Thursday, 21 June 2012

Really Useful Box(es)

I have been looking for a solution to an old wargame problem, the storage and transportation of 28mm figures on multiple bases. Individually based figures are easy these days, the multicase systems with individual figure slots have seen to that; and jolly good they are too. But when you have half a dozen figures on a 60mm x 40mm base it is tricky, add a couple of flags to that and the problem more than doubles.

On a trip to Ramsgate with my parents I was told that The Range store was selling some neat plastic boxes ideal for my wargame figures. I was sceptical at first, these plastic storage boxes are all well and good but they all have rounded corners along each edge, the figures just wont sit flat or still. Plus, I have found that they are often very weak at the corners and are liable to break or crack quite easily. These boxes, however, are quite different.

The boxes are made by a company called 'Really Useful Box', hence the title of the post, you see?

There are dozens to choose from, each one designated by capacity in litres and a brief suggestion of possible content. The beauty of the boxes lies in their internal design, it is flat and uses ninety degree angles everywhere. Figures can sit in these boxes edge to edge, all neat and tidy without that room to slide about the place. The boxes strength comes from external molded ridges rather than the curved shapes found in lesser boxes, this makes them very hard to crack let alone break. The lid even snaps down to be held in place by sturdy handles! And, being so strong, they stack up brilliantly. I bought the 4 litre box designed to hold a ream of A4 paper, but is actually a bit longer, 295mm x 395mm x 88mm according to their blurb but actually a shade smaller all round but not by much, a guidline rather than definate measurements perhaps?

The trouble I had was that the figures would still bump and bash together even with nice ninety degree angles keeping them straight. Unit bases will never make a neat block no matter what shape the container...there is alway one stand that will stick out whatever you do. So I bought a sheet of 2mm thick mounting board from Dunelm Mill and with ruler and sharp pencil, sharper craft knife, a little bit of GCSE maths, a hot glue gun, two paracetamol and a box and a half of special 'Mr. Men' plasters, I built my own figure tray to the exact specifications I needed for my Marlburian figures. I can now house and transport six battalions of infantry based to Beneath the Lily Banners requirments. Ignore the brigadier figure in the pic, that is just there fo the time being.

Ok, so making the tray was a bit of a pig but I got exactly what I needed for an outlay of £8.50, a lot cheaper than converting a £25.00 multicase, and I can house six battalions. In all, a real success and one sheet of card will work for two boxes. I can highly recomend these really useful boxes, I am going to be needing a few myself!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

After Broadside 2012........

Welcome to my Blog Lee!

Broadside is over for another year, well, I say that. What I really mean is that now the actual event is over it will soon be time to start all over again! The hall is already booked for 9th June 2013 and three traders have already paid deposits. I will start the process of building the show at the beginning of September, if not a little before, and there is so much to do by that time. Before then we have to look closely at a few things and make several alterations to our original plans and procedures.....but I am getting way ahead of myself.......

Broadside 2012 was a success, how great a success is not for me to say but rather down to those traders, clubs and visitors that took part. As a club we were happy with the must have been good as it has taken me more than a week to get over it and catch up with all those things that were put aside in the manic run up; hence the lateness of this post. The blogs that I have seem all seem to be very positive and we were once again stopped and thanked for our efforts by many people, always a good thing. Mark and I are not used to being stopped and thanked for anything...stopped, yes, thanked...? The event made enough money to cover our costs, allow us to run our open day in September and work on some local community projects. We will never get rich from the show but that is not why we do it or how we run it. Everything we do is geared to make Broadside an attractive and viable financial proposition for the traders and the visiting public. Our trade stands are cheap and we only charge wargamers £3.00 entry, their non wargaming partners and children under sixteen get in free. We make it easy for the traders to come which in turn attracts the visitors. The visitors get a good deal and a cheap day out and their numbers in turn attract traders and so on. So what do we get out of it? It is bloody hard work and we are a small club after all. Quite simply it is so that we have a regional show and get to meet potential new members.....and partly because I thought it could be done when other thought otherwise. It seems that I am a little bloody minded in such matters, a definite boon when it comes to herding cats.

In the end we had some thirty seven of the best traders in the country, fifteen clubs with some fantastic looking games, ten brilliant trader run games, two very neat and interesting displays (model boats and a Zulu War collection), a novel Bring and Buy system, a free kiddies Armourfast Make & Take a Tank table with a special game just for them to use their new tanks with, a British Legion stand and even an area for our very youngest visitors to rest and colour in some special club poster sheets...with free sweeties and bookmarks! I even arranged for clubs and traders to pre order sandwiches. Attention to detail is important. We were also very fortunate that we had the services of some brilliant non wargaming volunteers, the families and friends of our members. There are only twelve of us in the MHWC and two of those were unavailable on the day due to unforeseen circumstances, on the day of the show we had nine helpers running the entrances, information stands, make and take tables and liaising between halls

A few traders told us that they did not have a good show financially and would have to think carefully before coming again. Many said that their takings were down on last years event but that this was the same for all the shows they had been to this year, and yet despite this just as many said that they had a very good day indeed. But this is the big issue with such events, you can never know what is in the individual visitors mind or pocket. Do you, as a trader, have what that visitor wants and does that visitor have the cash to pay for it? As show organisers all we can do is provide the event to bring these two halves of the equation together, what they then do is all in the lap of the gods of course. That three traders paid deposits for 2013 says a great deal for the future of Broadside, it appears that we have become a firm fixture in the wargames calender already.

Two wargame magazine editors attended the show, Guy Bowers o Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy, and Henry Hyde of Battlegames. Henry did us the honour of acting as judge for our 'Best Game in Show' award. Henry tells me that he was very impressed with the show and the standard of games on offer. He awarded the prize to the Maidstone Wargames Society for their Operation Deadstick 6mm WW2 game. The Posties Rejects and the Skirmish Group came a close joint second. I hope that both magazines will run an article or report on the show in later issues, something else that will help advertise the show and help it grow.

So what about down sides? It can't all have been fantastic, surely? As a group we all learnt a great deal after Broadside 2011. 2012 was a bigger show and the increase brought about several unexpected issues that we need to look at carefully before 2013, none of which would be apparent to the casual visitor of course. So yes, there are things that we need to change but, overall, there were few obvious downsides. Signage for access around the venue is the most obvious. The maps in the programs are ok but few it seems actually look at those until after the event. This means that the signs we do place around the venue directing visitors need to be even bigger and more direct. Of course, as time goes on visitors will get used to things and get to know where things are but we do need to rethink signage. I am sure you can all think of one or two yourselves so please let us know.

Our visitor numbers were up by roughly 25% over last years event in both categories, we keep a tally of paying visitors and overall numbers. The Armourfast make and take table was given as a reason for the attendance of families by paying visitors and I noticed a definite increase in the number of non wargaming visitors that came to just look around a local event; no bad thing either for here lies one of the few sources of new wargamers! The numbers, whilst up, are still lower than we would like but this was only our second show of course. It takes time for such events to get full established and we are by far the youngest such event in the region. But things are looking very positive so far and as long as we stick to our principles and ethos I am confident that we can continue to grow. We are rather limited in size by our venue, we already use all three available halls, but no other suitable venue exists within the area. We are not too concerned by this, we will work on improving upon what we already have and can offer within the constraints; bigger is not always better after all.

So, we are already talking as a club about 2013 game options. Mark and I are looking at the 2012 issues and finding solutions and I am working on recruiting clubs and traders again. Oh, and we have our open day on 15th September too so we are all trying to organise ourselves for that too. And you are all invited of course!!! It should be a great day, we have a lot of games on offer, refreshments run by the the Iwade WI and even a Brigade Models trade stand. Never do anything small when big can be done and always run rather than never know who is behind you!!!

The Milton Hundred Wargames Club members preparing our own game for Broadside; another aspect of running a show!

The Armourfast Make & Take a Tank table, run by a non wargaming club volunteer! This area saw plenty of action.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Broadside 2012 just a day away!!!!

First of all I would like to welcome my latest follower, Wardy-La!

As the title says, Broadside 2012 is just a day away now, it really does not seem like a year since the first Broadside. This year is even bigger with loads of games being played by both clubs and traders. We offer traders games tables so that they can better advertise their newest rules or figures and this is proving to be a popular move for both traders and the public. It means that we have more than twenty games being played this year creating a brilliant spectacle.

We also get a lot of good feedback about the way we distribute the games amongst the traders, rather than separating them out; but why separate them? It makes much more sense to integrate all aspects of the show where possible. This year we have the same two hall system but have added a third area for our flea market style bring and buy. Now we have no idea whether this will work, it really is a shot in the dark but given the number of members we have it is the only way we can provide such a feature. We are lucky that despite our low numbers we are so well supported by wives and friends. Both the show entrances, the Wyvern Hall entrance in Central Avenue and the leisure centre entrance through the car park, are run by wives, friends and other family members. Even my daughter, Ashleigh, is coming along to help with the kiddies make and take a tank table all the way from High Wycombe. My good friend, Ginny (and no wargamer is she) is coming to help us set up on Sunday and is staying to help with the club information stand! For such a small club we must be doing something right!

Alas, we have lost two members for the day. One has had a terrible accident at home and severely injured an already damaged knee. He will be out of action for months following a major operation yesterday. His father, the other member we will lose, is staying home to help him and his young family. I am sure you will all join me in wishing Steve a full and rapid recovery.

I am very pleased to report that the main sports hall has had its terrible sodium lighting replaced too, now you can see what you are looking at in natural colours! No going home and spending hours getting your colour sight back this year!!

If you are coming along to Broadside please stop and say hello if you see me, I will be the overweight but still highly attractive looking harassed bloke with glasses. Pen & Sword books, our show sponsor, will be running a Napoleonic naval game using my own recently published rules, Blood, Bilge and Iron Balls. Take a look and let me know what you think. You can join in with this game I understand and buy a copy too. I would be happy to ruin your book by signing too should the mood take you.

Henry Hyde of Battlegames Magazine will be at the show and helping Pen & Sword judge the Best Game in Show award...£100 in books and a small trophy for the winners! And Guy Bowers of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy Magazine will be there too, I am sure that both of these august gentlemen would love to meet you and hear how great Broadside is...hint hint!!

All we need now is plenty of visitors so tell all your friends...hell, even shout it out in the streets if you have too and drag people in! we are a very new show and so we do not expect the massive numbers of the more established events just yet but the more the merrier! Entry is just £3.00 and wives and children under 16 get in free with a paying adult...and a free Armourfast tank for your children too (your CHILDREN!!). We have also placed seating areas for the tired and weary along with colouring pencils and specially designed 'Leofwine Wargamerson' paper for the younger visitors.

One last thing. Broadside 2013 is now being planned! The hall has been booked already for Sunday 9th June so add us to your diaries.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Victoria Concordia Crescit

Today is the day!!!

The new Arsenal home shirt has been released.....and here it is!!

Isn't it great!

I am happy to say that the shop wasn't displaying many other team shirts today, why would they?

However, I often have to speak to store managers about a very sensitive subject, the selling and displaying of a certain other team shirt. we all know that Tottenham (actually an anagram of 'whats that &%*£ing smell') exists but like animal porn we choose to ignore it as the social and moral hole that it is. Given this, I was surprised and dismayed to note that shops had this so called teams shirt on open display...where even children could see them!! I know, disgraceful. On one occasion they were even right next to the Arsenal shirts....the sleeve of one actually brushing against a medium sized away shirt for the 2011/12 season; can you imagine such horror? Obviously I moved the Arsenal shirts away as best I could and immediately drew the attention of this appalling situation to the manager. I have to say that he was not that helpful, didn't seem to care that his staff were so poorly trained and careless with the shops image. So I photographed this terrible thing and sent it, along with a long email, to the stores head office. I expect a reply and a heartfelt thank you for bringing this matter to their attention. It has been a few weeks but they are busy and no doubt the internal enquiry into how this happened is taking time; as it should. I will let you know the out come as soon as they get back to me.

So, be aware the next time you take your children to certain sports shops, you may want to scout it out first.  

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Battle of Saarbruck, by Archibald Forbes

The Battle of Saarsbruck, Battles of the Nineteenth Century Vol. 1.,  (Cassell, London: 1896) p.22 to 26

This is a test run really. I am trying to see if I can post battle histories from the afore mentioned book, 'Battles of the Nineteenth Century'. I have photographed the pages for this particular battle, chosen because it is only a few pages long, to see how well the idea works and the pages can be read.

I would really like your feedback on this trial, has it worked, what was right or wrong etc etc etc. Once I have got it right I will post a list of the battles in each of the volumes as well as post random battles from time to time.

Right, here we go!

A pile of books.....

An old friend of mine is having central heating installed and was thus forced to pack up her extensive collection of books to allow the workmen access. This is no easy task given the number of books she has both inherited and collected, nay rescued, form second hand bookshops. She comes from a line of similarly inclined bibliophiles and so her eclectic collection is a veritable Aladdin's Cave of the great, good, curious and obscure. There is even the most fantastic collection of paper figurines, each one beautifully hand drawn and coloured by her late uncle and father in their youth. These were used to play wargames and political campaigns from their imaginations and the most unique and wonderful pieces I have ever seen. I will see if I cannot photograph them and post a few here for you all to see, they really are a true slice of early wargame history!  But I digress.

In moving these books my friend began to take stock of just what she really had, and no doubt surprised herself. She decided to re home a few titles with those that would understand and appreciate them as she did, and so I got a call and was offered some wargaming related pieces. Big happy smilie face!

The first piece to catch my eye was actually a magazine.

This is the first time I had ever seen a copy of this early but august publication, a precursor to today's glossy magazines. I have no idea as to whether the 30p cover price made this an expensive purchase back in 1974, I was eight at the time and still unaware that such a hobby existed; let alone that it would take over my life! Inside there are article and adverts just as one would find today and whilst primitive by today's production standards it is still readily identifiable and as readable as ever.

I was particularly drawn to the adverts, this one especially for Peter laing;

15mm figures at just 4p each are a thing of the past and, thankfully I have to say, so are Peter Laing figures. Back in the very early 80's I saved up and sent of my letter and postal order to Mr Laing for some of his colonial range pieces; can't remember which now, possibly Sudan or Zulu wars. I was hugely disappointed by what arrived, to my eye the figures were shapeless, poorly detailed random pieces of metal and quite useless. I even had the temerity to send them back demanding a refund and telling him just what I thought of the horrid things; I was just fifteen. I got a refund and a letter back saying that most adult and serious wargamers loved his wares and my lack of experience in all things worldly was to my everlasting shame, at least that was the gist of it. Happy days. God they were awful figures...and that was by the poor standard of the day then too.

The other books of particular note were;

The British Navy in War, edited by Herbert Strang, c.1925. some very interesting insights to the effectiveness of ship types, weapons and tactics of the day.

European Military Uniforms, a short history, by Paul Martin. 1967. An interesting piece, a large hardback version of a modern osprey book really. It has some nice pencil illustration and some very nice period prints.

Annals of a Fortress, by E. Viollet-le-Luc, translated by Benjamin Bucknall, 1875. This is a great book that follows the history of defencive building from ancient times to the time of writing, has some good illustrations too.

But, the greatest title in the set is the two volume 'Battles of the Nineteenth Century', 1897. These books provide detailed, if perhaps a little dated, battle histories illustrated throughout with wonderful engravings. Curiously, none of the battles appear to be in any particular order. Both volumes are falling apart but seem complete. I am considering having them restored, not because they are collectible and worth any money, rather to protect them and make them more accessible to read. I am also tempted to photograph the pages of specific battles and publish them as blog posts. Anyone have a favourite they would like me to look up?