What next with my Napoleonics?

Now that I have the bit between my teeth, I am determined to renovate, varnish, and base some more of my Napoleonic figures. The choice has fallen on my Dutch-Belgians, and they are currently on my work table awaiting my attention.

I have enough ‘new’ figures to add two more units (i.e. regiments) to my existing Dutch-Belgian army, and once they are added it will boast enough figures to form a purely Infantry Division (i.e. no Cavalry or Artillery at present) and a spare Infantry Regiment.

The figures are all wearing white trousers and Belgic shakos, and from a distance (quite a distance!) will pass muster as US Infantry for the War of 1812 … which makes them useful if I ever want to re-fight any of the battles from that war.


To keep me ‘in the mood’ for all things Napoleonic, I have just finished reading C S Forester’s THE GUN ..

… and have just begun DEATH TO THE FRENCH.

I’ve read both books before, but as I enjoy Forester’s writing, it has been a very enjoyable experience to re-visit them.


Shetland Islands War Memorial, Lerwick, Shetland Islands

The Shetland Islands War Memorial is situated just across the road from Lerwick Town Hall. It comprises a tall cross on a cross-shaped plinth.

Each of the sides of the plinth has a pair of cast plates which bear the names of the dead of the First World War, listed in alphabetical order under the name of the Shetland parish they came from.

The Memorial is flanked by two later stone walls, each of which has a pair of cast plates bearing the names of the dead of the Second World War from each parish.

In front of the memorial is an inscribed paving slab in memory of Lieutenant William Bruce VC.

It is interesting to note that Lieutenant Bruce was not a Shetlander (he was born in Edinburgh), but his father – Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Murison Macrae Bruce of the 4th Punjab Infantry – was a younger son of William Arthur Bruce of Symbister, Shetland. The Bruce family was one of the so-called County Families of Shetland.


William Arthur McCrae Bruce was born on 15th June 1890 in Edinburgh. He was educated at Victoria College, Jersey, and then at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. After he had passed out and gained a commission, he joined 59th Scinde Rifles (Frontier Force).

The regiment served on the Western Front in 1914–15, and it was during the Battle of Givenchy that Lieutenant Bruce won his Victoria Cross.

The citation was included in the London Gazette on 4th September 1919, and states:

The late Lieutenant William Arthur McCrae Bruce, 59th Scinde Rifles (Frontier Force), Indian Army.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. On the 19th December, 1914, near Givenchy, during a night attack, Lieutenant Bruce was in command of a small party which captured one of the enemy’s trenches. In spite of being severely wounded in the neck, he walked up and down the trench, encouraging his men to hold on against several counter-attacks for some hours until killed. The fire from rifles and bombs was very heavy all day, and it was due to the skillful disposition made, and the example and encouragement shown by Lieutenant Bruce that his men were able to hold out until dusk, when the trench was finally captured by the enemy.

The Victoria Cross was presented to Bruce’s mother by the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey, Major General Sir Alexander Wilson, on 13th March 1920. One of the Houses of Victoria College, Jersey, bears his name, and ex-pupils of the College bought the VC when it came up for sale in 1992. They presented the medal to the school, and it is currently on loan to the Jersey Museum.


Where are they now? Finished and waiting to be added to my collection!

Since last Friday I have been slowly but surely renovating, varnishing, and basing the Minifigs ‘S’ Range Prussian Napoleonic figures that I originally painted nearly fifty years ago.

The figures had not suffered too much damage in storage, but they did need a bit of renovating before they were varnished. They are now gloss varnished (a process that seems to lift even the dullest of colours) and based on MDF bases that have been painted with Humbrol matt Grass Green enamel paint.

I am now able to add them to my existing collection of Napoleonic figures, and I intend to use them to form the first of my Prussian Infantry Divisions.


HMS Caroline

Whilst Sue and I were on our most recent cruise, we stopped in Belfast and our ship – MV Azura – was moored not far from where HMS Caroline is currently docked.

Although we did not have time to visit this important ship, I was able to take quite a few photographs.

HMS Caroline seen from the starboard side

HMS Caroline seen from forward on the port side

HMS Caroline seen from astern

HMS Caroline‘s replica 6-inch guns, which are mounted towards her stern

HMS Caroline‘s forecastle area

HMS Caroline‘s replica 4-inch guns

HMS Caroline‘s Bridge and Spotting Top

HMS Caroline‘s replica 4-inch forecastle guns

HMS Caroline was a C-class Light Cruiser. She was built by Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, and was laid down on 28th January 1914, launched on 29th September 1914, and completed in and commissioned on 4th December of that year.

Her characteristics were as follows:

  • Displacement: 4,733 tons
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 420 ft (446 ft overall)
    • Beam: 41.5 ft
    • Draught: 16 ft
  • Propulsion: 8 boilers, 4 x Parsons independent reduction steam turbines producing 40,000 shp and driving 4 propellers
  • Speed: 28.5 knots
  • Complement: 325
  • Armament (as built): 2 × 6-inch/45 Mk XII BL guns (2 × 1); 8 × 4-inch/45 Mk V QF guns (8 x 1) ; 1 x 13-pdr QF gun (1 x 1); 4 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (2 x 2)
  • Armament (by 1918): 4 × 6-inch/45 Mk XII BL guns (4 × 1); 2 x 3-inch/20 cwt Mk I anti-aircraft guns (2 x 1); 8 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 x 2)
  • Armour: Belt: 3 to 1 inches; Decks: 1 inch; Conning Tower: 6 inches

In 1916 HMS Caroline was part of 4th Light Cruiser Squadron and took part in the battle of Jutland. In 1917 HMS Caroline was fitted with a forecastle runway for launching an aircraft, but this was removed in late 1918. She was paid off in February 1922, and became the Training Ship for the Ulster Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve two years later. Except for the period between 1939 and 1945 when she acted as the administrative centre for the escort ship stationed in Londonderry, she remained in that role until 2008. In 2011 she was decommissioned and handed over for preservation as part of the National Historic Fleet.


I have been to … the Battle of Jutland exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

As the weather remained good, Sue and I decided to take a trip to Greenwich so that we could visit the Battle of Jutland exhibition that is currently on display at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

We drove to Greenwich Park, and managed to find a parking space near to the Observatory and not far from the statue of General Wolfe.

We then walked downhill towards the back entrance of the museum. Before going in we decided to sit for a while in the sun near the colonnade that runs from the main part of the museum to the Queen’s House.

This gave us a magnificent view of the Observatory …

… and of General Wolfe’s statue.

Having had a rest, we made our way to the back entrance of the museum, passing on our way the Titanic Memorial Garden …

… and a huge ‘ship in a bottle’ model that has recently been installed near the entrance.

Entrance to the museum is free, and after passing through the main doors we were greeted by a member of staff who directed us towards the exhibition. This was located in one section of the ground floor in the main hall.

The room at first appeared to be very badly lit, but this had been done to add emphasis to the individual exhibits.

The first exhibit that you come to tells the story of the naval arms race between Britain and Germany, and shows each of the battleships and battle cruisers built by the two nations up to the start of the Great War.

The largest exhibit in the room was a massive model of one of Admiral Beatty’s ‘Big Cat’ Battle Cruisers.

The only other large ship model in the room was of a British Destroyer.

Around the walls were a number of large-scale plan drawings, paintings, and battle ensigns.

Most of the rest of the exhibits were of a more personal nature and included the medals awarded to Rear Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot …

… as well as other medals, an account book, and assorted relics of the ships and men that fought at Jutland.

There was also a very poignant display about some of the people who fought in or were affected by the Battle of Jutland.

As we left the exhibition, we saw a small cabinet that dealt with the cultural importance of navies in European society during the run up to the outbreak of the Great War.

It contained a magnificent toy model of an ironclad battleship, the like of which I had never seen before.

This exhibition is well worth seeing if you are going to visit Greenwich but in my opinion it is not worth making a special trip just to see it.


Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 27th – 30th July 1936

The airlift, which was to carry the Army of Africa from Morocco to the Mainland, began when German and Italian transport aircraft arrived in Spain’s North African territories.

Spain at the end of July 1936. The red areas are under Republican control whilst the blue areas are under Nationalist control.


Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 26th July 1936

The COMINTERN agreed to send volunteers and funds to aid the Republic.

Adolf Hitler agreed to send military aid to the Nationalists after negotiating with representatives sent to Berlin by General Franco.


When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions

Since last Saturday Germany has been the scene of two further vicious attacks – the murder of a Polish woman and the wounding of two other people in Reutlingen, near Stuttgart, followed by what appears to have been an IS-inspired suicide bomb attack that injured fifteen people outside a restaurant in Ansbach, Bavaria – and now there is news of a fatal shooting incident in Fort Myers, Florida that has ended with two dead and sixteen people injured. Yesterday twenty people were killed near a security checkpoint in Baghdad by a suicide bomber, and this morning a car bomb in Khalis, Iraq, killed at least seventeen.

As the quote from Shakespeare’s HAMLET states, we seem to be living at a time ‘when sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions‘.


Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 25th July 1936

The Nationalists captured the Somosierra Pass to the North of Madrid.

The first shipment of French aircraft sent as aid to the Republican Government arrived in Spain.


28 years later: My small part in the early development of the Matrix Game

Some time ago I was discussing wargame design with someone from the US professional wargaming community when he asked me if I had ever taken part in a Matrix Game. When I chuckled and replied that not only had I taken part in quite few but had also been one of the first people to write and run Matrix Games in the UK, his reply stunned me. ‘You’re not mentioned in any of the academic literature‘, he stated … and he did it in such a way as to imply that I was not being completely truthful. At the time this stunned and shocked me, and it has been niggling me ever since. I therefore decided to put on record my minor involvement in the early days of Matrix Games, if only to assuage my annoyance.

The first time I came across Matrix Games was in 1988(!). Chris Engle – the real instigator of this method of wargame design and someone whom I think is worthy of much greater acclaim and acknowledgement within the whole wargaming community – wrote an article entitled VERBAL ANALYSIS WARGAMING that was published in the May 1988 issue of THE NUGGET (No.44). In it he outlined the first tentative concepts that eventually evolved into Matrix Games.

By the time the next issue of THE NUGGET was published in July 1988 (No.45), the concepts were beginning to come together and develop into a far more practical system. Chris stated in his article MORE ON VERBAL ANALYSIS GAMING that:

The process of play of a MATRIX game involves a dialogue between two conflicting players with a referee. The dialogue can be used to resolve several types of critical situation. Institutions can be “attacked” by problems from within that make the institution ineffective in doing its job (for instance, over-hunting in a primitive culture that hunts for food). Dialogues also resolve any situations where other player’s moves may critically affect the first player. Obviously there are more ways to use dialogues but I have not thought of them yet. In any case, the players present logical, opposing interpretations of the outcome of an event. They then argue as to which argument is better. If they cannot reach a decision in a short amount of time the referee decides.

At COW88 (the 1988 Conference of Wargamers) Chris Kemp – the former editor of THE NUGGET – put on a session where we attempted to play a Matrix Game. It was reasonably successful and fairly well received, and both the late Paddy Griffith and John Armatys wrote encouraging offside reports about it.

In the 1990 WD (Wargame Developments) Annual, Chris Engle submitted an article entitled THE SWASHBUCKLERS – A MATRIX GAME. In it he described a ‘Dastardly Pirate Game’ that he ran for a group of gamers aged nine to thirteen. It was laid out as a skirmish and each of the players took on one of the characters. He included a description of the prompt or ‘cue’ cards that were used to help the players formulate their arguments, these cards being split into ‘topics’ (e.g. Motivations, Emotions, Fencing, Brawling, Results), each ‘topic’ containing relevant cards (e.g. Lunge, Walk, Wound, Anger).

By the end of 1990 Chris Engle had begun to publish EGG (the EXPERIMENTAL GAMES GROUP newsletter) and as editor of THE NUGGET, I was able to keep members of WD aware of Chris’s thinking about games design. I was even able to publish one of Chris’s non-Matrix games – AGAMEMNON: AN ANCIENT WARGAME – in the October issue (No.60). When Tim Price took over as editor, he continued to publish Chris’s articles about game design in general and Matrix Games in particular.

At COW1991 Tim Price and I felt confident enough to stage a Matrix Game based upon one of the scenarios Chris Engle had written. PENINSULAR WAR 1808 accommodated seven players – each with a specific player brief that included victory conditions they had to try to achieve – used a large hand-drawn map of Spain, a number of figures to represent the characters and any military forces that had under their command, and what had by then had become the pack of standard 54 Matrix ‘cue cards’. We ran the game twice … and by the end of it we were convinced that the basic Action, Result, and Three Reasons structure worked, and that players did not need the ‘cue cards’ once they had played through a couple of turns.

Photographs of the PENINSULAR WAR 1808 Matrix Game run at COW1991. The map is hand-drawn and the playing pieces were selected from Tim Price’s extensive collection of LEGO figures.

Spurred on by this success I finally designed a Matrix Game of my own. It was entitled THE BALKAN LEAGUE and followed the general design of Chris Engle’s designs but with a larger pack of Matrix ‘cue cards’ (108 rather than 54) in order to enable all the players to be able to exploit the Matrix. (This game was published in NUGGETs Nos. 73 and 73 in early 1992, and subsequently in WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED No.66 in March 1993.)

Later in 1992 Chris Engle published his CAMPAIGN IN A DAY: A MATRIX GAME, CAMPAIGN IN A DAY: READY TO PLAY SCENARIOS, and STUPID SIMPLE RULES booklets. The latter were a set of wargames rules specifically designed to go with the campaign booklets, and contained some innovative ideas which still remain to be fully developed. By this point I had become convinced that there was no need for the Matrix ‘cue cards’, and that they could be replaced by a laminated list that each player could be given, and not long afterwards Chris adopted this innovation himself. (My modified Matrix Game Playsheet was published in THE NUGGET No.79.)

Up until this point Matrix Games had been essentially kept ‘in house’ in the UK by members of WD, but at the Victorian Military Society’s Show in January 1993 and at SALUTE 93 in March I and a group of members of WD – including Tim Price – ran a revised version of Chris’s SAVE GORDON! Matrix Game a number of times in front of the general wargaming public. The responses were interesting, and at SALUTE 93 they varied from ‘It’s just a boardgame’ from two young men who forced their way through the crowd of people around the table – and who then promptly left – to one chap who stood and watched two games because he enjoyed the interaction between the players. His parting comment was to the effect that he had never thought that wargaming could be a spectator sport until he had seen a Matrix Game in action! SAVE GORDON! subsequently appeared in WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED No.77 in February 1994.

I designed my most ambitious Matrix Game in 1994, and presented it at COW1994. Entitled VIVA LA MUERTE!, it was a Matrix Game about the Spanish Civil War. The one significant change that I made was to make each player give two Arguments; one had to be Political and the other Military. Furthermore each player had present them in written form, and they were deal with by the umpire – me – in the order in which they arrived during each turn. This had the dual effect of driving the pace of the game along and not allowing players to concern themselves with producing counter-arguments to what other players might propose to do. The whole text of the game was published in the 1994 issue of the WD ANNUAL.

My final involvement in the development of Matrix Games was to run a play-by-mail campaign during 1995. I chose Chris Engle’s THE MARCH TO THE SEA, which was about Sherman’s advance through Georgia in 1864.

It involved players who were located in various places across Europe – including Tim Price, who was on active service with NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in Bosnia – and used the ‘first come, first adjudicated’ system that I had developed for my Spanish Civil War Matrix Game. The campaign lasted for eight moves and proved to be very successful, and a full transcript of the campaign was later published in WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED.

I think that I can justifiably argue that I did my little bit to push the development of Matrix Games along in their early days, and hopefully if or when someone records a history of their development, I might just qualify for a small footnote.

For examples of some of the Matrix Games I have designed and/or run, visit the following links to the MapSymbs website (which also contains a whole section about Matrix Games):