Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Revisiting my Vortex Mixer: Cheap, but still working!

Over a year ago I bought a cheap vortex mixer for my paints. I reviewed the product at the time but it wasn't clear if it would either be used much or keep going. Fifteen months later it is still going strong and performing the job I bought it for. 


IMHO a bargain, but maybe I have just been lucky with this low-cost alternative. As usual, I would love to hear your experiences with vortex mixers - cheap or expensive - in the comments below.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Landing the Wargames Butterfly

What motivates me to play the periods that I collect? Like many wargamers, I'm a bit of a butterfly when it comes to flitting from one period to another. But what makes this wargamer land on a period? 

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

To the Last Bullet: A French Colonial MWWBK Battle Report

Last weekend I had a bit of time to get in a quick game of The Men Who Would Be Kings using my 15mm French Foreign Legion stuff. I've been working on this since Christmas with the end target being the Broadside wargames show which took place a few weeks ago. But with my Beau Hunks demo game done and out of the way I thought it was time I had a play with my toys! Aside from a little bit of playtesting before the show, I haven't had a chance to use these figures myself so this weekend I decided to rectify that with a solo game.  

This is a long video by my standards and is most definitely not a quick-strike ARR. Because this isn't a historical battle (one of the criteria of the LWTV quick-strike format) I decided to just film the game and see how short I could make a long video! Just under an hour is the answer.


Although I didn't stop to take pictures during the game, I was able to extract some stills from the video so here are a few shots of the game in progress. 












Sunday, 19 June 2022

Indefinable: Explaining wargaming to non-gamers

Do you ever find yourself trying to explain your hobby to an outsider and wondering if they get it? In the end, is our hobby fundamentally indefinable when talking to 'normal' people?


Sunday, 12 June 2022

Young at Heart: Why I never want to grow up

It is a commonly held truism that we lose our childlike wonder as we grow older. We "put away childish things" and grow up. But I have always considered this to be one of the great tragedies of the human condition. So does that make those of us that still play with toy soldiers 'special' or just immature?  

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

French Foreign Legion: Beau Hunks - A Posties Rejects Demo Game

A few days ago I posted my pictures from the Broadside Wargames Show and revealed a few pictures of the Posties Rejects demo game, Beau Hunks. As promised here is a video telling the story of this game from conception to completion. I've also had a few requests for some background information and I have tried to share as much of it as I can here today. Where I have used material from other sites I have included links so you can go see the original documents. In addition, I have a bunch of material saved on Google Drive and I'll put links to shared files below. If these don't work and you want me to send anything (such as the QRS or the Beau Hunks rules) please let me know using the contact form on the right.



Hollywood meets History

Hollywood has given us many heroic and dramatic stories about the French Foreign Legion battling impossible odds in the Sahara. From several adaptions of P.C.Wrens novel Beau Geste to more comic depictions of the Legion such as Laurel and Hardy’s Beau Hunks, we have a romantic image of the steadfast and stoic Legionnaire. But as with all such stereotypes, the real story of the Légion étrangère and the French conquest of Algeria and Morocco is somewhat different. 

Fascination with the French Foreign Legion started long before Percival Christopher Wren’s novel Beau Geste was published in 1924. French troops in faraway exotic cities like Algiers & Oran to the almost semi-mythical Timbuktu could hardly fail to excite the imagination. But Wren's story of high adventure - set in pre-1914 French Algeria - took the romantic image to a new level, and it wasn’t long before the first screen adaption of his book was made in 1926 starring Ronald Coleman. Part of the success of the book was due to the detail of military life that Wren wove into his story, prompting unproven claims that he himself served in the Legion. A second adaptation of the story, starring Gary Cooper, was released in 1939 and this cemented the romantic image of the Foreign Legion in popular culture.  However, the real story of this period of French Colonial history is much more interesting. 

For much of the 19th Century, the government in Paris had been divided between liberals who saw no real need for expansion into North Africa and a conservative pro-colonization party that wanted land, no matter the cost. After the humiliation of the Franco-Prussian War, military adventurism in Europe was (for the time being at least) held in check and ambitious politicians and eager young officers looked outward for glory and career advancement opportunities. 

By 1871 much of northern Algeria had been pacified. The grazing and agricultural land of the ‘Tell’ had been confiscated and the Arab and Berber tribes had been displaced or subdued. But in the southern pre-Sahara, the situation was much more precarious. The notional border with the sovereign monarchy of Morocco was little more than an invisible line in the sand to the nomadic people of the region, and many on either side of that line owed religious allegiance to the Moroccan capital rather than to Algiers. As French authority began to be extended ever southward (following the progress of the Railroad) conflict was almost inevitable. In December 1899 French Irregulars occupied In-Salah, an oasis in the Touat group, and set in motion a chain of events that would make a wider conflict inevitable. 

French control of Algeria was maintained by the Armée d’Afrique. This consisted mostly of indigenous Arab or Berber volunteers as Mounted Spahis, Goumiers and Irregular infantry or Tirailleurs. These were supported by regiments of French settlers doing their military service (Zouaves and Chasseurs d'Afrique) and the non-French volunteers of the French Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère). It was not uncommon for officers in remote postings to overreact to minor incidents as a pretext for glory and the chance of promotion. And once these ‘French’ troops had taken a region, the government in Paris couldn’t abandon conquered territory without losing face. In this way, France acquired colonial conquests in a haphazard and unplanned fashion that has been described as an “orgy of military indiscipline”.

After the initial bloody occupation of the Touat, the tribes that had relied on trade with the region inevitably began to push back. The French occupiers had upset the delicate economics of the Sahara. To sustain their military forces the Armée d’Afrique was forced to transport vast amounts of supplies to a region that could barely support the local population, let alone their new European masters. This necessitated the acquisition of tens of thousands of camels, up to 40% of which died on the long treks south. For many Berbers, the majority of their personal wealth was invested in their camels. The requisitioning of animals lost to poor handling and often without adequate compensation, was a ruinous policy for many. In addition, the water of the Oasis chain could not sustain all the extra troops and camels, so the French sunk artesian wells which lowered the water table, simultaneously drying out the ground and creating stagnant disease-ridden pools on the surface. Little wonder that many of the indigenous population turned to raid as the only way to support their families. 

Through the first few years of the 20th Century, the classic ‘Beau Geste’ Legionnaire (white fatigues, blue-grey capote greatcoat, white covered and flapped Kėpi and armed with the Lebel 8mm repeater) saw regular action in the Touat and Sud-Oranais. Mostly this was dealing with hit and run raids but also on occasion, larger actions against large well organised Harkas several thousand strong. The Legion suffered its share of losses but a combination of mounted companies, and hard fighting pushed the Arabs and Berbers into exile or into submission. 

Between 1904-7 BrigGen Lyautey was given increasing freedom of action with French military posts pushed further and further westwards, even across the debatable border into Morocco. On two occasions he reported the creation of recon outposts (soon to become permanent forts) using unmapped local names to conceal how far west he had pushed. Thus he ignored the official policy of the Foreign Ministry in Paris by shaping policy on the ground. Meanwhile, the rail line moved ever further south and west eventually, reaching Bechar in 1905. This supplied operations in the region for many years to come and solidified French control of this previously contested land. 

With French incursions into Morocco, the Sultan began to face growing anti-french sentiment but was impotent to do anything about it. Corruption, lack of money and incompetence made the problem worse, eventually putting Europeans living in the major cities in danger. The French were eventually ‘forced’ to react, occupying Casablanca in 1907. This increased Arab anger both at the French and the Sultan, eventually resulting in a rival Sultan being proclaimed and a call for Jihad against the French. The Arabs were eventually defeated but by the end of 1908 the Sultan had abdicated, his wannabe usurper was dead, and Morocco was firmly on the road to becoming a French Protectorate.  


The Beau Hunks Rules:

Needless to say, Laurel & Hardy can't be killed and won't have any offensive capability in the game. They are here for purely comic value. They will move around the table in much the same way as other units, just at the end of the French turn, as a final move by the French player. 

The aim is for Laurel & Hardy to travel around the table visiting as many French Officers as possible (ie they have to end their move in base to base contact). Each officer can only be visited once during the game. Laurel & Hardy have a movement rate of 8", and can move through French units at no penalty. Berber units block movement, although the pair's presence on the table does not hinder movement for any unit (ie units of both sides can move across them) 


Whenever L&H end their movement in contact with an officer one of the players (or guest) around the table will draw 2 Chance Cards. There are three types of cards in the Chance deck:

  • Jeanie-Weenie Cards - Pictures of the unfaithful heartbreaker, each dedicated to a different lover! Laurel & Hardy will gain Victory Points for each Jennie-Weenie card collected and if they get enough to win the game Hardy decides she wasn’t worth it after all and they get out of the Foreign Legion. 
  • Slapstick Cards describe various ridiculous events caused by the bumbling heroes. Some of these cards are just comic descriptions, but a handful has a limited effect on a single unit or officer in the game. These cards will be evenly subdivided into French Cards and Berber Cards. The opposing player gets to decide which enemy unit is affected. Some cards are immediate, but for those which indicate an effect in the following action phase, place the card by the officer as a reminder and remove it from the table once the action has been taken. 
  • Event Cards - Rare but significant events that affect all the units on the table.


Laurel and Hardy will gain Victory Points for each Jeanie-Weenie card found and could, potentially be declared the winners of the game, leaving the players to contest second and third place!


Recommended Historical Reading List:

The Conquest of the Sahara
Douglas Porch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1984)

Our Friends Beneath the Sands
Martin Windrow (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2010)

Uniforms of the French Foreign Legion
Martin Windrow (Blandford Press 1981)

The French Foreign Legion 1872-1914 Men-at-Arms Series No.461
Martin Windrow (Osprey 2010)

French Foreign Legionnaire 1890-1914 Warrior Series No.157
Martin Windrow (Osprey 2011)


Files for download: 

I have several files to share from my Google Drive, click the links to open them and you should be able to download a copy. There also links to external sites where I found other useful downloads.