Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Green versus Red (oh, and Grey)

Two games of Warhammer Fantasy in as many weeks!  I know, it's been a while, but I have James to thank for a close match of another Orcish Civil War.

My force was a 2000 point expansion of my largely effective 1500 point '3 warlords' list.  I deployed a big block of Orc Big 'Uns in the centre, led by a Black Orc Warboss and BSB with smaller mobs of Goblin spears on their flanks.  On the extremities were units of Wolf and Spider riders with Goblin Warbosses.  A Doom Diver rounded out the force.

James' list had an almost identical Orc unit, a larger unit of Goblin Spears and a massive unit of goblin bows. Some Black Orcs and a selection of small Boar and Spider riding units completed the army.

I got first turn and used my larger fast cavalry units to turn his flanks, for his part James tried to outflank my Goblins but animosity got the better of his 'Redskins' and they rashly charged the spear unit in front of them, unleashing a fanatic who led to their untimely demise.

I took the initiative now, launching a Waagh with all but one of my units including my Wolf riders putting a charge into his Boar Boys, James hadn't accounted for the Warboss in my unit, but more fundamentally his boys failing 4 armour saves resulted in them being thrashed.  My pursuit eliminated the survivor and crashed in to the flank of his red spears, whose combat had yet to be resolved.  We smashed them too and the pursuit wiped them out and again engaged another unit in the flank.

Green's high-water mark; James had to revise his plans; though coming out the better in the clash of the Orcish titans had given him a window of opportunity.  My Orc warboss effectively fumbled his magic item and got hacked down, leaving his warriors short on combat res.  They stood, but only just.

In time they broke, just before the Goblins flanked his Orcs, and at the same time my other unit of Goblins ran from the Black Orcs (who had been lucky to survive three direct hits from the Doom Diver and another Fanatic with more than half their unit intact.

To the rear I  my wolves had failed to dent the vast goblin bow unit.  and had retired in disorder.  By now the gig looked to be up; and when my goblins on the left failed to get involved in the fight those on the right found themselves disastrously outnumbered.

Game over!

Thoughts, well it looked close at first but ended up fairly one sided in points.  James could heartily commend his Warboss' performance, but I had no such joy.  Additionally my war engine was largely unfortunate (rolling on target usually, but only rolling 1's or 2's for hits).  Magic, which I've not mentioned elsewhere, largely went James way, but didn't add anything too damning to the battle.  Ultimately I lost to a little bad luck and that's about it.

So why red?  James is painting his Orcs and Goblins as some sort of Lava/cave dwellers to a red theme.  They look pretty striking too.  A nice change from the usual traffic light green.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

All quiet on the Eastern Front...

The blog has been silent all week, which is rare, but there has not been any great trauma (well, inconvenience) to cause this; I simply haven't had all that much gaming in the last few weeks.

However this has allowed some time for painting, and a - now quarterly - post on my painting pledge activities will be forthcoming soon.  The latest product has been another small WW2 force that was malingering in the painting pile.

These were largely painted in my usual style, but I did use a different shading medium, as an experiment.  For the infantry I used Vallejo Smoke.  I'd tried this in the past and found it to be thick and grainy, but this time I diluted it fairly heavily with water and the net result was not dissimilar to GW's Devlan Mud, but at a fraction of the price.

They're up on eBay, HERE, now.  (Stop press: Sold!)

In other news, those of you who use GW paints (aside from their washes I don't) should be aware that they are about to change the whole range.  The latest rumours are that they are moving to a set of complimentary three-colour sets with associated base coats and washes.  But I'll make two further, rather obvious, predictions; the pots will be smaller and the prices higher.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bolt Action 28mm US Infantry

Maybe these will tempt me to expand my 28mm WWII?  Actually I doubt it, as they already number some 60 metal figures and a dozen or so vehicles.  Nevertheless, these are a pleasing addition to the wealth of plastic out there...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Banovici - 6 August 1991

Despite my reservations from the last game I went back to Force on Force, had another read of the main sections and had a rethink of the scenario I'm hoping to run at Partizan.

Part of the problem, although I didn't initially recognise it, was that the defenders had been far too effective.  So for this third game I decided to try the Croats as a purely irregular militia force.  With that in mind the Serbian forces were ramped up too.

Al took command of the Serbs, with a task of getting his column of armour off the opposite end of the table by the road.  To make life harder I declared the ground of the roads was unsuited to the M84's high ground weight, especially once the road became an embankment.  and so they had to remain on or as close as possible to the road.  The lighter T55's and M60p were free to roam, but no tank was deemed capable of smashing through the large hedgerows*

Croats meanwhile occupied the three largely intact buildings and the walled field, with several further points of entry (hotspots) for reserves.  They had a couple of RPG's amongst them, and an agenda not only to stop the Serbian advance, but to capture enemy equipment if possible.

The Serbian advance began with the approach of the armoured column.

Ahead of it, it could initially see little:

As a result it tried to engage the houses with HE fire, but thanks to the sturdy construction of the houses, little damage was done.  In reply the Croats fired one of their RPG's, and were lucky to render the lead T55's 100mm gun inoperable; its' crew were stunned but remained in place for now.

The Serbs pushed forward with an M84, whilst other armour neutralised the threat from the first building.  However, unbeknownst to them another group of Croatian ZNG militia had arrived and as the tank crested the embankment the fired.

A lucky shot passed through the hedgerow, hitting the tank in its' tracks rather than its' formidable armour.  The tank slewed to a stop, blocking the road.  the tank crew bailed out in a panic.

This left the rest of the Serbians committed to manoeuvring around the house, the M84 hugging the gardens and pavements in an effort not to slip down the slope.  Further Croats had arrived, but with only the M60p's machine gun operator to engage, they were on the receiving end of a losing fight with only hedges for cover.

A,l sensing his armour was becoming vulnerable to infantry in the buildings deployed his one squad of men from his personnel carrier, and used them to attack the other house on the embankment, and to contain the Croats in the fields.  This cost them relatively few casualties and allowed the remaining mobile M84 to region the road, and ultimately aided the T55's in a safe escape.

Indeed at this stage things were progressing well for the  Serbs as more of the Croatians were contained or eliminated.  Even their tank crew on foot were making way.

But more reserves of the ZNG militia were closing in, desperate to stop the Serbian battle tank.  dozens of RPG rounds were fired at it, and finally one struck a telling blow.

The engine was badly damaged, with one bank of pistons ruined, and the tank stalled.  The crew bailed, ironically to be replaced by the crew from the other immobilised tank.  The Croats were risking moving into the open to get as many shots on target as possible.  Another round hit home and reduced the tank to a crawl, but moreover the new crew decided to evacuate.  Wisely as it transpired; when another round smacked in to the now ruined rear of the tank and found its way in to the ammunition.

The tank crew made a dash for it, leaving the burning hulk in the hands of the militia.

Clearly the Croats should have been militia all along, this game was much more balanced and resultantly more fun than the previous one.  When we looked at the mission points I'd set the Serbs won 19-17, having exited three armoured vehicles from the table and reduced two units of enemy by over 50%.  Croatian losses amounted to 3 dead and a dozen or so seriously injured; though the fatalities would have been more if Al had been able to storm the buildings as he'd wanted to.

Conversely the Serbs had only one fatality, a wounded tank crewman didn't make it out of the second M84, and two or three light or serious injuries.  But with the loss of their two best tanks, it was a Pyrrhic victory at best.

Plenty more to learn and try, but this is both closer visually to what I have in mind for my game, and played more believably.  Something of a relief!

*I have no grounds to believe the plausibility of the hedgerows, or M84 tanks mysteriously not being able to travel terrain a t55 can, but they made the scenario less of a romp for the Serbs so I'm satisfied with the spurious inclusion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Napoleon's Army

Pen and Sword produce no end of military history tomes, exclusively reissues so far as I know.  You can pick them up easily enough at wargame shows and online for a relative pittance, and despite the age of some of the writing they are generally fascinating reads.

I picked up the above late last year for all of a fiver; and it was well worth the investment.  Rather less so for the initial chapters on the Cavalry and Infantry; subjects that are enthusiastically covered in most books, but more for the discussion of logistics and command systems, which effectively Mr Rogers spends half of the 190 odd pages covering.

At the end of the tome Rogers discusses the Prussian and Polish campaigns of III Corps 1806-07 in detail, concentrating on the operational procedures more than the major battles, and paying particular attention to how special operations were conducted - several of the minor engagements detailed would make excellent wargame scenarios.  As an epilogue, he details the personal experiences in the 1814 campaign of one cavalry officer within the guard, both to highlight the difficulties of rebuilding the destroyed armies after Russia, and again to scrutinise the flexible tactical operations of the French armies in the field.

It is not a campaign history, but it is far more revealing as to how Napoleon went to war, and how his armies evolved over time.  A very rewarding read for the enthusiast.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Elsewhere in the Club

It has been said that the present Nightowls location favours the more affluent gamer with the luxury of a car and more disposable income.  If this is true the numbers attending the club are interestingly showing a higher proportion of historical gamers.  True we have received a few new attendees who are mainly historical gamers, and this is doubtless also down to the fact we've started to be more active on the gaming show front; but I wonder if there is a correlation between favouring history over fantasy, and your ability to drive/size of your pay packet.

I'll back away from drawing any conclusions; let the debate begin.

Anyway, this observation only serves as a preamble for some photographs, with the observation that in the last month - with the exception of the 40k tournament weekend - historical games have at least matched, and probably beaten, the number of fantasy games being played.

Amongst these, I'm pleased to see that I've kicked off Force on Force with Mark, Andy and Rich; even if I as yet remain uncertain about the rules.  The lads had a nice looking game for Afghanistan going:

The Americans seemed to be having it all their own way, but the scenario rules were about bringing the enemy leader back alive, not riddled with holes as Rich managed.

In the end it seemed the game came out as a draw, even though the Americans suffered only a couple of casualties.  Which to me at least sounds pretty realistic.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

El Serfaz - 1810

Known for reasons lost in obscurity to the French as the battle of Pierre Tombale, this engagement in the Peninsular war, saw a reinforced Brigade of the French army try to capture the exit to a key pass protecting their flank.

Ok, so this was in fact another dip in to the wonderful Grant's Scenarios for Wargamers book, which had me fall upon the Chokepoint scenario.  A tiny allied force of one regular infantry battalion, two militia battalions, a squadron of cavalry, and some rifle detachments was to protect the heavy Spanish artillery sited at the monastery  covering the entrance to the pass.  If we could hold this position, our forces would latterly be able to move safely to attack the rear of the main enemy force.  To prevent this the French sent the equivalent of six battalions of infantry, three squadrons of cavalry and some light artillery to storm the position and secure their main advance.

The allied forces were mainly focused around the ruined walls of the Monastery of St Bernardotte.  Small forces of Rifles were deployed by the English commanders to the woods on either side of the valley and the English troops themselves held in reserve.

For their part the narrowness of the pass allowed only a staggered arrival of their forces (the French commander could only enter three units per turn, not including his artillery or commanders - Grant detailed a more complicated system but this seemed to evoke his intent essentially).

The first French arrivals were both battalions of a regiment of foot with a 4lb cannon, and a regiment of Legere.  They duly marched forward, apparently unaware that the Spanish cannon in the Monastery were 24lb siege weapons, well provisioned but in fixed emplacements.  The roar of the Spanish guns tore huge swathes through the French lines, leaving one battalion of French badly shaken.

The rest of the French infantry arrived, and moved to address the flanks, whilst the Legere moved to screen the main body of the force.  At this stage the Rifles opened fire on the advancing French creating much disorder, whilst the Spanish guns continued their chilling business.

The infantry attack having stalled badly, the French General released his cavalry from the pass towards the English left.

The French managed also to manoeuvre one of their light guns to a position to enfilade the Spanish infantry; and the unit scatter in ill ordered panic at the first strike of fire on its' ranks.

This represented a high water mark for the French.  They had lost a battalion in the centre but had dressed their ranks to try to reduce the threat of the big Guns, supported ably by a British 9lb cannon deployed to the edge of the English camp.

The Siege guns were able however the respond by enfilading the French hussar squadron, destroying it. and the French flanks remained contained by the Rifles.  With his infantry attack mired, The French General moved to engage the thus far tardy English cavalry and infantry.

Two squadrons of Dragoons cantered forward in fine array, but the English Light Dragoons charged and drew them in to a bloody melee that neither won and both retired from in a parlous state.

(At this stage, one forgot to take photographs for a couple of turns)

The French centre, their right and the cavalry retired, but elements of their left and centre tried to maintain pressure.  The English cavalry, felling it's work done retired intentionally and allowed their infantry to take the position.  A last effort to attack the flanks by the French saw rallied Dragoons crash haplessly into the rifles in the woods, resulting in their destruction;  whilst a combination of cannon fire, some shaky Spanish musketry and the other rifle detachment broke the French left.

The French, seeing that they had failed began to retreat back in to the pass, and so the allies carried the field.  The Monastery of St. Bernardotte remained resolute.

As ever a cracking game; though some of Jez's decisions in command of the French did surprise me.  Although he advanced on the Monastery in column, rather than take it by column attack, as one might assume of the French, he instead drew into line and tried to denude the position by fire; who did he think he was?  Wellington?!  With that opportunity missed, his cavalry also dropped the ball by not going for the jugular.  To be fair he didn't really discover the inability of the Spanish guns to turn or move, and his commanders failed some notable efforts to rally their troops in the centre.

Had I commanded the French rather than the English, obviously I would have had certain unfair advantages having known the scenario, but I think I would have led with the Cavalry to sweep around the flanks of the allies, and then sent a sacrificial regiment straight down the throats of the guns.  Had the English been as reticent to get involved as they were for me, the more aggressive tactics could have carried the day...

The Persian Expedition

I recently finished reading this; I find I manage one or two classic histories every year.

The book is of course, as you must all know, Xenophon's personal account of his experience as part of Prince Cyrus' attempt on the throne of the Persian Empire.  The book is often known as the Ten Thousand, for the number of Greek troops involved.  Xenophon's history has been criticised for potentially over egging his involvement in the campaign to extricate the Greeks from their predicament after the Battle of Cunaxa; but I felt that in any considered reading of the volume the fact that Xenophon was not in sole command was clear enough.  Of course he writes himself well, that is the nature of a personal account, and clearly he did have the odd axe to grind.  But I think in the context these can be overlooked.

Taking the time to read the introduction rather than just diving in will reward you, but for the wargamer the details of Greek military tactics, and the accounts of numerous small and large engagements are the items that will appeal; and will probably result in a number of bookmarked passages.

Overall, it's easy to see why this is seen as a favourite read for schoolboys of a certain generation (presumably the generation that wore well pressed shorts and learnt Latin still, the age of the George Cawkwell - who wrote the introduction - would suggest he has in mind the 1950's, or earlier still!).  Unlike many history books it is not dry, and positively jogs along with plenty of action and the odd stirring (surprisingly well 'recalled') speech.

If you fancy taking your warring Greeks to face the Persians, Thracians or other assembled tribal masses on the their own turf, or have more than just a passing interest in classical history; this really should be on your reading list.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Warlord Games Zulus

Aside from my own display game, the Leeds Nightowls are doing at least a couple of other shows this year, and Andy is organising a Zulu War display for at least one of them.  To help with the preparation, I've been roped in to paint a few models, which I agreed to do on the proviso that I wasn't to be allowed to keep any!

That may sound like madness, but as I already have unfinished 15mm Zulus, and many thousands of models already in boxes, I really don't want to be led into another unplanned project!  Still I get to assemble and paint some of the models so here follows the fruits of that labour and a review.

A box contains 32 plastic and one metal model, although we divided up the spoils of a rather large club purchase and I went home with a mix of Married and Unmarried troops.  I assembled the Unmarried troops in a standard (for our game) unit of 16 for starters:

The models only come with four basic poses, but a variety of arms and heads.  I must say that these are really well engineered and hide what few joins there are.  To be fair the Unmarried troops are adorned more for parade than battle, but for the gamer who wants visual appeal rather than accuracy they will look attractive.

Painting was a breeze, after all being naked there's very little to do.  I did feel obliged to do three different skin tones to help vary them up.  An I selected the shields of the Imgombamakhosi regiment:

Two bases 80x40mm in my fairly standard fashion.  And a close up:

So do I like the models?  Well yes, they are very nice.  The details are generally spot on, with a mix of small and large shields, knobkerries, axes and Iklwa; I can criticise the fact that some of the spears seem a little long, but that's easily adapted.  And though I feel the Unmarried troops are overdressed, you can minimise the use of luxury kit, or simply just buy the more believable married troops.  With some conversion I'm sure you cold get even more out of the poses (a rather limiting set of rifle arms are included too).

Overall a solid eight out of ten.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Croatian Houses

For my upcoming display game I need more buildings, the thing is you can't really buy the look off the shelf:


Not being conveniently located in northern France, the middle ages or the 41st millennium, appropriate model buildings that at least give the impression of these ruins are few and far between.  True, some of the German made model railway buildings, and even a handful of the very basic British ones pass for the Balkans, but they are small, expensive, and often difficult to get hold of.

Therefore it was time to get the foam board out instead:

I wanted to give the impression of the airy Mediterranean style of the rural Yugoslavian buildings, making them as distinct as possible from the WW2 buildings I made last year.  Part of this was to include balconies and raised entrances, making these far trickier architectural projects than most of my foam buildings.  The other thing of course being lots of damage, 30mm cannon, 100mm tank rounds and mortar shells...

They went together really well, especially the one on the right, however; and I was able to knock up the burnt out house from the scrap of the others.  All four models came out of one A3 sheet.

The painting was carried out in a frenzied evening and mainly revolved around a tester pot of Homebase 'Moonlight' white, initially with a tiny amount of Panzer Grey added, then highlighted with the raw colour, followed by Moonlight plus white, then pure white.  The method to these layers being to paint down from the roof, leaving some of the lower levels showing at the base, hence the walls get lighter as you move up them.  The lower three (scale) feet of wall or so also get a layer of dust and dirt applied.

I think the look the part, but I still need to do maybe three or four more.  Then as space is tight, they can be donated to the clubs after I'm done with them.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Well, that's that done for another three months!

Had my first game of Warhammer fantasy in a while last Thursday.

I ran an experimental Dogs of War list, in so far as it featured mostly new or nearly new units in less than typical builds.  The results were to be honest, a bit of a disaster.

A lot of my army was invested in Asarnil the Dragon Lord; probably the weediest hero ever mounted on a tough as nails dragon; he's really only a dragon delivery system.  He went on the attack naturally enough, but carelessly I let him attack a unit of High Elves with Occam's Mindrazor cast on them.

This shows that I really wasn't paying attention; charging a unit with Always Strikes first, that swapped its' Strength of 3 for its' Leadership of 9 was a supremely dumb move.  30 or so strength 9 spear hits ruined my dragon in seconds.

Thereafter my army was on the back foot; there was a slight chance for my Knights and duellists to break the thin connective tissue of Mikes army and break onto its' flanks:

But it wasn't to be.  The rest of the army cowered behind a large hill in the centre of the field, and simply tried to weather the storm.  Braganza's Besiegers were taking the brunt of it now.  And it was only a matter of time.

At the last they lost their banner, and as this was the Blood and Glory scenario I found myself 2-0 down at the end.  And to be honest, that didn't reflect how one-sided it had been.

Frankly I played like a chump, but I can at least blame the tools for being unfamiliar, I didn't use them well and paid the price.

Unlike my troops, I get to live and learn.

By the next time I'm sure I'll have forgotten though!

Monday, March 05, 2012

News and Leftovers

Firstly today more new releases on their way in the plastic variety, this one is bound to appeal to a wide variety of gamers, as Warlord are about to release a plastic set of three ruins:

These are 28mm scaled and seem to come with plenty of variety, a set of three buildings costs £35.  I would have to see them in the flesh to decide if they are really worth that asking price; but it is a pleasing development.

Elsewhere I took a few extra pictures last week at the club and should release them before they become irrelevant.  Andy and Mark were playing Saga, over Andy's glorious new terrain:

Also there was a 40k Tournament on; not my thing these days obviously, but I did find Ralph's work on his Grey Knights worthy of a shot.

That's all for today, big game write ups to follow!

Sunday, March 04, 2012


Matt took me through one of the worlds many collectible miniatures games last week; this one featuring Toho Cinema and anime inspired monsters duelling each other across a defenceless metropolis.

The game itself is from Privateer Press, and seems at least to have been well supported, though not perhaps the initial success they might have liked; despite this hollywood is apparently keen to make a film adaptation (and if they are prepared to make an adaptation of Battleship* into a film, who knows where they'll draw the line).

The models are in some cases very impressive, this was my Xaxor, an alien gribbly clocking in, according to its' stat card, at 30,000 tonnes!

In real life he's a few grams of prepainted transparent plastic.  Quality varies, I felt my models were nicely turned out, but Matt's robot monsters were much less polished.  The base uses a variety of stats and icons to detail the in game performance of the models.  Each side has one main monster and access to a variety of smaller units.

Game play revolves around the management of three sorts of dice to allow units to act.  White dice are used to summon units, move and fight, and when used by or for units are transferred to the main monster, who in turn can use them to move, fight and a few other special actions.  This means that usually you alternate rounds between small units and the big monster, but in some cases it can be possible to manage two successive turns with your monster.

Red dice are power-ups, and can only be used by the big monster to augment attacks, the can be earned in a variety of ways.  Lastly blue dice are bonuses that can only be used in attacks, each unit adds its' own values of these.

The terrain is interactive, and provides its' own bonuses and penalties; but my Xaxor quickly found they were a way to earn red dice, so managed to smash four of them in one attack.

Gain enough power and you can transform into an 'Ultra' form:

The stats improve, but it is basically an unpainted version of the standard model.  Incidentally the plastic is quite brittle, and several of the models were damaged in transit.  Superglue repairs them fine, but it is as well to be aware that product perfection cannot be guaranteed.

As battle continued I soon defeated Matt's alpha form, and it became a battle between our ultras.  Both units could use particular combo-attacks, and the small units could provide certain supports.

In the end I was able to coordinate more damage on his robot, and having defeated both its' forms I won the game.

For a collectible game there seemed to be a lot to learn up front, but once in play it was easy to pick up and quite entertaining.

I'd certainly give it another go, though of course I will always be wary of the dangers of the collectible format, and if it was me I'd want to repaint the bases as much as possible.