David Bickley's Wargames Blog

The occassional ramblings of an average gamer, journeyman painter, indifferent modeller, games designer, sometime writer for Wargames Illustrated and host of games in GHQ.

Monday, 19 June 2017

400 Not Out

This is my 400th Blog post apparently, must say I'm rather surprised at both the number and the simple fact that it, and my good self, are still plodding along merrily. As this is a milestone of sorts, it's apt that it features the usual post game report on the latest tussle here in GHQ between Phil and yours truly. Goodness me, I wonder how many games we've shared down the last thirty odd years? Must be a fair few, and never a cross word! Never? Well hardly ever! A long way from felt cut out roads, streams and string round a tree to signify a wood to today's bespoke terrain. My, how our wonderful hobby has grown and changed over the years. But, on to the game before I get carried away even further...

It was so hot today, even in the normally temperate GHQ, that I thought the dice would melt! We used Neil Thomas's Ancient & Medieval rules, the Dark Ages stats rather than the Classical this time. The battle was decided on Pompus Maximus's right flank, where the mostly cavalry force overwhelmed Baldinus's mixture of Hun Light Cavalry, Saxon Warband and Roman Heavy cavalry ~ see pictures 4 & 5 for the sense of the developing action. On Pompus's left the infantry took a seeming age to close but soon got the better of the usurper's infantry, aided by some deadly fire from the balistas! Star performers for the victors were a unit of Light Cavalry who repeatedly threw 6 to save, suffering only 2 casualties in the entire game! Good to give the armies a run out today but I venture that we both enjoyed the cold beer after more than the game...

Friday, 16 June 2017

All Quiet(ish) On The GHQ Front

Sue and I are back home and refreshed after our Croatian holiday, a cruise around the Dalmatian Coast and Islands betwixt Dubrovnik and Split. That alone should explain the lack of anything new in GHQ, but of course it is always more complicated than that. My decision to stick to what I have in project terms, while personally liberating, has somewhat reduced the muse for painting on a day to day basis. I've managed to finish 8 ACW Rebs for a third Georgian regiment, 6 Indians to bring my French Indians up to scratch for Sharp Practice 2 F&IW games, 6 Ghurkas for Burma 1943 and that's about it. I've got 6 French Canadian Militia on the go for the same game and I've started five more Ghurkhas, but they're all being put on hold as I've decided I need to advance some odd figures for a venture in Nottingham later this month, but more on that in due course...
I managed a Black Powder AWI game last night with Jon, a see saw action which might have gone either way, but which I ultimately lost when my American army suffered two Broken Brigades out of four and could no longer advance, leaving Jon's British in charge of the ford which was the game objective. Old 'Independence or Death' Bykleigh had no option but to withdraw from the field! Still, a grand evening's gaming, following on from a splendid SCW game at Phil's on Monday, and hopefully the muse is on the rise again...
Just a few shots from the game to give you the flavour of the action ~

As I said, just a flavour of the game, as I'm not fully back in the groove yet. Next up on Monday in GHQ a return for Pompus Maximus and his nemesis, Baldinus.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

A Country Garage

Ages ago I acquired a Scaledale English barn, which I used on the table in support of various Conflix rural buildings, or even as an outbuilding for Blandings Castle in our VBCW or Operation Zeelowe games. That it was a large OO scale building meant I could get away with that approach while the buildings remained individual pieces on the tabletop, but when I based them up on MDF bases in small groups it didn't fit in so well in size or style. After languishing in a box under the table in GHQ for several months I had a moment of inspiration when I found a couple of old signs in my bits box, one for an engineering firm and one for a garage. I decided to utilise it as an English rural garage from the 1930's. Searching the same bits box produced several items to clutter the scene and add to the effect, while Phil's bits box produced an oil drum, which he kindly painted, and a petrol can. Two spare Perry Mafeking civilians in my figure box provided some life to the scene, as did a Dixon Miniatures WWI bicycle. Just one problem: no petrol pump. Then by chance I noticed an old Gallia brick pillar on the floor in GHQ - it must have fallen out of a box a while back when I made my North European town. Phil seized on it and cleverly converted it into a Shell petrol pump! Trawling the web provided some period signage and posters to further the image and a win on an eBay auction provided a 1930's AA patrol van. A bit of work on the base with static grass, Tufts and the like and it was finished ~

It may be a trifle twee to the eyes of some but for me it captures the feel of rural England in the 1930's just right. Whatever, it will do nicely for me...

Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Grand Old Duke of York...

...is now ready to command His Majesty's forces in Flanders and the Low Countries. I received the newish Trent Miniatures from Duncan just after Partizan ~ the Duke of York and General Abercrombie. Now they are painted up I've cannibalised my old command base and used a Trent British officer, painted as a Royal Artillery officer, and the Irish Militia officer, to which I added 'my head' as sculpted by my son Matt (see earlier posts). The resulting base will command my British army in my Wars of the French Revolution games ~

I'm quite pleased by the overall look and composition of the command vignette myself, but no doubt others will have their view. The other figure from the cannibalised base I've repurposed as a Brigade Commander, so no waste there. I think the sculptor captured the profile of the Duke quite well.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Dipping the toes...

...into Sharp Practice 2 in the F&IW. As I mentioned a while ago I've expanded my F&IW collection to enable us to dabble in the F&IW using these rules. Phil and I had our first run out on Monday, perhaps not the best choice of timing as we were both rather tired after our busy Sunday. We decided to concentrate on mastering the mechanisms of play so set up a Raid scenario, with a French force of Regulars supported by Indians and Coureurs du Bois, attacking across a stream to burn and pillage the Robinson homestead. The Homestead was defended by two groups of Civilians and two groups of Robinson's Rangers, supported by British Regulars and a group of Light Infantry. We set a limit of 12 Turns and just got them in either side of lunch. The table ~

As we were tying to give full attention to the rules and working out what to do I only took one other photo during the game ~

We both enjoyed our first experience of the rules. Phil as the British lost four points and I lost 3 off our  respective Force Morale ratings, but as neither of us achieved our objective we settled on a draw at the end. We really felt that there was a story clearly unfolding in front of us as we played. As the game progressed we found ourselves using more complex arrangements for our Leaders and making better use of the Command Cards. Managing our Shock Points also came more naturally as the game wore on, though shooting left a lot to be desired generally by both sides! The Dice Gods are not fooled by a new game...

I bought a pack of Woodsmen and another pack of Indians, with knives and clubs, from Redoubt at Partizan to boost the French forces and when they have been painted we'll try a second game and see how we go. In the meantime, the next game here in GHQ should be against Jon next week on my birthday. We've not settled on a choice of game as yet, so it will come as a nice surprise to you and to me equally. Toodle Pip!

The Great Panjamdrum...

...and other bits and bobs. A bit of a mixed bunch marched across my painting desk and deployed to GHQ this last week, perhaps most unusual from my point of view was Warlord GamesThe Great Panjamdrum which I ordered from them at Carronade, arriving on Thursday. Its one of the new releases to support their Campaign Sea Lion theatre book which I discussed in an earlier post. The set consists of an MDF and card kit to make up two rocket propelled wheels and and an obligatory boffin. The kit punches out easily and fits together well thanks to a clear illustrated instruction sheet. I made up one wheel for now until we can try it out in a game.

By way of a contrast I've also completed the four missing Elite Company figures for my Foundry early FRW unit in helmets, a command base for my FRW French Light Cavalry, the 1st Maryland for the ACW, by Dixon Miniatures of course, and six Rebs by Dixon Miniatures to bring another Georgia unit up to strength, though I'm waiting on the two colour bearers I need to finish the unit off completely ~ I took advantage of their free postage on orders over £20 and also sent for a Union unit in kepi, they will form the 20th Massachusetts, the Harvard Regiment. I got the colours from Redoubt at Partizan ~ I also got the flag for the Georgia troops I mentioned, as well as two sets to reflag the remainder of my Union Colored Troops ~

Other odds and sods are the free Winston figure (in the first picture) with the Campaign Sea Lion book and the first of my Ghurkas for our Burma '43 games. Other projects on the go include
converting a Scaledale barn into a country garage for VBCW games as well as cleaning up and undercoating my Eureka Miniatures for the FRW project. The Lead Pimple is growing again...and grew some more as a result of the visit to Partizan!

The Partizan swag: three building packs from Warbases, along with assorted bases and movement trays of course; pikes, brushes and Basetex from Coritani; a gun rig from Warfare Minatures; two F&IW figure packs and the aforementioned flags from Redoubt Enterprises; the British High Command from the new Perry Egypt 1801 range, to do service in my FRW games in Flanders from Dave Thomas; Gamers' Grass Tufts from Great Escape Games; and finally, from Warlord Games, 
the new LDV Section, the Blacker Bombard and the BEF Command Group. I enjoyed great discounts from every company bar one; I wonder if you can guess which it was...? I enjoyed my truncated day at the show, we left early and arrived late due to family commitments at home, hence no pictures to show for my visit. I did though have time to chat with friends, Colin Jack from the SESWC, Colin Ashton from Carryings On Up the Dale blog, Trevor from Redoubt and Aly Morrison from Great War Miniatures. Good company, good games, great traders and lots of new toys: what could be better for a geriatric in waiting gamer ?

Monday, 15 May 2017

Further Reflections on Carronade...

...and Wargames Shows in general. Well, I've had a decent night's sleep and feel more like my (very) old self so I thought that I'd post a few thoughts on Carronade and on Wargames Shows in general. I can also use the opportunity to say how appreciative I am of all the folk involved in staging the show, putting on the games, bringing their goodies as traders, and even the gnome botherers selling their plastic on the Flea Market! I can also show the obligatory pictures of my haul of swag, though I should say much of it was part of a joint Eureka order with Colin Ashton collected for me by him at Salute. Thanks Colin! The swag ~

The Eureka figures comprised: two FRW French four horse limbers and a four horse Wurst wagon and crew for my French Horse Artillery battery (in bags across the centre); a 12 figure Austrian Hussar regiment at the gallop (four miscast horses, which I'm confident will be replaced anon); a wonderful French cantinere wagon set; a French Field Bakery set; a sword sharpening vignette; and finally, a set of carpenters/wheelwrights. From Warbases I got some extra MDF bases of various sizes and a pack of Ravens (I gave Phil the more obviously Dark Age pair). From Coritani I got the Gamers' Grass tufts and some new brushes, at a generous discount, thanks! And, not pictured, from Dave at Caliver Books I also got the 2017 Wargamers' Annual and a copy of Kings of War Historical. My other purchase was from Andy, at The Last Valley, who has made me some railway line terrain pieces to my spec. Four at 18", four at 9", and two gentle curves. The spare track he returned and will be mounted on my two railway bridges to match. I'm really chuffed by these and have asked him to make me a canal next. Cost for the railway lines? £40.00 in all, really excellent value for money, so thanks Andy!

Turning now from the swag aspect of my visit to Carronade to more important aspects of that show, and of shows in general. I'd like to start by saying that this event, like most others I attend, is put on by volunteers for our pleasure. They seldom get much in the way of thanks and I think that's a pity really. I know from back in the day, when I was an organiser of WMMS, you always got more in the way of moans than thanks. So thanks to the Falkirk Wargames Club, I had a grand day out on the back of your efforts! I hope you all had a good day too. This sentiment goes, of course, to the organisers of all the other shows I've attended down the years. But it also extends to the folks who bring their games for us to see and even join in with, I've done both in my younger days and know how much work goes on behind the scenes to bring the spectacle to our viewings. They deserve rather more than 'a brief look, a photo, and then move on to the next game' reward. Try to chat if you can with them, you might ignite a new interest in your hobby or even make a new chum!

As my loyal reader knows, for me a wargame is first and foremost a visual spectacle. If its not, then it seldom piques my interest or holds it for long. Its not that I expect folk to build everything from scratch, lord knows that was always beyond me anyway, but I think with careful use of commercially available products a group, club or individual can produce a splendid looking game. Take the picture above, by a group I did n't manage to identify: I would suggest that it features almost exclusively commercially available terrain pieces on a teddy bear fur cloth, yet with careful painting of the castings and models and their arrangement on the table the viewer is drawn into the scene and sees the whole sum of the parts, not the individual castings and models. It becomes in the mind's eye the scene it represents for the viewer and greatly enhances the experience for both the gamers and the viewing public alike. There were many such treats on view at Carronade, as at other shows, and they help make the event more pleasing and rewarding to all concerned I would contend.

Leaving aside Salute, which is really just a shopping jungle with games, most shows really depend for their draw also on the band of traders, large and small companies alike, who bring their wares for us to peruse, handle and perhaps even buy. They usually only ever get moaned about I've found. Either they have n't brought what someone wants to buy ~ must be on a whim, because we can all pre-order over the net or phone, so no excuses for that one ~ or its too expensive, there should be a show deal. Few think that they might have been up in the small hours, driven miles and unloaded their stand and goodies before you've even had your breakfast, perhaps had the expense of a hotel for themselves and their colleagues. They may not even cover the costs at some shows, yet they largely keep coming back to serve the wargaming masses with their new toys. Granted, they may get repeat business after shows when folk have reflected on what they saw and decided they really must have it after all, but there is no guarantee of that really. I think they also deserve our thanks, even those who sometimes come across as less than wonderful human beings.

So, having had a great day out at Carronade thanks to the myriad of folks involved and having acquired heaps of new toys, am I sitting back and reflecting on the day? Well no, I'm cleaning up figures, then I'm painting, then fitting in the writing of this blog entry, but, most importantly, I'm looking forward to Partizan next week, when the whole circus will come to a different town near to you! Oh, and I'm perusing several companies' web pages and planning what I might treat myself too next Sunday, and that means a drawing up the List! See you at Partizan perhaps!