Wednesday, 15 November 2017


Today I unearthed one of my projects from about 5 or 6 years back; Napoleonic frigate actions in 1/450(ish) using the old Airfix "HMS Shannon" model as a basis. I have made up three of these plus a model of the USS Constitution (was this a Lindberg kit?), but they've been languishing in a box since before our first house move. A chat on Facebook about the Airfix "Victory" model prompted my memory on these and there was a request for some photos , so here they are. Very much a work in progress, bit I may just have to crack on and sort these out now (in between finishing off my new 1/3000 Span-Am models - more on those at the weekend!)

PS any ideas on what I could use for ratlines on these models? 

Monday, 13 November 2017


My lack of posting might suggest that I've not been up to much recently, but that would be wrong. At present there are 1/3000 Spainsh American warships, 20mm Japanese ans Australian WW2 forces, a load of generic satellites for my SF spaceship gaming and several 1/1200 ACW forts on my wrk bench.

But recently completed were two 15mm IS-3 tanks from Zvezda to go with my WW2 Winter Skirmish collection. Its a lovely model, builds up very quickly and easily into the rather modern looking Russian classic. Some stowage and a grubby whitewashed paint scheme completes the models, with which I'm very pleased as they bring back happy memories of my 1/76 Airfix model (for which I rebuilt the turret since the rear shape was completely wrong).

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Blast Tastic 2017

This morning I popped down to Michael Stockin's "Blast Tastic" Sci Fi wargames show in Filton, Bristol. This was the 4th year of the show and alas the last, as Mike has decided to draw stumps on the show for now. That is a pity as the show always has the promise to be the successor to the SFSFW's "Ragnarok" show but it was not to be.

Anyway, the show was a small but happy and fun affair, with a number of games on display. I ended up paying in Gary Mitchell's "Tripods" participation game, set in the UK in the 1980s and based on the background of the old BBC "Tripods" TV series. An alien vessel has crashed into a farm in deepest Somerset and a strange tripod machine stands motionless above the barn. As the local British Army commander I had to  (a) establish contact with the aliens (playing Beethoven from speakers mounted on a Challenger tank was one option), find and rescue two children of prominent government ministers who were known to be hiking in the area, obtain video and scientific data by helicopter and a few other things. Oh, and another government minister and the BBC were on hand too.

In the end my troops found the children, obtained the data and video, evacuated the children in the helicopter, attempted to make contact, then, when the aliens decided to let rip with a heat ray, put up a stout defence that ended quickly when my Challys put a couple of APDS rounds through the alien shields, completely destroying the tripod in a single salvo. Having given Johnny Alien a damned good thrashing I retired from the field  of battle with a nice cup of tea

The British Army's finest advance on the silent tripod

"How do these rules work again?"

Milan team in place, scorpions on overwatch, the Royal Greenjackets escort the rescued children away from the farm

"Get to da choppah!"

Milan team ready to fire

I grabbed a few snaps of the other games on show and then had to high tail it back to Gloucestershire, so only a flying visit. It was a fun morning, and sad to think there won't be another next year.

Friday, 6 October 2017

White Bear Red Sun

My latest publication, White Bear, Red Sun, landed at Wargame Vault this afternoonWBRS is a mini campaign covering the Russo Japanese War from the initial surprise attack on Port Arthur through to Tsushima and beyond. I'm quite pleased at how this one has turned out, after all its been about 20 years in the making!

Its based on an old series of articles and other material that I published in Battlefleet many years ago, but has been thoroughly updated and considerably added to over the years The main book comprises a brief history of the naval campaign, a set of  fast play pre-dreadnought rules (which may become available separately if there is interest in that), a self contained campaign system and a complete set of ship data for the rules allowing the campaign to be fought out over a weekend or a few club nights. As well as the main 48 page book in PDF format there are additional files with A4 and A3 versions of the campaign map, sea area control counters and ship record counters for both sides for use with the campaign system.

Depending on how these go I'll be starting work on a Spanish-American war version in the not too distant future (actually, who am I kidding, I've started already!)

 Wargame Vault Link

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Doncaster 2017

The Wings of Glory Aerodrome annual gathering took place at the Doncaster Air Museum this last weekend. I wasn't able to make the whole thing but I did get to be there for the "Ace of Aces" megadogfight on the Sunday.

Some of you may remember that when we ran the first of these events a few years back I was struck down with the lurgy - which I then inadvertently spread to many of the attendees, and that the following year I was also poorly (it seems i'm quite susceptible to colds and chest infections in the mid-September period!). Anyway, this year was similar in that I was recovering from a bout that stopped me making it to the Colours show at Newbury (well done Simon and Stuart for switching games), but family duties meant I had to be in Manchester that night and it was only an hour or so's drive across the (misty and foggy) Peak District.

My arrival was a (hopefully pleasant) surprise to many, and Tim (aka "Flying Helmut" on the Aerodrome) must have been especially pleased as it allowed him to prep his chums and give me the following welcome as we prepared for the game :D

To say I was chuffed is an understatement!

Anyway, the game was a couple of hours of "Wings" mayhem and for once I shot down more aircraft than I lost myself (4-3, although it should have been 5-3 but I was a victim of someone's dodgy maths) which learnt me a 9th place out of 30-odd players and a prize of a Barraca Nieuport 17 which was a welcome addition to my collection.

An excellent weekend, lovely as always to catch up with many old friends, an opportunity to make some new ones (and have a good old natter about mt FLoB and Action Stations rules), and made very special by having the opportunity to meet and chat with Andrea Angiolino, who as anyone who has ever met him knows is a thoroughly nice chap!

Looking forward to next year, and hoping I can make the whole weekend.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Connections 2017

Today I'm off to somewhere a bit special from a wargaming perspective. Its the Connections 2017 wargaming conference at Kings College London. I'm presenting with Dr Nick Bradbeer from UCL on the use of wargaming in the education of maritime engineering students in warship design on Thursday. Should be a fun few days :)

Friday, 25 August 2017

Battle of Sandwich, August 24th 1217

Yesterday saw the 800th anniversary of the battle of Sandwich, fought off the coast of Kent in August 1217. A French fleet led by notorious pirate Eustace the Monk was escorting a  convoy to London which was occupied by French forces under Prince Louis, who supported rebel factions during the Barons; War. An English squadron under Hughbert de Burgh intercepted the French off Sandwich. In the ensuing battle Eustace's ship was captured and the monk himself beheaded on the deck of his flagship (some say his head rested upon a trebuchet - that was carried as cargo - when the axeman chopped off his head!). The defeat of Eustace's force led to the withdrawal of the French army in London and brought an end to the war, so a decisive action indeed.

To celebrate this anniversary I put together a scenario based on the battle and fought it out using my "Lord of the Sea" medieval rules. What follows are a few snaps of the battle.

For anyone interested in trying out this battle I've uploaded the scenario to Wargame Vault

Battle of Sandwich 1217

The French cargo ships. De Burgh avoided these juicy targets and headed for Eustace's flagship instead

Hubert's ship (actually the Royal flagship from my Sluys collection)

French warships making a run for it

French merchants in the lead, the French warships sit between them and the English fleet

Hughbert's flagship encounters the flagship of Eustace the Monk. In the ensuing melee Eustace again found himself despatched. Hstory repeats itself!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Review - "The Naval War in the Baltic", by Poul Grooss

The Naval War in the Baltic, 1939-1945
Poul Grooss

The naval side of the Second World War in the Baltic is often seen as something of a backwater. This recent book written by Poul Grooss, a retired Danish Navy Captain and lecturer at the Royal Danish Naval Academy, sets the record straight and shows that, whilst it was not the setting for well known “set piece” battles and campaigns as in the Atlantic and Pacific, it was the scene of constant naval action from the start to the finish of WW2 in Europe – indeed the opening shots of the war came from the sea.  A good portion of the opening chapters deal with the historical and political background and developments leading up to the shelling of the Westerplatte by the German pre-dreadnought Schleswig Holstein. This part is, in itself a gold mine of information not readily apparent nor available to the average reader outside Scandinavia, in particular as it deals with the delicate position of Sweden. A neutral country, Sweden walked the tightrope between the Axis and Allies, historically an enemy of Russia and hence covertly (and sometimes overtly) supportive of Germany in the early years of the war, her preferences and support veering towards Britain and the allies as the war progressed.

The bulk of the book details German, Russian and Finnish naval operations during the war, actions characterised by coastal forces, submarines, the siege of Leningrad and mine warfare. The numbers of mines deployed in the narrow seas was staggering – over 68,000 in the Gulf of Finland alone, and many times that in the Baltic as a whole. The naval aspects of the war are inextricably linked with operations on land and so there is a fairly detailed coverage of the land campaigns fought along the shores of the Baltic. The nature of the Russian advance in 1944-45 and the isolation of German forces and civilian centres cities in the Baltic States, East Prussia and Poland also set the scene for the massive refugee evacuations that took place in the latter stages of the war, and saw the greatest maritime tragedies in terms of loss of life in the sinkings of the Wilhelm Gustloff and Cap Arcona, to name but two.

The book closes with the confusion of the German collapse in May 1945, tensions between East and West, the role of Denmark in accepting (grudgingly) the tens of thousands of refugees streaming in to Copenhagen and other ports, and the transition into the Cold War.

I found this book to be a fascinating read. As mentioned earlier it covers subjects not commonly known to the average reader outside the Baltic states (and, I suspect, due to political sensitivities, not many there either). Originally written in Danish the translation is good, although some additional gentle editing would have been useful at times. There are a good selection of illustrations, charts and sidebar entries discussing various aspects of maritime warfare. All in all an excellent read, and a worthy addition to the naval historian’s bookshelf.

The Naval War in the Baltic, 1939-1945
Poul Grooss
Seaforth Publishing, ISBN 978 1 526200001
RRP £30.00

Monday, 14 August 2017

Mad Wet Max - The Details

A few people have asked for more details about the changes to Dave Schueler's "Thunder Boats" rules that led to the creation of MWM. It is a simple story. Last year Dave sent me a copy of "Thunder Boats" and I got together a collection of Hot Wheels hydroplane boats to use with the rules. I ran the game at the Naval Wargames Show in Gosport, and also at the Berkeley Vale club here in Gloucestershire.  Each time the game went well, players had a blast and a good time was had by all.

But there was an interesting conversation at the end of one of the Berkeley Vale club games.

"Lovely game, good fun, but not enough peril", says BV Wargamer

"And by peril you mean?......"

"Shooting at things"

Of course. And in that moment MWM was born.

The Thunder Boat rules are retained pretty much in their entirety, but are overlaid with rules for a variety of pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rockets, mortars and mines. The rules are quick and simple (generally a d6 roll against range, or 2x range for short ranged weapons). Mortars have a more complex rule that allows for fall of shot, so shooting at a congested area may see you hitting a different boat to the one you intended, whilst shots that miss will land in the water and form mines. Speaking of which, mines can be dropped during movement and may detonate when boats pass over or near them.

If a hit is scored then a simple d6 roll on the damage table determines effect - this can cause engine or hull damage as in the standard rules, but can also damage weapons or injure crewmen. two wounds and you are dead. Some locations may be armoured which grants a saving throw.  Ammunition is strictly limited so it pays to save your ammo for a choice shot

There are a few additional bits of "colour" - for example some of the boats can deploy a parascender who "flies" behind the boat and can drop grenades on boats below, one of the boats features a guy in Ancient British garb with spears - these of course become explosive tipped spears that he can lob at boats as they pass, whilst spectators can camp out around the course and take potshots at the competitors (think Sandpeople during the SW Ep1 Pod Race).

A race comprises two laps - we did originally set the race at three but it was rare for more than a couple of craft to make it to the end of the second lap. There are three gates around the course which must be passed in order (although the direction doesn't matter that much, which often leads to interesting routes being taken through the islands that form the infield. To allow some tactical thinking at the start there is no firing allowed until the first boat passes through the first gate - then its open season! And in this game it often doesn't pay to be in the lead, as you tend to become a bullet magnet!

So, some simple rules in keeping with the originals. The combat element does increase the time needed to play but its still a fast and furious game :)

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Mad Wet Max Wins Thornbury IPMS Best Parti Game, 2017

Today was the 5th IPMS modelling show at Thornbury that has included wargaming, and I'm back with the "Best Participation Game" award for the 5th year in a row! This year's game was "Mad Wet Max", my combative post apocalyptic variant of Dave Schueler's popular "Thunderboats" powerboat racing game. The game has been under development since Christmas and today saw all the elements together for the first time in public. 

So, we had the parascender take to the air for  the first time (although he didn't last long as his boat took an engine hit which caused the boat to lose speed and caused him to be dumped him in the sea - where the following boat promptly ran him over! And for the first time the "spectators" made their presence felt, shooting up boats that came a bit too close (they killed two boats out of the eight racers in game #3!)

Everyone that played it seeemd to have a good time, and I had a succession of visitors telling me they liked the game and especially the models. I guess they must have been right as the game won :)

I'm probably not going to run one of my own games next year - I guess it will be a "Wings of Glory" day instead - August 5th is the provisional date for anyone who is interested in coming along.