Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Armour for Tomorrow's War (and some grunts)

At and around Crisis 2012 I bought some new armour for my TW games. They got painted in the past weeks and I'd like to show them (off ;o)
First the heavy Mercenary tank by Critical Mass. Painted in a green/brown "NATO" scheme to make it fit in with the other tracked tanks I use for TW (mostly Leopard IIs and Fuchs) to represent the lower tech levels. These bulky 15mm models fit in perfectly with the 20mm figures I use.

Next two Grav APCs, also from the Mercenary faction. These are painted in my version of desert camo to make them fit in in the higher tech level grav contingents. A bit small for 20mm but it just works for a small APC, I think.

Next the Arc Fleet hevay grav tank, painted in the same desert camo. Note the 20mm tanker looking out of the hatch.

Finally a grav scout vehicle. I think of it as a SF Jeep :)

Here's the magnificent Khurasan APC. So large for 15mm that it is a perfect fit for 20mm and of course a dead ringer for the APC from "Aliens"!

For everyone who asks himself: where the hell do I find 20mm SF troops: try RH Models!
I might wish Rolf had a better site and a more admissable web shop, but his miniatures leave nothing to be desired! Here are the Colonial battletroops skulking through heavy terrain.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Battle

Last friday evening I hosted the annual Christmas battle on the last gaming night of the year. It is also a tradition that it is not a normal wargame, but always something pulpy, campy and weird! This year I took a leaf from the creations of Goscinny ands Uderzo and played a Gallic version of a classic tale: Orpheus and Eurydice.

Assurancetourix, the village bard (names may vary with the country the Asterix albums are published in) fell hopelessly in love with beautiful Walhalla. Seconds after she answered his love, a falling menhir tragically took her life. But Assurancetourix, knowing his classics, would not relent. He would enter the underworld and persuade the Lord of the Underworld with his song and music to release his love to the world of the living! And off he went.

His tribesmen knew he was brave, but they were also pretty sure that he was no Orpheus... So they decided to help him! And armed with magic potions, smelly fish and menhirs they set out to aid him in his quest.

 Here they are lined up before battle. It was a homespun card-driven game with a very simple combat system and some character bound skills (like Kostunrix' battle fish would always negate two enemy defence dice on any enemy with a nose....)

Undead Romans and tentacled demons thwarted the players in their race for victory: reuniting Walhalla with Assurancetourix (and preventing him to sing for the Lord of the Underworld, as this would piss him off mightily!)

The Underwordly playing table was improvised from some classic ruins, lots of gravestones and lots of black....

And some Christmas theme in the Lord of the Underworld's garments and throne decorations...

A dragon. Never leave home without one and have him roast some Gauls. Asterix was quite singed at this point.

The final scuffle for Walhalla. A bunch of boars race by to distract the players, in vain this time.....

And the winners: Briton cousin Flegmatix on the left and Abraracourcix, our Leader on the right.

And the entire crew.....

A fine chaotic game in traditional roaring Christmas style and a fine finish on the gaming year 2012. Fortunately the Apocalyps turned out to be late  :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Art Of Demo: Get everyone a wargame!

As long as I can remember I have been messing around with miniature soldiers. My chaotic battles between Airfix’ Afrika korps and the Foreign Legion (supported by Airfix’ Ancient Britons) have made way for the (slightly) more structured wargames hobby and the toy soldiers are nowadays called “military miniatures”. I find an enormous amount of fun in this hobby: playing the games, building terrain, painting figures, researching the periods and writing scenarios. And I’d like to share that fun with other people, whether they have ever heard from the hobby or not!

Now the wargames hobby is not an easy one to get into. Having to make a choice from hundreds of historical periods, a few hundred rulesets and dozens of miniature brands can be a mind-boggling experience and you quickly start to wonder: how can I ever pay for this, where do I stash all and how can I get it all inside my head? There appears to be a staggering amount of time and money involved.

For this reason wargamers tend to limit themselves. For example to playing ”historical only”, playing just one ruleset or even by making the ultimate choice for one period -one ruleset-one brand of figures like Warhammer 40K. Of course this has to be your cup of tea in order to like it and as it turns out specializing demands lots of work and investment as well. If only because most wargamers tend to want their games to look as impressive as possible. Not necessarily to be shared, but definitely to be admired from a distance. Seeing them at work in a demo game at a convention can be an intimidating experience; No Touching, Eyes Only and please Do Not Disturb The Game! How can one ever hope to get into that?

My ambition was the opposite: getting people to experience the game in an active way. So a few years ago I started what has gradually become the Pijlie’s Game formula: staging participation games at the quarterly Ducosim convention in Amersfoort NL. You can watch but you can PLAY as well! Ducosim happens to feature a most interesting and diverse audience: card players, , boardgamers, RPG-ers, LARPers, wargamers and entire families on a day-out walking around and mingling. Curious people looking for something new and happy to get into a game as long as it looks inviting enough. Having done this for a few years now, I daresay I am getting the hang of it. What is needed for an enjoyable participation game?

The table has to look good, but not TOO good. A few nice looking tricks with some household junk and paper craft models often has more of an effect than a modeling tour de force no one can hope to emulate. The players need to be able to relate to what they see on the table. I use a lot of scratch built terrain, free paper craft models downloaded from the internet with lots of color and eye catchers. Passers-by, your players-to-be, must be immediately drawn to your table by the spaceship, skyscraper of whatever you have standing on your table as a centerpiece. I found out that good looking figures can draw an audience, but you shouldn’t have too many of them. Everybody likes a few dozen zombies and some rednecks with shotguns but three hundred British redcoats apparently not only scare away the American Rebels, but the audience as well …

Your choice of figures is important as well. The established metal figures usually look great, but are also expensive and usually only available through the internet. I often use plastic 1/72  or 28mm figures which are relatively cheap and more easily obtained than their metal brethren. They are often sold in hobby stores or even at the convention itself and the lower costs and smaller quantities will make it all look more easier to recreate for the players themselves.

I combine lots of plastic kits and toys, like cars, in scales more or less fitting the figures used in the games. All this makes it easier for the players to identify with the stuff they are playing with: they're toys, after all! And it is amazing to find out that a well-painted 50 cent plastic dinosaur looks just as well as his 35 euro counterpart. And you'll find he first in every toy store!

When you're an odd duck at conventions (and I am always placed halfway between hardcore wargames and boardgames) an inviting attitude is of paramount importance. I always try and answer as many questions as possible and always try to respond to anyone showing an interest, even if people don't “want to bother me” with questions. Just to be clear": no one ever "bothers" me with a question since any question is more than welcome!

The most popular rulesets are often the most expensive, but dumbed-down versions of classic sets like The Sword & The Flame or G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. result in perfect rulesets for participation games. Bulky rulebooks are good to leaf through and marvel at the pretty pictures but should otherwise be avoided at all costs. A 10-minute explanation should be enough to enable completely unprepared players of 6 to 60 years of age to start immediately. Leave all decision making with the players, but make it as easy as possible to take action. Let the players dice for themselves but tell them whatever their roll has to be. Invent it if necessary as not to slow down the game. Keep the length of the game down to an hour or so, so people know they will have the chance to play something else later on and let them walk out of they don't like it, or step in halfway if they do. Play several short games in a day so enthusiasts can return for a second game.

The most important part is to tell a Story. The game should not only be thrilling to play, but players should be able to relate to the game and step in their figures' shoes. A juicy Hollywood approach of events works a lot better than a dry list of facts. When a player has to "die", let it at least be glorious! It doesn't matter who wins, as long as nobody feels he loses.

Why do I do all this? Well, for responses like this one: Last year a spectator of one of my games asked me where she could buy the ruleset I used. SInce the ruleset was a free download from the internet I was glad to give her the URL. To my question what she was going to do with it she answered: "We are going to play it on my son's birthday. I'll buy a bag of plastic dinos and we'll build the rest from LEGO. He has got plenty of that!"

What more can you want?



Monday, December 3, 2012

I won the Liebster Award!

Rear Guard Action awarded me the Liebster Award. I am very proud and honoured! Now I am famous!
But with great power comes great responsibility! These are the rules of the Award:
  • Copy and paste the award on your Blog linking it to the blogger who has given it to you. So here you are, Rear Guard Action!
  • Pass the award to your top 5 favorite Blogs with fewer than 200 followers by leaving a comment on one of their posts to notify them that they have won the award .  
  • List your nominations (complete with links) on your own Blog.
  1. Flintlock and Tomahawk is the first! He posts lots of information as well as beautiful pictures and thus caters to my lifelong addiction to Last of the Mohicans and the period. I wargame it, read it (Oompf!) and watch it whenever I get the chance, so here's the first!
  2. Battles in Miniature by Paul Darnell is the second. The most beautiful terrain modelling I ever saw, second to none.  
  3. Just add water is the third. Gorgeous paintwork and great tutorials.
  4. The Lead Will Walk the Earth for great battle reports, beautiful paintwork and some great and o-so-recognizable family situations a wargamer can get into.
  5. Last but defintely not least my good friend and rolemodel The Arte of Warre with a treasuretrove of literature, information and even some pics of wargaming.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Crisis Antwerp 2012 !

Yesterday I paid my visit to THE annual wargaming fest in my region (this being the north-western European mainland): Crisis in Antwerp. There was much anticipation as it would be at a new venue. Would I like it, would I even be able to find it? As it turned out my worries were for naught as Miss Tomtom guided me without hesitation towards Hangar 29 in the Antwerp harbour. Bouncing along the most enormous cobblestones I have ever seen and dodging what I would swear to be bomb-craters in the road surface I arrived at the venue. Parking turned out to be a slightly creative process but I got lucky there by being bold and I finally entered Area 51, pardon Hangar 29!
This turned out to be two spacious and surprisingly pleasantly warm halls, well lit and filled with trader stands and gaming tables. Despite the large amount of tables and stands (and the growing number of visitors) one could walk and look around without copious use of one's elbows. And there was much to see as many an inspiring table graced Hangar 29's floors !


 One big improvement was the bar: bigger, better, incredibly well-smelling (I love the smell of fastfood in the morning) and they accepted euros instead of those infernal chits.

Being already warmed up for Dux Brittaniorum by the Meeples & Miniatures interviews I bought it on sight and then enjoyed the privilege of a demo game led by Richard himself. Here you see him in action explaining and guiding the game with much clarity interspaced with tongue-in-cheek anecdotes. As it turned out our Britons started out making a firm stand on the hill in their famous shieldwall. Alas, an evasive move of our Warlord (Cedric the Fleet-footed) turned out so well he almost ran off the table, got attacked in the rear by the Saxons and spent the rest of the game running around (and away).
Our warriors and levy held firm for a few turns but then the warriors were mostly, well, dead and the levy decided that the fence needed painting, the hay had to be hauled in and it was time to turn home and be quick about it! Maybe cultural assimilation is the way to go for the Britons.....

All in all it was a fantastic day. My feet and wallet were utterly exhausted and I returned home with much loot and the feeling of a well-spent day. As for purchasing I ended up with Dux Brittaniorum, Muskets & Tomahawks and some 20mm figures by Newline, a bunch of tanks by Critical Mass which got me a free copy of their SF ruleset!), a box of female zombies by Wargames Factory, a bag of musketeers by Redoubt, more 10mm pike & shotte by Pendraken and the latest armylist book for Hail Caesar. And of course the annual LE figure!

Thank you Tin Soldiers for staging this fabulous day! Please continue and try to maintain this venue as it is great. And don't hesitate to charge more next year if nessecary to do so! Remember it is a stingy Dutchman saying this!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Last stand in Novolgograd

Some impressions of our game from the Tomorrow's War rulebook where Neo Sovjets battle Prince Zenchikovs power armoured elite troops in the streets of Novolgograd.

It is an intriguing scenario that offers a wide variety of strategic choices. We played it two times in the course of an evening, changing sides.

My buddy Gerco took the first turn as Neosoviet and started a cautious advance. Tsarist militia sheltering in the ruins laid down a very effective covering fire. He nevertheless managed to score a devastating hit on the center power armour squad but the other ones made it off the table quickly and safely, resulting in a Tsarist win.

We then changed sides and my Neosoviets, most likely properly indoctrinated by Kommisars and cyanide pills boldly stormed into the streets ignoring the militia and aiming for the PA units instead. Reaction fire then decimated the militia resulting in either a draw or a narrow Neosoviet victory. I made some spectacularly good armour Saves!

Militia hiding in a building.


Power armour

More militia covering Prince Zenchikovs PA troopers' retreat

NeoSov troopers advancing 

An athmosphere picture of PA troopers hiding in the shadows. As it happens, it didn't help them one bit...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Scratchbuilding Tomorrow's War

Having recently been gripped by the terrific Ambush Alley ruleset Tomorrow's War I have started collecting figures and vehicles for this game in 20mm scale.

Since money unfortunately does matter, plastic 1/72 will form up the infantry and some creative scratchbuilding will provide most of the vehicles. In the coming months I will post several sub-projects in this context.

The first among these is the VTOL Black Mamba gunship derived from an old Revell 1/72 Apache Longbow kit. Rummaging through the bit box produced a few jet engines from long gone models and plasticard and putty made it into a menacing gunship.

Another example is some light artillery. Source materials here are plasticard and parts from the bit box, more specifically from a set of EM4 mechs I received from a friend some years ago. Here are the as yet unpainted models shown below.

The smaller Mech types from the EM4 sets turned out to be excellent figures for heavy power armour.

EM4 power armour with a Caesar 1/72 Special forces trooper

RHModels excellent 20mm Imperial Battle Troopers 

Next epsisode will deal with recreating VTOLs from the movie Avatar (or at least something similar) from ultra cheap plastic helicopter toys and some drinking cups and plasticard. Stay tuned!