Monday, September 30, 2019

Quarterly Review 2019 Q3 (On time even!)

     Well, I am happy to report that it has been a productive summer. The sweltering heat has kept me in my basement workshop and I have been enjoying wargaming again. For starters I think that I have hit an all-time high of having played 28 games in the last quarter, exceeding (barely) an average of two a week. I published a set of rules for French and Indian Wars, a heavily modified set of  One Hour Wargames rules for Napoleonics (along with army lists for the campaign in Spain) and have discovered (hat -tip to Joe) a fast and fun set of rules for the Pike and Shot era (something that I have been searching for over the last thirty years!).  

      These new rules, Tercio (free set here), caused me to do something that I have never done in the forty-five years that I have been wargaming; rebase an army. So far I have rebased over 220 figures and will, by the time I'm finished, have rebased over 1200. The discovery of these rules has caused me to re-invent an old Pike and Shot era campaign but having lost the maps and notes I had to reconstruct it from memory. This brought about a brand new continent and map along with the four great empires that will be squabbling across it. I have had jolly fun creating the countries and erratic personalities that rule them.

      In the workshop I have built four 28mm bridges, a base for a Playmobil Colesium, and a 28mm Dark Ages tower complete with base and interior. This last item lead to another first; tiling a roof with individual tiles in the manner of Ian Weekly of Battlements fame, a project that wasn't nearly as traumatic as I feared it might be.

       I posted three book reviews, three more fort walk-arounds, four after action reports and attended (and reviewed) one convention; Pro or Con 2019.  Overall I made 56 posts to the blog and took in over 150 comments (which are always welcome)

       Finally, but far from least important, I got my painting mojo back and managed to paint a dozen 28mm St Petersburg Dragoons over the course of a couple of days.

      All in all a most satisfactory summer.

Convention Review Pro Or Con 2019

         I had the great pleasure of attending this year's Pro or Con wargaming convention. As has proved in the past this was a laid-back and fun show with some really attractive games on display. I was without my usual assistant and roving reporter J&R so I am sure that a few games got missed (I was also running a game in the second session). The flea market was up to its usual standards and I walked away with a few new (to me) gems.

Horns of Hattin

Rod Cain returned with his Triumph rules and an absolutely gorgeous Horns of Hattin game

Friday, September 27, 2019

St. Petersburg Dragoons 28mm Lace Wars

not bad for one day's work

      After almost a year since I last painted any Lace Wars figures I picked up my paintbrush and got to work. These fine fellows, the Saint Petersburg Dragoons, have been waiting patiently in a box since I finished the Lifgarden til Hest back in October of 2018. It seems that re-basing my 15mm Renaissance Scots has awakened my desire to paint. At last!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Royal Army of the House of Bon-Bon, Order of Battle

the "Five Ancient Ones" parade with some of the cavalry

      Louis The Ravenous is proud of his army and navy and lavishes them with attention and funding. Perhaps the best equipped troops on the continent the army of Freedonia lacks for nothing. Pride of place is taken by the Royal Guards but the Ancient Regiments are just behind in honor and reputation. Even the lowly freshly-recruited battalions are fully accoutered. This vast and powerful force has many tasks; guarding the frontiers, suppressing the perennially rebellious northwestern provinces and manning the colonies as well as internal security.

       Please note that the troop descriptions are for Tercio rules by  Liber Militum

Book Review, Armies of the Italian Wars of Unification 1848-70 (1)

Armies of the Italian Wars of Unification 1848-70 (1)
Piedmont and the Two Sicilies
Author, Gabriele Esposito
Illustrator Giuseppe Rava
ISBN 978-1-4728-1949-9

      I have to confess that I was excited when I saw this title. The Italian Wars have always been fascinating to me; the interplay of politics, royal conservatism, royal progressivism, outside occupation and influence, and outright revolution all occurring on the Italian Peninsula over the space of a few years would make an incredible backdrop for a Diplomacy style game. This slim volume puts a face on two of the armies involved in this epic conflict, Peidmont and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Delightfully lacking the usual horrible maps, this volume also dispenses with the multi-page chronology that afflicts too many Men at Arms volumes and concentrates on describing the organization and dress of the listed armies. This it does handsomely!

        Gabriele Esposito details the state of constant flux that the armies of both nations struggled with are evident in the near yearly reorganization and uniform changes. All of this information is conveyed in a concise and easily understood manner. Both nations battled with internal divisions, financial restraints as well as manpower issues and shifting alliances. Along the way they produced some of the most stylish military dress ever seen (I am left to wonder where they found the time). These uniforms are superbly illustrated with period artwork and photographs and brought to vibrant life by the brilliant drawings of Guiseppe Rava. 

      I have the second edition on order and am avidly looking forward to reading it.

      If your are interested in the wars of the "Long Peace" this is an excellent addition. If you enjoy  beautifully executed artwork this is a volume to own for that reason alone.

Very Highly Recommended

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Thirty Course War, The nations align for war

     Apologies to all for not posting recently, I was out of town for a bit. The characters have been posted but not the models for the armies they are about to lead (aside from Boozonia, that is). All of the forces will be built upon my collection of 30YW/ECW figures that I collected and painted MANY years ago. This force is almost exclusively Minifigs, back in the day when a 15mm figure WAS 15mm and Minifigs was cutting edge (yes, I'm really that old). It is a rather large collection and allows me to field a fairly huge force without too many compromises.

     All that aside I have decided that each of the four major powers in Epicurea will be modeled after an historical army. The Boozonians, as already explained, are based on the Scots. The Ferndalians will be based on the Swedes of Gustavus Adolphus and the Freedonians on the army of a very young Louis XIV. The splintered realm of Gluttonia will be split between the Proper Meal faction who will be represented by Spanish and the Small Platers will have the Hapsburg Imperialists carrying their banners.

       The Mindorans were Japanese Samurai in the first iteration of the campaign but I loaned some of the figures out and never got them back so some amendments will have to be made. The Nylians are new; I'm thinking that Ottomans would be a good fit and a nice difference from the Western style armies that have been included so far, I will have to see. The Frozonians (if they fail to stay loyal to Ferndalia) will be Petrine Russians while the Nordlanders will be ECW era British

Friday, September 20, 2019

Meet the Army of Boozonia

     The force is built upon the idea of a combined Lowland and highland force from about 1650AD. Using the army lists provided in Tercio rule and the Kingdoms supplement I constructed a force that blends the different nature of both forces into a (hopefully) coherent whole. The Lowlanders provide the fire base of artillery and steady musketry while the Highland forces are the shock element.

recruiting is still under way

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Meet the Rulers; Clauz IV of Framboise, "The Unfortunate"

     The fifth child and third son of Ferdinand III de Flamboise, Clauz was an unattractive baby and grew uglier with age. Oddly his personality is the exact inverse of his visage; he was quiet, thoughtful, industrious, polite, kind, intelligent, perceptive, strong-minded, ethical, honest, decent, energetic, obedient, tidy, generous, healthy, wise and overall a rather nice fellow. As a fifth child among eight he was sometimes overlooked by his mother and his nannies. Of Ferdinand's four sons he is the only clearly sane one (the youngest, Mikail XII, being but three it is too early to guess) and it has been whispered in hallways that the Emperor wished to have his two oldest sons declared unfit so that he could elevate Clauz to the Imperial Throne only to be dissuaded by his wife at the last moment before he went off to war.

Rebasing Woes

the army of the Lord High Constable of Boozonia
it would also equally serve as a Scots army from the ECW period
  This is turning into a year of Firsts.

      This is the first year in forty that I haven't painted a single figure (so far, but I still have hopes!), the first year that I tiled a roof using individual hand-cut tiles and now, for the first time EVER in my wargaming life I rebased an army, or any portion thereof. I find painting tedious, basing is worse. Rebasing means undoing the work only to repeat it, madness!

Meet the Rulers (almost) Hanz and Franz of the House Flamboise

     The Troublesome Twins, it is an unusual thing that the king of a land having three sons could cause a crisis in the line of succession but the presence of Franz and Hanz de Flamboise has brought about just that situation. Truth be told Ferdinand had doubts about his two oldest sons from early in their lives. The constant lying and deception that they practiced, paired with their very unusual view of how the world works, caused poor Ferdinand many a sleepless night. At his wife's insistence he refrained from having their names tattooed onto to them to prevent their endless shenanigans.

Hanz de Flamboise

Franz de Flamboise (I think)

      Hanz always displayed a casual disdain for the thoughts and feeling of others that seemed to have no limits, while Franz was slavishly deferential to the opinions and feelings of everyone about him. Hanz would break a glass to see it shatter and Franz would buy a set to replace it.

Meet the Ruler; Gordon Ramsey, Lord High Constable of Boozonia

the right honorable Lord High Constable of Boozonia, Gordon Ramsey

      Alone among the leaders of nations in Epicurea Gordon Ramsey did not inherit his position. Boozonia developed a national consciousness six centuries ago. Four hundred years of intermittent conflict continued until the House of Flamboise finally gave up and granted Boozonia its independence. The lengthy struggle against the Imperial power sharpened the already intense feeling of individual freedoms and God-given rights. The Boozonians have enshrined these rights in The Covenant which forms the basis for their form of government.

Meet the Ruler; Peter II "The Famished" of King of Ferndalia

His Most Esteemed Royal Majesty Peter II

      The Whey dynasty has ruled Ferndalia off and on (mostly on) since time immemorial. It is only since shedding their pagan ways that they began to enumerate their kings, whom they name in strict alphabetical order. Peter has ruled for the past fifteen years succeeding his very long-lived grandfather Nathan II. Widely respected, if little loved, Peter holds sway over the largest kingdom in Epicurea running the realm with the attention to detail normally found only in the finest of chefs. His cold demeanor and excessive devotion to his cause have not engendered any love from his citizens but they do appreciate the order that he has brought to the realm following the chaos of Nathan's too-lengthy rule.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Meet the Ruler; His Most Caloric Majesty, Louis XIII "The Ravenous"

tell me, honestly now, does this wig make my head look fat?

       The House of Bon-Bon has ruled Freedonia for the past five hundred years; compared to the House of Flamboise they are like a rambunctious child with all the inferiority issues that come with being a younger sibling. The Bon-Bon dynasty has always felt the need to exceed all the other royal houses in every definable way; more extravagant clothing, food, palaces, uniforms, navies, entertainments....the list goes on and on. In large part they have succeeded in this ambition due to the discovery of vast silver deposits in their colonies which have lifted the burden of the monarch's vision off of the long-suffering peasants. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Meet the Ruler, The recently deceased Ferdinand de Flamboise III

his Most Exalted Majesty riding off to battle

       For the past two decades Gluttonia had flourished under the careful management of Ferdinand the III. It is only recently that the Small Plate heresy has been upsetting the peace and calm of the prosperous countryside that is blessed with a fertile landscape and a diligent, hardworking populous. Ferdinand, known affectionately as "Fat Ferddy" to his subjects, saw to the maintenance of peace within and without his lands. 

The Thirty Course War, an ImagiNation campaign

The Origins of the Thirty Course War

The continent of Epicurea had long known peace. Certainly there were the occasional uprising, riot, food fight or revolt along with the odd dynastic squabble or border conflict but, on the whole, the land had known peace for the better part of a century. That was before the Great Debate had degenerated into the Grand Conflict which, as everyone knows, brought about the the Irredeemable Disagreement. The humble origin of this continent shattering cataclysm was the issue of The Small Plate; more specifically whether one could legitimately replace lunch with a selection of Small Plates as a proper form of repast if one was considering a larger meal later that day. Not that anyone had ever done such a thing, just whether, as a point of philosophy and practicality, it would be proper to do so.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Making Places

the one that started it all; Daftrica

     Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by maps. The visual display of information that had been carefully compiled and the ability to plan activities from that information, the instantly obvious relationship between places and the artistry involved in the creation of them absorbed my young mind. I have collected maps from every place that I have been, bought maps of places I hope to go, culled maps from old issues of National Geographic. It approaches a disorder.
     Maps of mythical places were not exempt from this collection. Howard's Hyboria, Tolkien's Middle Earth, or Burrows' Barsoom all had a place in my imagination. I enjoyed making maps of my own, recording places that I had been in my child's hand and then comparing the map I had drawn to a real map. My father explained that because it felt that I had "walked a hundred miles" didn't mean that the distance was really that far. He taught me how surveyors had made made maps in the past and befuddled my young mind with the maths involved calculating distances and heights.
     When I got into wargaming I readily accepted that the maps in the Avalon Hill games of the 1970s were exact and accurate. Only later did I come to realize the compromises that graphic designers had to make to create a playable game surface. 
     This long-winded lead-in  is just to lay the groundwork for a post on my way of making maps for the campaigns I run. A while back (twenty years or so) I drew up a map of a mythical continent that I made my loyal friends fight battles set in the period known as Pike& Shot. I ran this as a semi-solo campaign wherein I did all the bookkeeping and strategic planning and they took the place of the battlefield generals. They suffered through many games using George Gush's detailed and slow-moving rules until they finally rebelled and stopped showing up on evenings when such a game was scheduled. Not wishing to lose friends I set the campaign aside. 
     That is until now, having found the Liber Militum Tercio rules I am now going to re-launch the campaign. I went looking in my files and found that I no longer possessed the map (I think it was taken and destroyed by one of my disgruntled friends). Faced with this sad development I resolved to recreate the map. And just to show you how I do it I decided to document the process.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Gaming Update

Next game      Saturday  14SEP19  1200-1600hrs

One Brain Cell Rules and the F&IW, AAR and rules

 a quiet morning in western Pennsylvania,
 horses frolic in the meadow, birds sing in the trees, troops sleep in their tents
then word arrives, the Indians are closing fast!

     Some years ago Trunkmonkey and I tried to develop a series of rules that would fit on one side of a standard letter-format sheet of paper (using no smaller than size 12 font). This effort created some truly "interesting" rules-sets but we had some minor successes as well; the best of which was our French and Indian Wars rules. I came across the rules sheet the other day while searching for something else and was overcome with a wave of nostalgia and determined to run a game using the rules. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Book Review; Kos and Leros 1943 Campaign #339

     Opsrey Campaign  #339
     Kos and Leros 1943
     Author Anthony Rogers  Illustrator  Darren Tan
     ISBN 98-1-4728-3511-6

     An intriguing little book about an intriguing little campaign. You could probably win a few bets on this campaign, "What was the last territory that the Germans captured that they held onto until the end of the war?" Very few people would be able to name the islands Leros and Kos, and fewer could spell the Dodecanese Campaign. In 1943, following the collapse of Mussolini's Italian Empire, the British moved to secure these islands between Greece and Turkey with the twin objectives of  leaning on Turkey to enter the war on the side of the Allies and preventing the Germans from moving into the area. They succeeded in neither objective. The Germans captured Rhodes (the largest island and its all-important airfields) while the British took several of the smaller islands principally Leros and Kos using an odd mixture of garrison troops and the combined efforts of the S.A.S. and the S.B.S. only to be promptly ejected by the German troops.

       The book follows the usual Osprey Campaign format of a short historical lead-up to events, followed by a chronology, then a look at the commanders involved. This is complimented by a short look at the forces available to those commanders. The contending plans are given a quick look and then a concise chronological history is provided in an almost day-by-day format. The text is well-written and easy to read and moves along at a snappy pace (although there are times that trying to follow the action on the horrid maps is difficult, thank God for Google Earth!) .

      The hallmark 3-D pictures of the battles are well done. In sharp contrast the maps of the islands are in the usual flaccid pastel colors that completely fail to indicate the violently rugged terrain that the troops had to contend with. The one German aerial photograph reproduced provides an inkling of the terrain. The already inadequate maps are further marred by the use of standard military "block" unit indicators that obscure the ground under them and a near total lack of place-names and elevations to index with the text, further confusion is provided by squiggly arrows indicating troops movements without any sort of time-reference to show when those movements occurred. 

      The photographs that are included are excellent and give an idea as to the look of the soldiers and the terrain. This certainly was a rag-tag off-the-cuff fight on both sides, with troops being scraped up from the occupying forces in the surrounding area (everyone had bigger fish to fry, the Germans had recently been drubbed at Kursk and the Allied conquest of Sicily had prompted the Italains to switch sides). The artwork is good, cleanly produced and well-detailed, illustrating in three double-page spreads the fight on land, sea and air but I found it unexciting and lacking both urgency and flair.

     This is a campaign that cries out to be fought through; the strategic choices are interesting, the forces are small enough to represent at a reasonable scale and the combination of aerial, naval and land assets (all of which are vital to success) will allow every aspect of combat in the Second World War to play a part in the game. This book will provide a good basis if you are inclined to do just that.

      Recommended (because of the poor maps, otherwise it would gain Highly Recommended)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Book Review; The Prussian Army of the Lower Rhine 1815

     Osprey Men At Arms 496
     The Prussian Army of the Lower Rhine 1815
     Author Peter Hofschroer  Artist Gerry Embleton
     ISBN 978-1-78200-617-6

     Every once in a while there is a book that I love and hate at the same time. This is one of those books. I love that the most important army on the Allied side of the Waterloo campaign is finally getting the detailed coverage that it deserves, and I hate the fact that I now have to repaint a lot of my Prussian army (perhaps I should just buy more.....).
      Hofschroer does an excellent job of outlining the condition of the Prussian Army at the time of the start of the Waterloo campaign. Plagued with shortages of equipment and supplies while in the middle of both reorganizing and absorbing new territories and recruits the Prussians were able to confront Napoleon at Ligny on the 16th of June 1815, fight a massive battle, retire in good order that night and then, on the 18th of June 1815 launch the attack into Napoleon's flank that saved Wellington's failing army on the field of Waterloo while simultaneously fighting a rearguard action against Grouchy at Wavre.
      Dispensing with the bothersome chronology and vague maps that are often a real downside to the venerable Osprey MAA series, Hofschroer provides a tightly written account of the state of the army in the days before the outbreak of the campaign. Part of this is a description of the uniforms worn by the troops in the sundry formations that made up the Brigades. The dizzying array of new uniforms, leftovers from the 1814 campaign and not-yet-replaced Napoleonic uniforms must have made this an interesting force to see.
       He continues with a short exposition of the the 1812 Drill Regulations and joins to this a couple of examples of real units adapting this to the conditions of the battlefield. I found this part particularly interesting as it is very rare to find the theoretical so directly juxtaposed with the real.  He continues this examination of tactics with a description of the Battle of Ligny, describing the actions of the various Prussian formations during the battle and the eventual retirement to Wavre followed by the march to the guns that saved the Anglo-Dutch army at Waterloo. These actions are illustrated with historic German maps that clearly show the terrain and troop dispositions (but they could have been larger!). These maps are a huge improvement over the vague pastel-colored "maps" that Osprey so often encumbers their slim volumes with.
     The artwork is very much up to the usual standard of Osprey productions. Embleton's illustrations are energetic, atmospheric and precise. They clearly show the very wide variety of uniforms worn by the Prussian army at the time. This gives me a chance to paint colors other than the interminable Prussian Blue!

     Very Highly Recommended!