Friday 29 December 2023

Attack Warning Red (Julie McDowell): Audible Book

Not a light Xmas read, but a very rewarding one as it gave a fascinating glimpse of the "What if" or "What could have been" with a chilling reveal of strategic war planning - or rather, the lack of the ability to effectively plan for the unthinkable which on reflection .. makes sense. The Government's natural desire or want to "protect national assets" (even in a selfish way) was simply defeated by the Physics of Oppenheimer's and Teller's Hydrogen Bomb, "game changer"  (see below, not quite the happy nuclear family I was thinking about, I am more of a "The Simpons" man myself): 

My verdict: So good that, after listening to the Audible version I bought the hardback copy (I could not wait for the April paperback edition to come out). It caused much stimulating conversation with the older members of the family who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis and Cold War 1980's! I also need to watch Threads again as well as catch up on the latest Podcast of The Atomic Hobo.

Thursday 28 December 2023

Alternative Nativity Scene (D&D Vibe)?

Kids having fun with nativity scene (see below, Avengers figures were too large to fit in correctly): 

Well at least the Roper seemed to be the correct scale!

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Another go at "Ghosts of the Jungle"

In the interests of diverse game play I introduced my D&D group to Ghosts of the Jungle to see how these lads (RPG'ers, aka none mainstream wargamers) played it (see below, I was also experimenting with new novel markers [sourced from the random wood decoration department in "The Works" shop] - 'big feet' markers to say that a square had been entered, and as a "trail" marker [VC tracker to pick up, but teh method was a bit cumbersome]):

As I explained the rules, appropriate beverages [for the Aussies at least] were imbibed (see below, the exotic range of non-standard glassware down to what was left in the cupboard - aka stuff that teenagers like to drink their fizzy pop from): 

Sarge leads his troops off into the jungle and stops when he sees something suspicious. Is it a villager or VC? (see below, green squares are jungle vegetation hiding spots, red ones rural village houses, the warped cardboard sufficed as make-shift road [appropriate as it is a poor quality dirt track]): 

The gameboard gets a bit more complex as the VC and village encounters pose challenges for the strung out ANZAC patrol. The RPG'ers tried not to "shoot first and ask questions later" as the D&D "send the thief scouting forward" strategy came through in droves (see below, edging forward quietly and then ... the shooting started and all hell burst forth): 

Things looked bad as the SAS LRRP got trapped in a mathematical puzzle (insufficient actions to safelt do it and nobody wanted to get stuck in the middle) in trying to safely cross the road (despite all those scary 1970 BBC educational cartoons helping children to cross the road safely), but eventually they "reset" and went round the longer way (see below, the end result was a pile of VC [or are they really just innocent villagers] as the SAS exited safely off table):      

The RPG boys found the rules at first a bit of a challenge in understanding the [simple] game play, but their RPG problem solving skills ensured collaborative play so they got out alive and made devasting use of the "grenade" rule (when the VC attraction to noise makes them "clump" together). All-in-all a  nice diversion, but back to wizards, orcs and fireballs next time!

Monday 25 December 2023

Merry Xmas 2023

Space Marines can also be used as Xmas decorations (see below, which is my excuse for keeping them in a box in the loft): 

Merry Xmas 2023 to all!

Friday 22 December 2023

Audible Book: Black Holes by Brian Cox and Jeff Foreshaw

Following my son's interest in Physics (I was pretty useless at hands on Science at school and ended up doing Computers instead) I thought I might try and "audible" my way into what makes him so excited about it. The latest book by Brian Cox and his compatriot Jeff Foreshaw seemed as good a place as any to start (see below, "to boldly go" or rather "sit back and listen") : 

Well there is an Elton John song that comes to mind, aka Rocket Man and the line "All the science I don't understand", but I enjoyed the ride and bought a physical copy of teh book to go back to! I may well have to listen again to this one. Thought provoking and often mind blowing!

Thursday 21 December 2023

Waterloo done the Airfix Way with Phil Sabin

Following on from Bob Cordery's example (in his Wargaming Miscellany blog) post, I too have to pay tribute to Phil Sabin's latest completed project (and anybody painting 450 Airfix 20mm [1/72 in old money] old school wargaming figures gets my respect). Waterloo - The Dunnigan way (which to teh man's credit, originally created as a free wargame) with a few new Sabin tweaks added: 

In Phil's own words: 

Coinciding neatly with the release of Ridley Scott’s new blockbuster movie on Napoleon, I have just posted the 450 significantly improved 2nd edition of my own much-downloaded tweaks for Napoleon at Waterloo, together with a video illustrating and explaining my changes and showing a complete game using my new bespoke 3D playset with 450 painted Airfix figures, each representing around 400 real troops or 50 cannon.  

You may find the tweaks and video at and respectively.  

Please share both links as widely as possible on other relevant board and miniatures gaming for a (together with the link to Charles’s book at, so that other enthusiasts are made aware.

Our discussions of Charles’s ideas in his article and book provided the main impetus for me to create the 3D playset (using figures I first painted decades ago) and to revisit my original 2020 tweaks.  Although the amendments proposed by Charles and myself coincide in several areas, our approaches are rather different, as is discussed in the thread below on ‘Tweaking Published Games’.  Charles mostly takes the existing game system as read and focuses on more literal modelling of aspects such as the size of the farm garrisons, the tractability of woods and the times at which various contingents became available.  I have used much more of a ‘design for effect’ approach, by playing the game repeatedly and introducing successive tweaks and constraints so that it comes closer to the historical course of events as regards aspects such as the differences among the three combat arms, Wellington’s reliance on  defensive terrain,  the fatal impetuosity of British horse, the long resistance of the farmhouses, the French cavalry charges, the progress of the Prussian advance and the time represented by each turn.  Charles rather surprisingly leaves the original Anglo-Allied forces mostly unchanged, whereas I have shifted and combined a number of Wellington’s units to yield a far better model of his forces.

It is interesting to compare my own tweaks and illustrative refight with those provided by Charles on pp.137-48, 157-58 and 299-300 of his book.  Both offer better simulations than does the original game, but their significant differences show the highly personal and individualistic nature of wargame modelling, which Peter Perla rightly compared to creating a painting of the real phenomenon.  Our respective contributions give us plenty to discuss in this forum if desired.  Besides the thread I mentioned above, newcomers may like to browse the other threads below on ‘Simulation vs. “Glorified Chess”’ and on ‘Esdaile’s Analysis of Waterloo Sims’ to see the extensive discussions we have had already.  I hope that our contributions (including the inspirational sight of my figure version of the game) will encourage some of you to revisit this classic design and to tweak it in your own preferred style.  After waiting patiently in their box files for decades, my bespoke miniatures have already seen extensive action during my many playtests, and I look forward to using them in plenty of future refights, perhaps with Bondarchuk’s 1970 movie playing in the background for added atmosphere!

The final word from this Blog: 

Just those two screenshots make it mouth watering for me, what Phil has done in the rules, explained in the video makes it cool! Respect for completing a nice little project!

Tuesday 19 December 2023

1904-1905: Russo-Japanese Naval War Literature References

Following of from my hypothetical WWI Naval Russo-Swede battle at CoW-2023 I had a wide ranging conversation with Toby Ewin (a Naval Historian) who kindly passed on these references for the Russo-Jap War (see below, I never knew there was so many and so much to read!): 

I have to confess to once having Julian Corbett's history of the Japanese War but could not get into them (I did read his WWI histories cover-to-cover, so I do not know what mental block I had for the Russo-Jap) and so passed them onto a friend for a 1/3000 figure [ship] swap [I received a modern USN Carrier Battle Group]. I am content with the battles in Avalanche Press' 1904-05 Russo-Jap Naval War board game and David Manley's White Bear and Red Sun rules and scenarios (see below, the amount of detail in the reference list is fascinating):  

I am pleased just to have the complete range of Russo-Jap ships [bar the full number of destroyers] represented in the Navwar 1/3000 figure range for this period (see below, more and more references): 

Final page just to be complete (see below, as the wife says, this is what libraries are for - get it on Kindle if you must!): 


I look forward to Toby's book on Russian Imperial Naval Wargaming in the History of Wargaming Project in due course at it is a fascinating subject (that will probably find its way to my book shelf as it has wargaming in the title).

Monday 11 December 2023

My Navwar Projects Review and "Get better soon Tony!"

I was reviewing the Navwar 1/3000 production line of ships (lots of WIP here). It is a naval wargamers collectors paradise for Pre-dreadnought, WW1, WW2 and a bit of (Falklands) modern. Here are a couple of my current active project streams (see below, firstly filling out the German WW2 destroyer and minor vessels  as we all have the Bismarck):  

The French Capitol ships (see below, because in that early war 1939-1940 period they played a big part in the numerous  "hunt the raider" groups - long before the interesting Vichy side of things started up): 

Imperial Japanese Navy in all its mighty glory (see below, a selection of their carrier force, the Pearl Harbour, Coral Sea and Midway "bad boys"): 

Just as scary as the CVs are the IJN Heavy Cruisers (see below, this is where the calculus of the 1922 Washington Treaty and subsequent treaties met its match against the minds of cunning naval architects and Civil Servants/Officials who measured tonnages wrongly [accidently]): 

Then there is the heavy tonnage f the renovated IJN WWI battlefleet, with later "big boy" additions of the Yamato and her sister ship the Mushashi (see below, but in the era of the carrier all this 'stuff' became scrap iron in a plane's cross-hairs or an expensive form of AA protection and 'bomb-soak' for the important CVs):  

I find out it fantastically good fun slowly collecting this stuff (for over twenty five years now), so I should give a shout out to Tony the owner of Navwar, as I heard he had a fall recently, but is on the mend. Get well soon mate and thank you for this awesome range of 1/3000 models. 

Sunday 10 December 2023

How to Paint Black Templars -Tips from the Internet

Linked to my recent interest in using "Vallejo contrast [Xpress] paints"- and possessing  a bottle of Black Lotus (very evocative naming from the marketing department, top marks) I was looking around for some "dark chaps" to paint up. Two candidates jumped to mind, one from Vietnam - black pyjama Viet Cong, the other from the unpainted bucket of Space Marines - some Black Templars. Time to turn to the Internet for some help (see below, saviours of  universe [Black Templars] needing a coat of paint before they can go "hand-to-hand "with Chaos in the name of the Emperor - all WIP): 

I have surrounded them with a sophisticated painting task-force of Vallejo dark paint ranges to see if anything works, I have great hopes for Dark Grey (994), Black Grey (862) in combination with Xpress Black Lotus (423) and Black Ink (094), highlighted perhaps with Glossy Black (861). Talk about "fifty shades of grey"!

Meanwhile this is what other people did (very well) on the Internet:  
The exploration of black painting space continues!

Tuesday 28 November 2023

The Man From The Future - John von Neumann (Audible Books)

I thought I knew something about John von Neumann, but this book amazed my by revealing how little I really knew about him at all. He was the definition of a Polymath .. and  a Nobel one at that, in many fields! So, hand on heart, I can thoroughly recommend this title (see below, I listened too it via Audible, but intend to buy the book too, so I can skim through the chapters again .. I cannot give a higher recommendation than that): 

A tantalising peek at its contents reveals: 

"The smartphones in our pockets and computers like brains. The vagaries of game theory and evolutionary biology. Self-replicating moon bases and nuclear weapons. All bear the fingerprints of one remarkable man: John von Neumann.

Born in Budapest at the turn of the century, von Neumann is one of the most influential scientists to have ever lived. His colleagues believed he had the fastest brain on the planet - bar none. He was instrumental in the Manhattan Project and helped formulate the bedrock of Cold War geopolitics and modern economic theory. He created the first ever programmable digital computer. He prophesied the potential of nanotechnology and, from his deathbed, expounded on the limits of brains and computers - and how they might be overcome."

It is also pitched at the general reader (so I didn't have that Stephen Hawkins Brief History of Time, "What does that mean?" - effect here on me).

Saturday 25 November 2023

Platoon 20 - NVA Figures

Inspired by the recent series of "Ghosts of the Jungle" games I visited my silver pile of shame in the loft for Vietnam figures and found pretty much a whole platoon of NVA Regulars to paint up. They had been based and primed so it was just a matter of gritting your teeth and letting go with the Vallejo paints (see below, the finished product or rather formation):  

A labour of love that has took twenty years to finish. Given the old casting quality (as in poor) - I best not drop them too hard!

Apologies for no close ups!

Wednesday 22 November 2023

My WhatsApp Problem Sorted - Reset Method


This is how: Google says - 

Right Click Start, then head to Settings > Apps
Select Apps & Features
From the Apps list, select WhatsApp and click Advanced Features
Select the Reset Button
Open WhatsApp and check if it's working.

Note: It did warn that it might lose data, but I was OK

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Professional Wargames - What the UK Government Sees

On news today (17/11/2023) there is this interesting little article (see link below):

Nice to see that the educational power of games is being used to good effect.
Along with publications such as:

Influence Wargaming:

Wargaming Handbook:

Bodes well for sensible decision making (perhaps).

Monday 20 November 2023

"Ghosts of the Jungle" Playtest - Charlie fights, er Charlie!

I hit the critical mass (or Minimal Viable Product [MVP]) for the cast of characters, fully painted and ready for "The Ghosts of the Jungle", so it was time for a play-test  (see below, [the "specials" from a previous post are still 'in progress' - what you see here are 15 VC [Platoon 2- and Britannia Miniatures] and 8 US Special Force LRRP [Platoon 20]):

The game board is set up (see below, I chose to use 'explore mode' by giving the US insertion force a grid map, but only exposing "stuff" in LOS and not hidden from view): 

The US player (confusingly called Charlie) has been given an information extraction mission/ Get to a designation spot and retrieve some "information" and then get out. Body count was of no consequence to him, the mission's success rested on getting the "information" off the board and having all members of the LRRP intact (as in, at least with one hit point left). I added a layer of pre-game rumour "acquisition" - some helpful, some wrong and some just pla-in contradictory (in classic D&D fashion). What was ascertained was that there was little air support because teh Americans were busy elsewhere and you could and could not trust the villagers (who were VC, maybe or just "sometimes").  Although not a regular wargamer, Charlie took to the game like a duck taking to water.

Foot Note: In his own words, Charlie's success, came from his days of playing an old 1980/90's problem-solving computer games, in particular one called X-COM. This seems to fit into the "tower style" puzzle solver game, where you break through the enemy's defences by seeing weaknesses in their patterns. X-COM recently gained a second lease of life, with a 2015-20's revamp and series of follow on releases.

Back to the mission, which was played with an impressive amount of stealth and patience (waiting for the correct moment to 'move on' or to 'strike hard' ..good enough being far better than waiting "too long" for complete safe option). Reaching "X marks the spot", the "information package" turned out to be a downed (and wounded)  USAF airman, "Oh!" said Charlie (a bit of an understatement). The flyboy was promptly patched (and drugged) up by the SAS lads to get him as a "walking wounded" - the LRRP back-tracked out the way they had came in (while pushing, pulling, carrying and cajoling the Yank). The [exciting] "helicopter evacuation" option was not activated .. which would probably mean "hold a designated Alamo position" until the helicopter gunships and rescue helicopter came in. In the end the LRRP had a few scratches to show from a bit of fighting, but had successfully extricated themselves in a very professional manner! Beer on the USAF at the Australian NAAFI bar!

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Contrast Paints - Am I still not "Getting It"? (Probably Not)

As is my want, when in town I pop into any shop that could vaguely have wargaming "related" (as in useful) material in it. My local "Boyes" shop (apologies for those overseas or out of the relative area - so Boyes makes no sense) has Vallejo paints. Straight in like Flynn! As I was perusing the Vallejo aisle doing my usual -"Which colours do I have?" and only having a vague sense of this one and that one" - I  saw a new rack of Vallejo paints called, Xpress Color. Well certainly I had "none" of them and what is more there, was only a pitiful few of them left on the shelves. That talked volumes to me, so I picked up two of the stragglers (see below, Plague Green and Black Lotus - Contrast Paints by any other name): 

I rushed back home eager to give it a bash with Vallejo's babies - having had a hit and miss affair with GW's Contrast Paints. The targets were a set of 10mm Pendraken Modern Warsaw Pact and NATO British ("Cold War Gone Hot" era) toys. The result was really a heavy all over green wash with blue-black boots and metal gun parts. They are relatively small kit so probably not the 25/28mm ideal target range, but to me it was still a "primer and very good wash" [all my crevesses are certainly covered] but still really wanting paint. Though probably "less" than normal. It certainly was a factory style productionline, which is good.

Afterwards I set off around the Internet to see what others thought. The accomplished painter "The Beard Bunker" was of interest.

My verdict: I think I am still missing the point and probably playing around with too small a scale for real benefit! Washes are probably good enough for 10mm. 

Sunday 12 November 2023

Remembrance Sunday 2023

A small village in North Yorkshire remembers (see below, the pictures say it all): 

The community knitted the poppies.

Researched the names.

Found the faded photographs.

Across two world wars.

And remembered.

Lest we forget.

Friday 10 November 2023

Ghosts of the Jungle .. More Nam Figures .. (1/72, 20mm, 1/76)

When you are preparing for a game like "Ghosts of the Jungle" (allegedly a player cooperative play game, which also means you can be left at the mercy of other players "intelligent" decisions), there are always the game "odds and ends" you need to paint up .. just to oil the mechanics and make-up "special events" or have in the "background". They are typically not the sexy, sexy exciting figures that jump onto the painting table, but they have an important game function to do. For example, a VC truck (on loan to North Vietnam from the USSR, via the Plastic Soldier Company WWII Russian transport collection) to terrorise anybody trying to cross a seemingly deserted jungle track in the game, a couple of VC figures who can nicely fit in the back of said truck [of ESCI/Italeri 1/72 VC origins - waiting to be painted for some twenty years], some (as in eight) Platoon 20 Villagers [who under the game the mechanics could turn into VC], eight Platoon 20 SAS LRRP soldiers [OK they are pretty sexy, but were an upgrade from the US LRRP that I was previously using] and finally a downed helicopter pilot, in wounded and walking poses (see below, the primed and Vallejo brown washed ready for the "real" painting to start): 

It is "good for the soul" when you get figures at least to this stage ;) 

Thursday 9 November 2023

Audible - "A Savage War of Peace" Alistair Horne

Ever since reading, or should I say literally burned the print from the page with my mark one eyeball from Alistair Horne's "To lose a Battle: France 1940" - I knew I had to go on and complete his four part French Trilogy (akin to Douglas Adams five part Hitch-Hikers Guide to teh Trilogy). It was a bucket list "thing" for me to do. I devoured "The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916" but then came to an abrupt halt. Despite buying both the Franco Prussian prequel ("The Fall of Paris: The Siege and teh Commune 1870-71") and the de Gaulle sequel ("A Savage Wat of Peace: Algeria 1954 - 64"), the books never leapt into my hands. They have remained a "pile of pages" for decades, shameful look down. To jumpstart the much delayed process I saw Audible had "A Savage War of Peace" so downloaded it and jumped in feet first (see below, I had been warned from others that it was not a "happy book" and they were absolutely right, it made the Northern Ireland troubles look kindergarten by comparison):  

When I finally finished it, there was a sense of relief, "that's over". The only way I can try to describe it is as, "watching a good sports team play their professional game in a haphazard unprofessional amateur fashion. What they did well, was done in teh wrong places for the wrong reasons. The star goal scorer  (de Gaulle) was living off his past victories and prestige. I feel as if I now know how little I really know about France, having had but a small glimpse of their suffering and self inflicted post-Colonial malaise (of both indignation and sense of collective guilt). I now need a way to get into the Franco Prussian chapter - I seem to have read them all in the wrong sort of order.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Exploring WWII with an Old Friend: Panzer Leader

Back in 2019, yes pre-Covid, and a memory dredged up from the "Draft" folder. I was looking at Panzer Leader with a friend (see below, I think this is the first Panzer Leader scenario, US Paras dropping behind the lines in Normandy 1944 to grab a vital road junction - but which one?):

The set-up suggests a "gang up" action by teh Allied Player of one of three defended villages (see below, the German player has to hedge his bets and guess "where" the US Paras will drop in on him - teh German seems to have thirded his forces, with his mobile element in the middle [sensible as he can easily go East - West to teh rescue or stand and fight with his "best"]):   

In this case it was the central town teh Allied player opted for (see below, teh Germans are being hit North and South, in a concerted concentric attack): 

It is one of those games where it is advisable always to roll high (see below, rolling a six is a precious commodity in this game): 

A five is not bad either (see below, grinding attrition is a key element of the game, where patience is a learnt skill, as the old axiom says - "fools rush in where angels fear to tread"): 

One feature of Panzer Blitz is the continual flipping over of counters to mark that they have been hit, and/or are ineligible for a move on the Phasing Players turn (see below, a counter face up means the unit can spend an action, blank side means either disruption through combat or an action has been performed - it is a neat way of ensuring "units don't go twice" [by sneaky purpose or by accident mistake] - Oh for gentlemanly gamers!):

Many rounds of combat and not a lot seems to be happening (see below, however in reality the Germans are being ground down - just a case of can they hold on to the\key town terrain to see the German reinforcements arrive in time?):

The wider scenario picture (see below, relief columns have been sent East and West from the Towns the Germans now know are safe): 

However the German relief columns are a mixture or horse drawn, motorised and light wheeled armour (see below, so even with road movement bonuses it will take time and arrive disjointed - meanwhile the US Paras need to keep rolling sixes): 

The "German Dead Pile" is mounting (see below,  a mortar, a Security Infantry and quite a valuable unit - an armoured car squadron; each Panzer Leader counter is approximately a platoon strength):

The US Paras are hammering away at the town [rolling sixes] and the Germans are down to the last of defenders (see below, the Germans are also finding out how hard it is in generating the 3:1 odds needed for attacks with a half decent chance of success): 

A major moment in the conflict, a town sector devoid of Germans and US Paras who simply won't budge (see below, you know it is significant as there are two Generals pointing fingers at it):  

Negotiating your way round the Panzer Leader CRT was a vital but a dark art in itself - especially as Avalon Hill games designers did not necessarily go for historical orders of battle [and overwhelming 3:1 odds for one side] but rather hinged the scenarios around delicately nuanced "Maths-like Operation Research" equations (see below, or was that merely my imagination[?] or excuse for losing[?])

I would like to say "hours of fun" - but sometimes it was a glorious "At last it is THE END, we can all go home now". I think this one was an Allied victory! Panzer Leader was a (classic Avalon Hill) game, but very much a game of its time and getting to the end of a scenario in one night (without proceedings breaking down into a mild [understatement] argument over the "interpretation of rules" (and their correct context) could be quite an achievement in itself IIRC. Avalon Hill did produce a game called Diplomacy [which was renown for rupturing long lasting friendships]