Monday, October 16, 2023

Games From My Past

I admit that I was a weird kid.  In senior high school I was poor, had no car, and was thus severely handicapped in the dating game.  What I had was a love of military history, a small income from summer jobs, and an older friend, David, son of my parents’ friends, who introduced me to paper war-games.    Thus I had a subscription to SPI’s house organ, Strategy and Tactics, and an opponent who was happy to beat up on me on evenings when I should have been learning calculus (I never did).   To this day, old hex and counter war-games, especially SPI titles and their distinct, slightly musty smell, are a Proustian gateway to the late 1970s.

Thus it was with great happiness that I discovered via Twitter a fellow who was selling off a considerable stock of old paper war-games.   I took a bit of a risk in sending him money (I won’t disclose the sum but, while considerable, it was very fair) and then waited while the promised games were boxed.  Once I got a legit tracking number, I figured he was a decent chap, and sure enough a box arrived last week, a sort of time capsule of SPI at the height of its powers in the late 1970s.

Two of these games are well known to me.  I played Empires of the Middle Ages a lot in undergraduate days, and it probably cemented my desire to do graduate work in medieval studies.   SPI’s Middle Earth trilogy was likewise something that I played, a LOT, though sadly I sold both titles during a period of youthful poverty.

The other two titles are ones I’ve wanted for a long time.  Art of Siege features four famous sieges from Alexander’s siege to Tyre to Lille and Sevastapol in the gunpowder era.   Never played, long wanted.  Likewise, Campaign for North Africa is the Mount Everest of paper monster games.    It has a legendary aura, as a ludicrously complex, unplayable white elephant, but as someone who once played Avalon Hill’s Africa Corps, it represents the extreme other end of the complexity scale from that legendary AH game.  Will I play CNA?  Maybe.   Maybe I’ll die with it on the shelf. But I had to have it.

Did I say that these four games were unpunched?

Blessings to your die rolls.


Sunday, September 24, 2023

Finished First Playthrough of Burma: The Forgotten War

I’ve finished my first solitaire play through of Mark Herman’s Burma: The Forgotten War from C3i Nr 35.  Here’s a quick look at how this game and it’s Empire of the Sun system is card driven.   Both sides get four cards in each of the four turns, but at the start of Turn 4 the Allies get a US B29 unit and through a successful Strategic Warfare turn have reduced the Japanese hand to three cards.   Of these, the best card is Col Tsuji, which if used as an Event card gives Japanese land units a boost but doesn’t allow any of the (still substantial) Japanese air units a boost.   The other two cards, if used as Offensive Cards rather than events, don’t activate that many units (the large number top right hand corner plus the HQ value of 1).

On the other hand, the Allies get four cards, all of which can be used as Events, in which case the number of units activated equals the Logistics value in the text of the card plus the HQ value of 1.  So the Allies can punch hard against the Japanese in the last turn.

And the final result at close of play.  The Allies have totally broken the Japanese lines.   One Japanese air and land unit at the top right is isolated and out of supply,  and their are only two Japanese land units left defending Rangoon.  The Burma road from Jarhat in North India can be traced all the way to Kunming in China, India is militarily safe (though politically a little wobbly) and China is still very much in the war, so one the Victory Points are added up, it’s an Allied decisive victory.

Somebody on Twitter (I refuse to call it by E Muskrat’s name) quipped that game designers are too fond of the word “Forgotten” but truth be told this is the only WW2 game I’ve ever played on the Burma campaign.  I have an MMP game on Burma which I haven’t tried yet, but I think that has a crunchier land war focus, whereas Herman gives you a good sense of the limited options available to the Japanese and the limited resources the Allies had to prosecute this theatre.   In another game I might explore the Chinese subgame more, where the Japanese can just defend on the map and use more cards for Chinese offensives (abstracted) which can drive down China’s ability to stay in the war and thus possibly yield more VPs.   Any Japanese cards that can be played to destabilize India are also worthwhile, as that does limit Allied replacements for their land units.

Good to play a hex and counter game again.  I recently purchased Mark’s South Pacific: Breaking the Bismarck Barrier 1942-43 game (C3i Nr 30) which also used the Empire of the Sun system, and now that I know the EoS mechanics I can give it a try before I try the big game.

Cheers, thanks for reading, and blessings to your die rolls.


Monday, September 18, 2023

New Ottoman Figures and Excellent Service From Warfare Miniatures USA

Pray ye, gentles, pardon this blurry picture of some ancient 28mm Ottomans in my collection, they were quickly painted back sometime in the 1990s and are a mixed lot of Janissaries and the lower row are Tufeckis.  I have no idea what make of figure they are or how I acquired them.  Judging from the primitive muskets they are meant to be 17th century.

I wanted to flesh out the fellows on the bottom into their own unit, and so while searching the internet for Ottoman figures and flags, I came across Warfare Miniatures USA, based out of Virginia.  They specialize in 17th / early 18th century figures.

These are some of the Warfare Miniatures Tufeckis compared to one of my old painted ones.  They compare well in size, though the new figures have longer muskets, which are sadly a bit bendy but otherwise the figures are decent.

And finally, here are the paper Ottoman flags that arrived in the same shipment, printed cleanly on heavy card stock.

Before I close, a word of appreciation for this vendor.   When my original shipment arrived via UPS while I was on holiday and then got returned after I missed the deadline for final pickup because I was out of the country, Clarence at Warfare Miniatures USA reshipped the order via US Postal Service and didn’t charge me for the second shipment,  A real gentleman, and I commend his customer service and products to your consideration.



Monday, September 11, 2023

Game On The Table: Burma The Forgotten War

Hello friends:

Just a quick proof of life blog post to show that I’m here and still interested in wargames, just terribly short of time.

On the gaming table currently is a paper game, Burma 1943-44, The Forgotten War.   It’s a design by Mark Herman that shipped in the most recent C3i Magazine publication of Rodger McGowan which is essentially the GMT Games in-house magazine.

This is a strategic-level game that uses the same engine as Herman’s Empire of the Sun (2005) which covers all of WW2 in the Pacific.  I have EOS but thought that the Burma game would be a good way to learn the system, which is card-driven and focuses a turn on a series of possible military, political or economic events.   Cards can be played for specific effects as printed on the card (eg, the Japanese can use certain cards to make India more politically unstable for the British and cutting off key reinforcements and replacements needed to police the Raj instead of supporting the Burma offensive) or the like.

Or, cards can be played for their logistic and command and control values to allow certain units to act offensively, or to react defensively.   Thus, it’s not one of those games where every unit can do something during each turn.  It requires a lot of thought, and as it’s a card game, would doubtless be more fun as a two player game.

The puzzle for the Allies is to use their limited resources to punch a hole through the Japanese defences and push on Rangoon before the war ends.  The Japanese have a decent army and some air units, and can either play defensively or make their own attempts to reach India or knock the Chinese out of the game.

Not a simple game but it’s short (four turns) and halfway through my first try I’m enjoying it and feeling like I’m mastering the system.

Cheers and blessings to your die rolls,


Thursday, July 6, 2023

WIP: 28mm TAG Janissaries

Hello friends:

As usual, the usual disclaimer about not having posted much here because too busy, real life, etc etc.

I can report some progress on the podcasting front, there is new edition of The Canadian Wargamer Podcast just up, in which we talk mostly about a big Napoleonics kiegspiel we just finished by email.

On the painting front, other than some scale model aircraft, I’ve been working on a unit of 28mm Ottoman Janissaries, metal sculpts from The Assault Group, very nice figures.

I’m totally improvising with the uniforms, just whatever colours strike my fancy.  Someone said on Twitter to me today that blue was a standard Janissary uniform, but the rest (and especially the officers) was whatever took my fancy.  To me the Ottomans are practically an Imaginations army anyway, but they give my Seven Years War Russians an opponent while I work on my SYW Prussian collection, a longer term project.

The blue and red are GW/Citadel contrast paints, the rest are mostly Foundry tritone paints with some AK thrown in.

Hopefully I’ll have this unit fielded by midsummer.

Thanks for looking,  be well and blessings to your brushes!






Friday, May 26, 2023

Painting Styles: A Thirty Year Journey

This week a new unit was mustered into my 18th Century Russian army, and a suitable parade was organized. The First Grenadier Regiment’s new banners (flags by Adolfo Ramos) were blessed by the Czar’s preeminent mad padre, Father Mikhail Petrovich.  

Then, the Grenadiers passed in review before the commanding officer.  So why is this the First Grenadier Regiment?  Because it is the first such regiment that I ever painted, some thirty years ago, sometime around 1990 as I recall.  

Here below on the front of the right-hand base you can see three of the original figures, Front Rank Russian SYW grenadiers advancing which I purchased from the long defunct and legendary Emperor’s Headquarters, which I once visited on the south side of Chicago (I think it was the south side, it was a long drive).  I was a starving graduate student at the time, on a tight budget, so I think I purchased sixteen figures.   I was working from black and white drawings in a book on SYW Russian uniforms that I was lucky enough to find, and used whatever paints I could lay my hands on.   The green of the tunics was from a bottle of FolkArt craft paint (I want to say the colour was named Clover??) which wasn’t as dark as the traditional Russian Green of the period but I thought maybe the coats could be faded?

The other figures with the upright muskets are recently purchased from Foundry, which as I’ve said here before is now my go-to range for 28mm SYW.  Once I started rebasing my SYW figures six foot to a stand, I realized that I needed more Russian grenadiers to flesh out the unit, so I ordered another 18 of these figures from Foundry and got to work on them last month.   

In thirty years I’ve learned a few things about painting.   As you can see on the old Front Rank figures, I was fairly ignorant of layers, shading and washes.   The skin was very pale, and I had an idea that if I mixed red with flesh for their cheeks, they’d look a bit like toy nutcrackers,   I did my best with the eyes, but hey have that starey look to them.    I think I mixed some red with a bit of yellow to try and give some highlights on the red turn backs, but highlighting was something I didn’t really understand well.



The difference now, besides thirty years experience, is that I can afford better materials and brushes, which offsets the slight deterioration that my eyes have experienced.  The Foundry figures are painted using he tri-tone Foundry paint system in the school of Kevin Dallimore, and as someone kindly said on Twitter the other day, these new figures are done at a good tabletop standard, a compliment I’m glad to take.   

It gave me great pleasure to fold these old and new figures into a composite grenadier battalion, and to give them spiffy new flags.   It’s a small tribute to thirty years of trial and error and slow improvements, but I love them all.   These figures and the rest of the Russian army are rumoured to be preparing to march against Turkey.   More on that soon.

Thanks for looking.  Blessings to your brushes!


Blog Archive