Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Plans for 2014, and a Happy New Year!

By the good offices of Blogger's automated posting system, this should post at 23.59, such that by the time you've read to the bottom it'll be 2014.

Let me see what plans I can come up with for 2014, then :D

Starting, of course, with the 'Christmas break' plans from earlier:

  • Tidy my Saxons - currently waiting on an order of wire spears from Northstar, who I suspect are away for the holiday period :D
  • Finish off my 15mm British company - tomorrow, barring a trip to see the Hobbit 2.
  • Start on the Napoleon at War 18mms - hoping to get some French at least undercoated by the weekend.
In addition
  • Paint the rest of my Dreadball team when it arrives - I have an expansion set on order from PE2 Collectables, as well as a complete duplicate team in order to paint in their alternative colours. (We have this problem down the club, in that Rob has the proceeds of the Dreadball Kickstarter, and he's a Ravens fan (as well as once playing for a team who played in purple), so half his teams are painted purple as well!) Oh, and a set of cheerleaders from a mix of Shadowforge and Hasslefree.
  • More Napoleonics. 
  • Lots of 15mm vehicles (my current stash is most of two 9L Really Useful Boxes) for IABSM.
  • Waiting for the Finns and Russians to arrive, at which point I'll decide where they go in the painting list.
  • More terrain tiles.
  • Some 15mm early war German Heer or Fallschirmjäger to complement the Home Guard.
Gaming-wise, the major new thing I suspect is going to be the club Dreadball tournament, otherwise, more of the same (lots of CoC, IABSM, Dux Brit, Judge Dredd...)

  • I have an idea for a Chain of Command scenario book, which will require liaising with three different people to get off the ground,
  • I have a part-written supplement for another TFL ruleset, of which more when I get it a bit nearer completion.
  • Keep blogging...
  • Keep podcasting with the Meeples guys, and see if I can't knock up a couple more episodes of my podcast.
And now it's definitely 2014, so, please allow me to wish all my readers a very happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year! If I'm still awake, I will be nursing my last Scotch of the holiday season. Cheers!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Tidy up time.

So I figured today was a good day to get the Saxons out of the box and assess the damage.

Plastic spears suck, the ones on the Wargames Factory Saxons in particular. And whichever superglue I was using really doesn't stick wire spears or shields on well.  That's the neck end of 40 spears and shields to replace. Order already in to Northstar for more spears :)

Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013 Year In Review - thoughts

Mmm. An interesting year. The major things from a change point of view I think concern WAB and Chain of Command.

With regard to last year's comments, I'm still torn over WAB. To be honest, I think it seems to be very opponent-dependent. It does suffer badly from special-case rules that potentially interact in complex ways, not least because it attempts to cover every possible army before 1500, pretty much. Of course, the other issue with special-case rules is that unless you're bloody good at your job as a game designer, and you do analyse every single possible interaction, somewhere down the line you hit a problem with the interaction of two army lists' sets of special-cases that cause nasty balance issues.

Which of course takes us into the realms of point systems, which I'm not going to steal Neil and Henry's thunder and discuss... yet :D Perhaps part of my issue with WAB is that it is point-driven for "balance", and thus we tend to play 'a 2000 pt battle' rather than a scenario per se.

I'm kind of interested in exploring the 'real-world' version of Jake Thornton's "God Of Battles" - I picked up a copy at Foundry last month, and I do have to reiterate - the man can sure design game mechanics. In fact, I'm turning into a big fan. Someone else suggested taking a look at Impetus last time I brought the future of WAB up, as well, which I may well do. Dux Bellorum has some nice touches, and there's also Phil Hendry's "Augustus to Aurelian", which takes a similar approach of not trying to be all things to all men (and all periods).

Now, of course, if you want, you can argue that Chain of Command, which is the main thing that cropped up new in 2013 for me, has a points system - after all the approach it uses to generate platoon supports is generally designed around adding up numbers. However, I think the key thing with CoC is that the 'points' are akin to how you spend your last, say, 500 points in a 2500 point WAB army where your core army is already decided for you. It also has the advantage that the army system doesn't kick in until you know a lot more about the terrain your fighting on and the opponent you're facing, and you can happily pick and choose (as would a real-world platoon CO) what supports will best help you deal with the problem at hand.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

2013 Year In Review - what I actually did...

Another fun year. Unlike last year, I do seem to have strayed a little less off the planned track in what I have done, even if I haven't done everything I planned (which is why this post looks more like the previous one than the same two posts last year!). The Parthians and the Home Guard are the major timesinks outside of what I planned, and to be honest the former were hovering on the edge of the todo list for 2013 from the outset. I did manage to get to more shows, too.

Two things I am pleased with - I seem to have improved my painting skill, and I do seem to have acquired a knack for building terrain.


  • 15mm US and German infantry companies complete, a British company stalled about 3/4 done.
  • 28mm Home Guard platoon for Chain of Command
  • 28mm Parthians (3000 pts in WAB, which is a heck of a lot of cavalry!)
  • 28mm Judge Dredd force of Judges
  • 28mm Dreadball team
  • 8 2x2 terrain tiles plus assorted hills, stand-alone pieces
  • lots of trees
New additions to the lead/plastic pile in addition (but untouched):
  • 28mm Perry WOTR
  • 28mm Dark Ages foot (GB)
  • 28mm Fireforge Templars (foot and mounted)
  • LOTS of 15mm WW2 
  • 28mm Deadzone


  • WABGT 2013. Took my newly put-together Parthians, and... came last, as previously mentioned. Well-attended tournament, although I'm considering whether or not to attend next year.
  • Axes 2013 (Rushden club WAB tournament) - took the Parthians masquerading as Palmyrans. Came last. (Stop me if you've heard this before!). Might not be able to attend next year as it clashes with Loncon 3.
  • Club WAB campaign day
  • A couple of Judge Dredd tournaments, one at Mongoose, one at the club
  • Continued Andy and my Dux Brit campaign
  • Helped playtest Chain of Command
  • Assorted other games including In Her Majesty's Name, Judge Dredd, Dreadball, Of Gods And Mortals,. Dux Bellorum....
  • Hammerhead
  • Salute
  • MetaGames Con
  • The Other Partizan

Friday, 27 December 2013

2013 Year In Review - what I said I was going to do...

Pause for laughter. On past form, this isn't going to make good reading from a promises kept viewpoint...

Taking last year's post:

Games I wanted to play:

  • Dux Britanniarum. (Ok, hands up who's surprised.) Andy and I will be continuing the Linnius campaign, and with a bit of luck I may actually get to take some territory off him. In addition, we're planning on running a multiplayer campaign for the club. Well, we managed more games. There's not been much in the way of multiplayer rules out, so not a lot happened on that score.
  • I Ain't Been Shot Mum. I'm busy building up forces for the Lardies' Blenneville or Bust campaign, which again I'm hoping to run for interested parties at the club in 2013. Check. Still hunting up M8 Greyhounds, a bunch of other stuff and have some terrain to build for Blenneville or Bust.
  • Napoleon at War: past time I got to play this! And it still IS!
  • Anything else Lardy we can scare up the time and figures for at club. Chain of Command, obviously. Not at the club, I did get to play Sharp Practice.


  • Anything Scrivs and Tom run :) Missed it, due to being double booked
  • Axes 2013 if it's on. It was, I did.
  • The club WILL be running a successor to Bretwalda: watch this space. We did. It rocked, though I say so myself.
  • We'll be running a participation game at Hammerhead again, and we're on the reserve list for Salute. Yes for Hammerhead, no for Salute (but maybe this year!)


  • The club may also be running another event here in Peterborough. Again, watch this space. And we did - a Judge Dredd tournament
  • WABGT, if I can raise an army. I did. And I ... came last again!
  • WD3's annual Ayton bash, if ditto and I can sell it to the Domestic Authority. Not this year.
  • Something might happen at Partizan :) Something would have happened at Partizan, but my partner in crime just booked his holiday to clash! :D Watch this space for... hang on, I said that before, didn't I! Keep watching.

Figures etc to paint:

  • lots of 15mm WW2 US, German and British (in that order). Completed US and German companies, stalled for about 3 months on the British
  • lots of 18mm Napoleonics. Pause for laughter.
  • lots of terrain! 8 2' square tiles, a couple of hills. More to come.
  • A longboat. Still half assembled.
  • Anything else on top of the above is a bonus and I'm not going to commit to it. Wise, in hindsight.
Online/writing stuff:

  • More blogging. Does one a day count?
  • I may look at submitting articles for one or other of the wargames mags. I have a draft for an article for MW, and I have two published in the TFL specials
  • I have two supplement/scenario ideas for IABSM, and one for Quadrant 13. I still do, and another for Chain of Command.
  • Lardy card deck builder web app. Nope.
  • We will (really, really) get Sekret Projekt W off the ground. Hahahaha. *sigh*

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Babylon 5

A little digression, since it's Christmas.

We've been rewatching (and introducing James to) the wonders of Babylon 5, as Watch are currently reshowing all 5 series at the moment. (They're currently paused partway through Season 2 for Christmas and will restart on Jan 6th.)

It's always fun rewatching something - you notice things, especially forward references to things you now know are going to happen, that you didn't notice before, for example. It's also worth remembering that Babylon 5 did something that, really, no episodic SF series had done before (you could make an exception for Blake's Seven, but certainly no US series), namely moved largely away from the Mystery/Alien Of The Week format that the likes of Star Trek had used into having an overarching plot that ran through its episodes - in fact, the term 'story arc' is pretty much Babylon 5's fault.

To be fair? Season 1 was a bit 'Alien Of The Week' to start with, but about half-way through it starts to warm up, and by the time you get to 'A Voice In The Wilderness' parts 1 and 2 it's really starting to roll.  Season 2 manages to fairly seamlessly cover for the illness of Michael O'Haire (Commander Sinclair) who had to leave the series for really quite sad health reasons, and from then on it's a roller-coaster of tangled plot threads and character interactions. Season 5, IMO, is marred a little by both the loss of Claudia Christian (Commander Ivanova) due to what I think is most fairly described as some bungled contract negotiations, and the fact that it was touch and go whether it was ever going to be made (which makes the last episodes of both Seasons 4 and 5 a little awkward, and forces a bit of a race to wrap up threads in Season 4, and then fill space in Season 5).

It also makes some of the first really serious use of computer generated effects, using the Commodore Amiga, the Video Toaster card and Lightwave 3D, rather than model shots. Certainly if you watch them now you can see how far we've come since (the way exploding ships leave no debris behind is particularly obvious), but the show managed scenes which would have been impossible any other way.

In all honesty? I'd forgotten how good it was.

There are both wargaming and RPG tie-ins with the series: Mongoose produced both two editions of an RPG and the 'Call To Arms" ship combat game. Both are now discontinued, I assume because they no longer hold the license. I'd love to get my hands on lots of both, but dear oh Lord, they're expensive. Copies of various RPG books are going on Amazon for well over 50 quid a shot!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A very merry Christmas...

...to all my readers, commenters and wargaming opponents over the past year.

Quiet Christmas at the Mill here, compounded by me having the tail end of a cold, James likewise and Anne rather impressively managing to tear a ligament in her back on Monday, which gave her an unexpected but necessary 2 days off before Christmas. To add insult to injury, one of work's database servers decided to page me at 1.45am on Christmas morning.

All that aside? It's been a relaxed, cosy Christmas. Santa has been, and delivered nothing to add to the lead mountain (probably a good thing) but copies of the Legends of Andor and Firefly boardgames. The former we've just been beaten by on the introductory scenario, which was a barrel of fun, and definitely merits a rematch.

Hoping everyone else's Christmas is going well!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

An early Christmas present from Too Fat Lardies

Just when you thought it was safe to poke your head above the parapet...

TFL ran some interesting articles on the Spanish Civil War in the recent Christmas Special, written by Jim Hall. The early Christmas present - well, it'll run through Christmas week - is a rules supplement, play sheet plus army lists for the period.

I will resist. But I will note that there's probably stuff to mine in there for VBCW players (listening, Tim?)...

Monday, 23 December 2013

Match Report - 23-Dec-2013 - Dreadball

"And here we are on a cold December evening - Jason Barker here, with co-commentator and former Marauder's star Vish. Welcome to preseason in the Co-Prosperity League at the stadium of expansion team the Asgard Valkyries, Valhalla Field. Their opponents today are another expansion team, the Arctech Juggernauts. How do you see this one playing out, Vish?"

"Hrm. Vish thinks Valkyries get crushed by Terratons unless little girls quick on their feet. Vish looking forward to that."

"Well, there you have it... the teams are lining up, and here comes the ball for the first rush...."

I have to say, I really like Dreadball. The game mechanics are simply elegant. Everything ties in prettily - if you get double the successes you need, then Good Things happen (you get an extra action, you strip the ball AND hold on to it, etc). As I've said before, the throw/catch mechanism is equally neat - you get to roll as many dice (against your catch skill) as successes the thrower makes against his throw....

It's quick, it's simple. And in a turn-up for the books, I actually beat Dale from our club - it was both of our first game... We'll return you to Jason and Vish for the final rush...

"The Valkyries are six points up, but that last rush from the Juggernauts left them with just two players on the field, one of whom, Jack Katya Svensson, has just been knocked senseless by the ball. What do you reckon to this, Vish?"

"Vish think it frodding hysterical. Bam! Side of head. Down like Forgefather after too many beers. Hahahaha! Also, Vish think Juggernauts make one tiny booboo..."

"What's that, big guy?"

"Vish think Juggernauts forget game is called DreadBALL."

"And here come the Valkyries now. Svensson's getting to her feet, looking around, spots the ball. There's no Juggernaut nearer than six hexes from the ball, and most of them are up at their three point zone where Striker Anya Anderson has just been teleported off with what could be a fatal injury  Four rushes to go after this one as she scoops up the ball... and what's that. Oh MY GOD. It's star Striker Ola Gunnarson, fresh out of the treatment room after a pounding from the Juggernauts' Guards, at a flat out sprint upfield from the Valkyries' bench. She sidesteps into the one point zone, and Svensson flicks her the ball, a neat underhand pass. She catches it and spins, throws. STRIKE! The Valkyries win!"

Sunday, 22 December 2013

An Appeal

Are you a member of a wargames club?
Does your club have logoed shirts?

If so? Send this man one of your shirts - he so clearly needs your help. Save him, and us all, from the dread Christmas jumper.

All donations to Rich Clarke, c/o Too Fat Lardies

Saturday, 21 December 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Unlike certain lucky folk, however, I still have two days at work. Which I'm probably going to spend either sneezing or coughing a lot, at the present rate of progress.

However, once that's done, I do have the best part of two weeks off. On the todo list:

The promised tidy up of my Saxons. (Really, don't look at recent pictures of my Dux Brit forces. They're embarrassing.)

Finishing off my 15mm British company, and painting some Shermans and StuG's.

This lot. Or at least a start on them at last.

I note with amusement that for the first time in a while, this is very very similar to my previous todo list, and even more surprisingly the major difference is because I've finished something!!!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Chain of Command - "Viljoen of Arabia"

Apologies that this is a short post - I appear to be coming down with what my wife will inevitably call man-flu :D

For those who don't follow the TFL blog
a) why not? :D
b) if you're at all curious how Chain of Command works in more open terrain you really need to check out Rich's writeups of the opening two games in his Western Desert campaign.

You can find them here and here.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Of rules, mechanics, complexity and special cases

After two evenings of pleasant wargames chatter, one the club Christmas dinner, and one a club committee meeting, I've been thinking. Regular readers will be aware that this can be dangerous, but never mind - as my work colleague Dom says, crack on…

Harking back to some earlier thoughts about immersion, immediacy and other things, one thing I didn't cover in any detail is what makes rules playable. And for that matter, what defines 'playability' as a concept.

First off, let's look at what makes a rule mechanic playable - by a mechanic I mean the actual process by which one models an action/effect using dice. For an example, consider, the Warhammer family d6 to hit/wound/save in combat, or the Dreadballl throw/catch mechanic, or the Principles of War combat roll + table. There are two tradeoffs, essentially - first off how convincingly does it model the process, and second how easy is it to apply repeatedly during the course of a game?

from WWPD.net, used for
review purposes
Obviously, you can apply greater levels of complexity to your mechanic in an effort to represent the process more accurately, but you start to trade off against ease of use - as an example, check out the diagram on the right, which is the flowchart for the V3 Flames of War assault phase. Conversely, you can simplify, down to (for example) the Warhammer combat system, but you run the reverse risk of damaging the quality of your model.

Amusingly, it's possible to mess up both - Flames of War seems to do a brilliant job of having a pretty complex model which should, you'd think, have the potential to be at least fairly realistic…

The Holy Grail, though, seems to be to luck into or hit upon a fairly simple mechanic which models the process well - the current ones I really love are Op: Squad's interrupt system, the CoC patrol pre-game and Dreadball's throw/catch mechanic, all of which are childishly simple yet just plain work. This is why rules designers like Rich Clarke, Jake Thornton etc are precious and rare commodities, because while that sounds simple? it really isn't.

But even when you do that right, and some will argue, for example, that the Warhammer hit/wound/save mechanism is pretty close for the likes of WAB, it's still possible to mess it up. How?

Special cases.

Special case code is the bane of my life as a programmer: dealing with different means of applying postage in the UK and Germany, for example, makes me greyer and crazier every day.

It tends to rear its head in wargames with (but not exclusively) supplements - in order to distinguish force A from force B (and, as the cynics around here will no doubt be adding, sell more figures) there is the temptation to add a special rule for force B, or for one unit in force B. Note that this is subtly different from making elements of force B stronger or weaker using the stats that the games core mechanic is designed to work with: the distinction between (say) adding 1 to a DreadBall player's throwing skill and awarding them something like a Never Misses special rule which says they never miss a throw. You can do the former within the mechanic of the game. The latter is a special case.

"But that's fine," you say. "It's only one force." Except

  • it never is, because once you've set the precedent you're doomed, and
  • special case rules interact with each other

Let's suppose we have another DreadBall team whose Guards have exceptionally long arms, and give a minus to any throw passing within a hex. How does that interact with Never Miss? Which rule takes priority? Does 'any' throw include 'Never Miss' throws? It does say 'any' after all.

Sure, you can clarify that easy enough. But…

Let's move on a few years in the evolution of our game (and let's not call it DreadBall any more, because I'm sure you can think of at least two games I dislike that this next describes much better!). Your game's a major hit. Supplements galore, You have maybe a hundred special rules dotted through 10 books. Every special rule has the potential to interact with every other: there are 100 squared - 10,000 - possible interactions. Even if a percentage can't possibly interact, the number that can is proportional to the square of the number of special rules. In mathematics, it's an O(n2) problem (order n-squared). And the instant reaction of every programmer to an O(n2) problem is to want to make it go away very fast! But all you can do is desperately try and document every one, and outthink our enterprising player base.

Hello really annoying complexity. Good luck with that :D

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

You never lose it, apparently...

Via a friend on Facebook....

A 85-year old US Battle of the Bulge sniper vet gets given, first, one of the rifles he'd have used back then, and manages 3/3 at 300 yards. He then gets handed a Remington 700 and a crash course in the US Army's technique involving a spotter... "I couldn’t even dream in a thousand years how you would even see the target, yet alone hit it."

Three shots within 5 inches of each other.

Not bad :D

Full story here (apologies that it's a Daily Mail link!)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

An Anniversary

Today marks exactly a year of my one-a-day posting streak!

Amusingly, it begins with a post apologising for not posting in a while. Must have taken my own promise to heart.

Amusing stats:

  • 369 posts (extra posts in January, February, March and April)
  • The "Cutting It Close Award" goes to a post from the Kennedy Space Center at 23.59 UK time (7pm) on the iPhone (I was panicking, since it took 15 mins to get the post to actually go through and I only remembered I hadn't posted at about 23.35!)
  • A bit over 200,000 words (that's two decent-sized novels, or one by Dan Brown).
And it's a milestone. So you know what that means:

Monday, 16 December 2013

I'm in the TFL Christmas Special 2013!

As you may recall, I got my first wargaming article published in the Lardies Summer Special this year.

Time for the 2013 Christmas Special, which has checked in at an insane 167 pages of content and was released today. My contribution is massively different from last time, being a piece inspired by Swank and Marchand's 1946 paper on combat stress on how to reflect combat exhaustion in I Ain't Been Shot Mum by choosing extra cards for the deck or awarding certain bonuses or penalties.

Fun to write, and interesting to research. The whole Special's a corker, too - some great scenarios and articles, and yours for a mere six quid for a PDF. I shall be reading for a while.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sure, you have a backup. But can you recover it?

I had a nice little four hour slot between morning family service and evening carol concert today, in which I was going to nip out to the workshop and finish off a couple of the Warbases buildings...

First 'er indoors decided that since James' drum kit and my bass rig were out of the playroom in church, she'd blitz it and clean the floor, which cost me an hour in being required to assist.

Then mysteriously the house server died and refused to reboot. I'm still not entirely convinced it didn't get bumped with the vacuum cleaner (it lives under a desk in the playroom) but I wouldn't dream of suggesting such a thing, of course....

Investigation reveals that the boot drive (a nice newish 64G SSD) is dead. And thus so are the church and club websites and our email, among other things.

Fortunately... I have a backup. Specifically, and by design, the old and mostly identical non-SSD SATA boot drive is still in the case. Its configs are a bit out of date but... guess what? I have a backup of those as well. :D (On Amazon S3, if you must know.)

This /was/ a little hairy, since for one awful moment I thought that the only copy of the passphrase and security keys for the backup was on the dead drive (another lesson learned!)...

Key takeaway though? No-one was ever a hero for taking a backup. You're only a hero if you can restore it afterwards. So if you've been convinced by my previous rants? Go fire up your last backup and check you can read it and restore bits of it if you have to!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Battle Report - 09 Dec 2013 - Dux Britanniarum

Andy and I were long overdue for the next round of the Linnius Campaign in Dux Britanniarum - checking back, we last played in July! Time since has been taken up with holidays, playtesting for Carve out a Kingdom and heaven knows what else, but it was definitely about damn time. 
We rolled the church scenario - evidently Aelfric thinks they're easy pickings, since he keeps going for them. However, the Saxons haven't succeeded in one since the theft of the Holy Knucklebone of St. Cadwyr, back before Leofric the Drunkard died, so heaven knows why!

I started badly with a rubbish force morale roll, which meant I was starting on 6. Same plan as last time - which was also a mistake. Last time, I failed to make the necessary rolls for looting in time, and this time was the same. The Saxons came on with a long run up the left hand table edge to get to the church and some handily placed marshes and hills stopping the British (who came on the middle of the right hand side) getting stuck in. So I did exactly what I did last time, sent the hearthguard to engage the British, along with one unit of warriors, and let the rest loot the church. 

Which was fine, except that despite a FAT hand of awesome cards, Andy got to go first in the battle, and Aelfric and the hearthguard got their butts kicked. 

Meantime, Ecgwine's group reached the church, and rolled a 6 on their first turn of looting. And from then on with two groups activating each time through the deck, completely failed to roll another 6 in 6 turns. (Odds, for those interested, just over 11%).

Beornwulf's lone group of warriors made a stand on the hill, which is frankly where Aelfric should have been, while the former added to my pool of looting rolls. This wasn't a dumb plan, as the combination of them being on a hill (-1/dice move), Andy's force being in shield wall (one fewer dice/move) and my archers knocking shock off them like it was going out of fashion, they took their own sweet time getting into contact. Unfortunately once they did, my dice deserted me, and in the end I lost the fight, Aelfric (who'd joined the fight) and Beornwulf both got wounded and byebye force morale...

Ah well. Tomorrow's another day.

Friday, 13 December 2013

PSC 15mm British

Just got back from Church carol service rehearsal, which was 3 hours stood up with one of three basses round my neck (yes, I really do need three!), and I am somewhat worn out :D

Was going to run the Dux Brit battle report from Monday, but I was waylaid by a mail forwarded via Carl, our club treasurer. It seems Plastic Soldier Company are getting there with their 15mm Late War British infantry.
We have managed to slip the new 15mm Late War British Infantry 1944-45 box set in just before Christmas. I think all those who have been patiently waiting for 15mm Brits will feel it has been worth the wait.

Company sized 15mm Late War British Infantry 1944-45 box set. Contains: 144 figures, including 3 x 2 inch mortar teams and 3 x PIAT teams. All you need to build a 3 platoon company (including company HQ).

We have carefully re-designed this set to create a whole new set of one piece sculpts (except the bren firing teams!)

Released next tuesday 17th December but pre-order now in the Plastic Soldier webstore www.theplasticsoldiercompany.co.uk.
Fortunately, I'm safe, as I have a British company from Battlefront about 2/3 painted. But these look very good! Also, yay one piece sculpts. I don't mind assembling 28mm multipart figures - 15mm gets tricky even with my new and less rubbish eyes!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

More on Tabletop Workshop's castle pre-order deals.

I wouldn't normally re-plug a KS or equivalent, but this is getting more and more tempting:

Still the same choices, effectively small, medium and large at £90, £165 and £225 respectively.Your options are now:

  • Buy before midnight 18th Dec, get 50% off everything you buy off them in 2014
  • Buy before midnight 25th Dec, get 25% ditto.
  • Buy before midnight 31st Dec, get 15% ditto
  • Pay in three monthly instalments rather than the whole lot upfront. No discount, just not having to find big money just before Christmas.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A reply! A reply, by Jove!

Well, strictly, a reply by my MP, but hey...

We interrupt the Dux Britanniarum after action reports to bring you an update on the Royal Mail water-based paints idiocy.

Now, I openly admit to not being a fan of his or the present incarnation of the Government's politics, for all that I have voted for them in the past, but he is my local MP, I am his constituent, and it pleases me that he does, when I have concerns, appear to (to use the vernacular) get shit done, in the best traditions of his Labour predecessor. (Who I would have gladly voted for just based on her exemplary record of championing her constituents, were it not that I didn't agree with her party politics at the time.) I hazard a guess from the form of the letter I may not be the first (and won't be the last) to write to him.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

"To Britain's Shores" - Chapter 11 - Another Church Raid

For all we took a beating, Aelfric seems remarkably cheerful, considering that he's shirtless, torso wrapped in a bloodstained bandage. "That," he observes, to no-one in particular, "Could have gone better.".

I sigh. "That makes three, you know."

"Three what?"

"Raids since we last actually came away with any loot worthy of the name." It's my job to question him: no-one else can get away with it. "You used the same tactics last time and the same thing happened. Except last time it was Beornwulf's men who couldn't find any decent loot before the Britons  drove us off."

Beornwulf, walking with a noticeable limp and aided by a spear as a crutch, snorts. "The brat didn't do any better. Anyone would think he was afraid of offending his woman's Christ-God."

Aelfric frowns, but leaves it to me to point it out - as ever, I get the dirty jobs. "That would be the same woman who saved your Saxon arse today, Beornwulf."

A snort from Wulfhere's bastard son. He knows I'm right - Lavinia's little band of archers held off a large band of the British led by their little man and our one-time guest Geraint for long enough for Beornwulf and Aelfric to rally his men. Just a shame it wasn't long enough for Ecgwine's lads to actually find the Christ-cursed church treasure.

Ah well. Next time. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

More on the Royal Mail and water-based paints.

Following on from my previous post, here's an update from Leon Pengilly, who's spearheading the protest. I make no apologies for taking up blog space with this: PLEASE spread the word.
"In the meantime though, we still need to grow the support, and get this noticed on a national scale by the mainstream media. To do this, we're asking you to help out by doing two things: 
1. Write to your local MP, using the template which can be found on our new Facebook page here:https://www.facebook.com/PostOurPaint/posts/245576305607450 (modify it to suit if you wish). A full list of UK MP's listed by their consituency can be found here: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/?sort=1 If you get a response, please let us know on the Facebook page, or by email to me directly at leonpengilley@hotmail.com 
2. Write to any local newspapers or other media in your area to bring this to their attention as well. The MP letter template linked above can be used for this as well, with only minor modification. 
Also, please head over and join our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PostOurPaint which allows us to keep everyone up to date with the latest news and discussions as we move forward with this. You can also update here as you get responses from your local MP's / media.
Thanks for reading, and again, thank you for your support. Please pass this update around your friends, forums and Facebooks, and we'll keep pushing to get these restrictions changed!"
I'd also add to this that Write To Them is a very useful site for getting in touch with your MP. If you want to, first, copy the template email below:
Due to recent changes to Royal Mail restrictions, the shipping of water-based paints in the UK is now being severely limited, impacting on thousands of customers and the hundreds of businesses who supply these items.
Over 3000 people have currently signed a petition to have these restrictions lifted and more information can be found here: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/royal-mail-lift-the-restrictions-on-shipping-water-based-paints or by entering 'Post Our Paint' on Google.
We would appreciate your support on this matter and would ask that you raise these concerns with the relevant people. Also, any advice you may have on this matter would be very much appreciated.
Many thanks,
and then enter your postcode in this form:


...and then choose your MP on the next page, paste the template email in the resulting form, edit to taste and send.

Please spread the word.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Cricketers in Wartime - Major Robert "Bob" Crisp, D.S.O, M.C, 3rdRTR

I suppose, as the Ashes are on again, I should continue with this little series. The way England are performing at the moment, mind you...

This time, a look at another absolutely fascinating and amazingly colourful character, South Africa's Bob Crisp. He played Test cricket for his country nine times in the mid-thirties as a bowler, and for Worcestershire in England, where he turned in a pretty respectable bowling average. He's also the only bowler ever to take four wickets in four balls twice in first class cricket, and the only Test cricketer to have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro twice. (There's a part of me suspects that record won't stand for ever, given the number of charity climbs of the latter that happen of late, and the propensity for retired sportsmen to do charitable things, mind!)

According to the England keeper Godfrey Evans (to whom Crisp was apparently a hero for this) he was the first man to allegedly make 100 on a tour. That's 100 women. He was, by all accounts, a thorough womanising rogue, even at the age of 70+ when living alone on Crete!

However, as previously in this series, it's Crisp the soldier who interests us. He served in Greece and North Africa with the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, where he was a troop commander. He had the dubious distinction of being busted down in rank and reinstated three times, and having six tanks destroyed from underneath him in 29 days in North Africa. He was decorated (though apparently Monty intervened to limit the awards he was giving, due to the issues with him being demoted!), and seriously wounded during the campaign.

He wrote two books about his service in 3rdRTR - one ("The Gods Were Neutral", about his service in Greece) seems to be only available second-hand [search link courtesy of the excellent used.addall.com which I thoroughly recommend for used book searches], but "Brazen Chariots", about his time in North Africa during Operation: Crusader, is widely considered to be among the best first-hand accounts of the period, and is readily available from Amazon. (I just ordered myself a copy!)

For more on the colourful life of Bob Crisp, there's a fascinating article, drawing heavily on interviews with his son, available on the Guardian's website.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Deadzone arrives

UPS happened by yesterday: annoyingly I was in London. So I took a work from home day today, and, wonder of wonders, UPS rang the doorbell and didn't actually just shove a card through or dump the parcel on the step.

Pity they didn't take more care of it in transit, though....

Fortunately, nothing inside appears to have been damaged.

The box is very densely packed, and I may have my work cut out over Xmas getting it sorted and some of it painted, I suspect!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Book review - "Seelöwe Nord", Andy Johnson

As a change from the collection of historical stuff I've been reading, I picked up on Kindle (for reasons which should be pretty obvious if you follow this blog) Andy Johnson's hypothetical tale of a German invasion of Britain. It's quite interesting reading this in parallel with listening to the audiobook of Peter Fleming's "Operation: Sealion" (which, for the curious, I'm just over half-way through): very different styles, but the Fleming does give an interesting insight into how much work has to be done in a what-if scenario to get round the things that prevented a German invasion of Britain in Real Life

I'll not give too much away, but if you know me, one of the reasons I like the book is I grew up in the area of the German invasion Johnson sets out to narrate, and indeed I've played as a kid on some of the beaches. This makes the book easier for me follow than for some people - while I do relate to the reviewers who've complained about the lack of maps, it really didn't bother me, since I carry a pretty decent set in my head.

The author apparently originally created the scenario as a military tactical exercise, and on his retirement from the Forces, used it to create the book. As such, it's clear he knows his stuff, and writes with a degree of authority, whether it's putting words into the mouths of historical figures, or of his own characters.

If there are criticisms, they're mostly about the writers craft, rather than the story and the technical competence of the story teller. It does need the attentions of a proof-reader and to a lesser extent an editor. His Germans are a bit stereotypical, and I found their use of English idiom and swearwords a touch jarring - that said, I can't decide whether I'd have preferred a more Commando Comics approach to their dialogue or not, though. One of the Amazon reviewers has some more detailed criticisms of the naval combat, which I confess I'm not qualified to comment on.

Having said all that? It's fast paced, a absolute rip snorter of a riot, and a fun read. (Even the afore-mentioned reviewer gave it four stars out of five, for heavens sake!)

More than that? It's giving me ideas. Mwahahaha... :D :D

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

WIP: Dreadball - The Asgard Valkyries

I've had this box of Mantic's Void Sirens undercoated for a while (with some 'Maelstrom Purple' from a certain now defunct wargames establishment).

They're quite small for 28mm - at least they feel a lot more fiddly than the recent Foundry Home Guard project. They are, however, fairly nicely detailed sculpts, and once undercoated they take paint well.

The paint job is (by design) inspired by the Minnesota Vikings uniform, of whom I am a (long-suffering) fan. Army Painter's yellow doesn't cover well on purple, so any yellow layers were painted white first.

I took the chance on hand painting the numbers, as I don't like Mantic's fiddly little stickers.

Still to do? Ink wash, varnish, and we're done.

I'm quite pleased with these - except that I've just noticed I've stuck one at the wrong angle on the base!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

WIP: Warbases Post Office

The first time I've picked up a paintbrush since my cataract operation, in fact. Interesting: this is basically the first time I've done close-up work with both eyes since most of a decade and a half ago. 

To explain: I was born severely myopic, and very dominantly right-eyed, with a prescription of -18 in my right eye and -16 in my left. To further compound the problem, my left eye has moderate nystagmus[1] - it wobbles if it works too hard. Around 1998 or so I had an operation on a cataract in my right eye: the lens implant meant that my right eye's prescription changed to about -2 1/2, and fundamentally meant I worked with one eye for the next decade and a half (imagine what a pair of specs with THAT unbalanced a prescription would look like, and you'll understand why). The implant in my left eye that Mr. Innes installed in mid-November seems to have corrected it to about -1 1/2 (plus some astigmatism).

Impressions? I miss not being able to peer at things VERY closely with one eye (-18 means I basically had a near point around the 2" mark with my left eye!), and if I don't concentrate I do seem to get slight double vision working close. This is actually a good thing, as it suggests my brain is working towards actually using both eyes a bit. I'm currently working without glasses, as I get a final checkup in two weeks which will hopefully get me a revised prescription from Mr. Innes, and I can FINALLY go about buying a few pairs of glasses that match BOTH eyes! (One drawback of the implants is they don't focus as well as the original lens, so I'll probably wind up with a pair for close up work, a pair for reading/computer work, a pair for distance and a pair of varifocals for scoring cricket!)

Finding myself enjoying the Warbases VBCW buildings - this one is the post office, 'whitewashed' and then with some Woodland Scenics mixed flock and scatter applied to represent ivy. I'll do the roof later.

[1] The mildly annoying side-effect of this? The lens implant's edge when it's new (before eye tissue grows a bit over the edge) catches spurious reflections off light sources when it's dark, and I notice them wobble. Very irritating! 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Heraldry 101 part 14 - edges

So far, we're been as boring with the edges of things as we had with backgrounds until the previous article. Time for all that to change.

In the absence of anything to the contrary, the edge of a charge or ordinary, or a division of a field, is an appropriately straight or curved line. However, not all charges are edged that way.

A charge is said to be indented if its edge is made of even zig-zag lines. In normal circumstances, points on opposite sides face away from each other: if the peaks on one side match troughs on the other (so, for example, in the case of a fess making a broad zig-zag line) then the term is dancetty.

The arms of Berry
If the zig-zag is made up of curved, rather than straight, line segments, its said to be rayonné.

An edge that looks like a set of battlements is embattled - a square wave, if you like. If the battlements have multiple steps, it's battled embattled or embattled grady. If the upward edges go past the vertical, the term (which is obvious once you look at it) is dovetailed.

If we move from a 'square wave' edge to a sine wave, the term is wavy. If the waves go past the vertical (like dovetailed) the analogous term is nebuly. An edge that looks like breaking waves is wavy crested.

The other common line type is a series of circular arcs joined at their points (like the edge of a cookie cutter). If the points are outward, it's engrailed, inward, it's invected.

Once again, we've well exceeded the limit of what the free version of Coat of Arms Design Studio can handle, so I'm ducking out of drawing too many diagrams. There are a beautiful set of examples on the Wikipedia page, as well as a whole load of more obscure terms.

Note above, the arms of Berry: azure, three fleurs-de-lys or, a bordure engrailed gules. In this case, the bordure or border is a mark of cadency, as the dukedom was (rather like the Duchy of York in England) given to younger sons of the French king (azure, three fleurs-de-lys or being France).

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Chain of Command - 1940 Italians list

With all the fun that is having people do things to my eye, I missed this when it was announced (it was the Monday after my op, and I wasn't using the PC over much).

Rich and TFL have produced a 1940 Italians list, suitable for East Africa and North Africa up to June 1941. A very interestingly organised platoon - basically two sections, each of which (under two Junior Officers) splits into two MG teams and a rifle section. Looks fascinating from a tactical PoV.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Black Friday..

Yes, I'm a day late. Sue me :D

Now, I know that, as we don't celebrate Thanksgiving over here, we probably shouldn't do the whole Black Friday madness - but it appears we do.

In the wargames world there do appear to be a few nice deals around. Of particular interest to me:

  • Victrix are doing 3 for 2 on all their boxes until Xmas.
  • Wargames Factory are having a 25% or better off sale - US to UK postage might be a killer on this one, but if you're after their massive 28mm SF Dreadnought-alive, it's 35% off

On a semi-related tack, Rob Avery's "Five Planets" supplement for TFL's "Quadrant 13" is now out - a linked series of scenarios for 'generic' 15mm SF. I have some opinions on Q13 in general, of which more later, but .... this is Rob, and therefore it will be well thought out and put together, if Q13 is your bag.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Boardgames - Legends of Andor

I may cover boardgames a bit more in this blog in future, in part because I'm a fan, but equally because as a fan of the Meeples and Miniatures podcast I miss the boardgame end of it :D

This popped up today because my friend, fellow RPGer/boardgamer and sometime bandmate and musical partner in crime[1] Phil drew my attention to the boardgame Legends of Andor. Not least because 'Andor' is the name of a country in my D&D setting, and he was amused.

However, looking at the reviews, it looks absolutely awesome, and I have already succumbed....

Essentially it's a quest-based cooperative game with some brilliant 'teaching' mechanics which mean you start with just a four page rulebook and work up as you get deeper into the setting, has considerable replay value and some game features which one review described as basically too awesome to talk about without spoiling the whole thing. I'll review it when I've had a go, which is likely to be Christmas as I think 'Er Indoors may confiscate it till then!

Several links from Phil's mail to reviews that pretty much sold it for me:
[1] If you love your own lyrics, keep them away from Phil. He's an evil parody merchant.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thanksgiving and Kickstarters

A happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers - don't eat too much, and don't spend too much tomorrow!

It's not something us Brits celebrate, but I have to admit that lately I am thankful for:
  • an eye surgeon who knows his stuff
  • my wife, who is starting to sort out her work-related stress issues at last
  • my son, who is turning into a good enough drummer at the age of 13 to embarrass me into having to put more work into my bass playing
In other news:

For those of you who were into Heroquest way back when, there is, or rather was, a Kickstarter by Gamezone Miniatures which proposed to resurrect it for its 25th anniversary. As you can tell from the currently suspended Kickstarter, someone isn't happy about this, although according to the cached copy of the Kickstarter on Google, they do have the Spanish rights to the game.

Watch this space, I guess.

As far as Deadzone goes? Nothing from UPS yet. I am, though, a little dismayed at the entitlement issues some people seem to have, judging from the level of complaints over the fact that Mantic appear to have paid a couple of days ahead of time for a big batch of UPS shipping labels. Seriously? Get over it.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

My Deadzone Kickstarter is shipping!

Not, of course, that I have time to paint it… well, I do, but it's down in the queue behind an undercoated Dreadball team, some 15mm WW2 Brits, a serious re-touch and tidy job on my Ancients, shedloads of 18mm Napoleon at War stuff and several boxes of Perry Wars of the Roses figures.

However, I note with some trepidation:

  1. it's arriving tomorrow
  2. it's coming via UPS
  3. I'm required to be in the office all day tomorrow
What am I bid for the location of the parcel by 5pm tomorrow?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Meeples And Miniatures Bingo

Just had to share this - for those of you who like me listen to podcasts while painting, here's a nice bingo card so you can play while listening to your favourite UK war-games podcast. Brilliant piece of work from Paul of the Man Cave.

Question is - can I play it when I'm next recording an episode with Neil? :D

Monday, 25 November 2013

Tidy-up time...

I was rather struck by yesterday's WAB day how embarrassingly tatty my assorted Dark Ages and British figures are. I wasn't intending to use any of them, but Grahame and I had rather held off on picking an army until we knew who else was turning up, and as it turned out, balance was perfectly served by us both taking an Italian City States army. 

So I thought nothing more of it till Saturday, when, in between feeding sheets of card to the printer and unjamming it, I started work on the army list, and my heart rather sank:
"Infantry: at least 50%"
Ouch. That means I needed to find 1200 points of Norman-ish infantry. My El Cid army has 16 infantry with spears (which will do for Provisionati), 12 crossbowmen and 8 archers. That's... just under 400 points. 


However, it does look like I could field a bunch of Milites, which seem to be no armour, shield and spear, from assorted generic Dark Ages figures, and I could cheat another 16 Provisionati from my mail-armouered Saxons...

...But dear oh Lord, how did I end up with so many broken spears, shields and swords?

Answer: 'because they're plastic, and you never finished the whole magnetic basing and putting sheet steel in their boxes thing, you idiot'.

I foresee a LOT of drilling and glueing in my future!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

"Carve Out A Kingdom" WAB Campaign day

Here are some photos from today's excellent WAB campaign day down at the club. Huge thanks to Andy and Grahame for organising things, and to everyone who turned up and proved WAB is still alive. We had enough players for four teams of four, the Italians, the Byzantines, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Berber, each a mix of 'native' forces and Norman or Italo-Norman mercenaries.

I certainly had a great time - pretty sure everyone else did, too.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Tabletop Workshop Castle

Another  'oh my' moment...

Tabletop Workshop are now taking pre-orders for their 28mm plastic castle. If it wasn't for the fact that it's tomorrow, I'd SO love one of those for our Normans in Italy WAB campaign day.

Do excuse the rush - I've been slaving over a hot printer all evening and I completely lost track of time!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Royal Mail changing restrictions on posting water-based paint.

Ok. This just completely baffles me.

The Royal Mail have now changed the restrictions on posting water-based paints to the following:
Water-based paints, wood varnishes and enamels
The items must be securely closed and placed in a leak-proof liner, such as a sealed polythene bag, so that any inadvertent leakage is contained within the outer packaging. Surround with absorbent material such as newspaper and sufficient cushioning material to protect each item from damage. Volume per item should not exceed 150ml. No more than four items can be sent in any one package. The sender’s name and return address must be clearly visible on the outer packaging.
If, like me, you think this is patently ridiculous, there's a petition here you can sign.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Peter Fleming - "Operation Sea Lion"

Since a couple of folks have asked, I thought I'd share what I plumped for as weekend listening while I was supposed to be taking it easy. As it turned out, I didn't actually get much listening done - they were pretty keen to get me out of the room on the day, and I spent half of the Sunday asleep...

But, I did cash in a free Audible.co.uk subscription for a copy of Peter Fleming's 1957 book "Operation Sea Lion". Fleming was Bond author Ian's brother, and the book dates back to a time sufficiently soon after the war that he could draw on a lot more eye-witness accounts than more recent books.

The audio book is 12 hours long, so it's currently keeping me company in 15 minute chunks on my commute... [counts on fingers: so that'll last me about 3 more weeks]. It's read by the amazingly prolific Gordon Griffin, who's done well over 600 audio books, and who has, to be fair, the perfect delivery to do Fleming's delightfully British prose justice, as well as slipping into a quite subtle German accent where necessary. I have to admit, I'm really enjoying it - Fleming isn't a journalist per se, so you won't find this having the tone of something by, say, Max Hastings. He's very much a crafter of words, with some delightful turns of phrase and astute observations.

To be honest? It's a better book to listen to than it would be to read, I think. I'll review it properly when I'm done.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Battle Report - 18 Nov 2013 - Of Gods and Mortals

Grahame at the club last night brought Osprey's "Of Gods and Mortals" rules for a tryout, so Carl and I got to play.

OGAM is loosely based on Song of Blades and Heroes, which I freely admit to not having played, though I know Neil of Meeples and Miniatures is rather fond of it. I pitched a force of Greeks headed up by Ares, God of War against Carl's Celts - perhaps with hindsight we should have gone with smaller forces, but either way it was a decent introduction to the game.

The core mechanic's quite cute - when it's your turn you can pick a unit and roll 1-3 d6 activation dice, looking to equal or exceed the unit's Q (Quality) rating. For each success, the unit gets an action: if you fail once, the opposition get a reaction with a unit of equal or better rank (Gods > Legends > Mortals). If you fail twice, your turn ends, otherwise you can carry on with another unit.

All ranges and measures are (Saga-style) Short (7.5cm), Medium (12cm) or Long (18cm). Combat is opposed rolls - combat level + a d6 + bonuses. For every +3 you win by, you do a casualty (remove a figure from a unit, potentially kill a legend or God).

Your mortals can add extra dice to your God by sacrificing their activation for an Invocation - if they succeed he or she gets bonus actions - additionally, if your God loses in combat and is 'killed', an Invocation can bring him or her back. If all your mortals die, you lose (other victory conditions are available, but I don't own a set of rules yet!)

So? Overall impressions...


I suspect I was probably still a bit fried from the general anaesthetic on Saturday, but I found the rules somewhat unclear (and badly indexed/cross-referenced) in a number of places. Action is very fluid - battle lines didn't tend to form much if at all, and this isn't helped by the 'you can set up anywhere not within 2 x Medium moves of an enemy unit' rules.

I'm still not sure about it as a system. It was good fun (and for once I won!), but I found it a little tricky to follow in places. It probably benefits another game after another read of the rules, and I'll buy myself a copy before I do!

And if anyone can explain why Short isn't half Medium, i'm all ears!

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