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.