Monday, 22 August 2011

Sum of me wee plastics.

I know plastics 20mm figs are considered the poor relation of the wargaming fraternity and are usually overshadowed by their beautifully painted 28mm lead cousins. However if you're gaming on a budget or want try out a period before investing the equivalent of the National Debt they can be a good option.
Besides the 'Dice Gods' don't care what scale your figures are or whether they're made of finest pewter or recycled milk cartons....
As an aside why do our most lavishly painted, elite troops invariably perform like muppets on the battlefield? I have a unit of 15mm ACW Union Zouves who've yet to last an engagement before routing or, on one particularly galling episode, fail to advance past turn 2...hmmm this nice safe wood in the rear looks like a good spot to brush up on bit of 'pretend to be invisible practice'.
Bloody Zouves..give me a unit of raggedy arsed regulars with the odd broken bayonet and some tin showing through and I'll take that damned hill for you.

But back to the topic.

"I often wargame with plastic 20mm figures"...there, I've said it, admitting you have a problem is half the battle they say. name is Gavin and I've been playing with plastic soldiers for about 40 years, I've tried numerous times to quit but every time I walk past a model shop I just have to, well you know...
...thank you for sharing that with the group Gavin, are there any other plastic addicts who'd like to spew their guts out for the benefit of everyone?

Seriously though, Ive attached a small selection of pics from some of my Plastic Encounters. Laugh if you must but remember you probably started your wargaming obsession with a couple packs of Airfix, some garden twigs stuck into blobs of plastiscene, some of those wonderful card Railway buildings and a blanket thrown over some books for terrain.

Rogers Uhlans

Rogers Hussars

Rogers Bavarians

Adrians Saxons

Geoffs Middle Guard

Geoffs Brits

Credit for the Napoleonic Bavarians goes to Roger Wood, Geoff Martin for the Napoleonic British figs and the Middle Guard. Saxons are care of Adrian Powell.
This is just a small selection.

Oh well, they say being able to talk about it is the first step!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Red Runs The Helmand

As one who has written the occassional, modest battle report, I'm always keen to study the work of a master storyteller and brush up on my technique, especially when the cover of said read has a picture of stalwart chaps in putees and foriegn service helmets stoutly defending their Beloved Colour....Coorr I'm going all misty eyed with fervent Patriotism.

When I spotted this book at the local book store it practically jumped off the shelf at me. It was only after I'd purchase it that I realised it was the final novel in a Trilogy. Part 1 relates to The Indian Mutiny and Part 2 the Crimea
I considered putting the book to one side till I'd managed to purchased part 1 & 2 of the Trilogy but frankly the book and its wonderful cover was practically screaming at me to read it so I gave in.

The novel recounts the exploits and tribulations of Brigadier General Anthony Morgan on active service in the Helmand Valley, Afghanistan, 1880. In particular it recounts his experiences at the Battle of Maiwand, the subsequent retreat and the final victory against Ayoob Khan at Kandahar.

The main characters are the Brigadier General and his two sons Sam & Billy who happen to be serving officers in different Regiments under his command, the 3rd Scinde Horse and the 66th (Berkshire) Regt. The book tells the story in the first person from the three main characters perspective and at times I found it a trifle confusing as to who was doing the talking as it tends to jump from one to the other but as the I got to know the characters this quickly became less of an issue.
I found the book  a great read, especially the battle scenes. The author, Patrick Mercer, has definitely captured the humour, the fear and the frenzy of men in battle as Bernard Cornwell's endorsement states on the book cover.

The book is populated with wonderful characters such as Major Alan 'Jock' McGucken, Sergeant Kelly, Private Battle, Private 'Posh' Williams and even 'Bobby' the terrier and Regimental Mascot of the 66th. These last four actually existed so the book closely resembles fact and is not some fairy story about a rogue who always manages to find some swooney eyed bint with a heaving bosom to rescue whilst single-handedly thwarting the plans of a whole opposing Army...not that I have anything against swooney eyed bints with heaving bosoms, just not when there's serious fightin' to be done f'gawdsake!!

Patrick Mercer,The Author, a retired Colonel in the British Army and current MP, draws a remarkable parrallel to the conditions faced back then and the current situation that Her Majesties Armed Forces encounter on a day to day basis in Afghanistan. Still the relentless heat, the difficult country and a determined and uncompromising adversary.

For anyone about to embark on a spot of wargame campaigning against the wild and wily Tribesmen of the North West Frontier this is a must read. the book is practically brimming with ideas for scenarios such as patrols, seiges, rearguard actions and full scale battles not to mention those wonderful characters.

Well done and thank you Mr Mercer...looking forward to going back to the beginning with novels 1 and 2, albeit out of sequence.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

'The Quest for the Emerald Orb', Part 2

Righto!, now that we're all fed and watered, lets strap ourselves back into our seats and take up our story where we left off.
For those of you who haven't read Part 1 of 'The Quest for the Emerald Orb' you are advised to bring yourselves up to speed now, otherwise this is all going so seem like a lot of twaddle...what's that you say?...Part 1 was a lot of twaddle anyway...Phoo, shame on you!

Our narrative resumes.
We take up our story just as the unfortunate Oberst Fleihoffen's Company of Prussian Guards have been ambushed by the unspeakably horrid, flesh-eating, brain-craving Zombies at the site of the Ancient ruins.

Overcome with fear and loathing the two leading members of the company quickly succumb to the clawing, groping zombies. Dice throws of 9 and 10 on their wound table means they've just joined the ranks of the walking dead...the horror, the horror!!
Whilst his men are grappling with the zombies, the Oberst demonstrates his sense of purpose and fortitude under pressure by seizing the marker which is lying at the base of one of the ruined columns to confirm its validity. "Schiess und Blitzen!! Das marker ist eine scheissen fakeren"...said with a guttural german accent which probably doesn't require translation.

H.M Aboukir arrives on the scene.
Meanwhile H.M Gunboat Aboukir has arrived at the designated rendezvous point on the Imbulu River but where's Sir Percival and the rest of his party? Not being one to sit on his chuff and wait, Lieutenant Makepiece decides to leave a small force guarding the gunboat with strict instructions to issue three short blasts on the steam whistle should the British Expedition make an appearance, whilst he sets off North with a party of Marines in the direction of the Native Village.

As the impatient Lieutenant and his men advance cautiously up the narrow jungle trail the eerie silence is shattered by the spine-chilling war cry of the Snoozenuluzem warriors bursting forth from the dense undergrowth like avenging banshees. "Arghngmbugu gahrglumbulu *@#*!!" they  yell, which roughly translates to "I've got first dibs on the tasty fat one for my supper tonight!!"

Snoozenuluzem warriors with stolen Zulu shields..what the?

Te he he, they'll never guess were in here.

Taken completely unawares the redoubtable Lieutenant barely has time to order "Fix bayonets!", Fortunately the tars had the good sense to fix bayonets before setting out and are ready to give as good as they get. A fierce melee ensues and two ratings are felled with spear wounds to the throat and chest but not without taking a couple of the savages with them. Alarmed and over-awed by the White Pigs 'firesticks that belch flame' the natives decide to call it a day and retreat to the safety of the jungle from whence they came. Clearly the white pigs witch doctors have some very powerful ju ju! Looks like meat's back off the menu.

I told you we shoulda joined the bleedin' Catering Corps!

Dusting down his tunic and straightening his tie Lt Makepiece ponders his next move. The road ahead appears to lead to what looks like some Pagan statue. Surely a likely place to look for the Orb...."I say men, I think we'll take a shufti at yonder statue thingy". 

Meanwhile on t'other side of river
While all this drama is unfolding our two teams of Intrepid explorers are cautiously making for the bridge. Clearly neither party has the Orb so by incredible powers of deduction they both figure it must be on the North side of the Imbulu River. Luckily for the Baron he is closest to the bridge so, risking all, he and his party break cover and make a mad dash across the wooden bridge, stopping occasionally to trade pot shots with the British Expedition and losing another lackie in the process. They race torward the sound of gunfire in the distance which can only be the Oberst and his men.

The Baron makes a dash for the North bank.

Sir Percival, cheered by the sight of H.M Aboukir and aware he now outnumbers the Baron, presses on to the bridge with all haste. "We must get to that dashed egg before that swine Schlessinger or Her Royal Personage will not be pleased"

"Press on with all haste old things"

Makepiece's Folly
We return again to the Naval types who are making their way to the Northern-most edge of the table to check out the Pagan Statue. As they reach a fork in the trail they spy the Prussians who have just finished-off those disgusting Zombies with the butts and bayonets of their Mauser's and a couple of swift kicks in the nads for good measure!....YUK! I bloody hate Zombies!!
The Prussians appear to be making for their paddle steamer which is moored at the bank of the river. Clearly if they have just left the Ancient ruins and are in a hurry to get back to their boat they must have the good egg! Unbeknown to the unwitting Lieutenant this was a fiendishly clever ruse by the Germans to throw the Brits off the scent of what must be the true Emerald Orb located at the Pagan Statue. Lesson No 1 when crossing swords with the Germans:  never underestimate their low cunning

The ruse works like a treat. Unsheathing his saber the Lieutenant orders his men, in his best parade ground baritone, to "Charge those bloody Prussians, they've got the Orb!!"

"Charge those bloody Prussians"

Mein Gott! Vat next? thinks Oberst Fleihoffen, first Zombies now men in funny straw hats and sailor suits. Oh well, our bullets don't mind how they're dressed, "Rapid Fire Mein Leiblings", and the Prussians let fly just as his fellow country man, Baron Von Schlessinger, arrives on the scene.
"Guten abend Herr Baron, nice of you to join us, you wouldn't happen to have The Emerald Orb in your possession by any chance?" "I was rather hoping you did" replies the Baron.

Both the Prussians and the Baron and his crew carry on a rather inneffectual fire against the rapidly advancing  British Naval types, completeley oblivious to the fact that Sir Percival and his party have crossed the river. The ragged volleys from the Barons poorly trained thugs and the Oberst's troops more accurate fire account for two Marines. The plucky tars hit back with a telling fusilade that sees one of the Ribbentrapp twins take a hit in the thigh and a number of suppression markers on the others. "This is no place for me" thinks the Baron, "best to let the professional deal with it" and with that the Baron and the remnants of his ragged crew scarper for the relative safety of the rivers edge with the Marines hot on their tail.

British sabotage
On finding the German steamer Der Kestrel  unguarded the Brits plant a Moresby, Mk 2, timed, implosion device, (which they just happen to have handy in one of the pack mules saddle bags), in Der Kestrel's wheel house. "That should put paid to the blighters escape" quips Professor Yeatman-Briggs, who is something of an incendiary expert when not lecturing on Languages of the Indigenous Races of Africa at Oxford or indulging his passion for 'Javanese Umbrella fighting' down at the bullpit.

With that out of the way they press on toward the edge of the jungle and the, now almost continuous, sound of gunfire. Then suddenly above the din... WHOOP - WHOOP - WHOOP!! It's the Aboukir's steam whistle.

At this point things become a trifle confused, and quite frankly, if you've managed to keep up with the play thus far you've all done very well indeed.

Looking at an aerial view of the situation at turn 9 (see below) we have the Baron and his lackies about to leg it, leaving the Prussian Guards involved in a sniping duel with Lt Makepiece and Her Majestie's Marines, Sir Percival's lot about to probe the jungle on the North bank of the river and bands of savages lurking with intent God knows where! To cap it off the long shadows signify nightfall is rapidly approaching..

Situation at around turn 9.

On hearing the Aboukir's steam whistle Lieutenant Makepiece orders his troops to break-off the engagement and retire in good order back to the gunboat. Clearly Sir Percival and his party are in sight and his primary objective is to extricate the Expedition, hopefully with the Emerald Orb in tow, back to safety before nightfall.

The Germans escape is thwarted
Unaware of the significance of the whistle blasts the Oberst rapidly sums up the situation thus: the Baron's done a runner, the dark is closing in and there's no sign of the prize... it's time to make a strategic withdrawal. He checks his compass bearings and plots a direct route back to the river and the waiting Kestrel, "Follow me men, the way is vorwarts!"
As he ascends the summit of a gentle slope he can just make out the muddy brown ribbon of the Imbulu River and the gleaming white paintwork of  der Kestrel but "Voss ist loss, Ach!! diese sheissen Britisher schweinhunds are blocking meine vay!!" Apologies for annihilating the German Language, too much reading Commando and Valiant annuals I'm afraid.

A thwarted-looking Oberst.   

Conclusion (picking a winner)
At the end of Turn 10 night fall was deemed to have arrived so we called it a day and the scrupulously fair-minded and unbiased Gamemaster (none other than your truly,Capt Ogilvie himself) patiently listened to the verbose and down-right silly arguments and protestations of who had won and who had lost. In the end he ruled in favour of the Brits by a narrow margin on the basis that:
  • They had suffered less casualties. 
  • Their means of escape was intact, untampered with and waiting to sail.
  • They had come closer than the others to picking the correct location of the Orb.
  • They were British and frankly a much better type that the others so they deserved to win.
Of the fabled 'Emerald Orb' nothing was found, but rest assured the Adventure continues.....fade to stirring strands of adventurous sounding music.

Some scenes that didnt make the final cut

Sir Percival Frockmorton & Prof Cedric Yeatman-Briggs

The indomitable Mrs Dorothea Miggins

Anupam Pradeep (Bearer of the Heavenly Light)

Sir Percival & Lady Veronica Frockmorton

Righteous Bob Faircloud (Evangalist Asssasin)

Lady Veronica

More bloody Zombies

Fergus O'Shea (Digologist)  

Greasy (Bigfoot) Jake

Miss Constance Payne, Billionare heiress

The Ribbentrapp twins, Max & Gunther

Sepoys Deran & Rangit

The Professor in thoughtful pose.