Saturday, 30 January 2010

HMS Warspite's Long Shot

In my previous post I made mention of the Long Shot special ability attributed to HMS Warspite. For the life of me (and to my shame and embarrassment!) I could not remember in which battle this took place. So, after some hurried consultation of the library I was able to remind myself of the fact that HMS Warspite hit the Italian Battleship Guilio Cesare at the prodigious range of 26,400 yards during the Battle of Calabria or Punto Stilo as the Italians refer to it which took place on 9th July, 1940. It is a useful ability to have and has discomforted the Italian Navy on more than one occasion although it can only be used once a game. I guess the best solution to the use of this card would be to get into range quickly whereby you are able to reply!

Ship special abilities within the Axis and Allies: War at Sea game are certainly in the 'curate's egg' category - some are quite sensible whilst others are less so and the annoying thing is that some things are classed as 'special' when in fact they should be available to all ships rather than just a named few. The best example of this is 'Lay Smoke' - this is something that all ships are capable of, not just those with it listed as a special ability.

I have often considered tabulating all the ships details currently available and using my own discretion as to what special abilities are available and to whom. Failing that, dispensing with them completely and just using the raw ship data for any games. Once again, the core mechanics of this system are simple and robust enough to handle a degree of tinkering and so that may be a task for the future.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

War at Sea Ungridded Playtest

Last night saw the first play test of the War at Sea WW2 naval wargame ungridded variant at the club. This was my first visit to the club this year (in fact since early December) so I was really looking forward to having a game and seeing some old familiar faces. As befits a play test the forces were quite small with each side fielding a battleship, a pair of heavy cruisers and four destroyers. It was the Italians versus the Royal Navy circa 1941, or as someone had once rather whimsically described it – the forces of style versus substance………;-)

The game started with both forces approaching each other from diagonally opposite corners of the table – the RN from the SE corner and the RM from the NW. The RN had deployed the two heavy cruisers (HMAS Australia and HMS Kent) in line ahead with HMS Warspite bringing up the rear. Deployed on either beam and covering the gaps between the heavy units were the destroyers – a pair of Tribal class and a couple of J’s. The Italians were similarly deployed except that the battleship (Guilio Cesare) was leading the line followed by the two cruisers (Bolzano and Trento) with their escorting destroyers on either beam.

The first turn saw both forces heading due East and West respectively with no firing taking place as the range was too long. This carried on for a further turn and at this point the Warspite was able to open fire using its Long Shot special ability (a once a game event) and so was able to hit the Guilio Cesare at the prodigious range of the equivalent of 6 squares i.e. 36” or 12 ‘legs’. I should mention that for the purposes of moving and firing off the grid the variant’s author had converted each square into two 3” legs. This means that a ship with a speed of two squares could move up to four ‘legs’, each of three inches for a total move of twelve inches. Furthermore, by dropping a ‘leg’ of its movement allowance a ship is able to change its heading to face in any direction.

The damage sustained by the Italian flagship was sufficient to ensure that their battle line maintained a healthy distance from the attention of HMS Warspite which unfortunately meant that whilst the RN could happily continue shooting at extreme range (in the game this is extended range or four squares which is measured at 27” for this variant) the Guilio Cesare was unable to reply. This was simply due to her damage as under the game system a capital ship may not fire at extended range if it has sustained a point or more of damage. This was to prove to be a costly handicap for the Italian flagship.

The Italians could be forgiven for breaking off the action at this point but their commander was made of sterner stuff and so the battle line swung around 180 degrees to face due west and so was on a parallel course and heading with the Royal Navy, albeit at long range. The two Italian heavy cruisers were now facing their RN opposite numbers whilst the Guilio Cesare continued to face the mighty Warspite.

Meanwhile (and no doubt to ease the pressure on their battle line) the two southernmost Italian destroyers attempted to close the RN line with a view to attempting a torpedo attack. The audacity of these two vessels however received scant reward as the withering crossfire from the secondary batteries from the Warspite and the massed gunfire from the two RN destroyers was sufficient to leave the Italian ships crippled, burning and sinking from the deluge of numerous assorted calibre shells.

The RN was able to close the range by swinging slightly to the northwest (although with little chance of heading off the Italians) and so both sides were then able to open fire with their heavy cruisers and score hits on their opposite numbers. The remaining Italian destroyers were swiftly despatched during the resultant fire fight but not without cost as two of the RN destroyers suffered a similar fate and under almost identical circumstances i.e. caught in the middle of the opposing battle lines and smothered with secondary gunfire.

The Warspite continued to fire at the Guilio Cesare inflicting further damage and the Italian flagship was in poor shape. Both side’s heavy cruisers had also sustained damage and so overall the advantage was firmly with the Royal Navy. At this point the Italian commander decided that discretion would be the better part of valour and that the dubious allure of the fleshpots of Taranto seemed a far safer alternative to the pounding his flagship had thus far sustained and so they disengaged. Whilst the Royal Navy would have undoubtedly preferred to pursue their discomforted opponents in order to administer the coup de grace to heavily damaged Italian flagship, the prospect of operating too close to the tender mercies of Fliegerkorps 10 with no air cover and with a greatly reduced escort was deemed sufficient reason for the squadron to retire.
As a play test it went pretty well and both sides enjoyed the experience. I think that the ‘leg’ size of three inches could probably be increased to four to spread things out on the table top relative to the model size and this will certainly look better. On closer reading of the turning rules you are able to turn in any direction after having moved the first leg in a straight line – not just at the end of the turn – this is a small but significant point. Other than that it all went well and the destruction of six out of eight destroyers on the table was down to faulty tactics rather than any perceived shortcomings of the rules!

We then set up an air attack to try the air rules with the result that the Italian Battleship with two escorting destroyers was able to drive off one base of attacking Swordfish leaving the other three bases to launch an attack. Of the three attacks one was successful. The big plus for this was the fact that the escorts could only engage the aircraft at long range which meant a minus 1 from each AA dice roll. A maximum of four aircraft bases can attack a ship so this represented a major effort with the overall result of one success from four with one attack driven off. That is not a bad start but will need further testing – including the use of such things escorting fighters and CAP. Air power has always been a bone of contention with these rules as it always seemed to be too easy to drive off attackers – to be fair though as the majority of the games I have fought have revolved around the use of the RN the air factor is considerably less than in the Pacific due to the carriers having less capacity.

My overall impression of this variant is very much a positive one and I am eagerly looking forward to trying further games using this system. There are a few points requiring clarification and expansion but certainly nothing major so this variant will be a most welcome addition to the naval war games rules collection.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

What a Fantastic Idea!

Steve Blease - Victorian Science Fiction gamer, designer and all round good egg has come up with an absolute peach of an idea for making a 1/1200th scale town/village/city using various sizes of plastic sprue and a large dose of imagination. The result is in the picture above and it looks so good I had to post it on my blog! The model was designed as a target for use with Wessex Game's VSF air rules called Aeronef (Steve is one of the authors of these rules - the other being Matthew Hartley) which are scaled at around 1/1200th. The scope of this idea is such that I have already considered numerous mini building projects to fit in with my 1/3000th naval stuff as well as the Aeronef and Land Ironclads. Also, my much mentioned (but still to be tackled) 2mm Sci Fi set up designed around OGRE would certainly benefit from a similar technique.
You can see this and many other goodies on his blog:
A great idea and really well thought out - very well done Mr Blease!!

Balkan Wars Afloat

I must take this opportunity to say a big thank you to Dave Watson - the man behind the blog specialising in Balkan military history. During the course of a couple of email exchanges (as well being mentioned on a very useful bibliography) it came to pass that a chap by the name of A.J. Martins published way back in 1997 a couple of booklets on the Balkan War of 1912 - 1913. The first one covered the land side and the second was devoted to the war at sea. Needless to say I was very interested in both but sadly, Dave had lost contact with A.J. Martins and the likelihood of ever getting copies of these was remote. Happily though, Dave was able to supply me with the information from the naval booklet and what a gem it is! The technical side I am quite happy with as my own resources cover this in sufficient detail but from the strategic side this is an absolute goldmine! I was really impressed with the details concerning the 'island-hopping' in the Aegean and the various Greek operations - patrols using destroyers etc. One of the more startling pieces of information was the fact that the four Greek destroyers - Leon, Panther, Aetos and Ierax (purchased from UK and were originally ordered by Argentina) fought the entire war without any torpedoes as they were purchased without them! That is certainly something I will need to include in my Balkan Wars based naval games and no mistake!

There is much more detail I need to check up on but certainly it will provide the stimulus to consider some combined arms operations in due course.

Once again though, a massive thanks to Balkan Dave for his help with this.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Morschauser Meanderings

Readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed my mentioning of Bob Cordery's take on the gridded rules pioneered by Joe Morschauser in the early 60's and discussed at length on his blog I have followed this project with much interest and the rules at the time of writing are both for the 'modern' (primarily WW2) and for 19th century. I am very enthusiastic about both sets of rules and will certainly be using them for my own projects - the Balkan Wars for one - due to their ease of use and logical game mechanics. Another gaming friend of mine drew my attention to the pictures of the Morschauser system in action in Donald Featherstone's Advanced Wargames and very impressive it looks as well. The figures in use look very much like 40mm old toy soldier style offerings - all gloss paint and attitude - and have a unique charm about them. I am a great fan of this style of figure and of course one of the main advantages would be the fact that using models of this size would certainly mean fewer to paint. Irregular Miniatures produce a range of 'toy' style soldiers in 42mm that are quite reasonable as well as their Deutsche Homage range. There other ranges in this scale but they are more serious figure painter's figures and would need a lot more effort than certainly I would give them! With unit sizes being small (4 foot or mounted, a gun and two crew for the 19th century) then building up a force of models in a larger than normal size would not be hugely expensive and painting time would be correspondingly reduced. One could even go down the route of using some of the many cheap 54mm plastic figures that are available (probably increasing the square size would be a help in this scale!) for a truly Wellsian looking game but on a grid!

Thinking of my own set up with an 11 by 11 grid of 3" squares it occurred to me that as the number of figures needed for a viable set up would be quite small it would give the advantage of being able to experiment with different periods as the mood takes, rather like DBA.

Certainly worth thinking about - both in terms of size and variety.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Eastern Question Answered

There was little debate about the choice of family holiday for 2010 and so it has finally been booked and whilst it is some time away I am already excited at the prospect! We shall be returning to Turkey for two weeks staying at the resort of Olu Deniz. This is the place we tried to go to a couple of years ago (when we went to Skiathos) but were unable to get the right combination of flights, accommodation and price. There are a number of sites of historical interest in the area and so a couple of trips out will certainly feature; along with the obligatory boat ride, local markets etc. The hotel we shall be staying in has been highly recommended by a family friend and so is very much a known quantity – they have returned to the same place for three years on the trot as they enjoyed it so much! The reviews on place the hotel as number 5 of the 50 odd hotels in the resort so that is also good news. The venue looks absolutely stunning and in fact a large chunk of the beach is a national park so is well maintained and unspoilt.

I realise that this will probably sound a little on the sad side but I always try and get myself in the right holiday frame of mind by reading up about the area and country I am visiting beforehand in order to have a cultural head start in terms of what to expect. I suppose you could almost describe this as ‘method holidaymaking’. Given my interest in matters Ottoman Turkish this will by no means be an onerous task and I have a small stockpile of reading material with this in mind in any event! From the point of view of travelling to an established resort this probably seems like an eccentric conceit as you will probably experience little of the real Turkey – rather an idealised and tourist driven facsimile. This is undoubtedly true but armed with even a smattering of local knowledge and background and a few words of the language you are able to have an enhanced experience and will be able to take advantage of things that those less prepared may overlook. That is the theory anyway and I have always adhered to this – usually to my advantage.

I am a great fan of Turkish (and indeed Middle Eastern in general) cuisine and the prospect of grilled meat and fish with copious amounts of salad is a mouth watering one. That combination alone is a healthy option so I can console myself with the knowledge that I can eat as much as I like of the local cuisine with a clear conscience! Efes is the Turkish national beer and it is suitably light and refreshing and will doubtless be consumed in quantity – the fridge in the room will be pressed into service for a modest litre or six……..;-)

Sun, sea, sand, great food and plenty of drink and some nearby old ruins to look at; together with the prospect of some quality paragliding (I have tried this once before and loved it!) – What more could you ask for?

Monday, 18 January 2010

I Almost Forgot to Mention..................

I have acquired a couple of extra titles for the library although the first was way before Xmas and was a small present to myself for securing a job! It would probably have come as no surprise whatsoever given my liking for World War One in the Middle East that the first title is devoted to a little known part of the Arab Revolt; or rather the Western Desert equivalent: The Sanusi Invasion of Egypt. The book is called 'The Sanusi's Little War' by Russell McGuirk (ISBN: 10: 0-9544792-7-0). This is the story of the German and Turkish inspired invasion that caught the British in Egypt on the hop and needed thousands of troops with armoured cars and required four battles to resolve. The Sanusi (as I have mentioned previously) consisted of great swathes of tribesman and Turkish trained regulars and were far from being a disorganised rabble - they had a lot of experience fighting the Italians during the 1912 war between Turkey and Italy. It is a great story and I would love to be able to game this but as mentioned previously, the troops for the Sanusi are hard to come by so it will have to remain on the back burner until an opportunity presents itself.

The second title moves into World War Two and tells the story of the British 'campaigns' in the Middle East against rebellious pro German Iraqis and Vichy French in Syria. The book is called 'The First Victory - Britain's Forgotten Struggle in the Middle East, 1941' by Robery Lyman (ISBN: 13: 978-1-84529-108-2). The author argues (and rightly so) that the securing of the Middle Eastern oil in early 1941 was what effectively kept us in and eventually able to win the war. There was a very real possibility that Iraq could have fallen into the German camp and this would have denied the oil of the region to Britain and her allies prior to both USSR and USA becoming involved. Similarly, the Vichy French in Syria also had to be taken into consideration - all this from a very depleted and thinly spread British Mediterranean force tasked with the Western Desert, defence of the Suez Canal, Greec and Crete. No wonder Wavell had such a hard time of it from Churchill. It is a story of bluff, meagre forces, scarce equipment and heroism. Again, great gaming potential but the only way this will see the light of day will be as a Memoir 44 exercise! I acquired this title for the princely sum of £4 from a local market that carry's remaindered magazines and the odd book or two - a bargain to be sure!
After all this excitement it is back to the Balkan 15mm clean up....................;-)

Friday, 15 January 2010

Memoir 44 in Vietnam

Memoir 44 is a very elastically scaled game in that the various units can represent anything from platoon level upwards. The combat system copes with this very well and so the operational scale distinctions are largely irrelevant. This is also fine and is an easy trade off for the fluidity of the game system as a whole. However, for the Vietnam project I want to take this down a notch so that a smaller scale of action was more readily identifiable. Instead of only using infantry, armour and artillery I want to bring in HMGs, Mortars and Infantry anti tank weaponry. The rationale for this is that it will give a more tactical feel for a lower level game. I am circulating ideas at the moment and am thinking along the lines of having HMG, Mortar and Infantry Anti Tank ‘units’ represented by two models (similar to artillery in the standard game). HMGs will fire the same as infantry (3, 2 or 1 combat dice dependent on range) but will additionally count tanks rolled as a hit when engaging infantry only. I am also considering allowing them to ‘split’ fire – breaking down the number of dice rolled twixt hexes so, for example, at a range of two they could use one dice in one hex and the other in an adjacent hex – as long as the fire is at the same range. Mortars will be the same as artillery for all intents and purposes. Infantry anti tank weapons will probably move like infantry and fire like armour. A further twist on this will be that support weapons can be attached to infantry units and will follow the parent formations orders. I am unsure yet how to work this and will need to give it some thought as it was routine certainly to parcel out HMGs to individual platoons and sections – similarly with the anti tank troops. I am unsure if this was widely practised with mortars though. Minefields will cover the inevitable booby traps as well as their more conventional usage. Artillery will be off board and I will need to consider the use of choppers and how air strikes will work. A further consideration is the question of command. I want to have command groups on the board with an actual function. There will be tactical bonuses for using the command group and also penalties should it be destroyed. Again, I need to think about how best this could be worked. As a bonus, and ignoring the post 1945 hardware, means the resultant variant could be easily used for WW2 enable games pitched at a similar level.

I am a great fan of the whole Command and Colours concept as used in Memoir 44 and I always believe that it is the mark of a skilled rules designer that if the core system is robust enough then it can handle any amount of judicious ‘tinkering’ without too many dramas.

In the meantime though, I will need to get some reading in to (re)acquaint myself with the war that seemed to be always on the TV when I was a boy back in the 60’s and early 70’s.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Balkan Wars and Vietnam

Just as a matter of record (and to reassure everybody that I have not gone completely barking mad!) – The Balkans Wars project has not been displaced by my minor flirtation with the Vietnam conflict! The current state of play with the Balkan 15mm figures is that the Bulgarians are just about ready for undercoating – I am prepping the artillery this evening – with the Turks to follow hard on their heels over the next few days. I am planning to undercoat the whole collection at once (to economise on spray paint!) and will then tackle each side separately. I have acquired the basing material (I use the pre cut plastic bases available from Essex Miniatures) and will be going with standard 40mm frontages for the figures.

The main uniform source I have at the present time is the Vachov title mentioned in my blog some time ago – supplemented by various painted figures I have seen across the net. Oh for an Osprey uniform title covering the war! Seriously though, I think I have enough to be going on with; certainly for 15mm anyway. Flags are a problem but it appears that in the Military Museum in Sofia there is a Balkan War room that has a good selection of Bulgarian flags – I need to pursue that lead methinks.

I am waiting on some of the wooden buildings mentioned previously from Amazon which will more than suffice for what I need and Cavalier at Tonbridge next month will see the acquisition (hopefully) of some terrain in the shape of trees etc. I hope to have the whole set up ready for Easter and I think that this is achievable, even for me!

As far as the Vietnam stuff is concerned have no fear – at this stage I am only going to push as far as using the variant of Memoir 44 I am working on. This adaptation of the game will be a minor diversion and nothing more – a cerebral exercise if you like. My thoughts and progress with this variant will feature on the blog though as I know that many readers are also Memoir 44 players and are therefore most welcome to contribute with any ideas and observations – in fact I am counting on this to a certain extent. No doubt in the interim I will also squirrel away some kits and books etc for the period over the course of the next few months but I will not even take the Vietnam figures out of the boxes, much less paint them, at least until the Balkans have been conquered!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A Rumour of War(game)...........

I have gone and done it. I have purchased three boxes each of the Revell US and NVA infantry in the Modelzone sale. I now have 300 plastic 20mm figures to paint on top of everything else in the schedule. I must be bonkers! In the short term though a crafty plan came to me – I would use Memoir 44 with the Pacific expansion as the basis for a game. Certainly all the terrain tiles in the expansion would suit South East Asia very well – paddy fields, jungle, mountain strongholds etc – so no problems in that regard. I could use the figures straight from the box as well i.e. unpainted (shock, heresy etc!!) although as I opened the boxes I discovered that both sides are cast in the same tan coloured plastic. As a short term solution to a longer term project I have no problem with this. The paint job will have to come later and an ‘old school’ block style with Army Painter over the top will do the job just nicely. The figures can be seen on the website which is a goldmine of a site for the 20mm plastic figure gamer.
For Memoir 44 I will need to think about troop types a little – my first thought would be to use VC in the same way as French Resistance to represent their ability to know the local terrain well whilst the NVA regulars could be treated the same as Russians with the Commissar rule, perhaps with a dash of Japanese thrown in. The US will be ‘normal’ types with certain troops rated as elite as the need dictates. I would also need to consider choppers and off table fire support together with air strikes as well. There is nothing there that will present insurmountable difficulties though (probably famous last words but never mind!).
For a ‘real’ wargame I have a great set of DBA based rules which look like fun and as mentioned previously, the Airfix Jungle Outpost would be ideal so a couple of those won’t break the bank and vehicles can be added if required but are not essential with the same for choppers and such like. Even the Morschauser gridded rules could be used for this if need be without much in the way of modification. Obviously the library will need a few additions but probably not that many – that will be from choice rather than any other reason. I would go for a good overall history of the war, perhaps a campaign guide or two – Ia Drang and Khe Sahn most probably with Long Tan as well if I can find anything on it, together with inevitable Osprey or two for uniforms etc. There are some good books on the war in paperback which could be picked up cheaply and certainly when the boot sale season kicks off I will keep a weather eye open for them. By long term tradition items acquired at boot sales do not count as real purchases from the household budget which is good news for the economy conscious wargamer!
I realise that this has shot my carefully considered list of projects for the year down in flames but sadly, “I can resist anything but temptation” (good old Oscar Wilde!) and this was too good an opportunity to miss. I want to keep this project fairly tight in terms of outlay and effort and with the exception of the Jungle Outpost kit mentioned I will not be acquiring anything 20mm terrain wise. As I mentioned during my previous post – a large bag of lichen will serve as SE Asia jungle with little difficulty.
In the short term then I propose to tackle a variant of Memoir 44 to cover the Vietnam conflict to see how it goes whilst planning the next phase (and whilst continuing to clean up the Balkan Wars stuff as a priority!) of how and where I want to go with this.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Living in the (Drastic) Plastic Age................

I am on the horns of a dilemma. My carefully considered plans and projects for 2010 may be thrown into complete disarray and it is the fault of Model Zone, or rather the fault of their sale. They are selling at less than half price various boxes of plastic figures by Revell/ESCI/Italeri. They are also in matched pairs and in four main period ‘match ups’. There are Anglo Saxons and Normans, 8th Army and DAK, Cowboys and Indians and US and NVA. These are usually £5.99 and they are being churned out for £2.99 a box. Seeing these at this price got me thinking about I could possibly do with them – or was it just a case of justifying potentially buying them as they were so cheap? Certainly SWMBO would have little argument on the grounds of cost as she is a veteran bargain hunter and would appreciate my purchasing acumen (Yeah right!). The only downside I can see is that I would then need to acquire extra ‘kit’ – especially for the WW2 match up as you can’t fight in the desert without tanks and artillery etc. Given the average cost of a kit is around the £6 mark and you would be looking at around a dozen for each side (say 4 tanks, some transport, jeeps, ACs and guns and tractors and it soon mounts up. That little lot on its own would weigh in at around the £100+ very easily! The Wild West option is a non starter as I have little interest in that period and if I was gaming it would prefer to use 54mm. The Dark Age stuff is intriguing if only because of its potential for a cheap fantasy set up as well as its historical use – there are loads of Ancient/Dark Age/Medieval figures available that could be added into the mix with these. Finally that leaves the Vietnam era. This would need minimal extra kit – I reckon perhaps a couple of Airfix M113 ACAVs and the FSV variant at the most; perhaps with a chopper thrown in for good measure, and a couple of the Airfix Jungle Outpost building sets. I suspect a bag of lichen would be useful as well! So from a purely financial perspective the Dark Ages would be cheapest (DBA or HOTTs double or triple sized armies would be no problem) followed by Vietnam and then the Western Desert. Of course this fails to take into account my preferences which would probably be the WW2 option first followed by Vietnam and the Dark Ages bringing up the rear.

I have mentioned previously on the blog that I quite fancied the idea of a 20mm plastic project if only because I like working with the material and it would give me a chance for some kit bashing as well which I have missed. The problem is the fact that I have acquired the Balkan Wars stuff in 15mm and metal and they need to have priority in my efforts. As far as painting the figures are concerned that is a no brainer – block colours, old school style, followed up with Army Painter. Bish-bosh job done and thank you very much!

I suppose this serves to highlight the perennial problem of the war gamer – the huge choice we now have in our hobby and how it can cause all manner of distractions to the weak willed!
As ever, much to ponder methinks!!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Avatar: Style over Substance?

Despite the weather I finally got to see this film and was pretty impressed overall. The special effects and 3d was awesome to behold and the combat scenes were very impressive. The soundtrack was suitably 'mystical' sounding when dealing with the indigenous Na'vi - although the Leona Lewis effort over the closing credits was an odd choice I feel!

The military hardware was very good and looked suitably near future - probably no surprise given James Cameron's work on Aliens and Terminator 2 and for me the only thing missing from the gunship attack on the holy tree was Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries'! The infantry mechanical walkers were very good and the gunships suitably intimidating - it would be nice to see some these produced for wargames use although I suspect that issues of expensive licenses would probably rear its ugly head!

I was really taken with the Na'vi tribal ethos - very reminiscent of the various Native American groupings across the old west.

After all that how would I rate the film overall? To be honest, it felt a little like having a Chinese meal - great at the time but you always want something else later on. The story for me was a little on the light side and some more technical detail about the whole Avatar project would have been nice. Some of the forest scenes were a little too colourful and overdone - almost as though it was done that way because it could be and at a budget of USD 300 Million the envelope could really be pushed. That said, visually the Star Wars prequel trilogy fell into the same trap in my opinion - sometimes less is more and special effects should never be used to disguise or replace any plot shortcomings.

So despite my observations and opinions I thoroughly enjoyed the film and rumours of a sequel are abounding which would be great to see. The soundtrack CD will be on my 'to get' list as will the inevitable DVD purchase in due course - not that I have a 3d TV to fully benefit from it but you can't have everything I suppose!

It would make for fantastic wargame although modelling floating mountains may be a challenge!

Friday, 8 January 2010

War at Sea Sans the Grid ......Part 2

I have now had the opportunity to read the War at Sea table top rules derived from the Axis and Allies: War at Sea WW2 Naval game. I have to say that they look pretty good and I was most taken by the fact that they enable the gamer to have a little more control over how they manoeuvre on the tabletop. Basically, when moving a ship and dependent on the type, a player is able to face the ship in any direction by sacrificing a ‘leg’ of movement. A ‘leg’ is equal to 3” and a ship that can move 2 squares in the standard game can move 4 ‘legs’ – in other words a square equals 6”. I think this is a good idea and successfully tackles the scale issue – we are using 1/1800th scale ships on a 6ft by 4ft table after all – by removing all the issues around using turning circles and such like. I do not profess to have any expert knowledge on the turning circle of a battleship at any given speed bit I would suspect that a ship travelling at 30 knots would be able to change its facing by pretty much anything within 3 ‘legs’ or 7,500 yards (or even a square and a half and bear in mind that is equal to just under 5 miles). I realise that this statement may incur the wrath of the naval purist but as a workable game mechanic it certainly gets my vote. As both players will be under the same effect any advantages/disadvantages will be largely nullified in any event.

Gunnery now has to consider firing arcs and this is most welcome – especially in conjunction with the movement rule modifications. This means that players will need to consider how their ships are placed and so makes securing the initiative very important.

Air power is also a major beneficiary as the spacing rules mean that only a ship under direct attack can use its AA at full effect – any escorts within range (that is between 3 and 6 inches or 2 ‘legs’ away) suffer a -1 to each dice roll. Although the scaling of aircraft is, in my opinion, too high (an aircraft base represents 25 actual aircraft), at least now it has a little more survivability and will be able to attack more often, or rather, potentially have more effect when it does attack.
I have not considered Submarines yet within this version of the rules simply because using them in a naval battle is for me a non-starter although obviously for convoy actions their importance is magnified.

In summary then, I believe that this version of the War at Sea rules will have greater appeal to the traditional naval gamer and will serve to ‘open out’ the playing area to an extent. I am still committed to using grids for naval actions and certainly for larger games I think that they are a better way to play but for the smaller actions of WW2 (at least those outside of the Pacific!) the use of this variant offers a viable alternative to the original game.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

War at Sea Sans the Grid

Whilst browsing the Axis and Allies: War at Sea section of the Wizards website I came across a version of the game that made use of a tabletop rather than a grid. I know this will probably seem a little odd given my avowed intention to only fight wargames on grid but they actually look pretty good. They make full use of the existing mechanics and substitute 3" legs or increments for movement and firing ranges with, for example, a speed of two squares being equal to 4 legs with ranges etc scaled in accordingly. Ships can turn freely at the cost of one 'leg' from their speed which given the ground scale I have no problem with and is keeping within the spirit of the original game. I am not a huge fan of naval rules with detailed turning restrictions due, in part to the scale distortion (which is why I like using grids!), but the suggestion offered seems to be a viable compromise. There are some other tweaks but the most promising aspect I can see is that air power appears to receive better treatment than in the standard game.

One of the issues with the basic game is that the aircraft are scaled at one base equalling 25 actual aircraft. In theory this is fine for the 'air-heavy' carrier actions in the Pacific but not so good for the European theatre. It is currently too easy to beat air attacks off and thus aircraft carriers are expensive liabilities.

Under the gridless system (and I have not read the entire script yet so please bear with me!) only the target ship can use its AA at full effect and escorts have a reduced factor. Also, more aircraft are now able to attack a single ship thus increasing the chance of scoring some damage. This will ensure that budding admirals will have to take the air threat rather more seriously than before.

Much to ponder methinks.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Morschauser Modern Rules OK............

After much improvisation and ferreting around in my collection at home I have decided that my trial run of the Morschauser Modern Rules updated by Bob Cordery (see my previous post for details) will take place over the weekend using Memoir 44 terrain tiles and figures - together with some pieces from the old MB game of Tank Battle. I will not bother to photograph this as it will not look very pretty but I will try and write the action up on the blog.

I am looking forward to trying these out for a number of reasons - ease of play, time of play and the all important 'flavour'. They appear to have all of these in spades but you never know with a set of rules until you have a bash yourself! That said, I am confident that these will tick many of my rule requirement boxes and so this exercise is really just a confirmation.

I will also be acquiring some of the buildings for use with my own (various) gaming set ups that Bob Cordery has used to great effect in his various play tests during the evolution of these rules. The set of these is available for a mere £6.25 off Amazon and they represent great value. Ignore the livestock and train and you have a set that are usuable for anything European from 1700 upwards. Even the trees could be used although I would probably 'dip' them in flock or lichen to 'vegitate' them a little. The link is as follows:

These look really nice albeit a little on the 'chocolate box' side - but are a great and inexpensive alternative to mainstream resin type terrain (which usually need painting as well!).

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Morschauser Gridded Modern (aka WW2) Rules

I have been following with interest Bob Cordery's update of Morchauser's gridded modern set of rules from the early 1960's. These are a simple set of rules suitable for combat from the 1930's to the 1950's using a grid of 3"squares. Bob has updated these rules and tweaked them to make them a little more representative but has managed to maintain the original flavour of the set. With this in mind I acquired a piece of green felt from my local branch of Hobbycraft and now have an 11 by 11 gridded surface for trying these rules out on. I also acquired some felt squares for terrain - roads, rivers, woods etc and merely need to add some representational buildings and trees etc to complete the set up. Initially I shall experiment using pieces from Memoir 44 until I decide what I shall acquire to game with 'properly'. The rules are available as a free PDF from Bob's Red Hex Wargames website which is well worth a look in its own right. The gestation of these rules, together with some outstanding playtests, can be followed on Bob's blog -

He is also working on a version for the late 19th century - not only colonial - which may be just the thing for my Balkan Wars set up.

These rules will not be to everyone's taste but certainly for speed, ease of use and flavour they are hard to better in my opinion. The use of a grid to regulate movement and firing etc (as well as such things as minefields and hidden movement) has many practical advantages which outweigh to a large extent any perceived scale issues and such like.

Another great advantage of such an approach is that stylised nature of the game requires little in the amount of models to be representational - rather like a DBA sized set up. For WW2 I would certainly not expect to be fielding more than around 40 to 50 figures with some vehicles thrown in for good measure. This means of course that armies raised for such a set up will have a chance of getting finished! Of course it also means you can buy more of them...............................................;-)

Saturday, 2 January 2010

**Happy New Year to One and All!!**

After what seems like an age of bacchanalian excess we are finally back to a semblance of what passes for normality in deepest Rayleigh.The family are on the road to recovery although we are all still hacking away on the coughing front. As far as Xmas went I can safely say that Santa was unusually selective in his choice of prezzies for yours truly. Aside from the usual plethora of domestic sundries - smellies, pants and chocolate by the lorry load I was pleasantly surprised to receive a couple of very nice books in the shape of 'Eden to Armageddon - World War 1 in the Middle East' by Roger Ford (ISBN 978 0 297 84481 5) and 'The Battle for Spain - The Spanish Civil War 1936 - 1939' by Anthony Beevor (ISBN 13: 9780 0297848321 and 10: 0297848321). Both of these are in hardback and are superb additions to the library.
The Spanish Civil War has been a long time interest of mine although sadly I have never gotten around to gaming it. This revised and updated version of Beevor's 'The Spanish Civil War' from 1982 may revive the old yearnings of wishing to get some figures for this although not until after the Balkan Wars have been tackled!
The book by Roger Ford covers my preferred theatre of operations for World War - namely the Middle East and the trials and tribulations of the armies of the Sublime Porte. The book neatly divides into four sections - Palestine and the Arab Revolt, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and the actions against the Russians in the Caucasus. This book is a peach and I am really pleased to get this as in one volume it covers all the areas I have an interest in from the Great War. All I need now then is to think about (again) how best to tackle gaming in this theatre!
I want to keep the project list to a minimum this year - if only because I want to make sure that I finish what I start - the perennial problem for the wargamer! The Balkan are first up and if I want games in the meantime then the old standby of War at Sea and Memoir 44 will suffice to keep the grey matter ticking over.
I would also like to take this opportunity once again of thanking everyone that has contributed to and supported the blog over the last year - I certainly hope that you will continue to do so and I have valued everything thus far.
I hope that you all have a peaceful and prosperous 2010 and that whatever projects you are involved with all bear fruit.
Peace and goodwill.