Saturday 29 May 2010

Little Wars ... on my iPhone

Whilst idly looking at what books were available to download to my iPhone, I began searching for the works of H G Wells. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that an audio book version of his famous LITTLE WARS was available ... for the princely sum of £0.59!

Needless to say, I bought it, and with a bit of luck I hope to listen to it over the next few days.

Now if only I could persuade John Curry to make audio book versions of everything in he is publishing as part of his HISTORY OF WARGAMING project ...

The latest draft of my Interbellum rules is now available

After a few struggles and diversions along the way, I have finally managed to complete the latest draft of my INTERBELLUM rules, and they are available in PDF format as a download from my Interbellum website.

Please note that the rules are password protected; the password is 'interbellum'.

The rules do incorporate some ideas from my previous rules, WHEN EMPIRES CLASH!. In particular there are now rules for the use of Transport Units as well as a whole new section at the end that sets out rules for the use of aircraft over the battlefield. The rules have yet to be play-tested (or even properly proof read!), but I set myself the goal of finishing the draft today ... and managed it!

Friday 28 May 2010

The melding of When Empires Clash! and my Interbellum Rules - Some progress has been made ... at last!

I actually managed to spend over an hour this evening working on redrafting my INTERBELLUM rules so that they incorporate some of the elements of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! The main body of the rules has now been finished, and I am working on an appendix that will contain the rules that relate to the use of aircraft.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Axis of War DVD

Yesterday morning I visited the local supermarket and happened to see that they had a DVD on sale entitled AXIS OF WAR - PART ONE - THE FIRST OF AUGUST. The cover showed what looked like a dog fight between biplane fighters taking place above a crowed battlefield. As my current major interest is the interwar period, it looked like it might be something that would interest me. I was not wrong.

The DVD is the first part in a trilogy that has been made by a major Chinese film maker, and it deals with Nanchang uprising of the Chinese Civil War in 1927.

I have not managed to see the whole film, but I was so impressed by the sheer scale of the battle scenes that I have ordered the second part (AXIS OF WAR - PART TWO - MY LONG MARCH) which was scheduled to be released three days ago. If it is half as good as the first DVD, it will be an excellent film to watch.

When Empires Clash! - Some progress has been made!

Despite all the recent 'alarums and excursions', I finally managed to spend an hour this evening working on the latest redraft of my Morschauser-inspired INTERBELLUM rules.

They still have some way to go as yet, but at least some further progress has been made. I had hoped to get the redraft completed by now but there is a distinct possibility that I will manage to complete it by Saturday evening. As soon as the redraft is ready I will make it available in PDF format via my Interbellum website.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Virtual Dice

I know that I should be redrafting my INTERBELLUM rules but ...

I decided to search through the various iPhone applications (or 'apps' as I now have to call them) to see if I could find some that might be some to wargamers, and I found several that simulated the throwing of dice.

After some trial and error I finally chose Virtual Dice by Zach Winkler. This is a free 'app' (which was one of its 'selling' points!) and the user can chose to roll up to five D6 dice at any one time. Furthermore, the user has the choice of either pressing an on-screen button or shaking the iPhone to get it to throw the dice.

I don't know if I will use this new 'app' whilst gaming ... but you never know!

Tuesday 25 May 2010

I was right ... something did crop up ...

I was right; something did crop up to distract me from working on the latest draft of my INTERBELLUM rules ... I bought a iPhone!

Now I use information technology quite a lot, but I have never been one for buying the latest gadgets just because they are the latest gadgets. Until now my mobile phone has been just that ... a phone that I can use whilst on the move. The fact that it can take photographs has never been that important to me; neither has the fact that it has a radio or can do various other things that I have used. I do text very occasionally, but find that the keys on a standard mobile phone are fiddly to use ... and I positively HATE predictive text!

So why did I buy an iPhone?

  • The satellite navigation system I own and use in my car is so old and so basic that it will not and cannot be updated ... and I can buy a sat nav application for the iPhone for less than a new sat nav system will cost me.
  • I am fed up not being able to access my emails whilst I am abroad (and especially on cruise ships) and my iPhone has free mobile Internet and WiFi access.
  • I found that I can actually use the keyboard on the iPhone (it is a standard QWERTY design) far easier and far quicker than my existing mobile phone.
I have spent this morning trying to set the iPhone up and upload the apps that I want to buy. Once that is done, I hope to do some work on the INTERBELLUM rules ... but you never know, something else might distract me!

Monday 24 May 2010

A busy weekend ...

I had planned to spend some time this weekend working on the redraft of my INTERBELLUM rules ... but as Clausewitz so wisely stated 'No plan survives first contact with the enemy' (or in my case, elderly relatives).

Due to unforeseen circumstances, on Saturday my wife and I ended up driving to and fro across South East England, first to visit my father who was having problems with his drugs regime and his door keys (the two things are not linked), and then on to my father-in-law who wanted to be taken halfway across Kent to visit someone in hospital. All told we ended up driving over 175 miles along some of the busiest roads in the UK on the first warm weekend of the year; this was not particularly easy or restful!

By the time we got home on Saturday night we were so tired that we just 'crashed out'. On Sunday we had to do all the chores that we had been unable to do on Saturday, which is why I have made no progress at all with the rules.

With a bit of luck I might be able to spend an hour or so tomorrow morning doing some work on them ... but knowing my luck something new will crop up to distract me.

Saturday 22 May 2010

I have been watching ...

Yesterday I managed to watch the third of the foreign language DVDs I recently bought, and in many ways it proved to be best of the three.

ASSEMBLY is a Chinese film that deals with an incident during the Chinese Civil War. A group of soldiers were ordered to hold one bank of a river until they were ordered to fall back. That order never came, and the unit held out against overwhelming odds until it was destroyed. Because this ferocious delaying action was not witnessed by anyone other than the attackers, the unit was thought to have run away and deserted to the enemy.

The sole survivor – the unit's commanding officer, who was wounded and rendered unconscious during the battle – then made it his mission to prove that the men under his command had died where they stood, and had not run away.

What makes this DVD stand out is the quality of the battle scenes. They are ferocious in content, and unlike many war films they are long and seem very realistic. In particular, the makers seem to have taken great pains to get the thing to look 'right'. The tanks used by the attackers are not originals, but have been mocked up on existing Chinese AFV chassis so that they look convincing except in very close-up shots.

I thoroughly recommend this DVD, especially as it deals with a subject that is not well known to many people in the West.

PS. Make sure that you select the English subtitles option. I forgot to, and after five minutes I had to stop watching it so that I could go back to the beginning of the DVD to do so.

Friday 21 May 2010

Recent reading matter

I just finished reading Peter Cottrell's THE IRISH CIVIL WAR 1922-23 (Osprey Publishing: Essential Histories No.70 [2008] ISBN 978 1 84603 270 7), and can thoroughly recommend it to anyone with even the mildest interest in recent Irish history.

I must admit that I only had the scantiest knowledge of the Irish Civil War before I read this book, but now I understand why, when they seemed to have a peace of sorts that stood a chance of bringing an end to a conflict that had been going on since 1913, the Irish Republican movement split asunder and the two main factions began to fight each other. One fact that did surprise me was that more people were killed during the Civil War than had been killed in the 'Troubles' that preceded it.

The next book I am going to read is Stephen Prince's THE BLOCKING OF ZEEBRUGGE: OPERATION Z-O 1918 (Osprey Publishing: Raid No.70 [2010] ISBN 978 1 84603 453 4).

I have been fascinated by the Zeebrugge Raid ever since I saw the model of HMS Vindictive in the Imperial War Museum. I was born not far from the Museum, and spent many an enjoyable visit there when I was very young. I have read many books about the Raid and the operations of the Dover Patrol, and I am looking forward to reading this one.

On a personal note, some years ago whilst I was helping my wife trace her family tree, we were at the National Archives at Kew, looking at the First World War service records of some of her family members. One of them had been killed in 1918, aged just 18, whilst serving in the Royal Navy. She pushed the file over to me and asked 'What does balloted for the VC mean on this service record?' I opened and read the file with growing interest.

It transpired that the young man in question – Sidney Digby – had joined the Royal Navy as soon as he was old enough to do so, and had served on one of the Battle Cruisers that formed part of the Battle Cruiser Squadron in the Grand Fleet. He had a reputation for being a very good boxer both before and during his service in the Navy, and it was natural that he would volunteer to join the group of sailors who were recruited from the various squadrons within the Grand Fleet to take part in the Zeebrugge Raid. His record does not relate what he did during the raid, but it was sufficiently noteworthy for him to be included in the ballot for the award of the Victoria Cross. He gained insufficient votes from amongst the survivors to qualify for this gallantry award, but this is hardly surprising as almost all of the sailors with whom he served were killed at the same time that he was, and therefore his bravery probably went unseen by those who survived.

His remains are buried in St James Cemetery in Dover alongside many of those who died during the raid, and it is noteworthy that Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, who commanded the operation, is buried alongside the men he lead into battle, as is his own son who won the VC during the Second World War.

May they rest in peace.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Build-up to COW2010

Having decided on what session I will be putting on at COW 2010 (this year's Conference of Wargamers), I have now turned my hand to sending out balance reminder letters and the pothole strewn job of sorting out the rooms.

It is probably true to say that most members of Wargame Developments are not in the first flush of youth; in fact, some might say that this is an understatement! As one gets older one begins to hanker for a degree of quiet and solitude at bedtime, and most attendees like to ask for single rooms. Unfortunately this is not always possible – it certainly isn't this year – and so I have instituted a policy by which the allocation of single rooms was done on either medical grounds (another problem with getting older is that bits of you stop working as well as they used to!) or by paying in full as early as possible.

This year we have forty eight people who will be attending the conference as residents for the whole weekend, one attending the conference as a non-resident for the whole weekend, and two who will be non-residential for part of the weekend. I have twenty single rooms, eleven twin rooms, two double rooms, and two triple rooms (a total of fifty two beds). As you can see, things are a bit tight and it has taken me a considerable time to sort the rooms out so that wherever possible, nobody has to share with someone that they don't know.

It's a difficult job, and someone has to do it. I just wonder sometimes why I volunteered.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

When Empires Clash! - A set of rules revisited ... again

I have begun the process of melding together what I consider to be the best bits of the current INTERBELLUM version of Joseph Morschauser's 'Modern' rules and WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! The intention is to develop a set of rules that includes more types of unit without losing the essential simplicity of Morschauser's rules.

The first thing that I have done is to define what a 'Unit' is in the new rules; it is going to be a company or equivalent-sized military unit.

Secondly I have included Transport Units, including Motor Transport Units. This will enable commanders to move their Infantry and Artillery Units along any roads that at a greater speed than in the previous version of the rules. There will be a 'cost' to anyone who does this, but the interwar period was one where the use of motor vehicles to move units up to the front line was growing, and I think that the rules need to allow commanders the option to use motorised transport.

I am also looking at the possibility of including Fighter, Light Bomber, and Reconnaissance aircraft in the new rules. Aircraft played an increasingly important role during the interwar period, and I think that the new rules should include them if possible.

Monday 17 May 2010

When Empires Clash! - A set of rules revisited

I am not the tidiest of people, and over time I tend to 'acquire' quite a lot of 'clutter' in and around my work area in our home office. As a result, several times each year I have to have a bit of a sort out, and last night was one of those occasions.

Amongst all the odd bits of paper, magazines, books etc., I found a display folder that contained a complete manuscript of the last version of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! Having many better things to do ... and a desire to avoid doing them ... I re-read these rules ... and I was surprised to see how much about them I had forgotten.

What also surprised me was the fact that some of the things that I have been thinking about including in my latest version of Joseph Morschauser's rules were already in WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! ... and worked. Now I cannot lift whole sections from one set of rules into the other but ... there is certainly room for some melding of the two sets of rules.

All this will give me something to think about on my drive to and from work, so you never know what might happen as a result of this serendipitous find.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Interbellum website

I have spent some time today adding the following to my Interbellum website:
  • An extra page that will include a list of books that deal with inter-war topics and that are published by Osprey Publications; and
  • The titles, author(s), and a brief description of relevant fiction and non-fiction books that were either written during the 1920s and 1930s or that deal with that era.
The website is a 'work in progress', and is likely to remain so for some time to come as I have lots of stuff that I can add to it in due course.

Saturday 15 May 2010

I have been watching ...

Despite lots of good intentions, I have just not felt well enough to do much in the way of wargaming for the past few days. My cold seems to have seriously eroded my ability to think logically for more than a couple on minutes at a time, so yesterday I sat down to watch some DVDs that I bought a couple of weeks ago ... and that turned out to be a bit more of an effort than I bargained for.

That is not to say that the DVDs are not good; in fact they were very entertaining. The problem was that neither was made in English and I had to read the subtitles to understand most of what was being said ... and this required a degree of concentration that I was somewhat lacking.

The DVDs in question were THE BRIDGE ...


THE BRIDGE tells the story of a group of German schoolboys who are drafted into the Wehrmacht to defend a vital bridge near where they live. The NCO who was supposed to lead them deserted ... and was shot by the Military Police. They were then left to their own devices, and did their best to hold up the advancing Allies. After most of them were killed, the single survivor gave up and returned home.

MAX MANUS: MAN OF WAR is a fictionalised account of the part Max played in the Norwegian resistance to the German occupation of Norway during World War II. The film begins with his service as a volunteer during the Winter War between Finland and the USSR, and then moved on to his part in the early resistance movement in and around Oslo. Although he was captured, he escaped and managed to get to the UK via Sweden, where he joined the Norwegian Free Company. After being commissioned into the Norwegian Army he was trained as a commando and saboteur, and then returned to Norway to help lead and train members of the resistance. He survived the war – unlike most of his friends – and returned to civilian life and became a successful businessman.

Both of these DVDs were – in the own different ways – good to watch, and when I am feeling better I intend to watch them again.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Even more thoughts about COW

Despite coming down with yet another cold – I seem to have spent the last few months getting a cold, having a cold, or getting over having a cold – I have done some more thinking about the session I hope to run at COW2010 (Wargame Developments annual Conference of Wargamers 2010) in early July, and have firmed up my ideas.

Over the past few days I have managed to do a bit more research about Joseph Morschauser, and have decided to include some biographical details before describing his rules. My description will begin with the rules he published in his book before moving on to outline his grid-based 'Ancient' and 'Frontier' rules. I will cover the main elements of his various rules, concentrating in particular on the game mechanisms he chose to use.

The session will end with attendees having the opportunity to fight some battles using Morschauser's 'Frontier' rules and the current version of my Morschauser-inspired Interbellum rules.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

More thinking about COW

I have had a chance this morning to have a long think about what I want to offer by way of a session at COW2010 (Wargame Developments annual Conference of Wargamers 2010), and decided that it will be a heavily Morschauser-biased session.

I intend to start with a brief description of Joseph Morschauser and his rules. This will include a bit about his time gaming alongside Gerard de Gre, but will concentrate on the rules he published in his book as well as the Ancient rules that used a 1-inch squared grid, and – most importantly – on his 'Frontier' rules. As far as I can find out, it is games played using these rules that are featured in the famous series of photographs that Donald Featherstone included in his book ADVANCED WAR GAMES.

I will then describe the basic elements of his rules, and if time permits (and I don't think that that will be a problem) I hope to stage several battles using his 'Frontier' rules. These will probably be done using 15mm figures, but if I can find larger scale figures that will fit the bill I may well use them instead.

I also hope to take along the current version of my Morschauser-inspired Interbellum rules for attendees to try out.

Monday 10 May 2010

Thinking about COW

The Wargame Developments annual Conference of Wargamers (COW) will be taking place in early July and I have volunteered to run a session. I had originally decided to cover the development of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH!, and then to follow that with a couple of short games that would give the attendees a flavour of the rules. The problem is that I have actually done no development of the rules since before Christmas.

I could take the easy way out and to do what I originally planned ... but my thinking has moved on since then as a result of the work I have been doing to develop my own versions of Joseph Morschauser's rules.

I have therefore asked myself the question 'What should I do?'

At the moment I think that I will:
  • Start with a short presentation about Joseph Morschauser and his rules (including some references to the earlier work done by his mentor, Gerard de Gre).
  • Have a series of small games set up that use some of Morschauser's rules so that attendees can try them out or
  • Have several small games set up that would enable attendees to try out my variants/developments of Morschauser's rules.
I am not quite sure which of the latter options I will choose, although I could do both. The decision that I make will depend upon how much time, effort, and money I will need to expend to prepare for the session.

Watch this space for further developments!

Sunday 9 May 2010

75,000 hits!

I just logged on to my blog to reply to a comment from Jim Hale when I realised that the blog's hit counter had reached 75,000 'hits'!

Considering that it reached 50,000 'hits' on 16th January 2010, this is seems to me to be an amazing rise in interest. It still amazes me that fellow wargamers like to read my ramblings (and occasional rants!), and I hope that I can continue to entertain and inform my blog readers.

I wonder how long it will be before it reaches 100,000 'hits'? At the present rate it will be sometime around the second anniversary of my first blog entry.

Saturday 8 May 2010

VBCW: The Fall Of The Empire

Having bought the first three of the four Very British Civil War source books that have so far been published whilst I was at Salute 2010, I decided to buy the fourth (The Fall Of The Empire) from Solway Crafts and Miniatures. It arrived on Friday, and I was able to read a large part of the book last night and this morning ... and I was very pleased that I decided to buy this particular source book.

This book deals with events outside the UK, and this fits in rather well with my current interest in the interwar era, the Interbellum. I was particularly interested in the following:
  • The Soviet military expedition to occupy part of Canada
  • Unrest in the British Colonies in the Caribbean and South America
  • The Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands
I see from the back cover of the most recent VBCW source book that there are several more books in preparation, and I shall probably order them as and when they are published. I don't expect to actually fight any VBCW battles ... but the books have already given me some ideas that I might follow up in due course.

Nugget 235 Colour Supplement

I have now uploaded the latest issue of THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website.

Read and enjoy!

Friday 7 May 2010

Nugget 235

I collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET (Nugget 235) from the printers this morning and posted it out by midday. It should be with full members by the middle of next week.

I will be uploading the PDF version of Nugget 235 to the Wargame Developments website later this evening so that e-members can download and read it.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Nugget 235

I took the next issue of THE NUGGET (N235) to the printers on Tuesday, and I hope to collect it tomorrow morning. With a bit of luck I should be able to post it out to members by Saturday morning at the latest. I will then make sure that the PDF version is available for e-members to download from the Wargame Developments website.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Interbellum rules

I have created a small website devoted to the interwar period, and I have called it Interbellum. At present it is very basic, but I hope to develop it as time progresses.

I have already uploaded the Interbellum rules that I have written. As I have already stated on this blog, they are fairly generic wargames rules, and can be used for almost any wargame set in the 'modern' era (i.e. 1914 to 1960). That said, it is my intention to use them to fight battles set in the interwar era. The rules are based on my earlier versions of Joseph Morschauser's 'Modern' period wargames rules, but incorporate some my own ideas, especially regarding the use of a card-driven turn sequence.

Monday 3 May 2010

Interbellum rules

Despite a couple of unavoidable interruptions and diversions, I finally managed to finish writing what I am now calling my Interbellum Rules. Although they are fairly generic, and can be used for almost any wargame set in the 'modern' era (i.e. 1914 to 1960), it is my intention to use them to fight battles set in the interwar era. The rules are heavily based on previous versions of my re-working of Joseph Morschauser's 'Modern' period wargames rules, but as a result of some ideas that I have had there are some slight differences.

The main points of the rules are:
  • They use multi-figure bases.
    I had considered single figure bases, and may well use them in later versions, but for the present I am using multi-figure bases because that is what I have most of.
  • I have re-written certain sections of the rules in the hope that they are less wordy and somewhat easier to understand.
    Some of the rules were beginning to sound like they had been written in some sort of wargaming legalese, which made them somewhat less than player friendly.
  • I have included Command Units, and given them the ability to support other Units during Close Combat.
  • I have used the card-driven turn sequence I had previously developed but I have restricted the number of cards each side has to twelve.
    I originally gave each side one card per unit, but this gave large armies led by 'Poor' commanders an advantage over small armies led by 'Good' commanders. In the end, after much soul searching and experimentation, I decided that twelve was the maximum number of Units I wanted a commander to be able to activate during each turn.
  • I have added an additional type of Unit, a Tank Unit that is armed with a Machine Gun.
    During the interwar era many countries used tanks that had machine guns as their main armament (e.g. FT17, Pzkpfw I) and I wanted the rules to reflect this.
  • I have replaced the Antitank Rocket Unit with an Antitank Rifle Unit.
    This is also more in keeping with the interwar era. Many countries deployed Antitank Rifles even though their effectiveness in countering Armoured Fighting Vehicle is sometimes regarded by modern pundits as having been rather poor. In the absence of any other weapon, they were better than nothing.
  • I have simplified some of the Special Rules in the light of previous play-tests.
    I found that some of the changes to the Close Combat Power required under the original rules were too often forgotten during the play-test battles, and their non-use did not seem to have any major impact on the battles. Using the basic philosophy that a rule that players don't use is usually superfluous, I removed them. I made a similar decision about the Special Rule that applied to barbed wire. Now it stops all but Tank Units and Self-propelled Gun Units, and stopped Units can remove the barbed wire when they are next activated.
All I need to do now is to proof read the draft, and then I will make it available in PDF format.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Rain did not stop play

I spend most of this afternoon and evening watching the ICC T20 cricket matches on the television whilst I worked on the latest draft of the wargames rules I have based on Joseph Morschauser's 'Modern' period wargames rules.

N.B. For those readers who do not know what the ICC T20 is, it is the International Cricket Conference Twenty-Twenty cricket competition. So far
  • New Zealand have beaten Sri Lanka
  • West Indies have beaten Ireland
  • India beat Afghanistan
  • Pakistan beat Bangladesh
  • South Africa beat India
  • Australia beat Pakistan
Tomorrow sees
  • Sri Lanka play Zimbabwe
  • West Indies play England
This competition is this cricket fan's idea of heaven; it is fast, fun, and the results are always interesting.

And now back to the rules ...

In the light of my recent and growing interest in the interwar era, I have decided to optimise the latest draft of the rules for that historical period. I can field armies that include Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery as well as Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the knowledge that the latter can make a difference on the battlefield but will not dominate it.

I have opted to use 100mm/4-inch hexes and 20mm scale figures, vehicles, and equipment because I have a large amount of Hexon II hexed terrain and a large collection of suitable figures (including a large box of unpainted Hotspur Spanish Civil War figures that I discovered this weekend).

I hope to play-test the rules tomorrow and to make them available in PDF format later this week.
Oh, and the comment about the rain refers to the fact that it has been raining almost all day in South East London, but that this has not stopped me enjoying myself.

Saturday 1 May 2010

I saw this ... and it gave me an idea

My wife and I had to visit Lakeside in Essex today, and whilst I was there I managed to get into the branch of Modelzone that is located in the Shopping Mall that forms part of the complex.

Whilst there I saw several examples of Italeri's range of 1:72nd scale 'Fast Assembly' kits. One that particularly caught my eye was the M3 75mm Half Track.

What I liked about this range of models was that:
  • There are two in each box.
  • They are obviously designed for wargamers (i.e. the have some detail but are also robust).
  • This particular model could be made up with or without the 75mm gun being fixed into the back of the vehicle.
Now I will have no problems finding a use for the model half tracks, but it was the guns that really took my eye ... and gave me an idea.

I have been thinking of building a coastal defence battery for my Laurania Interbellum project, and it struck me that these guns would be ideal. Mounted on suitable pedestal mounts, these guns will fit nicely into the Hexon II fortifications that I planned to use for the coastal defence battery. With 15mm gun crews they will be able to represent larger than 75mm calibre guns (in 15mm scale they would be 104mm/4.1-inch guns).

Judging by the simplicity of the guns in the model kits, building them should be a matter of a few minutes work, after which all they will need is a paint job.