Friday, 24 March 2023

Connections North 2023 Details - Professional Wargaming in Canada


Registration is now open for the Connections North professional (war)gaming conference. This will be held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on 9 June 2023

CONNECTIONS NORTH is an annual conference devoted to conflict simulation, wargaming, and other serious games. It is intended for national security professionals, policymakers, researchers, educators, game designers, university students, and others interested in the field of the use of serious games for analysis, planning, education, and training. This year’s conference will address:

  • The state of serious gaming across Canada, with two panels devoted to national security gaming and other educational and policy gaming respectively.
  • Gaming ethical challenges.
  • Building and gaming future perspectives: Canadian perspectives.

In addition, there will be time available for networking, game demonstrations, and touring the War Museum’s new wargaming exhibition. 

We are grateful for support from Defence Research and Development Canada and the Canadian War Museum for the conference. Connections North is a proud cosponsor of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Audible Book: All Hands Down - USS Scorpion

I decided to go for a quicker and lighter Audible book (in length, though not necessary in topic), but keeping to the naval theme, this time more modern (Cold War), albeit in 1968 - the unofficial hypothesis of the loss of the USS Scorpion, to alleged Soviet action. Which is an attention grabbing headline if ever there was one. Allegedly the attack on the USS Scorpion was in retaliation to the earlier loss of K-129 near Hawaii in mysterious circumstances, the Soviet Sub being the later focus of the CIA backed Glomar Explorer expedition to recover [part] of it (see below, "All Hands Down" gave a very good picture of what it was like to serve on a US nuclear submarine and the lifestyle of the "dolphin" families had to endure - and you really did feel that the US Navy let the families down afterwards):  

Whether true or not is conjecture, though a compelling case was made, particularly with relevance to US serviceman turning traitor (John Anthony Walker) and passing on communication code cipher secrets to the Soviets and the capture of US communication equipment in North Korea (USS Pueblo). There was a huge window of opportunity for the Soviets to electronically eaves drop on US Naval Operations, with the US blissfully unaware that their communications were deeply compromised. What is also clear, was the the sixties and early seventies were a tense time of frequent Cold War Superpower confrontations, many of which had the potential to spark a general East-West war. From the Cuban missile crisis, the ongoing Berlin tensions, the Kennedy assassination, the ongoing Vietnam War and while general bipolar mistrust of the period. 

It is amazing the world survived in retrospect.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Airfix 1/72 Airborne and Willy's Jeeps

It goes without saying that you can never have too many jeeps in a WW2 Western US or British Allied army. Hence the unmade box of plastics spilled forth four more jeeps to be made, three of which were the new Airfix Airborne type and one a Willy's [ex-Heller] recon type (see below, the Heller kit was missing the lower chassis part so a clever bit of plastic card substitution, if I do say so myself, was introduced): 

I suppose the airborne jeeps can also double as SAS jeeps in Western Europe 44-45 as well. The impressive bit about the new Airfix kits is the range of MGs you can add to them, as well as the extremely useful 75mm pack howitzer (see below, which pretty much pads out my immediate need for any more allied utility vehicles): 

It was a nice general build.

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Wing Commander Luddite - Wargaming Content on YouTube

Another example of a Wargamer taking to the Internet airwaves (YouTube) to distribute wargaming content and inspiration (see below, a wargaming friend with a nice artistic touch to his work):

Good stuff, love the basing.

Monday, 20 March 2023

Audible Book: Pedestal - Max Hastings

With my current diet of dog walking, car journeys and kitchen washing-up duties I have managed to ply through some Audible books running nicely in the background (see below, one of the latest being Pedestal by Max Hating which concerns the epic 1942 convoy run to relieve the siege of Malta):   

A straightforward chronological churn (not meant in a bad way, but in the same way the convoy made its sojourn to its Malta destination under intense Axis fire) of the convoy battle and all its different phases. It did up-end my rather simplistic narrative (probably based on post war Allied propaganda and black and white war films) of a valiant mission fought through with outstanding RN pluck (which there certainly was plenty of, alongside that of the Merchant Marine) to a worthy win in the expected traditions of the RN. Rather it was a game of two halves, the first with the convoy holding formation under duress with the heavy covering force present (albeit taking casualties, such as HMS Eagle [sunk], HMS Indomitable [damaged] and HMS Nigeria [damaged]), then when the heavy covering force withdrew (with its reduced intrinsic air support) a second brutal half of chaos and confusion under increased Axis air and small boat (MAS and E-Boat) attack - but with utter confusion on the British side (the convoy losing its formation and defensive structure). The Axis reigned superior here sinking many merchantmen and more cruisers [HMS Cairo and HMS Manchester (sunk) and HMS Kenya (damaged)]. Despite the disorganisation and confusion, the battered and brave remnants "got through" - some like the Brisbane Star making her "own way". Many curious and potentially ill thought decisions on both sides were highlighted, albeit with the benefit of hindsight, but it seems to have been a major Axis "missed opportunity" despite the dreadful toll inflicted. All it would have took was a sally by the Regina Marina and better target priority of the Axis bombers to sink the merchantmen [there was certain fixation on aircraft carriers and large warships] where and whenever possible (discuss). I enjoyed it and it is a battle on my wargaming "bucket list" (maybe with the Nimitz ruleset). 

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Wandering around the Web: Phil Sabin's YouTube Channel

Wandering round the web and you bump into some old friends (see below Phil Sabin's YouTube Channel hosting some interesting videos - including some instructional on his air  wargames):

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Wargames Development Website - Revamp

A nice new revamp of the Wargames Development Website:

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Nimitz - Sam Mustafa Wargame Rules .. is it "The One"?

Is it the .. "The One Set of Naval WWII Rules" .. (to rule them all) that I have been waiting for all my wargaming life (pass me my Hood and Rodney and bring out your Bismarck models)? Now I am a man who has collected a few set of naval rules over the years (and that is an understatement of sorts). I am a grizzled fifty plus year old with a large ship collection - some of which are even painted - in various scales. Post my Paul Hague "Sea Battles (in miniature)" adolescent gaming, I was weaned onto General Quarters I (for WWII) and General Quarters II (for the Great War, aka WWI) .. which were very close to very damn, damn good IMHO - bar time consuming for large fleet actions [but don't ask my opinion on General Quarters III as I think it "went the wrong way" counting turrets rather than abstracting firepower and they broke it .. sniff]. Then there were many such as Sea Krieg that had oodles of charts [but killed playability IMHO]. There were the insanely simple ones (from Full Thrust variants to one brain cell rules, akin to Victory at Sea and Victory in the Pacific Avalon Hill board games - and no I am not forgetting AH Jutland). The great David Manly produced some fine sets of Russo-Jap, WWI and WWII (which I bought and meant to really get into .. but time needed and the urge to learn yet another set, while "feeling around" for the native intuition of what the rule writer wanted to convey - left me cold) .. but what I really, really [Spice Girls] want, is to find the sweet spot of a "pick up an play" set of rules which give very reasonable [but not deterministic] historical results - quickly (as in quicker than the historical battle took) .. that lead into extended campaign play, of multiple scenarios - without premature umpire brain death. I am a man who discovered Fletcher Pratt very late in life, thanks to Wargames Developments [Nugget articles] and the History of Wargames Project [collating, then editing, reprinting and selling the rules]. There I see the beautiful analogue ingenuity of the firing mechanisms [hell it is a damn close to the same set of rules used by the professional US Naval War College in their inter-war years re-fights of Jutland and Sable Island [the latter being the hypothetical USN against the RN action], but for all its historical accuracy and fun suffers from the "mass is mostest and bestest" paradigm .. 48,000 tonnes of Hood could take on the 45,000 (or was it 50,000) tonnes of the Bismarck. No critical hits and punctuated equilibrium, but graduated damage. So back to Sam Mustafa's Nimitz (see below, a good book cover with the great man himself looking out over a battle scene with the USN's finest DDs doing battle, with the backdrop of a historical map): 

I went for the Amazon local print option and am currently digesting it. So far and so good, it is really two sets of rules in one - Nimitz for the tactical and Halsey for the campaign, which I like. Watch this space for further details and hopefully an AAR soon ;) 

Monday, 6 March 2023

Airfix Lee/Grant scrapped together from a Donation and bits from the Scrap Box.

The different coloured pieces of plastic tells the sorry tale in itself. This "baby" Grant Tank on the right comes from multiple parents .. at least one brown/orange, one yellow and one green Airfix Lee/Grant kit (plus some hobby store plastic-card, a curved front from what I think was a M36 Jackson, "Sherman(?)" rollers and a PSC storage box to cover a bodged hull to chassis seam). A Frankenstein of sorts or patchwork quilt, but rather than a sad model discarded to the bin, it has a new least of life. I also loved the "edge of your seat" challenge in the making of it (see below, in its front facing Grant guise):  

The rear shot shows the white plastic-card surfaces where the composite spare parts-did not quite stretch or cover enough (see below, though it has to be said working with "old brittle plastic" from the 1970's or 1980's is a curse as it had a tendency to crumble or splinter under pressure - this was a peculiar challenge for me as I had to first disassemble the previous attempt at building it [basically a carcass] and reassemble it [from a haphazard trapezoid to a more regular rectangular cross section]): 

The Lee part of the tale is just a turret swap as it shares the hull, so with a newly completed Lee turret you have the option of two types of tank (see below, the Lee turret was taken from the "original" orange/brown plastic kit - where the majority of the pieces for this kit came from - again care being taken with its brittleness as the Lee turret has some fiddly MG parts): 

Just remembered: The final note is that the "green" track came from the "spare" (as in the more detailed track option) in the new Airfix Sherman Firefly kit I have already made. There you go, I have one more tank to fight the Axis with. It also just shows you the usefulness of keeping a spares box (or two).  

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Audible: War In The West - Part II 1941-43 - James Holland

I was pleased that I continued with the James Holland's WWII trilogy. Whereas odd bits can grind (the DAK to the best of my knowledge [aka books] and internet searching did not use Czech 38t tanks - that seems to be a Rommel, France 1940, 7th Pz Division reference all mixed up), the general sweep and flow is a brilliant story. The mid-part of the war is the gutsy heart where it was all up for grabs - the Western Desert, Russia and Midway. All good stuff, the seeds of German failure are already sown, the Allied rewards though are yet to be harvested (see below, a book that was nice to have while listening in the car and walking the dog):    

Finally, Stalingrad and Tunis were two nails in the Axis coffin. With the U-Boat war turned after May 1943 Germany's options seemed to be running out, setting the scene nicely for the final drama. Two books down and the third will follow. Looking forward to it but I will take a break first - Max Hastings again next, this time with the Pedestal Convoy and a tale of Malta. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Desert Air: RAF Curtiss Tomahawk IIB

I have been listening to James Holland's War in the West, Volume II recently (not quite finished it yet, as it is a very long audible listen), but one of the things it really emphasised was the importance of the allied Desert Air Force in fighting the DAK. Alongside the Hurricane Mk II tank strafer was the ubiquitous American made Tomahawk (see below, the "shark's teeth" epitomised the gruff ground attack ability to destroy the Axis supply lines and bomb it's armour, a war winning contribution): 

So I am looking forward to making this, plus I class it as another bucket list build, one that I regret not making as a kid! Or rather small kid, as I am still a kid, just a big kid. 

Monday, 27 February 2023

Abyss by Max Hastings - Cuban Missile Crisis: Audible

On the back of Nuclear Folly I was recommended to go and also read the Max Hasting's account of the Cuban Missile Crisis in his "Abyss", to hear as it were a slightly more westernised version of events, although still with his keen critical, investigative journalistic integrity (see below, a longer listen but it was well worth it): 

Again he took no prisoners and was at pains to be far reaching in research as well as being balanced. Another epic listen broken up over several weeks. Why the thought of Russian nuclear missiles 90 miles from the US shore created the stir it did in the US was a main theme, whereas Europeans were well accustomed to it. This was the basic error of Khrushchev's thinking that lead to him to make such a mad adventurous gamble was explained. The tangled escalation of events, twisted tortuously in an insane manner that no fictional book would think worthy of a plausible plot-line. The cast of war-minded American Generals who felt goaded into action and belittled by not invading Cuba. The minor comical character that took world stage that became the latter villain of the piece to my mind was Castro. Just when a safe passage was in sight, navigated by others he tried to vaingloriously grab the tiller and cast teh ship onto the rocks. After listening to it, I am not sure how we made it here, As Kennedy himself stated, he thought there had been a one in three chance of nuclear war. 

A lighter read needed next! 

Saturday, 25 February 2023

Yes, but WHY? It is those "Big Bang" Style Physicists again!

I had the pleasure of walking round some University Physics Departments late last year with a fresh-faced prospective undergraduate student (my eldest son) who is going through the crucible of the A-Levels bless him. Most of the stuff the staff were talking about went well over my head so I ended up drinking free coffee, eating free cake, then watching the walls and reading the posters as my son toured "the facilities" (see below, one poster that particularly caught my eye): 

Yes, ok .. but "why" would you want to do that in the first place? Plus what about the frog, his-her-its  participation and agency in this? I have ethical questions! You can also bet that the reported result was not in the original remit of the research .. methinks the beastie literally hopped into what it thought was probably a nice little hole to hide in from predators! Ha .. and it ended up floating away! 

Did it live?

Friday, 24 February 2023

Worthington's Coral Sea Solitaire Game

I immediately banked this one when it came out as an instant buy, a "must have", partly because I would simply cry buckets if it were not available when I wanted it as I knew I had all the miniatures to take it to tabletop (see below, US CV's are already done [Lady Lex and Yorktown], and I just need to base and varnish the two main force Japanese CVs [Shokaku (Soaring Crane), Zuikaku (Auspicious Crane)]): 

Then there is the third small Japanese CV [Shoho (Auspicious Phoenix)], some cruisers and the Invasion Fleet in 1/3000 to paint. Motivation, that is all I needed!

Thursday, 23 February 2023

Floor Tiles: Funny Things You See in a DIY Superstore

Wandering around a DIY store (and a large one at that) is not my most favourite pastime. For me it is like seeing a museum of guilty sins, the ultimate confessional of jobs I should have done. I must confess I am left with a feeling of inadequacy and perturbation at the sheer amount of "choice" available for all the jobs I did not even know needed doing! So within a matter of minutes I naturally get distracted (it is a defence mechanism) when I see something that has a meagre amount of wargaming potential (see below, in this case it was some ceramic tiles, but those hexagon shapes shouted out as potential terrain pieces to me - naval or space?): 

Pretty patterns and shapes can lead to interesting discoveries and off the wall (literally) thoughts (see below, never saw this before, a hexagon is really three trapeziums - there should be something deeply significant to wargaming and board game construction - but fo rthe life of me I cannot see what it is): 

Hmm, gameboard or unit facing or is it useful for both? Who knows where this musing will ultimately lead. Potentially an abstract game or can I get toy soldiers to run all over it?

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

The Airfix Bofors Posse - A Bunch of Old 'Part-Kits' Made Good

One of the joys of the Conference of Wargamers (CoW) is the wonderous "bring and buy" stall, wherein a cornucopia of feasts is found: from books, board games to plastic models and the ubiquitous boxes of toy soldiers. More spare 'odds and ends' than full eBay collections, the useful left overs from last night's Indian curry that can make do for another meal (maybe I stretching the analogy there). For example from three separate Airfix boxes marked separately as: almost a Tractor and Bofor, two Bofor Tractors and a final one marked "more than one" Bofors and Tractor there came a veritable "Jock column" of 1/76 light AA guns was made (see below, admittedly two tractors were missing 'bonnets' but leftover plasti-card from other projects made up that shortfall; there was a final missing mudguard [to which I say is just character] which sadly came from when the wife poured out the soapy detergent basin of water in which  they were "soaking in" to de-grease somewhat prematurely - in her defence she had emptied the dregs of a coffee cup into the waters and was actually trying to make good her perceived "damage" to the models [moving on]):   

A final posse of four tractors in total were made which was quite an achievement from all the separate boxes (see below, I am quite proud of the production line effort now ready to be shipped to the front. Somehow I am thinking Western Desert or Mediterranean - although it was a ubiquitous piece of kit used throughout the war so perhaps British Army "Green" would be better 1940, 1943-45): 

Part two of the build, the actual Bofor AA guns, which I made three models of in total so there is a spare tractor which comes in rather handy (see below, all in a WIP state - the two to the right look more "lunar lander" than finished AA guns at the moment): 

The complete battery (see below, three guns and plenty of binoculars scanning the sky, by Holmes like abductive reasoning I think in total there were at least six different original model kits in play to generate my four  complete tractors and three complete guns): 

Bring on those Stukas we are ready for you! And a big thanks to the suppliers of the original raw material from the CoW 2019 Bring and Buy stall, look forward to seeing you for some more in 2023.

Tuesday, 21 February 2023

Virtual Online Connections US 2022 - Videos, Including Take That Hill

Virtual Online Conference from last year. Videos to catch up on and watch. Note, respect for the British Army Fight Club and the development "Take That Hill" Ed Farren along with Phil Sabin (see below, so many videos and so little time to watch them all!):

Monday, 20 February 2023

German Recon 20mm Airfix Classic (Vintage) Set

Another Airfix classic, this time a muddled box of confused spares and complete sprues with had two Kubelwagans and two 222 armoured cars. Yes the early war German classic Recon Set (see below, one twist as I left teh turrets off the armoured cars as I will be converting these to a 221 machine gun armed version and a 223 radio car version - wish me luck):   

This would mean that combined with my existing force of 222 armoured cars (good for Russia 1941 onwards to 1943 in grey), or I can either go more early war, and field the machine gun armed 221 and Hortch Kf 13 armoured cars (thinking Poland 1939 and France 1940). Either way the 223 is a good radio Command Car option. 

Sunday, 19 February 2023

British Army Chieftain and Berlin Camo Reference Material

Another Airfix build from the loft, this time a Cold War veteran, the BOAR Chieftain or rather a second to keep an earlier Chieftain build company (see below, it was an old kit in the hard plastic [cover picture showing a finished model as opposed to the "crossing the rugged field" artwork - so it was pretty old] and dangerously brittle tracks): 

Thinking of the Berlin garrison with its unique urban camo (see below, nothing like setting yourself a challenge): 

Well I had me some fun running around the Internet seeing various sources and takes on the Berlin Camo pattern: 

Watch this space for the painting description (eventually), but I think it will be a slow process.

Saturday, 18 February 2023

Airfix's "Boomerang Bob" Fighter - A Bucket List Build

I eagerly awaited the 2022 "Vintage" re-release of the Australian WWII "Panic Fighter" (the real thing was made from spare parts from aircraft available indigenous in Australia in 1942) as I remember "seeing it" as a kid in the Airfix Catalogue, wondering about it, but never going about getting it. There was always something more 'sexy' with crosses on it that took preference. A bit like the Fairey Battle and Brewster Buffalo, a missed childhood opportunity (see below, the CA-13 with original box art in all its glory, I bought it direct from Airfix when I picked up some resin buildings in their end of year sale):   

All things said it is not a particularly complicated build, not many parts but I took time as I was in no particular rush (see below, it came together quite nicely):  

If there was a scary part about building the Boomerang it was the canopy as it comes in three parts, the main bubble and two 'sliding' side parts (see below, I took time to make sure things fit well, the inside needed painting before the messy "Clearfix" came into use later):   

The decals were very sexy, the Australian RAAF Pacific version of the RAF roundel, with the red bit missing as "anything with a bit of red in it, got a lot of Allied AA fire" regardless of what it actually was. All the Allied countries discovered the universal itchy AA trigger finger of their AA gunners to their own cost (see below, something satisfyingly distinctive with the missing red that says Pacific War we are fighting the Japanese):  

Primed Airfix Acrylic Grey (see below, you may need to do a double take to spot any difference, but trust me there is a layer of grey paint there): 

Because it is the way I do things now, the whole model got a Vallejo Dipping Sepia Brown wash coat (see below, the brown and green colour scheme seemed to lend itself to brown rather than black for leaving the detail "lined in" after putting on the base colour, I guess it is all about "painting less" rather than more):  

Bottoms up, underside first. I wanted to use as close as I could to the original Airfix/Humbrol paint scheme and as luck had it I had Humbrol 65 (Matt Aircraft Blue) in a little penny packet paint pot from another "starter kit" which saved me a trip to the model shop (see below, the brown wash seems to be working nicely for the dark detail):  

Starting the topside camouflage, first the brown (see below, note this is where I had to use the paint matcher site which said Tamiya XF-52 Matt Earth [4.5 stars match] equates to Humbrol Acrylic 98 Matt Chocolate):

Next the camo green part to complement the brown (see below, Humbrol Acrylic 149 Matt Dark Green gets matched to Vallejo Model 70.894 [4.0 stars but also a bit of confusion here, as the site matcher calls this Camo Olive Green - but my bottle says Russian Green, so I went with my 894 bottle anyway]): 

Next: The white tail (Humbrol Acrylic 34) and black (Humbrol Acrylic 33) propeller - note the tips of the propeller were not painted black, but were left lighter to help the yellow paint stand out better, Alos the flight jacket was given a Vallejo Leather Brown base coat (see below, the little bits count as much as the big bits - I think I have also given the pilot some flat flesh on his face and hands too): 

Next a highlight to the brown by mixing in a little yellow, plus the tips of the propeller are painted yellow (see below, I just wanted it to look a little blocky and weather worn over the panelling): 

Similar yellow mixed with the green for another blocky highlight, I also give the pilot a highlight on his leather flying suit (see below, at this point I think the paint job is starting to come together nicely): 

The tail gets a final white highlight which is just another coat of paint giving it depth to the prominent places, and neglecting the recesses, touching up with a brown wash. The cockpit glass is put into place using ClearFix - my least favourite Humbrol product as I find it very messy and stringy and I am odds to get it in the right places, even carefully dabbing it on with a cocktail stick (see below, fixed in place I leave it to set overnight): 

Fixed in place the plexiglass gets blacklined (see below, by this point I am almost exhausted painting, so I go slow and carefully, absolutely no rushing):  

From black to camo green and then a subtle highlight (see below, begging for the Australian decals to bring it to life):

The decals really make it look the part. However there is a sorry tale to tell here. As the Humbrol product I used, DecalFix reacted badly with the Tamiya and Vallejo paints, as in it stripped them away beautifully .. sadness gripped my heart. Now to worry I carried on and let the decals fix, then when all "well and truly dry" I painted round decals as best I could (see below, I think I got away with it; interestingly the subject of DecalFix melting Tamiya paints is well covered on the forums - I subsequently found out):  

The underside, the only thing to add is the fact that I highlighted the Humbrol Aircraft Blue 65, with a Revel Aqua Colour, Sky Blue, then adding a touch of white for a subtle highlight of a highlight in places that just caught the eye (see below, tickle that tummy, which has a bulbous camera housing in it, dead centre): 

The final act is a matte varnish (see below, Humbrol Matt Cote): 

Bucket list item .. "Done" and I am very proud of it.

Friday, 17 February 2023

My "Last" Airfix Churchills

There are Airfix "Vintage" kits and then there is the Airfix Churchill, more challenge than nostalgic joy, but satisfying nevertheless (see below, one look at the picture and old-timers will know where I am coming from - "bogie wheels are us"): 

Apparently there is a clever - "keep it on the sprue until the last moment" - technique I have never been privy to (see below, one done bar the turret, the other WIP, plenty of glue being used to keep everything in place): 

Both ready for their tops, but one will have a twist (see below, when you get as far as this point there is a certain "downhill from here on in" satisfaction as you sip your tea, with the 'hard bit' well behind you):

A standard Normandy 75mm Mk VII turret and a "bridge layer" - yes it is that "add on bit" to the vintage kit model. Airfix seemed to go through a phase of taking an old standard kit then adding a specialist sprue on -  Churchill Crocodile, Churchill Bridge Layer, Sherman Flail, Sherman Calliope and Matilda Hedgehog .. all good stuff (see below, my final Churchills are now made, small question of painting and decals):   

The Airfix Bridge Layer Churchill complements the Matchbox Revell AVRE Bridge Layer. I like the fact that this is a non-fighting specialist AFV. One for the bucket list done!