Tuesday 27 December 2016

28mm WW1 British Signallers

At the moment I am working up to our usual WW1 Mesopotamian Festive Season game and at the same time adding to my Totals in my attempt on the summit of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.

The first 28mm unit finished are this little group of British Signallers, produced by Great War Miniatures, they are a great addition to any collection, a little bit Western Front for our chosen theatre but what the hell, they are great figures.

We use the Toofatlardies rules "If the Lord Spares Us" for our games, in the set using signal bases extends your command radius, since we started playing the set we have used simple plastic Meeples to represent these. I think these might be an improvement. I just need someone to do some Turkish Signallers now.

Individually the figures have great character, here is the Flag Signaller.

Next up is the Binoculars Dude.

Then there is the Pigeon Guy, what a great figure this is.

Followed by the Writer.

And finally, Esther, the Telephone Guy with a little equipment base. I had a bit of fun with this painting the ground sheet as a map of a Mesopotamian Battle and turning one of the supply crates into a box of "Yarkshire Tea"

A great little set of models. They will be in action soon when we have a go at the Battle of Ctesiphon. On the paint table I have a Battalion of Indian Infantry for the said battle nearly done.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

28mm Crusades Test Bases

The start of my Crusaders
Spectacular success in one Project  (Jutland) can often mean spectacular failure in another and 2016 was a very good case in point.

It was, before distraction, my intention to spend the year building up some forces to go Med I Evil on ya all, 3rd Crusade ish to be approximately precise. The thought of some units of heavily armoured Chivalric Cav is enough to get anyone's gaming juices flowing.

Apologies for the dark photos, I just couldn't seem to get the light right on these.

Fireforge Knights as Hospitalliers
So 2017 will see me making another attempt on the Crusades Armies and as this year closes I got round to finishing my test bases for the Armies.  We have decided to use the Deus Vult rules as a starting point, reading through they look quite playable.

Crusader Spear
I have painted up the foot in the colours of the Outremer state of Tripoli, red with a dark yellow cross. The figures come from the Fireforge Foot Sergeants which provides pieces to make up both Spear and Crossbow troops.

Crusader Crossbow 
The Fireforge figures are lovely. Quite chunky with good raised detail, great for painting.  My only quibble would be that to me a lot of the figures look as if they are stooping, mind you if you had just walked from Europe with all your kit to the Holy Land you may well have some back and foot impediments.

For my opposition Army I have gone for the Gripping Beast plastic ranges as a method of getting some units on the table at a reasonable cost, in fact some boxes of figures have been donated to the cause making it even more cost effective  !

The above base is front the Arab Light Cavalry set.

Next up is my test bases of Arab Archers again from the Gripping Beast plastic range.

Followed by a base of Spearmen from the same set.

Hopefully the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge this year will help me blast through some of these so I have enough ready to get some games in around Easter time. I have already built and primed most of the Cavalry I had available so I am already on the front foot for next year's challenge.

Saturday 17 December 2016

The Walking Dead (Mantic) Review

The Starter Set
I have been a massive fan of The Walking Dead TV show from the beginning, drawn to it initially by Andrew Lincoln, whose acting I have always enjoyed since seeing him in Teachers years ago. The programme has grown and grown in popularity so a Miniatures game was inevitable.

I found this little treasure at the recent Recon show near my home in Leeds. I had only gone to the show at the last minute as the guy who was putting on our display game had fallen ill and I was filling in a with a spot of ad hoc SCW. The game had been on Kickstarter but but I don't pay that much attention to that and seeing the game at the show was the first time I was aware of it.

I bought the set for 30 of your English Pounds from Mighty Lancer Games. The box contains everything you need to get going with the game. Mantic have secured the licence for the game (thank God it wasn't Mongoose) and have some cool plans for the future. It looks like a great game to play with YG Jnr.

Rick and Carl
The box has 18 miniatures contained therein, 6 Survivors and 12 Walkers or undead / zombies if you like. The figures are best described as a "heroic" 32mm and are made from hard plastic. The sculpts / renders are good with plenty of detail and the Figs have been well cast with only minimal flash / mold lines on a couple of the minis. The painted examples in the rule book and on Mantics website look great and I am quite looking forward to getting the brushes on them myself.

They are based on the comic book version of the Walking Dead story rather than the TV series, so Rick looks like Rick Grimes from the comics and not Andrew Lincoln.

The Terrain 
Everything is catered for in the box including a glossy paper play mat and some card terrain, Including cars, barriers and supply dumps. The art work on the pieces is great and it allows you to get playing straight out of the box.

Survivor Cards (top) and Event Cards

Equipment and Supply Cards
The box contains a large selection of game cards to get you going. There are stat cards for each of the Survivor models giving you all the info that you need to play those characters. Next you have Event Cards which drive the walkers in the game. Finally there are Supply and Equipment cards to upgrade your Survivors as you play the game.

Dice and Counters
The game uses its own unique set of dice, which are also included along with various game counters to aid play. I like the dice system, each different colour has an increased chance of a hit so different characters have different die for shooting etc and better weapons add better dice to your rolls.

The above various templates are included, a handy "ruler" for movement and measurement, a Kill Zone template used to determine if a Walker attacks and a threat dial to keep track of the danger level.

3 more Survivors Sandra, Patrick and the Walker fodder.
I have managed to get a couple of games in with my lad and very enjoyable they were too. The turn is broken down into 4 phases and the game play is quite interesting as you are playing one group of Survivors vs another with the Walkers being a hindrance (or Weapon if you use them correctly). The Walkers are quite useful too especially in numbers, I have played a few Zombie type games in the past and found them too easy to kill with very little or no threat and got bored as a result, with this you need to plan out your moves more carefully. We managed to get the hero Rick bitten in one of our games !

The last Survivor fig and 4 Walkers
The first phase in a turn allows the players to activate and do two actions with their characters, standard fare, move, shoot, pick up stuff etc. You then draw an event cards and depending on the threat level you move the Walkers, as the threat gets higher the Walkers get more aggressive,  if they end up within the Kill Zone of a Survivor they will attack.

The last 8 Walkers
You then have a melee phase followed by an end turn administration type phase. The game flowed well for us, very enjoyable and highly recommended.

There are a number of expansions in the first batch of releases, I  have already got the Days Gone By set and will do a post on that after I have had a good look.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Project Jutland - Roll the Bones

So in November 2016 at the Royal Armouries in Leeds; Project Jutland got "played" for the first time, it was fantastic to get the ships on the table and get some dice rolled. It wasn't a perfect day but a lot of lessons were learnt and a good time was had.

The first thing to realise with Jutland is that there really isn't anything else like it, you can have the best set of WW1 Naval rules going that work great on a club night or during what you think is a "big" game, however when it comes to the BIG one you need to make fairly radical changes to your baseline to get the whole thing to work. The rules you end up with, will without doubt contain compromise and the skill is to compromise in areas your group are happy with.

I think the part we enjoy the most is the dice rolling for hits, the sense of randomness about determining hit location and then the nervous dice rolled to calculate if the shell has penetrated the armour  (or even gone off !) and if so what damage is caused. These are the areas I tried to keep the same cutting corners elsewhere, this won't be everyone's cup of tea and that's fine. I have looked at many different ways of doing a game of this size and it's the games that count all the guns the same or class armour as heavy or super Heavy etc or don't record damage and that don't work for me. It probably my Engineering background that thrives on the technical data and the subtle but vital differences between a German 12" gun and a British 13.5" (Light and Heavy for the true geeks !).

Naval Wargamers in general are a strange bunch (myself included) and as I have said before it is really a niche area within a Niche hobby. Naval wargamers more than any other Gamer will disagree about virtually everything in a given set of rules, too complicated, too basic etc etc Post something on a forum and watch the opinions fly ! (Just don't mention Turret Rings or basing !) For those reasons I can never see a generic set of popular Naval rules in the vein of say Bolt Action or Flames of War so it was very much a case of developing the game for this set of players.

So rather than do a traditional AAR in this post I have decided to use this opportunity to discuss the staging of the game, the rule changes we made and what is needed to make the whole thing run smoothly in the future. A full AAR will come when we get to fight this over a two day event.

Starting Point - I have looked at this a bit in previous posts and decided to start the game when Marlborough opens fire at 13000 yards on the German Fleet, what people want to see are the long lines of Dreadnoughts on the table fighting it out and not a couple of German Torpedo Boats looking at a Danish Trawler in the middle of a massive table !

So Run to the North is coming to an end, the head of the German line is engaged at about 10,000 yards with the 15" Battleships, the British columns, each of 4 Dreadnoughts, is just finishing their manoeuvre into line. The Battlecruisers are still engaging each other in front of the main line whilst the 3 British Battlecruisers who missed the initial engagement are steaming into the action.

Defence and Warrior are badly damaged  (seen burning in the pics), Warspite is spinning round with a broken Rudder and of course 2 British Battlecruisers have already been sunk. I had also allocated historical damage to the ships involved in the earlier actions.

Table Size - After much discussion, twisting of maps etc a minimum table size of 18 feet by 8 feet was decided on. The 8 Foot width is an issue with stretching and reaching and by luck we ended up with a 7 1/2 Foot width which was surprisingly workable. This allows the whole of the Grand Fleet to be on table (remember that the battle line is 12 ft long) and the head of the High Seas Fleet  (the front 8 Dreadnoughts)  moving onto table at the start with approximately 1.5 new ships moving on table per turn. Using a firing ground scale  (for ease of ref) of 1cm = 100 yards Marlborough to Konig is 1.3 meters (apologies for mixed units), Konig to Warspite 1m, the rest works itself out.

Manoeuvre Units - Our normal rules count ships as individual units however for a game of this size I went for the Division  (usually 4 ships) for the big stuff whilst the Destroyers are grouped as half flotillas of 3 to 6 ships. Everything follows the leader and formation changes can be done easily. I was able on the back of that to produce ship charts for the manoeuvre units which reduced paperwork dramatically.

Movement Orders - Our standard OP is to write our moves down per ship on the rear of the ship cards,  so a typical order might be 10F, 8S, 3F however to cut down on this we decided to skip orders completely opting to allow players to move as they saw fit, obviously within speed and turn circle limitations and then only write when needed (for example when opposing fleets are in close proximity). When playing amongst friends this is fairly easy to facilitate.

Number of Players - This is where we fell down on the day, we had people drop out and the club decided to put two games on at the event so I was really struggling for players. No 1 Son got press ganged and even then we only had 5 players ! Minimum I think is 8. Split 5 British, 3 German. Certainly at the start you have got only really the German Battlecruisers and 8 of the Dreadnoughts in action giving 5,4 and 4 Capital ships each with a split of the light stuff. For the Brits a Battlecruiser Commander, then 3 players for the line with a final player for the 15 inch ships again Light stuff split between.

Reality vs Playability - one of the age old gaming questions. Do you want a system where there is no deviation from the events of the day or something that reflects the advantages that one side had compared to the other but still gives a game with interest for both sides. I'm firmly in the latter camp and although it might not work for the purists I want a "game" at the end of the day not a test of my ability to look up my damage. The reduction in detail already mentioned will reduce our version of reality as we make the game more and more playable, there is a point of compromise, finding it is the key.

Which leads me nicely onto Visibility anyone with any basic knowledge of the battle will be aware of how vital in terms of engagement ranges and general visibility the weather conditions proved to be on the day. Earlier in the day during the Run to the South the advantage in this area was decidedly in favour of the German Fleet whilst by the time of our main fleet action conditions have now changed dramatically in favour of the British. I was reluctant to add too many extra die rolls to simulate the process, nor after 9 months and a considerable amount of investment did I want to leave ships in the box and use hidden movement.

I decided on having one overall table wide visibility range, set on turn 1 at 13,000 yards or 1.3 meters. At the start of each turn a pair of d6 was rolled, one plus and 1 minus and the result would increase  (or decrease) the visibility by 100 yards per point difference. It doesn't sound a lot but with the game starting with most of the British Ships out of visibility a small increment either way can make a massive difference, as the Germans found out in our game when a 500 yard increase in range brought a lot of large calibre shell attention.

The other aspect of visibility to consider are squalls. Areas of localised reduced visibility, often mobile and some short lived. I have seen some lovely "mobile cloud" models zipping round other people's games however in terms of  building and operating such a system I decided it would be too time consuming, so I looked for another method to reflect these squalls and it was sat staring at me in our existing firing rules (for large ships, light forces have an even simpler method) which I should probably explain.

So these are the dice we use for firing, straight from the X Wing FFG game, but actually just d8 with different symbols on. So basically  (without writing a full rule book) the firing ship rolls the red dice, the target hopefully rolls some green dice.

Your attack dice are determined on range, number of guns firing etc, standard fare and then modified by things like, adding a dice for target on fire, target broadside on, then dice are removed for firing secondary guns, turning etc giving you a number of dice in your hand. Roll them and each outline explosion symbol is a hit, each solid explosion half a hit.

The target then gets to roll green dice based on its difficulty to hit, based on size, speed, turns, intervening ships etc, each wavy arrow cancels out a hit. A really easy system, within 10 minutes a new player is usually quite happily working it out for themselves. It does give a greater number of hits than reality but as discussed above is strict accuracy what we want.

I was also really strict on what I determine as "pointless" firing, there is always someone who wants to fire a single secondary gun at a Torpedo Boat travelling at maximum speed at maximum range. It's often this kind of non critical gunnery which slows games down dramatically. I considered a time limit but went in the end for a set of rules based on ship type / Gun / range, that and saying No a lot !

For this part of the game all British ships receive 1 green dice per attack regardless of other factors, to represent the difficulties the German ships had with sighting at this stage of the battle.

I noticed that the focus or eye symbol on the dice was going unused so quite simply decided to use that as a method of determining if a "squall" had effected the firing. If the number of focus symbols in the targets roll equalled or exceeded that in the fires roll all shots missed.

Hit locations are usually dealt with by rolling 2 dice to determine a location on a deck plan for each ship, it works great for our standard game but for the behemoth of Jutland I looked at methods of speeding this up. Andy found a hit location computer program which had been designed for Battletech but had the ability to be converted to WW1 Naval. All the ships locations were digitised for the game. Unfortunately rather than speeding things up it actually slowed things down as people had to wait for 1 group of hits to clear before starting the next. For the next game I will either look at having 2 or 3 laptops running with the hit locator or revert to a very basic d20 system.

Torpedoes - needed an overhaul too, we have always used a fairly standard Torpedo track system with mdf strips representing the area again set of Torpedoes acted in one turn. But in a game of this size I didn't want all the inherent clutter that goes with a system like that. Let's face it very few ships were hit by Torpedoes in the actual battle so any system shouldn't take up that much time.

In the end we went for a "virtual" system, so you declare which group of ships (all single ship firing banned !) is firing at which group of ships. Measure the distance and each 5" is a turn so you can calculate which turn the torpedoes will arrive, the effectiveness reduces each turn and it's just a simple die roll to hit on the turn of arrival.

But my reading would suggest that the fear of Torpedoes out weighed their actual effect so I added in the ability for ships to turn away from a Torpedo attack. Depending on range if the target group turns away it can ignore the attack, however it is then forced into moving away from the threat for a number of turns. The system still needs a bit of a tweak but I think the basics are sound.

On the day we managed 8 turns of action, which with 5 players I was quite pleased with. 8 players and a quicker hit location system would get us up to the 12-14 turn area in a "show" day starting at 9.30 - 10 ending at 4pm with a lunch break. Running it as a game only with say a 6pm end, two days would definitely give a conclusion.

There were plenty of none critical hits, Warspite ended up retiring with her Rudder issues, we had a couple of turret losses but no ships sank. A glorious German Torpedo attack (glorious because it was me what did it) on the Invincible group failed due to some spectacularly bad dice.

At the engagement ranges the Dreadnoughts where struggling to do any serious damage against each other but as the British Ships slowly ranged in the extra numbers started to tell, the British decided to hide Lion and the remaining ships behind the main battle line which masked some shooting.

Really looking forward to giving the game another go with more players, watch this space.