Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I meant to post this earlier, but just was not able to do so.  So happy holidays to all, regardless of your choice for which holiday you choose to follow or recognize.

I am going back to enjoying Festivus


I will try to get back and post at least one more entry before the end of the year.

Cheers

Sapper

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Project Ridgeway / Fenian Invasion and other things


Before I get into my Project Ridgeway, let’s touch on the other things that have been going on.  First, I am working out of town again and I am back in Savannah, Georgia.  I got to see the 150th anniversary reenactment of Sherman’s assault on Fort McAllister just outside of Savannah.  Unfortunately, I misread the events schedule and thought that the reenactment was to start at 5pm, when in fact it started at 4pm.  This was because in their event schedule they stated that the assault would begin at 5pm (as it really occurred 150 years ago.)  That was the time the Federal reenactors would charge up and over the walls and not the beginning of the assault.  I really wish that they were clearer in their description for when it was to begin.  Anyways, I still got to see it, but I was not in an ideal spot for pictures.  Regardless, I forgot to bring my good camera from Missouri, so I only had my camera on my phone.  Needless to say, the pictures are not good…sigh.
 
I have also finally caught up on the movies that I want to see that are still out over the last few weekends: Fury, The Equalizer, Big Hero 6, The Penguins of Madagascar, Nightcrawler, and Birdman.   I am looking forward to see the final part of The Hobbit and probably go see St. Vincent too.  (Yes, I now The Hobbit is now out, but I am going to wait until the weekend to see it.)  After that, I don’t think that there will be anything that I will be interested in until Kingsmen comes out in mid-February, and then Avengers & Mad Max in May, then there will be several movies after then.  Now, I still have to get around to seeing Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which somehow I missed seeing it when it came out, probably because of all of the rioting and crap going on next door in Ferguson.

On the reading front, I have been trying to read my book on the Battle of Ridgeway by Peter Vronsky.  I am just having a really hard time reading it.  Not that it is a difficult or boring read, or that I really have no time to read, just because I am not use to reading actual physical books, especially hardbacks, ever since I got my Kindle about three years ago!  I don’t think that I actually read a hardback book since then.  I mostly read when I eat dinner and sometimes at lunch.  It is really hard to keep a hardback open and flip the pages while trying to eat.  Plus, since I am trying to take notes while reading Ridgeway, it is that much harder too.  So, I read a few more additional books on my Kindle over the past few weeks inside of keeping up with Ridgeway.  So I have now finished the following books to add to my list:

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming
Submarine Operations During the Falklands War by Lt. Cmdr. Steven R Harper
Dyatlov Pass Keeps Its Secret by Irina Lobatcheva (which I am about 2/3rd of the way complete)


Project Ridgeway:


So, I am now re-gearing up to get my Project Ridgeway up and running again after 20 years or so of being dormant. Currently, I am reading up on it and making notes.  I will say this about having more access to information to read, that I am finding that my initial views of the engagement and the Fenian preparedness to be a lot different now.  I am now seeing that the Canadian Militia was actually in a worst condition then what I believed and the Fenians’ failure was more due to internal spies, political infighting, and US government interventions then anything that the Canadian Government could do.  One of the real surprises that I found was that just under 10% of the crew of the USS Michigan, an armed tug that played a critical role on patrolling the US & Canada border, were actually part of the Fenian Brotherhood and that they successfully sabotage the ship from intercepting the Fenian crossing over into Canada leading up to the Battle of Ridgeway!  Another surprise that I found was of the Fenian prisoners captured by both the Canadians and the US government (who captured almost all of them), was that almost a third of them were Protestants.  So this was really a true nationalist, and not a sectarian, movement.

Books that I have read:

The Enrolment List for the Militia in Hamilton, Canada West (1865) (newspaper article from the Hamilton Evening Times)

The Skirmish at Lime-Stone Ridge by Anonymous (newspaper account of the Battle of Ridgeway) 

The Last Invasion of Canada: The Fenian Raids, 1866-1870 by Hereward Senior

What I am currently reading:

Ridgeway: The American Fenian Invasion and the 1866 Battle that Made Canada by Peter Vronsky

What I plan to read still:

Troublous Times in Canada: A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866-1870 by John MacDonald (the minister of the militia)

History of the Fenian Raid On Fort Erie; With An Account of the Battle of Ridgeway, June, 1866 by George Denison (the commander of the militia forces at the Battle of Fort Erie)

Plus there are quite few other resources that I have gotten recently, thanks to the Internet Archive website and www.ridgewaybattle.ca that I plan to skim through to see if I can find any other tidbits of information.  It is amazing how much more stuff has become available since 20+ years ago.

Miniatures:

I am doing my project in 15mm as that was the scale that I started all of this in 20+ years ago.  Luckily, the Fenians will be the easiest to do with miniatures that are available in this scale.  My Fenians are Old Glory, but now that I have some new information about the uniforms, or lack of in many cases, for the Fenians at Ridgeway there will be some changes.  Some of them are going to be repainted, and others are going to be replaced to get a more accurate representation of what was at the battle.  I am going to have to look for armed civilians for the replacement figures.  I will probably be looking at Old Glory’s Boers or their Boxer Rebellion’s armed Europeans to try and keep all of the sculpts similar.  But I am afraid that too many of the Boers will have the leather cartridge pouch belts and the Boxer Europeans will look too upper class to work since I can’t find pictures of them.  So, I will also be looking into Blue Moon’s ACW infantry in shirts if they are not too out of scale with the Old Glory figures, but wish that they had a mix of civilian hats with the floppy hats.  The final thing that I will need to do is the mounted Fenian scouts.  I’ve got Old Glory ACW cavalry for them.

The Canadian militia, however, is a different story.  Sadly, there currently is no miniature lines specially designed for the Canadian militia in 15mm.  But now there is a 10mm line from Pendraken and a 28mm line from Perry that covers the Canadian militia for the 1860’s, but that would mean re-starting from scratch again.  So for now, I will refrain from buying yet another scale for a very limited project (but, those Perry’s are pretty…plus doing 25mm would make Blake and Don happy…must resist!)

So the bulk of my Canadian militia is from the now defunct Falcon Miniatures.  Luckily for me, I bought all of the figures that I would have needed to do the Canadian militia at a 1:10 ratio way back when I started this project.  But unfortunately, I will never be able to expand on them to get smaller ratio for bigger units.  I found that their ‘ACW Militia with Shakos’ actually looked very close to the Canadian militia uniform for the bulk of the forces.  Also, their ‘ACW 79th NY Highlanders’ will work great for 10 Company, of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto.  There are some things wrongs, but they are workable.  The thing about the ACW Militia that I don’t like is that they are marching with their rifled muskets at attack march.  I rather had them skirmishing or advancing instead, especially when the Highlanders are attacking.  Oh well, you can’t win them all. 

The other problem is the lack of officers, flag bearers, musicians, and NCOs.  I will have to live without the flags, musicians, and NCOs, but I am using officer figures from the old Military Miniatures of New Zealand’s (how many here can remember this old company before it became the 800 lbs. gorilla that it is today?) line for their New Zealand Wars, which has been since sold off and now belongs to Battleline Miniatures.  I could also go to Battleline’s 1860’s British from their NZ War line for the line militia troops, but they are wearing the pillbox style hat.  So far everything that I have read states that the militia was wearing shakos and not caps or hats, so they will not be right either.  I tried looking for pictures of the units shortly around the period of the battle, but have not found any.  I have only found pictures much later or for other units.  So, I am sticking with the shakos.   

So next dilemma is what figures to use for 5 Company, QOR.  They were armed with Spencer carbines.  I am sort of leaning towards using my NZ War’s Armed Constabulary figures for them, but they are wearing billed cap.  I might be able to putty them up to look like shakos, but I am not that good.   I might just roll with them as they are now.   Now this leaves Lt Col Booker, the overall commander of the militia at the battle.  He was the only militia officer mounted on a horse.  What I am using is a Minifig’s British mounted officer for the Crimea War.  He is clearing a smaller figure compared to the rest, but that is all that I find. 

Finally, will be looking at figures to do the various militia and British regulars to do the Battle at Fort Erie that occurred after Ridgeway and the do the possible battle with the Lt Col Peacocke’s column at Fort Erie had the Fenians decided to stand because the US Navy did not stop their reinforcements (plus add some more Fenian troops to represent reinforcements filtering in from Buffalo, New York, as well.)   Plus I need to read up on the Battles of Pigeon Hill (1866) and Eccles Hill (1870) to see what militia units where involved there too.   I think for the most part, the Battleline’s 1860’s British infantry will work for those.

Here is the other bugger, there really are no good rules for the scale (in terms of the number of miniatures on the board) that I want to do this in.  I always planned it to be a 1:10 ratio for miniatures to men, so there would only be about 80-90 figures on the board, per side, and use a slightly modified version of Space 1889: Soldiers’ Companion.  However, I have since lost those notes since the one game that I did run 20+ years ago.  But since then, I have got to read more about the battle and realized that that this system is not good either. 

The battle was pretty much fought by companies in skirmish orders and there was a real low casualty loss.  Matter of fact, the Canadians only suffered about 6% of the total force, killed, wound, or capture.   The killed was just barely over 1% of the total force!  At a 1:10 ratio, that means any losses with more than 5 figures would be higher than the real battle.  So this is conflict that was lost more due to friction of the morale than casualties.  Most game systems don’t start enforcing morale rolls until there is a 25% or greater losses on a side.  So I think you can start seeing my need to look for a low casualty / high friction morale system for a game mechanic.

The next issue is Command & Control, which ties back to the items that was addressed above.  With the average Canadian company only about 40-50 men strong, that means at a 1:10 ratio there is just 4-5 figures per company.  That is too small of number of figures for most skirmish systems too, especially when you start realizing that most the Canadian companies that were skirmishing occupied a frontage of almost 300 yards!  For an example, if I was to use RF&F ground scale, 1” = 25 yds, a unit of 40 men standing in close order takes up 1”, but 300 yds is 12”!  So any rules set out there now will fail in their system to reflect command & control.

The best answer to all of my problems to reduce my figure ratio to a lower number, like 1:5 so I can have bigger companies of 8-10 figures each, making them in with some current rules out there.  But I have to stick to my original ratio of 1:10 because I can’t buy any more Falcon Miniatures to beef up the Canadians as they no longer exist. 

So, in the end, it looks like I am going to have to create my own rules.  I have some ideas already, but I still need to put them down to paper and test them out.  But, I plan to steal / copy / find inspiration from several existing rules and mixed some various elements together, mainly from Space 1889: Soldier’s Compendium, Regimental Fire & Fury, The Sword and the Flame, and the Too Fat Lardies’ friction rules.

Basing:

Since it looks like that I am going to make my own rules, I am free to do my own basing.  I was originally thinking about mounting 4 figures to a Flames of War size base so it would represent a company and use a Minibit’s dice frame on the base to keep track of the strength of the company (1 pt per 10 men).  But I then ran it to the issue of what I am going to do to show the frontage of a skirmish order. 

So next I thought that I might mount each figure on a penny and use them individually.  I sort of like that, but that means 80-90 figures to move, plus trying to keep track of what company each figure goes too.  Then that lead to me thinking of ground scale issues.

Now, I am thinking that I will still mount my figures individually on a rectangle base.  On the base I will put a label on it to identify which unit that figures goes to, plus, I am thinking of mounting Minibit’s dice frame to keep track of the stands strength.  I can go two ways on this.  One is that each stand represents 10 men (one figure) and with the die I can use it to keep strength for each two men (i.e. if 10 men, the die will be set at “5’.)  Or, I can use the stands to track every ten men and only use the number of stands per company as necessary (i.e., one stand for 6 Company is in close order formation so all 40 men occupy the same footprint of one stand, so the die shows “4”, where 9 Company is in skirmish order over 300 yards, I would use all four bases for the company spread out across the 300 yard scaled front with each base with the die set at “1”.)  This will allow a player some tactical options on deploying skirmishers.  I am playing around in my head with this idea, but I think this might be the answer.

In the final note for my Ridgeway project…I actually painted a figure!  This is the first figure that I finished painting this year!  It is not completely done, but basically he is finished.  All that is left is to mount the figure to a base (with is part of my issues listed above), paint and flock the base, and spray a sealer on it.  The figure is the first of 25 figures for the Canadian 13th Battalion Volunteer Militia (Infantry) (Hamilton).  The remaining 24 figures are about 30% or so done as well.  Maybe by the end of the year, I can claim them to be finished too (save the basing and sealer).  I plan to be painting them tomorrow. 





Cheers,
Sapper


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Audiobook "The Road To Kalamata: A Congo Mercenary's Personal Memoir" read by "Mad" Mike Hoare

This is a quick update about my current audiobook that I am listening to today.  I had to do a lot of driving for work today, so I finally started to listening to one of "Mad" Mike Hoare's books that is available on audio.  They are also read by the man himself too!  
So I started with The Road To Kalamata: A Congo Mercenary's Personal Memoir, which is the shortest of the books, plus it is about his 4 Commando, so chronologically comes before his other books even thought it was written much later.  I really am enjoying it!  I have about an hour left and plan to listen to the rest of it before I go bed tonight.  I am not sure when it was recorded, but Hoare sounds great.  Considering the book was published in 1989, that means that he was 70 or older when he did the audio for it.
Anyways, it got some great stories (and some sad ones) that can make some interesting scenarios for games in the 1960's Congo, or even modern African games.  I don't want to give away too much as I might be tempted to get back to doing B'Maso and want to save some things for unsuspecting players.  But besides that, there is something unnerving to hear Hoare say, "Come to Daddy!" Just not something I would expect to come from someone like him.

Sapper

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I am OK as of now - Ferguson, MO...again

For those who remember my previous post, I live really close to Ferguson, MO.  So far it has been quite where I live.  But you can hear the sirens off in the distance periodically.  Several local businesses, especially the liquor store, near me have boarded up just in case now.  I will periodically pop on every few days just for a head count that I am OK.

Oddly enough, this is my fourth(!) nearby (less than 3 miles) riot in my life.  Two back in my college days where I was going to school (the Rodney King riot and the ABC fraternity riot) and the two here (the one about 3 months ago and the current one).

Hopefully the violence will die off or be suppressed quickly.

Sapper


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Test - 150th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Pilot Knob, MO

Well, better late than never.  It took me a while, but here are the photos from the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Pilot Knob, Missouri, back in September.  I was there with Steve H & Pat L only on Sat.  It turned out that the Sat reenactment was only about the first day of the battle, covering the fighting of the gap and in Ironton.  So that is why there are no pictures of the Rebs storming the fort!

If you click on the caption for the photo of the US cavalryman, it should take you to my photo album so you can look at the pictures as your leisure.  Below that (if it works!) is a video I made using the same pictures and adding a soundtrack.  I have tried several times to get the soundtrack to work, but it keeps cutting in and out to me.  I don't know if it is that I have a bad connection or if the video is bad.  Give it a try and let me know.

I was planning to have an article about the battle with this posting, but I am still working on that.  Whenever I get it done, I will re-post these pictures and video.  

Cheers,

Sapper

Holding the line!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Whimsical Wednesday

I so need this app for my cell phone!

And I need this app for my GPS / Sat Nav!

You can never have too much Brian Blessed in your life!

Update


Well, I am back from Richmond, VA, where I was for work for a week.  I didn’t have time to sight see, but did a bit of reading.  Unfortunately, it was not the book that I planned to read next, Ridgeway.  I did originally pack it in my computer bag, but took it out for some reason and forgot to put it back in for my flight. (Also note that I have a different book up over to the right...)


However, I did bring my Kindle Fire so I was able to read some short novellas or books.  I think this is the most fiction that I have read in a long time too!  So I am going to list what I finished reading here:


Accused: Hunted by Andy Chambers (novella)
Weird War 1: No Man’s Land by Kevin Murphy (novella)

Weird War 1: Teufelshunde by John Hopler (novella)

Weird War 1: Hellfighter by Ed Wetterman (novella)
Weird War 2: Los! By Timothy Brown (novella)
Weird War 2: Wunderwaffe by  Timothy Brown (novella)
Thing vs Exotroopers! By David Brown (novella)

Off Radio by David Wellington (novella)




The Enrolment List for the Militia in Hamilton, CanadaWest (1865) (newspaper article from the Hamilton Evening Times)

The Skirmish at Lime-Stone Ridge by Anonymous (newspaper account of the Battle of Ridgeway) 


So I did at least read something about the Battle of Ridgeway anyways over the week.  I started to get ready to read Ridgeway over the weekend, but didn't.  On Monday, instead of grabbing my Ridgeway book to read at lunch, I grabbed my Kindle instead.  So, I broke down and started reading a new book off of Kindle, but I decided to keep the Ridgeway idea going by reading The Last Invasion of Canada: The Fenian Raids, 1866-1870 by Hereward Senior.


While I am starting to think about resurrecting my Ridgeway project, I am also thinking about what rules I plan to use.  I am would like a system that is about one figure to ten men, so that means around 100 figures per side so not to make it too small for a game, but also not too many figures to paint.  Next, it needs to be strong in the quality and morale rules.  There were very little causalities on both sides and Canadians really only lost due to panic at the site a couple of men on horseback believing that there was a large cavalry force nearby.   My original game 20 or so years ago was using the Out-of-print GDW’s Space 1889: Soldier’s Companion.  (It has since come back in print - see the link).  I remember it being a good set of rules and I still have my rule book, but I have not played it since then.  The other option is to look at Regimental Fire & Fury.  I know that the original Fire & Fury was rather simple, but that RF&F now has more details, plus it is about the scale I am looking for with 1 base of 3 figures for 40 men, or roughly one figure for 13.3 men.  I have not really looked into any rules beyond those two for now, but I am open to suggestions.  But really like the idea of shock or fatigue on a unit to show the wear and tear on a unit in battle vs. causalities being the reason for units to win or lose in some battles as in the case of Ridgeway.


Be seeing you

Sapper

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blue Max Game and Updates

Well, I got in a game lately and took photos too!  

Last weekend, Dave S & Adam J ran two Blue Max games using the new board game rules.  I got in two games with the group at Adam J's table.  It probably has been close or just over 20 years ago since I played Blue Max last.  The basics are similar from what I remember, but you use cards instead of chips for damage now.  Back in the day, I played Blue Max in St Louis and in Memphis when I lived there.  I use to really hate Blue Max, not for the mechanics, but just about 75% or better of the games I played I always drew a "Pilot Killed" or "Fuel Explosion" during the game.  Also, I rarely ever got any kills because someone else would put the final hit on an the plane that I had been shooting up all game...I even threaten one of my allied players that the next time he did that I was going to shoot at him instead...(he had a nasty habit of cutting between me and cripple target so I couldn't shoot and he could, and yes, I did finally had to shoot him to realize that was starting to get me PO'ed.)  Anyways, I like the system.  I still like Wings of Glory too, so I play both.

So the first game was a two on two engagement.  The Germans were Ray R & Ravi R flying Fokker Dr I's.  The British were myself and Bob S flying Royal Navy Sopwith Triplanes.  We had attitude advantage and were determine to keep it.  Bob & Ray started to traded shots as I made a hard left blank away and started to turn back into the fight to trade shots with Ray.  Ravi's Fokker got between me and Bob's Sopwith's coming in at Bob's 10 o'clock and I was coming in Ravi's 6 o'clock high.  I did a long burst and rolled really well ripping Ravi's tail off and sent him spinning into the earth.  Unfortunately, I jammed my gun and never got it cleared again to tangle with Ray before he fled from getting heavy handed by Bob.  Bob was also in bad shape, but I was totally unscratched and Ray decided running away was a wiser move.
I am trading shots with Ray (Green Fokker) and Ravi (Red Fokker) is just about to fly right into the front of my gun (Sopwith with the red stripe
History books need to be changed!  I shot down the Red Baron!  But I didn't shoot no deputy!
 In the second game, we had a three on three game.  The Germans were flying Albatrosses under the command of Adam, Ray, and Johan H (our local Swede).  The French were piloting Neiuport 24's under Ravi, Bob, and me.  At the start of the game, Bob was flying in middle of our formation, with Ravi on the right and me on the left.  Both Ravi and I broke off to go wide and come back in towards the fight in the center as it seemed to work so well before.  I got Adam lined up in my sights to fire and figured out that I was one hex too far out even with a long burst.  So cranked it up and flew in to the center and got Ray in my sites instead and fired off a good roll with a medium burst.  However, Johan came up on my 4 o'clock and did a long burst with only one Blue (minor) damage hit...however it was a horrible hit for me!  It only did two hits to my fuselage, but it destroyed my only machine gun!  (Blast you, Johan!  However, justice smiled on me as Johan later told me that his machines guns were jammed for the rest of the whole game after that shot!)  So I decided to bug out of the fight, which I was successful at with only allowing Ray to get one shot at me (with no effect) before I broke free from the fight.  But in this game, there was several mid-air collisions, luckily for the pilots all managed to only have minor damage in all of the collisions.  Bob was extremely unluckily to be around as he was responsible for two of the three collisions!  Including one with his own team mate too!  In the end, the Germans won this round as Bob was finally shot down, Ravi and I both ran away.  But Johan also fled the field and Ray & Adam where both in bad shape, but they controlled the air.  
Opening attack!  Johan is the white tail Albatross, Ray is the one in the middle, and Adam is in the red one.  Ravi is in the most top Neiuport, Bob is in the green one, and I am in the bottom right corner.
Double Collision!  Bob runs into Ray and Ravi runs into Johan!  I  just lost my gun the turn before and starting to run away while Adam is too far back to catch me.
Bob is at it again!  Bob collides with Ravi.
So in other news, I finished off King Leopold's Ghost.  What a depressing book.  It is a must read, but be ready to be depressed.  I also finished off Weird War II: Wunderwaffe by Timothy Brown.  I also listened on audiobook to Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Charlie Chan in the Pawns of Death by Bill Pronzini and Jeffery Wallmann, and great classic, Who Goes There? by John Campbell.  I am getting ready to start reading Ridgeway: The American Fenian Invasion and the 1866 Battle That Made Canada by Peter Vronsky.  This is to get all of the details to redo my 15mm Battle of Ridgeway project from 20 or so years ago.  This is the book to read if you want uniform information and detail accounts & information.  For my listening pleasure, I am going to start listening to one of my favorite top cops, Chief: My Life in the LAPD by Chief Daryl Gates and Diane Shah.
 As a side note, I picked up a book on Ebay that I am still waiting on, but I am really looking forward to reading (mostly likely right after I finish Ridgeway!).  It is Strange Soldiering: Major Lawson's own dramatic story of his experiences with the Third Nigerian Brigade by Sir Richard Lawson while he was a Major seconded to the Nigerian Army with the UN forces in the Congo during 1961-62.  The Congo in the 1960s is one of my favorite periods to study.  To find any accounts in English that is not on the Mercenaries, the Irish UN troops, or about Operation Dragon Rouge are hard finds in my opinion.  So I am looking forward to reading about the Nigerian UN troops.

Be seeing you

Sapper