Wednesday, 30 January 2019


Once again it was a horrible, cold, wet night to journey into Lancaster, always seems to be the case on Club night. Last night it was Bolt Action, Rob umpired and the scenario was loosely based on something which happened in Band of Brothers, although the actors had a lot more success than we did.

I was one of the German players, I had two infantry squads and a PzIV, Ian on the right had a Marder III, Puma, mortar, panzerschrek and one squad, opposite we had two well supported, large American paratrooper squads with a Stuart and two Shermans, we had to hold our ground and push the enemy from theirs. At first sight I thought I would be able to sweep away the Yankee right with the support of my tank, this turned out to be impossible as I couldn't hit a barn door throughout the game. I managed to get a StuGIII on to the field as well and it may as well have stayed at home for all the good it did. I was so frustrated that I halted my intended assault and simply held my ground, hoping against hope that my luck would change. The Shermans were taking long range pot shots at the PzIV, the crew turned on them and up went one of the Shermans, this was my only success in the game.

In Bolt Action there is a rule that if the enemy can see your tank they think it is a Tiger, it is called "Tiger Fear" and means they have to  take a command test before doing anything, this played havoc with the Americans, especially Simon opposite me as they failed test after test, Lady Luck had deserted both of us.

On the other flank the Germans seemed mesmerised by a piece of bocage and merely hunkered down behind it, this meant the Marder took no part in the ensuing battle, I urged that it should have sat on a nearby hill where it could have controlled the battlefield but that didn't happen. It also didn't help that any German troops which went into a small wood on that side of the table were invariably massacred, which didn't help the demeanor of their commander. I needed a mortar to shift some particularly troublesome bazooka teams but it was on the right and its observer was dead.

Just as the clock ticked down I lost the PzIV but it was too late to help the Yanks, the game stuttered to a draw, for a four man game it had went along quite well and we learned a few things about the rules. We all had dreadful dice luck, German casualties in the game were about three teams and five infantrymen while I think I dealt out three, Ian managed to knock out a few but overall it was dire. I don't think the new Down rule helped, if your target goes down, it is long range and they are behind cover it is a hard job to kill them. I wasn't chuffed that the Yanks do not get a penalty for moving and shooting and Simon was more than peeved at "Tiger Fear", I have no idea about the former but I have read some interesting battle reports where British troops cried 'Tiger!' when all the offending vehicles were StuG's in the winter of 44/45.

I am back to painting and am well on with the 51st I think they may be at the varnishing stage by the weekend, I have three battalions in the drawer awaiting attention but what with a holiday coming up in March it could be after Easter before these are all complete.

I am off to Vapnartak at York on Sunday, this is the one show I do like to go to, anything else is just a bonus. I only have a very small list and wait to be inspired by something to spend my £5 on.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Maps and Darth Vader

I am still not 100% and what with feeling sorry for myself I have not touched a paintbrush in about two weeks, the 51st glower at me from the side of the keyboard and plead for their redcoats, I really must get back to my almost automatic one hour a night routine.

I have been unable to call a halt to maps though, and despite my heart not being in it I manfully continued, finishing three projects and starting another, the maps which I am working on at the moment are time consuming and complex, I intend to break the back of this project next week, so nose to the grindstone.

War and Soldiers in the early reign of Loux XIV

William III's Italian Ally. Piedmont

Killing Hitlers Reich

I went to Darlington early this morning for some X-Wing, a pleasant enough drive if boring. I would be playing son Stewart who is simply too good for me at this game, when fighting him I rely on luck while he has things worked out to perfection (or almost). I don't think I have ever beat him at X-Wing so thankfully on real battlefields I can recover some of my dignity.

The first game involved a Lambda Shuttle for me escorted by two Tie Advanced against a Firespray and two Fang fighters. As the game kicked off I got some bad hits on my ships and thought 'here we go'. The game then settled down and the Shuttle dealt out a lot of damage, one Fang Fighter went down and the Firespray limped around in the dogfight, I lost both my Tie's but if I could hold on against the next bout of incoming fire there was a chance I could kill the Firespray and that would leave only the Fang Fighter and I was quite confident the Shuttle might come out on top. Sadly she took a critical hit which meant my one remaining hull point was taken in the next move, game over.

I was quite chuffed I had given Stewart a run for his money, the Lambda used to be fairly useless as once the enemy got on her tail it was all over, now however she has a rear arc from which to fire, not as good as the front arc but enough to annoy anyone following.

The second game was Imperial v Imperial, I took two Tie Interceptors and a Tie Phantom, the enemy had a Tie Defender (why didn't I take one of them), a Tie Fighter and Darth Vader in his Tie Advanced. Looking across the table I did not get a good feeling about the upcoming dogfight. I thought I might knock out the bog standard Tie and then have three ships v two, not going to happen. I completely mucked up the flying of the Phantom and it proved useless to me, my Interceptors did get into a good position at first but couldn't hit a barn door, Stewart on the other hand hardly missed, my glass starfighters popped one after the other.

Darth Vader gets a shot in.

A minute before it went to pot.

Can't see me, oh yes we can.............

I did not do enough preparation and only looked at my squads last night as I lay in bed wanting to be asleep and not building squads, Stewart had worked on his for days. My own fault, preparation pays in this game and I view it mainly as a pick up game which is wrong, way wrong. I did pick up some things and learned others which I was hoping would be the case when fighting Stewart. Overall I was quite pleased with the first game but I was totally taken apart in the second.

I am not going to the club on Tuesday, the week after next I believe it is Bolt Action and I am looking forward to that.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Back to sea in small ships.

It has taken me a couple of days to get around to this report thanks to the incompetent doctors at my local surgery, I have had an infection which has made my life miserable for almost four weeks now, they said it was gone, I said it hadn't, so a week without medication and it got worse. Then they give me penicillin despite what I suspect was a big red warning across the screen as I am allergic to it, thankfully I noticed it before I took any. The sorry saga continues.

Due to the above I toyed with the idea of not going to the club, but Stuart and Rob had brought 'Cruel Seas' for me to try and I couldn't let them down. As you know this game seems to be sweeping the board in popularity at the moment, you can't walk the streets now without searching for torpedo wakes. I do not have the game and will not be getting it, three people at the club have it and I have my Seven Years War project to throw money at. Despite not getting the game I have been following developments as it is produced by Warlord Games, it would seem there were ten pages of errata within a week of publication some minor but others serious, why does that company keep shooting itself in the foot, is it because the money keeps tumbling in regardless.

The game, we ended up with five players so the scenario had to be jigged to accommodate everyone, the Germans had to escort two trawler types off the board, to safeguard them we had four S-Boats, the Royal Navy attacked with seven MTB's. I honestly do not know how any large ships can finish their cruise in this game, many of these small ships have four torpedoes so there were around 26 tinfish to dodge, and due to the slow speed and size of the trawlers that was going to be nearly impossible. Now having said that I did guide my trawler through most of the deadly weapons, but once hit it was Goodnight Vienna. You have to rely on the torpedo not exploding if it hits. I honestly don't know what the S-Boats were for as they could not stop any of the MTB's launching, we did manage to sink two or three of the seven by the end of the night but of course the damage had been done by then and it took a long time to reduce an MTB to the point where it sank.

Stuart printed off the armed trawler on his printer.
Every time you are hit you get a splash marker, even from weapons which are really peashooters.
Torpedoes galore.
More torpedoes.

How you move your ships is very clever, the shooting quite basic so no headaches there. I think the main selling point of this game is the ship models, they are very nice and can paint up a treat. Not the best of reviews but I really wasn't up to it.

On the SYW front I have completed a French ammunition wagon, I want to get the odd wagon and civilians as I go along, I have seen the vignette's at Tales from GHQ and Carryings On Up The Dale and they do make the battlefield sparkle. I think perhaps the wagon should be redder, they were painted brick red and this one rankles a bit, not enough to amend it thankfully. I have started the 51st Foot but have not picked a brush up for some time now, hopefully I will be back to normal in a week.

We have had British Gas in recently and they have destroyed my heating system and taken a wad of cash to do it. As I type I have thermals on, a jumper, a bodywarmer and a scarf, I am thinking of asking them to send out the Penguin from the ad as I am sure he could do no worse than their engineers.

Sunday, 13 January 2019


I have finished Max Hastings' Vietnam tome, it was a good read, very much an overall history from the political and military viewpoints, the main thing to take away for me was what an overwhelming disaster for the Vietnamese people North and South the war was. The whole thing was a lesson in how not to fight a war, was anything learned, not if Iraq and Afghanistan are anything to go by. A good book which covers every aspect of the war.

I have now started on Passchendaele: A New History by Nick Lloyd, I am lucky to have Helion's First World War editor and Third Ypres expert Michael LoCicero on hand to ask for recommendations and he recommended this book on the battle. By the time I had finished the prologue I knew I was going to like it. I still find myself appalled by the sheer number of casualties during these battles, year after year, Lloyd however is very good at explaining why these battles were fought and how close they came at times to success.

I got a book token for my birthday and what better way to escape being dragged around shops which I have no need to enter than browsing in Waterstones to spend it, "meet you at Marks and Sparks front door dear." The first one I picked was The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey with is all about the Christian destruction of the Classical World, why, I don't know because it intrigued me. Going for it it has the 'goodies' being presented in their true light, I always like this kind of expose, my one reservation is that it is written by a woman, yes howl away and clog the twittersphere, I have only ever read one woman historian of merit, Barbara Tuchman, and she was superb, I have tried but each time has been a fail, fingers are crossed for this one.

My second choice was Waterloo by Tim Clayton, I have read many books on Waterloo, and am now going to read another, it is one of my favourite battles and I think it is impossible to get enough of it.

I am scrapping the bottom of the barrel again with TV and movies, it got so bad the other night I started back at the beginning with the Sopranos, great as it was I was reminded again how I hated Tony's children and only wanted to see the guys whacking people, so I gave up. I also went back to Modern Family, I gave up when the storylines got even more PC and sentimental but after watching another half dozen I do wonder why it still survives as it is now a caricature of a caricature. So I am left with not a lot of choices even for 'watching while you paint'.  The second season of Tin Star is due shortly, the only ray of sunshine on the horizon.

What about movies, well Venom was enjoyable, The Predator OK while the latest Mission Impossible like the other four went dark after ten minutes, what a load of complicated tripe in order to pull off some car chases.

I am actually at the stage where I am seriously considering not paying the licence fee as I do not watch BBC apart from ten minutes screaming at the biased news each night, and I could do without that if only for my blood pressure.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Per Ardua ad Astra

I have the X-Wing game and a few ships to give me choices for 'builds', my forces are Imperial and Rebel, I prefer playing Imperial because I love Empires and these guys are great baddies, they always get the thin edge of the wedge when up against the holier than though Rebels. As you know if you are a regular here I am not and never will be a great pilot, but the game is very clever, deceptively easy to play but tough to master, I should play more but you can only fit in so many games.

So when Second Edition was announced I thought I would be handing in my pilot licence for a bus pass, but no, for Christmas I asked for two Conversion Kits for my models and a Core Set to keep the Force alive in Casa Anderson. Fantasy Flight Games pulled a fast one here, you should only have needed the Conversion Kits, not a Core Set having already bought one for First Edition, but guess what, the damage cards had changed, so you needed to get it no matter what as they did not come (as expected) with the Conversion Kits. These large firms are adept at taking your money and forcing you down a certain path, their path, in doing so they show just how much the moolah matters more than the players, many who have spent small fortunes on X-Wing. You are overwhelmed by the contents of the kits, you have cards galore, for the most part I managed to outfit my two factions from the kits with a bit of cut and paste helping along the way.

There are going to be some seven factions eventually, me, I am sticking with two and concentrating on Imperial, I may be tempted to buy a couple of new Imperial ships to fill a hole in my order of battle but that is it as I feel slightly ripped off. Also I do not have the commitment to X-Wing that many others have, I will be making use of what I have though throughout the year.

Andrew and son Alf had thrown down the gauntlet for last night, both enjoy the game and Andrew travels to game nights in Preston, my wingman did not turn up so new player Alex was pressganged, I could not give him the weaker build as he was new so I reluctantly gave up my Tie Interceptors. It is scary how much information on the Star Wars universe some of these guys have. OK, so I had two Tie Advanced and two Tie Fighters while Alex flew two Interceptors and a Tie Phantom, as I looked across the table my heart sank, Alf had a K-Wing and two X-Wings while Andrew had the huge Hounds Tooth, a HWK 290 and a small swarm of chunky things. I began to think of an early bath.

As the game started I turned one Advanced to fly off on his own, the idea was that I could bring him back in behind the enemy eventually, however the 'plan' worked well and he drew away the two X-Wings from the battle. The rest of the Imperial fleet went hell for leather at our opposite numbers, this caused the chunky ships to back off for a time while a large dogfight and a large amount of confusion began in the right hand sector. At first neither side was gaining an advantage and shooting was fairly abysmal although saves were plentiful, the first ship to go was the HWK, the chunky ships now got their revenge as they entered the battle, they had tractor beams and kept moving my Tie Fighters on to asteroids, I lost one to multiple collisions with the rocks, the second I lost to close range shots and the odd bump with the damn rocks. However, Alex had found out how to get the best from his ships and with only a little help from me took down the Hounds Tooth, she tried in vain to escape her fate but she blew up spectacularly almost at the eleventh hour. I think the Imperials had one more kill in that round but I cannot say for sure, the result though was a convincing Imperial win against the odds.

Ready, steady, go.

The chunky things.
The Empire attacks!
The doomed Hounds Tooth.
The Hound tries but fails to escape.
 Did the game play better than First Edition, time will tell, it did seem to flow better but it is too soon to make a judgement and I am not sure I am the best person to do so. It took us about 2.5 hours to finish, we were not in a hurry and unusually there was not a lot of hits in the first half of the game and many of those were saved, it did become more ferocious in the second half.

Not sure what is happening next week, I do have some X-Wing the weekend after that at my sons, Stewart is a far more serious and experienced X-Wing player than I will ever be, I am taking an escape shuttle.

Elsewhere we had two Frostgrave games and one of Cruel Seas, the latest wargame craze sweeping the nation, I didn't get a chance to go and have a look but expect to play some in the coming weeks.

Monday, 7 January 2019

2019 Figures and a fright for Napoleon

I won't bore you with the details of my ills over the festive season, suffice to say I am 95% back to normal and I already have three bookings at the Docs to kick the year off. I have now finished my French cavalry, I did not manage to base them last year so they are the first to be completed this year. They are the Royal Roussillon regiment dressed in a nice blue with red trimmings, they were supposed to wear a cuirasse but trying to get figures to correspond to all the uniform variations is impossible, thankfully it does say that they wore their tan waistcoat over the cuirasse at times so that was fine by me. I am now going to cut my cavalry regiments down to eight figures, I may still do the odd twelve man but I want to cut down on painting and expense.

I bit the bullet and ordered up my next four infantry battalions, this should keep me painting until Easter as I am away for most of March. I have the 51st Foot and Grenadiers for the British also Grenadiers for the French and how could I resist the Royal Ecossais, beautiful flags.

My 2019 wargaming has started well, I went along yesterday to Grange-over-Sands, the posh bit of Cumbria, to join in a game organised by Rob and Stuart, the period was Napoleonic and the rules Black Powder. I have had my moans about BP before (mainly the command rules) but have still enjoyed taking part in games at the club, having got the rule book to perhaps use for the Seven Years War I actually read them before going. There is more to the rules than I had at first thought and you can alleviate command problems by use of higher officers and keeping your units under control, you can still be very unlucky as well but then that happens no matter which rules you use. Taking more of an interest in the rules and not leaving it all to poor Rob gave me a more satisfying game.

It was September 1813 and an Austro-Russian force had stole a march on the French and appeared in their rear, the French in the immediate area had to hold back the Allies, they received reinforcements  as the danger became apparent. We had a small meeting of commanders and decided that Andy (Austrians) would pressure the French right and prevent them interfering in the centre, my two divisions along with some cavalry would assault a small village upon which the French defence relied while Stuart on my right would hold off the mass of French cavalry bearing down on him and hopefully stop them sweeping into my flank. I knew the built up area would be a problem but it looked like I could overwhelm its supports in a series of nearby fields and then concentrate on the defenders, elite Swiss and Wurtemburgers.

My division about to open the battle.

Andy surprised me by ferociously attacking his opposite number, Charlie, his first assaults were not successful but his efforts meant the French right never looked like moving to succour their centre, which was good news for me. I advanced aggressively into the fields and soon swept them clear of the enemy, this took a bit of time due to the terrain and was a bit frustrating for my troops. I couldn't do much with my artillery due to my advance but I did put some on a nearby hill to my left and they did some nice work annoying the nearest French, they also later inflicted grievous harm on an attempt by some French cavalry to burst through my lines. I kept my cavalry in the rear and their officer sadly interpreted this as staying in the rear no matter his later orders, so I had trouble moving him as everyone else was up near the village. I slowly but surely got into position to assault the village.

The Allies advance.
The fighting escalates
 Meanwhile Stuart on the right seemed to be doing well against the waves of French cavalry, when I looked back he was in disarry and under a lot of pressure, I could not help as I was now committed to fight in the village My first regiment went at the walls and suffered, however its morale held and as the fight went on the numbers began to tell against the Swiss defenders, in time a "Huzzah" was heard and a Russian flag could be seen atop the main building. I had now maneuvered more men to attack the village from the left, the same thing happened, although they took a beating at first again the Russian morale held and again the end result found the French allies running for the rear after bitter hand to hand combat.

The Russians force a way in.
More Russians attack the walls.
The French centre breaks.

As I took stock of the carnage in the village it was evident lady luck had deserted the French, the Allies all across the battlefield sensed victory and they could not be stopped as they completed the rout of the French centre. Stuart had now turned the tables on the French cavalry and his men also surged forward. At the last minute my own cavalry charged and swept away a brave attempt by some French cavalry to do something other than die as the Austrian and Russian forces bore down on them.

So there you have it, an Allied victory at the eleventh hour. Certainly in the final turn the Russians could seem to do no wrong and their die rolling was superb while the French on the other hand were dismal. Andy had kept Charlie busy, Stuart had just managed to hold off the French cavalry and then turned the tables with a last minute attack, my boys had fought very well, while their morale had been exceptional, I must make room on my jacket for even more medals. A very good game and a great way to spend a miserable Sunday afternoon, big thanks to everyone especially the organisers Rob and Stuart.

No rule set is perfect and if they work for you then they work, these worked for me, it was a big battle, we had some great moments and we got a result in five hours. Also I did not have a headache which used to happen back in the day when I tried Napoleonics. There is leeway in the movement system and this is perhaps the biggest thing to get your head around as nearly every other ruleset demands rigid moves, it is not as if there are no limitations, but again it works as designed.

Oh and it seemed that as the Russians were 'Stubborn' or some such they were allowed to reroll one failed save, this became known as a "Dodgski" and it saved Stuart and I multiple times during the course of the game, it also caused a great deal of laughter.