Saturday, March 7, 2015

Portrait of the author as a young Wargamer

Kid pictures are, of course, the last refuge of the scoundrel.  I count Medieval Lego men, Prince August homecasts and possibly some Britains knights in there somewhere.  The siege tower is long gone, handed on to younger cousins, but the fort remains on top of the shelf in the War Room. 

Seems silly really, how at the ripe old age of seven or eight, I cracked the complexities of siege games - something which has resolutely eluded me nearly thirty years on.  A testament to the virtues of simplicity I suppose. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

What to do with a chap like this?

Might this plucky Belgian be taking a trip across the pond?

Last year, I had the good fortune to pick up some figures very cheaply from a diorama that was being broken up.  Amongst those figures were some Dutch-Belgian infantry like this chap above.  Now as it happens I ended up with some more than I needed. Most of them have the slightly flared Austrian shako, but these fellas are wearing the false fronted job favoured by the America regulars. Their coat is blue and disregarding the possible need to do away with the shoulder wings with a dab of paint, I think they are not a bad match for US regulars. 

The attractions of 1812 are many, not least that I have all the British I could possibly need. I think it remains to be seen exactly how many of these fellas I have and how many units I would likely need. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Prussian Purgatory

Into the tub they go...

Life hasn't been allowing much leisure time for messing about with toy soldiers of late, but with the prospect of some time off in march there is every possibility that we might get a game in.  With that in mind, I've been prepping some Prussians with a view to maybe getting to the CCN epic Waterloo scenario. 

These boys (and their pals) were part of a lot I picked up before Christmas on eBay. They weren't amenable to rebasing, so I tried a trick from Tony over at Toy Soldiering On. This involved soaking the bases in water for a couple of hours.

After an hour or two. 

And as it turned out it was super successful.  These are plastic figures unlike Tony's Wargames foundry boys and so there was a slight problem that the figures float when placed in water. But a little judicious weighting worked wonders. 

Looking pretty good actually. 

I've always considered rebasing a bit of a wargamers Purgatory. It is the dull exercise one must go through in order to reach the promised land - and I will do practically anything to avoid it. However these figures were too good a bargain to pass up and have turned out rather well I think. I am very grateful to Tony for this trick. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Great War Map


It appears I miscounted

I stated in my previous post that the map for Great War is thirteen hexes by eleven and it would appear I was talking through my hat. Here's a quick screen shot from the gameplay video.  It is in fact twelve by eleven. I presume there's solid gameplay reasons for this, but I had so hoped it would be a standard board size. 

Interesting to note that the trench system is notional. Great War trench systems were generally more complex and zig zagged a bit more, but this makes things easier for a modular tile system. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Kickstarter: The Great War

I may be the last chap on the Internet to hear about this, but be that as it may in case there is another poor soul out there that hasn't heard the good word, I thought a brief blog entry was in order.

Behold the next ruinous assault on my pocket book!

The Great War by Richard Borg is the latest installment in the Commands & Colours series of games. Produced by those fine fellows at the Plastic Soldier Company it is a board game in a box allowing players to play out the bloody battles of the Great War using the tried and tested Commands & Colours system. The game itself is being launched on Kickstarter and you can find it and an explanatory video here.  There are twenty nine days left to back this project, so there is no rush.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a organisation that allows companies to gather finance for projects from large groups of small investors. This can vary from project to project, but folk have used it to finance films, expeditions, exhibitions, art projects and games. In the context of Great War, what you're doing is pledging money (about £50) for a copy of the game which will be delivered when the game is made. 

Observations on what we know so far.

- The game will use a standard Command & Colours setup, that is a board with hex tiles on it and 1/100 scale plastic figures. Combat will be resolved using the standard bespoke dice.

- One rather clever aspect of the design that isn't mentioned explicitly  in the KS is that the card markers appear to be double sided.  The wire markers have shell holes on the reverse which would appear to indicate that the terrain setup can be altered by bombardments. Very clever if true.

- There will be a hundred odd 1/100 (15mm in new money) scale figures in the box and the initial release will cover the British (hurrah!) and the Germans (boo!).  The French, plucky Belgians, Russians and other expansions are in the works. Americans will be presumably two or three years off.

- Looking at the game play video, the board is a little different from previous Borg games, measuring as it does thirteen hexes by eleven (damn you Borg!).

- Lastly and I think this is an example of Kickstarter maturing as a platform - there is no doubt about it this game is getting made. The game is already written and playtested.  If I've learned anything from speaking to Richard Borg it is that he playtests his games rigorously and over a long period of time. The gameplay will be solid. Secondly, the figures are already in tooling and the boxes are being produced.

This is a type of project is being produced by a company with a proven track record that is so far as I can tell using Kickstarter as a means of marketing their product and limiting their financial exposure, which is fair enough.  KS is a great means of harnessing the enthusiasm of your audience because prospective investors are motivated to push your product to others because of the mechanism of stretch goals. 

Every KS project has a minimum funding target.  If that target is reached, at the end of the campaign, Kickstarter will give the project organiser that pot of cash (less KS fees) and the product will get made.  On occasion, a project will be wildly successful and will garner more investment than it's initial target. As the organisers most likely want more money, they create stretch goals - boundaries at which they will add extra stuff to the project. For example, The Great War is looking to raise £25,000 and will add two additional scenarios if they raise £35,000.  These extras will be added to everyone's pledge if the campaign raises the requisite amount of money. 

The stretch goals for The Great War are as follows. 

£25k base target
£35k 2 extra scenarios exclusive to Kickstarter set
£55k metal command figure sets exclusive to Kickstarter set
£75k replica Princess Mary 1914 Christmas tin, for storing cards and dice
£100k plastic Mk IV tank
£125k plastic A7 tank
Looking at these, they seem quite conservative to me - which is good. Previous Kickstarters have landed themselves in hot water by promising more than they could deliver and have either lost money, some so much so that they collapsed, or were subject to serious delays.  Even if all these stretch goals are achieved, I don't see there being any major issues with the putative delivery date of June/July. 
Now obviously, I'm generally on board for any Richard Borg produced game - but in this case in particular, this looks like a solid game, produced by a professional operation that is capable of delivering on its promises. I'm curious as to what the next few weeks will bring. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Thirsty Red Lancer

The Red Lancers or to give them their full title, the 2ieme regiment de chevau-leger lanciers de la Garde Imperiale, were a light cavalry regiment in the Imperial Guard. This chap is from Master Box and was done up by our fellow in Budapest, known only by the top secret code name, "Krisztian's Mate". 

The Red Lancers were originally hussars of the Royal Dutch Guard, but were taken were later taken into Napoleon's Imperial Guard in 1810.  They marched into Russia in 1812 and suffered massive losses, but were reformed to serve on through 1813-14, though lacking many of the original Dutchmen. 

I think you can agree that this is an extraordinary piece of work.  Perhaps this fellow is taking refreshment during the retreat from Waterloo. The Red Lancers escorted Napoleon away from the fatal field of Waterloo.  No doubt it was thirsty work. 

The reins in particular are just a fantastic example of the modelers art. The Belgian housewife is an interesting study. I'm not sure if she is looking wistfully at the Lancer, as all the nice girls like a man in uniform, or simply waiting for this unwelcome intruder, still reeking of horse sweat, blood and gunsmoke, to be gone from her home. 

Who can say? 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Kursk - Part Six - The Battle of Prokhorovka

Tanks of the Soviet 5th Guards moving forward under fire, covered by infantry

Well, Ladies and Germs, this is, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear, the final Kursk battle report. To be honest I thought I'd posted this some time ago, so if you've forgotten where we are or what's happening you can read the previous sections here

The final scenario was Prokhorovka, which is just the mother and father of all tank battles. Hundreds of tanks meeting in the most extraordinary clash of armour the world has ever known. We used a slightly modified version of the official Memoir '44 scenario for this game. 

"The tank battle of Prokhorovka was a clash between two immense armored forces. As the SS Panzer Corps started its advance, the Soviet artillery erupted and soon after the 5th Guards Tank Army under Gen. Pavel Rotmistrov accelerated toward the German advance. Rotmistrov's plan was to close quickly to negate the advantage held by the longer range German tanks.

The fighting became a swirling melee and soon the battlefield was littered with the shattered remains of smoking armor. Losses on both sides were enormous. Combined, over 700 tanks were lost and because the battlefield remained in Soviet control the Germans could not recover and repair their losses."

From the official scenario background by Richard Borg

The Luftwaffe begin proceedings.

Now, both the Germans and the Soviets had kept the majority of their reserves for this battle. The Soviets deployed extra armour in a solid wedge in the centre, while the Germans deployed all their remaining Tigers on their right. The opening move of the game was a massed German air raid on the Soviet armoured reserve. The result was predictably brutal. 

Get him Laika!

The Soviets responded by deploying their own aircraft to drive off the Luftwaffe and a massive furball erupted over the Soviet centre. Neither side managed to down the other, but the struggle took some of the heat off the men on the ground. 

Tigers in the woods
(note: the telephone poles in the right foreground of the picture mark hexes that are not in play)

Meanwhile the German Tigers started to advance on the Soviet left. The woods echoing with the revving of engines. 

Some archive footage

The game is progressing along quite happily (my apologies for the poor quality). The German advance on the right and in the centre continues. 

A Panzer four takes aim

This was one of a little collection of German armour that I picked up from Ian Hinds Minatures to round out my Panther and Tiger heavy collection. It's an entirely metal piece and weighs a ton, not sure what manufacturer it comes from. 

Carnage in trees and in the fields

Meanwhile on the Soviet left, the infantry are dashing for the cover of the trees as the German attack goes in. The Soviets were quite short of cards on this section and as a result their counter attacks were bitty and piece meal. 

A graveyard of Soviet brothers

Meanwhile in the centre, the Soviets were in real trouble. Not only had the Germans managed to keep their airpower on station, but they'd managed to back it up on the ground. The resultant wedge of German heavy armour took serious damage, but wiped out the Soviet central reserve in return. 

The Red Armour is burning

The Soviet counter attack in the centre does some damage, but it's not enough to stop 
the rush of the Panzers. 

The Tiger reaps a deadly harvest

German airpower and aggression the ground meant that the Soviets were fighting from their back line a great deal of the time and didn't have as much room to move.  It also allowed the Germans to drive them back onto their rear areas, block their retreats and pick up extra kills from those Flag results on the combat die. 

The battle in the Soviet rear areas continues

In an attempt to win back the tempo of the engagement, the Soviet armour bypass the advancing German heavy armour and hit the retreating German arms our in their rear area. They wipe out the weakened German units, but it's too little too late. 

Laika lays down his life for the Motherland

The game actually ended with the downing the Red Airforce sole remaining fighter at the battle, which had attempted to end the Luftwaffe's reign of terror over the Soviet rear areas.  This clinched the German win and we all repaired to the bar for some refreshments. 

This was a tough game for the Soviets as the Germans hit hard right from the start and never really stopped piling on the pressure. By the time their attack was beginning to flag, the Soviets were already trialing so badly that they were unable to make up the lost ground.  The key to the German success was a canny collaboration between heavy armour and airpower, The Soviet artillery wasn't able to compensate and a recurring theme of the game was heavy panzers engaging Soviet armour that had been pushed by and that had suffered casualties from air attack. 

This was the fastest of all the games and finished in just under an hour.  This victory took the Germans to an overall victory in the campaign and ensured that juvenile conscripts would be fighting in the ruins of Berlin in November rather than May.