Saturday, January 28, 2012

What I've Been Reading This Week

It's been old school SYW on the reading shelf....

A classic if there every was one, and the book that sends wargamers off to find their high school geometry sets and then off to the lumber shop imagining reshaping insulation slabs into bastions, curtain walls and ravelins.
These two arrived in the mail this week (fast trans-Atlantic service from Cavalier Books - cheers lads), interrupted my Duffying-about .  The copy of St Michel appears to be a black and white reprint of a colour original, but still an entertaining and thought provoking read.  The Chiraz volume is in full colour splendour.

And then of course there was a new version of MacDuff to read through..

Meanwhile, the FIW/SYW regulars have rebased in groups of 4 ala Black Powder and given flags (mostly from Warflag and Project SYW for les Voluntaire Etrangers and Cambis). 

Friday, January 20, 2012

SYW Project Continues

I've been working on figures this past week, on the approach of working with what I have on hand which tends to be much cheaper, and realistic than dreaming about what lies out in the virtual wargames store.

So, I've dusted off (literally in some case) the French and Indian Wars figures, grouped them into regiments and taken them off their individual washer based and put them on Black Powder (BP) bases.  The plan would be to organize these in standard units of 24 line infantry (6 bases of 4) or 12 lights (6 bases of 2).  Steps involved:
  1. Complete the rebasing of of existing troops, including painting and flocking of bases.  This is well underway and pics fill follow this weekend.
  2. Flush out the undersized French infantry units to the 24 standard size (currently they are between 12 and 20 strong). This will require some new purchases (darn!) but it looks like the RAFM range is still available and still affordable (8 loonies for 6 figures).
  3. Ditto 3 but for the British units, although most are up to strength.
  4. Print off standards and add to the units as required.
  5. Get the boys on the table and have at 'em using either MacDuff, BP or both!

So what type of imaginary campaign do I envision. 

For starters I see actions based on the real life actions in Nova Scotia and area circa 1740-60.  We have two sieges of Louisbourg, raids and counter raids, amphibious assaults, convoy actions.  Toss in the pitched battles at Quebec and St-Foy and it's a war that actually seems based on the CS Grant Scenario books.

Down the road, adding cavalry and more European light troops and moving to Western Germany c1760.  Most of my European foot would work as is, and the companies franche skirmishers can be fielded as the voluntaire picket units.  Plus I'm betting that the Perry French hussars would work given the myriad of options in the box.

We'll see how long I stay on track with this one....

Friday, January 13, 2012


Ok how is this for an odd event - a wargamer actually gets distracted by painted figures he already owns.  RossMac's posts about the new/old MacDuff rules had me thinking about my own mostly painted but never used French and Indian Wars forces.

About 10 years back I started a collection based on the campaigns in and around my home province of Nova Scotia.  Since MacDuff mentioned 1759, I went back to see what I had and it goes like this.

  1. 3 metropolitan battalions (Artois, Bourgogne and Cambis) 12-20 strong each
  2. 1 battalion of the Vountaires Etranger (20 strong)
  3. 2 units of the Compagnies Franches each 12 strong (1 as line infantry and the other to represent skirmishers)
  4. about 24 Indians and woodsmen
  5. about 12 sailors representing either the navy crews of the fishing community at Louisbourg
  6. about 16  gunners with various light guns
  1. 3 regiments of foot (royal Scots, 40th and one other) 16-24 strong
  2. 1 regiment of colonial infantry about 16 strong
  3. 1 unit of regular light infantry (about 16)
  4. 1 unit of 6 rangers
  5. about 16 gunners and light artillery pieces
There's also a couple siege guns and a large mortar, and god knows what kicking around in various piles of unpainted lead.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Good late Night TV Viewing

I had a late night last night but for good reason.  One of the PBS channels we get on cable replayed the Nova episode with the recreation of the "Bouncing Bomb" dambusters raid.  I understand that this has played under various guises in the UK, US and Canada - and in making of episodes on "Ice Pilots NWT". There is a good Canadian connection here since the aircrew were veteran water bomber crews flying a WWII era DC4, and the recreated dam that got blown up is in Northern British Columbia.

It was well done and really caught the flavour of the original design and testing.  I loved a bit where the modern Cambridge engineering lecturer involved his kids in experiments just like Barnes Wallis did.  It's also great to see "wonder weapons" where the science is so elegantly simple.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Plans for the Christmas Break -FAIL!

Ok so I stupidly posted plans for the break here's what happened:

  • Paint up more 28mm plastic Napoleonics  FAIL (I paint in the living room to keep company with the family and the tree took up too much space)
  • Paint up my 1:1200 scale aircraft to go with the 1:2400 WWII ships FAIL (ditto)
  • Read a bunch of history books (depending on what appears under the tree)  SUCCESS (finished Peter Snow's book Wellington, Terry Wise's classic and part way through the Crimean War by Figues, plus many hours looking at wargaming mags and rules)
  • Tidy up my wargames figures, supplies and terrain (a huge euphemism for something approaching a very specific labour of Hercules) FAIL (I walked ito a nasty head cold on Boxing day, and when I was non-comatose spent my hours  helping my daughter prep for a math exam or doing family stuff)
  • Clean up the basement enough to set up a wargames table and play a couple of solo games (this one is not completely my fault as the basement work required a very hasty shift and dump in the summer)  FAIL (ditto, dust and sinus colds are not a good combination)
  • Clear the family out of a room so that I can use the floor for a solo naval game FAIL (ditto)
  • Give David Crook's portable naval rules a test FAIL (ditto, but thanks for the draft set of rules DC looks good!)
Hmmmm..almost sounds like one of the USSR's five year plans.  I must rewrite this as a success!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Of Ski Hills and Wargames Terrain - Innies and Outies

Ski trips on two successive January 2nds had me thinking about war games terrain!  In 2011 I was skiing at Lake Louise in the Alberta rockies.  

The view from the top of the chair lift at Louise - classic alpine vistas and an avalanche warning on the back face!  The view alone was priceless and the skiing was fantastic.

Taken from the Gondola station at the Louise summit but the weather had clouded over.  I'm pointing at the Chateau Lake Louise hotel (as featured in CPR holiday posted of old and scenic calendars of every era).  The Louise guide posed me before telling me why - and yes she did this about 20 times a day!

In 2012 I went skiing Asissippi in Manitoba - very good and a day trip (3 hours each way) from Regina, but not Louise.  I wish I'd taken a photo of the view from the top of the chair lift - which at one point featured a farm pickup on a gravel road at eye level!  Think about this for a minute.

The realities of skiing on the prairies are that the only slopes available are in river valleys.  Therefore the top of the slope is the surrounding bald prairie land.  Driving up to Asissippi, although we knew we were close, the first real indication that we had arrived was when we saw skiers getting off the chair beside the road.

Okay here's the wargaming connection....what works for skiing works on the wargame table too.  Here's a shot of a Canadian militia column moving west through the Qu'appelle Valley during the 1885 rebellion (taken about 80kms north of my house about 125 years ago).  

How to Hide an Infantry Column 1885
The surrounding terrain at the top of the valley is billiard table smooth grain fields now (grass lands then).  Cue the jokes about seeing your dog  four days after he ran away.  And FYI the trees (bush and scrub really) is concentrated in the valleys too.  And you really can't see the drop into the valley until you're almost on top of it.

Now skim through your CS Grant scenario books (if you read this blog, chances are you own the set).  Look at "Scenario 8 -Dead Ground" in Scenarios for Wargames and "Scenario 8 -Dry River Bed" in Scenarios for All Ages.  The 1885 photo looks about spot on doesn't it?  

The problem is how to model this on the table.  I use a felt cloth with hills placed either on top (if I have enough reasonable looking hills on tap) or under the cloth.  The "drop" requires either a lot of painted hills or a lot of surface tremors when you remove the under the cloth hills!  The best solution I've seen used Geohexes, but that requires deeper pockets and more storage space than I have!