Thursday 30 August 2012

Recent Ancient Fury but WWII is Not Forgotten

Time TravelingWargame Interests
From: 5th Century BC to 20th Century AD

Confession: I recently was in a model shop and couldn't help myself acquire the kit that "was never there as a boy" (anybody know that feeling?). For love nor money you could not get it in plastic as a boy, the British Cromwell, a much maligned medium tank (when compared against a German Panther tank). The nearest you could get would be a tricky Comet conversion that perversely 'downgraded' its wargaming fighting potential. True I already have some in ArmourFast, Revell and two makes of resin but I do like the new Airfix moldings so I am a happy camper (see below):

The second item was a reunion with an old friend, the Airfix T34/76 or T34/85, two kits for the price of one. This is an old mold but still a classic (see below):

Now I somehow have to make some time to make them, perhaps if I get "lost" in the garage for an hour or two ;)

Wednesday 29 August 2012

The Spartan Phalanx (Lambdas added)

Again after the Basic Impetus battle I figured the 15mm Spartans had also earned their spurs and they too "should have their decals". Thankfully this was a much simpler affair as I used some Veni Vidi Vici for the simple Spartan Lambdas. Just as well as the Spartans are from Chariot Miniatures and have a more rounded shield so the LittleBigMan decals may have been a challenge. The full phalanx is shown below:      

I also decided to be more individualistic with the Spartan helmet horse hairs on the front rank. For several years now I have had a 'mute' dilemma as the first rank as shown below are technically all Spartan 'officers' with a 'traverse crest' (aka the Chariot Miniatures Spartan hoplite front rank pack). I had the historical urge to have one officer a base and paint up a load of other normal Greek hoplites for the rank and file on the base. However I have no urge to make my Spartan army that big (cf, I am a DBA rather than DBM man) or have a lot of painted Spartan officers with nothing to do so I have finally "let it be". I think they look the part with the Lambdas now on (see below):

A longitudinal shot of the Spartan "wall of killing spear" (see below):

A close up of the "yellow/gold" Lambdas (see below). Note: The second rank Spartans are much easier to group together (with their spears pointed up) than the first/second rank combination. On refection or rather hindsight I would have ignored the front rankers entirely and just based up twelve stands of second rankers for the Spartan DBA Army OoB. . 

The six stands that make up the rear/second rank of the DBA Spartan Phalanx, as in half their army (see below):

Again it deemed appropriate for post 480 (Thermopylae) to be Spartan hoplites, though not 300, and yes I do have a stand of helots ;)

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Athenian Hoplites (WIP)

As befits "post 479" (cf Platea) I present my Greek Athenian hoplites from Xyston. Now I consider Xyston to be the Ferrari of 15mm miniatures. Though it is a blessing and a curse at the same time, because of my love of their detail I cannot rush them and always want to them "justice", hence progress can be somewhat slow. After my last Basic Impetus battle I decided it is time to reward my Athenian and Spartan hoplites and they had earned their shield decals. Those who know me or have read some of my blog posting will know I don't really like doing decals, it's that final fiddly bit I find really annoying (but strangely satisfying when done). However as a treat to my Xyston Athenians I cracked open the LittleBigMan hoplite decals I had been saving for a rainy day (see below):

Now these shield transfers are an art form in themselves. They are truly beautiful, but their application had been scaring me for the best part of six years and I was hoping they had not "gone off" as per Airfix decals of old! They are not the normal water soluble kind but are an adhesive stick on 'wonder product'. They have three layers: a protective outer covering once removed revealing a sticky inner you slap on the shield, reversing onto the model. Then there is a protective layer of paper stuck onto the transfer by water soluble glue which when wet slides off the decal revealing a mini Greek master piece (see below - and Iapologize as my BB camera does not do them justice):    

A word of advice, follow the instructions. My first transfer was wasted and I nearly cried my eyes out, as stated clearly in the instructions, paint your shield white for best effect. Once on you cannot move it around and pulling it off destroys it. Getting the shield in the middle is an art that comes with practice, however touching up the transfer around the shield with paint is nearly always necessary (to merge the shield with the figure seamlessly) and allows you the opportunity to shadow in and highlight to cove up slight imperfections. The flatter the shield also the better! I would practice first on the not so symmetrical transfers first (see below - the first three shields on the right hand stand are good examples of this): 

The biggest pain was snipping around the shield decal as the closer the cut to the circle of the decal the better, otherwise you could get an annoying 'see though' overlay spoiling the figure. That aside, it is worth it! I also have some Veni Vedi Vici shield transfers which are thoroughly passable (see below) but suffice it to say I was so awe struck I 'upgraded' enough of my hoplites required to field a full DBA Early/Late Athenian army.    

All in all a satisfying follow on to the (albeit Basic) Impetus outing :)  

Friday 24 August 2012

Back to Basic Impetus (3) "The Pointy End of Hoplite Warfare"

The Athenians line up to the 8cm "distance of decision". They do have an overlap advantage of six units of hoplites to the Spartan five currently in line of battle (but Sparta has a slight edge in quality), the sixth can be seen in the bottom left moving up as well as the Spartan Helot slingers moving across the back of the battle line. The bearded sea pirate of an Athenian strategos, sipping his pint of Guinness 'finches' and goes for it, electing to move the whole Athenian block as one, as is his right. The sacrifice he latterly made in the Temple of Athena in Athens Acropolis may well come off. The die is cast and a "2", the Athenian Phalanx despite their illustrious paen (battle hymn) fail to contact (see below):   

Oh dear, the professional Spartans has an automatic contact and the edge of their impetus factors. The outcome is utterly horrid for the Athenians and one of glory for the Spartans (see below). Blue or Black for disorder and Red for a combat hit (size of counter does not matter here, the Spartans just have bigger ones, nuff said). A mainly disordered Spartan line faces a disordered and hurt Athenian line.

As the rounds of melee stack up units start disappearing from the Athenian line of battle as routing hoplites discard their armour and run for the safety of the ships. True, some Spartiates have fallen, but no Spartan unit has been broken and the battle has all but been decided (see below):  

What kind of monster would insist to play another round? Well technically I needed to know the total casualty count for campaign purposes, but I also wanted to sadistically see it through to the end. I did even offer to switch sides and have the dice thrown at me, but to his credit the bearded Athenian sea pirate finished his drink to the sound of a cracked army collapsing in a heap (see below):  

Sparta had triumphed in a rather convincing historical outcome but there was concern on the mechanics of how, as in there seemed little or no benefit from playing Basic Impetus over the Full Impetus rules.

Difference between Full Impetus and Basic Impetus (lacked):
  • No Multiple Moves (this makes a huge difference in game play)
  • No Evades (well technically they kind of was but not explicit)
  • No Opportunity Status (giving the ability to react in opponent's bound)
  • No Command and Control Restrictions/Bonuses
  • No Die of Destiny (re-rolls)  
Conclusion: Stick with Full Impetus, the game system is better (certainly historical flavour) and takes just as long to play. Also the rules are not like DBA to DBM, the whole idea of Basic Impetus was to bring gamers into some themes critical in Full Impetus as a transitional step, not an alternative system. Trying to remember both systems would be a nightmare for my tint little mind.An outstanding concern was how to attribute casualties to an army in a campaign, the above woulh have wiped out the Athenians. Despite this should they be allowed to recoup some?

Thursday 23 August 2012

Back to Basic Impetus (2) "The Trouble With Lights"

The bearded sea-pirate of an Athenian Strategos spat curses of utter contempt at the perceived impotence  of his "lights". At a dither with the interpretation of the Basic Impetus rules he (the Athenian) decided to try and just "throw them in" to try and make a dint in the Spartan Phalanx before the Spartans hit the Athenian Phalanx. His best hope is to perhaps with a lucky hit from missile fire. The Spartan (myself) was urging him (the Athenian) to wait and sneak round my flanks. With gusto the Athenians stayed and threw their missiles but to no effect. Then on their turn the Spartan Phalanx treated them like a speed bump and ran them down (see below):

The only memory of the Athenian lights passing was two temporary disorder markers on the Spartan Phalanx after the close combat, no more Athenian lights to worry about (see below). Note: We had by this point figured out by reading the relevant paragraphs over and over again that the two rear Spartan units were not disordered by the act of wheeling, only it they wheel and then move at the straight line afterwards.   

The Spartan Phalanx meticulously unfolds to the trembling knocking knees of the Athenians hoplites facing them (see below). The Athenian commander again was caught in another Basic Impetus rules dilemma, "he who hits first has the impetus bonus" and you can only attack in your own turn (and there is no 'opportunity status attack' as in Full Impetus). As the hoplites move 5cm + 1d3cm (6-8cm) you position yourself 8cm away from an opposing battle line and then see who 'flinches' first. I you don't get in (as in roll a 5 or 6) the momentum crashes into you instead.

The Spartans meanwhile are content to extend their line (see below):

The Athenians meanwhile edge closer to the 8cm apart distance. (Note: Some annoying light infantry worrying the Spartan flanks would have been useful at the point - salt being ground into the Athenian's open wound)

Next: The Tango Hoplite Style

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Back to Basic Impetus (1): "In Search of a Quick Game"

I have a quandary. I wanted to put on the Greeks in Peril 480BC DBA Campaign at my local clubHowever the Hartlepool Club I go to have moved on from DBA to playing Impetus (and in 25mm, but that is a minor point as my 15mm kit can make up the required Impetus army lists too). Trouble is (at least the way I play Impetus) a 'tactical battle game' will take longer than an average game of DBA. Thus a question was raised, "Would a game of Basic Impetus play any quicker?" to fight the tactical battle while retaining the DBA style campaign map?

Some Athenians [commanded a nameless bearded democrat to whom I plied alcohol] landed on a rocky Peloponnesian shore to find out the answer by fighting some Spartans [commanded by me] (see the Spartan army deployed below, with a long wooden measuring stick delimiting the edge of the world). The cunning Athenian commander had placed some nasty terrain in the middle of deployment zone, the alcohol had no quite taken its effect yet, so Sparta to my frustration starts all bunched up and in two ranks of hoplites).      

The Athenians are out of their triremes and waiting for us (see below). Six hoplite formations and three light psilio formations (to use the DBA vernacular).

Sparta needs to move and expand beyond the limitations of the bottleneck of terrain (I also have six hoplite formations but only one unit of lights, but I am of better hoplite quality). The blue markets below denote disorder, but a misreading of the rules misapplied them, they shall mysteriously disappear from later photographs. Explanation [Basic Impetus]: If a unit "moves and wheels" it gets disordered, if it "moves or wheels" then it is OK. I had only wheeled my reel units of hoplites therefore I should not have been disordered.

After a conference of commanders we agree that we have over bulked the light formations using four instead of two standard DBA bases, so they "disappear" and we both agree the visual effect is much more appealing. I am still disordered when I should not be but never mind. The Athenian decides to "worry me" with some lights before I manage to lengthen my line (see below):  

The Athenian lights come into their respective missile ranges (different ones for slings, javelins and bows - which could be viewed as flavour or unnecessary complication depending upon your tastes) and we try and work out how lights can fight and evade, without the Full Impetus "evade" rule. If you move and fight then a movement combat modifier meant you could not hit! How do these lights work?

Well we couldn't quite figure it out, I thought it quite deliberately meant that you were supposed to keep to the flanks and just fight other "lights" or hunker down in bad terrain, and basically don't mess with the Phalanx which was historical. The old Athenian looked rather more perplexed and 'could see no use or reason for them' (perhaps the alcohol was now taking effect!). [Footnote: We found after an overnight read the (-1) combat modifier was not to be applied to the lights so they could 'shoot and move away', but this came too late to save the Athenian Lights as you may have already guessed by the plot spoiler below]

Next: Death of the Light Brigade

Saturday 18 August 2012

USN Late War Battle Wagons: Pacific

Along with the refurbished battleships of Pearl came the opportunity to also paint their successors of the 16" big gun brigade (see below). Four of the best, with the Washington 1922 Naval Treaty 35,000 tonne limit no longer applying, commission into service in late 1941/1942. They are the USS Alabama, the USS Massachusetts, the USS Indiana (Navwar code N6103) and the USS North Carolina (Navwar code N6104).  

Despite the era of the battle ship being technically over they were nevertheless usefull AA and naval bombardment assets. Below is a closer look at the USS Alabama:

Again in slightly better light (see below):

And her sister the USS Massachusetts (see below).

The difference in deck colouration is on my whimsey after a Google search on USN WWII camouflage patterns in the Pacific :)

Friday 17 August 2012

WWII Naval Musing: Early and Late Pacific USN

From ancient triremes to WWII battle-wagons and flat-tops. I live in a strange universe, such are my tastes.

Scratching around in the loft for a "misplaced electrical item" post-home move of some four months now revealed a forgotten pre-Xmas 2011 mini-project of mine. Some 1/3000 Pacific USN ships. The first in the context of  "an alternative battle set-up" could potentially have fought in The Battle of the Java Sea, that is had she not been caught and crippled by the Japanese Imperial Air Fleets (and subsequently scuttled). I present the USN Langley in her 1942 guise as a Seaplane Tender (see below):  

She started her life as a lowly collier (the Jupiter) but was converted in 1920 into the US Navy's first experimental aircraft carrier. Her fate was then twisted her from flat-top first team to backup in 1937 (pre-war contingency planning coming into play methinks, as a seaplane tender she did not count as tonnage to aircraft carriers) to a Seaplane Tender. When the Japanese caught her near Java she was packed with 32 Curtiss P40 Warhawks which if landed could have made a difference replacing the obsolete Brewster Buffaloes in the air defense of Java. With better top cover ABTA may well have had better pre-battle intelligence and fared better psychologically too. The model is still to be based, is from Navwar, code N6206A (see below):

This is a photograph that could never have happened. The USN Langley (then long sunk) with the rebuilt battleships of the Pearl Harbour 'Tora Tora Tora' battleship squadrons, all that is apart from the Arizona which suffered a magazine explosion on the day that utterly destroyed her. They again are Navwar ship models (see below). Codes: USN Mississippi (N6108a), USN West Virginia (N6106B), USN Pennsylvania (N6109B), USN Maryland (N6106A), USN Tennessee and USN California (both N6107A).  

A final close-up of the USN Mississippi (see below). The camera is on my BB and sadly only goes so far in catching detail. I'll have to did around in the loft again to see if I can find it and unearth some other treasures as the same time!

These ships were drawn up to the 'almost ready for battle stage' (I have their cardboard bases stored next to them to complete) as I was reading up about the Leyte Gulf and in particular the Japanese "bluff" which brought about. The Battle of the Surigao Strait. Not a fair sided battle for sure but as one who appreciates "hopeless causes" to aid in the 'grand scheme of things' an utterly enthralling affair. Yes I also have the Japanese units for this engagement, with a few cruisers I suspect needing painting attention.  

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Naval Gazing: Thoughts on Salamis

Along with the 15mm land aspect of the DBA "Greeks in Peril 480 BC" campaign there is the inescapable fact that there was also a very important naval aspect to it, some could argue the most important aspect. Athens in particular was strong at sea, they either fielded hoplites on land or marines at sea, but not both. Thoughts turn to toys: 'currently' I am thinking either the Navwar 1/1200 triremes or their smaller Outpost Wargame Sevice1/3600 alternatives (see below):

The Navwar models were borrowed from a friend who had acquired a few unpainted from an eBay.sake. The Navwar model is basic but then again so was the shape of the trireme (shown below with sail stowed away in battle mode, though the model looks so much better with it up). Hmm, even with a bit of filler applied to the mast hole it's just a basic "brown" model (I don't think the trireme was really ever inspiring painted as any paint would soon come off - please correct me if I am wrong) apart from the bronze ram and the Greek "eyes" which my eyes couldn't do in 1/1200.

One model looked lonely so I started an experiment with two of these models but then it just looked too cramped for my taste on the 30mm square sea bases I was hoping to use (see below):

This left the initial outsiders Outpost Wargames Service in the miniature 1/3600 (no real detail just paintbrush highlights which has a certain appeal to it) a chance to show their worth (see below). Another plus was that these chaps originally sent me a free sample or their wares when I originally asked what their range was like. (Note: "Other" albeit larger scale manufacturers scoffed at the thought of a 'sample', I even returned their email explaining I would have paid for a sample but I was also seeking a sense of the viability of the project as couldn't just buy a Salamis fleet on a mere whim). The results are quite pleasing (see below), two unmasted ships with a third masted to denote an Admiral's stand:

I am torn, the Outpost offering seems the best (certainly not cheap based on the need for "80-120 (depending on scaling)" bases, 240-360 models doing by the David Manley "Greek Fire and Roman Fury" ruleset I intend to use ) but part of me thinks I could do equally well with printed ships on card stock. Can you hear the model lover inside me "scream" out loud at the thought? ;)

Monday 13 August 2012

25mm/28mm The Shape of Things to Come

Or rather 'the shape of things that are already here', if only my existing Greeks and Persians were not of the 15mm (midget) variety. A couple of 25/28mm Warloard Games cast offs (well twelve all told) from a fellow wargamer have come my way and I just had to put a couple of them together. Just to see what they were really like you understand (see below):

Funky chaps, the "Spara with Bara" (laid flat, see below):

The good thing about plastic is that it urges you to paint quick and a little bit sloppy, so these chaps may see a bit of colour yet (see below):

So far I have resisted but only because of my pre-existing 15mm metals, but if ranges such as "Biblical" or "Chariot" boxes appear I may well be camping out at the head of the queue.