Monday, January 30, 2012

Il Pane Carasau - the Golden Pikes

It's the Dogs of War again; the beauty of this army is that it allows me to play around with oddball units and wild colour schemes I wouldn't have use for anywhere else.  To date my Dogs of War have virtually every uniform colour: deep reds, lime greens, purples, pastels...  But no yellow.

There is a reason for this; the Vallejo yellows are, well it'd be unfair to say their not that good, they are no worse than any other acrylic I've tried; it's just I find yellow in general is not a great paint pigment.  Still I decided to press on, and therefore had to find a solution.  given I was painting over a black undercoat it was going to be a challenge.

I began with a mix of Vallejo Flat Yellow and my old favourite Cavalry Brown.  This was because the latter paint has a good strong, but not too dark pigment, and so would help support the yellow as a medium; I'm not going to say I was at all happy with the colour at this stage, but this was only meant as a base:

And yes, I had already done the metals, but I would touch those up later if needed.  The initial coverage was still less than perfect, but the aim was to get all the recesses covered not the the surfaces so much.

Next, more Yellow was added to the mix and overbrushed heavily over the base coat; the result of stage two is on the left in the photo below:

Far from satisfactory.  I didn't know how many coats it was going to take; so it was just a case of keeping going.  The figures above on the right have had a second coat of the same mix overbrushed on and are starting to show some graduation of highlighting.

Those two coats had not yet excised all the 'black' showing through, so a layer of pure Flat Yellow now had to be applied to the models.  This was drybrushed in some places and painted conventionally in others, where coverage was needed.  Slowly getting closer:

Left to dry, it still didn't look good enough, so another layer of Flat Yellow was added; and then a light selective drybrush of  Flat Yellow with a little beige added was applied to the top surfaces.  With SIX coats I was finally happy with the Yellow!

Of course there was still plenty to do, did I mention that it was a unit of 32; well it was, and I've said in the past I always doubt my sanity when undertaking to paint more than 24 figures of this scale at one time.  These had already tried to burn me out, and now I had to do any number of belts, boots, faces, pikes, etc.

Still once finished, I was more than satisfied with the resultant unit:

Finishing the detailing in a uniform range of deep browns with obvious red and blue accents really improved the look of the models.

Now to arrange a game for them and the several other new regiments recruited recently to the army of Focaccia.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mantic Activity

The chaps over at Mantic are being busy bees at the moment getting various things organised; the general sense I get from their plan is that there is an ongoing business model to emulate what their major market target was like fifteen or twenty years ago, before it became sole purveyor and power went to its' head, like an insane Bond villain.

Anyway, there is a strong hint of yet another version of Kings of War coming out later this year, a tweaked version of last years £5 rulebook, which I would imagine will contain basically similar rules, but with more armies and perhaps a hard back.  A new boxed set would be probable, though not new models.  You have to applaud their willingness to keep their rules under rapid development, whilst not simply using it as a method to grift customers for repeated editions, both previous editions are less than two years old and are available freely (and legally) at various points on the net.

Figures wise, they are dropping some of the smaller units, but not the models themselves, whilst the latest armies for KoW are being released in hybrid forms, like their Abyssal Dwarves were, or initially with metal only releases.

KoW Goblins in metal, pretty nice looking if you ask me.

Twilight Kin (Dark Elves)  Plastic/Metal hybrids

As to their other game - Warpath - their third army, which looks to be all plastic is about to see its first releases.  I have issues with the first two armies for this games, their being basically space Dwarves and space Orcs was frankly lazy, and I do hope they exercise more imagination in future than simply ripping off their competitors IP concept.  But the next force is at least stealing its ideas from different sources, so I'll give them 5 out of 10 for effort and hope they improve.

Coming up they are at a lot of shows and are organising an invitational KoW tourney at Maelstrom, which I may yet attend - undecided as yet, though KoW is a much nicer tournament game in my opinion.

One wonders if there is an ulterior financial motive behind their crazy sales prices, I remember GW only ever having one sale, back in about 1987-88 when they needed to raise enough cash for what at the time were staggeringly expensive plastic toolings.  Where might Mantic go in the next year?

I'll be interested to find out.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

KGN: la petite ferme de chèvres - July 1944

Gaz and Joe came along to the club on Sunday for a rematch against my Americans, and thanks to his reinforcements he fielded a 362 point force as follows:

battle group HQ - 3 men    2mv
panzer upgrade                     0mv
recon support
sniper                                 0mv
main force units
panzer IV-G squadron        6mv
extra panzer IV-G                 2mv
infantry main force
vet panzer gren platton    16mv
(mounted in sdkfz 251/1)
support units
pak 40                                 2mv
combat medic                 0mv
artillery assets
forward artillery observer          0mv
3x80mm mortors - off table       0mv

                                  totals     28mv

Lots of high quality infantry, but in expensive battle taxis.  For my part I went with the following:

Signals Truck    0mv
Supply Truck    0mv
M8 Command Car    1mv
Infantry Main Force
Dismounted Armoured Infantry Platoon    8mv
Armour Main Force
M4 Tank Company (9 tanks)    18mv
        3x M4 Tank Squadrons (including one M4 76mm in 'A' Squadron)
Forward Artillery Observer    0mv
Registered target point (RTP)   0mv
4 High Priority Fire Missions    0mv
1 Low Priority Fire Mission    0mv
Total     27mv
 My plan was to use an armoured thrust supported by carefully placed artillery (the Registered Target Point would ensure it would hit exactly where I intended) to try to blunt his attack, figuring I'd need twice as many tanks as the Germans to survive the inevitable losses.

The battlefield was set out as follows, with a mix of bocage around a ruined village, the farm to the west  (nearest camera) being undamaged.  Woodland and some low hills completed the region.

The Germans entered from the North, whilst the Americans advanced from the South in a simple encounter.

The Germans adopted a simple formation with their infantry to one side of the road and their armour to the other.

The Americans adopted a similar general concept, but lacking infantry mobility, set up it's machine guns as covering fire so the infantry could advance along the hedgerows.  My artillery observer retired to the south-eastern woodland where the German's ran up the road in the middle of the field.  My signals and supplies held to the rear.

The Germans advanced and allowed the American armour to engage them in a long range shooting exchange; the range was such in fact that the advantages of the German guns were largely negated; they had little chance of hitting and only marginal chances of penetrating the M4 armour.

It was an exchange I was happy to prolong, as I knew I had a resupply option; every miss for Gaz was critical.  At this stage I even had a troop of tanks in reserve.

However the platoon of Hanomags was arriving on the edge of the farm and hurriedly dismounting, long before my infantry were really close enough to contest the area.  Fortunately I was able to take them under fire from a dug in .30cal; suppressing the western flank of the attack:

The rest of the German infantry pressed home the attack on the farm and the fringes of the village, with the half tracks now acting as armoured cars, my own armoured car having to withdraw.

My artillery seized the moment to lay down the fire of a battery of 105mm howitzers on our RTP; the centre of the junction, few casualties were caused, but the German artillery observer was caught right in the blast and destroyed.  He never acted in anger.  On reflection Gaz should not have exposed him by getting so far forward, he did the same thing last time!

But at this stage the German infantry attack, supported as it was by light armour was turning the American flank, so armour from the centre was rushed over the counter the threat as Hanomags crashed through the Bocage, all but wiping out one squad - only the plucky Bazooka man surviving.

The Bazooka and an M4 wrought revenge from the Hanomags and their infantry.  Elsewhere the Panzer IV's were having little luck in athe long range tank battle and with two tanks lost from their squadron and ammunition low the battlegroup HQ vehicle was called up to support them.

Anticipating this and seeing a chance to outflank the Germans, the American reserve moved around the eastern side of the combat, whilst in the centre the survivor of 'A' Squadron went to resupply.  'C' squadron lost one tank in the advance, but by now the German main force had been forced to retire via the imple expedient of having no armour piercing ammunition left.

The German HQ tank soon fell to the available weight of fire; despite surviving three hits to the front, a hit from the flank finally took it down.  The retiring Panzer IV's had precipitated a general retirement by the German armour, and this freed the American tanks around the farm to concentrate on the infantry, now unsupported.

From this point onwards it was largely a mopping up exercise for the Americans, whose superior material supply had proved telling.  One of the last casualties being a lone rifleman raked by machine gun fire whilst trying to race across the main village street.

Nevertheless the Germans had inflicted significant losses, with around 20 infantry casualties (including 7 KIA) amongst the Americans as well as the loss of three tanks and the M8, totalling another 12 KIA.  German infantry losses were uncertain, but a handful of dead were found around the farm and a half dozen infantry taken prisoner.  Losses of three tanks and two half tracks were far more significant to the limited German supply structure, and the loss of a valued company commander would be even more telling.

Gaz and Joe recognised they had been beat, and took away a number of tactical lessons from what was at the end of the day, only their second game ever.  The willingness to stand at maximum range and trade shots with little chance of hitting me, when ammunition was so limited was a mistake, and the sacrifice of half tracks in an infantry assault probably cost more than it gained.  True they were unlucky to lose their artillery so early, but these things happen.  A poorly placed anti tank gun to the north-west could have done so much more in the centre of the battlefield...

Overall a great game with plenty of spectacle, I loved fielding a company of tanks!  Here's to the next one; though by the sound of it they will be at the club this Sunday practising against one another.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blame Thorfin, Apparently

Having a lot of free time on my hands last week, I made one of my extremely rare visits to the other Leeds Wargames club, and on this occasion there were games going on and managed to score a place in one.  So that's good.

Some of the chaps were having a go at a set of Dark Age Rules, unfamiliar to me, but free on the net, called: Age of Blood.  This being organised by Rob of Keep Your Powder Dry.

We each took a small warband, headed out in the search for treasure.

By comparison to Saga, Age of Blood is a very different beast, a far more conventional game, with multiple characteristics for each warrior, varied weapon and armour combinations a traditional action based unit control sequence, etc, etc.  In short there is nothing particularly new here.

Whilst two of the other players had a fairly open skirmish around a hill, myself and Mick lined up our men into shield walls and went at it toe to toe; it soon came down to moving down the line in an almost DBMM style, rolling opposed D10's for combats, we quickly worked out how to decided the winner without consulting the rules, which thankfully sped up the process.

The rules at least gave the impression that we were ignoring a lot of potential here, but I'm certain it would require a solid scenario for the best of them to come through.  I think they are more suited to a Mordheim-esque, semi-role play, style of game.  There are rules for mythical beasts of the Scandinavian world in the rules and a campaign systam that at least makes this a sensible proposition.

Still, as a dark ages skirmish game, I found it old fashioned and slow compared to Saga.  However it needs less figures and is free so it certainly has a niche; you decide.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Grognard's Face-Painting Contest

Spurred on by getting my French artillery finished, but in recognition I needed to get my eye back in before attempting a fully fledged unit for my Napoleonics, I plucked a skirmish unit/light company out of the mountain of lead.  A unit of Chasseurs a Pied.

A quick trawl of the interwebz soon supplied some painting guides:

Which I put into effect on a troop of six figures (models probably Foundry, but I can't be certain):

Being for the Peninsular there are naturally a couple chaps in local cloth replacements for their regular trews, but not too many patches in what would be a guard formation.

Six figures is enough to be significant in skirmish gaming terms, and allows me to field them as a detachment in Black Powder.  During the painting process I thought it would be good to record how I do flesh in detail; a chance for a little photo tutorial.  I don't use washes as they take too long and don't provide reliable results, they also feel hard to correct mistakes.  I'm more a fan of a good brush, a steady hand and a three-colour layering scheme.

First off, I paint the base tone; a mix of 3 parts Vallejo Medium Fleshtone (860) plus one part Cavalry Brown (982) - a very red brown:

Next, Medium Fleshtone is applied to the nose, cheeks, chin, backs of the hands, fingers and thumbs.  One can pick out the ears, lips and knuckles too as you wish.  This is done with a 000 brush and milky consistency paint using quick strokes, don't sweat minor mistakes!

Finally one part Basic Skintone (815) is added to one-two parts Medium Fleshtone (to your preference for subtle or exaggerated highlighting).  This is dabbed to the tip of the nose, tops of the cheeks, tip of the chin and the top half, thumb and first two fingers of the hand.  The aim is to give the impression of a sunlight source from above.  Again a 000 brush, but the paint will be a touch thicker; unless you are doing 24 or more figures in a row the likelihood is that the underlying flesh will still be moist, so you don't want a new wet coat to run!

Now it is time to start the hair and eyes.  A good dark brown is needed, I use Vallejo Hull Red (985), applied to the hair, sideburns, moustache and as thin line across each eye socket.  Still using a fine brush - I'll still be using the trusty 000.

Hair colour can be differentiated here, I like to include a mix of browns, redheads and blondes, with the odd grey haired gent for good measure, in a unit.

Finally it is time to bring the chap to life.  28mm models need eyes!  this is why you apply the brown lines though, as it makes it a damn sight easier to define the eyes, and get them to look ok.  It also hides mistakes better.  over the brown, add a line of white and then go back with a fine brush that holds a good point and add a dot of a milky thick black paint.  A tip on eyeballs, don't force the chap to look forwards; if the first eye goes on to one side, try to make to other match it, avoid sending you army in to battle cross eyed...

The chappy above got his right eye first and it dictated his look.  With practice, I find this a quick and effective process, certainly less than ten minutes for these six models.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bradford goes Steampunk

It's a week off between the old job and the new for me this week, so I've been occupying myself in as generous a fashion as the finances will allow, which for the most part is not much until the wages of the new job kick in*

Still one of the free options for distraction I was aware of, was the Steampunk exhibition at Bradford Industrial Museum; practically on my doorstep.  So a quick drive down the road and I was able to take in the displays:

The displays were a mixture of new artistic creations such as the chessboard and flying suit above, and original items from the museum's own collection, that would serve to illustrate the inspiration behind them.  I was surprised to find that some of the items I was admiring the creativity of, were infact genuine Victoriana; though clearly most of the guns below are not.

Steam punks love polished brass!  As an interesting aside, the officers jacket on the left is a genuine Guard officer coat, attributed to Waterloo, notice how dark in colour it is, not the scarlet of our painting is it?

It's fair to say that Steampunk seems to have a large female following, presumably of Goths who've discovered the visible spectrum of colour (a social minority if ever there was one!); this results in lots of pretty art:

The rest of the museum is more in the lines of your railway buff or Fred Dibnah type, with a fascination for 'ow they did things better in't t'old days; featuring as it does old cars, steam engines mill looms and restored Victorian cottages.  All a nice distraction for a couple of hours mind, but for the ardent wargamerist there are also a couple of interesting oddments, notably in the Model collection of Amos Barber:

Being the sort of gentleman who after retirement built models from scratch out of metal; the above being a 6 inch naval gun at about 1/10th scale.

And finally on the entrance are a pair of impressive Napoleonic period fortress guns, at least 24lbr's I'd guess, about eight feet long.

Killed a couple of hours...

*a 75% pay rise, in this day and age especially, is worth waiting for!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

7 Wonders

The Headingley club has a large board game following, and it's my default when I drag myself down there with nothing planned, to play whatever is on offer.  Last Thursday this was a card game called '7 Wonders':

Essentially it is a card based version of Civilisation; wholly unauthorised of course and the designers of both games may well deny it, but that's the best and most accurate analogy I can possibly imagine.  After all, each player begins by drawing a wonder to work on, which dictates your nation, strategy and confers advantages; thereafter you play through three periods of development by selecting cards from a deck that is passed around and shared by all the players.

Certain cards are free, and may add to the resources or victory points, or permit other developments later; others require resources to build in the first place, but as a result are usually more valuable, or lead to other developments.  Ultimately the aim is to accrue the most points across a variety of stratagems, including science, culture and militarism.

The first game left my head spinning, but it is fast to play and you grasp a lot by simply playing it blind and following others leads, I came second out of four first time out.  As that only took half an hour, we reset and played two more times, and though I never actually won, it was thoroughly enjoyable.  Games like this encourage the internal narrative, as one imagines your little civilisation developing, in a way that scrabble or chess can't.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The retreat at Cha de Biaxo - 1810

Jez had set up the scenario for this week's game of Napoleonics, a pleasant novelty for me as I would for a change be fighting blind without a knowledge of what might be going on behind the scenes.  Of course this also means putting your trust in someone to come up with a fair situation, and this is always something I'm aware of when writing my own games up.  Still at the top of today's post, I'd have to say he did a pretty good job with just a couple of head scratching moments.

Anyway, orders arrived in the middle of the night at General Lilywhite's headquarters to the effect that scouts had identified that the local French division he had been trying to bring to battle was escaping by a bridge over the river there.  Lilywhite knew his brigades would not all be ready in time for an early attack, so rather he decided to ensure they would arrive in cohesion during daylight.  To that end, he sent his Cavalry brigade and a Flying column of a battalion of Scots and three companies of Rifles to slow up the withdrawal of the French.

The French by this stage had already begun to withdraw from the field; but their numbers were suspiciously low and it was clear there must be other forces in the area.

Indeed Lilywhite's flying column spoke with the locals and heard talk of cavalry movements nearby, as well as rumours of the French mining the town and massacring villagers.  The other main discovery of the lead force was booze, tonnes of it apparently!  The British advance ground to a halt, until the main infantry Brigades arrived some two hours later in uncharacteristic columns as demanded by haste and the terrain.

Sadly, any attempt at a unified advance was hamstrung by the quality of the British commanders, Hopton in particular - leading the cavalry - was a barely competent half-wit; though the other commanders were in general unsensational at best.  Bunting-Smythe's Brigade of militia stiffened by Guards and artillery soon found itself heading in the wrong direction and creating a huge hole in the lines.

At about this point, large sections of the village erupted in flames as the mined buildings began to explode.

The French were organising an effective defence, and appeared to be preparing to blow the bridge behind themselves.

The British cavalry was rushed forward by Lilywhite's personal intervention; and just in time as a demi-brigade of French Dragoons appeared on their right.  Thankfully the French commanders were not of the top tier and the French arrivals wuld repeatedly turn out to be lions led by lambs.

Some of the French dragoons charged the British Light Dragoons forcing them to retreat; however they then impetuously ran on in to the Maria Louisa Hussars, expecting an easy victory.  They did not get it though, and were destroyed by the Spanish; unaware perhaps of their fury at the discovery of civilian dead in the field...

By this stage Stalybridge's line brigade had entered the village to the west whilst the Militia brigade had found its' way back to the battlefield.

But equally, more French infantry blessed, if only from the British standpoint, with the worst military commander ever to be able to dress himself, had arrived on their left to support the Dragoons.

As the flying column moved through the west of the village they were befell by three miseries; firstly the galling fire of the French on the opposite side of the river; including cannon, took its' toll.  Secondly the mine in the convent exploded causing dreadful casualties in the highlanders, who were only yards from the walls around it.  And finally the few survivors were distracted by discoveries of more demon drink.  when another formation of Dragoons appeared on their left the Flying column was a spent force and began to retire.

Not before a company of Riflemen charged the Dragoons to the right and wiped them out, at heavy loss but with the capture of an enemy Brigadier too.

The Light Dragoons on Lilywhite's right put in a charge on the French infantry, who failed to form square but held the cavalry at bay.  The British cavalry returned with Spanish support, containing the enemy but not defeating them.  The Line Brigade to the west deployed guns to devastating effect on the Dragoons, leaving only the French Hussars at the bridge as the French cavalry contingent.  Yet more French infantry stragglers, including Westphalians appeared.

The Line Brigade managed to advance through the village and continued to harry the French engineers and line units, where the flying column had left off.  On the right the Guards pushed through and tried to take on the French lines, which were allowing several regiments to retire.

The French had the better of the engagement but by this time the British were in a position to cut off the retreat, and so the French commander ordered a general disengagement from the bridge, which to their regret had to be left intact.

The British, despite no end of setbacks and some bloodied noses, had managed to seize the bridge intact, destroy a brigade of cavalry and cut off two regiments of French foot.  However the loss of the Highlanders, the Light Dragoons and two companies of riflemen was considered a serious blow by the cautious General Lilywhite.  The Spanish and Portuguese forces, with the remarkable exception of the Hussars had performed dismally, and in general the commanders had failed to show any grit.

Any tactical victory the British could claim, would strategically favour the French.

A long and closely fought game, Jez felt the a couple of elements could have been improved to make the rearguard action more balanced.  The fighting quality of the stragglers was considered too high, being full strength, but this was balanced by the control level of their commanders.  Jez rolled a D6+3 on arrival for each of these and as it turned out they were never better than a 'six', even when I made him re-roll a '1' as simply too low!

The mines also proved to be deadly to my forces, but largely due to their exploding once I was thoroughly ensconced in their buildings.  Rather more debilitating was the effect of the alcohol apparently lying everywhere, which directly or indirectly caused about as many losses as the enemy.

Still, overall, it was fun not to know all the secrets at the start, and not to have to do all the explaining.  Thanks Jez, let's do it again soon!