Wednesday, January 30, 2019

More Space Cats

I have been focusing on my 15mm Space Kitties project and have made some more progress.  

I envisioned building what was essentially a mechanized platoon of infantry with some armour and air supports.   Here are three AFCs (Armoured Feline Carriers) from Ground Zero Games, using repurposed Games Workshop mounts from some ancient Ork Deffkoptas.

I use the same base paint, Citadel Khorne Red, from their spaceship but added a cammo pattern that was loosely inspired by the Narn spacecraft on the old Babylon 5 TV series.  Each AFC can hold a squad of feline warriors, their equipment, and litter boxes.

I chopped a Khurasan figure in half because he has some sort of long range viewer thingy in his hand, err, paw, and made him a crew commander for one of the vehicles.

Here are the two 10 man, errr, cat sections that I've painted thus far.  Their rides have kicked in their anti grav units to provide overwatch after the troops de-bus.  The troops are all Khurasan minis from their  Tigrid range.

I use a separate colour on each section's shoulder armour plates to keep track of them.   Pink Section is here to rub your legs and ask for some milk, then loot your planet.

Boss cat on the right, herding cats.  I decided that my officer cats would have white fur, while the rank and file would be orange tiger types.  That's maybe racist, but they're cats, and not terrible enlightened.  They want your planet and they want to play with you as if you were a mouse.

Boss cat with big pink schnozz - adorable!  Trooper from Blue Section to the right.

Blue Section have just regrouped after a long morning's nap and are ready for a scrap and then another nap.  

Heavy guns.  A GZG tank and big shooty SPG to terrorize the Earthers with - it can launch hairballs for 100 kms.  Not really sure about the realism of modelling an SPG in a tactical game, except maybe as an objective marker?

Good to see the project nearing completion though I have a few other toys to show here to make my friend James nervous.  I wonder if he's allergic to cats?

Blessings to your moggies,

Friday, January 25, 2019

Space Cats' Big Ride

Pretty much all my brushwork this fall and winter, and there hasn't been that much of it, has been devoted to a fun but distracting side project of getting an alien 15mm SF army ready to fight Rabbitman's lovely collection.   I have advanced a little since I posted on that project here back in September.

So o get at the Hoomans, my Space Kitties will need ships, so I based the collection around this lovely Khurasan Models spaceship.   It can be built in a number of ways (landing, flying, w cargo pod, etc) but I chose the flying with wing cannon variant.   This will be useful for low orbital space supremacy, troop insertions, ground attack, and so on.

My attempt to paint the engines as being active and the ship under thrust.

Painted in the characteristic colour (Citadel Khorne Red) of my Kzinti-like feline force.   At first I had wanted to do a more varied colour palette, but decided on a few alien-looking markings on the wings and front.

Shown with a single 15mm miniature for comparison.   This is a satisfyingly big model.  The curves and swept wings could be a human design but there is something alien about it as well so it works for me.

The belly comes with variant parts that plug-in to a central cavity, one a fairly streamlined insert to suggest flight, which I choose ...

And the other an underslung cargo-pod which I can't attach to the model now because the first belly insert, once in, won't budge.   That's fine, the cargo-pod can be used as battlefield decoration, perhaps a drop pod that contains supplies, or could function as a command post, that sort of thing.

I'm not sure how useful this model will be on the table.   I have some lighter Close Air Support elements for my Space Cats, so a ship this big would be overkill in most ground battles, probably making one quick and hopefully destructive pass if the scenario allows.  It might come in low and drop a few squads of troops at the beginning of an attack, but I suspect something that big would show up on scanners or monitoring devices pretty quickly.

Any it looks pretty and it's a lovely centrepiece to this army.  More pics of the kitties soon to come.

Blessings to your brushes!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

First Look at GMT's Pendragon, The Fall of Roman Britain

Last fall as part of GMT Games' annual sale, I couldn't resist ordering their 2017 title Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain.   Designed by Mark Gouyon-Rety, it is one of the latest instalments in their series of COIN games, and is developed by Volko Ruhnke, the Prince of COIN.

GMT's COIN games are multiplayer simulations of political and military struggles other than traditional warfare.   Since they don't use the traditional war-games hex and counter format with historical orders of battle, and have a Eurogames look to them with their many multi-coloured blocks, they aren't for some grognards.   I confess I like them because of their complex and clever modelling of the historical processes - influence, population movement, and shifting allegiances - that mark many conflicts.  Some years ago I made some comments here about their Afghanistan COIN game, A Distant Plain.

So here we are in the last days of Roman Britain.  The red counters are Dux, the Roman Army in the late 4th century. They have a lot of good troops and forts, and are at the start politically linked with the Civitates, the Romanized Britains (blue) who hold the towns and a variety of strongholds throughout the countryside.   On the left, the green counters are the Scoti, Celtic Irish and Scottish tribes, while the black counters are the Saxons.   Obviously the Scoti and Saxons want to carve up Britain between them.

As the photo shows, Pendragon is a beautiful game to look at, and is typical of GMT's high production values.  A quick  play by play of the first few moves follow to give you a sense of the game mechanics.

The turn sequence is card driven, as in other COIN games.   Each card shows the four factions' icons in different sequences.   Two factions can act on each card, starting from left to right.  The card on the left is in play, and the next card is placed face up on the deck, so players often face choices on whether to act on one card or pass and wait for the next, more optimal card.

The first faction allowed to move is the Civitates.   Since, while wearing my Civitates toga,  I know the barbarians are coming, I decide to use the Muster Command to pay resources to place an extra militia cube (the light blue cubes) in each of the provinces marked with a white pawn.  I also spend additional Resources to stockpile Wealth, which can be used for unit upgrades and the like.   Might as well get ready.   

Next up on the St. Germanus card is the Dux faction, and since they are maxed out, with all their troops and forts already in play, they pass and accrue some Resource points for biding their time and harvesting their strength.   Because the Dux passed, the Scoti can act, bu since the Civitates have gone first, the Scoti only have a Limited Action, meaning they can only operate in one area.  They could play the shaded part of the St. Germanus event card, Papal Oversight, which would rob the Civitates of resources, but their game is all about raiding, and I want to see how the Raid mechanics work.

Each raid generates a random number of raider units, which are not as strong in battle as regular units, but are quite pesky.  The Scoti get to roll 1d4 for free, but chose to spend a Renown point (Renown points measure the success/failure of the two barbarian factions) to roll an extra dice.  Scoti rolls a 7, so seven raider parties descend on the region of Ordovices.   The Hibernian Sea is currently unpatroled, so the raiders are cross successfully.

Wealth in Pendragon is measured by gold Prosperity/Plunder cubes.  Ordovices has two, and the raiders can take a number equal to the population rating (Orodovices has pop 1) so the Scoti get a Plunder cube to try and take home - if successful they convert the Plunder to a Renown point, which the barbarian factions need to win.  The only Civitates militia cube in the region has wisely retreated into the hill fort at Segontium, but the Scoti can afford to throw all those raiders at the hill fort.  A multi-stage process (Escalade, painful for the attackers, then Storm, a straight exchange) follows.  At the end, the Scoti lose four raiders, but eliminate the hill fort and the militia, and acquire two more Plunder for a sacked stronghold.  They have three raider units left, so can carry all three Plunder.  Hopefully in the next Scoti turn, the raiders can return home and convert that Plunder into three Renown points.

Since two factions have moved, the St. Germanus card is finished and the Annona card is now in play.   Dux and the Saxons are the first eligible factions to move on this card.  The next card, now face up on the deck, is Groaning of the Britains.   Again, a faction can either chose the event on the card in play, (top version) good for them or (shaded version) bad for the others, or instead of an Event they can chose an Action, so there is always a choice on each card.

Situation at the beginning of the next card - Dux can go first.  The "Annona" event isn't relevant since there are no Feoderati (barbarian bands hired by the Dux/Civitates) in play yet that need to be paid for.   Dux therefore focuses on actions and could choose the Train option to reinforce,  but since all its allowable forces are already on the board, there is no sense in that.   Dux has two red cavalry units in neighbouring Deceangli which could use a Move action to reach Ordovices, but since the British have lost control of that region, the Dux cavalry could not bring the Scoti raiders to battle.  They could do this on an Intercept move, but only if the region was under Briton control (before Fragmentation, Dux and Civitates are both treated as Britons).  Getting Ordovices back under Briton control is a long-term project that Dux is willing to leave to the civilians, and besides, those two cavalry units in prosperous Deceangli are needed in case of further raids.  Dux passes and collects 3 Resource points.

Saxons are next according to the Annona card and with my Saxon cap on, I decide to Raid in a big way.    The Saxons can Raid up to three regions or cities bordering the Oceanus Britannicus or Oceanus Germanicus.  They choose, from N to S, the three regions of Iceni, Trinovantes, and Cantiaci, spending 1 Renown each for Iceni and Cantiaci to roll 1d4 of Raiders and 2 Renown for Trinovanes to roll 3d4 of raiders.  The result looks grim for the people of Trinovantes, with 8 raiders descending on them!

Because the Oceanus Germanuicus is partrolled and is bordered by three red Dux forts, the residue of the Roman Navy does its job and three raiders are removed from each group, which means that the Britons only have to worry about Trinovantes.   The Saxons now grab Plunder equal to the population, so two Plunder cubes.

 The united Britons decide to stand and give Battle, and we go through the preBattle sequence, where the Saxons elect to try and Ambush (need a 5 or 6 on 1d6) but fail their die roll.  The hard hitting Dux cavalry charge first, killing two raiders, then in a  simultaneous round the raiders inflict 1 and 1/2 hits, killing both Briton units, while the Militia do 1/2 hits, enough to kill 1 raider.  That leaves two Saxon raiders loaded with loot, and that seems like a good if bloody day's work.  Trinovantes remains Britain but is now devoid of its garrison and the Saxons, like the Scoti before them, will try to take their loot home.   A dark pattern for Roman Britain is emerging.

So there are lots of things I am probably getting wrong, but that is the game so far, and I am enjoying it and the many decisions it forces on each faction.   As I continue, I may try and use the "bots", the decision trees for the non-player factions, if only to learn what the optimal strategies are for them, but for now the best COA for the barbarians seems to be raid, raid, and raid some more, until the Britons are weak enough that the remaining raiders can start to take up a permanent foothold.

Blessings to you gaming!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Visit to the Australian War Memorial

A belated Happy New Year to you!    I hope you all had a pleasant holidays.  For my part, getting back from a month in Australia just before Christmas, and catching up with church and family, meant that I was a bit pooped for a while, but I've had some time to sort through my travel photos and thought that those of you who have never been there would appreciate these images from my trip to the Australian War Memorial.  There are far better pictures on the website, but here are a few.

My partner Joy and I spent December 7, our last day in Canberra, touring the Memorial, which is both a monument and a museum.    I was warned that a day would not be enough time to see it all, and they were right, but we saw enough of it to be deeply moved and impressed.

We arrived early enough in the day that we had the Commemorative Courtyard almost to ourselves.   It is both somber and peaceful, as this photo of the Pool of Reflection under a flawless summer sky suggests.  The domed structure is the Hall of Memory.

The gallery of names, mostly from the Great War, lines one long wall.  A second gallery takes up from the Second World War to the present.  People have placed crepe poppies beside the names of relatives.  Over 102,000 names from all of Australia's wars are preserved here on the bronze walls.

The view from inside the Hall of Memory looking across the courtyard.

From the front steps, looking down the length of Anzac Parade with the Australian Parliament buildings (old and new) visible in the far centre.   One of my enduring memories of Canberra will be its elegant design and these long, sweeping views.

I loved this statue depicting one of the iconic figures of the Gallipoli, John Simpson Kirkpatrick, who landed with a Field Ambulance unit at Anzac Cove and spent the last four weeks of his life evacuating the wounded until he was killed in May 1915.   He was widely known at Anzac as "The Man With the Donkey".

This statue, honouring Australia's war dogs and their handlers, was incredibly moving and reduced Joy, a dog lover with a huge heart, to quiet sobs.

The star of Anzac Hall is this Lancaster bomber, surrounded by large multimedia panels that tell the story of the Australian contribution to Bomber Command.  

Of course I patted the Lanc as I walked underneath it.

There are some lovely Great War aircraft preserved here, including this German Albatross.  Like Canada, Australia's aviation industry has its roots in the aircrew who returned from the Great War, including the founders of Quantas Airlines.

There are some skillful dioramas, including his portrayal of the fighting above and below ground at Lone Pine at Gallipoli.

Australians on the Western Front.  Note the tank in the centre background.

If I am ever fortunate enough to go back to Australia, I will make another pilgrimage here.  There were many exhibits that I barely had time to see, such as the moving account of the Diggers in the Pacific War in places like the Kokoda Trail, which is as much an Australian Iliad as is Gallipoli.  

We ended our day observing the closing ceremony, when the Memorial honours one Australian service member who died in action.  The wreaths laid by the photo of this young lad are from family members, given a place of honour in the brief ceremony, and by members of the diplomatic staffs from the many embassies in Canberra.  Each day's event can be viewed online here.

Standing in the galleries, as a brilliant sun began to set, and listening to the unfamiliar but lovely words of Australia's national anthem, will be an abiding memory.  

"Advance Australia Fair".


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Bloggers Down Under - A Meetup in Canberra

Just finishing a lovely month in sunny Australia and starting to digitally dust off some of the photos I took while down here.   Expect more in the not so distant future, once I get back to snowy Canada.

While in Canberra (I was fortunate to be sent on a fact-finding trip to the Australian Defence Force Chaplain College), I had the good fortune to meet up with Alan Saunders, aka Kaptain Kobold, proprietor of the quirky The Stronghold Rebuilt blog (Alan is also on Twitter - @KaptainKobold).  Besides being one of my wargaming heroes, Alan endeared himself to me with his fearless Frocktober campaign to raise money for research into ovarian cancer, which claimed Madame Padre.

My partner Joy and I (left) met up with Alan and his wife Catherine (right)at the National Museum in Canberra, to see an exhibit on Ancient Rome.  

Alan and Catherine were great company, and as transplanted English (no they didn't come over as convicts) who have lived in Australia for some years, it was interesting to compare our impressions of the place against their experience.  We found them engaging company and I wished we could have found time to game together.  Hopefully one day.

The Rome exhibit was a curated selection of holdings from the British Museum.  I suppose my favourite piece was this stone burial vessel, which depicts scenes from an imagined and happy afterlife, rather like what a religion created by Too Fat Lardies might depict.

"OK, mate, you're too drunk to ride that donkey.  Get off."
"Sod off.  Doncha know who I am?   I'm fecking Bachus!"

Finally, the obligatory Rome Gift Shop (TM) astonished me with a vast collection of Playmobil figures, including Roman legionaries, ballistae, and a giant trireme!  

Behold the glory of the fully assembled Playmobil Trireme.   

Row well and live!

I realize that Playmobil gets a bad rap from some quarters - it's not as exciting as Lego, many playsets have the same boring bourgeois European vibe that you get from a house full of Ikea furniture, etc.  However, there is a whole world of Playmobil historical sets, including ancient Egyptians, and some interesting Viking/Dragon crossovers.

It all has possibilities, especially as my partner Joy has three lovely grandchildren who are still quite young but could be gently introduced to wargaming via Playmobil.   I had better start collecting sets now, so we could do this when they get older:

Blessings from Down Under!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

First Look at A Wing And A Prayer (Lock and Load Games)

“OK, fellas, I’m Luigi, and I’m hear to give you a rousing welcome as we get ready to take off and go bomb the Krauts, so listen up, because Uncle Sam put a lot of dough into training you apes, and if you want to ever want to see Tonawanda again, you better fly a tight formation and stay alert.  It’s a good game, and the box is fun to sit in. OK, let’s go."

Thanks, Luigi, I’ll take it from here.   Readers of this blog will know that I have a fondness for the air war over Germany in World War Two, so A Wing and A Prayer: Bombing The Reich by Lock and Load Games isa  2016 release.   It’s a solitaire game, though it can be played with a second player as the German defenders, and is simple enough to play.    The US/solo player is given a squadron B17 bombers, and has to make it through a series of missions in campaigns of various lengths.    There is also an option to play a squadron of B24s.

As you can see from the map, movement is point to point, with Occupied Europe divided into boxes containing various targets and flak hazards.   Each campaign has a variety of targets, each represented by one of the cards seen below.   The early war campaign features targets mostly in France and the Low Countries, and the later campaigns get much more hairy.   Each target is rated for its flak defence, difficulty to bomb, and the amount of bomb damage it requires to reduce and/or eliminate.   You get Victory Points by successfully bombing targets and shooting down enemy fighters while avoiding bomber losses.

Once you get your target, then it’s time to get after it.   For the very first mission of the short 1942 campaign, I drew Lille as a target, which seemed quite easy, only three squares away from England.   I could employ all twelve of my B17Fs, and laid them out in the standard box formation of Lead, High, Low and Tail elements.  Unfortunately, I rolled badly for cloud cover, so my bomb aimers would have to squint through the clouds to see the target.  Luckily for me, I rolled well for escorts.  As you can see at the bottom of the formation card below, I have an escort of 6 P47 Thunderbolts, which have the range to accompany me all the way to the target.  


One of the features which gives the game its quality is varying bomber crew quality.   You start off by getting one crack crew, two good crews, and nine green crews, all rated for flying, air combat, and bomb accuracy.   I employed my crack crew, “Hells Angels”, to fly the lead plane in the formation.  If they make it to the target, the formation benefits from their accuracy bonus when bombing.

Once your squadron is in the air, there is an events table to check, possibly leading to enemy fighters, a mechanical malfunction in one of your bombers, or something positive such as a visit from Lady Luck.  The chances of an event increase the further out you are from your home base in England.  In my case, my lead bomber had to check for a mechanical problem just before the bombing run at Lille, but the crew of Hell’s Angels were fortunate.   Once over the target, there was flak to check for, using a combat results table which distributes the attack factors (in this case the flak) over the number of bombers.   Since my squadron was at its full strength of 12, the distribution was very favourable, so that each bomber had to roll “12” on two D6 for something bad to happen.   Everyone got through the flak in and out with no damage to any aircraft.

A similar process happens for the bombing.  Each plane has a bombing, which is multiplied on the same Combat Results Table with possible column shifts for the difficulty of the target, skill of the lead crew, etc.   With the bad clouds over Lille, I got nine chances to roll a 6 on 1D6, with each hit counting for so many damage factors against the target.   I only got 1 hit, which was not nearly enough to significantly damage the target.   Lille will have to wait for another day.

Once your squadron gets home, you can automatically land them, or using an optional rule, check to see who makes it carefully.  Damaged planes, and/or planes with green crews, have a worse chance of landing.  Using the advanced rule, one of my B17s suffered light damage on landing, and had to be placed in the Not Ready box.   For the squadron’s next mission, I will have to check to see of the plane can be repaired in time to go again.    Fewer bombers will increase the risk to the remainder if its not read


If there is a flaw with A Wing and A Prayer, I suppose it is repeated die rolling for all these steps.   To complete the raid on Lille, with flak going in and out, and the bombing, I had to roll a total of 1D6 X 57 which, along with checking multiple charts over three separate sheets, seems like a lot of work.   Also, the game is abstract enough that there doesn’t feel like there is much emotional investment in the fate of individual crews.   Perhaps that will change as I run multiple missions, but for now these boys seem rather expendable.   Perhaps that was how the bombers’ commanders really viewed them.

So, an agreeable enough game, which took me about an hour to play.     Hopefully we will revisit Generic Squadron soon for its next mission.

Blessings to your die rolls!



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Game Too Far?

My son John was visiting me from BC this summer, and expressed a great interest in my board games collection.   John is a miniatures gamer, and knows W40K like the back of his hand, but he was intrigued by old school hex and counter games.    His birthday was coming up, so I gave him three websites, GMT Games, Compass Games, and Vassal, and told him to pick whatever game he liked that was still in print and had a Vassal module so we could play i by email.   More to follow on that.

I am not sure exactly how many Market Garden games a chap needs in my collection, and to be honest, my collection has a bit of a mind of its own and hasn’t been effectively curated over the years.  

I have four MG games by my count.   One is an Avalon Hill classic, and is a sort of operational/tactical hybrid, focusing on the British defence of Arnham.   Designed by Courtney F. Allen and published in 1981, it featured an ingenious area impulse movement system for its day and spawned several other AH games using the same engine, one on Stalingrad and the other on Monte Cassino.  Breakout Normandy used the same basic engine but at a larger, more truly operational scale. SOA is the only Market Garden game I own that I’ve actually played head to head, and it is a much better played H2H than solitaire.

Hell’s Highway (published 1983) is a strategic level game by John Butterfield, who was one of the stable of SPI designers who went to Victory Games.  John is coming to a gaming convention in March 2019 in Toronto, which is kind of exciting.   Maybe by then I will have actually played this game, or at least peaked inside the box.

I bought It Never Snows shortly after MMP published it in 2012, partly from what I’d heard about it and partly on the strength of its designer, Dean Essig, who has won a hockey sack of awards and has a long and distinguished design resume.    Alas, it is still in the shrink wrap.    Hopefully when I retire I can get to grips with it.

So, going back to my son John - what did he choose, but a Market Garden game?    Holland 44 is a 2017 GMT title, designed by Mark Simonitch, and is an operational, battalion-level game, starting with the airborne landings and ending on 23 September.  As with the other big titles (Hells Highway and It Never Snows), the game is a race to relieve or reduce the airborne bridgeheads before the Allied ground forces can get there.

Notice how GMT recycled some of Rodger MacGowan’s SoA artwork for the back of the box!

Well, that’s all I have to tell you for now.   I am waiting for John to tell me that he’s digested the rules (he is a demon for memorizing complex rule books) and then deciding what scenario and which side to play.   If you are interested in playing Holland 44 with me via Vassal, by all means let me know, I could use the practice.


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