Sunday, May 31, 2015

All aboard! Down to the table in boats Part 1

busy little harbour but of course this is just a line up
I have resisted buying much at the various shows I have attended over the last several years. This has been a lot easier than may first be imagined. I, like most of the people reading this Blog have far too much stuff. I buy on a whim and store for decades. I am almost cured of that now. I have however two weaknesses (that I can talk about on the Internet at least). One is the need to buy stuff for specific projects and the other is boats. Any boats really but particularly those relating to wargames!

Recent work on the Ireland scenarios book has necessitated the procurement of many nautical items. The book is full of scenarios pertaining to harbours, loughs and rivers. I thus went on a hunt to find suitable vessels which are both aesthetic and practical. They need to be able to hold enough figures to look good whilst not being too obtrusive on the table.

I bought loads of boats at Carronade only a few weeks ago much to the amusement of Bob and Gerry. Well, laugh it up now chaps because I have painted the lot! Over the next few posts in this series I will show in detail each of the boat types and describe its use from a wargaming viewpoint. As a starter to the series this post simply features some shots of my armada assembled on the kitchen table at the weekend. A few of my older vessels are included and I confess to having left out small row boat but in general, the Fleet is in!

The mat is from Lithuania or Estonia or Latvia, I can't actually remember where but it is a 4 x 4 feet machine washable and ironable material piece which I think looks pretty good.
lots of very useful little craft here
I threw up the back drop just avoid taking pictures of my cats or the stairs but it sets things off quiet well. I'll start with the serious stuff in the next post.

Anchors aweigh!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ireland - the book is definitely coming!

Many of our members have been patiently waiting for what seems like an age for this mythical book on the Irish Campaigns which I seem to have been promising for years.

The story is simple and up till recently typical of projects which are poorly handled. A 'fuzzy' brief, non specific time frames, confusing allocation of responsibilities, no project manager, scope creep and conflicting priorities on other projects. This caused the whole idea to languish in the doldrums.

Inspired in a moment of clarity to fix it, I put aside everything else and got down to taking the shell of the idea and the disjointed pieces lying around in various files to bring it together. That took about 80 days of 'hobby time'.

What I have ended up with has both inspired and surprised me. It is no longer one book on Ireland, it is already three books. The first to be issued will come over the summer. It is likely now to run to approximately 200 pages. Its focus is unashamedly on wargaming. It will be profusely illustrated. I have been trawling the archives and editing the pictures which will appear in the book and assessing how many new shots need to be taken.

I have already seen the draft layouts and am very pleased with what the designers have come up with as the fabric and feel of the book. Having spent about £400 on raw materials over the last two shows I am pleased to report that all of it is painted! This includes lots of boats, harbour walls, churches, bridges, trees, city pieces and other Irish flavoured touches. Some of this stuff will be featured on the blog very soon as I develop the Irish theme leading up to the book's release. All of it was bought with the sole purpose of including it in the book scenarios.

I am also delighted to say the Clarence is now engaged in the project and his first feedback on seeing the manuscript and content was extremely encouraging. "This is the book I've been waiting for" was the very kind comment I enjoyed hearing.

And what of the other two books? One is already finished and focuses on the armies of the campaigns in Ireland and the third is a part two to the first book.

So, it is really coming together. This post shows some of the shots which will not make it into the book but are pretty interesting in their own right.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Poverty in wargaming can be overcome!

The thoughts and ambitions of a poor wargamer aka Mark Shearwood.. a sad tale which we can all relate to!
The kind of low budget stuff you can expect from Mark
I am, I believe (like a vast number of fellow wargamers) suffering from an over ambitious view of both my financial abilities to sustain my megalomania along with a completely unrealistic view of the physical rules of time and space. Now there is no need to panic, I am not going to delve into Einstein’s theory of relativity, but instead try to share the musings of a humble wargamer.

Apart from a midlife crisis when I hit forty (when I had three games), I am not a competition gamer, nor are the group of friends I normally game with in Derby. We tend to like a friendly evening game with rules that focus on playability rather than the more technical type. The club puts on regular demonstration games in and around the East Midlands area, to which I have a varying degree of involvement from at the top end, the terrain and most of the figures down to supplying a unit or to, or even just my enthusiasm.
The boy and his chums have no ambition.. particularly Parkin
Like most people I know in this hobby I have my favourite periods in history and also a wish list of periods I would like to start, but never do for a multitude of reasons, some I already have hinted at, money and time, but these are not on their own for I can also add the following to the list:

 1. Waiting for a decent range in the preferred scale. 

 2. A set of rules that everyone likes. 

 3. A buddy who is willing or idiotic enough to take on one faction. 

These ideas normally live in the dark recesses of your mind, or for the more organised written down in a journal or blog, these idea’s are sometimes heard in faint whispers with groups of friends on the way to shows or at the bar in your local clubs following a defeat after you have blamed the rules, the dice or your current army.
More poor quality from the poor houses of the East Midlands
Now to delve into my own dark recesses and to reveal my long term wish list and how I can match my interest for obscure periods with the direction of the people I game with on a regular basis.  Over the past ten years or so I have collected and some sold armies for the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Maximillian  War, Crimean,, Russian Civil, War, World Wars One and Two, 1980’s Balkans.

OK, it’s time to take a deep breath and say it: my wish list period is the Monmouth Rebellion 1685, there, I have said it and it’s in the open. My close friends have known about my idiosyncrasy for a long time, a period that only lasted for just under a month (11th June to 7th July 1685) that involves a few thousand men on each side and only one well known battle. For years my close friend Stuart has sent me a multitude of e-mails with any reference to this period.

Ed Note: Mark Shearwood is hiding his light under a bushel somewhat here :) He is part of an extremely skilled and productive group of gamers from the Derby area who have consistently delivered magnificent games particularly at the Partizan Shows in Newark over many years. I have always been a great admirer of their work. He and Stuart Parkin in particular are talented and serious wargamers who have made great contributions to the hobby over many years. Don't let him fool you!

Photos are by Richard Tyndall and taken at the famous Partizan Show in Newark

Monday, May 18, 2015

New directions for the hobby?

Bijlandt's Brigade at the LoA table from Carronade 2015
The Falkirk 'Carronade' show has grown in stature over several years to become in my opinion at least first equal if not the pre-eminent event on the Scottish wargaming calendar. The combination of a nice venue with well organized and helpful hosts has created a warm, friendly and lively atmosphere. The word is clearly spreading. I met with Wayne Bollands from Wargames Illustrated who had been sent north of the wall by Nottingham's new media magnate D.Faulconbridge to get some post Election coverage of Scottish wargaming.

I noticed several other weil kent faces from the south lands who had obviously put in some effort and covered some miles to be there. An impromptu discussion with Wayne and Charles Grant on the possibility of new wargaming directions seemed to parallel the zeitgeist of impending political turbulence and potential opportunity in the currently united, Kingdom.
Renamed La HALF Sainte by some wag.. the cut down Hovels piece
In what direction should WI travel now that it has gained independence from New Zealand? Will the magazine reduce its showcasing of FoW products and scenarios and cast a wider net across the ocean of wargaming life?

Interestingly for me, I was positioned in this conversation as one of wargaming's perennial grumblers. Wayne perceived my column pieces as somewhat equivalent to walking with a stone in your shoe. In no way did I infer that this was a negative comment rather more a necessary function which is not performed as widely as it should be. I do bemoan the the absence of an editorial and a letters page in WI these days.

Good news every day and lack of recognition of our (wargaming) societal disfunctions is somewhat Stalin-esque in its unerring focus on the positive.  Under the shiny, good news surface layer many major malfunctions threaten our sleepy world of expanding waistlines, greying locks and if my view of the wargaming public at Carronade was anything to go by, physical fragility.
Gerry and Bob DID actually play the game (a bit!)
We reflected back on Duncan Macfarlane's light touch ability to allow the pressure of opinion to vent via the letters page and the occasional sock puppeting outpourings of agent provocateur Peter Tanner (aka ?). Of course, the counter argument is that such arcane conventions as a letters page (pass the port old chap) are now completely unnecessary as we have super fast broadband instant-insults via the glut of fora now available via the keyboards of the world.

On the Friday morning before Carronade, Postie delivered a letter in a hand written envelope. It contained some kind comments from a man I had never met about the blog, the website, BLB and Donnybrook and the Anyburg article featured in WI a few months back. I was very taken by the effort expended on this act. The author had not included any contact information only his name. I tucked it in my Carronade folder in the vain hope that he may show up at the show. Early in the afternoon a shy chap did engage me in conversation and it turned out, it was he! I thanked him and mentioned where Warfare Miniatures was going over the next few months.. right into his period of interest. I said, why don't I email you some details. I don't have a private email he said. I must have looked astonished. I look at computers all day at work, the last thing I want to do at home is surf the net.

I bet he'd like a letters page.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Of rivers, canals, pontoons and bridges

Friend of the Blog Peter A has penned a really nice piece on the importance of rivers in the warfare of our period.
Rivers were crucial in 17th/18th century warfare. They provided the means of transporting supplies, troops, weapons, ammunition, artillery and livestock - the full panoply of war! With the un-metalled roads so poor and often only usable for the brief campaigning season of April to October, navigable rivers and canals allowed the year-round moving, supplying and resupplying of the troops.
The control of rivers, the crossing of rivers, the position and flow of rivers forming borders or providing invasion and defensive places dominated the thinking of all the great 9YW and WSS commanders.  Bridges had to be seized or defended – or if they had already been destroyed by enemy action - either repaired by the engineers or substituted with pontoons or identified fords…
In Europe we have the evocative names of the Scheldt, the Moselle, the Meuse, the Rhine and the Danube… and in Ireland think of the vital role played by the Shannon, the Boyne and the Foyle…
Rivers provide great opportunities for scenarios in tabletop games. Their capture and command and the area-dominance their control would provide, meant possessing them, or passing across them, was always a strategic goal in each season’s campaigning.  Bridging and pontoon trains were huge affairs and were regarded as vital to the army’s ability to manoeuvre and outwit the enemy.
 In 2004 for the 300th anniversary of the seminal battle of Blenheim, the local German authorities created an excellent small exhibition and produced a fully-illustrated guide in the castle of the small town of Hochstadt. Hochstadt is of course the German name they give to the battle of Blenheim 1704 and the small town sits in the rear of the French and Bavarian lines, a few miles from the battlefield.

One of the exhibits was this marvellous 1/72nd model of a troop transport barge with a Bavarian horse regiment – neatly carrying men and animals on a raft down the River Donau (Danube). 
What inspiration to create similar models using matchsticks to form the base and sides of your barge or raft… my own attempts at creating pontoons and river scenes are shown in the images that follow.
 Pontoniers, engineers and officers are busy constructing bridges and pontoons to get the army across the fast-flowing river before the enemy arrives. Not a job for the feint-hearted. Speed was vital – but also reliability. This was a specialist task and these enterprising individuals should be celebrated on the table…
 The bridge is almost ready… the waterways of Flanders, France, Germany and Ireland provide great opportunities for imaginative wargame scenarios.

As the sun sets in this scenario, a Polish army is desperately trying to get across the river Nieman on its way into Russia…

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Normal service has been resumed

Idiots abroad? I remember saying that but 2 other blokes were passing by at the time
Getting ready to trade at SALUTE was a military operation and occupied pretty much all of my limited spare time in the prior three weeks. From a business perspective I am pleased to report Warfare Miniatures finished comfortably on the right side of the ledger despite not being able to put on a game (again).
The was no time to catch our breath after the show. As soon as the goods were loaded in the van Toggy Bob (now officially known as Truckwit), Gerry and I drove down to Dover where we had an eventful evening in a lovely bistro whilst watching an unfortunate chap receive CPR for a full 15 minutes outside the restaurant from a saintly firemen and paramedics. We were all rooting for the poor fellow and very much hope he made it. 
A target for French skirmishers at Hougoumont
Next morning 0800 boat to Dunkirk and we were in Ieper for 1300. Menin Gate, Crocque Madame pit stop and on to Tyne Cot where we all sunk pretty low with the enormity of it. Ghent by 1900 for a slow emotional recovery and the start of the Waterloo dry run.

My objective was to road test the itinerary for the forthcoming Geek Nation Waterloo 200 tour for which I am the Battlefield Mouth. Bob and Gerry were only too happy to support my yomping around with stop watch in one hand and pink parasol in the other. 
The sign says: Trespassers with be shot by the 27th Dutch Jager
I think Gerry plans at some point to do a little guest blogging about the trip so I'll confine myself to the very barest outline. Monday: Oudenaarde and a drive across the French lines(of a century before) then on to Quatre Bras where we spent a very enjoyable 2.5 hours walking the British line then on down to Gemioncourt then back up to the crossroads.

We passed up the N5 to Le Caillou only to find the museum under repair (if it is ready in 6 weeks I will eat my not unsubstantial bonnet de police). We charged past La Haye Sainte and parked up for a 2.5 hour walk down the British right, on to Hougoumont and into the first 'legal' metal detection activity ever undertaken on the field. We walked around the perimeter of the garden wall, Gerry and Bob nipped into the chateau courtyard and then we climbed back up the hill to Mercer's final battery position. Back to Ghent for beer and ribs.
Eh? Jack Hawkin's Division really stood here? Amazing!
Next day we were back again at Waterloo for a massive walk from the crossroads round pretty much the entire circumference of the field. It took us about 7.5 hours with only the odd stop to water the horses. That night back in Ghent we ate for an army in the local Chinese. 
I can see your house from here
On Wednesday we drove to Ligny, were too early for the Gerard Museum, couldn't find the Bussy Windmill site but got a good view of the Prussian positions north of Ligny. We drove to Wavre and crossed the Dyle - not the prettiest town in Belgium. We drove the route of Bulow's IV Corps through the bois de Paris and came out exactly where he did - a magic moment (via a private housing development). We spent the rest of that day walking the British positions again, doing the museum, the Butte, La Haye Sainte, the final attack route of the Garde Imperiale and the monuments around La Belle Alliance. More lovely food and beer in Ghent.
Vorwarts! Plancenoit!... und die toiletten
Thursday, back to Dunkirk, boat, Ashford International for the boys and the M20, M25, M40, M42, M6 for me. Supper in Knutsford 2000 hrs, back in Blighty.... aah.

The curious affair in Plancenoit 1500 hrs 29th April.
The three Amigos had just recce'd the advanced positions of the Young Guard and were heading back to the central 'green' area of the village. Walking in the opposite direction down the otherwise deserted and fastidiously tidy street were a man and woman.  "Hello Nick!"  says Barry. "Sorry, I don't know you" says the slightly flummoxed chap. "Oh but you do"  replies Hilton removing his extremely expensive SpecSavers free sunglasses.
As I live and breathe, Nick Buxey aka the 'Mole'(I have never understood that) and his charming wife! Surveying battlefield buildings no less.. would you Adam and Eve it? Us wargamers get everywhere. The Handshake took place not at La Belle Alliance but on the church steps of Plancenoit where the Allied Generals back slapped each other and discussed the long odds of such a meeting on foreign soil. I have added this one to my already uncanny list of chance meetings with acquaintances on distant shores. In the 17th century I would have been burned at the stake. Some people have that fate in mind for me today too.
Entente cordiale! Truckwit, a Witch, The Mole, Gerry 

Life is good.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


English battery at Walcourt 1689
The interruption to posts on the blog has been the direct consequence of a six day trip which began with SALUTE 2015 and ended when I returned from the battlefields of Belgium on Friday night. After the show Bob, Gerry and I headed off to the Cockpit of Europe for a fairly intensive four day driving and walking tour.
French guns being hauled into position at Walcourt 1689
We visited Ieper, Passchendaele, Oudenaarde, Ligny, Quatre Bras, Wavre and of course Waterloo which we went to three times over three days. That trip will feature in various forms over the next few weeks as we hear from my travelling companions about their own reflections.

Governor Walley's Massachusetts artillery at Quebec 1690
So, excuses out of the way let's turn to the third in the series of Action posts from the 1690s, this one featuring the guns. Although artillery of the period was not the dominant power it was to become after 1800 it did provide shock value and play an important part in several battles.
More French guns in Flanders 1693
The fact that several prominent commanders such as St Ruhe and The Duke of Berwick were killed by cannon shot serves to illustrate that it could literally be a battle winner.
A solitary Rebel light gun at the Battle of Scrag End 1685
The Warfare Miniatures guns have been a wonderful investment. Not only have we sold loads, the also feature in the 1672 Range from North Star and the Ebor range too.
Ginkel's guns commence the Battle of Aughrim 1691
Four sizes from a light, double trailed Galloper to a monster battering piece provide a good range for those wishing to model artillery of the period. The most ubiquitous of all is the Field Gun which can be seen in some of the shots here.
WLOA18 Warfare Miniatures Positional gun

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