Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Games and painting 2015/2016

In 2015 I played 23 games which is sadly somewhat less than the year before. These were three games of Galleys & Galleons, two each of Maurice, Hammerin' Iron 2, Sword & Spear and Impetus, and one each of Command & Colours Napoleonics, Crossfire, Popular Front (SCW boardgame), Red Actions, Lasalle, The Crescent and the Cross, Warhammer Age of Sigmar, Bloody Big Battles! and Micro-Armour. I also played three games using rules homespun by fellow club members.

I additionally 'facilitated' quite a few games, but I've given that up because it's taxing and I miss the chance to play myself. Quite a bit of the facilitation centred on the preparation of the 'Crossfiregrad' public participation game.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Bloody Big Battles! - scenery options

Terrain for the Bloody Big Battles! Langensalza scenario
using Hexon. This was my first attempt. There is room
Terrain is a big issue in Bloody Big Battles! Each battle/scenario requires the recreation on a 6'x 4' (or occasionally 8' x 4') table of a contour map with one or sometimes two levels of elevation above the table surface.

Various options are discussed on the author's blog, but my immediate thought was to consider a modular approach that would both look good and be reusable for different battles.

My ideas eventually coalesced into three options:

(1) Tiles
(2) Shapes
(3) Hexon

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Hexon hills

WARNING: I'm leaving this post up for now, but experience has shown this is actually a very bad idea. Although the hooked pads do improve adhesion on Hexon, they also exert a vice-like grip on felt roads and templates. Simply adding another paper label to the underside of the blocks provides quite enough friction to keep the them in place on 2-tile high Hexon slopes. 29 January 2016

I've used my ceramic blocks with flat Hexon tiles before, but not with Hexon hills. I was just setting up a game when I discovered that the blocks slide down Hexon slopes like an ice-cube on a hot tin roof.

I subsequently bought some self-adhesive hooked pads designed for gripping textile surfaces. Partly for reasons of economy and otherwise to minimise damage to the Hexon, I cut these into quarters and applied them to the backs of the blocks. A small amount is quite enough to get a grip on any Hexon incline.

My steel-based figures have more traction, but any future Hexon slope purchases will be of the 1-tile-high variety rather than 2-tile-high type in order to minimise the ski-slope effect.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Bloody Big Battles! - some thoughts reconsidered

When I first tried these rules I misunderstood the movement table which marred the game and skewed my review. I'm yet to retry them, but having realised the error of my ways it was only fair to withdraw the original review and rewrite it.

I've had a long-term, if largely unrealised, interest in the Continental wars of the 19thC and wargaming them at grand tactical level. The interest was originally stimulated  by Phil Barker's forever draft of Horse, Foot & Guns. I joined the Continental Wars Society, collected a load of books on 19thC warfare, collaborated in a couple of other rule-writing projects, and bought some Pendraken 10mm figures for the Franco-Austrian War of 1859. But no wargamer fulfils all their dreams and the project was relegated to the back-burner.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Maurice in lead: 10mm Seven Years War

My first job is to sort out the figures into units
and bases. These are improvised but efficient
sorting trays created from milk
bottle tops and parcel tape.
I was keen to do 3mm Seven Years War armies for Maurice but was put off by the modelling of the artillery so I finally opted for 10mm Pendraken figures. The SYW offers a good balance of arms within each army and a good balance between armies.

I have chosen to do Prussian and Austrian armies, an interest that goes back to the launch of Phil Barker's Horse and Musket Wargaming Rules 1685-1845 (1979). I never played them as it was a project I never got round to, but I remember being inspired by an article in some wargaming magazine referencing the folk song 'The cruel wars in High Germany'.

Ready for figures to be dropped in. I'll then put the trays
into A4 boxes with paper or card between the layers.
In accordance with my new doctrine, the figures will be based before painting and used in games as the painting proceeds. Painting will generally follow the approach I took with my 10 mm American Civil War armies, but I need to be more ruthless in leaving the internal areas 'in shadow' while lightening the external edges so the uniforms look clean and bright in keeping with Eighteenth Century standards. Wish me luck with that.  It might be an issue.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Impetus: A rather telescoped Pavia

View from the main French force: Gendarmes,
arquebusiers, Black Band, artillery.
I've previously played a few games of Impetus but not with my own figures and not set in the gunpoweder era. It was thus a great if somewhat delayed pleasure to table my 25/28mm Early Italian Wars armies in a recreation of Pavia 1525. My armies were originally raised in the 1970s and have been supplemented with some eBay purchases, but they have not been used in a game for at least twenty years and probably longer.

I apologise for the look of the bases which are temporary card affairs. Rebasing has been a saga in itself. When I was first planning to try Impetus, I put the figures on temporary 80mm frontages (intended for 15mm figures) to give myself more real estate on the tabletop, but the three-base pike blocks ended up deeper than they were wide and that didn't look right.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Play now, paint later

Unfinished but usable
My first attempt at basing-before-painting (my 10mm American Civil War armies) was a rather mixed experience. I was very pleased with the result but I found the process slow and fiddly, partly because I wasn't ruthless enough in adapting to the new approach. More recently I not only based but began to use my ships for Galleys & Galleons before they were completed.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Sword & Spear

I recently played and enjoyed my first two games of the Sword & Spear ancient rules. The armies were Late Roman vs Germanic Tribes. I lost with both armies, but the second game in which I commanded the Romans was quite close run.

S&S is easy to pick up and remember with virtually no need to refer back to the rules. This was particularly assisted by the Charlie Foxtrot Models customised measurement stick marked with specific movements and ranges, an idea I will be stealing for other games. After just one game I was able to drive a lot of the next one.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Dux Bellorum

Back in October of last year I played a couple of games of the popular Dark Age rules, Dux Bellorum, and really enjoyed them. By now you'll find lots of  DB reviews and AARs elsewhere. I've included some game photos here, but they are just for decoration as what I really want to talk about is aesthetics. The rules are very period-specific and one of their major appeals to me is the look of the armies. DB is one of those games which requires relatively few bases (phew), but they can be big and dioramic (huzzah). Think DBA on steroids.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Hammerin' Iron

Monitor vs Merrimac
Enthusiasms come and go, and plans and projects leapfrog one another before they can be finished or even started. But interests can also do an orbit and come back into view. Such is the case for me with American Civil War ironclads in general and Peter Pig's Hammerin' Iron game in particular.

The fascination began as a child when, inspired by one of Don Featherstone's books, I scratchbuilt from plasticard models of the Merrimac and Monitor. They certainly weren't accurate scale models but I think they captured the look and feel. An indecisive game between two ships, however, was rather unrewarding.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Galleys & Galleons: Run for port

Merchants at the far end, pirates to the sides, safe harbour
on nearest edge.
This was an impromptu and simple Galleys & Galleons scenario to provide an opportunity for fielding my merchant and Chinese pirate factions. It was not points-costed so only roughly balanced.

The idea was that a diverse group of merchant ships should have to make for a fortified harbour at the other end of the table.  If multiple players had been available they would have competed to get their ship home or make captures, and turns would have been regulated by drawing cards . As it happened the game was played by only two people. The objectives still stood. The merchantmen needed to make the harbour entrance and the pirates needed to capture, not destroy, the merchant prizes.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Simple table extension

I play mostly at my local club but also like to play at home when time permits. My dining-room table is actually an old kitchen table and measures only about 53" x 34", but I can temporarily turn it into a standard 6' x 4' wargaming table within a few minutes.

Before conversion: a scene of domestic tranquillity.
The raw materials: three 15mm 4' x 2' MDF panels, two batons,
twelve bolts and wing-nuts, and twenty-four 25mm washers.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Galley & Galleons: Treasure Island

Terraforming Treasure Island
I've got a couple of shore batteries for Galleys & Galleons but had nowhere to deploy them, so it was time to make a tropical island.  Rather than trying to model something authentic based on a Googled image, I decided to use what I had - a tree slice with decorative bark.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

A game of two men's Maurice

I don't get much time in Summer for painting/modelling, blogging, or even planning games, but I usually get to play once or twice a month if someone else sets the games up!

Despite the best of intentions I still haven't actually raised any Maurice armies other than my 2D counters, but back in July my friend Ian organised a 1:1 game using his 10mm Seven Years War Pendraken armies and provided all the necessaries.

Ian's British on the far side: infantry, the hill with the objective and some 
artillery, and his cavalry (already under attack). British on the near 
side: Irregulars and artillery, line infantry (advanced a little) and the 
cavalry which have gone in. The British infantry have already begun to turn.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Galleys & Galleons: Name that ship

People get very involved when, in multi-player games, they have a ship each, and I thought it would be a good idea to boost this personal identification by following other gamers in giving each ship a specific name.

So here are the names I've selected. Many of the ships are interchangeable in their affiliation. The Frigate and the Indiaman is actually the same model. Some of the names are historical or modern, i.e. stolen. Others are made-up.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

At last: 17thC and 18thC in 3mm!

The recent expansion of Magister Militum's 3mm figures into the pike-and-shot and horse-and-musket eras has greatly advanced the probability of my starting two new projects: Seven Years War armies for Maurice and Thirty Years War armies.

I will probably get some sample figures to see how they base up, but a few more troop types (e.g. grenadiers and cavalry in hats respectively) will be needed before I can do complete armies. Richard at MM has confirmed these are planned, with the grenadiers coming rather sooner. I suspect that some other missing troop types (e.g. grenzers) might be recruited from the Oddzial Osmy Napoleonic range.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Salute 2015: all roads and hills

30mm wide roads: TimeCast (left), JRM (right).
Possibly not the most interesting photo to appear
on this blog.
Conscious of my painting backlog and diminishing time, I went to Salute with only the shortest of shopping lists. My priority was to get some more '6mm scale' JRM dirt roads from Magister Militum to supplement those I already have. I've got plenty of curves, junctions and cross-roads, but not enough straights.

The JRM roads, produced in a rubbery substance, are 30mm wide and good for pre-modern 6mm or 10mm games. Unfortunately JRM appear to have stopped supplying MM. Whether they are still trading outside the USA, I'm not sure.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Red Actions in action

The Estonian centre. More photos below. All
figures are 10mm Pendraken. Late WW1

British stand in for the Estonians (who were
Following my last post about Red Actions, I introduced the rules to my local wargames club. It was a test game and a learning exercise for us all, but it went well. The four players all enjoyed it, would play the rules again, and were so impressed that one of them is even interested in raising some armies for it. There is, however, a 'but' coming, so please read on.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Armies of Warlord China

I already had Philip Jowett's Osprey title Chinese Warlord Armies 1911-30, but was unaware of this larger work till I saw it mentioned on TMP. It shares two (out of six) Osprey-style coloured plates with the earlier title but is much longer (240 pages to 48 pages) and is packed with photos throughout.

The book is very logically organised and begins with an introduction and chronology followed by an overview of armies and armaments. This is succeeded by a section for each period/campaign, and sections on air forces, uniforms and equipment. There is even a section on medals, though I won't be painting any of them on 10mm figures.

While the Osprey title is also very good and an adequate reference source for painting wargame armies, this book is a very nice-to-have addition. The Chinese Warlord era is hardly awash with any books, let alone books that will appeal specifically to wargamers.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Galleys & Galleons: Wreckage markers

I needed some wreckage markers for Galleys & Galleons. Wreckage and survivors are included with the Peter Pig manned rowing boats. PP also do some empty rowing boats. These would be a liability in combat and would have been towed behind rather than stored on deck. I didn't have any use for them so I threw them into the wreckage to add to the sense of chaos.

The PP bits were stuck onto 40mm MDF squares. Filler was used to level the surface around the markers. You can now get perfectly adequate filler in big tubs from a 'pound' shop.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Red Actions

I have a bucket list of rules I'd like to try out and Red Actions by The Perfect Captain is one of them. At one time I'd have felt compelled to buy and paint a couple of armies first, but why go to such self-defeating trouble when I could just label up some ceramic blocks? The Perfect Captain even offers ready-made top-downs which are ideal, so I printed them onto label stock at 90% reduction and began attaching them...

I have a strong interest in 'offbeat' early 20thC armies: the Anglo-Irish War (which I've done in 28mm), the Spanish Civil War (which I've done in 15mm for Crossfire), the Chaco War, and a whole host of wars that I've planned to do for Square Bashing including the First Balkan War, the Mexican Revolution, early WW1, the Russo-Polish War and the Chinese Warlord era. If I ever get round to doing any of the latter, it will almost certainly be in 10mm but I am put off by the number of bases I would need to paint up. That's one reason why I've been working on some Interwar rules of my own, but I will come back to that another time.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Galleys & Galleons: Gun boats

It's handy to have a few smaller, cheaper ships for making up points, so I decided to create some gun boats by cannibalising Peter Pig rowing boats. I didn't have any contemporary illustrations to work from but I've seen pictures of later gunboats and used those for inspiration.

The starting point: light gun and rowing boats from the Peter Pig Pieces of Eight range.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Galleys & Galleons: Blockade running

The sloop sets out to run the
Barbary blockade
I fought another couple of Galleys & Galleons playtest games, this time using the Blockade Runner scenario from the draft rules. The forces were a Sloop - the blockade runner - versus three Xebecs and a Jacht.

Readers may note that my Peter Pig ships now have a little more paint on them than the last time they were photographed. The xebecs, of course, come ready painted.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Reorganising my 6mm Napoleonics for Blucher - a reapparaisal

After some very helpful discussion on TMP I'm inclined to go for smaller, 60mm square bases which will allow me to use my dining-room table without having to get out the 6' x 4' extension boards. For artillery, I'd follow the Polemos standard and mount each gun on a 30mm square, using them in pairs for Blucher.

60mm x 60mm bases, or 60mm x 30mm?

I could break down the infantry and cavalry bases into two 60mm x 30mm bases to give me greater flexibility for playing other games in which the bases would represent battalions, but if I did that it would be more difficult to fit in skirmishers and the general positioning would not look quite so good IMO.

And while 1 base equals 1 battalion works well for pre- and post-Napoleonics, I feel that a lower level Napoleonic game really cries out for multi-base battalions which can be formed into column, line and square.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Reorganising my 6mm Napoleonics for Blucher

The publication of Sam Mustafa's Blücher sent me sorting through my old boxes of Heroics 6mm Napoleonics which I first started accumulating in, I think, the early 80s.

The core of the collection are Austrians for Aspern-Essling 1809, all historically organised in 18-figure battalions. The rest are a more miscellaneous collection of Austrians and French bought off eBay and rather horribly flocked IMO. The Austrian uniforms are not quite in period with my original figures and the French infantry seem to have rather a jumble of uniforms on each base, but I'm past seeing that level of detail and past caring about that level of accuracy.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Crossfire at Cavalier AARs

The calm before the storm
Cavalier is one of Britain's smaller shows, but well worth attending. It is supported by some major traders, and, falling in February, is the first show of the year for many in South-East England. Tonbridge Wargames Club ran my 'Crossfiregrad' scenario as a participation game. They have been keen Crossfire players for many years and helped to tweak the scenario. Although the toys were mine, getting the game developed and presented was very much a collective effort, so thanks to everyone for their efforts both on the day and leading up to it.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Crossfire at Cavalier

Tonbridge Wargames Club is staging my 'Crossfiregrad' game as a participation game at Cavalier this Sunday. If you're a reader of this blog, please come over and say hello, and if you're a Crossfire enthusiast or would like to give it a try, please volunteer for a game!

Here are the posters we will be using on the stand:

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Galleys & Galleons: Chinese pirate junks

A flotilla of Chinese pirate junks from Grumpy's Miniatures has now joined my collection of ships for Galleys & Galleons. They are 1/300 but easily converted to 1/450  by replacing the crew and guns with Peter Pig  ones.

In the heading picture the original crew have been chopped off with GW Cutters and a chisel-shaped X-acto scalpel. I also once again replaced the masts with pins. It seems to be more difficult to superglue the sails to pins than to the original masts, but they should be more robust in the longer term. I'd rather restick a sail than be confronted with a bent or broken mast.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

My introduction to Command & Colours

The first scenario from Command & Colours Napoleonics
Despite my enthusiasm for wargaming with hexes and blocks, I played my first couple of games of Command & Colours Ancients only last year, although I had previously played a couple of games of BattleCry, the ACW variant of the system.

As the game system has been out for some time and most readers are probably more familiar with it than I am, I won't attempt a comprehensive review, but I would like to share a few points in its favour for the benefit of anyone who hasn't played it. One's first impressions of a game are always improved by winning. I did win both games, though my opponent inevitably attributed this to lucky dice throws rather than tactical genius!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Galleys & Galleons: Waterlining the Pirateology xebecs

'Waterlining' the three Pirateology xebecs was an unavoidable challenge but not one I was looking forward to.

Owing to the relatively delicate and finished nature of the model, I could hardly put it in a vice, but had to handhold it. Luckily it was possible to rest the model on its stern and this provided a reasonably stable anchor point.

I made a nick in the bow with a pair of GW clippers and then attacked the model with a fretsaw. The hull is partially hollow, but there's a lot of thick plastic to get through.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Galleys & Galleons: My totally unoriginal shore forts

Making forts from take-away coffee-cup tops is a brilliant idea but it wasn't mine. I stole it from the well-known naval wargamer and fellow Galleys & Galleons playtester, David Manley. Taking my cue from David's Fort Barrista,  I'm calling them Fort Costa and Fort Nero, though the tops actually came from neither.

Here are some pictures of my own production process.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Galleys & Galleons: The Pirateology xebec

I recently bought three Pirateology xebecs as the basis of a Barbary Pirate fleet for Galleys & Galleons. Sold as a 'Barbary Galley', the ship is nicely modelled and although no scale is stated, it seems perfectly compatible with the Peter Pig 1/450 Pirate ship range. I thought it might be helpful to take some close-ups with a Peter Pig ship for comparison.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The 'Crossfiregrad' scenario

This game was originally inspired by Steven Thomas' 2 Foot City, and my thanks are also due Nikolas Lloyd for his 'nearer than' house rule (see below). My version of this urban Crossfire game has been around for some time. After going through a number of iterations, it has finally solidified into a set scenario for staging at the Cavalier show in Tonbridge, Kent, next month.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

2015 projects and options

Portuguese/Dutch for Irregular Wars
Enumerating last year's wargame-related achievements reminded me that retirement has not provided the expected increase in spare time, but, rather, the opposite. Accordingly, and contrary to every wargamer's natural instincts, I really must learn to maximise the time I do get by concentrating on completing current projects and making use of existing armies before moving on to anything new, especially if that carries a significant painting burden. I may have said that before, but it's a mantra I need to repeat. My main immediate priorities are thus to finish at least the first batch of ships for Galleys & Galleons and the Portuguese and Dutch armies for Irregular Wars.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Galleys & Galleons: first games

Nic Wright's forthcoming Galleys & Galleons rules are certainly raising a lot of interest and just before Christmas my friend Ian and I finally got round to a couple of playtest games ourselves.

I can only apologise for the photos. The ships are wearing just their undercoats and look like ghost ships, and the photos were taken very inexpertly in the heat of battle. But, hey, it's a playtest. (Ghost ships are actually covered in the rules in a fantasy supplement at the end.)

The seascape in our first game was a little overcrowded with islands and shallows. They were cunningly placed by my piratical opponent, forcing me into a very awkward starting position. Eager to teach the pirates a lesson they would not forget, my ships sped ahead leaving the boats behind. All measurements are made using the coffee stirrers.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Games and painting 2014

Irregular Wars playtest with counters
My painting to-do list was becoming oppressive, so last year I decided to note what I managed to do rather than what I planned to do. It didn't increase my productivity but it made me feel better. For the first time, I also recorded the games I played.

In first place was Irregular Wars with 14 games. These were all playtest games and consumed most of my wargaming attention for the year. They were played with counters as I still haven't completed any IW armies.

Second place went to Crossfire with 5 games - one Spanish Civil War, one Normandy and three played on my 'Crossfiregrad' (Stalingrad-esque) cityscape.

Now for the runners-up. I played two games each of Command and Colours Ancients, Dux Bellorum, Galleys & Galleons (playtest) and my friend Ian's developmental ancient rules, and one game each of Impetus, Maurice, WWII Micro Armour, Corvus II, Flanders Fields, Warmaster Ancients,  and my friend Ian's developmental WWI game.

10mm ACW Confederates
As for painting/modelling, I finally completed my 10mm American Civil War armies. I haven't yet played a proper game with them, though they did take to the table in connection with playtesting some hex based Nineteenth Century rules that I'm developing. I also added the finishing touches to the 'Crossfiregrad' cityscape.

Finally, I 'progressed' the 15mm Portuguese/Dutch/Spanish and some scenery for Irregular Wars, the 1/450 pirate ships and scenery for Galleys & Galleons and some 10mm ACW buildings. I aim to finish all these ASAP in 2015.