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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Kick off...

.... Lyall rules, no air attacks (low cloud), no Lyall comms (too much for my enfeebled brain). A good side effect of leaving the game in situ for more than a week was that I had forgotten where I had put the Germans who were under cover...

The Reds opened the action with five rounds of katushkia bombardment, 'aimed' at the buildings on either side of the road into the town:

Using the patented Lyall artillery grids, there was a wide range of shot fall, but both buildings were hit and set on fire. However, as it turned out, neither was occupied.

General assault, with the main thrust (3 x T34s) straight down the road, an infantry assault (backed by heavy mortars) on the right, and a tank (1 x T34) and infantry assault on the left flank.

The defenders put down mortar and infantry gun fire to little effect, but the captured T34 (above) destroyed the sole right flank T34, while the lead T34 on the road was hit and destroyed by the Pak 42 concealed back in the woods. Both hits were close run things, succeeding by only one pip of the dice - but that matters not, and in one turn, half the Bolsheviks' armour was gone:

Inside the town, Eastern infantry take up new positions, under continuous, but largely ineffective mortar fire:

End of move 8, and all to play for...

Thursday, 24 October 2013


... torrential rain, and a surprise German local offensive on a nearby table/front has led to a temporary suspension of the planned Red strike against the sector held by LFD and 'Eastern' troops under Von Stahlein.

However, in another time, another place, the recent defence of Brnad has led to new developments. The authorities have, rather tardily, ordered more garrison artillery to the city, yet there is no word of more boots on the ground. But honest, patriotic Maltovians are not going to stand by while the spineless so-called Liberal government leaves the heroic town of Brnad to another descent by the Lovitznian foe. Under the local leadership of 'Buller' Szlod, the men of the Maltovian National League (MNL) have organised and armed themselves:

Here we see Szlod and the local MNL men out on their first exercises.

As can be seen the MNL draws its support from all classes and conditions of men, united by their fierce love of their homeland, their contempt for the easy cosmopolitanism of Maltovia's so-called leaders who advise the King so badly, whose only loyalty is to foreign gold!

Fortunately for the Brnad MNL, Szlod is an old friend of Maj. Vlasov, who, it is rumoured, is a secret card-carrying member of the movement.

Little wonder 'Buller' Szlod stands tall near the famous Brnad oak, scene of the bitter defeat of Maltovian forces at the hands of the invading Ottoman, centuries before.

Friday, 18 October 2013


... one.

Von Stahlein and his small staff have taken to the cellar beneath the ruined barn. He has made his dispositions, all is now in the hands of the gods of war.  Across the wire, away to the east, the Bolsheviks make their preparations:

The terror of Stalin's organ pipes is prepared. 

Armour takes position, the crew from the Lend Lease White scout car have gone for a last fag break - they've found something that might be tobacco.

Lufwaffe Field Division men take up position, and ready their few 'heavy' weapons.

A PK cameraman uses some of his last colour film to capture 'Eastern' troops with a Hetzer, back in the woods, under cover - Von Stahlein's surprise for the Bolsheviks...

Thursday, 17 October 2013


... on the Eastern Front, sometime late war:

Col. Richard von Stahlein (cousin of the more famous Eric von Stahlein) makes defensive preparations. Here he is (second right) in impromptu field conference with his 2i/c of the Luftwaffe Field Division unit he commands, and two anti-Bolshevik Russian officers.

Their men are already patrolling the outskirts of the small town which sits astride a tactically crucial road junction.

While LFD gunners dig themselves in, and:

some welcome armoured support arrives.

Another testing time draws near...

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


... and beau geste.

As in the old saw, 'send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance'. Or to the uninitiated, the garbled comms that should have been understood as 'send reinforcements, we're going to advance'.

But, my 42s project got some reinforcements today, in the shape of Irregular's interesting generic 19th Century armed civilians:

I based them this evening, and admired them. This will be a very useful little unit, and I'm sure the figures could find a home in many a table top war, for example, with those tall 'round hats' they would do very nicely as War of 1812 Upper Canada militia. 

As part of the great migration to my shed, I have come across all sorts of half forgotten bits of kit from the past. Look at this:

Only slightly damaged, one of the classic Airfix standbys - the Foreign Legion fort. A bit of work and it will be better than new. I don't have any 20mm Foreign Legion chappies, nor angry desert fellows, but it could well do for a combined Egyptian/British sorting out the Mad Mahdi type scenario. As an aside, not so long ago our esteemed BBC had a piece on its web pages about the whole 19th Century Sudan business. Now, I know it is easy to think that the B[ritish] B[roadcasting] C[orporation] is little more than a nest of EU-loving, politically correct, North London (big insult here in Blighty, for overseas readers) vipers, but the piece on the Sudan did make me wonder. What initially caught my eye was the phrase, 'and the Victorians called him the Mahdi'. Er, no, as any wargamer knows, the Victorians called him 'the MAD Mahdi'. Doesn't mean to say he was mad, just that that is what the Victorians called him - it's known as a 'fact'. Then I realised that the piece made no mention of slaves and slaving, and that dear old 'Chinese' Gordon (our, British, version of the Mad Mahdi, but not to be confused with Charlton Heston) was rather set against such horribleness. But, then, perhaps whichever twenty something, Oxford University, English Literature graduate who had written the piece for the said nest of BBC North London vipers, didn't know that the 'Brits' (thanks, IRA) were against that sort of thing by then. The same sort of problem arises when people think about Haile Selassie - the 'Lion of Judah' - they don't know about the slaves. Mind you, the poor old fellow did come to a sticky end, when the revolting Bolsheviks murdered him. They didn't believe in slavery either. Apparently.

Now the question after all that rambling is, does the carbon monoxide alarm work in my wood burning stove bunker paradise? Of course it does! And this evening I was warm as toast, burning bits of wood that I had only today salvaged from a skip:

Sort of 21st Century foraging for firewood.

Monday, 14 October 2013


... heaven.

The plastic and lead godlets of war rejoice! 

The Hobbit Bunker, dedicated to tabletop war, is complete, and a fire has been lit, consecrating its divine purpose:

A fine piece of Norwegian cast iron work.

And the English weather is doing its stuff - cold and wet. But, inside, it is warm. Aaaaah.

Let the games commence!

Sunday, 13 October 2013


... no relation to Tate & Lyall, but, to the wargamer, just as sweet (and old school. Sort of).

As many of you chaps will know, one of the happy side effects of clearing stuff out is chancing upon stuff that you'd 'lost', and, in fact, have absolutely no intention of throwing out. In my recent onslaught on what has become the Hobbit Bunker, I came across these:

Nearly two decade old bits of overhead projector skins cut up and marked up (with some captions by my then small son) as instructed by:

The Lyalls - that is Gavin Lyall, who is my current thrilling yarn writer of choice, and his son, Bernard. First published in 1976, with the above, Pan, paperback from 1978. I didn't come across this until the early 1990s (something tells me that I bought it second hand in 'Till's Bookshop', Edinburgh), and my son and I had a few games using the simpler bits of the Lyalls' rules. And now,  I have decided that the happy coincidence of finding the grenade, machine and artillery grids, plus my Lyall novel-fest, means that I will have a crack at these IIWW rules again.  I have also ordered from John Curry (All Hail !!) his reissued Operation Warboard which has a forward by Bernard Lyall. A book of rules well worth investing in, even if just for the read - the Pont-de-la-Croix scenario is one of those fine, simple set pieces that are endlessly playable. 

And, before I sign off...

Maj. Vlasov:

With his immediate Order of Ss George and Andrew, First Class. Well may he puff out his chest!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Brnad burns..?

We left Maj. Vlasov and his men on a sticky wicket. The game had all been in the Lovitznians' favour, with a surprise descent on the old walled town of Brnad. The Lovitznians had kept the initiative from the outset, with The Rattle of Dice (TM, Ross Mac) going their way. The only bright spot for the Maltovians had been the rapid arrival of the artillery and infantry reinforcements. The defenders followed this up by seizing the initiative and bringing the battery into play:

The crash of the guns, and the attacking column (a vulnerable formation) takes casualties, but the Lovitznians' blood is up, and impetus carries them on:

But...horribly...not quite making the gun line!

Meanwhile on the other flank:

The Lovitznian Guard regiment follows up the half regiment of Moldovians who had been beaten back, but rallied, earlier. This time, things were very evenly matched:

and, perhaps 'blown' by their exertions, the Guards retreated.

Things were nasty in the gun line, but the gunners, and their supporting infantry, were fresh, and knew they had nowhere to go if they lost:

So, put the Lovitznian dogs to flight:

All under the eyes of their general - Brig. von Braunlich-Kautsky:

Mindful of his orders that this was supposed to be a quick affair to punish the upstart Maltovians, the Brigadier signals a general withdrawal, covered by his regiment.

Brnad burns?

Not on Maj. Vlasov's watch! Standing four-square amidst the wreckage of war, Vlasov's view is:

Brnad breathes free!

And, he wonders if his green tunic will soon receive a Cross, or, perhaps, a suitable Order?

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Sticky wicket...

... for Major Vlasov.

The old Major was right - it was too damn'd quiet.

The Lovitznian chancellery has decided to put pressure on Maltovia, funding insurrectionist groups within its borders, and mounting nuisance raids on weakly defended outposts like Brnad. The aim isn't all-out war, just a battle of nerves. Three regiments of Lovitznians have been tasked with a lightening descent on Brnad to give the old enemy a bloody nose before returning back across the frontier:

Two regiments make their way through the thick border forest to mount a frontal assault on the old walls.

While the third, Guards, regiment makes a flanking move along the left river bank. They are tasked with cutting the only road into Brnad in order to prevent reinforcements reaching the tiny garrison.

Move two, and Major Vlasov's men react, tumbling out of their billets, while Vlasov sends a wire requesting help. Move three, and the Lovitznians are pouring towards Brnad where Vlasov's men are readying the Maxim. Vlasov realises that his garrison's only real hope is if the wired for reinforcements arrive. But that depends on the cards:

And the red ace is drawn !

Just in front of the very noses of the Lovitznian Guards regiment, Vlasov's hoped for reinforcements steam (literally) down the road, while half of the gunners' infantry support face the Guards' threat.

But it doesn't look good for them as the attackers' column thunders into the rapidly formed defensive line:

Monday, 7 October 2013

On watch...

It is late summer in the ancient town of Brnad, once famous for its monastery and beer but now fallen into genteel decay. Even the political and military tensions between its mother country, Maltovia, and neighbouring Lovitzna seem to have past the old ramparts by. Only a small half regiment of garrison troops, Les invalides, keep watch over the rolling countryside and border forests. It is quiet, but old Major Vlasov wonders, in time honoured fashion:

'Is it too damn'd quiet?'

He might have a few regulars with the latest Maxim, but the old walls weren't made for modern, Nineteenth Century warfare, and his men aren't as young or hale as they used to be; or as he used to be, come to that.

The old bastion, and the half demolished walls, although from the border trees

Brnad still has something of its strength about it.

My apologies, dear readers, for the dreadful lack of posts of late. I will not bore you with trials and tribulations, but there have also been good reasons why I have slacked on the blog front. Firstly, the keen eyed might notice that the coming Maltovia-Lovitzna clash has been set up in a new environment. I will no longer clutter up the dining table, as I have, finally, finally, decluttered my shed and equipped it for table top war. 

Also, as the nights have closed in on the still beautiful days of this early English autumn/fall, I have been sipping imperial ale:

and reading absolutely first rate yarns. Gavin Lyall's last four novels:

were undoubtedly his best. They tell the imaginary tale of Britain's new 'Secret Service Bureau', just before the Great War, and they are a delight. In fact they are only rivalled by the fine 'Mamur Zapt' series by Michael Pearce:

 Both series are heartily recommended to the type of chap who likes toy soldiers, yarns, history and good beer.