Monday 31 August 2009

Drawing Laurania

I was recently asked how I drew the map of Laurania that has been featured on several of my previous blog entries. I tried to explain the process, but I decided that a simple 'how to' explanation with suitable images would make it much easier to understand. So here goes ...

The computer programs I used

I am a great believer in the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple Stupid), and applied it to the choice of computer programs I used to create my map of Laurania. The programs I used are widely available ... and cheap! I used the following programs to create my map:
  • Serif PhotoPlus 6.0
  • Microsoft Paint
Neither of these require much training to use, are fairly uncomplicated, and usually simple to use.

Step 1: Finding an outline map

The first thing I did was to trawl through the Internet to find a suitable basic map upon which to base my map. Albania fitted the bill, and so I downloaded a black and white map of that country into MS Paint.

I 'cropped' the image to remove some of the detail I did not need, saved it as a bitmap image, and opened the image in Serif PhotoPlus. I then used the 'Image' and 'Image Size' tools (having unticked the 'Maintain aspect ratio' option) to make the map wider whilst keeping the height the same. I then enlarged the image using the 'Image' and 'Image Size' tools (this time making sure that the 'Maintain aspect ratio' option was ticked).

I then 'exported' the new image, making sure that I saved it as a new bitmap image with a different name. I did this so that if anything went wrong I could go back to my original version.

Step 2: Creating the basic outline

I then opened the new image in MS Paint, and used the 'Select', 'Cut', and 'Eraser' tools to remove some of the unwanted detail (e.g. the names of bordering countries, sea areas etc.).

I then saved the image (again using another different name) as a Monochrome Bitmap. This had the effect of removing all the grey areas on the map and reducing it to a very basic outline.

Once this was done I re-saved the image, this time as a 24-bit Bitmap. I did this so that I could use colour during the next step of the process.

Step 3: Creating the map of Laurania

I then used MS Paint to draw over the existing boundary lines on the map in red. I then drew over the outline of the sea and lakes, and filled them with blue. I followed this by drawing grey circles over the existing towns and cities, and added several new ones as well. Finally I removed and place names that were still on the map using the smallest setting on the 'Eraser' tool.

I then saved the image ... yet again ... using another new name! I know that this sounds very anally retentive but I knew that if I made a mistake at any stage in this process I could always go back a stage and start again, and would only lose part rather than all my work to date.

I then drew in the contours, using a different but appropriate colour for each contour line. I then used the 'Fill With Color' tool to fill in the areas between each contour line. I also drew in the national boundaries in red, and filled in the non-Lauranian land in grey.

At this stage the map looks almost complete, but there is still some way to go yet.

The next stage was to use MS Paint to draw in the rivers and railways ...

... followed by the roads. This takes more time than one would expect, and again I saved the image at each stage of the process.

Finally I added the place names.

This has to be done carefully. Each place name was created using the 'Text' tool in MS Paint. It was then cut around using the 'Select' tool, and placed in the appropriate position. The important thing that I had to remember was to create the text against a white background and to ensure that the 'Draw Opaque' setting under the 'Image' tools was not ticked.

In conclusion

This method for creating maps may sound a lot more complicated than it actually is. If you are going to try this process, I would suggest that you start with something small ... and practice the techniques.

It did take quite a lot of time to create the final map, but the end result was worth it. I wanted to make something that looked like it had come from an atlas, and I think that I managed to achieve what I set out to do.

Sunday 30 August 2009

I've been on holiday ... again!

As you might have guessed, I have been on another cruise (the second in six weeks!) and have been out of touch for most of that time. I will be making a long blog entry about where I have been, what I have seen, what I have bought, and what I have read sometime very soon. In the meantime I am trying to catch up with my emails and blogs that I follow ... as well as preparing to go back to work on Tuesday!

I think I am going to be very busy for the next few days!

Thursday 27 August 2009

The ‘Nostalgia’ Project – my decision … sort of!

Having spent some time thinking about what to do next about my ‘Nostalgia’ project.

Firstly I have decided to continue with the ‘Nostalgia’ project, but over a longer timescale. I will continue to collect the necessary models and figures, and may even make some prototype vehicles and ships. I will not, however, start serious work on the project for at least several months.

Secondly I have decided to finish the back-history of Laurania that I started some time ago. This also includes a guide to the Latinate language of Laurania. I will also draw up an outline of the Lauranian armed forces during the 1930s for future reference, as they may well make a good enemy – or ally – for the Opelanders at some time in the future.

All I have to do now is stick to my decisions!

Monday 24 August 2009

The ‘Nostalgia’ Project – my wife speaks!

I was word-processing some ideas about this project when my wife looked over my shoulder and asked me why I was creating yet another imagi-nation when I had not finished using the all the stuff I had done on Laurania. She further added that she had assumed that all the pre-painted 1:300th model buildings I had been buying recently had been for that project and not a new one.

Now I have to admit that she is right. I have not yet exploited the potential of Laurania anywhere near as much as I should or could, and the model buildings are very suitable for it. In fact, they are – with the exception of the ones bought in Copenhagen – all from Adriatic region, which is roughly where Laurania is situated.

My wife’s interjection has left me in somewhat of a quandary. Do I persist with creating a back-history and wargames army for Opeland or do I complete the already extensive back-history of Laurania – and finish off their nascent armed forces – before embarking on a ‘new’ project?

Time to do some serious thinking, I suspect.

Thursday 20 August 2009

The ‘Nostalgia’ Project – my most recent thoughts

I am now firmly convinced that my Opelandic Army will be a quasi-Swedish force, with Finnish and German influences. My plan is to create an army that is organised into brigades along the following lines:

Armoured Brigades:
  • An Armoured Battalion
  • Two Motorised Infantry Battalions
  • A Motorised Artillery Battalion
  • A Motorised Assault Engineer Company
  • A Motorised Reconnaissance Battalion
  • A Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun Company
  • A Self-propelled or Motorised Anti-aircraft Company
  • A Brigade HQ Company
Infantry Brigades:
  • Three Infantry Battalions
  • An Artillery Battalion
  • An Assault Engineer Company
  • A Motorised or Bicycle Reconnaissance Battalion
  • An Anti-tank Gun Company
  • An Anti-aircraft Company
  • A Brigade HQ Company
I also intend that the Opelandic Army will be supported by an Air Force equipped with Fighters, Fighter-Bombers/Ground Attack Aircraft, Bombers, Reconnaissance Aircraft, and Transport Aircraft, and a Navy that has at least two (or possibly three) frontline Coastal Defence Battleships, Destroyers, and Torpedo Boats.

This may well be a bit over ambitious, but I won’t find out if it is until I start!

Thursday 13 August 2009

Swedish inspiration for the 'Nostalgia' Project

When I visited Sweden last year I managed to prevail upon my wife to go to the Swedish Army Museum in Stockholm. One of the things that I bought at the museum's shop was a short booklet entitled SVENSKA ARMENS PANSAR - DEN SVENSKA STRIDSVAGNSMATERIELENS HISTORIA. This is an illustrated guide to the armoured vehicles used by the Swedish Army since 1920.

This is one of the books that I have been looking at for inspiration for my 'Nostalgia' project, and I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the Swedish Army will make an excellent basis for the army of my vaguely Northern European/Baltic States/Eastern European imagi-nation, Opeland.

The reasoning behind this is that the equipment used by the Swedes looks similar to, but not the same as, that used by Germany in the late 1930s and early 1940s. For example, the Stridsvagn m/37 looks similar to the PzKpfw I ...

... and the Stridsvagn m/38 is about the same size as a PzKpfw II but is armed with a 37mm gun.

The Stridsvagn m/42 has a 75mm gun, and is about the same size as the later model PzKpfw III.

The Swedes even used the chassis of the Stridsvagn m/42 as the basis of a self-propelled gun, just like the Germans used the chassis of the PzKpfw III as a basis for the StuG III.

If I do use the Swedish Army of the late 1930s and early 1940s as the basis on my Opelandic Army, I will need to acquire quite a few ROCO PzKpfw IIIs and/or StuG IIIs as well as some other bits and pieces.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

What the eye can see at different distances

I have just been re-reading A PRIMER FOR HORSE, FIELD & MOUNTAIN ARTILLERY by Captain T. H. Lloyd, RA. It was published in 1878, and was intended:
'to facilitate the Instruction of N.C. Officers and Gunners of Horse, Field and Mountain Batteries in accordance with the Instructions contained in regimental Orders, Horse Guards, War Office, 1st August, 1876.'
The author stated in the Preface that:
'I have tried to use the simplest language, such, in fact, that it can be understood by a man of the least education.'
Of particular interest was the section that deals with ranges and elevations, where it states the following:
'To good eyesight in clear weather men and horses appear as follows:
At 2000 yards, single men and horses like dots.
At 1880 yards, detached files of cavalry, clear.
At 1300 yards, detached files of infantry, clear.
At 1200 yards, bodies of cavalry and infantry distinct.
At 1000 yards, single men like a narrow oval.
At 850 yards, heads and movements of limbs of detached men clear.
At 500 yards, heads of men in the ranks, as round balls.
At 300 yards, figure of a man distinct.
At 80 yards, eyes like dots on the face.'
The primer also contains diagrams that show how gun limbers, artillery ammunition wagons, the axletree boxes on guns, and artillery mules should be loaded. Of particular interest was the fact that each Field, Horse and Mountain gun – regardless of calibre – carried four case shot and appropriate cartridges in its axletree boxes. One assumes that this was for self-defence of the gun and crew in the event of an ambush at close range.

New book arrives by post

In my recent blog entry about the books I read during my recent cruise, I mentioned BRITAIN’S FORGOTTEN WARS – COLONIAL CAMPAIGNS OF THE 19TH CENTURY by Ian Hernon. What I did not make clear was that I already owned two of the three hardback books that had been combined to create this particular paperback book.

Having read the 'missing' book (MASSACRE AND RETRIBUTION) I decided that I wanted to have a hardback copy. A quick search on the Internet put me in touch with a bookseller who had a copy on their bookshelves, and I bought it. It now sits on my bookshelves alongside the other two volumes (THE SAVAGE EMPIRE and BLOOD IN THE SAND).

Owning the complete set of books now means that I can pass on the paperback copy to another wargamer who also likes colonial wargaming ... no requests to be that wargamer – please – as I have already chosen who the lucky person will be!

Tuesday 11 August 2009

A parting of the ways ... well sort of

I first began this blog last September, and have enjoyed writing it. It has made a tremendous difference to my wargaming, and I have written more wargames rules and fought more battles than ever before.

I have done all this whilst helping to run Wargame Developments – both in the role of Treasurer/Membership Secretary and Co-Conference Organiser for COW (the Conference of Wargamers) – and maintaining three wargames-related websites: It was whilst I was recently updating the Colonial Wargaming website that I wondered how many other websites that covered the same area were still 'up and running'; when I checked the results were disappointing. Most were moribund, although a few were keeping the flame of colonial wargaming alive.

I get very little feedback about my Colonial Wargaming website whereas I get loads of feedback – both in terms of comments and visitor 'hits' – on this blog. I have therefore decided that as from now – yesterday in fact – I will create and run a separate Colonial Wargaming blog. It is intended to supplement my existing website, not to replace it. I still intended to keep the Colonial Wargaming website as current as I can, but to use the Colonial Wargaming blog to keep readers aware of what I am doing on the colonial wargaming front.

I have no intention of letting this blog become moribund; it will remain my main blog and it will continue to have some colonial wargaming coverage. The latter is likely to be more general than at present, with detailed descriptions of specific colonial wargames rules and battle reports being ‘blogged’ on the new blog.

I hope that this makes as much sense to you as it does to me.

In the meantime, keep reading the blog!

Monday 10 August 2009

Joseph Morschauser's gridded rules available online ... thanks to Vintage Wargaming

For those of you who – like me – enjoy reading about the wargames other people were playing during the early years of wargaming, you cannot do better than to visit the Vintage Wargaming blog.

Amongst other things it has a series of entries – most of them illustrated with scanned in copies of the original documents – about Joseph Morschauser’s wargames rules. These include the complete text of his famous gridded wargames rules as featured in the May 1967 issue of WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER (Number 62). These are the rules used in the colonial wargame featured in pictures in Joseph Morschauser’s book HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE and Donald Featherstone’s book ADVANCED WAR GAMES.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Solferino in Five Hours … with sausages and cake!

Yesterday Ian Drury hosted the annual wargame and sausage-eating day at his house. This has been going for the last five years, and features a refight of a famous nineteenth century battle with a break for sausages (and other edibles) at lunchtime.

This year the refight was of the Battle of Solferino, and the participants were Ian Drury (the host), Richard Brooks (who wrote the rules and provided many of the toy soldiers), Nigel Drury (Ian’s brother), Peter Grizzell, Alan Buddles, and myself.

The battle was fought using 15mm figures – mainly old Peter Laing and some newer Freikorps miniatures – and used the latest version of Richard’s Minischlacht rules.

Some 15mm Peter Laing Austrian infantry advancing across the battlefield.
By the time we broke for lunch, the French were fighting their way into Solferino whilst the Austrian’s were trying to bring troops forward to form a coherent frontline in the centre of the battlefield. As expected, the Austrian cavalry charged their opponents but were driven off by overwhelming firepower.

The fighting around Solferino. The playing cards are used to determine the order in which units and formations are activated during each turn.

Austrian cavalry is thrown back by the combined gunfire of French infantry and artillery.
The Austrian’s suffered throughout the game from poor staff work, and seemed unable to move their reserves forward fast enough to fill the gaps in their frontline as the troops there broken and fled.

The moment that the Austrian army lost the battle. The yellow markers distinguish those units that have reached breaking point and are leaving the battlefield.
The battle ended when over 50% of the Austrian army had either broken, fled from the battlefield, or was totally disorganised by events. By then the French were in control of Solferino, and their artillery – which was able to out-range and out-shoot the Austrian artillery – ruled the battlefield.

Nigel Drury (left) and Richard Brooks (right) look out over the battlefield. Both commanded Corps in the winning French army.

Peter Grizzell (left) was the third French Corps commander. Alan Buddles (right) commanded the right wing of the Austrian army and mounted a stout defence of Solferino.
The battle was great fun – and the sausages and cake were excellent as well! Everyone had a great time … and the weather helped it to be an excellent day all-round.

Thursday 6 August 2009

New version of When Empires Clash! – Colonial Variant now available

I have had several requests for further example armies to be included in the army lists at the back of these rules. The rules now contain example armies for both sides for the following conflicts:
  • The Second Afghan War (1878 – 1881)
  • The North-West Frontier of India (1878 – 1890)
  • The Zulu War (1879)
  • The First Boer War (1880 – 1881)
  • The Gordon Relief Expedition (1884 – 1885)
  • The North-West Frontier of India (1890 – 1900)
  • The Reconquest of the Sudan (1896 – 1898)
  • The Spanish-American War (1898)
  • The Second Boer War (1899 – 1902)
  • The Boxer Rebellion (1900 – 1901)
I have also made one major change to the Main Battle Rules. Regular Cavalry must now dismount in order to fire, whereas all other types of cavalry can fire then move or move then fire. In the latter case they suffer a penalty of minus one when using the dice to determine the effect of their gunfire.

The new version of these rules can be found on the Colonial Wargames Rules page of the Wargames Rules and Modelling section of my Colonial Wargaming website. Just follow the links from the front page or go via the ‘What is new?’ link.

COW2010 booking frenzy!

For some reason – possibly as a result of me mentioning in one of yesterday's blog entries the number of places that had already been booked – there has been a frenzy of bookings for places at COW2010.

As I write this blog entry there are now thirty three confirmed bookings and four provisional bookings. Of the latter, two are from people who are thinking of attending as non-residents (i.e. they may be making their own sleeping arrangements.)

Today has seen a lull in the frenzy ... but there is still plenty of the day left and there are still places that can be booked.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Cruise reading

In my recent blog entry about my cruise to the Baltic, I did not mention anything about the books that I read.

Now sea days can be boring, but I find them very relaxing. I write wargames rules – hence the latest version of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! – and read. Usually my reading is either military history or crime novels set in the nineteenth century (especially anything by Boris Akunin!).

On my last cruise I read CHURCHILL’S WIZARDS – THE BRITISH GENIUS FOR DECEPTION 1914-1945 by Nicholas Rankin …


CHURCHILL’S WIZARDS explains how camouflage developed during World Wars I and II from simple visual ‘tricks’ that hid things from view into the field of confusion and distraction, culminating in the creation of the totally mythical FUSAG (First United States Army Group) that the Germans still believed was preparing to invade France via the Pas de Calais weeks after the Normandy invasion had taken place.

BRITAIN’S FORGOTTEN WARS is the paperback compilation of Ian Hernon’s three hardback books about Britain’s colonial wars of the nineteenth century. The book covers:

Part One – Massacre and Retribution
  • The First Kandy War, 1803 – 5
  • The Falklands, 1833
  • The Flafstaff War, 1845 – 6
  • The Jamaica Rebellion, 1865
  • The Arracan Expedition, Andaman Islands, 1867
  • The Magdala Campaign, 1867 – 8
  • The Modoc Indian War, 1872 – 3
  • The Riel Rebellion, 1885
  • The Ashanti War of the Golden Stool, 1900
Part Two – The Savage Empire
  • The Capture and Loss of Buenos Aires, 1806 – 7
  • The First Burma War, 1824 – 6
  • The Black War – Tasmania, 1824 – 30
  • The Opium War, 1839 – 42
  • The Persian War, 1856 – 7
  • The Arrow or Second China War, 1856 – 60
  • The Shortest War – Zanzibar, 1896
  • The Benin Massacre, 1897
  • The Tirah Campaign, 1897 – 8
Part Three – Blood in the Sand
  • The Gurkha War, 1814 – 16
  • The Defeat of the Borneo Pirates, 1840 – 9
  • The Storming of Madagascar, 1845
  • The First Sikh War, 1845 – 6
  • The Second Sikh War, 1848 – 9
  • Eureka Stockade, Australia, 1854
  • The Defence of Kars, Turkey, 1855
  • The Fenian Invasion of Canada, 1866
  • The Battle of Orange Walk, Belize, 1872
  • The Hut Tax War, Sierra Leone, 1898
For a colonial wargamer like myself this is a mine of information about some of the more obscure colonial wars Britain fought, and is one of my recommended ‘best reads’ for likeminded wargamers.

COW2010 bookings continue to grow!

I thought that my blog entry of yesterday might raise a bit of interest amongst readers who have been thinking about coming to COW2010; little did I realise how much interest it would raise!

Since this morning I have had nine new bookings, which brings the total to thirty. This is something of a record, and is as many bookings as I had by March 2009 for COW2009.

It looks like the 30th Conference of Wargamers is going to be a bumper one!

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Planning for COW2010 begins ... and it is still 2009!

Today I completed and returned the contract to book Knuston Hall for Wargame Developments 30th annual Conference of Wargamers. COW2010 will be held from Friday 2nd July to Sunday 4th July 2010 and I have already received 20 bookings!

Because this is a special year I expect to get a lot of bookings, and as space is limited I would strongly advise anyone who wants to book a place to do as as soon as possible.

Monday 3 August 2009

When Empires Clash! – Colonial Variant now available

I have had several requests for a specific variant of the WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! rules from players who want to fight colonial battles. As this happened to be one of my favourite areas of wargaming I have produced a colonial variant of the rules, and they are now available online.

The rules can be found on the Colonial Wargames Rules page of the Wargames Rules and Modelling section of my Colonial Wargaming website. Just follow the links from the front page or go via the ‘What is new?’ link.

The variant has a few minor changes – mainly to the movement rules so that cavalry can mount and dismount – and includes a new weapon – the Pom-Pom gun.

A Pom-Pom gun and Australian crew during the 2nd Boer War. Having been on the receiving end of these guns, the British Empire forces acquired their own.
The rules also have a more comprehensive set of army lists for the following colonial conflicts:
  • The Zulu War (1879)
  • The First Boer War (1880 – 1881)
  • The Gordon Relief Expedition (1884 – 1885)
  • The Reconquest of the Sudan (1986 – 1898)
  • The Spanish-American War (1898)
  • The Second Boer War (1899 – 1902)
  • The Boxer Rebellion (1900 – 1901)

Sunday 2 August 2009

Synchronicity … or the possibilities of creating a very portable and light wargame

The sight of the green baize tables in the card room of the cruise liner I have just been on – P&O’s MV ARTEMIS – started me thinking about the possibility of creating a very portable – and light – wargame that I could take on cruises. It was whilst I was having these thoughts that I read the following on the Internet:
‘Firstly you should know that I actually do all my playtesting with various bit of card cut from artists mounting board rather than wait until I’ve scratch built and painted up appropriate models. If I did that you’d never see a game out of me!’
Matthew Hartley – another member of Wargame Developments – wrote this in his column, TANKARD TALES in the July 2009 issue of ORCS IN THE WEBBE. This is not very dissimilar to my own practice, and I wondered how many other game designers do the same? I also thought that this might be a possible way forward if I wanted to create a light, portable wargame.

And then the third synchronous event occurred; I went into my wargames room to look for something … and found my box of cardboard wargames figures for the Russo-Turkish War.

I made these figures some while before I began blogging. At the time I was trying to reduce my spending on wargames, and my painting ability – which I think is not particularly good – had taken a nosedive in quality. I came across the JUNIOR GENERAL website, and this showed me the possibilities of making cardboard wargames figures.

Now I am not to bad a practitioner with various drawing programs, including the much despised but very easy-to-use Microsoft Paint, and after a few hours work I had created a number of basic figures that I could manipulate to create a whole range of mid to late nineteenth century wargames figures.

Using these I then created two small armies for the Russo-Turkish War. The whole thing took me less than a week from start to finish, which is a much short time span than I would have needed if I had wanted to create similar-sized painted armies in metal or plastic.

As they are made of cardboard, I stuck the figures onto thin plywood bases to give them a bit of weight. I then painted and flocked the bases as usual, and the results looked quite adequate for my purposes.

It was at this point that my financial situation took an upturn and my enthusiasm for painting returned, and I did not pursue this project any further. However such figures would be ideal for a light and portable wargame and if time – and other projects – allow I might just make a couple of small armies for WHEN EMPIRES CLASH!

Saturday 1 August 2009

When Empires Clash! – Third draft of the rules now available

I managed to finish the final redrafting the rules today, and they are now available to download as a PDF from the RED HEX WARGAMES website. The password you will need to download this latest version is wec03.

The rules are much more detailed than previously and now include the use of aircraft and alternative turn sequences, but the basic game mechanisms are the same. The draft also includes a summary sheet of the main rules and some army lists. The latter are purely for guidance and should be treated as such.