Sunday 30 July 2023

Blood Red Skies (BRS) Campaign - Low Countries and France: Pendrakon Event

As the lights, one by one, went out in Europe, there were brave pilots who nevertheess took to the sky to defend democracy against fascism. In the Pendrakon "Low Countries and France BRS Campaign Day" most of these brave souls seemed to be Belgians flying the sturdy "gun bus" Hurricane. My newly painted Luftwaffe Me 109Es  ran into a patrol of them in and around the Belgian-German border just before the "balloon" went up big time (see below, I squared off against an old adversary, the redoubtable Monsieur Lambert, leading a flight of Belgians finest and came a "close run second" as my boom chit count was exceeded and he had me running for home - bloodless but a Belgian victory): 

In round two however I met my Waterloo, while escorting a slow bomber formation I was bounced by obsolete RAF Gloster Gladiators from a cloud formation (that is my story and I an sticking to it) - fearlessly piloted by a very capable RAF Flight Sergeant Leslie who scalped my unwittingly-foolish-laxidasical Ace who instantly regretted treating the Gladiator Ace with contempt (see below, the true meaning of the Greek word hubris was learnt, especially as the bombers went on to miss the airfield target they were trying to annihilate - a hard one to report back on the Head Quarters, dangling on teh end of a parachute the Ace had a long time to think about it):   

Two nil down, but the German armies were pushing relentlessly through France and the Low Countries and for the third round I face Belgian Hurricanes (again), this time against a new Allied player who was facing a scenario disadvantage of "stretched fighter resources" - which gave me a one plane advantage in the battle (see below, [Luftwaffe kill one] this time the day went to Hun but my gallant Belgian adversary fought to the last and despite his great skill it was the German numbers that told in the end):   

The Belgians earned the Luftwaffe's utmost respect and gained yet more gallant combat spurs on the day. Despite their country being overrun, one could tell by the fierce look of determination on their faces, that these pilots were destined to fight on under new colours (see below, [Luftwaffe kill two], one feels like we will meet these Belgians again over the green fields of Britain): 

All in all a fantastic day, rewarded with good natured play and some nice campaign "goodies". many, many thanks to my old friend Renko (see link for his posting on his thoughts for the event day) for setting it up and for Pendrakon hosting it. Respect!

Note: I am already looking forward to playing the Battle of Britain in August. I hope to use it also as an excuse [incentive] to paint up the six Spitfires included with the BRS starter set. I already have acquired the Warlord Game RAF Battle of Britain 72 Squadron decal set!

Saturday 29 July 2023

Painting 1/200 Me 109s (Warlord Games - Blood Red Skies) - The Luftwaffe Ready Room

Seeking painting inspiration I toured the internet for videos on how to paint WWII German Luftwaffe Me 109s circa 1940:,vid:Pbopp8mOSeA

My final recipe was as follows: 

  • Airfix/Humbrol Acrylic Primer
  • Vallejo Black Wash (to highlight detail) 
  • Light Blue (Base) Airfix/Humbrol Acrylic
  • Vallejo Model (Base) Dark Grey
  • Vallejo Model (Base) Light Grey
  • Vallejo Game Colour Bone White foundation for (Base) Yellow area on nose
  • Vallejo Game Colour (Base) Golden Yellow
  • Vallejo Brown Ink 
  • Vallejo Game Colour (Highlight) Yellow (see below, half way through): 
  • Vallejo Yellow Ink
  • Final Vallejo Game Colour Yellow (Highlight) 
  • Smoke Wash
  • Vallejo Black on Canopy
  • Vallejo Model Colour German Grey on Propeller
  • Vallejo Model Colour Black Propeller
  • (Highlight) Dark Grey including canopy struts 
  • (Highlight) Light Grey including canopy struts 
  • (Highlight) Light Blue
  • Micro Sol preparation of decal area 
  • Decals: Warlord Games Decal Pack - 1/200 JG-26 using Micro Sol (see below): 
  • Micro Set
  • Humbrol Satin Varnish
The end result (see below): 

Off to play Blood Red Skies next Battle of France 1940!

Friday 28 July 2023

Conference of Wargamers - CoW 2023 - Missenden Abbey: Hold the Front Page a Great Success!

Respect to all those fellow Wargames Development (WD) Bloggers who have already rattled off their salutary CoW 2023 blog posts and even some YouTube video postings about CoW 2023. You've probably even popped a few (Wargames Development Newsletter) emails to the Nugget editor too. Myself, it took me about a week to simply finish unpacking and recover from all the excitement to think about writing anything down, but the "tingle" still lingers and I remember CoW2023 with a deep satisfying smile. I am obviously showing my advancing age as other distractions make me post so late. All a symptom of too much "work related screen time" I think, as my blogger posting rate is also very slow this year (as it was last year too) - so I am associating the computer more with work rather than pleasure. 

The weekend was a fantastic wargaming achievement - literally non-stop wargaming fun. Game until you drop, rinse and repeat, until you have to go home! As I have said before, it is the most fun I have ever had whilst keeping my clothes on! That may be a sad reflection on my life, but I do stand by it!

My "weekend" went thus (please note the eclectic and random photographing is purely down to me having too much fun to succeed in systematically recording CoW 2023 in any sensible way [others do it far better than I can too - see blogs at end and WD website links] - hence the chaotic expressionistic montage): 

Friday Night:
  • The Weimar Republic Plenary Game [Long Game - in fact a Mega Game] Germany 1918-19: The Spartacists -
    • Note: With added "all-star" cabaret act (opening and closing proceedings) and forty plus players and umpires [epic and very noisy]
    • My Role: Social Democrat Military Commander of Berlin
      • Action: Fighting Revolutionaries on the Streets of Berlin, success - ignoring the friendly fire incident on the Berlin Police (oops), relatively successful as no Spartacists were left on the streets
      • Result: Weimar Republic was "saved" from terrible reactionaries (Germany "safe" until 1933 then) - there was also lots of politics and voting in the main room but I was in a side room with the "toy soldiers"!
  • [Late Night Game] WWI: The Great War British Army Divisional Commander (1916-18), four quick 15 min games in succession [Martin Rapier's beautifully painted 20mm WWI Emhar figure collection and bespoke trench system- that I should have taken a photo of [Update: But luckily he did and has passed a few on to me]: 
    • 1916: Somme - [Tactic] Hurricane Artillery Attack
      • 10,000 casualties, First Trench taken, no breakthrough
    • 1917: Hindenburg Line - [Tactic] Infiltration Attack
      • 10,000 casualties, First and Second Trenches taken, no breakthrough
    • 1918:Amiens (a) [Tactic] Surprise Tank Attack (see below): 
      • 3,000 casualties, First, Second and Third Trenches taken, breakthrough achieved
    • 1918 Amiens (b) [Tactic] Stormtrooper Attack
      • 4,000 casualties, First and Second Trenches taken, breakthrough just failed
    • Note: I seemed to "do well" in avoiding "The Big Push" option which just seemed to increase casualties even further! 
  • Exhausted - retired to bed (1:00) am
  • [Hosted] Don't Tell the Tsar - Hypothetical WWI Naval Game (August 1914) on the "Planned" (but cancelled) Russian pre-emptive attack on Swedish Fleet, "before" they combined with the German Baltic Fleet (despite the affirmed Swedish Neutrality that they were not going to do that): 
    • Experimental combination of three rule systems:
      • Halsey style Campaign Movement
      • Nimitz style Tactical movement
      • Avalanche Press' Great War at Sea Combat System 
      • Using 1/3000 Navwar miniatures
    • Result - near total destruction and surrender of the main Swedish Battle Fleet
  • Uncle Bruce's Arab-Israeli Wars (Retro gaming, looking back at an "inspirational"(?) tool kit of rules rather than a definitive rule set - everybody was learning):
    • A step back in time to play an early set of miniature wargame rules from Bruce Quarrie Volume 4: Arab Israel Wars (see below, GHQ 1:285 scale Syrian T34/85's engage Israeli M-48s in the distance - still beautiful despite their age [unlike most WD members, lady members exceptions to the rule of course]):
      • A confident early advance by the right flanking Syrians [aka Me]:
      • Two Israeli M48's burn [Happy (and a slightly surprised) me]:
      • An Israeli reinforcement tank is subsequently sent up to help its beleaguered friends [Now a slightly worried me]:
      • Good Israeli gunnery stalls the Syrian attack (one knocked out and one retreating tank) - amusing mechanical break downs then meant both sides were "spent" and a draw/truce concluded:
      • We've certainly moved on and are now surrounded by a wealth of free verified facts that replaced those that were formerly just "guessed at rather crudely and badly" - but it was the starting point for many a collection of toy soldiers and follow on rules [lovely GHQ models that still past the age test and hold up again the best of the modern!]
  • The Information Game: Tim Price delivers a master class!
    • A "Tour de force" of the state the art in "card and dice" based, manual wargame depicting a complex cyber, [multi-faceted] information gathering and deductive reasoning environment. Oh you say .. what does that mean? 
      • You build a map by problem solving a series "multiple information challenges", then piece them together to locate a target and finish off the game by revealing the targets coordinates, and the best bit (as in I hate it, but its great) you are competing against another team doing the same thing. They also always seems to be doing better than you. You can also play sneaky by poisoning the opponents data pool. As if we would do a dirty thing like that! Basically a Tim Price exemplar - I personally think this is already the game of the decade (2020-2030) in my books. All those long words I use mean nothing as its simplicity is at the heart of its beauty. Devastatingly cunning, more so even than a Professor of Cunning newly appointed to Oxford University. I was just too engrossed to take any photographs, so no better compliment need be said than that! Did I also say it was very good fun to play? And at a last gasp you can pull it out of the bag ;)  
  • [Hosted] Follow the Bush Tucker Trail: SAS 1966 LRRP in Vietnam:
    • My 20mm Platoon 20 miniatures and 1/72 plastic helicopter kits went for a stroll in the Vietnam jungle (a jungle made mostly from stuff found in IKEA and a confiscated pair of old curtains). A (supposedly) collaborative game where the players pit their wits against the fiendish Bot umpire (me) who controlled VC Charlie - or are they just innocent villagers? (see pictures below - I only remembered to start taking photographs at the end so the "stealthy bit" was missed - this is at the start of the kinetic end of things, when things got noisy): 
      • A downed USAF pilot (Major Spanks) is unexpectedly found in the village [instead of an intelligence package they expected to be handed from a friendly villager] and an evac helicopter is urgently called for: 
      • A grenade is used to devastating effect on the VC: 
      • The pretty birds arrive (Gunship Scout and Huey) - these kits have been waiting patiently up in my loft for a long, long time:
      • Evacuation and time to pop home to the Naafi bar for a well earned beer: 
    • Job done (although there were moments when the players were their own worst enemy) and congratulations all round.
  • Emergency Broadcasting Service Wintex-75 (and now for something completely different) It is 1975 and with heightening tensions in Europe, Warsaw Pact tanks on the point of crossing the West German border and a disintegrating political situation at home, as Director General of the BBC I (as in me) have been asked to pull together a 72 hour loop of TV programming to calm teh nation's nerves - just in case the bomb drops! Luckily the man in charge of BBC Light Entertainment is at hand, along with a few fellow BBC employees he found in the nearest wine bar. As per the leading gurus in AGILE software development now say, you learn all the vital life skills in the kindergarten - scissors, glue and coloured crayons. Highlights from the 1966 World Cup Final featured heavily in the programming, particularly for Scottish viewers or was it teh Norwegian Curling final instead?
  • The Future is Past - Dirtside II Science Fiction wargaming rules used to wargame the Cold War Gone Hot (1980-1990s) period - to very good (seemingly realistic) effect. I managed to pop out of Wintex-75 to be a fly on the wall of this one (hence a photograph or two):
    • Dirtside II - Free Download - Ground Zero Games (GZG):
    • The West German plain erupts with burning BMPs and dismounted Russian infantry assaulting a NATO held town (see below): 
    • The Russians are sitting pretty in high ground and in cover with numbers of assaulting troops, it looks like a long (or good) night for NAT (see below):

    • Something to show the Current Affairs Editor back in the Wintex-75 room!
  • [Late, Late Night] Welcome to Lynchville: Cthulhu Style - Pulp Fiction - Cutting Edge RPG 
    • While the good citizens of this 1950's American (quiet, safe and sleepy) southern town of Lynchville slumber, the secretive 'Daughters of America' watch from behind "peeping curtains" for evidence of Senator McCarthy's hidden Red Menace. They see it everywhere: Secret Masonic institutions, covert subversive activities disguised as normal past-times (cheer leader practise you say), mysterious murders occurring with alarming regularity, even covert scientific research establishments with Germanic sounding employees are considered normal and unexplained disappearances-reappearances are simply taken for granted. Quite possibly the original inspiration for Twin Peaks, The Queens Gambit, Stranger Things and Barbarella. Everyone has a secret in Lynchville, "Why everyone knows while she pretends to be the sweetest of the sweetest Southern Belle, she really comes from the wrong side of Chicago". Why does the Geiger counter go "off the scale" as you approach that docked Estonian Freighter, with a broken engine that has been lingering in harbour for months. Next you will be saying the nice Civil Rights man has a suitcase full of Nazi gold tucked in the trunk of his car, heavens forbid it. Thank the same strange heavens for the investigative genius of The Cake Lady (who also turned out to be a brainwashed Russian Sleeper Agent unbeknownst even to the player character herself [inspiration for the The Manchurian Candidate]), Miss Modesty Belle (who certainly wasn't), Lady Chicago (who couldn't be modest even if she tried), the able minded Daisy Duke who uncovered the hidden secret of the Lighthouse Keeper's forbidden love and then insensitively sold them on to the local newspaper's editor, Tug (the Little Hemingway of Lynchville) and last but not the least, the Popcorn "Prom Queen" herself Eleanor Gratitude .. who also happened to own and know how to use a high velocity sniper rifle [for no apparent reason other than it occasionally came in handy!]. Why I would have thought this was all just a crazy dream, had I not made copious notes for my psychotherapist (see below, did I mention the Russian H Bomb found in the hold of the Estonian freighter, docked in the shadow of the now disused Gothic church with a lead-lined crypt and that man with the strange shiny ring on his finger, who didn't run the local bakery after all but was the Director of the other sinister institution we don't talk about):
    • Not sure I slept too well after that game! Brilliant fun, I was always waiting for a set of tentacles to appear from nowhere and grab me! Luckily for me, I didn't start with much sanity in the first place! So I never missed it when it went.
  • Cold War Wargame Workshop:
    • Not a game but a talk and a wide ranging discussion on how to do a Cold War Wargame and what have we learnt about the playability of modern warfare since the first set of WRG 1950-1985 Modern rules, years and years ago. Again the concept of a toolkit rather than definitive master set of rules was referred to. I listened and felt that I had learned quite a lot. Modern warfare (I suppose inevitable with the backdrop of Ukraine) seemed to be a persistent theme throughout the weekend. I look forward to the Sheffield Crew of WD birthing a playable set of "short game" (played under two hours) modern wargame rules. I hope to be involved in playtesting it.
  • Whatever Happened to Not Quite Mechanised (NQM): Chris Kemp
    • By way of contrast this session was a game (and a hell of a big game), but of a short demonstration duration of several turns showing the key/core rule principles to be shown in action. It also felt like I was witnessing a piece of wargaming heritage, Chris has been working at this project for some thirty years. The scale of Chris' vision is also awe inspiring (see below, this is the central portion of a Soviet Army [five divisions] attacking a German Corp [three division] on a defended river line - bold in scope):
    • The Soviet Commander (C-in-C) [me] was promised a cold welcome in a gulag if he didn't come up with a sensible workable plan, so instead I gave them this (see below, the last known scratchings of a "lost to history" 1943 Soviet Army Commander): 

    • So the centre mass was all just a "distraction", the arcing right wheel was going to be a war winning manoeuvre and it was working until the Germans started dropping bombs on us. What Chris did show us was possibly the best and most comprehensively beautiful WWII 15mm armies I had ever laid my eyes upon and something for me to try and emulate in my beloved 20mm scale.
    • Unsurprisingly I was one of the first in line to proffer money for a set of his (signed) rules. I have plans for big NQM things in 2023/24.

Games be now all over. A small matter of the WD AGM and a warm official welcome to our new CoW home, Missenden Abbey, I cannot praise it high enough. They not only put up with us for a weekend, they fed us like kings. Looking forward to 2024 already. 

This is also not forgetting the fantastic - Bring and Buy Table. A field of other peoples dreams, at bargain prices! This year I was a "mass importer" (buyer) rather than an exporter (seller) and my only regret was that of not acquiring a little bit more (not that I really need it) .. so moving on from that Midas greed, as what I did get was ample enough! What was included was a lot of 1/300 Modern British Cold War Trucks and Land Rovers, a WWI 1/72 Tank kit, a couple of 25mm Sci-Fi Figures, 1/72 Lancaster Bomber, 1/72 Hurricane and some 1/72 NATO Ground Crew. I am regretting not picking up some board game bargains but ho hum, it is not as if I am short of a few of those!

Footnote: I also took the opportunity to pick up "It Rolls For Ivan"  [Russian Civil War] from the reputable stable of Graham Evans just to fall into another period (he did that last year with me and "For Whom The Dice Tolls" [Spanish Civil War])

Amazing Fact: My weekend was but one of many possible weekends (over fifty unique experiences by my counting, one unique for each WD member at CoW). In fact all these numerous parallel universes, looked equally as fun and enjoyable as mine, were marvellously and simultaneously going on around me. I could tell that by the copious smiles on people's faces.

Final Word: Respect to all the organisers for a fantastic job. Thanks you to all the people who put on such interesting games and talks. I for one am already looking forward to next year's event and thinking about what game to put on! My only promise to myself, is to pace myself better as I think I tried to do too much and pretty much wore myself out!

More information (and much better photos) can be found at these links: 

WD Website:
Other Blogs of interest describing Cow 2023: