Friday, March 30, 2012

Blowing my own trumpet #5

"This is what I think of your 50,000!"

50,000 visits!

Thanks to my followers and visitors, new and old, for reading my ramblings and offering your continuing support. It's much appreciated.

The inter-web is such a wonderful thing. The perpetual-motion hamster-wheel that is modern life does have its advantages, and sharing my hobby on-line with friends from all over the world is one of them!  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Waiting impatiently

Pictures from Schilling website

While I'm trying to study, I've been showing signs of displacement behaviour with my Westphalians as well as adding to my growing pile of unpainted toys.

I'm waiting impatiently for the delivery of some wonderful looking figures from Schilling Zinnfuguren from Germany. The range extends from 1815 French line and Guard Grenadiers to Brunswick infantry. Hopefully there's more in the pipeline too.

Today I ordered a bunch of sheep, goats, pack mules and an ox-cart from Irregular Miniatures, too. They'll add a little bit of colour to the table and offer some flexibility for scenarios

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Westphalian WIP #2

Progressing slowly with this project as life keeps getting in the way!

Here's the 2nd figure finished; the voltiguer (or whatever the German equivalent was!).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Podcast review - Historyzine

Duke of Marlborough:
Big hair isn't restricted to '80s soft-metal bands!
Jim Mowatt's Historyzine podcast has kept me entertained and informed over the last couple of weeks with his combination of history podcast and book reviews, interviews, historical etymology lessons and his narrative history of the War of the Spanish Succession (WSS).

 I've really enjoyed this series with Jim's engaging Northern accent gently but enthusiastically, walking me through the intricacies of the WSS and the Duke of Marlborough's part in it all. While, not surprisingly, focusing a lot on Marlborough's role in the wars, Jim doesn't neglect the other theatres including Italy and Spain itself, which I knew next to nothing about. There were interesting similarities between this war and the Napoleonic Wars; both wars being an attempt on the part of the Allies to limit the power of a France led by an aggressive ruler determined to make France the dominant power in Europe. Both wars involved sending a British army to the Iberian Peninsula and both also involved a struggle for control of the sea. Both saw the emergence of a talented British general truly head and shoulders above the crowd in terms of tactical and strategic ability.

The differences are also clear, however. The Dutch were a major ally in the WSS and another able allied leader existed in the person of Eugene, Duke of Savoy. The Spanish campaign was more or less a sideshow when compared to the major allied efforts in the Low Countries and southern Germany. The war petered out due to political and military exhaustion on both sides, and while Wellington's name was made by his role in the Napoleonic Wars, Marlborough's was destroyed, despite his military brilliance. Likewise, Holland was ruined as a major power, bankrupted by the cost of the war and ending without the hoped for territorial gains in modern Belgium (or the Spanish Netherlands as it was known at the time), whereas Prussia came out of the war enhanced as a kingdom, set on the road to expansion for the following 2 centuries. Louis IV remained on the throne at the end of the war, unlike Napoleon, and the balance of power was restored, more or less, until the next time.

Jim's podcast reviews and little lessons on the origins of words and phrases at the start of each podcast irritated me to begin with as I was more interested in the main history narrative of the show, but over time I came to enjoy his reviews as it shows his passion for history and the medium of podcasting. His enthusiasm is infectious; I may well take up some of his suggested listening recommendations later. His little historical word of the day bit is a little bit of fluff; entertaining, but irrelevant really.

The biggest problem, though, is that after investing in the time listening to 19 episodes, and being thoroughly entertained and educated, the series abruptly ends with no more shows to wrap up the narrative of the WSS or indeed any explanations as to what has happened or when or if we can expect any more from Jim!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Westphalian WIP

Here's the rest of a 12 figure battalion of Westphalian infantry using the bodies from Italeri set 6066 French Infantry and the heads for HaT set 8219 French Chasseurs (marching).

The Italeri set are part of a swap deal I made with Dan over at Gunner's Wargaming a while back, while the chasseurs are a set I've had for a while that have been sitting in the plastic mountain gathering dust. I have not used many of all 3 sets of HaT's chasseurs as I am pretty well set for French infantry. As I'm now branching out to French allies, maybe they'll make an appearance as a foreign regiment like Italian light infantry, or the Regimént Prusse.

In the meantime, one sprue have made the ultimate sacrifice to provide their heads for this battalion of German allies.

The full battalion

Command figures. Colour bearer's moulded plastic flag removed and replaced with piano wire for upper staff. Flag will come from Napflags website 

Firing line figures

Friday, March 23, 2012

Italian team photo

I was supposed to be out at the club tonight, but I misread my diary and realised I was working tomorrow, so I had to scupper my plans for the night :-(.

Instead, here's some artfully posed photos of both battalions of Italians for your viewing pleasure!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bouquets, not brickbats, for the police

The police get a bad rap in the media, usually in high profile events like the recent worldwide 'Occupy' kerfuffle, including here in Melbourne, where they got their share of a caning in the media for use of excessive force. Or else they come to attention with stories of corruption, or incompetence etc. I can't speak for the experience that others have with their own police forces around the world, which I'm sure run the gamut from brutal lackeys of the corrupt elite, through to righteous upholders of the law, but I can speak of our own Victoria Police in a positive light.
Being an upstanding, law-abiding citizen, I have not really had much to do with the police, but realise that they have a hell of a job having to deal with the fall-out of society's ills. Incidents that must have far-reaching impacts on those involved like car accidents, violence, drunkenness, theft and the like, are grist to their mill and generally go unnoticed except by those involved. 

An incident happened in our street over the weekend that left me full of admiration for our boys (and girls) in blue.

Saturday night saw a mentally disturbed man decide to make his way home across the rooftops of the homes on the western side of our street in an action resembling a human/possum hybrid. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop, breaking tiles as he went, he attracted a crowd of scared, angry neighbours. If he'd timed his run later he may have got away with it, but as it was relatively early most of the neighbourhood hadn't gone to bed yet. As it was, the street filled with have-a-go-heroes yelling threats and encouraging violence, while Possum-Man returned the love. Luckily some of the more sensible neighbours called the police who arrived fairly quickly and soon had the situation under control, telling the onlookers to go home and reassuring the elderly Greek couple on whose roof Possum-Man was ensconced. Then the hard work started.

The negotiation started with the man on the roof insisting that he wouldn't come down until he'd found his wallet, which he'd lost in his rooftop jaunt. He was adamant he wouldn't come down until the police had given him a torch with which he could search for the missing wallet. The police were equally adamant that they couldn't help him with his request and that he needed to get down off the roof. Many threats and insults and other invective were hurled at the cops over the next few hours while the police calmly but firmly stuck to their position and proceeded to wear down his resolve.

As this happened right across the street from us, it wasn't something that we could very well ignore, and with the volume of noise the fellow was making and his increased agitation, I felt that this was going to end badly with the police forced to use capsicum spray or tasers or else with the chap carrying out his threats to jump. Either way I thought it'd end up with him more or less involuntarily on the concrete after a fall of over 2.5 metres. After a previous experience with a drug addled nong flinging himself from the building I worked in, I wasn't relishing the thought of a similar thing happening where I lived, and feared the re-occurrence of flashbacks that had made life difficult a few years ago. 

The police kept talking to him and after a brief flurry of action when the guy charged off to find his wallet on another roof, they eventually coaxed him down. The emotional toll of keeping up his angry rant began to tell as he alternated between extreme anger, lucid conversation and bouts of weeping. Eventually, even he realised that he couldn't stay there forever and after getting a promise from the negotiator that he would be allowed to look for his wallet under supervision after surrendering, which he got them to repeat while filming it on his camera. 

After allowing himself to be cuffed, he then decided that he'd made a mistake and started struggling and roaring again, resulting in his being forcibly restrained, face down on the road. Needless to say, he didn't get to look for his wallet! He was eventually bundled into a divvy van (one of  3 police vehicles in the street!) and carted off. Tellingly, at no stage did a Crisis Assessment Team arrive to take over the negotiations, or even assist, despite the fact that the man admitted he'd not taken his medication and that he was 'crazy'. It's a sad indictment of the mental health system that the underfunded services cannot cope and that the police are the first line of mental health care. 

Ten to fifteen years ago there was a spate of fatal police shootings of people in the grips of psychotic episodes in Victoria, so obviously there has been a lot of work put into training for non-violent resolution of these types of situations, and in this instance it paid off in spades.

So a happy ending to a difficult situation deserves a bit of recognition!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Podcast review - Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

I've been listening to Dan Carlin's take on the fall of the Roman Republic on the way to and from work over the last couple of weeks and found myself really enjoying his enthusiastic take on the story. When I say 'story', that's exactly what I mean as Dan is a story teller par excellence. He confesses he is a history 'fan' rather than a historian, and this definitely is evident in his delivery. His breathy 'gosh-darn!' delivery is a little off-putting to begin with, but once you get acclimatised to it, it's actually part of the fun.

He seems to focus mainly on World War II and the ancient world, along with the odd show where he answers questions he poses himself such as 'Does the toughness of peoples play any role in history?' He's not just some guy who rambles on about his favourite topic, but an ex-radio presenter and journalist who does his homework before each episode and also posts the references he's used on the website. He is even-handed when talking about historical theories, especially where the evidence is limited; always explaining the differing theories and explaining which he finds more credible and why. When compared to the Napoleon 101 podcast reviewed previously, this is a breath of fresh air! Dan is a fan of the history, rather than the personalities of history; he doesn't  twist the evidence to suit his own viewpoint.

Not really having an in depth knowledge of the history of the late Roman Republic period I found his take on the major issues, events and personalities of the period very educational and entertaining at the same time. His comparison to Marius as Charles Bronson and Sulla as Clint Eastwood facing off in some Hollywood action movie, while ludicrous, certainly painted a picture easily understood by a contemporary lay audience. His perky use of PC swear words made me smile and he even actually said '...going to heck in a handbasket...' rather than the usual Anglo-Saxon HELL (ooh, wash your mouth out with soap Monsieur Rosbif!).

His latest podcast, entitled Thor's Angels, dwells on the fall of the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes that rose to power from the ashes of the Western Empire. Another fascinating take on a period of history I know only the basics of, explained in his own unique style using such modern cultural memes as Planet of the Apes and outlaw biker gangs to illustrate his points!

I find it very engaging. The programmes are a launching pad for further investigation of the issues he raised by tracking down the sources he used.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book review - Achtung Schweinehund!

This book is a rolled-gold, authentic, laugh-out-loud cack-fest that should be required reading for all historical wargamers. While I only took up this hobby 6 years ago, my childhood was so filled with toy soldiers and dreams of heroism and glory that the author's reminiscences struck a clear note of recognition in me. His descriptions of role-playing-games and their players had me laughing till I shed tears, and his descriptions of wargames conventions and the people who attend them was uncomfortably close to the truth! 

The author shows how a little boy's obsession with war, fostered by the previous generation's personal experience (in a peculiarly Anglo-Saxon way), gradually morphed into an obsession with historical wargaming and its associated paraphenalia. It's a path that a lot of us in the English speaking world, of a certain generation (ie, baby-boomers to early gen. X) can relate to; certainly I know I could. I grew up with tales of my grandparents' WWII service, collected Matchbox soldiers, read Commando comics, lusted after my friends' GI Joe figures and ran around with my mates shooting each other with imaginary guns or chucking dirt clods (or 'yonnies' as we called them) at each other pretending they were grenades. 

Incidentally, GI Joe finally revealed to me that Father Christmas did not exist, as at the age of 8, my family and I lived in the 3rd world where my father worked on an agricultural aid project. I was wavering in my belief of the existence of Santa before then, but gave him the benefit of the doubt. I thought if he really existed, then I would awake to find the aforementioned lusted after GI Joe action figure (NOT a doll!) would be in my stocking despite the non-availability of such a toy in the country we were living, during these pre-online shopping times. Needless to say, I didn't get my action figure, ergo Father Christmas was a sham!
From then on it was reading all the accounts of WWII action I could get my hands on and watching every movie on the subject that came along. I painted many a 1/72 WWII plane, my favourites being the massive Airfix Lancaster, although the Matchbox Stuka and Mosquito came a close second. After that came fantasy role-playing-games and my introduction to painting figures. We used Games Workshop and other figures to keep track of combat, and using my model aircraft painting skills, I can safely say mine were the prettiest figures (not boasting or anything!).

After that it was drinking and girls (but mainly drinking!), until settling down with Mrs. R and having a family spurred me on to picking up the hobby I'd always been fascinated by, but never had the courage to follow up. Initially there was the geek factor to overcome, but now that I'm a father, I'm so uncool (especially in my kids' eyes) that I am now immune to embarrasment. I came along to the NWA about 6 years ago and have been hooked ever since.

Besides geographical and generational differences, you can see that I had a similar obsessive start to my interest in all things war, although Asterix led me to an abiding interest in the ancient world, too. I would advise anyone involved in historical wargaming over the age of 40 to read this book and laugh and cringe in recognition at the stages of obsession that stay with you from childhood

Thanks to John R. who lent it to me (and to nearly everyone else in the club!).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Westphalian wonderland!

Like I don't have enough projects on the go! British 2nd Corps, Italian division circa 1809, Wurttembergers, Jim's Soviets. Now I've decided to start a Westphalian project using the Italeri French figures with head conversions using the heads from HaT chasseurs. The original neckless, chinless heads looked too weird, while the conversions have the added bonus of plumes, cords and flounders.

Original figure
Conversion using HaT chasseur head
Finished Westphalian grenadier

Saturday, March 17, 2012

2 ° Reggimento Fanteria - Finalmente finito!

Well, I've put the final touches on the 2nd Italian Regiment of the Line with flag added and last layer of matt spray applied. Now to upload them onto La Bricole and see how I go in the competition.

The prize has been announced; Digby Smith's 1st volume of Napoleon's Division in Spain (not that I expect to win or anything; just keeping my fingers, toes and eyes crossed!)

In column

In line

Command stand



March attack 


The Prize!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Battle of Boyaca(-ish)!

This is the scenario based on the Battle of Boyaca 1819 fought in Columbia by the Great Liberator, Simon Bolivar, against the forces of the Spanish crown.

In our scenario, it's been transplanted to the Iberian Peninsula itself about 7 years earlier and is fought between a Franco-Italian army on one side and an Anglo-Hispano-Lusitanian-Germanic army on the other. This time I brought the camera, but failed to check the batteries (which were dead, of course) until I switched the damned thing on. GRRRRR! Dull, unexpandable camera phone pictures again I'm afraid, folks!

The object of the scenario was the same as in the historical battle; both sides were aiming to secure the river crossing to be able to protect or capture an objective just beyond the edge of the board. The initial roll of the dice to determine the side who got the first move was fairly important as that would determine who was defending and who was attacking. As luck had it, John R. and I scored highest and my vanguard hot-footed it to the village in front of the bridge to seize the bridge first.

John attempted to keep Tim's Spanish hordes away, while I had the job of stopping Steve from wresting control of the bridge away from me. Again, it was a tale of two battles with John going down to TIm's overwhelming numbers and me holding my own against Steve, who's still getting used to the conventions of our rules after a long break. If I'd been playing a more seasoned opponent, I might not have come away so lucky!

Map of our setup using nifty software courtesy of MappingBoard (see link in Wargames Resources  in the sidebar)

The table viewed from the Franco-Italian side.

My vanguard was cavalry heavy in the hope that any enemy infantry would be deterred by by a regt. of dragoons and hussars backed up by 2 batteries of galloper guns and one battalion of light infantry. Next time I'd go for another infantry battalion and one less cavalry unit, I think.

My vanguard
With manoeuver movement getting me to the village in the first move, I had to decide on where to position the artillery and cavalry while my infantry were a little way behind, blocked by the BUA. I faced both the cavalry and guns down the road, neglecting to put out a vedette to check behind the ridgeline, behind which Steve sent his Portuguese cacadores past the BUA, ready to swing around the back of my position.

After rectifying the non-deployment of the vedette, I sent the lone light battalion to skirmish with the advancing cacadores hoping to delay them until the rest of my division turned up.

Dragoons, guns and arrive in the BUA, while the hussars swing through the fields.

The all important bridge, and the gap between the river and BUA!

Unlimbered guns and dragoons focusing on the distant threat, not aware of the threat on the flank!

Light infantry unform into skirmish order.

The main body enters the board.

John, meanwhile, had taken up a position on a ridge (very British thing to do, John!) and awaited Tim's arrival. Tim had sent in a Spanish vanguard (or horde) and still had more troops to put on the board, including Portuguese and KGL. Poor John got some bad die rolls, which didn't help, and allowed Tim to set the pace after his initial couple of charges were rebuffed.

John takes up position behind the ridge

The Grand old Duke of York was British, though, wasn't he?!

On come the Spanish hordes!

First clash!

John and Tim recoil back to their starting points!

Eat iron, Manuel!

Tim's KGL Light Dragoons back up the Spanish light troops

John's dragoons charge an approaching column...

...and send them packing.
To no avail though, as Tim's numbers  and unlucky dice rolling sent John advancing to the rear!

Steve moved his infantry up behind the cover of the ridgeline while he kept two battalions in reserve on the road with the horse guns and cavalry, riskily at 90 degrees to me, although he was protected by the tall crops. I sent a couple of battalions of infantry over that way to support the hussars who were lurking in the agricultural land, and to possibly force a gap in the enemy line on his flank.

Finally aware of the threat to the bridge, the skirmishers advance and the dragoon column changes facing.

Steve's line covering the advance of his main force.

Light dragoons to the fore as he advances behind the ridge.

My 2 line battalions attempting to get on to the flank of Steve's line on the road.

My main force reaches the BUA

Dragoons shaping up for a charge through my skirmish screen at the  cacadore line, while the rest of Steve's infantry advance.

With the vedette amongst the skirmishers, the dragoons are informed of the threat and await the order.

While I was getting my dragoons into position to do some damage to Steve's infantry behind the ridge, he charged his light dragoons in line at my guns. Luckily his line was too wide to fit in the gap between the BUAs and after whacking a figure off the line the gunners fled to cover in the buildings. If I'd maybe taken another figure off, he could have fit in the gap and whacked my dragoons in the flank! Thanks goodness for crap die rolling, I say!

I launched my dragoons at the cacadore line, almost as much to get them out of harm's way as to inflict damage on Steve's troops. They did the expected job of carving up his line, but ended stranded amidst formed troops. Unsurprisingly, his Portuguese line turned their column around to fire on my flank to force a morale check, which the dragoons failed and were sent packing. They did the required job of slowing down Steve's advance until the rest of my infantry and artillery could arrive to stabilise the situation.

Over in the fields, my hussars lurked waiting to pounce, while 2 battalions of infantry came to support them. Tim had detached an equal number of British battalions to thwart my attempt. In the end, Steve moved his British line within my hussars' charge arc and I launched them in column against the British line, again smashing them.

Luckily Steve's Light Dragoons end their charge against the walls of the BUAs, where the gunners have decamped after firing at the oncoming line. The French dragoons attention is focused elsewhere!

In they go!

They opened a big gap between the nearest British column and the Portuguese line, but now face  a flank attack.

Meanwhile the foot battery has arrived to give the British cavalry some curry, while my new battalion of  Italians occupies the left hand BUA to add some flank fire.


The hussars in the fields adjust their angle to threaten Steve's line.

French infantry advance to take on the Portuguese and approaching British

The other Italian battalion makes its way through the BUA to where the action is.

Tim's British infantry advance through the tall crops to thwart my flanking move.

The Portuguese column fires on the dragoons' flank causing them to break. They've done their job, though!

My Italian column fights a draw with the nearest British column, but that's enough; the bridge is still in my hands!
By this stage it was all over with John routing from the field and Steve unable to bring enough weight to bear against my position. If it had been a longer game, the allies would have won, as I'd be hard pressed to maintain my position after John's defeat, but as it was we declared it a Franco-Italian victory as I held the objective at the end of the night.

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