Friday, 13 October 2017

Battle of Britain arrives

So back in the summer of 2016 I was tempted by a Kickstarter being run by the Plastic Soldier Company for a "remastered and upgraded version of the old, much loved TSR classic Battle of Britain".  This looked pretty good and, as well as the fun of masterminding the air defence of Britain (or the Luftwaffe's finest hour) it promised " fantastic little 1/300th scale plastic airplane models".

The Kickstarter went as smoothly as these things do with some stretch goals offering alternative aircraft including a Blenheim, Defiant, Gladiator and Ju87.  As usually happens the estimated delivery date February 17 came and went.  I tend not to worry too much about these things...I figure that's how Kickstarters work.  If you're looking for something to be delivered exactly on deadline then you've never worked for a local authority!  The overrun did cause a lot of angst on the Kickstarter forum with people vowing to never sign up for another KS or to never darken PSCs doors etc.  This wasn't helped by a distinct lack of communication from the company: a few messages and updates might have helped the general mood but this doesn't seem to be something PSC are very good at.  They did offer a 25% discount voucher on PSC products (which didn't appease the people who'd said they were never going to shop there again) and free model kit.  Unfortunately they offered a model aeroplane kit unconnected with the game and in a different scale!  Again, this wasn't well received...

Anyway... the parcel arrived today...

Well, actually it arrived yesterday but I was out and it was delivered to the local UPS access point (a nearby newsagents) who managed to lose it!  It eventually turned up on my 3rd visit and after a call to UPS.  It seems that the newsagent had been very tidy and put it away in a cupboard while they'd left all the other parcels lying around the shop!

By this point I'd spotted the comments from other people on the Kickstarter forum...all very disappointed with the model aircraft, packaging etc.  Mine wasn't too badly packaged although the extra aircraft were loose (in a plastic bag) in the outer box and the freebie model aircraft was pretty bashed about although the kit itself is ok.  This is how it arrived...

This is the Freebie, compensatory Zvesda, not PSC!!

The actual main box was fine and undamaged.  The game board, tokens and rule book are all excellent (the rule book has a nice, large font!) and the map and counters etc look impressive...

The decals for thr planes arent so impressive...

The planes themselves are made of a soft plastic and clearly have some bending issues which you can see in these photos.  I'm hoping these will be straightened out using hot and cold water.  The debate  has continued on the KS forum and on Boardgamegeek with people vowing to sell their set or demand a refund. 

Major wing bendiness!

I have mixed views.  These clearly aren't " fantastic little 1/300th scale plastic airplane models".  In fact they're pretty poor bendy plastic aircraft that are just about identifiable.  They might paint up well and look better but I wasn't planning to do this anyway.  It does seem a very odd thing for a company whose whole pitch is about quality models to have dropped the ball quite badly on this.  On the other hand, Battle of Britain isn't a tabletop's a boardgame.  If I look at the models in a game like Memoir 44 for example, I'm not expecting to see  fine quality sculpted tanks with a different model for each type of AFV.  For me this is a strategic boardgame with models representing squadrons being pushed around an operations room by some frightfully posh WRAFs (at one point one of the stretch goals for the game was going to be a croupier style stick to push the models around with!  Fun but pointless...)

I'll confess to being
a bit disappointed...PSC had the opportunity (and certainly had the time) to produce nice models to match the rest of the components but the planes feel a bit like an afterthought.  I could use my 1:300 WW2 metal models to replace them but the key thing is going to be whether the game itself is any good.  It's by Richard Borg who is usually very reliable so I'm confident that I'll still have a fun game to play with, even if the aircraft are a bit poor.  I think the whole episode isn't going to win PSC any fans though...

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Forward Planning

So there haven't been any posts for the last few particular reason, just life, work and tiredness getting in the way of blogging again.

What have I been up to?  Well... I played an excellent Chain of Command game down at Guildford against Keith which proved great fun as always.  I've also had the chance to try out Eric the Shed's new (and huge!) Napoleonic collection in a great Black Powder game last week.  There's a good write up here on Eric's Shed Wars blog... LINK

As you'll see I didn't exactly cover myself in glory!  My French cavalry brigades broke themselves against their British counterparts...I suppose there was a little pleasure as we also broke the enemy brigade and they were heavier cavalry than my Chasseurs.  I often find in BP games that the cavalry tend to wipe each other out and prove pretty ineffectual: maybe I'm missing something but they always seem very fragile and unable to stand up to much.  My infantry command was overrun by a rampaging bunch of Highlanders... a combination of good playing by my opponent Rolf and some rubbish morale dice throwing on my part.   Great fun though and it was great to see the result of all the work that Eric has put in over the year in getting a massive amount of figures organised, painted and based.

I failed to get to Colours last month as I was up in Glasgow, but I'm hoping to make it to SELWG in a couple of's the show that's closest to home and is usually good fun.  Although there's really nothing I should be buying, I've been giving some thoughts to my existing armies.  I really don't want to start a new project (I say that...I am still mulling over a couple of ideas...) but I have quite a few armies that need a bit of beefing up. I've noticed that I seem to work hard to get a project to the point where I can get it onto the table and play a game and then stop adding more variety to it.  For example I have enough 28mm Napoleonics to put on a decent Sharp Practice game but only just.  It does mean that every time I dig them out I have little choice of what to field and games end up feeling too similar.

So my plan for SELWG and beyond is to concentrate on expanding some of the armies I already have and I've started working through a list.  It's a bit like the kind of planning that everyone seems to blog about in January...I've just started early!  So what's on the list... described above I'm a bit limited in what I can field so I really could do with adding a bit more infantry but definitely some cavalry.

Spanish Civil War... my SCW armies have languished for some time and I'm thinking of getting them back out for Chain of Command but they could do with a few additions.  They don't need a huge amount added but some extra artillery and armoured cars would be useful.

Modern...I have 2 Modern projects.  My 15mm Afghanistan stuff could do with more vehicles and extra insurgents and my long-neglected 1:300 80s armies could definitely do with some attention

Ronin:  I have a couple of warbands for the excellent Ronin skirmish rules but again just need to add a bit more depth.  I also need to add more buildings for this.  A lot of my buildings get used in a variety of theatres but you cant really get away with that in Japan where the terrain gives so much of the flavour

Congo: again I have enough for a reasonable game but could do with more varied troop types and terrain

Hopefully by adding little to each of these I'll have much more flexibility and will be tempted to actually get some of the neglected armies out of the their boxes.  Of course that still leaves the very neglected projects that haven't really been started and the new shiny ones that are tempting me despite the big list of stuff that I should be doing!  Lets face it, I'm bound to come back from SELWG with something that didn't figure on the list at all!!!

Friday, 22 September 2017

The end of Boardgame Summer

So this summer has seen a steady range of games played out, mainly by my son and I while he's been home from uni, but also roping in my wife (usually reluctantly) and a few games at Eric the Shed's or my friend Andrew's.

Games played over the summer have included...Twilight Struggle, Conan, Star Wars: Rebellion, Command & Colours Ancients, Kingmaker, Settlers of Catan, Advanced Squad Leader, Heroes of Normandie and Discworld: Ankh-Morpork.

As the summer holidays draw to a close we've managed to squeeze in a couple more games.  At home we played a couple of games of Carcassone.  this is one of the games that my wife does enjoy more than the more 'wargamey' games we've played (although she usually does pretty well at both).  I don't need to say much about Carcassone...I'm guessing just about everyone has played it at some point buy it 's a fun game and it's easy to squeeze in a couple of games in an evening without much difficulty.

At Eric the Shed's we played my 2nd game of Massive Darkness. 

This a dungeon crawling style game which reminded me of a cross between D&D, Munchkin (without the jokes) and Heroquest.  Eric had bought this as part of a Kickstarter and it came with a massive amount of really lovely figures...some of the large scale monsters are truly lovely and it's amazing to reflect on just how far figure sculpting has changed in the digital age.  In the game all players are on the same side, exploring a dungeon which becomes progressively tougher as you advance through it.  Luckily each players character, which conforms to a typical D&D type character class, can level up to (hopefully) match the monsters that appear far too rapidly.  The game is great fun and really builds up the tension as everyone tries to complete the quest before they get overwhelmed by a succession of orcs, goblins and huge Wandering Monsters.  As with so many of the newer boardgames that are appearing, the quality of the components is really impressive too.

There are a couple of games we didn't get to try out over the summer.  Out of the depths of the loft emerged an old Avalon Hill game from the 80s...Gunslinger. 

I haven't played this in about 30 years but I was keen to give it a try out as I have very happy memories of blazing away with my 6 gun (or dying in the dirt at the hands of the Apache etc).  It uses a nice card based system to control actions and is simple but fun...or at least that's how I remember it!  Revisiting the past can be a dangerous game so this may be a mistake but I'm keen to give it another go.  Looking at the boards and the hex-sizes,  I'm wondering if it might be worth getting some 1/72 cowboys to replace the counters to give it a more visual appeal, or even going all out and porting the boardgame over to a tabletop version...shouldn't be too difficult.

At the weekend I was up in Glasgow visiting my parents for a few days and took the chance to pop into Static Games in the city centre.  It's a nice little games shop although I usually have a browse and then leave empty handed, having resisted temptation.  On this occasion I spotted a copy of Wilderness Empires by Worthington Games reduced heavily to a very good bargain price. 

I debated buying it in my head for a while and then decided that I didn't actually need the game and went home.  Of course I'd no sooner got home than I realised that needing and wanting are 2 very different things.  Luckily I had to pop back into town a day or so later so I ended up buying it after all!  It was pretty inevitable!

The game is a strategic 'grand campaign' covering the French and Indian War.  Reviews on Boardgamegeek etc look pretty good so watch this space and I'll try and get a proper review up soon.

Now that the summer is drawing to a close, the nights are drawing in, etc, etc, it's time to try and get back to painting....

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Perry Travel Battle game

As a change from the summer's diet of boardgames  I tried the Perry's Travel Battle game.  This was launched at Salute back in April when every other person seemed to have bought a set but I'd never actually seen it out of the box.

My friend Anthony had picked up a set and thought the system was rather good so we gave it a go last week.  Anthony, being Anthony, hadn't settled for a straight game out of the box but had replicated it in 6mm using a very nice mat from Deepcut Studios marked out in appropriately sized squares.

The original Travel Battle game comes with 2 hard plastic squares which are configured to form a battlefield complete with villages and woods.  The game also comes with 160 infantry, 24 cavalry and 4 guns all either generically Red or Blue.  Strangely the figures are 8mm which seems an odd size to pick. 

Image result for perry travel battle

The rules are nicely simple and use grid based movement.  An interesting touch is that units have to be linked to a square containing a Brigadier (this can be as part of a chain of units).  One effect of combat or shooting is to force units to retire back to the table edge at which point the Brigadier is forced to ride back and lead the unit back to the frontline, leaving the rest of his command waiting and not advancing.  I quit like grid based games...they can make the game seem rather chess-like but they make movement and range finding nice and simple.

Image result for perry travel battle

As I mentioned earlier, Anthony had replicated the boxed game on the tabletop using the original set  to determine table layout and then placing appropriate terrain on the mat.  We also used his very nice Baccus 6mm Napoleonic figures

As expected Anthony played British (he always does)... I had some lucky early dice throws which caused some casualties from my artillery fire and set the tone for the game.  The French right flank advanced slowly with the Guard proving reluctant to get to grips with the enemy but over on my left my cavalry charged straight into the British infantry.  There was quite a tussle on this flank but my cavalry were quickly supported by some rapidly advancing infantry and began to carve their way through the British flank and then centre, breaking both Brigades in turn.  To be fair this was mainly due to some lucky dice throwing rather than any cunning tactic.

The rules are nice and simple, reminiscent of the Neil Thomas rules (although I think there's more depth to the NT rules) and are ideal for a quick evening game or for the kind of quick game the Travel Battle set aims for.  I'm not sure it would tempt me to buy a set of the Travel Set but I can see the attraction if you want to take a game to a friends or play eg in the pub.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Boardgames #5...Ankh Morpork

This weeks boardgame is Discworld; Ankh Morpork.  We bought this for our son a couple of xmas' ago and it gets a rare outing.  Much to our amazement it sells for silly amounts on eBay these days as it's out of print (or at least people ask for silly amounts of money...I' not sure anyone pays it!!)

The game has up to 4 players taking the part of a character from the Pratchett books (I was Lord Vetinari).  Each player keeps their identity secret as they each have a different victory condition.  In this weeks game my objective was to have a presence in 10 different areas while my wife was attempting to take control of a number of areas.  My son was quietly encouraging the build up of 'trouble' markers across the city.  These are placed when 2 characters are placed in the same area and of course he won when the total reached 8.  He's much better at bluffing than I am as I hadn't worked out who he was until it was too late...remind me never to play poker with him!  To be fair I'd managed to get within a turn or so of winning but I suspect as soon as I reached my target I would have been taken out in a wife/son alliance {as usual...)

Part of the attraction of the game is the quality of the components.  Similar to games like Carcassone etc, the tokens are wooden and include player pieces as well as trolls and demons which can turn up to deny players use of an area.  If you're a fan of the Pratchett books (I'm old enough to remember buying The Colour of Magic when it first came out...) the cards and the board are a big attraction too, featuring a lovely map of Ankh Morpork divided into various regions and the cards featuring lots of characters from the books.

It's a neat little game with lots of flavour and allows a nice combination of bluffing and undermining your opponents (if you can work out what they're up to). 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Boardgames #4

...or a Tale of 2 WW2 tactical boardgames (I's hardly Dickens)

The summer boardgaming extravaganza continues with a pair of contrasting WW2 skirmish level boardgames.

My son and I decided to have a game of Heroes of Normandie.  I'm a big fan of the system... there are earlier blog posts about it hereherehere and here (obviously I'm a bigger fan than I'd realised!).  At the end of 2015 I even signed up for a Kickstarter which produced lots of new squads and terrain tiles as well as storage for the counters and, more importantly, a revised rulebook which collated all the info from the various expansions.  Callum kindly put together the Pegasus Bridge shaped Dice Tower for me. I've always been slightly baffled by the need for dice towers but it was free....

The Very large box the Kickstarter came in

Storage for the counters
My Dice Tower...

HoN presents itself as a rather cartoonish WW2 movie inspired boardgame but underneath the bonnet is a very, very good tactical level game.   Normally when I've played this (usually against regular opponent Anthony at Guildford) we've played pre-designed scenarios from the main box or from the mini-Campaigns such as D Day.  The rules do, however, allow you to build your own forces within some constraints and so we tried both options.

Initially we played out the "Slaughterhouse 5" scenario which pits Germans against US troops holed up in a house and their comrades who have come to relieve them.  My son played as the Germans and really struggled to make headway.  As in previous games we found buildings to be real deathtraps: any units that head inside tend to be faced with a flurry of grenades.  Despite a furious struggle around the target house the Germans couldn't seize control before the end of the game.

Callum then suggested we try building our own scenario which we tried a few nights later.  The point balancing is more complex than it first appeared but we worked our way through and played out a straight encounter.  This was a very bloody affair...the tone was set in the first turn when my Greyhound which had advanced too far ahead to be safe, was swiftly despatched by a Panzerfaust wielding squad and most of my squads came under MG42 fire.  Some shoddy dice-rolling on my part and a good grasp of fire doctrine by Callum meant I was increasingly pinned down by MG fire and units began to fall rapidly.  Even the presence of 'The Rock' (a MG wielding hero with an unfeasibly large chin) made little impact and the game was rapidly over.

A few nights later I had one of my regular game nights with my friend Andrew.  He was keen to try out the starter kit of Advanced Squad Leader which her had acquired.  I last played ASL sometime back in the early 80s at uni and remembered it being very, very complex, so I was curious to see if it had changed or if my memories of the game still held true.

The game still feels very much like a 1970s/80s boardgame....little card chits, legalese rules in small print, very complicated turn sequences and lots and lots of baffling acronyms...

This is the degree-level turn sequence chart...

How did it play??  Well, the scenario pitted  US paratroopers against Germans at Vierville in Normandy with reinforcements arriving on both sides as the game progressed.  At first, I have to admit I found the turn sequencing baffling with units firing at different parts of the turn and at different strengths but the complicated turn sequence table did actually make sense and I quickly found that there was a pretty intuitive flow to the game.  It does have a chess-like structure which means you need to consider carefully who moves when and where...get it wrong (as I did!) and you'll pay the price.

Despite some early success in Turn 1 of 5 (low dice rolls are good and I rolled 2, double 1's in succession!!) Andrew was able to recover from his earlier damage and consolidate his troops in the village centre, occupying most of the objectives.  I think we got  to turn 4 of 5 but it was clear by this point that there was no way I was going to winkle him out of the buildings and we called it a night.

I enjoyed ASL more than I definitely has a very old-school vibe to did we ever manage to wade through the encyclopedia-style SPI rules in the old days??  But it was a fun game and certainly challenging.  Would it work as well once we added in more complicated weapons and terrain??  I hate to think how complicated it must get in the full game, and especially with vehicles,  but it was a fun evening and definitely one to revisit.


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Boardgames #3

So following up from my defeat at my son's hands in Twilight Struggle we thought we'd go for something that brings all the family together in a spirit of goodwill and harmony...Kingmaker!

We last played this a couple of years ago but it involves roping my wife into a game and, to be fair, she's not overly keen on Kingmaker.  She does however have a knack of disarmingly insisting she doesn't know what she's doing while hoovering up Royal family members and seizing castles left, right and centre.  This game was no exception where she immediately up-scaled Percy (already one of the most powerful nobles) into some kind of uber-Lord who could easily take on everyone else single handed!  My son and I were had more balanced forces but he was slowly outstripping me and eventually (after 3 sessions of the isn't something that can be played out in an evening) I'd managed to take down Percy by combining everyone against him but realised I was still outgunned and conceded the game.

I played a lot of Kingmaker in my uni days and those games would go on for weeks (and involve tantrums... and chair throwing on one memorable occasion!!)  so this was relatively speedy by comparison!

Somehow we managed to lure my wife back for another game but only after we'd promised it wouldn't be Kingmaker.  This time we decided to go for Settlers of Catan.  I bought a set of this a year or 2 ago but hadn't actually played fact I've never played Settlers despite it being one of those seminal games that everyone seems to play.

Game #1 was very much a case of us all trying to work out what we were doing...despite the rules only being 4 pages long there still seems to be a bit of thinking involved.  As expected I was duly handed my arse to play with by my wife who pretty much wiped the floor with my son and I ...the revenge game is planned for this evening....

...UPDATE... I won!!!