Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Arrowstorm: The Attack on St. Jean

I've catapulted myself back into my Hundred Years War mania. This is my one true period of hobby sickness. I only game the period in 28mm, but I have two separate projects going-one that uses singly mounted figures, another that has multiple figures mounted on 50mm square bases. It's by far my largest collection of painted and unpainted figures. I admit it, I love the historical period, and I think there is fun stuff I can do with small actions as well as large battles. For the big battles I'll use the Crusader Rules or Medieval Warfare, though I am far from being able to play either at this time. I probably have close to 400 singly mounted figures at this time, and I do plan a few more, but I can run most skirmishy sorts of games that interest me. The rules I use are called Arrowstorm, but they are really just a knock-off of the Tactica Medieval Siege rules, with additions for this period. They're intended to be easy and fun, and by and large they are.

One of the actions that's intrigued me for some time is the battle for St. Jean in 1346. It's really just historical footnote to Edward III's Crecy campaign, but it is covered in chapter of Livingstone and Witzel's wonderful The Road to Crecy which covers the entire Crecy campaign. Their account of the sack of the suburbs of Caen on Ile St. Jean had the makings of an interesting game. The battle for these suburbs was an accident, really. The island community was the home of wealthy burghers, who persuaded the Count Eu, in command of Caen's defenses, to commit some of his forces to the defense of the town. Eu fortified the St. Pierre Bridge with barricades and towers commanded the span. He brought some 30 boats up the Odon River and filled them with Genoese crossbowmen. Despite his preparations, Eu's situation was desperate. The tidal river was low, and he was outnumbered by four to one.

The vanguard of the Edward III's army was the young Prince of Wales who, two centuries later would be known as The Black Prince. He was still a wet-behind-the-ears 16-year old who had yet to win his spurs (literally, he was knighted by his father on the eve of Crecy.) His troops were engaged in pillaging the church of St. Pierre, when their attention was drawn to the French defenses. It is quite possible that the Genoese on the boats drew the short straw when they began sniping at them. In any case English troops under the Earl of Warwick rushed to the fight on the bridge and the battle was joined. It was a difficult struggle, and the French fought well. Their end was sealed, however, when Sir Thomas Holland led a flanking force across the marshes at on the Odon and flanked the defenders at the bridge. Though aided by citizens from the town, the situation became hopeless and Eu surrendered. He and his knights were ransomed. The wealthy burghers and their possessions were not so lucky as 2,000 perished and the town was thoroughly ransacked.

I tried to create a fairly balanced scenario to refight a semblance of the St. Jean action using the figures I had available. It was an opportunity for me to paint up some figures I've had for a while-and actually get to play with them, which made it even better. Further, it was excuse to paint up my Merrimac cogs and drag out my Miniature Building Authority buildings, which I love to have an excuse for.

Those who volunteered for this mid-week game were Adrian Nelson, David Sullivan and Tim Barela. Tim and Adrian were the Prince of Wales and Earl of Warwick knocking on the door of the fortification guarding the St. Pierre Bridge and David was the clever Sir Thomas Holland trying to capture the town from the back door.

The defenders of the doomed town were Wes Rogers and his son-in-law John, commanding the town militia types, and Dave Schueler as the Count of Eu. Their mission was to hold the the bridge crossing until turn 10 when Edward III would arrive, get pissed off at his adolescent genius and order a halt to this risky venture.

The game began with Tim doing his best Thomas Erpingham impression, massing his archers to devastate one cog by Arrowstorm. Throwing his baton and thirty die rolls in the air, it came down pierced by errant shafts. Only two hits, and the archers never quite recovered their indignity. Loaded with crossbowmen and light bolt throwers, the Genoese never really stood still for the rain of arrows by the English, and after a couple of turn one of the lonbow units broke. Hampered by supply restrictions, the English began to run out of arrows, reducing their rate of fire considerably. Even so, the dice couldn't remain ridiculously bad forever, and the cogs began to suffer considerably.

On the same front, Adrian began massing his knights for an assault across the bridge. Sadly only one of the scaling ladders was tall enough to top the barbican walls. As the armored troops began to slowly move to the point of assault, Adrian's Welsh troops took a chance on being able to cross the Odon. Moving cautiously, lest his entire command be swept downstream, the lightly equipped Welsh made their way across the river at half speed. Unfortunately, the town defenders quickly slipped troops over to meet them. The Welsh quickly found themselves far away from friends and they were dispatched after a valiant defense.

David found it fairly easy going approaching the town. He maneuvered his two units of longbows from the north board edge around the town and prepared to rain longbow death on its defenders. Out gunned by the English, Wes effectively used barricades and houses to slow down the English advance. David's Breton skirmishers got a little too close and were dispatched by some townie crossbowmen. Nevertheless, when the English longbowmen were finally in place on the south edge of the town, they used their huge missile advantage to slaughter the light infantry at the barricades, as well as driving the defenders on the roof of the barbican below. Though Daveshoe and Wes's troops were able to resist Holland's efforts to capture the fortification, they could not prevent the assault across the bridge.

Adrian marched his knights across the St. Pierre bridge and made a ladder assault that was largely unopposed. When the last handful of crossbowmen were driven below, that was all she wrote. Though the English had taken their time to achieve their victory conditions, they did indeed achieve them.

Overall I was pleased with the result. It was a tight battle, with victory achieved on the tenth and last turn of the game. The English won, but not in a walk. I made some dopey mistakes too. I left the two towers that went with the barbican at home. That should make the fortification at the bridge even stronger. I would allow the French to put troops in the houses even earlier. I'd also allow them to position their light bolt shooters on the barbican rather than just the cogs. I would also allow some space between the bridge and fortification, requiring the French to use some of their barricades to contain that area of advance. I'd also allow them to put barricades on the bridge itself. Next run is at Drumbeat on the 9th.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

DANG: The Truth

DANG, or Dave's Annual Naval Game is officially enshrined on my annual gaming dance card, together with the Museum of Flight day and Enfilade. Everything else is gravy, but these are must-do's. I've written about DANG before, Dave Schueler's shindig at his home in West Seattle. This year we played Action Stations, featuring miniatures from Dave's collection and my own.

DANG has three important characteristics. The first, and maybe the most important, is a social aspect. We get to hang out at Dave's house for most of a day, share news and swap lies. This year was no different. We had some DANG veterans-Dave Creager, David Sullivan, Arthur Brooking, and myself-but we also had a pair of DANG noobs; Dale Mickel and Scott Murphy. This year I was teamed with David and Arthur, and being the vets we were, we took nothing terribly seriously, which, under the circumstances was a good idea. We were the Axis side, tasked with running supplies to the trapped German and Italian forces in Tunisia in 1943. Not a pleasant task considering the quality of some of our vessels.

Another important DANG characteristic is the planning phase. Dave gives us our mission(s) and we allot our resources to complete our various tasks. Sometimes the mission planning can be quite complex, and beyond my limited administrative abilities. This time the DANG missions were easy to plot out. Five days with three action periods per day, units required to rest after completion of a mission. I nodded my head, David Sullivan did all the work. This is also the phase of the game in which we conduct psychological warfare against our opponents. We listen in on their noisy conversations (though most of the intelligence we gather in this way is wrong!!) We loudly proclaim our propaganda, make improbable threats and generally make fools of ourselves. Most importantly its a time in which we can snack on all of the tasty treats Dave and Lynn have set up for the participants.

It's difficult being the Axis player when the world begins to go to shit. Hah-Sixth Army is trapped in Stalingrad-no biggie. I can go you one better, the Afrika Korps is surrounded in Tunisia. Our job was to save 'em with a couple of obsolete S-Boats and a slow, underarmed minesweeper with a green crew. The third phase of the game is to actually complete the missions. Some resulted in on-the-table battles, some didn't. In virtually all the battles, the gods of serendipity were on the side of the Axis.

In our first action, night of day one (all the battles were night battles,) our two R boats (minesweepers) were minding their own business sweeping mines off Port Endopincochle or something equally unpronounceable, when two big shadows showed up in the distance. Why is it that when big shadows show up in the distance we just can't seem to leave well enough alone? For whatever reason, Arthur and David decided to go check out the big shadows and discovered they were British destroyers. Destroyers don't sound like a big deal if you're used to playing 1/1200 or 1/2400 fleet actions, but in Action Stations, destroyers may as well be the Yamato. R-boats, on the the other hand, are like rafts made of Popsicle sticks mounting a slingshot and a broom and dustpan. Once the destoyers were spotted, David and Arthur did the only smart thing-they ran. Unfortunately David's boat was not quite faster than a couple of 4-inch shells, which quickly morphed him into splinters. Arthur's boat, however, drew one of the tin cans a little too close to the shore batteries, which succeeded in damaging the vessel and thoughtfully lighting him afire for the amusement of the other destroyer, which cleverly stayed out of range.

After a desultory Day 2 of searching and missing the limping the destroyer from the air, our little flotilla based in Tunis headed off for Bizerte just in time to meet up with some friends-two Fairmile D gunboats and 2 Fairmile D torpedo boats, each bristling with small boat nastiness. Our flotilla consisted of two old S-Boats recently released from training command. We paid careful attention to the one 20mm gun thoughtfully mounted facing to the rear of our boats. This time it Arthur and I each in command of an S-Boat, surrounded by barking bad guys. Somehow I managed to get my boat turned around and dodged the rain of shells of all calibers pointed in my direction. However, Arthur's tactic of having his steering damaged and destroying his enemy, and himself, by ramming, seemed to be the most effective tactic of the day. I escaped with the loss only of my radio. Whew.

The final action occurred the next night when the five S-Boat flotilla out of Port Imbecile decided to exact revenge on the game master for constantly being out-classed, out-gunned, everything but out-lucked. We decided to make those nasty Brits pay. Someplace in the Straits of Sicily, we once again encountered the Big Shadows. To our way of thinking this had to be easier than the previous nights. We'd already shot up one destroyer, how many more could they have? The answer was easy-two. Even though we were five heavily armed, torpedo lugging fools, two destroyers are a lot of destroyers. Coming on pre-plotted courses at maximum speed, the DD's were on us like stink on poop. David had two boats and I had one. We were quickly observed and taken under fire. One of David's boats was able to snap off a pair of torpedoes, wide from the mark. I could never really get a shot. Arthur's two boats were unseen, launched torpedoes and wisely retreated, but David and I were left with two destroyers on our hands. I tried to maneuver close enough to get inside his guns, and avoided much damage. On the other hand, I peppered his bridge with 40mm and 20mm rounds causing a fire, knocking out some unprotected weapons and making Dale wish his mama was nearby. David was desperately trying to avoid a rerun of the first night's entertainment, and his wish was granted when Scott's retreating DD tripped over the mis-aimed torpedoes, did a spectacular pirouette and disappeared beneath the Med. Gack!

While all this fun stuff was going on, we Axis players were able to do the routine things as well. Our silly airforce was able to keep the Allied silly airforce from bombing us into oblivion. We completed an important intelligence related mission involving, cloak and dagger, a U-Boat and the Ark of the Covenant. We also managed to sneak a convoy into Tunis without loss and resupplied the entire Italian army with condoms. Not quite sure of the effect of this on the campaign but Dave declared the Axis the winners. So, I was on the winning side for the first time in four years.

At top we have a picture of an S-Boat-a much better armed S-Boat than most of my commands. Below that is a Fairmile D class Motor Gunboat. It's a great picture, starting with the bow shot of a nasty 2 pdr autocannon, and getting worse as it works its way astern. The last shot is actual footage of Scott Murphy's destroyer as it does the torpedo dance. It was a very brief video.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas-Woo Hoo!

I never complain about the goodies Santa brings me for Christmas. Usually it's a nice mix of practical and fun. Fun usually means books I want or movies on DVD. It usually doesn't include gaming stuff. Let's face it, ordering miniatures usually means navigating an online store with plenty of ranges and lots of stock codes and yikes. Even Santa could get lost.

Sometimes, however, Santa and his elves are industrious and/or extremely creative and make it a little more possible to do some gaming stuff. This year I didn't get any practical stuff-who'da thunk it? Movies galore. A couple of great books-John Keegan's new American Civil War history, and Jonathan Sumption's third volume of The Hundred Years War; Divided Houses. Yippee!!! Even cooler than that, my Keegan book held a gift certificate from the Warstore. For those of you who don't know the Warstore, that's where Perry Miniatures go to live after they make their long sailing trip across the Atlantic. In addition to this good stuff, folks thoughtfully gave me cash. You see where this is going. In any case, my family made my Christmas very merry and I am busily counting the possibilities.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Arrowstorm: A Social History of English Military Bowmen

When I saw this available through Amazon,s I decided I "needed" it. I believe there is a great lack of clarity about the practice and effectiveness of longbowmen during the Hundred Years War. Was the longbow a death dealer to armored and unarmored foes alike? Or did the longbow simply slaughter the unarmored and inflict a certain misery on armored knights. The rain of arrows disordered their dense formations, perhaps knocking some off their feet and providing an opportunity the nimble archers to attack the blind and disordered knights from their flanks, virtually unable to protect themselves, let alone fight back.

The author, Richard Wadge, is an archer, but goes beyond his own experiences to provide a social history of the medieval longbowman. Interesting stuff. I've only begun reading the book, so I'll report back.

A couple of interesting events on the painting front. Last night I finished all of the thirty crossbowmen for my St. Jean scenario. I plan to run this game at Game Matrix on Tuesday December 29th. It leaves me 15 bowmen I need to finish.

Recently I've noticed my eyes tiring after about an hour. Things just sort of blur and I can't get much more done. I tried using reading glasses last night-I borrowed them from Lorri. They were a bit strong-1.5 magnification, but it really did make a difference. I'm thinking 1.15-1.25 magnification would probably work fine.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Year's End in Sight

I've been working on a bunch of HYW figures for my Enfilade project on St. Jean. I've fiddled with rules and scenario design, but it's the figures I really need to get done.

I finished 20 Welsh spearmen. They still need to be based, but their spears a pretty long and I haven't quite figured out how to store them. I'm nearly done with 30 Genoese crossbowmen. These will defend two cogs in the middle of the Odon River as well as the fortification defending the bridge over the Odon. I need another 15 longbowmen to fill out my pile of bowmen to over 100. I need a hundred for the scenario. I've barely started these guys. I also need some peasant rock chuckers to torture the English invaders. Yes, just some nutty stuff to maker their life more difficult. In all there are 75 figures needed to finish this scenario. I've painted 26 with another 24 close.

It hasn't been a brilliant painting year. I'll probably finish with about 450 for the year. Not a lot, but the good news is I haven't invested in a lot of new stuff. Okay, some. I invested fairly heavily in the Lewis and Clark project. But, the really great news is that each and every figure I purchased is painted.

I also bought some additional 15mm figures for the Spanish Civil War. I painted a lot of the figures I already have, but I have a couple more Peter Pig militia units to work on as well as some 15mm Italians. Four units in all, plus a couple of 65mm infantry guns that will supplement the Spanish Foreign Legion and Moroccans. I'll work on the SCW figures right after HYW guys are done. I'd like to add some more units too. Peter Pig figs, and maybe some QRF stuff sound about right.

I want to add on to my multi-figure based Hundred Years War project. I have plenty of French and English to paint. I'd like to add another 48 figure dismounted knight unit. Lots of Old Glory figures for this. I also have pavisiers, crossbowmen and mounted knights and squires to work on. In the figures to buy department, I'm out of OG longbowmen from the Crecy and Poitiers range, so a couple more bags are in order.

I'd also like to paint up a lot of my AWI pile. I have some pretty big units remaining to be finished. For the Brits I have some twenty four figures of the 23rd Regiment, as well as the twenty figure 64th Regiment. After that it's the thirty-two figure Von Bose Regiment, and twenty four figures of the 71st Regiment (Fraser's Highlanders.) I would love to get all these units painted in the next calendar year, plus some smaller British/Loyalist units. On the American side I have plenty to paint too. In my diminishing Perry pile I have the 2nd Maryland, thirty-two figures worth. I also have the figures for the 1st Virginia, which is 40 figures strong. I'd like to add a few more units--the 2nd Virginia, also 40 figures and two more little North Carolina infantry. If I paint what I have, just adding the Virginians, I would be able to do Eutaw Springs and Hobkirk's Hill.

The one purchase I've yet to do anything with is my big pile of Victrix figures. I bought over 200 British Napoleonics for the War of 1812, and I feel considerable guilt over my lack of progress on them. I hope to get at least one unit of these boys done--maybe this summer.

Monday, November 30, 2009

AWI Wrap up

I'm one of those who often doesn't paint in a straight line. It's hard for me to sit down and paint 200 figures for a project and declare it finished. I lose interest after six weeks, two months and need to do something else, and then come back to the project and finish up.

Yesterday I wrapped up some of my AWI units. By wrapping up, I mean basing and flagging. I'd finished my 1st North Carolina Continentals, the 63rd Regiment and was just waiting to polish off the eight figures of the teeny, tiny, 1st Battalion of the De Lancey Brigade. I did all that as well as painting the five flags for each of those units over the holiday weekend.

I'm going to pick at AWI while I focus on my Hundred Years War project for the next wee bit. I'm working on twenty Welsh spearmen, and if I get through them quickly I'll probably paint the 64th Regiment before taking on the remaining Welsh and passle of Genoese crossbowmen I need to paint.

Pictures are of the three units. At the top of the page is the two stand DeLancey battalion, the first battalion that appeared at Eutaw Springs. There were only 80 men, but I'm determined to show some of these small units whenever possible. The standards are strictly supposition. These are Old Glory figures. There are two pictures of the four stand 63rd regiment. This was a veteran unit that fought at Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs. The blue-coated unit is the 120 man 1st North Carolina Continentals that fought alongside two other North Carolina units at Eutaw. They probably weren't quite as well dressed as these guys.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Back when I had a bit more money, er, back when I used credit more freely, I used to to have $40 a month to spend on gaming. I also had an Old Glory Army membership and frequently I'd just deposit my cash there. It meant I could be a bit more adventurous with my miniatures purchase, and by god I was. I picked up a couple of the Merrimac Shipyard cogs.

No self-respecting Hundred Years War miniaturist could possibly have a complete collection o' stuff without cogs. After all, there are all those famous sea battles to fight-ummm, and errrr!!???. Actually there are a few, the most famous being Sluys and 1340, and the battle off Winchelsea in one of those years between 1337-1453. There were also smaller actions of French galleys raiding the English coastline or attacking ships in the wine trade.

In any case my economic realities collided with miniature purchases and I was never able to acquire the hundreds of cogs needed for Sluys, or even the fifty or so for Winchelsea, but I do have two. They are going to serve me well for a game I want to run at Enfilade based on the Black Prince's attack on the suburb of St. Jean outside of Caen in 1346.

So what the heck is a cog? In the 14th and early 15th century sea travel was pretty chancy. Naval engineering had not progressed to the point that vessels could maneuver through a contrary wind. Cogs were bargelike vessels with a single mast and sail and a rudder. They could be 30-300 tons and built as merchantmen to haul cargo between England and the Europe. The were deep enough draft to provide a fairly stable platform in the channel and North Sea, providing the wind was favorable and there was no storm. During wartime, the king basically pressed these cogs into service and nailed large fighting platforms on to the bow and stern to hold archers, men at arms and light artillery.

These two will see service soon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Change in the Air

I've been working on my American Revolution figures for the last three months or so, and I think I'm ready for a change. I have my North Carolina continentals and 63rd regiment finished, despite some basing and flagging issues, and I'm in the middle of painting my teeny DeLancy battalion, but after they are finished I see myself tucking my 64th regiment that is primed and partially painted away into a corner of my painting table so I can pick them out when I'm more interested.

I've looked longingly at some of my Hundred Years War stuff (again!) and am going to work on some troops and models I need for one of my Enfilade projects. I have thirty-two Welsh spearmen to paint--20 single figures and twelve on three man mountings for the Crusader Rules. In addition, I dragged out my two Merrimac cogs--medieval warships--that I'm going to use in my defense of St. Jean scenario. I also have a passel of Genoese crossbowmen to fill out those I already have for the scenario and again for the Crusader rules. The Welsh and cogs should paint up fairly quickly, and I'm looking forward to getting started this weekend.

Once I wrap up the AWI units I'll post some pics.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

My Favorite Military Histories.

Everyone comes into this hobby because something inspires them to do so. As a teenager, I began painting 54mm soldiers, and this combined with my interest in history and board games created a very short bridge to playing games with toy soldiers. All it took was a couple of high school friends named Wes Kuwano and Bill Cranor to light the fuse.
I mentioned my love of books in an earlier post, and thought I'd share ten that were particularly inspiring to dive into one period or another. Here they are in no particular order.

I chose books that might not be at the top of everyone else's list, but are good reads, and might inspire readers to investigate a new game period--like we need another one.

1. The Face of Battle by John Keegan

I bought this book when it came out in 1976. It was a new military historiography focusing on the battle as the most important factor in military history. Keegan analyzed Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme as examples. Keegan's style was to examine the underlying social factors that created each army, and then broke the battle down to its component parts. To this day, I still re-read Keegan's chapter on Agincourt. It is chiefly responsible for my interest in the Hundred Years War.

2. Devil of a Whipping by Lawrence F. Babits
Babits examines the AWI Battle of Cowpens in very much a Keeganesque style, breaking down the social characteristics of each army and analyzing the effectiveness of the participants. However it is the breaking down of the battle in its phases and in space and time that make it so interesting. Finally, Babits work is ground-breaking introducing new information about troop strengths to help explain the rebel victory. A great book.

3. First Day on the Somme by Martin Middlebrook
Though I don't game the First World War at the present time, I have a pile of virgin 15mm Peter Pig figures waiting to be painted in my garage. Some day I'll get to them. Middlebrook's story is an oral history culled from veterans of that first disastrous day and it makes compelling reading. I literally could not put this down. I was on vacation in Victoria, deathly ill, nearly a decade ago and picked this up at Munro's on Government Street. I read it in 24 hours.

4. Gettysburg: The Second Day by Harry Pfanz
There are zillions of books on Gettysburg, and I have a lot of them. However, Pfanz's three volumes are certainly among the best. Each is a mini-history focusing on a time or location. Pfanz was the superintendant of the Gettysburg National Historical site, and clearly knew the battlefield inside out. Not only is his narrative unique and insightful, but the maps, my god the maps cannot be matched.

5. Niagara 1814: America Invades Canada by Jay Barbuto
The War of 1812 has gained some popularity in recent years, but the histories tend to be ho-hum and general. However there are some great titles, great writers, and great reads that have cropped up in the last decade or so. This is one of them. Barbuto is an American who provides a highly detailed analysis of the entire 1814 Niagara campaign. He has a balanced view of the campaign and focuses on some of the demanding aspects of prosecuting the war in this difficult theater.

6. The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan
I feel just a smidge guilty posting this book because I just finished reading it. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful single volume treatment of the American Revolution in the South up through Guilford Courthouse. Buchanan makes good use of primary and secondary resources to paint an intriguing picture of the war in the Carolinas from the first encounter at Sullivan's Island in 1776 to Cornwallis's fatal victory at Guilford Courthouse. All the major actions are here, as well as many of the smaller partisan affairs. Buchanan takes pains to introduce us to many of the leaders, including the less well known, and doesn't pull punches in his judgement of them. However, the best part of this book is Buchanan's writing. He has a fine narrative style that makes reading the 400 pages easy and effortless.
7. Infernal Machines: The Story of Confederate Submarine and Mine Warfare by Milton Perry
I have more books on the Civil War at sea than most folks, and most of them are really good. Though a little off the central topic, one of these is Milton Perry's book on Confederate efforts to even the score with the Yankees using unconventional means. It's a well-written, fascinating read about two arms of the Confederate Navy that proved considerably more effective (though less sexy) than ironclad or cruiser building programs.

8. Capital Navy by John Coski
Another great book on the naval aspects of the Civil War. John Coski's look at the life and death of the James River Squadron focuses on a couple areas. The first is the development and effect of the CSS Virginia on Union naval plans. Lots of little known information here. Most of the book, however, deals with what came after the Virginia--the design, building and staffing of the ironclad squadron that was to keep the Union at bay. Coski includes a great account of the Battle of Trent's Reach. Coski is a wonderful writer and tells this story well.

9. Red Coats and Grey Jackets: The Battle of Chippawa by Donald E. Graves
I love this book. It's a brief but complete account of a brief little battle. Graves is a Canadian who has written on a number of Canadian military history topics, and his work is quite good. This little battle on the Niagara frontier in 1814 is the best account of Chippawa. It's well written includes a complete OOB. If you're interested in this battle, you need this book.

10. War Cruel and Sharp: English Strategy Under Edward III, 1327-1360 by Clifford Rogers
Dang this is a great book. Rogers examines Edward III's tactical developments from his first less successful actions in Scotland, to his highly successful battles at Halidon Hill and Neville's Cross, and how he applied these in France during the Hundred Years War. Rogers also has interesting things to say about the chevauchee, or highly destructive raids, the English carried out in France and how they served an important strategic purpose of separating the populace from the French king and forced the French to fight battles against the English system that they had no tactical solution to defeat.

Bonus selection: Agincourt: A New History by Anne Curry
For me, Anne Curry is the face of the coterie of medieval historians that keep the Hundred Years War a living, interesting period. With this book, Anne Curry began a process of recounting the number of English present at this battle, reducing the French, and increasing the number of English present at this historic battle. As I wrote in an earlier post, this has provoked considerable debate among historians.

Super Double bonus: The Western Way of War and Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience by Victor Davis Hanson
Before he became a conservative spear carrier, Victor Davis Hanson, an agricultural historian wrote and edited these two superb histories of hoplite warfare. They were inspiring. Enough so that I painted up two hoplite armies using the old Ral Partha hoplite figures. I wonder where those are?

And One Stinking Turkey: The Myth of the Great War by Robert Mosier
I am a great believer in historical revision, especially when the facts warrant it. I am not a fan of revision because it's fashionable to do so or for multi-cultural purposes. I don't know what led Harper to plow zillions of dollars into promoting this book, but its just bad. Mosier's contention is that because the Germans had more modern artillery, they were defeating the Allies on the western front until the Americans arrived with their more aggressive tactics to save the world from Imperial Germany. Despite the fact that this is simple-minded and wrong, Mosier ignores the fact that the British and French were force on to the offensive to drive the Germans from highly productive regions of France. He also largely ignores that the real breakthrough against the Germans was completed by those same forces before the Americans could arrive in strength. Bad stuff.

I hope there is something here that gets your attention, and let me know if you have further suggestions

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Show time: AWI All the Time

I have new pictures to post. Two are newish units, at least to my collection, and the last is an old favorite.

In my trade with Doug I received eight light American light infantrymen painted in Doug's beautiful black primered style. They are indeed gorgeous, and they are a bit of a contrast with my figures on the right. In fact these two stands will form part of the regiment of Maryland and Delaware light infantry that fought together at Cowpens and Weitzels Mill under John Eager Howard and Otho Holland Williams. These were veteran troops, survivors of Camden, and the very best in Continental service. The troops on the right are my own, Kirkwood's Delaware company. Kirkwood was a true survivor of the Revolution, fighting in thirty-three actions, at the head of an elite company of infantry. Sadly he was cut down at age 63 in Arthur St. Clair's army at the Battle of the Wabash, fighting Indians on the frontier in defense of his Congressional land grant in recognition of his service during the Revolution.

The next unit are Queen's Rangers. They are my favorite of the trade bounty. Simply beautiful. Doug has graciously offered to paint a matching bunch from my shrinking pile of Front Rank figures. The Queens Rangers were truly an elite provincial unit that did see some service in the South--the defense of Savannah, and marching about Virginia with Benedict Arnold.

The last unit is one of my old favorites--the 1st Maryland I painted up for Guilford Courthouse at Enfilade II. They are old, but perhaps the best figures I ever painted using my white primer "slop" technique. The flags are wrong, and they've been remounted more times than I can say, but they're still one of my favorites.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Books, books, books, books . . .

I love books. I'm a total book geek. It's gotten to the point too, where I don't let them own me, I actually read all my books. This is incredibly necessary because I've pretty much maxed out my bookshelf space, so I don't buy nearly as many as used to.

Nevertheless book buying is one of my chief vices, so I'm pretty picky about what I get. This week I ordered two books. One is used, in fact it's out of print so it had to be used. I picked up a copy of "Now We are Enemies," by Thomas Fleming on Bunker Hill. It's supposed to be a great read, and Fleming is an interesting writer. Not sure it will vault right to the top of the heap in my reading queue, but it's definitely a good mid-winter's read.

The other book, which arrived today from Amazon, is a bit more central to my current painting projects is Kevin Kiley's Uniforms from the American Revolutionary War. I've only thumbed through it, but it was definitely worth the investment. It's so difficult to know what units looked like during the AWI and most illustrations are just speculative. There is no truth, at least not for the Americans, and even for British units in the field. Kiley's book is a bit more wide-ranging than Mollo's classic little book on AWI uniforms, and supplemented by Don Troiani's book on soldiers of the Revolutionary War, I get a little bit more to think about. The books offers illustrations of British, American and Provincial Units, as well as French, German and Spanish troops. There are even illustrations of cannon, ships and examples of flags.

If you're desperately in need of knowing exactly what James Coffin's sixty mounted South Carolina Royalist dragoons wore at Eutaw Springs (as I am) this will not solve your problem. However, if you're groping in the dark at what units might have worn at various times during the Revolution, this will offer some suggestion. The book that tells it all simply hasn't been written--and likely never will be.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Agincourt: Mud Marchers

It's taken me five months, but I've finally gotten this pile of dismounted French knights finished. It's a 48 figure unit, the largest allowed under the Crusader Rules.

These are Perry figures. They are gorgeous and a lot of fun to paint. Well, fun except for the command figures which have embossed heraldry which are fairly tricky to paint amid the folds and etc. One would think it would make things easier, but it doesn't. The fleu-de-lys and other assorted symbols fade into the white primer.

The flags were actually printed from the Warflag page and then I painted over the print job. The big red and green flag was a pain to glue together. It is the Oriflamme, the sacred standard of St. Denis. When the Oriflamme flew it was the symbol of no quarter.

I re-took these pictures today, Sunday the 1st. The last pictures were of poor quality with bad lighting and I didn't use my tripod. (Readers, of course, could tell from the macros). The first pic shows the full 48 figure unit. The right hand picture is focused more Boucicault, the Marshal of France.

At the present time I have three units on my painting table. They are all from AWI-a North Carolina unit of Continentals, the 64th regiment, and a tiny battalion of the DeLancey Regiment--44 figures in all. I'd like to have them all done and mounted by the end of November. We'll see. I've also got quite a few stands I'm rebasing, including the latest cool figs from Doug. I'll photo them when they're ready and post 'em.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Agincourt Controversy

I was doing my daily perusal of the New York Times this morning and noticed an interesting article on the reaction to the Ann Curry's reinterpretation of the Battle of Agincourt. Curry's thesis, for those who haven't been reading along the last couple of years, is that the outcome of the battle was decisive, but the the English were not outnumbered as wildly as Shakespeare suggested, or as historians have represented.

Curry's ideas were covered in her excellent book, Agincourt: A New History, released three years ago. As the President and the army try to make decisions about fighting counterinsurgency and the nature of war in Afghanistan, they've consulted works on the nature of the Hundred Years War and the execution of that conflict by the English. Interesting stuff.

The article also interviews a couple of American medievalists I really respect, Clifford Rogers and Kelly DeVries. Rogers seems to have aligned himself with the traditionalists. There is also a fascinating link to the Soldier in Medieval England database, providing considerable information on those who fought in France during the Hundred Years War conflict (1337-1453.)

What makes all this incredible, to me at least, is how the very active historians have made this really interesting conflict vital, interesting and relevant.

Nice map in the NYT.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

On Deadline This Week

Monday through Wednesday:
Paper has to come out which means little time for anything else. Ho-hum. I'm wrapping up the standards for my big unit of French HYW men-at-arms for Crusader Rules/Medieval Warfare. This project is coming along. It's just going to be slow.

I did manage to finish basing some AWI stuff this weekend, mostly militia. On Friday I finished the 63rd Regt., but they still need basing and flagging. I also started one of the three North Carolina regiments at Eutaw Springs--but at twelve figures its pretty dinky. More next weekend, I hope.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Museum of Flight Game Day

Yesterday was our annual Museum of Flight game day. I've often repeated my personal preference for the Museum above all our other venues, even Enfilade. I think it's something about being surrounded by the planes and the visitors, but I also think it's nice that we are only responsible for hosting games, and the Museum really likes us.

I hosted our annual Golden Age Air Racing game. We had seven players and it was a great game. It is always interesting to see how these games will turn out. Mark Waddington led for most of the game in green and gold Super Solution, but ran out of gas as he sputtered around the last turn and had to glide across the finish line, while his competitors raced by him. Denny Hartung won with the Me-209, narrowly pursued by Casey Smyth in the blue Super Solution, Casey crashing as he crossed the line. Steve Winter thought he was the winner in the Seversky SEV-2, but watched, appalled as Denny and Casey edged him by a half hex. Arthur Brooking, Joe Waddington and Bill Vanderpool also played.

Dean Motoyama and Dan Proctor hosted their beautiful Sharpe's Skirmish game. Steve Winter ran a nice looking Axis and Allies sea battle game. Jeroen and Hendrik Koopman ran a gorgeous 15mm WWII game, and Lloyd Bowler, Dave Mebust and Dan Carter from Astoria ran an energetic series of Wings of War encounters. Not to be outdone, the DBA guys from NAGS ran games including Andy Hooper's Humberside War of 1812 game.

I have pics from my own game--got some wonderful air racing pictures because the game was so tight

The pics from top right is the tight grouping of planes sailing out of the first turn. Mark Waddington actually led in the green and gold Super Solution, but has already moved, but Joe Waddington is a close second in the white Howard Ike. Unfortunately Joe stalled his plane in the first turn, and the left picture shows Joe standing over his plane, which is now in last place.

At bottom, Casey has just been cursed by another pilot for the second time. He's not a happy camper, but his blue Super Solution is still in the leader group of four. At right is Mark Waddington who has happily led the entire race. He's coming into the backstretch turn on the final lap and is explaining to Dave Schueler that fuel hasn't come into play at all. He's about to draw an event card that will cost him the little fuel he has left. The last picture shows the leader grouping heading into the final turn: green Super Solution, SEV-2, Me-209, and blue Super Solution