Monday, 21 November 2016

Dodgy boilers, games and Conan

It's been a chilly week or so since our boiler decided to spring a leak a  couple of weeks ago. I'm no expert but I guessed that having water dripping out of the bottom of the boiler probably wasn't a good thing.   Luckily we're insured for this kind of domestic disaster, since I have no practical skills whatsoever, and an engineer duly came out and diagnosed perished washers.  He then helpfully turned the heating off.  To be fair the thought of water dripping its way through the electrics had worried me a bit and it was a relatively mild couple of days till the next engineer was due back armed with a packet of washers.  Of course it wasn't the same one as before and he immediately diagnosed a different set of problems including a new pump... and  a few more days delay.

This coincided with the weather turning a bit colder and the arrival of Storm Angus.  I'm not convinced by this new thing of naming every breezy day although  did like the approach they took in Scotland a few years ago where they ignored the official name and renamed it "Hurricane Bawbag" (it's a Scottish thing....)

Image result for hurricane bawbag

We even resorted to lighting the coal fire and discovered that one of our dogs turns into a quivering wreck when he sees the flames.  The other dog lies in front of it looking quietly smug about hogging all the heat.  We also had a night away visiting our son in Cardiff and stayed in a hotel near Bristol.  I've never been so glad to see a bathroom with a real, live, working shower and bath!!!

The 3rd engineer turned up today and, after a bit of sighing and swearing when he found more leaks than expected eventually managed to stem the floods and get it working again.  It's amazing how reliant we are on the assumption that when we turn the tap on hot water will come out of it!

I took part in a large multi-player game of Memoir 44 down at Guildford a week or so ago.  This was the Sword of Stalingrad set which allows multiple players and a CinC on each side who doles out the precious order cards.  The Soviets are further hampered by having to plan their orders a turn in advance to reflect the helpful meddling of Commissars.  Despite the Germans having a good start and making early gains the Soviets proved tough to dig out of the built up areas and it ended as a narrow German victory (or a close draw according to some of the Soviet players!)

I also managed a game of   Star Trek Ascendancy, the strategic game in the ST universe which sets the Federation, Klingons and Romulans exploring and colonising planets before eventually bumping into each other and either learning to live in peace and harmony or kicking off in a blaze of photon torpedoes and disruptors.  It was a fun game although it took me a few turns to work out what I was doing.  Luckily the other players had played before so kindly coaxed me through the first couple of turns.  The nature of the game also means that it takes a few turns before players encounter each other, giving me a chance to sort of work out what I was doing.  It was a fun game that seems easy to pick up but with quite a bit of depth in the tactics.

I've also finally started painting some of the Conan figures from the recent Kickstarter.  There are 2 big boxes of figures which is quite daunting but I decided that I would aim to paint the main heroes and villains and leave the minions unpainted for now.  I may get round them or alternatively give them an ink wash and leave them as they are.  On first glance some of the figures look a bit lacking in detail when they're straight out of the box but undercoating seems to bring out a lot of detail and the figures are very nice to paint.  I undercoated these in brown  and they're pretty much done.  I'm still undecided what to do with the bases.  The game is played on a series of gridded tiles which feature a lot of brown terrain and I think adding flock and tufts etc to the bases would look a bit odd on  a 2d surface so I may just leave them brown.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Updates and Congo

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post.  In that time I've managed to squeeze in a couple of games.

Down at Guildford we started another Heroes of Normandie mini-campaign:  previously we've played through the D Day campaign so this time we've stepped back a few hours and are playing the Sainte-Mere Eglise campaign. The opening game has the US pathfinders trying set up their Holophane signalling lamps and activate their radar to guide in the Paratroopers.  Luckily the Germans were a bit more alert than usual and had some Panzergrenadiers in the area.  As usual with the the scenarios from this excellent game it was a close run thing the Pathfinders succeeded in setting up the lamps and would have activated the radar if a plucky German soldier hadn't take them out with a  well-placed grenade in the last but one turn...unfortunately he paid the ultimate price and was caught in the blast but I reckon an Iron Cross was on its way to his grieving family!  The result of the German victory is that the Paratroop drop over Sainte-Mere Eglise in the next game will be much more dispersed.

I also took part in another big ECW game at Eric the Shed's.  As often happens in these big games you end up losing track of what's happening elsewhere on the table and focus on your own part of the battle.  On my flank we tussled over a village which I managed to hold although ultimately both opposing battalions wore each other out and broke.  My cavalry refused to even turn up for half the game and when they did, again both sides managed to exhaust themselves but at least this left our centre in a position to roll up the Royalist flank by the end of the evening.  As always, great fun with an excellent array of figures.

I have actually done some painting!!  A while ago I'd made a start by undercoating my African tribe figures but hadn't done much more.  They're now pretty much complete...must give them another outing...

Musket armed natives

The entire force

The Chief and his Witchdoctor

I've also made a start painting some of the figures form the Conan boardgame but I'll write more about these in a separate post.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The 'new' Miniature Wargames

This afternoon I found myself haunting the streets of Epsom, rattling a tin on behalf of a local dog charity.

Trigger practising his 'sad' face to get more money out of the public

We have 2 rescue dogs which came from Celia Cross Greyhound Trust, and occasionally I get roped into street collections to raise funds for them.  They tend to be an interesting experience and I often end up bumping into someone I this case somebody I worked with 15 years ago and it looks like a reunion lunch date with some other ex-colleagues may well be on the cards.

miniature-wargames-november-2016-issue-403(on sale 21/10/2016)

I popped into WH Smiths to pick up the latest issue of Miniature Wargames... no longer with Battlegames. I'm old enough to remember picking up issue #1 of MW although admittedly I was at school at the time: under various editorship it has been great/terrible/mediocre at times.

Image result for miniature wargames magazine number 1

 I haven't really kept up with all the ins and outs of recent events but it seems that Henry Hyde, most recently editor of Battlegames and then the combined title,  has been ousted/resigned and the editorship has fallen to John my head I like to think there was some kind of Game of Thrones style power struggle going on which was settled by a bloody editorial skirmish but I suspect it was all disappointingly mundane.

Already in various forums (I know it should be fora but that sounds weird) the usual comments of "I'm never buying another issue" etc have begun to appear.  The fact that the publishers have decided to add a 16 page Fantasy and Sci-Fi section in the middle has also sealed it's fate in some people's eyes,  despite the fact that this appears to be in addition to the normal page count.  What's more interesting is what this means for Tabletop Gaming magazine which comes from the same publisher.  I've liked TTG since it first appeared (although I thought the last issue was a bit flat) but it does seem to be too close a match with the 16 page supplement...will they both be able to survive??

So what's the first issue like?  There's definitely been some tinkering with the layout and at first glance it seems like there's still a bit of work to do before they settle on a new House Style.  Different articles use different fonts, some have 2 columns to a page while others have 3 etc.  None of this is a particular problem but it does make it look a little disjointed.  There are some columns which have survived the putsch such as Conrad Kinch's excellent 'Send Three and Fourpence' and (for me at least) the less interesting 'Wargamers Widow' terrain building regular... it's never held much interest for me but that's mainly because I know I'm rubbish at scratchbuilding stuff.  The contents (bearing in mind I haven't actually read them properly yet) are...

  • Editorial... a very brief hello from John Treadaway.
  • Forward etc as before
  • Wargaming My of the regular navel-gazing articles which can either be interesting or rather dull depending on the contributor.  I haven't read this one yet so can't say where it lies.
  • Send Three and Fourpence...I've always really enjoyed Conrad's articles and this looks particularly interesting, looking at Little Cold Wars: rules for the Cold War era inspired by Little Wars.
  • Dreadnought Battle fleet...WW1 large fleet actions
  • The Battle of Crete...a potted history of the WW2 encounter with some thoughts on gaming
  • Back to Back article by Jim Webster on, erm, back to back wargaming
  • Competition - prizes are books from Osprey and the 'new' Escape from Colditz  game.  My original set is still at my parents house in Glasgow!  I used to enjoy the competitions in the 'old' MWwBG which were quite challenging and had several questions and required a little bit of thought and research (at least on my part anyway).  The new style of competition is the more typical 1 question with the answer in the accompanying blurb so hardly much of a challenge.
  • Critical Hits.  This is new 16 page Sci-Fi/Fantasy supplement which they have put in the centre presumably so you can pull it out and burn it if you are offended by this subject.  I've never understood the antipathy that some gamers seem to have to certain genres contaminating their magazines.  The section includes reviews of figures and rules by John Treadaway (as before in 'old' MWwBG), an article on Infinity: Operation Red Veil, an interview with Joseph McCullough about Frostgrave (wasn't there something very similar in Tabletop Gaming?), an article about Panzerfauste (wasn't there something very similar in Tabletop Gaming?), and  review of Bushido...the skirmish game, not the old FGU roleplaying game.
  • Belli Minimi - A set of fast play Ancients rules from Harry Pearson
  • of books and rules
  • Painting Toy Tanks... a lengthy but interesting-looking article from John Treadaway about painting AFVs.  I always switched off whenever Hammers Slammers was mentioned in the old MW magazine and still have no interest but the techniques may be useful
  • Wargames I said I'm not particularly a fan but there is the odd interesting snippet in these articles,  This one looks at improving MDF this case the Rorke's Drift set from Warlord Games.
  • article about Wargames Assoc of Reading
  • And finally a Club Directory...I'm never sure how accurate of up to date these things are as they are dependent on clubs being organised and actually wanting to be listed
So not a huge difference from the last few issues which isn't really a great surprise and definitely some interesting stuff in there.  A few regulars have carried on contributing but I don't know whether that's because there were articles already 'in the can' or if they will continue and the general tone seems similar so far.  They have obviously been tinkering with layout and design but don't seem to have worked out what they want yet.  Certainly there's nothing for the naysayers to be worried about on first glance.  I would imagine things will begin to change over the next few issues as the new editor and the publishers begin to make the changes that they want and it'll be interesting to see what happens with the Critical Hits section and the future of Tabletop Gaming.

Monday, 17 October 2016

What is best in life?

Having 2 great big boxes full of Conan goodies arrive finally, that's what!

Way back in Feb 15 Monolith games' kickstarter for Conan was funded with an expected arrival date of October 15.  It was my first Kickstarter but even so it was pretty obvious that, because of the hugely successful campaign for funding and the never ending stream of Stretch goals, it would take a bit longer.  So, a year later it has finally arrived....and there's a lot of it.

Both boxes

The stretch goals box

...and the main game

I went with the Barbarian level pledge which was the 'standard' level.  Today a huge box containing the game arrived,  along with another large box just for the extras.   So far I've just peaked inside but what I've seen looks excellent.  More to follow when I get a chance to go through both boxes....

Thursday, 29 September 2016

In which Work gets in the way of gaming...

I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.
Vincent Van Gogh

Another lull in blogging I'm afraid as urgent reports for work mean long days sat staring at the laptop which, in turn, means I'm less inclined to then sit down and do more stuff on the laptop later in the evening.  The plans and reports are all done now so hopefully there will be a bit of a break...of course there's always the danger that they'll expect me to actually do something with the plans I've written!

I'm off to Edinburgh for work in a couple of weeks which will also give me a chance to pop over to Glasgow to see family briefly...a nice perk of a long trip for a meeting.

The last couple of weeks have also seen the departure of my son to Uni in the wilds of Wales which has been hard and has meant a bit of readjusting at home.  Last week he was at the Societies Fair to join some clubs...I asked about the Uni wargames club and all he would say was that there was no mistaking who they were (but not in a good way!)...I don't think he'll be joining.  When I was at uni the Wargames club effectively ran the overarching Societies Committee which gave us our own office and storage in the Students Union and funded a few Cheese and Wine evenings through creative (and absolutely legal) use of the Clubs & Societies system ! 

Never, ever (and I can't stress this highly enough) ever, watch Toy Story 3 when your son has just left for uni...sob.....

Image result for toy story 3 andy so long partner

I have squeezed in a bit of painting, or at least undercoating, and have based and sprayed my next force for Congo.

I have also managed a couple of games however.  At Guildford I played Black Ops for the 2nd time, effectively re-running a variant of the scenario I'd played a little while ago ( link ).  This time the special forces were tasked with setting explosives on the at the oil plant and escaping.  They successfully managed this and wiped out the rebel forces and reinforcements before the 2nd wave of reinforcements managed to inflict serious casualties on the last turn of the game.  A Special Forces victory but I think serious questions would be asked in the debrief.  Again the rules worked well and the game flowed really well.

Last week saw the debut of Eric the Shed's fantastic Zulu collection and I'm sure a post will appear on his blog soon.  A great game and very bloody...

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Slaughter on the North West Frontier

Off to Guildford last night for a game of The Sword and the of those rulesets that everyone seems to have played but which have always passed me by.  We were using Mike and Anthony's very nice Armies in Plastic 54mm figures which has prompted me to get back to painting the ones I bought earlier this year.  Of course there are some outstanding Congo natives to paint... and some Aztecs to rebase.... and some ACW ships to paint...

The game pitted our brave boys in khaki against some doubtlessly unscrupulous Pathans as we tried to relieve a  small force holding out in a fort.  TSATF is card activated and thanks to the frequent appearance of the 'HALT' card, which ends the turn sequence, I spent quite a while holding behind a small wood drinking tea and watching Anthony's cavalry gallantly charging the Pathan Horse.  To be honest it was probably the safest place to be...over on the other flank Anthony's troops were mauled by the Pathans and eventually when I did advance I also took a hammering from Andrew's tribesmen who had been skulking in the rocks waiting for their chance to pounce.  The only troops that were happy and undisturbed were the ones in the fort.

It all looked quite rosy at this a couple of turns there were
bloody scraps of khaki in the dust and the survivors had run away...

The rules were fun and intuitive, although it helped that Mike and Anthony have played them quite a bit previously.  Definitely 'old school' skirmish style and very entertaining.

Incidentally Mike has set up a rather spiffy Forum for all things 54mm....

There's also a write up on Mike's blog...

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Colours 2016

I haven't been to Colours or a couple of  years so yesterday I headed off down a very wet M4 to Newbury. The show changed last year (I think) from a 2 day to a 1 day show...I'm not sure what affect this has had on the dynamics of the show but it seemed to be pretty busy when I arrived at lunchtime and was still going strong when I left at 3.

I hadn't gone with a shopping list in mind...I think my parting words to my wife were 'no, there's nothing I'm gong to buy'.  Fatal really...

So the eventual haul included...

The Starter set for the Tanks game from GF9 with some extra tanks (because you can never have enough...)
Some MDF bases
A copy of Michael Howard's 'The Franco-Prussian War'
Some basing stuff from Vallejo and some tufty bits of grass
A copy of Sharp Practice 2 + cards
The last issue of Wargames Illustrated as well as the October issue nothing at all really.... honest dear...

The show was good fun... some excellent looking games on display as always.  Here is a selection of photos.  As usual I haven't always noted what they were or who they were by so apologies to people who put on excellent games and have gone uncredited...

WW2 Russo-Finnish game by Loughton Strike Force...loved the iced-in ship.

Frostgrave (Maidstone & District)

Dux Bellorum?

Excellent 54mm modern Africa game

Really interesting looking Siege of Portsmouth game by Solent Wargames 2mm

Invasion of Fishguard - Tring Wargames Club

Boshin Wars game  - Solent Wargames Club.  Using Sharp Practice

Kut...Adrian Shepherd.  Looked fantastic and was using 'Setting the East Ablaze' rules

Kut again

...and can tell I liked this one!

Naval Wargames Society's excellent RCW Dvina River game

Achtung Gringo by Crush the Kaiser games
Crawley Wargames Club - Operation Overlord strategic level game...looked great.

Something Warhammery by the South London Warlords...looked very impressive but I
always find these games are so full of figures I can't make sense of what's going on

There were lots more games which I failed to snap including an interesting looking Franco-Prussian War game, a modern Black Ops game and many more.  It was nice to see some participation games of Heroes of Normandie going on which I think is an excellent game.  A great day out marred only by annoying traffic jams on the M25 (just for a change) on the way back.