Monday 30 September 2019

Sunday 29 September 2019

Crazy Weeks of News Stories (and not just about Brexit) ...

Is it just me or has the "scary silly season" been in full flight in the national and international news? see below:

AI and Automatic Face Recognition:

AI and NHS Health Data:

Fire in a Russian Bio-Lab:

And there will be more ...

Saturday 28 September 2019

Aeronautica Imperialis - Orcs in Space?

OK so know it is not really anywhere near historical, I mean Orcs in Space, really .. but the game pays homage to the best WWI Aerial Combat Systems, GDW Blue Max and Canvas Eagles, I've played, so it hit me in a soft spot right between the eyes (and it was classed as a birthday present from my brother so I had an excuse). The models are also very, very cool in a Steam-Punk sort of way(see below - an un-boxing to follow methinks):

The models remind me of Warlord Games latest Mig Alley Korean War selection (see Renko's superb rendition of Soviet silver camouflage) and immediately after writing that I can see myself falling towards Blood Red Skies (BRS) and the Jet-Age expansion (see below - Note: I could do that because I am not committed to any "jet age scale", whereas BRS WWII has the 1/144 to 1/300 scale "Why am I doing this again in a different scale?" question bobbing around in my head!):

It is also a "game in a box so you don't have to expand out and besides it's "Fantasy-Science-Fiction" so anything goes you can bring your own stuff in. If you get a game from it then what's the problem, otherwise I will be forever the collector and never the player. Maybe I should do some 1/300 aircraft as after all I have always played with the kit Renko has "coerced" (like I needed much pushing) into getting!

Besides it is another one of games that the father can be shot down by his son (or daughter, or wife) with no loss of prestige (that noted I still don't forgive that dodgy rule call in X-Wing called by my [so-called] friends that lined up my TIE Fighter in front of that Rookie Rebel, being the exception to the rule - Unforgiven)!

Friday 27 September 2019

Ares (from the Mortal Gods Starter Set)... you SoaB

It is a beautiful figure and it comes in many finely sculpted, finely balanced, fiddly parts. Mix that in with weak runny superglue and one of those uncoordinated days when you are just fingers and thumbs; then you could easily end up hating the world (see below, a part assembled Ares style Hero figure from Mortal Gods that stayed part assembled on the painting/assembly tray for quiet a long time - which is in stark contrast to the 20mm WWII Dicker Max German Assault Gun/Tank Destroyer that came ready assembled for instant play):

Ares with a head (see below, his arms are coming together as well):

Excuse the fuzzy picture as I was in much haste before I knocked him over and he disassembled himself again (see below, a lovely fighting pose, even if it does mean he takes hs own temple around wherever he goes): 

OK I may be bitter and twisted after too much time peeling superglue off my fingers (and yes I did wash the figure in hot soapy water first) but I have not dared undercoat him yet. I fear he will not be used tabletop, the Wargames Foundry and Victrix plastic figures shall do all the grunt work!

Thursday 26 September 2019

10mm Late WW2 British Infantry .. Shades and Highlights (4) Labelling and Game Aids

The final bit of the figure basing puzzle is how to label the bases clearly as to "what" a counter is in respect to the Order of Battle. The cunning 10mm gap at the rear of the bases was left so a clear label could be placed. As I was specifically painting these up for FireMove (see Simulating War by Prof Phil Sabin) and denoting which company a platoon belongs to is the most important factor I decided to go for a simple colour band (see below, not really that generic for other game systems and I may peel the labels off later, but it is a good cognitive helper in FireMove):

Let us not forger the Germans too. I was going to use six existing German infantry bases (without cunning space for labels at the back) so I created a sheath with compant colour at the back and a white marker at the front to denote they were "dug-in". If they "moved out" I would simply detach the white marker (see below, note the British Infantry does not have the option of starting FireMove as dug-in as they have already moved up some 500m to get to the baseline):

All miniatures now ready for their FireMove run-out at Connections UK 2019. Next I thought time to pay some thought and attention for gaming aids. To help ease the cognitive loading during the game with some simple rule reminding devices. I am thinking colour coded firing sticks [coffee stirrers] to help the players visualise and arrange 'valid' fire patterns - particularly as in FireMove different companies cannot combine in the same "fire attack" and I wanted an easy way to show this - hence the coloured coffee stirrers, coloured cocktail sticks to indicate spread of fire and/or close combat (see below, serrated disc for Victory Point hexes and the yellow one for the British Mortar spotting):

All good stuff, the photograph above is post Connections UK 2019 where I am looking to restock on the bits and pieces that inevitably go missing. Looking ahead (past FireMove) I might well make up some urban terrain for Block Busting, the next game in Phil Sabin's book.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Read to Some Interesting Books: Blink and Novocene

The first one was a holiday read, "thin slicing" a problem by intuition and good old Millennium Challenge - when is a wargame really an exercise (see below, a good read as it showed the potential of how to avoid making silly/needless mistakes):

The second was more more of a frightening listen (I used my Jabra headphone) to James Lovelock's scientific book aimed at the general reader (see below):

Frightening in that he is convinced that we can only but welcome our robotic (or rather cyborg) overlords and hope they treat us well as they realise we are necessary to keep Gaia in balance. Oh, spoiler alert for humanity the best we can hope for is to be treated as a 'loved pet'. Best enjoy my free will while I can and go buy some more model soldiers to paint.

Maybe I should go for a romance next?

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Learning from the way the Kids do it nowadays!

In the old days you read books, then read some more books, talked to others in the pub (well playground) about those books and probably the animated version of Lord of the Rings that never got completed, read some 2000AD comics and then went and picked a (too) hard monster from the Monster Manual and then threw in a couple dozen Orcs and the adventure began. Now there is all this crazy stuff like (see link below) that my kids watch and read!

You will honestly spend more time reading and watching this stuff than actually playing it ... but it's cool. This old dog has started learning some cool new tricks. Most excellent! And yes, there are so many more sites I could have chosen! Boy am I envious!

Sunday 22 September 2019

Truth beats Propaganda (WWII)

Another gem from the BBC News web-site:

It is important that you don't believe your own propaganda and find out what really s going on in your citizens minds, particularly in wartime,

Saturday 21 September 2019

Rebel Inc - Brilliant Counterinsurgency App game

Many thanks to  Rex Brynen of PaxSims at Connections UK 2019 for reminding me of this classic little App game (from the producers of Plague Inc). The perfect running in for A Distant Plain which I will play this autumn (see below):

I had already downloaded it for my iPhone last year (see blog post):

At "casual" level I managed to achieve stability (at some cost to my reputation and a Coalition surge or two - plus lots of local National Army recruitment) however things will undoubtedly get harder as I progress in difficulty ;)

Friday 20 September 2019

Ancient Sea Battles using the "Lost Battles" System: A Future Project?

My Initial Thoughts: A post to set things rolling!

I sent this into the Lost Battles forum a while back ...

"I am getting interested in wargaming ancient naval engagements. Has anybody tinkered/adapted Lost Battles for the naval side of things? Was thinking of Salamis in the first instance (my painting tray is filling up with Navwar triremes at the moment). I am currently reviewing the rules available but they seem to be predominately ship-on-ship which seems ponderous for large battles and I am not sure "bath-tubbing" them down will achieve what I am after. The closest I have come to "Fleet Rules" is David Manly's "Greek Fire and Roman Fury". Your thoughts as ever appreciated."
Responses: (Detailed) Suggestions from Patrick
Each unit would perforce be a squadron of ships, and around the time of Salamis this means triremes.  Hence units on both sides would be essentially similar, and we could take the Average Trireme as the basic unit.

Training and motivation of crews was usually higher than in some (particularly Achaemenid) land armies.  The three-layer Lost Battles morale system could still apply, but would Levy status ever be appropriate?  A look at the two Battles of Naupactus in the Peloponnesian War suggest that it might: Phormio's veterans achieved unexpected victories against one force twice their size and another four times their size.  The question is really whether the Athenian superiority is better represented by making their opponents Levy status or by assigning the Peloponnesians their historical abysmal level of command.

Provisionally, then, we might have Average Triremes (A*T) and Veteran Triremes (V*T).  Differences in the number and type of marines carried and/or the presence/absence of archers are probably not significant where the basic unit is a squadron of, say, 10 or 20 ships, but differences in tactical doctrine and procedure are, especially when reflected in construction.  Hence we could introduce Light and Heavy triremes, the former more effective at first contact and the latter in a continuing melee.

This would give us ALT, AHT, VLT and VHT; Average Light, Average Heavy, Veteran Light and (rarely) Veteran Heavy Triremes.  (We can worry about quinqueremes and the like later).

Unit Interactions
This would be the key to the whole system: how long does it take for a squadron of triremes to ram, board, sin and/or destroy the morale of another squadron of triremes?  Ten minutes?  An hour?  The Lost Battles combat system is designed to resolve cavalry fights quickly, infantry fights slowly (in the absence of a collapse of army morale), but is there any clue about which level of attrition applies to naval fights?

I would suggest that where one squadron catches another at a disadvantage (particularly in the flank), the fight can be over in minutes, whereas two squadrons locked together frontally might fight for hours.  Flanking is a lot more important in a naval fight than in a Lost Battles engagement because of the trireme's primary weapon: the ram.  Hence, in a frontal fight one might have a combat table similar to infantry vs infantry, but if attacking in flank the attacker would use a table similar to cavalry vs cavalry.

The next question is whether to include Spent status: is there such a thing as a spent squadron?  Or is a squadron either alive and effective or, for all practical purposes, eliminated?  We can probably justify Spent status for ships which have been engaged for some time and have tired crews, missing men and oars and perhaps a few hastily-plugged holes here and there.  This also allows us to fine-tune the treatment of rout, naval style.

Rout could be checked for by the Lost Battles rout/army morale/unit morale mechanism, with spent units having a -1 and veteran units a +1. A fresh unit which routs is Withdrawn for victory point (and campaign) purposes, while a spent unit which routs can be considered captured, which counts as Routed for victory point purposes on the basis that the cripples in the squadron will be taken.  Shattered (i.e. taking a hit while Spent) is Shattered, of course.

Fleet Command
Assuming we use a similar 5x4 grid, a similar command system might serve, with each collection of squadrons in the same tile/zone being considered a group and command points spent accordingly.  Generals (admirals) are probably best treated as Leaders, because their ability to move around on their own was limited (and if they did it would be very confusing to the squadrons they were with) so attaching them to a specific squadron seems merited.  The usual grades of Leader and their exemption allowances could still apply.

This can be tricky: I suggest this be related to unit scale, so that if each Average squadron consists of (say) five triremes, everyone has a move of 3, for ten triremes a move of 2 and twenty triremes a move of 1.  This takes account of the change in ground scale implicit in higher representation ratios.  Hence a fight like Naupactus can be quite mobile whereas a grand engagement like Salamis would proceed at a more stately pace.

Light Triremes would be allowed a free turn to flank as part of their move: this would to an extent represent their greater mobility.

Veteran trireme squadrons could employ two tactics against foes of lesser skill: from the front, diekplous (breakthrough); from the flank, periplous (envelopment).  Either requires a command bonus but confers +3 to that combat instead of +1.  A command bonus in other circumstances is still +1.

As touched on above, the basic Lost Battles morale rules could still work.  Veteran squadrons get +1, Spent squadrons -1 when checking morale.  Shattered squadrons count as Shattered; routed Fresh squadrons as Withdrawn and routed Spent squadrons as Captured (Routed).

This is an outline from first thoughts.  It may be something to build on or it may serve to demonstrate the impracticality of such a system.  There is one way to find out ...

Responses: More information from Aaron
"There have been a couple of threads on this in the past and there is a file in the files section that might be relevant.

I don't really have much of a clue myself (not for the first time!) but here are a couple of thread conversations you could perhaps follow up on as well:"

Responses: Positive thoughts from Michael!

"I've spent some time working on this in the past (as I've worked on a simple wargames system for Android devices, inspired by Lost Battles/Strategos), but unfortunately nothing worth sharing in writing.
Basically speaking, though, my conclusion was that there is no reason why the Lost Battles system shouldn't also work excellent for ancient sea battles. Units have some interesting dynamics - small ships vs galleys, "boarding" galleys vs ramming allows for those differences in forces that make battles interesting. No hilly terrain, obviously, but coastline squares provide some flank terrain that will affect gameplay similar to terrain in LB."

Responses: From the original rules author Phillip Sabin ...

"That is a fascinating idea, but the topics are very different and it would need a lot of research and creative thinking which I have no time for at present.  Do by all means pursue it yourself if desired."

So .. What next?
Time to pull the Navwar 1/1200 scale triremes out of the loft perhaps.

Thursday 19 September 2019

GW ChainRasps but useful as Generic Fantasy Undead (Part 1):

Every now and then you come across a set of miniatures you have no particular need for (perhaps in the Order of Battle for the original Game System) but you can see how it can be used in another game system superbly well. I have to take my hat off to the sculptor who came up with the "Chainrasps" as they are as near a perfect set of undead ghosts you could want for. Simple in construction (very simple) and assembly (easy peasy) yet giving a voluminous floating feel, a haunting presence and a successful 'floating above the ground' look to them - how many figures of flying creatures have you seen that look like they are about to plummet to the ground? (see below, one sprue for £25 was not cheap, £2.50 a figure - but one set is probably all you need for any dungeon [yes I intend to use them for classic D&D, or rather 5th Edition] - I have been told they might feature in a bargain magazine feature, if so my advice is to snap them up, multiple times):

A close-up of some "Chainrasps" assembled but not yet painted and they look "good" (see below, two pieces of plastic glued together and that's it; their simple beauty has already pushed some of my other painting projects to one side - and there is the distinct danger of me buying some more undead from the same army range as they look equally generic to my eyes):

Next stage .. painting!

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Inspirational Books

I was asked to give a lecture at my old Alma Mater to some undergraduates to encourage them to consider doing an industrial placement year (rather than race through their degrees as quickly as possible - but that temptation is understandable in the current climate of student debt), to also pick up PRINCE 2 Project Management skills and learn (or rather practise) an Agile/SCRUM approach to product development. At the end of this by way of a light relief I offered them a reading list of work related books that changed the way I think. So here goes (see below - related specifically to the talk's content):

  • Covey's - "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"
  • Sutherland's - "SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time"
  • PRINCE2 Manual

This book (and the YouTube video of the lecture) is inspirational (see below, my personal battered copy):

You simply have to listen to someone has been an Astronaut and wants to teach you some lessons on perspective as in what is important and if it is important "how to sweat it like an astronaut" (see below):

This is a classic - not a light read but at the same time not that heavy given the importance of understanding "Black Swans" (see below, a key take away is that sometimes scrutinising every piece of information to the [n]th degree becomes counter productive, there is the powerful notion of "good enough"):

I cannot get away from Axelrod and "Tit-for-Tat" - it is such a powerful concept and proof that when you mix a Political Scientist with a Computer Scientist you get something novel and interesting (see below, his classic book and its lesser known follow on):

Lastly a general readers introduction to the Game Theory classic of the Prisoner's Dilemma (see below, and along the way Poundstone opens up some interesting nooks and crannies): 

There are more but these would keep me busy for a while on my desert island until a rescue ship came by!

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Graphic Packages: Cheap but Good Functionality

Courtesy of Tom Mouat at Connections UK 2019 Game Component presentation this is a "cheap" but "good" Graphic Package functionality (the one he swears by):

Will have to look into this later!

Monday 16 September 2019

Bugbear Miniature

He caught my eye and is going to be useful for the next instalment of the Lost Mines of Phalinder (see below - I used blue skinned hobgoblins last time - this one is much more imposing): 

It comes from a boxed Dungeons and Dragons set I picked up in "The Works" over a decade ago! Basic old-school three shade painting in Vallejo Game Colour with a wash added here and there!

Sunday 15 September 2019

Terraforming Mars - a board game of a different kind!

Now this looks a (different) and interesting game:

I am tempted .. has anybody played it?
BoardGameGeek 8.4 seems a very good rating.

PS: I would have thought Elon Musk might have a copy!

Saturday 14 September 2019

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Connections UK 2019 Conference was a Good One

There were plenty of games to be had and interesting people to mix with, I can highly recommend it.

In depth details with be eventually updated here, but you can at least see the itinerary:

Highlight: It is very nice to play a game under the auspices of a game's designer and I had the privilege of playing a Pol-Mil '2nd Punic War', from Simulating War umpired by Professor Phil Sabin (this was a well oiled game, played many times in his MA Course).

Tuesday 10 September 2019

10mm Late WW2 British Infantry .. Shades and Highlights (3) Basing

From figures stuck on coffee stirrers to based on a 40mm by 40mm base (see below, luckily I had a stack of suitable bases handy which I PVA'ed figures and sand onto - my "library stock" Anita's Acrylics 'browns' [a watery mixture of Burnt Umber and Coffee Brown mix] was brought into play):

Then I applied a watery black (again Anita's Acrylics) that was seeped around any ridge or stone (see below, the last 10mm of the base was left flat so I could put on a unit designation):

The Anita Acrylic "Coffee Brown" was extremely useful in putting a highlight down over the dark brown Burnt Umber and Black, followed by a dry-brush in White (see below, the other 'big win' was using a very cheap [I think picked up from The Works] bargain 'Art' brush in wet/dry brushing fashion - perfect for basing):

More PVA and apply a layer of flock followed clumps of static grass (see below, the bottom left hand corner is finished):

The final batch is complete (see below, 12 x Rifle sections, 2 x Vickers HMG, 2 x 3" Mortar, 1 x HQ, 2 x PIAT and a 1 x LMG):

A close up of a Rifles section (see below, two rifles and a Sten gun):

The Vickers HMG (see below, two crew and an officer looking on):

The 3" Mortar (see below, an officer and one 'overworked' loader):

All good, a bit of unit identification and we will be ready to go!

Monday 9 September 2019

More Strategic Chinese Interest in the High North

The BBC news always passes on interesting snippets:

The action seems to be slowly hotting up in the High North!