Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Greek Bowmen from the Factory

So as suggested in my review last week, here are some pictures of one of the possibilities the Wargames Factory Numidians offer.

Here I’ve produced 16 bowmen, the models were a simple job to paint, and so I waited until they were finished before adding them to the blog.

The shot below shows the four basic body types in the set as a sample of the poses you can produce.

The paint job as said; simple. I undercoated a tan-brown shade, which made painting the flesh and red shades easy. I tried washes on the tunics on this batch with mixed results, by which I mean acceptable but not really satisfactory. Still it produced a quick job.

So do I still think the models are really good?

Yes I do.

These also stand as the first additions to my Spartan army (of the historical sort rather than the fantastical, movie based type) in almost two years. But thanks to these lovely little plastic models, there's more to come…

Monday, September 28, 2009


Though many of my English Civil War units are marching under historical banners, few of the units are as specific as this one, with a well known historical provenance.
The Parliamentarian army, especially early in the wars, tended towards the conservative Dutch school of cavalry tactics, approaching at a trot to fire pistols, and withdraw until the foe was disordered enough to fall before a steady advance. In this respect heavy armour, which was largely disappearing from the battlefield was still of some value, and Sir Hesilrige’s troop of horse wore as much as possible; earning the epithet 'London's Lobsters'.
They served in the south west and saw a number of actions, including Landsowne (5 July 1643), Roundway Down (13 July 1643) and Cheriton (29 March 1644).

The figures are of unknown provenance, single piece castings in a brittle metal. Very old; but nonetheless nicely detailed. I managed to rescue the damaged ones and as a consequence add an officer with drawn sword and a standard bearer. The standard is all of 15mm square!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Terrain Rant

How do you set up your terrain?

I’m not talking about how you make it, for this question that is markedly less important; but when you set up a table for a game, how do you go about it.

I ask because in my increasingly curmudgeonly old ways I find that terrain is often laid out in a way that is neither realistic, nor interesting. Even handedness on the wargames table looks rubbish, and makes games less than they should be.

It’s something that I encounter all too often in your everyday games. Particularly Games Workshop, and GW influenced, systems suffer from what I can only call the “aerial Bombardment” principal of terrain layout. It is placed on the table in an entirely random fashion with no regard for logic, looking like it was dropped in from space:

Ruins, sit out of context in a jumble across the room, clearly on most battlefields town planners were the first up against the wall. Woods and forests grow in tiny isolated clumps of a half dozen trees, often in the middle of fields’ bounded by walls running sometimes as far as twenty feet. Roads and rivers are almost unheard of, or if present serve no purpose whatsoever.

I would point out that the rules for most games, GW included do not promote this sort of tosh. But most gamers are simply too lazy, or too keen on ‘competitive’ terrain to do much else.

Competition taken to extremes sees the sort of mathematically precise terrain that whilst less random looks terrible, seldom is very convincing and is really only there to produce an abstracted tactical problem. DBM and it’s successors are the most memorable of this genre for me, rules that also aim for some sort of geeky mathematical perfection and are very closely married to the concept of competition style play.

There are many other layouts that are engineered for completely equal play where the battlefield is completely neutral to the forces deployed. Here’s the best known type in the world:

A standardised size, lines of deployment are clearly marked on the play area for convenience, and in case any element is in someway unbalanced, the players are required to swap ends half way through. Now if only football was played with equally pointed forces (is £20 million each side a fair equivalent to 2000 points)…

Some games I’ve played, especially ancients dispensed with the inconvenience of scenery at all. Well at least there weren’t actually many roads or buildings around then. Hell of a lot of trees and rough ground though.

In short, it’s not very realistic. And if our games are to represent the reality of warfare in any respect, then terrain must be taken into consideration. Consider a handful of battles for example. The terrain at Cahrrae allowed an entire Roman army to be ambushed, trapped and destroyed. At Stamford Bridge, the Saxon army was held at bay by a token force defending the one bridge. At Agincourt the lie of the land, where the English deployed across a dry ridge which drained either side into land unsuitable for knights, funnelled the French attack into a suicidally narrow assault. And I’m only dealing with the ancient and medieval – empty table – periods there. Later it would be impossible to imagine any battlefield commander finding space for more than a couple of regiments without a ditch, wall, orchard, village or other human interference with nature getting in the way. By the twentieth century, the dimensions of battle and the closeness of the terrain were ever more extensive, and varied.

Not many blobs randomly strewn around though, not unless you are representing battles in an eighteenth century country estate.

Good terrain, doesn’t need to be the sort you see in the magazines, and drool over at shows, it simply has to represent the battlefields as they actually ‘are’. At least thematically, you don’t need to refight over historical ground, but it’s surely better to consider the scale of the game and the nature of the ground in the period, if applicable.

For example, in the dark ages battles were sometimes conducted in an enclosed field, a kind of duel. The scale of the forces being fairly small, you could easily represent this as a wargame by taking a small table and placing a boundary right around the edge. Then having no terrain in the field (save a tree or two) might be justified, as there would be no easy way to retreat.

Later the size of the armies gets much larger, after the agricultural revolution in the 1700’s fields in western Europe got smaller, and as a result you’d be lucky to get a battalion into a single field, the difficulty of crossing one and making an assault, adding to the woes of many an army under fire. The propensity of Armies to seek out moors to fight on aside, this has to be a consideration.

By the second world war, the fields of Normandy became veritable fortifications for the Germans slowing down the allied advance any way it could.

And that’s only farmland.

So in conclusion. The next time you lay out the terrain for a game, why not take a little more time laying out the table. Consider the background for the game, what sort of things would be commonplace? Take into account the scale (Ancient armies could line up on a single hill, later armies occupied high ground and ridges, but how often do you have a hill on table capable of holding more than one unit?). Why not set up a specific tactical challenge, like a river you can’t just tip-toe across, or make half the table a solid forest.

And for gods sake, make it at least look like it might make sense!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

They never stop

It's reaching a point where I don't need the money, but it does make the pledge painting totals look good, and so yet another battalion of Rapid Fire infantry has been finished.

This lot represent a more mid-war setup, lacking rocket propelled anti tank weapons, having an anti tank gun instead; the oft overlooked Pak 38, an effective 50mm weapon. This one is made by Britannia Miniatures again.

The Camoflague smacks came out really well, the dapple on the autumn patterns has worked nicely and is one of my favourite finishes. I may even do some like this for my own forces, to keep!

Some of the advancing poses you can do with a little effort from the second Valiant set of Germans are really nice. The first set was a little flat in this regard, but Valiant are improving. Look carefully however and you notice many of the set one dolls are reused in set two...

Anyway, another 45 models to the good, and another little injection of cash. That helps make up for buying 56 Numidians last week!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thugged Again!

Well lax organisation on my part meant I ended up playing another game of Warhammer with my Dogs of War against the Warriors of Chaos. Again it was a close match, but this time I was fairly early on assured of a defeat, despite some forces performing well.

I was very magic and hero heavy in a 2000 point game, exploiting the DoW ability to field more characters than normal; I ended up with six, including a level 4 and level 2 mage. Early on my right flank hammered him, whilst the left was held by the ogres. My mages opened well on his heavy units, but thereafter he did everything in his power to neutralise them.

Note for the future. Do not attach two characters to a unit of ten Bodyguards who couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag. I either need to double the size of the unit or simply let the characters roam free instead. As it was a unit of Chaos Knights charged them down and with that a quarter of my army and two thirds of its' magic disappeared.

Still despite that early setback, the cavalry and skirmishers were acting in concert as an excellent team (rather like Ancient German tactics I think, hmm). My token Cannon was whacking great chunks out of the enemy too, until its' crew finally quit the field.

Alas the losses of solid units were racking up, and it was only a matter of time before his heavies finished me off. I destroyed his light horse and thugs but in the end lost everything but my Knights, a couple of Ogres and Captain on the Winged Lion.
It was a pretty clear victory for Chaos, but I had at least made them work for it. Learning points. More cannon and Crossbows, plus another unit of skirmishers to support my de-facto cavalry unit of Ogres. Lose the useless bodyguard, and avoid clustering value targets.

Maybe next time...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wargames Factory: Numidians - the most useful plastics ever?

The lengthy title is almost a review in itself. The latest set from this American company is my first foray into their products but it's the one I really took an interest in.

First of all I must commend them on their packaging, in an age of waste it is about as 'green' a product as this much plastic could hope to be, the sprues are small and packed into a simple plastic bag with a minimum of attractively presented card to promote them. The packaging recommends recycling programs and is even packed in a way to promote community projects. Excellent; and we've not even talked about the models yet.

You get seven each of two different sprues, one with four torsos and a variety of arms, and the other with weapons, shields, bow arms heads and so forth. This allows you to make a total of 28 figures, up to half of which can be bowmen. Any or all of the figures can be equipped as javelinmen, swordsmen or slingers; and there are parts to make a plentiful supply of leaders, musicians and standard bearers for those who need them.

The poses are good (photo's to follow in a subsequent post) and generally pretty active, they certainly make for lively skirmishers. The assembly is pretty solid, with well engineered joints for the arms. There are only two points I wasn't keen on, the sheathed sword supplied is rather chunky, and the round bases to the necks of the heads tend to leave an unconvincing crevice when glued. This is an easy fix if it really bothers you though.

I understand these are computer designed masters, if so the technology still can't quite match what a human sculptor can, but it isn't far off. The detail is softer in places than GW/Perry/Victrix/Warlord plastics, but for this subject nothing is lost by that, elsewhere thought has produced excellent touches, such as the horn tips to the bows and the short swords, which moulded edge on have resulted in the slimmest of plastic blade, and look lovely.

Painted samples from Wargames Factory's own website

However the very best thing about these models is how very generic they are. The image of assembled samples above will give you some idea of what they look like out the box. Off the top of my head the following possibilities present themselves:

  • Greek light infantry - no changes really
  • Greek unarmoured Hoplites - due to the style of the helmets included these would particularly suit Sparta and her allied cities; which is good for me, these first two ideas are where my models are going. All that is needed is some new longer spears
  • Carthaginian light and early citizen infantry
  • Judean rebels, for the uprisings against Selucia and Rome
  • Slave revolters
  • Roman Roarii or Penal legions, simply swap the shields
  • Roman or Italic Leves and Psiloi
  • Cretan Archers
  • Celtic slingers or javelinmen - perhaps add baggy leggings, but that'd be it really
  • Later Spanish and Iberian skirmishers
  • Medieval Peasant levies in the warmer climes of the Mediterranean
  • Dogs of War Duellists - yes even Fantasy games!
  • Empire Militia for warmer climes

You get the picture. What we have here is the most useful set of plastic figures yet produced. I've bought two sets and together they will provide three large new units for my spartan army, without adding to the weight of the box, or costing an arm and a leg.

I got my models, Via EBay from Veni Vedi Vici, one of the first stockist in the UK at a very respectable £12 per pack plus £2.40 P&P.

If you do Ancient gaming, in 28mm these will surely find a place in your armies. Well worth the effort and I applaud Wargames Factory for the vision to produce them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mainly Royalists...

A little bit of painting progress to report, though in general painting, and gaming has not been at the top of my list of priorities in the last week. However, in that ongoing effort to clear away unpainted lead and plastic, I’ve rooted out my 15mm English Civil War and started getting a few done again.

Firstly a unit of Royalist Horse.

And secondly a Royalist Saker gun.

Both units were done with a simple black lining technique, which I find suits 15mm well and is quick to do; simply undercoat black and then just paint up to the edges of everything, leaving a little black line showing. It doesn’t matter even if you slip up, most of the time; it’s generally all too small to notice. That said I highlighted the gun a fair bit.

As to the figures, well, I’ve owned them for about 12 years, but they came to me from another gamer as a job lot. Some I recognise, there are the fat-arsed horse of ‘Hinchcliffe’, the thin blobby figures of ‘Warrior’ and the chunky goblins of ‘Heroics-Ros’ amongst them, but others are beyond me. Safe to say a few of them are well over 20 years old and many would now more likely be classed a 12mm scale rather than 15mm.

Elsewhere I finished another bane of the painting table, an Elven Mage for my Dogs of War Army. He’s been on the go for 18 months now; and I’ll not be sorry to stick him in a box and not try to paint around the overly complex pose again!

Incidentally, this is my 200th post; not bad for three and a half years...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dogs vs. Thugs

Many’s the time I’ve heard it said, by the less competitive type of gamer, that Warhammer is a much better game with all the gimmicks taken out.. Heck, I’ll subscribe to that argument; it’s one reason why I prefer (though get to play less) Warhammer Ancients. My match against James the other week benefited from an agreement that we would only use painted models, no problem for me, but it meant that the size of the game was restricted to his available troops, 1300 points of.

As a result the only monster on table was my Dogs of War Pegasus/winged lion mounting the Captain (General), the magic was limited to one wizard each, and the Chaos army I faced was a pretty straight affair, without fistfuls of overpowered types. Indeed, some of them were distinctly weak; so I thought.

The initial deployment suited me well; I was able to put the core, though rather brittle elements, of my army on a narrow frontage with covered flanks. The overall effect suited me more than James, who outnumbered me badly (surprisingly I’d say, but I know enough of GW army lists to be sure that his force would be cheaper per man than my not-officially-sanctioned list).

My magic, limited as it was, also helped frustrate him early by stopping one of his cavalry units moving; as it sat directly in front of his lines a traffic jam ensued. Meanwhile I kept his cavalry on the flanks at arms reach and manoeuvred my Captain, the only flying model round to his rear. My Pikes advanced and the crossbowmen covered them.

My high-water mark came with the swift destruction of all his cavalry, some was outfought by my powerful knights (Voland’s Venators – a Regiment of Renown that packs a decent punch and comes with its’ own hero), whilst others either were shot into rout or fell upon the bristling pikes of my infantry, which James quickly discovered was suicide.

However, I couldn’t make the same impact on the Chaos warriors and soon my flank was turning, it was all down to the arrival of the flanking forces. Whilst the surviving pikemen turned to face the Chaos warriors the Venators and my Captain charged another unit of thugs. Our only hope was breaking it and gutting the enemy formation.

Sadly, despite slaughtering them in masses, they held thanks to their enormous rank bonus and unit size. The chance to rescue the Pikes passed and all was lost.

The Rule of new units applied to this entertaining little game. I’m sure you know it, in my case the green pike were mutilated by the fighting power of the Chaos warriors, but curiously for a first outing the Dwarven crossbows suffered no casualties and stood the entire game. On James’ end some of his units were useless, mostly new ones, but his Chaos warriors (with the big brown cloaks and bigger axes) won him the day with a steamroller-esque performance.

A good looking game, and for future reference a good size of game too.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Book Review: The Lion & The Union

A lucky find in my local library is one of the few in depth studies on the history of the little known Anglo-American war of 1812-1815. A war which is mainly known just for the burning of the White House, and the writing of 'The Star Spangled Banner', a war that had one of its' largest land battles after the peace treaties had been signed for many weeks.

From the wargamers standpoint the book is a mixed feast, Kate is very readable, but nonetheless spends the first half of the book - some 140 pages - dealing with the political context and run up to the war. Once she gets on to the matter of the war though it certainly holds the attention and throws up all manner of interesting skirmishes and small scale actions for the wargamer to try to represent. For example attacks across the frozen St Lawrence with artillery mounted on sleighs! However, there are few maps, which makes following the spatial details difficult, and the native American aspect is covered very thinly.

Perhaps the biggest problem is the simple one of keeping track of the many characters and which side they are on. Some of the rival commanders held office for fairly short periods, and of course there is little to distinguish and American name from a British one. Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile read, and one which should be in the collection of anyone with an interest in the war.

Sifting through the material will give you details of dozens of engagements, unit sizes and organisation (for example, locally raised Canadian light companies numbered 41 men), and the odd uniform detail too.

Published in 1978, expect to find this only on reputable book selling sites like Abebooks.co.uk or in your local second hand specialists.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Buffs and a Proper Comparison

After a lot of sidetracking, and some delays, I finally knuckled down over the Bank-Holiday to finishing another unit of Napoleonics. Here we have the 3rd East Kent, or Buffs, as I consider them to have appeared in 1809-10:

It's my now standard layout of 24 figures, with four 40mm square stands for Fusiliers and Grenadiers, two 40x20mm stands for command figures; and four 20mm square stands for the Light Company.

Sadly, during the process of painting these guys, one of my better brushes expired so the very finest details are compromised. Still they look OK en-masse. I experimented with not doing a highlight for some of the fiddliest details, notably the cuff and coat lacing; it saved some frustration and doesn't really affect the finish, but I think everything else remains essential. I reckon this lot took around 16 hours all in.
And so here is where the army stands so far. A total of 78 figures:

Now, I am in a position to give a direct comparison of like for like on the Victrix and Perry models. My definitive word on the matter. To this end I photographed a sample of each:

Victrix on Left, Perry on Right

I opted for basically similar poses to give a reasonable comparison. As I've mentioned before, the Victrix are more diverse, and therefore, flexible pose wise. The detailing of both is good, and so far as I can see reasonably accurate. If anything the Victrix has more detail sculpted onto the models. However, the Perry miniature is clearly a lot more proportioned, and where detail is missed it is because it would look out of scale if included.
Look for example at the muskets, particularly the size of the stock and the consequent size of the hand holding it.
(At this point a quick word on assembly, as I've touched on this in odler posts. The Victrix moulds cram more pieces onto them and as a result use more attachment points to getthe plastic around to every part. Some of their pieces are fixed to the sprue in five places. The enginerring of the Victrix is generally good, but the ambitious posing sometimes suffers. The Perry win out by keeping it simple.)

Round the back of the figure there are similar issues, and here the Victrix figure loses out a bit more to the Perry. The moulded-on canteen on the Victrix seems too large and although more detailed, does not look as nice as the Perry one, which is fixed to the knapsack instead. The Victrix pack moreover is very slim compared to the Perry one. Both may be right, but aesthetically the Perry pack looks nicer, and is easier to paint too.
The worst feature of the Victrix model must be the bread bag though, which looks more like a 70's hand bag, and covers an often enormous looking bayonet sheath. Incidentally, the Victrix figure here, happens to have one of the least caricatured heads. Most are hairy monsters and painting in the eyes was an impossibility. By comparison the Perry heads lack a bit of character, but are easier again, to paint.
In summary, both models are good, but the Perries are on an individual basis, better.
If you can stand to have every line infantry unit in your army look the same, then they are the ones to go for. If you want variety though, you will need Victrix.
Or metal, I suppose...

Friday, September 04, 2009

This week, I are mostly been playing boardgames

Ok so a couple of weeks without a figures game oddly enough. A refreshing change.

First on the lists is a really old boardgame: Quebec 1759. This falls into the category of simple to learn difficult to master. The aim is to seize Quebec from the French, or defend it depending on your point of view. As it turned out I could achieve neither. But as a quick wargame it is an interesting little proposition, logistics and planning are critical to a victory, even though there are in effect less than a dozen spaces on the board.

Elsewhere the upstairs crowd at the NightOwls were playing other games; Thursday night is one for all Boardgame fans, with a large selection of Eurogames and wargames actually owned by the club. For example; Puerto Rico, a trading based game:

And so after my drubbing at Quebec 1759, I joined the chaps for a civilised game of Alhambra; rapidly becoming a favourite of mine, though about as un-military as you can get!

The aim of the game is to build the grandest and best appointed palatial garden. It really is the sort of game only the Euro's would invent, but it is clever and fun. This time at my third attempt of the game I came out as the winner to boot. Sweet! This game is well worth a try and is the sort of thing that can easily replace Cluedo or Monopoly at the family get-togethers.

I doubt you could say the same of what I played on Sunday however; Chaos in the Old World.

My expectations weren't high, as it was based on Games Workshop material and their love of drooling spiky Daemons. Fortunately, what I soon discovered was a great little game made under Licence by Fantasy Flight Games. The aim is naturally become top-dog in the daemon realms by dominating and corrupting (taking control of) the most territory. The game takes four players, and although the basic aims are the same, each player has their own additional victory paths.
I was Purple by the way, Slannesh, so as you can see haveily involved in the action in this area!

In fact what looked like a forgone conclusion actually turned out to be a close run thing when we checked at the end of the game. It turned out any one of us could have won on the last turn, and one more turn of delay, and we would have all lost.
Again, if you enjoy, or can get past the background; this is a really good game, which only takes a couple of hours to learn and play.

Of course there have been figure games over the last couple of weeks and so here are a few snaps of some of the best bits, firstly Dan's beautiful and rather cheeky Daemon familiar army:

And secondly, more from Pat and John's WW2 Blitzkrieg Commander:

And lastly some 18th century chaps in 15mm:

*Fast Show reference in the title folks.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

August Pledge report

September arrives, the promise of full time labour is on the horizon, hurrah; and the so called summer is on the wane. August turned out to be mostly ideal weather for painting, and aside from the other stuff already reported, the following have come off the table before the end of the month.

First up a workaday job of a US Infantry Battalion for Rapid Fire and ultimately Ebay,

The Anti Tank gun is by Britannia Miniatures; cheap at £3.50, but a dog to build; which is partly I suspect because the gun in real life was quite a light piece, and partly because it looks like the model was based on the Airfix kit!

I'm in the midst of selling off my Eldar Army, which I fell out of love with long ago, and was taking up space for no good reason. Amongst the unsellable detritous was this rather knackered Vyper JetBike, which too about two hours to turn into a fine piece of scenery. Still only counts as one model for my purposes today though!

The painting technique is based on my Weathered Vehicles tutorial, but I also experimented with burning as an effect. The black boundary between the metal and red being the limit of the scorching. It looks ok, but needs more practice. The ground isn't damaged as clearly, its' been like that for a while; that's my excuse anyway.
As soon as it was finished I donated it to my local gaming club.
The sharp eyed may have noticed this Ork Warboss in the background of a number of shots over the months. In fact he'd loitered on my painting tray all summer long. But I finally finished him; next stop eBay!

With all these oddments, I didn't finish another Napoleonic unit, though after a few hours yesterday they aren't far off. I was distracted part way through though by this unit of Carolingian/Ottonian foot.
All cleaned up Lords of the Rings Rohan figures - helmet crests and needless horse emblems removed - except for two similarly treated Foundry late Roman Auxilaries. Sadly I got the wash a bit wrong, and so they are darker than I like. Still for a few hours work to clear away another leftover, I'm not too bothered.

The maths is boggling my mind a bit today, and so this may not be absolutely bang on; but I make my totals for today as follows:
  • Bought: 468
  • Painted: 492
  • Sold: 174
There's at least another 100 models in the process of selling too. The purchases were all Valiant plastics, destined for commission jobs and eBay, exceptin ten Napoleonics figures I picked up cheap.
As can be seen I'm only just ahead of my self, but considering the number of models I've actually baough, being on top of the pile is enough. I don't need to buy any more just now, and have got hold of my old unfinished English Civil War and Zulu War forces at last, giving me lots to be getting on with. I've no idea how many models are officially added to my own collection as a result.
Not that it is important really, I don't want to make a habit of number crunching that, as well!