Monday, August 31, 2015

Lectures To Paint By

Having a long, yet infrequent commute, I need something to help pass the time on those long, early morning/late afternoon five hour drives to and from Seattle.  Since discovering The Teaching Company's Great Courses lectures thanks to my gaming friend Scott, the commute has been much more interesting and time passes more quickly.

At present, I have churned through six courses, the latest being The Peloponnesian War by Dr. Kenneth Harl of Tulane University.  In 36 half-hour lectures and primarily relying on Thucydides, Harl takes the listener from the causes of the war through its conclusion including a summarization of lessons to be learned from the war.
Harl weaves an entertaining and fascinating story of the conflict with his own insights and personal interpretations intermixed with the traditional viewpoints.  Harl studied under Donald Kagan and frequently Kagan and his works are mentioned within the lectures.  As I listened, I thought it might be worthwhile to check Kagan's narrative against Harl's.

Kagan's The Peloponnesian War was purchased at a Friends of Multinomah Library (Portland, OR) book sale a few years ago for a few dollars.  Like a number of books in my library, it sits unread.  Off the shelf comes Kagan as my thoughts turn towards tackling this massive work.
These audio lectures are not only useful for long commutes.  I have found these lectures to be the perfect accompaniment to solitary painting sessions in the game room.  As a side benefit, listening to these historical works provides painting motivation and contemplations on existing or possible new projects.  So far, no Peloponnesian project has made it onto my project list yet.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

ECW Battle of Southam, 1642

The ECW collection has not seen action in a very long time.  How long?  I cannot recall but at least two years, I suppose.  One of my 2015 goals (see 2015 Project Plans) was to get this collection onto the gaming table for an outing or two.

Following Jeff's ECW replay of Battle of Southam (see Jeff's Battle of Southam) provided the motivation to both deploy the troops for battle and give this scenario a try.  Jeff's replay was based upon the scenario by Wyre Forest Wargames Club using their rules, Warr Without an Enemie (see Battle of Southam scenario).  The Warr Without an Enemie scenario, in turn, is drawn from Robert Giglio's English Civil War Gaming Scenarios Vol 3 (2005). 
Battle of Southam Initial Deployments
Southam is an early war battle in which two mixed forces clash opposite the village of Itchington.  With their backs against the Itchin River, the Royalists must hold the field or be dashed against the banks of the river.  As the OB illustrates, the Royalists under Compton outnumber Brooke's Roundheads by about 2-to-1 in cavalry yet are outnumbered in both artillery and foot.  Interesting tactical problem! 
Parliamentarian forces
Parliamentarian Army OOB:
Army Commander: Lord Brooke: Average

  • Colonel John Hampden's Foot
  • Lord Brooke's Foot
  • Colonel Denzil Holles' Foot

  • Left Wing Cavalry: Fiennes Horse (Trotters)
  • Right Wing Cavalry: Goodwin's Horse (Trotters)
Two artillery stands

Royalist forces
Royalist Army OOB:
Army Commander:Earl of Northampton: Good

  • Earl of Northampton's Foot
  • Sir William Saville's Dragoons (Dismounted) 
  • Wilmot's and Carnarvon's Horse (Galloper)
  • Legge's and Clarke's Horse (Galloper)
  • Compton's and Northampton's Horse (Galloper)
  • Saville's and Middleton's Horse (Galloper)
One artillery stand

Resolution of the game itself with be carried out on a portion of the gaming table.  With the size of the forces given, only one-third of the table is required (4' x 6').  Southam is a straight up fight with the objective to defeat the opposition although if the Royalists can hold the field at game's end,  they win.

My plan is to fight out this battle using three different rules systems; two of which are untested by myself.  The two new rules to undergo some scrutiny are Thomas' One-Hour Wargames and Dadi & Piombo's draft of Basic Baroque for Impetvs.  Most of my ECW gaming has been carried out using a variation of Howard Whitehouse's Ironsides.  Ironsides always produce a fun and tense game.  This will be an interesting exercise in a comparison between the three sets.  As a bonus, I can knock off a few items from my 2015 planning objectives.

Having each of the belligerents arriving upon the field with differences in force composition, Southam provides a test of asymmetrical warfare under each ruleset.  What should the strategies and tactics be for each?  My initial thoughts are that the Royalists must employ their superiority in cavalry to destroy Brooke before he can bring his infantry and artillery advantage to bear.  Of course, the Parliamentarian forces under Brook will want to do the opposite!  That is, get his infantry into the fight to force the Royalists off map before his force succumbs to the Royalist cavalry advantage.

How would YOU handle the asymmetry in this clash? 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Crimean Era Russian Infantry in 25mm

In and effort to one day field a usable force in Kevin's NWF campaigning, off the painting desk is the first of hopefully a handful of Russian contingents.
Most formed or regular infantry are fielded in battalions of 24 figures for the campaign.  That is what I have done as well.  Figures are Wargames Foundry from the Crimean War range and these are simply stunning sculpts.  Molding is crisp with good facial details.  For me, painting 24 x 25mm figures is a large bite to chew but having figures in greatcoat helped greatly.  Russian greatcoats take the Minwax stain well too.
Russian regiments will be fielded in 3 x 24 figure battalions.  I will need to verify in what strength Russian cavalry should be fielded before I dive into a few Russian cossacks.  This will be a fun, little, diversionary side project.  After writing that last sentence, the meanings of "little," "diversionary," and "side" in reference to a project have me a bit befuddled.
Expect to see the occasional Russian pop off the painting desk along with a few supporting native elements.   

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Summer Cycling in Spokane

Summer on the Palouse and in Spokane is perfect for cycling.  That is, unless the region is surrounded by forest fires as is the situation this August.  Still, even with hazy and smoky conditions, afternoon rides are pleasantly warm and the air remains breathable under exertion.  With temperatures moderating slightly into the mid 80s F, mileage has increased modestly in August.  From averaging about 150 miles weekly, miles put into the legs now exceed 200 per week and consumes about two hours daily.

Having a house on the extreme south of the city, my preferred direction is to head south out onto the Palouse and then loop back into town with a finishing climb up the South Hill (see Cycling on the Palouse) for a typical post-work ride.  Lately, the afternoon ride has been extended by about six miles to include an expanded loop onto the north side of the Spokane River before climbing up the South Hill via an alternative route.

Spokane is bifurcated by the Spokane River and a number of architecturally interesting bridges criss-cross the river.  At the time of its construction in 1911, the Monroe Street Bridge (see photos below) was the largest concrete arch bridge in the USA.  In the separating gorge are found a series of waterfalls interrupted by hydroelectric dams.

A few sights of Spokane's near north side from Tuesday's 30 mile ride:
High Bridge
Meenach Bridge from "Doomsday" Hill
Spokane River from "Doomsday" Hill
Spokane River from Centennial Trail
Spokane River from Centennial Trail
Downtown Spokane approaching from west
Monroe Street Bridge
Monroe Street Dam and Falls
Architecture of Monroe Street Bridge
Upper Falls
Upper Falls
Monroe Street Dam
 as seen from under Monroe Street Bridge
As the route profile illustrates, this is not flat country.
Route profile

Sunday, August 23, 2015

French Allies in the 18mm Napoleonic Project

Having retroactively given the Austrians the Minwax treatment, the white-coated French allies seemed a logical next target.  Those white coats would include the Italians and Westphalians.  As I finished the Westphalians and Italians, I thought why not complete the task by treating all of the French allies?  Why not?

Following is photo Pass-In-Review of showing the French allied formations on parade after their Minwax wash.  The allies thus far mobilized in the project are Westphalians, Italians, Bavarians, Poles, Hessians, Badeners, and Wurttembergers.  There may be a few other special units in the collection but did not surface during this exercise.  I am certain a few Swiss regiments have been mustered.  They must be lurking among the French. Maybe they will turn up later?
French Allies
View from the left
View from the right
Bavarian contingent
Westphalian and Italian contingents
Polish, Hesse-Darmstadt, Baden, and Wurttemberg contingents
While many of the Italians recently saw service on the long running Raab battle, the others have not seen active service since long ago campaigning in a series of 1809 battles.

Friday, August 21, 2015

1859 French Infantry in 15mm

Work continues on pushing reinforcements into the 15mm Risorgimento project.  This time, a French regiment of 3 x 12 figure battalions are mobilized and head out to the storage box.  Figures are Lancashire Games and are flagged as the 74th Line.  The French uniform of the Second Empire with its blue jacket, red pantaloons and cap, and white gaiters is one of my favorites.  Strikingly handsome uniform.

Including this latest addition, France can now deploy one division of infantry onto the battlefield.  This regiment marks the beginning of a mobilizing a second division of four regiments. 
A typical French infantry division consisted of two brigades of two line regiments each with one chasseur battalion and two artillery batteries.  Among the masses of Sardinians and Austrians,  I can now field a token French division.  Having a viable French contingent opens up a number of gaming possibilities.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Span-Am War Americans Receive Their Flags

When these SAW Americans were mustered earlier in the year, my search for appropriate flags turned up empty.  While browsing around Redoubt Enterprises' website trolling for Trojan War figures, I saw the Body's Banners link.  Looking under the Boxer Rebellion flag list, there they were.  Stars and Stripes and the Marine Corps flags.  After a short two week turn-around, the order arrived.

The flags are more simply rendered than GMB flags but they will do.  Below are my Americans bedecked with new banners.

I should add a battalion of U.S. Marines into the painting queue so that the Marine Corps flag can be unfurled too.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sardinian Light Cavalry for 1859

My hop-scotching through the projects continues.  This time, the 1859 project sees some action.  Off the painting desk depart four squadrons (12 figures) of the Sardinian Saluzzo Light Cavalry Regiment.  Figures are Mirliton.

Sticking with the 1859 project, the next figures off the painting desk will be a three battalion regiment (36 figures) of French line infantry.  The French will be fielded from Lancashire Games 15mm figures.

Last time I had the project all out on the table for a review was in DEC 2012 (see 1859 Project Review).  A quick count shows about 50 units have passed over from The Lead Pile to completed box since late 2012.  Once I finish off the current French infantry, perhaps it is due time to offer another parade to assess the project?  It might be interesting to compare the project DEC 2012 against AUG 2015 and see what direction I should focus.   

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Peruvian Highlands - Ollantaytambo

Main Temple
Following a two day stop in Pisac (see Pisac), the next leg of the Peruvian adventure saw us set out for the small town of Ollantaytambo in the valley along the Urubamba River.

To reach Ollantaytambo from Pisac required finding a taxi and then negotiating a suitable fare for the three of us and our luggage.  Well, finding a taxi was easy.  As soon as we approached the town center with our luggage in tow, drivers descended upon us like yellow jackets drawn to a chunk of red meat.  Pricing began at 120 soles and after writing offers and counteroffers in pen onto the palms of our hands, we settled on a fare of 75 soles for the hour drive.  At current exchange rate, the fare equated to about $25.  Not only did we arrive into Ollantaytambo in one piece but the driver stopped to find directions to our hotel which was tucked away near the main Incan ruins deep within the village.  It seems traffic signals, speed limits, highway dividing lines are merely suggested courtesies; ignored by almost everyone.
Ollantaytambo, for those hiking the Inca Trail, is not a destination but the beginning of their journey.  Ollantaytambo is the site of an old Incan bridge marking the start of the Inca Trail out of Ollantaytambo.  For us, Ollantaytambo was a two day stopover as we continued exploring the Sacred Valley.  The temple adjoining the town was to be our main focus.

The town is situated at the end of the Sacred Valley as the Urubamba River disappears from the valley and plunges into the gorge on its way towards Aguas Calientes; the tourist town at the foot of Machu Picchu.
End of the Sacred Valley as Urubamba River
drops into the gorge in the distance.
Disembarking from the taxi, we faced the sight shown below.  This massive engineering feat was, literally, only steps from the hotel.
Main Temple
The scale of this structure is overwhelming and continues up to the top of the ridge.  It reminds me of a stair-stepping waterfall carved from stone.  Note the size of the people scaling the structure about midway up.  To get a better sense of scale, I am standing in the passageway with the terraces towering overhead. 
Main temple with Jon for scale
I was surprised to see the temple actually adjoining the town on its west end.  Between the temple on the west side and a rugged and steep peak on the east side, Ollantaytambo is sandwiched between two formidable rock formations.
Temple to west

Monolith to the east
Note structures on side of peak
Besides the site of the Incan temple ruins, the town, itself, is built upon the old Incan town foundations.  In the ancient part of town, small rivulets run alongside each street
Typical Incan street layout
while current residents reside in homes whose foundations date back to Incan times.
"Modern" homes on Incan foundations
Ollantaytambo was the site of a battle between Manco Inca and Spanish Conquistador, Hernando Pizarro in 1537.  In this battle, Pizarro was defeated as Manco Inca thwarted the Spanish-led attack by flooding the valley floor.  Gathering reinforcements, Pizarro returned to do battle once again.  Upon his return, Pizarro found Manco Inca had fled into the jungle.  The exact location of the battle is unknown but evidence suggests that it took place east of Ollantaytambo near the town of Pachar.
From atop main temple looking north up valley
From the temple looking across the town, notice the structures clinging to the side of the steep rocky peak.  These buildings are granaries or storehouses.  One set of three row buildings is situated about one third up the face of the mountain.  The climb is steep, slippery, and not always well marked.  I passed one explorer who had lost her way on the path to the granaries.  I invited her to follow me up.  The view from these heights is stunning.

View of temple from Granaries
During our stay, it was festival time.  While my wife and sister were negotiating textile prices at a stall near the hotel, a truck came down the main road and made a hard left.  Too hard in fact and barreled into construction scaffolding and tearing off the front fender.  Imagine my surprise when the back door flew open and a scene out of a circus presented itself.  Peruvians in traditional grab piled out of the back of the truck at a great rate of outflow.  Women and children first!

Interesting little town that deserves a visit on any trek to Machu Picchu.  I certainly would return.

Next up:  Train to Aquas Calientes and Machu Picchu.