Friday 31 March 2023

Battle Cry, Shogun and The Last Samurai

Following on from my previous post I wanted to outline the makings of a plan and a half involving elements from the title of this post. In doing so I am reminded once again of how seemingly unconnected things can suddenly join together to form a coherent whole - synchronicity if you like!

Battle Cry - courtesy of Aly Morrison, gentleman, scholar and all round good egg!

Shogun (later copies were called Samurai Swords due to a copyright issue with James Clavell’s excellent book of the same name) courtesy of eBay

With grateful thanks to Bob Cordery and Aly Morrison I now have the means to fight some cracking looking ACW battles using a combination of WoFun figures and Battle Cry. The small physical footprint of the WoFun figures means that they readily fit on a Battle Cry board with hexes that are 55mm across the flat sides. In time I will ‘pimp’ up some terrain to use with this but for now will make do with the very attractive looking and perfectly serviceable tiles and counters that come with the game. This means that the plastic generic looking and kepi wearing figures included in the game are now essentially redundant, at least for their intended original purpose.

Now it just so happens that I was on the look out for a pile of generic, single pose kepi wearing infantry, cavalry and artillery crew for a particular idea I have in mind. Initially my plan was to get a copy of the Eagle Games American Civil War board game, similar to War in the Age of Imperialism, and use the figures from there. The Eagle Games figures are 20mm, as are those from Battle Cry, so fleshing out the rank and file with command etc from places such at Hat Industries would be a simple and inexpensive exercise and certainly this has worked with my Zulu War set up (still to be started, due to the lack of Zulus!).

Significantly the Battle Cry figures are also the same size as the those that come with the board game Shogun. 

The hard plastic figures contained in the board game Shogun are plentiful, albeit rather wooden looking in terms of poses. They cover all the basics for the infantry and a couple of boxes of Zvezda Samurai Cavalry are all that is needed to have the basis for a pretty good set up. This could be for the late 16th century or, and this is where the Battle Cry figures come in, as a ‘The Last Samurai’ style army with the ACW figures providing the Imperial Japanese opposition. For sure some artistic licence would be needed for the regular Japanese infantry in terms of paint job but in terms of fighting a Samurai army made up of 16th century types it would have the making of good, albeit hysterical rather than historical, set up. Call it Hollywood wargaming if you will!

My thinking is currently running along these lines:

1. WoFun for ACW battles using Battle Cry and the Portable Wargame
2. Battle Cry figures used for 19th century Imperial Japanese
3. Shogun figures used for the 16th century AND the 19th century (with a nod to Tom Cruise)
4. Ships for the 19th century and yes, David Manley has penned a supplement for the Boshin War.

An excellent book although the author has a pretty dim view of the film The Last Samurai…. 

From the pen of David Manley. The ship on the right is the former Confederate ironclad the C.S.S. Stonewall and I have built one of them (actually two as she had a near sister) for the ACW project.

I will be taking huge historical liberties for the 19th century with this part of the Samurai project but in my defence the idea of ‘old versus new’  with ‘new’ inevitably triumphing has an appeal in a Greek Tragedy kind of way.

The inevitable Osprey - most wargamer’s first port of call for uniform references when a new project beckons!

The Last Samurai supplement for The MenWho Would Be Kings

I am waiting for the Osprey title on the Boshin and Satsuma Rebellions and already have a very good title covering the naval side which will not need many models at all.

The 19th century part of the project will be a fusion of the history - elements of both the Boshin War and the Satsuma Rebellion will feature - and to be honest will be more Hollywood than accurate but that has probably not stopped any wargamer ever….

For rules I have a great selection to choose from. Lion Rampant and The Men Who Would Be Kings - there is supplement available for the latter covering the Samurai rebellions - will feature, along with DBA and the Portable Wargame. 

So that, in a nutshell, is the grand plan for not one, not even two but three projects all borne of my lingering fascination with the American Civil War and the Samurai. Although there is a range of figures available specifically for the period I am far happier ‘winging it’ with the alternatives I have suggested. It may offend the purist but I am not bothered by that. I will leave the last word on the subject to Katsomoto, the Samurai leader from the film, The Last Samurai:

 The perfect wargame is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.”

Updating Ironclads….Part 2

The four ironclads currently being refurbished. The C.S.S. Georgia (top) is presently the only ‘named’ model of the four but this change once the upgrade has finished. The model at the bottom will become the C.S.S. Tuscaloosa whilst the two in the centre will become the C.S.S. Huntsville (front) and the C.S.S. Raleigh (rear).

The first phase of the planned upgrade to the models you see above have been completed. This involved removing the original gun ports and and in the case of the two models destined to become the C.S.S. Huntsville and Raleigh, removal of the funnel for a minor repositioning. Once all the relevant bits had and pieces had been removed I then lightly sanded the affected parts to ensure a smooth finish. This evening will see the new gun ports being added and sealed prior to painting. This will also need to be done for the extra pilot house that the C.S.S. Raleigh had. Due to the oversized flagstaff at the rear of the casemate I will also need to reposition the forward pilot house so that the two can be positioned correctly on either side of the funnel. The plan is to have these four finished over the weekend which will be easily achievable. Once completed - and this will see removal of a long running ‘burr under my saddle’ so to speak - I can then pick up on the three half built models I seem to have been working on for months before embarking on the next round of models.

C.S.S. Tennessee - an octagonal casemate with an integral pilot house. This will require some careful and accurate measuring and cutting

In respect of the next batch of models being stated from scratch the key ship will be the famous C.S.S. Tennessee - I will build two of these so that I can use the ship under two flags, pre and post capture - and so I am currently working out how best to tackle her unique casemate/pilot house within the scope of my usual building technique. 

It will be a challenge but hey ho, I’ve seen worse….cough, cough….

Wednesday 29 March 2023

A Rational Decision - At Last!

A charging Tom Cruise from the historical romp that was The last Samurai. Superbly entertaining but shall we say somewhat challenged from the history perspective. Great fun all the same and crying out for a game based on it. Now I wonder who would be made enough to think about that?

I have been giving a lot of thought in respect of my long term Samurai project and have finally made a decision about its future. My dilemma was one of scale in that I have a substantial collection in both 28mm and 20mm plastic - the former via Warlord Games (now Grey For Games) Test of Honour Samurai skirmish game and the latter via the old Milton Bradley boardgame Shogun/Samurai Swords. Originally I thought that using 28mm for skirmishes and the rather cruder looking 20mm figures (critically these are significantly simpler looking for painting) would work well but after careful consideration I have decided to go with the latter.

To arrive at this choice I carefully considered the following points.

1. Terrain - at the present time my terrain plans are firmly at the stylised end of the scale. Table footprint is important and for the other periods I am exploring 20mm is the preferred figure scale for which I would look to use 15mm or possibly smaller terrain. This lends itself rather more effectively to ‘battle’ sized conflicts. Crucially it also means that any terrain is of a uniform size across the entire collection. 28mm figures, especially for skirmishes, require rather more detailed terrain which invariably takes up more room.

2. Figures - The Warlord figures are lovely but they do require a lot of assembly and have a level of detail that would reward a skilled painter - which I am most definitely not! Constructing over a hundred 13 piece foot figures represents a substantial investment in terms of assembly even before the painting is taken into consideration. The boardgame figures are a lot easier in this respect and are not only fully assembled but have what I call an ‘old school’ level of detail in respect of the painting required. By adding some Zvezda cavalry will not be too much of an issue, perhaps with some other bits and pieces from their range - the command set looks really good.

3. Rules - I like Test of Honour and the Osprey set called Ronin look interesting. I am also looking at Lion Rampant for which I have the Samurai army list to help when building units. There is also a set in the Portable Pike and Shot Wargame that look like good fun. Now here is the thing. If I opted to base the models individually then they collection would suit skirmish level forces along with more conventional armies. So this is the option I am currently considering.

I have taken steps to dispose of the 28mm collection - it has in fact already gone - and the funds realised will form part of my Salute warchest as I shall be attending this year, for the afternoon. Having said that there are some Zvezda bits I shall be getting in with a view to completing the initial requirements for the project and I suspect that Warbases may well be hearing from me soon….

I am pleased and relieved to have finally reached this decision and if anything it will help to focus my efforts with the project. Then of course there is also the Last Samurai angle to consider and the idea I had around gaming this has suddenly become rather more attractive.

Monday 27 March 2023

Updating Ironclads

Aside from the C.S.S. Selma (on the right) the other six models are the originally built ‘generic’ types. The four in the centre - the two with single gunports forward and the two octagonal casemate types - are the ones up for an upgrade with the rear octagonal ship now the C.S.S. Virginia II.

Enthused by the ease of the minor refurbishment of the Virginia II, I have taken a further four models in hand to bring them up to the current build standard. I should point out that the inspiration for this mini project came from John Wallis, author of Ironclad and Iron Protected Vessels of the Confederate States Navy 1861 to 1865, who kindly took a look at some of my ‘generic’ vessels and identified the most likely historical ships they could represent.

C.S.S. Georgia (left) with the larger than desirable gunports. The generic ironclad on the right has the smaller size of gunport that is now standard (5mm square).

Of the four models the C.S.S. Georgia is the only one designed from the outset to be what she represents. The only change I am planning for her is to replace the gunports with the smaller size I now use. Other than that she will be good to go.

These two models were among the very first I built and they have already been refurbished previously - now they are having what I hope will be final ‘tweak’!

The plan for the above is quite simple. The model on the left will be losing a couple of gunports and gaining an additional pilot house whilst that on the right will have a new set of gunports in the same place as the current ones.

The model on the left has been repurposed into the C.S.S. Virginia II whilst that on the right is merely having a couple of gunports moved.

These are all quite small changes to be sure but I will be far happier once they have been brought up to the current standard. Once finished I can then get back to building new models and yes, you have guessed it, there are just a few….

Sunday 26 March 2023

Back to the War between the States

Two C.S.S. Virginias - the one at the top is probably the better known, the one at the bottom you can read about here

Lots to tell so I will crack on without my usual preamble!

I spent some time today pottering about in the man cave and reigniting my gaming mojo. For the record, it worked. I had a degree of sorting out to do and as a reward for this effort I set about going through the 18mm Wofun ACW collection, working on Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame, reviewing Battle Cry - the Command and Colours game of the same name (more of which later) - and then working on a very minor conversion of one of my generic Confederate ironclads. Surprisingly I was able accomplish all three as well having a very pleasant call with Bob Cordery!

The four sprues which, with the rest of the collection, gives me a really versatile force for the American Civil War.

Taking these in order it is the Wofun first. You may recall that a large chunk of 18mm ACW WoFun was given to me by Bob a while ago and I intended looking at it once the Portable Ironclads Wargame had gotten to publication. There is plenty of material in the set but it was missing command and dismounted cavalry. I got in touch with Wofun to get some pictures of the appropriate sprues and so ordered four of them - two command and two dismounted cavalry so one of each for the two sides. With shipping and the bases it was not cheap but I ‘bit the bullet’ with the rationale that I would not really be able to use the collection otherwise. I was properly impressed the service - ordered on the Wednesday and the parcel arrived on Friday! To my surprise there was also a couple of cavalry units in the box so my collection would be all set for Brandy Station or similar.

The new version. I needed to remove a couple of gunports - one from either side of the casemate - and paint over a section of the deck fore and aft of the casemate. Aside from the hull shape being my standard (model speak for ‘wrong’) ‘bot shape’ the casemate is a little on the long side and the pilot house should be square rather than rectangular. Apart from that it is not a bad representation!

The original model. I remember the fun I had fashioning the octagonal casemate….

I have three other casemate ironclads that need some refurbishment which I think I shall tackle next. The main change is in respect of the gunports. On the C.S.S. Georgia all I need to do is to replace them on a like for like basis. The other two will see some redeployment of the gunports which will enable them to be used as historical rather than generic types. Once these three have been updated it will be adding gun barrels to some of the side wheelers.

Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame

Finally I was also able to organise some more bits and pieces for what will be the follow up volume to the Portable Ironclads Wargame. One thing I have decided is that rather than containing both optional and advanced rules they will instead be purely optional. A small distinction but a significant one!

Battle Cry

I have owned three copies of this game over the years but for a variety of questionable reasons they have been moved onwards. To be honest I was not expecting to see another copy anytime soon but help was at hand in the shape of that very nice gentleman, Mr. Aly Morrison. A chance conversation revealed that he had a copy of the game that he had acquired but had not progressed with - mainly due to the indifference of his gaming circle not being into the ACW - and so with a hop, skip and a jump it was sent to Maison Crook. With the WoFun collection ready to be mobilised I reckon that I have the makings of a stonking set up for the period which will tie in nicely with the naval side.

Many, many thanks Aly! You have helped to unleash a monster…. :-)


Saturday 25 March 2023

Empires of the Fantasy Kind

Plenty of potential in a ‘Mighty Empires’ kind of way - along with HOTT and the Portable Wargame

Many years ago, around the turn of the century, I came across a fantasy game system produced by Hobby Products in Germany called Daemonworld. The range of figures that supported the rules were 15mm, sold in blister packs or boxed sets and the whole thing had a very ‘GW Warhammer-like’ feel about it. The initial release featured Humans and Orcs and expansion incorporated all the usual fantasy types - elves, dwarves, undead etc. The whole thing is now owned by Ral Partha Europe with the rules and expansion books available via PDF. 

The boardgame you see above was released as a standalone game designed to support the figures from a campaign perspective - similar in concept to the GW game Mighty Empires. There are a number of additional maps available to download so that the choice of terrain can be varied if required. Essentially the game features resource management so that you can build an empire complete with villages, fortresses and even fleets. Armies are raised and heroes and wizards etc can also be acquired and used to add extra firepower in combat.

The back of the box. The two ‘cities’ at the bottom of the picture ACW metal castings that come with the game.

As seen on the back of the box the idea is that figures are used to represent the units and needless to say my first, second and third thought was very much Command and Colours/Portable Wargame or HOTT related. The map for the game looks like this:

The map. The hexes enclosed within the dark boundaries are provinces - apologies for the poor quality of the picture.

The map is quite usable at a strategic level for pretty much anything pre mechanised - the absence of villages and towns etc is due to the fact that these are ‘built’ from a player’s treasury and deployed where needed. These can also be upgraded and fortified in time. 

The two metal castles, a deck of cards with artefacts, units and other game related stuff, dice and red hit point markers.

The human counters - painted examples of the figures available to support the game.

The Orcs - again using painted examples of the available figures.

I had a quick scan through the rules and it is all pretty straightforward. Units have a number of hit points - these are what the red counters are for - and roll a number of combat dice equal to the unit rating for the type. The Combat dice have three shielded sides and three hit sides and opposed rolls are used. Typically troops have an attack and defence rating against missile and melee combat and this varies depending on the type. I have yet to look at the magic section.

The game is currently unpunched with the cards still in shrinkwrap. Similarly the two fortresses that serve as the players capital are still sealed in the blister pack. The cost of all this? A mere £10.

I am thinking that the map could easily be replicated using Heroscape or Hexon and also with figures and in fact from my perspective the potential for this is huge. I am already thinking about something Samurai related but reckon it could easily be used for other things - especially as the other maps are available to download and print.

Apart from Samurai I have a feeling that something in a small scale would look really good - perhaps 2 or 3mm with some of those lovely buildings etc from Brigade Models.

My plan is to produce a quick play sheet for the tactical rules and see how the units can translate into historical types. The game is good to go as is and so I would not rule out using some fantasy figures - one would certainly not need many of them. All in all then, for a tenner I reckon this is a great little purchase that I am sure will get lots of use - once I have worked out what for that is!

Sunday 19 March 2023

Developing the Portable Ironclads Wargame….Part 2

Confederate gunboats on patrol under the guns of a fort and with an ironclad in support.

This was not quite the weekend I envisaged for a number of reasons but it has been relatively productive in at least one direction. I have now completed the work on the expanded ship lists for the American Civil War and have also started work on the advanced and optional rules. This has been relatively straightforward thus far and this has surprised me somewhat in that I expected there to be rather more head scratching involved.

I have described these as being advanced and optional but to be honest I am thinking that expanded might be more appropriate. They are designed to be dropped in to the original set as required to add some additional feel and complexity if desired.

The rules I am looking at and am currently working on cover the following:

1. Ships moving alternately depending on initiative.

2. Allowing for varying manoeuvrability of ship types.

3. Allowing for a change in the calculation of damage points.

4. Rolling for hit location.

5. Using a square grid

6. Using a single grid area rather than two

7.  Infantry used as sharpshooters and crew

Of the above the one that is very much a personal crusade is the whole square grid thing (number 5) as I really want to make that work and also using a single grid area (number 6) is something I want to explore. Obviously the big thing with these two options is the whole firing arc situation which will need some work but I believe that if successful it will offer a useful alternative if required.

The important point to emphasise is that I am certainly not looking to the reinvent the wheel as the original rules are, in my humble opinion, absolutely fine as they are. What I am doing though, is to demonstrate the toolkit like nature of the rules and sharing some of my additional ideas.

I have also put the man cave on a shipbuilding footing after having cleared away the remnants of Operation Market Garden, details of which will appear in a later post.

Suffice it say that A Bridge FUBAR is probably a fair description of events!

Saturday 18 March 2023

Reaching for the Sky

The title on the left will doubtless bring back memories of playing Air War back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Doodlebugs and Rockets - shades of Operation Crossbow - also reminded me of the training scenario from Air Force that I also played a lot, back in the day.

Particularly pleased to have a copy of this little paperback. It came out around the time the film the Battle of Britain was released and I can remember buying a copy of this and an Airfix ‘Dog Fight Double’ featuring a Spitfire and a Me 110 with some birthday money. 

Local to us we have an internet based group called Freecycle. Essentially it is a site where people can upload anything that they want to dispose of for free. We have offloaded a number of items in the past and indeed, have also picked up the odd item. A couple of years ago someone listed a complete set of the Time Life ACW series - all 28 volumes - but I missed out by a whisker so when Laurel spotted that someone local wanted to dispose of 35 books on Aviation I jumped at the chance.

The collection is quite varied and covers early aircraft pioneers, test pilots, plenty of WW2 and some modern stuff. To be honest 17 titles are probably destined for the charity shop as whilst being interesting they are not military. I have earmarked half a a dozen for my own collection and the remainder, once sorted will be made available to whoever may be interested. 

Aside from the books depicted above I have an encyclopaedia of WW2 aircraft, a first edition copy of A Piece of Cake by Derek Robinson and a book about the making of the TV series of the same name. There is also a portfolio of biographies of 25 Battle of Britain RAF pilots - all fascinating reading.

Of course it now has me thinking once again about aerial wargames….

Monday 13 March 2023

Not Forgetting the ACW

Wofun ACW command and dismounted cavalry. Apologies for the picture quality but you get the general idea of what they look like

With my wargaming butterfly working overtime trying to keep up with me I had almost forgotten to mention the 18mm WoFun ACW collection that was passed over to me by Bob Cordery some while ago. Well, I was looking at the collection over the weekend - pondering a tie in with the ironclads rules before you ask - and to be honest it has everything I am likely to need except for mounted generals and dismounted cavalry. The Wofun website was not hugely helpful in this case as I could not find out how many sprues there are in in a box so a quick email later I received the pictures you see above.

These are not the Peter Dennis versions that use strips of figures, rather these are individuals and in a very different artistic style. For my needs one sprue of each will be more than enough and I am thinking of using them along with Battle Cry - the Richard Borg ACW game - with a base representing a unit. They would also work nicely with the Portable Wargame so there is much in the way of potential. There is plenty of artillery - sixteen guns and crews - but the guns are laser cut from MDF which means gun barrels with a square cross section (shades of Puckle’s machine gun!). I may look to replace these with metal models but for now they are more than adequate.

Once I have the sprues you see above I will have the full ACW collection I will need so I can then see about basing and finishing them off for use on the tabletop. For the record this counts very much as a ‘quick fill’ kind of project as once I have the bits I need it would be the work of a couple of nights to have them ready for action.

No harm in being optimistic is there? :-)

“This is a story you will tell your grandchildren….!”

“And mightily bored they’ll be!” Lt. Gen. Horrocks, commander of 30 Corps, as played by Edward Fox in the 1977 film ‘A Bridge Too Far’, opens his briefing with the quote used in the title of this post.

Since THAT film came out I have been fascinated by the whole concept and story of Operation Market Garden - Monty’s ambitious and ultimately doomed plan to sneak across the River Rhine and into the German industrial heartland of the Ruhr, thereby, it was hoped, shortening the war. It didn’t and the rest, as they say, is history. 

I have refought the campaign a number of times with largely historical results except for when I played a rather spiffy version at my one and only visit to COW - the Conference of Wargamers - designed by John Armatys in which I was able to relieve the British Airborne on the very last game turn  - “in the nick of time will do nicely”. It was my second attempt though to be fair!

Memoir 44 released a scenario pack covering the campaign which I fought a number of years ago but what I am looking at doing now is fighting the Richard Borg designed “Overlord” style version - I am unsure if this is the same as the scenario pack version - which occupies two standard game boards.

The man cave table has been cleared for action and so I hope to get the set up tackled later today with a view to fighting the action over the course of the coming week.

I am looking forward to this as it will be the first time I have a fought a WW2 action - or indeed ANY kind of action - for a while and it will be good to roll some dice and move some stuff around again.

Of course how successful the allies will be remains to be seen - will it be ‘A Bridge Too Far’ or will the British Airborne be relieved in time? 

Thursday 9 March 2023

It is what ‘IT’ is….

The Man Cave - poised at the ready for whatever happens next!

In this case the ‘IT’ is my newly honed and refined project list, version 196.4 (at the very least)! To be honest my usual wargaming project list is very much a work in progress or even a moveable feast if you prefer - I suspect that this will strike a chord with many gamers! I freely admit to being rather lethargic over the last couple of months with only the occasional dabble in anything meaningful. It has been a time of thinking and planning - not in a structured or organised way, rather just a ‘mash up’ of various ideas - but, as time spent of reconnaissance is seldom wasted, I now have a better idea of what I am up against and the likelihood of ‘stuff’ seeing the light of day. I have listed these in no particular order with my assessment of how near or far each item is to reality. There are figures involved and even, shock horror, painting!

1. Samurai. I am really torn on how best to tackle this as I rather like both skirmishes and the whole big battle option. I have 20mm plastic for the latter and 28mm plastic for the former and either way it will be a substantial undertaking, at least for me anyway. I may park this for the moment as I am still undecided as to which way to go but it will happen at some point and in one form or the other!

2. WW1 Naval. I have more or less settled on the models I need so I am currently at the ‘getting the order together’ stage. This will be relatively easy to get to the table once I have the models as the paint job is simple to execute and I have all the flags etc I need. I will need to organise the bases but that can wait until after I have the ships onsite. There is also the small matter of a suitable map of the theatre of operations.

3. Sci Fi/Techno Fantasy - Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel. Around 50 models to paint but usable for many things so there is plenty of mileage to be had. Obviously usable straight out of the box but I would rather get the models painted first. 

4. Battletech. An old favourite and again, relatively easy to get to the table. I have around a couple of dozen of ‘mechs to paint and would need to organise a few bits and pieces of scenery but this would be relatively straightforward to organise.

5. Memoir ‘44. I have a couple of copies of the base game, the Operation Overlord expansion and the Terrain Pack. That will suffice for me at present and in any event, the rules and scenarios for most of the series are readily downloadable. I am going to get a few games in and yes, I have some ‘long range’ ideas but nothing tangible at present.

6. The ACW. I have some ships to finish for the collection as well as a few refurbishments to undertake but nothing major. It would be the practical thing to tackle these first of all but practicality has never been my strong suit! Having said that I have some 18mm WoFun to commission for the land side and a rather fat book about the Atlanta campaign waiting to be read! I would need to get an order in to Wofun first to complete the collection though - nothing major, just a command pack and some dismounted cavalry for both sides.

7. DBA. A chance remark at the club a couple of weeks ago has got me reaching for my copy of DBA (3.0 - the big hard purple one….) and the Essex Miniatures catalogue with a view to getting an army painted - by the end of next month! I have a cunning plan about this and fully intend revisiting an army I owned previously to tackle again. It has the virtue of being simple to paint as well as having fought against numerous opponents over a longish timeframe. More details once I have painted it!

8. Blocks. I am mindful of the fact that I have often mooted a minor upgrade to the block armies. This is still very much on the the to do list but as yet I have not decided how best to tackle this. One consolation though is that once I have ‘pulled the trigger’ it will be dead easy to action - essentially I just need to design and order the appropriate pieces.

I realise that this looks dangerously like a whole pile of stuff that is designed never to get done but for me variety has always been important. The fact that much of this is relatively small beer is a bonus so I will less excuse for not achieving any of them!

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Thoughts about Memoir ‘44

Saving Private Ryan, Memoir ‘44 style

I have a particular fondness for Memoir ‘44 - the Richard Borg designed Command and Colours WW2 board game - and rather like a comfortable pair of carpet slippers it occasionally pops up in the forefront of my gaming thoughts as being a safe bet. The rules are very ‘light’ in terms of detail although successive expansions to the core game have added additional layers of complexity to the system. It is still great fun to play though. Over the years there have been a whole heap of fan based additional bits and bobs so the gamer is really spoilt for choice as to what to do with the system once the official scenarios have been exhausted. Indeed, Bob Cordery devised his variant entitled MOMBAT - Memoir of Modern Battle - a few years back and I had enormous fun using them.

I enjoy playing the game face to face using the command cards but traditionally have not bothered using them when fighting solo. I have softened my stance in this respect and so will now happily use the command cards in an unbiased and evenhanded fashion.

There are a number of expansions to go with the base game, most of which come in and out of availability on what seems like an ad hoc basis so for the ardent collector it is often a case of ‘getting it while you can’. Back in the day I would have slavishly acquired everything I could, regardless of whether or not I actually needed it, and would then have probably sold it all on. I currently own a couple of copies of the base games - useful for ‘Overlord’ style larger games -, the terrain pack and the Operation Overlord set and whilst I like the idea of a number of the other expansions I have downloaded much of the material contained therein from the Days of Wonder website. I may look to get a couple of the desert/winter game boards at some point which will of course mean getting the Winter Wars expansion.

Using the models contained in the game is a quick and easy option but it would be nice to use specific kit in some way. I have seen many Command and Colours games using figures on a hexed table top and some of these are quite beautiful to look at (MSFoy I am looking at you!) but for my needs I am looking at something altogether rather more basic. I am happy to use the Memoir ‘44 game boards as they are but with the addition of 3D terrain. It will require smaller figures but not many of them and the whole thing will look rather attractive and have the advantage of being nice and compact. I have thought about using 12/10mm models but at the moment am looking quite seriously at 3mm. Easy to paint, cheap and with a pretty good selection of identifiable types, the scale has much to commend it. Add in those lovely Brigade Models buildings (1:1200th) and I reckon there is the makings of something rather handy looking.

In a roundabout way this post is linked to that of yesterday for one major reason. The material I am looking at in 1:600th (3mm) comes from Tumbling Dice, as do the ships for the WW1 project.

Mr Sulley will be busy methinks, in a small way….

Monday 6 March 2023

A Life (Back) on the Ocean Wave….

S.M.S. Scharnhorst in her colonial colour scheme

It was always my intention to take the systems used in Portable Ironclads Wargame and extend the coverage up to and including the Great War. It was also my intention to build the requisite models that I wanted to use in this undertaking in the style of my ACW collection - complete with lashings of MDF and bamboo barbecue skewers! Whilst the first sentence definitely holds true the second has now been reluctantly discarded. I will not be building models for the later period - mainly because they would require rather more designing than those of the earlier period and, to be honest, they would be rather too large for what I have in mind. 

I shall be using 1:2400th scale models for the project I have in mind and these will be largely from the Tumbling Dice ‘Age of Battleships’ range. Of necessity this will also mean a change of scale in terms of using hexes in that models will occupy a single hex rather than two hexes. This would serve to make ranged combat look more, well, ranged. I am confident that the Ironclads engine would work well enough for the later period although more efficient and numerous artillery may stretch the elastic band rather further than is prudent! We shall see and needless to say a few ideas are ‘bubbling under’.

So what am I doing then? Well, in a nutshell I am revisiting an old idea centred on an expanded Madasahatta style set up. There are a number of assumptions I shall be basing my idea upon.

1. The German East Asia Squadron (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau etc) heads west rather than east and heads for the German part of the island.

2. Goeben and Breslau, along with a couple of Turkish predreadnoughts manage to dash down the Suez Canal and head for Dar Es Salaam before war is declared.

3. The Royal Navy send a brace of battlecruisers, along with Triumph and Swiftsure into the area to keep the Germans and Turks honest.

Aside from the newer units most of what will be used - especially for the Royal Navy - will be a motley selection of armoured and protected cruisers in various stages of decrepitude with some old battleships in use as guard ships or for bombardments. 

Madasahatta suddenly becomes a major threat against traffic from India but the Royal Navy have to make do with what they have. Numbers are on their side though. 

The beauty of this set up is that it does not require an awful lot of kit - no Jutland sized fleet actions here for sure - and should be relatively painless to organise. The challenge will be getting a suitable map designed and of course the all important tabletop rules.

I have to say that this idea has given me a real rush of enthusiasm for a variety of reasons - the main one being because any excuse to get something, anything, Madasahatta related on the table!

Thursday 2 March 2023

There Be Pirates!

Pirates and yes, they are in the Caribbean….

The back of the box

Ever since I was given a copy of the Waddington’s board game of Buccaneer as a boy (pre wargaming so this would have been around 1970ish) and seeing Treasure Island - the BBC series and the Disney film - I have had a liking for the whole pirate genre. I have flirted with figures and models over the years - Peter Pig’s Pieces of Eight, Blood and Plunder and Galleys and Galleons being the main culprits but for some reason could not get out of first gear in a meaningful way. I had even toyed with building my own ships using the techniques acquired whilst building the ACW collection. 

A rather attractive map of the area of piratical operations featuring the main nationalities present - English, French, Dutch and Spanish

A potential solution came about via my recent acquisition of a secondhand board game called Merchants and Marauders produced by Z Man Games. This has the potential to tick pretty much all the boxes for me - it even has a solo system - in that it looks rather like a grown up version of Waddington’s Buccaneer. Essentially you win by acquiring Glory points and you can do this via trade, piracy or following rumours. As your renown grows so you are able to upgrade your ship making you rather more of a dangerous adversary. There are NPCs involved and game controlled events that al adds to the fun. The game is set in the Caribbean (naturally) and the game board is a lovely map of the area. Aside from all the game paraphernalia which includes gold coins and the inevitable treasure chests, there are 26 hard plastic ships depicting stylised versions of typical types from the latter half of the 17th and early 18th century. They are rather nice although the curved bowsprit may be seen as problematic to some - not I though!

The ships. There are four each of the national colours - blue, red, green and yellow and each has one of each model. They are from left to right, a galleon, a frigate, a flute and a sloop. There are also eight others that are in effect NPCs to use the old D and D term and a black frigate and sloop that represent legendary pirate characters.

There are two expansions currently available - one of which adds more detail to the base game and another which is a standalone although set in the Merchants and Marauders world. This is called Broadsides and is basically a ship to ship point blank range naval duel. It looks a lot of fun and needless to say I have a few ideas of where I could take this!

The first expansion - adds to the base game with the advantage that you only need use the sections that are of interest.

This is a standalone game set in the Merchants and Marauders world

Ship to ship, up close and personal in an Errol Flynn kind of way - no, NOT that kind of Errol Flynn way… ;-)

For the Broadsides standalone game I am thinking it would not take a great deal of work to cobble together a couple of generic pirate ships - there are plenty of large scale MDF models available for this - and in effect use the deck planes as control cards whilst moving the models as required. The Portable Pirate Wargame? Who knows?

Now to dig out my copy of the Pyrates by George MacDonald-Fraser….