Saturday, 24 December 2011

We take two steps forward, and two steps back

Things were just starting to settle down on the "Family Duty" front.  I'd even booked a day off between Xmas and New Year to try and organise a game of some sort.  Then two days ago my mother had another fall, this time in the bathroom where she hit her head on the way down.  Given the hard floor surface and her existing spinal damage this could have been very serious.

I'm not going to give you the blow-by-blow battle report of that day.  But credit to all the NHS staff who took great care of Mum that day, from the paramedic and ambulance crew who worked for an hour to get her safely out of the awkward position in which she'd fallen, to the A&E nurses who helped a frail and at times uncooperative patient get through five hours of tests and waiting.  Special credit has to go to the Macmillan community nurse who by a stroke of fate arrived unexpectedly for an routine visit to check up on how my parents were doing.  She jumped straight into the unexpected situation and took great care of Mum till the paramedic arrived, then split her time between helping there and keeping my distressed father distracted and calm.  She truly did a spectacular job, fully upholding the Macmillan nurses' well deserved reputation.

So now my mother is in hospital for Christmas, having been judged too frail to discharge.  I've spent the last two days campaigning heavily for her to receive full-time hospice care, speaking to anyone and everyone with a potential stake in the issue.  Needless to say, I've had no time for wargaming or any associated crafting, and all upcoming leave has necessarily been cancelled while I deal with the matter of Mum's ongoing care.

Which is not to say that I'm pushing Wargaming completely off the radar.  I've made the point on various other people's blogs that it's at times like these when we most need our hobbies in order to distract us from our troubles and help us to unwind a little.  I'm still sweeping through the usual round of wargaming blogs each day.  I'm looking at the newly stocked storage room and all the accumulated Stuff(tm) and working out how best to get some some of the unpainted lead mountain into use.  The painting table is still sitting here ready for when the urge to paint strikes again.  And since it's a still, relatively dry day, after finishing this blog entry I think I might go outside and spray some Sarissa Precision window pieces for the Victorian city project.  

If you're going through troubled times, don't feel that you have to "put away childish things"  in order to face your troubles with suitably dour and grown-up expression.  Truthfully that's absolutely the worst thing you can do.  Instead, pick up that paintbrush.  Pick up those dice.  Give yourself an hour or so to switch off from mundane matters and focus on the important question of whether to paint that unit's facings in blue or green.  Delve into that cupboard... you know the one where you shove all the odd Stuff(tm) and open up some boxes to see what you have.  Allow yourself to imagine the games you could have with those figures when you get around to painting them.  Trust me.  It'll help.

I'm going to try to post one final review of 2011, but apart from that I don't expect to have anything worth blogging about until the current family situation settles down.  Don't go away though.  The Axis of Naughtiness will rise again in 2012 with more battle reports, thoughts on ways to keep the hobby alive against all the odds and of course, most importantly of all, hats.

If it be your custom, then have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
If your faith leans otherwise, or if the very thought of a Big Beard in the Sky sends you into spasms of atheistic nerdrage, then accept my best wishes for you and yours to be safe and well over this winter solstice season.

Dr Vesuvius

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The best things in life are free

Work continues on the ongoing process of sorting through the Huge Piles of Stuff that used to be loosely referred to as my wargaming collection and finding new homes on the shelves for the Good Stuff.  I've now reached the inescapable conclusion that I've got Too Much Stuff.

So, would you like some Stuff(tm)?  Free, gratis and fer nowt?

I've got four small bundles of Stuff, all bought for mini projects that either never took off the ground or are naturally played out.

1) Several packs of Heroics & Ros 1/300 English Civil War miniatures, horse, foot and guns.  Unpainted, though many figures have been fixed to temporary card bases.  Enough for two sides of a decent sized battle.

2) Several MicroMachines Star Trek capital ships, mostly Next-Gen era.

3) Several Star Wars MicroMachines - 3 each of X-Wing, B-Wing, TIE Fighter, Millenium Falcon, Star Destroyer & desert skiff (last two not to scale)

4) Two Heroclix maps (3x3 double sided) and seven assorted Marvel figures.

Cost to you will be nothing,. though I would ask you to make a small donation, at least equal to the postage cost, to CALL, a local charity that supports people with life-limiting illnesses and their carers. CALL have been a massive help to my parents throughout their illnesses.

Since none of these packages will be particularly big, I don't mind shipping internationally, though obviously the postage/donation may be higher.  Given how close we are to Christmas, I won't be doing any posting until the new year.

If you're interested in any of these, or know someone who you think would like them, add a comment below.  First come, first served.  Then email me your postal address to drvesuvius70 AT yahoo.  co.  uk (remember to replace AT with @ and remove any spaces)

Friday, 16 December 2011

The history book on the shelf, is always repeating itself

I've managed little or no direct gaming activity in the last couple of days.  By day I've been working on turning a box room at my parents' house into a proper storage room, which mainly involved hours of assembling Ikea heavy duty shelving.  I've annexed this room as recompense for having cleared out my old room a couple of months ago and it'll mainly be used for war-gaming material.

One possible prize from this endeavour - the box room contained a 6'x'3' piece of 10mm MDF that had previously been used  to reinforce a bed.  If I can work out a good place to stow it in my flat, it may provide a larger playing area when placed atop my current 4'x2.75' coffee table.

Plans last night to clear off said coffee table and play an actual wargame (gasp!) had to be put on hold when my home media server developed a glitch that took all evening to sort out.  Next opportunity to do something is Saturday night.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Here we are, here we are, here we are again.

With real life finally starting to settle down properly, I've been able to sit down and assess the currently active gaming projects and actually make some small progress on some of them.

For the City terrain, I've now undercoated all of the Sarissa Precision buildings.  I haven't yet decided whether I'm just going to drybrush them and pick out some details, or apply some of the stone texture paint to them (or a mix).

I've also started painting the Amera Plastic Mouldings church, which will be a series of grey and brown drybrush layers to build up the stonework, followed by a quicker drybrushing on the roof tiles.  The windows will then be painted black and the doorway filled up with a door made from balsa and plasticard.  The ground immediately around the church will be painted and drybrushed a sandy colour to look like gravel, with a little grass flock around the edges.  I've also picked up some Army Painter Poison Ivy which I'll try to use on this model.  Incidentally I've also picked up the larger Ministry building, which is absolutely huge and will make a stunning centerpiece for the cityscape when completed.

Another order from PMC brought me the Factory and the Town Gasworks, which mix and match nicely together to form a generic set of industrial buildings.  And to complete the cityscape I've also bought the two Tenement buildings from Warbases.  These were a little disappointing, as the brick patterning is 2-3 times bigger than the terraced homes, leaving me wondering whether I should paint these brick coloured or stone grey.  They are however quite huge, dwarfing most of the other buildings.

On the vehicle front, I've made some good progress.  The Prussian Armoured Pullman from Scheltrum is completed, although I'm not terribly happy with the paint job, it's good enough for play.  I've also completed the build of the Black Pyramid Heavy Landship, using their own add-on parts to add wing sponsons and a smokestack.  It's now primed and ready for painting.  I'm not sure how I'm going to paint this - it's going to join the German landship squadron, which were done with a simple grey primer followed by AP Quickshade.  But the landships were my first experiment with Quickshade and the results were very messy, so I'm not sure whether to try to emulate that look or try to go for something a little cleaner looking.

The two Leman Russ tanks I bought at Britcon are now nearing the completion of their conversion to VSF landships.  I've fitted the new Ramshackle turrets, re-assembled the wing and forward sponsons and added a boiler and smokestack from Black Pyramid to each.  All that remains is to scratchbuild the gatling guns for the three sponsons and paint.  I think I'm going to put these into British service, which will make the paintjob nice and simple (I'm painting them in sea-going ironclad colours, so black hulls, white turrets and upper works)

 Finally I've actually started painting the modified Brass Coffin from Ramshackle, and the Iron Drake from Grendel.  Both of these have been on and off the painting table for months, but I'm finally making some progress with them.  They'll be joining the Thunderhammer tank in the service of the Evil Genius forces, so they'll be sporting the same natty Gold & Burgundy colour scheme.

Having previously shifted my figure painting setup to my parents house for use during quiet periods of family duty, I've now setup a second painting station back at my flat, so that I can paint wherever I happen to be.  This has proven to be a very productive idea, as after only a couple of days I've managed to paint 13 character figures.  I've started painting some of the more steampunky figures I've been picking up , from Lead Adventure Miniatures, Ironclad and the old Eureka Pax Limpopo range.  In keeping with their more fanciful nature, I've been using a more varied colour palette than the usual Victorian greys, browns and black.

But I've found myself making virtually no progress on the Fenian army for GASLIGHT.  The boys in green have been primed and half of them have been sitting on my painting table for weeks, but for some reason the emerald muse has abandoned me.  I'm probably going to shelve them for now and focus on painting characters and finishing off the remaining three units of British (one regular, one in glengarries, one Guards)

Right now though, I've really got the urge to put the painting aside for one night and actually play a wargame of some sort, whether it's the next battle in the Novembre Civil War or a small VSF skirmish.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

We do what we must, because we can.

Or in other words, "I'm still alive"

It's always been my intention to keep this blog firmly focussed on the wargaming and not let it become just another personal vanity "dear diary" blog. But the fact is that how we get to enjoy our hobby as wargamers is inextricably linked to our "real life" circumstances.  For example, as a bachelor, I've never had to placate a significant other or "get approval from the finance committee" for any gaming purchases, much less smuggle them in to the house while she's out.  When I read of other gamers having to go to these lengths, or worse still even being forced to give up their hobby by their partners,  I thank my lucky stars, then go online and order £20 of wargames figures that I don't really need, just to prove I can.

But I do have other commitments and last week they kinda took over my life completely. The Wednesday before my previous post, I went to my parents' house earlier than normal to help with the delivery of my dad's new bed, the long awaited finishing touch to his new bedroom, only to find him in a terrible state with vomiting and other sordid nastiness.  With both he and my mum housebound, I naturally stayed to take care of them both (Q: what's worse than sleeping on a fold-out sofa bed? A: NOT sleeping on a fold-out sofa bed.).   The following night, as described in the last post, my mother's health took a turn for the worse, and I found myself laid low by the vomiting bug too.  Friday was spent desperately trying to get some nursing help for my mother, since I was rendered incapable, and after a day of being bounced from one NHS department to the next, at 5pm while waiting for the "rapid response" nursing team to arrive to assess her, she had a fall and had to be taken into hospital.  ('Merkin readers of the Heffalump Party please take note that, incandescently furious as I am with this day's farcical events, this is the first time since either parent was diagnosed that their treatment from our nationalised health service has been anything other than top notch.)

The good news is that there was no significant damage done in the fall and after initially wanting to discharge her immediately, the hospital staff observed her deteriorated condition and treated her to build her back up to a state where she can once again be cared for at home.  Meanwhile I was able to get over the effects of the bug in a couple of days and have since been largely focussed on nursing my dad, who with his weakened immune system is only just now getting back to his old self, nearly two weeks later.

So this chunk of real life has had a big negative impact on any gaming activity.  No Novembre Civil War solo games, another planned GASLIGHT event had to be called off (two of the participants instead gave Tomorrows War a try, and apparently had more success with it than we'd had with Force On Force and no more Sunday sratchbuilding sessions with Mi Hermano del Constructor, Jonesy).

But all has not been lost.  Before this little episode I'd begun to refocus on the work we had been doing on the Sunday scratchbuild sessions, namely the Victorian city terrain layout.  The scratchbuilds were going to be fine for the bottom-of-the-barrel slums, but looking at some of the beautiful work being done on the Lead Adventure forums, I knew that anything more decorous was going to be beyond my scratchbuilding skills.  So I started looking at what suitable buildings were available and, well let's be honest, gave my credit card a good pre-Christmas thrashing (see above re: lack of spousal financial controller).

PMC Games sell exclusively via eBay and produce several ranges of buildings, one of which is designed for the Very British Civil War period, but can be used for the late Victorian era.  The buildings are mainly resin and come pre-painted so they're ready to play with only a little assembly required.  The prices, for pre-painted buildings, are phenomenally good, though PMC are a little slow to deliver and you have to get used to their strange way of using eBay.  Instead of using the "Buy It Now" feature, all items are put up as normal auctions, but with very short times (one or two days).  If someone has already bid on an item, then rather than counter bid driving the price up, simply wait a couple of days for the auction to complete and the item will be re-listed as a new auction. It's a strange way of doing business, but as a one-man operation it allows PMC to limit the demand so that they're not overwhelmed with more orders than they can fulfil.
Table-ready in two minutes.

I bought the Bank model from them and after a long wait (though within their promised delivery time) I was quite pleased with what I got.  It's a fairly simple model that looks good on the tabletop, with a removable roof to allow figures to be concealed within the building (although the interior has no detailing).  My only reservation is that the brickwork effect is done with light sand coloured bricks and darker mortar, whereas I'd prefer it the other way around.  But despite this it looks good on the tabletop and I've ordered several more buildings from PMC Games.

Next up, on the Lead Adventure forums, Jim Bibbly, AKA Oshiro Model Terrain mentioned he'd been working on a Victorian Warehouse kit in laser-cut acrylic plastic, which he would be selling for £25.  While it was a little steeper price than I really wanted to pay, I wanted to encourage any Victorian-specific terrain manufacture, so although the building isn't on the Oshiro webstore yet, I contacted Mr Bibbly (not his real name, I suspect) and ordered one.  The kit arrived promptly and I was blown away by the beautiful laser-etched detail.  Basic assembly was simple and the windows and doors were kept separate so they could be spraypainted separately.  The roof came with pre-cut card strips with a tiling effect, a product which Oshiro sells separately.  Having done this manually for building models in the past I have to say this is absolutely brilliant and a massive timesaver.
Nice, but not as nice as it should have been.

Things went wrong for me when I came to paint the brick walls.  I started out trying to copy a technique I'd seen on the Lead Adventure forums, starting with a light undercoat and drybrushing the red brick colour on, which is supposed to leave the lighter colour in the recessed mortar areas.  Try as I might, I couldn't get a consistent effect across the whole model.  On one part of the model it would leave the mortar areas completely untouched by red, giving a very bold appearance, yet on other areas with the same paint load and brush stroke it would put more red paint into the mortar crevice than on the brick surface. I then tried the opposite process - a lighter wash to run into the recessed mortar areas, but again had inconsistent results.  I can't say if this was anything to do with the model itself, with different areas having been cut and etched in slightly different ways, or if it's just down to my ham-fisted painting skills.  But the resulting paint job I'm left with isn't anywhere near as good as the detailing on the model deserves.  My other beef with this building is the size.  For £25 it's absolutely tiny, smaller than my scratchbuild slum terraces.  I don't think I could call this a warehouse compared to the other buildings I have, but it'll do as a church hall or similar public building.  I'm not going to say it's not worth the £25 asking price - the detailing on the model and the quality of design go a long way to justify a premium price, but since I'm unable to get the most out of the detailing, I'd have to say that it's just not worth it for me, and sadly probably won't buy any more buildings from Oshiro.

Next up, Amera Plastic Mouldings produce terrain out of vac-formed plastic.  This process takes flat sheets of plastic which are heated and pulled over a mould by vacuum in order to shape them.  Amera produce both natural features and buildings in their range, and while I had my eye on their impressive Ministry Building from their Future Zone range for my city terrain, in order to try them out at a lower price break I ordered the church from their Fantasy Realms range for the princely sum of £7.95+P&P.
Assembled, added baseboard, matt black primer, WIP

When it arrived I was stunned by how big it was, easily three times the size of Oshiro's warehouse.  The nave came as a single moulded piece, with a number of separate buttress pieces that could be glued on.  The church tower came as four separate walls with a floor and flat roof piece, and two longer buttresses that could be glued to the corner.  The pieces went together easily with polystyrene cement, although I did find it useful to fill some of the gaps with filler, as well as smearing a little onto the walls in places to break up the too-perfect stone pattern.  I've currently got the building glued to a baseboard and undercoated black, and am pretty confident that a little drybrushing will have this table ready without too much more work.  It's surprisingly sturdy once secured to the basen yet still very lightweight, being a hollow plastic shell.  You certainly get a lot of terrain for your money and any qualms I had about vac-formed plastic are gone.  I've now ordered the Ministry which I expect will be the centrepiece of the city terrain.  In the meantime the church will serve equally well in rural based games, and I've bought a set of Renedra plastic gravestones in order to build an accompanying graveyard.

Next up (told you the credit card had been thrashed!) produce a range of laser-cut MDF building kits, again aimed at the VBCW market.  Their webstore doesn't give any size information, so for a trial I ordered two of their terraced houses (actually more like semi detached) which come in at the princely sum of £12.50 each.  Unlike the flat roofed slum terraces that We've been scratchbuilding, these come with gable roofs. The brickwork is laser-etched on and looks fantastic, and the windows are cutout and separate inserts are provided to glue to the inside of the building, so that it looks like the windows are recessed (exactly the same technique we're using for the scratchbuilds, funnily enough).  The building includes a walled back yard area (again exactly like our scratchbuilds) but also includes a small shed.
Walls, windows and doors painted, roof yet to be tiled. WIP

Daphne lets Binky in the Tradesmen's Entrance.

All is not perfect with these models.  The sloped roof is smooth and textureless and it's assumed that the buyer will add their own card tiles to finish it off (the pre-cut tiles from Oshiro would be perfect for this).  Also the window and door pieces are solid with the glass panes etched on, rather than being cut out.  This means you have to paint the glass part of the window, which might look a little cartoony if it's not done correctly.  Finally the biggest problem I have with these Warbases terraces is that they are frickin' huge, dwarfing the PMC Games bank.  In my experience, British brick terraced houses (as opposed to terraced town-houses) are small, pokey little affairs, which is how I've modelled my scratchbuilds.  These buildings are going to have to represent a signficantly better class of home than the slums.  Warbases also do a selection of other buildings compatible with the terraces.  I've skipped the shop and pub, but have put an order in for the two larger redbrick tenement buildings, which I hope will work with some of the larger city/industrial buildings.

Also in laser-cut MDF are the range of City Block houses from Sarissa Precision.  These come in a range of sizes and styles that are vaguely Georgian/Victorian, which works well for a late 19th/early 20th century city terrain.  The buildings fit together very simply, with window detailing on separate panels that fit inside the walls similar to the Warbases buildings.  These, however, have the window panes fully cut out, which really showcases the sort of detailing possible in this medium.  The buildings all come with an integral 40mm pavement area out front, etched in a paving stone pattern, but Sarissa can supply the buildings without the pavement on request.  They are also currently working on separate pavement pieces, which will let you expand pavements around the side of the buildings and around models from other manufacturers.  One other advantage with these buildings is that they are modular - you can buy extra floors to turn each building into a three, four or five storey building.  Pricewise they're a little more expensive than the Warbases buildings, but that's more than made up for what I think is a greater level of detail.
One 6"x4" with a quick textured spray job, one 8"x6" residence untouched.

I picked up one of the smaller buildings initially (roughly 6"x4"), assembled it and painted it mainly with a stone-textured spray paint.  The result looks quite good for minimal effort, as the dark etching of the stonework pattern still shows through the paintwork.  I'm going to experiment on another building with flat, non-textured paint, then probably paint the rest of the buildings using a mixture of the two techniques.

Finally (phew!), Ziterdes is a German company producing wargames terrain in a mixture of resin and a hard grey foam material.  Included in their range are four Victorian-style city buildings - a bank, a townhouse, an apartment building and an abandoned factory.  Apart from the factory, they come as individual floors which can be bought separately, like the Sarissa buildings, allowing you to build up multi-storey towers.  The interiors of these floors are also textured (again apart from the factory) lacking only internal walls to create an interior room layout.  While it's true that these buildings were the most expensive per-model that I've picked up for this project, there's no denying that you get a lot of building for your money.  50 Euro typically gets you a three-storey building that is half as big again as the largest of the Sarissa buildings.
Straight out of the box.  Usable, but a proper paintjob will be much nicer

The Ziterdes buildings come with a very rough undercoat that would let you get away with using these straight out of the bag, but there are several pictures of these buildings painted which helps to bring out the exquisite detailing cast into the walls and windows.  That's what I'm planning to try, as soon as I pluck up the courage.

So those are the  buildings I've been tinkering with during any free time over the last  two weeks.  Of them all, I'd have to say my favourites are the Sarissa Precision laser-cut MDF City Block buildings.  They're relatively cheap, easy to assemble and paint up well.  I only wish they produced more buildings in a British red-brick style - they have a small selection of 28mm World War II buildings that would almost fit the bill, but their styling is just too continental to work for the streets of London or Liverpool.  The Ziterdes foam buildings are spectacular, but look like they're going to require a lot of careful painting to get the most out of them.  I'm quite happy with the idea of vac-formed plastic terrain having built Amera's church, but they don't have many buildings that I would consider appropriate for this project.  Finally PMC buildings are attractive and come pre-painted and virtually table-ready for a very reasonable price.  If somehow I ever found myself needing more buildings for this cityscape, Sarissa and PMC would be my first port of call.

That's it for the buildings project.  Next up will be an update on the Landship yard and a push to get more resin ready for the tabletop.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down

First the bad news, this week I've had to admit defeat in the matter of bringing the Novembre Civil war back on its original schedule.  The fact is that I just can't summon the energy or find the time at the moment for the three games a week originally planned, even using fast-play rules like "Rally Round the King".  The thing is supposed to be hobby fun, but trying to force it into an artificial schedule makes it more like hard work.
But the good news is that I've been enjoying these games so much I'm definitely going to complete the originally planned series of battles (four in each region), just over a slightly longer timescale than before.

And I had planned to write more here about what I've been doing this week, but right now I'm on full-time family duty, with my Dad out for the count with a V&D bug, and only tonight my mother's health and behaviour took a serious turn for the worse.  On top of that, I've just woken up 03:30 GMT and been rather spectacularly sick myself.  The next few days promise to be frantic and singularly unpleasant, so don't be surprised if there are no postings for the next week or so.  Normal Service will be resumed shortly.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

It's a long, slow, lazy delivery, but it's the best I can do.

(Yes it's a lyric from the same song.  Any offers yet?)

Binky at the Bat (Part Two)
So if you remember the setup from Part One, the British want to recapture Grasston Grange, but mainly in order to play a game of Cricket on their excellent pitch.  The fiendish Boche merely want to sit in the pub swilling funny foreign lager and making vile continental propositions to our sweet English maidens.  Why yes, I was playing on the British side, now you mention it.  Anyway, on with the entirely fair and unbiased account of the battle.

 So by mutual agreement, the British entered the battlefield on one short table end on Turn One, and could bring troops onto the top 2/3 of one adjacent long table edge on Turn 2.  Because it was such a small table, we were engaged at close range right from the get go.  Mi Hermano del Abogado, Jonesy successfully argued that the Guardsmen could not fire over the man-sized hedge in front of them.  When they obligingly advanced out of cover, he proceded to fire on them from his Jaegers, over an absolutely identical hedge.  But then one must expect such unsporting behaviour from The Hun, so DeadEdd and I let it pass.

 The real danger came from the Ludwig parked at the corner of the wood with a commanding field of fire up and down the lane.  Its heavy machine guns cut the poor guardsmen to pieces, then later in the game took a similar toll on my Infantry as well.  Jonesy didn't hesitate to name it his "Man Of The Match".
Turn 2 saw the rest of the British forces advance onto the field, DeadEdd's other infantry unit, both of mine and my steam tankette.  Note hidden to the top right we have the second unit of Filthy Huns, who roused by the sound of gunfire, dropped their lagar and our womenfolk and piled out of the pub and into the building on the other side of the "high street".  One of the things that came out of this game was that the rules for buildings need a little refining.

One thing I may have forgotten to mention in the Part one was that in addition to our regular troops, we each took  three Main Characters, randomly rolled as Adventurers.  I took a shotgun-wielding  Dr Law and his faithful valet, Buldogg McCann, plus a splendiforously redcoated Sergeant Davis.   DeadEdd took the mandatory Binky Bradshaw, a gentleman adventure with delusions of Indiana Jones-hood and a Jack The Ripper type.  Yes, we all worry a bit about DeadEdd.  Jonesy took three humourless Boche military types with names like Muller, Schmidt or Shaeffer, probably all   criminals  who beat their wives too.  Anyway Binky gets set  upon by one of these fiendish Fritzes in turn one and the two scuffle, Binky fending off his attacker with his trusty bat.  In the next turn, Edd's adventurer character rushes in to join the melee,  which as we interpreted the rules would trigger another round of melee combat with everyone involved (an intepretation that would be significant elsewhere in the game).  Sadly the Hun's sabre caught Binky LBW and he was out for a duck, to be avenged moments later  by the gentleman adventurer.
So DeadEdd sends his other unit of infantry in against the sentries on the edge of Grasston Grange.  Little did we realise that this would become the scene of the most intense melee I have ever seen in a GASLIGHT battle.  After the British action which left a couple dead on either side, the Germans activated, bringing up the rest of the unit from across the road, which of course triggered another round of fighting.  Then Jonesy brought one of his Main Characters into the melee, again triggering another round of combat.  Then another MC.  Then Edd brought up his "Ripper" MC.  All told we had five rounds of Melee combat in a single turn  After which there were only a couple of men standing on each side.

This is the wider scene.  The Borderers and my other infantry advancing towards the road and the cricket pitch.  The Borderers took heavy fire from both the Infantry in the building to their left, but also the Ludwig which after wiping out the Guardsmen brought its guns around to fire west up the road.  There's a saying in wargaming that newly painted favourite units never do well on their first time out and this battle was no exception.  The other infantry unit actually made it to the other side of the road, at least part of it did, spurred on by the redoubtable Sgt Davis.
And here is the endgame in Bloody Lane.  Dr Law held back from joining the melee, hoping to snipe one or two of the Boche MCs with his shotgun.  Sadly he missed his one shot, and was in sequence pounced on by both MCs and was overwhelmed.
The Jaegers had by now been successfully cleared out of the woods.  Edd sent his Gentleman Adventurer into the woods to mop up survivors (ignoring the threat of the Ludwig walker nearby) while I brought my Guntruck round to the edge of the outfield.

 DeadEdd's lanship was dividing its fire between the German Landship, which had now moved out onto the lane, and the Ludwig walker.  Vehicle fire had been mainly inconclusive so far in the game, which apart from the HMG fire from the Ludwig had been an infantry focussed affair.  But all that was about to change...

The Gun Truck scored a Catastrophic Hit on the German Landship, which promptly exploded in a mighty fireball.  Unfortunately that fireball arced out 12" forwards, right into the heart of my so far undamaged infantry platoon.  Sergeant Davis and a couple of the lads had made it into the cricket ground and were protected by cover, but four caught crossing the road were immolated.

At which point Jonesy as the German player admitted he would probably be pulling out of the village, being down to one undamaged infantry unit, two MCs and a walker that was about to be overrun.  The British had all their fighting vehicles intact, and about half a unit at the cricket ground.  Both sides naturally claimed victory.

So there you have a fairly successful GASLIGHT battle on a small 5' by 3' table.  I think I still prefer a larger table with a round or two of movement before the two sides become locked in combat.  If I was doing this game again I'd be tempted to leave vehicles out entirely and make it an all infantry/cavalry/MCs game.  In that case I'll probably include the suggestion of a "End Turn" card for the initiative deck to reintroduce some of the friction and uncertainty that the vehicle Sustain rules currently give.

I'm not happy with the way GASLIGHT treats shotguns - with a spread template but only half the range of even a pistol, it seems to assume they're all sawn-off scatterguns.  I'd like to up the range to match pistols (6/12), lose the spread template but give them an extra firing dice at close range.

Buildings also need a tweak.  Some restrictions on how many figures can fire from a building (after seeing a 10 man volley from a smallish building we decided to limit it to two men firing per facing window or door)  Restrictions on moving in and out and between sections of a building and most importantly, vehicle weapon fire on buildings and the effects on the troops within.  I figure it ought to be possible to target a building and render it inhospitable to any occupants without having to target the occupants directly.  I'm going to have a look at a couple of other rulesets and see if there are any useful ideas I can steal.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

All those who've forgotten the score, They still remember the team

(A huge No-Prize to anyone who can tell me what song that post title comes from!)

Binky At the Bat
The 1st of the 9th was an old Dragoon regiment who'd swapped their horses for landships and went steaming around our Green and Pleasant Land looking for jolly japes.  They aren't too impressed with me, but when I introduce my travelling companion Binky Bradshaw, we're welcomed with open arms.  Turned out their CO, a Colonel Kilgore, is a huge fan of the sound of leather on willow, and before the current unpleasantness had seen Binky batting for Surrey on many occasions.  It was at afternoon tea that I next try to bring up the matter of my mission and how we need to get past the small town of Grasston Grange.

"I say, Bungee" he says to one of his officers.  "Know anything about this Grasston Grange place?"

"Beautiful pitch" his chap replies.  "Heard the groundsman won an award for it last year.  The pavillion is an absolute ghastly disgrace, but the grass is simply top-ho.  A Batsmans' Paradise, so I hear."

Kilgore leaps up, his attention secured.  "Well why the dickens didn't you tell me that before.  There isn't a half decent crease left in the county, since the invasion started.  We'll head there at first light, and Binky here will show us how he made that century against Middlesex in '85.

But his man doesn't seem to like the idea so much.  "But sir, condition of the pitch aside, Grasston Grange is still a bit of a sticky wicket.  Kaiser Bill has the grounds now.

Kilgore fixes him with a steely glare.  "Kaiser Bill," he intones, "does not bowl overarm."

So there we have the setup for the game, with apologies to Francis Ford Coppola, Joseph Conrad and, well everybody really.  I'd arranged the game with mi hermano de recibimiento Jonesy, DeadEdd and a friend we met at the Asylum weekend who wanted to try GASLIGHT for the first time.  As it turned out he was unable to make it and it turned out that our local wargames club was hosting a major regional competition this weekend, so the normally empty Sunday session would have no room for three twerps in silly hats playing with steam tanks.

Were we deterred?  By Gad no sir!  We were not, sir!

Jonesy offered to host and was able to supply a 5' x 3' table.  I'd been on a terrain making splurge in the preceding week, more than tripling my collection of hedges, adding a new "urban" wall type and some very pretty picket fencing and most significantly a brand new system of roads and rural pathways.  I'd also produced the cricket pitch & stumps, inspired by someone doing similar for VBCW, after which I had to paint up my one cricketing miniature, who became Binky Bradshaw, the hero of this tale.
Binky, the pitch and the Urban Walls from Javis
We had an odd number of players (or should that be a number of odd players?) and all of us wanted to play rather than referee, so Jonesy got in touch with his Teutonic roots and took on the role of the fiendish Boche occupying Grasston Grange, while DeadEdd and myself took on the roll of the British.  As you can see we all took proceedings very seriously (and yes the aftermath of the tabletop did include a "mad minute" with the Nerf guns)

We arbitrarily picked out units (one of these days I must get around to working out the points values for everything, like a proper wargamer should).  Jonesy took two units of regulars and one of Jaegers, plus a landship and a "Ludwig" quad walker.  The Jaegers were out in the woods with the Ludwig, one unit of Regulars were guarding the East Road (and it's only as I look at this picture now that I realise he should have had problems with the troops on the other side of the road being outside command radius) with the landship and the third unit being "stationed" at the pub (busy drinking lager, no doubt)
DeadEdd and I both took two units of infantry, one light steamtank and one other vehicle.  He took a Landship and had the Guards unit.  I took a Royal Horseless Artillery Guntruck, and fielded the platoon in Glengarries which for this battle were christened the Kings Own Scottish Borderers.

And as I write this I find sleep about to overtake me.  Shouldn't have started writing this so late.  Rather than save and resume this later I'm going to post this so far and pick up the story in Part 2.  Till then I leave you with this pic of the German sentries waiting anxiously in the place that after this battle would always be known as "Bloody Lane".
"Why's it have to be us, OberFeldwebel? Why us?"
"Cos we're 'ere, mein sohn. Nobody else.  Just us."

Friday, 11 November 2011

This ain't no upwardly mobile freeway

The Battle of Mandua Pass (Week 1 South)

No extensive photo report this time I'm afraid, since my camera is still MIA and the battery on the cameraphone died immediately after taking this initial battlefield layout.  As you can see, the first two bodies of the Royalist army heading up the road, with the third just faintly visible in the shadows off table. The Baron's ambushing force was alert and ready, but their deployment was determined randomly.  Once in play, there were no real decision points for the Baron, every action they took was an absolutely obvious response to the situation.

The Queens forces started by trying a fast push up the road, moving all three bodies and bringing the third body onto the table.  The lead body reached the front of the large hill before the Baron's force moved up to threaten them.  I then decided, rather impetuously, to go for a quick cavalry charge against the opposing infantry - the lead body included one unit of knights (AC4, REP4, Shock) and two of the Queen's Crimson Guard (AC4, REP4, Elite) making it a decent cavalry force.  But although they scored several hits, the infantry stood firm so all three cavalry units were forced to retire, taking an extra hit each.  When the juggernaut of the heavy infantry rolled up into the now spent horsemen, they routed.

The Royalists brought up the second body of troops to rendezvous with the men-at-arms from the first, and this newly combined unit continued up the road to threaten the Baron's heavy infantry.  Meanwhile the archers and one surviving Crimson Guard unit faced off against the two units of the Baron's Knights who had taken a position atop the big round hill.  The knights charged, the Guardsmen countercharged and the archers stood and loosed their volley.  This time the Royalist forces held, but only just, with the horsemen locked in combat and the archers managing to repel the knights albeit at the cost of several hits.

Meanwhile the Baron's heavy infantry were unimpressed by the Royalist foot and the two bodies met in a bloody melee along the main road.  This time the Royalist infantry not only held, but actually started to push the enemy back, routing one enemy unit and forcing the others to give ground.  They pressed their attack, expanding their battleline as rear ranks wrapped around the enemy flanks and everything was looking promising...

..right up until they rolled a double six for the post-melee reaction check.  The units in the centre, their REP boosted by being surrounded by friendly units, held, but the less secure flanks who had also taken a couple of hits reducing their REP, were ignominiously routed.

Things were looking grim for the Queen.  The scenario stated that for victory, 60% of the force needed to pass through the forest.  For a sixteen unit army that equated to 10 (9.6 rounded up) units and at this point of the game, they only had 11 left.

Not for much longer.  The Baron's knights continued their melee with the Crimson guard on the side of the big round hill.  The knights no longer had their Shock bonus, whereas the Guard still gained the Elite bonus.  But the knights' heavier armour made it that much harder to score a hit on them, whereas the number of hits the Guard accumulated made their rout almost inevitable.  The Royalists had ten units left.

Finally the other unit of the Baron's Knights charged back at the bowmen who had repulsed them.  The bowmen, having taken two hits in the previous melee, rolled another double six on their "Receive Charge" Reaction Check and routed.

The Royal Host, caught unprepared along the road, were utterly smashed to pieces by the Baron's forces (6 units routed to 1).  Incandescent with fury, the Queen rode for the town of Pritsum Wells to regroup and reequip.

There you have it.  Another exciting battle courtesy of Rally Round The King and the first reverse for the Royalists.  The rules had a big impact on this game, particularly the inability of units in RRTK to manoeuvre in the face of the enemy.  On a couple of occasions I had damaged units that I would have liked to pull out and protect from further casualties, however in RRTK a unit facing an enemy within charge distance can only move forward or halt.  I feel this is more realistic - once a unit is commited to the battle line the general should pretty much lose any fine control over them. 

With hindsight, going for the quick kill at the start was a mistake.  I think a better tactic would be to try to form a decent battle line around the area of the Royalist starting position between the two small hills.  I'm still not sure they'd be able to perfect their position before the Baron's forces reached them, but at least the forces would be more concentrated and better able to bring up reinforcements from the third trailing body.

So at the start of Week 2 of the Novembre Civil War, the dispositions look like this.
  Both the Archbishop and the Queen have been pushed back towards their home bases by their enemy's allies.  But in the Midlands a jubilant Viscount Silcropton is tipping the balance in the Royalist's favour.

We're nearly a week behind schedule but I'm hoping to make this up with games on Saturday and Monday, starting with a return to the Grim North.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

But we've got such a long way to go

Queen Una of Novembre consulted with the captain of her elite Crimson Guard "So you're saying we're lost."

The Guard Captain's cheeks bore the regimental colours "Erm yes, your majesty."

"In my own kingdom.  At the head of my own army.  Tell me Captain, how are we supposed to put that outrageous buffoon Trente in his place is we are unable to navigate from one of our cities to the next?  While we blindly bimble around the forests of Mandua, the reverend traitor could already be preaching sedition from the palace steps in the capital!"

The Captain momentarily considered trying to enlighten his monarch of the difficulties involved in mobilising a large body of men and horses from across a quarter of the kingdom.  The Royal Host had assembled expeditiously, but with no immediate enemy to fight had begun to fray visibly at the edges.  When the decision was made to relocate the Host to Mandua, it quickly degenerated to the point of becoming little more than a disorganised rabble.

On further reflection, the Captain decided that the queen was probably not in the mood for a lesson in the arts of war.

"Majesty, we have reports back from the scouts.  They say that this road we are on leads to the main Royal Highway to Mandua.  Once we pass through yonder forest ahead, our journey will be all but over."

"We hope your trust in these scouts is justly rewarded." the Queen retorted.  "If not, we shall see about dishing out some just rewards of our own."

The scouts were in fact correct about the forest ahead.  What they missed, in their excitement to return with this good news, was the small but not insignificant band of armed men waiting in the nearby hollow.  Baron Primestowe, pious supporter of the Church of the Nine and keen huntsman, had set out in search of Royal Game.  His small force would ordinarily be no match for the Royal Host.  But with the Host disordered and scattered along the road and the Baron's forces positioned to cut off its line of march, things weren't quite so clear cut.

There you have the setup for the Week 1 Southern battle in the Novembre Civil War.  It's based on scenario 22 "Making the Best of a Bad Job" from "Scenarios for All Ages".  In it the "Blue" (i.e. Royalist) forces are split "evenly" between three bodies of troops scattered along the road.  I intend to do this randomly, which means the Royalists will struggle to put together organised bodies of similar troops.  This greatly offsets the 16 unit to 10 advantage they have over the Baron.  It's going to be very interesting.

So although I haven't had time to fight the battle, the table is all setup for it to be played tomorrow night.   If I then manage the first two battles of Week 2 on Saturday and next Monday, that will only leave me one game behind schedule.

So with my day job now effectively being as a full time carer for my parents, days can vary from being frantically busy, to being long periods "on standby" inbetween preparing meals and medication and any other minor chores.  Fortunately things are settling down at the moment into the latter state of affairs, so I've been able to tidy up and re-organise the little corner that I've appropriated as a painting station.  In the process, the Black Pyramid Tea Wars figures have jumped the painting queue and today I primed them and started painting them, completing the Officer, the Sniper and one Trooper.  They were pleasantly easy to paint, with easy to pick out straps and packs.  The plan, as I've mentioned previously, was to present them as a "Victorian SAS" based on the iconic images from the end of the Iranian Embassy Siege.  Army Painter "Angel Green" has provided the base colour, then black for the boots, belts, gasmasks and guns.  Flesh for the hands (I toyed with the idea of giving them black gloves, but a little skin looks better I think) Sand for the facings (collars and cuffs and puggeree - to reflect the SAS's signature sand coloured berets), gold for the helmet spike and some detailing on the gun and silver dots for the gasmask eyeholes and drybrushed over the gun.  That's it, just five colours painted over the basecoat (six if you count a bit of Thalo Green for tidying up mistakes)  The paint job is so simple to do I should easily be able to get the rest of the ten man unit completed and Quickshaded by the end of tomorrow.

Until now I'd shied away from any gasmasked figures in my VSF collection.  I know it's a valid part of the steampunk "look", coming from the gothy end of the scene.  But it never really fit into my personal vision of Victorian Science Fiction, which is more of a "Boys Own Adventure" sort of thing.  Bring in gasmasks and you sort of imply the use of poison gas on the battlefield.  That may be a legitimate element too, as it had been proposed several times throughout the nineteenth century, and there's at least one report I've read of the British deploying poison gas in the Maori wars, with little effect.  But gas for me is like having too many machine guns - it brings in the baggage of WWI and a very un-splendid tone to the procedings.

But working on these Special Aether Service figures really brought home how adding a gasmask to  the familiar figure of the British soldier turns him from being good old Tommy Atkins to a faceless stormtrooper of a dystopian empire.  If I was playing a more anti-establishment VSF setting, say heroic airship pirates against the class system,  gasmasked tommies would make excellent bad guys.  If I ever pursue the "Very Victorian Civil War" idea further, I'll definitely want to be picking up some more Tea Wars figures with gasmask heads as troops loyal to one of the less savoury factions.

Also while doing a bit of research as inspiration for these Victorian SAS I stumbled across another uniform option for Home Service British figures.  Volunteer regiments. including the Artists' Rifles (who would later be reformed as the start of the post-war SAS) wore a natty grey uniform, another candidate for a super-fast Army Painter job.  So that's another option to add to the list, along with Riflemen in green, of ways to make British units distinct from eachother.

Finally I'm going to make an extra effort this week to get some more steam tanks done and ready for the next GASLIGHT game.  I have an ever-growing backlog of vehicles in varying states of completion and yet we wind up using the same old vehicles for every game.  The "Prussian Armoured Pullman" from Scheltrum is about 50% painted, a couple more coats, some neatening up and detailing and it'll be ready.  The two new Black Pyramid landships are also headed for German service, while the Armored Traction Engine (with extra bits from Ramshackle) will join the Fenians along with two "American" steam wagons from Scheltrum - though those can wait until I have sufficient Fenian infantry painted.  This means the two GW Leman Russ tanks will eventually go to the British.

But that's a lot of resin and plastic and as I've found, the best way to get things done is to get something done, anything, each day.  As long as you make some progress each day, eventually you'll get to your objective.  So as long as I can get the Armoured Pullman ready by the end of the week, along with the SAS a few more individual figures, then I'll be happy.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Keep running up that road, keep running up that hill

The Battle of Sunchester Hill (Week1, Midlands)

It was a fine day when the Earl of Suchmercove (pronounced “summercove”) met Viscount Silcropton on the road by Sunchester. When each realised that the other was at the head of a sizeable body of men and horses, they grew wary of eachother. It soon became clear that each had received word of Archbishop Trente's planned progress south and each had set out to meet the Pilgrimage of Hope on the road. Suchmercove had come to offer what support and assistance in the task of bringing the errant queen to heel. Silcropton on the other hand had come to bar the Archbishop's path and send him back north.
With this realisation, the two noblemen saluted eachother, then each wheeled his horse around and cantered back to his own body of troops, shouting deployment orders.

The scenario is #40 Dominant Hill from the original “Scenarios for Wargames”. I decided to play Viscount Silcropton (Royalist) and handled The Earl of Suchmercove's deployment and tactics semi-randomly based on the Mythic Game-Master Emulator from Word Mill Press. Essentially in Mythic you ask a question and the dice determine whether the answer is yes or no. Instead of Mythic's percentile tables I just used a d6 with 1-3 being “no”, 4-6 being “yes” and allowing a single plus or minus one modifier for conditions that I thought were highly likely/unlikely.

Instead of the scenario's original “pick 7 units from this list” for each side, I decided to give each side all of the units listed except for the guns, which made for two identical sides of 3 units of Knights, five units of foot knights/men at arms, two units of archers. I'd also decided to use the usual DBA victory condition of first unit to lose 4 unit casualties.

So after I'd planned the Viscount's deployment, I rolled for the Earl's and determined that he would have both his knights and his archers at the top of the small hill, while his men-at-arms would advance along the roadway. I then spent 2-3 game turns deploying both sides' forces from the roads where the scenario had them starting. The Earl's men reached their deployment positions first, but declined to move before the Viscount had finished bringing up his forces (a Mythic-style decision)

Thus the field looked like this – Royalists on the right mainly in red, The Earl of Suchmercove in yellow on the left.

Viscount Silcropton took the initiative by leading his troops in an advance across the board. For some reason the Earl held back, merely bringing down his knights from the hilltop to allow the archers behind to fire over their heads. But the Royalists were still well out of bow range. The Earl ordered his men at arms forward to threaten the royalist archers, who responded with a hail of arrows, softening up two of the units. The following turn Silcropton led higis knhts forward to catch two of the advancing men at arms, inflicting heavy casualties. The two units of men at arms took heavy casualties, then routed from the shock of impact. The knights pursued their routing enemies, bringing on unit into contact with the men at arms' second rank of units. The second rank unit didn't wait to be hit but fled before the approaching heavy horsemen.

Thus in one action the Royalists had scored three out of the four kills required for victory.

On their right, the Royalist men at arms had advanced to threaten the Earl's knights (Note: I made a mistake in the sequencing of this turn. In Rally Round the King you resolve the actions of your bodies of troops in strict order right-to-left. For this turn, I carried out the Royalist actions left-to-right. So strictly speaking, this action and the consequences should have happened first).

The Earl of Suchmercove's knights were then spooked into charging the threatening men at arms before the archers could have a chance to soften them up with bowfire, forming a near symmetry with the dust-up in the south. Things didn't go quite as well for the Earl though – One unit of horse was forced to retired up the hill, while two units of Royalist men at arms were routed.

At this point both sides were fairly even, with the edge just going to the Royalist side. But the Royalist knights were a bit scattered, while the Earl's knights were in two distinct bodies, meaning that the War Rating of each leader would now become a limiting factor in the troops they could control.

In the end, the next turn resolved the battle simply. The Viscount rallied his knights in the centre to attack the Earl's knights, who counter-charged. There was a moment of slightly sticky “who's in contact” questioning of the sort that used to make Dbx really, really not fun. I took advantage of playing solo and handwaved a little so both met on a more or less even basis. The dice gods favoured Silcropton, and one of the two enemy units was forced to retire.

Finally the Silcropton archers piled further volleys into one of the two remaning enemy men at arms units, causing two hits. A failed “Received Fire” reaction test gave the Earl's men a “retire” result, however they had already taken a number of hits equal to their Reputation, turning that result from at Retire into a Rout

The Earl of Suchmercove wheeled his charger around in the heart of the grand melee. Even in all that confusion he was aware that his flanks had both folded and his personal retinue were dangerously exposed in the centre, with Royalist troops folding in on both flanks. Swearing, he savagely spurred his steed back towards the hillside at a gallop, his men streaming after him in an undignified rout. That dandified fop Silcropton may own the field today, but there would be other days, and revenge would be sweet indeed.

 Another fun game taking just a couple of hours to setup and play.  I'd increased the armour class of the knights in this scenario from 4 to 6, which made them pretty hard to kill.

I'm quite badly behind schedule on these games, meaning I'm going to have to try to fit in four games by next Monday to get things back on track.  Tight, but eminently doable with 2 Hour Wargames' rules, which still live up to their name.

We know what we're knowing but we can't say what we've seen.

I know what I should be doing right now.  I should be writing a blog post about the cracking little GASLIGHT game we had yesterday afternoon.  Unfortunately Mr Stoopit-Head here managed to leave his camera behind. And battle reports without any pictures are a complete waste of everyone's time (unless as I once did, you compose the report in the form of a country and western ballad) so I'm going to have to wait until Mi Hermano Photographico Jonesy uploads the pictures he took.  Suffice to say a good time was had by all, and there was plenty of tea, cricket and silly hats for everyone.

I'm also overdue on the 2nd Novembre Civil War battle, which had to be postponed from Saturday due to a mixture of Real Life and prep for the GASLIGHT game.  I have the scenario already thrashed out, so I ought to get it played tonight, which will leave me running a battle behind the planned 3 a week.

It was with some sadness that I head that the future of Battlegames magazine is in doubt.  Editor Henry Hyde has announced it is no longer profitable to produce as a print magazine.  I've not been a regular reader to be honest, most of its publication history coinciding with my wargaming wilderness years, but the snippets I'd seen here and there gave me the impression Battlegames was very much a labour of love.  Since hearing the news I've sprung for the "motherlode" collection of back issues in PDF, and have been working my way through them.  I have to say it will be a dreadful shame if Battlegames is lost to the wargaming community, and wish Henry the best of luck in finding a workable business model with which to move forward.

Now, off to Novembre...

Friday, 4 November 2011

These dreams go on when I close my eyes

Lately my nights have been plagued by a series of particularly vivid and coherent dreams. The settings for these dreams have ranged from a futuristic holiday resort to a cult-like agricultural collective.

In last night's expedition to the Dreamlands I was a soldier in training. Modern, though I think my weapon may have been a FN-FAL/SLR. The first half of the dream had us in very snowy conditions, bordering on the arctic, with our unit in full cold-weather gear. Then the scene shifted (as they do in dreams) and we found ourselves in an inner city urban environment, a warren of high rise flats. We were on a counter-insurgency exercise, but after getting turned around and separated from my unit, I saw the buildings all around us teeming with real armed insurgents. Somehow the training exercise had stumbled onto a real-life nest of tangoes. I had to get back to my unit and try to pull them out before things went horribly wrong.

Which was when the alarm went off.


Mark & Maff of Winter of '79 - do let me know if you guys dream any good Victorian Science Fiction scenarios will you? :-)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Why do you build me up, Buttercup, just to let me down and mess me around.


Today I re-organised my painting table to focus on figures that I'm going to find most useful in the coming weeks. I've got a bit of a mini-project on to get more obviously fantastical steampunk figures on the table instead of entirely historical looking Victorians. To that end I have a third tranche of figures incoming, even though I haven't made much of an impact on Tranche 2 (the Russians, Fenians and Evil Genius armies).

Although I hadn't planned it, Black Pyramid's special offer of a free Tea Wars figure set with each landship left me with the beginnings of a unit of their troops Although by default they come with tropical pith helmets, they also produce separate head sprues, one design of which is a spiked helmet with a gasmask (I keep pestering them for spiked Home Service helmets with normal faces), which gave me the idea of reproducing a Steampunk version of the iconic image of the SAS at the Libyan Embassy Siege in 1984
This was a massively powerful image in my childhood, so although I've shied away from Gasmasked figure for my VSF (poison gas on the battlefield just feels a little too World War One and not quite cricket) I felt I could make an exception for the Special Aether Service.

So I ordered the bits necessary to make up the figures I had into a ten man SAS team. I went for the Aether weapons packs as I wanted them to have a recognisably "weird science" gun, and bought enough spiked helmet heads for all ten figures. The unit consists of an officer/standard bearer (because that's all Ruperts are good for, standing there and drawing attention while the rest of the lads do the work) a sergeant/sniper and two fireteams of four troopers.

So when the small packet arrived with the rest of the bits this morning, I thought it would be the work of mere minutes to assemble them read for undercoating. I mean they're only four parts - legs, body & arms, Head and Weapon. How hard can it be?

Dear god, how little I knew! I think I've spent more time this afternoon crawling around on the floor looking for dropped heads and weapons than I have working at the table. Parts that fit together snugly when dry suddenly seem hyper-lubricated once the superglue is applied. I can see how the weapons fit into the hands of the figure but once a couple of drops of superglue are introduced, it just won't seem to fit anymore. Fingers that start out fairly fumbly and useless are soon coated in a liberal film of dried superglue, rendering the fingertips totally insensible and not at all suited to picking up 28mm scale heads and maneuvering them closely. Two and a half hours later my afternoon is gone but I have ten beefy looking chaps sat on the table ready to rumble.

The Tea Wars infantry are fairly chunky figures, similar in proportion to Games Workshop I would say. But overall they don't look too out of place alongside Renegade, Redoubt and Ironclad miniatures. The figures' feet are fitted with pegs to slot into holes drilled in decorated bases, though they should be usable with standard slottabases. I use pennies for basing my 28mm VSF figs, so these had to be cut and the boots glued direct to the pennies. Paintwise I'm thinking of going for a very dark green rather than all-out black, similar to a Rifles uniform. Army Painter Angel Green base, black gasmask, webbing, gear and boots, navy blue weapon (drybrushed silver) and a gold helmet spike, all treated with Darktone Quickshade, ought to give that "black on a black background" effect while actually having some different colours in there. I'm unlikely to be able to get these guys done for the planned game on Sunday, so for now they'll go to the side table with the other new steampunky figures to await initial base filling.

The one other thing I did manage to get done today was to Quickshade the first unit of Scotties, who followers of the blog may remember me starting sometime back in 1864. They've come out really nicely - photos to follow once the bases are textured. Lets hope 2nd platoon doesn't take quite so long to paint, so I can get onto the long delayed Fenians.

I'm trying to work out when I can fight the 2nd game in the Novembre campaign - Saturday is looking the most likely candidate which means I'll have to fight the third game on Monday to meet the one round a week deadline. It's sods law that this solo thing would start on the one week that I have a face-to-face game scheduled as well.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bravely ran away, away

The Battle of Middleburn (Week 1, North)
Buoyed with (over)confidence that the blessings of the Nine were with them, the Church forces advanced boldly towards the Royalist blockade. They arrived piecemeal, starting with the advance guard consisting of two units of crossbowmen. A turn later, the two units of elite Temple Guards that had been screening the column's flanks reached the field. The main body of the Archbishop's "Pilgrimage" - three units of knights and four more units of Temple Guardsmen, were a half hour behind on the road.

Instead of waiting to form up or take a defensive position, the commander of the advance guard decided to boldly advance head on to try to engage the Royalists before the rest of the Church forces arrived. (This was determined by a roll on a table in the scenario) These crossbowmen had the dubious honour of firing the first shots of the Civil War, driving one unit of archers back from the edge of the hill to the south.

The Duke decided to match boldness with boldness and personally led his knights out to sweep the crossbowmen from the field. This they did, but not before taking significant casualties from bowfire on the charge in.

The Temple Guard units both raced in from either flank, but were too late to support the doomed crossbowmen, who streamed from the field in total rout. The northern flank unit drew the attention of the Duke, who charged them. This proved to be one charge too many for the tired and weakened knights, and the Elite Temple Guardsmen wielding their Rods of Might were more than a match for them. The Duke's unit were routed, and the Duke himself wounded and forced to retire to the nearby farmhouse where he was treated for the rest of the battle.

The Elite Temple Guards victory was short lived, as the second unit of knights then swept in from the flank and totally overran them with barely a pause. The southern flank guard unit decided discretion was the better part of valour, and retired south to the hills where it threatened the archers' flanks.

As the main body of the Archbishop's "Pilgrimage of Hope" arrived, consisting of three units of knights and four units of Temple Guards (... oh and probably some priests and pilgrims and possibly a donkey - it's not a proper pilgrimage if there isn't a donkey) things weren't looking bad for the Royalists. The scenario setup had determined that they would lose the scenario if they took three units lost, and by extrapolating out I'd decided that the Church forces would similarly break when they'd taken five units lost. So far the Church had lost three units to the Royalists' one. But on the other hand, the Royalists had lost their Leader unit, which was one of their army's heavy hitters, and the other unit of knights was severely weakened.

The scenario called for a roll to determine the Main Body's tactics when it arrived, and true to form the result was "bold advance without waiting to deploy, cavalry on the flank". I interpreted this as a pell-mell rush down the field towards the pass, in two bodies - knights and Temple Guards. This move brought the knights into the field of fire from the Royalist archers on the southern hill who having fended off the southern flank guards, duly blackened the sky and rained arrows down on the knights. The lead unit of knights responded to the fire by racing ahead to try to get to safety, which split them off from the main body of knights.
Pushing onwards the lead unit of knights ignored the men at arms stationed along the edge of the nearby woods and instead pushed past the farm towards the pass. There, they were met by the remaining unit of Royalist knights, who had rallied there after their earlier action and now stood as the only thing between the Archbishop and the road south.

The tired and battered Royalist knights lost their nerve and fell back in the face of the rebel knights. Rallying momentarily, they knew to a man that the next time the Archbishop's knights charged, they would not be able to hold and the battle would be lost. Meanwhile the remaining body of knights moved up to rejoin the breakaway unit, and the main force of Temple Guards advanced to threaten the Royalist men-at-arms.

And here the battle turned. The rearguard unit of the knights took a murderous fire from the archers on the hill, battering them until the few survivors quit the field in terror. Meanwhile the other unit of archers loosed a volley at the southern flank Temple Guard unit, who had been loitering nearby for some turns. In response the Elite Temple Guard inexplicably turned heels and ran away.
Archbishop Trente was furious. Riding at the head of his knights, he could see the gates to the pass South before him and felt victory within his grasp. But the shouts and screams behind him told the tale of his epic "Pilgrimage of Hope" collapsing into chaos. Biting off a curse, he snapped his horses reins around, turned and ordered the army to retire to West Eastcliffe.


There you have it, the opening battle in the Novembre Civil War campaign, and what a nailbiter it was. This was my first time playing Rally Round The King, and after some initial befuddlement it quickly fell into place like all the best rulesets seem to do. It helps if you're used to the way THW rulesets normally work, though interestingly this game seems less interrupt-driven than most others. I'm playing this relatively fast and loose - not calculating detailed points values or army lists, and pretty much assigning troop stats and the like on the fly. Even the map and the whole setting of Novembre was created out of whole cloth yesterday in about an hour. Instead of spending too much time in preparation and background work, as an experiment I'm trying to just get stuck in and play, and letting the background fluff evolve naturally out of the games. For example, we now know that the Duke of Medwinde will be walking with a limp for the next few battles from the great wound he took at the Battle of Middleburn.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot!

Well, no gunpowder, but plenty of the other stuff.

Behold the kingdom of Novembre!
Novembre was a stable prosperous island nation with good relations with its nearest neighbours. It is divided into three main regions: the Northern Marches, the Midlands and the Southern Plains. The current capital is Unaville, founded named by the late King after his daughter. Unfortunately the king had no male heir and so Queen Una is the current ruler. She has so far refused to take a husband, leaving the kingdom without an heir. This state of affairs also contradicts one of the primary edicts of the Church of the Nine, Novembre's state religion. This puts Archbishop Trente, head of the church, in the position of Una's most prominent critic and opponent.

Things reached a crisis point last year, when the Archbishop made the long journey from his mountaintop abbey at Heaven's Gate to the capitol, where he hoped to plead with the Queen to bow to convention and choose a spouse. The two did meet, but tempers flared and all diplomacy failed. The Queen issued an edict pronouncing Archbishop Trente a traitor to the crown, while the Archbishop spent his entire journey home preaching at every church and temple, loudly condemning the "Red Witch of the South" in what became popularly known as The Trail of Lamentations.

Summer passed into a winter of discontent, as the kingdom's divisions continued to simmer under the surface. But when spring arrived, nobles up and down the kingdom found themselves rallying to one side or the other. Archbishop Trente led the so called "Pilgrimage of Hope" south, with the aim of once more confronting the Queen. This time however, the so-called pilgrimage consisted of a body of well armed temple troops backed by local levies.

When Trente found his path blocked at Middleburn by a body of men led by the Duke of Medwinde, it set the scene for the first battle of the Novembre Civil War.

So if you haven't already worked this out, this is the setup for my planned solo medieval campaign for Solo Wargaming Appreciation Month. The challenge was to do some big solitaire game, above and beyond your normal gaming efforts. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, inspiration struck when I found a box containing my old fantasy/medieval human army, plenty of elements for a couple of DBA sized armies with some variations.

Here's how things are going to play out. Each real-time week I'm going to fight a minimum of one battle from each of the three regions (North, Midlands, South). Starting out in the central town, the winning side pushes the opponent back one space up the road. If a force is defeated in its home space (i.e. the end of the line) then the cause is lost in that region, which declares for the other side. The battles themselves are going to be semi-randomly picked scenarios from the three Charles S Grant scenario books ("Scenarios for Wargamers", "Programmed Scenarios" and "Scenarios for All Ages")

There's one minor change from the original plan. DBx was always notorious for not doing a good job of handling medieval battles, so I'm going to try out "Rally Round the King" from 2Hr Wargames. I've long been a big fan of 2HW's various skirmish rulesets, but this is the first time I'll be trying one of their big battle rules.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a battlefield to lay out. November, and the war, starts tomorrow!