Sue and I were fed up watching the rain pour down outside (it is August Bank Holiday Monday after all!) and at around midday we decided to go somewhere where the weather was supposed to be better. After a quick check on the Internet, we discovered that the area around Chatham was predicted to be rain-free for most of the afternoon. As there is an undercover outlet centre there, we decided to pay it a visit.
We set off down the A2 towards the Medway and the rain was torrential until we reached the Chatham turn-off. By the time we drove into the outlet centre car park, however, the sky had darkened, and by the time we had parked it was pouring with rain. (So much for the accuracy of Internet weather forecasts!) We made our way across the car park as quickly as possible, and once inside we had lunch in a branch of Fratelli’s café/snack bar. Once that was over we set off to indulge in some retail therapy.
One of the shops that I visited was a branch of ‘The Works’, where I found a number of pre-painted 1:72nd and 1:48th-scale model military vehicle on sale. The former were £2.00 each and the latter £10.00. Having resisted the temptation to buy all the 1:72nd-scale models (they were nice but was I ever going to use them?), I did buy two … a pair of model Russian FAI light armoured cars. (I couldn’t resist them … they were just too good a bargain to miss!)
These will fit in very nicely with my existing World War II collection, and I can foresee using them as reconnaissance units in battles fought using Martin Rapier‘s hexed-based variant of the World War II rules in Neil Thomas’s ONE-HOUR WARGAMES book.
I didn’t get where I am today …
I cannot remember a time when I did not play war games. One of the first big presents I ever remember being given was a toy fort with a garrison of toy soldiers. It was not new (at the time the UK’s economy was just beginning to emerge for the aftermath of the Second World War, and lots of things were hand-me-downs or second-hand) … but I loved it.
As I grew older more soldiers were bought to expand my ‘army’, and I used to spend a considerable amount of time playing with my toy fort, my soldiers, my O-gauge Hornby train set (also second-hand), and my Meccano set. My soldiers rode into battle in my train set’s coal wagons and passenger carriages over bridges built from Meccano.
By the time I was ten, Airfix had begun to make and sell HO/OO-scale plastic figures … and my allegiance was soon transferred to them. I spent my pocket money buying Guardsmen and their associated bandsmen, followed – soon afterwards – by British and German infantry. My armies grew in size, and by my early teens I had quite a collection of infantry, tanks (Airfix and ROCO), aircraft, and warships with which I fought my wars.
The discovery of ‘wargame rules’ changed what I did with my collection. No longer did I just use them to re-enact scenes from the numerous war films that I had seen … they now moved about on the dining room table or the bedroom floor with a purpose, and ‘fought’ each other in accordance with rules. (My first contact with ‘proper’ wargames can about as a result of my discovery of Donald Featherstone’s book WAR GAMES in the local library. I had it out on almost permanent loan, and wrote my own rules based on what Don had written in a now long-lost exercise book.)
By the time I had reached the age of eighteen and left school, I was aware that there were metal wargames figures to be had, and I well remember travelling up to Camden Passage to buy my first metal figures from Hinton Hunt. They were British Crimean War infantry and cavalry … and I still have them!
I carried on building up my wargames armies and buying more and more military history and wargames books during the 1970s, and by the time I got married in 1982 I had built up large collections of both. I had also taken part in the year-long Madasahatta Campaign that Eric Knowles ran in the basement of his shop – New Model Army – in Manor Park, east London, and in 1980 I had been invited to attend the conference where Wargame Developments was founded.
I have been the Treasurer and Membership Secretary of Wargame Developments ever since that conference, and for the past fifteen years I have helped to organise the organisation’s annual conference. When I was made redundant from my teaching post in 2001 I used part of my redundancy money to have our house extended, with the result that I have had a dedicated toy/wargames room ever since. I continue to fight tabletop battles on a regular basis, either solo or with one or more of the many friends that I have made thanks to Wargame Developments.
I ain’t as young as I used to be …
One of the problems with getting older is that bits of you stop working as well as they used to. Inside you are still that eighteen to twenty year-old … but physically you are past your prime. In my case arthritis is gradually making its effects felt, and although I do take supplements that help reduce those effects, I have to accept that getting up and down stairs is getting gradually more and more difficult. This would not be too big a problem if my toy/wargames room were not on the top floor of our house. Likewise crawling around on the floor taking part in Funny Little Wars/Little Cold Wars battles is all right … until I need to stand up.
My wife and I have therefore decided that we are going to have to think about selling our present house and moving somewhere else, preferably to a bungalow. We could leave this move until we get older, but we would both prefer to move when we want to rather than when we have to. The house hunt has therefore begun … but not in earnest as yet. We are presently just looking at what is coming onto the market in the areas where we might want to live so that we can see what might be available that meets our requirements.
You cannot do everything, so what do you enjoy doing?
I have always thought that my main priority when it comes to wargaming is enjoying it. I have come to realise that unless I am having some fun doing what I am doing, then why am I doing it?
So what do I enjoy most about wargaming?
- Fighting campaigns (i.e. planning and fighting a series of interlinking battles that tell a story)
- Writing the ‘histories’ of the campaigns that I fight (I get almost as much enjoyment writing about what has happened on the tabletop as I do fighting the battles)
- The modelling aspects of the hobby (e.g. building the terrain and models that I use; painting figures and vehicles; basing figures and vehicle)
- Solo wargaming (I am not anti-social, and do enjoy fighting wargames with other wargamers … but I get the greatest enjoyment fighting solo wargames)
- Creating imagi-nations and their armed forces (Although I do enjoy re-fighting historical battles, I enjoy the freedom of fighting wars between imagi-nations more)
- Fighting wargames set in the period between 1880 and 1950 … although I am gradually beginning to stretch the boundaries to encompass the Napoleonic period as well
Downsizing and pruning
One thing that thinking about moving has made me done is to take a long, dispassionate look at the contents of my toy/wargames room. The chances are that where we move to is going to be smaller than where we currently live, and although having a toy/wargames room in any new home is an absolute necessity, there is no guarantee that I will have space for everything that I own. I have therefore decided that I need to set out some guidelines for what I am going to set aside as essential wargaming resources for the future, what will be optional (i.e. I’ll take it if there is room for it), and what I can dispose of as not likely to be used again.
From the point of view of my book collection, there are very few books in the naval section that are not essential, whereas the rest of the collection could probably be reduced by upwards of 25% without a great deal of difficulty. (I do seem to have acquired lots of books that cover the same or similar topics or information … and frankly they are taking up room that could be used for things that I will refer to on a regular basis.)
On the terrain front it is a bit of a no-brainer. I cannot foresee ever needing to give up my Hexon II hexed terrain. My wargaming has become so wedded to it that I hardly use anything else. The same cannot be said for my other hexed terrain system – Heroscape – of which I have several large crates. I may need some in the future, but certainly not everything that I have. As to buildings, trees, and other terrain items … well a little bit of pruning may be necessary, but not much.
The size of the table that I use for wargaming is something that I will have to look at … although I have already begun that process. Currently I am using two IKEA swing-top tables pushed together. Each table has a top that – when closed – is 2 foot by 3 foot. When opened the each table’s top is 3 foot by 4 foot. When the tops of both tables are closed and the tables are pushed together I have a tabletop that is 3 foot by 4 foot. When the tops of both tables are open and the tables are pushed together I have a maximum tabletop surface that is 4 foot by 6 foot or 3 foot by 8 foot.
(I have recently bought from Lidl a set of three fold-flat tables that are each 100 cm by 60 cm. The tables have MDF tops covered in a black finish, aluminium frames, and can take up to 30 kg in weight. Their legs can be adjusted so that they can be set at various different heights – 73 cm, 80 cm, 87 cm, or 94 cm – and clips so that they can be clipped together to form a variety of different layouts. If I do have to get rid of my existing tables, these will be a more than adequate substitute for them.)
I cannot remember the last time I had the tops of my present wargame tables open, and over recent years most of the wargames I have fought at home have take place on a tabletop that is 3 foot by 4 foot. More recently I have been fighting a series of mini-campaigns on a small 2 foot by 3 foot board made from an office whiteboard, which will hold a 6 x 8 matrix of Hexon II terrain boards. These battles have proven to be extremely enjoyable, quick to set up and take down, and have shown that it is possible to fight wargames in a relatively small space. It is interesting to note that my mini-campaign board fits very nicely atop one of my new Lidl tables.
The most difficult area that I have to look at is my figure collection. This can be summarised as containing the following:
- 54mm-scale Britains figures for Funny Little Wars
- 25/28mm-scale Del Prado pre-painted Napoleonic figures
- 25mm-scale Minifig American Civil War figures (Union infantry only … and painted in gloss enamels back in the mid 1970s)
- 20mm-scale World War I Colonial/Middle East figures (bought from another wargamer)
- 20mm-scale World War II figures (mostly organised and based for Megablitz)
- 15mm-scale Peter Laing Austro-Prussian War figures (bought via eBay)
- 15mm-scale Peter Laing First World War figures (originally painted in the late 1970s to represent the Bolivian and Paraguayan armies of the Chaco War)
- 15mm-scale Colonial figures (Mostly Essex Miniatures that represent the armies of Britain, Germany, Turkey, Egypt, the Sudan, and the North West Frontier of India during the late nineteenth/early twentieth century)
- 15mm-scale Franco-Prussian War figures (Prussian infantry only … and painted in the mid 1980s)
- 15mm-scale Minifig American Civil War figures (Union infantry only … and painted in the mid 1980s)
- 1:300th-scale Spanish Civil War figures (painted back in the early 1980s)
In addition there are various smaller groups of figures in different scales that do not form part of the above plus two large wooden boxes of unpainted 20mm and 15mm-scale figures!
I also own a large number of painted and unpainted ROCO, Airfix, and Corgi 20mm-scale vehicles and a number of 1:100th/15mm-scale Axis and Allies Miniatures armoured vehicles. There is also at least one crate full of unmade 1:1200th-scale model warships(!) and several that contain unmade Airfix model vehicles and artillery.
So what can I get rid off and what can I keep?
Here lies the most difficult decisions that I will have to take … and so far this is what I have decided:
- Definite essentials:
- 54mm-scale Britains figures for Funny Little Wars (this is what I started with … and there is no way I will give them up!)
- 25/28mm-scale Del Prado pre-painted Napoleonic figures (as I am still building up this collection and I have ideas for fighting a number of campaigns with them, they are a definite ‘keep’)
- 20mm-scale World War II figures (I hope to use these for my long planned-for Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign)
- 15mm-scale Colonial figures
- Keep if possible:
- 20mm-scale World War I Colonial/Middle East figures (these might be useable as an alternative to my 15mm-scale Colonial figures)
- 15mm-scale Peter Laing Austro-Prussian War figures (these are nice figures but may need rebasing to make them suitable for the wargame rules that I am likely to use in the future)
- 15mm-scale Peter Laing First World War figures (I have an emotional attachment to these figures because I painted them at a time when I found painting to be very therapeutic; I may prune the collection but will not dispose of it entirely)
- Not likely to be used again:
- 25mm-scale Minifig American Civil War figures (I have never used these figures, and cannot foresee ever doing so)
- 15mm-scale Franco-Prussian War figures (I have never used these figures, and cannot foresee ever doing so)
- 15mm-scale Minifig American Civil War figures (I have never used these figures, and cannot foresee ever doing so)
- 1:300th-scale Spanish Civil War figures (they are not particularly well painted figures and do not fit in with the wargame rules that I am likely to use in the future)
As to everything else … well that is going to require a serious amount of thought as to what to keep and what to get rid of … and I have yet to make a decision as to when that will take place.
So what do I expect to be doing in five years time?
Assuming that nothing untoward happens, I expect that in five years time I will be:
- Fighting lots of solo wargames on a small wargames tabletop using very simple rules.
- Indulging myself with lots of campaigns, some small-scale and others quite large-scale.
- Concentrating on wargaming wars set during the period from 1800 to 1950.
- Mainly using imagi-national armies to fight imaginary wars.
- Indulging my passion for writing up the histories of my campaigns, and to fill them with loads of suitable photographs, maps, diagrams etc.
This then is my wargaming manifesto. Only time will tell if I manage to achieve what I set out to achieve.
I wanted to see if I could set up a landing on a defended beach using naval gunfire support … so I did. The only significant additions that I made to the rules related to the use of a large warship (in this case a battleship) to provide gunfire support. The model in question occupies two hexes … so I treated it as two units that move together but that may – or may not – fire at the same target each turn. The battleship was given a starting strength of 30 points (i.e. 2 x 15) and each gun turret fired as if it were heavy artillery but is not allowed to fire at targets that are in hexes next to friendly units. For assessing damaged caused to the battleship, the ship is treated as if it were a tank.
In retaliation for the recent border incursion, the Eastlanders decided to seize control of a small, fortified island off the coast of Morschauserland. To achieve this they sent a force of Marines – carried in a number of small steamers and barges and accompanied by the battleship Republicka – to the island.
The Eastland Battleship Republicka.
The Marine force comprised:
- 5 x Infantry Units
- 1 x Artillery Unit
The defenders occupied a number of concrete blockhouses and trenches, and comprised:
- 2 x Infantry Units
- 1 x Artillery Unit
Each of the blockhouses was occupied by a Morschauserland Infantry Unit whilst the Artillery Unit was sited within the trench system.
Turns 1 to 3
The first three turns of the battle saw the Republicka concentrating the fire of her main armament on the two blockhouses.
The two Morschauserland Infantry Units in the blockhouses suffered casualties, but were by no means suppressed.
The Morschauserland Artillery Unit returned fire, and inflicted minor damage on the Republicka.
Now that the defences had been softened up, the vessels carrying the Eastland Marines began to move towards the beach.
The Republicka now switched her fire onto the Morschauserland Artillery Unit, which suffered a few casualties.
Morschauserland Artillery Unit fired back at the Republicka, and caused her some more minor damage.
The vessels carrying the Eastland Marines began arriving at the landing beach …
… and the Republicka continued firing at the Morschauserland Artillery Unit.
For some reason the Morschauserland Artillery Unit fired at the Republicka again … but her shells just bounced off the battleship’s armour.
The first of the Eastland Marines stormed ashore …
… supported by fire from the Republicka.
The first Marines onto the beach immediately came under fire from the Morschauserland defenders, and the Eastland Marine Infantry Units began to suffer casualties.
Whilst the Eastland Marines that had already landed laid down covering fire, the remainder of the Marines landed.
The Republicka continued to fire at the Morschauserland Artillery Unit, which was close to being destroyed.
The Morschauserland defenders continued to engage the Eastland Marines, and all along the beach the number of Marine casualties began to rise.
Whilst the Eastland Marines engaged in numerous firefights along the edge of the beach (as a result of which, the Morschauser Infantry Units in right-hand blockhouse was destroyed) …
… the Republicka finally managed to destroy the Morschauserland Artillery Unit.
At this point the remaining Morschauserland troop surrendered … and the island was firmly in Eastland hands!
This battle was a great pleasure to fight, and the Eastlanders did not have as easy a time of it as I had expected. The battleship rules worked well, and show that the basic rules have an almost infinite capacity to be developed to meet specific needs.
IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the ninth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2014-2015 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can still do so if they want to. This can be done by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website. A printed reminder will also be sent out with this issue to all subscribers who have not yet re-subscribed.
Last Stand: Morschauserland vs. Eastland … the re-fight!As before, Eastland troops were trying to hold up an advance into Eastland by Morschauserland troops, who had crossed the border to try to regain control part of the disputed border area.
The Eastland commander had three units at his disposal:
- 1 x Infantry Unit
- 1 x Artillery Unit
- 1 x Tank Unit
The attacking Morschauserland force comprised:
- 4 x Infantry Units
- 1 x Motorized Infantry Unit
- 1 x Artillery Unit
The Terrain (as before)
The Initial Eastland Positions (as before)
The Morschauserland troops advanced onto the battlefield …
… and came under fire from the Eastland Infantry Unit in the town and the Eastland Artillery Unit on the hill. Both encounters inflicted losses on the Morschauserlanders.
The Morschauserland Artillery Unit fired at the Eastland Artillery Unit in the hope that it would inflict casualties on it (which it did) and to provide cover for the two Infantry Units that were crossing the river via the ford.
The Morschauserland Motorized Infantry Unit engaged the town’s defenders in a firefight, and both the sides suffered further casualties.
At the same time, the Eastland Artillery Unit engaged its opposite number with counter-battery fire … with some success.
The fighting in and around the town had developed into a hard slogging match, with both sides suffering casualties.
Elsewhere the artillery duel continued …
… and the sudden appearance of the Eastland Tank Unit was somewhat of a surprise to the advancing Morschauserland Infantry Units.
The battle of attrition taking place for possession of the town was almost at an end, with both sides almost at breaking point.
Whilst the two Artillery Units continued to slug it out, the leading Morschauserland Infantry Unit attacked (and was attacked by) the Eastland Tank Unit.
This turn saw a definite change in the fortunes of both sides. In and around the town, the Eastlanders had prevailed, and the Morschauserland Motorized Infantry Unit was finally destroyed.
Although the ongoing artillery duel ended with the destruction of the Morschauserland Artillery Unit, the Eastland Artillery Unit barely followed suit.
One of the Morschauserland Infantry Units that had been on the road supporting the now destroyed Morschauserland Motorized Infantry Unit began to make its way towards the ford …
… at the same time as one of the two leading Morschauserland Infantry Units gave covering fire to enable the other Morschauserland Infantry Unit to advance towards the Eastland Tank Unit.
Whilst a new Morschauser Infantry Unit resumed the assault on the town, another of the Morschauser Infantry Units continued to move towards the ford.
One of the leading Morschauser Infantry Units engaged the already weakened Eastland Artillery Unit …
… and wiped it out.
At the same time the fighting between the fourth Morschauser Infantry Unit and the Eastland Tank Unit continued, with both sides suffering casualties.
The Eastland Infantry Unit in the town came under attack from the bridge side of the town …
… at the same time as one of the Morschauser Infantry Units in the centre of the battlefield moved into position on the other side of the town.
The fighting between the Morschauser Infantry Unit and the Eastland Infantry Unit continued with both sides again suffering casualties.
The Eastland Infantry Unit was attacked from two directions … and was finally wiped out!
The ongoing battle between the Morschauserland Infantry Unit and the Eastland Tank Unit continued …
… and only ended when the Morschauserland Infantry Unit was destroyed.
With only a single, weakened enemy unit to oppose them, the Morschauserlanders advanced into the disputed territory. Leaving a single Infantry Unit to hold the town and ensure the bridge’s security, the Morschauserland Infantry Unit that had just assisted in the destruction of the town’s Eastland defenders moved towards the hill. At the same time the fighting between the other Morschauserland Infantry Unit and the Eastland Tank Unit finally came to an end … with the destruction of the Tank Unit.
The Morschauserlanders had achieved a complete victory over the Eastland Units that had opposed them …
… but the price had been steep.
This was a very enjoyable solo wargame, and it gave me considerable pleasure to re-fight this action.
I felt that the rules worked much better without the changes I had previously made, and I will give serious thought before making any further changes. The battle was a dingdong affair, and the Eastland troops in the town did magnificently. Had the Eastlanders had just one more Infantry Unit, there is a distinct possibility that they would have stopped the Morschauserlanders in their tracks.
The first was an ex-library copy of F M von Senger und Etterlin’s TANKS OF THE WORLD 1983, which was published by Arms and Armour Press (ISBN 0 85368 585 1). The book has 828 pages(!) with 731 drawings and 603 photographs, and covers pretty well all the armoured fighting vehicles in production and/or service across the world.
Examples of some of the book’s pages are shown below:
The second book was an edition of JAPANESE NAVAL VESSELS AT THE END OF WORLD WAR II, published in 1992 by Greenhill Books (ISBN 1 85367 125 8). The original book was compiled by Shizuo Fukui and published on 25th April 1947 by the Administrative Division, Second Demobilization Bureau. It was intended to ‘present in a very simple form a record of all the important vessels of the ex-Imperial Japanese Navy at the termination of the war‘. The original book was hand-written and contained numerous hand-drawn and annotated side views of the vessels included in the record.
What particularly interested me was the information about the lesser-known vessels used by the Japanese, including such oddities as the Maru-Yu transport submarines built and operated by the Japanese Army!
When I checked my emails this morning I found the following message in my inbox. It was entitled AIRFIX BISMARCK COMMENTS, and the text was as follows:
Try shaving the obligatory, “I’m so insecure about my looks” Do Nut beard….
You might actually be taken seriously.
Your off the mark and highly negative comments about the Airfix Bismarck set completely misses the point. It is there for the enjoyment of modelers and if your childish and apparently compulsive need to play war games is not suited for this set, keep your bloody rude and obnoxious comments to yourself!
Whoever ‘N’ is (and the email did have a name and email address), they are obviously miffed about something … but they have either got the wrong ‘Bob’ or have what my students used to call ‘issues’.
So what to do about it?
I could just ignore it … but somehow I feel that this person deserves an answer, and I have – therefore – sent the following reply:
Thank you very much for your recent email. As you have taken the time to contact me, I felt that it would rude of me not to reply.
I regret to inform you that I don’t have any insecurity about my looks; I acknowledged the fact that I am no Adonis many, many years ago. As to my beard … well we have been together now for over forty-five years and I cannot see us parting company in the near future. With regard to my need to be taken seriously … well I gave up worrying about that a long time ago and leave those concerns to people whose self-esteem needs that sort of support.
I assume that my ‘off the mark and highly negative comments about the Airfix Bismarck set’ are the ones I made on my blog back in February 2012. I will take issue with you about what you refer to as my ‘bloody rude and obnoxious comments’, as the title of that particular blog entry was ‘Why the Airfix ‘Sink the Bismarck’ set is so useful’ and contained nothing but praise for the models that were included.
Finally, may I address what you call my ‘childish and apparently compulsive need to play war games’. Well, you are entitled to your opinion about what I do in my spare time, and to some people it may well appear to be childish. So what? I happen to think that watching twenty-two overpaid, so-called ‘athletes’ kicking a football about for ninety minutes is ninety minutes wasted … but if that is what some people want to do with their spare time, that is their choice. As long as what they do does not impact upon what I want to do, I think that we can live in harmony ignoring each other.
All the best,
PS. If you are not the ‘N’ who sent me this email, then may I apologise for the certain level of sarcasm that may have pervaded the text of my email … and inform you that someone has used your email address to send a rather rude email to me.’
I somehow doubt that I will get a reply …
I was wrong; I have just received a profound apology from N, and I was only too please to accept it. I hope now that we can move on to other, better things.