Friday 31 December 2010

Another Year Over...

And so another year is over, and what a year. Way back in January 2010 I expected the coming year to be rather quiet. How wrong I was! Life got interesting on March 26th, the following month I was trapped in Helsinki by the Icelandic ash cloud fiasco, which then had me on an epic 4 day trek by trains, icebreakers, train ferries, overnight bus trips through the wilds of Sweden and a joyous return to Blighty (almost screwed up by Eurostar), and an encounter with many comedy Germans, following which I deployed for a fascinating month long special project on the Korean Peninsula which included a visit to the DMZ and an encounter with some comedy North Koreans. I must say, the DMZ was an incredibly surreal place to visit and gave me an impression as to what the Inner German Border must have been like. Still, I did get to visit the world’s most dangerous golf course, sit in the same chair as President Bush AND see the world’s tallest flag pole! As well as seeing my first Turtle Ship. And the fun didn’t stop there, as June saw me in New York working at the UN (unfortunately I was not able to achieve world peace!) Life did calm down a bit afterwards but I still managed to get away to Spain for a well-earned spot of R&R followed by several trips to sea and a series of meetings in Quebec City (one of the loveliest cities I’ve ever visited).

Back on topic, and on the wargaming front, I’ve actually managed to get some painting AND gaming in. The Sudan project launched in a big way and, although recently stalled, is about to kick off again. 20mm WW2 has made a reappearance to the Manley household with Laura’s alt-WW2 project on the go, and that has brought back lots of nostalgic feelings as I build and paint kits that I first made 30-odd years ago! Naval wargaming hasn’t been forgotten. Although not reported on this blog I’ve been busy developing a medieval naval collection and developed what I think are some decent tactical, fleet level and campaign rules, and I’ve been doing the same for Asian naval battles as well (turtle ships, Chinese and Japanese ships – if only someone did a range of models!) My 1/600 ACW collection has grown slowly but surely, and i have been picking up odds and sods in 1/1200 and 1/700 for my “Bulldogs Away” modern naval FAC rules (one day I will finally decide what scale I prefer – just not yet!)

In the air, Wings of War has taken my fancy with an ever-expanding collection of out-of-the-box models and repaints, plus some Skytrex kits. The HP 0/100 is nearly finished – I just need to find some decent decals for the wing roundels. Hopefully the release of Air War 1918 will spur more activity in this area J

As far as games are concerned – yes, I have played a fair few. As well as games played in the development the Medieval naval and Sudan colonial rules (and tanks to Mr. Blease for helping with that) I’ve had a few trips to join the Abbey Wood Irregulars at their monthly Frome meetings – two VBCW games (which have inspired some thoughts on developing my 15mm Spanish Civil War collection) and a Wings of War fest, a 15mm Flames of War game at Triple Helix Games in Westbury (lovely shop, lovely people), a weekend of 1/600 ACW fun with Stuart barnes Watson and a pre-dreadnought naval campaign fought over a weekend with Peter Colbeck and his mates, in which the fledgling US Navy of 1900 very nearly gave the Royal Navy a bloody nose.

Of course I couldn't finish without mentioning the kittens. Laura has dubbed then the "Sudan Kitties", given their desert camouflage and annoying habit of launching themselves onbto the table whenever the Mahdi makes an appearance! at the moment this isn't a problem, but since Mitch is half Maine Coone and therefore likely to grow up to be the size of a house I predict trouble ahead!

So, all in all a much busier year than I had expected. And the good news is that the wargames room has more or less survived and is still operational for 2011. OK, it needs a clear out, but the table is clear and, with luck, Billy Hicks and his Egyptians will be sorting out the Mahdi sometime tomorrow evening (New Year celebration recovery permitting!)

Thursday 30 December 2010


The Sudan project has taken something of a back seat recently. First, the games room was turned into a temporary present store and wraping centre prior to Christmas, and since then Laura has been having me sort out stuff for her alt-WW2 game. My Kangaroos have been assembled, and painted along with the Fireflys and Achilles that form the core of my NW Europe "army". The Valiant 22(ish)mm figures are proving to be rather nice and, being hard plastic, are quite easy to convert. I've hacked  afew around so now I have, in addition to the standard figures, a chappie walking forward with a PIAT, an advancing bren gunner and the company commander in a cap rather than a helmet. more conversions planned for tomorrow, and then painting!

I've also been making up a 6pdr anti tank gun and universal carrier, and a 25pdr field gun kit for Laura's "8th Army" battlegroup, and an Airfix German recce set (Kubelwagen and SdKfz222) for Philip's "Afrika Korps", to join his PzIIIs and StuG IIIs.

The Sudan was not completely forgotten though, as the kangaroo models came wt some spare 15mm shells (for use if you were making them up as standard M7 Priests). Now, these cut down quite nicely to make a decent Hale rocket, and so my British and Egyptian rocket crews have been "refitted" with more appropriate ammunition.

According to TMP, january 1st is International Solo Wargames Day, and I've decided to let my Egyptians have a  go at the forces of the Mahdi (its about time those Fellahs got to see some action). The table is being cleared and the forces assembled. Tomorrow will see a flurry of end-of-year activity, Saturday will see myself, SWMBO and the offpring amke out annual start-of-year trek to Brean Fort, and then, on Saturday nigth - let battle commence :)

Monday 27 December 2010

Warships of Salnaves War

In a variation to our normally Sudan-based programme, I've today posted a review of a rather excellent book that I mentioned in my blog from yesterday.

When one thinks of naval actions fought in the ironclad era one instantly thinks of the American Civil War, the Lissa campaign, and possibly the actions fought between Chile and Peru in the 1870s. Naval warfare off the coast of Haiti does not generally spring to mind. Yet, overlooked my many historians and naval enthusiasts, a vigorous naval campaign was a key element of the Haitian Civil War fought between 1867 and 1869. Often known as Salnave’s war, since it resolved the fate of President Sylvain Salnave, the naval actions were fought with a mixture of retired warships from the US Navy, combined with steamers and gunboats purchased from the UK and France.
Bill Warner has done an excellent job in researching and chronicling not only the ships involved in the war, but the war itself (and in this his book becomes one of only a handful of English language references to do so). The book starts with a general overview of Haiti’s history leading into the war itself, and the splitting of the country into three states (the Republic of Haiti, the Meridional Southern State and the republic of the North). The navies and ships of each state are described, the ships with an illustration, key particulars and a brief description of their service history, and the descriptions are supported by an additional chapter that details the armament of the ships. Battles are described in terms of their context in the broader war and the tactical aspects of the battle, supported with charts and contemporary illustrations where available. Finally there is a biography of Sylvain Salnave, notes on the frequent renaming of ships (invaluable since most of the ships had several owners and it can be tricky keeping track), a list of references and some suggestions for rules and models for wargamers.
This book and Dr Warner’s similar volume on the ships at Riachuelo have to be one of the key “finds” for naval enthusiasts and wargamers of 2010. This volume especially is extremely welcome in opening up a hitherto fairly well closed portion of Caribbean history. I would definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in naval warfare in the era of the ironclad and gunboat.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Just a quick post as I'm recovering from a bad case of manflu. Santa was a little generous here on the wargames front this year. First off, some 20mm WW2 bits and pieces to build up my army for Laura's "alt-WW2 game" - a box of Valiant "British Tommies" and some Italeri Kangaroos to drive them around in.

Pics of these as and when the dreaded lurgi abates long enough for me to do some painting. And methings some of the valiant troops and bits and pieces from the kangaroos will help to detail the innards of the Armourfast M10 Achilles' that have rather vacant looking turrets at present!

Then, on the naval front, the Mother-in-Law was kind enough to get me two new books from Dr William Warner, covering the navies of Salnave's War (the Haitian civil war in the late 1860s), and warships at the battle of Riachuelo. Both of these naval episodes look like perfect projects for 1/600, the Haitian war featuring many ex-USN warships from the Civil War and (if one is willing to stretch relaity slightly) an ex-Confederate ironclad. A nice touch was to see that the good Dr. Warner has recommended my ACW rules in his books. I've had a chance to leaf quickly through both books and I must say, I'm impressed.

Anyway, thats just about it for me for now. Hope you have all had a very happy Christmas, and with luck I'll be posting again before the New Year.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

The Train, Boss The Train (part 2)

Sunday afternoon proved to be quite productive. Not only did I (almost) finish the latest addition to my 1/144 Wings of War “Biggles” collection, I also managed to progress the Sudan armoured train to a high state of completion. My previous entry was made at the point where the construction work had been completed and the wagons and engine were drying. That evening I gave the lot an overcoat of Revell “Tar Black” (an excellent shade, just “not-black” enough to look quite distinctive), and this afternoon I finished off with a dry brushing of “Steel” to emphasise the impromptu nature of the added armour, followed by a  very light brushing with “Beige” to give a slight weatherworn appearance. Finally, a few Peter Pig sailor figures were added to give a sense of scale, and this motley crew will be augmented by additional naval and army personnel (plus a few fellahs I shouldn’t wonder) over the coming weeks.

I will be adding to the collection with (ideally) some water wagons, a few more boxcars and another gun truck. And I'm still looking for a decent tender engine that is more in keeping with my original thoughts on what would be an appropriate locomotive, as well as an obviousy "European" loco that I can use with my Spanish Civil War collection. any suggestions on sources of cheap TT gauge rolling stock in any state of disrepair would be most gratefully received! 

I ought to add a couple of notes regarding inspirations. The following is an excellent resource for 15mm Sudan gamers, and the first three shots show where I pinched the ideas for the gun trucks: . There was an excellent series on making a Boer War era armoured train in 20mm in Airfix magazine back in the 1970s or 80s (copies up in my loft somewhere) which gave me some ideas - and which will have me building a searchlight car in the not-too-distant future for when I get into that conflict. finally, there is a nice drawing of a train in the Sudan in Howard Whitehouse's "Battle in Africa" which gave me the idea for the crane and gun carriage.

Sunday 5 December 2010

The Train, Boss The Train (part 1)

A quick update on this frosty Bristol morning to show that work on the armoured train has commenced.

I'm currently working on four modified wagons - two "gun trucks" with Nordenfeldts and stowed carriages, one wagon with simple armoured panels and a flat bed truck carrying a tripod crane and an artillery piece. On, and of course the locomotive (which is a Triang Jinty). There will also be several standard open and closed wagons and (when it arrives) a horse box!

The rolling stock is perhaps a little too modern looking for the 1880s, but hopefully the application of stores, figures and "clutter" later in the build process will help to hide their early 20th century appearance!. Of course i still have an excuse to keep an eye out for additional stuff that looks more in keeping with the period :)

Saturday 4 December 2010

All Quiet on the Sudan Front?

There's not been much activity here for the last few weeks, and one could be forgiven for thinking that a lack of reports meant a lack of activity at the front. Nothing could be further from the truth! In the last four weeks we have fostered a dog (who wrecked the house), found a new home for the now ex-foster dog, got a couple of kittens, attended Warfare and Reveille (or which more later) and had the games room invaded by Laura and her friends.  The games room currently looks like this:

Now, the eagle-eyed  amongst you will have noticed  a few things here. The first is the appearance of a pile of 20mm WW2 desert armour. Laura and Philip are developing a  healthy interest in wargaming and WW2 20m Western desert is their chosen starting point. We picked up some Armourfast PzIIIs, Crusaders and Shermans at Warfare, and Laura splurged on some more kits at Reveille last week.  The Armourfast kits will will no prizes for extreme accuracy but they do build up very quickly into some excellent and attractive models. I just wish they'd been available when i was heavily into this kind of wargaming several decades back!

Out of interest, Dad has also been directed to raise a WW2 "army", but in my case is is made up of British WW2 North West Europe kit - Sherman Fireflys and M10 Achilles, and some Priest Kangaroos coming later. Don't ask how these three armies can come together - they just can :)

Tucked away at the back are some Wings of War Series IV models. I'm working on a couple of repaints there at the moment, as well as plucking up the courage to begin the Skytrex HP 0/100 I bought at Warfare!

Another feature that the observant reader will have noticed is the appearance of some railway wagons, track and a locomotive. Fear not, I have not been drawn into the world of model railways! Over the last few weks I've been hunting down track and rolling stock in TT gauge on which to base a Sudan armoured train. I now have all the kit I need, and so this project is about to get underway. I've widened the scope a bit so I will also be looking to use some of the less Sudan-specific kit for my 15mm Spanish Civil War stuff (which in any case is in danger of morphing into a hypothetical Central/South American civil war setting, after seeing some of the fun that the Abbey Wood Irregular are having with their 28mm "Very British Civil War" games - I will be adding a small armoured steamroller to my armies soon!). Anyway, more on the developing Sudan train in future press releases.

Finally, just to reassure you that the Sudan has not been forgotten, I have been working on the logistics side of my collection. the rules I'm drafting take account (in a simple way) of food, water and ammunition, and as a result I need a baggage train. I have plenty of camels and mules carrying, crates, boxes and other nondescript items, but I really needed some water wagons. There is a well-known photo of British 2 wheel wagons near the Pyramids in the 1890s and I wanted something similar. After a call on TMP for suggestions I picked up three wagons from Museum Miniatures.

They are lovely models and paint up quite nicely. In this case a simple overcoat of a medium tan, followed by a wash using the Army Painter mid-range wash. Here they are at the core of my loggie train, along with some Peter Pig baggage camels and a packed screw gun battery.

So, next up (once the school Christmas Fair is out of the way) will be the start of work on the train. I will keep you posted!

And finally, a gratuitous kitten shot!

Monday 15 November 2010

A Trip To Whitehall

Liz and  had a trip up to Whitehall at the back end of last week. I'm a regular visitor, but I'd not appreciated that there was a rather nice statue of General Gordon outside MOD Main Building facing towards the Thames (perhaps to remind him of his days looking out at the Nile, waiting in vain for relief to arrive). It was too good an opportunity to miss, so I hope you'll excuse a picture of the good lady wife perched at the foot of the general's statue.

Not much to report on the modelling front at the moment, although the Egyptian rocket troops are almost finished and the last odd stands of Camel Corps troops have been delivered to my local expert painter, Nigel Cox, for him to work his magic. I should have some pics of his rather excellent paint jobs shortly.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

The Mahdi of Sudan...

Colonial wargamers tend to be, in my experience, extremely well read on British and mperial troops and commanders, but less well so on their "native" opponents. The Sudan is no exception, and the vast majority of books that are readily available are written largely from the Imperial perspective. Worse still, hunting down many of the books and articles that were written at the time of the campaigns or shortly thereafter one finds that (understandably) they are almost entirely written in that style, and lump the Mahdi and his commanders into the generic role of "noble savage" (or noble wily savage in the case of Osman Digna), clever, cunning yet uneducated. Wherever possible I try to read both sides of the story when launching into a new wargaming period - for example, one of the most valuable books I obtained when I was running a Falklands 1982 campaign was Martin Middlebrook's account written from the Argentinean perspective - and this has been pretty tricky this time around. So it was with some happiness that I've recently picked up a copy of "The Mahdi and the Death of General Gordon", by Fergus Nicholl. I'm only part way into it but that part has covered the early life of Muhammad Ahmad in some considerable detail, and straight away has blown away some of my own preconceptions regarding the background to the campaigns in the Sudan. I'm sure the rest of the book will be just as edifying - I'll report back on it later.

As an aside - Google Books is an invaluable resource, isn't it? I've managed to download copyright-free versions of a whole host of boks writen about the campaigns in the 1880s and 1890s. I suspect Liz's new Kindle may find itself topping up with those in the not-too-distant future!

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Reinforcements at Suakin

My latest painting project has been to finish off a battalion of Indian troops to support my "Suakin Front" contingent. The figures are Old Glory 15s, my first foray into figures from this manufacturer (I bought a few packs via a friend in the US, so you'll be seeing more from OG in the coming weeks). The figures are sold in packs of approximately 50 (in this case 51), which works out well given that I need 18-24 figures for a battalion using the rules on which I'm currently working.

So, how do these chaps compare with the Peter Pig figures  that make up the bulk of my armies? The answer is, IMHO, fairly well, but Martin Goddard's figures have a clear edge. I'm not entirely convinced by some of the poses (especially the one apparently leaping into space from a rock), and the comand figure selection isn't that helpful - a standard bearer would have been a useful addition, so in the fullness of time I may convert one of the prancing figures.

That said, the figures are decent, fairly well detailed and paint up well. they are not as slight as PP's but I guess that plays to the fearsome repuation of the Indian troops - they are, after all, over ten feet tall old boy!

A severe lack of enthusiasm meant I only painted up half of the pack, so I have another battalion's worth left to do (and then some Sudanese). But first on the stocks to finish will be the artillery support for my Camel Corps - more of these chaps later!

Saturday 30 October 2010

"Machine Rocket, War"

The latest addition to Her Majesty's forces currently engaged in the Sudan are a couple of Hale Rocket batteries (these are another of the military curiosities that attract me to the Sudan campaigns). The spin-stabilised Hale Rocket, launched from a trough (or Machine Rocket, War) was used by the Egyptian and British armies, but as far as I'm aware there isn't a currently model available in 15mm so I decided to scratch build a few. The tripod is made from florist's wire cut and bent to shape, with a slice of card for the trough. They aren't the epitomy of accuracy, since the tripod isn't quite the right shape, and the trough isn't "trough" shaped as I couldn't find any channel sections that suited, but it should be a simple job to replace if and when I do.

The crew are spares taken from the Essex maxim gun team (the maxims haveing been snaffled for my 1890s era troops. They are a little oversized when compared with the Peter Pig troops that make up the majority of my armies, but not overly so, and they fit in OK. I decided to fill in the relative sparsness of the bases with some ammunition crates and a few rockets.

Purists will of course point out the inaccuracy in the scarlet uniforms, but then again a fair proportion of my 1880s British troops are clad in scarlet, as you'll see when I post on the mounted and dismounted cavalry soon). So they are internally consistent if not strictly historically accurate (and I like them clad that way anyway!)

Finally, a fine illustration from our correspondent on the banks of the Nile, witnessing a live fire demonstration of the mighty Hale!

That covers the Hale rockets for the British. All being well I should have some Peter Pig Egyptian artillery crew arriving in the post soon, and so Hicks Pasha can have his own rockets available in a couple of weeks :)

Monday 25 October 2010

A New Arrival

I'm a naval wargamer at heart which is probably why I find the Sudan so appealing - gunboats and naval brigades all over the place :) One of my early jobs in this project was the constrction of a gunboat. Its generic in nature, although with a few (too many?) Melik influences. it is, however, supposed to be a fairly nondescript 1880s screw river boat with some impromptu armour and handy spots in which to mount the odd 7pdr or a Nordenfelt.

The hull is balsa, which allowed me to stain the deck. The rest is heavy duty card and paper, with thin balsa sheet offcuts to represent timber cladding. The ship is a "work in progress", and I hope to add to the general clutter on her decks as the months go on. I now have plans for a smaller, more "scruffy" sidewheeler, which should be on the stocks around about Christmas time.

Saturday 23 October 2010

A Beginning

I suppose I've come quite late to the world of wargaming blogging. The very fact that I'm here I guess is down to Steve Blease and his excellent "Bleaseworld" blog, plus some comemnts and questions on TMP regarding my Sudan project. So, at long last, here it is. I'll aim to chronicle the development of my various wargaming projects, the main one just now being the protozoan set of rules that gives this blog its name - Don't Throw Bloody Spears At Me (hmm, abbreviates to DBA, I wonder if that'll work?) and the various 15mm armies (and riverine csquadrons) that I'm assembling to fight out the campaigns surrounding the rise and fall of the Mahdi and his followers. I've said it that way since I have a hankering to expand to cover not only the Sudan and Egypt, but also Abyssinia, and the Italian and French forays in the region. Still, that is far in the future amd for now I have to satisfy myself with British, Egyptian and Sudanese (plus a few Indians - must remember the Suakin front!). So, to kick off, a few pictures of the mahdist horde in and around their encampments on the Nile - your intrepid correspondent hopes to have pictures from Sir Garnet's camp in the not-too-distant future!

The fort is made from foam core with the card front peeled away. The resulting surface makes a decent sand stone wall effect when painted and stained.