Monday 30 April 2012

Five months on ... and some progress has been made!

It is typical of my 'luck' that the day I chose to start sorting out the books in my toy/wargames room is the first day in nearly a fortnight that it has not been cold and damp. In fact it was quite hot in the loft extension (which is where my toy/wargames room is located) and I had to have the fan on for most of the day.

So far I have identified and removed over fifty books, and this has freed up enough space in one of the bookcases/store cupboards for me to be able to store all my Hexon II hexed terrain (but not the hills, rivers, roads etc.) on the empty shelves. This means that the terrain is now far more accessible than it was. (My Hexon II hexed terrain was hitherto stored in wooden storage crates. This provided very strong and durable storage but was a real pain when you wanted to use the terrain because you had to unstack and restack the storage crates ... and the one you wanted always seemed to be at the bottom of the pile.)

I have now begun to catalogue the books I am getting rid of and I have begun negotiations with a bookseller who might be interested in buying them. I had thought of selling the books on eBay, but recent changes to UK postal rates could have made it very uneconomical for both me and any potential purchasers. The postage and packing for a book would probably have been more than the actual price that the book sold for, and that does not make sense to me. (I know that P&P charges are paid by the customer, but who wants to pay more for that than they do for the book they have bought?)

With luck I should be able to finish the process of identifying, removing, and cataloguing the books that I am going to dispose of by tomorrow afternoon. When that is done – and I have found somewhere to store the books for the foreseeable future – I can then complete the task of tidying up my toy/wargames room. Once that is done I intend to fight a wargame to celebrate!

Sunday 29 April 2012

Five months on ... and some progress needs to be made

Last year I began the process of sorting out my toy/wargames room, and by the end of November I had pretty well got my wargames figures (both painted and unpainted), model vehicles (again, completed and incomplete), and terrain into some sort of order (and storage system) that made sense to me. I then decided that the next stage would involve sorting out my books ... but somehow I never got around to it.

I realised this today when I went to look for a book ... and could not find it. I also realised that I have books on my shelves that I have not read for years, that I am not likely to read again, and which duplicate information that I have in other reference and history books. So tomorrow – assuming that I am feeling a bit better – I intend to begin the great book sort. I expect that it is going to take me quite some time, and that during the process my toy/wargames room will be even more of a mess than it is now ... but in the end I will have a slimmed-down library of books that I want, need, and will use.

Anyway, that is the intention ... and if I don't do it now, someone will have to do it at some time in the future, and I would rather that that person was me.

Its official ... cats like buttered toast: The Hero/Villain

By popular request, here is a photograph of the Hero/Villain of the story.

'The Butter Bandit' (AKA 'Big Boy') is an old cat. He used to live in one of the nearby flats with an elderly man, but when the latter left (we are not sure if he died or went into a care home), the cat began to live in our garden and come in to the house to eat every couple of days. Eventually he started coming in every day until he became a permanent resident ... and after being called 'You don't live here' for some time, he was eventually named 'Big Boy'.

He is normally a very even tempered cat (he occasionally gets annoyed with our younger female cat and hisses at her) and it appears that he was neutered when he was young. He likes to sit or lay on his favourite cushion near the cat flap or – if the weather is fine – in the sun on the patio.

A slight change of direction

My cold has meant that I have just not felt like doing anything practical for the last couple of days. As a result I have made no progress with my plans to build the Zvezda model kits that are supplied with ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARBAROSSA. I have, however, had time to think ... and I have done quite a lot.

One of the things I have been thinking about is my large collection of 20mm-scale World War II figures and vehicles. The collection has been languishing unused in its storage boxes for quite some time, and I really ought to use it. It also struck me that rather than make the Zvezda models I could use my existing figures and vehicles.

My thoughts in this direction were further influenced by a request I recently received for a copy of my OPERATIONAL ART rules and hex-based variant of Tim Gow's MEGABLITZ rules.

Either set of rules could easily be used to refight the first scenario in the ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARBAROSSA scenario book, something that I had planned to do in the very near future. I originally intended to use my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) rules for this wargame, but I now have a choice of three sets of rules that I could use.

I am not quite sure which of the rules I will use ... but thinking about this project has helped to keep my spirits up over recent days.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Its official ... cats like buttered toast!

As my wife and I were still not feeling much better this morning, we tried to have a bit of a lie-in ... but it was not to be. At 7.30am our female cat decided that it was time for breakfast, so she came and woke us up. Having fed her and our old male cat, I made tea for my wife and had a shower. I then made my wife some more tea, got dressed, and sat down at my computer and answered my emails.

At about 9.00am I decided that I fancied some toasted Hovis wholemeal bread for breakfast. I had just buttered my toast and taken it into the living room to eat when the doorbell rang. I put my toast onto the coffee table and answered the front door. It was my next door neighbour, who had come to thank me for sorting out a computer problem he had had. We talked for a couple of minutes, and then I went back to the living room to eat my toast ... to find my wife laughing her socks off and our old male cat just finishing licking all the butter off my toast!

I was not a happy chappy ... and I must admit that I might have used a few expletives that referred to the cat. The cat just sat there ... and to add insult to injury, it licked its mouth! By way of placating me, my wife made me some more toast ... but from now on I am not going to leave my toast anywhere where the cat can get at it.

An irresistible headline

I decided to try to find out what had been happening in the World whilst I had been feeling unwell by visiting the BBC News webpage. Amongst all the other stories, one particular headline caught my eye. It read:
Cardboard boats aid Nato war games off Scotland
I found this irresistible, and just had to read the story ... which turned out to be very interesting indeed.

Of equal interest to me was the photograph used to illustrate this news item as it showed a cloth terrain map (including cardboard model ships) of part of the Joint Warrior exercise area. The photograph was also featured on the Ministry of Defence website as its IMAGE OF THE DAY.

[Picture: PO(Phot) Ray Jones, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

Friday 27 April 2012

The best laid plans ...

I had all sorts of things that I planned to do today ... but so far my plans have come to nought.

When my wife and I woke up this morning we both felt somewhat under the weather. Overnight we had both begun develop heavy colds ... and it was one of those colds that are sometimes referred to a 'man 'flu'. You know the sort of cold I am describing. Your body feels leaden, your nose (and sinuses) feel bunged up, your eyes feel full of grit and itchy, and your head feels as if it is full of cottonwood. Trying to read is difficult because you cannot focus, and anything that requires concentration is almost impossible.

When you feel like this the best course of action is to keep warm, take Paracetamol (or Aspirin), get lots of rest, and drink lots of fluids. Unfortunately we needed to do some essential shopping, so we girded our loins and went ... and both of us feel exhausted as a result. We intend to send the rest of the day doing as little as possible in the hope that we will be feeling better tomorrow.

Perhaps I will see my plans come to fruition tomorrow ... but if I don't, there is always Sunday ... or Monday ... or Tuesday ...

Thursday 26 April 2012

The Portable Wargame terrain board

Ian Dury has made a comment in reply to my recent blog entry about the wonderful terrain board that he created to use with my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. The comment contains contact details that some regular blog readers might find useful.

Memoir of Modern Battle (MOMBAT) and Art of Tactic: Operation Barbarossa

Whilst I remain in the doldrums regarding whether or not to construct my own version of Ian Dury's beautiful PORTABLE WARGAME terrain board, I have been doing some more thinking about the recently announced link-up between Richard Borg and Zvezda. As I own a lot of Zvezda's ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARBAROSSA terrain and playing pieces/model kits, and i have developed my own hybrid of Richard Borg's MEMOIR '44/Joseph Morschauser's 'Modern' wargames rules, I am thinking about putting the two together myself and seeing whether or not the combination works.

I intend to use the first scenario in the ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARBAROSSA scenario book for my play-test. It may take me a day or so to build the various models I will need, but with luck I should be able to run the play-test sometime over the weekend or early next week.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

I must not do it ... I must not do it ... I must not do it ...

I need another terrain system like a need another hole in my head ... but looking at Ian Dury's wonderful rendition of what a PORTABLE WARGAME setup could look like is very tempting. Every time I look at it, I keep repeating 'I must not do it ... I must not do it ... I must not do it ...' to myself ... but the self-hypnosis is just not working!

I already have a large number of boxes of Hexon II hexed terrain, a huge amount of Heroscape™ hexed terrain, two 3' x 2' fully flocked and gridded terrain boards (the grid is made up of 2" squares), several vinyl chessboards, a green felt cloth marked with a grid made up of 3" squares, a folding wooden chessboard, a small wooded chessboard (the original board I used for my PORTABLE WARGAME), and all the hexed boards that come with MEMOIR '44, BATTLE CRY!, and ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARBAROSSA.


So why have I just had to stop myself cutting up some cardboard squares to see how many plain, wooded, road, river, and hill squares I might need if I am going to copy Ian Dury's example?

'I must not do it ... I must not do it ... I must not do it ...'

[Exit stage left, pursued by an attractive idea]

The Portable Wargame ... is my new desktop background image!

I was so impressed by the work Ian Dury did to turn my PORTABLE WARGAME into such an attractive looking wargame, that I have used a photograph of his complete setup as my new PC desktop background image! Thus this ...

... has become this!

Monday 23 April 2012

Richard Borg, Art of Tactic: Operation Barbarossa, and Samurai Battles

During the past twelve months I have been acquiring quite a lot of models produced by the Russian manufacturer Zvezda. My purchases have included two sets of the ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARBAROSSA boxed hybrid miniatures/boardgame as well as additional boards, figures, and equipment from David Crook and various retailers. Although the rules are quite playable, they are not my 'style', and it was my intention to just use the boards and playing pieces along with some rules of my own, MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT). The latter are heavily influenced by Richard Borg's BATTLE CRY! and MEMOIR '44 rules, and I have enjoyed developing and using them.

It was therefore hardly surprising that a news item dated 28th March that I saw yesterday on the BOARDGAMEGEEK blog made me sit up and take note. The blog included the following quote from Zvezda:
Samurai Battles puts you in command of brave warriors clashing on the battlefields of feudal Japan! Assemble your army using magnificently detailed and historically accurate miniatures, then face your opponent on an endless variety of battlefields created from beautifully painted terrain and elevation tiles.

You can play Samurai Battles two different ways:
  • Commands & Colors: Designed by Richard Borg, this award-winning game system features a fast-paced, card-driven mechanism to represent the "fog of war". Special Dragon cards, along with Honor and Fortune tokens, will influence your luck in the thick of the battle!
  • Art of Tactic: Designed by Konstantin Krivenko, this game system requires wits and strategy. You and your opponent secretly plan your moves every turn, then the actions of your warriors are resolved simultaneously – just like a real battle!
Both game systems are easy to learn, and offer deep strategic and tactical challenges to please every fan of historical board games. Samurai Battles is the perfect blend of the beautiful and the historic – and the perfect way to explore the exciting battles of medieval Japan.

Wow! It would appear that what I had been considering doing with ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARBAROSSA, Zvezda is doing with SAMURAI BATTLES ... using Richard Borg's rules with their game boards and playing pieces.

I am now wondering if they are going to add a version of Richard Borg's MEMOIR '44 rules to future runs of ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARBAROSSA. If so ... I might just be ahead of the game!

Don't mention the War!

Life can sometimes produce some very odd situations ... and some downright peculiar results!

After leaving SALUTE 2012 on Saturday I had to hurry home in order to get ready for a black tie dinner at the local golf course. (I am a non-playing, social member of the club.) The dinner was to celebrate St George's Day (which happens to be today) and it was one of the club's main social events of the year.

My wife and I were seated on a table for eight, alongside two old friends of ours and two other couples. One of the other couples was approximately that same age as us, but the second couple was somewhat older, and I was seated next to the female member of the elderly couple.

I introduced myself ... and got not reply. I tried a second time ... and got a grunt of acknowledgement ... and decided that I was not going to get much conversation from my fellow guest during the evening.

The first course arrived, and conversation around the table ranged over a number of topics, including the recent cruise that my wife and I had been on. During the main course my wife was telling a story about a previous cruise when – during the sail-away celebration from a Spanish port – our ship had passed a German cruise ship. The sound of over a thousand Brits singing patriotic songs and waving Union flags was too much for some of the passengers on the other ship, and the sound of booing could be heard coming from it as we passed. My wife had just got to the part of the story where some of the Brits replied by shouting back 'Three-Nil, Three-Nil' when my previously silent dinner companion touched me on the arm and announced in a rather thick accent ...

'I was born in Germany in 1937, you know. Today is my husband's birthday.'

She nodded across the table to the elderly gentleman who was sat there ... and he smiled and nodded back.

A sudden hush descended upon the table ... and the immortal words of Basil Fawlty flashed through my mind:

'Listen, don't mention the war. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it all right.'

And we might have done, had the entertainment after the meal not been a singer ... and singalong ... of 1940s 'hits'. To make matter worse, the first song was the English-language version of 'Lili Marleen', at which my by now somewhat more chatty dinner companion announced,

'This is a German song, I think. No?.'

My mumbled affirmative answer was drowned out by the start of the next song, which was 'Its a long way to Tipperary'. The female singer who was leading the entertainment was encouraging people to sing by wandering around the room and sticking the microphone in front of people who were singing. It just so happened that she did so just as the song started, and I lustily got stuck in to singing the lyrics as best I could ... and hoping that we had got away not mentioning the war ... again.

I was wrong.

The entertainer was so impressed with my singing, that I was awarded a prize ... a DVD about a 1940s aircraft ... a 1940s German aircraft ... the Ju87 Stuka.

As the singer gave it to me, I wondered what on earth I had done to merit being in this situation.

I still am wondering.

As to my German dinner companion ... well either she did not notice the irony or she chose to ignore it ... but soon afterwards she and her husband left.

- o 0 o -

Oh! An in case you are wondering, the DVD was quite good.

Sunday 22 April 2012

I have been to ... Salute 2012

After missing last year's SALUTE, I decided to go this year ... and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Thanks to my 'Freedom Pass' (one of the few perks that us over-sixties get), it cost me nothing to get to ExCel in Docklands ... and it took me less than an hour door-to-door, despite the best efforts of TfL (Transport for London) to disrupt my journey.

(TfL had chosen Saturday 20th April to be one of their 'trial' days for the forthcoming Olympics. All the public transport links in East London were switched over to test the timetable that will be used during the Olympics ... and part of my journey was made on part of the DLR [Docklands Light Railway] route that was affected.)

When I arrived outside the hall at ExCel being used to house SALUTE 2012 there was a queue to get in, but it was marshalled well and it took only five minutes for me to get to the desk where I had to pay my £11.00 to get in. Once inside I was struck by how much space the show took up, and how crowded it was.

I then spent the next hour or so walking around and looking at the various games that were on show. What follows is a very selective representation of what I saw.

Adepto mea terra! (Uxbridge Wargames Club)

Ancients Wargame (Newbury & Reading Wargames Society)

The Battle of Antietam (Evesham Wargames Club)

La Der des Der (Les Marie Louise Des Flandres)

Retreat to Corunna (Essex Gamsters)

Falklands War Skirmish (Skirmish Wargames)

Operation Kutusov (1st Corps)

Battle of Ayacocho (South London Warlords)

Into the Hornet's Nest – The Battle of Shiloh (Newbury & Reading Wargames Society)

Battle of Gislikon (Swiss Civil War) ... and The Portable Wargame(!) (Continental Wars Society)

Slowing the Tide – The Baltic War 2009 (Chemins de Feu)

Battle for La Vajol (Victrix)

Siege of Sebastopol (Battlefront Miniatures & Wargames Illustrated)

Danger in Denmark (Deal Wargames Society)

Battle of Grandson (The Lance and Longbow Society)

The Shangani Patrol (White Hart Wargamers)

Sir Henry at Ralinson's End (Gentlemens Wargames Parlour 3)

Brave Little Belgium 1940 (Crawley Wargames Club)

Yom Kippur War (Real Time Wargamers)

The Battle of Sagrajas 1086 (GLC Wargames Club)

The Battle of Komagne (Oshiro Modelterrain)

When The Boat Comes In (Naval Wargames Society)

I also managed to buy some figures ... something that I have not done at a wargames show for some time. They were 20mm-scale Russian World War II figures from the small range manufactured by Dixon Miniatures. I already own some of these figures, and I like their size and, unlike so many figures manufactured these days, they are reasonably anatomically correct!

During my time at SALUTE 2012 I did seem to spend a lot of time talking to friends and acquaintances, including several who blog regularly … The Angry Lurker being one of them. This is one of the reasons why I like going to shows, and I made sure that I got my ‘fix’ of face-to-face communication with fellow wargamers whose opinions and ideas I enjoy listening to.

The highlight of my day was seeing an example of my PORTABLE WARGAME on show on the Continental Wars Society's stand. I actually managed to talk to the gentleman who turned my ideas into such an attractive game – his name is Ian Dury – and he made several complimentary comments about the rules. Furthermore it appears that the game board, figures, and terrain featured on the stand had attracted quite a lot of attention, and he promised to pass on to me copies of photographs that were taken of the complete game board and that were sent to him.

All-in-all, it was a great day out!

Saturday 21 April 2012

Salute 2012

I got back from SALUTE 2012 a couple of hours ago, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I bought a few things, but most of my time was spent talking to people, looking at the games (and taking loads of photographs!), and having a look at some items that might be possible future purchases.

I am off to a St. George's Day dinner tonight (Yes, I know that it is not St. George's Day yet but ...) and so a longer blog entry will have to wait until tomorrow ... at the earliest. (I may well over-indulge tonight, and might not feel up to writing a blog entry tomorrow!)

Friday 20 April 2012

More real estate

I have been going to the Adriatic on and off for some years now, and each time I go there I try to buy a few small pre-painted resin houses to add to my collection. They usually cost between two to five Euros each, depending upon quality and size.

This year was no exception, and I managed to acquire the following model houses in Croatia ...

... and Greece.

The buildings are small (1:200th to 1:300th-scale) but do not look too out of place when used with 15mm-scale figures. The Croatian buildings are especially useful as they can be used to represent building from most European countries that border the Mediterranean. The Greek building are somewhat less generic, but do have the distinctive blue roofs found in that region.