Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 review

...errrr... anything you like......
...and so another year disappears down the pan...

It seems de rigeur among the wargaming bloggerati to put up some kind of view of how 2013 was, and what your plans are for 2014, so why on earth should I want to buck the trend...??

I've got to say it wasn't a stand out year; it was better than 2012 but still a long way off the glory years (which were when I first started, and about 7 or 8 years ago - I seemed to have more time then)...

The painting totals for the year turned out at 172 [click here], nicely up on 2012 (120 points); this year was considerably better. My favourite new item this year was probably Dorrington's Regiment [click here] but I'm pleased to see that practically all the projects got 'touched' this year with the single exception of the Sudan, and I have a plan to revisit that particular sphere just as soon as the current items on the painting table are completed...

Eighty four posts this year (c/w 85, in '12, and 93 in '11!) which is OK (and like last year I'm still surprised I was so prolific - it didn't seem like it at times...) what was a bit of a surprise is that 5 of  my top 10 posts of "all time" (by page views) were written this year...   nice....  not critically important as I write purely*  for pleasure, but just ...  well...   nice....

(* well 90% )

Three table top games this year (compared with seven last year) which is abysmal! Something needs to be done about that...  working long hours I find it very difficult at times to summon up the enthusiasm to set the table up.. much easier to open a beer, light a cigar, and read a good book!

Somewhat unhappily, I find that we have not had a John Corrigan Memorial game this year - I think I need to fire up the Skype and challenge DG as soon as I can...

Games this year were:
Grandson, heir, scion of House Steve the Wargamer, future
second row England rugby international 

...  so much riding on a little persons shoulders!
Three brilliant shows again though - Salute, Colours and Warfare - I also read some fantastic books (36 this year [clicky]) including the life time achievement of actually finishing (and enjoying) "War and Peace" [clicky].

No holiday this year, but that was because I became a Granddad (so a fair exchange I'd say!), but I bought a new boat [clicky],and had a good sailing year [clicky], overall then I definitely say 2013 was a good one!

I don't make New Years resolutions (it's a hobby, not a job so why pressure yourself further with schedules and lists...??) but I did have a couple of random ones throughout the year - one I  achieved (War and Perace) one I haven't yet (re-visit Roundway Down).

Looking back though, what I wanted to do in 2013 was:

~ a little more painting (I wanted to finish the Pz II and the Pz38T, and then balance the WSS forces with some opposition for Lord North and Greys Regiment) - all done... the Pz II post is officially my most popular page of all time.......

~ the same number of table top games as last year if not one or two more - uh oh.... 

~ new year new look - a change to the look and feel of the blog - I'll also freshen up all the project blogs as I go through the year...... done..  I like the current look and feel (which I shamelessly ripped off of a fellow bloggers blog!) so will leave as is for the time being..
~ the main priority at least for the first half of last year was to find a replacement for my old boat... done!

So what about this year??  Just two really..  I'd like to play more games (!!), and I'd like to paint at least one item/unit for each of the periods I play....  but hey...  it's a hobby right?

All the best to you and yours for 2014....!  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas!

Christmas greetings, chaps! Hope it's a goody...

Liked  this... it's a "wordle" [clicky], or "word cloud" generated from the contents of the blog... good isn't it?!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Even more Kindle freebies and a new Sudan book...

Just in time for Christmas I came across this web site the other week...  

Site: http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/

It's a little different to the norm being a site dedicated not only to free ebooks (multiple formats), but also free audio books...ideal for aural entertainment while at the painting table.

Details added to the Kindle Library page (up the top)...


Separately, courtesy of the wargame news and terrain blog [clicky] (which I recommend mightily as a handy source for what's new in the hobby) I found out this week that Mike Snook (he of "Go Strong Into the Desert" [clicky] fame - which I also recommend highly) has just released a new book on the failed Gordon Relief Expedition...

Quite excited about this as its a favourite period for me (as you probably know) and books about it are not exactly pouring forth, but was a little worried that it might feature re-chewed content from the Go Strong book.

Taking keyboard in hand I dashed off a quick email to the publishers to ask that very question, when blow me down I don't get a response from Mike Snook himself!

Suffice to say that based on his email I have immediately hot footed it to order a copy...  a personal Christmas present!

Reviews will of course be provided once it is read...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Zvezda 1/100 (15mm) Matilda Mk 1 Infantry Tank (A11) - a review..

Picture courtesy: http://tinyurl.com/n684nzz
Tank, Infantry, Mk I, Matilda I (A11) to give it it's full designation was of that peculiar breed known in the British army post WWI  as an infantry tank ie. it substituted speed for armour, and was intended to support the infantry in assault, whereas the cruisers fulfilled the old cavalry role..

The Matilda Mk I shares its name with the better known Mk II but in reality the tanks were completely different and shared no components or parts at all.

Designed by Carden at Vickers-Armstrongs in 1935 (you can see the similarity to the Carden designed Bren carrier in the running gear I think??) the army requirement was for something cheap that used standard components to also allow for easier maintenance..  which is exactly what they got...in reality however, the design was hopelessly outdated

So what do you get when you open the box? Very little - the kit is so simple they don't even provide an instruction sheet... 

There are just 6 parts on that sprue..

Which when cut off and clicked together give the following snappy little armoured perambulator...

So what was the tank actually like? Mixed bag, mostly bad, I'd say...

Hull and turret were well protected against the current crop of anti-tank weapons (Armour thickness: Maximum 60mm Minimum 10mm - NB. Panzer II max 13mm), but the tracks and running gear were completely exposed.

Armament was either the .303 Vickers MG or in some cases the larger .5 inch, so no anti-tank capability - this was real WWI thinking...

Maximum speed was 8mph (NB. Panzer II 25mph), but cross country no better than 5-6 mph - in fact there are reports that the infantry could move faster and often had to wait for the tanks to catch up.

 In addition to these other disadvantages, there were also crew issues; besides operating the machine gun the commander also had to direct the driver and operate the wireless (which was in the hull due to lack of room in the turret)...  in addition to the commander there was just one other crew (driver)

Nice detailing on the rear casing..
The first order for Mk 1 Matilda was placed in April 1937 (for 60), the tank remained in production until August 1940 at total of 140 were produced - most of them were left behind after Dunkirk. Remaining tanks in the UK were used for training only.

Last of all some pictures of the completed items....  with figures for scale - they are tiny!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

"The Galleon".. a review..

In my recent A to Z Blogger Book Survey [clicky] post, I highlighted one of my favourite childhood authors, Ronald Welch.

As is the way of these things (well in my world anyway ) I was prompted to go off and find out a little bit more [clicky] about him and as a result of that was delighted to find (amongst other things) that an independent book shop has decided to re-print the whole of the "Carey" series [clicky]. All twelve books!

They'll be printed in batches over the next two or three years, and the fist batch contains "For the King", "Knight Crusader" and the "The Galleon" - I have the first two but took the immediate opportunity to get a copy of "The Galleon" as I don't remember it well..

The book cost £16 including postage, which for a hardback, and limited run reprint (2000 copies of each book only), is astounding value - but it is even better when you actually get the book and realise what a high quality job they've done. Proper cloth covered, hard board covers, and heavy cream paper pages with a high quality print - for this addition we also have the original Victor Ambrus illustrations (which are superb). In summary then - this is not some dodgy photographic facsimile, it is a high quality, collectible, book (it comes with a little certificate showing the book number!) and I whole heartedly recommend it for that reason...

..so what of the story...  well in summary, I'd recommend it for that as well!

Set in Elizabethan times (1583), the focal point/hero of the story is Robert Penderyn. He's not stricly a Carey, but he is a cousin to the family, and we do meet the Earl later in the book.

Robert who is a penniless student, is visiting his land-owning (and miserly) father, and while meeting with friends at a local inn, accidentally kills a man in a duel. In order to escape reprisal, and despite a lack of knowledge of seamanship, he is made lieutenant aboard a merchant ship belonging to his father sailing between Swansea and Spain. He learns seamanship, and soon makes friends among the crew.

While ashore in Spain he makes enemies with a Spanish Don, is challenged to a duel, and again bests his opponent (wounding him in the arm) before escaping back to sea. On his next voyage, however he is arrested on trumped up charges and thrown into jail.

Suffice to say he manages to escape, and returns to England where he finds that his Father has died while he was in prison, he is further surprised to find out that he is now a wealthy man.

As a result of his experiences in Spain he is approached by an agent of Walsingham, the head of Elizabeth's "secret service" and asked to keep an ear open for news of a recently discovered Catholic plot to put Mary Queen of Scots back on the English throne.

In the finale, Robert takes to the sea again in a desperate attempt to defeat a Spanish Galleon, and foil the escape attempt.

Excellent - a most entertaining read, I'd forgotten how good this one was - I must get "The Hawk" when it comes out as the period and setting are very similar.

Steve the Wargamer rates this one 9 out of 10.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Zvezda 1/100 (15mm) Matador Truck - a review..

The Matador was built as an artillery tractor by Associated Equipment Company (who are probably most famous for being the builder of those iconic London red buses), for use by British and Commonwealth troops during WWII, so they are not strictly valid for the use to which I am about to put them, but they'll do..

This was a big old beast - 10 ton - and to fulfil the gun towing requirement was fully 4 x 4. AEC built nearly 9000 of them in total, the majority going to the army but a few went to the RAF. It also had a few interesting variations - in the desert they used them with a 6Pdr anti-tank gun on the back in a portee role (this was called "Deacon"), some of them were also converted to use as command posts (I have one of these see following)
AEC Matador converted to armoured command vehicle - designated "Dorchester" (after the hotel!)
- this one is Minifgs 10mm, and in my WWII North Africa collection
So what do we get in the Zvezda box when we open it - something very similar to follows - in fact exactly like this...  

Two sprues, instructions, and a couple of cards with detail for Zvezda's own WWII rules...  once the parts are taken off the sprues (I use a scalpel) you end up with the following:

Very clever - no glue is needed - the fit is absolutely superb...  there's some very clever pieces of design int his kit - a couple of little cross members that provide support to both floor, side panels and roof in particular...  the cab is a triumph - five panels plus roof to give that unique shape...

So when it goes together it looks like this - fit is very good - if I was anal I might want to fill those gaps but happily I'm not...

Last of all, a couple of pictures of the completed model with some 15mm infantry for scale comparison

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

British Army Rifle Platoon 1940..

I've been busy since I got back from Warfare, and almost all those purchases have now been painted...

As previously mentioned the idea is that they will form a small composite force for skirmish gaming using the "Rate of Fire" rules, so at an organisational I have decided the Rifle Platoon is a good starting point. Somewhat serendipitously the figures I bought at Warfare just about make up the numbers required...

Completed items colour coded green...

Rifle Platoon (3 of these make a company)

Platoon Headquarters
  • 1 x .38 cal Pistol 
  • 1 x 2" light mortar 
  • 2 x .303 cal Rifle (Assistant MTR Gunner) 
  • 1 x .55 cal AT Rifle (39-42), or 1 x PIAT (42-45) 
  • 2 x .303 cal Rifle (Assistant ATR/PIAT Gunner)
Platoon HQ - 2" light mortar and commander

Platoon HQ - 2" light mortar and commander

Platoon HQ - 2" light mortar - deployed/prone position (left) and moving (right)

Platoon HQ - 2" light mortar - deployed/prone position

3 x Rifle Squads
  • 1 .45 cal SMG (40-41), or 1 x 9mm SMG (41-45) 
  • 1 x 7.7mm LMG 
  • 2 x .303 cal Rifle (Assistant LMG Gunners) 
  • 6 x .303 cal Rifle 
This is the first & second squads - third still to complete...

1st & 2nd Rifle Squads - Riflemen

1st & 2nd Rifle Squads - Riflemen close up

1st & 2nd Rifle Squad
1st Rifle Squad - Bren team moving
1st Rifle Squad - Bren team prone/deployed
Still to do:
  • HQ Section needs a anti-tank team (at this stage of the war an anti-tank rifle)
  • 1st and 2nd Section need an SMG figure (probably with a Thompson a la Frank in Dad's Army! )
  • 2nd Rifle Section Bren Team
  • 3rd Rifle Section (complete)
 Source: http://www-solar.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/~aaron/WW2ORG/uk.html

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

A day in the smoke

...so Saturday was a day up the smoke as a treat for youngest (delayed birthday) and her mate....

I should state up front...   she a huge Beatles fan...

Dropped them off at the Savoy Theatre for "Let it Be" (front row centre tickets!)

...while I legged it over to Lambeth North to the Imperial War Museum (that's known in the trade as a win-win  )

I had no idea that this guy lived just across the way from the Museum...

Now that's what you call a War Museum..

Inside the Museum is in the middle of a huge refurbishment - the main hall is entirely closed off and is due to finish next June, so as a result only a few vehicles on display, and in quite appalling lighting...

Zundapp - front tires were huge - almost car tires...  and direct drive to the wheel on the passenger compartment...

Mark 5 Sherman...

This one saw service with the Guards Armoured in Normandy...

...and a 25pdr..  they always reminds me of the Airfix kit whenever I see one of these...

Monty's staff car (a Snipe) - served with him throughout Africa and Italy, and when he went to take command in Northern Europe, his successor (Leese) also inherited the car....

The museum is huge, and over 5 floors - entrance is free - there was a special exhibition on aimed mainly at the youngsters which there was paid entry for and given my limited time I didn't go for.

The main exhibits at the moment are Spies/Elite Services, and the Holocaust Exhibition.

The Spies exhibition was very good - I particularly enjoyed the section on Popski's Private Army, the LRDG, and the early SAS - they have a brilliant large screen presentation on the Iranian Embassy siege, including some exhibits from the actual operation...  hair raising....

The major exhibit in the museum at the moment though is the Holocaust Exhibition [clicky] - it traces the origins of German anti-Semitism from the first early signs of the Nazi Party, through to the industrial scale killing factories of Eastern Europe, via the Einsatz Groups, Ghetto's, and all the other other truly ghastly flavours.... absolutely harrowing.... but we really do need to remind ourselves of just what we as human beings are capable of..

I thought this was hugely effective... Auschwitz in 15mm scale (I think)...  a train has just arrived....

....just horrible..  more details from the artist here [clicky] and more pictures here [clicky]

Almost a sense of relief when I got out....

Was good to talk Beatles nonsense with the girls after that - oh, and we got some autographs at the stage door...