on the way to filling the requirement for Indian troops. 

Picture by S. Mannix from Hat Website
Uniformed as the 3rd Sikhs of the Punjab Field Force

The trick is of course, how to get them on the table relatively sharpish. I found this on the Hat website and it looks like it could be very easy to replicate quickly. Once based and given a coat of PVA, a spray of Army Builder Desert Yellow should do the trick for the basic colour of the uniform.

Then it's a matter of detailing.

This is what I think of when I think of Afghanistan

Now, I'm not that punctilious about uniforms, I intend to use my reassuringly red coated Zulu War British infantry for Afghanistan. Firstly it seems silly not to, I have them already and secondly, while I know that the British soldier of the late Victorian age wore khaki as often as he wore red, I always think of them as redcoats.

To misquote "The Man who shot Liberty Valance", when the legend becomes fact, wargame the legend. 

From Boris Mollo's "The Indian Army"
(courtesy of Vintage Wargaming)

While the red coated Britishers are troops I have already, the Indians will be new and it makes sense to get them right if I can.  Now, as I lack the appropriate reference material, I asked some of my smarter friends to lend a hand and they responded manfully. 

Clive provided the image above, though it should be noted that the 3rd Sikhs and the 3rd Punjab are not synonymous as I had imagined. There are small differences in the arrangement of the turban. 

1880s Ghurkas dashing into action

Ross was kind enough to forward me this link, which has a huge selection of uniform plate and other resources, all of which are in the New York Public Library from the Vinkhuijzen Collection.  There's plenty to look at there, though the captions can be a bit ropey. However, if you've some idea of what you are looking for, there's a lot of stuff available. 

John chimed in with some additional advice,

"[...]blouse trousers all the same shade of khaki. Puttees normally khaki, green or blue are mentioned. Equipment medium shade brown leather. Pre 1890s blouse has cuffs collar shoulder straps in facing colour also the turban fringe in same facing colour. Medium Brown footwear.  Turban colour- often exactly the same, but there are some watercolours for 1879 which show the 3rd regt with a lighter shade for puttees and turban which looks quite nice, facings mid green.  

And also directed me to this website, the Victorian Wars Forum, which he'd actually sent me to before, but which I'd forgotten about. Now that I've put it here, I won't forget again. 

At least until next time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Secret Santa

As Ian quite rightly pointed out, the Wargames Bloggers Secret Santa is upon us once more and I am very grateful to Ian and Cathy for being the organising brains behind it.  As Mrs. Kinch regularly tells me I am impossible to buy for, something I think every man hears about twice annually, it has been suggested those taking part should put up a wish list.

So here's mine.

Most of these are pretty much with a view to using them in 1880s Afghanistan using The Sword and the Flame, which using 20 man infantry units or 12 man cavalry units.

Newline Designs Ghurkas

These are lovely little figures, though Newline are always a little small, which has never proved a problem for the Ghurkas. And the unit pack is on sale.

Ral Partha Ghurkas

I have some RP Sikhs which are ostentably 25mm, but which mix with my 1/72 stuff with no problems.

Douglas Miniatures Turkish Cavalry 

These are quite elegant simple figures available from John Cunningham.  at

Afghan Civilians

Both Elheim and Britannia do some Afghan civilians, which while designed for contemporary conflicts would also do very well for the 1880s.

Hark! A questioning Scotsman.

Proud son of the glens, Mel Gibson, photographed singing "Scotland the Brave"

Scotland has given the world many great men.  Thinkers, scientists, theologicans, philosophers and engineers. They have brought forth ideas and words that will be remembered for centuries and that have shaped the lives of millions. They are a proud, curious people, given to questioning and inquiry.

Lord Kelvin asked "Jus' how culd is that anae wae?"

Adam Smith asked "What sort of price is tha'? Ar' you fer real mate?"

Thomas Carlyle asked "So you ken yer a big mawn, de ye?" 

But none of these no doubt very important questions, concern us today. 

Nor does the eternal Scottish question, posed by the warrior-philosopher "Franco" Begbie

"Ar' yo' lookin' a' me pal?"

Some frankly gratuitous eye candy from Phil's War Cabinet
Head over there for more. 

 The question that concerns us today was posed by that august son of Scotland, my esteemed colleague, friend and former editor, Mr. Phil Olley of Phil's War Cabinet* posed the question. 

"Do other wargamers and collectors set out a planned order of battle [...] to follow, or is it a case of simply picking whichever unit you fancy painting next?"

I was thinking about Phil's question and pondering how I go about collecting an army.  I think in some ways, I start backwards.  I think about the game or games I want to play and what troops I would need to complete those. I count up the troops needed to play all of those games and make a master list.

That's assuming that I haven't either somehow come into part of a collection or bought a box of plastic soldiers on a whim or because they were cheap. Actually now that I think of it, a number of these incidents have involved OldJohn and a small pile of used readies.

My good pal General Du Gourmand always maintained that the most dangerous box of figures was the first box of a new period. Collect one box of 1879 British infantry and suddenly you're committed to another 300 Zulus. Buy one squadron of 17th lancers because they look nice and before too long you'll be adding your ninth battalion of Russian infantry and worrying about the uniforms of Caucasian Riflemen.

But in a perfect world, where I'm starting from scratch, I tend to make a list based on the scenarios I want to play.

Once that's done, I pick the smallest scenario and aim to collect for that, the idea being to get troops onto the table in as few steps as possible.

Some of Michael's work
(which you can find here) 

I don't have enough projects on the go at present and between maintaining my marriage, work and studying at night, my copious free time is a burden to me.

I've been fighting a losing battle with Michael Dippel's Second Afghan War scenarios on the Battlecry website for a little while now and I think Phil has provided the last shove I needed to finally crack. I've been collecting colonials for The Sword and the Flame for a while now and this would appear to be a good opportunity to use those figures in a larger engagement.  Of course, TSATF is a skirmish game and the larger battles portrayed in Battlecry will require more troops, most notably cavalry, but I should be able to get a workable force relatively quickly.  It's just a matter of working out which of the six scenarios requires the smallest number of new troops.

Looking at the scenarios written so far, the troops required are as follows.

Rifles 5
Melee (swords) 12
Cavalry 6
Artillery 3
Leader 3

British Infantry 7
Indian Infantry 9
Highlanders 2
Sappers 1
Ghurkas 1
Royal Artillery 3
Royal Horse Artillery 2
British Cavalry 1
Indian Cavalry 3

I'll have to post a progress report in the New Year.

*Who I profoundly hope is actually Scottish, rather than just living there, otherwise this joke will have well and truly gone for it's tea. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Up Guards and at 'em!

Marching along

Unfortunately, things have not been ideal in the Kinch household this last week.  Being a law student has proved a little more exciting than I would like.  As I was on the way home from class last week, I happened upon a chap who did not like the cut of my gib.  Unfortunately, the first I knew of his disdain was being struck on the back of the head.  I was fortunate not to lose consciousness and though I flatter myself I got my licks in, my larger opponent got the better for the engagement.  I managed to get off the ground before being kicked too badly and went at him again, whereupon he took off.  

The result has been a concussion and some other injuries, but nothing too serious.  The blows to the head are taking a lot longer to shrug off than I had hoped, but the main thing was that I managed to contact the cavalry, chase him up the street and we apprehended the miscreant close the scene.  Now all the remains to be done is to let the courts do their work.  This will be a slow process, but a necessary one. 

Left turn! 

While convalescing, I did some work on these four Prince August Classic Toy Soldiers.  I can't remember exactly how or why I ended up with this mould, but I cast them while I was doing some work on decorations for the children and painted them this week. 

High gloss varnish does not lend itself to phone photography

They were undercoated in white and painted with usual vallejo acrylics. The uniform is a slightly stylised version of the dress uniform of the Irish Guards. These were a pleasure to paint and think I would like to do some more. Mrs. Kinch has already paid them the compliment of referring to them as "proper toy soldiers" and set them up marching across the bookshelves in the library. 

They were given a coat of gloss varnish from a tin I found in the shed while getting some chicken out of the freezer. 

Note the simplified cuffs

The result has been very pleasing.  I think I might add a few more when I get the chance. I'm not sure I want to do anything with them other than march them around the library, but they were very pleasant to work on while I was grumpy and out of sorts. 

Blue plumes

With a bit of luck, the headaches and other inconveniences should be over fairly soon as to be honest, time is a wasting.  I'm falling behind with my schoolwork and I shudder to think of the pile of work emails that will be waiting for me. So in the words of the Duke. 

Up Guards! And at them!