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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Looking back

I wrote my first blog entry on 18th September 2008, and this is the 3,534th entry I have written since then! In that time my blog has been viewed over two and a half million times(!) and the average number of 'visits' per day is just under 408.

Early on I decided to save all my blog entries in the form of a diary, and over recent days I have been looking back at those blog entries with a view to seeing if there are any mini-campaigns, ideas, or projects that I had forgotten about. Surprisingly there were ... and in particular the mini-campaigns stood out as being simple to set up, quick to fight, and enjoyable to stage. Re-reading the battle reports were a real fillip to my rather jaded wargaming palette, and the sooner I can start another min-campaign, the better! (I have a couple of writing projects to finish first, but the joy of mini-campaigns is that they can easily fit in with other projects without causing too much disruption.)

The only problem that I can foresee is deciding where and when to set my next mini-campaign ... but in truth, who knows and who cares ... just as long as I have some fun?

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Never read your reviews

I was once told by an actor of my acquaintance never to read reviews of any work that I had done as they would either over-inflate my ego ... or do it irreparable harm. How right they are!

Looking at the reviews of my PORTABLE WARGAME and DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME books on Amazon, I discovered that almost all the reviews gave my books three stars or better. No bad, I thought ... and then I saw that one reviewer had given them a one-star rating ... so I read their review. This is what it said:
I bought the pair of books at the same time after they had good reviews. Upon reading them I found the rules to be overly simplified and too generic to be of interest. The book goes into great detail as to why he chose the rules and is really just extra padding to the book that should really have been a couple of sheets of A4 given out free in a magazine.
At first I was very disappointed ... and then I thought about what the reviewer had written.

The rules were criticised for being 'overly simple and too generic' and yet the blurb about the rules on Amazon states that 'The Portable Wargame has been developed over the past ten years to meet the needs of wargamers who want a fast, easy to learn, simple to use set of wargames rules.' Is it me, or are the rules being criticised for doing what they were designed to do?

Now I know that not everyone wants to understand the thinking that the rule writer has gone through when writing a set of rules, but I know that some do, which is why I included it. It isn't 'extra padding'; it serves a purpose ... and from the feedback I have had, a lot of users have found that it has helped them to a better understanding of the rules and enabled them to develop their own versions.

When I first read this review, my heart sank. I am a realist and didn't expect everyone to rate my books as five-star, (that would have been nice, but ...) but to rate it as only worth one-star really felt like a kick in the guts. Then I re-read the review, and thought about what had been written ... and realised that at no point did the review state anything along the lines of 'I've fought several tabletop battles with these rules and ...'. I came to the conclusion that the reviewer had looked through the books, decided that the rules were not for him, and had chosen to write a review that reflected that. An honest opinion, written in these circumstances, is perfectly valid, even if it seems a bit harsh.

My actor friend was right; I should never read any reviews of work I have done ... but it is very difficult not to!

Interestingly, the same reviewer wrote the following about Neil Thomas's ONE-HOUR WARGAMES (which they gave four-stars!):
I was a little disappointed with this book. The rules for the different areas are basically the same, and come down to roll a single dice and do that much damage to the enemy unit with each unit taking 15 damage before leaving the battle. The best part of the book that saves it are the 30 scenarios that are included.

After spending more time with this book you begin to see that the differences between the different rules make the required feel for the era but keep the same core mechanics. It is possible to play several battles in different eras during an evening.

Friday, 19 January 2018

The Battleship Holiday: The Naval Treaties and Capital Ship Design

I've always had an interest in ship design – particularly warship design – and when I realised that this book had been published some months ago, I decided to buy a copy.


The book's contents are:
  • Acknowledgements
  • Author's Notes
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Part I: The Path to the Battleship Holiday
    • Chapter 1: The Last generation: 1906 – 1914
    • Chapter 2: The Pudding in Which One Finds the Proof: The First World War – 1914 – 1916
    • Chapter 3: The Art and Practice of Main-Battery Fire control in 1916
    • Chapter 4: Seeing It Through to the End: The First World War – 1916 – 1918
    • Chapter 5: The Washington Naval Treaty: 1918 – 1923
    • An Interim Conclusion (or Jutland: What Was and Was Not Learned)
  • Part II: A Short Holiday and its Aftermath
    • Chapter 6: The Make-Ups: 1922 – 1927
    • Chapter 7: The Fabric Begins to Fray: 1927 – 1929
    • Chapter 8: The Fraying Accelerates: 1929 – 1936
    • Chapter 9: The New Generation: 1934 – 1949
    • Chapter 10: Feet to the Fire: 1936 – 1945
    • Chapter 11: The Long Good-Bye (Covered Concisely): 1946 – 2006?
  • Afterword
  • Appendix: New-Generation Battleships
  • Notes
  • Sources
  • Index
As can be seen from the contents, this is much more than just a book about the Washington Treaty and its effects. It is a history of battleship design from the Dreadnought to the present day, and shows how the interaction between the competing pressures (political, military, and economic) affected the designs of the battleships that were used during the Second World War.

THE BATTLESHIP HOLIDAY: THE NAVAL TREATIES AND CAPITAL SHIP DESIGN was written by Robert C Stern and published in November 2017 by Seaforth Publishing (ISBN 978 1 84832 344 5).

Thursday, 18 January 2018

One down ... three more to go!

My talk about Freemasonry in the British Army to Lambourne Lodge (No.3945) in Loughton, Essex, yesterday seemed to go down quite well, even if the attendance was badly affected by illness. (There were eight apologies, most of whom were too ill to attend as a result of the virus that seems to be affecting so many people at the moment.)

The after-meeting meal (or Festive Board as we Masons term it) was a typical Burn's Night affair, with soup, followed by Haggis, 'neeps, and 'tatties. The main course was roast beef with all the trimmings, and the dessert was peaches and ice cream. Despite the lack of numbers – and the absence of a piper – the Haggis was brought in with due ceremony, carried around the room, and then 'addressed' in Burns’ own words ... in the full ‘Doric’!
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang 's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
It was a great meeting, followed by an excellent meal ... and I hope that the next three meetings I attend go just as well!

‘Doric’ is a general term for the dialect spoken by Lowland Scots during the period when Burns was writing his poetry, and is a reference to the fact that the Doric dialect of Ancient Greek was thought to be harsher in tone and more phonetically conservative than the Attic dialect spoken by Athenians.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Miniature Wargames Issue 418

The latest issue of Miniature Wargames arrived last weekend, and I have only just managed to read it.


The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: To the victor the spoils: A Black Ops scenario set in an alternative 1979 Britain: Part 2 by Conrad Kinch
  • Hell by daylight: 20th Century skirmish rules: Part 1 by Jim Webster
  • The sands of the Sudan: Constructing a 28mm Show Game by Martin Gane
  • The Black Mountains of Hazara 1888: A Colonial conundrum to contemplate by Jon Sutherland
  • Dragonmeet: Is it for wargamers? by Roger Dixon
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • The Gate Guardians of Gondolin: Converting and painting a realistic Elven army by Graham Green
  • The Catalonian Campaign: 1808 – 1809 – Gouvin against Reding – and the Battle of Valls by Michael Hamon
  • Recce
  • Carpet Bombshell: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Six addiction: The role of dice in wargames by Andy Copestake
  • Club Directory
So what did I particularly enjoy in this issue?

Pretty well everything ... which was a bit of a surprise! I particularly enjoyed the second part of Conrad Kinch's To the victor the spoils, and as a well-known advocate of Colonial wargaming, Martin Gane's The sands of the Sudan and Jon Sutherland's The Black Mountains of Hazara 1888 were always going to get the thumbs-up from me. Likewise, as a collector of Napoleonic figures, Michael Hamon's The Catalonian Campaign was also of interest to me.

Despite my misgivings about an article that describes how to paint a 'realistic' Elven army, I did find Graham Green's contribution interesting, and Andy Copestake's Six addiction reminded me of a story I heard some years ago at Connections UK about an American general who could not bring himself to throw dice during a wargame because he thought it demeaning ... and employed a senior NCO to do it for him!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Nugget 305

I collected the latest edition of THE NUGGET (N304) from the printer this morning, and I will be posting it out to members of Wargame Developments as soon as I can.


I have already uploaded the PDF version of THE NUGGET to the Wargame Developments website to read online or to download and print.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fifth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2017-2018 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can do so by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website.

Monday, 15 January 2018

A busy fortnight coming up

I've a busy couple of weeks ahead of me. On Wednesday 17th I am giving my talk about Freemasonry in the British Army to Lambourne Lodge (No.3945) in Loughton, Essex, and on Friday 19th I'll be at Boundary Lodge (No.7695), Ashwell House, St Albans talking about the Halsey family of Hertfordshire.

On Monday 22nd I'll be in the Chair at the Veritatem Sequere Lodge (No.9615) meeting at Royston, and on Wednesday 24th I am off to Letchworth to attend the Burns' Night meeting of the Iceni Lodge (No.5975), where the members of the Lodge are presenting a talk (with poetry) about the Masonic poetry of Rabbie Burns ... and I will be eating a traditional Burns' Night dinner!

Whilst all this is going on I have a couple of writing projects that I hope to get finished. The first of these (which is almost finished as far as it can be) is the centenary history of the Hertfordshire Master's Lodge (No.4090), and the second is a book about Eric Knowles's Madasahatta campaign.

The latter book will contain all the background information and the maps that Eric produced along with copies of the campaign newspapers and memories of some of the participants. The book will also have two appendices, one of which will be about Eric's South East Asian naval campaign, and the other will cover Eric's 'Quest of Thane Tostig' rules. I hope that Eric's family will give me permission to publish the book so that it will be available to the general wargaming public and can serve as a memorial to this pioneer British wargamer.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Selling my books on eBay?: An experiment

To date I have always sold my books via Lulu.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc., but I recently discovered that several online booksellers were selling my books via eBay ... so I have decided to see if it is a viable alternative for me to use as well.

At 3.00pm yesterday I listed copies of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA and both the hardback and paperback editions of DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME on eBay, and if they sell, I may well list future books there as well.



The advantage to potential purchasers is that I will have to have copies of the book to hand to send out as and when they are sold, which means that they will get them quicker than having to rely on Lulu.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc.; the disadvantage to me is that I will have to finance their production upfront and keep a stock available. That said, it will mean that I get to keep a great percentage of any profits that are to be made.

This is very much an experiment, and presently I can only offer a limited number of copies post free within the UK. If it works, then I will look at extending the titles I can offer and adding postage to locations outside the UK.
Even before I uploaded this blog entry, I had already sold one book.

It is beginning to look as if this might be a viable option for future book sales.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Charlie Muffin

Back in the late 1970s Brian Freemantle wrote the first of what has become a number of novels whose central character is one Charlie Muffin. Charlie is a rather scruffy member of the British Intelligence Service (MI6), and the first of the books in the series was turned into a made-for-TV film by Euston Films in 1979.

During some research I am doing into the life of Eric Knowles, I discovered that Eric had supplied the company with wargames figures and models. These were used in several scenes that featured Charlie's main opponent in the world of espionage, General Valery Kalenin. In the book Kalenin was a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, and his hobby was recreating battles that he had taken part in. IT was one such battle that was featured in the film.

The following are some stills taken from the film.







The actor playing General Kalenin is the wonderfully-named Pinkas Braun, and the battle is unusual as it seems to feature German, Russian, and British troops on the same battlefield.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Royal Arsenal Museum 2017: Ship Models: Coastal defence ships

The Royal Arsenal Museum (or TĂžjhusmuseet) in Copenhagen has a large collection of ship models on display, including a number of coastal defence ships.

Skjold (Coastal Defence Ship)


Built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1894 and 1898, she was armed with 1 × 9.4" gun, 3 × 4.7" guns, 4 x 47mm rapid-firing guns, and 2 x 8mm machine guns. She was decommissioned in 1929.

Herluf Trolle-class (Coastal Defence Ship)




This class of three ships was built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1899 and 1908. They were designed to be armed with 2 × 9.4" gun, 4 × 5.9" guns, 10 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, 8 x 37mm rapid-firing guns, and 3 x 18" torpedo tubes (one in the bows and two amidships).

Herluf Trolle was rearmed in 1905 when she was given and additional 6 x 47mm rapid-firing guns. These were replaced in 1910 by 2 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, and in 1917/18 the 57mm rapid-firing guns were replaced by 6 x 75mm guns. She was decommissioned in 1932.

Olfert Fischer was rearmed in 1905 when she was given and additional 6 x 47mm rapid-firing guns. These were replaced in 1910 by 2 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, and in 1916 the 57mm rapid-firing guns were replaced by 6 x 75mm guns. She was decommissioned in 1936.

Peder Skram was originally armed with 2 × 9.4" gun, 4 × 5.9" guns, 10 x 75mm guns, 2 x 37mm rapid-firing guns, and 4 x 18" torpedo tubes (one in the bows, one in the stern, and two amidships).

She was rearmed in 1910 when 2 x 75mm guns were replaced by 2 x 75mm anti-aircraft guns, which were in turn replaced in 1934 by 4 x 20mm automatic cannon and 4 x 8mm machine guns. The 4 x 20mm automatic cannon were replaced in 1939/40 by 2 x 40mm automatic guns. She was scuttled by her crew in 1943, and raised by the Germans. The renamed her Adler and rearmed her so that she could be used as a flak ship.

Niels Juel (Coastal Defence Ship)






Built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1914 and 1923, she was originally designed to carry a similar armament to Peder Skram.


As a result of the First World War the design was recast and she was armed with 10 x 5.9" guns, 4 x 57mm anti-aircraft guns, and 2 x 18" torpedo tubes.


She was seized by the Germans in 1943 and used as a training ship until she was sunk by Allied aircraft just before the end of the war.