Monday, 29 April 2019

Command and Colours: Ancients

It came to pass, perhaps old hat to everybody else but I have never played it and it seems to be a stalwart of the wargaming community. In fact I think it a transition game between miniatures and board-games. Indeed the likes of Tim Gow uses the (modified) rules with hex based boards and his miniature armies (see below, not cheap but full of kit - a game to be played though):

It starts with Rome and Carthage which means a bit of background reading is required by me, as most of my ancient knowledge is based around Greeks to Macedonians beating up the Persians. That stuff is in later expansion packs (which I see as perfect birthday and Christmas presents). I see a long journey ahead of me. I am hoping perhaps to get the family involved because of the blocks and ease of set up. However I see myself moving to figures in the mode of Tim Gow.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Perhaps the Best Family Game Ever?

It seems to be part of a family tradition to buy a Family (or Euro) Game. Last year it was Hare and Tortoise, this year Ticket to Ride (see below, truth to be told I had had my eye on this one for quite a while - I was tempted by the Europe themed one but in the end I went for the original game thinking they were on to a winner given the freedom of the US of A, the Eurpean game had to cross water and navigate the Mediterranean): 

And I bet most of those Seven Million copies of the game that were sold were definitely played and thoroughly enjoyed. I am thinking that giving "games" is a perfect Xmas present to close friends and family .. although best think twice before giving "Cards Against Humanity" and be sure to read the small print (ahem, NSFW version of Exploding Kittens!) first. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Easter Adventure with Soldiers in Silloth - Museum of 54 mm Magic

Easter holiday fun! The good people of Silloth obviously have some RAF (or Coastal Command) as shown by this Lockheed Hudson ornamented flower bed (see below): 

They also had an interesting museum, whose opening times posed a little bit of a challenge but I managed to get in to see their wears on Good Friday (see below):

Waterloo in 54mm looked spectacular - although I am currently assembling some 28mm Perry's and Victrix chaps whom I consider big (see below, I have to say it "worked" for me, maybe Sharp Practice 2 beckons):

The ACW was more the toy soldiers I remembered as a kid, but not this many (see below, not too sure what the Union gunners are doing at the bottom of the photograph):

These Franco=Prussian "Flats" were the closest is cam to seeing 'wargamers scale' (unless you have become infected by Tim Gow's dangerous past-tines - and don't tell him I have a couple of 54mm Tamiya WWI Tommies partly painted). You have to 'look twice' before you see they are not 3D - or catch them from the side (see below):

The Western Desert looked potentially doable for Chain of Command - but you would need a very large table (see below, I love the Matilda II and Grant - though off camera to the left is a **mm Flak Gun which may well spoil their day): 

To my delight (not so the wife) they had a "rake-out" selling odds and sods. So I picked myself up some very old Practical Wargamer magazines (see below, I was more RPG'ing as an undergrad in those days so missed this magazine the first time round):

I have to say they were all crammed (literally tightly packed type-face) full of interesting stuff. Perhaps my tastes are now wiser or the content in the modern mags is more focused on plenty of photogenic materials and historical detail light (or am I being cynical?). Nice catch methinks.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Did You Know: All Maps Are Wrong?

Informative and quite scary:

Mercator (the old school book friend):

Gall-Peters (the truth is out there"):

So you see Africa is very big and Greenland looks bigger than it should really be!
Check this out ... "the true size of countries":!MTc0MjYxMzA.MjY2NzY3MA*MzYwMDAwMDA(MA~!CONTIGUOUS_US*MTAwMjQwNzU.MjUwMjM1MTc(MTc1)MA~!IN*NTI2NDA1MQ.Nzg2MzQyMQ)MQ~!CN*OTkyMTY5Nw.NzMxNDcwNQ(MjI1)Mg~!GL*NzgwNjU.MzM2NDQxNDA)Mw~!AU*MTEwOTg0.MTA4NDM2MDA)NA~!RU*MA.MTgwMDAwMDA)NQ

Little did I know that my Geography Teacher was a Colonial Propagandist!

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Command Magazine Ziplock Game: Midway (Play Test)

Of the Command Magazine Ziplocks series from the 1990's this (Midway) is my favourite and I reckon the most "pick-up and playable" game they produced. It was their "golden time" when IMHO they were winning against S&T. I have the game Ziplock but alas never picked up the Magazine and its detailed description of the midway campaign (see below, here are other more complicated Midway games out there, but this one strikes a nice balance between complexity and play-ability):

A simple map but intuitive orbat alongside it gathers everything you need together - a nice piece of game design (see below, the IJN display is shown below - tons of kit heading to Midway): 

The counters are clear and crisp - good quality production for the early 1990's. Red for the IJN, Blue for USN, Green [not shown] for Marine Units from Midway (see below, ships surface-air-move factors, planes air2air-air2ship-range - USN Wildcats (AF 5)are bounced by IJN Zeros (AF 7) nasty for the US!):

We played an earnest play-test, conducting searches and scenario deployments with the Japanese assault train moving steadily towards Midway, with the IJN CVs using a fog bank as cover to get in as close as possible to Midway without detection. The game played through and a mutual air-strike took place. The USS Yorktown was attacked by teh 1st and 2nd IJN Air Fleets. The Yorktown's planes missed their targets but the IJN arrived on time and en masse! (see below, Task Force 17's air defences were swamped):

The USS Yorktown was duly dispatched as well as some cruisers and destroyers with other damaged (see below, most units have two steps strengths, but some weak ones only one step - a hit on a CV has the unhelpful effect of prohibiting flight operations, which can mean a lot of ditched planes in the sea):

We played on a few more turns. The Japanese ahead with the Americans moving in to defend Midway with the USS Hornet and USS Enterprise. The IJN carriers are keeping a respectful three hex (out of air attack) distance. Midway itself is crammed with Marine aircraft and is in effect an unsinkable CV. The IJN plater (me) was waiting for the assault force to go in to wear down the attackers before "going after the carriers" - logic being that the US player will have to try and attack the IJN Invasion Fleet and would suffer losses in the process): 

You get an idea of how much kit the IJN player has(see below, look at all those counters to the right hand side):

I have heard it said by another ''credible wargaming source that the US Naval War College since 1950 have annually wargamed the Midway Campaign and the US side has never achieved a victory on the scale of the historical event. It would be great to corroborate this if at all possible.

Next: We decided that as good as it was as a two-player game we were going to play the full-thing with an umpire so Fog of War could really play its part.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

War Gaming and Victory in the Pacific War (WWII) - another FREE PDF (from the US Naval War College)

Keep reading Ed Caffrey's Book but please note ...

Courtesy of PaxSims another FREE PDF book with a very catchy and interesting title: Winning a Future War: War Gaming and Victory in the Pacific War.
Between 1919 and 1941, the U.S. Navy transformed itself from a powerful if unsophisticated force into the fleet that would win a two-ocean war, from a fleet in which the battleship dominated to one based on carrier strike groups. The great puzzle of U.S. naval history is how this was accomplished. Well-known naval analyst Norman Friedman trenchantly argues that war gaming at the U.S. Naval War College made an enormous, and perhaps decisive, contribution. For much of the inter-war period, the Naval War College was the Navy’s primary think tank. War gaming was the means the college used to test alternative strategies, tactics, evolving naval aviation, and warship types in a way that the Navy’s full-scale exercises could not. The think tank perspective taken by this book is a new way of looking at the inter-war Naval War College and the war games that formed the core of its curriculum. Although the influence of both the Naval War College’s gaming and of the college itself declined after 1933, most of the key decisions shaping the wartime U.S. Navy had already been taken. The two most important ones were on the role of naval aviation and the form the U.S. war plan against Japan ultimately assumed. As shown here, U.S. naval commanders successfully applied the lessons learned from war gaming to victorious operations in World War II.

What are you waiting for? Download it!

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Stop What You Are Doing And Read This .. FREE Wargame Book From The US Naval College

I do not know of a more inspirational wargaming practitioner and theorist than Matt Caffrey (see below, the long awaited book):

He is father of the universal Connections series of wargaming conferences over the last tree decades. He has summed his knowledge up in a book. In short read it and learn from a master. The book is available as a free download, it is that important. Please click on the following link:

A big thank you to Rex and Stephen at Paxsims for sharing this. Seriously if you don’t want to read this you are not a wargamer in my eyes, the hindsight and revelations are profound.

Monday, 15 April 2019

RPG Nostalgia: Gary Gygax Biography - Audible Book

I indulged myself in a nostalgic trip to before my roots in RPG when Dungeons and Dragons was but a twinkle in Gary Gygax's and Dave Arneson's eyes (see below, I loved it and it fleshed out the back story to the evolution of the game system):

Interestingly Gary Gygax was also an avid board and war gamer. Avalon Hill's Gettysburg was a favourite of his. On the morning of Gencon One he tip-toed across his front room, trying not to tread on sleeping bags of dozing fellow gamers and the 1/1200 scale models from the previous nights Fletcher Pratts sea battles! Respect. In fact Gencon One seemed to be as much wargaming (WWI Dogfights and Napoleonic Sea Fights) as well as Chain-Mail with its Fantasy Supplement!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

I succumbed - 5th Edition D&D Players Handbook

After reading the Starter Set cover-to-cover does it come as a surprise to anyone I just 'had to' go and get the Players Handbook so I could roll up some PC's of my own or some interesting NPCs? I thought not (see below, colourful - nice artwork and entertainingly written, it has even got my son reading which in this electronic age is an achievement): 

Next Stop: The Dungeon Masters Guide, when I save up my pocket money that is!

Saturday, 13 April 2019

The Lost Mines of Phalinder: 5th Edition D&D

The adventure rolls ever on. Rather than having scraps of paper stuffed into the back of books to be lost down the backs of sofas I kinda wrap everything up in a big roll of paper [£1 from the Pound Store or DIY Store]. That ways I can draw a map and move on chronologically, setting up little vignettes and scribbling things down. At the end of the night I just roll it up (see below, the lower portion of the map details the journey from NeverWinter - past the Goblin Ambush [spoiler alert] and arriving in Phandolin):

The adventures approach the camp-site of an Evil Mage and "bump" into his 'zombie bodyguards". Negotiations (assisted with a PC Charm Spell cast on the Evil Mage) are about to begin (see below, the four adventurers are approaching B, E, S, W which means three zombies each + the spell caster, all depends on an important saving throw):

The "New Guard" (my eldest son and one of his friends) of players were introduced to the "Old Guard" - my old school friends who last played D&D under AD&D First Edition, back in the 1980's. Boy that makes me feel old. The Old Guard were more than prepared or willing for the Young Guard to earn their spurs - as in do all the dangerous stuff ;)

Friday, 12 April 2019

Command Magazine Alexandros - Play Test (2) The Battle of Gaugamela

The Battle of Gaugamela .. where the "King of Kings" .. the bearer of the Holy Flame of  Zoroastrianism ... has chosen to fight the upstart Alexander. Darius' forces are enormous having used four turns of replacements to good effect, amassing every little (and big) troop counter he could lay his hands on. Darius III was even 'provoked' to attack Alexander before he received useful reinforcements of pike and light troops from Macedon (see below, [Persians are Orange/Yellow - Macedonians are Light Blue - Greeks on Persian side are Red - Darius' Royal Family are White] the massed ranks of foot [including Greek mercenary hoplites] hold the Persians centre, with massed archers and cavalry [an experiment combination] on the flanks [intending to outflank] and an assortment riff-raff left in reserve [including a chariot and an elephant] guarding Darius' Royal Family): 

The Macedonians are a thin line "but incredibly hard". Parmerio leads the attack [Note: Only one box can 'attack' with its front line on turn one]. Darius III (me) had great hopes of inflicting grievous loss on the approaching Macedonians with missile weapons but the arrows and spears bounced of the heavy armour of the pikes and heavy horse (see below, Darius III is quickly reassessing his tactical deployments - they certainly didn't call me Darius the Great):

One light Persian unit killed outright and three routed. Still plenty more where they came from [gulp - my extensive second line means I can still fight for the left wing] as the Macedonians retire back to their original box. Perhaps my horses will be able to do better (see below: already I am thinking of deploying my [Darius'] reserves to my "halved" left- not a good sign):

Darius tries to outflank on the extreme right and throws his cavalry at Parmerio. The Persians/Greek  suffer light casualties but Parmerio is locked in combat and in the following turn suffers a step-loss and forces a leader casualty roll. Parmerio the old war-horse of Phillip falls in battle as a true warrior (see below: this was a welcome turn of events for Darius - better a lucky General than a talented one):

Alexander is spurred to try and end this quickly he attacks Darius' Royal Guard and they too are locked in combat. Meanwhile the Persian archers are finding some success on the Persian Right Flank. Darius continues his great enveloping outflanking moves (see below, the Persians are extending their lines and becoming thinner as a result - and possibly vulnerable to counter attack. Darius is worryingly in combat with Alexander - something he should not be doing [4 versus 9 leadership ratings tells you why]):

The Persians are considering a sneaky win by getting four units in the Macedonian reserve box. This causes a flight of the lights back to the Macedonian "camp" to forestall this cunning plan. Alexander at this point commits an all out attack along the line. "Let the die decide" is the Macedonian battle-cry (see below, that must have been very strong wine they were drinking last night - see now that Darius is safely in the second line of the centre box, away from Alexander and his Companions. Alexander has already survived one leader casualty roll, contemptuously shrugging it off):

The result is a sea of carnage. Both sides wings are exhausted. They are incapable of real offensive action. The Persians look strong in the centre but their best troops the Greek Mercenaries are down to their last steps. With night fast approaching Alexander senses one last chance to grasp victory, otherwise Darius may slip away (see below, Alexander seems intent on cutting his way through teh first line to Darius himself):

Two Greek Mercenary Hoplite units are torn apart and Alexander is locked in combat with another. The Persian line is crumbling their second line troops are poor, Darius throws them forward to bleed so night will save him. Alexander rolls his combat [a 6 but "low was good"] and his unit receives a step loss which means a leader casualty roll .. made by the Persian [a "1"] which means KIA .. but the special Alexander rule is invoked and this is ignored but a re-roll is required (see below, "gulp" this is getting tense):

All dice rolls are made in the "basin of fate" [also known as the 'Saturday morning pancake mix bowl"] and the tinkle of the dice on the glass echos .. and stops. Another "1" .. "snakes eyes" .. Alexander falls from his horse, the Greek Mercenaries have avenged Memnon .. an Empire of Man falls .. the Acheamenid Empire is saved and the course of history is changed (see below, "Oh Fortuna"):

Night is falling. The battle has been horrendous. The death toll exceeded the routing boxes. The pursuit of the Persians. The Persians possess still 'fresh' Cavalry and Light Troops, these will undoubtedly take its toll and it is unlikely that any of these brave Macedonians will ever see their home again (see below, "Game Over"):

A good battle with such a fortuitous end of game die roll. We still consider this a play test as we are fathoming out the nuances of a tactical system. We have re-bagged the original armies and we will try this battle again. Assuming a victorious Alexander it will then be the second part of the campaign system (to Afghanistan and then to India - then a return to Babylon). Watch this space for more details. So impressed with this old classic game. Taking a look back through my other Command Magazines and Issue 14: Midway looks appealing!

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Command Magazine Alexandros - Play Test (1) The Battle of Granicus and the Campaign System

The hand of Alexander reaches across the game board and Persians tremble - they thought the Anthenians and Spartans were trouble, he is about to rewrite the history books. Alexander lands with the Macedonian Army in Ionia and immediately faces the Greek General Memnon who in charge of the Persian Army at Granicus (although in history Memnon was forced to fight Granicus by his Persian Overlords - his suggested strategy was that of "scorched earth" and retirement into the depths of the Persian Empire, but he was overruled by the Satraps had too much [possessions and income] to lose). So Alexandros has a "special turn one" tactical game (see below, Granicus was fought with a a tactical system almost a pre-cursor to Phil Sabin's Lost Battles - though without the nuanced detail):

Alexander does far better than history as the troublesome Memnon is captured early on causing an "Army Rout" (see below, Memnon's fate can be left to the readers imagination - I don't think it would have been a pleasant one though, a Greek fighting for the Persians, historically I think he was wounded but annoyingly for Alexander lived to fight another day, many a day in fact and was a constant thorn in Alexander's side):

Memnon is replaced with a "zero value" Persian  leader ... and the army scatters into two adjacent provinces [actually I got this wrong as you need a leader to move troops so they would have all gone to one province]. The Macedonians invest Sardis and the Satrap throws open the gates as opposed to resist the siege [advanced riule]. The conquest of Persia has started (see below, Alexander presses on to cut the Gordian knot Halicarnassus falls to Parmerio):

The Persian army retreats and Alexander leads his Macedonians all the way round to Lydia, killing the remaining Persians and having his revelation at Ammon he is the "King of all Men" (see below, no Persians in sight .. they are all gathering around Darius in Babylon):

Darius is waiting in Babylon - be not fooled by the absence of a stack of troops as they are "off to the side" (see below, rather than build up defences Daruis elects to spend all his reinforcement points on the Royal Persian Army):

The turn track shows that Alexander has gotten off to a speedy start. His "coastal strategy" has picked up areas adjacent to the sea hexes but that means there are a lot of interior Persia held provinces which feed Darius with reinforcements for his army. Alexander by this time has fought two large battles - the initial Granicus [as historical] and [a smaller than the historical Issus encounter] one in Lydia (see below, we are less than a quarter of the way through the whole campaign):

The Macedonian has to leave a chain of garrisons [of at least one step] to conquer the area in the name of Alexander (see below, each garrison is one less step in the Alexandrian Army):

Again the newly conquered Egyptian lands must also be garrisoned. This time Alexander uses local (Persian) levies from his reinforcement points to rule in his name. Many a Macedonian grumbles at this but they understand and prefer to have extra Macedonian troops to face Darius in battle (see below, if a counter is one step and has different colours on reversed sides it can be used by either player - first come first served [blue for Macedonian and sand/yellow for Persia]):

The two armies move adjacent to each other. The Persians decide to take the initiative and attack - this means combat resolution on the tactical battle display (see below, note a white counter is a "depleted province" marker which means large armies would role for attrition id they stay in it):

Next: This is set up for The Battle Of Gaugamela (or Arbela) to be played

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Waterloo in York .. 5,000+ 15mm Soldiers on Table

A slightly dodgy introduction to this story would be "imagine my surprise" when walking down the back streets of York (on an unplanned family day-trip) to be lured into a church hall on the pretence of "The Battle of Waterloo"! What is going on here, I had actually walked past the venue, but was stopped in my tracks by an A4 notice strapped to a lamppost. "I think it's back there," said the wife - so while she and the kids went to see Dinosaurs in the York Museum I loitered back and said "I'll just see what it's like" which was updated to you "see you in twenty, after the Dinosaurs". Minus one in the "good Book" column! I have to say though the whole set up was spectacular. They had set-up on Friday night and they were still playing ti the finish on Sunday mid-day to early afternoon. Epic stamina as well as epic proportions [they did sleep I believe].

Please see this link for what the organisers had to say:

The high point of the Allied cause, the Prussians crushing the French (including the Young Guard) at Placenoit (see below, alas despite their obvious success it seems that they have taken too long):

The Allied left (on the ridge) tells a sorry tale, the British-Dutch-Belgian forces have been broken in two. Here the remnant of the force is being shepherded in sheep-dog fashion of the table Papelotte just visible on the left hand side of the photograph (see below, heavy artillery and French columns hitting the two remaining battalions):

Towards the centre, behind La Haye Sainte, the victorious French on the Allied left have swung into a deadly hinge threatening the Allied squares bunched in the centre. Wellington was looking decidedly nervous. He had survived a reconstruction of Ney's ma cavalry charge in the centre but had been severely pinned down and mauled in the process (see below, his [Wellington's] cavalry reserves had all gone and the Middle and Old Guard were massing at the bottom of the slope):

The Allied centre, battered but [at this moment] still holding, the fight to its left [top right of the photograph] behind the ridge-line betrays its "dire straits". The French have set-up the final "attack of the Guard" with the British defending two ways (see below, I believe that is the fateful hand of the Emperor himself has been caught on camera, see bottom left):

The Allied right had been mauled early on as the French had ignored Hougoumont completely (which is always the problem with a Waterloo re-fight, for without fixing "Victory Conditions" or rule/scenario constraints the temptation is for the French to "ignore it" - but Napoleon did consider it too important on the day to ignore - perhaps that was because of too poor intelligence and bad staff work - as plagued the campaign of  "The 100 Days"). Most of the fighting had been around the far right of the Allied line and very attrition, but the Allied did hold their own to the credit of their player! (see below, Hougoumont would not need to be rebuilt from the foundations up after this battle!)

One last panoramic shot which won't be pleasing to the Allied eye. The Middle and Old Guard can be seen massing next to Napoleon's fists [indeed one thinks they are Napoleon's Fists]. The Allied left is holding its own [just] but Hougoumont is off camera [deserted, the French just walking past it at this point] but along with the centre is about to be sorely pressed (see below, alas at this point I had to say "Adieu" and return to my family to learn tales about dinosaurs [and pay for lunch as penance]):

A fabulous looking game [spectacle is probably more deserving], played in what I could see as great spirit (using the latest [Edition 2] of Shako I believe]. As stated in the title 5,000+ figures [although by this stage a fair few from both sides were in the dead and routed box], every battalion that fought was represented and beautifully sculpted terrain. Brilliant and money also raised for a good cause. Hats off to the lads who put this together! (PS: Apparently they are keen on ancients too!)

Waterloo related: Waterloo Uncovered - As seen on the BBC News Website -

The article was posted 16th July 2018 but the game is scheduled for June 2019. The insane figure quoted was 20,000 figures! Does anybody know anything more about this?

Monday, 8 April 2019

Infinity Wars -- Disney Models

There must be a game there! (see below, two sets of heroes and villains):

Box 1:

Box 2:

I resisted the temptation, partly because of the scorn of the wife and partly because the kids would just take them! (As is their right!). No scenery in this scale!