Monday 29 September 2014

Magazine article in praise of imagi-nations

Over the weekend I bought a copy of WARGAMES, SOLDIERS & STRATEGY at the Bluewater branch of WHSmith. Unlike MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES, which I get every month, I only buy WARGAMES, SOLDIERS & STRATEGY when it has a theme that interests me. This particular issue's theme was Operation Market Garden ... and as my father was a member of an airborne unit (but not one that took part in this particular military operations) I decided to buy it.

One article that was not related to this issue's theme but which I really enjoyed reading was Otto Schmidt's TO FOURDOOR WHERE THE SUNNY DAYS LAY. This is written in Otto's familiar style, and extolled the virtues of fun wargaming using imagi-nations ... something that I wholeheartedly agree with.

One thing that I particularly liked about this article was the photograph that accompanied it. The Freedonian tank is the sort of design that I would have come up with, combining as it does the hull of a Russian T-26 tank with the running gear of a German Pzkpfw III, topped off with a large cylindrical turret of unknown origin.

Simply marvellous!

Sunday 28 September 2014

The Portable Wargame revisited

I have been trying to free up some space on my computer hard drive, and during the course of this weeding-out process I came across an unfinished – and heavily modified – version of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I began working on them back in March, but for reasons that I cannot now remember, I never finished them. (This was during the run-up to the fitting of the new glass roof on our conservatory, and Sue and I were spending a lot of time sorting and clearing out its contents at the time.)

The rules seem to have been designed to match the following design specification:
  • The tabletop is a grid that is at least 8 x 8 if a squared grid or 9 x 8 if a hexed grid.
  • The basic units will have the following strength points:
    • Infantry = 4 strength points
    • Cavalry = 3 strength points
    • Artillery = 2 strength points
  • Figures can be individually based or fixed on multi-figure unit bases.
  • The rules can be used for solo and face-to-face wargames.
  • The rules use a single combat system for fire and close combat.
  • The rules use standard D6 dice.
  • The turn sequence limits the number of units a commander can activate at any one time.
Having re-discovered these draft rules I think that I should finish them ... so I hope to do so over the next few weeks.

Saturday 27 September 2014

I have been to ... The Milton Hundred Wargames Club Open Day

Besides organising the BROADSIDE wargames show in Sittingbourne, Kent, each year, the Milton Hundred Wargames Club has an annual open day that is held in their normal weekly club meeting venue, Iwade Village Hall, Ferry Street, Iwade, Kent.

I visited this club open day last year, and was struck by the very friendly reception I received. When Alan Abbey (an ex-pupil of mine and one of the driving forces behind the club) reminded me that the Open Day was today, I made sure that I made time to get there.

The venue is a typical small, late 1950s, single-storey, brick-built community hall.

There were three wargames taking place when I arrived.

There was also a table display of different sizes and types of figures as well as a trader's stand that was being run by a locally-based online retailer.

The three battles that were taking place were:

A Napoleonic battle (fought using BLACK POWDER rules)

An Ancients battle between the Greeks and the Persians (fought using HAIL CEASAR! rules)

An eleventh century battle between Normans and Anglo-Saxons (fought using SAGA rules)

(This battle was staged by the Maidstone Wargames Society.)

I have not used any of these rules before, but the players all took time to explain the basics of each set to me. This was very encouraging, and had I just walked in off the street, I would have left much better informed about the hobby ... and possibly a new recruit to it as well.

This Open Day was an excellent example of the sort of event that clubs can put on, and it was a great pity that it was not better attended.

Friday 26 September 2014

I have been to ... the Grecian Masonic Temple in the former Great Eastern Hotel, London

Last weekend Sue and I were able to visit the Grecian Masonic Temple in the former Great Eastern Hotel, London, thanks to the OPEN HOUSE LONDON event. This temple was built in 1912 and cost £50,000 ... which is the equivalent of £4,000,000 in today's money! This high cost was no doubt due to the use of twelve different types of marble to create the floor, the columns, and to line walls.

The Great Eastern Hotel flourished during the age of steam railways, but over the years it gradually became run down and the temple was taken out of use. It is reputed to have been 're-discovered' when the old hotel was bought by designer Terence Conran for conversion into a boutique hotel. During the restoration the building engineers are supposed to have noticed several discrepancies when they compared the architectural plans of the original hotel and the rooms that they could enter. When they removed a wall that was not on the original plans they discovered a wood-panelled antechamber containing a studded double door ... and when they opened the door they 'discovered' this Masonic temple.

It is a great story, but there are some doubts about its accuracy.

The Worshipful Master's, the Senior Warden's, and the Junior Warden's chairs

Details from the wall frieze

The ceiling, with its plasterwork representations of the Square and Compasses and its marble lampshades

The central light with its five-pointed star and ladder going up to Heaven

The temple is no longer used for Masonic meetings, but is available for hire for functions.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Some more 20mm-scale German Colonial troops

One of the reasons why I wanted to visit the Skirmish Toy Soldier and Wargames Show in Sidcup last weekend was to meet David Crook and collect some painted 20mm-scale German Colonial troops from him. I already have some similar figures, and these additions will enable me to field quite a large German Colonial army ... although I do have some other projects that they will also be useful for.

These figures will probably need to be re-based on individual bases, and that is a task that I shall probably undertake over the forthcoming winter months.

A clue as to the alternative uses these figures might be put to is in the following images.

They are stills from a film. No prizes for guessing the two names of the film. (It was released with a different name in the USA from the one that it is known by in Europe.)

Tuesday 23 September 2014

A fleeting visit to Skirmish, Sidcup

I had promised my wife that we could visit at least one place during the OPEN HOUSE LONDON event that was on last weekend ... and had not realised that it was on at the same time as the Skirmish Toy Soldier and Wargames Show in Sidcup. My visit to Skirmish was, therefore, a fleeting one ... although I did manage a very quick chat with some of the members of Posties Rejects and to meet up with David Crook to collect some toy soldiers that he had for me!

I arrived just after the show opened at 10.00am, and the main trading hall was already beginning to fill up.

There was quite an impressive range of games on show ...

... but the one that really caught my eye was a colonial wargame set in the Sudan.

This was being staged by the Rainham Wargames Club using 15mm-scale figures and BLACK POWDER rules.

I was only able to stay about an hour, and wish that I could have stayed longer, but a promise is a promise ...

Monday 22 September 2014

News that I did not want to hear

Yesterday I managed to pay a fleeting visit to the SKIRMISH show in Sidcup before Sue and I visited one of the many sites that were especially opened to the public as part of the OPEN HOUSE LONDON event ... and I will be writing blog entries about these in due course. My day was, however, turned upside down by news that I really was not prepared for ... the sudden death of Allen E Curtis.

I got to know Allen when he became a member of Wargame Developments. He came to two COWs (Conference of Wargamers) and delivered a memorable talk about the work of the NTC at Fort Irwin. At the time he was working there in a senior role after he had retired from the US Army. He also took part in two back-to-back sessions where several of us experimented with Chris Engle's PBOM (POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS) Matrix Game combat rules, first with a battle set in the Sudan in the 1880s and secondly with one in modern-day Africa.

I also met Allen on several occasions when he visited London and the surrounding area, and he very generously gave me a large number of unpainted 20mm-scale metal figures and vehicles for my collection. Allen was a man of principle and did not tolerate fools gladly, and this often led to relationships with other wargamers that could be quite turbulent at times. That said, after the heat had died down he always seemed willing to rekindle his friendships, and I certainly always enjoyed talking to him and exchanging comments via the Internet.

He will be missed by all who knew him.

Allen Elmer Curtis
21st October 1954 to 16th September 2014

A Book of Remembrance has been opened at the Mead Mortuary, Barstow, California, and anyone wishing to leave a message can do so. The Book will remain open until 17th October 2014.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 378

The latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine arrived in the post yesterday afternoon, and I managed to spend a couple of hours reading through it this morning.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • World Wide Wargaming by Henry Hyde
  • Forward observer by Neil Shuck
  • Trees with some merit: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts by John Treadaway
  • The combat of sixteen: Medieval melee mayhem by Dillon Browne
  • Vitoria 1813: Simulating a historical battle by Matthew Green
  • Wargames photography: Master your digital camera or phone: part 2 by Henry Hyde
  • Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
  • Staying alive: Does our hobby need defibrillation? Stand clear! by Barry Hilton
  • Now who will stand on either hand ... ... and keep the bridge with me? Be a Roman hero! by Arthur Harman
  • Claymore 2014: Gaming fun in the heart of Scotland by Paul Bright
  • Normandy night action: A WWII scenario for soloists by Martin England
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
  • Hex encounter by Brad Harmer
  • Recce

Friday 19 September 2014

The result is in

Be warned. The following blog entry contains political comment.

So the electorate of Scotland have made their decision ... and have voted 'No' by a ratio of 55:45.

This was the result that I had hoped for because I had serious concerns about consequences for both sides if the Union was dissolved. I had not come to this conclusion without considerable thought and research. I had read the document produced by the 'Yes' campaign that outlined what Scotland would look like after independence ... and I was struck by how it was long on promises and assumptions, and very short on methods and processes by which they would be achieved. For example, saying that your country will keep the pound and will join the EU assumed that the other parties to this would acquiesce without serious discussion and/or a possible refusal to do so. Likewise using Norway as a sort of template for a future Scotland did not seem to take into account the cost. Norway may well have a large oil revenue-funded sovereign fund, but taxes on incomes, goods, and services are high in order to pay for things like the social care system.

The 'No' campaign was - by comparison - rather negative, and in my opinion failed to really show how both parties to the existing Union were better together than apart. The promises made that Scotland would be given even greater devolved powers may well turn out to be a double-edged sword, and is already leading to greater demands for greater devolution in other parts of the UK.

So what happens next?

Initially, very little ... but by the next General Election (which takes place in less than ten months time) I expect that quite a lot of changes will be planned if not enacted. If Scotland gets its greater devolved powers it will need to be matched by an increase in the powers of the Welsh Assembly. Furthermore the Midlothian Question will have to be answered ... and I strongly suspect that it will lead to a ruling that only MPs representing English and Welsh constituencies will be entitled to vote on legislation that only affects those two countries. In the end one can foresee a move towards a more federal-style of government for the UK, and that is something that may well make the UK a much better place to live in.

A last few thoughts. Over recent years I have had conversations with people from Scotland and Wales who complained bitterly about what they referred to as 'Westminster rule' or 'English rule', by which I understood that they felt alienated from the decision making process that is carried out in the Houses of Parliament. I tried to explain to them that they - like me - elected MPs who sat in Parliament, but they seemed to resent the fact that Parliament sat in London, and was physically remote from where they lived and worked, and was out of touch with their needs and aspirations. I tried to explain that although I can see the Houses of Parliament from the top floor of my house, I felt that much the same as they did ... but this generally seemed to cut very little ice with them.

Another contentious problem was the disproportional level of wealth that is perceived to be concentrated in London and the South-East of England compared to others parts of the UK. There is more than an element of truth in this ... but the other side of the coin is the amount of tax revenue that the area generates and that is 'exported' into the rest of the UK. Estimates vary from £10 to £20 billion ... and that enables things like the Barnett funding formula to direct additional devolved government spending into Scotland and Wales. Do I - as a Londoner, born and bred - resent that? ... Yes! ... But as a citizen of the UK I can see that it is more than equitable that it happens, and long may it do so.

Forward the UNITED Kingdom! We are better and stronger together!

Thursday 18 September 2014

Being a wargamer's executor

Yesterday I spent a large part of the day helping the recently widowed wife of a wargamer to sort out his collection of books, games, rules, and figures, prior to their disposal. They were her husband's pride and joy, and represented many years of involvement in the hobby. Luckily she is a realist and knows that any financial return she receives from selling the collections will be a lot less than they cost, and she would rather that they went to someone who will use them than for the highest possible price she can get.

I know of two other wargamers who have performed a similar role over recent months, and it makes one realise that this is an aspect of wargaming that we all tend to put to the back of our minds. Sue and I recently redrafted our wills, and I made provision in mine as to what should happen to my books and figures. I strongly recommend that other wargamers do something similar: it will be one less thing that your family will have to deal with and will ensure that your collections goes to a good home when time with you is no more.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Nugget 273

I collected the latest edition of THE NUGGET (N273) from the printer on yesterday, and will be posting it out to members of Wargame Developments by Thursday.

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

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the LAST issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2013-2014 subscription year, and that re-subscriptions are now due. A reminder will be posted out with this issue of THE NUGGET. If you have not already re-subscribed you can do so using the link on the relevant page of the Wargame Developments website.

Monday 15 September 2014

I have been to … the Alcazar, Jerez, Spain

The Alcazar of Jerez was built and used between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries. It occupies a strategically dominating position in Jerez de la Frontera, and its building was begun during the twelfth century by the Moorish rulers of Lower Andalusia.

The City Gate
This is the original entrance to the Alcazar, and takes the form of an easy-to-defend S-bend gate.

The Mosque
To the left of the City Gate is the Alcazar's mosque. It was built at the time when the main part of the Alcazar was constructed, but was re-dedicated as a Christian church when the city was conquered by Alfonso X in 1264.

The Oil Mill
Although this abuts the mosque, this was not built until the eighteenth century, when the Alcazar's owner – Fernández de Villavicencio – restored the complex.

The Parade Ground
This open space was first used as a parade ground after the Christian re-conquest of Jerez. It is now paved, and houses an interesting horse sculpture.

The Gardens
The gardens have been recreated in the style in vogue during the period of Moorish occupation of the Alcazar.

The Country Gate Tower
The tower guarded the very narrow country entrance to the Alcazar.

The Royal Pavilion
This pavilion dates back to the period of Moorish occupation. It has pool in front of its arched entrance and an octagonal dome over its central room.

The Octagonal Tower
This is an original part of the Moorish fortress and has a commanding position from which the surrounding countryside could be easily observed.

The Homage Tower
This tower was built in 1471 by Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, Marquis of Cadiz, and it was intended to be the last defensive redoubt in the event of an attack. It was originally surrounded by its own moat.

The Villavicencio Palace
Bartolome Fernández de Villavicencio inherited the Alcazar in 1664, and constructed a Baroque-style place inside its walls as part of a larger restoration of the complex. The rooms are very cool and airy, and are currently used as an art gallery.