Friday, 4 August 2017

3mm minis for Rommel Part 2

Any intentions that I declare in this blog should never be taken too seriously. When it comes to wargaming I often change my mind or fail to pursue things!

Original 60mm x 60mm bases
It occurred to me that the infantry stand shown in the last post had enough Laffly trucks to carry 30 men but only 10 men were depicted on the base! There isn’t room to add another 20 figures, so it would seem sensible to reduce the trucks to just one, thus making the vignette more realistic. This would create an anomaly in that the tanks would be a platoon while the infantry would be only a section. Is that something to lose sleep over though? I also thought of mounting all artillery in pairs so that SPGs could be readily distinguished from tanks (mounted in threes).

40mm x 40mm bases
Before making any final commitment to a particular base size, I thought I’d better revisit 40mm x 40mm basing. This will allow use of a 4” grid or Hexon. It had always been my intention to use Hexon for a game like this. One of the main downsides is the smaller label which might be difficult to read in a dimly-lit wargames hall. I could increase the size of the label but then the base would be more cramped, especially if I start doing later war armies with bigger tanks. A relatively bigger label would also begin to overpower the models.

But there are pluses. A big advantage of a 4” grid rather than a 6” one is that I will need a lot less buildings to depict built up areas. This may be disappointing news for Brigade Models but there you are. I will be able to use my Hexon scenery of which I have quite a bit. I will be able to game at home with models. Bigger battles with models will be easier to accommodate on club nights. Storage will be more compact.

Rather empty 40mm x 40mm bases
The cheapskate option: single models rather than multiples. If the model is just an icon this approach is logical, and it’s what many people will be doing with 6mm models. It’s a possibility but with 3mm models it looks a bit thin. Don't take too much notice of the labels - the content is just filler for layout purposes. More specific identification of the hardware for future reference (not required for the game) will be on the underside of the bases. Thanks to advice on the Pendraken Forum, I would cover the labels with plastic film so the track could be marked off with a water-soluble pen and cleaned afterwards.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

3mm minis for Rommel

With Sam Mustafa's forthcoming Rommel in mind, I finally got round to ordering some 3mm Oddzial Osmy minis which were very promptly supplied by Fighting 15s.

These are the first samples that I've actually been able to see at first hand and I am delighted by the crisp castings and the detail on the vehicles and even on the infantry. I won't necessarily be painting this detail but it's nice to know that it's there.

1940 French tanks, infantry and artillery.
While eagerly awaiting publication of the rules, I've been thinking a lot about the use of unit cards, rosters, and base labels (or some combination) to carry the unit data and damage track.

Unit data cards create table clutter but I find them very convenient in play. Rosters are straightforward but take your eye off the table. Base labels would need to be quite big and the tracking part would need to be replaced after each game or this would require some workaround.

A related question is how big to make the bases. After a considerable amount of thought I'm currently favouring 60mm x 50mm bases that will sit on cards. The cards will be 60mm x 60mm so that a 60mm x 10mm strip will exposed at the rear with essential data and the track. The cards will be expendable and different sets can be used for different scenarios etc.

The 60mm x 60mm bases would fit 2-up, 1-back on a 6" grid, and if I want to use a smaller grid at home or portray a very big battle I can just game with cards. If using models it's worth making them look good, and I think that big bases look best. The tanks, for example, are spread out more realistically. And while I'm only an average painter of models, I'm quite good at doing bases!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Sam Mustafa's Rommel

Erwin Rommel
As long-term readers of this blog may have noticed, I don't get much time for wargaming in the warmer months, and I've had even less time this year owing to pressure from other interests and commitments. I have, however, been keeping my hand in by exploring Great War Spearhead thanks to Robert Dunlop who has kindly been setting up games and teaching me the rules.

I haven't, however, been pursuing anything on my own initiative until I was recently reminded of Rommel, Sam Mustafa's forthcoming set of WW2 grand-tactical rules. Sam's reputation for analytical logic and extremely well-written, user-friendly rules is enough to persuade me to buy them as soon as they become available in the UK, but whether I will actually prefer them to Bloody Big World War Two Battles or any other alternatives will depend in large part on how well  they cover historical scenarios.

As I said previously, the appeal of the grand-tactical for me lies particularly in replaying historical battles. Having said that, Rommel has a neat army creation system for pickup games.

There are podcasts and downloads about the game on Sam's website. It's played on a grid of squares and doesn't need miniatures.  If using a 6' x 4' table the squares are 6", i.e. the grid is 12 x 8 squares. The game will also convert to hexes. Some will regard it as more of a boardgame but the approach suits me. I like grid games and the game can easily be tried out with cards or counters with the option of adding 3D toys and scenery later.

Four possible approaches have crossed my mind:

  1. Just use the unit data cards on an improvised grid which could be drawn onto butcher paper or just marked out with counters. This is the minimalist option, but should be perfectly adequate for playing purposes. 
  2. Make 30mm game counters and use them on a 3" or 4" grid or Hexon. This will make the game compact enough to fit a small table. (The grid squares need to be large enough to hold three bases which is the 'stacking' limit.)
  3. Use my 10mm Normandy armies on the default 6" grid. This will look like a proper game to people who think wargaming must involve miniatures. I would be short on artillery but can borrow some field-guns from my WW1 Square Bashing armies. 
  4. Raise some new 3mm armies for use on a 3", 4" or 6" grid or Hexon.

There's no point in using models unless they are aesthetically attractive. I've thought about / planned WW2 armies in 3mm for literally years. IMO AFVs are going to look best if mounted at least 3-up on reasonably wide bases, i. e. at least 40mm. That pushes the grid size and is probably too large for Hexon. Some of the grid squares also need to contain scenery, e.g. BUAs and woods, but I would make these fairly level so the stands can sit on top of them.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Twilight of the Sun King and some thoughts on generic armies

Promising but not perfect
The Twilight of the Sun King (TotSK) rules cover the period from 1680-1721. They were originally written by Steven Thomas of Balagan fame but authorship subsequently passed through other hands. I'd been meaning to try them for ages but never got round to it. So I already had an interest when the new, third, version was published by the Pike & Shot Society.

It's a high level game, there are historical scenarios, and, uniquely, it combines different forms of combat into a single unit reaction test. The game has, I believe, great promise but I'm not intending to play it just yet.

My Marlburian armies are currently 'between basing' and my 1690 armies turned out to be too small. For grand tactical games with historical scenarios, this has really concentrated my mind on the desirability of having reasonably generic armies that can be used for a range of historical battles (and rules). Time to look again at 2mm, possibly on 25mm square bases?

The other stop factor is the large number of problems with the rules. The TotSK Yahoo Group is awash with queries and an errata (currently 5 pages long!) is in preparation. Sadly this new version of the rules was obviously not adequately tested or proofed. On the plus side, however, there is a lot of interest in and support for the rules from people who want them to work.

There are two lessons for rule-writers here: get them tested by different groups of people who approach the rules in isolation and get them proof-read by someone like me!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Thirty Years War in 3mm?

My interest in the Thirty Years War periodically resurfaces, and I started this article some months ago the last time it did. I haven't taken things any further, but I thought I'd post it anyway.

I was waiting to see Impetus Baroque at the time, but at the Cavalier show last year (February 2016) I caught sight of the Liber Militum: Tercios rules. The rules emanate from Spain and the English-language version is not as good as it could be. Nonetheless, it appears to be easier to follow than some rules allegedly originating in English.

Suggested 15mm basing on full-size bases.
Basing follows the Impetus precedent of being quite large - 120mm wide for pike-and-shot units, 80mm wide for cavalry and 40mm wide for artillery. Regardless of figure scale, I immediately thought of reducing the base sizes so that a game could be played on a compact 48'' x 32'' playing area. A 120 mm base would become 80 mm, an 80 mm base would become about 53mm (say 60mm) and a 40 mm Base would become about 27mm (says 25 mm).

My campaign for open-handed pikemen in 10 mm or 6 mm didn't get too far, so I began to consider the Magister Militum 3mm figure strips. These do not look clipable, so I needed to see how complete strips would work on the desired base sizes. With the strips being 20mm long, this exercise may also applicable to unclipped Baccus strips.

Tercio Square, Classic, Reformed and Modern
 formations using  Magister Militum's 3mm strips.
Tercios has four types of pike-and-shot unit: Tercios, Classic, Reformed and Modern. I've played or looked at a number of Renaissance rule options over the years. These definitions seem to be a good as any and better than many.

There is some disagreement as to whether the distinctive Tercio formation with shot at the corners was actually used in the TYW. As I understand it the Tercios were not entirely inflexible, but capable of various arrangements. If the shot on each flank were to close up a Tercio would present a simple pike block with sleeves of shot, albeit a large and deep one.

The illustration above shows suggested basing for 15 mm figures. The diagrams (right) show how I would do it with 3 mm strips in a way that would best reproduce the relative numbers and proportions of the 15mm figures.

The iconic T formation for the Modern (Swedes) was my own idea. It may not have been commonly used but it's distinctive and a convenient way of arranging the strips.

I'm not sure of the exact depth of the strips. If they are deeper, then the Tercio square in particular may look better than the way I've depicted it (i.e. squarer). In principle the strips seem to work.

Anyway, this was an entirely cart-before-the-horse exercise as I still haven't even read the rules properly, let alone played them. And I do have some reservations. I'm a bit wary about committing to a rules set that uses bases with different frontages. And I don't think Magister Militum's 3mm range yet has all the required figure types.

Two other developments have also recently occurred. Firstly, I've bought a copy of the new edition of Twilight of the Sun King (more anon) and learnt that a TYW/ECW version is also planned for this year. Secondly, I've seen the first releases in the new 6mm TYW/ECW range from Baccus. Notwithstanding the cast pikes, these are superb figures...

Baccus: Fragile cast pikes but very nice effect.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Great War Spearhead - my introduction

Robert Dunlop, a major contributor to Great War Spearhead, kindly introduced me to the rules. Rather than play on opposing sides we went through the sequence and mechanics of play together. This is an absolutely brilliant approach to teaching rules and makes me wonder why I've never tried the same thing myself!

GWSH evolved from Arty Conliffe's original WW2 Spearhead and was developed by Shawn Taylor with Robert's support. The current edition (GWSH II) is now a fully standalone set of rules. Different rules model different things. The Spearhead family focuses on orders which are marked on maps by arrows of advance. These become the absolute drivers of the game until the enemy are spotted and the play becomes tactical. For that the mechanics are relatively simple.

This approach forces the players to plan. They must study the terrain, look at the routes of advance, and consider the areas of deployment. Crucially, they must also take into account likely or possible enemy plans. Later in the game they may discover the holes and be forced to alter plans and move formations.

GWSH uses a scale of about 80 yards to 1 inch. The 30mm square bases used in the game represent companies and about 12-16 of these are grouped into regiments (British brigades) which are the principal level for order writing and manoeuvre. Four regiments might form a division and two divisions a corps. I generalise here in order to give an idea of scale. A divisional game is a reasonable size for an evening's entertainment, but much larger games can and have been staged.

I now look forward to playing a proper game. Spearhead's grand tactical nature does, of course, appeal to me. In fact, my 10mm Normandy armies were planned and organised for playing the original WW2 version, although I've never got round to using them.

Great War Spearhead

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Great War Crossfire

The empty field (lower left-hand corner) had contained a
German platoon. Despite eliminating this, the British
platoon (lower centre) was beginning to lose the firefight
with the German platoon in the copse on the left edge.
Many of you will know Robert Dunlop from his contribution to the Great War Spearhead rules and scenario books and his extremely well-informed forum postings on WW1 topics. It was thus a pleasure and privilege to welcome him to my local wargames club and to play a WW1 Crossfire game which he organised.

Robert has recently been quoting chapter and verse on the Yahoo Crossfire group about low level training and actions during WW1 - the level that Crossfire represents - so I was keen to see how a WW1 game would work with these WW2 rules.

The game was a meeting battle, a common occurrence in northern France in the early days of WW1 during the Race to the Sea. Robert posted an eloquent account of the game in the Crossfire Yahoo Group placing it in historical context.

The absence of smoke and the relative scarcity of HMGs made this a significantly different style of game to the WW2  ones I've played but the rules worked equally well.

Plenty of reserves but nowhere to send them except into
the German meat-grinder. Miniatures are 15mm Peter
Pig and Minifigs.
The game has rekindled my interest in doing some 1914 armies, but I once again find myself spoilt for choice. For Crossfire armies, which are small and predominantly infantry, I would normally go for 15mm figures, but for early WW1 I am very attracted to the superb 12mm Kallistra ranges. But the armies might also be used for Square BashingBloody Big Battles! and/or Great War Spearhead which all require relatively large numbers of bases, so 6mm Baccus figures might be a better option.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Battles of Napoleon

Battles of Napoleon is a hex board game with miniatures which was published in 2010 and is no longer in print. Despite a superficial similarity in appearance to the Command & Colors series of games, it plays quite differently.

Board games with miniatures are said to be the wave of the future, and I would say that miniatures games with hexes or squares are effectively converging from the other direction. This was thus a game I was keen to try.

My friend Ian, who owns the game, chose the Salamanca scenario and gave me the French with the warning that I was unlikely to win, but fate decided otherwise. The British were stronger, particularly in cavalry, but I had more artillery and a good position on a ridge line defending the three objectives which start in French hands.

The aim of this scenario is to take a majority of the objectives, but you can also win the  game by destroying a certain number of units or killing the enemy c-in-c.

The initial French deployment. The British are yet to set up.
The British made a frontal assault in column and uphill which gave me two  bonuses in firepower. Coupled with a  run of skillful dice throwing (!), the British attack shattered on the French rock. The British may have suffered from bad luck but I believe they would have needed an equally exceptional run of good luck to have succeeded in their strategy.

The French hold firm while the British begin to suffer.
I'd certainly be interested in replaying this game from the British side. My strategy would be...well, you'll have to wait for that!

I really enjoyed the game and I think Napoleonic buffs would prefer this game to the more abstract approach of C&C Napoleonics.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

I don't have much time at the moment to sort out my own games so I'm grateful for the opportunity to play other people's games, even though these are not necessarily part of my annual plan! This recently included a couple of games of X-Wing, the highly popular Star Wars spaceship combat game.

The games were based on a simple introductory scenario which pitted a pair of TIE fighters against an upgraded X-Wing, the components of the core introductory set. I controlled one of the TIE fighters. Although they are generally more manoeuvrable, the upgraded X-Wing continually escaped our arcs of fire while bringing us into its own arc of fire and I was quickly eliminated in the first game.

In the second game it was my companion's turn to be knocked out first. I fared a little better but was still unable to inflict much damage. The X-Wing, however, accidentally flew off the table, giving me the game. It was a victory of sorts, but not really a satisfying one. Had the battlefield been a bit more crowded, we would more easily have ended up with some sort of target in our sights.

The game mechanisms are similar to Wings of Glory WW1 (originally Wings of War) and the game plays straight out of the box. The rules are well written and the gameplay is smooth. The diminutive spaceships are very nicely modelled. I've seen the game played with much larger numbers of much larger ships, so it is very open to the escalation of financial investment.

Despite my recent foray into 15mm Sci-Fi skirmish gaming I'm not a Star Wars fan (or a Trekky), and spaceship combat doesn't really appeal to me. If I wanted to invest in a game of this sort I would probably go for the historical Wings of Glory. At one time I was quite interested in the WW2 variant, but my understanding is that it involves a lot of manoeuvre and that the chance actually to fire is rare, a somewhat frustrating recipe for a wargame. In any event I understand it's out of print at the moment, but never say never. And I see that Ares Games are due to release a new Battle of Britain Starter Set...