Saturday, 30 April 2011

Favourite Units of Mine No. 7

To Joe Public, the 15mm scale model above by Essex Miniatures will look like an Elephant with some guys on top it.

To an Ancients Wargames General, however, what he will see is an instrument of terror, several tons of crushing power, the scourge of mounted troops, a harbinger of chaos and doom and that's just when the General is thinking about the effect the Elephants will have on  his own Army!!

There is no doubt, the Elephant is one of the more colourful troop types available to the Ancients Wargames General. The Ancient Worlds' version of the tank, the Ele can be devastating to formed bodies of Heavy Troops, particularly cavalry, who will normally be under some kind of penalty for being in close proximity to the beasts. In Warhammer Ancient Battles 2nd Edition, an Ele will cause fear in infantry and terror to cavalry - and that's to the troops on both sides! And if an Ele takes wounds from a shooting attack, then if it is not slain, it takes a stampede test and if that test is failed then the Ele will stampede moving 2D6" in a direction determined by a scatter dice. If an Ele loses a combat it automatically stampedes. And of course, if it runs into an another unit, friend or foe, it will attack that unit.

In Hail Caesar, the Ele has a similar, although perhaps less dramatic effect. In combat, any Cavalry charging an Ele will lose it's charge bonus and will risk disorder on a roll of 1,2 or 3 ( which then gives that unit a -1 in it's combat round). An enemy unit that loses a combat to an Ele may be forced to re-roll one of it's dice when taking it's break test. And if the Ele gives ground in a combat, on a roll of a 1, it will stampede 3D6" away forcing any unit that it bursts though to take a break test.

No doubt other rule sets will treat Eles in a similar way but it is with good old WRG 6th Edition now re-printed by John Curry and The History of Wargaming Project that I had my greatest ever wargaming disaster.

At Dundee University Wargames and Role Playing Society back in 1983, I had arranged to meet my mate, Chris, for a game of Ancients at the club. Chris had been busily painting his new Aztec army which he had purchased from Tin Soldier UK. As my Byzantines were nowhere near ready, I agreed to use Chris's Carthaginian Army. I had played with the Carthaginians before, with various degrees of success, so felt I could handle them, so much so that in addition to the 4 "Irregular C" Class Elephants that could be fielded I also decided to field 4 "Irregular D" Eles, but didn't bother upgrading them to Irregular C. Irregular D class troops were the real time bombs in any army, regardless of what the troops actually were. It was a very fine line between the unit going impetuous or turning tail and heading for home.

So I duly arrived at the club room, Chris was already there.

"Did you bring terrain?" asks he.
"No" said I. "Was I supposed to?"
"Well I've brought all the figures, I didn't have enough hands to carry anything else!" he responds.
"So what are we going to do??" I asked.

Much scratching of heads.

"Okay" says he. "We can use some books for hills and we can tear up scraps of paper and use them for woods, rough ground and the like."
"Okay", says I.
So it wasn't going to be the most aesthetically pleasing table to fight over but needs must. So we deployed terrain as per the rules, a few hills here, a bit of rough ground there, and a wood right on my far right flank, just inside Chris' side of the table.

So with terrain deployed we took a step back and looked at the lie of the ground and then, and to this day I don't know why, I took off the bit of paper that represented the wood on my right flank. I guess I must have just been on automatic pilot and was "tiding up" the battlefield of rubbish before the game started. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it, okay?!

So we then drew our maps and wrote down our deployment and orders for the first turn. We started deploying our troops. By this time I had realised that although Eles in WRG 6th Ed can be devastating, there were no mounted troops in the Aztec army to cause panic on. And as most of the Aztec Army had Two Handed Weapons (2HCW), they were pretty effective weapons against Eles. Sooooo as the Eles were looking a bit vulnerable I stuck both units on my right flank, as near to the centre line as I could go, with the Irregular D's being on the extreme right, with the thought of trying to out flank the Aztecs and try and threaten their rear.

So troops deployed we were about to start the first turn.

"Hang on" says Chris.
"What?" says I.
"Where's the wood?"says he.
"What wood?" says I.
"The one that should be over there!", says he, pointing to the spot on my far right flank, just inside his centre line and right opposite where the Irregular D's were standing.
"Oh Bugger!" says I. "I thought that was just a scrap bit of paper! It's in the bin".
"Well it's not scrap, Garfield!" says he (Garfield was my nickname at the club, due to the belief,  and in my view, much mistaken belief, that I looked like the cartoon cat). "Go and get it out of the trash and put it back on the table!" (Chris was American hence the use of the word trash).
"But I've put my Eles right in front of where that wood is now sitting!" protests I. "I wouldn't have done that, if I had realised that there was a wood there!" (Elephants could not move into woods). "Can I move my Eles?"
"No!" says he.
"That's not fair!" I protest again. "Come on, let me shift them?"
"No!" he retorts. "We'd have to redo all the deployment again and we haven't got time. And it's your own stupid fault for removing the woods in the first place!"

I knew I wasn't going to win the argument, so with heavy heart I relented and we started the game.

The Eles were pretty stuck. They couldn't move directly forward because of the woods so, as there was a sizeable gap between the woods and the nearest unit of Aztecs I decided I would aim them for that gap and wheeling the Irregular D's to their left, started forward. The first turn's shooting saw me cause absolutely zero casualties and Chris scored a few, but not enough to force a unit to remove a model.

So the second turn started. Charge Declarations. I had none as the nearest Aztecs were still some distance away from me. Or so I thought.

"Ok", says he. "My unit of Otomi in the woods will charge the Eles" (Otomi were "Irregular A" Light Medium Infantry, as were the majority of the Aztecs, which meant they didn't suffer penalties for moving through woods and they carried 2HCW).
"WHAT???!!!", screeched I. "Where the hell did they come from???"
"They were at the back of the woods at the start of the game, moved through them on the first turn and now they are going to charge your Eles. And oh, I believe that it is also in the flank".

The grinning leer on Chris's face as he uttered these words has lived in my nightmares for a long, long time.

So he rolls his charge test. Irregular A troops, 3D6 to roll, needing 11 to charge, 12 to go impetuous, nae bother. The savages go impetuous and make the charge distance with about 5 paces to spare.

So I roll my reaction test. Again being Irregular troops, the Eles would roll 3D6 but being "D" Class, I needed at least a 9 to avoid being left shaken in the ensuing combat.

1, 1, 1.

Chris' howls of laughter around the room were only drowned out by my wails of anguish.

"Let's work out the result!" he chortles.
"Do we have to?" says I.
"Oh Yes! Let's see, you get +1 for advancing, but no other pluses, so that puts you on 4. You get -1 for me advancing, -2 for having enemy on your flank, and -3 for being mounted troops being charged by foot, so that's a total of -2. Break!!"

So the Irregular D's turned and fled. And in WRG 6th Ed, when a unit breaks, every friendly unit within 150 paces must then take a reaction test in response to that break, for which you then get a -2 to your test for each friendly unit within 150 paces that you see being broken. And you tested from your right flank to your left.

So which unit was next in line? The "Irregular C" Eles.

They broke.

There then followed the worst sequence of reaction test rolls I have ever made in my life. Like a row of dominoes toppling over, unit after unit failed their test, even the General's unit spectacularly failed it's test, with the end result that by the time I had taken the last test on the last unit on my far left flank, the entire army was routing towards my table edge.

I hadn't inflicted a single casualty and my army had routed off the field, on TURN 2!

Needless to say, I was not allowed to forget the game for many, many years.

I don't think I played with the Carthaginians again after that battle, such was my humiliation. Still it gave me plenty of incentive to get my Byzantines painted as quickly as possible.

So it's probably a misdescription to call the Ele a "favourite unit of mine", though it is certainly a memorable one, but for all the wrong reasons.

This Ele is not a Carthaginian Ele, but an Ele from the Alexandrian Imperial range by Essex Miniatures. I won't have Carthaginians in the house!!!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

"The Treasure is 6 squares ahead and 3 to the left but watch out for the......"

I suspect, like many role-players, I started with Dungeons & Dragons, or to be more precise "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons".

I preferred to be the Dungeon Master rather than a player, call it meglomania, power hungry, control freak whatever, I don't know why, but I got more of a kick from the game by setting the scene than playing it.

But, it was hard work and trying to come up with interesting and different scenarios to challenge the players. Yes, of course, there were the Dungeon Modules that TSR (and other companies) released  and I certainly used them, but more as framework to help set the story rather than follow the module slavishly. 

Do you remember this one Dear Reader?

Alas, the guys that I played AD&D with at home all moved away due to Uni, etc and to be honest the role-players that started to take over the Dundee University Wargames and Roleplaying club in my latter years at Uni, weren't really interested in AD&D - they liked to play Cthulhu or Paranoia or Rolemaster and other weird systems which really didn't float my roleplaying boat, so my roleplaying days dried up.

Then in 1989, Milton Bradley games released Heroquest, a boardgame which used figures produced by Games Workshop, who then issued their own version of the game Advanced Heroquest

However, I did not rush out and buy the games (I picked these copies up many many years later) so didn't pay much attention to them although my brother did pick up a copy of Heroquest, we had a couple of games, it was okay but didn't really get the excitement going.

But then in 1995, my bro picked up another boardgame, again produced by GW - Warhammer Quest.

This was the business. The use of tiles, meant you could create different dungeon layouts each time you played. You could play a one off adventure or with the Roleplay book that came with the set you could have a "proper" roleplaying campaign running. Cracking game - really enjoyed it. It provided a different play experience each time.  

So of course, not wanting my bro to get one up on me I had to go and buy a copy for myself. That was in 1995. I eventually used my set for a game last year........

Not that I would ever admit this to Mrs Kingsleypark, but I do sometimes wonder why I rush out and buy things, only for them to sit unused for such a long time (sometimes never used- "Advanced Third Reich" anyone?). I know Gamers suffer from the "Ooh it's shiny!" effect , but why to we get it so badly? Any psychological insights into that condition Dear Reader?

Anyway here are the 4 heroes from the WQ set, which eventually saw some Dungeon Action last year after so many years hiding in their box.

Cotton The Barbarian

Goodgriff the Wizard

Flegulas the Elf

Borgrim Rockhammer, son of Grimborg Rockhammer, Laird of the Seven Hills of Karaz-Kapstan
(well you didn't think I would give a Dwarf a frivilous name like the other 3 did you??).

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo - Part 3

Eli Wallach has appeared in over 160 movies and TV shows over a career that has spanned more than 55 years, playing a whole host of character parts and with a style that means his presence on screen is always remembered.

For most people though, he will be most remembered for his performances in 2 films, his portrayal of Calvera in "The Magnificent Seven" and the role of Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".

The Artizan Designs model of "Il Brutto" again, has too large a moustache for Tuco but overall I was pretty happy with figure, definitely my favourite of the 3. One of the distinguishing features of Tuco's costume in the film was the lanyard that he used to hang one of his Colt Revolvers round his neck. This required a quick visit to Mrs Kingsleypark's sewing box for a bit of suitably coloured thread.


"Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo"

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo - Part 2

My dad always told me that you can always tell the baddies in Cowboy films because they always wore a black hat. And so it was in Leone's film, with the character of Angel Eyes, brilliantly played by the late, great Lee Van Cleef.

In the trailer that was released for the American market, the narrative has Angel Eyes described as "The Ugly" but this was due to an error, in that the Italian title of the film actually translates as "The Good, The Ugly and The Bad" but this wasn't picked up in the translation.

According to the IMDb trivia page for the film apparently Charles Bronson was considered for the part of Angel Eyes (and Tuco for that matter) but turned them both down. To be honest, though, I don't think anyone could have matched Van Cleef's performance in the role.

The figure by Aritzan Designs has too full a moustache for the Angel Eyes character and the jaw a wee bit too square, Van Cleef had quite an angular face. Also, I don't remember him wearing a neck scarf but hopefully the figure is close enough to be recognised.

Next post, the character who stole every scene that he was in - il Brutto.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo - Part 1

A few years back, I played some games using the "Legends Of The Old West" rules by Warhammer Historical. I really enjoyed the games, the rules mechanism was pretty simple to get a handle on and I liked the roleplaying elements in the game in that you were able to increase the skills of the members of your "Posse", depending on whether they had survived the scenario and how well they had done. So much so that as Christmas was coming up I put a request into Santa and lo and behold under the Christmas Tree that year

Also hiding amongst the piles of Christmas paper were some 28mm figures from the Wild West range by Artizan Designs. A mix of Cowboys, Lawman and Desperadoes, there were enough figures to put together a couple of Posses.

I was all set, started painting up the figures and then in true Kingsleypark fashion stopped after a wee while and started on some other project so the rules have remained on the shelf and about a third of the figures painted.

One of the packs of figures received though was entitled "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo" and were clearly meant to depict the 3 main characters from that great Spaghetti Western by Sergio Leone, the English title being "The Good, the Bad and The Ugly" (the character names of the "The Bad" and "The Ugly" were swapped round when the film trailer was transferred into English from Italian).

So here is Il buono

Although, he is the most recent figure of the 3 that I painted (just last week end, in matter of fact) I have used Static Grass on the base to tie in with the other 2 figures which I had painted much earlier before I discovered the joys of Silfor Grass Tufts.

Next post up will be "il Cattivo"

Sunday, 24 April 2011

PSC v Airfix

Paul of the excellent Paul's Bods blog asked the question in my last post on The Plastic Soldier Company Limited Russian Infantry Heavy Weapons Set how the PSC figures compared with the figures made by Airfix. As I'm always happy to help out a fellow blogger here are some comparison pics.

First up the Russian Figures -

As can be seen, although heightwise the figures are not too bad, the PSC figures (Heavy Weapons guy on the left, Infantry guy on the right) are bulkier and the head size in particular much larger than the slightly built Airfix figure in the centre.

The Maxim teams, with the Airfix model having 3 crew compared to the 2 crew for the PSC model. On the TMP Message Board comment have been made about the pose of the crew in the PSC set being "useless" but interesting to see that PSC that have followed the Airfix set with the kneeling figure. The Airfix Maxim model is pretty basic and not a good model but it does tower above the PSC model which would appear quite small in comparison to the figures

Next up the German Figures -

Again the PSC figure is a lot bulkier than the Airfix figure. Finally, the British Figures -

These are probably the closest in height proportion but again the bulkier figure of the PSC range on the left, stands out. The right hand figure is from the old Airfix British Infantry set, a new set of figures WWII British Infantry Northen Europe is being advertised on the web page but no word of a release date so it will be interesting to see how the new figures size up.

For a really excellent resource on 1/72nd Scale plastic figures you should head over to the Plastic Soldier Review web site. I really can't recommend this site highly enough, it has loads of reviews and information on plastic 1/72nd kits from numerous manufacturers and periods.

The Plastic Soldier Company Limited 1/72nd Scale Russian Infantry Heavy Weapons

Well the latest release in 1/72nd Scale from The Plastic Soldier Company Limited (PSC) arrived at Kingsleypark Manor this week.

The box contains, in line with the other sets released so far, 3 sprues

The 42 pieces on each sprue allow you to build 13 figures, 2 maxims, a 82mm Mortar and a 50mm Mortar and a wee instruction sheet is provided showing how some of the models fit together. Unlike the other Infantry sets, however, there are no spare heads provided.

Once off the sprue and glued together they look like this

No flash to speak off, although you will need the craft knife to scrape away the mould lines present on most of the figures, but they easily scrape away, leaving the figures pretty clean.

When I first built the figures up I was once again, a bit concerned with the size of the figures compared with the other figures in the range. Readers of this blog will recall my disappointment at the size difference between the Late War British Infantry figures and their German Counterparts (see the post here) so

The figure on the left is from the Russian Infantry in Summer Uniform Set, the figure on the left is from the Heavy Weapons set.

Again, the figure on the left is from the Infantry set and the figure on the right from the Heavy Weapons set. Comparing a figure with a figure from the German Infantry set -

A wee bit bulkier but height wise they seem pretty compatible, coming in at approximately 22mm from foot to eye

The set contains one officer, holding binoculars in right hand (and presumably shouting "Shoot that German!")

An 82mm mortar and 3 crew

The mortar is fairly basic, but then again so was the original

The 50mm Mortar has 2 crew

Again, seems fairly faithful to the original

Then there are 2 Maxims with crew. One crew are depicted pulling their gun

An interesting pose (although that right wheel looks a bit gammie - blame my gluing though not the model). NB: EDIT - Check out this picture of the Revell WWII Soviet Infantry set from the Plastic Soldier Review webpage.

The other crew are in firing pose -

I do recall seeing a post somewhere on the TMP Message Boards (although I can't remember where!!) pointing out that the picture on the box shows the Loader of the Maxim on the wrong side -

However, as can be seen from the models the Loader is a separate model and can be positioned on the right hand side, so presumably the picture on the box is just an error. No ammo box for the Maxim though, so you may have to scratch build one or use your imagination.

There are also 2 Anti Tank Rifle (PTRS) figures -, one in the firing position with a Loader

The other carrying his rifle

Detail on the figures is generally good although it has to be said that none of the figures are particularly laden with gear. Other than the officer figure and the kneeling figure of the 82mm Mortar team, none of the figures carry any sort of sidearm, though some of the figures do sport ammo pouches on their waist belts.

With the figures in the set, you get enough Heavy Weapons to kit out 3 Rifle Battalions using the Rapid Fire rules (as per the Second Supplement giving the Eastern Front Unit Organisations, although I understand this is now out of print). So unless you were planning to build a rather large Russian force you would probably only ever need to buy one of these sets.

The set retails at £11 plus P & P direct from PSC (although note they do charge a 50 pence charge for a "low order fee") and no doubt other Wargames outlets will stock the figures as well.

So all in all a tidy set, a useful addition to the Russian Infantry set already released. Also coming soon from PSC for the Russians in 1/72nd scale is their 45mm Anti Tank and for the Germans, the Panzer IV, SdKfz 251/Ausf C and D Halftracks and Heavy Weapons Set (plus a number of kits in 15mm scale as well)  so the company have definitely got a full head of steam going now with their release schedule and that can only be a good thing for anyone interested in gaming WW2.

Acknowledgements to Gun Pictures.Net, and Inert-Ord.Net, for the pictures used above.