Monday, December 21, 2020


Last Saturday my buddy and me kicked off my Christmas holidays with a massive 5.500-points-per-side Oathmark Battle. Dark Elves with human slaves fought an Undead army with human... well, apprentices I suppose?

By mutual agreement we also both brought a Dragon. We also Houseruled that location-bound Spells like Smoke and Looking Glass would be Dispellable (which in the rules they are not, for some strange reason).

The pictures below show the table. There was quite a lot of terrain as the armies fought in the little hamlet of Nicolaasburg on Patricks lovely table.

Note that even with this amount of terrain we were still able to play a quite dynamic battle, due to the maneuverability of the units. No Warhammer army would ever have been able to maneuver on a table like this, but Oathmark armies can!

The battle ran about as follows:
With clear chokepoints on my left, center and right wing I decided to stop the center gap with Smoke, the left with my heavy cavalry supported by a Vampire and try a breakthrough with my humans on the right.

My artillery would use Indirect fire (by means of Looking Glass as planned, but actually the Dragon, being Enormous, could simply look over the Smoke) firing over the Smoke to whittle down Patricks Elves.

The Elves advanced cautiously over the entire front, parts 1 and 2 of my plan ran smoothly, although my Vampire took a beating from Patrick's Trolls, but the humans in front of my right wing proved tenacious and were only slowly being driven back, refusing to break (because we used the rallying rules wrongly, btw).

My Dragon managed to cause quite a lot of damage to the Elves. There was this very satisfying moment when my Dragon, walking partly through the Smoke Spell, Firebreathed Patrick's Linebreakers.

But eventually Patricks Dragon attacked him and pinned him in a deadlock in the center, the rest of the battle raging around the two fighting monsters.

To speed things up a bit I Dispelled my own Smoke and charged the battered remains of the Elves in the center with my Skeletons. The left wing blockade worked fine and the Elves in the center were practically annihilated. However, my Skellies suffered terrible losses from the Elven Archers (because I forgot that Skellies only suffer half damage from bows) and Patricks humans on my right still refused to either die or Break, being slowly pushed back however.

Eventually we decided to play out the Dragon fight, as the remaining player with a Dragon would still have quite good cards on the table. After the dust settled, my Dragon lay dead and Patricks Dragon stood reeling with just 1 Hitpoint left.

As large parts of my army were still very functional but Patricks Elves were practically destroyed and his Humans decimated (and I had to be home in time for diner) we called it a win for the Undead.

Lessons learned:

Dragons are way to powerful to use in a game and have fun. Don't.
Morale deterioration seemed very slow. Even units of humans reduced to 25% still kept making their Morale checks and the fact that you are not allowed to push them off the table meant they would simply stand their ground to the last man instead of being routed.

Some house rule seemed in order but as it turned out we made mistakes with rallying Disordered troops (that actually cannot just shake off Disordered and Activate, but are limited to a Simple Action in that turn).

A spectacular and great game that took us from mid morning to the end of the afternoon to finish. 5.500 points is quite a bit... 🙂 Many thanks to Patrick for his great table and even greater hospitality!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Danger Close modern skirmish rules: a review

Writing a wargaming ruleset is in itself not very difficult. Writing a good one is. Writing a compact good ruleset is downright hard. So when I came upon the 2nd version of Empress Miniatures' rules and found out they were all of 4 pages (vehicle stat charts excluded) my curiosity was piqued! 

How does it look?

Danger Close can be bought as a 4-page booklet or a PDF. I bought the latter and also added the (free!) vehicle stat charts as well as a blank one to add your own. 

The pages are densely packed with text and tables. To my amazement the rules essentially cover only 2 pages. The next two are used to display the vehicle rules which are a variation on the infantry rules of page 1 and 2. Given the very limited size of this ruleset it is no surprise that it lacks any pictures or explanatory diagrams. 

System & mechanics

DC is a (kind of) alternate turn skirmish system meant for games with a few dozen figures and some vehicles. Turn sequence is determined by troop quality, the best activating first. Troop quality also determines how many figures you may Activate in your turn as well as maximizes the number of actions a figure has per activation, the best having more actions. So a figure might perform 2 to 5 actions per activation and can be activated once per turn. Finally, troop quality gives modifiers based on the difference in quality between opponents in spotting your opponents, shooting in a firefight or combat. So better troops move sooner, can do more and are more effective in combat and firefights.  All based on one stat. Very elegant. 

When your number of figures have exhausted their actions, it is your opponent's turn. And so on, until all figures have been activated and a new turn starts. 

Shooting requires Spotting first. Once having spotted your target, you can shoot at it, using a D20 +/-modifiers based on the situation and trying to beat the minimum score. A hit will result in an injury (roll a second D20) or a miss, which still causes stress. 

Stress is the currency of Morale in this game. The game knows only two Morale classes: Regular and Insurgent. Figures acquire Stress from being fired upon. All Stressed figures must make a test before being actiovated and might end up being limited or even surrendering. There are rules added for radios, boobytraps and Casevac, 

The vehicles function about the same as a figure, but with different results for spotting and getting damaged. The vehicle rules include aircraft, AT weapons and AA weapons. 

The vehicle stat charts include modern vehicles for the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany, as well as a chart with modern helicopters and a Vietnam 65-75 vehicle chart. 

How does it play? 

When one expects a brief ruleset to result in a quick game, DC will surprise you. A small squad versus squad game actually took us a few hours. While Activating is straightforward and gets figures moving around the table pretty quickly, especially shooting takes up a lot of time. Not just because it is a bit labour-intensive (roll (or at least calculate) for spot +/- modifiers, roll for shoot +/- modifiers, roll for injury) but because it is quite hard to hit something! 

Since the target number is 17+ and the best positive modifier is a +3 you still need a 14+ to hit. So most shots miss and only result in Stress. We had one soldier standing in the open acquiring 12 Stress from getting shot at, failing his test, duck away and start without Stress all over again next turn! That way it takes a while to get decisive results. 

This may be a conscious choice (it usually takes an average few hundred bullets to kill an enemy these days) but it might not be everybody's idea of a fun game. 

Morale checks are quick and easy but tend to give temporary results. There is no gradual deterioration of a force through loss of Morale. 

You have to fill in a number of things that are not explained or expanded upon because of the briefness of the ruleset. Definitions of things like Overwatch, "obscured" and range (measuring from what to what?) are not included. How to place terrain, muster your forces or write a scenario are skills you have to bring yourself. 

What is good? 

For compactness and price this game wins everything hands down. The ruleset is clear and brief and logically structured. Being essentially only 2 pages long, it does not need an index. Just turn the page. 

Activation and Morale are quick and easy and the quality difference between troops is done very elegantly. There is hardly any bookkeeping needed besides Stress, injuries and Overwatch. 

What could be better? 

The shooting sequence is a bit laborious and ineffective. This made our game last a while. This might be realistic, but perhaps not to everyone's taste. 

This game works with modifiers. A lot of them. Because of the 4-pages format modifiers are grouped together by impact. So for example all reasons to apply a +2 to shooting are grouped together in 1 line. This makes it a bit hard to find a specific reason sometimes. However, after a few games these things will probably get stuck in your memory.  

There is another caveat. This set is so compact that it only gives rules and explains nothing. This can be left out assuming the player is familiar with the way a wargame works, how Moves are measured for example or what something like "obscured" is supposed to mean. There are no scenarios or rules to set up a table. Al these things are absolutely no problem for experienced players but this might make the set less suitable for a beginner. 

A quote from a regular player: 

"That’s a really fair review! I’ve been using the rules for a while (unsurprising as my regular opponent is Paul from Empress  ) and I’ve come to really like them. The key, I find, is to regard them as a tool kit you can build upon as you want. For example, I’ve used them with up to 100 figures but initiating at “section” rather than individual figure level. If you want a faster game try adjusting the number required to hit downwards? It’s your game so adjust as suits you? They key thing is to enjoy what you’re doing!"

Danger Close: Modern skirmish wargame rules, version 2
4 pages (+ 6 pages of vehicle stats)
Empress Miniatures

See also

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Lucid Eye's Death Dealer and Egyptian Queen (Frazetta licensed figures)

Because painting Vietnam War figures tends to give you a slight allergy for the colour green if not done with some temperance, I schemed to use this bit of medical fabrication as an excuse to buy a few of the magnificent Lucid Eye figures made after the paintings of the great, late Frank Frazetta

I decided on two of his signature figures: the Death Dealer and The Egyptian Queen. 

The Death Dealer

Pictured on rock albums, book covers and leading to an entire visual and comic book franchise the Death Dealer is one of Frazetta's most iconic figures. 

The figure's sculpting and construction is excellent. For your money you get a white metal 5-part casting plus round base. The parts are: horse-and-warrior body, right hand with axe, shield, sword in sheath and the helmeted head. 

Detail is excellent and very faithful to the painting. You would really have to look for differences, most notably the pattern on the saddle cloth. 

Casting is pretty clean. A bit of sanding of the helmet and the connecting surface of the right wrist and everything fitted nicely. The base is a simple flat disc that can be substituted with a scenic base if desired. I chose to fluff up the base from the blister with green stuff and sand. 

The Death Dealer paints well. Detail is fine at places and the fact that in the painting he seems to be made partly out of darkness and shadow pose a challenge but using a lot of greys, blacks, inks and metals turned out well enough for me.  

Egyptian Queen

Originally painted as a cover for the horror magazine Eerie in 1969 this is also one of Frazetta's iconic paintings and in 2019 sold for 5,4 MILLION dollars. It is one of his more tensed paintings, really suggesting a story with the brooding figure of the queen, the snarling leopard in the foreground and the hulking warrior looming out of the shadows in the background. It is also a lot more colourful than the Death Dealer, hence my choice. 

Sculpting of the Queen, I am afraid, is not excellent. Which is not to say it isn't good. But the figure has problems. 

The first I think is caused by the choice of the parts. You get a pedestal, a column in two halves and the figure of the Queen. 

The detail on pedestal and column is a bit shallow and really needs careful inking and painting to show properly. The halves of the column do not fit together very well and need extensive filing and filling to fit. There also seem to be traces of a fingerprint in the casting of the column that only showed up during drybrushing. Crap. 

The main problem however is the figure of the Queen. This is a one piece casting of extremely rigid material. Bending it proved impossible without resorting to hard tools, which I did not dare to do for fear of damaging the sculpt. 

This is a problem because her fit on the column is atrocious. There is about 1 to 2 mm space to fill between her and column and pedestal to get her to lean closely against the column as she is supposed to do. I removed most of the inner material of her lower garment but still had to sculpt in a lot of material to get her to lean against the column.  

Note the fingerprint in the casting of the column. Should have checked my pictures better....

Being a separate casting one would expect the figure to have a lot of dimension (no gratuitous jokes please!) but as a matter of fact it is quite flat. With these dimensions she might as well have been cast against the column instead of separately. 

This was probably done to create the possibility to paint her separately but the fit is so bad you have to sculpt her to the column before you can attempt any painting. And then of course she is stuck to it anyway. 

Maybe people more skilled than me could do this without attaching her to the column but I couldn't. So in the end you still have to paint her as a one-piece casting that doesn't have any benefit from the fact that she actually comes in four. There is no overlapping shape or depth that would have prevented a one-piece casting. So, apart from saving on casting material, the choice for a 4-piece figure puzzles me. 

Detail on the Queen is a bit shallow and the garment isn't very detailed. Just a sheer piece of cloth collecting in a shapeless heap at her feet. So painting needs to be done carefully with a lot of glazing. Finishing the eyes is difficult with her head resting against the column. 

Her pose, unlike that of Death Dealer, does not quite capture the pose on the painting. There she tilts her head slightly towards the viewer, looking at him intently. But here the figure actually leans back, away from the viewer.

Still painting her was a pleasant challenge and didn't turn out half bad. But with regards to the Queen: be warned. She takes a lot of work to turn out well. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Painting the Vietnam Project: progress blog. USMC added!

Since I started with this project in early March a lot has happened in the world. And while Covid-19 didn't make my work any less hectic it did ruin most of my game time. So I had more time to paint!

As most figures are made by Empress Miniatures assume they are unless indicated otherwise.

Col. Kilgore by Miniature Wargaming Magazine
I will track the progress in the Vietnam Project in this blog.

Barnes and Elias by Miniature Wargaming Magazine

UH-1 1:48 Plastic model kits. Italeri below, Hobbyboss above

And a Fujimi AH-1 Cobra abov

A representation of combat photographer Catherine Leroy by Full Metal Miniatures

Two Vietcong by The Assault Group and a female VC by Ful Metal Miniatures. As you can see she must be the tallest woman in the Mekong Delta.....

Two VC by The Assault Group 

Empress NVA medic and officer with radio operator

Vietcong by The Assault Group 

And after a month frantically painting Dwarves for Oathmark here some new VC and NVA.

VC by The Assault Group

VC by The Assault Group including two officers

This might not be the smartest way to fire two RPGs simultaneously...

.30cal VC by The Assault Group

Full Metal Miniatures