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Tuesday, 12 September 2023

Bitsa this and Bitsa that.

 Over the last few weeks I have been trying to  progress on three different projects. Now those of you who don't get bored when organising their socks in colour and numerical order may thing this a little odd. Well maybe it is but single minded concentration on 1 wargaming project to the exclusion of all others would simply bore me witless and the quality would therefore suffer.

 So Gentle Reader  my painting table always has more than one lot of partly painted figures on it. 

 Currently the projects in hand are- 

 1/. Anglo -Sikh Wars. This is progressing nicely. I now have forces for both sides that are bigger than the game shown in the Sikh and Ye Shall Find post a few months back. Currently working on the 1st Bengal European Light Infantry. This is the most pressing of the projects as I need to add sufficient to the two armies for a demo game at The  Battle Ground Wargames show in late November - by which time my book on wargaming  the Anglo- Sikh wars should be imminent if not actually published. Once 1 BELI are done then it is on to 2nd Bengal Native Infantry Grenadiers. Assorted Sikh Irregulars will fill in any gaps on the painting table.

Bengal or Bombay  Field battery- with a 9 pdr. In front 
of a British camp. Bengal Native Infantry in the background.

The same Foot battery with the first of the  First Bengal European Light Infantry.
 More of these on the painting table.
Old Glory  28mm figures . Gun by Eagle Figures

2/. Shinyloo!.  I always have a few  retro style models on the table as a sort of light relief. Most recently finished are some French Foot artillery and a few French Dragoons. Both arrived here in a 'sort of painted' state so didn't need everything doing to them hence they were quite quick to finish and add to the growing collection of old shiny dudes. 

Recently added shiny dudes.
 Hinchliffe 30mm French Foot Artillery.
Connoisseur French Dragoons.

3/. 40mm Thirty Year War.  This project has languished for quite a while. Mostly because I simply could not decide which way I wanted to go with it. However two excellent books  recently published by Helion have helped me on the way. So French and Imperialists it shall be, with perhaps a slight accent towards the Spanish of the 1640s-50s.  But then again I might change my mind .... 

40mm TYW
 incongruously appearing in the Punjab!
Models on their sabots are a mixture of my own Romanoff Miniatures some ex-Jacdaw 
 and some with Sash and Saber heads

After reading a line in the recent Helion book on
Rocroi where a Spanish commander takes up a buckler
 I rather thought I'd make such a figure from various Romanoff parts. 
The result is the chap in the middle. 

 The 18 Musketeers no 2 exactly alike . Rebased on round 25mm diameter bases.

Units will be largish so not too many actual units on the table - accent will be on 'minor tactics' and  battalion command, at least that is currently the plan. Rules will be somewhat retro as many modern rules simply 'abstract out'  many of the interesting bits of 17th century warfare in favour of game simplicity for the hard of thinking but the role of a colonel or captain was very different from that of a general and rules should reflect this- you can't refight Lutzen using Pikeman's Lament-  and it is not meant for such  but I'll not use them for this project as they have many other historical and organisational problems despite being supposedly set at the command level I am looking for.. I have found a Featherstone set which may do the deed if I can graft on some command rules.  We shall see. 

Tuesday, 8 August 2023

Catching up on my Reading 19 . A Blast from the Past.

  Donald Featherstone's Lost Tales .Edited by John Curry.

I've had this volume for a while and never thought of reviewing it until recently. However as a book by one of the 'originators'  of the wargaming hobby as it stands today it deserves a second and even a third look. Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for 'retro' wargaming, often preferring it to some of the gamesey  history free twaddle that masquerades as 'historical wargaming' in this 'modern era'. Now that is not the same as saying that ALL modern 'games' are tripe  - they are not-  but like the curates egg- the modern era of historical wargaming is only good in parts.

In some ways it is a strange book, combining as it does real history and wargaming.

 The real history consists of Featherstone's 'War Memoirs' and a short history of the Army Tank battalion he served with . This last has  several gameable scenarios   within its narrative as well as the rather unusual organisational quirks of 51st Battalion Royal Tank Regiment with its mixture of Sherman  and Churchill tanks while in Italy. There is also an essay on 'The Birth of Modern Wargaming'  which should set the record straight concerning how what we have today began in the late 50s /early 60s which 'Millenial wargamers' should read . The picture of wargamers of yesteryear in Jackets and ties will raise a smile or three! 

As for the 'Wargaming' bit well the main body of the book is a block of Featherstone rules actually a total of  12 sets by either Featherstone himself or Tony Bath covering most of the popular and a couple of more obscure periods. Some a very simple, even simplistic, and many are also rather skeletal in terms of the actual amount of rules given. These are not 'games' in the sense many expect today. They assume some pre-knowledge of period and some suspension of belief- especially with regard to Command and Control and  formations This does not mean they are useless. A decent Umpire can use their vey simplicity and skeletal nature as a toolrack to hang his scenarios upon adding scenario specific rules as required. Games using these rules will be fast and bloody- especially in the Horse and musket era. There are no set unit sizes here  although there are some suggestions.

 Arthur Harman's useful  introduction to the rules section of the book points out many of the possible pitfalls and inconsistencies and his point about the suitability of these rules for small actions is well made and to the point and the lack of period detail is also mentioned. However I would opine that such lack may at times be advantageous to the well read Umpire, and as a fan of 'Active Umpiring' the very simplicity has its uses.

 To be honest it is unlikely that I'd  umpire a game using these rules without some amendments more than once or twice ,as usual I treat rules as a toolbox and feel free to amend as alter as needed in much the same way  Donald Featherstone  advocated.

So  yes I recommend this book to chaps who have an interest in the development of our hobby. Don was after all one of the pioneers.

Friday, 4 August 2023

Catching up on my Reading 18. The Battle of Lutzen A Reassessment by Andre Schurger

This latest volume by Published by Helion in the Century of the Soldier series (It is no 104) landed on my mat almost a month ago and has taken some reading. This is not a bad thing as it is well worth the time actual study takes.

 The Battle of Lutzen in the Thirty Years War is mostly famous  for the untimely death of King Gustav Adolf II of Sweden in the heat of the action and the confusion of battle, at which point apparently hearing of their Kings death  by magical means the Swedes  went battle mad and promptly polished off the Imperialists in short order.
 Needless to say the reality was a lot more complex that that which this fine book goes on to explain. 

 Indeed it is so stuffed with useful information that it is actually overflowing, as another 80 PAGES are available as a download from the Helion website, which will give the careful reader even more useful and fascinating information.. This section contains another 48 assorted maps and charts of  archaeological finds and bullet distribution. Maps of pre-battle movement and a clutch of battle maps showing  formation movements down to brigade and sometimes even regimental level.

 So what  do you actually get in the paper format?
Physically the book is in the usual Helion style and has 241 pages  with 17 pages of colour plates of troop types and colours plus two colour maps of army deployment.
The eight chapters cover all you might expect in a 'Battle ' book  such as the campaign including the difficulties of supplying seventeenth century armies and the two armies  orders of battle and deployments but also a whole lot more.

 For a start there is a serious examination of  both primary and secondary sources and their respective values (or lack of such) Then an equally serious examination of the archaeology, much of which the author was himself involved in so he knows whereof he speaks.

With the help of the downloadable maps- these give extra details- the reader is taken through the battle  blow by blow in deep and almost exhaustive detail. From the initial manoeuvres through to the Kings death and Pappenhiem's arrival to the exhaustion of both armies and the final Swedish attacks it is all here for the reader to study.

 One of the things that surprised me was how comparatively small the battle was.  The total troop numbers for both armies  only just topped 30,000 men. Somehow I had the erroneous impression that the two armies were much larger.

There are , as you would expect,  more than a few translated chunks of contemporary accounts and the author uses these to illustrate his points well. 

Now I not going to launch any spoilers here, regular readers will know that is not my style, you will have to buy the book and download the extra info to get a full picture of what is there . Anyone wit any kind of interest in 17th century warfare should have this volume on his shelves.   

 My only niggle - and it is a very very minor one, is the authors use of military terminology - in particular the word 'squadron'- which for most of us is a sub unit of a cavalry regiment often in the 17th century  composed of two 'troops' or 'companies' of horse usually, though not always, from the same regiment.
 Here the term  is used as a catch all for anything from a  battalion of 1,000 or so Imperial infantry (some of the eight of these units were made up of more than one regiment) through the usual cavalry term to any detached unit of  'commanded' musketeers. I found this a tad confusing until I worked it out and once you realise this it does not detract from the book in the slightest.

So yes I  commend  this book to any Pike and Shot fans wargamers or not, but more than that, this is a book  worth serious study to any student of 17th century military history. 

 Highly Recommended

Monday, 31 July 2023

After an Almost Four Year Gap .....

 Yes Gentle readers , after almost four years in their boxes the 15mm Moderns collections gets a short run out.

British Challenger tanks with added stowage. 15mm Old Glory models. Painted by me.

 The Tantobie Warfare and Tactical Society met last Saturday in our newish venue for the July game.

 Andrew the Tekkie was in the chair and decided on a Moderns game using my 15mm Brits and 'Harrquis'- which are not at all for the Gulf Wars (!) Rules were a new set to us- Cold War Commander-  second Edition.

 To be honest I was a bit sceptical as Cold War Commander had filled me with ire and tedium when we tried it and I suspected the same here. But no there were much better. A full game report will appear in due course on Andrew's Blog Tantobie Internet Tattle so suffice it to say that I rather liked these- a bit dice heavy and slow until you get  to know them- the IGOUGO system slows things down as always- but they do have something so they are not to be consigned straight to the bin like the first edition.

 I can defintely see these being used again.

Warrior IFV's some with WRAP extra armour infantry behind- in game terms actuall in the vehicles of course.  Old Glory Models again painted by me. 

Pictures are all from my own collection. Most of the models both Vehicles and infantry are from the Old Glory Command Decision Moderns range.

The only game shot I took. British recon bugs out as the enemy appear while the Challengers move up to engage. T-72s and BMP s Again all Old Glory Models in 15mm  from my own collection.

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

'Old School' , 'Retro' and 'Modern' .

 So which is which and why?- and do we really care?

 First question. Is there really any difference between the three.?

 Honestly no not really, but well, yes sort of possibly.

 First, speaking personally, I simply prefer the term 'retro'  for a certain style of wargaming to the term 'old school' because for me 'old school' has certain connotations. First I hated the bloody place and was glad when - many years later- I found out that some bright fella had run a bull dozer through it immediately making that part of Greater Manchester a better place. Secondly because a chap once told me that 'old school'  wargaming remined him too much of cardigans, Ralgex and Werthers originals. I won't say he was wrong. 

 Definitely both 'old school' and 'retro'. ECW guns one part of Peter Gilders collection. They were called 25mm when they were made

So, for me the two terms 'old school' and 'retro' wargaming are rather similar though it depends - as always- on your individual view.

 Now I began wargaming at the aforementioned Grammar School in 1970 which was a while back and definitely 'old school' by today's standards. Armies were mostly Airfix with a few very precious Les Higgins, then a little later Hinchliffe. Rules were Featherstone or Wise, then London Wargames section Napoleonics. or awful home written concoctions. I recall writing rules  for the Indian Mutiny. They must have been awful since we had bugger all knowledge about how mid 19th century battles were conducted and not much more knowledge about how the armies were organised. or looked.(So a bit like some modern 'game designers' then!) 

Modern Old Glory 28mm Napoleonic painted by James Main for a client who wanted them in a 'retro' style. 

 By 1974 or thereabouts I had joined the Manchester  Area Wargames Society whose members were actually adults and owned wholly metal armies. Rules were still often homegrown but WRG had made its appearance and compared to the school club stuff was complicated but there were more periods- I saw my first ECW game at one of the meetings. 

 Once I moved up to the North-East, despite a brief dalliance with the rules published by Derek Sharman- which used a 'spinner'  rather than dice for the 'random factor' then for the next few years it was mostly WRG all the way Ancients and Pike and Shot. 

 Old Glory 28mm AWI 'Modern' style? 

All of this is in many eyes 'old school' - but when you try to find out what MAKES it 'old school'  the answers all  differ depending upon the age of and time in the hobby of, the person being asked. Often 'old school' seems to mean' what happened before I joined in'  or 'different from what I do now '  or even 'not as much fun cos you had to know stuff '. 'old school 'perhaps but it is 'retro' ?

Indian Mutiny - mutineers Old Glory 28mm organised for Young and Lawford's 'Charge - or How to play Wargames' a 1960s rule set which I still find useful for smaller battles. 

For myself I tend to use the term 'retro' more for the look of the table and the  figure collection than for any other reason. Yes rules come into it somewhat but I can set up a retro looking game and use 'modern' rules- though I'm not sure why I would do this as many 'modern' rules are overly wordy- sometimes close to 'barkerese' that I can't be bothered to  spend the time puzzling them out or sorting out the useful bits in the overly pretty eye candy filled book. No always true but of modern style rules I have bought in the last 3 or 4 years only 'In Deo Veritas'  for large Pike and Shot battles in smaller scales  has made sense in less than  4 or 5 readings- but I don't really want to go into 10mm- though I will keep bending Jim's ear in that direction ! (He already has a bundle of 10mm SYW) 

Some of my deliberately 'retro' 30mm collection with  some of the plastic trees.

Mind you I HATE reading rules. The often arcane language is very off putting 'roll 97 22 sided dice in  alternate non -sequence while standing on one leg with a haddock in the left hand - then mark down one or possibly 2 casualty points but no more, then roll the 18 sided dice 13 times to decide your first unit's movement'  - yes I exaggerate rather more than somewhat-  but many modern rules do seem very dice heavy, seemingly replacing thought and decision making by dice rolling. If I wanted to plat a dice based game I'd play snakes and ladders. 

Ok , after that digression, back to the plot. The easiest way to spot what might be a retro game is the look- gloss varnish on the models is a good start and then possibly the make of models-  Minifigs possibly or Garrison or Hinchliffe or  Stadden or Hinton Hunt or Les Higgins or Lamming  or possibly even more obscure makes such as Corvus or  Vulcan.  

It is also not difficult to mix the styles. My Indian Mutiny collection  are all modern figures painted in a 'modern' style with matt varnishing are singly based and will be used for a 'Charge! variant- said rules by Young and Lawford being definitely 'old schll'  since they were published for the first time in the late 1960s but I can also use them for such modern sets as 'The Men Who would be Kings'  assuming I can get those rules to fit the Mutiny without destroying any period feel.

Does the owner of said, old lead dudes refer to them as 25mm rather than the  'cool' 28mm which is so old it dates from as long ago as the the mid 1990s. For the record two of my own retro projects are in 30mm - just to confuse the issue..

 I've also been told that 'old school' rules are more complicated 'all those tables and stuff' or indeed that they are very simple- by which they usually mean over simple really, once again old school seems to mean 'what I don't want' or even 'what I like' depending upon who you speak to.

 One thing might be close to a constant 'old school' types are often more likely to question the rules and bin them if their own knowledge tells them said rules are garbage. On that score I am definitely 'old school' . Slavish obedience to 'da rools '  at the expense of the history is for fantasy dudes and games slaves, not open minds. Mind you there was a lot of that kind of stuff back in the day so maybe that is old school too! 

Now my collection of plastic trees are definitely old school- they take pride of place in my retro games and sometimes turn up in the 'modern' style too. For a start they don't scatter flock everywhere like the bog brush trees you often see. But I'm glad I bought most of them in the 1970s as they tend to work out at around 20 quid each for the larger specimens on ebay these days. 

It also seems that in ye olden days- depending on how far back that actually is- units were often larger- see Grants 5 officers and 48 man infantry units wheras today a 24 figure unit is not infrequently touted as 'standard'  but then so is '4 bases'  in rules where the models are often no more than counter decoration- but then even that is in some eyes 'old school' - Phil Barker opined almost exactly that is several of his rule sets back in the 1970s.

 So my point really is- beyond the look of the thing- is there really any such thing as 'old school' or is it really merely 'doing it my way' rather than merely being a consumer of the latest gaming fad. 

For myself I will always prefer 'historical period' to 'gaming fad'.

 So even the way I buy into any new (for me) period might be 'old school'  it usually goes ' That's interesting'- himm what models are available- how do I want to present them on the table?-  ok what rules can I use?- Which ones are any good, and will I lose the will to live trying to read the bloody things (reading rules can kill my interest in a period faster than any other single thing). Rule are always at the bottom of the thought chain I have often bought and even painted the armies before I have thought about rules.

I suppose that  makes me old school' then ... or does it?


Friday, 30 June 2023

Catching Up On My Reading 17.

 Dragoons and Dragoon Operations in the British Civil Wars  1638-1653. by Andrew Abram.

 Helion- Century of the Soldier series no 99.. Softback 334pp.

It has bee a while since I have done a book review on this blog- mostly because I have been writing rather than reading but I picked this one up at the Partizan show in May and have finally got around to reading it.

Another big chunk of a tome from Mr Abram  and a pretty dammed good chunk it is.

 There are twelve chapters which take the reader through all they might need to know about dragoons during the Civil Wars. in England and Wales- Scotland being only mentioned insofar as Scottish troops in England are concerned. These mounted infantry were a vital tool in fighting the campaigns of the mid- Seventeenth century.

There is plenty of detail here.  Arms, dress, horse management, and unit organisation are all covered in detail as are methods and operations. Anyone with more than a passing interest in the Civil Wars will need this adding to his library.

 As with his previous books I found Mr Abram's research impressive down to the officer and sometimes lower ranks of individual dragoon companies. 

 This book will repay careful study.

Niggles- well yes . Illustrations are on the thin side, and some of them seem a bit incidental such as the covers  of pamphlets that are-very usefully- quoted from. There are no maps nor any colour plates other than the cover. This one is for military historians rather than wargamers, but that is as it should be and these niggles do not really detract from an otherwise excellent book. 



Monday, 26 June 2023

Finished- well more or less.

 OK That is the Sikh wars book finished more or less- Text completed anyway along with the maps and some of the illustrations.


25BNI. A Foundry unit painted by my Co-Author James Main. 

This should be out before Christmas this year or so I'm told. I do still have a bundle of photos to take though I have about a dozen or more already in the bag. Still more to do though.

Sikh Regular dragoons Old Glory models painted by me. 

 Those in this short not will not be amongst those in the book.


Sikh High command . Old Glory figures painted by me. 

Right off to the photo 'studio' .