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Saturday, 19 October 2019

Changes to the Wargame Developments Discussion Group

As Yahoo Groups is going to discontinue many of the services it currently provides, it has been decided that the Wargame Developments Discussion Group (WDDG) that Yahoo Groups currently host will move to a new home, WDDG@groups.io.


Thanks to some sterling work by John Armatys, the files currently available on Yahoo Groups WDDG have been transferred to WDDG@groups.io. Existing members of Yahoo Groups WDDG will need to register an account with Groupsio, search for the new group (WDDG@groups.io), and request to join. One of the administrators will then approve the membership request.

Friday, 18 October 2019

What I listen to whilst modelling or painting

When I'm modelling or painting, I like to listen to abridged audiobooks on CDs. Whilst renovating my latest batch of figures, I've listened to:
  • THE GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson, read by Martin Venner
  • THE BECKONING LADY by Margery Allingham, read by Philip Franks
  • MYSTERY MILE by Margery Allingham, read by Philip Franks
I like to work in approximately sixty-minute-long stretches, followed by a break. I've found that by doing this I don't lose concentration, and make fewer mistakes. Luckily, most audiobooks on CDs last between forty and sixty minutes, so listening to one helps me to keep to my optimum work pattern.

Interestingly, when I am writing, I like to do it in absolute silence. I suspect that is because I often read out loud what I have written in order to make sure that it makes sense. It's a trick I learnt from another author, and it helps to prevent me from ending up with sentences or statements that do not make sense. That's the theory, anyway ...

Thursday, 17 October 2019

My latest batch of renovated 20mm-scale German figures

Over the past week or so, I've gradually been renovating another batch of 20mm-scale German figures from my World War II collection.



Quite a few of them needed a lot of work to bring them up to the standard of the renovated figures I have already completed. This was due to some sort of problem with the original water-based matt varnish they were treated with, which had begun to whiten over the years they had been in storage.

Gently washing the figures in warm, soapy water did little to help, and in the end the worst effected areas had to be repainted. I could have junked them and painted some new figures in the time that it took me to renovate this latest batch, but these were old friends who had served me well in the past, and I felt that I owed it to them to do a proper restoration job on them. I'm glad that I did, as they don't look too bad now that they are finished.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Battle of Leningrad: A DVD rview

BATTLE OF LENINGRAD was recently released on DVD, having been given a cinematic release on 27th January 2019, just days before the 75th anniversary of the end of the siege.


Before I go any further, I think that it is important to note that the film's original title was SAVING LENINGRAD (Russian: Спасти Ленинград), and that it deals with a specific event during the early days of the siege. This was the voyage of Barge 752 across Lake Ladoga on 16th to 17th September 1941, during which a dumb (i.e. unpowered) barge, loaded with approximately 1,500 people, was supposed to be towed by a tug from Leningrad to the relative safety of the Russian-occupied eastern shore of the lake. It was done to show that civilians could be evacuated from the city, and soldiers and supplies brought in.

In reality, it was a disaster. The barge set off when the water was calm, but overnight a storm hit the lake, and the barge, which was heavily overloaded, began to suffer damage and take in water. On the morning of 17th September, it came under air attack, as a result of which it sank, and over 1,000 passengers were killed or drowned. Amongst those that died were:
  • 433 military cadets, including a whole class of cadets from the Leningrad Military School of Engineering
  • 132 graduates of the Military Medical Academy
  • 8 junior officers
  • 36 officers
  • At least 46 women
  • A number of children
  • 30 civilian workers and members of the Naval Medical Academy and the Navy's Hydrographic Administration
The film is a fictionalised telling of the story. It concentrates on a few main characters:
  • Anastasiya Alexandrovna Tkachyova ('Nastya'), a schoolgirl in Leningrad.
  • Konstantin Nikolaevich Gorelov ('Kostya') a cadet attending the Leningrad Artillery School and Nastya's boyfriend
  • Vadim Petruchik, an NKVD investigator who helped imprison Nastya's father
  • Mariya Nikolaevna Tkachyova, Nastya's mother
  • Alexandr Naumovich Tkachyov, Nastya's father
  • Captain (First Rank) Nikolai Gorelov, Kostya's father
As with almost all recent Russian war films, the quality of the special effects is superb, and the battle scenes are horrific ... and I suspect quite accurate in that Russian human-wave tactics using barely-trained troops only ever seem to succeed at the price of huge numbers of lives lost.

This is as much a love story as it is a war film, but above all else, it is a film about people trying to survive against all the odds.

BATTLE OF LENINGRAD/SAVING LENINGRAD was written, directed, and produced by Aleksey Kozlov & Arkady Fateev, made by Studio AVK, and released on 27th January 2019. The DVD is in Russian and German with English subtitles.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

A rather appropriate piece of poetry from my school days?

After the responses that I had yesterday to my blog entry about the latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES, I was suddenly put in mine of a piece of poetry I had to read when I was at secondary school during the 1960s. It was written by Lewis Carroll, and was entitled YOU ARE OLD, FATHER WILLIAM:

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door –
Pray, what is the reason of that?”

“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment – one shilling the box –
Allow me to sell you a couple?”

“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak –
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose –
What made you so awfully clever?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you downstairs!”

Well, by that standards of the time when this poem was written in 1865, I am old. My hair is greying (I like to think that it gives me the look of someone who has a bit of gravitas!) and I am certainly fat ... although by modern standards, not uncommonly! (And I've never been able to back-somersault, even in my youth!) I can say that all my teeth are my own ... although some of them do come out at night and grin at me! As to the strength of my jaws being the result of 'discussions' with my wife ... well, I'll let her have the final word on that topic!

If I had the time or the ability, I might feel inclined to write an ageing wargamer's version of Lewis Carroll's poem, but I've got some 20mm-scale German Second World War figures on my worktable awaiting renovation ...

Monday, 14 October 2019

Miniature Wargames 439

The second 'NEW LOOK' issue of the magazine arrived by post on Saturday, and I spent some time yesterday reading it.


The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Tabletop Gaming Live 2019: A photoreport with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Defence in Depth: Rule Books and Figures
  • Entering the Perilous Dark: The designer of Frostgrave leads us down into the dank depths of Felstad in this exclusive scenario by Joseph McCullough, with photographs by Osprey Games< /li>
  • Exclusive Scenario: The Slippery Slope
  • Otumba: The Aztec Empire: Mexico July 7, 1520 by Jon Sutherland, with photographs by Joe Dever
  • Lose sight of the shore: An introduction to Black Seas by Noel William, with photographs by Warlord
  • Send three and fourpence: Cornpone's Discomfiture: Part One: an American Civil War Kriegspiel with words and photographs by Conrad Kinch
  • Show Report: Many Coloured: The Editor goes to the Colours 2019 show with photographs by John Treadaway
  • How to assemble your free mausoleum
  • Kill Team: The Great War: A rules conversion for the Western Front by David Hiscock, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Night of the Scarecrows: An exclusive horror scenario by James Winspear and Mike Hutchinson, with miniatures by Henry Smith and James Winspear
  • Exclusive Scenario: Night of the Scarecrows
  • Rags and Bullets: Painting the scarecrows and survivors
  • Quartermaster: Accessories & Terrain
  • Hobby Tips: Mat Making with words and photographs by Matt Moran
  • Recce
  • Club Spotlight: Abingdon Wargames Club an interview conducted by James Winspear
  • The Last Word: The joys and challenges of the mass battle wargame by Ronnie Renton
So, what did I think of this issue? To be truthful, not a lot. The move away from miniature wargames towards tabletop gaming with figures (which in my opinion are not the same thing) continues. That said, there were a few redeeming articles in this issue which I enjoyed reading.

What did I like?
  • Jon Sutherland's Otumba had a similar point-to-point campaign map to one that I am trying to develop for my own campaigning along with an army generator that was related to whichever option the players chose to take. This was not too dissimilar from my own approach, as outlined in the SIMPLE MINI-CAMPAIGNS chapter in DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME.
  • Conrad Kinch's introduction to his ACW kreigsspiel in Send three and fourpence. (I prefer to use the original German spelling rather than the anglicised one that seems to be quite common these days.)
  • Matt Moran's Hobby Tips, which seemed to be a throwback to the time when wargamers expected to make a lot of their own terrain rather than just buy it off the shelf.
  • There were fewer interviews, although there does still seem to be a bit of a trend to include what can best be described as 'product placement' articles.
What did I not like?
  • Night of the Scarecrows. Ten pages (one-eight!) of the magazine was devoted to a Halloween-related horror game. Now here I must admit to a serious dislike of the horror genre in general and anything to do with Halloween in particular, and this has certainly coloured my opinion of the pages devoted to this game. I am sure that the rules will give some people a lot of fun ... but I will not be one of them.

When I first looked at Ronnie Renton's contribution in The Last Word, I inwardly groaned. Any article that includes the following quote was probably destined to trigger such a reaction.
'There's nothing quite like the spectacle of lining up hundreds of miniatures on opposite sides of the gaming table, then smashing it out in a furious battle to the death.'
However, when I read it properly, I realised that what he was actually writing about was the needs of wargamers who are 'cash rich but time poor' ... the group within the hobby for whom THE PORTABLE WARGAME was designed. In his final paragraph, he states that:
'I never thought I would relate wargaming to the world of cricket but just bear with me. Just as cricket has room of Twenty-20, one-day matches and full on test matches, I think that we're approaching that stage in wargaming with skirmish games, warband level experiences and mass battles.'
Although I would have like him to mention games like THE PORTABLE WARGAME in that comment (I like to think of it as a Twenty-20 type of wargame), I tend to agree with his analysis. Modern wargamers may well hanker for large wargames, but may only have to time to take part in such events once or twice a year. For them the simple, quick to set up weekly wargame is the norm ... and it is important that their needs are catered for.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Bandenkrieg

Whilst looking through my archive of rules that I keep on my computer, I came across a report of Ian Drury's game entitled BANDENKRIEG that was played at COW2006. Like RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES, it also began life as a development of one of Richard Brook's RED SQUARE rules, and although I was not able to take part in the session, I did acquire some photographs of the game. These are shown below.




As can be seen, the terrain being used is Hexon II, and the 20mm-scale figures and vehicles are a mixture of odds and ends from Ian's collection.

Amongst the German units that took part was Panzerbrigade Artur Daley, which was equipped with an eclectic mixture of German and second-hand, captured vehicles.






This is the sort of 'look' that I want my forthcoming RF&IC games to have. All that I've got to do now is to write the rules and play-test them!

Friday, 11 October 2019

The Great British Model Railway Challenge

Despite some valiant attempts in the past (for example, GAME OF WAR and TIME COMMANDERS), wargaming has never quite made it as a hobby that anyone would watch on television. It was therefore something of a surprise to me in 2018 when Channel 5 decided to run a series of programmes about model railways entitled THE GREAT BRITISH MODEL RAILWAY CHALLENGE. The first series proved to be a success, and the second series is currently being aired on Channel 5 on Saturday evenings.


So why is a TV series about building model railways more commercially acceptable than one about wargaming?

Part of the answer is in the name, challenge. In each programme three teams of model railway enthusiasts are set a theme and then have to build a model railway layout pretty well from scratch, although they are given a baseboard and allowed to build some structures beforehand. The judges then decide which is the best layout, and the winning team goes through to the final. Themes have included:
  • First Series:
    • Classic Movies
    • British TV
    • Globetrotting
    • Fire and Ice
    • Waterworld
    • A Journey through Time (final)
  • Second Series:
    • The Restless Earth
    • Classic Books
    • The Best of British
    • Uncharted Territory
    • The Sky's the Limit
    • Semifinal 1 (yet to be aired)
    • Semifinal 2 (yet to be aired)
    • Final (yet to be aired)
A second reason why I think the programme works is the interplay between the team members and the judges (Steve Flint and Kathy Millatt) as well as the somewhat irreverent attitude of the two presenters, James Richardson and Tim Shaw. The programme treats the whole thing as being fun ... whereas I suspect that wargamers would expect their hobby to be treated with greater seriousness and less frivolity.

I understand that the makers of THE GREAT BRITISH MODEL RAILWAY CHALLENGE are already looking for teams to take part in a forthcoming series, so it looks as if it is certainly going to match the success of TIME COMMANDERS, which managed two complete series on BBC2 in 2004 and 2005 and a short series of three 'specials' on BBC4 in 2016.


An interesting aspect of this series is watching the model railway enthusiasts model their terrain is how many of the techniques that they use are applicable to the modelling of wargame terrain.


I have certainly gathered a few ideas from watching these modellers at work, and I suspect that other wargamers would as well.

Please note that the images featured above are © Knickerbockerglory and Channel 5.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

My 20mm-scale World War II figure renovation project ... has resumed!

Now that I have decided to do some work on re-writing my RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES rules, I have resumed work on my 20mm-scale World War II figure renovation project. These two projects will hopefully develop at the same time, with writing and renovating taking place in parallel.

I have decided to try to complete renovating the German figures in my collection before moving on to do the Russians. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, there are fewer of them ... and secondly, I know that I will be receiving some 'reinforcements' in the very near future, and would like to assimilate them into my collection as quickly as possible after they arrive.

Renovating my figures involves removing them from their existing bases, gluing them to new bases (I am using new copper-coloured, steel one pence coins as bases), and then touching up their paintwork where it needs doing. The figures are then gloss varnished, the bases are painted green, and the figures are then ready to be returned to their storage boxes prior to being organised into RF&IC units.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

My 1:100th-scale aircraft inventory

Having added the latest 'reinforcements' to my collection of 1:100th-scale Second World War aircraft, I decided that it would be a good idea to list them. At present, the collection includes the following aircraft, listed by country of origin:

Germany
  • 1 x Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber
  • 9 x Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter
  • 3 x Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter
  • 1 x Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger fighter
Russia
  • 3 x Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik ground-attack aircraft
  • 1 x Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Gudkov LaGG-3 fighter
  • 1 x Lavochkin La-7 fighter
  • 3 x Polikarpov I-16 fighter
  • 3 x Yakovlev Yak-1 fighter
  • 3 x Yakovlev Yak-3 fighter
  • 1 x Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter
Italy
  • 2 x Fiat G.50 Freccia fighter
UK
  • 11 x Hawker Hurricane fighter
  • 1 x Hawker Typhoon fighter
  • 8 x Supermarine Spitfire fighter
USA
  • 1 x Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk fighter
  • 1 x North American P-51 Mustang fighter
  • 1 x Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter
Japanese
  • 1 x Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter
French
  • 1 x Dewoitine D.520 fighter
The list turned out to be longer that I had expected, and means that I can field quite a few different aircraft in any forthcoming air actions over my tabletop.

I also discovered that I have eight approximately 1:100th-scale diecast models of Boeing-Stearman two-seater biplanes in my collection, which with a little repainting will just about pass muster as generic light biplane bombers.