Wednesday 30 June 2021

The Great War on the Western Front: A short history

Having known the late Dr Paddy Griffith from 1980 until he far too early death in 2010, I always tried to buy copies of his books. On my bookshelves I have:


One volume that was missing and that I did want was THE GREAT WAR ON THE WESTERN FRONT: A SHORT HISTORY, which was published in 2008. When I was told that an online bookseller had a small stock of this book on sale for little more than the cost of the postage, I ordered a copy, and it has recently been delivered.

I am currently reading this book, and it is a very typical Paddy Griffith book. In his introduction he makes the point that he wants to produce a subjective rather than a sensationalist book about the Great War on the Western Front (he comments that there are far more of the latter than there are of the former), and from what I have read so far, he did what he set out to achieve.

THE GREAT WAR ON THE WESTERN FRONT: A SHORT HISTORY was written by Dr Paddy Griffith and published by Pen & Sword Books in 2008 (ISBN 978 1 8441 5764 8).

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Impact terrain

A few weeks ago, I managed to meet up with David Crook. I passed over a couple of games and some figures to him ... and he reciprocated with the terrain from the game IMPACT. This is described as being 'The Action Battle Game With Real Firepower' and sees 'Dinosaurs Battle Humans With Real Firing Guns On An Amazing 3D Landscape'.

I cannot comment about how good (or bad) the game might be because it was the terrain that comes with the game that interested me. It comprises a number of cardboard baseboards ...

... and fifteen plastic hills (four large, six medium, and five small) with very small, single figure-sized firing steps on them.

The hills come in a sand-coloured plastic, but I think that with a little bit of enhancement (painting and flocking), they will make excellent additions to the range of terrain I have in my collection.

The hills fit inside a single hexagonal grid area made by Hexon II terrain, although the largest is a bit of a tight squeeze!

As can be seen from the following photograph, a three-figure PORTABLE WARGAME stand is a bit too big from the firing steps on the hills, but a single 15mm figures has no problems fitting on them.

I can see myself using these hills for small-scale wargames in mountainous areas, and I will add their 'enhancement' to the list of projects I am going to pursue as and when time permits.

Monday 28 June 2021

Over the hills and far away

When I was in primary school over sixty years ago, we used to do country dancing and to sing folk songs. One that I sang back then was ‘Over the hills and far away’ … and I had forgotten the words until I heard John Tams - a renown folk singer, musician, composer, and the actor who played Daniel Hagman in the ‘Sharpe’ series - sing it as the theme tune to ‘Sharpe’. The chorus he sang was pretty well as I remembered it, but he had obviously adjusted the lyrics to suit the requirements of the series.

A few years ago I was invited to give a talk about Freemasonry in the British Army to a Masonic Lodge that had been set up for serving and ex members of the armed services. The Lodge has adopted ‘Over the hills and far away’ as the Lodge’s song, which was sung at the meal after the meeting. The lyrics were the ones I remembered from my childhood, and were as follows:

Our 'prentice Tom may now refuse
To wipe his scoundrel Master's Shoes,
For now he's free to sing and play
Over the Hills and far away.

Over the Hills and O'er the Main,
To Flanders, Portugal and Spain,
The queen commands and we'll obey
Over the Hills and far away.

We all shall lead more happy lives
By getting rid of brats and wives
That scold and brawl both night and day
– Over the Hills and far away.

Over the Hills and O'er the Main,
To Flanders, Portugal and Spain,
The queen commands and we'll obey
Over the Hills and far away.

Courage, boys, 'tis one to ten,
But we return all gentlemen
While conquering colours we display,
Over the hills and far away.

Over the Hills and O'er the Main,
To Flanders, Portugal and Spain,
The queen commands and we'll obey
Over the Hills and far away.

Although I like the original lyrics, I actually prefer John Tams’ version, which are as follows:

Here's forty shillings on the drum
For those who volunteer to come,
To 'list and fight the foe today
Over the Hills and far away

O'er the hills and o'er the main
Through Flanders, Portugal and Spain
King George commands and we obey
Over the hills and far away

When duty calls me I must go
To stand and face another foe
But part of me will always stray
Over the hills and far away

O'er the hills and o'er the main
Through Flanders, Portugal and Spain
King George commands and we obey
Over the hills and far away

If I should fall to rise no more
As many comrades did before
Then ask the fifes and drums to play
Over the hills and far away

O'er the hills and o'er the main
Through Flanders, Portugal and Spain
King George commands and we obey
Over the hills and far away

Then fall in lads behind the drum
With colours blazing like the sun
Along the road to come what may
Over the hills and far away

O'er the hills and o'er the main
Through Flanders, Portugal and Spain
King George commands and we obey
Over the hills and far away

Sunday 27 June 2021

Drawing a line

For reasons that will become clear in the near future, as of yesterday I handed over the final bits of COW (Conference of Wargamers) administration to someone else.

Knuston Hall, the annual venue of the Conference of Wargamers.

I will not be going to COW this year (it will only be the second I have missed since 1980!), and in the final run up to the conference, any remaining administrative tasks that still need to be done should be in the hands of someone who will be there.

The fact that I am not going to COW means that other than for last year, when COW2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be the first time in many years that I have not been running a session at the conference. Part of me is disappointed in that fact, and part of me is rather grateful for the break. That said, I am planning to go to COW2022 ... assuming that the world has returned to something approaching normal by then.

Please note that the photograph featured above is © Knuston Hall.

Saturday 26 June 2021

Army Black: The new infantry units

I have finished basing the five new infantry units for my FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY BLACK, and they look like this:

Although completing my ARMY BLACK may take me into July, I intend to complete this project before moving on to another one.

Thursday 24 June 2021

Still very busy ... but gradually getting there!

I am still busy working on my two projects and the final administration tasks for COW (the Conference of Wargamers) ... but I am making loads of progress!

The latest units (five infantry units) for my FUNNY LITTLE WAR/PORTABLE WARGAME Army Black have been fixed to their bases, and the edges of the bases have been painted black. All that needs to be done to complete them is for the bases to be flocked with neutral-coloured finely-ground cork particles.

I am in the very final stages of finishing the final draft of the text of ARRIBA ESPANA! At Arthur Harman's suggestion, I am adding a short section that explains how the scenario maps in the book, which are designed to work with THE PORTABLE SPANISH CIVIL WAR WARGAME rules, can be adapted to work with the original rules in ARRIBA ESPANA! This has involved re-drawing a couple of the scenario maps to show:

  • What they would look like if not used with a gridded tabletop and
  • What the terrain would look like if it was recreated using the Hexon II terrain system on a much larger tabletop.

The last administration task I have to complete for COW is to sort out the attendee's choices of meals and to pass that information onto Knuston Hall. Most attendees have already responded, and I only need a few more to tell me what they want to eat from the menu.

I am still very busy ... but as you will have gathered, I am getting there!

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Organising COW is keeping me very busy

We had hoped that the easing of lockdown would make it slightly easier to organise this year's COW (Conference of Wargamers) over the weekend of 2nd to 4th July, but as it will be held under the current restrictions, it has involved a bit of extra administration over and above what normally needs to be done.

We are only allowed to have thirty participants plus two tutors, so the maximum number who can attend is thirty-two. For the purposes of 'track and trace', I have had to forward their personal details to Knuston Hall, and I am now in the process of sorting out the menu choices for the attendees as this has to be done before they arrive at Knuston Hall. This all takes time and a considerable number of emails ... and no doubt last-minute problems (e.g. someone becoming ill or dropping out) will arise and these will need to be dealt with.

I am being kept very busy doing the above, and it is slowing progress on my two current wargame projects. However, as neither of these has to be completed by a particular date (unlike administering COW), this is not causing me any concern whatsoever.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Army Black: Some additional officers

In between working on ARRIBA ESPANA! and doing household chores and shopping, I have been painting nine officer figures for my FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY BLACK. They were from the range of Franco-Prussian War figures manufactured by Irregular Miniatures and will enable me to form another five infantry units. The four ‘spare’ figures will be used as officers for artillery and machine gun units.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to complete my ARMY BLACK project by the end of the month, but I hope to finish it soon afterwards.

Monday 21 June 2021

Arriba Espana! (Second edition): A further progress report

Over the weekend I have managed to make considerable progress, and the draft text of the book has been sent to several people for proof-reading and fact checking. As can be seen from the following copy of the contents page ...

Please click on the image of the contents page to enlarge it.

... the book is split into two parts. The first part is a slightly revised version of the first edition, with some of the errors corrected and a more consistent style used. The second part contains a copy of THE PORTABLE SPANISH CIVIL WAR WARGAME rules and a number of scenarios (including ORBATs and both square and hex gridded maps) that I hope will give players some interesting battles and to provide inspiration for them to develop their own.

I hope to publish this book by the end of this month or soon afterwards. It will certainly be published in both paperback and Kindle formats, and I am looking at the possibility of publishing it in hardback and PDF formats.

Saturday 19 June 2021

Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ): Issue 180

The Victorian Military Society recently sent me a copy of SOTQ (Soldiers of the Queen).

The articles included in this issue are:

  • The Royal Field Artillery at Tabanyama and Spion Kop, 17-26 January 1900 by Dr Robert N Davidson
  • The White Bearskin by Colin Dean
  • The Diehard Company on Home Service (Part One) by Graham Gillmore
  • The 44th (East Essex): The British Army's unluckiest regiment? by Wendell Schollander
  • Book Reviews by Andrew Smith, Roger T Stearn, and Stuart T Millson
  • Officers of the Victorian Military Society

There was lots of interest for me in this issue. As I live in Woolwich and I am the son and grandson of Gunners, anything about the Royall Artillery gets my vote, especially when it mentions Sir Charles Warren, whose life as a Freemason is something that I have researched and give talks about. I also lived for most of my pre-adult life in Essex, and the Essex Regiment (of which the 44th was part) was our local infantry regiment until it was amalgamated with others to form the Royal Anglians.

Another great issue that gave me several hours of enjoyable reading.

Friday 18 June 2021

I had a plan …

… to refight the Battle of Waterloo today, but due to circumstances that are outside my control, I have not been able to do so. I was going to use Old Trousers’ WATERLOO A LA CARTE as the basis for my refight, but using a version of my PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME rules. I even organised the troops I intended to use along the lines set out in Old Trousers’ ORBAT:


  • Imperial Guard infantry: 2 units (2 x 4 SPs)
  • Line infantry: 4 units (4 x 4 SPs)
  • Conscript line infantry: 2 units (2 x 3 SPs)
  • Light infantry: 1 unit (4 SPs)
  • Light cavalry: 1 unit (3 SPs)
  • Heavy cavalry: 1 unit (3 SPs)
  • Artillery: 2 units (2 x 2 SPs)
  • Commander (6 SPs)
  • Total strength = 50 SPs
  • Exhaustion point: The loss of 17 SPs


  • British Guard Infantry: 1 unit (4 SPs)
  • British line infantry: 2 units (2 x 4 SPs)
  • British Rifles: 1 unit (4 SPs)
  • Hanoverian infantry: 1 unit (3 SPs)
  • Dutch-Belgian infantry: 2 units (2 x 3 SPs)
  • British heavy cavalry: 1 unit (3 SPs)
  • Dutch-Belgian cavalry: (3 SPs)
  • British artillery: 1 unit (2 SPs)
  • Prussian line infantry: 3 units (3 x 4 SPs)
  • Commander (6SPs)
  • Total strength = 45 SPs
  • Exhaustion point: The loss of 15 SPs

I hope to stage this refight at some point … but I am sure when.

Wednesday 16 June 2021

COW2021 Programme

The COW2021 programme (including the timetable) has now been finalised, and it has been sent to the printer. It should be back in a day or so, at which point I will post it out to attendees.

Although it may be subject to last minute changes and therefore cannot be regarded as set in stone, the current timetable looks like this:

Please click on the image of the timetable to enlarge it.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Arriba Espana! (Second Edition): Another progress report

Despite the fact that our home office (which is in our converted loft) is a hot as Hades for most of the day, even with the Velux windows open and the tower fan going full blast, I have been working on the book’s draft. The new rules section is finished, and I am currently adding a number of scenarios that I think that players will find useful. To date, these include:

  • Clash of the columns!
  • The Battle for the University City
  • On to Guadalajara!
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls

I hope to add several more scenarios as the week progresses. Putting together the scenarios isn’t very difficult or time-consuming, but drawing the maps is a lengthier process ... and I’m trying to draw them early in the day before the room gets too uncomfortable hot.

The following maps are the ones that I have drawn for the first of the scenarios, 'Clash of the columns!':

Monday 14 June 2021

Army Black: A couple of reinforcements

The present spell of warm weather has rather distracted me from my current projects, but I have managed to base up two reinforcement units for my FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY BLACK. The are train (or supply) units that have been raised from amongst the army's reserve, hence the absence of pickelhaubes.

The figure I ordered from Irregular Miniatures have now arrived, and I hope to begin painting some of them next week. I intend to start with some officers so that I can then base up some more infantry units. I plan to follow them with some artillery crews, and to finish with the two units of cavalry I have bought.

Saturday 12 June 2021

Paddy Griffith's Wargaming Operation Sealion

Back in 1974, Paddy Griffith was a fairly new member of the staff of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, when he conceived the idea to run a serious historical wargame that examined what might have happened had the Germans attempted to carry out Operation Sealion. It was one of the first wargame of its sort and is credited by Peter Perla as showing that a wargame could be a serious academic tool when use was made of proper historical analysis, statistical modelling, and applied human experience.

The DAILY TELEGRAPH sponsored the event, and it was staged at the Army Staff College. The list of participants is very interesting, and included:

  • General Adolf Galland: Holder of the Kight's Cross of the Iron Cross, with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, he was a fighter ace who had flown in combat from the Spanish Civil War until the end of the Second World War.
  • Major Rudolf Rothenfelder: An ex-Luftwaffe pilot who became President of the German Fighter Pilots Association.
  • Admiral Freidrich Ruge: Holder of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, he commanded naval forces in the North Sea, Italy, and the Channel during the Second World War. He became the first commander of the Federal German Navy.
  • Admiral Prof Dr Jurgen Rohwer: German naval historian who served aboard several destroyers and minesweepers during the Second World War.
  • Admiral Dr Schunemann: German naval attaché in 1974,
  • General Heinz Trettner: Holder of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, he served as Chief of Operations of 7th Flieger Division in 1940, before taking part in the invasion of Crete. He later commanded 4th Fallschirmjager Division, and after the war he became commander of the Federal German Army.
  • Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris GCB, DSO, OBE, FRSA: He served as a fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain. After the Second World War he served as Assustant Chief of the Defence Staff, commander of RAF Germany, and the 2nd Tactical Air Force.
  • Rear Admiral Edward Findlay "Teddy" Geuritz CB, OBE, DSC & Bar: He was the third most senior member of the beachmaster party on Sword Beach on D-Day. After the war he served as Deputy Director of the Royal Naval Staff College before a stint on the Naval Staff at the Admiralty. He then moved to become Captain of the Fleet for the Far East Fleet, then Director of Defence Plans (Navy), Director of the Joint Warfare Staff, and President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. His last appointment was as Commandant of the Joint Warfare Establishment.
  • Major General Glyn Charles Anglim Gilbert CB MC: He came ashore at Normandy in command of a company of 2nd Lincolns, and he fought with them throughout the subsequent campaign to liberate France. He took part in the Rhine crossing, and was still leading his company when they captured Bremen in 1945. After the war he transferred to the Parachute Regiment, and commanded of the Territorial Army's 44th Parachute Brigade before becoming the Commandant of the School of Infantry, Warminster. His final posting was as General Officer Commanding 3rd Division.
  • John Davis: One of the wargaming pioneers, his figures were used in the episode of CALLAN that featured a wargame,
  • Andy Callan: One of the founding fathers of Wargame Developments and still one of the most innovative wargame designers around.
  • Brigadier Page: He was the Assistant Commandant of the RMA Sandhurst at the time of the wargame.
  • Dr Antony Brett-James: After service with the Royal Corps of Signals during the Second World War, he served for a time as Head of the War Studies Department at Sandhurst.
  • Professor Michael Orr: He lectured in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, from 1969 to 1984. He later worked at  the Conflict Studies Research Centre, and amongst other things he is currently a Honorary Research Fellow in War Studies at the University of Birmingham, editor of the Records of the Douglas Haig Fellowship, and Secretary General of the British Commission for Military History.
  • Nigel de Lee: He taught war studies at Sandhurst, before moving on to teach history at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, and Operations and Tactics at the Krigsskolen in Oslo.
  • Dr David Chandler: After serving as a Captain in the British Army, he lectured at Sandhurst and held held three visiting professorships at Ohio State University, the Virginia Military Institute, and the Marine Corps University. He specialised in the study of the Napoleonic Wars, and was an acknowledged expert on Napoleon's military career.
  • 'Lieutenant' Featherstone: THE Donald Featherstone, who was 'temporarily' (and unofficially) promoted from his wartime rank of sergeant and allocated to the team from 44th Parachute Brigade who assisted in the running of the wargame.

A report on the wargame was featured in the DAILY TELEGRAPH, and Richard Cox used it as the 'plot' for his 'what if' novel about Operation Sealion.

A very poor-quality photograph of those taking part in the 1974 Operation Sealion wargame at the British Army Staff College. The map over which the battle was fought can be seen in the centre of the photograph.

This book contains a wealth of information and was put together by John Curry from Paddy Griffith's notes and records. It not only includes the background information and player briefings, but also the rules used and the data required to run the wargame.

In addition, there is a scale-down version of the wargame that was devised by John Curry for use by a smaller group or wargame club. This was used at the Wargame Developments Conference of Wargamers in 2008, and I contributed my research into the naval forces that would have been involved had Operation Sealion taken place.

I think that this will be one of those books that serious wargamers will want to have on their shelves. IT shows that wargaming is not only a fun hobby but can also be a very useful historical research tool if used correctly. I leave the final words to Peter Perla:

'Finally, to me, one of the more interesting and cogent contributions contained herein is the short section on Griffith's Reflections on wargaming in general and Sealion in particular. Those alone are worth the price of admission.'

PADDY GRIFFITH'S WARGAMING OPERATION SEALION: THE GAME THAT LAUNCHED ACADEMIC WARGAMING was edited by John Curry from the writings of the late Dr Paddy Griffith. It was published in 2021 by The 'History of Wargaming' Project (ISBN 979 8 5106 7146 9).

Friday 11 June 2021

In Darkest Aithiops - Great Zimbabwe

Archduke Piccolo has done it again! His latest blog post describes a recent battle that saw the forces of Azeitonia assaulting the fortified city of Kachinga.

The fortified city of Kachinga.
The Azeitonian assault on Kachinga.

This battle report reminded me somewhat of Joseph Morschauser's 'Attack on the Great Wall of Morobad' and my own version that was featured in THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME book.

Joseph Morschauser's original 'Attack on the Great Wall of Morobad'.
The version of Morschauser's battle that was featured in THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME book.

I strongly recommend that any of my regular blog readers who is not already following events in Darkest Aithiops should do so. To date it has been an example of just how much fun Colonial wargaming can be if the players have enough imagination and the right sort of attitude.

Please note that the first two photographs featured above are © Archduke Piccolo.

Thursday 10 June 2021

A very simple and elegant mechanism

I never cease to be surprised with the ingenuity of wargamers who use my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. They manage to take my basic ideas and mechanisms, and then adapt them to suit their own requirements ... and in the process, produce really simple and elegant mechanisms that I would never have come up with.

Take Kaptain Kobold, for example. In a recent couple of English Civil War tabletop battles he tried out and refined a new turn sequence and unit activation system which is so good that I hope to copy and use it myself in the future. I won't explain it in detail but would direct regular blog readers and PORTABLE WARGAME users to his latest blog post for a full explanation.

Wednesday 9 June 2021

Battle in Africa (2nd Edition)

Back in the mid 1980s, Paddy Griffith conceived the idea of publishing a number of well-illustrated sourcebooks that would be of use to wargamers and amateur military historians. They were published by Fieldbooks and the first (and only) two titles in the projected series were BATTLE IN THE CIVIL WAR: GENERALSHIP AND TACTICS IN AMERICA 1861-65, which was written by Paddy Griffith, ...

... and BATTLE IN AFRICA 1879-1914, which was written by Howard Whitehouse. Both were extensively illustrated by Peter Dennis.

Both books have been out of print for some considerable time, and until very recently they could only be found on sale from second-hand booksellers. That situation has now changed as Howard Whitehouse's book has been republished in a new edition by John Curry's 'History of Wargaming' Project.

BATTLE IN AFRICA: THE OPERATIONAL AND TACTICAL ART OF WAR IN AFRICA 1879-1914 is not a reprint. The book has been re-typeset and reorganised so that rather than being an illustrated book, it is a book with illustrations. As a result, I found it easier to read, although it has lost a little bit of the original's almost comic book style.

It is great that this book is now available again and will appeal to those wargamers who have only recently discovered Colonial wargaming as a genre. In particular, I can see it appealing to wargamers who enjoy using A GENTLEMAN'S WAR (by Howard Whitehouse!), THE MEN WHO WOULD BE KINGS (by Daniel Mersey) and (of course!), THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME.

BATTLE IN AFRICA: THE OPERATIONAL AND TACTICAL ART OF WAR IN AFRICA 1879-1914 was written by Howard Whitehouse, illustrated by Peter Dennis, and published in 2021 by The History of Wargaming Project (ISBN 979 8 5030 7043 9). It is currently on sale at Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Arriba Espana! (Second Edition): A progress report

Work on the latest edition of ARRIBA ESPANA! is progressing well. I have re-typeset the original text, and I am currently working on the additional text I want to add. This will include a specific set of PORTABLE WARGAME rules for the Spanish Civil War that will draw upon elements and mechanisms from the earlier rules. These include political allegiances, commander competency, air superiority, and air attacks, and are intended to present players with the sort of problems the commanders faced during the conflict. I also hope to include a number of scenarios for small tabletop battles that can be used with the rules, thus making the new edition a much better book than the original.

Monday 7 June 2021

Army Black: A progress report

The first batch of figures for my FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY BLACK are finished ...

... and are already stored in their new home.

I am now waiting for some figures to be delivered from Irregular Miniatures, as these will fill in a few of the gaps in the painted figures that I already have. Once they are done, I can continue work on my ARMY BLACK

Sunday 6 June 2021

Seventy-seven years on

Today marks the seventy-seventh anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of North-Western Europe.

As each year passes, the number of veterans diminishes, and it will not be very long before we are able to identify the last serviceman or woman to have taken part in the Second World War. As a child in the 1950s, I can remember seeing members of the Old Contemptibles marching past the Cenotaph on Armistice Sunday. It is sobering to think that in the 1950s I was much closer to the end of the First World War than I am now to the end of the Second, and that an eighteen-year-old who stepped ashore on D-Day is now going to the ninety-five years old.

I happen to think that it is our duty and our honour to remember them on days like today, alongside all those who served their country before them, and who have served it since. We should never forget the sacrifices they made.

Saturday 5 June 2021

Duncan Macfarlane, RIP

Thanks to a short note by Martin Goddard (the owner of Peter Pig) on TMP (THE MINIATURES PAGE), I heard about the unexpected death of Duncan Macfarlane.

Duncan and I were members of the same generation of wargamers, and I first met him when he started publishing and editing MINIATURE WARGAMES in 1983. He was looking for people to write for his new magazine ... and I was one of the earliest to do so. So, without Duncan, I probably would never have moved on to write this blog and my numerous books.

He was a very nice chap, although he was not the quickest of payers. He once owed me over a hundred pounds for nearly two years, and I only got my money by cornering him at one of the Kensington Town Hall SALUTEs and demanding payment! He paid up on the spot ... and business over, we then had a coffee and a chat ... and I seem to remember paying for the coffee!

Duncan later sold MINIATURE WARGAMES to another publisher ... and then, in 1987, he set up WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED in competition with his original magazine. As a result, Duncan can be said to have been the father of two of the UK’s (and possibly the world's) most successful mainstream wargame magazines, and the person who encouraged so many people who became major influences in wargaming to begin to write about their hobby.

Due to the recent disruption of the annual round of wargame shows because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had not seen Duncan for some years. The last time we spoke, he was manning his stall at the SELWG show and asked me to get him a coffee, which I gladly did. We were then able to have a short chat, and he said that he was pleased to see that I had begun publishing my own books.

He will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him.

Duncan Macfarlane


Requiesce in pace

A rather grainy and out-of-focus 'captured' image of Duncan taking part in the Tyne Tees Television series BATTLEGROUND. The battle featured was a refight of the Battle of Edgehill, and his opponent was John Tilson. A recording of the programme is available on YouTube. For a man who was an excellent photographer, there are surprisingly few photographs of him in the public domain, and this is probably due due to him being more comfortable behind the lens than in front of it.

Friday 4 June 2021

Army Black: The work begins!

I have managed to fix enough figures to bases to form three FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME units for my ARMY BLACK. I have finished varnishing them and they are now ready for the next stage of the basing process.

The next stage is to paint the edges of the bases matt black, and then to flock the base with finely ground cork. The final stage in the process is to fix a thin piece of magnetic rubber to the underside of the base so that the base will ‘fix’ itself to the thin steel sheet that lines the bottom of the storage box the figures will be kept in.

Thursday 3 June 2021

Amateur Armies: Militias and Volunteers in War and Peace, 1797-1961

Many years ago, I bought and read THE DEFENDERS: A HISTORY OF THE BRITISH VOLUNTEER by Geoffrey Cousins (published in 1968 by Frederick Muller Limited).

I was intrigued by the history of the British Rifle Volunteer movement of the Victorian era, so when I saw Stephen Cullen’s AMATEUR ARMIES: MILITIA AND VOLUNTEERS IN WAR AND PEACE, 1797-1961, I decided to buy a copy.

I was not disappointed by my choice.

The book not only covers the history of militias in various nations, but also the failed French invasion of Fishguard in 1797, the development and popularity of the Victorian Rife Volunteer movement, the various left and right-wing political militias that took part in the Spanish Civil War, and the role played by the Cuban Militia in Castro’s post-revolution Cuba. The latter includes the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion, a topic of particular interest to me.

AMATEUR ARMIES: MILITIA AND VOLUNTEERS IN WAR AND PEACE, 1797-1961 was written by Stephen M Cullen and published in 2020 by Pen & Sword Military (ISBN 978 1 52673443 3).

Wednesday 2 June 2021

At last ... after thirty-six years ...

Thirty-six years ago, I began couple of projects that started well ... and then petered out.

The first was to paint 15mm-scale armies for both sides who fought during the Franco-Prussian War, and the other was to paint a 15mm-scale American Civil War Union army. I did complete about fifty Prussian and fifty Union infantry before my enthusiasm began to flag, and since then they have been sat in storage.

I rediscovered them recently and decided that I ought to do something with them ... and I now plan to use them as the basis of a couple of FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME armies. I am going to start with the Prussians, and the painted infantry that I have should provide the basis of at least half a dozen infantry units. I will need a few additional figures (officers, artillery gun crews, and some cavalry) and I have already placed an order with Irregular Miniatures for enough figures to fill the gaps.

I intend that this will be my main project for June, with writing ARRIBA ESPANA! as my secondary one.

In FUNNY LITTLE WARS, the Prussian/German Army is referred to as ARMY BLACK and has the following ORBAT, to which I have added its PORTABLE WARGAME SPs:

  • Divisional Staff Group (Commander: 6 SPs)
  • An Infantry Brigade comprising:
    • A Guard Grenadier Battalion (Elite, 4 SPs)
    • A Regular Line Infantry Battalion (Regular, 4 SPs)
    • A Regular Jäger or Schützen Light Infantry Battalion (Regular, 4 SPs)
    • A Machine Gun Company (Regular, 2 SPs)
  • A Cavalry Brigade comprising:
    • A Heavy/Guard Cavalry Regiment (Elite, 3 SPs)
    • A Light Cavalry Regiment (Regular, 3 SPs)
    • Horse Artillery (Regular, 2 SPs)
    • A Machine Gun Company (Regular, 2 SPs)
  • Engineers (Regular, 4 SPs)
  • Field Artillery OR Siege Artillery (Regular, 2 SPs)
  • Army Service Corps (Regular, 1 SP)
  • Total Strength Points = 37 SPs
  • Exhaustion Point reached after the loss of 13 SPs
I suspect that as my ARMY BLACK develops, it might acquire additional or slightly different units. However, I hope to stick to this sort of ORBAT to start with.

Tuesday 1 June 2021

A new month and a change of project

Last month I decided that in order to keep my various projects moving forward, I needed to switch from one project to another every fortnight. I wasn’t able to do that last month, but now that we are in June, I have decided to put work on my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project to one side, and to pick up work on another.

It was my original intention to move on to my Napoleonic project, but the recent gift of some excellent 15mm-scale artillery, coupled with the discovery of some painted figures that I had in storage, means that I will concentrate on putting together a couple of FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME armies. In parallel, I will continue work on the new edition of ARRIBA ESPANA!, with the intention of publishing it by the end of the month.