Friday, February 27, 2015

I'm Back ... Sort Of

What ho, chumrades!

I took a three week break from blogging and blog visiting and I’ve missed you all.  

Regular visitors here will know that I’ve been slogging away at my MA thesis as I get ready to finish a two study leave from the Canadian Armed Forces.   My fate would be dim if I had to go back to work in May and didn’t have a diploma to justify this paid holiday as a long-haired hippy grad student.  I’m happy to say that the first draft got completed and sent to my thesis director two days ago, after three weeks of long days, seven days a week.  Uggh.  So that’s done, and for the next week I’ll tidy it up and get it to the rest of my committee.  Hopefully a defence date in April and graduation in May.

It was on Tuesday, as I was driving into campus to drop off the thesis, that I started feeling jolly unpleasant.   Several days previously I had turned to Madame Padre and said, “I think my flu shot worked.  Winter’s almost over and I haven’t gotten sick.”   Never ever say something like that, chumrades.   You never know who’s listening.  I’ve only just started to feel  halfway decent today.  I was planning to spend yesterday in a day long painting holiday, but spend most of it in bed, alternately chilled and sweating.    Hopefully I’ll have the energy and inclination to pick up a brush soon. I did however get to play a bit with the Consim Press U-Boat solitaire game The Hunters and found it terrific fun.  More to follow on that.

I now have some idea of what my assignment will be when I go back into uniform, and I’m happy with it, but the downside is that it will likely be two moves in the next three years if the unit I’m going to moves in 2016 as planned.  Hard luck for the poor toy soldiers, not to mention Madame Padre’s plants.  Again, more to follow.

Among the many things I haven’t blogged about of late was a piece of very happy news thanks to the talented and generous Pete Barlow.

Back in January Pete ran a contest on his blog to name a very handsome Viking warrior he had sketched.  I was delighted to learn I was the winner, and that his name would be my late dad’s third Christian name, Sloss, which he was given to remember his Scottish (and possibly Viking) ancestry.   Pete and I agreed on a slight variation on the prize, and I look forward to saying more on that when the very kind and busy Pete can get to it.

I was also delighted to learn that the prizes from my Diplomacy game run last year have arrived safely.   Here’s one of them, now named “Bertie”, inspecting his new home in Australia.  Looks like quite a cushy billet if you ask me.

Be well.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

They Need Better Toys

I really should be writing my MA thesis but I’ve been at it since 05:30 this morning and I need a break, so here are some Flickr photos that an army friend of mind told me about.

These are photos from a CAF image tech (we used to call them photographers) of EX SENECA RAM, a”validation exercise for the 1 CMBG (Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group) HQ command team and staff”,  In other words a Tactical Exercise Without Troops (TEWT), or what we in the hobby call a war-game.  This EX lasted from Jan 28 to Feb 6, so it was a lot of stress and suck for young officers under the gimlet eyes of the Brigadier and his deputies, but at least better than freezing in the field.

The keen-eyed among you will notice that the captain on the far right and the perplexed subaltern standing in the left centre are wearing the British-style officer’s rank badges on their slip ons, just like their grandfathers did, which apparently helps morale by building tradition.  Actually, I think it just confuses a whole generation, like moving from Imperial to Metric, but anyway.

The other observation, which I’m sure you’ve all made ahead of me, is that these fellows really need better toys.  I am proposing that war gamers adopt a Canadian Army unit or HQ and provide them with appropriate kit (and maybe trainers) to make these events more interesting.


Even with the Revolution in Military Affairs, a staff officer needs a big stick.


Worst. Table.  Ever.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Saturday Painting Desk

This last week a smelly bunch of 28 Rebs have been camped on the painting desk.  They’re lucky to get 30 minutes attention a day, since it’s all thesis all the time until the end of February.  The four in a firing pose are Renegade, the first I’ve ever painted, and much fun.  The rest are from the eccentrically sculpted, very hit or miss Old Glory ACW range, not my favourite, even though they do grow on me after a while.  Lots more rebs to go after these ones.   Each figure gets a slightly different colour scheme, which means a fairly slow rate of progress, but I like the motley look that results.

Blessings to your brushes!


Friday, February 6, 2015

Sam Mustafa's Blucher Is Out


I was quite excited to see that Sam Mustafa’s Blucher is now out.   Learned that via the latest North Star Military Figures Newsletter.   

I haven’t heard any of Sam’s podcasts yet, though I saw that Foy mentioned them a while back (thank you for that, Tony).   I confess I wasn’t tracking the card game part of Blucher - if you go to the North Star link above, you’ll see what I mean.   The idea of playing the Hundred Days using just cards as a substitute for lack of figures or time is intriguing, and reminds me a little of GDW’s old System 7 Napoleonics system, of which, I suppose, GMT’s CCN is a modern heir.

(For you nostalgia fans).

For now I am probably just interested in the rule book, particularly for Sam’s Scharhorst campaign system as a battle generator, though since I have a copy of Paddy Griffith’s Napoleonic book on order, I shall look to that first for ideas.   However, I shall be tracking the blogosphere for reviews of how both go together.

Meanwhile, that dratted MA thesis awaits. 

A bientôt, mes braves.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Reading Roundup: Wars Past and Future

Not a lot of gaming or painting getting done of late.  I have my head down trying to generate the first draft of my MA thesis in time to meet an April defence date and a return to the uniform and whatever military posting awaits me.  In between thinking and writing about religious pluralism in the Canadian Armed Forces, I do however pick up the odd book or read something non-thesis related just to give my mind a rest.  Here are some reports and recommendations from that front.
 I never blogged anything about the Brad Pitt film Fury when I saw it last fall.  I went with my brother The Mad Colonel, a retired infantry and staff officer, and he was somewhat non-committal about it.  For my part I thought it excelled at catching the feel of tank warfare in World War Two, and the interaction between the characters rang true to what I know of soldiers.  Mind you,  I had some issues with the final scene, where a happy, intact SS battalion was marching around Germany in the last days of the war, singing lustily but had somehow forgotten its antiarmor drills, but I digress.

Recently I stumbled across this interview with Steven Zaloga, an American defence analyst and historian, who thought that given “the limits of what you can do in Hollywood … I thought it was very authentic”.  That made me feel a little more kindly towards the film, and even want to give it a second look.

I was also interested in some of Zaloga’s criticisms of some of the accepted truisms on tank warfare in NW Europe, specifically that the Sherman was a deathtrap (Zaloga says the “Ronson” image is “nonsense”), or that the Allies paid five Shermans lost to take out one German tank (Zaloga attributes this to cliche to an over reliance on British authors and their experiences of Normandy, not true of US-German kill rates at all).  Anyway the article is quite interesting and worth a read.  I found this bit especially interesting, given how war gamers and modellers love the big German tanks and often over-represent them on the table.

“To give you a general sense, in April of 1945 the Germans have about 90 tanks on all of the Western Front.  All tanks, everything, Panthers, Panzer IV, Tigers.  They had a handful of Tigers.  They had about 400 other armoured vehicles, assault guns, Stug III and things like that.  So they had just short of 500 armoured vehicles on the entire Western Front, from the North Sea all the way down to Bavaria and Southern Germany.  At that point in time the United States had 11,000 tank and tank destroyers, to give you some sense of the disparity in forces."

Zaloga's forthcoming book Armored Champion is on my wish list - coming out from Stackpole this May.   Zaloga also recommends a book from his colleague Robert Forcyzk, Shwerpunkt: Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front, 1941-42.  Forcyzk knows German and Russian and uses sources largely unused by popular military historians.

The other day I posted on an oddity from the Cold War.

If future war is your thing, you might want to look at five short pieces imagining what the first shots of the next world conflict might look like.  A US think tank called The Atlantic Council and the War On the Rocks website recently sponsored a contest for creative writing submissions that imagined how such a conflict might spin up, and the five winners are posted here.  Hopefully it’s not a spoiler to let you know that drones and the internet figure prominently in these submissions, as does China and the kind of undeclared, deniable proxy wars currently being perfected by the Russians.   If you’re a resident of a Pacific country, these scenarios might be disturbing.  The conflicts imagined here pose an interesting challenge for wargames designers, in that a generation ago, all you had to do was imagine the Red Army and the Warsaw Pact rolling across the West German border and you’re away to the races.  These submissions suggest that the next war will be a lot more chaotic and fluid than that - see Sydney Freedberg’s Talinin is Burning for an example.

Speaking of World War Three, I used to be quite a fan of WW3-themed wargames back when they were plentiful in the 1980s. They were so plentiful that I recall an interview with Jim Dunnigan in which he said that they kept SPI afloat until ’89, when the Cold War ended and the bottom fell out of that market.  I always wanted SPI’s monster game The Next War, and if you have a copy you want to sell, let’s talk. I did recall a game I  haven’t played in ages, Anyway, I dug out my copy of this classic, and am hoping to play it at some point if I can get another thesis chapter done this week, and if I can get my Longstreet game finished.

The only problem I have is that there isn’t a kitten-proof surface in the house.

Finally, returning to books, our friend Edwin King, wearing his bookseller hat, has started carrying reprints from the History of Wargaming project.  I’ve treated myself to a reprint of the Peter Young classic, Charge! (Ross Mac says it’s an essential read, and who am I to argue with Ross?) as well as Paddy Griffith’s book on Napoleonic Wargaming.  Check out Edwin’s blog and send some business his way.
Blessings to your books,  MP+

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Scary Footnote From The Cold War


It’s the Cold War.  You’re a US Special Forces operative, parachuting into enemy territory (could be Eastern Europe, could be North Korea).  Besides your kit, you’ve got a 90 pound, half-kiloton nuke attached to your harness.  Your job is to backpack it to your assigned target, evade patrols and guards, and set it off.  And, since the timing mechanism is imprecise, you’re supposed to hang around nearby until if goes off. 

Sound like fun?

This story from Foreign Policy on the history of the SADM (Special Atomic Demolitions Munition) is a reminder of how weird the Cold War got.  The US Army felt that to keep pace with the other Services, it too needed a nuclear capability.  The backpack demolition nuke grew out of ideas for “nuclear landscaping”, using nukes to create obstacles against advancing enemy forces.  From there the SADM idea was claimed by the Special Forces types for offensive use.  Tom Clancy would have been hard-pressed to think this stuff up.The article is quite fascinating, in a rather horrific way, and would make an excellent scenario for those of you that do Cold War goes hot gaming.

Cheers,  MP+

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