Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Grenadier Music Band (4)

And this is how they look with a good coat of varnish applied. The last row has some Britains from the Ceremonial Collection, the 2 front rows are the ones (re)painted by me. Of course, the (lack of) detail in the Charbens is noticeable, but that was to be expected.

Grenadier Music Band (3)

I finished the paintjob on 6 toy soldiers. 2 are Britains from the New Metal range (70s), the other 4 are plastic Charbens. I tried to paoint them in a colour scheme as close as possible to the current Ceremonial Collection Britains.

Only thing left to do is to varnish them (first a matt spray, then a gloss coat).

Latest additions to the Magazines Index

I've recently entered issues 1-19 from Miniature Wargames. These were issues published in 1983 and 1984. Issue 19 was the December 1984 issue, and so that means that year has now been completed.


Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Grenadier Music Band (2)

In a previous post I showed some of my toy soldiers which have been sitting on my painting table. I didn't have much time for the past month (exams and all that), but finally started working on some of the figures again.

The plastic music band turned out to be Charbens figures, and I mounted them on plastic 20x40mm bases to give them more uniform look (and a more stable pose). I will repaint them, such that they can join my other figures in the wargaming room.

Below you see (left and middle) two Guards figures from Britains. They are not from the Deetail range, since they are completely made of metal, except for their bearskin hat and their rifle, which is plastic. Probably figures from the 60s? On the right you see a modern Britains figure from the Ceremonial Collection ange. The idea is to (re)paint the two old figures such that they match the one on the right ...

Monday, 23 July 2018

Tactics II, Replay (4, The End)

Let's continue with Turn 6.

Turn 6 (October)

The weather is again perfect, which is an ideal opportunity for the paratroopers to come back into action.

Red can continue its advance, also taking advantage of Blue's withdrawal along the Central Front.

Red Move 6
 Many of Red's attacks succeed, leaving Blue in a desperate position.

Red Turn 6, after combat resolution
The only option remaining for Blue is a series of desperate 2:1 attacks, in the hope of rolling 1's (D Elim), and avoiding 6's (A Elim).

Blue Move 6
Alas, the plan has failed. Blue is now left to a few scattered divisions, and must concede the game. Red is victorious!

Situation at the end of turn 6.


  • In this solo-game, I played both sides, so the game probably wasn't as cut-throat as it would have been with 2 players. I also opted to try out some tactics that a more conservative player probably wouldn't have tried, such as trying a series of 2:1 attacks.
  • The breakthrough for Red, which led to victory, was the assault on the Norther Front from which Blue never could fully recover. That's a large open area, without rivers to defend or any other natural boundaries, and that should benefit the attacker. If I remember correctly, that Northern plain was also often a decisive battlefield in our game over 30 years ago.
  • The central river is an ideal frontline for a defender to hold, as long as you have enough units. In the end, Blue had to retreat to keep the illusion of a coherent defensive frontline, which was the nail in the coffin.
  • The classic paratrooper/amphibuous landing tactic (which we also used a lot in our earlier days) proves to be very useful.
  • Every 3 months, you get replacement units (1 point per friendly controlled city). Since Red has 7 cities and Blue 5, this should be an incentive for Blue to attack. As any Risk player (and real-world politician :-)) should know, in the long run a stronger production economy wins the war, so if you're outnumbered, try to take the production sites from the enemy.
Overall, I liked this replay, although the game feels a bit crude to modern standards. After all, there's not that much tactics you can use. It basically comes down to throwing as many units in the combats as possible. Roads make movement very generous (armoured units can move up to 21 squares), so any "mistakes" in deployment can easily be corrected.

I also briefly toyed with the idea of making an enlarged version of Tactics II as a convention game (3or 4 times the size), with 20 or 25mm miniatures for each unit, but since gameplay is a bit disappointing, perhaps that;s not such a good idea. But such a demo game will attract a lot of curious oldtimers!

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Tactics II, Replay (3)

The game continues. We ended the previous past half-way through turn 4.

Turn 4 (August)

Blue still had to take his turn, and matters looked not so good on the Northern Front. So it was time for a counter-attack.

Blue Move 4
At least some of the attacks were succesful, an by gathering some more units, at least a front line could again be established.

Blue Turn 4 after combat resolution

Turn 5 (September)

Hurricanes are suddenly reported (weather roll). This means no airborne landings, no marine landings, no sea transfers. Luckily, Blue did a few sea tranfers during the last turn to establish something that looked like a frontline. As for paratroopers and marine units, most of them are eliminated anyway.

Since at the end of this month, friendly home cities will count vs replacement units, Red will try to take at elast Blue's besieged city.

Red Move 5
 Although perhaps not much was gained, the front is slowly being pushed forwards.

Red Turn 5 after combat resolution

Blue wants to regain control over its northernmost city, so tries to bring up as many units as possible, and tries to eliminate some of Red's panzer disvisions as well. However, this means retreating from the Central Front, in order to keep at least the illusion of a front line.

Blue Move 5

The attacks succeeded ... Blue gets 5 replacement points, Red gains 6 (its central city is not under Red's control). Both sides decides to invest in paratroopers, marine units, and armoured units. 

Situation at the end of Turn 5.
 Here's the overview of Red's losses vs Blue's losses. I think Blue is doomed :-)

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Tactics II, Replay (2)

So, let's continue with turn 3. The weather is still perfect.

Turn 3 (July)

Red continues its drive on the Northern Front, with a renewed paratrooper & amphibuous landing in the back of Blue's defences.

Red Move 3
I don't have a picture of the combat outcomes, but below you can see Blue's desperate counterattacks. Seeing a major Red breakthrough, some 2-1 attacks are in order.

Blue Move 3, before combat resolution
 Alas, most of these attacks fail, leaving Blue in a dire situation on the Northern Front:

Blue Move 3, after combat resolution

Turn 4 (August)

The weather remains perfect (we're in August now), and Red continues its advance, trying to bring up more troops and attacking one of the remaining Blue's panzer divisions:

Red Move 4
 After combat resolution, the route to Blue's capital seems to be open. Can Blue recover?

Red Move 4, after combat resolution

Friday, 20 July 2018

Tactics II, Replay (1)

Over the years, I have done away with many of my old board wargames. However, I kept a few memorabilia. One of them is Tactics II, often labeled the game that started it all (at least for board wargaming). It was the very first board wargame I ever bought, somewhere in 1981 or 1982 (can't remember exactly). Combined with its iconic status, I could never part with it, although I haven't played the game in over 3 decades.

So, when cleaning up my game collection, I came across the old box again, and couldn't resist starting a little solo-game. It is amazing how well you can remember rules over the years.

But anyway, let's start the game.


Here's the initial setup. I followed the initial deployment as in the original game. I rolled for a starting month (May), and the weather, which was perfect. Another random die roll indicated Red would start.

Initial Setup

Turn 1 (May)

We always had a houserule, which stated that the first player could not invade the other territory - otherwise you could immediately take an enemy city and skew the game. So Red deployed its troops for an initial thrust, with the trusted moves of putting airborne troops in cities and marine units in harbours.

Red move 1
Next up is Blue. I decided to attack just north of the mountains, a matter of initiating the proceeedings!

Blue Move 1
 Here's a close-up of the attacking zone:

And here's the result after the combat resolution. I won;t go into the nitty gritty details of all attack rolls, but suffice to say I rolled a dreaded 6 (A elim)  in a 2-1 attack.

Turn 2 (June)

The month is now June, and the weather is again perfect. Red decided to execute a classic paradrop/beach landing assault to capture one of Red's cities (upper-right of board). This is followed up by a Red drive through the northern forests, and an attack south of the forest, in an overall attempt to conquer Blue's northern territory.

Red move 2
 After combat resolution, the situation on the Northern Front looked like this:

Blue needed a counter-attack, since the end of this month replacements would arrive. Red has 7 replacement points, Blue 5 (1 for each city), so Blue cannot afford to fall too much behind when it already has lost one city. So, Blue used its own paratroopers and marine units to quickly encircle the city in the upper-right corner of the country. (Note: I misread the rules that replacements would be at the end of June, they should be at the start of June, but the rulebook and the calendar sheet contradict each other on this matter ....)

Blue move 2
And after combat resolution, Blue has indeed recaptured its city, but it looks as if Red can renew its offensive during turn 3.

Situation at the end of turn 2, with placement of replacements (placed in cities or replacement areas).

To be continued ...

The Case Against Toy Soldiers

One of the benefits of browsing old magazines, is that you come upon opinion articles written a long time ago, but which still seem to be relevant today.

One such piece is "The Case Against Toy Soldiers", written by Paddy Griffith and published in issue 13 (June 1984) of Miniature Wargames. It is shown here below.

It stirred up quite some debate in the following issues. You can still read Phil Barker's response on his website. See also this more recent blogpost discussion on Keith's Wargaming Blog.

The bottom line Paddy Griffith was making is that toy soldiers are not a very good medium to play wargames and/or study military history. They have all sorts of restrictions, and by emphasizing the tactile and visual aspect of the game, they restrict the thinking aspect.

I understand this point of view, and I even concur. I also do think that toy soldiers are not the ideal medium when one wants to study warfare or simulate the tactical challenges of a given period. But, perhaps that is also not what miniature wargaming is all about. For me, miniature wargaming is a very tactile hobby that allows you to play with toy soldiers on a visual attractive table; and which is inspired by military history, but does not necessarily  try to emulate or simulate tactical or command challenges. The game is built upon toy soldiers as a medium - the toy soldiers are not an afterthought. And yes, this brings about limitations, and it's important as a wargamer one is aware of these restrictions. But it doesn't make the toy soldiers games less enjoyable.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

An Early Warhammer Review (2)

As I was entering issue 8 (January 1984) of Miniature Wargames into the database, I came upon a reader's letter by Rick Priestley, responding to the review of Warhammer published in issue 6.

Interesting to read!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Depth levels for underwater games

I've always had a slight fascination with underwater games, and this culminated in our AquaZone setup during Crisis 2009.

One of the challenges of doing underwater games - irrespective of the actual setting - is to keep track of the various depth levels for swimmers, divers, animals, etc. Just as in air wargames, depth (or height) can be an important factor in conveying the feeling of the particular game. Although many air and underwater games do away with depth (as we did in our AquaZone games), adding depth provides an additional level of gameplay.

However, the main problem is how to represent it on the gaming table. Various solutions exist: some form of bookkeeping on a roster sheet, putting markers next to figures, putting figures on telescoping stands (usually radio antennas, but see also our patent-pending Lego solution here), ... The complexity of doing so often leads to the elimination of depth or height on the wargames table, although the games tend to become more cinematic in nature when doing so.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a solution on the Chirine's Workbench blog, that still requires bookkeeping, but at least makes it intuitive to use and see. I have copied the picture below from the blog.

(Image from Chirine's Workbench)
At each corner of the table, there is a depth gauge, 6 different levels, and color-coded. Markers in the same color are put next to each figure. That's it.

Now, you might wonder, what's so spectacular about this? Isn't this the same as using numbered depth levels, and put a numbered marker next to each figure? Yes, it is. But somehow, by using colors, and using the depth gauges at each corner, visualizes the various depths much better. I might probably use the same idea in one our future AquaZone games.

Elastolin figures

Last week I visited a local militaria fair. I always find such fairs curious affairs. There a lot of dealers, selling all sorts of military stuff, ranging from modern insignia and jackets to WW1 era rusty items. Occasionally there might be something older, but it's always a lot of guesswork whether the items for sale are rare, indeed worth the asking price, or simply rip-offs. And everything seems to cost 150 or 200 Euro, but everything is negotiable as well :-)

Anyway, I was looking for some decorative items for the wargames room, but given the above, combined with the fact that I'm not an expert when it comes down to judging the originality of certain kit, I sort of returned empty-handed.

However, when I see something I know something about, my interest level suddenly goes up. So I acquired these two 10.5cm Elastolin figures for the decent price of 15 euro each. A nice addition to the toy soldier collection. These figures were produced by Elastolin probably in the 20s or 30s