Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gaming Waterloo 200: a conundrum!

I was speaking last week to a couple of friends, and it turns out that they are interested in doing a 200th Anniversary refight of Waterloo. They are not hardcore gamers, and I will not have the time or finances to get figures painted, so my tentative plan is to cobble together some rules, make up a gameboard myself, and populate it with wooden counters of the 60mm-by-30mm, 100-yen-store-hardware-section variety.

The game needs to be able to accommodate 4 to 6 players, be played to completion in 2 to 3 hours, and give a reasonable feel for the historical battle. It would also be good if it were portable and durable, as it might make a nice change to play at a local drinking establishment rather than at my place.

My first thought was to use the Neil Thomas One-Hour Wargames rules, but as they require quite a bit of book keeping for casualties, twenty or so units a side might start to get a bit unwieldy.

Another option would be to adapt the Lost Battles fresh/spent concept and pull together rules of a more abstract nature, but the danger with abstraction of course is that it may not be quite so appealing to newer players.

A third option would be to use a simple boardgame and blow up the gameboard to the right size to fit with the wooden blocks.

Anyway, plenty to think about...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Your top five wargames rules?

Over on boardgamegeek someone started a thread listing the top five wargames they would keep if they had to get rid of the rest of their collection. Boardgamegeek is talking about board wargames of course, but it made me consider which rules would make an 'essential five' list.

1) Lost Battles. This is THE big one for me. I don't play it as often as I used to, but to me it's still the game that feels most similar to the surviving accounts we have of ancient battles.

2) Commands & Colors: Ancients. A fine set. As a game it is very good; it rewards study, allows people to formulate their own playing style and, once learned, has you playing the situation, not the rules. It may lack a little bit as far as being able to recreate the history goes, but sometimes you just want to play a game.

3) Modern Spearhead. I've been lucky enough to play this a few times with Luke U-S, and while I find the endless rolling for artillery strikes tedious and time-consuming I do need a set of rules to play hypothetical Cold-War-Goes-Hot scenarios with. I have nothing else that comes close to it, so Modern Spearhead gets the nod.

4) Spearhead. Again, a WWII game is required, and this is probably the best of what I have, though Crossfire would run it close if I had a chance to play it more often.

5) Johnny Reb II. Only played once, but a brilliant game. The order counters are a great touch and the whole thing was very atmospheric.

How about for you? Which five would you have on your keeper list?

Getting back on the painting horse

Well, it's that time again. With the amount of painting I need to do matched only by an increasingly epic capacity to procrastinate, I need to pull finger and get started.

First thing to do is finish my Roman Civil War project. The cavalry and the blue army are done, so we're over half way there. All I need to do is paint up about 70 figures and touch up another 170 odd and all will be completed.

There's really no excuse not to do it!

But still, to concentrate on the trees rather than the wood, for the ordinary legionaries we should go something like this:

1) base coat the flesh areas
2) block paint shield backs, pila hafts and footwear brown.
3) give the armour, shield bosses, helmets and pila heads a black wash
4) do belts in a lighter brown and use this shade to also highlight other browns
5) base coat tunics, helmet crests and shields red
6) wash the armour again, this time in a mixture of black and Tamiya smoke
7) drybrush armour with silver
8) touch up and highlight belts
9) paint scabbards red-brown
10) paint sword hilts and shield bosses bronze
11) paint helmets - some bronze, some silver
12) highlight tunics and helmet crests
13) highlight shields
14) highlight flesh
15) paint pila heads silver
16) paint stands green

Then it will be two coats of Future/Klear followed by a matt varnish.

So, 19 steps to glory and a triumphal parade!

I hope to be able to report back with some progress in a week or so...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Warriors of God on the table (at last!)

Have Warriors of God - Makoto Nakajima's take on the Hundred Years War - on the table today, and am trying out using the iPad to take some photos. This was given to me by Pat Hirtle a couple of years ago after one of his cupboard clean outs. I've been meaning to play it for yonks, and after a determined tidy up of the hobby room this morning, we've got things underway.

The board at start

Edward III makes his move...
Battle is joined.

The game is easy enough to pick up and the iPad Blogger application seems to work reasonably well so long as I use the PC to clean things up afterwards. All in all a good day's work!

Friday, March 6, 2015

1/72 madness...

Recently I saw a link to a post in which a fellow was using some very nicely done 3mm American Civil War miniatures with the Battle Cry game from the ever more extensive Commands & Colors system. It reminded me that I had an incomplete ACW project of my own, in 1/72 plastic, in various boxes around the house.

I thought I'd take a look at them and see how far I'd got. As it turns out, I found there was more than just ACW in these boxes. I think I must have got a little carried away!

Box 1: Union Infantry, based for Johnny Reb.

The painted ones are Esci figures, and the primed ones 20mm metal from RSM 95.

Boxes 2 and 3: Confederate infantry, partly painted.

These are a mixture of Esci and Italeri.

Box 4: Union Artillery.

These are Italeri and Revell, I think. I was going to paint these up so that I could use the guns for either side.

Box 5: Bits and pieces including cavalry, limbers and the prone troops firing....

Again, these are Esci, Italeri and Revell.

Boxes 6-10: Reinforcements.

Box 11: Metal reinforcements.

This lot includes dismounted cavalry.

Box 12: Vikings for a Warhammer Ancient Battles project.

I think this lot combines Emher, Orion and Zvezda sets. These were bought over the Japanese version of Ebay.

Boxes 13 and 14: Samurai for either Basic Impetus or WAB.

These ones are Zvezda, and bought in Japan.

Looking at these, I think I have a bit of work to do! It might however be nice to finish off the ACW armies for something different...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cricket World Cup

Plans to continue with my One-Hour Wargames campaign have been put on hold of late as there are a few things that require immediate attention, particularly the Cricket World Cup.

As a long-standing and (usually) long-suffering supporter of the New Zealand cricket team, it has been a somewhat unusual last eighteen months. The New Zealand team has suddenly begun to play some good cricket, which is at odds with our reputation and (most of) our history.

Happy days for NZ cricket fans.

We had a good patch during the '80s when two brilliant cricketers in Martin Crowe and Richard Hadlee complemented by a selection of solid, generally dour players made us hard to beat, but after Hadlee retired things went downhill a bit in the bowling department. When Crowe was forced into early retirement by a knee injury in his early 30s the team and its results were pretty grim for a while.

Stephen Fleming's side of the early oughties restored some pride, but terrible man-management by those who run the game in New Zealand undid a lot that good work and put us back about a decade.

But things have finally started to come good, mainly on the back of some genuinely world-class fast bowlers, two very good batsmen and a confident, aggressive, innovative captain in the form of the talismanic Brendon McCullum.

Anyway, without wanting to jinx them all with overconfidence, the team is starting to look like it could go deep into the tournament. Although we're probably third favourite behind Australia and South Africa, there is not much between the sides, and if the kiwis can continue to show their mettle in tough situations they might just have the skill and talent to get through to the semi-finals, and after that anything could happen.

So, long story short, I've been enjoying spending following their fortunes. It makes a nice change to follow a team that is at last having some success!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ukraine '44 game wrapped up


Over the last couple of months, Kevin over at the Zhodani Commando blog and I have had a game of MMP's Ukraine '44 on the go. We played using the VASSAL engine and the Ukraine '44 module (which Kevin performed a bit of magic on to make more user-friendly), taking turns recording our respective moves in a VASSAL logfile and then sending them to the other fellow to roll dice, take casualties, etc. It's a brilliant way to play over distance, and the way the turns are broken up means that you don't need too large a chunk of time to do your moves. The most time-consuming thing is working out how you want to approach the board situation.

The game is based on Hube's pocket, in which the surrounded German 1st Panzer Army managed to break out of the encirclement and rejoin their comrades. I deliberately didn't read up on the historical action because I wanted to work out things for myself, so apologies for going light on that aspect!

One interesting thing about the game is that all unit strengths are hidden and strength is only revealed during combat. Consequently, there is a fair bit of guesswork going on early in the game as one gets a feel for where the enemy has concentrated his strength.

The objective for the German player is to break out of the pocket or, failing that, to prevent the Soviets from taking three victory cities while also destroying more Soviet strength points than he loses himself.

The Germans have a number of advantages, including that they get better movement rates than the Soviets, and that their mechanised units get to move again after combat, allowing these to attack from an exposed position and then retreat back to the relative safety of the main lines. They also have force multipliers in the form of two units of tiger tanks which can be attached to any armoured unit and give a very useful 1-3 modifier to the combat die roll on both attack and defence. The Germans also have 'combat superiority', meaning that should they convincingly destroy an enemy formation in any attack, the German force involved is able to ignore the combat attrition that it would normally have suffered.

The Soviets can win by preventing a breakout and by killing off German strength points, with any German strength points out of supply at the end of the game also counting as eliminated. The Russian player can also claim an auto victory if at any time he controls three of the game's four victory cities.

In their favour the Soviets have three things: the number of units, the strength of their tank divisions, and the +2 artillery combat modifier that applies if they elect to do their attacks before they do any movement. But most of the Soviet infantry units are relatively weak in defence, and are therefore susceptible to being monstered by determined German attacks, provided that the German attacks the right units (which, given hidden unit strengths, is not always certain!).

Each side must therefore play quite differently.

Anyway, I took the Germans, Kevin took the Soviets, and we were at it.

The action

This is how things started off after Kevin's first move.

Opening moves
(note that my units' strengths can be seen because the module is showing the game from my perspective)

You can see that Soviet armour (red units) has already seized the key road junctions between the German forces and safety to the west.

Over the next few turns Kevin attempted to complete the encirclement, squeeze the Germans back towards the river, and reduce the German garrison in the victory city of Ternopol in the North.

Turn 3

The Germans tried to kill as many front-line Soviet units as possible, first by giving the armoured units a bloody nose and then, once they were cautious and wary, by directing attacks against the weaker infantry units. Meanwhile, the Soviets attacked a second victory city in the north and threatened a third in the south.

Turn 5

It was only now that I saw Kevin's plan - suck up losses elsewhere, and aim to take the victory cities for the auto win. I did not have enough troops to do much about this; I had not seriously considered this strategy on his part. The cunning blighter had me!

Turn 6

By now the troops in the pocket were relying on supply from the air and were operating at reduced effectiveness. When combined with the advance against my victory cities, the situation looked hopeless. I was ready to call the game at this point, but Kevin encouraged me to continue, and he was right - I had misread the reinforcement entry hexes, and with a bit of luck a counterattack was launched using said reinforcements, keeping the Soviet advance units isolated and out of supply and enabling the recapture of the second of the northern victory cities

Turn 7
With Berezheny recaptured but Chernovtzy in the south about to fall, all depended on whether we could hold Berezheny long enough for the next round of German reinforcements to arrive. In the centre, 1st Panzer Army was on the verge of breaking out, but we needed to hold in the north for two more turns to save the day.


But it was not to be. Although almost at the limits of their strength in the north the Soviets retook Berezheny, and with Chernovtzy in the south falling in the same turn, Kevin had the three victory cities he needed to triumph. A mighty success - well done sir!


The game was, for me, a lot of fun, even though I badly misread Soviet intentions. From the German player's perspective, the actions needed to try to weaken the encircling cordon were great fun to play out, but I don't think Kevin enjoyed the Soviet infantry units being so weak! Nevertheless, despite the desperate efforts of 1st Panzer Army, clever planning and nerves of Red Steel saw Kevin through to his thoroughly deserved win.

I would certainly play this again, but my German strategy needs a bit more work, I think!

Aside from being a strong player, Kevin was an excellent sport and a lot of fun to play against. VASSAL is a great tool, and if any readers like boardgames but lack for local players, I would encourage you to look into it.

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