Friday, 30 May 2014

You'll need to get a wiggle on for this!

Dalauppror is celebrating hitting the 400 followers mark (407 as I type this) and 300,000 page views with the now traditional give-away.

http://dalauppror.blogspot.co.uk/

Anyway, he's offering a smorgasbord of fine prizes, but, unlike a typical Scandinavian noir crime series, he's fast off the mark and will close the competition "by the middle of next week"!

http://dalauppror.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/giveaway.html




The comp details are here - certainly clearer than a set of assembly instructions from Ikea.


;O)

Blogification

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The current Liebster round appears to be reaching epidemic proportions. It’s set me thinking about wargames blogging (or maybe blogging in general) as a pursuit because wargaming is a very visual hobby and, at first glance, might not be best suited to support its own little solar system in the blogging universe.

It’s a fairly lonely pursuit, this wargaming thing. Even with access to a club or regular opponents, the gamer will spend the vast majority of his or her hobby time on support activities such as prep work and painting, churning out miles of model roads or, not least of all, reading. Consequently, this involves hours of relative isolation during which the mind is wont to wander despite DVD’s, MP3’s or dreams of empire. This wondering often develops theories, re-runs past traumas or glories, nurtures ambitions or magnifies small objects of desire. The outcome can sometimes lead to frustration, sometimes to bewilderment, but most frequently to silence. When wargamers gather there is often little time to expound theories because their aim is to apply the lancet of a wargame.

So, what to do about these unspoken thoughts? There must be many a gamer who has wandered through life wondering if his or her thoughts on the hobby were unique, profound or just damned stupid. That is until those same thoughts appear in someone’s blog and the realization dawns that you’re not so bloody clever after all. Although there is always a certain amount of froth along with substance, the ensuing comments and online conversations form friendships, occasional differences, generate inspiration or share techniques and information. The drivers for bloggers aren’t common though, be it self-aggrandizement, a record of achievement, publicity for enterprises or projects or simply a cathartic exercise - it’s amusing that many bloggers volunteer information they wouldn’t divulge to their spouse or colleagues so it’s sometimes a sort of online confessional. Still, it’s a broad church, which can accommodate all.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Liebster Award.

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Ich habe ein auszeichnung !





Many of you will have spotted that it’s Liebster Awards season again.  I am flattered to say that Edwin King of the ‘Thoughts of a Depressive Diplomatist’ blog has had the good sense to take time out to demonstrate his impeccable taste and nominate good old Happy Valley. Well, who can argue?

The Liebster Awards are a purely nominal award in which bloggers recognise their peers and so, unfortunately, they have no monetary value.  In turn the recipient is required to make nominations, a little like a chain letter, but without the threat of death or something horrible happening if you don’t accept. If they can’t find any blogs that qualify that they actually like, then they probably just go down the list of blogs they follow and sort out the ones that do until they meet the quota.  Given that it doesn't have any questionable moral pressures (though it may occasionally dredge up individuals with questionable morals) I’m quite happy, nay, honoured to accept the award and pass it on, not like typhoid or anything, but as an acknowledgement of some fine blogs that deserve wider exposure.


Although there’s a broad consistency in the ‘rules’ of the award, it’s apparent that, over time, someone has buggered about with them. I can only assume the culprits were wargamers who simply can't resist tweaking rules of any sort. The 'official rules' can be found here, but, in the true spirit of the blogosphere, I'm going to ignore some of them and stick to those elements that appeal to me most/require least effort. So, here we go!


Post the Logo and Explain the Award

Tick


Thank and Link to the Nominator 
Tick!

Answer Questions about Yourself:

These are the questions posed by Edwin and the answers are, as ever, honest and truthful . . . .

  1. How would you describe your blog?

It’s already been described by a member of the clergy as “all over the place”, which is probably true. Although it's primarily about wargaming and painting, all sorts of bits and bobs find their way in, but that’s what I think gives it its charm eh?

  1. Why did you start blogging?

Because of the terms of my ASBO, I had to find something to keep me indoors during the curfew. I’d run out of ideas for begging letters and the inspiration for hate mail had dried up, so I thought blogging was a reasonable substitute.

  1. How do you relax (if it's not blogging)?

Drinking; abusing neighbours; molesting cats; pressing wildflowers.

  1. What is your favourite holiday destination?

Haven’t got one. What’s the point of going to the same place twice for a holiday? I know lots of people do this, but it’s not for me, although I involuntarily get dragged to places by Chris.

  1. Who inspires/has inspired you the most?

Joe Shaw from an Oldham (Lancs) modelling club back in the 70's and 80's as far as painting goes, and maybe Peter Gilder too.  Tenzin Gyatso (the current Dalai Lama) for life, the universe and everything, though I’m not a Buddhust. All disabled athletes.

  1. Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Cos you can carve your initials in the back? It’s not that, is it?

  1. 'Star Trek' or 'Star Wars'?

Despite the cardboard sets, awful make-up and lamentable acting, Star Trek comes second.

  1. What was the last book you read and the last you bought?

Read: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” (Neil Gaiman) – no, read it yourself you idle sod!

Reading: “The Falklands War” (Martin Middlebrook). Now then, normally I like this author, but in this book he continually promotes British warships from frigates to destroyers. Makes me wary of the whole book if he can’t even get that basic right.

Bought: “Broken Homes” (Ben Aaronovitch) & “Salford Pals: A History of the Salford Brigade . . . .” (Michael Stedman) – both still on the way from Amazon/The Book Depository.

  1. Who is your favourite fictional character?

It’s difficult to pick just one. Mr Micawber; Smallweed; Oblomov; Krook; Corporal Trim (or maybe Uncle Toby), Steerpike – nobody you might describe as wholesome.

  1. Which historical event would you like to visit?

What, like Dr Who style? I’ve always fancied doing D Day all-in. My Father was there and so were a couple of his brothers. However, I’d revisit the death of my mother-in-law time and time again, it was a great afternoon.

Nominate 6-12 blogs for the Liebster Award

This is a bit of a tough one because there are some excellent blogs out there. The principle aim of the Liebster scheme is to promote blogs and raise their profile. It seems churlish to limit the list to up to a dozen. However, I’ll stick to Edwin’s benchmark and go for those with less than 300 followers (and hope nobody’s beaten me to it). A couple are not too far off the mark, but I think they’re worth seeing. I've avoided those I know to have been nominated already this year and also those which belong to companies or manufacturers.


A blog run by Walter Morrison and Roy Fitzsimmons, it contains much more than you might think from the title. It’s a wealth or modeling and painting inspiration supported by lots of historical information.


Pete Barfield’s Very British Civil War blog which includes not only beautiful modelling and painting, but original art work too


Nothing to do with vampires and such, it’s a wargaming and painting blog. An excellent source for terrain ideas and good painting. Lee’s painting speed is obscene, but he’s licenced anyway . . . .


A bit of an erratic poster, but a red hot modeller and painter, Nigel has produced vehicle masters for a variety of companies and is a long time SCW fan (if that’s the right word). Well worth a look.


Dave Docherty’s blog full of painting inspiration and hints & tips AND he actively supports Bloggers for Charity and Blogcon.


A weekly delve into the philosophy of this dark hobby. Really interesting posts which make you think.


If you can’t get inspiration from Willie Anderson’s blog they might as well screw the lid down . . .


      If Carlsberg did a 15mm Napoleonics blog . .


      Ostensibly the Mad Guru’s take on a colonial episode, but much more than that.


A renaissance oriented blog which focuses on the early Tudors, with Landsknechts and sculpting information thrown in for good measure.


Exceptional (late Medieval) modelling and painting site!


A gentlemanly stroll through wargaming, nostalgia and all sorts. It’s a good blog for when you want de-stressing.

Damit, run out of my allotment! I can think of several more I wanted to add, but there you go. However, as it doesn’t have an actual owner as such, I’ll take this opportunity to mention the 'Blogcon’ blog. It’s the main blog for the Blogcon events and worthy of a visit – you ought to join. Also, don’t forget ‘Bloggers for Charity’ (see top right) as Edwin mentioned. Oh yeah, I'd better slip 'The Blog with No Name' in as I've got no mention of 6mm!

O.K., done that, so here’re my questions:

1.      How would you describe your blog?

2.      How did you pick your blog’s name?

3.      Why did you start blogging?

4.      How do you relax (if it's not blogging)?

5.      Is figure painting a chore or pleasure?

6.      How do you deal with burn out?

7.      What are the three things you cannot   live without?

8.      What was the last book you read and the last you bought?

9.      Who is your favourite fictional character?

10.   Ball point, rollerball or fountain pen?



 There, that wasn't too bad, was it?






Monday, 19 May 2014

Justin time for Mr Penwith's competition!




Having reached the apparently mystical 50,000 hits for his blog, The Royalist Roundhead, J.P. has decided to have a give away. This one's for a set of Too Fat Lardies rules from a wide selection, so you can bet I'm interested. The key question is pretty simple and the usual rules apply - see them here. You'll need to get a wiggle on as the closing date is 26th May, coincidentally my mother's birthday, my mother-in-law's birthday (BOO!) and my daughter's wedding anniversary (enough positive portents for you?)
Naturally, I not long ago made a scoop purchase of some TFL rules, but there's still a set I've got my eye on so back off!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Bit of a ruminate.

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There’s blog called ‘Polemarch’ (I think I've mentioned it before) whose author regularly poses some penetrating observations and questions about aspects of our hobby. It’s an excellent read (so go and do so), but it does make you think, so be careful. He’s posed a good one today (usually does), but, rather than comment on his blog and take up valuable space, I’ve done so here.

I think there’s a difference between what a wargamer expects his armies/rules to achieve and what is historical fact (or as near to it as we can get). Unless we’re going to go scenario specific then we’re bound to accept a certain amount of generalisation if only for sanity’s sake.

In the great days when ignorance was bliss, ACW rules were essentially Napoleonic rules with longer weapon ranges and so called Ancients covered just about anything up to the horse and musket era. The hobby thrived, obviously, but the emphasis was on game rather than simulation. Now we’ve moved well into the simulation era (and maybe out the other side in some cases), and most (?) gamers expect their rules to reflect the period they’re supposed to represent. That’s not unreasonable, but two things can happen: the gamer takes the rules as gospel (oh God, another convert!) or rejects them because they don’t conform to his/her own impressions of the period. I maybe ought to say imaginings of the period because, although we’re pretty much the same animal as Alexander’s or Napoleon’s soldiers and share the same nature, we’ve certainly been nurtured differently – food, lifestyle, education etc. So, we can only really have a reasonable grasp of the environment of a campaign or battle rather than an intimate knowledge based on experience. This includes re-enactors who spend short periods ‘in character’ and then retreat to their double-glazed, centrally heated homes with all mod cons. 
Even reading first hand accounts is fraught with pitfalls. When I write my memoirs of my experiences as a Cold War Warrior, you can bet your granny’s false teeth they’ll be sanitised and I’ll be a thoroughly good chap. Nevertheless, for about 99.9% of wargame periods we have to rely on the written word for historical information (and that includes translations of varying accuracy for most of us) with all its bias and axe grinding - Hofschroer seems driven to reduce the British involvement in the 1815 campaign to simply providing the oranges at half time.

I think the biggest challenge is bringing character to a period, beyond the simply physical capabilities of weapon etc. (though you still have to be very careful with this), by introducing the morale aspects, be they national characteristics or the abilities of commanders. Just to use Napoleonics as an example, I’ve banged on about Austerlitz a couple of times in the past, so why break with tradition? Normally (if there is such a thing as normal in this period) Russian troops are strong in defence and hard to defeat and Austrians are . . . well, just Austrians: not particularly inspiring, even though they did beat Napoleon – O.K. once. However, here’s a quote from Robert Goetz’s “1805:Austerlitz” (pp207-208):

“ . . . the fighting on the Pratzen Heights demonstrated the mismatch between the armies, pitting some of the weakest battalions of the allied armies against some of the best of the French Army. Despite this, allies held the French back for a surprisingly long time, demonstrating a toughness and resilience for which they rarely receive credit. . . . . Finally the Austrians of Jurczik and Rottermund performed better than could be expected of a force that was half composed of raw conscripts”

Couple of caveats. The Russians broke, but the battalions involved had acted as rear guard for part of the allied armies for the previous several days and began the battle tired and under strength. The Austrians retreated in reasonable order, but were fighting under the nose of the Tsar and his staff so had an added incentive.

Although this cuts across most of the accepted Napoleonic standards, it can fairly easily be modelled in a set of rules, but would they become so cumbersome as to be unusable if every eventuality were to be covered?

So, ignoring the influence of the cinema (God forbid), armed with huge amounts of information of often questionable quality, some zealot will eventually want to translate this into a set of rules. The problem here is that rule writers are not necessarily the best historians and vice versa. I read lots about a period and have never gamed a period I wasn’t interested in historically. However, I’ve always felt that, apart from (very) occasional bursts of brilliance, my home-grown rules are a bit ‘clunky’ and lack polish. Conversely, I know a luminary of the wargaming fraternity who, although not the brightest star in the academic firmament, can’t half write a good rule or two. That’s not to say I’m an historian, but you get the drift.

The solution for me is to find a set of rules that satisfy my ‘near enough’ criteria and get on with it. If I find something unbearable, I can give the rules a tweak.

For those who’ve read too much and have a headache, here’s a picture of a Dixon ACW figure with a Redoubt head. I like much of the Dixon range, but I’ve always found their heads a bit of a challenge aesthetically. This one was too good to waste, despite the hand cannon:

Friday, 9 May 2014

Tamsin's competion this time!

Tamsin Piper's having a quick (and I mean quick!) give away on her Wargaming Girl blog

She apparently feels honour bound to get a comp underway (why, I don't know) and seems driven to give away some nice gangster figures. I mean nice figures, nicely painted, not that they're figures of nice gangsters, which is an oxymoron.

Simple entry details are here, but you'd better get a wiggle on as the closing date is Friday 16th May. Personally, I'd make the competition really hard, but she's obviously a much nicer person than me.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

ANOTHER competition (can't keep up with this!)

Loki (can't mention his real name because Max Clifford is his agent) is celebrating 400 posts, 150,000 hits and his blog's third birthday. There's probably something else, but what the hell?

http://napoleonicwargamingadventures.blogspot.co.uk/


So, there's a celebratory competition to enter with some tasty prizes, but it's not that easy - there is a set of rules to follow (see here). The comp ends on 31st May so you've got a bit of time yet which you can spend researching your answers.

Good luck!

11th New York Volunteer Infantry (Ellsworth's Fire Zouaves / First Fire Zouaves / New York Fire Zouaves - take your pick).

The comments on the previous post about the Fire Zouaves has prompted me to post a picture (nicked from some website or other) of the uniform in question. By the way, the jacket was supposed to be the same shade of blue/grey as the trousers:


This is known as the 'First Uniform' which, though dapper, fell apart after a very short time and was replaced with the Garibaldini look-alike kit so beloved of every sculptor this side of Nagasaki. Fair enough, the regiment never actually wore their first uniform in the field (the second uniform was issued just prior to 1st Manassas/Bull Run), but it is more interesting, I think.

There is a wealth of Zouave uniforms with minor variations to them, and it'd be great if they could be sculpted. I suppose the only realistic way would be to adopt the system used by Redoubt with three part figures (legs, upper body and head) and sculpt, say, 'chasseur' and 'zouave' legs with a variety of upper bodies and heads. That way you could have just about any zouave unit represented and, with a little bit more work, even extend the scheme to include units from C19th Europe.

Friday, 2 May 2014

First of the ACW Zouaves

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Technically I’ve been messing around. The knee has been a bit slow to get right, been on antibiotics and life, the universe and everything seems to have conspired against me doing anything worthwhile for a month or so. However, I have made a start on the mis-bought Perry Zouaves and I’ve fiddled around with other stuff.
I say the Perry figures were mis-bought because they’re really a failed idea. They were bought to represent the NY Fire Zouaves in their first uniform, which I think was rather natty, but, as usual, it pays to look more closely first. The figures are near enough, but not near enough for me (which is saying something). The presence of a cummerbund and the wrong shaped belt buckle killed that one. I’d be prepared to assault a handful with tools and Miliput, maybe, but not a couple of dozen. So, off we went (I actually mean ‘I’, but it sounds like some heroic quest) in search of a unit which had a) the appropriate uniform and was b) easy to paint. Well, easy for a zouave unit, that is. Although there were a couple of units which fit the bill, I settled on the Salem Zouaves as they’re easy to paint, but still look like flash coves.

The Salem Zouaves only accounted for Company I of the 8th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, so painting a whole battalion (or, if you’re an ACW purist, regiment) of’em is stretching a point. Still, when has that ever bothered a wargamer? They spent most of their time hanging around guarding things, so the Iron Brigade needn’t worry about losing their Michelin stars.

Quick snap of some of the first batch. More to come when the unit’s finished:







The next part’s on books, so anybody who doesn’t do reading can carry on surfing from here.

Having read the book on Buford, I thought I’d give Michael Shaara’s “The Killer Angels’ a go. This is the book which won the Pulitzer prize for Fiction in 1975 and was the inspiration for the film “Gettysburg”.


Now, I like the film despite its little foibles (stick on beards, salad dodging re-enactors and all) and I accept that it’s more a series of snapshots of the three day battle rather than a serious record of it. However, having now read the book, it’s apparent what a breeze of a job the screenwriters had as the film is pretty much an animated version of the book.

So, what about the book? Michael Shaara certainly had a good imagination and does bring the characters to life, but I’m not sure how accurate these lives are. It’s certainly a pro Longstreet tale, but I think it  goes a bit far with the portrayal of Lee’s mental and physical condition and Lt Colonel Arthur Freemantle (Coldstream Guards) is an utter moron. In short, you’d be wrong to think of this book as being a definitive guide to Gettysburg, but it does give a flavor of the battle and the period. It’s much closer to the picture than, say, if you were to take “Shaving Ryan’s Privates” as a record of D-Day and the Normandy campaign. It’s pretty well written and changes its pace well, so give it a go. I do think it leaves us with the age-old debate as to whether Meade won the battle or Lee lost it.

WARNING: this next section includes questionable opinions and suspect facts. May contain nuts.

I know that the ACW is a bit of a Marmite period to many and I can appreciate that. It’s got a few hurdles to overcome and, for people of a certain age, there are questionable films, the Airfix figures and for years it was the only horse and musket gaming within the grasp of most mortals without surplus income, indulgent parents or access to enough plasticine and banana oil. Even after this, it existed as a poor cousin of Napoleonics (which demanded more painting skill and certainly more time and money). Eventually someone smelled a rat. These rules and figures weren’t producing games that looked anything like the ACW. Books were read and this caused other books to be written and a new species of button counter began to appear. After a while rules like “Fire & Fury” and “Johnny Reb” appeared and somebody put wheels on the bandwagon.

Having been through the ‘Civil War’ bubble gum card phase (weren’t they awful?)  and done the John Tunstill’s rules thing, this was like a breath of fresh air because you know what comes with new rules? New figures! Bit of a chicken and egg here: did the (then) new Freikorps and Old Glory figures prompt new rules or vice versa? I remember the ‘Happy Time’ when the new style rules, new figures and Paddy Griffith’s books all blossomed more or less together.  I say Paddy Griffith because he produced two excellent books on this period of warfare and these serve to represent the growth and increasing availability of ACW related titles, particularly via Amazon.

Battle in the Civil War: Generalship and Tactics in America, 1861-65; ISBN 1869871006

Battle Tactics of the American Civil War; ISBN 1861264607

If you want to get into REAL detail, then try to get hold of Brent Nosworthy’s

The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the American Civil War; ISBN 1845292200

By the time Ken Burns’ documentary series hit the screens I was under sedation.

Now, I did think of doing a what’s good and what’s dud on ACW books, but there’s a mass of good stuff out there. If you’re not that familiar with the period then Bruce Catton (like him a lot) and Dupuy & Dupuy produced decent, single volume primers:

Catton, Bruce; The Civil War (American Heritage Library); ISBN 0828103054


R. Ernest Dupuy & Trevor Nevitt Dupuy; A Compact History of the Civil War; ISBN 0446394327


I have difficulty in understanding why anyone would want to get involved in a period without understanding what the war was about and what caused it, let alone what happened and why. In this case, get hold of a copy of James M. McPherson’s


Battle Cry of Freedom; ISBN 0140125183 (or hang your head in shame)

After this there is a mountain of good books on the various campaigns and battles and a fair pile on the personalities.
So where did that come from? Well, part of it is the result of an online discussion with a non-wargamer (but history buff) who sparked things off with a comment about the old Airfix ACW artillery set, which really captured my imagination back in the 60’s. The rest came about from reading gamers’ requests around the web who were asking basic questions. I’ve also got mildly excited (only mildy mind) about the impending arrival of some of the new Forgotten & Glorious Iron Brigade figures. I’m getting these to add to units in the queue: