Saturday, 11 February 2012

Some talk of Alexander, some talk of Hercules

Because You Asked for It (tm).  I don't claim to be any more than a competent painter, if that, and I paint to get figures onto the gaming table, no more than that.
The Ironclad British Guardsmen (Painted as Grenadier Guards*)

(According to Wikipedia, Regiments of Foot Guards can be identified by a combination of the spacing of their tunic buttons and the colour of their plumes.  Since the tunic buttons aren't really visible on any but the officers, I've settled for just using the plume, which is white in the case of these chaps)

The ten on the left were painted last summer for the Big Birthday Bash, the ten on the right I completed last week to make up the full company (20 man) strength.  I dunno, I just find something wonderfully archaic about bearskins on the battlefield.  It just seems to lend the affair a touch of class.

I've rather gone off the Ironclad troops.  They're nice enough and fit in well with all the other ranges, but as I've mentioned before they all had a problem with blocking between the body and weapon.  If I buy any more regulars in Home Service Helmet, they're almost certainly going to be from Redoubt, but for Guardsmen, Ironclad remain the only game in town.

As an aside, you may notice that these figures are mounted into movement trays.  These are from and they're designed to fit UK one penny pieces.  These ten-man trays cost a pound each and come as bare MDF, which I've simply flocked. (Other combinations are available, along with a similar range that fits 2p pieces).  I'm hoping that these movement trays are going to facilitate larger battles, and have sent Warbases a query about getting some custom trays made for my cavalry and artillery.

Now although I painted these next chaps months ago, it just occurred to me that I'd never posted pics of them, although I remember talking at length about how frustrating it was to assemble them.  Ladies and Gentlemen, the men of the 23rd Regiment, Special Aether Service....

 I'd wanted to do an explicitly steampunk or VSF unit, as opposed to most of the troops I've painted which wouldn't look out of place in an entirely historical game.  One of the most enduring images from my childhood was that of the SAS assault on the Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980.  I wanted to capture the flavour of the black-clad SAS troopers in NBC assault gear, but with a Victorian/Steampunk twist.

Now as it happens, Black Pyramid were running a promotion at the time for their new landship models, where for every landship you bought you could get a free pack of figures.  I hadn't realised this, so when they mailed me to ask what free packs I would like it was a pleasant surprise.  The default Tea Wars figures come with tropical style sun helmets, no good for those of us fighting on the home front, but they did do separate heads with a spiked helmets and gasmasks.  These were no good to me normally either, as I don't use poison gas weapons in my VSF (it being a little to grim & WWI)

But for special, shock troops they'd be perfect.  With the Air becoming Aether, they had even more justification for wearing breathing apparatus.  So I ordered a Command figure pack to make up the complete unit and enough spike helmet gasmask heads to convert them all.  Rather then red jackets, I wanted to capture the "SAS Assault" look, while at the same time sticking to something broadly historical.  in the end I went for a very dark, almost rifle green.  The facings and puggaree (cloth wrapped around the helmet) I painted Sand, to reference the real-life regiment's distinctive beret colour.  Finally, rather than arming them with regular rifles, or the Automatic Rifles that Black Pyramid also do, I went with their Aether Weapons pack.  In the setting, they are armed with Bolt Rifles, very large caliber weapons firing explosive shells.  (Yes, shades of Games Workshop Space Marines, I know. And that's not altogether a bad thing).  This makes them quite capable at taking out armoured vehicles if required.

I've already documented the frustrating process of assembling these chaps, but once done they're pleasantly beefy, just a little chunkier than the Ironclad figures.  For the unit's officer I decided to use the standard bearer figure, let's face it, all the Rupert has to do is stand there and look pretty while the rest of the lads get on and do the job.  The standard uses the fanciful "Black Ops" unit insignia that's floating around on the internet, with the motto reading "If I told you, I'd have to kill you." in Latin.  It's so dark as to normally be indistinguishable to the naked eye (the flash brings it out, along with the white edging on the flag which isn't so obvious normally - time to dig out the black marker pen and edge it properly)
Assembled and painted, these chaps look superbly menacing, and make me want to produce a couple of units of gasmasked redcoats as shock troops for when I'm in a more Dystopian mood, or as antagonists in an upcoming "Very Victorian Civil War"

So I've been looking at several sets of rules as possible options for a larger scale game than GASLIGHT is suited to.  The short list is as follows.

  • The Sword and The Flame
  • Space 1889 Soldier's Companion
  • FUBAR (with the VSF expansion)
  • Colonial Adventures, with elements of NUTS!, both from 2 hour Wargames
  • With MacDuff to the Frontier

Keen eyed readers will notice that not all of those rulesets are VSF games.

Larry Brom's "The Sword and the Flame" is one of the top historical Colonial games, but I certainly wouldn't be the first gamer to adapt it to VSF.  In fact Terry Sofian recently published a supplement "The Hive and the Flame" for fighting battles in his "For Hive Queen and Country." setting.

Soldier's Companion is at heart a solid set of 19th century/colonial wargame rules, with the fantastic conveyances of the Space 1889 universe bolted on. I've played quite a few straight historical battles with these rules, and quite a few of Sky Galleons of Mars (airships) and Ironclads and Etherflyers (the naval wargame) but never SC with any sort of VSF elements.  It does have a fairly strict but robust vehicle design system, which means that some more fanciful vehicles might not be possible to recreate (like the Springenpanzer, or the one-man tank mounting the 6" Naval gun) without some heavy handwaving.

FUBAR is a free one-page set of rules designed for fast-play science fiction battles, but it does have a VSF supplement which adds quite a bit of steampunk flavour.  Players must roll to activate units, succeed and they may then try to activate another unit, fail and initiative passes to the other player.  Initiative flip flops this way until all units have moved or attempted activation.

I've long been a massive fan of Ed Teixeira's Two Hour Wargames for his skirmish games, and am quite fond of Rally Round the King for large but fast-play fantasy/medieval battles.  Colonial Adventures is his entry into the colonial market and seems designed for similar games to TSATF and Soldier's Companion.  NUTS! is his WWII game, and has what looks like a solid vehicular combat system which ought to work as well for steam tanks as more modern vehicles.  It also has a Weird War II supplement, which might be useful for introducing VSF elements into the game. All 2Hr Wargames are built on broadly similar principles, so it should certainly be possible to graft elements of NUTS! onto Colonial Adventures to handle the VSF elements of the game.

Last but by no means least, for as long as I've been on the internet, MacDuff has been heading for that Frontier, inviting any who wish to tag along with him.  Canadian wargamer Ross Macfarlane, (who has been known to drop by the old Axis of Naughtiness occasionally) used to use an earlier version of the rules to fight spectactular battles with 54mm figures.  Nowadays his blog Battle Game of the Month is full of truly inspirational games often featuring mid-19th century 40mm toy soldiers.  When veteran gamers usually play their own, self-written rules that they're constantly tinkering with in the hope of getting it "right", it's usually a warning sign that the rules are going to be lengthy, baroque, painfully detailed and rather lacking in the fun department*.

So when I at last settled down to read MacDuff, I was pleasantly surprised to find what looks like a solid, simple, playable set of rules, with just enough detail to get by and a couple of innovative ideas clearly implemented.  There's just the barest hint of a reference to VSF elements, enough to get going with at least.  Of all the rulesets above this is one that I'm most keen to try out.

I'm thinking that rather than throwing myself back into the figure painting, next week I ought to lay out some terrain for one of Grant's scenarios/Table Top Teasers and refight it using each of the above rulesets to see how they feel.

(*I am obliged to point out that Brother Cordery's Portable Wargames et al are also pleasant exceptions to this rule.)


  1. They look great, makes me want to dig out and finish the VSF conversions I started a couple of years back!

  2. Fantastic post! So much here!

    The Special Aether Service came out great!

  3. I love the Guardsmen! They really look like they are 'ready for business'.

    All the best,


    PS. thanks for your kind comments about my rules. Another set you might like to look at are Rudi Guerden's 'Afriboria' rules.

  4. Absolutely splendid figures-well done sir!