Friday 31 January 2020

Skeletons ... Just Because ...

No self-respecting fantasy Evil Lord of Darkness, Necromancer or Demi-Lich can ever have enough of them .. a bucket of skeletons (see below, they looked too cute not to get - honest, even a Paladin with a few spare gold coins couldn't pass them up):

They are really nice (see below, they are somewhat understated models from what I have come to expect from Game Workshop - uber swords and horns etc):

Something to scare the pants off your classic "First Level Adventurer" party as they turn the dungeon corridor corner .. "Turn foul beasts!" says the Cleric, but "Oh, I forgot I have to wait until I reach Second Level to do that now! [5th Ed!]" (see below, "You are passing the graveyard and notice the full moon is out .. you are surprised to find a hoard of angry skeletons coming at you!" said the DM in a sort of plausible but non-explanatory way .. "roll for initiative!" [Evil laughter]):

A close up of the nice sculpting (see below, this half skeleton was made out of some of the left over bits, lots to be fair - mostly weapons as you had the choice of a lot of swords or spears, I just mixed them up for an ad-hoc battle group):

All now put away in "cleaned up" butter plastic container waiting for their "painting day"!

Thursday 30 January 2020

Blitzkrieg Germans .. an Unexpected Project

I remember swearing blind that I was not going to deviate from WWII 20mm collection, that was hard enough to "cover" (and I literally meant cover in all nationalities 1939-45) and this resulted in a huge pile of plastic I admittedly enjoy making - more modelling than wargaming battles, although this is something I wish to change. I want all of my models to in effect fulfil their wargaming destiny and fight across the tabletop, even if in only the merest of skirmishes. I gave into scale creep madness many years ago and now sighed despondently as I found myself buying a set of 28mm Biltzkrieg Germans from Warlord Games (see below, beautiful artwork, beautiful models and a dream to put together - although I have sore hands after the end the assembly process):

So thinking that the early war Germans conformed to the later war formations I sketched out my platoon order of battle (OoB). No that seemed I could almost get a platoon out of a single box (see below, what could possibly go wrong?):

So I started assembly the Germans conscious that I would need a lot of rifles and few few SMGs (see below, the first one is just an experiment to get the rhythm of the factory process):

These Germans were "justified" in my mind's eye as "good opposition" for my Stalingrad Germans .. although the real reason was that everyone else [four unnamed people] who was wanting to play a 1940 Blitzkrieg Chain of Command Campaign wanted to be Belgians, French or BEF. At this point I have collected and painted a 1942 Stalingrad Russian force, I had some boxes of late war Brits and Yanks, but as of yet .. no Huns. So the time seemed right (see below, half a squad, or should I say the first sprue, one MG34 gunner and five rifles; I am consciously ignoring the sexy SMGs for the German NCOs): 

Then comes the sting in the tail, I discover to my horror that there seemed to be no manpower shortage in the 1940 Heer organisations as that every platoon [unless you were designated "Second Wave"] had four squads (see below, I had to re-sketch my OoB - only to discover I needed another box of figures):

My first squad was complete (as in assembled) but instead of being a third the way hone I was only a quarter - akin to running a marathon uphill (see below, I am happy with the look and feel of these guys - even though there will be quite a lot of them):

The completed box almost got me three squads but I was two figures short in the end. This did give me artistic license in putting together the Platoon Command (see below, note the Platoon Command gave me an officer with pistol [Luger of course] and a senior NCO with "machine pistol"):

I have ordered and am now awaiting a second box ;)

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Hero Quest .. Classic Games Workshop .. Scenario One - The Maze Runners

A classic game from my childhood or certainly late-teens to early twenties (aka the glorious 1990's) that shame on me I had not played (a bit like Space Crusade I picked in a later life 'second wind'), but thanks to the gaming club I have helped start at work, an opportunity came my way (see below, a bucket of classic Games Workshop unpainted Orcs waiting to trap and kill unwary adventures - by the way 'unpainted' figures fetch a better price, still on the sprue even more so?):

Scenario One: The Maze was described as a "live-fire test" for the four adventurers who under the tutelage of a sort of High Level NPC Wizard. Live and get out of the Maze (filled with low-level monsters) than congratulations and you have "the job" which will ultimately lead to your certain death, as is the way with fantasy RPGs - but offer you the chance to gain fame and fabulous riches along the way (or so the story goes). The official game report published to work colleagues is shown below:

"The inaugural session of the 2020 Game Club met last night to play the 1990's classic game Hero Quest (yes, a time before some of the players were born), it being the forerunner of many a modern fantasy game and basically a simplified version of D&D. 
The now legendary Game (Dungeon) Master "N" took the adventurers; a slight of foot Elf, a muscle bound Barbarian, an apprentice Mage and "Stumpy" The Dwarf through a dangerous Maze full of traps, enchantments, treasure and monsters (Note: "N" said he went easy on us ... Ming the Merciless evil laughter trails off into the distance). 
Despite an early scare to the Mage [a sword thrust from an Orc hurt more than his feelings] all the adventurers got out alive and the quest was completed with "Best Adventurer Award" (or rather first out of the dungeon) on the night going to "S" and her fleet of foot Elf. True to form "Stumpy the Dwarf" was last out of the dungeon (blame it on those little legs and not the fact that he was continually looking for gold in the corners of rooms, but he did find enough to buy a shiny new spear), after a hesitant start the Barbarian killed a lot of things (aka dice-rolling Orc killing spree) and the Mage was just content to get out alive after a close encounter said Orc mentioned earlier. All-in-all great fun, thanks to "N" for putting a great game on, although he said 'No more Mr Nice Guy next time' .. nice to meet a DM who doesn't bear a grudge!"
In typical absorbed player mode everybody forgot to take photos while we were playing so posed a typical "dungeon scene" afterwards (see below, Orcs and mages don't mix, I hope he has a fast acting spell left in his head!): 

For a game as good as this, I usually go out and buy it without hesitation, however you are more likely to inherit a Hero Quest set than to be able buy one. They go for silly prices on eBay as it is long "out of print"! Any hopes of a reprint from Games Workshop? I would not hold my breath on that one!

Monday 27 January 2020

Cruel Seas - US PT Boat

I almost dipped into "What to do Projects Bag" today, I was literally on the verge of "random number" for inspiration .. then I spied a sprue of US PT Boats donated to me by a friend (Renko). So out with the glue and a member the "Ghost Fleet" (aka models still on the sprue) became "one ready for painting" (see below, armed to the teeth and ready to have a go at a Japanese Transport, Submarine Chaser, Destroyer or Battleship):

Intend to actively play "Cruel Seas" (or at the very least use the models) but may have to pay a trip to David Manly's blog to crib up on some torpedo and spotting ammendments.

Sunday 26 January 2020

War on the Rocks - Interesting Article

Courtesy of a Paxsims link - Wargames the American military pull apart in their wargame design course:

  • A Distant Plain
  • One Deck Dungeon
  • Castle Panic
  • Pandemic
  • Descent
  • Persian Incursion
  • Dominion
  • Starship Samurai
  • Dragonwood
  • Terraforming Mars
  • Hero Realms
  • A Fox in the Forrest
  • Memoir '44
  • The Grizzled
  • Mice and Mystics
  • Twilight Struggle

See full article at:

Friday 24 January 2020

XTR Command Magazine

As a late Xmas treat to myself I completed the damage recovery to my XTR Command Magazine Collection, a loan that was not returned or stuff lost in transit/misplaced - I remember being very keen on doing Sea Lion at some point so I may be in a special box file somewhere, perhaps it is tie for a spring clean. This meant Issue #45 which was missing the Sea Lion Game (annoying as I had the Yarmuk Game and Magazine part) plus I took the opportunity to extend the collection the Issue #9 Inchon too (see below, waiting to be punched - the Sea Lion Game looks good - well the counters do, I cannot comment on the rules yet):

Sea Lion Issue #45:

Inchon Issue #9:

I have the intention of playing quite a few Command Ziplock games this year. Watch this space for AARs.

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Blood Red Skies: Battle of Britain (3 of 3) Battle End

Adding insult to injury the Me110s find themselves now tangling with Spitfires (see below, a Spitfire racing to get into the rear are of a lumbering Me110, this is not what or how it happened in Spain. Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France):

Thankfully Von Ken claims a final "boom chit" on a tight turning Spitfire and they have had enough, boom chits being greater than the number of engines on the table (see below, this comes as a great relief to this particular shot-up Me110 crew, Herman's "not so finest"):

As the Spitfires disappear and the Me110s morale (barely) hangs on (one more "boom chit" and they too will be off) the Destroyers try one more head-long charge at these pesky Hurricanes, bringing 20mm hard hitting cannon to a deflection shot on a "Cat" (see below, another 'boom chit' on the Hurricanes):

It is up to Von Ken to deliver the coup de grace, as a disadvantaged Hurricane finds itself "finally" on the receiving end of a burst of deadly fire from a Me109 (see below, and much to the relief of the crew of another shot up Me110):

The final act is for both the Me110 Squadron and Hurricane Squadron to call it a day with "boom chit bust" and go home (see below, the parting view is the Hurricane going down in flames and the RAF pilot parachuting down to home soil and a welcome from the local Home Guard):

The Me109s of Von Ken rule the skies over Kent before a low fuel gauge tells them it is time to go home (see below, where have the RAF gone?):

A good introductory game, although my Me110 nose (and in particular rear gunners) got a "bloodying"! A few less people round the dinner table at the chateau for the Destroyer Squadron but meanwhile high spirited toasts to Von Ken's for his latest kill in there more rough ad ready farmyard accommodation. Across "The Channel" there is earnest discussion in the 'Cat' Mess Bar over the real merits of the "Vic three formation" and down the Dog and Duck laughs as Maisie serves up another round for her favourite "Boys in Blue" as the ivories of the piano get a hammering!

End Note: Despite my collection of 1/144 fighters I may have to male a token dabble into 1/200. Although I am loathed to replicate across different scales (again)! The starter box set of Blood Red Skies might be a more sensible purchase!

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Blood Red Skies: Battle of Britain (2 of 3) The Grist to Battle

Cunningly Von Ken's boys have sneaked (a complementary term) into a rear position behind teh Spitfires for tactical advantage - although out of gun range for the moment (see below, it is going to be a testing time for the "rookie" RAF Spitfire Pilot Commander, the dashing young Ian fresh from his exploits with Maisie the  barmaid):

Meanwhile the Me110s have made a desperate dash at the Hurricanes, trying to get their deadly 20mm frontal cannons into play. However the crafty "Dapper Dave" has learnt a thing or two from his experience fighting the Luftwaffe in France and is not going to fall for a frontal exchange (see below, the pilots trade curses and "skill tests" trying to out manoeuvre their opponents into disadvantaged positions - with mixed success):

Note: The upright position of the plane on the stand denotes it is in an "advantaged" position - while you have an advantage you cannot be shot at (which is really good believe me), therefore there is a lot of positioning and skill tests (a pilot action is used to make the other pilot 'make a skill test' or lose one grade of position [advantage/neutral/disadvantage - state change left to right] when you get within mine inches of their plane). The easiest way to be put in disadvantage is by letting an enemy in within gun range in your rear arc. You are very vulnerable to being shot down while at disadvantage - so the number one rule is to maintain an advantaged position at all costs (see below, multiple skill tests start to wear down the Me110s from advantaged positions, starting with my "wingman"):

I find out to my cost Me110's are poor chasers unless you can "zoom and boom" with a "great dive" ability - which gets you a boost of extra movement (see below, my incompetence lets this Hurricane escape):

It is satisfying when you manage to to get a bucket full of sixes (German Crosses on the Luftwaffe dice) but you can only ever get "one hit" - a second cross ups that to a critical (which makes it harder to save) but you do not automatically inflict damage. Things are handled rather abstractly, with the attacked plane allowed to make a saving throw. If this is failed when the plane is at a disadvantage, the plane is shot down, otherwise you "get a boom chit" which accumulates as fatigue and loss of morale. Eventually the accumulation of "boom chits" breaks the squadrons "will to fight" and they disengage. It's a very nice concept and game mechanic - other rules systems encourage a last man standing fight to the death (see below, it cannot get much better for the Germans, but even such skewed stats rolls do not produce overly devastating effects, but rather secure a good outcome):

One advantage of having a two-engined plane is that you effectively get two lives. The first life loses one engine (which loses some speed) and kills the rear gunner - which means you cannot get the Parthian shot at the Hurricane in your rear arc anymore, the second sees you tumble out of the skies like a flaming meteor (see below, disadvantaged and failed my skill test means my rear gunner and an engine is lost):

The Me109s are really taking it to the Spitfires, no losses but lots of "boom chits" acquired. The Spitfires tight turns give them plenty of dice to make their saving throws, which turns a rear arc shot into deflection shot. From auto kill to a morale "boom chit". At least four Spitfire pilots owed their lives to this ability! The Hurricanes meanwhile are certainly taking to Baron Mark's flight of "elite" Destroyers!

Monday 20 January 2020

Blood Red Skies: Battle of Britain (1 of 3) Closing to Battle

Kent, August 1940 - Squadron Scramble, six Hurricanes from 43 Squadron vector in via the Dowding System to intercept German blips on the radar screen (see below, freshly painted ready for their first BRS battle - the Hurricanes recover from an initial bad set-up by playing their RADAR card which allows them to recover from an initial set of poor "advantage/neutral/disadvantage" positioning, to the German players curses):

The enemy, which turns out to be a group of four German Me110s "Destroyers" (see below, seeing as I had suffered at the hand of these beasts in a previous game I fancied my chances flying them):

Close by are a "swarm" of six Me109s (see below, paired up for combat, luckily for my sake in the hands of a veteran player):

Last but not least "the boys from the blue" a freshly commissioned brace of six shiny Spitfires from 19 Squadron (see below, can you sense the menace?):

The Hurricanes close with Destroyers. The German player (me) has played his "obselete tactics" card forcing the RAF player "Lucky Dave"  to chose the "RAF Vic Three" formation favoured in France (see below, the RAF have twelve engines [two separate forces of six which equate to a "boom chit" - think morale value - of six each], the Luftwaffe have fourteen [two separate forces of eight (Me110s) and six (Me109s) resectfully]):

The Spitfires and Me109s instinctively hurtle together (see below, cunningly Von Ken intends to use the left hand cloud to sweep behind and get into the Spitfires from behind):

Battle is about to commence in deadly earnest as the planes are almost within range of each others guns.

Saturday 18 January 2020

My First Cruel Seas: Italians versus Royal Navy & Russians?

Introducing the Italian fleet:

Italian E-Boat lookalikes (see below, very nice paint jobs with the diagonal red and white stripes):

Italian (very light) MAAS Boats: Strikingly fast because they have a mega Italian engine inside but little around it protecting it (see below, think Molotov Cocktail on the water waiting to be lit):

Italians enter bottom-right in two flotillas, while the Allies appear top-left (RN) and top-middle (Ruskies). I had relinquished my naval command in favour of trying to get a more holistic grasp of the rules, which meant I became "bottle top puller outer of a bag" to determine who goes next - a very important job and for "a suitable inducement I may be able to help you sir" (see below, please note the aesthetic placement of islands cunningly blocking line-of-sight):

Speed boats seemingly scattering about to the four corners of the board. Apparently there is a plan somewhere (see below, one rule that seemed strange to me was that there was little concealment - maybe we were just going in "Gung Ho" for a quick game (see below, the "wake markers" create a very nice atmospheric feel to the watery table-top - the Russian forces have divided into two to cover both sides of the right hand island which means they are outnumbered 2:1 against the Italian E-Boats, with blue splash markers denoting that short-range "gunnery" has started):

The Italians fearlessly sallied forth against the combined Allied fleets in this "What-If" scenario, sending the pseudo E-Boats against the Russians and the "bonny wee fast things" against the heavily armed RN contingent - which turned the "fast things" into match sticks in pretty short order (see below, disturbingly everything is "visible" as long as you can trace LOS - no "dummy markers" here or fear of friendly forces being in the area! One Italian E-Boat was lost in exchange for a Russian "flak-boat" [my made-up word not really historical]):

The Russian stuff blazed away and then started to burn, then something exploded and sank. The Italians definitely had the upper hand here, but the RN are coming to help out (see below, a bow pointing skyward denoted the resting place of one of Stalin's finest gunboats with a tank turret on it):

An embarrassingly "run aground and burning Italian E-Boat" is surrounded by Russian and RN "men-o-war". The crew have disembarked on dry land and have been spared the fate of a watery grave (see below, the other two Italian E-Boats seeing nothing to torpedo but lots of shiny RN MGBs to lose a stand-up fight against decided that discretion was in fact the better part of valour and "bugged out" 0 nobody blamed them):

The remaining "little fast things" of the Italian Fleet spotted a design flaw in the scenario in that their main armament was primarily a torpedo and there was nothing to torpedo. The signal flags to "bug out" were duly hoisted. And so end'eth my initial exposure to Cruel Seas, "First Thoughts"? ... it really was meant to be an exposure to activation chit and basic LOS combat, so in that sense it worked, but I would like to see a scenario that required guile, suspense and "hidden movement".

Thursday 16 January 2020

Fun with Cardboard and Containers

The first bit of fun comes with a spare sheet of thick card and a pair of scissors; coming off the back of the Arras game I did a stock take of the 'stands still left to be done' and I provisioned sufficient for all my early war 1/200 to get based (see below, one of those jobs that is harder to start than to do once started): 

The next bit of organisational fun was seeing some cheap plastic boxes perfect for board game counters storage in Home Bargains (apologies to international viewers here not from the UK) at the princely sum of £1.29 for four (see below, checking them out for size with the "printed out" early war Panzer Leader/Panzer Blitz - BEF counters, nice job!):

All Panzer Blitz bases were covered with four of these beauties (see below, all counters neatly tucked away into their box by nationality and function):

I can see myself going through some old favourites and de-bagging and boxing up the counters or by a combination of both bags and boxes have my board game collection in "ready to play" mode.

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Arras 1940 Re-fight (Part 4 of 4) Closing Time

Despite the destruction of the 7th RTR as a fighting formation, some of the surviving individual elements took on 'local initiatives' and pressed forwards. This had mixed results as a Recon Bren Carrier "finds" a hidden Pak 37mm troop an incongruously succumbs to a less than heroic fate (see below, the corpse British 7th RTR is now being nibbled away):

The Allies now opt to sacrifice a VP by committing a "reserve" (historically not used on the day), the flanking composite French Char Battalion (Germans 3 VPs,  Allies 5 VPs). This allows a French Char Company to overrun the last company of routing German Motorised Infantry from the SS Totenkoft Battalion - no additional VPs claimed but a case of 'clearing' the board of troublemakers):

The grim path of destruction is plain to see for all, although it is a brave Frenchman that ignores a Panzer Jaeger troop on his flank (see below, in the far off distance you can see a de-bussed company of British 2pdr Anti-Tank guns, supported by a Infantry Company of the 8th DLI):

This unexpected threat sends uncontrollable fits and convulsions through the 7th Panzer Division's chain of command, Rommel would later write that he was being attacked by no less than five enemy divisions. The result being at Rommel commits the 25th Panzer regiment into the fray. It had already been well off table and "halted" then "reversed" back to Arras (the tanks not literally in reverse though), now by committing it the Germans lose an additional 2 VPs. Though as the Germans see it, if the French tanks are not stopped they could easily roll through the flank of the whole German artillery set up, which would be another 7 VPs, so 2 VPs is a worthwhile investment. The first German Light Panzer Company mops up the remaining troublesome British Bren Carrier troop and stops the threat to the German backfield (see below (Germans 3 VPs while the Allies have surged ahead to 7 VPs):

The last remaining stands of British armour (two troops, a Matilda I and Matilda II, approximately ten tanks all told) attempt a valiant do or die, slow charge of the heavy brigade in the face of the massed deployed artillery of the SS Totenkoft and 7th Panzer Division. The results were predictable but it was a close run thing (see below, a billowing column of smoke marks the final resting place of the 7th RTR Regimental HQ troop):

"Crump!" goes one H-35 as the "forgotten about" Panzer Jaeger I reminds the French tankers about its existence. It then shoots and scoots away as the last surviving non-routed SS Totenkoft stand. The French armour although it could go 'toe-to-toe' or better with the panzers  in a stand up fair fight, is in the unenviable position or being surrounded and attacked in the flank so rather than "lose it" and hand the Germans some VPs, teh French commander decides to 'fall back' and defend the baseline (see below, inadvertently this French attack marks the deepest Allied penetration of the day):

The final state of affairs .. yes, we ran out of time, another half to an hour and it would have all been cleared up nicely .. but we had to call it here. Another (the second from the 25th Panzer Regiment) has appeared threatening the French baseline. This caused the French Char Battalion to face right and join up with the DLI's 2pdr Anti-Tank line forming a solid "PAK wall". It would be a foolish German Panzer Battalion that tried to charge through that! Meanwhile the tragic crescent of smoke shows the baleful advance of the 7th RTR and its subsequent demise, but i has extracted a huge price in VPs. To the far right of the "British Bulge" dismounted infantry of the DLI are peeling back. Thankfully out of line of sight to the mass of German artillery. As a final insult to injury a German motorcycle company has infiltrated behind the DLI's lines and is threatening Allied baseline VP and 'safe-exit' hexes (see below, although the Allied position seems dire, they have won a VP victory as they have shocked the Germans by the ferocity of their attack, panicked Rommel and caused flutters in the German High Command):

So end'eth the game! A good concept test of mapping Panzer Blitz/Panzer Leader rules to hex based miniature games, trying to simulate the theme of actual battles. I think it 'worked' but I would like to review some of the game mechanics. The addition of a withdraw and rout states were a very good improvement. No automatic rallies was a good change although I think that target prioritisation from Spearhead could also be easily included, as could Command Decision "Company Command" orders. The key thing is speed of play and reducing unnecessary dice roles to a bare minimum. Thought should also be given to 1940 "clanky tank" or "tank fright" rules and features of combined arms attacks getting bonuses in the likes of close assaults.