Friday 31 January 2014


Although it is still just January, planning for COW2014 (the annual Conference of Wargamers that is organised by Wargame Developments) is well underway, and bookings are coming in steadily. To date twenty nine people have booked places at the conference, and the following offers to run sessions have already been gratefully accepted.

A Mighty Wind – The Plenary Game (Tim Gow et al)
1944. The Home Islands are threatened by a huge enemy battle fleet and invasion force. It is our sacred duty to die for the Emperor ...

Doodlebuggers (WD Display Team North)
Another fast-paced solo game. Take to the skies over Kent to prevent those new unsporting V-1 flying bombs reaching London. This only takes 10 minutes to play so it will run several times. Who will be the top scorer in No. 607 ‘Knuston’ Wing?

Gladiolus (the old SOA Gladiator game) (Will Whyler)
I will run three or four boards probably in different scales.

Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (Jim Wallman)
A committee game for up to 12. Crisis management of an unprecedented and dangerous crisis. And explaining it on the Today Programme.

Saving Private Mouat (Jim Wallman)
A 100% Totally Not Footfall mission to rescue one of HMGs most vital assets.

Warriors for the Working Day (Jim Wallman)
Just another wargame involving toy tanks in WW2 … but very suitable for those who can't tell their HVSS from their APDS.

Little Wars: The War of Firefly's Nose (Jim Wallman)
If there's any enthusiasm for lounging around on the grass and projecting matchsticks at each other randomly.

Hemlock and Democracy (John Bassett)
404BC: Sparta has defeated Athens. The birthplace of democracy groans beneath the Thirty Tyrants. But a small group of rebels seek to change all that … A political/military role-play featuring Spartan warlords, philosophers, priests, democrats and oligarchs.

Ovid for Wargamers (John Bassett)
John Bassett on his favourite Roman poet: man about town, wit, master of seduction, intriguer at the imperial court and exile. Will feature a re-enactment of the sad, sad story of Orpheus, with audience participation.

Boots on the Ground (John Armatys)
A simple set of wargames rules for company level actions in the early Twenty First Century using 15mm figures and die cast aeroplanes – an entertainment for up to four players.

You don’t have to be a member of Wargame Developments to go to COW … but you become one as soon as you go!

The following are a selection of photographs I took at COW2013. They give a flavour of the variety of sessions that take place.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Waterstones has a special '20% off almost everything' sale this weekend, and as I was passing their Bluewater branch I decided to see if there was a book or two that I fancied buying.

The store has a carousel display of books published by Osprey, and I happened to see that they had a copy of the ‘Command’ series book about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on sale. (It was written by Edward J Erickson, illustrated by Adam Hook, and published by Osprey in 2013 [ISBN 978 1 78096 590 1].) As Mustafa Kemal Atatürk has always been one of those late nineteenth/early twentieth century personalities that I have wanted to know more about, I bought it.

The book has eight chapters, a bibliography, and an index. The chapters are entitled:
  • Introduction
  • The early years
  • The military life
  • The hour of destiny
  • Opposing commanders
  • Inside the mind
  • When war is done
  • A life in words
A quick glance through the book indicates that it covers everything that I need in order to get some basic understanding of the man who was the ‘Father of the Turks’.

Nugget 268

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the original of the latest issue (N268) to me some days ago, and I took it to the printer yesterday. I intend to collect it from them on Tuesday or Wednesday next week and post it out to members of Wargame Developments on Thursday.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fourth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2013-2014 subscription year. It is still possible to subscribe, and this can be done online via the Wargame Developments website. Please note that the subscription costs rose with effect from the beginning of the current subscription year.

Itchy and Scratchy meets OP14 ... the story continues

Although I have not mentioned it on my blog for the past few days, I have been thinking about bringing elements of OP14 and my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules (and possibly BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR '44, and MEMOIR OF BATTLE) together. In fact I sat down one day with the intention of writing this 'new' set of rules ... and promptly hit a mental brick wall.

Modern thinking about work practices seems to be that what I should have done at that stage is just ploughed on regardless ... and hope that something useful would result. (I always think of this as the monkeys and typewriters approach!) It is almost as if being seen to do unproductive work is better than producing no obvious work at all, and that spending time thinking about solving a problem is wasted time.

I have never believed in this sort of approach ... which is probably why I never reached any higher on my career ladder than I did. I always preferred to mentally 'walk away' from a problem that I could not immediately solve in order to let my subconscious mind do the thinking for me ... and I usually found that it worked.

When I woke up this morning I felt as if I was almost ready to begin putting my ideas down on paper ... but not quite. Hopefully this will change as the day goes on and I do everything except sit at my computer thinking about how to start!

Thursday 30 January 2014

A century of invention

Writing yesterday's blog entry about the London Underground system made me realise that a lot of what we take for granted today actually pre-dates the twentieth century. I therefore did a bit of research and came up with the following list (in ascending date order) of nineteenth century inventions and patents. Where possible I have listed the inventor and/or patentee.
  • 1800: Electric battery – Count Alessandro Volta
  • 1800: Programmable machine – J.M. Jacquard
  • 1804: Gas lighting – Freidrich Winzer/Winsor
  • 1804: Prototype steam locomotive – Richard Trevithick
  • 1809: Electric arc lamp – Humphry Davy
  • 1810: Tin can – Peter Durand
  • 1814: Practical steam locomotive – George Stephenson
  • 1814: Spectroscope – Joseph von Fraunhofer
  • 1814: Plastic surgery
  • 1814: First photograph – Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
  • 1816: Miner's safety lamp – Humphry Davy
  • 1816: Stethoscope – Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laennec
  • 1820: Arithmometer (the first mass-produced calculator) – Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar
  • 1821: Electric motor – Michael Faraday
  • 1822: Mechanical computer – Charles Babbage
  • 1823: Mackintosh raincoat – Charles Mackintosh
  • 1824: Portland cement – Joseph Aspdin
  • 1825: Electromagnet – William Sturgeon
  • 1827: Friction matches – John Walker
  • 1829: Typographer (index typewriter) – William Austin Burt
  • 1830: Sewing machine – Barthelemy Thimonnier
  • 1830: Lawn mower – Edwin Beard Budding
  • 1831: Reaper –Cyrus McCormick
  • 1831: Electric dynamo – Michael Faraday
  • 1832: Stereoscope – Charles Wheatstone
  • 1834: Combine harvester – Hiram Moore
  • 1834: Corn planter – Henry Blair
  • 1834: Ether ice machine (an early refrigerator) – Jacob Perkins
  • 1835: Mechanical calculator – Charles Babbage
  • 1835: Calotype photography – Henry Talbot
  • 1835: Revolver – Samuel Colt
  • 1835: Wrench – Solymon Merrick
  • 1836: Propeller – Francis Pettit Smith and John Ericcson
  • 1837: Postage stamp – Rowland Hill
  • 1837: Electric telegraph – Charles Wheatstone and Samuel Morse
  • 1838: Morse code – Samuel Morse
  • 1839: Rubber vulcanization – Charles Goodyear
  • 1839: Daguerreotype photography – Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
  • 1839: Mechanically-propelled bicycle – Kirkpatrick Macmillan
  • 1840: Blueprint – John Herschel
  • 1841: Stapler – Samuel Slocum
  • 1842: Use of inhaled diethyl ether as an anesthetic – Crawford Long
  • 1842: Facsimile – Alexander Bain.
  • 1842: Grain elevator – Joseph Dart
  • 1843: Keyboard typewriter – Charles Thurber
  • 1844: Mercerized cotton – John Mercer
  • 1845: Lockstitch sewing machine – Elias Howe
  • 1845: Vulcanised rubber pneumatic tire – Robert William Thomson
  • 1846: Cold cure process for vulcanizing rubber – Alexander Parkes
  • 1846: Rotary printing press – Richard M. Hoe
  • 1849: Safety pin – Walter Hunt
  • 1851: Falling shuttle sewing machine – Isaac Singer
  • 1852: Gyroscope – Jean Bernard Léon Foucault
  • 1853: Manned glider – George Cayley
  • 1855: Rayon – Georges Audemars
  • 1856: Pasteurisation – Louis Pasteur
  • 1858: Two-stroke gas-powered internal combustion engine – Jean Lenoir
  • 1861: Elevator safety brakes – Elisha Otis
  • 1861: Cylinder (or Yale) lock - Linus Yale
  • 1861: Crank-driven bicycle – Pierre Michaux
  • 1862: Thermoplastic – Alexander Parkes
  • 1862: Revolving mechanical machine gun – Richard J. Gatling
  • 1867: Ticker tape stock price telegraph – Edward A. Calahan
  • 1866: Dynamite – Alfred Nobel
  • 1866: Locomotive torpedo – Robert Whitehead
  • 1866: Can opener – J. Osterhoudt
  • 1868: Air Brakes – George Westinghouse.
  • 1876: Telephone – Alexander Graham Bell
  • 1876: Gasoline carburettor – Gottlieb Daimler
  • 1876: Carpet sweeper – Melville Bissell
  • 1876: Four-stroke gas-powered internal combustion engine – Nicolaus August Otto
  • 1877: Zoopraxiscope (moving picture projector) – Eadweard Muybridge
  • 1877: Cylinder phonograph – Thomas Alva Edison
  • 1878: Cathode ray tube – William Crookes
  • 1878: Longer-lasting electric light bulb – Sir Joseph Wilson Swan
  • 1880: Seismograph – John Milne
  • 1880: Photophone (a wireless communication device) – Alexander Graham Bell
  • 1880: Pre-packed boxes of toilet paper – British Perforated Paper Company
  • 1881: Roll film for cameras – David Houston and George Eastman
  • 1884: Cash Register – James Ritty
  • 1884: Steam turbine – Charles Parson
  • 1884: Fountain Pen – Lewis Edson Waterman
  • 1884: Artificial silk – Hilaire de Chardonnet
  • 1885: Vibrating shuttle sewing machine – Isaac Singer
  • 1885: Gas-engined motorcycle – Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach
  • 1885: Gas-engined automobile – Karl Benz
  • 1885: Automatic machine gun – Hiram Maxim
  • 1886: Coca Cola – John Pemberton
  • 1887: Disc gramophone – Emile Berliner
  • 1887: Barbed wire – Rowell Hodge
  • 1888: Drinking straws – Marvin Stone
  • 1888: Electric chair – Thomas Edison
  • 1888: Commercially successful pneumatic tire – John Boyd Dunlop
  • 1888: AC motor and transformer – Nikola Tesla
  • 1889: Matchbook – Joshua Pusey
  • 1889: Cordite – Sir James Dewar and Sir Frederick Abel
  • 1891: Kinetoscope (motion picture exhibition device) – Thomas Alva Edison
  • 1891: Escalator – Jesse W. Reno
  • 1892: Oil-fueled internal combustion engine – Rudolf Diesel
  • 1892: Dewar or vacuum flask – Sir James Dewar
  • 1893: Carborundum – Edward Goodrich Acheson
  • 1893: Zipper – Whitcomb L. Judson
  • 1893: Wireless communication using radio waves – Nikola Tesla
  • 1895: Cinematographe (a portable motion-picture camera, film processing unit and projector) – Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas Lumiere and Louis Jean Lumiere
  • 1895: Transmission of messages by radio signals – Guglielmo Marconi
  • 1898: Flashlight – American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company (later the American Ever Ready Company)
  • 1898: Remote control using radio waves – Nikola Tesla
  • 1899: Motor-driven vacuum cleaner – John Thurman
  • 1899: Paperclip – Johan Vaaler
I must admit that I was surprised by how early some of inventions listed above were made.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Underground, overground ...

The part of London where my wife and I live was not served by the London Underground system for many years. The reasons are – I understand – related to the fact that the London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) was built and opened between 1836 and 1838, and had been extended as far as Woolwich by 1849 ... some five years before the Metropolitan Railway was granted permission to build the first underground railway in London. (The first part of what later became the London Underground system opened in January 1863 and ran between Paddington and Farringdon. It used gas-lit wooden carriages that were pulled by steam locomotives.)

The London and Greenwich Railway was important because:
  • It was the first steam railway in the capital.
  • It was the first to be built specifically for passengers.
  • It was the first elevated railway.
This situation changed when the Jubilee Line was extended as far as North Greenwich in order to connect the newly-built Millennium Dome (now known as the O2 [London]) to the London Underground system.

My family home – where I lived until I was 23 – was situated in one of the outer London suburbs that are served by the London Underground. Our local station was Upminster, which is now the most easterly stop on the District Line. (Upminster has gone down in history for a variety of reasons. It was where the speed of sound was first accurately calculated, Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood VC lived there from 1894 until his death in 1919, and it is reputed to have been used as an unofficial government codeword for any idea that was seemingly mad ... because Upminster is several stops past Barking!)

I used to travel on the London Underground a lot whilst I was growing up, and I was often told the story about how a distant member of my had been the first person born on the Underground!

One thing that I became aware of during my travels on the London Underground was the number of stations that had been built and either never been used or had been taken out of service. Recently a map showing these ‘lost’ stations has been published by UsVsTh3m … and very interesting it is too.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

A wargaming 'Who Do You Think a You Are?'

I was in the process of booking tickets for this year's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' Show at Olympia for my wife and I when my mind turned to the genealogy of wargame rules.

Looking at the rules that I have written over the years I can trace distinct lines of development (or their genealogy). For example my ¡ARRIBA ESPANA! rules combined ideas from Paul Koch's ON TO RICHMOND American Civil War rules and John Sandar's SANDSKRIEG World War II rules, and my PORTABLE WARGAME rules owe a great deal to Joseph Morschauser's FRONTIER rules. Likewise Richard Brooks and Ian Drury have written rules that directly – and indirectly – inspired my REDCOATS AND NATIVES and RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES rules, and Chris Kemp's NQM (NOT QUITE MECHANISED) rules were a progenitor of Tim Gow's MEGABLITZ rules. I don't think that this sort of thing is unique, and a quick perusal of the many sets of wargame rules that are online indicates that it is not.

Is this process simply the development of someone else's ideas or just plain plagiarism? To put it another way, are rules that are developed by one wargamer from the work of another wargamer a legitimate offspring of the original or is it – to use the Victorian meaning of the word – ‘spurious’?

I know that there are some people who would argue that it is plagiarism ... but how many wargamers have not given in to the temptation to 'play around' with published rules that they may have bought or downloaded for free? Is publishing modifications of existing wargame rules copying or flattery? After all, Charles Caleb Colton wrote in 1820 that 'Imitation is the sincerest of flattery', and he was only simplifying a phrase used in Jeremy Collier's and André Dacier's 1708 biography of Marcus Aurelius. They wrote that 'You should consider that Imitation is the most acceptable part of Worship, and that the Gods had much rather Mankind should Resemble, than Flatter them.' My personal thinking is that if you develop a set of wargame rules that borrow ideas/concepts and/or mechanisms from someone else's rules then that should be fully acknowledged. By doing that, the 'borrowing' goes some way to being legitimised and acceptable.

The growth of the Internet (and blogging in particular) has led to a faster exchange of ideas, concepts, and draft wargame rules between wargamers ... and I see this as a very positive development for the hobby that I hope will continue. I know that there are others who disagree with this, and who regard anything that looks even vaguely like plagiarism as an infringement of their intellectual property rights. To them I pose a simple question. Would the world they live in be as accessible if Sir Tim Berners-Lee had taken that attitude?

Sunday 26 January 2014

A minor correction

I need to make a minor correction with regard to my previous blog entries about the ConSim guest session at King's College, London that I took part in recently.

I misunderstood the nature of the ConSim course, and thought that it was a 'stand alone' PhD course. I regret to say that I was wrong, and that ConSim is a module that is offered within the MA degree course. I am sorry if this may have confused my regular blog readers ... and my only excuse is the onset of old age and rampant senility!

Burns Night and sudden storms

Last evening my wife and I went to a Burns Night Supper with some old friends of ours who live in Ash, near Sandwich, Kent. Just as we were leaving our house a storm broke overhead without any warning, and we were subjected to strong winds, torrential rain, and some very spectacular lightning flashes. The storm seemed to follow us all the way down the A2/M2 to Canterbury and beyond, and only abated once we were safely inside our friends' home.

We had a great night. My wife and I both love haggis, neeps, and tatties … which was just as well as there was loads of them to eat! We left to drive home at just after 11.30pm, and we were inside our house not long after 1.00am. We did notice some tree debris in the road as we drove home, but not a lot more that we would normally have expected after high winds.

When we finally got up this morning at some time after 10.00am, our garden was showing signs that the storm might have been even stronger than we had realised. Some of the branches of our laurel hedge (the one I have been gradually cutting down so that we can get into our garden shed) have broken off and are now lying on top of the shed roof, and one of our neighbour’s fence panels is lying on his lawn, having been blown out of its fixings. It looks like we both have some work to do ... but we will not be able to start until the torrential rain that is now falling finally stops.

It looks like I will be having an interesting day or two ahead clearing up after the storm.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Itchy and Scratchy meets OP14

One of the things that struck me as I was taking part in the recent Ivangorod 1914 re-fight was the similarity between the sizes of units used in OP14 and my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules ... and in several other sets of rules (e.g. BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR '44, MEMOIR OF BATTLE). All the rules seem to have gravitated towards unit that have the following number of figures:
  • Infantry: 4 figures
  • Cavalry: 3 or 4 figures
  • Artillery: 2 (or more) figures + 1 gun
With this in mind I began decided to see what sort of OP14 'armies' I could field from my existing 15mm and 20mm-scale collections. The results were – to say the least – interesting.

15mm-scale OP14-style 'armies'
A Fezian Army of three Corps and a reserve Division. Each Corps has two Divisions – each having two Brigades/Regiments – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 96 Field Guns.

A Britannic Home Service Corps. It has three Divisions – each with two Brigades – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 48 Field Guns.

A Britannic Foreign Service Army of two Corps and a reserve/lines-of-communication Division. Each Corps has two Divisions – each having two Brigades – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 72 Field Guns.

20mm-scale OP14-style 'armies'
A German 1944 Infantry Division. It has two Infantry Regiments and an Artillery Regiment with 48 Field Guns.

A Russian Rifle Division. It has three Infantry Regiments and an Artillery Regiment with 48 Field Guns.

It would appear that I could certainly field sizeable OP14-style 'armies' in 15mm-scale ... and that 20mm-scale OP14-style 'armies' might make it possible to re-fight quite large battles in a small space.

If the opportunity arises, I may well take this 'experiment' further. The problem is that when I set out the figures to see what OP14-style 'armies' would look like. I was reminded that my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules still need further play-testing and that their origins lie in an idea that Archduke Piccolo had to fight grand tactical/strategic-level wargames. That said, by adopting OP14-style 'armies' and reducing the weapon ranges used in my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules I might just be on the verge of developing a set of rules that could be used for fighting grand tactical/strategic-level battles.

This 'experiment' has certainly given me plenty to think about over the next few days.

Friday 24 January 2014

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 370

The latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine arrived in this afternoon's post.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • Forward observer by Neil Shuck
  • Clean Sweep: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts: The latest releases for genre fans by John Treadaway
  • The rise of Macedon 360-340 BC: Can you conquer ancient Greece? by Andrew Rolph
  • Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
  • Wargaming with Wesencraft: Meeting the legendary practical wargamer by Paul Stevenson and Robbie Rodiss
  • Shedquarters story: One man's dream of tabletop nirvana by Graham Evans
  • Battle of the Kalka River 1223: The longest reconnaissance in the world part 3 by Mick Sayce
  • In circo: Formula 1, 1st century AD style by Arthur Harman
  • How to play the Spanish: Abandon prejudice and reap the rewards by Brian North
  • Invader 1066: Rules for the Norman invasion and beyond by Stuart Smith
  • Recce
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
A simple campaign system, two sets of rules, and an interview of one of the less well-known but very influential early British wargamers ... what more could one ask for for only £4.25?

Wargames produced by King's College ConSim students

Copies of the wargames produced by the King's College, London ConSim students can be downloaded from the following webpage on the College's website.

Please note that King's College, London and the individual wargame designers retain the copyright on all the wargames listed on the webpage, and that you are prohibited from posting them elsewhere or using them for any commercial purpose. Links to the webpage are permitted.

A charming dinner guest

After attending the ComSim guest session at King's College, London yesterday, I met up with Tim Gow outside Westminster underground station. He had telephoned me late last week to say that he was going to be in London overnight, and my wife and I decided to invite him to dinner, which he accepted.

Our journey from Westminster to North Greenwich was not too arduous, although the tube train was quite crowded for most of the time we were aboard it. Having picked up my car from the North Greenwich tube station car park, the drive home took just over ten minutes, and not long after 5.30pm we were sat in our living room drinking tea, and chatting about life in general and wargaming in particular.

One topic that we did discuss was COW2014. Tim outlined his ideas for this year's plenary game ... and I agreed to help provide some of the stuff that will be needed. (My lips are sealed as to the nature of the game but I am sure that the participants will enjoy it no end.) We also talked about running a possible singalong session that was related to the outbreak of the First World War. In the past Jim Roche has run two such sessions and they have been very popular. (Jim's sessions were about the Second World War, but he has developed a session format that attracts attendees, all of whom enjoy taking part.)

During his visit I was able to pass on several surplus bits and pieces to Tim (several books and half a dozen model trucks) and to show him my collection of Britains 54mm painted toy soldiers. He reckoned that I have enough figures to easily field a FUNNY LITTLE WARS Army Red division that would include an entire Black Watch brigade and a mixed Guards/Highland brigade ... and still have a significant number of troops available to form lines-of-communication units.

Unfortunately Tim had to return to his hotel in Kensington not long after we had eaten dinner, but his visit was a welcome change for our normal routine and a great way to end a very interesting day.

ConSim guest session at King's College, London

Yesterday's ConSim guest session at King's College, London turned out to be even more enjoyable an experience than I had hoped it would be. After arriving just before midday, I met Professor Phil Sabin, Ted Raicer (who was the main guest), and three former ConSim PhD course graduates/teaching assistants in Phil's office, and then most of us went for a snack lunch in the canteen.

I thoroughly enjoyed the very informative chat that we had over our meal, and then it was off to the meeting room where the session was being held. After a brief introduction by Phil Sabin, Ted Raicer shared his experience of being a board wargame designer with 26 published games to his credit. This was followed by a very short Q&A session and then each of the 'guests' (the ConSim PhD course graduates/teaching assistant and myself) briefly introduced ourselves and 'shared' what we considered to be the most improtant lessons we had learned when designing wargames.

After a short break to restore our personal comfort, it was then the turn of the students to tell the 'guests' about their projects and to share any problems that they were experiencing. The 'guests' were then invited to make suggestions as to possible solutions or avenues that the students might wish to follow. The session ended with most of the attendees (but not me as I had an appointment!) going over to the nearby pub to continue the discussions informally.

Several things struck me about the students. Firstly that the range of projects (i.e. wargames) they had chosen was very diverse including:
  • The Anglo-Zulu War
  • The Russo-Turkish War of 1877/78
  • The Battle of the Yellow Sea
  • World War I from 1914 to 1918
  • The Linebacker Bombing Raids over Vietnam
  • The fighting in Fallujah
  • South African Army operations against Seleka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The second thing that struck me was the gender balance of the students. I expected that the majority would be male, but in fact there were slightly more female than male students on the course ... something that was very encouraging to see.

Thirdly this was a truly international group of students, and reflects that course's uniqueness. I do not think that there is another non-military university in the world that offers a PhD course in Conflict Simulation Design (I may be wrong, but an Internet search did not find any), and I was honoured to be able to meet and listen to them.

I would certainly go to future ConSim guest sessions if the opportunity arose ... and would make sure that the next time I did not have an urgent appointment to go to straight afterwards!

Thursday 23 January 2014

A rather busy week

Now that my wife and I have decided to have the existing roof of our conservatory replaced/repaired, we have the task of preparing the conservatory to be clearer before the work starts. As a result we have spent quite a bit of time this week opening cupboards, taking everything out, sorting out what has to be kept or disposed of, and putting a lot less back into the cupboards. We have had the conservatory for fifteen years ... and it is amazing how much junk one manages to 'acquire' in that time!

I have also been busy on Masonic business, and have acted as part of the Deputy Provincial Grand Master's escort to an Installation Meeting in St Albans, Hertfordshire. On this occasion I was the Sword Bearer and not the Standard Bearer (which is a temporary promotion), and I discovered that the Sword is much easier to carry and handle than the Standard! (The Sword is a double-handed broadsword that is carried and displayed in its scabbard. It is quite heavy, but not as heavy as the embroidered Standard and its pole.) It was an excellent meeting, and I thoroughly enjoy myself.

This afternoon I am off to a ConSim guest session at King's College, London. This has been organised by Professor Phil Sabin, and it is a follow-up to the Connections 2013 conference that I went to last year. The session will end at 3.30pm, and I have arranged to meet up with Tim Gow at 4.00pm. Tim should be joining my wife and I for dinner this evening (work commitments permitting), and it will give us a chance to discuss wargaming in general and COW2014 in particular.

I am not sure what I am doing tomorrow (more sorting out, I suspect), but on Saturday my wife and I are attending a Burn's Night Dinner. I suspect that I will be doing the 'Toast to the Haggis', and if I am I will need to practice my 'Doric' before I go!

Wednesday 22 January 2014

"Looks bad in the newspapers and upsets civilians at their breakfast."

I was so busy yesterday that I almost missed the fact that today (22nd January) is the 135th anniversary of the Battles of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift ... although the attack on kwaJimu (Jim's Land) also carried over into 23rd January.

The 'story' of the fighting at Rorke's Drift is re-told in one of my all-time favourite films, ZULU, and although the film has many inaccuracies I doubt if I will ever tire of watching it ... and with luck I might manage to watch it again later today!

The battle is famous for the number of Victoria Crosses awarded to the defenders. There were eleven VCs awarded and they were given to:
  • Lieutenant John Rouse Merriott Chard, 5th Field Company, Royal Engineers
  • Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead; B Company, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Corporal William Wilson Allen; B Company, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private Frederick Hitch; B Company, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private Alfred Henry Hook; B Company, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private Robert Jones; B Company, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private William Jones; B Company, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Private John Williams; B Company, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Surgeon James Henry Reynolds; Army Medical Department
  • Acting Assistant Commissary James Langley Dalton; Commissariat and Transport Department
  • Corporal Christian Ferdinand Schiess; 2nd/3rd Natal Native Contingent)
It is often forgotten that four DCMs (Distinguished Conduct Medals) that were also awarded for the battle at Rorke's Drift, and they were given to:
  • Gunner John Cantwell; N Battery, 5th Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery
  • Private John William Roy; 1st/24th Foot
  • Colour Sergeant Frank Edward Bourne; B Company, 2nd/24th Foot
  • Second Corporal Francis Attwood; Army Service Corps
Frank Bourne is an ancestor of someone that I know very well, and I have seen some of the mementos and documents that relate to his life. He was not the grizzled veteran portrayed so well in the film by Nigel Green; the truth is that he was a young man at the time of the Battle (he was only 24 years old), and was referred to as 'The Boy' by his older comrades. Frank Bourne had a distinguished career in the British Army, and ended up as a Lieutenant Colonel. He died on VE Day (8th May 1945), aged 91.

The film is famous for some wonderful quotes, including the one I have chosen for the title for this particular blog entry.

Lieutenant John Chard: "The army doesn't like more than one disaster in a day."
Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead: "Looks bad in the newspapers and upsets civilians at their breakfast."

Other quotes include:

Private Thomas Cole: "Why is it us? Why us?"
Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne: "Because we're here, lad. Nobody else. Just us."

Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne: "It's a miracle."
Lieutenant John Chard: "If it's a miracle, Colour Sergeant, it's a short chamber Boxer Henry .45 calibre miracle."
Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne: "And a bayonet, sir, with some guts behind."

Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne: "Hitch... Hitch, I saw you. You're alive."
Private Fred Hitch: "I am? Oh, thanks very much."

Reverend Otto Witt: "He breaketh the bow and snappeth the spear in sunder!"
Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne: "I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of Hosts is with us."
Corporal William Allen: "I hope so. As I live and die, I hope so."

Monday 20 January 2014

OP14 wargame rules

As a result of my recent battle report about the re-fight of the Battle of Ivangorod, I have received several requests for further information about Richard Brooks' OP14 wargame rules.

I have been through the back issues of THE NUGGET and found a copy of the rules in N236. If a blog reader wishes to read and/or print a copy of this particular issue, they will need the relevant password ... which in this case is:

The Battle of Ivangorod 1914

Yesterday I took part in a re-fight of the 1914 Battle of Ivangorod. The original battle took place in the aftermath of the Battle of Tannenberg and was fought by the Russians against a mainly Austro-Hungarian force that had taken over part of the front-line previously occupied by the Germans. There were some German troops involved in the battle, but the majority of the fighting was done by the Austro-Hungarian Army.

The wargame used Richard Brooks' OP14 tactical rules and Ian Drury's 'pin-board and map' strategic movement system, and was organised by Ian Drury. A number of members of the 'Jockey's Field Irregulars' took part, and I took the role of General Evert, the commander of the Russian 4th Army.

When I arrived I was briefed by Ian and given a pin-board and map that showed the positions of the three Corps that were under my command (XVI, III (Caucasian), and XVII Corps).

I knew that two of my Corps (XVI and III (Caucasian)) were facing a line of trenches occupied by Austro-Hungarian troops, and that my third Corps (XVII Corps) was poised to cross the River Vistula within the next 24 hours.

The battle started at 7.00am on 22nd October 1914, and my first orders to the commanders of XVII and III (Caucasian) Corps was to attack the trenches immediately in front of them. This was to be done without an opening artillery barrage as I hoped that this would surprise the Austrians. These orders were passed to the umpire, who then took them to the tabletop battlefield that had been set up in another room. (Normally the orders would have been passed to a player or players who were taking on the roles of Corps commanders, but a shortage of players meant that on this occasion my orders were enacted by one of the umpires.)

At 3.00pm on 22nd I requested an update from each of my Corps commanders as their current positions and the level of casualties their Corps had suffered. I also communicated with the commander of 9th Army (which was located on my left-wing) and informed him that I understood that the Guard Corps was moving in the direction of the position I had allocated for occupation by the advancing XVII Corps. I followed this with a suggestion that we set a boundary between our two armies to ensure that our troops would not interfere with each other, and this was agreed by the commander of 9th Army.

By the evening of 22nd October I began to receive reports that the attacks mounted by XVI and III (Caucasian) Corps had failed to break through the enemy trench line, and I ordered them to withdraw to their trenches and await the inevitable counter-attack. It transpired that a brigade from each Corps had actually managed to advance their positions into the no-mans-land between the two trench systems, and I revised my orders to take this into account. Whilst this was happening XVII Corps had crossed the River Vistula and had taken up a position from where they could reinforce any success achieved by the Guard Corps or move up to support XVI and III (Caucasian) Corps.

During the morning of 23rd October I received news that III (Caucasian) Corps was on the verge of collapse, and at 1.00pm I ordered XVII Corps to move forward and relieve them. I informed the commander of 9th Army of this move, but as I received no reply I assumed that he was also having difficulties.

At this point the umpires decided that I could take direct command of the 4th Army, and I moved into the room where the tabletop battlefield was located. The situation I found looked like this:

The trenches occupied by XVI (top left of the photograph) and III (Caucasian) Corps (centre of the photograph). Facing them were two Austro-Hungarian Corps. III (Caucasian) Corps was almost at the point where they will collapse and run.
On the left flank of 4th Army 9th Army was having difficulties, and Guard Corps (seen in the centre of the photograph) was almost a spent force.
The Guard Corps.
I moved my reserve Corps (XVII Corps) forward to relieve III (Caucasian) Corps ...

... but this was almost too late as a German Corps began to flank the trench line occupied by III (Caucasian) Corps.

The advancing German Corps. The Zeppelin acted as an artillery spotter for the German Corps' artillery.
Night fell before the Germans could mount an attack ... which is just as well as III (Caucasian) Corps had given way. I was able to move XVII Corps forward to cover this collapse and to form a defensive line with which to counter a German attack.

The German attack was mounted early on the morning of 24th October ...

... but it was initially repelled, although both sides suffered casualties during the fighting.

At this point the umpires called a halt to the battle, and each of us was given the opportunity to tell our version of events. My German opponent was quite confident that he had my Army on the run – which on the face of it was not an unreasonable assessment of the situation – but he was unaware that a further Corps – the Grenadier Corps – was about to cross the River Vistula behind him and would be in a position to attack on 25th October.

This was a very enjoyable wargame to take part in, and provided even more proof – were it needed – that Richard Brooks' OP14 tactical rules and Ian Drury's 'pin-board and map' strategic movement system do reproduce the 'feel' of how a World War I battle was fought. On this occasion the result of this battle was not the same as the one fought in 1914, but that was due to the failings of the Russian players and not to the rules!

Sunday 19 January 2014

Cheap storage boxes

During my recent shopping trip to Dartford I visited a branch of 'Poundland', where I saw some very cheap storage boxes. They are ideal for keeping all sorts of wargaming bits and pieces in, and at a cost of only £1.00 each, they were a bargain.

I bought four ... and may well go back and buy some more!

Saturday 18 January 2014

A free model ship plan!

My wife and I went shopping in Dartford this afternoon, and whilst we were there I happened to walk into the local branch of WHSmith … and saw the latest issue of MODEL BOATS magazine was on sale.

What particularly caught my attention was the free plan that was included. This is a 1:144th-scale plan of a World War II-era Royal Navy monitor, HMS Vulcan. (There was no real monitor called Vulcan but as the model is not intended to be an exact replica of a real ship, this name is certainly in keeping with the sort on name the Royal Navy would have used.)

The Royal Navy used monitors during the First World War as a means of bombarding enemy coastal defences. They were generally heavily armed for their size – often with second-hand armament from old pre-deadnought battleships and obsolete armoured cruisers – and were built quite quickly. They were not expected to have a long service life, but not all of them were scrapped after the War ended.

Two of the largest monitors, HMS Erebus ...

... and HMS Terror ...

... were retained in service and several others were used as training ships or converted into minelayers. One of the latter – HMS M33 (which was renamed HMS Minerva whilst she was a minelayer) – is still extant, and has recently been restored to her original condition at Portsmouth.

During the Second World War HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were very active. HMS Terror performed sterling service in the Mediterranean until she was sunk as a result of being bombed by German Junkers Ju88 bombers on 22nd February 1941 soon after leaving Benghazi, and HMS Erebus provided naval gunfire support for the invasion of Sicily, the Normandy landings, and the amphibious assault on Walcheren. They were so successful that two new monitors were built, HMS Roberts ...

... and HMS Abercrombie.

Preparing for Ivangorod 1914

All things being equal – and assuming that some unforeseen crisis does not occur between now and then – I shall be taking part in the January session of the ‘Jockey's Field Irregulars’ tomorrow.

We are fighting 'Ivangorod 1914' (the battle between the Russians and the Austro-German Armies that took place after Tannenberg) using Richard Brook's OP14 rules. These were designed for just this sort of re-fight, and use 15mm-scale figures and a squared gridded tabletop. We have used them several times before to re-fight the opening battles of World War I, and they have proven to be very effective (i.e. the results are usually very close to what really happened).

(The following images show a previous Russo-German battle – Gumbinnen – that was fought at COW2013 (the 2013 Conference of Wargamers).)

My preparations are:
  • To find my pickelhaube! (I have a plastic ‘prop’ one, which I will take with me even though I don’t know which side I will be on.)
  • To make sure that my camera has some functioning batteries … and some spares.
  • To buy some supplies for lunch. (We all bring a contribution towards the snack lunch that we eat during the day.)
  • To make sure that I have a small duplicate notepad with numbered pages. (These are very useful when writing orders – or replies to orders – as you have copies that you can use afterwards to explain why you were successful/beaten.)
One thing that I won’t be doing is to read about the real battle. That way I come to the strategic/tactical situation without any pre-conceived ideas and/or hindsight. I have found that this generally leads to a more enjoyable – and realistic – experience.

Friday 17 January 2014

Nugget 267

I collected the latest edition of THE NUGGET (N267) from the printer this morning and I intend to post it out to members of Wargame Developments either later today or tomorrow morning.

I have already uploaded the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website, and they are now available for members of Wargame Developments to read online or to download and print.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the third issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2013-2014 subscription year. Resubscription forms have been sent to all members who have not already resubscribed. Please note that the subscription costs rose with effect from the beginning of the current subscription year.

Thursday 16 January 2014

A new conservatory roof required

The recent persistent bad weather has had a deleterious effect on the roof of our conservatory. The roof is larger than most normal conservatory roofs (it is approximately 20 foot wide by 12 foot deep), and is constructed from flat double-skin polycarbonate sheets. These are light and strong, but are now almost fifteen years old and are beginning to deteriorate. Furthermore, because the roof is flat and almost horizontal, they flex when the wind comes from the west and south-west, and this has caused the flashing that forms a watertight seal between the roof and the end walls of the conservatory to fail. As a result water is now penetrating into the conservatory and is beginning to damage the plasterwork.

My wife and I have therefore decided to have the existing roof replaced by a new heavier, double-hipped lean to-style, double-glazed glass roof, and this should be being done in March. We are also having the conservatory's window glass replaced with new double-glazed units. The glass will be far more thermally efficient than the existing polycarbonate sheeting, and hopefully will enable us to use the conservatory throughout the year rather than just during the warmer spring, summer, and autumn months. (We do have heating in the conservatory, but it only just keeps the chill off the room during the winter months.)

One thing we will have to do before the new roof is installed is to clear everything out of the conservatory ... and it is apparent that this is going to take us quite a bit of time and effort. I suspect that we will use the opportunity to have a big clear-out and to 'rationalise' what we will keep.

We will have to find somewhere to store everything we are going to keep, and it is likely that my toy/wargames room (which is already quite full) will have to be utilised. The upshot will be that I may well find my ability (and available time) to fight wargames will be restricted for several months to come.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Turkish Gambit: A review

I managed to watch the DVD of this film today and it not only lived up to my expectations ... it exceeded them!

It starts with a skirmish in a field of sunflowers, a daring escape from captivity, a dice game in a Turkish tavern, and a battle between Bashi-Bazouks and Cossacks ... and that is just the first fifteen minutes of the film!

This is an all-action film with lots a small details to delight and enthuse anyone interested in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. For example the Russians are seen using an early steam-powered traction engine and a hydrogen balloon.

It is also a spy story that keeps the watcher guessing until the end as to which of the leading characters is the Turkish master spy who is enabling the Turks to continually stay one step ahead of the Russians.

But in my opinion the best parts of the film are the battle scenes, especially the Russian attacks on Plevna.

They alone were worth the purchase price of the DVD ... and I can see myself watching and re-watching them time and time again.

Ironclad Bingo: A big thanks to Andy Callan

I recently bought a lottery/bingo set and have been thinking about how to use it in my wargaming ... but I need look no longer for ideas, thanks to Andy Callan! (Andy Callan was one of the founder members of Wargame Developments, and although he is no longer a member we have kept in contact over the years. He is one of the best wargame designers I know, and has always been able to create that most difficult of beasts ... wargames that are easy to understand and fun to use whilst still producing realistic results.)

Yesterday's post brought a letter from Andy that contained a set of naval wargame rules that he wrote some time ago. They are called IRONCLAD BINGO and use bingo cards as a method of determining and recording the effects of hits on ironclad and pre-deadnought warships. The rules are designed for fleet actions and each ship in a fleet is allocated its own bingo/damage record card.

The three lines of numbers on the bingo card (starting from the top) represent:
  • Propulsion
  • Gunnery
  • Control
As each number is 'called out' (i.e. comes out of the lottery/bingo ball) it is crossed off a ship's bingo/damage record card. If the number is on the 'Propulsion' line, a ship loses 3 knots of speed; if the number is on the 'Gunnery' line, the ship loses 20% of its firepower; and if the number is on the 'Control' line it affects the ship's ability to concentrate its gunfire on a target and can eventually lead to the ship being unable to steer.

These seem to be a very simple set of rules to use ... and will certainly give me the opportunity to use my lottery/bingo set in a wargame.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Wooden warships ... and fun wargames!

One of the blogs that I follow is Foss1066's Skull and Crown. This features all sorts of wargames that use laser-cut wooden figures ... and wooden warships.

The most recent blog entry describes a naval battle fought at the South Bay Game Club. The two sides fielded a range of warships, including an aircraft carrier (and aircraft) apiece.

Judging by the write-up this was a wargame that was enjoyed by young and old alike, and struck me as being akin to the sort of naval wargame that H G Wells might have developed, had he ever got around to doing so.