Saturday 31 January 2015

Chain of Command - "Kampfgruppe von Luck"

Rich Clarke's been busy again - another in the series of 'Pint Sized Campaigns' supplements for Chain of Command. This one covers the actions of 12 Para and 21st Panzer Division on D-Day, as the former attempt to stop the latter recapturing the bridges over the Orne, or at the very least making sure the 6th Airlanding Brigade has somewhere to land at the end of D-Day to reinforce the Paras. So, a short (in terms of elapsed time) and intense campaign.

I'm actually quietly amused, since I splurged on some Aritizan and Black Tree paras to augment my single section (originally for Op: Squad) in the sales earlier his month (so, before anyone says anything - not a new force, period or scale!).

You can't really go wrong here - £3.60 (Rich's local put the price of a pint up by 10p!) for another 32 pages of maps, background and scenarios to work with Chain of Command and At the Sharp End

You are, though, going to need some interestingly obscure vehicles, as 21st Panzer were the recipient of some of Major Alfred Becker's rebuilds of French vehicles as self-propelled guns: in particular, a Unic P107 halftrack or two, a S307 auf Pak40 half-track, and a 15cm sFH13/1 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper (f).

In 15mm you're in luck, if you can find Battlefront's models. In 28mm? Warlord make the Unic, but you're clean out of luck for the S307/Pak40 (although the scenario does suggest an Sdkfz251/22 as a 'counts as', which again Warlord do), and the SP 15cm gun? Well... Black Tree used to do a Grille which would do as a 'counts as' as long as you don't mind something that's solid white metal and probably causes a local gravitational anomaly, or you could have fun with a conversion of the upcoming Warlord Marder I...

That aside? this looks like a fun set of scenarios...

Friday 30 January 2015

Phew (again).

I have had a week.

I'm probably not allowed to talk about some of the work-related IT fun I've had this week - suffice it to say that the number of unscheduled breakages only I could fix had better get me a decent end of year review... :D

And to add insult to injury, at 4:15pm today, the very nice but hard-to-get Internet router that runs my network decided that it would stop routing packets - cue a teenager, a wife, and several hosted websites with no connectivity. And by "very hard-to-get" I mean that by the time I'd figured out it was the router, my next likely delivery date was Tuesday. It's like paint, I swear. You always run out just after the shops shut... (mind you, I suspect I could get Rueben to deliver....)

Made it to PC World before they shut, picked up a TP-Link which is not ideal but at least connected first buzz. Sometime in-between being the parental taxi service (20 mins to Stamford, back, work on router, 20 mins to Stamford, back), I think I have it working. I don't want to see the management side of any more computing hardware at ALL this weekend :D

Thursday 29 January 2015

Battle Report - 24 Jan 2015 - I Ain't Been Shot Mum 3

A teaching/refresher game for the club, which saw me umpiring Dan and Gary, with a slightly understrength German company, defending against the oncoming Yanks, helmed by Carl and Andy.

The initial table
The Germans' deployment didn't match the American plan, although, in Gary and Dan's defence, I'm still not entirely sure the Americans had one as such :D The initial pre-game Allied barrage did precious little damage, but the Germans had to do some hasty redeployment/moving of sections on blinds to cope with the Amis' axis of advance (down the length of a 6'x4' table towards a small village and church nestling beneath a low ridge).

Germans on the American left coming under fire.
The opening firefight on the American left (top left of the first picture) was a good demonstration of why densely packed units get hammered - the +2 on the fire table and decent dice led to a German platoon being pinned, and the lead section of the two lots of Americans, correctly, took the opportunity to hop the hedge they'd been taking cover behind, cross the road and assault the wood the Germans were hiding in. They needed to move about 8 inches each on 2 dice (losing one for the hedge)... Whoops. Section movement rolls of 6, 4, and 3 left them hanging around in the open looking foolish... Looking even more foolish when Gary remembered he had a FOO for a section of off-table 80mms.

In went the call to the battery... and an equally frantic order from the platoon CO for that section to take what cover it could.

A steady right flank advance by the
Americans, sensibly well spread out. 
Meanwhile, on the other flank, the third American section started advancing around the edges of the marsh, eventually adopting a two up one back approach with two sections lining the hedge and a third advancing tactically across the field. The troop of Shermans headed down the road, meanwhile.

A PAK40, dug in amid the pine trees, and the FOO.
Cue the two German PAK40s, one in the village and one dug in on the ridge amid the pine trees (with the FOO). The lead Sherman was actually a pretty decent target in the open. And they even hit. They just couldn't damage it for toffee.

And about that time the German FOO made contact, and in drifted a ranging shot: bang on target. Followed by a hefty barrage of 80mm mortar shells, which unsurprisingly pinned the section caught in the open.

The American support weapons (a section of 60mm mortars and two 30 cals) had by now got themselves settled in the lone intact house at the American end of proceedings, and they and the Shermans took on the PAK 40s and pinned them. For an encore, the company CO hared across to the pinned GIs, and unpinned them (with the aid of the platoon commander). There was protracted debate amongst the German officer corps whether to abandon the wood or take it to the Amis: Dan's policy of caution was, I felt, correct, but the dice made a mockery of it, as rolling 3 dice for the first section to head back out through the woods he rolled a 5. On a section with 6 shock, at -1 per dice, who clearly decided that they liked the scrapes and scratches they were hiding in in preference to leaving them. At which point Gary sort of got his way and the second section stuck around and fired.

Fire from the second platoon of Americans on the left tipped the first German section into excess shock, and then the Americans piled in. This time, the dice Gods gave them enough move, and though it was a close-run thing, the fact that it was two sections to one told in the end, and Andy's dice rolling both won the combat and did enough shock to cause the remaining section to lose its bottle.

There we had to call it: I'm still of the opinion we don't play IABSM enough to get games finished in an evening, as it's a game that the minutiae of don't stick in the memory... not helped by a QRS that I might just have to improve on, and a rulebook that's begging for an index. So we'll just have to play it more often, and who knows, I may train my lot out of lining the hedges and blazing away at each other!

Having SAID that? Still the best set of WW2 company level rules out there.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Obituary: Steve Frisby

Steve wasn't someone I knew personally: indeed, he predated me at Peterborough Wargames Club by a long way. I suspect, however, that some of my readers may well have encountered him on the tournament circuit in the past decade or so, be it DBR or Warhammer. Grahame Middleton from the club wrote an obituary for our site:
Steve Frisby was a founding member of our club back in the the late eighties. He was a stalwart of our early attempts at running participation games at shows and frequently represented the club in BHGS competitions, where he won many trophies at DBR and Warhammer, including umpiring Warhammer events at Britcon. He won several awards in some of our own campaigns and was always a tricky opponent who could come up with  very effective combinations of magic and killer troop types – you always knew you’d been in a fight after playing Steve! His passing is a loss to the wargaming community and he will be missed by those who knew him.
Steve passed away, after a battle with cancer, on Monday.

The club will be presenting a trophy in his memory at the Hereward Wargames Show in November.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

RIP: Bob Symes

A slightly belated obit., but nonetheless, I suspect for many people of my age quite a notable passing.

Robert Alexander Baron Schutzmann von Schutzmansdorff (6 May 1924 – 19 January 2015)

When I was younger, the idea of coverage of any of my hobbies on the TV (all three channels of it) was incredibly exciting, so (as a young railway modeller) you can imagine the unrestrained delight when the BBC dedicated an episode of Model World (in and of itself quite a surprise as a series) to the world of model trains.

It was presented by an avuncular, cheerful, intense and clearly keen chap rejoicing (at that point) in the name of Bob Symes-Shutzmann. Here was a grown-up. On TV. Enthusing about one of my hobbies. I mean, just, wow...

He also kept popping up on Tomorrow's World and other places, but to me he was always the model railway guy.

Monday 26 January 2015

Chain of Command QRS - update v2.0

After much discussion here and on the forum, you should find v2.0 of the Chain of Command QRS linked from the usual place.

Sunday 25 January 2015

WIP (cont'd): PSC 15mm Shermans

Done. Well ... done to the 'I can put 'em on a wargames table tomorrow' stage - assuming the cat doesn't knock 'em on the floor while they're drying by the radiator.

PSC US Armour spray, drybrush with 50/50 Vallejo Brown Violet/US Field Drab, wash with Army Painter strong tone ink. Commander's jacket is US Field Drab, tracks are AP Monster Brown drybrushed with 50/50 AP Uniform Grey/Gun Metal.

US stars and MicroSol/Set on order this week, at which point I'll also weather them with some of the Humbrol enamel washes I have.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Review and WIP: Plastic Soldier Company M4A1 75mm Shermans

My ... rather large stash of 15mm vehicles is starting to take a dent, slowly. Today (as I need them for Monday's IABSM game down the club) I dug out a box of the PSC M4A1 Shermans (not to be confused with their M4A1 (Wet)[1], M4A2, M4A3 or M4A4 Shermans!).

You get 5 identical sprues: three part track assemblies, top/bottom/front hulls, top/bottom turret, three part hatch, three part gun+mantlet, tiny bow MG and a choice of US or UK commander figures.

It's a bit fiddly, but practise helps, and I am going to have to get used to it, since I have at least ten more of various marks of PSC Sherman to assemble. 'Yellow' liquid poly (you know what I mean) works fine: the trick with the tracks is to do them first, glue the bottom half onto the wheel assembly and then don't touch them till you've done everything else, before adding the top half of the tracks :D

The first one took me about 20 mins, I was down
Models bought from PE2Collectables
to under 10 for the last couple, even though the last one included fitting a commander and the open hatch.

By the time I was done, though, it was dark and way too cold to paint, so it'll be out with the PSC Armour spray at lunch time and a quick detailing and weathering session later on tomorrow.

With hindsight, I should have glued a couple of coins inside each one for weight - they are plastic, and obviously very light. Other than that? Nice kits, very clean, not that hard to put together.

[1] Which I have a strong suspicion is exactly the same sprue as the M4A1 except with different parts marked as 'not for this kit' and a different box :D

Friday 23 January 2015

Revising the CoC QRS

Yes, I know I've been talking about this rather a lot this week, but hey - it's all in a good cause and folks seem to like it.

Things I'm considering and I'd like folks' opinions on:

  • Should I make a black and white low-print-cost version? (I already have one vote for this that I know of)?
  • Americans, and other souls who have not seen the light of ISO paper sizes: Is it worth me doing a version formatted for borderless US Letter (8 1/2" x 11") or are you happy using Fit To Page or scaling by 95% to print, just like Rich makes you do with all the PDF-only supplements?
  • I think there are a couple of things missing that matter:
    • the covering fire rules (which I think I can squeeze on Page 2 with a bit of creative editing)
    • the Master Arsenal table: to fit this on I'd need to lose the Useful References and QRS QRS sections from Page 6, and probably a couple of other things as well). With that in mind, what would you not mind losing?
Comment away!

Thursday 22 January 2015

"Old Skool"?

Northstar's "Nick's Bargain Basement" sale is still going. I was particularly amused, in the light of the analysis I did on the club's top 20 games last year by this....

And I quote:
"Remember when Ancient Wargaming meant legions of 28mm miniatures marching across the table-top? Lets relive those heady days again with these North Star Old Skool Ancient Army Deals."
So, playing with big armies is old school now, huh? An interesting thought....

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Battle Report - 19 Jan 2015 - Chain of Command

A game on Monday, mostly intended as an introduction for Dan and a refresher for the rest of us.

This was the basic Patrol scenario, with a village on a staggered crossroads in the middle of the lengthwise table. Both sides had a carefully chosen 7 support points, and Dan and Andy took a PzIV with the Germans, and Gary and I a Cromwell with the Brits.

Patrol phase was a little one-sided - the British managed to get jump off points in or near their side of the village, and the Germans were constrained to the hedge line in rear of their side. You'd think from there it was going to be easy for the British, but... no.

Both sides got their AFVs on early, and the British deployed the 2" mortar and a section in the street - this latter promptly got the attention of an MG34 picking them out through a gap in the buildings, took casualties and legged it forward across the street into a building on the far side (brown roof).

With hindsight, this might have been unwise, as they rapidly came under fire from the PzIV, both HE from the main gun and the bow MG raking the building and slowly piling up kills and shock. And then came face to face with one of the rules we got wrong - no you can't take that shock off with the Senior Leader across the road, as the unit's very definitely in LOS of the enemy!

Meanwhile, further down the street, one German section had occupied another building, and an across-the-street firefight ensued: despite the fact that the British deployed two sections to take them on, one in the red-roofed house, the other lining the hedges next to the big manor house, they managed to hold those two sections up. Largely because the German Senior Leader was with that unit, and generally using most of his activations every phase to remove shock, despite grenades flying at the windows.

Eventually, the Cromwell made it as far as the buildings, and started to add its firepower. By this time, the advanced section across the road had pulled out, and the Germans sent a section to take that building as well.

So, what do you do when a Cromwell obligingly presents its flank to a gap between the buildings?

Yup. That's right.


It needed a 5 on 2D6 to hit. No problem.  11 dice needing 4s, vs 7 dice (Cromwell's flank armour) needing 5s. Net successes? MINUS 2.

WHOOSH. KLANNNGGGG. Round bounces off side of Cromwell.

There, we had to call it, as it was 10:30.

Thoughts? Well: it did all degenerate into a big lumpy firefight, and as Rich Clarke points out in one of his blog entries, big lumpy firefights are effectively a lottery. One side will break first, but the other will be close to it and borderline useless. The Germans had a spare section they never used, and once the British had committed all their sections, they should have been able to pick a weak spot to bring it to bear and take out the remaining British. After all, they had essentially held up three British sections with one advance section and supporting fire from one other plus a tank.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Four Chain of Command rules you might be getting wrong

Played CoC last night at the club (report to follow tomorrow): I was distinctly amused to realise how much more of the rules I know properly now, by the simple act of typing them into a quick reference sheet.

With that in mind, here are four Chain of Command rules we used to get embarrassingly wrong:
  • Deployment (4.3.1): on a one, you may only deploy an independent team, not a fire team that's part of a section (unless it's a Scout team). This is different from activation.
  • Removing Shock (4.5.3): you may only remove Shock from a team your leader is not attached to if it's not in LOS of an enemy unit.
  • Overwatch (4.5.2): Overwatch:
    • is an activation (no moving and then going on Overwatch!);
    • is something you do to a team, not a section.
  • At the Double (7.1): it's one Shock per team, not per section.
[N.B. CoC QRS now at v1.2, some minor typos fixed and a small change to the 'Useful References' table]

Monday 19 January 2015

Chain of Command QRS - update

I've updated the QRS in my lunch break to add the missing HE/Support tables and a page of misc stuff (flamethrowers, grenades etc). Thanks to Derek of Derek's Wee Toys for spotting the rather glaring omissions.

Downloadable from the same place as before, and also from a permanent page here on this site.

Kickstarters and entitlement

Prompted by a tweet from Mike Hobbs, and an outstanding thought I never got to raise (because we ran out of time) on one of the Meeples' end of year shows in which we were also going to list our pet peeves of the year:
I know I've said this before, but once again it rears its ugly head (and yes, the best advice is still 'don't read the comments')...

Kickstarters are, when it comes down to it, a vehicle for (in general and hopefully) low-risk investment on the part of you, the punter, and low-risk fund raising for product/whatever development on the part of the designer. Nothing more. You are not entitled to insane quantities of figures at massive discount over store retail, just because it's a Kickstarter, and Mantic and Reaper have enough infrastructure, resources and fans to do that - they are the exception. In fact, if you see someone promising that on the kind of small run Kickstarter that seems to garner this kind of whinging and moaning? Start questioning their financial planning and common sense, and whether you should actually be risking your money.

Ultimately, what it says on the Kickstarter page is up to the person running the Kickstarter: if you don't like what the Kickstarter is promising, or what they're proposing to do with your money, then don't back it, and walk away. But please? Stop moaning. We seem to have lost sight, amid the headiness of things like Dreadball and the like, of what Kickstarter is actually for: you are the one helping the Kickstarter by putting up your money in advance under the terms they choose to specify, so they can both gauge demand and then have cash-flow available to pursue they project. They don't have to do anything special for you compared to an ordinary after-the-fact punter: yes, it's courteous to express gratitude to backers by some form of rewards, but some peoples' entitlement issues, that a backer should be treated like a close sibling of the Divine for even THINKING about waving money at the Kickstarter, are both greedy and preposterous.

End of rant.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Chain of Command QRS

I'm running a demo game of Chain of Command at the club tomorrow, so I figured I'd print off a couple of quick reference sheets for the players...

Except that I really didn't like any of the ones I could find online. So of course, I've just spent three hours editing together my own. It's available in a first draft here - comments welcome, as I'd like to tune it before I uploaded to the TFL group.

[Tip of the hat to Last Hussar, who's trick of including the section references I stole shamelessly, and to Rich for the original QRS and the CoC logo.]

Saturday 17 January 2015

PSC Pz38(t)/Marder III recall

Just a heads up if, like me, you picked up a box of the 15mm PSC 38(t)'s this past week or two. (In my case, because I wanted some Marder IIIs, which were supplied by Reuben from PE2 Collectables). According to PSC:
"Really sorry everyone but the 15mm Panzer 38t and Marder frame is not right and we have stopped the production run to modify the tool and get it right. The mods will not take long and we will be back in production next week. All those you have received a pre-modification kit will be sent a new improved kit. Anyone who bought an early kit from a retailer - please contact your retailer next week."
Oops.  Ah well. Guess I'll hang on before assembling mine :D

Friday 16 January 2015

Meeples and Miniatures 138 - Review of 2014

Neil Shuck, Mike Hobbs and I sat down on New Year's Day for a very pleasant couple of hours chat on what we'd done during the year, and also our own top 5 games for the year.

Neil's finally edited it and posted it (thanks so much for leaving my Jake Thornton fluff in!), and you can catch it here.

For reference, our top 5s were:

1: Sword and Spear
2: Chain of Command
4: Jugula
5: Small World 2

1: Open Combat
2: Pulp Alley
3: Sword and Spear
4: Heroes of Normandy
5: Battlegroup: Overlord

2: Firefly Board Game
3: Dreadball
4: Sword and Spear
5: Chain of Command

Thursday 15 January 2015

Kickstarter Watch - Create Your Mini 3D printed minis

There's nothing more fun than when two series of posts on this blog collide. Here's a very interesting Kickstarter, from a French company, which, very sadly, just failed to meet its funding target about three hours ago (by the looks of the timescale, I blame Christmas: I gather they're planning to be back for another go...).

Essentially, they provide a web-based 3D figure editor (at, where you can pose and generally equip your model to taste, and then they print it for you for about €5 a figure. Reading between the lines of the FAQ on the website, they're aiming to print in resin using SLA (Stereolithography - LASERS, dudes!), rather than the hobbyist plastic extrusion method (see the stuff PatG printed for me), which gives better resolution.

This is (I think) not the only company doing this, but I did just happen to fall over it, and it's a very neat application of 3D which proves some of what I was saying earlier.

Criticisms (and they're small ones):

  • I find the figures a little too lifelike compared to typical 28mm figures, They're more like some of Wargames Factories WW2 offerings (which are also designed via 3D CAD) or perhaps some of Mantic's human Dreadball players, which are more lifelike, but don't quite fit with everyone else's. I'm not sure I'd use the site for (for example) a one-off hero figure to go with a collection of metal or plastic troops. That said, though, part of the beauty of 3D printing is you CAN make things to realistic proportions if you want to.
  • The web interface to design your figure is a little clunky and off-putting at first look. I had a play, and it does seem to work, though.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Royal Mail & paints - good news!

For those who haven't had an update from the petition, and were wondering, it appears Royal Mail has actually seen sense and lifted their restrictions on mailing paints.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Greater love hath no man....

....then he perform IT support for his family.

In this case, so far tonight I have installed Windows 7 for my son on a brand new PC, and rescued the m-I-l from an interesting predicament in which she had managed to turn off Bluetooth on her Mac. Using the only mouse she owns. Which is Bluetooth.

I swear, no jury of my peers would convict me. :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday 12 January 2015


Second of the club's major January events - the scenery audit/stocktake.

Somehow, we've managed to save about 3 9L Really Useful Boxes worth of space.

Sunday 11 January 2015

"Battleground" on YouTube

In case you missed it...

DougC of Unfashionably Shiny (love the name) has been digitising some very old episodes of the Battleground TV series, presented by Edward Woodward, and starring such wargaming luminaries as Peter Gilder, Duncan McFarlane and Paddy Griffith.

Check out the introduction below, and more episodes here:

Saturday 10 January 2015

More sales bargains

Anyone looking for a Chain of Command airborne platoon in 28mm, be it US, UK or German, check out Northstar's "Nick's Bargain Basement" page, where, O lucky reader, for an unknown time longer, you can pick up a 3 10-man section platoon + command of Artisan metals for £47 £30 (less than a quid a figure), and then top it off in the other sale with Black Tree Design's mortar team, snipers etc. (For a CoC British Para platoon you'll be a Bren team short, for what it's worth, as the third section has two.) There's also some nice discounts on 4Ground MDF in both 15mm and 28mm.

Apologies that I'm just link sharing at present - I finally got nobbled by the winter cold, and it seems to have taken my ability to concentrate for long periods away with it.

Friday 9 January 2015

Revised chain of command force lists

Rich is busy updating/revising the Chain of Command lists starting from Germany and Poland 1939. They're available in the files section of the mailing list, and you may want to keep an eye to see when your favourite list gets updated.

Thursday 8 January 2015

Black Tree Design New Year's sale

For all you Chain of Command and Bolt Action players, specifically...

This is 50% off all historical figures, and has been (quote) "extended for another week" - since the message announcing that arrived on the 5th, I'm guessing this is good through the weekend.

Click here for details.

It's very tempting to turn my section of Paras into a platoon for CoC...

Wednesday 7 January 2015

A closer look at our top 20

I was going to post something else, but I was distracted by a Warlord announcement about yet another 'boutique RPG game' [(c) Mike Hobbs, 2013], namely a Terminator tie in, which caused me to sigh 'what, again?' rather.

Let's break down our top 20 from a couple of days ago into some broad categories you can all disagree about in the comments section :D

20th Century Historical (Platoon-): Chain of Command,. Bolt Action, (Dead's Army)
20th Century Historical (Company+): Battlegroup Overlord(etc), Flames of War 'Nam
20th Century Air: Wings of War
Pre-1900 Large Scale Historical: Black Powder, WAB, War and Conquest, Death In The Dark Continent,
Pre-1900 Skirmish Historical: Dux Britanniarum, (WAB campaign) Bushido
SF/Fantasy Large Scale: Warhammer, Oldhammer, 40K (sometimes), Future War Commander
SF/Fantasy "Ship": XWing, Battlefleet Gothic, Dystopian Wars
SF/Fantasy Skirmish: Deadzone, Warmahordes, Judge Dread, Dreadball, 40K (sometimes)

Interesting: I was expecting, before I started counting, more games that fell into the 'boutique RPG-lite'/Necromunda 'gang' category, or whatever you want to call it, especially with single-manufacturer setting-specific figures. It's pretty much a 50/50 split between historical and not, in terms of games, but probably weighted towards not if I could be bothered to count number of players (which I may do this year).

I'm sure there's a conclusion to be drawn here, but I'm coming down with a cold and it's escaping me. :)

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Book Review: "One-Hour Wargames", Neil Thomas

[Free review copy supplied by Pen and Sword Books.]

I've had a couple of Neil's books out of the local library - he probably would't mind me saying that in a way he's a bit of a latter-day Don Featherstone, in that his stock-in-trade is the themed book (by period or other theme) with one or more rulesets within it. This one could be seen as filling a hole in the area covered by things like Solo Wargaming, Skirmish Wargaming and similar books, I guess. 

The stated aim is pretty much given away in the title - to provide the time-starved wargamer with inspiration (and rules) to play in the time available. Or perhaps I should say time and space, since the book's longer title probably ought to be "One Hour, One Square Yard Wargames". Neil devotes the first half of the book to 9 periods, from Ancients to WW2, with two chapters to each. The first is a potted history of the period, and a broad sweep through the troop types - Ancients starts with Infantry, Archers, Skirmishers and Cavalry, for example. Obviously it's a gross over-simplification (after all, there's only so much you can do in three or four pages) but he does do his best to capture the flavour. The second chapter of each pair contains the rules which are, again by necessity, a small, relatively simple-minded set, unit- rather than figure- based, with constant size/abilities for each troop type. The nice thing is that the rules evolve from period to period, with extra rules and troop types being added as the book progresses through history.

It is, as I said, very simple-minded (all tanks are the same, for example!), but you do need to remember that the stated aim is to provide a framework for quick, small games for the space- and time-strapped wargamer, not a detailed simulation of each period. I'll be honest: I haven't playtested the core rules, but they look like they'd do the job. They would also, and this is a decent plus, be a great way of drawing younger gamers into the hobby (and teaching them not to be afraid to tweak the rules!)

Neil uses one of my favourite words during the introduction to the book: "context". Have a listen to the first (and sadly only, so far) episode of the Miller's Tale if you want to listen to me rambling on on the subject, but essentially context is the 'why' of the battles we fight. The second part of the book is devoted to providing context for small battles - its a set of thirty double-page spreads which are basic scenarios, ranging from the pitched battle (as beloved of thrown-together club night battles everywhere) to assorted defence, ambush and retreat scenarios - thirty of them. Consider it, perhaps, a light version of Charles S. Grant's "Scenarios for Wargamers" or an extended version of the half-dozen scenarios you find in the back of many rulebooks. If for nothing else, I'll be keeping the book handy for those sixty pages - being able to pull a basic scenario out at random (or to suit a campaign narrative) will actually be really useful.

The book's wrapped up with a set of the usual appendices on further reading both wargaming and historical (with very useful potted reviews - the author does cover most of the wargaming classics), and where to get figures and terrain, which is perhaps inevitably hampered by the delay between writing and print (Warlord are a bit more than up-and-coming, nowadays!), and is a tad incomplete.

In summary? It's not a classic of the genre, though I wanted it to be. The rules are lightweight and appear to have the potential for quick and easy fun, and wouldn't be a bad way to introduce younger gamers to the historical side of the hobby, but Don Featherstone it isn't, though. (But he does use the word 'context' the same way I do, and for that alone he gets points!) The scenario section is the most useful bit of the book, along with the potted reviews of the literature, and for those it's still definitely worth keeping around. There are too few people writing wargames books per se these days, anyway.

It's currently on sale at Pen and Sword, with 20% off, at just over a tenner.

Monday 5 January 2015

Top 20 most popular games of 2014...

Well, down our club on a Monday night, anyway.

This is taken from the list of scheduled games posted to our forum before each Monday for the past year - obviously it doesn't include games arranged on the day... and it is skewed by the club campaigns... but here we go:
20th=: Wings Of War, Bushido, Flames Of War 'Nam, Future War Commander, Kings Of War: 3
14th=: Death In The Dark Continent, XWing, Black Powder, Dead's Army, Battlegroup Whatever, Deadzone: 4
12th=: Dux Britanniarum, War And Conquest: 5
10th=: Chain Of Command, Battlefleet Gothic: 6
9th:  OldHammer: 8
8th: Judge Dredd: 9
7th: Warhammer 40k: 10
6th: Dystopian Wars: 11
5th: Bolt Action: 21
3rd=: Dreadball, Warhammer Fantasy: 25
2nd: Warmachine/Hordes: 26
1st: Warhammer Ancient Battles: 27
If you knock off 5 or so[1] from each of Warhammer, WAB and Dreadball, as they were major campaigns/leagues/ladders over the whole year, then the top game is Warmahordes, followed by WAB and Bolt Action.

[1] That's basically knock off 10 for 10 monthly campaign evenings but add 5 back on because the main reason there were campaigns is they were popular games!

Sunday 4 January 2015

Not buying stuff, honest :D

Just boxes to put it in.

As I'm trying hard not to buy new stuff this year, and am planning on tidying the workshop (because Dear LORD it needs it), I've just splashed out on ANOTHER Really Useful storage tower, this time a custom built one to house the 4L and 9L boxes most of my /finished/ armies are in.

There's method in the madness - they're currently using up most of the space on several of the shelves I had put in in 2013, and I'd rather use the latter to hold custom scenery tiles.

Saturday 3 January 2015

It's been a bit of a mixed day, to say the least

James (son and heir) is 15 today, so we've had a houseful of teenagers overnight (argh!) who all thankfully went home after a stint at the local outdoor Battlefield Live (man, was THAT cold).

On the down side, we lost Merlin, our new and exceptionally cute (and three-legged) kitten sometime overnight - he appeared to have been hit by a car. :(

Janes is now happily playing on his new PS4, and a rather excellent meal out has cheered us up a bit.

On a military-related front, Anne gave me 2 quid to pay for parking while I picked up the PS4 in question, and I took one look and handed it back, saying 'I'm not giving that away'....

I must have missed the news about these being struck: really rather pretty.

Friday 2 January 2015

Buying stuff in 2015

In the short term, just got back from the Hobbycraft sale with

  • 2 sheets of A1 artists board
  • one X-Acto knife (of the snap-off blade variety, because after scenery building sessions chez moi they're always nowhere to be found)
  • one Really Useful 11x7L drawer set for a very reasonable £39.
The latter should ensure I can actually tidy away 90%+ of the debris that's littering my workbenches and then find it again afterwards!

In the longer term, apropos of a discussion on the TFL list and a public pledge you'll hear on the next Meeples podcast, herewith my actual New Year Resolution (as I said to Mike Hobbs, the stuff I posted on New Year's Eve was mostly commitments, not resolutions).
I will not buy any figures for new armies, scales or periods this year. 
 I have plenty of stuff to paint! (and the bits of several Kickstarters on their way still) :D

Just for clarity, the definition of 'new' is meant to stop me, for example, starting a DAK army in 28mm or a British Para army in 15mm, even though I have WW2 in both scales (and specifically have NW Europe in 15mm and British Paras in 28mm), or suddenly deciding that I was wrong all along and I should be playing WW2 NW Europe in 6mm. It's not meant to stop me filling a gap in the forces for a scenario in a period/army I already have.

The one exception to this is (as an incentive to me) if I finish my writing project to the point where it needs playtesting, I am allowed to buy forces for the playtest :D

Thursday 1 January 2015

Chef-Du-Pont - designing the creamery

First up, then, at least in principle, is to set about building the Nestle creamery that is just short of the bridge over the Merderet. The picture on the right shows it in context, and you can see the big chimney and the factory building with the 6 element north light roof (highlit). That picture is probably enough to get us rough length/width proportions.

As an aside - you'll also notice from the postcard picture a three storey white building to the left of the factory with an end round window.  The postcard is pre-war, and the building appears to have been extended between that and the 8th June '44 aerial photo above. Current plans are to build this using one of Arcane Scenery's 15mm terrace houses. More importantly, though, in the postcard shot you get a good side view and roof profile of the factory, which shows off that it's rather oddly not uniform, the middle two sections being higher and wider.

Annoyingly, though, the photos skewed by perspective, but... we can fix that. Watch. (Note: I'm doing this on a Mac - as I don't use Windows at all (you can't pay me enough), I don't know what the best Windows alternatives are, sorry).

Stage one. Grab the photo into a suitable editing package. I'm using Pixelmator, which is sadly Mac-only, but there are equivalents.

Here I've pulled it into the Transform tool, which allows me to drag it around and distort it. Specifically, I'm going for the Perspective tool, which is rather infuriatingly hidden in Pixelmator under the menu that pops up when you click on the gear icon top left.

Here we've dragged one of the handles to undo the perspective of the picture: the trick is to try and get the ground and roof lines parallel as best you can. Fortunately the tool gives you feedback as you go.

One of the side effects of doing this is that the 'de-perspectivising'-ing process (yes, that IS a word) does shorten things a bit in the horizontal direction. We therefore switch from the Perspective tool to the Free Transform tool and stretch things back horizontally until it looks right. (We could be more picky, but given the resolution of the photo, I think 'looks right' is going to be by fat and away the best plan.)

Last step in Pixelmator is to crop out just the bit we want from amid the rest of the clutter, which is pretty simple.

Now we save it, and there we have, at least as a first approximation, a side on view of the creamery.

The next tool I'm using is a vector draw program that will allow me to import images: you may actually be able to pull this off in something as simple as Powerpoint, but I'm using OmniGraffle (again, Mac only) as I happen to have a copy.

(Another aside: OmniGraffle is brilliant for maps which I'll show you in a later post).

The aim here is to produce an outline of the sides of the building in 15mm scale. First off, then, we set up a scale and a grid for our document. 15mm is (as near as dammit) 1/100th scale, so lets set things up so 12" on the paper is 100' in 'real life' (or 1" == 100", or however it pleases you).

Next we paste our cropped and de-perspectivised (stop arguing, it's still a word: Because I Say So) image into the document, and set OmniGraffle up to display some grid lines. Be fairly aggressive in that you want to see the grid lines as a guide: I've basically set it up with a minor grid line every foot, bright red and orange and on top of everything else.

The grid is what you use as a guideline to scale your image - pick a feature that you can make a decent guess of the height of, or can measure from a map, a plan or another photo. If it's a normal building, doors are just over 6', for example - as this is a factory, I'm guessing they're a bit higher. With that and the grid as a helper, scale the image till one of your chosen features is the right size, and then send it to the back, set its opacity to about 50% so you can see to draw over it, and most important of all, lock it or make it part of the background (your program should give you one of these options) so it won't MOVE! :D (believe me, if you forget to do this you'll get very frustrated very fast)

Finally, you can take a line drawing/polygon drawing tool, and trace the important outlines of your building. I've switched the grid above to 6" (scale) just to make it easier to line up bits of the roof. Once you're done, hide the grid and your image, duplicate your outline to make the other side, and print.... :D

Next time, I better nip out and buy some artists' board to make the damn thing :D

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