Friday, September 27, 2013

Canadian History - So Not Boring


After my last post here on a wargame which turned out NOT to be the battle of Ridgeway but a post Ridgeway what if (I shouldn't fall asleep in O Groups), I received a charming email from a reader of this blog who told me that he too used to think Canadian history was rather dull.  However, the reader told me that he discovered some information on the Battle of the Plains of Abraham which made him rethink his position.  Apparently the French army was thinking more of the local ladies than the security of the position, which is always a fatal mistake.

To provide more evidence that the Plains of Abraham, like the rest of Canadian history, is not boring, I offer this cartoon from Kate Beaton.   I referred to Ms. Beaton in my last post, and she is to my mind the Official Muse of Canadian History, or at least one of its foremost practitioners.   In fact, I urge you all to go out and buy her book of cartoons, Hark A Vagrant!, from Amazon

Did you like the cartoon?  Good.  Then be a good chap and go buy her book.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Canadian History Is Not Boring! Comic Operaish Yes, At Times, But Not Boring

There is a school of thought that Canadian history is dull, a debate which is conveniently summarized here by Kate Beaton.  Consider the Battle of Ridgeway as an example of how Canadian history is actually quite exciting.  On the one hand, a bunch of Irish-Americans nationalist  yobbos, many of whom had not received their fill of the horrors of the American Civil War, and who wanted to stick it to John Bull by having a go at Canada (which is rather like getting revenge on your big, frightening neighbour by kicking his little dog tied up in his front yard).  On the other hand, you have the Canadian militia, made up of local farmers and University of Toronto students who got to dress up in Gilbert and Sullivan style uniforms, go fight in a battle, and get a cheesy monument erected in honour of those unfortunate enough to get shot.

You have to admit, that is a much more impressive way to go that choking on your vomit at a weekend frat kegger, but I digress.

Yesterday much of the brain trust and secret society behind SW Ontario's Hot Lead Gaming Convention assembled to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of one of our own, Postman Pete, or WO Garnham as some are unfortunate enough to have to call him.   Among the day's events was a 28mm battle of Ridgeway by Keith, who had brought an impressive assortment of Fenians, looking suspiciously like Perry Bros ACW infantry in greenish uniforms.  Opposing them were the Canadians, stout chaps in gorgeous red uniforms like this fine fellow.

I believe that the Canadian minis are a mix of Empress Victorians and Foundry from their Indian Mutiny range, and that some were painted by James Manto, but I will let others confirm that.  Suffice it to say, they looked good.

Here is the table provided by Postman Pete, with the Canadian side prepared to defend the stream, with their one gun guarding the bridge in the centre.  Our two better units are posted forward, while our less effective militia units are in reserve, but surely those Irish rebel scum won't get as far as the second line of fences!

The Fenian side of the table, showing the Fenian dispositions.  Spirited demonstrations by Rico (Fenian right, Cdn left) and by Patrick (Fenian left, our right) will try to pin the flanks while the main force under James and Brian will aim to pierce the centre.



Having introduced the armies, I should say that the rules we used were Black Powder (my first time playing them) with Keith as game master.


On the Canadian left, defenders shake out into skirmish and move forward to check Rico's push on our left flank.  The redcoats will soon rethink this policy and fall back on their supports.


Rico's gobshites crash into Postman Pete's militia and a fierce punch up along the fenceline begins.  This melee will rage for most of the battle.

On our right, Fenian Patrick watches in satisfaction as his yobbos sully Ontario's fair stream with their dirty brogues and tear into Mikey's militiamen, who had taken the worst of the musketry so far and were beginning to falter.  As the Cdn CinC, I soon had a lot to worry me.

My chief worry was in the centre, where Brian massed an entire battalion, but paused longer than he wished while he tried to get a good orders roll to sort them into a column of companies for the assault over the bridge.  This gave my gunners time to do some damage and disorder, but I had trouble getting my infantry supports to shift over behind them.  I was hoping I could withdraw the gun and plug the bridge with infantry.

Alas, it was not to be.  The Fenians charged, the gunners panicked and fired their double shotted grape high, and were cut down.  I did manage to get several companies of redcoats to plug the gap, but their die rolls weren't much better.  There was much Fenian mocking of the cool bearskins my lads were wearing, but as a gentleman soldier scholar knows, chicks love bearskins.



After a few pokes with  bayonets, the bearskins remember that they have a big varsity game tomorrow, and skedaddle.  The mass of the Fenians break through the centre, shrugging off Canadian counter attacks, while James pushes some of his boys over the stream against poor Mikey's last survivors from his fight downstream with Patrick.


On our right, Patrick's Fenians have overrun Mikey's lads and pitched into our second and last line of defence.  Barry's militiamen try to hold at the apple orchard but quickly decide that Ontario has more than enough fruit to share, and they fade away.  The pressure on Barry's unit prevents him from shifting enough forces to check James and Brian in the centre.

The final view of Fenian victory.  

The Canadians are rolled back everywhere and have done a fraction of the damage that was inflicted on them.   There will be much mourning among the belles of Toronto, and a lot of lads with excellent excuses for late term papers.  The cry among the Fenians was "On to Hamilton!", but in real life, after winning at Ridgeway but discovering that the Canadians did not welcome their visit, the Fenians decided enough was enough and went home before the British Army showed up. 

All told, a very pleasant game with some terrific looking figures and with a very unusual "Redcoats in the American Civil War" feel to it.  The rest of the day was spent in sillier but equally amusing pursuits.  So happy birthday Postman Pete and thanks for your hospitality.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The World Is Flat! (And What I Did About It)

After my friend James came by last week and we fought the battle of St. Mikhail's, I had a look at the table afterwards at the table we used and was dismayed at how flat it was.  I even got a carpenter's level and the bubble was dead in the middle.  So flat!  St. Mikhail's must have been located somewhere in Saskatchewan!

Recently there was a thread on the Too Fat Lardies' Yahoo group about a chap who used a bunch of heavy blankets to add texture and contours to his wargaming table. This was a somewhat more substantial procedure than just draping a thin sheet of green cloth across some books.   So I started with some books.


I then took several old quilts and blankets and spread them over the table, trying not to smooth and straighten them too much - this image isn't super helpful but it conveys the general idea.


Once I had the quilt and blanket scrunched into some contours, I overlaid them with the sheet of fabric I usually start with and then started adding terrain features.   These led to some actual contours, such as folds in the ground and dips in this road leading to a village church.

Or, on the other side of the church, a field of wheat that actually follows the side of a hill, rather than looking as flat as the Canadian prairie (which is actually not as flat as one would think).

A small side road with sufficiently high banks and hedges to conceal a section of infantry moving tactically.

The table in its final form.  I am pleased that the final look isn't so deadly flat.  While the church in the centre still dominates, there is enough dead ground around it to make approaches possible for both attackers and reinforcements sent to its relief.  

So apologies to those of you for whom this is not especially novel or profound.  I am rather like the Irish novelist George Moore, of whom Oscar Wilde once quipped that he conducted his education in public.  To me at least this is a bit of a breakthrough in table design.  I have just started using this layout for a solitaire run through of the new Too Fat Lardies rules, Chain of Command, and I hope to have some results and thoughts to share with you by this weekend.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Two Faces From The (Near) Past

In my last post I bragged on my godson Brendan, and mentioned that his dad Kevin and I became friends during our American Civil War reenacting days.  I found this image today in my papers.  Kevin and I had this tintype taken at a reenactment sometime around 2000.  I'm the bear die standing on the right.  I recall getting a lot of stick from my relatives when I showed up for a reunion in this facial hair and they thought I had gone all Grizzly Adams.

The interesting thing about a tintype is that it takes forever (well, at least a minute or two) for the exposure to take, which explains why you don't see many period pictures of Cviil War chaps laughing and grinning.  I suspect for most of them, who might have had one or two images taken in their lives, it was a serious business getting one's image taken.

If you're good, I may post a picture of a Civil War chaplain gorging himself on pie.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

With My Painting Padawan


One of the advantages of being back in eastern Canada is that I have the opportunity to pick up with old friends, including my buddy Kevin from my ACW reenacting days with the Columbia Rifles.   The CR was an authentically-minded group of living history buffs that Kevin and some friends founded in the late 1990s, and they were kind enough to take me in when I stupidly thought that lying on the cold ground wrapped only in a period correct natural fibre blanket would be fun.   Actually, it was kinda fun at the time.

Kevin and his lovely wife Maureen soon became fast friends and seven years ago they adopted a lovely chap from Guatemala whom they named Brendan.  I had the honour of becoming his godfather but hadn't seen him or his parents for the last five years.   When Kevin and Maureen invited us down to Buffalo, NY for the Labour Day weekend, I was told that Brendan really wanted to paint Zouaves with me.  How could I resist?

Here we are last Sunday.  Brendan quickly picked up some basic principles such as the importance of figure prep, a quick undercoat, block painting and using a palette for his paints.


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Here are some of Brendan's Zouaves, painted an illustration from Dad's book of Don Troiani prints of the 5th New York at Gaines' Mill.

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A desperate battle at Lego Farm!   As I was leaving, Brendan was mixing up some flesh tones for his fellows, and was going to try mixing a dark gray for his rebs.   I expect great things of young Brendan and hope to show off more of his work here in the future.

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