My birthday celebrations

First of all I would like to thank everyone who sent me birthday greetings … including Google!

The first thing that I do most mornings after getting up, feeding the cat, and making my wife a cup of tea is to read my emails … and the long list of them from friends and regular blog readers who wanted to wish me a happy birthday was a great way to start the day. (The cat joined in the celebrations by bolting down its breakfast and then ‘revisiting’ it all over the carpet outside our home office. It certainly brought me back down to earth with a bit of a bang.)

My personal celebrations began on Friday when Sue and I went out for lunch in the Mark Masons’ Hall Carvery Restaurant, St James’s, with some friends. We sat by the window in the beautifully decorated restaurant, overlooking St James’s Street and the entrance to St James’s Palace. The food was excellent (an hors d’oeuvres trolley, followed by a selection of roast meats with all the trimmings, a dessert trolley or cheese selection, and tea or coffee to finish up with) and including wine it cost just over £33.00 each. The quality of the food was more than matched by the company, and the three hours we spent over lunch seemed to zip past and was a great way to begin my celebrations.

After reading my emails on Saturday morning, Sue and I went to Café Rouge in Bluewater for a full English breakfast, followed by a bit of light retail therapy. We got home just after 1.00pm, had a drink, and then I opened my birthday cards and presents. The latter included INLAND WATER TRANSPORT IN MESOPOTAMIA by Lieutenant Colonel L J Hall (Originally published in 1919; re-published by The Naval & Military Press Limited in association with FIREPOWER, The Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich (ISBN 1 84342 952 7]). This was sent to me by my old friends and fellow wargamer, Tony Hawkins.

After lunch I sorted out some of my Prussian 25/28mm-scale Napoleonic wargames figures so that I will be able to begin basing them later this week, after which I began preparing for my birthday celebration mini-campaign. The idea for this was stolen wholesale from the campaign section of the PLAN B: RUSSIA 1941 wargame rules on the NUMBERS, WARGAMES AND ARSING ABOUT blog that is written by Old Trousers. The campaign works very simply, and uses a linear system that links together scenarios from Neil Thomas’s ONE-HOUR WARGAMES.

For the sake of simplicity – and because Old Trousers has done all the preliminary work for me – I am also setting my mini-campaign in Russia in 1941. I will be using my own draft modern (i.e. World War II) rules to fight the battles, although they are currently just a mishmash of my PORTABLE WARGAME: MODERN rules and my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) rules … with a few bits added.

Just after 8.00pm Sue and I went to the Saray Restaurant in Welling for my birthday dinner. The restaurant describes itself as being ‘Mediterranean’, but the food has a very strong Turkish element to it … which is something that I like. The food and service was excellent … and the experience was made all the better by the discovery that the restaurant was owned by the family of a young man that used to teach. The young man – whose name is Metin – even organised for my dessert to be delivered to our table with a lit candle in my baklava whilst ‘Happy Birthday’ was played over the restaurant’s sound system.

The perfect end to a perfect day.

Painting figures: Another experiment … and some related thoughts

Since returning from our recent cruise I have been experimenting with the use of cheap acrylic craft paints to paint figures … and I am very pleased with the results.

Other than the primer, the following figure was painted using nothing but acrylic craft paint.

I decided not to use Nut Brown India Ink to ‘shade’ the figure … and I don’t think the figure looks any the worse for it … as the following comparison shows.

I am now thinking about using this simple technique to paint some more 20mm-scale figures.

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign project … and I began to come to the following conclusions.

  • I was going to have to ‘bath-tub’ the whole thing if I was ever going to be able to stop it becoming a monster … and that was a compromise that I was unsure about making.
  • In order to stop the cost of the project from escalating to a level I could not justify, I was going to use as much of what I already had in terms of figures and vehicles rather than start from scratch.

In the end I decided that realistically I was unlikely to ever fulfil my dreams of a full-blown Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign, and that I had to rethink the whole thing.

At this point in my thinking I was reading through some of my old blog entries, particularly the play-test battles that I fought between Morschauserland and Eastland … and it made me wonder if I should consider rejigging the whole thing along similar imagi-nation lines. The pluses in favour of this are:

  • I already have an imagi-world with suitable imagi-nations. (This would enable me to avoid the ethical conundrum I would otherwise have to face regarding whether or not to wargame the politically/racially-motivated excesses committed by both sides during the real war.)
  • I would not be restricted to using specific model vehicles, aircraft, ships, figures, and even uniforms for my imagi-world version of the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War. (I recently ‘found’ a large number of Spanish Civil War figures that I could use for smaller allied contingents and/or militia.)
  • I could use one or more of the sets of wargame rules that I already have to hand including:

The negatives are:

  • That I doubt that I could find a regular opponent to control one of the two sides … but as most of my wargaming is done solo, this is not a major consideration.
  • That it might not be seen as ‘proper’ wargaming by some people within the hobby … but I have been around long enough not to worry too much about what those sort of people think any more.

I am not fully committed to this course of action as yet … but the more I think about it, the more attractive it becomes.

The immediate future

My recent visit from the black dog, followed by the cruise my wife and I took to the Western Mediterranean, has given me the opportunity to think about my wargaming and my blogging. Since I got back from the cruise I have been blogging a lot less than I had previously (I was up to three blog entries a day at one point!) and have felt much better for it … and so I am trying to discipline myself to writing no more than one blog entry per day. During the cruise I also read through quite a few of my previous blog entries, and noticed that I had set myself targets that I had not met … and that I had then stressed myself trying to achieve them.

That will not be happening again.

So what will be happening in the immediate future?

Firstly I have two more blog entries to write about my recent cruise. One will be about Sir John Moore’s tomb and its surrounding garden, which my wife and I visited whilst we were in La Coruña. The other will be about the small military museum that is situated in La Coruña.

Secondly I hope to be taking part next Sunday in a wargame that deals with the 1920 Battle for Warsaw. This is being organised by one of the members of the Jockey’s Field Irregulars and will feature 15mm-scale figures, a large squared terrain board, and Richard Brooks’s OP14 rules.

Over the next week or so I will be very busy on the Masonic front, and this is going to take up quite a bit of my time. In a week’s time one of the Lodges to which I belong will be doing a Third Degree, and the rehearsal for that is taking place this evening at Freemason’s Hall in central London. Tomorrow evening – and on the following Tuesday evening – I am taking part in a rehearsal for the Installation of the new Master into the Chair of my Mother Lodge … and the actual ceremony will be taking place on the following Wednesday. Although I don’t have a lot to say and do at either ceremony, I do need to practice … and the only way that I can do that effectively is to go to the rehearsals.

Over the past few weeks I have also done some thinking about the various projects that I have yet to finish or make some progress with. Since getting back I have tried to paint some of my L-shaped built-up areas … and fell foul of the recent changes Games Workshop have made to their range of paints. As their paints are the only ones that I can find on sale in my area, I have – over recent years – used them for most of my modelling … but I doubt that I will be doing so again in the future. They are now so thin that it takes several coats to cover something adequately, and even then the paint seems to give an uneven finish. They are probably ideal for painting figures where you are going to want to shade and highlight everything, but not for the ‘gorilla with a six-inch paintbrush’-style of painting that I am capable of.

I have decided that I do want to make some progress with my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project … and the inspiration for this has come – in part – from the recent blog entries on Conrad Kinch’s blog. He has been fighting a Battle of Kursk campaign using Richard Borg’s MEMOIR ’44 rules, and it looked like the sort of wargame that I want to fight with my 20mm-scale collection. I have therefore taken the plunge and ordered a copy of the MEMOIR ’44: OPERATION OVERLORD set, which contains enough additional cards and dice for me to run games for several players. Being the sort of cussed person that I am, I will probably end up using my own rules rather than the MEMOIR ’44 ones (MOBAT [MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE] and/or Ross Macfarlane’s 20TH CENTURY SQUARE BRIGADIER immediately spring to mind), but the option of ‘borrowing’ ideas from Richard Borg’s rules is something that I would be a fool to miss out on.

As to building up my collection of 25mm/28mm-scale Napoleonic figures … well that is going to be a long-term dip-in-and-out project. I realised that this was a project that I did not want to rush, and by doing it as and when I feel the need to do something different I will be able to take my time with it.

Lots to think about

Yesterday’s blog entry generated a lot of very useful comments, and I have already begun to think about possible improvements that I can make to my existing ITCHY AND SCRATCHY rules.

I have also been thinking about the mid-twentieth century version of the rules that I want to develop. I already have a title – TOMMY AND JERRY – and I have my PORTABLE WARGAME: MODERN and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE rules from which I can borrow ideas.

I do, however, have a couple of problems. One is aesthetic and revolves around whether I should develop the rules for individually-based figures or multi-figure bases. The other is more complex and revolves around my desire to re-fight the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War … but without the political aspects of the war between Nazism and Communism intruding into my campaign. In other words I do not want to field SS and NKVD units in my games … but without them would I be re-fighting the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War?

I do have a possible solution … and that is to use imagi-nation versions of the two sides. I have already done this for my wars/battles set in 1891, and it would not be impossible to do the same for 1941. Germany would become Teutonia and Russia would be SPUR (the Soviet Peoples’ United Republic). Teutonic allies could include Magyarvia, Remania, and any number of other smaller states.

The latter is just an idea at the moment … but it would enable me to equip my model armies with generic rather than specific weaponry, which in turn would allow me to ‘mix and match’ all sorts of stuff that I already have available to use.

Re-visiting MOMBAT

Over recent weeks David Crook has been acquiring a large collection of Green and Tan Army Men figures. These are approximately 42mm tall and are sold in bags of up to 200 at a time.

I understand that he is going to use them to form two generic mid-twentieth century armies, and he suggested that he would probably use them with my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) rules. This spurred me to re-visit the rules, and I soon realised that they were not quite as fault-free as I remembered. I have, therefore, been spending some time over the past few days revising and – hopefully – improving the rules.

One major change that I have made to the rules has removed the need to use the special Battle Dice that I had previously ‘borrowed’ from Richard Borg‘s MEMOIR ’44 wargame. These special dice have now been replaced by normal D6 dice.

I hope to play-test the revised rules in the near future, and once I have I will make them available via the Internet.

Hexblitz II … or Memoir of Modern Battle with knobs on?

In the midst of dealing with my father’s future care, I have still been plugging away at drafting HEXBLITZ II. To be honest I have wasted a lot of time on this project … but it has given me something to think about at a time when my mind needed some form of diversion.

Currently my draft looks less like HEXBLITZ and more like MEMOIR OF MODERN WAR (MOMBAT) with knobs on! I started by grafting the system for calculating a unit’s strength or combat value from HEXBLITZ onto the MEMOIR OF MODERN WAR (MOMBAT) game structure. I also added the playing card tile-based Turn Sequence from my PORTABLE WARGAME: WARGAMES RULES FOR THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, and the stacking limits and support rules from OPERATIONAL ART. The resulting draft still needs some work … but I can at least see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Although this was not what I originally set out to do, it seems to work … and once my father is settled into his temporary care home placement I hope to play-test the completed draft.

Going round in circles

I have spent over an hour this morning working on my third draft of HEXBLITZ II … and have just realised that I have metaphorically painted myself into a corner. From past experience I know that when this happens I need to leave things as they are and have a serious re-think.

The problem is that I am trying to bring together features from a number of my previous wargames rules (HEXBLITZ, OPERATIONAL ART, and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT)) … and I cannot seem to get the elements to gel together. They almost do … but not quite.

What I now intend to do is to print off copies of the rules I want to meld together and highlight the various elements I want to use. I will then literally ‘cut and paste’ the highlighted passages together, and then I will have a basic draft to work from.

An interesting suggestion

I exchange emails with David Crook on an almost daily basis, and in yesterday’s he made a very interesting suggestion regarding basing my figures for my planned Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign. What he suggested was that I should base all my figures on MEGABLITZ-sized bases, with a small square of magnetic material fixed to the back of the base.

The reasoning behind his suggestion is that:

  • The figures can be used with the MEGABLITZ rules system … and I already have quite a collection figures and vehicles based for use with MEGABLITZ;
  • The bases would be compatible with my PORTABLE WARGAME: MODERN rules (both the basic rules – where whole bases are removed – and the Big Board version – where the existing single-figure removal system would be replaced by changeable magnetic strength markers);
  • The bases could be used with Richard Borg‘s MEMOIR ’44 rules (or my own MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE [MOBAT] rules) and Hexon II terrain. Changeable magnetic strength markers could again be used to replace the single-figure removal system.

David‘s suggestion has a lot of merit … and would solve quite a few problems, including allowing me to avoid having duplicate collections of figures and vehicle.

At present I am giving his suggestion serious – very serious – consideration … but I will not be making any decision in a hurry.

Getting your priorities right

Over the past few days I have had lots of time to think. There is usually not a lot to occupy ones mind whilst sitting at a sleeping relative’s bedside … and since last Friday I seem to have done quite a lot that. I have used the opportunity to do some serious thinking about my wargaming priorities … and have made several short, medium, and long-term decisions.

In the short-term I want to finish play-testing my nineteenth century land/naval wargames rules. This will include another battle between the Rusland Navy and the Fezian coastal defences, and with a bit of luck I might manage that within the next week or so. I also want to re-visit my MEMOIR OF BATTLE and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE rules, if only because they will give me a break from my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

In the medium-term I want to get some models made and figures painted for both my nineteenth century and Interwar/World War II projects. For the latter I have to decide between:

  • Using 15mm-scale vehicles with 20mm-scale figures (my current plan … but one that may well be subject to change OR
  • Using individually based 20mm-scale figures and vehicles OR
  • Using 20mm-scale figures mounted on multi-figure bases and individually based vehicles that are compatible with my existing MEGABLITZ collection.

In the long-term I hope to:

  • Re-fight the MADASAHATTA Campaign … or at least a version of it;
  • Build up at least one 54mm-scale FUNNY LITTLE WARS army;
  • Stage an Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign.

These are my current priorities … and all I have to do is to try to achieve them. On paper they look quite simple and easy targets to reach – given enough time – but I suspect that in reality they might be a bit more difficult to attain.


One of the things that I bought at the recent SELWG show was a number of pre-cut MDF bases from Warbases. The company produces a wide range of different bases, and I was particularly interested in the ones that took figures mounted on one pence pieces.

This morning I had the opportunity to see what the two, three, and four figure bases looked like with some 20mm-scale figures on them … and I think that look very good indeed!

I can envisage using the four-figure bases for COMMANDS & COLORS-style games (including BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, MEMOIR OF BATTLE, and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE), a slightly larger version of the three and two-figure bases for MEGABLITZ, and any or all three of the base sizes for the PORTABLE WARGAME, depending upon the size of the grid squares/hexes.

I think that by going down this route I will be able to both have my cake and to eat it. In other words I will be able to have single figure bases and multi-figure bases available to me as and when I need then and will no longer need to have several different collections of figures for the same period mounted on single and multi-figure bases.