Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Packing Miniatures - part the second

Some time ago, [I inquired](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000081.html) as to how to pack miniatures for the upcoming move (this Saturday is D-Day). A number of helpful suggestions were offered, which I have followed to some degree.

Yesterday evening, I spent some quality time in the basement packing the various boxes, drawers and whatnots full of miniatures. In the end, I used the following method to immobilise the miniatures in their drawers (they are normally stored in a number of cheap drawer units):

1. Fill the drawer with styrofoam pellets until just above the tallest miniature. Take special care that the pellets buffer the figures from the wall and, if possible, from each other.
2. Fill up the remainder of the drawer, if any space is left, with bubble wrap or wadded up plastic shopping bags
3. Stack a second drawer on top and repeat until a stack of about 30 cm height is reached (one foot to imperials)
4. Put a sheet of hard cardboard on top of the topmost drawer
5. Tape the lot together

This leaves me with a handy 30x30x30 stack of taped together drawers, with the miniatures inside relatively safe from jostling about, as long as no one puts the stack upside down somewhere.

BTW, the impending move and last minute finishing of the house are the reason I've been pretty quiet around here lately. Expect this quietude to continue throughout the week and possibly the week after, as I have no idea when I'll be online again after the move. Luckily, the other authors seem to take up some of the slack.

Monday, 14 March 2005

Wings of War

World War 1 Dogfighting has always been a favorite of mine (see the galleries at SNV). I think there's something very romantic about this early period af aerial combat (probably the people who were actually involved disagree), that is not really present in other periods of air-to-air combat.

Last weeked I tried a little boardgame "Wings of War" (published by various labels, here's the site of Fantasy Flight games that publishes it for the US market). Although some reviews are not very favourable (see reviews and pictures on Boardgame Geek), these have more to do with the mix of components in the gamebox, rather than with the game mechanics themselves.

The gameplay is very smooth. One plane is represented by a little card on the table, indicating on the card it's vital statistics including a graphical depiction of its firing arc.

During a turn, players lay 3 maneuvring cards face down. Each of these cards displays various maneuvers (sidelslip, turn, Immelman, ...), and the mix of cards is different for each type of plane. One by one the cards are revealed, and you can actually use the maneuver cards to reposition your plane on the table. On each card an arrow indicates the starting position and end position of the plane, and the card itself acts as a template to reposition your plane. So no fiddling with rulers, turning templates etc.

After each maneuver, you can shoot other planes within your firing arc and distance, and depending on your stats, you draw a card from 2 different damage decks. This card indicates the amount of damage, but also can list critical damage, which can limit the type of maneuvers you can perform in subsequent turns.

We played 2 scenarios in a single hour. The first scenario was a typical dogfight with 2 planes on each side, and the 2nd scenario was a bombing mission. The rules can be explained in under 10 minutes.

Although some might say the game is a little bit simple, it actually does a good job in capturing the same tactical feel I had in previous WW1 dogfighting games. You have to think about out-maneuvring your opponent, and take shots whenever the opportunity presents itself. Altitude of the planes, however, does not play a role, and that's the one main point missing!

Although all the planes in the game are represented as cards, it can be played very easily with miniatures, providing you use a base of the correct size.

For those of you who are interested: the rules are available for free from the Fantasy Flight website mentioned above.

A good example of how the game works can be seen on this picture.

Battle of the 5 Armies

Previously, during the discussion about how to promote historical gaming, the issue of starter packs came up (See: Foundry Antics). I mentioned that GW was planning the release of 'Battle of 5 Armies' (GW BoFA webpage). This has happened by now, and I own a copy!

I will not go into a full review of the game, except to say that the rules are basically the same as Warmaster GW's game of epic fantasy, the miniatures are 10mm and of very high quality, and that the game portrays the famous battle at the end of Tolkien's The Hobbit.

What I would like to highlight is that this game does a very good job of selling a 'Battle in a Box'. Everything for this particular battle, including rules, scenery and figures is in the box. Granted, the scenery consists of a number of cardboard pieces for the Running River, two plastic hills that can be clicked together into one big hill, and some ruins to represent Dale, the city that was ruined by Smaug. So in some sense it is minimalistic, but it is enough. The only thing that is still missing is that the miniatures come unpainted to make it fully a "Battle in a Box', but I feel this will only be a matter of time.

In my view, I feel that GW has explored succesfully (on GW's website the game is already out-of-stock) a new possibility of marketing miniature wargaming. By providing all playing pieces to put a well-known battle on your table, the beginning player has no need to buy seperate sets of miniatures, nor design his or her own scenarios. Of course, this was possible before, but most miniature games 'in a box' always have been very generic.

I feel this should work for historicals too. It should be possible to produce boxes with the correct figures and scenery and rules to portray a single, famous battle, whether it be Waterloo, Rorke's Drift, OK Corral, Austerlitz, or the Raid on Zeebrugge. The magazine Miniature Wargames has starter packs available, but these are boxes of some figures + a back-issue of MW containing a ruleset + some cardboard buildings, only specifying a period and no set battle. Although this is a very worthwhile attempt, I think it misses the point. A good "Battle in a Box' should focus on a single battle, and provide everything for that one battle, and nothing more (although the rulebook could contain some suggestions on how to expand it to other battles -- which is also what GW has done with its Battle of 5 Armies, with additional figures being available).

I'm very enthusiastic about this approach, so I hope that GW will do more in these series, and that others will follow. The subtitle of Battle of 5 Armies is "Great Battles of Middle Earth", so I hope that GW will produce more games along these lines.

Sunday, 13 March 2005

Anderida 2005

November 12-13th is the date of this year's Anderida dbm meet. It takes place in Pevensey Bay, site of Roman and Norman invasions in times past. We stay in a hotel next to the Roman walls which encircle the extensive remains of William's first castle. A great spot.

I suppose it could be called a tournament because there are prizes. But in fact, it's a friendly get together, where you have four pleasant games of dbm ancients. This year the theme of the tournament is 1005 AD. Only armies of that year are allowed. Surprisingly there are nevertheless 53 to choose from, ranging from Normans to Mayans to Vietnamese.

This is a doubles event, so we play in teams of two, using large (500 point) armies.

The last two years have seen Graham and I choose killer armies only to end up thoroughly beaten. I think last year was our worst ever performance, except for one tournament several years ago where we really did finish bottom place, using Early Carthaginians.

So, army choice this year is now order of the day. Contenders are as follows:

Dailami - or the Buyids of Baghdad. It seems pleasantly perverse to take a Baghdad army, and I have always fancied this one. Lots of good quality cavalry and auxilia, with some exotics such as an eleohant and Indian swordsmen to add colour. Should be fun to paint too.

Christian Nubian - a slightly dubious army, but with lots of interestinh troops, including armoured camelsm, archers and warband. A scary proposition for any enemy, but also for its owners, as it is rather unpredictable.

Welsh - given the great successes of the rugby team this year, this should be an option. 100 elements of fast warband with solid viking support as an option. Lots of terrain to put downm so could be very interesting. Doubtful against enemy knights (ie William and his thugs) though.

Watch out for the decision. Any advice welcome.

Wednesday, 9 March 2005

Desert War campaign - Blitzkrieg Commander

I have started a small scale desert war campaign, set in November 1941. It is centred around a fictional town on the coastal road, 'somewhere in North africa'. The Germans have orders to capture the town, the Brits to hold it all costs.

Here is the simple map, divided into 9 zones, each zone representing a tabletop battlefield.

desert map.gif

After selecting initial forces (I cannot yet reveal all the details as the players may come and read this site), I asked each player to give orders. The British player, General Darcy Orion-Belt, a rising star in the 8th Army, dug troops in on the Coast and [deleted by the military ce nsor] inland. The Germans are led by Horst Von Schmukkelgrubber fresh from his miserable defeats in the Belgian campaign (another game, where Bart's Belgians heroically slaughtered a German expeditionary force, led by the young Horst). Herr Horst attacked along the coast, and meeting a blocking force at Al Vettah veered south over Wechta Ridge (in the north west part of zone E). There they found a British battalion and supporting armour dug in and waiting.

At this stage, the players deployed troops on table. The British basically in a horseshoe around the ridge very near the corner of the table. The Germans came on within 12 inches of them, so battle was quickly joined. In addition to the preset forces, I randomly allocated artillery and air support.

So we played two turns of the game, by then it was midnight so we decided to leave it until next week. Happily, our host Kurt has a huge unused living room, now occupied by Kurt's co;puter workshop and tables for wargaming so we can leave the troops set-up. He does have some clients coming to visit on Friday, for a demonstration of a remote controlled camera that Kurt has designed (he's a clever guy, Kurt) so he may have some explaining to do. Perhaps he will claim that he is inventing a computer wireless controlled toy set?

I'm afraid you'll have to wait for next week for photos and a game report. Suffice to say that Kurt has learnt about the futility of British armour faced with an 88mm gun. Bart has run into a minefield. The German artillery is pounding the British position. But nearly two companies of Germans have fallen casualty to fine British firepozer...