Thursday, November 28

"The Pagan Lord".. a review..

...difficult to believe that this is the seventh book in the Uhtred series, but there you are - time flies...!

So how is Uhtred doing?? Very well I'd say - he's still not rich, he's getting older, he's aware that he's getting slower, but he has the respect of his enemies if not his so called "friends"..

It has amazed me throughout this series why he actually continues to fight for the Saxons when it's fairly clear that culturally, and religiously, he's closer to the Danes - he likes them more as well! That aside however, he continues to fight for the Saxons and in this book is instrumental in saving Wessex and Mercia, and thus the future England, from the Danes...

True to form it starts with him killing a bishop (albeit accidentally) and being condemned and excommunicated by the Saxon Christian church leaders  - his hall is burnt down, and landless & impoverished he takes his followers and goes north...

After many adventures he finally attempts to recapture his family home  - Bamburgh Castle - and is within a gnats whisker of doing it when a vital gate is slammed shut. Luckily he captures hostages, and managed to escape back south where he gets wind of the plot to lure the armies of Æthelred of Mercia, and Alfred's son Edward (now ruling Wessex) into Essex, while the Danes under Cnut Longsword attack from behind into the now unprotected Wessex and Mercia. The scene is set for Battle of Tettenhall....

While there's nothing new in the book, the story fairly rips along - the characters are big, well rounded and likeable, the background is believable, the description of life in the Dark Ages is good - I particularly like Uhtred's view of the building skills of the now departed Romans, evident in buildings that still survive, and how the Saxons can only build in mud and wood.. The battle scenes are just excellent - no one writes about what it must have been like to fight in a shield wall like Cornwell (the only one who comes close to my mind is Steven Pressfield [clicky]). There are indications that Cornwell is also reigning in on some of his more obvious literary habits that I've noticed in the past - there's far less of those dramatic statements at the end of each chapter....

Well worth it - Steve the Wargamer rates this one 8 out of 10...

Tuesday, November 26

Cheap terrain???

Spotted this while doing the weekly shop in Tes and Co's (other supermarkets are available.. )

So ditch the animals and you have two (roughly, to my eye) 25mm scale buildings... for £6... bargain!

Details here:

Sunday, November 24

Ronald Welch...

This one is my favourite - Seven Years
War in America background
In the recent spate of A to Z posts [clicky for mine] featuring various members of the Bloggerati expounding on their book reading habits and history, I had cause to answer the question "what was the most important moment in your book life" with the answer Ronald Welch (I also answered Arthur Ransome but that's a different post..) and as usual it prompted me to do a little more digging...

The answer to the question was easy, I don't even remember stopping to think who it might be, as a younger version I devoured his books, reading them over and over, and they undoubtedly fed those nascent wargaming fires that I was also stoking up with copies of Featherstone and Grant at the same time...

Ronald Welch (14 December 1909 – 5 February 1982) was actually born Ronald Felton, he took his pen name from the Welch Regiment [clicky] which he served in during WWII.

He was born in Wales (at Aberavon in West Galmorgan), the son of accountant Oliver Felton and his wife Alice (nee Thomas). After attending Berkhamsted School (1922-28) in Hertfordshire, he earned a place at Clare College, Cambridge, where he studied history (M.A., 1931). Welch then went on to work as an assistant history master at Berkhamsted before moving to Bedford Modern School as a senior teacher in 1933.

By all accounts he seems to have had a strong attraction for Wales so the choice of regiment was probably not so strange, but having said that he was working as a history teacher (he read History at Cambridge) in Bedford on the other side of the country when the war broke out, so clearly there was something drawing him back to his native Wales.

He would have been 30 (so comparatively old) when the war broke out, but was already a Lieutenant in the schools cadet force (Officer Training Corps  or OTC). He was commissioned Lieutenant in the Welch Regiment in 1940, and served throughout the war - there isn't much detail but I also read that he had served in tanks.He reached the rank of major and remained in the Territorial Army after the war.

When the war finished he returned to teaching and throughout the 50's was headmaster of Okehampton Grammar School in Devon (1947 to 1964). It was while headmaster here that he started writing the books that I then became so addicted to..

He won the 1956 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject, for Knight Crusader, the first novel in the Carey Family series (which he published in 1954) but continued to write well into the 70's.

Just managed to get a copy of this one!!
All of the books feature the Carey family who's ancestral home is in Wales, but each of the books features a specific period of military history - so "Knight Crusader" is about the 3rd Crusade , "For the King" about the English Civil War etc. 

The thing that set them part for me was their depth and accuracy, the well documented and clear historical background, but set against a good story - the very best way to learn history that I've found! The best editions were also illustrated by William Stobbs who pictures were just superb - the following is typical of his style..

I own seven of Welch's books now, but it's taken me years to obtain them. My latest acquisition is "For the King" - they're all out of print and go for funny money on eBay and the like. The good news however, is that I've just heard they are being reprinted [clicky] - don't hold back, I very much recommend them...!

Thursday, November 21

Annexation of Chiraz - Game #2 - Crossing the River Cressay - The Game

...and so on to the game...  

As a reminder [clicky to see the "Set Up" post] the scenario DG and I were to play is slightly different to that described in the Chiraz Campaign book..

In our scenario (which came from "Scenario's for Wargamers" where it is number 18 "River Crossing") the French (DG) already have a small force (one battalion of foot) across the river, which they then need to reinforce.

The Allies (me) have to try and stop them, but the Allied force arrives in 3 parts and the full force doesn't arrive until after move 14.

So the table is as follows...

Allied entry point is A

The Game:

So the following shows the position about the end of move 1; DG has his artillery by the ruined bridge, covering the approaches to the village...  Dorrington's in the mid-foreground...

A few moves later and the next regiment (Saintonge - by the yellow dice) is about to cross...  somewhat handily I remembered I had a D3 from Salute some years ago which was perfect for measuring the random arrival across the river (it's a D6 marked 1,2,3 twice).

The artillery is already pounding away, but my gun shows shaken (yellow pin)..

Dorrington's (Cross of St George) is about to enter the built up area/village - on the other side of the village my cavalry, in column, is about to bypass the village..

Apologies the break in coverage, game was too exciting! This is about move 8 (below)..

Dorrington's are firmly in control of the village having seen off Derring's, but my cavalry (Schombergs.. "The Black Horse") have finished their circumvention of the village, and have already seen the Foix regiment off (I caught them in column and they broke when testing to stand)

Move 16 (below) and all is change.. I would say that this was a significant turn for the Allies...

Top left and force B is approaching the village - the Heidebrecht regiment has steam rollered into town, still in column because of terrain, and has seen off Dorrington's (red pin = rout). Their next target is Champagne, they have Derring's providing flank support..

At the bottom of the picture, most of DG's troops are across - next to cross is St Pouanges (the cavalry). Arco - his cuirassiers - have failed to change formation to line (blue pin) and are milling around somewhat... 

To the left, the last of my forces have arrived, the cavalry are already engaged (having seen off Agenois who can be seem routing next to Arco)

My cavalry are about to start causing mischief!

In the next move, Schomberg went for Arco, and Cadogan's went for Agenois, with mixed results....

Move 18 (below) or so, I think, and the end of the game is approaching though it was to rumble on for a number of further turns...

My cuirassiers can be seen in the wheat field where their threat is keeping the attention if both DG's Cuirassiers (Arco) and Regiment Foix (by the pine tree)

My remaining artillery has deployed by the wall (top left), and Lord North and Grey's Regiment is covered by the broken ground while waiting am opportune moment ...  that open ground is a bit of a killing field as DG has it well covered by his artillery.

Heidebrecht and Derring's have pushed both DG's regiments out of the town but have come to a fighting stop (both Derrings and Champagne opposite have shaken pins)

The Austrian composite Grenadier battalion is pushing forward hoping to cause DG's cavalry to charge!

End of game (move 27 - below) my cuirassiers are almost full strength and there are two routed units within charge reach. My Grenadiers have broken but Lord North and Grey's regiment is still there...  just...

Heidebrecht - secure in the village - almost full strength points and dominating the bridgehead...  On the other hand, DG's artillery are doing the same...

Post Match Analysis:

  • I lost more casualties but I think it safe to say I had the stronger end position, and a couple of extra moves would have seen DG lose Foix and Arco... having said that we agreed a bloody draw...
  • We played 27 moves - but the rules we use (Will McNally's SYW Rules amended by me for War of the Spanish Succession - check my WSS Project Page for the details) move pretty quickly - in essence Side A Moves/Side B fires/Melee and then vice versa. Each move is 10 minutes in real time so that equates to about 4 and a half hours - a brisk little engagement..
  • I planned on DG's forces being able to get across the river between 8 and 24 moves, as it turned out I don't think DG threw higher than 2 all game so his forces were over in less than average numbers...
  • The roads/lanes were a major PITA for the Allied players cavalry! I began to know how the Sherman tank commanders in bocage country must have felt..
  • Beverages on the night were Fullers "Wild River" [clicky] and later a cup of tea ably supported by a brace of Co-Op Truly Irresistible Chocolate and Brazil Nut Cookies..  well ...  you'd be foolish not to, right??



Force A:

Unit Type

Unit Name


InfantryDering's (c/w Battalion Gun #1)5 1
5 1
Light ArtilleryNo.155

Force B:

Unit Type

Unit Name


Hvy CavalryAlt-Hanover Cuirassiers5 4
5 4
InfantryHeidebrecht Regiment5 45 4
InfantryImperial Grenadiers5 2
6 3

Force C:

Unit Type

Unit Name


CavalryCadogan's5 5
InfantryLord North & Grey's Regiment5 2
5 2
Light ArtilleryNo. 255

27 strength points lost (60% casualties)

Franco Bavarian:

Unit Type

Unit Name


InfantryChampagne5 3
5 3
InfantryFoix5 4
5 4
CavalryRegiment de St. Pouanges55
Heavy CavalryArco5 4
5 4
Light ArtilleryNo. 15 4
5 4
Light ArtilleryNo. 255

25 strength points lost (56% casualties)

Monday, November 18

Warfare 2013

Sunday was Warfare at Reading, traditionally DG and I's last show of the year, but always enjoyed... of the three we usually go to (Salute & Colours being the others) this is by far the smallest, but because it is predominantly a competition weekend it always has a an excellent buzz...  it's also hosted in a leisure centre so there's usually something going on on the civilian side as well - this year it was cheerleaders, and before you all get excited, not one of them was over 10!

All in all, an excellent venue and without further etcetc, what did we get up to??

First off, new to me, Empress Miniatures [clicky] had a very spiffy stand, and I loved these for fairly obvious reasons (that ECW project is just SO close)...

Should I win the lottery or the Premium Bonds I shall cast all caution to the wind..

Lovely figures, 28mm I'd guess, very accurate anatomically...

They really caught my eye..

...and the damage?? £7 for four, or £1.75 each, but they do four pack value deals for £22 (£1.38 a figure), and regimental deals for £35 (28 figures - so £1.25 a figure). Lovely...

Steve the Wargamer is not know for splashing the cash at these events but this time was to be different with the following purchases:

They are WWII early war British:
  • Peter Pig 15mm  - two packs of riflemen, one command, one Bren's, one 2" mortar
  • Essex - one pack of riflemen, one 3" mortar
..and to back them up, some soft transport, and some armoured perambulators ..I love the early war British AFV's - Heath Robinson doesn't even begin to cover it..  (I purposefully didn't buy the MkII Matilda, by the way, as it would dominate the table too much)...

These were prompted by my recent reading of the "To Lose a Battle" [clicky] book about France in 1940 which I loved - they will form the basis for a small composite British force that I can use in Rate of Fire [clicky] games. I have a mind to put together three infantry sections, with a little support, that can provide support for their French Allies...  Jut need a little anti tank support (2 pounder) and they're good to go, but I doubt I'll be able to stop myself buying some Bren carriers!

So having picked myself up following this unusual spending, I then had time to concentrate on the games - some OK ones this year - but (for me) one run away success....  as usual, I ignored anything hex based (hexes are the work of the devil), anything in 6mm scale (they are counters, not figures), most ancients games (bit Dark Aged out) the following is my own hideously partisan, skewed, and generally cantankerous view - but hey, it's my blog...

So in fifth place we have this Japanese samurai game - no idea who put it on, but I was talking to the organiser and they were using his own rules...

In fourth - a very simple looking game which just caught my fancy...  this was the (fictional, I think) Battle of Latek Nek presented by the Wargames Association of Reading, and set in German East Africa in WWI. It also featured a Rolls Royce armoured car, and was thus guaranteed to get my attention!

Not sure what it was about the game, but it just looked....  "nice"...

Really must dig out my copy of "Shout at the Devil" [clicky]

In 3rd place, "Jackson Springs the Trap at Chancellorsville", which was a participation game believe it or not.. presented by the hosting club Newbury and Reading Wargames Society this was 28mm ACW action - and very fine it looked too..

Think they were using a summarised version of "A House Divided" rules

In second place - and this won best Demonstration game - a 54mm (!) Stalingrad game "Attack on the Tractor Factory" put on by the Huntingdon club

Very effective, and lots to look at and see...

Huge amounts of work gone into this...  the figure groups were little diorama's each on their own movement tray....

Counters prove the game was being played...

The factory - complete with part ready T34's


...but in first place - this was by the Christchurch club and featured Napoleon in Egypt in 28mm...

Streets ahead of the other games...

Been a huge fan of this period ever since I saw an article years ago by Charles Grant illustrated by the inestimable Bob Marrion....

Picture courtesy Caliver Books

If I was ever to return to Napoleonics (and that would be a 30 year gap!), this would be the theatre for me..  simply superb.....  so much colour, so much variety...  hussars on camels for goodness-sake!

My game of the show - hands down...

Roll on 2014!!