Thursday, 21 November 2019

Seen at Kronstadt: The ships’ graveyard

Almost the first part of Kronstadt harbour one passes on the way from St Petersburg to the Baltic Sea appears to be a ships’ graveyard. Moored alongside – and seemingly rusting away to oblivion – are a cargo vessel …

… and a derelict Sovremenny-class destroyer, Rastoropnyy (No.420).

The only vessel moored in that part of the harbour that show signs of regular maintenance and that appears to be seaworthy is a small tanker, the Aral.

Aral is 100m long, has a beam of 13m, a draught of 2.3m, and has a top speed of 5.7 knots.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Seen at Kronstadt: Introduction

I first visited Russia in 2008, and each time our cruise ship has passed the Russian naval base at Kronstadt on the way out of the harbour at St Petersburg, I’ve always ventured out on deck to photograph anything of interest.

On the most recent occasion – which was in September this year – the light was beginning to fail, and I experienced a few problems trying to get the exposure right. Nevertheless, I was able to record the ships that were in harbour at the time, and over the next few days I intend to share them with my regular blog readers.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Modelling the human in the loop

Whereas is is relatively simple to test a prototype weapon on the firing range to see how effective it will be, and thence predict the effectiveness of its production line version, it is impossible to test - and therefore predict - the how well the humans who are armed with the weapon will use it. Time and time again, it is the human in the loop that has been the ultimate determinant of success or failure in battle, not the sophistication (or otherwise) of the weapons they are armed with.

Many people have attempted to model human behaviour on the battlefield, and pre-eminent amongst them is David Rowland. His book, entitled THE STRESS OF BATTLE: QUANTIFYING HUMAN PERFORMANCE IN BATTLE FOR HISTORICAL ANALYSIS AND WARGAMING, has become a standard work in the field, but until very recently its availability has been very limited and second-hand copies have been very expensive to buy. Thanks to John Curry of the 'History of Wargaming Project, this situation has now changed, and a paperback edition is now readily available.

The book has two Forewords, a recent one (for the second edition) written by Peter Perla and an earlier one (for the first edition) by Charles Messenger. Besides an Introduction, the book is divided into eight chapters and two appendices:
  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Operational Research and Historical Analysis
  • Chapter 2: From Field Trials to Historical Analysis
  • Chapter 3: The Beginning of Historical Analysis
  • Chapter 4: Further Infantry Combat Trials and Historical Analysis
  • Chapter 5: Armour and Anti-Armour Combat Effectiveness
  • Chapter 6: Heroism and Combat Degradation
  • Chapter 7: Historical Analysis of Surprise and Shock Effects
  • Chapter 8: Conclusion
  • Appendix A: A Typical King's Ride Battle
  • Appendix B: Q and T Factors
Whilst this book could in no way be described as unputdownable, it is - in my opinion - essential reading matter for anyone who likes to consider themselves to be a designer of serious wargames. It is well illustrated, and includes numerous diagrams and charts that certainly made the analysis clear to me. Furthermore, the mathematics used by the writer is relatively easy to understand, even for someone with only a basic grasp of the use of statistics.

THE STRESS OF BATTLE: QUANTIFYING HUMAN PERFORMANCE IN BATTLE FOR HISTORICAL ANALYSIS AND WARGAMING was written by David Rowlands and this edition was edited by John Curry. It was published in 2019 by the 'History of Wargaming' Project (ISBN 978 0 244 20305 4).

Monday, 18 November 2019

The Paraguayan War 1864-70

When I saw that Osprey had published THE PARAGUAYAN WAR 1864-70: THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE AT STAKE IN LA PLATA, I had to have a copy. Thanks to my Amazon Prime membership, a copy was delivered the day after I ordered it, and I am looking forward to reading it over the next few days.

The book is divided into eight chapters, a bibliography, and an index:
  • Origins of the Campaign
    • The strategic context
  • Chronology
  • Opposing Commanders
    • Paraguayan
    • Triple Alliance
  • Opposing Forces
    • Paraguayan
    • Triple Alliance
    • The opposing navies
  • Opposing Plans
    • Paraguayan
    • Triple Alliance
  • The Campaign
    • Brazil intervenes in Uruguay, 1964
    • Paraguay invades Mato Grosso
    • The Paraguayan occupation of Corrientes, 1865
    • The Battle of Riachuelo, 11th June, 1865
    • Yatay and Uruguayana, August to September, 1865
    • The Alliance advance on Paraguay, 1866
    • The Battle of Estero Bellaco, 2nd May, 1866
    • The First Battle of Tuyuti, 24th May, 1866
    • The Battle of Boqueron del Sauce, July 1866
    • The Battles of Curuzu and Curupayti, September 1866
    • The long stalemate, September 1866 to July 1867
    • The Second Battle of Tuyuti, and the fall of Humaita
    • The Pikysyry manoeuvre and the beginning of the Dezembrada, 1868
    • The Battle of Avay and Lomas Valentinas
    • The Hills Campaign and the death of Lopez, 1869-70
  • Aftermath
  • The Battlefield Today
  • Bibliography
  • Index

THE PARAGUAYAN WAR 1864-70: THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE AT STAKE IN LA PLATA was written by Gabriele Esposito, illustrated by Giuseppe Rava, and published in 2019 by Osprey Publishing as No.342 in the 'Campaign' series (ISBN 978 1 4728 3444 7).

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Yet another batch of renovated 20mm-scale German figures

This batch of figures were bought from the 'bring-and-buy' stall at a wargame show, and began life as German World War I Storm-troopers. (I subsequently discovered that they had actually been painted by someone that I knew, and who had taken part in Eric Knowles' famous Madasahatta Campaign.)

I managed to damage several of them whilst removing them from their original multi-figure bases, and in the end the renovation involved having to almost completely repaint them.

It had been my original intention to use the figures to depict reserve or second-line infantry, but I now think that they are good enough to join the ranks of my main infantry units.

I'm now going to take a short break from renovating figures, if only to stop myself from getting bored. I plan to do some German artillery next so that I can begin to organise the troops that I have already renovated into suitable tabletop units.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Celebrity wargamers: Would they help raise the hobby's public profile?

The BBC recently covered Rod Stewart's model railroad layout on its website (it is an American layout, hence it is a model railROAD rather than a model railWAY), and mentioned that he had made most of the layout's terrain himself. The most recent issue of RAILWAY MODELLER (Volume 70 No.830 December 2019) has a six-page article about Rod's model railroad.

In the 2020 issue of RAILWAY MODELLER EXTRA that was also published recently, there was an eight-page, photo-heavy article about Jools Holland's model railway ...

... and this set me thinking about whether or not media coverage about celebrities who are also wargamers might help to raise the hobby's profile with the general public.

We all know that H G Wells was a wargamer, as was Robert Louis Stevenson. We also know that the late Edward Woodward bought the terrain and figures used in the film CALLAN, and that Peter Cushing had a large collection of Britains figures that he wargamed with. I also understand that the BBC journalist and military historian Mark Urban was a wargamer in his youth, and may still retain more than a passing interest in the hobby.

Are there any other celebrities who are also wargamers? There are plenty of rumours that there are (the names of Peter Jackson and Mike Myers are often mentioned in this respect), but I don't remember reading about any ... and if they did mention their hobby in the media, would it actually help to raise the hobby's public profile?

I pose these questions rhetorically, but I'd me more than happy to read any comments that my regular blog readers have to make.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Peco/Railway Modeller.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Naval wargames in the early days of the missile era

Since its earliest days, the United States Naval War College has had a history of using wargames to train officers, and with the dawn of the missile age in the 1960s, it developed a set of wargame rules that reflected the impact of missiles on naval combat. These have now been published by John Curry's 'History of Wargaming' Project, and I recently bough a copy.

It is thought that UNITED STATES NAVAL WAR COLLEGE MANUAL WARGAMING (1969): WARGAMES AT THE START OF THE MISSILE ERA was written by Frank McHugh, who worked in the War Gaming Department from 1934 to 1974, with a break during the Second World War during which he served with Patton's Third Army.

The book originally had an Introduction, five chapters, and seven appendices:
  • I. Introduction: Purpose and Contents
  • II. Pregame Procedures
  • III. Damage Assessment
  • IV. The War Game
  • V. A Sample War Game
  • Appendix I. Formats for Status Boards
  • Appendix II. Weapon Employment and Damage Assessment Forms
  • Appendix III. Damage Assessment Tables
  • Appendix IV. Damage Assessment Rules
  • Appendix V. Damage Assessment Flow Charts
  • Appendix VI. Surface-to-Air Missile Assessment Procedures
  • Appendix VII. Sample Table of Random Numbers
This book contains all the information a group of wargamers would want to be able to set up a battle using these rules. The layout of the game is described in detail in II. Pregame Procedures, and III. Damage Assessment explains how the damage caused by combat is assessed and recorded. The rules are relatively simple, and deal mainly with the Basic War Game Cycle (i.e. Decision Phase, Action Phase, Measurement Phase, Evaluation Phase, and Information Phase). It also places emphasis on the recording of what has happened by the Control Group's designated historian, as this is seen as a vital element for the follow-up critique of the wargame.

The example included in the book makes it very easy to understand how the rules work, and the inclusion of all the necessary forms and tables ensures that the book is a complete package as far as any potential users are concerned.

One final thing; this was a book written by professionals for professionals, and may not appeal to the average wargamer. However, its style and layout are an example to anyone who write wargames rules, and it has certainly given me a few ideas as to how to improve the way I present my rules to the wargaming public.

UNITED STATES NAVAL WAR COLLEGE MANUAL WARGAMING (1969): WARGAMES AT THE START OF THE MISSILE ERA was edited by John Curry and published in 2019 by the 'History of Wargaming' Project (ISBN 978 0 244 51764 9).

Successful Professional Wargames: A Practitioner’s Handbook

Graham Longley-Brown, who is one of the driving forces behind professional wargaming in the UK, and who is also one of the organisers of CONNECTIONS UK, has very recently had his book entitled SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL WARGAMES: A PRACTITIONER'S HANDBOOK published by John Curry's 'History of Wargaming' Project.

Between 1986 and 2003, Graham Longley-Brown was a Regular Army officer. Before he retired, he spent from 2000 to 2002 at Shrivenham as the UK Joint Services Command and Staff College Directing Staff Subject Matter Expert for wargaming. Since then he has worked across the world running wargames for the armed services of various countries as a self-employed consultant for LBS Consultancy.

Graham has also:
The book has forewords by both Peter Perla (doyen of the professional wargaming world) and Colin Marston (Head of the UK's Dstl Wargaming Team), and is split into four parts with twenty-eight chapters, and a bibliography.
  • Part 1: Wargaming Fundamentals
    • Chapter 1: Why Wargame? And When Not To
    • Chapter 2: What is a Wargame?
    • Chapter 3: Wargaming Misnomers and Misunderstandings
    • Chapter 4: Adjudication
    • Chapter 5: Wargame Formats, Contexts and Variants
  • Part 2: Establishing the Conditions for Successful Wargames
    • Chapter 6: Essential Characteristics for Successful Wargames
    • Chapter 7: The Wargame Team
    • Chapter 8: Analysis
    • Chapter 9: Appropriate Technology
    • Chapter 10: Incorporating Non-kinetic Effects and Semi-cooperative Play into Wargame Design
  • Part 3: The Wargame Lifecycle
    • Chapter 11: The Wargame Lifecycle: An Introduction
    • Chapter 12: Wargame Design
    • Chapter 13: Wargame Development
    • Chapter 14: Wargame Execution
    • Chapter 15: Wargame Validation
    • Chapter 16: Wargame Refinement
    • Chapter 17: The Top 10 Things that Make a Good Wargame Designer
  • Part 4: Practising Successful Wargames
    • Chapter 18: High-Engagement Games
    • Chapter 19: Scenario Writing
    • Chapter 20: Scenario Development
    • Chapter 21: Scenario Execution
    • Chapter 22: Controlling Wargames
    • Chapter 23: Facilitation
    • Chapter 24: Generating Outcomes
    • Chapter 25: Presenting and Affirming Outcomes
    • Chapter 26: Course of Action Wargaming
    • Chapter 27: Connections: The Conference for Wargaming Professionals
    • Chapter 28: Conclusion
  • Bibliography
This book is aimed at those involved in developing professional wargames BUT much of its contents will appeal to those hobby wargamers who take an interest in that end of the wargaming spectrum. It will also be relevant to those hobby wargamers who are interested in the eternal verities of good, basic wargame design. After all, almost all of the the people who are developing professional wargames are also hobby wargamers, and the lesson they have learned are applicable across the wargaming spectrum.

SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL WARGAMES: A PRACTITIONER'S HANDBOOK was written by Graham Longley-Brown, edited by John Curry, and published in 2019 by the 'History of Wargaming' Project. It is available in both printed (ISBN 978 0 2448 0364 3) and Kindle formats.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Kursk: The Last Mission: A DVD review

Before proceeding, I must make it clear that this is NOT a DVD about the Battle of Kursk; it is about the loss of the Oscar-class submarine of that name.

The Oscar-class submarine Kursk (Russian: Project 949A Антей Atomnaya Podvodnaya Lodka Kursk) sank in the Barents Sea on 12th August 2000 as a result of an explosion in her forward torpedo room. It was subsequently discovered that one of her Type 65 Kit (Russian: tolstushka or 'fat girl', because of its 62cm/26-inch diameter) practice torpedoes had exploded whilst it was being loaded into a torpedo tube. This may have been due to a leak of highly volatile HTP (high test peroxide) fuel.

The initial explosion and fire are thought to have instantly killed the seven men in the torpedo room, and the subsequent blast sent a shock wave through the submarine's compartments as far as the Command Centre that killed or incapacitated everyone in them. The fire then set off the warheads of seven of the torpedoes in the torpedo room (seven distinct and rapid explosions were measured by acoustic instruments aboard other ships in the Barents Sea), and the Kursk quickly sank to the sea bottom. The automatic fail-safe systems on the submarine's two nuclear reactors immediately shut them down as hundreds of tons of water poured into the submarine's hull through a large hole that had been caused by the explosions.

Unfortunately for those crew members who survived the explosions, the crew escape capsule was inaccessible (it was in one of the flooded compartments) and the rescue buoy that should have automatically been deployed to indicate to surface ships where the submarine was, had been disabled for operational reasons (i.e. fears that it might deploy by accident and identify the submarine's position to non-Russian warships). As a result, they eventually drowned before they could be rescued.

The film tells the story of what happened up to and including the sinking of the Kursk, and then deals with what happened afterwards. The Russian Navy's initial response was slow and seemed more concerned with secrecy than mounting a rescue, and the way in which that they dealt with the families of the crew was despicable. They refused help from the Royal Navy and the Royal Norwegian Navy until it was far too late to rescue any survivors, and their own deep-sea rescue craft was shown to be ineffective due to poor maintenance.

This was a very interesting film, and I recommend anyone with an interest in recent naval history to watch it.

KURSK: THE LAST MISSION is an English-language film directed by Thomas Vinterberg, based on Robert Moore's book A TIME TO DIE, and made by a group of French-Belgian production companies. It was released in 2018, and stars Matthias Schoenaerts, Colin Firth, Léa Seydoux, Peter Simonischek, Max von Sydow, Matthias Schweighöfer, and Michael Nyqvist.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

A further batch of renovated 20mm-scale German figures

After the short break I took from painting before my recent eye test, I have now renovated another batch of 20mm-scale German figures to add to my collection.

These figures were bought ready-painted from eBay, and it was my original intention just to re-base them, touch up any damage they had acquired over the years, and then varnish them. In the end the touching up became a major re-paint, but the time spent was not wasted, and the figures now look the same as the figures that are already in my collection.