Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Blood Red Skies

I finally managed a proper game of Blood Red Skies this week.  Checking back on the blog I discovered that I bought the starter set 4 years ago but they've never seen action!

I'd played one game of this at the Guildford club back in 2018... it was a large multiplayer version which didn't use all the rules if I remember correctly.  I was impressed though and promptly picked up a copy of the starter set.  I'd painted up the planes that come with this but never completed them.  The original starter box came with some rather naff stickers for roundels and crosses rather than proper decals and I never got round to acquiring the proper ones until recently.  

I spent the weekend swearing loudly at the set of Spitfire and Me109 decals that I'd bought but managed to get them mostly applied safely (as long as you don't look too close... there are 6 planes and 7 sets of decals so you only get 1 chance to mess up!).  I'm pleased when the results though...

Incidentally when I discovered that the Warlord Games decals are for 602 City of Glasgow Squadron I was sold... I hadn't realised that they still exist (now as a RAAF squadron) and are based about a mile or so from my old home in Glasgow.

The game avoids the complications that often come with air games... altitude bands, complicated manouvers etc... by using stands which can be angled backwards as though the plane is climbing (to show 'advantage') or angled downwards (to show 'disadvantage').  This neatly simplifies all the height issues and advantage can be used to increase speed or manouvreability. 


Hits from firing are quite hard to achieve and it's even harder to actually cause damage.  A successful hit forces a plane to a lower advantage status and a disadvantaged plane which is hit is then shot down.  More importantly a successful hit, even if it causes no damage, inflicts a 'boom chit' on the victim (terrible terminology!).  Once you have more 'boom chits' than planes the squadron turns tail and flees, which feels right... driving off enemy planes was a more accurate result than everyone being shot down.

Each side also has a selection of cards based on the type of plane, the period of the war and the theatre which add some extra depth.

Our game pitted 4 Spitfires against 4 Me109s in a straightforward encounter scenario.  The game rewards spending some time manoeuvring and positioning to get onto the tail of your opponent and the tight turn of the Spitfire proved really effective at this.  It also pays to have a wingman who can soften up an opponent and force them to a disadvantaged state before their partner moves in for the kill.

I was really pleased with how they played and will definitely use them again... it's fair to say my opponent was less impressed (despite winning) and found the mechanics harder to get to grips with but I guess that's the nature of wargames... we all have different tastes.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022



A rare family boardgame evening with a game of Wingspan.  I've posted about this before but essentially it's an engine-building game based on birds... think Terraforming Mars but with feathers.  Its certainly less complex than TM but that's no bad thing when you want a quick game to distract from all the Royal funeral stuff.

The components are lovely and any game that includes a dice tower shaped like a birdhouse is a winner in my book!

Each round (4 in total) has a randomly drawn objective (eg most birds played in the woodland habitat or most eggs laid etc) and each player has a secret objective as well so each game has a lot of variety.

As usual I was soundly beaten by my wife and son with Elaine doing her usual "oh I don't really know what I'm doing" shtick while wiping the floor with us!

Friday, 16 September 2022

Blam! Blam! Aargh!


Last night we played a game using these free skirmish rules which came with a recent issue of Wargames Illustrated.  I missed this completely... to be honest I rarely buy any magazines these days after years of faithfully being them.  I'm rarely in a High Street to pick up a copy on spec and when I have bought magazines I've really only flicked through them.  Luckily my friend Anthony is a bit more alert and had spotted these rules.

BBA (I can't say I'm a  fan of the name) are written by Dan Mersey  so sounded promising and have a good pedigree. They seem to be designed for a broad range of periods...certainly from the 18th Century onwards and are covered much aimed at small skirmishes with a handful of figures.  Each turn has 4 action phases and players bid for initiative from a pool of Initiave Points.  As you lose figures this pool decreases.  The winner of the bid chooses one of 4 actions: move, shoot, fight or recover from stun.  

An interesting mechanism is that the opposing player then has to do the same action (but with half the number of figures that the active player used) so if the active player chooses to move, the other player then can only opt to move figures and not, for example, shoot.  At first I thought this was a very odd approach but it actually works well in practice and means choosing when to try and win initiative (or not) becomes really critical.

We played a WW2 scenario with some very nice 42mm figures from Irregular Miniatures (... must resist looking at their website...!!)

We had 2 evenly matched forces with mainly rifles, a squad MG and a leader with a SMG.  My riflemen and leader quickly headed into the cover of the woods and waited for the enemy to act.  There are definitely times where you don't want to win initiative, letting your opponent use up his points and then controlling the later phases and this tactic proved pretty deadly.  I managed to sucker Anthony into overspending his Initiative Points which left his troops stranded in the open and under a deadly hail of fire.

They tried their best to get into the cover of the farmhouse but were now coming fire from all sides and, of course, as figures began to be killed the IP pool was also dwindling, making to harder to win initiative.  From then on it was clear that the British weren't going to last long.

They're an interesting set of rules... obviously they're pretty simplified and short but that's no bad thing.  It'd be interesting to see what they're like with other periods and more complex scenarios.

Sunday, 11 September 2022

Colours 2022

 A trip to Colours at Newbury this weekend for the first time in 4 years.  It's a great show and, at about an hour and a half's drive is one of the closest (apart from Salute and SELWG although the latter's move to North London makes it tricky to get to now).

Arriving at the car park it was clear it was already very busy at 10.30am and inside the main hall it was pretty packed.  On the top floor the Bring and Buy was several people deep and I didn't have the enthusiasm to elbow my way to the front so I don't know of there were any bargains to be had.

There weren't a huge number of games on show... Colours always feels very much like a trade show and I only took a few pics of some that caught my eye

Battle of Adrianople


Roundway Down

Peter Pig's Mexican Revolution game...always been tempted by this period but no!

My haul from the show was also very restrained... a copy of Strength and Honour which I wanted to try with my 10mm Romans and Celts, and a set of Mig Alley which is part of the Wings at War series from Tumbling Dice and comes with some teeny, tiny 1:600 Jets.  I've always  fancied the Korean air war and at £10 it seemed too good to pass up...

Friday, 12 August 2022

War of the Ring and giant cats


One of the problems with many boardgames is that they take ages to play.  When I was younger I would happily spend most of a day and evening playing games... Starfleet Battles used to take up most of a Saturday punctuated by a Pizza Supper and beer.  But these days life has a habit if getting in the way and I struggle to manage more than 2 or 3 hours in an evening.  Sometimes I can leave a game set up on the dining room table for a few days but that isn't always possible.  So a game like War of the Ring is a bit of challenge to squeeze in, especially as I was playing at my friend Anthony's house. 

We've been trying to fit this game in for what feels like months but for various reasons it kept getting cancelled.  Anthony was keen to give it a try so we arranged an early start and, accepting we probably wouldn't  finish, had a go at saving Middle Earth from evil Sauron/evil Hobbits depending on your point of view.

Every time I've played WOTR I've been the Fellowship so it made a change to be marshaling Sauron's forces and hunting for the Ring.  Anthony pushed the Fellowship hard, moving them every turn and sometimes more than once which should have made it easier for me to spot them and start corrupting innocent little Frodo.  I repeatedly failed to spot them or to cause any corruption, and when I did Anthony ruthlessly sacrificed Fellowship members to soak up the damage... poor old Pippin was the first to go, followed by Legolas and Gandalf!  All this speedy movement meant the Frodo and Sam had made it all the way to Mordor relatively unscathed.

Some of these Fellowship members aren't going to make it to the end of the game!

While all this was going on the armies of Mordor and Harad were stomping all over Gondor and another army had emerged from Moria along with a Balrog and attacked Lorien, putting me tantalisingly close to a military victory.  Sadly we had to stop there with both sides close to a win and the game on a knife edge.

It's  game that definitely rewards replaying as you begin to see different options and tactics.

Why is Elrond so crunchy!!?

As you can see the forces of Mordor were backed up by Leonard the Morgul-Cat who tried to help by attempting to eat Elrond and batting dice and counters off of the table.  Afterwards this set me off down a wormhole of 'cats in Tolkien'.  There are definitely dogs in the books... Farmer Maggot's dogs for example or Huan the Wolfhound from the Silmarillion (I've always thought that would make a good name for a pet dog but I think it would be rejected for being too nerdy) but I couldn't remember any mention of cats.  Turns out they are mentioned in passing eg part of one of Bilbo's riddles, in the song Frodo sings at the Prancing Pony etc.  But the main reference is in The Book of Lost Tales and the Tale of Tenuviel where Tevildo the Prince of Cats appears, described as a "demonic servant of Melko'... not at all like Leonard then!  And there's Queen Beruthiel and her team of spying cats in Gondor.   Incidentally the Quenya for cat is 'Meoi'... you never know when that will come in handy. 

It seems Tolkien wasn't a cat-person.  When he was asked by a cat breeder if they could use names from Lord of the Rings for her cats his reply to his publisher was pretty clear...

"I fear that to me Siamese cats belong to the fauna of Mordor, but you need not tell the cat breeder that."

Monday, 1 August 2022

Laserburn update

I've been busy with my scissors and glue adding to my paper 10mm Romans and Gauls and, to be honest, the ridiculous heat here in thr SE has put me off painting but I was determined to get some more done on my 15mm Laserburn figures, so I finally got off my backside and picked up a brush this weekend.

This started as a nostalgia project but I've enjoyed painting them and will keep it going now.  With Xenos Rampant coming out towards the end of the year I have something to aim for!  The figures and vehicles are mostly from the Alternative Armies Laserburn range although some of the vehicles and mech are from their other ranges.

Imperials... the future is definitely a technicolour one!


Some armour support

...and a mech

And who wouldn't field a mech that looks like a giant gorilla!

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Battle of Walton

 A return to the Wars of the Roses this week and a game of Never Mind the Billhooks.  Most of my games of this have been the large scale series of games we've played at Eric the Shed's so it made a change to play at the level the games were originally designed for.

The game pitched Percy against Clifford with Clifford's Yorkists having an edge in missile troops while Percy had brought along his cavalry and mounted Knights.

The game has a manoeuvre phase and I tried to use this to send my cavalry off on a long flanking move.  They were quickly headed off by some mercenary handgunners who took some pot shots at them as they passed by a wood.  This opening salvo brought the Manouvre phase to an end and the game proper started.

The handgunners take aim from the woods...

Actually my Knights were in some serious bother...handgunners are particularly nasty against men at Arms but fortunately for me the mercenaries decided to camp in the woods while they renegotiated their terms and conditions... unluckily for Andrew the Yorkist skirmishers card failed to come up for the next 3 turns in a row!! (If I had any card shuffling skills this might have looked suspicious but I'm very cack-handed when it comes to cards!!)

My Knights were able to ride safely past the skirmishers and onto the flank of the Yorkist army, pinning down some archers and foot Knights.

The archers stayed on this hill for most of the game

Back in the centre I was taking a bit of a hammering from the Yorkist archers and my own bowmen were rapidly being shot to pieces.  My own skirmishers were slowly whittling down the enemy but not fast enough.  Several melees broke out with the tide seeming to turn in my favour but my morale counters were dwindling... when you can't hand over a counter the game is over.  At one point I was down to zero but managed to recover one by rallying a unit.

The Yorkist foot Knights charged my lone unit of Billmen in the centre but were foiled by an unexpected ditch which protected their front (thanks to a Special Event card and much to Andrew's exasperation, not helped by me laughing like a drain!!)

Over on the flank the Knights had ridden down and destroyed the Yorkist foot Knights but were a bit fragile afterwards and were then shot to pieces by archers and the handgunners who had finally signed a new contract and ended their work to rule.  These were quickly followed by the demise of my Light Horse and this emptied my pot of morale counters, handing the Yorkists a narrow victory.    

It was definitely a game won by firepower... I dont think the Yorkists won a single melee but were able to use their archers and skirmishers (eventually) to great effect.  It also really showed up the problems of cavalry and mounted Knights... they're great for marauding on the flanks and can be devastating in a charge but they are also very brittle and tend to be an expensive one-shot weapon.  Excellent fun as always.