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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters... Bounemouth O2 Academy

This is the first time I've had the opportunity to hear "rock god", Robert Plant sing since I last saw him at Knebworth on August 11th 1979 [clicky] and to say I was looking forward to it is a little like saying RCH Pitchfork is 'drinkable', or a Melton Mowbray pork pie is 'nice'.....  

Robert has moved on considerably since his days in Zeppelin, and I like to think that with the exception of John Paul Jones, he is the one who has adapted to life post Zeppelin best....  he is an innovator, whereas Page continues to mine old ground, re-releasing and re-editing old sounds...

So it was that I and the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer found ourselves at the 02 Accademy in Bournemouth on a cold grey night in November at the end of a very long queue, waiting to see the man...

He and his 'new' band "The Sensational Space Shifters" were touring the latest album "Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar" [clicky], but rather than doing the huge International Centre they were playing at this much smaller, intimate, venue...

So how was it?? Well to be honest I had said to the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer I'd be amazed if he played more than one Zeppelin song - how wrong was I, as you can see from the set list following! The yards of wordage you see in the press about how Plant feels about a Zeppelin re-union are clearly nothing to do with the songs..!


It was a brilliant evening - Robert can't howl like he used to in Zeppelin any more - he's 66 and the best singers voices change character over the years - his voice now is far more earthy...  but he still has soul... and he can still do the Zeppelin songs, but better still (for me) he doesn't leave the songs anchored in the past - his new band have the skill and the instrumentation to bring them right up to date..  the Page and Plant album from some years ago gives the clue as to his direction.... Robert has gone back to the blue grass roots, but then mixed it in with some African ryhtms/instruments, and it works really well....  have a listen to the following and see what I mean....



Highlights of the concert for me??  "Going to California" always one of my favourite Zeppelin tracks (and definitely in my top 20), and the power chords at the beginning of "Whole Lotta Love"...  sorry..  old hippie.. 

What a brilliant night - enjoyed it so much I bought the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer a pint, and a t shirt.... 

"Ride a white mare in the footsteps of dawn
Tryin' to find a woman who's never, never, never been born".

Friday, November 14, 2014

"Waterloo" ..a review

There aren't many authors mainly known for their fictional work, who venture into the realms of non-fiction, and of those, there are even fewer who are good at it...  Len Deighton is one of the few that immediately springs to mind (and I seriously recommend both "Fighter" [clicky], and "Bomber" for an excellent, easily readable, and informative history of those formations in WWII), but based on this book I would whole heartedly, and happily, elevate Bernard Cornwell to that rare company (bet you wondered what I was going to say there... ) as this is without a doubt one of the most readable, and enjoyable, histories of the battle I've ever read... and over the years there have been a few...

Starting off with the return of Napoleon to Paris following his short exile on Elba, the Cornwell follows the campaign from the perspective of Wellington and Blucher, and of course Bonaparte himself...

Cornwell described the build up, how quickly Bonaparte managed to collect a quite astonishingly big army, and how he then set out to split Wellington and Blucher from each other and defeat each in turn using his now traditional technique of holding one with a small force while he beats the other with his main force, and having done that then turns on the second... it was a tried and tested strategy, and one that Bonparte had used again and again with great success...

It is the difference between the manoeuvre in the 100 Days campaign, and earlier that fascinates Cornwell...  and there is no single answer...

Firstly, Bonaparte seems to be lacking in energy and drive throughout the whole campaign, was it purely due to a massive under assessment of Wellington's abilities? He didn't rate him it was clear - he called him the "sepoy general", I wonder if his personal pride was also stubbornly affected by the number of his staff who had faced him, and kept warning him about both Wellington's abilities, and the quality of the British infantry...  his delays in launching the start of the battle (to allow the ground to dry) may well have even caused him to lose the day....

Second, for this campaign, Bonaparte was missing the exemplary Berthier, who was his chief of staff throughout all the previous campaigns. Berthier had died in mysterious circumstances earlier in the month (fallen/pushed from a window - murder/suicide??) and without a doubt his lack may have contributed to some of the confusion bought out by poorly written orders - d'Erlon's I Corps spent the entire marching uselessly between Quatre Bras and Ligny (and back), at both of which they could have made a decisive difference...Cornwell includes some of these orders - it was clear to me that either Bonaparte thought his divisional commanders didn't need their hands holding, or up until this campaign Berthier had drafted clearer orders out of what appear to be Bonaparte's rambling thoughts...

Third - his staff were not the best - Grouchy was indolent, Ney was both indolent and the opposite (and never stopped to think in either mode), his brother squandered thousands attacking Hougemont and no one thought to say "no", and as for the French cavalry charge - what was originally intended to be a small action snowballed out of control, while Ney wasted them in repeated and fruitless attacks...

But Waterloo was supposedly "the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life" so what balanced out the preceding??

First of course, Cornwell points out that Wellington was definitely outnumbered - not by a great amount, but the second, greater, issue was in troop quality - Wellington's army was only a third British, Wellington relied heavily on the British battalions (many of them Peninsula veterans), and of course the Kings German Legion, but the rest of his troops were of poor quality, and in some cases had been fighting for Bonaparte only a few years before..

Where Bonaparte definitely had the advantage was in his "beautiful daughters" - his 250 guns vastly outnumbered Wellington's 150 - and Bonaparte massed them in a grand battery...  despite the fact Wellington used his tried and trusted reverse slope deployment, Bonaparte's artillery were almost a battle winner...

In the end then - and purely in my view - Wellington won mainly because
  1. the incomparable (he's a hero of mine!) Blucher got there on time (despite Gneissenau!), but also 
  2. because Grouchy seemed to treat the entire affair of following up on the defeated Prussians after Ligny as some kind of Sunday afternoon picnic exercise, 
  3. because the French were unable to string an all arms attack together all day (the closest they got was probably the attack by the French heavy cavalry when they managed to bring some horse artillery up at the same time.... if the Imperial Guard had struck then who knows...)
  4. because he had just enough British and KGL troops to anchor the line and cause the rest to stand...
  5. because of the poor French staffwork
  6. because of the weather earlier int he day
  7. because because because....
What a cracking book...  I'm going to give this my first 10 of the year..

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Poppies....


A few weeks ago I had cause to visit the Tower of London to see the new art installation "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red" to commemorate the British war dead of the First World War... it seemed apt on this specific day to show the pictures....


Over the course of this summer the moat of the Tower of London has been filled, day by day, with 888,246 ceramic poppies - one for each of the British casualties in the war - designed by ceramic artist Paul Cummins and laid out to a design by stage designer Tom Piper..  the final poppy will be planted before the two-minute silence at 11am on the 11th.


What has impressed me so much though, and gladdened my heart, is the reception that the installation has received with the general public - we live in cynical times unfortunately, but this display will have been seen by up to four million people by the 12th November when it is expected to close (there are calls for it to remain for an extra week to allow people to see it)





All the poppies have been sold (my Dad has bought one) and the money will be distributed amongst six charities providing support to service personnel, veterans and their families; these include the Royal British Legion, and Help for Heroes - the government has said that it will waive value added tax on any sales - and it is expected that the sale of the poppies will raise in excess of £15m.


More here [clicky]