Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish all my regular blog readers a Merry Christmas!

I hope that you all enjoy the festivities and don't over-indulge too much!

Tuesday 20 December 2011

What is it about me and Russia?

One of the things that was very striking when I was sorting through all the books and wargaming stuff in my toy/wargames room was how much of it related to Russia. For example, my largest Megablitz army by far is my Soviet one (it comprises an entire Army – 66th – as well as a Tank Corps, an Artillery Division, and several Naval Infantry Brigades).

Tonight I looked along the bookshelves and realised that I own several collections of fiction stories set in pre and post-Revolutionary Russia, including the following:
  • All the English-language editions of Boris Akunin's Sister Pelagia (‘Pelagia and the White Bulldog’, ‘Pelagia and the Black Monk’, and ‘Pelagia and the Red Rooster’) and Erast Fandorin novels and stories (‘The Winter Queen’, ‘The Turkish Gambit’, ‘Murder on the Leviathan’, ‘The Death of Achilles’, ‘The Jack of Spades’, ‘The Decorator’, ‘The State Counsellor’, ‘The Coronation’, ‘She Lover of Death’, ‘He Lover of Death’, and ‘The Diamond Chariot’)
  • All of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko novels ('Gorky Park', 'Polar Star', 'Red Square', 'Havana Bay', 'Wolves Eat Dogs', 'Stalin's Ghost', and 'Three Stations')
  • All of Tom Rob Smith's Leo Demidov novels ('Child 44', 'The Secret Speech', and 'Agent 6').
I also own as many non-fiction books about the Russian and Soviet Navies as I own about the United States Navy ... which was another surprise for me.

So what is it about me and Russia?

Frankly, I don't know. I am sure that there are people out there who could suggest reasons ... and those that know me well will know that it certainly isn't anything remotely political that I find attractive about Russian during the bulk of the twentieth century! My only contact with Russia has been two very fleeting visits during Baltic cruises ... and what I saw convinced me that it is a country unlike any other that I have every visited.

I just don’t know why Russia fascinates me so much, but it is something for me to ponder on as I paint my next batch of Russian troops.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Grumpy ... me?

My wife has accused me of being a GOM (a Grumpy Old Man) just because of what I wrote yesterday.

Well, if abhorring the commercialisation of Christmas is something that only GOMs do ... then she is right and I am one!

I am now off to find something else to be grumpy about.

Friday 16 December 2011

Christmas is coming ... and tempers are getting worse!

My wife and I had to go to the local shopping centre this morning ... and really wish that we had not. By 10.30am it was already filling up, and motorists were having rows in the car park about who had the right to park in the decreasing number of vacant parking spaces.

I managed to avoid this by pre-booking my car into with the on-site car valeting service. They wash and wax the outside of the car and clean the inside as well ... and then leave it in one of their designated parking bays. It is worth the £40.00 to have a clean car that will cope with forthcoming bad winter weather and to avoid trying to find a parking space.

Inside the shopping centre things were hardly any better. I gave up counting the number of times my feet were run over by parents pushing baby buggies the size of a small family car. They all seemed to have the same look on their faces ... determined desperation! They looked at you ... and then straight through you. They were on a mission to do their Christmas shopping, and nothing and no one was going to get in their way!

We finally managed to survive an couple of hours before we felt unable to cope with the rising tide of humanity that was filling the place up. I understand that over last weekend over a quarter of a million people visited this particular shopping centre ... and it felt that they had all come back today to have another go!

I thought that Christmas was supposed to be the season of goodwill to all men and women ... but I saw little of that today.

If this is what the run up to Christmas 2011 is going to be like, I will be echoing the words of Ebenezer Scrooge and saying ... 'Bah! Humbug!'

Thursday 15 December 2011

U.S. Battleships

I have written blog entries on previous occasions about my interest in warship design, and that quite a substantial part of my bookshelves are devoted to the storage of books on this subject. I recently had the opportunity to acquire a copy of Norman Friedman's 'U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History' ... and so I bought it!

As I already have copies of some of his other books about United States warship designs ('U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History', 'U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History', and 'U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History'), this new acquisition goes some way to completing my collection of his works.

Tank Park

Now that my pre-Christmas spending spree on Corgi tanks is at an end, I decided to mount a 'review' of my tank park. First, the Russians ...

This is a very homogeneous collection of vehicles, and includes fourteen T34/76 and ten T34/85 tanks.

The same cannot be said of the Germans ...

This collection includes six short-barrelled and four long-barrelled Pzkpfw IV, four Pzkpfw VI Tiger 1, and three Pzkpfw V Panther tanks.

When added to my small collection of ROCO Minitank tanks and vehicles, I probably now have sufficient 1:87th-scale equipment to seriously think about fighting an Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign at some time in the future. I also have quite a lot of as yet unpainted 20mm metal figures that are compatible with these vehicles, and one thing that I am thinking of doing after Christmas is beginning the process of turning some of this pile of lead into painted figures that I can use with my Corgi tanks.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

A revised MOBAS icon ... already!

In the light of Peter Douglas's comment to my very recent blog entry, I realised that by adding a fourth funnel to the Combat Dice icon I had designed for the Torpedo Boat/Destroyer, it was much easier to tell each type of ship apart!

Here is the new icon ...

Dice symbols for Memoir of Battle at Sea (MOBAS)

Having just completed new versions of MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) and MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) it seemed logical - in the light of developmental work that David Crook is undertaking on the naval 'sibling' of these wargames rules - to think about revising my MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA (MOMBAS) wargames rules.

As these rules will also use Combat Dice, I needed to design some icons for the dice faces.

The Battleship, (to indicate a 'hit' on that type of ship) ...

... the Cruiser, (to indicate a 'hit' on that type of ship) ...

... the Torpedo Boat/Destroyer, (to indicate a 'hit' on that type of ship) ...

... the Explosion (for 'hits' on any type of ship), ...

... and the Shell Splash (to indicate a 'miss').

I hope to continue work on these rules over the next few days, but having designed these icons I feel that I am already well on the way with this project.

The final three and fourpence ... for a while!

My final purchase of Corgi tanks via eBay arrived this morning from the United States, and comprised two long-barrelled Pzkpfw IV tanks and two T34/76 tanks.

I hope to stage a 'review' of my Corgi Russian and German tank forces later today ... but in the meantime I am working on another project ...

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Yet another three and fourpence ...

This morning's post brought some more of the Corgi tanks that I have been buying via eBay. This time the delivery contained two German tanks and one Russian tank.

The Pzkpfw IV and the T34 are perfect, but the Pzkpfw VI Tiger has a slightly bent barrel and has lost its muzzle brake. This is not a disaster as I don't think that it will take much of an effort to repair this damage, especially as it would appear to have been done at the factory and not during play.

I am still expecting a further delivery of German and Russian tanks from the United States, after which I think that my current spending spree will come to an end ... for the time being.

Monday 12 December 2011

A neat bit of kit

I am a bit of a gadget freak ... and I am always on the lookout for things that I think might prove useful. Over the weekend I paid a visit to a branch of Maplins (the electronics retailer not the holiday camp!) and bought myself a new gadget for my iPad2 ... a Bluetooth keypad.

As far as I am concerned, one of the main drawbacks of the iPad2 is its touch screen keypad; it just does not lend itself to prolonged use. It is great for surfing the 'net ... but not if you want to type up blog entries or do any word processing. The Bluetooth keyboard means that I can touch-type (well, two-finger type) my blog entries as if I were using my PC. Not only that, but I can also use the word processing application I bought for the iPad2. This means that I can work on new sets of wargames rules wherever and whenever I want to whilst I am away from home ... and not have to carry around a much heavier laptop.

The keyboard is laid out exactly like a normal keyboard and has proper keys (i.e. its does not have a 'dead fish' feel like some of the other iPad compatible keyboards that are on sale). Not only that, but it was relatively cheap (just under £20.00) and its internal battery can be recharged via a USB connector ... just like the iPad.

This is a neat bit of kit ... and I would recommend it to any other iPad user who has to do quite a lot of typing.

In the teeth of adversity

I hate going to the dentist. Mind you, I don't know anyone who likes going, but in my case it is based on some very bad experiences when I was young. As a result, I only go when I absolutely have to ... and today is one of those occasions!

Some weeks ago I noticed a bit of pain in one of my back teeth ... but I ignored it. I put it down to being old, and bits of me starting to wear out. I assumed that in due course the matter would require my serious attention, but for the time being I could just learn to live with it.

This morning – overnight to be precise – things took a turn for the worse. The pain in the tooth had become quite intense ... and it was now obvious to me that the tooth was loose. It was time to take action ... so I did. I telephoned my dentist and they have kindly arranged to see me in about an hour's time. I suspect that when I leave I will have one fewer teeth than I had when I went in ... but with luck that will cure the problem ... and I can look forward to a pain-free Christmas.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Memoir of Battle (MOB): Latest draft now available

I have just finished redrafting my MEMOIR OF BATTLE wargames rules into the same format as I used for the latest version of my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) wargames rules.

I have proof-read them ... but that does not mean that they are free from mistakes! The rules are available to download in PDF format from here.

Memoir of Battle (MOB) revised

The positive feedback that I had to the recent redraft of my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) wargames rules has encouraged me to to revise my MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) rules so that they have a similar format.

I hope to finish this revision later this evening, and if I manage to achieve this goal I will make them available in PDF format as a download via the Internet.

Having (another) cracking time ...

I had the windscreen on my car replaced only a fortnight ago after it was hit by a stone that caused it to crack. You can therefore probably understand how annoyed I was yesterday when the new windscreen was hit by a stone, and a large chip appeared. Furthermore, the 'accident' occurred almost at exactly the same place as the last time ... the Kent-bound carriageway of the A2, just outside Gravesend.

Luckily this chip proved to be repairable, and this afternoon the technician filled the chip hole with resin, and then cured the repair using a UV lamp. I can just see where the chip occurred, but it is the size of a pinhead, and if I didn't know where it was I would not know it was there.

Hopefully the next time I drive down that bit of Britain's road system – which will probably be later this week – stones will avoid hitting my windscreen and I will not have to have a new windscreen installed or yet another repair made ... but you never know what will happen, do you?

Saturday 10 December 2011

Another three and fourpence ...

My good friend Tim Gow has sent me a long-barrelled version of the Corgi Pzkpfw IV to add to my growing Corgi tank force.

This model will go some way to add some much-needed firepower to my German troops, who now have two examples of this version within their ranks.

Oops! Errors spotted in the draft of MOMBAT!

I was in such a rush to make the first draft of my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) rules available to people who might wish to download and read them that I did not proof read them properly. Oops! Sorry!

Ross Mac spotted what appeared to be an error, and I quickly realised that I had left a sentence in the rules that should have been removed. I therefore re-read the whole draft and realised that I had not been consistent in part of the layout of the rules as well.

I have taken the opportunity to make a few minor alterations to improve the consistency of the layout and I have removed the sentence that should have already been removed. The new draft of the rules is now available here.

Read and enjoy!

The sinking of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, the Royal Navy's Force 'Z' was sent from its base in Singapore to intercept a Japanese invasion force on its way to Malaya. Instead of achieving its objective, Force 'Z' was attacked by Japanese aircraft and its two main units – HMS REPULSE ...


– were sunk.

Of personal interest to me is the captain of HMS REPULSE, Captain (later Admiral) William G. Tennant KCB, KBE. He survived the sinking of his ship and later took on an important role during the D-Day landings, namely the transport, assembly, and setting up of the Mulberry harbours and the laying of the PLUTO pipeline.

Before he became the captain of HMS REPULSE on 28th June 1940, he had been instrumental in organising the evacuation of Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo). On 26 May 1940 Captain Tennant was sent to Dunkirk to aid in the evacuation process and to get the waiting British and French troops onto the boats waiting to take them off. He stayed at his post until the last boats left on 2nd June.

Had Captain Tennant not done such a magnificent job, my maternal grandfather – Sergeant Major Arthur Jackson – would not have been one of the lucky members of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) to be evacuated, and would probably have spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.

Friday 9 December 2011

Memoir of Modern Battle (MOMBAT): Latest draft of the rules

I have managed to complete the first revision of my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLES (MOMBAT) wargames rules.

The changes were made in the light of the recent play-test of the first draft of the rules, and hopefully fill some of the gaps that the play-test threw up. I have also added some rules to cover minefields, barbed wire, and transport.

A PDF of the current draft of the MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLES (MOMBAT) wargames rules can be found here.

I have been to ... Harrods!

It is the time of year when my wife and I make our annual visit to Harrods, Knightsbridge, to buy the Harrods Christmas Teddy Bear. My wife collects them and this year's bear is called Freddie.

Usually we go on a Sunday, but this year we decided to have a change and go on a Friday ... and in retrospect this was actually a good choice. Although we had to travel most of the way by Underground, it was not as crowded as we expected. The ground floor of the store was a heaving mass of humanity, but once we went up to the upper floors the crowds thinned out and it became quite pleasant to walk about.

In the past the Toy Department has been worth a good look around (it was where I bought the first of my Corgi tanks!) but this year there was nothing on sale that had even a vague wargaming application. The same was true of the Games Department on the Lower Ground Floor, which did not even seem to have RISK on sale.

The big plus for me this year was that it did not cost me anything to travel to and from Harrods ... although I did have to pay for my wife's Travelcard. Thanks to my Freedom Pass I can travel on any bus or Underground train within London for free at any time ... and also on mainline trains within the London area after 9.30am on weekdays and at any time at weekends. I have recently discovered that I can also travel on local buses all over England between 9.30am and 11.00pm on weekdays and at any time on weekends and public holidays. It was worth reaching the age of sixty last year just for this concession!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Take the heights!

I have not fought a wargame in so long that when the opportunity arose today, I seized it with both hands! Only yesterday I finished drafting a set of ‘modern’ wargames rules with the working title MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE, and I decided to kill two birds with one stone by play-testing the draft rules.

After a gap of some time (almost three years!), Eastland and Morschauserland are again at war. The Eastlanders have penetrated the border with Morschauserland and are pressing forward. The Morschauserlanders have established a line of defence along a series of low hills – the Lowbrow Heights – which they have garrisoned with a weak mixture of infantry, machine guns, and artillery. The attackers outnumber the defenders and have a large number of tanks and infantry (supported by machine guns and artillery) moving towards the Heights.

Turn 1
The first wave of the Eastland attackers approached the Lowbrow Heights. They were led by a line of tanks followed by infantry and machine guns.

Turn 2
The Morschauserland infantry gun opened fire on the tank in the centre of the Eastland attackers … and forced it to retreat, much to the discomfort of the infantry that were following it, who also had to fall back!

The Eastlanders immediately reacted by moving their tanks forward and engaging the Morschauserland defences (N.B. Casualties are indicated by short lengths of matchstick).

The Morschauserlanders replied … and caused damage to quite a few of the tanks.

Turn 3
The Morschauserland infantry gun fired again on the tank in the centre of the Eastland attackers … and this time they inflicted some damage to it.

The Morschauserland defenders then opened fire on the Eastlanders … and forced two of the tanks to retreat, which also disrupted the following infantry and machine guns!

The Eastland response was to continue their advance, firing at the defenders as they did so. With the exception of one of the Morschauserland machine gun positions – which was wiped out – the rest of the fieldworks protected the defenders quite effectively, and only minor casualties were caused.

Turn 4
This time the Morschauserland infantry gun fired at one of the closest Eastland tank … and destroyed it!

The Eastlanders were not fazed by this, and continued their slow and deliberate advance, firing as they went. This proved to be a very effective tactic; the Morschauserland infantry gun was forced to fall back, the last remaining machine gun position was destroyed, and the foremost Morschauserland infantry were wiped out.

Nothing but the Morschauserland infantry gun and an infantry unit remained to stem the Eastland advance, and the Morschauserlanders withdrew to their next line of defence.

This was a short but sharp action in which the overwhelming strength of the attackers prevailed. The fact that it was not a complete walk over was due in no small part to the entrenchments that the Morschauserlanders had.

The play-test did point out that one or two rules that I had originally included in my development notes had not been included in the actual draft, and I will need to remedy that situation. The combat system uses the dice from Richard Borg’s MEMOIR ’44 and has a similar philosophy, and I felt that it worked very smoothly and was easy to understand. The game sequence is ‘borrowed’ from my PORTABLE WARGAME rules, which are themselves a development of Joseph Morschauser’s MODERN and FRONTIER rules. The fact that artillery gets to fire each turn before any other units gives that arm an additional feeling of importance – and possibly effect – and I felt that – to a certain extent – it countered the negative aspect of the ‘traditional’ UGO-IGO turn sequence (i.e. the lack of simultaneous fire and effect).

This play-test was a somewhat small affair, and was also rather one-sided. I would like to run another play-test at some point where the sides are rather more balanced as I suspect that the battle might last somewhat longer. In the meantime it was good to get some figures and vehicle out on the tabletop and to fight a battle. It was something that I have sorely missed in recent weeks!

Notes on unit strength values
Before I started the play-test I allocated each type of unit a strength value. This is the number of 'hits' it can sustain before it is destroyed. The strength values used in this play-test were as follows:
  • Infantry = 4
  • Machine Guns = 2
  • Artillery = 2
  • Tanks = 3
I made no allowance for unit quality when I did this, but it would be relatively easy to reflect the differences in unit quality by increasing the strength value of elite units by one or even two, and reducing the strength value of poor quality units by one.

The Battle for Hong Kong

On 8th December 1941 Japanese forces attacked the British colony of Hong Kong.

Despite heroic resistance by the garrison – which included British, Canadian, Indian, and Chinese units – and people of the Colony, the Japanese finally forced them to surrender on Christmas Day, 1941.

Nugget 249

I will be posting the latest issue of THE NUGGET (N249) out to members of Wargame Developments later this morning, and with luck it should be delivered to them by the beginning of next week.

I am about to upload the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website, and they will soon be available for members of Wargame Developments to read online or to download and print.

This is the third THE NUGGET of the subscription year and if you have not already resubscribed, you can do so by post (please make cheques payable to WARGAME DEVELOPMENTS) or via the PayPal button on the Wargame Developments website.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Rise and shine ... but not much!

After spending Monday visiting my father in Hornchurch, Essex, and attending a meeting in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, and Tuesday in Herne Bay, Kent, sorting out my father-in-law's house, I had hoped to spend today wargaming ... but instead I woke up with the early symptoms of a cold and have spent most of the day drinking lots of fluids and trying to keep warm.

I did manage to do some wargame-related activity, however. Some time ago I made some notes for a development of my MEMOIR OF BATTLE rules so that they could cover the 1930s and early 1940s, and during the course of the day I have turned those notes into a set of rules ... that currently have the working title MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT).

The rules are an amalgam of various aspects of Joseph Morschauser's MODERN rules (the game sequence), Richard Borg's MEMOIR '44 game (the combat system), and my own PORTABLE WARGAME 2 rules (the layout). They are still very much a 'work in progress', but if the opportunity arises I hope to see how well they work as soon as I am feeling better.

A day of infamy

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. This led to the declaration of war against Japan and the other Axis powers, and effectively guaranteed that eventually the Axis would lose.

This anniversary serves to remind us all – yet again – of the sacrifices made by previous generations to ensure that our future was a better one.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Send three and fourpence ...

A few careful purchases on eBay has ensured that I have some more Corgi tanks to add to my existing fleet. This morning's post included two small parcels that contained an additional Pzkpfw IV and four T34/76 tanks.

Thanks to Tim Gow telling me about the existence of a long-barrelled version of the Corgi Pzkpfw IV, I specifically looked for examples of this model when I searched eBay ... and bought three, two of which have yet to be delivered.

The four T34 tanks – plus another two that are on their way to me – means that I should end up with thirteen T34/76 and ten T34/85 tanks with which to counter any German tank force.

Monday 5 December 2011

Nugget 249

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue to me yesterday, and I will be taking it to the printers this morning. I intend to collect it on Wednesday and plan to post it out to members of Wargame Developments by Friday.

I will make the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT available for all members to download from the Wargame Developments website as soon as I can after THE NUGGET has been posted.

This will be the third THE NUGGET of the new subscription year. If you were a member of Wargame Developments and have not yet resubscribed, you can do so by post (please make cheques payable to WARGAME DEVELOPMENTS) or via the PayPal button on the Wargame Developments website.

Sunday 4 December 2011

The big 'sort out' is nearly over!

The storage is in place, my Hexon II and Heroscape™ terrain is neatly boxed away, the books have been sorted and reorganised, and my collection of wargaming figures and vehicles are properly organised. All that now remains is for me to sort out is the modelling materials, including quite a lot of pots of paint and numerous bags and containers of flock/static grass.

I am now only a couple of hours away from being finished, and with luck I should be able to complete the task tomorrow ... but I do have quite a list of tasks already scheduled for Monday, so the 'sort out' might not be completed until Tuesday or Wednesday ... and then I might just manage a wargame ... at long last!

Warships after Washington

The development of the modern (i.e. steam powered) warship has interested me for many years. In fact about a third of my bookshelf space is devoted to naval-related topics, and most of that space covers the design and development of different types of warship and their weapon systems.

The 1922 Washington Treaty (and the subsequent 1927 Geneva Conference and 1930 London Treaty) had a major impact on the development of the warships that were in service with the major World War II combatants, and when I read that John Jordan had written a book about the Treaty, I decided to buy it.

The book is entitled WARSHIPS AFTER WASHINGTON: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FIVE MAJOR FLEETS 1922-1930 (published by Seaforth Publishing [2011] ISBN 978 1 84832 117 5) and the writer – John Jordan – is the current editor of WARSHIP annual, a publication that occupies a prominent place on my bookshelves.

The book examines the political aspects of the Treaty and the way in which its Articles affected warship design between the wars. It also covers the various design projects that were undertaken by the five signatory nations – Great Britain, the United States, Japan, France, and Italy – and the ships that were actually built.

Friday 2 December 2011

Possible reinforcements?

I also own a number of non-Soviet and non-German Corgi tanks. These are four Sherman and two Churchill tanks.

Both types of tank were supplied to the Soviets and it is therefore feasible that I could use them to reinforce my existing 'stock' of Soviet armour. On the other hand I could use them to create some British and/or American tank units, and I can foresee the possibility of pitting the Shermans against the T34s in a post-war conflict (e.g. Israel vs. Egypt).

Soft skin vehicles

The collection of suitable soft skin vehicles that I can use with my Corgi tanks is quite limited at present, but I hope to add some more as time goes on. Currently my collection includes two American half-tracks, three 'deuce-and-a-half' trucks and five Mercedes-Benz LG3000 Trucks.