Friday 25 October 2019

SELWG Withdrawal Symptoms

Exploring a Chieftain Tank in the
Norfolk Tank Museum
Let's start by stating that I'm an idiot. Unequivocal and no argument from me I assure you. Why? Because I booked a weekend away that clashed with one of my favourite game shows in my calendar, SELWG at Crystal Palace. Ray, Postie and Dave went to this year's event and the closest I got was a voyeuristic 'lurk' on Rays Blog. It looks like I missed a great show and I'm more than a little gutted. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my weekend away with the family, but we could have had just as much fun the following weekend, but somehow I didn't register the date when we booked the hotel and the rest, as they say, is history. Numpty!

So while the lads were enjoying themselves at SELWG I had to content myself with the excellent Norfolk Tank Museum amongst others (six museums in three days!). Spending a couple of hours climbing on and in their tank collection was good fun, but not quite the same as attending the show and meeting friends. So 'Plan B' is to attend Warfare in the middle of November for my last big wargaming fix before the long dark winter months close in. This will be my first visit to this particular show and my last chance to stock up before the Painting Challenge begins in December. I expect to part with a lot of cash!

The new Operations Room should be largely finished by then and I can start getting some work done after weeks of self-imposed exile from my hobby. 

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Dad's Army Museum

Over the weekend I and my family took a short trip to Norfolk to visit a couple of museums. I'll post some pictures of the others later in the week but the main focus of our trip was the Dad's Army Museum in Thetford. For those outside the UK, I'm not sure how much you'll know about this classic TV comedy from the late 60's & 70's. Set in WWII it was a respectfully light-hearted look at the Home Guard, the armed citizen militia that supported the British Army on home soil. Many of the stories featured in the series were drawn from real experiences and it is a wonderful homage to this typically British response to the very real threat of Nazi invasion. 

Needless to say, the Hadley Household are all fans of this TV series and despite the fact that the episodes are over four decades old they still make us laugh. We have been trying to visit the Dad's Army Museum for a while but it is run by volunteers it isn't open every day of the week, so when we have been in the area before we have always been there on the wrong day! This time we planned the whole weekend around our visit, determined not to miss out again. Much of the memorabilia displayed is unique and gives a very clear picture of how the BBC crew and actors effectively took over the town (and its hotels) for weeks on end each summer. Many scenes were shot in Thetford and the surrounding countryside which doubled for the fictitious Walminton-on-Sea in the series. 

The Dad's Army Museum is behind the council offices in Thetford (where many of the outside scenes were shot) and is very well signposted. 

Poster from the first movie version of the series. 

Getting a dressing down from Capt Mannering....Silly Boy! 

Lead figures of the characters made by Good Soldiers of Stevenage

More toy soldiers of the characters in different scales. 

The 'Butchers Van' of Corporal Jack Jones is stored at the nearby Burrell Museum. This is the original vehicle used in the series. It has had several restorations and is often seen at events around the country. 

Jone's improvised 'Pistol Ports' in the side of the van. There were also some in the original roof (now replaced) which featured in several episodes. 

I can't get my kids to dress up any more so I guess I'll have to do it! 

The museum is Free entry (a rarity these days) and is open every Saturday from March 23rd through to November 30th and on Tuesdays in the Norfolk School Holidays, so October 22nd was the last Tuesday until July next year. Its run by volunteers and visitors of all ages are welcome. Its not a big museum, just two rooms a tea room and gift shop so allow about an hour for your visit...but do visit, its very interesting and if you have ever seen the series it's guaranteed to have you quoting "Sill Boy" and "Do you think that's wise?" and a dozen other catchphrases. 

Wednesday 16 October 2019

The Battles of Schwedt - 1758

Reject HQ saw two battles over the weekend when I faced off against Mr Rousell (of Don't throw a One fame) in a set of linked games set in the seven years war. Postie has been running a few games like this recently, with a smaller game determining advantage to the winner in the second game, and it made for an interesting days gaming. 

The Setup
As usual, we started by picking out of a metaphorical hat for sides, and I got the Russians while Ray would be the Prussians. I was clearly going to have my work cut out fighting a more experienced player and a better army (+1 morale rating for most of their troops, because they are better trained). I wasn't going to make it easy for Ray and if the dice gods looked on me favourably I might just pull off a win.... I'm all for positive thinking! 

Game One (Battle of Schwedt Woods) Order of Battle
Prussian Reconnaissance Force
  2nd Hussars (6th Battalion)
  4th Hussars (7th Battalion)
  Bosniacks (8th Battalion)

Russian Reconnaissance Force
  Jolty Hussars (6th Battalion)
  Slobodski Hussars (7th Battalion)
  Cossacks (8th Battalion)

The Action
We deployed our cavalry and postie then drew cards to determine the order in which the battalions would activate. 

My Slobodski Hussars (in blue and white) charge into the Prussian 4th Hussars. They manage to counter charge and the two units slam into each other.

My Slobodski Hussars win the Melee, albeit by a small margin but I manage to take the Prussian flag and the defeated cavalry flee towards the rear. A good start for my Russians. 

Next up I manage again to charge my Cossacks into the Bosniaks. This time however it's my cavalry that looses.   

They manage to evade just beyond the reach of the pursuing Bosniacs but next turn the cards dictate that the Prussian player can pick and move a unit first... Ray's blood is up and he charges his Bosniacks into the rear of the cossacks, destroying them!

Meanwhile, my Jolty Hussars clash with the remaining Prussian cavalry. They win the melee and again manage to capture the Prussian Flag. Two out of three and things are looking good for my Russians. 

My Slobodski Hussars chase after the retreating Prussian 4th Hussars but after two turns of retreat, the Prussians look like they are about to exit the battle, stopping just an inch from the table edge! 

Now things start to turn. The Bosniaks have returned from seeing off my Cossacks and charge into the rear of my Jolty Hussars who are already in melee with the Prussian 2nd Hussars. The result is painfully obvious! My Hussars manage a draw in the firsts round of melee but their luck fails in the second turn and they are wiped out. 

I decided to turn my Slobodski Hussars around to face the Bosniaks...and then at that moment the retreating Prussian 4th Hussars pass their morale test, turn around and advance towards their rear! I'm in a Prussian sandwich and I can't see a way out...but at this point, Postie call the game to a close and he tallies up the points. 
My Russians have 3 Points and the Prussians win with 4 points. Dammit! Earlier in the game, I thought I had that pesky Prussian!!

The Prussians were able to claim a victory despite their unpromising start. We didn't know this but the surviving Prussian units would later join the main battle as reserve troops so could potentially give them a significant advantage. Whether this would be the case was yet to be seen.

Game Two (Battle of Schwedt) Order of Battle
Prussian Army (c/o Ray)
  1st Battalion - Grenadiers, 29th MB (2), 23rd MB, Medium Gun
  2nd Battalion - 41st FB (2), 10th MB (2), Medium Gun
  3rd Battalion - Jagers
  4th Battalion - 2nd Cuirassiers, 3rd Cuirassiers
  5th Battalion - 6th Dragoons, 8th Dragoons
Reserves (Partial Units from 1st Game)
  6th Battalion - 2nd Hussars
  7th Battalion - 4th Hussars
  8th Battalion - Bosniacks

Russian Army (c/o Lee)
  1st Battalion - Grenadiers (2), Apcheron, St Petersburg, Medium Gun
  2nd Battalion - Neva, Novva, Pskovsk, Viatsh, Medium Gun
  3rd Battalion - Pandours
  4th Battalion - Feboravitch Cuirassiers, Kievski Cuirassiers
  5th Battalion - Tobolski Dragoons, Arkhanguelogorodski Dragoons
Reserves - None carried over from 1st Game!

The Action
Again we start the game by deploying our battalions one at a time based on the draw of cards. 

Most of the battlefield is open country, although I am a little constricted by woods on my right flank. I place my cavalry one behind the other (after checking with Postie that retreating units do not disorder friendly know, just in case!) 

The view down the Russian lines. If I do say so myself they look a fine body of men. 

The Prussians are similarly arrayed although there is a gap in their line which I expect them to close as we get closer. 

First blood. My guns open fire inflicting a couple of casualties on the end of the Prussian infantry line. 

The cavalry wings engage each other although I can't get all my men into action in the first turn. The second cavalry unit swing to the left keeping what I think is a safe distance (ie more than 6") from the enemy. 
Meanwhile, the Prussian reserves - those cavalry units that survived the first game - enter the field and can be seen on the edge of the table. Its unclear if they will play a part in the game but it's just another thing for me to worry about.

Over on the other flank, my cavalry have also engaged the enemy after I have attached some quality leaders. I need every advantage I can get against the Prussians. The second cavalry unit had to borrow a commander from the main body of the army and as he had already moved to join them Postie wouldn't let me move these their full distance meaning they don't get to charge the enemy. I'm a bit miffed (by my blunder and the fact this rule wasn't pointed out to me before I did it) but I reason I'll get them next turn, ine way or another. 

My Dragoons see off the Prussian Hussars and I choose to pursue them. If I can hit them in the rear I'll destroy them. I can move my full move (12") +1d6" and I all I need to do is roll 2 or more to catch I role a bloody one!!! 

My Dragoons they thought they were 6" from the enemy (enabling them to counter charge the Prussian Hussars) turned out to be a mear quarter of an inch too close. The Hussars charged and I was unable to counter charge...not that the extra combat dice I would have got would have done me any good as I lost something like 5-0 and went into immediate retreat. And further back my other Dragoons that fell just an inch short of the retreating Hussars, have now been caught also unable to countercharge. And again the result is something like 5-0 again. Both my Dragoon units retreat and I can only hope they can get away and reform. 

In the centre, I decided to advance my infantry as boldly as I dare. I'm hoping this will surprise Ray as I'm normally a defensive player. I advance inside close range and open the Prussian training pays off because they have advanced and held their fire, so now we both have to roll a d6 to see which side fires first and the Prussians get a +1. Three of my eight infantry units take heavy fire at close range before firing back. And then two units fail morale checks and fall back a full move with their backs to the enemy. I can recover them next turn (hopefully) but my boldness isn't working out the way I had hoped. 

Over on the left, the Cuirassiers of Russian and Prussia go head to head in a deadly tussle with big casualties on both sides. However, neither side deals a decisive blow and the melee continues for another turn. 

The centre is a struggling, screaming mass of men blinded by smoke and the sweat. 

Beyond them can be seen the Cuirassiers locked in melee. In the foreground 

My Pandours have managed to get themselves caught in close range fire and take heavy casualties. 

Two of my infantry units have fallen back leaving a big hole in my centre. I'm confident I can rally them and get them back into the fight but my line isn't as neat as it once was. 

Back on the left flank, the Cuirassiers fight on but both my regiments are soundly defeated and have to fall back. 

The final straw...both my Dragon regiments are hit from behind as they retreated and are wiped out. Both my flanks are now lost and it's only a matter of time before the Prussian cavalry encircle the infantry and destroy my army. I decide enough is enough and I concede defeat. 

Ray, magnanimous in victory as usual! 

I can't say it went well for me (when does it?) but I did have a good time and felt I acquitted myself well, even if the dice let me down in the end. I like this set of rules that Postie has drawn up but I did feel I was bloody unlucky at some crucial moments. Such is war and wargaming and yet again I'm left thinking I probably should have taken up fishing instead!

Thursday 10 October 2019

Operations Room Update

A few weeks ago I reported that I was starting work on setting up a small games room at home. With the eldest daughter leaving home and the youngest 'upgrading' to a larger room, space has finally opened up for me to claim as my Operations Room. Progress has been steady but slow, with several weeks just to clear the room of furniture and unwanted stuff. This first stage is now complete and I have started decorating proper. Yippee! This stage is going to take a while as I have to do some work on the old plasterwork before I even think about painting. However, in the meantime, I have been busy making a shopping list of furniture items I want for the room. My existing painting desk and chair will be relocated to the new room, but I have my eye on new storage and shelving units.

I did try to set up a workspace years ago before the Young Padawan was born. But back then I found this a very lonely experience, buggering off upstairs on my own while the wife on her own downstairs. Not really fair on her and a bit anti-social for me. Fast forward 20 years and we both need our own space. I hasten to add this isn't a reflection of a deteriorating marriage, quite the opposite in fact. I guess a long and successful marriage has made us more relaxed about giving the other partner space. Unlike when we were younger we've grown quite relaxed in each others company and don't feel threatened when one or the other needs a bit of solitude or needs to work on something alone. And I have a technological solution that will keep us in contact, no matter where we are in the house (more on that in a moment).

My wife grew up with the TV on in the background and is quite content to have it on all evening, most of the time just as background noise. However, I'm one of those individuals that find the TV very distracting and the only way I can avoid it - to concentrate on painting or reading - is to put on a pair of headphones and listen to music or podcasts. It doesn't block everything out though and I still find myself getting distracted and before I know it most of the evening has been 'wasted'. Don't get me wrong, we both have favourite TV programmes, enjoy watching old films and new documentaries, I just don't want to spend 6 hours of an evening in front of the gogglebox! Escape to another room in the house is the only option for me and finally, I have a chance to do just that.

So back to the technological solution. I've ordered myself a Google Home Mini. Actually, I got one for free because I'm a long-time customer. I'm going to put this in the Operations Room so I can listen to podcasts or music ' hands-free'. Particularly helpful when I'm painting or up to my elbows in modelling putty.  A second unit downstairs will enable the wife to 'broadcast' when she needs me, rather than having to shout to get my attention. I'm sure the ability to summon me by voice command alone will appeal to her! Of course, the privacy implications of having a constantly 'on' item of voice-activated intelligent software in the house hasn't passed me by, but I'd like to give it a try. I'd be interested in other peoples experiences if they have this sort of setup in their hobby space.

It's occurred to me that this post has basically been a rather long-winded way of saying that I haven't done much painting recently (well, not the miniature kind anyway) because I have been busy decorating. Nothing much is likely to change in the next few weeks as I push to get the room finished, carpeted and then stocked with storage units. I will be heading over to Reject HQ on Sunday for a game but that will have to sustain me for a few weeks while I work through the necessary evil that is DIY. The payoff - may target if you will - is to have the room ready and operational by the start of the Painting Challenge in mid-December. Fingers crossed!