29 September 2015

The adventures of Captain Innocent Stryker

Long time without a post here I know, but no this project is not dead.  In fact, it is now confirmed to be on track to go into high gear in early 2016.  Excitement and purchases continue (though no actually modelling yet).    Hopefully the upcoming Hoby Challenge will see some brushes get dusted off, eh Alan?

Anyway, in the meantime I have been keeping my toe in the ECW period with a bit of fiction set during the war.  Namely, the adventures of Captain Innocent Stryker.

Captain Stryker is the creation of author Michael Arnold.  A reluctant Royalist Officer, he and his sidekick Sergeant are grizzled veterans of the continental campaigns of the Thirty Years War.  As such, they have a much more jaded view of the war and what it will do eventually to their homeland.  He is frequently compared to Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe - in fact this comparison is done with monotonous regularity by reviewers but notwithstanding this is a pretty accurate.

The series of books takes the main cast of characters through the opening battles of the ECW with an interesting plot line running throughout all the different books.  Though I think the first couple were the best, I quite enjoyed all of them.  They gave a really interesting perspective to the lifestyles and language of the period, as well as how the skirmishing and fighting tactics of the period worked.  While there is also a good measure of artistic license, it also gives a good perspective of how the command chains of both armies worked, the impacts of suffering from poor logistics processes, and the impact of certain personalities.

Overall, if you are an ECW aficionado and want some entertaining reading to immerse yourself in the period, then this series is for you!  But be warned, it will have you hankering to play some Pike and Musket skirmish gaming, which is the level that most of the books' actions is set.

The author's webpage also has some interesting resources which are worth checking out.

I'm up to the sixth instalment now, which covers the Battle for Marston Moor. It will be interesting to see how the author tackles that engagement and what he will do with the series once this climatic event is done.

Any recommendations for other ECW era fiction?

[EDIT] Steve the Warmer has just posted a review of Marsten Moor at his blog here:

28 September 2015

Ivans have Landed!

This week I received a delightful package in the mail, courtesy of Steve from the Sound Officer's Call blog (here).  Inside was a wonderfully painted Soviet Command base for my Battlegroup Kursk Soviet force.  I'm really delighted to get such a thoughtful gift.  In fact, I picked up a macro lens for my camera to ensure the pics do it justice :-)

So I'm very pleased to introduce you all to Comrade Commander Stepan Patrovitch, who is destined to command all my Soviet Forces in theatres everywhere! Hard to believe this is a 15mm figure isn't it.

And just in case I ever forget whose generosity brought him to me, this is the underside of the base.  Thanks a lot Steve, very much appreciated.  Another stirling example of the fantastic Blogosphere community we have.

22 September 2015

Book Review: Ghost Fleet

I'd been looking forward to this book coming out in July and just finished reading it.  Unusually, the Author Peter Singer is a National Security specialist with four other, non fiction books to his name and this is his first novel.  I heard him speak at the Naval War College earlier this year and his Biography (here) states:

Dr. Singer is considered one of the world's leading experts on changes in 21st century warfare. He has consulted for the US Military, Defense Intelligence Agency, and FBI, as well as advised a range of entertainment programs, including for Warner Brothers, Dreamworks, Universal, HBO, Discovery, History Channel, and the video game series Call of Duty, the best-selling entertainment project in history. He served as coordinator of the Obama-08 campaign's defense policy task force and was named by the President to the US Military's Transformation Advisory Group. 

Ghost Fleet is a techno-thriller very much in the tradition of Tom Clancy, Larry Bond and Harold Coyle.  Set in an unspecified year a decade or two from now, China has thrown off its Communist regime and traded it for a co military-business tycoon presidium known as "The Directorate". In a bid to secure economic security, resource access and achieve hegemonic power they launch a blitzkrieg style offensive against US assets throughout the Pacific.  Chinese cyber capabilities are a key part of these attacks and in scenes reminiscent of the Battlestar Galactica pilot, many US systems are shutdown or severely degraded as the offensive operations.  America, left with very few allies, then tries to claw itself back from the devastation wrought upon it.

The book is Singer's vision of how current and emerging technologies will be utilised in future conflicts.  As an example, autonomous drones play a large part, both in an armed capacity operating with manned systems, as well as for remote surveillance and even working in close conjunction with SF team and ground forces.  At the same time, Singer makes some not so subtle commentary about strategic decision making and acquisitions programs in the US military.

Overall, its well worth a read and has some interesting aspects though some felt to be a bit of a stretch  At the same time, Singer is clearly a newcomer to fiction and his style is not as developed as others in the genre. Its good, but not great.  3 stars.


20 September 2015

Yarrr - it be Talk like a Pirate Day!

Its been a watch or two since I been at home to post on this special day, but I hope you're having a rum today!  Here's the traditional saucy wench to celebrate this special day...

18 September 2015

Back to the Future with Colonial Gaming

Fan's of Osprey's war-game rules will recognise the name Daniel Mersey as the author of such excellent titles as Dux Bellorum and Lion Rampant as well as the upcoming Dragon Rampant .

On his blog over the weekend, Daniel laid out his very impressive writing schedule for the next year.  Dragon Rampant has a lot of people getting very excited (and so they should be I think) but what really caught my eye was The Men Who Would Be Kings.  Planned for an August release, it will be a colonial 'big skirmish' game using the Lion Rampant engine with some modifications for gunpowder weapons.
Not the real cover - a mockup by the ever amusing (and talented) Dalauppror 
You can follow posts about this game at the author's blog here

'So What?' I hear you ask.  Well truth be told I used to be a bit of a colonial gaming affectionado.  Me and the lads used to do a mean bit of Zulu War gaming pretty frequently back in the day.  That day was around 25 years ago now, but I do have my complete collection of 15mm Brits and Zulus and other odds and sods.*** So while the game looks geared toward units of 28mm figures (and there are some nice plastic options there) as long as you can mark off individual casualties, 15mm should work fine.  Could it be that all I have to do is dust off my exciting collection to play a new game without having to expend vast sums of money and spend hours of painting? That will never catch on...  In any event it might reawaken an old flame.

So still a year to go but I'll be watching out for this with interest.  
And its not like I don't have any other gaming diversions on the go in the meantime...

*** However, I do fear for their condition.  In the more than two decades since their last love, they have been deep storage three times and moved more than a dozen times in the same box.  I did consider selling them off several times, but resisted.  Lots of great memories in those figs after my friends and I played an ongoing cooperative campaign.  We each had a character Officer figure and commanded British/Allied units with the Zulus on 'auto' style reaction rules, painted medals on chaps who did particularly well etc.  I recall that I commanded the Naval Brigade (include a fine Gatling gun) as Commander Hornblower! 

14 September 2015

Terrain Modelling Inspiration

Last week my family visited Plymouth Rock and the nearby plantation which has reconstructions of the traditional native American village of the region and a Pilgrim Village, circa 1620-30.

I found it to be very interesting from a modelling perspective and snapped a whole bunch of pictures of the architecture and building materials.  While they might be 17th Century/ECW period, they clearly have applicability for a wide range of genres.  Here are some of them:

Here are the pics from the Indian village:

11 September 2015

Riverine Warfare

A couple of interesting articles at Weapons and Warfare website recently, relating to Riverine operations in Vietnam.  If you are into Brown Water Navy you should drop by and check them out:



08 September 2015

After the Apocalypse

I've been enjoying the World Without Humans series recently, which I found very interesting and of course both very diverting and inspiring hobby wise.  Naturally it lead me to some further internet research and discovery of this very interesting site which allows you to see famous world site and then fat forward to what they might look like in a 'population zero' scenario.  Very cool!  Of course this one was my favourite!



05 September 2015

Roads from Shingles

I am always impressed when I see a clever use of common (read cheap and easily obtainable) materials to make effective war-games terrain.  I just came across this great article by Architects of War on how to make roads from cheap asphalt roof shingles - very clever and they are very suitable for smaller scales in particular.  To the hardware store!


04 September 2015

Terrain Tutorials

If you haven't been to Rob Hawkin's Hobby Blog and seen his amazing scratch built terrain (as I hadn't until just now), then you are in for a treat.  This is the link to his tutorials page, which is excellent, but there is a lot of jaw dropping awesomeness there - enjoy!


01 September 2015

On the Freedom Trail and more of the USS Constitution

Old Granary Burial Ground - many of the Revolutionary personalities are buried here, as are the Boston Massacre victims

I took my Boy Scout Troop up to Boston over the weekend to hike the Freedom Trail and see the key spots of the beginning of the American Revolution.  About 9 miles of walking and a lot of fun with key highlights for me being Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution (my third visit I think!)

Old North Church 
Now this is History I can get behind!
The Monument to the Battle of Bunker Hill, which is not on Bunker Hill but on adjoining Breed's Hill (where the fort actually was)

Details of the Battle provided to the boys by the excellent Park Rangers

The Lad steers the mighty USS Constitution 
The Troop mustered

Our guide shows the ship's helm, which was shot away by HMS Java (40 gun frigate) in 1812.  Captain (later Admiral) Bainbridge was severely wounded in this action and stayed at his post to defeat and capture the Java.
Some famous names are on that board.

Different shot types fired by Constitution's 24pdr long guns and 32pdr carronades

This is a neat temporary highlight - members of the public can engrave their names on the copper which which shortly be attached to the Constitution's hull during her drydock refit
How she got her nickname "Old Ironsides"

A beautiful model - over 6 foot high