Saturday 31 August 2013

The ongoing campaign against Marzibarian slave traders: The estuary of the Tifooti River

The estuary of the Tifooti River is more like a delta, with many different channels through the swamps and sandbanks.

A map of the estuary of the Tifooti River.
The estuary of the Tifooti River looking eastwards.
The estuary of the Tifooti River looking westwards.
Having guessed that their presence would not go un-noticed for very long, and fully expecting the Dammallian authorities to react swiftly, the Marzibarians set sail down the Tifooti River towards the sea. They soon reached the river's estuary, and having secured their 'cargo' below, they cleared their decks and prepared for action.

The three dhows slowly but surely negotiated their way through the narrow channels.

Their crews were constantly on the look-out for any Dammallian ships that might be approaching.

As they turned towards the open sea, a tell-tale smudge of smoke was seen on the horizon to the north.

It was a gunboat!

The dhows immediately turned into another channel, hoping that the lookouts on the gunboat had not yet seen the masts and sails of the dhows.

It looked as if their ruse had been successful ...

... and then the gunboat appeared to be slowing and turning!

The dhows could not turn back, so they made a dash for the open sea ...

... only to realise that the gunboat was the Sultan Abdulla, the flagship of the Marzibarian Navy!

Her captain had heard that the Royal Navy was searching for some Marzibarian vessels that were thought to be in the vicinity of the estuary of the Tifooti River, and decided that he should ensure that they were able to proceed on their way unmolested. Therefore, when he saw the dhows emerging from the estuary of the Tifooti River he signalled to them that he would escort them out of Dammallian territorial waters 'for their own safety'.

This was probably a wise move, because just as the Marzibarian gunboat made contact with the dhows, HMS Insolent hove into view from the south.

The Royal Navy ship was too far away from the Marzibarians to intercept them, and the ship's captain – Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain – had to content himself with following the convoy from a distance.

He had a fair idea where the ships were going ... but he would not be certain until they got there.

Note: The arrival of the two gunboats was random. At the beginning of each move I threw a D6 die. If the score was 1, the Marzibarian gunboat arrived from the north, D6 hexes from the shore. If the score was 6, the Royal Navy gunboat arrived from the south, D6 hexes from the shore.

The ongoing campaign against Marzibarian slave traders: Raids along the Tifooti River

News reached District Commissioner Blenkinsop that a large party of Marzibarian slavers had arrived in the area along the Tifooti River and were raiding local villages and enslaving any able bodied natives they could find.

Realising that his company of Dammallian Native Police would be no match for the heavily-armed slavers, Blenkinsop contacted the Governor of British Dammallia – Sir James Deville – for support. The Governor immediately summoned the acting commander of the British forces in Dammallia – Brigadier General George Lumley – to his office for a conference. As a result of these discussions the Royal Navy's gunboat Insolent was sent to patrol the coast near the estuary of the Tifooti River. In addition a small field force drawn from the various army and police units in Dammallia was brought together and sent to reinforce District Commissioner Blenkinsop's Native Police. The command of the Tifooti River Field Force was given to Colonel Colin Carstairs (Royal Engineers) and District Commissioner Blenkinsop was appointed to be his Intelligence Officer.

The area around the estuary of the Tifooti River.
Note: Raffia Island lies just off the coast of British Dammallia. An old, derelict fort occupies the northern end of the island, and the south of the island is very swampy. The island is claimed by both the British and the Marzibarians, but neither has ever permanently occupied the island.

More ROCO Minitanks

I finally managed to get around to opening the box of stuff that arrived in the post yesterday, and – as I hoped – it contained several ROCO Minitanks that I won in a recent Ebay auction.

Although one of the guns has some damage and several of the other models have been painted and/or had decals added, these Minitanks are going to be a very useful addition to the growing stock of equipment that I am accumulating for my long-term Great Patriotic War/Eastern Front campaign.

Friday 30 August 2013

Its Friday already ... and my week seems to have flashed by!

Other than checking my emails first thing this morning, I had not looked at my computer until six o'clock this evening! This is something of a record for me ... and it was not until I looked at the date that I realised that it was Friday and almost the end of the month.

The last few days seem to have flashed by, mainly because my wife (Sue) and I have been doing so much work in our garden. She has been trimming back the rampant shrubs with a vengeance as well as planting large numbers of annuals and perennials in the newly defined flowerbeds. I have been doing the heavy work, and to date I have installed nearly 60 feet of wooden lawn edging and shifted nearly half a ton of topsoil and compost. It has been hot, sweaty work, and for someone who hates gardening ... like me ... it has not been the most enjoyable of experiences. That said, there is something very satisfying sitting down afterwards with a cold drink looking at the work I have completed.

The upshot of all this manual work is that this week I have done very little that has been wargames-related. Hopefully that will change over the weekend, and next week will certainly see me doing a lot of wargames-related activity ... but more of that next week. In the meantime there is a unopened parcel of stuff that was delivered this morning awaiting my attention. I am hoping that it might be some ROCO Minitanks, but I won't know until I open it.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Insomnia Rules

Last Friday I wrote a blog entry about my recurring problems with insomnia, and how the latest bout had left me with a number of wargame design concepts/mechanisms that I thought might work together.

Although I have been doing lots of other things in the interim (mainly gardening and trying to learn how to use Cyberboard) I have also been trying to turn my ideas into a set of wargames rules. To date my attempts to write a draft set of rules have come to naught. In fact the drafts all showed signs of developing into monsters, and as a result I have decided to put this project to one side.

Experience has taught me that when I am beginning to tie myself up into knots trying to write a set of wargames rules, the best course of action is to stop, leave it alone for at least a week, and then to try again. It is amazing how much clearer ones thinking is when one does this ... and how previous seemingly unsolvable problems seem to fade away.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Latest Funny Little Wars publications arrive!

Some time ago I ordered FUNNY LITTLE WARS and LITTLE CAMPAIGNS (both of which were written by the Reverend Paul Wright, Chaplain Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst) from Patrick Wilson at 'The Virtual Armchair General' ... and they arrived today courtesy of USPS!

FUNNY LITTLE WARS was originally published in 2009, and is on sale from 'The Virtual Armchair General' for $40.00.

Front Cover
Back Cover
The book is divided into seven chapters, seven appendices, and several extraneous sections.
  • Chapter One - An historical introduction to H G Wells
  • Chapter Two - Playing Little Wars Yesterday
  • Chapter Three - Playing Little Wars Today (including sections on: 1. What You Need; 2. The Basic Points System; 3. Levels of Command; 4. Victory Points & Objectives; 5. Troop and Figure Types; 6. Basing Your Figures; and 7. Formations)
  • Chapter Four - The Basic Game (including sections on: 1. Basic Precepts; 2. The Game Turn; 3. Movement; 4. Charges; 5. Artillery Fire; 6. Small Arms & Machine Gun Fire; and 9. Melee) [I don't know what happened to 7. and 8.!]
  • Chapter Five - Optional & Advanced Rules (including sections on: Orders & Dispatches; Unknown Terrain; Morale; Quartermasters and Supply; Aerial Observation; Engineers/Sappers; Signalling; Bands & Chaplains; Spies; Field Hospitals; and A Word on Umpires: The last Word)
  • Chapter Six - Some "Top Tips" for the Better Sort of Chap
  • Chapter Seven - Two Classic Scenarios
  • Appendix A: Building an Army
  • Appendix B: Figure & Accessory resources
  • Appendix C: Suggested Bibliography, Further Reading & "Talking Motion Pictures"
  • Appendix D: A New Use For The Garden
  • Appendix E: The Army Lists
  • Appendix F: The Shape of Games To Come
  • Appendix G: A Funny Little War from the Sidelines
  • A Last Word
  • A "Well Done You All Round!" to These Splendid Chaps!
  • The Roll of Honour
  • Game Playing Aids & Record Sheets
LITTLE CAMPAIGNS has only just been published, and it is also $40.00 from 'The Virtual Armchair General'

Front Cover
Back Cover
The book is divided into five chapters, six appendices, and several extraneous sections.
  • Chapter 1 - War Game Campaigns
  • Chapter 2 - The Map Campaign System: A Simple Model
  • Chapter 3 - Some Enhanced Rules for FLW
  • Chapter 4 - The "Ferree-Wilsonian" Computerized Video Battle System
  • Chapter 5 - A Campaign Example, "The Herring War, 1908"
  • A Last Word And Some Sound Advice From HGW
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix 1 - Additional Army Lists
  • Appendix 2 - Miniatures Sources
  • Appendix 3 - Top Tips for Titivating Terrain
  • Appendix 4 - A Lady's Complaint
  • Appendix 5 - "Mentioned in Despatches ..."
  • Appendix 6 - Game Record Sheets

This includes:
  • A four page mock-up of the ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS that relates the history of "The Herring War"
  • The copies of a campaign map
  • Four sheets of map counters (two in red and two in black)
The LITTLE CAMPAIGNS GRAPHIC SUPPLEMENT is also available from 'The Virtual Armchair General' for $12.00.

As yet I have only had the chance to skim through everything that arrived today, but there appears to be a lot of stuff that will be of great interest to me.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Cyberboard: I feel that I am making progress!

Yesterday I made significant progress with learning the basics of how to use the Cyberboard Design program. In fact, I managed to go from this ...

... to this, ...

... and then to this.

I am rather pleased with the progress I have made, and I have used what I learned to write three short guides. These are:
They are all available in PDF format and can be downloaded for personal use.

Monday 26 August 2013

Cyberboard: Making some more progress

Over the past few days when I have not been gardening or listening to Test Match Special on the radio, I have been making more progress with Cyberboard.

Having mastered the basic tools that allowed me to produce a hex gridded map based on an existing map, I have been learning how to produce tiles. These can be used to add more specific details to a map (e.g. symbols that indicate swamp/marsh and palm trees).

The map before the swamp/mash and palm tree tiles had been added ...
... and after the swamp/marsh and palm tree tiles had been added.
I intend to write a guide that explains how I produced my tiles, and once I have had it checked over I will be making it available as a downloadable PDF.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Cyberboard guide relocated

As I am likely to write at least one more simple guide for Cyberboard users, I have decided to move my CREATING A SIMPLE HEXED GRID MAP USING CYBERBOARD to a new location. As a result CREATING A SIMPLE HEXED GRID MAP USING CYBERBOARD can now be downloaded here.

Saturday 24 August 2013

King Solomon's Mines: The 1985 film

Thanks to the bad weather (it had been raining all morning) play in the fourth day of the Cricket Test Match against Australia had not started by midday and the gardening I had hoped to do during the morning had not been possible ... so I sat down and watched the 1985 film version of KING SOLOMON'S MINES on the Film4 channel.

It was just the right sort of film to watch on such a miserable day. It starred Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, Herbert Lom, and John Rhys-Davis and was described as an action adventure comedy ... which it undoubtedly was.

The plot can be summarised as follows. Allan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain) is hired by Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone)...

... to find her father, Professor Huston (Bernard Archard), who is an archaeologist who has devoted his life to finding the location of the famous King Solomon's Mines. Professor Huston has been kidnapped and tortured by Colonel Bockner (Herbert Lom) ...

... of the Imperial German Army and a local Arab slave trader, Dogati (John Rhys-Davis) ...

... who are also looking for the Mines. After Quatermain and Jesse rescue her father (who has told his torturers the location of the Mines), they set off to reach the Mines before the Germans and the Arabs. After a number of implausible but humorous adventures involving a lorry chase, a steam train, a couple of biplanes, a tribe of cannibals ...

... with a massive cooking pot, ...

... a pride of lions, a tribe that hangs upside down from trees, ...

... and a tribe that is ruled by an ancient queen who disposes of opponents by dropping them into a pit full of crocodiles Quatermain and Jesse manage to reach the twin mountains (the Breasts of Sheba) that mark the entrance to the Mines just ahead of the opposition. Jesse is dragged inside the Mines by the ancient tribal queen and her loyal guards, ...

... followed by Quatermain and his native assistant, who are in turn pursued by the Germans and Arabs. The latter are held up by quicksand, but Dogati solves the problem of how to get across by shooting most of the soldiers and slavers they have brought with them and using the dead bodies as a bridge across the quicksand. Bockner then shoots Dogati and takes over command of the remaining soldiers and slavers. Quatermain and his native assistant manage to rescue Jesse, but Bockner continues to chase them through the mines. It then transpires that besides a huge number of uncut diamonds the Mines also contain the bodies of the Queens of Sheba who have been encased in crystal. It also becomes apparent that Jesse bears a remarkable resemblance to the first Queen of Sheba. Whilst Bockner and Dogati (who was not killed when Bockner shot him because he was wearing a bulletproof chainmail jacket) are looting some of the diamonds, Quatermain and Jesse are trapped by a rock door but manage to escape. A rockfall then appears to trap Dogati, but Bockner is able to follow Quatermain, his native assistant, and Jesse. Bockner is killed when he forces Quatermain and Jesse to hand over the diamonds that they have picked up. Dogati then reappears and is killed whilst he is fighting with Quatermain when an explosion destroys the exit from the Mines. Quatermain's native assistant then makes it known that he is the rightful king of the local tribe, and the film ends with Quatermain and Jesse leaving the native village ... each with a large diamond!

The film was total hokum ... but it cheered me up no end on an otherwise drab and dreary day.

Friday 23 August 2013


I have suffered from insomnia for many years, and last night it was particularly bad. 1.00am, 2.00am, and 3.00am came and went ... and I was still awake. Finally at some point after 3.15am I began to doze off ... and then I suddenly had an wargaming idea that woke me up again! Obviously my subconscious mind had been whirring away whilst I was lying there unable to sleep, and as I had begun to go to sleep my brain had 'dumped' my subconscious thinking into my conscious mind.

So what was my wargaming idea? A possible way to meld together elements of various wargames rules that I have used or developed to create a new, simple operational-level set of 'Modern' wargames rules.

I am thinking of incorporating the following elements into these new rules:
  • Unit/Formation Order/Status Markers as used in Megablitz
  • Degradable unit strengths similar to those used in Memoir '44
  • The use of a playing card tile unit activation system
  • Allowing units to 'stack' in hexes (i.e. allowing more than one unit in each hex)
  • A separate artillery fire phase as used in Joseph Morschauser's rules
  • An artillery fire effect resolution system wherein all units in a target hex are affected by the artillery fire
  • An artillery fire effect resolution system that reflects the type of artillery that is firing (i.e. mountain, field, medium, and heavy artillery)
  • Area movement using 10cm hexes, with each hex representing an area that is 2.5km from hex face to hex face
  • Movement distances based on those used in Megablitz
  • A hex-to-hex combat system based on those used in Joseph Morschauser's rules
  • Logistics and re-supply rules similar to those used in Megablitz
I woke up this morning tired but enthusiastic about putting my ideas down on paper ... and I have a feeling that I may well turn these ideas into a set of wargames rules in the near future.

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 365

The latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine arrived in the post today.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • Forward observer by Neil Shuck
  • Something’s burning: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts: Would you Dare? by John Treadaway
  • The blue Danube: Can you control the forces of nature? by Phil Dutré and Bart Vetters
  • Command challenge: If you go down to the woods today … by Steve Jones
  • A trump card(igan): A wily way to dilute the grey of the hobby by Arthur Harman
  • Colours 2013: Official Show Guide
  • Amphibious operations Athenian style: Raiding the Corinthian Coast 425BC by Graham Burke
  • Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
  • Salamanca's siren call: Part 2: representing the armies by Henry Hyde
  • Thoughts from an armchair by Mike Siggins
  • Recce
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
  • The Secret Eye Candy Pages: Attack! by Henry Hyde
  • The Secret Eye Candy Pages: The Joy of Six by Henry Hyde
This looks like being yet another great issue with lots of things of interest to read … and to think about.

Thursday 22 August 2013


I had fully expected to have started a colonial campaign by now ... but outside events have diverted me from my projected course of action.

Firstly I am still getting to grips with Cyberboard. As I want to create my campaign map using the Cyberboard Design program, I need to spend a bit more time learning how to use all the program's main functions before I can draw the map.

Secondly I spent last Saturday taking part in a Megablitz battle set in France in 1940 ... and that rekindled my interest in operational-level wargaming, with the result that I have spent some time thinking about how I could modify Megablitz to work on hexes.

Thirdly my toy/wargames room needed to be tidied up ... and I managed to complete most of that on Monday.

Fourthly the spell of recent good weather has presented me the opportunity to do some much needed work in our garden. Over the years the action of rainwater running downhill had caused erosion of the right-hand side of our lawn, and the installation of wooden lawn edging should ensure that this prevents the problem recurring.

Finally our old cat - Big Boy - died yesterday. He had been suffering from major problems with his thyroid for sometime and had been on a course of tablets to help him cope with the effects. He also had to have blood samples taken from the thyroid every couple of months, and this had to be done under anaesthetic. It was during such a procedure that he suffered a heart attack and died.

I hope to get back on track over the next week or so ... but who knows what will divert me from my plans in the meantime?

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Spot the mistake

I watched DREAMING THE IMPOSSIBLE: UNBUILT BRITAIN (a BBC TV programme about major British civil engineering projects that were never built) last night. One of the two unbuilt projects covered in the programme was the Mid-Scotland Ship Canal, which was intended to connect the Firth of Forth (on the eastern coast of Scotland) to the Firth of Clyde (on the west coast). Had it been built it would have allowed Royal Navy warships to switch from one side of Britain to the other without having to sail around the north of Scotland.

The programme was very interesting ... but I did spot one mistake. A CGI-generated warship shown sailing through the completed canal was not a Royal Navy battleship ... it was an American one!

A still image from the BBC programme. It shows a battleship steaming through Loch Lomond,. The loch would have been incorporated into the Mid-Scotland Ship Canal.
An American Indiana-class battleship. Looks rather familiar, doesn't it?
(My wife commented that I was probably the only person who watched the programme and spotted this mistake. I probably was ... but who cares? I don't ... and it did not harm my enjoyment of the programme one jot.)

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Cyberboard: A guide on how to create a simple hexed grid map using Cyberboard

Back in what my wife Sue refers to as 'eighteen hundred and frozen stiff' (i.e. years ago), I used to teach students how to use Microsoft applications such as Word, Excel, Access, and Publisher. The problem was that most of them thought that they knew better than I did ... with the usual result that they came a cropper and would then ask for help. When this had been given and the problem had been sorted out, they might even grudgingly acknowledge that I knew what I was talking about.

One of the problems was that there were very few step-by-step guides about how to do even the most basic tasks, and over time I developed a number of these myself. These were very image heavy, working on the principle that if the student followed the instruction properly, what appeared on their screen looked just like the example in the guide.

Cyberboard does not come with any tutorial material, and I soon realised that some sort of beginner's guide was needed ... so I wrote one that is entitled CREATING A SIMPLE HEXED GRID MAP USING CYBERBOARD. It has been checked over by Conrad Kinch, David Crook, and Ross Macfarlane, and thanks to their feedback I have made several improvements.

I have therefore decided to make this guide available to anyone who wants to get to grips with the Cyberboard design program. Be warned, however: the guide does not explain how to do everything as it is intended to a beginner's guide. As and when I manage to expand my knowledge of how to use the program, I will try to produce other guides for potential users.

CREATING A SIMPLE HEXED GRID MAP USING CYBERBOARD can be downloaded here. If you find it useful, please let me know.

Imperial German Colonial and Overseas Troops

Although their numbers never reached much more than 15,000 at any time, Imperial Germany's colonial and overseas troops achieved a prominent place in the history of European colonialism. It is therefore pleasing to see that one of the latest books published by Osprey covers the history of the IMPERIAL GERMAN COLONIAL AND OVERSEAS TROOPS 1885 – 1918.

The book (ISBN 978 1 78096 164 4) has been written by Alejandro de Quesada and illustrated by Stephen Walsh, and it has 48 pages, 8 of which are colour plates.

As I have always had a particular interest in Imperial Germany's colonial and overseas troops, I am looking forward to reading this book over the next few days.

Monday 19 August 2013

Cyberboard: Making some progress

I have been persevering with my attempts to master the Cyberboard Design program ... and I have made some progress.

I decided that trying to make a big campaign map for my first attempt had been - to put it bluntly - overambitious, so for my second attempt I decided to attempt something all together much smaller. When I first started my Colonial Wargames website I created a number of maps that I had intended to use for campaigns and possible scenarios, and I chose to convert one of these (a map showing the Tifooti River estuary and Raffia Island) using Cyberboard.

The original map looked like this:

My first attempt (which used quite large hexes) looked like this:

I thought that this was acceptable ... but that I could do better ... so I repeated the exercise using smaller hexes and the result looked like this:

I am much more satisfied with my second attempt, and this has encouraged me to persist with my efforts.

Sunday 18 August 2013

France 1940: The battle report

I was almost totally wrong about what I would end up doing in this battle ... and actually fought a rearguard action against a reinforced German Infantry Division and an attack on a Panzer Division!

During the first part of the battle I was in command of the French 53rd Infantry Division (a Series B Reserve Division containing older reservists) ...

... which was dug in around the town of Hirson, a small industrial town near the Franco-Belgian border.

Almost as soon as the invasion started, my Division came under air attack ...

... whilst my position was probed by light armoured reconnaissance units from a Panzer Division.

The Panzers bypassed Hirson, but this was a prelude to an all-out attack by a reinforced German Infantry Division.

The German attacked during the night, but were held off (at great cost) and when they renewed their attack at first light they swept away the remains of one of the Division's three Infantry Regiments.

By this time the 53rd Infantry Division was cut off, had no line of retreat, and was close to 50% of its original strength ... and the only course of action left to it was to surrender.

I was immediately switched to command of 5th Motorised Division, which was advancing towards Bethune. This was a regular formation, and was very well equipped.

I moved the Division forward so that it was threatening the flank of one of the advancing Panzer Divisions, which immediately turned to intercept the advancing French formation.

Whilst the Panzer Division engaged the majority of 5th Motorised Division, I managed to slip one of the Division's Motorised Infantry Regiments past the Germans.

The resulting battle was a slogging match, and after suffering considerable casualties I withdrew the bulk of the Division back to Bethune, pursued by the Panzer Division.

The Panzer Division mounted yet another attack on 5th Motorised Division, which was on the verge of collapse when the battle came to an end.

And what happened to the Motorised Regiment that managed to get past the advancing Germans? It ended up facing off an entire Panzer Division on its own ...

... just as the battle ended!

This was a thoroughly enjoyable day ... and proved yet again that the Megablitz system works. There were 21 players taking part, some of whom were (like me) old hands and some who were new to the rules. By the end of the first day of game time (we fought through three days of game time during the five hours of wargaming that took place) everyone was confidently using the rules and thinking like Divisional/Corps commanders.

My thanks go to everyone involved in organising the game and providing the 'toys' (Tim), setting up and organising the venue (Tom), providing the catering (Kiera), and umpiring the game (Tim and Chris), as well as to all the other players who took part.