Thursday, 29 December 2005

Lotsa blogging going on

There's an ever increasing number of wargames blogs out on the Net these days, but here's one of the latest and best: [Wee Toy Soldiers](

Hyun's blog is more about the modelling and painting side of the hobby, him being a 'converted' boardgamer attracted to modelling, so there's less actual gaming content than on other blogs (such as ourselves), but he does make up for it with other high quality posts. Just check out his brilliant [CD case becomes organizer]( post.

Tuesday, 27 December 2005

All Quiet on the Western Front?

On December 26 I organized a full-day World War 1 game. 4 players (Vince, Frank, Dominique and Brendan) showed up, and all were eager to take part in some trench-raiding action. Since it was 2nd Christmas day, quite a few people still had some family obligations, so the turn-out was a little bit less than expected, but 4 players was enough after all to create some good action.

Everyone gathered at 10am in my house, and the first part of the scenario started. The big picture was that German troops wanted to storm a British trench-system. However, the trenches were not fully finished yet (this was early in the war), and were still incomplete in some parts of the battlefield. Since the Germans had no idea what parts of the position would be fully defended, some reconnaisance patrols had to be sent out.

Every player (2 British, 2 German) got a secret mission for his patrol, and they had to come to the gamesmaster one by one to give their orders. Movement was on an individual map for each player, and during each order, each player was told what he could see or hear in their immediate vicinity. Since the weather conditions turned out to be misty for most of the game, visibility was extremely limited, and all players were moving around very cautiously. All the players were physically also in the same room (the gm being in the next room), and initially did not know who was playing British or German. This created some good tension in the beginning of the game. Of course, after a while, the clever players had figured out who was playing whom by the reactions of some of the participants, and linking it to their own actions just their turn before.

Typical orders included to do a recon of some part of the sector, or to intercept enemy patrols, to go to a specific sector and cut wires, to deploy mines etc. Since the movement axis of each patrol (start position and designated end position) was usually diagonally across the battlefield, a good number of interactions happened. Some patrols opened fire without a positive ID of what they saw or heard, and sometimes there were a few lucky breaks. One patrol got very lucky when a random artillery starshell exploded nearby, illuminating the entire sector that was supposed to be mapped out. Another patrol survived with 1 member, barely enough to bring all information back to HQ. Other patrols succeeded in laying mines, although they sometimes decided that they had gone far enough and deployed their mines some distance short from their designated objective. A German patrol ran into an ambush set up by a British patrol, decided to storm it in close combat, and won! I stressed to all players that their mission had to be obeyed, and this was played out very well. Every side got a total of 5 missions (once a patrol came in, the next one started), and after 2 hours of playing the Germans had gathered a lot of info about the British defences, while the British managed to lay some extra minifields and intercept some German patrols as well.

Then it was time for some lunch, and we headed into town to get some pizza.

When we started again around 2pm, the Germans had the choice of flying a recon mission by aircraft over the enemy trench lines. If succesful, this would mean that the Germans would see the setup of British forces in the next game before having to come up with their own battleplan. We used the Wings of War rules for this game (see for a more complete description of this game). This a WW1 aerial warfare boardgame, that plays very smoothly and has a very clever movement system using manoeuver cards. The British started with 4 patrol aircraft, the Germans with 3 fighter aircraft and a 2-seater who had to take the photographs of the enemy trenches.

Sadly, the German 2-seater never made it to the objective. Due to critical damage, its rudder got stuck. First it couldn't turn left anymore, a few turns later it got another critical and could only fly straight. So the mission failed, despite some good shooting by the German pilots.

Then it was time for the big game. This was played out on the big gaming table using 20mm WW1 figures and with a full trench system as scenery. Based on their recon information, the Germans had to come up with a plan, dividing their force over 4 attack groups. The British could deploy any way they saw fit.

I used some house-rules for this game, and the Germans started with twice as many units as the British ( since they were all hiding in trenches ...). The Germans started to move across the battered no-man's-land, units taking hits from artillery and mortar fire, morale dropping, officers trying to rally scared troops ... The British defended really well, but couldn't cause enough casualties to stop the attack wave once the first German lines reached the trenches. German trench raiders jumped into the trenches, and some tough fighting ensued. After a few turns, the British surrendered, so a German victory! By now it was a little after 6pm, the planned ending of the day.

Overall, I think this scneario using 3 linked games worked very well. Once the main game began, the Germans still had some blank areas on their map of which they didn't know anything about. As a result, they lost some troops to minefields. On the other hand, they managed to clear some barbed wire during the first game, and this created a big open field for a German attack wave (although this wasn't the sector were the final breakthrough happened).

The dogfighting game didn't produce extra information for the German players, but it could have, and the British had every incentive to stop the German planes to avoid having to give their troop dispositions to the German side.

During debriefing the players agreed the miniature game worked very well as, but probably the German players had too much machine guns available, and this created some unbalance, especially since MGs caused morale to drop very rapidly.

So, to conclude, a very good gaming experience, and it has encouraged me to set up similar full-day games in the future.

Sadly, no pictures ...


Sunday, 18 December 2005

Corcyra conquered by civilisation!

For those of you who have been following the [WEC](, our Warhammer escalation campaign -- we've just concluded turn three which saw a massive reversal of balance, which 4 out of 5 games won by the civilisation players. Consequently, Corcyra is now firmly in the control of the civilised side:

The WEC campaign world

For more information on the campaign, click on the image above, which will take you to the campaign home page. There's also the [game report]( for my game of round 3 (my Celts lost against Bruce's Belisarian Byzantines).

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Painting in batches

One of the nice things of painting regular troops is that they all wear identical uniforms or at the very least, feature the same colour combinations. Even for Irregular mobs, the same colours will often reappear (skin, generic hairy warband brown etc...). This essentially means that in order to paint your army in the shortest timeframe possible, one has to adapt the Henry Ford method of painting. In other words you apply one colour to all your figures before switching to another colour. Some people actually paint this way and are able to process an insane amount of figs in one go, however, they are extremely rare and average Joe will certainly not paint all his 200 Romans in one batch.

The major downfall of the above method is that while it certainly will field your army in the shortest timeframe possible, you won�t get the satisfaction of a job well done until the entire army is actually finished. 200 figures with a flesh undercoat do not look as great as 3 fully finished figs and will certainly not give you the same level of satisfaction for a job well done. The amount of figures one can process without suffering painters drag is highly personal, in my case my maximum batch size is about 10 28mm figures, more than that and I don�t see enough progression to satisfy my fragile ego.

The amount of figures one can paint in one go is probably related to some aspect of personality. This brings us to the widely used MBTI personality tests, according to which one can roughly differentiate 4 fundamental parameters which make up the major aspects of your personality. One is Judging vs. Perceiving. A Judging person gets its satisfaction from achieving set goals and thus tends to be much more orderly, while a Perceiving person enjoys the process itself and thus tends to be much more flaky and in pursuit of a bundle of different things at the same time. This means that both types are probably doomed as the judging character is able to impose upon himself the ruthless discipline of painting 200 figs in one go but will not get any satisfaction till they are all done, while the Perceiving character can get enjoyment out of unfinished in progress figures but lacks the stamina to follow through and therefore runs the risk of never ever actually finishing anything before wondering off in pursuit of yet another new daft idea.

In the name of science and the possibility of achieving greater painting satisfaction and army production through adequate counselling and Zen meditation, let�s work out a J-P percentile inclination vs. batch size correlation plot here. I�m 11%P, batch size 10, what are you?

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Bordelle de roi 3 - pictures

As promised in a comment on the [game report itself](, here's the photos for this BKC game. This entry has three photos randomly picked from the full set, which can be ogled at [here](

Bordelle-de-Roi - Part three

Faithful readers will recall the excitement of earlier posts, as Filip's US forces swept aside poor Bart's meagre German forces. In the last episode the Germans, trying to breakout of a pocket, were swept out of the charming little French village, Bordelle de Roi. Led by their bold Commander, Oberst Horst von Knackwurst, the remaining Jerries assembled in the nearby twin village of Boudin-de-Reine. There, they received orders to... run.

Blitzkrieg Commander includes a number of scenarios to play, rather than just equal points games. This time we played the pursuit scenario (for obvious reasons, given the campaign situation). Bart had 750 points, consisting of a tiny battlegroup of two companies, a Tiger, an 88 and a Nebelwerfer. Against him was 1500 points: "look Alan", said Filip before the game, "I've made a very unusual army list, light tanks and dive bombers". Hmm, interesting and indeed this in itself was to lead to one of the highlights of the evening.

But before moving on to the game, I have to report my successful, if unconscious, destruction of part of Bart's beautiful new house. I got to Bart's place late, having been stuck on the Brussels ring in traffic. Somehow, between the car and Bart's front door I managed to cover my right shoe in unbelievably stinking dog s*$t, but alas didn't notice this until I had climbed the stairs and walked all around the wargames room. Belatedy, I noticed the smell. I first thought it must be one of Bart's projects (he is quite into glues and other strange potions) but then noticed strange marks on the (new) parquet on the floor. Oops. Yes it was me. "err, Bart", I started to say, but Bart had disappeared. So I went into the hallway (now carrying the offending footwear) and there found him busily scraping away at the (new) wooden stairs, which until this very evening had been protected with cardboard while awaiting a coat of varnish. And there I saw a trail of offending marks, stubbornly resisting all Bart's scrubbing.

Oh dear. A bit like the time after a DBM evening when a half full (empty?) bottle of red wine leapt out of my hands and spilt all over Graham's carpet and wall. Just days before he had to give the house back to his landlord. Nasty memory.

Anyway, quickly back to the game. The table had a village in the middle/left hand side and woods on the the right hand side. A railway ran down the middle. Bart could deploy in the centre third and then had to escape off his end of the table. Reasonably enough he put all his troops in the village, ready to run down the road. The next odd event of the evening was that Filip declined to use his option of flank deployment, ie to be able to cut off the escaping troops.

Turns one and two saw Filip dash down towards the village. Alas, his lovely new aircraft failed to turn up. Much entertaining moaning was heard from Bart who saw his cunningly concealed 88 shot up by enemy armour "and I didn't even get a shot, these rules are so lousy, etc etc". And then a quite amusing tank battle as Bart's tiger, at point blank range, with two shots (12 dice in total) failed to scratch an enemy Stuart. Never mind, Filip's depolyment meant that Bart got some units quickly off table, including the brave Oberst himself who abandoned his men pretty early on.

Meanwhile, Filip's main force attacking down the centre against the village suffered against the Nebelwerfer (an entire company lost in one turn). But he wasn't worried, he was doing damage and had tanks infiltrating through the German lines. At this point, Filip played his trump card and attacked with his lovely new dive-bombers, armed with the latest lethal rockets. In BKC, you choose an aiming point for the rockets, roll 3 dice for deviation and we turned a spinner to see the direction of the deviation.

No prizes for deducing that the spinner sent the rockets back towards the US forces and the dice rolled about 18, meaning the centre of the rocket attack was the attacking Yanks. Result, nearly every US unit suffered nine attacks. And Filip proceeded to roll 6..6..6..etc and nearly his entire force was wiped out. And that was effectively the end of that game. An unglorious but very funny victory for the Germans.

How we laughed. And to be fair, so did Filip. I was still chuckling at about 1 in the morning, finally getting into bed.

Sorry, I forgot my camera, but Bart will hopefully publish some photos. A good fun campaign, with the Americans winning two to one, but I think Filip will be burning his new army list.

And Bart will be sanding his stairs.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

Building a big forest

Now that the [Crisis 2005]( has come and gone, I have time to write up a few articles on the terrain for [our Arnhem
game]( (as opposed to having all the time taken up by actually building the thing). I intend to write what I hope will become a series of articles on
the various techniques and materials I've used in building this terrain.

This first article focuses on something I have [hinted at before](
building the oodles upon oodles of trees that are needed to represent the
areas 1st Airborne fought in, over and through in those fateful September
days. This is a step by step photo article on how to construct trees using
[Woodlands Scenics]( products.

Step one: The materials

src="../pics/treebuilding/HPIM2341_resize.JPG" alt="The materials"
title="The materials"/>

To build the trees, I use a number of Woodlands Scenics products, as seen in
the photograph:

  • Tree
    . I use the smallest size, nominally 1/2" to 2" in

  • Clump
    . I use three colours: light, medium and dark green.

The only other indispensable item needed is glue. WS recommend their own
glue (of course), but I use standard contact glue ( [Pattex Contact glue](
). In principle, contact glue has to be applied to both surfaces to work
correctly (that's why it's called _contact_ glue), but I find that the
standard Pattex contact glue (_not_ the transparant one) is tacky enough to
apply to only the tree (this is a _conditio sine qua non_: you can't apply
glue to the foliage material without going insane).

Additional stuff used is some kitchen paper for spillage and some blue tack
(which in Belgium is white) to hold down the tree bases (which I only use to
hold the trees temporarily -- on the terrain setup, they're pinned directly
into the ground).

Step 2: A tree, straight

src="../pics/treebuilding/HPIM2342_resize.JPG" alt="The materials"
title="The materials"/>

This is a typical tree armature you get from WS. It has a number of
branches, and a little pin on the bottom that slots into a base (which comes
attached to the trunk but is easily removed) or that can be pinned into the
ground of your terrain setup. The particular tree armatures I use come in
about four sizes ranging from a tiny 1/2" armature with two small branches
to a 2", four to five branch fellow.

The armature needs to be twisted and bent into a somewhat convincing tree
like shape. This sounds more complicated than it is. In nature, every form
of tree shape occurs, so anything will do here, really. I usually try to
have branches stick out in three or four different directions.

Also note one inevitable effect of building lots of trees this way: little
bits of shrubbery get stuck to your fingers, as evident in this photo :)

Step 3: A tree, twisted

src="../pics/treebuilding/HPIM2343_resize.JPG" alt="The materials"
title="The materials"/>

This photo shows the result of the tree twisting exercise: a more or less 3D
tree shaped bit of plastic. The tree will now be covered in glue (I apply
the glue using the tube of glue itself, not using any tools) and dunked in

Step 4: Dunking the tree

src="../pics/treebuilding/HPIM2349_resize.JPG" alt="The materials"
title="The materials"/>

Once the glue has been applied to the tree branches is when the real fun
starts: dunk the tree into the flock. Although the WS instructions suggest
to use more than one color of flock, I find that at least for this scale of
trees, one colour is more than enough. Anything more than that, even in tiny
amounts, just looks awkward.

Step 5: Press down on the flock

src="../pics/treebuilding/HPIM2350_resize.JPG" alt="The materials"
title="The materials"/>

Cover the still dunked tree in flock and press down on it. This ensures that
the flock will have a better contact with the glue and will thus stick
better. After that, take the tree out and shake it a bit to dislodge the
loosest flock.

Step 6: A tree, freshly canopied

src="../pics/treebuilding/HPIM2352_resize.JPG" alt="The materials"
title="The materials"/>

This is what the tree looks like freshly out of the flock. This still needs
some work. The flock uses is called 'Clump foliage' and that has a reason:
it's called that because it clumps. Instead of the tiny flecks of shredded
foam we're used to from other flock, these are tiny flecks of shredded foam
_that stick together_. This is good, as that simulates a tree canopy a lot
better and easier, but it also means that if you stop at the current stage,
you're going to run out of flock fairly soon, as you're taking big chunks of
it away with each tree you build.

So, we need to pluck the tree.

Step 7: A tree, plucked

src="../pics/treebuilding/HPIM2353_resize.JPG" alt="The materials"
title="The materials"/>

This is just what it sounds like: you pluck flock off of the tree until you
are left with a more sparse tree. This not only conserves flock, but also
makes the tree look better (unless you think that real trees look like a
stick with a ball of green stuff on top, in which case you might want to
skip this step. But buy more flock if you are so inclined.).

Step 8: A tree, finished

src="../pics/treebuilding/HPIM2354_resize.JPG" alt="The materials"
title="The materials"/>

And that's it: this is what the tree looks like when finished. Nice, eh?

Step 9: A forest, sprayed

src="../pics/treebuilding/HPIM2355_resize.JPG" alt="The materials"
title="The materials"/>

To increase the durability of the trees a bit (I don't mind some flock
falling off -- it adds to the reality of the terrain setup -- but the vast
majority needs to remain on the tree) I spray them with Woodlands Scenics
Scenic Cement (which is just thinned down white glue, but as David Black
once said to me -- 'Yeah, but it's premixed and 3 bucks for a big bottle'.
He was right.). I imagine you can also use spray varnish or even hair spray.

That's it: repeat this process several hundreds of times and you have an
Arnhem sized forest. Ouch.

The result can be seen in [Alan's post](

Saturday, 19 November 2005

Painting motivation - round two

Some time ago, I wrote a post [on painting motivation]( Over the last months, as can be seen in the frequency of posts to my [Flickr account](, my painting output has dropped quite a bit, however.

One reason for this is quite simple, and as reasons go also very excusable: most of my hobby time was taken up by building terrain for our Crisis Arnhem game (more articles on that to follow). Other reasons are however less obvious. As those of you who've gamed over at my place know, I now have a dedicated wargame room in the house, where I've set up my painting desk (and if you did not know, than you do now).

Despite what [I said earlier](, I have been painting (or not, as the case turned out to be) at that painting desk, and I think that was a contributor to my decline in painting output. Even though practically speaking, having a seperate painting desk with all supplies and paints within reach is _da bomb_, there's a disadvantage to it as well for me. I find that there's both a significant barrier to going up to the wargame room as well as an urge to stop painting sooner.

I suspect that the reason behind this is that, even though I like painting miniatures, it is not stimulating enough to be doing exclusively for an extended period of time. I'm a bit of an _infovore_, a sponge for information (I used to read encyclopedia for fun when I was younger -- and [still do](, in fact), which is exceedingly handy (and equally frustrating to family members) in a game of Trivial Pursuit, but also means that doing things which provide little input in the way of information (e.g. painting) can get a bit, not to put too fine a point upon it, _boring_.

The solution is, of course simple. I revived my [painting station](, and now mostly paint downstairs, in the living room, with the TV on and my wife usually sitting at the same table correcting student's papers and stuff (she teaches chemistry). This way, I get some input while I'm painting, which should help. The result should be quite obvious from the new images that have started appearing in the sidebar.

To finish with, here's what on my painting desk at the moment:

* Foundry's General Custer mounted
* Foundry US Cavalry mounted standard bearer. I'm planning on painting this one up with Custer's personal banner and then sell the two of them on Ebay.
* Lots of Celts of various modes of propagation and methods of aggression

What's on everyone else's painting desks?

Monday, 14 November 2005

Anderida 2005 - defeat can still be fun

"Everybody knows the pre-Feudal Scots are s%*#" said our friend, Jeremy on Saturday lunchtime. Or words to that effect.

"Oh" said my (gaming) partner, Graham and I, doubtful but taken-aback.

"So, I suppose you took the mounted infantry option?" asked our friends Paul, then Mike, then our first opponent, John and nearly everybody else we met.

"mmm" we replied, shaking our heads, bewildered at first, wearily knowing at the end.

But when Sunday afternoon came along, we had reached the relative luxury of 19 points out of 30, needing just one for a respectable 50%, we felt confident. We had after all narrowly lost (4-6) against John, a very nice opponent who single-handledly commanded a Viking army whose axemen slaughtered our over-confident warband. Then we stormed to victory, chopping up a massive 54 element strong command of Early Serbs. Sunday morning saw more Vikings, this time Finnish Leidang, where Graham cleverly defended against an opponent boosted in confidence by our now tired warband (who had turned unreliable for this battle).

And now, we were happy to face our good friends from Cheltenham, David, James and Andy (not necessarily in that order) with a Khazar army beautifully painted by Adrian (sadly absent on husband duty). Two hours later, we were packing our figures away. My warband trampled by Khazar cavalry and my C-in-C's infantry slaughtered by enely knights. A glorious victory for the West Country, and an early bath (or return drive home anyway) for the sassenachs from Brussels. This was the traditional Sunday afternoon fiasco.

Another great weekend at Pevensey Bay. Possibly the only criticisms of the event I would have are that both the pubs we play on are carnivore-only zones, which is depressing, and that Adrian never wins the painting prize, which is manifestly unjust.

Incidentally, our we discovered that our third opponents, Malcolm and Steven from Durham, turned out to be avid readers of Tiny Tin Men. That was nice. In turn here is their website.

Next year the theme is the Holy Land. In the meantime have a browse around James's excellent Anderida site'.

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Dude, where's the crunchy stuff?

or - how Bartolomix and his Celts faced off against a Belisarian army in the wilds of Corcyra.

Yesterday, I took my [Celts](/snv/sections/WEC/celts_1000.html) down to Bruce's in leafy Overijse for our round 3 match in the [WEC campaign](/snv/sections/WEC). My army was mostly a function of what I had painted (not enough, so I had to improvise and adapt), and consisted of two big warbands (30 and 27 men), a unit of 12 fanatics armed with throwing spears and with a shaman leading them (long story, but basically if they charge you it's 24 attacks against you with rerolls of misses -- do not stand in front of these), 10 bow armed skirmishers and the 'Black Brigade' of 6 chariots (so called because two of them are still only primed -- slow painter. My excuse is the terrain for the [Arnhem game]( :) ). This motley crew was led by Bartolomix and his personal standard bearer.

The basic plan was to set up with the fanatics between the two warbands, screened by the skirmishers, while the chariots would be off to one flank. The warband and the fanatics would charge anything crunchy, with the two big warbands and skirmishers soaking up the missile casualties for the fanatics.

Upon arriving at the scene however, great consternation broke out in the ranks when it was learned that the Belisarian army consisted of only bow armed skirmishers (four units of them) and two units of cavalry: one of German heavy cavalry, and one of equine lobsters (cataphracts) led by the general. Nothing really crunchy for the warband to get stuck into. I switched plans and decided to try and take on one or both of the cavalry units with my warbands.

I set up with the 27 man warband screened by the skirmishers in front of most of his skirmishers, the 30 man warband in front of the rest of his skirmishers, and the fanatics and chariots off to the left flank. The Belisarian cavalry where all concentrated on his right flank in front of my chariots. When the game started, I rolled forward with the warbands and fanatics while the skirmishers traded bow shots with their opposite numbers. The chariots made some cautious moves forward with the intent of drawing out the Belisarian cavalry so I could charge them with my fanatics and warband later on.

This worked admirably: I moved the chariots to just within 8 inches of the cavalry line, who promptly charged them. For my charge reaction I took the calculated risk of fleeing, needing 9 or more on 3d6 to escape annihalation. I rolled ... 6 2 1 totalling 9 -- yeah! This meant that the Belisarian cavalry was stuck halfway in a perfect position to be charged by my fanatics and the big warband.

Unfortunately, I had slightly miscalculated (well, it's Celts, any calculation is over the top for them :) ) the movement of the big warband, which had to wheel to get into contact with the Belisarian cavalry, and contacted a unit of skirmishers during the wheel, converting this to a charge against the skirmishers (impressive, but futile as skirmishers fleeing do not cause any panic tests elsewhere). This episode illustrated the fact that this was a very civilised battle, BTW, as the contact of the warband with the skirmishers was only very tenuous (just the outside of the movement base, not the figures themselves). We dealt with it in the classic WAB fashion: roll the dice -- the die roll indicated that it was a contact, so we played it that way.

So instead of fanatics and warband charging, I had just the fanatics charging. To make a long story short, their initial charge was not strong enough to bowl over the enemy (damn countercharging kontos armed horseymen :) ) and the fight lasted for three or four rounds of combat. On other parts of the battlefield, my two warbands had a merry though useless time chasing off skirmishers, and the chariots succumbed to the second charge of the Belisarian cataphracts.

The game ended when I had brought in my general and standard bearer into the fight of the (by then down to half their number) fanatics. The general promptly broke from combat, causing the fanatics to panic, causing the general to be caught in the following pursuit, causing the rest of my army to run away.

In conclusion, I was fairly happy with this battle, seeing as that I managed to charge the Belisarian cavalry, even though I did not win that fight. It would have been much preferable of course to have had some crunchy infantry to get stuck into, but alas, the Belisarian scouts had informed them of the nature of my army well. I also came away from this game with a bit less respect for missile fire in WAB -- even though around 40 skirmishers spent around 3 - 4 rounds of missile fire against my shielded warband, they only managed to kill 5 or 6 or so per warband. When you start out with 30 figures, 5 or 6 losses due to missile fire still leaves you with 24 men when you contact the enemy line. More than enough to do some damage.

Finally, in WEC terms, this means that Corcyra has been conquered by civilisation! There are two games left to play, but the previous three have all been won by the civilisation side.

On to game four!

Friday, 11 November 2005

Arnhem 2005 Flyer

For those who want to download the flyer we handed out during our Arnhem game at Crisis 2005, it is available here.

Simply print it out double-sided, fold it together, and presto!


Sunday, 6 November 2005

Crisis Photos

Crisis 2005 - Arnhem

Originally uploaded by ahuyton.

Frost advances towards Oosterbeek

Crisis 2005 - Arnhem

Originally uploaded by ahuyton.

Kussin shot up again, if only he had been more careful

Crisis 2005 - Arnhem

Originally uploaded by ahuyton.

The second landing, now everything will be fine!

Crisis 2005 - Arnhem

Originally uploaded by ahuyton.

Massive German attack on Oosterbeek, destined for failure

Crisis 2005 - Arnhem

Originally uploaded by ahuyton.

Hurrah, it's 16.30 and here comes XXX Corps across the railway bridge, valiantly recaptured by Maarten

Crisis 2005 - First thoughts

This site has been quiet for a couple of weeks as your much missed authors have been slaving away to get our big game finished for Belgium's big wargames convention, 'Crisis'. That was yesterday, and we came away with the prize for 'Best Participation Game', a migraine for poor Bart but a very satisfying day's gaming.

We set up a long table, representing the road from the Ist Airborne's drop zone to the famous road bridge in Arnhem itself. Bart built the terrain, to his usual high standards and the overall efffect was quite stunning. We populated the terrain with hand made trees and, largely cardboard buildings bought from paper terrain and Fiddlers Green. I painted the figures, at a scale of one base of 7 figures euquivalent to a platoon. I think we had some 2500 figures on table, with assorted transport, guns and German armour.

The innovation of the day came from the game system we used. This came about from a conversation at last year's Crisis, where we had put on a nice game using 'Rapid Fire' rules. We realised that, despite our best intentions, we were falling into the common trap of Crisis games, that clubs set out pretty terrains and then played a rather unsatisfactory game, with players torn between participating and going off to do some shopping. And given that every year the quality of the traders at Crisis is improving, this temptation is pretty heavy. So, we concluded that we needed a new approach. The game had to be fun, had to involve passers-by, but only ask for a small contribution to the game. The answer lay in a freeform game, with no set rules. Each visitor to the table would be welcomed, the game explained and then the newly promoted General would be asked to make a decision to keep the game rolling. Then maybe a die would be rolled, with a simple 1= failure 6= success type system.

So we put this into action, we added some nice touches such as medals (stickers showing a VC imposed on the Schild en Vriend club symbol) for each participant. And I must say it worked very well. I thought we had a really positive response. Many old friends passed by and enjoyed making a few decisions, often with amusing results that nicely simulated the fog of war (for instance the Airborne anti-tank guns sent off on the northern road by one player because 'it looks like the easiest way to the town and then sent back by another player who knew the stiry of Arnhem better - this created anguish and amusement to Dave, who faithfully played the role of Frost through the morning).

The game itself was fun, and at the end rather exciting with a massive melee in Oosterbeek fought out by old Schild en Vriend faithfuls, Maarten and Bart D. This for me was a new experience for Crisis quite frankly, and so it actually meant that not only did we fly the wargaming flag but we had a good gaming day. I will write up a story of the battle separately, but for those who are interested, and maybe participated in the game but didn't see the end of the game, here are the events in bullet (ha ha) form fashion:
  • John 'Dave Black' Frost led his troops into Arnhem and occupired the area around the bridge, other battalions followed more slowly and occupied the area around Oosterbeek and the railway bridge
  • Massive German pressure led to Frost deciding to quit the bridge
  • At the subsequent battle in North Arnhem suburbs, Frost was captured
  • German attacks on Oosterbeek put the British under pressure, big casualties sustained by both sides.
  • Germans launched an attack against the railway bridge,infantry supported by AA guns and a Tiger 2 detachment 'Mad Dog Koen' and his girlfriend launched Para platoons in hand to hand combat aginst the Tigers, but they were heroically massacred. Koen won the VC for this action!
  • The Germans kicked the British off the railway bridge, but Maarten with now only 1 effective battalion left in Oosterbeek took the risk of a counter attack on the bridge. At this point very subtle rules came into play, we each rolled a die, the highest would win the bridge! Maarten's bold attack won the day, the Germans taking big casualties (guess what? we each rolled a die to see how many stands were lost) and they retreated, dispirited.

Meanwhile, Urquhart and the laggardly 3rd Para held off the vast forces of Von Tettau, now under the capable control of Bart D, and at 16.30 we decided that the British had done enough and XXX Corps would arrive on time.

That was fun. I think the system is excellent, and vastly preferable to long complicated rules. As Dave said yesterday, we should just write up a one page summary of how it can work in practice. Perhaos we can do that here on these pages? Personally, I found it particularly interesting to deal with an enthusiastic teenager, who was with us for about three hours and a very serious Colonel from the Belgian army, dressed up in Para gear, who made some very interesting decisions leading to the Battle for Oosterbeek.

On the downside, we were over-optimistic about the system. We had thought it would be possible to run the game with one umpire, while the others could go off and shop or meet people. In fact the opposite was the case, we actually needed four umpires and reserves to allow for the socialising and spending. A lesson for next time.

A further problem was that we had not thought out properly the scale of the game, so we had absurd amounts of troops on the table, which proved difficult to organise and move. Another useful lesson.

Overall I thought it was fair that we won the participation prize, and that Durham won the Best Game, with their lovely terrain and 42mm superb figures. Our terrain boards were magnificent, but our reconstructions of the buildings were only adequate really. I guess the scale of the figures was also a factor.

The trophy went home with Phil, the brains behind our operation, who came up with most of the good ideas for the game system. And particular thanks to Dave Black for helping us play the game for several hours, even if his successors caused his Colonel Frost character to end up in a Stalag somewhere in the East.

On that note, I leave it to others to comment. Photos to follow.

Monday, 17 October 2005

Essen 2005 Report

I visited Spiel 2005 in Essen last weekend. Spiel is probably the largest convention focusing on boardgames. I never went before, and because Alan got the wagon rolling, I decided to join this year. So on saturday at 7am, 5 of us got into our cars and departed for Essen.

The fair is pretty large, and the halls are filled with publishers and shops. One can play a lot of games at the various publishers booths, try out new games, etc. I have to say I didn't play games -- after so many years of attending conventions I don't have the patience anymore, so I spend my time walking around the booths and picking up as much merchandise as I can.

So what did I buy?
  • Conquest of the Empire: a huge boardgame from Eagle Games, focusing on the Roman Empire. Although I have been dissapointed with games from Eagle Games in the past, I decided to give this one a try. It looks very stunning and has a lot of components!
  • Descent (Fantasy Flight Games): a new dungeon-crawling boardgame. It has been eagerly awaited, and this was the first opportnuity to buy it in Europe. Our group got 3 copies total. Yes. we're crazy ;-)
  • Burning Drachens, the new expansion for the excellent WW1 dogfighting game Wings of War.
  • Some Axis and Allies miniatures boosters. I also saw another WW2 game, Panzer Squadron (, which looked pretty promising.
  • I also wanted to get the expansions for Memoir 44, but they were sold out.
Anyway, Essen is a day of fun. There's not that much to see if you're only interested in historical miniature wargaming (although most of the big SF/F miniature publishers are present), but for boardgames, it is the place to be!

Friday, 7 October 2005

When push comes to pike

Last week, Alan and myself played another game of Armati II. The initial intent was to continue with the [Bartholomeus Sinister Grassus campaign](, but in a spur of the moment decision, we (well, I) decided to break out two Macedonian armies and do a Successor battle. Alan opted to play 'that one eyed guy' (Antigonos) while I took 'that paranoid fellow' Lysimachos. The intent was to see what Armati would do with a pike shoving match.

We used, among others, the Macedonian figures I had bought from JP some years ago. These are very nicely painted figures, but they come with a definite _handle with care_ cautionary statement. To avoid the spaghetti pike syndrome, JP likes to replace the cast on pikes (and any other weapons, for that matter) with wire versions. _In se_, that is not a problem. The problem is that the wire has actual razor sharp points. Taking these figures from their storage boxes is best done the way hedgehogs scratch their backs -- _very carefully_. I swear I could hear JP chuckling in the background as I was unpacking the figures :).

We decided to use 30 bonus point armies (Armati armies consist of a certain number of core units, which you have to take, and a variable amount of individually costed bonus units). My Lysimachid army was the usual pike phalanx, supported by three cavalry units and some light stuff (skirmishers and Thracian peltasts):

UnitNumberCombat valuesDivision
White shield phalanx18[0]0H2
Asiatic phalanx16[1]1H2
Heavy cavalry24[0]0H3
Companion cavalry24[0]0H3
Thracian Peltasts24[1]2L1
Thracian Peltasts24[1]2L2
Bow armed skirmishers22[1]1L3
Sling armed skirmishers13[1]2L3
Javelin armed skirmishers22[1]1L4

In Armati, only _key units_ count towards the defeat of your army -- non key troops can be killed to ones heart's content, but to win the game, you have to destroy a certain number of key units. In general key units are the heavy units of an army, and these armies are no exception: for both Alan and myself, phalanxes and heavy cavalry are the key units. This virtually ensures that the game will be decided by a good old fashioned shoving of pike.

And that is more or less what happened. Alan set up with, from his left to right, a bunch of light troops (peltasts and skirmishers), a line of pike, an elephant, some more pikes and two heavy cavalry units. Behind the line was Antigonos himself with a unit of Companion heavy cavalry. My own setup mirrored his, except that I had no elephants, I had light troops on both flanks and my three cavalry units were together on the far right flank. I kept no reserves were kept behind the line (a mistake, in hindsight).

The game turned out to be a pike slug fest (with a side dish of elephant and general), while on the respective right flanks the cavalry broke through. I initiated contact in the center when I charged a pike unit with Lysimachos himself attached into the elephant who got some help from Antigonos himself. Over the next few moves, while the generals were hitting each other over the head with pike and tusk, the rest of the phalanxes got into contact with each other as well.

On my right flank, my cavalry swept through some light troops (ably helped by the rightmost of the pike units), subsequently disdainfully ignored some skirmishing light horse (a bit of a stretch, that, as said light horse managed to kill one of my cavalry by way of a sneaky flank attack), only to run up against Alan's reserve cavalry. Drat.

The Antigonid cavalry, on the other hand, also broke through on the other flank and I had no reserves to stop them (bad general!). My flight forward with the pike was partly to increase the distance Alan's cavalry had to travel to reach their rear, but the Antigonid cavalry did reach the rear of my pike line in the end.

Luckily, while I did lose one pike unit to the marauding Antigonid cavalry, I managed to kill four of Alan's key units before he did so to me (but only just, as the last die roll of the last turn decided which of us would win), so it was a Lysimachid victory after all!

Again, Armati proved itself to be a very good game that gives historical results (not that I would recognise a historical result in this period, of course) and was very tense and exciting till the end in this case.

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Monday, 26 September 2005

Looking for Carolingian Frankish figures

Not one to be deterred by the fact that our current participation game is still in the construction phase ([6 weeks to go]( ), I've come up with a vague plan to do the Battle of [Leuven]( as a demo / participation game next year. This was a little affair back in [891](, the tail end of the Carolingian period, where the Frankish (then) king [Arnulf of Carinthia]( came all the way over to [Leuven]( to beat up a part of the Viking Great Army that had decided to winter there. The resulting battle was a resounding Frankish victory and is said to have coloured the banks of the Dijle red with the blood of the Vikings. Good stuff, in other words.

As to figures for this battle, the Vikings are easy -- after Romans and Celts they must be the most popular subject for miniature manufacturers to tackle, so pretty much everyone and his dog does them. Carolingian Franks (let alone later Carolingian Franks) are a different matter, however. So far, I have found (in the One True Scale of 25-28mm of course):

* [Old Glory]( - [PLC range](
* [Essex Miniatures]( - Ancients range
* [Chiltern Miniatures]( - [Frankish range]( - ex-Whitecross, apparently

For the Old Glory and Essex, I have a fairly good idea of what to expect (filler and static poses, respectively), but I have not seen the Chiltern figures up close. On the pictures (well, picture) on the site, they look a tad goofily posed, so an in the flesh inspection is called for. Luckily, Chiltern is coming to [Crisis](, so I'll have a chance to look at them there.

Are there any readers out there who have experience with any of these ranges, or that know of other manufacturers that do suitable figures? And while I'm at it, are the silly helmets (the inverted boat shape thingies) based on solid evidence or is that just one of those memes that is based on a single source and has been propagated throughout miniature wargamehood?

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Kallistra hex-based terrain

Last week I received my hex-terrain from Kallistra. This terrain system consists of hexes (along the lines of the old Geohex), but smaller, and sturdier. The different hextiles come in groups of 6 connected hexes, they are stackable, and take up a small volume so they can be very easily transported. Also, I ordered some scenic element (hills, mountains) to go with the terrain.

Last weekend we used it for the first time. I transported the terrain to a friend's place, thereby testing the portability of the whole thing, which went pretty smoothly.

The terrain is very well suited for hex-based games such as Memoir44 or Battlecry. Since I'm a big fan of hex-based games these days (they play more quickly, and it doesn't really reduce the resolution of movement and firing ranges), this was one of the reasons I bought the terrain in the first place.

The scale of the hills and mountains might make it a bit unfeasible for 25/28 mm though. It is better suited for 20mm and smaller in my opinion, although your taste in what's visually pleasing might of course be different from mine.

Just to give you a feel of what it looks like, here are some pictures. The first two pictures are from a 6mm SciFi game (a home-made variant based om Memoir44), and the next two are from a 1/300 WW2 game, also played with Memoir44 rules.

The last picture was not part of a game, but shows some 20mm Vietnam figures on the terrain.

SciFi game: View image

SciFi game: View image

WW2 game: View image

WW2 game: View image

Vietnam (20mm): View image

Thursday, 22 September 2005

I'm on TMP!

What's the use of having a blog if you can't shamelessly abuse it for purposes of self aggrandizement? In that spirit, allow me to humbly state the fact that my entry for the [Alpha Miniatures painting competition]( over at [the Miniatures Page]( is published:

[My German Leader at TMP](

The accompanying article lists some information on the painting techniques and paints used on this fellow, which was the first 54mm figure I ever painted.

I expect that you can vote for me, or one of the other competitors of course, somewhere next week when all the entries (five of them in this round) have been put up.

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Wednesday, 21 September 2005

Blitzkrieg Commander - German break-out at Bordelle-de-Roi

So, let's look at the latest in our Blitzkrieg Commander mini campaign.

After last week's game, I set-up the second scenario in the series with the beleaguered Germans trying to break-out of the pocket. A small American force deployed in the centre of the table, basically occupying a wood and fields near the village of Bordelle-de-Roi. On one side of the table was a small German force of armour and infantry (about half of the total German strength). On the other side was a German relief force, exclusively infantry, coming to help their comrades escape.

I reflected the minor victory for the Americans in the first game by giving them additional troops (the scenario in the rules recommends a ratio of 2:1 for the German player) and by causing the German player problems with fuel supply - on the grounds that they were caught in a pocket with little fuel available. To simulate this each of the 5 German armour pieces (a Panther, 2 Pz IV, a STuG 3 and a Puma) had to avoid rolling a 1 on a D6 each turn. Failure meant immobilisation for that vehicle.

I also gave the players four events each that they could play at any stage, and as it turned out these had a dramatic impact on the game.

How did the game go? Well, I won't give a blow-by-blow account but I think it was our most interesting BKC game yet. A huge scrap developed around a sunken road near the village with charge and counter-charge by both sides, with funny results. It resembled more a Roman-Barbarian slugging match than a WW2 firefight. In the end, the Americans drove off the Germans in the village, but I'm sure even Filip (our brave yankee hero), who played boldly and well, would acknowledge that Bart didn't have much luck with command rolls. For two turns the armour was stuck, the panther never got into action for example and the Pz IVs got blow-up by a Sherman. To cap it all, at a crucial moment Bart rolled three command blunders in two turns. Not good.

Here we can see the different positions, with the Germans in the village and the Americans in the nearby wood:

BKC bordelle de roi 010

And here we can see Germans have advanced to the sunken road to counter the sneaky American advance.

BKC bordelle de roi 013

One of the events that I gave to Filip was 'torrential rain' leading to poor visibility and difficulty to get hits (all attempts more difficult though a '6' was still always a hit). The rain could stop at any time but in the event lasted three turns and the Germans found it impossible to score hits on the enemy.

By game end, poor Bart was very despondent and we called it a day after six turns - a fine victory for the American player.

Conclusions? A fine tactical game, with Filip rewarded for bold play ( a clever assault on the village by his outnumbered troops, luring the Germans into counter-attack and eventual defeat). We played with fewer points this time, 1500 for the attacker. This means more room on the table and a more interesting game. Somehow it was more interesting to have two or three tanks per side than eight or nine. I think for the future we will reserve bigger games for multi player contests.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Bordelle-de-roi pictures

Just a quickie to note that [pictures of the Bordelle-de-roi game]( are up at the [Schild en Vriend photo gallery](

Beware that this album features pictures of the players.

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Wednesday, 14 September 2005

Blitzkrieg Commander game - Bordelle-de-Roi Pocket

After a month away from gaming (families, holidays and other equally tiresome distractions), life was back to normal last night with a game of BKC. I decided to set-up a mini-campaign, with three linked scenarios. To start with, Filip's Americans would try to encircle a small and disparate force of Germans who were holed up near the strategically important village of Bordelle-de-Roi and the Hill know locally as Mont Mouton.

The American forces were standard, two battalions of infantry and a battalion of Shermans. The Germans had a Tiger, three companies of infantry, including one crack SS company, with the special rule that they never retreat. In addition, Bart rolled on a little table I set-up to get supporting armour. He could have rolled some useful heavy armour, but no, he ended up with a Pz III, a Pz IV, a self propelled AA gun and an infantry gun. Oh dear, he wasn't happy about this.

The table was quite small, about 4' by 4'. We used Bart's beautiful new terrain boards, covered with woods and fields. A further sign of normality returning was the confusion caused when the scenario I set-up contained 'incorrect' instructions about set-up. So after Bart spent 25 minutes deploying (and so brilliantly) we discovered I had mixed up scenarios so he had to start again. In the end he deployed in the centre of the table, with a game objective of exiting the far end of the table. Filip placed two commands of troops, basically two armour and two infantry forces on each side of the table, planning to envelop the escaping Jerries.

A further twist was the chance events I gave to the players. They each had three events (eg 'snipers hold up enemy company', 'enemy tanks run out of fuel', 'heroic company commander over rules lack of command initiative'). They could use one during the game. When Bart used his sniper option but failed to realise that he couldn't then use his other events, I was generous and allowed each player to use two events. I think these events added some colour and some chaos, though inevitably they are not always balanced in effect. Next game I will give the players 4 events and they can use them all.

The game itself was interesting, with Bart making a dash for the table edge with some trops while being indecisive with others. Filip, despite bad command rolls, managed to block the exit and finally broke Bart's army, but not before eight units escaped the pocket.

For the next game, the surviving Germans and some reinforcements will try to break out of the pocket. We will play on a smaller scale, 1500 and 750 points, as 2000 points is a bit too much for an evening. Also it may give more room for manouevre.

Our feeling about the encirclement scenario was that it is very difficult for the defender to escape, but it may be that that different tactics have to be employed, for example a hell-for-leather dash by some units and maybe sacrificial actions by others. Perhaps we can see what others on the BKC forum think about this.

__Update__: (Robartes butting in) [pictures of this game have now been published](

Friday, 9 September 2005

Invicti Iunores Brittaniciani

Invicti Iunores Brittaniciani

Invicti Iunores Brittaniciani,
originally uploaded by robartesm.

Just an experiment with photo editing tools: I took a photo I had lying around of a unit of my Post Roman Britains and photoshopped (I actually used The Gimp) a forest background behind it.

What do you think?

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Monday, 5 September 2005

Crusade 2005 report

Last Saturday, Bart and myself went to Crusade 2005 in Leopoldsburg. It's a smaller convention, organized by the local club 'De Witte Ridder'. Being small, it's fairly easy to talk to different people, and to make a tour of all games on display.

There was the usual mix of games being demonstrated and dealers. Bart and I used our Darkest Africa game, and we did try out our Free Kriegsspiel system we intend to use in full at CRISIS. We concluded it works pretty well. We got a few people involved in the game, and they seemed to like it.

One of the players was a 7 year old enthusiastic player, who asked us whether he could put his figures on the table as well. Never missing an opportunity to convert the young and innocent, we soon saw a 19th century dhow sailing down the mighty Congo river, sporting a mixed crew of an Arab captian, some Askari sailors, a Bretonnian bowmen and an Eldar Scout wielding a lasergun taking shots at some Congo tribes hiding in the jungle. The kid seemed to like the game so much that later on he asked to pose next to the table for some pictures. He even went to the speed-painting table to paint his new figures right there, and I think he even asked Bart for some painting advice! Nice to see a young player so enthusiastic. Sadly, however, I saw him also being shooed away at some other tables.

As for loot, I must say I haven't been buying lead during the last 2 years, thinking I have enough figures already. The only exception is prepainted and ready to play stuff. So I got some boosters for Axis and Allies Miniatures, a dungeon exploration game called Dungeon Twister, and a new piece of scenery from the German modelbuiders that are also at Crisis every year (with the big Minas Tirith model), but whose name I cannot remember right now.

A nice and small convention, definitely worth visiting!

Monday, 29 August 2005

HIPPIE project part 3 - priming

The primed figure

As I'm writing this, the finished HIPPIE figure features in the 'Recent Photos' section of the sidebar, so painting wise I'm several steps ahead of my posting in this series :). In case you're reading this several months down the line, [here's the picture]( I'm referring to.

The next step after cleaning and converting the HIPPIE miniature is priming it. Priming figures, and in particular what colour to prime them in, has been the subject of many a holy war in miniature painting circles. The basic camps are black and white primers, with grey primers or black with white drybrush primers in between. Holy wars aside, this article is just about my way of priming.

Why do we prime miniatures? Primer is usually formulated slightly differently from normal paint, in such a way that it provides a slightly rougher surface with some tooth for other paint to catch on. What this means is that the paint you apply over a coat of primer will stick better than paint applied on the bare metal. Don't believe though, that priming will make your paint job much more resistant to wear and tear -- while the paint sticks better to the primer, it is still quite easy to rub off the primer and thus the paint on top of it by handling, especially at exposed parts of the miniature such as elbows, tops of hats and such. In my experience, priming a figure helps the painting process because it is easier to apply the paint (just try to paint over the bare metal with slightly watered down acrylic paint to see what I mean), but does not make a great difference (though not none at all) to wear resistance of your paint job -- if you want a wear resistant paint job, apply a good varnish after you have painted the miniature.

As to colour of priming, I've always used grey primer, simply because [Brico]( -- a local Belgian hardware store -- have a nice and affordable [primer]( in their spray paint assortment which just happens to be grey. I've used it ever since I started painting miniatures almost ten years ago. In the beginning, I painted over the basic grey colour, but now I find that black priming helps my painting technique by providing the deepest shade layer. So, after I've spray painted the miniature and the primer coat has dried, I apply a heavy (very heavy) wash of black paint (thinned to about a 1:1:2 ratio of black paint, matt medium and water).

And that's what you see in this installment's picture: the figure has been spray painted and washed black. Looking closely at the picture, I see that I've also painted the shade colour of the figure's standard, i.e. dark brown. I often do this: when I have painted a certain colour on another figure and have some paint left on my palette, that usually goes onto the next figure in line, which is probably what happened here.

Also, note the fact that, despite my crude attempts at converting and sculpting, once the entire figure has been primed, it is hard to see what parts are original and what parts are converted if you do not know which is which. This is probably the best kept secret of converting miniatures: it doesn't matter if you're not a [Michelangelo]( or [Rodin]( in miniature -- once painted nobody can tell the difference!

That's it for this installment. Next installment will be applying the shade colours to the various areas of the miniature.

Other parts of the HIPPIE series:

* [Part 1 - Introduction](
* [Part 2 - Cleaning and Conversion](
* [Part 3 - Priming]( -- You are here

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Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Historical Collectibles at last!

After the success of various collectible miniature games (see Wizkids), Hasbro/Avalon Hill is now producing a miniature game based on WW2:

Click here

Apparantly, the figures are prepainted, and come in boosters, so you never really know what you will get.

The game was released at Gencon, and apparantly, was a huge hit there.

For the number crunchers among you

I've recently added a [Sitemeter counter]( to [Tiny Tin Men]( to keep track of the vital statistics of this website. Here are some interesting results:

* We're avaraging around 80 visits a day, with no noticeable upward or downward trend so far
* These visits are mostly from places around the world one would expect. Most unexpected places visiting us are Kuwait, Iceland and someone who got through the Great Firewall in China:

![Visitors to TTM from across the world](/snv/pics/various/ttm_visitors.jpg)

* By far the most popular way of getting to TTM is by Googling. The most popular searches leading here are for [dbm 3.1]( and [Blitzkrieg Commander]( For the first query, we're the number one result in Google, for the second we're just behind the [BKC page]( itself. The most funky query leading people to TTM is for 'tiny niples'. I'll let people figure out where that leads for themselves.
* The referrer that lead to the most visits is from [this review page]( on the BKC page.
* Web page statistics are addictive

Returning you to the regular programming now.

Saturday, 20 August 2005

Game or simulation?

Partially sparked by [Phil's post](, there's an interesting discussion over at a few of the [Napnuts]( [blogs]( The other blog is [here](

Some posts to get you started:

* [Historicity in Wargames](
* [More wargame theory](
* The three posts before the previous one on [Wargames Correspondence](
* [How historical is your wargaming]( -- Phil's post

Go check it out, it's interesting stuff!

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Friday, 19 August 2005

WEC - Eastern Messa overrun by Celts

Earlier this week, my Celtic forces met an army of Han Chinese, disguised as Romano-Britons, in battle for round 2 of our [WEC campaign]( The armies were 750 points each (see [my Celtic army]( on the other side of the link), and we fought lengthwise on a 5'x3' table. A single piece of rough going (difficult going in WAB terms) dominated the centre of the table, with a small stream (the Zenna river) running from the Celtic baseline in a long arc to exit the table halfway down the right flank.

The following missive by the Chinese general was intercepted by Celtic outriders after the battle (given the nature of the missive, the messenger was allowed to continue on his journey unharmed):

Friends, Senators, Countrymen,

History they say is written by the victors, but to my great shame I come
before you today to report on the loss of Eastern Messa to the Celtic

The Host of Han, or rather a detachment consisting of two units of spearmen,
some skirmishing archers and the general's guard of 8 cavalry, set out to
secure a bridge over the Zenna stream.
Looking, to the untrained eye, suspiciously like Post-Roman Britons, these
forces approached the crossing, only to find the enemy already firmly
established on the near side of the stream with his chariots, skirmishers
and one warband, only the second warband which brought up the rear having
yet to cross. The banner of Bartolomix fluttered over the assembled horde.

Undaunted, our warriors advanced as one, and drew first blood when the
skirmishers dispatched one of the Celts' chariots that were coming up to our
right flank. The three remaining teams pressed on however, and ran the
skirmishers to ground before fleeing in their turn from the spearmen which
these had been screening.

In the centre meanwhile, the barbarian warband quickly advanced, shouting
and screaming as is their wont, and I took my guard to intercept them. To my
dismay the troopers failed to cause a single wound, and though I succeeded
in wounding the enemy chieftain, that was not enough to break their wild
spirit. They broke my men, and pursued with such ferocity that they were
able to catch even fleeing horsemen! The carnage caused the spears of the
left wing to break in turn. Swept along in the flight, I was lucky to escape
capture, and could only watch from afar as my brave spearmen on the right
made an honourable attempt to hold the the barbarian tide crashing into
their flank, but were ultimately swept away and pursued by the returning

Retreating with the remnants of my troops, I have meditated upon the
precepts of Master Sun as they apply to this battle, and resolved to
increase the crossbow training of my footsoldiers: Though moving on foot,
these Celtic hordes surge forward like the barbarian horsemen from the
plains, and our answer must be similar to the practice by which we secure
our northern borders.

I hope to bring you better tidings soon, and remain

yours faithfully

- General Ho Ping -

(for better luck next time)

As can be inferred from the missive above, the battle was a resounding Celtic victory. My plan in this battle was slightly more cautious than the one in [round one]( Given the fact that the "Chinese" had a sizeable cavalry unit (well, 8 horsemen anyway), and that the Chinese general got first move, I thought it prudent to keep the warband slightly more controlled than 'charge straight forward'.

I deployed one warband to the right of the river, hoping to appear inconspicuous and causing the Chinese to expose a flank, the second warband, led by Gremlix (who pushed the army list into slight illegalness, which was OK'd by my opponent) was on the other side of the stream, the skirmishers deployed below the rough ground and the chariots were in a column to the left of them. Bartolomix and his standard bearer took up their customary position between the two warbands.

The Chinese were deployed, their right to their left, with a unit of archers screening 20 spearmen, another unit of 20 spearmen and a unit of 8 cavalry. The general was between the spearmen and the cavalry. They opened with a general advance, with the cavalry wheeling to its right aiming for my central warband. In response, I sent the skirmishers into the rough going, advanced the warband full speed forward and sent the chariots to the left of the rough going streaking towards the enemy skirmishers.

The next turn saw the Chinese archers take out one chariot with bowfire. Unfortunately for them, the chariots were undaunted by the loss of a quarter of their number, charged the pesky skirmishers and ran them down mercilessly (the skirmishers elected to fire and flee, did not cause any casualties and fled just not far enough to avoid being run down). The cries of joy by the charioteers died quickly however when they noticed the fresh spearman unit now unmasked by the destruction of the skirmishers. Next turn would see these spearmen charging the chariots, who mangaged to escape with a flee charge reaction.

Meantime, in the center of the battlefield, the Chinese cavalry accompanied by their general charged Gremlix' warband. I had anticipated this and was not really worried -- a feeling justified by events. Javelin fire by the warband prior to contact (stand and shoot charge reaction) managed to knock off two cavalrymen but did not stop the charge. I thus had 6 cavalrymen (of whom only 4 were in contact) and one general (WS 6 and 3 attacks -- ouch) versus 24 Celtic warriors (one WS5 character and 23 warriors, 5 of which were in contact) -- this was my smaller warband. In the ensuing melee, the general managed to cause one wound to Gremlix, but the cavarlymen were ineffective. The Celts did two wounds and easily won the round of melee (+3 rank bonus). In the resulting panic test, the cavalrymen and general fled, only to be caught by the fleet footed Celts in pursuit. Scratch one spearmen unit and one general.

That was pretty much the end of the battle. The second spearmen unit of the Chinese held its ground after the rest of the army ran away, only to be charged in the flank by Gremlix' warband and getting caught in pursuit as well. No more Chinese, for the loss of only one chariot and one wound to Gremlix.

This battle confirmed that WAB can be very bloody -- the main reason the Chinese lost was probably my lucky dice in pursuit rolls, even managing to catch cavalry fleeing with pursuing infantry. The charge by the Chinese cavarly against my warband had me not very worried (a 24 man character led unit with the general next door for panic tests is fairly resilient) but I had definitely not expected them to win so swiftly.

I think both players had good fun in this game -- on to round three!

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Sunday, 14 August 2005

Amazing Magnets indeed

It's been a bit quiet around here because I've been occupied laying floorboards in the new house (in the parts that did not have floor tiles). That's all done now and I haven't chopped of any fingers or other appendices, so I'm back in business miniatures wise.

During this episode, I received a package from [Amazing Magnets](, which I ordered some time before. Amazing Magnets sells magnets, amazingly, but not just any old magnet. They sell [neodymium magnets]( targeted at the craft market. Neodymium magnets can hold a very strong magnetic field in relation to their mass, so a small magnet can hold a strong magnetic field.

I ordered their [smallest size square]( magnets, with the idea of using them on the bottom of slottabases instead of glueing magnetic tape to the bottom, which has its problems. The order arrived impeccably packed and included a little bag of samples in different sizes -- great service.

The magnets. 25mm figure shown for size comparison
The magnets glued to the bottom of a slottabase
The figure suspended from the side of a metal box

As seen from the pictures above, I glued two of the little magnets to the bottom of a slottabase. This gives me a magnetic field that is strong enough to suspend the figure upside down from a metal box without any problems, yet still easy enough to break the magnetic force to move the figure when necessary. One magnet did not result in a strong enough magnetic field.

This is a great product -- instead of spending a considerable amount of time glueing magnetic tape to the bottom of the bases, there is now just the one step: glue two tiny magnets to base (I use ordinary superglue) and you're done!

I shall certainly be ordering more of these magnets (possibly in a larger size to just have to glue one magnet to the base), as they are quite affordable (100 of these tiny magnets set me back $9.00, while postage and packing from the States to Belgium was less than that) and work beautifully.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 1 August 2005

How historical is your wargaming?

There's an interesting letter in the latest issue of Wargames Illustrated. It's titled "Dude, Where's my Hobby", and is written under the nom-de-plume D.I.S.Gusted. At first, I thought this was going to be another rant about the state-of-the-hobby, and how back in 1971 one could go to a convention, "buy 300 25mm figures, 10 pots of paint, some new rules, have a few drinks in the bar, and still have change left from a 5-Pound note" (this last quote from another letter in WI some years ago :-)). However, this letter touches upon another aspect: the lack of history in historical miniature wargaming.

The author claims that history and historical research is dissappearing out of historical wargaming, and that much more emphasis is being put in setting up games which might be visual attractive, but have little to do with historical wargaming as such. One example he mentions is the popularity of Victorian SF / Lost World / Adventuring in the 30s type of games. Although these games might be fun and pretty to look at, they have little or no relation to historical wargaming, and belong more to the type of wargaming advocated by Games Workshop.

The letter makes a plea to spend some more time on research, and try to design games and rules that model some part of military history, rather than design rules that work well as a game, but might have no relation whatsoever to the 'history' of the period one is trying to model. The letter ends with a short evaluation of various rulesystem in this light, although this last section is very short.

This letter got me thinking again about what defines 'historical miniature wargaming', specifically in relation to other forms of miniature gaming. It is somewhat pointless to discuss classifications ("Is Victorian SF historical?", "Is a DBA fight between Romans and Aztecs historical?"), but I think it is more useful to discuss whether good historical research should be present in wargame design. In other words, when designing a specific ruleset, should one try to simulate certain historical events, or should one write rules with a focus on gameplay, and then try to fit them to perceived history? The problem with the latter approach is that one uses maybe one source or even a movie as a basis, while historical research requires that you consult many different sources to get things right.

E.g. suppose one wants to design a game about tank vs. tank combat in WW2. Historical research would assume that you look towards % of casualties, likelyhood of damage after a succesful hit etc. The second approach assumes you design with the game in mind: a game might last 10 turns, and we want each tank to have a 50% probablity to survive the game, so that means a specific %chance of knocking out a tank with one shot etc... Note that this is an othogonal design issue w.r.t. simple or complicated rules. You can have elegant and overly-complicated rules using both approaches.

I have to admit that for all the rulesets I've written so far, most of them were designed using the second approach: maximum emphasis on gameplay, and only a small focus on getting things right from a historical point-of-view. So, am I still an historical wargamer?

Sunday, 31 July 2005

HIPPIE project part 2 - conversion

Quite some time ago, before our move, I started the HIPPIE project with [this post]( The idea is that I paint up a figure and report on the progress of said figure with pictures. I'm now finally continuing with this process.

The converted figure

Today's installment is about the cleaning up and conversions (very little, actually) done to the figure. As evident from the picture in [part 1](, there was quite a bit of flash on the figure, which was easy to remove (in most cases I did not even have to use any tools, I could just pinch off the flash with my figures). The flash in question results from vent channels in the mold of the figure BTW, which facilitate air removal from the cavity and are an important part of the production process of miniatures. Other than the flash present, not much cleanup was necessary -- this was a clean figure.

On to the conversions, as seen in the picture on the right, which remained very basic. I replaced his cast standard with a florist's wire one, by snipping off the standard and drilling out the hand. I left a bit of the original standard staff attached to be painted up as a cloth 'handle'. The florist's wire staff was topped with a duck sculpted from green stuff (trust me, it will look better when painted up -- this is one of my very first free form sculpts). Finally, I added a shield slung across the figure's back. The shield is attached with a blob of green stuff, and a belt sling was sculpted from green stuff (pretty easy -- take some green stuff, flatten it between two plastic sheets, cut out belt). The green stuff that was left over after the duck, shield and belt was used on the base to hide the figure's cast on base and hide the slot in the plastic slottabase.

That's it for now -- next installment will be priming the figure for painting.

Other parts of the HIPPIE series:

* [Part 1 - Introduction](
* [Part 2 - Cleaning and Conversion]( -- You are here
* [Part 3 - Priming](

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Tuesday, 26 July 2005

Painting competitions at conventions

It is going to be difficult to avoid this entry coming over as me snivelling and bemoaning the fact that I don't win as consistently anymore as before on the Crisis painting competition, and there is certainly an element of that involved (though not, by far, the only reason for this), so I'm stating this upfront. You have been warned.

The idea for this post has been sparked by a [thread on TMP](, and more specifically this bit in a post halfway down the thread:

Let's face it, Joe Gamer who painted up a nice general for his army isn't going to win against some pro painted masterpeice which was never meant to see the gaming table and is probably too fragile to survive the battle anyway. If only the professionals can win, why bother having a comptetion open to the public?

I couldn't agree more. Not so much about the why have a competition bit, but I can understand the poster when he says that this particular painting competition (or more generally, the ones he comes in contact with) seems to have changed character from a gamer oriented comp to a painter oriented competition. I have seen what I think is the same evolution in the painting competition at the Crisis convention over the years.

First, a small bit of exposition on miniature painting: there are those, such as myself, who are miniature wargamers that want to paint their figures to a good standard, but still game with said figures and thus do not spend a lot of time per figure painting it, in order to get an army on table in a non geological time frame. A second class of miniature painters are the ones the poster above refers to as 'professionals' (a slightly inaccurate term, but adequate for the purpose of this entry) whose hobby is painting miniatures, not gaming with them. For these painters, the painting itself is the hobby and they don't mind spending the extra (tens or even hundreds of) hours to do a really smasing paint job.

As said, I'm a painting gamer, not a miniature painter. I have been entering figures in the Crisis painting competition since 1997 and have won at least one medal or prize each year. However, the competition has stiffened enormously over the last few years. From what was once (I feel) a painting gamer dominated competition, the Crisis painting comp has become more or less miniature painter dominated. The influx of the German contingent the last two years (extraordinary painters like [Dirk Stiller](, [Stefanie Arndt]( and [Holger Schmidt]( ) is proof of this point. That makes it harder for painting gamers to win at the Crisis painting competition.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Neither, I'd say. This is just the way this particular painting competition has evolved, whether intentionally or not, and that's really all there is to it. I might no longer enter anything anymore (it is getting to the point where it would take too much time to paint something that has a chance of winning), but that should not bother anyone. And it does mean that the Crisis painting comp will become, more than ever, a place to go and look at exquisitely painted miniatures. But they'll be painted by 'professionals' not by gamers.

What's the opinion of the readers on this?

__Update__: added link to Stefanie Arndt's site

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Sunday, 24 July 2005

A terrain experiment with a doubtful result

In the spirit of further [terrain experimentation](, I decided to spruce up part of my basic terrain setup the other day. While I do have a suitable set of modular terrain tiles (which have featured in pictures troughout TTM and its [mother site](/snv), and won a few prizes at wargames shows), there are occasions where I, be it for ease of transport or out of sheer laziness, use a simple green cloth (nicked off of my friend Alan, I might add) as the basic terrain for my games.

I a fit of madness, I tried doing something that [I wrote about years ago](/snv/tbase.html) -- attacking the cloth with a variety of spray paints and flock. The idea is to break up the golf course look of endless expanses of green nothingness by spraying on various oddly shaped patches of green, greenish brown, brownish green and brown. You get the idea.

This is what it turned out as:

A green cloth, spray painted

I used a number of differently coloured spray paints that I had lying around, plus some general flock that I glued onto the cloth with spray glue. I thought the end result was pretty nice, especially considering the fact that the cloth is meant as a base surface, with lots of other terrain items on top.

Then again, when my wife saw the thing, her first reaction was 'this looks like our cat threw up on it'. So I guess different people have different esthetic sensibilities. Any comments?

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Friday, 22 July 2005

Miniature Photography part 4 - stage setup

As an addition to the earlier [series]( on [miniature]( [photography](, here's a quick look at the current 'stage' setup I use when photographing miniatures:

![Photography setup](/snv/ttm/pics/photography_setup.jpg)

As you can see from this photo, I use a sheet of white paper as the 'stage' itself. The paper is propped up against a suitable object (in my case, the water jars) so that it curves smoothly, with about 1/3rd of the paper horizontal (flat on the desk) and the other two thirds vertical.

Lighting is provided by two lamps -- the standing one almost directly above the miniature is fitted with a daylight bulb and provides the main illumination, while the smaller clip on fluorescent lamp provides some filler light to help even out the highlights on the figure. This lighting setup works for me in so far as that I rarely have to correct the photo in an editing program anymore. I'm still thinking of building a [light tent]( though.

Finally, the camera itself (not visible in this shot because it was taking the shot. Ahem) rests on the small blocks of wood in front of the miniature to take the shot. It usually ends up with the front of the lens 3 to 4 cms away from the miniature, resulting in a frame filling shot of the figure.

All articles in the miniature photography series:

* [Part 1 - Lighting](
* [Part 2 - Camera settings](
* [Part 3 - Post processing](
* [Part 4 - Stage setup]( - You are here

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Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Building a forest

As [mentioned before](, we're going to do an Arnhem game for this year's [Crisis]( convention. The basic distribution of tasks is that Alan does the miniatures and I do the terrain.

I'm going to do a series of articles on the terrain building in the future, but I want to focus now on an important part of it: trees. You see, a lot of the action in the Arnhem battle was focused not in Arnhem itself, but several miles to the west of it, in the vicinity of Oosterbeek, Wolfheze and Heelsum, and that general area is quite heavily wooded. Hence, the terrain features *a lot* of woods, and I need *a lot* of trees.

After some experimenting, I've gone the [Woodlands Scenics]( route. Woodlands Scenics is a producer of excellent (albeit a bit on the expensive side) of terrain materials, aimed at the upscale model train enthousiast, but that does not stop one using their stuff in miniatures tables, of course. I'm using their tree kits, ordered from [EC Scenics]( in the UK (which I can recommend). The kits consist of a bunch of plastic tree armatures and several bags of 'clumpy foliage', a kind of clumpy foam flock, which serves admirably as leaves for trees.

The process is simple: take an armature (I got the ones that range in size from just under an inch with two measly brances to 3" big ones with a multitude of main and side brances), twist the brances in a convincing treeish shape (anything will do, really), liberally apply glue (preferably one that does not dry too quickly and needs only to be applied on one of the two surfaces to be glued, and not white glue -- I use [Pattex Contact Glue](, although that does need to be applied to both tree armature and foliage, which is awkward -- ["Krachtlijm"]( would be better) and stick foliage on. Finished. The tree armatures come with tiny bases, which I don't use -- I stick the trees directly into the terrain board (polyurethane isolation board).

To get a rough idea of what this looks like, here's a shot of my first trial setup:

![Woodlands Scenics trees](/snv/ttm/pics/trees.jpg)

Note that this is just some trial trees, the forest in question has now been enlarged significantly (I'll try to post pictures later). These specific trees are also ready made from Woodlands Scenics. I bought a few packs of these to see what the trees should look like, but they're not really worth the expense -- the ones you make yourself from the basic materials are just as good if not better.

In case you're wondering -- that's a part of the forest between the landing zone for 1st Airlanding Brigade northwest of Wolfheze and Ginkel Heath, the drop zone for 4th Parachute Brigade. The road is Amsterdamse weg, one of the three main routes used by the British on the way to Arnhem.

More to follow.

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