Thursday, February 28, 2013

Winding up the break

We're in the final week of our stay in England. It has been like a roller coaster sometimes, and not entirely the stress-reliever I hoped it would be after the troubles of last year. Still, there is a glimmer of hope on the employment front. I'll say no more for now, through fear of scaring it off or jinxing it! 

Wargames-wise, I've managed to visit my old club at New Buckenham these last few months. The latest occasion was an all-day game last Saturday which saw a re-fight of the AWI/ Revolutionary War Battle of Guilford Courthouse. It was a good turn out of players. I took one of the British commands, my wife one of the Patriots (being American, she could do no less!). We fought on through the day and achieved a victory for Britain at less cost to British and American forces than our historical counterparts. Pictures to follow when I've downloaded them. 

The previous week we fought out a test ACW action to try the Rally Round the Flag adaptations one of our number worked up. Here's a picture of some of his superbly-painted and based 28mm Union troops advancing through the trees to contact. 
Of course, now we're heading back, we need to figure out what to pack. I have an unearthly amount of wargaming stuff I'd like to transfer to the States, but a finite amount of baggage space to use. The airlines have made it more prohibitive to take even a moderate amount of extra luggage these days, and it can be quite expensive too.

Prime candidates are my Darkest Africa collection, including a platoon of Belgian Force Publique, three waifs and strays belonging to the Barsetshire Regt., along with civilians and natives. Other items will have to be fitted in where possible, or even mailed, with all the risk that entails. Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sci-Fi Find

Not a lot to report this week. I hoped my cold would amount to no more than a sniffle, but it turned vicious for a couple days, with full-on streaming eyes and bursting sinuses. Thankfully I feel better now, but I'm still under the weather. 

In between times I found more of my SF collection, including some terrain pieces. The figures are Ground Zero Games 25mm "Kra'Vak," with a Predator from another maker (the name of which escapes me at the moment). My take on this larger figure is it's a Kra'Vak which was fed an equivalent of royal jelly to make it bigger and meaner than the average grunt. 

The Sub-Leader points the way to his patrol in their search for nice, crunchy humans. 
An Over-Warrior brings up the rear to maintain march discipline. 

The blue conical terrain pieces were made by filling a cake-piping syringe with a gloopy mix of spackle and PVA, squeezing it out into a kind of "Walnut Whip" shape. With a coat or two of paint and ink for shading, they become strange rock formations, or alien growths, or weird mud vents from a volcanic fault line.

These figures will go toward my Keynes County game world, which I've slowly developed over the years. I have a set of home-grown rules for SF gaming in this scale, which work well enough. Exposure to the Too Fat Lardies way of doing things has made me rethink them, though. The card activation system used in Sharp Practice appeals to me, as it's useful for solo gaming. When I get time to think things through, I'll post some ideas here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

An Undergraduate's Survey

I once was a student, and have stepdaughters in university, so I'm fully aware of the vital importance research plays in completing a degree. This is why I'm posting a survey here, via Rich Clarke on the Too Fat Lardies' list:

I met up with a very pleasant young chap the other day from the War Studies Department at KCL who interviewed me as part of his thesis (presumably entitled "What do fat old blokes know about studying war?"). Anyway, he has sent me a questionnaire which he would like as wide a sample of wargamers as possible to answer. So, in the interest of helping a pleasant young fellow I thought I'd invite the boys and girls here to have their say. So here it is:

I invite readers of this blog to take part. The whole process is painless and takes about 10-20 minutes. 
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My eldest stepdaughter caught a cold during the past week, came home and "shared the wealth," so I'm a bit off-colour at the moment. Since I'm excused social calls and so on, and my eyes aren't streaming (Thankfully! They usually do, when I catch a cold) I'm taking the opportunity to paint more figures. Currently on the block are Darkest Africa civilians, animals, and a small test batch of 15mm 12th century figures. Progress is being made.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Anarchy - Castles Tour '13

No, it's not a reference to a punk group on tour. My wife and I are doing the tourist thing. We visited three of the medieval castles here in Norfolk and Suffolk - Orford, Castle Acre and Castle Rising.

All three were built during or just before the civil war (rather erroneously known as The Anarchy) which followed the death by shipwreck of Prince William, son of Henry I and heir to the English throne. The war lasted the eighteen years from 1135-1153, and involved English, Scottish, Welsh and French armies, as well as Flemish settlers and powerful knights and barons. 

Some of the latter two turned marauder, bringing terror to the surrounding countryside, especially the area bordering the Fen country of East Anglia. Peasant, lord and Church were not spared from looting and burning. The war ended with a compromise that saw Henry II become king - the first of the Plantagenet line that ended with Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485. Many aspects of the war remind me of the Very British Civil War - although the VBCW is far more civilized in comparison! 

Orford Castle on the Suffolk coast is perhaps the best preserved of the three we visited. Built in the 1170's by King Henry II, it was designed to guard the developing port of Orford, and to keep a watchful eye on Hugh Bigod, the powerful Earl of Norfolk. The Earl owned extensive holdings nearby in the shape of four castles, and he had already caused problems for Henry. He once said to the Earl of Norfolk "By God, Bigod - If I had two men like you in my Kingdom, I'd hang one as a warning to the other!"  

The designer of Orford is unknown, but he seems to have been a very astute chap who put a lot of forethought into his plans. It's adequately provided with fresh water supplies, kitchens, living accommodation, chapel - and garderobes! The castle is unique in the shape of the keep, which is cylindrical, within a polygonal outer shell, and has three turrets. 

The castle was owned by the Crown for two hundred years before passing into private hands. It had a circuit wall, which, like many a castle across the country, once it fell out of use became a source of ready-cut stone and other building material. The last remaining part of the wall collapsed on 4th July, 1841 with a crash that woke the entire village. Extensive earthworks remain, and a program of archaeology is gradually piecing together the shape of the defenses. In World War Two, the tower keep served as the platform for a radar mast, and a concrete roof was built to support this. I don't think many other 900 year old structures have served their country for so long or so well.

Castle Acre in the north-west of Norfolk was built by William de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey, to guard his own interests in the area. It has a well-preserved motte and outer earthworks, and fairly substantial keep walls. The defensive position is a good one, with excellent views all round. During The Anarchy the defenses were enhanced, but as far as I know it wasn't seriously threatened.  

Castle Rising isn't really a castle at all, more of a fortified and highly decorated hunting lodge. When we arrived I looked at the surrounding terrain and thought "This isn't the right location for a castle." The motte is high and steep, and commands excellent views of the approaches to the north and east. South and west, it's dominated by higher ground. A besieging force would've been able to set up their artillery there and drop whatever they liked into bailey and keep, without the defenders being able to do much about it.

As it happens, the castle never had to suffer a siege. It was built by William d'Albini as a country house from the first, and it later became the dowager house for the mother of Edward III following the assassination of Edward II. His eldest son, the Black Prince, used it as a hunting lodge. It passed to the Duke of Norfolk, and a branch of the family owns it today. 
* * *

So, all this exposure to the era of The Anarchy has had a result - I'm now tempted to develop a wargames army of the period. Luckily my recent trawling through my lead pile turned up a batch of 15mm figures ideal for the period! Using the basing system in Impetus rules, I think I have enough for a moderate-size army, or perhaps two.

These are Minifigs, acquired second-hand for free in the late 80's and left untouched since. A bunch of them were already painted in what appears to be enamel. Some I think I can live with - after giving them a touch-up. Others, like the mounted knight on the right, should really be stripped and repainted. If anyone can suggest a method of doing so, it'll be appreciated.  

Minfigs are something of an acquired taste due to the lack of animation in the figures - although I'm not refusing a freebie here. My first metal wargames figures came from the company back in 1978, so I have a touch of nostalgia for them too. The poses in this collection are what you see in the photos. I have three knights on foot, two types mounted, two kinds of archer, a crossbowman, and sergeants on foot with spear and falchion. In the fullness of time I'll add command elements and perhaps a few more poses to give units a more irregular appearance.

I've not forgotten the Colonial era, but I'm likely to be busy for the next few weeks before we head back to America. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Friday club night.

My family and I went to our club for the regular Friday night gaming. This particular evening was spent getting to grips with the ACW Rally Round the Flag rules. I last played these four years ago, but never had a chance to actually run them as umpire. We did get some nice photos, including this one of the 2nd South Carolina wading through a wheat field. 
Over on the other table a WW2 North African encounter was fought between a mixed German-Italian force vs. British, using some superb desert terrain.
The British deploy. In the distance, Valentine tanks move out against Italian M13 and Semovente SPGs.
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I plan to put my 1st edition copy of The Seleucid Army 168-145BC Vol. 1 up for sale soon. This is an excellent reference work, full of history, clear organization charts and the late Angus McBride's superb illustrations throughout. If anyone would like to buy this from me directly, please drop me a line.
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Thanks to Jeff, I have an idea how to paint the early ACW figures I unearthed a few days ago. His suggestion of German colonial/WW1 era colours is a good one. I've decided on a name for them - The Ukraziland Provisional Volunteer Constabulary (UPVC). A lot of gamers in the UK will be familiar with the term "Plastic Plods..." These could be their ancestors.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Possible recruits to Daftest Africa

We're off to the club tonight. My ACW brigades will get an airing after languishing for almost four years. We're planning to fight the action to Rally Round the Flag rules, a club favourite. 

Among the figures uncovered in my perpetual hunt through my work shed were these Dixon Miniatures early ACW-period figures in Havelock caps, armed with percussion cap rifles.

The Havelock always puts me in mind of Africa, what with its associations with the French Foreign Legion and various explorer types. These chaps are really surplus to requirements as far as my  ACW collection goes. I've a mind to re-purpose them as a kind of constabulary or foot yeomanry along the lines of the Cape forces that served in the Zulu War. Thoughts and comments about what kind of uniform colours they should have are welcome...

...but spammers, don't waste your time. This blog is moderated. The twelve (count 'em) messages left yesterday were deleted unread.


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