Early Days of Wargaming

A YouTube video turned up in my “Recommended Viewing” box the other day so I viewed it. It basically covered the early days of wargaming and in particular wargame figure manufacturing. I had pause to think then about my early days of wargaming and what was available then. I started gaming in the early 1970s I think. I can’t recall the exact date and time but I am certain it was after I left school and had cash in my pocket – that would have been 1972 for being out of school but I guess 1975 when there was cash in the pocket. So, around that time, a mate, Jeffrey, called and said, “come around home and let’s have a wargame?”

“Great” says I, “er, what’s a wargame?”.

Rolled up to Jeff’s and he had set up, on a Masonite board, Plasticine hills and a number of Airfix Union and Confederate soldiers and a copy of Donald Featherstone’s War Games. Jeff took the Confederates and whupped my boys good! It was great fun.

The following week we played again, this time Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons (oh how good those Roman Chariots looked). Jeff took the Romans and I the Britons. Let’s just say that the result was Boudicca’s revenge! Both games were probably the most fun I had playing in the early years. Simple rules, two people who did not know enough about the rules or the history to argue the finer points and unpainted plastic figures on the table.

Later we became more mainstream and started frequenting a shop, Models and Figurines, firstly at Naremburn in Sydney and later in Crows Nest where it eventually changed its name to the Tin Soldier.

In those heady days of pioneering wargames in the 1970s (back then it was “War Games” now we refer to “wargames” regardless of the failure of spell checkers to recognize the new fangled spelling from world wide usage) we were somewhat restricted in the figures available. Leaving aside the “flats” (German manufactured historical figures, moulded as flat figures), at the start there was HO/OO/20mm or 1/76 scale (Airfix) and 25mm size figures. The main suppliers we had access to at the start were Airfix (plastic figures and the subject of much conversion work); Hinchliffe (Frank Hinchliffe and designer and wargame figure painter extraordinaire, Peter Gilder); Lamming Miniature (from Bill Lamming); and Minifigs (owner Neville Dickinson and designer Dick Higgs). The clip below shows a news piece from around the mid to late 1980s I think about the setup of Miniature Figurines, the production of figures and wargaming in general. Worth a look for the history of it all.

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Recent Book Arrivals

I had a couple of packages arrive recently with the odd book to read. OK. so there was a lot. Some interesting titles in there however and I wuill get around to reviewing when I get a chance (which means when I actually finish reading a few. The temptation is to read them concurrently rather than serially. I shall try and resist that temptation.

The first batch will be pretty quick reading:

The second batch will tale a wee bit longer I will admit:

Mind you, I started on the second batch, in particular Steve Dunn’s. Southern Thunder, The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One, which frankly I new absolutely nothing about. I can see some great scenarios for a wargame or three there as well as the need to acquire some more ships. Navwar order coming up.

Maria Callas, Patrick Guerin and other Snake Oil salesfolks – Update

Back in October 2009 I made mention of Maria Callas and other folks trying to extract money from folks who were suffering from hardship or financial problems – in essence – preying on the weak and poor of society. This is something I particularly hate. I was reminded of the Maria Callas post (Marie Callas – Clairvoyant and …. ? and Marie Callas and Snake Oil Salesmen) as the result of a comment posted today.

I wondered what had happened to the old fraud and decided that as I could not make a happy face with my breakfast I would do a quick bit of googling. Well, to my great amusement I noticed that in 2016 the “Feds” in the US busted Maria Callas, Patrick Guerin et al for International Mail Fraud (see Feds Bust Psychics in International Mail Fraud Scheme) proving that you can fool some of the people some of the time but don’t piss off the US Post Office!

Well done! The more of these fraudsters that are taken down the better. The  world has enough problems without these vultures feeding off the carrion of human misery!

Hacked Off

So it has been an annoying period. About two months ago I received an email saying words to the effect of “We have your password, email ID etc. Send around a thousand dollars in Bitcoins or we will start releasing embarrassing pictures of you to all your email contacts, social networks and what have you”.

I did not worry about this of course, as I am quite capable of publishing embarrassing photos of myself myself! In any case, the password they quoted was one that I had not used on email or any of the social networks for many years so no problem.

Then this week. Firstly Airbnb sent me a note to say my email address had been changed and did I make the change. I followed the links provided to say that it was not me but then they asked my to login using the old email address and a password. The password had been changed so that did not work. I posted a message in Twitter to Airbnb and mentioned all this. I am waiting to hear back.

And then bookings.com sent me a note asking me to check my password change and confirmation of a hotel booking in London for GPB 350. This was followed by a cancellation charge of GBP 167. Interesting, me checking into a hotel in London when I am sitting in Singapore! Bookings.com had a very helpful operator who managed to sort a solution out. Kudos to them.

I then tried to access my hotels.com account and the password was marked as wrong and/or the email address. Clicking forgot password resulted in nothing so I contacted hotels.com and received the following note,  noting the same thing, that my email address had been changed. I am waiting for them to give me some customer service but the one thing I am missing to get them working is my Aussie mobile – the SIM Card is in Manila! They did send me a helpful email saying that

“This is to acknowledge your email. Please be advised, our policy is not to disclose any information once you failed on our security verification. For us to proceed with the investigation, we need you to provide the correct email address or phone number, or, you may call us and our colleagues will glad to assist you.”

Of course they do not give you a phone number to call.

So, the scores?

  • Airbnb @airbnb – they have almost helped me so 5/10
  • Booking.com @bookingcom – full marks, brilliant service 10/10
  • hotels.com @Hotels.comASIA – I have booked many rooms through them but posting messages has not helped. I have just had a chat sessions, still not sorted but a “Specialized Team” will contact me – 3/10 (at the moment as I have free nights I cannot access)

Well that has been a Saturday wasted chasing all this up!

Update – 8 March 2019 – hotels.com has been repaired finally. So far it looks like all dodgy attempts to screw something free out of me are from Jersey DS!

YouTube – Navwar Parcel #02 Arrives

I received my Christmas gift to myself from Navwar. Seven fleet packs were included (World War 2 Argentinian and Brazilian and Dutch, Italian, French, UK and US modern). Here we have a brief look at the contents of each pack.

I will show more as I prepare each pack for painting … but first I need to finish Anthony’s 20mm World War 2 Brits.

Watch it here:

World Naval Review 2019 – ed. Conrad Waters – Review

Before anything else, I need to point out that I have a vested interest in this volume. There is a photograph on Page 77 of RSS Swordsman, a modernised Västergötland boat on the Singapore Navy. The photograph was taken by me at a Republic of Singapore Navy Open Day at Changi Naval Base.

Having said that I look forward each year to the release of the World Naval Review with its summary and roundup of the world’s navies. This edition is the tenth annual edition, but regrettably I have only been reading this publication since 2018. I am thinking of starting to look for copies of the previous editions.

Covered in this volume are:

  1. Overview (introduction)
  2. Regional Review – North and South America
    1. Royal Canadian Navy
    2. The Peruvian Navy
  3. Regional Review – Asia and The Pacific
    1. Republic of Singapore Navy
    2. The Indian Ocean and Africa
    3. Europe and Russia
  4. Significant Ships
    1. Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carriers
    2. Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers
  5. Technological Reviews
    1. World Naval Aviation
    2. Modern Naval Communications: An Overview
    3. Autonomous Systems: A New Horizon for Surface Fleets

The introduction is a great place to start reading the Review as it lists the top 10 countries by defence expenditure over the ten years 2008-2017. It then looks at defence budgets and plans and follows that with a summary of the change in type of the Major Fleet Strengths for the ten years 2009-2018.

For example, Australia in 2009 is listed as:

  • 6 x SSK
  • 12 x CG/FFG/DDG
  • 6 x MCMV
  • 2 x AO/AOR/AFS

In 2018 this had changed to:

  • 2 x LHA/LHD/LPH
  • 1 x LPD/LSD
  • 6 x SSK (if they can keep 6 crews up to it)
  • 11 x CG/FFG/DDF
  • 6 x MCMV
  • 2 x AO/AOR/AFS

which partly reflects the change in roles of the RAN over that 10 year period.

Similar comparisons exist for the US, Royal, Brazilian, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean (both), and Indian navies over the same ten years.

The regional review then looks at the strengths of major regional navies. For example, the Americas lists current strengths for Argentina; Brazil; Canada; Chile; Colombia; Ecudor; Peru and the USA.

Given that the cost of regular updates from Janes is beyond most of us, World Naval Review becomes my go to publication for a review of the recent past as well as what is on the horizon for the near future. This is one of my favourite reads along with Warship.

The book is available on both sides of the ditch, published by Seaforth, an imprint of Pen and Sword and also available through the US Naval Institute Press, along with Amazon, Book Depository and so on. It was published in hardcopy, ePub and Kindle versions.

Product Details
  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Seaforth Publishing (UK) and Naval Institute Press (US)
  • Date: November 15, 2018
  • ISBN-10: 1526745852
  • ISBN-13: 9781526745859

Interestingly I cannot find this on the Pen and Sword website, even though my copy came from Pen and Sword. Look for this publication at:

Highly Recommended

Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume 2 – Julian S. Corbett – Review

Back in September 2018 I reviewed Volume 1 of Julian Corbett’s Maritime Operations of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905. Volume 2 arrived recently and replaced my reading list for a period of time as I followed the maritime operations from the Genesis of the Russian Baltic Fleet, through the Battle of Tsushima (or as Corbett describes it, the Battle of the Sea of Japan) and which completes with a look at the two Sakhalin expeditions.

So this volume covers:

  1. Genesis of the Baltic Fleet
  2. Cruise of the Smolensk and Peterburg
  3.  The Dogger Bank Incident
  4. Situation at Port Arthur to the First Attack on 203-metre hill
  5. The Blockade of Kwangtung
  6. 203-metre Hill
  7. Destruction of the Ships at Port Artur and the Torpedo Attack on the Sevastopol
  8. Fall of Port Arthur
  9. Progress of the Baltic Fleet
  10. Japanese Preparations for the Baltic Fleet
  11. Fleet Movements in March and April
  12. Concentration of and the Final Approach of the Baltic Fleet up to Contact
  13. The Battle of the Sea of Japan (Tsushima) in five phases
  14. Admiral Nebogatov’s Surrender
  15. The Sakhalin Expeditions

I will admit that in the past I have tended to stop reading the histories at the climax that is Tsushima so reading the last chapters in this book were well worth the effort.

Adding Corbett to my Kindle copies of Semenoff as well as the works by Hough, and Warner & Warner in particular, I feel I have a good view (at least as good as an historical view can get) of the Maritime side of the Russo-Japanese War (RJW). I will look for further works on the land warfare at the time but I can’t help but wonder if the performance of the Japanese against the Russians during the RJW encouraged the Japanese to take on the Soviets and Mongolians at Khalkin-gol (Nomonhan), a battle that resulted in the Japanese agreeing to a peace with the Soviets and which allowed the Soviets to concentrate on their war with Germany.

Julian Corbett (Later Sir Julian Corbett) wrote the Maritime Operations of the Russo-Japanese War as a confidential publication for the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty War Staff. It was never made available to the general reader until well after Corbett’s death. Corbett composes a picture of the war by writing a continuous narrative that weaves the interrelationship of land and sea events as they affect each other. He examines the political objectives, the geography of the area as well as the naval aspects to tell that story. Because Corbett writes in a continues narratives he is easy to read as well.

Naval Institute Press published a hardback version of Corbett’s work back in 1994. This is the first release of the history in paperback. It is also released in an eBook version (Kindle). As with Volume 1, there are none of the original illustrations that accompanied the 1914/1915 editions of Corbett’s work.

This volume is smaller than the first volume but arguably more exciting. There are 24 chapters in this volume. 11 Appendices and an Index.

For example, on page 404 is Appendix III, which contains a translation of the Instructions for the Vladivostok Squadron  sent by Vice-Admiral Stark to Rear-Admiral Baron Shtakelberg at Vladivostok  and notes:

I must point out that Japan has not subscribed to the Paris Declaration of the 16th April 1856; and therefore we shall not hesitate to inflict as much damage as possible to the enemy on the sea. Being convinced that during war the Japanese merchant vessels will not think twice about flying the flags of other nationalities, I am forwarding to your Excellency copies of the regulations laid down for Japanese merchant vessels, which may be of use in establishing the actual nationality of vessels stopped by you, of which only valuable prizes captured at no great distance from Vladivostok may be sent to that port; all the remainder must be sent to the bottom without consideration of pity and without hesitation.

This book belongs on any naval historian’s bookshelf, and now that it is available in both paperback and electronic form it is available to a wider reading audience.

As before, as a companion set to Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Vols 1 and 2, look for a copy of The Russo-Japanese War at Sea 1904-5: Volume 1-Port Arthur, the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan and Volume 2: The Battle of Tsushima and the Aftermath by Vladimir Semenoff These works provide a view of the war from the Russian side.

Product Details

In the same way I did with Volume 1, I highly recommend this work, especially for any naval historian, general reader with an interest in naval or Asian history, or anyone interested in the zenith of the pre-dreadnought period.

Saving Space

Reader TWR asked how to reduce image size in WordPress. What follows is a little tutorial. I took two pictures tonight. The first is here to the right.

Some modern Japanese ships seem appropriate for this. The file size on the original image is 5MB as can be seen from the next image – which is copied straight from the WordPress media library.

The size of the original image is 3120 x 3120 pixels and I am sure the blue background is increasing the file size a little.

You can see details of the image here. There is the link to delete the image of course but there is also a second link which is to edit the Image. This editing is performed inside WordPress.

I have a second image now which I will select Edit Image on and we can have a look at how you cut back the image size. Because I took two images we can also see how the images look when clicked on.

OK, so the second image was resized to 2148 by typing 2148 over the top of 3120.

You can see on these dialog boxes that you also crop the image by aspect ration or by selection. Lastly, you can restore the original image size but I think that only works if you are still in this part of the editor. Once you go back there is no turning back.

When you have the desired size, and I would suggest playing around with it until you get the resolution you are after, press <BACK> at the bottom of the screen to bring you back to the Media Library.

Now you can see after resizing, the file size has dropped from 5MB to 989KB so that is a whole 4MB saved on that one file.

The reason I was working with two nearly identical files is so that you can compare the resolution both before and after resizing.

The photo below is the 989KB one with lower resolution than the original.

The other way to save space is to have your images out in the cloud somewhere and point to them as a URL from within the WordPress post, in much the same way I point to YouTube videos.

However that will likely slow your blog down a little.

So, a lesson in resolution and space.

Next will be some book reviews followed by some new toys to look at.

A new home for the Hole

Thomo’s Hole has been hosted here in WordPress for quite a few years now but is starting to run out of space, especially for photographs. Some solutions are:

  1. Go back through previous posts and lower the resolution of the photos – perhaps just do that through the media library (tedious but possible)
  2. Take a paid option at WordPress which increases storage
  3. Move all the photos out to one of my cloud storage providers and share links from there back to the posts and pages in the Hole
  4. Move the Hole to another CMS provider (like blogspot)
  5. Move the Hole out to the cloud (Azure, Google, AWS) although these seem a rather expensive option for what is, from my perspective, an unmonetized hobby blog

So, gentle readers, any suggestions? I am at that indecision/planning/pass the beer stage of deciding on what to do.

Happy Tsaagan Sar, New Year in Solar 2019

To my Mongolian friends – I hope you have a happy Цагаан сар ((Tsagaan Sar)) – and yes, for Bituun I overate last night

To  my Korean friends – 새해 복 많이 받으세요 ((say hay boke mahn he pah du say oh))

To my Chinese friends – 新年快樂 ((Happy New Year)) or for my Cantonese Friends, 恭喜發財 ((kone hay far choi – or litterally, wishing you prosperity))