Tuesday 31 December 2013

New Years Eve Zulu Bash with IHMN

Let's see out 2013 with a quick but colourful Zulu War bash using In Her Majesty's Name. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and looking forward to 2014.

2013 has been a year of challenges. The last few months at work have been demanding and left me with little in the way of energy in the evenings. Whilst we've also dealt with the double change curve of Heather first being made redundant after 20+ years with the same company and then going off to university as a mature student to do an MBA. Glad to say that as a consequence of all these things happening I begin the new year in a great new job together with a new mindset.

My own wargaming orientated Christmas presents this year revolved around the Zulu War. These were Warlord's new Black Powder Zulu! colouring book which came with a nice Prince Imperial figure. Heather gave me Adrian Greaves' Forgotten Battles of the Zulu War.

To the game. Nothing complicated. A small column carrying medical supplies has to leave a wagon behind when it breaks an axle. Lt  Richard Vandyke and a small detachment of the 2nd Benson & Hedges has been detailed to remain with the valuable supplies whilst a replacement wagon is sent from Eshowe. On hearing of Zulus approaching Vandyke decides to build a small barricade with the supplies, behind which he will make his stand.

The one change I made to IHMN was to use a base of 4 Zulus to represent 1 Zulu warrior under the game rules, purely so I could use a mass of warriors on the table. This is Victorian pulp after all, the stuff that builds an Empire!

"Sentries report Zulus, Sir. Thousands of them."

 "Because we're here, lad. Nobody else. Just us."

"Fire at Will!" "That's very nice of him"

"Hold them! Hold 'em!" 
 "But bullets run out... and those bloody spears don't."

"It's fear that dries the mouth, isn't it?"

"a bayonet, with some guts behind it!"

 Let's say up front, for a simple game, "That was fun!"  Sgt Doubletime went down straight away and the 'marksman' holding the bushes was overwhelmed by the Zulus who 'mobbed' him. Lt Vandyke proved his courage through his higher Pluck value which saw him and Private Henry Martins, pictured above, able to fight their way back to cover. Martins offered to 'hold them off' whilst Vandyke escaped into the rocks but Vandyke passed his pluck roll and opted to stand side by side with the valorous private.

It was a cider gulping finish. Three against two. Two bases of Zulus 'mobbed' Vandyke who shot one with his Beaumont-Adams revolver before being assegaied, whilst Martins dispatched the other base with his last cartridge (determined by a Pluck roll, just for the sake of it!). Martins now showed off his 'bayonet drill' skills and drove his Sheffield steel blade into the Zulus to remain last man standing on the field. "God Bless 'er Majesty!"

Using multiple bases to represent warriors such as the Zulus worked far better than expected. I kept forgetting that they represented only one man as far as the game was concerned and this both increased the in-game tension and overall enjoyment. The only thing that would have enhanced the game visually, apart from getting round to basing my redcoats, would have been some dead figures to replace those who became casualties. BTW, all the redcoats were painted by James Brewerton, a really good painter and a great bloke.

What a great way to finish 2013!

Happy New Year to everyone from us here at Winter of '79. Have a great 2014!


Monday 14 October 2013

The 30 Year Itch

The Colonels wife had only had one indiscretion, with B Company. Perhaps that's why B Company found themselves posted to the Bakonga Rift Valley.....

"Why are we here Corp?"

"We're 'ere because we are soldiers of the Queen M'Lad"

"Soldiers of misfortune more like"

"If only she had been a Miss....."

Been laid up this weekend with an agonising back problem. Finally seems to be easing thanks to prescription medicine and ThermaCare heat wraps. Whilst painful, it has given me time to stop and reconnect with my gaming soul.  So I thought I'd do a quick photo in the style of  Don Featherstone's Wargamers Newsletter as a sort of homage to the past before Welsh Special Forces from 1979 sneak down that same valley on wednesday.


Friday 11 October 2013

6 Para Apply Pressure

6Para Post Op report
                    Op Brunel 9 October 1979

Btn QRF tasked with capture of Red Borset Front sniper team located in area St Paul in March - Butley - East Butley and Stanley Wenlock.
Call Sign Quebec Actual tasked to approach from FOB KENNETH in landrovers.  Call Sign Quebec Two,  on standby for eagle flight air insertion by helo.

0915 Quebec Actual arrives Cocked Hat Pub on A75 - reports all quiet. Suspect devices removed from premises for detailed investigation.

O943 QA arrives Burns Barrow and sets OP on Butley Cross. SF Patrol BADGER reports no activity area Butley - East Butley.


1035 QA approaches East Butley, receives heavy fire from concealed Atk rocket launcher.  Vehicle damage. Three enemy neutralised.

1050 QA approach St Paul's In March. Sniper fire received, QA deploys and clears position. Sniper detained. QA moves towards Stanley Wenlock, heavy small arms fire, vehicular damage, enemy neutralised.

1130 QA ambushed on return leg on A75, Q2 eagle flight deployed with armed Westland support. Vehicular damage and Q2 fired on at LZ.

1200 QA and Q2 clear A75, Westland deployed to suppress enemy. BDE QRF deployed to pin enemy force.

1300 all call signs return FOB KENNETH

Dave Tucker, Corporal 6 Para, recalls in Channel 4 documentary That Was The War That Was:

"Operation Brunel? That landy job was a pig. There we were tearing around in landies while Trots shot our arses off.  Great bloody day! All quiet until East Bloody Butley and then it didn’t let up. Of course THEY had said it was clear and you can trust THEM, yeah my arse. By the time we grabbed that bloody sniper we had one landy running proper and the rest were shot to hell. That Westland was firing its Gympies into the hedges and we were just flooring it. Like the wild west, good job trot was a piss poor shot and as tactical as my Donna. Taffs would have had our arse on that one. And the sodding kegs we grabbed at the Cocked Hat were bloody riddled. Like I said, pig of a bloody day."

The Game

We decided the game was taking place just off map from the Ambridge/Borchester A.O. Introducing elements from Ranger: Simulation of Modern Patrolling Operations from Omega Games so that the enemy was randomly generated and operated as dictated by the Tactical Events Book (TEB) from the game - more or less - there was a bit of mugger gaming between us to ensure enemy reactions fitted within the context of Winter of '79. The eagle flight was incorporated into the game to give it an extra dimension. 

We were both beat after some b'stard days in our respective workplaces. If any of you are movie buffs, when I say that I reached what Dan O'Bannon calls 'the point of no return', close act two, you'll know what I mean. So rather than set up a whole table, we played from a map and I threw down some buildings on my card table as required by events. This meant we could walk away from the game if we just wanted to natter or became too tired to continue. Picking up again next week without having to leave the table setup if it came to that.

Next game will be a special forces mission based on Ranger


Wednesday 9 October 2013

Prince Albert's Revenge

Nursing a Lemsip tonight in no mood for loading pictures, hoping I can stave off the annual change in season manflu pandemic.

Many of you will remember that I have an interest in early Victoriana. Belltop shakos and 1830 Woolwich Pattern muskets. Well, I was slowly collecting the figures and it was going nowhere to be frank with you. Then Maff became highly excitable about In Her Majesty's Name and was trumpeting it's praise.

I picked up a brand new copy on eBay for around £7, not expecting much but wanting to support Maff and have to say that I was quietly impressed. IHMN was the first set of rules to fire my imagination in some time. The rules themselves are short, elegant and let's be honest wouldn't be out of place as a stand alone feature in Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy.

The upshot is that my mind returned once more to Victoriana and where The Winter of 1839 had started to morph into a Sharp Practice proxy for Napoleonics, IHMN lifted my thinking, reducing the overall number of figures required for any individual faction, allowing me to indulge in some of my favourite Victorian episodes for very little effort and cost. Whilst all along maintaining a strong 'fun' element. All lessons that I've been quick to reapply to Winter of '79.


Saturday 5 October 2013

1979 The Struggle Continues


6 Para Post Op report
                      Op Telford 30 sept 1979

2 Btn QRF tasked with location of Borset Marxist Front cadre reported as active in area Dudley Hope - West Rissington - Claydon Barrow.

Call sign Quebec Two Two tasked to approach from S; Quebec Two Three approach from W; Recce Section insert by Helo direct at Dudley Hope.

0700 Recce Stn land DH DZ, contact OpFor. Area cleared, hostages (local police) secured and evacuated.

Q22 move by road towards WR. No resistance, suspect pipe bombs slow advance.

O730 Q23 arrive DH. Area secure.

O800 Recce lifted and moved to area CHIPSHOP on Observation React OP.

Q22 moving slow, report wired bridge at Rissington Cross. OpFor OP spotted and neutralised.

0900 Report from Box500 of OpFor moving on West Rissington. Recce Stn lifted to block approach. Contact. OpFor retires on Claydon Barrow road, Q23 move up and contact; OpFor neutralised.

1000 Q22 clear road and move on Claydon Barrow. OpFor contacted in company strength. Sections A and C suppressed, Q22 HQ element counterattacks. Location secured. BMF local commander captured WIA, KIA subsequent.

All elements consolidate and return to FOB KENNETH

Transcript of Sergeant Dave Tucker interview with Daily Mail:
"Claydon Barrow? Yeah that was warry. We piled up in the Landies and got right into Trot, lots of it! Gave them the good news alright but they stuck at it. We weren't going anywhere until Tilly, Corporal Tilly picks up his gat and starts in at them. We followed him in and slotted the lot. Picked up this trot boss who was leaking a bit and roughed him up. He didn't make it back.....Shame. Another pint?"

Official sources in the Emergency Government have announced another success in the war against Marxist anti-government terrorists, 10 miles South-West of Borchester. A terrorist leader was captured and an as yet unknown number of civil servants being held hostage have been returned to their families.

 The Game 

Op Telford was played as a 20mm operational level game. Something I'd wanted to do for a while. The home baked system, whilst still informal worked well and was a laugh to play. We switched between macro and micro as required by the game; that village of two-three houses became just the target houses in the village and that 'company' of 8 figures becoming a 1-2-1 rifle section assaulting the Newton's shop where the self-styled Supremo of Free Borset hid out.

Definitely a winner for future Winter of '79 gaming.

Friday 2 August 2013

Fenced In!

A quick heads up about some useful OO Gauge chain link fencing available from David aka ebay seller Harleycat.

 Private Smudger patrols the outer perimeter
in hope of a cuppa from the residents of No.37

What you get are four fence sections 21.5cm (8.5inches) long, 3cm tall, plus a double chain link gate constructed from metal mesh. The combined length of fencing is 92 cm (3 feet) with gate. Each chain link section has 6 silver-grey metal posts & over-head security wire. The set includes security & warning signs to add as you see fit.

I'm very pleased with my purchase. They are a quality product and definitely recommend them. I plan to get another set to rust up and distress in order to represent the sort of chain link fencing one can find within any urban environment - car park, school playing fields, edge of an estate.


Monday 29 July 2013


With the imminent demise of Modelzone on the high street I've been taking advantage of the 20% closing sale which applies to most stock, including Oxford Diecast but not Hornby. Not a lot left on the shelves now but at a pound off retail and no postage to pay, it's silly not to take advantage where you can.

Here's a typically 'buff' 1970s Morris Marina, a great street prop for Winter of '79. The ex-Hotspur figure was to hand as he is slated to be painted in the next batch and gives you an idea of scale. The Marina really is a nice little model.

On my work surface at the moment are various 20mm urban figures for W'79. RH Models Urban Meltdown in helmet with SLRs, Elhiem and Irregular rioters, plus Elhiem 70's cops and robbers.

You know, if there's one job I used to hate with a passion, it's undercoating. Especially when applying by hand and even more especially when it's black. Luckily though, my neurological episode a year or so ago disconnected me from historic negative emotions. Nowadays, I find undercoating by hand a relaxing experience instead of being a mind numbing chore. Helped no doubt by the fact that I seem to have hit just the right technique for mixing Humbrol Matt black in the tin (hence the cocktail sticks).  I can dip my No.8 brush and apply straight onto the models with the minimum of fuss.

Need to get through them pretty quickly as I have a pair of Ferret Mk2s arriving from Shaun at S&S Models this week, courtesy of Maff. Am looking forward to these.

I'm not going to Claymore next weekend. Another neurological casualty I'm afraid. Instead, I'll reinvest some of the petrol money saved by picking up additional new BAOR AFVs and softskins from Shaun to round out my Winter of '79 collection, including the Land Rover Recce and 109 series Ambulance.

Got to go, tough day at the office in the morning. 


Saturday 20 July 2013

Elhiem BAOR: Debussed

It's not often these days that I get home to find a new set of miniatures on the mat that make me want to place a second order straight away. But Elhiem's new BAOR figures have done just that. 

Principally because they have bags of 1970's and early 1980's character and very few duffers in the packs. As you can see, I couldn't wait to empty all the packs out onto the table to mix and match the Toms into various combinations of bricks and command elements.

The strongest figures? Definitely BAOR08 SLR Skirmishing. All good solid poses, in fighting order. That kneeling NCO is going to get a bit hackneyed in a platoon unless you swop one for an NCO from BAOR01 Brit Army Section on patrol. Be nice to have an extra command pack with an alternative platoon leader and two extra corporals. This would help change the character of each section. The tin Elniem use is a bit tough, but I'll try to convert one of the NCOs into a classic 'rally on me' pose.

BAOR05, GPMG team firing using wall as cover is very nice. Though I'm less enthusiastic that you pay the same as a four figure pack for three figs and a sliver of wall. Especially as the third figure is kneeling quite passively, thinking about his insides after that last tin of Chicken Supreme. Shame, as he let's down an otherwise good set. He's better removed and placed in an O Group with the platoon commander or alternatively utilised as a No. 2 for the Charlie G or 51mm mortar from BAOR6.  One small feature I do like about BAOR5 is that the GPMG bipod is cast directly onto the wall section. You just line up the GPMG and drop it in place. 

BAOR06, the launchers pack offers a 51mm mortar No.1, a kneeling Blowpipe No.1, standing rifleman firing LAW (brave man) and a terrific Charlie G No.1. All very nice figures.

The platoon command pack BAOR10 is the weakest of the bunch in my opinion. The kneeling Rupert and Sparks are OK, Great for O Groups. Put Sparks with the kneeling NCO from BAOR08 and you have a nice little "Contact.. Wait Out!" set. The medic with Sterling is so so, as is the kneeling rifleman with IWS sight. I'll give him a Glengarry head and move him to bolster my small Internal Security collection.

OK, after getting them in my hands and playing around with them, what's my verdict? Sorry, no Emperors New Clothes here. Overall I'm favourably impressed but it's tempered with some reservations. Positives are..... bags of character and mix well with Britannia BAOR and others, so if you have an unfinished platoon or need additional support weapons, here's your chance. The support weapons are a big positive and that Sustained Fire GPMG is the best on the market. Downsides? Well, I won't be buying more Elhiem GPMG teams, three figs for same price as four is having a laugh, especially as the third figure is just a filler. The platoon command doesn't inspire me either as is. Though it does make a nice diorama if you add other kneeling riflemen and NCO figures to create an O Group, as stated above. Instead I'll buy an additional Patrolling pack, utilisng the NCO pointing as platoon leader and converting the Charlie G No.1 toting a Sterling into his signaller.

A further possible downside is that if you are collecting BAOR Mech Inf to the full TOE given in most rules it's going to cost you, as the section's Charlie G is in the 'Launcher' pack. You'll need three of those! Luckily for you Winter of '79 bods, UK establishment and light role battalions only require one Charlie G per platoon! I recommend getting Platoon 20's infantry heavy weapons pack instead if you are playing BAOR orientated games. The figs are slightly smaller, doubt it will be noticable when painted, but for £2.50 you get a lying GPMG team, a nice Charlie G and a spare standing GPMG No.1. Save over £4.00 per Mechanised Infantry section!

So there we have it. A great addition for Winter of '79 gamers. Everything you need for regular or TA formations and easy enough to buy when you have cash to spare and just want to order a couple of packs to have something to look forward to when you get in from work. 

On the back of the Elhiem BAOR releases, Maff and I held our own O Group and decided that it was time to bring order to the chaos of our collection which has grown organically over the past couple of years. We are confident that these new figures will provide the basis on which to achieve that.


P.S.The kneeling figures have tread sculpted on their DMS boot soles. Nice touch!

Monday 15 July 2013

Paving the way....

One of the most important if understated visual elements in any urban game set in western Europe are pavements. Sure you can plonk your buildings down on a grey surface and be done but it lacks something.

Pavements provide definition in the urban scape. They give a clear distinction between highway and pedestrian  - road and built up. Expanding the footprint of  those terraced rows or high street shops, turning them into built up islands, they offer a psychological barrier, a movement channel, a mini objective.

They also host their own iconic urban gloss in the form of  lamp-posts, telephone boxes, rubbish bins and more.

I've been wrestling with getting the right pavements for Winter of '79. Card and paper just didn't seem to cut it. Finally I managed to hit on a solution thanks to an enterprising eBayer selling OO scale scenic moulds for £6.50 plus postage. And you can see the results for yourself when given the quickest of washes with GW's Nuln Oil.

I already had a carton of Woodlands Scenics Lightweight Hydrocal casting plaster, so thought 'I'll give it a punt for a few quid'. The mould arrived before the weekend allowing me to start a cottage industry churning out 80mm x25mm x2mm pavement section after section.

I have to admit that it was fun of sorts, but I had a day to spare so it was just a matter of being disciplined as you obviously have to wait for each batch to set and harden before you can make the next pair of pavements.

Each set took 5 minutes to mix and pour the Hydrocal. I used one heaped and one level teaspoon of Hydrocal mixed with two teaspoons of water using a wooden coffee stirrer. Nothing onerous there. Then laid to one side for a minimum of 40 minutes to set. I basically looked at it as an hourly task - returning each hour on the hour to cast a new batch.

So, what about the results? Well not surprisingly they got better with each attempt. Even so, you can see in the 'before' photo below that the best of the cast pavement sections still had enough of a rough edge that they will need to be smoothed off with an emery board. But this takes only seconds.It's exactly the same batch in both photos

So here's what I learnt after a few breakages for those of you who may be tempted yourself.
  • Place the mould on a flat surface. 
  • Handle the mould as little as possible once you've poured the mixture. It's flimsy and picking it up may weaken the structure of the casts once the Hydrocal starts to set.
  • With that in mind, don't hand around as the Hydrocal is only workable for about five minutes. 
  • Press the mixture down and into the nooks and crannies, then top up as required. 
  • Use the flat edge of your coffee stirrer to level the mixture to get a near perfect flat cast. 
  • Do all three casts then, clean round the edges with a damp tissue to reduce the cleaning required on the cast sections.
  • However much you are tempted now, leave it be for at least 40 minutes. 55 is better and more, better still.
  • To remove the cast sections turn the mould upside down on a flat surface with the corner piece facing you.  Now slowly peel back the mould. The corner piece is easy enough, it will drop out, but if a pavement section seems to be sticking just gently turn back the other end of the mould. That should be enough. DO NOT press or apply any pressure where the pavement sections are or they are likely to break.
  • Breakages - no big deal really. The breaks are usually very neat and come at joins of the paving slabs so you can seamlessly glue them together again. Worst comes to worst you have broken paving slabs for barricades, craters in the street etc.
  • Bubbles and miscasts? Some, though the faster you try to be with your mixing and pouring, or should that be 'lazy'. the worse it seems to be. On the most part they look like natural wear and tear and of course the road workers are on strike! Seriously, just use a blob of left over Hydrocal or whatever or hide/repair the worst or plant some weeds or leave a discarded newspaper or a Coke Can cut from a piece of  sprue if you are that bothered.
  • Left over Hydrocal gloop? Have some newly based figures on standby to avoid wastage. 
The Hydrocal is a VERY lightweight material. I am only using it as it's to hand and will 'paint' the cast pavement sections with PVA to strengthen them. I may try some smooth Polyfilla next to see what the results are. The Five minute stuff would be ideal if it worked.....

Alright then, want to try this for yourself? Check out eBay seller 087_odea.


Saturday 13 July 2013

Elhiem BAOR: Bumper Summer Release

"Hey rock and rollers! This is Foggy Fogarty on Radio Borset with the Five O'Clock Foggy Follies! That was Oliver's Army - a bit of Elvis Costello - from the boys of No.2 Section, B Company of the Wessex Rangers and dedicated to 'Delectable Debby' at Crow Farm. And this is a stomping song and a weather forecast all in one. It's Tom Robinson and it's going to be a 'Long Hot Summer'....."
Matt at Elhiem has just announced the long awaited additions to his Cold War BAOR. This bumper summer release includes a skirmishing rifle group, firing GPMG group, platoon command, 'Charlie G'/LAW/Blowpipe launchers, sustained fire GPMG on tripod, 81mm mortar and observers.

BAOR skirmishing 'greens' from the Ambush Alley Forum
Perfect for debussing from one of Rolf's Saxon APCs

Worth noting that Elhiem is also looking to stock vehicles from S&S Models. I'm biased of course but I would like to see Shaun's BAOR AFVs and Land Rovers amongst the initial stock to compliment these latest 20mm 'Toms'. Maff bought one of the S&S Model's 109s to turn into a Free Taff 'Gun Jeep' and was favourably impressed.

I have to give credit to Matt in that he has released everything in one go, allowing you to buy a full 1970's/early 80's British force without leaving gaps or having to rely on substitutes. In addition, the packs themselves are wargamer and customer friendly making it a breeze to organise what packs you need to purchase to complete a tabletop force.

Looking forward to receiving my first platoon worth of these BAOR figures. I'm planning to pick up some of the support weapons after pay day.

Update: See my review here!


Monday 8 July 2013

The Holy Grail of 79 Gaming.

Last week I was down in Aberdeen with the family and decided to pop into Hobbycraft while waiting on the ferry. I haven't bought much in here for a while as they don't seem to stock a lot of gaming stuff nowadays. I was really surprised to find that they had these two great Hornby pieces and at the Bargain price of £10 each. They are going to look amazing as the centrepiece for a game.

They are the Hornby mineshaft building and Headstock 2.

Friday 5 April 2013

Pay and Display

Dropped into Model Zone at lunchtime and found this low relief OO scale multi-storey car park for just £24.99, down from it's more usual RRP of around fifty smackers. A good price for bringing a multi-dimentional aspect to the Winter of 79 urban battlefield. Being OO scale, it's also very suitable for 15mm modern and post apocalypse games as well.

 Back in the office, we had the first quiet day since 4th Feb, allowing me plenty of mental space to umm and ahh about whether I should buy it. With no word about the job that I was interviewed for last week,  I thought 'F. it!' So I swooped on MZ on the way to the station and stuck the multi-storey on the credit card. And why not. Great way to reboot inner city W'79.

Obviously exuding self congratulation about my purchase, I got to the station with only a couple of minutes to spare. The train was 90% full, but I made it into a seat next to D. a fellow daily commuter. I  had helped her out earlier in the week when she was struggling to complete an ISO 9001 multiple choice questionnaire. As a thanks for getting all the questions right for her, she gave me her email and offered to pass on my CV to the oil company she recruits for. Just can't beat good karma can you.

If you are a Geezers fan, remember that a multi-storey, only a bit taller than this model of course, played an important role in the 1970's classic gangster movie Get Carter, where Michael Caine kills Bryan Mosley, aka Alf Roberts by throwing him off the roof of the Trinity Car Park in Gatehead. 


Tuesday 2 April 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

March was mad. No other word to describe it, simply mad. 

Heather's had her op and I'm glad to say that it went much smoother than anticipated, though not without some angst courtesy of the NHS.She's up and about and going a bit stir crazy. So I for one am definitely looking forward to her getting back to work.

In my own workplace we had Internal Audit review my project. Both the auditors were very pleasant and a pleasure to work with. It goes without saying that it was time consuming and stressful given that deliverables still have to be met. I have to take my hat off to my team for stepping up to the mark and managing a very difficult time in the rollout without me, for best part of three weeks.

Also had an interview for a new job.  Don't think I shone at all in front of the panel as I had a couple memory blanks. One of the aftermaths of my neuro episode. two years ago now. Impenetrable black holes in my memory. But equally it has been a stressful month with higher things to concern myself with about and that morning I came in to meet a maelstrom of panic about a technical issue that in the end turned out to be nothing to do with my project.

I will will admit that my performance or lack of worried me over the weekend that the same may happen again in future interview situations, sowing doubt and a little despair for 24 hours or so, but glad to say I'm over that - I've learnt from it - and maybe it's happened for a reason - now let's move on.

March has also been a druich month. Snow practically every day.  The good thing to come out of that is that I could easily envision the Battle of the Bulge being fought in the fields and hills around me and consequently was able to round out my Battle of the Bulge collection with some cheap purchases made on eBay.  And of course a large number of the German items (sans snow) are perfect for Berlin too!

Got a train to catch.


Sunday 17 March 2013

A Very Craggy Civil War

 As Father Ted Crilly might say "You can't put down a good revolution"

The Craggy Flying Column was formed three days before the British withdrew from Dublin. When the news of the War of Independence reached Craggy Island, the Column split between Free Staters and Bitter Enders.

The Free Staters lost to the Bitter Enders after a vicious fight with Hurley sticks at St Kevin's Turnip.  Weapons arrived on the island a month later when the MV Artizan with a cargo of firearms destined for the IRA Tipperary Brigade,  including a number of Tommy Guns, was abandoned in a storm and run aground. The ammunition was lost though, and has to be manufactured locally from empty jam tins and tuna cans.

Enough arms were found for every man woman and child on Craggy Island and so newly equipped, the Flying Column declared war on the Craggy Garda. Off duty the Column drank in the snug of the Craggy Hotel while the Garda propped up the bar. The lads of the column are well disposed to Father Ted Crilly who they see as a like minded rebel and will often turn out to help him in a crisis.

The Free Staters on Craggy Island leaned to communism following the arrival of Rosa Leichtenstein, a German emigre and 'lovely girl' who worked behind the bar at Vaughans. Calling themselves after the Spartacists the lads invited Ted to join to poke one in the eye of the Flying Column. Ted accepted believing them to be a football team, having visions of scoring winning goals and being picked up by a talent scout for a big club in England.

Some of the arms from the MV Artizan together with blue uniforms destined for the Free State Prison Service washed ashore on neighbouring Rugged Island. Father Dick Byrnes, supported by Bishop Brennan fell on this opportunity to form the Papal Legion as the armed branch of the church in order to counter the moral slide he believed was happening on Craggy Island and elsewhere.

The spark......St Declan's Day just before St Patrick's Day and just after St Finbar's Day, the shop steward of the Craggy Postal Workers Union suspects that donations to the Church are being launderated in a post office account belonging to a local priest. He immediately denounces the Pope, declares a Trotskyist State and leads the Postal Workers to man the barricades.

Father Ted Crilly on hearing of the trouble, fearing for the funds resting in his account, hopes to smooth the waters and so leads the Spartacists from Vaughans to the Post Office on the pretext of challenging the postal workers to a "jolly old football match".... only Father, now also Commandant Byrne, has heard that Ted is leading an evil socialist putsch and has dispatched a column of the Papal Legion to Craggy Island..... A Very Craggy Civil War is about to become a footnote in dusty history books.

Perhaps because of my heritage I do have a hankering for the Irish Civil War. Perhaps because we both like the figures by Musketeer, but one inspired Wednesday evening letting off steam about work, we came up with the idea of a setting on the fictional Craggy Island of Father Ted fame. Then using this as a non too serious background for irreverent Interwar, Pulp and Call of Cthulu games. Yes, Father Ted Cthulu! Well the whole sleepy English village thing is done to death.  The Craggy setting allows us to create madcap factions using our favourite figures and rustle up a game or two in an evening with little to no effort.

So what's this got to do with Winter of '79. On the face of it nothing, but you know, just doing something instant, madcap and off the wall can lead to a change in perspective. Same is true of wargaming. It could have been Craggy Island it could have been Dublin or the streets of Moseley's London. I've recognised that I'm taking Winter of '79 too seriously again and the freedom with which we've put together factions, thrown figures on the table and started rolling the dice with A Very Craggy Civil War is something that I should be doing with Winter of '79.

I know many of you love the narrative approach, but there's definitely room for both. As a result of Wednesday's Very Craggy Civil Wargames I have some fresh ideas. Watch this space.


Thursday 14 March 2013

No Fecking Pasaran!

A Very Craggy Civil War kicks of this week with three linked skirmishes utilising USE ME: An Eldritch Horror as the base rules for the games.

Communist Postal Workers denounce Pope Pius XI
and take hold of the Craggy Post Office. Careful now!

 Commandant Brennan eager to put down that sort of thing
is ambushed by the Craggy Flying Column.

 Outside Ireland's largest lingerie department, Papal Legionnaires
battle Ted and the Spartacist League during what has become known as 
the Post Office (it was only resting in my post office book) Putsch.

Mark & Maff

Saturday 9 March 2013

Berliner '45 Kampf

I wonder if my affinity with urban combat started as a kid, playing in the back streets and alleyways of suburban London?

Or was it sparked through discovering the artwork on wonderfully exotic models like this Fujimi Hetzer, which was completely outise the narrow horizons of world of war 2 with Airfix as popularised by Don Featherstone.

Of course this is way back, when John Saunders was making the 8th Army trucks out of cardboard and tar - queue the Hovis music...... but before I go off on a rambling reminisce about Charles Grant and Battle - Practical Wargaming (I still have my original copy from 1970), let's talk about gaming Berlin.

I need a starting point, so I bought this..............

eBay purchase. Seller's photo

....more pictures here: Model Buildings by MOD. Now this is a building worth storming! This commits me to the project. Once the building arrives I can start planning the board though I have some initial ideas based on the layout in the Red Square Mission (M15) in the original Ghost Recon xBox game.

So, with the Ministry of Ersatz Production bought, I started going through my boxes and found some goodies that are perfect for Berlin 45 'Airfix' style. Lot's of little zip bags of left overs or spares, and odd figures kept turning up. For instance, 12 first edition Battlefront Russian riflemen. Beautiful models in very human combat poses. Given Milliput capes they'll be ideal. A bag of Peter Pig German Tank Hunters in cap. These are slightly smaller and thinner than the other German figures, painted in black they will become my nominal Hitler Youth force. A bag of first edition Battlefront Late War German 'discards' who may now find themselves becoming Volksturm, party officials or similar local defence forces/alert units etc with the odd headswop and/or Milliput greatcoat. And so on. Then result, an unopened Sdkfz251/22 with 75mm PAK!

Maff and I have agreed to continue using the Flames of War small bases, each with 2-3 15mm figures. This proved successful with the Axis and Allies Miniatures rules and in the case of Berlin 45, will enhance the look, be practical on the urban tabletop and also allow us to create fun little character bases, mixing and matching as we see fit from any odds and sods we find. Above all, I think it will help maintain the necessary sense of fun that's important to us.



Friday 8 March 2013

SITREP: Der Untergang

Won these new RH Models' UrbmeltsquT armed civvies in 44 pattern British helmet on eBay (seller's photo). A welcome boost to my Winter of '79 forces.

So much for my optimism back in Feb. Our gaming plans for Feb and March have been put on hold as Heather's been in and out of hospital. In between I've been working long hours at work to make up time off to look after her and I don't see things getting any better till the end of March. Especially with an internal audit in the offing.

Nevertheless, stopped by Homebase on Sunday and whilst there, picked up a 60x90cm 6mm MDF sheet. The idea being to create a double-sided urban, inner city terraced housing themed gaming board with different street layouts.

I also bought some paint for roads and general urban duties. Browsing some model railway forums I found 'chalkboard' and 'velvet' paint recommended for painting roads. When I saw the price of the tins of these I looked for something cheaper and found two tester tins of Crown VINTAGE Matt Emulsion, Film Noir (a dark charcoal for the base colour) and Fade to Grey (a grey suitable for drybrushing the asphalt and general urban greyiness), at £3 something each. Done!

The buildings themselves are going to be simple printed models rather than Metcalfe, which I still find too twee or ScaleScenes, too complicated. The buildings will sit on 'paved' templates to allow a small amount of variation. I'm using masking tape to plan the road system and trying out different combinations to come up with as visually interesting yet tactically challenging road network as possible.  I don't plan to do 'backies', just blocks of terraces, a pub, garage, lockups and a few corner shops. This is because I prefer the idea of running actions along the streets rather than fighting for Jack and Vera's outside privy.

Continuing the urban theme, we've decided on Berlin '45  in 15mm as our 'do-able' big project this year. I'm currently thinking of an Infantry Aces style mini campaign over a 'boys ownly' wargaming weekend in a Call of Duty: World at War meets Downfall maelstrom interspersed with Winter of 79, Falklands, Normandy, RCW and Sci Fi games. And who knows, maybe I can spring some Undertoten action on Maff as well.

old photo of my 15mm Nazi Undertoten when WIP.

Once again, I'm looking at a 60x90cm baseboard for Berlin. Let's keep things in proportion.  To paraphrase Maff, "How many times can you storm the Reichstag?" So, we are looking at an Airfix approach - one of this one of that - a King Tiger here, a Jagdpanzer there, rather than hordes of late war armour clogging the streets. My own Soviets will remain based around T34/85s and M4 76mm 'Emcha' Shermans plus the odd SU thingy rather than the IS-2 and JSUs.

Going through my stuff, I've found almost all the infantry and support weapons I need. Peter Pig Russians in greatcoats, Battlefront Engineer-Sappers and a nice mixed bag of Late War German odds and sods. I have a couple of late war Panzers lurking around unused and unlike our foundered attempt to replay the Falklands in 20mm or even 10mm this time last year, everything is either to hand or readily available and most definitely not reliant on casting schedules.

BTW, the armed civvies in 44 pattern British helmet arrived this morning. Really, really nice minis. Rolf has really captured the look of the netted and scrimmed 44 (MkIV/V) helmet. Recommended.


Monday 18 February 2013


The focus of my 'spare' time over the last few weeks has been on todays presentation to upwards of 150 managers at the Smarter Aberdeen: Smarter Workforce conference held at the Beach Ballroom. I'm no Steve Jobs when it comes to presentations, and I certainly don't do turtlenecks.

The presentation went down well. Lot's of positive feedback and now I'm home. Shattered. But strangely looking forward to doing it all over again next week. It's going to be a cakewalk next time round.

Now, back to the important things in life. Wargaming!


Wednesday 13 February 2013

Fighting Patrol

1979... Borcestershire

6 Section  receive a tip of from a friendly farmer that some Borset Trots are on 'maneouvres' near the blasted hamlet of Crooked Crowe. Corporal Stan orders Lance Jack Dave to take the gun group to the top of the ridge and create a base of fire covering the hamlet and the road leading into it.

Stan leads his rifle group towards the hamlet itself.
Hoofing it, he hopes to get their before the Trots.

 L/cpl Dave and the GPMG group get into some decent cover.

The Trots are being led by 'Kensington Phil'
an ex squaddie who is taking them through their paces.

They're looking nice and warry.

Dave spots an opportunity and opens up.

 'Kensington Phil' goes down with a bullet to his knee. 
Terry is killed outright the rest are in shock at the suddeness of the onslaught.
Stan and Del rush the survivors. One Trot resists. He's slotted. Another surrenders.

One unidentified tail-end Charlie takes off, with Stan in pursuit.
Unfortunately, Stan's 40 a day habit catches up with him 
and he's left wheezing as the youngster legs it into the distance.

6 Section and their IO are delighted. An emergent Trot cell taken out. Two more martyrs for the cause and a 'warm' to interrogate. 'Kensington Phil' is handed over to Special Branch. And one to get away to spread the message that 5 Para own this turf.

The game was short and sweet. Maff wanted to slot some Trots, so I obliged. Technical difficulties with his laptop ate up 45 minutes of gaming time, so I condensed the planned platoon sized action into something achievable in remaining time. We actually 'muggergamed' it - talking through the action, moving the figure without the aid of a ruler and rolling dice where appropriate.

Figures: RH Miniatures
Terrain: CJ's World and WarTerrain