Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Kidwelly Castle

This year, we managed to book a weeks holiday (last week) to coincide with one of the hottest, driest weeks of the summer so far.  We stayed at a cottage close to the South Wales coast between Carmarthen and Llanelli.  For anyone who has never been, the coast of South Wales, from the Gower peninsula, west of Swansea, right around the southwest coast into Pembrokeshire and up the west coast to Aberystwyth and beyond have some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere.  Unfortunately, as the region enjoys some of the highest rainfall in the British Isles, being southwest facing, you have to make the most of the good weather when it's available.  As we have a 4 year old, we therefore spent most days at the beach, which gave him the chance to run off his pent up energy and let me take a look at all the interesting geology.  However, we did manage to squeeze in a visit to one of the Norman castles in the area, Kidwelly Castle.

Kidwelly Castle lies in the heart of the town of Kidwelly, which lies on the east side of the estuary of the Rivers Taf and Towy, on the banks of a small tributary the Gwendraeth Fach.  Excavations of the earthen base of the ramparts indicate a Norman Castle, built of wood, on the site, probably as early as the first decade of the 12th Century.  However, extensive upgrading in stone during the Middle Ages, has resulted in the superb D-shaped castle seen today.  The straight edge runs along the river bank while the curved wall swings inland to enclose the castle wards.  Originally, the Medieval town was enclosed by a wall, which effectively formed the outer bailey of the castle.  The castle as it appears today is effectively the town keep, with an outer and inner ward.

The impressive gatehouse from the small car park by the entrance, completed in 1422 when the roof was finally leaded.  The monument is in the care of Cadw and there is a charge for admission, but well worth it and as it is "off the beaten track" it tends to be much quieter than the better known castles.
 The walls of the outer ward with round towers at the corners and D-shaped intra-mural towers.
 A model of the castle on display in the gatehouse showing it at the peak of it's development.
 The walls and large round corner towers of the inner ward.
 The wall walk, showing the ruins of one of the D-shaped intra-mural towers.  Note the small size and limited space between the walls of the inner and outer wards.
 The impressive corner towers of the inner ward - all 4 are still standing to their final, modified height.  Additional height was added after they were built and the crennelations of the original defences can still be made out within the tower walls.
 The outer ward wall walk overlooking the Gwendraeth.  The projection towards the river is the remains of a chapel, which was built as a bastion projecting beyond the wall line and acting as an additional mural tower along the river bank.
 The Gwendraeth Fach - I can only assume that the mud flats have developed since the building of the castle, as I assume resupply for the Norman/English garrison in an otherwise hostile Welsh countryside, would have been via ship.
 Another view of the outer ward wall walk showing the extremely narrow inner ward and one of the large inner ward towers.
 The narrow inner ward gateway with three of the large inner ward towers visible.
 The original lords hall and solar, built against the outer ward walls.
 View of the outer ward walls, taken from the projecting chapel.
 The stable block in the inner ward.
 The square inner ward from one of the round towers - very narrow and claustrophobic to climb in near darkness, but excellent views from the top.
 The kitchen building within the inner ward.

So, all in all, a great place to spend an hour or two if you're in the area.  Not as large or grand as Pembroke or Caernarvon, but still impressive, with an interesting layout and the added bonus that it was fought over several times in the period between 1100 and c. 1450AD.  If you're interested in castles of the Middle Ages, Wales is a fantastic place to visit.  Along the South Wales coast are Oystermouth, Kidwelly, Llanstephan, Carew and Pembroke (birthplace of Henry VII), while in North Wales are Caernarvon, Rhuddlan and Flint, as well as many others.  Add the Roman fortresses of Caerleon and Chester and you can wander around 1400 years of fortifications.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

6mm ACW Confederate Zouaves

This morning I've just finished painting and basing some Baccus 6mm ACW zouaves, based for a Black Powder project at the local Deeside Defenders club.  As I'm collecting forces for the Confederacy, they are painted as Confederate zouaves, not common troop types and mainly present early in the war, but they break up the appearance of a sea of grey that a Confederate army normally presents.

Four regiments of zouaves from North and South Carolina.

 And again.
 North Carolina Regt in khaki/butternut jackets, beige trousers/pants, red shirt/cumerbund/sash/cap,
 South Carolina Regt, as above but white trousers/pants.
 South Carolina Regt, as above, beige trousers/pants.
 South Carolina Regt with blue jacket (?liberated federal uniforms), beige trousers/pants and red shirt/cumerbund/sash/cap.

So, with these I'm up to 10 infantry Regts, two mounted and two dismounted cavalry, 4 artillery stands and three units of skirmishers.  I now need to press on with some more conventional infantry units and some command stands.

Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

20mm Chechen AT team

Finally wrapped up the last of the Underfire Miniatures figures from the Phalanx show.  Chechen 3, a 2 man AT-5 Kornet/Spriggan team.  So, that's it 20mm wise for a while.  I might pick up some Elheim figures later in the year to bolster up the militia, but for now I'm back on the 6mm ACW figures and maybe some 6mm WW2 or moderns - haven't quite made up my mind.  Also got a load of Baggage Train D-day bunkers to sort out.

Thanks for looking.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

More 20mm Taliban

Almost managed to finish off the Underfire Miniatures figures that I bought at Phalanx.  Just one Chechen ATGM team with AT-5 Kornet/Spriggan team (Chechen 3) to finish.

Taliban 1 - rear left to right, standing leader with binoculars and RPK SMG, SAM-7 and standing figure with AK-47.  front running figure with AK-47, masked figure with AK-47 and crouching figure with RPG-7.

Taliban 3, rear, two standing firing AK-47 (one bareheaded), front two kneeling firing a PKM MG and an AK-47.
The Taliban 2 pack is in an earlier post.

So, for Andreivia, so far I've put together a militia force comprising 8 generic militia, 8 Chechen militia and fourteen Taliban fighters.  With the Chechen Spriggan ATGM team this will take my militia forces to 32, enough to keep me busy for an Arc of Fire game, although I will need to thicken up the forces for an irregular force against any professional opposition, especially for games like Force on Force.

By the way, for the first time in ages, the light is good enough outside today to take these photos without flash in my back garden!!  We're currently enjoying our first sustained spell of sunshine for 3 years!!

Cheers for looking.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Gauntlet 2013

Well the Deeside Defenders annual show, Gauntlet, has come and gone - last weekend (6th and 7th July).

I managed to play in Ian Shaw's Kursk game ( I was expecting Stalingrad for some reason) on the Saturday.  This was played using Battle Group WW2 rules written by Ian Clarke, who was also playing the Russian commander, while Ian Shaw and I took command of the left and right wings of the German assault.  Needless to say, the game was enjoyable, although it was really useful to have two players so experienced in the rules to provide assistance in working through the game mechanisms.  The scenario ended in a relatively historical outcome with the german armour overrunning Soviet infantry and AT defensive lines, but at such cost that the mass hordes of T-34s available to the Russian player as reserves would have wiped the floor with the surviving German armour.  By 1943, Pz IIIs are just moving targets, although the Pz IVs en mass could hold their own, while Panthers were much less wonder weapons than I was expecting.

On the second day, Ian S and I played a Cold War Commander game set in 1985 Poland, close to the Baltic coast.  My USMC had another outing, this time against the forward elements of a Soviet tank division.  The game was effectively a meeting encounter with both sides scrambling to take control of an airfield, motorway and road river crossings.  A Soviet motor rifle battalion, minus transport, was landed on the airfield by helicopter, while armoured batallions approached the bridge crossings.  A USMC infantry battalion ambushed one of the Soviet armoured battalions from the flank, knocking out quite a bit or armour with dragons, SMAWs and some 4x4 mounted TOWs.  Another infantry battalion, supported by a LAV battalion, made considerable progress in taking control of the airfield, but unfortunately a helo inserted infantry battalion supported by M60A3 tank company proved no match for two Soviet tank battalions, so the game ended in a draw with the Soviets controlling the motorway bridge crossing and the USMC in effective control of the airfield and the secondary river crossing being effectively contested by the remnants of a Soviet tank battalion and BMP motor rifle battalion versus a USMC infantry battalion.  Another fun game.

I came away with a fair haul of booty.  The bring and buy supplied me with a Future War Commander army and a Kallistra space fleet (the latter for my son .... honest).  I also took the plunge and bought a Dystopian Wars starter fleet (the Federated States of America), plus a dreadnaught to stiffen them up a little.  I also picked up enough D8s, 10s, 12s and 20s to play Force on Force, etc.  Also picked up some really nice D-day fortifications from the Baggage Train, including the sea wall set, a left and right handed 50mm bunker, Merville artillery bunker, Ouistreham observers bunker and various assorted hedges - more in these plus the others that I bought last year in a future blog, as well as progress in the Dystopian Wars battle group.

In addition to the games I was involved in, there were some excellent games being played.  The highlight had to be the massive ECW game played on the Sunday involving a scenario based around the siege of Chester and including a battlefield which covered the Gauntlet venue at the Aerospace Wings Club in Broughton.  A link to Ricks site with battle reports is here.

There was also a really nice WW2 Tunisia game organised by Will from the Defenders club and SOTCW with British, US, French, Italian and German troops on the table.

There was a huge refight of Leipzig (I think) in 15mm, as well as a large 15mm FoW game, various Dark Ages games and numerous Dystopian Wars naval and land battles being fought.

Overall, a really good couple of days gaming.  Only problem was the weather, which was the hottest/sunniest weekend of the year so far, so a bit of a shame to spend it inside.  Still, this weekend should be sunny too, long may it continue!

Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

20mm Taliban fighters for Andreivia

Four more figures painted for modern skirmish gaming in the fictional Black Sea state of Andreivia, this time Underfire Miniatures Taliban 2, a set of 4 Taliban fighters, a kneeling sniper, standing figure firing AK47, advancing with AK47 and standing firing RPG.

The sniper figure and the standing figure firing AK-47.
 Advancing with AK-47 and firing RPG.
 Nice figures with very little flash and lots of detail.

We're planning on playing a Force on Force game tomorrow evening, which should be interesting to compare with the Arc of Fire game we played last week.

Thanks for looking.