Thursday, May 30, 2013

Auxilia Palatina

Just finished on the workbench are these Baccus 6mm late Roman chaps.

They are meant to be skirmishers but I've more than I need for that role so these are based as Auxilia Palatina for Impetus.  Please don't click on the pictures to look closer. They're meant to give the impression of a unit rather than to be exquisitely painted miniature humans.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rules of the Game

Chatting with some wargaming acquaintances at Triples has led me to think about the rules I use.  I do seem to be settling on a portfolio of rules that cover the span of periods that interest me. 

Over the years I’ve switched rules and rebased figures more times than I care to mention.  My 15mm Samurai were originally based for George Gush’s WRG Renaissance rules (but I’m not sure they ever got played with under those rules).  Then I rebased them on 80mm x 40mm bases inspired by a set of DBA-derived rules called something like The Age of the Country At War.  I think I tried these rules once before abandoning them.  Next I came across Peter Pig’s various rules sets and decided I liked the look of four 15mm figures on a 30mm square base.  With no particular rule set in mind, I rebased again!  Finally (I hope) I decided to recognise that I was only likely to use these figures with Hordes of the Things and rebased them again on 40mm wide bases.  At last they have been used for a few games!  I could tell similar tales about several other armies.

Now, however, I seem to be settling down.  I thought I’d review here the decisions that have led to the rules that now seem to be my defaults.

Ancients and Medievals - Impetus
I was first turned on to Impetus by the large bases it uses and the potential they have for making units as dioramas.  My Wars of the Roses forces (one rebase but a lot of time spent blutacked to sabot bases) are now on 12cm frontage bases.  I’m very happy with Basic Impetus’s speed of play.  A standard Basic Impetus army has slightly fewer elements than a DBA army but uses slightly more figures.  

In terms of game play I enjoy the way Impetus has a little more “texture” than DBA.  In a DBA combat there are typically three possible outcomes; either one or other of the units will be destroyed or pushed back or there will be a draw and the melee continues next round.  In Impetus there is more sense of the action swaying back and forth as first one side and then the other gains momentum.   The rules can occasionally give what seem to be anomalous results but I suspect these are no more extreme than would result from a 6:1 roll in a game like DBA.

I have a rather bitty collection of 6mm ancients and medievals on 60mm frontage.  This isn’t a standard Impetus basing size but the rules work fine using 1cm per U (the unit of measurement in the rules).

Renaissance to 19th Century - Principles of War
Principles of War is one of my more recent discoveries.  Alan Saunders suggested that I try the 19th century version for my (much rebased and infrequently used) Franco-Prussian War collection.  Before I got a chance to try this I was introduced to the unofficial ancients variant by Steve Oates.

My FPW chaps are now based for POW and are likely to stay that way after They Died For Glory, Volley and Bayonet, Les Gens Braves, and my own DBA and Square Bashing variants were all tried and found wanting.  

POW has scored with me because (a) it required the minimum of effort to set up the armies (one Irregular Miniatures strip per element) and (b) because I enjoy the elegant way hidden movement and map-based command and control are handled.

My renaissance figures are mostly on 6cm x 3cm bases and again whilst these are not standard for the rules I think they are going to work OK.

My most recent purchase in this family of rules is the 18th century variant.  It’s likely to be the set of choice for use with my Great Northern War Russians.  Again these are on non-standard 60mm bases but I’m getting pretty relaxed about base sizes.

Larger WW2 battles - Tac:WW2 / Blitzkrieg Commander
For many years Tac:WW2 has been an automatic choice for brigade level games.  It scores over Rapid Fire by being designed for 6mm figures and over Spearhead in being less bland (texture again).

I think I will carry on playing Tac:WW2 but BKC will probably see a lot of use simply because my local players are increasingly familiar with Cold War Commander and it makes sense to take advantage of that in using rules from the same family.

Another area where BKC scores is that its easier to cope with a single HQ element on a distinctive base than to keep track of which vehicles among many are the HQ elements of a Tac:WW2 battalion.

Twentieth Century Skirmish - Arc of Fire
Chris Pringle sent me a playtest copy of Arc of Fire because we’d worked together on the Blitzkrieg 1940 scenario book or Tac Publications.  It immediately became my go-to set of rules for this type of game.  I love the command and control system, which, unusually for a  card-driven system, manages to keep multiple players involved for most of the time.  The random events table is also a winner.  

Post-WW2 big battles - Cold War Commander
The way that CWC got my 6mm collection out of long-untouched storage and onto the table is something I’ve mentioned here before.  A Fistful of TOWs was the only set of rules that might have run it close but when I wanted to start playing with these toys again, FFOT was between versions and heading in the direction of being majorly expensive to purchase whilst CWC was on the shelves of my local wargame store and gave everything I needed in one book.

CWC ain’t perfect but it gets played and I can’t see any other set overtaking it in the near future.

Fantasy battles - Hordes of the Things / Basic Impetus Fantasy
As I’ve said before, the number of times I’ve played HOTT exceeds any other set of rules by a factor of at least ten.  You can comfortably play four or more games in a day and is remarkably free for areas where people disagree on rules interpretations.  With the Glory Day amendments in place (Shooters’ and Warbands’ move distances swapped) it’s a remarkable well-balanced game too.  

So why has Impetus found it’s way in here? Well, it comes down to what I call texture.  HOTT does a great job of abstracting a lot of interaction into a single pair of opposed dice rolls but sometimes I want the game system to tell me a little more about what’s going on.  Impetus brings a greater range of interesting unit characteristics and a more nuanced combat system to the table.

In an odd sort of way Impetus (in both its fantasy and historical variants) reminds me of the sort of battles I occasionally played and enjoyed reading about back in the days of WRG 5th edition Ancients!

Fantasy Skirmish - Song of Blades and Heroes
As I’ve said elsewhere: quick, easy, fun and suddenly a few lonely figures become a useful warband.   

So what have we learned? Firstly, it’s really easy to identify a successful set of rules.  They get played.  If your figures for a particular period are sitting unused in a box somewhere, the rules you’re (not) using are probably to blame.

Secondly, basing standards are, at least for me, important.  I’m increasingly impressed by the way some gamers manage to make their elements look like real military units  by turning each base into a mini-diorama.  This can be anything from a 30mm square HQ element for 1/300th scale Cold War Commander to a 12cm frontage unit of 28mm knights for Impetus.

And finally, if you’re likely to play most of your games in situations where you’re providing both sides, don’t fret about base sizes. If a game is designed with 40mm frontages in mind, it’s most unlikely that you’ll break it utterly by using 60mm bases instead (as long as you’re consistent between opposing armies).

Monday, May 20, 2013

Triples 2013 - Sunday

Day two at Triples I forgot to take my camera so no pics I’m afraid.  Shame because I really wanted to get some shots of Dr Mike’s fabulous 6mm units.  As it was I was able to quiz the good doctor on his basing technique and I’ll be trying some of his ideas for sure.  What I must resist is the temptation to adopt some of his enormous basing - though masses of 6mm figures on full-size Impetus bases do look impressive.

The absent Polish Generals issue is resolved.  Pete Berry is going to post me some English Civil War command strips to replace the missing men.

I had a brief chat about pikes with the guys from the Ilkley club over their lovely 28mm Cerignola, 1503 game. As well as giving me guidance on their preferred method of making pikes (0.047” piano wire), they also made me aware of the laser-cut building parts from Warbases.  I went round to their stall immediately and bought a 28mm wrought iron gate way and a balcony kit.  They also sold me a "show special" bag of bricks for a quid.  The gateway may see action next time I run Ninjas At The Vicarage or it might end up in downtown Tcherbevan. 

I also popped into the indoor running track area and spent a few minutes watching the end of one of the Impetus competition games.  The visual effect wasn't great (I understand there'd been a cock-up with some of the arrangements) but it seemed that the competition was being played in a very friendly fashion and it was interesting to try and pick up on some of the differences between Basic Impetus and the full game.

Finally I got to speak to some of the people I missed on Saturday (Hi, Pete!) and probably recruited a participant or two for net year's Crisis Point game.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Triples 2013 - Saturday

Saturday morning spent at Triples doing a bit of shopping.

First up I visited Irregular Miniatures to get some of their 6mm scale renaissance models for me developing Polish army.  Unfortunately they were a bit short of the relevant figures and in scrabbling through their boxes looking for possible substitutes I decided I wasn't happy with the quality of models I was seeing.  I made up my mind to visit Baccus 6mm instead.

First, though, I hunted for and found a copy of 18th Century Principles of War which I want to evaluate for use with my GNW Russian and Turks (and possibly the Poles too).

I then popped over to the Wargames Developments table and spent half an hour playing their new WW1 game "Ten Rounds Rapid".  This was, as usual with WD, great fun. Playing as a battalion commander in the British Expeditionary Force at Mons I just about managed to hold the line with the Germans only gaining a tenuous lodgement in my first line at the end of the action.

The set up - probably the smallest game at Triples.

John Armatys ran the game for my run through.

The Germans draw close to the British first line.

And at one point launch a close assault.
After Ten Rounds Rapid I decided to bite the bullet (musket ball?) and buy the Baccus Polish Army Pack.  I now have to paint three units of Hussars, four of Vallacks and twelve of Pancerni.  Unfortunately the pack was lacking the bag of Generals it should have contained.  I'll have to go back tomorrow and sort this out.

I managed to chat briefly with Carl and meet his wife Maggie.  Also saw Stuart and Andy but missed Pete altogether and only saw Will for a moment whilst I was busy defending plucky Belgium from the Hun!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Triples Weekend

This Saturday I shall be off to the English Institute of Sport for Sheffield Wargames Club's annual convention Triples. I've just realised this is the thirtieth anniversary of my first attendance.

Back in 1983 Triples was held in the Royal Victoria Hotel (just round the corner from where I now work).  I remember taking part in the Runequest tournament playing as a group of foul-mouthed and pretty useless Broo. This time I shall, as usual, make an effort to play in the Wargames Developments game.

The EIS is a perfectly acceptable venue but with so many cons now happening in gymnasiums or their like, I can't help feeling they are losing much of their individual character.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

First Poles

Having decided to finally have a go at Renaissance Principles of War (I've had a copy of the first edition knocking around for years) I've started building a 17th century Polish army out of bits and pieces I had lying around.

On the left is a unit of Drabants made from Baccus Russian Strel'tsi whilst on the right are King Jan Sobieski's Janissary guards made from Irregular Miniatures Turkish Janissaries.  As you can see there's a significant difference in size between the two manufacturers.  Baccus's use of the term "6mm" could almost be considered false advertising!

Like the Janissaries, the Drabants are based on an illustration in one of the Men At Arms books on the Polish army.  The flag is from the excellent Alex's Flag website and represents the Sandomierz district.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Archers... everyday story of Wars of the Roses folk.

These guys are mostly Perry Miniatures plastics, the exception being the sword-wielding vintenar who's an old Citadel miniature.

They are painted as retainers of the duke of Somerset, one of the most important Lancastrian nobles of the Wars of the Roses.  Actually, I say one of the most important Lancastrians but in fact there were several dukes of Somerset; most Lancastrian defeats in the wars saw the death of a duke of Somerset!

These figures show my current style for 28mm figures.  It's taken me thirty years but I've finally managed to reach a level of Zen-like calm that means I'm not trying to make each figure a perfect masterpiece.  At this rate there's the possibility that I might get the whole box of figures finished!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Yuzhnaya Ozereika Skirmish

Today's Saturday Afternoon Wargame was the first Arc of Fire skirmish we've played for quite some time.  Andy and Carl came over and I dusted off an old scenario I'd originally played solo about ten years ago.

Operation sea was a landing by Soviet amphibious forces on the northeastern coast of the Black Sea.  If the Soviet Naval Infantry could meet up with Soviet land forces attacking in a southwesterly direction from the area of Krasnodar they would cut off the whole of Army Group South in the Caucasus.

Our scenario involves a platoon of Soviet naval infantry, supported by a lend-lease M3 Stuart, attempting to capture a Romanian artillery position.

Andy, commanding the Soviets, faced interesting tactical choices.  He could move slowly up the ravine on his left (outline by lichen in the picture below) staying out of sight but risking being ambushed or he could stick to the better going on the right but have to clear at least one small wooded area.

Soviet forces move towards the Romanians' fortified position.

He chose a bit of both with one squad moving up the gully whilst the remainder made a right hook.

First blood - the Soviets' first squad comes under fire from
 the Romanian off-board artillery and loses a man.  
More artillery arrives as the Russians make their way past the first woods.

On the Romanian right the two man observer team was deployed at the end of the gully and, having succeeded in calling down off-table artillery on the Soviets' first squad, then turned their weapons (a pistol and a bolt-action rifle) on the Russians moving up the gully.

By a freak of dice rolling they managed to kill the Russian squad leader.  The naval infantry failed the resulting morale check and pulled back down he gully.

On the Russian right some naval infantry move up to assault the Romanian recce unit in the second woods. Note
that the tank has a white counter indicating that it has been neutralised by fire from the Romanian mountain gun.
Moments later another 100mm round strikes the M3 and knocks it out. 

The final position.
At about five o'clock we ended up with the left flank Soviets stuck in Confused Mode in the gully, the squad on their right routed after a badly failed morale check, the anti-tank rifle team wiped out, the tank knocked-out and the remaining troops unlikely to force a result.  As such we called it a clear win to Carl and his Romanians.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


In a break from mowing the lawn on Sunday I decided to have a go at the box of Peco modern office buildings I won in the raffle at HOTT Berkeley 2011.

The box contains enough parts to build three small, square buildings but it also encourages you to combine them into larger buildings. Certain parts can be modified very easily to allow two or more units to join together.

I decided to do a single unit first to get a feel for how the parts fit together and the result is seen below.

It looks OK even unpainted but I think I'll give it a grey wash to pick out the brickwork.  I'm going to combine the other two units into a longer building.  I'll base them both within a wall as some kind of Andreivian light industrial unit.