Monday, 29 April 2013

WW2 German artillery photos

When buying second-hand books I usually check the database in my mobile phone to make sure I haven't bought the book already, and, if I've got a data signal, I also check Amazon to compare the price and read any reviews.

Ian Baxter's Images of War: German Guns of the Third Reich was criticised for inaccurate captions, but for £5 it seemed a reasonable purchase. I'm not an artillery specialist but I've collected quite a few books on artillery by authors like Ian V Hogg and Christopher F Foss which focus, naturally enough, on the guns themselves.

Now, I've probably got all the tank books I'll ever need, but books about ancillary vehicles are rarer, and what struck me about this book were the photos showing guns being towed.

For earlier periods I tend to avoid modelling 'limbers' if at all possible. Firstly I resent having to paint all those extra, but non-combatant, horses, and secondly, limbers clutter up the battlefield exacerbating the exaggeration of depth implicit in using models (though I am aware that artillery did have considerably more depth when the caissons and limbers are taken into account).

In WW2 and later period wargames, artillery is usually off-table at least in lower-level games. When playing games at Megablitz level, however, I would feel compelled to model the appropriate transport, and I would jump at the opportunity to model horse-drawn limbers as an antidote to the bumper-to-bumper Tiger II mentality.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

28mm Victorian Terrace in Foamboard for Irish War of Independence

Auxies come knocking at the door
Most of the scenery I made for my Irish War of Independence game is explicitly rural but I constructed this Victorian terrace which could represent the edge of a small town. I Googled for real-life pictures of Ireland, though the building is equally typical of Irish or English urban development of the period and could be used in other contexts. The footprint has been 'bath-tubbed' to some extent but the building is still vertically in scale with the figures.

Construction proceeded in exactly the same way as my foamboard 'Crossfiregrad' (Stanlingrad) buildings, albeit in a larger scale. Designing the pieces so they fit together is the key. The roof and top storey are detachable.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

World War 2 Naval

The Italian Battleship Roma
I've been thinking about getting into WW2 gun-action naval wargaming, particularly the Anglo-Italian battles in the Mediterranean. It would be a new game for minimal effort, cost and demand on storage.

I got a 2" hex cloth from Magister Militum at Salute and am now planning to get some Figurehead 1/6000 ships. (1/6000 would be a logical step down in scale from my 1/3000 pre-Dreadnoughts.)

The most appealing commercially available rules I've found so far is Grand Fleets, but I'd prefer something simpler like DBSA.

Being very small and hard to recognize at playing distance, I would definitely want to put the ships on, say, 25mm x 50mm bases which will have enough room for clear labelling, even if it's just an ID number.

A small fly in the ointment is the Figurehead destroyer bases which are moulded on and will have to be countersunk into the MDF layer of my larger MDF-and-steel bases.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Spoils of War

My raid on Salute 2013 realised:

  • A long wait in the cash queue as I had forgotten to buy an advance ticket.
  • 1 box of Hexon (two-tone green & brown), some hills and some matching flock for possible use on model bases.
  • Some Pendraken/Minibits 100mm MDF bases for making 'SBUAs' (significant BUAs) and woods for my 1940 3mm/Hexon/Hexblitz project.
  • Brigade Miniatures 2mm terraced houses & English village packs for same.
  • 1 Magister Militum blue felt cloth with 2" hexes (for naval wargaming).
  • Some O Scale conical milk-churns (Skytrex) to add period flavour to my IWI games. I'm told I should buff them with steel wool to make them look well-used.
  • A cappuccino and an almond croissant (nice but rather expensive compensation for queuing).
  • Half-time beer (extortionately expensive and not even real ale).

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Sequence Markers

Letter tiles as sequence markers
I picked up a second-hand word game in a charity shop for £2.99 in order to get the letter tiles. They are for use in wargames where units move in a random sequence. The tiles have a hollow back so they can be pulled blind out of the bag and placed face down until revealed.

Given the number of letters in the English alphabet, that gives me enough markers for 26 separate commands or units. If that isn't enough I could apply self-adhesive numbers instead.

I think letters (or numbers) are more intuitive than using playing cards - no questions about suit order or whether aces are high or low.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Thoughts on scale and basing preferences

1/72, 1/76, OO or 20mm. Call it what you will, it was a
common starting point for most people of my generation.
Why do different gamers favour particular scales? The more I think about it the more I feel that personal preference is probably outweighed by model availability, 'because the rules stipulate it', or because of pressure to conform with other players if you don't want to be left playing solo.

Historical wargamers tend to be of a certain age and they began with what was available at the time. My first schoolboy armies were 1/72 Airfix figures and vehicles and some somewhat smaller Roco Minitanks though that didn't really bother me at the time. When I came back into wargaming in the later 70s I was mad for Ancients and gave away the 1/72 AFVs I had rescued from from parental disposal. This effectively broke my own connection with 1/72 but this seems somewhat untypical. (I should point out that when I use the term '1/72', I mean the ranges variously made and described as OO, 1/72, 1/76 or 20mm. Let's not be pedantic.)

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Crossfire: Multistorey Buildings

The higher the building, the more squads allowed.
Vanilla Crossfire is essentially 2D. Crossfire hills, for example, are just 'lumpy places where people hide' as someone once described them. I played around with contours at one point, but I thought they just added complications so I went back to the 2D approach.

Buildings in Crossfire are similarly 2D. By default, they are single-storey and can accommodate two squads. This didn't have the right look and feel for my 'Crossfiregrad' cityscape, but putting figures on different floors wasn't practical either literally or theoretically.

But then I hit on the very simple expedient of allowing taller buildings to house more squads. The figures are always physically placed on the readily accessible top floor, but while single-storey structures are allowed only  2 squads, two-storey structures are allowed 3 and so on. In every other respect the buildings function in '2D mode'.

This is very obvious and easy to keep track of, and it gives purpose to having buildings of different heights, with the higher buildings forming natural strongholds.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

10mm ACW - Drinking paint since 2008

Confederate infantry
I seem to have bought my 10mm ACW armies in mid-2008 and they are still drinking paint. These are the figures I based before painting for 'quickness'. I admit that other projects have intervened, but part of the reason for lack of progress has been the awkwardness of painting these figures and the tedium it induces.

The figures are a mixture of Pendraken and Minifigs. They mix OK but the Minifig muskets/bayonets are very thin and delicate and IMO that just isn't practical for wargaming figures. I'm hoping that two good coats of Ardcoat will strengthen them a bit, but it's an act of desperation to rely on varnish to hold things together.

If I had my life over again I'd stick exclusively to Pendraken, but at the time their ACW range was incorrectly modelled with the blanket rolls over the right shoulder, so I thought the Pendraken figures needed some dilution.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Irish War of Independence FUBAR game

British Army Lewis team moves up to hedge.
Next time I intend to field the Lewis Guns
within the rifle sections.
Back in September of last year I played my first game of FUBAR using my 28mm Irish War of Independence forces. FUBAR was originally written and is mainly intended for Sci-Fi but it's very extendible.  The figure/model scale is 1:1 but it's not really a skirmish game as some would understand it. It's really a squad level game comparable to Force On Force or even Crossfire.

The rules certainly worked and my gaming companion was positive about them, but they have a very distinctive feature which perplexed some of the onlookers. Subject to troop quality, players can choose whether to take casualties as suppressions or kills. This seems to represent a trade off between allowing yourself to get pinned down or pressing forward at the expense of taking losses. It makes sense to me. However, kills or suppressions are things that are usually imposed, and it's novel, even disconcerting, to put this choice so literally into the hands of the victim.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Plans for 1940 high level game in 3mm

A Belgian civilian and a German soldier look
at an abandoned French Char B1 in the village 
of Ermeton-sur-Biert near Namur sometime 
after 14 May 1940.
Doing a high-level early WW2 game in 3mm has been on my hit list for a long time, and I've recently been researching the Battle of Hannut where the French 2e and 3e DLM met the 3. and 4. Panzer Divisions in May 1940.

The forces will essentially be organised on the 1 base = 1 battalion scale used in Tim Gow's Megablitz, but following my career towards grids and hexes I will probably be using Bob Cordery's Hexblitz variant or something similar. Bob has recently been working on Hexblitz II. I have also been looking at his even higher-level game, Operational Art. If none of these are to my liking I can do some sort of mash-up. Doing something original is also a possibility, but I feel I need greatly to improve my understanding of game mechanics not to mention my military education.

I intend to stick with the 4cm wide bases which Megablitz/Hexblitz players use for 1/72 models, but I'll be decorating them with multiple 3mm models. I may make company-size units (e.g. Recce) smaller, and transport units narrower and longer, but 4cms x 4cms will be the standard. (If I progress to doing later war Eastern Front, it seems I should be doing Russian Regiments on larger bases.)

I will be using felt for roads and rivers but may make up some hex-shaped woods and BUAs for placing over the Hexon hexes. Woods and BUAs will need to have a fairly even surface as the unit bases will sit on top of them.