Monday, May 25, 2009

New look magazine

Whilst I was away the company behind the enormously successful Flames of War (Battlefront Miniatures) has procured the long established Wargames Illustrated, The Last I knew, it was still operated by Duncan Mcfarlane (whom, to name drop I once had a pint with, and more remarkably, managed to extract payment for an article from!).

Now, I can't pretend to know the reasons behind his selling the magazine, though I guess there are several obvious contenders, but from first sight it is obvious why Battlefront would seek to buy it. Reading through the magazine now in its' revamped format is a mixed experience. Compared to one of last years issues I had lying around, it is a thicker volume, as it states proudly itself on the cover. The new thickness seems to allow for more in depth articles, and this certainly must be a good thing, however it is very apparent that almost, if not every, article is written with an agenda.

I don't think there is an article that isn't directly plugging a product, most obviously Flames of War itself - clearly WI is now to become the official organ for pushing this game system, no more Rapid fire articles I'm sure! By my count there are 23 pages devoted to FOW. But that aside there isn't an unbiased, non-selling article. I know things have been moving this way, but it is really obvious the difference to a couple of years ago.

Of course many won't mind that at all. After all many gamers nowadays do not look beyond the glossy published systems. In an age of new populism in wargaming (as I see it any way), the simple, hassle free route of straight forward full colour rule books, massive supplementary guidance and units in a box, requiring no research to get the ratio's right, it would be counter intuitive for the most read magazine on the subject to support obscurism. For the obscure, there is the Internet; WI has to play it safe and go mass market.

And with that does come some positives, Battlefront's clout means that the articles can now be supported by top notch production values; lifting maps and other material from Osprey publications to support several articles. The realigning of the magazine as a purely historical gaming magazine, will doubtless please many too.

Overall, I remain divided. I admit I've never been a regular buyer of the magazine, generally picking it up only when there were specific articles of interest, probably about two or three times a year. It is in some respects an improved package; but that comes with a massive caveat of every article seeming like an advert for something - in other words it's gone a bit Games Workshop. Slick but surprisingly - despite that extra content - a bit shallow; soulless.

For those who would rather, there is still Miniature Wargames of course. Maybe I should pick up a copy to do some comparisons...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Out of Practice...

It seems that if I want to set optimistic expectations beforehand and then have them crash to earth in spectacular failure; I can do little worse than set myself a painting goal for while I'm out on the winter season.

Once again the blend of working/snowboarding by day, usually also working in the evenings and then the easy temptations of a cheap bar - not to mention terrible accomodation space and lighting, resulted in precisely FOUR painting sessions over the course of the last 5 months. I can't pretend to be surprised though, and at least this time I've actually finished some figures.

So here are the first half of a unit of ACW Union infantry - The 27th New York.

As can be seen from the close ups below, some of the work is a little grubby, the blue jackets in particular do not look so good under the microscope. But those parts were done in less than ideal conditions.

Still given the actual size of the mini's I think some of the later detailing I managed is ok. And when based up properly I'm sure they will look fine.

As an aside, I'm rather taken with the old-school, toy soldier finish of the bases, something very traditional about how they look at the moment.

And so this brings me to the Pledge once again, for it's second year. Trawling the forums I find the pledge is alive and well, in various guises. So I signed up to the same one from last year, and I may as well keep you informed of the progress here. Well it is pretty obvious from the above what I've achieved, but here goes:
Figures bought: 0
Figures sold: 0
Figures painted: 9
I aim to start the rest of this unit in the coming days, but as I leave France on Thursday, and need to set up home in the UK again in the next two weeks, progress is unlikely to be fast.
Still, things are shifting into their summer pattern again.

Monday, May 04, 2009

First [solo] game of the year!

Hurrah! I held up on a promise to myself, and despite the easy temptations of DVD's, a bar next door and large sofas'; I managed to set aside a couple of hours to try the Trafalgar rules out.

The Pirates cards I'd picked up on saturday supplied a total of 6 ships, two [in game terms] mid sized multi-deckers, three standard single deckers and a large schooner type. It was easy to define the multi deckers as ships of the line, and the smaller boats as frigates; the schooner was not a lot of use though. Still I had enough to get something together.

A quick flick through the fleet lists and I decided on a small engagment between a French Ship of the Line - L'Hercule, and a pair of Portugese 6th rate frigates - El Rayo and La Trinidad (captured from the Spanish with a name like that, no doubt!). That worked out neatly at 200 points a side. The rules suggest games of 500-2000 points, and we'll discuss the practicality of that later.

As shown in the first photo, the French ship started some distance from the two Portugese vessels, closing in on it independantly. They were running with what turned out to be a squally wind.

One of the Portugese ships prepared it's guns with double shot and managed to cut across the bows of the French ship, firing as it did so. The damage to the hull of L'Hercule was significant but not yet critical. L'Hercule swung away from the El Rayo and instead exchanged broadsides with La Trinidad. Damage was light, and both sides temporarily disengaged as they found themselves against the wind.

Although it had lost its' Caronades (short range heavy howitzers), L'Hercule was still a potent source of firepower; and using the French skill in aiming at enemy masts, it was able to savage the El Rayo on its' second pass. Destroying two masts. It was then able to turn on La Trinidad, which although managing to retaliate in some kind (causing dangerous losses in the French Crew) was set afire and then left helpless; whilst the crew first tried to quench the fires and thence to save themselves.

At the Victory was to the French. L'Hercule was battered but managed to destroy one Frigate and force the other to strike its' colours. The Portugese had the advantage of numbers and were initially able to run rings around the lumbering giant, but when they found themselves disadvantaged by the wind the vast firepower of the French was able to bear with devastating effect.
So, thoughts on the rules now I've tried them. Well, I'm sure there is nothing too new here, but the sailing rules work well enough; ships cannot move around at will, their actions are dictated by the wind - as they should be, and the command roll works well enough to limit the use of complex maneouvers. The initiative system is sensible, but in smaller games certainly will allow those who move last a very significant advantage for making bow or stern attacks on the enemy - the most devastating kind. The fire rules are exactly the sort you'd expect from a 'Warhammer' game, but the damage system works well.
The main criticism I'd say at this point is the time a game may take. Now this was just three ships, and solo play, so there were no disputes or discussions of rules. Still it took an hour and a half to play to a point where the result was clear. I think a 500 point game would take easily two to three hours, and for anything larger I'm sure you would need either an entire day or several players per side.
Still overall it works well, and I'll be pleased to introduce the rules to other players.
Once again the Pirates ships served their purpose well; but in this case I can also be pleased that my duvet cover happened to be a nice shade of blue! It's a good job that scenery wasn't needed! My socks are fairly unconvincing as the Iberian coast...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

New posts are obviously lacking

I know, it's not a good showing in the last two or more months; and this doesn't really serve to do much more than refresh my blog's status on other peoples blogs/in their minds. Still it is a slightly relevant post.

I'm still in France, covering some odd jobs until the end of May at present. But as last year, thoughts are turning back to gaming. Today I even managed to visit my first gaming shop in five months, whilst hanging around in Annecy. My only purchases, after some garbled French, was a few packs of Pirates cards; ideal for allowing me to test the Trafalgar rules; which I hope to do so, in a solo fashion in the next few days.

Additionally in the last couple of months I managed to read two Paddy Griffiths' books on the American civil war: "Battle Tactics of the American Civil War" and another illustrated one whose title escapes me but is basically the same. Both are very good and Paddy does a convincing job of dispelling the myths that have developed in relation to the war and why it was fought the way it was. Both good reads too.

Anyway; there is a glimmer of gaming hope on the horizon; but for now I must return to the mountains.

A demain....