Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Marked for Death".. a review...

A log time ago (in a galaxy far away...  errr.. no wrong post ) Steve the Wargamer was sat in his bedroom having finished reading Don Featherstone's "Air Wargames" for perhaps the fifth time, and wondering how he could save up enough pocket money for the bamboo's and dowels required to play the WWI rules described in the book... setting that issue aside, like all good wargamers he spent what little he had on a Revell Fokker DVII kit, and an Airfix Sopwith Camel, and then proceeded to commit
paint butchery on both, with the intent of "worrying about how to play the game later" (plus ca change..)

As it happens the only thing that came out of this episode (apart from the paint butchered models which hung on bits of cotton thread from the lamp shade for a while) was a long and abiding interest in the air war during WWI, so when I saw this book in Waterstone's (a UK national book seller) in Bath just before Christmas, I was already pre-disposed to pick it up and I have to say I was gripped immediately...the Christmas Amazon vouchers were soon spent on a copy!

So is the book worth while for the average wargamer interested in WWI air wargaming? I thought "absolutely", but it's not a cheerful read...  what you get is the pilot experience from the perspective of all the major players, but primarily the British...

An experience that in most cases started with less than 20 hours flying experience (he mentions in some cases as little as 7 hours) before the trainee pilot was shoved towards a plane and told to fly it round the aerodrome and then sent to a front line squadron where there life expectancy even in 1918 was three weeks...

At the start of the war the aeroplane had only been in existence for 10 years, by the end of it, both sides were turning out aeroplanes of staggeringly different speed and capability - the war more than anything cemented the need for command of the air, bit for reconnaissance purposes, and support of ground operations - not for anything did the RFC transform into the RAF before the end of the war,  yet for all the development and advance over 50,000 airmen died int he First World War on all sides, and often horribly..  casualty rates were on a par with the infantry.

He goes into the parachute "discussion" and why in his view British airmen didn't have them (the Germans did towards the end of the war) but for the British high command it simply wasn't high on their list of priorities (and compare 50,000 deaths for the entire war, with the casualty count for just one day of the Somme to show why that might have been), but not only that there was also a view among the pilots that they might lose the all important "edge" if they had the additional weight of the parachute to carry (and in the early days a plane might not have even been able to take off because of the extra load!) ...

Fascinating snippets - one of the dangers of flying was diarrhoea, not because of what you think, but because the aero engines of the time used castor oil as a lubricant, which was sprayed as fine mist all over the pilot whenever the engine was running....  of pilots carrying revolvers so they could shoot themselves rather than go down in flames...  of the war in the Middle East where the planes fell apart because of the effect of heat on the  relatively unsophisticated glues and materials used...  no seatbelts in the early planes and the navigator in the early pusher type two seater planes would quite often be stood up in the cockpit operating a machine gun firing backwards - astonishing bravery.... the effects of industrial unrest and other health and safety issues (I wasn't aware that there was a drug and alcohol problem in British armaments industries at the time - which I must read into further), and the effect on the women who made aircraft wings of the highly poisonous vapour from the dope before eventually non-toxic versions were made...

I could go on and on - cracking read - the only thing that jarred slightly was an overly cycnical tone at times...  Steve the Wargamer rates this one 8 out of 10.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

21st Virginia Infantry

Some paint has been sloshed - we are already guaranteed to have a better painting total than 2016! 


Not sure what came over me but decided it was time I got the paint brushes out and before I know it these guys had been completed... let me introduce you to the 21st Virginia Infantry - another regiment of Stonewall Jackson's famed 'foot cavalry'...

The regiment was first organised in June, and mustered into Confederate service in July, 1861, at Fredericksburg, Virginia. As was usual at this time the regiment was formed from a number of separate (already existing) companies, as these tiny units concentrated they were simply grouped together and made into a regiment - in this case most of the men were recruited in the city of Richmond and the counties of Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Cumberland, and Buckingham. The regimental Colonel was William Gilham [clicky] (of the Virginia Military Institute), and the regiment eventually comprised ten companies, totalling about 850 rank and file.


After participating in Lee's Cheat Mountain and Jackson's Valley campaigns, the unit was assigned to J.R. Jones's and W.Terry's Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia. At Kernstown they were in the Brigade of Colonel Jesse S. Burks..

This regiment reported 60 casualties at First Kernstown and in May, 1862, totalled about 600 effectives (so 25% losses in less than 10 months!).


Colonel Gilham and Major Scott Shipp left the regiment on January 9, 1862 (so before Kernstown) to resume their duties at the Virginia Military Institute (though Shipp was to return to command the regiment until the surrender at Appomattox). At Kernstown, the regiment was led by their Lieutenant Colonel, John M. Patton (who was an ancestor of George S. Patton), after the battle the regiment elected him colonel
John M Patton Jr.

The regiment went on to serve at Gaines' Mill, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, the Bristoe campaign and the Mine Run operations (of November 26 to December 2 1863) before fighting in the Wildnerness campaign (where their brigade's losses here were very severe), Spotsylvania Court House, the crossing of the Monocacy River, Cedar Creek, and finally the defence of Petersburg.

It lost 37 killed and 85 wounded at Cedar Mountain, had 3 killed and 9 wounded at Second Manassas, and reported 4 killed and 40 wounded at Chancellorsville. Of the 236 engaged at Gettysburg about twenty percent were disabled


"When it was evident that they were to surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, the flag of the 21st Regiment was torn into pieces and distributed among the regiment's survivors.Only 6 officers and 50 men surrendered at Appomattox"


Figures are by Newline (20mm)

Onward and upwards, the figures destined to be the 13th Indiana are primed and on the painting sticks..

Monday, January 02, 2017

2016.. a review...

Here we are again... and while I'm still (still [clicky] ) not really a person for doing the blowing the trumpet, review your triumphs, etcetc type of person (I leave that to the business corporate types I work with), like my end of the year review on the sailing blog it is kind of nice to cast my eyes over the year gone and remind myself of the ups and downs.... ad besides who am I to argue with the mass of the bloggerati who, to a man/woman, appear to be doing the same thing?!

So by way of a joining up of the threads, and a bringing to a close of the last year, let's push on...

First, how did I do against my expectations [clicky]?? Note: I never make 'resolutions' only 'expectations' and thus my failing to meet them yet again is not too demoralising an event...
  • I intend painting more this year (it would be difficult to paint less) So I painted 73 points worth in 2015, so that was my target in 2016, which..... I failed miserably..  Only one painted article left the paint table this year, the ACW wagons [clicky]
  • high on my list this year is a couple of re-basing projects - for the Sudan and AWI collections..work has already started on the Sudan collection - this one however was a resounding success..  the AWI rebasing project completed, and the Sudan project is only a few bases away from completion as well

  • I'm also overdue another game with DG - wanted to fit one in over the Christmas break but time got away from me..We finally did that in March!
Such a weight to carry on such tiny shoulders - my entire painted output for 2016!
I've got to say it wasn't a brilliant year, it did seem to me to be a a bit "hard work", not sure why, too many competing things for my increasingly limited time I think..  work continues to gobble up increasing amounts of what used to be down time, the boat, family (and none of that is is listed in terms of priority by the way). Having said that, however, this is still a hugely enjoyable hobby for me, and it's not a job, and I come here to relax not stress, so as I still managed a fair number of good things, I'll say it was an OK year...

So the painting totals for the year turned out at 8; I started poorly and ended badly...even worse than 2014's twelve points!  Having said that, I sat down an painted a regiment of Confederate infantry for the ACW project yesterday, they have just been spray coated. I need to base them and do some unit research so watch out for a post..  and as I've done that then I'll also be doing  Union regiment to keep sides balanced; I also have an English Civil War project to kick into life from it's current moribund state...

58 posts last year (c/w 69 in 2016, 68 in 2015, 84 in '14, 85, in '13) which is OK given the general level of engagement in the hobby in the last year (I'm surprised I was so prolific - it didn't seem like it at times...) what was a bit of a surprise is that 1 of my top 10 posts of "all time" (by page views - though that is increasingly a discredited value in light of the sheer number of Russian crawler bots out there..) was written during 2016... (though I suspect the post title my have have been partly the reason )...

Four table top games this year (c/w nine last year); the "One Hour Wargames" book (continues to be the best £10 I ever spent - oodles of small and immensely playable scenario's), the down turn in games is due to technology, DG has had some bandwidth issues, me more so - the trusty netbook is also beginning to do that slow descending circle towards the ground as the disk struggles to cope with the sheer number of competing demands on it, so I plan to remedy that this year...  the games we had however were all excellent, and DG and I are currently mid-battle on scenario #10 from One Hour Wargames (played correspondence style using the excellent Battle Chronicler program)
I work long hours, and I still find it very difficult at times to summon up the enthusiasm to sit down at the painting table, or set the table up for a game, when it's much easier to open a beer, light a cigar, and read a good book... speaking of which, apropos of nothing 54 books were read last year, compared with 46 in 2015 so there's a definite feeling that was what I was mostly doing...

Favourite books this year?

Fiction would be one of the three I gave perfect 10's to

Without a doubt my favourite of the Ronald Welch "Carey family" series - when I was a youngster I devoured the entire series, but this one, "Son of York" (set in the Wars of the Roses), and "For the King" (English Civil War) I re-read hundreds of times. Illustrated by the immortal William Stobbs (as were the originals) the entire series is currently being re-printed by the sainted folk at Foxed Quarterly [clicky] and I have waited 3 years for this one to come out as it was practically impossible to buy on line, being long out of print. I was not disappointed - this story deals with Alan Carey, offered the opportunity to travel to America following a fabricated scandal at Cambridge, he arrives in the newly founded colony to take over the reigns of the family estate in the Mohawk Valley at the start of the Seven Years War/French and Indian Wars. When he arrives he learns the skills of the back woods men and is soon caught up (as an officer of Loyalist militia) in the attacks on Fort Ticonderoga, and the assault on Quebec. Hugely Recommended.
This is the third book in the series and reminded me just how damned good they are...  set in the period of the 100 Years War, this series is about archer Thomas Blackstone, knighted after the Battle of Crecy for saving the Kings life, but now (after events in Normandy in the previous book [clicky]) living in exile in Italy (or rather Tuscany, as there was no "Italy" in 1358) where he is a leader of a band of condottieri in the service of the city state of Lucca protecting it from the attentions of similar condottieri in the pay of Milan. Blackstone is very good at his job and rewarded well, but is still estranged from his wife (again described in the previous book)

Things are going reasonably well for him then, but then he receives a message via a wounded man that  appears to have come from the Queen (Isabella) - it is a summons back to the court in England, and while it is quite obvious that it may be a trap, Blackstone remains a 'Kings man' (despite the exile) so decides to return. As expected a number of attempts are made on his life during the journey, and when he arrives in England the Queen tells him she needs him to fight the Black Prince in a tournament that has been announced, and which has attracted the very best knights in the whole of Europe...  he does it, but in a way that only the Prince can see as to all intents and purposes he yields, in the meeting with the Prince, and the King, Isabella explains that English political handling of problems in France are leading to the chance that they will lose their holdings (England still held the French King at this time and were demanding a huge ransom, which effectively France couldn't pay, but meant a power vacuum that the French Barons were exploiting for all its worth). The King orders Blackstone back to France, into the heart of the Peasants Revolt, to rescue the French Kings family, but holds out the hope the Blackstone's estranged wife might be with them.

After many adventures, skirmishes, and battles, this he manages to do - and reunites with his wife who has forgiven him. At the end of the book however, the assassin who has been stalking him since the beginning of the book, is reveled to be in the pay of Milan, and Blackstone has to face him in trial by combat...
Quite possibly the best to date...  his beloved ship L'Aurore is condemned (rotten timbers) on his return from events in Turkey, but the Admiralty are pleased with Kydd and give him command of a brand new frigate not even built yet, but on the stocks at Bucklers Hard (I was there last weekend!). Before he can take command however, he is summoned to the court martial of Popham, something that has hung over him ever since the ill judged invasion of South America three books back. Kydd cannot in all conscience bring himself to condemn Popham, so earns himself the enmity of the same Admiralty, and before he knows it, the new frigate has been given to someone else, and he has been given command of a frigate (the Tyger of the name) recently in mutiny... he has a short crew, poor officers, and it is clear he has been set up to fail, but then it transpires that the cause of the mutiny are French agents within the crew - managing to sort this out, his ship is attached to the North Sea fleet where he is sent on convoy duties to the Russian ports. In a superb sea battle at the end he manages to fight off three crack French frigates and his character is re-approved to the Admiralty. Superb book bringing me to the end of the current (written) series, and which has been a joy - hugely recommended. Looking forward to the new book now which comes out in October...

..on balance Stockwin takes it, as I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entire Kydd series this year - I am part way through the latest one at the moment, but have to say I'm not enjoying it as much as I have the previous ones.. more anon when I review.. but on the Kindle I have the latest David Gilman as well....

For non-fiction, although I enjoyed the Osprey "Ramilles" Campaign book, this was the book that kick started an entire project..

This book is about the first major engagement (yes there were some skirmishes and minor engagements before, but this was the first big battle) not only substantial research on the timetable of the actual battle (who was where and when and why), but the bigger benefit to me was the earlier chapters on each of the major arms - cavalry, infantry and artillery - their equipment, training and weapons at this stage of the war with some commentary on how these changed as the war progressed..

So we learn that at this stage of the war Parliament would have had better equipment (access to London),which in turn lead to a higher proportion of musket to pike (2:1 or better compared with 1:1 or 3:2 for the Royalists), and that Pike would have worn more armour at this stage of the war (it tended to be worn less as the war progressed, due to improved musketry, and the weight)

Both sides had armies that were pretty new to the game. Largely raw, and poorly trained, but leavened by experienced NCO's, officers and gentry that would have had had recent experience on the Continent either with Gustavus in Sweden, or the Thirty Years War, and some of them would have fought in the Bishops Wars [clicky] a few years before. The authors (Christopher L. Scott, Alan Turton, Eric Gruber von Arni) have a very good chapter on the two major deployment/tactical types - the Swedish and Dutch systems - and the differences between them..  a chapter I feel I'll be coming back to again to refresh my memory from time to time.

This site is very good [clicky] on the difference between the two (and on a huge number of other subjects to do with the English Civil War!) but basically the Dutch was older, more basic (deeper ranks and chequer board deployment) and more easy to learn (and was used by Essex and his Parliamentarian army at the battle), the Swedish system (fewer ranks, diamond pattern deployment, and more complex firing methodology) was newer and controversially was adopted by Charles on the advice of his battlefield commanders (Rupert).. possibly one of the deciding factors in his losing the battle given the paucity of training his infantry had?

All in all then I thought the book was a belter, and an excellent primer to the early armies of the English Civil War..  time will tell if subsequent research comes up with contradictions, but I thought it was very good..

The worst lowest scoring book was...


...lots of possibilities, but I thought let down by poor characterisation..  ....

Once again then no resolutions will be made (or will be made), no targets were set (or will be set), no projects defined (or will..... you get the picture), so once again I can report that all targets and goals were achieved ...! Hurrah!!

This year??

Well I intend painting more this year (it would be  really difficult to paint less) and I have already started.. but high on my list this year is to complete the Sudan re-basing, and kick off the English Civil War project...  a few more games would be good, but this year felt about right..

Salute is just over the horizon, but DG was mentioning at Warfare he might not fancy it,... I've blogged in the past about the cost of attending this show (cost each of us  about £30 this year - tickets/petrol/parking - plus the opportunity cost of an entire days travelling - to see a show that is increasingly fantasy orientated)..  so I'm not sure whether he'll be going - if he doesn't then I'm thinking I may go up solo on the train and see how that goes?? Either way the days are already getting longer - soon be summer!!

Happy New Year to all my reader - may the dice roll as required, and your brushes always keep a sharp tip...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Portsmouth Christmas Beer Festival 2016

Second time we've been to this little pre-Christmas snifter - we missed last year for some reason, but we first went in 2014 [clicky] which is difficult to believe as it seems like only yesterday!

As last time we went with my sister and brother in law, and it was an enormous amount of fun - much laughter and singing (to the bands) ensued and many good ales drunk..

So it was that on Saturday lunchtime the current Mrs Steve-the-Wargamer, his sister and brother in law found themselves (again) in line waiting to enter the Guildhall in Portsmouth...  by serendipitous means, this time I had bought the tickets, and my sis was buying the beer tokens..  perfect!

So this is not an official CAMRA [clicky] festival but despite that I thought that this time round their beer choice was significantly better than last time..  though we were paying slightly over the odds per beer, and there was a ten quid entry...

Brewery (clickable) Beer (click for more info) ABV Notes (from brewery website) What I can remember...
Oakham Citra 4.2% "An American Pale Ale (APA) style beer" Those of you who read these ramblings will know I am a fan of the Citra hopped beers as I particularly like the grapefruit dry hop'iness they give the beer - this particular one I've tried many times in bottle but the opportunity to try it in cask was too good to miss..  a belter... and the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer liked it so much she went back three times..
Dark Star Hophead 3.8% "An extremely clean-drinking pale golden ale with a strong floral aroma and elderflower notes from the Cascade hops. This beer is full-bodied and full-flavoured yet gentle enough to make it a favourite session beer." A particular favourite of mine and seeing as the first half had disappeared in about 10 minutes I'd decided to slow down so this session beer was a no brainer.. lovely..
XT Brewing 3 (IPA) 4.2% "An American style IPA – packed with Chinook, Columbus and Cascade hops from the American North West – crisp, clean and refreshing with a lasting hoppy bite.   HOPS= Chinook, Cascade, Columbus  MALTS= Pale, Vienna, CaraMalt, Munich" Time to go "off piste" and be a little adventurous..  how do you find the new beers/brewers if you don't? So XT are a fairly unknown to me - I'm convinced I may have had a pint in the past but have checked the beer database and not seen anything so I may be mistaken - either way - a pleasant enough beer that lived up to its description while not being outstanding
Dark Star Winter Solstice 4.2% "Brewed with Pale, Munich and Brown malts to produce a deep gold colour this beer is brewed with Simcoe and Chinook hops and seasoned with Sichuan pepper and Orange and Lemon zest." A particularly favourite brewery but an unknown beer - time to try! A dark, winter brew, with a hint of additional fruit and spice..  similar to the Hophead "Winter Lightning" - so we had to do a taste comparison...
Hopback Winter Lightning 5% "Brewed with Fuggles and East Kent Golding hops, very lightly-spiced, this chestnut ale is deceptively drinkable!" Hopback are another of my top 5 brewers, and this is the winter version of their awesome "Summer Lightning"..  much darker, maltier, and a subtle hint of cinnamon..  you couldn't drink pints of it, but it is exceptional and I thought this years version was particularly good...
Red Cat Brewing Scratch 4% "Scratch is golden in colour with a delicate fruity aroma and hints of ripe apricots.  It’s very clean, refreshingly bitter and easy drinking, but with more body than is usually expected from a 4.0% beer." Swiftly becoming one of those breweries to look for - I tried this on our work Christmas do but as is the nature of those events I felt the need to remind myself if it was a good as I remembered...  fresh clean hoppy bitterness..  another golden ale...
Fallen Acorn Brewing Hole Hearted 4.7% "Floral. fruity. delicately bitter.  Cascade hops give this golden ale powerful floral and tropical fruit flavours, with a delicate bitterness. Hole Hearted will surprise with every mouthful". The Oakleaf Brewery who used to brew this went into receivership this year, and from the ashes rose Fallen Acorn (which is owned financed by a fan of the Oakleaf beers) who have started brewing a number of their old beers...  now Hole Hearted was one of my top 10 beers so I was very excited about trying the newly brewed version - but was very disappointed with it - none of the hoppy tang with the old brew...  sweet and insipid..  quelle domage.. my only disappointment of the afternoon...  for the sake of the beer I shall give it another go when I next see it on offer - it may have been a duff batch or barrel..
Thornbridge Jaipur 5.9% "A citrus dominated India Pale Ale, its immediate impression is soft and smooth yet builds to a crescendo of massive hoppiness accentuated by honey. An enduring, bitter finish." Last one - and the one I'd been working up to all afternoon - no way I was going to miss out on a pint of one of my favourite bottled APA's...  superb pint, and a much needed restorative following the Hole Hearted..  Steve the Wargamer says "if you see Thornbridge on the pump clip buy yourself a pint"











An excellent venue, and a brilliant lunchtime session - four bands -  one of which was a God-awful ukulele band, two of which were good, but one of which were superb (The Fliks- a 60's girl band copy), and a delightful selection of ales... roll on next year!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all my reader (singular ) I trust that you will have a restful, peaceful, and relaxing time with plenty of ale, good presents under the tree, and that your Christmas dinner roast potatoes are soft and fluffy on the inside, while pleasingly crisp on the outer..

See you on the other side...

From http://www.ddoughty.com/christmas-during-war-time.html