Sunday, June 22, 2014

An update of sorts...

Well, it's yet again been some time between blog posts, so the usual apologies and excuses are in order. This time it's been my first ever round of school reports, along with mountains of essay marking which has meant that my best intentions to keep up with the blog posts have been scuppered again!

There was a conversation on the Toofatlardies yahoo group recently about striking the balance in your hobby time between wargaming,  painting, and blogging. Over the last few months, i've found that i really do value my painting time as a much needed wind down after what can often be a busy and stressful job, and also the social experience of gaming. Unfortunately, this has meant that almost all of my hobby time over the last few months has been devoted to painting and gaming.
A Saxon priest tries in vain to use the power of the old gods to mark assessment tasks.

Considering that, I'm thinking that this long overdue post will be an update of what i've been up to, and what's coming on the horizon as far as the blog is concerned.


The release of Dux Britanniarum: The Raiders from TFL, together with conversations down at the club about running a Dux Brit campaign have seen me dust off my half finished Romano-British and Saxons and get painting. I can now report that the Romano Brits are finished, (it only took two years!) and the Saxons are well on their way. Ad I must say that I do really enjoy painting up dark ages figures, especially when the figures in question are the superb Musketeer miniatures offerings.

I've also managed to knock up a load of scratch built buildings and some terrain. Since studying in Leeds, I've developed an affinity for the North, and so my Romano-Brits are based around the Kingdoms of the Old North,  Elmet and the Pennines. This not only gives me a chance to build some craggy mountains, fenland, and scruffy looking thatched buildings, but the new Gwyr y Gogledd (Men of the North) rules in Raiders means that I can swap out some of the Romano-Brit milites and comanipulares for the superb Arthurian mounted types from Musketeer and Gripping Beast. While my wife was recovering from laser eye surgery, I used Mitch's excellent blog as inspiration to build all the buildings required for a Dux Britanniarum campaign, and they've also come in handy for SAGA! As far as terrain, I knocked up some fenland, a couple of large hills and a huge craggy mountain (2"x1"), and I also picked up some fake moss sheets from eBay which look to be ideal for moorland. All of this should stand me in good stead for a Gwyr y Gogledd campaign, and come in handy for SAGA too.

The Northern British landscape. My terrain project is aimed at reproducing a similar 'look'

In the near future, I'll be posting up some pictures of the finished Romano-Brits, followed closely by the Saxons. As far as what is coming up in the pain ting queue, after having a crack at SAGA, I'm also very keen to get my Normans and Byzantines painted up and on the table. Then I've also got a Pict starter force for Raiders which might be fun as well. And then there's the rest of my early war CoC project. On the whole, i'm very happy that despite the sometimes overwhelming workload, I've managed to keep plodding along with my painting and modelling.

A Romano-British community takes shape, watchtower, church, even a pigsty!

I've managed to get a load of gaming in, having ventured down to the Central Coast Wargamers Club a couple of months ago. The club is made up of a great bunch of blokes with a wide interest in historical gaming, and at the monthly meetings, i've managed to get in a load of diverse games. Last month, I introduced Chain of Command, which went down a treat, and I've also managed to have a crack at Impetus, some homebrew Napoleonic grand battle rules, and finally got a chance to play some SAGA. After playing a game through, I do see what all the fuss is about this set, it's fast, fun, and is very evocative of the types of scrappy, exaggerated skirmishes found in the sagas. I'm keen to try out the Normans, and once they're all painted up I might even start up a gaming club at school, as this would be an ideal intro into historical gaming.

In the next few months, a few of us are planning on starting up a Dux Brit campaign, so i'm very much looking forward to that. Some of the campaign blogs, like Dalauppror's, Mike's Trouble at T'Mill, Guitarhero Andy's, Moiterei's bunte Welt, Conflict of Interests, and Trailape's blog, along with a load of others, have provided some fantastic inspiration.

I've also managed to have a few games of Dux Brit, albeit with half painted forces, and the other night had a load of mates over for a game based around the 70th anniversary of D-Day. This was another Chain of Command initiation for the lads from my other gaming group and we saw British Paras backed up by a DD Sherman holding off a determined attack against Ranville by 21st Panzer troops with armoured support. Despite some hairy moments, the paras held firm, and the end of the game was decided by the British team's use of the Chain of command dice, which interrupted the German panzershreck team's shot at the Sherman and wiped them out. Out of interest, we then rolled as if the CoC dice hadnt been played, and the panzershreck brewed up the Sherman and the explosion took out half of the accompanying para section! Good job the CoC dice was there, it would have been poor form for the dastardly Hun to win on the 70th anniversary! Everyone seemed very impressed with the system and great fun was had by all.

I must say that i'm really enjoying the regularity, as well as the diversity, of the games i've been able to get in this year, and am looking forward to more of the same!
D-Day +70 Game. Ranville, with Pegasus Bridge just off table beyond the town.
Steve, Brian and Noel command the heroic defenders.
Battle rages in Ranville
The 13/18th Hussars Sherman DD moves up to support the beleagured paras.

A FOG Renaissance Conquistadors v Aztecs game at CCWC
Kevan's superbly painted Nikephorian Byzantines march against an Arab army, a Hail Ceasar game at CCWC
My first game of SAGA. My unblooded Vikings face Steve's Anglo-Danes. The buildings are the scratchbuilds I recently completed for Dux Brit.
My Warlord and his Beserkers charge the Anglo Danes. The SAGA board 'Odin' ability saved these guys from the English archers more than once!
The Anglo-Danish Housecarls fall
Clash of Warlords. Sorry for the blurry pics, my beloved Canon IXUS 120 died!
And the Danish lord falls slain!


So, that's what i've been up to. I'm really interested to hear how you all manage your hobby time. I know that in the past browsing forums and blogs have swallowed a load of my time, and I'm not unhappy that in spending less time on the computer i've been able to get so much of gaming and painting done in the last few months. That said, I do feel that wargaming has a very strong online community, one which it's a real pleasure to be a part of, and with my lack of 'online' hobby time, I do feel like I'm missing this online community.

Hopefully I'll be posting on this blog a little more regularly, even if the posts are a little shorter, and I'll try to post some comments on many of your blogs as well, all of which I read and enjoy. I'm constantly amazed by bloggers like Sidney Roundwood and Mike of Trouble at T'Mill and their ability to keep pumping out engaging posts on a very regular basis, while managing real life and painting up a never ending line of little masterpieces.

For those of you who read this blog, I'm afraid that for now you'll have to make do with my sorry, sporadic ramblings! Until the next one, happy gaming and painting!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Go To It! - British Parachute Platoon for Chain of Command

Well, it's been a busy few months since the last update. Full time teaching is rather full on. Besides being exhausting, it's also rather enjoyable though, and at the moment I'm teaching Year 9 all about the First World War. They all seem rather engaged, and we've been having some rather stimulating discussions about the nature and experience of the war, and the way it is seen in popular culture. The introduction of the new national curriculum has allowed a much more global, less parochial view of the conflict. We celebrated 'harmony day' last week by examining the roles of a variety of cultures and nations in the war. The kids were very interested, and often surprised. Investigating the Indian commitment to the war, and the war in East Africa in particular provoked a lot of discussion.

I'm still aiming to introduce some kind of gaming group in the school, and there are a number of students who are rather keen. I think I'll wait till after report time though.

Anyway, i've been cracking on with the painting in the odd spare moments, and have managed to get some bits and pieces painted up. The new airbrush does tend to speed things up a bit, particularly with the intricate 1940 French and late war German vehicle camo patterns.

Anyway, I'm thinking that the best way to get images of these up on the blog is in a series of posts, each 'parading' one of the force's i've been working on.

So, for this update the focus will be on my British Parachute platoon, and accompanying support units, all for Chain of Command. I've managed to get a few Chain of Command: At The Sharp End campaign games in with these guys (AARs to come, I promise!), and they are very interesting, flexible and potent force to play with. I've based my force around the 6th Airborne Division in Normandy, but they could easily be used for 1st Airborne at Arnhem or 6th bouncing the Rhine in 1945.

The figures are all '20mm', so somewhere around 1/72 scale. They are mostly the superbly sculpted and realistically animated Battlefield/Blitz figures, with a leavening of Britannia. I think that despite the differing sculpting styles they fit together rather well. I've included the background info generated using At The Sharp End for the command figures. The platoon is based on one from the 12th Parachute Battalion.

Platoon Command
This consists of the platoon commander, platoon sergeant, one two man PIAT team, a sniper, and one two man 2" mortar team.

Lt Rawlinson
Lt. Edward Rawlinson is the platoon commander. A former factory worker from Northampton in the Midlands, Rawlinson enlisted in 1940 as a private. He saw action in the Mediterranean and Sicily, where his practicality, capability and bravery saw him rise through the ranks. 27 years old, and of average stature, Rawlinson jumped at the opportunity to volunteer for the Airborne.

Sgt Threepwood
Sgt Reginald 'Lofty' Threepwood is the platoon sergeant. A bohemian from a wealthy family near Tonbridge, the intellectual looking 27 year old studied the classics at Trinity college, Oxford before moving to London and living the good life off family money. During the blitz, his favourite club was destroyed by bombs. Threepwood was injured badly, and his many of his friends and his fiancee were killed in the explosion. Since that night his joie de vivre has been replaced by a burning hatred of all things German. Following his recovery, he signed up for service. Posted to a training unit near Bristol due to his injuries, he was promoted quickly. He jumped at the chance to volunteer for the airborne and so finally take his revenge on the enemy. 

No.1 Section 

Sgt McReedie
Parachute sections follow the standard British infantry model of Section commander, three man Bren light machinegun team, and six man rifle team. The difference is that the Section commander is a Sergeant rather than a Corporal, and Sten (or even looted MP40) submachine guns are more prevalent. 

No.1 section is commanded by Sgt Douglas McReedie. 25 year old ‘Dougie’ McReedie was formerly apprenticed to the sole mechanic in the small North Ayrshire village of Glengarnock before jumping at the chance to enlist in the regulars in ’40. He fought with the 51st Division in North Africa, before transferring to the Airborne. McReedie is short in stature, a real bantam.

No.2 Section

Sgt Hitchens
No.2 section is commanded by Sgt. James Hitchens. An Irishman born in the outskirts of Ulster, Hitchens fudged his age to join up in 1933, since then the army has been his true home. He’s served in many campaigns, from the Northwestern Frontier and East Africa to Narvik, North Africa and Italy. He was one of the first to volunteer for the Airborne. 27 years of age, he is a strapping six-footer.

No.3 Section

Sgt Ballantyne
This section is 'beefed up' with an extra Bren gun, making it a potent force to provide a base of fire. This section comprises two fire teams, one of five and one of four men, each based around a Bren light machine gun.

No.3 section is commanded by Sgt. John Ballantyne, a farmer’s son from the North. He worked on the family farm near Ripon on the Yorkshire Dales before volunteering in ’39. He saw some action in North Africa before volunteering to the Airborne. He is 27 years of age, and physically an average sort.

Support Options:

Vickers heavy machine gun team. All Britannia

6 pounder anti-tank gun and crew. All Britannia, excepting one Battlefield crewman

FOO team. Britannia.

Medic. Britannia

Recce Jeep. Britannia

Recce Carrier. Britannia

Tetrarch light tank. Milicast.

Horsa Glider. Not really a support option, but thought I should include it. It is from Italeri.

So there you have it. The only items which I have to add to this unit are a flamethrower team and some engineers.

Next up, I'll be covering my 21st Panzer forces. I've just begun working on Dux Britanniarum forces, as I want to get the remainder of my Romano-British and Saxons finished off so I can get some games in.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

CoC - At The Sharp End Review

A bit of exciting news came through yesterday, with Rich et al at Toofatlardies releasing their Second World War campaign supplement, Chain of Command: At The Sharp End. I've had a read through and have to say it is superb. The supplement is available in pdf format for the princley sum of £6.00. The 48 page pdf is full colour, clearly laid out and has loads of helpful images and diagrams.

In a nutshell, the supplement enables you to create a platoon level campaign during the second world war, though it would be easily translatable to other conflicts like the Spanish Civil War or Korean War with little effort. As with the excellent campaign system in Dux Britanniarum, the focus is on playability and minimising paperwork and planning. Three 'levels' of campaign are included, the No Map Campaign is the least fuss, taking literally minutes to set up and play. The Simple Map Campaign involves a little more planning, but includes a background narrative which, if you're anything like myself, is really the reason why we play campaigns. The Full Map Campaign requires the most effort to set up, but is also the most rewarding in terms of narrative and historical engagement. To be honest, the level of preperation required even for the Full Map Campaign is pretty negligable, and if you're like me and enjoy digging out a GSGS map and a couple of Battlezone or Battleground books, then it can hardly be called strenuous.
I managed to get a Full Map Campaign based around the 21st Panzer Division's counterattack against the 12 Parachute Battalion in Ranville on D-Day. It took me just an hour or two yesterday afternoon to sort out, and I had figures on the table playing the first battle last night.
The book contains some example Full Map Campaigns based around the Canadians on Juno Beach and the 5th Wiltshire's attack on Hill 112.

The campaign system itself is elegant, immersive, and plays quickly with minimal book-keeping. Besides the ebb and flow of the campaign, the casualties, reinforcements and replacements, even bravery citations and awards are all simulated effectively, making for a very immersive experience. Playing the first game of my Ranville campaign, I was struck by how much more conservative I was with the forces, particularly the understrength paras. In the campaign system, the player must balance the benefits of victory in one battle with the impact of casualties on the overall campaign. Which adds another layer to the Chain of Command rules, and is fantastic and engaging stuff.

Also included in the supplement is a section where you can create your platoons key characters. This part will be familiar to those who've played Sharp Practice, Platoon Forward or Squadron Forward. I really love this kind of stuff, and it really helps the engagement level when your No.2 Section commander is no longer 'Para running, with Sten' from figure pack PAR12,  but 25 year old barrel-chested Sergeant Ernie Brown,  a former door to door salesman who sold brushes, mops and feather dusters to the housewives of Colchester before joining up. Detailed backgrounds, selected randomly using 2D6, are included for the British, USA, Germany and USSR. Sidney of the superb  Roundwood's World  blog has posted an excellent character generation sheet for French Big Men in WWI, which i'll be modifying for use with my 1940 French.

Throughout the campaign, your platoon leader will be affected by three opinions. Victories and defeats will impact on your standing with the CO, and so the likelihood of getting the pick of the support options. Too many setbacks will see you called into an uncomfortable interview with the CO. Besides the CO, being too reckless with your men's lives will earn you their enmity and you could face a mutiny or even become the victim of a mysterious accident.
Finally, the effects of battle can weigh on your platoon leaders own outlook. A raft of successes can lead him to heady optimism and exhilaration, while defeat can leave him insecure and uncertain. Battle fatigue may lead to mental exhaustion or a breakdown. It's all very engaging stuff, and again is easily tracked with minimal paperwork and adds another layer of narrative to the campaign.

So that's my take on At The Sharp End. I'd also add that while it's got Chain of Command on the title page and is obviously aimed at this ruleset, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from using it with Battlegroup Overlord, Bolt Action or any number of WWII rulesets. It's a fantastic resource, and gets a very big two thumbs up from me!

I'll be posting more about the campaign i've set up, including AARs and the maps i've generated. For my next update, I'll introduce the British Airborne platoon which I painted up late last year, including the personalities i've generated for the command characters using At The Sharp End.

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 - New Beginnings

Churchill, the Big Man paints merrily away
As I mentioned in my last post, 2014 will be a year of new beginnings for me. New job, with the attendant reliable and decently sized income will be a big change for Laura and I. It'll be interesting also to see how full time teaching impacts on my hobby. Going by last term, I still managed to get a fair bit of painting and gaming in. That said, I envision report and assessment times being pretty hectic indeed.

So, while lots of my lucky Australian gaming friends are down in Canberra at CANCON, Australia's biggest wargaming show, I thought I should post a wrap-up of 2013 and my plans for 2014.

First off, in real life, 2013 was pretty momentous. I got married to Laura, the love of my life, in March, finished university in November and started teaching 'for real' in September! This year i'll be working full time (yay!), and officially graduating in June.

Last year saw me getting a load of gaming in, including a load of 'firsts.' It saw my first foray into WWII aerial wargaming with Bag the Hun 2, my first experience of play testing with the excellent Chain of Command rules, and running my first participation game at my first Australian war-games show, MOAB! I also got a bunch of games with the blokes at the local gaming group. Lots of WWII rapid fire-ish scale stuff using homebrew WWII  rules, as well as scratching the Napoleonic itch with a few games of Sharp Practice. As well as all of this, I caught the X-Wing bug and have played quite a few games of this excellent and fast little game.

For 2014, my plan is to keep this up. I'm going to check out the next meeting of the Central Coast Wargames club, which actually meets literally just down the road from me. I'll take my SAGA vikings down and hopefully get a chance to see what all the fuss is about this ruleset! I'm also looking forward to the Chain of Command campaign supplement, which Rich is currently furiously working away on. I'm planning on running a few campaigns, using 1940 French and Germans, as well as my Normandy British Infantry/Paras and 21st Panzer Division troops. Additionally, I've chatted with a few of the guys at the local gaming club who are keen to put on a model show this year. If it all goes to plan, we'll be putting on a few participation games as well, of Sharp Practice, some basic WWII 'introduction' rules for the kids, alongside Chain of Command - kind of a mini war-games show on the NSW Central Coast.

With the 70th anniversary of D-Day, I'm also planning on running a Chain of Command campaign around the landings on Omaha and the battles inland around St Laurent-sur-Mer, and another around the Airborne bridgehead across the Orne.

Last year saw me finish of a fair amount of painting. I finished some little 1/300 aircraft for BTH2, added more bits to my 20mm Normandy British platoon, finished a 21st Panzer division panzer grenadier platoon along with a load of armour and support options, and painted up a British Airborne platoon along with a bunch more support options. I've also finished quite a bit of terrain, including a scratch built Chateau St. Come. Finally, I finished off a few more units of figures for Sharp Practice, so all in all a very productive year for me. In case you haven't noticed, i'm not one of those painters who finish of thousands of figures, so the 200 odd figures and 30 or so vehicles I completed actually mark the most productive painting year i've ever had! So i'm well chuffed. :) I also got a large display cabinet, which I was surprised to find is already almost full of painted figures!

For the coming year, i've got a few projects. I've actually joined the Guild's annual build competition, and am going to be enlisting in the Toofatlardies painting campaign over on Vis Lardia Online. For my Birthday and Christmas I scored a load of lead, some books and an airbrush and compressor. I've been experimenting with the airbrush, which is great for painting armour and which i'm hoping to use to paint 28mm horses, which I find almost unbearably unpleasant to paint by hand for some unknown reason. Probably because it takes almost as long as a figure and well... it's only a horse! Hopefully airbrush will allow me to paint them up in batches quickly.

So, for 2014 my admittedly rather ambitious planned projects are as follows - 20mm stuff is in roughly chronological order, the rest will doubtless be interspersed throughout. Please hold your laughter till the end. :)

20mm 1940 French and Germans for Chain of Command

For this project, i'll be painting up a platoon a piece for these troops along with a load of support. For the French, I've a full platoon of motorised dragoons along with their trucks, a motorcycle combination squad mounted and dismounted, Panhard armoured cars, SOMUA medium tanks, some more Hotchkiss tanks, a team each for 25mm AT gun, hotchkiss machine-gun, 60mm mortar, and a 47mm AT gun, even a Char B1 bis. I'd also love to add some Renault R-35s, a Latil staff car, and an FCM-36 or two. Figures are mostly the excellent Early War Miniatures, with a smattering of Battlefield. Armour and vehicles are all EWM, bar two plastic S-Models Hotchkiss H-39s.

For the Germans, i've got the full infantry platoon along with a raft of Panzers I thru IV (the Pz IV will be a conversion from a Panzer IVH - my first conversion), Krupp trucks, SdKfz 222s etc. I'll undoubtedly add more support to this force. For the Jerries I'll be using a mix of figures from Battlefield, Kelly's Heroes, and Elheim. The vehicles are again a grab bag from S-Models, MMS, Dragon, ICM, Pegasus and the single PSC Panzer IV conversion.

20mm D-Day US 29th Division Platoon for Chain of Command

I've just managed to pick up a platoon's worth of the 20mm Battlefield 'Bloody Omaha' Americans. These figures are long out of production, and are rarer than hen's teeth. The figures are kitted out for the landing, including some superb little dioramas of wounded men, medics, bangalore teams, etc. On the way are a full platoon along with a load of support options - a flamethrower team, medics, wire-cutting team, .30cal teams, a 60mm mortar alongside some of the little vignettes.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on them, and have dug out a Britannia DD Sherman which i'll paint up from 741st Tank Battalion, and of course i'll have to get a Britannia LCVP or two. This is a little bit of a side project, but i've always loved these figures, and with the 70th anniversary of D-Day now is the perfect time! I'll eventually add some more support options to let the yanks of the 29th Blue and Grey division battle through the bocage towards St. Lo.

20mm Russian Platoon for Chain of Command

This is another side project. I'll be trying out the 'super fast Soviets' method Piers Brand posted over on the guild to paint up a platoon of Plastic Soldier Russians leavened with some of the excellent Elheim figures. These guys also have a few PSC T-34s and a Dragon  waiting in the painting queue, and the recently released T-35 from S-Models is impractical but utterly irresistible!

I'll probably add some T-26s from S-Models too to so my 1940 Germans can head east.

20mm Late War Germans

I've a load of vehicles to finish off for my Germans. A couple of Dragon Tiger Is, alongside an SdKfz 234/1 Armoured car, a Marder I, and more crazy 21st Panzer Division vehicles. Also, there'll be some more crew, as well as an 8 man recce team to go with the S&S models SdKfz 250/1 'neu' halftracks i painted up last year. I'll also need a one or two more MG34 teams for the Omaha project.

20mm Terrain

Bunker above St-Laurent draw, Omaha Beach
I'm planning on expanding my collection of buildings to allow me to play some FIBUA battles. These will be a combination of scratch builds, and some of the goodies from Jens at, including the excellent Café Gondrée. Along with the rumoured Pegasus Bridge model coming from Will at Plastic Soldier Company this will fill a gap in my collection and enable me to game this iconic battle. Also, with the US D-Day troops, i'm planning on doing an Omaha beach terrain board. I already have one 2"x2" beach board which I made as part of my Riva-Bella casino board years ago, so i'd add another so i can have a 4" wide board leading from the surf up to the bluffs, probably around the Les Moulins draw in the 116th Regimental Combat Team's sector. Alongside this, i'll probably add some trees, probably some  conifer looking types for east front scenarios, as well as perhaps some of the pegasus models Russian farmhouses.

28mm SAGA Vikings

Add another 2 points of troops to my viking war band to bring it up to 6 points. Another 4 man hirdman unit and a unit of thrall archers should do it.

28mm SAGA Norman Warband

Start and finish my 4 point Norman warband, and add another 2 points of troops - probably dismounted milites and another unit of mounted milites. Hopefully aided by my yet-to-be-discovered super speedy method of airbrushing horses.

28mm SAGA Byzantine Warband

Oh, yeah, and I got a 4 point Byzantine warband for Christmas, so this will be getting a similar treatment, again aided by a spectacularly fast, easy and effective airbrushing technique for painting horses. :)

28mm Minden Seven Years' War Prussians and Austrians

Ok, so I also got a copy of Maurice for my birthday. And a load of the beautiful Minden Seven Years' War figures. Musketeers, Grenadiers, Light infantry, Cavalry. It's all there, and is in the painting line. Ideally, I'd love to finish at least 24 figure unit for both the Prussians and the Austrians. It would be fantastic to finish more! As a side note to this, I've joined the Ebor kick-starter for Great Northern War Swedes, so will be receiving a boatload of Swedes at some stage this year. 2015 might be shaping up to be the year of the Maurice projects.

1/300 1940 RAF/Luftwaffe/Armee de l'Air Aircraft

Finally, I want to build up my Bag The Hun 2 forces, at the very least adding another flight of Hurricanes, a couple of Spitfires, and another of 109s. Oh, and some Dorniers. And some Stukas. And you really need a Heinkel or two, don't you. And the Boulton-Paul Defiant is pretty unique. Then there's the French... Figures are all from Heroics & Ros

So, there you have it. It's really very ambitious for me, but I figure if I remain relatively disciplined and avoid the dreaded wargamer lurgi, the symptom of which is crying 'oh look, those (insert obscure conflict here)  figures are very nice. I really do need them don't I....

Wish me luck, I'm gonna need it!
Early War Miniatures French wait patiently for some paint