Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Monday, December 22, 2014

W.I.P: Cataphracts

After a discussion on the SoA forum that touched on the battle of Magnesia, I was tempted to set up the table last night for another go of the Lost Battles scenario. In looking at the OOB I remembered that I still needed to paint up a couple of units of QRF cataphracts that I had bought for this very battle a few years ago.

Fortunately, half of them were already primed, so I thought I might quickly paint them up and do the battle over the New Year break.

I'm trying a different technique for the armour: metallic paints followed by a wash of Tamiya smoke mixed with a little black.  I'm now in the process of painting in the details, but I think it works better than the gray undercoat and wash which I use for lorica hamata and similar.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hard times for model shops.

I popped into the local Ma and Pa plastic model shop in town the other day to have a browse and a wee chat with the owner. I got put onto him ages ago by a mate who used to build the odd Normandy diorama, and over the years we've got reasonably friendly. As my only local hobby contact, I look forward to our occasional conversations about painting, kitsets or terrain. He has masses of stock and even though I don't build plastic models I can get lost in there looking at what he's got in or what he's currently building and thirty minutes will go by in a flash.  He's a really nice guy, so I always try and buy a few things from him when I'm in that part of town; flock, paint brushes and such like.

Anyway, I must have caught him on a bad day, because when I asked how things were going he replied with uncharacteristic seriousness. It turns out that business is bad going on worse, and that it has got to the stage that his sons are not interesting in continuing with the store when he retires. Ten to fifteen years ago, he reckoned, he used to have a lot of customers through his shop, mostly children, and mostly on weekends. They'd get model kits as presents and spend their pocket money to get more, they'd ask to look at the displays he has, would ask for advice on building and painting, and would use the track he has set up for radio controlled cars. Nowadays, by contrast, the children don't come in at all. The customers he does get are all largely adult males who were once modellers as children.

To lighten the mood he joked that I could take over the store when he was gone, but he may have been a bit more serious than he let on.

We nattered on for a while and in commiserating with him I asked whether he had tried selling through the local version of ebay.  He shook his head and said that he didn't want to do it because a) he likes talking to his customers, not just selling to them, and b) some internet buyers can be very demanding, and that dealing with those kinds of people is exhausting and can put your reputation at risk.

There wasn't much I could say to cheer him up, but I agreed with him wholeheartedly that it was very sad to see a once-popular and much-loved hobby no longer able to compete for attention against other forms of entertainment.

It made me think about our own hobby. I'm not much of a proselytizer for wargaming, but I would hate to see wargaming going the same way.  The thing wargaming has in its favour over modelling is that it is a broad hobby with many facets to it.  There's room for the modeller, the painter (and the painting services user...) the  casual gamer and the competitive gamer. You can be a rules writer or a rules lawyer; a social type or a misanthrope. It's not only about building things, but also about using them in an imaginative way, and I think there is more satisfaction to be had in employing your troops on a tabletop than there is in only seeing them on display in a glass case.

And what about the no kids situation? I don't know if this is such a big problem with wargaming.  My parents were not wargamers, and with the odd exception, nor were the parents or relatives of my wargaming buddies. I came to organised wargaming (ie, with rules and self-painted figures and whatnot) in my early thirties, when I had some disposable income and less desire to spend that income on nights out on the tiles.

So, while my friend's hobby store situation is a cautionary tale, I don't think wargaming needs to worry just yet.

But I'd like to throw this open to readers.

Is there a correlation between model making and wargaming?  Does it worry you if associated hobbies start to feel the pinch?  Are kids of your acquaintance interested in  modelling or wargaming?

Are wargaming parents important? In your experience, are they a pathway into the hobby for youngsters?

It would be good to hear your thoughts.

To finish on a happier note, here is what I got from the model shop the other day. 1/700 buildings, dirt cheap, that will work splendidly with my 1/300 figures. I would never have found these over the internet, and in my view any hobby would be much the poorer without people like my model shop mate who keep things going with their knowledge and enthusiasm.






Dux Bellorum, Shipwreck and DBA 3.0

Well, our long-awaited, oft-delayed game day finally happened today.  Luke brought down some Dark Age figures and we had a crack at a few new sets of rules.

First up was Dux Bellorum. Luke took the Romano Brits with their cavalry while I took the Saxons with their, well, lack of it.  [Edit - see Luke's account of the day here]

The table was fairly open, with a bit of wood on my right and a hill for Luke's shieldwall (low aggression but hard to hit) to sit on. As my men were warriors (high aggression and cohesion but not so great in the protection stakes) the plan was to advance forward in two groups with a flank guard on each respective end and we'd see what happened

Opening deployment. Saxons on the right.
It started off reasonably well as we drove off one lot of cavalry on our left, but wasn't so flash on the right, where we got the worst of the opening exchanges as the noble Romano-Brit cavalry ploughed into our lower quality types. We did sneak our flack guard around the side, but it didn't seem to help much.

Ouch - 6 hits to 2 on our right. Not pretty!
We were starting to take some casualties from Luke's lone unit of bow, so the call came to rush the hill using our quality and numbers to win there while we held off the horse on our right as long as we could.

More carnage on our right, and not in a good way...
Our attack on the centre and left met with good initial success, destroying the flank guard horse and the bows in the first two turns.  It was harder going against the shieldwall on the hill, but our numbers would tell, it was to be hoped...

The fight for the hill commences.
The race against time... whose flank will win first?
At this stage there was some defeatest talk from the Romano-Brit side of the table, but I would hear none of it, sagely reminding our guest that I had form when it came to losing the unloseable.

Our right held out just long enough - even killing off a unit of horse - for us to get into superb position against the spears on the hill.

Three units converge on the left flank of the poor spearmen on the hill.
One more hit on the spear would force a bravery test for the Roman remnants and swing the game our way.  Sadly for us, a champion arose, and the spearmen resisted all 11 of our attacks.  On their own strikes, the spearmen then hit with 2 out of their 3 and pushed us back instead.

You've got to be joking!!
Their cavalry then charged home with zest on the other flank, destroying two units in one turn and forcing the decisive bravery test for a famous Romano-Brit victory!


Arthur? Arthur Pendragon? Is that you?
It was a thoroughly enjoyable game. It's not often I find myself making battle noises, but I'm afraid I was guilty of it in this game. It was so good I didn't even mind losing the (apparently) unloseable yet again!

Second game was Shipwreck. Unfortunately, we didn't get very far because we seemed to be on different wavelengths from the designer and just couldn't make sense of apparent discrepancies. After about 90 minutes we decided we'd try something else.

And so we turned to DBA 3.0.


I took the Saxons again, but we couldn't effectively guard our open flank against the Armorican horse and got beaten soundly in this terrain.

Rinse and repeat (should probably have changed the terrain!).

So, three games down and my poor Saxons had taken a hammering.  We decided it was time to bring out the bigger guns - DBA 3.0 in double scale.

This looks more like a battle!
Despite some uninspired camp placement from myself as the Gauls (actually, let's not stop there, it wasn't only the camp that was deployed averagely by the Gallic host...), it was nothing that a few good combat dice couldn't remedy.

Romans advance and outflank us with psiloi on the left.

Lines clash, Gauls get pushed back.

Lines clash some more...

We get an overlap, roll three good dice and three Roman units, including the commander, die...
So, a great day's gaming, and thanks to Luke for making the trip down.

As a final word, I do like Dux Bellorum, but I don't think I'll upgrade to DBA 3.0. It's not a game I'm going to play solo (I still haven't played 2.2, which I went to much effort to track down a copy of a couple of years ago!), but it is nice to have a battlefield uncluttered by markers.  It'll likely be a 'play other people's copies' type of game.  That said, my shelves bear silent testament to the 'oh well, just buy it anyway!' attitude, so I may relent in future.

The other major thing to take away from today's session is the need to get some Shipwreck clarifications.  We really want to get this game working.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Dux Bellorum game

With a game day up tomorrow I decided that I'd better actually learn the rules we're going to play, so with that in mind I had to pack up Ukraine '44 and get Dux Bellorum to the table.

My Dark Age armies are not yet painted, so I used Gauls and Romans (of the Caesarian variety) to test the rules out.

Initial impressions are positive. There's room for skillful play and it is about the same level of complexity as Basic Impetus. It seems to include the things I liked about Basic Impetus (smaller game, discrete units, fast-ish play) while removing the things I didn't like so much (those nasty post-melee tests!).

What does concern me though is the balance between the various troop types. Will have to look at the odds a bit more closely and play a few more games before coming to any conclusions however.

This game was played out of period of course, but it still seemed to work OK.

Here are a few shots (the little flocked things with arrows/spears in them are casualty markers; the other green disks mark Leadership Points):




I also did a stop motion video of the action which you can see here:




Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ukraine '44, turns 3 and 4.

Here's some more of the action from my solo game of MMP's Ukraine '44.

(Note, all photos can be enlarged by clicking on them)

Picking up where we left off here, the Germans continue to fall back in the eastern sector under Soviet pressure. Panzer divisions are used to keep the corridor to the west open and maintain control of the all-important road junctions, vital for supply.


The Soviets continue to press the ever-shrinking German perimeter, making gains west of Terabovlya and contesting Kopychintsy.


With their supply roads under threat, the Germans mount an efficient counter-attack north of Chertkov, destroying one Soviet division and opening a gap in the line which the Soviets will have to divert forces to plug, 



Elsewhere the pull back continues.


After the attack, German motorized divisions in the western areas reorder to defend the Chertkov-Kopychintsy line and those in the east that can be safely pulled out of the defensive perimeter withdraw into a more central position.


The Soviets continue their advance, making headway all along the line, putting particular pressure on in the north.


Successful Soviet attacks destroy two infantry divisions and open up three clear avenues of advance. An assault in the south forces the defenders out of Brichen Sat, while the siege of Ternopol continues in the north.


The German road network is now under direct threat. If they wish to keep the ground supply corridor to the east open, the reserve panzer divisions will need to be committed to the front lines around Kopychintsy immediately.

Map of the area.  Boxes show where the key struggles are underway.






Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A good week

This has been a fine week on the gaming front.

First off, a Japanese game designer whose work I greatly admire got in touch and in passing invited me to attend a Kyoto playtest session of his newest design. Unfortunately, work commitments meant that I couldn't make it this time around, but he invited me to go along to another session next year. I'm quietly thrilled about this, to put it mildly.

Second, I managed to win a copy of Victory Games' 2nd Fleet in an auction the other night. I've played a few Vassal games of Sixth fleet with Brad from Hexsides and Handgrenades, so I was pretty pleased to be able to find another in the series at a reasonable price.

Thirdly, Ukraine '44 has been on the table this week and it's been most enjoyable moving pieces around and seeing how the game ticks. It's just the level I like to play - operational, lots of manoeuvre, both sides have different strengths and weaknesses, you can keep all the rules in your head, there's plenty to think about strategically, and yet it's over and done with fairly quickly.

Fourth, an old Commands and Colors: Ancients offsider dropped me a line about Ukraine '44 and we've decided to crank up the Vassal engine for a PBEM game.

Fifthly, after spending some time with Simon Miller's To the Strongest! rules, I'm inspired to sit down with my own grid/card ideas and try to pull them into better shape. It would be nice to put on another multiplayer game next year.

Good point the sixth, an associate (who shall remain nameless at this point) is sneaking a day off work on Monday to come down for some ancients gaming.  One (or perhaps more) of DBA 3.0, Sword and Spear, To the Strongest! or Dux Bellorum will get on the table, and we hope to finish things off with a debut game of the modern naval rules, Shipwreck.

All in all, things could be much worse!

Finally - and this is not game related - I've rediscovered an old batch of tapes filled with songs recorded on acoustic guitar and an old four track from around 2001-2003. After listening to a few bits and pieces, it may turn out that some of them will be worth revisiting. It's quite nice to find a snapshot of one's younger self and not be entirely embarrassed by it!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ukraine '44, turns 1 and 2.

Details of my solo game of Ukraine '44.

Turn 1 - Soviets attack all along the line east to west, while driving north to south in an attempt to reach the Dnestr.


Turn 2 - Germans pull back and try to set up a defensive line to hold a line north to south and prevent a breakthrough to the Dnestr.


Soviets test for cracks in the line, besiege Ternapol in the north, and look to isolate the defending Germans south of the Dnestr.


Minor losses on both sides.

Turns three and four continue here.
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