How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Poodle attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review: "Turncoat's Drum" by Nicholas Carter

While I do like to encourage anyone to write any fiction about the ECW, I find myself struggling to like Nicholas Carter or his writing.

There aren't loads of novels set in the English Civil War, altho there are a bunch around, including some famous authors like Daphne du Maurier.  A shame since it is such a fascinating clash - a classic struggle of those who think a single or few people governing is better than "the many" governing.  And in the end realizing that both are equally prone to fall into evil.

Yes, Charles I was a mediocre to bad king.  But what parliament replaced him with was even worse - chaos and then Bloody Cromwell.  A hard choice between two unappealing ends.

History aside, a novel set in this struggle should be rich with passionate people who truly care about which side they put their lives on the line for, and take advantage of the many interesting characters that populate the history of this war.  Yet Nicholas Carter leaves us wanting.

His style of  prose leads one to the conclusion that he himself thinks little of his characters - who are his own creation.  It's the words that he chooses, the traits he emphasizes.  Nearly none have redeeming qualities or are even balanced people.  Who Carter brings forward as characters are not representative of the war's participants, they are the mediocrities of the lot.  Small, mean, churlish and often described with in negative terms regarding their thoughts, character, physical traits, etc.

What kind of author dwells on the negative qualities of their own creations?

In any event, this book is a disheartening read.  You have little or no reason to like anyone, in even small ways.  While their commonality should be enjoyable (this isn't a story about Lords and Ladies) and something to relate to, one doesn't really have much interest.  Unlike life itself, which has a an interesting mix of likable and unlikable people, nearly none of Carter's characters are endearing.   As very few people have NO endearing qualities, one realizes after a time that this is Carter's view of humanity - contemptible.  Since he doesn't present them as worthy of acquaintance, neither should we find his characters worthy - we should pity them and their cruel creator.

I recommend you give this and all his books a pass, and read Rosemary Sutcliffe, Jacqueline Lawrence, or Daphne Du Maurier's books on the ECW instead.  They at least have love for their own people.

Results on "Embarrassment of Riches" Post

Well, a fair enough question, and a bit of a rarity in the gaming world.  What do you do when you unexpectedly make some money on your gaming habit?  In any event, the poll wasn't very conclusive, so fair enough not everyone's liking to participate.  In any event, as the month ended and the bills came due, I "donated" nearly all but a few hundred to the General Accountancy & Bill Paying Fund.  In other words, to my checking account.  But it still felt good to be putting some money back into the bills FROM wargaming instead of the other way around.  And there's still a few hundred for when I get caught up on this project and am ready for more.  Probably the decisive point was realizing that I still have a bunch of 40mm stuff to work on without acquiring "more, More, MORE!"

Monday, September 16, 2013

40mm Figure Comparison: Romanoff v. Sash & Saber

Well, inevitably there just HAS to be a discussion of this, it's one of the most popular and perhaps important topic of shared info regarding figs.  Amazingly, I didn't even think to compare them and I didn't notice a size discrepancy until I started to play around with basing schemes.  Check out the photographic evidence:

The Romanoff has longer legs and is a bit bulkier.  They're a net 2-3mm taller and I probably wouldn't mix them in the same regiment altho they'd be fine on the same table.  This is important b/c there isn't a ton of 40mm sculpts out there for ECW.  The variety Romanoff offers is quite useful for my early war style of regiments, and I wouldn't want to have to pass on them.  The identical pics just vary the light conditions as each shows different aspects better, I think.  At some point I need to get some Jacdaw figs as well:

While the Romanoff are more expensive and take some time to assemble, I still enjoy the final result and look forward to the command pack.  I'll add some pike to it as well for a full regiment which I intend to use as Trained Bande.  Then they too can fight for either side!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Worthless Opinions and Questionable Integrity: Who lies behind the ID "Gloria Smud" at TMP?

Let's consider his attack on Mr. Portner [and occasionally Mr. Portner's review of A Crowning Mercy - note that the review is the post below, judge it for yourself] at TMP:

I have been reading, with some interest and amusement [how condescending!], the many and various posts this reviewer has made regarding this particular rule-set and feel it would only be fair [I doubt he'd know fair if the tent was over his house] to point out a few caveats when reading it.

Ken Portner appears to be on some sort of a personal crusade against this set of rules and possibly it's author . [no, just the quality of the writing, but it does make one wonder what relationship the elusive GS has with its author]
Mr.Portner had already made various disparaging remarks concerning ACM – even though as it transpired when grudgingly [a lie! first of so many...] admitted that:
1) He did not own a copy.
2) Had not read them.
3) In fact had not even seen them.
With this in mind I think even the most open minded and charitable of us will suspect this review as hardly being an unbiased and impartial one [the excellent review stands on its own merit - GS is clearly in bed with Mr. Bickley as we'll discover later].

Having been outed [lie #2, the reviewer clearly has nothing to hide, but again the tone is interesting, as tho' GS actually thinks he can 'out' someone who uses their real name while he hides behind his] Mr. Portner then seems to have taken the trouble to then acquire a copy of ACM [Mr. Portner does in fact say that he purchased the rules - I think Smud may be an investigator or a barrister perhaps], with what seems to like [sic] the sole intention of rubbishing them at every opportunity, presumably to confirm his previous rantings [ah yes, another condescending insult], and now has produced this so called [sic] review.

Some may also question his intentions, honesty & motives. [Ah, more insults and  insinuations!  Actually, we question YOUR intentions, honesty and motives GS!  As well as your integrity] The reader should be aware that although posting lots of questions on TMP Mr. Portner very much left the impression that author Mr.Bickley had not answered them [lie #3, or is it #4?]. A fact completely untrue, he had directly but not on TMP. Mr Portner I am reliably informed [one guesses by Mr. Bickley - it gets easier and easier to see the angle] had entered into a lengthy correspondence with the author. Although at no point did he reveal his intention to write a critique of ACM presumably in the hope that "he might catch the author out". [Hey look, another place where Gloria Smut makes insinuating and insulting remarks - UNBELIEVABLE!!!]
I think it would also be pertinent at this point to also advise the reader of his review that Mr.Portner although having apparently gone through them with a fine tooth-comb very clearly has not played them [that must be the part where Mr. Portner says that he hasn't played them, but has read them thoroughly, I'm grateful to have Mr. Smut around to help me with these things], I have, otherwise he simply would not have made certain comments, observations & critique. [since
Some of the comments are just ridiculous [Insult #4 or 5?] and as another TMPer put it "nitpicking". [I'll hide behind other people's insults like I hide behind my ID!"]
eg; "written with 25/28mm figures in mind. There is no stated figure scale"
I don't think I need comment further. [25-28mm is a length not a scale.  It's a length with which I bet you are VERY familiar, eh? I mean, after 40 years of gaming?]
"There is a lot to keep track of. You have to track each unit's morale state, its FE rate as it falls and rises during the game, and you have to keep track of kills per base. (since kills in hand to hand aren't just piled on all on one base). You'll also need markers to denote Shotte bases that aren't loaded and thus can't fire. So that's either a roster on paper or a lot of markers on the table."
Staggering! You mean like you have to in most games. Again I don't need to comment further [not that you ever stop commenting, to our loss]
At this point I think it is only fair to advise anyone bothering to read this that I know the author, Mr.Bickley, in a wargaming capacity, have gamed with him and others in his company.  [I CAN'T BELIEVE IT - THIS PARAGON OF VIRTUOUS, EVEN-HANDED CRITIQUE IS ACTUALLY IN THE POCKET OF THE AUTHOR!!  my world has crumbled]
I can honestly say [actually, you can't honestly say anything you forked-tongued Bickley-bedder] I've always enjoyed these games – they've been fun. We have used all sorts of other peoples rules as well including VWQ and enjoyed them.
BTW the rather good VWQ is an interesting example to bring up – because they are rules which are not the finished product – they are a work in progress – that's probably why they are free. [which is exactly why Mr. Bickley's half-finished rules should be free, incidentally]
I have corresponded with the most amiable Mr. Harrison who informed me he hoped at some later date to finalise them & possibly co-produce them into a fine glossy product, the legendary Barry Hilton was mentioned. [this sort of "I know VERY important people" commentary really turns one's stomach, doesn't it?  Both these guys  - whoever they are - probably have the amount of respect for Mr. Smut that he's earned]
Grandreviewroad – the reviewer can't answer that because he's never actually played them. Even though I am sure he'd still have a negative opinion to air.
I & My fellow gamers [It's SOOOO marvelous for his "fellow gamers" to have the Smudder speak for them.   Now I feel really nauseated] have come to the conclusion that if you think you're playing ECW or ACW or Napoleonics & if you play with that attitude, with another or group of like-minded people, then you'll probably enjoy most rules – after almost 40 years of gaming I still haven't the perfect set ;-)  [I can't believe anyone's put up with this dross for 40 years and not pulled his tongue out by the roots...then again, he is just typing so maybe his 'fellow gamers' have?]

That aside I would say ACM is really for ECW where the armies were mostly "semi-professional" with little or no training (new model army and veterans excepted) so there arern't the complex maneuvers, etc. that you might expect say in the 30YW.
[I'd say that semi-professional is the only apt comment made RE: ACM by Smut]


Yes, there it is folks, and after a dozen insulting, demeaning, condescending posts by this fellow, Bill "Flounder" Trout suspends Mr. Portner for defending himself and the Smutter is still free to roam.   Is it any wonder why TMP [and Flounder's skill] gets so little respect?  Still, after numerous examples of Flounder's failure to edit in anything remotely approaching a fair, logical and reasonable manner, I should be used to it by now.  I guess that's why the Flames of War people have moved on to WWPD, and other forums.  Do the paying advertisers know this?

Update:  Gloris Smud pontificates on the one thing he apparently knows personally:
"Unfortunately the internet & in particular forums, are full of sad, bitter, little, self-important, twisted individuals who never have a good word to say about anyone or anything.
Most have never done anything worthy of note or constructive in their lives and are often just attention seekers.  They're usually very good at dishing it out & not so keen when it goes the other way."These are the sort of reflections that the Smudderer should share with his reflection...And of course the Flounder twiddles those beefy thumbs and wonders what could possibly be the problem - ?

A Review far better than its Subject: "A Crowning Mercy". Review written by Ken Portner

A Review far better than its Subject: "A Crowning Mercy".  Written by Ken Portner

"A Crowning Mercy" (ACM) is a set of wargames rules for "refighting battles from the English Civil Wars, 1642-1651". It is written by David Bickley and cost 13.50 GBP. The book is paper back with color photos and graphics, 47 pages, written in what I'll call a "gentlemanly" style. It reminds me of the writing in the Black Powder series of rules written by Rick Priestly (Warlord Games). There is a Table of Contents. The rules are written in numbered paragraph form for ease of reference.
There are also very brief rules for Sieges, a discussion of campaigns (but no rules for a campaign), a page discussing available miniature lines, and rules for Special Characters like Surgeones, Ministers, and Master Gunners.
The rules are written with 25mm/28mm figures in mind. There is no stated figure scale. D6 are used.
There is no stated ground scale.
The author does answer questions posed him via email. You can find his email on his blog.
Units and their Characteristics
Units consist primarily of Regiments of Foote, Regiments of Horse, Dragoons, and Artillery (single guns). There are also provisions for Forlorn Hope, Petardiers, and "Dumb Dyott" (snipers) and "Rabble".
The rules also say that each army needs to have a Baggage Train to be present on the battlefield, but they don't say why, and Baggage Trains are not referred to later in any of the rules and don't play any role in the game.
Figures are mounted on bases 80mm wide by 50mm deep. The number of figures on the base is not important since each base of Foote or Horse has a strength (the rules call it an "Attrition Rating") of 6, meaning it can take 6 kills before it is "Spent" (i.e. eliminated, no longer effective). The author uses 8 infantry figures on a base and 2-3 horse figures on a base.
A Regiment of Foote is composed of at least 3 bases, 1 Pike base and 2 Shotte bases, but can be larger. The rules don't put an upper limit on the size of Regiments of Foote.
The rules say that units of Commanded Shotte are allowed. (This is stated in the section discussing formations instead of in the section discussing unit composition).
Regiments of Horse are composed of between 2 and 4 Troops of Horse. Here the rules are inconsistent. At one point they say a Troop of Horse is made up of a single base, while at another they say a Troop of Horse is represented by 2 or 3 bases of 2 or 3 figures each. (My guess is that the former is correct).
An Artillery "unit" is one gun. There are 3 types: light, field, and siege, plus mortars.
A unit is always in one of three morale states: Firm, Frayed or Fleeing, and these can change during the course of the game. Each unit has a Fighting Effectiveness (FE) rating ( a number between 5 and 9). The FE rating is used in FE checks to determine whether a unit changes status. (Roll 2 D6 and if the result is lower than the FE rating the units passes the check). So, a Firm unit that fails the FE check becomes Frayed. A Fleeing unit that passes the FE check becomes Frayed.
Also, each time a unit fails and FE check it's FE rating is reduced by 1 (4 is the minimum). If the unit passes an FE check it's rating goes up by 1 (but never to its original FE rating-it will always be down at least one after going down one). A unit that has become Fleeing can never get back to Firm. The best it can do is get back to Frayed.
The rules do not provide "army lists" or any guide to overall composition of forces. (e.g. ratio of Foote to Horse, number of artillery pieces). The only stated limitation is that an army can have only four bases of Forlorn Hope.
Unit Formations
Regiments of Foote can be in March Order, Battle Order, or Hedgehog. March order is a column of bases, one base wide, three or more deep. Battle Order is a line, with the Pike base(s) in the center and the Shotte bases on the flanks. Alternatively, in Battle Order the Shotte bases can be situated in front of the Pike base(s).
In Hedgehog the Pike base(s) go to the front and the Shotte bases are placed behind at 90 degrees to the Pike's front. This is interesting as the Hedgehog (whether you believe it was used during the wars or not) was intended to provide all around protection from cavalry from the Pikemen, but in the game this formation would still be vulnerable on the flanks. (The rules don't say there's any special benefit from this formation). It's possible the author has a different conception of how the formation worked and what its benefits were.
Regiments of Horse can be in March Order or Battle Order, and these are the same formation as Regiments of Foote. When in Battle Order they can be arranged either in a single line of bases, or if a full Regiment of 4 Troops (which I think is 4 bases) they can be 2 bases wide by 2 bases deep.
Turn Sequence
The turn sequence is IGO/UGO. First you determine which side has the Initiative and thus can choose to go first or second. Next the side "holding the Initiative" (I actually think it means the side that's acting, not the side that won the Initiative roll-off and thus chose whether to go first or second) issues orders to its units. Next, the acting side rallies Fleeing units. Then the acting side resolves actions (move, fire, fight) with its units. Finally, the army holding the initiative resolves "Fighting Effectiveness" checks—similar to morale tests. The action then switches to the other side which resolves the same phases.
Units move first, then fire, then fight any melees.
Command & Control
Units are supposed to be given a General Order. The General Orders are "Stand Fast!" (hold position), "Form Up!" (change formation), "Advance, March!" (move, charge), "For God and the Cause!" (follow an attached General in a charge), and "Rally on the Colours" (rally or try to recover Fighting Effectiveness).
This General Order is supposed to limit the types of actions the unit can perform. However, the allowed actions correspond exactly with the allowed General Orders, so the system seems redundant. For example, if a unit is given the "Stand Fast!" General Order it appears that it can only perform the "Stand Fast"! unit action. What is the point of the General Orders? Why not simply say that each turn a unit needs an order from a General telling it what to do from the allowed actions? I may be missing something here, but it isn't clear to me from the rules.
The General Orders are issued by a General. Each army has a commander (Lord General) and may have sub-commanders (Lt. Generals). The commander can order any unit. The sub-commander can only order units under his jurisdiction. A general as to be within a certain distance of a unit to issue an order.
The order won't be obeyed unless the issuing commander passes an FE test. (The commanders have their own FE ratings).
Once an order is given to a unit it continues to operate under that order until a new one is given.
The rules don't state any limitation on the number of units a general can order per turn or whether there are any consequences when a general tries to issue an order but fails.
The rules also don't say whether more than one general (e.g. both the commander and a sub-commander) can try to give an order to the same unit in the same turn-i.e. where one fails, can another try? The author told me in an email that this is allowed.
Movement distances are provided for the various unit types in their various formations. It takes an entire turn to change from one formation to another.
Any terrain that isn't simply flat and open is characterized as Difficult Terrain. Units moving into/through Difficult Terrain have a reduction in their movement distance.
The author states that the armies involved in the wars were not professional and thus were nowhere nearly equal to professional armies in terms of maneuver and drill. But that being said , the rules do not say how units are to change direction (Do they wheel? Turn about the middle? Is there any extra movement cost or reduction for these maneuvers), do not say whether units can move obliquely or laterally, and do not say whether a unit can interpenetrate a friendly unit (the rules do say a Fleeing unit can move through friends without effect on either ).
Charging units get a bonus added to their normal move distance. Charging units do not get the bonus if they charge through Difficult Terrain. The rules don't say whether there are any restrictions to charge movement. (i.e. can a charging unit make any turns during the course of its charge? If yes, are there any restrictions to that?).

Shooting is done by base. Each base firing rolls a number of dice. The number depends on what's shooting (e.g. pistols, muskets, artillery) and the range to the target (there are 3 range bands- short, effective, long). Generally, a base can fire at a target up to 45 degrees off its corners.
Regiments of Foote with a 1:1 ratio of Pike bases to Shotte bases roll fewer dice then those with a higher proportion of Shotte to Pike.
Apparently units can be unloaded and cannot fire in this state. I say apparently because it's referred to only obliquely in the rules section talking about Actions a unit can perform (a unit with the Stand Fast! order can fire/reload, reload /fire).
You roll the dice to hit, and then roll the hits for kills. The chances of success on both sets of rolls are affected by the range. There is an option to use Saving Rolls for kills scored.
Charging and Reactions to Charging
Hand to Hand combat occurs when one unit charges another.
The target of the charge may be able to react by either firing or by countercharging, (evade isn't listed as an option) depending on the order it's operating under, its current morale state, and what type of unit is charging it. For example, a unit operating under the Stand Fast! order can shoot or countercharge a charging enemy. A unit operating under the "Advance, March!" order can only countercharge (if otherwise permitted); it can't shoot at the charger. There are multiple combinations of this.
Unfortunately, the way these are spelled out is a bit confusing. There's a list of unit's response to events, but included in this list are some limitations that relate to charging units, not units that are reacting to a charge. Also, some of the reactions allowed are listed in other places in the book (e.g. the rules state that a unit of Foote with the Stand Fast! order can countercharge in an entirely different section of the rules).
Interestingly, a unit of Foote with the Stand Fast! order charged from less than half the charger's charge distance chooses to either Fire at the charger or Fight in the ensuing melee-not both. So if their fire doesn't stop the charge, the Foote will sit there and take it apparently without fighting back.
The rules don't say whether the charge target fires at a charger at short, effective or long range. In an email the author told me this fire takes place at effective range.
Hand to Hand Combat
Once contact is made there can be up to three rounds of combat. In the first round only bases in contact with the enemy fight. In the second round, the first two ranks of a unit fight. In the third round all bases of the unit fight. If by the end of the third round neither unit has fled, the combatants fall back a random distance depending on whether they're Foote or Horse.
The rules don't say what to do when a charging unit contacts the target at an angle so that for example only a corner of the charger is touching the target or if the units are offset, so that only one base is touching the target.
The rules don't say how bases "pile in" after the initial contact. So while all bases in a unit can fight in the third phase of combat, the rules don't tell you how they get into contact with the enemy.
And they need to be in contact with the enemy because that is how you determine how many dice they throw in combat. The number of dice thrown is determined on a base by base basis. You compare the base type with the type it's fighting on a table which lists the number of dice to throw. For example, Foote with Musket throw 3 dice when fighting another base of Foote with Musket, but only 2 dice when fighting a base of Foote with Pike.
The rules don't say what to do when, for example, a base is in contact with more then one type of enemy base. For example, a base of Shotte rolls 2 dice against a base of Pike and 3 against a base of Pike. How many dice does it throw when it's in contact with one of each? And how many dice does it have to allocate to each? The rules leave working these issues out up to the players. I asked the author this question in an email and he confirmed it was his intent that the players decide this for themselves.
The number of dice can also be modified by circumstances. For example, a charging unit gets an extra dice. I think this is one extra dice for the entire unit rather than an extra dice for each base. The rules don't say how this extra dice for the unit gets allocated to the target (i.e. which base takes a hit/kill caused by the extra dice). It looks like each base fighting gets an extra dice for fighting a Frayed enemy unit or fighting against a unit's rear or flank.
Speaking of flanks, it appears that a base is considered fighting on the flank if it's touching the flank of the base it's fighting. There is no requirement that the charging base have started behind the enemy's flank in order to get the bonus. This bonus applies only in the first round of combat and it's only 1 dice, so it actually isn't as devastating as you might think to be charged in the flank or rear.
In any case, once you determine the number of dice to throw (and I guess allocate them if one base is in contact with more than one enemy base) the dice are thrown and each 4-6 hits. Throw the hits and each 4-6 is a kill.
The winner of the Combat round is apparently (the rules don't actually say) the unit that causes the most kills. The loser has to take an FE test. If they fail that they fall back 2". If a unit loses the combat round very badly it will become Frayed. If it loses the round really badly it will Flee.
As noted above, each base can sustain 6 kills before it's "Spent."
With casualties from Fire, for a Regiment of Foote, the first Spent base is a base of Shotte. After the next 6 kills, the unit can only count half the second base's firing dice when shooting. Apparently the Pike base is eliminated last, and for a 3 base unit, that would eliminate the unit. So it doesn't appear that a pike base can be eliminated by Fire combat. The rules don't say how this all works for a Regiment of Foote of more than 3 bases.
The rules don't actually say how casualties in Hand-to-Hand combat are applied. The author told me in an email that unlike casualties for firing, casualties in Hand-to-Hand combat are done base by base.
So , in effect, shooting casualties are all applied to one base whereas casualties in Hand-to-Hand are spread out.
As explained at the beginning, each unit has an FE rating which can go down and up in the course of a game along with its morale status by failing FE tests and passing FE tests to rally.
Units take an FE test in a number of circumstances, some of which have been referred to already.
Winning the Game
When a sub-commander's command has had two of its units Flee the General takes an FE test and if he fails the his entire command Flees. ( Since a unit can recover from Fleeing, it's not clear whether this means the test is taken when two units have Fled, regardless of whether they're both still Fleeing, or whether the test is required only when there are two or more units Fleeing simultaneously.)
The overall commander takes a similar test when one of the subcommander's commands has Fled
1. There is a lot to keep track of. You have to track each unit's morale state, its FE rate as it falls and rises during the game, and you have to keep track of kills per base. (since kills in hand to hand aren't just piled on all on one base). You'll also need markers to denote Shotte bases that aren't loaded and thus can't fire. So that's either a roster on paper or a lot of markers on the table.
2. There are a fair number of details that need to be filled in by the players. This doesn't bother some, but those who prefer rules that are ready to play "out of the box" , so-to-speak, will likely be disappointed.
3. There is nothing particularly new or innovative here. But the rules should provide a relatively quick playing game.

Really, very nice work, Mr. Portner.  It sounds like more effort than it was worth but I thank you for sparing some of us the trouble of purchasing them.  I agree with a number who put forward Victory Without Quarter as an excellent set of free rules.
Clarence Harrison's "Victory Without Quarter" rules link is here:
Note that there is at least one other rule set called "Victory Without Quarter" although I don't recall who wrote it.
VWQ is simple and fun . . . and the price is right too (even though they aren't quite what I want).  -- Jeff of Sax Bearstein
and a special thanks to the noble Jeff for steering us towards that link!

"The Battles of Landsown & Roundway 1643" by Robert Morris

The rather plain cover with the line drawing [quite a nice one I think] gives the correct impression of old-school production and graphics that never saw even a rudimentary computer much less any graphic design programs.  Witness the battle map for Roundway:

But lack of flashy production aside, the book is a good value.  It's inexpensive at 5.50 GBP, about $8 USD and has plenty of information useful to a wargamer interested in a more detailed examination of the crucial battles of Lansdown and Roundway [Down] in 1643, especially the forces involved.

What the book lacks is that which history presently hides from us, such as uniform and flag details.  However, there are many details of regiments, their officers, campaign history and locations, and more.  While the later period of "Horse & Musket" puts the regiment forward as end-all of battle, the ECW puts forward people more, especially the commanders.  That is the fun and sometimes frustrating thing about the period.  One expects regimental continuity, integrity, battle history, uniform and color details like in the 7YW, and they often just aren't there.  However it enables one to be more person-focused on the men who raised the regiments / troops and whose names identify them along with their history [or likely history].  So, very useful if one is going to write a novel or a detailed wargame battle / campaign background.  It would be especially interesting to help give quality levels and background on commanders, for example, which might affect regiment quality also.

There is also more information than one usually gets in either scenario books or history books on the battle and forces involved.  Regard for example the Order of Battle for Waller's Parliamentary forces at Roundway Down:

Especially likable is that the author demonstrates clearly that which seems certain and that which is deduction and reasonable guessing.  Don't often get that in history books.  It shows the lack of certainty and therefore the flexibility for the gamer regarding regiments, colors, uniforms, size and plenty more.  This clarifies the task for the diligent gaming host or campaign designer to fill in gaps for a fair game according to the rules used.  For many gamers, this will give them a bit more freedom than they desire, but for the creative types it is wonderful to know that there are workable parameters within which to shape a game / campaign while respecting the history.

I recommend this book, and those similar, which are available from Caliver Books in the UK, with very reasonable shipping to the US.  Personally, I plan to get more, and will include reviews as seems worth the effort to add to this one.

I give BoLaR a healthy 8/10 cornets for lots of wonderful details and a very affordable price.  Costs half of an Osprey title but, one gets less flash and a bit more details.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Long, pointy sticks preparing for action!

Well, there was quite a delay with busy work, family time and beach time [oh, the horror of it all...] but I finally finished cleaning up and 'heading' the miniatures [I feel this is the accurate term to describe attaching the heads...after all if you remove the head it's 'be-heading'].  The 20 pike from Sash and Saber came with the 7-7-6 even split of the three types.  Heads included were 9 helmets, 10 brimmed hats, and 2 no hats at all [one with a possible bandage / possible hippy headband - I guess it's our call if he's from Woodstock, UK].  Not much in the way of extras and my reading indicates that the knit and monmouth caps were a common wear for pikemen as they provided extra padding under the helmet something I'll suggest to Chris of S&S.  Here's the opened bag:

I ended up mixing in caps from the Romanoff and Musketeers to get the effect I wanted.  I've two stands of 6 pikemen without helmets for early war Royalists to reflect their generally worse equipment [perhaps Cornishmen - I'm still keen on forces and a campaign in the Southwest].  The third is helmeted and will be a Parliament pike stand.  There was a problem with sizable pits on the snapsack, pictured below:

Low bid?  Faulty construction?  Mice?  Unlikely in them all, so we'll have to fill them with some putty before priming.  Also, the wild metal bit on the sword scabbard will have to be trimmed - I cut them then point the scabbard ends with the a Dremel bit.

Anyway, still a bit of work to be done as described above, but here's the product right now:

On the left are the pikemen awaiting helmet issue / acquisition:

The single helmet per stand is a veteran of the Dutch Wars with a souvenir.  The better-equipped Parliament pike are on the right - it helps to have friends in Hull it seems:

As usual, there is quite a bit you can do with the three body types and the several head types.  One needn't have any figures with identical body/head combos.  And even just placing a head at a different angle or looking in a different direction makes the figure seem quite different.  Also, plenty of characterization is possible, which is part of the fun with these larger figures.  

I'm looking forward to painting them but still sticking with my goal of assembling them all and figuring the units before painting.  I've only ten foote figures left to assemble; two commands of 5 figs each [one Romanoff and one S&S].  I'm looking forward to this as they are quite colorful and the regimental commands of my Colonels - who are quite characterful themselves!  

Finally, there's a unit of 7 plus 3 command of harquebus horse.  They look quite good, too and as I am keen on the horse in general I'm looking forward to them.  Make a nice change from cleaning foote.  The interesting thing about the war is that the smaller the battle and campaign, the more important the Horse was and more likely to be fielded.  So the proportion of horse in a small command was much higher than in a large command.  Will make for dynamic small battles.

Overall, I give these a 7.5 / 10 cornets due to the excessive cleaning with the pitting and shaping of the scabbards, and for lack of head variety.  Still, nice figures for the table.

Corsec Bases

With the decision to go with 3" square bases and half bases, I debated type and manufacturer.  I posted at TMP in the basing area, and got a number of suggestions, including one from Jon Bowen at Corsec Engineering saying that he had 1/4" MDF [mid-density fiberboard] laying around that might suit the larger figs.  In the end, I went with Corsec b/c he was very responsive to emails, but picked 3mm MDF.  The total cost for 15 3x1.5" bases and 15 3x3" bases was $25.60 shipped.  There was a delay in shipping due to a mechanical fire in his cutter, but Jon let me know and then shipped them by the second predicted date.  I don't know how much MDF costs, but my dad's bandsaw is temporarily out of service and there's a time/cost factor for me to cut them myself, anyway.  So I felt like I did well with the deal.  And here's how they look:

They had a slightly singed smell from the laser cutting when I first opened, but that is dissipating.  Perhaps it can be explained as the smell of the matchlock musket's matches burning??  This is how they scale down next to a figure:

They seem just right - big enough to give a grip, but not big enough to be obvious.  Also, I doubt even a thick base will prevent people from picking them up by the figs.

As for the basing scheme, I'm thinking two ranks of 3 pike on the 3x3" base, and a rank of 2 Shotte in each 3x1.5" base.  So the shotte will have 4 figs and pike 6 figs on the same space.  This seems to be a likely deployment. in the ECW.  Remember that the shotte have extra space to load and to march down the files after Giving Fire.  Here's a pike pic:

seems big enough, and I want the extra depth to prevent figs from banging into each other during melee contact between units, as well as making some diorama effects.  As for that the generals will be on the large bases as well, and I plan to have dioramas with them including some sort of flag to indicate who they are on the table-field.  I'm toying with the idea of putting the Regimental command on the half base with three figs.  Hard to decide since I haven't finished my ACW rules yet!  The optimum balance of looks and history has yet to be decided.  Probably the last thing that will happen is flocking as I tinker with basing and rules.  Ah, the joys of wargaming....

I give Corsec an 8/10 cornets for price and service including communication.  I'd certainly buy the next batch of bases from Jonathan.  Might need some deep ones for guns....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

1,000 Visits!

Wow, never thought there'd be more than ten people who'd drop by for ECW in 40mm, but hopefully the continuous sharing of other information, inspiration and perspiration will keep people's interest!  Don't forget that you can get an email when new posts are put up, that may make it easier to follow.  

I haven't been able to make much progress with work and some final visits to the beach as the season winds down.  Have been doing some reading, but today is the first day I was able to continue my work on my S&S pikemen.  As they're almost done, there should be a post about them very very soon, along with a comparison of the size difference between Romanoff and S&S.  I've got about another eight posts planned in addition to these, so keep checking back!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Defoe: "Memoirs of a Cavalier" Review

This particular book was loaned and then given to me by the Venerable Bede whose blog is linked here so special thanks to Bede!  The difficulty with inspiring writing for a gaming period / event is getting the right balance of action and story with something that is genuine.  In this work, Defoe [of "Robinson Crusoe" fame] shows his talent for writing in another's voice so well, that contemporaries [including veterans] thought it was a real memoir, not a novel!

The story is of a young cavalier who departs for a European tour with a friend during the 30YW and quickly finds himself drawn into the conflict despite personal reservations and family restrictions.  The military details are great, the revelations about service in two major wars is invaluable to inform the gamer of the period, and the story has lots of forward momentum.

I haven't finished, but I already recommend it to anyone interested in the ECW and who enjoys memoirs.  The language and punctuation is a bit odd but not hard to follow.  This edition also has a commentary at the start that can be skipped but it's there if you need it.

I give it a 9/10 Cornets for period flavor, inspiration, and storyline.

"An Embarrassment of Riches"!? Vote and help decide!

Great title from a history book about the Dutch during the reformation.  Apparently, they made a lot of money. 

In my case, I didn't _make_ a lot of money, as got a bit lucky with deciding to sell of all my Battlefleet Gothic fleets and then discovering that the entire line was dropped by GW in their infinite wisdom [sometimes I LOVE those guys!] so a quick tour of eBay auctions revealed high prices and aggressive bidding.  With great hopes, I spent several hours organizing and making good auctions with pics.  There were 16 Eldar ships, 11 Ork, an Imperial Fleet of 9 + 10 escorts, two chaos fleets of 7 and 5 plus escorts, a system defense fleet and a bunch of traders, and a intro box set mostly untouched with some extra bits.  The total over several auctions was over $900!  A few guys from France bought most of it, oddly.

So what shall I do?  It's way more than I ever thought I'd make in the near future on gaming auctions.  Based upon my rules, it's certainly available for gaming purposes, but I still have far more projects than I can do and need to sell off even more.  Decisions, decisions...

Well, you can help decide!  There's a POLL AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE so feel free to express your opinion and as we say in Philly - "Vote early, vote often!"

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: "On the Banks of Helicon - Early Music of Scotland" by the Baltmore Consort

More great period music.  lots of it is from the 17th C. and there are some lovely pieces from bagpipes to rounds to choral to great songs featuring the mellifluous Custer LaRue.  While it is NOT bawdy music, there's beautiful renderings of "In a Garden So Green", "My Heartly Service", "The Flowers of the Forest", "Our Father God Celestial", "The Scots Marche".  Highly recommended to keep you motivated while you clean the mold lines off your 40mm figures!

"Take my 25mm - PUHLEEEEZE!"

Hey, you can "take my wives, puhleeeeze, too!"  [with apologies to Henny Youngman:\
but my favorite line is at the end - "Am I too late for the garbage?  No, jump in!"]

In response to overwhelming demand [well, truth be told, one suggestion, but I'm very pliable] I'm posting more details about my 25mm Old Glory auctions.  Several sold already and are at the feedback stage.  just a few are left.  My painting is what I would call "superior wargame table standard" which is to say that most of it is block painting with drybrush highlighting and then the miracle dip [the only painting method approved by the Pope in Rome - beware ye heretics!] for a solid if not Golden Daemon paint job.  Yes, I've gotten lots of compliments from people over the years, but mostly for the details I add to knights shields and such [for which I thank the inventors of the Micron Pen and a steady hand.  Run's in the blood - dad's a surgeon, dontcha know?].  Anyway, here's pics:

OK, I'll add that I think the brushwork on the above captain's horse is quite good, if I do say so m'self.
Anyway, my eBay ID is "Double-a-68" and here's the auction:
Personally, I think they're a bargain.  Having shipped and received from Sri Lanka I can assure you that you don't get figs painted this well.  At $60 you're paying $25 over the price of the figs [$40 with the OG discount] so unless you make about $2/hour, you're coming out ahead on this auction.

Also up are some generals / characters, and a brigade of infantry and a brigade of cavalry.  They are being sold below the Old Glory discount, so it's something like 45% off or so, with no tax!  Until someone bids on them, I can withdraw the auction so feel free to send me an offer.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Progress and Proceeding...

Happy that in just a few weeks I've managed to clean and assemble 34 figures: 20 S&S Musketeers, 10 Romanoff Musketeers, and two S&S Mounted Officers.  Especially since this is a much larger stage in the bag-to-table process than with 25s!  Painting I believe will be faster since the figure is bigger and easier to work with, and I don't plan to do much more detailing than with my 25s.  Well, maybe for the officers... :)

Next up, I plan to keep on assembling!  I've 20 S&S Unarmored Pikemen, and 5 Foot Command from both S&S and Romanoff.  As there's a bit more room for personality with them, command figs are always fun.  My plan is to assemble figures for regiments, then paint the regiment as a whole to bring more character and unity to the unit.  Also, since I don't have a specific set of rules for which I'm basing them, I need some time to think about that.  As I'm writing my own rules I plan to play with, I have plenty of latitude but it certainly takes up more thought than just basing them for Pike and Shotte or something.  Also, I promised myself I couldn't buy any more figures until I fully assembled all of these!  Then as the regiment building system gets under way, I may need some specific purchases to round them out.  

I've ordered some bases from Corsec, and when they arrive that'll be another post with pics.  After I get those I'll mount the figs on the bases for painting convenience and also to start experimenting with the novel action sequence and conventional firing system I'm working on for the rules.

Romanoff Figures: Cleaned, Assembled, and Reviewed!

Two packs of Romanoff 30YW / ECW figures.  These I got from S&S who export them from far as I can tell.  I _believe_ that OGUK also adds to the line with new sculpts periodically.  At the S&S catalogue, they are:
40RTW4  Musketeers - firing and loading with felt hat             (5 figs) $17.00
40RTW4a Musketeers - firing and loading with monmouth caps (5 figs) $17.00
Unfortunately for the pic, I sorted out all the monmouth caps for pikemen and added more felt brimmed hats from S&S.  But you can see what you get, basically.  Each pack had five identical bodies (humph, would prefer at least two different bodies) and six sets of arms/gear to make the 5 figures.  So you can make three loading/three firing, then two of the other.  Five nicely sculpted swords and I believe it was six heads, maybe a couple more (the command pack has 8 heads for 5 figures).

*research point - Osprey ECW vol 1: Infantry suggests that the monmouth / knit caps were favored by the pikemen as they wore them under their helmets for added comfort, while the brimmed hats and caps like the montero were favored by musketeers [perhaps to keep sun out of the eyes while firing?  maybe the brims helped keep the lock dryer during wet weather firing?].  Interesting and makes sense, so I'm running with it*

The amount of mold lines, flak etc was average for an OG casting, but there weren't any really bad ones across the face and such, and most cleaned up easy.  Only annoying problem was a line that was _in_ the trouser side, sort of a groove in fact, that resisted all but the most aggressive filing attempts.  In the end I had to settle for a combo of filing and filling them, unknown if it'll work.

Assembly was not bad and often fun.  I enjoyed making natural poses and thinking about what the guy was doing.  Also, as a former military man, I know that during any drill there's always some variation in how people stand and do things.  During this period drill was even less strict and uniform, so there should be more variety.  With the slight variation in the arms and different heads, several different figures can be made. 

At $17 for 5 [$3.40 ea.] they cost 50 cents more a figure than S&S 5-packs, and $1.15 more than the "value-pack" of 20 firing figures from S&S.  So the bottom line is get them for pose variety - if you value that then great, but if not go for the S&S, I guess.

Now, how do they turn out?  Well, just fine, really.  But it takes a bit of modelling to do it with the separate arms, weapons, and swords, and heads!  I found it pretty fun, but not something I'd do for an entire project.

Cleaned and assembled, five giving fire and 5 loading.  Are the poses accurate?  One seems to be - my copy of de Gheyn has the exact loading posture, holding musket and priming the pan w' fine powder from a flask:
And this is how my assembly came out:
I also tried to vary their relative foot positioning so they didn't look _quite_ so identical in body.  I think with the painting and basing I can succeed in this a bit more, altho for real variety I'll have to await the Montrose highlanders Chris is progressively offering this summer and fall!  Now the shooting posture and posing:

The Romanoff pose has the gun crooked in the bicep/elbow [ouch!] disregarding recoil.  The de Gheyn postures don't show that in the postures just before/after firing either, so in my mind they've been taught their postures by a veteran who has them holding their 'peece' slightly lowered just before/after actual firing.  They still look just fine and having done lots of shooting/drilling, I'm certain that there's not just one way to do it, and the period definitely had lots of self-proclaimed experts with their own ways.  Fair enough.

This stage went fine - big question for me is will the priming process fill up the gaps between the arms and bodies a bit more - they're too obvious right now.  I'll try some gap fill and see how it goes.

Overall, I give them a 7.5 for average casting and value, but superior posing and pose variety.

Philosophical Rumination: "Project Focus" or "An approach to the hobby"

"Of course you will consider an ECW gaming project - 
you are a servant of his Majesty are you not?"  

Since the subjects of this blog, my two as-yet-unnamed colonels, were philosophical people with a certain amount of education mandated by their class, it seems suitable to put in interludes about the "how?" of this project.

After a number of moves caused by 'real life issues' it was clear that I had too much gaming stuff.  It wasn't just the acts of moving it, but I was forgetting I even owned some of the items and had contemplated some of the projects!  32 years of miniature wargaming haunted me.

Then there were some lengthy times with hardly gaming at all and it was clearly time for a reckoning.  Additionally, as a practicing Christian who was becoming more serious about the actual practice of the faith, it was clear that my wargaming stuff was possessing me as much as I possessed it.  Imagine, being held hostage by little army men who had no life of their own!  It's like they'd won their victory just by being on the field (or in the basement, under the bed, in the closet and preying upon my mind...).  The steps I took:

  1. Payback. At an especially tight financial time I was reviewing my credit card for tax filing and kept running into wargaming expenses from the previous year.  Some of the expenses were over $100!  I totaled it all up and was appalled at the year's total.  So sales of wargaming stuff had to "reimburse" my credit card.  Also, I needed a...
  2. New Rule. No money spent on gaming items unless it was funded by the sale of gaming items.  This included books for inspiration or research of a gaming project.
  3. New Account. Easy to say but complicated to do off one account.  I therefore opened up a new account solely for gaming purposes.  Proud to say that I paid off 2011 - 2012 gaming expenses and in 2013 have spent zero "new money" on gaming.
  4. Painful Decisions. Things had to go.  I made lists and was shocked at how many projects there were!  In my definition, building an army was usually a project, or working in a new period / scale might be, etc.  First consideration was time - was I going to get to this project in the next year or so?  If not then...
    • If the figures could be replaced easily (multiple manufacturors, not OOP, etc) then they had to go.  Bye-bye to 25mm tricorne era stuff (FIW, 7YW, AmRev), 25mm Trojan War (both sides), 28mm heroic sci-fi skirmish, 
    • If the figures couldn't be replaced [OOP] then are there other figures just as appealing?  If yes, then bye-bye.  Lots of 5th-6th edition GW stuff went, including Dwarfs, Wood Elves, Chaos Dwarfs, and Empire items.
    • If I had forgotten I owned them and didn't see any near-future use for them, or I didn't like the scale/figs any more, then bye-bye.  Two divisions of painted ACW went (despite sentimenal value - they were some of my earliest successful painting projects), along with all the stuff I was going to finish painting to complete them.
    • If I'd given up on the rules or the period, then bye-bye.  Battlefleet Gothic is sitting on eBay right now because despite the excellent rules it's too hard to get in a game.  Also, I've concluded I prefer to re-enact history than fight even a great sci-fi game.  It's just too artificial for me otherwise.  Having great success with 1/700 WWII using GQIII made me realize that no one imagines technological challenges and issues that are as interesting as the real ones those guys faced around Guadalcanal.
    • If the project was only one side and the other side was hard to find a gamer for, and I wasn't about to finish the second side to present / host my own games, then bye-bye!  So Flames of War 15mm WWII survived b/c I KNOW I can get in a game of that at some point or another.  25mm ECW not so much - bye-bye!  On eBay now, and much of the painted stuff sold but there's some mint metal still there - cheap!
  5. eBay / Bartertown.  I got more skilled in doing both, often with great results.
  6. Fun Decisions!  With a growing account of 'gaming bucks', despite giving "extra" back to my regular expenses, I began considering what I wanted to do.  40mm had been on my mind for a while - years, actually.  Mainly seeing Sash and Saber displayed at Chris' Lancaster 'con booths.  I also nearly did it in 2009 with medievals, but it just seemed like too much work, too expensive, and there was already too much gaming stuff around.  With many projects sold, for sale, or being lined up for sale, I felt more free to just start a project with both sides.  As I'm sympathetic to both Cavaliers (wouldn't we all enjoy being Lord so-and-so for a bit?) and Roundheads (I'm a congregationalist so love the Levelers and their Leveling) it's fun to play both sides, so paint both sides also.
  7. The ECW has it all - enough figs for variety, plenty of interesting units and weapons, loads of eccentric personalities, and archaic terminology which makes it all more exotic!  No friend, that's not a drill stance it's a "posture".  Plus they misspell tons of words and that makes it fun, also.  The Pike/Shotte/Horse/Gun balance provides plenty of challenges for the armchair general.  There's tons of research material and I even had most of what I needed.  Finally, the units look like they'll be colorful to paint and look good painted.
  8. Blogging!  Finally, Tidders blog made me realize how much fun the blogging could also be.  Thank you Allen!
There's the story in a nutshell.  Is there a "12-step program" to mastering your gaming habit?  No, but following several I've mentioned may help you approach it more responsibly. 

"Pray the Lord's strength empower you to master that demon - wargaming.
And keep your powder dry!"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review of novel "Master Sawbones"

It is 1643 and the Civil War rages throughout England...
The book is set in Hampshire where some bitter fighting took place.  For the Main Character, Nick Howard, his loyalty to his King is clear.  After success as a scout and patrol leader, he's recruited to be a spy posing as a surgeon deep in Parliament dominated territory.  Events slowly spin out of control as he falls in love with the wife of a parliament colonel.

This is a good read, even though it seems like it might be a "woman's romance" it isn't.  The main characters have real personalities and unlike so many modern novels they have some dignity and yes, private lives away from even the reader's prying eyes.  So this is a novel in the Rosemary Sutcliffe style and Ms. Lawrence provides plenty of period detail among her representative characters.

Like most modern authors, there's weak comprehension and presentation on religious matters which is unfortunate as the congregational movement was the heart and soul of the Parliament side and deserves more than it gets here.  On the other hand, Nick's loyalty to King Charles isn't explained either, not even the dubious stability the monarchy provided that was lost when the king was beheaded.

So a tightly written and satisfying character study without a lot of reflection.  But since that's the way so many live, it has a ring of truth about it.  In any event, it's much more refined than reading Nicholas Carter, who clearly has a low opinion of humanity in general.  Overall, if you're a fan of the ECW period, this is a great deal from the library or the $5 to get your own hardback as I've done!

FYI, the cover is a detail from the painting The Siege of Basing House by Ernest Croft.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review of Sash & Saber Musketeers Advancing, 40 ECW4

Pics of my cleaned, primed and assembled S&S Musketeers Advancing - 40ECW4.  You get 20 for $45, which is $2.25 a figure, a great value for one's line units.  I would say that they had an average amount of cleaning for Old Glory castings.  Some fine mold lines, some parts that I filed lines deeper, the occasional flash.  The heads add great variety - it's amazing what even changing the position of a head can do!  Again, there are three variations in a 7-7-6 ratio.

My one complaint is that the sword scabbards are unusually thick and attached to the base with a large chunk of flash.  This has to be cut with metal snips and then I used my Dremel with a metal carver to shape the big thick rectangular sculpt a bit.  They would be much better off as a separate casting which would enable them to have a lot more detail and be correctly sized (scaled up they're about the size of a 2by4 that's 3' long!).  The ones on the Romanoff sculpts are separate and they're lovely scabbard sculpts - perfect proportions and nice details overall.  Compared to regular Old Glory they are almost twice as much - the 25mm are $1.16 ea without any discount - but they are nearly twice as big!

I give them an 8 for variety, 8 for value, and 7 for overall sculpt/casting quality, for a 7.5.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"With whom do you consort, Roundhead currr/ Cavalier dog??"

Thought it was about time to post a review of one of my favorite "inspirational cds" for painting my ECW figs.  The Baltimore Consort plays music of the 16th-18th C. as a consort (type of period ensemble) with authentic instruments and accessible interpretation.  So they sound good and are also generally understandable, basically.  This fall marks the beginning of the group’s 31st season as one of America’s favorite early music ensembles. The Consort has made fourteen recordings on the Dorian label and has toured widely in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

My favorite recording from them for the ECW is "The Art of the Bawdy Song" with the Merry Companions (a pick-up catch song and beer swilling group, far as I can tell - the certainly look like they're having fun in the album's pics!).  These songs are from an earlier period and would probably be either "old favorites" by the 1640s or have been reworked to similar melodies.  However the lyrics are priceless and the subjects timeless and of great interest to all soldiers from the Phoenicians to the SEALS.  You also learn a lot about the culture in a "first-hand" manner more like a memoir than a secondary source history.  And how can you not like lyrics such as:
You're a rogue, you've cheated me, I'll prove before this Company,
I caren't a farthing sir, for all you are so stout!
Sir you lye, I scorne your word, or any man that wears a sword,
for all you huff who cares a Turd, or - 'Who cares for you!?'
[can't you just see the overdressed, boozing officers in a tavern?]

Other songs include "The Old Fumbler", "My THING is My Own", & "Come, come, let us drink".  Also to my amusement I learned that "the Irish Jig" is period slang for sex.  Perhaps in a field, hard to tell from the song.  And the song is hilarious.

Anyway, I've three other albums by them, and they are NOT bawdy but are still very well done.  They provide a refreshing change of pace from the modern rat race and help us to enter another time and place, and isn't that one of the draws of historical wargaming?  Perhaps a future post will feature the opinions of my commanders upon their men's off-duty activities...