Sunday, 26 July 2015

House Painting

When I picked up a dozen or so buildings off Mick at the Leven Miniatures stand at The Joy of Six the other day, I started saying to him that I hadn't finished the last lot but had to admit that in fact I'd hardly started the previous batch at all.

I do have enough to put together small farms and villages using my metal pre-Navwar Heroics & Ros buildings but the paint jobs are very scruffy now, having rattled around in Elastoplast boxes for over 30 years. Anyway, the Leven resin jobs were just too tempting, same goes for the thatched and leafy cottages I got off Ebay of undetermined provenance.

I made a start on some simple farm & mill buildings that looked solid enough to be made out of slate blocks with a slate tiled roof, I suppose much like constructions near Welsh quarries, although the texture on the warehouse walls is more like cobbles, there was enough on all surfaces to be able to dry-brush. I was going for a fairly plain utilitarian slightly rustic look, hence the ivy and so on. Paints are all Humbrol because all my older stuff is done in it (there wasn't a lot of choice in those days) and I didn't fancy changing.
  • 127 US Ghost Grey base coat on walls for mortar
  • 33 Black base coat on roofs
  • 83 Ochre base coat on Factory chimney for mortar (to be honest, I didn't have anything better)
  • 27 Sea Grey dry brushed on wall block work
  • 27 Sea Grey dry brushed on roof tiles
  • 62 Leather to pick out ridge tiles etc where present
  • 62 Leather dry brushed on chimney stack for bricks (too light compared to colour of mortar, see next)
  • 70 Brick Red dry brushed on chimney stack for bricks (that's better!)
  • 70 Brick Red dry brushed very lightly on roofs to tone down the greyness and maybe add a little iron-staining, also to dull down the ridge tiles where present 
  • 33 Black for open archways
  • 110 Natural Wood woodwork (plain wooden doors & shutters)
  • 98 Chocolate dry brushed onto woodwork
  • 34 White wood panelled hoist overhang and sign on factory (toned down with a bit of dry brushed 28 Camouflage Grey)
  • Pilot pigment ink pen to fill in window apertures
  • Matt varnish top coat
  • 98 Chocolate & Javis Scenics Light Meadow or Heath Green for ivy & other growth 

Easy paint job and functional on the table top.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Joy of Six, 2015

Set in the Sheffield Hallam University atrium this time, the show this year was quite a bit bigger than 2014 with two very large Napoleonics games present.

Although it was mostly sunny all afternoon it wasn't too hot under the glass roof but this made photography awkward with the shadows of roof trusses on some of the gaming tables.

Luckily I had decided to travel light and only had a mobile phone for picture taking so quality wasn't going to be of paramount importance anyway!

After a quick look around I had a long chat with the gamers at the Gorodetschna 1812 table where they were having a lot of fun with a Saxon flanking manoeuvre around a somewhat swampy central battlefield where the Russian and Austrian main forces were faced off.

Gorodetschna 1812
Having watched a few moves I was dying to ask them about the figures and it turns out they are made from MDF, made by Commission Figurines who had a stand next door, are even cheaper than Heroics & Ros but still look really good on a large scale battle.

On then to the Polemos Napoleonics table where I had an interesting talk with Stewart, the Baccus technology guru regarding rules detail and how it can be pared down and still get a realistic outcome and had a demonstration of the rules app for android and an exciting tool it looked too! The free version is said to be a manual combat calculator whereby the player selects the combatants, ticks the modifier boxes and the app gives you the result. (Even on-screen dice which can be rolled by shaking the device!) The paid version will have (amongst other features) an army generator which will enable the player to select the firing unit and any shaken effects are automatically remembered and applied from previous combats.

Polemos Napoleonics
I got roped in to play on the Milton Keynes' DBMM Battle of Lake Trasimene game but quite enjoyed it once I started routing a some of the Roman cavalry.

DBMM, Lake Trasimene
The rules had been simplifed for participation game purposes, which was just as well as I hadn't had a decent sleep for 24 hours. In the historical battle, the Romans were drawn down the lakeside coast then attacked in the flank by warband hordes and pretty much annhiliated, which was happening on the table as well.

At 2pm I attended the seminar for the talk about Polemos rules design and more chat about the rules app.
The Baccus Panel
Nick, Peter, Chris, Stewart

Then to the Heroics & Ros and Leven Miniatures stands to collect my pre-orders.

That's Mick on the left

It's amazing to see how the Leven Miniatures range has expanded in the last few years and casting improved; it is certainly not the little hobby concern that I once thought it was. Must paint some buildings soon! Got some PerfectSix scenic detailing bits here as well. As for my purchases from H&R, I only needed some A13 mk1s & A9s to reorganize my cruiser squadrons a bit, plus a few other oddments as usual.

Some other eye-catching games:

Operation Bagration, 1944 by MAD Gamers

Hungry Legions by Mailed Fist.
Forest canopies sans bases perched atop tree trunks concealed troops underneath

Ligny, 1815 by The Lead Commanders
"Huge tracts of land!"

Nashville, 1864 by the Legion of Blokes.
Lovely painted-on roads and 'model railway quality' grass

Plassey, 1757 by Russ Fewtrell & Ian Taylor.
Tent City!

Waterloo, 1815 by Lee Sharpe & Ian Willey
Permanent terrain boards, I believe

Finally, I would like to thank the Wyre Forest Gamers and Per Broden, not only for putting on a good-looking game but also for storing my luggage under their table while I wandered about!

The usual amount of handout information from Wyre Forest Gamers!

It was a great show (I only had time for one coffee, a stimulant drink going untouched in my backpack and was too interested in things going on to notice the cafe closing so went hungry) and I can only apologize for not mentioning all of the games. With luck there will be more comprehensive show reports somewhere with more (and better quality!) photographs.

Action plan for 2016:
  • bring a decent camera
  • knock off work early & get some sleep
  • arrive for 'doors open' (4 hours not enough to 'do' all the games properly)

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Simpler Morale

In an early version of the rules, a graphic chart was used to determine changes in morale levels. I thought it was quite nifty, not having to consult another table of figures or do any further calculations beyond the initial roll and it served more than one function: where your adjusted dice roll plotted on the chart told you any test-related actions the unit had to take and the adjustment to the unit's morale score.

Then I did away with the chart (one less quick reference sheet to find on the gaming table), rendered down the morale effects into just five brackets and knocked up a simple calculation (something that could fairly easily done in the head) for the apres-roll adjustment of the unit morale level, depending on how well or badly the dice went, so that there was a built-in possibility of rallying (or for morale to deteriorate) whenever a morale check was done and using the actual morale test roll to do this, which is the kind of thing I find elegant.

Although not into English Civil War gaming (yet!), I've been looking at the Polemos rules as they have some interesting game mechanics which I saw in an exhibition version at Joy of Six 2014. Combat & terrain effects all conspire to imparting levels of shakeness to a unit, resulting in degradation of coherence, effectiveness and eventual routing off the gaming table.

I decided to apply this somewhat to my rules so that now a failed morale check simply leads to dropping down by one morale bracket (which could be regained in subsequent turns by rallying if the unit was lucky enough to be allowed to do so). I still retain the morale dice roll and adjustments (a few daft or infrequently used ones have been thrown out) as a kind of saving throw mechanism and also the unit strength percentage on-table green tiddlywink (again, less notebook or post-it rummaging) but that is all there is now in terms of number crunching.

Results Tables

The colour coding is for the use of really small tiddlywinks until I sort out the scenic markers, which I think will 'disappear' into the terrain or at least obviate the need for fluorescent arrows with 'fall back' and the like written on and scattered all over the battlefield. Most of these miniature scenic details I will be acquiring from PerfectSix Scenics at Joy of Six via the Leven Miniatures stand this coming weekend.

While I was at it, I worked out how I am going to handle the morale of detachments of sections and the main body, after agonizing for months over how to recombine the independently arrived at scores with some sort of weighted or averaging calculation: I am just going to have the smaller detachment assume the morale level of the larger one (probably the main body) for simplicity's sake.

So that's that sorted, nothing left on my hitlist of anomalies to iron out. 

More to follow on the Joy of Six.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Scenic Awesomeness

Got the heads up about these scenic items from The Miniatures Page tonight. Not sure if anyone else makes this type of thing but they add a nice bit of detail to any wargaming scene.

They are made by  Perfect Six Scenics and will be on sale from the Leven Miniatures stand at the Joy of Six show.

The barrels, crates etc will also come in handy for me to use as base markers for pairing up artillery troops & their observers, for example, as described here.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Funny how...

...just when you thought it was safe to tip out the white spirit jam jar there are seem to be several more loose ends unravelling.

  • repaint a few spare German cavalry figures into Allied mounted couriers (they are going to need them with their comms debacle)
  • superglue rocks onto Carrier & Recce platoon leader figures
  • base up 25mm AT gun crews that somehow keep falling through the net
  • paint & flock 13.2mm AA integral crews & bases (Scotia Micromodels)
  • paint the drivers of approximately 25 Bren Carriers which have been taunting me for years
  • base up, paint & flock another French cycle infantry platoon
  • file Adrian helmet down into a beret on French infantry which were painted slightly wrong colour but usable as Chasseurs Ardennais infantry & repaint beret in a darker green
  • separate the French infantry that was painted the wrong colour many years ago; repaint, rebase & flock
  • a few strips of figures requiring boots, binoculars, etc to be painted
  • put tiny Belgian utility tractors on bases big enough for the 25mm AT gun to sit temporarily at the back when being towed
  • slosh a bit of Humbrol 26 on British infantry which were painted wrong shade many years ago
  • fix a sliver of tin/lead onto bases of Boys AT rifles and paint as ammo crate to distinguish them from Bren guns (same prone pose)
  • gather up spare British figures to make up engineer sections

This lot just completed. Next up: a few part painted aircraft and a couple of dozen resin buildings.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Engagement Distances

The ground scale in my rules has always been 1" = 100m, which is a throwback from the WRG rules I used for a number of years back in the day. It is nice to get more than a square kilometre on one terrain tile but there is compromise between 'getting more area on the table' and units and elements being a bit too close together for convenience, not to mention aesthetics.

Mark Luther's Hannut
In this Hannut game, the ground scale for larger figures (possibly 28mm) was used in an IABSM game with 6mm miniatures and the effect is undeniably realistic-looking. I know I don't think too often about how the real life battlefield translates to the wargaming table or consider what a target 500m away actually looks like but this is easy to do in your own local area.

If I look across the fields to the lane on the horizon, vehicles there are pretty much tiny specks among the hedgerows. Comparing the view on Google maps tells me the T-junction over there is about 1km away, almost the maximum effective range for most small calibre tank guns in 1940.

Another location where I first did this comparison was Harlow Common, which is an open bit of land bordered by country lanes and houses. I sometimes looked across and wondered how it would translate scalewise onto a wargaming table. Calculations indicate that the width is around the extreme end of rifle fire effectiveness.

My direct fire chart goes all the way out to 2,000m for anything over 75mm, although even at 2286m, the 88mm apparently could still penetrate 6" of armour but when you look at ranges in the real world landscape you can understand why it can be a 2% chance to hit. 

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Bases: Infantry Unit Identification

I may have mentioned how Lloyd Nikolas' identifies his Crossfire infantry units using the terrain on the bases.

French Infantry Unit by Nikolas

Essentially, different base detailing differentiates between units: a type of bush, fallen log, boulder, etc. I do use a boulder to denote any command element, be it platoon or section but each foot unit has a different initial paint colour on the base and different type of flock added, which is what I've been working on this week.

Differing bases for each platoon

There are twelve German platoons altogether, including cavalry, Fallschirmjager, Schutzen, cycle, motorcycle, motorized & foot. The cavalry has mounted and dismounted figures but no riderless horses (yet!). Cycle infantry have a few token chaps on bikes. Assembled together like this it looks a bit of a motley collection but on a fully terrained-up tabletop with it's various muted shades, the bases fit in and as intended enable easy differentiation.

Elements which do not move about in units much or risk getting mixed up with others (support weapons, artillery, dispatch riders) have a default 'makeover' of Humbrol 150 with a 'grass' mix of flock added. That being said, artillery troops and heavy mortar sections are going to have an identifying sprig of lichen, tuft of reeds or fallen tree trunk, as are their corresponding spotters, to indicate their parent troop.

I may have to slosh a bit of matt varnish over the figures in the photographs...

Monday, 20 April 2015

Lead & Resin Molehill

Looking forward to The Joy of Six show in July, it occurred to me that I had better get the stuff painted that I bought last year before the inevitable happens and more is added to the relatively small pile that has been languishing in the other half's tupperware pots since then.

German, French & Fallschirmjager Platoons; aircraft & buildings

I spent half a day trying to work out what all the LMG, AT rifle and extra Heroics & Ros strips of standing or kneeling gun crews were supposed to be once painted and based up into what.

Needs filling, painting & flocking
My infantry command groups (officers, or other section leaders) are formed into groups of a leader plus 3 of the other ranks, like the groups of 4 other ranks which they lead. This rifle group thing is a carry over from my use 35 years ago of the WRG 1925-1950 rules which conveniently obviated the moving of individual riflemen by grouping sections on one tiddlywink base. I liked the lumping together of the combat effect of a section. After all, I am not concerning myself with the minutiae of a 54mm skirmish game! Platoon LMGs, AT rifles & 2" mortars are based separately in teams.

I use a bit of artistic licence with my artillery observers in this respect as well. In the excellent "Return Via Dunkirk" by Gun Buster (aka Richard Austin, I believe) the battery spotter author is invariably alone atop some church tower or chateau rooftop skylight but mine as a matter of course include a figure usually with binoculars, radio operator and the luxury of two grunts on lookout. That way they could at least get off some effective fire before scarpering from advancing enemy  recce units, if it came to that.

Anyway, that is why I have all these standing or kneeling gun crews holding shells painted like rifles, or erstwhile Panzerschreck operatives disarmed by X-Acto blade into wielding small Nelson-esque spotting telescopes, if such things were even used in this way in 1940. (It doesn't matter to me if spotters actually used telescopes: I just need to know it is an observer element). Also the Heroics & Ros PIAT strips contain 3 prone operators and 2 marching figures so all these are being painted as German MG34s as I need an extra bunch of these for Fallschirmjager and Motorcycle platoons.

+ kneeling guncrew
I have a bit of a mish-mash of various poses and methods of distinguishing between AT rifles and LMGs. For instance, early H&R infantry only had prone Bren or MG34 teams so for the Germans, prone MG34s have an ammo belt feed on the model which is carved away for the PzB38; for the British, Brens are converted into Boys by filing off the curved mag and fixing a bit of plasticard with an angled top to resemble the Boys mag but the differences aren't easy to spot on the table. Later castings had marching figures with a weapon over the shoulder and assistant carrying ammo cases. But it turns out for the Germans I have the exact number of the converted PIAT/kneeling spotter teams as I have Panzerbusche. That's the Germans sorted then, all of the German AT rifles will be in that configuration and all the others will be MG34s.

German Cavalry Group
The painting standard is alright for my purposes, skill, patience and eyesight and the samples here are just a random selection. There may be better (or worse!) examples. Another get-out clause for me is that a lot of my miniatures were painted when I was younger and could have cared less about detailing, not that the internet was invented then and I was unaware of what could be acheived. To repaint earlier efforts would lose much detail so a little drybrushing of highlights will have to suffice. I'll update when this batch of figures (and Matilda Is, Morris ACs and probably a lorry or two) is painted & based.

Imagining battle activity for me is less about micro detail and linked more to unit performance, luck and the unfolding narrative.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Heroics & Ros new website

Featuring search facility, account login and shopping cart, this is quite an improvement over the Acrobat catalogue we had to pore over previously.

I look forward to more model images being added, the "image not available" avatar appearing against most of the product lines, unfortunately.

For a better idea of how things will look, do a search for 'Renault' as there are quite a lot of WW2 French tanks with images already uploaded or browse the WW2 French tanks, artillery or other vehicle categories.

Char 2C

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

"If It Ain't Broke" Scribblings

Analysing Hit Probabilities
Some time ago I was trying to work out a way of having simpler range brackets, by the looks of my jottings here, as well as the possibility of going over to D20 dice. As it happens it became a thinking out loud on paper exercise into deciding I didn't want to change anything after all.

As it stands, I measure the range, go to the combat chart, get the penetration %, adjust the % for the usual reasons, then roll the dice. As you can guess, very few guns are similar enough to group together in such a chart if you look at their stats closely enough but three categories of weapons did fall into line with each other somewhat: small arms; 13.2mm-47mm; & 75mm-150mm.

Don't get me wrong, I am reasonably happy with the eight range brackets I currently use (Point Blank, Close, Short, Intermediate, Medium, Long, Distant & Extreme). The WRG WW2 rules I used to use felt wrong when either side of a certain range gave a vastly different hit probability. I just wanted to see if I could work out a simplification without increasing the probability steps noticeably or bending the penetration data overmuch by using Point-Blank, Short, Medium, Long and Extreme ranges.

Having not quite ironed out very many of the wrinkles in that idea I then wanted to see if I could devise a way of rolling a handful of D6 for however many attackers were firing within these simplified range brackets, getting back to a long-abandoned group suppressing fire concept I toyed with a few years ago. I am sure it has been done in other rule sets.

Imagining that hit probabilities tail off rapidly towards the end of a trajectory's arc and increase alarmingly at point-blank ranges, I surmised that there might be a largish section in the middle where although, percentages are changing, they are more gradual than at the extremes. Not being a ballistics expert, this was going to be something which was merely required to work in a gaming context, not give very silly results and make everything simpler.

Having decided on PB, S, M, L & X range brackets for the three categories of direct firing weapons and that the M bracket was going to be some kind of norm where, in theory, most of the firing would occur, that left the extremities just needing some adjustment factors and eventually some new adjustments for other combat factors (cover, movement, etc).

All well and good but although the possibly easier to remember range brackets might have resulted in slightly less range table checking there was now going to have to be a roll for penetration, something I did not really want. It could never be factored into the one dice roll, not without, off the top of my head, probably a hit chart for every gun.

Quite an enjoyable bit of noodling about with ideas, nevertheless, if only to conclude I like things how they are.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Having a go at World of Tanks

I'd been given the heads up about World of Tanks a few years ago by my brother-in-law who probably assumed I would be in there in a flash as the game is naturally tank-related. I'd watched my son in Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) Player vs Player (PVP) games of Minecraft and as much as I came to enjoy the biggest Lego game on the internet for the building and exploration aspects, getting hyperactive and knocking players out of the game was never really my pint of beer.

Fast forward to 2015 and my son had started playing World of Tanks with a school friend, initially on the PC. Bless him, he had abstained from borrowing my laptop for the best part of a day while the game downloaded so all that was left for me to do was register.

The upside of starting WoT is that the initial tank availability is at the lower end of the power scale and that means at first having to use pre-war tanks or those from the early campaigns. Result! The German start tank is the Leichttraktor, after that you can go down various tech tree routes via the Pz 1, Pz 2, Pz 35t, PzJgr 1 or something I seem to remember resembling the Neubaufahrzeug. The British & French tree starts with the Vickers medium 1 and FT17 respectively. One thing a wargamer has to get his head round is that you have ahistorical combinations of tanks on a battlefield, even Brits vs Brits or Japanese vs French. I think there used to be a historical mode but that got dropped due to player pooling/server issues.

Straight out of the starting blocks, a new player is "destroyed in seconds" (as the say on the TV). Repeatedly so in game upon game. I gather many quit at this point. The controls aren't that complicated but with incoming rounds from unseen opponents it is easy for the beginner to panic or lock up. Either way your tank will be disabled in one or two rounds and destroyed in one or two subsequent hits so there isn't much of a chance to analyse what is happening. "Where's the fun in that?" you may ask.

This is just one problem I have with the game. I understand that it is an arcade style third-person-shooter and not a simulation, so the fact that Pz 1s can dart up and hose your Matilda to oblivion with MG rounds is silly but is just part of the artistic license of the game.

However, this business of being "one-shotted" gets a bit irksome after a while and I used to wonder whether I was forever being pitted against opponents that bought premium gold rounds for real money but it is doubly annoying when one is taken out by one extremely accurate artillery round. (Apparently, even experienced players hate 'arty' where in the higher tier matches it is even more prevalent.) I believe other platforms are somewhat easier to get along with, perhaps only because, for instance in the tablet version, there are no SP artillery as yet, or player-aid mods.

World of Tanks is completely free and many players play for nothing and never buy upgrades, special ammo or restricted tanks for hard currency. It has great graphics, nice gameplay features and if you have good internet, you will be able to install player-aid mods to help your win rate on the PC. And it has A9 Cruisers, FCM36s and CharBs to name a few.

It is very addictive, though. After quitting (for the second time) it took me 3 days for the urge to reinstall to subside and another 3 days to stop going on the WoT forum, so on balance I am glad I have decided it is not the game for me.

It has served its purpose on one level, however. I have been going through Horne's "To Lose A Battle" again, harvesting potential scenarios for games and will do the same with Goutard's "Battle of France" after that.
I have also been figuring out the usage & allocation of StuG3, SiG33/Pz1, PzJgr1 & Bunker Flak units in the campaign, so prepare for more games or modelling photos.

Long live miniatures gaming!