Sunday 29 November 2009

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I finally remembered exactly what I had purchased the two Renault FT17 kits was of course for the Spanish Civil War. I was really into this period a couple of years of ago (or rather, I amassed a number of books and rule sets with a view to gaming it at some point) but abandoned it as I was unable to drum up any support at the club. In the light of certain rule developments over the last year or so I could revisit it quite easily on the same scale figure wise as the Balkan Wars. Even the naval side is of interest although, like the Balkan Wars, it was a relatively low level affair in terms of numbers. All the major vessels are available in 1/3000th from Navwar as well.

I need to add this back to the project list - if only so as I have a good excuse for revisiting the Hemingway title of the same name as the title of the post!

Thursday 26 November 2009

Back in the Rat Race...........

I am very happy to announce that after 258 days of unemployment I have FINALLY managed to secure a short term contract back at work in the city -HUZZAH!!!!!!

The job is at a lower level than my previous position but is most welcome all the same. With college coming to an end in respect of my teaching qualification the timing is first class as I will be able to catch up on a load of stuff without the college assignments intervening before I tackle the next stage in January. It also means that I will be able to afford Christmas!

Guess I will need to look long and hard at what I shall be up to on the gaming front. Now, just where did I put that projects list?

Monday 23 November 2009


As a extension to my earlier mention re the 20th century project and the Risk based 18th century version I found myself considering the concept of using Imagi-nations rather than 'real' ones. Within the wargaming world there is of course a historical precedent for this - one only has to read Charge! or The Wargame to see this in action, and great fun they are but how does one reconcile the hours of research into a particular army or period against what, in effect, are 'fantasy' set ups? My own opinion is that I am a student of military history first and a wargames player second. By this I mean I am more familiar with the actual nuts and bolts of a given period in terms of tactics, technology and strategy (dare I say it, the art of war) than, for example, the composition of the umpteenth Regiment of Foot and whether or not the sleeves had four buttons or six. That is not to say that the study of such minutiae is not important - it is, and I am properly impressed with anyone that tackles such detail and incorporates it into their games and collection. I suppose that is probably why I enjoy boardgames so much - military history without the painting!

Seriously though, I am fast becoming a convert to the concept of imagi-nations as they provide a 'freer' environment for gaming - you can use whatever you like - as long as its in period. There has ben a great discussion on about the armies used in the book Charge! Basically, it was a collection of units that were split up into armies as the game dictated. Certain units saw service on both sides and this got me thinking about how I should pursue my own ideas. Charles Grant in his book Battle! Practical Wargaming often mixed and matched forces based on the models available - Airfix WW2 Russians with Minitanks Hanomags anyone? The reference to unscrupulous arms dealers originally came from that book. Bob Cordery in his excellent blog has many posts devoted to imagi-nations and I have to confess that this has inspired me mightily - especially in respect of the 20th century. With this in mind, and in order to use as much of what is available figure and kit wise, I am going to give some serious thought to the much considered but never realised Balkanized country set up - a pair of nations, bordering either the Aegean or Black Sea - one under Russian influence, the other under the Sublime Porte and set in the early 1920s with lots of WW1 surplus kit to play with.

For the naval side I have a collection of Minifigs ships just waiting for a paint job and with the vast array of magnificent WW1 Aircraft available from Wings of War this becomes truly a multi-dimensional affair.

Imagi-nations are certainly not to everyones taste and to be honest, I can see the reservations as well as anyone (unique uniforms and equipment being the obvious one) but that said, I think they have a very valid place in the scheme of things - in effect, it is a translation of the standard military Redland versus Blueland scenario using whatever models the gamer wants.

Besides, variety is the spice of life and it would be a sad state of affairs if we all did everything the same!

Sunday 22 November 2009

Living in the Plastic Age.....................

Between large lumps of college assignments and the more mundane business of trying to find a job I have given some additional thought to the question of my small 20th century mini project. I have decided to apply some fairly rigid restrictions to the amount of material I shall be acquiring for this, as yet undecided diversion, in an attempt to stretch my creative spleen, so to speak. I have decided then, to limit the total cost of the project to £25. I have also decided that it would be a worthwhile idea to expand the time frame to take advantage of the deluge of figures available for the ancient and dark age period - given my previous intention of tackling a pair of matched DBA armies. At current prices the figure I have quoted equates to perhaps four boxes of figures or a couple of boxes and a pair of plastic kits.

This is a challenge that I shall enjoy attempting as it will serve to really focus my efforts on exactly what I can produce within the imposed budget. Checking out what is available in 20m plastic has been a very therapeutic experience as the choice available now is absolutely staggering. is a brilliant website full of all manner of reviews and pictures of figures on the sprue and painted.

I must confess to always enjoying working with 20mm plastics - even in the days of purely Airfix figures and Humbrol paints - and nowadays they are both easier to use and paint. I know there is the old argument about meaningless poses in the box but this is a small price to pay because in a set of 48 figures (on average) allowing for example 16 figures being 'unusable' that still leaves 32 usable figures at an average cost of £5 to £6 a box. Taking 32 figures at £6 a box is a mere 18.75p a go which competes very favourably with 15mms.

I am not suggesting that this will be all things to all men but certainly it has its attractions for me. By keeping the numbers small I can ensure that not only will I be able to complete the project but also that I will be gaming to the measure of the available material.

A very good gaming friend of mine has established by way of a tradition, a Christmas project. Every year, over the Christmas break (I should mention that he is in fact a teacher so has rather longer over the festive season than most people) he undertakes a top secret project to be rolled out in January. Taking a leaf from his book perhaps that concept is what I should undertake this year with the 20mms, in whatever form or period they eventually take.

Saturday 21 November 2009

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.........Part 2

Events have moved on from my previous post and I have been pleased with the response it has received from various quarters. The second part of this project is the announcement that I have drafted a set of spaceship combat rules based on my earlier DBSA naval gridded set. These have been drafted in their entirety should anybody want a set but they are completely untested. I will not be able to test them for a while as I am busy with college stuff for the next few weeks as well as preparing for an assessment day with a Financial Services training provider (I am really pleased to have been given the opportunity for this) with a potential job offer at the end of it (Huzzah!!!).

My blue gridded cloth will suffice for use with these rules as the blue is a very nice 'night' shade so I will be able to give the rules a run fairly soon. Fortunately, the members of SEEMS have a multitude of space ship fleets ready at a moments notice to do battle so this wont be a problem.

As it stands at the time of writing I am in the unenviable position of having a set of rules but no models to game them with. This minor oversight will soon be rectified however, and in quite a novel and inexpensive fashion..................................;-)

Wednesday 18 November 2009

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.........

I have always enjoyed battles with spaceships and more recently, gaming them. Through my first tenative steps via Waddingtons 4,000 A.D. (I still have a copy of this from about 1974!), then Full Thrust by GZG (especially the great Star Trek variant), Battlefleet Gothic by Games Workshop and latterly Star Wars Starship Battles; the idea of great planet busting starships several kilometres in length going at it hammer and tongs is a concept I find strangely appealing. I am not concerned with gaming in 3D with such things as height considerations (although Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan featured this very idea) as at the scale I want to fight (we are talking fleets here!) it would be way too complicated to employ. So, 2D it is, which nicely opens up the first statement: "A 2D space combat game is a naval game by any other name." This is true, and however much we try to disguise the fact with pseudo-scientific techno babble when you break a space combat game down to its bare bones you have guns, torpedoes, armour and variable amounts of damage. I realise that some Sci-Fi purists will probably now be lining up to burn me at the stake but I genuinely believe that this is the case. True we have phasers, lasers, photon torpedoes, proton torpedoes and various forms of defensive shield but these are the aforementioned guns, torpedoes and armour. What is needed then, is some way of reinforcing the Sci-Fi aspect of the game as clearly the weapons will not suffice. I am happy with using naval mechanics for firing and damage (with reference to armour/shields) but certainly not for damage control (the curse of the damage record card!) and also, more significantly, for movement.

Taking the concept of space conflict using spaceships as a whole - and with reference to a host of fiction on the subject - it can be seen that whilst the actual combat has a common theme (weapons blazing away at an enemy) the way that they get to grips has some pretty major differences. I mean movement or, more specifically, how a ship moves through space. this is to my mind the key for a good space combat game. I have considered four basic ship movement types as follows:

  • Saucers

  • Rockets

  • Starships

  • Solar Sailing Vessels

Of these, the most visual is the Starship type as personified by anything from the Star Trek universe or even Star Wars. Overall they seem to be able maneuver pretty easily and within our game are probably the closest to 20th century warships as they move. Solar Sailing vessels use the solar wind or gravitational effects to 'slingshot' through space; rather like the wooden sailing vessels of Nelson's era. Saucers are fast and highly maneuverable which ties in with the reported sightings of UFOs that make the news every so often. Rockets move at a set speed in a straight line and have limited maneuverability but are able to change the ships heading whilst still travelling in the original direction. To turn the ship, or to be more accurate to head off in a new direction, requires the rocket to use thrusters to overcome the speed travelled in order to move off so, in other words, the faster the rocket is travelling, the further it needs to move before it can move in a new direction - rather like aircraft turning.

The great thing about space combat games is that like naval games, they can be done very much on the cheap as the amount of kit required is quite small (although I dare say any die hard Battlefleet Gothic players would probably disagree!). It is surprising though just what can be pressed in to use as a spaceship.................................;-)

There is a point to this post (albeit arrived at in my usual rambling fashion!) and all will be revealed in due course but I just wanted to share the germ of an idea and to see what response it generated. Suffice it to say, it will be worth it.........................;-)

Monday 16 November 2009

The Next Great Adventure....Part 2

It is funny how an idea can grow from the most unlikely sources - another example I guess of synchronicity in action - and so it was I found myself browsing the Hat Industrie website to look at what there is in the way of 20mm plastics, ostensibly to see what was around in the 20th century stakes. There is some very nice stuff on there; particularly on the World War 1 list - and I noticed that the Aussies are being represented by ANZAC infantry with a heavy weapons set on the way and also, a box of the famed Lighthorsemen - including dismounted figures and a horseholder. With the Turks being represented (together with heavy weapons including artillery) already the fact that Hat have also released the old Airfix Arabs you can see where this is heading. All that is missing is some Imperial infantry and artillery and the Middle East is a goer! Chuck in some Indian troops and the possibilities are huge. I note also that the Germans in East Africa are also being readied - the Askari are already in production - and that such things as native bearers and Ruga Ruga are also underway.

The Colonial range is also developing nicely and if the NW Frontier ever gets a shout then I shall be all over them like the proverbial rash - Malakand field force anyone?

Lots of possibilities with this little lot and so I need to get my thinking hat on - 15mm metal be blowed - this will be a whole lot more entertaining!

Sunday 15 November 2009

The Next Great Adventure

Now that the naval rules project is pretty much complete (at least this phase of the project is!) I am able to sit back and ponder the myriad of projects that I can undertake next. The historic projects are rather on the large side and these are as follows:

  • 15mm 18th century Ottoman Turks
  • 15mm Balkan Wars
  • 12mm Risk 18th century Imagi-nations
  • 1/3000th WW1 French Fleet

These are the projects that I would ideally like to start but suspect that this will not happen for a while due to time constraints (aka lots of college stuff). I actually need to buy the models for both the Balkan wars and the 1/3000th French so that will cause even more of a delay. I must confess that I quite fancy a quick historic project that will be compact in both terms of scale and cost. Several ideas spring to mind - most of which involve 20mm plastics - so I will give this some further thought. Something 20th century would be fun, especially as it will give me an excuse to make some kits again which is something I enjoy.

What I have available within my collection that is in need of attention is primarily Science Fiction based. I have a number of models for various ideas and these are as follows:

  • Ottoman Turkish Dirigible Fleet and the RNAS Red Sea squadron
  • Ottoman Turkish and Imperial Land Ironclads forces
  • 2mm GZG OGRE models
  • 28mm Combat Zone near future marines (think Aliens!)
  • Various Space Hulk ideas
  • Spaceships - lots of spaceships
  • Robots - lots of robots
  • 1/2400 ACW ironclads
  • 1/2400 16th century galley fleets

On balance I really do not have any excuse for embarking on any new projects but I am quite sure that most (if not all!) war gamers need very little excuse to dive in to something extra!

Of course, I also want a good excuse to try out some of the Army Painter Quickshade I recently acquired secondhand...................;-)

Friday 13 November 2009

DBSA - The Great War at Sea Gridded...A Footnote

With a huge sigh of relief I sat down to consider what needed finishing off on the rules for the final version. The short answer is not really very much and so I have listed out that which needs attention as follows:

  • Map movement
  • Scenario types for one off games and some victory conditions!
  • Minefields
  • Submarines
  • Merchantmen and raiders
  • Air assets
  • Shore defences - forts and gun batteries etc

I also need to work on the ship specification charts for the Royal Navy and the High Seas Fleet - and the Japanese and US Navy. I have most of the detail for these already in place but I need to tweak a few things as my ideas have evolved over time.

I will be consolidating all the written stuff into a single file in due course (probably with a few format changes for tidying up purposes) but in the meantime the rules and the ship specifications are available on request should anybody want them - just ping me an email.

Thursday 12 November 2009

An Archimedes Moment....At Last!!!

EUREKA!!!!!!!!! The DBSA The Great War at Sea Gridded Naval Rules have finally hit the jackpot and WORK!!!! I cant begin to tell you how pleased I am to be at this point with the system. The game at the club featured Black Sea Fleet Russians versus Austro Hungarians and it went pretty well. I used my gridded cloth (11 by 14 squares) with the combatants approaching from diagonally opposite corners. The Austrians fielded a pair of Dreadnoughts, a pair of pre dreadnoughts, a pair of light cruisers and four bases of destroyers whilst the Russians had three dreadnoughts, a protected cruiser, two bases each of destroyers and torpedo boats.

The forces went pretty much full tilt straight for each other but it was gratifying to see proper screening of the heavy units by the escorts in the case of the Austrians - Mr Fox (despite his recent illness) displayed his customary naval cunning in this respect - although they paid a high price in that both the light cruisers (acting as flotilla leaders) ended the action in a crippled and sinking condition. The same thing happened to the Russian cruiser and all the destroyer bases received some damage both from their opposite numbers and the unwelcome attention of the vast array of secondary weapons from the respective battle lines.

I appreciate that is a little vague but all will be clear when I run the solo game. Tactically (and in terms of the game itself) it went very well and 'felt' right although one off naval games tend to be rather heavy on escorts as the natural war gamers tendency to chuck everything in against the opposition with little thought as to the aftermath usually comes to the fore.

Movement finally makes sense and works well - the use of the diagonal plane and 45 degree turns is a winning combination and also has the added advantage of ease of plotting for map moves etc. Even the split move idea worked well - I will make a card of some sort with long or short on each side to use as a visual reminder as to the speed for the turn.

Combat was good - results seemed about right and were heavier than the previous edition - this was what I wanted to enable greater decisiveness in the action. The only problem was that I had failed to allow for extreme scores against destroyers - this is easily rectified though.

Now that the main system has been proven to work I want to expand the rules in two directions. Firstly, I want to extend the set to cover up to 1945 - this means air power and such things as radar etc. I also, more importantly, want to introduce a simple plotting device to accompany the tabletop game to give some background to the action. I shall do this in conjunction with specific scenario types - either mutually agreed or randomly generated. This will make the games more 'formed' and with specific victory conditions which should serve to alleviate the kamikaze escort syndrome to an extent.

Once again I find myself extending my grateful thanks to many people for their unstinting help with this project thus far; in particular the aforementioned Mr Fox, Chris Hardman, Bob Cordery and Aussie Paul, all the members of SEEMS (especially Dave Kightly and Laurie)together with everybody that has read and commented on the blog on the evolution of this so far. Many thanks to one and all - I could not have done it without you!

Sunday 8 November 2009

3rd Balkan War Afloat....Part 2

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!! I am hanging my head in shame at the extent of my folly! There I was, all set to game the clash of the dreadnoughts from the 3rd Balkan War when I made a horrible discovery. I had rushed into print the wrong version of the rules I was going to use and to compound this error I had then inadvertently saved over the wrong set. this was not fatal but it did mean I had to spend some time on the PC trying to sort out my self inflicted debacle. After much trial and effort (as well as muttered curses!) I finally managed to get the latest version sorted out and saved in an easily recognisable format.

Needless to say, after that little administrative faux pas I was not able to get the promised action underway. No matter, Ishall press on and will tackle the same next weekend and during the week (on Wednesday) the postponed match up of Black Sea Fleet Russian versus the Austro-Hungarians will take place at the club. This should be good for plenty of action methinks - especially when the respective dreadnoughts start trading salvoes.

Apologies to all that were expecting to read the report of the Greeks and Turks bashing each other - it will have to be a pleasure deferred!

Saturday 7 November 2009

3rd Balkan War Afloat

For my solo play test I am planning to run the 3rd Balkan War Afloat which will see the Turks attempting to regain some islands lost in the 1st war. This means that both sides will have access to the hypothetical hardware that was either built and requisitioned or laid down but not completed. That means dreadnoughts - and how!

This will be a serious play test with records of dice rolls, moves etc and hopefully some pictures. I will try and get some maps done as well for the after action report which I shall try to write up either this evening or tomorrow so watch this space!

Friday 6 November 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of a Naval Wargamer...... Part 2.

After my angst-ridden post of yesterday and an evening of soul-searching I managed to tweak the rules into something a whole lot more palatable. The movement now includes the use of diagonals and the combat has been streamlined. I have changed damage effects slightly so that now hits are scored based on the margin of victory i.e. up to 3 over the target score is a single hit, 4 or 5 is two hits and 6 plus means a cripple or a sink if torpedoed. It eases the maths required and is faster in resolution. Hits still need to be rolled for to see what they are (normal, flood or fire) only now torpedo hits are solely flood damage. Again, this is a speed issue so it makes life a little easier.

I hope to try these on a live audience next week at the club with a solo run out in the interim - I also want to get a new playing surface sorted out as well so I can photograph the action as well. this will give the after action reports a little more spice!

Thursday 5 November 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of a Naval Wargamer.......

..........Are indeed many and varied! This Wednesday at the club saw yet another play test of my DBSA - The Great War at Sea Gridded naval rules. If you recall I may have mentioned that this week would see the Black Sea Russians taking on the Austro-Hungarians owned by Mr Fox. Sadly, he is suffering from a dose of the screaming awfuls and was too ill to attend (wishing you a speedy recovery old boy!) and so once again the Greeks and the Turks took to the sea to try the fortunes of their respective flags. The action was loosely based on the Battle of Lemnos and the result was a Turkish winning draw in that whilst both sides lost a base of destroyers and a battleship (a Greek Hydra class and the Hayreddin Barbarossa) the Turks were rather more successful with their gunnery and had inflicted damage across much of the Greek navy. I shall refrain from describing the action in detail simply because all it did was to highlight some basic problems with the rules.

Movement needs to be revised - although the existing system of 90 degree turns and square displacement means that you are able to cover every square on the table it looks a little odd in practise. I wanted to avoid using diagonal movement because of the problems it causes (greatly exaggerated in my own mind I hasten to add!) but am now going to including it - mainly because a naval game needs manoeuvre and every tabletop admiral I have ever gamed with are usually inordinately fond of it! The 'distortion' caused by moving in the diagonal plane opposed to the orthogonal was something I wanted to avoid but given that the speeds are so low (an average of 3 or 4 squares being 28 knots maximum) there is no need to add the complication of staggered movement. Basically, a square, is a square, is a square. The only thing I have added to this as a sop to the distortion is to have a maximum speed of 4 squares when moving in the diagonal - this as a result will only really impact on certain destroyers.

Combat works reasonably well although I will be making it a little more decisive. To be fair, many of the ships in use had, to put it politely, seen better days and so were pretty dire in terms of capabilities. Having said that, the results thus far have been quite historical i.e. lots of shooting with the occasional hit being scored and that is fine but not hugely exciting as a game. As a result, I have tweaked some of the factors, simplified the ranges and changed some of the modifiers. That sounds pretty drastic but it is not as bad as it appears.

With these changes/amendments/revisions it means that I will be redrafting the rules once again. Still, as somebody once said, "If you wanna make an omelette, first you gotta break some eggs.........!"

On the plus side I feel now as though I am quite close to getting these rules to where I want them to be and I must again thank all the stalwarts at my club and the readers of the blog for indulging me with the numerous play test sessions - I am sure it will be worth it in the end!

Monday 2 November 2009

DBSA - The Great War at Sea Gridded...Further Points

Now that the core rules are pretty much done I have been giving some thought to the extra bits and pieces to add to them - optional rules and various other goodies. As a start point i have a list of the following:
  • Minefields
  • Weather and visibility
  • Campaign Rules
  • Points Values
  • Submarines and Raiders
  • Air stuff

Points Values will be the easiest and is merely a mechanism for organising games. I would probably use something similar to HOTT and as an initial thought I was reckoning on using the vessel defence value (allowing for inferior or superior status) as the points cost. If using a 24 point fleet then a maximum of 12 points can be spent on ships costing 4 points or above. I would need to double the cost of torpedo boats and destroyers simply because they are based in pairs. I will consider this further and report any further ideas.