Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Gruntz 15mm: Sci-Fi skirmish

Although I spend half my time thinking I should focus on a few key games, I spend the other half musing about expanding into new 'periods'. My current fad is 15mm Sci-Fi skirmish, something that has been gnawing away at me since April. Despite the plethora of 15mm SF stuff at the Salute show, it was only when surfing the web a  few days later that I actually got bitten. That was, I admit, very bad timing.

Anyway, a review of the rules options led me to Gruntz 15mm which seemed to be  the most attractive and promising. I've studied the rules and I've read reviews and explanations, but I haven't actually played them. I expect they're fine, but what has captured my imagination is the army-building aspect.

Although Gruntz offers its own very wide universe and backstory, it is a completely flexible system which allows you to plug in any models you want. Although the armies I'd like to create would have SF technology like power armour, mechs and grav tanks, my current interests are based around near-future terrestrial factions rather than extra-terrestrials.

I have three in mind: a mid-tech 'RussFed' army  using ArmiesArmy models, a hi-tech 'US Marine' army using mainly GZG models, and maybe a lo-tech 'Caliphate' army using Khurasan figures. There are other possibilities, but I don't want to over-extend before I even start.

Gruntz has the advantage of being playable on quite a compact table (say 4' x 4') and requires only a modest collection of figures and vehicles for each army (say 300 points in game terms). I've been thinking about a number of scenery options - a ruined city, oil refinery or shanty town - but my current favourite is a recycling plant and scrap yard which will provide plenty of loose clutter.

As I don't seem able to shake this fad off and with the SELWG show coming up shortly, I am highly likely to go into purchase mode.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Other potential 20thC projects

Pendraken 10mm early WW1 British
I've recently written about doing the Mexican Revolution and Chinese Warlord Era in 10mm for use with Red Actions, but I have also long been interested in doing the Russo-Polish War or other aspects of the Russian Civil War for which RA was of course specifically designed, and for which 10mm figures are readily available.

Another conflict that has previously captured my interest is the Chaco War, but given the current availability of figures and vehicles, this would be much better tackled in 15mm.

Pendraken 10mm Colonial Egyptians
The other 20thC projects in which I've previously taken an interest are early WW1 and the First Balkan War. These would be for both Square Bashing and for Bloody Big Battles! For 1914 I have considered 6mm in order to cut down on the work. However, the aesthetic appeal of 1914 for me is the distinctiveness of the British caps and German Pickelhauben which IMO are just capturable in 10mm but somewhat lost in 6mm.

The appeal of the First Balkan War lies in it being an offbeat precursor of WW1. The armies I would do would be Bulgarian (using WW1 Russians) and Turkish (using Late Nineteenth Century Colonial Egyptians) and Zouaves. The Turks would be doable in 6mm, but WW1 Russians are available only in 10mm.

Finding appropriate artillery is an issue but there are options which most people wouldn't be knowledgeable enough to question!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Chinese Warlord Era in 10mm

Pithead Miniatures Chinese Winter Infantry Korea
The Chinese Warlord Era is another potential 10mm project that was originally going to be for Square Bashing but which I would now do on a smaller scale for Red Actions. I have certainly not given up on SB, but more on that in another post.

Pendraken RJW Japanese
Once again there are no dedicated ranges in 10mm but I think the prospect of filling the ranks with acceptable proxies is marginally better than with the Mexican Revolution discussed in a previous post.

I would use Pendraken Russo-Japanese War Japanese and Pithead Miniatures Korean War Chinese in winter dress for Northerners; WW1 British and Russians, particularly the dismounted British cavalry in caps (BP41), for Southerners; and Vietnamese for irregular types.

It might seem inappropriate to have only one side in winter dress, but AFAICR this was in fact the case and remarked on in contemporary accounts. I haven't actually seen the Pendraken BP41 pack or even a photo of it, but I understand it should fit the bill.

Pendraken FT-17
The Pendraken FT-17 tank will also be appropriate, though I'll have to check which version.

Pendraken SCW Assalto
The one big gap is the distinctive, sword-armed Dare-to-Die units. Spanish Civil War Assaltos with SMGs could be used, but something more distinctively Chinese would be a boon.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

10mm Seven Years War progress

Prussians: looking remarkably like the Austrians
My 10mm Pendraken Seven Years War Prussian and Austrian armies for Maurice were destined to be based-before-painting and used-before-complete.

I've now finished basing them and the sight of the shiny silver castings has made me realise how difficult it is to tell them apart! I will need to get at least a basic coat colour on them before they will be usable on the table.

Austrians: looking remarkably like the Prussians
I've also been reassessing my painting approach. My last army (15mm Portuguese and Dutch for Irregular Wars) came out a little dark, so I need to reconsider my methodology, especially for 10 mm and 6 mm figures which need to be lighter/brighter.

Now I've always been impressed with the painting skills of Nic Wright (author of Irregular Wars etc) and he was recently persuaded to reveal some of his secrets.

Nic Wright's eye-catching approach. Our bases look 
similar but Nic's figures stand out much more clearly.
Drawing on his approach, my plan now is not only to save paint layers and time but, more importantly, to create a better effect:

1. Texture the bases with PVA and sand.
2. Spray-undercoat with ArmyPainter Leather Brown.
3. Paint in the main colours, leaving the brown for guns, shadow etc.
4. Wash with brown ink.
5. Reapply the main colours to partial areas as a highlight.
6. Etc.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Mexican Revolution in 10mm

I have more than enough stuff to paint at the moment, but I recently picked up a copy of Villa And Zapata: A Biography of the Mexican Revolution by Frank McLynn so I thought I'd post something about my potential future Mexican Revolution project.

I already had the Osprey title The Mexican Revolution 1910-20 by Philip Jowett and Alejandro de Quesada. There are many general histories about the Mexican Revolution but McLynn's book looked very readable.

My interest was originally prompted by seeing the respective army lists in the Square Bashing rules but I didn't want to commit to full-sized SB armies.

However,  I subsequently discovered Red Actions which I think could work well. If not, I would still plan armies on that scale of game,  i. e. a few units per side, each of about five bases with various supports. In RA the units would be companies and the bases platoons, but under other rules the units could higher or lower level formations.

SCW Andaluz Militia
This would definitely be a 10mm project. Although there are no dedicated ranges in that scale, the Revolutionaries can be recruited from Pendraken Boers and Spanish Civil War Andaluz Militia (right), and the Federales from Russo-Japanese War Japanese. Nevertheless, there are some bits and pieces missing (Revolutionary HMGs and artillerymen) and it would be nice to see some dedicated figures.

I would put the figures on 30mm square bases to be consistent with my other 10mm 20thC armies, but whereas my 1918 and WW2 infantry are mounted 3 to a base, I would  probably do 1914 and earlier armies 4-up.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Balagan's Steven Thomas runs and reviews my 'Crossfiregrad' scenario

Steven's faithful rendition of the battlefield -
an uncanny recreation of my own table.
Steven Thomas' Balagan blog is one of my favourite wargaming websites and was an immense help when building my Spanish Civil War Crossfire armies. He also has a wealth of Crossfire scenarios and other Crossfire-related information, as well as a huge amount of historical and wargaming articles with a particularly Iberian flavour.

Steven recently ran and reported on three games using my 'Crossfiregrad' scenario. He was very complimentary, but also suggested some improvements.

He added the Barmaley Fountain to the square and treated the workers' cottages as a Forest of Chimneys (i.e a wood). He suggested the Germans should be allowed to leave and return via their base edge, and he took a more cautious approach to 'stacking limits' for multi-storey buildings, all of which I am happy to adopt.

We have different views about ignoring suppressed stands as a target priority (an old Crossfire controversy) and I am not yet convinced that the current scenario balance is biased against the Germans.

Do visit his article where you will also find my response in a little more detail. I would also love to hear from anyone else who has tried this scenario.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Gettysburg game overview

The 2D battlefield was not only uninspiring
but unexpectedly awkward to use.
My friend Ian and I played the Gettysburg scenario as we were keen to see how BBB played for the American Civil War and because I have always had a particular interest in this iconic battle. As usual I took a lot of photos during the game and will post a blow by blow photo report in due course. However, such AARs take a long time to write so I’m starting with an overview which is arguably more interesting.

The game is divided into three days. In real time we took about ten hours (with breaks) getting through deployment, 8 full game turns, 2 night intervals, and an assessment of turn 9 probabilities. We could have gone quicker if we knew the rules better and played them more often.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

6mm vs 10mm and a theory about light

10mm: do they catch the light significantly
better than 6mm?
Regular readers will know I have quite settled (though not unusual) scale preferences. These are 28mm for skirmish, 15mm for small armies especially if they are predominantly infantry (e.g. for games like Crossfire and Irregular Wars) and 10mm or smaller for any mass armies. For at least two future projects (Bloody Big Battles! and Dux Bellorum), however, I have been torn between 6mm and 10mm.

I could say that further light was shed on this dilemma during my recent visit to the Salute 2016 show, but it was rather the lack of light and its effects that struck me. Now, the lighting at Salute is not good, but it it is also probably not untypical of many wargaming clubs. Anyway, in search of the one true scale, I had a particular interest in appraising certain 6mm and 10mm figure ranges.

On the Baccus stall I was struck by the dioramic excellence of Peter Berry's 60mm x 60mm American Civil War bases. I then had a closer look at the painted figures on the stand. Now I know that the Baccus figures are very well detailed, but under these conditions they just seemed 'dark' and silhouetted against their bases.

I then visited the Pendraken stall just around the corner where a unit of French Franco-Prussian War figures were on display.  These did not have a dioramic appeal. To achieve something similar would probably have required an 80mm x 80mm base. But they did not seem dark - they were definitely in full colour.

This was not a controlled scientific experiment, but is it possible that the greater size of 10mm figures, marginal though it may be, makes a crucial difference to reflecting light and thus showing colour?

To be honest, a lot of my own 10mm and even 15mm figures are too dark. When painting future armies I really must make more effort to use lighter/brighter colours.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Salute 2016 - a somewhat jaundiced experience

Superb architectural modelling: the wargame is irrelevant.
If I didn't go to Salute I might miss something, but it's far less of interest to me than it once was.  This year's visit was even more routine than usual. I picked up some more Hexon from Kallistra and had a chat about some possible, though probably unlikely, Hexon extensions. I bought a few more trees from S&A Scenics. I got some ready-painted Epsilon buildings from Pendraken. And I bought a few steel bases which I only mention for completeness. I could have done all that online.

Other than these more-or-less planned purchases, nothing new caught my attention. I might have made some impulse purchases on the bring-and-buy stand, but, disappointingly, there wasn't one. Good job I didn't take anything to sell!  Of course, I do have a wargaming shopping list, but most of the things on it were not available at Salute.

Unusually, I also walked round the games. I don't usually bother, partly because I find it difficult to concentrate on them in the oppressive and disorientating Excel environment, and otherwise because I usually end up having a few drinks with old friends. That can also end in disorientation but it's more pleasurable.

At a show like Salute it isn't really the game that counts but the visual impact it makes, and in that regard my vote would go to the Battle of Wilhelmsthal which I believe was the work of Bill Gaskin and friends. As good as the figures undoubtedly were, it was the architectural models which grabbed my attention. It was absolutely superb work depicting a very different world from the gargantuan hangar which houses Salute.

Could Salute be better? Yes, it could be somewhere else.