‘Time passes. Listen. Time passes.’

By Rob Morgan

Well, if you’re interested that’s a quote from Dylan Thomas, but like, I suspect, a substantial number, if not all, other members of the SWA, I now find myself rather limited in my opportunities to conduct leisure and work activities beyond these four walls. It’s a similar, sad tale for my colleagues in mainland Europe and across the globe, not quite ‘house arrest’ but not far from it, and so, time enough to make me think of work half-planned or unfinished, of reviews and articles intended but never actually written.

The next few months are an opportunity for us all to throw something into the pot. If not an article, then a review of a favourite book, a mention of something relevant read or encountered, a photo or two, or even a simple comment.

Others have done this, and successfully. For example, the old Journal published by the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers, ran a series called ‘Meet the Members’ in which individuals described their interests, their model collections, their reading, that sort of thing. Hobilar, the Mediaeval Warfare bunch, runs an occasional ‘What I’m Doing Now’ slot, which always comes up with odd, interesting and unexpected items. Several other UK societies I’m involved with have features like this. So why not the blog?

I recall suggesting years ago, that we have a ‘Wargames Model of the Month’ piece. It’s often the case that a model, in whatever scale, provides one or other of us with the opportunity to be creative, or becomes available just for a short time, or seems great value and not to be missed.

OK, I’ll start off. This week I’m reading Xenophon’s Anabasis, the Classical retreat of 10,000 Greek mercenaries through Asia Minor, arguably the greatest military title in the Ancient World, and that includes the genius Thucydides and that Julius Caesar bloke. I’m ashamed to say that until now academic work has kept me away from Anthony Beevor’s Berlin,’ but at first sight and dipping into it, I have the feeling it isn’t quite going to be the favourite that Cornelius Ryan’s older title on that battle proved to be.

In practical terms, I’ve got one, nowadays presumably rare, Old Crow resin hydrofoil model which has long been waiting for conversion into a sort of James Bond movie ‘stealth ship.’ Also gathering dust is a bizarre Steam-Punk model ship from the ‘Dystopian Wars’ series, or at least it will be ‘Steam-Punk’ when I’ve added the bits I want to!

So, that’s me , but, what are you doing?

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Just the one copy?

By Rob Morgan

Back in the 1970s, the local model shop sold everything around in the field of wargaming. From time to time, a ‘new’ magazine appeared on the shelves, then vanished in a short space of time. By the end of the decade, with the unexpected disappearance of Battle!, nothing suitable appeared to replace it until Stuart Asquith’s Practical Wargamer in 1987.

This magazine, Soldier On!, for April 1978, and the third issue, is my only copy. I bought it, I suspect, in the hope that it would contain something in wargames terms. In a way it did. Plenty of adverts for figures, Heroics & Ros, Minifigs. Reviews too, of a few new releases, including a range of 20mm Medieval and of English Civil War by John Niblett of  Kent, which I don’t remember at all. The photographs suggest a high quality. Anyone remember them?

It was edited by a name unfamiliar to me then and now, Robert Wilkinson-Latham. Sadly, the articles, though one or two ‘names’ appeared, were a mixed bag. One on the Spanish Civil War, another on French Indo-China, and a better one on the infantry of pre-Bonaparte France. A few colour drawings and, would you believe it, a note on Action Man figures. I didn’t buy another issue of the magazine, and don’t know how long it lingered on the shelves in this format. It bears some similarity to Army & Navy Modelworld, which surfaced in, I think, 1983.

Anyone know more?

Posted in Wargaming | 2 Comments

Kill Team report

By David Newport

I got the Kill Team set from Games Workshop at the start of 2019. I heard it was pretty good, with very tactical play and the differentiation of each individual miniature. It took me the year to finally get the figures painted up, the Mechanicus Skitarii and the Genestealer Cultists from the base game. Kill Team comes with some nifty ruined Gothic structures, but those haven’t managed to get painted yet. However, I did have a bunch of stuff from Novus Design Studios in the right scale and used that to fill the table. Combat Burgers always has to have an objective in it!

I can state that Kill Team does give a good game. If you’ve played GW skirmish games before, you will recognize that they use the same mechanics as the main games, but figures that get hit roll to see if they get a flesh wound or are outright taken down by the hit. Kill Team also has a nifty mechanic where you get points every turn to use special abilities. These give extra shots or better shots or better moves or passing a check, and they really add to the game. I’m not a 40K fan, but the squad-a-side Kill Team turned out to be a really fun game with a lot of decision points in it. In the game shown here, the Skitarii were using their fire power advantage to push the Cultists around, but when it came down to the final assault on Combat Burgers they couldn’t make the win, largely due to adroit use of skills by the Cultists. The game was a draw, but there will be many more!

Posted in Battle reports, Periods - Fantasy | Leave a comment

Lone Warrior No. 210 preview

The latest issue of Lone Warrior is in the final stages of production and will be e-mailed to subscribers in the coming days, according to Editor Rich Barbuto.

Here’s a preview of the contents:

  • “An Affair of Honor” by Marvin Scott. Using “Chainmail” rules from the 1970s to stage a joust.
  • “Escape From Colditz” by Paul Le Long. Some variations on an old board game to make it suitable for repeated solo play.
  • “Shields Up” by Kevin White. Fast-play rules for space combat among starships.
  • “Command and out of Control” by George Arnold. Different ways of limiting your general’s options during solo play.
  • “Campaigns: Do I really need a map?” by Kevin White. Ideas for campaigning with or without a map to guide you.
  • “Traveller: Solo Role-Playing in the Far-Future Imperium” by Preston Shah. Some new solo ideas for the old GDW role-playing game.
  • “American Civil War: A Solo Wargamer’s Perspective on Tactics” by Graham Empson. Summarizing 50 years of gaming research on the tactics of the ACW.
  • “Even More Mayhem” by Kevin White. More refinements to the author’s set of rules for medieval combat using playing cards.
  • “Writing for Lone Warrior” by Mike Crane. A regular contributor writes about his experiences with this journal.

With some concluding thoughts from the Editor and the usual assortment of color photos, maps and charts. On the way soon!

Posted in Latest issue of LW | 1 Comment

New month, new sample article

This month’s sample article from past issues of Lone Warrior is a look at the board game “Reign of Cthulu” by Jonathan Aird.

In the article, he describes how he tweaked the game to make solo play even harder. It’s not for the faint of heart!

It’s on the Sample Articles page.

Posted in Board games, Periods - Fantasy | Leave a comment

Western Approaches Tactical Unit, 1942: ‘The Game’

By Rob Morgan

January’s edition of the British journal The Literary Review contains an interesting review of a new book by Simon Parkin, “A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Secret Game That Won the War” (Sceptre, 309pp at £20). The “birds” are, of course, Wrens, women officers of the Royal Navy, and the “wolves” Donitz’ U-Boat packs. I’ve never, I regret to say, visited the Western Approaches Tactical Unit museum in Liverpool, but it is without doubt one of the crucial sites recording victory at sea in World War II. The Battle of the Atlantic remains the longest campaign of the war. It began on 4 September 1939, with the sinking of the liner Athenia  by U-30, and ended on the 8 May 1945 with the last U-Boats surfacing and surrendering.

The article is a brief review note, but valuable. After all, along with Fletcher Pratt, this unit surely must be considered an important part of the base for 20th century naval wargames development. The reviewer, Neil Armstrong, outlines the creation of WATU, under Gilbert Roberts, leading a team of clearly very talented Wrens. He, and they, developed the strategies to defeat the “wolfpacks” by gaming recent convoy actions on a huge linoleum floor; at this time, the beginning of 1942, the Battle of the Atlantic was at its hardest phase.

Replaying convoy actions, with scale models, and gaming potential attack scenarios led the team to be able to deduce Nazi strategy and develop counter-attacking skills. It worked, and Winston took it on. “The Game” (splendid title, eh?)  became a compulsory six-day course for all officers in Western Approaches Command. By the end of 1942, the results were showing clearly. Two hundred officers a month, says Parkin, were taking the course. “The Game” achieved recognised, almost fabled, status among the naval high command when Admiral Max Horton, a World War I submarine ace, played,  and as a U-Boat commander was sunk repeatedly by a 19-year-old Wren Third Officer. She clearly  understood convoy tactics far better!

WATU proved a number of things, that gaming = practice = success (we all knew that),  and it also provided an incredible opportunity for women to wargame; the officers attending the course were pitted against the experienced and quick thinking Wrens. In his review, Armstrong describes the book as a “pacey read” and indeed the Atlantic was a “pacey” battle. Roberts’ name is largely forgotten now, and WATU appears only on a single page of Costello and Hughes seminal work “The Battle of the Atlantic” (page 233), but one of the RN Officers attending the course in Liverpool wrote one of the best known books about the convoy battles. Nicholas Monsarrat’s “The Cruel Sea” contains a two-page (brief, eh?) account of the commander of HMS Compass Rose, attending the course and learning from the WRNS officer supporting him (pp 238-9), but is little featured elsewhere, though I may have missed something.

In May 1943, the German catastrophe arrived, 40+ U-Boats were lost, 25% of Donitz’s strength. Donitz withdrew from the Atlantic.

The Wrens had won.

An excellent book, an interesting review, and frankly a subject and a wargaming organisation which should certainly appear more frequently in wargame journals.

It also cements the role of women in wargame development. The immensity of their role is simply indicated by the fact that by the beginning of 1945, there were 37 Escort Groups, some 426 frigates, corvettes and destroyers, operating in the western Approaches, all their commanders had been trained at WATU.


Posted in Naval gaming, Periods - World War II | Leave a comment

Ancient naval rules added

Another set of rules from past issues of Lone Warrior has been added, this one titled “Classis,” a set of rules for ancient naval encounters, played on a hex-based game board.

It’s on the Complete Rule Sets page.

Posted in Naval gaming, Periods - Ancient | Leave a comment

‘Mad Mike’ Hoare, mercenary

By Rob Morgan

I honestly thought he’d died years ago, so the appearance of his obituary in The Times the other day surprised me. He was over a hundred years old, which seems a remarkable age to reach for someone who courted death for decades. The ‘Thunderer’ described him as ‘perhaps the best known mercenary since Xenephon’ which definitely strikes a chord, though he may well have shared the honours with the other Englishman, in Medieval times, Sir John Hawkwood.

Hoare’s ‘Wild Geese,’ named entrancingly “5 Commando,” saw a great deal of action in the Congo following the debacle of Belgian withdrawal. He was employed by the Katangan leader Moise Tshombe, and led raids and fast actions to rescue Europeans held hostage by Simba rebels. Active in the Congo for several years, Hoare defeated the rebels repeatedly, and at one time his opponent , based over the border in Burundi, was Che Guevara.

The obit intriguingly refers to his memoir of the war ‘Congo Mercenary’ as not wholly reliable, which is certainly true. Some of the exploits he claimed were actually undertaken by either UN or Belgian forces. Nevertheless, the mercenary campaigns in Katanga and along the shores of Lake Albert would easily transfer to the wargames table. I think Platoon 20 once produced a small range of ‘mercenary’ figures. His own activities, real and fictitious were the basis of the 1978 film ‘The Wild Geese’ with Richard Burton playing the ‘Mad Mike’ figure.

Hoare’s dislike of Soviet influence led him to undertake a disastrous attempt at overthrowing the government of the Seychelles with a group of 50 mercenaries. It was a serious mistake, which led Hoare’s troop to hijack an Air India jet, and flee to South Africa.  He was tried, appropriately enough as a mercenary, for piracy. Sentenced to 10 years in prison, he was released after three, and undertook (as  far as I’m aware) no further military activity.

I actually bought his book ‘Seychelles Affair’ which dealt with his last raid, as I thought it might have some potential as a wargame. Sadly, Hoare was up against a competent force of well-armed gendarmes and soldiers, with armour, and after putting the book down, I felt the attack was doomed from the outset. So, I think, did he. Perhaps he just wanted to die in arms.

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Sample article on San Juan Hill added

This month’s sample article from previous issues of Lone Warrior is by LW Editor Rich Barbuto and includes rules, OOBs and a terrain map for recreating the Battle of San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War.

It’s on the Sample Articles page.

Posted in Periods - Nineteenth century | Leave a comment

Team Yankee test

By David Newport

A buddy and I decided to play some Team Yankee, the WWIII miniatures game from Flames of War. Tim had just got the v2 rules, which have minor changes, and we wanted to see if it made much of a difference. We hadn’t had a chance to play in about eight months, given work schedules, so I was a bit rusty at the game. I decided on running a couple of small scenarios from the TY Quick Missions set as a solo exercise to get back up to speed. These are smaller scenarios for smaller forces that give a quick game to try something out or just have a good time. I decided on 50 points, which for my Soviets gives me 7 T-64 tanks and a Motor Rifle Company in 9 BMP-2s. I also own US forces, and 50 points has 5 M-1 Abrams tanks, a mechanized platoon in M-113s and 2 ITOW tracks. Tim uses M-60 tanks rather than M-1s, as he likes having more guns although his tracks are extremely fragile in the face of massed 122mm cannon fire and Spandrel missiles from the Soviets.

In the game shown below, I rolled up a night mission with a quick “seize one objective” victory.  Supposedly, the superior night vision gear on the US tanks would give them the edge to counter the Soviet charge. In actual play, the dice decided that the US could barely see anything, and when they could see the T-64s the heavy frontal armor of the Soviet tanks caused the shots to bounce. On the Soviet side, the tanks kept getting bogged down in the woods and as a result couldn’t return fire well. The Motor Rifle Company got the win, with the BMPs managing to get in close and salvo Spandrel missiles while the dismounts charged the McPizza King restaurant where the objective was, and in the meantime they volleyed RPGs and fired AKs left and right and punched through the middle. Good exercise on speed, mass, and the different matchups in the units.


Posted in Periods - Modern | Leave a comment