Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas !

Just a quick post to say a very Merry Christmas to everyone following, commenting, reading or just visiting this blog over the year.  I hope you and your families all have a fantastic Christmas Day tomorrow.  Thank you all so very much for your company, conversation and inspiration in 2012.

After a frantic Christmas Eve with the family, I’m looking forward to sitting down and doing some painting for Curt’s Analogue Hobbies Challenge – this was the marshaling of my first batch of poilu, plus some suitably French inspiration, a couple of days ago!  Joyeux Noël mes amis!!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

And so it begins …

And so the 3rd Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge has begun.  This wonderful competition promoting blogging and miniature painting around the world started very early this morning in Canada at 12:01am.  Being at work at that precise time in a very rainy London I’ve not yet got near a paint brush, but all that will hopefully change this evening.

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of blog posts, I’m hoping to paint up just over a hundred 28mm French Poilu from Scarab Miniatures as part of a Verdun project I’ve been planning for a year or so.  I've also decided to make the Challenge an occasion for some blog posts relating to the various offensives around Verdun in 1916 and 1917.  Hopefully, in the New Year, once I’ve got some figures painted and varnished, I’ll be blogging some wargames battle-reports focused on Verdun scenarios.

Alongside this, I’m planning to post half a dozen Verdun-themed books reviews (starting with the very interesting “The Road to Verdun” by Ian Ousby, which I’ve just finished), a boardgame review (Roger Nord’s “Verdun: A Generation Lost” from ATO), a couple of Verdun scenarios for “Through the Mud and the Blood” and a couple of other surprises.  There you go, see how I’ve sneakily covered myself in case I don’t get around to those surprises!

It’s a long time since I’ve felt as excited about a painting project as this. The thought that all the painting needs to be done to be eligible for the Challenge by 20th March 2013 is going to be a great motivator. Although of course, in the greatest of French traditions, expect insouciance and laissez faire and even the occasional Gallic shrug from me at certain times during the painting frenzy!

I’ve also changed the look of the blog slightly to reflect the project in hand. The background shows French deployments in the battle to retake the Hauts de Meuse in August 1917. I’ve changed the image of the German command group to show some Stosstruppen (which seems more Verdun-themed), although hopefully I’ll have a new banner of grizzled Poilu as the banner image very shortly.

Until then mes braves!!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Stosstrupptaktik – The Missing Map

As I mentioned in one of the comments on this Blog last night, the map for “Stosstrupptaktik”, the pre-game which accompanies my article “SturmAbteilung Vor!” in the TooFatLardies “Christmas Special”, went walk-about from the final version which was published.

I have no idea how this happened.  I’d done the map weeks ago (it was one of the first things to be finished).  Richard had done a splendid version for the magazine.  And yuletime gremlins had removed it.

Mea culpa, mes braves.

Anyway, here’s the map (my original) in both .jpg format and with a PDF in the right hand “Playtesting Scenarios, Campaign Diaries and Play-Aids” section.  It’s nothing very grand, but I hope that makes the pre-game in the magazine make sense now!

Monday, 17 December 2012

SturmAbteilung Vor!

You wait all year for a project to be finished….and two get done at (almost) the same time! You’ll remember that I was really struggling a few weeks ago to get any closure on a couple of projects.  It felt a little like I was project plate-spinning in a fashion much beloved from British family game shows of the 1970s. In the end, the darkest hour came just before the dawn.  

I managed to finish the ruined Rattenloch last week, and finally got to the end of writing my article “SturmAbteilung Vor!: A set of rule adaptations for using Stumtruppen, Stosstruppen and Ersatzstosstruppen in “Through the Mud and the Blood” for the TooFatLardies “Christmas Special” on Saturday morning.  OK, so it’s not the shortest title ever.  But it hopefully “does what it says on the tin”.  

It took me a while, but I got there in the end.  The "Special" should be available on the TFL website HERE by the time you read this.

In the end, I ended up with three or four times the material I finally put into the article.  I was rushing to leave stuff out, rather than force everything in.  Some sections are a lot briefer than I have wanted, and quite a bit of material about the creation, or fabrication, of the “stormtrooper myth” in the 1920s and 1930s didn’t make the cut.  I felt in a wargaming magazine I should concentrate on the hard facts mostly: organisation, tactics, deployment, military theory and battlefield practice.  Like all great projects, it’s unfinished – but it’s as finished as I could get it in the space Rich and Nick allowed me.

For those interested, here’s the introduction, reproduced by kind permission or Richard and Nick:

If a group of wargamers were each to pick one formation to recreate in miniature out of all of those fighting on the Western Front in the Great War, it would be a safe guess that a sizeable number would choose a formation of German stormtroopers.  And that choice would be hardly surprising.

We think we know about these troops:  the image of their stallhelm and their bread-bags of hand grenades seem as distinctive as their innovative methods of fighting.  We have probably all seen the same photographs, of groups of aggressive, athletic, young men posing for the camera in a rear area, awaiting battle, perhaps a MG08/15 light machine gun at their feet or a MP18 Bergmann sub-machine gun carried proudly at the front of the formation. 

We think we know these troops, and how they should be used in our wargames.  Infiltration.  Aggression.  Storm.  Attack.  Speed.  Surprise.  We see them in our mind’s eye looming, masked, out of a cloud of phosgene gas.  A visceral, near-feral, uniquely Teutonic whirlwind tearing through their opponents.  “This is the New Man.  The storm soldier, the elite of Middle Europe.  A completely new race, cunning, strong and packed with purpose….the axis of the future” wrote Ernst Jünger in 1925.  We think we know all about these men, and their way of warfare.

And then we look closer.  We read further and look at some of the revisionism about the stormtroopers…or is that sturmtruppen … or stosstruppen … or ersatzstosstruppen?  What exactly were these formations?  Were they all the same?  Were they that different from British or French troops? How did they fight, and was it always in the same way? And what happened to them after the Kaiserschlacht, the Götterdämmerung on the Somme?  And perhaps, slowly, we start to see a far darker sub-text, one which unrolls through the early literature regarding stormtroopers in the 1920s and into the nationalistic writings of the 1930s.  We begin to wonder if there is a “Stormtrooper Myth”, or worse, mis-information.”

So, if you’re curious, and you’d like to read more, you now know where to go!

So the desk is just about clear for the next project.....  

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

One project ends….another (almost) begins

I finished painting the ruined version of das Rattenloch late last night.  It’s been a journey, I can tell you!  Ruined buildings always seem to take me far longer to finish than their intact equivalents, perhaps by an order of 50%.

I’ve detailed the full progress of the build in Richard Clarke’s and Nick Skinner’s “TooFatLardies Christmas Special 2012”, together with a set of thoughts and guidelines for building ruined terrain.  I thought it was only fair to post a couple of pictures here to see a small snippet of what you’d be getting before you rush out and purchase this fine publication.  Rich has told me that the “Special” should be available by next Monday (17th December) direct from the TooFatLardies site at the very reasonable price of £6.

I should add, dear readers, that I receive not a penny, euro cent or dime for my contribution to the Special.  That’s not a complaint!  But somehow I thought I’d mention it in case I was suspected at diverting people’s hard earned cash into my own pockets.  Perish the thought!!

For long time readers of this Blog, here’s a comparison shot, before the railway-artillery and after (so to speak), of the intact Rattenloch and the ruined version.

So, one project over and another about to begin.  I am talking, of course, about the exciting news that I’m taking part in the Analogue Hobbies 3rd Annual Painting Challenge.  This should be a great deal of fun, and already I feel a bit of a buzz about getting back to painting miniatures after a slightly frustrating autumn of real life work pressures and terrain building in the hobby. 

One of the suggestions this year is that the aspiring competitors paint their figures according to a “Personal Challenge Par”.  I’ve been thinking where my “Par” is likely to land, and which painting project theme I want to follow.   It’s a tricky decision.  I have a few projects on-going at present, but the  Analogue Hobbies 3rd Annual Painting Challenge seems a great opportunity to make a bold statement and try and paint through a whole new collection of figures.

With this in mind, and true to the fantastic spirit of the contest, I’m going to be focusing on ……  cue drum roll …….

 ……. painting up the force of French poilu from Verdun 1916 which I bought from Rob Broom at Scarab Miniatures back in (embarrassingly) December 2009.  These wonderful and characterful sculpts have languished in a cardboard since I bought them from Rob at the Gripping Beast Great war Games day in Evesham in December 2012.  And yes, it is about time I painted these figures and finally worked out how to paint Horizon Bleu!

The Analogue Hobbies 3rd Annual Painting Challenge starts at 12.01am on 20th December – so watch out for updates, folks, although you'll see any new painted miniatures on Curt's Analogue Hobbies blog first by a day or so.

And for those waiting for the Picts to appear – yes, OK, once I’ve done the les Poilu, the Picts are definitely next!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

More work-in-progress shots of the ruined Rattenloch

In an attempt to actually finish things, here’s some work-in-progress shots of the destroyed version of das Rattenloch.  I’ve loved making this ruined bunker from the Siegfried Stellung, the destroyed version of the intact bunker I blogged this summer here.

I don’t want to show too many of the work-in-progress pictures here, as I’ve done a full article for the TooFatLardies Christmas Special setting out some of the thinking behind the building, and wargames buildings generally, as well as some far more colourful photos!

The above photo just shows the undercoating stage of the bunker, after the remaining walls, rebar and damaged wall sections have been finished and glued in place.  I’ve since added some more elaborate rusting rebar,  destroyed communications wiring and some sandbags around the main vantage points.  There’s also a few more touches I’m in the process of adding to try and really bring the model to life.

Here’s a close-up shot of some of the destroyed wall sections, with Milliput concrete effects….

I’ve continued looking for images of destroyed bunkers online.  As you can see below, again with images taken by photographers from the Mannerheim Line in Finland, I’m not at all sure that many bunkers would actually shatter in the way I’ve depicted on the terrain model.  However, I think its reasonably clear that some took a terrific amount of damage and were capable of collapsing.  So, in the end, I’m fairly comfortable I’ve stretched history slightly, but hopefully in a dramatic fashion which adds to the theme of the games I've got planned.

I’m looking forward to getting the final destroyed version of the bunker onto the wargames table around Christmas or New Year and having my clubmates tentatively exploring what may be lurking in the concrete fractured and unstable remains of das Rattenloch in a number of scenarios. I'm hoping to post the scenarios here on the blog when we've played them through, hopefully in January next year.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Dragonmeet 2012 – The Verdict

As I mentioned on Friday, I spent yesterday in Kensington, South London at the Dragonmeet 2012 convention, London’s leading roleplaying and board games convention.   I’d been before a few years ago – my friend Mike who came along as well reminded me there were a couple of times we visited in the early 2000s.  How time flies!
So, how was it this time around?  In a word it was excellent and really inspirational, and not just for the reasons I thought it would be.  By the end of a very full day I was pretty much buzzing with ideas, as you’ll see below.
But first, let me take you through what I really liked about the show and what I saw.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Dragonmeet 2012

It’s Dragonmeet 2012 tomorrow, London’s leading roleplaying and boardgame convention. 

After the fiasco of not getting to Crisis 2012 in Antwerp earlier this year, I’m relieved to say that there doesn’t seem to be anything to stop me and my great chum from the Humberside Wargames Club, Mike Brown, getting to the Kensington Town Hall tomorrow where the show is taking place.  No hurricanes, no landslips, no floods (so far  – I’ve just checked), no new work project to keep me chained to a desk, and hopefully no train hijacking on the way to the show tomorrow morning to delay me. 

It’s been a few years since I last made it to Dragonmeet.  My memory is that it’s a cracking show, with a great line up of speakers, participation games and traders.  It’s a chance for me to pick up a few RPGs which I’ve had my eye on for a while.  Officially, I’m excited.

I’ve still been working hard on the Stosstruppen articles I mentioned before (yes, they’re almost finished, although I’m still stuck on a couple of aspects), so making an evolution for the day into a world of roleplaying is going to be a great tonic.

I’m looking forward to meeting up with some old friends on the day, and if you’re going as well, I’ll hopefully catch you there!

And I’ll hopefully also let you all have a full report early next week.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Works in Progress

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re juggling one too many things at the same time?  A little like one of those plate spinners who used to be a staple of 1970s television on a Saturday night?  I confess that I feel a little like that right now.  I don’t think it’s a question of being a wargames “butterfly” – a very apt expression – but just someone who’s just not managed to finish everything they’ve started.

So, what exactly is on the painting table and terrain bench right now?

First up is the destroyed version of das Rattenloch which is currently on the terrain bench.  You might remember the large bunker I built in the early months of this summer, based on and inspired by Phil Robinson’s excellent Rattenkeller model.  I’d long planned the bunker itself as being a removable terrain piece, which could be replaced by a destroyed version.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Terrain Blinds - a terrific idea

One of the real pleasures of  the blogosphere is the sheer number of terrific wargaming ideas people come up with and blog about.  Every so often someone comes up with something which is just incredible.  I’ve occassionally re-blogged these, or linked through to them, in the past and I’d like to mention another one here.

This one is just a wonderfully simple idea by Black Cavalier for “terrain blinds”.  As described by him on his blog, Two Tharks One Cup : “They are nondescript terrain place-holders that allowed me to show the players that something is in that area of the board but that their figures can’t tell what it was until they got closer”.

Simplicity.  Friction.  Suspense. Realism. Total and complete win!

It’s an idea with loads of uses, in all different gaming rules at all scales.  It fits the rules I really enjoy for the Great War, TooFatLardies’ “Through the Mud and the Blood” perfectly.  But it’s also perfectly easy to build into a game of Warhammer "Great War", or Iron Ivan Games' "The Price of Glory", or countless other rules in different periods. 

I've tried experimenting with different inserts in modular terrain before.  You might remember the prepared 7.7mmFeldkanone 96 n.a. position I built last year, and which British Great War tank commanders found so difficult to spot until almost at point-blank range. 

But I’ve not done the same with terrain which can be placed in a variety of positions on the tabletop, which is the very flexible idea proposed in Black Cavalier’s post.  I hope to correct that shortly, following his terrain blinds idea.  Where great idea go, it always fun to follow and see where you end up!

One great idea.  Hundreds of uses.  Simple but fun and realistic.  It doesn't get better than that!

Monday, 12 November 2012

"War Horse: The Real Story" - Channel 4 OD

The occasion of Remembrance Day often brings out some fine documentaries on television.  While I am generally not a great watcher of television, sometimes I find a programme in the TV schedules which is worth the cost of the UK license fee in itself.

Tucked away on More 4 this weekend was a very fine documentary entitled “War Horse: The Real Story”.  It was a poignant, moving and very well researched documentary about the work, and death, of horses on the Western Front in the Great War.

The documentary is available on Channel 4’s “on demand” service, 4OD, at the present time for free.  I don’t know whether this on demand service extends to residents outside the UK. (I anticipate that, owing to the UK television licensing, it may well not so – which is a great shame).

The programme charts the purchase, training, use, care and deaths of horses in war and battle on the Western Front, giving some incredible statistics for the sheer number of horses which died and suffered in the conflict. All of this is conveyed in a very professional, thoughtful and informed manner.  There is a clear acknowledgement of how traumatic the war was for horses in conflict.  There are many images of the care and concern which men gave to their horses. And there is also a clear recognition in the programme of the invaluable contribution of horses to British and Imperial forces in the Great War.  The indispensable service of the British and Imperial cavalry in the “Hundred Days” campaign in the late summer and autumn of 1918 is well covered.

Sunday, 11 November 2012



In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived , felt dawn, saw sunset glow

Loved and were loved and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up the quarrel with the foe,

To you from failing hands we throw

 The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields

John McCrae, 3rd May 1915


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

"Best Laid Schemes" and Proper Wargamers

It was a simple plan.  I’d been before to the Crisis show in Antwerp. The hotel was booked.  A car-parking space at the hotel was booked.  The restaurant was booked.  The figures and terrain were finished.  I was fit and healthy.  My passport was valid and my E111 in date.  I had blogged that I was heading to Antwerp last Friday and kind souls like those reading this post had responded – I was welcome.  Life was good. What could possibly go wrong?

Ahhhh. “The best laid schemes of mice and men Gang aft agley”.  How true.  How damnably true.

I got a call from a client last Thursday lunchtime.  They needed something.  No, it really couldn't wait. Yes it would be finished by … Monday.  Yes, there were meetings involved and when was I coming to their offices to help sort it all out?

So much for my "simple plan", wrecked by having to work this weekend while my other chums from the St Albans Wargames Club had a fantastic time in Antwerp.  

To everyone who I told I was coming – many, many apologies.  I mention that not because meeting me is in any way exciting (it really isn't!), but just because I hate saying I’ll do something and then not being able to do it.  And this is the second time in a month that it’s happened, the first with getting the ‘flu.  I am beginning to wonder if Lady Luck has deserted me this Autumn. 

My next planned outing is with my great chum Mike to Dragonmeet 2012 in December.  I am expecting a hurricane or impenetrable snowstorm to descend in the vicinity of St Albans just in time to prevent me getting to Kensington Town Hall for the event.  I hope not, and I'm only an amateur weather forecaster, but you have been warned...!

Away from simple plans to a great blogpost from the wonderful blog of Phil Broeders.  He posted a super post yesterday “Are you a proper wargamer”.  I’ve seen a few bloggers rising to the challenge, and Big Lee even devised a points system for his response (simple to spot the army list builder there, Lee!!).

Here’s my answers:

* Spent at least £500 on figures / tanks - and you get extra kudos for every £500 you've spent

Yes.  About £500 a year, all told, including paints, brushes, terrain materials and whatnot on the hobby.  This seems an awful lot, but I rationalise it by thinking that its about £10 a week on the hobby I love.  I’m sure there’s worse things I can spend £10 on.

* Pricked your finger or thumb on a pike block - several times
Yes, and yes, several times. 

* Tried at least 10 different rule sets and vowed never to play half of them ever again
Yes.  There must be dozens of copies of rules hanging around my house, supplemented my own home-brewed attempts (mostly rubbish) that I've tried to concoct over the years. 

* Bought an army off EBay
No, although I've purchased figures on Ebay from time to time.

* Sold an army on EBay
No.  I've not sold any figures that I can think of.  Given quite a few away (and been given them), but not sold any.  And yes, the garden shed does stand on reinforced concrete to stop it’s leaden contents sinking into the Hertfordshire soil.

* spent months painting an army - then used it in anger once
Ah Phil, you must be thinking of my 28mm Japanese Samurai army from the Sengoku period.  Not quite used once, but certainly less times than I’d like to have used it.  One day, mes braves, one day …

* tried several different periods and genres
Oh yes.  Just about every period imaginable has seen my ham-fisted attempts at generalship over the years. 

* dropped a box of figures on the floor from a great height
Not that I can recall.

* lost a battle on the last throw of the dice
Yes, a few times.  But defeat usually steals into my camp far, far earlier than that.

* made at least one enemy for life
No.  I’d be heartbroken and mortified if I had done.

* had a proper, stand up argument over a wargamers' table
No.  I can’t think of any.  You tend not to get into arguments when you’re not that bothered about winning.

* thrown a dice across a room
Almost every week.  It is a standing joke at the St Albans club that I'm nearly incapable of throwing the dice on the table.  I have acquired my own dice box to roll without scattering the dice like shrapnel everywhere. It nerves.  Knowing you're going to roll a double 1 is a terrible thing, friends.

* rebased an army for a different rule set
Yes.  Ah, WRG 2nd Edition Renaissance rules, how I do miss you...
* inflicted a whopping defeat on an opponent
Only accidentally or through sheer happenstance.

* suffered an embarrassing defeat due to a stupid tactical decision
Usually a weekly event about 9.30pm every Tuesday (bank holidays excluded) at the St Albans Wargames Club and at every TooFatLardies Games Day yet.  “Run Forrest Run…”

* joined a wargamers club
Yes.  Three clubs – Wolfreton School, Humberside and St Albans – in 31 years.  By far the best things I have ever done in the hobby, giving me a lifetime of wonderful friends.

* bought a ton of lead that remains unpainted
Maybe not a ton.  But my lovely wife will tell you otherwise.

* been to a wargamers show
Yes.  Many, but never enough.  And, depressingly, not Crisis 2012 (see above).

* have more dice than is logical or necessary to own - and have used most of them
Yes.  It’s an addiction.

* have taken boxes of troops down to a club just to show them off to your mates
Yes.  Usually to try and entice clubmates into some new period or to persuade them that even though I am the world’s worst wargamer as regards tactics, I do still have some uses.  Lord only knows what they'll say to me once 3D colour printing arrives, though...

Thanks again to Phil for a great set of questions!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Crisis at Antwerp - 3 November 2012

Just a very brief update in this post to let people know that Richard Clarke, myself and another six members of the TooFatLardies club (Harpers, Biffo, Alan, Trev, Elton and Noddy) are making the trip to the beautiful city of Antwerp on Friday for the Crisis 2012 show held on Saturday, 3rd November and hosted by the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp.

This has been one of the highlights of my wargaming year since 2009 and is always a great show, bringing the very best of European wargaming  together in one place.  Added to this hobby incentive is the city of Antwerp itself, surely one of the most attractive of North European cities and always very welcoming.

We're taking a participation game of Dux Britanniarum, which will (I think) be Saxon sea raiders against Sub-Roman British defenders.  As ever, anyone is more than welcome to join in the game - but also, as ever, it’s the chance to meet old friends and new which is the real highlight of the trip.

Here's some photos from the last few years, together with some pictures of the old town of Antwerp, all of which bring back some terrific memories.  Look forward to seeing a few of you this weekend!

Tot binnenkort!

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