Friday, July 31, 2015

The 10,000

Plodding onward

Well! I've now had my first occasion of 10,000 hits/page views in a single month.

Next year I'll have been writing this gibberish for ten years, can you imagine?  Finally the readers are 'flocking in'...

Cheers folks.  It's gratifying, even if some of that traffic is inevitably browser bots and gawd knows what else, the core is a readership of some size.  I appreciate it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Out with the new, in with the Old(hammer)

Uh Oh...

I'll just leave this here...
So I sold my near perfect copy of 2nd ed. about a decade ago, now I've gone and got someone's battered copy of 3rd instead.  Next up, a copy of Warhammer Armies for a reasonable price.

For nostalgia if noting else.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ombakane - 30 May 1879

Gav doesn't get to the club all that often, so it was flattering that when he did, he got in touch with me beforehand to arrange a game,  I offered to get my Zulu Wars troops organised for a game and he gamely agreed.  Gav plays Black Powder so it was an easy sell.

Our battle was to be a hypothetical set late in the war, based on Woods column heading south to support Chelmsford.  To this end the British, played by Gav, were tasked with two objectives for the battle: one; control the Thukela river crossing by placing artillery on the Ombakane hill covering it, and two; cross infantry to the far side of the river to secure passage.

 The British were divided into three commands, with some free ranging ammunition supplies.  Brevet Col. Wood led four companies of the 90th Foot, Whilst Lt. Col. Buller commanded the Frontier Light Horse.  Lastly Major Tremlett commanded a half battery of 7lb guns and a company of 13th Foot to guard the guns.  They deployed on the march.

 For the Zulus' part the Scenario gave them four entry points in the battlefield and their objective was simply to destroy the British force.  To this end they had for amabutho (regiments) formed of three Ibutho and in some cases some scouts.  The Zulu were also permitted a number of decoys - goats as it turned out.

See Zulu a mile away - scatter! 
Each Zulu unit was represented by a hidden marker until a British unit could draw line of sight to it at a range of less than 50cm (for the game we simply switched all measurements to centimetres).  At the start of the game Buller took his horse forward to reconnoitre the hills, and drew the attention of a hundred or so Zulu scouts.  Hearing of these, Wood responded (by rolling a blunder) retiring his battalion in panic, thinking the enemy numbers far greater than in truth they were.

This embarrassing lack of composure was to set the tone for both sides' generalship throughout the battle.
 Buller carried on up the hill and discovered some 6-700 Zulu behind it.

 Buller drove of the scouts, with support from the 13th Light Infantry, and then went on to charge the Zulu infantry beyond.  On the left the men of Wood regained their composure and marched over the long ridge before them, discovering a thousand more Zulu in the process.

 The light horse made short work of the first Ibutho encountered, and their charged continued on to crash into a third body of men discovered behind the hill.  But by this time it appeared they were a spent force and the Zulu were easily able to drive them off,

Run away!
 Wood meanwhile had hastily had to form a firing line to keep the enemy at bay.  The Zulu had used the cover in the hills to approach fiendishly close - within 30 yards or less; Wood must lay down considerable fire swiftly, lest his men be overwhelmed.

 By this point, another thousand natives had crossed the river and ominous sounds of the march were coming from the direction of Ombakane hill.

 Tremlett's artillery was finding its progress hampered at every turn by poor quality trails in the valley.  It also looked rather deserted by the 13th Light, who were now wholly engaged in supporting Bullers' fight with the natives on the hill.

Steady lads, make every shot count
Woods line laid a heavy fusillade down upon the Zulus, and managed to disorder the entire line, buying valuable time.  However 'C' company on the end of the line ran low on ammunition n the process and had to await resupply.

Cannister, 200yards, FIRE!
Tremlett saw Zulu scouts approaching, and rapidly unlimbered his guns. Just in the nick of time as it happened, for moments later the scouts tried to charge the guns; had the not had cannister ready the guns would surely have been lost.

Rather the Zulu were forced to retire.

Wood's men began to envelop the Zulu, enfilading the mass from both sides.  The Ambutho begins a slow collapse, but Wood is aware of a second Ambutho moving up from the farmstead by the river.

Additionally, Buller is being kept in check by the Ambutho on the right, and a fourth formation had appeared on the hill at the heart of the British plans.

As one falls back another wave advances
Fresh Zulu now threatened the British, who at least had suffered only slight casualties thus far.  By this point there were some 4000 Zulu in the field, to the British forces of around 600 men.

The Zulu closed the line, bringing a great mass of me from the loin of the bull into the centre of the field.  The Zulu were under no illusion that the British were still in command, all their efforts to this point had only contained the advance of the enemy, but they had yet to close with the hated British infantry, and all attempts to do so had been fought off by a hail of Martini Henry rounds.

Finally though, they were able to catch the 13th Light in the open and drive them away in disarray.  Badly mauled and with significant losses the 13th retreated past their guns, who wisely decided to limber up and withdraw.

Time to retire chaps
Wisely too, for Zulu pursued it (though not wholeheartedly) and came within an ace of capturing the guns.  By this stage the British were becoming encircled, but Tremlett managed to rally the 13th, and set upon a bold - if rash - plan.

Seeing a gap in the enemy lines, Tremlett took personal command of the guns and dashed them to the hill; their objective.  Alas the bluffs surrounding the top proved steeper and more difficult than he had first percieved, and the guns became firmly stuck.

Dammit Sirs, move the guns!
The Zulu watched in amazement as the guns flew through the lines, but they then hollered with joy as they became stuck, horses bucking and limbers sliding from the trail.  They saw a chance to cut off the feared cannon and charged.

The valiant artillery men held the first attack, and were within an ace of being supported by elements of the 90th.  But the Zulu climbed the rocky slopes like men possessed and put the crew to flight or the blade.

Add caption
With the light fading and time against them, Wood called off the attack, the loss of the artillery would make his plan difficult to execute to say the least.  Rather he await the rest of his column to move up and hopefully brush the Zulu aside.  A tally of the casualties indicated Wood had 53 Dead, mostly amongst the Artillery and cavalry, and a similar number of wounded.

For the Zulu part it was a Pyrrhic victory at best.  They left behind some 400 dead on the field and of their wounded another 500 would either succumb to their injuries or remain absent for the duration of the campaign, perhaps blighted by injury for the rest of their days.  Certainly the present force as it stood would be in no position to oppose Wood's column for a second day of action, but at least as this day closed the British would view the river from afar, out of reach, and lit by the glow of the burning artillery train.

A great little game, that swung both ways during the course of play.  Both our lead generals proved to be Unwilling or incompetent at times with both of us managing a couple of blunders during the games.  In the end it was a failed 'Follow Me' left the artillery stuck on the hill.  Passing it would have deployed them to the top of the hill, ready to fire case into the onrushing horde.  The balance of my forces seems about right, and historically the battle seemed credible.  The Zulu could use terrain to approach the redcoats with ease, but the British firing line could hold them at bay with steady fire.  Overall a grand little game.

Maybe I'll get another one in soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

501st Legion - Vader's Own

Even poorly painted miniatures put unpainted metal or plastic to shame, and our recent game of Imperial Assault made this point all too clearly.

I'd been intending to paint the models in my copy anyway but this put the spur to that aim, and so I've made a start.

Imperial Officer
 I kicked off with this chap mainly to make sure I was happy with a simple technique, as they are board game pieces for heavy use I've opted for a simple shaded glaze job.  On this Imperial Officer it's not terribly obvious, what with his dark green uniform.  The base edge is to identify his unit/activation card in gameplay.

This took no time and so I decided I could dig into one of the biggest tasks in the box; the Stormtroopers.
Blue Squad try to aim at the same target
Painting these fellows was simplicity itself, being a grey undercoat followed by several coats of white.  Once this looked even a 3 parts Vallejo glaze medium to 1 part Strong-tone Quick Shade wash mix was applied to the models.  Thinning down the tone with glaze ensured that all the detail wasn't swamped, whilst using a dark shade of tone guaranteed definition.

After that a relatively thin coat of black was applied with a fine brush to all the relevant areas.  Next a little white was retouched and added as highlights to the helmets and limbs, then various vents on the helmet had a touch of dark grey added. Finally, the same was lightly dry-brushed to the guns and gloves for some definition.  Job done.

In fact I was able to do all nine of the troopers as a batch quite quickly:

All three squads try to aim where their officer is pointing
Now to apply a couple of layers of varnish (I often take photos before applying varnish to models).

Really pleased with how nice the Stormtroopers have come out, it isn't until you add the black definition that the models come to life.  Next up I shall start on some of the models specifically required for the next campaign scenario.  I get to do a couple of corkers for that one...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A couple more games played lately

So just a brief post to mention a couple of recent games.  La Granja is a mid-complexity Euro style board game about the lazy farming of rural Spain.  Players attempt to develop the most profitable estate with the least effort, there is an in game reward for having siestas!

Not as complex as it appears!
 One of the clever features of the game is the farm board (at bottom of the photo), which allows you to play cards from your hand in one of four different ways - as resources, special abilities or trade goods.  Therefore you find yourself weighing up the options of every card in you hand, and regardless of your strategy there is always a used for most of the cards in your hand.

It wasn't the clearest game after explanation, but we were pressed for time, and despite this it did make itself fairly clear once played.  Pretty much entirely devoid of conflict, La Granja is nevertheless worth the time - 90-120 minutes - to play.

But if it's conflict you want, and lets face it this is a Wargames blog so you probably do, Perhaps Star Wars Imperial Assault will be more up your street.

Having tried the introductory scenario with Jim a few weeks ago we were both keen to give it more play, and so have set to recruiting more players steadily as we begin the campaign mode.  For our first session proper we recruited Jim's cousin, John, and each took a legendary hero to try and destroy an imperial outpost.

Things didn't go well for the rebels
The guys found that even with lots of wounds and extra activations they were stretched from the start.  The mission objective was to destroy the four terminals in the outpost, but they only managed to get the first one.  having two ranged weapon specialists probably caused them issues, particularly when the E-Web gunner and another squad of Stormtroopers appeared.  Ultimately it was a mission failure for the boys, and they went back to their base to lick their wounds and try to recruit more heroes for the next time.

You may notice some of the models are painted.  No effort on my part, John had a collection of the old Wizards of the Coast Star Wars miniatures, we used these instead where possible.  They are only prepaints however and I am sure I can do better with my own.

In fact that may well motivate me...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bargain books

One good thing about a day out to a English country town; cut price book shops:

Picked up for less than a tenner, against a retail price of £27, Given 'Knight' is four Osprey Warrior titles in one volume you could argue the saving is even bigger!

I resisted a fistful of other books including a similar title on the Roman infantryman, several other 'Raid' volumes and a set of naval wargame rules from Pen and Sword I'd never even heard of.

More stuff for the library nevertheless.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Inevitable Age of Sigmar Review

I was determined not to write the rules off until I had at least given them a try.  Games Workshop's new baby has been out there for a couple of weeks now and I finally had a chance to try it a day or two ago.  What follows are my thoughts on that particular game and the rules as a whole.

We tried to play the game as written as much as possible, and so followed the rules as written to the letter, this seemed only appropriate for a review and initial test.  However myself and my opponent, Matt, did agree on one fundamental change: We would measure all movement and issues of contact from bases, not figures.

The rules state bases are irrelevant - except to stop the models from falling over - and that measurements are taken from any part of the figure.  Now this clearly will lead to issues, and seems on-line at least to have been interpreted as you 'always use the most extended part of the model'.  In essence the rules don't state that, but good old GW show all their previous form in this system by writing rules in such an ambiguous way that it is easy for them to spark arguments about intention and meaning.

Quite aside from the fact that this rule makes a figure with a levelled spear able to attack a model further away than one holding it aloft, and a flowing cape may make a figure have more range than the same one modelled without it... The rule as written makes little sense; but it is easily common-sensed around.  We opted for bases; this meant that figure size essentially became standardised and fair, and negated the potential need to stack one base upon another, something most gamers would be loathe to do.  Using your common sense is a strong theme of these rules, and in that regard they are very much of an old-school design ethos.  This is a point we shall return to.

Still, four paragraphs in and we've covered one rule.  Let's get things moving.

Beforehand we agreed to a couple of restrictions on our forces.  Armies in the game are made by choosing 'Warscrolls', essentially unit rosters, with the figures within that scroll having a certain number of wounds each.  What these do not have, is any form of points value, either explicit or implicit, so you really need a gentlemanly approach to how you prepare forces.

One of the big complaints of gamers seems to be that this makes pick-up games and tournament play impossible.  Well, we'll see.  For now we had 51 wounds each (just how it worked out) and 5 Warscrolls each.  Ogres versus Goblins; in Warhammer that would have been an enormous mismatch on face value.

We set up and rolled for the magical terrain.  Table wise, a small layout seemed more than adequate for forces of such a small size.  In AoS all terrain is special terrain.  This is not to say it is all wacky terrain, but as we rolled off the scenery we'd laid out it did throw up one oddity - The magical hedge capabl of improving a wizards casting ability seemed pretty unlikely.  The other issue with terrain is the rules as written really imply it should have a base; as written a wall provides no cover if you stand behind it, but if you stand on it, it does! The easy fix is of course that if in base contact with the terrain feature you are 'on the terrain', but equally having terrain fixed to a base makes more sense and avoids arguments.

We split the table in half and got on with deployment.  One point to note here is that you can declare you are stopping deploying at any time, you need not put out all your army.   The other guy can then carry on until he is satisfied.  If you haven't agreed an form of army size cap beforehand, you could both carry on until you simply run out of models.  As will be seen this is not a great plan unless you like to win because the other guy had to go home to bed.  But if, as Matt was, you find yourself out numbered by 4-3 or higher after deployment, you may elect to take a 'Sudden Death' victory condition.

Sudden Death conditions circumvent the normal victory condition of 'try to wipe out the other guy'; they include assassinating an enemy hero, and as Matt selected, occupying a key enemy terrain feature.  The down side to this is that the sudden death condition will often go with the army with the toughest models, and so may well play to their strengths  - in a balanced game this is more of a problem than in an unbalanced one.  Had I proceeded to put the remaining 150 goblins out my box on the table, Matt's strategy would have been wholly justified, but also harder to carry out.

Sudden Death is a good riposte rule to playing people who try to win by having the most toys, whether it works in even sized games is another matter.

Initial Terrain and Deployments 
 So we've deployed.  You'll notice there are no formed units, no massed battle-lines, AoS does not prohibit these, there is just no particular benefit to them.  Units will tend to close up in combat though.  I guess if you are playing a bigger game, trays would save time in movement, but for sub-thirty figure armies like these it was irrelevant.

The Goblin horde
 There has been a lot of more positive talk on the net about the 'synergies' between different units.  The way the Warscrolls are written is actually fairly clever (childish rules that some have aside), not hugely original, but clever.  Certain combos work well together, for example, I took Skarsnik, who can inspire a unit of night goblins to double their attacks and become immune to Battleshock (morale) over fairly long ranges.  this made my army much feistier than on paper it should have been.

This is smart, but then it is nothing that games like Magic: the Gathering haven't been doing for years now, so it is more a case of a application of modern game design than inventing something new.

A handful of Ogres
 As Matt finished deployment first He got first turn, but after that turn order is randomised, so it is quite possible to get two turns on the bounce.  This is not always good thing, and certainly I had good reason on one occasion in the game to let Matt sneak first turn when I had won the roll and could've elected to go before him.

You start the turn with Hero actions; these may be commands or spells, and are detailed as appropriate on a unit/characters Warscroll.  Some simply work, such as Skarsnik's powers, whilst others - magic mainly - require rolling.  Spells can be powerful, but are thankfully simple.  Casting involves rolling 2D6 against your target casting value, and your opponent may try to dispel it if he has a wizard in range by rolling over what you did.  Magic definitely played into the goblins hands on this day, but was far less overpowering than in Warhammer before.  Some may find it a little vanilla (most wizards will have the same two generic spells and one personal spell), but it works for such small games.

Anyway, knowing that the Sinister Shrine of Sigmar was his main objective, matt sent most of his force towards it.  Units have a basic move, which they may extend by D6 if they run.  Terrain has zero effect on most movement; unless as we did, buildings are declared impassable, linear objects simply remove their vertical height from the linear move.

Ogres loom in on their objective
 If you run you sacrifice your ability to carry out shooting or charge actions later in your turn.  If you get within 3 inches of an enemy model, without a charge, you must stop.  If you begin a turn in that position, you can stand still or retreat; that's all.

The Giant gets charged
 So to get all out of sequence, Matt charged my giant, my goblins having opened fire on some of his ogres over the way before also being charged by them.  A charge can be declared if you are within 12 inches of your target, but you roll 2D6 for your permissible charge move so it pays to move in close first.  Still even at 3 inches one of Matt's Ogre units failed it's charge and stood stock still.

Now in combat, any unit within 3 inches of the fight becomes involved and get 'Pile-in' moves to allow them to approach the enemy, but this is done in a neat sequence; the player whose turn it is chooses his first unit to fight, then the opponent may choose any unit of their own, engaged in combat, to fight back with.  Even if it is in a totally different melee.  Therefore, you may get the drop on enemy units even though elsewhere you have been attacked already.  The sequencing of this does nuance combat rather well.

Get 'em! Wheee!
 This, plus the special commands of Skarsnik made the Gobbo's more than hold their own against the Ogres on the flank.  As to the mechanic for shooting and combat, it is ludicrously simple, and seems to be a nod to Kings of War, but fumbled in a manner that can only suggest they had to avoid copying it directly, even if the result was far inferior.

All units roll to hit based on the weapons they are equipped with, so for example an Ogre is hitting on 4+, regardless of his opponents ability (unless any special rules on their Warscroll applied) - Vampire count or Zombie as a target, the roll would still be a 4+.  To wound is the same, only the Saves are really modified, where a weapon has 'Rend' which lowers the save.  Unlike previous rules, a 6 is not always a success, nor a 1 a fail, so it is very possible to be left without hope of escape.  But overall it did not feel like the Ogres carved through the goblins in the easy way they would have in Warhammer; Rank and file troops have evened out somewhat in this game.  And you may well feel that is a good thing.

It all boils down to two big fights
 What certainly is a good thing, is that big monsters, get weaker as they are wounded, rather than being immense or dead but nothing in between.  In their favour though, it seems that they are all of some use again.  My Giant proved useful in a way that he never did in games of Warhammer, even if he did die in the end.

Once in combat though, there is no escape until one side is wiped out [Note: subsequently I'm reliably informed you can disengage from combat if you wish, at any time, myself and Matt missed this, and it could change things somewhat].  Battleshock is what passes for morale, but from what I could see it would take a particular set of circumstance for it to be crucial.

The goblins were doing okay until reserves turned up
 If a unit loses models during the turn it must take a Battleshock test, rolling a D6 and adding the number of casualties to it.  Note this is not wounds, models must've been removed from the unit, hence solo models are technically immune to Battleshock.  Anyway, the result is compared to the unit bravery, and if it is higher than the bravery then the difference is the number of models that the unit loses due to fleeing.

In the whole game the was only one Battleshock test, I think this was partly due to the particular unit types and the special commands however.  As a morale mechanic it is interesting, but ultimately fairly insignificant.  The game essentially became a grinding match, and it was evident that it was one I wouldn't win.  After four turns Matt controlled his building.

This was not an especially subtle game, and this is certainly a concern of the rules.  I used to regularly run my armies with large numbers of flanking fast cavalry, and it is hard to see how these may work here.  The game descended quickly into two protracted melees, and this seems a common experience to date.  Additionally there are some very odd rules.  Most notably, that troops armed with missile weapons can mid-fight, stop, pull out their bows or whatever, shoot at a completely different target if they wish, and then resume fighting.

Sure, there are ways of rationalising that in some cases, but the idea of Ogres loading cannon whilst fending of a bunch of goblins in hand to hand combat seemed doubtful at least.

Similarly, you can say goodbye to much of the Warhammer you know and love/hate.  No more Psychology tests, no fear, frenzy or terror, no warmachine misfires, no spell miscast table, no bemused monsters, no flank or rear charges, no challenges...  A hell of a lot goes when you trim down to four pages of rules, even if you can put some of it back in to the unit rosters.

Of course in some of the Warscrolls for the classic miniatures there are some very weird rules, some may say humiliating.  Such as pretending to ride a horse, or talking to your models, there are gamers who do that sort of thing anyway, but for some that would be a step too far, and is enough to put them of using those units, or even playing the game at all.  So special rules may need agreeing to work around.  Using common sense.

And so we are back to this point again.  There is the core of a workable game here, but it is not one that can simply be pulled out the box and played without a dialogue with your opponent.  My goblins fared better against Matt's Ogres than I expected, certainly better than I would've got in 8th edition, but to have had a real fighting chance in this encounter I would want another 10 or 20 wounds to even up the score.  But if I do that, there is nothing other than not owning the models to stop my opponent throwing another dozen Ogres on the table, and so it could escalate.

There is no way - at present - of saying an encounter is balanced, and there may never, ever be.  Scenario play is the balancing factor here, with the Sudden Death rule as a possible alternative.  But for the competitive gamer, there is no certainty in this.  It would be like turning up for a game of football, one team ready for five a side, the other with a full eleven; and the referee says play with who you brought, it's fair so long as the five as side team scores first they win anyway.

Can you have a decent game in this context? Yes, you can; but this is not the only issue.  As with so many of Games Workshop's rules there is a vagary in the writing that allows room for no end of ambiguity.  Those like me who were raised on the open rules of Featherstone and Grant can easily acommodate this but for many gamers the lack of a firm ruling in every situation will feel like it makes the rules unworkable,

Illogical rules like measuring from the model not the base, shooting out of combat and having to stand on terrain to be in cover will rile them almost as much as a lack of a points system.  Casual play against regular opponents will work best, whether this can ever be made into a set of tournament rules remains to be seen (I wouldn't want it to but that's a personal view).

But my main issues with the game are twofold, and they are not any of the above.

Firstly the game itself is slow, for what it is.  Given I played with 29 models and Matt with 11 this was a tiny game by old Warhammer standards, but with going through the rules carefully and talking over the results this game took two hours to play.  Sure you'd speed up, but the game boiled down to a long slow grind in the middle.

In the rules they claim a hundred models a side (perhaps a 2000 point game under old rules) should last an evening; it's hard to see that to be honest, plus after two or three turns it will boil down to a bunch of melees, in the middle of the table.  Now you can certainly argue that this happens in other rules too, but those rules generally feature retreats and flank marches and other legitimate events and tactics that will add to the unpredictability, it feels like AoS will become predictable very early in the game.

Secondly, and most damningly, why would I play this exclusively, even regularly, over the innumerable other games out there?  Ultimately, I don't think Age of Sigmar is terrible, I wouldn't even say it was not that good.  It isn't a bad game, but it is limited by a number of factors, and is certainly not a 'Great' game; not yet and moreover it may never be.  So why play this instead of sticking with older editions of Warhammer, or Kings of War, or Armies of Arcana, or Hordes of The Things, or playing Saga, Lion Rampant, Black Powder, Force on Force, Anima tactics.....  You get the idea.

This has been a very long review, but then it's fair to say both for Games Workshop and for wargaming as a whole this is a very important release.  This is likely to be the first introduction to Fantasy gaming for a lot of players, to wargaming in general for some, and it is a totally different ideology to its' owners previous products.  Equally it is a watershed moment for a lot of the company's loyal customers, and the point at which some of them may expand their horizons for the first time in an effort to use their collections in the way they always assumed they could.  Or quit the hobby in a fit of pique!  Games Workshop has apparently gambled on gaining more new players than it loses old.

Will it be a success for GW?  I think Age of Sigmar will need a year to bed in, and to develop, by which point it may be clear if they have a real success on their hands or not.  For me, as it stands it is a game I could play again, in a casual relaxed context, but is not one I would recommend in favour of any other system, not one I would adapt my established armies for, not one I would look to add figures for, and not one I would buy hardback books for.

GW needs plenty of players to think the exact opposite of this for its' gambit on providing the rules for free to be a success, if new gamers cannot be convinced that it is worth paying £6 a figure for the new plastic Sigmarite models - or for other new models or re-boxed old models - then they have failed, and the game will die.

There are a few elements to like, but this is no stand out product, and moreover it feels incomplete.  Were it not the product of the biggest company in the industry, Age of Sigmar would sink without trace.

Seldom has the phrase 'Damning with Faint Praise' seemed more appropriate.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Austrian Cavalry - 1st Kaiser Cuirassiers

More Progress on the Austrians, the aim is to have a small force available for battle before the end of summer - say four regiments of foot, four horse, and some guns.  Not a big corps of troops but enough for an evening's quick game.  To this end I have completed my first cavalry regiment; the Kaiser Cuirassiers:

 The usual Austrian white, but at least this time with the variety of campaign pants.  A variety of horse colours too.

 Once again these are Warrior miniatures; cheap clean castings with decent detail for the scale, but essentially only one rank and file pose.  But this suits my intentions, as it gives a nice regimented look in this scale and makes painting quicker.

Additionally with both its' infantry regiments painted already, I had need of a divisional commander for IR.35 & 42.  Thus I also knocked up Feldmarschall-Lieutenant Nostitz, who commanded them at Aspern-Essling:

 I look like having many spare foot officers so it was a no brainer to use one here in concert with the senior officer, he could represent his second in command - Oberst Schaeffer.

So in about four weeks I've managed to get 64 infantry, 8 cavalry and a general painted and based.  I must also admit in that time to buying as many more models for the project, but at the prices Warrior charge I'm not too concerned.  Inertia is with this project at the moment as results are so frequent.  But at the same time Lion Rampant models are close to completion, and some Star Wars figures have now appeared on the paint table for a boardgame-friendly makeover.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Meanwhile: Kings of War Second Ed...


It's not all Age of Sigmar in Toomuchlead Towers this month, but it certainly is very Fantasy-heavy at the moment; bear with me History fans, and we'll be back on a more even keel soon.

Anyway, Today Kings of War V2.0 hit the download limits of one and all from Mantic.

Download here!

And yes, it's another Free set of Rules; the difference here being that Mantic, unlike GW have always issued their rules for Free, and buying the optional rule book gives you everything you need for the game.  Including all the full army lists.

New artwork is only the start.
Having given it a quick scan this evening (exciting, huh?) I can say that not much appears to have changed, but a few points I noted were the disappearance of long range from shooting, the addition of heights, and more clarification on how to measure and undertake charges.  I'm sure there must be other points, but if you already know V1 of the rules it'll not be difficult to pick these, though worth reading carefully to pick up on the differences.

Kings of War are one of the clearest sets of rules out there, and though they may be lacking a few of the nuances that made Warhammer so popular, they also lack said products' innumerable ambiguities.

If you are fishing around for an alternative massed-battle fantasy game, these are surely top of the list.  And once again you can try for free and see how you go.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

GW's Frank words on Age of Sigmar

Mandatory AoS image and Post from lapsed fanboy ;-) follows:


So the rules are out, the boxed set days away.  What of the direction for the future?  I felt the quote below, from one of many web forums via Bell of Lost Souls bore repeating here:

“GW had a guy camped out at the Forge World open day whose entire job was to answer questions and talk to people about Age of Sigmar. His entire job is to go to shows and talk to people about the new game. For the first time I think ever they’re taking Age of Sigmar to Gencon, Comic Con, all the major wargames conventions in Europe etc. They’re throwing a considerable amount of money at putting this in front of new audiences who have never played fantasy before. He was also brutally honest and didn’t dodge any questions and answered everything he could. I’ll start with the negative stuff first.
This is it. There categorically will not be a ‘9th’ edition of fantasy. Age of Sigmar is the only thing fantasy related GW will do for the considerable future.
He acknowledges that the ‘funny’ rules are rather silly and don’t make for a great intro to the system for new people. His response was that the armies in the box set don’t have the silly rules. They’re there as kind of a celebration and final send off of the old warhammer armies, and he said you might notice the new armies don’t have the stupid noises or imaginary friends. This is deliberate, its designed that you’ll only generally play the old stuff with your mates since it’s a bit embarassing to play in a public place.
The new races will look different to the old ones. Ooruks will not look the same as the orcs we currently have. As such, when they get round to releasing Ooruks, the old models will cease production. He did say that you can still use your old models as ooruks, but you won’t be able to buy normal orc boys again.
There will never be points values.
On to the slightly positive [That's subjective of course] stuff then.
They are going to fully support all modes of play, and will be releasing rules to balance armies against each other. There will be narrative campaigns where your forces are picked for you for specific missions, and there will be a system for tournament players to balance lists that isn’t based on model count. He did not know the specifics of this, but said it is definitely coming.
The rules will always be free. He said that they are very very aware that fantasy had a massive buy in for someone to get started, as such the game was designed with the ability to play it with one box of models. There will be army books, but every rule in them will be available, for free, online. The books will just have extra background info and scenarios.
GW really are trying harder than they ever have before to make this work. If you’re at one of the shows go and talk to them. They want to talk to you about this, but especially they want your feedback on it. As he said, this is totally uncharted territory for them and they are totally open to rules revisions as they go.”
Well, it's fair to say to date AoS has caused a nerd-rage explosion amongst Warhammer fans; they hate the destruction of the Old World, hate the round bases, lack of formations, lack of complex rules, silly rules, absence of points/balance...

Though there also seems to be a trend amongst those who've actually played it to admit it is an enjoyable game, though not a competitive one, as yet.  Balance is fine, and desirable to a point, but for me it should never be essential to a wargame (scenario's/refights are more important) and if the game is allowed to become competition driven it will take the gloss away from it's apparent open sandbox format.

I've yet to try AoS (hell I haven't had a wargame in some three months so how could I), but I am looking forward to giving it a go.  Whether it'll be a mainstay of my gaming is another matter.

If you've been living in a cave and don't already know, you can get the rules and army compendiums for present forces free, HERE.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Top ten - Miniature Ranges!

Time for another top ten, just as personal as the last one but this time focused on the models that let us play these games of war!

I had at first considered restricting this subject to individual figures, literally my top ten models, but this I realised might by nigh on impossible as how on earth would I pick ten figures from the tens of thousands that'd passed through my hands?  Making the subject broad enough to encompass specific ranges was the only sensible choice.  Still I am not simply going to list ten manufacturers, especially as many of my older choices are from manufacturers with patchy at best output, at that time or since.  We'd best have a couple of conditions to this though:
  • A range constitutes a single miniature range as listed by a manufacturer; or, a single boxed set of miniatures - plastic or metal.  So for example (not that they'll be on the list) Marauder Miniatures Dark Elf range could appear on the list but not the entirety of the their fantasy figure range.  Similarly Essex 15mm Rus would be ok, but not all Essex 15mm models.
  • I personally must have bought models from the range (or the identified box) at some stage, even if I have subsequently sold them on. 
  • If I can't prove they exist by finding a photo of them, they don't get on the list (sorry!)
And let's be clear, this is no awards list, these are not necessarily the best models out there, but they are my favourites.

So let's begin.

10. Dixon's Samurai

From Dixons' Website 
Now, I have no photos of my own collection of Dixons Samurai, as they currently live in a box in my brothers' inaccessible loft, not that they were ever that much to look at.  But one of my earliest collections of metal miniatures was these.  They were a popular subject for gaming at my first club, and the shop I worked in sold them too.  On top of my teenage fascination with all things Japanese these were always going to be popular.

I think the actual style of these models would divide modern buyers, they are chunky to say the least, which on the plus side made for easy painting.  Personality and animation were the bywords of the figures, and helps get them into the top ten.

9. Peter Pig AK47 Republic 15mm

One of the key's to whether a range works and is memorable for me, is character, do the models exude something in the way of personality, are they dynamic, evocative of theme and so on.  This is parsonally far more important than whether or not they have the correct number of lapel buttons for the 1756 reformations or whatever.

Of course this sort of thing tends to mean that smaller scale figures struggle to be favourites of mine; they can be well detailed and cute but honestly at less than 20mm scales they tend to feel rather impersonal.  One manufacturer this does not apply to for me is Peter Pig, and their AK47 miniatures were a huge selling point on my playing the game:

Professional Cavalry
These are to ignore the more eccentric choices as well, when a range includes naked troops, child soldiers, media crews and looters you have to agree that whatever the morality of the topic, it gets it's theme and chooses to cover it comprehensively.  Such a shame they spoilt it with a po-faced second edition of the rules.

8. Revell Celts

Now the backstory to this range must be the longest on this list, as the Revell Celts- at least some of them - began life long, long ago with Elastolin:

Image result for elastolin gauls
Compare the two left hand models here... the bottom right here
But not so many as the Revell Romans; who were entirely copied from Elastolin.  Revell rather used these old figures to fill out a range of genuine Gallic warriors in a range of suitable clothing and with nicely detailed shields and weapons.  I managed to score a few packs of both these and the Romans when I was getting back into gaming after five or six years away.  

Overall the set was a pleasure to paint and had lots of conversion potential - at a time when precious little was available in the 20mm plastics field, and I was a poor student with little money, I managed to turn these and the Airfix Ancient Britons into all manner of Celtic troops.

7. Prince August self-cast 'Dark Ages' warriors

Once upon a time home casting your armies was a very real thing, people everywhere were doing it.  At a time when the quality of manufactured metal miniatures was a long way off what it is today, these were genuinely a reasonable alternative:
Tools used to make these moulds.
They seldom looked this good out of my mould...
If you could afford white metal they were as good as many models of the eighties, I however like many was using scrounged plumbers lead and whatever alloy I could get my hands on (wheel balancing weights were a popular alternative and I'm pretty sure some people made fine armies out of church roofs, something I can't condone).

In an age when a range of miniatures might be a handful of models Prince August had a respectable 5 or 6 moulds suitable for dark ages warriors (even if branded as part of their fantasy range), making a dozen or so useable poses.  Cheap lead is also super easy to cast and convert, so I soon had an army of some 200 generic dark ages men; and the molten lead scars to show for it.

6. Perry Miniatures Napoleonic French Line Infantry

It would be remiss to not mention the revolution that injection plastic has brought to historical gaming in the last few years.  It is of course hard to pick a favourite amongst so many excellent efforts now available, but lets say that runner up for me had to be a Perry set, and from a purely objective technical standpoint, Perry leave every other manufacturer in their dust.

Great box art too
I've picked their Napoleonic French, as they offer great variety and good value for money; and permit me to produce units for my Peninsular War army with a decent range of options.

One of my own efforts

Not the only 28mm plastic on this list but certainly the prettiest.  There are different reasons as to why they are not higher though as we'll see.

5. Games Workshop -  Feudals (1980's)

f4mercenarieswd948710.jpg (38282 bytes) f4mercenarieswd948710.jpg (38282 bytes)

Specifically the C26 and F4 ranges from  the mid to late 80's, I managed to pick up a fair few of these over the years (back when 4 for £2.50 was expensive!); and some of them are on my painting table at this very moment, getting the love they deserve to join the ranks of my Lion Rampant force.  Ignoring the somewhat off plastic shields of the period these were nicely accurate and well made models for their day.

Now available from Foundry at prices GW might be proud of they are still cracking sculpts, even if levels of detail have moved on since.  For nostalgia value, which is clearly a major feature on this list, they hold their place over modern replacements

4. Cipher Studios - Anima Tactics

In terms of sheer complexity, nothing else on the list will come close to these gorgeous sculpts from one of the many Spanish miniatures companies out there:

As the title suggests, the models in the game range are anime inspired (along with a hefty nod towards Japanese role playing video games like the Final Fantasy series), one thing I like is how frequently the models are designed to match the concept art quite closely, many exactly; this figures themselves are full of character and enormous amounts of detail.  They reward patient and high quality painting, and doing so for my own collection (not shown above!) helped improve my skills no end.

Sadly I understand these are no longer in production, and so it is likely to be a game which I never get as many games of as I would've liked, which is a shame as it is a really nice system.

3. Wargames Factory Numidian Infantry

I've long hailed these as the most useful set of 28mm plastic figures ever, and that is largely because of their simplicity.  A lack of anything more than a tunic means they can be turned to innumerable roles.  Thus:
Slave Revolt warriors
My own Jewish Guerillas
Early Roman
and so on.  I've seen them mounted too and they could serve as a basis for troops well beyond the ancient period too.  They come with a good range of weapons options and are reasonably cheap too.  Having permitted me to start my long aspired too Jewish Revolt project I had to put these on the list.

Wargames Factory, unlike the Perrys', use Computer Aided Design rather than physical sculpting, the limits of this technology, or at least how well WF can implement it, do show in these models, but as a tool for putting a wider variety of armies on to the table, these leave most of their more detailed and specific brethren standing.  The converter and kit-basher in me loves them.

2. Games Workshop - The Nightmare Legion

When I started getting in to fantasy games, I definitely had a thing for two evil races; Orcs - due to the Lord of the Rings (and so my Orcs were always more of an Olive colour than a garish green) and thanks to Ray Harryhausen, skeletons.

I used to have a horde of Games Workshop plastic skeletons but the models I really wanted were the Nightmare Legion, a swarm of heavily armoured undead warriors.

And I managed to get hold of a box, long cherished, latterly joined by another dozen or so models from a friend.  For many years they served a Grave Guard in my old Warhammer Vampire Counts army.
Better than mine ever looked
These were certainly some of the nicest fantasy models of their time, and in my opinion anyway, still remain so.

But they don't make number one, and partly that's because my first encounters with toy soldiers were older, smaller and more historical than these could ever hope to be.

1. Matchbox  - Afrika Korps

I must confess these were not the first ever toy soldiers I owned.  I had of course a fairly random collection of 1/32nd scale soldiers - Russians and Germans as well as cowboys and knights that did random battle in the garden for a few years.  But as a precocious eight year old I read my first wargame book and it well informed me that to play toy soldiers properly I must scale down to 20mm.

My first purchase in that scale was the Matchbox Commando set, and it was a tough call as to whether they should occupy this top spot, but my second purchase was Matchbox's Afrika Korps, and these to my childish eyes were perfection.  It began with the box:

Oh lord!  The memories...
No soldiers stood around fighting like this in World War Two I'm now sure, but as an effort to present the poses in the box in a dramatic and evocative context it was perfect.  The Matchbox sets for me, more so than Airfix of the same period, little packages of magic.  And then I got it home, and inside were 50 of these beauties:
So lovely!
All mine for the princely sum of 99 pence!

With enough troops to take charge of both sides my future as a wargamer began, with scrappy rules and mismatched forces, but I was sold, and despite several hiatuses over the years, I've never stopped.
Matchbox's gorgeous little models have more to do with that than anything else to be honest, and so they rightly deserve top spot in my list.