Friday, April 18, 2014

Last Three Days For The Caption Contest and Some Silly Film Recommendations

Good morning my lords and ladies:

Sadly, I have no pictures of my own of toy soldiers to show you, so I hope this image from yesterday's MOD UK news suffices.  The caption reads “courtesy of HQ London District who are gearing up for the Queen's Birthday Parade which will be held on Saturday, 14 June 2014, on Horse Guards Parade.”  I would be there but I’ve already promised Ms. Padre that we will be in Stratford (ON) watching a play on that day, it being our anniversary and all.

It has been very quiet here of late, I admit, and I hope you will pardon me on account of the Great Grad School Crunch.   In the last ten days I’ve churned out 8,000 words of highfalutin’ academic nonsense, which weighs in at two twenty page essays in double spaced 12 point type.   I’ve talked learnedly about interwar pacifism as a social movement within the United Church of Canada and about why Darren Aronofsky’s big budget film Noah is an example of a post-secular cultural product.  Yes, I know, riveting stuff.  I have until Easter Monday to complete and turn in my last paper of the term, on the history and significance of changes to Canadian Forces Chaplain cap badges as markers of religious and cultural identity.  Actually, that will be the fun one.  The pacifism paper was fun.  The Noah paper was a sheer bloody grind.

Mind you, I quite recommend the Noah film, because I’m not really sure what to make of it and I’d welcome your thoughts.  It seems designed to have something for believers and non-believers, and it is certainly an odd sort of biblical epic - more of an apocalyptic environmental fable, really, and I’m not sure it did the Icelandic Tourist Board any favours.   I must admit to being quite fond of The Watchers, a race of fallen angels who look like a cross between The Thing from the Fantastic Four, Peter Jackson’s Ents, and Michael Bey’s Transformers.  If you’re wondering how the ark got made, these guys provided the labour and the heavy lifting, apparently.


Speaking of films, I also recommend the Wes Anderson film, Grand Budapest Hotel.  Fans of the Interwar Period and Pulp and the 1930s in general may find it fun simply for the period atmosphere and for the slice of Central Europe (Zubrowka) that Anderson mostly invents.  Did you know that the paper read across the Zubrowkan Sudetenwaltz is The Trans-Alpine Yodel).   It’s also very funny with a terrific cast.

Finally, please note that if you haven’t entered the Mad Padre Wargames 100,000 page view competition, you have a few more days to do so.  All the instructions are here.  Stanley the Cat tells me he is quite impressed with the many captions submitted thus far.   Here you can see him pondering how he will cast his ballot while assisting me with my James Bond villain impression (“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”).  He’s a thoughtful and talented chap, is young Stanley.  Now, my dear friend Edwin King has suggested that these blog competitions are  merely cynical attempts to drive up stats, and that may be true, even if it is a shockingly bleak view of the world.   

 Truth be told, I don’t put a lot of faith in stats, as I don’t really understand them, though they are interesting to follow.   I  noticed, for example, that my last post on an obscure German board game called Friedrich generated over 600 page views, when a typical post here is lucky to get 150.    I am sure it is all in the title and what people choose to click on during Google searches.   I leave that sort of thing to Stanley to figure out.   Anyway, you have until the end of Sunday to get your entries in, and on Monday, essay permitting, I’ll figure it all out with my fellow judges.

Speaking of Sunday, if Easter is something you observe, may I wish you a happy and blessed journey from the sorrow of the cross to the glory of the empty tomb, the great joy and mystery of our faith.  If that’s not your thing, may I wish you much chocolate.   Of course, if Easter is your thing, and you like chocolate too, well Hurrah!



Monday, April 7, 2014

Playing Friedrich - the Boardgame


Saturday night last I managed to talk James (Rabbitman) Manto and our friend Mike (Weirdy Beardy) into leaving the minis along and trying my new boardgame Friedrich.  

Friedrich is a German/English game by Richard Sivél, who lives in Berlin, German and designs games when he’s not busy being a geological engineer.  Friedrich was first published in 2006.  My copy is a third edition issued last year to commemorate Frederick’s 300th birthday.  He also has a game out called Maria, about the War of the Austrian Succession.

Friedrich can be described as a point-to-point movement game and as card management game, for 3-4 players.  It is set in the summer of 1756.  The Prussian player has the advantages of interior lines, a large army, a second small army (Hannover) and the largest hand of cards, and has to use those advantages to fend off Austria, Russia, France, the Empire and Sweden.  These opponents are played by 2-3 others.  The “allies” are forbidden from attacking one another, and all have their individual victory conditions (the Prussian player mostly has to survive).  The allies have smaller numbers of cards.  While the Prussian player is always in supply while defending the homeland, the allies are dependent on their supply trains, and have to protect them, or else armies tend to disappear.

Players who want a sophisticated war-game won’t get it here.  There are two types of units, Generals (the round counters above) and Supply Trains (the smaller square counters above).  Generals are named after historic personages but don’t have any special ratings, so Frederick behaves the same as Subise or Fermor or any other general on the board.  Generals can lead up to 8 strength points, and fight when they come into contact with an enemy general on an adjacent area.   Combat is basically a card game, with players adding to their combat scores and detracting from their opponent’s scores by taking turns playing cards.  If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice that the map above it is divided into squares, each showing one of the four card suits.  When a player is in combat, they can only play cards of the suit of the square where their general is.  If you run out of cards of that suit during the battle, you are in trouble (hence the card management aspect).

In our first game we found that while Prussia’s situation appears pretty dire, it actually has a very strong position.  James and I went in hard after Mike and ended up with bloody noses in the first turn.  Lacking a fourth player, the first controls Prussia/Hannover, the second France/Austria/Empire, and the third Russia/Sweden.  It would have been more fun with a fourth player.  We didn’t have time for more, but I think a good time was had by all.   Recommended for fans of the SYW (the board alone would be an excellent player aid for a miniatures campaign) and for those who like a stiff gaming challenge.

Still lots of time to play the Mad Padre Wargames caption competition.

Blessings to your die rolls (and card draws).






Friday, April 4, 2014

Russians And Their Real Estate

First, if you haven’t heard about the contest in my last post, check it out here.

Before embarking on term papers this week, I managed to finish my first sprue of Plastic Soldier Company 15mm Soviets in Summer Uniform, a platoon’s worth.

I used a rapid painting technique that I learned of on The Guild.   I used my airbrush to spry the lot in Vallejo  RAL 7028 German Dark Yellow Surface Primer, then painted the pants in Vallejo Russian Uniform, the helmets in VJ Russian Green, and when the other bits were done, gave the lot a quick brush with Army Painter Soft Tone.

The bases are from 4Ground, the same size as Battlefront medium bases, so they’ll fit in with my BF figures.  Seeing as the bases were a lovely green, I didn’t want to texture and cover the whole lot, I just gave them a bit of flocking.  I quite like the prone LMG team with the No. 2 man ready to swap out the magazine.  When the whole box is assembled, I’ll have at least one SMG platoon with the rifle platoons.

Command stand., with an intrepid female nurse.  There is a nurse with each of the five sprues in the box, so I’m not sure my company will need five female nurses - that’s a lot of intrepid nurses.  I don’t think I positioned the officer’s arm properly.


And of course they need a part of the rodina to defend.  Three 4Ground buildings - their 15S-EAW-111 Pre-Painted Eastern European Log Timber Houses with Lean-tos.  

These went together quite well, once I got a few things figured out, and didn’t require any cutting.  The parts came off the sprues with a gentle touch, and fit together easily with just a little white glue.  I haven’t assembled any 4Ground kits before, and would quite happily invest in more of their products.

The roofs lift off quite easily and the buildings can hold several stands of infantry.

So now the Russians have something to fight for.  I only have four more sprues of these little blighters to put together, and then a punch up with James Manto’s early war Germans will be just what the doctor ordered.


These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 10

28mm Foot: 22

28mm Artillery: 1

15mm Vehicles: 4

15mm Foot: 26

15mm Buildings: 3

6mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run:  344

Blessings to your brushes!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's A Contest! Celebrating 100K Page Views For Mad Padre Wargames

As I announced yesterday, this blog has now had more than 100,000 page views, many of them not by me!   I love the generosity of the wargaming blogosphere, and so I’ve decided to celebrate that spirit and your interest in my blog with a competition.

It’s a caption competition and here’s how it works.    Below are three images.  Each image needs either a caption or some brief imagined dialogue, which you supply.

Every caption or dialogue you supply is worth one entry for the prizes.  You can make one attempt per image, so if you provide a caption or dialogue for all three images, that’s three entries.  Submit your entries in the form of comments to this post, making it clear which of the three images your caption or dialogue pertains to.

You get a bonus entry for being a follower of this blog.

You get a bonus entry for putting a link to this contest on your blog, and for sending me the URL to your page with the link.

So, if you try to do something funny for each of the three images, plus you’re a follower, and you send me the URL for your link to this competition, that gives you FIVE entries.


Here are the three images.

1) This image was originally a cartoon by the late R.A. Lowry, who was a renowned rock journalist and cartoonist.  Some of you may remember the British magazine Punch, which, like Mr. Lowry, is sadly no more.   Lowry’s cartoons often appeared in Punch, and his cartoons sometimes had a military history angle.   I’ve removed the original caption from this cartoon.  

For one entry, supply your own caption. 



2) This shot recently appeared here, showing a plucky French resistance lass confronting a visibly annoyed German aviatrix.  For one entry, supply your caption OR dialogue.


3) I painted these figures last year and submitted them to the Analogue Hobbies 2013 Challenge.  For one entry, supply your own caption or dialogue.


Prizes and Prize Selection:

There are three prizes.    

The first prize is a $40.00 (Canadian) gift certificate redeemable at the online store for J&M Miniatures.   The proprietor, my friend James Manto, has kindly agreed to throw in free shipping.  J&M has a great selection of products, and I would be very happy for his business to get a little bit of a push.

Second prize is this 28mm  jolly decent chap from Bob Murch’s Pulp Figures.  The winner can have him unpainted, or I’ll paint him to the winner’s specifications.



Third prize is this GW Lord of the Rings figure, Beregond, from my spares box.   The winner can have him unpainted, or I’ll paint him to the winner’s specifications.


The contest closes at 23:59hrs EST on Easter Sunday, April 20th.   On Easter Monday I’ll total the number of entries per participant, and do a draw for these three fine prizes.   As always, Stanley the Cat will act as scrutineer

But wait, that’s not all!   I am going to turn on comments moderation as of now and will not post any submitted captions or dialogue until Easter Monday, when I’ll put the lot up.  Ms. Padre, Stanley and I will pick what in our expert and sage opinions is the funniest and cleverest caption or dialogue, and award the author a fabulous mystery prize!  Please note that if any of you lot send cans of tuna or catnip mice to Stanley, I go through the post before he does and I will intercept your bribes!

OK, clear as mud?  If you have any questions, leave them in the form of a comment and I’ll answer them.  Otherwise, the three of us are looking forward to what you come up with.




Monday, March 31, 2014

More 6mm Napoleonic Buildings ... and a Milestone!

A few posts back I showed off two 6mm resin building models from Baccus that I have recently painted.   While I was at Hot Lead two weekends ago, sadly just for a few hours as I was quite tired from travel, my chum James Manto managed to point me to a vendor who was trying to get rid of some old stock, including a ziplock bag of 6mm lead buildings, which I got for a bit of a steal.


Lord knows who the manufacturer is or how old they are - any ideas?.  The sepia colour in the photo is curious - some of it is due to photo-editing but it is there in the metal, which to me suggests age.   The bag included a satisfying amount of buts and pieces … chimneys, dormers, and the like.   Even though I want some of the TImeCast stuff (curse you, Kinch!) now I have the makings of a decent central European village - Altemetallburg, maybe?

I’m open to colour suggestions for painting the walls and roofs.

In other news, while I was at the gym this morning the page view count tipped over 100,000.   There is a contest coming, with prizes for cleverness, details to follow in the next post.

Blessings to your brushes and die rolls.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Paint Table Saturday



This week I managed to finish the first sprue of Plastic Soldier Company 15mm Soviet infantry, just waiting for the flocking to finish drying before I spray them with Dullcote.   That means I am free to start working on those 28mm Turkish Spahi of the Porte Command.

Blessings to your paint brushes!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Rethinking the Soviet Union's Great Patriotic War

One of the pleasures of having access to a university library is the new book shelf.   God knows I have enough to read, but I can’t resist checking out the new books from time to time.  Often I learn about books I would never otherwise have heard of.

Boris Sokolov is a Russian author based in Moscow.  He held an academic post at the Russian State Social University until 2008, when he claims he was dismissed for writing an article critical of Russia’s war with Georgia that year.  Other than that, I don’t know anything about him or his qualifications, but he seems to have written a lot.

The Role of the Soviet Union in the Second World War, translated and edited by Stuart Britton (Helion and Company, 2013, ISBN 978-1-908916-55-6), is a set of essays that are sometimes dense and packed with statistics, but which make several points that I didn’t know about.   Wargamers with an interest in the Eastern Front in World War Two might be interested in the four things I learned from this book.

1) Hitler beat Stalin to the punch.  Sokolov is one of several Russian scholars who believe Stalin was planning  a pre-emptive strike against Germany.   As early as May 15 1941 Red Army planners were preparing to “forestall the enemy in deploying and attack the Germany Army when it is in a state of deployment but has not yet been able to organize the front” (21).   At this time Stalin was worried about a possible British collapse, freeing all German forces for an offensive, so in the second half of May called up 800,000 reservists, transferred large formations to the Western Districts, and was even forming a Polish division for operations in German-occupied Poland.  The idea was that by June the Red Army could mass forces between 20-80 kilometres from the border, deploying aviation to forward airfields, in preparation for an attack most likely on Sunday, 6 July.   These plans ignored the fact that the Soviet military was not ready for war.  There was not enough fuel for air and ground operations, and tank and air crews had only a fraction of the training time they needed.   There is a fascinating “what-if” scenario here, if the Soviets would have landed the first punch and not been forestalled by Barbarossa in June.  I rather doubt it would have gone well for them, and might even have been a worse result than what actually happened.

2) Kursk was far more costly than the Soviets admitted.  While still a victory for them, the Soviets exaggerated German casualties “several times over” while concealing their own “disastrous” losses.  The numbers in this chapter are quite confusing, but I gather from Sokolov’s argument that the Red Army lost 1,677,000 killed, wounded and captured in the whole battle, whereas Wehrmacht casualties were most likely 360,000, a ration of 4 to 1.  Soviet tank losses were a little over 6,000, about 4 times the figure for German tank losses (1,500) in traditional Soviet accounts, another 4-1 ration.   “This very unfavourable ration of losses may be explained by the superiority of the new Gemran tanks and also the superiority of German command and control in armour combat. … Another cause was the comparatively low level of training of Soviet personnel, especially of tank-driver mechanics, who until the end of 1942 received only from 5-10 hours of driving practice, when the necessary minimum was 25 hours (43)."

3) Lend Lease saved the USSR.  An official Soviet history of the Great Patriotic War states that assistance from the Allies “was in no way meaningful and could have had no decisive influence on the course of the GPW” (48), when in fact in 1963 Zhukov himself was heard to admit that without this aid “we could not have formed our reserves and could not have continued the war” (49).  Lend-Lease aid included everything from fuel to steel and aluminium to railroad equipment and explosives for making munitions.   Just one of many statistics in this chapter.  From July 41 to Dec 43 the Soviets made 30,000 T-34 tanks, each of which required 20 tons of armoured steel, far more than the USSR could produce.  If Sokolov is right, almost half of those T34s were made with Lend-Lease armour.

4) World War Two was a massive human catastrophe for the USSR.  Hard data on Soviet military losses is very hard to come by, and trustworthy research was not started unit the late 1980s.   In reviewing this research, Sokolov puts total Soviet dead at almost 43.5 million, compared to just under 6 million Germans.  These figures include military and civilian deaths, as well as potential losses from falling birth rates, which may seem to some as an exaggeration.  Even removing the unborn from the equation, the totals are sobering:  26,548,000 Soviet military dead vs 3,950,000 German military dead, and 16,900,000 Soviet civilians dead vs 2,000,000 German civilians dead  These figures are approximations.  Very few casualty estimates were published in the Soviet era and exact figures are hard to come by because for the first year of the war, many Soviet soldiers were not given identity cards, service or pay books, just (if they were lucky) uniforms and weapons (67).   These high casualties and the massive turnover of personnel in Soviet units as losses were replaced by meant that right up until the end of the war, those who were newly mobilized entered battle poorly trained in military matters” (75), and thus “The Red Army had to pay in blood for industrial backwardness and the inability to use combat equipment intelligently” (91), compounded by the Soviet leadership’s indifference to casualties.

Some thoughts for war gamers.

The Ostfront is always a compelling subject for war gamers, and yet it is one of the bleakest and most tragic spectacles of military history.  This book just makes it all the sadder.  I have to take Sokolov’s figures with a grain of salt, since I haven’t seen any scholarly reviews of this book in academic literature and for all I know the man is a bit of a flake.  However, assuming he is near the truth, what does this mean for war gamers?  I would say that any rules set which doesn’t handicap the Soviets in leadership and tactics doesn’t reflect history.   I know this has long been a debate in wargaming as to whether the Germans are too often portrayed as supermen, and I think those questions are fair.  Certainly by 1943 on the Wehrmacht was being ground down and losing its edge, but I think in almost every case until the end of the war the Germans should have an edge in training, tactics and leadership, a qualitative superiority vs the Soviet quantitative superiority.   

I got to thinking as I read this book, will we see more of this kind of scholarship coming from Putin-era Russia?   A lot of the evidence and scholarship Sokolov cites comes from the late 1980s on, the era of glasnost and post-Soviet opening up of the archives.  It worries me that if Russia goes further down the path of nationalism and chauvinism, we will see a new clampdown on scholars who want to mine the archives for a story that still hasn’t been properly told.