Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Fistfull Of Limbers

No those aren’t aeronefs flying high over the countryside.  Baccus 6mm French Napoleonic limbers.

Pity the poor limber model.   In larger scales you don’t always see them on the gaming table because they’re expensive to buy, take time to paint, and take up space on the tabletop.  I’ve seen many games where players, myself included, move their artillery with the gun barrel pointed at their starting line, and then show the guns are deployed by turning the gun to face the enemy.  

In the really small scales, like 6mm, my reasoning was that there should be room on the table for limbers to properly move the guns around, and for caissons to keep them in supply and for everything to look proper and military.  So I’m happy to say that with these four limbers, I’ve finished the original Baccus order from two years ago, which is a mildly depressing thought that it’s taking so long, but anyway.  

Here’s the uniform I was aiming for, a soldier of the Train of Artillery, one of Gnotel’s wonderful colour paintings.   G.R. Elting’s commentary on the plate notes that the Train uniform coat was gris de fer, (iron gray).  It looks darker in the plate than the very pale blue that I ended up painting on these figures, and lighter than the blue I used for the caisson drivers from a year ago.  Variations in dye lots and issues, I suppose.  


Here’s the artillery all together.  Rather impressive, I think.




I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some of the new Baccus French sculpts, but for now I still have a lot of French figures from the collection I bought this winter.

Onwards and upwards.  Hopefully I’ll be able to put enough French and Austrian troops on the table that I can start playing with the Polemos rules.

Vive l’Empereur!


These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

 28mm Mounted: 13, 28mm Foot: 25, 28mm Artillery: 1

 20mm Foot: 33, 20mm Artillery: 2, 20mm Vehicles: 2, 20mm Terrain Pieces: 2

 15mm Vehicles: 5, 15mm Foot: 26, 15mm Terrain Pieces: 3

 6mm Foot:  120, 6mm vehicles: 4, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

 Kilometres Run: 808

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Boardgame: GMT's A Distant Plain, First Impressions

I never got to deploy to Afghanistan, despite my best efforts, but at least I get to go there now, sort of.  I’m just coming to grips with  A Distant Plain (ADP), part of GMT’s COIN (Counter Insurgency) series of simulations.   I say simulation deliberately, because it appears to me that the designers, Brian Train and  Volko Ruhnkehave thought long and hard about making this a model of the political as well as military issues of the Afghan conflict.


So first impressions.   ADP doesn’t seem to be an easy game to play at first glance.  There are no playing pieces with comforting NATO symbology, combat values, etc.  There are a LOT of tracks on the board and information markers.   There are a lot of cryptic wooden playing pieces in various colours.   Fortunately, there is an excellent step by step player’s guide which has an extended tutorial that I’ve been working through very carefully and deliberately, and the more that I see and learn about it, the more that I am liking it.

ADP is a game for 1-4 players and has four sides:  the Coalition (Western/NATO powers), the Afghan government, the Warlords, and the Taliban.   It would be a total blast with four players, but is very suitable for solitaire play as either the Coalition or the Taliban, with decision tree charts guiding the actions of the non-player factions.

The sequence of play appears to be quite elegant.  There is the inevitable deck of cards (do any wargames published these days NOT come with a deck of cards?) but instead of holding cards in their hands, the cards are turned two at a time, so all players can see the card for the current turn as well as the card for the NEXT turn.  Besides special events which can be chosen by either the Coalition/Afghan (the COIN) players or by the Taliban/Warlords, the cards determine sequence of play.

As you can see from these two cards, at the top of each is a row of four symbols, each corresponding to one of the four factions, so on the right hand card, the Counter-Narc card, the Warlord player’s symbol is first on the left, so he can go first, then the Coalition player, then the Afghan gov. player, then the Taliban.  The order is slightly different on the left hand, “Line Item” card, which governs the next turn.   The catch is that if the Warlord player acts on the first card, there is little he can do on the second card, so basically you get to move every other turn, near as I can tell so far, which means that you have to be fairly careful in deciding when you want to play and what events you want to capitalize on.

Here’s one of the areas on the map, Kandahar Province.  The tan block is a Coalition force, the Green disc is a Warlord base, the smaller green circle is a Warlord guerrilla unit, the black disc with the star and crescent is a Taliban guerrilla unit, the two light blue blocks are Afghan gov police and the two dark blue blocks are Afghan gov military.   Control of a province goes to the Taliban if they have the majority of units in a province, or to the COIN forces (coalition and Afghan gov if they have a majority of units.  In this photo, currently, there are 5 COIN units to 2 Warlord units to 1 Taliban unit, so the COIN side has control and can count Kandahar towards its political and resource totals.  Here is a cool thing.  While the Taliban wants to control provinces, so do the Warlords, but for different reasons.   If the Warlord player has the majority of units in a province, neither the Taliban nor the COIN side controls it, so the Warlords have their own discrete victory conditions, and in a multiplayer game, would be the player that both sides would court, because even though the Warlord has the fewest units, he has the the potential to wreak a lot of havoc.  If you think of the current crisis with the Afghan elections stalemated between two leaders, one from the Pashtun south and one from the Tajik north, you can see that the game designers have thought a lot about how the Warlords represent the non-Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan, and what a complicated business it all is.

Guerilla units can either be operating openly, in which case the symbol is shown, or they can go into hiding, in which case the cylinder is inverted to show a blank side.   The COIN player has a harder time finding and eradicating hidden guerrilla units.

Hopefully next week I will have more game time in, and can report on how the game plays, but for now I wanted to give you a sense of the mechanics of what promises to be a terrific game and model of a complex war.  In other board game news, I finally got my copy of the new startup magazine, Ares, which true to its old SPI namesake, ships with an SF game, in this case, one based on HG Wells War of the Worlds.  It looks cute and at some point, once I get out of Afghanistan, I’ll show it to you.

More to come.  Blessings to your die rolls!




Monday, August 25, 2014

Another Weird War Update: Vampire Weekend

My two werewolves have been keeping bad company this weekend.  The lady in the middle is also a Reaper Miniature, a lady vampire that reminds me of the Hammer Studios movies that troubled my pubescent dreams.  She joins the ranks of the baddies in my Weird War project.


When she’s not preening in the graveyard, she’s doing important work within the shadowy wing of the SS dominated by SS Gruppenfuhrer Strasser.  As anyone knows who’s seen Coppola’s Dracula (1992), it’s pretty much obligatory for powerful vampires to have a retinue of wayward young women.   Her duties will include interrogating captured Allied airmen, spying on the Gruppenfuhrer’s human rivals, and nighttime strolls along the Unter der Linden


 I’m not entirely happy with her fangs.  She rather looks like she has two white straws stuck under her upper lip, but they do look noticeable from a distance.  On the plus side, I’m fairly happy with the flesh tones.


 It’s rather an odd sort of funeral monument that the sculptor has chosen.  It rather looks like a Celtic cross with the top bit removed, but I suppose that gives her a place to park her ample charms.



Team Vampyre ready to put the bite on the Allies.

These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13, 28mm Foot: 25, 28mm Artillery: 1

20mm Foot: 33, 20mm Artillery: 2, 20mm Vehicles: 2, 20mm Terrain Pieces: 2

15mm Vehicles: 5, 15mm Foot: 26, 15mm Terrain Pieces: 3

6mm Foot:  120, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 796

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Beer Can Chicken

So in my previous post today I referenced beer can chicken and one reader wasn’t sure what I was referring to.    It may be a North American thing, since I recall now that the British Army chaplains who used to visit my house during my last posting were always unsure what it was as well.  I’m not sure how common they are in Europe, but in Canadian suburbs, most people do their cooking outdoors on their gas grills during the summer months, and some like myself have been known to cook on them during the winter.  Usually I just do burgers, pork chops, the odd rack of pork ribs to keep the heat down in the kitchen during the summer months, but this is a special recipe for the occasional lazy weekend.  Beer can chicken has a blue collar, redneck aura to it, but it’s fun to cook and delicious when you do it right.

Here’s what it looks like.

Mmmmm, delicious.  Here’s what you need.

1) A whole chicken - they are getting pricier all the time.  I was lucky enough to find one yesterday at the grocery store for just under $10 Canadian.

2) An outdoor barbecue or grill.  I have a decent propane gas grill, but I suppose you could cook it on charcoal.

3) A specialized stand like the one shown here.  I got mine from WalMart for less than $10C but I’ve seen fancier ones sold elsewhere for more money.   Most hardware stores, like Canadian Tire, or online stores like Amazon, sell versions.  I also use a stainless steel bbq tray as you see above.

4) A can of beer.   I prefer using a lager or lighter beer or an IPA.  Today it was a Moretti.  

5) Herbs.  There are many recipes for the herb coating but today I was lazy and used ClubHouse Italiano herb mix.

Here’s what you do.

1) Thaw your chicken and make sure the interior cavity is empty of gizzards and other nasty things.

2) Drink roughly half your can of beer (the best part).  Then use a knife or can opener and make 3-4 holes in the top of the can around the hole where you drink the beer from.

3) Inset the can in the beer can holder and place it on your cooking pan or tray if the beer can holder doesn’t have a built-in pan as some do.

4) Insert the, ummm, beer can in the chicken using the chicken’s, err, posterior orifice.  Liberally coat the exterior of the chicken with your herb mix.

5) Place the whole thing in your grill or bbq and turn the heat to as low a setting as possible.   Put the cover down on your grill.

6) Let the chicken cook for between 90 minutes to two hour.  Start checking on regularly it after 60 mins.  You don’t want to cook it too hot and too long or it will dry out.  If I was smart, I’d use a meat thermometer, but I simply stick a knife in and look to see if the juice is clear, which is how I was taught to see if chicken was cooked.

7) When it’s done, carefully remove the chicken off the beer can, using washable oven mitts or several paper towels, etc.   Pour the remainder of the beer from the can onto the chicken.   As you do this, you may notice that there is less beer in the can at the end.  It should come apart easily with a knife, but shouldn’t be so cooked that it falls apart at the touch of a knife. 

8) Have another can of beer as you enjoy your chicken.

 That being said, there is a fierce debate over this method, and whether it is the best way to cook a chicken.  Some say no and claim to have science behind them.  All I can say is that Madame Padre and I quite enjoyed our beer can chicken tonight.


Saturday Painting Table

I spent most of last week away, but made a little more progress on the current project, a bunch of 28mm Redoubt ACW infantry in shell jackets that will become the 88th New York, the second regiment in my Irish Brigade project,   I’m not good at painting large batches of figures, so to take a break in between attacks of ADHD I started assembling and then painting a 28mm 4Ground WW2 sentry box to protect the lair of my Weird War baddies.   I like 4Ground stuff a lot, it’s fairly was to assemble and looks good when done.  

No fresh baked bread to show you but later today I’m doing a beer can chicken on the bbq with Melanzine Ripiene alla Pugliese (stuffed eggplant Puglia style, but it sounds better in Italian) so drop by if you’re hungry!  Blessings to your paint brushes!


Friday, August 22, 2014

Weird War Two Update: Reaper Werewolf Reinforcements

In a dark recess of the stranger part of mind, my Weird War Two project slowly takes shape, and occasionally intrudes onto my painting table.  Here are two more figures for that project, both Reaper Miniatures figures.  About two years ago, I introduced part of the backstory here.  In my strange version of WW2, a sinister SS sub-unit under the command of Herr Doktor Stahl discovered that the virus for lycanthropy could be identified and administered to specially selected volunteers.   These volunteers were chosen as prime Aryan specimens in excellent health, willing to give their all for the Fuhrer.  Unfortunately, those who survived the initial physical shock of transformation often went mad and were difficult to control.   Over time, it was discovered that women handlers were more successful than their male colleagues, who were frequently dismembered and devoured.   So it was that Sturmbannfuhrer Ingrid Schmertz was chosen to lead a crack group of female soldiers, recruited from leading Nazi families as the military part of the team.   The Werewolf Project is regarded with suspicion and jealousy by the secretive and powerful Vampyres who have nested in other parts of the SS leadership, since as is well known, vampires and werewolves are ancient enemies.

My goodness, that’s enough nonsense for one day.  Here are some minis, for crying out loud.


Thanks, I work out, I try to keep in shape, do a lot of CrossFit.


Look at my furry butt!  Look at it!

 I was delighted to find that Reaper also makes a female werewolf.  Presumably one of Sturmbannfuhrer Ingrid’s troops volunteered for the program - or is that Ingrid herself, on a moonlit night?

Ingrid with her friends.   I need to keep an eye out for a few more decent werewolf figures in 28mm.


Because Ingrid has the rank of major, she needs some troops to command and keep her pets safe from Allied special forces raids, or from her male SS rivals and their vampiric masters, perhaps?  These are Bob Murch Pulp Figures, and I’m looking forward to painting them in due course.  That’s all from the Weird War front for now. Stay vigilant, chaps!


These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13, 28mm Foot: 24, 28mm Artillery: 1

20mm Foot: 33, 20mm Artillery: 2, 20mm Vehicles: 2, 20mm Terrain Pieces: 2

15mm Vehicles: 5, 15mm Foot: 26, 15mm Terrain Pieces: 3

6mm Foot:  120, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 784




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Diplomacy Game - We're Off!

We have our seven players and a few on the waiting list for seats and we’re under way.
For the benefit of spectators, here are the notes I sent to the players.

1) The official rules we will be using for this game will be the 4th edition rules published by Avalon Hill in 2000, because they seem the most generous in terms of examples and clarity for new players.
2) The game is Blind.  If you use social media to talk about the game and another player picks up on who you are, well, I can’t prevent that, but the game is formally blind.   I ask that you send all Diplomacy through me.  Eg, if you are Russia and you want to propose an alliance with Turkey, send me an email with the header Message to Turkey and I will forward it to the Turkish player as promptly as I can.  Unless I slip up, all group emails with have the players on the BCC string.

3) The game will be played in two week turns.   48 hours before the deadline, I will send out a reminded deadline to everyone to get their orders in by the deadline.

4) Players are responsible for learning the rules.  See my blog for some helpful links or use your google skills, there are lots of Dip sites online. Orders should be in something close to standard Diplomacy syntax, e.g., A Bur sup A Pic to Bel.  

5) Players who miss two turns in a row will be removed from the game.

6) I will post updates and comments on my blog after each completed move.   There will an award for the best diplomatic role play, in the form of a miniature painted by myself.   I will also award a painted miniature to the winner.

7)I downloaded a java-based mapper and move arbiter from - it looks like a useful way to test your orders and practice the game if you like.

So the first turn ends on Saturday, August 30th at midnight my time.  Good luck and have fun!
Blessings to your intrigues!  MP+

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