Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Crossfire with the boy

I set up a table to relearn the Crossfire rules the other night and while doing so I had a visit from the boy wanting to join in.

He played through a few activations, killed four of my US squads, and then left!

Looking from my position.

The boy's nasty machine gunners.

Some kind of filter that the new camera mysteriously added to the GIs!
I think I've got back up to speed with the rules, anyway. I really need to scrape together some better terrain though, and to finish painting the 1/700 buildings.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

World War 1 action with 'Soldiers'

Friday was a public holiday and to make the most of getting a day off work I popped up to Kobe to see boardgame mate Pat for a game of the SPI World War I classic Soldiers and a taste of his sangria mix.

Soldiers was not a game I was familiar with, but I can see why it is so highly rated, despite it being more than forty years old.

The rules are clear and easy to grasp, and the scenario we played, Le Cateau, was a real wargamer's situation: British on defence, needing to find the best way to defend a wide front against a numerous and determined enemy; Germans on attack, needing to both exit companies from the opposite board edge and inflict a certain number of casualties to claim victory.

We got through two games, but only touched on the tactical possibilities available to both sides. It was an excellent choice of game for the day, and if the sangria led to some less than optimal decision making in the second game, it probably enhanced the simulation value of the exercise!

Here are a few of Pat's photos from the first game (during turn 1, and well prior to the sangria taking effect). I should note in passing that the photos do not do the map justice: it had a lovely antique look to it: there was nothing garish or overstated, and the whole effect was evocative but restful. It was a joy to play on.

Full board, from the German perspective

Germans snake forward on the right.

My British defending forward early, and getting battered for their troubles.

As it turned out, the British won both games, but the first one in particular was very close indeed. There were a number of crucial actions which could have won or lost the game for either side, and we were both left thinking about different strategies to employ, which is surely one mark of a successful wargame.

On that note, while it was only a game for us, the huge slaughter depicted did give one pause for thought about how appalling it must have been for the poor chaps actually involved in these actions and others like them.

It's certainly a game I would play again.

Many thanks to Pat for a fine day's convivial play, and some excellent beverages!

Monday, April 25, 2016

An Uncivil War

I set up the card-driven ECW game Unhappy King Charles the other night for a play through to refresh my memory of the rules and try out the new coloured chits I'd got for the particular purpose of using with it.

UKC is an interesting game: the focus is more on building areas of influence than on battles - these being costly and risky - so progress is incremental rather than dramatic. It's not ideal for solo play unless you're a real ECW buff (which I'm not - my interest is casual) but I was enjoying it nonetheless.

In the early war the biggest drama was in the South and the Midlands. Waller dumped the Royalists out of Cornwall while Rupert a bit further north took Nottingham by siege.

There was more to-ing and fro-ing, with Essex besieging Reading which brought Rupert haring down to sort things out. Rupert's efforts were spectacular, and by early 1843 (ahem, 1643 - Editor Ray) Essex and Manchester had been ousted, had had their armies dispersed, and had left Rupert in position to beseige London, with no one around able to do very much about it.

King Charles is in rather happier state at this point than the game title would allow...

Slightly agog at the pace of this action, a light suddenly went on in the dimness. A quick check of the rules showed that I'd stuffed up: Rupert was not allowed to command an army of quite this size just yet. Ouch.

Yes Rupert, it is too good to be true!

I may have got the hang of something, but it certainly wasn't the rules! Too far gone for a re-do, I've called it game over. Next time I'll have to abide by the rules more civilly...

Oh well :)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Pharsalus Battle Day

We had our version of the Society of Ancients' battle day here in Japan today. The object of this year's study was of Pharsalus, and we used bespoke rules to try to explore the battle and some of the possible outcomes.

With six players and myself as umpire, it was an excellent turnout, and everyone got into the spirit of the event. The rules were simple: play a card (move, charge, hold, skirmish, fall back, etc) and act. Combat was by dice roll, with units needing different scores to hit against different opponents. Players had Tribune pieces which they could play to save hits or to add dice to an attack, and there was an appeal to fate option by which players could ask for a re-roll by screaming their side's watchword, with the re-roll option then passing to the other team and remaining with them until someone on their team had used it.

Each player had his own secret victory conditions, and was able to score 'dignitas' by hitting the enemy, surviving past a certain period, using his tribune effectively, and so on. The intention was to keep players interested and to give them an incentive to command their section in a historical fashion.

For me, the game was a great success, and it was wonderful to see people getting caught up in the moment and to watch the battle re-enacted in the way it was.

I'm not going to say too much as I intend to put the bulk of my reflections into an article for Slingshot, but here are a few shots of the deployment and some of the action.

Many thanks to all who participated in making this a great day.

Monday, March 28, 2016

So how did Caesar win that again??

A few shots of preparation for our Pharsalus Battle Day game on Sunday. At this stage I'm just lining up the troops and seeing how things look, but even with this it's hard to see how Pompey's 7000 cavalry and 2000 or so light infantry got so badly beaten up by 1000 cav and 2000-3000 legionaries!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ten Years Gone: on Painting Averagely, Well

Probably the biggest challenge there is in turning yourself from a curious observer into a figure-buying, rules-ingesting, game-playing wargamaniac is learning how to paint.

For a first timer, picking up a brush can be intimidating. A quick google search or a visit to popular blogs shows that there are a lot of marvellous painters around, and if your figures are going to share a table or computer screen with those of others you don't want them to stick out for the wrong reasons.

When I started it was immediately apparent that I had - how shall I say it - 'limitations', and that these would necessitate my settling for an average standard of painting. This is the age of following your dreams, but it was pretty clear that there would be no Golden Demons (or Golden Poodles, for that matter) for me. I decided that my Prufockian point of difference would not be a beautiful paint job: it would be an average paint job done adequately, with massed troops to compensate for the lack of artistry.

In sum, I wanted my figures to look okay in the hand, fine on the table, and passable on camera.

The lead elephant in the room of course was how to get to that point.

Ten years later I'm still not there, but I'd like to think that some progress has been made. It has taken a lot of effort - and more false starts than I care to remember - so if I could go back to my younger and somewhat svelter self and offer a few time and hair-saving pointers, this is what I would say.

1) Choose good quality figures. Now that you are a wargamer, you will turn into a penny pincher. While there is an undoubted  attraction in keeping costs down, make sure you get good figures that happen to be cheap, not poor figures fairly priced. The effort it takes to get a low quality figure to look passable is out of all proportion to the money you might save on lead. Clean sculpting, good proportions, realistic poses and accurate equipment make the process a lot easier.

Oh, and don't be seduced by the charm of 'Old School' figures. There's not much charm in trying to turn 48 formless blobs into faces at 11:30 at night, I can tell you that right now!

2) Learn how to paint between the lines. Don't laugh. There's more to it than you think. You want your hands to be steady, but you can cope even if they're not. Yours will be a trifle shaky, but cutting out coffee while painting makes a big improvement. Bracing elbows or forearms on the table and holding your breath while doing delicate work will help too.* Another thing to save you some repainting: use the side of your brush tip in a sweeping motion. Don't go dragging paint everywhere using the tip.

Paint strategically so that the steps you do later in the sequence cover up your earlier mistakes. This will reduce the number of really steady strokes you need to make, and it'll mean you can paint more quickly early on in the process (and with a few beers if you choose).

* edit: as John says in the comments below, holding your breath is not so good - controlling your breathing is the aim.

3) Find optimal paint consistency. I'll warn you now, ten years down the track you'll talk about hobby stuff like an utter tool, but paint consistency is important, and finding it is something that comes with experience. The difference between an acceptable paint job and a poor one can be as simple as the consistency of the paint. If you have paint that is thicker and lumpier than you need it is hard to get your brush strokes accurate. Thick paint layers are noticeable on a figure and even if you can get your colours nicely demarcated paint lumpiness will detract from the overall effect (Cough. Parthians. Cough).

Paint that is too thin is no good either. It will run into adjacent areas, and highlights done with watery paint will settle into the low points and undo any shadow effect you've been going for.

Different paints have different optimal consistencies at different humidity levels, but when you get it right you will see it on the figure. The more you paint the easier it is to judge the consistency required and how best to get it.

By the way, don't mess about with Tamiya or Mr.Hobby paints. Go to the art shop in Burakuricho and get Turner Acryl Goauche paints immediately.

4) Find out-of-the-pottle/tube combinations of colours that give you a base, a shade and a highlight. You'll only have one that is really effective, but it's red, and that's just about all you need for ancients in 15mm. With your blues, purples, whites and so on you can get away with a base and a highlight, especially if there is a dip or wash in there as well.

5) Figure out brushes and brush angles that suit your painting style. It will take you a while to find brushes that you're comfortable with. Use two sizes for most work and a couple of others for specific purposes. Keep using the same brand and you'll find the best angles to hold them at, how much water they need, how often they have to be cleaned, etc. Knowing your brushes well will actually make your painting more efficient. Hey, don't roll your eyes at me, young man - I'm trying to help you!

6) Trial dips and washes. You'll find the dip method is very useful. Start using it right away.  It doesn't work for every figure or colour scheme, but a block-paint, dip, and highlight can turn out better results than other more complicated and time-consuming techniques (Cough. Thebans. Cough).

7) Sort out a painting guide for the army you are doing. If you know what you are going to paint, have an idea of the colours you will use and the order in which you will paint them. You can then slip into autopilot, rely on muscle memory, and concentrate on listening to Rory Gallagher (just you wait. Go get his first album from Tower Records and you won't look back. He's better than JP!).

Seriously, you don't want to be thinking about painting when you paint: it will burn you out. Give yourself a couple of things to play around with, but paint the bulk of it to a plan.

So, there you go, young Prufrock. Start working on those things now and you'll get a lot more figures painted more quickly - and to a more averagely adequate standard - than old Prufrock has. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Soc. of Ancients Battle Day preparation

This year the Society of Ancients' Battle Day subject is Pharsalus. As I have the figures for it, we're going to do our own battle day at my place on the same weekend that the Society is holding theirs.

We have six participants confirmed so far. I'd like to get one more so that I can act as umpire rather than player. As is usual with our games, there is a mix of people: a die-hard miniatures gamer from way back, a board wargamer who will play miniatures occasionally, two chaps who enjoy a game now and then, a new bloke into computer games, and myself.

The day is actually approaching quite swiftly, so I need to get things into gear.

The first step is to paint up a few bases of Donnington German cavalry and supporting infantry to augment the all-important available cavalry ring-ins pool. I could do with some generic eastern (i.e., from Asia Minor) horse, but I really don't know what such cavalry should look like at this time. I have stacks of Achaemenid Persians to paint and plenty of Greek cavalry from the 3rd and 4th centuries BC, but none of them have shields. In fact, now that I think about it, somewhere I have a pack of wild Scythians from old Glory that might be useful. Hmmm. Anyway, moving along...

The second step is to find the right rules. I have a few options here, but may even go back to using my own 'January Project' rules if I am able to umpire.

The third step is to assign the players to the most appropriate command roles. If I do it right, I think we could just about have people who don't know the battle playing the Pompeians and those who do the Caesarians. I'll prepare a little brief for each player outlining their character, their troops, and their role in the battle. If there is time and opportunity I might also include some personal goals which can be used to determine the most successful commander on the day so that even a player on the losing team could win man of the match.

Lots to think about, and a bit of painting still to do!

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