Monday, 8 January 2018

New Toys for the Sandbox

Happy New Year, everyone.
In a Qattara Depression; where has that painting mojo gotten to?  Nothing like a new project to pump up the enthusiasm.
This year's obligatory set of resolutions on the wargaming front are simple; play games, paint figures, build models.  

Simple, concise, and likely to be achieved by the end of 2018.

But the new year means a new project- two in fact- as well as continuing/ finishing old ones.

Bolt Action is still big here in Tokyo, and as my IJA enters the home stretch as far as painting goes, I was thinking of where to go next.  I have my Leathernecks, but much as I enjoy working on them, I think I'd like a break from the jungle for a bit.  So, wanting something out of the ordinary, I resisted the Tigers, Shermans and T-34's and decided on... WW1 French.

More on this later, but the truth is I've already had all the figures and models I need for it, it's not so much something new as it is moving the box up to the front of the queue. 

Also, I really don't want to spend money on another 28mm army- especially a duplicate, as I already have loads of Soviets and a US tank regiment in 20mm.  Anyway I prefer the Battlegroup rules over Bolt Action for WW2 in Europe. 

Certainly, BA can be used- practically as is- just as well for WW1 as it can be for WW2. Bolt Action is, I feel, best as an infantry game using the minimum of armour assets, where I feel it serves very well when approached with more than a passing nod to history.

But I does likes me some waves o'tanks a' hurtlin' across the horizon.  So in December I took the plunge into something that has been on my wargaming bucket list for decades: 

North Africa, Operations Brevity and Battleaxe, 1941.

Using Blitzkrieg Commander II.

In 15mm

And-hold on to your argyle socks- the British Army! 

While at the back of my mind for years, it got a kick-start from once having been sent the wrong models from PSC.  I had received a box of 15mm Pz-IV's when I had ordered the1/72 version for my Germans.  They soon sent me a replacement, but told me I could keep the 15mm kit.  And my, in 15mm these tanks were darned cute... 

Thin edge of the wedge.  I ended up giving the box to Matt, who has decided to do the Afrika Korps (the only acceptable WW2 German army in his eyes).   

For me though, I've always loved the early British cruiser tanks- the multi-turreted A-9's, boxy A-10's and rather sleek A-13's, which in 1940 and early 1941 were perfectly able to hold their own against the Italian armoured formations

Indeed, with their 2 pdr. guns the cruisers were still able to take on the older and lighter Pz-I and Pz-II tanks of the DAK- just so long as their engines and tracks cooperated.
The A-9 Cruiser; an ungainly, tracked shot-trap with paper-thin armour; individual crew saunas provided.  What's not to love?

I can also field what is, along with the Soviet KV-1, my very favourite WW2 tank; the Matilda II, Queen of the Battlefield.  The only British tank to see combat service for the entire length of the war, and a tank to be reckoned with when in her prime.

This all wasn't just an impulse decision, and I've long thought of what scale would best suit the subject.  For us, the image of  Western Desert warfare is the cut and thrust of armoured combat. Especially with BKC-II, which plays fast and furious.  And given the size of my ping-pong table 15mm appears to be the best way forward.

The cost in plastic doesn't break the bank; the models are small enough so that we have the space on our table to actually maneuver, and yet the vehicles and infantry are big enough for me to actually see them, paint them, and to enjoy the modelling aspect.

And painting desert sand makes a change from all that khaki green. 

Phase I is the 2/RTR (with its mix of reconditioned cruiser tanks) and a squadron of Matilda II's from 4/RTR, who will eventually support some Indian troops.  Should all go well, Phase II is some motorized infantry with transport, a battery of 25pdr's, and some air support.  I may even get some Italians later if the enthusiasm is still there. 

I've been making a very good start. My painting mojo may have been AWOL lately, but at least the plastic modelling drive has still been showing up for row call.

This lot all arrived on Christmas Day! Santa's Elves were slacking, so I have been having to assemble them myself.  Just as well, they would probably have used gloss paints anyway.
On the left, three squadrons of the 2/RTR, with HQ represented by a CS A-10 Cruiser.  Three Matilda II's of 4/RTR to accompany the infantry.
I don't much reference material here on the Western Desert campaigns, which had to be remedied.  The first to arrive was an excellent second-hand copy of the old classic Tank Battles in Miniatures Vol.1 by Donald Featherstone.  Primarily for the background info, although we won't be using the rules.  

Can't beat the Don for ideas, inspiration, and insights; after all, he was there!
 

*****
Finally, Napoleonics are never far off the radar, and in fact I have an AAR from a game last month (two of them in fact) that I need to post soon.  And if I can find my missing mojo and lift up a paintbrush in earnest, some new cavalry for inspection.

So, lots happening this year.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

First FUBAR competition come and gone!

Time for an update. There has been a lot of gaming, purchasing, painting, and just idle daydreaming on all things hobby related since my last post.

Everything except blogging, which is simply because I spend much more time on the iPad these days than I do on the computer, and Blogger isn't very tablet-friendly. 
Japanese SL in Russki livery.  The train made choo-choo noises- what more could a gamer ask for?
Anyway, here is an account of my mixed fortunes at FUBAR, our first ever Bolt Action tournament held way back on the 1st of October, and held at the community centre at Seiseki-sakuragaoka here in the west of Tokyo.

I have to be honest and admit that I actually enjoyed it much more than I ever thought I would. I had never played in a tournament before, in fact I've tended to be quite suspicious of them in the past, due to those stories you hear out there of overly-competitive, unwashed basement dwellers who delight in sucking the fun and energy out of gaming.  

Now that's unfair stereotyping to be sure, but I had never been much for competitive play, preferring my games to be scenario-driven, firmly grounded in at least some historical context, and played against plausible historical opponents.  

I'd heard horror stories about tournaments where one finds Japanese flame-thrower teams darting around the front lines in Kurogane field cars, or unlikely mixed platoons of SS, paratroopers, and- for all I know- COBRA troopers; win-at-all-costs power gamers busy mini-maxing points with not even a cursory nod towards historical plausibility.  

Each to their own, but I wanted nothing to do with that scene.

But I needn't have worried.  There were no such excesses evident, the air was redolent of soap, and as a change from my usual gaming fare it actually proved a nice break.  

It turned out being a very enjoyable tourney, with great people to game with.  There was loads of enthusiasm, with everyone playing to win but not wanting to do so at the expense of everyone having a good time.  Lots of good humour and nobody taking it all too seriously.  

In fact it was surprising just how much we were all able to learn about the finer points of the rules through accessing the group's "hive mind", especially given the range of experience when it came to playing Bolt Action.

In my case, all my experience had been against Matt's Far East British, so I was not at all confident about my chances.  I duly managed to come in 9th out of a table of 12! 

But better than I thought I would, given that the Japanese would be up against all manner of Axis and Allied mechanized nastiness.

For a one-off day of gaming I can live with any of the historical anachronisms, and I have to say I really like the second edition of the Bolt Action rules, which seem to play much better than the first edition. Hurrah to that extra dice for LMG's and MMG's.

We had five, very nice tables laid out for the games. 
Jungle table- The sun doesn't shine in jungle; neither did my IJA.
 
Giovanni was responsible for this rather nice desert table.  This was much more to my men's liking on the day.
Fear, loathing, and weirdness in Peenemunde
My mountain fort finally saw combat!  I didn't have the chance to play on this table, though.
Psyche Ops.
I liked this one; very "Market Garden-y".
I had decided to risk all and go for what was very much a light infantry force. No tanks or vehicles. Japanese armour would most likely get toasted by anything the Germans or Soviets could bring to the party, so why bother?

Instead, I would spend the points on what was my army's strength; being able to throw wave after wave of good-quality infantry, in large squads of twelve or more, straight at the enemy and to get in close with the bayonet.  And shrugging off any pins or casualties, as was the done thing.  

With just about all my troops being fanatics, no one can better my IJA as far as force morale goes.

I've been gaming long enough to realize that numbers often count, both in being able to absorb casualties and in the number of dice to be rolled; the more dice, the more things average out.  Just being able to roll a dozen dice in a firefight means I'm bound to hit something, let alone unleashing them in a Banzai! charge.

So in the end I went for a very vanilla infantry platoon- straight by the book. My only luxuries were a sniper team, a suicide A/T team, a 70mm light howitzer in support- and the combat debut of my new pointy stick guys- bamboo spearmen.  

To be honest I doubt the historicity of being able to field spearmen in separate squads.  In reality, it's most likely that any army troops finding themselves reduced to having to wield spears instead of rifles would have been skeletal, emaciated, malaria-ridden, poorly-supplied waifs, so it seems to me that having them as a separate troop type seems kind of gamey  (as, I suppose, they were...).  

But for game purposes, they would do; I could get a lot of them, and they were as cheap-as-chips. 

When first putting together the list, I had most of what I needed except for that squad of bamboo-spear armed infantry and  70mm light gun. These were ordered, and came mercifully quickly from Warlord Games.

The morning of the tournament I was knackered, having been up until 2 o'clock the previous night furiously trying to get them ready for the day (some things never change...).  I probably could have had them fully finished, had I not decided to break out the epoxy putty and do a few conversions, which took time.
 
So I ended up just block painting them, with no shading or highlights, so I knew they wouldn't be winning any painting prizes. But at least they were table ready, and after the game I would take my time to dip them, go over the highlights, and tart up the bases.

I'd rather do it this way then try to do a rush job with the basing just for the sake of the competition.

On to the tournament.  I played three games, all against people I've never played against before; all were good sports, and everything went smoothly, with very little in the way of rules clarification or refereeing needed. 


*****
First round, and I ended up being butchered badly in a face-off against a platoon of Soviet combat engineers- and that in what should have been my natural habitat, jungle terrain. 

Faulty tactics and deployment on my part- my opponent was more focused on the objective.  I dithered around, and I paid the price.  Some nasty hand to hand combat was to take place, so it was no bloodless walkover; but it still came to an end rather embarrassingly quickly!
 
Reach out and touch someone- with a T-34/76.
Sub-machine guns; don't leave home without 'em.
The only army I really fear is the Russians. My strength is in the number of infantry I can field, and the Soviets can match as many boots on the ground as I can- and have exponentially better quality tanks and support kit, even if their morale can be suspect.

And I'm here to tell you that their veteran SMG squads are fearsome things.

Chalk one up for International Bolshevism.  

***** 

Next round, and I went on to again lose the second game, this time fought over a Russian factory complex against- as one does- a reinforced platoon of the Afrika Korps. 

It was a lovely table, and a challenging scenario.  And did I mention that the IJA didn't have any AA assets?
 
Still, I only lost by a very slim margin due to my opponent being smarter than me meeting the scenario conditions first.  

This despite the fact that not only had I managed to thumb my nose at his Pz-II, but that I had actually ended up dishing out more casualties than I received- admittedly helped in part by a DAK "own goal" from its own air support. 

Shades of Matt and his Royal Artillery, as regular readers of this blog will remember.
Fear not, the train was just a static wreck.
Humiliation came in the form of Erik's DAK sending a motorcycle combo down the flank of the table, where I had nothing to counter it.  Thus he was able to seize the objective and hold it right up to the point when time up was called. 

Didn't see the Hun in the sun.  Be sure to check your six next time, Robato-san.
 
The spearmen did manage to wipe out a squad of over-confident Jerries.
Damn these internal-combustion engines, anyway.
Quite unsporting, and just the thing I would have done had I had the chance! Next time I will get my bicycle squad painted.

Erik was a great opponent, and despite the disappointing outcome the game was a lot of fun.  And it was fought against a good-looking army; I have to admit I find myself tempted to do a DAK force one day.

*****

The third and last game, fortunately, was much more to my liking; a delicious triumph, one against none other than the much-vaunted late war Germans.  And what's more it was largely won by my bamboo spear-armed, inexperienced troops at that. 
 
By this time I had gotten into my stride. In the second game I had figured out how better to coordinate my all-infantry force, and this scenario, coupled with a relatively open desert(!) terrain, allowed me to play boldly and aggressively.

Despite being pitted against a late Wehrmacht army armed to the teeth with assault rifles and other nasties, the Japanese launched an assault that ended up wiping out two German squads plus a Nebelwerfer, and in doing so the spearmen- underfed, malodorous, yet valorous-  led the Japanese army on to victory!  

Banzai! indeed.

It helped that James, for all his high-tech Teutonic instruments of frightfulness and death, had no tanks- or any armour at all- with which to crush Imperial Japanese dreams. 
 
I had dreaded the prospect of facing just a Pz-III, let alone a late-war nasty such as a Pz-IV or Panther.   I've had enough trouble in the past with Matt's M3 Lee-Grant.  Against a Panther I would have been Kat food; all I had was my suicide A/T squad. 

Fortunately, they were to remain under-employed, holed up in a small building and no doubt relaxing with a few games of Go, or getting in a bit of Karaoke practice.
 
Through the swamp and on to the Nebelwerfer!
Loved James' dice bag; luckily this was the nearest thing he had to a Panther or Tiger.
It was evident to the both of us that with the Japanese being fanatics, the opposing player has to destroy all my squads virtually to the last man, as they rarely rout.

This meant that while the enemy is having to take two turns or more concentrating fire from several of his own units to try and actually wipe mine out, I was able to leapfrog my larger, relatively unscathed squads around the rest of the table, flanking weapons teams and mopping up his smaller squads here and there in hand-to-hand combat and/or firefights. All the time adding more victims (and victory points) into the bag.

Love it when a plan- finally- comes together.  Third time lucky.

*****

great way to spend the day.  There were some wonderful modelling and painting in evidence, good sportsmanship in spades, and it was clear that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves- really positive vibes all round.   

We had an excellent turnout, and both Giovanni and James Kelly did a fantastic job organizing the day- many thanks to both of them for their hard work.

On top of all that, we were also able to recruit a new player for our Napoleonic games as well, so all in all it well worth attending.  I'm looking forward to the next one.

In the meantime, it's more Napoleonics at my place on Dec. 10th.  Need to get some painting in.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

A Decade of Drivel!

I've just realized that this blog is now just over 10 years old; my first post was dated August 4, 2007. 
Delusions of grandeur are not limited to vertically challenged control freaks with nasty hemorrhoids.   At least I'm tall.
Where the devil does the time go?  Not on painting a huge shed-load of figures, that's for sure.  But looking back there has been progress. 
In 2007, actually gaming anything- let alone 28mm Napoleonics- was a pipe dream.  Ten years on, and...
  • I am enjoying a reasonably regular diet of wargaming, with a great bunch of gaming buddies
  • I have a modest, if growing, collection of painted miniatures, enough to play some quite decent games (in fact I am close to completing an entire IJA force for Bolt Action) 
  • we have found rule sets we are happy with and (almost) never argue over
  • I've even got my own wargaming table now.
The only real downside is that we never seem to game as often as we would like, and there always new rules and periods to tempt us.  But I suspect that's true of most groups even in their best days.

Of course the lead/polymer mountain remains imposingly Andean in size; but sod it, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a wargaming pack rat.

All told, it's pretty satisfying to be where I am today, and on reflection starting this blog was instrumental in helping me get to this point in no small way.  Had Giovanni here not stumbled across it and sent me an email, we would never have known about each other's existence; and for me at least, my enjoyment of the hobby would be but a pale shadow of what it is now.

Basically, I blog for myself; it's a record of games played, figures painted, and of the fun had in gaming and communicating with like-minded enthusiasts.  It's also an outlet for a bit of written creativity that I wouldn't otherwise get (especially living, as I do, in a non-English speaking country). 

There are way better blogs out there for sure; grander games, more visitors, more impressive painting and terrain, and more regularly updated.  I know this because I bookmark and eagerly devour them, and enjoy reading them all.  

But Serrez les Rangs has always been my own little public corner of the wargaming universe, and I get a lot of pleasure from it.  

To all who are taking the time to read this in an increasingly busy world, and especially to those of you who come here regularly, who have commented, and who provide me with the encouragement to keep at it- a very big "thank you"!

Monday, 4 September 2017

Piccies and Purchases

"Come and get some, Rosbif!!!"
Following up on my last post, as promised, pictures from the second game we played on the day using Black Powder and the OHWG scenarios. 
First though, some retail therapy.  I've been guilty of a deplorable excess of book acquisitions these past few months, and most recently I just "pre-ordered" (is that actually a word?) this; a new Black Powder Napoleonic supplement from Warlord Games.   
A Clash of Eagles looks at the 1812 Russian campaign and beyond.  This one has me really excited.  I've long been waiting for something from Warlord on the 1812-1813 campaigns, which always seem to take a back seat to anything Waterloo and Peninsular.
To be honest I've found the Black Powder and Pike & Shotte supplements rather hit-and-miss so far; some have been great, others somewhat underwhelming.  But given my interest in the theatre, and what with coming in at an impressive 200 pages, I'm fairly certain there will enough meat to keep me satisfied beyond the obligatory potted history.
I'm sure there will be special rules for characters like Kutuzov, Bagration, Ney and others. I will ignore these, as I am not a fan of character rules in my games-  most of the characters the rules have covered so far would be commanding at a level way higher up the command hierarchy than that which most of our games are set. 
The eye candy will be bound to inspire, as it always does, and the special rules, stats and scenarios often give me food for thought.  The tool kit approach taken with Black Powder gives me lots of leverage here- we can use, modify, or reject them as we please.  
I'm looking forward to receiving them. And the Marshal Ney giveaway figure will be duly demoted to colonel, and as such will lead my French skirmish line.

*****
Anyway, here are photos as promised from the second of the two games we played earlier this year using the scenarios from Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames rules.  This was based on the 1866 Battle of Langensalza as mentioned in the previous post.
I won't give any details on the scenario- buy the book!  Suffice to say it was fun, challenging, and it ended up a (very marginal) Allied victory, notable for the absolute massacre of French horseflesh before they could even couch their lances.  Memories of our games with Achilles all those years back...

Pretty- pretty useless, that is...
How to destroy a French infantry battalion in line by close-range enfilade fire in 3, 2, 1...
Col. de la Botomie, seeing caution as the mark of a poltroon, orders his French lancer regiment to disdainfully show their flank to Allied artillery across the river.
And then there were none...
"You kids get off my lawn!"
That's all for now- I've another AAR in the works, and some figures coming off the painting table.