Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Lard on the Volga - Birthday Bash 2017

It seems strange how something always seems to crop up on the evening my local wargames club meets. School plays, my daughter’s swimming training, my son's football games, a phone call with work – whatever the excuse, it’s going happen on a Tuesday evening when my local club meets.

For a long time we’ve talked about meeting on a weekend, and putting on a club game. 

I turned 50 a little earlier this summer, and this seemed like a good excuse to hire the club venue and stage a large game of “Chain of Command” last Saturday. My chums Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner have already posted a ton of photos from the game on their fine Lard Island News blog. So what follows is my recollection of our visit to Korbinskaya on the Don River.

For anyone thinking about staging a “birthday game”, I can honestly simply say – do it! It’s a great way to arrive at “that” milestone, as well as spending the time with a great selection of friends who just also happen to be wargamers.

Setting the Scene

One of the fun things about any wargame is setting the scene. Rich sent a few emails to me in the week before the game, detailing the setting on the river Don at the small town of Korbinskaya and it’s nearby Collective Pig Farm No. 452. A force organisation table later and I was in business, sewing minefields, working out defensive positions and finding old photos on the internet of what a collective farm would look like. A little goes a very long way when it comes to inspiration!

The table

We ended up with a large wargame. Indeed, 22 feet of wargame, from the Don to Collective Pig Farm No. 452. As you’ll see from the photographs, Rich and Al’s terrain was a joy to behold.

The fine Russian buildings from Warbases, Sarissa and Charlie Foxtrot looked splendid. My favourite was a wonderful Russian Church, complete with boarded up windows and Bolshevik and Soviet posters demonizing the Russian Orthodox Church.


Never let a wargamer go hungry or thirsty. It’s an old saying (I’m sure), but nevertheless it’s an accurate one. I had arranged for lunch to be shipped in from our local bakery including a selection of decadent, bourgeoisie confectionary. Inevitably this was enjoyed by the Soviet players just as much as by the evil Nazi players.

I was honoured by my Lard chums increasing our collective daily sugar intake by creating two cakes, which were unveiled at the end of the day’s gaming. Despite initial misgivings, the indoor (Health and Safety Approved) sparkler worked far better than the Soviet pioneers’ satchel charges on the tabletop.

The game

As all games seem to do, it raced by. The Germans thrashed forward to the small, Tasrist-era bridge over the Lenmakluski stream, while I attempted to corral a slightly-recalcitrant defence using fiendish Commissar methods. The Soviet sailors from the Black Sea fleet arrived in the nick of time, just as most of the crews from the T-34s were bailing out under steady German fire.

As you can see from the photos, the troops provided by Rich, Al and Ade were of a wonderful standard. Thanks chaps!

The After-game entertainment

The best part of wargaming is the friends you share the hobby with. As might have already been mentioned by Rich, one can only hope that the band enjoyed themselves as much as we did.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Painting Guide for 2mm Thirty Years War Figure Blocks

With some time to spare last night, I created a handout providing some information about how I go about basing and painting the Irregular Miniatures 2mm figure blocks we’ve been using for our Thirty Years War Lutzen project. Nothing very fancy, but a description of the order I’ve gone about things, some photos of work-in-progress and completed units, and a chart of the Vallejo paints I’ve been using.

Hopefully it’ll be of help to someone out there. You can find the painting guide on the web-version of this Blog, in the right hand sidebar called “Playtesting Scenarios…and Painting Guides”.  It should be right at the top.

If you think there’s anything I’ve missed, if anything’s not clear, please let me know in the comments or by email.

Two blog posts in two days. Just like buses, as they say….


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

A brief update ... Laarden and other projects

It's been a while…! To be honest, in my own defence, I didn't realise it's been quite as long as it has been since I last updated this Blog.  Sorry, everyone!

So what's been happening in Roundwood's World? I've not been idle. The "Laarden 1688" project is still very much ongoing, with painting and terrain making. So far this summer, I've been finishing the Spanish contingent to Laarden's polygot forces. By way of showing something, here's some of the flags I've been painting up, and one of the Spanish "commanders", in this case the Prince of Oviedo (a diminutive 25mm Spanish princeling, converted from a Copplestone hobbit).

And the 2mm Thirty Years War project is also very much "on foot". The Lützen armies are finished, and the aim before Christmas 2017 is to finish the Spanish forces for Nordlingen 1634 in their smaller, linear later Tercios.  I've been using my dodgy German to mine some useful information from some of the (very good) non-English books on Nordlingen. Hopefully a playtest for the battle isn't too far away.

I've also had a recent diversion to the Eighty Years War in 2mm, for reasons that might (hopefully) become a little more obvious during the course of the Autumn. As with the Thirty Years War project in 2mm, what has been interesting me is the possibilities of trying to recreate both the host of smaller battles and the campaigning environment in which the battles took place. 

In some ways, the Eighty Years War in the Netherlands looks to offer unpromising opportunities for the grand sweeping campaigns beloved of wargamers. There are few dramatic marches, the battles are tighter, and cavalry are less prominent. Of the Netherlands, the English soldier Roger Williams wrote in the 1570s, “those grounds did not serve for great troops of horsement to fight in”.

More trenchant still was the Englishman, William Davison, writing to Lord Burghley in March 1578:

Expungne one towne after another, the least of a number wherof cannot cost him less than half a yeres siege with an infinite charge, loss of men and hazard of his fortune and reputation bycause (as men of war are wont to say) one good towne well defended sufficeth to ruyn a mightie army”.

Sieges, field fortifications, river crossing and chess-board like march and counter-march seem to have been the predominant feature of Netherlands campaigning. But rather than abandoning the Flemish and Dutch landscape of the 1570s, 1580s and 1590s, I've been wondering if this might make quite a good location for a very tight, enclosed campaign.  So I made a start on some maps, which may or may not lead anywhere...

Standing on the shoulder of giants such as the wonderful Perfect Captain, I've made a few tentative steps towards thinking about campaigning in the periods of the Dutch Offensive, and Spanish Counter-Offensive in the Eighty Years War, being the 1590-1609 period. 

Being not that far removed from the Thirty Years War, I think there's some possible cross-overs of troop formations.  I'm hoping to create a Dutch army for the campaign, some of Irregular Miniatures' 2mm figures being perfect to represent Maurits of Nassau's and Willem Lodewijk's forces at battles such as Nieuport in 1600.  Hopefully as the summer passes, I can post some of the images from the tabletop of the Dutch and Spanish forces. As a taster, here's this week's Spanish early Tercios, on their way to being slowly painted.

So, plenty of stuff happening. Apologies again for the Blog silence, which is really as a result of a hectic family life and the usual work related excuses. No promises about when the next post will be, but hopefully not in five months! Catch you next time, and thanks for being patient …

Monday, 6 March 2017

"Plucking the Cockerel's Feathers": Spanish Flanders, 1689

A Relation of the Recent Warres in Spanish Flanders”; auth. Don Alonso de Moncada, Marquess of San Lúcar de Barrameda; publ. Antwerp, 1690; 1st Edn., 2 folios, 364 pp., bound in old leather, darkening on some pages, but otherwise tight and surprisingly well conditioned for old volumes. Rare. Apply: F. de Monquisard, 14 Hertogstraat, Ghent.

"… And, after an uneasy evening suffered by all combatants, the ground in front of both armyes was soaked in mist and dew, the half-light of dawn barely yet breaking through the last shadowes of night. Along the battalia of the French and Italian armyes the sounds of drums, fifes, trompets and cries of awakening could be plainly heard, the noise carrying far over the field of Mars. It was at that time that Don Hugo de Velasco advanced with many divers grenadiers, drawn by volunteers from the Spanish regiments in the service of the City of Laarden. Don Hugo chose soldiers from the Tercios of Sevilla (los Morados viejos), Granada (del Casco de la Ciudad de Granada) and the German battalion of the Baron de Gorcy to accompany him, declaring that his assault over the covered ground would be nothing less than plucking the feathers of the King of France’s cockerel. His advance was undiscovered by French piquets, wreathed in the low mist of the Flanders fields through which Don Hugo’s grenadier company passed. Only when Don Hugo himself assailed the gabioned revetments of the French and Italian position did his enemies discover their peril….".


You can find Alonso de Moncada’s book in a dusty bookshop on Hertogstraat in Ghent, close by the north bank of the River Leie, on a high shelf in the back room of the shop, just along from the "History of The City of Laarden” (in Flemish) and the full five volume history of the Spanish expedition to Laarden in 1688 (in Old Spanish). 

You will have to brush the dust from each of these volumes - none of them seem to have been read for some time, if ever. I would expect that you might be surprised by the bookseller’s asking price - but, don’t worry, you can haggle the price down if you try hard. Extracting and translating the story of Don Hugo’s assault on the Franco-Papal lines in one of the battles of the summer of 1689 has been time-consuming, but worthwhile. Don Alonso de Moncada’s book is hardly an impartial source for the events of the Spanish Netherlands and Laarden in 1689, but it is a useful counterpoint (and corrective) to the journal of Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, a brief extract of which has already appeared on this blog earlier this year in January.


I thought Don Hugo de Velsaco's dashing assault would make a perfect vignette for the "Characters from a Book” themed round in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. My contributions for the Challenge have themselves been badly challenged this year by various family and work commitments and spending quite a few weekends away from home. Here’s hoping Don Hugo’s appearance amounts to turning a corner for me, as it clearly did for Don Hugo himself as his later career demonstrated (...another chapter for another blog post...).

The figures are Dixon Miniatures and Foundry, with a couple of small conversions. I swapped Don Hugo’s arm to add a sword, and fiddled with the grenade being thrown by the German grenadier from the Baron de Gorcy’s regiment. The collapsed gabion is from Frontline Wargaming, years back. And yes, I could not resist recreating Don Hugo’s assault in a wintry 2mm base to complete the submission (with the tiny 2mm forlorn hopes from Irregular Miniatures).

While the details of Don Hugo are (as you will have guessed) fictitious, the details and uniforms of the grenadiers accompanying him across the covered ground are accurate, taken from the (wonderful) “Spanish Armies in the War of the League of Augsburg 1688-1697” published by the Pike and Shot Society (thoroughly recommended).

Friday, 27 January 2017

"The Pikeman's Lament" - Pike & Shot skirmishing from Osprey Games

One of the great things about the wargaming hobby is seeing friends and fellow wargamers enjoying fantastic success doing the very things which make our hobby such fun.  For many years I've been enjoying the excellent "Dalauppror" blog authored by Michael Leck, who I had the great pleasure and privilege of meeting at Salute a few years back.

Michael's rules for pike and shot wargaming, "The Pikeman's Lament", written with well-known wargames rules supremo Dan Mersey, were published yesterday by Osprey Games.  I'd pre-ordered my copy, and they were waiting for me when I arrived home last night.

They are a lovely looking set of rules, and feature everything that you would need for recreating small scale engagements and large skirmishes in the 17th Century.  There are many fine illustrations from the Osprey books, and some terrific photographs from many well-known wargamers and modellers, including Michael himself, the super-talented Matt Slade and all-round blogging superstar Mr. Michael Awdry, who posted some great photos on his own blog HERE which didn't quite make it into the finished rules owing to space constraints.

I'me really looking forward to giving these rules a try.  The "petite guerre" of raiding, forcing contributions, scouting and skirmishing was a major feature of many seventeenth century campaigns, particularly during the winter months when main field armies were in winter quarters.  

Michael and Dan's rules should be perfect for recreating these kinds of actions - swirling cavalry skirmishes, desperate last stands of small companies of soldiers in remote villages, plundering of supply columns.  These types of encounters were a very popular theme in mid-seventeenth century 'battle-paintings' - and there's plenty of inspiration to be gained from searching out paintings such as the above canvases from the Dutch artist Pieter Meulener.

I really looking forward to using the rules for my own chosen period of the 1680s in Flanders - a brief read through of the rules last night gave me some (hopefully) good ideas for the games we can stage and the terrain I can build for these kinds of actions.

Here's hoping these rules spark everyone else's imagination.  Congratulations to Michael and Dan, and best of luck with the venture!!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Happy New Year, and more from Laarden, 1688

Happy new year, everyone! Slightly belated from me, but I’ve only just arrived back home a day ago. I hope the new year brings you all health, happiness and success in your endeavours, not least in our wonderful hobby.

It was a busy end to 2016 for me and the Roundwood clan. However, I had some time just before Christmas to make a start on my submissions for Curt’s splendid, annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.

Here’s the first submission I prepared, which is best introduced with a little background. (I would add that those of you not wanting to indulge in a little bit of ‘Alt-History’ – and no doubt there are many of you – please skip most of the post until you get to the modelling section, or anything else which catches your eye).

In the Autumn of 1688, the Lords of the Free City of Laarden, positioned between Brugge and Antwerpen on the Flemish coast, sent an emissary to the Spanish Court at El Escorial, just outside Madrid. The small party of Laarden plenipotentiaries, drawn from the five great noble houses of Laarden, had been given the task of seeking military support and financial assistance for their city’s expected involvement in a new conflict which almost everyone in the Spanish Netherlands was anticipating would start with the commencement of the 1689 campaigning season. While the Laarden plenipotentiaries were proud of their city’s independence in the turmoils of the frequent wars in the region between France, Spain and The Dutch Republic, they were pragmatic enough to realise that an alliance with the Spain was likely to be critical in securing their city’s survival in any future conflict.

Ever magnanimous, and sensing an opportunity to forge a profitable alliance with an important Flemish city, Count Oropesa, one of the leading advisors to the sickly King Carlos II recommended the immediate despatch of a Spanish military envoy to Laarden. Don Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, a veteran of numerous battles against the French, was selected for the mission. Don Fernando, although elderly and recently retired to his Castilian estates, was considered by his beloved Tercios as being a “soldier’s soldier”, as well as being a skilled diplomat. He was therefore a promising choice to negotiate the recruitment of a force of Spanish and Hapsberg allies to complement Laarden’s own militia and other Flemish and Walloon regiments gathering at the city itself during the winter months.

For our purposes, Don Fernando’s greatest legacy is perhaps his journal, which appears to have been written by him between December 1688 and March 1689. Commencing with details of his journey from the heart of the Empire to Laarden, his journal goes on to describe his experiences in Laarden in recruiting troops, skirmishing with outlying French patrols and preparing the Laarden forces in winter quarters for the campaigning season of 1689. 

The first extract, from 31 December 1688, is below, accompanied by a photograph of the (...ahem...) original journal, and a helpful map of the surroundings of Laarden, no doubt drawn by Don Fenando, or his faithful equerry Alfredo Ramos.


On a Frozen Shore: 31 December 1688

Little had I realised how absolutely the warmth of Spain would have departed my fingers, my hands, my very bones by the time my boots landed on the Flemish shore. Even the usually-cheerful Alfredo looked glum, sullen and withdrawn by the moment the longboat from the Sancta Maria scraped along the beach. The air tasted of dead iron, flecks of hail and snow whipping against my face even despite by furs and scarves being tugged higher. A fine welcome awaited us: three oystermen trawling their nets; two women with baskets of glassy eyed fish; a crow, limping along the sand. Each of them observed the landing of a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece on the sovereign territory of the Free City of Laarden. It was quite different to my departure from El Escorial; at least I was spared yet more speeches.

We landed the horses and baggage ponies with difficulty. They were even less inclined than myself and Alfredo to venture from the Sancta Maria. An hour we laboured, cursing frozen figures, rope as unyielding as iron, clothes and bots increasingly cold and damp. And once the work had been accomplished, and we were finally well-mounted, our escort finally arrived. A small company of soldiers, about 30 in number, dressed irregularly in earthen colours marched slowly from a place d’armes built on a low sand dune close by the mouth of the estuary of the Laarde. And, on that most grey, half-dawn morning, we witnessed a sight to amuse the most jaded of eyes: a young cavalier, dressed in the most outrageous French fashion of bright yellow and pale blue (which Alfredo whispered are the colours beloved of the Laarden noble houses), complete with a ludicrous black periwig and the affectation of a wooden sword. Even I could not forbid myself smile as I looked upon the most comical warrior. I resurrected my most urbane manner, as he flourished his hat in a deep bow.

“Antoine de Gautier, knight of Laarden, à votre service.”

“My God”, I whispered to Alfredo in deliberately accented Castilian, “he even speaks like the Damned French.”

For this Challenge, I wanted to mainly focus on my 28mm forces for the late seventeenth century. So here you have several heavily converted figures originally from Foundry and Dixons. As you might have seen on Twitter, I tried to add winter scarfs and bandages to the foot infantry escorting Don Fernando, which I painted in the uniforms of a couple of the regiments which will hopefully be appearing shortly. 

Don Fernando himself started life as a Thirty Years War Imperial infantry officer, and I’ve cut him up and added a fresh pair of legs (or at least boots). The equerry, Alfredo Ramos, is another Foundry ECW cavalryman, with an added pistol and green-stuff cloak. Adding the conversions takes time, but it’s a nice-to-have for one of the command/ personality groups for the army.

For those with good eyesight, I’ve also added the commencement (in 2mm scale, using Irregular Miniatures) of Don Fernando’s forces, comprising a regiment of caracoling Spanish Horse, a battery of bronze barrelled Spanish artillery, two detachments of trayne guards and a 2mm version of Don Fernando himself and his personal baggage landing on a snow-bound Flemish coastline. I like the idea of trying to build a 2mm force at the same time as a 28mm force – more of those ideas to come in due course.

When the baggage trayne was attacked by Imperial Croats in our recent re-fight of Lutzen, 1632, I discovered I didn't have any purpose-made trayne guards to give each side the chance to field some of these soldiers.  One of the nice things abut 2mm is that it is a scale which allows you to correct that sort of oversight very quickly.  

The rear bases of the 2mm Spanish formations are painted in a deep, Spanish red (...think of a good Rioja, and you have the idea...).  We found we really needed this visual aid to tell the 2mm formations apart in the recent Lutzen, 1632 re-fight, and I've some ideas for 'allied contingents' to add into the 2mm rules which can make use of the colour-coded bases also.

Next time, another book review, and then more from Laarden after the weekend.

Oh, and for any of you curious about Girona, in North Eastern Spain, it's on my list of visits to make in 2017 - even without its Game of Thrones credentials, it looks to be a fine place for any history fan to spend some time.

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