Friday, February 24, 2017

Stand Ins

I often check out board games for the minis inside. A while back I found a version of Risk! called Risk! Godstorm:

From the box it looks like you get some nice hoplites in armour and some Viking looking guys.
The price is around $30 range and you get a whack of figures.
I ended up with some 300 guys all between 1/72 and 25mm high. They are made of a vinyl like plastic, so they are softer than esci type figures but not floppy.
NO hoplites though.
What you do get are 300 of the same figure in 5 colours. The figure has leggings similar to dark age figures, trousers, rough tunic with oddly ornate sleeves and long hair. He has a caveman barbarian looking spear and a rough wooden shield, more like a small targe, with metal studs.
The odd thing is that he's a lefty.
Spear in his left hand, shield in his right.
So these aren't front rank soldiers.
But they might do to fill in the nameless ranks of barbarians or rear rankers in another army.
So here's my first attempt, not quite done yet but here goes:

They need hair touch ups but otherwise they're there. A barbarian horde.

I also painted some to back up my Warrior Miniatures Saxons:

With the Miracle Dip you can see the odd shoulder detail, best ignored in my opinion.
Here they are backing up my Saxons:

They do pad out an army.
Not bad for stand ins.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Crusade Miniatures Polish Army From Warrior Miniatures

Hello. Good to be back blogging again after a disastrous autumn computer wise. A couple of hard drive crashes and a failed android battery left me stymied. So I settled into painting more.
This time I thought I'd make a departure from the plastic realm and show a 100 piece army I purchased from John Holt of Warrior Miniatures:

He has many 25mm figure ranges and features 100 piece army deals.
I've been a customer over the past 25 years, so I settled on trying some figures that I haven't tried before.
He has in his line some medieval sets under the "Crusade Miniatures" line.
here's the link:

I ordered the Polish army.

This is the army I painted. They are nice figures, crisp and clean and feature a nice degree of detail. I base coated the infantry with a brick red and painted them in earth colours. The cavalry I base coated in white. Painted with acrylics and painted with "Miracle Dip", ie Minwax Tudor Stain for that shaded gloss look.
The army comes with a couple bags of accessories in the way of spears, lances and axes. In point of fact, the infantry have enough side arms to select pole axes or spears for the entire company.
Here are some more pix:

The knights are interesting, having winged helmets. IIRC Funcken has a picture of these sort of knights in his books:

One quibble. The figures are cast in a nice hard metal that allows minimal adjusting. And by minimal I mean almost none. I dropped the red fellow and his wings snapped off. A quick repair with white glue and super glue did the trick.

The infantry are a nice lot:

I used the pole axes, but I had enough spears as well. I think they'd look fine without a weapon as they have a sword and scabbard. Nice pose and detail, I think they could stand in for many different armies.

These two units are archers, one has axes and shields with their bow and quiver slung.
And now the cavalry:

Listed as Kazak cavalry I left the spears off them as they tend to be a bit soft in my opinion. The figures are kitted out with axes and bows, so they aren't naked. Very useful types I think, from ancients to medieval.
Heavy cavalry. These guys needed their lances.
Dramatic looking, they certainly stick out from the drab looking infantry.
The remainder of the 100 piece army. I suppose I will mount them individually. As you can see I had one casualty in shipping. He might make a good flag bearer.
So what was the damage?
Not much.
Listed at 35 pounds, plus shipping to Canada it was a total of 50 quid, which worked out to 80 dollars Canadian.
I ordered in early January and John shipped within a day or two. Two weeks shipping and I was painting. I did a quick job on these guys, but I had fun, and they were easy to paint. The clean figures took acrylic paints like a dream. I liked the small rectangular bases that made fitting them on my wooden bases very easy, I didn't have to trim any.  So I can recommend these figures for anyone looking to put together a small force or a DBA style army. two or three of these sets would make an impressive wargame army.
In fact, I ordered another army (different era) in early February, and I received it yesterday.  I've already painted one unit and started another. I'll post soon. Perhaps I'll do "Warrior Miniatures Army of The Month"?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

100 Years Ago

I have had access to some old family photos, and I took the time to take some photos and reflect on those who came before us.

Several family members have served in both World Wars, and I thought someone might be interested in what I found.

My Grandmother on my father's side was from the Selkirk, Manitoba area. In fact a small community called Elma.

Here are some of the photos and post cards from the young men who signed up for the Great War.

These two are brothers of my Grandmother. Great Uncles in the common parlance.
The man on the left is Fred Mayo. On the right, his brother William "Bill" Mayo. Fred's photos are post cards and one has a short message, "To Mother from Freddie".
Bill was killed on August 9th 1918, age 27. A picture of his grave reveals his number, 267233 Private W.R. Mayo, 5th Battalion, Canadian Infantry.

I tried to use the online Commonwealth war dead website, but it's really poorly set up. The searches do not work.

Some other photos:
The center photo is my Great Uncle Freddie, I believe, but the hat badge is different, and there is no writing on the back of the photo.
The young man at left has a Glengarry bonnet, I don't know who he is. However both he and Freddie are standing in front of Minto Armouries, a beautiful old building still standing today. It has a unique ramped entry way, and I recognize it.

From wikipedia:
"The Minto Armoury is a prominent and historic structure in the West End of WinnipegManitoba. The armoury is currently the home base of The Royal Winnipeg RiflesThe Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, and several other reserve units. The building remains an active military structure. It is noted for its smooth integration into the character of neighbourhood and remains a local landmark, both factors have help to certify the Minto Armoury as a Recognized Federal Heritage Building.[1"

The fellow on the right is Private J.L. White
No. 267227
D Company
13th Platoon
214th Battalion
Camp Hughes
He must have been a family friend.

This is another unmarked post card with several NCO's and privates. A lot of rubber boots and no puttees, must be fall or spring time.

An interesting post card from 1918, showing "The undescribable Horror and Ruin Caused by Great Halifax Explosion"
Here are two post cards with a lot of writing on back:

The one on the left has this:
"Miss Elenora Mayo, Selkirk August 19, 1916

Dear Elenora. Recieved your letter today and was glad to hear from you. sorry to hear your mother is not feeling well. As for myself I'm enjoying the best of good health. I'm sure getting lots of mail. How it keeps me pretty busy at nights answering letters when a fellow gets mail in the trenches.I'll tell you it sure cheers him up a bit. I was over to see some boys from Elma last night. Young McDonald, the old Black Smith's son. Young ?Sareell?, young Rotherford from Selkirk was over this morning to see me. Well Elenora I must ring off for this time. Letter following later.I remain your affectionate admirer, Graham."

The one on the right has this from Great Uncle Freddie to my Grandmother, his sister Elenora:

"Dear Sister. Just a few lines to say I am well hoping you are all the same. This is one of the fellows that I am working in the cook house with. Well Ellie I ain't I aint got any news to tell you you this time so I will close for this time so good by from Freddie with love to all XXX 18th Canadian Reserve Battalion c/o Army Post Office London England
From Freddie to Ellie with love and XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX"

Interesting that his note was obviously started and stopped several times.

Lest we forget.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Memories Of Old and Those Yet To Be Remembered...

I finally took some pics of my old terrain. It was inspired by the pages of Miniature Wargames and consisted of 2 foot by 2 foot squares of styrofoam. I did the texture with a mix of green poster paint, plaster of paris and a now defunct product, green sawdust from Life Like railway products.

 These pix weren't from a wargame, just a set up to take some photos with one of those little tourist cameras. The figures were a mix, some conversions and some 25mm Warrior Miniatures painted as Neapolitans. My raging river had an island and a bridge and was in an "L" shape. The roads were all measured from the center of the tile and were 2" wide, plaster of paris with brown poster paint, run over with suitable wheels.
 Back then I used to mount Airfix figures on cardboard, then later seal the open sides with masking tape. You can see that on the RHA battery. Later I tried plaster of paris or glue and sand. I never got the hang of it. That's why I just gave up and started with the wooden dominos.
 Washington's Army have joined the Spanish grenadiers. Looks like a new crop is coming in on that combed farm field.
My Portuguese guarding the crossroads. I guess the cazadores failed to show up this time. I miss my old terrain, but it sure took up a lot of space. Looking back has made me nostalgic and I am currently abusing a 5 foot by 5 foot section of cardboard with glue, tape and beach sand.

Well then, onto new items.

I have noticed a change in the offerings from the Chinese and the dollar store armies. To whit:

New tanks. Of note are the two WW2 tanks, a Lee/Grant and what appears to be a Russian T35!
The scaling is awful, the T35 is diminutive, and the Lee is a bit too big. However, beggars and chosers...
The Lee I think is based on the British version, the Grant as it has a large turret. If one spent the time you might get a decent model to mix in with other tanks. The soldiers are Airfix, and Esci for scale.
The T35 is just too small, but it certainly is useable as a fantasy war tank. The new way of mounting the wheels and axles is annoying, necessitating some surgery to get those treads in the mud.
Other models are faintly recognizable, having turrets, short guns and the same hull.

Other items of late are trucks:
 I like these. They are big and clunky, but look at the tank transporter! I had a go at this one with my XActo razor saw and it comes apart quite nicely. I removed the tank and its tiny size reduces it to the pre war variety, perhaps an Italian or Japanese two man tank. I removed the huge gun and made a field gun out of it on an Airfix French Napoleonic gun carriage. I haven't had a go at the oversize guns, but with some camo netting they might make decent heavy artillery. The wheels are of interest though, they look like all metal wheels from WW1 or from an anti tank gun. Sadly, they don't turn and are moulded onto the truck, so surgery would destroy the truck to save the wheels.
 The next batch are a return to tiny scales. Long trucks with two cabs. One a modern streamlined version, and the next a long nosed version that would do for WW2! But a lot of cutting to get rid of the nuclear missiles and?railguns? on the back.
A blurry shot of the grill. Smallish, but useable with a bit of paint and imagination.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Books on Solo Wargaming

Solo wargaming has always been the poor cousin of the hobby. Without a doubt, all wargamers have at some point played out scenarios by themselves to test rules or just pass the time. As far as the literature is concerned, there have been precious few titles dedicated to solo wargames.

The first is Donald Featherstone's "Solo Wargaming", Kaye & Ward, 1973, ISBN 0 7182 0921 4.
Featherstone was the established expert on miniature wargames and by the time this book was published, he had written at least 15 other titles. It is evident from the first sentence that solo wargaming was looked down on by the regular wargaming crowd:
    "When one first considers solo wargaming it might first appear to be the inadequate last resort of the enthusiastic wargamer who desires to battle with model soldiers but cannot find a local opponent to face him across the table top battlefield."
The index shows that the book offers ideas on several aspects of solo games, from actual rules to campaigns that generate battles.
His chapters suggest "Instant" games, by dividing the table into sections and dicing for where units will be placed. The units will be represented at first by cards, with several blank cards added as well, and the identity of the units will be revealed once they move into contact with the enemy.
He suggests "Domestic Wargaming", where the player focuses on the level of brigade games, and ignores the grand strategy. Decisions are local, tactical in nature "so firmly in the hands of the one man who happens to be in charge on the spot at the time that his power is almost God like."
This is obviously one of his favorite aspects, and he illustrates  the chapter with an attractive set of photos of his North West Frontier forces in front of a Marx fortress:
He continues by setting out the company organization of the units, including naming the Captains. He adds in a hand drawn map of the Kohat area. He also provides an narrative and  suggests referring to his past publications to cover supply rules and adds chance cards to affect conditions and situations.
His chapter "Press Gangs" suggests using your wife or girlfriend as an opponent:
    "There are at least half a dozen wargamers of the author's acquaintance who have fought wargames with their wives and some of them have actually lost to the "little woman"!"
Cringeworthy, but he goes on to suggest that newbies to the game would add unforeseen and unexpected decisions that would add much to a campaign or game.
Featherstone's chapter 'Realism Through Continuous Combat" suggests passing initiative between sides when ever a unit attacks.  He then suggests using coloured chips to illustrate the tactical manoeuvers of a unit, such as firing, lying down, running, crawling, kneeling, dismount/mount cavalry, limber,unlimber guns, loading. Again this is a continuation of "Domestic Wargaming" with the focus on small unit tactics.He then adds four pages of rules from Jack Scruby. The chapter is illustrated by nine pages of a battle with Pathans at Kohat:
Two short chapters follow, "Concealment in Solo Wargames" and "Personalized Wargaming"
Chapter 8 is "Solo Wargaming in The New World". There are two sets of rules offered, and a write up about Jack Scruby. Scruby says of one set of rules:
    "From my own experience in playing these rules (both with Schu and Vern Longlee) I can personally testify that this is the fastest, most exciting game I have known."
The games are of the "bang you're dead" type, and they are fun. However, the casualty results make references to unit structures that aren't explained, so you will have to make your own amendments. The second set offers part of a set, that has a determined kill ratio based on a dice roll. Units are 6 men strong, so a 5 or 6 rolled on a dice means that 6 men would kill 3 enemy. Less than 6 men would kill 2 enemy. A dice roll of 3 or 4 means that 6 men kill 2, less than 6 kill 1, a dice roll of 1 or 2 means 6 men would kill 1 less than 6 men would kill no enemy. Also in the chapter are some suggestions for messengers and scouts, including their reports or interrogation. These last rules aren't really fleshed out.
The 9th chapter has John Schuster's "Solo Musket Wargame" rules. These are not really rules so much as a suggested way to organize smallish armies and use dice to determine the strategy to create games.
"Solo Wargame Campaigns" is the 10th chapter that has at least one interesting suggestion, that map skirmishes can be played out by the solo gamer as a real battle. A squadron clash can be wargamed as a large cavalry battle by reducing the scale for the battle, and using as many as 300 miniature cavalrymen of all types in the game. The result is just that of a skirmish, but a fascinating and exciting game can result.
The next chapters are relatively short, and cover his oft mentioned "Matchbox System", "War Diaries", "Chance Cards", "Tactical Cards", "Regimental Cards".
Some of the last chapters are "A Small Spark of Courage" that gives general suggestions for a World War 2 tank "potted campaign", "More Books on Solo Wargaming", and "Battles by Mail".
Featherstone's chapter "Weather in Wargames" is a longer chapter, and has several tables and detailed effects of different types of weather.
"Wargaming in Bed" is a simple set of rules for jousting knights.
The 21st Chapter is "A Prince Of Solo Wargamers" is about Lionel Tarr. Tarr's rules for World War 2 were published in "Wargames" by Featherstone. What is covered is a general "how to" he set up his games, with maps, artillery fire by map grids, aircraft use, and periscopes for vision. It is an interesting insight to Lionel Tarr, whose few photos of his Stalingrad game have appeared in earlier Featherstone titles.
The book ends with a discussion of realistic terrain illustrated by pictures of Peter Gilder's Waterloo terrain.
He offers several Appendices at the end, perhaps the most useful being an annotated index of where one can find certain subjects in his other books.

On the whole, this is not that useful a book for the solo gamer.
It has very short suggestions from many different sources, all of which need fleshing out by the reader. There aren't any solid suggestions that you can lift and use in their entirety. The attitude that wargamers are all individuals who will make their own rules preclude this. As a book, it is attractive with a lot of photos of Don's toy soldiers in black and white. Currently it is out of print, and since his passing, the book has risen in value. sometimes has copies as do ebay and Abebooks. The price varies from $20 to over $200.

The next book to consider is Stuart Asquith's "Guide To Solo Wargaming", a Military Modelling Publication, Argus Books, 1989, ISBN 0 85242934 7.
This title reflects a newer attitude to solo wargamers. Where Don Featherstone looked at Solo games as the poor cousin, Asquith says:
    "While there are many wargamers who belong to clubs, there is at least an equal number who either prefer not to join a club or do not have access to one. For both these types of player it is modestly suggested that solo wargaming will succeed in filling a gap in the hobby for them. There are many advantages to being a solo wargamer and I hope that this book will cover most of them."
This is a more positive point of view of solo games. Asquith's second chapter is "Solo Wargaming Systems", and he wastes no time and gets right to it. He discusses Chance cards, Strategic and Tactical movement, dice use for probability, random terrain generation, random unit placement, off table arrivals, and re-supply.
The third chapter offers the basis for some historical small scale scenarios, such as a 14th century Free Company skirmish, an Indian Raid in the New World, a Russian 1812 retreat scenario, an attack on an Afghan fort, and an 1870 franc-tireurs game.
The fourth chapter moves up in scale from skirmishes to aspects of larger battles. First is the storming of the fleches and Grand Redoubt at Borodino, and then a 1915 Suvla Bay game.
The fifth Chapter has 8 scenarios and maps for the reader to game. Units are specified, the only thing missing are the rules to use to decide the combat.
Chapter 6 refers to his co-authored book with Charles S. Grant, "Programmed Wargames" (Wargames Research Group, 1983). A selection of map sectors, and programmed orders and order of battle for both Red/Blue armies are provided.
The 7th chapter is 15 pages on Solo Campaigns. Asquith discusses map movement, using overlays on a master map, and deciding contacts, battles and sieges on the map. He discusses the use of ammunition and food supply and suggests basic methods to cover this. Weather and casualties are touched upon at the end of the chapter.
The last Chapters are a 15 page one on Sieges, and one about postal wargames and another that mentions the Solo Wargames Association.

The author closes with the following:
    "I hope this book has achieved its purpose in encouraging the reader to consider solo play as a very real wargaming option. The permutations on the various suggested games mechanisms are virtually endless, a fact that ensures the solo player can surely never tire of the hobby."
My own opinion is that this book is an overlooked gem. It was released as a part of a series of soft cover books by Military Modelling, and Stuart Asquith's other books in this series include: "Guide To Wargaming" and "Guide To Seige Wargaming". His wargaming book has simple, workable rules for many periods, and dovetail well with this solo wargaming book. The photos throughout are black and white, and many were seen in "Practical Wargaming" magazine, edited by Stuart Asquith.
This was only the second book on solo wargames, and it built solidly on the start Featherstone laid down in 1970.
It is regularly available on ebay, Amazon and abebooks. The price is affordable.

The Third book is one I found on Amazon. "The Solo Wargaming Guide" by William Sylvester, Precis Intermedia, 2013, ISBN 978-1-938270-13-0.
This soft cover book is about solo campaigns. The first sentence is;
    "Rather than being a set of rules, this guide details and expands upon the various options available to solo wargamers. The aim of this book is to provide a solid, easily readable, easily understandable, and enjoyable guide for solo wargame campaigns. Novices and veterans alike can find new ideas and innovations in this book, and expand the excitement and enjoyment of the hobby."
Certainly a workmanlike declaration, and a real contrast to Featherstone's original book.
The author starts out immediately with the declaration of a need for a map. Either one created or borrowed from a board wargame. He suggests movement rates for a hexagonal grid, as well as the hours in a day per season. Sylvester uses the "Solo Campaign Mobilization Rules" or SCMR to raise armies, set out three attack plans and three defence plans, and gives tables to randomly determine mobilization speed and reaction, and determine Command Competency Rating (CCR). He uses his own campaign to provide examples throughout.
He gives a short chapter to discuss transpositioning time scales so that troops can be added to table top battles from the strategic hex map.
A weather table is provided and some detailed logistics and attrition rules are laid out. The author discusses morale, Alliances, Revolts and Sieges,  as well as mutinies. All that in the first chapter of the book!
The second chapter covers naval campaigns..
Chapter 3 is about the personal aspect of campaigning and the positive effect of investing interest into the details of the game.
The 4th chapter covers fantasy campaigns.
The fifth chapter offers a sample campaign and map of the author's "First Aurunci War".
The rest of the book offers short sections and rules that cover Tactical gaming and solo playing scenarios to test rules and scenarios:
    "Put simply, the solo gamer tries to not only simulate a certain period in history, whether a factual recreation or fictional simulation, but also simulate a dual-action game without the sometimes-dubious benefits of a second gamer."
Certainly a different attitude towards solo games in 2013 than in 1970.
Continuing with the contents covered, there is terrain and placement, more weather rules, Commander Competency and loss, battles, concealment, stragglers, and ambushes. The last two chapters are Air Wargames and Board Wargames.
Throughout this concise book, the author adds his own opinions and comments in quotes, in a very conversational style. What you end up with is a very useable book that can be picked up and immediately used by anyone to solo campaign with their own set of wargame rules.
I purchased my copy on Amazon. Reasonable prices.

So there it is, the three main book son solo wargaming that I have. Truth be told I also have the Partizan Press 2006 book by Stuart Asquith, "Guide To Solo Wargaming",but I forgot to include it while taking photos. I'll have to do an addendum..
As for the books, The Featherstone book is a classic, it is full of great photos of his toys and is worth having on your shelf even if just to pore over on a quiet evening.
The Stuart Asquith book is very useable, but is more focused on table top scenario generation. A great book for fast scenario creation by copying his style.
The William Sylvester book is the most workman like and useable as a campaign Bible. There are hard and fast rules that are simple but workable and with enough detail to keep interest and still create table top battles.
All three books don't offer a complete set of wargame rules or suggest a particular set.
I missed out on Stuart Asquith's other book on solo gaming, "The Partizan Press Guide To Solo Gaming, A Revised Guide".

The author's foreword explains the rationale for the book;

    "No lesser person than the genial but very business wise Dave Ryan, he of Partizan Press and Caliver Books fame, began asking me to consider rewriting and reworking the book back in the mid 1990's, but the essential "spark" was not there at the time. Undeterred and knowing that I was now retired, moved away from the big city, and rested, Dave resumed his campaign in 2005 and this book is the end result. I have altered and reworked much of the text and that there are some changes to the scenarios."

The main difference in the editions is the addition of a chapter called " Larger Battles". Running to 10 pages, it features maps, orders of battles, all in a very familiar format to those who have read the Asquith and Grant books on scenarios.

The book has a couple of sections of colour photos, and there are many black and white photos throughout.
As for the price, as with Caliver Book items, the book will range above $25. Amazon has several copies in the hundreds of dollars price range. On Matters Military was where I found my copy for $32.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

My Myceneans, Well..., Not Really Mine

Years ago there was quite a source of 20mm figures showing up on ebay fom a place in Sarasota Florida.
I bid on many of the items and managed to land a few. Those little mounted knights from Scruby were among my successes.
Well I won this lot, and set them aside and by passed them.
I was snooping downstairs when I rediscovered them and brought them up to base and finish.

The owner/creator referred to the figures as 26mm. What they are in fact are home cast copies of the Giant ancient Romans, which were themselves tiny copies of larger 54mm English made plastic figures.

There are some 200 miniatures, almost all are painted and are rather clever adaptations of the Giant figures.
A quick look at Peter Connolly's book "Greek Armies" shows the similarities:

Not too bad for homecast figures.

There are a few partially painted figures and some that are obviously personality/hero figures:

Also included in the lot were these Egyptian figures. A close inspection of the shield shows hieroglyphics on the shield with a peep hole near the top:

All in all a nice selection of toys that will fit in well with Atlantic/Nexus Greeks and Trojans.

I've also been up to other things. Here's a few pix:

English Civil War Regiments from various manufacturers.
A Hinchliffe French Marshal.
and  finally a project that never really got off the ground, the US/Mexican war. Plasticene conversions of cowboys on recast Giant horses.

The large bases are for hex boards I've been toying with.