Sunday, August 31, 2014

Diplomacy Game Results For Spring 1901 Turn

Results for Spring, 1901 (Movement)

General Notices: No retreating units; retreat phase skipped.

Order resolution completed on 31-Aug-2014 at 12:14:40 EDT

From the Daily Dissembler’s European correspondent.

Following a winter full of warm professions of peace and good will between the Crowned Heads of Europe, the movement of forces at the start of the campaigning season suggest that peace is not on anyone’s mind.

Of greatest interest to our readers will be news of a large clash between the Black Sea fleets of the Russian and Ottoman Empires.   Reports from fishermen who witnessed the battle suggest that the two fleets approached each other and suddenly began exchanging salvos for at least a half hour, until both lines of battle turned and headed for their respective ports.   Loss of life and ships in the battle is unknown at this time.   The Dissembler hopes to have comments from bot courts in due course.  Can this skirmish have been the result of a misunderstanding, or will war follow?

A source at the British Foreign Office suggests that elements of the Royal Navy have been sent north to protect British cod trawlers operating in the North and Norwegian Seas, but protect them from whom is the question of the day.  It is unknown how the British react to the German High Seas Fleet and Army occupying Denmark.   England and Russia appear to be moving on Norway and Sweden respectively to protect their interests.  

The massing of armies along Russia’s western border suggests that tensions are rising in the region.   It is unknown if the German and Austrian armies in Silesia and Galicia are cooperating.  

The presence of Italian soldiers in Tyrolia is certain to cause comment by the German and Austrian emperors.   France’s role in this matter is also uncertain, though it’s occupation of Piedmont suggests that Paris has intentions in the region.   The absence of French and English naval moves into the English Channel suggests an understanding between the two powers, at least for now.

The Daily Dissembler will endeavour to have comment from Europe’s Crowned Heads in its next issue.

Order Results:

Austria: Austria: A bud -> gal Austria: F tri -> alb Austria: A vie -> tri

England: England: F edi -> nwg England: A lvp -> edi England: F lon -> nth

France: France: F bre -> pic France: A mar -> pie France: A par -> bur

Germany: Germany: A ber -> sil Germany: F kie -> den Germany: A mun -> ruh

Italy: Italy: F nap Holds Italy: A rom -> ven Italy: A ven -> tyr

Russia: Russia: A mos -> ukr Russia: F sev -> bla Bounced with ank (1 against 1). Russia: F stp/sc -> bot Russia: A war Holds

Turkey: Turkey: F ank -> bla Bounced with sev (1 against 1). Turkey: A con -> bul Turkey: A smy -> con

Deadline for next orders is midnight EDT, Saturday, 14 September.

Right, I’m off to have a margarita or three.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Paint Table


This week saw a little more work done on the 28mm Redoubt ACW minis that will form my Irish Brigade regiment.  Second of the three flesh shades has been added, and now I’m working on the muskets and hair.  The sculptor gave these fellows big shaggy heads of hair and abundant mutton chop whiskers and beards, so I need to pay attention to that aspect.   In the background are the GMB flags that they will fly once finished.   I’m doing some testing on shading for the kersey blue trousers.   One fellow, third from left, has been giving a coat of Citadel Drakenshade dark blue wash on his pants, and I’ll then add a lighter shade of pale blue as highlights for the fold and creases in his pants.    Another test figure, once finished, will simply get a wash of Army Painter soft tone, without the Drakenshade wash, and I’ll see which one I like better.   I’m very hopeful I can get these fellow done and off those uncomfortable nails by this time next week.

At far left is the 4Ground Sentry box, which has been painted and based, just needs some flocking and touchups.

Tomorrow once I finish preaching (my priest is on holiday this weekend) and I get home, we’re having some friends over for margaritas, so I doubt I’ll be in any shape to paint tomorrow!  

Blessings to your brushes and a good semester to all who are going back to school in one capacity or another.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Fistfull Of Limbers

No those aren’t aeronefs flying high over the countryside.  Baccus 6mm French Napoleonic limbers.

Pity the poor limber model.   In larger scales you don’t always see them on the gaming table because they’re expensive to buy, take time to paint, and take up space on the tabletop.  I’ve seen many games where players, myself included, move their artillery with the gun barrel pointed at their starting line, and then show the guns are deployed by turning the gun to face the enemy.  

In the really small scales, like 6mm, my reasoning was that there should be room on the table for limbers to properly move the guns around, and for caissons to keep them in supply and for everything to look proper and military.  So I’m happy to say that with these four limbers, I’ve finished the original Baccus order from two years ago, which is a mildly depressing thought that it’s taking so long, but anyway.  

Here’s the uniform I was aiming for, a soldier of the Train of Artillery, one of Gnotel’s wonderful colour paintings.   G.R. Elting’s commentary on the plate notes that the Train uniform coat was gris de fer, (iron gray).  It looks darker in the plate than the very pale blue that I ended up painting on these figures, and lighter than the blue I used for the caisson drivers from a year ago.  Variations in dye lots and issues, I suppose.  


Here’s the artillery all together.  Rather impressive, I think.




I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some of the new Baccus French sculpts, but for now I still have a lot of French figures from the collection I bought this winter.

Onwards and upwards.  Hopefully I’ll be able to put enough French and Austrian troops on the table that I can start playing with the Polemos rules.

Vive l’Empereur!


These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

 28mm Mounted: 13, 28mm Foot: 25, 28mm Artillery: 1

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

 15mm Vehicles: 5, 15mm Foot: 26, 15mm Terrain Pieces: 3

 6mm Foot:  120, 6mm vehicles: 4, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

 Kilometres Run: 808

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Boardgame: GMT's A Distant Plain, First Impressions

I never got to deploy to Afghanistan, despite my best efforts, but at least I get to go there now, sort of.  I’m just coming to grips with  A Distant Plain (ADP), part of GMT’s COIN (Counter Insurgency) series of simulations.   I say simulation deliberately, because it appears to me that the designers, Brian Train and  Volko Ruhnkehave thought long and hard about making this a model of the political as well as military issues of the Afghan conflict.


So first impressions.   ADP doesn’t seem to be an easy game to play at first glance.  There are no playing pieces with comforting NATO symbology, combat values, etc.  There are a LOT of tracks on the board and information markers.   There are a lot of cryptic wooden playing pieces in various colours.   Fortunately, there is an excellent step by step player’s guide which has an extended tutorial that I’ve been working through very carefully and deliberately, and the more that I see and learn about it, the more that I am liking it.

ADP is a game for 1-4 players and has four sides:  the Coalition (Western/NATO powers), the Afghan government, the Warlords, and the Taliban.   It would be a total blast with four players, but is very suitable for solitaire play as either the Coalition or the Taliban, with decision tree charts guiding the actions of the non-player factions.

The sequence of play appears to be quite elegant.  There is the inevitable deck of cards (do any wargames published these days NOT come with a deck of cards?) but instead of holding cards in their hands, the cards are turned two at a time, so all players can see the card for the current turn as well as the card for the NEXT turn.  Besides special events which can be chosen by either the Coalition/Afghan (the COIN) players or by the Taliban/Warlords, the cards determine sequence of play.

As you can see from these two cards, at the top of each is a row of four symbols, each corresponding to one of the four factions, so on the right hand card, the Counter-Narc card, the Warlord player’s symbol is first on the left, so he can go first, then the Coalition player, then the Afghan gov. player, then the Taliban.  The order is slightly different on the left hand, “Line Item” card, which governs the next turn.   The catch is that if the Warlord player acts on the first card, there is little he can do on the second card, so basically you get to move every other turn, near as I can tell so far, which means that you have to be fairly careful in deciding when you want to play and what events you want to capitalize on.

Here’s one of the areas on the map, Kandahar Province.  The tan block is a Coalition force, the Green disc is a Warlord base, the smaller green circle is a Warlord guerrilla unit, the black disc with the star and crescent is a Taliban guerrilla unit, the two light blue blocks are Afghan gov police and the two dark blue blocks are Afghan gov military.   Control of a province goes to the Taliban if they have the majority of units in a province, or to the COIN forces (coalition and Afghan gov if they have a majority of units.  In this photo, currently, there are 5 COIN units to 2 Warlord units to 1 Taliban unit, so the COIN side has control and can count Kandahar towards its political and resource totals.  Here is a cool thing.  While the Taliban wants to control provinces, so do the Warlords, but for different reasons.   If the Warlord player has the majority of units in a province, neither the Taliban nor the COIN side controls it, so the Warlords have their own discrete victory conditions, and in a multiplayer game, would be the player that both sides would court, because even though the Warlord has the fewest units, he has the the potential to wreak a lot of havoc.  If you think of the current crisis with the Afghan elections stalemated between two leaders, one from the Pashtun south and one from the Tajik north, you can see that the game designers have thought a lot about how the Warlords represent the non-Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan, and what a complicated business it all is.

Guerilla units can either be operating openly, in which case the symbol is shown, or they can go into hiding, in which case the cylinder is inverted to show a blank side.   The COIN player has a harder time finding and eradicating hidden guerrilla units.

Hopefully next week I will have more game time in, and can report on how the game plays, but for now I wanted to give you a sense of the mechanics of what promises to be a terrific game and model of a complex war.  In other board game news, I finally got my copy of the new startup magazine, Ares, which true to its old SPI namesake, ships with an SF game, in this case, one based on HG Wells War of the Worlds.  It looks cute and at some point, once I get out of Afghanistan, I’ll show it to you.

More to come.  Blessings to your die rolls!




Monday, August 25, 2014

Another Weird War Update: Vampire Weekend

My two werewolves have been keeping bad company this weekend.  The lady in the middle is also a Reaper Miniature, a lady vampire that reminds me of the Hammer Studios movies that troubled my pubescent dreams.  She joins the ranks of the baddies in my Weird War project.


When she’s not preening in the graveyard, she’s doing important work within the shadowy wing of the SS dominated by SS Gruppenfuhrer Strasser.  As anyone knows who’s seen Coppola’s Dracula (1992), it’s pretty much obligatory for powerful vampires to have a retinue of wayward young women.   Her duties will include interrogating captured Allied airmen, spying on the Gruppenfuhrer’s human rivals, and nighttime strolls along the Unter der Linden


 I’m not entirely happy with her fangs.  She rather looks like she has two white straws stuck under her upper lip, but they do look noticeable from a distance.  On the plus side, I’m fairly happy with the flesh tones.


 It’s rather an odd sort of funeral monument that the sculptor has chosen.  It rather looks like a Celtic cross with the top bit removed, but I suppose that gives her a place to park her ample charms.



Team Vampyre ready to put the bite on the Allies.

These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13, 28mm Foot: 25, 28mm Artillery: 1

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

15mm Vehicles: 5, 15mm Foot: 26, 15mm Terrain Pieces: 3

6mm Foot:  120, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 796

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Beer Can Chicken

So in my previous post today I referenced beer can chicken and one reader wasn’t sure what I was referring to.    It may be a North American thing, since I recall now that the British Army chaplains who used to visit my house during my last posting were always unsure what it was as well.  I’m not sure how common they are in Europe, but in Canadian suburbs, most people do their cooking outdoors on their gas grills during the summer months, and some like myself have been known to cook on them during the winter.  Usually I just do burgers, pork chops, the odd rack of pork ribs to keep the heat down in the kitchen during the summer months, but this is a special recipe for the occasional lazy weekend.  Beer can chicken has a blue collar, redneck aura to it, but it’s fun to cook and delicious when you do it right.

Here’s what it looks like.

Mmmmm, delicious.  Here’s what you need.

1) A whole chicken - they are getting pricier all the time.  I was lucky enough to find one yesterday at the grocery store for just under $10 Canadian.

2) An outdoor barbecue or grill.  I have a decent propane gas grill, but I suppose you could cook it on charcoal.

3) A specialized stand like the one shown here.  I got mine from WalMart for less than $10C but I’ve seen fancier ones sold elsewhere for more money.   Most hardware stores, like Canadian Tire, or online stores like Amazon, sell versions.  I also use a stainless steel bbq tray as you see above.

4) A can of beer.   I prefer using a lager or lighter beer or an IPA.  Today it was a Moretti.  

5) Herbs.  There are many recipes for the herb coating but today I was lazy and used ClubHouse Italiano herb mix.

Here’s what you do.

1) Thaw your chicken and make sure the interior cavity is empty of gizzards and other nasty things.

2) Drink roughly half your can of beer (the best part).  Then use a knife or can opener and make 3-4 holes in the top of the can around the hole where you drink the beer from.

3) Inset the can in the beer can holder and place it on your cooking pan or tray if the beer can holder doesn’t have a built-in pan as some do.

4) Insert the, ummm, beer can in the chicken using the chicken’s, err, posterior orifice.  Liberally coat the exterior of the chicken with your herb mix.

5) Place the whole thing in your grill or bbq and turn the heat to as low a setting as possible.   Put the cover down on your grill.

6) Let the chicken cook for between 90 minutes to two hour.  Start checking on regularly it after 60 mins.  You don’t want to cook it too hot and too long or it will dry out.  If I was smart, I’d use a meat thermometer, but I simply stick a knife in and look to see if the juice is clear, which is how I was taught to see if chicken was cooked.

7) When it’s done, carefully remove the chicken off the beer can, using washable oven mitts or several paper towels, etc.   Pour the remainder of the beer from the can onto the chicken.   As you do this, you may notice that there is less beer in the can at the end.  It should come apart easily with a knife, but shouldn’t be so cooked that it falls apart at the touch of a knife. 

8) Have another can of beer as you enjoy your chicken.

 That being said, there is a fierce debate over this method, and whether it is the best way to cook a chicken.  Some say no and claim to have science behind them.  All I can say is that Madame Padre and I quite enjoyed our beer can chicken tonight.


Saturday Painting Table

I spent most of last week away, but made a little more progress on the current project, a bunch of 28mm Redoubt ACW infantry in shell jackets that will become the 88th New York, the second regiment in my Irish Brigade project,   I’m not good at painting large batches of figures, so to take a break in between attacks of ADHD I started assembling and then painting a 28mm 4Ground WW2 sentry box to protect the lair of my Weird War baddies.   I like 4Ground stuff a lot, it’s fairly was to assemble and looks good when done.  

No fresh baked bread to show you but later today I’m doing a beer can chicken on the bbq with Melanzine Ripiene alla Pugliese (stuffed eggplant Puglia style, but it sounds better in Italian) so drop by if you’re hungry!  Blessings to your paint brushes!


Friday, August 22, 2014

Weird War Two Update: Reaper Werewolf Reinforcements

In a dark recess of the stranger part of mind, my Weird War Two project slowly takes shape, and occasionally intrudes onto my painting table.  Here are two more figures for that project, both Reaper Miniatures figures.  About two years ago, I introduced part of the backstory here.  In my strange version of WW2, a sinister SS sub-unit under the command of Herr Doktor Stahl discovered that the virus for lycanthropy could be identified and administered to specially selected volunteers.   These volunteers were chosen as prime Aryan specimens in excellent health, willing to give their all for the Fuhrer.  Unfortunately, those who survived the initial physical shock of transformation often went mad and were difficult to control.   Over time, it was discovered that women handlers were more successful than their male colleagues, who were frequently dismembered and devoured.   So it was that Sturmbannfuhrer Ingrid Schmertz was chosen to lead a crack group of female soldiers, recruited from leading Nazi families as the military part of the team.   The Werewolf Project is regarded with suspicion and jealousy by the secretive and powerful Vampyres who have nested in other parts of the SS leadership, since as is well known, vampires and werewolves are ancient enemies.

My goodness, that’s enough nonsense for one day.  Here are some minis, for crying out loud.


Thanks, I work out, I try to keep in shape, do a lot of CrossFit.


Look at my furry butt!  Look at it!

 I was delighted to find that Reaper also makes a female werewolf.  Presumably one of Sturmbannfuhrer Ingrid’s troops volunteered for the program - or is that Ingrid herself, on a moonlit night?

Ingrid with her friends.   I need to keep an eye out for a few more decent werewolf figures in 28mm.


Because Ingrid has the rank of major, she needs some troops to command and keep her pets safe from Allied special forces raids, or from her male SS rivals and their vampiric masters, perhaps?  These are Bob Murch Pulp Figures, and I’m looking forward to painting them in due course.  That’s all from the Weird War front for now. Stay vigilant, chaps!


These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13, 28mm Foot: 24, 28mm Artillery: 1

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

15mm Vehicles: 5, 15mm Foot: 26, 15mm Terrain Pieces: 3

6mm Foot:  120, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 784




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Diplomacy Game - We're Off!

We have our seven players and a few on the waiting list for seats and we’re under way.
For the benefit of spectators, here are the notes I sent to the players.

1) The official rules we will be using for this game will be the 4th edition rules published by Avalon Hill in 2000, because they seem the most generous in terms of examples and clarity for new players.
2) The game is Blind.  If you use social media to talk about the game and another player picks up on who you are, well, I can’t prevent that, but the game is formally blind.   I ask that you send all Diplomacy through me.  Eg, if you are Russia and you want to propose an alliance with Turkey, send me an email with the header Message to Turkey and I will forward it to the Turkish player as promptly as I can.  Unless I slip up, all group emails with have the players on the BCC string.

3) The game will be played in two week turns.   48 hours before the deadline, I will send out a reminded deadline to everyone to get their orders in by the deadline.

4) Players are responsible for learning the rules.  See my blog for some helpful links or use your google skills, there are lots of Dip sites online. Orders should be in something close to standard Diplomacy syntax, e.g., A Bur sup A Pic to Bel.  

5) Players who miss two turns in a row will be removed from the game.

6) I will post updates and comments on my blog after each completed move.   There will an award for the best diplomatic role play, in the form of a miniature painted by myself.   I will also award a painted miniature to the winner.

7)I downloaded a java-based mapper and move arbiter from - it looks like a useful way to test your orders and practice the game if you like.

So the first turn ends on Saturday, August 30th at midnight my time.  Good luck and have fun!
Blessings to your intrigues!  MP+

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Painting Table

Not a lot of painting got done today, even though it was a good day to stay indoors - an unseasonably cold and wet day here in SW Ontario - felt more like October than August.    I spent more time in the kitchen than at the painting desk.  I like baking, and I’ve found a great recipe for Italian focaccia bread — this is focaccia genovese, with a mix of basil, rosemary, parsley, freshly grated parmagiano reggiano and olive oil sprinkled on it as soon as it comes out of the oven.  Yummy!'


There was a little work at the painting desk today.   These three 28mm Reaper figures (two werewolves and a lady vampire) are pretty much done and just need final basing - they’re for an off again, on again Weird War Two project I’m working on..  Behind them is the next job, a unit of 28mm Redoubt Union infantry that I started over a year ago and then lost interest.   I’m really trying to get all my old projects done before I start something new.

I’m off to Ottawa on a research trip so it will be sometime next week before I’m ready to show off these three baddies here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finished: 15mm PSC Soviet T34s



My 15mm Soviet WW2 project took a step forward recently when I finished off a box of Plastic Soldier Company T34 tanks, purchased from my favourite wargames emporium.   Here they are on maneuvers, with a Battlefront resin road and a 4Ground building in the background.  Is that the Dniepr glinting in the evening sun behind them?

I’m still liking my decision to start using bases for my vehicles.  It’s hard to see but I kept the weathering to a minimum in the interests of time, just a bit of Vallejo Panzer Aces Rust on the tracks and some dry brushed Yellow Ochre on the tanks for a coating of summer dust.  Terrible lighting in my basement.  Hopefully once I move next year, I’ll have a proper window in my gaming room.

That’s my attempt at hand painted Cyrillic tank slogans.  I bought a white gel pen at a craft store but found that the nib was hopelessly fat, so I took my smallest and best paintbrush, took a shot of gin to steady my nerves, and consulted my favourite website for Russian propaganda posters.


The great thing about this particular PSC set is that it provides turrets for both the T34 and the T34/85 models, should I want these tanks for a late-war game.


Glory to the Soviet tank forces!  On to the West!

These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

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

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

15mm Vehicles: 5, 15mm Foot: 26, 15mm Terrain Pieces: 3

6mm Foot:  120, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 770

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rebel Raiders Recap


I hate this cruise company!  I’m never booking with them again!


I meant to report on this yesterday (the putative Tuesday Boardgame feature on this blog) but didn’t have time.   Last week I described the GMT game Rebel Raiders On The High Seas, a strategic-level game about the American Civil War at sea.

My solitaire game ended in a blowout, with the Confederacy achieving a Sudden Death Victory in the Summer 1863 turn.   By that point the Union had only captured four of twenty CSA Cities/Ports and had enjoyed a spell of terrible luck, losing several key battles to tied dice rolls.   While the Union successfully took Norfolk, VA using the Sea to Shining Sea card, which allows two extra Amphibious Assaults in a turn, and had a clear shot at an undefended Richmond, the CSA had the Longstreet card, giving an extra assault die which rolled a “6”.  The rebs win ties in Assaults, so old Pete saved Richmond and saved the Tredegar Ironworks, a key production centre for the CSA.  At Vicksburg a small CSN flotilla and battery gutted Porter’s ironclads, while Farragut, with a mighty armada, crapped out at Mobile.  A terrible turn and fairly typical of US dice luck.  With six Raiders active at sea (including one that SANK a USN screw sloop in the Whaling Area - the only time a sloop CAUGHT a raider and it gets promptly sunk!), and several good turns by Blockade Runners, and the CSA maxed out its VPs, forced the Union to Fail a Resolve roll, and ended the game.  

Half way through I realized I was doing a few things wrong.  I didn’t realize that Union Screw Sloops (the blue water navy) take 2 turns to build and not just 1, which gave a USA advantage, but I also didn’t realize that one could assault a CSA Port/Fort even if it was defended by a Battery.  Only CSN ships must be defeated first before an Assault.  The Battery may be present, but it gives the CS player an extra assault dice to roll.  That latter mistake was an advantage for the CSA, because the USN took heavy ship casualties trying to assault several positions with just batteries present.

After one complete play through, I have to say that I REALLY like this game.  The cards are a satisfying source of chrome and historical flavour, and the game is a real challenge for both sides.   For the Union, I think that the key to success in 1862 is to divert precious build points into buying extra assaults, since the USA MUST reduce the number of CS cities/ports early on if it is to have any chance.  The blockade is great, but taking ports is the best way to defeat the Blockade Runners.  

There will be a replay.  I just unboxed another GMT game, A Distant Plain, Brian Train’s treatment of contemporary Afghanistan, so hopefully I’ll have something to say about that next week.

Blessings to your dice rolls!  MP+

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Diplomacy - Who's In?

Again with the Diplomacy!  Last Friday’s post garnered a lot of comments in a short period of time, and it was terrific to hear so many great stories about this game that many of us have a love/hate relationship with.   I hope to answer your comments shortly.  They all made me quite nostalgic and I went and pulled my original copy off the shelf.


It’s a little stained and battered in a few places, but not bad for it’s forty+ years and the sight of that board and artwork still gives me a bit of a shiver.

So here’s the deal.

Who’s in for a blind email game?

I’ll act as the referee and the point of contact.  

I’ll take names via email, mad padre (at) gmail (dot) com.   Let me know your three preferences for the country you want to play in descending order.  If I have more than seven players, I’’ll do my best to figure out who plays what.  You have until this Saturday night at midnight EST to get in on this.

All diplomacy will go through me.   Turns will be two weeks calendar time.   Moves, updates, and snide comments will be posted regularly on this blog.

If you don’t know the rules, the original ones are here although the 2000 Avalon Hill Rules are clearer and have a bunch of play examples.  and a bunch of other resources, including maps, here.

Come on, you know you want to!



Friday, August 8, 2014

Diplomacy: Not For The Faint Hearted


If you don’t like playing games with intense people like this one, Diplomacy’s probably not for you.

Does anyone else remember Diplomacy fondly?   I do.   I may have been the only twelve year old ever to own a copy, and no one in my family understood it or wanted to play it.  I think my father understood it, but he wanted nothing to do with it.   I didn’t play my first game with real people until college, and usually things went fine until someone realized that the game favoured Machiavellian-style Realist game play, served up with dollops of treachery that would make a Renaissance Doge approve.   usually they realized this while watching an “ally’s” rapier emerging from their chest.

I played one game by mail in the days before computers (and won) but I recall that the poor GM had to find quite a few replacement players when others dropped out.   All negotiations and moves had to go through the GM’s postal address, and I never knew the other players, but I recall that it was one of the best experiences of my gaming life.  In my last army posting, I tried halfheartedly to get some officers together for a game of diplomacy.  The idea was that we would wear mess dress with black tie, and play over brandy and cigars, but sadly they were mostly the PS generation and it never caught fire.

I still have the original set, in the big flat red box, as published by Games Research Inc, and the map board is still a thing of beauty to this day.   I don’t think any other board game, even Charles Roberts’ Tactics Two which came out a year before Dip in 1958, is as iconic of the dawn of modern wargaming.   But I digress.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to flag an excellent essay, by David Hill, “The Board-Game of the Alpha Nerds" on the way Diplomacy is played today at the tournament level, and the psychologies of the people who thrive (or fail) in that highly competitive atmosphere.  There’s also an NPR interview with David Hill here - it is very entertaining, especially the part where he brings a “ringer”, a former US Ambassador who has counselled four Presidents, to a tournament.

The average player, David Hill says, is a middle aged male nerd.  I guess I qualify, barely.

Does anyone have any Diplomacy stories to share?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tuesday Boardgame: GMT's Rebel Raiders On The High Seas

Rebel Raiders On The High Seas (I’m going to call it RR from now on) was released by GMT in 2013.  It’s a design by Mark McLaughlin, who is interviewed on the game’s development here if you’re interested.

i haven’t finished a complete game yet, but I can tell you that it’s a terrific design, that will appeal to any student of the American Civil War.

RR is a strategic game, using an area movement map and a simple combat mechanism that puts it in the lineage of classic games like Avalon Hill’s War at Sea (1976).  RR has all of the attractive art work and detailed rules that one expects of GMT.

The Union player wins by capturing the strategic Mississippi River, from Memphis down to New Orleans, by capturing ports and cities, and by establishing a blockade to choke off supplies to the Confederacy.  Units represent individual ships and squadrons, and there are three turns to a year.

The Confederacy wins by avoiding this fate, which means finding a balance between fortifying and defending key points, or by keeping the Union off balance through diverting resources to raider and blockade running ships.   Union resources spent blockading ports and chasing raiders are not available to steam into ports and duke it out with the defenders.

Combat and movement mechanisms are very simple.  The heart of the game is all about choices.   The Union player has a steadily increasing number of resources for building ships, but has to use them wisely.  Too much emphasis on capturing forts and ports leaves the raiders and blockade runners free to move and run up the score of Victory Points for the rebels towards the tipping point, while too much of an emphasis on chasing ships at sea means that a mostly undamaged Confederacy will almost certainly win the long game.

Key units for the Union are Screw Sloops (the blue water navy), and ironclads and gunboats, which are littoral/riverine capable only.   Screw sloops can hunt the sea lanes for raiders and establish an Outer Blockade, while gunboats and ironclads can maintain an inner blockade outside particular ports and fight the river war.  Confederate units include batteries for port and fort defense, gunboats and ironclads for river and coastal defence, and high seas raiders and blockade runners.  Most of these ships are generic, but cards can bring famous ships into play.  Land combat is abstract and other than batteries and a chrome rule for CSA militia, there are no land units represented.

While not a card driven game, the use of cards allows players to invoke key moments such as the Trent Affair, and key technologies, such as mines and submarines, to give the game a satisfying degree of chrome.  These cards would be a lot of fun in a two player game, but the game also works as a solitaire game.  As a two player game, I suspect it might get frustrating to the CSA player, who is restricted in his ability to strike back and mostly has to play a waiting game.

The Basic Game begins in 1861, and while there’s not a lot that either player can do until 1862, it’s a good way to learn the basics before the board starts getting crowded with ships.   The Union player has virtually no chance of successfully assaulting a port/fort until the 1862 turns begin, and even then has to choose carefully.   An unsuccessful assault on a port/fort is costly in terms of ships and VPs.  The number of assaults per turn is rationed, though later in the game the Union can be more aggressive on more fronts.  The CSA has a limited ability to counterattack, but doing so means diverting resources from shipbuilding.  Players who want to jump into the action should look at the 1862 scenario.

In the game I’m playing at the moment, it’s 1862 and things are slowly heating up.  The Union made a costly and unsuccessful assault on Louisville, which the CSA insolently seized at the start of the game, paying a small penalty to violate Kentucky neutrality.  This means that the top of the Mississippi will be a hard nut to crack, but that seems the best place to start.   The USN blockade is slowly building up, but is yielding mixed results.   In the Winter 1861 turn, 60% of the CSA blockade runners were captured, but in the Spring 1862 turn none were, and the CSA reaped quite a few VPs.   As the CSA I’ve been steadily building Raiders, and now have four operating at sea, forcing the USN to divert two precious Screw Sloops to the Pacific to defend the vital Whaling Grounds.   Raiders are tough to intercept and bring to battle, but they can’t be allowed to run around and drive up the CSA score unmolested.  However, the first US assaults on CSA ports and forts are ready to launch in the still unplayed Spring 1862 turn, so it’s still anyone’s game.

As an aside, you may remember that back in March I was musing here about what might have happened had the Trent Affair resulted in a British intervention in the ACW.   It occurs to me that with an extension of this map to include Canada and some extra counters and rules, RR would give you a way to model that what-if war.  Just a thought.

I’ll report back when my solitaire game is concluded, but I quite like this game and recommend it.  Another recommendation I’ll gladly make is the book visible in the photo, James McPherson’s War On The Waters, a cracking good book which gives you all the background you could want on this subject.




Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Finished: Italieri Country House With Porch

A few weeks back my Saturday Painting Desk post featured this model kit in progress.   Like the last Italieri kit I featured here, the stone bridge, this is also a beautifully produced model.   Other than the small shutters and window ledges, there are only a very few pieces to glue together.   The parts are made of thick, sturdy plastic and they fit well together.   Very solid and suitable for the gaming table.

When I was in Tuscany last month I noticed quite a few houses with doors and shutters painted green, so I followed suit.   Once the painting was finished I treated the whole thing to a coat of Army Painter Soft Tone out of the can, and was horrified at how glossy it all looked.   Fortunately a spray of Dull Cote got rid of the gloss and the final result is quite satisfying, especially the roof.



Somewhere in Italy, some Tommies out for a patrol wonder if there might be a store of wine in the cellar, or maybe some nice prosciutto.



The alarmingly bright green vines on the side of the house were found in a craft store (Michael’s).  




A detachable roof reveals a sturdy second floor, very easy to put figures in and take them out, like these Jerries who want that chianti and prosciutto all for themselves.



These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

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

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

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

6mm Foot:  120, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 738



Sunday, August 3, 2014

CC Napoleonics Barossa Refight - Boom!

Last week when young Kinch and I used Google Hangouts to play Command and Colors Napoleonics, using the Barossa scenario from the Spanish Army Expansion 1 set.  During that game, Kinch showed me that one needs to be aggressive and audacious when you play the French.

I left the board set up and played the scenario again solo, trying to Kinch’s advice to heart.   Here’s what happened with the score at 6-3 in favour of the French.   The second of the two British five-block Grenadier Guards units has moved up to contest the vital hill. It hasn’t had a chance to unleash its deadly firepower yet, simply because the British were unlucky getting cards to order units on their right flank.   

On the French turn, I decide to use the Probe Centre card to move order two units, one of which is an untouched Line Infantry unit straddling the line between left flank and centre.   If I move it forward and melee the Guards, the French get four dice plus 1 for the signature French characteristic bonus for infantry fighting infantry.  Hopefully the French can whittle the Guards down a little bit.  And here’s the roll.

BOOM!   The crossed sabres cause casualties in melee, and with the two infantry figures, that wipes out the Guards and gives the French a 7-3 win.   And that’s the game.

And my takeaway from this is:  Audacity.  Always Audacity.  And a bit of luck never hurts.


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