Friday, August 31, 2018

Rest In Peace Mom

Martha Ann Purky (April 1922 - August 2018)

My Mother, Martha Ann Purky, died this morning (August 31, 2018) at 4:40 AM from complications with kidney failure. She was an awesome 96 years old today, having been born in April 1922. She was preceded in death by my sister Janet (1948 - 2017) and my father Thomas (1922 - 1995). So I guess that this makes me Uncas, the Last of the Mohicans, in a way. She comes from a family in which all of the women live into their late 90s, which is pretty remarkable.

My Mother was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and was the oldest of the three children of Donald and Lyda Belle Shaw. She graduated from Butler University in 1943 with a degree in Home Economics and Theater Arts. She briefly was a teacher at Indiana University prior to marrying my father, after WW2 was over.

She was an excellent cook and a very skilled seamstress too. She always made her own clothes, the curtains in all of our various homes, and reupholstered furniture too. She volunteered at local theater companies as the costume designer and it seemed that she always had some project going on at her Singer sewing machine. Whenever I would move to a new apartment or house, she would whip out several sets of curtains for me in no time.

Mom loved to travel and she worked part time as a teacher in the early 1960s so that she could earn enough money to take the family on a trip to Europe in 1963. This was my first of many trips to Europe - we traveled for ten weeks through Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium and The Netherlands. This particular trip, my first time in Europe, shaped me in so many ways that are beyond listing. If you have kids, then take them on a trip to another country and watch how it changes their lives for the better.

Mom and Dad travelled all over the world, visiting countries such as China, Japan, Singapore, India, Russia, South Africa, Kenya, Columbia and Peru in South America, and practically every country in Europe at one time or another. My love of history and travel comes from an obvious source.

Perhaps Mom's favorite place to visit was Estes Park, Colorado. Her great aunt owned a little cabin in the area and to call the cabin a rustic shack would be overstating it by a large margin. It had no running hot water, no potable drinking water (we had to carry it uphill from a store's water well using plastic gallon jugs), an outhouse and an old Franklin stove to provide heat in the morning. We slept in beds on the wrap-around screened in porch, snuggling up in tons of quilts and blankets to keep us warm at night. It was a ramshackle place, but she probably loved visiting that cabin more than any other place on earth. She and I did lots of trail hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and we always looked forward to our summer trips to Colorado so that we could rack up more miles on our hiking boots.

The best way to characterize my Mom is to quote what so many people told me over the years, "your Mother doesn't have a mean bone in her body." Everyone seemed to be her friend because she could so easily connect with practically anybody. She loved her family and would do anything to help them out.

My wife, Anne, told me a story this evening that kind of sums up what my Mom was all about. Quite a few years ago, my spouse and I were visiting my parents at their winter home in Savannah, Georgia and we had gone sight-seeing and window shopping. Anne was quite taken with a necklace that she had seen in a jewelry store but we did not buy it. A day later, she found a small wrapped package in her bedroom and when she opened it up, there was the very necklace that she had looked at. My Mom bought it for her. Neither of us can figure out how Mom even knew about our looking at the necklace in the store.

Whenever anyone in her family was having any difficulties, she was always there to help and support us in more ways than you could imagine. For all of the wonderful things that she did for me, my wife and my daughter, I could never do enough to repay her for all of her thoughfulness and kindness, but then, she never did anything for anyone with the expectation that she should somehow be repaid in some fashion. If you were family, then you could do no wrong in her eyes.

Her illness was not unexpected for us and she never complained or gave any indication that she was ever in any pain. Yesterday, she was admitted to hospice care. The nurse asked her if she was feeling any pain, and if so, to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the higherst. She answered "ten." I had no idea of the pain that she was dealing with because she never let on that she was hurting. Earlier this week her doctor advised us that the medications were no longer working to keep her kidneys functioning and that he was discontinuing them and that going forward his objective was to make her as comfortable as possible. 

I was expecting her death, but not so quickly and not today. She was "Gram" the Energizer Bunny who kept ticking on and on and on, so indestructable. I fortunately spent a lot of time with Mom yesterday afternoon, showing her all of the family pictures that I could find. I could tell that the pictures were bringing a spark back into her eyes, as by this time, she did very little talking anymore. I had planned to visit her this morning and to talk about all of the memories that I had of her, of us all, starting from as far back as I could remember and going forward. Of course, that was all moot by now.

I spent the rest of today working on the funeral arrangements and notifying our family and all of her friends of her passing. I am also gathering up pictures of Mom from her childhood through the present - I'm going to enlarge them and post them on foam core boards for the funeral service so that all of her friends can see the pictures and perhaps stir up some of their own memories that they can share with me.

It goes without saying that I will miss you Mom, but you did such a great job of being a parent that I am well prepared to carry on. You are my role model; you set the bar very high, but I will do my best to live up to your example.

Cheers Mom,


Friday, August 24, 2018

New Russians - Painted Samples Pix

Russian Grenadiers in Regular Coats

Russian Grenadiers and Musketeers in Summer Waistcoats

I have finished painting one each of the 16 new Minden SYW Russian figures that have recently been added to the range. These were really fun figures to paint, especially the grenadiers with their finely detailed mitres and cartridge boxes. My favorite figure poses though are the two officers, one musketeer and one grenadier, that are carrying their musket rested on their left arm. Russian officers and NCOs did not use pole arms during the SYW. They were armed with fire arms.

If you are interested in building a new Russian army using Minden Miniatures, then please click on the link below to go to the web store page.

Fife & Drum / Minden Miniatures Web Store

Here are a few of the new Product Codes with pictures of the painted figures:

MR-001 Russian Musketeer Command in Regular Coats
MR-002 Russian Musketeers in Regular Coats - 8 figures per pack.

MR-003 = Russian Musketeer Standard Bearer Pack (2 figures)

MR-004 Russian Musketeer Command in Summer Waistcoats

MR-005  Russian Musketeers in Summer Waistcoats (8 per pack)
See second picture at the top of the page for the specific figure.

MR-006 Russian Mounted Colonel with Horse
MR-007 Russian Grenadier Command in Regular Coats

MR-008 Russian Grenadier in Coat - 8 per pack
(Note: mislabeled in the picture, it is not MR-007)

MR-009 Russian Grenadier Command - Waistcoats

MR-010 = Russian Grenadiers in Summer Waistcoats (pack of 8 figures)
See second picture at the top of this page for a picture of the specific figure.

Note that officers, including standard bearers, always wore their green coats, even in the Summer. The NCOs and Drummers and rank and file would shed their green coats during the summer and fight in the long sleeved waistcoat. So the Russian army in battle line looked like a very long line of red coats.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Battle of Gross Jagersdorf Game Report

Der Alte Fritz and Princess Lelia roll dice around the wargame table during the Battle of Gross Jagersdorf.

Yesterday we held the inaugural wargame for my newly renovated game room and played the Battle of Gross Jagersdorf (August 30, 1757) for the kick-off event. We had six players and one celebrity guest dice roller in attendence. The home team Prussians included Kieth L., Earl K., and John B. while the visiting team from Russia manned by Bill P., Chuck L. and myself, Der Alte Fritz. My daughter Lelia provided assistance in dice rolling to the Russian side.

The battle featured SYW Russians and Prussians and represented the first time in the SYW that the two countries fought one another. Historically, the Russians had a significant advantage in numbers, some 55,000 troops compared to only 25,000 for the Prussians. The Russians won the historical battle in a convincing manner, but then, rather than consolidate their gains in East Prussia, the army retired back into Russia, leaving the Prussians in control of Konigsburg and East Prussia.

In our kick-off wargame, Marshal Lehwaldt's Prussians managed to change history by defeating General Apraxin's Russian army at Gross Jagersdorf. Undoubtedly this would change the course of history, but that is a story for another day.

If you click (and double click) on the annotated picture below, you should have a clearer view of the table top terrain and troop set up. The Prussian team was attacking from the left and the Russian team was defending the wooded area on the right half of the table.

Annotated view of the wargame table. Prussians in blue and Russians in red.
Click the image to enlarge the view.
The Prussians had three brigades (two of infantry and one of cavalry): starting from the bottom of the picture we had General von Kanitz deployed with four battalions of infantry and two 12-figure squadrons of the dreaded Black Hussars. Next in line, in the center, was the infantry brigade of General Graf von Dohna; and finally, at the top of the picture, was the wide open plain where cavalry general von Schorlemer played badminton with his Russian cavalry counterpart.

The Dreaded Prussian Black Hussars, always the bane of Bill P.'s life on the wargame pitch.

Graf von Dohna's Prussian infantry brigade.

General von Kanitz's Prussian infantry brigade.

The Russians were defending the Norkitten-wald (woods) with General Lupukhin's infantry brigade at the bottom of the picture, General von Browne's Observation Corps infantry towards the top of the picture, and finally, Count Demiku's brigade of light Russian cavalry hussars and Cossacks. A fourth brigade of Russian infantry, commanded by General Willem Fermor, got lost trying to find its way through the Norkitten-wald, where it would eventually see the light of day and the Emerald City, seashells and balloons, and a unicorn or two.

Our Cast: in the front row, left to right, is Kieth L. (P), Der Alte Fritz (R), and Earl K. (P).
In the second row, left to right, is Bill P. (R), Chuck the Lucky (R) and John B. (R)

A view of the wargame table terrain.

Bill P. kicked off the battle with a surprise attack by his Russian brigade, which boldly (and a bit rashly)
advanced out of the Norkitten-wald to discombobulate the Prussian attack. His pesky Cossacks nearly got the best of the surprised Prussian hussars.

Having driven off the Prussian Black Hussars, Bill launched his elite squadron of Horse Grenadiers at the Prussian cavalry.

Russian reinforcements managed to get lost during their march through the Norkitten-wald. They finally arrived on Turn 8, much to the relief of Lopukhin (Bill P.)

Der Alte Fritz was busy on his end of the table playing with the horsies when he happened to take a gander down the length of the table and wondered "why are the Russian infantry attacking out of the woods where things are nice and safe?" By the way, isn't that fox behind me just a little bit creepy?
Lopuchin's Russians surge out of the woods and seemingly carve their way through the middle of  the Prussian brigade von Kanitz. Their success was short-lived though, due largely to nearly all of the turn initiative dice rolls bouncing in the Prussians' favor. This meant that the Prussians had the first fire on nearly every turn of the game.
On the north end of the playing pitch, the Prussian and Russian cavalry forces were caught in the ebb and flow, back and forth style of Old School cavalry battles, with neither side able to gain any advantage. 

A veritable hoard of hussars and Cossacks under my command.

...and some very reliable Russian horse grenadiers.

You just have to like the look of a well dressed Cossack.

However, the Prussian dragoons and hussars of von Schorlermer's cavalry brigade
were stronger than the Russian light cavalry.

With the cavalry nearly played out, the Russian Observation Corps of von Browne also advanced out of the woods (do these Russians have some sort of aversion to trees or something?) to confront the Prussian brigade of Graf von Dohna. Their impetuosity was rewarded with a squadron of Prussian White Hussars (known affectionately as "The Lambs" for their white pelisses/coats) charging into the flank of a Russian grenadier regiment. This is generally called "not a good thing", and indeed, the Russian grenadiers went fleeing for their lives. 

The Russian Observation Corps with a supporting Shuvulov Howitzer, commanded very adeptly by  Chuck the Lucky (you don't want to have to roll dice against him during a game, hence the "Lucky" moniker).

The Lambs pulled up short of the supporting line of red coated Russian infantry and wondered what they could do for an encore. Not much, as it turned out, for the Russian musketeers blasted the Lambs out of their saddles on the next turn.

The White Hussars ("the Lambs") charge into the flank of the Observation Corps Grenadiers.
By Turn 10 it was fairly obvious that the blue-coated Prussians were going to prevail and win the Battle of Gross Jagersdorf in handy fashion. The Russians handled their troops with great skill, but they could not overcome the decision of The Dice Gods to hand nearly EVERY initiative die roll to the Prussians. In my game rules, the team that wins the Initiative Die Roll at the beginning of each turn gets to choose either firing first/moving second or moving first/firing second. As a result, the Prussians were usually getting to fire at the Russians before the Russians could return fire. 

The results can be seen in the Butcher's Bill of figure casualties for each side:

Russians - 231 casualties out of a total of 488 figures.

Prussians - 152 casualties out of a total of 388 figures.

At the end of the day, it often does not really matter which team wins, because war gaming is as much a social activity as it is a game. Our group of gamers convenes a half dozen times or so each year and we have lots of fun just talking, jabbering and kibitzing with one another. It always makes for a fun day and that's why we keep doing it again and again.

Our next game is in September, when we will journey north to Brown Deer, WI to participate in Bill P.'s 19th Century British Colonial era games. I am really looking forward to this game as it is one of my favorite historical periods to research and read about.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New Minden Russians Have Arrived

Minden Russian Observation Corps Grenadiers in Summer waistcoats.
Click picture to enlarge.

Griffin Moulds has sent my casting order for the 16 new SYW Russian line infantry that have been sculpted by Richard Ansell. They are scheduled to arrive at schloss Seewald on Friday August 16th.

The Russian Observation Corps musketeers and grenadiers, and Russian artillery crews and cannon are also available and are currently in stock. So I feel that Minden Miniatures has the Russian infantry and artillery well covered with selections.

The new product codes will be posted on the Fife & Drum Miniatures web store by August 20th of next week. The Observation Corps and Artillery crew figures are already in the web store.

You can order your Russians through the Fife & Drum web store: Fife & Drum web store

Introductory Discounts
We are offering the new Russian figures at an introductory discounted price that knocks off $2.00 from the 8 packs, and $1.00 from the new 4 pack command sets. Artillery crew and mounted officer prices are not discounted. This works out to a discount of approximately 17%!

Discounted prices:  Packs of 8 figures are priced at $16.00 and 4 figure command and artillery packs are $8.00;

Non-discounted prices: mounted officers are $6.00

Russian Line Musketeers
MR-001  Russian Musketeer Command (4 figures)
MR-002  Russian Musketeers in regulation dress (8 figures)
MR-003  Russian Musketeer Standard Bearer Pack (2 figures)
MR-004  Russian Musketeer Command, Summer dress (4 figures)
MR-005  Russian Musketeers, Summer Waistcoats (8 figures)

MR-006  Russian Mounted Colonel with horse

Russian Line Grenadiers
MR-007  Russian Grenadier Command, regulation dress (4 figures)
MR-008  Russian Grenadiers, regulation dress (8 figures)
MR-009  Russian Grenadier Command, Summer waistcoats (4 figures)
MR-010  Russian Grenadiers, Summer waistcoats (8 figures)

Russian Artillery Crews
MR-011  Russian artillery crew, loading (4 figures)
MR-012  Russian artillery crew, firing (4 figures)

Observation Corps (Summer waistcoats only)

Minden Russian Observation Corps Musketeers in Summer waistcoats.
Click on picture to enlarge.

MR-013  Russian Observation Corps Command, Summer waistcoats (4 figures)
MR-014  Russian Observation Corps Musketeers, Summer waistcoats (8 figures)
MR-015  Russian Observation Corps Grenadier Command, Summer waistcoats (4 figures)
MR-016  Russian Observation Corps Grenadiers, Summer waistcoats (8 figures)

Future additions to the Minden range will include French Cavalrie in Bearskin hats; French Grenadiers in Bearskin hats; Austrian Horse Grenadiers, a French Kettle Drummer, and Marshal de Broglie and Lt. General Chevert French personality figures.

After these figures are completed, then Richard will start working on AWI British Highlander troops and some AWI personalities.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Fife & Drum Miniatures Video and Terrain Tutorial

Aerial view of the battlefield, with British in the lower right corner
and Americans on the ridge in the center.

I have decided that it is time to enter the world of videos on my blog, and because the videos are usually too large for Blogger's limit of file size, I will be posting this and future videos directly onto You Tube and then provide a link on this blog going back to the You Tube URL

You Tube Video - Hobkirk's Hill

Several days ago I set up the terrain for a new AWI game on my table. It is loosely based on the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill, or "Second Camden" as I like to call it. I think that it might well be one of the best looking game tables that I have ever set, so I wanted to mark it by doing a video.

Buildings, Roads, Trees and Fences
Since Camden is located in the back country of South Carolina, I decided that only log cabins would be appropriate buildings to use. All of the buildings shown in the pictures are from the company called "Grand Manner", located in the UK. Herb Gundt painted and based all of the buildings. When at all possible, I like to locate little farms or towns in the corners of the table, where they are out of the way of the action in the middle of the table. Here I can place civilians or make little vignettes or dioramas that add some charm and interest to the table top.

All of the snake rail fences and a few stone walls were made by Herb Gundt.

The trees are a mixture of ones made by Herb, using driftwood trunks and Woodlands Scenics large foliage pieces. He also made some trees using the rubberized horse hair method. I also have a goodly number of K&M trees, from the UK, and while these look very different from Herb's trees, I really like the way the two styles of trees work together and create a look of variety.

The roads are all made by Novus and are made of a rubber-like material that folds and bends nicely with elevation changes. Note to self: buy more Novus roads.

Farmer Gill and Family

The little hamlet of Log Town.
Americans deploy on Hobkirk's Hill
Scenic Background - a Herbaceus Border Perhaps?
I have about three or four bags of model railroad lichen, most of which is a rather garish and bright green color, as well as some dark green, and a light tan-ish color that I can't even describe. However, put them all together and they look pretty good because of the variety of greens working together.

Bright green lichen actually looks good when mixed in with other vegitation colors.

I placed some of my largest trees around the perimeter of the game table so that I can take some ground level photographs and not have a background of bookshelves, wall pictures, painting table, etc. Then I fill in the gaps between the trees with the railroad lichen which really gives the area a pop of color. I also like to put some large trees at the back end of the table because it plays some tricks to the eyes with perspective.  

My game mat doesn't quite fill up the whole surface of my game table, so I leave the plastic rollup tub attached to the end of the mat and use it as support for the wall of lichen that I build up to obstruct the view. I refer to the area behind the tube as my backstage area. I can place rules sheets, pencils, rulers etc here out of sight.

"Backstage" area is hidden by the wall of trees and lichen.
I also make sure to leave a "triangle" of open table in each of the four corners - I place my dice rolling trays in each corner, out of sight.

Corner dice trays are hidden out of sight by the rocks and trees.
More rocks put to good use on the table surface. Note the smaller rocks on the left that I have
randomly scattered across the table in order to break up the golf course look of the bare mat.

Natural Materials - straight from the back yard
Your back yard is a veritable treasure trove of terrain material to use on your table top. I gather up pebbles to scatter across my table mat as these help to break up the golf course effect of an undecorated mat. Larger rocks are placed around the perimeter and in the wooded areas that create mini Devil's Den rock formations. Dead leaves are one of my favorite finds. I crush the leaves or finely chop them into little bits and scatter them across the forest floor of the woods. A few broken twigs are also scattered around the woodsy areas to simulate fallen trees that are now dead.

Devil's Den is made from rocks that I found while walking the dog. T
he figures provide some perspective on the size of the miniatures relative to the rocks.
You can also see some of the chopped up dead leaves on the forest floor behind the rocks. 

In conclusion, the key to a realistic looking tabletop is lots of variety in materials. All that one needs is a bit of an artist's eye to put the whole picture together. You don't need to commission scratch-built buildings because there are plenty of sources for good looking buildings made of cast resin or laser cut MDF wood.

I will be fighting the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill in the next week or two and will post pictures of the battle on this blog. So stay tuned.

Your comments are always welcomed. Just click on the word Comments at the end of this article and fire away.