Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Beau, you must be Gesting..............

I arrived home after an exhausting day at work safe in the knowledge that it would not be getting easier as the week unfolds. I was therefore, very pleased to see that Amazon had delivered my copy of Martin Windrow's 'Our Friends Beneath The Sands - The Foreign Legion in France's Colonial Conquests 1870-1935'. This is a great doorstop of a tome and is destined to become a classic judging by all the rave reviews.

I will report in full later but this promises to be a top drawer read and full of inspiration as the desert campaigns of the Legion are superb wargames raw material. There are lots of maps and photographs and the Legions involvement in Indo China is also covered for a change, not just the Sahara.

It looks like I shall be busy then.............;-)

Monday, 30 August 2010

A Weekend Afloat

Well not exactly but it did seem to be naval orientated! I have managed to get the latest acquisitions to the War at Sea collection up to the 'waves, wakes and labels' stage with the exception of the G/H class destroyers for the Royal Navy. The only reason they have been left out is simply because I shall be repainting them in to something a little more RN 194o vintage.

The most 'rounded' acquistions for the collection has to be for the Italians, gaining as they do a pair of rebuilt barrleships, a pair of heavy cruisers, eight destroyers and a flying boat! The Greeks get the Averof (see the picture above), a pair of G class destroyers and four ex RN Flower class corvettes.

The German navy gain six late war Narvik class destroyers (armed to the teeth!) whilst the RN has to make do with three R class battleships and a County class heavy cruiser.

I will post pictures when these are finished and whilst surveying the collection I was left with the feeling that it is getting pretty close to as much as I am ever likely to need!

Well, perhaps not - especially as the next expansion is due out in December...........;-)

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones - Once upon a time in the Crusades

Back in the boot sale groove on a very very blustery and wet Sunday and boy did I score big! First up was a pristine hardback copy of the book The Crusades - (the BBC TV series) by Monty Python's Terry Jones. I have some more detailed works on the subject but this was a cracking TV series and the book is a very good primer. This cost me the princely sum of 50p. I also acquired a paperback omnibus of the first three Indiana Jones films - Raiders, Temple and Last Crusade. The cover is a little creased but this will be a good one for the train journey to and from work. I also acquired the 2 disc DVD special edition of Once Upon a Time in the West - the Sergio Leone film starring Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson for a pound.

Pride of place though was numbers 1 to 54 of the GW partwork Lord of the Rings - the magazine supporting the games produced by them of Peter Jackson's film trilogy. Over half of them still have the figures in the plastic bags (or the metals in their clear plastic and card blister packs) and those that are not 'on the magazine' have been undercoated and assembled. A few of the figures are damaged and certainly numbers of the bases are missing but this would be easily rectified. Also included was the plastic box this lot was stored in and a copy of the artwork book covering the film of The Two Towers.

This was completely unexpected and I am unsure what I will do with this although the figures are fantastic for use with any Tolkein based skirmish - which is unsurprising given that is the subject matter of the game! The price for this collection was £10 and I am confident that even if I decided to offload the entire amount I will easily make considerably more than I paid for it!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Robot Wars on the Cheap

The picture above is of the robots available in plastic from EM4 Miniatures manufactured in hard plastic and easily suitable for scales from 6mm to 28mm. These are priced at a mere £2.50 for 5 models (one of each) and you are able to customise the weapons fit which is useful. From a gaming perpsective I have always enjoyed battles between these giant robots or 'Mechs and there are many sets of rules available covering this genre. As a small diversion I intend painting up some of these (I only have 10 so it should not take too long!) for a club night knockabout type of game - possibly making use of the Heroscape terrain I have.
As far as the paint job is concerned I am thinking about some nice camouflague schemes for the two sides and also making use of some of the many sets of waterslide transfers I have tucked away. EM4 are well worth a look for odss and ends and you can also get the plastic versions of the space fighter types from the sadly out of print boardgame - Silent Death.

Boxing Clever

As mentioned on more than one occasion I am in desperate need of a new storage facility for my War at Sea collection. At the present time it lives in two box files and an old cutlery box (about the size of two box files side by side) but these have now passed the point where the models can be comfortably stored. My solution to this predicament is very much in the nature of an improvisation but thus far appears to be OK. Basically I have added a tray insert into the two box files made from foam card so there is now two levels for the models. I have also lined both the file and the tray with magnetic strip (actually a supply of Rochford District Council Recycling fridge magnets!) and will line the underside of the model bases with some magnetic paper. The models are light and so having them magnetically fixed in their storage will make it easier to travel with and pack - not to mention the ease of selection of specific models for a game!

I am also tackling the basing this weekend of a further 35 ships and one aircraft model. At last the Royal Navy have their R class battleships! I also note that the next expansion set for War at Sea has been scheduled for December this year so I guess I will need to think about my wish list for when this comes along!

Axis and Allies: War at Sea 33% and Floored

Whilst on holiday I was able to spend a little time considering the ‘tweaking’ of the Axis and Allies: War at Sea rules in order to turn them into something a little more ‘wargames-like’. You may recall that I had previously considered morale etc in order to avoid the ‘last ship afloat is the winner’ syndrome. An idea I am mulling over is to apply DBA type victory conditions i.e. when a fleet loses a third of its number then it is deemed to require breaking off of the action where possible thereby conceding the game. At first thought this would mean that ships would then concentrate on the most vulnerable targets in order to gain a quick win. I have considered this and think that perhaps applying a degree of weighting to the required victory total would be a good idea – almost like using the points system from HOTT.

The answer came about in an unusual way. In the War at Sea rules damage is applied in terms of hull hits. The number of hull hits varies by ship type from 1 to 5 or 6. Typically, destroyers have 2 hull points, most cruisers 3 and battleships etc 4 upwards. Using this as a guide then a typical fleet might consist of half a dozen destroyers (each of 2 hull points), a pair of cruisers (of 2 or 3 hull points) and a couple of battleships (of 4 or 5 points). Totalling the hull points would come out at, for example, 28 points using the maximum scores quoted. Taking this as an example then 28 divided by 3 comes out at 9.33, call it 9 for arguments sake. This means that when the fleet has lost more than 9 hull points it has in effect lost the game.

The weighting aspect refers to the relative importance attached to the types of ships making up the fleet. Using the fleet above as an example then the priority would typically be to sink the largest enemy vessels present so the escorts would be relatively unimportant – unless of course they were attacking the key units.

My suggestion then would be to that no single ship type can contribute more than 50 percent to the total hull points required for victory UNLESS the entire type can, by being hit/sunk, exceed the notional 33 percent limit. In other words (and still using the example above) if the fleet lost, for example 4 of its 6 destroyers then that would be 8 hull points in total. Using the 50 percent rule only 4.5 (or 4 rounded down) would count towards the 33 percent (9 in the example) score required for victory unless another destroyer was damaged/sunk which would then make the score 10 hull points which would be enough for the win.

So what is the point of this exercise then? Well, for one I would like to see players having to think about the fact that fighting to the last ship should not be the acme of naval command. Even in a non scenario based game (the dreaded ‘one off’) tabletop admirals need to be mindful of the forces they have at their disposal and that they are not for indiscriminate use, representing as they do a nations substantial investment in men and material.

A further consideration I have is to dispense with the use of the ship cards currently used – particularly the special abilities. The reason for this is that all the ship data could be easily added to a spreadsheet which would be more user friendly (and less likely to get lost!) and gives the game a more 'wargames like' feel. Many of the special abilities should be automatically assigned to types rather than individual ships e.g. chasing the salvoes (this gives destroyers a saving throw when under heavy gunfire), laying a smokescreen, torpedo defence etc.

I would like to trial the 33% rule at out next club session due on Wednesday 03/09. For this game we are using the ‘off the grid’ version as we now have available at the club an additional room with a turquoise speckled floor covering, ideal for the Mediterranean. The community centre the club uses has knocked through a dividing wall between our room with the one adjacent and replaced the wall with some sliding partitions. This gives us not only more space (almost double) but it means that we can have more games on the go (each with fewer participants) as well as a great space for naval games.

It also means that we can fight 20th century naval games at more sensible looking ranges and at long last I may even be able to get some decent pictures of the action!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A Very Odd Turkish Delicacy.............

............and this is one that the Man Cave of my Antipodean chum will appreciate!
Cheers Tas - it was very tasty, especially when washed down with some Efes served cold!

Paraguay, Paraguay....You are in my thoughts but why?

Well to start with, my much delayed parcel of new ships for the WW2 collection (R class battleships, Duilios, G class destroyers, Soldatis etc) which had been despatched on July 6th finally arrived on August 18th. I have never had a parcel from the US take as long as this and the reason was that its journey across the Atlantic was via Paraguay!

I recently drew Paraguay in not one but two sweepstakes for the recent world cup and I am beginning to think that perhaps there is an element of synchronicity here......................perhaps a word with Mr.Cordery may be in order on the subject in question...............;-)

Like I need another project.....................;-)

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

It was hot. Absolutely scorching hot with the temperature hitting 53 Centigrade at the hottest part of the two weeks. It was as much as we could do to drag ourselves to the pool or the beach for the most part and any thoughts about long and leisurely exploration of any of the sites of historical interest in the area (more of which later) were firmly kicked into touch!

I won't go into finite detail of the trip but suffice it to say we had a fantastic time and I managed to get a few things done - not least of which the next instalment of The Sword in the Sand which I am hoping to have ready over the next few days and will post accordingly when ready.

Highlights of the tour included a drive by of Tlos - the capital of the ancient Lycians (including some fantastic rock tombs - not unlike a mini version of Petra in Jordan), a walk along the spectacular Saklikent Gorge (the mountain stream running through it was refreshingly cold!) and mountains. Lots of mountains - little wonder as we were on the edge of the Taurus range. It seemed a little odd to be surrounded by conifers and Mediterranean blue sea with 45 degree plus heat! We tried the mud baths which were great fun and I had a superb shave at a Turkish Barbers which is a real treat and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Turkey.

The blue lagoon of Olu Deniz was absolutely stunning and we spent a number of days on the various private beaches just messing about in the water, feeding the fish and soaking up the rays.
Food wise we ate three times our bodyweight in Meze with grilled meats and this was wonderful (any pangs of guilt felt by such indulgence were offset by the healthy nature of the diet - not so much 5 a day, more like 10!) - I probably also consumed a small tanker full of Efes beer as well although this was purely to keep the fluid levels up! Pide is the Turkish version of a pizza and these are really tasty - they tend to not have the cheese element and are a cheap and filling snack.

Olu Deniz is also a major centre for paragliding and although I did not have a go at this it was incredible watching them literally floating over our heads - at one point I counted 20 in the air at once. It did however, give me an idea for a Victorian Science Fiction Turkish air assault unit...................;-)

The Answer to the Eastern Question

Günaydın kimse bir bütün! (Good morning one and all!)

I am back and am now knee deep in shopping, sorting post, hanging out washing, picking up pets and all the other stuff you have to take of when getting back from holiday.

I will report back in detail later today if I get the chance and will answer all emails etc as soon as I am able to.

All the best.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Before the After Action Report or Contemplating my Naval

In advance of my after action report (which sadly I will not have time to prepare before jetting off) I thought it would be a good idea to describe some of the points arising from the game in a detached and objective fashion. As mentioned previously, the game was going to be fought using the rules as written and thus this action can be described as being ‘plain vanilla’.

The rule mechanics worked well enough although the final scrap metal count was pretty high. The gunnery was as tense as ever - I am convinced that rolling lots of dice is better than a single with a load of modifiers applied – and torpedo attacks were unusually effective (probably due to some outrageous dice rolls!). Overall I was happy with this aspect of the game. I still think that ship’s facing and fire arcs etc should be represented in some way – this will encourage a little more manoeuvre – but accept the ‘fudge’ of the rules.

We used the standard objective counter and ships sunk points total to determine the winner on a ‘first past the post’ basis. Obviously at 50 points a time the objective markers were hotly contested from the outset (well two of them were – the third was deliberately ignored by the RN) and as these acted as magnets to the opposing sides it meant that ships got up close and personal very quickly. This was OK in respect of the fact it forced players to act but it did feel a little artificial. Similarly, damaged and crippled ships were happy to fight on until sunk and seeing a pair of opposing cripples slugging it out at point blank range like something out of a Rocky film was a little incongruous, to say the least. It did get me thinking about fleet morale and such like and I came up with the following ideas.

A ship sustaining damage rolls a d6 at the end of the turn the damage has been inflicted. If the dice score is equal to or less than the number of damage points carried then that ship must break off the action and retire at its best speed to its own start line and then leave the table. This roll is not made every turn – only when damage is sustained.

A crippled ship must also break off the action and retire at its best speed to its own start line and then leave the table.

The idea behind these two rules is twofold: firstly, it will ensure that crippled ships will take little further part in the action as they are effectively attempting to clear the scene as soon as possible and secondly, once ships start taking hits there is a possibility that discretion may prove to be the better part of valour and a vessel may decide to ‘bug out’. The damage system as it stands does not specify types of damage so should a battleship fail its roll having suffered but a single hit it could be assumed that the type of damage sustained has compromised its efficiency in some way – a good example of which would be the electrical failure on a US battleship (off the top of my head I can’t remember which one but it was during a battle!). The ship was undamaged but with no power so that would certainly ruin your day. A similar thing happened to the Prince of Wales leading up to its sinking so the point is even relatively minor damage could prompt a captain to withdraw (arguably this was what convinced the Italians to withdraw when Warspite scored her single long range hit on the Guilio Cesare.

In a nutshell it means that a commander cannot guarantee that once his ships start taking damage that they will happily sit around and take it. Of course this could be scenario specifically modified if need be; it could even be tweaked for national characteristics should the need arise and is felt desirable.

A further issue was seen to be the fact that whilst the damage effect of hitting a destroyer is about right it does seem far too easy to score hits on them. One of the variants I have seen allows all destroyers to use the ‘chasing the salvoes’ special ability which means that they are allowed a single d6 roll per turn which negates any damage sustained that game turn by scoring, if I remember correctly, a 5 or 6. My own feeling is to make it harder to hit destroyers in the first place – perhaps just 5 and 6s rather than 4, 5 and 6s. A small destroyer speeding along at 30 kts; dodging and weaving as it does, will be a tricky target to hit but make no mistake, a single 6” shell hit exploding in its vitals will ruin its day in no uncertain terms!

Much to ponder methinks, whilst dipping my toes in the Mediterranean and consuming a small quart of Turkish beer - the legendary Efes………………….;-)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

War at Sea with Napoleonic Turkish Delight.........

This evening at the club will be my last visit for a number of weeks due to the impending family holiday to Turkey. The game will be the postponed RN versus French Navy circa. 1940 using Axis and Allies: War at Sea. The game will be a ‘plain vanilla’ action i.e. we shall be using the rules as they are in the booklet with none of the suggested local amendments and house rules. We are fighting with fleets made up of 250 which will enable three or four capital ships a side with a suitable escort and perhaps some cruiser support. The RN fleet list is drafted and ready and is loosely based on the famous Force H operating out of Gibraltar during WW2. The French opposition will be a surprise although as I am familiar with all of the ships in the collection I may be able to make a couple of educated guesses! I will try to get some kind of an after action report drafted for the blog before I depart on Saturday.

I have decided to donate my blue gridded cloth to the club for use with War at Sea as it is far too large for me to use at home – when we use this at the club it is on three trestle tables with a plywood spacer so is around 9 foot by 6. As a number of gamers at the club now own fleets it makes more sense for the cloth to be there rather than at my home where I am unable to use it due to space limitations. Another advantage will of course be that gamers will be able to use it when I am not around due to work and holidays etc. I cannot claim the credit for this being solely my idea – my good friend Mr. Kightly suggested leaving it at the club – although I am more than happy to oblige as it is such a sensible idea.

One of things that I shall be considering for my War at Sea collection is a small number of repainting jobs. I have already mentioned about the repainting of the Canadian Tribal Class destroyers I undertook some time ago but this time I am looking at aircraft. I have 4 bases of Swordfish that are painted in overall green – the shade of green is OK – but with no Fleet Air Arm grey to be seen. I also have an American Catalina painted in overall navy blue that will need some attention. Add to that the Martlets (FAA Wildcats) that are currently in overall white and you can see what I mean. Even the Sea Hurricane is in 1940 RAF green and brown. I realise this could be seen as the thin end of the wedge (I really do not want to be painting everything – especially with the size the collection is now!) but the Swordfish model really needs some attention at the very least.

On a completely different subject at long last Worthington Games have released the first in their figures based board games covering the wars of Napoleon Bonaparte and the initial set covers that old favourite – the 100 Days. Their game rules are a variant of the Command and Colours card driven system designed by Richard Borg and featuring in Memoir 44, Battle Cry!, Battle Lore and C and C Ancients. The major difference is that they do not use cards; rather a d6 is rolled to determine command points – similar to any one of the myriad DBA and HOTT derived rules available. This is a great advantage in my opinion over the card system in that it is more suitable for solo play and also avoids the paralysing effect of having a hand full of duff cards – it seems easier (although probably no less painful!) to blame a poor dice roll than a bad draw! The rules for the game are available to download from the company website http://www.worthingtongames.com/detailnw100.html and they represent, for me in any event, a great opportunity to game Napoleonics cheaply and effectively. The game mechanics are very simple and capture all those facets beloved of Napoleonic enthusiasts – skirmishers, shock cavalry, squares, grand batteries and personalities. I shall be collecting my copy of this soon and will report further when I have played a couple of games with it.

I shall be working on a number of ideas whilst on my holiday e.g. the War at Sea campaign system – more specifically the map movement system – as well as the next instalment of The Sword in the Sand as these will be a welcome fill in during those occasional ‘chill out’ moments. Sometimes abroad it is too hot to read (at the moment our holiday destination is a minimum of 31 degrees Celsius for the next 5 days – bless the BBC World Service!) but that does not stop me from thinking and making the odd note about various ideas and projects – in fact last year I was able to prepare ship stats for all nationalities for my grid based, DBSA derived naval set so the time spent is usually profitable. I generally try to concentrate on ideas that are currently ‘on the go’ rather than completely new projects but the downside is that I shall probably be inspired (even more so) by all things Turkish and upon my return then head off on a completely different tack – Seljuk Turks anyone? I shall be visiting one of their castles after all!

The upshot of this is that in addition to a couple of books I will also be taking a couple of notebooks and writing kit so my ‘me’ time will be gainfully employed.

I should also add to the list the distractions of the pool, the Mediterranean, Efes beer, grilled lamb and the unadulterated luxury of a proper Turkish bath…………………..;-)

Monday, 2 August 2010

Taking the Myth...................

............and turning into a classic film. I picked up the DVD of Jason and the Argonauts (1963) at our usual Sunday boot sale for £1 and it was almost like welcoming back an old friend! I loved this film as a young lad and although the special effects look a little dated when compared to today's CGI efforts they are still very impressive. Talos (voted the second best film monster after King Kong) the bronze giant is very impressive - I always liked the horrible tortured metallic rasping he made when walking - and of course the skeletons sown from the Hydras teeth. I was surprised that the leading man - Todd Armstrong - had his voice dubbed for the film (as did the leading lady) as their American accents were deemed to be out of place with the English accents of the rest of the cast!

Steve Barber Games produces some lovely 28mm figures for the Argonaut adventures but although few figures would be required this would be a diversion I should try to avoid!

I have a number of books on Greek Mythology so may well revisit these as some of my holiday reading.