Saturday, 30 October 2004


Just a quick update: we're planning a fictional WWII game for [Crisis]( next Saturday. For a sneak preview, here's the handout:

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Operation SHIELD FRIENDLY handout

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Friday, 29 October 2004

Crisis preparations

It's that time of year again -- [Crisis 2004]( is just over a week away, and I'm in full convention preparation mode.

Since [1997]( we have presented a participation game at every Crisis, so that makes this year's game our eighth big Crisis game. Until a few years ago, each year saw extensive preparations for these games, usually starting with several Saturdays' worth of terrain creation over at BD's parents.

The last time we did this kind of all out preparation, in effect creating an entirely new terrain set, was in 2001, with our [Zeebrugge]( game. This game was very well received, winning the Best Terrain prize (which we still have to claim :) ), but very narrowly missing out on the Best Presented Wargame trophy (although many people, not in the least ourselves :), thought we really deserved it). Possibly partly because of this, but mostly through lack of time and real life developments taking place (most of us had by then moved on from a comfortable responsibility-light student existence to various next stages in life) the games after this, including this year's, have seen less extensive and time consuming preparation.

In 2002 we staged a recap of our 2000 ACW game, on a bigger terrain, and 2003 saw the shortest preparation ever: our [Woodens]( [in the desert]( game took literally only two hours of preparation. Admittedly, those two hours were spent in Phil's kitchen sawing MDF boards to shape for the terrain; I did not stick around for the vacuum cleaning afterwards, so Phil might have a different idea on the time involved :).

This year, we (mostly Phil and myself, but there was a flurry of activity on the [mailing list]( after the initial announcement) had big plans for constructing a totally new type of game to take to Crisis. Unfortunately, building a house and having a daughter born has taken some toll on my free time, and we decided to postpone this to next year.

So, this year will see another recap of one our our old favourites: Zeebrugge, only this time, it will be set in 1944. Preparation has limited itself to painting up some new figures and terrain items (hence the appearance of British paras on the sidebar), along with coming up with some fringe paraphernalia such as handouts, posters to hang up on the backdrop plus some new stuff that will remain a surprise for now (don't get too excited, though).

Even though we're taking a recycled game (again), we still hope to be noticed at Crisis and will try to uphold the standard that people have come to expect of us (that last one can, of course, be interpreted in two ways :) ). The game will be full participation, so if anyone is reading this and is interested in joining in on the day, you are more than welcome to do so. See you all at Crisis!

Wednesday, 27 October 2004

Phil's History, part 2

Part 2 in my personal history of wargaming (part 1 here).

After experiments with home-invented boardgames, it was time to go to the more serious stuff. This happened when I was about 14 or 15, and took the form of board wargames, most notable Avalon Hill games. There happened to be a book store in my home town which distributed Avalon Hill. And as a teenager, your "modus operandi" is where you can go on your bike.

I still remember the first AH game I played was Afrika Korps, which remained a favourite for many years. Others from that period: Tactics II, The Russian Campaign, Fortress Europe, PanzerLeader, Sicily '43, East vs West, and of course Rise and Decline of the 3rd Reich. Especially this last game provided us with hours of enjoyment, spending weeks in the garage during the school holidays to finish it. I'm still amazed that as 15 year old teenagers, we managed to understand the rather complex AH prose, being non-native English speakers. On the other hand, we probably played the game completely wrong ;-).

From this period, I sold many games, but I still have a few left (mostly because of the memories). I also do remember we tried to come up with variant rules for many of our games, trying to "improve" them. We even started working on a game about WW3, played on a large map of the entire world.

During my senior year in high school, I visited the Tin Soldier shop in Sint-Niklaas. Before that, all our games came from the Club bookstore in Leuven (they sold games back then), or WH Smith in Brussels. The idea was to buy another historical wargame, but I came back with Time Tripper, a SF game published by SPI. This was my first SF/F game, and I was pretty much hooked from that point on. Follow-up games were War of the Ring (also by SPI, which now seems to be quite a collectible), Valley of the Four Winds, and finally, the 1st edition of Warhammer (1983), which for the first time meant we were reading miniature wargaming rules.

As I mentioned before, I have sold many games from that time, but some of my favourites are still in my collection. I still have Time Tripper, Starfall, Tactics 2, Afrika Korps.

Monday, 25 October 2004

Figure piracy

The [Miniatures Page]( had a news item up some time ago that [AB Figures]( discovered some of their 15m Napoleonics that were clearly not cast by them sold as AB Figures. The trader they were bought from is now [revealed]( as being [Stonewall Figures](

These are the facts as reported: Stonewall Figures sold someone figures that were probably pirated from existing AB Figures. Whether it was Stonewall themselves that did this copying, or whether they were sold AB figures that they themselves thought to be genuine by an unscrupulous third party is not clear, and is apparently under investigation (if that is what is meant by the phrasing _the Office of Fair Trading in the U.K. has taken appropriate action_).

It is a mystery to me why, in the low profile and low -- if any -- profit margin venture that is the wargame figure business for most traders out there, somebody would not only copy another person's work, but also try to make some money out of it. This seems entire counter productive; for the meager pennies you are making out of the selling of pirated figures, you might well run a legitimate trader out of business. This is not [Games Workshop]( we're talking about, but one of the many historical figure manufacturers whose business is basically an outgrown hobby, and is just barely profitable at best, or operating at a significant loss at worst. It just makes no sense trying to pirate their figures: there's no money in it, and you are actually hurting the hobby. (Please note that you should not read the above statement as an encouragement to copy GW figures. Do not copy material you are not allowed to copy.)

I have bought some stuff off of Stonewall Figures before (one of their Rapid Fire Battalion packs and some Old Glory 25mm Ancients which they occasionally carry to shows), but I think I shall refrain from buying from them until this particular bit of unpleasantness has been cleared up.

__UPDATE__ 26/10/2004: It seems that [FAA USA]( [has dropped Stonewall as their European distributor]( The story is convoluted, but there is the implication that Stonewall (or someone selling through Stonewall) has been recasting FAA figures in quite a shoddy way. The plot thickens...

Sunday, 24 October 2004

Growing up

I had to delete the first spam comments from [TTM]('s database earlier today. I normally do not endorse censorship, which is what this amounts to, but in the case of spam comments I make an exception. Spam commenting is when someone makes an otherwise meaningless comment with a link to their home page, or the page they want to promote, in the hope that when a [googlebot]( next comes along, it picks up the link and ups the pagerank of the page in question.

The fact that TTM now attracts comments spammers tells me two things:

* There are very desperate people out there. Surely there are better blogs to target than that of a bunch of Belgium based toy soldier people.

* TTM is being read outside of our own inner circle, apparently.

We're growing up...

__UPDATE__ 25/10/2004 - the number of comment spams (not counting Rudi's below :) ) has risen quite steeply, so I've installed [MTBlacklist](, which has already netted several spams since installing it yesterday evening. If you ever make a comment that is rejected (you should get a message to this effect) and you think the rejection is unjustified, [contact me]( and I'll see what we can do to get your comment in.

Thursday, 21 October 2004

The Prussian Empire Strikes Back

I was bored this morning, wondering again why I tolerate sitting through a meeting that is patently of no interest to anyone. Sometimes I feel like interrupting the Satre-esque proceedings with the question, "why are you all here?" I felt like it, but again chickened out.

Instead, I started to map out a scenario for an alternative 1940. Actually, I didn't map but wrote, because I was sitting next to my boss and decided not to draw attention by drawing little rivers and trees and mountains.

So what did I come up with? Basically the setting for a solo campaign, starting with a bold and powerful Prussian Empire, who will be powerful and strict but not nasty or nazi, thus removing that slightly uncomfortable aspect of WW2 gaming. They have their greedy eyes on the rich but feeble, and last re;aining free continental power, Platteland (ie Dutch types - why because I foolishly bought and painted masses of Dutch 1940 figs last year and I want to use them on the table). Across the sea lies noble Albion, about to suffer a general election upset and the coming to power of a new government who, I sincerely hope, will go to war with the Prusskies. A continent way, separated by sea, is the workers paradise of Rusland, whose agents are interfering splendidly in the Albion province of Rhum, where strikes are rife.

Well that's the setting. I think I will keep a campaign diary, with big events described and occasional decisions made, perhaps resorting to a percentage die roll (two D10s - one for the tens and one for the ones). Or maybe I'll ask you guy to vote.

Then there will be the tabletop battles. I have a nice 1940 collection of Brits, Germans (I mean Prussians) and Dutch (you know what I mean). Some I'll do solo. Maybe. That way I can also test out my new terrain that I'm making. Others I'll use as the basis for scenarios for the group.

I've been meaning to do this for ages. If Steve is reading then he will spot the Lone Warrior influence. LW is the journal of the Solo Wargamers Association, of which Steve was once the revered and honourable Big Cheese. I have some back issues of the magazine, with great ideas for this type of solo campaign.

So watch out for the first conflict, a German incursion into the wooded borderlands (I know they're wooded because I just made two woods) where they will meet heavy Dutch resistance.

And in the meantime, what will be the general election result be. Goshm it's so exciting.

Blitzkrieg Commander: initial impressions

I ordered a (relatively) new WWII ruleset by the name of [Blitzkrieg Commander]( after a good review on [Wargames Journal]( of it. The ruleset is written by Pete of [Wargames Directory](

It arrived in the mail today, and I briefly skimmed through it over lunch. First impressions are that it's a fairly hefty tome, being thicker than most wargames rules booklets (about double the thickness of [Rapid Fire](, if you want to have a reference point). The first bit covers the rules and is lavishly illustrated with in game photos demonstrating the rule mechanisms in question. The layout of this is fairly unimaginative, with a single column of photos alongside the text, but it is refreshing to see these kind of illustrative photos in a wargames publication, where usually we should be happy if we get line drawings illustrating a few salient points here and there.

The rest of the book is made up of army lists covering one of the most wide selections of theaters and nations I have encountered so far in single volume WWII rules -- they even include Belgians! Finally, at the end of the book there's a few pages of manufacturers ads and a few references to web pages on WWII and its theatres of war. This is no less as what we would expect, considering the fact that the rules hail from a miniature wargaming directory site.

Well, that's all I have been able to glean from the book so far, as duty called me away from it before long. I'll put up a proper review of the rules after I've read the book, and after I've played a game with them.

Terraining figure bases

Over the years, I've used a number of different ways of finishing figures bases, ranging from the very involved and time consuming to the one step and finished variety. Lately, I seem to have converged on two ways, one slightly faster than the other, so time constraints are the major determining factor in choosing which of the two.

* The involved way: plastered bases

For this, I mix up a basing 'goop' -- for lack of a better word. It consists of about equal amounts of dry plaster (dry, unmixed [Polyfilla]( ), shell sand (normally to put in bird cages -- those of you with Norwegian Blue parrots know what I'm talking about), white glue, water and brown paint. This is applied to the base, taking care to avoid the figure's feet, hooves or other downward pointing appendages, and left to dry. The base is then finished as detailed below.

The disadvantage of this method is that it's slow (working the plaster around a figure's feet is slow going) and that the goop, containing plaster, does not keep, but dries out after a day or so. For this reason, I usually wait until I have a whole batch of figures to base.

* The quick way: shell sand

The other method is just using shell sand. Slightly watered down white glue is painted on the base, which is then dunked in a container of shell sand. When dry, this is painted brown and finished as below.

The advantage of this method is that it's faster, as you're painting on the glue, which makes it easier to avoid the figure's feet. There is one step extra, as the shell sand needs to be painted brown, but that does not take that much time.

The bases are finished by [drybrushing](/snv/paint1.html#drybrush) with two successively lighter shades of brown, and finally irregular patches of static grass are applied.

Both methods result in bases that look good _en masse_, and as long as you don't mix the two methods within the same unit, they can be used in the same army without trouble. And in case you're wondering, this is what it looks like:

Monday, 18 October 2004

Let's go clubbing

Alan and myself are wont to discuss the idea of developing Schild & Vriend into a real gaming club. For those of you that thought we _were_ a club, have a look at our about page for a glimpse of our somewhat convoluted history. To sum things up, these days we are more of a diasporan collective of gamers that play at each other's homes. We (and that's back to Alan and me) want to change this.

The immediate reason for this post is the email I got from a lady from Leuven, whose 12 year old son is looking for a place to play Warhammer at. She had found our website and came knocking for information. I explained our current situation to her and pointed her in the direction of [Gaming Lords Leuven](, but I fear that she might not find a good place for her son to game at. And that is not good.

It seems that Leuven, and generally the bit of [Vlaams-Brabant]( between [Mechelen](, [Brussel]( and [Leuven]( is lacking a focus for miniature wargaming, or gaming in general. There's [De Witte Ridder]( in Limburg, [TSA]( in Antwerp, [The Brassman]( (icky IP only URL) in Oostende and I'm probably forgetting a club or two in East Flanders. However, in Vlaams Brabant, there's just a big post apocalyptic void, with individual groups doing their own thing, but no big (or small) club to provide gamers with a regular meeting place and schedule (unless I'm mistaken, of course, in which case you are free to [correct me]( ).

Let's try and change this. If only because we cannot afford to lose young players for such a silly reason as there not being a place for them to game at. The problem, of course, is getting enough of a momentum going to actually start a club. As Phil is right to say, you need an added value to convince players to come out of the woodwork (there's that rustling in the bushes again) and play at a club, and finding that added value is not easy. Setting aside this issue and concentrating on numbers alone, I'd say that financially, you need about ten people to break even on a forthnightly or monthly rent of a small hall somewhere, and you need a lot more people than that to be a healthy club.

Any ideas from the peanut gallery out there on how to achieve this? One I have is to not limit ourselves to miniature wargamers, but extend to boardgamers and role players as well (although that last genre is less suited for a club, being eminently suitable for the play at players' houses format). Any others?

Friday, 15 October 2004

Old West returning

Ah, nostalgia ...

It seems [Warhammer Historical]( is coming out with an [Old West ruleset]( (perishable link) called _Legends of the Old West_. They're even selling an OK Corral figure set to go with it.

I'm certain that this ruleset will be quite popular with the Fantasy crossover crowd that has been drawn to WAB of late, and will also draw in some more Fantasy/40K players. I'm even fairly certain that I'll buy the book myself, although coming out in November, it sadly will probably not be done in time for [Crisis](

However, I can't quite shake the feeling that this is a serious deja vu. Almost 7-8 years ago, when I started to get into wargaming, then Guernsey Foundry created quite a stir with their Old West range of figures. [Schild & Vriend](/snv)'s first big period in the Golden Age was the Old West, and we have [many]( [photos]( to [prove it]( (in fact, one of the [revival games]( I have in mind for the future is an Old West game.

One has to wonder why WH has chosen this particular period to expand their range into, and at this particular time. Any ideas, anyone?

Painting eyes

A few days ago, someone asked how to paint eyes on the [WAB mailing list]( This is how I do it.

First off, don't paint eyes in any scale smaller than 25mm. It's just not worth it. Next, in 25mm, all you really have to do -- even for painting competion class paintjobs -- is to _suggest_ eyes. Some people try to paint fully detailed eyes, with irises, pupils and whatnot. More often than not, this leads to the _oh my god, I just saw the Pope naked_ look of surprise and abject horror on the figure. Don't do this.

After putting the shadow layer on the face, including the eye sockets (I use [Vallejo]( Mahogany Brown for this), I take a 000 brush and paint a horizontal stripe in the eye socket in Vallejo Beige. Next, I put two vertical stripes in Vallejo Matt Black in matching positions on both eyes _and that's it_. Done.

The tricky part to all of this is to get the black dots/stripes to match, so your figure does not look like Marty Feldman in a dizzy spell. I don't have a hard and fast solution to this, just a tip: start with the 'difficult' eye. This is the same hand eye as the hand you use to hold the brush. For me, as I'm left handed, it's the figure's left eye, for the other 90% of the world, it's the right. This is the most difficult eye to do because to paint it, you have to have the brush reach over the figure's nose, so you can't hold it as flat as you can with the other eye. Therefore, dot that eye's pupil first, and match the other one to it. This way you get a figure that has both eyes looking at the same spot, though not necessarily the spot you intended.

For examples of this, just look through the miniature photos on [my Flickr account](

Tuesday, 12 October 2004

DBM is not a miniature wargame

What's a blog for if you can't be controversial once in a while :) Luckily, so far the readership of this blog has not yet exceeded the number of authors, so we can poke a stick into the anthill once in a while. Todays stick is a realisation I had, which became the title of this entry: DBM, the most popular ancients wargame, is not a miniature wargame.

Of course, this depends entirely on one's definition of _miniature wargame_. If you define the term purely linguistically, as a game simulating warfare and played with miniatures, then DBM _is_ a miniature wargame, for it simulates ancient warfare and uses miniatures as a means to do so. [Wikipedia]( [defines]( miniature wargaming as

> a form of wargaming designed to incorporate miniatures or figurines into play

This is essentially the linguistic definition. However, later on in the entry, the author also adds that the main attraction to miniature wargaming is that

> many find the tactile element of soldiers and scenery on a tabletop to be aesthetically pleasing; additionally, painting miniatures and constructing scenery can be a rewarding challenge

And that is _my_ definition of a miniature wargame. It is more that just a wargame played with miniatures. It also engages ones aesthetic and creative aspects, and that is what sets it apart from board or computer games. Therefore, the creative aspect of painting, modelling etc. is an essential part of miniature wargaming, without which it would not be miniature wargaming; so that aspect is a part of the definition of the term.

And by that definition, DBM is not a miniature wargame.

Allow me to illustrate with an example. In our group, we have one player who adamantly refuses to even consider playing any other game than DBM (not that he's obnoxious about it or derisive of other games, he just only plays DBM). I had a hard time understanding this, until I realised that this player is not playing a miniature wargame, he's playing DBM. He's also an avid [Advanced Squad Leader]( player, and I think for him, DBM is a similar sort of game that just happens to be played with miniatures. This last fact is incidental to the game however, it is not essential in any way. As a result he, and players like him are not into the whole painting and modelling part of the hobby -- to wit, he buys his miniatures fully painted, they're part of the investment, not part of the game or hobby to him.

We can generalise this particular players' attitude towards DBM to the rule set as a whole: DBM is a tactical wargame that just happens to be played with miniatures. It is a game upon itself, not really connected to the larger world and meme pool of miniature wargaming. This explains why it is so successful as a tournament game (it is a game upon itself, with an internally consistent rules framework not tied to anything else), and also why it often draws such extreme reactions from the miniature wargaming crowd.

So, to sum things up, in my opinion DBM is not a miniature wargame as I, and I think most people who identify themselves as miniature wargamers, conceive of the term. It is a good and succesful tactical wargame system by itself, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it is not a miniature wargame.

If there's anyone reading this, comments have been activated here on [TTM](/snv/ttm), so I'm inviting you to make full use of the interactivity of the blog medium to comment on this entry!

Friday, 8 October 2004

SnV Revival games

Quite a while ago (I think it was a New Year's resolution for 2003), I came up with the idea of Schild en Vriend Revival games. This was a period when we were discussing the future of Schild en Vriend (the original Leuven crowd), now that Phil had returned to Leuven's shores.

No formal decision resulted from this, but I did make a resolution to occasionally put on games in the mold of the games of the golden age. This were to be the Schild en Vriend Revival games.

These games would follow the main SnV ethos: they should be good looking (_Visual appeal is everything_) and be somewhat 'more' than a standard equal points and line'em up battle. Back then, we did not always adhere to those standards, of course. I well remember Napoleonic and other games played with unpainted Airfix plastic figures glued to cardboard, and there were the occasional evenings where neither of the two main scenario suppliers had come up with something. However, for the SnV Revival games, I vowed to strictly adhere to these standards.

Initially, I had the idea of organising monthly or bimonthly games. However, time constraints and lack of room to play at led to a significantly reduced schedule. So far, almost two years down the road, I have put on three S&V Revival games. Here's a short overview.

* Game 1: Epsilon Eridani VII - Full Thrust

This was a Full Thrust spaceship game, played at Phil's place on the Dijle's shores in Leuven. The players each commanded a fleet (Human, Gorn, Xirin) sent to the Epsilon Eridani VII sector to investigate the mysterious disappearances of a number of convoys and warships. During the game, they discovered the 'blobs', an alien species whose ships have the ability to remain invisible and seemingly effortlessly redistribute energy between their various systems.

More importantly, however, this game saw the start of renewed hostilities between the Xirin and the Human-Gorn alliance, started by the now famous words '_Get out of Xirin air space_' uttered by Graham K during the game. To be continued.

* Game 2: Bridges of Mechelen County - Rapid Fire

This was a [Rapid Fire]( game, hosted at my place in Mechelen. It was a thinly veiled adaptation of the Arnhem battle during Operation Market Garden, but centred around the bridge across the Leuven - Willebroek canal in Mechelen. This game was very well received by the players, judging by the amount of after game discussion on the [mailing list]( This game was a narrow German victory, allowing a future game where the Germans south of the canal have to retreat across it in the face of the attacking Allied armies.

* Game 3: [Exploring the Congo]( - Darkest Africa

This game was played last Saturday, [this entry]( describes it well enough.

So far, the S&V revival games have been well received, and I hope the only complaint will be that there are not enough of them :) The next game will be a cooperation between Alan and myself, and features a return to the island of Little Vettusia for a single day [HoTT]( campaign. See you all there.

Thursday, 7 October 2004

A primer in cutting corners

As [I mentioned before](, I have been able to speed up my painting of 25-28mil (the One True Scale) figures considerably. One reason for this speedup is the fact that I now cut corners when painting. This entry is about the various ways in which to speed up the classic three-layer painting technique, some ways of which are applicable to other painting techniques as well. I'll focus on painting techniques/tricks and not mention other ways of speeding up [army painting]( such as the assembly line (which [doesn't work for me]( anyway). Here goes.

* Prime black

Or a variation thereof. I prime grey, because I have found a good affordable spray primer in [Brico](, but give the primed figure a heavy black wash afterwards. Priming black speeds up your painting because you can afterwards afford to paint less of the figure: deep recesses are shaded automatically, and spots you miss are not obtrusive, so you do not necessarily have to go back and touch them up.

As an aside, the spray primer I talked about used to be the [Bricobi]( one, but they reformulated this primer some time ago, resulting in a smoother finish without enough tooth to be useful. Luckily, the giant [Stop]( cans of grey primer (the link is to the black paint spray can, the primer does not appear to be listed on the website) seem to contain the older formula. Happy me.

* Use as big a brush as you think you can. Then use one bigger than that.

Bigger brushes hold more paint and cover more area in one stroke, so you're both loading your brush less often and using less brush strokes. For an individual colour, this might not seem to be much, but it quickly adds up in time saved at the end. These days, the smallest brush I use on my rank and file miniatures is a number 2 (OK, I use a 000 for the eyes, but that's only five seconds' work), as opposed to a 000, which was my staple brush before. As long as the brush comes to a good point, you'll be amazed at what size brush you can get away with.

* Don't correct every error

Only correct the really obvious ones. On a rank and file miniature, no one is going to notice that the colour of the tunic bleeds over onto the breeches, or that the underside of one arm has been forgotten. As long as you are not entering the wargame model in a painting competition, no one -- not even yourself some time later -- is going to notice these kinds of errors. Of course, a broad red brush stroke across the face should be corrected.

* Be less precise

Do not agonize about getting every brush stroke in the right location with the right thickness etc. Just paint as fast as you can, and if it looks OK at first glance, it will be fine. Although I do not recommend this, bad lighting helps in this regard (but will kill your eyes, so don't bother) :).

* Use less layers

Less layers means less to paint, obviously. On some areas of the figure, you can get away with less than three layers. Prime candidates are belts and straps, which I now usually paint in only one layer (simple leather colour on black).

* Use other techniques

I went through a period where I layered _everything_, including prime dry brush candidates such as fur or hair. These days, I'm far less hung up about this: when an area lends itself to drybrushing or washing, than I will do that when it is quicker than straight layering. Fur, hair, armour etc. are good candidates for drybrushing.

That's about all I can think of now. Individually, all of these tricks do not add much, but taken together, they mean the difference between getting a figure painted in three hours versus less than one hour (the [Celtic warrior]( in the sidebar took me less than one hour, including the shield), to a quality that is more than adequate for a wargames army.

Tuesday, 5 October 2004

Renegade free postage

Just a quicky this time - [Renegade Miniatures]( is extending their [free postage weekend]( to a full week. Any orders placed between Oct. 4 and Oct. 11 are post free, to anywhere in the world. Tempting, indeed.

Command and Colors

Last Friday, I played with a long-time wargaming friend "Memoir 44". This is a game designed by Richard Borg, who has also designed "BattleCry", using the same game engine, but set in ACW instead of WW2. Rumour on the net has it that he is also working on a Napoleonic and Ancients version. Both games use a common engine, which works very smooth and is easy to learn.

This game engine is known as "Command and Colors". I have to say I really like this engine, because it is so simple, yet allows for a wide variety of tactics. Suddenly it came to me that this engine could also be easily transferred to the table-top, without using a superimposed grid of hexes.

Imagine all units on a standard base, and using measurements in units of 10 cm (or 4" for old Imperial types). Every 10 cm (or part thereof), would count as 'one hex'. Since visibility and movement can be considered to be taken place from hex-centre to hex-centre, the same can be done for the centre-point of the unit. In other words, the unit is its own hex (which has actually the shape of a rectangle, if you are still with me).

Why am I rambling about this? I have been looking for a good set of fantasy rules for years. I have over 3000 fantasy figures, so you understand I'm not going to put all that lead away to play games with a handful of Darkest Africa figures instead :-). My vision of fantasy is massed battles. It has to be finished in a few hours at most. Multiple figures on a base. Zillions of different troop types. Heroes and wizards! And the rules for all that on the back of a post-card.

I started with Warhammer in the eighties, then drifted to HOTT, Fantasy Rules!, Martin Hackett's rules, modifications of TACTICA (Te Wapen!), etc. None of them really satisfied me, but I have a strong feeling that using a Command and Colors based system, for miniatures on the tabletop, might do it!

The basic framework is already written out. Now I only need to find some playtesters and we're ready to go ...

Sunday, 3 October 2004

Exploring the Congo

Yesterday, I managed to put on [Schild en Vriend](/snv) Revival game number 3 after an abortive attempt two weeks earlier. The S&V Revival games are games intended to relive the best parts of the Schild en Vriend [golden age](/snv/about.html), set up in the tradition of the best games of that period.

Revival game number 3 was _Exploring the Congo_, a revisit of Darkest Africa. It featured a very basic campaign system, where players move around on the dark continent, with the aim of visiting a small number of key areas representing the uncharted regions of the Congo river, and getting back alive and in one piece. Each area visited resulted in either a decision to make by the player (_should I carry my boats overland to bypass the cataracts, or leave them behind_) or a tabletop encounter. These last proved to be the most challenging and dangerous for the players, even if many of them featured only a large amount of rustling in the bushes :)

The game played fairly well, if the players are to be believed, that is. The game was played at Stefan's place, and present to explore the Congo were Stefan himself, Alan, BD and Patrick. Here's how they did:

* Stefan

The winner. After a scary and uncertain passage through the Haunted Forest, where his party was beset by arrows shot from a dark and gloomy forest by a seemingly invisible enemy, he somehow got declared God by a tribe of awed natives, and went on to speed down the Congo on a boat that previously belonged to another player. He arrived safely on the West Coast and was the first to report his results to the Royal Schild en Vriend Geographical Society, and thus win the honorary title of Fritz von Trappstein-Hohenschlieffen, governor of the Royal Schild en Vriend Congo Region.

* Patrick

The runner up. Patrick was unlucky, reaching Cairo and setting off back home only days behind Stefan, after a somewhat safer passage through the Continent. His finest moment was when he entered a native village in the middle of a heated battle, arriving by boat and proclaiming his presence by shots fired from a cannon mounted on his boat. After suitably aweing the natives, he stepped down from the boat and presented himself, at no small risk to his person, in all his glory, to the chief of the village, and arranging free passage and food for himself and his party.

* Alan, aka Sir Arthur Morton, First Reverend of the mission of the Isle of Wight

The unlucky one. Alan fought his way across the continent armed with faith and the bible. This went well until he came into close contact with BD, in the midst of a another raging battle involving three explorers and a rogue party of French. Alan made a valiant effort to pursuade the native chief that was also involved, managing to gain free passage for himself (his expedition being, by now, mostly dead), only to be shot at close range by BD, who apparently had other ideas. Alan's finest moment was when he offered the bible to a bunch of pygmees, only to have it thrown back at him from the jungle some time later, slightly gnawed at the edges.

* BD

The ruthless. BD was unlucky in the beginning of his expedition, when an attempt to find extra food on the shores of Lake Victoria resulted in a prolonged fight with a bunch of natives, forcing him to retreat back to Zanzibar to lick his wounds. Undeterred, he set back out into the heart of the Dark Continent, to end up in the battle referred to above. He came out the winner in this encounter (unfortunately, he was obliged to kill another expedition leader -- such is the way of life on the Dark Continent), and remained in the Nyangwe region when other expeditions set off back home. By last accounts, he has set up a very successful ivory and African curiosa trade.

Stefan was presented a figure of Fritz von Trappstein-Hohenschlieffen as prize for winning the game. Well done, Stefan!

On a final note, I received a book, "Kleiner Deutscher Kolonialatlas", signed by the players at the end of the day as a gift from the players. This was totally unexpected but I was touched and very pleasantly surprised. Thanks, guys!

On to S&V revival game number four, which will feature a revisit of the island of Little Vettusia in a one day HoTT campaign.

Friday, 1 October 2004

Phil's History

It's always fun to think back about "the good old days" when wargamers carved their own miniatures out of ivory tusks, from a freshly slain woollen mammoth, in the snow, and had to rely on the Gods to throw the dice. Nevertheless, some personal history and anecdotes are, in my humble opinion, always fun to read. So, I'll take a shot at it, and hope that others will follow.

I first saw a proper miniature wargame in action when I was 11 or 12. This was somewhere in the late seventies, when a local club had some demonstration tables set up in the walkways of a shopping mall (Some years ago ago, I learned that this was the club run by Rudi Geudens in Sint-Niklaas, renowned veteran Belgian wargamer). When I came back home, I wanted to do the same.I do remember trying to recreate some of the look-and-feel of what I had seen by using plastic toy soldiers and plastic vehicles from the game Embuscades that I owned, and had played so many times.

Embuscades provided me with plastic vehicles to try out my first wargaming experiments.
Help came when one of my friends did get a board wargame for Christmas.The game was called Tank Commander. It had little plastic tanks, trucks, bridges, and a big square-gridded board. You could only move 2 tanks a turn, and a tank was destroyed when you had an enemy tank in the direct line of fire of two friendly tanks. Very simple, but fun.

The game Tank Commander. Simple, but fun.
This game inspired us to make our own variants (Embuscades on sea, using wooden ships we glued together), culminating in the grandiose "Who Conquers Europe?". We produced a hand-drawn map of Europe, gridded with squares, and measuring something like 120x150cm. I drew this map on blank computer print paper (when these were still chained together), conveniently borrowed from my dad's computer facilities at the university. The game used plastic soldiers, plastic tanks (from Tank Commander), plastic ships (from Sub Search, an MB game), and later we even added things such as oil pipelines, oil ships, mountain troops, etc. The first player to conquer 5 countries had won.

The plastic ships from Sub Search provided excellent ships for "Who Conquers Europe?"
The game was an amalgam of all kind of different mechanics, borrowed from games we knew. Tank combat was as in Tank Commander, but infantry soldiers eliminated each other by overrunning each other's squares. Submarines would shoot using the spinner from Sub Search, and so on.

This phase of designing our own games continued for a little while, always using the same 'engine'. I remember a D-Day game (using LEGO bricks for buildings), a Battlestar Galactica game, a game that involved trading routes across the oceans, ... . Sadly, I don't have anything left from this period (Update: see this blogpost for an early variant of Embuscades). A pity, since we actually produced real rulebooks to go with our self-designed games, typed on a classic typewriter.

Now that I think of it, I always "designed" new games, ever since I was a kid. I remember making an extended version of Monopoly; we also ran games using toy cyclists for running our own Tour de France; we had car racing games using matchbox cars - simple variants of rolling the dice and moving so many squares. I also often made existing games "better". E.g. I had a map for playing RISK, much bigger than the one in the original box, with many more territories.

This whole phase sort of ended when we discovered our first Avalon Hill game, Afrika Korps when we were 14. This must have been in 1980 or 1981.

To be continued ...

Another Armati annihilation

Bart came over to my place on Tuesday for another shot at armati. This time we chose, or at least I decided on, two mounted armies - Ottomans and Serbs. This would make an interesting contrast with the previous game between Bart's barbarians and my Picts.

The main contrast in the end was that Bart won this game even more quickly than the previous one. When I deployed my crack Guard cavalry in such way that they could not move (or at least not without turning round (one move), retiring (second move), turning back round (no surprise that this is the third move) and etc etc etc ) I suspected it would be a difficult encounter.

It was. Bart charged his Knights and Heavy Cavalry in two waves - impossible to do in dbm by the way. And these rapidly rolled over my Turks.

He deployed well and played with elan, so well done, Bart. And he only drank tea, refusing my offers of 9% beer or wine. That was another sneaky manoeuvre.

A good rule set, that plays quickly, without the more idiotic quirks of dbm and one that does not depend on fiddly, cheesy moves to win and certainly does not feature tiresome millimetre perfect measuring. Well, actually, it could if it wanted too, it's just that Bart and I play in such a gentlemanly way, I suppose.

New authors

As of today, [Tiny Tin Men]( no longer is a single author blog. Welcome to Alan and Phil, two [Schild en Vriend]( stalwarts as new authors on this blog.

Expect more authors showing up soon.