Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pendraken Figures and Basing

The 10mm Eighth Army figures from Pendraken have arrived, and I thought I'd outline the haul - plus do a little checking about bases. I bought mainly infantry, obviously, and found a pleasingly varied set of poses - the 'riflemen' have three, of men either walking forward, charging ahead, or firing. Other bags I ordered, such as Bren-gun or Thompson SMG-carrying men were single-pose. Plenty, in other words, to give a varied bunch of bases.

Bases, then. I wasn't sure what size would be best, so I drew out boxes on a sheet of paper measured to the size-options. The results are below.

Left to Right, the sizes are 20mm x 20mm (too cramped), 30mm x 20mm (better spacing), 30mm x 30mm (deeper, but for no clear benefit) and 40mm x 30mm (too thinly-spread.) I decided in the end to select 30mm x 20mm for my infantry bases as the most pleasing to my eye. Other sizes could be used elsewhere and keep the 30mm frontage, with the depth varying to fit vehicles on.

Clockwise from top-left, this shows a Universal Carrier, a (massive) Bedford 3-ton truck, a Matilda tank, and a Jeep. The 40mm deep base appears to be adequate for all tanks and lorries, but the 30mm deep base is more suited to things like Jeeps on 'Recon' unit stands.

Here's a varied bunch - Clockwise from top left, I've made a 30mm x 30mm HQ stand for each division by using individual command figures, Command-Group models (usually a brass-hat type poring over a map at a table) and a pup-tent. Next is the dismantled components of a 25pdr field gun, which also comes with a trailer and three crewmen (a loader, a man pointing/pulling a lanyard, and an officer observing through binoculars.) The gun also comes with a circular firing platform. Next round is a smaller Morris 3/4-ton truck, then a pair of armoured recon units: the Dingo Scout Car and the Humber Armoured Car.

I wanted the tanks in my Eighth Army to be a jumble of all models and types, as the historical army appears to have all-sorts of varied tank types, none of which were anything other than 'adequately comparable' to most of the German ones in combat, and usually mechanically unreliable. Clockwise from top left, we have here a Valentine (with sand-skirts), an M3 Lee, a Crusader II and a Grant. Turrets come separately and get glued in place, and all will suitably fit a 40mm-deep base.

Next, I'll detail my painting plans for my first formation, an Infantry Division.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

To the Desert!

Hi - I'm on the brink of a new project, and thought I'd detail it right from the word go - the initial idea through to realising it on the tabletop.

I've never been of the opinion that an army endlessly grows - in fact, I was a bit surprised when I recently mentioned I'd completed my Seven Years' War painting scheme for two armies composed over two years ago, and people thought it'd increase. It never even entered my head to grow the forces over time with the odd extra unit of Grenadiers or Cuirassiers here and there. The size was worked out on day one, and seen through to exactly that! Does anyone else work that way?

Anyway, one of the big advantages of a fixed force size is that - besides giving you a definite finishing point - it can usually be part of a campaign structure that cleverly defines the maximum forces allowed. One of the nicest I've seen is a simple set that was first published in a copy of 'Wargames Illustrated' that I bought back in April 2002 and noticed on a re-reading a year or so ago. For those interested, I've discovered there is an electronic copy of the article ('KISS Rommel' by Norman Mackenzie) available online at freewargamesrules (http://www.freewargamesrules.co.uk/)

The game is large-scale strategic-level World War 2, which is always the level I've enjoyed and found the most fascinating. Not for me the madness of 'Advanced Squad Leader' or any similar company-level games - I wanted to do things on a big-scale, and always have since one of the first WW2 board wgames I've ever played - the classic 'Eastfront' by Columbia Games (http://www.columbiagames.com/.) If you've not played it and you like WW2 games, then turn yourself in to the wargames police immediately, as you're doing yourself an injustice!

The KISS (or, 'Keep It Simple Stupid!') Rommel rules covered the Desert War, or North African Campaign 1940-1943, which was of little interest for me at first through ignorance - until I read the book 'Alamein' by Stephen Bungay (yet another recommendation, WW2-fans!) A slim but extremely readable fact-filled volume, the bizarre and see-saw struggle in the alien environment between the two sides began to seem fascinating as I learned more - the crack German units with their '88's and their unstable Italian allies, struggling against lack of supplies as much as with their enemies, the Eighth Army of multi-national Infantry from across the British Empire, excellent Artillery plus a jumble of tanks. A colourful mix, and crucially a situation of two varied sides that regularly had a tally of wins and losses against each other.

I've started out by buying the British Empire & Commonwealth Eighth Army, and decided to do so in 10mm from Pendraken (http://www.pendraken.co.uk/) - this is my compromise scale as I don't want 15mm armies due to the lack of space & painting time, plus I think 6mm would be too small for what is potentially a visually appealing army. The order has now arrived, and I shall post pics of the figures and details of basing plans shortly.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Project Roundup

What with my recent blog posts on the Wars of the Roses, it's as if I've not been doing very much wargaming - far from it! However by being stuck in my Medieval 'thing' I've been slow on posts here recently. I need to vary things a bit by reflecting the more varied activities I'm up to. As a result, here's a brief round-up of the little projects I've got going on right now and which I hope to be posting about soon:

My Seven Years' War campaign is still running along on my other blog (http://www.konigundkaiser.blogspot.com/) and progressing steadily, along with a recent big battle. I've come across the "battlechronicler" piece of free software to create battle maps for blog posts very handy it is too, now I've finally started to get the hang of it!

My American Civil War (ACW) campaign set in Scotland is still in the background, which is proving a bit slow to progress at the moment as both a strategic and tactical game. As I don't get to fight out battles as DBA-style tabletop games, I wind up having big pauses in the campaign. Rather than let it die out, I am thinking of pursuing it as a strategic game only. Battles can be noted as a source for scenarios later, and played at leisure - without causing the campaign to be derailed.

I have also got my 2mm ACW armies to put into action, possibly as part of a recreation of the 1864 Grant vs. Lee Overland Campaign (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overland_Campaign) which I've been aiming to recreate for a long while - ever since reading the Bruce Catton book
'A Stillness at Appomattox.' (Incidentally, if you're a Civil War fan then read the book immediately - it's a genuine classic!)

Away from the ACW, I have another mini-campaign of Napoleonic setting, which I've not posted on for a simple reason: it's so small I hope to complete it before long and then post the entire campaign from start to finish over a single week - we'll see how that goes!

I have also got a game of the excellent GMT Games WW2 boardgame 'Barbarossa to Berlin' on the go. Although not a tabletop game, it's an excellent card-driven boardgame which I'm playing through with an aim to then posting as an entire alternate WW2 strategic campaign, from 1941 to 1945. The card-based system allows for a great deal of period-setting flavour, so I'm hoping it might make a pretty good narrative.

Most recently and unusually, I have gotten into the Desert War in WW2. This has led me to order a bunch of models to re-start painting again, in my attempt to create my own little mini-version of the 8th Army. Once they arrive, I shall be posting a bit about my attempts to create an army 'from the ground up' for gaming.

Good grief, so busy! I think I'll go for a lie down...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Automatic For The Nobles

The 1460 campaign for the Lancastrian return to England is underway to decide the fate of the prototype Yorkist Dynasty, and shall be posted soon. However, there has been one little scrap - barely 1000 men a side - which I've briefly gamed out for fun, and also as a test-run for a little prototype of mine.

The rules system from Perfect Captain for tabletop battles, "A Coat of Steel" is good and unique but... well, it does involve a lot of table-consulting, cross-referencing, and requires two decks of cards plus repeated draws to fight a round. It also means totting up a lot of combat points, to the extent that I have found it necessary to always keep a pencil and some scrap paper handy. No more, however, with the aid of my new Excel Spreadsheet! I have automated the vast majority of the donkey-work, allowing me to enter the strengths and tactics of two competing units, to then get presented with a final outcome instantaneously.

I'm rather proud of the end result, which manages to include the bewildering variety of modifiers to come from total strength, rank-on-rank deployment, troop types, approach speeds, tactics, etc. And at the end of the day it tells you who won or lost, casualties, morale effects, and even if your leader has been killed!

So, to the tabletop for a try-out. Part of the struggle at campaign-level is currently for Lancastrian sympathisers to reach the returning army of invasion, while various local Yorkist regime-friendly magnates try to pin them down and prevent escape. One such encounter has taken place in the Southeast. Baron Scales, veteran of the French wars, has gathered supporters from across East Anglia and is trying to head west to the Midlands. Blocking the move however is Henry Bourchier, with his younger brother John (Baron Berners.) The two small forces come together at Chatteris Abbey in Cambridgeshire, itching for a fight.

The two armies approach

Bourchier - the banners were drawn and painted in about 20 minutes.

Scales - he drew the happenstance card "I Have Dreamed a Fearful Dream" which meant his already Array-heavy command was definitely looking over it's shoulders!

The fight! Bourchier drew lots of billmen, so rushed into contact immediately. Scales used his levy archers to riddle them on the approach.

On impact, the Lancastrians reeled back slightly but overcame the initial impact. The fighting degenerated into a gruelling scrap with each side getting "stuck in" as the result for repeated rounds. The spreadsheet allowed the repeated calculations to go ahead very rapidly. The Yorkists generally had the upper hand of it and steadily inflicted more losses than they took. Scales was even wounded one round, but he couldn't upset the Yorkist will to fight. Eventually, once losses had climbed high enough, Scales' Lancastrians routed of the field, with the Baron himself captured by Bourchier's victorious troops. A successful first outing for the Handstrokes Spreadsheet!