Friday, 31 July 2009

A bit of a painting challenge...

Some time ago, I played a game of fantasy naval wargame [Uncharted Seas]( at JP's, and had a blast of a time. As a result, upon coming home, I ordered a copy of the rules and the Human navy battle fleet.

Then I made the 'mistake' of mentioning this to Frank, and showing him the miniatures. This led to him ordering no less than 4 other fleets (Human, Dwarven, Elven, Shroud Mages -- Frank, correct me if I'm wrong). His fleets arrived yesterday and, being the fast painter that he is, one is already painted :). He's setting up a game next Tuesday, and I want to have my fleet painted by then.

So that's my painting challenge for this weekend - paint a battleship, three cruisers and nine frigates for Uncharted Seas. Let's see if I can do it.

One thing is already going my way in this: I wanted to use decals for the designs on the sails of the ships (I'm doing a duck design, of course) and ordered some inkjet decal printing paper from [Online Paper]( Having only ordered it Wednesday, I was very pleasantly surprised when it turned up in the mail this morning. Great customer service! So, the decals can be on by Tuesday as well.

The current plan is to prep and prime the ships tonight, and paint them tomorrow and Sunday. By Sunday evening, they should be done. Let's see.

*Update*: Priming and prepping is done, so still on schedule. Things went awry early on though, when my can of spray primer ran out half way through priming the ships...

*Update 2*: They're going to be finished in time. It's now Saturday 9pm (or so) and the ships are done except for the final layer of the sails. To do that, I first need to put on the transfers, which I have just printed, hoping I've picked the right side of the paper to print on. Once the transfers are done, it's just the final layer on the sails, and then glueing the masts into the ships and they're done. I'm going to give myself 10 Olley points for this paint job - it's 13 ships (1 battleship, 3 cruisers and 9 frigates) but they paint up faster than a 28mm figure (as I'm using drybrushing for the majority of the paint job), so 10 points sounds about right.

Some Old Beastmen part 2

As promised a few days earlier, here are some pictures of my latest painting jobs. Disclaimer: I am an adept of speed-painting, and all my figures are painted for gaming, so do not expect very high standards here ;-)

First is a group of beastmen. These are Citadel beastmen, from the old Realm of Chaos range, ca. 1991. I gave them a maggot as a shield design, which I handpainted. I guess it came out sort of okay, although it could have been better. The monolith and 'evil mushrooms' are from Grendel, the hexes you see on the floor are the Kallistra Hexon terrain.

Varied group of Beastmen
Second group are 3 mutants, same old Citadel figures.

6 Harpies, also Citadel, late eighties, early nineties.

For my pulp adventure gaming, a group of monkeys. All of them are cheap plastic toy figures.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

AquaZone at Red Barons

Last April we presented a rather unusual game at the annual Red Barons convention. The Red Barons chaps have put the images online (apparantly some weeks ago, but I just noticed now), and look for the game in which scuba divers are fighting each other surrounded by sharks. That's our game!


All the figures are actually cheap toys. The plastic plants were bought in an aquarium hobby store, and the rocks are from the beach in Les Petits Dalles in Normandy, where I picked them up during a short holiday weekend earlier this year, where we stayed in an old farmhouse in the village Sassetot-le-Mauconduit. But I digress ...

Anyway, I designed a little ruleset based around mechanics from Spacehulk (each figure has a number of action points each turn), and opposed die rolls (skill checks) to determine the success of actions.

Most memorable to me was a discussion during one of the play-tests, during which players were arguing about whether it was "realistic" to shoot with an underwater pistol and at the same time drawing a dagger. As if any of us have been in underwater combat before (except me, of course ... :-) ).

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Very Old Beastman

I sprung into painting action last week, trying to work through my hordes of unpainted lead. A few years ago I vowed not to buy any unpainted miniatures anymore, untill my current collection was fully painted. I managed to keep this promise quite succesfully. Note however that this doesn't exclude buying painted miniatures from other gamers, but that's a different story.

Since I have a lot of figures from my Warhammer years (19987-1992, 3rd edition), I do have a lot of figures from that period. Somehow, I like these figures still very much, and still paint a couple of them now and then.

Anyway, almost near completion (photograph to follow soon once the basing is done):
20 Beastman from the old Realm of Chaos range (link1, link2, link3).
6 Harpies (link)

Also on the painting desk: some old Egyptian scenery items from Grendel (link, link).

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Franco Spanish fleet, part 1

These are the first 19 ships of the Franco Spanish fleet at Trafalgar:

Franco Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, part 1

They're Forged in Battle 1:3000th scale figures, which I got from [West Wind Productions](, as part of their big rules and fleet pack deal. The pack contents do differ from what they should contain (I think I only got 1 three decker, while there should be 3), but at this scale, nobody's really going to notice. The one three decker I got will become the Santissima Trinidad. I did get two ships with a full and studding sail configuration (the rest have the main sail furled), but they only have two decks. Perhaps they are meant to be the 'large 1/2nd raters' as mentioned on the pack contents - I'll be using them to represent the Santa Ana and Principe d'Asturias (which you can see leading the leftmost column - seen head on - on the picture).

The ships paint up fairly easily, taking about the same time as a 28mm infantry figure to paint.

Next up are the remaining 14 ships for the Franco-Spanish fleet, and then the 29 ships of the British fleet.

Oh, some pictures of the three regiments of Swedes are due as well, but their bases aren't finished yet.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Painting log

In a blatantly transparent attempt to up the post count on this blog, I'm introducing a new category of posts where I simply list what I've painted. I'll still post pictures of finished units now and again, but I'll expect them to consist of several units grouped together, as I seem to be painting faster then I'm photographing these days.

I'll keep track of my painting using the hobby 'standard' of Olley Points. I haven't been able to find a formal definition thereof on the web, but it's basically a very simple system introduced by [Phil Olley]( of League of Augsburg fame wherein a certain type of figure corresponds to one point. The basic system is 1 28mm infantry figure = 1 point. The rest of the types of figures extrapolates from this, based on the difference in painting time. For me, I'll use 1 28mm infantry = 1 point, 1 28mm cavalry (horse + rider) = 2 points, 1 1:2400 Napoleonic sailing ship = 1 point.

So, counting only this month, I finished:

* 16 Warlord games Romans: 16 points
* 18 men + 1 horse Musketeer GNW Swedes (Närke-Värmlands regiment): 19 points
* 19 men Musketeer GNW Swedes (Västerböttens regiment): 19 points

And tonight I'll normally have finished:

* 19 Figurehead 1:2400 Napoleonic sailing ships: 19 points

So, my painting total so far this month is an impressive (for me) 73 Olley points.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

First Check Your Six game

We recently tried our first game of [Check Your Six](, a WWII aerial hex based ruleset, using Franks excellently painted Tumbling Dice 1:600th scale Battle of Britain planes (get them at [Dom's Decals]( ).

As this was our first game using these rules, we played a very simple one on one (actually two on two) fight, featuring two Spitfires versus two Messerschmitts, all flown by Skilled pilots (basically trained well but with little combat experience). The result was surprisingly, though probably historically correct, bloodless.

Here's a few of the players' comments. First Frank:
So we had our first CY6-game on Monday, with Koen, Eddy, Bart en me.

All being new pilots we just had a little skirmish between 2 Spitfires Mk.1a en 2 Messerschmitt Be109's, learning how to manoeuvre and shoot at the enemy. Fortunatly for me Bart had to play with Eddy flying the Spitfires, Koen und I veire fleyink ze Messerschmitt's.

The game felt very realistic, climbing and making sharp turns or extreme turns surely had it's concequences on the speed which could make you a sitting duck or denied you a chance on firing on a plane which flew higher.
Anyway for optimal fire you have to get close, preferably from behind. The Spits had the advantage on range because their light machine guns where overall better on medium range where the Messerschmitt's low velocity canon's made it hard to hit the British.

My plane got the first hit giving it engine damage, reducing my max speed to half it's original speed, climbing was very risky, there was a change of 2/3 that I got out of controle. My 3 attempts to climb for the remainder of the game all failed :-). But on the bright side Eddy the Noob emptied his complete stock of ammo on me :-). From there on Eddy's purpose in game was to try ramming Koen or me, but that seemed harder than Eddy had in mind.

Due to a difficult and failed manoeuvre Eddy dropped out of the Tacticale Airband which forced him to make a Pilot Skill Check which he failed, Eddy flew his spit in to the ground to never be heard of again...

I fled the English sky, due to the fact that I wasn't able to climb to engage Bart. Anyway my speed limitation made it impossible to engage Bart who was always flying higher than me. After that Koen left the battlefield as well an got home safely :)

So score was 4 - 1 (4pts for a destroyed spit - 1pt for a damaged Messerschmitt), a well deserved victory for ze germans, although Eddy will not agree (see his mail which will folow soon)

Conclusion: it was a nice learning game with limited damage at the end. From the moment on that we'll deploy more aircraft casualties and carnage will rise :-) but the rules are pretty good making this a very tactical game.
Then Eddy:
Quite frankly this was the most undeserved victory in living memory. Not a single German bullet ever touched my British plane while I raked Frank's Messy Schmidt with bulletholes from prop to rudder.

Only pure chance, spit, and Got Mit Uns kept his plane above ground level as he was outmaneuvred, dare I say it : outclassed at every turn.

Apart from that : pretty realistic rules really and once you get the hang of it, it can go pretty fast. We definitely need a couple more planes in the air to make it a bit more chaotic and to make sure the kill ratio goes up.
And finally myself:
(...) my view is pretty similar to Eddy's - totally undeserved victory and realistic rules :). The rules take a bit of getting used to, but I quickly found myself thinking of the tactical situation ("I have to get above Koen's plane and try and turn inside his turning arc") before the mechanisms of the game ("I can do an L43 turn with a climb"), so that's good. The lack of deadliness is also pretty much right on I think. Sure, I did most of my firing at long range (6 hexes or so), but I also fired two point blank bursts at Koen's plane without any effect - unsatisfying but more or less realistic I think, when you think about the reports from the actual fights (typical engagement: "10 Spits attacked 42 bombers escorted by 18 fighters - 4 bombers and 2 fighters were downed for the loss of two Spitfires. The remaining Germans aborted their mission and went home.")
Definitely up for repetition, I'd say.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Youngsters and Wargaming

Last Sunday my sister-in-law's family visited for a family BBQ. Nothing out of the ordinary, except for the fact that 2 boys, aged 10 and 13 were also present, and as is usual these days with kids these days, easily bored. After all, my XBOX crashed a couple of months ago, and I still didn't find the time to replace it.

So, it was back to old-school games. I showed them the wargaming room - and suddenly, they were all excited. They wanted a piece of the action right there. Of course, I didn't want to be impolite to our adult guests, so hosting a 'real' wargame was not really an option. So I took out Battlecry, an old favourite that I didn't touch in years. I explained them the rules in 10 minutes (omitting several things for the sake of simplicity), and off they went. They enjoyed it tremendously, so they took the game home with them, and maybe now, they are going through all the different battlea. On the other hand, they might already be bored with the whole experience and have reverted to computer games... who knows.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Work in progress figures, and musings on army painting

Just a quick entry to show that I'm still alive and painting figures. These, except for the 9 infantrymen in buttoned up coat in the rear left corner, have been painted over the last few week or two:


There's two regiments of Musketeer Miniatures ( Swedes for the Great Northern War project( (Dalcaria in the back and Närke-Värmland led by Colonel Roos in the front), and a unit of 16 Warlord Games( Romans, cousins of these guys ( This batch has Little Big Men Studios( shield transfers - the first time I've used them (I have used their flags before, _viz_ the flags of the Närke-Värmland regiment), and they work a charm.

And if you're thinking that this seems like a lot of output for me, it is - I'm up to 35 Olley Points this month, and the next 19 should be finished tonight (except for the basing, obviously). I've discovered something (thanks to the new Foundry Napoleon book, of which a review is forthcoming) which I've always thought was not good for my painting morale, but which turns out to work very well. What is this magical motivator you ask? Simply the thing that every single 'fast painting' guide on the net touts as gospel: paint big batches. In my case, with the Närke-Värmland I decided to take a gamble and do the regiment in one batch (19 figures, well 18 and a horse). And it works.

Before, I used to do them in about batches of 8, but ran the risk of running out of steam halfway through, and then you're stuck with half a regiment. Now, it takes longer to finish a batch (I think around 8 to 9 hours in total - still well below half an hour per figure) but when you finish them, you've got a finished regiment, a playable unit. And I find that that motivates me to keep painting them.

There's also a few other factors at work here: on a micromanagement level, I tend to paint in increments of colours. In a painting session, I might do the flesh highlight, the blue coats and the leather for example, and then stop - but I stop when a colour is done. On 19 figures, when a colour is done, it's obviously done on all 19, and it seems that psychologically, the treshold that needs to be crossed to keep on painting instead of stopping after the colour, lies somewhere in between 8 and 19 figures. I find that if I paint a layer on 19 figures, it is (perhaps paradoxically) easier to start a new layer than with 8 figures.

Anyway, I'm currently one painting session away from finishing a third regiment of Swedes (the Västerbötten regiment this time, they need 4 colours finished, of which 1 is very minimal in abundance). I hope to finish them tonight, bringing my Olley Points total to 54 - a record! Unfortunately, although I'm on a roll, I need to stop painting Swedes after that, for the simple reason that I've run out of figures :).

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Infantry Firefights in the Modern Era

I have been thinking lately with desgning some rules for infantry squad-level firefights, perhaps with a few vehicles thrown in. We could use these rules for Vietnam, Iraq, or even maybe Scifi skirmishes. Possibly even WW2 fights.
Setting: table with a lot of cover (jungle, urban, ...), roughly 10 squads of 5-10 figures each a side, a few of which have special weapons, along with the odd vehicle (1,2,3 each side).

Since I really liked the development of our house rules for ACW and Tactique with everyone making suggestions on how to improve the rules, I thought it might be fun to brainstorm a little with everyone before writing up a first draft.

So, here's my thought experiment so far ... ;-)

I like systems that use activation of units, the core idea being that you do not have control over all your troops all the time. In pre-radio times, this can easily be explained by the fact that couriers need to be sent to subordinate units, orders are delayed etc., thereby creating fog-of-war.

In a modern setting, in which orders are given by telecom-devices, this might be a bit too far stretched ("the radio malfunctions again!"). But, there is still the issue that a commander cannot spent all the time fully focused, and so the pace in which fresh orders are given should be varied.

Hence, the following system can be used:
The player has 4 cards (numbered 1 to 4). At the start of his turn, he can play a card, and that card says how many units he can activate that turn (1 to 4 units). He puts that card aside, and the next turn, he only has 3 cards left. This goes on, untill your hand is depleted, and you regain all 1-4 cards. Thus, at the start of a full cycle, a player knows that there will be a turn during the next 4 turns in which he can only command one unit (and a turn in which he commands 2, a turn in which commands 3, and a turn in which he commands 4) -- but he has control when that turn will be.

Turn Sequence:
Most wargames use a turn sequence in which troops move first, then fire. This creates a lot of problems for small-scale firefights. Troops can put themselves in ideal positions before firing at the enemy -- the enemy does not have the opportunity of shooting back when he sees those troops moving into position. This problem is usually solved by creating rules that allow opportunity fire, or by some form of interrupt actions.

Now, if you fire first, and then move your troops, most of these problems are resolved. You have to move your troops into position in one turn, and only in the next turn you can shoot. In between, the enemy can shoot at you, or take the opportunity to move (retreat) to cover, as a form of reaction on your move. I think this simple reversal of the move and fire actions in a single turn can produce better tactics on the battlefield.

The alternative of course is for each unit to only move OR fire during a given turn, but I always found this gives too much advantage to the side in a defending position, because their fire rate roughly doubles during the game. If you want a game with a lot of movement (as in infantry squad firefighting), you need to give an incentive to move around.

Firefight resolution:
Basic mechanism: when shooting with an infantry squad at another squad, simply count the number of hexes to the enemy squad. Roll a D10 for each man firing. If the die roll is equal or larger than the range, a hit is scored. Possibly another check should be made to check for actual damage (e.g. 1-2: dead, 3-4: wounded, 5-6: safe).

- Maximum range = 10 hexes. Far enough is there is lots of cover on the table.
- The closer you are, the easier it is to hit your target;
- This will encourage players to seek out good firing positions as close as possible to the enemy, thus encouraging movement on the table (and moving in to gain ground)

- Line of sight still has to be checked, of course;
- Machine guns can roll multiple dice for each shot;
- Modifiers for cover: -2 on the die roll. This reduces the chance of hitting a figure, but at the same time also reduces effective range;
- Powerful weapons (hvy mg's ...) can have a + modifier, increasing effective range as a side-effect. Of course, it is always possible to limit range as a function of weapon type, but I would not do that: the underlying assumption is that all weapons have maximum range across the table.

Special Actions:
In addition to the 1-4 cards (see activtion above), at the start of each full cycle of 4 cards, a player also draws a special command card (or rolls for such a card on a table). These special commands indicate special actions or circumstances that you can use during any of the 4 turns in the coming cycle. If you don't use it, you lose it and it is replaced by a new one when the next cycle starts.

Effect: At the start of a cycle, the player has the 1-4 cards and a special command, and he can plan the next 4 turns carefully, taking into account the additional special command. This simulates opportunities or setbacks that each commander might get, and upon which he quickly has to improvise, although it is not completely random (leading to frsutration on the player's part).

* Your '1' card becomes a '2' card for this cycle only.
* Your '4' card becomes a '3' card for this cycle only.
* One unit fires with a +1 modifier.
* One enemy unit fires with a -1 modifier.
* Landmine: moving enemy unit takes xxx hits.
* One unit can take a double move
* Ambush: One unit can fire at start of enemy's turn
* ...

Such special commands can also include scenario-specific random events (helicopter arriving, ammo dump explosion, ...)