Friday, August 26, 2016

A balm for the toy soldier lovers soul

Sir Colin Campbell

I went on a trip to Wales recently to see Old John and it was time well spent.  The food was good, the company excellent and it was a trip absolutely stuffed to the gills with toy soldiers. Amongst them were these Crimean British troops, which I bought from John Preece last year, but only managed to collect a few weeks ago. 

The Gaaaaards! 

I would go on, but I think these fellas stand on their own merits.  They are Stadden 25s, tall and elegant and I think a reasonable match for many 1/72 figures. But even if they weren't how could you resist these visions of shiny toy soldier loveliness? 

A think red streak tipped with steel

Having looked at these, I've actually scrapped by planning for a 1/32 Highlander colour party. I will have to repaint the kilts and copy John's approach here. I had been trying to paint tartan as it is and John has just managed to do so much more with just a suggestion of colour.  Every figure is a master class in composition. 

The damned rankers 

These will hopefully give me the kick in the pants required to get weaving and play some more Crimean games. I shall have to photograph them properly soon. 

Met this friendly fellow out and about 

He was rather demanding. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A breach of decorum

"To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal"

Ecclesiastes 3:3 is a verse that sticks with me. It's not a favourite (it's no Romans 13:4 or Mathew 22:37-40 or for that matter Mathew 8:9), I've just heard it so often that I can finish the quotation without effort.  I suppose it has been rendered trite by repetition - I've heard it too often at family funerals.  One of the tragedies of our modern comfortable lives is that we hear truth so often that it can lose it's meaning, like Kipling's Copybook Headings, as it is repeated, decontextualized, satirised and commoditised. We lose sight of it, like a page photocopied time after time, until it becomes a grey mass of artifacts and noise. The signal is lost unless we search for it.

I write Joy & Forgetfulness for a variety of reasons. It started as a writing exercise, the literary equivalent of cracking out a few press ups of a morning, since then it has become a sort of personal showcase for my hobby endeavours, a repository for very silly jokes, a means of blowing off steam and communicating the weird little fraternity of wargaming bloggers, many of whom have done me the honour of becoming my friends. 

But if to every thing there is a season, to everything there is also a diction, a language that is suitable to the discussion of the thing.   The sense of decorum in the original sense of the word, was behaviour and language that was appropriate to the moment. I rarely write seriously here, so I hope you'll forgive the breach of decorum as Mrs Kinch and I have some very wonderful, but rather serious news, but rest assured we will be back to toy soldiers and silliness shortly.

But the long and the short of it is that we were gifted with a genuine miracle. 

Six years ago, we were told that we would be unable to have children.  It was a hard blow, but we made our peace with it eventually.   It wasn't easy, but the doctors were kind and the tests were clear. God is good, if not always easy to understand, and we were just going to have to make the best of it.

Several years later, Mrs Kinch lost an aunt and an uncle in rapid succession. A bright, lively talented couple who were taken far too young. Mrs Kinchs uncle, recently a widower and a bibulous old Tory who loved art and ties so loud that they were visible from space was of the opinion that,

"Doctors are idiots.  My father was one and I should know. You deserve children."

We smiled and thanked him and carried on.  But shortly after his death, we discovered he had made arrangements so that we could get a second opinion and had put in place the finance to make it happen.

It was a strange and unexpected legacy and we went down the path of IVF with no expectations. We already knew the answer.  IVF is a painful and often humiliating process and we were in two minds as to whether to go down that road again.  Eventually we decided that it would have been disrespectful to the memory of a kind and very generous couple not to try.

And it emerged contrary to everything we were told all those years ago, something miraculous had happened. We discovered that what we had been told was impossible was not and if our courage could bear it, we could try with a reasonable chance of success.  With the help and encouragement of our friends and family, the hard work of some very kind doctors and nurses and most of all, the considerable grit of Mrs. Kinch - we embarked on what was to prove a difficult journey.

It has been a long and hard road, especially for Mrs Kinch, and there has been heartbreak along the way.  But we have been blessed and are expecting the arrival of the Kinch twins some time in November.  I hardly know how to write about it - but there it is.

To steal some lines from Cowper,

"His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ever hour,
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What's in a name?

My mother, the sainted Mrs Kinch Senior, has returned from Her summer tour of Vienna and Budapest with this fellow.  Closer inspection would seem to indicate that he is a Wing Commander and a recent addition to 266 Squadron, but he does appear to lack a name. 

Any suggestions? 

To the right

Eyes front 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Operation Barbarossa Campaign

Young Master Hitler attempting to add Russia to his "list"

I think most wargamers in their heart of hearts would admit they enjoy making lists. 

Far more lists get written than are ever completed, but I think there's a certain "fantasy shopping" element to it. There is a pleasure to be had from building castles in the sky, even if we know in our heart of hearts that those castles will never be constructed.  It's a similar sort of impulse to the sort of day dreaming that a lot of folk indulge in - usually revolving around "What I would do if I won the lottery?"  Wargamers ambitions are usually more modest, coming to a few units of cavalry, a dozen tanks and so on, rather than jet skis and Ferrari's.

An excellent addition to the Memoir '44 stable

For those of you, who are familiar with Memoir '44 Campaign Book 1 - it includes a number of campaigns, a British and an American Normandy campaign (need some paratroopers before I can play that, better add them to the list) and a Barbarossa campaign which is epic in scale.  We've played the Barbarossa campaign before and it's a really slick piece of design.  Unlike the other campaigns in the book, it can be played by multiple players simultaneously. The German team takes control of Army Group Centre, Army Group North and Army Group South, while the Soviets command the resistance to the Fascist viper. The campaign is playable in a day and can, depending on the scoring, be resolved in three games or it can stretch out to five.  Unlike an Overlord game where the players are interacting all the time, in this campaign each player is playing their own one on one games, but is drawing on a shared pool of reinforcements and resources. 

It makes for a grand and epic days wargaming. However, when we played before, we'd only used the plastic figures provided in the board game.  I have a mind to assemble a rather more formidable show using 1/72 figures and tanks played on three six by four mats.  Du Gourmand has already booked a place on Stavka.

Now such an epic days wargaming requires some epic list making. I could muster the resources to play any individual game without any real difficulty, but running three of them simultaneously would stretch things.  With that in mind, I decided that I would compile a roster of what would be required to play each "stage" of the game. Once I'd done that, I could work out what the maximum number of troops required would be and plan accordingly.  Depending on how things run, in terms of wins or losses, the scenario that is played can vary - the scenario can be played at a different stage.   This complicates matters, but I think I've worked it out.

Should you wish to give this a try yourself, you'll find the troops count by stage below and with a final total at the end.

Stage One

Bug River - Raeinac - Brody

Soviets: Infantry 11  Armour 8 Artillery 1 Heavy Armour 7 Cavalry 2 Mechanised Infantry 2 Train 1
Germans: Infantry 6  Armour 12 Artillery 3 Panzer Grenadier 7 Brandenberger Commando 1

Stage Two

Smolensk - Pruzan - Ingermanland - Vel. Bridgehead- Russian Breakout - Pripet Marsh

Soviets: Infantry 26  Armour 5 Artillery 5 Heavy Armour 4 Cavalry 3 Sniper 3 Train 1
Germans: Infantry 13  Armour 17 Artillery 5 Heavy Armour 1 Panzer Grenadier 11

Stage Three

Kamenwo - Yelna Timoshenko Assault - Smolensk - Ivan Bridge - Luga Bridge - Lipovec - Kiev

Soviets: Infantry 29  Armour 10 Artillery 5 Heavy Armour 5 Cavalry 1 Sniper 2 Train 2
Germans: Infantry 20  Armour 13 Artillery 5 Heavy Armour 1 Engineer 1 Panzer Grenadier 9
Train 1

Stage Four

Gates of Moscow - Yelna Timoshenko Assault - Kamenwo - Baltic Islands - Starayarus - Tikhvin - Sea of Azov - Rostov

Soviets: Infantry 27 Armour 11  Artillery 7 Heavy Armour 4 Cavalry 3 Guards 3 Sniper 1
Germans: Infantry 25  Armour 18 Artillery 6 Heavy Armour 1 Panzer Grenadier 5 Fallschirmjaeger 3
Division Azul 1 Train 1

Stage Five

Breakout at Klin - Yelna Zhukovs Assault 

Soviets: Infantry 9  Armour 6 Artillery 2 
Germans: Infantry 7 Armour 2 Artillery 2 Heavy Armour 2 Engineer 2 Panzer Grenadier 1

Maximum Forces Required
Soviets: Infantry 29 Armour 11  Artillery 7 Heavy Armour 7 Cavalry 3 Guards 3 Sniper 3 Train 2 Mechanised Infantry 2

Germans: Infantry 25 Armour 18 Artillery 6 Heavy Armour 2 Engineer 2 Panzer Grenadier 11 Brandenberger Commando 1  Division Azul 1 Train 1

Thoughts & Conclusions

I'll be honest one of the reasons, I thought I'd tackle this project is the fact that it's a small self contained campaign that can be played in a day and that doesn't require an umpire and I was relatively sure I had sufficient troops. Having compiled the figure totals, it becomes clear that while I have a goodly selection of what is needed - there are still some gaps.

The Soviet armour is unusual, as I have quite a bit, but what is required is early war stuff like T-26s. What I reckon I do is use T-34 and KV-1 as Heavy Armour and everything else as standard armour units.  I have a couple of T-26 and T-70 light tanks, so I'm going to keep my eyes peeled on eBay for some of those cheap diecast armoured cars and tanks that were available at "The Works" recently.

The infantry and artillery are no problem, though I'm short the cavalry.  Fortunately John Cunningham set me up with a set of Revell Soviet Cossacks (which are probably a little later than Barbarossa, but they look well), which will do the trick. I'll add a truck to a standard infantry unit to show Mechanised Infantry and a Commissar figure to Guards units.

I have plenty of German infantry and will use a mixture of Panzer I, II, III and armoured cars to represent German armour. Heavy tanks will be represented by a pair of short barrelled Panzer IV from Armourfast.  I'll need to do an exact count, but there shouldn't be too much difficulty in finding some early war German armour to plug that gap.

Hanomags and other half tracks will mark Panzer Grenadiers. Engineers will be marked by a flamethrower armed figure, though I might add some clump foliage flame to make them stand out a bit as a 1/72 scale flamethrower can easily get lost in the mill of troops. The Division Azul will be some German troops with a Spanish national flash added in paint, though perhaps something more flamboyant to make them stand out might be in order.

Realistically, that isn't too bad of a list. We may be seeing Barbarossa before long.