Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday Wargame: Putin Strikes

That rascal Vladimir, always stirring the pot.  Back in 2016, when we worried more about Russia invading and annexing and less about Russia meddling in democracy, One Small Step Games published Putin’s War, a relatively small, operational-scale game about a conventional war in Eastern Europe.  I bought it, because of a weakness for “next war war-games”, which used to be a big thing in my youthful gaming days; in the last decade of the Cold War, publishers like SPI and GDW made a lot of money off games imagining WW3, though that subject dried up in the optimistic years after the Berlin Wall fell.   Interestingly, OSS’ website suggests that the bloom may be back on the next war rose, and big competitors like GMT Games have published a lot in this era as well, imagining future wars in Poland, Taiwan, and Korea.  Perhaps, alas, a new war Iran game may not be too far off.

Putin Strikes is a Ty Bomba design - he has a long resume and an interest in hypothetical and alt-history designs.    He’s also one of those designers that seem to inspire strong feelings in people.  One writer on BGG called him “the reigning haiku poet of the wargaming world” and wrote that “Simple, fast, fun, elegant and reasonably historical war-games are Ty’s trademark”.  Well, Putin Strikes is certainly simple and I played the full 8-game turns solitaire in one day, so it was reasonably fast.  The rules are a quick read, though as I subsequently learned, the online errata would make for a different game.  

You get a fairly simple, bland map showing E. Europe from the Baltics down to the Black Sea.   Starting forces are Russian, the three Baltic countries, Ukraine, Moldavia, Rumania, and Belarus.   The NATO countries come on as random reinforcements.  The Russians start with 12 cities in Russia, plus Kaliningrad, each worth 2 VPs, and have to capture 12 more cities to get a total of 36 VPs at the end of 8 tuns.   They can just go for cities, as I did, or focus all their efforts on just capturing the Baltics and securing the rail line from Kaliningrad to the east, while holding all their initial cities.

Some things I immediately noticed and didn’t like.  The game turn sequence is like Go - one side activates a unit stack, then the other can move or pass, and so on until all are done.   Units can either Move or Attack, but NOT do both.    This restriction makes little sense to me, given that many of the units in the game are air assault units which presumably specialize in rapid, surprise attacks.  It also seems odd that no commanders in the game know how to execute a hasty attack.   Also, there are no Zones of Control, so units can move past enemy units effortlessly, but there is no armoured or mechanized exploitation after combat, so presumably WW3 will go much slower than WW2 did.

As many reviewers have noted, the game is all about cities.   Each city has an inherent garrison of 6 strength points, and then can hold either six brigades or two divisions worth of steps.   The garrison is always the last step to be removed.  Defenders in cities get a 2 column shift in their favour on the Combat Results Table, which is simple and quite unforgiving to the attacker on low-odds attacks.  Thus the game resolves into a series of sieges, like this one mounted against poor Kiev.   The best choice for the defender is to mass as many units in cities as possible, since the allied units, like the blue Rumanian division below, are too weak (3 SP attack) to counterattack a Russian stack.

 In the rules as printed, there is no restriction in bringing replacements into a siege, so if I had two Ukranian brigades come back to me as replacements, I could pop them into Kiev here and force the Russian to keep banging away at the siege.  Since a lower odds attack is unlikely to kill more than 1 or 2 defending steps at the most, and since the identify maker/garrison with 6 SPs defence is always the last step to die, cities can hold out for a long time.  In the game I player, the Russians did not capture Riga and Tallinin until turn 6, and never got the required 12 cities to win.  Vilnius, for example, was proudly holding out at game’s end with the help of a  German division.  I understand that the online errata now forbid replacements to appear in hexes that are being attacked, so I guess that has been fixed, but the game feels far more like siege warfare than mobile warfare.

The other big problem with the game, I felt, was with the random NATO reinforcements.   NATO has a variable strength unit, depending on the roll of 2d6, which could either be a 2-2 brigade or a mighty, awesome 12-12 division.   However, due to the random die roll to determine reinforcements, the NATO High-Readiness force never appeared, while the two weak Slovakian brigades shown here in olive, plus the Swedes, Germans, Hungarians, and Czechs all appeared to lend a hand before NATO got its act together.  Perhaps the US President kept questioning the value of NATO, who knows, but it felt wonky.

In general, the allied reinforcements do not have the power to do more than make a very few counterattacks against weak Russian stacks.  Better to use them, especially the brigades, to hold cities, which accentuates the siege warfare feel of the game.

Airpower is very abstract, and depends on the differential between both sides rolling 2d6 as to how many air units one side or the other receives each turn.   Each airpower counter can shift the CRT one column in the player’s favour, but they can also be used to interdict movement, or deny mobility to air assault units.  Again, because of the random reinforcement roll, the NATO air reinforcements never arrived in the game.   Perhaps all the F-35s were grounded for maintenance.

Other features about the game are quite simple.  There are no supply rules, as the design assumes that in the first month of the war, the game’s timescale, all units would be prepared and well-supplied.   Likewise all units, no matter their type, move 6 MPs per turn, with the usual costs for forest, swamp, rivers, etc.

There are some fixed ideas of the designer in the game - divisions are far more robust than brigades and can ignore CRT results of 1 or 2 steps lost, on the theory that western armies are wrong to get rid of divisions.   That seems odd to me, as a big Russian Grad missile strike will kill you whether you are in a division or brigade, but anyway.  There is also some nice chrome, such as the Russian Vostok unit, which has a variable strength in each attack. depending on how well Russian propaganda does with ethnic Russian minorities in certain regions.  Curiously however the vaunted Russian Anti Access/Aerial Denial (A2/AD) missile defences in the north are not modelled, and there is no naval game or ability to assault from the sea.

In playing the game, I immediately ditched the sequence of play, instead allowing one side or the other to move all of its counters and attack in one turn, then the other, in the classic style.  I allowed unengaged air assault units to add the SPs to the battle if they were within 6 MPs of the defender.

While some reviews were fairly positive, I confess that I was unimpressed, and would agree with the review entitled Putin Strikes Out.  This was a disappointing game, and if I was going to return to this subject, it would be a via a game like this.
Blessings to your die-rolling defence of the free peoples!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sometimes You Paint, Sometimes You Build, Sometimes You Salvage, Sometimes You Re-base

I love starting new projects, and always have too many on the go, but sometimes it’s good to revisit some older figures that just need some love.  This weekend, while Joy was in the states visiting her daughter and granddaughter, I had the place to myself and found that what I got done wasn’t at all what I had thought I would do.

Here are some GW LOTR plastic orcs that a friend gave me - he found a bag of about 30 figures, very roughly painted, jumbled in a zip-lock bag.   I had my doubts about remediating the paintwork, but I pulled out a handful and decided to see what I could do with them.   I’d say I repainted about half of each figure and tried to give them scary-face shields, though I think my surrogate granddaughter could have done scarier faces.

I also gave them my usual bad-guy base treatment - scrubby, mostly barren ground, evocative of Mordor, Dead Marshes, etc.

I liked how these fellows turned out - they fit nicely into my growing evil LOTR models.  I will probably salvage handful in the near future.

Also underway is a significant basing project for my Isengard collection.   About ten years ago, when my son was a teen and living with me, we played a LOT of the original GW LOTR Strategy Battle Game.   To get some figures on the table quickly I cut a lot of corners, such as leaving the bases still in their original black undercoat and nothing more.  Currently I have about 30 of these figures in the basing shop, and a few of them marched out ready for action this weekend, including this Uruk-Hai captain.

These 6 Uruk-Hai crossbowmen were only 60% painted, and required a fair bit of brushwork to get them ready.   Repainted and with some proper basing, they look ok.   I would like to get a full unit of 12, but they were pricey buggers ten years ago back when GW sold LOTR metal models in blisters of 3.  Perhaps I can find some more on Ebay or the like.  In Dragon Rampant terms, I would rate these as heavy missiles.

Between the stray basing material and my cat deciding that the light box makes a good place for a nap, these pictures are rather messy.

I did also finish painting some new figures and got them based.  These are 8 orc arches from Vendel miniatures.   My friend James and I are very fond of the Vendel fantasy range, and there are some great examples on his blog.  They’re fairly simple figures but they have a pleasing, old-school look and feel to them with tons of facial expression.

The Vendel moulds got sold recently so all this range is sadly OOP at the moment.  When I was at Hot Lead this March, I was talking to an American fellow who knew the chap who bought the moulds, so I have hopes that they will be back in production soon. 

I only have 8 of these archers, so I decided when I was ordering some bits from North Star recently, that I would splash out on a box of their Oathmark goblins, to see if I could build this unit up a bit.

Each sprue comes with five torsos that can be built out in several ways.  I decided to build four of them as archers.   They have a hunched, furtive look, making them look sneaky and fierce, but they look suitably Mordor-ish.   It took me about ten minutes to assemble five figures, with a minimum of hacking and cutting.

Side by side comparison with the Vendel figures.   I think they’ll work together.

‘So a mixed bag of thoroughly bad hats, with a variety of worthwhile ways to use spare time - painting, salvaging, basing, cutting and gluing.   I’m pleased with the results, though I had better get some reinforcements for Rohan and Gondor into the field soon.   And speaking of the field … I should use these figures in a game - what a crazy thought!   

Blessings to your brushes!


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Meanwhile, In Rohan - 6

Revisiting my never-ending Lord of the Rings interest here and a brief return to Rohan, where housing starts are up.

This is the 4Ground Viking Trader’s Shop which will make a splendid addition to the Rohan village I have been working on for the last few years.  I suspect it will attract some Uruk-Has raiders in search of plunder, and will need to be stoutly defended.  And I know just the chaps for the job.

Also on the painting bench are some aspiring Riders of Rohan.   These are Goth Heavy Cavalry from Footsore Miniatures.  

Pros:  The figures are metal, and so are the horses, so I won’t have the problem I have with the blasted Games Workshop plastic horses breaking off at the legs when clumsily handled on the table.  Also, they look suitably Rohanish with their long hair, beards and moustaches, and generally simple accoutrements.   They don’t match perfectly with the GW Riders figures, but I have long since decided to build LOTR forces with figures from whatever range I please, so nyah boo to you, GW.

Cons:  These figures came with a  considerable amount of flash, which involved laborious scraping and filing of men and horses.  Also, while they came with round shields (not shown), I forgot to order weapons, so I ordered a pack of javelins from Northstar.   Also their gripping hands were solid, so I had to carefully drill them out so the javelins will fit.  Finally, they don’t have capes or bows, as the GW Rider models all do, and while I could model them with green stuff, I’m not currently so inclined, so they will serve the Riddermark as they are.

Bottom line:  while I was quite excited to order some Footsore minis, and will no doubt order more, I give these figures between a B+ and an A- at best.


I have a quiet weekend ahead, so I am hoping to get a push on and ride these fellows off the table soon.   

Blessings to your brushes!


Friday, April 26, 2019

Space Kitties Above and Beyond!

Staying with the 15mm SF theme a little longer, here are some more forces that I finished over the winter for my Kzinti-themed feline army.  

Two drones for initial recce and probe missions.    I can’t recall who I got these from, I suspect they are Ground Zero Games but I can’t recall the product code.   The models have some shooty things, so depending on how my opponent James and I agree to rate them, they might pack a little punch.   Useful for forcing the enemy to reveal himself.


Two skimmers for Close Air Support.   The models are from Ground Zero Games.  They carry a big and wicked looking gun of some sort, and two missile pods, so they should prove useful.  I painted them in the same scheme as my ground armour units.


Being metal, and quite chunky, the stands didn’t work at first.  I had to drill out the hole in the bottom of the model quite a bit until it was deep and wide enough to keep the model on the socket of the base.

I coated them with what I thought was Testor’s Dullcote, but in fact it was semi-gloss, so they are a tad shinier than I would like, but none the worse for it, I suppose.


And here they are with their big brother, a previously completed 15mm Khurasan model, to complete the air wing.   That should keep the hoomanz’ heads down!  


I have a few squads of Khurasan infantry to complete for my Kzinti force, and by then hopefully James and I will be able to schedule a scrap by then.   At some point I would consider getting some human figures of my own, high tech enough to match these cats and do something from the Larry Niven inspired Man-Kzin Wars, but that is a project for down the road, and would entail looking at some rules sets, possibly the classic Star Grunt or maybe the Quadrant 13 SF rules from Too Fat Lardies by Robert Avery.   

Blessings to your thrusters!



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Meowzers! Space Kitties On Jet Bikes!

A quick post to show off with some rather dark photos to show off some more figures in my 15mm SF project.   They are Khurasan Tigrids on jet bikes, because while cats (well, at least my cats) are notoriously slothful, until that moment at 3 in the morning they get up to zoom around the house on jet bikes.  It’s like harassing fire, it leaves the hoomans tired and irritable and ill-equipped to defend against them.  Or the hoomans just capitulate and feed them at 5am, like I do.

I painted these fellows over the winter months, using the same Citadel Khorne Red that is the signature for my Kzinti-inspired army, with colour coding on the shoulder plates to tell the various sections apart.  I have three sections of three of these fellows, enough for a recon in force or quick raiding and general hell-raising, following the general idea that a Kzinti-type force would specialize in fast, aggressive (if not always well thought out) tactics.

Fairly simple paint job over a black base coat to convey the armour segments on the troops and the various parts of the bikes, with a splash of colour for the engines.  I like the blue of the jet engines.

With a mix of missiles for the leaders and Tesla-type guns for their wingcats, these troops are ready to take on my friend James’ hoomans when we finally get our SF armies together.


Marshall Luigi, my resident Kzin, doesn’t seem that interested in having a jetbike.


Blessings to your kitties!


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Donnybrook in Dublin

For years I have admired the Napoleonic battle reports posted on Joy and Forgetfulness, the blog of the mysterious and erudite author and wargamer, Conrad Kinch.   Between elegantly presented tables, port and cheeseboards, and the witty and dashing cast of characters brought to life there, wargaming has seldom looked so genteel and appealing as it does on young Kinch’s blog.   Last week I finally had the chance to make it over the sea to Ireland.  I had planned to go to Dublin two years ago for the baptism of the young Kinch twins, but sadly that never worked out, so it was a delight to finally arrive there, where CK and his lovely wife Lizzy showered us with warmth and hospitality.  Minutes after entering their house, my fiancee Joy was snuggling with the young and handsome Master Kinch.

After four days in the West of Ireland, we returned to Dublin, where Kinch had arranged a refight of Waterloo.  After dinner, the gentlemen withdrew to Kinch’s war-games room, a place of wonders - and silly hats.  

 The splendid table.  Note the wine glass used as an objective marker.  “Why do you have to refight Waterloo?”  asked Joy, innocently.  “I mean, you know what happened, why redo it?”   Some things will have to be explained over time in this relationship.

As you can see from the dice, we were playing Command and Colours Napoleonics, with 20mm figures.  Very posh.

Some of the Dublin gaming brain trust assembled.   I couldn’t have wanted to have enjoyed better company.   Marshall DeGourmand, second from right, tries to persuade the English team that they should just give up now.

 Since I am something of a Bonapartist, I volunteered for the French side, commanding the French right flank.  As I recall, DeGourmand is saying something like “Go and die there.   There, sir!”  His order were shockingly simple and to the point, though slurred somewhat by the fearful amounts of drink (note the bottle on the table).

With furrowed brow, I watched as my brave chaps threw themselves on Plancenoit, drawing the entire English left into a vicious meat grinder.   As you can see, I am propping myself unsteadily on the table, praying that I can get this done before my troops all die and before the Prussians arrive, but it wasn’t looking good.

 They weren’t giving up Plancenoit without a fight.

 Bantering with my opposite number, General Oisin, who seems confident that the Prussian sausage-munchers will arrive and bail him out of his predicament (they did).

Sadly we called it a night when the port ran out and the English had managed to fend off our fine French fellows, thus making Joy’s question, “Why bother”, uncomfortably acute.  


Also sadly, I don’t have a photo of CK himself, but he was a grand host and it was a gaming night for the books, though I’m blessed if I know how I walked back to my hotel.

Thanks, old chap, for a splendid time of it.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Farewell to Forgotten and Glorious ACW ,Minis

I was saddened recently to learn that Forgotten and Glorious miniatures will soon be no more.   They are (soon were) a French-based manufacturer of 28mm figures, and had a small but lovely range of 28mm ACWs.    As their website says, they will be out of business in 5 days, on April 15, and their figures will no longer be available.   I have no idea why they are closing - perhaps it is because their figures were never cheap - a command group of 6 foot sold for 15 euros, and the postage from Europe probably didn't help.

Here are some of their figures from my collection, and some more here.

They are lovely and full of detail and great fun to paint.

I have really agonized on ordering some more before they're gone, but I think I am going to resist pulling the trigger on this one.   I have a goodly number of ACW figures to paint, including two boxes of Perry plastics, and a regiment of Renegade figures that have languished, half painted, for two years now - and that's just the ACW part of my lead and plastic mountain!

However, if 28mm ACW is your thing, I would encourage you to have a look at their website before these figures are gone.



Monday, April 8, 2019

A New Look And An Artist To Follow

Today I’m celebrating my renewed interest in this blog with a new look for the header and a bit of a plug for one of my favourite artists.

 I discovered Tim Godden on Twitter a few years back and was immediately captivated by the poignant simplicity of his Great War artwork.   Tim’s characters are human, often youthful, and heartbreakingly vulnerable.   The art doesn’t hit you over the head with a message, and it seldom displays actual combat. It doesn’t have to.  Like the film sequences of the laughing, snaggle-toothed soldiers in Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, Godden reminds us that these were real people, with real hopes, fears, and emotions.

The image on the left of the header is one I personally commissioned from Tim, and depicts one of the famous Great War padres, Tubby Clayton.  It shows him as the kind host of Talbot House, or “TocH” as it was known in the War.   If you’ve ever been to Poperinge, Belgium, you probably know about it.  The image on the right of the header is entitled “Soldier Scholar” and I think we can all relate to the young man reading the book.   I also like the fact that both figures in the header are smoking pipes, a practice I have, sadly, discontinued but long enjoyed.

I have a triptych of Tim Godden prints in my war-games room.   The image on the right, though it didn’t photograph that well, is entitled “His First Night Patrol”.   I love the harsh geometry of the flare and the fragility of the three figures.  Will they make it back?   

 The figure on the bottom left shows a young Canadian soldier reflecting on his experience at Passchendaele.  The rain and the mud and his lost expression are highly evocative.  It was in my office for a long time, but as I prepare to retire in a year I’ve started moving things home.   This print seems a good addition to the games room, to remind me about what war-games actually speak of.

Finally, in our kitchen upstairs my fiancee Joy agreed to let me hang another triptych of Godden’s work, showing three Great War soldiers with cats.  Tim tells me that his three cats all agreed to be models!  Joy, who is very much a dog person, says the three images remind her of me, the cat-loving soldier she allowed into her life.  I am pleased that she likes them.


You can follow Tim on Twitter @TJGodden and you browse and even buy his artwork here.  Be warned that browsing may cut into your war-games budget, but I hope you will love his work as much as I do.



Friday, April 5, 2019

Revisiting My "Rockies Ablaze" Project

Longer ago than I care to remember, when this blog was a going concern, I took some steps towards starting a Pulp/Horror project set in western Canada, involving Mounties, moose, werewolves, and nefarious Zeppelin troopers.  My name for this madness was “The Rockies Ablaze.  Well, 2016 came and went, life and death and a new life all got in the way, but I am thinking about gaming again and want to revisit this project.

I noticed from my old posts on this project that back in 2015 I was racking my head trying to find some 28mm figures that would do for late 1930s Canadian Army, as you can’t have Nazi Zeppelintruppen roaming around western Canada, that just won’t do, and the Mounties may need some backup.  I was thinking several sections of Regulars would be required if I could find suitable figures in greatcoats/winter dress, and there don’t seem to be too many of those about.

Fortunately a fellow on the TooFatLardies Yahoo group kindly answered my query and pointed me to these chaps from Gorgon Studios, which I think may be an Australian outfit, but I’m not too sure.   Anyway, they do a line of British infantry, which seems to be intended for the 1940 Norway campaign, but these figures seem like they would serve as representatives of Canada’s minuscule prewar Permanent Force.



These fellows have the box respirator that interwar and early WW2 Commonwealth troops carried, so that works well.  It would be better if they were in nice warm fur hats, but I suppose some RMC martinet type has insisted that they all wear the regulation tin hats.   I have a reinforced section of riflemen plus command, a Bren and a sniper team, and some signallers ordered, so they should provide some effective support to my Mounties.

While I wait for them to arrive, I think I shall move those Bob Murch mad trappers back onto the painting table and get them done.   And there’s a model zeppelin to assemble.

Blessings to your plans!



Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Scenes From Hot Lead 2019

Last weekend was Hot Lead, southern Ontario’s biggest (and, I think, best) tabletop wargames convention, which celebrated it’s 25th anniversary, a  considerable achievement for its organizers.   I was able to get to Stratford and attend Friday and Saturday.  I did a little admin to help the redshirt crew of organizers, got to play a bit, and got some images of some of the many games.

One of the many tables hosted by OHA (Ontario Hobbit Adventures), a super-dedicated group of gamers dedicated to the Games Workshop LOTR rules.  The terrain is quite stellar.

The Battle of Britain, one of several large-scale games run by Bill Bean.

Adam Gow’s fantastic samurai table using Test of Honour rules.   The photo doesn’t do this table justice, but the stone pillars along the path and the buildings all featured hand-soldered LED diodes.   It was quite magical.

Some chaps came up from the States to run this Battle of Hastings game, using a new set of ancient and medieval rules called TRIUMPH!   I wasn’t really tracking the game, but people seemed to enjoy these rules.

Dan Hutter’s crzy multiplayer games are a Hotlead fixture.   This is an ancients skirnish game set in the back of beyond of the Roman Empire.   Dan described it as “lying, bribing, cheating and back stabbing”.


Three more tables run by the Ontario Hobbit Adventures club.   The quality of the bespoke scenery attracted a lot of attention and admiration.


Another of Bill Bean’s BIG WW2 aerial games.   These B17s are off to bomb the Reich.

But they’ve met some opposition.

 I had a chance to command a MIG-15 in a 1950s melee with some NATO Sabres, in one of Keith Burnett’s meticulously organized games, this one using Check Your Six rules.   It was very zooms and shooty, but the NATO flyboys had the worse of it.

 Another Hot Lead veteran game master, Ian Tetlow, ran a reprise of his 1914 Le Cateau game.   Here the Kaiser’s hosts prepare to step off.

 Somewhere in this terrain lurk the BEF defenders.

 The German objective, this British battery, ignores the skirmish behind it.  They obviously have a more important fire mission.

 A very big Star Wars game.

 Another of Dan Hutter’s crazy multiplayer games, and a Hot Lead tradition, “Mongols With Mausers”.  Chinese warlords, Mongol bandits, European adventures, Reds and Whites mix it up on the Silk Road in the 1920s.

 Of course there are silly hats.


Dan receives the Emperor’s congratulations on a fine game.


 An amazing 1/32nd scale WW2 game using the FL What a Tanker! rules.

Basically a big game of cat and mouse. 

 With big cats.

 Speaking of big cats, this Leopard from James Manto’s 20mm Afghanistan collection watches as ISAF and ANA forces move forward against heavy Taliban resistance, 

James’ terrain is all home made and very effective.

I didn’t get the chance to stay on Sunday or see the epic SF/steampunk game which is another Hot Lead tradition, but it was a grand time out and good to see the hobby going strong.  There was some talk from the veteran gamesters about passing the torch on, and after 25 years, I don’t blame them for thinking that they’ve done their bit.   Sometimes I find that wargaming is a lot like church, in that people with gray hair worry about the institution dying out, but I saw enough younger gamers present that I’m not too worried about the future.

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