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.

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!

Sunday 14 May 2017

Home from Carronade

Got in about an hour ago after driving back from South Queensferry. Sue and I, together with Phil and Di, enjoyed our long weekend break with mostly decent weather for May! Phil and I took in the Falkirk club's annual wargames show, Carronade. A few pictures of the games are in order ~
The Iron Brigade's 28mm Wars of the Roses game.

A detail from their game. Italieri church and Perry plastic cavalry.

SESWC's World War II game, minus Colin Jack!

Barrie Hilton's League of Augsburg GNW game showcasing
Warfare Miniatures' figures.
A detail from the game. Now that is a battery!

Dave Imrie and chums' Medieval game showcasing Claymore Castings

Hudson & Allen castle on their game.
Westerhope Wargamers' SYW with homecast Prinz August figures.
42mm scale SCW game by Durham Wargamers.
28mm WWII Urban landscape really impressed me, by Glasgow Warhogs
A small but beautifully presented Dark Ages skirmish game.
Who can resist a pele tower on a game in Scotland? Not me!
So pleased that my chums at The Iron Brigade, Kevin and Peter, won the
Best Demonstration Game this year!
Brother Bykleigh blessing their game!
Attending Carronade and later in the year Claymore have become a bit of a tradition for the four of us now, though Phil and Di can't always make the latter. They are our substitute for the Salute trip we used to make each year. Readers will know my views on that event so I won't dwell on that aspect. Suffice to say the two Scottish shows we go to are far better experiences as guests in our view, with wonderful games to see, very friendly folk to chat with, good friends to meet up with again, plenty of Traders for we pukka wargamers to shop with, and even for Gnome Botherers and their ilk! If you can get to either I thoroughly recommend a visit.
Just to finish with an apology: I can't name all the groups whose games I've featured. As a deaf person its difficult to cope with voices I don't know in a show environment. You may be anonymous, but you are no less appreciated. More on the show tomorrow when I'm fully recovered from carlag!

Friday 12 May 2017

A Missive From The Wild Northern Lands!

Otherwise, a few lines from Jockshire where I am currently residing in the Hawes Inn at South Queensferry, the very place Robert Louis Stevenson wrote 'Kiddnapped'! Sue and I are here with Phil and Di for a few days' break, as we do most years about this time to coincide with the Falkirk club's annual wargames show, Carronade. Phil and I will be off to Falkirk shortly. We are looking forward to meeting our many northern chums again, seeing some fine games, collecting some preorders and perhaps even spending a few Jockshire pounds on new toys. I might even manage to take a few decent photos for later...

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Surprised ( but not Spanish!)

As Sue is working at the local university this week and next I took myself out to lunch today. When I got home there was not one, but two surprises waiting for me in the post: an advanced copy of June's Wargames Illustrated, as I have contributed two articles to this issue; an advance copy of Warlord/Osprey's 'Campaign Sea Lion', with the free Winston Churchill too! The two are connected as you will see later this month when both are published officially. I've spent the afternoon looking over the Sea Lion book and thought I'd share a few thoughts for those who are interested in the area of early WWII/Operation Zeelowe/the VBCW.
As you may know the Bolt Action rule set is very popular amongst gamers right now and there's been much chatter about the forthcoming campaign book on Forum Boards and Blogs since it was announced. The book retails at £19.99, including the free Winston, from Warlord, plus £5 P&P if you buy it alone, but post free on orders of over £50! My copy was a gift from Warlord which was unexpected. For those who are thinking of buying it, what do you get besides a Winston Churchill?

The book is a soft back of some 124 pages in full colour. It contains, if I counted correctly, 10 full or part page colour plates from relevant Osprey publications, 51 large pictures of tabletop battle scenes or groups of figures/vehicles, 35 small pictures of individual figures, small groups or a vehicle. I chose to mention these first as they are wonderfully inspiring for the gamer in painting the models and figures and laying out the table top battlefield. Several of these feature future releases for the game from Warlord; my personal must have is on page 54, The Great Panjandrum - think Dad's Army classic episode! These eccentric and unusual weapons will certainly bring something new to early war games and I hope VBCW games too.

For me wargaming is first and foremost spectacle; next it is story, and Operation Zeelowe lends itself to both of these in spades. In order to translate text and rules in a book into games you need a context, otherwise you might as well play a board game in my view. There is certainly a lot to wrestle with here, but it will be worth it to bring games or even a campaign to life on the table. Briefly the contents offer an alternate history summary of how Zeelowe might have gone, from the landings on the Kent coastline to D +15. The booklet then moves on to consider British Anti Invasion Forces - New British Units, Weapons, Armoured Trains, Fortifications and Minefields. Many of the units are readily transferable to the VBCW context for those like us who use the Bolt Action rule set for our games. The next section deals with German Invasion Forces and describes New German Units, Special German Invasion Equipment and New Special Rules. Finally you get several scenarios, both normal Bolt Action sized and new Patrol Scenarios which are smaller actions. They will easily stitch together to form a full campaign outline to play out the 'What If?' of Operation Zeelowe.

New British Units include Light Infantry Anti Parachutist Platoon, British Coastal Defence Platoon, Royal Navy Sections, Airfield Defence Platoon, Home Guard Platoon. Each contains new characteristics, new troop types, additional vehicles and weapons, new rules. Within each are New Units - Royal Navy, LDV, Home Guard, Toxophilists - look it up - Auxiliary Units, Obsolete and Weird Weapons, Vehicles both mainstream and exoteric!

New German types include a Beach Landing Reinforced Platoon, a Fallschirmjager Reinforced Platoon, a Brandenburg Commando Reinforced Platoon, Airborne Raiders Reinforced Platoon - a kind of Folorn Hope unit, a 5th Column Reinforced Platoon, a BUF Reinforced Platoon, a Ganster Reinforced Platoon - the latter three very handy for the VBCW gamer. New Vehicles include Invasion Barges of several types, Sturmboots, Amphibious Tanks, Gliders, Demolition Charges.

All of these innovations in the rules and details look as if they will be fully supported by Warlord releases over the next few months as the figure prominently in many of the pictures! You look as if you will get Smith Guns, Northover Projectors, Spigot Mortars, the Great Panjamdrum and numerous unusual and theatre specific vehicles and boats. The next couple of weeks will see the release of a Home Guard Section, an Armadillo, a Smith Gun and British Snipers in Ghillie Suits amongst others.

Finally I should mention the new personality rules and attributes under the heading Legends of Britain. They include Churchill, Moseley, Mainwaring et al, and Peter Fleming. They bring character and flavour to a game and I am sure gamers will take this up and run with it to create their own personalities, my own Lord Emsworth perhaps and even the Empress of Blandings.

Monday 8 May 2017


Time to dust off the impis of Chief Bykelezi, time for those brave warriors to wash the spears in the blood of their enemy. Time in fact for the Zulus to finally win a game! In short, this week's game in GHQ: a Black Powder Anglo-Zulu War game pitting the cunning Chief Bykelezi against his long time foe Lord Rawnsley commanding the Imperial force invading Zululand, again.The scenario is inspired by a well known British defeat in the war, taking the idea from Warlord's supplement, Zulu, and adapting it to my forces and available scenics.
The British force comprised the 13th Somerset Light Infantry and the 24th Warwickshire Regiment, supported by a Hales light rocket team and a company of the Natal Mounted Police. The personalities present were Rawnsley, Durnford and Flashman, all rated at 8! Chief Bykelezi is rated at a 9 and his subordinates at 8. The British are all Steady and Stubborn, while the Zulus are unmodified. The British may only fire at full effect for two moves, then need a resupply from the camp, otherwise firing at 2 x D6 instead of 4. This resupply is represented by a single figure who must pass a Command roll of 8 to carry out the resupply. Only one infantry unit can be resupplied in any turn. The rocket has D6 shells available ~ in our game 5.  The Zulu army enters randomly from any one of six points, corresponding to perimeter tiles on the two table edges. Once two elements have appeared the rest follow from either location. To enter the table all Zulus must pass a Command roll test set at 9.The game is set at 12 Turns, as is our usual practice. To the action ~
The British are surprised at dawn by a Zulu Impi while still rousing
themselves from slumber. There is a real anxiety the Zulus may be in among
the tents!

The British manage to deploy to defend the perimeter just in time. A savage
and prolong hand to hand fight begins over the temporary barricades. The
rocket troop and the Natal Mounted Police are still in a tangle.

The Zulus are unsupported and although inflicting many casualties cannot
break the 24th!

Finally, in Turn 6, the 24th's morale crumbles and they flee. The scenario
allowed them to try to exit the table for one Victory point, while the Zulus
got 2 for routing them and 1 bonus if they could defeat the routers.

While a fresh Impi attacks the 13th, now defending desperately, another fresh
Impi catches the routed 24th! Amazingly the 24th beat them off!

The 24th escape as the Zulu are Disordered and cannot attack again. The
situation in the camp looks desperate for the British! The rocket fires!

Two direct hits from the Hales rockets! The Zulus don't like it much and flee!

Four direct hits in two turns! I ask you! Two Impis destroyed and fleeing for
their lives! Chief Bykelezi is not happy!

The heroes of the hour, the stubborn 13th, though they would admit they
couldn't have done it without the support of the rocket team and the Police!

The game lasted the full 12 turns, with Turn 12 seeing all the Zulus either fleeing or disordered and thus unable to press the attack. The British had earned a breather we were sure! The rocket was out of shells and the infantry would have fired at half rate, if only the Zulu could have closed one more time! A narrow victory for Lord Rawnsley's force and a further defeat for Chief Bykelezi! Will the tide ever turn in the Zulu favour we wonder...

Thursday 4 May 2017

Hors de Combat!

I have been for another cortisone injection in my right hip area as walking has become increasingly both painful and difficult these last few weeks, not to mention a couple of minor falls along the way. As Sue and I are off on a small ship cruise along the Dalmatian Coast at the start of June it's really important to me that I'm in as good a knick as possible! To that end I've also been following a weight reduction programme and have shed 1 stone 5 1/4 lbs so far. Keeping busy has helped a lot there, especially in the painting department! Which brings me nicely to today's offering: a Dixon Miniatures ACW Reb unit, the 10th Georgia, and the French Command group from Redoubt Enterprises for my F&IW Sharp Practice project ~

When Duncan was editing Wargames Illustrated he used to tease me good naturedly about being the High Priest of Dixon Miniatures but I really do think them the most characterful, animated and comprehensive range for the period in 28mm. I also know they are like Marmite to wargamers with others unable to comprehend my judgement! Each to their own of course, but for me the wonderful faces make each one a unique personality, not to mention that the hair is just right also!

Redoubt Enterprises too are another company who from time to time enjoy a mixed reputation amongst gamers, mainly when the issue of worn molds and miscasting issues arise. I have myself suffered slightly from the odd figure which simply wasn't up to snuff, but I have always found Trevor and Sue willing and able to put things right straight away. The joy for me of their F&IW figures is that I can clearly see the details and that the figures seem to love the paint job, just like Pulp Figures do for example. Given my problem with arthritis in my right hand and the occasional uncooperative eye these are important considerations to the 'geriatric gamer in waiting'!

Now, back to the next batch of ACW ragged Rebs from Dixon Miniatures. Its such a pleasure for a change after all these years to paint just what takes my fancy...

Tuesday 2 May 2017

All Over the Place!

A short entry featuring some of the latest additions to pass over my painting desk and into GHQ. They are a really eclectic mixture, reflecting the new 'paint when and what you fancy' approach that I mentioned a couple of Posts ago now ~
Empress Miniatures AZW Boer & Mounted infantry horseholders. Dog by
Redoubt Enterprises.

Pulp Figures' Drawing Room Detectives', minus Miss Marple who figured
earlier in a VBCW context.

Highland Coos ~ by Gripping Beast I think.

FRW National Guard unit by Foundry Miniatures.

A closer view of my rendition.

The head of the column.

A Brigade Miniatures British officer.

Finally, what am I painting now? Why, Dixon Miniatures' ACW Reb infantry, the 10th Georgia and Redoubt Enterprises' F&IW French High Command to complete the roster of Big Men.Back to the future it seems!