Saturday, 25 January 2020

28mm Abyssinians: just looking (for now)

Empress Miniatures Ethiopians
I'm grateful to the A Grab Bag Of Games blog for refreshing my interest in fielding a 19thC Abyssinian/Ethiopian Army for The Men Who Would Be Kings. The Egyptian-Ethiopian War of  1874-1876 is just the sort of thing to appeal to my taste for the obscure. As I already have a Colonial Egyptian army, an Abyssinian force would be an obvious extension.

Empress Miniatures do a range of Ethiopians for the 1930s but the irregular figures should be perfectly useable for the later part of the Egyptian-Ethiopian War following the Ethiopians’ capture of Remington rifles from the Egyptians at the Battle of Gundet in 1875.

Additional figures are available from Askari Miniatures in the USA but postage to the UK is incredibly steep. Some US companies just don't seem able to sort out reasonable international postal rates, though others clearly have no such problems.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Chain of Command links and resources

TFL official Chain of
Command game aid bundle.
Chain of Command was published by Too Fat Lardies back in 2013 but it's a new game for me. I have the rules and recently bought some markers, and I already had some figures, AFVs and Ardennes-specific scenery dating from a decade ago when I was first planning to do a platoon-level WW2 skirmish game.

I'm currently at the investigative and planning stage which is in itself quite fun. Here are some of the resources I've been looking at.


Too Fat Lardies website
Chain of Command shop items
CoC board on the TFL Forum
TFL Resources and Downloads - QRS, Errata & FAQ, Official CoCulator (points system)
Patrol phase tactics
Tactical Primer
Big Chain of Command
Game Aid Downloads


CoC review (Anatoli’s Game Room)
Getting Started with Chain of Command (The Tactical Painter)
Game Markers (The Tactical Painter)
Revised Force Ratings (Tiny Hordes)
The Consolidated Arsenal (Tiny Hordes)
Easy mistakes to avoid (Trouble At T'Mill)
Game example (JJ’s Wargames blog)
Various CoC posts (Vis Lardica)
CoC posts (Tom’s Toy Soldiers)
Charlie Foxtrot Models - Particularly apposite range of 28mm buildings for North-West Europe


As in other areas of life, we now enjoy the benefit of video support. This is the first time I’ve used videos to introduce myself to and learn a new game. These aren't for everyone but I think they give you a really good idea of what a game is like to play.

3 TFL Preview videos
CoC author Richard Clarke is filmed demonstrating a game
16 Videos linked from Boardgame Geek
Itinerant Hobbyist's Youtube Playlist

And there's lots of other filmed CoC games notably on these YouTube channels:

OnTableTop (formerly Beasts of War)
Tabletop CP
Check Your Leader TV

This is just my personal voyage of discovery. Apologies to any bloggers and video-bloggers that have been overlooked.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Rant No 2: Wargame blogging

Typical life and death of a new post.
Some blog posts enjoy long-term interest. In the main, however, I find that interest in new posts peaks and dies within three days or less.

I’m guessing that we wargame bloggers enjoy a lot of our traffic from each other’s blog rolls. My blog roll is quite long but defaults to the first 25, the most that Blogger allows me to show. I’ve just checked my blog roll as I write. The 25th item is two days old and the other 24 are only one day old. Anything older does not appear unless you elect to ‘Show All’.

I remember a time when posts shown were much older, but as new interests have arisen I've added new blogs, thus increasing competition between them. Now they fight for daylight before falling off the bottom of the list. That  presumes that visitors even get to the bottom of the list. In so far as fellow bloggers enjoy traffic diverted from this blog, they only enjoy it for 24 hours and I guess this is largely reciprocated.

This begs questions about the ideal frequency of publication. Every 3 days? Every day? Every hour? That is a slippery slope leading to obsession and is to be resisted. Unless I have something pressing to say, I'm now inclined to revert to a roughly weekly frequency.
All time favourites.

Some posts achieve longevity. Google moves in mysterious ways, but in so far as you can explain the popularity of a post it's probably because it's a relatively rare source of reference or it offers something of ongoing practical use.

In contrast to other forms of social media like Twitter or Facebook, blog posts are typically long and considered, can take considerable time to write and compare very favourably with articles in printed media. This is certainly exemplified by blogs like Norm’s Battlefields and Warriors  or Steven Thomas’s Balagan. My own posts are much more economical/superficial but they still take quite a long time to write, illustrate and arrange. It just seems a pity that so much effort results in something which generally enjoys only a very ephemeral life.

I guess most wargame bloggers are pretty ‘old school’ and take pride in a process which is little different to traditional print media publishing. But I also know that I'm not the only blogger to entertain doubts.

I don't personally do Facebook but I know people who do. Post an interesting or appealing photo straight from your smartphone and you immediately receive a barage of 'Likes' and pithy comments. I fear that I'm beginning to sound narcissistic but I do know that this sort of response provides validation and is psychologically much more rewarding than the feeling that you are publishing into a void.

Where is all this leading? Well, I'm not planning to give up just yet or to make any radical changes, but I am seriously wondering whether from an objective point of view an essentially print-media process with a large overhead in time and effort is a good match for a contemporary Internet audience.

I have some more rants to make. Otherwise I will try to create posts which have more content of lasting value.
Audience growth since inception. January
2020 is incomplete, hence the cliff-face dip.

All of this begs the question of why we blog at all. If I have a few daytime hours at home without fear of interruption, I'm more likely to spend my time painting. Blog posts usually start life on my smartphone (a Galaxy Note with stylus) during train journeys, in any waiting situation, or in any other odd pocket of time, and are finished on a PC mostly during sleepless nights (as now).

Blogger is theoretically straightforward but positioning pictures and controlling formatting can be annoyingly tricky. Fortunately I have a background in web creation and can get under the bonnet to adjust the HTML. No such problems with Facebook.

Given this working practice, it doesn't really compete with other activities, but if I didn't do the blog I could be using the time to study wargame rules or to pursue other interests.

But I still haven't explained why I do it. Generally it's to remain connected with something that fascinates me and would engage my thoughts in any event. In particular I get the most reward from feedback about ideas I'm floating, e.g. what basing to adopt for a particular game or how to paint something.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

2020 Projects

It's more fun to look ahead than look back, and I thus take much more pleasure in outlining my plans for 2020 than reviewing what happened in 2019. Once again I'll be brief and to the point. This year I want to concentrate on three areas and these are going to be my personal priority for both painting and gaming. Because this spread is so much more focused than in the recent years, I feel emboldened to use words like 'projects' and 'plans' rather than just 'interests'.

1. Rampant games

Rampant games remain central to my gaming preference, especially as new armies are ready to be put on the table (if only based and undercoated).

Warbands/companies I’m currently working on include:
  • 28mm Border Reivers, and Buccaneers and Spanish, for The Pikeman’s Lament.
  • 28mm 1798 Irish Rebels and Militia for Rebels and Patriots.
  • 28mm Elf, Troll (Orc), Goblin, Halfling, Nordic Bronze Age and Aegean Bronze Age warbands for Dragon Rampant.
There are also some bits and pieces I'm adding to historical armies to create Men of the North and Arthurian Romance Dragon Rampant warbands. I also have a force of 28mm Feudals which I will be diverting to DR, but I'm still trying to think of magical elements to add that would be in character. Even Fantasy needs to be authentic!

Besides those I also have Dark Age and Late Medieval Armies for Lion Rampant, AWI and ACW armies for Rebels and Patriots and British, Zulu, Afghan and Egyptian armies for The Men Who Would Be Kings. Rampant games are also popular with other club members including Chris who has French and Indian Wars for RAP, Ian who has British and Mahdists and Bernard who has Boxer Rebellion for TMWWBK, and Simon who is working on Wars of the Roses in 10mm for LR.

2. Tilly’s Very Bad Day

I’ve been helping to proof-read Steven Thomas's Tilly's Very Bad Day rules as they are being developed, but I really want to start playing them myself.

My 6mm Thirty Years War armies are still being painted but I based them first precisely so I could put them on the table straight away.

As with other 'base-before-painting' and 'play-while-painting' projects, I promise to do more painting before reusing them in a game.

A new version of the rules is imminent so as soon as that is published and I have digested it I'll be attempting to arrange a game.

3. Chain of Command (CoC)

I planned to get into Chain of Command in 2018 but never got round to it.

I have the rules and markers and a collection of 28mm US and German Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) figures which are based and undercoated. I also have some ready-painted diecast AFVs and some scenery.

I started the Ardennes project at the beginning of 2008, before CoC was published. It's frightening how much time has passed!

Like Crossfire, CoC is highly innovative, specifically in the pre-combat patrol sequence and the way in which forces pop-up at jump-off points. It may take some grasping but I think it's going to be fun.

I'm currently studying the rules, watching online videos, sorting out figures and planning additional scenery. More anon.

Friday, 27 December 2019

2019 Roundup

I'll keep it brief and to the point. I set out to do more painting and gaming this year. I didn't achieve as much as I hoped, but I did add substantially to my collection of armies and most of these are either fully-painted purchases from eBay or at least based and undercoated (or soon will be) and thus close to being usable according to my own heretical ethos of what is acceptable.

Most-played game of 2019
I played 20 games in 2019 - 9 Rampant games (4 The Men Who Would be Kings, 3 Rebels and Patriots, 1 Lion Rampant and 1 Dragon Rampant), 2 Dux Bellorum, 1 Hammerin' Iron, 1 Black Seas, 4 Commands and Colors and 3 other board games.

Since my six-monthly review in July I've added the following forces:
  • 28mm Halfling army for Dragon Rampant.
  • 28mm Nordic Bronze Age army for Dragon/Lion Rampant.
  • 28mm Aegean Bronze Age army for Dragon/Lion Rampant.
These have been organised, cleaned up, assembled and based. Other new armies, in various stages of completion, include:
  • 28mm 1798 Irish Rebellion figures for Rebels and Patriots. These have been accumulating gradually.  I recently received the last batch so these will be cleaned up, assembled and based early in the new year.
  • 28mm Buccaneer and Spanish figures for The Pikeman’s Lament. I need some reinforcements for the Spanish and some supernumeries but the collecting phase is in sight of completion.
  • 6mm Thirty Years War armies for Tilly’s Very Bad Day. These are based and are currently being painted.
  • 1/700 Black Seas (Napoleonic naval) starter set. These are still in the box and very much on the back-burner.
  • Commands and Colors Medieval. Stickered and used.
One thing that's helped me stay productive is keeping a very brief diary of what I do. At the end of each month I tot up the days when I did at least something. This gives me a sense of achievement and highlights any lapses without feeling oppressive.

Although it’s not been an outstanding year for gaming and painting I made over 60 posts to this blog, partly as a result of illness and post-op indisposition. I'm now much recovered.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Rant No 1: "Eye Candy"

Eye Candy on a B-17
It's time to vent some thoughts about some more general aspects of wargaming...

In the context  of wargame rule reviews reference to "Eye Candy" is most likely to be pejorative. Eye Candy is the seductive luxury of big-business wargaming represented by Games Workshop and Warlord Games as opposed to the honest typescript of those old WRG rules...

The deployment of Eye Candy, so the usage implies, is at best irrelevant and at worst a deceptive indulgence, rendering a ruleset nothing but a painted hussy of a ruleset and masking essential worthlessness.

But hold on. Before we endorse that streak of Cromwellian puritanism, aren't  the toys we play with Eye Candy too?

You don't need them. You can use counters. But they are part of the appeal, even the main basis of the appeal. And seeing Eye Candy in a rule set is part of the pleasure of wargaming...and inspiring!

Please discuss.

Friday, 20 December 2019

28mm Halfling slingers

I was a bit short of Light Missile figures for my Halfling Dragon Rampant warband so I did some conversions with Greenstuff.

These are Copplestone Adventureres but not very warlike so I changed the staffs into staff-slings. The challenge with Greenstuff is to avoid making the detail too big and clumsy for the scale of the figures, so I've learnt to use as little Greenstuff as possible.

These were two unarmed boys from the Foundry Viking Villagers pack. I needed some wire armatures for the slings but couldn't find any wire thin enough. Eventually I straightened out some 'Bambi' staples. The difficult part was modelling the feet. They do look big in the photo!

These conversions are fairly crude but they're the best I can do and good enough, I hope, for one-off figures. I remain in awe of professional sculptors who achieve such good detail, proportions and a natural look.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Last game of 2019: Dragon Rampant

Last game of the year was a welcome return to Dragon Rampant. I laid out the 6' x 4' table and we played with 36 points (in contrast to Lion Rampant) in order to allow more scope for magical elements. We allowed units to be 1" from friends, but otherwise attempted to play by the rules as written.

We also used Quests, both choosing three very similar 2-Glory ones. Winning the basic scenario was worth 5 Glory, so it was necessary to have a potential of 6 Glory to provide an alternative path to victory.

The game featured Ian's beautifully painted Chaos army versus my barely undercoated Elves on their first outing. As usual, my figures are based on 2p pieces - thank you to my fellow gamers for continuing to keep me supplied. Many of Ian's figures towered over mine, projecting an initial sense of menace and intimidation!

The Elves comprised:

King and Companions EF Leader Missiles
Spearmen LF Offensive x2
Archers LM Sharpshooters x2
Druid HF Wizardling

 'The Chaotic Bunch' were:

Dragon-Ogre Shaggoth ER Leader Level Headed Fear
Centigors LR Short Missiles
Minotaurs GW
Chaos Reavers EF
Bestigors HF Offensive
Gargant BF
Gors and Ungors RH

This is the first time we played with a significant linear obstacle - the stone wall. We were perplexed as to how a unit could Attack an enemy standing back, say 1", on the other side of a linear obstacle, so decided to ignore the obstacle for the purpose of Attacks. What should happen is that the Attack should be done in two stages. The first stage brings the attacker to the wall even though this may be closer to the enemy than 3". A subsequent Attack then takes the Attacker over the wall and into contact. In other words, while a normal move cannot end closer than 3" an Attack stopped by a linear obstacle can. Had we played this way I'd have got in a round of extra shots.

The Pendraken dice-frame strength markers look overly prominent in the photos but work well for Single Model Units and Reduced Model Units. The blood drops (indicating Battered units) are from Products for Wargamers.

The enemy Leader - an Elite Rider with Armour of 4, was a tough nut to crack. At first I started to have serious doubts about the effectiveness of missile fire and at one point I thought everything was lost. But with only 6 Strength Points, Elite Riders (and Elite Foot) are brittle. Killing the enemy Leader fulfilled one of my Quests and caused the enemy Warband to take Courage Tests.

The Minotaurs were after my Druid, another Quest target, and eventually succeeded in killing him. They were about to do more damage when they failed to Activate and crucially lost the initiative. This was something of a turning point in the game and Ian blamed this for losing him the game.

The Chaos Reavers (top left in the above photo) took the Scenic route through the rocky outcrop. This severely delayed them. Had they arrived earlier it could have been a game changer.

The end game. The Chaos Reavers (left) made a strategic withdrawal to take them out of harm's way while the Ravenous Horde (right) were seen off by more missile fire.

Although I had wondered about the power of missiles, they worked in the end and I would seriously consider taking the Spearmen as Mixed Weapons in future rather than as Offensive. Once you decide on a modus operandi for a particular army you might as well rationalise its application. An Elf army in which every unit can deliver a sting rather appeals.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Commands and Colors Medieval

Ian and I played a couple of games of Commands & Colors Medieval. We chose the first two Byzantine-Sassanid scenarios, Thannuris 528 AD and Melebasa 528 AD. These were very much trial games, finding out how things worked and what things worked.

The game functions very similarly to Commands & Colors Ancients, but it's more fluid and more bloody. All things being equal, that should make for a quicker game, but that's balanced to some extent by the introduction of the faction-specific Inspired Actions which give you something else to think about and remind me of the events and tactics in Sam Mustafa's Rommel. These are either an unnecessary addition or a clever way of adding army flavour without proliferating the unit types or cluttering the rules.

Melebasa 528 AD: initial deployment. This is always preset in C&C games.
I'm the Byzantines on the near side. Ian has the Sassanids opposite
I forgot to take any photos of the first game. Ian played the Sassanids whilst I had the Byzantines. It's a very open battlefield and the game was close run. My left was badly mauled but I retreated to and held a couple of hill hexes, successfully fighting off attacks before winning the game elsewhere.

I initially made good progress in taking the central hill mass,
but my attack was badly beaten back and had to be renewed.
Hills are a great equaliser in C&CM and greatly degrade attacking cavalry. In the second game there was a large central hill mass which completely changed the dynamic turning the game into a much more attritional struggle. I eventually won this struggle thanks largely to my Heavy Infantry and then pressed the enemy against his back edge.

Later in the game. Note my nice collection of Victory Banners bottom  right!
The length of Evade and Retreat distances means you can easily end up on or near the back edge. With no place to go this is a bad place to be. At a number of points in the game I was faced with decisions about whether to make voluntary moves which would have meant moving back. But soldiers are there to fight, not fall back. In most cases I rejected that and I believe it paid off.

The main lessons learnt were: (1) Move forward and attack - always a good idea in C&C games - but especially so here to give yourself space, and (2) Find a good use for your relatively weaker Heavy Infantry - this will usually involve hills.