Friday, 13 November 2015

Salamis....Part 2

Refighting an Ancient Naval Battle

Okay then. I have most of the models and terrain, the rules I plan to use and sufficient research material upon which to base the project - so I am in pretty good shape, right?


All of the four areas mentioned need work - and lots of it. Taking each area individually makes the whole look a little less daunting and so this is the plan of sorts.

The terrain is relatively straightforward and is merely a case of, in effect, replicating the hexed playing area from Richard Nelson's book. there are a number of photographs of the game in progress so this should be easy enough to do. Nelson used a smaller hex size than I am and also a larger playing area but I am thinking having the reduced size would be no great loss as pretty much all of the conflict was in a confined space. The land will be represented by use of the appropriate Heroscape tiles and, I will crave a certain degree of artistic licence here, a couple of 1/1200th buildings from Rod Langton's range. I rather fancy the notion of a Greek temple or two dotted about....;-)

The models are of primary consideration and the last of these I plan to acquire this weekend from Navwar. That will leave me with some 54 triremes to paint. The models will be based on 40 by 30mm bases - I shall be using those available from Essex Miniatures for this - and I will be naming the models by contingent for example Sparta 1 or Ionia 4. Each contingent will have a designated flagship which will also be marked. I will be producing the models with the mast deployed rather than left off (which would be more historically accurate) as it will mean that I will not have to fill the large hole in the middle of the main deck! I also plan to use 15mm ancient greek shield decals (available from Essex Miniatures and produced by Veni, Vidi, Vici) on the sails for a further piece of artistic indulgence. The first step with this part of the project remains the trip to Navwar and then the grand assembly and undercoat.

The rules are taken straight from Nelson's book but I will need to type these up and produce a quick reference sheet and the fleet lists. This should not be too difficult and has the advantage of being something I can do on the train. The rules need to be extracted from the text as they contain a number of examples of play and what could be considered designer's notes which means that they occupy a chapter rather than a couple of sides of A4. For clarity I can reference his fleet action rules from which the book set were derived if required.

The research aspect will of course mean reading, reading and more reading. I have a modest section in my library devoted to ancient naval warfare and a couple of titles specifically on Salamis. These will be revisited as will some of the histories that cover the period - Herodotus being the main one for the present. I will also take a look at a couple of rule sets that have Salamis as a scenario as this can be useful as well.

I am rather excited about undertaking this project at last and hope that the techniques employed will serve me well for some similar ideas I have in mind. I have some later ancient galleys from the Punic and Civil Wars period so the potential is there for some more refights - Actium springs to mind. I would also certainly envisage using Heroscape for some river based naval action from the ACW in 1/2400th but I also have a couple of 'wind and water' ideas as well - and probably not what you would expect!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Salamis....Part One

A map of the battle of Salamis 480 B.C.

One of the particularly helpful benefits of my recent Heroscape acquisitions has been the greatly increased number of blue 'water' tiles I have accrued. I now posses over 250 and this will give my small scale model naval games a major boost as these can look a little lost in a standard Hexon tile. Going forward the plan is to use the Heroscape water tiles in conjunction with the normal land based version to be able to models river banks, coastal areas and such like. My interest initially centred on the ancient period and the use of 1/1200th galleys but I am already thinking about 1/2400th for the Armada, the Anglo Dutch Wars (I bet you did not see that one coming!) and possibly the ACW/Victorian naval. Taking it further forward in time possibly even WW1 and WW2 using 1/4800th or 1/6000th but that is a long way off.

I guess it may have been easier just to get a plain blue hexed mat for naval games but for me that misses the point. I like the idea of having some land as terrain - either riverbanks or coastline - especially as many of my gaming ideas involve combined operations and similar. Heroscape lends itself very well to this approach and for me offers a lot of potential.

The Persian King of Kings, Xerxes, looks on at the unfolding catastrophe

I have acquired a modest collection of Navwar 1/1200th ancient galleys - including some later types for the Punic Wars - and am looking to use these for a refight of the battle of Salamis. This was one of the most significant naval battles in history and my inspiration for this project has come from various sources. Many years ago I used to play the Avalon Hill game Trireme which was huge fun. I never used models but always planned to do so at some point. Fast forward a few years and I had the good fortune to pick up a copy of Richard Nelson's book on the subject published in the Battles for Wargamers series. A copy of his fleet action rules published by WRG appeared courtesy of EBay and a copy of Warfleets of Antiquity from my good friend Chris Hardman.

The rules from book by Richard Nelson are in effect a cut down version of the WRG set. they feature enough detail to cover the refight of the actual battle and in terms of the number of ships involved he uses a scale of 1 model equalling 12 actual ships. Based on the sources he has used this translates into 54 models - which is eminently achievable. I only need a further 16 triremes from Navwar (not as detailed as Rod Langton but a lot cheaper!) and I will be good to go.

I will have to make some important decisions about the models. They are all going to based on a 40mm by 30mm base with the nationality and number as a label. That much I have decided upon but the main area of contention concerns sails. Do I have them mounted on the ship or do I leave them off? The former would look better but the latter is more historically accurate. I did toy with having them detachable but in 1/1200th they are a little on the fiddly side. An associated problem is there is a huge hole in the deck where the mast is stepped which is quite an eyesore without the mast in place. Of all the options I am leaning towards having the masts in place - simply because the models look nicer.

Ah but what of Jutland? I can almost hear a collective sigh as yet another project is launched. I shall be tackling something Jutland based to commemorate the anniversary next year but it is unlikely that models will feature. Salamis however is a lot more achievable and so my naval efforts will be focusing on this for the next few months. the final models will be acquired at the weekend.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Putting the Hero in Heroscape

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The first Starter set....

You may recall my earlier posts on the subject of Heroscape - the fantasy miniatures board game formerly produced by Hasbro. Many war games players have acquired this game primarily for the hexed terrain tiles that came with it and there are many blogs that feature games taking place on this terrain - with your truly also having done so. I now own the tiles from three copies of the first starter set as well as whole pile of flocked and painted tiles courtesy of Bob Cordery. From a land perspective I have more than enough for my needs and if I am honest the only disadvantage of using these is their size as the hexes are only some 45 mm across the flats - less than half the size of the Hexon version. In the game as played a single model occupies a hex (in some cases two hexes for the larger types) and this is fine. In fact if you check out Google and look at the images under Heroscape you can see some quite superb set ups. For my own use though these tiles will be used for games involving small scale models - I am thinking about the 3mm troop blocks from Peter Pig or those from Tumbling Dice - and will be suitably painted in due course.

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 ....And the second - which I had not seen

What of the figures though?

The figures thet come with the game are, in my opinion, not bad. They are prepainted and fairly basic in terms of detail BUT are very usable en masse. I had mentioned previously about using some of them as the basis for games of either HOTTs, the forthcoming Dragon Rampant or any other skirmish level fantasy/sci-fi rules that came to hand. I also have a downloaded set of Command and Colours Fantasy rules produced by a chap from Belgium called Te Wapen - needless to say given my fondness for this system this is very much in the forefront of my planning.

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A Heroscape map of Africa - now that is a clever idea and one that would lend itself to many other settings

I had even mentioned about repainting the figures as they are very basic in that regard. The ideas I am considering will certainly need some painting in due course and whilst I have no objection to basic painted figures - flat colours and no shading/highlighting - I do get very upset at sloppy painting though - you know the kind of thing, where the paint has gone over the edges and has slopped onto something it should not have. Heroscape figures are ideal for the gamer that is either unable or unwilling to opt for something more aesthetically pleasing - and up to a point I am guilty on both counts.

I now have a very large collection of the figures from the original starter set and also from the second version courtesy of Jim Duncan and I cannot begin to tell you how pleased and inspired I am to be in this position!

Jim came to my rescue in the biggest possible way. Like many gamers he has a lot of Heroscape terrain and has also purchased sets specifically for that reason. It has also meant that he has a huge selection of the figures being unused and unloved. Several emails and a phone call later the entire box full figures, rules, markers, dice and even some terrain was winging its way to Chez Crook. The plan is that I will cherry pick the pieces I want and then put what is excess up for sale to raise funds for th charity that Jim is supporting - so everyone wins. I get some figures that have given me a major boost in the inspiration department, Jim gets a whole lot of extra room in his den and the charity will hopefully benefit from the sale of some of the rarer items.

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Some of the Marro figures. I will probably leave these as they are but I will do something with the bases.

To say that I am pleased with this little lot is an understatement and I am truly overwhelmed by the generosity of Jim in passing this lot on. To give you an example (and I will be posting lots of pictures over the next week or so to give you an idea of the scale of the windfall) I now have some 80 Marro figures. The Marro in Heroscape are a race of aliens similar to the GW Tyranids in concept. The plan is to use them against the US Paratroopers supported by the robot types - the paratroopers will need repainting into something a little more near future/sci-fi ish - for some Aliens type games. The Vikings and the Samurai may turn into some HOTTs or Dragon Rampant armies and there is even some figures that would be usable for Frostgard.

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The Heroscape Vikings - complete with horned and winged helmets and therefore eminently suitable for some heroic fantasy action. I will need to do something about the spears though!

I was also delighted to get a great pile of the blue tiles as well so I now have some 250 plus of these so the seascape for the Salamis project will have a playing area in conjunction with the land tiles and the 1/1200th scale models I have been stockpiling.

So all in all my mojo has been given a fairly substantial kick up the derriere with this little lot and I cannot thank Jim enough for this - even more so given that he is still recovering from surgery and various assorted health issues. I titled this post specifically with him in mind....;-)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Going Postal

 You may recall a short while ago I ordered a copy of the latest version of Richard Borg's ACW Command and Colours game Battle Cry. The parcel duly arrived on September the 18th but was left on the doorstep by the postman rather than being taken back to the depot for me to collect later - you know the kind of thing, the card through the letterbox advising they were unable to deliver as the house was empty. In this case the postman left the package on the floor by our front door where it was exposed to around four hours of monsoon-like rain. Needless to say the packing had leaked and the box was ruined on one end where it had been in contact with the ground and water.

As luck would have it the contents were undamaged so all that was wrong was the box itself. Now I know this is not such a drama but I was and still incensed that the postman just dumped the package. I duly put in a claim form - not so much for the money but more because I was really annoyed at this very poor service. 

I duly submitted a claim form and after a week or so received a cheque for £20. The letter was obviously a standard response type so I I went straight back to them to have this reviewed as I wanted the full cost refunded. Now I know this seems bloody-minded but the game is no longer in production so if I wanted a pristine copy (I am rather fussy about boxes, dust jackets on books etc) I would have to pay around £40 plus postage.

The case was reviewed by the 'Escalated Claims Unit' and they stuck to the party line of 'the maximum we can give out is £20 due to the postage method used' and that they would be 'taking steps to make sure it did not happen again' you know the thing, the great British fob off....

I had the option to have the reviewed case reviewed so, still not satisfied (and feeling very Victor Meldrew-ish), I opted to go to the postal equivalent of the Supreme Court for a final review. Surely common sense would prevail when confronted with all the evidence? Nah.

They wrote back and apologised for giving me the incorrect information as I was not entitled to anything from them as the parcel was sent via a service that meant the sender had to put in a claim in the event of any loss or damage! As a goodwill gesture though I was allowed to keep the £20 cheque.

I have alreadyou wo been in touch with the seller and they are as bemused about this as I am. They are now going to tackle something that I have spent 6 weeks trying to sort out but to no avail. You would struggle to make this up!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

More on Heroscape

Following on from my last post I have managed to acquire another set of the figures from Heroscape as well as a complete copy of the game courtesy of EBay. Aside from the terrain tiles it means that the figure selection now consists of three sets which will be enough for me to be going on with. Dragon Rampant - the fantsy version of Lion Rampant - should be out in December so if I get a move on I should be ahead of the curve for a change with some models ready to go.

The first lot I will be tackling will be the Viking types which are suitably heroic looking and ideal for a fantasy type set up. There are also some Samurai types - more like well dressed Ronin to be honest that look pretty good and should be useful. The rest of the models are mainly sci-fi types (excepting the dragon of course) which is not a problem as I will have a use for them as well.

The great thing about skirmish level games is of course the fact that you do not need a huge number of figures and so are a good option for me at the present especially as even a DBA army presents a real challenge in terms of time to prepare.

The terrain tiles I am especially pleased with as I have a number of plans for these. You may recall that I have a large selection of these that have been flocked and painted courtesy of Bob Cordery which I have used for a couple of games. The plan is to use the additional tiles for a desert type set up (Bob's old set is in grass green) in due course and I may well be tacking this as my Christmas project. My firm shuts down from Christmas Eve until the New Year so tackling terrain will make a pleasant change from eating, drinking and watching endless repeats on the TV!

The blue tiles are also very welcome as I now have sufficient to make a 13 by 9 hex playing area - the standard Command and Colours battlefield - ideally suited to smaller scale ship models. This will enable me to revisit my 1/1200th Ancient galleys in due course and the often mentioned Salamis type project.

Much to ponder methinks.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Heroscape, Lion Rampant and probably HOTTs as well....


Robots, Vikings, Samurai, US Paratroopers, dinosaur riding Orcs, Men in Black and even a       Dragon - what's not to like?

I am still struggling with an excess of lethargy in respect of anything gaming related. Work is just so demanding at present that by the time I get home I have precious little energy for anything other than dinner, a bath and some 'vegetable television' before going to bed. My hobby time at the weekend is generally limited due to domestic duties to around a couple of hours so it is little wonder that at present not a lot is getting done. I have caught up on some reading though and the all-important planning continues but I am finding myself making and discarding these with alarming regularity. It is a personal conumdrum to be sure.

On Sunday last SWMBO, my daughter and I did a swift tour of not one but three boot sales. I should point out that given the time of year the outdoor boot sales in our area are generally beginning to wind down as the weather becomes cold, wet and unpleasant. This usually means the pickings are a little on the slim side. However, I was able to score a fairly significant purchase which has given me a whole world of ideas to mess around with.

Heroscape - yes, that Heroscape, the one with the hexed terrain. I picked up a complete set of Heroscape for a fiver and was immediately struck with a number of ideas. Aside from the terrain tiles (especially the sand and blue coloured types) the game contains some thirty 28mm sized figures for use with the system that are ready painted and made from a curious rubbery material - similar to that used for some of the ships in Axis and Allies: War at Sea.

The figures are a very random selection of types including Vikings, Samurai, Men in Black, Robots, WW2 American paratroopers, a Dragon and a dinosaur riding Orc. Oh, and some swamp dwelling humanoids called Marro.

They are not bad and are usable as is BUT - I reckon that even I could make a better job of the painting. So I gave this some further thought and an idea formed in what passes for grey matter in the old brainbox. It would be easy enough to cobble together some motley skirmish sized forces by the simple expedient of acquiring a few other sets of figures. These could be combined into just about anything from HOTTs to Lion Rampant (more specifically the forthcoming fantasy version: Dragon Rampant) - certainly enough for my immediate needs. If I am honest though, it is all about painting some figures at a small scale to see how I get on. 

I am rather excited at the prospect of tackling these models and will be sure to take before and after pictures.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Great Harry's Navy and Greenmantle


Does exactly what it says on the cover - and with a lot of the details that we gamers like!

Following on from my last post I suppose it was inevitable that some further investment in the period would be needed - esoecially in respect of reading material. The above title has been crtically acclaimed as being one of the best books on the subject and although you can currently get a copy from the Works in paperback I really wanted to get a hardback version. Luckily a quick trawl through EBay came to the rescue and I was able to pick up a copy in very good condition very cheaply - and what a title it is! Not only do we have the background as to why Henry wanted to a strong navy but also how the ships and tactics evolved. Ultimately the stimulus he provided in matters naval saw it full fruition during the reign of Elizabeth and the on-going war against Spain. There are a couple of Osprey titles covering warships in the Tudor era and these are currently on order. My library of Tudor naval history is now a little more 'joined up' and so has given me not only some inspiration from a gaming perspective but also from the historical interest angle. 

Greenmantle by John Buchan is a further title in the adventures of Richard Hannay and I downloaded a version as a free ebook onto my IPad and was really pleased I did. Aside from The 39 Steps I have not read of his other titles but this one was hard to resist. Russians, charging Cossacks, Turks, Germans and a Femme Fatale all striving to get the Muslim world on a huge Jihad to aid the German war effort - what's not to like?

I really should make an effort to study the Russian war against the Turks in the Caucasus - particularly as the climatic battle in the book takes place in the environs of Deve Boyun - in which I fought a Russo Turkish War of 1877 battle using the block armies a couple of years ago for my end of year game. Clearly this was an area that saw a lot of military activity over the centuries!