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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' .

Tuesday, 6 June 2023

The Second Battle of Fiddlers Rise June 1459

Early in the day. The Yorkist assault force.

 So once again the  Tantobie Warfare And Tactical Society meet in their new(ish) venue for a game. We had a total of five members this month and I was in the chair so decided upon a 40mm Wars of the Roses game. Shaun and new member Paul taking the Yorkists with Andrew and Steve taking up the sword for the House of Lancaster.

Early in the day. The Lancastrians occupy their palisade in the centre
Their right is on the hill of Fiddlers Rise.

Forces are currently quite small with  less than 200 models on the table for both sides . Rules are Tony Clipsom's set 'Foray' as our guide and your gentle author as Umpire..

 The scenario was based very loosely on the Battle of Blore heath- but without the mass of Lancastrian cavalry. Indeed the roles were reversed as the Lancastrians were on the defensive and the Yorkists had more troops so the attack was in their hands.

As it happened the fighting developed into a bit of a grinding match with neither side using anything resembling subtly, but then this was 1459.

The Yorkist cavalry advance.

 The game began with some mutual cannonading , each side hoping the others bombard would explode in an inconvenient manner which this time neither sides actually did though the crews suffered soem casualties and  one Lancastrian crew fled the scene early in the day.

The Yorkists decided on a full frontal attack using their Longbowmen to 'shoot them in' In the event this was less than successful as the Lancastrian defenders had more archers and used them- though with mixed results.  On the Lancastrian right the Yorkist assault was led by a contingent of Warwick's troops under Sir John Conyers. These chaps did not have a good day. After a bout of archery the ragged staff fell and Conyers was killed. The unit did not rout but halted and while not willing to run played little further part in the action other than archery, their attempt to close with the enemy resulting in a half hearted melee which  neither side actually won before a mutual breaking off..  This flank also saw the only cavalry action of the engagement. The small band of Yorkist horse charging the tiny contingent of the Earl of Exeter( not painted many of these yet)  Although Exeter's men were routed the Yorkist banner fell and rather than pursue the routers they fell back to 'consider their position'  and again took no further part in the action. 

Arrows fly.

In the centre the bulk of the Lancastrian archers stood behind their palisade and shot it out with the Yorkists not infrequently to little avail on either side though the Lancastrian artillery was silenced early on by a combination of Yorkist archers and their 'comedy bombard- which was not funny at all in this game.

The Yorkist advance grinds to a halt. 

With their momentum exhausted the Lancastrians did not look able to storm the Yorkist position but then neither did the House of York look capable of doing any more than staying put. Both sides had suffered significant losses with the worst  being on the side of Lancaster so this one was declared a bloody draw.

I as umpire need to tweak the rules a little- making 'counter battery' fire impossible- not merely inadvisable and tightening up some morale situations and command rules. Though most of this is simply organisation. I shall return to the 15th century later in the year . The Hoses of York and Lancaster will battle it out once more across the table.

 Thanks to Norman Oyston for the use of the venure and to Ros for the excellent hot beef - or indeed Pork sandwiches to sustain the innner wargamer ! 

Saturday, 27 May 2023


 How many times over the years have you rebased your collection - or at least parts of it. It is a right faff for sure, so I try to avoid it where I can. As I don't do competitions this is usually not a problem.

However in recent months I have come to wonder about the way certain rules and 'games' now portray the units for their given period and how the 20mm frontage for most infantry and 25mm for many cavalry has evolved, and is it the best way?.

What started this train of thought was looking at some assorted 28mm Napoleonic models of various nations all on 20mm frontage bases and also quite a few of the often called 'standard' unit(of which in reality there was no such thing) . Seen as units the troops looked too spread out with lots of daylight between each man. Don't think it was like that. Look at the modern Trooping of the Colour or even a decent re-enactment unit. They move about with very little space between each man most of the time.

Now this does not apply in certain periods of course. 17th century chaps needing more room to perform their drills- and it was not because of the baggy  breeches ! . No they mostly moved about  with some little distance between each man so my ECW dudes (or is than now W3K dudes) can stay as they are.

 No this is really about my 18th century collections 7YW and AWI really but with some Indian stuff  as well and maybe some Marlburians.

My first Marlburian unit. The rank and file are on 15mm frontage the 'Command' figures are on 20mm frontage. My reasoning here being that they should be bigger targets in the Grantian style games these will hopefully one day be used in.

 Now I have heard the argument that the larger figures won't fit on  smaller frontage bases so I thought I'd try a few experiments and - so fat I have not found any major problem with infantry. though I am keeping the depth at 20mm per model, as the depth of the figure won't allow much reduction.

Reducing the frontage per figure from 20mm to 15mm obviously reduces the frontage of the whole unit by a quarter as well as making the unit look- dare I say- a little more 'realistic' in its tabletop appearance.

This awful picture nevertheless shows the difference in frontage on even these two tiny units
 actually 2 grenadier companies from different AWI units. Both groups are from the same pack of models Old Glory AWI21. The upper group's frontage is 60mm the lower 45mm.

Another shot showing the two differing frontages side by side. I definitely prefer the closer look..

Now I won't be changing all of my troops. This will only be  chosen units for certain types of game. My 30mm Stadden and Willie AWI collection will stay on 20mm frontage(and shiny!) Shinyloo will stay as it is, as will the nascent 'Shinynine'... but if I ever get around to the Peninsular well that - and India will be a different story.

Friday, 5 May 2023

The Maze of Curiosity and Fascination.

 No not some 'new and innovative',  but the same as all the others in a different box,  Sci-Fant skirmish a like, but rather another train of thought. Yes I know I'm doing thinking again and it is not fashionable in today's wargaming world but then I don't give a hoot for fashion - wel not the wargaming kind anyway.

 No this is more about where my version of the hobby takes me and why. I know that these days- assuming you believe the magazines and some of the FB pages I see that the whole hobby is 'game driven' . We are no longer supposed to talk about which historical period we play in but only about 'which games' we play.

 To me this is terribly narrow. Obviously it is one of the unforeseen side effects of the commercialisation of the hobby. For many it is easier and more convenient to be merely consumers of what is laid before them especially in the hurry up world in which we now live. It is easier to simply take a game and obey the rules rather than take an interest in the historical period in which that game may be set- however loosely.- rather than follow the more tortuous path of historical interest.

What began this particular tortuous path was the arrival of a bundle of old  Journals  of the Society for Army Historical Research bought on ebay. This bundle of rather random copies  were originally published in various years from 1948- 1985 and will be added to the collection of back issues I already have. I made space for them by binning a bundle of old wargames mags- all published after 2000 but I may be binning some more in the near future as they simply often don't contain anything that really interests me any longer. I know how to roll a dice thanks- and reviews - while being useful at the time don't have much of a shelf life. 

These Journals however, are filled with  gold. In the issues I have recently bought, I have so far, found  first hand accounts - in letters and diaries published in the Journals, from the First and Second Sikh Wars, The Napoleonic wars,, the Nepal War and the Indian Mutiny. In addition there are articles on Mercenaries in English service in 1544- and how some of them defrauded Henry VIII of lots of cash, and I have not been through more than half of them so far.

Yes in some of the articles the scholarship is a bit- or even a lot- dated but taking that into account is part of the challenge. The words of chaps who were actually there, of course, never get old and provide information  and scenario ideas that  never get into most  wargames scenario books. This kind of stuff will always be of more interest to me than wading through yet another  set of games driven fluff in a pretty book written by a bloke who values dice rolling over period knowledge. 

Well now perhaps I should put on my metaphorical Tin Hat and duck below the parapet. If I do bin some more magazine I will let you know before they go to the shredder. 

Thursday, 27 April 2023

Just a tiny bit of Shine in all the Matt.

 There has not been a great deal of shine in my life recently, regular readers may have noticed an increased use of matt varnish !

 This is because I have been painting models for my forthcoming book on Wargaming the Anglo- Sikh Wars. Most of my recent posts have shown the slow growth of this collection and it is still growing. More Ghoracharra and more Akhalis currently sit on the painting table in various states of undress.

However a lack of shine was beginning to tell so here are a few shiny Dudes I have managed to finish amongst all the matt.

Shiny Hussars 30mm Stadden. The middle chap is on a Willie horse.

Prince Blucher- wondering what he is doing in the Punjab- or on a desert cloth ! 

 Not sure what Blucher and some British 7th Hussars are doing in the Punjab but there you go.

Everyone needs a little shine every now and again!

 Right back to the Sikh wars and matt varnish! 

Tuesday, 11 April 2023

Elite troops?

 In a short  FB exchange with Martin Gane recently the subject of elite troops was mentioned in passing and the idea was mooted that elite might be a very moveable feast. Indeed one might opine that some troops are only elite some of the time and for different reasons in different wars and campaigns.

Are these British Footguards elite or  the Line troops nest to them? They certainly think so and have proved it numerous times in their history. So how do you deal with their wargames counterparts? 

Of course, if your wargaming is army list  and dice roll driven you may choose to obey the diktat of the 'game designer'  rather than your own researches. This  lightweight approach is something we all do- I do it for periods I only have a passing interest in, such as most of the Ancient world, though even here, actually buying an army according to an army list is not to be done under any circumstances,  especially if I'm paying. I'll read a book or two. So I don't care if your ordinary hoplites are six points each and your  Sacred Band are eight points each  because they are elite. The question for these, and indeed any other supposed elite units throughout history is WHY are they considered elite in the first place?

Discipline and weapons training are two pretty obvious reasons  but of course those two factors don't come close to telling the whole story. If you know your history you can think of plenty of elite units who had such training who sometimes did not come up to the mark for various reasons in individual campaigns or battles. The Gardes Francais at Fontenoy perhaps or  some of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo? Make your own minds up but try to be dispassionate if you can. Are some troops 'automatically' elite? British Footguards - sometimes  but not always by any means.

The Earl of Essex's regiment of foot in the ECW usually performed pretty well up until their capture at Lostwithiel but does that make them elite@ 

Equally time and place have a part to play. Take admittedly a slightly obscure example Earl Brtytnoth's Hearthtroop at the Battle of Malton in 991 . After  Thorkel the Tall's vikings broke the Saxon shieldwall and killed the Earl the Hearthtroop apparently fought on expecting to 'lie in the dust at the feet of our leader' as the Song of Maldon tells us. Now it may not have been quite like that but people of the time believed it was or should have been. Likewise King Harold's Housecarles at Hastings so do we rate these as 'elite'  for other games?

The Iron Brigade in the ACW - does a different hat and coat make you elite ? Even thought it makes you stand out form the crowd. The Brigade does seem to have performed better than some.

Pride of course plays a part- this will feed into unit cohesion and can make the given unit hang on for longer but then there is also 'backs to the wall' syndrome- nowhere to run so we must fight on - Roarke's drift being a good example here.

 Of course so called social class is no automatic granting of elite status , except perhaps in the mind of those 'socially elite' troops. Obvious examples are the Philadelphia Light Horse in the AWI- who apparently would not do outpost and vidette work- as is the role of light horse- because it was beneath them. I also seem to recall a mention of a troop of New York Light Dragoons in the War of 1812 - again  from the 'cream' of New York society who scarpered at almost the first shot at the Battle of Bladensberg - quickly followed by most of the rest of the Americans leaving the  rear guard of US Marines and sailors with their guns to do the bulk of the fighting. Equally the Cumberland Hussars at Waterloo  socially upper crust- off as soon as the guns began.. So so called social class often has nothing to do with  elite troops. 

The Irish Brigade were key to the French victory at Fontenoy. Does that make them elite everywhere else?

There is definitely a case for 'variable morale' on the wargames table- after all how can any general be sure that his troops will perform as expected- he might be sure of some of his units - but what about that lot over there> Arses out of their trousers and filthy from campaigning, or those there, bright and shiny and new - never been shot over. There are historical examples where both types have performed above and beyond and equally examples where both have performed poorly so you take your pick and hope for the best. 

Tuesday, 28 March 2023

Sikh and ye shall find.

 Last Saturday saw 4  of our group meet for a game in our new venue in the town of Stanley Co. Durham.

We are still settling in here, but it is going well.

This time I was in the chair and decided to go for another attempt at an Anglo-Sikh War game. Now last time had been a bit of a frost as picking your way through  Black Powder second edition is a decided chore. So we packed it in after a couple of moves and repaired to the bar.

Well this time it was different. No Black Powder- no straining my eyes on the brown print on cream paper. I decided to go with Warfare in the Age of Reason as a base since it is very open ended and the simple mechanisms allow easy period specific amendments which , done with care do not unbalance the game.

This would be a relatively small game with about 300 or a few more  28mm models on the table. So while not a big battle a bit more than a mere skirmish.

 The British had 4  cavalry units  each of 10 models - 2 'wings' of 3rd Light Dragoons and 1 unit each of 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry and 2nd Bengal Irregular cavalry. 4 battalions of Infantry of which HM31st foot at a mere 21 models was the weakest (I didn't get the flank coys finished in time !) 2 Bengal Native Infantry battalions and the Sirmoor Local Battalion - which despite its name are Ghurkhas.. The Brits  were lacking in artillery having only a single gun and crew of the admittedly elite Bengal Horse artillery. 

The Sikh force was slightly the larger but of more mixed quality. Their best troops were their 4 12pdrs which I rated as medium field guns with elite crews in AOR. As for regular infantry they had 2 units  one of 'line' from the Fauj-i-Ain and one Purbeah unit of the Fauj-i-Khas in shakos carrying a French style colour.  The remaining half of the Sikh infantry were irregulars or at best 'semi-regulars. A battalion of Muslim najibs and 3 small  bands of irregulars one of which was Akhalis. . For cavalry the Sikhs had a single unit of regular Dragoons and 3 units of Ghoracharra Irregular cavalry of which the largest was 15 strong the other two 10 models each.

 Most of the models were, of course Old Glory 28mm with a Foundry BNI unit (25th BNI with its unique unique - to the Bengal line- blue facings). The Bengal Horse Artillery are 'Willie'30mm with an Eagle gun. Otherwise aside from a few Redoubt Maratha interlopers making up the numbers in one of the Ghoracharra units and a couple of Studio Miniatures Officers then everyone else on both sides was Old Glory.

 The table  as the action opened. Sikh on the left of the picture
                                    The small fort which anchored their right can just be seen.

 The table was on the small side being just over 6 feet long by about 3and a half feet.. We can go bigger but to do that we have to leave the bar! 

So the action commenced with a spirited British advance-  commanded by Steve who donned Sir Hugh Gough's white fighting coat for the afternoon.. Sikh artillery opened up early, knocking holes in  36th BNI and smaller holes in the 25th. Indeed so bad was the damage to the 36th that they halted disorganised and by the end of the fighting would have lost 30% of their strength..

The Sikh left. In the middle distance 36th BNI are taking a pasting from the Sikh Guns

The Sikh left- their stronger wing- one unit of cavalry has already been pushed back but the guns will give 36BNI many an anxious moment. 

 The British cavalry however moved in swiftly and in two moves of sabre slashing havoc eventually pushed back the Ghoracharra facing them- even 3 BLC doing reasonably well.- Steve's dice rolling was just a tad above average. Both sides were taking losses- the Bengal Horse Artillery doing some counter battery fire at medium range managing to reduce one Sikh gun crew by 2 figures.

HM31st Foot advanced on the Sikh right where the scrub jungle was filled with irregulars. These  skirmishers has proved a minor nuisance The 31st delivered a perfect volley which sent numbers of these pesky fellows scuttling behind the small fort that was the right flank anchor of the Sikh line.

'Those pesky fellows' Sikh Irregulars- some being Rohilla Mercenaries-  in the scrub jungle.

A pensive Steve wonders what to do about those terrible Sikh guns.

The decision came on the Sikh right centre where 25th BNI  went in against the najib battalion. the fight was close and for a move it looked as if the najibs would actually prevail ( 3  sixes  for their defensive volley from Andrew  helped!)but in the end discipline told and the najibs retreated - disorganised taking the   Sikh regular dragoons with them. It was now all over bar the well not shouting but post game discussion.

25th BNI followed by the Sirmoor battalion go in against the Najibs.

The Najibs strivinh manfully against the 25th BNI.

All four of us Steve as Gough and Shaun and Andrew as the Sikh commander as well as me Umpiring had enjoyed this first proper outing for this new collection. AOR had performed well - though I shall have to add a few more 'in-period' tweaks as I paint more units.  The rules were certainly easier to navigate than Black Powder but then over the years I have played many more games of AOR than I have Black Powder so this may be simply a matter of use..

Thanks go to Norman Oyston for the use of the venue  and to Ros for the beef butties and chips. The beer as usual was very drinkable and fun was had by all. 

 Next game should be in April. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Trouble and Strife

You may have noticed gentle readers that I am having more than a little bother with my website and usual email accounts.

 We are working to resolve these issues but it takes time and frankly is a pain in the arse - especially when you can't actually speak to a human but have to  do it all by web chat and email .

 We will bet it sorted  but patience is becoming a rare and splendid thing !  

Might be able to get a bit more writing done though-perhaps even a blog post or two.

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Sikh Wars additions.

 I have been beavering away at my Sikh Wars collection of late so here are a few pictures of the results. All of this group are Old Glory 28mm though I have some Studio Miniatures on the painting table which fit pretty well in terms of size though they are a bit more static in style that OG..

 Indeed the only thing in this clutch of pics that is not Old Glory are the flag  finials on the Sikh battalion and the 31st Foot, which comes from Front Ranks. The paper flags are all hand painted by me - though some are repaints of Napoleonic flags downloaded from Warflag. com  which is a useful site for those who are not keen on paying  anything up to a fiver for a pair of paper flags if there is another choice. 

Sikh regular Dragoons. 'Rajman Khas Daragun' 

31st Foot. This unit still needs its Flank Companies

Sikh battalion of the Fauj-I -Ain. The regular army. I will need several more of these plus a bundle of irregulars.

So both sides continue to grow slowly but they do grow. Next up some Ghurkhas for the Brits some Sikh Irregulars and those missing flank companies. 

Monday, 23 January 2023

Unit Sizes- the 'All armies are the same' problem.

 How do chaps these days build their armies? Has it changed from the 1970s when I started?  What dictates the sizes of units in  given army or for a given period? Historical prototypes? Personal preference? The look of the thing? The chosen rule set or army list? The packaging style of your chosen miniatures range ? All or none of the above?

Speaking for myself I would say historical prototype first every time,  followed by the look of the thing, possibly influenced by chosen rule set and perhaps personal preference.

Aunit of Marlburian Infantry- Irish in French Service at around 1 :20 so 36 figures equates to 720 men. Bases on 15mm frontage for the men 20mm per fig for the command. . These will be used in Grantian style games but in AOR also.

 I like to build an army mostly to a set 'figure to man' ratio.  I accept that these are often somewhat notional and may have little to do with the chosen rules, but then all a ruleset really does is tell you which dice to throw and when, all the rest is often guff and marketing- especially these days.. I am fortunate in that our gaming group does not contain any rules lawyers. 'History Lawyers' 100% but rules lawyers nary a one thankfully. So for example my SYW armies are at a nominal ratio pf 1 figure to 20 men, so a British Cavalry or Dragoon regiment has three squadrons each of 8- 10 models- mostly 8 . Infantry Battalions range around the 20-32 figure mark, based where possible on actual numbers dug out from various sources and always with an eye to 'the look of the thing'. Otherwise why use model soldiers in the first place? My ECW armies are much the same but with a figure to man ratio of 1:10 so a single cavalry troop can be anything from 4-10 figures depending upon time and place. Regiments being various numbers of Troops.. Of course there is a bit of number crunching and fiddling to get a viable unit but  that is part of the price you pay. Infantry units can be large but as in the period they can be split into 2 battalions if the scenario demand it.

Individually based Scots Greys- these will do for Retro style games such as 'Charge!' on indeed any game where the model is paramount rather than its base. 

I also tend to build my armies so that I can use them with more than one set of rules So my Marian Romans can fight using Tactica or WRG or even Tony Bath without harm. My AWI, Black Powder or British Grenadier or Warfare in the Age of Reason. Since I don't do competitions and always do both sides for a period then I don't expect to have arguments about this base being 5mm larger than that base. I base for visual appeal- mostly - rather than rules lawyering.

So rules that force a non- historical  organisation upon the players will usually get very short shrift from me, binwards they will often go. This  is one of the reasons I dislike DBR intensely and find much of Pikeman's Lament risible, to name but two that have aroused my ire. Both of these in their different ways enforce a non- historical organisation on the players  for the simple reason that the rules mechanisms demand such. I've heard the 'Forsyth argument' (Good game good game)  but that does not wash for me as they both  butcher the historical prototype something rotten, again each in their different ways - though to be honest it IS possible to get something out of Pikeman's Lament with a bit of 'reverse butchery' ,if you could be bothered, but there are plenty of alternatives out there so why bother.?

A rather aged ECW unit based for WRG . Would not base them this way today but I'm not about to destroy someone else work for the sake of a few millimetres.  Represents a unit of about 400 men.

I LIKE my armies to have different sized units in them as did the historical prototypes. Look for example at any 'Horse and Musket' period order of battle form anywhere in the world and you will see Battalions and Regiments (units) in the same Brigade or Division(formations)  at differing strengths. For me this gives the units character and dare I say it historical verisimilitude -tenuous thought that last may be. As an aside I might note that such difference have at times played havoc with a players  battle plan if a unit was found to be too big or not strong enough for a give task but that is one of the risks of generalship surely? 

Anyway an army where all the  units were identically sized - slaved to a rule set would be mightily tedious to paint. Endless obedience to some anonymous games designer who possibly knows a lot less about the period than you do (but has some - at least in his view- smart games mechanism that he can force a bit of history into, he may even be right) . Nah just does not fit with me. so I mostly avoid rule sets that dictate the unit sizes- especially where those sizes seem to be dictated not merely by the writer but seemingly by the packaging methods of his favourite companies.

All armies are not the same they do not automatically have the same organisations - look at the history and you will quickly find this to be true. I understand the lure of 'gaming convenience' and am not always immune to this- my 15mm Moderns suffer a little though not enough so that I would use a rule set such as Cold War Commander which again - according to chaps who know more than me, butchers organisations to fit the rules.. My own moderns will fit with Team Yankee or Combined Arms. We tries CWC but hated it tend now to go with a modified version of TW - though a set called Sabre Squadron  needs to be tried. 

I suppose part of my problem is that I am not PRIMARILY  a games player but rather a historian who plays historical wargames- with the emphasis on the historical; so non- historical items in purportedly historical wargames rules are going to at least raise an eyebrow! But after all I'm writing this post to provoke discussion - which I know for some is anathema (I've been accused of being a 'Gate keeper' whatever that piece of silliness may mean- in the past when posting other discussions) but surely out of discussion comes new ideas ..... or does it?