Sunday, January 31, 2016

The March to Kandahar

The March to Kandahar: Roberts in Afghanistan by Rodney Atwood is handsome perfect bound paperback of about 200 pages. In it the author describes the part played by Lord Frederick Roberts (famous from Kiplings poem "Bobs") in the Second Afghan War of 1878-80. The book begins with a brief summary of of the First Afghan War, the Indian Mutiny and the internecine struggles of the Afghan court prior to the war and continues with an outline of events prior to Roberts arrival.  Where the book really hits its stride is in giving a pen picture of Roberts contradictory but often admirable character and in describing the desperate nature of the fighting in Afghanistan. The result is an approachable history which is accessible to the layman.  Atwood also grapples with the thorny problem summary executions which dogged Roberts Afghan expedition and the opprobrium those attracted in the British press.

I did not come away with a definite understanding of where the author stood on this point, though he seemed to state the case fairly for both sites.

The author style is light and readable, combining the clarity of non-fiction with a novelists eye for detail and character.  

Lastly, the maps provided are clear and have sufficient detail to allow the reader to follow the narrative scattered as it is with unfamiliar names and geography.  I found it easier to follow the written account of battles by sketching the main features of the map on paper as I read. It saved me constantly flicking back and forth.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it to any newcomer to the subject.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

Somewhere in the Ardennes

Somewhere in the Ardennes
(click to embiggen)

One of our local hostelries has a small alcove squirrelsd away on the way to the smoking area. In it, you will occasionally find small diorama. The most recent addition is this impressive piece of Second World War work, set sometime around around the Battle of the Bulge.

Royal Tiger & crew
(click to embiggen)

The figures are in 1/32 scale I reckon, but I wouldn't hazard a guess as to the manufacturers.

SS troops leading American prisoners away
(click to embiggen)

The whole set up is about 18" x 18" and I have done my best to try to capture the look of the thing albeit with a camera phone and poor lighting. They don't show up too badly despite having been taken through glass. 

German motorcyclist with sidecar
(click to embiggen)

The previous  diorama was made up of Prince August Romans in 28 mm and I am kicking myself I did not get a picture at the time.

Another angle 
(click to embiggen)

This is another of the idiosyncrasies that make this particular pub appeal to me so much. I really must find out who did the work and find out what we can look forward to in the future.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Let us now praise famous blogs II - Maiwand Day

There's a one-column brown blog
To the north of Kathmandu;
There's a little marble cross below the town;
And a brokenhearted woman
Tends the grave of the 'Mad Guru' ,
While the brown blog keeps rolling on.
(apologies to Hayes & Clarke)

I have realised that it's been a while since I've done another blog recommendation, probably because there are so many good blogs out there.  We really are spoiled for choice. But one that I have come across recently and which particularly struck me was "Maiwand Day" written by "The Mad Guru".

Maiwand Day is an unusual beast, a blog devoted to the recreation of a single battle, the battle of Maiwand.

There is some really cracking stuff up there, but if I had to pick a top three, here are some of the best posts.

1. Some British & Afghan Conversions

The Mad Guru is deeply steeped in the look and feel and history of his chosen period, the mythos of Afghanistan if you will.  No where is this more apparent than in this piece, where is painstakingly recreates figures using conversions, green stuff and considerable industry to model particular figures from the history of the 1880s.

Probably my favourite is the two drummer boys from the Kipling story, "The Drums of the Fore and Aft", a story that still brings a lump to my throat every time I read it.

2. The Battle of Charasiab

While the blog focuses on the disaster at Maiwand, where Doctor Watson picked up his wound, the Guru has since expanded his focus a little and most recently put together a scenario for the Battle of Charasiab. This is less well known than that famous field of grief,  but took place in in 1879 during Roberts march on Kabul.

What's impressive about it is the care that has gone into the figures and the terrain, the playtesting (much under valued in my opinion) and the determination to produce an experience that was both evocative of the period, but also gave a good game.

This has extended to making bespoke cards, proper quick reference charts and ensuring that those of us who cannot make it there in person, get to see high quality images of all those lovely models in play.

3. Bobbie

Bobbie was the pet of a sergeant in the 66th Berkshire, who was said to have been present at the last stand of the last eleven. He later escaped and managed to make back to British lines, where he was subsequently decorated by Queen Victoria.

The Mad Guru has commemorated him in lead, where he shall roam for evermore.

So if you have an interest in terrain making done well, colonials or just want to see one wargamers fascination explored in exquisite detail, you should have a look at Maiwand Day. 

(looking at this picture, it is quite indistinct, I shall have to take a better one on Sunday). 

My first knowledge of Maiwand came as a boy when I was always intrigued by this memorial in St. Patrick's Cathedral.  Lt. Thomas Rice Henn, a Clare man who led a rear guard towards the end of the battle, is commemorated there.   The group made up of survivors from the 66th Foot and Bombay Grenadiers made their last stand in a garden, until their numbers whittled down to eleven charged out into the enemy and were cut down. 
The inscription reads as follows; 


Having led into action a Detachment of the Bombay Sappers and Miners – the last of all the Troops to leave the line of battle, and of whom all, save eight, were either killed or wounded – he perished gloriously on the fatal field of MAIWAND IN AFGHANISTAN, July 27 1880, IN THE 31ST YEAR OF HIS AGE, Crowning his noble conduct in that disastrous combat by a deed of heroism, than which (to quote the words of the Official Despatch) “History does not afford any grander or truer instance of gallantry and devotion to Queen and Country;” covering with a small, but indomitable band – eleven in number – the retreat of the entire British Brigade and holding in check the over-whelming Forces of the enemy, who did not dare to continue their advance, until he and his brave comrades had been every one shot down.


Monday, January 25, 2016

In praise of beards

I have never had the moral character and sheer strength of will required to grow a beard. However, I have always greatly admired those men who can achieve such heights of facial distinction.

Sadly I am smothered with a chest infection at present. This has meant that what little time I have at present has to be devoted to study.  But I did get the chance to do a little bit of work on my lancer while watching the telly with Mrs Kinch. I'm no good at all with green stuff and had to go back add extra bushiness to this beard after undercoating the model. We shall see if he improves with paint.  I have found a spot of colour and gloss varnish covers a multitude of sins. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dapol Church Part Two

 I finally got round to putting this thing together. The fit was pretty good considering the age of the kit and required little sanding or trimming before gluing. 

I used polystyrene cement rather than superglue which works well for this sort of job. A few of the pieces needed a bit of straightening, but for the most part they fit without too much trouble. 

I have to add crosses, but the plastic crosses that come with the kit are quite delicate.  I might see if I can put something together with brass rod. 

All ready for the Mothers Union, the bell ringers and the Boys Brigade to start bustling around the place.

Who knows when I'll get around to painting it though. 

Thinking on 2015

Looking back on 2015, it's been an interesting year. There have been a number of personal milestones, progress on the 1:1 scale terrain project that is the house, learning to drive and passing my exams, all of which were satisfying, but ultimately only of interest to me, so we shall get straight to the wargaming shall we?

Two highlights of the year, both of which involve Waterloo, were the August Funny Little Wars game and our own "Waterloo Day". 

The Funny Little Wars game was wonderful because it was so completely different to anything I'd tried before.  A great opportunity to meet some of what Mrs. Kinch calls my "internet axe murderer" friends in person and take part in a unique game.  Top notch stuff.

I have very fond memories of our own Waterloo day because it managed to combine a number of things that were very dear to me, good friends, the spectacle of hundreds of toy soldiers strewn across a miniature battlefield and that effervescent and hard to pin down sense of place and time.  I was delighted that my Quatre Bra scenario succeeded and I can only hope that the game evoked the same feelings for the players that it did in me. 

Which reminds me of course, that I should really finish that battle report.  

So looking back at 2015, it seems to have been the year of the plucky underdog. 

Last year, there were ten projects. And the verdict was as follows. 

Three are complete or so near to being so as makes no odds. (Memoir '36, Memoir '44 and C&C Russians)
One is over two thirds there. (C&C Austrians)
Two are aborted or on long term hiatus. (C&C Dollying up and Cold War)
Two are stalled (C&C Kala Akaata; The Sword and the Flame)
The other two are ongoing. (C&C Prussians; C&C Crimea) 

Bunkers added to the Memoir '44 collection

Memoir '44 in 1/72 - MISSION COMPLETED

There wasn't much movement on this, I picked up some bunkers and added a few British Matilda's, played a few games and so forth, but nothing extraordinary. I still intend to add some British and American paratroopers to the collection.  I think my goal for this year will be to organise at least one Memoir '44 campaign day and if I accomplish that I will be happy. 

Shot from 2014s Borodino Game

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Russians - MISSION STALLED

Much like Zeno's tortoise, this project isn't going anywhere fast - but then again it doesn't really need to. I have sufficient figures to play the games that I would like to play and I've added a few over the year.  I'm two units of Russian Guard light infantry and some horse artillery short, but neither of these are urgent. I have some Strelets retreat from Moscow figures that I'd like to add, but generally pretty pleased with the current state of play. 

No. 60 Don Cossacks - recent additions to the fold

Son of Bride of Command &Colours: Napoleonics - The Crimea - MISSION  NEARLY COMPLETE

The Crimea was the success story of 2015.

Which is a sentence that only a wargamer and certain Russian presidents can write. 

What began as a side show has now blossomed into a full period. Last week I took delivery of the last of the British cavalry cavalry and while there are some gaps, they are actually pretty small considering. A few extra Russian infantry, some guns and of course some Frenchmen, who I believe were in the Crimea at some point*, will do the trick.

Sadly the record of games played is not so good.I have a sufficiency of troops for the Alma and Balaklava, but I haven't managed to play many games. Several of the scenarios I still have to work in progress stage. 

Admittedly a Hungarian hussar, but there you go.

Command&Colours: Napoleonics - The Austrians - MISSION CRAWLING FORWARD

Not as much progress on this as I expected - which is a pity as I'm awful partial to the old Kaiserlicks. I have added some units of cavalry, but no games played unfortunately. 

Some Prussians from Ebay being rebased

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Prussians - MISSION STALLED

Absolutely nothing done on this one. I acquired some more bare lead, but not a hands turn done otherwise.

Note: After writing this it occurred to me that the Prussians did actually get a little bit of an outing at our Waterloo game, so perhaps not a complete write off. 

Ruga Ruga from HAT

The Sword and the Flame - MISSION HURTLING FORWARD

The other plucky underdog of 2015. Significant progress has taken place and I have just about all the British infantry I will ever need. Some progress on the artillery, the cavalry and on the Indian army. Only three games played though, which is a pity. 

I think for the time being, I'll be focusing on the Second Afghan War and the Zulu War. Very surprised at how quickly this has progressed. 

A Russian sentry deep in occupied Loamshire circa 1980

Cold War Project - MISSION REVIVED?

This is really quite interesting.  I'd pretty much written off any Cold War activity this year, but Black Ops appears to have single handedly revived the project.  We've played three games of Black Ops in short order and a fourth is on the cards and soon. 

Really enjoying it so far. I must say. 

A marsh hex 


Actually huge amount of progress is made on terrain this year. Almost all of that was by purchase, but notwithstanding that the terrain locker is looking a lot better than it did in 2014. I now have all the hedgerows, marshes and vineyards that I could ever need and with the exception of the hedgerows, they were all homemade. A lucky eBay win win added a collection of HO scale railway buildings useful for the Second World War and Cold War games.

Some Irish Guards


I've messed around with these for quite some time, but I have never fancied myself as a toy soldier collector. My collection has always been aimed at wargaming and this is something different.  But the sight of red coated and bearskinned figures marching across a bookshelf is simply too good to pass up. 

I just cannot wait to add a Bengal Lancer to their ranks.

The key difference between the Prince August Collection and the others is that each of them is a march with a goal, while the PA is more of a pleasant country ramble. 


So regarding 2015 in retrospect, it's been a year of sort of unexpected activity. 

I'm crossing Memoir '44 off the list as anything that happens with it now is essentially titivating for the fun of it. 

C&C Russians, C&C Austrians - not much, though a certain amount of the Crimean gear is dual use, so some progress on the Russian front I suppose. Let's say we've gone from two thirds there to four fifths. 

Cold War - Revived as a source of skirmish games, but a lively and interesting one. Quite surprised by this and it's all down to the good offices of Guy Bowers and his rather smashing Black Ops rules. 

C&C Kala Akaata - Nothing has happened on this project for a year and while I hold great hopes of an Indian adventure, particularly with the advent of Newline's new Mutiny range, this is one for the back burner.

The Sword and the Flame - moved ahead by leaps and bounds.  The trick with this will be working out where to stop! A lot of the stuff is dual use though as my Crimean Turkish army will be subbing in for 1880s Egyptians. 

C&C Crimea - very close to completion so far as the Russians and the British are concerned and I've a decent six units of French infantry. Fantastic progress this year. 

C&C Prussians - On the plus side, those Prussian figures that I have, have been based and saw service at Waterloo.  But realistically, there will be quite a bit of work to be done before we get to any of the Prussian battles. 

So looking at the field of seven projects. 

Two hovering at a state of almost completion: Austrians & Russians
Two certainly over half way there: Crimea & The Sword and the Flame
One stalled: Prussians
One written off for the time being: Kala Akaata
One back from the dead: Cold War 

Not a bad year truth be told, though I wish I managed to play a few more games. 

*Or at least so Du Gourmand assures me, but who can say really.  It's the sort of thing he picks up in the gutter press and gets carried away with.  He'll be telling me pipe smoking causes Communism next. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Three little maids...

...from Kabul are we. 

These are without doubt probably the simplest figures I've ever had to paint. Lovely little sculpts from Elheim miniatures from their modern Afghan range. I got these through the good offices of my pal Mike Embree and hopefully they will be adorning an Afghan village before too long. 

Full to the brim with girlish glee. 

The painting itself was terribly simple. A simple wash of blue with some grey on the trousers and GW tallarn flesh on the hands. Bases were Vallejo Khaki with a British Armour Uniform highlight. 

All in all I think the entire process took about forty minutes. The internet seems to indicate that blue is the preferred colour of ladies from Kabul, while green and brown is preferred in the provinces. However, the look of the blue was too striking to mess with, so in this as in all things I painted the legend rather than the reality.  

In other news, I found these strange marks on the chimney breast recently. I was baffled. 

Until I looked a little closer and realised that they were paw prints. Which raises the question, why is Flashman trying to get into the chimney? I don't have an answer for this one, but I can't help but feel that it may have something to do with M-Isis. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The eyes have it

Well here are four chaps done in four different styles - from left to right-highlighted as directed by Sergeant Roddis -then blue eyes - then brown eyes - then black eyes. To be honest I think the black eyes have it myself

I was having a look through this rather excellent book the other day and it really is a feast for the eyes. There are some wonderful things in here. Though I should mention that the book was a gift from Johnny C.  

It really is a window onto a different world. 

Looking at these chaps here, Britain's seems to have favoured pink cheeks and big wide eyes. I'm not sure how well these work on my own figures, so I may go with a different approach.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Train in vain

It's all a bit grim in the country

I've always been of the opinion that the rural idyll is a bit like thrilling to the fortunes of an association football team, a very fine thing no doubt - but not really my bag. 

However, proving that anything is possible, Savage and I packed our bags and set out for a trip to the country.  After the assassination of Foyski, local reprisals were swift and merciless. The Soviets rely on local commanders and civil servants to see to the day to day running of the Second Commonwealth. These folk, viewed as traitors by the Resistance, ensure the buses run on time and that the children get to school. Alistair McGallimaufry, a senior figure in the Loamshire local government and intimately familiar with Soviet operations has been kidnapped.  He is being held at a small farmhouse in sleepy rural Loamshire and is being interrogated by the Resistance.  Fortunately, a double agent in the Loamshire resistance organisation has leaked information to the Soviets and help is on the way. 

Savage sets his sentries out

This was an extraction mission played on the compound board. I played as the dastardly Soviets and Savage took up the cudgels for the plucky Resistance.  My job was to get in and rescue McGallimaufry while he still had some finger nails left. As the attacker, I had the choice of hitting the site either at night or during daylight. 

I opted to attack at night and took a small, high quality force of four spetznatz troopers equipped with night vision and silenced pistols.  These were led by buccaneering, cigar chomping Kapitan Gowovitch, a ruthless Muscovite, whose ancestors left their native Scotland to serve the Tsar. 

Note: During the last game, I used black and white pictures to represent night fighting. Did you think that added to your reading of the report or do you prefer this more traditional approach? 

One team of three at the front, one GPMG team at the rear

Savage set up his guards in two groups clustering them together so that I wouldn't be able to pick them off.  He used a conscript list, so we presumed that his fighters were made up of demobbed lads from the 2nd Battalion (Territorial) of the Loamshires, reservists who didn't make it to the colours in time to do their bit in Central Europe and who were keen to give Johnny Ivan a damn good kicking now that he was firmly ensconced on their native heath. 

Soviet Spetkatz conducts preliminary reconaissance

In the early hours of the morning, the Trev and Dave fingered their SLRs nervously and stamped their feet against the chill.  The thrum of a distant helicopter set their pulses racing, but soon faded. They tried not to listen too closely to the sounds coming from the out buildings where the prisoner was being interrogated. 

Looking at the board, I reckoned Savage had erred by grouping his sentries so closely together as it made it possible for my troops to avoid contact until they were right on top of the target. 

Do you see anything Dave?

I grouped my troops together and moved cautiously for the first two turns.  This meant trading time for certainty as the scenario has a seven turn time limit. However, moving slowly meant that I was able to get almost on top of one group of sentries before I had to commit. 

Did you hear something? 

Trev, Dave and Tony lurked about the entrance to the farmhouse, walking a beat and failing to spot the Spetznatz that were bellying through the trees towards them.

"Phut! Phut! Phut!"

Closing the distance, the special forces troops padded forward and drew their silenced PB pistols. Dave heard a fox barking far off in the chill night and turned to make a joke to Trev and Tony. 

As he turned, he saw four men appearing out of the shadows and his friends lying sprawled on the ground. He felt something whistle past his face as he stood open mouthed. 

"Oh Gawd, it's the Rooskies!"

Now this was where things were about to get interesting. My flurry of silenced pistol shots had been quite effective downing two out of the three sentries and hitting the third, who made his save. Savage opted to have him use his action to yell and immediately put two noise counters on the table.  The card draw would be key here, if Savage got another activation, he would be able to open up with Dave and put more noise on the table. I might be able to weather two noise counters, but four would be a much more difficult prospect. 


Unfortunately for Dave, I drew a Red Joker and was Gowovitch was able to transfer his activation to his men and the dumb struck young territorial was silenced by eight rounds of 9mm Makarov. 

Spetnatz stack up at the rear of the building

However, Dave's sacrifice meant that Savage was able to roll to see if his commander had noticed the ruckus. He had, but just enough to arouse his suspicion, not sufficient to raise the alarm.  While I stacked up my lads at the back of the farmhouse, Bill Savage roused himself and went to investigate. 

"Phut! Erk! Phut!"

I had hoped to avoid raising the alarm this early, but decided to stick with the plan and eliminate the GPMG team that was covering the rear of the farmhouse.  

"Get moving you horrible bastard"

"I've a feeling in me water," said Savage fingering his shotgun and went to the outhouse where he rousted McGallimaufry out, just as the Soviet commandos stormed the building. Unable to get through the doors, they hurled grenades into the buildings, but their bird had already flown.  The game was well and truly up. 

A one man Bonegruppa

While the commandos tried to force their way into the out building, Gowovitch pelted for the side door. With only three turns left on the clock. things were beginning to look a little tight. 


Casting caution to the wind, Gowovitch booted the side door in and charged into the yard. Bill Savage opened up on him having retreated to the outbuilding, but missed. Gowovitch fired his Tishina from the hip and the grenade skipped across the window sill to detonate inside the building. 

Yelling the traditional "Urrah" of the Russian infantry, he charged across the yard and shot "Bludger" Collins who was herding a limping McGallimaufry towards the door. 

Things were looking pretty grim for the resistance, but they still had a lewis gun team in the main
building overlooking the yard. If they got an activation early in the turn, they could riddle McGallimaufry and Gowovitch, denying the Russians an important victory. 

All was not lost. 

Get ze pekege!

Fearing this I charged the group of troopers, after they (finally) managed to batter the unexpectedly stout door down, into the yard and unloaded as much suppressive fire into the farm house as we could muster.  This forced the British to hunker down, while their radio man called for help. 

Oh I think they heard us. 

Operational security meant that the Septznatz were operating without the co-operation of local forces and so were out of reach of help.  Unfortunately for Johnny Soviet, Savage rolled very well on the reinforcements roll and got a full 25 points worth of troops. 

Here comes the cavalry 
(note the spetznatz smoke in the distance)

These turned up on the road leading to the farmhouse, but as footsloggers weren't able to get into the fight fast enough.  The Spetznatz deployed smoke to cover their escape.

Thinking about it now, an MG team in a vehicle might have been a better choice. 

Follow me!

With the clock almost out of time and the troopers covering their escape, Gowovitch got McGallimaufry away and we called a halt. 

But all for naught

So in the post game washup, we rolled for Intel and I managed to get a blunder which gave a point of Intel in the Resistance. It appeared that while we had managed to extract McGallimaufry, the leaked information blew the cover of a Soviet agent in the Resistance. This led to a major housing cleaning in the Loamshire cells and the rolling up of Soviet infiltration network. 

Curses! Foiled again. 

We rolled up the next mission, which will be a surveillance job at an airport. I'm not entirely sure how we're going to set that out, but I'm sure we'll have fun doing it.