Monday, June 19, 2017

Research for a new acquaintance

Not much to report yet on the painting front as I’ve gone back to painting Celts and I want to get to the point where they are all done before I post pics here.  However, I had an interesting encounter this weekend at a (most excellent) folk gig.  One of the performers (Gavin Davenport) told a story of, and sang a song inspired by, his grandfather’s service during the Second World War. 

As Gavin tells it, his grandfather was a member of a patrol in a Bren Gun Carrier near the Scheldt towards the end of the war.  On the occasion in question, the carrier rounded a bend and the crew found themselves nose to nose with a Tiger tank!  They feared that were all goners but the officer in charge of the team (a Canadian Forward Observer) got out of the carrier, ran along a roadside ditch and destroyed the Tiger with a point blank PIAT shot into its side armour. The officer was killed by the resulting explosion.  Sadly Gavin’s subsequent research hadn’t identified the man in question.

I spoke to Gavin after the show and he filled in a few blanks.  His grandfather was a Forward Artillery Spotter in 191st (Hertfordshire and Essex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

He always said that the finest soldiers he fought alongside were the Canadian “Timberwolves”.  But Gavin hadn’t been able to tie this name to a Canadian unit.

I decided to do a bit of digging and a combination of Google and the HMSO official history (L F Ellis, Victory in the West, Vol. II) allowed me to tie things down somewhat more precisely.

Timberwolf, it emerges, is the designation of the 104th Infantry Division; an American rather than Canadian formation. 

So why would Gavin’s grandfather have thought they were Canadians?  Well it turns out that for a period of about three weeks in late October and early November 1944 the Timberwolves were attached to 1st Canadian Army. In fact the particular unit within 1st Canadian Army they were attached to was I (British) Corps, of which 191st Field Regiment was a component unit!   

During the time it was attached to the Canadian formation, 104th Division was capturing the Dutch town of Zundert and then advancing to the line of the Mark River.  

We have, then, a date range (15th October to 5th November, when the 104th was handed back to US command with First Army) and a location where the fateful encounter with the Tiger likely took place.  The additional complication, of course, is that Gavin's Canadian officer might turn out to have been an American!

I’ve told Gavin that I’ll go on digging. It’ll be interesting to see if I can make any more progress.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sharp Practice Deployment Points

I've had a go at creating a couple of Deployment Points to use in my 20mm scale Sharp Practice games.

At a pinch they would both work for the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland (something I plan to game eventually) and I think the one on the left would work for the Peninsula too (as a soldier's wife accompanying the army).

The British infantry (who may pass as county militia in old uniforms for the '98) are from the Airfix Washington's Army set. I bought a small bag of spare figures from Will McNally at Crisis Point with just this kind of project in mind.  Their coats are painted in Vallejo Scarlet - a new colour for me.  I quite like it and will probably use it for all my British infantry from now on.

The woman and her camp fire are from the very useful IMEX American Pioneers set.  Her dress is probably not quite in period but I figure a soldier's wife would be unlikely to follow the latest in late-18th or early 19th century fashion so I can live her appearance.

The IMEX plastic is quite rigid and her right hand broke off as I removed her from the sprue.  You can see the join in the rear view but on the whole I'm happy with the repair job (Uhu clear glue and a coat of PVA did the trick).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Numidian General

When I got to the end of painting my Numidians, I found I had one body left over. I say "body" because it was lacking both a head (transplanted onto a late Roman archer) and a right arm.  However, I had plenty of spare arms and heads from the Victrix plastics set of Numidian infantry. A little surgery gave me a rider with a raised sword and a helmet.

I then needed a horse. None were immediately forthcoming but then I happened upon a 25mm scale unicorn in my box-of-things-that-might-be-useful-for-Glorantha-one-day. Yet more surgery, this time of a veterinary flavour, produced a suitable mount.

Married together with a little Green Stuff and superglue we end up with this chap:

I've called him Arabio after the last of the Numidian kings. I figure he can serve as a commander of light horse in future games of To The Strongest!

Who are these guys?

Can anyone help?  I have a few of these 20mm scale plastic figures. They wear bicornes and have curious jackets with long tails and twin rows of buttons up the front.

I started trying to paint them up as late 18th century British County Militia but I'm beginning to think they may not be worth the effort.  If, as I suspect, they are meant to represent Spanish troops they might be more useful painted up as such.

Sorry about the washed out effect of the white undercoat; hopefully someone can recognise them from the poses.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What I did instead of Celts

A couple of pieces for Chain of Command...

... first up a Jump Off Point for the late war British...

This is a Raventhorpe figure I've had, unpainted, for many years. It represents Sidney Maxted, the Canadian war correspondent who went into Arnhem with the Paras.  He's wearing the red beret and a Denison smock and he's speaking into his disc recorder as he watches our boys going forward to give Jerry a damn good kicking.

And then we have...

A radio operator.  He came from an artillery crew set I picked up on the bring-and-buy at Gauntlet.  I painted him up when it looked like I might need a forward observer for a forthcoming Chain of Command game.  He may or may not take on that role in the future.  Don't know the manufacturer.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Too Many Celts!

I've spent far too much of the last ten days resurrecting old and knackered 25mm Celts.

I have getting on for forty old Lamming and Hinchliffe figures bought from eBay. I want to put about 16 on each of two 120x80mm bases and I've created a couple of four-man skirmisher units too.

However, with most of the figures requiring both conversion work and painting and said painting heavily featuring plaids and checks, I've reached a temporary personal limit.  The Celts are going away and for a couple of evenings I'm going back to 20mm WW2 Brits.

No pics tonight but I'm most of the way through finishing a forward observer and a jump off point for a forthcoming game of Chain of Command.  I'll go back to the Celts in a week or two, I think.

Friday, June 2, 2017

More Numidians

My recent trip to the Wargames Store at Brimstage (Wirral) allowed me to pick up a pack of plastic Numidian infantry by Victrix.  They are lovely figures and I was sufficiently enthused to get them finished within just a few weeks.

I've made two units of light armoured troops likely to be found in the line of battle (Javelinmen in To The Strongest! terms, probably CLs for Basic Impetus).

I've given most of these guys the optional helmeted heads and in each case I've added a metal casualty figure to the base.  The chap in the front rank above has picked up a captured Roman shield but he's using it upside down!

The remaining eight figures, using round shields and bare heads form two units of skirmishers (Light Infantry, Javelins, in To The Strongest! terms).

The Victrix figures each come in four parts; body and left arm, head, right arm, and shield. There are numerous right arm options; several positions with a javelin, one with a sword, one with a trumpet and one with a standard.  There are also a few separate left hands clutching spare javelins. You can slice off the cast-on left hand and glue one of these in its place (see the figure second from right above).  There are four different bare and four different helmeted heads.

Using some of the spare parts I've managed to resurrect a broken remains of an unused horseman of whom more anon.

Finally, a couple of pics of the whole force.  Probably enough to play Basic Impetus and a start towards, perhaps, a Punic Wars collection for To The Strongest!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On the Workbench - Celtic Leader

Celts, especially Celts of some authority, deserve to be painted in a reasonable quantity of plaid and checks.  Hence this guy, an old Lamming 25mm figure I acquired from eBay, who I've just painted this evening.

Actually the bright direct flash does him no favours.  There's rather more shading and highlighting than shows up in these pics.

This chap will form up front and centre in a war band (a unit of Warriors in To The Strongest! terms) that I hope to have finished this weekend.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Chillin' in Sheffield

It's been a sociable week here in Steel City.

On Thursday evening I met up with Tom and Chris from the Too Fat Lardies forum. Beer was consumed and plans were made to play Chain of Command, a CoC/Mud and Blood WW1 mash-up, and Dux Britanniarum.  I've even moved on with the times and downloaded WhatsApp to my iPhone to assist in our planning!

On Friday lunchtime I knocked up a simple, branching decision tree to choose what our CoC scenario should be.  The dice app on my phone led the way to a game set in the Reichswald in early 1945.  The British are launching a flank attack.

And then on Saturday there was the new ChillCon wargames event at Ecclesfield School. I only picked up on the existence of this event on the Thursday so they obviously need to work on their advertising.

As I could only manage to get across for an hour or so, this turned into a brief session of shopping and chatting with acquaintances.  There was a room full of what mostly seemed to be competition games and a school hall full of traders.  There was nothing much that struck me as inspiring in the way of games.

I bought myself a box of Plastic Soldier Company Panzer IVs in 1/72nd scale...

I've already assembled and undercoated these!  I'll report back on them when finished.

Besides that, I bought a couple of packs of wire spears from Ainsty and some 6mm Roman stuff from Mick at Leven.  More on these later.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Retreading the Boards part two

I took Monday off work and, besides running a couple of errands, managed to make considerable progress on upgrading the old chipboard squares.  

Firstly I mixed up industrial quantities of colours that approximate to those I use on my bases. I used a mixture of craft acrylics (from Hobbycraft) and cheap "student" artist's acrylics from my local bargain shop. These colours were applied in irregular splurges across the tables.

The effect at this point was reminiscent of an SS camouflage pattern but I didn't panic. I applied progressively paler layers of dry-brushing to bring out the texture of the surface and to blend the colours together somewhat.

Finally for day one I applied some patches of Woodland Scenics Blended Turf (Green Blend).

The next step will be to add patches of static grass in two different colours.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Retreading the Boards

I have some two foot chipboard squares that have served as various types of terrain over the years.

They started out covered in permanently affixed 6mm terrain complete with roads, painted fields, pan scrub hedges and buildings.  I soon decided this was too restrictive (and a pain to store) and stripped the terrain off them. They've been repainted many times since then and seen many a HOTT battle. Of late, though they've been sitting unused other than as support for terrain cloths when using the spare bed as an impromptu gaming table.

I thought I might have a go at updating them to the standard of my more modern terrain.

The first issue is that several of them have rather ragged corners:

I'm trying to address this by rebuilding the corners with Milliput.  Not sure how strong and stable it'll be but we'll see when it's set.  For now it looks like this...

I have the day off on Monday and plan to spend the day doing a little light terraforming!

Monday, May 15, 2017

X-Wings and TIE Fighters

I've owed young Harry in the village a wargame since his Mum bought one in the school charity auction a year ago.  Given a choice of subjects, Harry picked "Star Wars spaceships", the game to be played with his friend Leo.

As I was introducing the rules for the first time, we started with a relatively simple game featuring just the three ships in the starter pack - two TIE Fighters and an X-Wing.  

I wanted to simplify things slightly. I didn't go as far as to use the start-up rules in the boxed set as I think they simplify too far but I did leave out critical hits and I made sure there were no pilot abilities to confuse things.  The TIE Fighter pilots had no abilities at all and the X-Wing was piloted by Biggs Darklighter, whose special ability has no effect when his is the only Rebellion ship in the game.

After a quick teach-in on the rules we got started with Leo representing the Galactic Empire.  Victory went to Harry in about an hour and a half.

The lads then swapped sides as we introduced some more ships, some better pilots and the full combat rules.

Harry had two TIE Fighters (Dark Curse and Winged Gundark) and Darth Vader in a TIE Advanced.  Vader's ship carried a concussion missile.

The Rebels fielded Biggs again, joined by Luke Skywalker (with R2-D2 in the astromech mounting).

Darth started with a head-on pass at Biggs.  He fired off his missile and managed to strip off Biggs's shields.  The action then developed into a confused melee and eventually Vader's ship was seen tumbling off into the blackness of space.  Another win for the Rebellion!

Both of the lads enjoyed the game greatly.  I suspect I know what's going to be on some Christmas lists this year!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ancient History

Browsing through a box of old photographs I came across these pictures of one of the earliest war-games I ever played.  They use 1/300th scale models purchased from the late, lamented Games of Liverpool.  Some of them are even painted!

The battlefield is two old Subbuteo pitches on top of which I've placed roads and river made from cardboard some resin buildings and some buildings and walls made from Das Pronto air-drying clay.

Going by the orange thread baseline in the final picture I must have been using the WRG 1950-1985 Rules.  There were some interesting mechanisms in those rules but for me they were superseded by Challenger. This will have been a solo game fought in my parents' garage in Meols.  I've no idea of the result but with Chieftains against T-62s I guess the British would have done OK.

Looking at these pictures now, it's remarkable how many of the models are still in my collection somewhere.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Swiss and Italians Completed

Having got Crisis Point out of the way I've not been doing too much wargame related stuff. I have, however, got a few 28mm medievals finished.

First up, I've done a unit of Swiss crossbow-armed skirmishers (bidowers in Lion Rampant terms).

The figures are all by the Perrys. The core of the unit is three figures from the metal Italian crossbowmen blister.  I chose the least Italian-looking of the figures and did a couple of head transplants using Swiss-appropriate heads from the plastic boxes.  The remaining figures are one from the Perry plastic Continental Mercenaries box, an officer with sword and buckler from a command blister, and a chap with a horn who came in the blister that contains the bear mascot.  

Next up is my unit of Italian mercenaries.  Some of these have appeared here previously as a six-man bidower unit.  I've now added extra figures from the command and a second Italian crossbowmen blister to give me a full 12-man crossbowmen unit.

Because this unit contains repetitions of three castings (again they're all Perry metals) I've added feathers and mazzochios (the cloth doughnuts around helmets) to add a little variety.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Peninsular Thoughts

I'm re-reading Mark Urban's The Man Who Broke Napoleon's Codes at present.

Revisiting it with Sharp Practice 2 fresh in my mind, I'm having ideas.

Back in about 2002 I ran a skirmish campaign called Kameraden, which followed the men of a platoon from Infanterie Regiment Grossdeutschland through the 1940 Blitzkrieg campaigns from the Ardennes to Dunkirk.  I'm now considering revisiting the idea.

I rather fancy the idea of following a single infantry company through the Peninsula War by means of a series of Sharp Practice games.  My working title is With the Borsetshires in the Peninsula. As you can see I'm thinking of a fictional unit this time; it'll make it easier to have my lads involved in all the major actions without having to worry about the historical deployments of particular regiments.

I'm thinking of determining the characters of all of the officers of the light company of the Borsetshire Regiment.  That way I can trace their careers through the years from 1809 to 1814.

More on this when I've had the time to consider further.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Action at the Convent Garden, take 2

Having learned the lessons of the first Sharp Practice 2 action at the Convent Garden I decided to have another go while the terrain was still set up.  This time I would learn from the restrictions of the terrain and deploy the British skirmish troops on the left.

On the French side, Lt Phillipe's voltigeurs were the first into action.  Phillipe planned to occupy the barn in front of the French camp.  It lacked windows facing the British but it would provide a secure location from which to flank the British should they pass the tree-lined section of road.

Captain La Roche's line infantry were the next French unit to arrive.

Captain Stowe's men arrived in open column....

On their left advanced the train guard made up of El Capitano Dulche de Leche's guerrillas.

Phillipe's voltigeurs soon occupied the barn...

... as Stowe's column approached...

... and as O'Malley's riflemen prepared to climb up the terraced valley side.

Meanwhile, on the British left Fowler's Rifles were advancing...

...when suddenly Ensign Lefebvre's unit of Hussars was spotted at the corner of the convent garden.

Fowler quickly gave orders...

...and before you could sound a silver whistle all of the riflemen were among the tumbled rocks and bushes lining the road.

From boggy ground and rocky, tree-lined roadside sharp cracks of rifle fire rang out...

...two troopers fell from their saddles and Lefebvre turned his men aside.  In the open the rifles had made a tempting target but he had been too slow, horrified by the deadly accuracy of the Englishmen's fire, to seize the passing moment.  Perhaps the other flank would offer the opportunity to make a vital intervention?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, the Baker rifles in the hands of Sergeant O'Malley's men were proving equally accurate.  With the briefest of exclamations, Lt Phillipe fell wounded to the floor of the barn.

Meanwhile Lt Fillon was taking steps to defend the convent garden and the precious wagon-load of royal paraphernalia.

One group lined the wall taking precarious perches on the stacked baggage, whilst the other group, led by Fillon, set out to join La Roche's main line.

Then Fillon turned back to lead the defence of the garden wall.

By this stage Captain Stowe had the light company of the West Cheshires into line and pouring volley after controlled volley into La Roche's blue ranks.  Dulce de Leche's men also fired, though with more enthusiasm than accuracy, and Fowler's rifles continued to bark their deadly call from among the trees.

However, Lefebvre's hussars could yet save the day for La Belle France!  Under galling fire from O'Malley's rifles on the hill they swung round the barn and spotted the open flank of Stowe's line!

This was Lefebvre's chance to atone for his earlier hesitation!

Taken in flank with unloaded muskets the British were surely doomed!

But perhaps the Hussars' faith in their leader was shaken by his earlier lack of steel?  With no right to expect survival, still less victory, the West Cheshires got in among the horsemen with the bayonet and soon the Hussars were put to flight!

It was now becoming apparent to La Roche that the day was lost.  His only chance as to withdraw into the convent garden and to try and make of it a fortress.  He ordered the voltigeurs to withdraw and they did so carrying the still unconscious form of their lieutenant.

As the voltigeurs pulled back towards La Roche's (their thinned ranks now closed up to form a shortened column of route) they did so under a crossfire from the riflemen on both flanks...

... as La Roche's column passed through the garden gate, both groups of voltigeurs decided that they had taken all they could.  They bolted for the rear and with them went the last shreds of French confidence.  An infectious panic gripped the men and La Roche suddenly found himself in the midst of a hopeless rout.

This was a more satisfactory game than the previous one.  I had a better idea of how things should work and, with the experience of the first run through under my belt, was in a better position to know what questions to ask in setting up the terrain.  That said, the line of terrain features (marsh, treelined road, and barn) across the middle of the table served to disrupt manoeuvre and I think I'll try to avoid doing that in future.

The result swung on a couple of occasions where randomness distinctly favour the British.  A ridiculous series of card draws and a couple of well-timed Sharp Practice actions allowed the two units of Rifles on the British left to get off three volleys between them between the hussars arriving on the table and their making their first move.  By the time the hussars could move, they had lost two men and taken six points of shock and both rifle groups had ensconced themselves in difficult going.

Then there was the charge into the flank of Stowe's light company men.  Rolling 8 or 9 dice to the infantry's four, the hussars should have won the first round of melee.  In fact they drew with one kill each.  Again, they should have won the second round of melee but contrived to lose it against the odds.  At that point the French were doomed.

Altogether this was an exciting game and I'm keen to play some more Sharp Practice 2 with the Saturday Afternoon Wargames crowd.