Saturday, December 27, 2014

Portsmouth Christmas Beer Festival 2014

Hoping this event will be come a regular fixture on the social calendar as it was an enormous amount of good fun, and a very welcome "time out" from the utter mayhem and frenetic-ism that is the modern day run up to Christmas!

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

Brewery (clickable) Beer (click for more info) ABV Notes (from brewery website) What I can remember...
Dark Star APA 4.7% "The yeast strain used for the brewing of this American style pale ale is specially imported from the USA, along with Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops. The low colour Maris Otter malt provides a perfect light colour and dryness to complement the crisp taste and full aroma of the hops. SERIOUSLY FULL OF HOPS" 
A little stronger than my usual starting beers, but I live this stuff, and it was a handy tipple to enjoy while I perused the beer list..

Oh, and the beer description from the brewer sums up the beer to a tee..  delicious..
Ilkley Mary Jane 3.5%
"Multi-award-winning pale ale packed with American hops. Intensely refreshing and satisfying, with surprising balance and body for such a low abv. Mary Jane was named from the character in the Yorkshire folk song On Ilkla Moor Baht'at and is our best-selling beer by a country mile. Hast tha’ been a’cooartin Mary Jane?"
A step down in strength, and unfortunately also flavour..  there were definite possibilities, but it all tasted a little watery - maybe the APA as a starter wasn't such a good idea..
Castle Rock Snowhite 4.2% "Castle Rock’s “ice maiden”! Snowhite is a very pale and very refreshing ale with a delicate and distinctive hop character." Up the strength list for the next one - chosen partly because it is brewed in Nottingham, which is where my grandparents lived.. the castle rock in question is the one Nottingham Castle is built on..   As for the beer, not bad at all and a definite step up in taste..  nice...
360 Degrees West Coast Pale Ale #50 5% "Using solely American hops, a contemporary Pale Ale, heavily hopped to produce intense tropical fruit flavours and a long bitter finish." Regular readers of my beer ramblings will know that I like the new style ales brewed with the more powerful American hops, so you can see why I was drawn to this ..  very nice, super dry mouth finish..
Tiny Rebel The Full Nelson 4.8% "Our ‘Maori Pale Ale’ came together after months of experimentation with a very unique hop – Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand. Strong grape flavours are complemented by the sweet Munich malt, making this beer crisp and refreshing."
An interesting beer description always gets my attention - and New Zealand hops sounded exactly that despite the fact the brewery is actually in Wales... bit sweet for me, but I still finished it!
Dark Star Revelation 5.7% "A blend of Warrior, Cascade, Columbus, Crystal and Chinook by the sack full – then dry hopped during conditioning using our ‘Hoptimizer’ (Industrial sized hookah)." Oh man, this is grown up beer, and another from one of my favourite breweries of all time...  seriously heavy, hoppy, fruity flavours and a massive hit of dryness in the after taste..  a sipping beer for sure...
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...
Roosters Old Faithful 4.3% "A blend of three hops from three different countries, Tenderfoot is a premium-strength pale ale that highlights the berry-fruit qualities that each of the hops (Bramling Cross, Pacific Gem & Cluster) bring to the party. Aromas of blackcurrant and blackberry are followed up by a refreshing level of bitterness." Last one of the session, and a nice beer to end on - fairly delicate, but flavoursome...





















An excellent venue, and a good lunchtime session - four bands (three of which were OK'ish to awful, but one of whom was good fun), and a delightful selection of ales...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Seasons Greetings!


Seasons Greetings to all the poor deluded fools still hoping for some decent content, of passing interest, on this blog!

Slightly more seriously - I wish the very best of Christmas's to you and yours, may the time be restful and enjoyable, may the cheese be tangy, the beer hoppy, and the port surpassing sweet - and may the crackers be crispy..  and let's hope for some Dad's Army on the television...

Here's to seeing you the other side..

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bit of a bargain...

I can't remember where I first saw these but one of my fellow bloggeratti highlighted what a bargain these were, so I decided to follow suit and splash the cash ...


http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/161353954574?_trksid=p2060778.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

Yes... they really are £3.37, for 20 trees, and post free from China! I have no idea how they do it..!

A mere week and a bit later - a padded envelope arrived with the following in it..


Which when unpacked, translated to the following..


Bit rough and ready, but when I think back to the monstrosities we used when I first started gaming back in the early 70's* absolutely excellent

 *at one point it was considered optimal to use pine cones covered in flock as pine/fir trees!

This time with a 25mm figure for scale..

So having cleaned up the bottom of the base (chopped it off with a sharp blade), I raided the mites piggy banks for a fist full of 2p's and set to work with a hot glue gun# and ended up with the following...

# what an amazing piece of kit - first time I'd used one, and purpose made for the job.. just lay the bottom of the tree on it's side in the middle of the 2p, big blob of hot glue on the bottom of the tree, and stand the tree up for the glue to cool..  you end up with the tree anchored in a lump of glue that later paints up nicely as the root base..  all I need to do is figure out how to stop the glue stringing!


Base coated with a cheap craft acrylic mud brown, heavy dry brush with Dark Angels green (that dates me), PVA glue and flock with a few bushes and bits of grit to add verisimilitude..  done!


So what do I think of them??  For the money, quite astounding value...   I've put the smallest ones to one side - I'll use them on terrain pieces, or the like, in the future... being soft plastic, and having been crammed in a plastic bag they come out a bit bent, and being that same soft plastic they are resistant to being unbent (they eventually go back to that shape after being straightened!); I suspect heat would be required to straighten them permanently, but to be honest I'm not bothered, I quite like them that way... Steve the Wargamer rates these 8 out of 10..  for the price, astonishing...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Queen's Rangers

Finally hit the painting table - first unit this year! "At bleeding last!", I hear you say.... 

So to ease me back in, and cause less stress on the under-used paint brushes (I wonder the bristles haven't just dried out and snapped) I started off on what was always going to be a 'paint conversion' of a unit gifted to me all those years ago by Lofty C [clicky] and which had already been painted...

I think these were listed in the Miniature Figurines catalogue as Hungarians (Line Fusilier Advancing I think - product code ASW7 [clicky]) but from my perspective the most important thing was they were already painted largely hunting green and grey, and just needed a few modifications...  so , I added knee length black gaiters (which I thought would be likely on campaign), and applied some paint to the trousers of about three quarters of them to give some variation (again I thought this might be likely for a unit on campaign) - I think that typically the regiment would have worn white trousers... touched up the helmets, added the silver crescent, and the flag started off as the one from Warflag but I modified the central shield and wreath with a better one I found elsewhere on the web...  a coat of varnish and a quick wipe over with Dullcote, based, and the jobs a good'un - not as nice as Giles's [clicky] but they'll do!


So what of the history for this unit? Well there were a fair few Loyalist regiments raised in support of the British crown during the war of American Independence, and these were one of the better known ones...

They were originally raised by Robert Rogers (he of "Rogers Rangers" fame in the French and Indian War) in 1775/1776 at the start of the war, and were named after Queen Charlotte the wife of George III. In August 1776 at their first muster they numbered just over 900 men, organised in 11 companies of infantry, and five troops of cavalry (like Lausanne's Legion they were an all arms unit and eventually had their own artillery as well)



Rogers left the command in January 1777, following a surprise attack on the unit the previous October where they had taken serious casualties (other references refer to both his "poor health", his "alcoholism" and his poor choice of character in the officers he selected to lead the regiment as being behind the removal of command).

Despite this the regiment went on to distinguished itself at Brandywine [clicky] in September, under the new command of Major James Wemyss [clicky here for a good biography]; Howe personally thanked the regiment for "their distinguished gallantry, and good conduct."

In the October John Graves Simcoe [clicky] was given command (Wemyss - a British regular - was apparently dissatisfied at the lack of promotion and recognition and had resigned).

You pays your money and takes your choices, but Simcoe either turned them into one of the most successful British regiments in the war, or they already were that good as a result of Wemyss's previous work and Simcoe just benefited, but either way the regiment were present in a significant number of campaigns, battles and skirmishes. From Wikipedia....
  • They provided escort and patrol duty around Philadelphia (1777–8); 
  • fought in the Pennsylvania campaign; 
  • served as rearguard during the British retreat to New York (1778); 
  • fought the Stockbridge Militia in The Bronx (1778); known as the Battle of Kingsbridge there's a fairly interesting account here [clicky]
  • fought at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where Simcoe was captured but freed in a prisoner exchange three months later (1779–80); this is well worth a read for the story of this raid [clicky]
  • at Charlestown, South Carolina (1780); 
  • in the raid on Richmond, Virginia with Benedict Arnold and in other raids in Virginia (1780–1). 
The unit surrendered at Yorktown and its rank and file were imprisoned at Winchester, Virginia.



In 1783, when the war was ended by the Treaty of Paris, the Queen's Rangers left New York for Nova Scotia, where the regiment was disbanded.

Figures are  25mm Miniature Figurines

Thursday, December 11, 2014

R and R #2..

Gone but not forgotten...


...and a little bit of Heaven on Earth..

Monday, December 08, 2014

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

John Symon Asher "Jack" Bruce (14 May 1943 – 25 October 2014)

I'm a little bit late, but better late than never....

Readers of the blog will know that music has always played a fairly large part of Steve the Wargamers life (along with beer, books, military history, sailing, and the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer - not necessarily in that order..) and some of the earliest music that hit my radar and stuck was that of Jimi Hendrix and Cream - not at the time they were current, I hasten to add, I'd have been about 10 at the time of the following and I doubt very much I'd have been allowed out that late on a school night... of the two I much preferred Hendrix (and still do - he will feature later in this occasional series) because Cream (ok, Clapton!) always struck me as being a little too "restrained", but in my Top 20, this one definitely features, and this clip is breathtaking - far better than the album version... and I think that is the key to why the muso's of the time rated Cream as highly as they did - they were absolutely blistering live, but a little over produced on album.....




By the by - if ever evidence was needed that old rockers shouldn't come out of retirement, compare this to the coverage of the same track at their 2005 reunion shows - don't get me wrong I'd have been there like a shot if I could have got a ticket or afforded one - but there is simply no comparison..... 

RIP Jack....

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Projects... separate blogs or a page here????

I've been tinkering with the project blogs as is my want... I quite like stretching the Blogger layout and format options to do things that they aren't typically designed to do, but which when asked they do rather well..

In this case I've always thought that the project blogs were a bit off on their own, a lone voice in the wilderness if you will - they're only a click away of course, but having them here on this blog seems to make it easier to update/refresh them.. psychologically anyway.....

I started by trying it out with the War of the Spanish Succession project blog... it's now on its own page at the top of this blog, it also still exists currently as a blog in its own right..... I'm fairly sure this is a good move, but what do you think? Which do you prefer, the page above keeping it all within the confines of this blog, or a separate blog for each project which you have to leave this one to go to??

Monday, November 24, 2014

Imperial War Musueum petition...

I don't normally put this kind of stuff up as we don't like to discus politics or women in the mess, but this is of genuine interest to most of us... 

"One hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, the Imperial War Museum is under threat.

The Museum is facing an annual deficit of £4m because of cuts in government funding.

It has drawn up proposals to:

•   close its unique library and dispose of the majority of its collection
•   cut important education services
•   cut 60-80 jobs
•   close the widely emulated ‘Explore History’ facility in London.

The Museum’s library gives ordinary people access to research materials on all aspects of British and Commonwealth involvement in conflict since 1914".

The petition requests a review/reverse of the governments funding for the museum...

Sign the petition here [clicky]

Personally I wonder how much help it would be to also start charging for entrance....  it's a superb museum, and entry is currently free (except  to any special exhibitions)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Action at Trois Bras...

On the weekend of Warfare, with DG down from deepest darkest Wales it seemed churlish, and down right profligate, not to get together for a game....  after much pondering and head scratching* I decided on a WWII Skirmish game - we were going to try Chain of Command, but DG's played it only a few times, me not at all, I didn't have a set of the rules, so we agreed to play my usual rules for this scale "Rate of Fire" [clicky] which are published by Crusader (same team who do "Rank and File" .. if you fancy trying Rate of Fire, or having a read, you can get a PDF version for only £6 by the way!)

* We chatted about this on Sunday on the way up to the show - has anyone else noticed the tendency for wargamers to try and cram as much as humanly possible into any face to face event??  DG mentioned it happens at his local club..  in his case, on club nights, despite having more units on the table than could possibly be played to a conclusion in an evening, reinforcements always arrive, rendering the likelihood of playing the game to an outcome, which was already remote, even more remote!   In my case I spent days thinking how best to cram as much into this game opportunity as possible...  ridiculous really...  we came to the conclusion its because everyone is so busy that either, one, they feel the need to make the time as "useful" as possible, and/or two, that because the face to face events are so infrequent, they have to be huge...

Anyway - for this scenario we have an idea I knicked and adapted from Curt's blog [clicky] ...

Preamble..

It is France, somewhere near the Channel coast in the the summer of 1940. Everywhere German arms are triumphant as, despite the technological advantage in some equipment, the French and British armies are being pushed back ruthlessly, in a style and speed of war they have never experienced before..

Imagine the concern then when someone at French HQ realises that there is a consignment of a new type of aviation fuel sat, forgotten until now, in a railway siding on the outskirts of Trois Bras...  The fuel had been in transit to an experimental air base for testing by the French air force, but due to the rapid advance of the German army, and conflicting requirements for railway transport, the carriage containing the fuel has been left behind and is now sitting on a siding on the outskirts of the French town of Trois Bras, where it is in danger of being captured by the Germans.

Despite the huge confusion prevailing at the time, French HQ scrape together a scratch force of two sections of infantry (one of British, one of French), under over all French command (as the fuel, and therefore the mission, is theirs), with a lorry to transport them and recover the consignment.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the French, a fifth columnist has passed the same information to the Germans, and reacting quickly they too have put together a hasty scratch force of two motorised sections under a young Lieutenant...

Speed is of the essence, and both commanders are advised no more troops can be provided to either force.... they will have to get the job done with the troops and equipment they have available.

OOB

As this was a pick up game and it had been some time since we played I went for simplicity, with minimal/no toys (eg. HE, smoke, mortars etc) this was going to be a straight infantry fire fight...so both sides were of the same morale/training level, and both sides consisted of:
  • Officer commanding
  • Two sections of 6 men (five riflemen and a SMG armed NCO) 
  • Each section has an attached LMG group - for this game the MG42's were given the same number of dice as the Allied LMG's (usually they have more)
NCO's and officers of the German force were one level higher than the British/French - just to see how it turned out...
Game Mechanics:

  • German (me) entry point from the road top left of the following
  • Allied (DG) entry point from the road bottom right
  • Lorries are left off table 
  • the only way to remove the fuel is by truck - which has to be on the road apart from the last bit along side the track
  • the fuel is in the goods wagon in front of the guards van


The Game:

All is quiet - the only sound is that of heavy artillery in the distance - the town has been abandoned following significant bombardment by both Allied and German artillery, and the attentions of the German Luftwaffe ground attack squadrons....




Allied sections enter the table - leaving their lorry off table the British section cuts down a ditch towards the end of the ruined terrace...  the French keep to the road...


Opposite the German troops have also entered and make a bee line for the other ruined terrace...


..and move in to occupy it just as the British section reaches the fence line - picture following - the red die in the distance marks the British Bren position


There then ensued a brisk fire-fight as the German section in the end of terrace exchanged fire with the British, and the other section engaged the French... casualties in the LMG sections were heavy and required a constant recycle of crews...  officer casualties however were low...

Despite having some success clearing the fence line, German casualties however were heavy - and in the end they triggered a force level morale check that saw both sections heading for home - picture following...


With the French controlling the battle field we considered that they had managed to rescue the fuel consignment and won the game....


Post Match Analysis:

I think I ended up with one, or maybe two, more casualties than DG, but it was enough to trigger what "Rate of Fire" calls a force morale check - which both of my sections failed...
Somewhere under there is some experimental aviation fuel.....

A very simplistic game but we enjoyed it - and given the right royal whopping that I gave DG in the recent Chiraz campaign game it seemed only fair that on this occasion the dice well and truly turned and bit me on the bum.... I lost count of the 1/6 combinations I got where I needed 6/1! Having said that my luck did turn a little bit in the second half of the game but by then DG was ahead enough to maintain the lead...

The following shows our approach lines - the X's mark the LMG's - for the next game I look forward to bringing in some mortars/HE, and with the recent purchase of the vehicle supplement - may be some light armour...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Warfare 2014

Hurrah!! At last a wargaming show to go to..... With the demise of Colors this year I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to this one....  

DG and I have been coming to Warfare for years now, and it's always been a favourite - it's a fairly small show, and it it's held in a sports centre where they use all of the halls and even the squash courts to host competition games, display games and traders... the only bit they don't use is the swimming pool on the side....   now there's an idea.....

Competition types...   against all the rules of rationality they seemed to be enjoying themselves as well!

So what are my thoughts on this years event? Well I enjoyed it immensely, but if I was going to guess I'd say the traders might not have been quite so happy with the Sunday as I heard they'd been with the Saturday...   Warfare is primarily a competition weekend - they host a huge number of games in the competition hall, and I think it is probably only that that keeps this event at 2 days - probably a day too long for the trade hall....  Peter Pig were only there for the Saturday (which was a shame as I was hoping to do some business with them!) and I wonder if that trend will accelerate next year...  shame really - as I like the relaxed vibe you get on a Sunday...

So what did I buy? Just this...


...which is basically the supplement detailing rules for vehicles for the WWII Skirmish rules I use...  mine for a whole fiver...  one of the advantages of playing non-fashionable rule sets is that the rules and supplements are always more reasonably priced! I bet if it had been Bolt Action it would have been five times as much...  (B.t.w. DG and I had a game of this on the Friday that I'll post later, so finding this at the show was serendipitous to say the least)

So - as is tradition - what about the games I hear you ask??  Well I thought this years show was a little light on demonstration and display games - and I think back 3 or 4 years to that huge Blenheim game, and before that all the games put on by John Tuckey definitely a step down this year.....

So in reverse order ...

In fourth, this was a 45mm western game out on by the Skirmish Wargames group, who always seem to put on a big eye catching game even if it's in a scale that doesn't particularly interest me...  nice table though, and nicely converted/painted figures...  Plains Indians take on a small part of frontiers men/prospectors holed up in a circle of rocks...  looks they're waiting for the cavalry to arrive!




Next, "Action at Salem Church May 3rd and 4th 1863" which was put on by the Newbury and Reading club using home grown rules though I did see a copy of Esprit de Corps on the table as well...


...this was a demonstration game, but the participants were happy to break off and let me know what was going on - basically three divisions of Confederates all arrived at the same point, at different times of the day, to take on a Union force already ensconced...


Not particularly standout, but a nice table, lots of well painted figures, the players were having a good time - what's not to like...?



So in second place there was this offering, titled "Falkirk Muir 17th January 1746" put on by the Border Warlords and using rules from a new book [clicky] they were selling on the day written by Martin Hackett (he wrote a fantasy wargaming book I think?? Post edit: He did... )


Apparently the real battle took place during the the Second Jacobite Rising, and was the last Jacobite victory in battle....


Lovely terrain and scenery - a very good looking table, with lots of background information on the battle..  very impressive...


I loved the depiction of the quarry....




..but the winner for me this years was a demonstration game for a new set of rules, "To Defy a King" [clicky] - it may only have been a demonstration game but it was exquisite..


LOVE the purple regiment - very vibrant colours...


Man...   I am so close to an English Civil war project.... 


The representational scale is ideal for me as well - no more than 6-8 units a side...




Lots of cavalry....  someone did a nice job on those horses!


...and that was it for another year - next show will be 6 months time at Salute...  well done the Reading team - another good show.