Saturday, December 7, 2019

Book Review Osprey Men At Arms MAA522 The Khazars

The Khazars
A Judeo-Turkish Empire on the Steppes, 7th-11th Centuries AD
Osprey Publishing
Men At Arms MAA522
Authors Mikhail Zhihorov and David Nicolle
Illustrator  Christa Hook
ISBN 978-1-4728-3013-5

        I found this to be an informative and interesting book. Previously the Khazars had just been a name on an army list that involved painting too many horses for my taste, I knew nothing of where they were and cared little of their appearance. This data-packed little volume has enlightened me about who they were and where they rules (I'm still unlikely to build an army reflecting them as I'm even slower at painting now than I was twenty years ago).
        This book follows standard Osprey format with a brief introduction as to who the Khazars were and then follows the expansion and eventual collapse of their empire. There is a delightful lack of the usual horrible Osprey maps, instead we are treated to a series of information dense black and white line maps that,paired with the time-line, give a clear idea of the rise and fall of the Khazar Khaganate. Scattered throughout the text a nice clear photos and very precise line drawings of recovered artifacts that illustrate recovered item. In this aspect it looks like the very best sort of archeological dig report. From this the reader can gain an understanding of what the armor and weapons of these warriors looked like and how they evolved over time. Excellent work indeed!
       What really brings to life the intensely detailed archeological details is the atmospheric artwork of Christa Hook. I do confess that I started buying Osprey Men at Arms before they had numbers due largely to the artwork. Christa Hook builds on that sterling reputation and adds to its repute with her energetic, evocative and precisely detailed drawings.

     Very highly Recommended!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

All About That Base......

       Having agreed to run a Thirty Years War game at Spartacon on 11Jan20 I thought that I had best get off my backside and finish re-basing the rest of my figures. By "the rest of my figures" I mean most of the infantry which is something on the order of 400 minis! I have probably mentioned this before but I find rebasing particularly irksome; undoing work just to re-do it!

       But there was nothing left but to get started so off to the workshop I went.

the first step was to tear all of the figures off of their bases
this was tedious but uneventful until I got to the ones that had been painted by Trunkmonkey, 
he had gone to great lengths when he did these figures back in the early 90s 
and had cut plywood bases and superglued the figures to them 
the entire bases were glued to the larger Tercio bases

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Upcoming Gaming Convention Spartacon 2020

Spartacon is set for 11JAN2020 at the Causeway Inn in Lansing MI. This is a new location for the convention, it is located at 6820 South Cedar St, Lansing MI, 48911, ph# (517) 694-8123. This is always a great little convention hosted by a swell group of guys, you should plan to attend.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Fort Barrancas/Spanish Water Battery walkaround

barely still in Florida, 
Pensacola was "La Floridas" westward extremity for quite some time

a current aerial shot of the two forts, courtesy Google Earth
notice that North is in the upper left of this picture
       The most complete of the forts that I visited in my whirlwind tour of western Florida Fort Barrancas in on the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Like most coastal fortifications in the area it began as a Spanish effort and changed hands several times during the 1750-1820 period. The current fortifications consist of a late-period Spanish Water Battery and a U.S. Third System fort protecting the back of the Water Battery. Both are in excellent condition and are a nice contrast between the styles and thinking of the different systems of defense.These forts were built on the on the site of several previous fortifications dating back to 1698 which had been occupied by Spanish, English, and French forces in turn, for a delightfully tongue in cheek explanation of the convoluted military history of the forts around Pensacola check this post over at

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Fort King walkaround

       Located in downtown Ocala, at 3925 E Fort King St, Ocala, FL 34470 this reconstruction stands over the ground that the original fort stood upon.This is a new-built reconstruction (so new that it doesn't yet appear on GoogleEarth!) so it looks the way that would have appeared to the soldiers who built it; the wood still yellow and tan, not yet bleached gray from the tropical sun. Digging is still going on over the interior of the fort so the barracks and storehouses have not yet been reconstructed. There is a small museum that has a number of interesting (if difficult to photograph) exhibits as well as an informative video. The fort is run by the City of Ocala, an effort that I fully commend, the website is right here.

       U.S. fortifications built during the period of the Seminole Wars were not intended to be permanent and a good many lasted a year or less. They were designed in a way that could be constructed by the troops without need for advanced engineering skills or tools. As far as I can tell there was no official manual (I did find this Beast of a text from the era, but I haven't had the time to read through it yet) on the construction of these forts, just a rule of thumb approach. Boiled down into a graphic it looks like this;

       If the walls were going to end up longer than musket shot there would need to be blockhouses on all corners. If the fortification was going to need to house a large number of troops or control a significant amount of land the blockhouses would be spaced along the walls as seemed necessary (as in Fort Meigs). The blockhouses were capable of all-around defense in the event that the enemy gained access to the interior of the fort they could hold out on their own for a period of time.

The Last of the Big Guns

       Having gotten back from Florida refreshed and renewed I sat myself down and finished painting the guns and attendant gunners and then based them and flocked the bases, all in one afternoon! This gives me over thirty guns, in a rules system that envisions maybe two or three to a side, perhaps I went a little overboard? Ah well, it is better to have too much than not enough!

organ guns, a seemingly great idea that kept going nowhere until the 1860's

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated

       My apologies for not posting for the past week and a half but I have been out of town and I lack the smart-phone savvy to be able to post from my hand-held computer. I did put the missing time to good use (at least from my point of view!). While Michigan was dealing with the aftermath of 12" pf snow I had repaired to sunny Florida. Palm trees, sunshine and temps in the high 70's are a pretty good argument on their own but the state is also littered with historical locations that I have been visiting for the last three decades. In one Herculean effort I managed to visit four locations comprising five forts and three hundred years of history (four of the forts in one break-neck paced day!). I managed to squeeze in visits to the following; Fort King, San Marcos de Apalache, Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas and the Spanish Water Battery. The fruits of this effort will be appearing soon enough in this space.

grab a rum-based drink, put on some steel-drum music
 and turn on the heat lamp to catch the vibe...

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tonatiuh's Gold

Northwest Zambia:
Local folklore told of a curious invasion from the West. A vicious invasion led by a light brown skinned people in search of the Sun. The stories were dismissed by historians as nothing more than a lost European expedition, possibly attempting to find their way home. What is curious about the tales, is that the invaders were said to be traveling with a large treasure train of gold. Bringing it further and further East. Something that is strange because Europeans were noted for *removing* wealth, not bringing it. The legend states that the invasion ended when the spirits of those murdered returned and killed the invaders with their own gold.

All this would have gone by the wayside, assumed to be exaggerations or misinterpretations, had it not been for a particularly strong earthquake that shook the area. Almost immediately locals started reporting seeing a strange light and some sort of stone structure in the jungle. After verification that there was indeed some sort of structure in the jungle, the international community assembled a research team and went in. It didn't take long to confirm that the structure was identical to temples found in Central America... just in the wrong place. As the mystery deepens, so does the greed, corruption and mistrust that follows all things African. 

This Saturday, come enjoy the frightful action surrounding the greatest mystery of our century.
Patrick's House, 6:30PM

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Empirical Testing: Lemax Cobblestone and glue UPDATED with paint info

       I've never been much of a scientist, and reading the fine print on the labels of various glues just gives me a headache (more than the fumes do!) so I have long relied on empirical testing.  Or, as my Brit friend would say. "Suck it and see". So rather than spending hours reading about plastic co-polymer and solvent interactions I decided to grab some glue, some small pieces of the cobblestone mat and some blocks of foam and start gluing stuff together.
     I was surprised how easy it turned out to be. Edison tested a thousand things before he figured out what to use as a light bulb element. I got lucky, the first thing I tried worked just fine, so did the second!  I must have started at the correct end of the list.

first I cut a 1" strip off of the roll of cobblestone mat 
and then cut it into roughly 1" squares

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Momentary Diversion

       Having done too much of just a couple of things for the last three weeks I decided to jump ship and do something entirely different. I dug into The Vault and found an ancient  1/72 Revell model of a Polikarpov I-16. This particular kit had been made in Spain some time in the late 70's I would guess. The model looked to be cleanly cast so I figured "Why not?". It would be cheaper than talking to a shrink or a good bottle of bourbon at the very least.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veteran's Day Thoughts

       Having come from a family with over three centuries of military service the long string of veterans who are my ancestors are too many to name. So I will confine myself to thanking those veterans that I have had the honor and pleasure of knowing personally.
       My Grandfather and Father both served in the United States Army, my grandad joined the Army in 1917 as a first-generation American of German descent to demonstrate his loyalty to the country of his birth. He served in France until the end of hostilities and then returned home to settle in Detroit in 1920. My dad missed the draft for the invasion/occupation of Japan by way of a couple of atom bombs but was called up as a National Guardsman to serve in Korea. I thank them for their service and for not getting themselves killed (because I wouldn't be typing this if they had!).
        I would also like to thank my friends who have served, OldSarge did his initial time in Viet Nam and then served in the Navy. Brad, Trunkmonkey, Tankguy, Paul, Steve and Tom from Texas all served in the Army during the dark days of the Cold War. My son-in-law Paul served in The Corps for several tours before settling down to raise a family.
        Furthermore I would like to single out and specifically thank Honest Dan who continues to serve in the Army.
        These men have all either faced battle or were prepared to. They offered themselves in service to defend our way of life from regimes that were palpably evil and monstrous. They rarely speak of their service, and if they do it is more often of the friendships that they made and friends that they lost. They hide their scars, both emotional an physical, and just desire to live a quiet peaceful life.

    Thank You All!