Sunday, March 30, 2014

Harry's War

By Harry Drinkwater

This is the real deal; a day to day diary of a British soldier who fought in World War One, and who took part in some of the biggest and bloodiest battles of the war, including the Somme and Passchendaele and who survived, more or less intact. Books like this are said to be rare, and I've certainly never come across one before, as it was against regulations for the soldiers to keep diaries lest their writings fall into enemy hands. Other soldiers wrote memoirs (and I'm reading one such now) but this is different in that it documents things as they happened. Drinkwater's account doesn't gloss over the boring bits, but records them, in all their seemingly dull detail. To get a clear idea of what the war must have been like, this is invaluable. There is no drama or glorification, either of the violence or of the horror. Drinkwater simply records events, and some of his own thoughts accordingly.

In many ways, this book reminded me of another; Trafalgar: an eye witness history, though there are some major differences, the most obvious being the difference in time. This book is also a single man's perspective, so you can only really see the war thorugh Harry Drinkwater's eyes. There isn't a lot of historical context offered as Drinkwater himself barely knew what was going on in the world beyond the battlefield.

This is an excellent book for any one interested in the First World War.

The Mongoliad


By Neal Stephenson, Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, Nicole Galland, Cooper Moo and Mark Teppo.

As is obvious from the list of authors, this is a collaborator undertaken by several writers together, and as explained on Wikipedia, it is a part of a bigger project, though it can be read as a stond alone work (which is what I have done). I'd been hearing hints and been reading people rave about this trilogy for quite a while, and since I have enjoyed several of Neal Stephenson's books, I ordered them (used) from Amazon and looked forward with some eager anticipation.

The rumour mill would have it that given an interest in reenacting mdieval European fighting techniques, Stephenson, Bear etc were creating a work which would shed light on the forgotten aspects of European fighting history. This alone was a warning light so brght that for a long while I hesitated to buy the books. I don't mind North Americans enjoying their fantasies, but I am very sceptical when it comes to Americans percpetions of history - they always seem to view the past as a variation of their own present, cherry picking odd facts from here and there to create an illusion of the past which fits their preconceptions. For some reason I thought perhaps Neal Stephenson had risen above this. Either I was wrong, or he was swamped by his co-collaborators. Either way, this trilogy (and the length of it should have been warning enough) is yet another American confusion.

Don't get me wrong, the story isn't terrible, its just very long winded, rather pointless as a consequence, and it cherry picks shamelessly. For my own part, I was partially entertained by the inclusion of several of my own subjects of interest; historical groups, facts and dates that I have explored in books and on Wikipedia - for the creation of role playing games and skirmish battles. Since I already knew who the Livonian Sword Brothers were, I didn't need to be introduced to them, nor did I much care for the way they were portrayed. I didn't mind it, but I wasn't impressed either. There were other details liek this, dotted through out the book, which whilst I understood why they were there and why the authors had chosen them, the execution of the story was not good enough to justify all the historical hacking and short cuts.

In short, this trilogy is a good enough read unless you are expecting it to deliver what it promises.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

RM12.1 The Return of the Black Guards


This game was played on 22 February 2014.
Players were Jan, Andreas, Goeg and Palle.

For convenience, I shall refer to the left and right flanks as seen from the perspective of the map.

Both sides deployed across their edge of the table with the Black Guards (Palle and Goeg) deploying their tanks at once. Goeg positioned his first tank on the left flank, guarding the forest road, and he placed his second tank on the parallel road, facing towards the bombed out tank factory. Palle placed both his heavy tanks in the open ground of the far right flank, using the trees as partial cover and left his light tank to cover the ruins of the centre. Andreas placed his commander's tank in the trees facing Goeg's tank on the left flank. He left his second tank off map. Jan placed all three of his tanks in the centre ground of the railway siding. Palle and Goeg concentrated their infantry behind the central ruins whilst Jan and Andreas spread their infantry between the centre and left flank. Most all of Andreas' men were on the left flank.

Firing commenced with Goeg opening up a barrage against Andreas' forces on the left flank. Having established that the T-28 was impervious to his K4's guns, Goeg turned his attention to the infantry. He kept up a prolonged barrage that lasted for most of the game and which, despite their using cover to their best advantage, eventually annihilated a large proportion of Andrea's foot soldiers. Jan's Aglatean infantry hesitated for lack of movement points and were unable to move much from beyond their initial starting ground.

 Both sides held their ground cautiously for most of the first half of the game. Palle and Goeg were wary of the T-35's greater fire power, and Jan and Andreas were out numbered. The T-35 dominated the central ground but largely by default as it wasn't really being challenged. Eventually Goeg moved his second K4 heavy tank up the central road but Jan countered this with his light tanks, blocking the road and using the flame thrower tank to set fire to the tank factory building.

Palle edged his two tanks closer up the right flank in order to find a way of combating the T-35, but this was countered by Andreas who brought his second T-28 onto the map, behind the rail workers shack (not actually shown on the map as it was a later addition) on the far right flank. Trying to establish a lethal cross fire was very much the order of the day with both sides having difficulty bringing enough guns to bear to do any serious damage.

With both sides idling in an apparent Mexican stand off, Andreas then played his joker, a Polikarpov I-16 with six underwing rockets and twin 20mm cannon. He deployed his aircraft against Palle's tanks which were close enough together to bring them both within the rockets damage radius. Unfortunately Andreas rolled badly (both sides were plagued with poor dice rolls all day) and the joker failed. Palle continued to edge for a good firing position with both sides trading ineffectual shots across the right flank.

 Eventually Goeg brought his second K4 far enough up the central road to threaten the T-35 from the left. Palle brought both his tanks up and threatened from the right. It looked for a while as if the T-35 might be knocked out, allowing the Black Guards to secure the centre. Whilst this was happening however, Jan's two light tanks were moving in and around the centre with the twin turreted T-26 engaging the infantry who were trying to close on the storage building (even running some of them over) and the Kht-26 flamethrower tank moving right around the left flank to approach from the rear.

The game ended before either side could deliver a decisive attack and the end result was a narrow victory to the Black Guards, largely thanks to the initial bombardment of Andrea's infantry by Goeg's command tank on the left flank.

I think we had a good game and fun was had by all. I missed Oleg's presence, but in a way he was with us in spirit as the tank factory was one of his models I had completed, and then named after him. There will be a smaller follow up game in the next few weeks but Andreas was only with us for the one session unfortunately as he lives in Oslo. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

RM12.1 The Return of the Black Guards

The last RM game was played on 29th August. 2012. The next will be played on 22 February. 2014.


Guhan Lo. Aksai Chin. 1937.

Viktor Korsakov  sits on the rear veranda of a small chinese compound, facing across a broad valley. Far below this vantage point, peasants work in the rice paddies and sipping tea he watches the distant figures with pondering eyes. It has been almost a year since his defeat at Qala I Zal and during his recovery he has had plenty of time to dream up plans of revenge against the english agent known as Rocketman. In the valley below, a line of dust marks the approach of a motor car. Korsakov reaches across for the binoculars which stand beside his tea pot and his sumise proves correct; the automobile belongs to his subordinate Yuri Mosolov. Korsakov sighs heavily and laying aside the binoculars, he turns his eyes to the sky line on the far side of the valley. Yuri will want commands, he will expect vigour and action – but Korsakov feels his age now and the wounds he received at Qala I Zal trouble him still. He wonders what he can do.
Fifteen minutes later, as Yuri’s vehicle comes to a halt amid a cloud of dust, Korsakov has made up his mind. He struggles to his feet as his subordinate approaches and salutes briskly. Yuri salutes in return. He is carrying a briefcase.
”How do you feel sir?” he asks as he snaps open the locks.
”Today I feel much better Yuri” Korsakov smiles and Yuri glances up in surprise.
”I am happy to hear that” He begins, but Korsakov holds up a hand and interupts.
”I have come to a decision about my life Yuri, and perhaps you may not be so happy when you hear what I have to say.” Yuri frowns, but remains silent. Thoughts begin to flash through his mind.
”I am never going back to Russia. I know that now” Korsakov’s eyes move from Yuri’s and gaze without focus across the valley. ”I am too broken. Too old and indifferent with the affairs of state.”
Yuri swallows and leans forward but he finds he has too many questions and not enough words. It is as if he suddenly has no voice.
”But what of the men?” he finally manages to ask. ”What of our plans?”
”I do not know” Korsakov replies. ”What do you wish to do Yuri? Do you want to carry on? Will you take my place? They are more your men now than mine – I hardly know any of them any more”.
Yuri nods for this is the simple truth - Throughout the last year, as the Black Guards have fought along side their allies in Aksai Chin, he has shouldered all the burdens of command. Whilst Korsakov has largely rested in this peaceful retreat, he has continued the fight against the British imperialists. It is not really a question of whether or not he should take command, in essence he is already the commander of the Black Guards. He stands up and straightens his uniform coat.
”Very well then Viktor Alexandrovich. I relieve you of command and I will continue the fight.” Korsakov smiles.
”What will you do now Yuri?”
Yuri looks down at his former superior for a moment. His thoughts are whirling fast and furious, but he is certain of one thing. ONB7 must regain its former technological advantage if it is to have any hope of competing with the current Soviet government.
”I will return to Kazakhstan.”
”Why?” Korsakov asks. ”What is left in Kazakhstan?”
”Colonel Gromov and his men were very thorough when they looted the aerodrome at Bolshenarymskoe, and the British agent Mansfield made sure the death ray was completely destroyed so that the Soviets could not get their hands on it, but neither of them knew about the prototype, nor did they know about the secret storage facility at Tromsk. We still have one hundred and twelve heavy tanks stored there.”
”But no crews – no trained men” Korsakov points out.
”This is true – but I have enough men to take a squadron or two of tanks and secure Bolshenarymskoe long enough to recover the Tesla weapon. Once we have the weapon, we can remove it to one of the secure installations we still have in Krasnoyarsk.”
”You will need some one who can understand it – some one like Khalnikov – without such a man, it is of no more use than a type writer.” Yuri nods again.
”There is a man – a German called Heisenberg who took the Nobel prize in ’32. My sources inform me he is one of the few men who understands the scientific principles behind the death ray. Once we have secured the weapon, we will procure this man and set him to work upon a replacement.”
The two men consider this plan for a moment, then Korsakov sighs and picks up his tea cup. ”It is a good plan I think – as long as you can secure Bolshenarymskoe long enough to retrieve the prototype weapon. Good luck Yuri. You will need it I think.”
Yuri Mosolov turns to leave, then pauses. ”I will need a good title - to inspire the men. ’Director’ sounds much too limited. What do you suggest?”
Korsakov thinks for a moment then suggests; ”Da Yuan Shuai?”
”What is that?”
”It is the Chinese, for what the Italians call a Generalissimo – a Supreme General”.


The Kremlin. Moscow.

The creature known to the humans as Stalin sits at a large wide desk, reading a report from it’s subordinate Yezhov; the head of the NKVD. Having digested the unpleasant information offered, it picks up the receiver of a dull blue telephone upon its desk. ”Kapustin” it says and then ends the call.
Fifteen minutes later, a second creature, as pale and ominous as Stalin enters the office. It does not speak, but merely stands facing the desk and its denizen.
”Yezhov has detected a threat. For some time now, Victor Korsakov has had spies probing our scientific assets, searching amongst them for specialists and it seems probable he wishes to rebuild the energy weapon he lost in 1936.  Korsakov’s field commander Yuri Mosolov has now been detected approaching the site of the original weapon with a force of heavy tanks. Take some of our soldiers, go there at once and annhilate them.”

Player one - Jan
Major Kapustin / T35 heavy tank
Kht-26 flamethrower tank.
T-28 light tank.
6 x Aglatean Guards with rifles. 2 x Agaltean Guards with SMGs. 2 x Aglatean Guards with LMGs. 

Player two - Andreas
Sgt Moloksi /T28 Medium tank
1 x T28 Medium tank.
10 x Soviet infantry with rifles (one grenade each). 1 x Soviet infantry with LMG

Player three - Palle
Yuri Mosolov/ K4d command tank.
1 x K4 heavy tank.
1 x K1 light tank.
10 x Black Guard infantry with rifles (one grenade each). 1 x Black Guard infantry HMG

Player four - Goeg
Lt Kopylov /K4 heavy tank
1 x K4 heavy tank.
1 x RK16 Motor tachanka.
10 x Black Guard infantry with rifles (one grenade each). 1 x Black Guard Infantry LMG

Having flown to Khazakstan, Kapustin and his personal retainers rendezvous with local Soviet forces and move to Bolshenarymskoe aerodrome with all possible haste. Arriving at the adjoining industrial complex they find the Black Guards already in the vicinity and aerial reconnaisance notes a command group moving rapidly towards a cluster of semi ruined buildings. Kapustin boards his personal tank and sets off to intercept them. Both sides arrive simultaneously.

Both sides begin by placing their infantry elements on table, within 12 inches of the map edge. Cavalry elements begin off table and may come on table at their discretion (one move must be allowed for advance notice unless the element arrives behind cover)

Victory Conditions 
Whom ever controls the storage facility at the end of the game wins.
If neither side has control of the facility at the end of the game, then the side with the least casualties - percent wise, wins.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vickers, Browning M1919 & MG-34; comparisons

Part 2. Part 3.

I have yet to see a You Tube video where an American admits his own nations fire arm is inferior to that of any other nation.
As far as I can see, the first comparison does not hold up very well at all, since the Browning was developed a good seven years after the Vickers and John Browning had the accumulated experience and knowledge gained from World War One at his disposal. In essence this is like comparing a Hawker Hurricane to an F-86 Sabre jet and when you take that into account then I think the Vickers equals the Browning, for all its perceived flaws.

As for the second comparion, I can't see that there is much to talk about. The M1919A4 did its job, but this is another unfair comparison  and when compared to the MG-34 (designed a full decade after the M1919) it is entirely out classed in just about every aspect. 

Part 2.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Turrets galore!

Happy New Year, one and all!
Here, painted over the Christmas break (despite a god awful crick in my neck) - is my Soviet armoured unit, originally bought (from AGNM) for Rocketman games, for which hopefully they may yet be employed. They are (at the back) a T-35 heavy tank, two T-28 medium tanks and at the front (left) a KhT-26/OT-26 flamethrower tank and (right) a T-26/M-1932. Together these five tanks boast no less than fourteen turrets.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Thus endeth the year

Twas an 'annus horribilius' really, in many ways - what with my best friend dying suddenly. I've been in the dumps ever since. I decided to use my spare time over Christmas to paint the big Soviet tanks I bought a few years back. They've been sitting, unassembled and unpainted in the cabinet for so long, that I thought perhaps I ought to do something about them, and its been at least eighteen months since I last painted anything. This brought my old plans of Rocketman adventures with Oleg to mind, and it has not been easy. Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson's You Tube videos have kept my mind from obsessing, and slowly the tanks have taken form. I don't know if I'll ever use them, but at least they'll look good on their shelf. I'll post some pictures once they are finished.

In the meantime, I've discovered a new band, Au4. I think they are from Canada but I'm not sure.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Artist of the month; Matthias Verginer


Matthias Verginer is an Italian sculptor, whose work revolves around small ironic sculptures, as often as not featuring large women interacting in odd ways with (often odd) animals. I like this kind of work, both because it is impressive in its execution and because it has a glimer of humour in in its eye. I'm also very fond of art that features large women.

The Great Martian War

This is a fantastic faux documentary - very well made. It makes for good inspiration for a skirmish campaign.It was posted on You Tube but taken down again very quickly. It is aprox 2 hours long and was made for the History Channel.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kampfpanzer Bundeswehr

Probably the best all around main battle tank in service today...