Sunday 26 December 2021

A Period of Restraint

In the midst of what is sometimes a period of excess, it was interesting for me to reflect on how little money I have been spending on our hobby recently. For example, my Christmas wargaming binge-out consisted of that which you see below.

Yes, 8 prone BAR gunners. I needed some BAR gunners to reinforce my Polish 1939 infantry, but the availability of 15mm figures for this period is now very restricted. True North Miniatures seem to have disappeared, and Flames of War also seem to have discontinued their Polish stuff - so much for big manufacturers supporting the hobby. But at 15mm size an American BAR gunner will do fine - the helmets in particular are almost identical. The lovely people at Peter Pig do a bag of 8 BAR gunners, and they agreed to make up a special pack of 8 in the prone position at a small extra charge. Just over £8 including postage and they were with me in 48 hours. Now there's a company supporting the hobby - and they've been doing it for decades.

Not buying much has been a trend for me since I started work on Shadow of the Eagles. I thought maybe when the money from sales came in I would think about putting together a couple of Napoleonic armies, but the enthusiasm doesn't seem to be there. I did end up ordering a 'brigade box' of the new Warlord Games 'Epic' figures, just to see what all the fuss was about, but then cancelled the order the next day. (I got an immediate refund at around 8 o'clock at night, another bit of good service from a wargames seller). I really couldn't see myself painting 80 figure units. Or even halving the units and painting 40 figures at a time.

Broadly speaking, it would seem 3 collections is the most I can cope with. I haven't touched my ancients in months, for example, and I would like to get some games in with them in the New Year. Starting a new collection would just be a distraction from enjoying what I already have.

So at Partizan in October, when I did the Shadow of the Eagles demo, I came away with  single Osprey book (on War Elephants). And that was it. I've spent out on a couple of military history books since then, but no specific wargaming stuff. Until my monster purchase with Peter Pig!

This I find very satisfying. Coming back to my existing periods after a deep dive into Napoleonics has been a great pleasure, an example being the large Battle of Chotusitz game I played with some old friends back in November. You can find an excellent report on that game on the Wargaming Addict blog. The photo below shows the game in progress, using a 10' x 6' table and a rented room at my local community centre.

Steve and Paul played the Austrians. They pulled off a famous victory
when Frederick arrived too late to save his advanced guard and cavalry. 

So my New Year starts not with plans for adventurous new projects, but a hope that Omicron will allow me to get back into the swing of playing my SYW, Ancients and WW2 Poland games with friends, just as in the past. Well, there is the matter of continuing to develop my revised edition of the WRG 1973 WW2 rules. There will be more of this in another post.

Happy New Year everyone. See you in 2022!

Saturday 23 October 2021

'Miniature Wargaming The Movie' - Whatever Happened?

One or two of you may remember a post from February this year which I called 'Why We Wargame'. The post had some interesting responses, but its inspiration was a documentary film called Miniature Wargaming - The Movie'.

I was fascinated by the concept of the film as soon as I learnt about it. Like many wargamers, my first reaction was - you must be joking. Closely followed by - I bet that will be a heap of crap. But I have learnt during this year that what resulted looks like a thoroughly professional, eye-catching film that really sets out to say something about the hobby. 

Fortunately, it wasn't the film a lot of gamers seemed to want - a history of the hobby along with details of how miniature wargames are played, a film that would have been of interest mostly to people who are already wargamers. Instead it seemed to focus on what the hobby (and by extension all hobbies) meant to people and how it affected their lives. We all spend a fair amount of time thinking about and participating in our hobby, so why not take a bit of time to think through why we do it?

The film clearly concentrated on British gamers and the British hobby. The main problem is, the film was released in 2019, won some awards, was released to the public in the U.S, but remains unreleased in this country. As far as I'm aware, the only Brits who have seen it are those who participated in the crowd-funding which got the film made.

From what I hear and have found online, the other surprising thing about the movie is how little real interest it seemed to generate amongst UK wargamers. Here was a professional movie that was worth watching, made about our hobby, and no one seemed to care much.

So I very much hope it will be released soon in this country. In fact, I emailed director Joe Piddington via the film's website to ask what was going on. He was kind enough to send a pretty full reply, and in short he is waiting on the film's distributor's in the UK to complete negotiations with people like Sky and Amazon - a process that is entirely beyond his control. Lockdown was apparently part of the problem, and reading between the lines I could sense Joe's frustration at the film remaining unavailable in the country of its birth. This exchange was in August, and Joe mentioned that the intention was to get the film out this year. Well, nothing yet. I can only say that as an ordinary punter it all feels a bit weird.

Anyway, my fingers remain crossed. It is sad that this film seems to have been forgotten in the UK before it even became available to watch. I hope the situation may be resolved soon, and I wish Joe all the luck in the world. Meanwhile, see this review on Little Wars TV for a bit more info and an interview with Joe.

'Til next time!

Monday 11 October 2021

Shadow of the Eagles - On The Road At Partizan 2021

Thanks to Dave Ryan at Caliver Books/Partizan Press, I had the opportunity to put on a demo game of Shadow of the Eagles at the re-scheduled Partizan Show on Sunday 10th October.

Well, I and the four other gamers involved had a great day, the Caliver Books stand was busy all day, and the show itself was very well attended and had a large number of fantastic games to enjoy and inspire. I decided to put the main report on the 'Shadow' blog, which seemed the right thing to do, so follow the link to see that. Just a couple of photos below to whet your appetite.

For those interested in the wider show and the fabulous games being demonstrated, as well as a fine report on our own game, I can do no better than direct you to Steve's Wargaming Addict blog. Well done as usual Steve in creating an informative and nicely photographed record of the day.

"I heartily endorse this product".
The man himself, Dave Ryan.

Steve and Jon contemplate the task ahead
for their Russian forces.

So head over to the Shadow of the Eagles blog for my take on the day. Thanks to Steve, Jon, Paul and Roland for making the day so enjoyable and the game so easy to run. 

Might be time for a brief rest from Napoleonics, so look forward to posts coming up on SYW battles and maybe some WW2 or even ancients. Could take a while though!

Go well 'til next time.

Tuesday 5 October 2021

Cotswold Wargaming Day - Full Story and Pictures

So the day finally came, two years after the last event. 

Thanks to the very co-operative caretaker of the hall, I had been able to get all the tables set up the evening before, and so arriving at the hall around 08.15 to make the finishing touches was much less stressful. By about 10.30 we had 29 people in the hall, and there were two or three visitors who popped in later, so overall numbers were the same as in 2019. 

There were 8 games, 6 in the main hall and 2 in the side room. It was interesting to have 4 big games present, all using 12 foot long tables. There was still room for a couple of extra games of average size, so there is room to expand the event in 2022. Unfortunately, three games were cancelled before the event (all for very good reasons), so we could have had an even busier day this year. However, I also concluded that expansion beyond about 10 games and maybe 40 people would make things too crowded and intense.

Overall, the day couldn't have gone any better. Everyone seemed to be relaxed and enjoying their gaming, and everyone found time to chat to old friends and new acquaintances. It was a lovely atmosphere and I thank all the participants for coming, especially during a fuel shortage! 

The Scene
Evidently I was getting a bit over-excited, as my photos weren't really up to scratch. Particular apologies for the photos of prize winners which look like they were taken on a 1970s Instamatic (if you remember those). We can start with a basic trip around the hall.

Tim Cull and members of the Farnborough Wargames Club presented The Battle of Sentium (295 BCE). 12' x 6' table with 6 well-briefed players.

At the other end of the scale was Steve Johnson's Napoleonic battle,
using a scenario from Grant and Asquith's Scenarios For All Ages. 3' x 2' table.

Stuart C and the Cirencester Wargames Club brought a Renaissance game,
with Poles against an Ottoman army. 12' x 4' table

This is JP's great-looking Napoleonic game, The Battle of Dollitz, using General d'Armee.
Another biggie on a 12' x 6' table.

Equally lovely was this ACW game led by Keith McWilliam.
Another 12' x 4' game. 

Couldn't miss out the train. Nice!

My old buddy Paul put together a Cold War Commander game
featuring a battle from the 1967 'Six Day War'. 

No wargames show would be complete without someone using a plastic beaten zone.

In the side room Dave Kenyon and friends had set up a 6' x 4' table
with a Sharp Practice game set in the French-Indian War.

Game 8 was Jon Billington's WW2 game using the old
Battlegroup Panzergrenadier rules from 2002.

The Winners
I think everyone was a winner on the day, but I like to have a light-hearted prize giving to say thanks to those who take so much trouble to put on games. I have kept in touch with Stuart Asquith's son Tom, and was delighted when he agreed to come along and present the prizes, as his father had done 2 years ago. Tom also judged the prizes in conjunction with myself and Jon Billington. Thank you so much Tom.

Best Game and the Stuart Asquith Trophy went to Tim Cull. An impressive game,
with a lot of effort put into historical background and player briefing.
Plus some very high quality figures.

Best Figures - Steve Johnson. Tom was very taken by the 10mm MDF figures
Steve was using, and felt Stuart would have loved them.

Best terrain went to JP. A really attractive game which drew you in with its visual appeal.

Honourable mentions to the other 5 gamers who braved the fuel shortage
to put on games we could all enjoy. Thank you gentlemen.

Eye Candy
Pictures of rather better quality are available at a couple of other blogs, Wargaming Addict and Battlefields and Warriors. Below are a few close ups of some of the action, and pictures of gamers enjoying themselves. Which is always good.

Cavalry clash at the Battle of Dollwitz.

Crazy-good figures and models.

Dollwitz again. A fine spectacle.

The ACW game gets going.

Steve's now-famous MDF figures are from Commision Figurines.

More terrific figures in Dave's FIW game.

Gamers having fun. 

The Arab-Israeli game from the Israeli side.

More gamers having fun.

Did I mention the terrific figures?

'Best Game'. 

Oh, for goodness sake stop enjoying yourselves.

Jon's game used the 'Pont de la Croix' scenario from
Gavin Lyall's 1976 classic, Operation Warboard. Very high nostalgia value.

A man and his game. Dave Kenyon with his FIW skirmish set up.

The day flew by, and I loved every minute. So many people came up to me to say thanks and what a great day it had been that it started to get embarrassing. I think this is something clubs and groups of gamers all over the country should consider - hire a hall and invite local gamers to showcase what they're doing. It makes a great halfway house between everyday gaming and the big shows. 

Partizan on Sunday. Phew! Hope to see you there!

Saturday 2 October 2021

Dice Tray

Little things please little minds, they say. Well, one finds that hobbyists are often highly pleased with small things that they convince themselves will enhance their hobby. Hence my recent hankering to try out a dice tray.

Rolling my dice on the table has been good enough for me for nearly 50 years. I think the catalyst for a dice tray adventure was seeing dice trays in use during recent viewings of Little Wars TV. And then there was that advert for a dice tower that came up during a recent punt around the internet. However, I rejected a dice tower as just too intrusive. And a bit silly.

A rapid search on Google turned up a number of options, but in the end I decided to go cheap and cheerful, so not too much money would be wasted if the idea turned out to be another pointless purchase. To my shame Amazon got my business in the end - I guess Mr. Bezos needs to buy more rocket fuel at some stage. Just £5.99 for this cute little made-in-China item. It came next day and I am really quite pleased with it.

A smooth baize-like material on the inside, in a suitable shade of green.

Button up the poppers and there's your tray

The underside is a slightly shiny faux black leather.

Size is about 6" x 8", which is just about right for me. Plenty of room for dice rolling without taking up too much room. It's obviously designed to be something you can carry around flat, for convenience, but I wouldn't want to keep using the poppers too much - they don't feel that solid. I'll keep it done up and ready to use. Otherwise, quality is actually pretty good for the price, with no flaws or manufacturing faults. And it works really nicely, cushioning the dice as they fall with a satisfyingly soft thud. Oh dear, I think I'm getting a little light-headed.

So, from now on, no searching for dice that have rolled onto the floor, no dice hiding under trees, and the dice you are actually rolling won't get mixed up with others that just happen to be lying around on the table. I'll be ordering a second one in time for my demo game at Partizan on 7th October.

Exciting Times Ahead
On the subject of Partizan, I have two big weekends coming up - the Cotswold Wargaming Day on the 3rd October, then Partizan the following Sunday to do a Shadow of the Eagles demonstration game. So look out for reports on both of those in the not too distant future.

'Til then, go well, and good gaming.

Sunday 15 August 2021

Cotswold Wargaming Day - Update

SUNDAY 3rd OCTOBER 08.30 - 17.00
Westwoods Community Centre
Bassett Road
Northleach GL54 3QJ

The good news is that this event is going ahead as planned. The restriction in numbers has been lifted, and the only covid issues will be a requirement to sign-in and use hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the venue. Masks are not required.

An email has gone out to all on my mailing list. At the moment, 9 games have been offered, but not all are confirmed yet. We will have the use of a decent-sized side room this year which will give a bit more space, but I think I'll set a limit of 10 games to avoid overcrowding. If anyone not on the mailing list or who hasn't received an email wants to get in touch and/or swap contact details, I think the best plan is to send me a private message via the Honours of War website. If you have any problems let me know by leaving a comment here.

It's looking like it could be a great day. Not much to add to the post I put out on 12th April. If you've attended before, it will be the same format but with a smaller second room in use. If you're a new attendee, I suggest you bring some food (although the town is 2 minutes drive away and has a cafe, wine bar and pub if you prefer), and bring any stuff you want to sell or give away. And bring some cash to buy other people's stuff to replace the stuff you've just got rid of.

Ooh, I think I'm getting a bit excited!

See you there!

Friday 13 August 2021

The Clash At Kutzdorf

I decided it was time for a SYW bash. My Post of Honour rules have been languishing for some time, what with getting Shadow of the Eagles ready and dabbling with a new set of WW2 rules, so I decided to dust them off and see how well they worked, playing solo to give me time to fiddle with the rules as I went along.

I also dusted off the 'Clash at Kutzdorf' scenario from Honours of War, which gave me a battle of just the right size for my needs, and I was able to use my new Geek Villain terrain mat for the first time. Happy days.

The Prussians would be attacking, and I tweaked the Prussian forces to add an extra unit of light infantry to their left wing. Having had a few years to reflect on the balance of this scenario, I have found that the attackers tend to need a little bit of a helping hand if they are to have a roughly equal chance of success. Otherwise, all was as in the rulebook.

The Game In Pictures
The first picture shows the set-up. The Prussian light infantry at bottom left consisted of Freikorps, 2 units deployed as light infantry backed up by a formed unit, and all inferior. The Prussian cavalry were regular class dragoons, and one of their infantry units was of grenadiers, the rest being regular.

The 6 Austrian line infantry units were all regular. Their 2 batteries of artillery were rated superior for firing but otherwise regular, and their cavalry was 2 regiments of cuirassiers, the leading unit being superior but the other rated regular.

I thought the new battle mat looked very smart!

The Prussian cavalry decided to stay west of Kutzdorf as they advanced, leaving their flank exposed.
The Austrian infantry started to move off the ridge to form a south-facing line.

The Prussian grenadiers decided to risk a lone charge at the nearest Austrian unit, and the gamble paid off. The supporting Austrian artillery scored no hits, but the Prussian dice rolling was decisive. 7 hits equals Austrian unit routed!

The 2 sides were soon facing off in a solid linear fashion.
Apart from those Austrian cuirassiers dodging round to the east of Kutzdorf. 

Meanwhile the Prussian grenadiers continued into another Austrian battalion
who were also bundled off the table.

At this stage the Prussians were in high spirits. Having wrecked the Austrian right,
 the grenadiers were joined by the Freikorps in an attempt to exploit their advantage. 

But trouble was brewing on the Prussian right as the cuirassiers emerged from behind Kutzdorf. Not to mention the Austrian battery causing mayhem with high dice rolls combined with an opportunity for grazing fire - note the orange dice, meaning weakened units. 

The Freikorps skirmishers were re-based Stuart Asquith figures.

And here we go - the Austrian cavalry co-ordinate their charge
 and the Prussian dragoons are in trouble.

Oops. The right hand Prussian dragoons rout, and they carry away
the other regiment and the nearest artillery battery.

Suddenly things are swinging the Austrians way. The cuirassiers reform, then overrun another
Prussian battery before crashing into the right wing of the Prussian infantry.
At top left, the Prussian grenadiers continue their successful day and another
 Austrian infantry battalion is caught in flank, charged and routed.

The end. After 8 moves, the Prussians have lost 7 units and they have broken.
The Austrians have lost 4 units, damaged but triumphant.

For a solo game, this was a lot of fun and some unexpected things happened. I think the lesson for both sides was watch your flanks! It was good to see the rules producing moments of drama. Post of Honour has the same core rules as Shadow of the Eagles, and players seem to have found Shadow also capable of creating some nice turns of fortune. This is good.

'Til next time!

Sunday 8 August 2021

Geek Villain Gaming Mat

I can't remember how long I've had my old 6' x 4' Games Workshop mat. Fifteen or twenty years maybe. Digging it out recently for a WW2 game I realised how tired it was looking - not to mention that its plain green colour was looking a little boring alongside the funky mats you can get these days.

The power of the internet soon led me to Geek Villain, who had plenty of good reviews online, were a UK-based family-run business, and had an excellent and established range. Their website works well and it's easy to choose the mat you want.

A slight downside is that the choice between their cloth and fleece mats is already made for customers - the cloth mats are currently unavailable! I understand they are a bit cheaper (£45 against £60), but I wanted the fleece mats anyway so this wasn't a problem. For the record, Mack at Geek Villain summed up the difference in an email:

"Fleece is more textured and drapes over an object a lot easier to create undulated terrain. Fleece does not crease as much as cloth.


Cloth mats are lighter and more flat, they will crease a lot easier than fleece. 


Both are washable and both can be ironed."

Anyway, the £60 includes postage, and the mat arrived in 4-5 days (I wasn't counting). I chose the 'Autumn' finish - there's plenty of choice, and I was personally tempted by three or four different finishes before settling on this one:

One excellent feature is that the mats come 2"-3" oversize in both length and width.
Neatly hemmed, with a small and discrete logo (bottom left).

Close up.

The mat in use for a 28mm SYW game.
You can see how well the mats fit over hill shapes laid underneath.

Looking just as good with 15mm WW2 figures and models.

Just to clarify a few features - the 'fleece' is a smooth material with no flock or pile of any kind. The pattern is photographically printed. The mat is neatly hemmed all round and feels like a quality product that will last a long time - probably a very long time! It can be washed and ironed. There were a few packing creases, but the photos you see were taken using the mat just as it came out of the packet.

The reverse side is a pure white colour - which I reckon will do nicely for the occasional 'snow terrain' game with the addition of a little green and brown flock scattered around.

Plastic and MDF bases slide along nicely, cardboard ones are a bit more 'sticky'. Using 20mm high hill shapes underneath the mat worked a treat - I couldn't have been more pleased. 

Perhaps the only slight issue is that 6' x 4' is the only size available - gamers only needing a smaller size can't save money by buying a smaller mat; and if you have a big table you'll have to put up with a join between two mats. But frankly I'm struggling to find any downsides in this excellent product range. Customer service was friendly and efficient.

Highly recommended. Standby for a report on the SYW game shown above.

'Til next time.