Sunday, 18 November 2018

View From The Window

Good morning, cold, damp, grey, but you will perhaps notice a new spring in my attitude, a thirst for life which may have been missing recently, a joie de vivre, that's because I now identify as 21 again. Following on from the nut, oh dear, the mature gentleman in the Netherlands who is going through the courts to grant him licence to be 49 again rather than the 69 he is, purely because he feels discriminated against on dating sites and by mortgage lenders due to his real age amongst other things, people helping him off buses for instance, and anyway, he feels 49 not 69. It's the last days of Rome, fiddle away.

The Keystone Cops, sorry, United Utilities turned up during the week to fix the manhole Laurel and Hardy destroyed trying to fix a drain problem, you know, when they parked over the real manhole and couldn't find it. We thought they were here to fix the original problem, but no, that particular work number has been erased and is no doubt winging its way to a galaxy, far, far away. It took another 24 hours for someone to come and be told 'Houston we have a problem' re the drains under the road. A surveyor turned up and I wandered to the pavement where he was shaking his head, we'll never get to dig a hole there, we would have to close the road, thankfully not my problem says I, although on second thoughts it could be if they don't fix it.

My son popped into a pub in Darlington several weeks ago after watching a Celtic game in another pub, on the way back from the bar a Rangers fan shook hands with him and then promptly threw a dart into his leg. Naturally he informed the boys in blue, the Polis, my advice was of course not to bother, it was not a hate crime, it wasn't 50 years ago, he wasn't a Moslem and no children were involved, but he bravely went ahead believing of course that right is right and wrong would be punished.

Thin edge of thin blue line.
 The first warning bells came when the Cops asked did he really want them to catch the guy and if they did would a severe talking to do rather than an arrest, duh. It then took weeks before they (supposedly) went to the pub, several yards from the police station as it happens, only to find out that the CCTV did not cover the area where the perpetrator threw the dart. The Landlord has been warned several times about this but has done nothing, but it keeps the inspector in a job, silver lining eh?

And here is the icing on the cake which proves my point about Rome burning, my son pointed out that the perp would be on one of the cameras at some point and he would be able to identify him. Are you sitting comfortably, due to Data Protection laws my son has to get permission to see the CCTV footage to finger a guy who threw a dart into his leg!

Isn't it about time Dentists spoke English, sitting in the chair the other day all I could make out was - periradicular 2, aculir, alveeolar 5, Nottingham Forest 3, apexification, upper occlusil 7 etc. which probably all meant that's another fifty quid in the hipper. You even get a little report card for your fifty which goes straight in the bin, save the planet anyone?
Card or cash?

My doctor is on the same planet, you tell him what ails you, he offers you three choices and asks, which do you want, I didn't do seven years at Uni doc, which do you want me to take?

When is a cause celebre not a cause celebre, when it is a Christian woman who desperately needs to flee her own country on pain of death seemingly, her crime was to offer some other non christian women a drink of water. I haven't noticed much about her plight on news programmes, newspapers or seen the usual 'I'm better than you' mob on the streets howling she be given asylum. Our government, and I use the term loosely, has decided saving the woman and giving her shelter would upset 'community' relations in this haven of tolerance. I suspect there is only a very small but vocal community which would not support doing the right thing.

I see the Eskimo's are moaning about the upsurge in Polar Bear numbers this year, someone is telling porkies.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Saxons! Saxons!

Last night was to be a Dark Age War and Conquest bash, I had sent Simon the Romano-British list but he did not have time to select a force so instead I took along two generic armies for the period, a meeting engagement on the border between the two sides. Both had an elite hearthguard then two average warrior formations, supporting these both armies had mercenary warbands, these do not get on to the battlefield very often so I took the opportunity to bring them along. The British Dux had Welsh and renegade Saxons while the Saxon King had Picts and Franks (yes, those Franks), they also had two skirmish units apiece.

Simon set up with a short line, a unit in reserve and his Saxon warband on its own holding the left flank. I had a fully formed line with the intention of taking advantage of the low hill to the front of the Franks and my Gedriht, I hoped to whittle down Simon's Saxons and hit them with my Picts then see how things turned out.

Saxon line.

Romano-British line.

Saxons on the left.

I got the hill and formed shieldwall, the Franks I left on the reverse slope as I did not want them to become a target for javelins and arrows, I at first moved my left forward then thought better of it as the Welsh were on a hill nearby and I did not want them to get an advantage charging down so I withdrew the Duguth warriors to a safer distance. I lost my javelinmen to a hail of enemy missiles as the centre of both armies stood and traded javelins, the King's companions began to suffer quite horribly although they also managed to deal out death and destruction to the Comitatus opposite. The King also managed to keep his men in check as their natural instinct was to charge into the enemy closest to them.

While this was happening I did indeed begin to harass the Saxon mercenaries and this in turn forced them to approach the Picts, standing patiently waiting. I now had to make a decision on whether to charge in or wait for even more to fall foul of my archers, I threw caution to the wind and in they went. The Saxons failed to hold the onslaught, routed and dispersed, the British left was now wide open, maybe the Dux should have paid them before the battle.

Simon fails to beat a 2.

The Welsh now came off their hill to perhaps even things up, at first they were successful and the Duguth were forced back, just as things were looking bad for them the Duguth rallied around their Thegn and turned the tide, this combat went back and forward but it saved my left from collapsing. The crises of the battle had arrived, Simon had to attack or hand over the initiative, the moment passed and the pendulum swung further towards the Saxons. In fairness his chance of moving the enemy off the hill was very slim.
The Crises.


As the Picts and more Duguth hit the British left the Franks chose to charge off the hill in a wild assault against the Milites at the bottom. I kept my hearthguard on the hill as I could not rely on them winning a fight as they had suffered so terribly from missile fire. The British were now in desperate straits as the Saxons, Picts and Franks began to push them back, it was too much and Simon conceded defeat.
The end is nigh.


A fine Dark Age bash and it was nice to get the warbands out for a change. The hill was important to me as it dominated what went on in the centre, while the Welsh hill was too far from the action to help them once I had withdrew. The turning point and it would have been the same for both armies was the fight on the British left, whoever won that would have been able to turn in against the main battle line, this meant that an all out effort was required elsewhere otherwise an almost certain defeat was looming.

On other tables we had Frostgrave, a boardgame and a large RPG dungeon thingy. Next week Rob is running a Bolt Action game.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Outlaw King

I am doing well with posts just now, this is due to the amount of spare time I have on my hands at the minute, I am now up to date with maps and the Atlas author is incommunicado until the end of November so I am not expecting anything for that soon and with the festive season nearly upon us I do not expect things to warm up until into the New Year. The pressure is also off wargaming wise as I now only have the SYW project to work on and that was always going to be a long term thing, especially cost wise as infantry battalions are coming in at an average of £36 and cavalry close to £50.

I have always wanted to see a couple of my interests made into a movie or television series, the life of Robert Bruce and the Wars of the Roses, these in my opinion are crying out for the large or small screen. Well the former is now on celluloid (yes I know it is not used anymore) and I have watched it what did I think? I am notoriously hard to please with films etc. but I sat down to this (it's on Netflix) with an open mind and apart from one glaring piece of nonsense I was quite pleased historically and more or less happy with the script which was fine if not inspiring.

I think the murder of John Comyn deserved more attention, I have seen worse spats in the school playground. The crowning of Bruce by Isabella MacDuff was a nice touch and the storyline followed real life very well after that, we got the battle of Methven, the attack of the MacDougall's and James Douglas carrying out his raid that was then known as the 'Douglas Larder'. Throughout all this the eagle eyed would have picked up on the heraldry shown, this too was spot on, which begs the question of why they showed the Douglas background as all blue instead of only the chief (the band at the top of the shield). A minor moan. I cannot say anything about the climactic battle at the end as this may spoil it for you but I will say it starts off well and then of course disintegrates into the one on one melee all medieval and ancient movie battles end up as, thankfully we do not get the mad, disorganized run at the enemy which passes for tactics in Hollywood. Oh, and we did get the flaming arrows at one point, again a staple of movie directors but completely useless in real life.

What didn't I like, well the main sticking point for me was the characterisation of Edward Prince of Wales and the next king, the actor was not convincing and he had a ridiculous bowl haircut which was not de rigueur for another hundred years, think Henry V. The English raise the 'Dragon' flag to signal no mercy to the Scots, I have never in my life heard of such a thing, the otherwise great king Edward I was totally unhinged when it came to his hatred for the Scots, the nobility especially hence his murder of many of them, including Bruce's brothers when normally they would have been held for ransom, a fantasy flag/idea was not needed.

So, all in all not a bad effort and brownie points for sticking in the main to the real story, only spoiled by their treatment of Edward II and at times a lacklustre script.

My dad was James Douglas, my eldest is Graham Douglas, my youngest Stewart and my grandson James Douglas. No Balliol's or Comyn's here!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Size does matter

I have cleared the decks of quite a few projects that were on my mind, the new Legion for the Patrician Romans, the Companions for the Seleucids, the pillboxes and all the buildings before them and now I have turned back to the Seven Years War. You will remember I got some artillery (Eagle Figures) at FIASCO, the other night I opened the French pack and built the guns, the figures were thinner than Front Rank but would fit, there is not as much detail on them but again they would do, I went for this range due to the number of different gun models they produced.

I looked at them and thought not much work there so I turned to the British pack, lovely guns but the crew were not going to do, they were huge compared to the French, big and bulky they also stood out next to Front Rank. I mulled it over and thought the difference may not be noticed on the tabletop, now this might be the case but I would see it every time I looked at them. I ordered up two new crews from Front Rank along with two mounted officers, they arrived today and are beautiful. I got some officers from Foundry recently and found them to be incompatible with Front Rank also, again they were simply too large, so as much as I like to mix different manufacturers it looks like I will not be doing it for the SYW.

What the............
British to the left French on the right, big difference.
 This weekend I am looking into ordering my first SYW cavalry, it is permissible to have eight figures in a regiment but although this would save me money and painting time twelve men just look much better. You really do not see many units on forums or blogs lined up with eight men, twelve seems normal with many being sixteen or more. I have not made my mind up yet which units they will be, this normally depends on the look of their uniform, mainly the facing colour, their flags and whether they are easy to get. I think these troops along with the guns already on the tray will see me into the New Year.

I finished my pillboxes, these were a last minute buy at FIASCO and will be used sparingly in my Bolt Action games, more talking points than strongpoints. Which is just as well as I have already been told they are British, I thought they were simply generic, no, in fact I did not think about their prominence at all, I do still think they are lovely little kits and you get three for the price.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Seleucus and I

Friend Matt asked me about the recently completed Seleucid army, what it contained and how that affected its performance on the battlefield. Firstly I play War and Conquest which is a big battle game similar to the old Wargames Research Group rules I gamed with back in 1979 when I left the Navy. I won't get into the whole historical tactics thing, suffice to say when I played WRG and now WAC I feel like I am commanding an army and generally enjoy trying to get it to do what I want, whether good or bad.

Units 1, 2, 3 and 4 are a mix of Crusader, Aventine and Foundry and generally fall into the same category, well armed light infantry, mine are Thureophoroi, Thorakitai, Thracians and Mercenary Peltasts.  These troops are for protecting the flanks of the main phalanx but they can also be used to attack enemy flanks as they are so well armed, however they need protection as only the Thorakitai have armour and can prove vulnerable to enemy missiles so you need to have a screen of skirmishers in front of them for support.

5 are first and foremost escorts for my elephants, however I find they are better used as simple javelin armed skirmishers, they can do nothing about missile troops or bolt shooters targeting your elephants from long range hence their use, for me, as skirmishers. These I got from Foundry and they are beautiful sculpts and are a mix of Thracians and Greeks, the former are some of my favourite figures.

My own bolt shooters or Oxybeles come in at 6, these are very large composite bows set on a frame, these came from 1st Corps, I only take these if I suspect the enemy also have elephants, but they can also be used to whittle down very heavily armoured troops like cataphracts. They tend to either be deadly or useless depending how lucky you are on the day.

The Galatians, number 7, a mercenary warband from Crusader, these do not conform to what Galatians in the service of the Successors really looked like but you will not find any in 28mm so the best you can do is grab some Gauls. I am not fond of the figures as they look a bit wooden and you do not get a lot of variation. However, these little guys are brutal opponents and are garnering a reputation, so much so I would be loathe to change them if real Galatians ever turn up. These troops are shock troops, they cannot be left where they can fall prey to enemy missile troops or left dithering in the rear, to get your money's worth you have to use them. I use them on a flank supported by some of those light troops above, I always give them light armour as well as I want them to give them every opportunity to outclass their opponents in the first clash.

8 is more mercenaries, hoplites this time, Aventine figures, these have to be upgraded with light armour which, in tandem with the WAC phalanx rule (of which I am not a fan unless the figure in question is a real pikeman) means you get a lot of bang for your buck. Unlike the Galatians these guys can sit and take a pounding so sometimes they are a flank guard and at other times shock troops, they work well with the Galatians or the main phalanx.

The Phalanx, 9, all Aventine. I personally do not always lead with the phalanx preferring to use them to pin and threaten the enemy, I do on occasion put all my eggs in one basket and send them haring forward but that is unusual and very much depends on what is opposing them and what is happening on my flanks. If you maintain your flanks these guys can easily win you the battle, once engaged they usually win the numbers game. They also come in all sizes, elite or raw and anything in between, a unit for all seasons.

A bit of fun at 10, scythed chariots, why not, you have to. Historically useless but if used properly on the wargame table they can turn a melee into a rout, the trouble is you have to keep them alive, so if they turn up I keep them way to the rear but with an opening to unleash hell at the right time. I tend to use them aggressively to hopefully break up an enemy attack. These models are 1st Corps.

And of course no Successor army can be complete without 11, elephants from Aventine, I always try and take at least one for the reason I just iterated. I do not tend to use them very aggressively as I am not sure about the unit yet and I have a house rule which states that any unit in contact, friend or foe, is disordered by the monster, in the rules it is just the enemy and I do not think that fair. So I keep Nellie as a threat, usually out of harms way unless I can get rid of the enemy missile troops or cut down their bolt shooters. I do like to have one around when enemy cavalry are about but I tend to forget that it can also have a tragic effect on my own horsemen, I am also always wary of the thing going mad and trampling my own troops.

12, command and control, I do not keep officers at the rear out of harms way, I want my leaders to lead from the front rank. In a large army I will take the king and at least two other officers, in smaller games I will allow the 2/ic to take charge and have maybe one support. I don't tend to take mounted officers and will generally put supporting commanders with mercenary units while the King leads a phalanx unit. I think all these men are Foundry although one or two of the foot command may be Aventine.

I have two further units of skirmishers 13 and 16, the former archers and the latter slingers, I do like archers and at times I upgrade these chaps to elite Cretan missilemen, you cannot not have skirmishers in an Ancient game and I like to destroy the enemy's first, this can be a huge advantage and force your opponent into an advance he doesn't want to make. Slingers are very dangerous in WAC because they get two shots a turn, I do not allow this on home ground as I do not see a good reason for it, so with their diminished range I do not take them very often as killers but as shields. Both of these units are Aventine.

14 are the Companions, heavily armoured shock cavalry, these are expensive in points so will probably only turn up if I am fighting large battles, they can quite easily run over lesser horsemen and the temptation to smash them into an infantry formation is always with me, it is just possible for the shock to rout the infantry. I use another house rule which allows cavalry to disengage from a fight with infantry, it is dodgy but better than sitting around getting massacred. I think we have only used it once in battles to date. Aventine figures.

More archers at 15, but on a horse this time, elite Skythians, usually very dangerous to enemy skirmishers and other troops as well due to their excellent shooting abilities. I normally always take these guys although on at least two occasions I have lost them to elephant fear. Like the bolt shooters they tend to be either brilliant and deadly or dithering and useless. These too are Aventine, you can see the trend here.

More armoured cavalry at 17,  Line Cataphracts this time, again they only turn up now and again in large games, and like the Companions they generally are used to destroy an enemy flank with that added bonus that they might also take on infantry. The Seleucids also get Agema cataphracts which are elite versions of these guys and Aventine do some lovely figures for them, I have not bought any of these (yet) as I figure I can simply upgrade the line troopers. Fitting them into the army would mean another Really Useful Box as I will not mix troops (Wargamers OCD) so the unit would be very expensive for me. Yes, you got it, Aventine again.

At 18 we have Macedonian Light Cavalry, a lovely little cavalry unit which can be upgraded to what passes for medium cavalry so a very useful unit. These I would normally use to sweep away enemy skirmishers or light troops or have them in reserve behind the main line to deal with any possible breakthroughs. This unit can also be used to represent other cavalry types allowed in the list. Aventine.

Now, 19 is particular to WAC, each army has a rally point to which broken units will run unless they are too close to the table edge. These bring out the artistic tendencies in most players and can range from a simple tent to a sacrificial alter or drunken warriors whooping it up. I was a bit stumped for this army until I found some large, broken Spartan statue heads (Scibor) which fit the bill, to dress them up a bit I bought a range of Greek gods from Foundry and popped Zeus on the top of one. Another fun element of WAC is Strategy Intervention Points, you could easily use a die but again most people go that extra mile and use all sorts, ancient coins, Gods, monks, wolfhounds, civilians etc. my extra Immortals came in handy for these.

So there it is, my Seleucid army and why it looks the way it does and how I use it on the battlefield. It is not an easy army to use and there is a long learning curve, it is expensive and therefore is usually outnumbered by the enemy. You have to be careful of the flanks and rest one on rough ground if possible or decide to throw in your shock troops hoping you can burst the enemy before your flanks collapse. Here at Casa Anderson  they usually fight the Twelfth and the Legion has excellent supporting troops which can cause all sorts of problems for the Seleucid flanks, and although the legionaries are outnumbered by the phalanx they are very difficult to shift.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Last Seleucids and Club Night

After a long time I have managed to complete my Seleucid army, I got the new Aventine Companion figures last Monday and they went straight on to my 'to do' list once the Celtae Seniores were done. I decided on a slightly muted but uniform look, the pteruges and what shows of the tunics are different colours but the horse furniture and cloaks are all the same, although there is a slight variation in the blue on the horses, believe me it is there. The helmet plumes were the last thing to paint but they looked so perfect in white, I left them alone. I have stopped using spray varnish but as the bulk of the army was spray varnished I continued it with this unit, one coat of gloss, two of matt and then a spray. I also decided that I would keep the wash of Tamiya Smoke until everything was dry, this is what has given the armour a shine, I do love that stuff.

So there we have it, probably my last Ancient army as I turn my sights to the Seven Years War, apart from that extra unit for the Twelfth at some stage, why, because they 'need' it, would I build another, I doubt it but if I ever see a decent range for 3rdC Romans I might be very tempted. I will get the lads out for a photoshoot over the weekend.

Club night last night and I put my name down for a game of Arkham Asylum, Stuart I think has raided a boardgame store recently as he turned up with a magnificent and expensive looking game of Mythical Beasts or some such last week, the playing pieces were simply gorgeous, and big! Imagine my surprise when the game turned out to be Arkham Horror with no sign of Batman, Joker or Penguin. Stuart, Simon and Alex had all played the game before and knew what they were about, I had not a clue. I was told as they grabbed their playing pieces that we needed a Guardian, so I ended up with Michael 'Machine Gun' McGlen, a bit of a bruiser light in the wisdom department, in fact I am surprised he could work a gun.

Before the table got 'busy'.

As we traversed the streets of Arkham of an evening we ran into all sorts of mysterious and foul creatures many of which I sent back to hell. As the game progresses Evil seeps in to the surroundings like rising damp but faster and our job was to stop it, sadly Evil had the upper hand and it got to the point where we had twenty-five minutes to save the world. If the game had been a movie we would have made it, but it wasn't and it was Goodnight Vienna for mankind (or womankind Reg). Some of our resident jokers had a good laugh throughout looking at my blank face as the game progressed, I found it overwhelming and typical of a Fantasy Flight game, there were oodles of cards for all sorts of things, we almost required a table each for all the paraphernalia. I did kind of get the gist by the end of the game but give me a cohort to lead anytime.

Elsewhere we had another fantasy type boardgame which again looked expensive and had loads of lovely plastic playing pieces, Julian and Ryan were chasing each other around a frozen city (Frostgrave) which I am assured I would like and is just like Dead Man's Hand, mmmmm. There was also a Bloodbowl game and a large Battlegroup Normandy game with the 12th SS attacking the Canadians with Andy's lovely vehicles and figures.

It is fairly quite on the map front at the moment as I wait for more AWI maps to turn up, I have finished a small project on the Russo-Japanese War and begun half a dozen for a history of the Zulu.

I intend to complete my pillboxes today then get the SYW artillery ready for painting. Before I forget this lovely sight turned up yesterday afternoon.

PS. Brought the photoshoot for the Seleucids forward, it is too dark, miserable and rainy to do anything else but admire a pile of wee sojers.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Celtae Seniores

I have now completed the first of my extra units which I 'need' for my Roman armies, the unit joining the Western Field Army are the Celtae Seniores, this unit is attached to the Italian Command of the Magister Peditum, the infantry commander, its sister unit the Celtae Iunories served under the Comes Africa and had a completely different shield pattern.

The sharp eyed among you may have noticed I have removed the Chi-Rho Christian symbol which the transfers have straight from Little Big Man Studios. The main source for late Roman shield patterns is of course the Notitia Dignitatum which to my knowledge does not show this symbol on shields at all. I also read that it was only ever used once, when Constantine had his troops daub it on their shields at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, an early example of psychological warfare/Christian propaganda? So I painted it out. This Auxilia Palatina formation was normally 'brigaded' or found with the Petulantes Seniores who have a yellow shield with a blue figure which is also available from LBMS

The unit as its name suggests was originally recruited from Celts, so stationed somewhere on the frontier in Gaul perhaps, like many Roman units it may not have kept this ethnic mix due to moving around the Empire and having to recruit locally, but they did like their history and origins as befits veteran units, so no doubt some Pannonian joining would become an honorary Celt.

The painting tray is full for the moment with the Seleucid Companions then the SYW artillery pieces, it is then a toss up whether to keep going with SYW infantry and cavalry or take a break again and get that last unit I 'need' for the Twelfth.