Monday, July 31, 2006


Had a game with the new 40k supplement rules the other week, and finally getting round to some thoughts on the game.

Firstly, they're not rocket science!

There are few surprises in the rules, it's a given that GW systems tend to be simple. This is not to say they are not sometimes elegant games. Epic Armageddon and Warmaster both show how they can be quite capable of writing rules. Mainly though these are an exercise in putting a new spin on tried and tested rules; with a view to selling lots of pretty (and pretty expensive) scenery.

Not that I needed to worry about that, a huge pile of foam board still awaits the modellers knife. Thanks to pilfering old placards from my last office when they threw them away. The table was set with a variety of terrain, some of which I'd knocked up the day before.

The rules specify a set up with no two buildings more than 6 inches apart. This allows for spaces and roads to naturally appear. Players then pick a number of specified 'Stratagems', little special rules to reflect nuances of urban conflict. The value of these will vary dependant on you army, I made two poor choices I think, booby traps, and a fortified building (which I then advanced out of! In the right circumstances these could be valuable, but they do create some oddities in play also. For example only the player with the plunging fire stratagem gains any particular advantage for firing down on the enemy from above?...

Orks, thousands of 'em. Actually for a 40K ork army this was a tiddler, we only played 1250 points each, which took as long as 1500-2000 points as a result of the terrain. Nevertheless I had around 90 Orks and a tank to play with. By contrast Chris' Blood Angels numbered around 25 infantry, two Dreadnoughts and 4 other vehicles.

Overall it was a cagey game, although the mission required our capturing the central building, the lack of fire avenues mean't the Blood Angels at least couldn't thin out my numbers and were holding back at first. He quickly lost his flanking land speeders, but otherwise was barely harmed by the Orks. My Warboss suffered the ignominy of being cut down by a squad of scouts.

Chris' Dreadnoughts seized the building towards the end of the game, my Ork Burna Boyz tried desparately to use their blowtorch burnas to cut them open, but to no avail. Although I wiped out one Marine squad, the Death Company arrived as reserves and as usual mopped up my Orks. At the end of the game Chris was the clear winner.

In summary, City Fight is what you make of it, but contains little in terms of rules one couldn't come up with by mutual agreement. It has been used as a spur by GW to develop new scenery and figures (Eldar Rangers redone, finally!); but that also means the book is largely just a fancy add for the self same items. As one would expect of Games Workshop.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Went East, coming back now.

Well the last support for the Japanese WW2 force is now done. I have a game in mind specifically for them; plucked from Charles Grants "Scenarios For Wargames". Beyond that I have no idea how much I'll use them.

The Samurai however are presently on hold. Simple reason - paint. I want to paint them using shaded varnish techniques, one army in Red armour, the other in Black, there are historical forces to model them on, however, red is one of those colours. In enamel paint (my chosen medium) Red is highly variable, one tin can be runny, the next thick as pitch. I'm after a spray in a shade I like, to save time, but aside from the obscenly expensive GW red spray, I haven't got any options beyond car spray paint. I know it should work, and there should be a matt shade somewhere, but I lose the will to look.

As usual for wargamers distraction is the enemy of completing jobs.

I, ahem, aquired the first half of an army of Spartans. 60 figures 28mm from Black Tree Designs for only £40! Pretty good value. Sadly that means yet more red paint! Thankfully, metal miniatures and requiring a white undercoat means the pain won't be so bad. However the intention is to produce a display standard army for Warhammer Ancients, so no dip technique for these boys. Full on layered highlighting techniques, none of that cartoony black lining technique some 'professional' painters provide clients. An army of 120 men will take some time to finish, yet it holds a lot more appeal than starting the detailed and fussy samurai...

Meanwhile the 15mm Eygptians are now upto DBM army strength, with 10 chariots and 175 infantry. Good stuff.

The other issue however has been that napoleonics game. As a result books for research have arrived in the house. To touch upon a period of history that always struck me as intriguing. The wars of liberation in South America 1810 to 1840. Shambolic napoleonic warfare on a managable scale. Interesting? Hope so.

On the other hand, some items are going. Some of my fantasy collection, my 6mm ancients are selling up a storm on ebay, and next to go. Well possibly my Mongols; a full 20mm DBM army I've little interest to actually use and even less interest to paint an enemy force for. Kinda like fashion, they're on a shelf now with a time limit on them, if I don't touch again for a while, they're going.

We'll that's where things stand for now...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

1831 - the Battle of Nijlen

Although not actually set in the Napoleonics wars itself, I had my first game of Napoleonics for some 6 years yesterday, and I must admit to really enjoying it.

Phil brought along his Dutch-Belgian allied army, and split it for the day into a Dutch army and a Belgian one, to allow us a reasonable representation of a hypothetical battle of the Belgian Revolution of 1830-31. In August 1831 The Dutch invaded the rebellious south, enjoying 2 major victories before the French intervened. Our battle would easily fit as a minor action of the brief campaign, and gave at least a whiff of plausibility to the proceedings.

It occurs to me that at this rate I could rename this blog "Belgium in flames", 3 out of 4 battle reports being set in the poor place. Belgian bashing? never! I quite like the place. Anyhow.

For our other player, Chris, I suspect the closest he'd have been to the Napoleonics before would have been the odd episode of Sharpe; ordinarily a Warhammer 40k player, Chris has over the last year or two shown me a natural tactical aptitude (40k must teach you something, eh? either that or he's a loss to the nation militarily!) . In short he's beaten me at my own game on many occaisions.

The rules we were using were Piquet, though simplified to a certain extent. Primarily in the way firing was resolved, and some common sense treatments in the morale area. A major aspect of Piquet, is the card driven actions, you may only do what the turned card permits, unless it is a wild card permitting any action. You can fire any time, but if you don't have a reload card you are left vulnerable by doing so.

The other major aspect being that the initiatives are random - each player rolls a 20 sided dice, and the highest roller has the difference between the two results to spend on cards and actions.

The first photo, shows my Dutch on the right formed into attack formations in depth. The Belgians are on the left, from this angle they look heavily outnumbered, but Chris favoured his own right with a larger infantry force, and a fearsome number of cavalry.

The Belgian front line.

The Belgian Right.

Most of the Early initiative went Chris' way, an inevitable aspect of the rules being that whilst over the course of a game the number of turns will tend to average out, they can tend to form large blocks of action for one side over another. Chris got clean to the bottom of his deck of 40 cards, before I'd turned 8 of mine. This notionally ends the turn and prompts a reshuffle. Which Chris' deck clearly needed!

In terms of action, after an opening redeployment of my artillery, some cannonade and a cavalry advance, it all swung to the Belgians Who began a general advance and summarily fought off my smaller cavalry force on my left. The rest of the game that flank revolved around how long I could keep his horse tied up without losing mine.

Dutch artillery on the right enfiladed the advancing Belgians. A devastating volley all but wiped out one of his battalions, routing the survivors. This spurred the Dutch right, now on the ascendent into action.

With adequate initiative I began an advance. My right was strong, and his looked distinctly rattled.

Meanwhile my centre had become all the more defensive, forming squares in light of a possible threat from Belgian cavalry.

On my right I attempted to charge down his exposed artillery and out flank his weakened left. But thanks to the permitted interrupt actions - few in number but critical if timed well - Chris was able to hammer my troops with grapeshot as they charged home.

It cost me one battalion wholesale, and another routed (though quickly rallied). I cursed my bad luck, having known I'd suffer losses going in, but to get fired on at point blank three times before falling back inches from the guns was miserable luck.

Cheers of "For dark chocolate, Monksbier and mayonaise on our chips" went up from the Elated Belgians.

Initiative began to swing back to the Belgians who bore down on my vulnerable cavalry, clambered over the steep hill in the centre, and consolidated their left.

The Belgians begin to form a thin Black line.

Chris' cavalry charged mine, but Initiative fell with me for the end of the game. I ignored meelee resolution cards in my own hand, and he failed to draw any. I advanced on the right again using massed musketry and artillery to pound his infantry before closing. Time ran out for both of us.

A consultation of the morale chips and losses showed casualties were pretty similar, but the Belgian morale was stronger; although they'd not seized the field, they were the one who could better lay claim to the ground at the end of the day. We agreed it was the very narrowest of Belgian victories.

Piquet worked better than I remembered, though granted Phil, who stuck to umpiring, had simplified the mechanics a fair bit. Napoleonics is a period I always liked for the splendour (few wargamers don't I find) but found the prospect of painting the 4-600 figures my old club's preferred rules (In the Grand Manner) required used, to be both financially and ability wise, beyond me; and the rules themselves require an accountancy qualification to use. Here we both had forces of about 150 foot and 16 to 32 cavalry, with a few guns and got a good game out of it. My great weakness for figures leaves me watching a few painted units on ebay now.

Clearly the sign of a good, enjoyable game!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Upgrading the basics

Kinda on a whim, I decided to paint my felt terrain sheet yesterday. As you do.

Well actually I'd been intending to do something with it for a while. I'd picked up a 7 foot by 5 foot sheet of felt from a craft store some time ago as a base for desert games, in a light buff. I'll add at this point it's much cheaper to buy this stuff from source, than it is to let a wargames show trader cut it into 6x4ish lumps for you and sell it on. It's served well for a year or so, but increasingly I thought it looked a bit plain. It looked like I'd not made any effort; moreover, it was rather stark compared to the painted figures running around on top of it.

The method for this was partly experimental, though I'm sure many a wargamer has done it before, I didn't bother looking for any tips in books or on the web, simply got down to it. I took an old bit of sponge and a couple of tester pots of emulsion paint. Tester pots incidentally are a great way to get terrain paint cheap; £1 or so in places like B&Q for 75ml pots of generic household colours, and around three quid and you can have any shade you want blended for you in a 250ml pot.

Armed with my sponge, a tin of summery grass green, a pot of beige to lighten it with, and a gutted pizza box to mix it on and contain spills; I set to work.

It didn’t bode well at first, dabbing produced an effect that whilst the paint was wet looked too akin to polka dots; I tried rolling and the results were little better. The pressure of my fingers was forcing concentrations of paint down in regular 'fingerprint' sized blobs. It also took ages to cover any sort of area, five minutes per square foot, and I had 35 sq feet to do!

Thinking that at least the other side would remain fine, I persevered. and sped up, quickly discovering that scrubbing the sponge over the surface with more or less out of paint produced faster and better looking results. It also made it easier to build up graduated tones. The rest of the sheet took ten minutes to get a basic 'dry brush' styled coat on it.

Now I attended to the original blotchy areas, figuring I could turn the worst offenders into areas of greener growth by scrubbing over the top. this seemed to help too, and to balance the sheet out some similar areas were added to the other parts of the sheet. Finally I started to blend beige into the green and over dabbed and scrubbed areas to build up some highlights, and reduce the starkness of the boldest green blobs. A final pure beige scrub gave a few areas a lighter than base colour.

Once it'd dried I was pretty happy with the finish.

You can see the difference to the folded over untreated side. Next I may move on to improving my green sheet below it, I gave that a brush of the green a while back, but the brush strokes were harder to mask than the scrubbing of the sponge seems to have been, and one coat of green seems to have left it looking still too dark. Theres a couple of my Japanese bits on the table for interest, though to be honest the picture quality is not up to showing them off at this range.