Prisoner Escort

We still haven’t had an opportunity for a game, but at least I’m back to painting. However, I did find a report of a game of Flashing Steel we played a couple of months ago which I haven’t published yet, so here is the exciting story of the Prisoner Escort!

The game started with the British, played by me, wanting to escort a prisoner to the waiting boat. The pirates, played by K., assembled to spring their mate.

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Set up.

K. decided to stage a massed attack from one side, while I wanted to keep my guys together. However, I made the first of a series of bad decisions: I attached to prisoner to my weakest character, the weedy Cpt. Percy Pilbeam.

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The boat is waiting for the prisoner.
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British Marines advance.
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Pirates surge forward.

Due to bad luck and my trademark indecisiveness, I gave K. time to position her crew to both sides of the harbour entrance. When I finally made up a plan and acted, my guys were positioned all wrong: My strongest character, Special Agent Emma Peel, was on the far right flank, while I decided to jump over the left wall with the guy escorting the prisoner. The rest of my men broke through the centre and tried to pin the pirates by moving into close combat.

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Break through.

Fortunately, Emma has some special skills and managed to sprint over to where the action happened. Soon, a series of melees was developing, with the prisoner precariously close to the table edge – K.’s objective was to get him out.

While my leader Admiral Horace Parsloe-Parsloe dawdled and entered the fray rather late, Emma did the job of several men and kept the pirates busy.

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Emma in Action.

Alas, it was not enough, and in the end K. managed to grab the prisoner and lead him over the table edge.

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Victory for the dastardly pirates!

Another fun game, but I made even more mistakes than usual. It’s no news that I tend to change my plans mid-way, leaving me with forces positioned all wrong, but this was an exceptionally substandard performance. Still, Emma’s heroic actions almost managed to change the course of the game, which stayed exciting until the end.

Wargames Magazines

Henry Hyde just announced that he would step down from the editorship of Miniatures Wargames. I’ve been a subscriber to this magazine when I was a kid, reading it under the school bench and dreaming of playing games like those depicted. This was around 1989, there was no internet and in Austria, this was about the only way of connecting to the world of wargaming. I’m not even sure how I came to know about the magazine, but it certainly caught my imagination.

Miniature wargames magazine, issue no 7 doug mason, chasseurs de la garde, phil robinson

When I restarted wargaming a couple of years ago, I resubscribed to MW. I also discovered Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy and subscribed to that, too. However, I soon learned that many wargamers think magazines superfluous and are not prepared to shell out the subscription cost – after all, there are a zillion blogs and forums out there and all the information, they argue, can be found for free on the Web. And there I was, even changing my subscription to WS&S from digital only to paper and feeling like an old sod.

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So what is it I like about magazines?

First of all, let me state that my favourite magazine has become WS&S. I still like MW, but it can’t hide that fact that it’s not as well funded as WS&S. Henry did a marvellous job, but there is only so much one man can do in contrast to a team – especially if the team is working on a bimonthly publication and doesn’t have to churn out one issue per month!

And what about Wargames Illustrated? Well… I have to say that I don’t especially like it. It’s full of pretty pictures, but often, articles are disappointing (although there were some notable exceptions). But first and foremost, I don’t like the way they represent the hobby: It’s a very limited perspective, acting as if 28mm is the only scale available. Most of the images are staged dioramas, not snapshots of games – if I wanted a modelling magazine, I’d read one.

And this gets me to the point: I’m not very interested in pretty images, especially if they serve no purpose (like showcasing a game that is actually played). What I want instead are good articles. Pretty pictures can be found on the Web, but for substantial articles, forums or even blogs are not the appropriate medium. Historical background stories, but especially scenarios and ideas for gaming are what I enjoy. A case in point is the last issue of WS&S on monsters, which not only featured nice and useful scenarios, but some very inspiring ideas for rules mechanism. Background stories on the industry are also interesting, as are in-depth reviews that point me towards things I wouldn’t have discovered on my own.

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All this boils down to own thing: good editorship. The Web is full of stuff, and we all know how you can lose yourself browsing around and feeling like you have achieved nothing apart from wasting a couple of hours. There is something to be said for the skills of a good editor who knows how to put together a selection of interesting stuff. In the best cases, he manages to mix things I know I’m interested in with stuff I didn’t care for, but, as soon as I read into the article, might get hooked (or at least broaden my horizon). And there is, in my opinion, even more to be said for reading such a magazine in the paper version, lounging on the couch with a nice cup of tea.

I for one hope that despite the online competition magazines still have a great future!

On the Painting Table

My gaming activities are stalling at the moment due to unforseen real life mishaps. Painting has also been halted, but I’m pretty confident I’ll wield a brush again soon. At the moment, there is quite an eclectic mix of stuff on the painting table:

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On the first rack, the two figures on the rightmost side are two 15mm scarecrows from Peter Pig. I discovered them by chance in their ECW range and immediately ordered a pack – they will serve well for my American fields. In the pack, there were also farmers which, although nominaly intended for ECW, will also work for ACW (there is one on the second rack). The 15mm figures you can see in the front row are irregulars from 15mm.co.uk to complement my Confederate Guerillas. The mules in the back row carry a limbered mountain howitzer – a simple conversion I’ve made from a Freikorps15 gun and spare pack mules.

The boat in the background is the Peter Pig USS Tyler in 1/600 with masts added for my VIVAT participation game.

The fellow with the oversized club on the right side of the second rack is a Reaper Neanderthal who will serve as a giant for my 10mm fantasy army. The animals are figures from the boardgame Mice and Mystics. The German version was re-released recently and I grabbed a copy because my nieces are getting old enough to start ‘proper’ board gaming and this might be something they enjoy. Also, I just have a thing for anthropomorphic animals.

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Incidentally, last week a nice chap on the Lead Adventure Forum sold off a bunch of animals from the Oathsworn Miniature Burrows & Badgers Kickstarter. When it was running, I’d been sorely tempted to back the Kickstarter, but reason prevailed at the time. However, I just couldn’t pass up this offer! For a change, I was fast enough to reply and two days later, 20 of those fantastic sculpts landed in my mail box.

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I’m really looking forward to painting them, but apart from that, I have to admit I’m not too sure what to do with them. My main idea is, as with Mice and Mystics, to try to entice my nieces to try out tabletop gaming – perhaps I’ll use Ganesha Games’ Song of the Splintered Lands or some other simple skirmish system.

Union Songs of the Civil War

Music played an important role during the American Civil War. On the battlefield, musical signals controlled the movements and actions of large groups of men. Sometimes, marching bands played during battle to enhance morale. On the march, men sung to keep there spirits high. Songs could also serve as means of communication and propaganda.

Probably the most famous Union song was ‘John Brown’s Body’. Time and again, we read of soldiers singing it on the march. Sherman mentions that when his troops moved out of Atlanta on their journey to the sea, they spontaneously intoned the tune:

“Some band, by accident, struck up the anthem of ‘John Brown’s Body,’ the men caught up the strain, and never before or since have I heard the chorus of ‘Glory, glory, hallelujah!’ done with more spirit, or in better harmony of time and place.”

The song tells the story of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry and thereby places the Union soldier’s struggle firmly in the tradition of the radical abolitionist. The tune later got a new text and became the nowadays much more famous ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’.

A more humorous tune is ‘I Goes To Fight Mit Sigel’. It gently pokes fun at German immigrant’s zeal to enlist in the Union army under General Franz Sigel, a refugee from the German revolution of 1848 who built up a mixed career during the Civil War. The text is written in a mock German accent, but it does show respect for the fighting spirit of the volunteers.

In a similar vein, ‘Kingdom Come’ is written in a mock African-American accent. It is told from the perspective of slaves taking over a plantation after their master has fled from approaching Union gunboats. It was not written by a slave (neither was the Sigel song written by a German immigrant), so it can be said to be part of the minstrel tradition and blamed of reinforcing stereotypes. However, it gives voice to an experience that certainly had been made by many African-Americans and it does ascribe some agency to the slaves.

The last song I want to present is the blatantly triumphant ‘The Fall of Charleston’. Written in 1865, it celebrates the evacuation of Charleston by the Confederate troops. But the song does much more: Confident that the war will soon be over, it pours scorn over the last remains of Confederate resistance: “How are you, Southern chivalry? Your race is nearly run!”

If you want more, have a look at the two-CD-set Divided & United, a great collection of Civil War songs (Union as well as Confederate).

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Essex marching band

If listening is not enough and you want to have musicians on the gaming table, there are as far as I know only two options. In 28mm, Dixon Miniatures offers a 20-men marching band in standing as well as marching poses (those might be closer to 25mm though). In 15mm, Essex produce a fife and drum band as well as a brass marching band.