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Friday, 31 July 2020

The draft of my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign rules has been written

I have a campaign map, I have the forces I am going to use, and I have a draft set of tabletop rules for my mini-campaign; what I did not have was a set of campaign rules ... but these have now been drafted.

The bulk of the rules are based on those laid down in THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME, but with a few additions and changes.

Firstly, I have included the weather charts I designed back in June as well as factoring in the impact that the seasons and weather will have on campaign movement.

Secondly, I am going to allow formations to move from one grid square to another through the corners of grid squares that are not occupied by enemy formations as well as through the faces of the grid squares.

Thirdly, I have added a casualty recovery mechanism that works as follows:
  • 33% of all lost SPs lost by a formation during a battle are recovered immediately after the battle has ended.
  • 33% of all lost SPs lost by a formation during a battle are recovered to the Central Reserve D6 turns after the battle has ended.
  • The remaining SPs lost by a formation during a battle are lost for the rest of the campaign.
  • The SPs lost by a formation during a battle can be recovered immediately after the battle has ended from the Central Reserve if there are sufficient SPs available in the Central Reserve. (NB. The Central Reserve is a pool of SPs generated by recovered battle casualties and newly raised SPs. I have yet to determine how the latter will work.)
I intend to play-test these campaign rules during my forthcoming mini-campaign, and to make any necessary changes in light of any lessons that I have learned.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Colonial Scratch Modelling for Wargamers

A week or so ago, Kev Robertson – who is one of my regular blog readers – mentioned in a comment that back in the 1980s he had once written a book entitled COLONIAL SCRATCH MODELLING FOR WARGAMERS. I replied that I wish that I had known about it and bought a copy, but we both agreed that I was unlikely to find a copy nowadays. John Armatys – another of my regular blog readers – took up the challenge of finding me a copy, and as a result of his endeavours, I was able to buy a second-hand copy via Abe Books. It arrived yesterday morning … and it was well worth the £10.00 plus postage that I paid for it!


I found the 'how to ...' instructions for each of the models easy to understand, especially as Kev had split them into the following sections:
  • Design Problem
  • Material Available
  • Cutting (and Scoring, if required)
  • Joining
  • Painting
  • Design Restrictions
They were also accompanied by simple, easy to follow 1/72nd plans and illustrations as well as black & white photographs of the completed models. (The plans could easily be enlarged or reduced to suit different scales.)

The models covered in the book are:
  • Colonial British Tents
  • Rowing Boats
  • Pioneer Bridge
  • Timber Pontoon Bridge
  • Defence Works
  • General Service Wagon
  • Ox and Draught Wagons
  • British Artillery Limber
  • Naval Maxim Gun
  • Naval Pinnace
  • Naval Gunboat
  • Rorke’s Drift (in particular, the Store House and Mission House, as well as the Stone Kraal, the Mealie Bag Wall, and the Mealie Bag Redoubt)
  • Colonial Dwellings and Public Buildings
  • ESCI Conversions – Conversion of 1/72nd Soft Plastic Figures
I only wish that I had bought a copy of this book when it was first published in 1986. In my opinion, I think that building the models included in this book is well within the capabilities of most competent modellers, and that it is a pity that it is no longer available in print.

Well done, Kev! To my mind this is a mini-masterpiece!

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Water, water, everywhere ... except there isn’t!

At about 3.30pm on Monday, our next-door neighbour knocked on our front door to find out if the water supply pressure to our house had dropped. We checked by turning our kitchen taps on ... and only a dribble of water came out!

For the next four hours Sue and I tried contacting Thames Water – our water supplier – to find out what was happening. We tried to notify them using the company’s website ... but that just took us round and round in circles. We tried contacting them by text, by tweet, via their Facebook page, and by telephone ... but all to no avail.

Eventually we found a notification on the Thames Water website to the effect that water pressure in the SE2, SE3, SE9, and SE18 postcode areas was being affected by a burst water main in Eltham, (Eltham is in SE9 and we live in SE18) and that this was likely to continue until Friday.

Without any warning, the water supply was reinstated just after 8.00pm, and after a degree of spluttering, we were able to do the washing up, have a shower, and fill our kettle so that we could have a hot drink.

At just after 4.00pm on Tuesday afternoon the water supply went off yet again!

Once again, we tried to contact Thames Water. I tried communicating with the company by Twitter and Facebook whilst Sue tried to telephone them. The best information we could find was that a drinking water supply point had been set up at Blackheath Rugby Club’s ground in Eltham ... some two miles away. Whilst Sue continued to try to speak to someone at Thames Water, I drove to the supply point, where I was able to collect enough water for us and our neighbours ... six of whom are over seventy years old!

On my return, Sue told me that after over an hour being held in a queue, she had been able to speak to an employee of Thames Water ... only to discover than the company had no idea that the water supply in our postcode was interrupted!

By 8.30pm an even larger part of South East London was without piped fresh water, including SE2, SE3, SE9, SE18, DA15, and DA16.


We waited patiently for the water supply to return, but by midnight it had not. We managed to do some washing up after our evening meal, to flush the toilets when it was necessary, and to wash and clean our teeth before going to bed, all using cold water.

When we got up just after 7.00am this morning, the water supply had been reinstated, but the water pressure was lower than normal. Sue and I have managed to have a hot shower or bath, and to fill up the bottles that we emptied yesterday. The latest update indicates that the problem is likely to persist for some time ...


... and Thames Water published the following statement on their website:
'
We’re so sorry if your supply is being affected by the burst water pipe in Westhorne Avenue, SE9.

Our teams are working round the clock to complete a complex repair on this large pipe. It’s close to other utilities, including high-voltage power cables, so we’ve been working closely with UK Power Networks to enable this to be done safely.

To minimise disruption, we’re using tankers to pump extra water into the supply network. We’re also rerouting water where we can to maintain pressures – especially during peak usage times in the mornings and evenings.

This affects storage levels in our reservoirs, so we’re asking local residents to please use water as sparingly as they can at present, even if supplies seem normal. This will help us keep as many taps running as possible while we complete the repair.

Two drive-through bottled water stations will reopen later this morning and we’ll provide further details here. Our on-site team will safely load water into your vehicle, following the latest advice on social distancing. We kindly ask you not to get out of your car or come to these stations on foot. The water is for essential use, like drinking, cooking and hand washing.

The repair work will continue for several days and the southbound carriageway onto the A205 (Westhorne Avenue) from the A2 remains closed for now – we’re sorry for the inconvenience.

We know this has happened at a difficult time. We’ve answered the most common customer questions about coronavirus, including how we can provide extra help to those who need it most.

We’ll keep updating this page with the latest news and advice.
'
This map shows the Greater London Post Code Areas. This affected by the water supply problem are indicated in red, as is the boundary of the affected area. The River Thames has been highlighted in light blue.
Judging by what this statement says, we can expect that our water supply will be at best erratic for the next few days ... just at a time when they are predicting that London will be experiencing the hottest days of the year so far and the numbers of COVID-19 infections in our area is on the increase.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The map and starting positions for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War play-test mini-campaign

After playing around with a few ideas, I decided that I will set my play-test mini-campaign in the northern sector of the Russo-German border.


The Germans will use Konigsberg as their supply base, and the attacking force will comprise 1st Panzer Division, supported by 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions. They will begin the mini-campaign in D9 (1st Infantry Division), D10 (1st Panzer Division), and D11 (2nd Infantry Division).

The Russian defenders (1st and 2nd Rifle Divisions and 1st Tank Corps) will be randomly located in the 6 x 6 grid E to J, 6 to 11 using two D6 dice. The first dice will determine the column and the second dice will determine which row a Russian formation is in. For example, the dice thrown for 1st Rifle Division might be 6 and 5, which would locate the division in J10 ... which happens to be the grid square where the city of Polotsk is located.

Campaign movement will be handled using the system set out in THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME, with the proviso that the Germans will be allowed two moves before the Russian troops can begin to move in order to represent the element of surprise.

The first draft of the rules I am going to use (RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES 2020) is almost finished, and the forces have been assembled. All I then have to do is to clear enough space on my wargame table to set up the terrain ... and then the mini-campaign can begin!

Monday, 27 July 2020

Preparing for my play-test mini-campaign

Having had a busy morning, I have just managed to grab a few hours of free time to play around with some ideas for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War play-test mini-campaign.


At present I am not sure whereabouts on the Russo-German border I will set my mini-campaign, but it is likely to be on one of the obvious main axes of advance (i.e. Konigsberg to Leningrad, Warsaw to Moscow, or Cracow to the Donbas).

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Mustering troops for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project

Yesterday I went through the figures and vehicles I have so far renovated, varnished, and based in preparation for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project. I now hope to use some of them very soon to fight a short mini-campaign to try out the draft rules I hope to use.

The forces I have organised are as follows:

GERMAN
  • 1st Infantry Division
    • 1st Divisional HQ
    • 1st Infantry
    • 2nd Infantry
    • 3rd Infantry
    • 1st Artillery
    • 1st Anti-tank Artillery
  • 2nd Infantry Division
    • 2nd Divisional HQ
    • 4th Infantry
    • 5th Infantry
    • 6th Infantry
    • 2nd Artillery
    • 3rd Anti-tank Artillery
  • 3rd Infantry Division
    • 3rd Divisional HQ
    • 7th Infantry
    • 8th Infantry
    • 9th Infantry
    • 3rd Artillery
    • 4th Anti-tank Artillery
  • 1st Panzer Division
    • 4th Divisional HQ
    • 1st Armoured Reconnaissance
    • 1st Panzer
    • 2nd Panzer
    • 10th Infantry (Motorised)
    • 4th Artillery (Self-propelled)
    • 1st Panzerjager
  • 2nd Panzer Division
    • 11th Infantry (Motorised)
    • 2nd Panzerjager
  • 1st Luftwaffe Field Division
    • 1st Divisional HQ (L)
    • 1st Reconnaissance (L)
    • 1st Jager (L)
    • 2nd Jager (L)
    • 1st Artillery (L)
    • 1st Anti-tank Artillery (L)
RUSSIAN
  • 1st Rifle Division
    • 1st Reconnaissance
    • 1st Rifles
    • 2nd Rifles
    • 3rd Rifles
    • 1st Artillery
    • 1st Anti-tank Artillery
  • 2nd Rifle Division
    • 2nd Reconnaissance
    • 4th Rifles
    • 5th Rifles
    • 6th Rifles
    • 2nd Artillery
    • 2nd Anti-tank Artillery
  • 3rd Rifle Division
    • 3rd Reconnaissance
    • 7th Rifles
    • 8th Rifles
    • 9th Rifles
    • 3rd Artillery
    • 3rd Anti-tank Artillery
  • 1st Tank Corps
    • 1st Armoured Car
    • 1st Tank
    • 2nd Tank
    • 3rd Tank
    • 10th Motor Rifles
  • 2nd Tank Corps
    • 2nd Armoured Car
    • 4th Tank (Light)
    • 5th Tank
    • 6th Tank
    • 11th Motor Rifles
I do not intend to use all these formations in the mini-campaign, particularly the 2nd Panzer Division (which is currently incomplete) and the 1st Luftwaffe Field Division. I suspect that I will end up with two infantry formations and an armoured formation per side, which should give me the opportunity to fight a number of infantry vs. infantry, infantry vs. armour, and armour vs. armour actions.

I am already planning the next stage in the expansion of the forces available to both sides, and work on this will probably begin in a month or two's time.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms of World War II

Every so often, Amazon sends me book recommendation – sometimes for books that I have written! – and I usually have a look at them, but rarely buy any of them. On this occasion the book they recommended was AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF UNIFORMS OF WORLD WAR II: AN EXPERT GUIDE TO THE UNIFORMS OF BRITAIN, AMERICA, GERMANY, USSR AND JAPAN, TOGETHER WITH OTHER AXIS AND ALLIED FORCES, and as I am in the midst of a World War Two project and had some spare cash, I bought a copy.


The book is split into seven chapters, each of which is divided in several sections:
  • Introduction
    • Coming of War
    • War in the West
    • War in the East
    • The Aftermath
    • Timeline 1922-1945
  • The British Empire
    • Britain at War
    • Britain’s Armed Forces
    • Generals and Staff
    • Infantry
    • Cavalry
    • Artillery and Technical Troops
    • Armoured Troops
    • Commandos and Special Forces
    • Paratroops
    • The Royal Air Force
    • Foreign Volunteers
    • Canadian Troops
    • Australian and New Zealand Troops
    • African troops
    • Indian Troops
  • The United States
    • America prepares for conflict
    • The US enters a global war
    • Generals and Staff
    • Infantry
    • Cavalry
    • Artillery
    • Engineers and Technical Troops
    • Armoured Troops
    • Rangers and Special Forces
    • Marines
    • Paratroops
    • Air Force
  • Germany
    • The Nazis and the Army
    • From Victory to Defeat
    • Generals and Staff
    • Infantry
    • Africa Corps
    • The SS
    • SS Foreign Volunteers
    • Cavalry
    • Artillery and Engineers
    • Panzer Troops
    • Mountain Troops
    • Paratroops
    • Luftwaffe Field Divisions
    • The Luftwaffe
    • The Soviet Union
  • The Red Army
    • Hard Lessons
    • Generals
    • NKVD
    • Infantry
    • Foreign Troops
    • Cavalry
    • Cossacks
    • Artillery
    • Engineers
    • Armoured Troops
    • Marine Infantry
    • Paratroops
    • Air Force
  • Other Allied Powers
    • Allies, Great and Small
    • Belgium
    • China
    • Denmark
    • France
    • Greece
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Poland
    • Yugoslavia
  • Other Axis Powers
    • Germany’s Allies
    • Bulgaria
    • Croatia
    • Finland
    • France – Vichy
    • Hungary
    • Italy
    • Japan
    • Romania
    • Slovakia
The book also contains a glossary and an index, and is 256 pages long. There are numerous colour illustrations of a selection of the uniforms worn by most of the armed forces of the nations that took part in World War II (there are a few exceptions), and it is a good reference book for someone like me who is always looking for a slightly different uniform in which to paint some of their wargame figures.

AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF UNIFORMS OF WORLD WAR II: AN EXPERT GUIDE TO THE UNIFORMS OF BRITAIN, AMERICA, GERMANY, USSR AND JAPAN, TOGETHER WITH OTHER AXIS AND ALLIED FORCES was written by Jonathan North and published in 2016 by Lorenz Books (ISBN 978 0 7548 2988 1).

Friday, 24 July 2020

My latest book sales figures ... at last!

I have been waiting since the end of April for Lulu.com to supply me with some up-to-date sales figures, and yesterday they notified me that they are now available! Unfortunately, they no longer differentiate between sales of the different electronic editions and printed editions of my books, lumping them together as either eBooks (Kindle and PDF editions) and Printed Books (Paperbacks and Hardbacks) respectively.

In actual fact, the figures they have supplied do not include any non-Lulu.com sales made after 30th June, but at least they give me some idea how well my books have sold since lockdown began.

In early April, my sales figures looked like this:


My current sales figures (as of yesterday) look like this:


It is encouraging to see that almost every book that I have written has sold at least one copy during the lockdown, and that sales of THE PORTABLE WARGAME and DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME remain buoyant.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Slow progress is being made on a number of fronts ...

The last few days have seen Sue and I out and about more than we have been since the beginning of lockdown, as a result of which I have not made much progress on any single project, but have made some progress on several.
  • The first draft of THE PORTABLE 17th CENTURY WARGAME book is almost finished, but it needs illustrations to be added and possibly another chapter to be included to cover the period from 1660 to 1699. Otherwise I may have to rename the book THE PORTABLE PIKE AND SHOT WARGAME.
  • I have a working draft of RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES 2020 written, but I am not satisfied that it is ready for play-testing as some of the mechanisms feel a bit 'clunky' and over complex. That said, I hope to have a draft that I am happy with available within a week.
  • I have made a decision about the aircraft models I want to use with my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project. I originally intended to use 1:100th-scale models, but after comparing the amount of tabletop space they occupied in comparison with 1:144th-scale ones, the latter seemed to work better. I have therefore ordered some of the model aircraft produced by Zvezda for their ART OF TACTIC game, and these should be arriving later this week.
  • The first tranche of models and vehicles for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project are in the final stages of being organised and labelled, and they will be available for use in my play-tests by Friday.
  • I have installed a new 128Gb SD card in my laptop, and it is now working as well as it did ... and I no longer have any concerns about running out of storage space whilst I work.
My blog has yet again been subject to a large number of spurious comments by spammers. They nature of the comments has gone from being irritating to borderline obscene, and on average I am getting about twenty such messages per day. I cannot believe that anyone would wish to avail themselves of the online services that are apparently on offer, and can only conclude that they are intended to open up a gullible person's computer to hacking and worse.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: Napoleonic brigade-level battle

Russell King (who is a relatively new convert to the joys of the PORTABLE WARGAME) recently fought a Napoleonic battle between Frencj and Austrian troops, using the brigade-level rules from THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME. He used the scenario from the book (The Battle of Porter's Ridge) with a few changes, and his full battle report was featured on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page yesterday.





Please note that the photographs featured above are © Russell King.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Paint pens

I am not the world's best painter, and I am always looking for new ideas that will help me improve. One that I came across recently were paint pens ... so I bought a .packet of twelve Artistro acrylic multi-surface paint markers with extra-fine tips (0.7mm) from Amazon. They cost me £15.99, and I have been trying them out.


I have been using them to write unit designations on the bottoms of some of my recently renovated figures, and it means that sorting them out after a tabletop battle should be much easier.

I have found the pens easy to use, and once the paint is flowing freely (which it will do once you have read and followed the instructions!) it goes on easily and dries reasonably quickly.

Monday, 20 July 2020

One small step ...

Fifty-one years ago, I stayed up all night to watch the moon landing ... and that memory still remains clear to this day.

On 12th September 1963, the late President John F Kennedy made a speech in Dallas in which he said:
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.
In many ways, this summed up the optimism so many people shared at the time. The world was not a perfect place by any means, but we felt that it could be if we worked to make it so.

This feeling was encapsulated in the words spoken by Neil Armstrong as he stepped off the ladder of the Apollo 11 mission’s lunar excursion module, Eagle:
That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.
On this anniversary, I wonder what happened to change that feeling of optimism, and why – some fifty-one years later – the world feels as if it is a more fractured, inward-looking place.

If only we could regain that optimism, and do the things that would make our world a better place for all its inhabitants, and not just an often self-selecting few.

The ‘a’ in squared brackets in the quote from Neil Armstrong reflects the fact that he thought that he had said it, although the recording shows that he did not.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

My first Russian 'formations in a box'

Although I have been very busy helping to organise VCOW and trying to do work on my next PORTABLE WARGAME book, I have had time to begin organising part of my renovated 20mm-scale Russian World War Two collection into 'formations in boxes'.

I now have five such formations, and they are shown below.

1st Rifle Division



2nd Rifle Division



3rd Rifle Division



1st Tank Corps



2nd Tank Corps



I have enough renovated infantry figures to organise at least another three Rifle Divisions, but as yet I do not have enough gun crews.

With my previously organised Axis forces, I certainly have enough stuff available to try out my campaign rules ... but first I need to finish re-writing RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

VCOW: What next?

Later this morning, the small group that organised last week's VCOW (the Virtual Conference of Wargamers) will be having a meeting to discuss what lessons were learned and what our next steps should be. An online survey has been prepared, and it will be sent to all the attendees in the near future.

We have already had some informal feedback from some of the people who attended and/or ran sessions, and to date it has all been very positive. Many asked if we were likely to run a similar event in the future, and that is one of the main points that will be discussed at this morning's meeting. My personal opinion is that it would not be very difficult to organise and run something like VCOW again later this year or early next year, either for one or two days.

If we do decided to run another VCOW, you can be sure that I will keep my regular blog readers up to date with what is happening.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: An online American Civil War battle

Gary Sheffield has fought yet another of his online American Civil War battles, and it was featured on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page yesterday.


Gary commanded some Union militia that were reinforced by cavalry, and they were tasked with defending the Fullerton Road from an attack by against a Confederate force commanded by Spencer Jones.



This game was fought using the ‘Sudden Death’ rule, and Gary introduced a time limiting element that forced the players to get to grips and win as quickly as possible. It worked thus:
  • Starting with turn 9, roll a D6 die. On a die roll score of 1, the battle ends immediately.
  • On turn 10, it ends with a die roll score of 1 or 2.
  • On Turn 11, it ends with a die roll score of 1, 2 or 3 ... and so on.
  • This meant that the game had to end by Turn 14, but that it could also end much sooner!
This is a novel idea that I have not seen used before, but it is one that I will remember and possibly copy myself!

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Gary Sheffield.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Laptop woes

I own an HP Stream laptop that I have recently been using for Zoom sessions and Skype calls. It is not a particularly new computer, and its inbuilt RAM memory is quite small. As a result, I had expanded it using a 128Gb SD card, and this enabled me to show PowerPoint slides online and to store other files that I might need during a talk or discussion. This was working well ... until Monday.

I am not quite sure what happened, but when I tried to access some files on the SD card on Monday afternoon, the computer did not seem to ‘recognise’ the SD card. I thought that it might have come loose ... but when I checked, it was still firmly in place. I removed the SD card, and tried it in the card slot on my PC ... and it also failed to ‘recognise’ the card.

It appears that at some point between me switching the laptop off after VCOW ended and switching it on again on Monday, the SD card seems to have failed. I have tried to reformat it, but as the PC refuses to acknowledge that there is a card in the SD card slot, I cannot even do that.

An online search did not reveal any obvious cause for the SD card to suddenly failed, although other users seem to have experienced similar problems as a result of a Windows 10 upgrade. As I had turned off the automatic software upgrades, this should not be the cause of my card to fail.

I have temporarily replaced the original SD card with a 16Gb one, and that seems to be working without any problems. A replacement 128Gb SD card has been ordered from Amazon, and I hope to install it tomorrow. Once I have done that, I should be able to use the laptop again without any concerns that it will run out of memory.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

COVID-19

Towards the end of last week, I began to feel under the weather. The symptoms included a constant low-level headache, muscle pain, a slight sore throat, and general fatigue. As Sue and I are taking part in the COVID-19 online monitoring survey being run by King’s College, London, and have to send them a daily update of any symptoms we are experiencing, we were asked if we wanted to have a COVID-19 test. We both agreed, and sent in our requests on Thursday.

An Amazon courier delivered our test kits by midday on Friday, and having followed the procedure laid down in the kit, our tests were returned by post that afternoon. (The test involves taking a swab of your tonsils and nasal cavity, neither of which were easy nor very pleasant to do. The swab is then returned in a special sealed tube which is placed in a sealed bag inside a biohazard bag, which is itself placed inside a self-assembly cardboard postage box.)

Our results were texted to us early on Sunday morning (1.25am!), followed by a confirmatory email. Neither Sue nor I tested positive, which was very reassuring. If we had received positive results, we would have had to self-isolate for a minimum of seven days ... but if only one of us had, then the other would have had to self-isolate for fourteen days!

The test did not tell us if we had been previously infected, as it did not test for antibodies ... so for the foreseeable future we will continue taking care when outside our home. We already washed our hands frequently and sanitised them whenever the opportunity presented itself (going on cruises has taught us the value of these basic hygiene procedures), and we have become quite used to wearing masks when in shops or places where social distancing is difficult to maintain. Sue and I will continue to do so for as long as it remains necessary ... which may well be until a vaccine becomes generally available.

Monday, 13 July 2020

VCOW2020

The first VCOW (Virtual Conference of Wargamers) is over ... and my impression is that it went well! Certainly, from my point of view, the sessions that I took part in were all well attended and the quality of the talks and discussions was excellent. It might not have been as totally immersive as a traditional COW (Conference of Wargamers) might have been, but in the present climate, it was a very good substitute ... and I suspect that Wargame Developments may well be organising similar events in the future.

For my part, I took part in the following sessions:
  • Friday Evening
    • Wargames: What and Why’ a talk by Peter Perla
    • Professional and Hobby Wargaming’ a talk by Mark Herman.
  • Saturday
    • Give me back my legions!’ a talk and discussion about large-scale distance wargaming led by John Bassett
    • Wargaming & History’ a talk and short discussion led by Professor Gary Sheffield
    • Defence & Recreational Wargaming’ a webinar and Q&A session led by Graham Longley-Brown
  • Sunday
    • 'WD40: Wargame Developments and COW, Forty years On' a short talk about the history of WD and COW by me
    • Adventures in Lockdown’ was a discussion about what people had been doing during the period of lockdown, led by Mike Elliott
    • Wargame Developments Annual General Meeting
Planning for COW2021 has already begun ... and I suspect that the lessons we have learned from organising VCOW will be put to good use, either to enable people to remotely access sessions at COW2021 or as a blueprint for future one-day VCOWs that could take place between COWs.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

VCOW Day 3

The final day starts at 9.30am with a talk by me entitled ‘WD40’. This will explain the origins of Wargame Developments and the Conference of Wargames, and marks the fortieth anniversaries of both.

From 10.10am until 11.10am there will be two sessions taking place:
  • ‘Storming a Medieval Castle’
  • ‘On His Most Catholic Majesty’s Service‘
This will be followed by ‘Adventures in Lockdown’ (11.30am until 12.30pm) and then the WD AGM (12.40pm to 1.20pm). This will mark the end of the first VCOW ... and possibly the first of many more.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

VCOW Day 2

Today starts at 9.00am with two sessions:
  • ‘Give me back my legions!’
  • ‘Remote wargames’
These will end at 10.30am, and after a thirty-minute coffee break ...
  • ‘English Civil War Virtual TEWT’
  • ‘Carrier Strike’
... will run from 11.00am until 12.30pm.

After lunch (12.30pm until 2.00pm), there will be three game sessions ...
  • ‘One Hour World War 2’
  • ‘The Convoy: Gridded Age of Sail’
  • ‘Remote Kriegsspiel’
... taking place until 4.00pm.

After a thirty-minute break for afternoon tea, Professor Gary Sheffield will talk from 4.30pm until 5.20pm about ‘Wargaming & History’. He will be followed by Graham Longley-Brown, who will talk about ‘Defence & Recreational Wargaming’ from 5.20pm until 6.00pm.

A dinner break will last from 6.00pm until 7.30pm, when two further sessions will take place. The first will be a large-scale multi-player game entitled ‘Unfortunate Difference’, and it will last from 7.30pm until 9.30pm.

The evening will end with the traditional historical singalong from 9.40pm until 10.30pm ... but for the first time ever, it will be done online!

Friday, 10 July 2020

VCOW Day 1

VCOW (The Virtual Conference of Wargamers) starts this afternoon with a virtual tour of the Lansdowne battlefield.

The conference proper starts with an introduction at 7.20pm, followed by a talk entitled ‘Wargames: What and Why’ by Peter Perla from 7.30pm to 7.55pm. Mark Herman will then talk from 7.55pm to 8.20pm about ‘Professional and Hobby Wargaming’.

The evening will then be rounded off with three online wargames:
  • ‘The Day of the Jackal’
  • ‘The Great Mutiny 1857’
  • ‘Hadley’s Hope’
I’m not taking part in any of the games, but I am very much looking forward to listening to the talks.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Looking backward to go forwards

I was quite busy yesterday getting a few things sorted out for VCOW, but I made time to have a look at the original version of RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES (RF&IC) that I wrote back in 2004, and felt that there were quite a few things that I liked about the design ... and several that I did not!

I actually took RF&IC to SALUTE2004, where I demonstrated it in a number of participation games. I seem to remember that most of the participants were fathers with young children, and that the rules suited them because the games were quick and it gave the father and son teams a chance to play a wargame at together at a wargame show, something that was not generally encouraged at the time. (My more recent experience indicates that this is no longer true, and that many wargame shows encourage the staging of games where a variety of age groups and genders can take part on equal terms.)

We played through a simple scenario that involved a Russian attack on a couple of fortified positions defended by the Germans. The Russians had infantry, light artillery, and four T-34 tanks (two T-34/76 and two T-34/85) and the Germans had infantry supported by light artillery and two tanks (a Panther tank and a Tiger tank). I managed to take some photographs of one of the battles:







Looking at these photographs again, I realised that this was the sort of wargame that I want to recreate when I redraft RF&IC, but with one major change ... NO MORE FULL-SIZE PLAYING CARDS ON THE TABLETOP!

I have learned a lot about wargame design since 2004, especially what will and will not work. As a result, I will be applying these lessons to the new version of RF&IC, which currently has the working title of RF&IC2020.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports

It is quite some time since I did a review of the battle reports that have been featured on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page, and doing so reminded me just how inventive so many of the players are.

Paul Wisken has been using the TRAVEL BATTLE boards made by the Perry brothers with 3mm figures from his collection ...


... and the result is very impressive!

Gary Sheffield took the 'Seize and Hold!' scenario we fought online some weeks ago, and re-fought it with another wargamer ... but this time the location was changed from central Europe to the American Civil War.


He named the river crossing points ('Griffithville Bridge' and 'Paddy's Ford') in honour of the late Dr Paddy Griffith, a military historian and wargamer we both knew well.

Jon Freeman has produced a wonderful setup using Billy Bones paper figures and terrain ...


... which give the whole battle the look of a contemporary woodcut! In this case, the Parliamentarian forces were fighting the Royalists in the Battle of Bucklebroadwood near the hamlet of Luckett.

Finally, Barry Cater continues to use the rules to fight all sorts of unusual tabletop battles. In this instance, Croatian Ustaša units of the Black Legion were fighting Chetnik partisans in part of the former Yugoslavia.


I am sure that my regular blog readers (and especially the other users of the PORTABLE WARGAME series of wargame rules) will agree that these players had produced a very varied set of battle reports, all of which have interesting and innovative features.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Paul Wisken, Gary Sheffield, Jon Freeman, and Barry Carter.

Monday, 6 July 2020

VCOW is coming!

VCOW (the Virtual Conference of Wargamers) will be starting on a Friday evening, and I expect the last few days are likely to be a bit hectic at time.

At present, we have over sixty attendees, and I suspect we might pick up a few more as the week progresses. As one of the co-ordination team, I will be communicating with the attendees by email at least once before Friday, and will be taking part in our last pre-conference Zoom meeting on Thursday evening,

On Sunday morning, I will be doing a talk about the origins of Wargame Developments and the first ever COW, which was held at the former Moor Park College, near Farnham.

The building that housed the former Moor Park College.
I’ve already written it and prepared the slides, but I’ll certainly be going through it a couple of times between now and a Sunday to check that it makes sense, and to make any final tweaks that it might need.

The building that housed the former Moor Park College is Grade II Listed, and after it ceased to be used as a residential training college, it was converted into two large houses. It has since been redeveloped into a luxury residential complex with twenty-four apartments.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Would you like more spam with that?

They’re back!


After a short lull, the spammers are back again ... and they seem to have chosen yesterday's blog entry to be the target of their spamming!

For once, it does not seem to be Russian-based IP addresses that are the source of the jump in traffic on my blog; it is Indonesia!

Why this should be happening is totally beyond me ... and I wonder if other bloggers are experiencing a similar sudden upsurge of interest from that part of the world.

I am still at a loss to know why people do this, but I am very glad that I haven’t removed the ‘comments moderation’ option as it is stopping them from clogging up my blog with unsolicited rubbish. I’m quite capable of clogging it up with rubbish myself without any external assistance!

Saturday, 4 July 2020

US Independence Day

I would like to wish my regular US blog readers a happy 4th July.


Over the years I have visited New York, Newport (Rhode Island), Boston (Massachusetts), Bar Harbor (Maine), and Portland (Maine) during my travels. I have many Internet friends from all over the United States ... and I wish you all well (and good health) at this very trying and dangerous time in your country’s history!

Friday, 3 July 2020

The Portable Seventeenth Century Wargame book: Another update

Work on the P17CW (THE PORTABLE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY WARGAME) book continues apace, and to date it includes:
  • A list of the major European wars (and some Japanese ones) that took place between 1600 and 1700
  • A chapter about the military innovations that took place during the century
  • A set of Portable Thirty Years War/English Civil War Wargame rules written by Antoine Bourguilleau
  • A set of Portable English Civil War Wargame rules written by Alan Saunders
  • A set of Portable English Civil War Wargame siege rules by Arthur Harman
  • An English Civil War pre-battle system by Arthur Harman
  • An English Civil War card-driven activation system by Arthur Harman
  • A means of showing a unit's current Strength Point Value using flags devised by Arthur Harman
  • A set of Portable Wargame rules for fighting battles of the Japanese Sengoku era by by Antoine Bourguilleau
It has been pointed out that all the rules so far included in the book come from the first part of the seventeenth century, and that the book ought to be renamed THE PORTABLE PIKE AND SHOT WARGAME (PP&SW) book, but I am hoping to include rules (and possibly a campaign) that will cover the second half of the century, if only to justify my original title choice!

I am not sure how big an audience the book will attract, but it does illustrate that the basic system is extremely adaptable.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Maigret et moi: Part 4

I have continued to work my way through Georges Simenon's Maigret books, and to date I have read the books shown in bold:
  1. Pietr the Latvian
  2. The Late Monsieur Gallet
  3. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien
  4. The Carter of La Providence
  5. The Yellow Dog
  6. Night at the Crossroads
  7. A Crime in Holland
  8. The Grand Banks Cafe
  9. A Man's Head
  10. The Dancer at the Gai Moulin
  11. The Two-Penny Bar
  12. The Shadow Puppet
  13. The Saint-Fiacre Affair
  14. The Flemish House
  15. The Madman of Bergerac
  16. The Misty Harbour
  17. Liberty Bar
  18. Lock No. 1
  19. Maigret
  20. Cecile is Dead
  21. The Cellars of the Majestic
  22. The Judge's House
  23. Signed, Picpus
  24. Inspector Cadaver
  25. Félicie
  26. Maigret Gets Angry
  27. Maigret in New York
  28. Maigret's Holiday
  29. Maigret's Dead Man
  30. Maigret's First Case
  31. My Friend Maigret
  32. Maigret at the Coroner's
  33. Maigret and the Old Lady
  34. Madame Maigret's Friend
  35. Maigret's Memoirs
  36. Maigret at Picratt's
  37. Maigret Takes a Room
  38. Maigret and the Tall Woman
  39. Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters
  40. Maigret's Revolver
  41. Maigret and the Man on the Bench
  42. Maigret is Afraid
  43. Maigret's Mistake
  44. Maigret Goes to School
  45. Maigret and the Dead Girl
  46. Maigret and the Minister
  47. Maigret and the Headless Corpse
  48. Maigret Sets a Trap
  49. Maigret's Failure
  50. Maigret Enjoys Himself
  51. Maigret Travels
  52. Maigret's Doubts
  53. Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses
  54. Maigret's Secret
  55. Maigret in Court
  56. Maigret and the Old People
  57. Maigret and the Lazy Burglar
  58. Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse
  59. Maigret and the Saturday Caller
  60. Maigret and the Tramp
  61. Maigret's Anger
  62. Maigret and the Ghost
  63. Maigret Defends Himself
  64. Maigret's Patience
  65. Maigret and the Nahour Case
  66. Maigret's Pickpocket
  67. Maigret Hesitates
  68. Maigret in Vichy
  69. Maigret's Childhood Friend
  70. Maigret and the Killer
  71. Maigret and the Wine Merchant
  72. Maigret's Madwoman
  73. Maigret and the Loner
  74. Maigret and the Informer
  75. Maigret and Monsieur Charles
I have also read the following short stories:
  • Maigret's Pipe
  • Maigret's Christmas
  • Seven Little Crosses in a Notebook
  • The Little Restaurant in Les Ternes

The most interesting of the recent books that I have read was MAIGRET’S MEMOIRE. It tells the story of the relationship between a young Belgian author called Georges Sim (who is later revealed to be Georges Simenon) and Chief Inspector Jules Maigret. They are introduced to each other by Maigret’s boss, the head of the Police Judiciare, when the author wants to write about the more unusual crimes that Maigret works on. He follows Maigret around, listening to and watching him whilst he works. Over the years, the two become friends.

In his memoir, the ‘real’ Maigret tries to correct some of the inconsistencies told in the stories about the ‘fictional’ Maigret and his team. For example, in some of the stories the ‘fictional’ Maigret wears a bowler hat, but this disappears in later ones ... and the ‘real’ Maigret explains why. Likewise, the ‘real’ Maigret explains that Simenon used a limited number of ‘real’ names for the Inspectors who worked for the ‘fictional’ Maigret, and this is why some of them seem to change during the course of the stories. In particular, Inspector Torrence is killed in PIETR THE LATVIAN ... and then reappears in later stories.

The ‘real’ Maigret also explains that Simenon did not always retell the stories in the correct chronological order, and that real names and locations were changed for the purpose of the storytelling process.

In fact, the whole book is a wonderful artifice by Georges Simenon to explain away the inconsistencies in the Maigret books ... and it is extremely enjoyable to read. It also tells how Maigret met his wife Louise ... or as she is usually just referred to, Madam Maigret.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Three more months on ...

Having spent the last three months in lockdown, things are just beginning to ease, although there seems to be growing evidence that we may have a second wave of the pandemic on the horizon.

During the last three months, I read lots about how people in general are getting fed up with the restrictions and need to get back to 'normal' ... whatever that is. Looking back over those three months, I seem to have got a lot done, mainly thanks to my hobby providing me with lots of mental stimulus and having the time to spend on wargaming.

A brief survey puts this in perspective:
  • THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME has been published.
  • I am currently working on the next book in the series, THE PORTABLE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY WARGAME.
  • I have renovated a large number of German and Russian vehicles (and some figures) for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project.
  • I have prepared the campaign map and the weather rules for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project.
  • I have learned how to use Zoom and Skype.
  • I have taken part in two online nineteenth century figure wargames with Gary Sheffield.
  • I have taken part in an online role-play game set in Ancient Rome, that was entitled 'GIVE ME BACK MY LEGIONS!'.
  • I have prepared and delivered three online Masonic lectures ... and have another one in preparation.
  • I have helped to plan for the VCOW (Virtual Conference of Wargamers) that will be staged later this month as a replacement for COW2020.
  • I have prepared an online talk about the origins of Wargame Developments and COW that will be delivered during VCOW.
  • I have continued to read my way through the entire published collection of MAIGRET books by Georges Simenon.
  • I have reviewed six books.
  • I have been interviewed by Henry Hyde for his BATTLEGAMES podcast.
Looking at it, I seem to have achieved quite a lot during the last three months ... and I still have plenty more to do!

Six months ago I wished my regular blog readers and fellow bloggers a safe and healthy 2020 ... and I repeated that message three months later. Today I would like to reiterate those best wishes again.

STAY SAFE AND STAY WELL!