Friday, October 26, 2012

Zvezda 1/100 (15mm) SdKfz 251 "Hanomag".. a review

Having said that I don't like plastic for wargaming with for more time than I can remember it came as quite a surprise to me that I do actually quite like some of the new wave of plastic kits for vehicles....

Those who have hung around here long enough will know that I wargame WWII in two scales - 15mm for skirmish, and 10mm for larger battles..

I have almost always used Peter Pig for 15mm - I like the sculpting style of the figures and their overall animation, but the vehicles are good but not outstanding, so when DG sent me an Opel Blitz that he had bought at Colours as a (failed) experiment I was quite intrigued as it was very nice - and what's more he told me it was simplicity itself to construct....

Now I've always been a sucker for a Hanomag (them, and Stug's are just so workman-like..!) so I ordered a couple to see what they were like...

Open the box and this is what you see - one box, one sprue....


Five minutes (OK it may have been 7) and I had the following (and apologies for the picture quality)


Five minutes after that I had this...


...and ten minutes after that I had this:


...superb!!

So pro's??  Quick and easy to assemble, sharp lines/edges, cheap (£2.70 a throw plus a little postage), no glue is required (they clip together very securely)..

Con's?? Not many..  they're very light (I'll fix that with some weight in the base), the machine gun provided is for a rear mounting rather than front (uh oh - geek alert), and you have to do that washing thing to get the mould release agent off before you can paint them....

I'll put up a post later in their based and painted state but Steve the Wargamer rates these kits 9 out of 10 - I have a Pz II and a Pz 38T waiting in the wings for my next modelling session....

Monday, October 22, 2012

1356... a review

Just finished the latest from Mr Cornwell and thought it justified a full review rather than a few lines in the book review page..

A very welcome surprise was that "1356" features one of my more favourite (can you say 'more' favourite??? ) Cornwell characters - Thomas of Hookton (or rather Sir Thomas of Hookton since events at the end of the Grail trilogy)

The other welcome surprise is that Cornwell has returned to that very fertile ground of the Hundred Years War, where English and Welsh archers using the longbow and under the command of their hugely experienced and professional commanders ruled the battlefield...

I know that Cornwell is probably better known lately for his Dark Ages stories, and they're very good, but this era definitely beats it for me...  not much to dislike here!

So..  here we get Thomas of Hookton, a veteran of Crecy and many other battles, who is now (10 years after Crecy) the leader of a company of mercenary bowmen and men-at-arms based in Gascony.

Edward, Prince of Wales (a good depiction of the "Black Prince" I thought), is engaged on a massive chevauchée [clicky]* into France, but unlike his previous effort (the year before), this time the French have bitten and have mobilised their army, in pursuit..

The 1356 chevauchee - Bordeaux, Bourges, Romartin, Tours and Poitiers
Thomas is called to the standard by his liege lord, but before he can join is given a mission to recover a major religious artefact, supposedly the sword of Peter which was used in the defence of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.... not surprisingly the forces of the enemy are also looking for it, in this case a cardinal with pretensions of being the next Pope, a rabid Scottish noblemen who has come to the French to be able to kill Englishman, and a brilliant (comic?) turn by a French knight who has read a little too many historical romances....

All of these factors come together on the eve of the battle, which is by far and away the best part of the book - the rest of the book was a little "slow" if I'm to be honest - can't help thinking Cornwell would have been better forgetting about the sub-plot with the sword and just focussing on the battle - but hey, I'm not a multi-selling author so what do I know?!

I much preferred Azincourt, and I think the Grail books were slightly better as well, but I can forgive a lot for the fictional description of the battle....  so 7/10...

* From Wikipedia: "For this chevauchee Edward had an estimated 7,000 men and they had set out from Bordeaux under his command. The chevauchée began on 4 August 1356, against the city of Bourges. This chevauchée differed from the first in that, in addition to the raiding, burning and looting, there was also military action taken against objectives away from the main body of the force. Edward burned the suburbs of Bourges, but did not capture the city. However, he did capture the less important city of Audley.
Several small forces of French knights were defeated and Edward paused to besiege and capture the small town of Romorantin, where several French leaders were holed up. By this time the army of John II of France was in pursuit (approx. 20-25,000 men). Edward marched West along the Loire River to Tours, burning the suburbs before marching south. By this time the French army was only thirty miles (50 km) away and had superior numbers. The French pursued faster than the English marched. By 18 September 1356, Edward entered Poitiers. The next day, outside the city, the Battle of Poitiers was fought, which resulted in a great English victory and the capture of John II of France (who eventually died in captivity after his large ransom, twice the yearly income of France, went unpaid)".

Friday, October 19, 2012

Portsea Island Beer Festival (2012)

...an afternoon of unrestrained bucolic'ness on Saturday afternoon as yet again it was time to visit the annual Portsea Island Beer Festival [clicky]

...the brother in law and I decided we would cycle as this is a fantastic route with a sea voyage half way through - route is as follows, lovely sunny day, but previous rain had made the cycle path up the side of Hayling a little glutinous on places....

Cycle route..  15 miles each way - didn't even feel the second 15 miles....

..the festival was hosted yet again in the truly lovely Groundlings Theatre [clicky] (just opposite HMS Warrior and just across the way from HMS Victory) in their upstairs theatre room.... I love the ceiling in this room, but I especially like the ambience, and the architectural details....  this is an old, old, building - the walls are held in place by huge tie straps......  this is the room (I think) where Mrs Dickens allegedly went into labour with Charles while attending a Christmas Ball ...
I sat against the wall just over there on the left under the picture...

Superb choice of ales totally dominated for me by my (current) no. 1 beer of all time....  but in order of preference I tried and like the following.....

  1. RCH "Pitchfork" [clicky]- 4.3% - hugely bitter finish, with a slightly floral taste (Goldings hops I think) - I could sit and drink this all day and not get bored.....  providing I had a ready supply of pork pies, peanuts, and good reading material...  oh, and an occasional cigar......
  2. Dark Star "Hop Head" [clicky] - 3.8% - huge flavour and tastiness - bats way above it's strength
  3. Dark Star "Revelation" [clicky] - 5.7% - the one and only strong beer of the afternoon - packed full of slightly sweet, resinous, bittery'loveliness...  nice beer but you couldn't drink much!
  4. Liverpool Organic Brewery "Cascade" [clicky] - 3.8% - a very fresh, tasty, session beer - golden and hoppy..  A  very nice beer from a brewery I'd not come across before I had a chat with a fellow attendee in the garden outside, while having a cigar... that's what I like about beer festivals - total strangers will share their favourite beer with you....  (literally, in this case, as the fellow handed over his glass with an imprecation to "try that!" )
  5.  Liverpool Organic Brewery "Pale Ale" [clicky] - 4.1% - buoyed up by the success of no. 4 I also tried this one from the same brewery - also very nice - slightly more floral, but equally bitter - very nice..  I look forward to trying more beers from this brewery
A good trip back - I didn't even feel the second 15 miles - but with 30 minutes to spare before the ferry left we had time to stop off for a swift half at the Sirloin of Beef where the Titanic Brewery "Plum Porter" [clicky] was as exceptional as we remembered it from last time - result!

No accidents this time - bro in law or I usually fall off at some point in time on the return trip, but I think we're getting more mature as both of us have made it home unscathed the last two times...  no surprises that I slept well..!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Books for your Kindle... #3

My thanks to the Miniature Wargames site [clicky] as I had no idea you could do this and it's brilliant!

This will allow you to create your own books from Wikipedia content and then download them to your Kindle as a stand alone reading file....  inspired...
  • Start by going the Wiki page you're interested in and then find the "print/Export"option in the menu to the left..

  • Click “Create a Book” and in the next web age click "Start Book Creator" (the green button).

  • Then just navigate to the pages you're interested in and at the top of the page there is an option to add the age to your book..

  • You can click on “Show Book” at any time and in the box bottom left it will allow you to delete any pages you no longer want, or even re-order the ages (just click on the page and move it up or down with a drag of the mouse)

  • When you've finished you simply select the download file type (the default is PDF for your Kindle as they don't support ePUB, but I use Calibre - see the Kindle library page at the top for where to get this - which has a facility to convert file types as part of the file transfer to the Kindle - very handy..), give it a title (in the two blank boxes to the left), and then click "download" - jobs a good' un..



Now with the proviso that Wikipedia articles are not the last word in historical veracity, I think that' a brilliant way of getting content to allow you to do basic research on a project whilst being away from the internet... nifty idea...

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Fighter" - Len Deighton - a review...

If you weren't an avid fan of WWII Air wargaming before you read this book, then I can guarantee that you almost certainly will be by the time you've finished reading it....

Deighton's book is ostensibly a history of the Battle of Britain, but the span covers much more than this as the key components that came together for the battle had originated much earlier - in WWI, the Spanish Civil War, and of course in Poland and France...

The book is roughly divided into three parts so in no particular order...
  • First you get a description of the key players on both sides - the airmen, flyers, inventors and scientists on both sides who prepared the way for the actual battle, from Camm (designed the Hurricane), Mitchell (Spitfire), Willi Messerschmitt (the 109), Park/Dowding/Leigh Mallory for the RAF, to Goering/Galland/Sperle for the Luftwaffe - absolutely fascinating... lots of tit bits of information - how the RAF were as keen on political infighting as the Luftwaffe - the shameful way Dowding was treated, and how much was owed to Beaverbrook.... he spends a lot of time on the differing training methods, and how short the training time became for British pilots as the battle went on, and of course what we owed to the Polish and other foreign pilots that flew for the RAF.
  • The second section deals with the planes themselves - their design basis, how they came to be, and the struggles the forward thinkers in the RAF had trying to persuade the more conservative elements (including some pilots!) that all-metal monoplanes were the way forward...  we were, after all, still building Gladiators at the start of the war... he touches on the design limitations of the 109 (thin wings resulted in not so much armament), the 110 (too big basically). The problems the Germans had with engines - nothing to match the Merlin - and the British genius that sent the Merlin design to America to be made there under licence....
  • The third section deals with the battle, which Deighton divides it up into its various phases - it was an amazement to me how lackadaisical the Luftwaffe plan was when you consider their huge advantage in numbers of planes and their practical know-how gained in Spain/Poland/the Low Countries & France. Strategically the battle was supposed to pave the way for Operation Sealion, but the impression you get is that Hitler's lack of desire to actually invade Britain lead to him letting the Luftwaffe just get on with it....   despite that they came very close to winning, and if they had not been lured by the bombing of London they could have very well done it....
A superb book, hugely readable, but the overwhelming view I got is that ultimately the RAF won the battle by making fewer mistakes than the Luftwaffe. Deighton is clear who the hero's are - Dowding, Park (commander of 11 group who defended London and the South East), Beaverbrook (who put a 10 megaton rocket up the production schedules for Spitfire and Hurricane), and not least the pilots of both sides who exhibited huge bravery on a daily basis...

Loved it - 10/10...

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

"Hearts of Tin" - trial game...

As I get older I increasingly find myself getting irritated* with rules that are needlessly complicated...  you know the one's, why have 5 pages when 50 can be filled with endless complications that in the end, result in the same result... and yes I'm aware that the counter argument is that we just line them up and throw a D6 each to decide the outcome, but what I want is a set of rules that sits on that side of the half way mark between the two extremes......

* I got so grumpy the other day that I even caused my self to stop and think..... 

So it is with the current game that DG and I are playing using the eminently sensible, but endlessly confusing (to me), Regimental Fire and Fury rules - I don't know what it is but despite playing them for almost two years now, I just cannot get on with them...  I'm happy to play them, but only if DG explains what I need to do at any point in time, as I'll freely admit they are the most counter-intuitive set of rules I've ever played....  and don't even get me started on the D10....

For a short while I had hoped that "A House Divided" might do the trick - it says "Fast Play" on the front after all - but no, even DG describes them as "wordy", and at 120 pages long how fast play can they be (answers to me by all means, but as another blogger wrote, send them on a used £10 note )....

So it was that I was reading Ross McFarlane's [clicky] blog recently and my interest was piqued by his mention of the rules he has written called "Hearts of Tin" [clicky]...   I'm on a bit of a roll at the moment (following a few months of wargamers block) so I set the table  up for a small American Civil War set to in order to try the rules...

For my scenario I turned to my well thumbed copy of "Battles with Model Soldiers" [clicky] and chose the third of Don's demo games...
How many happy memories does that simple little diagram bring back....

Which ended up as the following once I'd laid out the table...

NB. The signal tower is just a "nice to have"!
 Herewith the Confederate deployment...  from the left:

  • 4th Virginia
  • Artillery (12pdr Napoleon)
  • Tiger Zouaves
  • Cavalry
  ..all troops for this game (both sides) classed as "average", all muskets are smooth-bore, all artillery 12pdr Napoleon's..


.and here's the Union - from the left:
  • 8th Ohio
  • Duryée's Zouaves
  • Artillery (also a Napoleon)
  • Cavalry

...and so to the first move...  both sides diced, the Confederates win and become "Player 1"... both sides then threw initiative dice...  "Hearts of Tin" uses a DBA'esque activation system where the brigadier and any units within close proximity get to move "free"  but points then need to spent to move units that are further away etc. As you can see in the following the Rebs had more movement opportunities than the Union but either way at the end of move 1 positions were as follows.

End Move 1 - Union has deployed its artillery, both sides are sending their cavalry on a flank move, and the wall continues to be a magnet!
Move two - first melee as the Union cavalry crashes home on the 4th Virginia - both sides lose a stand - the small D6 indicates that the Confederates are also carrying some additional casualties towards losing their next base - the good news is that the infantry have held, and things will not be so much in the Union's favour in the second round (no charge bonus in subsequent rounds).

Elsewhere the cannons continue to boom - causing little damage....

End Move 2 - Union Ohio Regiment turn to face Reb cavalry... the Tigers will move through the wood...
Move 3 - further firing - little effect...  the melee continues between the Union cavalry and the Confederate infantry - the other melee has ended quickly however, as the Confederate cavalry inflicted enough casualties in the first round to cause the Union infantry to immediately break and rout away - the Confederates now have an open flank and a target rich environment - worse than that, the  Union artillery is now shielded from any useful targets...

End Move 3  - Union infantry are out of shot, bottom left
Move 4 - end of game - in the third round of the melee the Rebel infantry see off the Union cavalry who break (and are also just out of shot bottom left..)

The Confederate cavalry has charged home on the Union artillery causing them to break, the Tigers have flanked the Union Zouaves...

Union commander orders retreat leaving the Confederates as victors..

End Move 4

End Move 4 - Union troops retreating pell mell....
Post Match Analysis:

  • A fun little game - I'm going to have another game with a few more units to give the activation rules a proper chance of building some "friction"
  • I liked the melee rules - "Hearts of Tin" uses a 3 phase move where the moving player gets to do their move, then in the second phase the opposite player throws their melee dice and the first player removes casualties and tests for break, and in the 3rd phase the moving player then throws their melee dice and the second player removes casualties and tests for break - casualties are not simultaneous. I see the second phase as modelling the casualties a charging unit takes as it crashes home... 
  • Just two morale states - good or broken - simple, and does what it says on the tin..
  • Shooting is not as effective as melee for killing people - two dice per stand in melee, only one when shooting.... if you want to kill your opponent, get hand to hand quickly...
Recommended - try them for a fun, quick, game, where you get to think of manoeuvring rather than whether you are allowed to do what you want to do.....

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Wargamers' Annual (2009)... a review

It's taken me a while but I got there in the end...

This was published in 2009 and is the first of the still running series of annuals... it's one of those purchase items that I thought about buying every time I saw it on the Caliver stand at one wargame show or another. I never did, usually because there was another call on my dosh that was more pressing at the time...  at the original price (£15) this would have probably remained the case for some time, as to be honest the price is the thing that puts me off them - I see these annuals in the same light as magazines, they're not intrinsic or key to my hobby in the same way that a reference book, or some little metal men, or paints, or brushes, or rules, are.... they are "nice to haves", and for me those purchases are governed by price and situation.... this years is  priced at £17.50 - I'll wait... 

..this one however was reduced at Colours (to £8) so I gave in and took the plunge.....pleased I did...

...the annual is put together by those two stalwarts Charles Grant  & Phil Olley, ably assisted by a few of their equally as well known associates (Stuart Asquith and Harry Pearson) and features a host of articles covering:

  • wargame re-fights of Blenheim (superb) and Minden (also good)
  • Harry Pearson writes on ancient wargaming  (OK)
  • Stuart Asquith has two articles one on wargaming in the "Time of the Other Napoleonic Wars" -  basically all wars in the age of Napoleon III so from 1850 to 1870 (OK) and a second piece on Solo Wargaming  (a little minimalist this one - but then he didn't have a lot of space).
  • Phil Olley does a battlefield walk of Tippermuir (good), and an article on his 30 Years war project (exquisite)
  • there's also a whole load of short "How To" articles on making terrain items and such...  (varied..  one on battlefield redoubts was good)
  • there's also a number of table top teasers including a night attack (small scale action - very good - want to try this one), blocking action (OK - some interesting thoughts on wargaming the firing from higher elevations)
  • an article on using light infantry in your games (a "condensed" history but some exquisite  pictures by Bob Marrion)
Overall - highly recommended - 8/10 (but it would have been a lot less at the original price)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A funny thing happened on my way to the redoubt.... moves 11 to End (King)

...the game has drawn to a close, but not before a continuation of the most outrageous luck for the American's... I have never seen a series of dice like it*

So just a quick summation and a few candid shots...

We'll start with the position at the end of move 11 - by the very skin of their teeth the Americans have managed to halt the Brunswicker's on the very lip of the redoubt - no casualties, but a morale hit by one pip - in return the Brunswicker's handle the Green Mountain Boys slightly more severely..  both end disordered (yellow pins) - the Hessians have recovered from the cannon fire of the previous move and moved up behind their colleagues in the event that they break..


Move 12 - low water mark for the Hessians....

In front of the redoubt, the Hessians and the Brunswicker's both fail morale tests and rout.....

The Americans draw the King - their Dragoons arrive.. I throw for their arrival point and get a "1"..  yep....  right behind the British Dragoons who have just wheeled so as to head up the table towards the redoubt...  the Americans immediately charge... while still in column...

A bad day just got worse...
In the ensuing melee, the British stand (just), but in the contact phase the Americans throw 6 and the British throw 1 - beyond belief - the death and Glory Boys break and rout...

Overview at the end of move 12..

Hessian assault troops streaming away in rout.. the British Dragoons have just passed the lead wagon in the same condition... game lost I think...


I thought I'd go one more move as there was still one British regiment in good condition, and there was always a possibility that the other regiments would recover.. 

Not to be...  the assault regiments both routed again... 

In their turn the American cavalry...



...started to carve up the wagons - a target rich environment... two wagons finished for (rout markers - they won't recover so will count lost) - next turn the Americans will do the same (the cavalry will get breakthrough charge so can reach deal with two wagons per turn)

...and at that point - move 13 - I called the game - quite possibly the most outrageous game I've ever had the pleasure of playing - immensely enjoyable, but I wouldn't have wished those dice rolls on a live opponent!

*... except when DG is on a roll! 

Monday, October 01, 2012

Books for your Kindle... #2

Been a while but I was browsing at lunchtime......  

This one (left) was from here:

http://archive.org/details/rulesforconducto00grearich

Not particularly my cup of tea, but this is one for Bob Cordery :

http://archive.org/details/gameofwar00maxi

More to my taste - similar to the previous:

http://archive.org/details/warchessorgameof00rich