Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Some Very, VERY Big Orcs...

Those of you who've ambled through my sub pages may have seen a little information about the Russian manufacturer Technolog.  They produce a handful of 28mm scaled plastic miniatures, some of which might be of interest to gamers were they available widely.  Most of their figures however are in the 54mm scale beloved of children more than serious gamers.

Within this scale they produce an interesting and unusual range of figures, outside of the usual WWII and Hollywood Knights themes most toys lean towards.  Technolog rather opted for Napoleonics, Medieval Russians, Ancients and Fantasy models.

But as I said, here in the UK at least they are pretty much unheard of.  So when we found them at Essen a couple of us became very interested; all the more so when by the last day they were available at better than half price.  A plan came to me to make use of them regardless of scale, as they did for Matt as well, so I picked up a pack of Orcs and an extra model for a total of IIRC €2.50.

 First let it be said, that the company has tried, very hard, to make the models look good on the box, by giving them a very nice paint job.  Secondly, of all the sets in this scale the Orcs are possibly the worst!  By a fair margin.  But they were the only ones that would fit with my plan.  The raw models were cleaned up and based in groups of three to 120mm x 40mm stands.

In all their shiny glory
 Produced in a solid hard plastic that might be brittle were the parts not so substantial, the models come in a deep glossy green that thankfully took acrylic paint well.  I gave them a pretty standard paint job to blend them in with my Orcs and Goblins army; and hey presto:

Really Big Un's!
 And so from this fairly basic material, and on the cheap, I knocked together two regiments of Troll-sized Orcs, or Trorcs, as they shell hereafter be known.

I envisage the Trorc as a form of Savage Orc, so isolated from society and moreover its' foes that it has taken to foul interbreeding with Forest Trolls, and a degree of longevity and robustness has resulted that has allowed them to grow to staggering proportions.  However not smart or cunning enough to lead they are reduced to the level of expendable shock troops.

For scale, here is the Trorc who thinks he is a bowman, next to one of his more typically sized cousins:
I suddenly feel inadequate...
These two bases are specifically intended for Kings of War, and I'm more than happy with the results.
As for Matt, he plans to use some of his purchases to make scenery - statues - and hopes to use the others as Wights in an Undead army.  I hope he doesn't mind me poaching this photo from another source...

Frankly, much nicer models than the Orcs!
Technolog infrequently appear on ebay, but you may well have more joy searching indirectly for them on European marketplaces.  I kinda wish you could get them readily in English-speaking markets, but I'm not sure they'd sell all that well.

Still in context they were a bargain, and a handy addition to my growing horde of greenskins...


Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Red Skulls of Anger Avenue...

I've managed to produce another three cars in preparation for playing Road Wolf in the near(ish) future.  I aim to get enough models for four players, so this adds in effect a second gang to the game.  The notorious Red Skulls:

Off to the Shops...

And coming back...

The Red Skulls favour classic muscle cars, preferably 'Murican Mustle.  The paint job is always red, as 'Red ones go faster' (where have I heard that before?), and skull and crossbones feature on the doors for simple identification.  That said, rust and dust are always an issue on Highway 666 so all the cars tend to have a rather beaten-down appearance.

The beauty of models in this style is they take barely any time to paint.  Other than a black under coat it was all dry-brushing (see my article on weathering vehicles for guidance on how I did it) until the Skulls appeared.   All three were finished in about ninety minutes.

Enough for two players at least...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Kings of War - A base for future operations

If you have GW Orcs in a fantasy army, and they were made in the last 15 years or so, they do not rank up, it's basically a fact.  Many things made playing Warhammer frustrating, and ranking up my Orcs just so every game I could have the sods fall down all the time, or pop out of movement trays due to the slightest jostling, build up of pressure or cambered deployment was a constant aggravation.
Goblins were a little better but then of course WFB being what it was you were taking them out of the box one by one to put on the table the same, taking them of in a piecemeal fashion and then putting the whole lot away again, one at a blooming time.

Even with some being on 3-figure bases, it was an enormous pain, and often led to me choosing the easier to handle Dogs of War army instead.

Kings of War offers an alternative.  In a game with no casualty removal and standard unit sizes it is perfectly possible to use unit bases, or at least large contingent bases, instead.

Realising I really could do with painting some of the huge pile of waiting Orcs and Goblins I had backed up to make my O&G army more Kings of War friendly, I decided to bite the bullet and start using Unit bases instead of individuals.  I see no reason why not to do this, given I don't play any fantasy skirmish games presently (and if I did there are many alternatives to my GW Orcs around TML towers for such activities) it would really just save time and hassle by basing my Orcs and goblins in groups of ten rather than individually.  As a result I've made a start with some models from the pile.

Converted 6th ed. Bowmen
 The templates are 3mm MDF, and because I wanted the models to be secure, and to keep life relatively easy the bases were simply trimmed down with a good craft knife and glued on with Evostik.  Life's too short to go into careful levels of detail for this lot.  I have thirty more of these guys, but as you may guess looking at the overhang on that base, ranking them up could be a challenge; as it was the only way I could get them to work here was to cram six in the front row and four behind.
7th ed. Goblins
 The painting is a simple 'flat colours finished with a glazed varnish' job.  Again, meditated to get the most models done in the least time possible.  That said I still like to vary up the clothing of my Orcs and Goblins; anything that smacked of a uniform would be too much, though similar tones are fine.

4th/5th ed. bows with a converted 6th ed. leader
I also did some single based models, mainly as they can also be used as character models.  Firstly I found two chariots, to make a unit, or three leaders!

 Then I kitbashed some bits into an Orc Wardrum.

In Soviet Russia Drums Beat You.
Pretty much the whole Wardrum is from a Russian kit of which we'll hear more soon, the crew were a couple of battered spares who were glad of a job!

Anyway, if this proves satisfactory on the table, and I can't see why it wouldn't, I will start the slow process of switching the old models over to new bases.  Not an activity and gamer relishes, but sometimes you just have to take on the unpleasant tasks for the rewards that come later.

And with that, back to writing MSc assignments on a Saturday afternoon....

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Austrian Cavalry Masses

Well, for the last couple of weeks I've been pretty quiet.  Not much to say really, and since restarting the Blog I've not felt it needs to be a chore to produce - hence if there's nothing I want to write about, I can take the time away.  But I have been painting and modelling still, alongside other things, and this has included the final part of the initial Austrian Army project.

Firstly to finish my initial commitment I painted up a unit of Insurrection Hussars:

 I was really pleased with how these came out, a lovely bright blue breaks up the white so prevalent in the army.  However this unit did take a bit longer than the average to produce.

So this gave me the four regiments of foot, two of cavalry and battery of artillery I committed at the start of the summer.  But a couple of weeks after these - before the camera came out - I added another couple of units of cavalry attached to the command of Fresnel:

4th Vincent Chevauxleger

5th Klenau Chevauxleger
 So this gave me slightly more than projected, which is only a good thing.  There's plenty left to paint up as time passes, but this is enough to get games in.  Time for a parade of the progress over the last few months.

The full assembly to date
The core of the line infantry
The right flank and some artillery
The left and the rest of the artillery
These have been the output of a trying time for me; but you have to look to the positives, and here at least is something of a silver lining to recent clouds...


Wednesday, November 11, 2015



Night on the cold plain,
invisible sands lift,
peripheral shadows stir,

space between light and dark
shrouding secrets;
old trades draped grey.

Here too poppies fall,
petals blown on broken ground,
seeds scattered on stone

and this bright bloom,
newly cropped,
leaves pale remains,

fresh lines cut;
the old sickle wind
sharp as yesterday.

John Hawkhead

Sunday, October 25, 2015

And speaking of New Projects

I sacked off Fiasco today, too many things to do around the apartment, study foremost amongst them.  But I did find time to photograph the latest of the diffuse projects the new 'TML Towers' has permitted:

On the Road again...
 Yes, a return to the Road Wolf rules I proffered a free link to a few months back.  The game requires cars obviously, but the main game component those aside is a 6 inch wide road.  Cue a visit to Morrissons for another 99p doormat...

Perfect texture for a road
 It isn't deserted as you can see.  I have a dozen or so cars awaiting painting (stripping the paint with nail polish remover is more involved and harder than I expected!), with the aim of putting them into four distinct gangs.  I began with the custom build Chop Shop crew:

A mixed bag of HotWheels here as will be in following sets this group reflecting the more classically modded cars.  In my vision of this future dystopia I have elected for a cinematic rusty-dusty look.

More cars are needed before a game can take place but lets have a mood shot for now...

Anger Avenue...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Girls und Panzer: An Excuse to buy more Tanks!

I'm looking to have a test version of my game concept ready in fairly short order, already I have some 26 different cards developed (18 for main play and 8 for vehicles and characters), but I needed some tokens and a map for playing on.

Well with a fat paypal account this seemed like a good excuse to pick up a range of 1/100th scale tanks.  Big enough to be identifiable, but small enough to use in a 'game'.

A quick visit to the Plastic Soldier Company's site and I came away with this little grab bag of mainly Zvezda models:

Teams Ooarai and Pravda...
As a small review I can say that all of these were a joy to build.  The Russian tanks and the 3(t) and Mk IV are all Zvezda kits and mainly comprise 5 or 6 parts, they take about five minutes each to assemble but the engineering is great, and at this scale you can't ask for much more.  The KV-2 has a multi-part turret, but the whole is held together by a single connecting structure attached to the main gun which is absolutely ingenious!  If you're looking to build up early war forces in 15mm the Zvezda models are hard to beat.

By comparison, the Stug IIIf, by PSC, is a more traditional model, and benefits from more versatility and detail as a result, but the extras are not essential at this scale, though it did permit me to build exactly the right variant for GuP so I shouldn't really complain.

These may get a quick lick of paint but are more likely to get used as seen for initial play testing.

A nice diversion from MSc study yesterday however.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Crazy Idea


Going to a gaming show has focused my mind, I am planning a new game.  I've tried writing wargames rules and board games in the past, and come to the conclusion I am generally better at the former; how someone goes about designing a big game like Le Harve, or 7 Wonders is beyond me at present.

However when it comes to the mechanics of battle I have a much better handle on things, and have long thought about ways to combine the best board game and card game mechanisms into wargames rules.  It isn't just a case of novelty too as often they can offer a very real way to reflect more accurately command and control, or replicate luck without resorting to dice.

One project I'd come up with a couple of months ago was for a tank combat game driven by a card mechanic.  The concept would be based on a style of game known as 'Deck Builders', in which players begin with a set range of cards to control play but can choose to buy other cards into their deck from a shared supply of options to develop strategies and gain victory points.  I pondered this a while and left it on the back burner.

In part the idea was inspired by a sweet, but frankly bonkers Japanese anime series Girls Und Panzer.  In the tv series High School girls practice tank combat as an after school activity, it being elevated to the state of a sport thanks to the use of safe ammunition and a culture that sees tanks as unsuitable for men.  Did I mention it's bonkers?  Anyway, the show nicely displays how tank combat can be presented as a sports activity, and divorced of the need for infantry, artillery or air support can be boiled down to the sort of essentials a card mechanic could handle.

Whilst at Essen I had adequate down time to think about the many deck building games I've played (Dominion, Tanto Cuore, Streetfighter, Arctic Scavengers and Trains to name a few), and which elements I could combine and add to to make my own idea work.  Finally once home I got started.

Work in Progress
And the ideas flowed quickly, too quickly perhaps; I have Masters work to do as well!  Still the idea has proved to have legs, and soon I can try it out in a somewhat raw form.  Obviously this is a game about fun rather than deep simulation of tank combat, I flogged that horse for well over a decade and got nowhere with it!  But it will balance elements of command and control, battlefield tactics and logistics as well as featuring distinct profiles for different vehicles.

If I can mash two very different genres together with as much success as the animated inspiration does, I'll be more than satisfied.

Stay tuned...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Essen in Full, Part 2

And so we continue our tale.  On Saturday I was slow to set off from the hotel and so headed out alone to the show.  We had a meeting point identified for later in the day so I had a chance to wander about alone and size up certain things in more detail.  On the Saturday in particular, whilst gaming would not slacken off, I would end up taking a lot more photos of miniatures.

I started up the camera at the Fantasy Flight Games stand (which, again, was enormous) for their wide selection of current and upcoming Star Wars Product.

Bantha rider and Smuggler to the fore
Currently in shops
 Some of this I already have, but no one except testers yet has the Hoth expansion, so these were the first sight in the flesh of these models for me:

A little tank, and Snowtroopers; Cool!
 Armada fans were also well served with the Wave 2 ships on display.  The new Star Destroyer is a beast:

Home One may be longer though:

Of course X-Wing players weren't going to be missed out, with vessels from the Rebels animated series seeming to be the next subjects:

Love the look of this
 Team Yankee was the main presence for Battlefront's Flames of War Series, and they had a very nicely done display/participation game:

Nicely done table, typical Flames deployments
Nicely painted models
Especially the 80's period US armour
 After missing it on the first two days I finally found Monolith Boardgames' Conan display.  I've kickstarted this one and so was very keen to get a look at what I'll be getting.

Some of the core models and the big ol' box
 What I'll be getting looks pretty awesome to me...

Having got myself $150 in the whole for this I was pleased to see the quality of the plastic miniatures, not to say the sheer number of them.  As this is likely to be the successor to Imperial Assault when we finish our campaign I for one was delighted with that.

Some of the expanded set of mini's
 That said I would've been happier to have got a demo of the rules, but there were only two display games, and every time we passed, and on several occasions tried to gauge the wait, there seemed to be no prospect of getting a go.  This was very popular though and one has to hope that's a good sign...

Nice 3-D terrain set up, slick game components
 Having met up again, we indulged in a bit of Jigsaw:  my small contribution to this monster is fron and centre.  I think it was about a 40,000 piecer...

Back into the fray.  10 Minutes to Kill is an elegantly simple assassination and detection game, that I proved to be terrible at!

Add caption
 Shortly thereafter I came across the demo stand for a game by Titan Forge Miniatures which I'd spotted that morning.  A cutesy tank battler.  Me and Dave had a go.

 Armymals in Action
 The game is a simple hex based wargeme, the equivalent of a paintball match in some ways.  The main game mechanic being the rolling of 6 dice - Yatzhee or King of Tokyo style - to generate actions and to purchase bonuses.  It's a great little light weight game with some strategy involved.  But in particular the plastic models and scenery are what really attracted me.

Pew Pew! 
One game later and 40 Eurons quickly changed hands, subsequently I checked the price on their website and found I'd saved myself at least £20 (mixing my currencies a bit)...

A little later we played the new game from the Creator of Magic: The Gathering; Treasure Hunter.  Overall a good solid card drafting game (pick one card from a set to build your hand then pass the rest on).  Not an instant need to own, but certainly a good game.

Saturday evening we went to an archetypally German collective restaurant/bar/gig venue/community hall/clubhouse and after the all you can eat and drink buffet, well, played more games.

Sunday morning and it was our last chance to pick things up.  I was torn over whether to buy another big box game, but knew my packing was going to struggle if I did; as a group we had a little space to spare so I could'e done.  In the end I wavered on the available choices and ended up with just some small bits and pieces, including a copy of the original Alhambra card game with a Dutch theme, specifically to annoy one of my gaming groups.

Me and Joe were first to the show on the last day, but getting there within the first five minutes was still too late to get a game of Conan, Joe tried an abstract martial arts game called Kumo.  It looked pretty, and was quite the abstract game.  I personally wasn't sold.

The centre of the board rotates.
 As might be expected for a French company, Studio Tomahawk games had a substantial presence, alongside Gripping Beast.  There were demo games of the Crescent and the Cross and Saga in evidence:

Using figures from the new plastic starter sets
One thing I noticed was the boxes of Plastic starter armies that were news to me.  The starter armies include four points of plastic figures and it appears  slimmed down playsheets & rules may be included (?).  Certainly the German demo set featured slimmed down rules for the Viking and Saxon starter sets.

As mentioned in the previous part of my coverage, all the big players in fantasy skirmish games were present, the scale and organisation of their stands put the best British operations to shame, here for example is the Corvus Belli stand for Infinity, which was always packed:
The demonstration games featured great figures, and great terrain, as was becoming commonplace.  But the massed spectacle of big wargames was never there.  Not that for these games that is every the intent:

Very pretty models
Very pretty scenery
As an aside, a portion of the show, maybe 10% or so - which is still a huge amount of floorspace - is devoted to comics, roleplaying, LARP and Cosplay.  Lots of trade stands were selling all kind of weird, including some fruity Japanese versions of 80's duelling books, cuddly Cthulhu's, nerd mouse-mats and rubber armour.  At one stage I ran into these guys harassing the comic artists:

Skaven get everywhere
 Not featured, pictures of The Joker and Harlequin that virtually every comic fanboy took (so they could trim the Joker out later, if you catch my drift).

Meanwhile with our wargaming theme still in mind I found the Rubicon Models stand and got pictures of their upcoming prototypes and current models:

 Some interesting choices there and the quality of the models are great.  I may have a project for some of these in future and I know they'll get my money over Warlord's equivalents every time.  No offence Warlord!

Time for a gaming break, for the last couple of hours we tottered around the show playing whatever we could.  Prodigals Club was a moderately complex Euro styled worker placement game about losing all your money and upsetting polite society.  Think of it as playing Terry Thomas in any film ever, or living the life of an Eton graduate with a role in politics:

I'm about to insult society with my knowledge of horseflesh
 Opinions were divided on this, with me and one other player loving it and the other two failing to be sold on the concepts.  I think in one case essentially playing a cad did not sit well on their moral compass.  I wonder what it says about me that it seemed like a delightful conceit?

Back to Mega Civilization, seeing it laid out on a table made it apparent just how massive it was...

Just the board and some of the components
We found a couple more games to play, winding up with the lightest fare of the weekend to close.  Looney Quest was a drawing game emulating the style of platform games.  Essentially you draw simple lines and shapes to hit or encircle targets on an image, of course you don't get to use the image to do it and you only have 30 seconds to get this done.  It was a simple, fun family game and a nice way to wind up the show.

Sunday night at the hotel was a quieter affair but revolved around the usual activities as our little group, now swelled to six, played more games and figured out the packing.  Monday was a free day but no one had any firm plans for it and in the end we just wandered around Essen in a fairly chilled manner until it was time to go home.  Essen it turns out has a lot of Goth shops, and German food is of course amazing, if you like meat, cheese and bread.

Thanks go to Matt and Joe for organising the trip.  It was a grand time.  I did think I might get gaming fatigue by about halfway in, but it was more like one of my snowboarding trips - you had all the time in the world to do what you went for, but no pressure to if you'd rather just relax; which tended to mean doing as much of the activity as you can rather than feeling pressured to do it and not wanting to.  I can't recall the last time I played so many games in such a short time.

Would I recommend it?


If you enjoy board games, you'll not find more choice than there is here, and if you can justify the visit as a holiday itself then the savings on games are phenomenal, most games are only 50-75% of UK prices.  Conversely miniatures pricing was more varied, but if you could buy it at home that would generally make more sense.  The opportunity for getting new releases is another big factor, but to have the best chance of finding what you want, be there in the queue to get in about 8am Thursday.  Sunday is bargains day, by which point companies with an eye on shipping costs for unsold stock and the bottom line are slashing prices everywhere.  The day to skip, Saturday certainly, just so busy!  And if all else fails, there's no better place to try before you buy.  All day long.

So, will I do it again?  Very probably.  Next time; road trip?....