Friday, November 30, 2012

28mm Spanish Civil War - Carlist Requetés

As I apparently have the attention span of a sugar-addled 4-year old, I decided to do some more models for my Spanish Civil War collection. This time up are a dozen Carlist infantrymen who fought alongside Franco's Nationalists.

Illustrations kindly provided by Juan from Jose Bueno's 'Militares de la Guerra Civil Espanola'

The Carlists were (and are) an ultra-conservative popular political movement in Spain. They took their name from Carlos V, son of Ferdinand VII, who was a pretender to the throne of Spain with his declaration to be rightful heir on October 1, 1833. Politically, the Carlists advocated for a monarchical form of government modeled on the late-fifteenth century reign of Ferdinand and Isabel, who shared their power with the regional governments of Spain's various kingdoms. In addition, the Carlists supported the Salic Law enacted by Felipe V (r. 1700-1746), which reformed the process of succession in Spain such that only male heirs could inherit the throne and female heirs only in the absense of a male heir on any royal line. (Yeah, these guys weren't exactly lighting the world on fire with their progressive social agenda...)

Although they historically rejected any form of strong centralized government in favour of greater regional control, the Carlists allied with Franco and the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. From 1931, the Carlists had been cooperating with right-wing Catholic movements in an effort to resist the spread of republicanism, which they saw as the greater threat. Starting in 1934 the Carlists began to organize and become more paramilitary in nature, with several plots attempted to overthrow the Republican government. With Franco's military coup, he found the Carlist militias instrumental in driving forward his Nationalist cause. Throughout the Spanish Civil War it is estimated that the Carlist Requetés accepted between 70,000 to 100,000 volunteers into their ranks.

While many Carlists had no difficulty in allying with other right-wing groups, even those that were fascist-based, in ideological terms many Carlists were divided in their opinions. Purists hoped for a Carlist uprising that would install a government that was sympathetic to a decentralized monarchy. Other Carlists were more flexible and were in favour of a strong state that would 'purify Spain' in order to prepare her for a decentralized Catholic-monarchist utopia. Nonetheless, in spite of these differences the Carlist Requetés were a powerful force, vital to the Nationalist effort, especially in the early part of the war.

These 28mm models are from Empress Miniatures, though I understand several of them had their origins as Anglian castings before they were acquired. The figures are very nice, with great animation, requiring very little cleanup.

I find the Requetés' uniform to be quite smart (in a fascistic sort of way). The tasseled red beret with khaki jodhpurs and puttees are very distinctive. I have to admit that when Juan informed me that these troops often wore home-spun checked shirts and civilian pattern blanket rolls my eyes glazed over a bit. Nonetheless I tried out a few and they turned out alright I guess.

Next up for this project will be some Republicans from the International Brigades.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Samurai Arms & Armour Collection of Richard Beliveau - Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal

The Pointe-à-Callière Catalogue and Pamphlet for the Béliveau Samurai Exhibit.
As I've mentioned earlier, a few weeks ago we were in Montreal for a little vacation, and along with getting in a great game with John, Iannick and Nicolas I also managed to visit a couple excellent museums. One was the the Ben Weider Napoleonic Collection which is on permanent display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the other was an exhibit at the Pointe-à-Callière of Richard Béliveau's collection of samurai arms and armour.

Please forgive these poor images taken of the book. The pages are quite glossy making it a little challenging to photograph properly.
Well-known in Québec for his work in the prevention and treatment of cancer, Richard Béliveau is a university professor, researcher, author, and speaker, as well as a devotee of Japanese culture and a great collector of Japanese objects and artwork. For the first time, Mr. Béliveau is exhibiting part of his vast collection. It is one of the most important collections of samurai artifacts in the world, both for its historical value and rarity, as well as in terms of the number and diversity of items it contains.

I'm a big junkie for museum exhibition catalogues. Whenever we visit an exhibit at a gallery or museum I always try to get the associated catalogue as typically the photography and descriptive text are top-notch. The 144-page book which was produced for this exhibition certainly does not disappoint, the photography is fantastic, the descriptions informative and the overall layout very nice.

I was struck that the price of the book was only $39.95, which I think is an absolute bargain, especially for these limited print-run specialist publications. It definitely holds its own with any similar books I've seen from other print houses. If you're interested in a copy it can be purchased from the gallery book store here.

So, if you find yourself in Montreal between now and March 31st I can't recommend this exhibit more - it's absolutely stunning and well worth the visit.

A final note: This post also provides a thematic clue to an upcoming Analogue Hobbies event. I know, I'm sure you're wriggling in your seats in anticipation! More on that soon...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

'I'd like to thank the Academy, my Publicist and my Hairdresser...' The Liebster Award!

As many of you know the 'Liebster Blog Award' has been making the rounds across the blogosphere these past few weeks. I'm typically a little wary of these quasi-meme 'blog awards' but the thing I've very much enjoyed about this one is discovering the recommendations of other bloggers. I can safely say that I've been introduced to about a half dozen superb blogs that I would have otherwise never come across - so to me this makes the 'Liebster' a great success. 

In turn, I must extend my great thanks to Tamsin, Phil, Aaron and Peter who have kindly nominated my site as part of this. I'm not sure if its really deserved, but I very much appreciate the sentiment. Again, thank you all very much!

So, as I understand it, part of this is for me to nominate five blogs that I enjoy. Excellent! I  know there are some other rules, but I'm blissfully going to ignore them...

In no particular order I'd like to give the nod to:

Sidney's efforts, especially with his Great War collection, are a magnificent inspiration. His terrain in particular is something to behold in wonder.

The Conscripts are my old gaming pals from Winnipeg. I love their blog as it's a community effort, with several of the lads contributing to its content. Great painting, opinionated rants and humorous banter - its well worth the visit.

I'm a bit of a lurker on this site but I greatly admire Lt.Hazel's beautiful paintwork. Quality stuff, 'nuff said.

Michael's gift with the hobby is peerless and very, very imaginative. I don't think he's ever  actually played a game with his models, but you can't deny the playfulness in his work. Bravo!

This is a new favourite of mine. Amazing realization of the whole package: terrain, figures and scenarios. Simply awesome stuff.

Give these a visit - you won't be disappointed. Word out.

Monday, November 19, 2012

'Worst Case Scenario #5' - The Action at Ursensollen, April 14th, 1809

The two screening forces probe for a weakness in their opponent's line.
A couple weeks ago we flew out to Montreal for a short four-day vacation.  On top of lots of great food, fun shopping and some fabulous visits to museums, I also had the great pleasure to meet up with John, Iannick and Nicolas for a Napoleonic game.

A bronze by Vincenzo Vela of Napoleon meditating at St. Helena. Behind him is a painting by Laslett Pott 'Arriving in Front of Moscow' - Weider Collection, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Napoleon's bicorne worn at Borodino. Aso examples of his boots, gloves and shirt - Weider Collection, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

We had been planning this get-together for a few months and in the Tilsit-like preparatory negotiations it was agreed that I'd put on a scenario using my home-brew rules, 'Food for Powder'.

While chatting with the guys online I found that John wanted something historical-based while Iannick preferred a scenario that was fun and challenging (and Nicolas seemed blissfully amenable to anything). So I decided to do something a little different and put together a scenario whose main goal for the combatants was not to get drawn into a pitched battle, but rather conduct a cautious reconnaissance-in-force which could be escalated only if deemed appropriate.

I chose a very small engagement that occurred in the opening days of the 1809 campaign, near a little village called Ursensollen in Bavaria. For each side I wrote up a short preamble describing the central characters, the events leading up to the action, the forces involved and a map of the battlefield.

The French Briefing:

The Austrian Briefing:

Victory Points for Both Sides
+1 point for Identifying Enemy Formations (come within 12")
+2 points for causing an enemy unit to become Spent
+5 points for reaching enemy horizon (12" in from each sides' table edge)

-3 points for having a friendly unit become Spent
-1 point for bringing forward a unit from theTactical Reserve (per unit)

I have to say I was more than a little nervous about the whole affair. While I had chatted with the guys through email and the blogosphere I had never actually met any of them face-to-face. Also, as I was debuting my set of rules to an experienced group of unknown players. I was more than a little worried that they'd not only hate them, but that the scenario would also go pear-shaped and I'd basically find myself wrecking their hard-earned gaming weekend. So, with these paranoid thoughts racing through my mind, I began to have a small case of stage fright as we descended into Montreal.

Well thankfully all my worries were for nothing. You really couldn't meet a better bunch of guys. They were such a pleasure to hang-out with, were incredibly gracious and exercised infinite patience with my stammering and rambling through the game. In short I had a fabulous day out. 

We had a little bit of a late start, but I took my time explaining both the rules and the scenario as I wanted everything to be as clear as possible before the cannonade began. John took command of the French, filling the shoes of General Friant, while Iannick and Nicolas represented the fractious dual Austrian command of Fresnel and Klenau.

The French force stepping off from Kastl with Friant in the lead. The majority of the figures are from  Iannick's beautiful collection of 28mm figures.
At the beginning, both sides had very small screening forces which the players pushed out to see if they could probe and get past their opponents. John advanced aggressively and came very close to punching through the Austrian screen with several squadrons of Chasseurs, but bad luck fouled his plans as some Austrian Jagers managed to crash into square and see off the French probe.

French Chasseurs closing on a battalion of Jagers.
The Austrians unlimbered their 6-pounders and began to punish the approaching French columns but John (Friant) gamely pressed on. The French Chasseurs seeing another opportunity prepared to force their way through, but the Austrians uncharacteristically seized the initiative and ran-up some reinforcements from Ursensollen to stiffen their left flank. Undaunted, the Chasseurs focused their efforts to charge the bolstered Jagers but, in-turn, were taken in the flank by Austrian Uhlans who had forced their way through their own artillery train to come to grips (it was a little generous on the GM's part to allow this but nonetheless it was very cinematic). The clash was decisive and the French cavalry were sent reeling back towards their own lines.

Uhlans advancing with Hussars in support. (These are 'imports' I brought from home)
At around this point both sides brought forward infantry reserves but they chose to shield them from each other's vision by positioning them in dead ground so no intelligence was gained by either side. Very smart.

Just as the Austrian left became more secure due to the efforts of the Uhlans the French began to probe aggressively on the right. A French column pressed back the Austrian screening force of Jagers while one of it's sister battalions began to skirt on the far right flank, advancing towards Ursensollen.

It was around there that we had to stop for the day. The action was still very much up in the air. The Austrians had achieved some rousing local victories but they had not really moved forward towards their objective. The French on the other hand hand had suffered some casualties but were advancing across the entire front and were in a postion where they had a good opportunity to be able to unscreen the Austrian reserves. 

It was a very interesting game and I quite enjoyed watching it all unfold. All of the players did a superb job in keeping to the spirit of the scenario. Neither side wanted to bring up their reserves until they were desperately needed, which gave a very 'napoleonic' feel to the game. I also really liked how they both screened their forces to give nothing away to their opponents' prying eyes - again very characteristic to the period.

Above is a pic of us which I've shamelessly poached from Iannick's fine blog Clash of Empires. Check his blog out as it features many other great shots from the game. (From left to right: Nicolas, John, myself and Iannick)

The rules came off pretty well in the post-game discussions. The guys gave me some great feedback and I think I may have convinced them to try them again in the future. The best part is that I think I've found an excellent reason to have an annual trip to Montreal (as if the food and sights weren't enough)! 

Thanks to John, Iannick and Nicolas for being such great sports. I'm very much looking forward to our next game together. 

(For those who may be interested in taking a look at 'Food for Powder', my plan is to have a playtest version ready for limited release by the end of the Christmas break.) 

Friday, November 16, 2012

'Hēl' - Wolfen Grave Guardian from Confrontation Miniatures

I know, I know, this one's a little out of left field.

I picked up this figure when we were visiting Paris quite a few years ago - back when the Confrontation range of miniatures was fresh out of the gates and turning heads with their groundbreaking sculpts. I really like the dynamic pose of this guy (and ever since I was a kid I've had a soft spot for werewolves as they typically scare the bejeezus out of me). 

A while back I played in a friend's RPG campaign and I made up a character just so I could use this figure. His name was 'Hēl' and I remember he was pretty bad ass (until he met a rather unpleasant and sticky end). 

As reality often reflects fiction, he was smashed to smithereens in a recent house relocation by our movers, and at the time I just couldn't face trying to repair him. Nonetheless, time truly heals all as I came across him just the other week, the muse hit, and so here he is, reconstituted in all his weird snaggletooth glory. (I have to apologize as I neglected to take some before-and-after pics to show his reanimation.)

Back to some Napoleonics in a few days...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Silent Trophies of the Great War - German MG08 & MG08/15

I was on a conservator's course the other week and while on a tour of a local museum's artifact collection I came across these two rusting German machine guns from the Great War. The odd thing was that they were stored in amongst a bunch of antique toys, blacksmith tools, ancient washing machines and other weird brick-a-brac. The curators had very little information about them, saying simply that they were war trophies donated by an individual veteran from out in the country. I can only imagine that due to their weight and bulk it could have only been an officer who managed to transport them as part of their personal baggage from the front lines of France all the way to the sleepy Canadian prairies. I wonder what tales they could tell?

The one on the sledge mount is a MG08 which was the common heavy automatic weapon of the German army in the first few years of the war. With a full load of water in it's coolant jackets, the whole rig would weigh in at around 69  kg (152 lbs). A bit of a beast! The MG08 was typically crewed by four men and fired a 7.9mm cartridge at approximately 400 rounds per minute. 

The one to the left with the wooden stock is a MG08/15, a lighter, portable variant of the standard MG08 design. This was developed as a response to the British Lewis Gun, which was much envied by German troops for its tactical flexibility and firepower (a captured Lewis Gun was seen as quite the prize). 

While not perfect, and rather ugly, the MG08/15 became the most prevalent machine gun of the German army in World War One, with around 130,000 being mass produced. Here's an interesting bit of trivia: Apparently, the phrase '08/15' in German (pronounced Null-acht-fünfzehn, or Null-acht-fuffzehn) has been used to describe something that is completely ordinary, lacking any original inspiration or creative design.  

I'm going to continue to do a bit of nosing around to see if I can get any more background information on these two weapons. If I find anything more I'll post an update.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Reject Workin' It for the Camera

Hey, check it out! I'm stylin' and profilin' in a brilliant new 'Posties Rejects' crew-shirt that Fran, The Angry Lurker, sent along from that faraway, dystopian land of Gravesend. 

As you can probably tell, I really like my new shirt. It makes me feel like... like... like the quarterback for 'Team Awesome'. Yeah, that's it. Sure.

Tomorrow we're off for a little vacation to Montreal and while we're there I'm putting on a Napoleonic game for John (Wargaming in 28mm and Smaller), Iannick (Par la bouche de mes canons) and Nicolas (Nowhere to Lead Soldiers).  I've never met any of these fine fellows face-to-face so I think I'll roll out in the new colours. You know, the 'Shock and Awe' thing...

...and a nod to the Home Team - Schweet!
I was going to sign off with a Zoolander 'Blue Steel' pose for y'all, but the batteries were running low and my long-suffering-wife was about to slap me as it was. Funny, last I saw of her she was walking down the hall muttering, 'Campbell, you're such a tool...'

Oh, oh, oh! And look at this. This is the piece de resistance... A Reject(ed) D6! Now, how freakin' cool is that?! Well, I'll tell ya: its Nunavut-in-November-Cool. I have a sneaking suspicion that there's going to be a lot of '1's rolled on this baby...