Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Tying up a loose end

Back in 2007, when I was living in Japan and my passion for Commands & Colors: Ancients was at its height, I took a 'partscaster'* version of the original back to New Zealand on holiday with a view to introducing the old man to it. 

He loved it. So much so that he ordered in copies of the original game and the first expansion from the US. He bought a folding table sized just right and sourced some large plastic containers to store the blocks in orderly, easy-access fashion. When I went back to NZ thereafter we would play his copies and we roped one of my brothers in to play as well. There were some great times, with that good-humoured banter that you get when playing games with members of your family. 

That was before the old man got sick. After he got sick, we went back to playing Catan, and later Carcassone. When he got really sick we moved back to New Zealand to spend time with him. Well, strictly speaking, I moved back to find a job and house so that we could bring my wife and the kids over, but things moved too fast for the family to get here in time. One of the last things I did gaming-wise with him was paint up some 20mm figures to make a 'partscaster' version of the Desert Raiders of Catan variant. He was proud of the figures but I think we only got to play about three times before it became too hard for him to muster the concentration needed to play.

When he passed away things were pretty raw for a while. I asked Mum if I could have his Commands & Colors games and a couple of other things. They've sat on my shelves for about four years.

My brother, who lives in Australia, every now and then gives me a video call for a catch up and a few drinks when he is back on shore (he skippers a fishing boat). Earlier this year he mentioned C&C:A and we talked about how much fun those games had been. He said he'd love to play again. I said I'd kept the old man's copies and would get them to him.

It turns out that Mum is heading over to Australia to visit Stu and his family for Christmas. Miracle of miracles, she has a bit of room in her suitcase and is happy to take the games over to him. I packed up everything in the original box and left the expansion box empty so Mum can see if she can fill it with socks or something and squeeze that in as well. She reckons she can.

The old man's giant plastic storage boxes are too big to send so I am keeping them here. I put all my blocks into them tonight.

My C&C:A collection now stored in the old man's containers.

It's a strange thing, but it feels like a bit of a weight off the shoulders. I guess it has resolved something that was perhaps more important that I had realised. 

Anyway, I've got us tickets to see Iron Maiden in Auckland in September, so we will be able to talk it through in person!

* for the non-guitarists out there, a 'partscaster' is an electric guitar you put together out of bits from different guitars, or that you assemble yourself from a kit.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Zama with Lost Battles

Old school mate SP was free tonight so we arranged to play a wargame. Being a bit tired of the various iterations of Undaunted, it seemed like a good opportunity to set up a game of Lost Battles, and Zama an excellent choice to blood my new Carthaginian elephants. 

Simon took the Romans. They are more straightforward to manage when it has been some time between games, and I was quite happy to have some nellies under my command again!

We used the historical scenario rather than the free deployment version to speed things up. To briefly describe the situation, both armies have a core of veteran infantry, but the Romans have significant cavalry superiority, and the Carthaginians have had to bring in less able troops to make up numbers, these not being a match for the veteran legionaries. 

Carthage hopes to hold out on the flanks as long as possible, damage the Roman veterans to score points, and maintain a bit of flexibility to respond to circumstances as they develop. For Rome the plan is to negate the elephants with light infantry, hold with the legions, win on the flanks, and grind the Carthaginian infantry down. 

View from the Carthaginian right during turn 2.

And view from the left.

It begins well enough for Carthage - a smattering of successes as the elephants and cavalry engage. Hannibal, feeling the pressure to hurt Rome fast, attacks with desperation; by contrast, Scipio, whose initial anti-elephant tactics prove wickedly adept, relaxes into a watchful and measured prosecution of the battle.

The elephants have been beaten back, injurious to their own side, by the Roman skirmishers.

The battle develops a pattern - ambitious Carthaginian efforts thwarted by careful Roman response, then countered by Roman riposte. In this way the Carthaginian right wing is bested. The Roman line, tested in the centre and on the right, holds. The Numidians on the other wing, countrymen matched against one another, circle and feint.   

The Roman heavy cavalry breaks through.

Carthage pulls infantry from the line to prevent cavalry encirclement at the very moment Rome presses with the legions. The cavalry breakthrough is contained, but the line buckles. Everywhere Carthage strives for effect, but everywhere it is held just short of success.

Hannibal urges the men on.

Carthage's last infantry reserves are thrown in - the veterans of the Italian campaign. Again, Rome holds. 

But on the left there is success at last - Masinissa is threatened by Hannibal's Numidians. One more hit will bring the wing to crisis. The hit does not come.

The fight on the Carthaginian left.

All along the line the pressure mounts. 

Rome outlasting Carthage in the infantry fight, but there is hope on our left.

Abruptly, Masinissa breaks his opponent. He is through! Hannibal pulls elephants back to head off the victorious horse.

The cavalry is contained - just - but the main line is weakening.

Rome remains steadfast. Hannibal rallies his troops under pressure. On the right, there is a chance to see off the Roman cavalry.

One chance! But Rome passes the test.

And with that, the line collapses. Multiple hits in multiple locations have driven the Carthaginian army to breaking point.

The left and right centres have been denuded of troops. The collapse starts on the right, and all run.

The moment just before Carthage is swept away.

And Scipio takes the battle and the points, 116 to 83. A clear victory.

Well done to SP. He played a strong, calm hand. He used favour of the gods rerolls judiciously, aiming to reduce potential damage over pressing for success, and kept giving himself chances to hurt me until eventually he did.

It was a tense, exciting game throughout. I felt I was just one good turn away from doing some serious damage, but SP made sure that that turn never came.

Really good to play Lost Battles again, and SP is keen to go again as soon as we are able.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

First figures painted in five years

There is a minor celebration underway at house Prufrock - we have painted out first figures for, as the title suggests, five years. It doesn't seem that long, but it is. 

Anyway, the figures are from the Fighting 15s (old Black Hat) Punic Wars range: their Carthaginian elephants and crew. 

The painting is a bit rough, and although I have glasses now, four years working with computers eight hours a day has taken its toll, and I just don't see the detail as well as I used to. These photos do show me that washes are going to have to be even more of a friend than they have been previously! I might also have to look at contrast paints. I can still 'paint between the lines' but I don't see well enough to highlight in a way that is not blobby. That may improve with practice, but definitely some technical adjustments are in order. 

Anyway, I'm glad to say the duck has been broken, and I will now have enough Carthaginian elephants to be able to stage Bagradas in Lost Battles. 

The next picture really shows the 'blobbiness' of the face highlight I did post-magic wash. I will be able to improve this by adding another wash to bring out the detail. Possibly more damning, it also shows my failure to properly file off the seams in the models, which I will have to watch out for in future.

And a comparison to a Chariot 15 Hellenistic jumbo painted some years ago. Size works well, but you can see the difference in the painting. The old painting was not especially good, but the more recent ones are clearly less carefully done.

But, to be honest, I don't really mind. Given that my painting output has been zero for as long as it has (and for a while I wondered if I would actually paint anything again at all), I'm just pleased to be back on the horse - or elephant, if you prefer.

While I was rummaging around I also tidied up a few other figures that had lost shields or spears in the move over to New Zealand. My next plan is to look at the Numidian horse and bring those bases up to standard. I painted them a very long time ago and they never got a coat of varnish. Some paint has flaked off, and the mixture of matt, satin and gloss finishes from the various paints used is not very pleasing. The idea is to patch them up a bit, give them a bit of the magic wash, and then hit them with a matt spray. 

As for what's after that, we'll see what happens. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

If I could turn back time...

JWH, in his Heretical Gaming blog, recently put up a post - inspired by the late great Peter Young - on the advice he would give to a wargamer just starting out. It is a post worth reading and as an added bonus leads naturally to a person wanting to put up something of their own on the same topic.  

So what would I tell a younger person starting out on their wargaming adventures?

1) Do what you enjoy. Obvious, but harder to keep to than you'd think. There are times when a person buys into something for some other reason: because it's good value; because you feel you should; because you make a plan with another gamer or group; because it might be good for a rainy day. You really don't want to waste time and energy into armies or periods or rules that you won't enjoy. Life is too short.

2) Build both sides. Wargaming is often a solitary activity, so don't be reliant on others. People move; people get busy. Keep your independence. Make sure that you can use those figures solo.

3) Expand on what you have. Easy when you play ancients or WWII, but it applies to other periods too. Why build Romans and Britons in 2mm when you already have part of what you need in 15mm? If you have Carthaginians, you're not far off being able to field an army of Spanish, Gauls, or Numidians. Have Marian Romans? Build a few more units of legionaries and you'll be able to play out Roman civil wars till the end of your days. But see point 1 - choose your expansions wisely!

4) Make wargaming friends who know more than you. I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance early on of a couple of grizzled wargame veterans. They show you the standard, give you good practical advice, and help remove mental obstacles. Invaluable.  

5) Get things while you can. You have to be sensible (well, maybe not all of us!), but work on the principle of get what you need when it's available. Vendors close down, lines disappear, prices go up, and personal circumstances change. If you can afford to get what you need now, do it. You can paint at your leisure, but you may not be able to pick up 240 Macedonian phalangites from that manufacturer at that price ever again...

6) Push yourself to paint hard while your eyes are good. Once they go, you'll wish you had painted more when it was easy!

7) Invest in making your table look good. You can have the loveliest armies in the world, but they only look as good as the terrain they are situated in.

8) Be as consistent as you can with your basing and painting styles. Try to do things in such a way that what you produce now will work with what you will produce in ten years.  

9) Find some board games you like. They are easy to set up (provided you have some space around the home) and they offer a different perspective. You can game when you don't feel inspired, they are portable, and they are a great way to introduce non-gaming friends to the hobby. 

10) Take things seriously, but not too much. You need a certain amount of fire and motivation to get projects underway and finished, but we're only playing with toy soldiers. It's not worth making enemies over and some of those rants a person can go off on don't always look so righteous five years down the track!

11) It's a big hobby. You will have times when you're on for certain aspects of it and times when you're not. Make the most of it all - writing, blogging, rules-writing, painting, researching, playing, youtubing, terrain-building, podcasting, and whatever else. Enjoy the variety and don't stress when you're having a fallow period.

12) Be aware that your gaming will go through different phases. Life will intrude. You will have times when there are funds to use and times when there are not. Use the former to help you get through the latter!

13) Have a big idea to work towards. 

14) Have fun!

Thanks for the inspiration JWH (and many others at different times), and anyone reading please feel free to add comments or link below to your own takes on this.

Cheers, and hobby on!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Magister Militum

When I decided to take up wargaming seriously as a hobby I started by buying two 15mm army packs, Romans and Carthaginians, from Richard at Magister Militum in the UK. Naturally, those two army packs were soon supplemented by additional figures, and the collection expanded by other armies. It quickly became necessary to purchase from other ranges and manufacturers too, but the figures that began it all for me were those Chariot Miniatures from Magister Militum.

I don't imagine I am the only person in the world who got their introduction to the delights of miniature wargaming in this way.

At that time of course you didn't order by filling an online shopping cart: you looked at the catalogue, emailed the company with the packs you wanted, waited for them to confirm with a price and shipping estimate and a means of payment. If I remember rightly, I might even have had to call Richard up from Japan to give him my credit card details over the phone.

At any rate, there was contact with a human, there were pleases and thank yous, and all those other little interactions that you almost forget were commonplace before shopping carts and secure online payment systems.  

It is therefore with some sadness that I see Magister Militum is closing up shop and putting their ranges on the market. 

I'd like to quickly take the opportunity to thank Richard and all the other folk who may have worked at MM, and hope that life after MM treats them well.

For those to whom MM closing up is new news, I think you still have a couple of days to get a last order in.

I guess the most appropriate thing to do at my end is get those Romans and Carthaginians out on the table for another game....

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

State of the wargame nation

It's been quite some time since I've posted here. We've been through a busy period of house renovations, kids developing social lives, work secondment opportunities and various other things. Earlier in the year I was invited to join a band, so we've been working quite hard learning songs and getting match fit for shows. Things are rolling now - we made our live debut last weekend - and it has been a lot of fun. The last time I played in a live band (apart from attending the odd open mic night) was 1998. I'd reconciled myself to the fact that it may never happen again, so it was a VERY good feeling to get back up on stage in front of a crowd and blast out a few tunes.

We hope to be able to get three hours' worth of material together to allow us to start gigging regularly. There is still some work to be done to get to that stage, but the challenge has been set!

Hobby activity has mostly been confined to looking at my shelves and deciding it's too late to play a game or browsing local boardgame options and making the occasional purchase. So far this year I've picked up Seastrike, Undaunted: Stalingrad, Caesar! Seize Rome in 20 minutes (if you're thinking of getting it, don't bother), Twilight Struggle, and Mare Nostrum. It's an eclectic mix; overseas shipping being prohibitatively expensive means I'm confined to opportunistic nabbing of things that are already in the country. Caesar is a bit of a dog, but the others all look promising. 

In regards to figure gaming, I haven't done any painting since 2019, and I also fell out of love with the Society of Ancients. As this was the avenue I tended to use to present 'serious' hobby pieces, I don't currently have any motivation to put together that sort of structured hobby writing for public consumption. The figures already painted are always there waiting to be used, but whether I will make any further dents in the lead mountain or get back to being the kind of contributor on matters ancient that I used to be is a bit doubtful.

It's been a bit of a depressing period hobby-wise, but you never know when that will change.

So there we are; that's about the state of it. Hope all others in the blogosphere are doing well!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Edgehill with Pat

Following a couple of weeks of preparations, old Japan mate Pat H and myself got together online last Thursday using VASSAL for the board and Discord for chat to start a playthrough of the Musket and Pike scenario of Edgehill. 

For those that may not know Musket and Pike, it is a series of hex and counter boardgames put out by GMT focusing on battles of the English Civil War / Thirty Years War era. It was originated by Ben Hull, but has an obvious progenitor in the Berg/Herman Great Battles of History series. Like the GBoH series before it, it is a grand tactical treatment of each battle, with a specific map, named counters, and various scenario options for each battle.

The system tracks morale, attrition and formation at the unit level, while command and control rules require orders to be set at the wing level and communication traced between commanders and the commanded.

Command counters have special functions which allow units they are stacked with or in some cases are adjacent to to perform orders (rally, reform, etc) which their wing stance (charge, make ready, etc) may not ordinarily allow. 

It is one of those systems that I thought would allow a battle to be worked through over a a week or so of casual after-dinner play. Unfortunately, to this point I have not yet been motivated enough learnt the rules well enough to manage this. Hopefully this Edgehill game with Pat will change that. 

But on to the game. The scenario sees the Royalists (Pat being an inveterate Royalist I had to be very careful not to mention Harry or Megan in the course of the evening - it could have got nasty!) with charge orders itching to have at the Parliamentarian menace. As commander of the said menace, I got to sit back and watch as Rupert surged forward on my left. 

His initial activation saw all right wing cavalry, dragoons and musketeers forward. Pat then rolled for a continuation and was successful, leading to controlled carnage as his wing engaged with mine. A remarkable run of luck with my reactive shooting saw Pat's wing take considerable casualties in the charge, but ended with my commander driven off the field. 

Battle map after two activations of Rupert's wing.

It remains to be seen how we can come back from this. On the positive side, we were not routed in our entirely, and all of Rupert's units have suffered some kind of attrition. 

It has been enjoyable. It took about 90 minutes of play to get to this point in the game, but I expect things will speed up. The advatange of rules which are so procedural is that once you get those procedures down, things start to take care of themselves. The disadvantage of course it that it takes a bit of time to familiarise oneself with those procedures. 

It seems though that we are well on our way.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Undaunted once more

SP and I reconvened for another game of Undaunted Normandy last night. It was scenario 12, the last of the originals, so we have worked our way through the box. The Germans snuck it. But when asking SP what he would have done differently I realised that I'd not seen the Allied control marker on the zone I took to win, and that I had declared a victory prematurely. Red faces all round!

Never mind, the game was secondary to the chat anyway. 

The game itself continues to shine. As an indication of how much I am enjoying it, I have a few ideas for house rules...

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Rumours of war(gaming) and the kindness of strangers

It's been a long time since I've rock n rolled, as the song goes. While a neat little intro, it's not strictly correct: I have played a few games, but nothing worth blogging about.

Sadly, that seems to have been the case for most things at the moment - not worth blogging about.

But that has all changed today. Two things happened. First, I caught up with my old mate SP, who assures me he is keen to get a game underway as soon as we can; the other is that a kind denizen of boardgamegeek has gone to considerable trouble to look out and send me the rules for a vintage game I bought recently that arrived sans booklet.

It would be very rude to get it to table given the lengths the fellow went to to scan the paperwork, so playing it has become mission number 1. 

While speaking of kindness, I should also mention a first class instance of it from the folks at the Plastic Soldier Company. I ordered some plastic Carthaginians from them a few months ago but the pack arrived two figures short. I emailed to let them know about it and they promptly sent me replacements along with an extra figure or two for good measure. 

They are damned good too, being of the Corvus Belli 15mm range.

So there we are. I hope 2023 will treat all readers well (or if not well, at least a good deal better than it's treated Jeff Beck), and that your dice roll what you wish for a decent portion of the time.

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