Monday 31 December 2012

Charlie Sweet: another pioneer of gridded wargames

A few days ago Jim Duncan - one of my very regular blog readers - sent me a link to a blog that featured an entry about Charlie Sweet. I have just got around to visiting it ... and I must thank Jim profusely for pointing me in this particular direction!

I had heard of Charlie Sweet but knew little about him other than that he was an early wargamer and that he knew and had wargamed with Gerard de Gre. As a result of this link, I have discovered that he was also one of the pioneers of gridded wargames.

Of particular interest to me is the reconstruction of Charlie's Ancient wargames rules, especially as I have had several requests to produce an Ancients version of my own PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I hope to spend some time over the next few days reading this blog entry and the other blog entries that it is linked to ... and I suspect that they will give me a few ideas.

Sunday 30 December 2012

Playing cards vs. playing card tiles

The run up to the New Year seems to have been very busy, and I have not yet had a chance to use my new playing card tiles in a wargame ... but I have had time to see what they look like on the tabletop when compared with the small playing cards I have previously used.

Small Playing Cards

Playing Card Tiles

It is apparent from the comparison that no only do the tiles have a smaller 'footprint' on the tabletop but that they are also easier to read at a glance. Furthermore they were easier to put down (and pick up) and will not require shuffling before each turn; just a quick shake of the bag at the end of each turn ... and then they will be ready to be picked out for the next one.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Roger Barnes RIP

Late yesterday I received confirmation of the very sad news that someone I wargamed with on a regular basis – Roger Barnes – had died suddenly on Sunday 23rd December. He was a stalwart member of Wargame Developments, a regular attendee at COW (the annual Conference of Wargamers), and a member of the Jockey's Field Irregulars.

I did not know Roger well other than as an enthusiastic fellow wargamer and excellent dinner companion, but I do know that he was a highly respected member of the fencing fraternity, and served as chairman of the South East Region and Surrey County Fencing Union as well as being a member of the Streatham Fencing Club.



Friday 28 December 2012

A sight I never tire of seeing

I was just answering some emails when I heard the familiar 'clip, clop' of hooves on the road. I had just enough time to grab my digital camera and open the Velux window in my office before members of the Royal Horse Artillery rode past.

The RHA regularly exercise their horses in and around the area where I live, and the sight of them always makes me feel good. The horses are always immaculately turned out – even in the pouring rain – and the way in which the pairs are matched for colour is amazing.

I suspect that it is a sight I will never tire of seeing.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Bits 'n pieces

It was with a somewhat heavy heart that I 'agreed' to accompany my wife to Bluewater shopping centre this morning ... but in the end I came away with what I think was a great bargain!

After I had parked the car my wife announced that she wanted to have a wander around for an hour or so looking for bargains. This meant that I had some time to kill before the drive home, so I set off for my usual haunts in search of some bargains of my own. The branch of Waterstones book shop seemed to be full of people who wanted to stand about and chat to each other, and Modelzone had nothing new to offer.

It was as I walked out of the latter that I saw that the branch of Menkind that was next door was having a sale ... so I walked in to have a look around.

I am very pleased that I did.

One of the items that was included in the sale was a boxed game entitled PLAY 5. This was billed as being combining 'poker and a crossword puzzle', neither of which particularly appeal to me ... but the bits inside the box certainly did!

The playing pieces consisted of fifty six wooden square playing card tiles, fifty two of which represented one of each of the cards in a standard pack of playing cards plus four Jokers. (The playing card tiles come in a small black cloth bag.)

The box also contained a single D6 die, four tile trays, and forty eight poker chips (twenty four red and twenty four blue).

It was the playing card tiles that were of particular interest to me as I often use playing cards in my solo wargames to determine the order in which units are activated during a turn. (This very simple system was devised by Richard Brooks and Ian Drury, and has been used in almost all of the RED SQUARE game designs they have produced.)

The problem with even the smallest playing cards that I have used is their size ... but these playing card tiles are not only smaller but also easier to read and easier to pick up. (The thickness of the wood they are made from makes them much easier to pick up than a thin playing card.)

I was so pleased to have found such a useful supply of parts that I can use in my game designs that I bought two ... and then discovered that the sale price (£6.99 down from the original price of £12.99) had a further 25% discount on top. This meant that the two boxes only cost me £10.48!

A real bargain ... and one that made my day!

Nugget 257 Colour Supplement

I have now uploaded the PDF version of THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website, and it is now available for members of Wargame Developments to read online or to download and print.

All members should have received the password that is required to open the PDFs via the Wargame Developments website. If any members have not yet received the password or have lost it, please contact me.

Members of Wargame Developments who have not yet re-subscribed can do so via the link on the Wargame Developments website (click here).

Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ): Issue 151

The most recent copy of SOTQ (Soldiers of the Queen, the quarterly journal of the Victorian Military Society) was delivered this morning.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • 'Garibaldi Excursionists': The British Legion of 1860 by Richard Stevenson
  • M K Ghandi and the Boer War by Hugh Rethman
  • The Diehard Company – a 20 year retrospective by Tim Rose
  • Glimpses of a Cavalry trooper in South Africa: Arthur Rought Brooks by Diana M Rought Hutchcroft OBE (née Brooks) with R K R Thornton
  • Book Reviews
  • About the VMS
This is yet another interesting issue, and I look forward to reading it over the next few days.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Christmas books

Books formed the major element of my Christmas presents this year. One came from my old friend Tony Hawkins, who gave me a copy of VICTORIA'S SPYMASTERS: EMPIRE AND ESPIONAGE by Stephen Wade (Published in 2009 by The History Press [ISBN 978 0 7524 4535 9]).

I am a great lover of the history of late nineteenth century espionage, and this book covers both the main British exponents of the craft as well as their exploits and operations.

My second book was a present from one of my neighbours, and it is entitled REQUIEM FOR SHERLOCK HOLMES. This contains a novella and four short stories, all written by Paul Stuart Hayes and published in 2012 by Hidden Tiger Books (ISBN 978 1 4717 8975 5).

The author is my neighbour's son and an ex-student of mine. We have a shared interest in Sherlock Holmes, and this is the second book in which he has been involved, the first being a compilation of the texts of the Sherlock Holmes plays that were written and performed between 1899 and 1921. The book is entitled THE THEATRICAL SHERLOCK HOLMES and it contains the following:
  • Sherlock Holmes – A Drama In Four Acts (1899) by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Painful Predicament Of Sherlock Holmes (1905) by William Gillette
  • The Speckled Band (1910) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Crown Diamond (1921) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(Paul has a brother – Alan – who is also a writer and ex-pupil of mine. His area of interest is Doctor Who, and he has recently published called FURY FROM THE DEEP: A RELIC OF THE OLD TIME. This is a collection of four issues of a Doctor Who fanzine that he wrote in 1979-80 as well as copies of letters from the cast and crew of the contemporary Doctor Who series.)

The third book, WHEN I WERE A MEERKAT, was given to me by my wife. It is a collection of faked photographs – with humorous captions – that show the life of meerkats in early twentieth century Britain.

It was compiled by Andrew Davies and published in 2011 by Portico Books (ISBN 978 1 907554 54 4).

(I first saw meerkats in Jersey Zoo, and found them absolutely fascinating to watch. As a result, when the spoof advertising campaign by that featured Alexandr Orlov of and Meerkova was run on TV, I was hooked ... and have been ever since.)

My final book was an e-book, THE SECRET HISTORY OF COSTAGUANA by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Published in paperback in 2011 by Bloomsbury Paperbacks [ISBN 978 1 4088 0987 7]).

This is a particularly intriguing book because it is a fictional story about the writing of a book of fiction ... Joseph Conrad's NOSTROMO. Juan Gabriel Vásquez tells the story of José Altamirano, a Colombian who tells his life story to Joseph Conrad at a time when the latter is struggling to come up with the plot of his next novel. Conrad then uses Altamirano's story as the basis of his new book ... but omits Altamirano in any shape or form from the story.

At present I am only about a quarter of the way through the book, but I am enjoying it tremendously. NOSTROMO is one of my favourite books ... and I suspect that because of that my enjoyment of THE SECRET HISTORY OF COSTAGUANA will be all the greater.

An interesting and eclectic collection of books, all of which I am looking forward to reading over the next few weeks.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Despite my Scrooge-like tendencies, I am doing my best to enjoy Christmas. For one thing, I actually like traditional Christmas food. Roast Turkey, Pigs-in-Blankets, stuffing, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, and carrots are all on my list of favourite foods, although I do draw the line at Brussels Sprouts (or as I recently heard the called, 'The Devil's Grapes'). I also love Christmas Pudding and mince pies, and have been known to consume some of those 'Eat Me' dates that only ever seem to be on sale at Christmas.

I don't know what presents I am going to get this year (I am writing this blog entry before I have opened any), but whatever I get I am sure that I will get lots of enjoyment out of them.

I hope that all my regular blog readers - and their loved ones - have a great Christmas, and that they enjoy prosperity and good health throughout 2013.

Monday 24 December 2012

What's in a name?

Having recently read THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL I became aware of the fact that names – and especially place names – often have meanings or origins that are 'lost in the mists of time'. This can sometimes lead to locals ‘imagining’ the reasons why a place has a certain name … and it usually involves a former king or queen.

When I was growing up I lived in what started off as being part of Essex and ended up as part of Greater London. It was called Corbets Tey … and I was told – on great authority – that it was given its name by Queen Elizabeth I who was supposed to have had a somewhat lively horse called Corbet. On her way to Tilbury in 1588 she had passed through the hitherto unnamed hamlet. The horse had tried to throw her off and she is reputed to have called out ‘Corbet, stay’, thus giving the hamlet a name.

What a load of old rubbish!

Tey (or Tye) is an old Anglo-Saxon word for a meadow, and Corbets Tey is simply the name of a piece of meadow land once owned by someone named Corbet.

(Corbets Tey now forms the southernmost part of Upminster, a place name that is often used within certain parts of the British Establishment to denote something that is absolutely stupid or mad … because Upminster is several stops past Barking on the District Line of the London Underground.)

Sometimes a place name can strike one as being more like a person’s name than the name for a locality. For example, on the London Underground map there are two tube stations that sound more like 1930s British B-movie stars than places. They are Willesden Green and Dollis Hill … and I can somehow imagine those names appearing on a film poster, with an ageing Willesden Green trying to carry off a role that he is at least ten years too old for and a young up-and-coming blond starlet named Dollis Hill portraying some poor-but-honest shop-girl who is tempted into petty crime.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Carless in London ... almost

The chap who maintains my car came round this evening to find out what was causing the engine warning light to come on. He attached a suitcase-sized diagnostic computer to the electronics interface port (whatever happened to just listening to the engine?), pressed a number of buttons ... and waited. After a couple of minutes he pressed another couple of buttons ... and waited again. This process of button pressing and waiting continued for nearly twenty minutes, at which point he announced that the fault was an engine misfire.

Another, smaller diagnostic computer was then attached in place of the original one, and this confirmed the diagnosis. It even 'generated' a fault reference, and once this had been entered into a database program that was installed on a laptop computer that the mechanic had brought with him he announced that the fault was ... an engine misfire.

All the electronic gadgetry had done was to confirm that there was a problem with the engine, but not what was causing the misfire. In the end – and after some discussion – the mechanic has advised me not to drive my car until he has had the opportunity to check each individual cable in the ignition system. As this will take him some time (the odds on him finding the fault in the first cable are about as good as my chances of winning the National Lottery!) it looks as if my wife and I will have to rely on her car to get about over the next few days ... assuming, of course, that her car's battery does not go flat again.

Now where did I put my Freedom Pass?

It's free ... so it must be good!

My day did not start well. My wife announced that she wanted us to go shopping at Bluewater, our nearest large shopping centre. My reaction was – to say the least – less than enthusiastic, but the promise of a proper cooked breakfast was enough to change my mind.

And then things got worse.

My car started ... and almost immediately the engine warning light came on. A hurried look through the manual indicated that the best course of action was not to drive the car and to get it seen by a mechanic as soon as possible. We therefore switched over to my wife's car ... and it would not start! The battery was dead.

Some ten minutes later – and a few choice Anglo-Saxon words having been uttered – I had jump-started my wife's car using the battery from my otherwise inert car and we were on our way.

Things began to look up once I had eaten my Full English breakfast at the Bluewater branch of Loch Fyne Restaurants, and the upward swing improved once I had reached WHSmith's. I wanted something to read during the inevitable lulls that occur over the Christmas holiday (in other words, the bits of the day when I wasn't eating, sleeping, opening presents, or watching TV) and a copy of the January 2013 issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES seemed ideal ... so I bought a copy.

As a bonus, the publishers – Atlantic Publishers – were giving away a free copy of BATTLEGAMES with every copy of MINIATURE WARGAMES, and as the saying goes 'Its free ... so it must be good!'.

In actual fact I have thought about buying BATTLEGAMES on several occasions in the past, but never, ever quite got around to it. Having now had a quick flick through the 'free' copy of Issue 32 that I have been given, I am struck by the fact that this might have been a bit of a mistake on my part because I really liked the look of it. Seeing that Conrad Kinch is one of the contributors in no way influenced my opinion ... except that I love his blog and I suspect that I am going to equally love what he has written for the magazine.

I am, however, left with a bit of a quandary. Atlantic Publishers were giving away a copy of BATTLEGAMES as part of their launch strategy for the magazine, which will be appearing on the shelves of WHSmith in its own right in early 2013. Having had the opportunity to compare the two magazines I have a feeling that in the future I am more likely to buy BATTLEGAMES than I am to purchase MINIATURE WARGAMES. Somehow it seems to have a bit more 'meat' on the 'bones', and I find its 'style' somewhat more appealing.

Saturday 22 December 2012

The Portable Naval Wargame

As promised I have managed to reformat both my original MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA (MOBAS) rules and the 1860 to 1870 variant of the rules so that they have a commong format with my existing PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I have also renamed the rules, and they are now called:
  • The PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: 1860 to 1870 rules.
Both are available for download from THE PORTABLE WARGAME WEBSITE (click here for the PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: PRE-DREADNOUGHT rules and here for the PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: 1860 to 1870 rules) and from Google Documents (click here and here respectively).

The Turret Ram Huascar

Portable Wargame news

Whilst I have been away on my latest cruise, the PORTABLE WARGAME has continued to go from strength to strength.

Steven Page (who writes the blog 'Adventures in Portable Wargaming') has been using a slightly tweaked version of the 'Modern' rules to refight several actions in North Africa, including:
At the same time Kaptain Kobold has not only produced a specific American Civil War version of the '19th Century' rules entitled MIGHTY MEAN-FOWT FIGHTS but has also used these rules to fight several battles including:
David Crook (of 'A Wargaming Odyssey' fame) has also been busy and refought The Charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba, October 1917 as well as an after D-Day action in Northern France that he has entitled Breaking the Panzers, France 1944.

So what have I been doing whilst all this 'action' was taking place? The answer is simple; no wargaming BUT I have 'converted' my version of my existing MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA rules that cover the late nineteenth century into a similar format to that used in the PORTABLE WARGAME and renamed them the PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME rules.

With a bit of luck I should be able to make these 'new' rules available online later today.

Friday 21 December 2012

Nugget 257

I posted the latest edition of THE NUGGET (N257) this afternoon and it should be with members of Wargame Developments during the next week or so.

I have also uploaded the PDF version of THE NUGGET to the Wargame Developments website, and it is now available for members of Wargame Developments to read online or to download and print.

All members should have received the password that is required to open the PDFs via the Wargame Developments website. If any members have not yet received the password or have lost it, please contact me.

Members of Wargame Developments who have not yet re-subscribed can do so via the link on the Wargame Developments website (click here).

Thursday 20 December 2012

Nugget 257

The editor of THE NUGGET emailed the latest issue (N257) on Monday, and the original copy was taken to the printer on Tuesday. I intend to collect the latest issue of THE NUGGET tomorrow morning, and I hope to be able to post it out to members of Wargame Developments by Saturday at the latest.

This issue is the second of the new subscription year and I have already sent re-subscription forms to all members of Wargame Developments. I note that several regular members have still not yet re-subscribed and I would like to take this opportunity to remind them that they can do so via the link on the Wargame Developments website (click here).

Finally, an apology for the lateness of this issue. The editor had it ready to send to me two weeks ago ... but I was just about to leave to go on my latest cruise. Please accept my apology ... and I promise to try not to do it again.

And then the lights went off ...

At 5.28pm last night (Wednesday 19th) we had an electrical supply power cut. At first I thought that it was just our trip switches tripping out ... but a quick check revealed that they were all in place. I looked out of the front door at the houses on the opposite side of the road, but they all had lights that were on. I was just about to recheck the trip switches and the mains switch when one of my next door neighbours opened his front door and asked me if we had lost all our electrical power as well. A quick survey of other nearby houses showed that a small number of them were without power.

Whilst I contacted Powernet – the company that owns the electrical supply system – on my mobile 'phone, my neighbours made sure that everyone had some form of lighting in the form of candles or battery-powered lights. My conversation with Powernet started with me having to get past the 'If this press ... If that press ... ' automated response system ... followed by a meaningful interface with some voice recognition software that could not understand my postcode. Finally, after about three minutes – and at a cost of 14p per minute – I actually managed to report the fault to a customer care representative ... who told me that the system was not showing any faults. He then proceeded to insist that I checked my trip switches ... again! When I eventually got him to understand that there were a number of houses nearby that were also affected, he agreed to notify the engineers that there was a fault.

By the time we eventually went to bed at 11.30pm the house was getting very cold. (Our gas-fired central heating has an electric pump and electronic control system and therefore stopped working when the power cut started.) At 6.30am, after a very uncomfortable and cold night's sleep, the burglar alarm black-up battery ran out of power ... and the alarm went off! I telephoned the alarm company on my mobile 'phone to ask what to do, and they sent an alarm engineer to disconnect the system. By the time he arrived at 8.20am, Powernet had sent me a text to explain what they were doing.

It appeared that the mains power cable had burnt out in several places, and that the engineers had managed to replace part of it by midnight. Some houses now had mains electrical power but some – including mine – were not likely to be reconnected for some time. The earliest this might be would be midday ... and if the fault was more serious (and this would not be apparent until they had excavated and checked the mains cable) it might much later.

Powernet followed this text message up with a further message at 8.50am. This asked if there were any vulnerable people in our house so that Powernet could contact the Red Cross to come to their aid! (By this time matters had developed from an annoyance into something approaching a disaster. Our two freezers were full of food, and by this time there was a real danger that the internal temperature in the freezers would be more than 0° Centigrade and the food would be ruined. In addition the batteries of our mobile 'phones were reaching the 20% level and our back-up battery packs were indicating that they were only capable of pushing this back up to 40% before they were discharged.)

Just after 10.00am a text message update informed me that the team dealing with the problem had requested that temporary mobile generators be brought in to provide us with electrical power whilst they continued to repair the mains power cable. It was hoped that the generators would be in place by 4.00pm at the latest.

At 11.15am two appliances from the local Fire Brigade arrived outside our house. It appeared that the automatic fire alarm in one of the houses affected by the power cut had run out of back-up battery power and triggered a response. After explaining the situation to the firefighters – who had not been informed of the power cut – they left ... just as the Red Cross arrived to give assistance to any vulnerable people affected by the power cut.

By just after midday a generator arrived and was set up ... and began providing power for almost all the homes that were still without power ... but not ours! I checked with the engineers, who informed me that the cable serving our house and that of our immediate neighbours still needed to be checked. If it was not damaged, then we would also be connected to the generator. If not, then further excavation work would be required.

All this was confirmed by a text message at 2.00pm ... and at 2.15pm the lights came on ... went off again after a few seconds ... and then came on and stayed on! As soon as we had power we made sure that the central heating and hot water system was working properly, then that the alarm system had reconnected, and finally that all the devices that we had been using during the power cut were recharged.

This incident was a reminder of just how much we depend upon electricity to provide what modern society thinks of as being 'the basics' ... and how important it is to have a back-up plan when the supply fails. A recent newspaper article implied that this sort of failure would become more likely as the power infrastructure began to break down due to higher demand and little or no maintenance.

Welcome to the twenty-first century!

Wednesday 19 December 2012

I have been to … the Tøjhusmuseet (The Royal Danish Arsenal Museum), Copenhagen

The Tøjhusmuseet is part of the complex of building around the Christiansborg Palace. At the time of my recent visit (December 2012), the museum was undergoing renovation, but its artillery collection was on display, as was a special exhibition about the role played by Danish troops in Afghanistan.

Visitors are allowed to take photographs of the exhibits, but the captions are all in Danish. That said, common sense and knowledge of military terminology makes it possible to understand the majority of them.

Because my time was limited, I concentrated on photographing the more modern artillery on show … but this represented less than half of the exhibits in the museum.

The museum is housed in part of the old Arsenal complex, and a model of this is one of the first exhibits a visitor sees.

The rest of this blog takes the form of a photo-essay, and shows examples of some of the artillery that is on show in the museum.

Twin 40mm Bofors Anti-aircraft Guns on naval mounting (Swedish)

Twin 37mm Anti-aircraft Guns on static mounting (Danish)

Goliath Remote-controlled Demolition vVhicle (German)

88mm FLAK36 Anti-aircraft Gun (German)

20mm M1940S Automatic Cannon (Danish)

75mm PAK40 Anti-tank Gun (German)

37mm Bofors M1938 Anti-tank Gun (Danish/Swedish)

20mm M1941 Anti-aircraft Gun (Swedish)

Carden-Loyd M1933 Light Tank (Danish)
Also known as the Carden-Loyd Patrol Car Mk VI (DK), this is one of the two vehicles purchased in 1932. They served until 1937, when they were retired from service after being deemed unfit for purpose. This example is shown on a specially-designed transport trailer.

88mm U-Boat Gun (German)

75mm M1914 Coastal Artillery Gun (Danish)

75mm M1896/1916 Field Gun (German)

75mm M1897 Field Gun (French)

75mm Field Gun (Danish)

37mm Quick-Firing Gun in transportable armoured pillbox (Danish)
This appears to be similar in design to the German fahrbare Panzerlafette (movable armour carriage), later shortened to Fahrpanzer (mobile armour), which was armed with a 5.3cm Gruson Quick-Firing Gun.

19cm M1898 Fortress Howitzer (Danish)

12cm M1897 Fortress Gun (Danish)

15cm M1887/1924 Fortress Gun on Field Artillery mounting (Danish)

15cm M1884 Fortress Gun (Danish)

37mm Revolving Cannon

40mm Automatic Cannon

12cm M1893 Fortress Gun (Danish)

37mm M1886 Quick-Firing Gun (Danish)

37mm Fortress Gun (Danish)

17cm M1887 Coastal Defence Gun (Danish)

47mm M1887 Quick-Firing Gun (Danish)

9cm M1876 Field Gun (Danish)

4-pounder M1862/1863 Rifled Field Gun (Danish)

12-pounder M1862/1876 Rifled Fortress Gun (Danish)

30-pounder M1865 Rifled Coastal Artillery Gun (Danish)

12-pounder M1862/1863 Rifled Fortress Artillery Gun (Danish)

84-pounder M1862/1863 Rifled Coastal Artillery Gun (Danish)

12cm Rifled Field Gun (Belgian)

12-pounder M1834 Smooth-bore Field Gun (Danish)

If you visit the Tøjhusmuseet, its address is Tøjhusgade 3, DK-1214, København, Danmark (Tel: +45 33 11 60 37; website: