Friday, 27 February 2015

On the Tray

I have cleared the decks and am ready for another busy day doing all sorts of wargaming or war/history related stuff, normally I am in the Post Office on a Friday, but as I served the great British public on both Monday and Tuesday it is my wife's turn, no, don't feel sorry for her, I have to cook dinner.

Having put off my painting for a week or so I have now got my Welsh warband primed, armed and on the tray. Despite the fact I wanted troops just standing around holding their spears I thought they looked a bit wooden on the Gripping Beast website, but my fears were groundless. They are very nice indeed, especially the armoured and command figures, which have a lot of character, they have  managed to give these troops a distinct look to differ them from other dark age soldiers, they also managed this with their Picts. I have another 24 man unit of Saxon Duguth in the wings and will add 24 Milites to the Romano-British, some of which will be salvaged Dux Brit figures which never get used. After that a horde of skirmishers from my plastic kits, slingers and javelinmen. I promised myself to start a Roman army by the summer, but I have all those zombies now. But we will see. Below is a picture of the last unit I painted, the Saxon cavalry, damn, I also have another of those to add.

Why do I bother when I hardly get the chance to fight with these guys, because they are there. The club has taken to Spear & Sword or is it Sword and Spear (the Ant and Dec of wargaming). I got the rules and thought it would be an opportunity to get in on the ground floor so to speak, and have something in common with some of the regulars, sadly they are not for me. Do you remember the days when a new set of rules only turned up every four or five years and hardly ever caused a stir, now we are bombarded almost every few months. I was told the other day by the author of a set that  Osprey are lining his up for 2017, so how many more will we see before then, I also wonder if Osprey, having thrown their gauntlet into the ring will gradually become top dog? You heard it here first!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

"Something wrong with our bloody ships........"

Club night and our Dogger Bank refight had to be reorganised as we ended up with four players instead of two. I adjusted the two battlecruiser squadrons and added two of battleships, so in essence the Germans had achieved parity with the Royal Navy in numbers, and had an opportunity to fight on more or less equal terms. The battlecruiser squadrons immediately started trading long range fire and seemed determined to close the range, the battleships also made towards each other but it would take time before they could open fire. At first the Germans targeted the Queen Mary while the British opened on SMS Seydlitz, knocking out one of her main turrets with their first salvo, despite this setback, the ‘lucky’ Seydlitz was dealing out heavy punishment to Queen Mary. King George V managed to fire on Blucher at extreme range. As the scouting forces closed both sides changed targets frequently, but the Queen Mary was suffering heavily. The battleships now came into optimum range and the British managed to put full broadsides into the Friedrich der Grosse while the German fire had little effect. With things looking good for the Royal Navy and with expectations of crippling the Friedrich der Grosse with following salvoes, disaster struck. A lucky hit from the Blucher penetrated one of Invincible’s turrets and caused a catastrophic explosion which sent her to the bottom, this was followed shortly after by Seydlitz doing the same thing to Queen Mary. This left the Lion to run a gauntlet of fire from the three German battlecruisers while Jellicoe (me) in King George V, with numbers heavily against him, plotted a course for Rosyth. Eerily we lost two of the ships which blew up at Jutland.

The opening moves.

Royal Navy power.

Old and new, outdated Blucher brings up the rear.

The position just before disaster struck.

Top: the Queen Mary explodes, 1,266 men are lost, eighteen survive. Bottom: Invincible blows up, 1,026 men die and only six survive, five were in the control top seen just to the right of the explosion on the tripod mast, one, Gunner Gasson was actually in Q turret when the ship exploded.

I joined the Royal Navy at the tender age of 15 on Tuesday, 8th October, 1968 (D110948Y sir!). Over the next couple of years my two brothers and three neighbours joined, my two brothers-in-law are also ex-Navy. I met most of them at various times from the West Indies to Singapore. One of my brothers was involved in the Cod War with Iceland, where we frustratingly were ordered not to sink the blighters, one of my brothers-in-law was on the Sheffield when she was sunk in the Falklands. I received £6.40 salvage money for rescuing a yacht in the North Sea and spent ten weeks off the coast of Mozambique supposedly blockading supplies getting to Rhodesia, I got a nice tan. I also spent some time looking for gunrunners off Northern Ireland, and Russian listening devices on the Clyde.

HMS Tartar (above) along with HMS Sheraton were my favourite ships, I was on the bridge during this photo shoot. Anyway, enough swinging the lamp, the rules were easy and we will play them again.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Artificial Intelligence

My wife is staying at a cottage in The Lakes for a few days with her friends, due to the miracle of technology however I keep getting hit with emails and pictures of their views, meals and general doings, and one phonecall so far, next time I want her to go further away.

I got a phonecall yesterday at 07:30am, and as the weather outside the house has been bad I thought perhaps it was news from the expedition or possibly the grandchildren had been kidnapped. No fear, my computer had taken upon itself, while switched off mind, to get in touch with someone on the sub-Continent and plead for help as Windows had malfunctioned, and the chap at the other end had immediately dropped everything and called me. Now, depending on what mood I am in I either put the phone down or on occasion have played along and pretended to do everything he tells me. When I eventually tell him that a message has come up saying the fellow on the phone is scamming me, he doesn't miss a beat, and simply informs me that is the virus he is trying to clear!

So, half-past seven in the morning, I was not in the mood to play along and informed the gentleman that I would put the computer somewhere in his anatomy and see if that improved the situation, he suddenly managed to speak excellent english and used a well known phrase to tell me where to go. So much for professionalism.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Not another change!

If you are one of my two regulars, it's a joke, settle down, you will see that I cannot make my mind up about how this blog should look. I am going with this for the time being, I didn't like the black although it seems popular. I am also checking other blogs and trying to pick up some tips etc. to give you the will to come back.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Unforgiven, Dead Man's Hand AAR

I worked up two scenarios for this afternoon based loosely on Clint Eastwood's masterpiece of a western, "Unforgiven". The gist of the story for anyone who has not seen the film is that a number of whores have offered a reward to anyone who will kill two cowboys who assaulted one of their number and cut her with a knife. William Munny, a fearsome killer needs the money, and comes out of what passes for retirement for reformed killers, to do the deed. In the scenario the cowboys are protecting their friends in a local saloon, the Sheriff gathers a small posse knowing there is trouble brewing, there are two groups of assassins moving in from the edges of town. Unfortunately there was only one player for the killers so they worked in tandem rather than against each other.

The cowboys decided to make for the livery stable at the opposite end of town to find horses to make a getaway rather than be caught in the saloon, one of their number climbed on the roof and took potshots at Munny's gang, he was a lousy shot. English Bob took all his men towards Munny at the north end of town, except Pecos Pete who was left in the livery stable. The Law followed them. Perhaps the cowboy rearguard fooled Munny but he and English Bob decided to occupy the Undertakers across from the Lucky Aces rather than follow their targets. Little Bill and his fearless group which included the disturbing, but effective bar owner, Skinny Dubois, threw caution to the wind and closed with the desperado's. Skinny and Little Bill proved deadly shots and the killers fell one by one, although he lost his two deputies Bill sent Munny to his grave with a point blank shot through the undertakers window. While this was going on the Cowboys had arrived at the stable and eventually killed Pete, who could have used his shotgun as a club with more effect than shooting. Sadly for them there were no horses available so they decided to make for the sound of gunfire. The two remaining assassins bailed out and headed for their horses tethered on the edge of town, El Loco, suffering a flesh wound, mounted and made his escape, English Bob managed to get to his horse but went down in a hail of lead. The cowboys killed two, the baddies two and Little Bill and Skinny accounted for four.

I had to quickly come up with the idea that the cowboys could make for the livery stable as I spotted that the cowboy player otherwise would sit in the saloon all game and do nothing. But just for fun we had a die roll once they had cleared the area to see if any horses were actually present, and then another roll would have determined how many, in the event there were none. I have a second scenario for three players which should prove even more interesting. Check the page above.

The Law move up Main Street, the Cowboys sneak around the back alleys and Pete stands guard at the Livery Stable door.

Skinny gives The Schofield Kid both barrels outside the Undertakers, while Little Bill backs him up.

The Cowboys about to rush the Livery Stable.

El Loco, the eventual lone survivor of the Desperado's shoots into the Undertakers yard.

Some of my Black Scorpion figures, these guys have a lot of character and are pure Hollywood.

View from the Window

I thought the above was a neat title for my ramblings on a Sunday morning which I would like to turn into a ..... there it is again, old age, I know the word I want, I can think of alternatives in my head, but the actual word eludes me, excuse me while I concentrate. Regular! A regular spot.

Anyway, it is cold and grey, just like most of the last few Sundays, I can see the first ridge in the distance but not the one with the ugly windmills on it, one of the houses across the road is up for sale, and I can just make out Steve the Policeman's red car which had its front crushed by a passing caravan a few days back.

I got a letter from Her Maj's Revenue & Customs yesterday, warning me to have all my T's crossed and I's dotted as far as my financial matters were concerned, or they would bring down a plague on my house, confiscate everything I owned and throw me on the moors. Which frankly astounds me, as the 'Mafia's Bank', sorry, "World's Bank" HSBC, has been helping rich people dodge tax now for decades and hasn't even had a slap on the wrist so far. And to make me feel even worse there is the case of multi-millionaire Paul Bloomfield who hasn't paid a penny in tax in 24 years! But they send me letters and turn up at my door and demand paperwork going back seven years, and hell mend me if I don't have those receipts.

We were out for dinner at a friends house last night, pleasant company, good food and nice wine. My wife leaves today for a few days in the Lakes and I will be playing Dead Man's Hand this afternoon. As there are three of us the usual way the game plays will not work, so I have come up with a couple of scenarios inspired by the movie "Unforgiven". A full report later tonight I suspect as I am home alone.

Thursday, 19 February 2015


A few posts back I part boasted that I, unlike most wargamers I know, do not have a lead mountain, never have had and probably never will, I do have a rather small box with about 15 unwanted, but just in case, figures. What I do is buy stuff that I need, but do not in the end use, a different thing entirely than buying a pile of metal and putting it aside. It started with Wings of War, a few planes is all anyone needs to play the game, especially someone who had to cajole his paperboys into playing along. No doubt that should have been flagged up as some kind of abuse, however, by the time my WoW phase was over I had some 50+ models; scouts, two-seaters, bombers, ground attack, balloons and a play mat hand crafted for me. Next it was X-Wing, same story, far too many starships, play mat, carrying cases and acrylic tokens, this joined Dead Man's Hand, I could just about make my own Western movie with what I have, you really only require a few buildings but I have the beginnings of a city.

War and Conquest, "Come on Down!" Dux Brit "Step on Up!" and it is not finished yet.

I opened Zombicide yesterday afternoon, I have since bought protective sleeves and made two card boxes. I only just held back from buying extra Zombies (never having even played the game), Army Painter Zombie paint set and cans of Zombie primer, the only thing stopping me was the fact I still have three or four units to add to my other armies. Also my finances are approaching the status of Greece. But the seed has been planted, it lies beside the Roman Army one which lies close to the Muskets and Tomahawks one.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Club Night and other stuff.

Muskets and Tomahawks again at the club last night so I did not take my camera, I should have as it was a rather large game with a fort, and the large number of troops looked very good, this game allows you to get some beautiful miniatures from several different companies.  I have to admit I am tempted to collect this game. We, the French, were defending a fort from a large force of British, I held the left flank, outside the walls, and saw an opportunity to run forward, take the nearby wood and make the British pay in blood, thereby giving them second thoughts about continuing. My Indians did very well, but I had a 'mad' officer in charge of some American regulars for whom I always lost the die roll so that he obeyed my opponent rather than follow my commands. As time dragged on, the scenario was really too big for a club night, I lost more and more men due to my daft idea and they acted merely as a speed bump to the British. But time was our ally and the British did not really push themselves forward, and I can see why, as in open ground troops die very quickly in this game.

We are going to do some WWI naval next week, I have downloaded "Victory at Sea: The Age of Dreadnoughts" from Wargame Vault so will have to find time to print and read them. I have almost every ship which fought at Jutland in 1/2400 and have done for years, so it will be good to use them again. I originally used a set of rules from a Naval Wargames book, they worked fine but I felt something more modern was required and as VaS has a WWII set coming out this year, this will give me a taste of the rules. If they work then I could maybe turn to the Pacific War.

On matters Naval, if you get a chance to catch a Korean movie called 'Raging Currents' or 'The Admiral' then do not miss it. The action centres around Admiral Yi, a Korean hero, who, at this particular battle defeats 330 Japanese ships with only 12 of his own. I know, I actually checked up on this story and it seems about half of those Japanese ships were actually transports, I know, gilding the lily. The action scenes are some of the most exciting and spectacular I have seen. I have to admit I have not watched an English version yet so am unsure of the screenplay, but who needs it when half the movie is the sea battle.

A life size replica of a 'Turtle' ship in Seoul Military Museum
I had a very slow time with the maps today, I only completed two due to complications and was beginning to get a headache, however the courier brought me a case of wine (free with my Spectator subscription) and the Zombies also arrived to brighten my day, I was soon singing away to myself, which is definitely the best way for me to sing.

I was very impressed with the production value of the Zombicide game, although I said I would not, I will definitely paint the figures at some point, albeit I am a little unsure as the plastic seems soft, but I have seen a lot of really good painted figures online so they must be OK?

In between all the other stuff I have to do in the next few days, did I mention it's the wife's birthday as well, I also have to organise a multiplayer Dead Man's Hand on Sunday. But for now let's taste some of that wine.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Sunday Again

It is pretty frightening how the weeks pass when you get past a certain age, tempus fugit like hell as the Romans might say. At least this morning as I look out the weather is dryish and the sunlight is blinding me, there is fog in the distance but I am sure that will burn off. I finished my Saxon cavalry last night and the Saxon Eight were added to the Geoguth warband, the paints have been put away as we are looking after my granddaughter for a few days, so the Welsh won't be on the tray until the end of the week.

I have reached the stage with my main project where I am adding the military information to the maps, I still have about a dozen to draw but as these are complex I have put them to the end of the queue. It is interesting to find that these Germans maps keep moving Russian divisions around the front as they are obviously never quite sure who is in front of them.

I took delivery of some new tokens this week, I ordered up some acrylic ones from Poland and tracked them all the way through Europe until they got to the White Cliffs of Dover when they promptly fell off the radar, good old Royal Mail. Even so I received them within a week of ordering, which I thought was pretty good. They are not the best quality but I did not have to paint them as you have to do with some, so all in all I was pleased. I am gathering quite a few tokens for my games now, the painted card tokens in the picture I got made especially for me to use with Dead Mans Hand as they are aesthetically more pleasing than having a pile of cards on the table.

I have just ordered up a new boardgame, my first in decades, I nearly fell over at the price, however it does look very nice and you get a lot of bang for your buck, it can be played solo or with others, so it should be perfect to while away the lingering winter evenings in between drawing, painting, writing etc.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Books and a Film

I am not supposed to be buying any more books, I am running out of room and when a new one turns up another has to go, I also want to support my local Library van, they have sold off the land the original Library stood on and have cut the mobile unit down to one hour every fortnight. This too will disappear if no one uses it, but then who will use it between 1045 and 1145 every second Monday, not including holidays when it doesn’t arrive at all. Despite these good intentions I have bought several new books over the past couple of weeks. First up the one I am reading now; Snow and Steel.
This is a strange military history, the battle does not begin until at least halfway through the book and it seemed a bit disjointed to me, I did not get that sense of ‘shock and awe’ when the Germans did attack. And although there are maps, like many of the troops, I felt lost trying to work out where people were. Having said that, the analysis of why the Germans attacked at the end of 1944 and the state of their forces, along with the potted biographies of the commanders and main personalities, is superb. The author is a battlefield guide, and this comes through in the book as he goes off at a tangent and describes a helmet or bullet clip found on the battlefield, or gives you a potted history of an area. It is an interesting book and an easy read.

In the book locker is “Operation Sealion” a new interpretation of the possible invasion of Britain and what it meant for both us and the Germans.

Then another delve into the Dark Ages with “Ceawlin: The man who created England”, personally even with what little I know, I think this is pushing it a bit far, but I shall approach it with an open mind. So far my reading of the Dark Ages has left me, well, in the Dark.

 Up until several years ago I was an avid reader of the Sunday Times, the best part of which was the book reviews in ‘The Culture’, these inspired me to read a broad range of books but when they got Nancy Del Olio to write a column I thought this was a dumbing down too far for me. I have now taken out a subscription to ‘The Spectator’ and it has some very interesting book reviews, a small list of which I am gathering even as I type. The first try out is “Went the Day Well” about Waterloo, if this is a success I may have to find more room and more money.

Last is a recipe book, I do not watch much on television these days, but now and again to pass some time I find myself looking at “Diners, Drive In’s and Dives”, it is hosted by an over the top ‘celebrity’ chef. If you get past the ridiculous white hair and annoying patter, the food served in these American restaurants makes me want to catch the next flight out, something I might do next year if any of them are close to a Civil War battlefield.

Now for a movie, if you get a chance to watch Nightcrawler then put your prejudices aside and let it grow on you. Within the first ten minutes I was ready to switch off as I could not empathise with the main character and found him disturbing at best, certainly unlikeable. He doesn’t get any better but the movie is superb. Jake Gyllenhaal playes the odious Lou Bloom, a modern product who wants to become a successful video news person(?), someone who films accidents etc. on the streets at night and sells the end result to TV news stations. The story is such that I cannot say much about it without ruining your enjoyment, but I will say, do not miss this.