Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Meanwhile, in Rohan -3

 This week I’m still getting some more Games Workshop Lord of the Rings themed figures off the paint desk.  The figure on the left is Theoden from the OOP Warg Attack boxed set.  It came with  five metal figures: a mounted Theoden and Aragon figure, and three warg riders -  finally all finished.   The figure on the right is something called “Sons of Eorl” which can still be found on the GW webstore - by their standards, it’s surprisingly cheap.  He looks like a trusted retainer.

 The Theoden figure, like all the Perry sculpts, does a fine job of capturing the likenesses of the actors, in this case Bernard Hill.  I am currently watching Bernard Hill as Norfolk in the BBC series Wiolf Hall, based on the Hilary Mantel novels.   So much better than the terrible series, “The Tudors”.  Do yourself a favour and watch it.

 Trademark Rohan green cloaks.

I also refurbished these three Rohan Royal Guard figures.

Elite hearth guards for the heart of the battle line.   Not sure why the Rohirrim would fight dismounted in any situation other than defending Helms Deep, but there you go.

“Forth, Eorlingas!"

While I hope to get some more Rohirrim into the ranks, I think I will be looking elsewhere than GW for them.   The Footsore Miniatures Goths are very tempting.  I just found some amazing shield transfers and banners from Gripping Beast; even with the Christian images I think the banner is fantastic.  

Many thanks for looking!  Blessings to your brushes!

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 76; Mounted Figures: 10; Buildings: 3; Terrain Features: 2

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Meanwhile, in the Elven Realms

Just under a year ago, I received a very kind package from my good friend, Duke Alan of Tragardland containing some Games Workshop Lord of the Rings figures.   It was one of those unsolicited actions that spurs young Kinch to refer to the Freemasonry of the hobby, a very fine phrase.

That package contained three elven lords.  I had a bit of free time at the brushes this weekend, and so here they are.


Seeng as these chaps looked fairly noble, I tried to find some colours to offset the usual green.  

Thank you for this thoughtful gift, milord Duke.  I am slowly assembling an elven host for Middle Earth, and these fellows will be useful captains of hosts.  

I also finished these two figures, from the OOP GW box of metal figures, Heroes of Helms Deep,  The figure on the left is the Haldir figure - Tolkien purists will gnash their teeth at the memory of Haldir and his troops showing up for the battle of Helms Deep.  The figure on the right is Legolas, hastily painted when my son and I used to play with the LOTR mins a lot, and given a touch up and a proper basing/


I have some GW elven warriors from their First Age plastics set who I will paint up as elven “regulars” to serve with the Haldir figure.  I had painted his armour gold and then given it a wash of AP Strong Tone, which was a mistale, I think.  For the other figures, I think I will paint the armour black, and then pick out the plates in gold and not use a wash.

The last sight many a charging orc will ever see.

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 73; Mounted Figures: 8; Buildings: 3; Terrain Features: 2

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings: 

Thanks for looking and blessings to your brushes!



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Awaiting Pickett's Charge, Or, Do I Need Another Set of ACW Rules?

A lot of this going on at my games club lately.  Would it be better with another set of rules?

I noted with interest this recent interview by Sidney Roundwood, one of the Too Fat Lardies braintrust, with Dave Brown, the designer of the forthcoming Pickett's Charge rules. 

 PC, as I will hence refer to it, is being published by TFL under their new imprint, Reisswitz Press.  As TFL's Richard Clarke explains it, Reisswitz will allow TFL to support the work of other rules writers who share what one might call the Lardies philosophy of  ''a large dollop of Clausewitzian friction and an emphasis on command decisions ''.

While I am exited by this news and always happy to support one of Big Rich's projects, I suppose a fair question would be, ''Does the hobby really need another set of ACW rules?  Now I am not a tyro in this genre of gaming, but I'm not exactly a grognard either.   I started 25 years ago playing Johnny Reb II and found it somewhat maddening.   One worked through long lists of modifiers, which gave the impression of realism, but units could charge and strike like summer lightning, in a way that seemed profoundly unrealistic because it didn't seem to reflect any command and control issues or any tactical limitations of the period.  I vividly recall having my mouth drop open when I closed in on an enemy formation from its rear, only to see the unit about-face and charge me before I could get a volley off.  I suppose one could pivot a tank like that, but not a line of 600 men in the midst of a battle.

Since then I have dabbled in Black Powder and find it somewhat generic.  The activation rules are a attempt to model friction, but they seem essentially a random element.   Readers of this blog will know that for the past two years, Sam Mustafa's Longstreet has been my ACW drink of choice.    I will go to great lengths to defend these rules - they are simple, they force difficult decisions on players at every step of the way, and they capture the narrative arc of the war, so that there is an appreciable difference between a fight in 1861 and one in 1865.   In the campaign game we are currently playing at the club, I can assure you that it is more fun to be late war Union than it is to be the early war Union, as the faces of our Reb opponents get grimmer with each battle!

Just two ways in which it is very satisfying to be a late-war Union player in Longstreet

At the same time, while the cards in Longstreet can be very satisfying when you stick an Interrupt card in your opponent's spokes at a key moment, they are a little, well, gamey.   Longstreet is a game where you watch your hand just as closely as you watch the battlefield, and while the mechanism is ideal for the kind of three hour club matches we play, it may be the reason why true ACW grognards will always look down their nose at Longstreet, which is unfair, because I don't think Sam aspired to make a game that would appeal just to grognards.

There are other established ACW rules out there which I don't know at all.   Fire and Fury is probably the most well known rules set I have never played, which is odd, because Regimental F&F is probably ideally suited to my 28mm collection.  I noted with interest the late John Hill's Across A Deadly Field rules, published by Osprey last year, but felt committed to Longstreet and didn't buy it.  Beneath these two titles lurks a veritable iceberg of other ACW rules.

Seems familiar.  You never forget an elephant.

Curiously, one set of ACW rules I have played is the set entitled They Couldn't Hit an Elephant (TCHAE or 'Elephant') published sometime around 2008 by TFL.   I can't recall who was the main author behind it, whether it was Clarke or someone else.  I did play TCHAE quite a bit when it came out, and remember liking it, but thinking it a tad abstract.   You can find a thorough review of TCHAE here.

Briefly, TCHAE shows the influence of TFL's popular WW2 rules, I Ain't Been Shot, Mum (IABSM), in that it uses a system of blinds to bring hidden units into the battle, and uses a card activation system to determine the order in which commanders are activated.   Once a commander is activated, he gets a number of commands, or pips, determined by an average dice with some plus or minus mods depending on how skilled or wretched the commander is.   Commanders use their pips to achieve tactical effects: moving and changing the formation of units, rallying them, etc.   Also, the IABSM influence is seen in the random termination of each turn when the Coffee Card (shades of the Tea Break card) is drawn.  Units that have been given pips to reserve their fire can shoot on the Coffee Card.

Not everyone liked TCHAE.  One review noted the occasional ambiguities of the rules and some frustration with the TFL philosophy that the rules are as much a toolbox as they are a complete system.

Last week I sent Richard Clarke a message on Twitter, asking him if he could say how TCHAE differed from PC, and he was honest enough to say that it was years since he had played Elephant and didn't remember much about it.  I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by this answer, since rules publishers need to publish new product to stay in business, and hopefully each iteration brings improvements from lessons learned.   In terms of TFL's evolution, one hopes that PC is to Elephant what Chain of Command is to IABSM, a natural development of concepts and mechanisms.

What I see in PC from the Roundwood interview is a more nuanced approach to command and control than the pip system.  I like the idea that brigade commanders see their degree of control start to degrade as the battle wears down their troops.  I also like the idea of the commander sending staff officers to try to keep units on task.    I suspect that PC has jettisoned the idea of blinds, which I never felt worked very well for the ACW in the scale (28mm) that I play it in, though perhaps in 6mm.

So, while I am curious to get my mitts on PC, I am going use this Thanksgiving Weekend to put some ACW figures on the table and see how TCHAE plays after five or six years.

In the meantime, blessings to your die rolls!


Friday, September 30, 2016

Meanwhile, In Rohan - 2

I am closing out September with these six figures (seven if you count the wee bairn clinging to Mum’s skirts) who will populate the little Rohan village I am slowing building.  These 28mm figures are by Wargames Foundry, Saxon civilians from their Dark Ages line.   I thought they worked fairly well as Rohirrim, to add a bit of atmosphere to games where Isengard’s sinister forces raid the Riddermark.   I see great possibilities for Foundry Saxon figures as second line troops to augment the Riders, the Rohirrim equivalent of a fyrd.   While Rohan could field a larger proportion of cavalry per capita than more urbanized societies such as Gondor, it stands to reason that there would be some lesser folk who could not afford a horse and war gear, but might still be liable for service as foot troops and/or would simply need to defend themselves.

“Ware thee, Brythnoth, lest thee roam too far into the holt, and thee should meet orcenfolke!”   Of course, young Brytie will be the kid gallantly running back to warn the village, like young Conan in the first movie.  Hopefully he has better luck than young Conan, and doesn’t end up pushing a giant thingie around for 20 years for no apparent reason.


“Does not thy pigge Bakkonraed know any farer jests?”   “Nay, but certes yon’s a happy pigge."

Ullric has carefully sharpened the village arsenal in readiness for fighting season.  I tried to give some of these characters green clothes as an echo of my Rider figures, to suggest a cultural or national colour, but didn’t want to paint them all the same way.

Poor Olaf:  “Bloody weeds, every I go I see bloody weeds."

And finally, some shots of the completed watch tower which hopefully will keep these fine folk safer.  The template for this structure was first published in GW’s White Dwarf back when they were pushing their LOTR hard as they surfed the tide of the PJ films.   I sadly lost my copy, but I was able to find it after some digging around on the inter webs.  It is rather big, shown here against the buildings and 28mm figures, but I guess that’s the whole point of a watch tower.

The roof is removable to place figures within, and the fighting compartment can hold six single-based figures easily.  The roof is made of a cheap coarse fibre wash cloth purchased at WalMart.  I dry-brushed it using my lessons learned from making the roof for the Sarissa Dark Ages house seen in the previous photo.

Thorstein, seen below, says that the villagers all feel much safer, even if the forced labour cut into his chicken plucking.

Thank you for looking and blessings to your brushes and craft knives!  Check back in sometime and see how the villagers fare.

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 68; Mounted Figures: 8; Buildings: 3; Terrain Features: 2

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tuesday Night Boardgame: GMT's Talon (at the Cottage)

Madame Padre and I are on holiday this week, in the part of Ontario known as the Muskokas, or cottage country, near fabled Algonquin Park.  It’s sweater weather, but the days are mostly sunny and the leaves are turning, it’s magical.

Madame Padre is out with her camera when we’re not in the canoe.

While I didn’t bring any figures to paint, I did bring a game:   GMT’s 2015 space battles game, Talon.  

Talon is designed by Jim Krohn - I was pleased to find that he is a pastor as well as a game designer.   Krohn is best known for his 2011 GMT title, Space Empires 4X (the 4X meaning eXplore, expand, eXploit and eXterminate).   Whereas Space Empires is a big game of building empires, Talon is game of individual ships clashing in space.  Talon is designed to be bolted on to Space Empires if one wanted to fight the SE battles tactically, though that seems like a lot of work.   With Talon as it is, you can fight battles following the supplied scenarios, or using a points system.  
There are a lot of reviews of Talon out there, including this one, which says much more, more preceptively, than I can say here.  Like the review, I had a strong first impression of the game.   It’s a little challenging to figure out from the rule book at first, but by following the tutorial scenario it started to come together.
The first decision you have to make with Talon is to trust the recommendation to do the bookkeeping on the laminated counters, using the supplied dry-erase makers, rather than the printed ship roster sheets which are also supplied.   I resisted for a bit, but then unwrapped the dry erase makers and found it quite easy to use.   Here you can see a Terran heavy cruiser in blue and the alien (Talon) heavy cruiser in red.  The most important data are the lines of numbers, 3-3-2 for the Terran and 3-3-1 for the Talon ship.  These numbers are the Power Curves.  The first number is the AP (Available Power) generated by the ship’s plant, and the second is the speed (the higher the number, the faster).   The third number is the turn radius: the lower the number, the more nimble the ship.  

A game turn lasts six impulses.  During each impulse, ships can do different things depending on their Power Curve settings.  Power is useful for many reasons; it can reinforce shields as long as they are still up, it can be used to defend or to try and steal the initiative (very useful when one could shot can kill a weakened ship), or ti temporarily decrease a ship's turn radius when trying to attack or evade.  Most importantly, it can be used to recharge weapons.  The Power Curve can be adjusted up or down after every six impulses, during the Power Phase.

On these two counters, you can see that both ships have marks to indicate that their front shields (the green boxes) are knocked down and out of action.   Once a shield is down, hits go to the hull (the red boxes below the Power Curve number).  As hull boxes get marked off, critical hits can occur and the amount of available power decreases until the ship blows up.
In the two games I’ve played thus far, I’ve found that after an initial exchange of fire, which usually knocks down the front shields, ships tend to manoeuvre around each other, recharging their weapons while trying to keep their intact shields facing the enemy.  Small actions thus have the feel of frigates from the age of sail, looking for a moment of advantage while trying to keep out of the enemy’s broadside.  Because the weapons ranges are between 1 and 3 hexes, you need to be careful about losing the initiative and having an enemy ship turn and fire on a weak or missing shield This can happen when the enemy steals the initiative, or when a ship moves out of initiative (the Terrans and Talon both have special tech that allows them to do this on a limited basis).
In the first scenario, two Terran and two Talon heavy cruisers mix it up.  After the first exchange, the Napoleon has lost its front shields, the Unity has lost its port shield, and the Justice has lost most of its front shield.  The yellow and red bars represent weapons and their charges.  Ships start a scenario with charged weapons, indicated by marking black on the laminated counters.   Once the weapon is fired, the black line is erased, and must slowly be charged up again.   Here, of all the four ships, only the Justice still has a charged weapon - the starboard disruptors.  The Justice also has a Defend counter on it, indicating that the Talon ship is using its Available Power this impulse to protect the initiative.  At the end of an impulse, if one side has spent more Power to take the initiative than the other side has spent Power defending it, the initiative passes to the other side.  As the game goes on, with multiple ships, there are a lot of decisions about how to use Power as it comes available - recharge the weapons, or try to gain/defend the initiative.

As I said, trusting the design intention and using the dry-erase markers on the laminated counters is a bit of a leap of faith.   The system does work, though I found that after two games, one of the two markers wasn’t working that well.   Hopefully I can find more markers this size at the local office supply store.   One thing I didn’t have was the Q-tips that are recommended for erasing the counters.  Otherwise, using a bit of wadded up tissue as I was, it’s easy to remove the wrong information from a counter.

Some of the complaints about Talon that I’ve read online are that players spend a lot of time dancing around one another, recharging weapons while trying to stay out of harm’s way.  This may be true of the small scale battles I’ve fought so far, while other reviewers mention that the game really shines with large fleets on each side.  These comments also mention that Talon as a game is much more forgiving to players than earlier games such as Star Fleet Battles, which was legendary in its complexity.    There are more advanced rules in Talon that I haven’t tried yet, including missiles, fighter wings, carriers, super-heavy battleships and exotic weapons.   I’m looking forward to trying these rules in future games.
Some might find that the universe of Talon is a little unimaginative.  You have the Terrans, and then a fairly faceless enemy, the Talon, who are sort of a generic, warlike race that comes along to make Terra’s life miserable.  Are they like Klingons?  Romulans?  Does anyone really care?   In defence of Krohn, he has written a player’s guide which is considerably longer than the rule book, full of fluff and backstory to explain the conflict, but all from the Terran point of view.  Another possible objection is the symmetry between the two sides.  While there are minor differences between the Terran and Talon ships, they both have the same ship classes: Scouts, Destroyers, Light and Heavy Cruisers, etc.   Does this make sense?  Can one imagine an alien race that only has one or two types of ships?  I can imagine an SF writer like Brian Aldiss thinking out of the box about an alien culture and its technology. However, in a game that includes a point system for building battles, perhaps one needs symmetry.
Finally, one could ask how a game like this is different from, say, a WW2 or modern naval war-game.   Perhaps a space game is just a naval game by another name, in that you have hulls, ranged weapons, speed and armour (shields by another name).  I would say the difference is the novel impulse mechanic and the inherent logic of the Power Curve system which Krohn as thought up, plus the copious amounts of chrome layered onto the game.
So, my first impressions of Talon are very favourable.  The first small battles I fought took about 90 minutes to resolve, the second game going much faster after I figured out the mechanics.   In fact, I like it so much, I’ve put my name in for GMT’s P500 club for the Talon expansion that is planned.
Blessings to your space ships!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Elf Queen Summons the Forest Spirit - Some Figures For Dragon Rampant

Just had time to get some quick snaps of these figures before Madame Padre and I head to cottage country in the Muskokas for a spot of leave.    These fantasy figures will be part of my wood elf host that will augment some of the scantily clad nymphs shown here recently.

I wanted an elven mage, a top-level magic user in Dragon Rampant terms,  with an appropriate retinue on the base to show that she means business.   My friend James kindly gave me the casting of the lady with her arm   I raised.   I have no idea who made this sculpt, but  I felt that she deserved some special treatment, and I started looking out for some figures to accompany her on a single over-sized base.   I also gave her a tree, because she’s an elf princess, and they like to have trees in their close protection detail.

“Go and rouse your tree-sisters, the orcs are coming!”   The other figure is a Forest Spirit from Bombshell Miniatures.  I liked this figure because it complements the matriarchal theme of my elven host, which draws mostly on Wargames Foundry figures, though I will be offsetting it with some male LOTR GW figures.  The Forest Spirit is a lovely figure, rather unimaginatively painted, I fear.  It’s a pity her face isn’t well lit in these photos, as it is full of character.  She will also count as a single-base model in Dragon Rampant terms, though I am not sure what troop type she should be.  Thoughts?

The little nymph is one of the extras included in a Wargames Foundry blister.  She has purple butterfly wings, which you can’t really see well.  Good thing, as they clash with her gown.   The lovely little boar is a Bombshell mini, from their Sidekicks line of figures.   Wow betide any orc that gets too close to his lady.

The little ram is another Bombshell mini.  He was fun to paint as well.  Pricey figures, but Bombshell makes some great accent figures.

I am hopeful that these figures will see action when James and I get together for another DR game in early October.  

Many thanks for looking and blessings to your brushes!

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 61; Mounted Figures: 8; Buildings: 2; Terrain Features: 4

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Italieri Country House Finished

While I had my light box out recently, I thought I would grab some shots of some work completed earlier this year but never shown here during the blogging doldrums.

This is the ever-popular 1/72nd scale Italieri Country House (Product # 6074), a mainstay of many wargames tables.  Made of sturdy plastic, with an easily removed roof and second floor, it’s a gamer’s delight, and easy to assemble, though I confess that I bungled the upper floor on this model by putting two of the supports in the wrong places and not noticing until the glue was dry.  Not that you can tell, from this view, and the floor still works, but it is the annoying sort of mistake that comes from being overconfident.

I am not sure if this model is still in production, as it doesn’t show on the Italieri website.


I painted it more or less to match its cousin, the Italieri Country House with Porch, which I assembled and showed here in 2014.  I think this one came out a little better than the first.  The vines on the walls are a laser cut painted paper product from a model railroad store, supposed to be Virginia Creeper, I believe.   I thought it halped the rustic vibe.  As with the first model, the walls were copiously washed with Army Painter Light Tone from a tin, then sprayed with Dullcote to get rid of the shine that product leaves.


 I have seen photos on the inter webs of some of these models lovingly and effectively based, but I think for now it just goes in the box with the 20mm scenery items.   It may be useful in 28mm games as well if you don’t look too closely.


My Italieri village thus far.  That’s Luigi, the Fell Catbeast of Mordor, in the background.  

Italieri also makes a church in this scale, which like the country house models could pass for anywhere in Southern Europe.  Would be nice to have, and I see today there is also a ruined house and a stone house model in their range, so maybe one day.   As I finished this model I sometimes wondered why I do WW2 in this scale when I do it in 15mm and 28mm.   That seems like a rationalization to kick down the road for another day.

Thanks for looking and blessings to your buildings!

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 56; Mounted Figures: 8; Buildings: 2; Terrain Features: 4

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2

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