Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Not Quite Saratoga - New Tabletop Setting


Battle of Freeman's Farm - September 1777


With the coming of Spring I decided that it was time to clear the Winter terrain for my SYW game off of my game table and set up a new scenario for the AWI period. Since the Fife and Drum Saratoga range figures have never crossed dice on the table top, I decided to go with some scenary near Saratoga, NY.

I looked at a number of maps for the Battle of Freeman's Farm (or First Battle of Saratoga) and could not really find one that had the close up detail that I sought. Most of the maps that I looked at were too general and really did not give me any help in seeing where the various regiments of each side fought. I finally settled on the William Wilkinson map from the US Library of Congress. This map provides the locations of the first, second, third and fourth positions of the American and British regiments over the course of the battle, fought on September 19, 1777.

The Wilkinson Map of the Battle of Freeman's Farm
(Library of Congress)

I am also consulting the maps found in the Osprey book about the Saratoga Campaign (by Brendan Morrissey). Finally, I found a close up view of the Wilkinson map in the "Campaign to Saratoga" by Don Troiani and Eric Schnitzer. This latter map is probably the best one that I have found in terms of my ability to transfer the terrain to a table top battle. I only wish that I had found this map before setting all of the terrain on my game table.

...and then I threw all caution out the window and did not use any of the maps for my Saratoga game. What I did use were several mats from Cigar Box Battles and kind of forced the battle map onto what was printed on the existing game mats.

Thus, my naming of the game as Not Quite Saratoga. Here are some of the pictures that I took today for your inspection. The American troops have not yet been placed upon the table.

Overhead view of the battlefield from the opposite direction of
the picture shown in the header picture on this post.

The Eastern End of the Battlefield

The Eastern end of the table is a mix of farm land and woods and is the area of the table that would be the closest to the Hudson River. There are two roads running through the woods. The Brunswick troops of von Riediesel's column will eventually travel down one or both of these roads.

American militia march past the local blacksmith's shop.

Backyard view of the Blacksmith Shop and some nearby farms.

The Center Area of the Battle field Depicting the Freeman Farm

American Militia deploy in the fields of the Freeman Farm.
Now you see them...

... now you don't.
The British 62nd Regiment advances and the Militia fall back into the woods.

The Western End of the Battle Field

McBride Farm

The McBride Farm. Can you spot John the OFM?

A bucolic scene at the McBride Farm as the cows are not
yet disturbed by the advancing British Light Companies.

A close up view of the British Light Company figures.
Each stand represents a company from its parent regiment.

The Light Companies take up a position along the snake rail fence line.

American Riflemen attempt to slow down the British advance.

The cows remain non-plused about the events around them.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Bad News In The Sudan - The Movie


Head Cinematogher, Der Alte Fritz Himself visits the Sudan.


I was thrilled to be able to throw dice and move figures around the table last evening as I journeyed to Chez Protz and the Pettygree Barracks to play a wargame. We staged a game with our 54mm toy soldiers featuring the British Camel Corps versus the wily Osman Digna in the Sudan.

The game was an excuse for me to pick up all of the figures that I left at the Pettygree Barracks last October, when we last convened for a wargame. We kept this game purposely small with only three players and proper social distancing. Our week day wargames always have a hard stop at 9PM so that there is time to pack figures, load up the car, and return home at a reasonable hour. I think that this is a good idea.

I elected to play Osman Digna's Beja and Haddendoa warriors from the eastern littoral area of the Sudan that is bordered by the Red Sea. Ostensibly, elements of the British Camel Corps were retreating back to a port on the Red Sea where they would board Royal Navy transport vessels and sail home to Olde Blighty. The Beja et al were pursuing the Camel Corps and ushering them out of their lands.

The initial deployment of forces on the table top. The Camel Corps are at the far end of the table
and the Dervish are in the foreground

"Escape From Suakin" - the movie

I will let the pictures and the captions tell the story in our exciting movie. There were no animals hurt during the production. Our film is based on a screen play by der Alte Fritz 

Our story begins with a close up shot of Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. who is the noted artist employed by The Illustrarted London News. Caton Woodville and his film crew scan the horizon looking for signs of a large Dervish army commanded by Osman Digna.

Times correspondent and illustrator, Caton Woodville (mounted), and his photographer
 were on hand to record the events of the day.

Narrator (James Earl Jones): The Crown Forces had set up a skirmish line of Camel Corps troopers ahead of a wet donga, where the main battle line formed. The skirmishers would fall back to the main battle line before the Beja closed in on them. Should the line along the donga become precarious then the Camel Corps were to execute a fighting withdrawal to the beaches and hope that the gunboats and transports arrived on time.

(Sound of war drums in the distance. A cloud of dust can be seen along the distant horizon. The dust cloud gets larger and larger as it approaches the British front lines. We pan back to Caton Woodville and we see what he now sees).

The Beja have been sighted by the Egyptian Lancers, who ride back to the
Camel Corps skirmish line to give them the news of their discovery.

The natives move rather quickly, eh wot?
The Camel Corps skirmish line must fall back before they are overwhelmed.

Armies In Plastic ("AIP") 54mm plastic Beja warriors are on the move!
The Camel Corps skirmishers skedaddled just in time.

The Egyptian Lancer reach the safety (really?) of the main Camel Corps battle line, deployed behind a wet dongha.

A close up view of the AIP Egyptian Lancers, expertly painted by Major General Pettygree.

(The camera pans back from the action, showing the sea port and the panoply of the battlefield)

Overhead view of the table top showing the Camel Corps battle line and the
 port  area where, hopefully, the transport ships await.
Major Glenbrook and his batman scan the horizon for the Royal Navy transports and gunboats..

(The tune "Rule Britannia" plays as the British gunboat steams towards the sea port)

The vanguard of the fleet arrives and attempts to navigate the harbor,
which is filled with many a treacherous sand bar.

(Music fades as the camera focuses in on a battle line of Camel Corps soldiers)

Three companies of Camel Corps and a section of Navy Gatling Guns defend the high ground.
The British troops have pulled back from the untenable position behind the donga.

The Beja surge over the donga. It's a good thing that the Camel Corps fell back to the next position.
The Beja war band second from the left has lost two stands of ten figures from a 50-figure unit.
The British concentrated their fire on one or two groups of warriors so as to whittle them down.
Should they close with 40 to 50 warriors, the British chances of surviving the melee are slim.

The left wing of the British army holds their ground closer to the donga.

Narrator (James Earl Jones): The British left wing held off the Beja for much of the contest, but eventually the Beja drew within charging distance and closed into contact with the Camel Corpsmen. Alas, the latter were obliterated by the ferocious Beja and the few British survivors fled for their lives to the beaches.

The left wing has a Gatling Gun and one company of Camel Corps.
The Beja can be seen amid the trees.

Bill P. (left) and Chuck the Lucky (right) take stock of their British forces.

Narrator (James Earl Jones): Meanwhile, back to the action in the center and on the right wing of the Crown Forces:

Egyptian Lancer spy an opportunity to charge into the flank of a Beja warband.

Tacka, tacka, tacka, here come the Lancers.
They crash into the flank of the Beja, who seem nonplussed by it all;
the Lancers are repulsed.

CUT!!!! The film director is very upset. Hey Lancers, you did not follow the script. You were supposed to win the melee! The scene will have to be refilmed later.

The right wing of the British force prepares to receive the Beja charge.
Note the Egyptian Lancers charging into the flank of the mob.

It's Picture Time! The 54mm toy soldiers are so photographic.
The gunboat is still trying to negotiate the sand bars in the harbor, rendering no help to the Crown Forces.

The grand finale of the battle; this is the stuff of legends and Victoria Crosses.

While the Beja - Lancer melee reaches a conclusion, another band of Beja crash into end of the right wing.

A desperate struggle finds six stalwart Camel Corpsmen from Sussex staving off the savage surge. Two go down and four live to fight a few more minutes. The Beja are pushed back.

Fresh from having defeated the Lancers, the Beja regroup and attack the Camel Corps
troopers who are hunkered down behind a wall of camels. The four remaining Sussex heros lend their weight to the fight.

Colonel Fred Burnaby wades into the Beja hoard, seeking glory and fame.
Now we are back on script.


Narrator (James Earl Jones): The British left wing was demolished by the Beja, but the right wing and center fended off the Beja and gave hope that they might successfully leave this dry, bloody and foresaken land. Osman Digna listened to the whistle of Royal Navy artillery shells overhead and decided that he had done a good day's work and it was time to melt back into the landscape and allow the remaining Camel Corps to leave his lands. 


I hope that you enjoyed our film today. Stay tuned for Part III of The Sudan Campaign movies.


Major Glenbrook.................Wm. Protz

Captain Cavendish...............Chuck the Lucky

Osman Digna.......................Der Alte Fritz

Richard Caton Woodville....Hugh Grant

Freddy Burnaby...................Liam Neeson

Mrs. Glenbrook....................Emma Watson

Bobby the Dog.....................Rocket

Director & Producer............Wm. Protz

Costumes - British...............William Britains' and Trophy of Wales

Costumes - Beja...................Armies In Plastic and John Jenkins Designs

Cinematography...... ............James Purky

Film Editor...........................James Purky

Dialogue Coach......... .........Henry Higgins

Film Location(s) ................Wisconsin and Morocco 

Based on a screen play by Der Alte Fritz.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

British Brigade of the Guards in the AWI


The flank companies of the British Brigade of Guards, circa 1777.
Fife and Drum Miniatures

Flank companies of the Guards form up in front of the Savage Swan public house
somewhere in Pennsylvania in 1777.

On November 22, 2010 I announced the formation of a new figure range of American Revolution miniatures done in 1/56 scale, sculpted by Richard Ansell. On December 2, 2010 the venture was formally name Fife and Drum Miniatures.

The very first figures in the F&D range were the British Brigade of Guards because at that time, no other company made such figures in 1/56 scale (suitable for 28mm and 30mm miniatures). 

British Guards Announcement

Announcement of the Establishment of Fife & Drum Miniatures

Over the years a couple of other companies have added the British Brigade of Guards to their product ranges (notably the recent announcement by Perry Miniatures). However, since the FD Guards figures are now nearly ten years old, they have been forgotten by some of our customers and I thought that it would be a good time to remind people of the Fife and Drum Miniatures British Guards.

Fife and Drum Miniatures web store

The two pictures at the top of this page depict the flank companies of the British Guard. These men wore a cap with a front plate and front brim. The center company men wore a round hat turned up on the right side.

Brigade of Guards center company soldiers on the march.

The British Guards packs available include the following:

BA-004  Guards Command (6 figures)  $12.00

BA-005  Guards Center Company Marching (8 figures)  $16.00

BA-006  Guards Skirmishers in Round Hats (8 figures)  $16.00

BA-007  Guards Flank Company Marching  (8 figures)  $16.00

BR-003  Guards Regimental Pack (30 figures)     $52.00 (13% discount)

Guards skirmishers, firing and cocking musket.
The officer figure is from the Light Infantry  set of figures.

Overhead view of the Brigade of British Guards marching into a Loyalist village.

Beware of women wearing a bucket yoke. Advance at your own peril.

Screen Credits

This episode of my blog features a very nice table mat from  Cigar Box Battle Mats. These pictures feature the New Europe mat ( New Europe Battle Mat ) #510. This is a really useful mat for smaller skirmish games or you can pair it up with some of the other European battle maps in the Cigar Box product range. I use the "New Europe 2" mat #660 for many of my games and the road on this mat matches up perfectly to any of the roads in mat #510.

The water well is made by Grand Manner in the UK, but alas, the company appears to no longer sell unpainted resin products and so you have to purchase their products painted, which makes them a bit dear to one's wargaming budget.

Herb Gundt made all of the trees, snake rail fences and buildings that you see in these pictures.

Some of the civilians are from Blue Moon and Perry Miniatures, as well as from the Fife and Drum / Minden range of Civilian Figures. I believe that Bucket Woman is a Blue Moon figure from their Sleepy Hollow box.

Custumes were provided from the painting brush of Himself, der Alte Fritz.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

One Year Ago Today


My last wargame, played on Saturday March 7, 2020

One year ago today, the world seemed to shut down as it dawned on everyone that the COVID-19 virus was in fact a pandemic. NBC News asked viewers to look for the last photograph that they had on their smart phone before the Covid pandemic took hold. The above picture shows our group playing a wargame on Saturday March 7, 2020.

I remember coming to this realization when the NBA shut down its basketball schedule, including stopping one game that was in progress. Oh, oh, I thought. This is going to get bad. I'd better get to the grocery store and lay in some stores of food for the long haul.

Apparently other people had the same thought. When I arrived at the local Jewel grocery store the parking lot was packed with cars even though it was only 2PM in the afternoon. I filled up my shopping cart with frozen entrees, pizza, canned soup, bottles of water, and bleach. The toilet tissue and paper towels were nearly cleaned out by shoppers. The hoarding had started.

The next day, the paper towels and toilet tissue were gone from the local grocery store.

Masks were nearly impossible to find. I visited the local Ace Hardware store and the manager had a stash of N-95 masks that he was doling out - only 4 per customer. I think that I paid $20 for just four masks. I also bought the last bottle of hand sanitizer that was on the shelf. 

One by one, the various professional sports leagues were following suit with the NBA and either cancelling their seasons or putting them on hold. The NCAA announced that it was cancelling the March Madness College Basketball tournament. Yikes!!!!!

How we got through a year of the pandemic.

Apparently lots of people bought puppies or other pets over the course of the pandemic lockdown. We had rescued our dog Augie ( a Lab mix) from the local animal shelter back in February, so we were ahead of the curve on that one. We actual adopted Augie to replace our Golden Retrieve Tiberius, who had died from cancer in February.

Our new dog Augie

In order to relieve boredom, we started to bake things in the kitchen. My daughter Lelia and I made Civil War hard tack (inedible) and apple fritters from a Colonial Williamsburg recipe book.

We cooked and baked.

We had a formal afternoon tea once a week.

With all of my spare time (spare?) I embarked on a new war gaming project, using 54mm plastic toy soldiers to recreate the Sudan Wars and the Gordon Relief Expedition in the mid 1880s.

The new wargame project: 54mm Sudan War

I taught myself how to make 54mm terrain to go with my new toy soldiers.
This is a preview of a game that I hope to take to the convention circuit in 2022.

My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.
We were going to go on a cruise down the Elbe River, but that got cancelled, obviously , and we celebrated at home.

Lelia took up painting during the pandemic and a local art gallery asked her
to  do a showing of her work in their studio. She even sold some of her paintings.

More afternoon teas.

We got another dog in October, a Golden Retriever puppy named Bella.

We had a presidential election in the USA. It seemed to go on forever.

We rediscovered having picnics in the countryside.

We kept our sense of humor. What else can one do? This was Thanksgiving Day
without any relatives at our home.

We celebrated Christmas and decorated the house for the holiday.

Augie and Bella had fun opening all of the Christmas presents.

We had no appreciable snow until February, and then it came down and down and down.
Almost two feet of snow over the course of a week.

Vaccines were available in February, but we couldn't get appointments.
It was frustrating and depressing. We sought out comfort food.
One night I just said "eff it, I'm going to the all night Walgreens and gettin' me some sugar!"

Our dogs Bella and Augie provided all the love and kisses that we needed to keep us in a positive frame of mind.

My wife and daughter finally got their first shots of the Moderna vaccine two weeks ago. I received my shot this week. Getting the vaccine does wonders for our frame of mind and gives us a sense of hope and that this is all going to end. Soon? I don't know, but I'm sure that things will never be the same.

As of today, over 530,000 Americans have died from the Covid virus. It was not a good year for the families of the people that we lost and there is no way that I can think that any good will come of this.