Monday 30 September 2013

I have been to ... Hereford

My wife Sue and I have been in Hereford for the past few days attending the wedding of a friend.

The journey there was long ... and tedious. The SatNav predicted that the journey would take just under three hours and thirty minutes ... but the estimate of the journey was over two hours out and it took just over five hours and thirty minutes to drive from London to Hereford. Luckily the drive back took less time (only four hours) but it took a lot out of us.

We were able to spend part of Saturday morning in Hereford and were pleasantly surprised to see what a nice city it was. The centre does not seem to have suffered too much at the hands of city planners during the 1960s and 1970s and still retains the feel of of being a county town.

We parked in a car park in Bath Street, and walked up Gaol Street to St Peter's Square ...

... and then into the centre of the shopping area, which is known as High Town. This is situated around a large open area that is bounded by a variety of Georgian and Victorian buildings.

At one end of this central area in High Town is an old building. This is a timber-framed Jacobean building, built in 1621, and known – appropriately – as the Old House. It currently houses a museum presenting life in Jacobean times.

On one side to the central area of High Town is an indoor market. We had a gentle stroll through the market, but resisted the temptation to buy anything.

During our time in the High Town area a local charity that provides horse riding for disabled children was collection donations. They were being quite successful, mainly due to their clever use of two miniature ponies. They got lots of attention ... and this resulted a steady stream of donations.

Unfortunately we did not have enough time to visit Hereford Cathedral or the Herefordshire Light Infantry Museum. The former houses the famous Mappa Mundi and the latter is only open by appointment from Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4.00pm.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Operation Barbarossa

A week or so ago David Crook told me that he had seen a new book about Operation Barbarossa that he thought might interest me. I did think about buying it, but decided – at the time – that I did not need another book about this subject.

I saw a copy of the book on the shelves of the nearest branch of Waterstones soon afterwards, and decided that I might buy it after all ... but to leave it until my next visit. I visited again ... and the book was still on the shelf ... but as I did not have enough cash on me I did not buy it.

Today I returned to Waterstones yet again ... and this time I did buy it! I am therefore now the proud owner of a copy of OPERATION BARBAROSSA: THE GERMAN INVASION OF SOVIET RUSSIA by Robert Kirchubel.

The book was published by Osprey Publications (ISBN 978 1 78200 408 0) and uses material from three of their 'Campaign' series books (OPERATION BARBAROSSA 1941 (1): ARMY GROUP SOUTH, OPERATION BARBAROSSA 1941 (2): ARMY GROUP NORTH, and OPERATION BARBAROSSA 1941 (3): ARMY GROUP CENTER) which were also written by Robert Kirchubel and illustrated by Howard Gerrard and Peter Dennis. The new book does reflect further research by the author and – unlike the volumes in the 'Campaign' series – it is a hardback.

I do not intend to read this book in the immediate future as I regard it more as a reference source and replacement for my three 'Campaign' series books rather than as a book that I will read from cover-to-cover. The 'Campaign' series books will be disposed of in due course, if only to make room on the shelves for their replacement.

Bob the Banner Bearer

Technically it is not a banner but a standard ... but standard didn't seem to scan quite as well when I wrote the title of this blog entry.

I was very busy yesterday as I was attending the annual meeting of the Masonic Province of Hertfordshire, which is where my Mother Lodge is situated. The meeting took place at Freemason's Hall, Great Queen Street, in central London, and I was appointed to the rank of Provincial Grand Standard Bearer. (Luckily being a Masonic Provincial Grand Standard Bearer is not as dangerous as being a regimental standard bearer during the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, or nineteenth centuries. To my knowledge no one is going to be shooting at me ... at least I hope they won't!)

This role means that over the coming year I will be attending meetings at numerous Masonic lodges throughout the Province of Hertfordshire as part of the Provincial 'team'. Being Provincial Grand Standard Bearer is a great honour, and I am looking forward to meeting lots of new people over the forthcoming year.

The crest of the Masonic Province of Hertfordshire

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Django Wexler: Wargamer

I decided to find out a bit more about Django Wexler – the author of THE THOUSAND NAMES – and discovered an interview he had given to SF SIGNAL in June 2013.

It appears that he began playing Warhammer, Warhammer 40K, and Space Marine/Epic before moving on to Privateer Press Warmachine/Hordes. Eventually he took up historical wargaming and that he is a fan of De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) and De Bellis Multitudinis (DBM). Furthermore he has taken part in a year-long campaign based on Colleen McCullough’s FIRST MAN IN ROME that was run by his friend Jim Naughton.

Django Wexler has also used the Napoleon’s Battles system although he states that he does not own any Napoleonic wargame figures. In the interview he admits that he did not wargame any of the battle scenarios in his novel but that being a wargamer had helped him to set them up and had given him ideas about the kind of decisions a commander has to make.

The Itchy and Scratchy rules

Due to a change in our plans I suddenly found myself with a couple of spare hours yesterday afternoon ... so I sat down and drafted a simple set of rules that used a version of Archduke Piccolo's new D6 dice combat system.

I have temporarily entitled them THE ITCHY AND SCRATCHY RULES (with due apologies to the cartoon characters of those names who feature in 'The Simpsons') because they were the result of an intellectual itch I just had to scratch.

Unit Strength Points

Infantry: 4SP
Dismounted cavalry: 3SP
Mounted cavalry: 3SP
Machine guns: 2SP
Artillery: 2SP
Horse-drawn transport: 1SP
Generals: 1SP

  • Units are allocated a Strength Point value (SP) before the battle begins; these may be adjusted in order to take into account the unit’s strength, equipment, and training.
  • Units lose Strength Points as a result of enemy action, and these reductions must be recorded (i.e. on a roster, by the use of markers, or by the removal of individual figures).
  • When a unit’s Strength Point value is reduced to 0, the unit is destroyed, and is removed from the battlefield.

Exhaustion Point
  • Before the battle begins, both sides calculate their Exhaustion Point. This is one half of the side’s total initial Strength Points, rounded up.
  • When a side has lost that proportion of its initial Strength Points, it has reached its Exhaustion Point.
  • A side that has reached its Exhaustion Point must immediately stop taking aggressive action (i.e. it will continue to fight to defend its existing position, but will not continue any movement towards the enemy).
  • When both sides have reached their Exhaustion Point, the battle ends.

Turn Sequence
  1. At the start of each turn both sides throw a D6. The side with the highest score may chose to go whether or not to go first.
  2. Once the side that moves first has moved and/or conducted combats with each of their units in turn – subject to any restrictions laid down in the rules – the other side may move and/or conduct combats with each of their units in turn.
  3. Once both sides have moved and/or conducted combats with each of their units in turn they must check to see if they have reached their Exhaustion Point. Once that has been done, the turn is complete and the next turn can commence.


Infantry: 2 grid areas
Dismounted Cavalry: 2 grid areas
Mounted Cavalry: 3 grid areas
Machine Guns: 2 grid areas
Artillery: 2 grid areas
Horse-drawn Transport: 2 grid areas
Generals: 3 grid areas

  • All movement is measured through the edges of the grid areas not the corners.
  • A unit may be moved only once each turn.
  • A unit that is attacking this turn reduces its movement by 1 grid area.
  • A unit may change its direction of movement any number of times during its move but must end its move facing the edge of the grid area not the corner.
  • With the exception of a horse-drawn transport unit and commanders, a unit may not start or end its move in the same grid area as a friendly unit.
  • No unit may start or end its move in the same grid area as an enemy unit.
  • A unit must stop as soon as it enters a grid area that is adjacent to the front, flank or rear of enemy unit, and must turn to face the enemy unit at once.
  • If a unit is being faced by an enemy unit that is in an adjacent grid area and the unit has not yet moved this turn, it may move (i.e. it may withdraw to away from the enemy unit) providing that it does not move into a grid area that is adjacent to the front of another enemy unit.


Rifled Heavy Artillery: 6 – 6 – 6 – 4 – 4 – 4 – 2 – 2 – 2
Rifled Field Artillery: 6 – 6 – 4 – 4 – 2 – 2
Rifled Mountain Artillery: 6 – 4 – 4 – 2 – 2
Smooth-bore Heavy Artillery: 6 – 6 – 4 – 4 – 2 – 2
Smooth-bore Field Artillery: 6 – 4 – 4 – 2 – 2
Smooth-bore Mountain Artillery: 4 – 4 – 2 – 2
Machine Guns: 8 – 6 – 4 – 2
Rifles & Carbines: 6 – 4 – 2
Muskets: 4 – 2
Hand-held Weapons: 4

The numbers show how many D6 dice are thrown at different ranges.

  • All ranges are measured through the edges of the grid areas not the corners.
  • Each unit may attack only once each turn.
  • Units have an arc of attack that is forward of the direction in which they are facing. This must be directly into the adjacent grid area, widening out as the range increases but never exceeding 60° on either side of the direction in which the unit is facing when it attacks.
  • Units may only attack targets that are in direct line-of-sight.
  • Units can attack 1 grid area into woods, built-up areas, and fortifications.
  • Units can attack out of woods, built-up areas, and fortifications if they are in a grid area that is on the edge of the woods, built-up areas, or fortifications (i.e. the adjacent grid area in the direction they are firing does not contain woods, built-up areas, or fortifications).
  • Woods, built-up areas, and fortifications count as cover.
  • Attacking units that are in the same grid area as a General increase the number of D6 dice thrown by 2.
  • The target is identified. The requisite number of D6 dice is thrown for the type of weapon the attacking unit is armed with and the range at which the combat is taking place.
  • Results:
    • A treble 1 destroys a General if they are in the open.
    • A treble 1 PLUS any other double destroys a General if they are in cover.
    • A double 1 destroys one Strength Point if the target is an Artillery or Machine Gun unit that is in the open.
    • A double 1 PLUS any other double destroys one Strength Point if the target is an Artillery or Machine Gun unit that is in cover.
    • A double 2 or 3 destroy one Strength Point if the target is a Cavalry or Horse-drawn Transport unit that is in the open.
    • A double 2 or 3 PLUS any other double destroys one Strength Point if the target is a Cavalry or Horse-drawn Transport unit that is in cover.
    • A double 4, 5, or 6 destroy one Strength Point if the target is an Infantry unit that is in the open.
    • A double 4, 5, or 6 PLUS any other double destroys one Strength Point if the target is an Infantry unit that is in cover.
  • All lost Strength Points are removed immediately. When a unit’s Strength Points are reduced to 0, the unit is destroyed, and it is removed from the battlefield.

These are very much a first draft, and need to be play-tested ... but they are simple and they do fit onto one side of A4 paper ... just!

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Nugget 264

The editor of THE NUGGET emailed the original of the latest issue (N264) to me on Sunday evening, and I took it to the printer today. I have arranged to collect it from them next Monday so that I can post it out to members of Wargame Developments by Wednesday 2nd October at the very latest.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the last issue of THE NUGGET before the next year's subscription begins. Resubscription forms will be sent out with this issue to all members who have not already resubscribed. Please note that the subscription costs will be rising with effect from the new subscription year.

The Thousand Names

I am currently reading a book that – in the normal course of events – I would not have even picked up and look at before. It is THE THOUSAND NAMES: BOOK ONE OF THE SHADOW CAMPAIGNS by Django Wexler (Published by Penguin Books [ISBN 978 0 451 46510 8]). (To be honest, the author's name would have normally put me off, but the book cover was intriguing ... so I picked it up and looked at the synopsis ... and then I was hooked.)

The book is set in a fantasy world that bears a remarkable resemblance to nineteenth century Earth. Vordan (a European-style empire/nation) has been occupying Khandar (a North African-style country that seems very similar to Egypt and the Sudan rolled into one) and has trained and equipped a locally-raised army for Khandar's princely ruler. The story begins just after a religious movement (The Redemption) has swept through Khandar, destroying all those who are not 'true believers'.

The Vordanai forces – the Colonial Regiment – and the Prince of Khandar have fled to an old fortress on the coast and await an evacuation back to Vordan. Threatening them are an untrained army of Redeemer volunteers, the former soldiers of the Prince's Vordan-trained army, and the nomadic desert tribes (Bedouin-like tribesmen).The evacuation does not come; what comes are untrained 'reinforcements' for the Colonials and a new commander – Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich. He plans to defeat the Redeemers and reassert Vordanai control.

The story is told from the point-of-view of two main characters, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Ranker (later Sergeant/Acting Lieutenant) Winter Ihernglass. Captain Marcus d’Ivoire is a professional soldier who served as second-in-command of the Colonials under the previous colonel (until the latter was killed in a skirmish with Redeemer troops) and now serves in the same role under Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich. Winter Ihernglass is a young woman who is masquerading as a man so that she could enlist as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials to escape from a dark secret from her past.

I am about halfway through the book and I must admit that I am enjoying it for two reasons. Firstly the background to the book is one that I am familiar with (it is not a million miles removed from some of the situations I have used in my own colonial imagi-nation wargames). Secondly the magic/fantasy elements in the story are not overplayed or overused. As a result they do not dominate the storyline ... which I think is a good thing.

I look forward to finishing this book ... and I can see it spawning a number of HOTT armies amongst other wargamers who read it.

According to the 'blurb' I have read, Django Wexler 'graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts.' (The underlining is mine.)

Perhaps I can now begin to understand why I am enjoying this novel so much!

Monday 23 September 2013

Some recent acquisitions ... and for a change it is not all ROCO/Roskopf stuff!

My trip to Skirmish yesterday resulted in the acquisition of two 15mm-scale Chaco War armies (both acquired from David Crook) and half a dozen ROCO/Roskopf vehicles.

The Chaco War armies include:
  • 6 Zvezda ZIS-5 trucks (ideal for representing the sort of motor transport both sides had)
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Bolivian Cavalry
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Bolivian Infantry
  • 3 bags of Bolivian Artillery
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Bolivian Mortar Crews with Peter Pig Mortars
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Bolivian Heavy Machine Guns and Crews
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Bolivian Light Machine Guns and Crew
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Bolivian Submachine Gunners
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Bolivian Officers
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Bolivian Flag bearers and buglers
  • 1 QRF Vickers 6-ton Tank
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Paraguayan Cavalry
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Paraguayan Infantry
  • 3 bags of Paraguayan Artillery
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Paraguayan Mortar Crews with Peter Pig Mortars
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Paraguayan Heavy Machine Guns and Crews
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Paraguayan Light Machine Guns and Crew
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Paraguayan Submachine Gunners
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Paraguayan Officers
  • 1 bag of Irregular Miniatures Paraguayan Flag bearers and buglers

The ROCO/Roskopf vehicles include:
  • 1 Roskopf JSU-152
  • 2 Roskopf KV-1s 1
  • 1 ROCO 2.5-ton Truck
  • 1 ROCO 2.5-ton Bowser
  • 1 ROCO 6-ton Truck

Added to this little haul were some further ROCO/Roskopf vehicles that I 'won' in some recent eBay auctions. These arrived in the post this morning and include:
  • 2 Roskopf Unimog Trucks
  • 4 Roskopf Small Trucks 4 rad.
  • 1 Roskopf Large Truck 4 rad.
  • 1 Roskopf Large Truck/Bowser 4 rad.
  • 1 Roskopf KV-1
  • 1 Roskopf T-54

I am not quite sure what I will do with the T-54 … but I am certain that I will find a use for it!

Sunday 22 September 2013

I have been to ... Skirmish, Sidcup

Despite the pressing need to do several other things – including some more work on our garden! – I managed to set aside enough time today to visit the Skirmish Toy Soldier and Wargames Show in Sidcup. I always try to go to this show when it is held each March and September because it is a great place to meet people and to buy bits and pieces for my current projects.

The entrance hall was full of trade stands ...

... as was the main hall.

During my perambulations around the venue I met Postie, ...

... Francis Lee, ...

... Ken Smith, ...

... David Crook, Alan Abbey, and Bernard Geraty. The latter was particularly pleased to have picked up a pristine second-hand copy of Michael Korns’ 1966 MODERN WARS IN MINIATURE.

There were – as usual – a number of wargames taking place at the show. (Halfway around the wargames room my camera battery decided to 'die' without warning. I carried on taking photographs as best I could with my iPhone ... but the quality was not as good.)

Blood, Bilge and Iron Balls (Rainham [Medway] Wargames Club)

Death Ride: An alternative Battle of the Falklands Islands 8th December 1914 (The Privateers of London)

Bathing Suit Atoll: A Dystopian Wars Scenario (Bexley Reapers Wargaming Club)

Chasing the Dragon! (Gamers Hub Miniature Wargames and Board Games Club)

An Afghan Firefight

Star Wars: X-Fighters (Hornchurch Heroes Gaming Club)

Warhammer 40K battle (Gravesend Gamers Guild)

Eastern Front 1943 (Crush the Kaiser)

Winter War (Medway Wargames Society)

Drop the Bridge (North London Wargames Group)

Aeronef (The Old Guard)

English Civil War (SELWG)

World War II in the Far East (SELWG)

This was yet another great little local wargames show, and the retailers seemed to be doing a steady trade. My only complaint is that not all the groups running games had any signage that told you who they were or what the title of the game.