It’s a small world

Last Friday I visited my sister, who lost her husband on Tuesday 16th October, following an operation for aggressive bladder cancer.

Visiting my sister and going through some personal paperwork it transpired that the surgeon who tried to save her husband was the same man who successfully operated on me almost a year ago.   Clearly I survived my prostate cancer, but sadly Chris was more seriously afflicted and did not.  He was in the High Dependency Unit for some days before finally giving up.

A secondary “small world” connection was discovered   when going through Chris’s address book.  It turns out that an old friend of his in the folk music scene married a chap who was on the same organising committee as I was in a re-enactment society.

We have never been close in a personal sense, but it seems that we were in fact more closely linked than either of us knew.

 

Landscaping in two scales, and random thoughts

Inspired by spotting the last available item of steel racking on display in our local Homebase yesterday, I have ordered some “special offer” racking for the shed and for the lock-up in which all our camping stuff is stored.

I hope to better organise this stack of boxes housing my Kallistra terrain hexagons, and at the same time to get the tents and awnings off the sometimes damp floor of their storage facility.

Terrain production for the next Arnhem game proceeds with painting the last two railway hexagons.

While the paints were out and the railway sleepers drying I took the opportunity to paint a few bits of other wargaming projects: some 6mm MDF cavalry horses and the musket stocks of the US “Toy soldier” style infantry extracted from the box game of the American Civil War.

I have discovered that my bench in the shed is really not suitable for early Autumn morning painting.  The amount of sunlight is brilliant, but directly into my eyes! 

But while I have been painting the sun had dried the grass in the back garden so I had a go at mowing what is humorously referred to as a “lawn”.

The weed collection having been trimmed to an acceptable level I ventured out to the garden centre for some restorative grass seed for the bare patches.

One Kilo of grass seed and three bags of mixed soil and horse dung later, covered with a protective grid to keep dog and pigeons off, I could return to small scale landscaping.

(Sparky is not pleased with this new arrangement of his playground.)

While applying a steel metallic surface paint to the top of my model railway lines, and then applying the same to the ACW infantry barrels and bayonets I was reminded of an encounter some years ago at Kirby Hall (a multi-period reenactment event staged by English Heritage).  

 – Returning to the camp from our Napoleonic era display we encountered a Sealed Knot musketeer carrying a somewhat rusty matchlock musket of dubious safety.

– He asked us if our firelock barrels were “dummies”, made of aluminium.  We replied: “No, proper steel, proofed for shot, but clean.”

 – Our cleaning method was to scour the barrel, inside and out, using tools available in our chosen period, followed by an application of olive oil to lock, stock and barrel.  We learned the “olive oil” trick from some French re-enactors at a somewhat wet event on 30th August 1997.  (The date remains in memory because the Princess of Wales died the next morning and our weekend was spoiled.)  Returning to the subsidiary topic, an oil-soaked cloth in a small leather bag, used to wipe the metal parts of the weapon at the first sign of rain prevents rust and keeps the musket working in most weather conditions.  It works equally well for swords and pole-arms.

Before adding the newly-painted tiles to the wargame table I watched the film “Stalingrad” in the original German language, and it reminded me what a total shitty waste of lives real war is.  Reminders of H G Wells comments at the end of his book, “Little Wars”. 

Somehow the Germans are able to show the gritty reality in their anti-war films so much better than the English-speaking countries.  Maybe it is something to do with the comparative suffering of their countries?  The only film coming close to depicting the horrific reality of war that I have watched is the Russian “Come and See”, where the director even used live ammunition to enhance the reality!

And with all that in mind, this evening’s plan is to set up the townscape of Arnhem for yet another table top representation of historical futility.

A new game for the young – or not so young

As a distraction from running around our re-enactment campsites and shouting a lot, I have developed a game for our youngsters whereby they can sit still and shout a lot.

This is a “wargame”, but is intended to represent more closely the way that we represent battles as re-enactors rather than actual war.

The original game was designed for use on a card table with a grid of 12 x 12  2” squares, but for portability, last weekend it was played on a cheap cork notice board ruled into 11 x 7 squares.

First the location of the two trees on the field are diced for. Each player rolls 2D6 for the position left-right and 1D6 for the position forward from their base line of one tree. Trees represent barriers to movement and shooting.

Next each player dices for their army. The armies in my game were constructed from four boxes of 30 Years War plastic figures found at a previous “muster”: one of cavalry, one of artillery and one each of the infantry for each side. I added three cannon from an Airfix Waterloo French set.

The full selection of available troops for each side is:
3 guns, each with 2 crew.,
3 pairs of cavalry,
2 groups of 3 pikemen and an officer,
7 groups of 4 musketeers or dragoons,
The General, with a drummer, ensign with flag and one pikeman.

Each player dices for his army of 12 units:
General is mandatory.
Artillery: 1,2 = 1 gun, 3,4 = 2 guns, 5,6 = 3 guns,
Cavalry: 1,2 = 1 pair, 3,4 = 2 pairs, 5,6 = 3 pairs.
Pike: 1,2 = no pike, 3,4 = 1 x 4 pike, 5,6 = 2 x 4 pike.
The rest of the army, to make up to 12 units/bases (hereinafter called “bases”), is made up of musketeers.
Because there is a maximum of 7 musket bases, if the Artillery/Cavalry/Pike contingent is less than 4 bases combined, then the shortfall is diced for:
1,2 = 1 gun, 3,4 = 1 pair cavalry, 5,6 = 4 pike.

The armies are now deployed on the first two rows of the board, from each player’s perspective.

Next first player is diced for, higher die becoming first player.

The turn sequence is:
General issues movement orders to any bases adjacent to his square (including diagonals).
Units ordered to move do so, according to their capabilities,

Any unit with a valid target may shoot. Cannon, 6 squares, muskets 3 squares, cavalry 2 squares (to the right only).

Hand to hand combat. Any base with an enemy adjacent to the front must attack. Cavalry roll 2 dice per figure, infantry and artillery 1 die per figure.

Having now witnessed several games I have spotted hidden subtleties not intended in the original design. For example:
With the 11 x 7 board it is possible to launch a cavalry attack in the first turn that will wipe out the enemy in their sector but will leave the cavalry isolated without command. (The “Prince Rupert” effect).
Two guns side-by-side in the centre as a battery may preclude the enemy General from moving across the line of fire to give orders.
Any unit on the back row of the field has a 1/6 chance on average of being forced off the field by any enemy action.
One should always keep a sacrificial unit between the enemy and the General.

The above is a summary of the complete rules, the current version of which I am happy to supply on application to paul.wisken@btinternet.com.

Battle results for last weekend:

Archie (aged 9): 6-4, 6-1, 6-3, 1-6, 5-6.
Casualties inflicted: 24, Losses 20. 3 won, 2 lost.

Paul (me) (aged 64): 4-6, 1-6, 6-1, 1,6.
Casualties inflicted: 12, Losses 19. 1 won, 3 lost.

Graham (Archie’s dad): 3-6, 2-3**
Casualties inflicted: 5, Losses 9. 0 won, 2 lost.

Steve (Cavalry commander): 6-5, 3-2, 6-1
Casualties inflicted: 15, Losses 8. 3 won, 0 lost

** General retreated from the field. Game conceded.

So Steve is best and Archie is in line for CO when Steve retires.

The best laid plans – A trip “oop north”

On the Sunday and Monday of the English public holiday weekend (25th-27th August) the English Civil War Society mounted a battle display at Hylton Castle, Sunderland.
Since the camp site was available from Thursday 23rd to Wednesday 29th we decided to make it a holiday and see the sights. After all, the weather was wonderful and it is an area we have not previously explored.
And so we planned to set off from Hampshire early on Thursday 23rd and make a leisurely progress northwards, returning in the same way on Wednesday 29th.

Wednesday 22nd
Alas, Chrissy’s first day of holiday, planned for packing and preparation of the caravan, was annulled due to a subordinate’s illness, requiring her to go to the office to run the monthly payroll. Naturally, being in the office meant that she made herself available for every other work assignment and packing did not happen as planned.

Thursday 23rd
We packed the caravan and started off around two hours later than planned. All went well until we stopped for what passes for a meal at a motorway service area near Nottingham. Returning to the car we found one tyre flat.
We used the HGV facilities to pump it up and stopped at every second or third petrol station over the next 150 miles to check the tyre, which held up.
Arriving about three hours later than planned, we found that the campsite water supply had not yet been provided. An empty bowser was parked around 500m from the camp site. Plans were in hand to get it filled. The contract with the council was for a mains supply with three taps, but it was clearly lost in translation.
Our friends had saved us some “Spag-Bol” for dinner, after which we fought the caravan awning in the high westerly wind until it was erected. Then we returned to the water point for our supply, connected the barrels to the caravan and fell into bed, exhausted.

Friday 24th
As expected, the car tyre was flat again. We summoned the AA via their mobile phone app. About an hour later the mechanic called to say he was 200 yards away and needed talking into our temporary campsite. The app showed he was around 20 miles away at the time!
After we described the problem, he re-inflated the tyre and sent us off to Kwik-Fit tyre services around 15 minutes away. They found two small cuts in the tyre, either side of a previous repair. The tyre had to be scrapped. Unfortunately Kwik-Fit could only source a replacement about a week later and at a cost of around £200.
They sent us across the road where another garage was able to source a tyre immediately and fit it within 90 minutes at little over half the cost.
So with half the day wasted we did some shopping and returned to camp.

Saturday 25th
We made a trip north across the Tyne to a couple of camping shops in a vain attempt to source better and/or additional camping equipment, after which we stopped off for fish and chips (and a sausage for the dog) at the seaside.
Returning to camp we were told that our horses had arrived at the battle site four miles away.
Four of us drove to the site to find this was a false alarm, but also that an inadequate area had been fenced off for the horses, and we had to re-arrange and extend the 6ft x 6ft metal fence panels, before setting up an electric fence to keep the horses from different stables separated.
No water supply had been provided for the horses, so alternative arrangements were put in place involving ferrying 25 litre containers from the nearest tap around 500m away. This continued throughout the weekend.

Sunday 26th
Our caravan battery was registering low voltage, so I fired up the petrol generator (brought “just in case”) to top it up.
I played and supervised a few wargames played with my game designed to keep the kids amused, but which has grabbed the attention of some of the adults in our group. I lost at three of the four games I played.

The re-enactment battle started at 2:30 pm, and despite the driving rain proved to be a cracker from the cavalry point of view. The enemy cavalry, some of whom were drawn from a Scottish display team “Riders of the Storm”, were highly interactive and a good time was had by all. Our sponsors, Sunderland town council, were delighted.
After the battle, returning to camp we found that our caravan was without power, the newly charged battery now registering 0v. I installed the spare battery and all seemed well – so far.
In the evening a ceilidh band played at the beer tent until late.

Monday 27th
Off with the dead battery to Halfords, where we bought a solar panel charger for the caravan, and eventually had the dead battery checked, only to find it was registering a full charge.
Back to camp to get into C17th clothes for a cavalry drill and skill at arms display, for which I was providing the commentary. Not only did I have little clue about the planned display sequence but parts of it were carried out behind, from my commentator’s viewpoint, a large bush. It all went reasonably well, considering.
The afternoon battle was even better than Sunday’s version. Our biggest problem was crowd management. Thousands turned up and overflowed the designated viewing area.
Returning to camp some of our number had to depart for home almost immediately. Others prepared for an early departure on Tuesday, and then we sat and chatted around the camp fire.

Tuesday 28th
We awoke to reports of several thefts around the campsite. Our group’s gas range, a mountain bike, the beer pumps from the beer tent, and several other items had been taken. The police were called.
All except us from our group packed and left during the morning. We prepared to spend the afternoon at Beamish museum. Then we found that due to mis-communication most of the facilities had been or were being removed from site, and so with this and the security issues (our caravan now standing alone near the far edge of the field) we decided to go home.
So our leisurely drive home on Wednesday turned into an 8 hour slog home on Tuesday, arriving home around 10:30 pm. We transferred the food from the fridge and collapsed into bed.

Wednesday 29th
A day spent unloading, cleaning and preparing the caravan for our next trip to Blenheim Palace Horse Trials in a couple of weeks, where we will have real 240v electricity instead of gas and batteries.

We never really got to see the sights, but despite wind and rain and our technical issues we had a good break with good friends. Roll on next summer.

A wargaming and general update.

So what have I been up to since the last blog post?

 Market Garden campaign.

More US paratroops from GHQ , Adler and Irregular Miniatures have been painted.  The Irregular Miniatures chaps were in stock awaiting painting and must suffice as infill for the numbers needed for my next battle, but will be replaced by more identifiable models as and when I have time. 

I have also been painting and dipping many new vehicles for the Guards Armoured Division, in preparation for the next campaign game in the queue.  They now await final detail and a flat varnish.

WW2 – the whole war.

I have both initial forces ready for 4th September 1939 – the Polish counterattack.  Terrain hexes are listed and need to be dug out of the stock, in preparation for the battle, when the Market Garden engagement is over.

Some potential reinforcements on the German side need to be based and (re)painted.

Operation Sealion 1940

Although I halted the play-by-email campaign, the project is still viable for the future. I found in the attic the 00 gauge model electricity pylon kits that I intended to convert into a Chain Home radar station in 1/285, and so started work.

AWI/Revolutionary War 

I have prepared and printed the labels for counters to play the battle of Chatterton’s Hill using Richard Borg’s “Battle Cry” ACW  boards and adapted hex-based “Black Powder” rules.

ECW table-top for youngsters.

 Yesterday I play-tested and tweaked my 3rd edition rules for the card table and 20mm plastic soldier battle game that I designed for the under-12s in our cavalry re-enactment group, but which has since been embraced by the “grown-ups” too.

Over the August Bank Holiday we intend to run a “knock-out” competition.

French Revolutionary wars

In my guise as a “Pensionnaire des Invalides” at re-enactments I use the same card table with wooden models to replay whatever battle we happen to be at. Although my models consist if several strips of MDF figures glued together as blocks, I think they suffice. I have been painting the basic white fronts to French infantry. More detail will be applied later.

ACW. 

I have a biscuit tin full of plastic 20mm board game figures based for “Black Powder” games.  I used them earlier this year to teach myself the rules. Now I need to give them at least a basic paint job, probably in high gloss as “toy soldiers”. I started, simply because the paint pot was to hand, with the cardboard bases.

Life in General.

Having failed to find out why Facebook no longer removes the “unread” markers from posts, I have closed my account and regained at least one hour each day for more useful purposes, including this blog.

I have also been to my local NHS practice (only took 6 weeks to secure an appointment) to discover from the X-ray results of two months ago that the degenerative bone disease that has previously taken both my hips (or something very similar) is now in my spine.  Next steps:  fill in a form (of course), then I may be allocated to an osteopath, a chyropracter or an accupuncturist for further mucking about with my body, according to the will of the NHS.

Meanwhile, on the wargaming front, sitting and painting is painful; standing and pushing models about is painful; sitting before a computer is painful.  So everything will be done in small doses.

And at the end of the month I intend to drive with a caravan from Hampshire to Northumberland and back (with an intemediate stay!). This will definitely be carried out in small doses!

A day of many parts

Today, despite being well into the second half of July, is dull and drizzly, following spectacular thunderstorms last night.

So I am confined indoors and catching up with several domestic and wargaming tasks.

I was inspired after listening to the latest Meeples and Miniatures podcast and after our recent fire to start documenting my wargame collection for insurance purposes.  It will be a long task.  It took me a week to collate from memory and photographs what we lost when the two sheds burned down.

Then I found a compiled list of unit values for Panzer Leader 1940 at www.imaginative-strategist.layfigures.com for use in my Operation Sealion games, which I began to incorporate into my game records.

Next task was the pile of ironing, helped along by watching a couple of episodes of “By The Sword Divided”.

DSCN0706

This is a BBC drama series screened between 1983 and 1985, like a sort of 1640s “Downton Abbey” which coincided with my early years of  English Civil War reenactment, and later episodes included some of my oldest – and in some cases sadly departed – friends as “supporting talent”.  The DVD series was released by the BBC in 2004.

Then I turned to some figure painting, namely the 1790s 6mm MDF soldiers from Commission Figurines.  These little “toy soldier” style figures are a little fragile, and because I expect them to be handled by small people I glue them in ranks of 3 to form blocks.

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During the course of this I managed to drop a paint pot lid onto the beige carpet.  I hope that after some immediate panic action and a steam cleaner I have (almost) got away with it.  Time for a second application of carpet cleaner now before the Memsahib sees it.DSCN0707

And it’s still only 1:30pm!  Plenty of time for more catastrophes before bedtime.

A new project

As if I needed anything else in my wargaming life I have decided to create a game for the younger members of my ECWS cavalry regiment.

We have a couple of 8 year old potential troopers, currently very able at fetching and carrying, horse “poo-picking” and firewood cutting.

I am trying to make a table-top game that will involve them and keep them from their other nefarious activities.  At our last event I was able to pick up 4 boxes of Revell Thirty Years War plastic soldiers (2 infantry, 1 cavalry, 1 artillery) for £5 (originally £4 but the stall owner had no change).

More to follow as it progresses in time for the August Bank Hoiday.