Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book catch up...

It was all I could do to get to the sun bed every day....  so I read a few... 

This is a behemoth of a book, but Clavell is first and foremost a story teller, the subject is interesting, and you fairly rip through it while learning a lot about feudal Japan in the 1600 period (for Japan the start of the gunpowder era and a defining moment in their military development). The book is (chronologically) the first in a lose series of books he wrote about European influence in Asia.. this book is about the rise to power of the rise of the daimyo (basically Lord/Duke) called Toranaga (who is based on the actual Tokugawa Ieyasu). Toranaga's rise to the Shogunate (overall leader of Japan) is seen  through the eyes of an English sailor John Blackthorne (who in turn is  loosely based on the actual British sailor William Adams). Lots and lots of readable detail about life in Japan, Bushido and the samurai approach to life, and abut the huge difference in life style between Japan and Europe at the time..  itis also about Japan on the cusp of the odern world, how they react to gunpowder, guns, cannon, and the possibilities that a "modern" European fighting ship could give them if they had their own, and a navy...  this book was the start of my Japanese Ancients army (WRG 6th Edition), which now exists solely as a DBA force..  must get then out soon...   and I must also read some of the others (it's followed by Tai-Pan, Gaijin, King Rat, Noble House and Whirlwind) soon.
Cheapy from Kindle store but I've read a few of his books and know him to be a safe pair of hands were a story is concerned..  this book is part of a trilogy featuring the father and son of an RAF family..  this one is the last in the series (and again I must go back and read the other two). This one is about the son, who joins the RAF at the beginning of the war and is assigned to a Kent based squadron (ie. front line) in time for the Battle of Britain. Starting off in Hurricanes his squadron is then re-equipped with Spitfires, and his role changes - fighter squadrons at the time were tasked depending on the fighter..  Hurricane's took on the bombers, Spitfires provided fighter cover...  lots and lots of incidental detail about the planes on both sides (this isn't military porn in the style of Clancy ), also the organisation of the Luftwaffe and RAF, the importance of armament (machine gun versus cannon), changing tactics, and about what life would have been like for a fighter pilot at the time..  very good.. 
Another Kindle cheapy, but again a series I have read before - the hero's are two Royal Navy men, and the period is just before the First World War, an era of Dreadnoughts and Imperial growth..  for this book the two heroes are "lent" by the boss Jackie Fisher to his opposite number in the US Navy (Dewar) tasked with helping to find out if there is a common factor to a number of mysterious deaths surrounding the US Dreadnought program. Before you know it they are caught up with a bunch of fanatics looking to resurrect the Confederacy, and align the new USA with Imperial Germany..  far fetched, but a bit of fun...
I first read this donkey's years ago, and had a recollection that it was better than it actually turned out to be second time round..  Wilbur Smith is another born story teller though so the pages kept turning...  The story is set in 1935, and is about Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia. Two adventurers (a mechanic/engineer, and a gun runner/rogue) end up collaborating after one of them (the mechanic) buys four ancient Rolls Royce armoured cars with the intention of stripping and using the engines, and the other comes up with a plan to sell them to the Ethiopians who are outnumbered, and out gunned, and prohibited from buying weapons as a result of blockade. A shed load of cash is offered, but only on delivery..  throw in a glamorous American journalist who is filing stories on the plight of the Ethiopians (and who both of the blokes fall for) and there's a recipe for a good story except for the fact that Wilbur goes for the racial stereotype jokey style..  so all the Italians are oily and cowardly etc etc. OK for a sun bed, but not for the start of a new wargaming project...7

..the Les Lunt was very good, as was Shogun.. the rest were "OK"

Saturday, July 16, 2016


...one day only and a must for the tread heads...

[Link here]

Thursday, July 14, 2016

AWI re-basing project..

Whilst the posts have been few and far between it doesn't mean that "real" stuff isn't going on in the background ...  life, work, holiday (week in west Corfu..  34'+ every day and not a cloud or drop of rain seen all week..  bliss..), all conspire to limit time in front of the blog, but some stuff is happening.. 

Got some book review(s) to do as I read a couple of crackers over the time away in Corfu, but first off some progress on the AWI re-basing project I mentioned earlier in the year

Much like the Sudan project the AWI re-basing is being driven purely by the age of the project. I must have first based these figures up over 25 years ago, and they've lasted really well but despite care and attention the bases were beginning to look a little sad and tired...  see following, flock getting thin, bases also thin and beginning to warp slightly..  the little metal men deserve better 

The vast majority of the collection are based on beer mats (no laser cut MDF all that time ago!)  cut to the standard size I use for this project (5 cm square) but I've had some thoughts over the years on how to improve the basing and the following shows the progress so far..

So first off get the figures off the old bases..  tortuous as I used Evostick, but in the end as they are on beer mats I just put them in a bath of water and just pop them off once the mats have soaked..  all I need to do then is just tidy up the bottom of the figures base with a scalpel to remove the worst of the glue..

New bases are a thicker (3mm) MDF offering I bought at Salute last year, I bought some green spray paint to make preparation easier (MDF is a bugger for soaking up water based/acrylic paint).

First enhancement I'd thought of was to track casualties using a miniature D6 so in addition to the bases I bought some "dice frames" [clicky] from the company in the link (who I believe are owned/managed/whatever by Pendraken)..  which got me to the following:

You'll also notice I've lost the base numbers from the top of the base. They always struck me as being a bit too noticeable so I've gone with name of unit on the bottom instead, but I think I'll also add the old base number as well.

Glue dried and it's time to re-flock - job done..

...and from above showing the dice frame with content more clearly.. I'm going to use a different colour of dice to also show morale state (white for normal, yellow shaken, and red for routing)..  so in this case the unit is "shaken" and on four SP (strength points) under the Will McNallly rules I use for this period...

...much better - better get on with the other 100 off bases then! 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

"Ravenspur" ... a review.

Moving on from events in the last post...

The fourth and final novel in his Wars of the Roses series, and without a doubt the best one of the four... and that despite the fact you know the "my kingdom for a horse", moment is coming...   I'd say that each of the books improved on the one before, and Iggulden clearly "grew" into them over the series...

So (and yes, my English teacher always told us not to start a sentence with "so" ) what do we have in this book.... well to be honest any review is going to read a little like a history book as the events covered by the span of the book (basically from Warwick's return to Bosworth) are fairly tumultuous, and numerous! What I always get from good historical fiction though, is a better idea of how the events unfold - there is something about setting these events within a human story that helps me to see the "how" and "why" that you don't always get from a straight history book...  the better the story teller the more you're hooked in, and able to see all the whys and wherefores of events... and that for me is why I read so much historical fiction.....

So (there I go again..) after his exile at the end of the previous book, this one starts with Warwick's invasion (from France and supported by Louis because of Edward's support of his enemy Charles the Bold, ruler then of the separate state of Burgundy) in support of the still badly ill Henry VI (who I found an immensely sad figure throughout the books - clearly he was mentally ill, and some modern theories are that he had a form of schizophrenia - but basically he was manipulated by any powerful faction that happened to control him).

At the beginning of the book Henry is being held in the Tower for his own 'protection', by Edward (IV who has taken the throne) and his brother Richard (of Shakespeare's "crookback" fame). The invasion catches Edward unaware and poorly prepared, on an extended hunting trip in the north with just a few followers, and the York'ist faction is forced to disband following the defection of their main force (under Montagu) to the Lancastrian side. Edward and Richard go into exile in the Netherlands where eventually, and in tit for tat, Charles the Bold finances his own invasion.

Edward lands at Ravenspur (hence the book title, but also known as Reavenspurn) near York, enters York, reunites with his brother George (a slimy toad if ever there is one, who is married to Warwick's daughter and up until now has been a close ally of Warwick) and marches south gathering an army as he goes, entering London and imprisoning Henry (again)..  Edward IV, by the way, comes across as a really active, dynamite, man of action throughout the stories..  Iggulden thinks he is perhaps Britain's best ever battlefield King (and there's been a few), but he also has his weaknesses and Iggulden describes them as well....

Edward then marches out to face Warwick.

While this is all happening, Warwick has been waiting for reinforcements from France under the command of Henry's wife, the indomitable Margaret (brilliantly described in the book - a real titan, and, the real power behind Henry VI during his illness) who Warwick had made up with in France. She also brings Henry's son Edward (there are lots of Edward's in this period!), but their ships are delayed by poor weather, and before they arrive, Edward forces battle with Warwick at Barnet [clicky] and the outcome is the very worst for Lancaster. Warwick is killed, and the Lancastrian army defeated (the battle was fought in fog and in much confusion - at one point one part of the Lancastrian army even attacked another part of its own army!). After the battle Edward IV marches to London and again crowns himself King, and when Margaret's army arrives (finally) from France he defeats them at Tewkesbury [clicky] where Henry and Margaret's son is also killed cementing his position as King with the only other rival left being Henry (Tudor) who in exile in France at this time. Just to make sure, he, or one of his supporters, either known directly, or not, kills Henry VI - never having left the Tower.

Which leaves us in a period of rest and recuperation for England that lasted 12 years until Edward drops dead suddenly, naming his bother Richard as regent until his son (another Edward, the Fifth) reached maturity...  Richard is depicted as the arch political animal, a real Machiavelli, he moves quickly and imprisons both the young Edward, and his brother, in the Tower "for their protection".... and in the master stroke, he manages to engineer a legal statement that they are illegitimate clearing the way for him to become Richard III...  shortly after they disappear...  again either he, or one of his supporters, either known directly, or not, kills them...  despite his actions, I found Iggulden's depiction of the man really engaging...  he was not Shakespeare's 'crook back' - he definitely had a curvature of the spine, but not a hump, he was a warrior, a swordsman, and apparently hugely skilled with weapons....

The book ends with the final invasion by Henry Tudor (soon to be Henry VII), and the death of Richard at Bosworth, which is largely as Shakespeare depicted it (un horsed, he was killed on the ground)..

...and so a brilliant series comes to an end...  Steve the Wargamer rates this one as a 9 out of 10....

Friday, June 24, 2016

Black day...

...bad decision....  in my view....