Sunday, 28 January 2018

Fastest to table

Lancers. 2mm is now my way to go for mass armies.
I might have written something like this before but no matter as it is a topic that demands revisiting. I often wonder what miniature wargames I would do if I was starting from scratch now. Obviously I would do games that appealed to me historically, but, more generally, I would do games that could be brought to table as quickly as possible. This is partly because I lack time to paint but also because I'd like the fruits of my labour to end up on the table rather than in the lead mountain.

At one end of the spectrum I would focus on skirmish games like Dan Mersey's Rampant series for which 28mm figures have the most appeal. Somewhere in the middle are games that are 'compact' or otherwise economical on figures like Crossfire, Irregular Wars or DBA. For these I would use 15mm, 10mm or 6mm, and these scales would satisfy the aesthetic appeal of playing with toy soldiers.

Any games featuring mass armies, however, would have to be base-orientated so I could use 2mm or 3mm models, and thìs end of the spectrum would satisfy my desire to play large historical battles. I think this is the way I will now go with Bloody Big Battles! if and when I get round to it. The other advantage of these small scales is of course that they put less pressure on storage and carrying.

This  is not an entirely futile speculation as it should also help me to regulate what to do in future. I feel sure I've written that before as well. The difficulty is remembering it.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Storage crisis

Floor to ceiling
Despite having a whole medium-sized upstairs room just for my personal stuff (mostly books and wargaming-related), I've run out of storage space.

The room wasn't a bad size when we first moved in some twenty years ago but with the accumulation of cabinets, cupboards, racks, bookcases and storage crates, it's gradually shrunk to a narrow corridor. Besides filling all these storage units, the units themselves are stacked with plastic boxes which literally reach to the ceiling.

One particular problem is that I now don't even have a free space for moving stuff around or getting games ready to take out. What is the answer?

Move to a larger house

Moving  house is a very time-consuming and stressful undertaking. A larger lounge would enjoy uxorial support but the demand for more wargaming space is an aspiration unlikely to achieve joint critical mass.

Put stuff in the loft

Although the loft is already crowded with domestic junk and books, I could make some more room there. However, I've tried this before and it's very inconvenient.

Have a loft conversion

This would be fairly expensive and might not give me a bigger room than I have now, unless I utilised both rooms which would be a somewhat disproportionate use of a house. The main problem, however, is what would I do with all the other stuff already in the loft?

Colonise other parts of the house

Not an option.

Compress existing storage

This is an ideal solution but I doubt if it would free up more than 10% of the used space.

Sell books and/or figures

I already have about twenty crates of unwanted books in the loft which I would try to sell on Amazon or eBay if I had time. I have sold some figures at shows, but most of my armies are, I think, still wanted. The problem is that I will probably never finish painting them and they may never be used. So I have a strong attachment to them but it's probably more emotional than rational.

This is a troubling dilemma, but I have a plan of sorts. I think I should start by chipping away at the problem, that is selling off stuff I least want and seeing how far I get. There is some scenery and even a few figures which are definitely surplus to requirements. Gaining a cubic foot here and there would be an immense help. But it's getting rid of books that would probably be the least painful and most productive way forward.

While books about uniforms, hardware, organisation and tactics are essential to any wargamer, general histories and memoirs are only of marginal interest, especially once read. There was a time, perhaps, when I would have liked to have become some sort of 'military expert' and would have required a library to support that conceit, but it's too late in life now and I have other priorities consuming my time and energy.

Any suggestions will be gratefully received!

Monday, 15 January 2018

C&C Great War tank extension

The two nearest tanks were mine (German). Yes, one looks distinctly British. No, it isn't captured, it's just substituting for one of the German ones. The C&C Great War tank extension does include two German tanks, but the gamesmaster had mislaid one...
My first game of the year was the Command & Colors Great War scenario, Villiers-Bretonneux, the first tank-versus-tank battle in history. I've played C&C Great War before. It looks like a boardgame with miniatures because it is, but the rules work well and are easy to absorb, and despite the lack of 'realistic' 3D scenery, the game has flavour and draws you into believing.

This was my first experience of the tank extension. The tanks themselves are nice plastic models, and tank combat seems to have very realistic outcomes. Tanks are highly prone to bogging down and damage is quite attritional. I learnt that standing off was the best tactic unless fighting infantry who can be subjected to 'tank shock' in close combat.

Because WW1 tank versus tank combat was relatively indecisive, the best way of winning the scenario is to turn one's artillery on the enemy infantry. As  my opponent had sensibly dispersed his infantry on his first move, he was ahead of me in that respect, though, to be fair to myself, dispersing the German infantry was always going to be more difficult. Anyway, my cannon fodder was being gobbled up more quickly than my opponent's, and then the eventual loss of a tank finally sealed my fate. It didn't feel entirely one-sided. There was a point when I thought I was going to get lucky but it didn't happen.  As in other C&C games you need to focus on attacking the enemy units which are the easiest to eliminate.

It was certainly an entertaining game, so thanks to my friend Ian for providing it.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Heigh-ho! Khurasan Elizabethan English

English High Command
It was way back in 2013 that I started playing Irregular Wars and began collecting 15mm figures for Elizabethan English and Irish armies. Although supplemented with figures from other manufacturers, the core of this collection was the superb Khurasan Irish. Since then I've eagerly awaited the appearance of the Khurasan English.

In 2014 I was heavily involved in playtesting the second edition of Irregular Wars, but this was with counters rather than figures. I subsequently completed Portuguese and Dutch armies using real lead, but the Irish have languished in boxes unpainted, awaiting their English counterparts.

The weeks turned into months, and the months into years with the occasional return to Khurasan's website to see if they were coming. I noticed the gradual addition of some Spanish and then, in December, the arrival of the English. Well, better late than never, but four years' wait is a disappointingly long time to say the least. The figures are again absolutely superb and I've already ordered my first batch.

Monday, 1 January 2018

2018 Interests

Talking of 'plans' seems a little too optimistic after last year's meagre achievements, so I'm just going to use the word 'interests' to describe this year's possible areas of activity.

Bac Ninh Byakkotai
The Men Who Would be Kings

I'm still building up my 28mm Anglo-Zulu War forces for The Men Who Would Be Kings as fast as I can see and buy them second-hand, and I'm also looking out for Egyptians for the Urabi Revolt and Pathans.

Quite a few of the Zulus I've acquired have been in groups of about 16 and painted with different shield colours, so they have very readily been organised into TMWWBK tribal units.

With my last purchase of the year I now have enough figures to field 6 Zulu and 4 British units, but I'd also like to acquire some mounted figures and some Natal Native Contingent.

Doing the Anglo-Zulu War wasn't originally my first preference, but it seems to be the most popular Colonial subject and therefore the easiest to collect second-hand.

In keeping with my enthusiasm for the offbeat, I've also been looking at the Boshin War - the civil war in Japan  between  the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Imperial Court (1868-1869). The war featured an interesting mix of modern, Westernised, forces and traditional but unarmoured Samurai using archaic weapons. Some very characterful 28mm figures are available from Bac Ninh Miniatures but the range is currently lacking in the more archaic types.


I should of course focus on painting my recently acquired 3mm armies for Rommel, but I have to confess that TMWWBK is currently consuming the time available and will probably make for a more readily doable and popular club game.

Chain of Command by
Chain of Command

I've hardly mentioned them before, but I also have some 28mm WW2 figures and die-cast tanks for the Ardennes campaign. I got as far as undercoating the figures and making some snowy scenery but that was a few years ago. Recently I noticed the Chain of Command WW2 skirmish rules so these armies might get pulled out of the lead mountain. CoC is very interesting and innovative, but it seems to require quite a learning investment.

The Battle of Sablat (Záblatí), 10 June 1619
The Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years War continues to haunt my imagination - periodically - but I've made no final decisions about rules or scales. Amongst other things I'm currently waiting to see the pike-and-shot version of Twilight of the Sun King and I might knock out some counters or blocks for temporary use to try out various options.