Thursday, February 23, 2017


Here's an interesting book that I've been reading in my meanderings and musings in support of my rules and research for 19th Century warfare. I won't be presenting an exhaustive review, but will share a few observations and takeaways. This book is available free online for you to check out for yourself (readable in your browser or to download. Just click the title below to go to it).  As usual, in this post, you may clix pix for BIG PIX (as usual). 

 Armies of Today A Description of the Armies of the Leading Nations at the Present Time: 1893

 As mentioned in the title, the book has sections dealing with the major armies of the period. Each written by a different author...
 ...there is also an annex that covers the other armies not listed in the main table of contents. These include the smaller European armies, to include those from the Balkans and Scandanavia. Interestingly, Spain is relegated the annex while Mexico is in the main table of contents. Published in 1893, this book is post-Franco Prussian but pre-Spanish American. An interesting time. The book is nicely illustrated with many spiffing engravings...

The piece on the Russian Army is perhaps the most fun reading (overall).  It dwells the least on technicalities of population and detailed breakdowns of unit organizations. Instead, it "tells a story" and sticks to the qualities of the Army and its achievements. Characteristic of the time, the author talks about the Russian "race" and brings up the usual points about the endurance of the Russian soldier, as well as the various ethnic groups, like the Cossacks. At this time, the prestige of the Russian Army was fairly high, and much is made of the expedition to Khiva, which had captured the imagination of the world. The piece makes the rather astonishing assertion (in retrospect) that the Russian Imperial Staff was the equal of the German.
 The French and German pieces are interesting given that the book was produced in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War, with Germany ascendant and France resurgent. The German piece is heavily consumed by technical descriptions of conscription, the equipment, organization, and structure of the the Army. However, this concluding passage (below) breaks from the technical and illustrates the German "nation in arms" mentality in the face of imminent threats, as well as the central position of the Army in Imperial German Society....
The French piece acknowledges the disaster in 1870, but dwells on the new spirit of the French Army and people.  It makes much of recent exercises as an example of the new efficiency of the French Army. 
The piece on the British Army is an interesting contradiction. On the one hand, it asserts, rightly, that the British Army was the most combat experienced of the period. On the other, it acknowledges that it was not on a scale to engage the much larger continental forces. The topic of conscription was a much debated-one in Britain at the time given that the conventional wisdom was that it was not a matter of "if" but "when" a war would break out. The author makes much of the need to modernize, talking about the switch over to khaki, for instance, and to leave older, more colorful uniforms behind. Despite these forward-looking themes, it also makes much of the retroactive notion that the English Officer, being a gentleman, was inherently superior, as well as the superior virtues of the "Anglo-Saxon" race as soldiers.
 The Austro-Hungarian and Italian Armies are covered in some detail.  Most of the text on these is devoted to organization and equipment, with some discussion of officer training.  All good information for those interested in these armies (nice supplements to what Ospreys might have). One interesting bit is that the Austrian piece starts off by acknowledging the defeat in 1866 and mentions that the army has instituted reforms along the Prussian lines --a rather candid admission, I thought. 
Given the tiny U.S. standing army, the discussion of the U.S. Army in the book dwells much on the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the training of the regular officer corps (and military engineers). Like the piece on the British Army, the piece on the U.S. Army mentions the absence of conscription and its impact on the relevance of the U.S. Army in comparison to continental armies.

The book concludes with an interesting rumination on the state of military affairs in Europe at the time. Most interestingly, it posits, in rather matter-of-fact manner, that Germany, Austria, and Italy would be aligned against France, Russian, and Britain. It then proceeds to compare the forces (number of battalions, etc). The calculating nature of these estimates anticipate the mathematical estimates that would be part of the strategic planning in the Great War (short and long term attrition, for instance).  Another interesting point is the mention of the unknown impact of smokeless powder on operations in the next war--something of a wildcard.

I have another book from this time that I'll post about a bit later. That's it for now.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


For those who have been following along, the previous post on the Hungarian/Honved infantry (in gray and brown attila) represented 3/4 of the current work-in-progress. While waiting for the blizzard to clear this weekend, I wrapped up the 4th and last unit in the project: the 31st Transylvanian Honved Infantry. This unit required a conversion, and so progress was separate. As usual, in this post, you may clix pix for BIG PIX.

My inspiration:

31st Battalion Circled
The above image comes from the excellent Gyozo Smogyi Honved Army, 1848-49. In it you can see the major differences between the 31st Battalion and the "standard" Honved uniform: kepi, and short (white) coat as opposed to the standard attila.

In order to achieve the distinctive lines of the unit, I went with the excellent Steve Barber Revolution in Europe range...

The Honved Infantry Fixing Bayonet (above left) provided the the head and the short-coated Austrian Grenzer (above right) provided the torso..

Source figures in front and conversions on sticks.
Given the short white coat, the exposed hungarian knots on the trousers, and the kepi, I think the overall effect will be different enough to warrant the effort put into the conversion (as opposed to being just another manifestation of my peculiar mania for these things)...

This unit completes my work on the Honved infantry until the sculpts I commissioned become available. Then there will be two more units of Honved infantry (in kepis) and two units of Jagers to be done.

At this point, I have to add that I had thought that I would be both painting and playtesting at the same time. Unfortunately, work:life balance has left only so much energy. Given that there are figures in the pipeline that aren't yet available to complete the Honved/Hungarian army for my project, this should provide a natural pause for me to shift into playtesting.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


The Usual Supects...
 Last Friday was the February game night for my gaming club,  The Northern Conspiracy  
 This is my report.  For those with strong stomachs, you may clix pix for BIG PIX...
Above left, Robert, our current leader, engages in a fruitless attempt to organize the Penguins (always a good occasion for a gesture or two...). Charlie, in the handsome ski sweater to El Presidente's left, was handing out complimentary copies of his Napoleon's Rules of War  Napoleonic miniatures rules that he had just published on Amazon (these had been in development with the club for several years).  Above Right, in the baseball cap, fellow blogger Mark, of Mark D's Gaming Site, provides some adult supervision. Meanwhile, Kevin, recently relocated to these parts through the Federal Witness Protection Program, ducks the camera. Never fear, Kevin. Your secret is safe with us, Kevin!  

As usual there were three games on tap for the evening's pleasure...
Fellow blogger AJ, of AJ's Wargaming Blog , ran an Iron Cross WWII game.  You can find a more complete run-down of his game at his blog (also another report on the game night).
AJ explaining the rules.
AJ's amazing scratch-built radar site for the game.

A sampling of AJ's 15mm WWII figures in action.

For game #2, Phil hosted another WWII game, only this one was early war (French vs German armor).
Phil setting up--as seen from the next table over.
Some of Phil's Early War French Armor

Unfortunately, I didn't follow much of what went on at these other tables, because I wound up playing in game #3--Ralph's 28mm American Civil War game using his (some day to be published) Steady Boys ACW rules. (Aside: Ralph has also published a set rules: for ancients   Hannibal at the Gates).  Unfortunately, I didn't get a shot of Ralph, but what follows is my Battle Report on the game...
Ralph's Amazing 28mm ACW Figures.
Ralph always puts on a beautiful table. This game featured a train (too cool for school!) and a very detailed station.  Eye-candy though they were, they also provided the stuff of the scenario.  It seems that we (the Union) had captured a key railhead, the loss of which had seriously compromised the Secessionist position in the region.  Thus, the Confederates (Earl and Rob) came to the table with two big divisions plus a cavalry brigade to wrest said station from two smaller (heroic) Union Divisions, commanded by yours truly (the Meanderer himself) and Charlie.
The Confederate deployment: a solid wall of Gray!
It was our task to hold the station and also see if we could run the train off of the table (exit at the top of picture--not bloody likely!).  Additionally, both sides had a break point, so beating up the enemy would be a means to victory as well.  The Union took positions down the line, with Charlie's division to the left and my division on the right. Both Union Divisions were of equal size, so we weighted the effort on the left a bit by giving Charlie's division a shorter sector.  On the other side of the table, the Secessionists massed on the right, with General Beauregard Earl on the right and Oilcan Rob on the left.  The Confederate main effort would clearly be a turning motion from their right. 

At this point, dear reader, I shall ask your indulgence as I relate the action on the Union Right, where I was heavily involved, and then the action on the Union Left, which will necessarily be of a more brief nature given my personal circumstances

First, dear readers, my plan for the Union Right...
...was to sit on the hills and shoot whatever came my way...
...sheer genius! How do I come up with these cunning strategems?

My bully Hoosiers waiting for trouble at the end of my line. It wouldn't be long in coming!
Rob launches his division across the table...
The Gray Wave Rolls Closer...

...And Closer...

...And Closer, Until...
...Close Enough! 
This Day, General Dice was serving on attachment with the Union Right, and the shootin' dice were rolling hot for my Boys in Blue (thankfully). 

The smoke cleared to find the Secessionists swept from the Union Right. 

Meanwhile, on the Confederate Right...

The massed Confederate Right Wing moves out...
General "Shaka" Earl's Impis of the Confederate Right Horn head for Charlie's command, the drumming of their assegais on shields filling the air.  The call for ammunition was the last that was heard from the brigade at the end of the Union line there
We had pounded the Confederate left to smithereens, but had taken our lumps in the center and left/center. Both armies were right at their breaking points...
...But then Rob launched two key assaults that broke two of our units in the left/center and the Union cracked firstOh, the humanity!
 Well played and a good time was had by all!  Thanks to Ralph for the excellent game and to Charlie for standing up to the beating we took in his sector--and to our honorable opponents for the evening: Earl and Rob.

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