Friday 31 October 2014

"The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see."

The way things are going at the moment with regard to my work on the 'new' version of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules, this quote from Winston Churchill seems to make a lot of sense.

I began work on a 'new' version of the rules just after I returned from our recent cruise, but for some reason I seem to keep getting to a certain point in the drafting process ... and then finding that what I have written is over-complex and no longer simple. After three attempts to get it right, I decided to take a step back and to look at the original first draft of the rules.

These were heavily based on Joseph Morschauser's 'Frontier', 'Modern', and 'Musket' rules, and re-reading them has helped me to 'look farther back' and – as a result – to 'see farther forward'. I am going to take a break from my efforts to write a 'new' version of the rules for a couple of days, but I am sure that when I return to this task, I will find it a much easier to complete.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

I have been to … Castell de Montjuic, Barcelona, Spain

My wife and I have visited Castell de Montjuic (Montjuic Castle) several times, and during our most recent cruise we decided to pay it another visit.

Castell de Montjuic is situated on top of Montjuic, overlooking the city and port of Barcelona

Its main function was to protect the city from attack from the sea and to be a base for the Spanish Army in the heart of Catalonia. Until relatively recently it was a military museum, but some years ago is contents were removed and it reopened as a cultural centre.

Our taxi deposited us near to the main entrance to the fortress.

We walked across the bridge into the main part of the fortress …

… and in doing so passed over the dry moat the surrounds it. This has now been turned into a formal garden.

The tunnel-like entrance ...

... took us into the centre of the fortress, which is an open square surrounded by a covered walkway.

Above the entrance is a large tower, which is surmounted by a signal mast.

We walked around the cloister-like covered walkway ...

... and stopped for some refreshments in a café that is situated within one of the old casemates.

Once we had finished our drink, we continued our walk until we reached the side of the covered walkway opposite the main entrance ...

... which is where the stairs up to the parapet are located. We walked around the wide parapet ...

... from where we could see some the fortress's outer defences.

By then we were both feeling rather hot, and decided to go down into the gardens that surround the fortress. These contain a number of interesting items, including a statue of the Timbaler del Bruc Drummer, symbol of Catalonia. (This statue commemorates the Catalan partisans of El Bruc who fought against Napoleon's troops in June 1808 and forced them to withdraw. According to the legend, the sound of the drum was strengthened by the echo from the nearby mountains and helped to scare the invaders into running away.)

When the Castell de Montjuic became a cultural centre, not all of the military relics were removed. Several of the coastal defence guns that formed the main armament of the fortress still remain in place, including several Obús de hierro sunchado de 30.5cm Ordóñez Md. 1892 ...

... and British-designed 5.5-inch QF guns.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Some more interesting wooden boxes

Last week I paid another visit to the craft section of the branch of THE RANGE in Chatham ... and came away with some more ready-made wooden boxes.

Unlike the other boxes that I have bought, these were not square, rectangular, or hexagonal in shape; they were long with rounded ends and came in two sizes, large (about 6"/15cm long and 3.25"/8cm wide) ...

... and small (about 4"/10cm long and 2.25"/6cm wide).

The larger box has sides that are 2.75"/7cm tall (the bottom being 2"/5cm tall and the lid 0.75"/2cm tall) and the smaller box has sides that are 1.5"/4cm tall (the bottom being 1"/2.5cm tall and the lid 0.5"/1.5cm tall).

My first thoughts on seeing the boxes was that if the lids and bottoms were separated, they could both be used as the basis for model ship hulls, particularly small merchant ships, oared galleys or gunboats. The prospect of using these boxes to build such models will certainly provide me with something to think about over the coming winter months.

Sunday 26 October 2014


As I have mentioned before, I never managed to see the TV series BATTLEGROUND when it was broadcast. It featured a number of wargames that were fought out on terrain constructed by Peter Guilder and mostly using figures from his collection. Edward Woodward (of – amongst many other things – CALLAN fame) narrated the series, and a number of well-known wargamers took the roles of the opposing generals.

There were six programmes in the series:
  1. The Battle of Edgehill 1642: Duncan MacFarlane (Royalists) vs. John Tilson (Parliamentarians)
  2. Waterloo 1815: John Braithwaite (British) vs. Peter Gilder (French)
  3. Battle of the Nile 1798: Steve Birnie vs. John Harrison
  4. Chalons sur Marne 451 AD: Bob O'Brien (Huns) vs. Steve Davidson (Romans)
  5. France, 1944: Gavin Lyall vs. Bernard Lyall
  6. Gettysburg 1863: Peter Gilder (Confederates) vs. Paddy Griffith (Union)
It was therefore both a pleasure and surprise to discover that Seb Palmer has not only watched some of the programmes but has written quite detailed blog entries about each of the ones he has seen. These can be found on his blog, A QUESTION OF SCALE: A WARGAMING WORK IN PROGRESS.

  1. The Battle of Edgehill 1642
  2. Waterloo 1815
  3. Battle of the Nile 1798 (Episode lost)
  4. Chalons sur Marne 451 AD
  5. France, 1944 (Episode lost)
  6. Gettysburg 1863
Seb Palmer has also written an interesting blog entry about the making of the series and the people who were involved.

Whilst writing this blog entry I realised that it is almost five years since Edward Woodward died on 16th November 2009.

He was a consummate actor and singer, and was famous for a number of roles on TV (Guy Crouchback in the SWORD OF HONOUR trilogy, the eponymous CALLAN and Robert McCall in THE EQUALIZER) and film (CALLAN ... again, BREAKER MORANT, and Police Sergeant Neil Howie in THE WICKER MAN). In the aftermath of his death I wrote a number of blog entries about Callan the wargamer, and I re-read them before writing this blog entry. These blog entries can be found at:

Saturday 25 October 2014

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 379

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

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • World Wide Wargaming by Henry Hyde and Norm Smith
  • Forward observer by Neil Shuck
  • Hot fun with a glue gun: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts by John Treadaway
  • Death of a wargamer: The passing of Allen Elmer Curtis by Henry Hyde
  • Ancient Ancients: A nostalgic review of the miniatures of yore by Rob Young
  • Let's fight Oporto 1809: Part 1: background and construction by Jonathan Jones
  • Wargames photography: Master your digital camera or phone: part 3 by Henry Hyde
  • Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
  • Wargaming, hexes and small tables: Making the most of a small space by Norm Smith
  • Command challenge: Variations on a theme of Teugn-Hausen by Steve Jones
  • Cheaper but still cheerful: Building Successor armies on a budget by Jim Webster
  • Staying alive: a reply by Arthur Harman
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
  • Hex encounter by Brad Harmer
  • Recce
There is lot of stuff in this issue that I will enjoy reading (particularly Norm Smith's article about wargaming in a small space and Arthur Harman's reply to Barry Hilton's article in issue 378) ... and one article that I will not enjoy.

The latter is the obituary for Allen Curtis, and I will not enjoy reading it because I knew Allen quite well and we had shared interests outside the strict confines of wargaming. I enjoyed his company and loved wargaming with him, and had hoped that we would be able to meet up again the next time he was able to visit the UK. That is now not going to happen, and knowing that saddens me.

Friday 24 October 2014

I have been to ... the Castillo de San Sebastián, Cadiz, Spain

The Castle of San Sebastián (Castillo de San Sebastián) was built on two small islands that are connected to Cadiz via a stone causeway.

The fortress was built from 1706 onwards, and its purpose was to defend the north flank of the city from attack from the sea. It was re-modelled and rearmed several times during its active life, and it is now used for cultural events.

We began our visit by entering the small fort that protected the seaward end of the causeway.

Our walk along the stone causeway ...

... took us to the entrance gates into the smaller of the two sections of the fortress.

This part of the Castillo de San Sebastián is as yet awaiting renovation, and most of it is not open to the public.

It does, however, lead you to the entrance gate into the larger, seaward end of the fortress.

It is only when you get to this point that you begin to realise how big and important the Castillo de San Sebastián was when it formed part of the Spanish coastal defence system.

Looking back the way we had come also made us realise how big the smaller part of the fortress is.

The centre of the fortress is dominated by two structures. The first of these is a twentieth century fire control tower and protected bunker.

The latter is very reminiscent of the fire control towers that the Germans built on Jersey and to the bridge structure on the Spanish cruisers Canarias and Baleares.

The other large structure is the lattice tower of the lighthouse that was built in the centre of the parade ground.

It is possible to walk around the top of the casemates ...

... and this gives you an excellent view of some of the oldest parts of the fortress ...

... and makes you aware – yet again – of how big the Castillo de San Sebastián is.

We would like to return to the Castillo de San Sebastián again in the future, by which point we hope more of it will have been renovated and open to the public.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Adding a link to my publications

I understand from feedback that I have received that some of my regular blog readers have been unable to find my latest publication (WHEN EMPIRES CLASH!) when they have searched the Lulu website.

I have therefore added a tab called 'Publications' just below the title of my blog, and this will take readers to a page with links to the relevant sections of the Lulu and Amazon websites.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.