Wednesday 26 December 2012

Horse and Musket

When I first started wargaming for real, I played Napoleonics. I would have been about thirteen I think, and was using Esci and some Airfix figures (Airfix Napoleonics were pretty much out of production apart from the Imperial Guard and British Hussars). I built up a large French army and a bit of a man-crush on Boney. I have to admit that my admiration for Boney has cooled somewhat over the years, but he still remains one of the most interesting figures in history.
Still a hint of bromance in the air maybe?
Napoleonics has been an off again on again project ever since. I've bought armies in 6mm, 15mm, 20mm, and 28mm and finished none of them. One of the biggest problems that I have encountered is the intricacy of painting on such a large scale requires complete attention, and I am a bit of a wargames butterfly. The other problem has been rules. I don't like big battalions, but I want to manouevre battalions, not brigades. So I want 16-18 figures to a battalion. Not a lot out there for that. I want simple rules that reflect the tactics of the time well. Again not easy to find, at least in my mind. And lastly, I don't want rules that require thirty to forty units a side. I want to get up and running as soon as possible. I think I have found what I want in the rules of Neil Thomas in his Introduction to Wargaming book. I've amended them by incorporating simultaneous phases and adding on extra command and control and refined skirmishing rules. But I haven't playtested them yet.  It will be soon though, because the French Revolutionary Wars project is half way through, and I believe that it will get finished!
Full of fervour the ferocious French go forward
While the gallant Grenzers go on guard
I've chosen the 1790s and the French Revolutionary Wars as the era to model. I love the uniforms and the whole of Europe trying to defeat the Revolution, and of course, Napoleon in Italy where he performed a fantastic series of campaigns before he had the benefit of also being the head of state.

Alongside the French Revolution I also have a 15mm Seven Years War project that will be put together, but I don't see it being in 2013. I have managed to paint a couple of units mind you.
Prussian Infantry Regiment 18
Austrian Infantry Regiment 3
Currently the French Revolutionary figures are sitting on my painting tray, and are the project du jour, so expect updates of these chaps as they are finished.


Monday 24 December 2012

Star Wars

I was five when I saw my first Star Wars movie - the Empire Strikes Back. Prior to this I had already been buying the toys and had watched on television at an all too tender age the Star Wars Holiday special. Luckily at four years old the special was actually really enjoyable! Star Wars came to dominate my life as a child - I watched the movie, listened to the records, played with the toys, coloured in the books and wrote stories about my favourite characters. I even had Mum make me a waistcoat just like Han Solo's. Hang on, that was last month...
Waistcoats with big pockets are cool, no matter what anybody tries to tell you.
Now I know that there are many people for whom the prequels poured burning acid into their childhood memories, and theoretically I fit the profile to be one of them. An obsessive geek with extreme StarWars addiction. But I love the prequels. There is nothing in there that I find disturbing. Midichlorians? Why not? Jar Jar Binks? Slightly annoying but he grew on me.
'Thanksa Mr Natholeon. Yousa my bestest friend!'
OK, Jar Jar, don't get carried away.
Pod racing eight year olds that grow up faster than the elected teenage space queen that they have developed a crush on, marry them secretly, keep it secret from a whole bunch of Jedi, get her pregnant and then try to kill her? Sure, whatever floats your boat George.
You see, Star Wars is not sci-fi. It is not meant to be hard, gritty and have all possible plot loopholes sealed solidly shut. It is fun. I have seen it described as a Space Opera, but this is a dumb name for it. For a start there is no singing (except in the Holiday Special - and that is best not remembered), and the only fat people with Horns are Gamorrean Guards who don't speak a word of German. No, Star Wars is best described as a Space fantasy, and above all it is meant to be fun to watch. 
'Offended by the prequels you are? Get a life, you should.'
The Star Wars moment for me out of all of the movies comes in Episode Two when Yoda duels with Count Dooku. What Star Wars fan in their right mind did not feel goosebumps when they saw that scene? I had a stupid grin on my face the whole fight. The prequels gave me that moment to treasure forever, not to mention some of the other fantastic battle scenes.
Latterly the Clone Wars is giving me a lot of viewing pleasure. There are times when it tries too hard to use memorable lines from the movies, like 'I've got a bad feeling about this', but in general it is a great series with real character development for some fringe members of the Star Wars universe.
I'm glad Disney is going to produce another three movies. I hope it doesn't screw with the expanded universe too much, but there is one thing that I'd be glad to see banished - the Yuuzhan Vong. This smacks of somebody's attempt to put a hard-core sci-fi element into Star Wars and to be honest, I think that it blows.
'You don't like us? Fine, we'll go to Warhammer 40,000 then. Should fit right in there.'
Gaming Star Wars

'Unflocked my base is. Naked do I feel.'
Thank goodness Wizards of the Coast made the Star Wars Miniature Battles figures. These pre-painted plastics have given me a lot of fun in the last couple of years. I'm just annoyed I didn't really get into buying them before production stopped. Nevertheless I've got a couple of reasonable sized forces that I play with using the FUBAR rules. I've played around with these simple one page regulations to make the characters a bit tougher, especially the Jedi, because no Sith Master should accidentally die when he climbs into a tank in order to get some droids to advance (Dooku, I'm looking at you!). And with my Star Wars games I prefer to umpire. This is because I can vary scenarios on the spot, putting in balance when I sense that it is starting to tilt a bit, and sometimes to unbalance forces just for the fun of it.  I also do things like make people who produce the best sound of a spaceship landing receive reinforcements, or make people resolve ties by having fake lightsaber battles.
'If we stand behind this tank we won't get hurt - unless it explodes. But what are chances of that?'

Cannon fodder... er... I mean Clones.
I toyed with the idea of repainting these figures, like I have with the Heroclix, but to be fair I don't really feel like I need to. I've had so much fun with them in their 'raw' state, and have so many other projects to get on with, that these chaps will probably just stay the way that God and Wizards of the Coast intended - barring the basing, which I am currently working through in a not very methodical way.
The only repaint that I have done has increased the fun factor by exactly 0%. So why bother?
Finally there is X-Wing, which I have not yet played, but am accumulating fighters for. The tally currently stands at 2 starter sets, and the new year will hopefully see more added. Bloggers throughout the wargaming world seem to be wrapped with it.
X-Wing - I've read good things.
I'm looking forward to lots more Star Wars games in 2013, by far the most fun wargames that I've ever been a part of. And looking forward to Disney's films in a couple of years time.


Mothron Monday

Because no-one demanded it...

I hope Santa brings you plenty of goodies.



My first comic that I can remember getting at the age of about 5 was TV Comic which featured stories about various cartoons like Popeye. One of the stories was Battle of the Planets which seemed to fit in with my growing interest in some new phenomenon called Star Wars. I also picked up the odd Marvel and DC comic, but TV Comic was the first that I got on a regular basis.
Battle of the Planets from TV Comic
I had the chance to read some of my cousin's Battle Picture Weekly comics when I was on holiday, and bought a few of them as well. Then I saw an ad on TV for the relaunch of Eagle comic. This is where I met Dan Dare, my first comic 'hero' if you like.
Eagle Comic #1
This was soon followed by my first issues of 2000AD. My first was Prog 333 - easy to remember that number!
2000AD Prog 333
I collected 2000AD for a number of years, and bought into all of the characters, particularly Judge Dredd but also Johnny Alpha and Sam Slade. 2000AD has always been a great comic and I still pick several issues up every now and then, as well as collecting the odd trade paperback (like the Slaine stories).
Given my love of all things Star Wars, it was inevitable that I would end up getting the UK Return of the Jedi comic. This reprinted the Marvel Star Wars comics split up into weekly episodes. But what really caught my attention was the back-up story, Power Pack. Imagine my delight when I found a Power Pack comic on the shelf in a bookstore one day. I had no idea that they had their own monthly comic. I was hooked and placed an order on my first US comic.
My first Power Pack comic
It wasn't long before Power Pack crossed over with the X-Men, and I bought my first X-Men comic. I was starting to see the Marvel universe open up to me. What really did the trick was the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition. These were my Bible during my teenage years.
Marvel Universe #2, my first OHOTMUDE. I found #1 in a secondhand store a year or so later
My favourite comic as a teen was X-Factor, which reunited the original X-Men and was written by Louise Simonson, who also wrote Power Pack. I think Louise is very under-rated as a writer. She showed depths of character in her books that other writers rarely managed. She is certainly responsible for drawing me into reading American comics.
I collected other titles too - The Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Avengers West Coast, X-Men, New Mutants, and even dabbled in DC a little with Justice League International.
As tends to happen, by the time I hit 16 I was a bit over comics. It had a lot to do with too many crossovers and the decrease in variety on the newsstand - things started to go more to specialist comics stores - and so I left comics behind to a certain extent - although I still wrote and drew my own stuff. But I had moved on to toy soldiering as my geeky hobby.  I briefly revisited comics when I started University as their was a Comics shop in town, buying the first limited series of WildCATs and all the main series that Jim Lee drew.  But this was the era of limited edition platinum covers, and to be frank, a lot of the comics were just crap. 
When I graduated uni and moved to Auckland I did a big buy up of X Men titles trying to catch up on what I had missed. A lot of it made sense, but it still aggravated me that I couldn't get up to speed with what was happening because the storylines crossed over into way too many comics that I didn't want to buy. When I moved to Rotorua there was a comic shop here, and I bought Fantastic Four and Justice League pretty regularly, but the shop closed down and I pretty much gave up trying to collect monthly. Now I buy Trade Paperbacks off the internet and it actually makes reading and following the stories easier.

A couple of years back I discovered Heroclix. I had no interest in the games and the ugly disks that the figures were based on, but was keen to get the figures, repaint them and maybe play a game with them. I had heard about Supersystem so thought this might work. I can't say that Supersystem works for what I want, which is a simple solo game of superheroes. So I am working on altering a set written by Pete Jones of  called Simple Super Hero Tabletop Rules. It has a basic mechanic of rolling two dice and using the high dice for some things and the low dice for others. As it stands the rules cater for the physical side of gaming - movement, accuracy  evading etc - but not so much for things like outwitting opponents, or rigging up some technology that will fix a situation (I'm thinking Reed Richards here). So this is where I'll be coming up with add-ons.
The original X-Men confront Magneto

Juggernaut, Magneto, Blob and Klaw repainted and rebased

And some of the good guys and gals in similar condition
I've got a pile of Marvel figures to repaint and rebase, and have just started buying up DC characters as well. I source all of my figures through as I can just buy figures that I want without the hazard of buying a box that contains doubles.
There is also the Judge Dredd Miniatures Game put out by Mongoose Publishing. The rules are free to download and look quite good. I will buy some of their figures as well, but at the moment have some Indy Heroclix to use - Dredd, Anderson and the Dark Judges. This is very much a secondary project though.


Sunday 23 December 2012

The 1973 Arab-Israeli War project

I am currently working on a project that uses Flames of War to play games set in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. My interest in this conflict was first piqued as a teenager, but I didn't really get to grips with what happened until I did an honours level paper at University in Middle Eastern politics. After playing Flames of War World War Two for a while, I began to think about the possibility of using the rules for Yom Kippur. Luckily I was not alone in this. A chap named Owen Heather in Australia was working on a similar project, and he shared his work with me. I have to admit that I have done very little in the way of writing, but I have done a bit of playtesting of the lists he wrote. Unfortunately there has been so much going on that my plan to playtest the lists under the third edition of Flames of War has not yet got off the ground. Nevertheless, I have kept adding more vehicles and putting together more scenery, so I aim to be playtesting quite a bit this year.

The army lists that Owen put together can still be found on my old blog here:

For now, some photos of the project which give an idea of what I have done so far, and what can be looked forward to in terms of battle reports.

Quality Castings Ishermans passing a settlement
Quality Castings Centurions face down an attack by a multitude of Command Decision T-55s
Quality Castings Israeli Infantry
Israeli Magach upgraded Command Decision M48 tank (using barrels from Quality Castings Centurion Sh'ots Cals)
1/100 Tamiya MiG 21 of the Egyptian Air Force
 Quality Castings Egyptian Infantry and T-62 tank
Quality Castings Centurion Sh'ot Cals pass a burning QC T-62.


The Great War

I have been pretty much obsessed with this conflict since I was in shorts (hang on, I'm wearing shorts now - but it is summer and high humidity). I found a collection of magazines that Dad had stashed away in the wardrobe - no, not those kind of magazines! They were copies of Purnell's History of the Twentieth Century, which was published in the late 1960s, well before the century was even close to being over. Maybe the editors thought that there wasn't much more that could happen, or more likely they were getting in  before the Cold War turned hot and the rest of the century wouldn't exist anyway. Whatever the reason for this slightly premature appraisal of the modern era, it inspired the mind of a seven year old and became the definitive image for me of what a war looked like. The covers were evocative, with paintings including Henri Leroux's L'Enfer, which depicts the Poilus at Verdun:
L'Enfer by Henri Leroux

And this wonderful propaganda postcard referring to Nurse Edith Cavell:
Postcard of Death hanging over a rather romanticised version of Edith Cavell
Some of it was quite eerie to my young mind, but captivating nonetheless. When I played with my Esci, Airfix and Matchbox toy soldiers I would routinely dig elaborate trenchlines in the backyard. Yes they were World War Two soldiers (the Airfix WWI range being out of production at that stage), but the helmets were pretty similar. As I got older I wanted to know more about the conflict and read everything that I could come into contact with, including Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun's fantastic comic 'Charley's War'. 
A scene from Charley's War
I watched the original All Quiet on the Western Front and the Australian series ANZACs over and over, often while eating a can of beans because some of the characters were doing the same. I tried tinned Corned Beef too. It is truly awful. By the time I was at University studying for my Masters degree I felt I had a pretty comprehensive knowledge of the war, but then came across a book by Paddy Griffith which completely changed my understanding. British Battle Tactics of the Western Front was a paradigm changing tome. I can quite clearly divide my conception of history into pre-Griffith and post-Griffith eras. Yes, I am a revisionist - and proud!

My first chance to really get into gaming World War One was with the release of the Emhar World War I range in plastic. I had already bought some Revell WWI French and Germans, but now I had the British too. I bought a set of WWI rules that I had seen in Wargames Illustrated called Contemptible Little Armies by Chris Peers, slapped on the paint and started gaming. Those little plastic figures gave me some great games, and I converted a number of people to World War One gaming as a result. but now I was starting to think bigger. it was around 2005 that I first really started using the internet to buy metal figures, and my mate Dan and I put together 28mm armies for the Late War Western Front.
Moving around my ex-figures in a game recently
We planned to use the Warhammer rules, which turned out to be a bit quirky, ahistorical and Germanophile for our liking. So we moved back to Contemptible Little Armies. I did buy Through the Mud and the Blood by Too Fat Lardies, and liked the look of them, but oddly enough grafted the card mechanics onto the CLA rules instead. These 28mm armies were sold to another gaming mate, John, and I still occasionally play with them around at his place. Why did I sell them? Basically I was sick of them getting chipped everytime I played with them, despite the varnishing that I had done. I also had not built a trench system like I wanted to. And Dan and I had a plan of moving to 15mm.
Well, Dan moved to Australia and rather than doing WWI in 15mm the funds went into the 15mm Yom Kippur War project and 15mm FoG Ancients. But this year I decided that I had to get back to having armies for WWI as a physical manifestation of my historical obsession. Therefore I bought German and British Late War armies in 18mm from Old Glory 25s/Blue Moon Manufacturing. The plan is to use Through the Mud and Blood in its 'pure' form, and to build the trench boards that I have always wanted.
18mm Blue Moon Manufacturing Tommy (yes the only one I've painted)
But that isn't enough by a long shot. I have Early War Pendraken 10mm armies for the French Germans and Russians, and I'd like to add British and Austro-Hungarians to that. The plan is to use them for the Peter Pig Square Bashing rules.
10mm Pendraken Fren hand German figures for early war. I will have to rebase them..
I also plan to wargame the naval conflict, having just purchased two starter fleets from NavWar for the Germans and the British. For these I am thinking of using the Victory at Sea rules form Mongoose Publishing.
Royal Sovereign - my first completed dreadnought.

I've never played or read the Square Bashing or Victory at Sea rules, but have read plenty of reviews and battle reports for them and think that they suit my needs - simple and adaptable for solo and opposed gaming. With the centennial of the start of WWI coming up I am hoping to have all of these projects ready to go by the beginning of 2014.


Saturday 22 December 2012

The shiny new blog

This new blog is to kick off where my previous blog - - left off. Why a new blog? Well, first and foremost the old blog was about my wargaming collaborations with my good mate Dan, but it has been two years since Dan shifted overseas and I felt that it was time to start over. So here it is. The first few posts will talk about my current projects and the history and rationale for why I chose to do them out of all the different possibilities for gaming.