Tuesday, April 30, 2019

One Post for April

The end of the semester is always crazy for me. I am wrapping up school, but seems like my kids' activities have tripled. I have been doing a lot of painting, but I don't have time to sit down and record things on my blog.

I've been working really hard to complete these fantasy figures, but I think I reached burn-out on them, and want to get back to the microarmor universe. I started a little fantasy, side project. My son Ivan has a number of invisible friends. Don't worry, he knows they are pretend. When he has a hard time going to sleep, I tell him these stories about the adventures of King Ivan and his knight friends. The stories are pretty bad, but I try to inject some sort of moral to the story. He's been goofing around with my figures and having little battles involving King Ivan's army versus the evil Red Wizard and his army of ninjas. So, I thought I would paint up some of the characters. I'm far from finished. Here is King Ivan's standard bearer:

I can't remember off the top of my head who makes this guy other than its an Italian company. My son loves penguins and wanted the king's coat-of-arms to be a penguin. I've got a trumpeter also finished and I'm still working on the king and the evil red wizard. I used to be pretty good at painting coats-of-arms onto shields and such, but my eye sight was a lot better and my hands were less shaky than now. I have some ninjas on order and once I get them and paint them up, I will take a break from the 15mm fantasy for awhile and get back to moderns.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Thoughts about Campain Maps

I hope this does not bore you, but I am thinking out loud here. Maybe some of you have thought about this too.

I am building my final touches on my campaign map for my Bovatopian campaign. I am not really ready to post it, but a few things that I am working on/struggling with. What I have been very deliberate as I put together this map is the need for geographical locations to be strategically important. This is the problem with my map of Gambusia. I really didn't make it with a strategic game in mind. Here are some issues that I now see with my Gambusian map:

1. Lines of Communication
Wikipedia defines lines of communication as the routes that connect an operating military unit with its supply base. First, and probably the most major problem is that there are too many lines of communication in the form of roads and to a lesser extend railroads. Armies of both sides can easily bypass various towns or cities. Urban centers have no strategic significance in terms of blocking or cutting off the enemy, or keeping lines of communication open. The only urban centers that are important are the capitals of the opposing nations.

2. Cities and Towns
In addition to too many roads, there are way too many cities and towns. It is likely that the two are related. Too many cities and towns leads to too many roads.

3. Reasons for Naval Operations
When I started my Gambusian campaign I envisioned having naval battles as well as land and air battles. I've come to notice that the two main antagonists share such a long border that there doesn't seem to be a need for any naval battles, other than some of the islands that could be contested. I suppose the two nations can blockade each other to keep supplies from coming in, but because the ports are on opposite ends of each nation, there'd be too much risk involved for each nation to set up a blockade.

How to fix the problems? Look at board games
Sadly, I got rid of many of my old Avalon Hill games a long time ago, however, I stated looking at those that I do have to see how I can set up strategically-important lines of communication. I do have VASSAL installed on my computer, though I've never figured out how to use it. I can pull up the digital versions of old wargames and see how they do things. I am using the Bovatopia campaign to resolve these issues. When I am happy with Bovatopia, I will then redo Gambusia.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Standard of the High King

Demonworld Thain standard of the High King. Now produced by Ral Partha Europe.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


I am still busy painting fantasy figures. Here are my latest: Gnolls (Hyaenamen) from Splintered Light Miniatures. Originally, I bought the gnoll warband, but it turned out that they are the same as their Hyaenamen line, so I bought more to build a larger army than what you get from the warbands.

Rank and File
I used a Raw Sienna craft paint followed by a highlight of raw sienna and Vallejo flesh color for the highlights. I think did my usual black ink wash.

Standard Bearer
The standard was kind of boring. Its just two sticks with some feathers hanging from it. So I found some 25mm plastic skulls in a bin box. There were from Fortress Figures and I had used them on the stands for my 28mm Terminator miniatures. I drilled a hole and the bottom of the skull and glued it on. Looks much better than before!

Leader & Drummer
Apparently, Gnolls have a matriarchal society. Just to be different, I gave the general blonde hair. I couldn't tell if her top was made out of cloth or skins or was an armor breastplate. I chose the armor route.

The shaman is my favorite of the bunch, at least I think she is painted the best. I didn't want them to have an African theme, but I wanted a little more to her and the general's outfits. I did a cheetah or leopard spotted outfit for both. I think the shaman's turned out better than the leader's. I have no clue what her staff has on the top of it, so I went with copper. 

I have a lot more to go including more rank & file, archers, some elite female warriors, and some riders mounted on large hyaenas. However, I'm kind of getting burnt out on fantasy painting. Also, I noticed that I seemed to be painting stuff as quick as possible to put up on the Facebook 15mm fantasy page. I guess its an inducement to get a lot painted, but at the same time, I wonder if I'm rushing through just to post stuff up on Facebook; bowing to social media as it were. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

15mm Wizard and Barbarian

I've painting a whole lot of fantasy figures lately. I think these two were from the old Rank and File miniatures, which were made by Ral Partha and went the way of extinction along with Ral Partha's own 15mm line. I probably should have taken some pictures of them with some other 15s for comparative purposes, but they look a little taller and heftier than the other 15s I have.

I am particularly happy with the barbarian. After probably about 40 years (!) of trying to get the shading and highlighting of skin down for half-naked barbarians right, I think I've hit on a formula that I am happy with:

1. Base coat of some sort of middle flesh. I've used both a craft paint flesh color, or Army Painter's Barbarian Flesh

2. Paint all shadows with a slightly thinned down Burnt Sienna.

3. Highlight with Vallejo's Basic Skin Tone

4. Apply a wash of Army Painter's Light Tone wash. I've experimented with Army Painter's other washes, but the others seem to make everything a little too dark.

5. If need be, re-highlight with the Basic Skin Tone, but only the most raised points and slightly thin down the paint.

6. Once dry, spray with a clear flat. Lately, I've been using Krylon's clear flat and its seems to do just as good a job as Testor's Dullcoat at much less the price per size of can. The flat spray along with the AP wash seems to help pull and almost blend together the various shades and highlights.

I didn't think I would, but I find that I like the flat finish on the metallic parts of the figures.

I am chugging along with the fantasy figures, but I think I'll take a break and will soon have another microarmor test battle. I think I am going to try out Cold War Commander.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Modern Armor Playtest 1: Tank Wreck!

Note: this post is a lot briefer than my usual ramblings. I was pretty far along but when I opened this post to continue working on it, poof! all but the first picture was gone. My 6 year old was doing some math quiz on my computer yesterday and might have decided to edit my post. Not sure.

For my first game, I tested Tank Wreck! by Martin Bourne.
I quickly threw together some paper roads, a hill, some houses, and a forest onto a 2' x 4" table shown here:

The scenario was a race to take and hold the village. The Green army would be coming from the west, whereas the Tan army is coming from the east. The Green army is considered to be the invaders, so I put the Tan army on the board and gave them the first initiative. In WR you roll for initiative, but then its alternating movement of units for both movement and shooting. This will prove to be a disadvantage for the Tan army. The small washers represents both hits and suppression markers, so I apologize in advance for any confusion. I will need to make more specific markers for future battles.

Village looking from the east. Ignore the star destroyer
on the upper right side.

Tan army in starting position. Their plan was to
race ASAP to the village

Green army deployed at start. M48A5 tanks
flank the mechanized infantry on the road.
The Battle
The first turn was just getting the opposing sides within firing range. The rules use inches for measurement and movement, but due to the size of the board, I used centimeters.

Tan army moving into village. BRDM with Swatter
ATGM race to deploy at farm.

M113 APCs moving down the road. Seems that
an extra M113 snuck into the game.

Tan army deploys into the village. One company of T-55s move
west of the gas station, the other T-55s skirt south of the village.
The infantry dismounts from their IVFs.

Bad things started happening to the Tan army. The tank company opened fired on the M48s and the M113 FSV on the road after they moved past the gas station. T-55s get a -1 to hit and a -1 to do damage. On top of that, you still have to take a -1 for shooting after you move even if you have stabilization (its worst if you don't). The four T-55s scored only a single hit on one of the M48s, but it didn't penetrate. 

*BOINK!* 100mm shell bounces
off the front of the M48
The return fire from the Greens was devastating! The M48s only took a -1 penalty for moving and shooting. 

Two of the four T-55s take hits. The one on
the left took three!

Two T-55s blown up. 

On the south side, things were no better for the Tan army.

M48s open fire....

….resulting in two hits. Fortunately one
resulted only in a suppression.

Where things stood by the end of turn 3:

Things not looking good for the Tans but the
BMP-2s have moved up to try to use their
ATGMs against the M48s. 
Turn 4: the tide seems to turn:

The two BRDMs move up to the farm.
One BRDM fire off a Sagger ATGM and scores a hit!
The other BRDM fires a Sagger missile and....
….scores another kill!
Meanwhile, the north flank M48 tanks climb the hill.
As the M48s climb, the BMP-2s move up to support the
T-55s and take on the Green infantry.
In one turn, the situation was starting to look at least salvageable for the Tan army. However, the Tan army only has a limited supply of ATGMs. The BRDMs only have four each vehicle, and each has expended one. The BMP-2s have only one each. Unfortunately, the optimism on the Red side soon came to an end with the beginning of turn 5.

After seeing two of his comrades get offed by ATGM fire,
one of the M48s wisely or cowardly hides behind the farm

An exchange of fire between T-55s and M48s results in
one M48 suppressed but both a T-55 and a BMP-2 blown up.

Feeling bold, the two Saggers rush onto the field to
attack the partially hidden M48, but both miss!
Their confidence quickly melted. The only saving 
grace was the fact that the M48 had already moved.

Green infantry slowly moving toward the town, fires
LAWs at long range, but miss. Their FSV misses as well.
At the end of turn five, Tan infantry have taken up positions in and
around the town center. The M48 unit on top of the hill now starts
down towards the town.
The end of turn 5 did not see the turnaround for the Tan army as was hoped. Two more AVFs were knocked out. I decided that now was a good time to test the morale part of the rules. The Green army passed its test. The southern M48 company squeaked by, but the others had no issues.

Not so for the Tan army. Spoiler alert: everyone but the infantry units failed miserably on the company morale tests. So, the battalion failed at its level. General order went out to retreat out of the town. The Tan battalion commander ordered the infantry to load up but leave last to cover the retreat. He (i.e. me) figured that the BMP-2s, being armed with the better AT-5 Spandrel ATGM, should be able to hold off the M48s for a little while.

Their BMP-2 transport being blown up in the previous turn, 
this infantry unit heroically volunteers to stay behind and fight 
to the death while their comrades escape.
The Green infantry finally gets close to the remaining T-55
of one of the companies, and blows it up in a hail of 
LAWs rockets and gunfire from the FSV.
A heroic BMP-3 lets loose a Spandrel missile at a M48,
but misses! Return fire from the M48 results in an ugly
hit on the BMP-3. Foolishly, all infantry were aboard. I rolled
a D6 for survivors, there were none. :(

The remaining Tan army flees the town.
The end: after seeing their comrades at the end of turn 6
go up in flames in their BMP-3, the lone infantry stand 
drops the whole hero shit and surrenders to the Green army that
is cautiously entering the town.

Analysis of the Rules
Overall, not a bad set of rules. I think the demise of the Tan army was as much poor tactics on my part as anything else. Here are some of my thoughts in no particular order

Organization, Format & Readability
Pretty well organized. Each parts of the game: movement, shooting, artillery, morale, etc., had an example that consisted of a running commentary of two people playing a game. That was pretty useful. Sometimes, things were sort of buried in the rules. For example, overwatch, or "reserve fire" as the author calls it, doesn't really stand out in the section Unit Activation. I'm sure I probably read it, but totally forgot about it. I kept thinking as the Tan Saggers were moving up that I wish that an overwatch option was included in the rules. If nothing else, it should be mentioned in the ready reference sheet. Even though I didn't use artillery, I had a similar issue when I was reading about artillery and spotting.

Turns & Movement
I liked the alternating activation sequence. It was pretty bloody because of the move and shoot rule. One side had to just sit and take a pounding when an opponent's unit was activated. Maybe it might have been different if I had remembered to use reserve fire. If I have another game, I might try alternate unit movement, but simultaneous shooting after all of the movement is done.

Weapons & Armor Ratings
It is a good, simple armor rating system. I did wonder why M48A5 tanks were rated at heavy armor, whereas an M48A3 is rated medium. Other than having a 105mm gun, which might give it a thicker gun mantel, I can't really see it having heavier armor than the M48A3, which has a 90mm gun.

The weapons system is pretty straight forward. There are some really tough penalties of you move and shoot turn an activation. Two other comments. First, there is no close assault rules. I guess two infantry units just shoot at each other at point blank range if they come into contact. Second, it seemed that the to hit numbers for ATGMs is rather low. Is that a reflection of the means by which to guide the missile to its target? It's either that, or maybe the author wanted to balance the game a little.

I liked the cascading morale system. You test morale going up the chain of command in these rules. First, you test the companies. Once you determine their results, then you test for the whole battalion, and so on up the chain of command. How well a battalion will do is based in large part on how many companies passed their morale tests. The failure of all but one of the Tan companies led to the battalion to fail morale. 

This rules are definitely armor oriented.  I would definitely use these rules again, but the next time, I would make my own cheat sheet to include the various things in the rules that I missed.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Recent Book and Rule Purchases

Maybe I mentioned this in a recent post, but one of my big resolutions is to hold the line on hobby purchases, other than glue or new paintbrushes, for the new year. Its not helping that Heroics & Ros keeps putting out new and improved infantry, GHQ has added some new vehicles that I could use, and who knows what O8 will be putting out for 1/600! At least, I think I'm OK on my 15mm fantasy barbarian project. The only thing outstanding is a tactical modern armor boardgame coming down the pike that I pre-ordered.

Just after Christmas, several books that I had ordered finally showed up.

South American Battleships 1908-59

I preordered this Osprey book way back in the summer. The release date kept getting pushed back. In fact, I didn't even know what was in the package when it arrived. 

A fairly quick read. It has a very interesting discussion on the naval arms race among the big three South American nations. I think the book could have included a few more larger color profile illustrations of the various battleships. Instead, there are some painting recreating some of the battleships in action. These don't really add much to the discussion in my opinion. Nonetheless, its a pretty good book for the price. It would be very useful for recreating what-if naval battles among the three nations.

Before the Battlecrusier: the Big Cruiser in the World's Navies 1865-1910

This came out about a week or two before Christmas. I was weak, so I ordered it off of Amazon. It came while I was out of town at my daughter's tennis tournament. It's still in my office and I have been thumbing though it while I take numerous breaks from working on class syllabi (which has to be one of the most soul-sucking aspects of being a college prof) for the upcoming semester. Yes, I should be working on them even now rather than writing this post. 

It covers pretty much everyone in the time period listed. The ship plans are a little small and leave off things like ship's boats, but they are detailed enough that you can use them to build models off of. A nice addition is that it has an addition side few showing the extent and thicknesses of armor. The only thing that puzzles me is that the book excludes the US cruisers of the Spanish-American War. The infamous USS Maine is listed, but those cruisers that took part in the Battle of Manila Bay, the USS Olympia for example, are left out.  I can't comment on cruisers of other nations if there are similar omissions. 

Panzer Korps 2nd Edition & OPFOR 1985 to 2020

I saw a couple of reviews and some AARs using these rules. Even though they are supposed to be at the divisional level, I thought I'd check them out. I've read through them a few times, but this is not meant to be a review. I will save that when I have my test battle using them.  The mechanics look interesting particularly the activation system. My only initial criticism is that have a whole bunch of unnecessary, somewhat random pictures that actually make it a little hard to read the text. Also, it says that you need main rule set to play the OPFOR module, but it seems like the basic rules are in the module. I figure if I like these rules enough, I can use them for WWII games, too.