Saturday, June 24, 2017

VIPs in miniature

Over the years I have collected a respectable amount of "VIP" miniatures. Inspired by movies, games or books they have found there way, licensed or not, into the wargaming hobby. I thought it a nice idea to collect them all in one blog post, which I will enlarge over time as I find time to photograph them. When possible I will mention the manufacturer.

So here is the first batch.

The quintessential Road Warrior: The Man Called Max. And his V8 Interceptor of course. Miniature by EM4. Car is a converted James Bond vehicle (I think).

The Winchester brothers, hunting the supernatural until and beyond their ultimate demise. While the series jumped the shark eventually, they still rock on the gaming table. The figures are converted Hasslefree figures. The car is a converted Corgi Toys Chevrolet Impala. 

With a well-filled trunk, of course.

While Hellboy isn't known for cool cars, this red Cadillac Eldorado was too good a fit to pass up. Miniature by Hasslefree, car by Dinky Toys (OOP).

Snake Plissken is definitely not dead here. Converted miniature from Hasslefree.

Connor McCleod and Juan Sanchez VillaLobos-Ramirez. Connor is a Zombicide Black Plague figure and Ramirez an extensively converted Warlord figure.

Ghostbuster figures by Crooked Dice. The Ecto-1 is an extensively converted Dinky Toys Cadillac ambulance.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Conan the boardgame Wave 2 Nordheim, Stygia & Khitai

Finally I have received wave 2 of the Conan Kickstarter and the painting can proceed! Here you will find my painted figures from the three expansions Northland, Stygia and Khitai.

First the lethal Atali and her brothers.

Niord and the Aesir. A well-known Northland death metal band back in the day

The Vanir

which then accounts for the whole Northland expansion.

As it turned out I proceeded with Stygia. First the Assassin Hero beleaguered by Stygian Assassins

The sinister Thoth-Amon and his Eternal Guards

And lots of creepiecrawlies: the Scorpion Broodmother and her Brood.

And finally the Khitai set. First the Evil Sorcerer and his Foo Dogs.

The Khitan Guard

More Guard, Honor Guard this time. They are paid more, hence the extra bling.

Javelineers and Shentu, the Khitai hero.

They are all painted....

Now what am I to do?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Battle of Jutland 1916

Some projects take a while to come to fruition. In 2006 I wrote a set of strategic rules to play the battle of Jutland. I was frustrated with the fact that this would translate badly to the tabletop just as the fleets were. After all, the British Grand Fleet had tremendous numerical superiority and any all-out battle would be a walkover for the British.

So I designed a double blind map game with a game leader to facilitate a strategic pre-game of maneuvering the fleets without the admirals -like in reality- knowing where exactly the enemy fleet would be. And some 10 years later , not coincidentally in the 100th anniversary year of the battle, we managed to play it.

Due to the fleet sizes we played with two teams of 3-4 players and a game leader (myself). Both teams got the historical fleets and mission objectives (destroy significant parts of the enemy fleet, bombard the English coast) and their historical points of origin (the Grand Fleet starting from two locations). We also added some factors that historically didn't do anything, like the Southern squadron guarding the Channel including HMS Dreadnought and the "Wobbly Eight".

After a tense 60-90 minutes of maneuver the outcome turned out to be rather historical. Beatty and his battlecruisers (this time accompanied by the Queen Elizabeth battleships) ran into the entire German fleet.

After a fierce running battle the British withdrew under the cover of the Grand Fleet with heavy damage, losing HMS Warspite and some cruisers and torpedo boats. Satisfied, the Germans refused to take the bait and returned to Wilhelsmhafen to celebrate!

In the meantime, the German "old squadron" of pre-dreadnought battleships steamed towards the Southern British coast for a bombardment. Would they encounter Dreadnought and the Wobbly Eight? We lacked the time to play that one out. Perhaps next time?

Some pictures to convey the game and athmosphere.

Me explaining the outcome.

The British map. Note the pins depicting presumed German positions.

The German Admiral staff in full swing. There is some mistrust directed against the photographer apparently....

The British admirals plotting their course.

The Master map at the point of contact. The lower black flags are the German pre-dreadnoughts heading for their coastal bombardment (unknown to the British). The lower red flag is Dreadnought and the Wobbly Eight (unknown to the Germans). The black pins are German submarines. The white pins are German airships. Their observations -possible due to the better-than-historical weather- proved vital to the Germans. 

The black flags in center are the High Seas Fleet, at that moment coming into view of Beatty's battlecruisers. 

We then transferred the game onto the table. Lotsa li'l boats....

My pride and scratchbuilt High Seas Fleet.

The North Sea

The Master map after a few gaming hours. The red Grand fleet has left harbour and is joining up. The black High Seas fleet has just split off the pre-dreadnoughts and is setting course for the central North Sea, seeking an engagement. 

Below, Dreadnought and the Wobbly Eight are guarding the Thames Estuary. 

The British staff

Beautiful maneuvering on both sides, Germans below, Beatty at the far end, tryingfrantically to get away.

At some point, it was clear that Beatty would manage to get away and the Germans were loath to pursue, knowing the Grand Fleet to be there somewhere. So I called it a day and determined a tactical German victory based on relative losses. Nevertheless, the Germans lost Lutzow and the fate of the pre-dreadnoughts remained uncertain.

Bijschrift toevoegen

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Better wargames on grounds of Terrain....

“The strategy for employing the military is this: There is dispersive terrain, light terrain, contentious terrain, traversable terrain, focal terrain, heavy terrain, entrapping terrain, and fatal terrain.

-Sun Tzu –

Even back in the day good old Sun-Tzu had some interesting things to say about the ways terrain could work for you in a battle. And unsurprisingly history is dotted with examples where terrain played a crucial and determining role in the outcome of battles and wars. This should teach wargamers something valuable: terrain can enhance your games!

I will not go into the visual aspect of terrain (i.e. how to make your gaming table look better) as rows of books have already been devoted to that. Instead, I will address terrain as a means to make your game more interesting!

It goes downhill from here on.…
While terrain may serve as an objective, we can do so much more with it. Instead, let’s place a hill. Instantly lines of sight change as a large obstacle blocks them. 

Movement is hampered as moving uphill might slow figures down. And especially if an enemy has already settled on top of it climbing the hill is particularly unattractive, as this enemy defends high ground (+2 Attack roll or something). Suddenly simply moving across the table has become something to reconsider.

Speed limits and dead ends
Rivers, steep cliffs and walls might simply block movement and force troops in other directions. A swamp might slow movement down to a crawl while not offering any particular cover, yet offering the enemy ample time to shoot at your poor mud-sloggers. Then again, should the enemy use it to secure his flanks, or to hide behind? Spicy dilemmas abound!

Terrain might discriminate between troops. While infantry may cross woods relatively easy cavalry cannot enter woods at all as anyone who has ever been swiped off his horse by a low tree branch can testify! This causes more tactical considerations.

Terrain might offer benefits, as troops might move faster over roads than they would through a field. This of course channels your troops along certain predictable routes. It offers you the -always interesting- choice between speed and surprise.

All this of course serves to make the intellectual challenge of a game more interesting. Even without writing detailed game scenarios a pitched battle (allegedly the most played type of wargame ever!) can be made very complex by placing some woods, hills and marshes.

Good terrain rules!
Should you rules contain no specific terrain rules, I suggest by all means make them yourself!
Let’s look at a corn field. Or rather: through it. You can’t, at least not very far. So field of view in a cornfield would not be blocked, but severely limited. This should influence the chance to hit someone walking in a cornfield with a ranged weapon, as a target that is far enough away might just as well stand behind a wall.

On the other hand, unlike a wall a cornfield offers zero protection against ranged weapons once someone has drawn a bead on you. Explosions in a cornfield will hurt the target just like it would in an open field.  So a cornfield would influence a to Hit roll, just like a wall would, but not a Save (if your rules know such a thing) unlike a wall unable to stop the projectiles hurled at you. 

This would offer a more interesting variety of terrain rules than say: terrain is either Difficult (Movement penalty and cover) or not. That way it will actually become both useful as well as pretty to invest in some good crops on the table!

There’s something moving over there….
While terrain is usually static, it does not need to be. Smoke and fog might float across the table creating a moving blockade for view. (Sky)ships can really be moving pieces of terrain from which figures shoot or fight. A moving bridge is a very simple example.

There is only a fine line between figures and moving terrain. Stampeding herds of cattle are little more than moving terrain creating dangers for your little soldiers. Shambling zombies moving on “automated” movement- and reaction rules are actually terrain that can move as well as fight! 

“Get to the choppa!”
So simply by choosing and placing terrain, we can direct or at least influence movement of troops, create dilemmas and choices and create an interesting game scenarios without actually having to write one.

One of the most successful games I ever played is a simple VTOL evacuation mission where the 
Rescuers have to pick up the Objective before the Hunters capture it. The Objective must be collected and escorted to a landing zone and evacuated by air from a landing spot at least a foot wide. There are several such spots on the table, all several turns of movement away from the Objective. That’s all. So far the scenario has always been lost or won by a hair’s width.

I hope I have inspired you to make more use of terrain. Not only does it look better than a green sheet with a lonely tree, but it makes for better games as well!