Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Yet more Gernans

If in doubt, paint Germans, they're virtually a license to print money even in these difficult times.

Another rapid fire commission job for foreign markets. This is a heavily reinforced Rapid Fire battalion, featuring regimental anti tank, artillery and heavy support troops. 9 figures more than a normal large battalion and 17 more than a regular battalion.

For this order the client wanted the support weapons and models singly based wherever possible. Personally I don't like the look, there is no way of making the gun crews interact properly with the weapon. Still they're paying so it's their call!

The Paypal fund will be looking pleasing after this sale, which is nice as I've got my eye on a new media player with twice the storage, that'll set me back a cool 200 notes. not to mention just dropping £28 on a regiment of Napoleonic Portuguese infantry from Front Rank Miniatures...

Monday, April 26, 2010

First thoughts on Black Powder

Now, the observant amongst you will have spotted that I’ve already played the Blackpowder rules a few weeks ago, and aside from that they have been on release for a few months now. Nonetheless, thanks to all that lovely money rolling in to my Paypal account of late I was able to painlessly pick up a copy of the rules; and so it seemed appropriate to expand upon them.

It has to be said firstly that the production values of the rulebook are as high, if not higher than any other set within their market; the book is 184 hardbound pages and full colour throughout, lavishly illustrated and with both clear rules and a rich supporting text.

Before getting to the particulars of the rules themselves it is worth saying that the style of writing of the book as a whole, is very personable and truly focused on the pleasure of the game rather than a lawyerish obsession with rule definitions or the button counters fanaticism for minutiae of historical detail. People who enjoy that sort of thing should look elsewhere; but those who want to enjoy reading their rule books and wish to return to the book for game inspiration more than for reference sheets and army lists will relish this book.

If a wargamer would ever dare advertise themselves so blatantly, this is a coffee table book of glossy images of figures and games, entertaining side notes, informative text, oh and a pretty straightforward set of rules.

So what of the rules; well it is in many cases fairly simple stuff, based as many people will be aware on Games Workshops old Warmaster system. That said it has developed in its own way and is not simply Warmaster with guns. The main principle of the rules is the command and control system, which can allow troops to conduct daring and ambitious moves within a turn, but only if the commander has both the rolls and the vision to back it up.

For example, a regiment of cavalry could make a sweeping manoeuvre round an enemies flank, if it rolls low enough below its command rating it could carry out three successive moves; but if the commander lacks the will to do this and gives a conservative order to approach slowly to a point in line with his other units, that’s the most they’ll do.

In short it is order driven, but rather than writing orders in advance, the commanders must announce their orders to the opponent before attempting to carry them out. Limited experience shows this to work well amongst gentlemen players, but I have reservations about how a died in the wool WAAC gamer may treat such a system.

For moving and shooting ranges are specified to not be down to the millimetre, which I approve of; but this can again be abused. Combat as well as shooting is conducted with the venerable D6, and is very simple; if a unit takes typically three casualties or more it starts to be in trouble. Larger units and special rules vary the effect and point at which this matters.

So far it is all generic enough, but as mentioned, special rules give the historical flavour that is a must, and they fall broadly into the fixed and the optional.

Some rules always apply, such as those for formations such as skirmishers or warband; or always apply in certain periods to all troop – e.g. Napoleonic troops all have the ‘Must Form Square’ special rule. Others are optional; such as ‘Steady’ (pass first break test automatically) or Bloodthirsty (re-roll misses in first combat round). It’s a very GW convention the rule by exception, as I like to call it; and in some cases it can ruin a game. But here they are not prescribed to any one army, it is for the players to decide which apply to whom. For example in one of the example battles in the book the authors rate Zulu’s as fairly mundane troops, whereas I would be tempted to give many of them Bloodthirsty, Superbly Drilled and Valiant special rules.

Doing something like that of course could affect the balance of a game, and the authors are at great pains to stress game balance, use of scenarios rather than straight fights and a non dependence on points based army lists. Players of the game are expected to be able to assemble balanced or historical armies themselves rather than have the rules attempt to dictate one to them. Given the historical scope of the book, the idea of army lists would be untenable anyway – ‘Napoleon’ by comparison uses well over a third of it’s page count on Napoleonic lists only, and then provides a very incomplete collection.

Contrary to what many people have suggested, a points system is included, but players are not expected to rely upon it and it is not really for the purpose of competition games.

Overall, Blackpowder represents a more classically orientated style of gaming than some of it’s contemporaries, it has no pretence of pandering to the competition gamer, rather it eminently suits the tactical puzzle, scenario player or historical re-fight enthusiast. Having read it I know I will be digging out the Charles Grant books for scenario’s that’ll work straight out the box – so to speak – for a natural supplement to the rules. They seem to achieve their goal of covering the period of the 18th and 19th centuries reasonably well; though to ensure they do so, knowledge and restraint have to also be applied by the players.

All in all this seems to be a promising set of rules for the grown-up wargamer. I look forward to giving them a try with my own Brits and Zulu’s, and maybe the ACW and Napoleonics at some point soon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Barba del Puerco 1810

Our second game of Napoleon of the month, oh the novelty! Again Neil raided the stockpile of Sharpe books for a scenario, or combination of two to create a game based on the armies we used previously, with a couple of additions.

The British were to raise a holy relic over the Church of the village, and had two Brigades of the finest foot troops, along with some Cavalry and allied Spanish infantry to carry out the task. At dawn the French had a Brigade of infantry in the Villages in positions of defence (which as it turned out were very valuable, but they were all too ready to leave to counterattack), a small artillery and foot detachment guarded the bridge out of the village, over which reserves would arrive.

The British came on in a fine array of lines, though irrefutably unsuited to the density of the terrain, the British simply don’t know how to carry out a column of attack. The French of course do. Our weight of fire moreover was largely to be wasted on the walls of the Church.

However the Spanish diversion to seize the Bridge and block any reserves went in with unexpected effectiveness and the light cavalry sought to exploit the weak rear of the village.

Valiantly for the French, their piquet at the Bridge was managing to hold off the Spanish who couldn't make their larger numbers count. Time elapsed and whilst the battle for the bridge continued and the British became aware of the thunder of heavy cavalry and massed hobnailed boots of French reserves.

Neil ponders the situation as the British close on all fronts
The British were urged on, but the French countered, sallying out of the village to save themselves. Meanwhile the Spanish found themselves facing a Westphalian Battalion trying to cross the bridge, whilst outflanked by French troops pressing to relieve their friends.
The British light cavalry withdrew in the face of heavier foes, but more to avoid being charged in the rear. Meanwhile the Foot troops attempted to reorganise to avoid being outflanked.

Time was running out for us, the British centre broke at the same time as the French defenders on the village, but the French reserves were now bearing down on the flanks, ensuring no safe passage.
The Bridge was still contested by the valiant Spanish, against a Westphalian attack that was experiencing the Spaniards own problem of gaining any advantage over the narrow frontage.

As it was, the clock beat us, but it was at be a stalemate, and more realistically a failure, if not an outright defeat, for the British commander.

We played fast and loose with the Napoleon rules once again, changing things on the fly to suit our needs and to keep things moving. The game was sidetracked a lot by chat and other gamers questions, but nevertheless we reached enough of a conclusion to be able to finish satisfied.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Impressive Sales

I recently put up an entire army for sale, one of the many items that I hadn't used in years and felt it appropriate to move on to pastures new.

My Epic Tyranid army was largely bought painted up for a mere £20 about 8 years ago. I added about £30 of new plastic and metal models to fill it out, and then used it on the table, possibly twice. I certainly had no intention of using it again so onto eBay with it...

And straight off of eBay it went to, when the 'Buy it Now' option for £150 was snapped up by a chap in Spain! I would have been happy to sell for half that price, and realised I could probably have stuck another £50-100 on the B.I.N price (if I was greedy) and still have found a buyer. Well chuffed with that I was, but it didn't make me laugh in disbelief as much as the other sale I started at the same time.

I'd already donated a handful of Necromunda terrain to the club, at which point I was told, "oh, you should have put these on eBay, they sell really well." As it happens I still had thirteen pieces kicking around, so onto eBay with them; hoping for about 50p a piece as a good result.

Well, folks, old GW stuff can it seems be really valuable; they sold for £26! someone willingly paid my £2 per piece. Extraordinary!

If only I had kept the other bits, or had more old classic stuff like this!

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's a Dogfight.

A new opponent for me brought one of the best games of the year so far, in a battle that was supposed to ensure a Dogs of War victory, by both of us fielding the Dogs of War!

Myself and Jason took very different approaches to our 2000 point armies, Jason opted for a solid force of three pike units and two large formations of knights, with a handful of crossbows and a cannon in support. By comparison I fielded my usual menagerie of diverse troop types; only a single pike unit, and a small unit of knights, but duellists, crossbows, horse archers, ogres, dwarves, a winged lion for my general and even an Orc giant fleshing out the multiracial force.

The game itself was excellent fun with my mobility countering Jason’s solidity and might. The Giant, made for a dismal first performance in the employ of the Mercenary Princes. Being hit by a cannonball and then cut down by crossbows. However in the meantime my light troops made it difficult for his heavy forces to operate freely; in particular the horse archers on my left and the General on his flying creature on my right played havoc with his troops.

As the turns ran out the massed Pike of Jason’s centre had failed to make an impression on me, having been lured in to chasing my Ogres around. His Cavalry was pulled apart by my General and latterly by my pikemen, whilst my own cavalry came around the rear.

At the end of the battle, it looked to all like a victory for my side, we held ground and the banners of the enemy, but losses like the rout of my Paymaster near the end of the game and the luckless giant evened the score enough that by the rules, it was deemed a draw. A bloody draw!

And so despite a fantastic game with lots of action and good narrative fun, neither of us could declare a victory for the Dogs of War! Ah well, maybe next time…

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The sacking of Cuidad Rodrigo

Hurrah! Thanks to the excellent organisation of Neil, we had our first game of ‘Napoleon’ in some two months. Neil had put together a quite extensive scenario, drawn from a Cornwell novel, that revolved around a British army trying to withdraw with it’s booty from a ruined city.

Neil had been industrious since our last game, and so came to the table with 3 completed units of infantry, and two heavy cavalry; all looking splendid with a revised paint job and great basing. Attached to those a small brigade of my own French rounded out a French advance guard looking to intercept a British army of 6 infantry units, 2 rifle detachments and a regiment of light cavalry.

The British army was mainly in column of march, and assumed to be somewhat the worse for wear. The column would move only 1d6 per turn, per unit, and if any unit moved slowly, those behind could not pass. The exhortations of the generals made little effect on the progress of my army! Thankfully a limited cover of riflemen was present in the fields to our North.

The French came on in a classic mixed order, with cavalry on their flank. Remarkably the cavalry in part dashed through the hedgerows to attack the rifles, dealing them some damage, but incurring great fatigue in the act. Nevertheless, they led the attack on the British lines, as the rifles recoiled in some disorder (the Westphalian column, destroyed the other detachment in short order, before becoming entangled in the network of fields).

French cavalry crashed into the British lines, none of whom had time to form square.

Not unsurprisingly they were easily beaten in battle, but the lack of momentum that the cavalry built up meant that they withdrew in partial order rather than routing.

As the infantry came on the British were again pushed back, but at least the Highlanders were able to form square and the 33rd managed to present a line to cover the rest of the army. The heroic act that saved the British though fell to the cavalry, the 16th Light Dragoons found an opening as infantry retreated, to charge the flank of the heavy cavalry, who broke without great protest. The other cavalry was also blown by it’s efforts to cross the fields, and began to withdraw.

As time ran out the French infantry columns were bearing down on the British lines, which were disorganised, but largely undamaged. Some loot was strewn across the road, but the British were seeking to retrieve it in the face of the advancing forces.

With the French cavalry defeated the Light Dragoons would be able to hold the road open for the more bloodied British units to escape.

In effect, it was a pyrrhic victory to the mauled British, who would be able to clear the road by nightfall, though had the French not sprung their trap through the network of fields, the result would’ve been a very different matter…

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Positive spin, but not much output

OK, if your only measurement of success in a month is models painted; March sucked.

March personally was a roller-coaster month; one in which painting was the last thing on my mind. In real terms I managed three items. The two Warhammer ruins pictured below, and a P-47n Thunderbolt fighter to support my American WW2 army. I'm being really generous to myself to call that 30 points.

With 68 points from January and 86 from February, I'm still well ahead of course; a total of 184 points to a target of 150. However I had reached a stage of total apathy so far as painting was concerned.

However I finally got another commission battalion of WW2 Germans ready yesterday afternoon, and the next stage will be to get some paint on them. I don't expect to go back to the mass production levels of activity of last year (there were more reasons for that high output than simple industriousness), but hopefully I should be able to crack on with a few additions to my own collections I've been meaning to do.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Grandiose ain't they? (40k terrain - stage 2)

Well, once sprayed black, the imperial ruins were an easy and speedy paint job.

(Space Marine Terminator Chaplain, for scale, these are big models!)

As suggested, and is clear from the photo's I went for an imperial blue finis - actually a 'Lapis Blue' tester pot from homebase, plus a little black pigment, highlighted again with just blue. Only a couple of other details were picked out, mainly the metal eagle on the larger ruin, the red one on the smaller, and the various skull details.

A coat of dust around the bases puts the building in a realistic context, that's really all they needed, and about an hour to paint each.