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 Afghans for the Second Afghan War.

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.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

2017 Scoreboard

A bloody denouement in the corral
My gaming, painting and blogging activity contracted further in 2017 but this was due mainly to other pressures rather than loss of interest.

My penultimate game of the year was a cowboy skirmish game kindly staged by my friend Ian using Games Workshop's old but solid Legends of the Old West. The bad guys (me) were holed up in in a livery stable. Given equal points I was expecting to blow away the lawmen as they approached over open ground, but this was not to be. At one point I decided to come out, guns blazing, but I failed to hit anything and then got well and truly gunned down.

Now for the overall tally. I played 2 games of Command & Colors Ancients, 2 games of X-Wing,  1 game of Battles of Napoleon, 1 game of Crossfire (early Great War), several 'training' games for Great War Spearhead, 4 games of Test of Honour, 1 exploratory run-through of Rommel, and 1 game of Legends of the Old West.

On the modelling front I started a couple of 3mm armies for Rommel and accumulated some 28mm Anglo-Zulu War figures for The Men Who Would Be Kings which I am currently rebasing.

Blog posts declined from 42 in 2016 to 27 (including this one).

My next post will be in the new year and will outline my likely pursuits in 2018.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Unit cards for The Men Who Would Be Kings

While playing the Samurai skirmish game, Test of Honour, I was struck by how discrete unit cards are much better than rosters for reading and absorbing unit data.

I had also seen the excellent unit cards for The Men Who Would Be Kings on the Shed Wars blog. After struggling with Excel and Word, I once again decided to create an Access database. The cards (a 'labels' report) were much easier to configure and I can quickly add new unit types to the underlying table.

The cards aren't as nice as the Shed Wars ones, but I could improve on them later by adding images. I'm indebted to Shed Wars for showing me the way.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Rebasing 28mm figures for The Men Who Would Be Kings

Based and ready to go
So here I am with a growing collection of second-hand Zulu War figures from different sources, all based individually but not in the same way. Rebasing is a priority, mainly so they can be safely stored, transported and used, but also to give the figures a more common look (once textured and grassed).

First step is to remove the existing bases. Card bases are easily weakened by standing them in water, but other bases have been an absolute pain to get off.

The new bases are simply 2p coins. These cost, well, 2p, and are cheaper than steel discs or even MDF. 'Copper' coins were originally bronze but since 1992 they have been copper-coated steel and are attracted to the magnetic plastic sheets which I use to line my storage containers - A4 Really Useful Boxes. 

At some point, of course, I will be adding filler, sand and foliage, but the figures are ready to use. All I need now is more of them.

Friday, 17 November 2017

28mm Zulu War figures for TMWWBK

Playing  the Colonial skirmish game The Men Who Would Be Kings has been on my wish list since the beginning of the year. Other members of my wargames club have tried it out and liked it, so I am encouraged that it will see some play.

I had originally favoured doing the Boxer Rebellion or the North-West Frontier, but I recently accumulated some Zulu War figures when a friend was sadly obliged to retire from wargaming. These have since been supplemented with a couple of eBay purchases.

British Regulars and dismounted Natal Mounted Police
Some of the British figures could also be used for the Second Afghan War or the Urabi Revolt. I don't have enough for a game but it's a good start. The figures are 28mm. I'd be very interested to know the manufacturer(s) and will update this post accordingly.

More Zulus
The picture immediately above shows the figures from eBay. These will need to be rebased and could benefit from a stain.

The figures have been identified as Redoubt Enterprises and very nice they are too. Redoubt is another company which Is underselling itself because of lack of photos in its online shop. 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Rommel: the Brevity scenario

British left, Axis right. Italians are forward on the
objectives. On-table Germans are in the back row.
The third Italian objective is just out of the picture
at the top. Scenery was highly improvised!
I got my first chance to set up a game of Rommel on the tabletop. It was the  scenario for Operation Brevity, a limited British offensive against Axis forces in North Africa in May 1941. 

Actually, it wasn't so much of a competitive game as a collaborative exploration of the rules, at least to start with. We worked together on the initial Axis deployment. My collaborator, Chris, then set up the British based on their historical deployment. 

Although it wasn't my original intention for us to adopt sides, Chris effectively assumed control of the British while I started making decisions for the Axis.

The British close in on the vulnerable
central objective. It is quickly overrun.
In  the scenario, as in historical reality, the British make a strong showing at the beginning before German reinforcements arrive.

Some German forces are deployed on the back row while others arrive in a later turn (but we didn't get that far). The Italians can be deployed forward to  hold the objectives.

Deployment is very straightforward, but it all feels a little different if you're not used to playing many grid games.

Stalemate on the Axis right.
In our very short game the British soon captured the central Italian-held objective and seriously depleted the Italian forces guarding the town. The struggle for the other Axis objective was a stalemate. 

A counterattack by the German forces already on-table was only partially successful. Had the game continued I think it would have swirled around with both sides threatened by isolation. We completed three moves but didn't have time to pursue the game further. At this point the Axis line seemed very thin indeed. Although this is an introductory scenario, it's an interesting one and should repay playing with different strategies. 

The counter-attack by the on-table German units.
Reading rules is one thing: actually playing a game on the tabletop is another. I hadn't really absorbed the rules properly and we relied on the QRS, whatever I could recollect  and whatever we had to time to look up properly. We didn't get everything right (crucially we neglected to tip retreating attackers) but it was a good start. By the end I felt there probably wasn't a lot more to learn for the basic game and that when everything is learnt, the turns will be playable very quickly, leaving maximum time and energy for play rather than rule referral.

Steven Thomas' Balagan blog recently reviewed a range of Operational-level games that predated Rommel. By  his definition Rommel would not count as an Operational game because the basic unit is a company. 

The town (Sollum) was a hot spot. The defenders
  are critically worn down and destined to shatter.
However, the game is very highly abstracted and certainly  feels Operational. You have to second-guess your opponent with the selection of events and tactics which are pieces of narrative on cards rather than emanating from the position of lead castings, companies are concentrated to apply pressure and combat is attritional. Fights certainly grind to a conclusion over several turns but there are no knockout blows.

My collaborator judged the game to be complicated in comparison with Sam Mustafa's Bluecher and although he considered it realistic he didn't warm to its attritional nature which he found unexciting. Each to his own.

Now for some of the physical practicalities. 

 Deep-Cut Studio gridded meadow mat from
1. My tabletop consisted of 1 ft square cork tiles with little Go counters at their centres to remind players this was a 6" grid. It was OK but still required a degree of mental adjustment. I really felt it would be better to have clearly defined 6" squares with edge lines and I've since ordered the Deep-Cut Studio gridded meadow mat from BigRedBat for use with my 10mm armies.

2. The unit cards don't provide the immediate visual clue given by models and can be awkward to pick up without long nails. If used as game counters they need to be based on MDF.

3. Command Post cards are, I believe, a big improvement on the Command Post sheets but can again be fiddly. This isn't just a question of size but more importantly a result of being printed on ordinary card stock. Proper playing cards are coated and glossy and slide off each other easily.

4. Tipping didn't actually lead to any ambiguity in the game but I think it might. Players naturally want to point attacking units towards their targets. Keeping them perpendicular, unless tipped, feels too much like a boardgame. In future I think I will use markers to indicate tipped.

5. In addition to the D6s used for Ops, I must remember to pack two D6 of another type for combat resolution.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Rommel: Command Post Cards

Customised French Command Post
cards for Hannut scenario.
Rommel uses a 'Command Post' somewhat reminiscent of the planning board in Saga. It gradually fills up with dice to mark the events and tactics used until the whole board is optionally reset.

This is (a) an accident waiting to happen, and (b) difficult for secret selection of tactics, so some players are planning to substitute cards.

As I'd already started a database to generate unit cards, I was in the mood to develop functionality for managing CP cards as well.

This approach is also very convenient for dropping CP items you don't want or adding custom items for specific scenarios.

Database screenshot. Rough and ready but
functionally adequate.
In each CP 'pack' I've also included blank cards so the opposing player doesn't know if you're actually selecting a tactic or not. The cards are discarded when used, unique events for the rest of the game, and others until the CP is reset.

There are, of course, other ways of generating unit and CP cards. Databases require some 'professional' knowledge and more upfront investment but soon pay off on reuse.