Monday, 23 July 2018

Afghan motorbikes (Eureka Miniatures)

Family coming home tomorrow, so this will be my last post for while, as I will quickly become too busy celebrating having them back!

Eureka Miniatures has some of the nicest modern Afghanistan figures on the market today, especially for civilians who might be trapped when their home suddenly becomes a battlefield.  I keep an eye out for when they add more to their collection, so when I saw these advertised a few months ago, I knew that I had to get some.

I ordered one of each of the motorbikes, which includes two Afghan families sharing a ride on a bike, one chap who has pulled over to make a phone call, and three bikes with an armed insurgent riding pillion.  The riders include one armed with an AK-47, one with an RPK light machinegun and one with an RPG grenade launcher.  Sculpting by Kosta Heristanidas is exceptional as always, but I have one minor quibble which is that the vests worn by most of the men are too short.  They look right on the two family men, extending past the hips, but on the other figures are cut off above the waist, which is incorrect.  On the other hand, I didn't take the time to do the easy fix of extending the vests with greenstuff, so it's on me as well :-P  

Pictures are regrettably poorly lit, as I didn't have time to wait until morning to take them with natural light.  If I get time I'll redo them, and also touch up the painting where I've seen a few things that I can easily fix.

Added to the four bikes that I picked up from Empress Miniatures, I now have a small fleet of 10 bikes to add to the streets of Kandahar!

Here's a group shot of the six Eureka bikes:

The two family bikes.  Note the length of the vests on the fathers.

And here's the chap making a very important phone call.  Note the length of his vest!  As I described in my story of Engineer Ezzat in an earlier blog post, phones are common in Afghanistan and most of the time they are used for completely innocent purposes.

Here are the three armed bikers and riders.

Some group shots showing the Eureka bikes next to the Empress ones.  They mix quite well, no problems having them on the same table.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

1880 armies on parade

Time to clean up the work area, and get the toys properly put away.  But before I get everything shipshape, I decided to get a good measure of my 1880-era NWF and Central Asia armies.

Currently ready for action, I have three armies; Indian, Afghan and Russian.

Indian Army is the largest:
HM the Queen

RHA gun, crew and limber

22 Indian Lancers (these are actually from my WWI army but I'm using them here as proxies as I don't have any 1880 cavalry right now)

23 Gordon Highlanders

20 Sikh Infantry (rather unfairly, I call these the 'generic Sikhs'; I should assign them a regiment as I have for the 66th Berkshires!)

20 Gurkhas (as with the Sikhs, these brave Nepalis should also be assigned a regiment!)

12 Rattray's Sikhs

20 Dismounted Guides Cavalry (I've been meaning to add some mounted Guides cavalry to balance out these men on foot - hasn't happened yet and I'm pretty sure I have higher priorities for spending both time and money these days!)

12 16th Regiment Bombay Infantry

15 29th Regiment Baluchis I

12 72nd Duke of Albany's Highlanders 

24 English redcoat infantry (these are generic redcoats marching; they are a bit out of kilter with the rest of the khaki mob)

24 66th (Berkshire) Infantry (these could also easily be renamed the 'generic Englishmen!')

Dr Watson and medical attendants

The Sergeants 3 and Gunga Din, and Peachy, Danny and Billy Fish, just to add some more character to the army.

That's approximately 185 infantry, one gun and 22 cavalry.  

Russian Army

Mounted commanding officer

54 Infantry

Gun and 4 crew

9 Cossacks

Afghan Army

Emir and advisors

48 Afghan Regular Army Infantry

Gun and 4 crew

Tribal mountain gun with crew

34 tribal horse (including two time travellers!)

50 musket/jezzail/rifle armed tribesmen and 52 tribesmen with hand weapons, flags, drums

I also have a couple of dozen modern Afghans, who could be pressed into service and hope that no one notices.  I will be using these modern Afghan casualties as markers for battered units, not historically accurate but certainly will look better than using dice or coloured tokens!

Wow, I could really have a sizeable battle game with these armies.  My task now is to convince myself that I have achieved an elegant sufficiency, and there is no need for me to add any more.  But I want an Indian mountain gun, and to increase the size of the Afghan forces, and to find some Russian regular cavalry...

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Who should sit on the Iron Throne?

First off, the title is misleading.  My actual question is more along the lines, "who should rule in Westeros", but the Iron Throne title is much catchier ;-)

Warning:  Spoilers will be cropping up all through this blog post.  If you get upset about spoilers when the last book in the series was published in 2011 and the most recent episode was aired a year ago, though, that's your problem, not mine!

I've watched the HBO Game of Thrones series, up to the end of Season 7, and over the past year I've read George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, just finishing A Dance with Dragons this week.  I've seen good, bad and indifferent characters come and go (and those that go most often do so in unpleasant ways).  (Almost) All the people of Westeros are having a very unpleasant time, with the prospect of much worse times in the near future.  They need some decent leadership, but whose?  I am considering not necessarily the best person to wear the crown and sit on the Iron Throne, but who can provide the best leadership.  This means that a decent Hand of the King could count as a ruler, either as regent or with a compliant king or queen, and also leaves open the possibility of an independent king in the North, the Iron Islands, or Sunspear, for example.

So let's run through our candidates, shall we?

Robert Baratheon:  Disinterested king.  Dynamic back in Robert's Rebellion, when he originally claimed the Iron Throne, but uninterested in the petty details of actually ruling.  Has delegated power to his Hand and his Small Council.  As long as the Hand and the Council are competent, this works well enough but leads to trouble when the balance of power in the council is disrupted.  This is of course what happens at the beginning of the series, where Hand of the King Jon Arryn is murdered.  So, no, Robert is not fit to rule Westeros, but he was adequate as long as he had good (or good enough) advisors on his small council.

Eddard Stark:  (either as Hand of the King, or King in the North) too naive, too worried about honour.  Honour is good, and it's important to have honour to direct your behaviour, but as the man says,

Being honourable is excellent, but don't assume anyone else will follow or believe the same code that you do.  Amazing that Ned lasted as long as he did even in the North without getting bumped off by someone abusing his naivety, so no surprise that he was among the earliest losers in the Game of Thrones.

Renly Baratheon:  Ambitious but not realistic.  He knew the dangers that were present in King's Landing, and cleverly got out of there promptly.  Charismatic, and quickly raised an army but not sensible enough to treat with his brother first.  He knew Stannis well, and knew that Stannis would never step aside for him, but he shouldn't have raised a rebellion against Joffrey until after he was certain that at least his own House Baratheon would be united behind his claim.  Talking to Stannis quietly and in private before raising his banners might have allowed the brothers to create a united front.  Getting killed by a demonic smoke baby would have been hard to anticipate, though.

Stannis Baratheon:  Too rigid.  I like that he is a stickler for the 'rules', whatever they may be.  His habit of pointing out the distinction between "less" and "fewer" makes me smile. 

He's a competent commander, and his men appreciate that, whatever his other faults, he will lead them to victory.  I was so enamoured of Stephen Dillane's portrayal of Stannis that for a while I was on Team Stannis.  Burning his little princess was a stupid thing,though.  In addition to horrifying anyone on his side with any decency, it also ended his own bloodline as there was no sign that he and Queen Selyse were going to have any more children.  In a land of dynasties, ya gotta have kids.

Joffrey Baratheon:  Incapable of ruling on the strength of his own dignitas.

Being a bored, spoiled, angry little boy, he is unsuited to the throne.  Had he been taught responsibility and duty, he may have eventually learnt to be an adequate king, but as we know, his career was mercifully cut short.  Regardless,  it seems unlikely that anyone would have taught him those lessons - grandpa Tywin and unca Tyrion being the only people who had even considered teaching him, but neither seemed to find the challenge worth the effort.

But fortunately,

Tywin Lannister:  Tywin is a great leader, very focussed, very disciplined.  He prioritizes the advancement of his own house but is wise enough to balance out things a bit with awards or rewards for allies to keep them on side.  He is not "nice" but in his role he doesn't need to be:  he needs to be effective.  He is not needlessly cruel, and he understands that there needs to be at least a perception of justice.

In his role as leader of the realm he does very well, however as a father he fails rather badly.  He sees his children as his subjects, and doesn't understand when they don't take his orders.  He is blind to the incest between Jamie and Cersei, even when Cersei tells him to his face he refuses to accept it.  He could have owned it, and with the performance he shown in other matters, he could have even made it into some sort of triumph (considering how much success the incestuous Targaryan kings had).  He also refused to see the strengths of Tyrion.  Imagine if Tyrion had received even the slightest acknowledgement from his father, the slightest gesture of appreciation.  Instead Tyrion gets all the shit jobs, and he turns each role around, saving King's Landing when he was Hand of the King, escaping Catelyn Stark at the Eyrie, recruiting the savage hill tribes to fight for House Lannister and King Joffrey.  Tywin should look past the dwarf and see his son.  But he didn't, so 

Tyrion Lannister:  Everyone loves Tyrion.  He is so smart, and just rocks as Hand of the King (and latterly Hand of the Queen).  I can't see him ruling in his own name, but he is an excellent power behind the throne.  He's like a better, more humane version of his father - best power behind the crown, provided the head that wears the crown listens to him (although his advice does get a bit dodgy in season 7...)

Cersei Lannister:  She's not a good ruler.  Nasty, vindictive, would rather destroy the kingdom(s) rather than rule them well.  Not good for peace, stability nor prosperity.

Jon Snow:  Very earnest.  Very gullible.  Strong sense of honour, which is great, and he's learnt not to be blinded by it (more than you can say for his "father", Ned).  But he's kind of a dope.  He has to trust his closest advisers with his plans.  Case in point being when he tells Sansa in front of everybody that she will rule the North in his absence.  Not cool - if you want to dump that level of responsibility on someone, make sure you tell them in private, so if they freak out, it won't be in front of the entire population.  Sure, getting stabbed to death by one's sworn brothers can really set one back in the trust department, but that you can't rule if you can't trust your team.

As a military leader, he puts far too much trust in deus ex machina.  He was even shown developing a careful battle plan just before the Battle of the Bastards, which he threw away just because Ramsey killed his little brother.  He only got out of that one because Sansa showed up with help in the nick of time.  Similarly with the Wildlings, who looked ready to kill him just before Stannis showed up to save him in the nick of time.  His stupid A-team mission to capture a zombie/walker/living dead thingie from north of the Wall was also about to fail when he was rescued by Dany, again just in the nick of time.  That whole mission was something that should have been delegated.  It's all great that Jon is willing to lead from the front, but a King shouldn't go off on quests or secret missions.  Even King Arthur knew that it was for the Knights of the Round Table to go on the quest for the Holy Grail, and it was his role to stay at Camelot and rule the kingdom.  

So nope, Jon Snow ain't my king.

Daenerys Targaryon:  Hmmm.  She has been learning a lot as she goes along.  She's had an opportunity to practice with the Dothraki, with Yunkai, with Meereen and has made mistakes along the way.  She has some great qualities in that she is compassionate, abolishing slavery and stopping the gladiator games.  She can be ruthless when necessary, but limits her wrath to those who have managed to earn it, taking care to protect those under her rule.  She really tries not to repeat mistakes, learning as she goes along.  For now I support Daenerys to sit on the Iron Throne!  

There are other kings, like Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy and Euron Greyjoy, but I'm going to shortcut and say that they aren't for me.  It's Dany and her Hand, Tyrion for the win!

PS- my position could change again once Season 8 is released next summer.  Season 7 already showed some pretty sloppy writing as the showrunners have moved beyond GRRMartin's published books, so I won't be surprised if the story jumps the rails before they bring it to an end.

Pathan warriors

A short update this time.  I've finally finished up some 25 Pathan warriors who have been in the painting queue for years!  Mostly Old Glory, with the exception of the Artizan drummer on the right.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

3 more horsemen

Only three figures this time, so it's barely worth a blog post!  It does mean that I've got enough 19th Century Afghan horse that I could keep my Hollywood figures off the table (the horsemen with AK-47 and RPG), but I think it's fun to have them in a game just to see if anyone notices ;-)

Three more Perry miniatures cavalry:

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Afghan Regulars, this time in brown!

One more unit of Afghan regular infantry, bringing the total to four units of 12 infantry. That's about enough to field a significant field force, once I add in the artillery!  May need just a little top up from some tribal cavalry and they'll be ready to see off those who dare invade their land, whether British, Russian or Persian!  OK, not Persian, I'm not heading down that path....

Instead of red coats, my first idea was to paint them with black tunics and white facings, as described in the Ian Heath article, "A Most Villainous Cavalcade", specifically the text caption for image 4, Infantryman 1878.  I certainly had (and continue to have) zero interest in the white/blue striped uniforms!  Finally, however I settled on the brown tunics with red facings of the Ardali infantry (ref text for image 5, Highland Guard in the above referenced article).

So here they are.  Figures are from Perry Miniatures' Victoria's Little Wars line.

The flag is a bit of a flight of fancy.  I was tired of the plain black flag that Wikipedia indicates was in use (if in fact Afghanistan had formally adopted any flag at all), so I fabricated a flag based on the Durrani flag but with a rather dodgy, hand-painted attempt at the mosque that would be included in the Afghan national emblem around 1901.

Here is a possible attempt at a march column with a handful of skirmishers leading the way.  Maybe I should do a series of posts showing the current state of each of my armies for Afghanistan, British India and the Russian Empire.  Let me know in the comments below if you'd like to see something like that!