Thursday, April 13, 2017

Meanwhile, In Gondor

MINAS TIRITH, MIDDLE EARTH PRESS SERVICE:  After accusations from the White Council that Gondor has gotten lax and fallen behind on its security, the Office of the Steward announced that the Gondorian army has been increased.   Said Denethor, Steward of Gondor, “Our new rapid deployment force will allow us protect our borders and keep the people of Gondor safe.  Our troops are the best.  Not that Sauron is a bad guy.  I don’t know Sauron, but I am sure that if he and I got together, we could do some deals together."

Twelve new troops for my Gondorian force.   These are of course the classic GW plastic sculpts as per the Peter Jackson films.  They are figures that Chris Stoesen sent to me at Christmas as part of the Santa Clause project.  Thank you, Chris, great gift!

Also finished are these eight figures from the GW Warriors of the First Age sprue.   You get four per sprue and I had two sprues, so …   I think they could pass for palace guards or some sort of ceremonial or elite unit.

They have comfy blue cloaks.  Definitely an elite unit.

 

Then, just to have a bit of a gloat, I put all of my Gondorian figures together for a group shot and was pleasantly surprised.  Almost fifty figures in all, and this force has never fought together on the tabletop before.  Shall have to fix that.

Gondorian archers.  My take on them would be that they are the best archers of the race of Men, second only to the elves.  Other races of Men, like the Rohirrim, use shorter bows suitable for mounted work.    So, for example, in Dragon Rampant I would give Gondor 18” missile range and allow the sharpshooter upgrade as well as an upgrade to their armour from 2 to 3 on the grounds that they walk around inside tin cans.  Of course, that would be an expensive unit to field.

“Men of Gondor …” sung to the tune of Men of Harlech.   Inspiring lot, and very shiny.

Thank you and blessings to your sharp swords of Men.

 

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 3, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 82;  Mounted Figures: 11; Terrain Pieces: 17


 

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday Night Boardgame: April's Harvest by the Gamers

A quiet week at the Mad Padre's wargaming chapel.   Spring is slowly coming, I've been doing some painting, including reorganizing my 15mm Red Army of the Great Patriotic War (more of that anon) and am generally being delighted that Madame Padre is doing so well.

 

While my GMT 1914 game is still raging at home, at work things are pleasantly quiet and I have found a space in the stockroom to set up a game to tinker with during my lunch hours.   Because it’s April and spring is gloriously here, II chose this 1995 title by The Gamers', April's Harvest, an ACW game on the battle of Shiloh.  It’s a design by Dean Essig, the well-known and distinguished designer behind The Gamers,  and Alan Wambold, part of the Civil War Brigade series now available from Multiman Publishing.  I blame Jon Frietag for telling me about an MMP sale a few years ago.

 

Most of the books in my ACW library are about the war in the East, and I don’t know much about Shiloh except the rollicking account in the first volume of Shelby Foote’s Civil War series, so it’s an opportunity for me to learn a little more about this battle that started the Confederacy’s long slow death spiral in the West.  

Here’s the game set up and ready to go.   The Confederate army is marching on in the top left corner, and the Union are the blue counters scattered around in the centre.  Because U.S. Grant let the Confederates assemble right next to his encampment at Pittsburg landing, without being too bothered by reports of trouble coming, most of the Union troops start immobile and off guard.  Each counter represents a brigade, a battery, a cavalry unit, a commander or a supply train.

I am still working my way through the rules, which are generally well written and moderately complex.   One of the things that appeals to me as a miniatures gamer is the command and control dimension of the game.   As I understand it, divisions and corps need orders (seize this, defend that, go here, etc) that can need to be written in broad terms by the players.   It’s not at the micro detail of hex by hex movement, but broad strokes.  For example, the three CSA divisions that start on the board all have territorial objectives that they are ordered to capture.   If new orders need to be given, there is a mechanism that marks the time necessary for the orders to travel from commander to subordinate, and then a mechanism to see if they orders are accepted and understood.  

I’ve just had time to run the first turn (6:30am).  It wasn’t clear to me which side went first, so I let the Union go first and moved the two Union brigades that had orders.   Since then I have had access to the errata, and discovered that the rebs should go first.  Ooops.  Here Moore’s troops of Prentis’ Division have been ordered to scout for rebel tools.  They run right into Hardee’s third corps and are falling back.  Both sides have fired shots and taken casualties, with a rebel brigade pushing the Yanks back but becoming Shaken after a failed morale check.  Shaken is not a terrible thing, but it does stop troops from making Close Combat (shock) attacks.

The counters on either side of Confederate units showing red arrows indicate that the brigade has adopted an extended line formation.

More to follow as the Union camp starts to wake up.

Blessings to your hardtack and coffee!  

MP+

 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday Night Boardgame: GMT's 1914: Attack A L'Outrance

Returning to an old and occasional custom here at Mad Padre Wargames, it's our Tuesday night boardgame feature, in which I spare some love for my first love, hex and counter wargames. 

Tonight's subject is the GMT Games Title, 1914: Offensive a Outrance, a modest monster game working on the operational level that recreates the first weeks of World War One on the western front. a 2013 title designed by Michael Resch. 

1914 features a fairly rigorous model of army organization and attachment, and forces the player to think carefully about each army's designated areas of operation and objectives.  It uses historical war plans that guide each army's movement and objectives, which is useful for solitaire play.   Plans can be suspended and armies can be relocated, but initially the game works according to the designs of the 1914 war planners.

Logistics is a big deal in this game, and there are detailed rules for fortresses, siege artillery, and rail movement that I haven't yet dived into.

Because it's quite the big beast, I am only playing the tutorial scenario, which features the Lorraine offensive of France's First and Second armies in the first days of the war as part of the Republic's Plan XVII.   Here Second Army throws itself at the German lines in the true spirit of the bayonet, while the Germans do their best to improve their positions.  The black counters indicate Prepared Attacks, which cost movement points to execute, thus forcing the offensive to move fairly slowly, but which yield better odds of success.  Attacks can be moderated by the Attacker and then the Defender declaring if the battle is to be Intensive, which increases the chances of casualties.

Combat units are rated by attack and defence strength, the two large numbers at the bottom of each counter.  The smaller number between them indicates combat proficiency, and the small number to the side of the unit symbol indicates organic artillery.   Besides the usual retreat/advance/step loss results, the CRT gives a modifier that each side must use in what is basically a morale check after each fight,  which may result in a unit's combat effectiveness being degraded.




Turns allow the defender a limited move after the attacker or phasing player completes his/her movement.  Here below the French 21st XXX was trying to sneak through the Vosges to pressure Strasbourg.   In the German reaction face, elements of 15 XXX have moved far enough south to check the advance, showing that the game has some potential for solitaire play, as one can think through all options for both sides each turn.  

Here the 30th XX has moved into a fortress hex (as in the red lines around Strasbourg.  I did some checking and concluded that this hex must represent the Fort de Mutzig, which I was delighted to find has a website and looks well worth visiting.  in fact, the whole Alsace region looks like a beautiful destination, perhaps a cycling holiday.




I am only half way through a four-turn game, but the tutorial is doing its job and teaching me the basic mechanics.    I am working up the nerve to try the big game this summer, but am liking it so far.  Following the spirit of the French generals, I shall throw myself on the German lines like a tiger and reap the certain victory.  Faith in the bayonet and the spirit of the attack shall prevail!

Marshall Luigi watched the fighting for a while, but could not bear to witness the casualties.







Monday, April 3, 2017

Wargaming With The Big Boys And Girls



Sometimes this image, from a recent Canada/US military exercise, is how I would like to wargame, stomping around on a big map in my combat boots, pointing at things, with player aids and counters carefully prepared by dutiful underlings.  

This last week on The Strategy Bridge, an online journal for military, government and think-tank types, there has been a good discussion on wargaming from a professional perspective.

Of course, for some of us, wargaming is a subset of military history that looks backwards rather than forwards.  We focus on past conflicts, and ask ourselves if the games are faithful models of the past (assuming that we can know the past), or, in the words of the old Avalon Hill box titles, if we can do better than Alexander or Rommel did. 

However, for those of us in the hobby that want to look forwards, who are interested in wargaming the near future, we will know that wargaming as a hobby has often intersected with military training.  Mark Herman, for example, was one of a stable of games designers who cut their teeth with Jim Dunnigan and SPI imagining future wars with the USSR and other likely opponents before the fall of the Berlin Wall becalmed SPI and ultimately bankrupted it.  Herman, I think on the Guns, Dice and Butter podcast, talked about how he was picked up by the Pentagon for the work he had done with SPI.  More recently Brian Train and Volko Ruhnke have attracted attention from the military community, who see their contemporary titles as useful training aids.

So, depending on where you are in our hobby, the stuff in the Bridge series may not be earthshaking news, but it is interesting to hear professionals talk about the same issues of simulation, probability and uncertainty that we also think about.

Rex Brynen , asks how wargames can help planners calculate the likely actions of actors who may be unpredictable (think Donald Trump) or who want to be seen as unpredictable (think Nixon vs Vietnam).

Krisjand Rothweiler talks about various types of wargames, including matrix and seminar games, to imagine solutions or strategies to problems such as geopolitical rivalries over territories and resources, or terrorism.

Tom McDermott writes about the importance of capturing the psychology of the opponent in a wargame, in the spirit of Clausewitz's use of the metaphor of a duel with a thinking, feeling opponent rather than a dispassionate, predictable adversary.

Mark Jones writes about using wargaming in a predictive manner, assuming that you can get the probabilities write.  He starts with an anecdote about US troops preparing for Desert Storm, using a boardgame by Frank Chadwick's (sadly now defunct) Games Design Workshop to prepare for their war.  Jones notes that predictions of allied casualties for Desert Storm were wildly off, and asks how wargames designers can and should address uncertainty in their models.

Finally, Benjamin Jensen writes about how military leaders since Moltke the Elder have used wargames to learn about their craft and to prepare for the future.  Jensen ends with the promise of a series of games being published online by The Strategy Bridge over the year to come, a project I shall be watching with interest.

Obviously the types of games and the mindsets described in this article may be vastly different than the typical club game  fought in a few hours, where Vikings and Saxons, or Tigers and T34s, are pitted against each other in a purely tactical context.  However, if I could go to a weekend event where there was a game, perhaps lasting half a day or a day, run according to some of the principles described in these articles, for example, any of the matrix games described here on the Paxsims website,  I would be all over that.

Blessings to your imaginings!

MP+



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Games At Hot Lead

Hot Lead is one of the shining stars in a fairly modest firmament of Canadian wargaming shows.   It is a labour of love, put together by a group of gamers and friends in Stratford, Ontario, for two decades now, and it is one of the red letter events on my gaming calendar.

Last weekend I made the three hour drive down to Stratford and was able to game on Friday night and Saturday, before heading home.  Here are a few highlights of my time there

On Friday night my friend James and I decided to put all of our Middle Earth figures on the table and see how big a Dragon Rampant game we could manage.   It was pretty epic.   We were going to keep it to ourselves, but the angels of our better nature prevailed and we invited some folks to game with us.  I can’t say it was a well designed game, and some folks had more fun than others.  The chap on the top left had his Dunlendings routed pretty quickly by some Ents, and I still feel badly about it.

On the other side of the table, James’ Vendel Trolls take on my Bombshell Minis tree sprite and her faerie friends, who did quite well until a werewolf gobbled them up.

On Saturday I played in a terrific Napoleonics game put on by Rich Brooks, using the Blucher rules.  I have tried these rules and enjoyed the chance to get a master class in them from Rich, and learned a few things that I was doing wrong.   Rich has a very clever system of laminated cards attached to each base, which allow players to use dry-erase markers to mark off hits on each unit.   Rich’s game was a recreation of the 1809 battle of Bad Wurzbach between France and Austria, and my French corps under Lannes faced very determined resistance from a bright young player who punched hard.  The French took one of two key objectives but lost the game when we hit our break point first.   

An amazing co-operative game by Alex Karolyi and Thomas Walker, where the players work together to blow up the Death Star.  

An utterly breathtaking layout. I tweeted these images to some Star Wars fans and they were quite gobsmacked.  There is a plastic sheet over the death star model to allow the ships to maneuver and to protect the tons of work that obviously went into the Death Star model.

A huge 28mm Battle of Eylau game, using the Shako rules, ran all day.  Quite popular.

A stunning 28mm Stalingrad game, using Bolt Action rules, hosted b Mike Scott band Duane Adams from London Miniature Gamers.   

I took this shot to show the fine quality of brushwork on all the figures.

The iconic Stalingrad fountain.

A nice looking Vimy Ridge game, to celebrate the upcoming centennial of Canada’s most important Great War battle.

I loved this pre-gunpowder Flint and Feather game, using the Crucible Crush figures. 

I was quite captivated by these three canoes.

A fantastic British fort is besieged by beastly Saxons, hosted by the chaps from the Kent Essex Gaming Society using the Dux Brittanorum rules.   Terrific layout.  One of several Too Fat Lardies game at HotLead, always nice to see.

My other high point of Hot Lead was that I put all of my Warhammer 40K figures in the Bring and Buy and got a decent price for them.   To everything there is a season.   Did a little bit of shopping, nothing too dramatic - some 15mm WW2 FOW blisters, some objective markers from Army Group North, a nice scenic terrain piece for LOTR, and a used boardgame.   Mostly it was just fun to see friends again, and to wonder why we all seem to be a little older.

 

 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Meanwhile, In Rohan - 5

For months, as dark clouds gather near Orthanc and rumours multiply of yet another steading put to fire and the sword by merciless raiders from the hills, the word among the crofters and far folk of the Westfold has been, “What news of Eomer?”   All know that the King is preoccupied, and that his household riders are too valuable to be sent out after yet another raiding party.  All hopes rest on the good Lord of the Riddermark and his hardhanded, chosen warriors.

Now, in this small village on the edge of the wind-swept plains, one boy comes running from the outer pastures.  “Mother!  ’Tis Eomer!  Eomer and his riders have returned!"

Brythbart’s parents exchange looks, for the boy is ever given to flights of fancy.  But scarce are his words out when the sentinel in the watchtower sounds his horn, the single blast that means friends!

Forsooth, it is indeed Eomer!  The Lord of the Riddermark has returned at this most dangerous of hours!

 

The villagers cheer lustily.  “Will you feast with us this night, Lord Eomer?”, the headman cries out.  “I thank you, good headman,” Lord Eomer calls out graciously, “for we have long days in the saddle and are weary, for many orc helms have we cloven this last fortnight.   There are dark things stirring, yet the might of Rohan has not yet waned, I think!!"

Bakkonraed, Pig of Rohan, looks on anxiously, wondering if he is invited to dinner.  Look at those sexy SixSquared resin haystacks, they have doubled in number this last while!

These nine GW Riders of Rohan are not new - I have had them rattling around in a box since 2006 when my then teenagers and I were gaming together.  They have since been repainted and flocked, and I am quite pleased with them.  Very glad to see that they are getting new life.  All are plastic except for the Eomer figure on the front, though his horse (my attempt at a dapple grey) is plastic.  I never understood why GW put metal cavalry figures on plastic horses, as the anchor points for the hooves were quite fragile.  No fear now, everything is fine cast plastic.  Even so, the GW Riders of Rohan are lovely figures, fully capturing the inspiring scenes of the films.   As someone once said to me, the Rohirrim are sort of Vikings on horses, and these figures fit that bill nicely.

Here is the might of Rohan’s cavalry on maneuvers, though a few figures were forgotten in a box and missed the photo shoot.  I think i can field 20 figures, with another half dozen purchased second hand currently in the basing shop.   That should give Sauron and Saruman something to think about.  

 

Thank you for looking and blessings to your brushes!

MP+

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 3, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 62;  Mounted Figures: 11; Terrain Pieces: 17


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Meanwhile - In The Elven Woodland Realms 3

Here are some more 28mm fantasy miniatures  by UK Heresy Miniatures for my collection, useful either as personality figures for LOTR gaming or in my growing Dragon Rampant armies.  These figures fit the matriarchal nature of the elven force I’ve been working on.

I recommend Heresy for their fine customer service and for the quality of their sculpts.  These figures all have a willowy grace that I like, even if the brushwork sometimes has to find at facial features rather than simply draw attention to the sculptor’s work.

Elf Queem / mage / Galadriel stunt double.   When she’s not scrying the future in that palantir, she’s bowling ninepin strikes with it.

Druidess/wizardling/hippy chick, and perhaps my favourite one of this lot.

 Not sure what spell she is casting, exactly, but it looks rude.

Captain of Rangers and Mistress of Bows.

 

Mistress of Swords and leader of the elven SOF unit, “Galadriel’s Grrrrls”.

 

 

Finally, not really an elf, but when I placed a recent order for some Reaper figures, I added this Reaper Bones lady barbarian, as I figured that Kevin the Barbarian needed a girlfriend.  Here they are, as if they’ve stepped out of a 1970s fantasy calendar by Vallejo.  With her armour monokini she is a little embarrassing, and I trust that if my Bishop is reading this, he understands.

Thank you for looking and blessings to your brushes!

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 3, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 62;  Mounted Figures: 2; Terrain Pieces: 17

 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

For You, Secret Santa

Just after Christmas, I reported on an amazingly kind gift that my Secret Santa had sent me as part of the gift exchange run by the estimable Ian and Cath Willey.   I received two Games Workshop kits suitable to my LOTR project, a battering ram wielded by fearsome Isengard Uruks, and a bolt thrower, the pride of Saruman's artillery.

I said at the time,  "I guess I had better start making something for them to batter."


Well, Secret Santa, I hope this makes you proud of me.





What are those orcs knocking on, you may ask?

This.




Back in November, about the time that Kay went into hospital for her long stay, I was going through some GW rule books for their LOTR Strategy Battle Game rules, and found a simple recipe to build your own castle sections.   I duly bought a couple of sheets of foamcore from the local art supply store and started at it.  I would do a small piece at a time, usually at night after visiting the hospital, while I was still too wired to go to bed.  It was very therapeutic.




With three wall sections and four towers, the pieces measure almost three feet in length when laid out together.  I am still waiting for Mordor to agree to pay for it.






I am not the most talented chap when it comes to scratchbuilding.  As Ross M put it recently, I find the art of drawing lines using a ruler, cutting, and finding that things line up evenly is nothng short of sorcery.  If you look at it up close, the joins are quite rough and the whole thing is rather dodgy, but from a small distance it looks ok.    Once the components were glued together, I sprayed them with a gray art paint by Liquitex.  It tended to obscure the scoring I had done in some sections to suggest the stonework, so I have to go over everything again with a craft knife to make sure the stonework comes through.

I got enough of this done to provide me with an entry for the "scene from a book or film" contest on this year's Painting Challenge.  When I started the project, I thought I would have time to use the wall for a scene from the siege of Gondor in the Return of the King.  However, I didn't have enough Gondorians completed for that, so decided that I could call this Helm's Deep and be done with it.


Bad chaps roll up to the wall.




Elves and men desperately defend themselves.




This project amused me and gave me the chance to acquire some lessons learned about scratchbuilding fortifications.   Thirty bucks for two sheets of foamcore and a can of gray spray paint was a lot less expensive than buying a resin model from the likes of Hudson and Allen.  


When the spirit moves me I may add a few more sections, enough for a game simulating an assault on one portion of a fortress, where the attacker wins by getting up and over in strength.   There are siege rules in the GW LOTR rules, and there may be some homebrew siege rules for Dragon Rampant, I shall have to see.


At any rate, Secret Santa, my orcs have something to shoot at and batter down.  They are happy, as am I.  Thank you for the inspiration.



Monday, March 6, 2017

Troops For The Elven Realm

Middle Earth, I find, is rather like Napoleonics, in that after a while, you start to want to do all the armies.    Well, maybe not all of them, but I do have some unpainted 6mm Bavarians and I am not sure how that idea started.

While my Elven force has been decidedly, well, matriarchal thus far, some years ago I acquired some of the GW lead sculpts of elves as seen in the (infamous to book purists) Helm’s Deep sequence from Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers.  I also had some sprues of the GW plastic elves from the Warriors of the First Age set, the chaps seen in the prelude to the first Jackson film, where Sauron is walking around all “OOO, look at me and my shiny ring on my vulnerable finger, bet you can’t cut THAT off, hahahaha … bugger, that hurt!”.  

I had enough figures to do two 12 strength units for Dragon Rampant, if I augmented the archers with some other figures.   Besides, my good friend James has been knocking it out of the park since November with his amazing progress on the Vendel fantasy sculpts we chipped in on, as you can see here.  His hand painted banners are a thing of beauty, and he’s been doing some terrific BIG solo battles using Dragon Rampant, such as this one, which is accompanied by some lovely writing.  I figured that the next time we get together, we can combine forces, and I can augment his elves with these chaps.

 These will probably be fielded as Light Foot in DR terms, using the upgrades cleverly thought through by Iron Mitten/Secundus here. Chaps with the silver skirts in the centre of the unit are lead figures, which now appear to be OOP.

 

Unit of eight archers, also from the plastic Warriors of the First Age set.  I had a bit of a disaster priming these with black spray paint, as the paint got all thick and nubbly on some sides of some figures and hid a lot of detail, so they don’t look terrific up close.  However, in their bright blues, violet and gold, they look sharp enough from a distance.   Getting another sprue just for the 4 archer figures is annoying but probably cheaper and more useful than buying these chaps, as the plastic sprue will give me enough figures to make up a 12 figure unit of men of the First Age that can pass as Gondorians.

 

Finally, a close up shot of the command group.  I gave the boss a white cape, and tried a new technique for me, starting it out as brown, and then layering it up with three successive colours, ending in titanium white.   You can see it better in the first shot, not sure I like it.  I got the nerve to try the flag thanks to James’ good examples.

So, a force to keep the orcs on their toes, I hope.  If you haven’t seen these figures yet on the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, they appeared there with another project which I will show off separately here another time.

Blessings to your brushes!

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 3, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 57;  Mounted Figures: 2; Terrain Pieces: 10

Blog Archive

Followers