Tuesday, 27 December 2016

2016 Scoreboard

The film spin-off skirmish game, Terminator Genisys, was
my last game of the year. It's well designed and was
fun to play. I did just scrape a win even though all 
my surviving Terminators had been reduced to
Owing to other commitments and distractions my painting and gaming achievements continued to decline during 2016. I completed the armies for only one game - 15mm Portuguese / Dutch / Spanish armies for Irregular Wars. I did, however, create usable if unpainted 10mm Seven Years War armies for Maurice.

I also started 15mm Sci-Fi armies for Gruntz 15mm, collected 15mm Japanese armies for Irregular Wars, collected 10mm Chinese Warlord armies for Red Actions, and bought a first batch of 6mm Franco-Prussian War figures for Bloody Big Battles!

Perhaps that doesn't sound too bad, but my gaming total was very poor. This year I managed only 17 games. These were:

Bloody Big Battles! 3
Irregular Wars 3
C&C Battlecry 3
Might & Reason 2
Gorechosen 2
C&C Napoleonics 1
C&C Great War 1
Terminator Genisys 1
Other 1

The 'other' was a gangster skirmish game devised by a fellow club member, Bernard, and based on a set of cowboy rules possibly called Fistful of Aces. The games in bold are my own.

This is not a great total but all these games were enjoyable and worthwhile, which is the important thing.

Perhaps I should also mention that this is the forty-second post to the blog this year, the highest ever. Some may suspect that blogging is detracting from painting and gaming. Perhaps so. Nonetheless, I have had some very helpful feedback as a result of floating ideas here first so it's not a complete distraction.

My next post will be in the new year and will outline my plans and resolutions for 2017.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Bloody Big Battles of WW2

WW2 at grand-tactical level on Bob Mackenzie's
I was always intending to have a crack at the 1940 campaign in France using Megablitz, or, more likely, the hex-based Hexblitz variant, using 3mm models. Now there is a new option for WW2 grand tactical/operational rules in beta, Bloody Big World War Two Battles, an extension of Chris Pringle's 19th Century Bloody Big Battles! It will be interesting to see how well a set of 19th Century rules can spawn a WW2 derivative. At this operational level with its inevitable abstractions I see no reason why it shouldn't.

The big advantage of something coming from the BBB stable is that it will be driven by historical scenarios. The provision of OOBs and maps will save months of research that would probably never be adequate anyway. Are historical scenarios obligatory for an operational level game? Well, they're not going to be possible for depicting the 'Cold War gone hot' because it never happened, but in general historical actuality does seem to go hand in hand with grand tactical wargaming.

BBWW2B uses 3" bases and a ground scale of 3" to the kilometre at the regimental level or 6" to the kilometre at battalion level. Bob Mackenzie, who is developing this WW2 variant, uses existing 6mm models on sabots which is not merely decorative but apparently allows for removal of casualties.

Bob Mackenzie's website has some some BBWW2B scenarios including battle reports and photos. Click on What's New to find them. Further details can be found on Chris Pringle's blog and the BBB Yahoo Group.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - basing figures 3

I have to admit that I didn't like the suggested basing for Skirmisher stands in Bloody Big Battles! and wrote about it here. I suggested the use of Skirmisher markers, thinking that there wasn't enough room on a 1" stand for additional skirmisher figures. Since getting my hands on some actual Baccus 6mm Franco-Prussian War figures, however, I think it is practical - for 6mm figures - to get skirmishers onto an ordinary base by placing the formed troops at the back. And that's not the only way in which my plans have changed.

The left-hand Imperial French infantry base (above) has a Skirmisher characteristic. The other one doesn't. The Baccus strips of formed figures have been clipped so the figures fill the MDF bases from side-to-side. However, I think it will be difficult to texture the MDF when the figure bases are flush with the edge. I've therefore rejected the idea of having five figures in line. Simply adding two strips per base will keep everything simpler (below).
I had assumed that two skirmisher figures would be needed, but one figure makes the point just as well if not better (above). This is obviously a more abstract representation than I had originally planned.

Heavy cavalry will be three-up as expected. Light cavalry might have two.

1" bases provide plenty of room for a gun and four crew. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Tools of the trade

Thicker than water?
I've always thinned acrylic paint with water,  but proper acrylic thinner is said to improve flow and coverage. So I ordered some Vallejo acrylic medium which is apparently the same stuff used in the paint but without the pigment. The reason for this extra care is the prospect of painting 6mm figures.

Shiny new scalpels and lots of new ways to cut your fingers.
A visit to a homestore chain, The Range, produced a nice set of scalpels and a packet of small-to-medium sized files. I have in the past tended to crimp on dedicated modelling tools but now I pick up whatever looks like it might be useful.

Something to file away for the future.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

15mm Samurai for Irregular Wars

Japanese armed peasants join the lead mountain...
I bought some 15mm Two Dragons Samurai years ago to do a DBR army. There weren't enough figures and they've sat in a box ever since. But then I realised that with a few extras they would make an army for Irregular Wars. So I bought the extras and an Ikko-Ikki army to oppose them.

The Two Dragons figures are now sold through the Minifigs website and dispatched by Caliver Books. I'm very pleased to see that after all these years the castings are still excellent quality.

The only thing I'm now lacking is a portable shrine for the Ikko-Ikki which nobody seems to make in 15mm but which should be easy enough to scratch-build.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Reading Warfare - scenery grab and Bloody Big Battles! game

I had a very productive day at Reading Warfare last Saturday. I spent the morning accumulating scatter scenery for my Gruntz 15mm Sci-Fi skirmish project and some 10mm houses suitable for my Chinese Warlord Era Red Actions project. In the afternoon I was privileged to participate in a game of Bloody Big Battles! organised by its author Chris Pringle and his comrades from the Oxford Wargames Society.

Scatter scenery. I regret that I didn't note the names of the suppliers.
I'll write in more detail about my Gruntz scenery plans another time, but this shows the sort of thing I'm collecting or making for my grungy, post-Apocalyptic environment. Scatter scenery will be either low enough to provide cover or high enough to block line of sight.

10mm Far Eastern houses.
The houses come from two sources. The painted ones are Epsilon buildings from Pendraken while the remainder are from the Timecast Vietnam range. The Epsilon buildings are a slightly larger interpretation of 10mm but I think they will work well enough together. I was a bit unsure whether Vietnamese buildings would do for China, but I did a lot of Googling and am satisfied that similar buildings could be found in China.

The fallback position of the Bavarian I Korps at Loigny.
I arrived at Oxford's Bloody Big Battles! table at about 2pm, just as their second game of the Loigny/Poupry 1870 scenario was about to start. I was keen to play with the experts and was delighted to be given command of the I Bavarian Korps on the German right.

I was tempted to take advantage of the towns near the enemy edge of the table, but this forward defence was overwhelmed by the superior French numbers. I then fell back in line with the objective I was defending (Loigny). Hanging on to this was very touch-and-go the whole afternoon, but I just managed to do so. I was a bit rusty on the rules but got a lot of guidance, including tactical advice. After a while I began to make my own decisions, not that these always proved to be a good idea.

I didn't have much chance to take in what was happening on the German left or centre but did witness the final German assault on the left wing which, in the last (tenth) turn of the scenario, regained Poupry. This was very exciting to see and put all three objectives firmly in German hands. The game was over by 5pm, so it had taken four plus people nearly three hours of playing. Once again I felt I had relived history or an alternative history.

I also had a chat with Chris about doing the Urabi Revolt (Tel-el-Kebir) with BBB. I have been thinking about that for quite a long time because of an ancestral connection (British side) but Chris pointed out that it was a bit of a walkover and I realised that it wouldn't make for a very balanced game. I am thus able to cross something off my to-do list!

 I really enjoyed the afternoon and must make the effort to play BBB more. I will probably send off for some sample Baccus 6mm Franco-Prussian War figures, decide how I am actually going to base them and then put in a full order.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Flight and other bases for Gruntz 15mm

I usually base figures on a combination of steel and MDF, the former for storage and transportation in magnetic-lined boxes and the latter for thickness so that players are encouraged to handle the bases rather than the figures.

With individual figures and models it is inevitable that players will pick them up by the figure/model rather than by the  base, but this isn't too much of a problem with the Sci-Fi figures as they are generally quite robust and don't have fragile bits like bayonets and flag poles. Accordingly, there isn't much point in doing thick bases so I'm just putting the infantry on coins and the vehicles directly onto steel.

Following the use of the coins I decided to use round bases for the mecha and grav vehicles, and rectangular bases omly for tracked and wheeled vehicles. In all cases these will be of minimum size and unobtrusive.

The grav bikes, drones, VTOLs and grav AFVs presented the most novel challenge as they are not like anything I've had to cope with before. Grav vehicles need to be off the ground but no more than necessary.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Gettysburg game blow by blow

This is the blow-by-blow account in photos of the BBB! Gettysburg game which I first reported on here. It was difficult to recall all the detail even directly after the game, and harder still at this remove in time. But if you study the photos you should be able to follow the main flow of the battle.

Unfortunately, it's a little difficult to tell the two sides apart in the photos. It may be clearer if you click on the photos to enlarge them and look for the ID markers which are predominantly grey or blue. The large numbers are turn indicators for the benefit of the camera.

The battle was fought on a blown-up version of the map. The map squares are only 8" square, but the figure bases are only 20mm square (instead of 25mm) so the table and the units are more-or-less in proportion.

Deployment. Union troops are deployed around Gettysburg or moving north-west towards Gettysburg up the Baltimore Pike. Two Confederate units are shown in the north-east moving south to turn the Union left flank and threaten the Union supply line.

Union troops (nearest) form line. As the Union commander I am feeling relatively secure, but that's mainly because I hadn't actually read the scenario in detail...

Monday, 31 October 2016

Gruntz 15mm: The first two factions

I've now collected two factions for my near-future forces for Gruntz 15mm.

The first is a hi-tech interventionist force  ('The Coallition'). They are almost all GZG and will be sand-coloured like the Gulf War allies. Some assets such as the power-armoured squad will be finished in blue-grey or some other neutral colour so they can fight for any faction if that's the way I want to use them.

The Sand faction: Grav IFVs, Grav MBT, Grav Command vehicle, Gruntz squads including squad leaders, SAWs and LAWs, Grav bikes. All models are GZG.
Grav drones, Sand commander, Spider droids, Power-Armour squad. All models are GZG except for the Power-Armour squad which is Brigade Miniatures.
The Gruntz are GZG's UNSC Light Infantry. Command vehicles provide command and control benefits additional to the powers of the Commanders. I'd like to organise the grav drones and probably the grav bikes and spider droids as if they were Gruntz squads rather than having to track them as individual units. This was discussed on the Gruntz Forum but requires further research with regard to costing etc.

The second is a mostly mid-tech force ('RussFed') and will be finished in green.  They are mainly ArmiesArmy Insurgents and represent a near-future version of the Russian forces which have been operating in the Eastern Ukraine. While technically not as advanced they will be rated as more experienced.

Tracked IFVs, tracked MBT, tracked Command vehicle, HMG, Commander, Gruntz including Squad leaders, LAWS, and SAWs, VTOL gunship, and Mecha. The last two are GZG. The rest are all ArmiesArmy.
Constructing the Mecha so that it stood in an animated stance was quite fun. The AA vehicles are part resin which makes them substantially lighter than the GZG ones. They also required less cleaning up. Almost everything was assembled with superglue apart from the arms of the Brigade Miniatures figures which required epoxy resin.

The GZG and ArmiesArmy infantry are a good scale match for each other.

Monday, 24 October 2016

10mm Seven Years War progress 2

Old Fritz
The first step after PVAing the figures to the combination MDF and steel bases was to texture the bases. I used a cocktail stick to apply PVA not only to the MDF surface but also onto the figure bases and around the figures' ankles. This is essential to hide the figure bases. I then poured over a mixture of bird sand and model railway ballast, shook it off, and repeated the application. (For 15mm figures I build up the bases with filler and then apply PVA. For 6mm figures I use bird sand without the ballast.)
As the figures for this project are packed very closely together, it wasn't possible to get right to the centre of the bases. This doesn't matter as this area will end up dark brown representing deep shadow.

With the figures so tightly packed, the ArmyPainter spray undercoat (Leather Brown) also didn't get between the figures too well so I had to  go over them with a generous wash of matching AP bottle paint.

A unit of Prussian Musketeers based, textured and undercoated.
I thought I'd have to add some coat colours before rendering the figures distinguishable and thus usable on the table, but I've now added temporary labels to tell the armies apart and to keep the appropriate bases in each unit together. I'm very glad I've never dropped these or muddled them up as it would have been a very tedious job to distinguish, for example,  Prussian, Austrian and Hungarian line infantry.

The unit duly identified from the rear.
For the benefit of those who haven't seen earlier postings, these are 10mm Pendraken figures for use with Maurice or maybe Might & Reason.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Might & Reason: Mollwitz

 The Austrian defence viewed from the Prussian end:
infantry to the left and cavalry to the right.
My club comrade Chris put on and umpired an introductory game of Sam Mustafa's Might & Reason. The game was an abridged version of the Battle of Mollwitz (1741) scenario. The real battle was fought between Prussia and Austria during the early part of the War of the Austrian Succession. The Prussians had to dislodge an Austrian scratch force sitting on their supply line. The game featured Chris's balsa block armies which were enhanced by authentic flags and worked very well. My fellow club member, Kim, was given command of the Austrians, a difficult assignment, while I got the Prussian killing-machine and an exceptionally lucky run of high dice throws.

Monday, 10 October 2016

My Irregular Wars Colonial Portuguese and Hollanders

General with Dutch East India Company flag
My 15mm Colonial Portuguese and Hollanders are finally finished. I first posted about these back in April 2014, i.e. two-and-a-half years ago!

The figures are mostly Grumpy's Miniatures and designed to be interchangeable between Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish colonial forces where appropriate.

As the figures came out rather dark I went light with the bases which looks good for the Tropics.

If you look closely you will see there is no facial or much other detail. The figures are designed to be viewed at playing distance. The 'realism' is achieved by (a) staining, and (b) the ground. The latter requires little time or effort but adds a great deal to the look. IMO this approach provides the most economical balance between effort and effect.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Blogger problem - list of favourite blogs disappeared!

A number of 'Gadgets' - including my list of favourite blogs - have suddenly disappeared! No, I wasn't editing the blog at the time...I saw some notice in the browser saying "invalid blog list" or something of the sort, and when I looked at the Layout in Design view the blog list and a number of other list gadgets were simply missing.

The blog is backed up and I have searched the backup but the blog list content does not appear to be included. This means I am going to have to recreate it from scratch. The list was a long one and, regretfully, I can give no guarantee that I will be able to recreate it in its entirety.

My apologies to any or all bloggers whose blogs are missing. Please bear with me while the list is rebuilt. I will start with those blogs kind enough to link to this blog.


It seems that I am not alone and that Google are working on the problem. If you also have this problem, Google your blog's name and click on the little triangle to open a cached copy. You can then save the page.


Topic on Blogger Help Forum: Link


I'm pleased to note that the Blog List and other list widgets have been restored and sooner than I expected...so thanks, Google, for sorting it out. Despite the glitch, seeing this get fixed does promote my confidence in the Blogger system. 

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.

Bloody Big Battles! - Blocks or figures?

Labels for blocks
I was just about to place an order for some 6mm Franco-Prussian War figures when I wavered at the prospect of buying and painting almost 50 packs of figures, and that would be just to do the battles of the Imperial period. In the meantime, the use of the blocks, Hexon and wooden toy village buildings has received a lot of compliments. I've therefore decided to put any figure orders on hold for the time being.

I began with block labels showing standard  NATO symbols. They don't have the 'Xs' and 'Is' used to denote level (e.g. 'II' for a Battalion) because while in one game the blocks might represent Platoons, in another they might represent Divisions or anything in between. I soon realised that it would often be important to indicate facing, so I later added triangular arrows.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Irregular Wars - First outing for Portuguese and Dutch

The figures are mostly Grumpy Miniatures
Despite spending a lot of time helping to playtest the current edition of Irregular Wars, I haven't played it much since because I was waiting to finish my first pair of armies - 15mm Colonial Portuguese and Dutch. The bases still need texturing etc, but having stuck the figures to the bases, the armies are now usable. Unfortunately, I realised at this point that I had either miscalculated the figures I needed or the army lists had changed. Anyway, I had to make up a couple of new bases which now need to be painted from scratch. Hence the silver-coloured unit in the photos.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Preparing for Gettysburg

In an ironic reversal of using my block armies with 3D scenery, my next game will be played with actual figures but on a 2D printout of the Gettysburg scenario map.

I've printed the map at 2/3 scale which allows me to get two 8" map squares on an A3 sheet of paper, and better matches the 20mm-wide bases of my ACW armies. (Actually 40mm counting as double bases.)

In previous games I've found it very useful to have a counter for each unit with its stats. I've now extended that to include any relevant lines of command as identifying that caused some problems in my last game.

I've also tried to make the unit ID counters more distinctive and attractive. It doesn't matter so much when using figures, but all block armies look the same! This gives them a bit more character.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! Borny-Colombey Hexoned

I'm not planning to fight this Bloody Big Battles! scenario just at the moment, but other players have referred to the difficulty of modelling the terrain for Borny-Colombey so I thought this would be the ultimate test for using Hexon.

Having established my basic approach and having played about in the drawing program with these maps and hexes for some time, it was actually extremely straightforward and quick (less than 20 minutes) to decide on and 'colour in' the hill hexes.

I used to do this by hand on a printout, but since completing these maps for the blog, I'm now finding it much easier to do it in the drawing program itself. Using a 50% transparent fill I can still see the original map detail underneath which helps me both to make and revise the hex definitions. The latest version of CorelDRAW (X7) works extremely smoothly and is a pleasure to use.

I would probably stagger the hexes to the north-north-east of Fort St-Julien to follow the original angle of the ridge and avoid encroaching on the river. A few villages need shifting slightly so they are on or off hill hexes in compliance with the original contour lines. Otherwise, everything is much as it falls under the grid.

All the high ground can be represented with Hexon - no non-hex features are required. One would be hard-pressed to reproduce the map as accurately with ready-made stand-alone hill pieces, and unlike bespoke scenery directly tracing the map, the Hexon tiles can be reused for completely different battles. Overall this proves to me that Hexon is an ideal solution for reproducing BBB scenario maps.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Langensalza Hexoned

This is how I would now reproduce the Bloody Big Battles! Langensalza scenario map with Hexon. The main part of Langensalza needs to be moved slightly to the right to get the bottom left-hand corner off the hill. All connecting rivers and roads should be shifted with it to maintain relative positions.

I've represented three of the small, isolated hills with Hexon, but non-hex features could be more accurate especially for the Judenhuegel and the Erbsberg. There is a loss of detail in the contour line to the north of Illeben but that's not likely to be of any significance. If it was significant, I'd move depiction of that area half a hex to the left so that the shape could be represented better, albeit displaced.

Once again, Hexon proves to be a very adequate tool IMO.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Converting scenario maps to Hexon

Hexon grid for a 4' x 6' table.
I thought I'd write again and in a bit more detail about converting Bloody Big Battles! scenario maps to Hexon II hexes.

I use the maximum number of hexes that can be fitted on a physical 6' x 4' table using the given orientation of the hexes. The equivalent diagram on the Kallistra website is only approximately 6' x 4' and requires an area larger than that to avoid overlapping the table edges.

The grid I use measures 13 x 18 hexes. It uses 36 6-hex tiles and a column of 18 single-hex tiles. When laying out the tiles I use a non-slip mat rather than the Hexon clips, and bury the single column in the middle. I do clip the single column for stability.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Behind the 2/3 scale idea

I wrote about the accuracy of using Hexon to reproduce BBB terrain maps at 2/3 size but I didn't fully explain how I came to that idea in the first place.

BBB scenario maps are very considerately designed for a standard 6' x 4' wargaming table. I can create an area of that size at home but it requires extension boards. It would be a little easier to play on my dining-room table without extension boards. Also, my 10mm American Civil War armies use 20 mm bases (rather than 1" bases) so the 2/3 size is a better proportional fit. (To be exact the bases are 40 mm wide, but I am counting them as double bases and making up some 20 mm wide ones for singles.)

Another advantage of the reduced size is the ability to print the 8" map squares 2-up on A3 paper. This means I can play on the printout of a map rather than having to set up 3D scenery. There are times when this could be advantageous.

It's obviously a good option for my ACW armies but I was also considering it for any future armies so I floated the idea on the BBB Yahoo Group. Rules author, Chris Pringle, suggested combining the 2/3 map size with normal size bases but reducing the number of bases in each unit. I didn't immediately warm to this idea but then I realised it would allow me to play at both scales without irretrievably committing myself to smaller bases.

For someone of my clumsiness 1" bases are fiddly enough! In extremis I could also borrow the 1" square bases from my Seven Years War Maurice armies.