Following on from some discussions I have followed on twitter recently (@Roll_a_One) I wanted to write a short note about two things about wargame shows that triggered a little bit of deeper thought than I normally allow myself. Also helped by the fact that I have spent more time than I ever wanted on delayed trains this week and have had no chance to do anything practical hobby wise, here we go.
1. The Show walkthrough
2. Demo vs. Participation Games
The Show Walkthrough
I had the following amusing situation (well at least in my view) at Salute a few years back (it was when Nick Dorrell and I demonstrated the Fraustadt 1706 game):
“Do you mind if I take a picture of the table?”, a middle-aged man with a beard that would be called trendy nowadays with a smart looking camera asks politely.
“Not at all!, are you familiar with the Battle of Fraustadt or the Great Northern War?”, me leaning in and hoping for some kind of interaction.
“Not at all!”, the man says taking a few shots form above and then moving away from me trying to zoom in on one of the Saxon infantry bases and his camera takes some time to autofocus (the lighting being unforgivable in the Salute hall).
“The models are from Baccus and they are mostly from their Great Northern War range, they are 6mm. Those Saxons are from their War of Spanish Succession range as the Saxons wore similar uniforms to the Western Europeans”, me moving closer and leaning even deeper.
“Couldn’t paint anything so small”, moving onto the Swedish side and taking another quick succession of shots and then a close-up of some of the cavalry bases, with the same issues with the autofocus.
“This is the decisive Battle of the Saxon campaign of the Great Northern War and as a direct consequence Charles XII managed to obtain a peace treaty with Augustus II the Strong of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin was Elector of Saxony, Imperial Vicar and elected King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. after 6 years of war”, me getting very excited and with sweeping arm movements I am set up to transfer this essential knowledge of history to the man with the camera.
“Sorry not really interested, I am just taking pictures for my blog. Do you mind moving a little bit so I can take a picture showing the name of the Battle”, he interrupted me, I moved surprising swiftly out of his firing arc, he took his snap and then proceeded to the next table repeating the procedure.
I put my waving hands behind my back and carried on! I reflected on the fact that he would never know that the marshland on the Saxon/Russian left flank was moss from my garden baked in the oven then soaked with pva glue, that the hedges around the field were made from green scourers, that the reason the line was not straight were due to a miscalculation on the available space between the two villages by the Saxon Commander, that the Saxons/Russian had been standing in their position for ages and were freezing their balls off, that the reason I painted the Russians in Red Coats was that they had turned their coats inside out to look like Saxons, etc.
I was interrupted in my thoughts as another a middle-aged man with a beard that would be called trendy nowadays with a smart looking camera came towards the table. I got my lean-in position ready.
The incident above made me laugh and I reflected on these unsung heroes rushing around taking pictures of stuff not for themselves but to share with other people who may be interested but not able to attend themselves – it s a great service and sacrifice! So to the Man with the Camera – thanks for doing this and sorry for retelling the story in what may be confused with irony or some kind of bitterness.
I find myself invariably drawn into a wargames table (yes we are drifting back towards that kind of thing again) and I am keen to understand what is going on and very often how things have been done and how it works – I am kind of into this hobby you see. It is not always obvious and I like it when a table either gives a nice history/story lesson and/or gives a great game – I love it when it does both. I also like nice terrain and clever solutions mainly with regards to decluttering the table of makers and instead using inventive markers that blend in with the table – it helps the immersion.
It is a lot of hard work and research behind most of the games that are presented at shows and my best advice when going to a show is to stop and talk to people and learn more. If you are shy just stand next to someone who seems to be part of the group until they are free and I bet someone will start talking to you. Grab a handout and ask, they did not just come to show of their game as a flashy post card in an album of many – let them give you its soul and perhaps you will fall in love with it to. Perhaps you could share this experience to the world with a little write-up and maybe a picture or two trying to convey what you felt about the game as a whole – not just what it looked like. I think we need a few more Walkthrough Reflectionists too – the slow walkthrough. Beauty, it is said, is only a paint layer deep!.
Are Demonstration Games the Opposite to Participation Games?
Some groups putting on games seem to treat shows as an outing and any passers-by as a distraction. They face inwards and normally seem to have entrenched themselves with everything they need for the day within reach – they are there to play their game with themselves. Luckily, I think these ones are in decline.
When Nick (Dorrell) and I do our Great Northern War battle we do them as demonstration games, but you can participate for as long as you like. Perhaps to try out some of the mechanisms of the game, we never expect to play the game to its conclusion – although, as a notable exception, we managed to finish Klissow 1702 a few years back at Joy of Six. The game is there as a discussion point in our case about the Battle itself, the rules we are using, the origins of miniatures and terrain, how we painted it and built it, etc. We have roles – I talk about the terrain and the miniatures (having painted and built it), Nick does the rules questions (having developed the latest set of the Twilight of the Sun King rules), we both talk about the Great Northern War (both being passionate about it). Anyone else helping gets a role depending on what they know, normally they will keep the game going.
Some time ago I heard, or perhaps read, Richard Clarke (one of the Too Fat Lardies) saying that he does not run dumbed down versions of the rules at shows to make it easy – he runs his rules as they come. I think it is important to reflect on this in how you want to present your game. I have had a lot of fun playing some game specific rules in 30 minutes at many shows, but we cannot run the Battle of Fraustadt in 30 minutes with the rules we are using – Sorry! Therefore we need to engage in a different view.
They key with a show game, in my opinion, is that it is should be there to engage with others should they want to. Have handouts to give out or to refer to, bring some books about the period (it always looks impressive) or props. We want people to get a feel for whether this kind of game, period, miniatures used, etc is something for them. Scaring people away will not showcase your particular niche of the hobby and to be honest it is at your own detriment.
Demonstration games should not be the opposite to participation games – you actually have to work as hard, or perhaps harder, interacting with the visitors. What the hell are you demonstrating? It is your flippin’ job on the show mate!, you may not get paid but you are taking up space.
Let me know what you think!
By the way, you have a chance to see whether this engagement talk is just bullshit at Joy of Six next week as Nick and I are putting on a table. You are free to ignore us, come by and take a photo and just go, or to stay around and ask a few questions if there is something of interest, or even stay and roll some dice for a while. We are happy to engage with you at any level you want.
We will be putting on a 9 by 12 table with 250 bases of the finest Russia and Sweden had to offer in 1708! – Horka 1708.
Check it up here. And here some background on the table we are putting on, but there are 22 other games ranging from ancients to sci-fi and pretty much anything in-between.
“…but in summary of Salute I can say “a lot of people, met some new and old friends, the games looked great, got some gifts(!), picked up some stuff and bought some more, What a Tanker from Too Fat Lardies looked fun, a fantastic GNW battle from Michael Leck – from my perspective the Show rolled a Six.”
From about a week ago!
We have been busy with the Little Ones year end Rugby Tournament the last week so I have not been doing that much hobby wise lately. We went to Isle of Wight and had a blast – it is a wonderful part of the world.
I realise that it is now about 10 days ago since Salute 2018, so I think there are plenty of better places for an overview of Salute – I suggest you try Big Lee’s most excellent blog here. Alternatively, or as well, you could go to youtube and watch the terrain tutors very nice video of the show (press play below) – if you have not checked out his other stuff do that as well.
What follows are just a few snippets of things from my personal experience.
Twisting the Dragon’s Tail
On St George’s Day! 100 years ago the Royal Navy attempted to block the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. The idea was to block the canal entrance by sinking obsolete ships – this to stop U-boats and light shipping from leaving port.
The game presented by the Maidstone Wargames society showed the actions of the HMS Vindictive that carried a troop or royal marines that were to take out some German Gun positions. It was a beautifully presented game and the ship was a thing of beauty and scratch built (using a lot of tomato pure tubes as sheeting material – that is hard core in my books – “What a we having for Dinner today?”, “It is another round of Pasta with Tomato Sauce!”).
Mission Command: Normandy
Mission Command is a new set of WW2 rules that promises to capture the essence of tactical and operational combat for company level to division level. It captures the way in which different armies (nationalities) operated in practice in terms of tactical and operational command, control and communication. It was a pleasure to have a chat with the guys. I found it intriguing – more information here. It is currently at the final stages of playtesting and a relatively inexpensive beta ruleset can be obtain through the link above. The game is Umpired and orders are given at the beginning of them game but can be modified. However the changes to the orders have to be achieved within command structures where the fog of war, imperfect information and confusion can cause unintended outcomes.
The Battle of Foy
Most of us remember this from the phenomenal Band of Brothers book and TV-series. This table was a joy to watch and the group presenting it was passionate about sharing their enthusiasm. I have a special place somewhere for snow terrain and this one was inspiring. The miniatures used were 20mm and it was played using the Bolt Action rules. The tall pine trees are made with the same technique as I used from my trees earlier in the year (more about how to make them here).
Tumbling Dice and another Diversion – Bag the Finn!
Paul at Tumbling Dice (link here) have a nice range of 1/600 aircraft and I bought myself a bundle of his nice aircraft that I want to use for some aerial dogfights between Finland and Soviet. They are very nice and they are relatively easy to paint them and it will not cost you a fortune to get started. I have some already that I used for Battle of Britain 1940.
I also got myself a selection of books from Amazon recently about the Finnish and Sovietic air force of the period – mostly second hand from Amazon at a not too heavy cost.
I will be using the Too Fat Lardies rules Bag the Hun for these (link here). The Scramble supplement have a little piece of using the Rules for the Finnish Winter War to get me started, but I think I will focus on the Continuation War period – those Brewster Buffalos looks far too cool!.
I was not going to but I got some of Lifecolors nice paints for this project (I got all the colours individually, from their paint set pictures below a part from the black as I thought I could get away with it!). This is a perfect on the move project as it does not take a lot of space – a handful of paints and a handful of planes and you can take off anywhere!
The only question is what playing surface to use. It would be really good have a aerial picture with good resolution of a winter land scape from above. Have not seen anyone doing one and I do not know where to get a good resolution picture from – any ideas gladly taken?
With some help from the Welsh Wizard, Mike Hobbs, we manage to order for a sufficient amount to get a healthy discount from Eureka (more here) – who did their annual trip from down under to Salute. They have a good selection of stuff and I got myself a lot of 15mm (some WW2 Australians with Great Coat and Russian Partisans) and some 28mm stuff (for my Mutant 1984).
I will show these in a later post as I have no intention of doing anything with them at the moment. Big shout out to Nic and crew – see you next year!
What a Tanker!
Too Fat Lardies were demonstrating their What a Tanker game and it looked great. Go and do yourself a favour and buy the book from here. If you need a little more convincing check out the stuff below. Had a good chat with Rich, Nick and Sidney – thanks for your time!
For more on the game if you do not want to take my word for it.
A video by the Lardies themselves:
Also check out these links for podcast whilst you paint your tanks:
The Veteran Wargamer (Jay) have gone Tank Mad in a wonderful way – check out his two podcasts for more here and here.
We are hopefully doing a game of What a Tanker this weekend using some 15mm German tanks vs Russian or American tanks – preparations are underway more to come.
However 6mm may be a good option and I spotted Baccus Shermans and Panzer IVs at Salute – they look very nice and the Sherman is due out very soon.
Michael Leck and friends, as have become tradition, presented yet another stunning table with a historical battle with a Swedish denominator – this time depicting the battle of Stäket 1719 (more here). This is a small battle at the end of the Northern War with with the King having been shot in Norway in 1718 and with the Russians and Cossacks terrorising the Swedish east coast with a fleet of Galleys (this was know as the Russian Harryings (Rysshärjningarna). The attack was repulsed but the Russians managed to escape without any damage to their fleet allowing them to continue their harrying the following year.
The galleys and the terrain boards (and a few of the miniatures) were made by Jan (who is another exile Swede living in the UK). The rest of the miniatures were flown in with Michael and chums.
As I have declated before Michael, and I, used to roll dice and use our imagination in the same role-playing club many moons ago. It is always nice to see him and his latest stuff – he actually brought me two presents, a giant stag beetle and a Swedish king. Many thanks Michael!
How much is your collection worth!
I also had a nice chat and a coffee with good friend Peter Riley who is running the Wargamer Collection Calculator (I have discussed them before on the blog, here) that now features a wargames directory with more than 1,000 traders, clubs and societies – is your club on it? Their base offer is in effect a collection manager where you can log you wargames collection in words and pictures with some high level estimate of its potential worth – perhaps for the purpose of using this as a basis for a separate insurance of your collection. Even if you do not want to insure your collection you could perhaps use it as a collection manager. Registration is free. Check them out here.
…I think that represents a biased but still fair sample of Salute goodies! I forgot the Daleks, here we go.
Horka 1708 update – Swedish Infantry and Artillery thoughts
I have been working away with the Horka project and here is the Swedish Infantry contingent. 28 bases (compared to the 64 Russian ones, presented earlier here).
I am also working on Artillery and have come to some kind of compromise for artillery. The Russian used a lot of smaller artillery pieces – battalion guns. In the accounts of Poltava once of the key elements is the Russian Artillery ripping away the advancing Swedes, changing to shrapnel for the last 200 meters. Placing a few cannons on the sides, as is the typical set-up, where the cannons representing 8 to 16 pieces of something like are shown as two bases on the sides, that does not really convey the story. So I will use thin frontage bases (15mm wide) and put them between the Russian battalions to illustrate these pieces. It may be overkill from a ratio vs model count – but we can deal with this and having a quick glance at the way it looks I do not think there is a way back. More about artillery in a later post. This was just me getting carried away!
I have been away on holiday in Sweden over Christmas with the family and the only miniatures related stuff I have been physically close to have been my copy of the Gaslands Rules. I have read them and they seem to be a lot of fun, but more about that later.
This is the second year end for the blog and I have yet again had a joyful hobby year. My original idea was to do a blog about my preparations for my Saga Game(s) at Joy of Six in 2016, but then I never stopped. I found that it gave me some kind of efficiency in a strange way and I seem to have been more productive and organised than I used to be as a direct consequence. That original post on Saga in 6mm (link here) still gets some hits, but the most popular one from 2016 is the first blog on Sharp Practice in 6mm.
With the Saga game in 6mm I wanted to show that it is possible to take a “28mm game” and change the individual 28mm miniature on a 25mm circular base and replace this with a 25mm square base with 4 to 10 No. 6mm miniatures, keeping all measurement as they were and still have a good time. The game was still played on a 3 by 4 table, just as recommended by the rules.
Saga, as a game, worked anyway and playing it with 6mm miniatures gives a different feeling using individually based miniatures – I have tried both and I prefer the multiple based version.
The other approach I have taken with regards to 6mm is that you can take a game where 28mm miniatures (to take an example scale) are normally being used and half the measurement or use centimeters instead of inches. In this case each 28mm miniature is replaced with an individually based 6mm miniature. I have done this and played Sharp Practice, Pikeman’s Lament, the Men Who Would be Kings and Dragons Rampant. It works but it is more fiddly than 28mm, but this aspect can be mitigated somewhat if you use the (1-2-3) basing as suggested in the Pikeman’s Lament rules, if your game is about figure removal from units with non-individual figures – like the games mentioned above. This method is best described by Michael Leck who came up with the idea on his blog page (see here). A blog entry shows how I based my Colonial 6mm British (see here) using this approach (kind of!), pictures below.
Here is an example of a game we played this year on a 2 by 2 board (Pictures below, link to the write up and lots of pictures here) – you could carry the board under your arm and the terrain and the miniatures in a small little box. We had a jolly good time playing it. Did I mention that it took me two short evenings to paint up each force used in the game!
Here is another one (with the write-up here), this time Ottomans vs Swedes.
As for the most popular post in 2017 it is more difficult to say and perhaps unfair to compare as some of the posts, by the nature of weekly postings, have been on longer than others. However, the first blog on Colonial 6mm using The Men Who Would be Kings rules (link above) seem to have got some wider interest and so have the other postings covering Dan Mersey’s rules (Dragon’s Rampant and the Pikeman’s Lament rules he did with my friend Michael Leck) – they are all very similar with some notable variations in the Colonial set where there are commanders for each section as opposed to the overall force for the others and the damage is based on actual figure count – not a fixed full damage until half units are left going then down to half until wiped off the table, to mention a few of the more notable differences. I refer to these as the “Mersey Skirmish Engine” (MSE).
On the whole we have really enjoyed these games and they fit us really well as the rules are simple but not simplistic – i.e. there is sufficient depth to make the decision making challenging and there is a high level of friction built-in the activation system. I mainly game with the Little One who is celebrating his first double digit birthday next year so this simple but not simplistic factor is important to us. The best children movies are the ones that contain some sneaky adult jokes – watch any Shreck movie and you get what I mean. I find that the more complicated games looses the little ones interest quicker and in some cases never really captures him to start with.
The best games was when we were using my 6mm French Indian war models with the Pikeman’s Lament set, on that horrible “wargames mat” I bought in Rhodes on the family holiday. We played a fully functioning skirmish wargaming on what in fact was a doormat (some pictures here) and had some great fun in the sun.
We also played some other games including the Terminator Game, Sharp Practice, Dreadball (a great late start!), X-wing, The Twilight of the Sun King, Road Wolf, Maurice, to mention a few. I also read and tested the new Basic Impetus rules and Sword and Spear and would like to try these a little bit more. I also did two forces for 6mm sci-fi but I am yet to find a ruleset that inspires me.
I wanted to play Chain of Command with my Finns and Russian, but I failed miserably.
Anyway here are my key painting, modelling and gaming ambitions for this coming year.
Great Northern War – Twilight of the Sun King Rules (6mm)
Painting/Modelling 90%, Gaming 10%.
The 18th century in general and the Great Northern war in particular is one of my favourite historical settings and I am currently working on the Horka 1708 battle for Joy of Six in July 2018 (here is a link to some background to this). This will be the biggest battle I have done to date and I am very excited about it and this is the kind of battle and set-up that really works with the 6mm scale and gives the look and the feeling of a real battle.
I would also like to do a smaller table to give the Düna crossing in 1701 a fair go with the Twilight of the Sun king Rules (see some discussion on the rules here). I think the “did I hit?, did I damage?, did you have armour protection?, did you manage to save? – rolling sequence” is funny and engaging for a skirmish level rule-set but I am warming to the abstraction of the Twilight rules for BIG battles more and more for every time I play them (here is a note about the rules and where to find them). I have plenty of nice modelling and painting ahead of me for these projects.
Winter War and Continuation War – Chain of Command Rules (15mm)
Painting/Modelling 50%, Gaming 50%.
I re-read Hjalmar Siilasvuo’s account of the battle of Soumussalmi (Wikipedia link here) over the Christmas break. It is an inspirational account of how, in essence, three Finnish regiments defeated two Russian divisions and one tank brigade. Siilasvuo was one of the most successful Finnish Commanders during the war years.
The Battle at Raate had ended with a total defeat of the enemies 44th Divison, The objective given to my soldiers were completed. My men had, with commendable resilience fought for over a month in the harsh winter conditions at Soumussalmi. In defiance of death they had attacked the superior enemy. Their only guiding star was the precious, common fatherland, that fought for its existence. The cost of the great victories was paid with the heroic deaths of many brave warriors. With sincerity they had given their life for the fatherland, their homes and their faith. The white crosses on the graveyards where the signs of their sacrifice. They showed the people the path to honour, a hard path, but the only path.
Translated, hastily, from H.J. Siilasvous book “Striderna I Suomussalmi”
I also went to the Cinema in my Hometown in Sweden and watched the new film based on Väinö Linna’s book the Unknown Soldier about a Machine Gun Company during the Continuation war from the mobilisation in 1941 and the early successes to withdrawal and retreat leading up to the armistice in 1944 , I have read the book and seen previous iterations of the movie and thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is fictional but based on Linna’s experiences serving in the Infantry Regiment 8 during the war – it would make an interesting wargames campaign.
I have all I need for some Winter war action as I did a platoon of Finns and Russians last year. Here are some links to those Platoons (see here and here) as well as some background you may find interesting. I will not fail these platoons this year. I hope the Little One is up for it too! Link to the eminent Chain of Command rules here. I would also like to have a go at doing a winter wargames mat, as I have not yet found anything on offer that I especially like (I have an old mat but it could be better). I also have some Russian Scouts and more than enough Finns in Summer Uniforms to do some continuation war stuff.
Punic Wars – Command and Colours Boardgame (6mm)
Painting/Modelling 70%, Gaming 30%.
I am going to do a modular board and the necessary miniatures using mdf hexagons and 6mm units based on 50 by 20mm bases. I laid out the plans in a blog entry earlier in the year – here. I am looking forward to doing this as I am a fan of the game and I have wanted to do this since I read about Dan Becker’s project many years ago (see here) and got inspired from the game presented at Joy of Six this year.
Mutant 1984 – Mutants and Deathray Guns (28mm)
Painting/Modelling 50%, Gaming 50%.
I was going to do this project using (see more here) using the Scrappers rules but I have recently decided to try out the Ganesha games set called Mutants and Deathray Guns (link here). I am keen that Rifleman Croc Lacoste gets some battle-hardening sooner rather than later, he has been waiting more than a while.
I actually did some mean looking power armoured warriors (from Ion Age, IB52 Muster Female Squad, link here) when I got home yesterday evening as well as a gang of rats (conversions from the following miniatures – 3 of the bodies from Crooked dice here, 2 of the bodies from Moonraker miniatures – 0046 Scavenger. Handgun. Shotgun here, and 0074 SMG. Rasta here, the last body on the far left I do not remember, the heads and tails are from Giants rats, also from Moonraker, here).
Painting/Modelling 30%, Gaming 70%.
This is the best thing that I have come across in 2017 and I read the rules over Christmas (link to the Gaslands page, here. Where you can get the rules and accessories). This will be fun and I have more or less everything I need to get on with it (some notes here, here and here). Being true to form I decided to do this in 6mm as I was aware of some nice looking models out there. However there are some considerations to make and I advice that you read my blog entries above, if you are considering doing this.
You need smaller templates (I went for 50%) if you do Gaslands in 6mm – this does not, in any sense of the word, mean you need to do it in less style!
Contact Lee at http://www.bendyboards.co.uk and he may do you a set or 4! Lee is the one who makes the official ones and is where I was sent when I asked Mike at Gaslands if he planned to do any smaller templates than the official ones.
In addition I may do the occasional game of Colonial skirmish, Dreadball, some Saga battles with the dark age stuff, French Indian war with SP2 or T&M, Maurice or Pikeman’s Lament with Swedes and Saxons, and I may even progress the Rommel stuff I started, but we will see. I am pretty sure it will be totally different at the end of the day/year but as long as I have fun it does not really matter.
I would also like to do some WW2 units to use for a Norwegian Campaign. I did a fair few a few years back but in a moment of stupidity let them go.
Some thanks and then I will let you go
I have done a fair number of hours at my painting and modelling desk this year, when I do this I tend to listen to podcasts and audiobooks – the following are the hobby related ones I have found especially inspirational this year and I am grateful they are doing what they do. Get some paint and click on the titles and go and listen, you may have a painted army standing before you after you finish! Thank you to all involved in the production of these.
If I had one wish it would be that the Historical Wargames Podcast got on air again – I really enjoyed that show. If I had another wish it would be great if there was a wargames podcast similar to the Grognard Files (a nostalgic throwback show to the RPGs of yesterdays) that reflected on some of the “dead” games out there. The Veteran Wargamer, for example, had a show about games from beyond the grave (link here) and I think that one was a good start – look out for Jay’s comment on the game Chess.
Special thanks this year to the Little One who possibly prefers solo computerised quests as opposed to games with Dad using painted miniatures, but never fails to get stuck in and getting on with it. At Joy of Six he ably, more or less on his own, ran the Dragon Rampant table we put up. Also a big thank you to the Other Ones who may not be interested at all in this hobby of mine but who lets me get away with spending far too much time on it.
I would also say thank you to Chris of Marching in Colour (here is a link to his excellent painting service) who has been painting a fair few of my GNW units for this and next year’s TMT project – giving me more time to do some fantastic diversions and maximising the fun in the limited hobby time I have available.
Nick Dorrell, and his chums from the Wyre Forester Wargames club (link here), we ran Kalisz 1706 at Salute this year (see here) and Lesnaya 1708 at Joy of Six (see here). Nick and I have been doing 6mm Great Northern War Battles for the last six years as mentioned above we are doing Horka 1708 this year – if I get all of it done! Also to Rob and Laurent that helped us at Salute and Peter and Igor of Baccus who always makes Joy of Six an easy gig!
Finally (almost), a big thank you for all you people out there who likes the blog on Facebook, follows it on Twitter (yes I have recently got myself wired up on this too), directly here on WordPress, or just comes by occasionally or even incidentally. I really like the messages that comes through the blog and discussions I have had face-to-face with readers of the blog at the Joy of Six and Salute this year.
Now go and enjoy the end of this year. Hope you have a great 2108 and hey! – why not give something back to the hobby! Having just eaten half of the world and drunk the other part over Christmas it tends to be at these times when we reflect on our health and promise to deal with it next year. Henry Hyde, of Wargames compendium and Battlegames fame, just released a video that may not result in your lead mountain being painted any quicker but may help you being around long enough to have time to deal with it. The video is called “Exercise Ideas For Writers and Gamers” – that is giving back big time so a my final thanks goes to you Henry! Here is a link to the video on YouTube.
I am a secret fan of the Saxon army during the Great Northern War because they seem to live up perfectly to that idiom of “Live to fight another day”. They successfully avoided a final decisive confrontation with the Swedes for more than 5 years until the Battle of Fraustadt in 1706 (see here). But this may not have led to a peace treaty unless the King (Charles XII, or Karl XII as I prefer to call him), as he did, marched into Saxony and more or less forced the Saxons to the negotiation table. The Saxon army kept its arrogance towards the Swedes during this period and famously the Senior Officers at the Battle of Klissow 1702 (see here) asked the servants to keep Lunch warm as they set out to “crush” the Swedes!. One of the key early confrontations between the Saxons and the Swedes was at the Crossing of the Düna in 1701 (here is the Wikipedia page about the battle).
In a recent blog entry I mentioned this battle when discussing the Twilight of the Sun King’s Second scenario book (see more here). As I said then, I have played versions of this battle with some other rules in the past and have treated the supporting artillery from Riga and the gun boat as off board pieces.
In addition I used a big base and placed some artillery bases on to represent a floating gun battery, but it did not look very impressive. I want to do a refight of this with the Twilight rules but thought it appropriate to make a more inspirational floating gun battery and to pimp up the 10mm boat I got at SELWG a few weeks back (see here). Here is a short note on how I made these. These are 6mm.
The Gun Boat
For pimping up the Gun boat I used some of the Baccus field guns from their early 18th century range (link here) but I cut them down to create the look of guns you would have on a ship as opposed to being dragged around the countryside in your normal artillery train. I was going to add small wheels but felt that it was not needed. I also added some Baccus Artillery crew and a few normal officers and musketeers. I had a few Microworld duelists and a model from their peasant rabble to indicate some civilians on the deck as well (see here). I thought a sack of apples on the deck from the Perfect Six range would seal the deal (see here). I arranged them to show activity on one side only, bombarding the Saxons in their entrenchments.
Apparently it was a 16 gun sloop in reality instead of this 8 gun vessel that probably makes any person “navally” astute turn their stomach inside out – but it works for me.
I then base coated it and painted it up, I did it quickly and I may go over it again when I have time and I also need to add some sails and perhaps a Swedish flag or two – but that is for another time.
Floating Gun Battery
I had seen the following drawing (taken form the Wikipedia page on the crossing, link above) of a floating Gun Battery. However but this kind of model would create a very big footprint, Remember the frontage of a battalion is 60mm (with a front row of 12 No. 6mm, not 150 or so men), the way I have based.
In my searches also saw a the nice floating mortar battery on the eminent League of Augsburg page (see more about this here),
My design is some kind of halfway house between these two designs – with both mortars and field guns and tents as per the original drawing, but shamelessly I stole the viewing platform idea from the League and made my platform roughly the same size.
I used a credit card sized base (a Health Lottery Card), and then some pieces from another card to build the front structure and viewing platform. Glued on three Baccus Mortars in the back, a Baccus tent in the middle (for the gun powder, being protected in case of rain), some cannon ball stacks, and some other stuff from perfect six – barrels and sacks. I then put 3 Baccus field guns in the front and cladded the whole thing with my special spaghetti that looks pretty good as 6mm timber [I have used this material for a number of applications, including snake rail fencing (see here), bridges (see here) and a fort (see here)]. However remember that most spaghetti stuff you find in your local Tesco will not work for 6mm – however pasta called Angel hair or Cappelini seems to be the ones to use. I bought Garofalo Capellini from Amazon in the UK – about £8 for four packs. I kept one for modelling and the rest went to normal consumption. It is fragile, but if you use it like cladding it will work and it does do a recent impression of being timber. I glue it on with super glue and trim it afterwards, I also glued on some Baccus officers and a artillery man on the viewing platform and then cladded this with spaghetti as well.
It painted up nicely and at some point I need to add some more artillery crew to make the base more dynamic, I like the front and the soot, form the firing, around the timber.
Really happy with these and it will be good to see them in action soon. Will need to do some work on a Pontoon bridge and some mobile defenses for the Swedes – as for the miniatures they are proudly standing painted in storage waiting for the gear to be sorted.
I said I was going to do some comparison shots between 6mm Post-Apocalyptic cars, but I am afraid it will be for the blog entry next week.
Horka 1708 – Notes on Russians and the Field of Battle
I presented the Swedish army I would need for the Horka 1708 battle two weeks ago and gave a little background to this what-if battle (it may help if you have not read the previous entry if you start here). For the Swedes we basically assume it is the same army that set out from Grodno in the beginning of 1708 that will fight at Horka – yes in all fairness the body of men should perhaps be reduced to allow for the attrition effect of an army on the march (illness, skirmish casualties, desertions, etc.). For the Russians at Horka, Nick provides information in his book (The Dawn of the Tsarist Empire, by Nick Dorrell, link here) on the likely composition for the infantry based on available sources (a few assumptions have been made based on this detail to produce the army list, also note that this may change as we move forward, but I want to have a list to work from in completing the miniatures – I will also need all of them for the upcoming Poltava battle so doing them will not be a waste). For the Russian cavalry we assume a similar composition to that of the Battle of Holowczyn.
The full list of units for the Russians I will be working on are presented at the end of this post.
Below is the illustration from Nick’s book, showing the Russian position at Horka, this will be used as a basis for making the table.
The next sequence of pictures show at high level how I derived the map (Call it Horka 1.0).
Still finalising batches of painting so not much to see here, hurry along… and moving swiftly over to something else.
GNW Books and Scenarios
Over the years I have met many people in the UK who are interested in the Great Northern War but struggle to find decent books on the subject in English (apart from the usual suspects like Peter Englunds fantastic book on Poltava, the Massie book on Peter the Great, or the Osprey Poltava book) – this is a shame and I wish more books were available. At the SELWG show last week I had a few discussions along these lines with a few old and new friends. For example, I think Oskar Sjöström’s book on the Battle of Fraustadt 1706 (link to it here) is an amazing book and ought to be available in English. It won the best Swedish history book of 2008 and is an absolute gem – it inspired me enough to paint thousands of 6mm soldiers with winter bases for my first Joy of Six outing many years ago whilst listening to Sabaton’s Carolus Rex album.
“At Fraustadt the Swedish forces faced An army almost twice its size. And on that day we showed the world not only Our superiority in battle but also How cruel man can be. Frozen ground, Ride with the wind Emerge from the gunsmoke like demons Rehnskiöld’s men Charging their flanks The enemy trembles with fear”
From the Song Killing Ground by Sabaton, from the Carolus Rex Album (2012)
The recent two-part Great Northern War Compendium was a very welcome addition, not just for the English reader but for anyone interested in this period, and is a fantastic set. I think you can still get copies of it from Caliver books – it is expensive and I doubt it will go down in price once the print-run has sold out.
I found a review on Amazon that I think encapsulate my own feeling about the set.
“This set is hands down one of the most lusciously detailed, illustrated, written, translated, and produced works of military history I have had the pleasure of reading in a long, long time. And that is not hyperbole. From the quality of the original research and translations, to the breadth of coverage, to the details of the individual battles and topics, to the huge number of gorgeous maps that accompany almost every article, this set is simply stupendous. Let me mention that last part again. So many works of modern military history neglect the critical aspect of cartography. With a topic as obscure as the Great Northern War maps are critical. Not only are the maps a huge part of this work, they are literally works of art. They are easy to understand, numerous, clear, and beautiful. I can not say enough good things about this fantastic resource. Even if the GNW is not your period of main interest, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed in your purchase. I would have bought this set at twice the price, and I mean that nor do I have any connection whatsoever with the publishers.”
From Jason C. Pipes review of the Great Norhtern War Compendium taken from Amazon.com 15/10/17
“So why the excitement”, I hear you thinking, “…we know about your Fraustadt Battle already and the Compendium was released more than a Year ago!”. Ok, sorry, here we go.
I noted recently that there is a book coming, preliminary in May 2018, that sounds really interesting and I pre-ordered a copy. The book is called The Swedish Army of the Great Northern War, 1700-1721 and written by Lars Ericson Wolke. Lars is Professor at the Swedish Military Academy in Stockholm and have written widely on Swedish and international military history and I have read many of his previous books with great pleasure.
Here is the blur about the book (taken from Amazon):
The book describes the development of the Swedish Army during the Great Northern War, 1700-1721, when Sweden fought against a coalition of Russia, Denmark-Norway and Poland-Saxony. For parts of the War also Prussia and Hannover joined the enemy coalition. The book describes how the Army was reorganised in the year before the outbreak of the war, with its unique allotment system of recruitment. The book also includes a list of all Army units during the 21 years of war.
The strategic situation in the Baltic Sea region in the last 1690´s is given, and is then followed up by an analysis of the strategic situation in the early 1720´s.
A description of the Army as it was at the time of the outbreak of the war in 1700, as well as the system of fortresses around the Baltic Sea is provided. The equipment and tactics of the Army are presented, not the least how they developed during the long period of the war.
The development of the 21 years of war are described and discussed to give the reader a good overview of the military (and partly the political) development. The battlefield Performance of the Swedish Army is in depth studied through descriptions and analysis of six battles and one campaign.
The book includes a list of suggestions for further reading, and is supported by a large number of illustrations including specially-commissioned colour uniform plates.
Wow! I pre-ordered a copy from Amazon here. This is part of the same series as the other book (I am wating for!) I discussed in an earlier blog entry about the Russian Army of the period, link here.
In addition, and from the same publisher, there is another Great Northern War book being completed. This one is called “The Battle of Poltava 1709” by Valerii Alekseevich Moltusov. I am happy this work will be available in English, as I suspect this may be a translation of a book he wrote in 2010 about the Battle (but I may be wrong), that was translated into Swedish. The book was brilliant.
And the blur from the publishers page:
Based on Swedish, Russian and Ukrainian source, this book presents a modern look at the pivotal battle of the Great Northern War. The uniqueness of the book is that it reveals the consistency and logic of the Russian army’s actions. The book also provides a detailed historiography of the Battle of Poltava. The author reveals the secrets of military engineering art Russian and Swedish armies. For the first time, new evidence for the location and configuration of the fortification system on the battlefield is given, as well as new information on the actions of Russian artillery in battle is given. In addition, there is much information on the strength and composition of Russian troops аt different stages of the battle, as well as an examination of the participation in the battle of irregular military formations on both sides. The author’s conclusions complement our understanding of the battle. Highly illustrated including specially-commissioned colour artwork and maps, this is a major new account of one of the 18th century’s most important battles.
Here are three other books relevant to the Great Northern War in English for you to check out, all of them are covering a longer period of history. They all give insight into the rise and decline of Sweden as a major power in the region and puts the build up to the war and its aftermath into context. I recommend all of them (the first one is normally available second hand from Amazon at a very low cost).
The Struggle for Supremacy in the Baltic 1600-1725, by Jill Lisk (link here)
A Warrior Dynasty: The Rise and Decline of Sweden as a Military Superpower, by Henrik O. Lunde (link here)
The Northern Wars 1558-1721, by Robert I. Frost (link here)
In addition Nick (Dorrell) gave me a copy of his Second Scenario Book for the Twilight of the Sun King (TotSK) rules at Joy of Six in July. It took me until recently to have a read through. It is called the Ottoman & Great Northern Wars and contains the following scenarios:
The Wars against the Ottoman Empire (1683 to 1718) – with links to Wikipedia added:
I only went through the Great Northern War scenarios. None of the tables required to play these (with a base width of 60mm, two of these bases makes a normal unit in the rules) are bigger than the normal 6′ by 4′. For each Battle there are options and in some cases what-if proposals, e.g. a field action at Narva where the Russians march out on the fields in front of Narva, instead of staying in their fortified positions, and take on the Swedes. Overall I think the mix of scenarios works well and the only one I felt was missing is the Fraustadt 1706 battle – but then I remembered it is the example battle in the main TotSK rules.
Narva and Holowczyn are attacks by the Swedes on a strong position. Klissow, Gadebush andStorkyro are more traditional battles of the era. Both the Lesnaya and the Crossing of the Düna scenario are interesting in that the objectives, from a Swedish perspective, are not necessary to win the battle outright but to establish and defend a bridgehead in the case of Düna and to limit the destruction of the marching army in the Lesnaya scenario.
We have presented both the Lesnaya and the Gadebusch battle using the rules and the scenarios at Joy of Six in the past. My favourite one is the Crossing of the Düna where a Swedish assault force supported by artillery tries to secure a bridge head whilst a pontoon bridge is being completed at the same time as a full army of Saxons are advancing. I have played versions of this battle using the Polemos as well as Maurice rules in the past and may give it a go with the TotSK rules in a not to distant future. I have promised myself this time to do it with a proper gun boat, artillery float and a pontoon bridge. I find that the additional rules in some of the scenarios for weather effect (snow storm for the Narva scenario) and rolling for enforcements in the Crossing scenario adds a nice uncertainty to the game. The Holowczynwhat-if scenario is very similar to the Horka idea.
More about the rules and the scenario books here. I also wrote a few lines about the rules in a previous blog (see here).
The 10mm Gunboat I bought last week at SELWG (see more here) is slowly going to take the role of a gun sloop at Düna – supporting the Swedish crossing.
I also got a nice surprise in that a friend of mine Michael Leck is doing a Great Northern War battle at Salute this year using the Pikeman’s Lament rules (that he and Dan Mersey wrote and I and the Little One have enjoyed played on many occassions, for example see here and here). You may recall his fantastic Fort Mosquito set-up from Salute last year or known him from some of the other stuff he has done over the years.
Michael Leck is, perhaps, more famous for the fantastic stuff he presents on his Dalauppror blog (here) and his articles in the Wargames, Soldier and Strategy magazine where he has presented snippets from the rich Swedish military history and how to adapt some popular rule set to play in these, more than often, unknown theatres. You may recall that I put up a picture of his fantastic, and award winning, game at Salute in the last blog update (here). Michael, and I, used to roll dice and use our imagination in the same role-playing club many moons ago.
From some blogs ago
He will be doing the Battle of Stäket which is the last land battle of the Great Northern war. He provided a sneak preview of the table being made recently.
But we baked you some Biscuits!
If you have not yet listened to the “The Lardy Oddcast” that you can find on the Too Fat Lardies webpage then go and do so – it is very interesting! (link here). They have produced some of the exceptionally good and innovative rules over the years (like IABSM, Sharp Practice and Chain of Command to mention a few) this give a nice insight to what is going on the Lard Island as well as in the head of the islanders – well worth a listen!
It is another welcome thing to do whilst painting or whatever else you do with your hands when you listen to a podcast. I am still yet to get going with my Chain of Command 15mm Winter War stuff – but I seem to be running out of excuses. I still have to do some of the terrain but should get cracking with a game at some point (here is were I got up to last year, link here and here). I have done a few games of Chain of Command but would really like to get a few more under my tight belt!
As you are aware, I am a fan of the Wargames Veteran podcast (link to it here) and the latest episode was another good one, especially as Jay had invited Peter Berry along for a chat. Peter, if you were not aware, is the owner of Baccus 6mm (link here) – I may have featured a few of his miniatures on this blog! (also the podcast before this one is a good one with Henry Hyde and his upcoming Campaign book, and the one before that one… and the one before that one,….).
You will find out how Baccus came about, and also why it is not spelt Bacchus, but more importantly Peter and Jay discuss the current trends in the wargames publishing market – mainly focusing on 28mm and skirmish type games. I think it is a fair observation and it is worth listening to what Peter actually is trying to say. This stems from an opinion piece Peter published on the Baccus home page recently. The underlying message is that there is something we hobbyists could do in helping and that is to submit articles to the editors of the magazines, whatever scale or type of wargaming we are into.
Jay, as always managed to nutshell the moment, with the following statement, “If we want this hobby to continue, then we gonna have to be open and willing to share , and willing to help and maybe not be so negative towards the neo-fights!”
And with reference to Neo-fights!, the Brits and Americans are yet again debating the greatness of something without having done a full sample of the market. Everyone knows that the best biscuits are from Gothenburg and are call Ballerina, and you definitely dunk these, in whatever liquid you have at hand. 😉
He also interviewed Howard Whitehouse about Mad Dogs With Guns (link here). This is a new gangster game from Osprey Games that I have made myself a post-it note to check out.
A few other things I took away from the Berry Interview were the word Scanian War range and re-sculpting the Great Northern War range!
Finally the Little One has expressed some interest in some Star Wars miniature gaming – we already have a large collection of the ships from the X-wing game – so this next venture will be into some skirmish gaming. Imperial Assault has been out for some time and soon Star Wars Legions will be out. A majority of the Fab Four at the Meeples and Miniatures podcast discusses Imperial Assault in their latest show and I am very tempted to give it a go, but resisting as I do not have time for another diversion at this moment – like the Dreadball one, having painted 6 teams over a very short period of time. Legion or Assault?- it is still open for us and not an immediate issue to resolve. Listen to the Meeples podcast here. I am a long time sufferer of the show and can proudly call myself a Meep, check it out and become one you too.
/ Have a good week-end I am certainly on a high this week, that was a long rant! But at least an early posting for a change.
Russian Army List
Here is that Russian army list, I promised earlier.
Unit – Name of the Regiment/unit
Type – Infantry or Cavalry
Ref – Reference
Polemos Bases – 60 by 30mm base with 9 riders or 24 foot – 2 of these are a normal unit in Twilight of the Sun King rules. 1 is a small unit and 3 a large unit. The X indicate how many are needed.
Class – RD – Russian Dragoon, RI – Russian Infantry with Pike.
Sometimes the work-life balance does not swing favourably in terms of time left to do hobby related activities. This week, and I suspect the next week, will be one of those times.
The little time I did have this week was spent progressing on the Rats for Dreadball and they are now ready for some detailing. When they are done it will give a full Season One painted set-up with 4 teams (including the a full complement of MVPs). Not great paint jobs but far better than the base grey colour of the plastic and I managed to do it in about 3 weeks of limited hobby time. The fact that the Little One is into it as well makes it more motivational to crack on with.
The Little One and I had a few good games of Dreadball using two human teams to get to grips of the rules – and we really like it. I really recommend the series of videos by Andy2D6 on YouTube, the first one “How To Play DreadBall – Part One: The Board” can be found here.
The following are a few shots from the games we played. The Little ones blue guys was a bonus we got when we bought another base set of eBay – to add a few more Season 2 teams cheaply. As per usual he rolled high and I rolled low, his Jacks (all-rounders) were as good slammers as my Guards (heavy hitters) and his ability to use the Strikers was very inspirational. Nevertheless after a few games we got a nice flow and we really enjoy playing it (did I say we like it?).
Since I prefer my hat Tricorne I have been looking forward to the latest version of the Command and Colors rules (e.g. Memoirs 44 and Command and Colors Ancients) called Tricorne Command and Colors – The American Revolution. I got my copy from Boardgameguru (see here) and I think that is the best deal currently on the net (or at least that I found browsing around). I have to admit that I felt that the price was a little bit steep but I had already made my mind up and I suspect the first print run will sell out fast and then it will cost even more to get hold of a copy later.
The rules booklet is downloadable here. The following scenarios are covered:
The following units are included (as the classical wooden blocks) to play the scenarios and I am tempted to do something with it in 6mm – at some point in the future. Baccus make all the miniatures needed (link to their AWI range here) and I think it would look absolutely fantastic.
/ I hope it will be like a Carlsberg – Worth waiting for! Incidentally I am also waiting for some magnets I have ordered to push on with the Rommel bases (see previous post here). Have a good week!
It seems like ages ago that we went to Sheffield for the Joy of Six 2017 and I have had my head down into work and some neglected duties like 1800mm terrain modelling (gardening) and real life painting (some feature walls instead of shield walls) with a limited amount of any useful hobby time. However, there is always some progress on some front in the Roll a One world (but more on that next week).
This is my take on the fantastic spectacle that is the Joy of Six – it is very biased as I frankly spent most of the day around the two tables I had brought. I had a few round trips but failed to take more than a few pictures of the other offerings – mainly because I ended up having a chat and then feeling bad that I had left the tables and rushed back. However, this was a little bit of an unnecessary mitigation as the games were running pretty well without my interference. The Wyre Foresters running the Lesnaya Table and the Little One the Lechnaga bash. So as far as a proper show report goes it is a limited one. For a better overview check out the report on Baccus page (link here and here).
A tale of two tables
It was a nice and sunny day in Sheffield and we woke up early as we actually managed to get to bed relatively early. The mat for the Lesnaya Battle was rolled out and it was so refreshing compared to the usual 2 by 2 feet boards I have been using in the past – that invariably have warped a little bit and/or the underlying tables being uneven leading to some interesting and unintended elevations.
I had some fears about the varnish and the rivers but it all seemed to work very well – I think I have convinced myself that I will do mats from now (more on this adventure here).
When we had put on all the trees, the houses, the wagons and the starting units I took a step back and I have to admit we were pleased. “It is GEFAG!”, the Little One said – Good Enough For A Game!
The Wyre Forrester, under the guidance of Nick Dorrell, got on with the job. Most of the time was spent talking about the table, the war, the mat and the Twilight of the SunKing Rules that was used on the day (the basing I use is the Polemos “standard” but this works equally well for the TotSK rules – one base is a small unit, two bases a normal unit and three bases a large unit).
At the latter part of the day the game started moving in earnest but did not reach a climax before we packed up.
Here are a few pictures from the action.
For the Lechnaga battle (see background here and here) we used one of the mats I did for the Saga stuff last year and the canopy forests (see more here on this terrain). The actual gaming area was the middle half of the 3 by 4 foot mat.
We decided to run the game (using Dragon Rampant Rules) with a war band/force sheet for each player and did a bespoke measuring stick based (we used centimeters instead of inches) on the units in the war band. We also did cards that to use to agree the order in which a player had a go – this created another layer of friction to the game. All, of course, colour coordinated! I have provided the files if you are interested in doing something similar.
I bought some cheap 20cm rulers for 50 pence each and printed out the file (download files here in PDF and Powerpoint – Dragon Rampant Rulers and Dragon Rampant Rulers) on some sticker paper (normal paper and glue may do as well!) and put them on the rulers where appropriate.
A then the file with the factions used on the day here Factions and here Factions .
We had a few good games – the Little One was in charge. Here are some pictures – a big thank you to the few who dared to sit down and roll a few dice with the kids. The future of the gaming community and industry salutes you! The Little One would like to give a special thanks to Oliver and Chris!
It was a very good day, but it always seems to end too quickly, here are a few of the things that I managed to capture.
Of particular interest to me was the Battle of Issus using Command and Colours (or is it Colors!) by the Wyre Forest gang. This really got me inspired to do something similar for the Punic Wars (but I save this discussion to another time – when I have not clue what to write about!). There is a picture of it on the Baccus link above.
Yet again a very good event indeed. Thanks to Baccus, Wargames Emporium and all the other people that makes it all happen. I have to extend the thank you to my two Little Ones – one doing her second year in the Yellow Joy of Six Jersey, selling entrance and raffle tickets, and the other for running one of the games. Also a big thanks to Nick and the other merry men from the Wyre Forest!
Finally and big thank you to all of you who came around and said hello and told me you were reading this blog and liked it. I really appreciate it and all you others who seem to come by every now and then!
We will back next year!, did I say thank you?
/ Have a good week!
Postscript (15/10/17): I have had a few queries on the sources of the trees I used for this project, I got these from various sources on eBay. Here are a few screenshots done on the date indicated above of what I used. None of these are based (apart form the Orbicular ones have a little of a root section) and I did it by using washers with a bit of Milliput and make a hole in, let it dry, glue on some sand and paint it up, flock it and stick in the tree with some glue. Some boring hours of work but I do think it is well worth it.
The fir trees were from Busch and I think I got 3 or 4 packs of these – shop around as I recall I got mine somewhat cheaper.