Friday 31 August 2012

Axis and Allies: Angels 20 Starter set 2

A P38 enjoying another good day at the office....

There will be a second six plane starter set for Angels 20 (scheduled for next February) themed around the Pacific and with the single large model of the six in the box being the P38 Lightning.

The Japanese Nakajima Ki 43 Hayabusa - code named "Oscar"

Not sure what else will be in the box but I m hoping that the Japanese Oscar makes the cut - it was a great plane, very agile and with a quantity of firepower that would make even the Italian air force feel over gunned....;-) Mr Fox will enjoy 'flinging this one around' if it comes to pass.

Roll on next February then....;-)

Thursday 30 August 2012

Striking with Carriers

Dauntless dive bombers flying over a Pacific island

Now I realise that a good number of naval gamers will probably view carrier battles as not really being ‘proper’ seaborne battles. Up to a point I guess this is true as certainly having two fleets that never come into contact except through the medium of their aircraft could, on the face of it, make for a game that will turn into an exercise of dice rolling more than anything else.

The Avalon Hill board game Flat Top (which is nowhere near as complicated as you might think), used as the basis for carrier based naval games, also includes a set of tactical rules for those that prefer their ships to blasting away at each other in plain sight. For sheer tension the plot map approach whereby you have to find your opponent (and hope that he doesn’t find you first) before you can attack him is hard to beat. Planning an air strike, with all the problems associated with assembling the formation and then considering both the range and endurance of the aircraft involved, is a challenging and thought provoking experience that, if it comes off, is enormously satisfying – especially if your own carrier(s) remain undetected. In order to do this a player must first find his enemy, maintain contact and hope that he has sufficient material to get to the target before it disappears into the blue.

It is a facet of naval war that takes some getting used to after surface combat but is intensely satisfying in its own way.

Axis and Allies: War at Sea handled air attacks in a simple but efficient way in that attacking aircraft were merely placed alongside their target and attacked with whatever they were attacking with. I have no problem with this approach because even the slowest aircraft is still at least twice as fast as the fastest warship so it cuts to the chase of the combat resolution quite nicely and without having to move great swathes of aircraft around the tabletop.

The real challenge with this form of naval war then is simply finding the enemy in a meaningful way and making sure that you are in a position to take advantage of this knowledge. Essentially it is no different from locating a ship with a ship – you still have to find your target in order to engage it.

Fairly obviously then, the paramount need in any kind of game involving carriers is a good, clear, simple system for search and location by aircraft and in this respect Flat Top is quite frankly superb. You need to be organised about how you use these rules for sure but they are really not that difficult in operation. Air attacks are handled quite well in the game but for me the plan would be to merely use the map plotting and aerial operations sections as a delivery method for the models on the table – for which Across Four Oceans could then be used for the tactical side.

This is my thinking so far - once the board game arrives I can plan further but in any event the North Atlantic will be taking priority over the Pacific for the time being. 

What to do, what to do....

Well if they will put a giant meatball on the flight deck what else do they expect....?

So here we are on the 30th of August and I have yet to play a game during the month in the man cave! This despite my avowed intention to play at least two a month. I don't know where the time has gone this month - all I know is that it has and so I am now behind schedule for the year. I was thinking about this state of affairs last night and so came up with a list of game ideas for September (and beyond) which should also see me through into the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'. It looks something like this although the dreaded germ of an idea is already beginning to take hold:

  • Command and Colours Ancients - initially perhaps a couple of the 'official' scenarios
  • Command and Colours Napoleonics - probably something hypothetical
  • Memoir of Battle - something early 20th century - perhaps the Balkan Wars or possibly something rather different....
  • WW2 naval - depends on getting the models painted and if so it will probably be towards the end of the month and is likely to feature the RN and the KM
  • WW2 aerial - probably Battle of Britain based and dependent on painting the models
The WW2 naval stuff has really given me a boost in respect of ideas and despite my intention to avoid tackling the Pacific in any fashion I am finding myself thinking more and more about the same - especially for the period covered by the board game  Flat Top  (1942 but not including Midway). 

I always enjoyed this period of thee Pacific war (and the game) if only because the US navy was not quite the juggernaut it became by 1944 and so the games are very thought provoking in that both sides need to think about how they achieve their objectives.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear....what to do, what to do.....

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Madasahatta - What it meant to me

SMS Panther

SMS Panther - the Iltis was one her sisters

This post is very much in addition to Bob Cordery's Madasahatta revisited and for fuller details of this legendary campaign see his Colonial Wargaming website for all manner of things Madasahatta related  (and a good few other things besides) - Colonial Wargaming.

I came to this campaign more or less at the last knockings but the impact and the imagery that it cemented in my consciousness has stayed with me ever since and, if truth be told, has coloured much of my wargames plans and ideas over the years. At the time I was a young man of my late teens/(very) early twenties and I was awestruck at the sheer scope and panache of the undertaking - in my opinion fully up there with any of the works of Featherstone, Grant, Young, Lawford or anybody else - and it took my own wargames adventure into directions I would never have considered otherwise.

Thinking back, my very brief cameo role in the campaign (I commanded a German gunboat during a naval bombardment) as a junior officer in the Imperial German Navy using Fletcher Pratt as the rules of choice - on a tabletop mind! -  (Port Maleesh if memory serves although I remain to be corrected) introduced me to a number of lifelong interests including naval wargames, SMS Seydlitz, a passionate interest in anything Ottoman Turkish and also a liking for the idea (if not the execution) of the small war.

File:SMS Seydlitz mit Zeppelin.jpg

SMS Seydlitz with her Combat Air Patrol - an unusual picture if only because she is in one piece....

Bob and I have been bouncing a number of emails around about the whole Madasahatta idea and how it could be gamed again in some fashion. I have a number of ideas (as does Bob I am sure) involving for me blocks and Memoir of Battle as the rules of choice so I will be sure to post what comes out in the wash.

In passing I should say that this will not even be an effort - it will be fun, just like the original.

Across Four Oceans....WW2 Naval

HMS Warspite - the Airfix 1/600th scale kit super detailed and with what looks like the Spanish Civil War air recognition banding atop of 'B' turret

One of the tasks I am currently involved with in connection with the newly acquired 1/4800th scale WW2 collection concerns the thorny subject of what rules I should use. Unsurprisingly I have a number of sets to consider, all of varying degrees of complexity - but have narrowed it down to a set I discovered quite by chance whilst looking at Boardgamegeek as per the link -  Across Four Oceans. These rules have been developed from Axis and Allies: War at Sea and so are very familiar feeling in terms of game mechanics but are very much at the next level in terms of detail and also with, for me, the priceless bonus of an operational level version as well as tactical. I have played an enormous number of games using War at Sea and can happily confirm that they are great fun to use but that they are somewhat light in some areas in respect of detail. Across Four Oceans manages to retain the flavour of the original rules but adds a degree of detail that will make the end result feel more amenable to the mainstream naval wargamer. At least I think so! As all of the ship specifications have been completed by the author (and very comprehensive they appear as well) all I need to do at this stage is to get the models painted and then start playing.

I am very excited about the opportunities these rule offer me in terms of playability, speed of execution and the all important command perspective level (not to mention the 'feel') and so I will try to get some models ready as soon as possible to give them a run out.

Monday 27 August 2012

Raising the Lowered Bar

I thought I had squared away the 'minor tidy up and reorganisation' of the man cave - but I was wrong! Something in the man cave was not quite right but I was not sure exactly what is was. I looked at the room from several different angles and then it came to me. I had a couple of units in the wrong place which meant that the available space to walk around the new 6 x 4ft playing area was quite restricted. It was fine when it was just myself mooching about up there but when more than one person it tends to get a little crowded. I have swapped the positions of a narrow book case with a cupboard which has given me at least an extra foot of space around one side of the table. This will be more than enough room for anybody of larger than average dimensions to negotiate the table! As a bonus I was also able to relocate my modelling table to a position directly under one of the windows next to the cupboard in which my paints etc are stored.

I was so enthused by this change around that is made a start on cleaning up the 1/4800th WW2 ships - with the Germans being tackled first. The castings are pretty good although the moulds are probably showing their age a little as some of the finish is a little on the rough side. Everything for the Germans larger than a destroyer has been cleaned up so I shall tackle the destroyers next and then attend to the small matter of the bases and the painting. I am going to tackle a fleet at a time with the Royal Navy following the Germans, then the Italians and finally the merchant convoy. The RN is obviously a whole lot bigger than the Germans so I may well be splitting the paint job in two but I have a little while to think about it.

I also managed to finish the tidy up of the terrain tiles for the Command and Colours ancients collection and so all that I need to do is to organise the rules folders and then it is finished and ready to play with.

Finally, I also rediscovered the label sheets I had printed for the 20th century part of the my home made block collection - and realised that not only did I have to finish these but that I also needed to draft the vehicle types. I had a bit of a wobble with this in that I considered using standard military symbols for the later types but I am having second (perhaps even third!) thoughts and may well revert to the stylised symbols in conjunction with the more usual infantry, cavalry and artillery versions.

So it looks like my good intentions about be organised and disciplined and keeping the list to a minimum has lasted all of a bank holiday weekend but I suppose I would not have it any other way!

Sunday 26 August 2012

Lowering the Bar

You can never find a mild mannered janitor when you want one....

It was a busy day in deepest Rayleigh yesterday as I took advantage of the monsoon like weather to tidy up the man cave. I should point out that it was not really in a state as such but it was a little on the disorganised side - and this meant that I was getting into a multi project frenzy with the result that not a lot was actually being done! To be fair much of this was of my own doing so I cannot really moan too much.

I must have consigned a sack load of papers (downloaded rules or various versions of MoBaS being the main offenders) to the recycling bin and also to put a lot of things back where they should be rather than on any convenient space. I am not by nature an untidy person but these things have a way of creeping up on us if left unattended. The biggest change though was to move a couple of units around. This has given me a lot more space to use which is handy and also it means that I now have a work surface I can use when gaming for rules and such like rather than relying on the tabletop.

I also had to assimilate the latest Hexon purchase (another box of blue tiles) into its designated storage facility. All in all the man cave looks a lot better for the reorganisation and so will give me a more efficient area in which to game, models and think. The only thing left to do - and this is really optional in an event - is to think about having the naval section of my library separated out. Currently any such books are in the appropriate historical section but I am thinking perhaps having them separate may be an idea. One to think about anyway.

The title of this post refers to the fact that as a part of this tidy up I have reordered my project list which was (once again!) in danger of becoming rather unwieldy. From a number of ongoing projects (which was rapidly getting out of control!) I have pared the list back somewhat to be hopefully both more manageable and more achievable. I have a number of housekeeping tasks to attend to with the ancients collection - mainly organising the terrain tiles and rules folders - and will see about the idea of movement trays allowing the blocks to be stood up and moved en masse in order to fit in with more 'conventional' wargames rules. This idea will also benefit the Napoleonic version as well.

Aside from the above housekeeping I also have the small matter of some 1/1200th galleys to paint which will also fit in nicely so overall this is a complete period. Initially I was merely looking to add the Salamis period period fleets (trireme based Greeks and Persians) but I also have sufficient models to cover the Punic Wars which may prove to be a temptation too many.

The WW2 1/4800th ships will fill a considerable gap in my collection and I have been very fortunate in that one of my regular blog readers, Michael Ney, has very kindly donated a selection of these models that were lying around for which many grateful thanks are extended. The selection includes a couple of Japanese ships and initially I was not planning on tackling any Pacific actions but I am now pondering the possibility of the Japanese sweep into the Indian Ocean. This will involve the Royal Navy for a change although they are quite badly outclassed in terms of quality of material.

However, before this happens I have the small matter of finishing the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean set up. I have made a start on bases etc and the thorny issue of the rules. For ease of use and convenience I have opted to base my games around Axis and Allies: War at Sea although not as they are currently written. I have managed to find an operational level set available on boardgamegeek which will form the core of the set. The rules are fast, easy to play and the version I shall be using is also hex based.

I also now have all the models I need for the 1940 Battle of Britain set up. I also have the paints and the decals so have no excuse for not cracking on with these as well!

I really feel that my tidy up has helped me to refocus on what I should be doing rather than could be doing so it has been a worthwhile undertaking. Perhaps lowering the bar was a little harsh - more like resetting it!

Thursday 23 August 2012

Old Friends, New Rules....

HMS Rodney in 1942 - note the rather natty looking camouflage scheme; a challenge in 1/4800th methinks! 

With thoughts currently circling the prospect of WW2 naval games using 1/4800th scale models on my new and expanded Hexon terrain I spent some time today (not much it must be said in the light of more important matters!) pondering which rules to use. Initially my thoughts were leaning towards General Quarters, or rather a hex based version thereof, but I think in the short term I shall instead look to use a version of Axis and Allies: War at Sea. In truth this was an easy decision to make as the rules are easy to use, fast to play and have that all important 'feel' - once you can get your head around the rationale of some of the mechanics. The fact that the rules are designed to be used on an offset square grid is also a big advantage as tweaking this into hexes is very simple. The one area I was going to struggle with though was the ship cards as I no longer have any of them since I disposed of the models a year or so ago. The Axis and Allies forum came to the rescue though with a number of posts detailing all the stats used for the ships. Whilst it does not show how the numbers are calculated exactly it does provide examples of the weapons fit for a particular dice value or the armour thickness used for an armour value. This should give me a sufficiently wide 'databank' to be able to scope the ships I shall be using. All I now need to do is to table the ship details in a master spreadsheet and then produce my own version of the ship cards. The same also applies for the aircraft that feature in the game.
One thing that did strike me with data supplied though is that the ranges and move distances are quite low as the game is scaled at 1 square being equal to 5,000 yards. Large calibre main guns typically have a range of 3 or 4 squares and movement is up to a maximum of 3 squares with most types featuring at a speed of 2. With the models I shall be using and the area I shall be fighting over my plan then is to double all weapon ranges and move distances or alternatively apply greater granularity to ship speeds. Perhaps allowing a move of one square (or hex as it now will be) per 10 to 12 knots would be an idea as this will serve to better reflect the differential between classes.
The final part of my 1/4800th scale order arrived this morning, consisting of the Italians, the remaining RN types I wanted (including the absent HMS Hood) and enough merchantmen for a convoy. Amongst the other tasks I have for the weekend I shall also be prepping some bases and the models prior to painting. Ranging further ahead (as I invariably do) I plan to run a couple of mini campaigns using this set up featuring the North Atlantic, the Arctic and of course the Med. This is not as fantastic as it sounds simply because I have the bare bones of the first two of these virtually ready to use straight off the bat. For completeness I should also consider the French navy as well but that will be for another day methinks.
Will I tackle the Pacific? I have no immediate plans to do so but I will never say never. If I did it may possibly be from the RN perspective - perhaps the Indian Ocean raid or the back end of the war. I can't help thinking that should I consider the USN versus the Japanese I may need a larger man cave to accommodate it all!

Four 'As' and Five 'Bs'

Well done Holly!

Today is GCSE day in the UK and so my kind beautiful, intelligent, witty, and thoroughly lovely daughter went to her school at the bottom of my road to collect her results. Holly managed to achieve the grades above and so both SWMBO and I are very proud and, I am not ashamed to say, teary-eyed at her success.

Well done Holly, we are so proud of you - all that hard work has been worth it!

It was a very good day....

One of the great things about this hobby of ours is the characters we play with and the friendships that a shared enthusiasm bring. I have been truly fortunate in this respect and have enjoyed the acquaintance of a number gamers over the years; all with something different to add to the mix of our enjoyment and to provide that all important human element to our table top endeavours. Along with this is the inevitable generosity of spirit that such a long term shared experience brings - the passing on of information, the unselfish sharing of news, review and such like and even the loan or gift of material deemed surplus to requirements - sometimes sold, sometimes merely passed on.

I am sure we have all been both the beneficiary and the benefactor in this respect at some point and last night  at the club was for me a very good example of this.

A piece of wargames history part 1

My old Friend Chris Hardman came up with a couple of bits for me - one expected, the other a complete surprise. I now have in my collection of Richard Nelson's book The Warfleets of Antiquity published in 1973 by WRG. The implications for this for my Salamis project are huge and I am so pleased to have this. It may not be the most up to date title on the subject but having such information in one place is really handy and it complements his book on Salamis and the fleet action rules he devised as well. To say I am chuffed is an understatement!

Chocks away!

The 'surprise' element (Chris had already told me that he letting me have the book) was a complete copy of Axis and Allies: Angels 20 which was most welcome and appreciated particularly as I needed another couple of Hurricanes. Again, this gesture was really appreciated and means that I need to give the repaint of the models some serious thought - especially as Mr Fox has produced some lovely paint jobs on his own collection.

A piece of wargames history part 2

Mention of Mr Fox leads me to the third gift of the evening. Whilst sorting out his own 'Area 51' he came across not only a copy of the WRG book 'Armies of the Greek and Persian Wars' (which I now have on loan from him) but, and this is now in my collection, a copy of The Peninsular War: 1813 by the late Terry Wise and published in the Battles for Wargamers series. This is a little gem especially as it concentrates on some of the less well known actions and with the supporting maps is ideal for use with Command and Colours Napoleonics or my usual block armies. The very least I can do to return the favour will be to tackle Mr Fox with any of the scenarios I can come up with from this title - so no escape from a game or two Mr Fox!

As my newly ordered second box of blue Hexon tiles arrived yesterday and I also got the chance to go to the club it is fair to say that this Wednesday was certainly a good one. mention of the club and the ensuing aerial entertainment will feature in a later post and the game was not quite what we had expected but it was hugely enjoyable all the same.

Many thanks to both Chris and Mr Fox for these additions to the collection - they are both very much appreciated and rest assured, will bring a lot of ideas currently bubbling under to the boil sooner rather than later!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Putting the Block in the Blog

Phew! Finished at last - let the games commence....;-)

At long last, after several close call and near misses, the Command and Colours Ancients collection is now complete! There was a minor glitch concerning some green and purple blocks but this was swiftly resolved by the indefatigable Mr. Gow to whom many thanks are most gratefully extended.

The picture above shows all the armies in the plastic storage boxes are am using. The top row from left to right consists of the Republican Roman (grey), Early Imperial Roman (red) and Late Imperial Roman (purple); the middle row has the Hellenistic Greek and Macedonian (light blue) and the Eastern Empires - Persians in various guises together with the Indians (tan) and the bottom row has the Early Greeks of the Hoplite era (orange and bronze for the Spartans), the Carthaginians (brown) and the 'Barbarians' which covers most of the Celtic and Germanic hordes (green).Both the Republican Roman and the Carthaginian armies consist of two sets of blocks as I also acquired a copy of the base game for the game components I was missing - namely the command cards - and so I will be able to field some truly epic armies for the Punic wars when the mood takes, especially with the double sized boards I have available.

As you can see the collection is both substantial and far reaching and so it will enable me to indulge in pretty much any type of ancients match up from 500BC to 500 AD. This is enough for even my fickle nature! The next step is to continue work on the movement tray/base idea for use 'off the grid' so to speak.

A Blog Announcement

A few days ago I switched off the 'prove you are not a robot' verification on the blog (although posts still need to be approved) to make comments easier to be added. Since then the level of spam has increased hugely in my home email address because it cannot identify a genuine comment from a spam one. I am not going to turn the 'robot' back on but I have set blog comments on my home email to go into the spam folder in order to cut down the volume. I always check this daily in any event and so any genuine comments will be picked up and published in due course. For regular readers of the blog the only impact will be that any comments made will either be posted and responded on either first thing in the morning or in the evening. Apologies for the inconvenience this may cause but I am tired of seeing adverts for Ugg boots and strange exotic Russian building opportunities....;-)

Monday 20 August 2012

20 Shades of Grey....

Just a little fun I know but I am a sucker for anything 'soul searching' based and so the '20 Questions' currently doing the rounds of the 'blogosphere' was just too hard to resist. Blame Ray and the Angry Lurker - they won't mind as being blamed for anything/everything is quite normal for these two esteemed and revered gentlemen....;-)

1.        Favourite Wargaming period and why? I am far too fickle to have a single favourite period but if pinned down I would have to say (and this may surprise some people as it has never really featured on the blog) the third quarter of the 18th century.
2.       Next period, money no object? Late 18th century a la Charge in 30mm and on an imagi-nation basis. Absolutely no hesitation with this one!
3.       Favourite 5 films? Lawrence of Arabia, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Zulu, The Battle of Britain and Gone with the Wind. I could easily extend this into a top 10 with Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Spartacus, El Cid and the Vikings!
4.       Favourite 5 TV series? The Walking Dead, Star Trek, the World at War, Colditz and Downton Abbey.
5.       Favourite book and author? The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence
6.       Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!! Hannibal
7.       Favourite Wargames rules? For the sheer inspiration and variation of uses I would probably have to go with DBA.
8.       Favourite Sport and team? Football and Chelsea - and since 1971 so I am not a glory hunting plastic supporter!
9.       If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go? Constantinople, 1453
10.   Last meal on Death Row? A good mixed grill with fries and salad. A nice bottle of Chambertin with a a creme brule for desert; coffee and a bottle of Remy Martin VSOP. By then I would be completely unconcerned about my fate....
11.    Fantasy relationship and why? Scarlett O'Hara although frankly, she wouldn't give a damn....
12.   If your life were a movie, who would play you? I would like to think Brad Pitt but it would probably be Martin Clunes
13.   Favourite Comic  Superhero? The Dark Knight himself.
14.   Favourite Military quote? Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won. The Duke of Wellington said this after Waterloo - a reminder of the cost of war.
15.   Historical destination to visit? Istanbul - no question.
16.   Biggest Wargaming regret? Lacking sustained commitment and discipline when painting.
17.   Favourite Fantasy job? Author - not likely any time soon though!
18.   Favourite Song Top 5? In no particular order - Bohemian Rhapsody, My Way, The Boys are back in town, Rio Bravo and The Look of Love - again, I should really do this as a top 10.
19.   Favourite Wargaming Moment? Borrowing Mr Fox's cavalry reserve during a refight of the Battle of Minden or handling the French 120 gun ship of the line the Imperial like the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field.
20.   The miserable Git question, what upsets you? Bad manners, specifically inconsiderate people.

There you go - me in a nutshell....;-)

Sunday 19 August 2012

Boot Sales, Books, Boxes and Battleships

Fills a hole in the collection and at £2 a copy they were very good value

Despite the oppressive heat and humidity of this morning SWMBO and I managed to go to a small boot sale not far from us this morning and I managed to pick up a couple of titles on the wars of the Duke of Marlborough. I have to say that this period is not one that I am hugely familiar with; nor is it one that I would ever attempt to game using figures but having these two titles in the collection is as good a start as any should that change over time. Certainly it would have possibilities for me using the block armies (and I have some really attractive troop labels I could use) so I may give it some thought in around ten years time at the current rate of progress!

David Chandler needs no introduction from and I am aware that he also wrote a companion volume on the campaigns of the Duke which I shall try to track down at some pint - perhaps with Richard Holmes's biography of the Duke as well, if only because I always enjoy his books.

James Falkner has written a couple of titles on the period and this one complements Marlborough's Wars rather nicely. As far as figures are concerned the troops are not quite as ornate as later in the century but are probably still too much for my painting inclination!

The final expansion so my ancient block based set up is now complete - let the games commence!

Friday saw the arrival of two of the parcels I am waiting for - the Spartans (in the box above) expansion for my Command and Colours Ancients set up (I have already labelled the blocks contained therein!) and my two WW2 Naval forces for the RN and the Km in a scale I have not previously used. The models are from MY Miniatures - MY Miniatures 1/4800th Ships - and are scaled at 1/4800th so the Bismarck comes out at around 2" long. I have chosen this scale for a number of reasons. To begin with, for WW2 games played on a 6 x 4ft table they look 'right' for the scale distances involved. I did not want to go down the road of using 1/6000th simply because they strike me as being too small (although closer to being in scale) and, tellingly, they are more expensive. Mention of cost brings me to the next point - the two fleets I acquired came in at £25 including postage and I have all the ships types I a likely to need although when I tackle the Mediterranean I will need a few others for the RN, not to mention the Italians. Detail-wise the models are OK and the types represented are clearly identifiable and so once painted, based, named and 'flagged' will look very attractive on the new and larger Hexon area.

For the Spartans, as mentioned above, I have already labelled all the blocks and so once the missing two dozen blocks arrive from Mr Gow that I am short of the entire collection will be complete. I have also found out that I can buy copies of the rules and charts from the expansions direct from GMT so this will be really handy - the only one I will be unable to get is for the Greek and Eastern Empires expansion.

I really enjoyed this and it is hugely inspiring in a 'I have a load of ancient blocks and need to get some games in with them' kind of way

Finally, a few weeks ago I picked up a copy of Barry Strauss's book - Masters of Command, Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar and the Genius of Leadership. The book covers careers of the three named and follows the story of each at a similar stage throughout for comparison purposes. The author has managed to write a fast paced study of each of the above and draws a number of parallels in terms of the key stages of their military journey. I really enjoyed the novelty of this approach and the end result is a thought provoking book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Minnie the moocher - mooching in my chair and not going anywhere in a hurry!

The final picture on this post shoes the handicap under which I have been labouring in order to write this post - Minnie, the youngest of our three cats has adopted the office chair as 'her chair' so this means I have to work around her. Remind me, when dealing with a feline exactly who owns whom?

Friday 17 August 2012

On the Wings of the Internet....

By way of finishing off my Air Force and Dauntless saga yesterday I received a very nice and useful email from a chap in the US called Mike Rowse. Mike has scanned copies of every Air Force aircraft data produced in the original Battleline tabular format which he has very kindly set me. This means I have the data cards in both formats and a printing list that will keep me busy until Christmas - not to mention needing another couple of printer ink cartridges as a result!

I am really pleased about this and would like to add my thanks to Mike for making this possible - they are certainly much easier to read than the Avalon Hill versions!

Thursday 16 August 2012

Spirits Having Flown....

The disc of a thousand wondrous things....

It has been one of those days that starts with high expectations that gradually get eroded away until all you seem to be left with is the consolation prize! I am currently waiting for five items through the post and only one arrived - and it was the smallest of the lot!

I was pretty disappointed as I made my way home at the news that nothing large and box-like had arrived  but the sole item I did receive today certainly revived my spirits as it is an absolute gem. I am of course referring to the 'scanned on to a disc' version of the Avalon Hill Air Force and Dauntless aerial board game I ordered from Ebay. Aside from the copies of the rules, counters, log sheets, playing charts and every article ever written on the game in the old Avalon Hill General magazine there is also the aircraft data cards. Not only are there copies of the cards from Air Force, Dauntless and the Expansion Kit but there are also a lot more besides - in fact there are 172 aircraft in total. The only downside is that they are in the Avalon Hill multicoloured format rather than the original tabular types from the Battleline version of the game.

The choice of aircraft was for the benefit of Mr Fox and I think the data card shows just why the original tabular format was so much easier to read!

It means that I now have sufficient material to be able to play aerial games using my Angels 20 1/100th scale aircraft for a variety of actions although large scale games involving lots of aircraft I will need smaller hexes and smaller models. Failing that, I could just revert to the board game format but that will not be half as much fun.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Spartans, Spitfires and the Spirit of Noel Coward et al

Not the box lid to the expansion but I think you get the general idea....

After the 'surprise' of yesterday morning I figured that it would probably be a good idea to maintain my reputation for 'rushing at it bald-headed' with a small update as to what the proceeds of my latest folly will be turned into. To begin with, I have ordered a copy of the Spartans expansion for Command and Colours Ancients. Aside from the inevitable round of '300' based quotes and comments the expansion set contains, in addition to the Spartans themselves, some 'proper' hoplite units which will round off the Greece expansion nicely and will also give me the types I need for the Salamis campaign. Having some dedicated Spartan blocks will be no bad thing either as it means that the possibility of gaming the Peloponnesian War may feature at some point. I have on the disc of Avalon Hill Naval Games I acquired some time ago complete scans of the board game on the war which should prove to be a useful source of information and inspiration for any such undertaking.

"The engine's overheating  and so am I. Either we stand down  or blow  up. Now which do you want?"
I have also ordered the final starter set for Axis and Allies: Angels 20 (final as in the fourth copy I own - primarily so I can field four Bf 110s in a proper defensive circle!) which will mean that I will have absolutely no excuse for not cracking on with the Battle of Britain kit sooner rather than later. I am actually quite looking forward to this and as the numbers involved are quite small (and thanks to Mr Fox I have a stack of aircraft eye candy to use as reference) it should be relatively straightforward to complete.
I have ordered some extra blue Hexon tiles in order that I might cover the entire 6 x 4ft table I have. This will give me sufficient 'sea room' to manouvere in as the playing area will now be 12 by 18 hexes. I must confess to wavering slightly with this as I was concerned about the size of the hexes for use with small models - after giving it some thought though I reasoned that this would not be insurmountable so I just went for it.

This is on my 'to watch' list - along with revisiting The Cruel Sea
Finally, and pausing for a deep breath, I have at last taken the plunge to address a particular shortfall in my collection. The shortfall is that of WW2 naval and I have approached this, as befits my somewhat 'flying in the face of convention' persona, in a rather different way than you might expect - at least in respect of the choice of models anyway.
All will be revealed in due course - at least once the package arrives that is.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Mistakes(?) and Moving On....

I like to think that is true of me although some may question the 'Honourable' tag!

They say it takes a big man to own up and admit his mistakes and to then hold himself up to scorn or ridicule even. They also say that there is no fool like an old fool. Assuming that both of these are true then I am guilty as charged on both counts but it is alright and I can take the blows that will come. I have gained a reputation over the years of perhaps being a victim of my own mercurial imagination; of flitting from period to period in an extreme case of 'oooh shiny'. The usual Modus Operandi is for me to hit on a period as being the next best thing, spend a lot of time, effort, energy and cold ahrd cash in pursuit of the same and then I hit the wall. The wall being either a newer distraction or me just going cold on the idea altogether or even going cold on how I am planned to execute the idea, which is more usually the case.
This has happened with the 54mm NW Frontier collection. I am now not going to do anything with this and so the entire collection has gone to a new home with the proceeds being used for that which is more immediately achievable. I want to tackle the events in the Roghan Valley, of that there is no doubt and so the idea is firmly established - it is merely a case of the execution. The blocks will feature initially and in time, should I feel the need, figures of one type or another may appear.
The same has also applied to the various plastic 1/1200th warship kits I have - and with the same result as the 54mms. It is perhaps a mistake to try and rekindle the exploits of wargames past because it is never the same experience the second time around. I suppose the analogy of not revisiting the scene of the crime applies to an extent and so I doubt that I will ever be able to replicate those dramatic naval battles of 30 odd years ago - at least not in the same way. Perhaps it is a mistake to even try but it is a mistake we could all be guilty of.
I should have learned from both C and C Ancients and Napoleonics - these are periods that I have played in the past in a 'conventional' fashion using figures. Now I playing them in an 'unconventional' fashion using blocks so the experience will be the same but the execution will be different. My block based games are probably a good example of how I have 'moved on' from my model based adventures and whilst they will never replace figures they give me that critical ability to be able to indulge my far reaching military fantasies at the drop of a hat. Perhaps the same could also be true of naval games and so why not go the full distance and merely board game? I don't want to go down that path despite all the advantages it presents me with - I want to use models in some capacity after all - because despite my aversion to figure painting I still think using models is visually the best way to fight a battle.
Is this a cop out from spending ages carefully painting models to use on the table top? Perhaps, but then for me it is a solution to what has been a problem of many years standing. The ancients sets will enable me to fight anything from 500 BC to 500 AD whilst the Napoleonic sets will, in time, enable me to game just about anything mainstream from the Napoleonic wars. To contemplate doing this using models of any scale would be a substantial undertaking and too large for my limited attention span! My own home made blocks will fill in the rest. By using my generic blocks I have managed to play more solo games in a year than I had managed in the preceding decade so clearly I must be doing something right!
For the foreseeable future then, my only painting then will be of ships, aircraft and vehicles - with the occasional foray into science fiction.
I would not say I have given up on figures per se; it is more a case of the fact that for my immediate requirements I actually do not need any, which is not the same thing at all.

"The show must go on!"


Monday 13 August 2012

Ancient Armies and Navies

It has been a busy weekend and no mistake! Friday night saw yours truly watching the new Batman film which was suitably dark, brooding, violent and entertaining (I really must get around to seeing the second film in the trilogy....) and with a couple of pretty good trailers as well - the remake of the Sweeney looks like it could be entertaining especially as it features Ray Winstone as Regan.

Saturday saw me picking up my grandson for an overnight stop via the Navwar shop in Seven Kings. It was only a flying visit but I managed to pick up all that I needed in terms of ancient galleys to support that which I had received from Tim Gow as part of our ongoing distribution of our respective collections! The galleys I had received from Tim are for later than the Salamis fleets and primarily consisted of ships suitable for the Punic wars and later Roman republic. There are quadiremes and quinquiremes aplenty; with a dash of liburnians for good measure but only a single pack of triremes. Navwar came to the rescue and I was pleased to see that two types of this ship featured - a standard trireme and the high sided Phoenician variant - in the range and so sufficient models have now been acquired for representative Greek and Persian fleets. They also look very straightforward to paint - even for me....;-)

With the visit of my grandson (and I had forgotten just how exhausting an active 2 year old could be!) not a great deal else was done over the weekend and my plan to have the Command and Colours ancients blocks finished  on the labelling front missed the target somewhat. The Barbarians have 28 blocks left to label and the Imperial Romans (in purple no less!) will follow which will be everything up to the soon to be acquired Spartans. The entire collection will live in no less than 7 plastic storage boxes and looks pretty impressive.

As an aside though, I have been giving much thought to a number of projects over the course of the weekend (thinking can be done quite readily I find, and it is always a good alternative to doing anything - especially when you are unable to do so!) and will have some fairly big news to post pretty soon so watch this space. I suspect that it will not come as a big surprise to many, given my limited attention span and tendency to project hop, but I think it is certainly the right thing to do.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Ancients, Blocks and a dash of DBA

I returned home yesterday evening from a business trip to the wilds of Birmingham to be greeted by a very large box of Command and Colours Ancients blocks from the collection of Mr Gow and forming the last part of the transaction. No prizes then, for guessing what I was doing last night!

The first task was to sort the blocks into their respective colours as the sets overlap in certain cases - a good example being extra units for the Eastern Empires set (number 1) being included in the Imperial Rome set (number 4). In real terms it is usually later unit types (for example Cataphract cavalry for the various Persian armies - Pathians and Sassanids) being included to round off the range of troops available. With this in mind I finished off the Eastern Empire armies and also that of Republican Rome (the light blue and light grey blocks respectively). I am now left with the Early Imperial Roman blocks (red), the Late Imperial Roman blocks (purple) and the Barbarians (green).

I have yet to acquire a copy of expansion 6 - The Spartans - but this will be an urgent priority, if only so that the entire collection is complete. This set also backfills the earlier Greek army from the Eastern Empires set with some proper Hoplite units and not just the Spartans.

I have not progressed any further with the bases for the collection but did have a thought concerning how to game using the existing materials. Why not just use DBA 12 element armies made up of C and C units and use the C and C rules to fight the games? This would only need some translation of DBA unit types into C and C speak so should be achievable. I will consider this further, after the rest of the blocks have been labelled and consigned to their storage boxes.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Air Force, Dauntless and the Expansion Set

The first of the few....I purchased my copy from Tradition in London in about 1979 

Dauntless was a standalone game and my copy came from a bring and buy at the old Present Arms show at Rochford. Jon Bamford acquired Air Force in the same transaction and we split the cost!

This set tied the other two together with extra planes and rules and  included the Russians, Italian and French air forces

Many years ago I was fortunate enough to have acquired the two board games and the expansion set mentioned in the title of the post. These were the original Battleline versions and not the Avalon Hill 'update'. Over the first five years or so of the early 1980s I, together with a similarly like-minded aerial gamer (Jon Bamford - where are you?), absolutely played it to death. The game covers tactical plane to plane combat in WW2 and although not by any means a fast play set like Axis and Allies: Angels 20 still gives a very good game. With my recent forays aloft providing so much fun I  must confess to coming over all misty-eyed and rose-tinted at the memory of those great aerial fights I used to enjoy. With this in mind and with a certain amount of Google trekking I have been able to track down copies of the rules from each set and also the play sheet covering the firing and damage allocation. I have even been able to track down pre filled log sheets for every single aircraft included in each of the sets. I have even found some completed data cards for aircraft that never appeared in any of the expansion but, and it is a really significant but - I have been unable to track down copies of the aircraft data charts in full for each of the types included in all three sets.

Essentially I have everything I need to play the game except for the aircraft cards - which is a bit of a problem!

If any readers of this blog know of such a source for the aircraft data cards in full then please let me know as I would really like to use my Angels 20 models on my Hexon for some aerial battles using these rules.

I note that the game's designer - S.Craig Taylor, who was also responsible for Flat Top, Wings, Wooden Ships and Iron Men (and the Ship 'O the Line miniatures rules that preceded them), Napoleons Battles, Ironclad and a whole host of other games - recently passed away and so the hobby has lost a truly talented game designer and I for one have enormously enjoyed all of his titles above over the years including some epic games of Flat Top.

If you are able to help with the above it will be hugely appreciated although of course it will mean that the Angels 20 models will have to be pushed to the top of the production queue!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Galley Three - and not a Time Lord in sight!

OK, so there is more than three Galleys in the picture but that was the best I could come up with under the circumstances!

Well I didn't see that one coming! Readers of the blog will no doubt be aware of the great swathe of Command and Colours Ancients blocks I have recently acquired from the indefatigable Mr Tim Gow of Megablitz and More fame Megablitz and More. During the course of this project I have mentioned on a couple of occasions my desire to tackle the Salamis campaign - mainly on the back of Richard Nelson's excellent wargames book on the subject and the superb work by Barry Strauss that also covers the battle and campaign. With the Command and Colours blocks at my disposal I was sure that the land aspect would be easily covered and I had in my possession a very good set of hex based naval rules, again by Richard nelson and published by WRG back in the early 1970s - not to mention a very good Fire and Fury inspired set designed by Dave Manley. The only thing I was missing was suitable models. I looked at 1/1200th and also the new 1/2400th scale range produced by Tumbling Dice but had more or less settled on the larger scale as being more useful for the scale of action I would be fighting.

Then guess what happened.

Mr Gow mentioned, almost as a throwaway comment, that he had a whole pile of 1/1200th scale ancient galleys (mostly Navwar) sitting around doing t'nowt (I think that is how they say it in Mr G's hometown!) and would I be interested in taking them off his hands?

Errr, is the Pope Catholic?

In a trice the deal was done and so a whole pile of 1/1200th scale ancients galleys will be winging its way to Maison Crook for my usually less than tender mercies.

I really don't know why I ever bother making plans for projects etc simply because they never seem to pan out the way you intend - this is now the Q4 project and as luck would have it, I am heading to the Navwar shop on Saturday so expect some further news in due course.

Just as well the blocks will all be ready first as the galleys will have to follow on behind.

I reckon watching 300 again will give me some period specific feel and inspiration, albeit more HOTTs than DBA!

Sunday 5 August 2012

Ancients, Napoleonics and....Fantasy

A piece of Fantasy Wargames history

It has been a busy few days on the great label-fest front with the result that all of the Command and Colours ancients blocks are now complete - at least the two base sets of Carthaginians and Republican Romans and the Greek and Eastern Empires expansion are. I shall be collecting the remaining sets from Mr Gow at some point but in the meantime I am really pleased to have gotten this lot out of the way. I will need to get Expansion number 6 - The Spartans - and then it will be all systems go for some ancients action. I am not sure what I shall tackle first with this although the lure of Salamis and the campaigns around it has a compelling attraction - especially as I really fancy painting some ancients galleys.

I have given some thought to the movement trays fr the blocks and my preliminary experiments have gone rather well. Basically I am sticking some very narrow plastic strip to the base to form a perimeter in which the blocks are placed. This serves to stop them sliding about all over the place and gives the unit a respectable 'footprint' on the table top - especially useful for non grid-based rules such as DBA. The trays will be textured and painted which will add to the look of the thing hugely. Base sizes have give me some problems for sure and I am still thinking about this issue. The main problem is that deploying four infantry blocks in a single line means that a 60mm frontage is too small. I am leaning towards using 75mm (3") as the frontage with base depths of 1", 1 1/2" and 2". This will maintain the differential used for DBA for troop depth. As mentioned, by using these base sizes I hope to give the units a reasonable 'footprint' on  the table top and also when used on my Hexon set up. Once I have cobbled some together and painted the same I shall post the pictures on the blog.

SMWBO and I headed out to our usual boot sale this morning and I managed to acquire the above book - Fantasy Wargaming by Martin Hackett - for 50p. The book is very much a product of its time - published in 1990 - in terms of the level of detail around character development (much role playing stuff therein) but it is a piece of history I am very pleased to have acquired. There is a very nice 'imagi-world' detailed as well as various ideas about creating story lines and running campaigns. Very useful for any period really - certainly quite thought provoking and for me anyway, handy for those fantasy or science fiction itches I occasionally need to scratch.

Thursday 2 August 2012

Ancients, Napoleonics and Boxes

The great Command and Colours label-fest continues and I have now completed the second Carthaginian army and am three quarters of the way through the second Republican Roman set. I have been able to download details of the unit mixes from each of the expansions from the C and C Ancients site whuch has proven to be invaluable as it shows exactly the composition of each army. Some of the expansions add units to earlier sets so it is handy to know where I will need to leave gaps for extra blocks when they arrive. I reckon that I will need another four storage boxes for the entire collection and the breakdown will look something like this:
  • Carthaginians - brown blocks 
  • Early to late Republican Roman - grey blocks 
  • Eastern Empires (various Persians and Indians) - tan blocks
  • Macedonian and Hellenistic Greek - light blue blocks 
  • Hoplite Greek - orange and bronze blocks for the Spartans, light blue blocks for the other Greek Hoplites 
  • Barbarians (Gauls and Germans etc) - green blocks
  • Early to late Imperial Roman - this may need two boxes - red and purple blocks respectively
C and C work on the basis of 4 blocks for infantry, 3 for cavalry and 2 for artillery, elephants and chariots. This is fine for use with the game but when I use the blocks with DBA I shall use a block per figure so light infantry will have two blocks, most auxilia and warbands will have 3 or sometimes 4 and most spears, pikes and blades will have 4 blocks. Knights, cavalry and light horse will vary from 2 to 4 blocks. Using DBA will be a pleasant change for me from my usual grid based adventures and I am quite looking forward to the prospect
I have never played DBM but rather like the idea of 'Big Battle' DBA for those occasional forays into large battle refights. Using this method an army consists of three separate 12 element armies. For my own purposes this may well be the route I take for non grid based 'big' games and I certainly have sufficient room to fight any such actions. Terrain wise my plan is cro-magnon in its simplicity. I will use a desert coloured cloth with Hexon hills underneath for any raised ground. Everything else will be cobbled together as needed.
In respect of base sizes my first thought was to use an 80mm frontage so that I could deploy a four block unit of infantry in a single line. I am now having second thoughts about this and may instead opt for the standard 28mm figure element frontage of 60mm and instead deploy the blocks in a couple of rows. I shall have an experimentation session over the weekend and see what happens but I am thinking this will be the way to go. I really need to think about the bases for the blocks though, and sooner rather than later - also for the Napoleonics.
Once I have completed the Ancients I have available I shall attend to the Napoleonics and so the set up for gaming the Peninsular war will be looking pretty impressive. As the Napoleonics stand at present I have opted for the following storage solution (bear in mind that I have two copies of the base set and one of the Spanish expansion):
  • British - red blocks
  • Portuguese - brown blocks
  • French - blue blocks and now in two boxes (they gained some extras in the Spanish expansion)
  • Spanish - yellow blocks
For both the Ancients and the Napoleonics I plan to use the base game boxes for storing all the cards, counters, dice map boards and terrain tiles and so the expansion boxes will not be needed. The 20 odd storage boxes I have for the various permutations of lock based armies I own (remember I have six of my home made types) take up a certain amount of space so redundant boxes will certainly have to go.
There are some very good DBA variants for periods after the original rule book ends and so I shall use them as the basis for the Napoleonic games I intend fighting. I may take a look at DBM at some point but at this stage I have no immediate plans to do so.
For the Napoleonics the next expansions will cover the Austrians, Prussiand and Russians and there are rumours of a big battle expansion at some point, similar to Epic Ancients. It would be nice to see an allies set covering all the minor nations that featured - Bavarians, Brunswickers, Dutch Belgians, Westphalians etc so that truly representative forces could be deployed but again, I am unsure what the future holds beyond the next three sets. I am similarly unsure of anything else that will be forthcoming for the Ancients game although going back to the chariot era would be huge fun - wall to wall Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Myceneans etc - and I for one would certainly like to see that. I suppose whilst I am dabbling in the realms of 'wish lists' you could also add armies up to the Renaissance period as well (the Crusades and Mongol Conquests could be fun) but why stop there?
The Command and Colours system can be readily adapted to just about any period of military history you like and so I only hope that Richard Borg has further plans along these lines - certainly sneaking a Samurai version in with the latest release in the Zvezda 'Art of Tactic' series may be a sign of things to come. Here's hoping!