Thursday 24 January 2019

Christmas Truce 1914

The 'Sport' bonus round has given me more headaches than any of the others. I have a moderately sized lead mountain at home (or so I keep telling the wife) but despite rummaging through it several times I couldn't find anything that I could shoehorn into this category. Then I remembered a model I had seen in Wargames Illustrated a while back and I started hunting... Lo and behold it was one of their Moments in History specials, and they still had some in stock.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 has been popularised and mythologised so much that the story has taken on a life of its own. It has come to symbolise the humanity of the ordinary soldier in the midst of an inhumane war. But the truth, like most history, is a little different. Unofficial truces - where local units allowed each other to bury dead or rescue wounded - were part of the live-and-let-live attitude most prevalent in the early part of the war. But December 1914 was different. Troops on both sides were coming to terms with the realisation that the war wouldn't be over by Christmas after all. 

In some areas of the front troops came out of their trenches, exchanged gifts and even had impromptu kick-about's with footballs. There isn't any evidence of an actual 'match' being played but the idea has become so mythologised over the years that the story has become stronger than the history.

This model, or rather the varnishing of it, gave me some headaches. I use spray varnishes for most of my projects with multiple coats of W&N gloss varnish followed by a couple of coats of W&N Matt. This time I think I was rushing a bit and put a thicker than usual matt coat over a gloss varnish that hadn't finished drying... queue a cloudy finish and crackled surface which I only noticed several hours later after it had dried... EEEK!! Thankfully a thin layer of brush-on gloss recovered most of the damage and the unrecoverable bits were given a touch up of paint. Panic over, and entirely my own fault. That's what I get for rushing!

Monday 21 January 2019

British Sherman III's in Normandy & some Hedges

(Saturday DRAFT) British Sherman III's in Normandy & some Hedges

So this week I'm departing from 6mm ancients to fast forward in time to WWII and a trio of 15mm tanks. These are M4A2 Sherman tanks by Peter Pig but they could also be used as M4A3's with the larger 76mm Gun. I have painted these in British service where they were known as the Sherman III. I'll be using these to play What a Tanker and will be teaming up with the Sherman VC (the Firefly) that I painted in Challenge Eight in a series of games I have planned for the summer. They will be facing off against a series of increasingly dangerous scenarios, culminating in battle with a King Tiger.

I've painted these lend-lease tanks as belonging to the 8th Armoured Brigade as this unit was issued with Sherman III's and Sherman VC for the Battle of Normandy.

As with my earlier Dingo Scout car I used a Vallejo textured paint to muddy up the tracks and lower hulls of these tanks. This stuff hardens quickly and can then be varnished along with the rest of the model.

I've also completed a small bit of terrain this week. I wasn't planning on doing this as all, but once the itch started I just had to scratch! I bought the hedges to make Boccage but when they arrived they were much too small. So I decided to base them us as was so they can be used as low hedges (each is about 1cm tall so idea for 15mm). I do have some larger bushes that may be turned into boccage later in the challenge if I find the time...of the need to make terrain overcomes me again!

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Battle of Little Creek 1814

The weekend before last I got my first game of the year in the shed-o-war. Just two of us could make it so Surjit and I went 'mano o mano' in a Napoleonic game with a difference. We would be fighting a battle set in north america during the war of 1812. This battle takes place in July of that year somewhere in upper Canada and sees two columns, one British and one American, approaching each other. As usual we pulled a slip of paper out of a metaphorical hat to decide sides and it was decided that I would be the Americans and Surjit would play the British. 

The war of 1812 had a long prehistory that lead almost inevitably to conflict. To the Americans the war was an act of defiance against a hostile Royal Navy that infringed on US territorial waters. To the British it was an attempt to counter American breaking of the naval blockade that was choking neutral trade to France. By 1812 both fleets were in open conflict with the Royal Navy's smaller frigates getting the worst of it.

Commitment to the war in Europe meant Britain adopted a defensive strategy, limiting operations to the Canadian border and western frontier. Several American attempts to invade Canada were repulsed but there were significant victories on both sides and in 1814 the Royal Navy burned Washington (including the White House). The war was unpopular on both sides and by August 1814 peace negotiations were under way.

Our battle is set in 1814 with a well trained American army facing a column of British Line troops and Canadian Militia.

Order of Battle

British (Surjit)
1st Brigade c/o Hercules Scott
  1st Royal Scots (Line Class)
  8th Kings  (Line Class)
  41st (Line Class)
  89th  (Line Class)
  Light Gun
  Rocket Battery

2nd Brigade c/o Lt Col Pearson
  Glengary Ligth Infantry
  Incorporated Militia of Upper Canada
  Lincoln Militia
  2nd York Militia
  19th Light Dragoons
  Indian Allies
  Light Gun

Americans (Lee)
1st Brigade c/o B-Gen Winfield Scott
  9th Line
  11th Line
  22nd Line
  25th Line
  Light Gun

2nd Brigade c/o B-Gen Ripley
  1st Line
  21st Line
  23rd Line
  Light Gun

3rd Brigade c/o B-Gen Porter
  New York State Militia
  5th Pennsylvania Militia
  US Light Dragoons
  New York Stat Militia Light Dragoons

The Action
Initial Setup - The Americans with three Brigades are in the foreground and have not fully crossed the river. The outnumbered British are perhaps in a better position in that they have one brigade 'deployed'. 

Brigades at deployment

Initial moves. I wanted to establish a forward line to allow space for my rear Brigade to get across the bridge. I expected the British infantry to also push forward but there's plenty of room, right...? Hang on a minute...whats that lone Light Dragoon unit doing. Hopy crap its charging!!!

The 19th Light Dragoons gauge the distance perfectly. With probably less than an inch to spare they made the distance and crashed into one of my line units. I's underestimated the gap between us! The Dragoons are a small unit and all I have to do is roll ok in melee...

About turn two - I'm moving to form a line roughly contingent with the hill. My Militia Brigade is swinging wide to the right and my second Line Brigade are starting to march across the bridge.  There's just the small matter of that cavalry vs infantry Melee to resolve...

My line unit rolls appallingly bad and falls back through a friendly unit disrupting it. Suddenly my front line is in utter disarray and all because I got a fraction of an inch too close to the enemy! 

From bad to worse... The British dragoons now charge my second disrupted line unit. Not only do they defeat them they nick one of my flags! That whole first Brigade is teetering on the brink of having to fall back. The only bright side, I have moved my Militia Cavalry round and am ready to return the favour on the exposed British line. 

...a line that looks impressive but is made up of militia units. 

The British fire their rocket battery and hit absolutely nothing...but every unit in my army has t take a moral test or be disrupted on first seeing this new scary weapon.... four units are forced to halt and try to reorganise including my militia infantry on the hill. Then the cheeky bugger charges my gun on the hill with his skirmishers... and my militia can't now counter charge and can only look on. This game is getting very frustrating. 

Oh for Pete's sake! The 1st Brigade have to make a Brigade Check, fail and have to fall back one full move. This does mean I'm away from those blasted Dragoons but now my regiments are all mixed up and in each others way. 

The British meanwhile are approaching in an orderly fashion. They divert a couple of units to face my Militia cavalry on their flank but despite sending them reeling back there are more British units to steady the position and blunt my assault. 

I start to redeploy as best I can. Some units can't move if they want to reorganise but my 'plan' is already in tatters. 

I loose the gun on the hill to the British Skirmishers but I'm finally able to bring my infantry units forward in something resembling an ordered line. I decide to gamble on a general charge (I'm sure I have lost the battle at this point, so what the heck!). Its only a partial success and the British respond with a counterattack. Overall its a bit of a standoff, with neither side landing a decisive blow, but I think that was the last chance for the Americans to regain control of the battle. 

Over on the flank my Militia have reorganised but are no longer facing the flank of an enemy. And those damned skirmishers of the British are harassing my flank relentlessly. 

Combined fire and melee have forced my Militia Brigade to fall back. Straddling the road my Line units have some sort of order but every one had taken casualties and all bar two are disordered limiting my choices for next turn... but its getting dark and Postie calls the game to a close.

Victory for the British was in little doubt. and the points say it all. Three points for the Americans and 17 points for the British. 

I'd like to say that the delay getting this batrep posted is only in small part because I got such a thrashing. It's been a very busy week, both at work and at the hobby desk, and I just haven't had time to write this up until today (thank crunchie for my Tuesdays off work!).

So I've started my gaming year with a loss. Not good. Not good at all. I thought Surjit was taking a bit of a risk with the Dragoon charge but he judged the distance well and of course his dice rolling was better than mine. I was on the back foot almost from the first round of action and never recovered after that. Well done Surj, a deserved victory. I must do better next time!! 

Monday 14 January 2019

Hannibal's Gallic Allies

After expanding the ranks of my Polybian Roman Army last week now its time to add some extra muscle to my Carthaginian army under Hannibal. The most famous of the Barcids, Hannibal always seemed to be outnumbered but he made up for it by gathering disaffected and outright rebellious roman 'subjects' and turning them against Rome. The march from Spain had severely depleted his army. Some estimates suggest that as much as 75% of his starting strength was 'lost' to battle casualties, garrisoning of parts of Cisalpine Gaul and disease (especially during the harsh Alpine crossing). 

When he arrived in Northern Italy Hannibal faced a region of Gallic tribes that had been brutally subdued by Rome and were naturally reluctant to turn on their powerful overlords. However after he had routed an army under Publius Scipio at the Battle of Ticinus nearly all the Gallic tribes switched to the Carthaginian cause. 

I already had three of these units painted but wanted the option to field more (I can take up to six using the army list in To The Strongest). I bought enough miniatures to build two more units. These are Deep units and can therefore take a lot of damage before being destroyed. The army list also gives me the option to upgrade some to Veteran units, making them even more formidable. 

Again I tried to match the work I did before but this time I think my color pallet for the shields was a little different. Some variation is fine and will enable me to easily see them if I do go for veterans. I can always argue that they are from a different allied tribe to the last lot. I also painted a dozen mounted commanders and heroes for my Gallic units. The bases of two are commanders and the singly based figures are heroes. These can be represented on the tabletop with a token but I'd rather have a figure instead. 

So by the end of week 4 of the Challenge I am well on my way towards my target. The points fest will slow a little now as I work on 'smaller' entries. I'm also finding being a Judge/Minion much more demanding (in a good way) than anticipated and of course that diverts me a bit from painting. But diversity is a good thing and I always find that my hobby is at its most creative and busy during the three months of the Challenge. 

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Mark I 'Dingo' Scout Car

The 'Dongo' was a small two man scout car first conceived in 1938 as the British army started to embrace the idea of mobile armored divisions. Several concept designs were produced, all roughly similar, but it was the BSA prototype that was eventually selected, although they kept the 'Dingo' designation that Alvis had given their rejected prototype. Initially armour was only designed to resists infantry rifle fire but on the army's insistence the frontal armour was increased to 30mm. However it was the vehicles low profile and speed, even cross country, that was its main defense. 

The Dingo had an extremely long range and relatively tight turning circle making it ideal in its role as a scout or recon vehicle. The transmission consisted of a pre-selector gearbox, with five forward gears and five reverse gears, allowing steering with all four wheels. The system was very flexible but difficult to master and later models just has front wheel steering. 

The car was usually armed with a removable cal. 0.303 (7.7 mm) Bren gun, with a dozen spare magazines. However this could be swapped for a heavier Boys antitank rifle (0.55 in/14 mm).

The Dingo saw service throughout the war and continued in the British Army well into the 50's and 60's and in overseas forces even into the 1970's. 

The model is from Zvezda and is a relatively simple to construct and paint. The model clips together although I used glue to strengthen the joins and fill any gaps. In the end I spent more time working on the base than on the vehicle. I particularity focused on making the ground look wet and muddy, to emphasis ths vehicles exceptional off road ability. I did this using a Vallejo texture paint, plenty of varied vegetation and by using a mix of varnishes. I used a brush on Dullcoat (Testors) for 'dry' areas which gives a perfectly flat finish. For the wet areas I used Windsor and Newton Gloss because it gives a really nice shiny finish. 

Monday 7 January 2019

Polybian Legion and Carthaginian Elephants

Way back in the sixth Analogue Hobbies Winter Challenge I painted a Polybian Roman Army. I'd always wanted to expand it with more Hastati, Principes and Triarii but as with all good intentions it never happened. So three years after I first started this army I am finally getting round to expanding the ranks of my Romans. I had planned to paint these one group at a time but after working through masses of Zulu's last year that felt a bit lazy so I have done the whole lot as one entry. As you'll probably notice the last rank (the veteran Triarii) are just two bases worth. That wasn't intentional, I had ordered a pack of 96 figures but was only sent 48 and didn't realise until I was ready to start. My wife gave them to my for Christmas so when they arrived over a month ago I just handed the pack to her and didn't check my order. Rather than delay working in these I decided to paint what I have got for now and worry about the two missing units later. 

I made a concerted effort to paint and base them exactly as I did the first legion. The only exception for this second legion was giving them a different colour banner. 

Just to prove I have indeed painted these (not just recycled the minis I did three years ago) here is a side by side picture of the whole lot.

The 'New' legion is on the left. 

And here is a picture of them deployed for battle in a pattern approaching the Quincunx formation with the seasoned Principes covering the Hastatii in front and the veteran Triarii at the back covering the Principes. It was a bad day if the Triarii were ever called into action because that meant the front two ranks had been beaten and fallen back. 

I've also completed some more Elephants for my Carthaginian army. I painted four of these back in Challenge VI basing them in pairs. Almost from the moment I finished them I wasn't happy with the way they looked, and felt I ought to have more per base. So this time around I have bought another four Elephants and combined them with the four I painted back in 2016. 

The colour is a shade different in the four new Nellies but its cliose enough and the finished bases look a lot more intimidating. 

Now I need to think about expanding Hannibal's army even more with some more Celtic allies. I'm going to busy!

Saturday 5 January 2019

Ten Years of Blogging

Ten years ago today I started writing BigLee's Miniature Adventures with the rather vague intention to chronicle my little adventures as I played different games, painted miniatures, explored museums and made new friends. Since then it has become so much more than its humble origins and is now a cornerstone of my 'hobby life'. As a kid I'd always wanted to write a diary and had even started a couple of times only for the enthusiasm to wane and the entries to dry up. Then in the late noughties I 'discovered' wargame blogs and was introduced to a huge resource of inspiration, new game systems and manufacturers; vastly broadening my limited horizons. By January 2009 I felt that I was ready to take the plunge and with relatively little planning, threw myself into writing my own gaming blog... and incredibly ten years later I'm still doing it!

So after a decade of writing have I achieved the goals I set myself when I started? Personally I think my painting is definitely better now than 10 years ago but I think a lot of that has to do with new techniques I have picked up. Back in 2009 most of what I was painting was for RPG's, Skirmish and Fantasy wargames, and it was almost exclusively 28mm. Now I paint across a much wider range of scales and almost all of it is exclusively for historical wargaming. This has necessitated some changes to how I paint because my aim nowadays is to achieve a good 'wargaming' standard rather than aiming for single stand out figures. That being said the Analogue Hobbies Winter Painting Challenge has encouraged me to work on some figures purely for display with a greater emphasis on basing and groundwork in the models I produce. I'm not going to win any painting competitions (tried that, just once!) which has most definitely 'upped my standard' generally.

My hobby origins were in RPG's and 
Skirmish Wargaming. 
The other initial goal for my blog was to make new friends. This has been massively and unequivocally achieved, without a shadow of a doubt. For a start I wouldn't be part of Posties Rejects were it not for my Blog; and my wider circle of friends in the gaming community is almost entirely due to the connections I have made via my site and the other social media I use to promote it. I sometimes wonder where I would be today if it were not for the connections I have made in the last ten years. I certainly wouldn't be gaming as much and I doubt if I would be playing the range of genre's, periods and scales I do now. In short, my hobby life is fuller, richer and broader than I could ever have hoped for a decade ago.

I've said this many times over the years, this blog wouldn't be the same place were it not for its readers. I always enjoy the comments that people leave and I have made a lot of friends via these interactions; in the real world as well as in cyberspace. I'd always encourage readers to come over and say hello if you see me shows. I don't bite and its great to put a face to a name. 

Some BLMA Statistics:
  • 2,537,679 page views and counting
  • 65% of my pageviews come from North America
  • 21% from the UK and 14% from Europe and Russia
  • I've written 1833 posts
  • I have written 81 Battle Reports
  • 201 posts about museum visits 
  • and 114 Book Reviews
  • I have attended 54 Living History shows and 59 Wargames shows.

    Clearly I aspired to the Cavalry in my
    early years. Nowadays my handling of
    cavalry in games has become 'infamous'!
    Ten years as a blogger means I have had time to see plenty of highs and lows. Blogging can be a demanding taskmaster, especially when I started out as I was writing on a daily basis. Nowadays my posting schedule is a bit more flexible and I'm happy to write on an irregular basis. There have been plenty of times when 'real life' has limited both my gaming and writing to a trickle but overall the last ten years have been my most productive and enjoyable of my gaming life. I've particularly enjoyed being exposed to a wider range of rules and styles of play. There seems to be so much choice available to wargamers today that I think the role of bloggers providing first hand recommendations is an invaluable resource. It has certainly broadened my hobby interests and encouraged me to spend a significant amount of money and time on systems I probably would have otherwise overlooked. 

    Having looked backwards what do I think the next ten years will bring? Well for a start I can't envisage any reason why the blog would come to an end (unless I 'cop it' of course). Like most gamer's I am always on the lookout for the next big thing and pretty much my only current limitation is one of storage space. That may change in the next few years as the kids move out and I get to claim the spare room as a games den. I may even get around to putting a roof on the shed.

    Once again, thank you for reading and following my blog and lets hope the next ten years is as much fun as the last ten.

    Friday 4 January 2019

    Bonded Servitude to the Snow Lord

    Or "How I learned to stop worrying and love the Challenge".

    For the uninitiated, here is a little story... Once upon a time a Crazy Canadian and his snow bound mates decided to challenge each other to paint their respective lead mountains during the winter months. The Snow Lord expanded his ranks, opening up entries to a growing band of thralls. One year over a hundred took part, but that way lies madness, and now the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge regularly hosts about 80 participants. I've taken part in four Challenges with this winters festival of painting being my fifth entry.

    The fun kicked off on the 21st December and we are now a couple of weeks into the 13 week event which ends in March. This year I have set myself a modest target but this still adds up to a lot of painted lead and several existing projects rounded off after years building. My approach to 'the challenge' is to plan carefully, with room for the unexpected, but to push myself in terms of output; I always end up painting more than I expected I would.

    This year there is an added dimension to the challenge for me, because I have been asked to help out as one of the Judges or 'Minions'. A couple of months ago I received an email from Curt Campbell asking if I would like to help judge this years Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. I didn't need to think about my answer and immediately replied yes, count me in. Being asked to be a 'Minion' is a great honor and a duty that I hope I can discharge without too many foul ups! My first judging day was Tuesday and everything seemed to go smoothly. To be fair it was a quiet day for entries and I expect the pace to pick up as the Challenge progresses.

    My own painting plan is progressing well and I'm already ahead of schedule. Mind you I'll need that edge later in the competition as I know I have a weeks holiday planned that will bring painting to a temporary halt. Overall though the Challenge is a great motivator and for several years now I have got the vast majority of my painting done in the three months it runs. On my 'plan' for the year are several extra units for my 2nd Punic War armies; additions to my Anglo Zulu War project; and lots of 15mm tanks for North Africa and Europe games of What a Tanker.  Its going to be a busy few weeks!