Saturday 29 December 2012

Robin Hood - Escape from Nottingham

Medieval Skirmish is not usually my thing, but I had a great time playing a little Robin Hood affair up in North Devon yesterday.

These character skirmish games can often lead to very memorable games because of the laughs they create. My character was the Bishop of Nottingham and as you will see in my report on the Devon Wargames Blog, it really was touch and go if he would escape the clutches of Little John and his men.

If you're interested just click on the Blog link to the Devon Wargames Group page

Great times, great fun

Happy New Year

Monday 24 December 2012

Happy Xmas


A little known episode during Sir John Moore's retreat to Corunna occurred on December the 24th 1808 when the British army began the retreat over the mountains beyond Astorga. Napoleon pondered his decision to drive the "British Leopard" back to the sea. There must be a better way to bring his most implacable foe to the negotiating table. It was then that Marshal Soult came up with the idea, and the rest as they say is history.

Wishing everyone a happy, peaceful Christmas and prosperous New Year in 2013


Wednesday 19 December 2012

Tamiya's Small Pointed Brush

Hi all,

I thought I might post a little note on a very important subject, when it comes to painting small soldiers, and that is getting the right brush for the job.

Sadly I have been searching around for a local supplier since my local art shop packed up. I like to support my local retailers when I can, and when it comes to brushes I like to see what I'm buying.
For me, there are two things in particular I want from a brush, especially when it comes to painting detail:
  • A fine point to the brush.
  • An ability to withstand several weeks of constant use, being dipped into various acrylic colours and being washed in water.
If I can get those qualities I am very happy

Tamiya Small Pointed Brush 87017
Well after messing about with various suppliers offerings of "fine detail" brushes including trying out the Games Workshop range, I have finally found a brush that appears to tick the boxes.

The Tamiya Small Pointed Brush has been brilliant and has done everything I have asked of it, with five weeks in of constant daily use and I still have a beautiful point to work with. I also have a model shop locally who stocks the range and at £2.79 I am very pleased with the results I've had.

One other thing I have found really useful is a tip I saw mentioned on the web, that is cleaning the brush occasionally in Tamiya airbrush thinners. The alcohol is able to remove dried in acrylic pigments that water doesn't and helps maintain the brush for longer. I have tried this and found it to be so. It is quite surprising to see the "gunk" that comes out in the thinners.

Anyway, I think the Tamiya brushes are well worth looking at.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Operation Charnwood Campaign - IABSM

I think "I Aint Been Shot Mum" from the Too Fat Lardies are a brilliant set of WWII Company level rules.

I have pulled together a campaign game as a Cyberboard module to make running the mini campaign a whole lot more easier. Operation Charnwood is featured in the Christmas 2011 Special Magazine available from the Too Fat Lardies website.

I have put a link up on my resources section for the module. Just download the three files and stick them in a folder marked Charnwood and select the gamebox in Cyberboard. All the maps, counters and briefings are included.

In addition you can follow my links to the Cyberboard site if you haven't used this brilliant tool. Its great for boardgames but is also excellent for wargamers who want to run campaigns.

Cyberboard screen shot

Friday 14 December 2012

Rolica, August 17th 1808

In line with starting to wargame classic Peninsular War scenarios, I am thinking about the first battle that involved the future Duke of Wellington, Rolica, which in the panoply of Napoleonic battles is better described as a rearguard skirmish, but never the less gave the French their first contact with the Allied forces (British and Portuguese) under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley.

Interestingly, this is a battle where Wellesley, a commander strongly associated with the classic defence, showed, as he would often do, that he was also a very capable offencive commander and set about giving the veterans of Austerlitz, Jena and Auerstadt a lesson in what well led troops using "outdated" linear tactics could do to the new French system. The battle of Rolica, on a small scale, was a warning to later French commanders such as Marmont and Joseph that Wellesley was a very capable opponent on the attack, and in deed it is interesting looking at Salamanca and Vittoria with Rolica in mind.

Sir Arthur Wellesley in 1804 age 35

An interesting quote that helps illustrate Wellesley's thinking at this time comes from a conversation he had with a friend just prior to taking up his new command. When asked about his thoughts, he replied

 "Why, to say the truth, I am thinking of the French that I am going to fight. I have not seen them since the campaign in Flanders, when they were capital soldiers, and a dozen years under Bonaparte must have made them better still..... My die is cast; they may overwhelm me, but I don't think they will out-manoeuvre me. First, because I am not afraid of them, as everybody else seems to be; and secondly because if what I hear of their system of manoeuvre is true, I think it is a false one against steady troops. I suspect all the continental armies were more than half-beaten before the battle was begun. I, at least, will not be frightened before-hand."

So to the battle:
Sir Arthur Wellesley and his army of about 10,000 men landed in Portugal in Mondego Bay close to the fortress of Figueira on the 1st of August 1808, and was fully assembled on shore by the 5th. In the following three days he was joined by a further 5,000 men under Major General Sir Brent Spencer from Cadiz. The total force was on the road to Lisbon by the 10th of August staying close to the coast to remain in contact with the Navy.

General Henri François Delaborde

When the French commander General Junot heard of the landing he sent one of his best commanders General DeLaborde, to delay him until reinforcements could arrive from Abrantes. The two forces made contact on the 15th August with a brief skirmish at Alcobaca. On the 16th August Wellesley's troops occupied Obidos and the next morning he observed that DeLaborde had occupied a defencive position just to the north of Rolica, some four miles beyond Obidos, with a small force of about 4,500 men.

General Delaborde was a very capable commander who would continue to enjoy the Emperor's favour in the years to come, eventually commanding elements of the Young Guard. The Rolica valley offered terrain advantages to offset his lack of numbers, he had been ordered to cover both Generals Loison and Junot's approach march and expected reinforcements. Assuming they were near, any further withdrawal might imperil his commanders strategy, and so a delaying action would allow him to fulfil his orders and test the determination of this British commander. Perhaps if he could cause sufficient casualties these British might scuttle back to their boats.

Sir Arthur also had his mission in mind. He was aware that DeLaborde had potential reinforcements in the area but was unclear as to where they might be. He also new that a further reinforcement of two brigades were set to land and reinforce his command and that he needed to move south and close with the coast to cover that landing as quickly as possible. He was thus set on a plan of manoeuvre to force the French from their defences and potentially destroy them in an envelopment battle. He decided to attack without delay and dividing his command into three columns, tried to outflank the French.
General DeLaborde saw through this manoeuvre and skillfully withdrew to a much stronger position on a steep ridge about a mile south of Rolica.

Wellesley repeated the manoeuvre, but his plan went awry when one battalion the 29th attacked the enemy centre prematurely and he was forced to launch a full attack to support them.The French resistance collapsed under the pressure and by the late afternoon they were in full retreat southwards having lost 600 men and three guns. British losses were about 480 men.

So how to capture these events in a scenario that challenges both the attacker and defender. When you first consider an action like Rolica, the very one sided nature of the battle might cause many wargamers to turn away. However given the challenges and objectives that both Wellesley and DeLaborde faced with the time constraints imposed upon them, we have the basis of a scenario that forces the wargamers to think about similar issues that faced their historical counterparts whilst they attempt to replicate or improve upon the results achieved on the day.

My thoughts have the British on table force in three columns. They outnumber the French rearguard by about 2:1. Given that the ratio was more like 3:1 this would allow for the off table flank marches that were happening. The British objective is to break the French with a force morale failure within a time limit. The French simply need to stay on the table in good order for that given time. The time set could have some variability to allow for the effectiveness or not of the off table flank marches. I have already written this up with the force orbats which I am planning to play test next month.

Aspects I have considered but not decided upon are:
  • Include a level of casualties suffered and/or inflicted (DeLaborde trying to give the British a bloody nose).
  • A random event mechanism which might cause the "Colonel Lake and the 29th premature attack scenario" to happen.
In the meantime I would welcome your thoughts and comments.

Monday 10 December 2012

Campaign Game Miniatures - QRF/TSS

I went up to Warfare in Reading this year and managed to speak to the guys at QRF/TSS who had some examples of the Campaign Game Miniatures (CGM) range of 18mm Napoleonic figures. I purchased a pack of French line voltigeur skirmishing and was delighted to find that they were a great match for my ABs and Fantassin figures.

I have to say that like most commentators on the subject, AB figures are superb and would normally be my figures of choice. However given the cost of AB and some gaps in the range other manufacturers have to be another option. I have been very pleased with the Fantassin range which though not as crisply detailed as AB are a very good addition to my collection and I hope the photo of my combined French grenadier battalion illustrates that.

I decided that for my infantry I would be happy to use complete units of Fantassin mixed in with my current AB collection, and that given the AB horses are a miracle of sculpting in 18mm I would pay the extra and go AB for my cavalry.

This was where I was at until I saw the guys from QRF/TSS. Based on those voltigeurs, I decided to try out the British infantry in stovepipe shakos and placed an order to make up four battalions of 24 figures. The current range is based on the 1815 campaign and so I ordered up command figures from Warmodelling UK which provide the officers in bicornes, more suitable for the Peninsula, rather than shakos as with the CGM range. All my British battalions have mounted colonels and these are ABs from Fighting 15s.

British infantry in stovepipe shakos from Campaign Game Miniatures
 Well the TSS order arrived today and I am thrilled with the sculpts. The detail is crisp and clear with variations of pose and they look perfect against my other British infantry. I can't wait to start painting these little chaps. These are a very pleasing addition to my British force and I have plans to add more battalions in the coming months. I notice that this range has now expanded to include other nationalities outside of the 1815 campaign with Russians and Austrians to choose from, and I will be looking to add a few late war British and French for some 1814 Peninsula options.

So if you haven't checked this range out yet, I would definitely do so.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Battle of Whipton Cross - Wars of the Roses

This Saturday was the annual big Xmas game at my home club, the Devon Wargames Group, who meet in Exeter. Each month at the club we will run two or three different games to cater for a wide variety of tastes, but at Xmas we make a point of running a big game for all members to join in.

This year we decided to do a big 28mm Wars of the Roses game asking all club members to purchase a group of figures and get them painted and based for the big day. One of the guys even organised a bulk price deal on Perry plastics to help get everyone started

My contribution to our Xmas game, Warwick's Household and Retinue troops
We had a big turnout this year with 12 members playing and contributing figures, with great fun and banter had by all. It's amazing despite the centuries that have passed since this epic struggle for the crown of England between the nobility of those times, how the mention of the houses of York and Lancaster still calls on the loyalties of the English wargamer, not to mention a few Irish and Welshmen amongst us and we soon nailed our contingents colours to one mast or the other. I being a Warwickshire lad and having lived mostly in the South West naturally supported the House of Lancaster. That and I've always thought Richard III can't get away with the Princes in the tower going missing "on his watch".

I have done a full account of the "Battle of Whipton Cross", a little hamlet on the edge of Exeter where our titanic clash occurred and just happens to be where our club meetings are held today.

Warwick and his household men at arms hold the centre left at Whipton Cross
So I have just included a few shots of my contribution to our game. My two units representing Warwick himself with the standard of the Bear and Ragged Staff flying proudly on the field of battle.

Warwick's retinue plus mercenary crossbowmen hold Whipton Cross on the extreme Lancastrian left
We had a fantastic days wargaming with lots of laughs. Thanks to all the guys for another great day and another great year with lots of good times planned for 2013.

Happy Xmas to everyone, may Santa bring you lots of toys, if you've been good.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

New Year Plans

At the moment I am working flat out in putting my Napoleonic collection together, or rather updating the collection I already had to the rule sets I intend to use.

I already had a collection of AB figures with about 20 battalions of French infantry, 4 Regts of Cavalry and a couple of batteries of artillery, with a similar number of Prussians for the 1813 to take them on. Theses were all based for "Grand Manner" so big battalions of 32 or 36 figures. I also have a similar number of Russians as yet unpainted, together with a second French army.

Grand Manner is a great set of rules but is showing its age, with no command and control as such and rather cumbersome mechanics compared with more modern systems. The system that often raises a few smiles is "routed ground". This was a mechanic to stop units moving across ground another unit had just routed through. You have to imagine the area covered in discarded muskets and shakos with the odd casualty lying around.

So after four years of rebuilding my WWII collection for a Normandy themed company level set up - see the picture of my Juno game in the previous post- I have returned to where it all began for me, the wars of Napoleon.

At first I thought I would pick up where I left off with an 1813 themed collection, but on reflection decided to build a Peninsular War theme as my mid war French were more suitable for that period and I had always intended at some stage to go in that direction.

So having decided on the theme, I needed to work with a set of rules in mind, as I have always been keen on the big battalion look for Napoleonics and the rules would have to cater for that. So after much consideration "General de Brigade", "Lasalle" and "Republic to Empire" I went for two sets, one paper based and one computerised, namely "Napoleon at War" (NAW) and "Carnage & Glory".

In addition to the rules I also decided to move to a more flexible terrain system as up to now I have relied on my own hex terrain and hex mat, but with the advent of I Aint been Shot Mum v2 and now NAW I have decided to use terrain mats with separate roads and rivers. So terrain purchases are also being factored in to the overall plan.

Having decided on the direction of travel I then decided to set myself some progress goals. So the project started in November 2010 and began with me re basing/repainting my French, so that by May of this year I have completed 12 x 24 battalions of Line, 6 x 24 Legere, 4 x 24 Combined Grenadiers, 1 x 24 Swiss Line, 3 x 12 Dragoon Regts, 2 x 12 Chass a Cheval, 2 x Foot batteries (each 4 guns plus limber team) 1 x Horse battery (3 guns plus limber team, plus 6 x Brigade Generals and 1 x Divisional General.

4th Swiss (AB figures)
In June I set about the British and too date now have done, 11 x 24 Line, 1 x 24 Highland, 2 x 24 Lights, 2 x 24 Guards, 2 x 24 Rifles (60th & 95th), 2 x 24 Cacadores, 1 x Foot battery (3 guns plus limber), 2 x 12 Light Dragoons, 6 x Brigade Generals and 1 x Divisional General.

Combined Grenadier battalion (Fantassin figures)
Those units completed to April this year were rolled out at our club meet that month and can be seen on the blog link.
In the game report I have also given our impression of the rules. As you will see we liked them.

The plan is to add further units through 2013, but with a view to producing a game as the units are completed. So I decided to start with Wellington's first major clash with the French at Vimiero, I will probably do Rolica as a warm up. I then plan to add units to do a time line sequence of games, Corunna followed by Opporto, Talavera etc. As I want to start playing as the collection permits I am looking to put together representative scenarios from these key battles, with the occasional BIG GRAND MANNER game in between, well that's the plan and I am using this blog to hold me accountable to it.

In time I intend to build some Spanish forces, as the early uniforms were great to contrast with the French in their Shakos, and the "anything goes" approach to uniform in the later period make the Spanish a great contrast to the Brits, Portuguese and French. I know the Spanish will be a challenge to field but that's all part of the fun, and with the intention to do Talavera and Albuera I can't leave them unpainted for too long.

So behind all my future adventures in 2013 that I will be recording here will be my underlying project, The Peninsular Collection, and I will update my progress as it goes.

Peninsular War Book Review

As part of my homework and general amusement in recent months as I have put together my Napoleonic collection I have read several books pertinent to the subject, namely "To War with Wellington" by Peter Snow, "The Man who broke Napoleon's Codes" by Mark Urban, "Wellington in the Peninsula" by Jac Weller, "Albuera 1811" by Guy Dempsey and "Talavera" by A Field.


I have had this book on my list to read ever since I saw a library copy in the late 70s when information about this period of history was hard to come by. I finally had a copy bought for my birthday by my wife and have just finished reading it. Jac Weller first published this book in 1962 and the thoughts and opinions expressed have a strong influence of Sir Charles Oman throughout. Though rather dated by today's standards the book is well written and gives a gripping account of the battles fought by Wellington in this war from Rolica to Toulouse. There is a description of the British and French army's, their tactics and organisation. Order of battle summaries, mainly taken from Oman, follow each chapter. Interspersed throughout are black and white photos of key points of the battlefields taken by Weller as he followed in Wellingtons footsteps. The accounts give a good feel of the sequence of events during each battle and the events that led up to them, but the description of British methods reveal the age of this book by constantly referring to the British line's superior number of muskets delivering crushing volleys against the oncoming French columns, quoting the number of muskets being able to fire and the rate of fire being the deciding factors. This is not the modern view that following the musket volley it was the rousing cheer followed by a charge with levelled bayonets that actually caused the shaken French columns to reel back in disorder. The classic example of this being Albuera where Wellington was not in command but where British infantry did not follow the tactical model and instead of charging following the initial volley, sat back and ended up trading volleys with the French columns to their front. This caused one of the bloodiest exchanges of musketry in the Napoleonic period. Ironically the collapse of French resistance came when the Fusilier brigade resorted to traditional tactics by delivering a crushing volley and followed it up with the bayonet. However if you are happy to allow for this minor quibble as I was, I think this book is a good read for anyone interested in the period and gives a good study of the Army under Wellington and its battles.

I picked this book up as a bit of light reading during my 2012 summer holiday. I really enjoyed this book, and I wasn't sure I would when I saw who the author was. Because it was Peter Snow I would have put this book in the general reader interested in the period category, but to my surprise it is packed with interesting anecdotes and facts for the Napoleonic student. The book seeks to cover a lot of information, looking at Wellington the man, his battles and campaigns, his generals and giving some insight into the men he commanded with first hand accounts describing key events. There are maps illustrating each of the battles together with portraits of the people involved in the events described together with pictures of the troops on campaign and in battle. As I say I found this book a very enjoyable read with information I hadn't seen before.

I've had this book on my shelf for a few years now, and took this one on holiday as well. I knew about Sir George Scovell from my collection of Sir Charles Oman's History of the Peninsula War in seven volumes, where in one of the volumes there is a description of the captured messages and the translation done by Scovell. This book though is a must read for anyone interested in the intelligence war that went on during Wellington's fight with the French.

Mark Urban who will be familiar to viewers of BBCs Newsnight is a well known political journalist who happens to have an interest in the Napoleonic period. He brings his journalists eye to Sir George Scovells papers that have survived the years and include many captured French messages and his notes on how he set about cracking the French codes. He then weaves the story of Scovells arrival in the Peninsular, his struggles for promotion and recognition. He describes the snobbish attitude that Wellington showed to any officer not from the right background, particularly one who was educated and dedicated to the military as a professional officer. It was these kind of people who had joined with Napoleon to cause the revolution in France, and Wellington was certainly not going to encourage those sorts in his army. Despite the prejudice from above Scovell had his supporters in Wellington's staff and the great general came to rely on the intelligence that he received from his senior intelligence officer, and as Scovell's skill developed together with the network of intelligence gatherers, spys and guerrillas, the insight into French plans and operations became very accurate. This ability was to allow Wellington to be able to predict French responses to his movements and became invaluable during his later battles from Salamanca onwards.

This book is a must read for anyone with a serious interest in the Peninsular War

Talking about must reads, I was lent this book early in the year by a fellow Peninsular War enthusiast, thanks Ian, and I was going to write a review describing what a brilliant read this was packed full of data and new insights to a poorly recorded and understood battle when I came across this review by Anthony Gray on the Napoleon Series site. Check it out as it says pretty much everything you need to know, then get the book and read it, you wont be disappointed.

And finally but by no means least another great book was added to the library this year when I picked up a copy of Talavera by A W Field.
To quote the back cover
  • The first full length account of one of Wellington's greatest battles
  • Based on documentary records, eyewitness accounts and a detailed study of the battlefield.
  • Reassesses the consequences of the battle and the performance of the commanders.
  • Looks at the battle from all sides - French, Spanish and British.
  • Fresh insights into the realities of the Peninsular War.
Well I felt it did everything it said on the box and more as I found the style of the book engaging and had me wanting to read on chapter to chapter. This book is packed full of maps, orbats, battlefield photos with a tour of the battlefield at the end. Again if you haven't read this, you really should.

Well there you are, some ideas for some Xmas reading from Santa

Monday 3 December 2012

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step

If your reading this, then hello and welcome to my first blog post. I've been toying with the idea of starting my own blog space for a while, and now I've decided to start this to coincide with the new year 2013. Yes I know its still 2012, but only just and this is just the intro.

I have been a wargamer since age 13 so that means I've been playing with toy soldiers for 39 years. I started playing Napoleonics using the old WRG rules after reading Donald Featherstone, and Bruce Quarry, and watching the Waterloo film and the BBC TV series of War and Peace, whose military adviser was the late great Dr David Chandler and starred a very young Anthony Hopkins.


In the late 70s I went with a friend to stay at the first Wargames Holiday Centre in Pickering, Yorkshire, run and hosted by another great character, Mr Peter Gilder. This really opened my eyes to what wargaming could be with that amazing expanse of table space covered in great terrain and figures. We were privileged to watch the great man give a painting clinic, spend time watching the Battleground series on video, and leafing through Peter's great book collection. This in a pre-internet period when all the fantastic resources available to our hobby were not readily accessible. I still treasure those memories today.

Part of my WWII collection - Juno Beach landing
Blurred phone/camera shot of Napoleonics for Napoleon at War 
Recent run out of my WWII naval collection - GHQ HMS Exeter under fire from Graf Spee
My AWI collection using Maurice
I still play Napoleonics today and plan to use the blog to illustrate some of my current plans for future games with my growing collection of 18mm AB/Fantassin figures. However since those heady days of my youth I have built up other collections for WWII, land, air and sea, AWI, Age of Sail Naval.
In addition I have followed Peter's example and built a large collection of wargaming/historical books, and have just finished reading The Peninsular War by Jac Weller, and have finally got around to reading David Chandler's Campaigns of Napoleon, that has been sitting on my book shelf unread for too many years.

I am a regular contributor and founder member of the Devon Wargames Group one of the oldest clubs in Devon, and many models in my collection are on show there.
I am thanks to my lovely wife the fortunate possessor of my own wargames room and permanent 9x5 foot table which needs more games to be played on it and which I hope to report about on this blog.

So the blog, what's that all about? Well when I think back to all the great games and great times I've spent with friends playing a hobby that has meant so much to me, I felt it was sad that the majority of that time has gone unrecorded and I can't look back except in my memory. So I now plan to use this blog as my personal Wargames diary, littered with occasional pictures and stuff to help illustrate. In addition I hope others might find my little corner in cyberspace interesting and entertaining.