Category Archives: Off Topic

A Mighty Fortress – Garden Wargaming 7

Following the jailbreak at Fort Redwall, and forcing of the straits between forts Redwall and Rottenwood, the following exchange took place at Ministerial level:

From: Ministry of Foreign Embassies and Spies.

To: Ministry for War and Lego.

cc: Ministries for Public Works and Finance

Your Excellency,

    Following the recent embarrassing debacle regarding the unfortunate loss of an enemy spy, and our apparent inability to defend the great Saphenous river, or our postal services from Piratical depredations, I have spoken to Earl Tightfist at Finance, during one of his working party meetings. The Tinto Verde and canapés were excellent! He agrees that we must improve our fortifications, if necessary at the expense of the research budget.

    I hear through my network that Piedmont are no closer to building a giant stompy robot than we are, so have authorised a series of upgrades to Fort Redwall, via the Minister of Public Works, Sir Peter Stone.

    If a little English Captain by the name of  “Boney” Fuller approaches you with his ideas for a “armoured land caterpillar”, just ignore him. The man is clearly mad, and a distraction from our eventual, more sensible, goal of producing a 30 metre-tall walking colossus.

Your faithful servant,

Sherlock Urbane

Minister for Foreign Embassies and Spies.

Once approval had been given, progress on the build was rapid, and was completed on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The contractor denied that building materials had been diverted from a large civil engineering project at the international water storage plant to the west (see map), and work was completed in the space of one sunny afternoon.

The previously open gate was enclosed and ramparted. Watchtowers occupied the southeast and southwest corners, and a firestep was added to the north wall.

Finally, a secure jail was added to the northwest corner!


Filed under Off Topic

Not a Spy – Garden Wargaming 5

North China Morning Post

“Not a Spy” Plane Spotter Claim

In an official press release, The de Barros Minister for War and Lego announced that they captured a Piedmontese spy taking photographs in a High Security Compound that the Ministry denies is a military base.

When asked to explain why he was lurking in a strawberry plantation, dressed in military green fatigues, with a radio and high-powered camera, Colin Pratt (aged 24) said,

   “I was on a walking holiday in the Forbidden Forest, when I heard about the new airmail service, and I wanted to get photos before any of my friends did. I always wear camouflage jackets, just like my mate John Armatys as I am a keen military re-enactor. I have been well treated, and the Chili con carne that they feed us isn’t bad, but I miss my mum.”

The Piedmontese Ministry of Defence was unavailable for comment, but the Foreign Secretary, Boris Blusterwell opined that it was outrageous to imprison harmless but misguided aircraft enthusiasts, and tourism to the Forbidden Forest would surely suffer.

+++ Breaking News +++

The Navies of Piedmont and de Barros have clashed over a group of German scrap metal merchants landing on Slug Island to the North of the Seagrave Isles. This island is a British protectorate that is firmly in de Barros territorial waters. A patrol of a  battleship and aircraft carrier intercepted a Piedmontese fleet of a Landing Ship Toy (LST Pomodoro), two aircraft carriers (RoPS Airone and Aquila di Mare). 

A brief dogfight ensued in which a naval biplane attacked the famous Piedmontese pilot Capitano Biggaloro. The valiant Capitano fought off an unprovoked attack and sent his enemy packing in a cloud of smoke, but did not escape damage himself. The Artist’s impression of the dogfight seen below has been rushed to print in order that our readers are not denied an accurate impression of the event, rather than trusting to less exacting news outlets, such as might be found outside railway stations.

The gallant Capitano Biggaloro brings his assailants to justice

Meanwhile, the scrap merchants abandoned their plunder and escaped in a fishing trawler that narrowly escaped being sunk by an enthusiastic, if inaccurate bombardment from the pocket battleship that left flames trailing from the wheelhouse.

Following this ignominious retreat, the victorious de Barros fleet landed Marine Commandos on the island to tear down the Scrap dealers’ flag and hoist their own. The Royal Piedmontese Navy (RoPN) also withdrew, taking the scrap dealers into protective custody. In the photo below, the stern of the pocket battleship can just be seen towing a Royal Marine Rigid Raider (not to scale) 🙂

The RoPN denied that decades of neglect had left their Fleet Air Arm with only one serviceable biplane, saying that they had “lots”. ¹

Slug Island back in de Barros hands

Slug Island back in de Barros hands


The de Barros economy is steadily gearing up for war and now possesses a modern biplane  featuring the latest structural wrapped cardboard fuselage from the Blue Peter Institute of Technology. A fortification (Fort Redwall) has sprung up almost overnight opposite Fort Rottonwood.

The Piedmontese economy continues to pour vast sums of money and concrete into a massive wall-building program to secure the borders of the homeland. Ex-President Furzmaul of Bombastia is rumoured to be following the project with keen interest, hoping for tips. The current President Don Maddox said that he is more interested in building tanks and conducting research into giant stompy robots.

Chinese Pirates, under their leader Long Chin, are said to be becoming bolder in the north China Sea, even raiding as far east as the Wild Onion Peninsula. Unconfirmed reports suggest that they may be using a home-made submarine to conduct their raids.

  1. In a lever-arch file somewhere in the garage 🙂


Filed under Not Quite Rocket Science

Review – Air Power in the Falklands Conflict.

Air Power in the Falklands Conflict.

An operational insight into air warfare in the South Atlantic

John Shields

ISBN 1399007521

Military books about contemporary warfare mostly fall into two categories: Boy’s big books of tanks, ships and ‘planes, and “What my mates and I did in the war”. The third category, into which this book falls, belongs to the domain of the professional analyst, journalist or historian, and is often a reworking of work already done for a news or academic paper, or thesis.

This scholarly work falls into the third category and argues convincingly that the side which made the least mistakes won. It differs from the plethora of published first hand and anecdotal accounts of the conflict, in that it is a doctoral thesis on the operational prosecution of the air war. As such it is a dispassionate and comprehensive analysis of the conduct of the air war at operational level, free from the inter-arm and inter personal rivalries that can be observed in some of the accounts published shortly after the end of the conflict. A number of post-conflict myths are examined and debunked

Organisational and operational failings are analysed on both sides of the conflict, with well-argued conclusions and discussion of the key vulnerabilities of both sides, with a realistic appraisal of the information available to commanders as the conflict unfolded. Lessons for future warfare of this nature are proposed, with the attendant implications for future tri-service spending and planning.

The book will be of interest to policy makers and professional students of the conflict but has enough detail to be of interest, and is highly recommended, to anyone seeking to understand why the conflict took the course that it did. Although few concessions are made to the casual reader, the story it tells rewards the time spent reading.

The level of detail provided for anyone trying to piece the conflict together from fragmented popular histories is exceptional. This book could be considered to be essential reading for anyone seeking a balanced view of the air war, and is highly recommended.

I have  a strong personal interest in the subject matter of the book, having been in command of  1 Troop, 11 Squadron Royal Engineers embarked on RFA Sir Bedivere during the conflict, and having been on the port bridge wing  during the morning air attack of May the 24th. The book has laid to rest a memory that has been puzzling me for many years – I distinctly remember seeing more than two Skyhawks hop over the ridge line to the ship’s stern, but pictures of Bedivere from the immediate aftermath of the war show Daggers. The picture above is from the first attack as the rear crane jib is still undamaged.¹ The book lists all  the Skyhawks and Daggers that attacked the fleet at anchor in the morning and afternoon of the 24th of May, a total of 24 Aircraft (14 Skyhawks and 10 Daggers) split into 8 callsigns. It’s nice to be popular!

That Bedivere escaped the fate of Galahad and Tristram, can be attributed to the four 7.62 Bren LMGs that were mounted in two pairs on the rear flight deck², manned by twelve sappers each – a crew of 6 and a replacement crew, there in case of casualties. Each crew comprised a gunner, a spotter and four loaders, for the magazine fed Brens. They put up a respectable cone of tracer fire and the aircraft in line with Bedivere was seen to pull up at the last moment before releasing its bomb. Instead of burying itself in the innards of the ship. This mattered because only one of the two 40mm Bofors mounted in the bow, and manned by a Royal Corps of Transport crew, was operational.³

The bomb shattered a ceramic radio ariel, severed the wires of the stern crane, and put a neat half moon cutout in the port bow seen below, happily without exploding. No casualties were caused by the crane jib either, which hit the deck with a massive clang that reverberated through the whole ship. Subsequent air attacks were met additionally with every GPMG that the Marine Reinforcement Holding Company owned, at least a further four, with two on the flight deck propped up on boxes, and at least two amidships, balanced on the railings.

It should be noted that Sir Bedivere is omitted from Table 4C on page 84 Chapter 4, as the embarked troops were not part of 3 Commando Brigade, but the ship appears on p234. Annex G.

  1. So this bit is clearly, “what my mates and I did in the war”
  2. The pintle mounts were fabricated on board ship by the 11 Squadron fitters.
  3. Not by me. I was busy lying flat on the bridge wing deck trying to fit the whole of my body into my steel helmet. As it was, I needn’t have bothered as I was showered with ceramic fragments from the ariel across the back of my legs.


Filed under Off Topic, Reviews

International Winter Games

Regardless of the mounting tensions between the Kingdoms of de Barros and of Piedmont, the first scheduled Winter Games went ahead. There was only one event, the snowball fight, with two players on either side. His Royal Highness Jose de Barros and the Minister for War and Lego elected to captain their own twenty-four man team, split into two teams of twelve. On the Piedmont side, Princess Esmeralda captained both teams. Unusually, the Royal Consort Wendy was invited to play as a guest against “The Boys” as she called them.

Local rules applied¹: 1d6 with two sides showing a hit and the remainder showing arrows. Team members could move one hand span and throw three spans. Each turn one player could move one soldier and the same soldier or another could throw a snowball. Obviously, an eight year old and his dad playing against a concert pianist and a cello player are going to be seriously out-spanned. Grow a spine, boys!

Much hilarity ensued as the arrows directed snowballs in random directions to knock down friend and foe alike. As the final whistle blew, team de Barros had won 11-9, mostly due to Princess Esmeralda taking an invigorating nap partway through the game. The teams retired for a post-match meal of chili con carne, taken al-fresco on the ice, followed by Lebkuchen and Stollen.

Embassy letters have been flying back and forth over the last week. The Minister for War and Lego announced that a new postal service has been instituted from the Crescent Province of de Barros to the Strawberry Peninsulas. The flight was observed flying suspiciously close to the Piedmontese scientific outpost, so a closer watch is being instituted on the service.

The Piedmontese Executive for Foreign Lands (PIFFL) intercepted the following coded message² :

20-15  20-8-5  8-15-2-2-9-20,  9  19-21-19-16-5-3-20  21-18-2-1-14-5  9-19  19-5-20-20-5-18-19  20-15  8-9-19  3-15-21-19-9-14  9-14  16-9-5-4-13-15-14-20.  20-8–5-18-5  9-19  1  19-16-25  23-1-20-3-8-9-14-7  25-15-21-18  19-5-1-16-12-1-13-5.  7-18-5-25  15-23-12


Not Quite the Fortean Times

Killer Slugs Attack Naval Landing Party – Brave Sailors Feared Lost

Doctor Ville has sent the first shocking pictures of Seagrave slugs attacking a brave naval landing party to the Fortean Times for the edification of an eager public. Ladies should be cautioned that images of these repulsive creatures are not for the fainthearted

  1. The inspiration came from one of the blogs that I follow – it might have been the Wargaming Pastor, or Man of Tin, but I haven’t found the post to reference it yet.
  2. Casual readers need not trouble themselves to decipher this message, but if you do, please don’t shout out the answer for the Minister for War and Lego 🙂
  3. Warning, contains nuts. The slugs were made from pistachio shells and glass beads. Aren’t they adorable?


Filed under Not Quite Rocket Science

Not Quite Rocket Science – Garden Wargaming 4

North China Morning Post

Top Boffin Hunts Killer Slugs 

Dr E. Ville does not deny that they devour children

   The celebrated scientist and toxicologist, Doctor Ernst Ville, famous for his ground-breaking study on the mating habits of the Seagrave Slug¹, arrived off the eponymous Isles this week at the head of a major expedition.

   “We hope to discover more about the diet of these fascinating but much misunderstood creatures” the brainy boffin opined. When asked if it was true that the slugs were man-eaters, the doctor admitted it was true that the slugs were omnivorous, but stories of them attacking and overwhelming children were “greatly exaggerated. They much prefer soft fruits.”.

   The brave doc posed for our correspondent with his laboratory-reared tame slugs to show how he plans to capture them by tranquilising and bagging the ghastly gastropods in orange clinical waste bags containing strawberries.

  “This keeps them docile and allows me to teach them tricks,” the egghead said².

   From his comfortable penthouse laboratory in Seattle, Dr. Ville’s co-author and  multi-millionaire Professor ‘Stew’ Myopia  announced that he had found a way to transmute gold into lead. Wargamers the world over greeted this announcement with enthusiasm.

Exclusive -Tensions Mount as War Fleet Spotted.

In other news, a huge fleet of warships was spotted by our regional correspondent passing through the Suet Canal, on the way to China. This dramatic camera shot shows the lead ship in the fleet, bristling with troops, sneaking through the canal at dawn. When contacted for comment, The Ambassador for Royal Piedmont denied any martial ambitions in the Seagrave Isles, remarking that everyone knows how fierce and vicious the Seagrave Slug is, and that troops were needed to cull the savage creatures.


This Army man  almost looks as if he has a bald head rather than a helmet, so that’s how I painted him. The lab coat was quickly fabricated from a post-it note, and a bandage was used for the sack. Professor Myopia may take a little more work. See his website here :

  1. Ville, E., Myopia, S. (1917). The mating habits of Soleolifera Seagrava. Why this is not suitable viewing for ladies and children. Northampton :  Fortean Times. Available in few good book shops.
  2. Ville, E., Myopia, S. (1918). Dietary  preferences of Soleolifera Seagrava. Slugs prefer soft fruit to small children. Northampton :  Fortean Times.


Filed under Not Quite Rocket Science

Not Quite Rocket Science – Garden Wargaming 2

The Kingdom of Piedmont has dispatched a couple of ships off to the colonies, crammed full of scientists and engineers, to conduct research into the mating habits of the Seagrave Slug (Soleolifera Seagrava). Here we see them in a transport motor junk (the  MV Matchsticks) together with a decommissioned ocean-going riverine vessel, (the MV Cuneiform) heading off to the North China Sea. The sea looks a little rough, it being February, and the scientists do look rather heavily armed. It must be for protection against the slugs!

The expedition shows every evidence of being hastily thrown together. The scientists look rather green and very tall and fit. The sailors must  have been recruited from local fishermen, as they look tiny by comparison. I wonder why they have brought flags with them?

Here is the scientific camp that they have built, together with a very substantial anti-slug ditch, seen from the Great Saphenous River, and again from the landward side.


Filed under Not Quite Rocket Science

Not Quite Rocket Science – Garden Wargaming

54mm Army Men

These guys will be doing all the hard work. The  back rank looks happy!

A bit of a sudden tack to the left this week. The Wall is finished, NQM stuff is being inked and varnished, which is totally un-photogenic, and all the children that we know are dropping like flies with the Omicron Zombie virus. When the warm weather reanimates them in spring, it is likely to be outdoor contact only, so I am planning along the lines of simplified Deathzap¹ to introduce a bright eight year -old to the joys of wargaming.

54mm Army Men Commanders

“Follow me Men!”
“Have you seen the size of the enemy?”

He already owns an eclectic mix of WW2, modern, cowboys and knights, so they are all going in to the mix.

54mm Army Men Signalmen and Crew

If in doubt, point and shout!

His father is prone to bouts of enthusiasm when making purchases, so we are sticking rigidly to the 99p store, to avoid a bankrupting arms race. Cardboard and wooden blocks will furnish fortifications, tanks, ships , aircraft and giant stompy robots. “ein alte Kriegsspiel” is the aesthetic that I am aiming for, but with none of the historical accuracy, and paint being optional.


We’re going to need a bigger gun!


I’m a Nebelwerfer. I werf Nebels!

Table 12 will provide the engine for ranged combat, and risk dice for the close up stuff. I shouldn’t need much more than that to start with. I will introduce rules as questions are asked and cunning plans are hatched.

Finally, the M47 Dragon figure above is my favourite.  Taking cover behind the fuel drums, what could possibly go wrong?


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Not Quite Rocket Science, Off Topic, Post WWII

Ten Famous Walls, a Christmas Listicle

  1. The Atlantic Wall (Festung Europa) was not a wall at all, but an awful lot of lumps of hollow concrete, stuffed with any old cannon that the Germans could find, and surrounded by prickly string.
  2. The 750 kilometre long Maginot Line was also not a proper wall. It had a big gap in it to let the trees through, and the Germans, who hadn’t been told that you can’t drive an armoured division through a National Park. It had sunbeds and underground railways in it though, so that’s cool!
  3. The Great Wall of China is a proper wall. Who cares if it can’t be seen from space, It’s huge! … and very long at 20,000 kilometres. The Great Wall that Matt Damon had to have a wash to be fed at was more fun. Loved the chrome lacquered armour! Not so keen on the local wildlife though; we have a frog, Nobby the Newt  and a hedgehog. Matt Damon just had lots of bitey lizards with eyes in the wrong places.
  4. The Wall in Game of Thrones is a proper 480 kilometre wall, that even meets UK building regulations, and is 230 metres high. Despite being built in Northern Ireland over a cement works, The Seven Kingdoms is the very opposite of a united kingdom and much stabbier, so what do you expect? I prefer ice in small drinks cubes or long downhill pistes.
  5. Drop Walls. Another fantasy wall, this time from Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius. These are designed to topple over and squash besiegers. Nasty.
  6. The lines of Ne Plus Ultra stretched for 256 kilometres. Rather splendid in a Vauban-esque way. It’s a shame that Marlborough walked around the middle of the end of it. The French track record with defensive walls is not entirely stellar. See Chandler for decent maps.
  7. The West Wall is half finished now. It’s Big, it’s beautiful, and nobody asked Mexico to pay for it: See Number 10 on this list. Only 1.48 scale kilometres long in 1:100, but an impressive 1900 hamburgers high, or 190 metres, and a rather fetching shade of orange. The Luftwaffe has got in first with its Flak.
  8. Offa’s Dyke – 285 kilometres long. Pretty impressive in its day. Can still be seen on the ground. Beware nettles and bracken in summer. Wear long trousers and boots.
  9. The Siegfried Line- 630 kilometres long. Built in the 1930s.  Made the Maginot Line look good. Rather like a suit or dress that you bought in summer, then tried to squeeze into in winter, the embrasures were too small for the porkier anti-tank guns that were needed when the Allies assaulted it in 1944. Even so, it held out until 1945 before making a useful clothes line for washing. Remnants of the line live on as biotopes for wildlife
  10. Donald Trump. Ha Ha.


Filed under Off Topic

World War(LL) Zed

Up to creasing tile height

A lot has happened in a month. The wall is now of a suitable height to deter Zombies, shambling or otherwise. De Fence budget (see what I did there?) costed in searchlights to allow work to continue into the night if needed. They kick out a massive 50 watts apiece. I’m still waiting for machine guns though.

No Zombies!

The right hand side last two bays are now finished, with creasing tiles to keep the wall dry, and a cement cap. The pillar is at creasing tile height, and if 1:100 scale, would be a mighty 190 metres tall ( or just under 1,900 hamburgers laid end to end, if you are American). I’m making the most of unseasonably mild weather to crack on with building, so wargaming is still on the back burner for a while. Normal service will be resumed as soon as the bad weather comes.

The creasing tiles are laid and the wall finished on bays 7 and 8 (the two right hand bays).


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Concrete Sniffing, Off Topic

Just another Brick in the Wall

For anyone wondering at the lack of posts since November, I have been playing with my new outdoor toy; a concrete mixer! As retirement presents go, it was a bit of a hint 🙂

 Rather than clutter this blog with frankly uninspiring pictures of foundations and bricks, I have put them onto my building blog. Don’t feel that you have to visit it out of politeness. Brickaholics can find it here.

Sensible people can be reassured that the BRYANSK campaign is still underway, but German Pioneers have been throwing all sorts of obstacles in the way of the tabletop – dirty boots and bricklaying tools amongst them. Logistically, it has been quite a challenge stockpiling all the materials onsite prior to starting the operation, especially with the local builder’s merchant delivery driver, Chuckles the Clown doing his usual best to drop loads, or offload them in the wrong order.

In the meantime, there is a glorious site called underwhelming fossil fish of the month. My brickie blog is a bit like that 🙂


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Off Topic