Saturday 31 August 2013

It's my birthday, and I got some presents.

This was the news the year I was born, so I'm now on 53 not out.

Today is sunny and warm in my part of Devon and I am planning to be down on the beach with friends and family, eating fish and chips, then retiring to the bar at the local cricket club. That's what birthdays are all about.

This morning I got some fantastic presents that I thought I'd share with you, all of which I have only dipped into so far but will be giving more considered thoughts about in later posts.

I got into the Jack Tanner books a few years ago with the first novel set in Norway in 1940. These books are "ripping yarns" very much in the style of the Sharpe books and written by a historian, James Holland, who really knows his stuff when it comes to WWII. I've got two teenage sons queueing up to read this one so I guess it will get first attention.

I had "Wellington against Junot" on my list for a while, especially with my recent gaming in mind. Strictly speaking the book should have been Wellesley against Junot, as Sir Arthur didn't get the Viscount Wellington title until after Talavera the following year. Looking forward to getting into this book and the follow up, versus Massena.

I know Robert Burnham's work is invaluable when it comes to studying the Peninsular War so I rather felt this had to be on the book shelf and should give good insight to a topic not well covered in the English language. Again looking forward to getting into this book.

And last, but by no means least, "The Flight of the Eagle 3", just when you thought you knew every thing about Napoleonic campaigning, the ultimate research tool/game system comes along. This module 3 includes all the campaigns from the previous two plus the Peninsular War which really fired my interest.

Needless to say I've been a little bit distracted by this baby this morning, more to follow, but if you've never seen it before I've put a couple of links below that will tell you more.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Fighting 15's at Colours September 14th -15th

I gather from Mike Whitaker's blog that the wrong advert to promote Fighting 15's attendance at this year Colours show was put in the Miniature Wargames magazine show guide.

In addition Ian Marsh of Fighting 15's had put in a lot of work to get samples of the new Seven Years War range from Eureka featured on that advert. So please excuse me if I do my bit to support a trader in the industry who supplies great figures that I use and have featured on my blog.

Ian has always been very helpful in sorting particular figures I have wanted and his service is second to none.

Unlike Mike I intend to be at Colours, on the 15th, and I will also be looking to get some AB figures from Ian.

Sunday 25 August 2013

French 26th Dragoons - AB figures

So back to the painting,
My final dragoon regiment to complete my second brigade of three regiments allows me to field the six regiments required for my Vimiero big game coming up. In addition I now have a suitable force of French Dragoons to field as my Reserve Cavalry Division in most Peninsular scenarios.

I know these aren't the 26th Regt. , but it's how I imagine my fine fellows will look when they next face the "British Leopard"

Introducing the 26th French Dragoons, another unit that has the war record to qualify as a Peninsular War unit, serving right through from 1808 to 1813.

With three of the six regiments a French army can now bring to the table on show, I hope this picture will help convey how intimidating a force this will be for most British players, especially with the Horse artillery in tow, and very-very scary sight for my Spanish forces, when I get them done!!

Next up an old theme, French Light infantry but with a new range of figures.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Vimeiro Scenarios for Napoleon at War

So you're sat on a beautiful palm clad island in the Indian Ocean sipping your "Pinacolada, well actually a "Virgincolada" since I packed in the alcohol, with no access to a painting table and some figures. Well what does any self respecting war gamer do. Get the computer out and start designing campaigns and scenarios ready to be tried out when back from paradise.

So now I'm back I can post a variation on a theme by adapting my previous Vimeiro Lite scenarios for use with Napoleon at War. The set ups and order of battles are the same but with victory conditions, timings and objectives set up for NaW. The two  scenarios are for Vimeiro Hill and Ventosa.

French attack en masses Vimiero Hill
The scenario design is based on historical positions and orders of battle so unlike a throw together Napoleon at War scenario the forces are not balanced with points, just what Junot and Wellesley had to deal with. So you will just have to see if you can do any better than them!

British defence at Ventosa Farm
The scenarios can be downloaded from "My Scenarios" section. As always constructive feedback welcome.

Napoleonic Campaigns - Thoughts and Ideas Part 2

Ok, so picking up where I left off, I have put together a Peninsular War campaign module for Cyberboard. You can find it in the "My Resources and Downloads" section.

The download gives you a file containing two rulebooks, the difference being the battle set up systems. As I haven't play tested this in anger yet I haven't decided my preferred method of transferring map contacts to the table. So I have included the drafts of both options for your own choice.

Rules Cover

So if you haven't used Cyberboard before then perhaps a few instructions about setting this module up on your PC might help. Once you have the basic software loaded then you can simply place/drag and drop the Campaign folder into your Cyberboard folder.

When you click on the CB Play icon the system opens on the game viewer.

Just go to the "File"button and select "Open". This should allow you to find the Peninsular War Folder from which you can select "Peninsular War Campaign Game Start 1808.gam". This will open the game set up to start on June 1808.

You then simply follow the instructions in the rules I have created and learn how to move stuff around using the Cyberboard manual. It's not hard stuff so don't be put off.

Campaign Start Map

I have set up the map with all the initial markers in play ready to go. Along the top are the reinforcement stacks opposite the calendar tracker against the month they come into play. Markers allow you to change the calendar year and on the top right you can track unit losses/victory points.

Map Close Up

The map close up shows the counter mix with Commanders, Units and the terrain information showing open and mountainous terrain with the road conditions that apply. Fortresses are also indicated.

Remember this is a wargames utility, not a game in itself, although you can play the module as a board game. The point is, is that the map is simply there to record where things are at any given time. You can save the new map positions as you go and pick it up any time you like without having to pin a map on a wall. There are dice rolling tools on the system which is very handy for a campaign umpire, allowing simple decisions to be computed in between the table action.

If you use it then let me know how you get on. I still have my Spanish and Portuguese to build before I launch into running games in the system, but it's something I am keen to try out in time.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Back from Holiday - Normal Service is Ressumed

Our last day in the Maldives was very special. We had arranged to go out on the boat straight after breakfast to watch dolphins. The day was warm and sunny with very little breeze, giving very flat sea conditions, perfect for dolphins.

Just five minutes on the speed boat and we were on the far side of the lagoon and right in the middle of a large pod of dolphins swimming along side us. Then suddenly the fun started. I have a video button on the camera and switched to that as dolphins started to leap from the water doing somersaults and tail slaps - fantastic!!

That was on Monday, Tuesday was a day of travel, starting with a seaplane back to Mali then Sri Lanka Air back to Heathrow, London via Colombo, thirteen hours of flying. We stayed overnight in London and drove back to Devon via Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
I've driven past this ancient monument for years and never stopped to look at it properly, so as Carolyn and I were still in tourist mode we joined all the other foreign coach loads of visitors and went round the stones to get a close up view of this amazing and enigmatic monument.
So home at last and still operating on Sri Lankan time I find myself in front of the computer at 05.40, updating my ITunes, wow I've got lots of great podcasts to listen to, and putting together this post. It's so good to have a half decent internet connection!!

Friday 16 August 2013

Napoleonic Campaigns - Thoughts and Ideas

Greetings from the Maldives. What a day Tuesday was. Up at 2am driving through the Yala National Park trying very hard to avoid wild animals as big as elephants, quite literally. Then an eight hour drive to Colombo airport with roads getting busier and busier the closer we came to the capital.

The picture above is one of the many bars and restaurants, this one being close to our beach side chalet.

At Colombo we boarded a flight to Mali in the Maldives which takes about an hour. Then boarded a sea plane out to our resort, arriving about 7pm that night.

So now we have seven days of sun, sea and sand plus time to read and feed the mind!

So with an enforced break in the painting schedule, I like many wargamers like to plan future games, army lists and for me campaign ideas.

I think for the Napoleonic player, campaigns are an important aspect of our hobby. The period lends itself perfectly to a series of games linked with a common narrative of forces trying to find one another and bring on a battle to one sides advantage. Once the advantage is gained then it comes to forcing the issue with follow up manoeuvre and final destruction of the enemy.

However most of us are busy people leading demanding lives and for me I want to be able to easily pick up and leave my campaign as and when time permits, but still give me the narrative I am looking for. I am also looking for a system that allows me to play on the Grand Strategy level down to the more local issues of a campaign within a campaign.

I want to abstract a lot of the day to day events that a senior commander would not bother himself with. So, for example, reconnaissance is a vital part of Napoleonic warfare, but I don't need to be concerned with where a particular light cavalry squadron is operating, as the senior Army Commander.

Likewise army attrition is inevitable, so my system needs to incorporate that without tying the play up with endless book keeping. I still have my copy of the Empire III campaign system and it still makes me swoon with its complexity. Perhaps when the Carnage & Glory campaign system is available then I might revisit that level of playing letting the computer take the strain.

I want also to be able to map play battles where that is preferable but keep the narrative to link my table top encounters.

So what have I come up with so far? Well I couldn't see the point or reinventing the wheel so I turned to a very old set of campaign rules "L'Empereur" I got from Tabletop Games, years ago. I then started to add a few adaptions of my own to the Peninsular Campaign module contained in the original set.

In this day and age of computers I can't see the point of having a paper map and I didn't want to use the original hexes so I made two changes, firstly to produce a Cyberboard set and secondly to use an area/node map.

I found a great map referenced from a board game, "War to the Death" highlighted on Rafeal Pardo's Project Leipzig blog, see my favourite blogs links, and combined this with some marker and counter graphics to allow me to monitor progress in the campaign.

The Campaign map set up in the Cyberboard Module

The basic principle behind the system is to enable battles to be fought using any points based set of rules, allowing the results of those battles to be translated to losses in map counters. I have put together a set of rules incorporating the structure from L'Empereur, and adding in some battle set up methods from "Age of Reason" suitably adapted for the Peninsular War.

This little project of mine comes with the usual disclaimers that I make whenever I make available material that I haven't had chance to playtest. However I think the basic system is robust enough to withstand tweaking, which is what I've done anyway. So if you make use of it let me know what you think. Anyway its offered free for those that might want to try it.

There is a link to Cyberboard in my links board to download the basic software. If you haven't used it before, I would highly recommend it as a great utility for wargame campaigns needing maps.

I'm afraid this post is a set up for when I get back to civilisation, as I had intended to post the rules and module with it. The internet connectivity hear is very indifferent, so I will follow up this post next week with the downloads.

Monday 12 August 2013

Last Day in Sri Lanka - Yala National Park

Today is our last day in Sri Lanka before we fly out into the Indian Ocean to relax on the Maldives. There we will take a sea plane to our final island destination and a bit of R & R to recover from our fascinating but tiring tour of this stunning island.

This is our Silver Wedding as well as our summer holiday so Carolyn is taking a piece of Sri Lanka away with her in the form of a yellow sapphire ring we had made in Kandy. Sri Lanka is famous for its fabulous gem stones from precious to semi-precious.

This morning we were up at 4am to be ready for the morning safari at 5am. This afternoon we will relax and sleep in readiness for getting up at 2am tomorrow to begin our journey to the Maldives - phew!!

What follows is a photo record of some of the amazing creatures we saw in the park this morning and some we saw yesterday afternoon.

The hotel pool area at 5am this morning
The hotel is situated in the national park and with animals moving in the grounds after dark we had to arrange for a guide to take us from our chalet to the vehicle park.

Yala National Park

Sunrise over Yala
The first creature spotted is rarely seen in daylight, the Black-naped Hare.

Sri Lankan Black-Naped Hare

Water Buffalo with Marsh Crocodile behind

Green Bee Eater

Sri Lankan White Throated Kingfisher

Jungle Fowl

A monster emerged from the pond - Estuarine or Salt Water Crocodile
After having been lucky to see two leopards yesterday, guess who showed up this morning. With only about 50 of these creatures in the park some visitors never get to see them at all.

Sri Lankan Leopard
We then moved on to another water hole where the painted storks were taking advantage of the crocodiles driving the fish into the shallows. They were having their breakfast when we arrived, all the while keeping at least one eye on the crocodiles to make sure they didn't end up on the menu.

Sri Lankan Painted Stork having breakfast
Painted Stork trying to avoid being breakfast!!
Small Minavet

The beach area where the old resort was before the tsunami of 2004
Yala is right next to the Indian Ocean and was on the receiving end of the 2004 Tsunami.

The hotel we are in replaced the old complex destroyed in that disaster and we paid our respects at the beach side to the people who were killed that day, tourists and guides, just doing what we were.

I have personal memories of that Boxing Day holiday as my brother and his family were on a scuba diving holiday in Thailand at that time. I spent a long time on the phone to the British Embassy in Bangkok until we got a text from them the next day letting us know they were ok. They had been at sea when the wave passed and had only noticed a slight increase in the swell. Their resort and all their belongings were gone when they returned to shore.

Some of the "stars" from yesterday afternoon

Sri Lankan or Southern Indian Jackal

Ruddy Mongoose

White-Bellied Sea Eagle

Land Monitor Lizard

Someone wants to cross the road now!!

So that concludes the Yala report, next post will be from the Maldives and it's back to the Napoleonic theme with some campaign and scenario thoughts I've been toying with.