Battledress Brown, Hedges and a Highland Fling.

With an impending WWII game, I felt that I should finally finish some British for Normandy and the European theatre.  The figures are, I believe, old Hinchcliffe 20mm that I bought of EBay a couple of years ago and promptly stored them. Most of the figures are riflemen in various poses, with one officer and a PIAT. I originally had not intended to paint them as I thought they were already painted to a reasonable standard but I noticed the paint work was worn in a few places and one thing led to another. I completed the repaint back at the start of the year but have only just flocked the bases.

ww2-british

advancing-british

british-firing

en-garde

piat  british-officer

I have also recently completed some hedges. I made four lengths of hedge from an old unused luffa sponge.  It had been knocking about in a draw for quite a few years while I worked out the best way of turning it into a useful piece of terrain. I cut the sponge into quarters along the axis and then glued the pieces to MDF. I added some gravel to texture the bases and help conceal the bottom of the hedge. I spray painted the lot in dark brown and then over painted it to provide some contrast. Finally I flocked the top of the hedge and the base. The photo below is a sample to show how they turned out.

hedge

Last weekend my wonderful wife and I went to see the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in concert and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, my darling wife being particularly enamoured with men in kilts. The theatre was fully packed and the audience very appreciative of the performance, resulting in two encores. There was plenty of singing, sword dancing, piping and drumming, to stir the blood. Indeed it has taken a full week to get one my favourite tunes, “The Black Bear”, out my head.

A Bevy of Books.

It has been a while since I have been able to update this blog, so I thought I would write a quick post about my book purchases over the past few months. I have read a couple in full already and will gradually read all of them as time and inclination allows.

First up: “World Uniforms and battles 1815 – 50” by Philip Haythornethwaite and Michael Chappell. It is a book with which to while away time looking at fabulous uniforms of the post-Napoleonic period until the middle of the Nineteenth Century, before uniforms started down the path to practicality. The many colour plates and descriptions provide plenty of inspiration for toy soldiers. This second-hand book was published back in 1976 as part of the excellent Blandford Colour Series on military uniforms. This series provides my favourite “go to” books on military uniforms.

world-uniforms-and-battles

Another second-hand purchase was “An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Military Uniforms of the 19th Century” by Kevin F. Kiley and Digby Smith.  As the name suggests, this book covers in reasonable detail the uniforms of the combatants in the various wars of the Nineteenth Century. It is beautifully and lavishly illustrated and is sure to provide further inspiration for toy soldiers.

military-uniforms19th-century

I found “Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles” by Bernard Cornwell at a local bookshop and bought it on a whim. I am very familiar with Bernard Cornwell’s “Sharpe” series and was quite intrigued how his first foray into factual history would go. I found it a very enjoyable but informative read. It is an accessible and refreshing look at a battle that has probably had more books written about it than any other.

waterloo

“Napoleonic Infantry” and “Napoleonic Cavalry” by Philip Haythornethwaite from the Napoleonic Weapons and Warfare series, published by Cassell, were a serendipitous find in a local second-hand bookshop. While I have not read these as yet, the books endeavour to provide an overview of the weapons and tactics of the mounted and foot arms of Napoleonic armies.

napoleonic-infantry

napoleonic-cavalry

I picked up “Generals: Ten British Commanders Who Shaped the World” by Mark Urban on the sale table of a local bookshop.  I have only just started reading this but it seems a quite interesting history of a selection of generals from Monck to Montgomery.

generals

From the same sale table came “How History’s Greatest Pirates Pillaged, Plundered, and Got Away with It: The Stories, Techniques, and Tactics of the Most Feared Sea Rovers from 1500-1800” by Benerson  Little. The title says it all. I have read a few chapters of this entertaining book, despite the over the top title.

pirates

I hope after this little literary interlude to have some more toy soldiers to show,  it is simply a matter of me getting motivated enough to apply the final finishing touches to them. In the mean while I am greatly looking forward to attending a concert by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards next month.

Tasmanian Toy Soldiers

For my first batch of 40mm home cast toy soldiers I wanted to do something unusual but meaningful to me. I decided my first lot would have to be a Tasmanian colonial unit. I chose the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment / Southern Tasmanian Rifle Regiment.

Little Wars

Until 1870 Tasmania was protected by imperial forces but in 1859 the Hobart Town Volunteer Artillery Corps was formed. This was followed by more local units, including quite a few of rifles.  In 1878 the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment (TVRR) was created with four companies based in the South and two in the North.

TVRR parade front

In 1880 the two northern companies were split off to form the Launceston Rifle Regiment and the remaining companies became the Southern Tasmanian Rifle Regiment. In 1897 the regiment was incorporated into the Tasmanian Regiment of Infantry of the Tasmanian Defence Force. (The Queen’s and Regimental Colours of the TVRR were eventually laid up in St. David’s Cathedral in Hobart in 1922 and 1949 respectively).

TVRR rear view

Tasmanian contingents served with distinction in the Second Boer War and earned two Victoria Crosses and battle honours. After the formation in 1901 of the Commonwealth of Australia, the successors of the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment continued to serve with excellence and are now represented by the 12th/40th Battalion Royal Tasmania Regiment.

TVRR march past

The figures are home cast from Zinnbrigade moulds depicting late nineteenth century Prussians and glued to standard size MDF bases. They were painted using acrylic paints in the fashion of the old toy soldiers manufactured by Britains. The figures were then lavishly varnished to produce a suitably high gloss. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of casting and painting these figures and I am now looking forward to completing some more and having a game with them. In the meanwhile my first company of TVRR shiny toy soldiers stand ready to defend Queen and Empire against all comers.

Sizing up the Future

Some time ago I contemplated my approach to this hobby and what I wanted out of it now and in the future. The first of my deliberations was on what gave me the most pleasure. After some thought I concluded that I simply enjoy playing games, particularly with toy soldiers, and have done so for as long as I can remember. That simple pleasure was best expressed by my love of traditional brightly coloured, jewel like, glossy toy soldiers.  The second consideration was how to continue collecting and playing with toy soldiers long term while keeping expenditure to a minimum. The answer was to cast my own from moulds. I considered 54mm figure moulds that would fit with standard toy soldier ranges but after some research concluded that the cost of the moulds and the metal would be prohibitive. Further research revealed a fairly wide range of 40mm moulds and 42 mm toy soldier ranges that would address my needs.

So over the past year or so I have been seeking out and acquiring home casting moulds for toy soldier style miniatures. This has not proven an easy task as I have had to purchase them via German EBay when I could. Despite the difficulty, I have managed to build a reasonable collection of moulds for casting. The moulds include Napoleonic, Franco Prussian War and late 19th Century figures in fully round and semi round forms.  In order to supply metal for casting I have been melting down old miniatures from long abandoned projects and I am now considering the fate of a number of projects that have stalled and may be better pursued in other ways.

For inspiration I have chiefly looked to “Little Wars” by H. G. Wells and “The Great War in England in 1897” by William Le Queux, along with “Vanished Armies” by A E Haswell Miller and “Armies of Europe Illustrated” by Fedor Von Koppen. I have decided that the figures will be painted in either the old British or German fashion (although more neatly), as fancy takes me, with plenty of gloss but without any black lining or shading, for that proper traditional toy soldier look. As yet I haven’t decided on any of the available rules but will give the matter more thought as the project develops. Alternatively, I will draft a set of my own or cobble a set together from aspects of different old and modern rule sets I like, as a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of toy gaming rules. I have, however, chosen to organize my units along the lines of my childhood forces.  So my units will be formed around six man infantry companies and 4 man cavalry squadrons with officers, musicians and standard bearers extra.

Airfix Bren Gun Carrier and 6pdr Anti-Tank Gun

I am generally not keen on building model kits as I don’t normally find the process relaxing. It is something to be endured. However, late last year during a rare trip to Launceston I acquired the old Airfix Bren Gun Carrier and 6pdr Anti-Tank Gun in 1:76 scale with the intention of adding it to my small WWII British force.  I thought the process of putting the kit together would be particularly painful as the sprues for such old kits are often derived from somewhat less than perfectly engraved moulds.

I was surprised to find (amidst a wave of nostalgia) that I pleasantly enjoyed building this model kit, even with its wonky parts. I suspect the simplicity of the kit made making adjustments to the parts so they fitted together less of bothersome.  The kit was an easy build and a delight to paint. I am pleased with how the carrier and gun (with crew) turned out. So now they are completed, the carrier and 6pdr anti-tank gun are ready to take on the might of the German panzer divisions.

6 Pounder and Carrier

AT gun and tow.jpg

Bren Carrier

Colonies to Commonwealth

I have been fortunate to recently add two new books to my collection. One I have sought for some time, while the other was a serendipitous find. Both books address my interest in Australian military history, and Tasmanian military history in particular. The first book, “Australian Military Uniforms 1800 – 1982” by Monty Wedd, I was able to purchase for $15.00 on EBay. Although second hand, the book is in reasonable condition (They normally sell for considerably more). The book was published in 1982 and features some 40 colour plates and many black and white illustrations by Monty Wedd. It details the various uniforms worn by the Australian military forces of the individual colonies and then the Commonwealth until the mid-seventies. I am very pleased to be able to add it to my bookshelves as it is a rare gem for anyone interested in Australian military history.

Australian Military Uniforms

The second book I was fortunate to pick up at a local book shop is “Preserving Our Proud Heritage The Customs and Traditions of the Australian Army” by L.I. Terrett and S.C. Taubert. The book was only published in November last year and is a very weighty and comprehensive tome detailing every aspect of the Australian Army through the customs and traditions it has developed and  maintained since its formation from the colonial defence forces in 1901. The book also includes a CD of the regimental marches and bugle calls of the Australian Army. I was able to pick up my copy of this brand new book for $15.00 due to it missing its dust jacket and having a very slight bump to the spine.   The recommended retail price is about $60.00 so I found a true bargain on a book that is surely  a must have for anyone interested in the history and traditions of the Australian Army.

Australian Army Heritage

Catastrophic failure and a disaster averted.

My darling wife and I were sitting quietly in the lounge room at home on Monday when there came a loud creaking sound from one of the other rooms. This was followed by an even louder cracking sound. We went to investigate the cause of the noise and found my painting cabinet listing heavily with some of the curios stored in it already strewn across the floor. With catastrophic structural failure imminent, my wife braced the cabinet while I raced to recover everything out of it.

I should explain that the cabinet was huge and featured a slide out desk top and drawer, many cubby holes and shelves for storage, and inbuilt lighting. It stood about four foot high and five foot wide, with a two and half foot depth. It was a massive cabinet that also acted as storage for miniatures and rules. The miniatures were of course saved first and no casualties were suffered. Paints, tools and rules were rescued next, along with various ornaments.

With the potential disaster of broken miniatures and paint everywhere averted, the cabinet  finally collapsed. A quick examination of the carcass revealed a major internal structural weakness that led to the catastrophic failure. So as I cleaned up the after the titanic disaster I could only think where am I going to put everything?

Dark Age Lion Rampant AAR

A recently discovered and translated lost excerpt from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles”…

“In the year 843 the Danes came into the land of Wessex and ravaged all about them. They were led by Jarl Ivar “The Legless”, a great warrior besotted with mead and gold. The heathen men came seeking the golden hoard lost to their number last Summer. Eorl Wulfstan “the Red” went out with all the men of his household and lands seeking to bring the Danes to battle and seize the treasure for himself. Wulfstan’s host met in battle with the heathen men outside the ruined old city, even as the Danes found and took the hoard for themselves.

As the two hosts met, Wulfstan challenged Ivar to single combat and then Ivar slew Wulfstan with three mighty blows. The Saxons did not falter at the loss of their lord but set upon Ivar and his huscarls. Spears were shattered, shields broken and helmets cleft as the loyal thegns battled the Danes. Three times they attacked the Danes and three times they were thrown back. Then another force of Danes came upon Wulfstan’s loyal hearth men and slew them. The Danes, having the power of the field, then drew off taking with them the gold. The Saxons mourned the loss of their lord as the ravens feasted upon the fallen.”

I played my first game of “Lion Rampant” New Year’s Day when John came over with his large army of beautifully painted Saxons. My own force was made up of un-refurbished second hand Vikings. The game was based on a treasure hunt scenario, with both sides attempting to discover the hidden treasure and then exit off their table edge with it. The armies were worth twenty four points each. The Saxon army comprised three units of upper class spears and two units of foot companions, while the Viking army consisted of four units of foot companions.

The field of battle

The battlefield viewed from the Viking side.

The first few turns saw both armies advance towards the terrain features designated as potential hiding places for the lost treasure. The Saxons reached the wood at the left of battlefield but their search (a die roll) failed to discover the treasure. The Vikings searched the hill opposite the woods but also failed to find anything. Wulfstan’s unit then reached the hill near the centre of battlefield but the treasure wasn’t there either. Ivar’s unit searched the orchard but found no treasure and then failed their activation for turn four leaving the Vikings unable to move. This gave the Saxons time to move into striking distance of them.

Vikings reach the orchard

Both sides search for the treasure hoard.

In turn five the Vikings reached the triumphal arch and made a successful die roll and discovered the hidden treasure hoard. With the Saxons now in striking distance, Wulfstan issued a challenge to Ivar to meet in single combat. Ivar killed Wulfstan in single combat forcing the Saxons to take a courage (morale) test. Only one unit of Saxon spears failed and were forced to retreat a short distance before rallying the following turn.

Wulfstan slain and the Saxons repulsed

The treasure is found and Wulfstan is slain.

The Vikings failed their activation in turn six and Ivar’s personal guard were immediately attacked by the nearest unit of Saxon spears. These were driven off with both sides taking a single casualty each. Turn seven saw Wulfstan’s own guard attack Ivar’s unit but they were were also driven back after taking a casualty. The Saxon spears then attacked again and were repulsed again, taking yet another casualty. Ivar’s own companions also took another casualty.

Ivar and his personal guard repulse the Saxons.jpg

Ivar and his companions repulse the Saxons.

In turn eight a Viking flanking force of foot companions, having gone around the orchard, launched an attack on Wulfstan’s body guards and slew one of them. Ivar and the remaining companions were able to begin their withdrawal, taking the treasure with them. A third Viking unit quickly occupied Ivar’s previous position to act as covering force. In turn nine the Saxon spears were now threatened by the fresh Viking unit and formed a shield wall in response. Wulfstan’s companions were then broken by a renewed attack from the Viking flanking force.

The Saxons form a shieldwall

The Saxon spears form a shieldwall as the last man of Wulfstan’s body guard flees.

Over the remaining few turns Ivar and his companions were able to leave the field of battle with the treasure hoard. The Viking force enjoyed the spoils of victory while the Saxons could only mourn their dead.

Ivar escapes with the treasure

Ivar escapes with the treasure.

Lion Rampant rules provide an entertaining game that moves fairly fast and comes to a definite conclusion. They allowed two armies of differing sizes and compositions to do battle on an even footing. Lion Rampant successfully imparts a sense of warfare in the early medieval period in an enjoyable way and I look forward to playing them again.

Games Galore

It seems that game shops in northwest Tasmania are like buses, none for years and then two come along at once. Two dedicated game shops opened in Burnie recently and I was able to visit them with my gorgeous wife just before Christmas. The first shop we visited was called Games on Board. We perused the many games on display that ranged from role playing games to board and miniatures based games. Tables were set out at the back of the shop for gaming and visitors could also try out some of the available games. We had a cordial chat to the owner and made a couple of purchases. The second shop is Mind Games and it offered more standard board games and puzzles that also appealed. Sadly we were unable to buy anything there as we had already spent our spare cash. However we did go back to Games on Board after Christmas and made a further purchase.

While I mostly play historical wargames my interests run to a wide variety of games and it is really great to see two game shops open in the region. While games can be easily browsed and purchased online it isn’t as satisfying an experience as going into a shop and seeing the games on the shelves like so much candy. Internet shopping can’t match the pleasure of picking up a game, handling and examining it before making your choice. There is also the advantage of being able to talk to the friendly shop staff about the qualities of each potential purchase. I wish both shops all the best.

My lovely lady wife and I purchased three games in the end. We bought “Cthulhu Fluxx”, “Firefly Shiny Dice” and “Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd edition”. “Cthulhu Fluxx” is a card game and “Firefly Shiny Dice” is, unsurprisingly, a dice based game. “Descent: Journeys in the Dark” is a fantasy miniatures board game reminiscent of “Dungeons & Dragons”. Of the three games, I have only had time to play “Firefly Shiny Dice” with my family. It proved to be a quick enjoyable game that captured the character of the Firefly television series and Serenity movie. “Firefly Shiny Dice” is not the only gaming I have done recently in the Firefly universe. My wonderful wife and I have just started playing the “Firefly Role Playing Game” with friends.

 

Firefly RPG and Cthulhu Fluxx

 

Descent

 
On a completely different note I was given a box of the old Airfix 1/72 WWI German Infantry for Christmas. It may prove to be the start of another new period. However, I think it will be a long while before I accrue enough painted figures to have a wargame using the Machine Age rules from One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas.

 

Airfix WW1 Germans

A Bridge so Far!

Yuletide greetings! In my previous post I mentioned that I had completed some small terrain features. These consist of a bridge and hedges that were unearthed during a reshuffle of my wargaming stuff.

Bridge

The first piece is the Italeri Stone Bridge kit that I was given as a gift a few years ago. The kit went together easily and paints up quite well. The model is 1/72 scale but it will, I think, work with figures from 15mm to 40mm. So far the bridge is free standing but at some time in the distant future I intend to place it on a scenic base.

Hedge

The hedges, bought many years ago likewise emerged from the reshuffle. They are simply attached to MDF bases that I cut out and flocked. There were also some virtually complete anti-tank defences but due to an unfortunate accident I’ve had to set them aside for repairs.