And we're at this time of the year yet again - C4 Open model exhibition took place two weeks ago. A bit of mixed feelings this time around - still a lot of great models, but number of more advanced dioramas decreased yet again. Don't know what to think of it.
In any case, if you click on image below, you'll navigate to a Google album with shedload of pictures of models displayed in this year's exhibition. Direct album embedding is apparently no longer available in Blogger.
And we're at this time of the year yet again - C4 Open model exhibition took place two weeks ago. A bit of mixed feelings this time around - still a lot of great models, but number of more advanced dioramas decreased yet again. Don't know what to think of it.
Last Sunday I had the pleasure of enjoying an unexpected treat – a huge (by our local standards) game of General de Brigade. And no tiny 6mm midgets on that occasion, my dearies!We would be running that game the way wargaming magazines and Warlord Games have learned us over the years is the propper manner – 28mm plastics as long as the eye could reach, and a lot of them too!
Having the pleasure of seeing somewhere near 1500 28mm Napoleonic miniatures may be a common thing for those of you who are lucky enough to live in the land of the Queen and huge wargaming clubs, but let me tell you – here in southern Sweden it’s a rare sight indeed. My hat is definitely off for D., whos collection provided lion share of the figures on the table – very well done indeed, mate!
Allright, so what about the game then? Well… I’m actually still trying to wrap my head around it. If I understand things correctly we run one of scenarios from Caliver Books’ latest scenario book for General de Brigade, dealing with 1813. The one we picked had rather traditional format – two long lines of infantry and artillery opposing each other, the village in the middle provided the major objective. Prussians apparently had some beer in local beer house and Frenchies, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to appreciate the idea of Germans having good time and and decided to crash the party. And yes, it would be one of those ‘hammer to the teeth’ affairs where attackers would rush into defenders along entire line and hope of the best.
Over next four or so hours, we managed to play grand total of five, maybe six rounds. I must admit that being busy trying to shove in as many Frenchmen into the village in the middle, I didn’t pay much attention to what happened on my flanks. Things seemed to go rather well on my left. On my right, I did manage to observe that my fellow comrade in arms had rather dismal luck with his dice rolls and failed to make any impression on Prussian defensive line.
Yours truly tried his best to keep some sort of order among French columns marching toward the village. These columns, consisting of mainly second line troops constantly blasted by artillery batteries supporting two German Jaeger battalions parked in the village and having no intention sharing that beer, had a devil of a time. By round three I managed to reach the edge of the village, but once there, my assault pretty much stalled. By round five one of my battalion routed of the table, while the two battalions that managed to reach the objective intact were repulsed, with some losses. Prussians simply refused to be dislodged from their position. With just under an hour remaining of the playing time, I did the thing I hate being done to myself – I declared that since we wouldn’t be making any headway in remaining time, we may just as well quit for the day.
Musings after the battle
First of all, thanks again to the guys based in Lund for letting me participate in their game! Visual aspect of well-painted 28mm Napoleonic miniatures deployed en massé on a large table is something every wargamer should experience at least once.
Having said that… Damn, General de Brigade is reaaaaaly slow and ponderous game system. In our game, we had three players a side and things should have moved along at a decent speed, but the average time to complete one turn was still somewhere around 30 minutes. I honestly fail to see how, using this ruleset, one can complete a scenario of decent size in a single gaming session. This in itself doesn’t mean that BdeB is a bad ruleset, but I’m starting to wonder if I can use it for purely practical reasons. Say whatever you want about ‘Black Powder’, but that thing at least moves along at decent pace.
I think that given enough time, every wargamer jumps into a period or game system because this or that miniature range is just “so good”! I’ve been there a couple of times myself. But… how many of you have started a new project because of terrain, or to be more specific, paper buildings?!
Allright, perhaps ‘starting a new project’ is a bit of an overstatement, so far we’re talking about a single finished item and as we all know, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. But let’s start from the beginning. I am a regular visitor at Wargames Vault. I’m sure most wargamers are familiar with it and if you’re not, have a look. Just don’t blame me for the money you’ll spend there afterward! A lot of useful stuff can be found there – rulesets, magazines, counter and paper terrain. In that last department, a man with name Dave Graffam has published a whole shedload of very, very impressive buildings. The only problem is that they are intended for fantasy or middle ages. OK, if you squint, they’ll probably can be used for renaissance too. In any case, not really my cup of tea. But nonetheless, something about them caught my eye and when they were on sale couple of months ago , I could not resist the temptation. I grabbed a bunch of them ‘just because’ with no real expectation of doing anything with them in forseeable future.
Couple of weeks ago I found myself feelig quite pleased over the fact that I have finished my Saxon warband for Dux Britaniarum. At the same time, I was for the moment quite fed up with painting minis. I needed to change gears. I then remembered that bunch of PDF-s on my harddrive and decided to take a closer look at them. Well, let me tell you – Dave Graffam has gained an instant fan-boy about a minute after I opened first file. A lot of work has been put into these buildings and the components look beatiful already on the screen. But what really impressed me was the fact that many of PDF-s have so called layers – this allows you to change textures, add and remove details and decide where the door and windows are placed.
I decided to give one of the more complex buildings a try and printed out components for Willow Brook Inn – sixteen sheets of paper, two of them are for the base, four for very basic “cubes” intended to act as supporting components hidden inside the structure and adding sturdiness to the whole thing. Once all the sheets were printed, I mounted the base on 5mm foamcore sheet. Remaining sheets were mounted with help of spray glue in rattle can on 300 grams black cardboard. It’s not necessary, but for me normal 80 gram is just too flimsy for this type of projects.
Once everything was dry and set, the next step consisted of a looot of cutting and glueing. After all, it’s a paper building. The whole thing took me about nine hours to finish with no problems encountered along the way. I strongly advise anyone meaning to give these buildings a shot to follow the instructions and advice of the creator, which can be found in a manual included with this building. I am not complete newbie when it comes to paper buildnings, but some of Mr. Graffam’s advice was both new and quite useful for me while working with this project.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result. The first thing that strikes one once the the buildning is completed is its size – it is a substantial construction with large footprint on gaming table! And there is a lot of potential for improvements if one wishes to spend some TLC on it – beams could be replaced with balsa strips, the roof could be textured or covered with your favourite material for thatched roof, window shutters could be added, doors replaced… But even ‘straight out of the box’, this is a very beautiful terrain piece.
Paradoxically enough, the fact that I really enjoyed putting this thing together has created a bit of a problem for me. The simple fact is that I don’t have any use for it or for the remainder of this product range! That I had to use minis of gladiators for size comparison is perhaps the best proof of that fact. But I would love to build some more of them, maybe even create a complete town setting with them. And so, just like any ‘proper’ wargamer would, I’ve now started to look for rulesets and miniatures that could allow me to use it (and its ‘siblings’) in a game. If you have any helpful suggestions, let me know in the comments!
Lol… New miniature ranges have triggered this reaction with me often enough, but paper buildings? Now, that’s a first!
Last Sunday H. decided to grace me with a visit. Naturally he insisted on dragging his unrully Saxons along with him. My Britons filed a strongly worded complaint to these plans and another clash in our semi-dormant Dux Britanniarum-campaign became unevitable.
Yeah, its’ been a while since I’ve hosted a proper game!
We’re still dipping our toes in the pool when it comes to Dux Britanniarum and trying out different scenarios that are included. In our previous games the games focused on some sort of loot – either plunder of a village or getting away with stuff already grabbed before the encounter in the game. This time around we choose a scenario that is a bit different from the rest of the lot included in the rulebook – a Briton patrol consisting of two warrior groups and an officer are returning from an uneventful stroll around the countryside. The rest of the Briton army is camped around the watchtower at the other end of the table, which also doubles as the ‘panic room’ for the patrol. Saxons have apparently gotten hold of playbook of South-American drug cartels (or would it be the other way around?) and figured out that snaching a noble could render neat little profit without having to deal with angry peasants and sniveling kids.
With a lot of random setup elements in the initial deployment as well as a terrain deployment controlled by players intending to block movement paths or trying to ensure escape routes, there seems to be a lot of replayability in this one.
The terrain placement would obviously play a significant role in this scenario and it took us a while before we were done with all the sneaky shuffling around of bogs, rough patches, woods and hills. We agreed that all terrain features with the exception of stand alone trees, were medium difficulty terrain. The steep hill-side was impassable.
Next, I placed my units on the table. My forlorn patrol was allowed to move a bit towards safety of the building that proxied for the watch tower (future terrain project?), while the rest of my troops was deployed around it. Saxons had to roll for their entry edge, as well as how many units would enter on first round. H. promptly rolled a six, which meant that all his scoundrels would pour onto the table without any delay.
Plans, plans, plans… Well, the obvious part of my game plan was to make the patrol move as quickly as possible and hope H. wouldn’t catch them. What to do with the troops around my base was a bit more of a challenge, mostly created by myself. In deployment phase I was a bit flippant and spread individual groups around the deployment area – you know, ‘we are resting and doing nothing’-thing. Once the game started, I realized however a bit too late that this dispersion gave H. an unintended advantage. It would now take time for me to gather everyone together and time was something I didn’t have in this game. By that time it was too late for regrets and I had to adapt to the situation I’ve decided to send my elites and archers under command of Noble on a dash toward the patrol as some sort of quick reaction force. In the meantime I would use my Lord to herd together my levies and when ready, try to get behind the Saxons, wherever they may be at that time.
H. must have read my mind and split his force in three groups – his two groups of hearthguard and two warrior groups set were arranged in separate formations and set of in a run toward their intended prey. Remaining warrior group, its numbers increased to eight warriors after his previous successful raid, accompanied by his archers turned toward my base in a clear attempt to secure the flank of main force.
After a couple of rounds the character of the game started to take shape. Personally I suffered from a brain-freeze and threw my patrol into rough terrain in front of them, not only unnecessarily slowing them down, but also giving the a couple of Shock points. Really dumb move – I should have either rushed to the right of these boulders or rushed to the top of the hill, gaining superior defensive position. My choice now guaranteed that H. would catch my patrol detachment in the open. This meant forming a shieldwall and waiting for the onslaught of a shedload of now clearly visible horde of screaming Saxons, quickly closing the distance.
At the other end, my peasant levies tried their best to gather together, failing miserably, with one group being too fast for their own good and the rest dragging their feet. The ‘fast’ group ended up dangerously close to H.’s ‘security force’, which pounced on them without delay. Three peasants promptly went down in the violent melee that followed… but to everyone’s surprise, two Saxons also met their end in this initial clash! Unexpected casualties seemed to have taken a bit the fight out of the remaining Saxons, who probably expected some easy killing but met their match.
This initial contact also put some ideas into my head – my rescue force was now about same distance from the position of my now stationary patrol as it was from H’s flank group. Due to its separatin, it presented a juicy target – with my peasants in front and comanipulares jumping them from the rear, they’d surely be dead meat! Said and done, I diverted my rescue force from the initial destination. The plan was now to wipe out these separated Saxons first and proceed with rescuing the ambushed patrol if there was still time for that. And if I didn’t make it in time? Well, eye for an eye, mate!
My decision shaped the game into its final form, consisting of two separate actions. The encounter between H.’s flank party and my comanipulares asssisted by a levies shieldwall was a one-sided affair. The outcome was assisted by H.’s consistently bad luck with dice rolls in this fight. His warriors took their time dying, but die they did, one or two at a time! The few survivors finally had enough and broke down, trying to make it to the edge of the board. In this they failed and were unceremonously dispatched by their pursuers. The noble leading this unlucky group managed to dodge all the blows (and there were many!) to the very end and was finally allowed to flee as last man standing. For me, the cost was one slain comanipulares – all things considered, a decent payoff.
The main event was however the last stand of my warriors. And indeed, it was a last stand worth of songs praising this group of stalward heroes! Over five rounds they stood their ground, not budging an inch, slugging it out with the best H. could throw at them. Over the course of this fight there were very few casualties, with just one man going down on each side, and my noble, leading by example, suffering a honorable wound. In the end, the fight was decided by the Shock mechanism, which dictates that each two points of Shock take away one attack dice for the inflicted group of figures. As the fight progressed, my shieldwall formation absorbed all but one kill result H’s hearthguard managed to score, but my Shock points increased steadily. When H’s warrior formation, which lagged behind, finally slammed into the side of my shieldwall, the jigg was up due to a scenario special rule, which said that if Saxons had three times attack dice my force could muster, my lads would give up. And that’s precisely what finally happened – abandonded, obviously in despair and completely exhausted, my warriors realized that further resistance was futile and laid down their arms. But they never broke!
With the entire patrol in the bag, H. declared that he would be quiting the field. This he was allowed to do without any challenge on my part – the distance to the edge was too short and even if I managed to get to his main force before it left the table, it would be in disorganized manner. I would be asking for further losses, so it was better to bite the bullet and wait for the inevitable ransom demand.
In Dux Britanniarum, each scenario is set in a simple campaign setting. Once a game is finished players compare their results – were scenario conditions fulfilled, how many loses were suffered by each side, were any Nobles wounded or killed and so on… This comparison decides who won the game and how much of a success it really was. In this case, the destruction of H.’s warriors on the flank minimized the level of his victory to a rather phyrric victory. But a victory it was nonetheless and now he has enough money to advance career of his warlord to the next step in the overall campaign.
Musings after the battle
Well… there were moments in this game where I feared it would turn out into a frustrating, one-sided affair leaving bad aftertaste in loser’s mouth. But in the end it turned out to be a true nail-biter that could literally turn either way due to a single dice roll! Also, the rules are rock-solid in every respect, with combat mechanism actually surprising me with its, in my opinion at least, quite ‘realistic’ outcome in both main fights of this game. The post-game phase is also a bit of a blast with its capability to reduce a seemingly very sucessful encounter into a sour grape.
Two events that took place during the game require a further analysis. The first took place in final phase of the massacre of H.’s flanking force. The ruleset says that Nobles don’t suffer hits in normal way, instead a simple check is made whenever a group to which the Noble is attached suffers casualties. If a roll on a D6 is equal or less than the number of kills suffered by that group in a fight, the Noble takes that hit instead. In our game, H.’s Noble managed to avoid damage throughout the game and in the end only he and one last warrior was still standing. Three kill hits were dealt against them in combat round that followed. Common sense says that both men were hacked to pieces. But if rules are applied in ‘rules lawyer’ manner (which we chose to do), all these hits would be absorbed by the ‘last’ warrior and a check with a D6 would follow, with a result of ‘1’ resulting in a wound to the Noble. Our check left H.’s Noble unscathed and a lucky card draw allowed him to escape the field. I’m not entire sure how I feel about that outcome, as I would have loved to finish the man!
The other curiosity occured due to scenario conditions. As already mentioned, the ‘main event’ ended with my Noble and eleven of my warriors being taken prisoner. This event posed a question that is unaswered by the ruleset – how were these prisoners to be regarded in terms of loses in post-battle phase? The question is not trivial – a loss of eleven men could be a very significant factor when deciding level of victory, which in turn can have impact on development of the campaign. The noble will probably be ransomed, but would the British lord care about paying for captured warriors? Maybe, but would the Saxon chieftain want to release them? They would probably be worth more on slave market somewhere in Europe. In the end we decided that everyone in captured party had to be considered as a loss. It would however be nice to hear opinions of other players about this situation.
All the ambiguities nonewithstanding, the fact remains – Dux Britanniarum gave us another excellent game and that’s the important thing. Also, with H. having successfully amassed wealth necessary to proceed in the social meta-game, we will now be able to expand number of troops in our games.
It’s been a long while since I’ve really had my finger on the pulse of the hobby. I hardly ever visit the forums anymore. I have several dozens of Meeples and Miniatures podcasts left to listen to. Most importantly, sometime around beginning of 2014 I’ve decided not to buy any more wargaming magazines until I’ve gone through the very substantial stack of issues already resting on my to read-shelf. So these days my only contemporary source of information about developments in the hobby consists of feeds and news posted in a couple of Facebook wargaming groups I still belong to. It was from one such message that I’ve learned that Henry Hyde, as apparent consequence of change of the owner of this venerable wargaming publication, is leaving the position as editor of Miniature Wargames magazine.
This fact in itself made me quite sad, because Henry Hyde is one of the good guys in the hobby. To my best knowledge, he’s been doing his best promoting ‘hardcore’ historical wargaming for more than a decade. Also, based on his input in podcasts such as ‘A View from The Veranda’, I think he’s a really likeable person who seems to approach this hobby in a manner quite similar to my own. So personally I can’t imagine a more suitable person for the role of the editor of Miniature Wargames. A bit perplexed I went to the site of the magazine in search of explanation of this event. Once there, or more precisely, on magazine’s page at the site of new distributor of its digital version, I found out that Miniature Wargames is nowadays supposed to be some sort of jack of all trades that “looks at all forms of miniature wargaming, including historical, fantasy, Sci-Fi, pulp, steam punk and roleplaying”.
If that’s the future role for Miniature Wargames, I am not at all surprised that Mr. Hyde, being one of foremost champions of historical wargaming of current age, have gotten a pink slip from the new owner. I hope I’m wrong, but it seems to me that one of ‘institutions’ of the hobby is being put to sleep by some execs without a clue about what they’ve acquired. Not the first time it happens (‘Firefly’, anyone?), but it’s still a damn shame!
Anyway… after this probably far too long intro, let me get to the real topic of this post. As already mentioned, I’ve stopped buying wargaming mags couple of years ago? One of the reasons for this decision was the fact that all back issues of hobby magazines I use to read are available online as digital publications. Miniature Wargames, Wargames Illustrated, Soldiers Wargames & Strategy and more, they’re all online, every single issue easily available for your purchase whenever you’d need them or want them.
Well… as it turns out, that’s no longer the case, at least when it comes to Miniature Wargames! While “investigating” possible reasons for Mr. Hyde’s leaving the magazine, I discovered to my shock that only the two latest issues of the Miniature Wargames are currently available for purchase in digital format from magazine’s shop. In rough numbers, some forty issues of one of the most prominent publications in the hobby along with all the issues of Battlegames (magazine created and run by Mr. Hyde before he merged it with Miniature Wargames) have been removed and are no longer available to the public audience. And, just to add insult to injury, the new owner seems to have moved digital distribution of the magazine to Pocketmags, which in my opinion is nothing else but a rental service for magazines and publications.
I must say that this discovery made me quite angry. Naturally, I am seriously annoyed with the new owner of the magazine, who in my opinion have pulled a serious douchebag move on the readers of Miniature Wargames. But, if I am to be perfectly honest, I am mostly annoyed with myself. Over last couple of years I must have visited Miniature Wargames’ webshop some twenty times, thinking about getting a digital subscription. And every single time I didn’t, because “what’s the rush, the stuff is there today and it will be there tomorrow, right?”. So I’d decide that I would create an account next month or maybe at the beginning of next year and leave in belief that things would never change. And now those issues are gone. Hopefully only temporarily, while the new owner works out the usual legal wrinkles with the old one. But… they may also be gone forever, lost in some legal maze regarding publication rights or some other legal BS. Wouldn’t that be a shame?
This entire episode also rekindled all the doubts I’ve always been having regarding purchases of digital publications that are accessible only through online proxies, such as for example Pocketmags. True, as long as things work smoothly, it may seem like a perfect way to buy a magazine. But under certain circumstances, the restrictions of this type of access do seem to raise their ugly head. This particular case seems at least for the moment to be the perfect example of possible complications with access to digital publications through proxies – you buy stuff, but you never really own it. A magazine can be sold off to an owner with a different technical solution for digital material, forcing consumer to adapt or rendering his purchases useless. Or the company that owns the publication can merge or be acquired by another company, which in turn may perhaps even not care about digital distributions. In the worst case scenario, the owner of a magazine can even go bust, with the third party distributor naturally pulling the plug permanently as a consequence.
I don’t know about everyone else, but personally I have always refused to subscribe or ‘purchase’ digital publications that are not made available to me in some tangible form, preferably as PDF files. Yes, I know, a house may burn down to a ground along with everything in it, hard copies can get lost or destroyed, hard drives with PDF files may crash… But the fact remains - as long as I have a useable, tangible copy of a magazine, I can always read it, regardless of the fact that my Internet connection is down, or that I haven’t updated my reader app to latest version or that my tablet is five years old and is no longer able to run some software.
That’s my five cents, for whatever it’s worth.
As long as the almost complete standstill in my wargaming persists, perhaps the best way to keep this blogg alive is by posting a review every once in a while. Let’s start off with grass tufts from Gamer’s Grass.
Allright, so to begin with, what exactly are grass tufts. Well, like pretty much all terrain and basing materials we use in the hobby, it’s yet another cross-over product from model railroads hobby. Basically, it’s a small lump of grass fibers secured at the bottom in a small drop of white glue or other type of transparent material like silicone. A bunch of such lumps is delivered on a sheet of wax paper. The idea with the product is that user is to peel individual tufts of the wax paper and glue them on terrain pieces or miniature bases either with PVA glue or superglue.
If I am not correctly mistaken, the product was introduced over ten years ago by a company called Silflor – they’re still the ‘top dog’ in this department and have by now developed a vast variety of products in this range. The thing is though that their products are rather expensive.
Gamer’s Grass offers pretty much same product While their range is smaller, it is in my opinion at least, better directed towards the wargaming scene. Most of their tufts are about 6mm high, which seems to be optimal for 28mm miniatures. For 15mm minis, this height may be a bit overpowering on a base, so their smaller range of 4mm tufts is probably better choice. Other heights, such as 2mm and 12mm are also available.
The tufts come in different colours and heights. Individual tufts are made in three sizes and are shaped as an oval. Some shades/sizes are also available in form of irregularly shaped lumps. An individual piece of wax paper holds between (approximatly) 120 and 40 tufts, depending on size of indivudual ‘lumps’. The price is what makes products from Gamer’s Grass really attractive.
I’ve been using stuff from Silflor on a couple occasions and the comparison between their ‘top of the line’ product and what you get from Gamer’s Grass works out quite well indeed. As already said, we’re talking about lumps of grass fibers put in a ‘base’ of some sort of flexible material, so there is not much room for improvement! If I am to be completely frank, it seems to me that the material used for the ‘base’ by Gamer’s Grass is a bit more fragile. As a result, couple of tufts have desintegrated in my fingers as I peeled them of the wax paper. But with a bit of caution, they can be handled without any problems. Once glued onto a base, they seem to be able to handle the abuse expected to be caused by handling of miniatures in games and during transports.
Last but not least, couple of words about the customer experience. My order was placed through their webshop and consisted of over a dozen of different tufts. Payment was done through Paypal and order was promptly confirmed through email. The small package (with all ordered items) arrived to my delivery spot just over a week after placement of the order. Overall, a very smooth purchase without any issues.
In pictures included in this post, you can see some of the sheets that I’ve ordered. Most of them are of standard 6mm height and in various sizes. If you take a look at previously posted pictures of my early Anglo-Saxons, you can see the tufts ‘in action’. I was really satisfied with that ‘test run’ and can recommend Gamer’s Grass without any reservations.
Well, with first seven months behind us, it is safe to say that 2016 shapes out to be a really slow wargaming year for me! This in itself is a bit of a paradox – after all, I’ve managed to finish the “basic” setup for ‘Charlie don’t surf’ earlier this year. Funnily enough, after just two games, I seem to have run out of steam (or interest) in regard of Vietnam and can’t be bothered to set up another game! Rest easy though, I just need a breather and more fun in the jungle will surely commence in a couple of months or so…
Meanwhile, over last couple of months my focus shifted almost exclusively to my bunch of jolly Dannish imigrants preparing for their first ‘Dux Britaniarum’ tour of British shores. Just to recapitulate – last time I reported about this project, I was done with all of the rabble, eh… common warriors. Next in cue were the chaps arranging the whole trip as well as their closest buddies, aka hearthguard. In other worlds, I had to work my way through a pile of figures in chainmail and with spangenhelms. Some hangarounders with bows and arrows also managed to get some paint on them and voila, second project of the year is completed!
For those interested – this lot is a mix of minis from Footsore Miniatures, Westwind Productions and Gripping Beast. They all mix together rather well, with Footsore Miniatures and Gripping Beast being very similar in size and ‘heft’. Minis from Westwind are a rad chunkier, but once placed on the table with the the rest of their brethren, it’s impossible to see the difference from a meter apart. All minis were fun and easy to work with. I must however give the honorable gold star to sculptor from Footsore Miniatures – his stuff has definitely most ‘character’.
Last couple of pictures are ‘graduation snapshots’ for the whole lot just before their first trip to the ‘other side’. I must confess that I’m quite stoked over whole bunch, but that’s hardly a surprise, is it?
Finally a couple of words about the banner of my raiding party. It’s a simple thing – I found the boar shape on the Interwebs and gave it a quick once-over in Photoshop. Not the quality of Little Big Men Studio, but it will do. If you feel like using it, you can grab it at the bottom of this post.