Thursday, 31 March 2022

Painting and planning: a Q1 review

At the beginning of the year I boldly set out some plans for the year.  I tend not to do this as it's always too depressing when I've failed to achieve anything I'd planned or been sidetracked into something off-plan.

But, since it's the end of Q1 it must be time for a retro (can you tell I've been doing too much project planning at work!!?)

On my list were 3 main projects... Arthurian armies, Ironclads and sorting out my WW2 ships.  Bafflingly I've somehow actually achieved 2 out of 3 with figures painted and games played for the Arthurians and the Ironclads.  Of course there's more to do with each if these so they aren't completely done (is a wargames project ever really done??) but I'm amazed that I've actually managed to get figures painted and onto the table for a game.

My painting tally tends to be incredibly slow but so far this year I have painted:

40 Late Roman Infantry

12 ACW Ironclad ships

6 1980s Laserburn miniatures.

The Laserburn figures were an unexpected find and have set me off on a new project (yeah... I was never going to stick religiously to the plan!) and a package has just arrived from Alternative Armies.  More on this in a separate post...

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Action on the Mississippi...Hammerin' Iron

Its always great when you get to see a project through the painting stage and actually onto the table so this week my ACW ironclads that I've been working on (see previous post) got an outing in a game of Hammerin' Iron.

These rules from Peter Pig are fairly light but it means you don't get bogged down in the minutiae of armour thickness and gun calibre.  As usual in PP games, there is a pre-game sequence which determines who is attacking and defending, and how many ships turn up and when.  The defenders (me in this game, playing the Confederates) only start with 1 ship versus 3...the argument being that the attackers wouldn't launch an attack unless they have an advantage. Reinforcements do eventually arrive but more quickly for the attackers. The defenders do get the benefit of a Fort however although it played no part in our game.

The attackers get points for sinking ships but the real objective is to destroy the enemy supply depot and ships.

Actions are determined by a hand of 5 cards per ship but you have to commit to cards from either a deck focusing more on movement or firing for a few turns at a time which forces some tactical choices.

The lone Confederate ship CSS Arkansas faces off against the advancing Union ships

The Fort guards the supply depot

Fleets are selected to a points value... both sides have to pay for a Fort in advance but only the defender gets to actually use it

The 2 starting fleets

My initial sole ship quickly found itself the target of lots of fire from the Northern ships

Arkansas turns and tries to escape from the advancing Union ships...

...but, too late...a lucky shot from USS Miami causes a fire in the magazine and the ship explodes!

The Union ship Switzerland raced ahead to try and sink the supply ships but also came under fire.. there's a lesson there for both sides to not get too far ahead of the rest of the fleet.

USS Switzerland steams towards the supply ships but is repeatedly set on fire by the Southern ships.

As my ships began to slowly arrive I realised I was still outgunned and tried to sink the USS Miami by ramming it with Albemarle but csme under such heavy fire as the ship steamed in that the ram attempt wasn't very decisive.  In fact Albemarle was so beat up by the closing fire that she sank shortly afterwards!

Miami is rammed by CSS Albemarle

It only causes minor damage (but does start a fire) but Albemarle is sunk by gunfire in the process.

Because of the combined damage from the ram and further gunfire and fires, the crew of Miami decided enough is enough and abandoned the ship, heading for the safety of the shore.

The game has a variable time limit and as the clock ticked down the North had lost 2 ships and the Confederates 3 but more crucially, Andrew had managed to sink 3 of the 4 supply ships giving the North a major victory.

It's been several years since I've played these but we picked them up pretty quickly.  They're not overly technical and the hex system can lead to some oddities with firing arcs, but I think this is a good trade off for a game that is fast moving and gets a result in an evening.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Yaquinto's Barbarians


Another 'vintage' boardgame (1981 being vintage makes me feel old!).  This is Barbarians, one of the album style games that Yaquinto produced in the 80s.  I'd never heard of it but Anthony had acquired a copy and had fond memories of it.

It is actually 2 games in one.  We played the Fall of Rome game with various barbarian tribes aiming to capture Rome.  The other half of the board is a similar game based around invading Mongols which has slightly different mechanics but is similar in approach.

The Romans begin holding the northern frontiers with the Frank's, Vandals, Goths and Huns arriving from geographically dubious starting locations.  The Romans have a definite advantage in combat but are very limited in reinforcements while the Barbarians arrive relentlessly every turn.

The only victory condition is to capture Rome by turn 14... nothing else matters... so the invaders need to break through the defences and stream towards Rome.  Because the Romans are pretty much doomed the game suggests that you play it twice, changing sides, and the winner is the player who captures Rome quickest.

In both games it felt like the Romans were very securely holding back the Barbarians but once a gap appears in the line it becomes very hard to hold back the tide and everything suddenly changes.  The Roman player then has to scramble back from the Northern borders and try to protect the city.  In both games it was surprising how quickly it changed from secure, happy Romans to chaos as the Barbarian hordes charged South.

In both of our games Rome nearly held out, falling in turns 12 and 13 and giving me a close win.  A really fun game with a surprising amount of thinking involved for such a simple set of rules 


Monday, 21 March 2022

ACW Naval Gazing


(because posts about ships have to use the Naval Gazing pun at some point...)

We all have those untouched projects that lurk at the back our minds or get half-started but never finished.  Let's face it... we wouldn't be wargamers if we didn't.  One of mine is ACW naval.  I actually have kind of ticked this off in the past as I acquired a load of Navwar 1:1200 ironclads and have played quite a few games with them.

But of course we all have that butterfly instinct that leads us into murkier waters (and they don't come much murkier than the Mississippi!).  A few years ago (edit: I've checked and this was 2014!!) I'd eyed up the Peter Pig 1:600 ships because of course bigger is better. I quite liked the look of these and thought that a bigger scale would look much more impressive on the table. I placed an order with PP and duly collected it at Salute but when I went to examine the ships a couple of days later they were nowhere to be found!  I hunted everywhere but had no luck and sadly concluded I'd left them somewhere at the Show or perhaps on the train.  I managed to pick up some painted ships from eBay but these languished in the loft.  

A year or so later I was tidying up in the dining room and, under a coat, I came across my original Salute order, which tells you something about the tidiness of my dining room!!

I've found this a hard project to get going for some reason and the ships remained in the loft for several years, always in my to-do list but never actually seeing the light of day... until now...

Look at the state of my cutting mat... I may need to invest in a new one!

I've dug out the ships.and discovered I now have quite a lot.  The eBay ships weren't painted too badly but have needed a bit of a touch up or, in some cases,  a fresh paint job as the colours were all wrong. They're now pretty much done.  There's still a bit of dressing to add.  Although riverine ships tended to ship their masts before combat, some had single masts and I've added these to some of the ships.  I need to add some simple rigging and flags but otherwise they are ready for a planned game in the next few weeks.

A lot more ships than I realised!

You  might have spotted that some of the ships are based and some aren't.  The eBay ships have a card base with some texturing and a name label.  The ones I've done from scratch are currently unbased.  I'm currently mulling over whether to go with similar bases to the others, to leave them all unbased, or to go with clear acrylic bases (which is what I did with my Napoleonic ships).

For guidance on the ships I have been referring to this excellent book by Tony Gibbons which I can highly recommend if you have an interest in this genre.

Rules-wise I'll probably go with Peter Pig's Hammerin' Iron which are quite light but ideal for an evenings game.  My alternate rules which I haven't played in many years are Smoke on the Water.

There are a few more bits and pieces coming in the post from Peter Pig including some buildings and markers but I've also been tempted by their 1:600 (3mm) ACW land troops.  Riverine ships often supported troops engaged on land so I thought it might be worth having a look at them... it's a whole new scale and much smaller than anything I've tried before so it'll be interesting to see what they're like... more on these when they arrive.


Sunday, 20 March 2022

Nearly at the Little Wars Revisited Games day

Not a lot of gaming for the last few weeks... a combination of work, tiredness and a distinct lack of get up and go has meant I've not been out much.  We did manage a game of the excellent boardgame Tokaido this evening in which my wife did her usual "I don't really know what I'm doing" tactic, while sweeping to victory! 

Last weekend I should have been at the Little Wars Revisited games day in Woking.  My track record at actually making it to this annual gathering of 54mm enthusiasts is pretty poor... I managed to get to the first one back in 2018 but then a combination of work and lockdowns has meant I've never managed it since.

It's a lovely small gathering of like-minded gamers with a passion for large scale figures, with several games put on across the day and an emphasis on everyone getting a chance to join in.

I set off on Saturday lunchtime (I could only manage the afternoon due to prior commitments) and, for some reason, decided to take my wife's car.  I'd no sooner set off when there was an ominous noise from under the car.  I pulled into the nearest garage and sure enough one of the tyres was almost completely flat!  Luckily I discovered this quickly and not when I was hurling down the A3!  So my planned gaming afternoon turned into an afternoon at Kwik-Fit instead and I missed catching up with everyone yet again!

Luckily there are lots of photos of the day on Mike Lewis' blog and the excellent Duchy of Tradgardland blog.  More info can be found on the forum and there is also a planned day later in the year up north in Stockport in September.  All the details are on the Little Wars Revisited site.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Varus loses another legion

 A great Command and Colours game this week using Anthony's lovely 54mm figures.  We played C&C with some modifiers to sort of merge it with DBA which worked really well: the mechanics were all Command & Colours but the unit classifications, terrain set up etc were based around DBA.

I got to choose the terrain (seemed fair as the evil Romans were invading my homeland) and opted to place as many woods as I could to screen them from the Romans.

We ended up with a battle.fought mainly on both flanks with the centres staying pretty static.  I was lucky to have a couple of cards which meant I could mobilise most of the right flank.  The German warbands gathered in the woods and then charged out forcing back and quickly destroying the Roman opposition.

The Germans gather in the forest.

Unfortunately over on the other flank the Romans were doing much the same to me!  It looked like I was about to lose my left flank and my camp so I pushed on with my attack on the right and the survivors of my left flank charged past the flanking Romans, heading straight for the Roman commander who was isolated on his own.  A very lucky dice roll saw him killed and gave me the final flag I needed for victory.... no triumphal parade for Varus I think...

The doomed Roman general

The German warbands stream forward as the Roman flank collapses