Monday 14 September 2020

"exceptional, elegant and accessible, masterful, exciting, brilliantly executed, erudite, highly recommended!"

How's that for a string of superlatives? Not my words, but those of Dr Vanya Eftimova Bellinger and Dr Alexander Mikaberidze, extracted from their review comments on the forthcoming book prepared by Professor Nicholas Murray and myself: 

'Napoleon Absent, Coalition Ascendant: The 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland, Volume 1'.

Dr Eftimova is Assistant Professor of Strategy at the USAF's Air University and author of a biography of Clausewitz's wife, Marie von Clausewitz: The woman behind the making of On War.

Dr Mikaberidze is Professor of History at Louisiana State University Shreveport and author of numerous books on the Napoleonic Wars, including most recently, The Napoleonic Wars: A global history.

I am delighted (and a little overwhelmed) that our work has received such generous praise from such authoritative commentators. I am grateful to Dr Eftimova and Dr Mikaberidze for their kind words.

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Wargames holiday hotel, Mayenne!

This summer I managed to overcome the challenges of lockdowns, travel restrictions and quarantines and enjoy an actual holiday. The proper kind: staying in a hotel, visiting museums and sights, dining out, even going to the pub. (And I'm still alive.)

The point of this blog post is not to enthuse about my holiday, but to report on a remarkable place that should be of interest to many wargamers reading this: L'Hotel de Hercé.


My German Kampfgruppe prepares to advance towards Matt's display cabinet. I do love a SiG33 150mm. It served me well in this battle. Note the funky turreted Kubelwagen.

L'Hotel de Hercé is a charming, boutique chambre d'hôte, in a former noble's mansion in Mayenne. That's about 120km from Caen-Ouistreham if you cross the Channel by ferry, or 375km or so from Calais if you Chunnel it. By plane and train, it's not far from Laval, which has a TGV line from Paris.

Its particular attraction for us wargamers is that it is run by one of our number. Matt is an Aussie who used to run a big wargames club in Canberra, but moved to France a couple of years ago and brought his huge collection with him. A key feature of L'Hotel de Hercé is that it has a spacious salon de guerre. Consequently Matt can offer guests a one-off wargame, or a game with associated battlefield tour, or a full-on wargames holiday. The focus is on local battles, hence Romans vs Gauls, Hundred Years War, Vendée Rebellion/Napoleonics, and WWII. (Also Le Mans, site of the final battle of the Franco-Prussian War, is not far away, so FPW is on Matt's to-do list as well.) Check out the hotel website to see the very comprehensive range of tours, games etc available.

As this year has been a bit of a drought for face-to-face gaming, Matt was kind enough to lay on a WWII battle for me with his very nice 20mm figures and terrain. We tossed a coin for sides and I got to command a German Kampfgruppe winkling some British paras out of a Normandy village. Wow, the battle brain was rusty! But the principles soon came back: maximum use of fire support, reconnaissance, one foot on the ground ... my spotting dice were kind, so my recce detected the first three para trip-wire units in their hedgerows and my artillery and MGs wiped them out for virtually no casualties. Once we got in amongst the buildings it got tougher, and the KG paid a suitable price in the end. Nevertheless, after such a good start it was a pretty efficient attack, and my Germans were victorious. The rules were the venerable Rapid Fire. Believe it or not, I'd never played these before, but they gave us a swift and enjoyable game.

Enough about the gaming. It is important that I should also say that L'Hotel de Hercé is very good for non-wargamers as well (wargamers' spouses, for instance). In fact, most of their guests are non-gamers, attracted by the hotel itself which is full of character, lavishly furnished, and an exceedingly pleasant place to kick back and relax. The town of Mayenne has some historic sights and is endowed with excellent restaurants. There are plenty of interesting places within day trip distance: the tank museum at Saumur, the Le Mans 24-Hour museum, the Machines de L'Ile in Nantes, Roman ruins at Jublains, medieval towns at Vitré and Sainte Suzanne ... Last but not least, Matt and Vanessa are fine hosts and great company (and excellent cooks - do accept the table d'hôte if offered). We are grateful to them for a terrific week and look forward to returning. I encourage you to consider a visit yourself.