Sunday, July 23, 2017

Someone has blundered....

The Remnants of an Army by Lady Butler

...and I am that someone.  I recently received an email about my recent piece in Miniature Wargames Issue 411 from Mr. Andrew McGuire.  The piece was a scenario for "The Men who would be Kings" ruleset based around the battle of the piquets which took place at the beginning of the Little Inkerman battle.  Mr. McGuire wrote;

"I just wanted to make a small correction to Conrad Kinch's article on adapting The Men Who Would Be Kings to the Crimean War in his Little Inkerman article in MW 411.

In his order of battle, Conrad refers to the British 95th regiment as the 95th Rifles, and gives them the rating of sharpshooters. This would be applicable to the 95th regiment of the Napoleonic Wars, but not to that of the Crimea, as the 95th became the Rifle Brigade in 1816, when numerous regiments were disbanded, and the regimental number 95, along with many others, became vacant. It was reassigned to a newly raised regiment in 1823, as the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot. This is the regiment which fought as part of the 2nd division in the Crimea, and has no connection to the 95th Rifles. 

Two battalions of the original 95th's successor regiment, the Rifle Brigade, served in the Crimea, but not at the engagement described in the article."

He is, of course, absolutely right.  Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  This is a case where if I was thinking I would have realised that I was making a blunder, but I saw the regimental number and my brain temporarily went on holiday.  As it happens, I would argue for keeping the sharpshooter (4+ shooting) rating for the 95th on this occasion.  There are two reasons, the real reason and an after the fact rationalisation. The rationalisation is that the lads on the field only represent a small proportion of the regiment deployed as skirmishers and therefore is quite possible that they were the best shots. The real reason relates to game play; in the scenario two British players have to compete to hold off the Russian columns for as long as possible while vying with each other to earn a Victoria Cross.  The 95th are deployed far back on the board (because that was where they were stationed) and will therefore have little chance to fire in the early portion of the game.  This would handicap their player, so I rated them as marksmen so that when they did get to fire they would be more effective - which leveled the playing field a bit and made it more of a contest. 

Thank you very much to Andrew for writing and pointing out my mistake.  It's rare to get specific feedback on anything, so I was very glad to get it. 

Prof. Spencer on lessons learned from the Boer War

I've been laid up recently and so spent rather more time listening to YouTube than I would usually.  Thanks to Rob Enfield of British Muzzleloaders, I came across the Western Front Association which has put a series of lectures on the Great War (including ones of the Eastern Front!) up on YouTube. There is some really fascinating stuff there, by genuine  historians working in the field,  and their channel is well worth a browse. 

A look at Marshall Petain's Great War service. 

By the way, if you enjoyed the lecture on the Boer War, the same author has an article on the differences between British and Boer marksmanship, which you can read here

Now, if you'll excuse me I had to go and see what blunder I should commit next. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A painter once again

Trooper Hobbes 

Babies, physiotherapy and all the other demands on my time have left little time for painting.  My eyes are functioning quite well these days, but the problem is stamina*.  Close work is quite taxing and I find myself saving that for writing work at present.  However, the yen to paint was on me quite fiercely a little while ago and I pulled this chap out of the box. A Rogue Trader era Squat Trooper, I think he is a Bob Olley sculpt. 

I decided that this should be Trooper Hobbes of the Imperial Army.  The name came to mind as he is nasty, brutish and short and the rest followed on from there. 

Ready to zap things for the Emperor 

Going back to painting after such a long time away was actually quite intimidating, but after some great help and encouragement from JB over at the Lead Plague blog, I got over the hump.  Another excellent example of the Freemasonry of the hobby. JB helped me pick colours which would work together, something I'm usually hopeless at.  Since so many of my figures are historicals, there is rarely much choice in how to approach them.  Total freedom tends to breed a sort of analysis paralysis. Many thanks JB. 

Stylishly turned out for the battlefield of the 41st Millenium

Trooper Hobbes is a recent addition to the Imperial Army, which he enjoys for the regular meals and the possibilities for violence.  I do not think that the officer that tries to tell him that his natty white gloves and boots are "not regulation" will have a good time of it. 

This way towards enemy

I'm very pleased with how he turned out.  It was an evenings work and cost me a blinding headache, but I was determined to finish him.  With a bit of luck, he may get some pals in the near future. 

*Ahem...that's what she said. *hilarity ensues, calls for order, much merriment, etc* 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Well done chaps. Do keep it up. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Turkish Command

The Pasha taking his ease, accompanied by pipe bearers

The most recent additions to the Conrad Kinch Red Fez repertory company are these Strelets Crimean Turks which were painted for me by the ever talented Tamas.  These fellows will be doing duty in my Turkish Crimean army and my 1880 Egyptian army. 

The view from the rear

One of the joys of Strelets sets is the additional "character" figures that you get mixed in with the more usual stuff.  I think they really add something to a table layout and make it look a bit more alive. 

I really like the depth of colour Tamas has managed to 
get on the frogging and epaulets. 

Recent CCTV footage from Kinch Court

In other news, in a previous post I wrote that my physiotherapist was asking me to twerk as part of my therapy.  Physio is going well and I am improving.  It's always a slow process and I am very lucky to be seeing a doctor who has managed to bring on such improvement.  

So I was lying when I wrote that he asked me to twerk.  Or to put it more correctly, I was joking and exaggerating for comic effect.  The exchange I described in my blog was accurate, right up until that point. Twerking has no therapeutic purpose in dealing with balance injuries and I do not include it in my daily exercises. 

I do it mainly for fun, the many health benefits and of course, to set a good example for the children.  

The local Imam giving it socks

The last figure that Tamas did is this fella, an Imam who will be seeing service in the Crimea, Egypt and possible Afghanistan before too long.  He's the first non-Christian clergyman I've added to my collection of miniature clerics.  

I wonder who will be next?

Monday, June 26, 2017

A recent trip to the physiotherapist

Image from Wikipedia. 

CK: *walking back and forth while waving one of his hands in front of his face* You know, your profession must be a terrible temptation for a practical joker.
P: Oh yes. It's a tough one some times, particularly if they're not the nicest patient. I mean you tell people to pat their head and rub their belly or pull faces in the mirror and they'll do it.
CK: *staring at X painted on a window while shaking his head from side to side* Really?
P: Really. That's the thing with physio, people with muscle's hard to get them to do their exercises. People with balance injuries, they really stick to it. They will do anything.
CK: *standing on one leg and sticking one finger up his nose and one in his ear* Gosh.
P: Yup. Now stare at this X draw on the card and twerk for the next thirty seconds or until you feel dizzy.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dutchmen in space

Some stalwart Hollanders

I played the Quatre Bras scenario from Command & Colours Napoleonics with Sydney recently.  He is determined to learn how to use the British and their allies properly.  The game was a 9-6 win for the perfidious French and a full report will follow soon. 

However, what it did bring home to me was the fact that a goodly proportion of my Allied troops were still using blu tac'd bits of paper as unit labels rather than the rather nicer versions Capability Savage has put together.  Cue rattling through my boxes and drawing up lists and looking at uniform references as I've forgotten what regiments belong to. It's a nice little job that I can rattle along with between baby wrangling sessions. 

It's also brought home to me how Peninsula focused my uniform references are.  I'm good on Russia 1812 and after, the Peninsula and the broad strokes of most of the national armies (i.e. I can generally tell one from another) but I would struggle to identify individual regiments. 

More labels is probably a good idea then. 

In other news, I've been watching "The Expanse" on Netflix and very good it is too.  It's a multi-stranded look at a future in which Mankind has colonised the Solar System, but remains divided against itself.  Earth and Mars are at odds and "the Belt" (essentially everywhere else) is caught in the middle.  It's a slow starter and the first few episodes spend a long time setting out their stall, but the Expanse is good old fashioned science fiction about ideas and frankly that is thin on the ground these days. 

Highlights include the wonderful Shohreh Aghdashloo who plays a ruthless Terran politician with dash and aplomb. She is magnificent throughout.  Thomas Jane does a great turn as a conflicted and corrupt copper - a limited man struggling against his environment and his nature.  The rest of the cast are not bad by any means, but these two shine very brightly indeed.  Aghdashloo in particular puts me in mind of Dumas's Richelieu  - that antagonist-not antagonist, the likeable adversary and the compromised friend. It is a nuanced performance that accomplishes a great deal in relatively limited screen time.  I'm torn between a desire for more of her and the knowledge that such  would inevitably dilute the power of whats there.

Great stuff - and thankfully because its Netflix it is only ten episodes, so it dodges that usual American bullet of overstaying its welcome by being a million years (or twenty two episodes) long.  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Some staff wallahs

The War Correspondent

I took delivery of these chaps a few months ago.  I haven't a bean where they came from exactly, they were in a box of waifs and strays that I got from John Cunningham and I thought I'd add a few eccentrics to my gentlemen in red. 

This chap will be doing double duty as a war correspondent and possibly a staff officer as and when he is needed.  In fact in the late 19th century, those roles often overlapped as officers would write letters home for publication, Winston Churchill being one famous example. 

Illustration by Michael Roffe, from Wilkinson Latham's Osprey on the Sudan

I had the idea of a game where players are on the same side, but are competing with each other for victory points.  They have limited control over the war correspondent, but he acts as a victory point multiplier. In essence, he exaggerates what ever is actually occurring on the field.  So if you gain two victory points for defeating the enemy or gaining an objective and the correspondent is there, you will gain a third point.  But if you lose points, due to casualties for example, the correspondent will cost you an extra point for every two you lose.  Consequently, if you think your competitor is going to have a bad time of it, it would be wise to send the correspondent over his way. 

An idea to mull over. 

One of the cavalry gentlemen

The vast majority of my late Victorian army is in red coats because I rather like redcoats and even when they are inaccurate they are what I think of when I think on the period.  I think it's the equivalent of always deploying my Napoleonic armies in parade dress.  But I thought it would  a good idea for the senior officers and staff chaps to stand out a bit.  This fella will be doing duty as a staff officer, perhaps an interpreter, in scenarios to come. 

I should point out that these are not my own work, but come from the ever talented brush of Mr. Tamas Lehoczky of Hungary.  A fellow 1/72 enthusiast, I think his impressionistic, high contrast style works exceedingly well in this scale.  The photos don't quite do it justice, but the highlights do a lot of the work and that look very tasty on the tabletop.  

An image I found on Pinterest, unfortunately I can't put a name to the source. 

*incomprehensible Scottish noises*
(perhaps Mr. Gow would be kind enough to translate?)

This is an old Hinton Hunt sculpt again from the redoubtable John C. In this case, I don't think the camera has been kind to Tamas's excellent brushwork as the red in the tartan stands out rather more than it does on the tabletop. Regardless, I expect McLehoczky of the Fife McLehoczky's to fall upon the enemies of the Crown with all the claymore wielding fury of his alcoholic Australian forebears. 

Another image I found on Pinterest
(Tamas was going to add the extra mustache, but ran out of greenstuff)

Pinterest is a mine of stuff, though often badly referenced, but it would be the act of louse to complain about something one has not paid for.  From the pictures I found with this image - it should refer to India in the 1890s.  The main thing is that he looks the part and cuts a dash and that's good enough for me. 

Portrait of the Artist as a young Sloth

In other news, we discovered that young Teddy Kinch was adopted.  It was a surprise to us all, not least his mother, but there you are. The poor little chap had terrible trouble with wind. To be honest we could call him Kamikaze Kinch, though the wind in question is of doubtful divinity. 

Kamikaze Kinch becomes great distressed until placed over one knee and gently, but firmly pounded on the back for a few minutes.  There is then a long drawn out PAAAARP  like a sad trombone, followed by a small sigh, whereupon he goes completely limp for hours at a time.  

It was a strange way to discover that my son was part sloth. 

But we shall love him and raise him as our own. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cuirassier at the Retreat from Moscow

Paris is that way

Life here at Kinch Court has been rattling along as usual.  The Kinchlets are ever a delight, albeit a somewhat sticky and malodorous delight at times. Lack of time and the problem with my eyesight has made painting a very occasional pleasure, however, I can still enjoy the fruits of others labours.

Our man in Hungary sent this fine fellow several months ago and he is currently guarding one of the bookshelves in the library. The kit is from of MB and is an unusual piece.  Generally it's up to the model maker to create the scene, but this one comes as you see it.

Makes me shiver even looking at it

Victory has a thousand fathers while defeat is an orphan as the Chinese saying goes, but I'd be confident in saying that the 1812 campaign marked the beginning of the end for the Napoleonic domination of Europe.  It's not an aspect of the period that I know enough about, but I will have to address that once I can really read again. 

Our man in Budapest has definitely done an excellent job though.  The horse in particular is a delight.  I was almost tempted to add a small wisp of teddy bear stuffing to the figures, to show their breath - but would be gilding the lilly.  His work stands on its own. 

The level of detail and shading on the colours is excellent

Sir Harry Flashman VC is going to begin a new and exciting chapter in his life

Otherwise the days are just packed, but with those small family dramas and pleasures that are of interest to those concerned in them and to few others.  One thing that I have done is dig out one of the novels  that I wrote before I started my current job.  The thing is broadly speaking in publishable form, has been edited within an inch of its life and Capability Savage has done some really topping work on the layout and such.  

Mrs Kinch has been literally and figuratively kicking me in the seat of the pants to get some of it into print and she has finally won the day.  

I've never had great luck with fiction.  I've always written it, but I've never really had any success with getting it published.  To be honest, the idea of letting it out into the wild is making me slightly queasy.  The idea that my baby will be heading out into the cold cruel world on its own is unsettling. Not least because it may not be any good - it may be the same when it is time to send the children to school.  Presumably it will be worse, but for all that expect to see a book with my name on it appearing for sale relatively soon.  

Speaking of books, our cuirassier has taken up his post defending the bookshelves from the barbarians. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Keeping ticking along

Joy & Forgetfulness has been quite quiet of late - so much so that some of you wrote to ask why.   Mainly I've had my hands full - delightfully full in fact.  Unfortunately Mrs Kinch became very seriously ill immediately after the arrival of the twins, so there is a little bit more to be done around the place.  She is on the mend, but it will be a long time before she's back to her full Mary Poppins like efficiency.

Matilda (left) and Edward (right, underneath the chair)
He tells me the clutch is gone and that I'm going to have to send to Germany for a replacement. 

I've managed to make a great deal of progress since I was injured, but unfortunately a full recovery seems to be eluding me. My balance is slowly returning, but my ability to focus my eyes is taking its time to return.  This means that I can not read for very long and have to ration my screen time quite bit.

However, writing in some form or other is a sickness that I have yet to be cured of.  The last eight months have been the longest period of forced inactivity I can remember and still being able to write, even in some form has been a good way of remaining chipper.

It means that I have to be more selective about where I put my screen time.  I've been able to keep up my column in Miniature Wargames, but its been a bit of a struggle. Joy & Forgetfulness has taken a bit of a back seat - however, I'm hoping to blog a little bit more often now that the symptoms are abating somewhat and I'm getting better at managing them.

My laptop is no doubt beaming details of my darkest secrets to the CIA and the Intelligence Section of the Chinese Communist Party as I type this.  You'd be astonished at the number of things that come with a camera and a microphone these day. Siri, the assistant on my iphone, is perfectly capable of taking dictation.  This does occasionally lead to hilarious typos - my favourite occurred while I was writing a piece on Spanish guerrillas, which Siri rendered as Spanish Auto Giros.  Presumably it is my thick and incomprehensible Irish accent - perhaps a course in colloquial Californian might be in order.


One of the tricks I use to get the most out of my time, is to set up the computer and just come back to it for ten minutes.  The machine is on a chair because if I have one of the Kinchlets in the sling, I can type standing up.  I set an alarm on my phone so that I only work for ten or fifteen minutes, thus avoiding the concomitant headache, as it's very easy to overstay my welcome, get lost in what I'm doing and end up with a ringing headache for the rest of the day.

On the whole the system is working relatively well.  I get a couple of hundred words done a day and get to feel like I'm keeping my hand in, while still keeping an eye on the Kinchlets.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to up J&F to at least one post per week - we'll see how it goes.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lately I have mostly...

Battle of Sorauren

Been neglecting my blog, but in the meantime I've been up to other things.  We managed to get the Kinchlets christened (more on that in a future post) and play some games.

Of most immediate interest to the wargaming fraternity is the Battle of Sorauren, on which a full report will follow shortly.  But in brief, it was an excellent game - we played the new epic rules for team games and they were a success.  The new mechanics keep the game moving briskly and I think lead to a game that has more engagement for all the players.  The prospect of sitting in a "quiet" sector for a few turns which bedeviled our earlier efforts has been banished.

Little Boy Blue

I don't watch much television as I'm quite limited regarding how much time I can spend looking at a screen at the moment.  However,  ITVs recent four parter "Little Boy Blue" has been some of the best television I've seen in a long time.  The programme is a dramatic retelling of the events behind the murder of Rhys Jones in Liverpool in 2007.  Jones, who was eleven years old, was returning home from football practice when he was shot dead by a member of a local gang.

The facts speak for themselves, but in sea of police procedurals that are largely indistinguishable from each other, Little Boy Blue stands out.  The writing is matter of fact, but all the more raw for it.
Stephen Graham is cast against type as a hard working copper struggling to put together a case.  He really impressed me. There are few histrionics, just a man attempting to do a job and gather evidence which will stand up in court.

Sinead Keenan and Brian F'O Byrne are brilliant as the Jones family, left rudderless after the loss of a child.  I've grown very tired of the sort of emotional pornography that a lot of crime procedurals indulge in. Sinead Keenan invests her performance with the dignity that the subject matter deserves. She shows the ugly side of grief and the our often inadequate response to it.  Most of us will never see ourselves portrayed on screen, even fewer of us will see it done well. Melanie Jones has been well served by this serious and sensitive portrayal.

This was drama that moved me. Unreservedly recommended.

Bob in full fig

Rob is a chap who runs the British Muzzleloaders channel on YouTube.  He produces quality videos on historical shooting, tactics, gear as well as battles.  As the name implies he concentrates on British and Imperial firearms and history. Rob is yet another in that phalanx of stalwart Canadians who continually brighten up the internet and brings a level of polish and imagination to his videos that is rarely surpassed.  I particularly liked his videos in which he used video editing software to "clone" himself shooting in different poses so that he could show exactly what a skirmish line would look like. 

You can find his channel here

Probably my favourite of Rob's videos is his one on the battle of Tel el Kebir. 

All his stuff is freely available on YouTube and there are ninety or so videos on his channel for you to work through.  He has recently set up a Patreon account for those who wish to help support his work, though clearly the pledge (a dollar a month) is not comensurate with the level of work that goes into his productions. I have pledged my dollar and I would urge you to have a look for yourself. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Some of Dave Lycett's collection.

60mm Persians from Expeditionary Force Miniatures
(click to embiggen)

Friend of Joy & Forgetfulness Dave Lycett sent me these pictures recently - all 1/32 (or thereabouts) additions to his collection. I think you'll agree, he's done some lovely work. He's planning to use About Ceasar, About Cromwell and About Bonaparte, three rulesets by Dirk Donvil for his games.

He's a regular at the Little Wars Revisited boards which are run by Mike Lewis of Black Cat Miniatures, which is a haven for 54mm collectors and wargamers. You'll find it at

These are quite big photos and repay closer study, so do click on them to have a closer look. 

I'm grateful to Dave for sharing them with us and will be adding a few more over the next few days.

60mm Companion Cavalry from Expeditionary Force Miniatures
(click to embiggen)

60mm Persian Cavalry from Expeditionary Force Miniatures
(click to embiggen)

A rather magnificent chariot
(click to embiggen)

A Call to Arms English Civil War Pike & Shotte
(click to embiggen)

60mm Persian Infantry from Expeditionary Force Miniatures
(click to embiggen)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

Christ is risen!

Wishing you all a very peaceful and blessed Easter.

I saw this while I was at church today and thought that a story of reconciliation might be appropriate.

The Door of Reconciliation
"In 1492 two Irish families, the Butlers of Ormonde and the FitzGeralds of Kildare, were involved in a bitter feud. This disagreement centred around the position of Lord Deputy. Both families wanted one of their own to hold the position. In 1492 this tension broke into outright warfare and a small skirmish occurred between the two families just outside the city walls.
The Butlers, realising that the fighting was getting out of control, took refuge in the Chapter House of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The FitzGeralds followed them into the Cathedral and asked them to come out and make peace. The Butlers, afraid that if they did so they would be slaughtered, refused.
As a gesture of good faith the head of the Kildare family, Gerald FitzGerald, ordered that a hole be cut in the door. He then thrust his arm through the door and offered his hand in peace to those on the other side. Upon seeing that FitzGerald was willing to risk his arm by putting it through the door the Butlers reasoned that he was serious in his intention. They shook hands through the door, the Butlers emerged from the Chapter House and the two families made peace.
Today this door is known as the “Door of Reconciliation” and is on display in the Cathedral’s north transept. This story also lives on in a famous expression in Ireland “To chance your arm”. "
(Text from St. Patrick's Cathedral website)
Apologies if I have posted this before. If I have - stories of reconciliation bear repeating. If I have not - well here's something new. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

CP Models Second World War British Characters

I took delivery of these chaps recently.  They are some special Second World War British character figures from CP models and very lovely they are too.  They were painted by my pal Tamas and I think he did a fine job.

First amongst them is this diorama piece of a lightly armed commando killing a German sentry with a Fairbairn Sykes dagger. I haven't the faintest idea what I'll be able to use this for in a game, but it brought to mind all my bloody thirsty antics as a small boy reared on Commando, Warlord and Battle! comics. 

My father still tells the story of finding me, aged eight, in the grip of a high fever one night.  He had checked my bedroom only to find it empty and searched the house in a bit of a panic. He found me in the living room hiding under the sofa.

  "Dad are you crazy ? Get down - the Germans will see you."

Apparently it took some struggle to get me back to bed. 

I have a few military police figures - this chap is the latest addition. The redcaps are a much maligned branch and I've always wanted to do a game about them.

Possibly for traffic control? Or rear security. 

I've been reading through some of the war diaries of the Provost companies during the Normandy campaign.  It's a catalogue of points duty, dealing with looting and disorder and a steady trickle of casualties from shelling. I have been pondering how one might approach that in the context of a game. 

Another rarely seen figure on the wargames table, the army padre. 

Our own wargaming padre has written movingly about the experience of ministering to those in uniform.  He has also just posted a piece about the Canadian chaplains serving the Lord and the troops at Vimy Ridge which is well worth reading and which you will find here

Curiously enough, I have learned that a Kinch ancestor served in the Great War as an RC chaplain and paid for his devotion with his life. Something we shall have to dig into a little more deeply. 

This chap is described in the set as a despatch rider, but he seemed to be doing points duty here.  I shall have to scare up on the old Airfix motorcycle for him, possibly leaned artistically against a wall or some such. He may end up being inducted into the redcaps. 

This is a fine little set showing some of the rear echelon elements of an army. I would certainly recommend them and Tamas has done a fine job.  Hopefully Joy & Forgetfulness will be a little more active over the next few months - Kinchlets permitting. 

Getting a baby sitter is always such a chore. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Portable Wargame

My copy of Bob Cordery’s “The Portable Wargame”  arrived some time ago.  I’ve been following Bob’s progress with this for a while now and it’s been interesting.  Bob clearly thinks very carefully about how he designs game mechanics and what ought to go in and to an extent, which is almost more important, what should be left out.  The result has been an elegant beast indeed.

First impressions? A very nice clean piece of book design reminiscent of Charles Grant's "Battle".  Clear text with decent margins so that the text has room to breathe on the page and is sharp and easy to read.  It is illustrated throughout with black and white photographs which are surprisingly crisp for a print on demand publisher, I was very impressed with that.    My copy is a small hardback about A5 in size.  The rules look straight forward and the worked examples are clear.  I haven't spotted any typos in my read through.  This may sound like a strange point to harp on, but for a print on demand book I was very impressed with the print quality.  I got the hardback and the quality of the binding is very good indeed.

The book itself is broken into a couple of different sections;  a history of gridded wargames, an explanation of the various pros and cons of using squares versus hexes, a potted history of the development of the Portable Wargame and two sets of rules, one set for the late 19th century and a set covering from roughly the Great War to the Korean War. .

It should be borne in mind that the rules for both periods are interchangeable.  There is a great deal of commonality between the two and that it will be in the details (like handling tanks,etc) that the differences become apparent.  This approach should be familiar to players of Commands & Colours or the Black Powder stable of games, where games share mechanics across periods.

These are simple rules, meant to be played on a gridded play surface that isn’t huge.  The whole project began when Bob found an old chessboard and began to think what sort of wargames he could play using it as a small handy play surface. Consequently, the rules are simple and quite abstract. You won’t find finely grained distinctions between Bren guns and Spandau’s here, but you will find horse, foot and guns (or artillery, infantry and armour in the Second World War variant) with each occupying its own niche in the battle plan.  The result is quite like the sort of broad strokes approach taken in the 1956 British Army war game and a couple of professional wargames rules I’ve read.

Curiously enough, probably one of the best sections of the book is a two page spread on the author’s “principles of wargaming”.  It is an absolutely fantastic resource for anybody with an interest in designing wargames because it brings a great deal of clarity of thought to the process. The author is someone who has thought deeply about his subject and I think it repays study. Bob Cordery is a retired teacher and I think his background in education shines through, because he tackles not only how rules are constructed, but also how they are used.

The Portable Wargame is exactly that, aimed at a small playing area (a chessboard would be perfect - the rules are drafted with the expectation of an eight by eight playing field) and small forces. Depending on what scale you use, twenty to thirty figures is a perfectly respectable army. This means that you can raise a number of forces for not much more than the price of a pint. In fact, the author discusses a number of different ways of representing units using multi-based figures, single figures and outlines some options with regard to casualty markers and roster systems.

The dice are all six siders, so realistically no special equipment is needed for this game, no templates or special dice. Just some figures, a board and a few small pieces of terrain are all that is required.  The turn sequence is equally simple, fire artillery (this is simultaneous), then dice for initiative, the acting player then moves and shoots and then play returns to his opponent.  The result is a stripped down, elegant game that cracks along at a swift pace.  There is a card activation mechanic which can be used by players wishing to play solo.

Also included in the rules are two worked examples of games, one set in the Sudan in 1883 pitting Egyptians against Mahdists and another on the Eastern Front in 1943. Each game is completely described, turn by turn, so that you can see the rules in action.  Briefings and orders of battle are included for both battles so that you can replay them at your leisure.  If you need a few more scenarios, you could do a lot worse than check out Bob’s blog at where he has described a couple in detail.

In conclusion, these are simple rules that cover a lot of ground. They will repay attention to basic tactical principles (economy of force, maintenance of aim, concentration of fighting power, etc) and give a good game in an hour or so on a small board, which was exactly what they were intended to do.

A worthy addition to the canon.

Addendum: It should be noted, in the interests of full disclosure, that Bob Cordery, the author of these rules, is a friend of mine.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Battle of Albuera

The field of Battle 

I've always had a bit of a thing about the battle of Albuera.  I remember reading about Lt. Latham of the Buffs hiding the colours in his jacket after the near destruction of Colborne's brigade.  He fell having been repeatedly sabred by French cavalry. He lost an arm and damn near lost his life, but he saved the colours and his regiments honour. The account in the late Richard Holmes book "Soldiers" is well worth reading and it gives me chills years later. 

But then again, two of my favourite battles are Waterloo and Albuera, which lead to a friend of mine observing, "What is wrong with you Kinch, that you like battles where every one bloody dies." 

That poor man is dead now and I still don't have an answer for him. 

Regardless, for them as don't know the battle. 

"The Fortress of Badajoz dominated the southern invasion route from Portugal into Spain. The British had invested the fortress, but had few engineers and no siege train to speak of. The French were not idle. Marshal Soult set out toward Badajoz with a relieving force. Beresford, the temporary army commander, marched a force larger than Soult’s to the small town of Albuera to meet the French. Beresford placed his army on the ridge behind Albuera, expecting to receive a frontal assault to split his army. Soult, however, formed most of his army behind the high ground opposite the Spanish on the right flank. 

On the morning of May 16th, General Godinot’s brigade attacked Albuera as a diversion, while Soult’s main force moved unobserved across the Albuera River and delivered a flank attack upon Blake’s Spanish contingent. The first Spanish unit attacked was Zayas’s division, a veteran unit under a good commander. Though pounded by superior French forces, the Spaniards held until Stewart’s British division arrived. Stewart threw Colborne’s British brigade at the French flank and checked French progress, but none of Colborne’ regiments were in square. French cavalry charged and virtually destroyed three of the four regiments. The rest of Stewart’s division went into line behind the embattled Spaniards. The French made a fatal pause to allow a fresh division to come forward. Zayas’s survivors drew off under no pressure. 

Now a solid line of British muskets awaited the French columns that had been successful against Zayas. As the fresh French and British formations met, both did fearful execution to each other at close range, British line fire prevailed, causing the battered columns to retreat. French reserves (Werle’s division) advanced toward Stewart’s remnants, but help was coming. Sensing disaster, General Cole advanced his British division without orders. His action won the battle, as British line fire triumphed over the French columns, but again at a high cost in British casualties. Soult could see Harvey’s fresh Portuguese division advancing, and with no more fresh troops available, ordered a French retreat. 

Although considered a British victory, when Wellington heard he had lost almost 6,000 irreplaceable British soldiers, he was reported to have said, “Another such battle will ruin us."

The French drive into the town of Albuera on the Allied left

French dragoons outflank the Spanish line on the Allied right

The rest of the French cavalry push on the right

A counter attack launched by the 4th Irish Dragoon Guards

General Du Gourmand contemplates his cavalry...

...and opens a bottle of Dr. Du Gourmands Healthful Nerve Tonic. 

"These Chasseurs offend me!"

Uncle Westprog considers his options

The 4th Irish Dragoon Guards ably supported by some Spanish hussars do the business

As much prized French horse flesh is sent to the Knackers Yard... 

...General Du Gourmand clutches his chest and decides that he better play something good to get himself of trouble. 

But not so fast. 

There is a rule in the Spanish expansion for Commands & Colours Napoleonics called the "Spanish Guerrilla" rule.  The Spanish (or allied player) can play a "Spanish Guerrilla Token" to cancel the effects of a card played by the French player.  This effectively gives the Spanish player two turns in a row, which can be very powerful. Normally the player takes a small card token, but they were packed away and I didn't have them to hand. Uncle Westprog however felt that the "Spanish Geurilla Stick" was a far more effective means of remembering this vital game mechanic.  This was accomplished through the medium of whacking the card out of Du Gourmand's hand. 

Yet another benefit of a classical education. 

That's quite enough of that. 

French grenadiers holding the town. 

Meanwhile over on the left, the French grenadiers had dragged the Allies in to a meatgrinder of a battle around the town. They were eventually driven out and broken, but not before exacting a punishing toll on the British. 

As the French right was being driven out the down, the cavalry again came into their own. 

General Du Gourmand ordered the Vistula Legion to attack supported by the French infantry. 

Taking the Spanish hussars in the flank. 

With predictable results. 

"I'm not sure if Cavalry Charge is the card I want to play..."

Oh but it is and the Irish are sent packing by the Poles. 

Which leaves Uncle Westprog with a problem...

...he is trailing in victory points and with the French rampaging around his right flank, he is likely to lose the game in the next few turns. If he remains on the defensive, he will simply be delaying the inevitable, but if he attacks, he might catch Du Gourmand off guard. 

With that in mind, he launches an attack in the centre driving his infantry across the river to hit the battered French 

Even with the Vistula Legion driven off, the French infantry are looking threatening. 

Hold it right there young man...

The British make it across the river, wipe out a French battery and drive 
General Godinot back in confusion

The Vistula Legion drive into the centre, Uncle Westprog tries to form square, but cannot due to a scenario special rule called "Stewarts Folly". 

So he plays a first strike card (allowing him to shoot first) and manages to empty the Legions saddles so effectively that they are destroyed as a fighting force. 

General Godinot is captured. 

The Legione Irlandaise and the 8ieme Ligne splash across the river

And the brave Spaniards are no more

The Royal Horse Artillery rides to the rescue

But it's too late, The French infantry close in and put the remaining Portuguese to the sword. 

A good game, hard fought

Considering Uncle Westprog was down 7-4 for quite a while and managed to turn things around in the final few turns, this was a close game.  I was impressed with how he dealt with things considering Du Gourmand is an exceptionally experienced opponent possessed of a Napoleonic cocktail of decision and aggression.  His cavalry assault on the French should have succeeded and he was unlucky that it did not do more damage. 

Du Gourmand played well, but was let down by the dice on a couple of occasions. On the whole, a rattling good game.