Wednesday 31 May 2017

First one off the Slipway

It may be just wood, paper, putty, cocktail sticks and a little bit of brown paint but she is a little beauty in my eyes (see below):

It also is cheap and designed to be built in bulk. I just need about another forty of these. Watch this space!


Wargame Rules: Blood and Guts

Following along the Amazon trend of "go on you always wanted to get this wargaming book at some point, so why not get it now" while shopping on Amzon to make it past the £10 free delivery level, and originally known courtesy of the informative The History of Wargaming Project by John Curry, I decided to get "Blood and Guts". Why? Well yes another set of home grown (over twenty years) wargaming rules making it to the publishable level (hell knows I have so many already, particularly WWII) but this one is coming from a former army officer (US Marines) who had always wargamed. Thus there is a meld between hobby and profession that enthused my interest (see below):

I am still in the process of reading it but I can definitely say am glad I made the purchase because it has already "made me think" long and hard. He wants a playable game, that is not chess or checkers but feels right. His rules are not definitive (he encourages discussion) and pitched at the squad element, platoon organisation and company or sub-company game scale. Lots familiar but with some twists, consider the familiar concepts of: 

  • Rate of Fire 
  • Platoon Strength

A simple mechanism reduces the former as the latter declines. Interesting enough for me to see others (as in respected rule sets) don't show that relationship. I would say Chain of Command does, but there are lots of dice! (Note: Not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but not in the place of tactics.) I stand to be corrected but Spearhead, Crossfire and Command Decision didn't observe this (albeit not necessarily aimed at the same battle scale) relationship. I am not saying that I agreed with some of his national squad ratings but his mechanism provides interesting effects.

Early days, much more reading to do,

Tuesday 30 May 2017

"Tech-3, Tech-3! Affirmative! You are cleared to land! Mission is GO! Repeat GO! GO Space Marines"

Mission: Tactical half-squads from Space Marine Chapters Blood Angels, Ultra Marines and The Imperial Fists to cause a diversionary raid on a flank (Grid Sector 55-2A) of Warp Ship Leviathan, prior to main assault going in. Event-21 (main assault) will trigger immediate evacuation to mother ship. Primary mission secure temporary perimeter without loss of assets until Event-21 signal received for immediate re-deployment to main assault formation.

And so the mission starts: Episode Four of The Space Crusade "A Quick in and Out!" What could go wrong?

Mission Transcript: Blood Angels Insertion Phase
[Sgt: Hammer] "Mission Control, confirm Blood Angels are down and bridgehead established. Preliminary scan complete .. residual alien traces detected behind bulkhead Z05, attack formation SPEAR OF DESTINY, Sergeant to the head .. door blown, I see it! Humanoid eliminated. Troopers form defensive perimeter to assess situation. Groc, Rookies! Don't cluster. I said no clustering, this Zone is still HOT! Spread out!  Movement detected in sector Red-2, multiple traces, high tech or mechanised trace signatures. Confirmed .. Enemy Chaos Marines. Iincoming round ... ...  Groc! Groc! Troopers Down!" pause  "All of them! Repeat "ALL OF THEM". It's a trap they came from the vents! Engaging Chaos forces, they won't take me so easy! Switching to head cam. FOR THE IMPERIUM, BLOOD ANGELS NEVER RETREAT!" [Transmission End]

The Blood Angels landing triggers an immediate counterattack by a half squad of Chaos Space Marines that (in fairness) manages to "get lucky" and target a cluster missile in the tight confines of a corridor. The damage effect of "three hits" exceeds the protective armour of two and takes out all the Blood Angel Troopers within the blast zone, "Gulp" (see below, Chaos never has it so good, thirty victory points to Chaos and it's still turn one!):

Seen from the killer's perspective, the Chaos Space Marine Heavy Weapon Drone (Note: Those of "keen sight" [GW modelling aficionados] may detect I am 'filling in' for the official figures (of Space Marines) with Tau ones, as I had the latter "close to hand and painted"). The Drone has "Line of Sight" (LOS) after moving out from its hidden position (see below, the Space Marine's mission already seems to be in jeopardy [ED: I can say with glee being the Chaos Commander]):

Mission Transcript: The Imperial Fist Insertion Phase
[Sgt Doom] "Fists down! All quiet. Repeat, All quiet. Scan reveals partial trace scan but all distant and receding. Troopers for m perimeter defence. Code: Epsilon. Caution, Accessing situation. Sounds of heavy incoming fire coming from Red-2. Repeat "bridgehead in sector Yellow-2 achieved! Praise to the Emperor" [Transmission End]

The Imperil Fist sector is strangely quiet (Sarge I don't like it [Ed: My eldest son was sitting in for the regular until he arrived so I wasn't trying to kill him fast]), most of the Chaos blips seem to be moving "away" from the incursion, regrouping? Then out of a concealed passageway a grotesque humanoid Chaos creature (a nominal orc) sprung out at a surprised Space Marine Trooper and engaged him in Hand-2-Hand combat (see below, middle right, [Ed: OK I wasn't going to be easy on him]):

Mission Transcript: The Imperial Fist Mission Post Insertion Update Data Burst
[Sgt Doom] "Trooper down! Trooper Down! Where did that THING come from? Form Perimeter defence. Mutual zones of fire, repeat no one gets isolated!" [Transmission Ends]

The Chaos "hit and run" tactics seem to be working better than could have been suspected (lucky dice [Ed: Slight pang of remorse, but no much as that is another 10 points]). The Imperial Fists hit back by dispatching a Gretchin/Necron (delete as applicable) servo droid but then all returns to "quiet" (see below):

Meanwhile in the Ultra Marine sector (Note: Nice decals) the Space Marines fan out and deploy. Again everything seems to be avoiding contact. The Space Marines are drawn forwards. All three half-tactical squads are separated from one another (giving no mutual support). The Ultra Marine Commander also forgot about his equipment card that could be used to reveal the identity of three random blips (Ed: To be fair so had I, but by now he should have been a veteran, it can be tough in the Corp). Then three of those random blips revealed themselves. Just a Dreadnought and two Kiler Androids.

Mission Transcript: The Ultra Marines Mission Post Insertion Update Data Burst#1
[Sgt Tosh] "Negate that. Landing Zone active, the big one is coming my way with two side-kicks in toe. Priming Mega Bomb, I'm gonna settle this thing Hand-2-Hand" [Transmission Ends]

Multiple things happen in quick succession. A Gretchin throws a fragmentation grenade that bounces off the two Space Marines playing "tail end Charlie" spooking them. The Hand-2-Hand combat goes very badly for Sgt Tosh and he disengages with a single  hit point left. A killer Android tries to follow up but is cut in two by the Ultra Marines infamous Power Chain Sword [Ed: Cannot have it all my own (Chaos) way].

Mission Transcript: The Ultra Marines Mission Post Insertion Update Data Burst#2
[Sgt Tosh] "Situation BLUE! Repeat situation BLUE. Initiating Medi-Pack Heal [Ed: Back to full hit points, damn]. No more Mega Bombs left but I'm going back in [Ed: Ooops Chaos may not get those good combat rolls a second time]" [Transmission Ends]

To the stunned horror of the gathered Space Marine Commanders (all Chapters) the Hand-2-Hand is almost an exact duplicate of the first one. Despite a "Double Attack" Order by the Ultra Marines the dice of Chaos laugh at the upstart Space Marines threat. The "Double Attack" becomes just a way of hurting Sgt Tosh twice. Grimacing Tosh again retires to the relatively safe bulkhead (with a single hit point again), only to then hear the piecing scream of two Ultra Marines dying with the sound of "Genestealer!" in his internal com unit. [Ed: Another fifteen points to Chaos, I have no fear of being turned into "chaotic primordial soup" for a bad performance now! In fact if I hold onto this lead I will be promoted and win the campaign. Careful, pride comes before a fall!]. The only "blot" on this turn is when I attempt to annihilate the last remaining Ultra Marine Troopers my "humanoids" are stopped in their tracks (see below, so are the unflattering whims of Chaos):

The Blood Angel Commander is surrounded and taking hits, though killing anything that dares to come within range of his sword arm. Still there are two Chaos Marines Heavy Weapons making his life hard, a hoard of green things in the distance and a Killer Android moving up close. Not looking good. Bad news comes from the Imperial Fists sector as they lose another trooper [Ed: Another five victory points]. There is no way out for the Space Marines. The tactical half-units are too battered to fight their way to give mutual support without being isolated from their docking claw exit points. The Blood Angel Commander will have to tough it out (see below):

Incoming Mother-Ship Transmission: 
[Commander Beal] Event-21 Recall [Transmission Ends]

"Event-21" is triggered (as the finite time duration of the game we set expires, people have things to do and families to go back home to). The Blood Angels and Ultra Marines have cannily kept "blind grenades" which mean a clean escape. The Imperial Fists briefly tinker with the concept of taking a few more Chaos with them but the thought of a Genestealer on the prowl, at least two androids and an undamaged Dreadnought soon change their minds.

So ends the "Space Crusade" in Sector "Olaf-Gamma-5" as Chaos begins its rightful place or rather reign in this small part of the mega-universe. The Space Marine Fleet hastily disengages (I am sure the Inquisition will have something to say about this debacle) in disgrace while the Chaos Commander is raised to the glory and status of being a Hero of Chaos, which on the downside means he gets assimilated with some strange Chaos creature that resembles a giant squid (but gets brilliant telepathic powers, that send him completely insane) .. his mother would definitely not recognise him now, she thought the tattoo was bad enough.

Next stop ... a few summer nights in the pub discussing tactics ... and then Frost Grave in the autumn when the nights draw in. Thanks for the memories gents!

Thursday 25 May 2017

Fw 190A-8 Gets its Decals

Following on from the practice on the Space Marines the DecalFix comes out for the Fw190's decals. The practise has helped, topside first (see below):

Next the "belly" (see below, note I have not gone for the 'drop tank variant but the smooth underside instead);

Finally the daunting "nose cone spiral"! Boy was I glad of the Space Marine practice with the fiddly bits and curved surfaces):

I was happy with the end result but dis have to extend the white line with a bit of paint at the base of the nose cone. I was relieved to finish the whole process and put a Matt Varnish over it as soon as possible.

I need now to do a small repair job to the silly bit of plastic that "fell off" the wing (not a 20mm cannon but on the extreme wing tip [radio?]) when my youngest son was inspecting it!

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Even more Sci-Fi Experimenting with Decals: Ultra Marines

Two Ultra Marines (Heavy Weapons) Troopers get some fancy decals (see below, on the right shoulder pad they get a big white "Up Arrow" which apparently means they are a "Tactical Squad" and the Roman Numeral "I" that implies they are proud members of "First Squad"):

On the right shoulder pad the ubiquitous "Ultra Marines" sign, which I must confess I originally put on upside down because I thought it should have been an "Ohm" sign from my teenage Phyics "o Level" days. I also played about and gav ethem a "lightning strike" sign on their legs as I "liked the look of it" (see below):

Next: Time to put this upgraded Sci-Fi kit into some use against the unremitting Hoards of Chaos monstrosities ;)

Monday 22 May 2017

More Sci-Fi Decal Experimentation: Blood Angels

The Blood Angels got the same decal treatment as their Imperial Fist cousins (see below, right shoulder badge gets the "yellow" blood droplet):

Again the first "wetting" of the decal helped in application of the decal to the figure, it dried (staying glossy), but required another later or two before the decal became compliant enough to be pressed into the figure "seemlessly", particularly over a curved surface like a Space Marine shoulder pad. In summary a bit of patience is required otherwise you "may have a "tear" followed by a "teardrop".


This is all in preparation (learning curve) for a move on the Fw190-A8 decals ;)

Sunday 21 May 2017

200 "Not Out" Milestone

It is a funny statistic as I see the "Followers" count can go up and down but it is a small milestone to see it reach 200, That is 200 people have made their electronic mark on this blog and have said a formal kind of electronic "Hello!" Thank you for popping by, in Yorkshire we would put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea and a chat (see below):

200 sounds rather grand as I actually think I have a "live audience" of some 30-50 fellow bloggers who pop by and visa versa. I think there are many sleepers in the "blogsphere".

Saturday 20 May 2017

Armada Naval 1588: Battle for Britain Series

Still on a nautical theme and still being inventive with "paper" (and granted with graceful permission to photocopy ship pages for personal use), being a much cheaper entry point into a wargaming period than metals or even plastics for that matter, plus some simple wargame rules (see below):

I must confess this was something of an "impulse purchase" while doing a more boring Amazon book purchase. I wonder how much "Amazon trade" is generated this way ;)

Friday 19 May 2017

Code Breaking Simulation: Lorenz at Virtual Bletchley Park (Bill Tutte)

Came across this while spending some idle time on the net. Lorenz was the higher/harder level of secret transmission than Enigma that the Germans used (see below):

Need to play with the first one a bit and follow the tutorial ;)

Thursday 18 May 2017

Audible Book: To Rule The Waves

Following on from the C17th century naval game (The Battle of Soleway 1672) I decided that my naval knowledge had to be expanded to cover the pre-Napoleonic era. I am good for modern backwards to Napoleonic, but my knowledge of where the Royal Navy ethos comes from is scant. So imagine my surprise to find this lovely tome (some twenty nine hours of delicious listening .. the car journey to work is flying by). I didn't realise we owed so much to Samuel Pepys. (see below):

Methinks a nautical phase cometh!

Tuesday 16 May 2017

The Seventeenth Century Boat Factory

As promised my first DIY ship (work in progress). A small off-cut of DIY trim (1cm by 4cm), some cocktail sticks, paper and Milliput putty (only because I had some lying around, I later picked up a cheap packet of Plasticine). Still to do the flags and the base (see below, in RN or Spanish colours):

Same model but the "flash" went off on the camera (see below, to the RHS you can just see the stern of a Dutchman WIP):

The umpire reported back the final stats of the game:

Anglo-French 48 damage points, 3 ships lost (HMS St Andrew, Royal Sovereign & Prince)
Dutch Republic 23 damage points 1 ship lost (Maagd van Dordrecht)  
Overwhelming Dutch victory

 There will obviously be sleepless nights in the British Admiralty .. watch this space for a rematch ;)

Thursday 11 May 2017

A Naval Interlude: The Battle of the Soleway Bay 1672 (Bath-Tub)

One of the most magical moments in wargaming is when you discover a new period. A "virgin area" to explore and start a collection on. I have recently had such a nirvana moment, the Anglo-Dutch Naval Wars. I was transported back in time to 1672, aboard a Dutch man-o-war heading for the English coast, Soleway Bay to be precise.

Historical reference: Wikipedia

There lay sleeping at anchor a French Squadron of four ships of the line and two fire-ships moored behind them (see below, commanded by Jean II d'Estrees, who looked like a young lad of about nine):

Separated by a small (inconvenient) gap the British had six man-o-war and another posse of four fire-ships (see below, commanded by James Duke of York [the future king], older to the eye, who had a paternal bearing the Frenchman [aka "Dad and Lad"]):

Whereas I was the lone wolf in command of three squadrons of four man-o-war and two fire-ships apiece. I was bearing down on the Anglo-French force holding the "weather gauge" but needed to quickly divide and conquer (see below, I am Michiel de Ruyter bane of the British):

The seascape from the vantage point of 20,000 feet, Dutch left and French top right, British bottom right (see below):

As the Anglo-French force slowly tack about I make haste and send two thirds (Dutch Squadrons one and two) of my force heading for the smaller French mini-fleet while the third Dutch squadron moves into position to shield me from the British from [Ed: Well that was the plan!]. Notice how the Dutch fire-ships have complete freedom of movement to get in front of the Dutch line of battle and intend to meander into the British battle line and "sow confusion". By way of contrast the British and French fire-ships are on the wrong side of the Anglo-French battle-line. It will take some skillful sailing to get them "into the game". (see below):

The Dutch plan is unfolding nicely. Fate (as in "kind" weather rolls from the umpire) keeps the weather gauge in my favour with the wind to to my back. The Dutch fire-ships are well ahead of their main force and menacing the enemy man-o-war.  The Dutch ships travel faster and have to turn less so can close the enemy quickly at the angle of their choosing. All three of my squadrons play "follow my leader" in line ahead to present three squadron lines of broadsides intent in "crossing the enemy's tee". The British have opted for a complicated simultaneous turn about and the French have broken into two mini-squadrons in their mini-fleet. However the French fire-ships are in a good position to "get in to the game". However I still feel it is all looking good for the Dutch but just before "contact" (in the sense of the fleets coming into range of each other) the wind shifts direction and the crews frantically 'tack' to try and gain a critical advantage in the ensuing combat (see below, the Fleets in a last semblance of order, French bottom left, British bottom right [father rushing to the aid of his son] and Dutch descend in three lines with the British seemingly sacrificing their "tee" to come to the aid of the French [certainly brave a non-Brexit sort of thing to do]):

General action, a fast and furious melee develops in three separate sections:

The Anglo-French (French) Far Right (right hand side of the photograph below):

The third Dutch squadron (right hand side, middle edge) opts to go the 'long way round' the French right as the cunning young French Admiral sends his fire-ships menacingly at the Dutch (Third) Squadron. These small fast ships are (or can be) deadly if they can hit a man-o-war, but they have to brave the line of guns first. (In fact the crew set fire to the ship and row away hoping the wind will carry the ship to its intended target. Many a fire-ship has indeed inadvertently hit a friendly by fate of winds and tides.) However I am relieved to see the Dutch gun down the French fire-ships by removing their sail and making them immobile. This however this does allow the much more precious French man-o-war to "escape" to the centre of the battle in a wiggly line ahead formation. A tactical draw here as the Dutch fire-ships here are driven to a standstill, likewise de-masted.

The "Confused" (British) Centre: 

The rear of the British squadron has now become the van but is lead imperturbably forward by the British Admiral. This however is straight into the path of two Dutch fire-ships, one of which finds its mark and starts a fire that eventually turns into an uncontrollable blaze leading up to a tremendous magazine explosion, devastating and sinking a fine British man-o-war. This explosion in turn catches another British man-of-war within its blast radius and starts a fire raging on it. The Dutch by grace of a favourable dice roll just escape the same fate. The third British man-o-war holds its own in a furious gun battle, trading battle honours with the leading Dutch man-o-war. Through the course of this damning exchange of broadsides a Dutch man-o-war is lost to a blaze started by the British fire that grows out of control and results in a magazine explosion, stoically the Dutch fight on. The Dutch in line ahead formation press the advantage and the second and third in line Dutch man-o-wars cripple the remaining British ship on the port side, guns all gone and no sails, leaving her a tempting "boarding" target. The valiant British fire-ships try to get into play, but one is de-masted and the other is still on the wrong side of the battle line, "wanting for a targe"t.

The Anglo-French (British) Far Left: 

Again the Dutch fire-ships cause havoc and make the British man-o-war jink around them delaying battle for a considerable time. Yet again a Dutch it was a fire-ship that struck home and the British sailors were unable to control the blaze. Progressively the fire became worse, then the air was rent with yet another British magazine explosion (shades of Jutland perhaps), this time painfully close to the Dutch battle line that had to "tack-away" with haste. The two British fire-ships are out of position "searching in vain for targets".

End game. The British have suffered far too much in the centre (two ships down and one captured with another starting to burn), the French mini-fleet have seen enough and turns away. They may suffer some retreating damage but with the wind behind them they will "get away". There simply is no more fighting ships in the British Centre. The last semblance being the burning British flag ship with the future(?) King James II on board. On the British far left, although they are in an advantageous position, if they linger they will surely be caught and crushed by Dutch superior numbers, fortunately the weather gauge will allow then to safely disengage. The game is called and the players shake hands (see below):

The result is a decisive Dutch victory, to the finale of the British flag ship exploding off-table (we rolled to see what would have happened to her .. and she blew up .. poor King James)! A great game, simple house rules that played to a result on the night and brilliant fleets of ships [cut-out paper, small blocks of wood, detachable cocktail stick masts and a pin with a flag on it, on a blue base .. simply brilliant], cheap and cheerful and perfect for wargaming. I too often fall into the "cover photo" modelling magazine quality or nothing syndrome. My next project is to put a few dozen of these ships together. Saving the best bit till last, we did it in the back room of a pub, I could drink and walk home. Nirvana!

Many thanks to umpire Ian and fellow Admirals Alex (French) and Adrian (Royal Navy). Please also check out Ian's blog (including this previous battle report ,, which has a lot more background history to it):

An Audible book purchase or two on this period is required methinks! Watch this space for me building some boats!

Monday 8 May 2017

Confession: When in need for "Light Relief" and "Inspiration" .. I to turn to Science Fiction!


Because I view it as throwaway "fun" but intelligent "fun" and model-craft "fun". It is just "fun". In short it breaks the "Am I really doing this right?" painting block that can descend on me from time to time. Is that the right shade of WW2 French 1940 camouflage? Blah, for things that don't yet exist .. how can anything be wrong". The upshot is that I just 'bundle' into stuff and 'progress' is made on a great heap of otherwise dorment plastics. In this case it was preparation for my next "beer and pretzel" venerable GW Space Crusade game. It was also a great excuse to test out the Humbrol DecalFix, my least liked part of modelling, fixing "decals". So the Imperial Fists got some cute Space Marine decals (see below, left shoulder pad and very nice those 'fists' look too!):

Application of the magic DecalFix was to the "target" area on the model (in this case the Space Marine's shoulder pad) and the actual decal itself instead of water. This had the effect of creating a friendly landing spot and making the decal much more flexible and bendy to conform to the curved surfaces (see below, right shoulder pad: decal on decal, white arrow followed by a tactical Roman Numeral "I"):

One wash of the magical potion was not enough. The DecalFix dries shiny and the first application left bumps and ridges because the shoulder pads are in fact quite curvy. Another wash made the decal more pliable still (Note: Tip, watch you do not tear it) and the decal was simply pressed onto itself with good effect (see below, an ID mark placed on the Space Marine's boot, "skull" meaning "grunt" in my Science Fiction world, heavy weapon dudes got a "lightning strike" .. not as GW have it in but so what, please refer to the reason why I am doing this in the first place ):

I left them overnight to dry and then used Humbrol Matte Varnish to dull down the glossy shine and give a protective coating (see below, a half squad of Imperial Fists that simply cannot wait for their next Space Crusade mission):

A close-up shot for the Space Marines version of Signal (see below):

All-in-all a nice next step up from the basic paint job I had without decals. I may revisit these chaps at a later date with a view to doing something with those heavy weapons, a colour scheme revamp and perhaps drilling out the barrels of the guns. Pipe dreams at the moment.

They are certainly "combat ready" for the "beer and pretzels" outing number four in the Space Crusade campaign series! Watch this space for the AAR.