Thursday, 31 March 2011

Favourite Units of Mine No. 4

Imagine the scene -

You are a peasant soldier, serving in the army of your King, Samuel, Tsar of the Bulgars. You are standing in line with 20,000 of your fellow Bulgars, armed with your spear, the point of which is blunt, your shield is held together by rusty nails and you stare out over the ground before you to the rise just ahead. There is a sound, almost like the soft crashing of the surf on the beach, growing steadily louder. You look nervously around, your neighbours about you shift uncomfortably, what lies beyond the rise you wonder?

Your hands grip ever tighter on your spear, the sweat on your brow starts to seep into your eyes.

The sound increases like a crescendo, now like thunder, then all of a sudden a thousand glints of light break the horizon, but these are not stars, but the shining points of lances, borne by a host of armour clad horsemen.

You are transfixed, frozen to the spot in fear and wonder at the sight as the horsemen  move closer and closer, now over the rise you see them in all their glory for the first time, huge mail clad warriors riding horses encased in leather and steel. The plumes of their gleaming helms flutter in the wind, and then you notice their faces, all clad in steel mesh with only the sockets of their eyes visible, staring out towards you, cold, determined, deadly.

Your friends start to waver, some start to turn to flee from the oncoming tide of death and destruction. The sound of the hooves of the steeds is now deafening, your friends shout in terror and alarm, then as one the shining points of the lances lower and a roar erupts from the horseman as they crash into your lines, the clang of steel on steel,  the neighing of the steeds, the screams of dying men. Suddenly you are released from your stasis as you become aware of one of the horseman, his lance now discarded having impaled one of your hapless brethren, now crashing towards you, arm raised high with mace in hand.

You turn away, you must flee from this herald of death, but there is confusion all round, a press of bodies, unyielding, you can't get through. You turn your head to see the rider your last vision on this earth as the mace arches down and crushes your skull to a pulp..........

All hail the Klibanophoroi!

The Elite arm of the Byzantine armies of the late 10th and early 11th Century, they were a return of the Cataphract Cavalry that had not been seen since later Roman times.

Their armour was a design of overlapping plates, known as Lamellar, usually made of iron, but sometimes of leather or horn, and their horses were encased in similar heavy coats of leather armour. The corselet formed by these plates was known as a klibanion from which the troops got their name. The rider's body was fully protected from the head to foot in plates of armour and mail. They were the Emperor's finest troops, their wedge formation in battle would bludgeon into the enemy lines with first, lance and then the heavy steel headed maces.

In WRG 6th Edition, these were the stars of the show for the Nikephorian Byzantine list, Regular A, Super Heavy Cavalry (SHC) they even carried Darts (no not the Phil Taylor type, but heavy lead-weighted missiles) which could be thrown into the ranks of their foes to cause mayhem, while the charge struck home. These were not filthy mercenaries who fought only for gold or ran away when the going got tough, these were the rock upon which the Byzantine Empire would be built. They were a symbol of Byzantine wealth and greatness and the terror of the Bulgar and other Slav nations who stood in their way.

Unfortunately for me though, none of the guys at the Dundee University Wargames and Role Playing Club had Bulgars, or Slav or any of the other traditional Byzantine enemies. Instead we had Carthaginians with Elephants, and Indians with Elephants, and Swiss with Halberds and Later Romans with Scythed Chariots. Talk about a pile of woe and disaster for my Byzantine Super Stars, they were doomed to become known as the "Scythed Chariot Magnets".

Everytime I played Jim, the Mad Doctor, who had the Late Imperial Romans, it was uncanny. You plotted the position of your troops on a plan before deploying on the table. Everytime we put the troops down, there they were, the Scythed Chariots, standing directly in front of the Klibs. I'd put them in the Centre - the Chariots were there, I'd put them on the flanks, the Chariots were there. Jim always denied that he had been peeking at my map before deployment and I always checked his map, but everytime the Chariots were where he had put them down on the table.

And these were not the sort of Scythed Chariot that you saw in Ben Hur or were driven by Boudica, Oh No! These damned things were pulled by horses who were clad in armour and driven by drivers encased in the same armour as the Klibs. These were Super Heavy Scythed Chariots!!

Desperately, I would always try and manoeuvre the Kilbs to safety but almost without exception it was doomed to fail. The Chariots would crash in and with their +5 bonus against SHC, they would invariably send my prized warriors to meet their makers.

I never won a battle with them against Jim's Romans and while occasionally I would have success against  some Auxilia or some Libyan Spearmen if I was fighting the Carthies, they were an expensive flop.

But, they just looked so cool..........

The guys above are now based for DBM were they now languish as a Reg KN (knight) (I) - Inferior!!! What happened to my highly paid, creme de la' creme, Emperor's Finest pin up boys? Guess Phil Barker must have heard how crap I was with them.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

British Late War Motorised Infantry Battalion

Well, it has taken a while but at last I've managed to paint up the British Motorised Infantry Battalion that I purchased from Pendraken Miniatures

What you see amounts to approximately 1065 points under the Blitzkrieg Commander II rules.

The Vickers MG teams

The 6pdr team

Indirect Fire support- the 3" Mortars

Universal Bren Carrier

The Poor Bloody Infantry

"Perkins - give that Bloody Vehicle a wash!!" - the CO

There are another 3 universal carriers, a M3 Half Track, 2 3" mortar teams and another HMG team that came with the set and which I have painted up and still a couple more M3's unpainted in the box, so a fair amount of metal comes with the Pendraken pack.

I have painted 6mm figs before so painting these 10mm figs was not quite the eye strain that you may have expected. Again,trying to bear in mind that you are going for the "look" seen from 3ft distance, you can get away with a multitude of sins which would be glaring on a 28mm figure. The only thing that stopped me from painting this lot a quicker, is the distraction of all the other projects that I have sitting on the table.

For the Infantry and crews, I have used GW's Graveyard Earth for the uniform colour and Bleached Bone for the webbing.

For the vehicles, they were painted in GW Catachan Green, washed with Dark Angel Green and then drybrushed again with Catachan Green.

They figs were then dipped in Gordon's magic gunk mix and then sprayed with Army Painter MattVarnish.

Now if only I  had remembered to get some more Super Glue, I could have made a start on the Armoured Battalion......

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Favourite Units of Mine No. 3

Meet Morg.

Or to give him his full name Morg 'n' Thorg. (No one is quite sure what the 'n' stands for and everyone is too scared of him to ask).

Morg is the cover Ogre for the current edition of GW's Blood Bowl game and is one of the legendary Star Players of the NAF league (that's the Nuffle Amorical Football League for those non-BB players out there).

A former player of the Chaos All-Stars team, Morg, now hires out his considerable bulk and hitting power to any team willing to fork out the 430,000 gold pieces to hire him (making him the most expensive Star Player currently playing in the NAF).

For most starting teams with a 1 million gold team value, Morg is not really a viable option, given the requirement to have a minimum of 11 players in your starting line up.

Unless you play Goblins.

So it was that Morg and the Gobs, took the field against against Ruarok's Skaven team, The Rat Sharks. Ruarok must be the only Blood Bowl player in history to name his players after the characters from a Leornard Bernstein musical (they are all named after the gang members of the Sharks gang in West Side Story - we were both doing the show at the time he got the team).

Needless to say, for all his legendary skills and prowess, being on the same side as 11 Goblins does not a successful combination make and whether it was because Morg was just content to take his appearance fee and not get his chain glove dirty or whether the total crapness of the Goblins rubbed off on him, it was not a good day for the Ogre. By the end of the game, he had failed to hospitalise any of the Skaven players, while in the meantime there were only 5 Goblins left standing on the pitch which Morg and the Gobs lost (surprisingly only 1-0).

However, as the only Star Player that I have used in a Blood Bowl game he get's the vote for Favourite Unit No.3 (but maybe I won't be rushing back to hire him).

When I painted Morg, I had just finished watching for the umpteenth time, "Gladiator" so I was going for the "Swords and Sandals" type of look - there is no truth in the rumour that I didn't fancy doing the black and white chequers pattern on his shoulder pad.

And in Blood Bowl weapons are not allowed, but are you going to tell him???

Monday, 28 March 2011

Some Painted Plastic Soldier Company Ltd Germans (and 1 Brit!)

Well, the paintbrush has been out to see what a coat of paint adds to these figures. I had already undercoated some of the German Infantry when the box of Brits arrived, so I churned these out quickly so Reader Health Warning!! These are no Golden Demon entries!

The MG42 team.
The Oberleutenant

MP40 man

Advancing cautiously

Open Fire!

It will take me ages (as usual) to finish the whole box of Germans so I thought I would do a sample Brit as well

And repeating the pose from my earlier post Plastic Soldier Company Limited 1/72nd Scale Late War British Infantry 1944-1945

My painting style is pretty basic and relies on block colours, dip and then a dry brush before applying a matt varnish spray. My mate GordonY from gordonsgaming. is a great believer in the philosophy that you are looking at figures on a gaming table from say 3ft away and you should paint them accordingly and I'm trying to wean myself off the notion that I have to paint on every last button/ belt buckle etc otherwise my lead/ plastic mountain will never diminish. Some people are gifted and can produce beautifully painted figures quickly - I can only look on their work in awe!

And I must get myself a decent camera!!!

The Battle of Five Armies

Well now that we know that filming has started in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit attention will no doubt turn to all things Hobbit related. GW have been confirmed as having their Lord of the Rings licence extended by the Tolkien Estate so no doubt lots of lovely models will be coming out to tie in with the release of the films (we know it's going to be in 2 parts).

Of course Dear Reader, you may already be aware of the set released by GW sometime ago The Battle of Five Armies which I understand is based on the Warmaster system and uses 10mm figures. I have not played it but GordonY and Ruarok have had a couple of games
But these ramblings are not about that, but about a Board Game.

The Battle of Five Armies (or BoFA for short)was released by a company called Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) back in 1984. ICE had the licence from the Tolkien Estate to produce board games based on the Tolkien novels as well as the highly acclaimed Middle Earth Role Playing system (MERP). I never got into MERP, despite it's obvious appeal but BoFA became a big favourite very quickly.

BoFA recreates the climactic battle that takes place at the end of the Hobbit. The battle itself only commands 5 pages of the novel but enough detail was given by Tolkien for ICE to make a stab at producing a game.

The map depicting the northwest and northeastern spurs of the Lonely Mountain, the plain around Dale and the Running River.

The protagonists - Along the top you have the Forces of the Free Peoples, which include Gandalf, Beorn, Gwaihir, Lord of the Eagles, Eagles, Bilbo, Dain II, Dwarves, Thorin, Thranduil, Elvish Spear, Elvish Archers, Bard and Men of Esgaroth.

Below them are ranked the Forces of Evil, which included 5 Goblin tribes, belonging to Thrak and Thuk (for some reason his name was never used by us when playing the game - instead a similar sounding word was used....), Osag, Gurash the Great, Azug the Vast and the Goblin King, Bolg, along with a horde of Wargs and Wolves.

The counters were easy to read and understand, the left hand figure being the unit (or characters) combat value and the right hand figure was it's movement allowance. Archer units had an additional figure which was their Bow Factor, which determined their range and strength, so if a unit had a Bow factor of 6 then at range 6 it's strength was 1, range 5 it's strength was 2 and so on until at range 1 it's strength was 6.

Most counters were double sided as an adverse Combat result would result in a step loss and the unit would be flipped over on to it's reverse side which had reduced strength (usually half the original strength of the unit) so normally a unit losing 2 steps would be elimnated. Characters were treated slightly differently in that their strength was equivalent to the number of step losses they could take and little chits would help keep track of these.

The key to winning the game was the control of victory areas. These were Dale, the Front Gate, the Hillock and the 2 Guardrooms, 1 on each spur of the mountain. At the end of the game, the player with control of the majority of areas won the game - Dale and the Hillock were treated slightly differently from the other areas which were only 1 hex in size, in that as Dale and the Hillock were several hexes in size, a player was deemed to control these areas if the strength of his units occupying these areas was more then double the enemy player.

The unique aspect about BoFA for it's time was that it although it was an IGO-UGO game, you did not have complete freedom to decide what your units did during your turn. Instead you had to pick an action chit

But of course, it wasn't quite as simple as that. The player going first that turn (the Evil Player going first in all odd numbered turns and the Free Peoples player going first in all even numbered turns) has free choice of which chit to pick as his first action of that turn, from either MOVE, FIRE, COMBAT or F/C (FIRE OR COMBAT). The other player would then pick a chit that he would use later in the turn, with the proviso that it could not be played immediately after the First Player's first Chit pick. After that, the Chits were picked randomly, until all of the available Chits for that turn had been played. In turns 1-3 there were 6 chits in the Chit pool and a maximum of 4 Chits could be played and on turns 4-12 there would be 8 chits in the pool with a maximum of 6 Chits being played. So as an example, on Turn 3, if the Evil Player picked a MOVE chit as his first action (and say the Free Peoples player picked a COMBAT Chit for use later in the turn), the Evil Player would move all, some or none of his units, then the Free Peoples player, as their first action of the turn, would have to randomly pick a chit from the Chit pool. The Evil Player, would then randomly pick a chit from the pool and then the Free Peoples player having the right to play the 4th and last Chit for that turn could either play the Chit he selected at the start of the turn or he could randomly pick a Chit from the pool.

So immediately, you were forced into thinking ahead of what you would want to do (but may not be able to do, if you didn't pick the right Chit). It meant you would have to plan your moves and then hope, for example, that the other player would not pull a move Chit on his turn and move away from all your units - as there are no "Zones of Control" units can move away from an Enemy Unit without penalty. However, as Combat was mandatory,  if the enemy player, in his turn, had to play a Combat chit, then your careful planning could hopefully pay off, if the enemy player then had to attack at an unfavourable combat differential.

Many a time a player would curse the pick of the FIRE chit when  he had no Archer units left to use it with! Also as each player, on certain turns of the game, could expect reinforcements, it was usually  good idea to make sure you had a move chit for that turn so that the reinforcements would actually get on the map!

There were 2 types of Combat - there was Assault where you totalled up all the Strength Factors of the opposing units adjacent to each other and the phasing player then rolled a D10 and depending on the differential between the 2 totals, the cross referenced score on the Combat table would result either in no effect, step loss(es) for the defender, step loss(es) for the attacker, or sometimes step loss(es) for them both. The type of units involved could result in modifiers to the die total, for example, a Spear unit assaulting a non-Spear unit would get plus 1 to the die roll.

Then there was melee - this was when a unit moved into the same hex as an enemy unit. The unit deemed to be the attacker that phase could call on the support of one other unit in an adjacent hex and the result was again worked out in the same fashion as an Assault, with again some units (namely non Spear/ bow Goblin units and also Beorn) getting modifiers to the die roll when they instigated a melee.

The rules were split into basic rules and standard rules but to be honest we never bothered with the basic rules and just plunged into the standard rules. This brought added flavour to the basic rules, so for example, at the start of each turn, the player due to go first that turn had the opportunity to try and recover step losses for those units which had been flipped over to its reduced strength side. Morale checks would require to be taken if a unit wanted to melee an enemy unit on a higher elevation - Goblins if they wanted to melee an Elvish unit and so on.

In Combat, Eagles could make swooping attacks which involved the Free Peoples player picking up the counter of the unit being attacked by the Eagle, flip it up into the air and if it landed on it's reduced side, the unit suffered a step loss. Needless to say some of us were a bit more enthusiastic about flipping the counter into the air than others.

Rolling rock attacks could be made at certain points on the map, if an enemy unit was deemed to be in the path of a rolling rock then it could suffer a step loss.

And in the Standard game, Gandalf, got some spells to use - there were 3 to choose from and he could use a maximum of 2 which was a real pain and there were always plenty of times you could do with Gandalf firing off a spell but you had to hang on to it as you were hoping for a better opportunity to use it arising later on in the game.

Then there were optional rules you could use in the game. One that became a default rule was that the Evil Player could use "Bat Attacks" during a Fire Chit phase. It could only be used against units that were already half strength but could be extremely annoying if the Evil Player was rolling hot on his dice (1-3 on the D10). Another commonly used optional rule was to let Goblins stack with Wolf Counters thus effectively making them Warg Riders (some of the tribes had Warg Riders already in the counter mix).

I have played the game many times over the years (although sadly not recently- Note to Cammie/ Ruarok we must start playing more board games  you can play this one with 3 players, at a push) and they were always tightly contested affairs. The Evil Player starts with a large numerical advantage, which gets even bigger when the 2 Goblin tribe reinforcements arrive on Turn 4 and Bolg arrives on Turn 5. Dale is usually captured fairly easily and then there is a push on to the Hillock. A fierce battle usually rages around the Guardroom on the Northeastern spur on the mountain, usually occupied by Dain and his Dwarves, being the one closest to the Evil Player's starting position. The Free Peoples player is quite often faced with a dilemma of whether to move the Elvish forces down off their spur of the Mountain, to try and contest the Hillock and Dale itself, while at the same time being aware of the possibility of another Goblin tribe coming over the top of the spur and thus looking to capture the Guardroom on that side of the Mountain.

The Front Gate is an extremely tough nut for the Evil Player to capture, particulary while Thorin and his Companions occupy the hex, but, and again using an optional rule which became the norm in our games, if Thorin leaves the Front Gate this gives all Free Peoples attacks on the following turn a positive column shift to the Combat Table, so the timing of this can be key and if badly judged could give the Evil Player the chance to sneak into the Front Gate hex.

Quite often, the game will be decided on the last turn of the game as each player tries to flood Dale and the Hillock with their units to gain the strength advantage required to claim it as theirs. I have seen the Dwarves die to the last Dwarf, as they battle to hold the Guardhouse and I have seen Beorn rush into the battle and not be able to punch his way out of a paper bag. Gandalf casting his "move away" spell and forcing a pile of Goblin counters to recoil into the Running River (as Goblins are adverse to water this immediately drowns them). And Thorin charging out of the Front Gate, only to forget to go back in again, thus allowing a Goblin unit to sneak in and keep Thorin out of the area for the rest of the game.

An excellent game, and although long out of print it still appears from time to time on Ebay. But perhaps with the new film, another games company (ICE having gone out of business a long time ago) might take up the mantle and re-print it, or perhaps bring out their own version of the Battle, in which case I would definitely be interested in getting it to see if it is half as good as BoFA.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Favourite Units of Mine No.2

Favourite unit of mine no. 2 is the Isengard Troll, from GW's Lord of the Rings figure range. In both the Strategy Battle Game (SBG) and the War of the Ring game this dude is one bad ass, dealer of pain for the forces of Evil. With strength 6, Defense of 8, 3 attacks and 3 wounds in the SBG, he just rocks and only the toughest Free People Heroes can expect to go toe to toe with him and have a chance of survival and even then the likelihood is that the Free People's Hero will require to call upon his precious store of Might points to see him through.

This odious creature, however, is Grima, son of Galmond, otherwise known as "Wormtongue". And just as he is portrayed in the book and the films, in the game he really is a worm. In SBG, as long as Saruman is in the Evil players force, Grima cannot be shot at or have blows struck against him by the Free Peoples player. Okay, no big deal as Grima is no warrior and even a lowly Rohan peasant would take him out if the occasion arose, having only 1 wound. But fighting is not Grima's forte - no this sleaze ball's ability is the power to drain and debilitate the power of a Free People's Hero. Due to his scheming, any Free People Hero within 6" of the Worm wishing to spend Might points, must expend 2 points rather than the normal 1. As Might points cannot, with a few exceptions, be recovered, and Heroes have a finite supply of these, this ability can spell disaster for the Free People's player. If Saruman can be removed from play, then the Worm can be attacked and slain but Saruman is no push over, and any Evil Player worth their salt will keep him out of trouble until the Worm has made his mischief.

So here is the story of how the Isengard Troll, brought about the demise of Grima Wormtongue (with a little help from his enemies).

A while back, Ruarok and I squared up for some SBG goodness. He had been reading up about Grima's special ability and confidently declared that he would take an Isengard force that would defeat all comers, so of course, I had to meet that challenge and the host of Theoden would ride out to meet this threat. The problem I had, of course, was what to do about Grima. A problem which became even more serious when I saw the Troll lumbering onto the battlefield. We were playing a scenario that whoever held the most objectives on the battlefield when one or both forces reached half strength would win.

As expected, Ruarok, kept Saruman well behind his battlelines, out of all possible danger, while his forces moved forward. The Troll bellowed at the sight of so much Horse Flesh to feed on and moved towards the centre of the battleground. Grima stuck close by the Troll's side thus ensuring that any Free People's Hero wanting to slug it out with the Troll would risk burning up his Might points pretty quickly. The manic cackle from Ruarok every time the Troll moved closer and closer to the Free People's valiant but seemingly doomed warriors seemed to herald victory for the Forces of Evil.

Step forward the Pin-Up Pensioner of the Free Peoples-

Gandalf the White and his noble nag, Shadowfax. Together thay have a movement of 12", far outstripping the movement of most characters and warriors. And Gandalf has the Sorcerous Blast spell. A spell that has a range of 12" and, if cast successfully, could blast a foe off this feet, and if that foe was big enough would possibly lead to it causing injury to anyone in it's flight path. Do you see where this is going Dear Reader?

I knew I had 1 chance to pull it off, as failure, would reveal my plan and Ruarok, would predictably take steps to avoid a repetition.

Gandalf and Shadowfax, moved down the right flank of the Free People's lines and charged forward so that the Troll was between him and Grima. So far, so good, Ruarok hadn't sussed what was coming. When Gandalf moved to within 12" of the Troll, I announced he was casting Sorcerous Blast. As he was outwith 6" of Grima, the Worm's ability would not burn up Gandalf's Might points in the event of me requiring to call upon them. Ruarok could now see his danger, but it was now down to the dice. A 4 was required to cast the spell.... Success!! The wave of magical power knocked the Troll off his feet, roll for distance, a 6! The Troll tumbled helplessly away crushing anything in it's path....Oh that would be Grima then.

The spell did little damage to the Troll itself, such was it's defense, but Grima, having been landed on by the Troll counted as having been struck by a Strength 3 hit. A 4 was required, the die was cast on to the table and the resulting 5 saw the Worm being squashed to a pulp by the behemoth.......

My room still echoes with the roars of laughter that followed.

The Troll subsequently got up and still managed to cause mayhem to the Free Peoples for the rest of the game, which actually in the end, was a draw. But I think I won a moral victory, thanks to the Troll.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Plastic Soldier Company Limited 1/72nd Scale Late War British Infantry 1944-1945

Well having already purchased the 2 earlier infantry sets in Plastic Soldier Company Limited (PSC) 1/72nd scale range I knew that once they announced the release of their British Infantry set that I would have to lay my hands on these figures as well and so the eagerly awaited goodies arrived at Kingsleypark Manor earlier this week.

This set contains 66 figures on 3 sprues (the German and Russian sets contained only 57 figures). According to the blurb on the box this comprises 9 junior officers/NCO's, 51 riflemen/SMG's (3 of which can be converted to Bren Gunners) and 6 Bren gunners.

22 figures on each sprue, 14 of which are multipart. Unlike the German and Russian sets, however, there was no instruction sheet showing how the multipart figs go together. I don't know if this was error or if this is now to be the norm - I have e-mailed Will Townshend about it but no reply yet (any comment Will?). Having said that, the way the figures are laid out on the sprue, it is fairly obvious which set of arms go with which body and so on.

I have to say, that unlike the German figs I found this guys a real pain to put together and hard work. It may have been down to stubby finger syndrome but I just found them very, very fiddly. The prone Bren gunner is in 5 parts!

Persistance won in the end, however, and fully assembled they end up looking like this

22 different poses although 2 of the poses are the same but you have a choice of arms

As it is 1944-45 there were no mobile phones so the officer speaking into the microphone presumably needs to be standing pretty close to the figure carrying the radio pack on his back. A wee bit of modelling in the shape of a wire joining the 2 figures might be required to make it look right

There's even a dead 'un!!

Some of the poses, as in the German kit look a wee bit uncomfortable, the crouching figure is there again as is the figure that is on the move firing his rifle, which is pointing downwards. The figure throwing the Mills Bomb looks a little bit more natural than his German counterpart though.

Although the set provides 1 prone Bren Gunner and 1 prone loader per sprue there is also another figure who is leaning over with Magazine in hand, clearly intended to be used with the prone Bren gunner. But if that is the case you don't need the prone loader, so the net result is that there 3 figures which are effectively surplus to requirements . And while the casualty figure is a reminder of the consequence of war I would question it's usefulness in this set. A casualty figure can be useful in those games where a unit is ranked up and you require some way of marking the casualties that unit has taken, but for a WW2 game where ranked up units would be tantamount to suicide, the emphasis is on skirmishing, and so I think the casualty figure is a bit of a waste.

The figs are pretty clean with little or no flash. Mould lines where visible are easily scraped off. Sculpting though was a bit of a mixed bag with some of the detail pretty poor. On the sniper figure the helmet camouflage on the right hand side of the figure is non-existent and runs into the torso of the figure making it look a bit "blobby"

And on the 2 advancing figures shown above the chest and ammo pouch detail is non-existant.

The figs are kitted out in typical 1937 web pattern and the helmets, although camoflaged, look like the 1944 model.

The biggest surprise (and disappointment) for me though with the set is the size of the figures

The figure above is 20mm from foot to eye. Those of you who have seen my post on the German figures will recall that they were on the whole 22mm from foot to eye. The difference is quite noticeable here

Okay, perhaps not as huge a difference compared with the Valiant figures (see my post on "A Question of Scale") but still pretty significant and as I've said disappointing, given that these figures are from the same manufacturer and are both sold as 1/72nd scale.

I wanted to like these figures as they are more compatible with the 20mm ranges that are available but to be honest I was left a bit uninspired by them. I will see what they are like when they are painted up (I've currently got the Germans on the painting table just now so it may be sometime before I get round to them) but I had been thinking of selling the Valiant figures that I have and replacing them with the PSC range. Now I am not so sure.

Again from a price point of view - £11 for a box of 66 figs (although 6 of those are of questionable use), they can't be faulted, to buy a similar number of figures in metal could quite easily cost 3 times that amount (eg check the 20mm WW2 figures from Warmodelling ) and that would, in my view, be the main reason for buying them - cheap and plentiful provided you can live with the size discrepancy between these figures and their German opponents.

British Paratroopers Battalion Deal from Valiant Miniatures

Those of you who followed my blogs "The Red Devils" and the "Paras Done" may be interested to know that Valiant Miniatures are now offering a discount on the cost of a Battalion Pack (for Rapid Fire rules) for their recently released British Paratroopers.

The Battalion Pack consists of 1 HQ Group, 3 x Rifle Group and 1 Support Group for a total cost of £45, saving £5.40 on the individual unit prices. And Valiant will send the figures anywhere in the world, post free!

More details can be found here which page also has pictures up of painted examples of the different groups.

And those of you who don't know about the Rapid Fire set of rules and want to learn more should go to the Rapid Fire web page

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Favourite Units of Mine No.1

Given that the painting output has slowed to a crawl again, I thought I would start an occasional look back at some of the units, figures, models in my collection which have been either fun to play with, won a spectacular combat (not many there I'm afraid) or have been fun to paint.

So first up are - "The Stupid Pechenegs"

Way back in my first year at Dundee University, a few of the guys in the Dundee University Wargames and Role Playing Society were playing WRG 6th Edition Ancients with 15mm figures. I have to say that over the years that I have played wargames, 6th Ed WRG has to be pretty near the top of my favourite rule sets.
As a newcomer to the club and never having played Ancient wargaming before, initially I had to rely on borrowing an army from 1 of the guys or being a sub-general if the game being played was large enough to accommodate more than 2 players. I knew I had to get my own army but the question was what to get?

I spent hours pouring over the 3 Army List Books that WRG produced for the rule set. Early Libyan was quickly ruled out as a possibility. We already had Carthaginian, Aztecs, Early Imperial Roman (which was then replaced by Late Imperial Roman when the army's owner, Jim "The Mad Doctor" left his tool box of figures on the train between Dundee and Aberdeen and never recovered it - God that was a day of national mourning I can tell you), Swiss, Mongols, Indians. I wanted something different but, and I freely admit it, had to be good enough to win with, despite my terrible Generalship.

So the decision was made to go for the Nikephorian Byzantines. Reading about the thrashings handed out by Basil "Bulgar-Basher" to the Empire's Bulgar neighbours, the blinding of 10,000 Bulgar warriors which led to the Bulgar Tsar, Samuel, dying of grief at the sight of his maimed army, the intrigue and plotting of the Byzantine Court, they were the Superpower of the 10th and 11th Centuries, the professional Cavalry army including the fully armoured Klibanophoroi Cavalry which looked totally cool on the battlefield, the Varangian Guard with their 2 handed axes, the impetuous Norman Allied Cavalry, the Greek Fire siphoners and the drilled ranks of the Skutatoi Infantry, the army had everything, I could not fail to win with these guys, they were hard as nails.

But they also had the Pechenegs.

Okay, under the lists, you didn't need to include Pechenegs, but given that the Regular Byzantine Cavalry, the "Trapezitoi" was 2 1/2 times the cost of a Pecheneg Light Cavalryman, and given that the flanking and scouting ability was so important in the game, the Pechenegs, almost by default, became obligatory in the Army List.

The bulk of the figures that I purchased for my army were from a company called Asgard Miniatures. They are long gone now but the moulds live on, having been purchased by a company in the States called The Viking Forge. Unfortunately, I don't think they ship to the UK as they only seem to accept payment by way of cheque (check for our colonial readers) or money order. Still it is comforting to know that they are still available. Not that I need any more figures for the army, for at the time I purchased enough figures to field every possible option available on the list, including the full 40 Pechenegs allowed plus General. I supplemented some of the units by buying some figures from Minifigs and also from Mikes Models, although the latter were noticeably smaller than the Asgard and Minfigs models which were nearer 18mm in size as opposed to 15mm .

I had also obtained the excellent Men at Arms book from Osprey Publishing entitled "Byzantine Armies 886-1118". The Minifigs Pecheneg models were very closely based on the plates of the Pecheneg warriors included in that book which were drawn by the late, great Angus McBride.

The Pecheneg Light Cavalry by Minifigs

The Riders are depicted as having a knee length coat, which on the Minifigs figures was sculpted pretty well but which on the Asgard figures looked like a pair of pyjamas, not helped by the bright colours these coats tended to be

The Pecheneg Light Cavalry by Asgard

But I quickly got a unit of 16 cavalry painted up - in 6th Ed WRG, you did use figure removal, 1 figure being removed for every 20 casualties suffered and as Light Cavalry units could use such wonderful formations such as the "Cantabrian Circle" and the "Skythian" formation, they were originally based singly (they are now based for DBM).

And they were terrible.

Being Irregular "C" light cavalry, they were very, very fickle and if the slighest thing went wrong in their vicinity and I was forced to take a morale test for them, I would inevitably roll so badly that they would flee off the table. Eventually, it became a standing joke that I didn't need to roll the test, I should just pick them up and place them off table as inevitably that's where they would have ended up. But as a result, they did actually become fun to play with as their unreliability meant you never knew what to expect with them.

In their own army list in Book 2 of the lists (list no.109) Phil Barker describes how the Pechenegs inspired the proverb "As stupid as a Pecheneg" and so that is how they came to be known as in my army.

With the transition to De Bellis Multitudinis and the dropping of the morale classes, the Pechenegs did become a bit more useful, being now classifed as "Irr LH (F)", but they could still be relied on to do something stupid. And they no longer form part of the Nikephorian list but instead take their place in the Konstantinian Byzantine list which covers the period 1042AD to 1071AD, so no longer would my Super Heavy Klibanophoroi Cavalry have to look on in mild amusement as a pile of Pechenegs ran past them, usually in the opposite direction towards the nearest friendly table edge.

1071AD, saw, of course the Battle of Manzikert, but as a Byzantine player we don't talk about that..........

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A Tale of Two Witch Elves

Regular readers of these ramblings will recall my previous recounts of the Blood Bowl Exploits of my Dark Elf team, "The Drow Desperadoes".

Tonight, after a couple of weeks hiatus, I returned to Millfield Road Stadium, with the DD's in tow to play Alan's new Dwarf team, which he had converted from a pile of Mantic Dwarves that he had lying around his painting table.
Far too overdressed for a Dwarf Trollslayer but he does at least have the obligatory mug of beer.

The Mantic Dwarves really lend themselves very well to Blood Bowl conversions with the figure being stocky, short and with an almost crouched stance, they look like they are taking their place on the line of scrimmage and with a couple of snips away at the weapon hafts they really look the part of a Dwarf Blocker. With a few subtle uniform markings it would not be too difficult to differentiate between a Blocker a Blitzer and a Runner.

For sometime I have been running the DD's with 6 Linemen, 4 Blitzers, 1 Runner and 2 re-rolls, which costs 1,000,000 Gold. However, for tonight's game, I thought I would jazz up the team line up and bring back into the squad, those notorious, pyschotic, blood drinking Witch Elfs, Scary Mary and Trixie Mixie. Also starting his first game for some considerable time was the Dark Elf Assassin, Sta B'in TheBac and Runner, Runvery Faast.

With these 4 players on the team this left room only for 2 Blitzers and 5 Lineman and 1 re-roll.

With the DD's kicking off, the kick off table produced the "High Kick" result, Alan quickly moved his AG3 Runner under the ball, and promptly dropped it. Taking his first turn, he quickly burnt a re-roll on a block that still didn't go his way and his blocker ended up on his back.

The DD's burst through the line of scrimmage, with Witch Elf, Trixie Mixie, leading the charge, quickly followed by Runvery.
The Dwarves still failed to pick up the ball in their next turn, leaving the way clear for Runvery to scamper through and pick up the ball. Scary Mary had by now managed to make her way up the pitch, eager for the opportunity to select a Dwarf for the Ritual Sacrifice to be carried out at the end of the match.

However, in a huge play for the Dwarves, their runner dodged away from Trixie Mixie and performed a 1 die blitz on Runvery. I had expected this and had set up Witch Elf, Scary Mary to receive the dump off pass. Unfortunately, I hadn't banked on the "1" which meant Runvery fumbled the ball into the arms of the onrushing runner who gratefully received same. Trixie Mixie, in the meantime and had come out on the wrong side of an argument with a Dwarf Blocker and found herself unceremoniously dumped on the deck.
Notwithstanding this set back, the DD's continued to press for the ball to spill free. Although Dwarves are not known for their hand skills, Alan likes to be different and with a hand off and a successful pass, he managed to bring the ball back to the line of scrimmage. Scary Mary, showing why she is called "Scary" managed to track down the ball carrier and with the help of Star Dark Elf Lineman Velon Voltstar, sent the ball carrier spilling and the ball bouncing free, but away from the onrushing Scary, who in any event could not follow through to the ball's landing place due to the presence of other players.
Soon, the ball became the centre of a large group of players from both teams, none of whom seemed at all capable of picking the ball up and in the meantime Trixie Mixie ended up on her backside again.

For the rest of the half the ball hardly moved from the line of scrimmage and so the teams tripped off the pitch at half time tied at 0-0. Alan had put my Star Blitzer, Feliz Fasta and Star Lineman, Sleekit G'It into the KO box, from which only, Sleekit G'It, felt fit enough to join the team at the start of the second half.

Alan, set up his team for the second half with his left flank, strongly defended.

However, once again Nuffle intervened and with a huge bounce on the ball from the kick off, it ended up just behind the line of scrimmage on the DD's left flank.

Runvery, moved to collect the ball and moved back into the "pocket", hoping that some of his teammates would get into open space down field from which the long pass could be thrown allowing the easy score.
It was at this time that Nuffle intervened again, and Trixy Mixie, who seemed to have spent most of the first half on her backside, was sent flying from the pitch from a hefty dwarven blow. Unfortunately, the paramedics in their first assignment to a Blood Bowl game, cleary did not cope with the situation and with a couple of ill-placed slices of the scalpel, Trixie Mixie, failed to pull through.

So it was, that Scary Mary, in a rage at the untimely demise of her sister, came to the rescue of the DD's who were, until that time, struggling for inspiration as to where the score would come from. Scary had her own ideas and streaking down the left wing, she watched in admiration as, Star Lineman, Caloth the Cool, dodged away from his marker, with ball in hand, peel left up the DD's left wing and from the half way line complete a short pass into the grateful arms of Scary Mary.

A desperate 1 die block from the Dwarf Runner, led to Alan rolling "Skull" reroll "Skull".

This gave Scary Mary all the time that she need to work her way down the pitch to the toucchzone and try and burn some time off the clock as well. However, the Dwarves threw everyone downfield, to the extent that Scary did not risk delaying the score any longer and moved in, 1-0 to the DD's.

Only 3 turns were left for Alan to get his equalising score. No heroics from the DD's now. However the casualty rate was rising

Soon, 7 players on the pitch became 6 and the DD's were stretched to be able to cover all the avenues to their touch zone.
Still, the ball was deep in the Dwarf half and it was now that Alan, despite having 3 rerolls at the start of each half, started to regret being so eager in re-rolling his dice earlier in the half.  His first attempt in turn 6 to pick up the ball, failed in abject misery. The same story in turn 7. The DD's had backed off, the Thin Purple Line stretched across the pitch about 3 squares from their touchzone. It was the Dwarves final turn. The Dwarf Troll Slayer punched a hole in the Thin Purple Line, there was now a safe route through to the Touchzone. Alan had a Runner who with a Go For It roll would make it in. But he had to get the ball to the Runner, and this would require his Blitzer, to pick up the ball, run forward, hand off to the other Blitzer, run forward, quick pass to the Runner, Runner catch the ball and then run in (Go for it roll permitting) into the Touch zone. Ball pick up completed successfully, run forward, hand off, needing a 3+, fail, no reroll and the ball bounced into the open field, end of game. 1-0 DD's

I'm not sure I was comfortable with this team line up. The Assassin did a KO on a Troll Slayer early on in the game and then did nothing else except get in the way. Cutting the 4 blitzers down to 2, means you have lost half of your Block skills. The 2 Witch Elves are the Conundrum of the team. They may be the pin up girls of the side but they are fragile with their 7 armour. The Frenzy, if not planned for, can lead to risky second blocks taking place and against a team like the Dwarves, with so much tackle available, their Dodge skill is negated. And with the cost of the 11 players, only having enough money left over for 1 reroll is leaving no room for error and with the number of "1's" that I roll, that is probably too risky a strategy.

Jury is out on this line up - but then again maybe I should just go back to playing Dwarves myself and retire the DD's. Watch this space Dear Reader!