Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bad Day At Barossa: Using Google Hangout To Play Command And Colours Napoleonics

The chap on the right and I both had a bad day at Barossa.

Young Kinch and I once used Apple Face time to play a battle of Command and Colours Napoleonics, that being his favourite brew, with one of us being in Dublin, Ireland and the other in Medicine Hat, Alberta.   Two years later, we repeated the experiment, and while my home had shifted a bit Dublinwards since then, we still needed technology to make it happen.   This time, on CK’s suggestion, we used Google + Hangouts, which worked just as well.   All I needed was a quick download from the App Store for my Macbook Air and we had the connection up and running.  The advantage of Google Hangouts, vice FaceTime, I think, is that the Google method would allow more than two players to join in on a game, though I may be wrong there.   There was another reason for using Google +, something about one of CK’s infernal machines, which he may want to expand on.

The battle we chose was Barrosa, from the CCN first expansion, the Spanish Army, which sadly I don’t have and the queue of punters necessary for GMT to do a reprint is not terribly long at the moment.  However, I had the CCN basic set, and used Portugese blocks for the Spanish and green blocks from the Russian expansion for the single unit of Portugese.  Worked well enough.   We chose Barrosa because CK had the game set up in his fabulous gaming room using proper figures and scenery.  I had the GMT version, somewhat less fabulous, in my prosaic Canadian basement.  Rather than fuss with one player holding the other player’s cards up to the computer camera and hoping they were decipherable on the other end, we each chose to use our own CCN card deck, meaning that were playing with twice as many cards as we would in a normal game.  I don’t know enough about statistic to know if that was a pardonable sin, but it was a practical solution.

In the Barossa scenario the French have the first move and they have two jobs, to smash the four inferior Spanish units on the hill which is the key to the battle, and to seize the hill itself.   Taking the village of Barossa on the French far left of the board is a useful means to this end, and can be done with a French light infantry unit which is two hexes away from the empty village and can seize it on its first move.  I wish I knew why I didn’t do that.   Instead I used the Grand Maneuver card to advance four line units at the hill, hoping to drive off Kinch’s Spaniards with the bayonet.   Sadly, I didn’t count on Kinch holding two First Strike cards, meaning that he was able to shatter two of my units before they could land a punch.   In this rather grainy photo you can see the situation shortly afterwards.   CK still had three functioning Spanish units, and had pushed his British Grenadier Guards forward.   They took a pounding, but by the time they died hard I had wasted much time and shot my bolt.  Speaking of Grenadiers, you will see my own Grenadiers in this photo, still waiting patiently on their start line when they should have been committed much earlier.


And it all goes rather pear shaped as CK throws in Graham’s  British infantry and begins pushing me off the hill while French casualties mount.


 Oh dear, this will be hard to explain to the Emperor.

The endgame, with the cavalry now in play.  My heavies have had their chance and accomplished little, while CK’s lights threaten the remnants of my infantry on my left wing.

My lesson from this game, helpfully underscored by CK’s observations, is that I need to be much more aggressive with the French.  Toujours l’audace!  True, I had some bad luck with the two First Strike cards, but I did not push enough forces onto the hill early on and was too shocked by my initial repulse.  Also, as I get more of my 6mm collection sorted and based, I am wondering if I should look at some sort of hex map that would allow me to place figures and scenery on, similar to what CK and Ross M and others do.  That would allow me to use my own figures for CCN games if I wanted to.   It bears thinking on.

I recommend Google Hangout to you if you want to play CCN with a distant friend (not a friend who is distant, as that wouldn’t be a very good friend, but a friend who lives at a distance), or with me for that matter.

Blessings to your die rolls!  MP+


Monday, July 21, 2014

It's A Brigade ... It's A Division ... It's ... A Lot Of Frenchmen!


Since getting back from holiday I’ve managed to get a few hobby goals accomplished, including finishing off and basing these 6mm French Napoleonic figures.   The bases are a little ungainly, as they are basically hacked from MDF board using a craft knife and my own unsteady hand.   I could purchase some laser-cut bases, I am sure, but I’m reluctant to spend that much money on all the bases I would need to mount the 6mm collection I purchased last winter.   The base sizing is according to Polemos specifications.  The command figure is part of that big 6mm collection.


Each stand has 24 line infantry figures and 6 light infantry figures to serve either as eye candy or to represent a skirmishing capability if the rules and scenario allow for it. Depending on the scale of the rules, I could call this either a brigade or, with the necessary artillery and cavalry, a division.


The flags are also from Polemos and yes, one of them was placed upside down by error - I’m call to call that my Amish mistake (even if the Amish mistake is a bit of a myth, humility is still a good thing).



The lights are from Baccus’ French Voltiguer set and come in strips with two poses, loading and firing.  I was disappointed that they didn’t have the lovely tall shako plumes that Voltiguers often wore.  Also, I’m not sure if specialized light infantry units would be assigned to skirmish in front of line infantry, but I liked the look of it, so there.  More and more I am realizing how little I know about this period.

To give them someone to fight, I am busily basing Austrians while devouring The West Wing on Netflix.  There are also a lot of French chaps to base.   I also got an order of scenics from Timecast, which are absolutely delightful, and I hope to start in on them soon.

To develop my Napoleonic skills, Kinch and I met on the electronic field of battle this morning, playing a Command and Colours game using Google Hangout.   I was soundly drubbed.  More to follow.

These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13, 28mm Foot: 22, 28mm Artillery: 1

20mm Foot: 33, 20mm Artillery: 2, 20mm Vehicles: 2, 20mm Terrain Pieces: 1

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

6mm Foot:  120, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 686

Blessings to your brushes!  MP+

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Paint Table Saturday


And with a few hours left in Saturday on my side of the Atlantic, hello!   I’ve been working on a few things since I got back from holidays, but here’s what’s been on the painting bench today.  This is a 20mm / 1/722nd scale plastic model kit from Italieri, their Country House kit.   A few bits of dry brushing and adding some decorative foliage, and I’ll call it done, except for basing.  The paint scheme is inspired by houses I saw in Tuscany last week, since the house has a southern European/Mediterranean feel to it.   Most of my 20mm WW2 collection is intended for NW Europe, so I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do with this kit, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.


Blessings to your paint brushes!  MP+

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More 20mm Soviets: Command Group and Vehicles

It’s hard to say what I’m going to use these figures and vehicle for, but I like them and I enjoyed finishing off another project as I move some old figures through the painting queue and hopefully on to the gaming table.

This group is a 20mm Soviet command group from Britannia, as well as a Brtannia GAZ radio truck.   The command group comes with six figures and two pieces of furniture, and I painted up a random Soviet soldier from the bits box to act as a sentry.

The 39th Guards Shock Army’s G3 explains how they will smash through the enemy defences and strike into the lair of the Fascist beast.    Note the absence of Powerpoint in this briefing.


General Gutskoff listens while wondering if his nemesis General Badinov will make it across the Elbe before he does, despite promises to Comrade Stalin that the Fighting 39th will lead the way and be the first to plant the glorious Sovet banner on the far bank.  I have to say that I really like the figure in the leather trench coat standing behind the general with the cup in his hand.  He rather reminds me of Alec Guinness’ character in Dr. Zhivago.



I had started painting this vehicle last year but had to redo much of it after I discovered that the pigment I had used for weathering reacted poorly to Dullcote.   Again, not sure what I’ll use it for except as eye candy for the table or perhaps an objective marker for larger scale games.

Some of that white stuff around the grill and the rolled tarp on the front fender are residue from the great pigment disaster.

The other project I finished at this time is this Armourfast T34-85 quick build tank.  A very simple kit, with a modest amount of weathering.   It could use some stowage.

Putting vehicles on bases is a new thing for me, a bit of an experiment.   I think I like the look of it.


These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13

28mm Foot: 22

28mm Artillery: 1

20mm Foot:  33

20mm Artillery: 2

20mm Vehicles:  2

20mm Terrain Pieces: 1

15mm Foot: 26

15mm Terrain Pieces: 3

6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 681

Blessings to your brushes and die rolls!  MP+

Monday, July 14, 2014

Napoleon's Bathtub ... And Other Sights From Italy

 I am happy to say that I am back from Italy.  Madame Padre and I decided that Italy is a word meaning “Beautiful Land of Delicious Food” and we dearly want to go back … soon.  We had a brief week in Florence and only two full days to explore Rome from a small but lovely apartment in the Trastavere neighbourhood, only steps from the Tiber River and minutes from the ancient heart of Rome.  I don’t have any model soldiers in this post, but I do have some photos that are vaguely relevant to military history.
My  take on Florence is that it may be the loveliest city I have ever seen, gracious, elegant, beautifully located in the Arno Valley and so full of magic.  It’s easy to see why, for a while in the Renaissance, Florence was one of the richest and most important cities in the world.   It’s also a bit of a mecca for fans of Napoleon.   His sister in law Charlotte, is buried in the cathedral Cathedral Santa Croce in Florence.  Charlotte was the wife of Napoleon’s brother Joseph, King of Spain, and her sister Desiree married Marshall Bernadotte, King of Sweden.  I wish I had some photos of the Bonaparte chapel at Santa Croce but you can see some here.
 We encountered some other Napoleonic connections at Florence’s vast and gorgeous Palazzo Pitti in Florence. 

The Imperial bathtub that Napoleon had constructed at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, one of his residences when he was King of Italy.  From what I gathered, the Emperor may or may not have enjoyed many soaks here, as the bathroom was not finished until it was the property of Ferdinand III of Hapsburg-Lorraine.

A copy of Francois GĂ©rard’s portrait of Napoleon, which is somewhat randomly positioned in the ceramics collection housed in a small building at the top of the Boboli Gardens, behind the Palazzo Pitti in Rome.

A copy of Antonio Canova’s bust of Napoleon, also at the Palazzo Pitti.  The original is, I think, at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, UK.

The next two photos show memorials to the 2nd Coldstream Guards and to the Welsh Guards, and to the men they lost during the Italian campaign of World War Two, on the walls of St. Mark’s (The English Church), Florence.   St. Mark’s is a charming Baroque building not far from the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio and is a functioning parish of the Church of England.   Many of the soldiers remembered here are buried in the Commonwealth cemetery at Girone, just south of Florence.  Sadly I never managed to visit this site during my all t0o brief stay in Florence.  Of the 1614 identified dead buried at Girono Cemetery, 33 are Canadian.

Going back in time just a  wee bit, here are Assyrian archers and a siege scene from a seventh century BC tablet at the Vatican Museum, Rome.

Scene of the Battle of Lepanto, fresco by Antonio Danti, in the Map Room at the Vatican Museum, Rome.

There may be some more military themed stuff among the other 600+ photos on Kay’s camera, which I may post later.   In the meantime, I suspect the next few photos will be of toys I’ve recently acquired or painted the last month or so.  I will now go back to work, while daydreaming of narrow streets, beautiful young daredevil women on motor scooters and bicycles, and sun drenched Tuscan landscapes.  Maybe a nice chianti for dinner ...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

The painting table got moved outside this afternoon and some work got done, mostly on some 6mm Baccus Napoleonic Frenchies.  On the left are some voltigeurs that, once finished, will be added as eye candy to the front of the line infantry that I got finished and based today.    In the background are some French artillery limber teams in progress.

In the centret is a 20mm Brittannia WW2 Red Army command group that will, when finished, all go on one base as an HQ group to pose beside a Britannia Soviet command truck. On the right are more Soviets, this time 15mm infantry from Plastic Soldier Company that are getting the speed painting treatment.

It was a beautiful day to paint outside.   This may be it with the paints for a fortnight, got to get packed tomorrow as Madame Padre and I are off to Italy on Monday.  Ciao!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Omaha Beach With Giant Bugs, Time Travel And Tom Cruise

And you thought Omaha Beach was a bad way to invade France ...

I’m not a great movie reviewer but I know what I like and I have to say that the new Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow worked for me on several levels. It’s hard to say anything about this film without giving the whole thing away.  As Richard Brody writes in The New Yorker, “Because the setup is the source of much of the movie’s pleasure, more or less any discussion of the story is a spoiler”.  So I’ll content myself with saying a few things about it that I enjoyed.

As an example of military SF, it worked for me.  The weapons, aircraft and powered exoskeletons worn by the infantry all seemed convincing because they point in the direction that western militaries seem to be moving in.   If you doubt me, check out US defence columnist Tom Ricks’ take on the film here.  There were lots of other military details that the film got right, like British Army uniforms.  And, as Ricks notes, it was refreshing to see an SF film where the high tech gadgets chew through batteries and ammo fairly quickly.

I liked the acting, and even though I’m not a great fan of Tom Cruise, I liked his character’s story arc from coward to hero.  His face in the first combat scene and in the last was a study in contrasts.  There was also some great chemistry between him and Emily Blunt, who played an SOF-type hardass with a sword that will make GW Space Marines want to see this film.  Ms. Blunt has certainly come a long way since Young Victoria.

While the story depends on time travel (it’s a lot like the film Groundhog Day in that respect), it’s done with a lot of humour and intelligent writing.  There were as many laughs as gasps in the audience last night.

While the film hasn’t being doing so well at the box office, the megamall cinema I was in last night was packed with young adults, so that Mdme. Padre were easily among the oldest folks there.  It struck me towards the end that a lot of young people, especially gamers, will relate to the film because of its relationship to the video game as an entertainment experience.  The Groundhog Day conceit of the film means that for Cruise’s character, each death is kind of like a reversion to a save state, and he can advance again trying to learn from his previous experience, just as a gamer can, until in the final scene of the film, there is no save state to fall back on, and life and death count.  Apparently this was the idea that the author of the manga on which the dilm is based, “All You Need Is Kill”, Hiroshi Sakarazaka, was getting at.  

“In his afterword to “All You Need is Kill”, Mr. Sakurazaka explains that he as thinking about video games while writing the novel.  “I reset the game hundreds of times”, he writes, until my special attack finally went off perfectly”.  In other words, video games are a type of time machine that allows players, if they put in the hours, to achieve victory.  Hence the movie’s clever tagline, “Live, Die, Repeat”, which, of course, echoes the faith that every film genre fan embraces: live, watch, repeat.

A couple of things got on my nerves slightly.  Why would an army take an officer charged with desertion and cowardice and stick him in a highly trained assault unit and equip him with expensive kit on the eve of a decisive operation?  Also, why is it that when aliens go up against homo sapiens, they always have a “big brain” bug thingy that controls the whole shooting match, so that all their vulnerability is concentrated into one big, convenient target for the final scene?

Otherwise, EoT is a good film to begin summer with, and one that will reward war gamers with an SF interest.  A final reason to see the film is that if you don’t like Tom Cruise, you can watch him get killed … over and over and over again.