Monday 31 October 2011

Sitting and waiting ... and finding things to do

My wife and I are currently in a state of limbo. Until the Coroner is happy with the cause of death, my father-in-law's body cannot be released ... and until that happens we cannot make any arrangements for the funeral, nor can we begin sorting out his finances and his estate. The post mortem should take place tomorrow, and assuming that the Coroner is satisfied with the results, we came begin making arrangements on Thursday. We have managed to sort out my father-in-law's 'filing system', and the documents are now neatly filed in date order in a number of properly labelled files that cover our dining table.

At present I have some spare time available to devote to wargame-related activity, and so far I have managed to finish revising my imagi-world map. The next thing I want to tackle is the background information that will go with the map, and with luck that should be finished later today or a some point tomorrow. After that I want to think about the number of wargame figures that I need to buy and paint so that I can begin using my imagi-world.

As I want my figures to be painted in the style of 'toy soldiers' (i.e. blocks of colour, no shading, and gloss varnished) I want to use figures that are fairly simple. In the old days my choice would have had to have been Peter Laing figures, but these are no longer available and I have to look for suitable substitutes. I suspect that I am going to end up using a mixture of Essex Miniatures, Irregular Miniatures, and Warrior Miniatures, but I am also considering Miniature Figurines figures as well. I have toyed with using larger scale figures than 15mm-scale (20mm, 28mm, 30mm, 42mm, and even 54mm-scale figures have all been given serious thought) but considerations of cost, convenience, and storage have influenced my thinking to date. That said, the Irregular Miniatures 42mm figures are exactly the right style for the sort of battles that I want to fight and I am finding them to be a very tempting alternative to 15mm.

Sunday 30 October 2011

The Imagi-world of 1891 ... now has some named seas and oceans

I have now finished naming the various seas and oceans on my imagi-world map, and the results are shown below:

I may need to make a few additions and changes, but I doubt if these will be very drastic.

I have still a few more entries to write before the background information about each of the countries of my imagi-world of 1891 will be completed, and I hope to finish this task as soon as events allow.

The Imagi-world of 1891 ... needs named seas and oceans

I have made very little progress on this particular project over recent days, but one thing that I have realised is that the seas and oceans on my map of the imagi-world are unnamed.

Rather than use a mixture of both real and imaginary names, I have decided to use nothing but imaginary ones that reflect the countries that are bordered by those seas and oceans. For example, some of the names I plan to use include the Chindian Ocean, the Chitan Sea, and the Sea of Jippon.

Saturday 29 October 2011

The Wargaming Pioneers

During a break from helping my wife to sort out her father's affairs and selling my father's house I managed to read the latest addition to John Curry's History of Wargaming Project, THE WARGAMING PIONEERS INCLUDING LITTLE WARS BY H.G.WELLS, THE WAR GAME FOR BOY SCOUTS AND THE WAR GAME BY CAPTAIN SACHS 1898 - 1940: EARLY WARGAMES VOL. 1.

That may seem like a very long title, but the book contains so much of interest that anything shorter would not do the contents justice!

The one thing that struck me as I read through the book (and I came to this conclusion before reading Arthur Harman's excellent appendix to the book in which he compares the various rules contained therein) was the fact that H G Wells' LITTLE WARS was not the first book of wargames rules but that it was probably the most well known in a series of sets of rules that were published in and around the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. LITTLE WARS is the antecedent of the LIDDELL HART WAR GAME (1935) and CAPTAIN SACHS’ WAR GAME (1940) but it also appears to be the descendant of THE GREAT WAR GAME (1908).

Of particular interest to me was the inclusion of:
  • THE WAR GAME FOR BOY SCOUTS (1910) because of it is a more strategic/grand tactical game than the others,
  • SHAMBATTLE (1929) because of some of its very interesting game mechanisms, and
  • MECHANIX ARTILLERY DUEL (1932) because it features exploding ships, forts, and tanks (!) and appears to be a version of the classic game of BATTLESHIPS but with actual guns being fired over a screen at unseen targets.
I thoroughly recommend this book to any wargamer with an interest in the history of their hobby, and in particular to anyone who has an interest in both H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS (the book contains the full text of the original version) and its most recent development, FUNNY LITTLE WARS by Paul Wright.

PS. I do get a passing mention in the book – and took the cover photograph as well – but I would have recommended it anyway!

Friday 28 October 2011

Fenwick Travers is no Harry Flashman but ...

I have just finished reading the third and final volume of the Fenwick Travers trilogy, FENWICK TRAVERS AND THE PANAMA CANAL.

In some ways this is the best of the three books as it covers the events of the successful Panamanian revolt against Colombia. Reading the book gave me lots of ideas for possible scenarios that would allow me to include steam railways, gunboats, Marines, South American revolutionaries, Amerindians, beautiful female spies, and South American military units! The book even includes some simple maps that would be ideal for a min-campaign.

The author of the Fenwick Travers books only wrote three volumes, but it would appear that he expected to write more. At the end of this book Fenwick Travers is just about to set off for Japan ... and it is set only a few years before the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War so one imagines that Fenwick was about to get himself involved in that war as well.

I have been to … Holkham Hall

As I wrote in a recent blog entry, my wife and I spent an all too short time recently in North West Norfolk. We stayed in one of our favourite hotels, the ‘Le Strange Arms Hotel’, Old Hunstanton.

We have been going there for regular long weekends away for many years, and have found the ambience, the location, and the food very reviving, especially whenever our spirits have been flagging and our batteries have been in need of recharging.

For years we have driven past the gates of Holkham Hall, but have never ventured in. This time we decided to take the plunge and pay a proper visit to the Hall … and we are very pleased that we did.

Holkham Hall was built by Thomas Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester, and it is located near the north coast of Norfolk. It is built of brick and is an excellent example of the Palladian style of architecture. It was designed by William Kent and built between 1734 and 1764.

Holkham Hall’s owners – the Coke family – are responsible for a well-known sartorial ‘invention’, the ‘Billycock (or Billy Coke) Hat’. This is probably better known as the ‘Bowler’. The design came about because the nephew of the Earl of Leicester – William Coke – asked the hatters Lock & Company of St James’s to make a tight-fitting, low-crowned hard felt hat that estate workers – particularly the gamekeepers – could wear. Lock & Company subcontracted the manufacture of the hats to hatmakers Thomas and William Bowler – who later sold the design under their own name – hence the two names for the single style of hat. During the latter part of the nineteenth century and early half of the twentieth century the hat became the headwear of choice for junior Civil Servants, office workers, and tradesmen.

Amongst the attractions visitors can visit at Holkham Hall is the ‘Bygones Museum’. This includes an extensive collection of old vehicles …

… and steam-powered machinery …

… that is displayed in part of the Hall’s stable block.

Amongst the vehicles on display was a steam-powered cart …

… and a fire engine that was a Leyland chassis fitted with bodywork supplied by the Merryweather & Co. of Greenwich, London.

The Hall has a magnificent lake nearby …

… and an obelisk.

Unusually, the front of the Hall is guarded by statues of both a lion …

… and a lioness.

The Hall is built of yellow stock bricks, and unlike most other brick-built houses of its era, these have been left unrendered. Because of the lack of air pollution the bricks are still very clean and as a result the building does not appear to be as old as it actually is.

The entrance hall is magnificent. It is lined in marble and has a staircase that leads up to the first pillared floor.

The ceiling is also a sight to behold, and the whole effect very impressive.

Incidentally, Holkham Hall – and the pillared gallery above the entrance in particular – are featured in Alan Hunter’s 1957 crime novel, LANDED GENTLY.

The interior of the Hall is well worth seeing. During our visit we saw:
We did not have time to walk around the 3,000 acre park, but in addition to the ‘Bygones Museum’ and the Hall itself we did manage to visit the ‘History of Farming’ exhibition, the gift shop, and the café. We felt that Holkham Hall was well worth visiting and we are very pleased that we finally went there.

Thursday 27 October 2011


My wife and I would like to thank all of you who took the time to send us messages of support and condolence after the death of my father-in-law. It has helped to raise our spirits and enable us to keep going.

Thank you all very much.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

A death in the family

My father-in-law died this morning.

My wife and I saw him last Friday when we took him to have another look at the flat we were in the process of buying for him. He had had a change of mind about the move earlier in the week, but when he saw the flat again he loved it, and was looking forward to moving in as soon as possible. When we returned home we left him in a very happy frame of mind, and he was already thinking about what he wanted to take with him from his existing home when he moved.

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I had decided that we needed a break to recharge our batteries, and we were lucky enough to be able book two nights in one of our favourite hotels – the ‘Le Strange Arms Hotel’, Old Hunstanton, Norfolk – starting on Sunday. We had a pleasant drive up from London, stopped off in King’s Lynn for a light lunch, and arrived at the hotel in time for afternoon tea. By chance we were able to meet some old friends who were at the hotel for Sunday lunch, and we had a long and pleasant chat with them before we had to get ready for dinner.

On Monday morning we went to Holkham Hall … and I will write a special blog entry about our visit sometime in the near future. We then went on the Fakenham to visit a famous chocolate factory shop, and after that we drove to King’s Lynn and thence to Old Hunstanton. We had only just returned to the hotel when we received a telephone call from a friend of my father-in-law telling us that my father-in-law had fallen over and had been taken to hospital. We contacted the hospital immediately, and we were informed that my father-in-law had been found lying on the floor of his bedroom, and that he was dehydrated and may have injured his spine. We were told that he was as comfortable as could be expected and that we could visit him next day.

(We later discovered that he had been lying on the bedroom floor for at least 36 hours … and probably for as long as 48 hours.)

We immediately packed out bags and checked out of the hotel. The drive home was very unpleasant because high winds and torrential rain, and it took us nearly three hours top drive the one hundred or so miles. We telephone the hospital again when we reached home, and were told that my father-in-law was resting and that they were attempting to rehydrate him.

On Tuesday morning we went to see my father-in-law. We drove to the hospital in Canterbury, Kent via his home in Herne Bay, collecting some items that we thought he might need during his stay in hospital. He was asleep when we arrived, and appeared to be responding to the treatment he was being given. We waited until he had been seen by the doctors who were overseeing his case, and they made us aware of the problems that they were facing. It appeared that during the time he spent lying on the floor unable to move, he had accumulated fluid in his lungs. The process of rehydrating him was causing a further build-up of fluid, and that this was placing an increased burden on his heart and lungs. However, if he was not rehydrated, his kidneys and heart might fail. The treatment was a delicate balance between the two, and his survival would depend upon getting that balance right. They also told us that he would be asleep for the rest of the night, and that we should go home.

We drove back to London, and had just sat down when the hospital telephoned to inform us that my father-in-law’s condition had worsened. We immediately packed an overnight bag and drove back to Canterbury. We stayed at his bedside until past 1.00am this morning, waiting to see if there was any improvement. There was not … but his condition did not appear to be getting any worse either. We were by now both so tired that we could hardly stay awake, and so we set off to try to find a hotel that had beds available. We finally found one in Whitstable, and by 2.00am we were asleep.

We were awoken at 6.30am by a telephone call from the hospital. My father-in-law’s condition had suddenly deteriorated and they advised us to get there as quickly as possible. We did so, but unfortunately he had died almost as soon as they had telephoned us.

We have spent the rest of the day trying to sort out what to do next. Because of the circumstances of my father-in-law’s death, the Coroner has decided that there will have to be an inquest. Until that has met and a decision as to the cause of death has been determined, the funeral cannot take place. My wife and I have a lot to do over the coming few weeks, and I suspect that all my wargaming is going to have to be placed on hold until after the funeral.

I know that many of my regular blog readers will send my wife and I messages of sympathy. Please do not be offended if I do not reply to each of them personally, but I would like to thank you in advance for your kind thoughts and support.

Sunday 23 October 2011

The Imagi-world of 1891 ... is almost complete

I have almost finished writing the background information about each of the countries of my imagi-world of 1891, and I hope to finish this task by the middle of next week.

I made some basic assumptions when I began. These were that:
  • The imagi-world's population, whilst large, is smaller than the real population of the world in 1891
  • There are fewer countries in the imagi-world of 1891 that there were in the real world
  • The 'Scramble for Africa' is coming to it end in 1891 and not still in full flood
  • The Fezian (i.e. Turkish Ottoman) Empire still has nominal control over a larger area than it actually had in 1891
  • The Federated States of America (i.e. the USA) has not undergone a civil war in the middle of the century, that slavery was abolished earlier in the century, and that the numerous Amerindian tribes have been integrated rather than subjugated
  • Britannic Chindia (i.e. British India) is a confederation of allied native states that enjoy Britannic protection and accept Britannic overlordship in exchange for that protection and being allowed to run their own internal affairs
I have also made other assumptions as the work has progressed, but these were the main ones I started with.

I have found doing this task to be a very interesting one, as it allowed me to turn some historical possibilities into realities. I had created imagi-nations before, but not anything larger. This is a much bigger project (hence the amount of time and effort it has so far taken!), but it does give me a background that has lots of potential for me – and others – to exploit over the foreseeable future.

Saturday 22 October 2011

iOS5 ... and the wasted evening

Earlier this evening I attempted to do my regular iPad to PC 'sync' ... only to find that I could not do so until I had installed the new operating system – iOS5 – onto my iPad.

Now this sounds simple … but it took me five attempts to get the program to download from the Apple website before I could then install it on my iPad. The installation process backed up all my existing apps and settings (which took some time), then installed the new operating system (which took some more time), and then reloaded all the apps and settings (which took even more time). By the time I had finished all of these processes it had taken me upwards of two and a half hours to complete what should have been a simple and straightforward task.

And what does this new operating system allow me to do? It allows me to connect my devices (iPhone, IPad, PC etc.) wirelessly via iCloud. This will automatically update my iPad when I install a new app on my iPhone or buy something from the iTunes store … which is great except that my iPhone is a simple 3G model that won’t interact with iCloud!

Things like this annoy me because it looks like they are adding chrome just because they can and not because we need it.

Things are getting hot around here ... at last!

I had booked a two-hour time slot for the gas boiler engineer to come this morning (8.00am to 10.00am) ... and he arrived at 8.10am having telephoned us at 8.00am to check that he had the correct address and to say that he was on his way.

He identified the problem in under five minutes (apparently the expansion tank had lost pressure and need to be re-pressurised using something that looked like a pump for inflating bicycle tyres or footballs). After re-pressurising the tank he then changed a pressure valve ‘just in case’ … and by 9.00am the boiler was going full blast and the house was warming up a treat!

All of this is very reassuring, as the last time we had a boiler malfunction we were without heating or hot water for four or five days because the engineer did not have necessary parts in his van. I had therefore planned my day around the fact that I would probably have to wait until 10.00 am or later for the gas boiler engineer to arrive, and that when he did he would not be able to fix the problem.

I now have some spare time that I had not bargained upon having and I now hope to use it to do some more work on my Heroscape™ hex terrain tiles.

Things are beginning to look better already!

Friday 21 October 2011

Friday went better than expected

I had the feeling that today was not going to be a great day ... but in actual fact, things went better than expected.

My wife and I visited my father-in-law this morning and managed to get him to pay another visit to the flat we were going to buy for him to move into ... and he completely changed his mind about the move. He now wants to move into the flat ... and to make the move as quickly as possible. We even discussed the changes that would need to be made to the flat – mainly a new bathroom and some new furniture – and how quickly the changes could be made.

On our way home we stopped off at a large DIY store and managed to buy a very nice coal fire-effect electric fire for our living room. This has meant that we have had no problems heating the main living spaces of our house despite the fact that our central heating boiler is not working.

I also managed to begin painting some of my Heroscape™ hex terrain tiles. I have decided to paint the sides of all the hexes with Citadel Graveyard Earth paint, and then use Citadel Camo Green paint on the top surface of those that will be flocked with static grass. I did intend to paint the tops of the hex tiles I will flock with cork granules with Citadel Kommando Khaki paint, but I am having second thoughts and want to check out some alternative colours first.

So today was not such a bad day after all ... and with luck the central heating boiler will be fixed tomorrow.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Not having a hot time tonight

Over the past few days our central heating combi boiler has been losing pressure. At first the pressure drop was gradual, but today it went from gradual to steady ... and finally to rapid. In fact the pressure dropped to zero ... and at that point I switched it off.

Some years ago we took out an insurance policy on the central heating system, and as soon as I had switched the boiler off I tried to get in contact with the 24-hour help desk. Well the help desk may be open for 24-hours each day ... but the time it takes them to answer seems to be almost that long! After waiting in a queue for nearly forty five minutes, listening to terrible recordings of the music used in the current British Gas TV commercials and a selection of 'helpful' recorded messages, I finally got to speak to someone. After explaining the problem I was able to book the first available appointment for an engineer to visit ... which is Saturday between 8.00am and 10.00am.

No doubt the engineer will arrive on time ... and no doubt he will not have the part or parts required to fix the boiler with him. If past experience is anything to go by he will then have to order them, and hopefully they will be delivered as soon after the weekend as possible. In the meantime we have to rely on electric heaters to keep us warm but all our washing will have to be done in cold water.

At this rate I should be smelling quite 'ripe' by Monday ... if not before.

Fenwick Travers is no Harry Flashman but ...

I have just finished reading the second of the Fenwick Travers novels by Raymond M Saunders – FENWICK TRAVERS AND THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM.

This book follows on from the first in the series and deals with Fenwick's involvement in the pacification of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. It has lots of gratuitous violence and combat, cowardly behaviour (with a tinge of self-interested bravado), and some hilarious sex scenes. As you might gather, I enjoyed reading this book … and I feel that the author probably enjoyed writing it as well. It is not great art nor is it great fiction but it was great fun … and it did give me some ideas for potential wargames scenarios.

I hope to start reading the final book in the trilogy today or tomorrow … and I hope that it is equally as fun to read.

A busy – and potentially difficult – few days ahead

It looks as I am going to be quite busy over the next few days. Today I am off to see my father in his care home and then I am going to run a few errands on his behalf before coming back home. Tomorrow my wife and I are off to Herne Bay to see my father-in-law ... and hopefully make progress on buying him a flat in wardened accommodation.

I say hopefully because he telephoned us last night and told us that he had changed his mind about making the move ... despite being categorically in favour of it last week! The problem is that we have already agreed to buy the flat on his behalf and stopping the whole thing is going to be difficult and potentially quite costly. We have agreed the purchase price with the vendor, engaged a solicitor to process the purchase, and borrowed the money to buy the flat. To undo all of that will cost us money because we have had to pay up-front for things like building surveys, land register searches, legal fees, loan arrangement fees etc. We have explained all that to him ... but he does not seem to think it is a problem as it is not his money that has been spent! He is 96-years old, and he is entitled to change his mind if he wants to ... but he does not seem to understand that doing that has a price that other people have to pay.

Life can be very difficult at times ... and it would appear that the next few days are going to be one of those times. I might manage to do some wargames-related activity over the next few days, but somehow I think that I might not be in the mood to do very much.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Early wargames ... now available!

I understand that as part of his 'History of Wargaming' Project, John Curry is publishing a compendium of early wargames. Titles included in the book are:
  • Notes on the Robert Louis Stevenson Game (1898)
  • The Great Wargame (1908)
  • War Games for Boy Scouts (1910)
  • Little Wars (1913) by HG Wells
  • Sham Battle 1929 (Extract) by Lt. Dowdall and Gleason
  • Mechano Artillery Duel (1932)
  • The Liddell Hart Wargame (1935)
  • Captain Sachs War Game (1940)
The book's title is EARLY WARGAMES VOL 1: THE WARGAMING PIONEERS INCLUDING LITTLE WARS BY H.G. WELLS, THE WAR GAME FOR BOY SCOUTS AND THE WAR GAME BY CAPTAIN SACHS 1898-1940 ( ISBN 978 1 4476 4770 9) and it can be bought for £11.95 (plus postage and packing) from the website.

Amongst the other books that John has recently republished are:Copies of these books can also be bought from the website.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

The Imagi-world of 1891: Map page added

In addition to the IMAGI-WORLD OF 1891: THE NATIONS page I have now added an IMAGI-WORLD OF 1891: MAPS page to this blog.

The new page has a map of the world and maps of each of the continents. These maps are in JPG format and may be downloaded by blog readers and used by them as long as it is not done for financial gain and proper attribution is made.

Even more hex terrain experiments

I have continued to experiment with various methods for creating transitional hex terrain tiles. In the first batch I added the cork granules first and when the PVA glue was dry I added the static grass.

In the second batch I reversed the procedure and used the static grass first and then added the cork granules later.

I expected that there would be no discernible difference between the two batches, but it appears that there is.

In the second batch the different patches seem to be more distinct whereas in the first they seem to be somewhat blurred. I suspect that this is a result of the static grass 'clinging' to the cork granules, something that did not happen with the second batch.

This was a very useful set of experiments, and they have pointed me in what I think will be the right direction to go when I start on this project in the very near future.

Monday 17 October 2011

Some further hex terrain experiments

Ross Mac suggested that I might consider producing some transitional hex terrain tiles (i.e. terrain tiles that combine features of both the terrain tiles finished with green static grass and those covered in cork granules. The results are show below (the various hex terrain tiles featured in my earlier blog entry are also shown for comparison purposes):

Interestingly the two-hex terrain tiles marked 'A' were given different sized splodges of static grass on top of their cork granules … and either look too bland or rather odd to me.

The two-hex terrain tiles ‘B’ and ‘C’ look much more effective but I am as yet unsure which of the two colours – Graveyard Earth or Camo Green – I will use as the background colour for the transitional tiles, although I currently favour Graveyard Earth.

SELWG ... and why I didn't go

Yesterday was the day that SELWG (the annual wargames show organised by the South East London Wargames Group) took place ... and for the first time in some years, I did not go.

So why not?

After giving the matter some considerable thought I have come to the conclusion that the larger wargames shows have just got too large to for me enjoy.

I enjoy meeting my many wargaming friends and acquaintances at shows, but over recent years it has seemed to become almost impossible to have a conversation when we have met at the larger shows. The general level of background noise seems to have risen to such an extent that it has almost become necessary to shout to make oneself heard ... which everyone else is doing, thus increasing the sound levels, which in turn makes having a conversation more difficult ... and so on.

I also enjoy seeing what new items have come onto the market ... but again the bigger shows seem to have made this more difficult rather than easier. Traders are charged by the length of their display, and the bigger the display, the more they are charged. Therefore a trader will – for example – have a six foot-long setup which they take to wargames shows, regardless of the size of the show. It therefore follows that the more people you have at a show, the less you will be able to see on an individual trader's stand. Add to that the fact that increasing numbers of wargamers seem unable to go to a show without a backpack the size of a small car strapped to their back, and the problem of crowding – and the risk of injury as someone next to you at a stand turns through 180° and thumps you with their backpack – becomes even worse.

Then there are the 'games' that are on show. It has become increasingly noticeable over the past few years that more and more wargames clubs are putting on display games at wargames shows that are merely moving (and sometimes immobile!) dioramas. There are some very notable exceptions to this – for example, Peter Pig always has a demonstration/participation game running near to their stand – but the norm now seems to be beautiful terrain, exhibition-standard painted figures and vehicles ... and little going on in the way of a game. Sometimes a few figures might be moved and some dice thrown (usually after a very long time spent reading the very long rule book), but games never seem to get to anything like a conclusion.

I have run wargames at shows, but the games I have put on have been designed so that people can sit down, take part for an hour at most, and then do something else. They were not designed to exclude anyone who was not part of our 'group'; they were designed so that participants could fight a battle from start to finish in the sort of time most of us now have to spend actually fighting wargames in the modern world. I was once told that our games - however innovative, attractive, or enjoyable they might be - would never win a prize at a wargames show because 'They are the sort of game that people can play in their own club or home.' The person who said that had exactly missed the point; what we were demonstrating was something that anyone could put on without having to commit huge amounts of time, effort, and space to it. After all not everyone has the time to paint the necessary figures or make the terrain, the financial resources to buy everything required for a 2,000 figure per side wargame, or the space for a permanent 18' x 6' table to wargame on!

Finally – and probably the most telling reason why I did not go to SELWG yesterday – is that wargaming is my hobby and not my life. It is an important part of my life, but at the moment I have a host of other things that I could – and should – be doing ... so I did them instead.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Hex terrain experiments

Over recent weeks I have been concentrating upon making hills to use with my 'new' gridded terrain boards ... but this does not mean that I have given up on the idea of using my hexed terrain at some time in the future.

Over the past few days I have been experimenting with various different coloured paints and types of flock to see what will be the best combinations to use with my Heroscape™ terrain. I am going to need both grassed and desert/barren areas and will need to use materials that are readily available. I have therefore concentrated upon using paints supplied by my local Hobbycraft and Games Workshop outlets (both of whom sell Citadel paints) and flock supplied by Games Workshop (for static grass flock) and Javis Manufacturing (for cork granules).

The following photograph shows the results of my experiments.

The seven-hex terrain tile has been painted with Citadel Goblin Green paint and flocked with Games Workshop static grass. The uppermost single-hex terrain tile has been painted with Citadel Graveyard Earth paint and the middle one has been painted with Citadel Kommando Khaki. Both have been flocked with Jarvis fine-grade cork granules. The bottom singe-hex terrain tile has been painted with Citadel Camo Green paint and flocked with Games Workshop static grass.

I am pleased that I undertook these experiments as it has shown me that the best combinations for my purposes are:
If I had not done this experiment I may well have wasted time and money buying the wrong colour paint with which to paint hexes before I flock them.

The Imagi-world of 1891: Another further update

I have continued the process of adding information to THE IMAGI-WORLD OF 1891 page on this blog. I have now completed entries up to and including the Sublime Sultanate of Fezia, and I am now well over halfway through the process ... I hope!

It strikes me that it would be a good idea for me to make the text of THE IMAGI-WORLD OF 1891 page available in printed form as well as a page on my blog, and I am giving serious thought to this. The document would not only include the text but also copies of the various regional maps that I will be adding to THE IMAGI-WORLD OF 1891 page.

Saturday 15 October 2011

The Imagi-world of 1891: A further update

I have continued to add information to THE IMAGI-WORLD OF 1891 page on this blog. I have now written entries up to and including Cordeguay, and hope to add further information later today.

Once all the entries are complete I then intend to add regional maps and to make the map of the imagi-world available for blog readers to download. I have no time plan for this, but hope to get most of it done by the end of October.

Friday 14 October 2011

Herne Bay, Upminster … and the speed of sound

Over the past few months I have spent quite a lot of time in Herne Bay, Kent (where my father-in-law lives) and Upminster, Essex (which is where I spent most of my youth and where my father’s house is located). Until today I had never realised that these two locations were linked in any way … but it appears that they are … by the speed of sound!

In the early eighteenth century the Rector of Upminster and member of the Royal Society – The Reverend William Derham – carried out experiments that led to the first reasonably accurate measurement of the speed of sound. He used his telescope – which he mounted on the tower of his church, St. Laurence – to observe the flash produced by a shotgun fired from a location that was at a know distance from the church tower. He timed how long it took from his observation of the flash to him hearing the sound of the shot, and from this basic data he was able to calculate the speed of sound.

Towards the end of 1945, two Gloster Meteor fighter aircraft were modified by the RAF in order that an attempt could be made on the World Air Speed record. These aircraft made several attempts to break the record, and on 7th November 1945 Group Captain H.J. (Willy) Wilson set the first official World Air Speed record by a jet aircraft of 606 mph (975km/h) in the skies above Herne Bay.

This event is marked by a plaque which was on display in Macari’s Café on the seafront in Herne Bay. (This is where my wife and I had fish and chips for lunch today!).

This successful attempt to set an official World Air Speed record for a jet aircraft led to formation of the RAF High Speed Flight in 1946. This was a special unit that was tasked with retaining the World Air Speed record and attempting to push it towards the speed of sound. The Flight was commanded by Group Captain E. M. Donaldson (who established a new official world record of 615.78 miles per hour (991.00 km/h) in a Gloster Meteor on 7th September 1946) and included:
  • Flight Lieutenant Neville Duke (who set a new world air speed record of 727.63 mph (1,171.01 km/h) in a Hawker Hunter on 7th September 1953)
  • Wing Commander Roland (Bea) Beamont (who broke the sound barrier in May 1948 whilst flying a North American F86 Sabre fighter aircraft, and who was the first British pilot to achieve this distinction, although this is usually not acknowledged as he was not flying a British aircraft)
  • Squadron Leader William Arthur (Bill) Waterton (who later became the Gloster Aircraft Company’s chief test pilot)

Fenwick Travers is no Harry Flashman but ...

I have just finished reading the first of the three Fenwick Travers novels – FENWICK TRAVERS AND THE YEARS OF EMPIRE – and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

The book tells the story of how and why Fenwick Travers joined the US Army as a Private and managed to gain an officer's commission after attending West Point. It then traces his early career in the Regular Army, including his part in the Spanish-American War and the Boxer Rebellion.

The book is described as 'an entertainment' and it certainly lives up to this billing. Some of the story lines do contain some rather incredible coincidences, and the sex scenes are quite funny (which I hope is intentional), but it is a great historical romp that is entertaining and diverting to read. It is not a great work of fiction, and it is not as well written as the 'Flashman' novels (although it is certainly as good as books written by other more famous best-selling authors), but this does not detract from the enjoyment I got from reading the book, and I am looking forward to reading the other two books in the series.

People to see ...

I doubt if I will managed to do much wargaming-related activity today ... although there is always a possibility that I might be able to find a few minutes here and there to do one or two things towards the end of the day.

This morning my wife and I are off to visit my father-in-law. We intend to do his shopping on the way ... which usually adds at least another hour onto the journey as he likes us to do his shopping in a particular supermarket which is not quite on our route. We shall then spend some time with him, and the main topic of discussion will no doubt be related to his projected move to the flat we are buying for him closer to the centre of Herne Bay.

After lunch (or possibly before, depending upon how things pan out) we then have an appointment with the solicitor who has agreed to act for us with regard to the flat purchase. We have already completed a long questionnaire for her, but there are several things that we need to clarify with her.

Once our business in Herne Bay is completed we will be able to return home .... but I suspect that we will also have to do our weekly food shopping on the way back, and that will add time to our homeward journey. I don't know whether I will feel like doing any wargaming-related activity once I get home. I hope so ... but I am learning not to plan too far in advance these days!

Thursday 13 October 2011

Places to go ...

My trip to the bank to find out if the 'lost' documents had been found was successful ... in more ways that one.

The bank's staff had found the 'missing' documents and were able to hand them over to me ... much to my relief. On the way back to my car I passed through a branch of one of the large, local supermarkets and saw a portable DVD/CD player on sale ... so I bought it!

Until a couple of years ago I had a TV and VHS video player in my toy/wargames room, and I used to enjoy having a film playing whilst I was painting or making models. Eventually the TV stopped working properly and the VHS tapes were replaced by DVDs ... and since then I have not had the facility to watch/listen to an action film whilst relaxing at my work table. Now I do ... and have the added advantage that I can also listen to music or a recorded book if I want to.

Not a bad 'off the cuff' purchase ... and at a very reasonable price too!

Things to do ...

Today seems like it is going to be what seems to have become a typical day for me.

First and foremost I am trying to arrange for my father-in-law to be supplied with a hot meal for lunch during the week. The local branch of AGE CONCERN where he lives provides such a service and I have been trying to find out from them if he is eligible for it. The service is not free, but the cost is very reasonable and it would reduce the daily burden upon him of having to cook a meal at least once each day.

I also have to visit the bank to reclaim some documents that they asked for. These include my company's accounts for the last four years. The bank require copies of them as part of the process of my wife and applying for a mortgage to buy a flat in wardened accommodation for my father-in-law, and they were supposed to return them on Monday. Somehow (or somewhere) the documents have become 'lost' and they assured me that they will have found them by today.

In addition to the above, I also have a number of household chores to complete ... and once all of those are finished I hope to do some work on some terrain items I want to make and to add further information to my IMAGI-WORLD OF 1891 page.

Another normal, busy day!

Wednesday 12 October 2011

The Imagi-world of 1891

I have now added a page to this blog that contains information about the imagi-world that I have created.

This is still a 'work in progress', and I will be adding more information (including maps) as and when I can.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Imagi-world map suggestions

I have had several suggestions for name changes, particularly for some of the states in America. I am giving the suggestions serious consideration and may make the changes before finalising the map.

I am also considering a suggestion that I make the map and the back story (when the latter is written) available as a page or pages on this blog. This makes sense as readers will be able to refer to the pages as and when they need to look something up at a later date.

My Imagi-world map is finally finished ... I think!

Despite being rather busy today, I did manage to do some more work on my late nineteenth/early twentieth century imagi-world map.

Imagi-world North America

Finding appropriate names for the various states and provinces that make up my imagi-world North America took some time and quite a lot of research. In the end I tried to use appropriate tribal names wherever possible, but with some more obviously European names for the majority of the older areas.

The main addition to the original map was the island that occupies the sea between Tampa and Anahuaco. It has been named Cigara (which is a name that I used some years ago for a hidden scenario wargame about the 'Bay of Pigs' incident).

Imagi-world South America

Most of the imagi-nations of South America already existed in name (if not in fact). The only exceptions were Caribia (named after the tribe of Amerindians who lived in the area before the European colonisation took place), Amazona (named after the river), and Argentia (which has the same etymological root as Argentina).

Monday 10 October 2011

More Imagi-world map progress

I have now finished adding the detail for the easternmost part of my imagi-world map.

Imagi-world Asia

Some of the countries had quite a large number of sub-divisions. These represent the fact that they have large populations and/or are the results of a series of forced or voluntary amalgamations at some point in their history.

Imagi-world South Asia and Australasia

Both New Zealand and the Philippines were missing from the original RISK map. As a result this area of the map has far fewer islands than one would expect.

All that remains for me to add are the details for the Americas ... and I hope to start that later tonight.

Nugget 247

I posted the latest issue of THE NUGGET (N247) out to members of Wargame Developments this morning, and with luck it should be delivered to them by the end of the week.

I have already made the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT available for all members to download from the Wargame Developments website.

I have sent an email containing the necessary password that will open the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to all members of Wargame Developments for whom I have an email address, and this password has also been sent to individual members by traditional post.

This is the first 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.

Sunday 9 October 2011

More books to read

I managed to spend some time this morning in the bookshop in the local shopping centre ... and bought two books that have been added to my pile of 'to read' books that lives on my bedside table.

The first is a copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first ever novel – THE NARRATIVE OF JOHN SMITH.

The original manuscript was sent by post to a publisher ... and was promptly lost! Conan Doyle rewrote the book as best he could from memory, but decided in the end not to have it published. It was then 'lost' until relatively recently, when it was found in amongst a collection of Conan Doyle's papers. The incomplete novel has now been published by The British Library (ISBN 978 0 7123 5841 5). As a long-time lover of Conan Doyle's work I will be very interested to read his first novel, and to see what his early writing style was like.

The second book is the latest in the 'Jim Stringer, Steam Detective' series, and is written by Andrew Martin.

The book – THE SOMME STATIONS – is set during the First World War. It is published by Faber and Faber (ISBN 978 0 571 24960 2), and deals with the raising of a railway 'Pals Battalion' (the imaginary 'North Eastern Railway Battalion') as part of Kitchener's 'New Army' and the role of railways supplying the front line trenches. Both a detective novel and a military history story in the same book ... a good example of hitting two birds with one stone!

Saturday 8 October 2011

Imagi-world map progress

The following extracts from my imagi-world map show the current state of progress.

Imagi-world Europe

Each country has its own unique colour (the exception being Light Grey; this is used to identify neutral or non-aligned countries), and this helps to identify each of the areas that form part of that country and its overseas colonies or associated territories.

Imagi-world Africa

Imagi-world Middle East

Fezia is obviously the dominant power in the region, but its hold on some of its territories is more than a little tenuous.

More work done on the Imagi-world map

After a few false starts and some necessary changes, my later nineteenth/early twentieth century imagi-world map is beginning to take shape.

The countries of Europe are now almost complete, as are the various nations and colonies that make up Africa. The Middle East and Asia are about half way to completion, and after I have finished them I intend to concentrate upon the area around Australia before moving on to the Americas.

Progress has been slower that I expected, but with luck the map should be finished either tomorrow or on Monday.

Friday 7 October 2011

Getting there ... slowly

I have had little time today to do anything related to wargaming. This morning my wife and I spent two hours at one of the major High Street lenders ... and it appears that it will be possible to find the finance that will enable us to move my father-in-law into his new flat before we have sold his existing bungalow. This is a small but significant step forward for us ... and hopefully it will mean that he can be settled into his new home before Christmas.

During the afternoon we attended the funeral of my wife's maternal aunt, my father-in-law's 91 year-old sister. My father-in-law was feeling too frail to go to the funeral (hardly surprising considering his age) and so my wife and I went to represent him and to pass on our own condolences to my wife's aunt's family. My wife's aunt and my father-in-law were the last of nine siblings who were born between 1901 and 1920 (two of them died in infancy), and the funeral was probably the last time many members of my wife's extended family will meet before my father-in-law dies.

Thursday 6 October 2011

A little light relief ...

I very rarely believe the 'puff' printed by publishers about their books, and had I read the back cover of my latest acquisition – FENWICK TRAVERS AND THE YEARS OF EMPIRE – I might not have bought it!

The back cover includes the following text: 'Meet the most entertaining rogue to strut the world's stage since Harry Flashman was expelled from Rugby!' Now I have yet to read the book, but I have read all of the FLASHMAN books ...and this is going to have to be very good indeed to reach that standard.

In truth I doubt that it will be as good as it is puffed up to be, but that said, this hardback edition was as cheap to buy as a discounted paperback novel and if I get some enjoyment out of reading it, then it will have been worth the money.

I hope so ... as I have already ordered the other two books in the same series!

Pulling one's horns in

I spent quite a time yesterday trying to sort out the finances so that we can move my father-in-law from his bungalow to a flat in wardened accommodation. As a result it looks like we will be able to proceed with this quite quickly ... but at a cost.

I will not bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that in the immediate future my wife and I are going to have to be a bit more careful with our spending than we have in the past. This will only be a temporary situation but it does mean that I will have to put into abeyance some of the things that I was going to purchase for my current wargame projects. This does not mean that I will not be doing any wargaming, nor that my current projects will stop; it just means that progress will probably be a bit slower than I had originally hoped. Mind you, sorting out the move and helping my father-in-law settle in to his new home – as well as helping him sell his old one – are going to take up quite a lot of time, and the projects would have probably had to have been put on ‘hold’ anyway.

This all goes to prove that you can never plan too far ahead, and that whatever plans you do have should be flexible enough to deal with changing circumstances as they arise. As Captain, 2nd Rank Vasily Borodin says in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, ‘First we must accomplish the task at hand. An officer who looks too far ahead stumbles over his own boots.

I rather apt quote, I think.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

The Imagi-world Map continues to develop

I spent a very relaxing hour or so this morning doing further developmental work on my imagi-world map.

I realised that I needed to change the colour scheme somewhat and also to renumber some of the smaller nations or provinces that I had already identified on the map. The result is as follows:

I have now named all the areas within Europe, and the countries are:
  • The United Kingdom of Britannia (Anglia, Scotia, and Eira plus Britannic Iberia [6] and the island of Faletta [7])
  • Iberia
  • Gallia
  • Teutonia
  • Etruscia
  • Magrovia
  • Remusia
  • Forbodia
  • Muscovy
  • Opeland (including Latonia [9])
  • Upsland (including Greater Nordland, Lesser Nordland, and Jutaland [8])
  • Syldavia [1]
  • Maldacia [2]
  • Laurania [3]
  • Epirica [4]
  • Borduria [5]
My next step to is tidy up the European area of the map before moving on to look at adding detail to the Middle East and Africa.

What I like about this sort of project is that I can come back to it as and when I have some time, and it therefore fits in easily with all the other things that I am currently trying to do.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Taking a bit more of a RISK

I managed to start work today on developing my imagi-world map. I began by making a copy of the map I created from the original map board that comes with the game RISK (I did this just in case I made a serious mistake).

So far I have sorted out some of the imagi-nations in Europe. I have sited Laurania and Maldacia (indicated on the map by the numbers 1 and 2 respectively) in the Balkans and defined the national boundaries of:
  • Etruscia (Italy)
  • Gallia (France)
  • Iberia (Spain and Portugal)
  • The United Kingdoms of Britannia (Anglia, Scotia, and Eira)
  • Epirica (Greece; indicated on the map by the number 3)

With a bit of luck I should be able to add some more detail over the next few days, but I am not rushing this task as I want to get things right.

Them thar extra hills ... are now finished!

I have finally managed to finish the extra hills I was making to go with 'new' terrain boards.

There are two types of hill in the latest batch; three that are double-length, single-level hills and two that are double-length but with a double-level at one end.

In combination with my existing twelve hills I should be able to reproduce a reasonably hilly landscape for my battles. I would like to make some further hills (possibly with one or more sides that make it obvious that that part of the hill cannot be climbed) and some rocky outcrops ... but I am not sure when I will get around to it. I would also like to make some other terrain items (possibly including built-up areas, fields etc.) but that is not likely to happen in the very near future ... unless – of course – I have a change of heart!

Nugget 247

I took the latest issue of THE NUGGET (N247) to the printers this morning and I have arranged to collect it next Friday. Assuming that there are no problems, it should be posted out to members of Wargame Developments by Saturday and be with them early next week.

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 is the first THE NUGGET of the new subscription year. If you were a member of Wargame Developments and 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.

Monday 3 October 2011

A busy day ahead

Unlike the previous few days, today is going to be quite a busy one. This afternoon I have a meeting in Central London, after which there is a champagne reception (life is hard when you are retired!) and a formal dinner (I said that life was hard, didn't I!).

Before I go I have quite a few things that need to be done. Firstly I need to sort out my company's payroll as payday is the 5th of the month. This involves checking that the payroll details on the printout from the accountants is correct and then preparing the salary payments to the sole employee – currently my wife – and interim dividend payments to the two shareholders – my wife and I. I then have to ensure that the relevant forms are completed and sent – with a cheque – to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to pay for the employee's Income Tax and the employee's and employer's National Insurance contributions.

I also have to pay a visit to Barclays Bank to pay some money in and to try to get an appointment to organise a short-term loan to cover the cost of buying my father-in-law his new flat whilst we sell his bungalow. If past experience is anything to go by, this is going to be a long, drawn-out, and ultimately fruitless experience. (‘You may be selling a bungalow with two bedrooms and off-street parking that is worth more than twice the price of the single bedroom flat you are buying … but it is not the bank’s policy to make loans of this sort. We can, however, arrange a mortgage for you that you can pay off over ten years.)

I am also going to try to get the latest issue of THE NUGGET ready to take to the printers. The draft was sent to me by the editor last night, and all I have to do is the check it over, print off the original, and take it to the printer for printing … which would normally be quite an easy job if I wasn’t trying to do the other things as well!

I was also hoping to finish off the latest batch of hills I am making to go with my ‘new’ terrain boards. I had hoped to finish them yesterday, but the good weather (and the fact that my toy/wargames room was as hot as an oven until late last night) made me disinclined to do so.

Hey ho! Halcyon days!

The Portable Wargamer: Colonial version now available

It did not take me very long to proofread the draft of the Colonial version of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules this morning, and having done so I uploaded them in PDF format to THE PORTABLE WARGAME website so that any interested blog reader can download them.

There have been no changes to the basic game mechanisms used in the rules. The only difference between them and the former version is the addition of extra weapon types and the option for Native Infantry and Cavalry Units to make double-length moves. The latter is not a given; Commanders of Native armies have to throw a D6 die to see if a Unit may make such a move.

All the other changes are merely cosmetic, and have been done so that the additional information in the rules is easier to find and read. Even so, the rules are still less than two sides of A4 paper long.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Indian Summer

The last days of September and first days of October have seen the area of England where I live enjoying a veritable Indian Summer ... and very nice it has been too!

Such nice weather encourages one to spend as much time as one can to be outside ... and as a result I have spent less time than I had planned to on wargames-related activities this weekend. I have managed to do further work on the latest batch of hills to go with my 'new' terrain boards, but more importantly I have begun work on a Colonial version of my PORTABLE WARGAME 2 rules.

The Colonial PW2 rules are basically the same as the previous version of the rules but I have made some additions. For example the types of weapons covered by the rules now include magazine rifles, single-shot rifles, and machine guns, as well as differentiating between rifled and smoothbore artillery. Native Infantry and Cavalry also have the option to make double-length moves to reflect their greater mobility.

I hope to finish proofreading the first draft of this variant tomorrow, and once I am happy that there are no obvious errors I will upload them to THE PORTABLE WARGAME website.

Saturday 1 October 2011

The 'Nostalgia' Project revisited ... in passing

My wife and I have spent most of today visiting my father-in-law in Herne Bay, Kent. We did his shopping for him, helped sort out (and pay) his bills, and confirmed with him that he definitely wanted to move to the flat we had found for him in wardened accommodation in the centre of the town.

After a short break for lunch, we then visited the estate agent through whom we are buying the flat on behalf of my father-in-law. The vendors have accepted the off we made for the flat, and we managed to sort out what steps we now have to take to purchase it. It was too late in the day to visit a local solicitor to arrange for them to act for us, but we have the name of a highly recommended one whom we shall contact early next week.

As a result of all of the above, I have not had a great deal of time to even think about wargaming. Once thing I did do, however, was to look through and begin sorting my archive of photographs of Swedish Armoured Fighting Vehicles … and as I did so I was struck by an idea.

Years ago I had an imagi-nation called Opeland. It was very similar in many ways to Sweden, and the tanks that I built for its ‘army’ were loosely based on various Swedish tank designs. I have wanted to resurrect this imagi-nation – and its archrival Upsland – for some time, and I named this my ‘Nostalgia’ Project. It has been on the backburner for some time, but today, when looking at the following photograph, I thought that this particular design looked like an amalgam of two other tank designs … a Pzkpfw III hull with a T34/76 turret atop it.

I very quickly used my image manipulation computer programs to add a drawing of a T34/76 turret to that of the hull of a Pzkpfw III … et voila!

I then realised that I had 1:100th-scale models of both a Pzkpfw III and a T34/76 to hand (both are from the range of Axis & Allies Miniatures) and it was a matter of a few seconds work to put the T34/76 turret onto the Pzkpfw hull.

The resulting design is not exactly like its Swedish original … but it is not that different.

Food for thought, I think ... especially as Zvezda make very reasonably priced 1:100th-scale models of both the Pzkpfw II and T34/76.

PS. The Swedish tank is a Stridsvagn m/42.