Friday 25 February 2022

A very worrying time

As I sit here at my computer, my head feeling like it is full of cotton wool and finding it difficult to frame anything coherent or sensible to say thanks to my current bout of COVID-19, I feel very sad, very worried, and not a little depressed.

Yesterday, the world went mad.

To my somewhat addled brain it looks as if one man has decided to sacrifice the lives of many, many others in order to fulfil some sort of personal warped world view. He has lied ... to other world leaders, to the world's media, to his own people, and – I suspect – to himself in order to justify what he has done. There is not excuse for this, and one hopes and trusts that the good and honest people who have been duped by him will remove him from power before he does something even less rational.

As a wargamer and amateur military historian, I probably have a better than average understanding about what is actually happening on the ground, in the air, and at sea, and the sort of choices being made by both sides. However, when one side seems to be under the command of someone whose grasp on reality appears more than a little tenuous, I get worried, very, very worried ... and more so when I know that they have a large number of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons available to them.

I hope that the fighting will stop once both sides realise that it is achieving nothing, and that they will take a step back from the brink. Until then, I will be hoping and praying that the situation does not escalate any further, and that the views of sensible and sane people on both sides prevail sooner rather than later.

Please excuse this somewhat rambling commentary on the state of the world today. I am not at my best at the moment, but I needed to get this off my chest.

Saturday 19 February 2022

I suppose that it was inevitable ...

During the night I began to feel unwell. I was shivering, could not stop coughing, had a headache, and seemingly ached in every joint. By 7.30am I had had enough, and I decided that I needed to see if I had flu or COVID-19. I took a lateral flow test ... and I got a positive result.

I have reported my result to the NHS COVID app, and I have had a message back that states that I am probably infectious and must isolate until 1st March or until I have two consecutive days of negative lateral flow tests. Sue has yet to take a test, but it looks as if she will have to join me in purdah for the next eleven days.

One result of this test result is that the February issue of THE NUGGET will be late as I have not yet managed to post it! Please bear with me, and I will post it out as soon as I am clear of the virus. 

Friday 18 February 2022

Nugget 342

I collected the February issue of THE NUGGET on Thursday, and I hope to post it out to UK members today or tomorrow ... weather permitting! I will post the copies that are going overseas as soon afterwards as I can. In the meantime, members can read this issue online.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the sixth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2021-2022 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Tuesday 15 February 2022

The death of a Brother

Yesterday I received some terrible news; the Brother who Seconded my Initiation into Freemasonry had died after a short illness.

Over the years, he became a very good friend to me. He was someone I could always rely on for good advice when I needed it, and support when things weren’t going well. He was a thoroughly decent, honest, and honourable man who typified the best sort of Freemason one could hope to meet. His death has hit me in a way that is difficult to describe because he was very much my Brother in The Craft.

We have a saying in Freemasonry that we should live a life where we are respected whilst alive and our deaths should be regretted. In the case of this Brother, that is very, very true.

I will be going offline for a few days whilst I come to terms with my friend's death.

Monday 14 February 2022

Nugget 342

The editor of THE NUGGET sent me the latest issue on Saturday, and I intend to pass it on to the printer today. With luck it should be ready by the middle of this week, and I will then be able to post it out to members at some point before the weekend.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the sixth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2021-2022 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Saturday 12 February 2022

I have been to ... Charlton House

Back in April last year, Sue and I visited Charlton Village. During our visit we were able to look at the outside of Charlton House, but due to the restrictions that were in place, we were not able to go inside. On Friday we had the opportunity to join the first guided tour of the house that has been put on since the COVID restrictions have been lifted, and we spent a very interesting hour being taken round parts of the building that are not always open to the public.

We began our tour outside, where we were able to see the original ornate entrance.

We then passed through the main door and into the entrance hall. This is currently used as a café and was too full of people to photograph.

From the entrance hall we went up the main stairs (which are still in their original condition) to the top floor.

Our first stop was in the long gallery, which ran the width of the house.

As with most houses of this period, the room was dominated by a large ornate fireplace ...

... and the ceiling was decorated with intricate patterns of plasterwork.

The next room was a former bedroom, whose fireplace was decorated with an odd mixture of Christian and Greco-Roman images.

We then progressed into another large room which was used for entertaining guests.

It also boasted an ornate fireplace ...

... and an even more heavily decorated ceiling.

The last room we visited on the top floor was a second bedroom. Its fireplace was made of black marble, which is reputed to have been so shiny that an occupant of the room was able to see the reflection of someone being attacked outside by a robber. They raised the alarm and the felon was caught and later hung in nearby Hanging Woods.

We then descended to the ground floor using the very plain servant's staircase. Our tour ended in the library, which is part of the building that was added by the Wilson family when they owned the house (see below).

Until very recently, the library has been used as a COVIDF vaccination centre, and has yet to be restored to its normal use as a meeting space and venue for musical recitals.

There were areas of the house that we were unable to visit as they are currently used as office space for various local organisations or because they were being used for filming. (The house is often used by film and TV companies for location filming for dramas and documentaries.) It is also reputed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the United kingdom, and is regularly visited by ghost hunters.

Charlton House is one of the best examples of Jacobean architecture in the United Kingdom. It was build between 1607 and 1612 to provide a home for Sir Adam Newton and the eldest son of James I, Prince Henry, the Prince of Wales.

Newton was not of noble birth, but by dint of hard work and study he became tutor to the prince and held the office of Dean of Durham. Prince Henry died very soon after he moved into Charlton House, and thereafter Sir Adam occupied it as King James's Receiver-General.

The Newton family remained resident in the house until 1658, when the house and its surrounding land was sold to Sir William Ducie. It was sold for a second time in 1680 to Sir William Langhorne, from whom it passed to Sir John Conyers (Sir William Langhorne's nephew) in 1715. It was eventually inherited by Jane (née Weller), the wife of Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson in 1777.

During the First World War, the Wilson family loaned the house to the Red Cross, who used it as their district headquarters before it was converted into into a 70-bed VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) hospital. The family was unable to restored the house to its former glory after the war, and it was sold the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich in 1925 (now the Royal Borough of Greenwich), who subsequently used the house as a museum and library. More recently it has been used as a community centre, and the former grounds have been turned into a public park.

Friday 11 February 2022

Work on the Compendium has begun

After thinking about it for almost a month, I finally began work on the PORTABLE WARGAME COMPENDIUM yesterday.

The first chapter I am writing will explain what a ‘Snakes & Ladders’ campaign is and how it works. I will also be including a blank campaign map in an appendix so that users can photocopy it and create their own ‘Snakes & Ladders’ campaign.

I will be working on the compendium as and when I have the time, but I have a feeling that quite a chunk of it will be devoted to the FP3x3PW.

Thursday 10 February 2022

Trench assault: An ideal setup for a Fast Play 3 x 3 Portable Wargame?

After I had written the recent blog post about Nick Huband's excellent 15mm World War One PORTABLE WARGAME army, he sent me a tidied up version of his sketch map of a FP3x3PW trench system.

As soon as I saw Nick's sketch, I was reminded of a map of the Battle of Ayala I saw year's ago in Robert J Icks' FAMOUS TANK BATTLES: FROM WORLD WAR I TO VIETNAM.

The battle was fought during the Chaco War and was the largest set piece battle of the war. The Bolivians attacked the Paraguayan-held trenches around Ayala from two main directions in order the straighten out the salient to the west of Ayala, around Nanawa. The two 'wings' of the attack were conducted by three infantry battalions (each with 450 rifles and 20 machine guns) supported by a dismounted cavalry regiment equipped with flamethrowers, two 65mm mountain guns, and two Stokes mortars. In addition, the right wing had two Vickers 6-ton tanks and the left wing had a 6-ton tank and two Carden Lloyd tankettes. In reserve were three additional infantry regiments (each of two battalions) on the right, one in the centre, and two on the left.

The battle began with a Bolivian 'massed' fifteen-minute-long artillery barrage by twenty-five field guns and twelve howitzers (the largest artillery barrage ever seen in South America up to that date!) and the explosion of a mine on the left wing. Unfortunately the mine tunnel was too short, and when it exploded its effect on the Paraguayan defences was minimal.

The battle was conducted in temperatures of up to 95˚F, the tank crews kept having to be replaced due to fatigue and heat exhaustion, and weapons jammed and rounds 'cooked off' due to the heat. The attack drove in the Paraguayan defenders, but never broke through the trench line, and in the end the Bolivians called off their attack after suffering horrendous casualties.

This battle looks like an ideal candidate for a FP3x3PW battle ... and I know someone who already has the figures to do it!

FAMOUS TANK BATTLES: FROM WORLD WAR I TO VIETNAM by Robert J Icks, Colonel (AUS Ret.) was published in 1972 by Profile Publications Limited (ISBN 0 85383 280 3).

Wednesday 9 February 2022

A much-appreciated birthday present

As some of my regular blog readers will know, it was my birthday last Monday, and one of the presents I got was a copy of BISMARCK SOLITAIRE by Mike Wylie, Sean Cooke, and Grant Wylie III. The book was given to me by my old friend and fellow member of Wargame Developments, Tony Hawkins.

The book contains a solo wargame. In fact, there are eight separate 'missions' a player can undertake, along with a training 'mission' so that they can learn how the rules work. As the following example shows, other than a couple of D6 dice and a pencil, everything you need to play the game is in the book.

I am currently about to try out the training 'mission', and after that I hope to undertake each of the eight 'missions' as and when time permits. I might even keep this book as something to take on a future cruise with me, especially if our course takes us out into the Atlantic.

Thanks again Tony for a wonderful present!

BISMARCK SOLITAIRE was written by Mike Wylie, Sean Cooke, and Grant Wylie III, and published in 2021 by Worthington Publishing (ISBN 979 87565 4806 8).

Please note that the images featured above are © Worthington Publishing and are included solely for the purposes of this review.

Tuesday 8 February 2022

Nick Huband's World War One Portable Wargame armies

A couple of days ago, Nick Huband (who I have know for many years) sent me some photographs of the latest additions to his 1914-era World War 1 collection. The figures were all made by Peter Laing, the originator of the 15mm wargames figure, and although the figures may appear crude by modern standards, they were ideal wargames figures ... and at one stage owned several hundreds of them.

As can be seen from the following photographs, Nick seems to have a knack of painting his figures with just enough detail to make them look very effective without having to go overboard.

In addition to his photographs, Nick sent me his proposed trench layout for a FP3x3PW set during the Great War:

It seems to me that this sort of battle is ideally suited to the FP3x3PW concept, and I look forward to seeing Nick's battle report.

Please note that the images featured above are © Nick Huband.

Monday 7 February 2022

VCOW … and a halfway point

This year’s VCOW (Virtual Conference of Wargamers) took place over the weekend, and I was able to take part in several sessions.

On Saturday, alongside two other members of WD (Wargame Developments) who are experienced intercellular wargamers, I was a ‘talking head’ about wargaming the interwar period. My contribution was to give a brief outline of the conflicts that took place and some sources of inspiration that potential players might find useful. These took the form of two short MS PowerPoint presentations.

Wargaming the Interwar period

Wargaming the Interwar period: Some sources of inspiration

I also took part in Vishalji Odedra‘s excellent DUNE game, where I was a member of the House Atreides team ...

... and Russell King's game about degenerate art in Nazi Germany.

It was a great weekend of online wargaming, talks, and discussions ... and was almost as good as being at COW proper!

During a short break in VCOW, I got talking to a fellow history teacher (I am retired but he is still working at the chalkface) about the different ways we and our students perceive what 'modern history' is. To them, it is what happened in the recent past, but to us it is about events that we actually lived through.

I related the story of teaching an A-level History class about the Cuban Missile Crisis and having a student comment that 'you talk about it as if you were actually there' ... and the shock on their face when I told them that I was a teenager at the time! My colleague responded that there were now no children in the UK school system who had been born before 9/11, and how sobering a fact that he found it to be.

This set me thinking. It is my 72nd birthday today (please, no congratulations!) and the day I was born was halfway between 1878 and 2020! I suddenly realised that I was born closer to the date of the Anglo-Zulu War than I to today!

A somewhat sobering thought, isn't it?

Sunday 6 February 2022

Revitalised and astounded by the Fast Play 3 x 3 Portable Wargame

Looking back over recent weeks, I have just realised that in the space of twelve days I have fought five wargames ... which is probably more wargames than I took part in during the second half of 2021!

My wargaming had rather stuttered to a halt in the latter half of last year, and my motivation was almost non-existent by the beginning of this year. This is one reason why I took a longish break from wargaming and blogging in the period after Christmas, in the hope that the cruise we went on would recharge my batteries and revitalise my interest.

To a certain extent, it did, but what really revitalised me was Mark Cordone's Fast Play 3 x 3 PORTABLE WARGAME concept. In fact, it is only twenty (20!) days since he first mentioned it on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook Page ... and since then quite a few variants of the rules have appeared and been used. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, it has become a bit of a phenomenon.

The reaction to the concept has been interesting. Some of the wargamers who are experimenting with it are looking at it as a means by which they can fight campaigns in a relatively short time, whilst others are hoping that they can use it to wargame when away from home or when time and space are limited. Others are experimenting with it to see if they can refight larger battles in smaller, more manageable 'chunks', which would give then the sort of tactical feel that they want from their tabletop battles but within a larger, higher level game.

Whatever their motivation, the sheer volume of blog and Facebook posts devoted to FP3x3PW seems to be growing, and thanks to emails and the Internet, the exchange of ideas, rules, and battle report has been greater than I have ever seen before in wargaming. FP3x3PW might not appeal to everyone, but those wargamers who have embraced it do seem to be enjoying the experience.

Saturday 5 February 2022

The Battle of Portagrad

The German advance in Russia has reached the city of Portagrad, and they are about to mount an assault. The defenders have managed to throw up some defences around the city, but they know that they are outnumbered by the attackers.

German assault force

4 x Infantry units (3 SPs each)

1 x Heavy machine gun unit (2 SPs)

1 x Light artillery unit (2 SPs)

1 x General (2 SPs)

Total: 18 SPs

Russian defence force

2 x Infantry units (3 SPs each)

1 x Infantry SMG unit (3 SPs)

2 x Light machine gun units (1 SP each)

1 x Light artillery unit (2 SPs)

1 x General (2 SPs)

Total; 14 SPs

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

Both sides set up their forces within their respective Reserve Areas, and units were only allowed to entre the battlefield when they were activated.

Turn 1

Both sides threw a D6 die to see who would have the initiative this turn and how many units they could activate. The Germans threw 3 and the Russians threw 1.

The Germans moved 3 infantry units onto the battlefield and the Russians responded by moving 1 infantry unit into the city's defences.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

As no units were in range of each other, there was no Fire Combat.

Turn 2

Both sides threw a D6 die to see who would have the initiative this turn and how many units they could activate. The Germans threw 2 and the Russians threw 3.

The Russians moved their two light machine gun units and their General into the city's defences and opened fire on the advancing Germans.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

Their fire was very accurate, and two of the German infantry units lost 1 SP each.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

In response, the two German units that had suffered loses moved forward ...

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

... and fired at the Russian light machine gun units ... with no effect.

Turn 3

Both sides threw a D6 die to see who would have the initiative this turn and how many units they could activate. The Germans threw 3 and the Russians threw 5.

The Russians moved their remaining infantry unit and the infantry SMG unit into the city's defences ...

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

...whilst the two light machine gun units fired at the two German infantry units that were threatening them ... with devastating effect as both German units lost a further 1 SP each.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

To add insult to injury, the Russian light artillery unit fired from the Reserve Area at the third German infantry unit ...

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

... and inflicted a loss of 1 SP on it!

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

In response, the two depleted German infantry units charged the Russian light machine gun unit ...

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

... and in the ensuing Close Combat, both sides lost a 1 SP ... and a German infantry unit and a Russian light machine gun unit were destroyed.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

The German light artillery unit attempted to engage the Russian light artillery unit with counter-battery fire, but it missed.

At this point in the battle Germans had lost one third of their original force, and I decided that there was no chance that their attempt to break through the defences of Portagrad would succeed and I halted the battle. The Germans had lost 6 SPs and the Russians had lost 1 SP.

Notes about the rules

The rules used were those currently available as a PDF entitled Fast Play 3 x 3 PW Russian Front Rules in the Files section of the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook Page but with the following changes:

  1. Light machine guns throw 2 D6 dice to fire and can move and fire in the same turn but only have 1 SP.
  2. Heavy machine guns throw 2 D6 dice to fire and cannot move and fire in the same turn but have 2 SPs.
  3. Neither side was allowed to set up any of their units on the battlefield. They had to be deployed from their respective Reserve Areas. This had the effect of making the 3 x 3 grid feel larger.

Lesson learned

  1. The changes to the rules that separate Fire Combat (i.e. one unit firing at an opposing unit in an adjacent grid area) and Close Combat (i.e. one unit fighting an opposing unit in the same grid area) worked better than I expected.
  2. Giving different units different Strength Point Values also worked well and gave infantry units more staying power.
  3. Making each side deploy from their Reserve Area increased the tactical choices available to the players.