David Bickley's Wargames Blog

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

Monday 27 June 2016

Pour Encouragez les Autres?

Just in case any of my fellow wargaming enthusiasts are suffering from the perennial difficulty of 'too many projects' angst, a few words of encouragement I found on Facebook recently~

Seems like good advice to me! Steadies the nerve at any rate! Now, off for a cortisone injection in my hip. Joy!

Thursday 16 June 2016

"Keep right on to the end of the road..."

Over the last couple of weeks my painting effort has mainly been focused on the buildings and walls for my north European town. It is my expectation that when it is completed and based it will do service on the table here in GHQ from the SYW through to 1914, and perhaps beyond. To that end there will be no period specific details or extras on the base, they will all be separate and changed as the era changes. I still have to complete the church, with its alternate spire and onion dome detail yet, and the grave stone markers which will add the used look to the building. The town itself will sit on a 3mm MDF base, represented in the pictures by a sheet of A3 craft paper I borrowed from Sue! The church and graveyard will be on a similar, though less deep, sheet of 3mm MDF, enabling its location to be varied from game to game. Several viewpoints of the town of Peendeforde follow ~
The monument in the town square is from Ainsty, the rest from Hovels.

The gaps will need disguising with greenery.

The 20mm wall is just right to mark an exit fom the stable yard.

The covered well and gates are from the Waterloo building sets.

A low wall will run in an 'L' shape in the bottom left of the picture.

The buildings are all the venerable Hovels 28mm offerings from a number of sets. I think that they work well together to give the appearance I'm looking for in my town.There are a few gaps between walls and buildings to disguise with greenery when they are based permanently and the square will be cobbled, using the free sample anaglypta paper from DIY outlets. There will be a low 'L' shaped wall crossing part of the square at the end opposite the walled gateway and in front of the church. I used mostly cheap craft paints on all the elements, though the final stone coating is Foundry Butternut Light and the woodwork is Foundry Musket Stock Brown and Bay Brown shades. The cobbled square will be the same stone shade that you see in the buildings which will lift the predominant reds of the buildings and walls. The stonework of the church and the grave stones will be the same stone colour as on the building details. I need a break from buildings from time to time as they are very heavy for my hand when the arthritis plays up, so I have also managed one or two figures along the way: a third base of French skirmishers for my FRW project and a standard bearer for the South Staffs in our VBCW games to be precise ~
Trent Miniatures of course!

Lt Barfield carries the colour into action!
Pete Barfield kindly made the banner for me again. Top chap!

As I said, its back to figures for a week or so now: firstly, eight Hanoverian infantry to bring an understrength  unit up to the mark in my FRW project; secondly, some weasley chaps Phil kindly gave me for the VBCW project, probably to serve as the Chillington Estate workers; and thirdly, another base of FRW French skirmishers to use up the spare figures I have in the lead pimple! That's it for now! Oh, I forgot to mention: I won a game at Phil's on Monday. There's a full write up and photos on his Blog, "News Fom the Front" {see sidebar for the link}.
Toodle Pip! Off to Taffistan on Saturday for a break. It usually rains when I go to Wales, so here's hoping!

Wednesday 8 June 2016

The VBCW around Wolverhampton

I've been dabbling a bit, in painting terms in the past few weeks, in the genre of the alternate history of Britain in the mid 1930's, in fact in the Very British Civil War. Phil and I have also played two games here in GHQ, one set in the VBCW itself and one in our 1940 alternate Blandings setting, both featured in earlier blog entries if you missed them ~
A scene from Operation Checkmate, a plot to capture a king!

A scene from the putative rescue of Lord Emsworth from the Nazis!

The Hilton Main Miners' Collective, a new VBCW unit!

Now the games in the VBCW setting have existed in a world confined so far to my imagination and not shared with anyone or set down in any coherent way. I thought it was about time I put the world of Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire in the VBCW into some sort of order, so here goes! I've lived on the very edge of the city, on what Wolverhampton Airfield from 1936 into the 1960's, since 1980 and for the last 13 years of my teaching career I worked 'over the hill' in Codsall, a village in South Staffordshire. I'm familiar from day to day happenings with the area's geography and so I set our first games here in the locality for convenience really and named the first units for local areas as it turns out: the Three Tunns Invincibles, named for a local pub; the Boulton Paul Workers' Cooperative, for the local aircraft factory up the hill; the Express and Star Rifles for our local right wing evening paper; and so on. I find now I want rather more flesh on the bones so as to speak and so I've been trawling the web for background which fits in with my imaginary 1936-38 setting.

In 1936/37 the Mayor of Wolverhampton was Sir Charles A Mander, of the local industrialist family of note. He had been a Major in WWI in the Staffordshire Yeomanry during the Palestine Campaign, where he had been wounded. Geoffrey Mander was the Liberal MP for Wolverhampton East; a noted radical, an anti-appeaser, and a pro-workers' rights industrialist. The brothers Miles and Alan Mander had both married Indian Princesses, the latter Princess Sudhira of Cooch Behar. These folk will form the backbone of leadership in opposition to the forces of a fascist government in raising new units for the Peoples' Struggle. Joining the units already named will be: Princess Sudhira's Rifle Company (using the Footsore Irish Constabulary as their figures and the uniformed IRA figure from the character pack as the officer}; the Wolverhampton Workers' Militia (using a mix of the same company's British and Workers' Militia packs); Manders' Horse seems an obvious choice given the Mayor's military experiences in the Yeomanry(probably using the Yeomanry figures from the same company). Though perhaps they might have armoured cars instead?

The local airfield and the Boulton-Paul factory nearby are an obvious setting for raids from both camps. I have a Defiant in black night fighter finish already, so new decals with BUF markings would seem to be the ready use of the plane. I also have a Hawker Fury to use for the Socialist side (and for the RAF of course). When we moved into our present house the airfield was all around us, with control tower, hangers and various wartime huts still standing (and photographed by me rather presciently!) I may get some bits to stand in for the airfield next year: some nissan huts and the control tower former Airfix kit perhaps.

Other forms of transport figured large in Wolverhampton's past in our area. Just down the road literally is Autherley Junction, where the Trent & Mersey canal links to the Shropshire Union canal system. Scope for canal actions are an obvious scenario in future games. I hope to have canal sections made by Andy at The Last Valley for next year and already have two narrow boats to utilize them when the appear. Wolverhampton was also served by two railway companies: the GWR with links to Oxford and Worcester and the LMS with links to London, Manchester and Liverpool. The railway has already figured in one scenario (see Operation Checkmate) and gives scope for others in the future. The Bicycle industry was a major employer here too, producing not only cycles but also motorcycles and motor cycle engines. I have some Foundry Home Guard mounted on bicycles, so they are just right for my project too.

Turning to the forces of the Government and their fascist allies I already have a base for them in the village of Tettenhall, just beyond the borders of the town in 1936. Two local notaries from the time, Swindley and Graham already feature: the former in the volunteer company known as Swindley's Own and the latter, the owners of the local paper the Express and Star, in the Express and Star Rifles. Phil has kindly provided the local BUF in the form of the Bilston Steel Legion, although I may add some Auxiliaries at some stage. To these can now be added a Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment, as Pete Barfield has kindly worked up flags for them for me! Of course, like all true wargamers I can't let it stop there. Tettenhall College, a C of E Public School, is just crying out for a Cadet Force made up of the staff and armed schoolboys, from Woodbine Designs I think. And the Giffards of Chillington Hall will obviously as landowners of some standing be siding with the forces of repression! I envisage two units from that source: the Chillington Rifle Company and the Chillington Light Horse. For the former I envisage using Footsore British Auxiliaries from the Irish Wars range and for the latter perhaps the mounted civilians from Reiver Castings?

I don't really have any artillery as such yet, though I could always use my Great War Miniatures 18lbers I suppose. I'd rather like a battery of 4.5" Howitzers but the only source so far is from Revisco in the USA and the postage is prohibitive really! As to tanks: well, I have a Vickers Mk VI with a 2lb gun! I don't really envisage anything beyond perhaps a Matilda I as an addition. I see my VBCW games as very much feet on the ground struggles in the very local area where I live. We'll have to see how things pan out over the coming months.

I'd be interested in the thoughts of any other VBCW enthusiasts, in the local area especially. It will only ever be one of the many periods we play here in GHQ so I won't be going overboard with purchases, although I did source three Lledo vehicles on eBay last night; two for Wolverhampton Police and the other a Horse Box for rapid transport of future mounted elements! Unlike some other VBCW enthusiasts' games you won't see any of the more exotic units, like armed Morris Dancers and militant cricketers, in my games. Each to their own of course, but not for me. Now, off to paint the standard bearer for the South Staffs! Toodle Pip!

Monday 6 June 2016

At The Ruins of Neptune's Temple

As the summer moves into the frame I seem, as ever, to paint less and play fewer games. I suppose the better weather and the longer hours of daylight mean more can, and has to be, done in the 'great outdoors'. Whatever, despite the attractions of the sunny day forecast Phil and I met in GHQ for our first game of the summer. We had decided on another game in our ongoing series pitting the usurper Baldinus against the rightful Emperor, Pompus Maximus, set in the Late Roman period. Our rules of choice now are Neil Thomas's Ancient & Medieval Rules, with numerous in house amendments of course! As our game falls on the anniversary of D Day in 1944 we chose a suitable setting for our game: Baldinus has landed with a force of infantry near the ruins of Neptune's Temple. He hopes to hold off forces loyal to the Emperor long enough for his Huns and Light Cavalry archers to arrive from along the coast. He must dice every turn, from Turn 1 to 6, needing a '6' in Turn 1, a '5' in Turn 2 and so on for them to appear. Pompus begins with some Dark Age infantry with javelins, a group of Ballista, and some Heavy Archers guarding the coast. He too has other units off table, dicing in the same manner for their arrival. If all arrives before Turn 7 Baldinus will have 9 units and Pompus 6.

As it turned out, by Turn 3 no one had arrived to reinforce either Pompus' or Baldnus' forces and things were already developing as Baldinus attacked the enemy's position vigorously! Taking full advantage of his artillery Pompus' forces attempted to wear down the advancing warbands of fierce Saxons while the Heavy Archer unit inflicted some losses on their opposite number as they struggled though the ruins.

The Saxons hurled themselves on the defenders, easily destroying the Ballista crews, but found the Dark Age Infantry a tougher proposition. The local commander, Bicca Rotunda, threw himself into the fight and the Saxons were halted!

In truth, the heavy losses inflicted in two turns of fire from the Ballistas, supported by the archers, had seriously weakened the one warband while the other simply could not deal with the opposing infantry {Phil's dice were useless!} While Pompus' force held their ground against the Saxons there was still no sign of his reinforcements! But away on the right cavalry could be seen pouring forward in support of the stalled attack.

With his courage restored, Baldinus pushed his centre forward and deployed his cavalry to cover their flank from any surprise attack from Pompus' direction. This sudden development looked as if it might win the battle for Baldinus, so much highly mobile firepower can be devastating!

Never daunted, in Turn 5 Baldinus' Legions arrived on the field lead by the Emperor himself! This gave fresh heart to the infantry holding off the Saxon warbands, aided as they were now in their struggle by the arrival of some Light Cavalry armed with javelins.

The titanic struggle on the left continues, with Bicca Rotunda distinguishing himself in the combat. The Saxons are hurled back by the infantry while the javelins shower down on the warband so far unengaged. Although things look far from encouraging elsewhere on this Field of Mars, on the left the Saxons are almost destroyed!

In the centre the legions advance slowly through the village, as yet unaware of the forces massing on their right. The remaining Heavy Archers are selling their lives dearly to buy time for the legions to close with the enemy.

As it stands now, the pretender's cause looks doomed on his right, with the remaining Saxons being peppered with Javelin fire from both cavalry and infantry while Bicca holds off the remnants of the Saxon Nobles. { Note, we don't remove bases, just put markers down, so Bicca is only fighting the one remaining base!}

Baldinus' Hun light cavalry are sweeping around the rear of Pompus' position, as it turned out all too late to significantly affect the battle's outcome.

In Turn 12, the final turn of the game, Pompus has defeated the pretender on the left and neutralised the Hun threat to his rear. While Baldinus cannot win the battle, he has secured a foothold again from which he can challenge the authority of the true Emperor in a future test of arms.

Result you ask? A draw, though close in the end. Baldinus had lost 3 units from 9, Pompus 3 from 6. Other of Baldinus' units were weakened by missile fire or too far from the action to affect the outcome when the game came to a close. Pompus and Baldinus will meet again on the Field of Mars!

Saturday 4 June 2016

Dotting your 'i's and crossing your 't's!

It can't be all fun and games in life, especally if you are a Wargames magazine editor I should imagine! After all, the hobby we all share is so diverse as to be as wide as it is high quite literally. Producing a monthly, or bimonthly, magazine must be a real strain sometimes, especially when you consider that the writers you depend on for articles are mostly willing amateurs who would probably rather be painting, modelling or gaming rather than writing! Now, I no longer buy all three hobby magazines, so this next piece is based rather on what other bloggers have mentioned rather than first hand experience. I gather from this that there has been an outbreak of the perenial question of how to grow the hobby, to ensure it has a future. Why that should exercise folks is a moot point, after all when I have stepped off this mortal coil why should I care what happens to the hobby of wargaming, whatever form it takes? But, being human, I suppose we all do care in our own way, even if it is only to mull over what will happen to our collections when 'the' time comes!

Having been recently thinking of this very question myself after Kevin mentioned the subject on a recent visit here I thought I might address what we might all try to do in our own small way to encourage the continued growth of a passtime we all find so rewarding and enjoyable. But first, a disclaimer: "You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink!" By this old English folk saying I take to mean that you can try ever so hard to interest someone in what interests you, but that's no guarentee of interest on their part. Should we shrug our shoulders then and walk away? Well, its probably less trouble but we all like to think we have something to offer our fellows I'm sure, at least I do. So here, in no real order, are my suggestions for fostering the growth of our hobby among others who show a passing interest, artfully arranged under the letters 'i' and 't' to encourage anyone who reads this to remember the crux of the matter!

"Interest" ~ I know it sounds trite and obvious but if someone has no interest in history,things military or playing games then its an uphill struggle to bring them to wargaming I should suggest. First, find a spark of interest in someone who shares your interest in those aspects of life. If they don't, then don't waste your time and effort would seem good advice. Move on, nothing to see here!
"Invitation" ~ I was readng a blogger's account of games at recent shows and was struck by a comment about demonstration games where no effort was made to engage the passing trade. If you don't invite people in, whether it be folk looking at your game or a new potential member at a club night, then you have missed your opportunity to bring into our hobby, and your circle even, a new member. Interaction with other people is at the heart of our hobby after all.
"Inclusion" ~ having broken the ice and welcomed in the newcomer, or the passing punter at a show, inclusion is surely the next step to take. A new club member needs to feel both welcome and included in the club's activities if they are to stick. After all, it takes a while to build up a gaming force, even for those bijou games where 50 figures is an army! So be charitable in your dealings with the new member or the chap {or chapess} who joins in your game. You may make not just a ready opponent, but a friend for life!
"Inspiration" ~ apparently Arthur Harman seems to have been recently suggesting that we should do things badly, or perhaps he meant basically, to avoid putting off the newcomer! Can't agree with that in any form myself! If you have nothing to inspire you, nothing to aim for in any walk of life then where is the motivation to improve? So in wargaming we all need something that gives us the 'Wow' factor and spurs us on to better our own modest efforts. For myself, as a very average painter, modeller and gamer, I'm constantly motivated by the wonderful things I see at shows or every day on the web!

Speaking of the influence of the web, which can often seem more negative than positive on some Forum Boards we could all name, then the 'T's of my offering might be taken on board by us all:
"Temper your views" ~ when someone offers to show you something they've done, a new unit or a piece of terrain, or makes a contribution to a rules discussion don't jump down their throat. Pause, reflect, and then try to find some merit in what they do or say, however small.
"Tolerate others' efforts" ~ such tempering of your views in the short term will encourage you to show tolerance of others. Don't be a lace freak, a button counter or a tankoholic for goodness sake. These are models in what is only a game in the final analysis after all. Encouragement rather than the big stick always works best with most folk in the long run I've found.
"Tutor the newcomer" ~ well, we were all newcomers in this hobby once remember and someone took us into their circle and brought us on, so we could reach our present levels of enjoyment and of involvement. Now it might be your turn to give some time back, don't be found wanting and never confuse helpful advice with sharp criticism!
"Treat others as you would want to be treated" ~ probably the nub of what I'm trying to say really. If you can't or don't give of yourself in our hobby to others then there can be no growth and no future for it beyond the here and now. It costs nothing to be kind and welcoming in club situations or at a show/convention.

Things to think about perhaps? Well, that's really in your laps now I've said my piece. I think I have done, and hope to continue to do, my bit over the last 44 years as a club secretary; a demonstration and participation game host; a contributer to Wargames Illustrated, a teacher; a father; a grandfather now; and latterly as a blogger in a small way. Go you and do likewise, as the good book says.

Finally, on a lighter note, some of my latest painting for my ongoing projects ~
Two new bases of French skirmishers for the FRW project.
Trent Miniatures of course.

Very characterful figures. Think what they'd look like if I could paint!

The long tufts are a new trick for this old dog.

The start of a new VBCW unit ~ The Wolverhampton Workers' Militia.

The VBCW villain, the evil Lord Rawnsley!

The Warlord freebie with "Glory Hallelujah!".

There you have it then, my output for the last couple of weeks, none of it very wonderful but I enjoyed it!