Monday 31 December 2018

2018 Round Up and then 2019...

I quite like these round-ups that bloggers are doing. It is nice to mark the hobby successes and then make plans for the next year. It will be fun to look back and see what plans I have, and just like work appraisal objectives - see how much I was completely off the mark!  I'm currently sat here with the biggest fireworks going off outside feeling somewhat like Von Paulus at Stalingrad but far better fed and considerably warmer.



For me 2018 was a big year of  'To the The Strongest', Simon Miller's excellent ancient rules.  My 10mm armies are now very playable and I look forward to playing more and painting more for it in 2019. I quite fancy a Gallic or gladiator army to take on my late Roman republican armies.

I made some significant progress with my WW2 British Normandy collection in 15mm but didn't actually play a game with them this year.

Another 28mm English Civil War Regiment was added to my army of Parliament and a good collection of artillery pieces now take their place too.

Much of the year was given over to re-basing and re-finding my old interest in 15mm figure - something which surprised me, but I am so glad I did. I have re-based literally thousands of figures in the latter half of this year and used new and improved (and quicker!) basing methods. More on this in another post to come.

I did also manage 4 x 28mm Norman command stands which was very pleasing to do.  This makes the collection 'playable'.  From now on anything else added is just really nice.

...and 12 Blood Red Skies planes - a lot of effort for planes with bendy wings.

Games played this year:

Jan - Panzergrenadier - 1940 France (15mm)

Feb - Hail Caesar - Wars of the Roses - Battle of Barnet (28mm)

March - Black Powder - American War of Independence (28mm)

April - None

May - To The Strongest - Roman Civil War (10mm)

May - To the Strongest - Roman Civil War - Philippi (10mm)

June -  To The Strongest - Roman Civil War - Thapsus (10mm)

July - None

August - Pike and Shotte - English Civil War - Battle of Monkton Farleigh (28mm)

'Baaaa Waaatch ouut - The Welsh Royalists are on their wayyyyy!'

Sept - Black Powder - French and Indian War (28mm)

Sept - Black Powder - Napoleonic (15mm)

Oct - Blood Red Skies - Battle of Britain (and Warhammer 40k Skirmish)

Nov - None

Dec - Warhammer 40K skirmish & Black Powder - ACW (15mm)

Actually that was an interesting read through for me at least - I made the assumption that I had played mostly 28mm but that was far from being the case.

Painting plans for 2019

It will probably be very random as usual! However I would like to make progress with:

  • 15mm Normandy WW2 for  Panzergrenadier rules
  • Add a few more units to my now playable 28mm Hastings armies
  • Paint up more British command stands for my 28mm AWI collection and maybe a unit or two
  • Add command stands to my 28mm Franco-Prussian collection to make it properly playable
  • Make progress on my WW1 skirmish armies for Chain of Command
  • Add lots of command figures for my 15mm ACW collections and some more units too (currently on my painting desk!)
  • Build a 15mm early Russian WW2 collection
  • Add a few more Blood Red Skies Aircraft for my bastardised rules
  • Add a few more 28mm Samurai and make my armies playable
  • Add to my 28mm ECW collection
  • Double the size of my 28mm FIW collection as the units are all 12 man stands currently
I think that is enough!  It looks more like a 5-year plan!  In addition there are a three projects which I would love to start but it would be at the expense of not doing some of the above

  • Little Big Horn - yep the whole thing - ideally in 10mm but maybe 6mm - I want to see how the command choices play out and to get more understanding of the battle
  • 15mm Desert War - I have started and stopped in so many scales for this. I think 15mm is the way forward but I am prepared to go 1/285.  Rules would be Panzergrenadier
  • I have great desire to do the Jacobite Wars and I think it would be in 15mm having really enjoyed the sight of my 15mm ACW all re-based and looking great
  • Boer War in 15mm would be really interesting too but I think that might be a project too far for this year
Enough now! There are thousands of hours of painting time shown there! It will be really interesting to see what actually happens and what progress is made. It's an interesting observation for me that I don't feel like doing new 28mm projects.  But... I am a wargamer and at the end of the day - I will be tempted by 'The Shiney' (or the plasticcy) as is the modern thing.

I wish you all a happy 2019!

Saturday 29 December 2018

Bishop Odo - Battle of Hastings

Here we have Bishop Odo, brother of William the Bastard of Normandy.  The figure is from the excellent Gripping Beast range with a fine banner from Flags of War.  The shield designs are from Little Big Men Studios.

I was going to give Bishop Odo the Papal Banner, but it does seem that Eustace of Boulogne was given the honour of carrying it with him.  I have given Odo a different very bright and expensive looking banner to reflect his high status.

There were weapon options in the pack and I decided to go for the wooden mace option as per the Bayeux Tapestry. I have read that it is thought that Bishop Odo may have commissioned the tapestry, in which case one would have thought that he might have wanted to have been represented fairly accurately in terms of armour and equipment.

The quilted armour certainly stands out on the tapestry.

Hopefully a 1066 Battle of Hastings can be recreated on my wargaming table soon. I started my little collection in the early 1990's but progress has been slow.  I think a few more troops and it might soon be playable.  Unusually I now have enough commanders to make it feasible.

...And finally a little joke which I thought of earlier.  This is how it might look if the Kubrick movie 'The Shining' had been made in 1066...!

Monday 17 December 2018

Blood Red Skies Game - Initial Thoughts

Sometimes you want something to work really well, like a relationship or a new car  or a new job and you invest a lot of time and effort into it and you really WANT it to work.  Well this was me with Blood Red Skies.

The reviews I read online were very positive. I never like to buy anything cold these days. I will read up and research and accept the caveat that biases will exist, however you hope that you can sift through these.  Interestingly I have not found a single negative review about the whole game overall.

So with that in mind I bought the Battle of Britain boxed set game and on reading the rules I thought I would go the whole hog and buy a very nice 6 x 4 ft mat from Deep Cut Studios too (I have another purpose for the mat too so that will multi-role'). 

I watched a couple of videos on You Tube for the tutorials and thought - 'Mmmm ok that has some promise - looks a bit confusing in places but that's new games.'  Though the confusion of the experienced play testers in one game did leave me wondering.

The box is beautifully presented. I love the Art Deco design and the use of colours in the art work. The rules are in keep with the era and I like the scenario books and the simple play sheet. The mechanics look very simple. 

The models themselves are nicely scaled and have lovely panelling - not too deep but enough for a good wash to get into the low lights and make a paint job look great.   The wings are very bendy though and some of the fuselages are bent like bananas as the plastic has the feel of cheap Christmas Cracker tat.    Still plastic is a new medium so experimental materials can be forgiven. 

STOP ...REWIND.....The wings and fuselages of the plastic planes were bent!!!!  Airfix were making plastic kits nearly 70 years ago and in the time since plastic technology on models is now amazing.  I mean what the is utterly inexcusable.  Hot water did allow me to bend the wings straight but they warped back to bent.  I do now wonder whether the paint job effort was worth it.  I am pleased to say that the latest Mosquito planes boxed set are made of a much better grade of plastic and are superb but really this should have been done from the outset.

There were some basic decals included in the Battle of Britain boxed set but one did have to buy the decal sheets for the squadron markings.  Annoyingly the new Mosquito set (not pictured here) comes with the Spitfire markings decals (why?!)

The game system works on an 'advantaged, neutral and disadvantaged' system symbolising height and skill of the superior planes at any particular time. It is quite possible for a plane to go through all 3 of these states in one game turn. The stand cleverly pivots forward and back from a central position to show these states.  It does feel a bit like a car gear stick after a while and can be a little tiresome rocking the planes back and forth constantly but the simple system does do away with having to use card chits, which is no bad thing.

The dice system for shooting and saves is great. Nice and simple.  Number of dice depend on various factors.  If the Ace of Clubs/Spades or whatever it is (I'm not a card player) appears in the slack handful of dice then either good or bad things happen. I like this - it makes the game chug along nicely without adding complexity.

The rules do work mostly quite well and the quick play sheets are a helpful tool but it is necessary to look through the expanded rules and the scenario book to pick up on all of the rules. This can be a bit annoying in a game to to have 3 books open on the desk and hunting through each to find the right bit.  Clouds effects are in the scenario book....

There are a different cards that can be played during the game but this appeared confusing even to the play testers on the You Tube video that I decided not to use these in the first couple of games.  Having read through it since it is still as clear as mud.  The rules for attacking multi-engined planes (common in WW2) has some confusing rules, indeed, a new FAQ sheet on the Warlord Games website, devotes some questions to clearing this up and the answer that things depend on whether the plane was on a bomb run or not does seem to muddy the water somewhat.  In the main rules it seems that to shoot down a bomber appears really difficult.  I was confused and still am.

I think the worst aspect for me is the way the planes manoeuvre.  It is very abstract.  Usually moving in straight lines with a turn at the end or giving up an advantage level and turning up to 180 degrees at any point in the turn.  Yes - like a police car in a car chase movie it can turn a 180 on the spot and go back the other way. There are no curving bank movements which (as I understood from reading primary sources) were common in dogfights.  The X-Wing banking angles do this motion very elegantly  and indeed old wargame rules (thinking of 'Dogfight over Flanders' ) used this same method.  So in our first two games the best tactic has been to fly head on (because trying to outflank will get you attacked pretty quickly) like jousting knights and then perform a 180 as you pass the other player to get on his tail to disadvantage him and then try to take the shot on the next turn.

I think this for both Ian and myself was the weirdest thing.  I want to be kind about the game. I want it to work. I want to enjoy it. I have spent 3 days solid painting the aircraft.  I have spent a lot of money on it...but so far it's just weird!  I'm hoping that something will ping into place on the next play through and we go 'Aha! We were doing it wrong and look now the planes look like they are dogfighting instead of just charging at each other and then spinning around.'

I note that there are a lot of new aircraft being released soon which is nice.  I note also that the plane that I was hoping to see (the Boulton Paul Defiant) was actually released as a pre-production special and is now reaching £41 per model on Ebay etc. Great :-(   so I'm not likely to see this plane as a model on the table now.

So what are my plans from here.  I think to read the rules again. I must have missed something surely.  And then play test and play test again and try to use the cards as the designer intended.  I will get more models as the planes do paint up nicely. I really would like BF-110s, Hurricanes and Stukas (but not in Christmas Cracker gift bendy plastic).

If the weirdness continues then I think I will create my own game using the aircraft but utilising the banking movements in the style of X-wing with different MDF movement sticks cut out by my jig-saw to match the maximum turn rates of the various aircraft.  I have little doubt that a working mix of X-Wing and elements of BRS could actually make a cracking little game which would suit me very well. 

So there we are. A few thoughts from me. I hope in a few months I can come back and say - 'Well I spotted some good bits back then, but there was a lot I didn't realise at the time and now the whole game is superb.'  We shall see.  I shall persist!

Wednesday 12 December 2018

28mm William of Normandy Command Stand

Since the summer my wargaming year has so far consisted of re-basing...lots of re-basing!  This started with my Napoleonic armies that I was on the cusp of selling and then as I was photographing it all for the purpose of selling, I just found that I really liked them (but they would need rebasing!).  This continued with my 15mm ACW collection (last blog post). An update on all that to follow soon!

So having to work away elsewhere and in accommodation that I really couldn't leave static grass, old basing texture and sand scattered everywhere I realised that I would have to take paints and a real painting project in case there was any decent 'downtime' from the work.  In the event, there was a lot of downtime and I was able to paint 4 command stands (minus basing!) in one week.  This was immensely pleasing but also reflects badly on me in that I found that I can virtually imprison myself for a week from dawn to midnight just to paint!

I am always desperate for command stands. Rules these days tend to be much more command focussed (and rightly so in my view) and leaders play an obviously important role.  But between painting a 24 man unit of fusiliers and a command stand, I'll paint the fusiliers every time!  In this case I took away with me all of my paints and the Norman commanders and some plastic Infantry to build. As I was 100 miles from home and driving to my job, I realised that I had forgotten to bring polystyrene glue! - so no figure building for me - It was going to be focussed command stand painting only.

I have had my Norman commanders for quite a long time. I think they are from Gripping Beast. If they are then then they have clearly improved on their old crappy horses.  As I got to work on the command stands I really enjoyed working on them. These characters are great and the paint really made them come to life.

As we see here this is William of Normandy doing his famous tapestry pose of 'Hello everyone - look I'm not dead' and sliding his helmet up.  The banner was randomly chosen for William and chosen just because it looks really nice.  I have studied photos of the Bayeux Tapestry for many hours and cannot find his personal banner shown anywhere.

The banner is from Little Big Men Studios and the shield designs are from Battle Flag.

I have much to say on basing which I might save until I post my ACW figs freshly rebased on to my blog.  I have changed techniques, both to save money by using static grass instead of just clumps of expensive grass and the various shades of grass also looks more realistic I think.  I'm moving away from painting the edge of the MDF base too.  I usually paint the edge brown but it looks like the figures are based on a chocolate biscuit when I do that.  I quite like this worn effect from the various basing effects on the MDF. It blends nicely and stops the eye from being drawn to the base edge, I think.

Anyway, I took these photos with my phone camera as the cheap Poundland batteries were all dead in their box so I cannot use my main camera (yes the one with the pike scratch on the lens!). At least these pics don't have the scratch (even if they do look a bit soft-filtered!).