Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reading Wargames Magazines over lunch...and English Civil War at the Shed

The view from the conference venue

I had something of a frantic day yesterday.  I had to be at Kennington Oval early in the morning for a conference.  Now, this is a historic sporting venue and the place where the Ashes legend was born.  However, I have no interest in cricket whatsoever which is tedious to watch and, rather incongruously,  dangerous to play. I had to play it at school once and got hit by a cricket ball (on account of having no hand to eye co-ordination whatsoever) so passed on it thereafter in favour of athletics, which I was quite good at.  On Wednedsay afternoon games period all the sporty teachers and pupils were involved in cricket matches while the athletics people could sit in the long jump pit and watch the girls at the school next door playing netball.

The Royal Excahnge

Anyway, I had to leave Kennington (not a part of London I would visit voluntarily) and head to the City for a quick meeting in the Royal Exchange.  This is when I discovered how hot it had become during the morning. A late breakfast at the Grand Cafe set me up for getting back to the Oval but then I had a call from someone who wanted to meet me in West End, so I set off on the Central Line (the hottest Underground line in London) and felt resentful towards all the under-dressed ladies.  As I was early, I got off at Chancery Lane to go into the large WH Smiths newsagents. to get the May Wargames Illustrated.  I quite often get wargames magazines here as it is one of the bigger Smiths.  However, there were no sign of any wargames magazines. Instead, several of the usual magazine shelves were now selling those useless 'bookazines' which are books for people who are too stupid to be able to read anything without pictures or articles no longer than 3 pages. 

Forum Smiths

So back on the tube to go to Tottenham Court Road station (normally I would have walked two stations but it was far too hot). I got lost coming out of the station as it has all changed because of the imminent new Crossrail line station so had to walk even further in the sweltering heat. Just as I reached Oxford Street my phone went again and my contact asked whethe it would be alright to meet at 4.30 at Embankment instead.  Grrr!  I booked a very much needed haircut (as anyone who met me at Salute will testify) back in the City and headed off to another branch of WH Smiths in the Forum shopping centre on Oxford Street.  Here I managed to get WI and also Wargames Soldiers and Strategy.  But, then I found out that the Smiths there is closing down in June.  In fact it looks like the whole place is closing, as nearly all the shops were empty.  Games Workshop moved some months ago. So this is bad news as finding places to get wargames magazines is getting more and more difficult.

So, I now had a couple of hours to kill, I was wilting in the heat and desperate for a cold drink.  Fortunately, I was only about two hundred yards from my favourite Italian restaurant in London, Latium.  Slightly worryingly, I didn't recognise any of the people there and it had been redecorated.  I hadn't been there for over a year.  It turns out that the owner is the same but they have a new chef, Stefano Motta, who had actually been a sous Chef at Latium 12 years ago.  More recently he ran the restaurant at Vinopolis. So after ordering a large bottle of mineral water I sat down in the lovely air conditioning to have a look at my two magazines.  I was looking forward to this issue because it features the new The Men who would be King rules by Danial Mersea and other colonial articles.  These rules come out in August and, having enjoyed his Lion Rampant rules I will certainly be getting these,  Interestingly, there is a whole chapter in the new book on how you can use the rules to play solo.  Other Victorian Colonial articles featured The Second Opium Wars, 1853 NW Frontier action and uniforms of the period.  I was also interested to see a piece on the new Sharp Practice rules which I have heard good things about but have never played.  If I ever did Napoleonics it would be with these rules.

One thing which was nice to see, from a nostalgic point of view, was a full page Foundry advertisement for Darkest Africa figures, no doubt anticipating the new Congo rules which are due out shortly. In fact I have read that Foundry are planning starter sets to go with the game.  Along with Gripping Beast Vikings, Foundry Darkest Africa were the first metal figures I painted seriously, back in 1999 when I started painting wargames figures again.  I think I have nearly all the Darkest Africa figures except the pygmies.  I hate pygmies.  They're like Hobbits in Lord of the Rings. Unlike most of my armies, I have actually painted enough figures to field an explorers force, a British force, a Belgian force, an Arab force and Azande tribesmen so I will be able to do something with Congo from the beginning or, if playing solo, it sounds like The Men who would be King will work too. Fortunately my Nigeria trip was postponed but it now looks like I will have to go to Liberia in June.  Honestly, no one goes to Liberia!

Crema Di Piselli, Cetriolo, Pesto Al Basilico, Uovo Di Anatra in Camicia E Pecorino 

Time for my first course, which was pea soup with poached duck egg and even though I was driving in the evening I had a small glass of Pinot Grigio with it, which was more than diluted by the two bottles of Ferrarelle mineral water I got through. I always drank Ferrarelle when in Rome,which is far superior to San Pellegrino and is one of the few genuine naturally sparkling mineral waters in the world.  My Roman lady friends always claimed it was a diuretic, due to its particular mineral content.  Or, at least, that was the excuse that they gave when I had to keep watch in the Roman Forum one summer afternoon when the two princesses I had just had lunch with had to relieve themselves of several bottles worth (plus a lot of Gavi di Gavi).  In fact, I didn't really need to keep watch as it was August, over a hundred degrees and there was no one about anyway.  Also I suspect they didn't care if anyone caught them or not and they were just showing off!  A distance contest across the sand was not what I was expecting from two such elegantly dressed ladies.

Tagliatelle con ragu di agnello, Ricotta salata Siciliana e Timo

Princess I and Princess MF would no doubt have been very dismissive of my having pasta for a main course and I told me that on her first tip to England, as a student, she was served pasta at a friend's house and didn't eat much as she was expecting a proper main course to be served afterwards.  However, having had a large breakfast in the City I decided to just have the tagliatelle with lamb and Ricotta.

I've got two thirds of a unit of Byzantine archers already!

Wargames Soldiers and Strategy features the Normans in their May issue.  I have painted some Normans and there was a good article on the Normans in Sicily (appropriately, as that was where Princess MF came from).  This was designed for Lion Rampant so I wouldn't need to paint many more Normans and then could just add some Byzantines and Sicilian Muslim forces.  All quite achievable, I think.

Anyway, I thought about small Dark Ages forces on the way home after my haircut ("this is a men's hair dressers", said Tracey, my hairdresser, before taking two and a half inches off my hair) and my meeting on Polish railways at the Royal Society of Arts near Embankment. I didn't have much time at home (no time for dinner so I could justify the big breakfast and lunch out to myself) before setting off for my second trip to the Shed this year.  Now Eric the Shed and Mark, another regular shedizen had started English Civil War armies at Christmas.  Amazingly, they had each painted around five hundred figures since then and last night saw most (not all!) of them getting their first outing. I painted 25 figures last year and I would have to go back to about the middle of 2010 to get a total of 500. So they painted the same number of figures in four months as I painted in five and a half years!  I really must be doing something wrong!   The full length board looked spectacular with the armies arrayed between two villages.

The King, the King!

I won't do a blow by blow description of the game as Eric the Shed will be doing that soon although he will do well to recall the action because the board was so big I had no idea what was going on further down the board. We had six players and three commands on each side.  I was on the right flank of the Royalist side with Mark, whose beautiful army we were using, taking the role of Charles I in the centre.

Some of Eric's Parliamentarians

Nearly all the figures were the Warlords plastics which really is, I think, very much their best range. I started my ECW forces with the then new Renegade figures but these are so big compared with the Warlord ones they really wouldn't work together, although the Perry figures would as would the Empress ones, I think.  I sort of don't know what to do about ECW now.  I have only three painted units; two infantry and one of cuirassiers, and realistically I cannot paint a huge army like this but I love the period and the uniforms. If I was starting now I would go with the Warlord range although I do have some Empress figures. I am quite tempted to get some Warlord plastics and do something I have always wanted to do and build a small New Model Army force, although I prefer my pikemen to hold vertical pikes.  Something to think about.

My own game fell into three distinct parts.  On the far right my two units of commanded shot traded volleys with Eric's two units of shot and one of dragoons.  Although I eventually lost one of my units they battered and held up my opponents.

 The Royalist cavalry crash into Cromwell's Ironsides

In the centre I launched a massive cavalry charge only to have Cromwell's very tough Ironsides counter charge. Both sides took a battering but my cavalry were forced to retreat and took no further part in the battle.  Fortunately, with my foot and artillery popping away at the Ironsides, Cromwell was unable to rally them for the rest of the game.

 Over on the right My two foot units stood firm for much of the game and just held on in place long enough for losses elsewhere on the table to see Parliament defeated.  We used the Pike and Shotte rules which I haven't used before and although they gave a fluid and quick game I didn't feel that they had the period feel of the 1644 rules, which is what we used at Guildford, along with Warhammer ECW, which is a direct descendant of 1644.

Having had a rather trying day I struggled even more than usual with the rules and couldn't for the life of me work out what the different counters all meant so I am grateful, as ever, to Eric's patience.  It was really helpful of him to have produced little cards for each unit with their statistics on. So, it was a really enjoyable game but at a time when I am trying to get rid of figures it does mean I have to make some decisions about ECW.  At Guildford most people had Redoubt figures which the Renegade ones matched well with but I think I will put my remaining unpainted Renegade figures on eBay and get some of the Empress ones, perhaps.

Thanks, as ever, to Eric for a fabulous game.


  1. You could collect a small ECW force for Pikemen's Lament. The set of rules coming out next year from Dan Mersey based on Lion Rampant...
    (It's what I'm probably going to do)

  2. What a superb looking game! I have table size envy! :-) I can understand the desire to use the less expensive Warlord figures. I must say though that I fell in love with the Renegade figures when I first saw them, the best part of 13 years ago and still buy them. I don't think anything matches them for detail. In addition by mixing in the Bicorne figures, most of which are by the same sculpter, this gives a terrific choice of figs. I use Warlord for the Clubmen etc as they are just great character figures.

    I use Pike and Shotte too, just with a few house amendments to give it a little more of the ECW feel.

    Best wishes,

  3. The solo rules for 'The Men Who Would Be King' (playing against Mr Babbage) are a very clever addition to the group and can be adapted for use with the other rules.

    You can easily build a small company for Pikeman's Lament with a box of each of Warlord's infantry and cavalry.

  4. Great Read Sir

    Glad you had a good time Monday night...my post will go up by the end of the week...

  5. Legatus Hedlius, Ave!

    The meal devoured at the appropriately named Latium looked like a perfect way to spend a lunch hour. Good food and some fine wargaming "reads" made for a lovely afternoon. And how ideal was it to finish off the article with the amazing photo essay taken at the compound of Eric the Shed. You and your friends are very lucky to have such a wonderful private venue at which to play.
    You might want to continue thinking about the plastic figures for your army but investigated the metal leader figures upon which you can lavish more painting time. Also, will you be looking to field two "armies" or just one? And how many extras do you plan to raise? Artillery? Dragoons? Wagons? A bridging train? These, of course, are wonderful things to ponder.
    As an aside, it is wonderful to see that Londinium is still as prosperous as always. It took a while to get back on its feet after that unpleasantness with Boudicca but still. It looks like some real headway has been made by the merchants. Was the large colonnaded building in the first picture the temple to Mars Victrix?
    Gerardus Magnus