In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Playing with the new camera

Took the shiny new toy down to the basement to try a few snaps and get a handle on how it works.

Here are some Old Glory 15mm 18th century Ottoman Janissaries and cavalry waiting to be picked up by a friend from Ottawa.
I rather like the grey coats and red pants. I'm thinking the Duchy of Mantovia's landwehr battalions might copy this colour scheme.

Unfortunately this is about as close as I can zoom in on a single figure. The camera keeps wanting to focus on the wall behind. I cropped the photo in iPhoto on my daughter's ancient iBook G4, but the crop hasn't stuck. Cropping in too close and you just get a pixilated shot anyway even with 12 megs of data.

Gordy, of course, was quite curious about the goings on:
 This last shot was just freehand, no flash, no timer, held at arm's length.

A shiny new technical upgrade

Some other excitement from last weekend that I didn't include because it was somewhat tangential to the previous post.

After the Sergeant-Major dismissed us early on Saturday, while my companions napped or put some more polish on their boots, I went shopping at the Canex.

The Canex is the Canadian Forces version of the American PX ('Post Exchange'), a department store trying to cater to the needs of the military community on the base. In the aisle of cadpat accessories for the soldier on the go (wallet, smart phone pouch, laptop bag etc) I found a few necessaries that one cannot find at a normal store like a refill for my Field Message Pad and waterproofing paste for my combat boots. But nearby they also have a large and impressive display of shiny new electronic goods.

So I got myself this:

12 Meg pictures, 10x optical zoom, rechargeable lithium battery. For only $89.99! Of course I still need to play with it, I only got the memory card (16 GB) for it today.

But at least now I don't have to borrow a camera from a friend or wait until offspring come home to take pictures.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bowties, Crud and a Parade

This past weekend was sort of my final weekend for my BOTC. We had our small party tasking exercise, our Mess Dinner and our Graduation Parade, so I'm done the course.

But I have to go back up in two weeks for a First Aid Course.

It was a fun weekend. Friday nights after checking in and unpacking, we would go to the Officer's Mess for a social drink and catch up. This weekend Jay announced he had brought some Chocolate Vodka for us all to try. Intrigued (well some were just attracted by the smell of booze), 16 of  us squeezed into his room to have an impromptu University Dorm party. When I walked back to my room from the Mess later on I realized it was a Good Thing I didn't have to drive. It made for a less than restful night. The instructors were very concerned about our long faces the next morning during the Small Party Taskings Ex. and turned it into a Teachable Moment.

I canvassed my course mates and one of them shared some snaps he took with his iPhone (when he wasn't playing the assorted apps that is).

Here we are having a break during practice for our Graduation Parade. That's me third from the left. The fellow doing the Vulcan gesture was my room mate. He's wearing his NCDs (Naval Combat Dress; the standard workday clothes for the RCN). The people in blue berets and combats are Air element officers. The more formal looking woman checking her phone is another Naval Cadet in her Class 3 DEUs because she never got her NCDs from her home Support Unit in time.

The gentleman in the middle is one of our drill instructors, a semi-retired Royal Canadian Regiment MWO who mentioned doing jump training in '72 and when he arrived for our Grad Parade he was sporting a chest full of service medals and the French Commando school badge.

I found myself repeating many of his helpful tips for the improvement of our personal drill to the cadets last night.

That night we experienced (for most of us) our first Mess Dinner. Here are most of the ladies on the course posing with our Guest of Honour and new Boss, LCol McMillan, Commanding Officer, Central Region, Canadian Cadet Organization. He previously spent 30 years in the RCAF on AWACS aircraft and posted to NORAD Commands.

 The LCol is wearing proper mess kit for an RCAF officer. The rest of us junior officers have to make do with our Class 1 tunics, a white shirt and bow tie. The ladies are required to get a special blouse (different depending on branch of service) and pumps.

A couple of my Air colleagues. Nicole and Pablo. He must be crouching down, because he's pretty tall and she is not even in the four inch heels. But she is a very capable young lady who reminds me a lot of my oldest daughter (they're the same age, height, and she made a smile at the dinner that made me flash on my girl). Notice that Pablo is wearing his pilot's wings.

More of my colleagues in the bar of the Waterloo Officer's Mess. The young man on the right was our Parade Commander. We were seated together at dinner. He made me feel a bit old by remarking that I had been married longer than he had been alive. Yup he's only a year older than my oldest girl.

After a bit of polite chitchat in the lounge the LCol asked if the Mess had a pool table and did anyone know how to play Crud? So the party moved over to the informal side of the bar, referred to in Messes world wide as The Snake Pit.

It's decor is more relaxed and it contains the big screen TVs (one tuned to sports and the other to music videos), comfy sofas, jukebox, Foosball, shuffleboard and a couple of pool tables. And the hi jinx began:

The LCol was a pretty enthusiastic Crud player. Crud is a game that uses a pool table and two balls. You roll the cue ball to hit the coloured ball (you get three tries). Once the ball is struck, the person on the other team then has to crab the cue ball and hit the coloured ball again before it stops moving or goes into a pocket. You can only shoot from the short sides of the table (I kept going off side in my excitement). If you fail in the above you get a strike against you. Three strikes and you're eliminated. Play continues until all of one team is eliminated.

Needless to say after a few drinks it gets very lively. There are variations, such as Contact Crud in which you can check players as they try to get the ball.

So we stayed up too late. I started drinking water once the Port for the toasts was done, since I get horrendous hangovers. But I was still very glad the Sergeant-Major let us sleep in an extra hour the next morning. When we practiced our Graduation Parade that morning, the CSM was so pleased he let us break early to have lunch, get changed and clear our rooms.

Then after lunch we had our Exit Interviews and Debriefings (I did well btw) and then the Grad Parade. Of course there was posing for pictures:

Me on the left, Mariska in RCAF blue, Jay looking sharp in his RCN uniform and Shauna. Shauna was our Parade 2i/c. I tended to hitch a ride with Jay a lot. Our quarters were a 5 minute drive from the School and I didn't feel comfortable finding my way around the base until this last weekend.

Taronish, Nicole and Pablo all looking sharp too.

I've really enjoyed these weekends, in spite of the stress of giving up my days off for the last two months. I tend to come home pretty happy and energized. I'm going to miss it I think. But I've already signed up for my next course and hopefully I'll keep bumping into these people over the years as we move through our CIC careers.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


New cover art!
Fans of the Too Fat Lardies world wide were thrilled today to read the news that the long awaited 3rd edition of the popular WW2 rules I Ain't Been Shot Mum has been released for pre-order!

Richard Clarke has been teasing us like a bunch of spotty faced teens at a peep show over the past months with previews of the cover and interior art work. It seems that the Too Fat Lardies (Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner) have piled everything they've learned over the last decade of designing and publishing top quality war games into this latest release.

You can read an interview with them outlining the changes in the 3rd edition here.

Here is a teaser shot of the new interior design:
The production quality has certainly hit world class standards, to match their already excellent game design. TFL fan-boys are hoping this will push the Lardies into the top tier with the big boys with the deep pockets and finally get them the attention their games deserve. Plus full colour diagrams and pictures to explain the rules are always a Good Thing!

Since rumours of IABSM3s release this fall have been circulating for a few months I've been carefully husbanding a commission payment so I could jump on the bandwagon and order the full-Lard deal; hard copy book, tokens and set of pre-printed cards.
sample tokens

preprinted cards

It's a bit of an indulgence. I could carry on using hand written cards and slips of paper to mark AFV damage, but this is a game I'll keep playing and I do like good aesthetics in my games, even if I don't always achieve them. I also ordered a copy of Sharpe Practice against the day when I finally get some paint on my Napoleonics!
So the Facebook message this morning from my friend telling me he had jumped on the pre-order for both of us made up for yesterday's festival of suck at work. Product ships on October 25th.

It's a sunny day out I think I'll go prime the German paratroopers I owe him for all this.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Last Argument of Kings: A Review

The Last Argument of Kings
by Pete Brown
Published by Warlord Games 2011
GBP 18.00 (CDN$29.00)

I was quite excited to find this soft cover supplement for Black Powder in my mail box a few weeks back. In between working on my Basic Officer's Training Course I've given it's 112 full colour pages a very thorough fondling and read through.

The pictures of superbly painted armies do not disappoint. I was quite pleased to notice that some of them I have even played with; Stephen Thomson's brilliantly colourful Ottoman Turks.

The book is quite ambitious and tries to give an overview of the entire tricorne era from the War of Spanish Succession to the Seven Years War. The American War of Independence is conspicuous by it's absence, but perhaps they are planning a specific AWI supplement. Certainly the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Year's War could have their own supplement as well. But the book does introduce readers to some lesser known conflicts; the Great Northern War between Russia and Sweden and the on-going Austro-Turkish Wars. The Jacobite Rebellions (or as the authour refers to them, the "Wars of English Succession") get a mini-campaign which could be adapted to other wars as well with a bit of thought.

Each war is used as an opportunity to focus on one army of the era, highlight a particular commander, provide an army list and then a scenario based upon a battle. The War of Spanish Succession is used to highlight the English and the Duke of Marlborough. The scenario is part of the Battle of Blenheim. The Great Northern War showcases both the Russians and the Swedes, but the battle presented is the relatively unknown Battle of Holowczyn with the Swedes trying to force a river crossing. The chapter 'Storm on the Danube' brings in the Austrians and Ottomans with a scenario involving the Austrians under Prince Eugene attempting to raise the Ottoman siege of a frontier fortress. The War of Austrian Succession ironically has no Austrians at all, but is used to showcase the French under Marshal de Saxe and a scenario for the Anglo-French Battle of Fontenoy.

The Seven Years War gets two chapters. One to finally bring in Frederick the Great and his Prussians. They get a classic match up against the Austrians in the little know Battle of Hundorf. The second chapter is 'War in the Colonies' covering the French and Indian Wars in North America and warfare in India. Both the French and English use the same army lists "Colonial European Armies in America (1700-1775)" and "Colonial European Armies in India (1700-1775)". The final chapter is 'Raids and Invasions' throwing light on some of the many amphibious operations undertaken during the SYW. I thought these landings were a matter of Midshipman Hornblower and a few Marines but they got quite large; a few involving 10,000 troops being landed on the French coast to destroy installations and spread alarm.

The strengths of this book are also it's weaknesses. The breadth of scope gives a good overview of the wars of the era and provides a lot of inspiration, plus some excellent starting points for the novice. But this very breadth means the book has to skimover many things with generalities which will frustrate the veteran. One army list to cover the entire era causes a few problems. The English are allowed 10% light infantry which may be appropriate for the SYW, but is it appropriate for the WSS as well? The Prussian list has no freikorps, but I suppose they could use the same template as the Garrison infantry or Militia. The Guards seems overly generous at up to 20%, unless you consider this to include the Grenadier battalions as well. I also wonder about the one-size fits all approach for the Prussian cavalry. They went from atrocious at the Battle of Mollowitz to really superb during the SYW but are covered by one template for each of Cuirassiers, Dragoons and Hussars in the army list. The Austrian list is similar and really restricts the Austrian leadership which, I think, is unfair to Brown and Nadasty. The Austrians managed to give Frederick a few nasty shocks at battles like Hochkirk.

So not a bad book. A must if you're totally rabid about the period and enjoy superb eye candy. The thoughts on adapting the Black Powder rules to the 18th century, plus the interpretation of the various armies and how the authour reflects them in his use of special rules is interesting. But if you're looking for detailed army lists and scenarios then you'll be disappointed. Personally I had been hoping for more of the Austrians and Prussians but then not everyone shares that interest. I am thinking the other scenarios will be quite adaptable to games between my own Austrian and Prussian armies.


While I was at CFB Borden this past weekend I was missing out on a rare opportunity to see my gaming friends at Council Fires. According to scouting reports it was a good show with over 100 people, 25 games and several vendors. From the photo evidence it appears a Good Time was had by all:

The Joy of SMESC

My BOTC is progressing well. I only got snarled at by the Sergeant-major once and quite frankly that was enough. We were all amazed this past weekend that we were into a routine, knew how to keep our sticks in a pile and actually had time to enjoy our breakfasts.

I've also managed to get a couple of good cups of tea too.

The recent lessons have been on writing and delivering orders. Warning orders and Operations orders mostly and writing them in the NATO standard SMESC format. SMESC is a handy matrix for the confused OCdt to basically fill in the blanks, if all the blanks are full then he hasn't missed anything (hopefully). SMESC stands for:
  • Situation
  • Mission
  • Execution
  • Service Support
  • Command and Signals
The bulk is the Execution part obviously and gets broken down into fun little subsections like 'Groupings and Timings' and 'Phases'.

So we have all been assigned small party tasks and have to write the Ops O, deliver the O Group and then direct our syndicate of 5 other OCdts in the execution of our grandiose plan. Mine is setting up a tabloid sports event for 30 cadets using a box of random stuff. It isn't quite the invasion of Normandy, but I'll work up to that.

The others in my course are quite an interesting bunch. I was expecting more teachers and youngsters that were only cadets themselves a few years ago. There are a handful of parents with no prior military or cadet experience who wanted to get more involved, a mill wright who has built components for Mars probes, another fellow who just spent a year at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US, a financial advisor with expensive hobbies (polo, yachting, vintage cars), and a woman who served 5 years in the US Navy as a Corpsman with the Marines. The ages range from students to almost ready to retire. There are a few annoying personality quirks but nothing I can't work with and some of them are top notch people. Even the ones I initially thought "Who the hell is this clown?" all demonstrate unique strengths and abilities.

Initially I thought I wanted to compete for a parade appointment for the Graduation Parade, but on reflection I'm glad I didn't get selected. Too much pressure and the ones they did choose are both brilliant young people. I'm really glad I wasn't chosen to be the PMC for the Mess Dinner on our last weekend. THAT would have been a lot of pressure. Mess Dinners are a mine field of social faux pas that make High School look like a Care Bears convention.