Tuesday 30 April 2013

(WWII Month) For You Tommy, Ze Month Is Over...

So WWII Month comes to the end with a wimper not a bang...

My four Hanomags now have a Dunkelgelb coat on but will not be finished this month and the Soviets still await a painted tank or lorry... However, on the plus side I painted 37 German infantry so now have German and Soviet infantry platoons painted up which is good - and a Kübelwagen let's not forget!

I intend to continue the project in between others as the Soviet vehicles are not going to be that challenging (green, green and more green...) and the German half-tracks are part way done and will only take a couple more hours all told (excluding drying time).

All in all, quite pleased with how WWII Month has gone even if the final week was a bit of a loss.

Monday 29 April 2013

Defiance - At Long Last, A Proper SF Show?

I caught up with the first episode of SyFy's new SF TV show Defiance last night and overall was very impressed. Set on a terraformed Earth, thirty years after an alien invasion it was an interesting mish-mash of post-apocalyptic Western and classic SF series. For anyone who enjoyed the film or TV seris Alien Nation, the influence of Rockne S. O'Bannon can be clearly seen, especially the use of alien languages.

The Votan arrive - the airliner gives an idea of scale!
The series is being developed in conjunction with the producers of a MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) and as the story develops on the TV, so will the game to reflect it. Whilst not a MMOG player I do think this is very clever and allows the gamer to feel part of a developing arce in a rather unique way. Also some of the things seen in the MMOG will make for great TV!

Something big and alien getting shot in the MMOG
The pilot episode was rather grand with massive spaceships, a whole raft of aliens with interesting traits (and weapons!), a massive alien automaton army, weird alien flora and fauna and Max Max style alien bikers; all good stuff! Ok, the CGI did wobbly on occasion but one could forgive that given the scope and amount of effort that went into the entire production.

The robotic Volge from the TV series
Overall, given the dearth of decent SF that actually looks suitably alien and fantastical on TV, this is a series well worth checking out and could be quite inspiring for SF wargamers.

The Volge on the march...

Sunday 28 April 2013

Heroes of Normandie

For a while now I have wanted a game that would be fun, simple to play and portable enough to take on holiday or roll out at Christmas. It would also have to appeal to both SWMBO and Son & Heir. Obviously there are lots of games out there that would probably qualify but one has come along that appears to hit all the right buttons - Devil Pig Games' Heroes of Normandie.

It ticks a lot of the boxes and the subject matter is one that will appeal to the family. Both SWMBO and Saul like a good war film, the videos of the game mechanics are quite straight forward but appear to have some subtleties that will reward good tactical play (that's me done for then!)

So with twelve hours to go I jumped on board the Heroes of Normandie Kickstarter...

The game at its basic level is US v German platoon level combat in Normandy, with a healthy dose of  Hollywood thrown in. However, it can be expanded beyond that.

First off Devil Pig have been clever enough to design the unit element cards to be the same size as Flames of War models. This means you can use 15mm models in addition to the boardgame pieces if you want.

Secondly Devil Pig have joined up with other companies to produce expansions for the WW2 game in Weird War settings. Both Acthung! Cthulhu and Dust expansions and rules will be produced. The prospect of Nazi Zombies will only make this even more appealing to Son & Heir (not sure about SWMBO but she does like The Walking Dead and has been known to play Zombies!!!).

Rules will be included for solo play as well as for three or four player games in addition to the regular two person game which is also appealing. The only downside, as with any Kickstarter, is the long wait until the physical product is ready. September seems a long way away when I want to play with it now!

Saturday 27 April 2013

A Schoolboy Error...

Feeling moderately chuffed with my work on a points system for Iron Cow, Mark Bevis and Davd Stuckey pointed out I had made something of a schoolboy error (although they were much politer in doing so), as, to quote Mark, I was "using a linear system for calculating points."

He added "as you found in the initial go with an infantry squad being only half the value of a MBT. Take those numbers, cube them, divide by a 1000. That way you will get your correct 3.5 Shermans to a Tiger ratio, or nearer than the traditional 1.5 Shermans to a Tiger you get with traditional liniear systems."

Armed with this insight I went back to Excel!

Assuming my original baseline vehicle design approach balance that speed, weapon and armour are all roughly equal (in the case of our M82 Boyd MBT) I followed yesterday's first costing attempt, tweaking the speed divider to 5 from 10 giving me numbers of Speed 56, Weapon 55, Armour 60. Add in AA and Morale (Marine +6 this time) I got to 181. Cube that and divide by 1,000 I got to 5,881! Dividing it instead by 100,000 it becomes a more manageable 59 points for one Boyd tank.

With this formula I did the remaining AmRep Marine Corps vehicles:

M90 Curtis heavy tank: 93 points
M41 Baumann IFV: 30 points
M88 Doherty SPG: 69 points
AH604 Martindale VTOL: 57 points

But what of the infantry you ask? Well they came in at a paltry 3 points.

As David pointed out; "one has to recall that infantry have other advantages over tanks - they can or should be able to hold ground, enter and control buildings and such and therefore are useful in games where vehicles are not". This is of course perfectly correct and this is the major failing of the points system when it comes to anything other than a straight forward encounter game with no varying factors like terrain, weather etc., and how realistic (or entertaining) are straight forward encounter games?

However, despite this a points system of sorts does have a potential use as a campaign tool in the likes of Iron Cow as well as giving players some idea of the relative value of their own AFV designs. Consequently I think I am going to start using this with Iron Cow and will now give some thought on how to produce a spreadsheet that other gamers can use to cost their forces as well as design their own vehicles.

Incidentally, that Am Rep Marine Armored Regiment is now 2,886 points!

Friday 26 April 2013

What's The Point?

During the daily commute my mind often wanders onto matters wargaming. There is no real pattern to this and today for some unknown reason I started pondering a points system for Iron Cow (my SF armour rules).

Now I have no desire to play so-called balanced games using points, indeed my original train of thought started mentally bemoaning how Bolt Action army lists put (IMHO) too much emphasis on points as opposed to historical accuracy. However, I know lots of people like them as they (erroneously) believe this gives a fair and balanced game (which it doesn't, if you want fair and balanced play chess). That said if points systems is what people want, who am I to argue?

So how do you go about constructing a points system? An interesting question as you need to make a decision on what factors are more important than others when it comes to the game.

Taking Iron Cow for example each vehicle or base of infantry has stats for speed, weapon accuracy at six range bands, weapon penetration rating at six range bands, three armour ratings (front, side and rear) and an AA rating. It also struck me that the units Morale modifier also needed including...

So what is more important and therefore warranting more points cost? The trade offs between firepower, speed and protection are as old as time and certainly befuddle real life tank designers.

My initial thoughts were to rate each of the core aspects as roughly similar ie. speed = range/penetration = armour.

With this in mind I took the speed and divided that by 10, added the range accuracy percentages and divided them by ten, added the six weapon penetration ratings and divided that by two and added the armour ratings and multiplied them by two.

Applying this to the M82 Boyd MBT this gave me 28 + 22 + 33 + 38. Additionally I took the AA rating and multiplied that by five and the morale factor also multiplied by five. In total this gives the Boyd a points cost of 151. All seems very sensible.

Then I applied the same process to a base of infantry. The speed bumps came up at 72 points. So a tank costs little more than two bases of infantry? Ummm....

I decided to put some more weighting on firepower, dividing range accuracy by 5 not 10 and dividing penetration by 1.5 not 2. This took the Boyd up to 183 points but the infantry were now 96. More ummm...

Take three. Rather than add the range accuracy and weapon penetration, how about applying a sliding scale with better range and penetration at distance costing more?

So, splitting the six ranges into three blocks; short, medium and long, I divided the range accuracy per band by 5, 2.5 and 1 respectively, and then multiplied the weapon penetration ratings by 1. 1.5 or 2 whether short, medium or long. Additionally I reduced the speed division from 10 to 5.

The Boyd now costs 305, the infantry 102. Better...

However this fix has resulted in firepower costing around three times what speed and protection do (on the Boyd 159 points against 56 and 60). Ideally the three factors need to be balanced, so...

I changed the speed division factor to 2, speed now costing 140 points not 56.

For armour I increased the multiplier to 6, so the tanks armour costs 180 points.

Adding in the AA and Morale points, this takes the Boyd to 514 points. The infantry 170. This is much better, almost sensible...

Split down the difference between the tank and infantry are speed 140 against 60, firepower 159 against 62 and armour 180 against 6. Speed bumps indeed...

The only issue now was that the totals were quite large numbers and given Iron Cow units have lots of tanks and stuff an AmRep Marine Armored Regiment. for example, would cost something around 26,000 points!

Whilst I liked the sound of 25,000 point a side battles, logic dictated that the element points total is divided by ten at the end to produce a more sensible looking number! This means a Boyd would now cost 52 points, an infantry base 19 and a Marine Armored Regiment about 2,620 points, which all seems about right.

Of course this is all based on an assumption that my Excel formulas are correct (and cleverer people than me have got them wrong!) and subject to a sanity check against the other nations and their tanks...

Will this give a balanced game? Of course not, there is no such thing, but if it keeps people happy who am I to argue?

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Could You Please Oblige Us With A Bren Gun?

And now for something completely different...

Colonel Montmorency who was in Calcutta in ninety-two
Emerged from his retirement for the War
He wasn't very pleased with all he heard and all he saw
But whatever he felt, he tightened his belt and organised a Corps

Poor Colonel Montmorency thought considering all the wars he'd faught
The Home Guard was his job to do or die
But after days and weeks and years, bravely drying his many tears
He wrote the following letter to the Minister of Supply

Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
Or failing that, a hand grenade will do
We've got some ammunition, in a rather damp condition
And Major Huss has a arquebus that was used at Waterloo

With the Vicar's stirrup pump, a pitchfork and a stave
It's rather hard to guard an aerodrome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home

Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
We're getting awfully tired of drawing lots
Today we had a shipment of some curious equipment
And just for a prank, they sent us a tank that ties itself in knots

On Sunday's mock invasion, Captain Clark was heard to say
He hadn't even got a brush and comb
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home

Colonel Montmorency planned, in case the enemy tried to land
To drive them back with skill and armoured force
He realised his army should be mechanised, of course
But somewhere inside, experience cried "My Kingdom for a horse"

Poor Colonel Montmorency tried, at infinite cost to time and pride
To tackle his superiors again
Having just one motorbike, fourteen swords and a marlin spike
He wrote the following letter in the following urgent strain

Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
We need it very badly, I'm afraid
Our local crossword solver has an excellent revolver
But during a short attack on a fort, the trigger got mislaid

In course of operations planned for Friday afternoon
Our orders are to storm the Hippodrome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home

Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
The lack of one is wounding to our pride
Last night we found the cutest, little German parachutist
He looked at our kit and giggled a bit, and laughed until he cried

We'll have to hide that armoured car when marching through Berlin
We'd almost be ashamed of it in Rome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home

Made me smile after a long day...

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Paint It Black!

SdKfz 250/1 Ausf D from D-Day to Berlin
"Taxi of Dad" duties are putting a serious crimp in my hobby time (and back!). Five and half hours last night driving son and heir to various music lessons and then three hours this morning to his UCAS seminar.

Sitting in the car waiting for him to finish doesn't allow for much other than reading and playing FIFA 13 on the iPad (SD Ponferradina won La Liga this morning and Valencia CF poached me at lunchtime to lead their new campaign!)

During my lunch hour yesterday I did manage substantial progress on my Grenadier Zug's transport, sticking together the three PSC SdKfz 251/1 D's for the grenadiers and converting one of the Armourfast 251/1 C's into a 251/10 by using the spare bits from the PSC set.

I must say the PSC kit is are not only an absolute joy to make and beautifully detailed, but also  intelligently designed to make construction a breeze. The Armourfast kit was by contrast more work and had some illogical bits to glue (such as the vision slits). Whilst the Armourfast kit is not bad (and based on experiences of youth much better than Airfix or Matchbox), PSC have definietly raised the bar when it comes to easy build AFV kits. I'm really looking forward to making the T34's and PzIV's now!

Aside from the easy of construction what I really like about the PSC model is the inclusion of kit to hang off the sides of the vehicle, as well as the inclusion of (wait for it...) crew figures! Yes, an open top vehicle kit with passengers and crew, blimey!

I managed to undercoat them at lunch today and have taken a quick photo to show progress but am unlikely to be able to start painting proper until Thursday as work demand a trip to the "Big Smog" tomorrow. In the meantime I have dug out my trusty old copy of Terry Wise's D-Day to Berlin to look at paint schemes for the half-tracks.

Making the half-tracks up caused me to remember that my Soviet infantry platoon had no transport so after a bit of investigation into various kits and models I have opted for three resin ZIS-5V trucks from Frontline. They look decent enough and were a lot cheaper than any kits I could find and without the hassle of sticking them together.

Monday 22 April 2013

(WWII Month) G is for Grenadier-Gruppen!

I put the final touches to the remaining two Grenadier Gruppen (sections) last night, completing the core of the infantry core of the Grenadier-Zug (platoon). As with the 1st Grenadier-Gruppe, the figures are predominately Revell and Esci, with an odd Airfix figure.

II Grenadier-Gruppe:

III Grenadier-Gruppe:

The entire Grenadier-Zug with Zugtrupp:

Onto the vehicles now...

Sunday 21 April 2013

The Deadliest Strike in U.S. History...

You may recall a couple of years back I posted about The Redneck War that occurred in West Virginia in 1921 and ended with the Federal government using planes to bomb the miners. Yesterday was the anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre, a pretty shameful incident in in the 14-month (1913-1914) Southern Colorado Coal Strike sparking what became known as the Colorado Coalfield War.

With the Colorado National Guard acting on behalf of the employers alongside the strike breakers of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, the United Mine Workers of America decided to arm its members and following the massacre, when the Guard machine gunned a miners camp killing women and children, the striking miners launched a ten day guerilla war before the Federal government stepped in disarming both sides.

Wargaming the Coalfield War could be quite simple exercise. Miners could be represented with a mix of suitable Old West and Victorian working class types as could the mine guards. The National Guard  seem to have a mix of doughboy and cowboy hats and a number of manufacturers produce Pershing Expedition miniatures which could be used. The addition of homemade armoured vehicles (such as the Guard's 'Death Car' pictured above) would add an interesting element.

Saturday 20 April 2013

(WWII Month) S is for Schützentrupp! (not Salute...)

Unfortunately I was unable to get to Salute today. Saul decided to be sensible and that he should stay at home revising for his A/S Level exams, which are less than a month away, and SWMBO pinched the car to go and visit family in Fareham. So what can a wargamer effectively home alone do? Paint of course...

I've cracked on with the German Grenadier Platoon, finishing the first section this afternoon.

The figures are largely a mix of Revell and Esci, although there is a veteran Airfix Afrika Korp rifleman in the section to make numbers up.

Painting is a bit rough. I'm going for effect rather than detail and this helps disguise any filled undercuts and mould lines I've not been able remove. Overall it looks ok, especially on the table. Two more sections to finish off before I get on with the vehicles.

Friday 19 April 2013

(WWII Month) B is for Banzai!

Following a useful heads up from FriendlyFire, reminding me of the PSR scale comparison page it turns out that the Revell 1/72nd Japanese and Revell 1/76th (ex-Matchbox) Japanese are perfectly compatible. So I popped into Model Zone yesterday and picked a box of each up. 95 infantry for £7.98, not too shabby...

Whilst there are a few not too useful poses (the obligatory Japanese infantryman waving his rifle in the air pose), there are more than enough useable miniatures to create an Imperial Japanese platoon, which as they had four sections each of 14 men is just as well.

The only problem is neither pack contains a pose with an smg for the NCO's. This oversight is not just be a problem in plastic but metal too. I looked at both Eureka and SHQ and whilst both do very nice WW2 Japanese ranges, neither appear to have a miniature with an smg. Early War Miniatures do, but from the photo he looks quite bulky compared to the Revell plastics. It may be possible to convert one of the plastic riflemen and I suspect this will be my first stop.

It is interesting to see how much 20mm WW2 Japanese wargames kit there is available and I have spent far too long today on the For A Few Rounds More blog looking at lots of beautifully painted (and dipped!) Japanese. A useful painting resource this.

Anyway I need to stop being distracted and get back to the half painted Germans on the workbench!

Thursday 18 April 2013

(WWII Month) How America Lost World War Two

Following Pearl Harbor the threat of invasion by the Axis powers was a concern that gripped America. In March 1942 Life magazine printed an article entitled Now the U.S. Must Fight for its Life, written by Phillip Wylie looking at six alternative scenarios for an Axis invasion of the United States.

With the benefit of historical hindsight it is rather fanciful and the author admits the presupposition that the Allies have nothing but bad luck and the Axis nothing but good luck, however it is quite insightful in recognising the potential threat of the Vichy French fleet and that if the Axis were going to win the war that they needed to knock America out in 1942 before its industrial might came into play.

From a wargames perspective the article does offer a lot of great ideas for one off "What if?" games or even a campaign. Japanese troops invading Alaska, German paratroops seizing East Coast airports, all have great potential. Naval wargamers may also like the idea of the Kriegsmarine reinforcing the Japanese Fleet in Pacific battles.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

(WWII Month) J is for Japanese?

I got a chance to pop into the local Model Zone today, not something I often do, they had a sale on so I thought it worth having a poke around. They were selling off a number of Revell infantry boxes off for £3.99. I decided not to buy any more Germans but the Japanese caught my eye. I wasn't planning to go that far east in 20mm but 40-50 figures for £3.99 is not to be sneezed at and they should be easy to paint (and the "loft insulation" does contain some unmade Airfix Chi-Ha tanks if memory serves).

However the wallet didn't come out as I got a bit confused. There were two very similar looking boxes, one labelled 1:76, one 1:72. There were no pictures of the contents and the boxes were sealed. Baffled? You bet...

A quick check on PSR when I got back clarifies matters. 02507 is the original miniatures Revell released in 1993, 50 miniatures in 12 poses. 02528 is the old Matchbox miniatures from the seventies, 45 miniatures in 20 poses. I'm not sure how compatible they are with each other, PSR says both are 23mm and of memory serves the Matchbox Japanese were quite large compared to their other WWII figures.

Whilst there are a few silly poses I think a company of troops for under eight quid has got to be worth a punt, I just need to get back into town now to pick them up.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

"Brothers in Death!"

"Freedom is not a stick of wood to be presented as a bone to obedient dog. It is a thing all men deserve." 

Starz's over-the-top "historical" drama Spartacus came to an end last night in suitably dramatic and gory fashion with the climatic final battle between Spartacus and Crassus. Given the somewhat loose interpretation of history they maintained the drama and uncertainty until the final scene! There have even been some wonderful nods to the 1960 film in the last few episodes....

Purists will no doubt look down their nose at the series and I must confess the first time the series showed I only watched the first half hour before giving up with the 300-esque approach. However enough people interested in history (including some academics and writers) spoke fondly of it I decided to give it another try when the prequel mini-season Gods of the Arena stated. After another thirty minutes of teeth grinding I started to get into the series and it soon became un-missable television.

Ok, it is has some glaring historical inaccuracies (especially the Roman armour), the battles show a shocking lack of knowledge of Roman legion tactics (until right at the end last night) and the plot does put drama before known historical facts. That said the broad sweep is accurate and it brings the ancient period to life in dramatic fashion.

Overall it is more a legendary retelling of the story of Spartacus in the manner of the storytellers of ancient times, rather than a documentary of known facts and with that in mind it is an excellent production which brought alive the barbarity and spectacle of the gladiatorial arena alive in a way never seen before. Somehow they managed to capture the fact that this was a sport to the Romans and the portrayal of the frothing crowds is undoubtedly more akin to reality than many more serious films.

"One day Rome shall fade and crumble. Yet you shall always be remembered in the hearts of all who yearn for freedom."

Monday 15 April 2013

Streets of the Dead?

West Wind posted through the PDF of Empire of the Dead last week and I've started reading it. With a lot of white metal to follow in the summer some thought has been turning to scenery. With that in mind I almost started openly drooling this morning when I came across Sarissa Precision's forthcoming Gaslamp Alley Victorian building scenery...

Interchangeable and stackable I can't imagine they will be cheap but they might prove irresistible. I still fancy the idea of a four foot square table built over a sewer system. This may be a flight of fancy and totally impractical but I can dream (I also have found some Victorian street lamps that have an LED fitting...).

Sunday 14 April 2013

(WWII Month) K is for Kübelwagen

I finished the Hasegawa Kübelwagen today. A lovely little kit, though I'm not sure my sausage finger construction and painting has done it justice.

My initial plan was that it would provide some nippy transport for the Panzerschreck team, but having added them to the Zugtruppe it is a bit redundant unless I find another support element for it to transport .

With the infantry platoon coming along nicely I need to crack on with the halftracks and the Kübelwagen has been an interesting exercise in painting German AFV's which I haven't done properly for a long time.

Saturday 13 April 2013

More Planes from Shapeways...

A nice big box turned up today from Shapeways containing some more planes. They are terribly addictive! :-)

I picked up some more Der Kampfflieger WWI planes in the form of an Albatros C.III, Aviatik DI Berg, Phonix DI and a Sopwith Baby. The Albatros will be painted up as an Ottoman Air Force plane, the Aviatik and Phonix will see service as Austro-Hungarian planes. The Baby was bought for no other reason than I like the design.

I have also started a small Chaco War collection using designs from Arctic Skunk, picking up a Curtiss Hawk, Curtiss Ospry, Fiat CR.20 and Potez 25. These models show a slightly different approach from Der Kampfflieger coming with pilots and observers/rear gunners moulded in. I was really surprised that the machine guns are cast and don't need adding.

Right, back to the Eastern Front...