Tuesday, 21 December 2021

"No rules were broken"

Osprey's Undaunted: Normandy
I can give a categorical assurance that no wargame rules were broken during the last twelve months because very few games were attempted. I didn't fancy wargaming in a mask at my local club and I only managed two games at home (apart from computer games).

Although I could have played more games at home, my heart wasn't in it. The ennui that many wargamers reported quite early during the Lockdowns finally got to me.

The games I did play at home were of the Osprey board wargame, Undaunted: Normandy, with my good friend Ian.  The game is simple but subtle. The score was one all.

My 'meta-wargaming' was also modest:

1. I accumulated quite a lot of military books, particularly from Osprey and Helion, but didn't get much time to read them. I try to buy only slim books these days. I don't have time to read or room to store any more fat books.

2. I finished collecting, cleaned/constructed and based the 28mm Russian Civil War figures for The Men Who Would Be Kings, and clarified the minimal adaptions I would be using for extending the rules into the 20th Century.

3. I developed an interest in To the Strongest! and have started to reorganise my 15mm Ancient and Medieval armies. I’ve even bought some extra (painted) figures to fill gaps, but my main activity has been arranging figures into units on sabot bases.

4. Inspired by the simplicity but effectiveness of Undaunted: Normandy I made another attempt at writing my own WW2 fastplay rules but then lost interest in them again.

Overall this has been another depressing year. At this point I should probably say something optimistic but I can't think of anything.

Monday, 6 December 2021

To the Strongest!

Although gaming massed battles with Ancients was once my main wargaming activity, I've done very little of that in recent years.

I enjoy DBA but my circle of players haven't moved on to Third Edition and I don't want to take a backward step. I would never go back to DBM or its derivatives - too much unnecessary detail. I like Impetus basing but didn't take so much to the rules, though I haven‘t yet tried the current edition. ADLG was judged a good game but too demanding for a club evening. I’ve also played and enjoyed Sword and Spear but for one reason or another none of them stuck.

And then, by chance, I recently noticed To the Strongest! by Simon Miller of The BigRedBatCave blog, a set of rules that has been out for some time but which I had previously managed to overlook despite being on Simon’s mailing list at one point. I’ve now bought the rules and army lists and a new gridded mat, gathered some playing aids and have begun to reorganise and even supplement my collection of 15mm Ancients/Medievals.

I haven't yet played this game so I won't go into too much detail but they look very promising. Activation is at the game’s heart, providing the friction that reminds players they are mortal, and this is achieved not with dice but playing cards. Friction is essential in game design but too frustrating for some gamers! In TtS! activation failures are ameliorated by the ability of Generals to replay an activation card once per turn and there is also an amendment introducing group moves which reduces the chance of some units being inappropriately left behind. Players can also intervene by using 'Heroes' to replay missed 'to-hit' cards.

The other big feature is that like Commands and Colors, this is an area movement game played on a 12 x 8 grid. Grids are not to everyone’s taste, but they allow players to concentrate on generalship rather than geometry, eliminate measuring disputes and speed up play. If figures and scenery are good and the grid not too obtrusive, it will look and feel like a miniatures game, not a boardgame.

As a grid game TtS! doesn't demand any particular basing but I believe it's prudent to retain, more-or-less, DBX standards, albeit with the DBX bases combined onto larger sabot bases. As my 15mm Ancients/Medievals already have magnetic bases I can put them on steel sabots which means they will be detachable and still usable for Impetus, Dux Bellorum, ADLG, DBA or anything else my wargaming comrades agree to play.

I decided on 80mm frontages and 100mm (4”) boxes which means that units will be two DBX elements wide and the 4’ x 2’8” playing area will conveniently fit my modest dining-room table.

At the moment I am learning the rules but I hope to try them out in the near future.

Monday, 29 November 2021

Warfare 2021

The Wargames Association of Reading's Warfare show took place last weekend. It's one of my favourite shows along with Cavalier and SELWG (when it was still in South London). 

This year's venue was Ascot Race Course which has an impressive building lit by natural light. What a pleasure after the awful 'aircraft hanger' experience at Excel. Saturday was an extremely cold day and the train from London had no heating. A bitterly cold wind was blowing in Ascot but the venue was a fairly short walk from the station and entry was handled efficiently. Strangely, there was no-one at the door giving out bumph.

I bought virtually nothing but I did take in the games. I don't attempt to catalogue the games at shows because others do this so well, but three caught my attention.

(Incidentally, I noticed when preparing this post that Blogger no longer 'holds' the photos you are uploading so if you are placing them one at a time you have to go through the same long process for each one. Blogger pretends to get better and better but actually just gets worse and worse.)

The heading photo and the two photos above are from a North American game of Muskets and Tomahawks presented by Combined Oppo's Wagames Group. Great work on the scenery including three grades of loose stones and gravel.

 Huntingdon & District Wargames Society presented this Rome versus Carthage DBA First Edition battle using HAT 52mm figures. A great choice for demo games.

Lastly, Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog presented The Second Battle of Murfreesboro/Stones River 1862 using Fire and Fury. The superb scenery was outstandingly realistic.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

My Blog List

My Blog List widget (right-hand margin) appears to be broken and is not accepting new additions or edits. I have, therefore, added a new instance of the widget and will be rebuilding the list before deleting the old one.

The old list has grown very long and does not necessarily reflect my current interests, so this will also be an opportunity to bring it up to date.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Salute 2021

This is admittedly a bit of a non-report. I'm glad for the return to normality, but I didn't get anything out of Salute myself. I was seeking inspiration and motivation, but failed to find any. 
Unusually, I didn't have a shopping list and don't currently have any burgeoning new interests, so it was a question of going with nothing and coming back with nothing.

I was vaguely looking for a 1/56 ready-made, ready-painted Russian building suitable for my RCW project, but didn’t see anything. The dim artificial lighting sadly remains the overwhelming feature of the venue and my ageing eyes struggle to see figures properly under these conditions. This rather removes the point of looking at trade stands and the pleasure of looking at games. Unless I have a pressing reason, this is probably the last time I will go to Salute.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Metals vs Plastics

On my workbench:  some more Copplestone
RCW cavalry, and Warlord Games
AWI infantry.

In a rare moment of opportunity and modest enthusiasm I tackled a sprue of 28mm Warlord Games American War of Independence militia that has  been knocking around for ages. I wanted some more figures in buckskin with long rifles for Rebels and Patriots and five out of the ten figures on the sprue were useable.

I can't remember why I got these instead of buying metal, but they might have been a free gift. Opinions about plastics amongst my friends are sharply divided. There are those with large plastic collections while some people just can't abide them.

I've bought painted plastic figures on eBay and IMO they mix well enough with metal on the tabletop, but I've never made any up. In fact, I can't remember doing anything like this since I made Airfix kits as a boy.

In theory assembling figures from bits provides opportunity for variation. In practice choice is limited. The detail, proportions and realism of the figures is good and  the job wasn't too challenging but there are some negatives. You have to be careful to find the right bits, e.g. matching arms. The fit wasn't perfect and requires some filler.  Above all the whole process was extremely fiddly mainly, I suppose, because plastic is very light.

Metal figures also require preparation, particularly clipping, cutting and filing. This sometimes requires a bit of strength but I've never found it fiddly. 

The finished product. They seem relatively free of plastic 
cement damage, unlike the kits I did as a boy!

The resulting poses are possibly not as convincing as one-piece metal figures but at least the long rifles are less likely to break. Once mounted on metal bases (2p coins) with added filler, the figures will seem more substantial.  Overall I'm pleased enough, or will be, but I'm not sure I'd want to do a whole army.

Friday, 24 September 2021

28mm Russian Civil War progress

After months of almost complete inactivity on the miniature painting and wargaming front, I found a little time to organise, clean, base and photograph my 28mm RCW figures for The Men Who Would Be Kings. I will be adding a few more figures, especially to the Whites, but the bulk is there.

The figures are mostly  Copplestone but there are some nice sculpts from Studio Siberia too. The White Coloured Regiment privates are Tsuba Russo-Japanese War Russians from Empress Miniatures in peakless caps. The Russian-variant Austin armoured-car is also from Empress.

The Reds: Elite Bolsheviks in Budenovka in lower left corner.
Commisar character in front of armoured-car.

The Whites: Elite Coloured Regiment unit in lower left corner.
The rest will be completed as Don Cossacks.


Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Field of Glory on PC

Field of Glory Medieval II
Field of Glory as a miniatures game is too involved for me, but I've enjoyed playing Field Of Glory Medieval II and Field of Glory II on PC.

The mechanics of these games are very similar to Pike And Shot Campaigns, but the units consist of vividly coloured, animated figures, so it looks rather like a 28mm miniatures game come to life. Although the game is IGOUGO the little men will go on fighting for hours on their own!

I actually bought the Medieval game first and was sufficiently impressed to get the Ancients one as well. Medievals are mostly undrilled and don't get the free 45 degree turn. This is only right but has a big effect on manouverability. Otherwise the games are very similar. The Medieval one is particularly colourful, but the Ancient one gives you the spectacle of elephants and chariots.

Playing these games has revealed a remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It pays to be bold but not reckless. It's good to attack but gather your forces for a concerted effort first. Make a mistake and the AI will exploit it mercilessly.

The AI is very good indeed, particularly on an immediate local level. It is a little less adept at seeing the big picture, so a good strategic plan can pay off.

I've bought every downloadable extension and I've played through every 'Epic' (i.e. historical) battle from the default side against the AI, but have yet to play any other sort of game.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Pike And Shot Campaigns - Just like a game with miniatures!

A scene from a game of White Mountain.
Whilst I await return of the impetus to finish and the opportunity to use my 6mm armies for Tilly's Very Bad Day, I've been satisfying my enthusiasm for pike-and-shot warfare with my second PC game purchase - Pike and Shot Campaigns (Byzantine Games). Given the prevalence of ACW and WW2 games, it's good to see an historical PC game covering the 16th and 17th Centuries.

The game uses chess-like alternate turns but with some interaction like reactive shooting. There is also an AI-controlled 'residual' shooting phase.

I understand the game is essentially a PC version of Richard Bodley Scott's Field of Glory and it's very like playing a tabletop miniatures game but with the advantages that computers can provide, e.g. hidden units and painless calculations. I would also say that it looks a great deal simpler than FoG, though to be fair I have never actually played it. I was brought up on WRG-style rules but can no longer tolerate the contortions of Barkerese and its derivatives.

Once engaged in melee, units remain committed unless the program decides otherwise and victors always pursue. Some players object to these features but they simplify play and IMO capture the flavour of P&S warfare more accurately than those rules which allow micro-management of 'break-offs' etc. Outcomes can be frustrating, but that's war.

The game is extremely well-designed and presented with excellent tutorial support and very clear on-screen 'signage'. The author undoubtedly knows his stuff.

I've worked through the historical ECW and French-Italian Wars battles and am currently playing the Thirty Years War ones. Community contributions have provided many more scenarios in and out of the core period. You can also fight infinite pickup games with varying degrees of player input or pot luck, but I haven't tried these yet as reliving historical battles at grand tactical level is more my thing.

The game allows both orthogonal and diagonal facing and movement on a grid of squares. It works well and has made me think again about square grids which are easier to implement than hexes unless you have something like Hexon.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Ultimate General: Civil War - First impressions

A scene from the first day at Gettysburg
I'm not getting much painting done and obviously no gaming with miniatures, but I have revived my interest in PC strategy wargames. 

I'd grown tired of the small screen on my ageing laptop so replaced it with an Intel NUC i5 and a 28" 4K monitor. This wasn't with any gaming intentions, but the NUC seems to be adequate for strategy games and having a big screen was an asset I couldn't ignore. 

My first new purchase has been Ultimate General: Civil War. This is a realtime grand-strategy game, but proceeds at a reasonable pace and is not a clickfest. And you don't have to micro-manage each unit. The AI does a lot for you. 

The game certainly works at tactical level. Play is very intuitive though you will obviously benefit from skimming through the guidance document. I've played through all the historical battles as Confederate at intermediate level and am now repeating this as Union. 

The historical battles are split into different stages. This is scripted and I'm not entirely clear how performance in one stage influences resources in the next. I really prefer the approach in the Total War series of games in which you control the whole battle. 

I'm not attracted to the fictitious campaign battles.The game is fun but when I've completed the current round of historical battles I'll probably move on to something else and come back to the game another year.

Friday, 1 January 2021

2021 Plans

Afghan reinforcements for TMWWBK
There are old projects I'd like to return to including my 15mm Elizabethan English and Irish for Irregular Wars and my 10mm Chinese Warlord armies for Red Actions. And there are new things I'd like to progress, particularly my 28mm Ardennes armies for Chain of Command. I've also been thinking of extending my 28mm Elizabethan collection in an Irish direction (using the Hoka Hey Timeline figures), albeit a duplication of the above Irregular Wars project at a different scale. Yes, I am fond of 'Celtic' armies.

However, my time and psychological energy is limited, so I decided to continue my immediate focus on undercoating and putting initial washes on my least complete 28mm Rampant armies as these jobs won't require too much thought or planning and can be fitted in at odd moments, including at night during bouts of insomnia.

I'll also continue the slow but steady collection of 28mm Russian Civil War figures as this requires only hitting the buy button once a month.

Once I've got all the newer Rampant armies to a minimally acceptable (to me) level I'll probably finish the bases on the fully painted ones which will complete them. Apart from minor repairs, additions and paint improvements, I will then have the following completed armies:

Lion Rampant
Late Saxons and Vikings
Swiss and Burgundians

Rebels and Patriots
American War of Independence
American Civil War

The Men Who Would Be Kings

The next priority will be to finish the 6mm Thirty Years War armies for Tilly's Very Bad Day, including the application of brush-bristle pike replacements. That will hopefully be complete by the end of June in anticipation of a resumption of gaming.

I'll then concentrate on proper painting of the remaining Rampant armies. These are:

The Pikeman's Lament
Border Reivers, Garrison troops, Tudor rebels
1671 Buccaneers and Spanish

Rebels and Patriots
1798 Irish Rebellion

Dragon Rampant
Trolls (Orcs)
Aegean Bronze Age
Nordic Bronze Age
Fantasy extensions to Lion Rampant armies.

The Men Who Would Be Kings (variant)
Russian Civil War (still being collected)

The 1798 armies are already part painted, but there's a huge amount of work in completing the rest, hence my 'play now, paint as I go' approach. At least I am confident enough of this year's fancies to describe them as plans.