Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Monday, July 27, 2020

10 YRS ON MAIWANDDAY GETS A NEW HOME - plus Info on Afghan/NWF Flags

Greetings valued visitors to this humble hobby blog,

Today, July 27th, 2020, is the 140th Anniversary of the Battle of Maiwand.

It's hard for me to believe it's been a decade since a bunch of friends (foremost among them Nick Stern from Northern California, who I had never met in person before he showed up for the game!) and myself, plus my three at the time very young children and some of their friends, played our original Maiwand refight game.  Over the intervening decade this hobby blog, though it's ebbed and flowed, has taken a substantial portion of my time and effort.  Blogger has its good parts and its bad parts, and a few years ago I reached a point where I really wanted to move away from it and onto a site of my own.  I asked my daughter Isabella to do this for me.  One COVID-19 induced endless Spring Break later, Izzy has come through.  It took awhile but she was busy, first finishing her Senior year and graduating from high school, then attending West Point for 2 years.  She arrived back at school this morning and I'm introducing Maiwand Day's new home to the hobby world today, and announcing a big THANK YOU, IZZY!!! to the world as well.

If all goes well with the new site this will be the last new post here on MaiwandDay.blogspot.com but fear not, news of the continuing preparations for, and then playing of, the big upcoming BATTLE OF KANDAHAR aka: BABA WALI GAME will continue over on MaiwandDay.com

Speaking of which, if you'd like to visit the new digs, here's a handy LINK:

https://maiwandday.com/2020/07/27/afghan-military-flags/

The first new post over there is a compilation of info on mostly 19th Century Afghan and North-West Frontier MILITARY FLAGS.  This is a subject I've found to be challenging on the research front, so I'm glad to make the results of my own humble research on it available to anyone/everyone else who may be interested. 

Here's one sample of illustration -- it's by J.N. Karafin and titled: "Mullah preaching war against the Russians":


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Kandahar Game post #7: Connectors done; Last Layout Change; Terrain Board Progress, Bespoke Karez Hill, etc.

Since my last post it's been a busy few weeks here at the Maiwand Day household.  In the era of self-quarantine time stands still on one hand while blazing past at warp speed on the other.

My middle child and older daughter, Isabella, finally received her orders to report back to school at West Point towards the end of July.  This will bring to an end the one good thing our family got from Coronavirus: the surprise of having her back in our home with all of us, not for a holiday weekend or one-week during Winter Break or between Summer training, but for the past 3 months.  We probably won't get to spend this much time with her for at least another 7 years (2 more years at school and then at least 5 years on Active Duty).  We have had more family laughs -- and fights -- courtesy of her presence back among us, and we have all enjoyed the hell out of having her around.  We'll be very sorry to see her go, but glad she's going back to her life.

On a similar front, soon after Izzy returns to West Point, our youngest child, Sarah, will hopefully be leaving to start college in NYC, much closer to her sister in the Army than to us here in Los Angeles (I say "hopefully" because the official decision re: in-person attendance has yet to be made by her school, but it looks like that's what will happen).  After college our son, Skylar (the eldest!) got a good job here in Los Angeles and moved back home, but he's a full-blown adult who pretty much takes care of himself, so... when Sarah leaves it will be the start of the next phase of life for my wife and myself.  For some time I've had an expectation that when my wife and I become "Empty Nesters" I'll  be able to do more actual wargaming, be it at my own home or at friends' homes or at a wargaming club.  But having spent a great deal of my free time over the past 4 months working on the Kandahar 140th Anniversary Game... that will have to wait for a while.  After the game is played, -- be it in person, remotely, or some hybrid of the two -- I'll be spending my free time doing whatever my wife wants me to do, around the house, in the yard, or elsewhere, for the rest of 2020 at least.

But for now I am keeping my eye on the prize of Kandahar +140!  Here's the update...

(1) BOB'S AHMED KHAN SHRINE IS COMPLETE & HAS ARRIVED SAFELY ON THE BATTLEFIELD, as seen in these photos:




Here's the 1880 photo of the real thing...


Followed by a matching B&W pic rather brilliantly suggested by Bob:


GREAT JOB, BOB!!!

Bob was also kind enough to send me one of his Armstrong 40-pounder RBL guns.  Four were present with the besieged Kandahar garrison, and the entire battery fought in the battle, positioned near Piquet Hill...




(2) THE 3 ROCKY HILL CONNECTORS GOT THEIR LAST 2 SHADES OF DRY-BRUSHED PAINT AND ARE ALL DONE, as seen in this second batch of photos I think they blend in well with their flanking hills, so I'm happy with how they turned out:





AND A COUPLE OF QUICK VIDEO TOURS OF THE RIDGE LINE...
(one facing East & one facing West)





(3) I MADE ONE LAST ADJUSTMENT TO THE LAYOUT, bringing it closer in line with the info on the more detailed battlefield maps in the Official Record and Hensman books.  This particular change involved adjusting the path of the CANAL running close to the village of Gundamullah Sahibdad.  I had put the canal EAST of the village, when in fact it ran to the WEST, between the village and the ridge, while also flowing to the East, towards Kandahar proper.  Making this adjustment required using one more bridge, which I luckily was able to scrounge one from my hobby closet.  It also required using literally every single CANAL piece made for me by Chris The Model Maker back in 2015 for my Charasiab terrain layout.  Chris made me many more canal pieces than I'd asked for expected to receive, and at the time, while I was very grateful and very happy about that, I did not really expect to ever really use them all at one time!  If you're interested, here's a LINK to the post I put on this blog when he sent me pics of them --


-- and here's another to the post I put up after I received them in the mail and added them to the Charasiab layout for the first time --


Luckily it turned out I had just barely enough canals and bridges to make this last -- and I hope most accurate -- version of the layout work.  The main difference is that in the previous version of the layout, the canal was between the British start-line and Gundamullah Sahibdad village, whereas now the canal is between the village and the ridge.

(4) I MADE A BESPOKE KAREZ HILL TO REPLACE THE PRE-EXISTING HILL I'D PRESSED INTO SERVICE, as seen in these photos:

NEW KAREZ HILL:








The previous kidney-shaped version, which was too wide (going from top to bottom in this pic)...


The new version still has room for some troops and/or guns but doesn't reach all the way to the edge of Gundamullah Sahibdad Village, which is an improvement...



A bunch of smaller tasks and one really big task remain before this tabletop battlefield will be complete...

(1) The "Big Task" is to finish gluing ballast & pebbles to 10' x 2' of 3 raw terrain boards.  I made some progress and finished the first of the pair of 2'x2' boards.  Now all that remains is the second 2'x2' and the 6'x2' Great White Whale -- or perhaps better to call it the "Great Blue Whale"... since the styrofoam is blue?

Here's a few WIP pics of the first 2'sq terrain board being... "terrained":









...Then comes small tasks #2 thru 9:

(2) Make a bunch of waterfalls using Woodland Scenics REALISTIC WATER, which I will use to connect multiple ends of the canal system to what is meant to be the Arghandab River.  I also plan to make a series of these same type of pieces to create an actual WATERFALL feeding the canal that runs near Ayub Khan's camp.  For years now I've wanted to build rocky wood-chip hill featuring a waterfall, and this temporary version will be a good first step in that direction.

(3) Paint some supplies & campground paraphernalia for Ayub Khan's camp.  I bought some really nice pieces for this purpose from Bad Squiddo Games and Acheson Creations, and need to get at least a few of them painted and possibly based -- though some of them came a bit "pre-based" which made me that much happier about buying them -- in time to serve their purpose for the game.

(4) Add a flagpole and black pennon banner to Ayub Khan's command tent.  For this I am awaiting a banner made and mounted on a pre-cut to perfect size and spear-pointed pole being sent to me by good friend and accomplice Jeff "Sgt. Guinness" Baumal (CLICK HERE to visit his awesome blog).  Jeff is also sending me a unit of 60th Rifles and 3rd Sikhs, specially painted for use in the Kandahar game.

(5) Do some tests and learn if I can successfully spray-paint the magnetic movement trays I plan to use in an effort to speed up play, without weakening their hold on the bases of the figures they're meant to move.  Some of these bases I've owned for more than a decade, while others I recently ordered expressly for this game.  The old ones are drab green and the new ones are dark brown, and both would blend in much better on the table if they were a sandy brown.

(6) Update the bespoke charts I created for my Charasiab game 5 years ago, so they include all the troop types and weapon categories present at the Battle of Kandahar (there were no Ghazis or Afghan Regular Cavalry at Charasiab, nor 40 pdr. British guns), and also print out a few more British move/fire cards for the bespoke 800 Fighting Englishmen card deck I created for that game (CLICK HERE to visit my 2015 blog post featuring those cards).  Luckily for them, the British simply have MORE BRIGADES at this battle than that one!

(7) Decide exactly what building I will use to represent the British "OUTPOST" located near the Eastern end of the Murcha/Mirza Kotal, and get it ready in time for the game.  I have a couple of choices and the one I will probably use needs some work done before it will be "game ready" so to speak.

(8) Make a handful of ACRYLIC CAULK ROAD PIECES to better fit the table.  These will mostly be made to fill in missing exit roads off the West end of the table, to better the angled exit road connecting the Mirza Kotal with the East end of the table, and to improve the look of some intersections.  Making these roads is not very difficult but it is time-consuming.

(9) This last item is more aspirational thing than necessary.  During a recent visit to a local lumberyard I've frequented for years, I discovered they sell small sheets of high quality 1/8" plywood, labelled for "HOBBY" use, for a reasonable price.  I bought one 12" x 24" piece, one 12"x12", and a pair of 12" x 6" pieces.  I plan to use them as baseboards for walled crop fields, orchards, and gardens.  I doubt I'll be able to get it done in time for the game, but you never know.  I like the look of my current fields, all made for the 2015 Charasiab game, but they don't come with walls.

It's possible the exact plan for the game will be finalized before my next post.  Whenever it gets nailed down I'll pass the info on, just for the heck of it.  Till then, take care, be well, stay healthy... and try to get a game in now and then -- or paint some figures and build some terrain!

Friday, June 19, 2020

New Map, Kotals Complete, 23rd Sikhs Painted, Etc. (Kandahar Game Prep #6)

I started blogging about this project exactly three months ago, on March 18th.  That was one day before the state of California, where I live, enacted its Stay At Home order in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

I'm sure everyone reading this has been dealing with variations on the same theme.

A few weeks ago our youngest child, Sarah, graduated from high school.  As you can guess it was different from her older brother's and sister's graduations from the same school.  Our family of five got into the car, arrived at the appointed time, took our spot in a parade of cars and drove around campus, past socially-distanced and masked cheering teachers and staff.  Then we all watched as Sarah got out of the car, posed for a photo with a life-size cut-out of the Principal put her mask back on and was handed her diploma by the real life human version of the same guy, via a reacher grabber held in his gloved hand.

We spent a little under an hour in the car from driving on campus till driving off.  We're all very proud of Sarah and happy she got to enjoy some version of a graduation.  It was kinda crazy but so much better than nothing.

Things could be a whole lot worse for my family and myself and I'm grateful for our good fortune.  I hope everyone reading this is doing well, staying healthy and safe & sound, and also sane.  If you or someone you care about is suffering from coronavirus, or any other illness or injury, you have my most sincere and heartfelt best wishes for a quick and full and as close to painless as possible recovery.  And as I've said before and will say again, if you're a medical professional, thank you and Godspeed.

Meanwhile, on the tabletop hobby front, I'm happy to report lots of progress is being made on my Battle of Kandahar 140th Anniversary Game.

(1) MAP / TABLE LAYOUT

I must again thank my old friend, fellow Brooklynite and fellow history lover James "Jimmy G." Garzillo, for sending me photos he took of the fold-out Kandahar "Battle Map" from Howard Hensman's book shown below.  He did this a while back but I haven't managed to post about it until now...



The map is in PART II, Chapter III, P. 503

The map has some interesting details that are not on the map in the Official History, which I included in an earlier post.  I think this version provides a clearer view of how the central rocky ridge lay out, and the path the Mirza Kotal takes across the ridge.




Thanks again, Jim!

Spurred on by Jim's version I was able to track down a digitized version online, which you can find here:


...and which I will also tack into this post here:


SKETCH MAP
TO ILLUSTRATE THE ACTION
AT
KANDAHAR
1st SEPTEMBER 1880
Taken from the 1-inch Map of Kandahar
by Major Leach R.E., and Lieut. Longe, R.E.

(2) THE KOTALS

Meanwhile I've managed to do a lot more work on the terrain, including finishing both the Baba Wali and Mirza Kotals.

Here are some pics:































(3) THE HIGH GROUND CONNECTORS

One night after finishing real world work I was happily surveying the table with its 2 nice new mountain passes and I remembered how in the few play-test turns we've managed to play, it turned out my son, Skylar, was operating under the misapprehension that his Anglo-Indian troops would be able to advance through the one contour high TROUGHS between the RIDGE LINE of ROCKY HILLS.  This was not the case!  But I hadn't explained that to him before we started.  I filed that away as an important LESSON LEARNED and planned to put it into the SCENARIO BRIEF for all players prior to the game.

But that night when I was surveying the table it suddenly hit me there might be a feasible way for me to make it actually look right, so the layout accurately told the story of the battlefield terrain, by making the heights of the rocky ridge CONTIGUOUS, rather than interspersed with those pesky troughs, courtesy of the fact that the ridge was actually a series of separate hills, lined up in single file as well as possible, with some scatter pieces of ROCKY TERRAIN added around the edges.

The thing that hit me was that I could maybe add CONNECTOR PIECES of rocky hill to really link them all together.  This would only require 3 such pieces -- 2 larger and 1 small.  And I might be able to do it without damaging or even overly littering the IN SITU terrain, which was a vital requirement, since I didn't want to do anything that would make me spend even more time cleaning up after myself, and might put the already laid out terrain pieces at risk of any damage.

The answer was that other kind of foam.  I wish I knew its official name, but I don't.  It's kind of a cross between styrofoam and foam rubber, with more elasticity that styrofoam but more rigidity than foam rubber, so it maintain its shape in the face of more weight and/or pressure.

Luckily I had JUST ENOUGH of that stuff stashed away with other packing material to make this effort possible.  Each piece took about one night to cut/carve into shape and then hot-glue wood-chips onto.  Then came the slog of applying wood-filler and some ground cover, spray-priming black (I did a test and luckily the foam I was using was not eaten away by standard enamel matte spray paint, which saved me some time and effort on base-coating), and then applying the standard 5 color dry-brush paint scheme for my rocky hills:

1. BROWN
2. HONEYCOMB (a caramel color for ground-cover areas only)
3. DRAB STONE (homemade 50-50 mix of HONEYCOMB & BLACK, for rocky areas only)
4. MUDSTONE (for rocky areas only)
5. SANDSTONE (light highlight dry-brush for everything, to tie it all together)

The hardest part by far was trying to make sure each "connector" fit as close to seamlessly as possible between the 2 pre-existing rocky hills on each side.

About 5 years ago I had some experience doing this when I built my Afghan Hill-Fort in a way that allowed for it to be added and removed to one of my pre-existing rocky hills (if interested, you can jump to that post by CLICKING HERE).  This gave me some confidence that I might be able to make these 3 "connectors."  I'm happy to say I think they turned out pretty well, and now no one playing the game or even just seeing pics of the terrain will think it will be possible for troops to cross from one side of the ridge to the other -- EXCEPT by way of the Baba Wali or Mirza Kotals.

Earlier tonight I applied a heavy dry-brush of BROWN above the black base-coat.  That's always one of the most enjoyable steps in my rocky hill terrain making process, because it's the first time all the effort I put into layering the textures really start to come to life.  Now, with each successive dry-brushed coat of paint, it should only get better.

BUILDING & PAINTING THE 3 CONNECTORS:























































I now find myself one step away from finishing the 3 Connectors.  Just 2 dry-brush highlight coats left to do -- the Mudstone and Sandstone final touches.

(4) TROOPS

Over the past weeks I've also made progress on new troops for the game.  This includes having the 23rd Sikh Pioneers painted for me by my friend Frank Patterson.  Amongst Orange County wargamers Frank is a somewhat legendary figure painter and terrain builder, and I was very happy when he volunteered to help out by painting some figures for me.  He has a hobby-related Instagram account called "LED Army" which -- if you are on Instagram -- I highly recommend!

Here's a LINK:

https://www.instagram.com/led.army/

Here's a period reference photo showing the 23rd Bengal Native Infantry (Sikh Pioneers) in Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War:




And a color plate from the Osprey Men-At-Arms title: Indian Infantry Regiments, 1860-1914...


...and here are some pics of the figures.  They are Wargames Foundry Darkest Africa Sikhs, with Empress Zulu War accessory folded greatcoats and Eureka Punjabi Pioneer picks and shovels super-glued onto their backs.  The 2 Indian officers were conversions I made using heads from Foundry NWF Sikhs and bodies from Foundry Darkest Africa British Officers...






For the officers I gave Frank this color illustration by A.C. Lovett, to use as reference for the turban pattern, which was yellow and brown...


...But being Frank he decided yellow and RED would look better and help the figures to pop, so...





As a button-counting grognard type when it comes to my own figures, I considered trying to paint over the red turban stripes with brown... but I couldn't bring myself to do the deed.  Frank also took it upon himself to paint SASHES on both officers, using the aforementioned red and yellow.  If I'd repainted the turban stripes I would have also had to repaint the sashes.  So for now at least, the red remains.  Not so historically accurate, but looking mighty fine.


In the event, Frank also gave the NCOs full color turbans in place of brown...



As I write this Frank is at work on my Artizan 92nd Highlanders and 24th Punjabis, to add to the Kandahar army list.  Thanks again, Frank!

Meanwhile at the other end of the country in Florida, my buddy Jeff "Sgt. Guinness" Baumal has specially painted a unit of the 2nd Battalion 60th Rifles, and is almost done with the 3rd Sikhs, both of which should be here in Los Angeles in time for the game.  THANK YOU, JEFF!

Moving West from Florida my friend Bob Ridenhour -- known as Rhingyll on the hobby forums -- has been kind and generous enough to box up and ship me several units of Indian Cavalry: Central India Horse, 3rd Bengal Lancers (Skinner's Horse), and 3rd Punjab Cavalry -- PLUS a unit of Gurkhas!  The Gurkhas are needed to supplement my own two units, since the Anglo-Indian army list calls for no less than three.  I'm very happy to report that Bob's troops all arrived safely over the few days, none the worse for wear, aside from some loose lances I have to glue back into the hands of some Sowars.

So as you can see, with some vital help from my friends, the project is advancing at a good pace.  The one major hurdle left for me to cross will be finishing the 10'x2' of bare blue terrain boards with ground-cover and 3 shades of paint, but I think there's enough time left for me to get it done.

As the Age of Coronavirus grinds on, it's still uncertain if the Kandahar 140th Anniversary Game will be played in-person or remotely, or as some combo of the two, and all three options remain on the table.  If I had to guess now it looks like the combo may get the nod, with a few of the players traveling to visit Los Angeles and play in person while the others stay home, from where we will hopefully come up with an easy way for them to participate via long-distance.  More on that in the future, as arrangements are nailed down and the game plan comes into better focus.

I hope to be back with a new post before too long, showing the final version of the razorback ridge, complete with three completed"Rocky Hill Connectors" in place, and maybe some more newly painted figures.  I'm also close to finishing an illustrated reference document on 19th Century Afghan Military Flags, that I hope to make available here in the not-too-distant future.  More on that when I manage to dot the i's and cross the t's -- some of which are in Arabic.  I'm pretty confident it will be done by the end of this Summer.

Be well and stay healthy, and keep carrying on.