Monday, December 05, 2016

Dave Hewins

It is with great sadness that I write to say that Dave Hewins has rolled a double one and passed away recently.  
Dave had been a long time member of the Grimsby Wargames society and had an extensive collection of figures and models covering a variety of periods.  His figures were always nicely presented and of superb quality.  Whilst being difficult to play against he was always pleasant and polite and I don't ever remember him losing his temper during a game no matter how the game was going. 
Dave in green on the right
Dave was not just a member of the Society but also a supporter of the club as the owner of "D. Hewins Models & Hobbies" (members got a discount in his store).
One of the reasons I've taken a while to write this post is because, with his passing, it makes some of my favourite memories shine that little bit dimmer.
As a child I would spend a few weeks every year with my grandparents who lived on the other side of the country.  At the end of their street was a model shop where my grandfather and I spent many hours searching for the next thing to build together,  to paint together or simply just to marvel at the sheer number of kits on the shelves.
Walking in to Dave's shop always brought those memories back.  His shop was brim full of model kits, boxes of toy soldiers, model cars, model railways.  A traditional model shop of the kind that many of us of a certain age remember being our introduction in where to spend our pennies on our hobby.  Grimsby was unusual in that we had a number of these type of shops, far more than other larger towns it always seemed to me.  Dave was the last of these.  
Internet shopping is easy.  One click and you've bought what you need and you just need to wait for the delivery.  Simple.  But not the same as walking into a shop and spending time talking to the owner (on a quiet day Dave had even offered me a coffee too) about the new arrivals, the next "big" thing, or whether to use 1mm or 2mm ply for your project.  A Saturday morning shopping in the town center wasn't complete for me without popping in to his shop.
I'm going to miss all that and the world is a lesser place for the closing of another chapter in the history of the hobby in the town.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Painting and Convalesence

It has been a few weeks now and I'm still trying to get the knee to bend and flex as it should.  Better than before hopefully.  Physio is going well with plenty of exercise and a few tears as I sometimes push a little too hard.  
The physio asked me what my aspiration was.  I said it was to play drums.  Not a problem we can get you to do that.  Great - I couldn't play them before!

During my R&R I have been getting a little painting in.  The latest to be completed are two squadrons worth of French heavy cavalry for the Seven Years War.  Colonel General.  There were three squadrons present at Hastenbeck and I'll probably complete  the last one towards the end of the project as the figures (Old Glory 15mm) come in bags which so far seem to have sufficient for two squadrons in each (the next bag is ear marked for Clemont-Tonnerre).
Not the best of castings.  Some of the riders sit awkwardly on their horses and took quite a lot of persuasion to sit properly.  Detailing is a little sloppy in parts.  Some of the belting gets lost in the jumble of arm, musketoon and sling but seeing as I'm only painting these in a simple format that's not too much of an issue.
A very different approach for these then I took with my Hessians.  Black undercoat for horse and rider.  Then a light shade of brown (GW bestial).  Block in face, tunic, sling, musketoon and the saddle cloth before washing the whole figure with Vallejo black wash.  Go back and highlight the red (white for the trumpeter).  Add in all the lace and small details.  And that's it.
Two squadrons, an hour a day (that's just about how long I can sit with my knee bent at 90 degrees in one go) and all done in four days.
It's going to be a while before I get round to basing them since they need varnish and I need access to the loft.  However, in the meantime I'll just keep painting.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Out of Action

So apologies to my reader for the long delay between posts but unfortunately real life gets in the way sometimes.  This time a little more serious than just work matters.
I went into hospital a fortnight ago for a total knee replacement.  Surgery went well and the recovery started on track.  I was surprised by how little protection they give the wound.  The first twenty four hours and the knee is swathed in bandages, foam and layers of protection.  After that they remove all the padding and leave it with just the staples and a single adhesive pad dressing.  The idea being that you are up and about walking on it the following day and then gradually increasing the amount of flexing and stretching for the knee.
Knee forty eight hours after surgery
All well so far.   I didn't post one of the leg when it turned the colour of a ripe aubergine and the bruising extended from ankle to groin - after all some of you might be eating.  But believe me the blood thinners you have to take cause the bruising to display like something from a horror movie.
Knee fourteen days after surgery
Two weeks later the clips come out and tonight I can hopefully remove the dressing and just leave the scar.   my target now is to get the knee to bend to 100 degrees or better by the end of the week.  Meaning that I then have three more weeks to get it to 120 degrees if possible and back to normal.

All of this has meant that I've had little appetite or ability to sit on a chair at a desk or table for long recently and paint.  Certainly impossible for me to access the loft at the moment and get to my regular painting station.
My wife kindly agreed to help set up a temporary solution in the dining room.  As a result my selection of paints is limited and so I've decided to move on to the 15mm (18mm?) Old glory french SYW project for a time.  The limited palette suits this because the only paints I need are grey, white, red, blue, yellow, flesh and a three shades of browns plus two or three metallic paints.  Throw in a pot of the Vallejo black dip formula and that's just about it.
The temporary solution
Now I just need to be able to sit down and bend the knees for longer than twenty minutes at a time.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Miniature Wargames 403

My subscription copy arrived yesterday.  The first under the new editor, John Treadway, and with the much publicized mandatory SF& Fantasy section.
The magazine has certainly been given a new look.  One that feels as though they are targeting a younger audience because the layout is the same as some of the trendier magazines on newsagents shelves.
The editorial is brief.  Very brief.  No long introduction and background so if you don't know anything about the new editor you won't be any the wiser for buying this magazine.  Given that he says Henry has left big shoes to fill I would have thought some background might have been useful here.
The content is much the same albeit in a different order.  The Forward Observer there, but this time we only get a review (a long review) of the Victrix plastic releases - so less of a Forward Observation and more a detailed review of a new release.  There is the Recce column which seems to make the need for a Forward Observer obsolete by now including new product reviews as well as books.  Diane offers another article on terrain and scenery even she is now pushed to the back of the magazine.  Another wargamer does it "His Way" and this is a column I enjoy reading and getting an insight into different peoples ideas and activities and a column that always provides food for thought.
The other articles are standard fare and discuss several periods, genres and aspects of the hobby.  Although I do think that given we have been given a fantasy/SF section perhaps the article on painting SF tanks could have been put in that section (now a little devil in my head says that because the quality of the article and the photographs wasn't up to the standard of the "White Dwarf" section it didn't belong there and that the publishers have their own ideas about the standards that SF/Fantasy gamers expect against what other gamers will put up with?).
The much heralded and discussed fantasy section I thought actually looked better then the main body of the magazine.  the photographs were of a very high standard and quite appealing.  The layout was neater and easier on the eye I thought.  The content though was not something I'm going to read and so other than looking at the photographs I skipped all the articles themselves.
I've read as much proportionally of this issue as I have of the content of the other two magazines out this month.  So no gain no foul for me.

Jeff Hudelson - Exit Stage Left

It is with a great deal of sadness that I learned recently that Jeff "Bluebear" Hudleson had lost his fight and passed away.
I never met Jeff and I only knew him through his blog Saxe-Bearstein (http://saxe-bearstein.blogspot.co.uk/), where he developed and created his vision of wargaming, and through other groups and forums.  The internet can be a sterile place at times and you rarely get a glimpse of the personality behind the username.  However, with Jeff you soon realised he was a warm and generous soul.  
We traded many ideas about rules for the eighteenth century.  I have certainly incorporated some of his ideas from his "Tricorn Wars" into my own eighteenth century rules which he was happy to discuss and we chatted via the internet a number of times..  His idea for wargaming and game presentation wasn't mine but that did not make any the less appealing of pleasurable to watch and read.
The hobby is diminished with his passing and my condolences go to those who survive him.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Artillery - the Odd balls

 The eighteenth century was a period of military development and change.  We enter the century with the pike still in use and we leave it with images of the infantry in line stopping the enemy with musketry alone.
Well not quite alone.  Artillery had a role to play in wearing the enemy down during their advance and then supporting the infantry lines with canister.  The guns in use at the end of the century were quite different from those being used by Marlborough and his contemporaries.  They were lighter and more mobile.
Mobility was something that was difficult to achieve in the early part of the eighteenth century.  Heavy limbers and a lack of a military logistics corps made it hard to have anything other than the small calibre guns moving around the battlefield - the so called "battalion guns" that many armies appear to have had.
This may be the reason why engineers, who were always looking for a battle winning weapon, cam up with this idea.
It is depicted in Allan Kemp's book "Weapons of the Malburian Period" (one of a three volume set covering Marlburian, Napoleonic and Victorian Warfare).  It seems to show a short barreled canon on something akin to a naval gun mounting all placed on a wagon bed.  The ramrod has been designed to be used from the wagon bed and so one assumes that it was meant to be used as a mobile platform with the crew not required to dismount.  
My questions would be what did they do about recoil?  Once fired the wagon must have rolled back quite a way.
Once fired how did they bring it forward again given that the horse team would have had to be removed from in front of the barrel before firing?
It was probably these questions that stopped it from being used.  Might be fun to have one of the tabletop though to see the reaction of others.

There were other designs that came closer to coming into use.
The Puckle gun was one such weapon.  Designed in 1717 and shown to the Board of Ordnance it was the first weapon to be described as a "machine gun" (meaning a mechanised gun).

A rotating flintlock firing weapon that was seen as a weapon to be placed on board ships.  After each chamber was fired it was hand cranked to the next and then locked into place.  The test firing for the Board showed a nine rounds a minute firing rate, two to four times that of the infantryman of the time.  However, mechanical issues prevented it being accepted into use although two were taken to the Caribbean by the 2nd duke of Montagu in his ill-fated endeavour to capture  St. Lucia & St. Vincent (no record of them being used in action though).
Again, another fun item to have on the tabletop for those "what if" scenarios.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Action at Kaniv

Yesterday I had the great pleasure and god fortune to host a Great Northern War game with Roger from GA PA Great Northern Gaming (http://gapagnw.blogspot.co.uk/).  A fellow enthusiast for the Great Northern War, Roger brought along his enthusiasm and made the day a thoroughly enjoyable event.  I can't really express enough thanks to Roger for the amount of information and ideas that we talked over during the day and for stoking my imagination for the period even more.

The game was based on two real battles in the war, Fraustadt & Poniec, but placed in a fictional setting.

Kaniv is one of the lesser crossing points on the Dneiper River.  The game was based on the idea that in 1707 Charles invaded Russia intent on ending the reign of Peter I.  By July of 1708 he has reached the Dneiper and a Swedish force has been sent to secure the crossing point at Kaniv (which is just eighty kilometres from Poltava).  However a Russian force has already arrived and managed to erect a redoubt to defend the crossing.
The battlefield
At the start of the game the Russian commander, Roger by his own decision, was allowed to place the redoubt anywhere within his deployment area.  He placed it in the open ground between the two gentle hills.
My collection
 An overview of my entire collection as it stands.
The Swedish force
 The Swedes - three divisions of foot (two of four battalions and one of two guard battalions - yes one isn't actually guard I know) and a brigade of horse, all supported by three light guns.
The Russian force with redoubt to be deployed
 The Russians had four divisions of four battalions, a division of horse and two light guns.
Deployment
 Initial deployment was made with the Russians deploying across the entire ridge line, their horse covering the right flank to face the Swedish horse opposite.  The Swedes had both their large foot brigades on their right.  The Guards were off table to arrive later on one of the two table edges without the Russian knowing (this was decided by rolling a D4 dice and adding the score to turn 1 to determine when they could arrive and odds it would be the left and evens the right flank table edge).

Guards arrive
As it turned out they arrived on turn three on the right.  Emerging from the woods to face the Russians who were obviously not overly surprised by this.
first horse melee
On the other flank the massed squadrons of horse engaged in a brutal but short melee that gave neither side an advantage.  Despite winning the melee the Swedes were unable to break the Russian resolve and both sides retired to lick their wounds.
Swedish second assault
 The Swedish infantry weren't having it any better.  the first assault on the ridge line failed to gain any ground.  The second assault fared little better.  Having suffered from the Russian artillery one of the Swedish battalions was broken and fled the field.  The remaining three battalions then engaged in a long struggle to break the Russian foot who kept feeding in reinforcements to bolster their lines.

Gaps appear in the Russian line
 When gaps did appear in the Russian lines there was never a spare Swedish unit to take advantage and the opportunity for a quick victory slipped pasty.
Out flanked
 In the meantime Roger had manged to bring around a quarter of his foot to out flank the Swedish army entirely.  He'd also cannily held a regiment of dragoons in reserve and these now fell on the depleted Swedish horse rallying at the rear of their lines and comprehensively defeated them.  Led by one of Rogers own squadrons this unit then went on to ride over a Swedish battery that couldn't get out of the way of the rampaging Russian dragoons.
Rogers Russian Dragoons lead the way
 at this point it looked like the Russians were going to win the day.

Follow up
 Then in one turn the Swedes managed to find the will for one final push (actually I just managed to roll more spots on the dice that turn then ANY previous turn).
Overwhelmed
 And with that the entire Russian left flank collapsed.
Redoubt defended
 The redoubt had effectively split the battle in two and by gaining local superiority the Swedes won.  but it was close.  Very close.  The Russians had the advantage of numbers and were able to keep feeding in reinforcements.  the Swedes in contrast just couldn't initially gain sufficient momentum to roll over the enemy.  If the Russians had held one more turn I do think that the extra division out flanking the army and those dragoons loose in the rear would have done for the Swedes.

Rules used were my own house rules and I must thank Roger for play testing them with me and for providing advice, amendments and ideas for them.  All the figures, bar some Russian dragoons were mine.  All scenery from the shelves of the Grimsby Wargames Society.

A really good game and a most enjoyable day.

Roger brought down some of his figures and I hope he doesn't mind me showing them here.  They are just exquisite.
Rogers Swedish horse
 His Swedish horse are from the new Ebor range and look terrific.  I really like the way he has manged to create the "V" formation that the Swedes used.
Rogers Swedish second squadron

Rogers Polish Pancerni
 His Polish horse are Warlord & TAG (I think) and are an inspiration to go and get some for myself.  The Polish army still had the look of the more familiar Renaissance forces and provides a real contrast from the pike and shot armies of the west.  If that is not enough inspiration then Rogers' painting should be - it is just stunning.  (His basing department - i.e. his daughter - has done a great job in finishing them off too).
Rogers Winged hussars
Sunday was a great day and a terrific way to end my wargaming year.  From here I'll not be running any games since I have knee surgery scheduled which will prevent any such activities for the foreseeable future.

So again, Roger thank you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bone Tomahawk

I've always liked westerns.  When I was a kid wet Saturday afternoons meant being able to watch John Wayne, Randolph Scott, James Stewart and a host of others win against the odds and beat the bad guy.  Of course one of the premier movies of this genre is "The Magnificent Seven".  
So on Saturday I had a choice between going to see the new "reboot" (why is it a reboot and not a remake?) of that classic whilst the ladies of the house went to see "Bridget Jones in her most recent predicament" or to stay at home.  I chose the latter and rented "Bone Tomahawk" instead.

The film starts very well.  The setting and the scenario is excellent.  The lack of a music score just adding to the building tension and the interaction of the four characters.  I thought all four of the main leads were good but Richard Jenkins was superb in his role as Chicory the deputy sheriff.  the story is simple but none the worse for that.  The action when it comes is brutal and shocking in short bursts.    
The end scenes bear a stronger resemblance to a horror movie then a Western but actually fir very well within the story.

There are a few questions about the movie that didn't work as well.

How did the stranger elude the Indians for so long before arriving at Bright Hope?
How come Arthur spends the entire movie almost crippled and yet skips down the mountain at the end?
Why haven't the cave dwellers travelled further abroad before the movie given that Bright Hope is five days ride away?

I liked the movie and would recommend it  - but not if you don't have a strong stomach.