Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Happenings in the Games Workshop hobby

From WikiMedia Commons user Ardfern, licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike  3.0 Unported license.
According to reasonably substantiated rumour (assuming you're prepared to believe multiple people on different fora's accounts of communication with Forgeworld):
GW are cutting all metal production as they switch over to fine cast, and have let it be known that once stocks of Epic, BFG, Necromunda, Warmaster, Mordheim, Inquisitor run out, then they are gone for good.
(quote from Epic Addiction via Porky's Expanse, backed up with forum postings on various sites.)

I guess this is the next step after Warhammer Historical: again, the listed ranges are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things compared to 40K/Fantasy, and almost certainly don't reflect well in the effort vs. profit scheme of things. They're also, of course, very much in the 40K/Fantasy universe and chock full of GW IP, so thus are even less likely to be sold off to a third party than Historical. (Who am I kidding? GW won't sell Historical either.)

Confusion also reigns as a couple of GW fansites appear to have vanished. It's pretty clear that Faeit 212 has probably pushed their luck with leaks of GW-copyright material once too often, and paid the price by being shut down by Google/Blogger on receipt of a DMCA takedown notice. According to the site admin, though, the Blogger-hosted Bell Of Lost Souls blog is down for technical reasons (although its fora are still up).

A search of chillingeffects.org's DMCA notice archive reveals that GW seem to have been averaging between one and six or so a month, with Apocalypse 40K and Faeit being popular targets.

In a reaction to this, Tabletop Fix just announced they won't be covering any more GW news as, quote "a precaution".

Difficult to know what to make of this one: by all accounts this is not the first DMCA notice Faeit have received, although previous ones have simply forced Google to set the post back to draft mode until Faeit remove the violation. News leaks - in the connected world we live in, this is pretty inevitable, and once it's out, you can't put the genie back in the bottle any more than you can, say, un-see certain popular Internet images. However, it does appear that Faeit have been a bit of a persistent offender, despite being a very pro-GW fansite who probably generate them lots of advance sales. You could (and people have, very loudly) make the argument that GW may have been better served liaising with one of their better advertisers and using them to their advantage, but that doesn't seem to be the GW way.

I'm not going to label the takedown notices per se as 'GW shoot themselves in the foot again', as, to be honest, they're a foreseeable consequence of the way GW have chosen to do business. and there's a reasonable argument that after multiple prior notices Faeit ought to have got the message, whether or not they liked it. Poke a sleeping dragon with a stick enough times and sooner or later it will do more than just open one eye, growl at you and point out you're crunchy and taste good with ketchup and would-you-not-do-that-please-because-it's-getting-annoying. However much you enjoy poking it with a stick, and particularly when you know quite how jealously the dragon protects its treasure.

I am not a lawyer, so I'm not going to comment on a UK company using US law to take down a site - many other people who aren't lawyers are generating quite enough heat on that score already. But, as a final analogy: us wargamers have got used to the fact that most of the companies that support our hobby are like that dying breed, the family butcher: small, friendly, helpful, in it because they love the business. Some companies are heading towards being the Cooperative, bigger, but still caring about what they do (I'm thinking of the likes of Mantic or Warlord or maybe Battlefront here...).

GW are Macdonalds. It's all about the bottom line. Deal with them, sure, but remember that the company line is about shifting the things they want you to buy to turn a profit.

And don't be surprised if you get a nasty stomach upset afterwards.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Probability for Wargamers 11 - combinations and Chain of Command

Oi bin finkin', like....

The Lardies' Chain of Command has an interesting activation mechanic, and I've been pondering for a while what the odds are on various things happening as a result. To start with, we need to figure out the  probability of rolling a given number a certain number of times on 5d6. So let's start with the easy case.

What's the probability of rolling NO 1s on 5d6?


Chance of not rolling a 1 = 5/6.
Chance of rolling 5 'not 1's' = 5/6 * 5/6 * 5/6 * 5/6 * 5/6 = 3125/7776 = roughly 40%!

How about probability of rolling one 1 on 5d6?

Chance of rolling a 1 = 1/6
Chance of not rolling a 1 = 5/6
Chance of rolling a 1 then 4 x 'not 1' = 1/6 * 5/6 * 5/6 * 5/6 * 5/6 = 625/7726 = about 8.1%.

Except that there are actually 5 different ways we can do this: the first, second... etc etc dice can be the 1. As these are independent events, we can add them, giving us a probability of roughly 40%.

What about rolling two 1's?

Simple enough, that's 1/6 * 1/6 * 5/6 * 5/6 * 5/6 * the number of different ways we can do that...

Which is 125/7776 * ... erm...



We have 5 ways we can place the first 1. And for each of those, we have 4 different places we can put the other 1. So that's 5x4 = 20...

...except that since we don't care about the order, a dice in position 1 followed by a dice in position 2 is exactly the same as the reverse, so in fact there are only 10. Which makes the odds of rolling exactly 2 ones 125/7776 * 10, or 16% or so.

It turns out this 'pick k from n items' thing has a name, and a formula, which is going to save our sanity working through this. What isn't going to save my sanity here is that neither of the conventional ways of writing it is easy on a blog: however, with a little HTML wizardry....

The number of combinations of n things taken k at a time,

nCk = (n * (n-1) ... * (n-k+1) ) / (k * (k-1) * (k-2) ...)

As you can see, for our example above, and for the rest...
5C2 = (5 x 4) / (2 x 1) = 10 - odds of 2 1's = 16.1%
5C3 = (5 x 4 x 3) / (3 x 2 x 1) = 10 - odds of 3 1's = 10 x 25 / 7776 = 3.2%
5C4 = (5 x 4 x 3 x 2) / (4 x 3 x 2 x 1) = 5 - odds of 4 1's = 5 x 5 / 7776 = 0.3%
and obviously
5C5 = 1 - odds of 5 1's = 1/7776 = 0.01%

I think that car's relatively safe, Rich :D

Now we've got that, we can apply some maths to various things in Chain of Command.

See you next time for that!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Kickstarter Watch: Mantic's Deadzone

Mantic do rather seem to have got this Kickstarter thing sussed, don't they?

The rather effective Twitter teaser (as well as a presence at Salute) has lead to a Kickstarter for their Deadzone game. Set in the Warpath universe (which I have to admit, I find many orders of magnitude less depressing than the 40K 'verse), it follows the recent trend for skirmish games. It also follows the classic SciFi trope[1], the nasty alien that replicates by transforming or impregnating humans, as beloved of Alien, Space Hulk, Sedition Wars: The Battle For Alabaster...

...not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it does seem to have cropped up more than once in gaming recently!

The game looks interesting - 2'x2' board, 3D scenery (Mantic are making sprues of SciFi looking buildings) and a range of (currently) 4 factions, and the usual (no doubt) selection of stretch goals.

It hit target in 34 minutes, and is currently at getting on for 5x that in two days. Kicktraq.com is currently projecting insane 7-figure results, but I suspect that its model goes a bit non-linear and wibbles a lot at this end of the Kickstarter range.

Which really just leaves me (having pledged) with one question:

Can Mantic afford a credit card machine for Salute 2014 now?

[1] WARNING! This is a link to the fabulous TVTropes.org. I will not be responsible for the amount of time you lose on there following links[2], reading pages and laughing!

[2] WARNING! This is a link to the equally fabulous xkcd.com. Same warning applies!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

"To Britain's Shores" - Chapter 8 part 2 - The Taking of Linnius


It's the moment we've been waiting for, taunting the British in their shieldwall from the bottom of the slope, and we charge up the hill, roaring our battle cries. It's a fair slope, longer but a touch less steep, than the one we've been running up all summer.


We pause. Hope in the Britons eyes, as they think we've been beaten by the slope, but no - we slow just long enough to hurl spears, then barrel into them full tilt. Aelfric makes a beeline for their leader, and as his champion, this Bedwyr I fought last time is mine. It's a dirty, close quarters fight - the kind I'm good at. Aelfric gets pushed away by a rally from their shieldwall for a moment, and Bedwyr and I lock swords, his up high to parry a downward cut. "You won't prevail, Saex."

"Look around you." To my left, Britons are turning to run, broken by the charge of Theobald and some of the hearthguard. He can't resist a look, and I can't resist a vicious knee, which makes him stagger back, and gives me an opening for the British leader Andrusius. We cross blades, as Britons around us fall or flee. One staggers, struggling to hold bits of himself in from a deep spear wound, and topples headlong to the ground behind Andrusius just as he backs off a pace, and the British leader stumbles.

Bedwyr puts himself between him and me, as the British leader struggles back to his feet. But I have the momentum, and we trade three or four quick blows before I sweep aside his blade and impale him on my own, the one Aelfric gave me last time. He clutches at my arm as he subsides to his knees. "You..."

I ease him down, as his Tribune watches for a second then turns away, yelling for the Britons to fall back. "You did your job." I owe the Britons' champion that much, at least. Some day, it'll be me. Whatever he was going to say is lost as he coughs up blood, a death rattle as his eyes dim.  I kneel to clean my blade on a patch of grass that isn't slick with mud and blood, then close the Briton's eyes, lay his sword beside him.

We spend the evening getting gloriously drunk in an ale-house in Linnius: Linnius that's now ours. I find a spot to watch, looking round at the warriors who've come with us this far. Some are old, grizzled veterans like Theobald with his grey beard, horn of mead in hand. Some not so, like the teenaged Sithric, talking with some of the younger warriors - from his hands and gestures, he's describing some impossible shot he may or may not have pulled off during the battle. Some have been with us since we landed, some, like Beornwulf, joined us to fill the places of the fallen. 


It still doesn't feel quite right to be celebrating a victory without him leading us in raucous songs and ribald stories. I still sometimes fancy I see him out of the corner of my eye at times like this. But we go on.

Some have grown: I glance across at Ecgwine, who has his arm round a certain young British lass, and grin at them, remembering our first raid, and the punch I landed afterwards. It earns me a couple of smiles back, which amuses me afresh, since they don't know why.

And then there's the Young Wolf. He's taken up his customary position, leaning against a roof-post with a mug of ale in hand, watching us. He catches my eye, nods, a quick smile, and pushes off, to bang the mug on the table a couple of times. The room goes quiet.

"Linnius is ours!" Good lad, start with the obvious. It gets him a raucous cheer. "But we're not done yet. There are richer lands for the taking to the south." More cheers. "But for now..." He reaches into a pouch, tosses coins to Theobald. "For now we winter here." A grin at Beornwulf. "No more tithes to Wulfhere." More coins to the hearthguard. "We build our own steading, draw more warriors to us..."

They cheer. Start chanting his name. And something else. Even Ecgwine, a king's son, and Beornwulf, a king's bastard.

"Cyning! Cyning!"


Friday, 26 April 2013

Battle report - 22-Apr-2013 - Dux Britanniarum

Anxious Britons watch from the walls of Linnius.
Andy having got over Salute, we convened on Monday at the club for the crunch battle - after their defeat in March 474, the Britons retreated within the walls of Linnius to lick their wounds and heal up, and the Saxons sat outside and waited.

According to the Dux Britanniarum campaign game, this is crunch time, big time. The Britons lose, the province belongs to the Saxons and the Britons fall back to Caer Lerion. So all to play for.

The two armies face off.
We still managed to avoid a tie on the scenery rolloff, so no river: Andy won, so placed a couple of large woods on either flank and a hill off to one side of the city gates. I placed (as my small terrain pieces) a small cluster of buildings outside the gate, largely to break up any chance he might have of advancing or standing there in shieldwall. As it was, we both wound up on the same flank, the one with the hill.

The Saxons advance
In the pre battle segment, Andy chose to ply his men with strong drink to bolster their flagging courage, and rolled a 1 - bit of a two edged sword this! Two Bibamus cards into the Fate Deck (which basically can be used to cause his troops to do things that are either alcoholically brave or stupid, depending on which of us plays them), hand size of 4 instead of 5 and a +2 on his Force Morale. I went for the pre-battle speech (aided by Aelfric's Scop) which got me a hand size of 6 and a +1 to Aelfric's leadership rating. At that point Andy decided he'd done enough damage and chose to start the fight.

The British hold their ground and wait for the inevitable.
I have to say, this was perhaps one of the more straightforward Dux Britanniarum battles we've fought. Ecgwine on my left took two units of warriors and advanced to face the British levy, while Aelfric and Beornwulf manoeuvred the rest to face his warriors and hearthguard, and massed them into one big formation on the right. I tried to entice his levy forward so I could charge them, by forcing them using a Bibamus card, but they rolled a dismal 5", and were still so far out of range that after I'd advanced they couldn't charge me in shieldwall with any safety. The following activation I did charge, using a Goad to hold off one unit so I could get an advantage, but it didn't quite succeed - I was hoping to chase off the one unit and give me numerical advantage on the remaining two, but he held firm and did a fair amount of damage.

The British left flank holds. For now.
Meanwhile, on the right, my hearthguard and the remaining warriors just waited at the bottom of the hill: far enough out of range that a 1d6 move in shieldwall down the hill wouldn't contact me, but also far enough that a 3d6 move upslope had at best a 50% chance of contacting them... and would if it failed stand a good chance of leaving me within 1d6".

Besides, I had a fat fistful of boar-suited (Saxon) cards, and no Carpe Diem. So I waited, and let the scrap on the left play itself out. Which it did, but slowly. Until. finally....

I draw a Carpe Diem.
At this point, I took a risk, and can probably be accused of failing to read my own blog articles. The Saxons were just under 8" away, up a hill that was going to cost them 1 pip per dice in movement. Clearly, I'd be insane to risk a two dice roll on that, as the odds on a 10 or more are 1 in 6. However, I do have a Bounding Move card, which gives me an extra d6, and a Strong Arm card, which costs me a d6 of move to potentially inflict a lot of shock on Andy's troops. I decided to play both, which means I get 3d6 move, -1 per dice. So I need an 11 on 3d6, which does improve my odds a bit, but only to 50%. And moreover, if I fail, I stand a pretty good chance of leaving myself in range of Andy charging me.

Nothing venture, nothing gained.

I rolled a 13. Phew. About time my luck with dice turned. Looks like all that running up that hill paid off for Aelfric and the lads.

Now let's tot up my attack dice.

  • 8, 6 and 6 for the elite and warriors
  • 2 for Godric
  • 2 for Beornwulf
  • 5 for Aelfric - 3 + 1 for the oratory + 1 for being a Master of Arms (which I actually remembered!)
  • 1 for the unit facing a unit of a lower standard
  • and a few for the boar-suited cards I played.

A few dice (not counting the ones for my cards)
The remainder of the British flee
the field, actually in surprisingly
good order.
Hitting on a 3 (because of the Aggressive Charge card) I did Andy around about 22 hits. For all that shieldwall on a hill gives him the chance to choose where the hits fall, that was going to hurt.

Wisely, after one unit in the battle broke, and another retreated, breaking the shieldwall, he chose to make an orderly (well, as orderly as possible) retreat, which probably saved him a lot of casualties, and the result was only a +2 win to me.


... I do have a province to call my own.

Watch out for the second part of the IC narrative tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

"To Britain's Shores" - Chapter 8 part 1 - "If Only I Could"

"You want them to do what?" I stared at Ecgwine, who, damn him, was grinning from ear to ear. "They're not going to agree."

"They will if you or Aelfric ask them, Godric." 

I looked between him and that maddeningly smart British woman of his. "This your idea or hers?"

Lavinia ran a hand through raven-dark hair. Smiled that winning, innocent smile she knows I can't resist, damn her. "His."

I sighed. "Let's go talk to Aelfric."

The Young Wolf was leaning against a tree, looking across at the walls of Linnius, where a number of Britons were nervously watching back at us. Without looking round, he asked, "How long do you think, Godric?"

I shrugged. It was early summer, and (unlike the couple of months of rain after the battle when we'd spent the time looking like half-drowned rats) not a bad time to be camped outside the city. "Weeks? Months? Depends on how stubborn that Tribune of theirs is."

He nodded. Then looked round, took in the three of us. "Ecgwine. Lavinia." A pause. "You wanted something." Not a question.

I sighed, and let Ecgwine explain.

And so it was that every damn morning, for the rest of the summer, every man of us spent half an hour running up the nearest hill out of sight of the Saxons, fully dressed for battle. For the first week or so, I would have been ready to make a deal with the Christian God to get out of it. Or kill the brat and his woman, smile or no, if I could have lifted a finger to by the end of the half hour.

By the time I could do it without feeling like my lungs were going to explode, I think we'd all figured out that, damn him, he had a point.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Battle Report - 15-Apr-2013 - Chain of Command

I ran a game of the Lardies' Chain of Command (the playtest rules) down the club last Monday - having finally got the pictures off the camera, I can now write a brief report of what went on.

The Germans deployed from the farmyard and mostly up
the left side of the road, the British up the right (you can
just make out their rather cramped jump-off points in
the right hand wood).
Rich from the Lardies had just posted a new set of the playtest rules, with some campaign ideas, and I toyed for a while with that, before deciding to go with a slightly smaller scale encounter inspired by the attack on Vertfeuilles Farm from Ken Macksey's "Battle!" (if you haven't figured out by now this is one of my favourite WW2 books, where have you been?). Gary took a platoon of German infantry and an extra tripod MG42, and Mark a Firefly. I failed to bring the printout of the rules, so had to burn credit with the wife (once it became apparent that an iPhone isn't good enough as a reference source) to get her to drop them in down the club.

Firefly commander's view of the German's advance patrol.
There's a Panzerschrek in there, too.
It was an interesting game - we're all still learning, and it would be nice to have more time, or alternatively less time between games, so we can get a bit more done. Mark chose to deploy with 3 rather than 4 patrol markers - it's an interesting choice, as while it means you can move them faster, you have to keep them closer together, so you don't get as wide a choice of deployments. With hindsight, given the Firefly was constrained to deploy at the end of the road, I'd have gone for either 4 markers or a much more aggressive patrol up the road rather than up the other flank.

The British drop smoke (I forgot the cotton wool as well!)
to cover their advance. The German section behind the
hedge is about to cop it big time.
I think the ultimate problem was that the Firefly was too far away from the rest of the British, and took forever to work its way around the right flank. The British managed to work their way up that flank, and move a jump-off point, but were a little constrained by the MG42 in the farmhouse's upper storey. They did, though, put some smoke to good use.

Rather disappointingly, from a result point of view, we had to call the game before the Firefly managed to come join the fun. We're still disagreeing over whether the forces were balanced enough: I still think the British could have taken the farm with the Firefly to help.

That aside? Great fun game - the system really does work, and I'm eager to run more as soon as I get a chance.

Oh, and for those wondering what the chain of command really is, here's a reminder from my favourite TV show.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Battle Report - 08-Apr-2013 - Judge Dredd

First off - an apology. Much as I'd like to have done this battle report like the previous one, I missed out on a number of photos, and the ones I did take weren't really good enough to do a comic from. I'd also like to apologise for this being two weeks late!

.Judge Nicks on her
new Lawmaster, and
wally squad Judge
That said - round 2 of our club Judge Dredd campaign. First off, I got to fight Adrian's 'droids, in the 'winner is the person who kills the highest pointed character on the other side' scenario. I think this is best summed up with these two pictures and the following short explanation:

Adrian's droid with
rocket launcher with
extremely long range
Adrian got initiative.

Adrian rolled well.

I didn't.

On to the next....

The next? Same board, but vs. Dan's 'droids.

Well, except that Judge Nicks had copped some pretty serious damage and was out of the game for the next two scenarios, so I had to recruit a new rookie Psi Judge (Judge Regan) and also (handily) Chief Judge Hershey and a Cadet Judge as a mercenary, as Dan's force had loads and loads of points.

So, we hide here...
Given the rather open and cover-free nature of the board, this turned into a real knock down, drag out fight: Judge Germanotta and the Cadet Judge didn't last long enough for the latter to get a name, and the whole thing turned into a firefight between the only two major areas of cover. After about half an hour it boiled down to Judge Hershey against Dan's serious (8 hits, lots of armour) 'droid, which decided it was getting fed up of being shot to bits (and having its weapon shot away) and moved in to close combat.

...and the 'droids hide there.
I spent a couple of rounds dodging, before I actually looked properly at ALL of Judge Hershey's sheet and spotted the 15 hits and the ability to shoot while in melée...

Game 2 to me, then :D

On the downside, I blew Judge Turner's survival roll. She was about to acquire the Loyal Follower skill, which would have made Hershey a permanent member of the team. Guess I'll have to wait for that, then!

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Noteboard

Via David Dorward, one of my regular followers (even if he doesn't comment much!)

The Noteboard (and I quote):

  • is durable, portable, and infinitely rewritable 
  • folds up map-style from 35" x 15" to 5" x 3" 
  • is made up of 35 5" x 3" rectangles in a 7 x 5 calendar grid 
  • has a blank side and a gridded side (Great for D&D and BattleTech) 
  • comes in an eraser-pouch with a dry-erase marker

Basically, £11.40 for a foldable, rewriteable map board. Looks really rather cool, and awfully tempting to have one for campaign maps, noting scores/casualties, etc etc.

Check out the website, and I'm sure David will chip in here with some comments when his arrives.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Salute - the final haul

Not counting the three boxes of Last Valley scenery, or the freebies from Stafford Games.

Should keep me out of mischief painting-wise for a while :D

Review - Agema Miniatures 28mm Roman Velites

I'm usually pretty on the ball on the world of 28mm plastic ancients, as I have five WAB armies (which are probably 90%+ plastic in total) plus the makings of a sixth (Greek), but I have to confess that the arrival of the Agema Velites had completely passed me by until Grahame mentioned them in the car on the way to Salute. Of course, I don't actually need another ancient army, but they had to be worth a look, right.

Agema Miniatures is a husband and wife team, Greg and Rita - as far as I can tell, he sculpts, she draws - and the Velites are the first of a range for Punic Wars Romans. So, let's have a look!

Smaller than the typical Warlord etc box - you're getting 16 miniatures for £9.60 (plus p&p if you order from their site). Lovely box front art, though: very striking. The back has some shots of painted minis, as well as some close ups of the unpainted plastic - if I have a gripe here its that the shots of the plastic look a little soft, and don't do them justice.

Inside, there are eight identical sprues, made, perhaps inevitably, by Renedra. Each sprue has two figures, with separate arms and heads.

What you actually get, in fact, is

  • two torsos, 
  • two helmeted heads,
  • one wolf-skin head
  • one wolf-skin cloak
  • two left arms
  • one open-handed right arm (throwing overhand)
  • one right arm carrying small gladius (stabbing underarm)
  • two shields, one with javelins
  • one empty gladius sheath, one sheathed gladius
  • one javelin, which unlike a LOT of plastic javelins doesn't look like a scale tree trunk.
Detail is nice and crisp, and the proportions are much closer to actual normal humanity than quite a lot of the other 28mm plastic ranges out there (Warlord's Early Imperial Romans particularly leap to mind). Also, full marks for providing an empty scabbard for the guy who's stabbing with his gladius.

Of course, the upside to having only two figures to a sprue is this has probably been much quicker for Agema to sculpt. On the downside, it makes the number of poses a bit limited - there are only effectively two poses - throwing a javelin or stabbing, but you can have subtle variations by swapping arms and torsos, and some (the more 'elite') can have the wolf pelts.

I had a quick chat with Greg (in fact, I came back after I'd bought a box and got rid of a large pile of purchases to the car) during the early afternoon. It sounds like they've been selling well, and I'll certainly be keeping an eye out. Next up are going to be a box of Legionaries: I hope this will have enough diversity to produce hastati, principes and triarii. They're considering a Kickstarter to get the Legionaries out a little quicker - I'd definitely be tempted.

After that, apparently, the plan is (and I quote):
to progress through Legionnaires, to Carthaginian Citizen and Liby-Pheonician troops, to Spaniards and Celt-Iberians. Who knows, we may even release a plastic elephant set in the future if the range proves successful!
Sounds promising!

To conclude: I really like these, and I'm very tempted to put together a Republican Roman army - if nothing else, I know I'm good for a couple of years before the WAB GT comes round to that era again!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Back from Salute

...and my feet are killing me!
28 mm Waterloo, or a very large chunk thereof. More a
display than a game, but very very very pretty.

Made it to the ExCel by about 0945 (with Grahame, Rob and Jonathan from the club), and in the show (via the long advance queue) by about 1010, bumping into Henry from Miniature Wargames almost as I walked in. The plan, which actually worked quite well, was to hit everywhere for the shopping list first, and then I could slow down and admire various games etc. I managed to pick up everything on my wish list, as well as a couple of spare cans of Army Painter primer, some AP warpaints (plus a freebie warpaint and Insane Detail brush in my Stafford Games goody bag) and some Napoleon at War British Heavy Dragoons and French Cuirassiers. While at Stafford Games I got to say hi to Walt from Commission Figurines, who is, I gather eagerly looking forward to his new laser cutter from the Kickstarter arriving on Thursday!

Also managed to say hi to the Fireforge guys (and run into Neil Shuck, who I've chatted with online, so was glad to finally meet!), pick up some of their lovely Templars and drool a lot over their Mongol horse three-up greens. 

I also discovered Agema Miniatures, at their first show - in fact, in their first month of being 'open', pretty much - with some very nice 28mm Punic Wars era Roman Velites. I'll have some photos and a review up of those tomorrow.

The Dux Bellorum game.
As planned, we then met up at 1100 at the Last Valley stand (literally the Last Valley, too - tucked away in the far corner at stand TA30), and picked up the three large boxes of the club's scenery order. Andy Worsley has had (and I'm sure he'd be the first to admit, sadly deserved) bad press in the past for reasons that I hope are long behind him - either way, the man makes awesome scenery, and we've been very happy with the service we've had.

Having picked that lot up, we went and locked it in the car, and, now much less encumbered, went to enjoy ourselves.

The two games I really wanted to check out were Andy, Scrivs, Tom, James Morris et al playing Dux Bellorum, and the Lardies Chain of Command demo.

The former looked awesome, some lovely reworked TSS terrain tiles and some of Andy's (and others') fantastic painting. I understand they deservedly won Best Painted Game.

Chain of Command
The latter seemed to have a two deep crowd round it most of the day, and appeared to be going very well. To my considerable delight, I also finally got to meet Adam aka Sidney Roundwood, and have a good natter, as well as pick up a hard copy of I Ain't Been Shot Mum (to go with my online iPad edition). Also good to catch up there with Tim (a friend of long-standing from Uni), and Roger B-W, one of my more regular recent commenters and a friend of almost as long standing, with whom I had a very interesting and thought-provoking chat about some meta-concepts in gaming... which may well inspire parts of the next podcast (soon, I promise!

The blogger's meetup was amazingly well attended - I think I counted well over 20 people there, many of whom I know, many I didn't or didn't get chance to catch names of. Next time, we're probably going to have to book a room or something, or at least all wear badges with our name and blog on it!

One downside? I went with a vague intent of picking up a Dreadball team and maybe a Kings of War army from Mantic. Large stand, lots of staff, loads of stuff, two fetching young ladies in Dreadball cheerleader outfits... And not enough budget for a credit card machine?!?!?! Guys! Really? I can understand it of a small limited run figure manufacturer, but... really?!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Review: "Miniature Wargames" issue 361

One of the perks of a digital subscription, transferred from Battlegames? It arrives before the print copy hits the shelves, or in this case, before Salute as well.

What have we got, then?

First off, a brand new cover. You've probably seen it around the net, but if not: there it is. Definitely striking - there have been comments that being white it looks like a certain model railway magazine, but I don't see that as a problem: it certainly stands out from both WSS and Wargames Illustrated.

Next impression? It's predominantly black on white with a nice clean layout, which I really like - I have trouble with light text on dark: while it looks great, it can be seriously unreadable for long runs of body text.

Ok - graphic design aside: what's in it?

What isn't in it, and this is mentioned in new editor Henry Hyde's editorial, is the "Darker Horizons" section - that's now gone, and non-historical gaming is as much a part of the magazine as historical. As a predominately historical gamer, I rarely read it anyway, but this was compounded by it being printing light-on-dark! I strongly suspect that having SF/Fantasy gaming articles in the main body of the mag is going to cause people who might have skipped the Darker Horizons section to read them by accident, and hopefully get more out of them than they might expect. The other thing on the editorial that caught my eye, is a glorious piece of art from one of my favourite artists, Victor Ambrus from Time Team. I'm a huge fan of his style, so, nice catch, Henry!

As an aside: I'm going to try not to flag bits of the magazine as 'from Battlegames' and 'from the old mag', but if you're a Battlegames reader, you'll notice a bunch of regulars have made it across, and to be fair? Quite rightly so.

So what have we got? Picking out a few highlights: near and dear to my heart, an excellent hands-on review of Dux Britanniarum, for one, and by way of contrast a command challenge scenario for Dux Bellorum. Diane Sutherland has a great piece on tricks and tips for putting together some of the ranges of MDF buildings that are growing more and more popular, and there's a delightful little retake on H.G.Wells Little Wars. Among many others, including - a piece on photography for wargamers - so if you can't wait for me to finish my series, you know where to go! :D

In fact, to be honest? There's nothing I felt minded to skim, which is pretty rare for a wargames mag. A good read, and a great start to a new era.

On to the next, Henry!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Book Review - "Panzer Tactics" by Wolfgang Schneider

...or, to give it its full title, Panzer Tactics: German Small-unit Armor Tactics in World War II.

I picked this up on spec, having spotted it in a random Amazon search (possibly even a 'people who bought this, also bought...' page) while indulging in my other vice, historical fiction. I seem to have lucked out here, as my copy was quite a bit cheaper than the current price.

Anyway - Schneider knows his stuff, being a German army colonel who' s devoted a good couple of decades to getting well stuck into the development and use of WW2 German armour, and this book is a translation of his original German. In many ways, this is the tank equivalent of Stephen Bull's "Second World War Infantry Tactics" which I reviewed a while back, in that it has lots of reproductions of period manuals and descriptions of tactics. Bull's text is probably generally slightly more readable and deeper in terms of a study of tactics, but Schneider's wins in the sheer number of awesome photographs from pretty much every theatre of the war, and of course, he's only covering German tactics.

Another book I'm still working my way through, but really enjoying. Lots of stuff I want to try and apply in wargames, once we eventually get to playing some IABSM with armour!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Alternate Reality Games, and Mantic's upcoming skirmish SciFi game

Having just spent 11 hours fighting with a recalcitrant web framework at work, I'm going to postpone the posts I had in mind for tonight, as they all actually require some vague approximation to a brain, either to remember where my camera card-reader is, or to wax vaguely coherent and educationally about heraldic crosses.

Way back when, I used to work for the firm that is now producing the hit Moshi Monsters franchise. (If anyone with kids is cursing me for that? sorry - all I had to do with it before I left was one algorithm suggestion that didn't make it into the final game!) The game I was involved with, which some of you may have got hooked on, was the PerplexCity puzzle game.

PerplexCity was an attempt to commercialise a genre of games that were often used as tie ins to movies, etc, called alternate reality games or ARGs. To quote Wikipedia:
An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform and uses transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by participants' ideas or actions.
Transmedia storytelling means across multiple platforms and formats, such as Twitter, Facebook, the web... as well as in some cases real-world events. (We had several in PerplexCity - one at Abbey Road, one involving a helicopter...)

I have to say, being involved with PerplexCity was great fun, and an interesting challenge, and I still keep in touch with a few of my ex-colleagues.

What's this got to do with wargaming?

Well. It appears that Mantic have started something kind of ARG-like to promote one of their upcoming releases (the Kickstarter for their DeathZone skirmish rules, apparently)... it's currently playing out on the Twitter accounts @six_alpha, @corp_central and @Recon_N32. Well worth following the story - it's rather neatly done within the constraints of 140 characters.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Milton Keynes Show

For those of you who've chuckled or boggled at some of our club's participation games for Hammerhead in the past... and for that matter, for those of you who are wondering what the fuss is about...

I'm pleased to announce we'll be at the Milton Keynes show, on both the 11th and 12th May, with our award-winningly mental "The Napoleonic Invasion of Britain by Balloon". To quote one of my fellow club mates, "You know it's insane. The instructions start 'first, assemble the gazebo'..."

If you want to see just how insane, click on the image below, which will take you to the gallery on our website.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Chain of Command - walkthrough videos

Just got in (after a totally mad day at work) from running another playtest of the Lardies 'Chain of Command' ruleset at the club - while I'd like to provide you with a battle report, I've mislaid the card reader for the DSLR (which is about par for the course, since I also managed to forget the trees, and the printout rules (boy, do I owe her indoors a favour!)), so...

Instead, as I promised the players, here's a link to the videos of gameplay that Rich put up on YouTube over the last couple of weeks. If you haven't come across these before, enjoy - it's a really awesome system if you actually want to recreate authentic WW2 tactics, and its pretty quick to pick up.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Into the Woods part 8 - magic!

I did manage to get out into the workshop today as it was, for once, warm enough, which allowed me to do the messy stuff that I'd be a dead man if I tried on the dining table.

I put together a couple more of the Woodland Scenics tree armatures + rubberised horsehair + flock trees, in addition to the willow - I'd have done more, but managed to tweak my back shifting things to make space to set up more trees to dry, so decided to call it a day after two. Not been a good weekend so far.

On the good side, I've now had a lazy afternoon stretched out on the bed watching various YouTube scenery how-to videos!

Anyway - the magic stuff is that mythical substance, Johnson's Klear. It isn't actually available in the UK as Klear at present: it's now called 'Pledge Multi-Surface Wax', but it appears to do the same thing, namely dry to a clear almost-sealant type coat. Big thanks to Matthias Darrow, who pointed out its usefulness to me in the comments on a previous post. It's not that easy to come by (there are rumours Morrison's stock it but I failed to find any), but I managed to score a decently cheap supplier on Amazon.
Basically, I poured about an inch or so neat into an ice-cream tub, liberally dunked the trees in it and am now leaving them to dry. The previous time I did this, I diluted it about 50/50 with water: it did work (producing a clear coat on the trees that you can shake pretty vigorously without the foliage dropping off) but it does take a good few days to dry. This time, therefore, I'm trying it neat to see if it dries faster: I've sealed the container, so hopefully I can reuse it for the rest of the trees.

As you can see, it's messy, and you do need to leave it to dry someplace it's not going to get knocked, etc.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Into the Woods - part 7 - willow trees

I'm fighting a nagging headache that won't go away today, so I've not felt up to much, but I have started on the willow tree for the marsh project. I'm sort of cheating a bit with this, in that the armature is commercially made - it's a Hornby Skale Scenics one, and it's possibly a bit small in 28mm: I'd guess it scales to about a 20' high tree, and willows extend upwards of 40'.

This is basically done using the method I detailed in part 4, only without the rubberised horsehair: liberally spray with unscented hairspray (and I do mean liberally - especially on the thin willow armatures), dip in flock, repeat.

I've stuck the end result in a block of polystyrene to dry, before I embark on the process of sealing it. The Treemendus Scenefix glue I tried last time is OK, but I've found a better solution. which (if I get shot of this headache) I'll be trying tomorrow on a bunch of the Woodland Scenics tree armatures with rubberised horsehair.

As to what it is?

Well, you'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Terrain part 4a - marsh update and a lesson learned

I was rather hoping to provide an update on the progress of my marsh terrain this week, but due to being away last weekend and a fairly mental week at work (being still in London at 7pm yesterday on a conference call to Bangalore!), I wasn't able to get a look at the current state of the project till this evening...

Pro tip! DAS clay shrinks when it dries - quite a noticeable amount over a period of time, in fact. Basing it on fairly flexible plastic card and relying on the natural 'stick' of the clay is enough for the shrinkage to bow up the edges quite noticeably. It's easy enough to straighten out, but doing so, obviously enough, pulls the clay off the base and/or cracks it in several places. Which is not going to be conducive to keeping the scenic water where it's meant to be. 

So tomorrow's job is to work around the existing grass/scenic work, reseat the DAS, and touch up the places where it's pulled away from the plastic card or cracked. Once that's dry, we'll see about the water.

You live and learn :D

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Salute Blogger Meetup

Via the inestimable Ray...

If you haven't found me hanging around the Lardies stand before then, there's going to be a Blogger Meet at the Big Red Dot at 1pm. I'll be in the usual mid-blue Peterborough Wargames Club polo or hoodie.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

More on Maunsfield...

Apparently (thanks, Gav), the following was up on Maunsfield's site as recently as last week:
It's come to our attention that some people are a little worried about the short-term future of Maunsfeld Gaming and its gaming venue at Matlock Mill in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.
Please don't be!
We'd like to take this opportunity to mollify those that attend the club nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as those who have bought tickets for forthcoming events – and of course to tournament organisers who have booked the venue to hold events of their own because, whilst the management of Maunsfeld Gaming is looking to sell the company as a going concern, we will continue to hold events until at least the end of July of 2013 – thus ensuring the all-important Summer Incursion Warhammer Fantasy tournament in June and the European Team Challenge Hordes and Warmachine team tournament in July will still go ahead! 
We have a number of people interested in taking over the venue – either as a new company or as Maunsfeld Gaming – and this should be finalised over the next couple of months. However, the management of Maunsfeld Gaming is still open to offers at the moment, which the prospective buyers are aware of, so if you are interested in taking over the venue as a going concern please contact accounts@maunsfeld-gaming.com and ask for details. Be quick though, and no time-wasters please!
It is worth re-iterating what was stated above clearly so that there is no confusion.
Maunsfeld Gaming and the venue at Matlock Mill in Mansfield will continue holding club nights and events – both our own and other organisers' events – until at least July 2013 under the current management. We are very sure that the venue will continue to be a gaming centre into 2014 under new management, however! 
Amazing how fast things change. If I won the lottery...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Maunsfield Gaming closes

For those not following, Maunsfield Gaming is (to the best of my understanding) the entity that manages the shop and events venue (formerly known as Eye of the Storm) at what was Maelstrom Games.

Saddened? Yes. The on the ground folks at Eye of the Storm didn't deserve this, and it was a great venue. Surprised? Sadly, no.

And I quote (via Scrivs):
Hi there
I'm sorry to have to say this, but Maunsfeld Gaming is now closed for the foreseeable future, including tonight.
Maunsfeld Gaming is going into liquidation shortly; the company is not insolvent - there's enough assets to cover any debts - but the longer it carries on, the more debts will accumulate and it will achieve critical mass at some point. With the attendance falling, organisers cancelling events, terrain being stolen, staff leaving, not being able to stock Games Workshop products in the store and the quite breathtaking and totally unjustified vitriol on the internet from some quarters, it seems the venue is no longer wanted by most.
I know this is a major disappointment for those of you that still attend but I have no alternative but to call an end to it.
Someone may take the assets over and start it up again as a new business, or perhaps one of you wishes to do so, or maybe a consortium of you; if that is the case, please speak to the Insolvency Practitioner involved - Chris Brown of Hart Shaw at chris.brown@hartshaw.co.uk - and you can discuss that with him.
Note that I've been trying to sell it - even give it away - since January, as I realised fairly quickly that the venue was going nowhere with me in charge, but nobody's particularly bothered about taking it on and I'm just throwing money away by keeping it going.
I hope you all understand why this has happened and that it's not what I or our staff wanted. I wanted to sell the company, perhaps even the assets alone, so that someone can keep it going, but nobody seems to want to take it on, so that's that.
May I take this opportunity to thank all of you that have attended the club nights at the mill over the past few years; you have been superb and I hope you have all enjoyed the facilities we put so much effort and time (and money) in to provide.
Thank you.
Pre-Paid Attendance
If any of you believe you are owed monies for the pre-payment of club night attendance, please reply to this message and you will be refunded in due course.
Rob Lane
Managing Director
Maunsfeld Gaming Ltd

Monday, 8 April 2013

Painting - a correspondent asks...

RogerBW (who also gets full marks for commenting using OpenID) asks:
any recommendations for "painting for absolute beginners" guides that refer to brands of stuff available in the UK? Or indeed a quick checklist from you? I haven't painted a mini for at least ten years...
I think anyone who's read this blog for any length of time can predict my answer to this, although looking back, I haven't actually summarised my approach in a single post, more captured it in a few 'here's how I painted this' piece. Anyway - here goes:

If I was starting afresh, which I pretty much did when I ditched my reliance on Citadel paints, I'd pick up the Army Painter starter set, a can of black primer and a can of Anti-Shine varnish. You should be able to get these from most reputable UK wargames vendors, and there's a list in the links section top right. If you need any other colours, AP do a wide range, and the Vallejo range is compatible, even more comprehensive (US Army M1943 uniform shirt colour? no problem, sir!) and readily available.

The advantage of the current AP starter set is it contains (as well as the paints) a bottle of their Strong Tone ink, which I now prefer to using their dip as I can be a bit more precise with it. It also, I believe, comes with their how-to guide, which can be downloaded from their site anyway.

From here on, it's simple enough even a klutz like me can do it. Undercoat, leave to dry. Paint the model in block colours, nice and bright, allow to dry. (The ink will darken things, which is why you start off with good, bright colours.) Don't do anything clever with highlights yet.

You can stop here, and you're at the point I got to painting figures for D&D in the '80s.

Now for the good bit. Wash with the Strong Tone ink - let it run into all the shadows, try and work it away from the highlights and carefully coax it out of the places where it's determined to puddle. Once you're happy, leave to dry.

[You can use their dip if you prefer instead of the ink: while it's messier, it does have a slight advantage that it shrinks a little into the shadow detail when drying. Of the two processes AP recommend, I go with slopping it on with a brush rather than the all-out dip method. On the downside, it's messy, your first reaction will be 'oh my God, I've ruined it' and it isn't water based, so brushes take a bit of cleaning.]

You can stop here, and you'll have something that (once you've applied the Anti-Shine) actually looks pretty decent from 2' away. If you want to tart it up a bit further, you can lightly drybrush highlights with the original colour over the ink, before you varnish. This is particularly useful for faces, as the ink does tend to darken those quite a bit. Andy Hawes uses this approach, but he actually uses dip, not ink - even so, the results are stunning.

And there you have it - add basing materials, varnish, and you have figures to wargames standard in really not very long.

There are a couple of tweaks:
  • if you're lazy, like me, pick a primer colour other than black, as that'll save you some of the block work. If you're really clever, you can spray stuff on the sprue (see my Fireforge Sergeants): it doesn't matter if you miss odd bits, as the Army Painter range includes exact matches for each spray for touchup. 
  • get the Soft and Dark inks as well - the Soft works better on whites/yellows/light shades, and the Dark better on really dark shades, and you can wash different parts of the model in different inks - again, see my Sergeants. This is something you really can't do with the dip.
As an aside - I get nothing from Army Painter for this. Just a very happy ordinary wargamer who isn't the best painter in the world, but gets to churn out things I'm mostly not embarrassed to put on a table, with the aid of their excellent stuff.

[News flash, for those doing this with WW2 - Plastic Solider Company have just announced a set of Army-Painter-like spray paints for WW2 stuff - I SHALL be buying loads.]

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Salute shopping list

It's only a couple of weeks away, and (barring the unlikely event that we get roped in off the reserves list at short notice with one of our participation games) I'm going to be down at Salute as a punter, although I guess I might spend a fair amount of time hanging out at the Lardie stand watching the Chain of Command demos.

Like most folks, though, I go to shows to buy stuff. This year's list:

  • Fireforge mounted and foot Templars
  • GB unarmoured Dark Ages warriors (thanks, Tamsin!)
  • Several boxes of Perry War of the Roses figures - Grahame and I down the club are aiming to get us a couple of armies together
  • Plastic Soldier Company
    • Panthers
    • Tigers
    • M3 half tracks
    • anything else interesting they have out for Salute :D (the new War Sprays, if they are)
  • Miniature Wargames 361
I may toy with some of Warbases and 4Ground's buildings as well.

So: what's anyone else going to be spending money on/hiding from the other half?

[In other news - kudos to the Commission Figurines guys, whose Kickstarter has made it to their target, and is very likely to pass at least one of its stretch goals.]

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Battle Report - 06 Apr 2013 - Judge Dredd

Off down to Swindon for a Saturday at Mongoose Publishing's HQ, the home of the Judge Dredd miniatures game. Unlike the other guys from the club, I stayed over with a friend in Swindon, and thus was there on time, refreshed and mostly awake (and not having driven for two hours!).

Dropping off Judge Turner to breach the defenses.
Format was seven short scenarios, with (hopefully) a guarantee that you'd not play the same person twice (although there were two linked scenarios designed such that if you played one you played the same person on the next. I started out by getting trounced, twice, and winding up on the same table three times as a result, before I managed to score a whitewash victory in the round before lunch and move up a couple of places.

Not all of the scenarios were 100% perfect - one or two seemed very biased towards fast moving units, and since my force was two Judges, one riding a Lawmaster and able to give the other a pillion ride, I could have won one in a single turn. As I don't play tournaments in win-at-all-costs mode, I did go for a slightly different approach which cost me any chance at a complete whitewash, but hey :D

For my two middle games of the afternoon I got Rob from the club and the infamous Dreddpool, in the two linked scenarios, The first really boiled down to who had the better luck rolling dice to find something (Rob), which gave him the interesting defensive position for the second game. Which was closer than I expected, despite Dreddpool's rather annoying ability to bounce around the battlefield like an idiot. I came pretty close to blowing his head off before he finally got me.

Yes, those are working lights. Cute, huh?
Last up I had an interesting scrap on an Arctic battlefield, which required me to take as many of three objectives as possible with my two figures. Not so easy. I got the Lawmaster shot out from under Judge Nicks AGAIN - it happened so many times today I'm seriously considering buying one of the old Citadel Lawmasters to make into a wreck, as it's probably decent hard cover! - but managed to scrape a minor loss.

That's Dreddpool's head (AKA 'prime target') peering
over the defences.
All told? Fantastic day - bunch of nice folks clearly there for the fun of the game, not to win at all costs,  and the guys from Mongoose organised an excellent day, Final results - I didn't come last (which as anyone whose been following this blog will appreciate is an achievement!, and Adrian and AndyM from the club came third and second respectively.

Apologies, but no comics for this: it was all a bit fast and frantic. But we do have a club campaign night on Monday!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Book Review - Stonea and the Roman Fens

Stonea Camp is an Iron Age hill fort near March, not far from me in Peterborough. The book, Stonea and the Roman Fens was brought to my attention by Phil on the TFL list, knowing my interest in the Fens as they were around the time of the Dux Britanniarum setting. It's written by Tim Malim, the archaeologist responsible for a lot of excavation and restoration of the Stonea site in the early 90s.

In a nutshell? Fascinating. If you want a feel for what the Fens looked like around the time of the Romans (answer: wet) and a much deeper look into the archaeology of the area than you'd ever get from (say) Time Team or one of the more sweeping books on the English landscape, this one's for you. I'm still working my way through it, because there's just so much to delve into.
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