Sunday 28 May 2017

The Bloodier Battle of Valence

A couple of years ago my home borough started running a series of summer events and festivals. These were supposed to be a one off celebration of the merging of Barking and Dagenham into one borough. However the events proved so popular they were repeated again last year and again this year...and slap in the middle is an English Civil War reenactment, The Bloodie Battle of Valalnce, right in the heart of a London borough.

The event is staged by the English Civil War Society and Sir Marmaduke Rawdon’s Regiment of Foote and includes demonstrations of 17th century firepower with muskets and cannon; a living history camp showing what life was like during the English Civil War; displays by the mounted cavalry; and later in the day a battle between the Royalist and Parliamentarian forces, involving over 500 soldiers.

Living in Dagenham does have some advantages!

Friday 26 May 2017

The Battle of Freeman's Farm 1777

A couple of weeks ago a handful of the Rejects got together for an American War of Independence game in Posties shed-o-war. I've not written my battle report until now partly because I've had a very busy couple of weeks and didn't have the time... but if I'm honest its mostly because I was on the loosing side and I was sulking!

The Setup
As usual Postie chose a historical scenario to re-fight but decided not to tell us which engagement it was. His assumption was that if we knew our history well we would know what was about to happen. As it was this didn't make any difference at all to the outcome. 

I was on the American side with Surjit as CO and Ray as 2iC. We were told from the outset that our objective was to break the British Brigade directly to our front. Our plan was to do just that, crossing the open ground as quickly as possible to engage with the British. I was commanding three light infantry units on the left flank and my job was simply to slow down any attempt to outflank our main line of attack. A simple plan that went completely to hell in under two turns! 

Once again I forgot to get a copy of the Order of Battle! 

The Action
Initial deployment, Americans on the left are mostly in the woods. The open ground around the farm in the centre is where we have to cross to hit the British. 

On the American flank I have three Light Infantry Units.

The British centre..this is the Brigade that the Americans must destroy to win the game

My light infantry fight off an attack in the long field.

Meanwhile British Line units further back in the Long Field exchange shots with more of my Light Infantry. 

The British push across the fence and attempt to charge my light infantry. I decided a melee would be disastrous and decide to withdraw, regroup and use my range to pick off the British. 

Meanwhile in the centre the British withdraw, allowing them to reinforce from the rear and strengthen their line. The move seems to dumbfound our commander and our 'plan' falls apart almost immediately. 

Back on the flank (where the real fighting was taking place!) my Skirmishers move to new positions and continue to cause a steady stream of casualties on the advancing British. Not enough to turn the tide but enough to hurt. 

In the centre from the British side of the table... the fallen back British line has now been reinforced by Artillery. 

Surjit starts shifting some of his centre units onto the flank. Gunfire is exchanged but things are getting crowded over here.  

The British Artillery was very effective in this game. 

My light infantry being used as cannon fodder. If I had been allowed to position my own troops I would never have put them so close to the British lines. At effective range British volley fire was devastating, even against skirmishers. 

Well f**k me! Reinforcements!!! And they are marching straight onto the threatened flank...pity there is no room to deploy them!

British and American line units exchange fire across unfavourable ground.  Its doubtful if ether side would charge the other here. 

The American reinforcements must have been thinking their arrival must have been a mistake.

This was probably one of the best looking layouts we have had in the Shed-o-War for some time. The table and the troops looked spectacular and hats off to Postie for setting it all up and organising the game. Unfortunately that is about the only good thing I can say about this battle...

OK, the American plan was laid out for us from the start. We were told we had to destroy the British Brigade to our front so we planned to do just that. Our troops had to get clear of woods and cross some open country as quickly as possible in order to close with the British. Our initial plan was to do just that. Surjit and Ray would focus on heading straight forward and closing with the enemy while my light infantry would harass and slow down any attempt by  the British to outflank us. I was a little sceptical I could achieve this as my three light infantry units faced four British units including an elite Grenadier unit. However I had a range advantage (one of my units was armed with rifles) and mine was just a delaying action to buy time for the real attack in the centre.

This plan lasted approximately one turn! The British to their credit did something completely unexpected, they fell back. This seemed to completely confound our commander and in no time at all our plan disintegrated. Surjit turned his attention to the flank where I was based and that was about that as far as my command of my troops was concerned. I'd move them and he'd order me back. I wanted to fall back and fire and he had me push forwards to be used as cannon fodder for his line units behind me. My Light infantry started getting whittled away and I couldn't see any clear objective. Meanwhile the centre attack stalled and our last chance of victory evaporated. That's the point when Ray threw in the towel and went to make Tea and Coffee!

We played on one more turn but the game was lost to the Americans, even when reinforcements arrived on the flank. By this point our central thrust had stopped and Surj had reinforced the flank and there was barely any room to swing a cat, let alone deploy reserves. 

Wednesday 24 May 2017

6mm Checkpoint

I recently realised that I didn't have any gates or checkpoints for my Italian Airfield collection of buildings. I looked online and found a couple of suitable models but I would have had to import them, they were prohibitively expensive, and more importantly I wouldn't get them in time for the Demo game the Rejects are running at Broadside in June. So the only option was for me to have a go at modelling something from items in my bits box.

In the end I made two models with the first being something of a proof of concept before constructing the final building. For both models I have used resin sandbag emplacements and dragons teeth from Leven Miniatures. The barrier itself is made from a cut section of paperclip mounted in a small post built from wood cut out of a coffee stick. 

The initial 'proof of concept model'

The second model developed the concept. Again I used wood cut from coffee sticks for the post and for the shelter. The corrugated metal roof is just a square of wood with grooves cut into it. 
Inside the hut are two infantry figures (GHQ Italians) with a third out by the barrier itself. 

I'm pretty chuffed with how these turned out and the final model will complete my airfield collection quite nicely. 

Tuesday 23 May 2017


I don't normally do this - I try to keep my blog a politics free zone - but today I can't. This morning I woke to hear the terrible news that some scumbag had blown himself up at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena. I won't be wasting a millisecond grieving for that bastard but my heart is breaking for the 21 others confirmed dead so far, including children. With 59 injured I think we can sadly expect that number to rise. The fact that that creature decided to target a concert filled with children and families make this all the more despicable

No political objective, no religion or belief can justify this act. It is simple barbarism, nothing more. The desperate act of animals, without an ounce of humanity in them.

My reaction this morning is born partly from the fact that I am the father of two girls, who have tickets to a concert at the O2 Arena later in the year. When I heard the news I was immediately in the place of the parents of lost, injured or frightened children and all I wanted to do was gather my girls in my arms and protect them. There will be many parents this morning hugging their children close.

Our initial reaction is of course anger, frustration, incredulity and inevitably, fear. We have to deny the terrorists that victory. They want us to react to extremism with extreme measures. They want us to shift further and further away from our open and tolerant way of life because they are frightened by it. And there is the great irony, the people most scared by terrorism are actually the terrorists, because they know in some deep part of their psyche that they won't win. We are stronger than our base instincts, we are braver than our primal fears, because we are human, because we care about other people and because to do otherwise would be to give the terrorists exactly what they want. 

Sunday 21 May 2017

Fundraising event for the Veterans of Normandy

A quick follow up to my notice last week that I would be attending a veterans event on Saturday. Veterans from WWII, Korea and the Falklands came along to support the launch of my Brother in Law's new book. The public came out in force and the old Fire Station in Hadleigh was packed throughout. All proceeds from the day will be going to the Veterans of Normandy group. 

Veterans present included the following incredible men:
  • Pte Thomas White (Paratrooper) who features in the new book. 
  • Medic David Whiteman, 1st Airborne - Dunkirk & Arnhem 
  • Medic Alec Hall, 1st Airbourne - Arnhem
  • Alfred Smith - Dunkirk, D-Day Gold Beach
  • Warrent Officer Bob Stevens - Juno Beach and Market Garden
  • Sapper Don Sheppard - Juno Beach and Market Garden
  • Royal Marine John Jones - A veteran after WWII
  • RN Albert England - LCT2498 - Utah Beach
  • RN Doug Shelly - Arctic Convoys & D-Day
  • RN Len Hobbs - D-Day Gold Beach
  • RN Charles Wheeler - Arctic Convoys & D-Day
  • RN Alfred Fowler - HMS Sheffield, Arctic Convoys & D-Day Decoy
  • RN Norman Summerhayes - Atlantic Convoys, Malta, D-Day & Pacific
  • L/Aircraftsman Bernard Mabey 9/617 Dambusters Sqn
  • Gunner Harry Irons - 9 Sqn
  • Major John Hawkins - Korean War
  • Lt Colin Conner, winner of the Military Medal at Goose Green in the Falklands. 

Monday 15 May 2017

The Airborne Club 2 - Book signing event

This coming weekend I will be helping out at a book signing event in Hadleigh, near Southend. If you are in the area, or have an interest in meeting some truly inspiring veterans, please pop along between two and four pm. 

Thursday 11 May 2017

More Palm Trees!

Today's terrain project is what happens when you let a wargamer loose in the aquarium section of a pet shop! The 'palm' ferns are taken from a pack of fish tank plants that I bought some time ago. The plastic fronds were taken apart and the 'fern' parts were glued onto a section of wire (a cut section of paperclip to be precise) mounted on an MDF base. A really simple build that will add a dash of colour to my desert tables. 

I have previously bought palm trees from Timecast (here) and while they look great they were a bit expensive. This option is much much cheaper coming in at just a few pence each.

Monday 8 May 2017

Frostgrave - A new (and old) adventure

When I was at Salute I bought several sets of rules including the popular Frostgrave by Joseph A. McCullough (published by Osprey). I bought it because I'm trying to settle the young Padawan down on a set of rules that are easy to play but will also afford her the opportunity to paint miniatures that interest her. Lets face it, starting her painting off on 6mm figures just isn't going to work! We will continue to play other games such as To The Strongest and FOW but I wanted a new game that would give her a 'way in' to the hobby both as a gamer and a painter. She'd already expressed an interest in something with a Fantasy element and Frostgrave fits the bill completely. 

I bought the rules to read with no guarantee that we would use them but I'm quickly coming round to the idea that this will be a good choice for skirmish wargaming with the Padawan. Now that I have had a chance to read the rules thoroughly (and for a change I did, end enjoyed reading it as well) I'm even more convinced this is the right set of rules. They are elegantly simple and don't come with some of the complicated 'baggage' that some systems carry with them. 

My Ral Partha Ice Giant
For a start I have a large collection of suitable fantasy miniatures already. Although I haven't played D&D for years I still have most of my figure collection boxed up, including a lot of terrain, dungeon debris and miscellaneous items such as treasure boxes, tables, carts etc. It won't take much effort to convert my models to fit the Frostgrave setting with a little 'snow and ice' added to bases etc. I also have a wide range of 28mm scale terrain that can be dusted off and put back into service after years in storage.

Another reason these rules work for me (and hopefully also for the Padawan) is that they are suitable for two players on a small table as small as 2'x2'. Our issues with lack of space are well documented and are the main reason I moved into 6mm several years ago. This rule system means I can largely use existing figures on my small pop-up table. The only thing I need to buy is a suitable game mat.

Another good thing about these rules is that they are designed to be 'up scaled' to include more participants on a larger table. I may even be able to convince my old D&D Group to get together again for multi player session of Frostgrave... hell the last time we played D&D we were using 4th edition and the game felt more like a skirmish wargame than a role-play game so these rules should feel pretty familiar to us.

Ice Worm, I think this is a Reaper miniature that I bought years ago.

Saturday 6 May 2017

Wadi Wadi

Today has been a day for repainting terrain. As I've mentioned before I often buy pre-made terrain but I have been repainting it so that everything works well together. Some time ago I bought several packs of Wadi terrain from S&A Scenics and it was time for these to get the repaint treatment. The original colour scheme was fine but I felt the sand colour they used didn't tie in with my existing terrain mat and hills. I also thought the dark depth of the wadi was too dark so new colours were required. 

I've used Vallejo Iraqi Sand (they will be drybrushed with Ivory later today) and the wadi bottoms are painted in Khaki Grey. The change from the original scheme is subtle but much more in keeping with my existing collection of terrain. 

Thursday 4 May 2017

KA-BOOM!! Explosion Markers

The countdown to the Rejects demo game at Broadside has begun and as I'm putting the game together that means I have a long list of little jobs to do before the day. 90% of the game and models are done and ready so I'm trying to use the next few weeks to add extra touches that will improve the look of the demo and make running it easier. One such task is making more explosion markers. I already have a lot of smoke columns for burning vehicles but I also wanted some more 'dynamic' looking explosions. 

These models are a variation on something I made a long time ago and consist of a metal washer as a base with a wire frame made from a paperclip. This 'armature' was then coated in clump foliage and model turf using superglue to hold everything together. This was then soaked in pva glue and allowed to dry and harden. This is essentially the same technique I have used before to make smoke and dust markers. 

Explosion markers for 'dusty' artillery hits throwing up clouds of dirt. I used the same technique but this time painted them as burning explosions. 

The dried - and by now hard - models were then spray coated using a cheap car primer paint. I then added the odd spot of fire using bright yellow and red paint. The final stage which brings everything together are several dry brush coats of grey to accentuate the billowing smoke. Now my desert battlefield can be littered with burning AND exploding vehicles!