Monday, 29 April 2019

Rampant Days Event 27th April Wargames Illustrated

Wargames Illustrated magazine held their Rampant Ages event in Nottingham last weekend. The idea was to combine the Osprey blue book rulesets into a short campaign based around Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant and Pikeman's Lament. We were each partnered with another player in a different period or setting and points (in the form of Gold or Manna) would be placed into a team pot. After each game you both had the option of spending from the pot to buy extra units or perks, or just saving the points in the hope you would come out with the most at the end. I was distinctly lucky in the fact that my team mate was an absolute monster, and by the end of the first game he'd already won us seven points to my paltry two!

As you can see from the photos I decided on an early English medieval retinue, and brought along my Simon de Montfort figures I'd used at Evesham and Salute. I'd added a unit of archers, as it was imperative in Lion Rampant to have a ranged/missile element. They're excellent for hiding in terrain and taking shots at heavier units. Just don't leave them exposed to charges as they can be swept away easily. My crucial mistake on the day was using two units of Mounted Men at Arms. They're devastating in attack, but activating them takes a 7+ on 2d6. This let me down significantly in the first two games and they spent much of their turn sitting on their horses and looking pretty. Next time I'll take mounted Serjeants I think - less armour but easier to activate.

I have to make mention of one of my opponents lovely figures (see photo above). They are Claymore Castings Medieval Scots. They really do look superb and I'm considering ordering a few very soon.

Additional to my retinue was a group of religious figures I decided to bring along for fun! They didn't play any active part in the game, but I thought they looked great and fitted in nicely with the theme. It was a bit like saying "God is on my side!". Which as it turns out he certainly wasn't because much of my dice rolling was awful.

I won't go into great detail about the three scenarios we played, but I'll say that it was a really nice afternoon. The Rose and Crown pub in Lenton where it was held allowed us to use their big function room upstairs. Wargames Illustrated supplied tea and snacks as well as a hearty lunch. I'm not overly bothered that I lost (badly) in the campaign, as I had the chance to meet and chat with lots of other wargamers from all over the country. A total highlight of the weekend I think.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

15mm Napoleonic King's German Legion

I bought these chaps last year from the Hammerhead show bring n buy. They were a bargain at £8 for what turned out to be a whole brigade of unpainted Old Glory figures. It was intended to be a Christmas project while I'd been too ill to go out very much. It was speed painted in batches because I'd found taking ages on cuffs, collars, buttons and god knows what would mean I'd probably never get them completed. I also took note of the late great Donald Featherstone's feelings on this matter, which was something along the lines of 'get some paint on them and get them on the table!'. Further to this the sharp eyed amongst you may have also noticed I use gloss varnish. The reason for this is several. They don't chip easily - I've already dropped a stand twice onto a concrete floor with nothing more serious than a couple of bent bayonets. Also I absolutely adore the old school look of glossy painted armies. Which to me holds great charm.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Spirit Games Burton on Trent UK

Over the Bank Holiday myself and Robin took advantage of the barmy weather to pay a visit to Spirit Games in Burton on Trent. I had never been before but heard great things about its Aladdin's Cave type quality and stockist of old school wargaming gems. 

The shop is deceptively large and stretches into a back area along a corridor of hundreds of fantasy Reaper Miniatures figures (a popular choice apparently). In the 'Wargaming Room' I found what I was looking in for in the shape of hundreds or possibly thousands of 15mm Essex miniatures and others. After standing a bit bug eyed for ten minutes I dived in and found boxes of Seven Years War and AWI stuff I needed. Although a problem came about when it was revealed by a helpful store assistant that I needed to scrabble around with a pen and cross off my purchases from a stock list contained in each box. Also seeking out specific figures involved cross referencing them against a pile of catalogues on the side ("what?? No electronic stock system??" I grumbled to myself). After informing Robin I may be sometime I jumped back into things to get what I needed. For me, this sort of delving brings out all kinds of rewards if you persist long enough. Literally hidden underneath a set of draws were several trays of lovely old Hinchliffe models that immediately filled me with heady nostalgia and an urge to get out my credit card.

After sorting out my 15mm armies I then let myself wander a bit around the room, randomly rooting in boxes and peering up at shelves. Robin came back with his Reaper Minis and immediately pointed upwards to a couple of boxes of aircraft and exclaimed "bloody hell, they were deleted years ago!". We both laughed when we also noted that the prices hadn't been changed to reflect their current collectability.

If you're passing through Burton on Trent (the brewery is a tourist hot spot if you're into that) Spirit Games is worth poking around in. However, if you're expecting orderly stock and consumer ease then it's probably not your thing. Especially if you've got a bad back or a dust allergy. Speaking on my own behalf I loved it!! 

Monday, 15 April 2019

Holiday Model Shop Discovery!

Last week I returned to Belfast for a couple of days to visit old university friends. During the short plane journey I had lamented the recent loss of The Modellers Nook which I'd frequented often over the years, deciding that a trawl round the secondhand book stores along Botanic Avenue was the only shopping I was likely to do. It was much to my delight I instead found a new (to me anyway) model shop at the indoor Smithfield Market called My Old Toy Box. 

The premises are a fair size with two floors. The ground floor is stuffed with shelf upon shelf of Diecast models, but towards the back is an excellent stock of HaT plastic figures plus a decent sized section of Warlord and Perry Miniatures. I was really tempted with the HaT 1/72 Napoleonics, as I'd had a box of French Light Infantry a few years back and they were lovely to paint (and really cheap. One 'Army Box' was £9.95 for 90 figures!!!). Along with Naps were a lot of Colonial Anglo Zulu War etc. If I wasn't so heavily invested in 15mm and 28mm right now I would have been coming home with a few. Upstairs is primarily dedicated to Airfix, but my eyes did fall on a pile of old magazines and some wargaming magazines from the 80's many of which were in very good condition for their age. All priced at £1 each!! I dug through and came away with several early issues of Practical Wargamer and Wargames Illustrated. When I got back to my residence later I made a big mug of tea and lay on the bed for a couple of hours lost in a nostalgic paradise of old school wargaming.

If you find yourself in Belfast you should definitely check this place out.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Leeds Royal Armouries visit

Last Friday my Dad and myself decided on a day trip to the Royal Armouries in Leeds. I had never visited before, which is surprising seeing how easy it is to get to from here and they have a regular Wargames show (Fiasco!) every year.

The building that houses the armouries is an impressive modern construction (I seem to always assume these collections are kept in castles or similar period buildings). Stepping through the door we were told to take a look at the Hall of Steel at the far end of the reception area. It didn't disappoint. Not only was it surrounded at its base with rows of cannons, mortars etc, but above us were a lofty arrangement of steel breastplates, swords, helmets and the like that gave the impression of stretching into the sky.

We decided to start at the top floor and gradually work our way down. It soon struck me that there was so much to see you could easily spend a full day here. Especially if you wanted to intersperse that time with one of many daily talks they have, or as we witnessed, a display of sword fighting in one of the halls.

My favourite part of the exhibition was the medieval section. I'm always intrigued by the craftsmanship that goes into suits of armour. Especially when they are so intricately decorated and engraved.

We dropped by the Waterloo display and I was immediately drawn to one of the two Siborne dioramas in existence. This was the smaller one apparently, but was nonetheless fantastic. Given the fact that it's over 100 years old it easily stands up to today's Wargaming standards. The figures are painted nicely and the foliage of bushes made with twisted wire and brushed fields is superb. We bumped into a museum assistant who was also an avid Wargamer, and he mentioned that each figure had been made by a silversmith and added that there was a rumour that the French Eagles on the flag tops were made from real gold.

In the same area they had on display Wellingtons telescope from Waterloo, and Napoleon's sword that was given to him by Tsar Alexander at Tilsit. As the assistant pointed out, it was the same sword that is mentioned in Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'.

If you haven't yet been, it really is a great day out. It's free to get in, the parking nearby in the multi-storey is not expensive and if you're going to combine it with the Fiasco! Wargames show it would be one to remember.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

28mm Warlord Norman Cavalry

Warlord Games apparently bought the entire Dark Age range from Saxon Miniatures a couple of years ago. Very nice figures, the only quibble being that I swapped out the original white metal spears because they were a bit fragile and replaced them with steel ones. Much more sturdy. Though the steel ones can be sharp as hell, so best to blunt them down slightly with a small file.

The Normans in the photo are a commission job for someone. I finished them (after a very long delay) whilst convalescing at my parents. Since last year I've taken a knock with yet further health problems and only recently picked up a brush again. I did manage to do some reorganising of my lead mountain, and was stunned to realise exactly how much I had accumulated. There were three entire 15mm Essex ancients armies in one box I unearthed. It did also inspire me to finish some projects I began years ago. One of which is my 15mm Seven Years War Prussians. I'm determined to complete these by summer so I can finally face them off against my Russians.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Bosworth Battlefield Tour 2018

At the suggestion of fellow club member Chris, we decided to sign up to the Battlefields Trust Tour of Bosworth last Sunday. This was partly influenced by the revelation that local councillors had recently (and controversially) agreed planning permission for a multi million pound vehicle test track on part of the Battlefield. As Richard Mackinder (our guide for the day) pointed out, this may be our final chance to see that part of the field in its current condition. Also, this would be the first time either myself or Chris had walked the area since either the discovery of Richard III's remains, and the proposal of the 'new and actual' battlefield site.

We started the day near Sutton Cheney where Richard led us to the area of the old Roman Road which came from Leicester, and is most likely to be the route that the Yorkist army took that day. It was pointed out that an army of such significant size would have needed to travel on the most reliable road, and seeing as all the others in the area would have been small dirt tracks (and that many of the fields nearby would have been covered in wheat, which made slow passage) this was now accepted.

(The small clump of bushes at the centre of this photo marks the edge of the Roman Road as it cuts from left to right across the fields).

More significantly, this theory puts paid to the idea that Ambion Hill was the Yorkist camp site. Both Sutton Cheney and another nearby village lay claim to being the place that Richard III heard mass the night before. As our guide suggested, a closer interpretation of medieval documents has revealed that it's more likely that the army itself camped spread out across these points, with many of the men choosing to visit the churches nearby. It's known that Richard III travelled with his own clergy, so was likely to hear mass in his own private quarters. The fact that the area of Sutton Cheney had a supply of fresh water and is on a raised area of ground, as the guide said "makes you wonder why the army would bother going all the way to Ambion Hill, only for them to travel back again the next day".

(Photo taken from near Sutton Chaney, looking out towards Shenton)

As it's likely Richard III had a plan (and was already aware of the Lancastrian movements and his own forces outnumbering Henry's), it's thought he decided to form up and then throw out Norfolk's force onto his right flank. He could use the folds in the land to hide Norfolk until he could advance onto Henry's left. Tactically this seems pretty sound, as Henry would then need to draw forces from his centre to deal with Norfolk and present Richard with an opportunity to launch an attack into his main body.

(Richard Mackinder, our guide)

We next did a brief visit to Norfolk's position near Shenton, which is now marked by the line of the canal. Unfortunately part of the road was closed due to works, but it was still worthwhile as Richard showed us the area where Norfolk was brought back to and eventually died from his wounds, after the initial clash.

Travelling onward, we now came round behind the Lancastrian lines passing the area which the new test track will be built upon. Richard Mackinder pointed out that it's likely that this is in the area where the Lancastrian camp was. Himself and other researchers had recently been given access to "200 yards inside the fence" of the proposed site and expressed his frustration at having discovered medieval round shot and other items fairly quickly. The only positive aspect is that the company landowners have given permission for a deep dig investigation on the site before any building takes place - although this will be restricted to a two week window.

As an example of the round shot being found (and marking the site of the 'new' battlefield), Richard handed out a replica 33mm shot which I managed to photograph below. He said that they had found some examples of 94mm shot suggesting the use of Saker sized artillery in the battle.

(A replica round shot)

We finally arrived at what is considered to be the centre of Henry's line. This is an impressive area situated on the edge of a farmyard, which gives a perfect view of all the positions for both armies. I did mention that it was incredible to see how small the battlefield was, but as Richard pointed out, both archery and medieval gunnery required that you could visually identify your targets. Bringing everything much closer together compared to later conflicts. This was the area of the most significant archeological finds, such as the silver boar badge.

He pointed straight across to Shenton and noted again where Norfolk had attempted to attack Henry's left flank, and also the rising ground on the right where the Stanley's had placed their force "betwixt the two armies" and was later proclaimed as Crown Hill.

We then walked to the very edge of the field as Richard explained how the Yorkist mounted charge had come directly toward us (taking nine and a half minutes from trot to canter then charge), smashing into Henry and killing Brandon the standard bearer as well as many others I expect. The archeology had given the impression that the force of the charge had probably pushed Henry backwards initially but Stanley looking on from the rising ground to the right had then decided to throw in his cavalry, which according to one theory had come round behind Henry's beleaguered force and then gave impetus to a counter charge. This in turn pushed back the Yorkists and where Richard III finally fell. The silver boar badge was incidentally found at the very end of the tractor tyre marks in the field photographed below, and right next to what was identified as the only medieval marsh in the area dating from that period. As a footnote, Richard told the amusing story of searching for the oft mentioned marsh. Apparently he had received disappointing news one day that an earlier marsh they had looked at had in fact dried up 200 years prior to the battle, and decided to retire to the pub. A farmer friend asked him what was up and Richard aired his woes only for the farmer to say "well, you're looking in the wrong bloody place aren't you" and asked to look at the map. The farmer friend circled the area which later turned out to be bang on the money!!

(The tyre tracks ending where the silver boar badge was found)

Lastly we ventured up onto Crown Hill, which had been Stanley's position and where Henry had been crowned King of England. It was another impressive view, and you could just imagine Stanley himself sat up here with his men balancing his options in joining the fray. Richard the guide interestingly mentioned Dadlington church nearby, where locals had insisted on a rumour that people from the village had climbed onto the church roof to watch the battle. This had often been dismissed as nonsense when touring the original battlesite at Ambion Hill, simply because it would have been impossible to see. As it turned out, the 'new' battlefield was easily viewable from the church roof. Hence the likelihood that rumour could be true.
(Our transport for the day!)

In conclusion it was an absolutely fantastic day. A couple of things are worth mentioning however. The actual visitors centre and exhibition are now some distance from the Battlefield, so it's well worth hiring a proper guide with transport! The visitors centre is still very nice and the restaurant there is the perfect place to recover and relax after the tour. If you were visiting from afar and wanted to do a complete Bosworth weekend you should definitely combine it with a visit to the Richard III museum and tomb in Leicester. Finally I'll add what's obvious to most, and that is walking a Battlefield is a whole different experience to just perusing maps or photographs. It's essential to accurately visualizing a battle, and understanding the experiences of those involved.

(On the gentle rising ground looking from Stanley's position to Henry's position on the left. The Yorkist charge would have come in from right to left as you look at the photo)