Thursday, 29 September 2011

28mm Oriental Terrain

I'd like to give my Perry Samurai a paint and an outing, and I have my eye on the skirmish game Bushido.

So I reviewed my options:

John Jenkins designs has some nice buildings. But at $34 for a simple village hut it would want to be.  Also, I want them for skirmish games - for that price they'd need to have a lift off roof.
An excerpt from their catalogue. That's over $100 worth of buildings in the shot.

Hovels is nicely affordable - at around $15 a building they are under half that of the previous contender. 

A much more affordable option

Finally, Oshiro model terrain.  This sits halfway between the two previous on the price scale and seems the most detailed. The sculptor seems very meticulous, has lots of interesting terain pieces, and at around $22-25 a hut it is seems decent value.

The best blend of price and quality?

Last option - and sadly, probably the best -  scratchbuilding!  lillijonas on "Tom's Boring Mordhiem Forum" has done some inspirational stuff with towels-as-thatch roofs and my wife has proven a useful assistant in the scratchbuild department.  Being able to enter buildings is essential for a skirmish game.

I've attached linked photos from the thread:

his village so far

and a picture of a WIP

Truly inspirational.  I wish this guy had his own blog - he rivals the stuff from Matakishi's teahouse. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Airborne Carriers

I am wanting some airborne carriers to go with my jets, to serve as a home base and an objective to attack.

  I seek a Sky-Captain style airborne carrier. "Calling Sky Captain!"
 1/700 WW2 carriers and a sci fi carrier alongside Tumbling Dice jets - Egyptian MiG-19, F-105 Wild Weasels (painted by wife), USN A-7s and Mirage IIIs in Israeli/French paint schemes.  IAF Neshers are in the background.

I got a 1/700 carrier (Shikoku) which I am thinking of turning upside down, to give it more of a Last Exile feelwith hangar decks front and aft low down; or I could use my assembled Yorktown 1/700 flat-top with some plumbing fittings or LEGO rotors in a more traditional flying-carrier look.

My other option is a space kit.  This Space Battleship Yamato from Hobbylink Japan is a reasonable shape but, like the carriers, too small scale-wise. 1/700 is definitely petite compared to TD's rather bulky 1/600s.
As you can see, the A-7s and Mirages would have a tight squeeze on board their respective carriers - that's why flipping the carrier to hide any obvious size issues might be handy.

A helpful TMPer pointed out a fantastic job on a similar project at the SteelonSand blog. He did the 'flip it over' thing and had a lot of success. It looks great - very inspiring!

The best one I've seen is this - I have no idea where/who came up with this - I'd love to find out!

I'm not 100% sure an airship like this would work for my purposes though - I'd like an all-rounder that could be used for 1930s pulp as well as my 1960s sci fi 'Riftworld' project.

I also have a new idea - a Weird War 2 game where P-80s, Vampires and Meteors and MiG-9s battle Me 262s and weird German what-ifs.  Perhaps in flying carriers, over the secret Nazi Antarctic base - or in space, fighting on the dark side of the moon with specially modified jets!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Mercenary Air Force

I have become addicted to painting my 1/600 Tumbling dice planes and I may get more, having powered my way through most of the models.  Having abandoned attempts at subtle fine detail in favour of the most colourful historical paint schemes I can find, I am enjoying myself at last. 

I chose 1960s-70s aircraft as this seems to be the 'boom' period of modern jet combat. (I discount Suez and Korea as they were primarily WW2-with-jets; radar and missiles had yet to change things a lot)

*6 Day War
*Yom Kippur War
*Indo-Pakistan conflicts
All my planes are common, widely exported, and participated in one or several of the above wars.   Pictured are ANG F-104s, F-100s and late model F-86s.  Indian Folland Gnats, RAAF Mirage IIIs, Vietnamese MiG-17s, Czech MiG-19s, and a generic MiG-21. 

Although I gave my planes historical paint schemes, they are random in era and locale; I am not gaming a specific conflict.Instead, pilots are battling within the Riftworld.  In 1967, a series of anomolies appeared in the sky over the poles. 

Here is a picture of a rift above Alaska.

Reconaissance aircraft investigating these phenomena discovered them to be wormholes.  All the wormholes lead to a new planet - an uninhabited world, with identical flora and fauna to our own, including many now-extinct species. 

Spearheaded by USSR and the United States, there was a rush to settle the new planet.  Fleets of transport aircraft flew colonies throught the rifts to establish a foothold on the new world. 

The new planet 'Riftworld' - has many rifts, each leading to new earthlike planets. As sovreignty claims drag through the courts, powerful corporations amd government-backed organisations scramble to stake their claims, and make valuable discoveries.  Mercenary fleets of airships, helicopters, transport aircraft are common.Military surplus jets such as MiGs and Mirages are constantly in action as corporations violently enforce their claims...

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Modern Air Combat: Another incomplete proje...

Another project I dug out this weekend.  Inspired by Area 88, Yukikaze, and the graphic novel Titanium Rain* I bough a selection of 1970s aircraft a few months back. 

 A scene from the strange, rather incomprehensible anime Yukikaze. It had a few cool dogfights though.

I went for 1970s as the aircraft are still quirky and varied, although not as much so as my favourite aerial period, the 1945-1955 period where we had planes like the Vampire and MiG-9.  Also missiles are not as impossibly lethal as they are supposedly today, where 'teh best radarz wins'.

I was initially a little disappointed with the 1/600 planes. They look OK on the table (and they scale well) but they are pretty bland and impossible to detail.  I thought I would paint up some of the 100 or so I have before abandoning them for 1/300 scale. 
Here are some F-104 Starfighters. Behind is a very rough Ho229 in 1/76 I bought from a cheapo Chinese website for $8.  The bits didn't even fit together and as you can see it is rather a mess.  The aim is it is to serve as a gigantic aerial fortress/mothership like in Skycrawlers. 

Skycrawlers has some great pulp WW2 action but a very long tedious philosophical story. All the best bits are on Utube - don't waste your time on the movie.

I am aiming for an Area 88 vibe - mercenary pilots battling a faceless foe in some desert kingdom. Mixed aircraft, with F-8s flying alongside A-4s, Mirages, Phantoms and MiG-21s. I even have some campaign rules (called Mercenary Air Squadron) which I got off Wargamesvault.  They look rather good, too and can be played independently of the miniatures game. 

For tactical combat the C21 Air War rules are the simplest I can find that still have some crunch.  The rest seem hyper-real and designed for 1 v 1 duels, not the squadron sized engagements I envision. Or are simply guessing games, Wings of War style *cough* Check Your Six *cough*.   

There is a huge battle on Area 88 which I can't find.  Here's a small clip from the start of the series.
Anyhow, I just found a bunch of unpainted EM4 starfighters and a random packet of MiG29s which have distracted me in my painting aims. Hmm - New Years resolution will be not to start anything I won't fini

(*A great comic, but a qualifier: the artist drew himself as the main character, a piece of self-opinionated douchebaggery that beggars belief)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Song of Blades & Heroes - Rejuvenating your fantasy collection for $10

A fantasy skirmish game for 5-15 figures that can be used with a rpg supplement. A big-battle ruleset is also pending release.   If you have any fantasy figures, this is the best $10 you will ever spend.

This game is another that allows you to collect and use random models on the tabletop.  The game has a excellent stats-builder that allows you to replicate any model in your collection.  Old Confrontation 3 metals, Reaper minis and Perry samurai can clash with GW fantasy or even woodland creatures. You can try interesting minis without having to 'buy into' a system.  Using the Excel warband-creator spreadhseet is great fun and I have almost as much fun creating unique warriors and warbands as I do playing.

You can field a Rackham dragon alongside Games Workshop Dark Elves - and it's 'tournament legal!'

The game itself is simple (the quick reference chart fits on a small triangle that doubles as a measuring ruler) but has a layer of decision making absent in most skirmish games:

Each player rolls 1-3 dice for each character they choose to activate.  The number they need to "pass" depends on their quality. I.e. standard troops need to pass a 4+, elite elven ninjas might need a 2+. 

The more successes, the more a character can do, but if 2 or more rolls are failed, then the turn immediately passes to the opponent - even if you had models you still had not activated or moved.

So you have a decision - do you attempt a lot of actions and risk failure - or 'play it safe' with less actions?

 I'm not interested in the Warcanto rules (they look over-complicated) but I do find the minis interesting. Song of Blades allows me to have my cake and eat it too...

Stats are simple - a single 'Combat' score modified by the models traits and special abilities.   I feel these are overly simple - the scores should have been divided into Melee Attack, Defence, and Missile at the very least - but most players say this is part of the game's charm.  Magic is a little too simple too, with generic 'freeze/slow' and 'fireball/bolt' spells keeping things balanced; but more variety would be good.

Combat is actually very good and quite fun and cinematic - characters can be forced back, knocked to the ground where they are vulnerable, and 'gruesome kills' can be inflicted - forcing morale checks on nearby allies.  This is really entertaining stuff, with unlikely escapes and spectacular deaths. 

Perry Samurai such as these (a random photo I grabbed form google) may be historicals but they are also a valid 'fantasy warband'.

The game has several pdf expansions, including one for a wide-ranging set of weather and terrain effects, and a rpg-lite supplement allowing warband campaigns including dungeon crawls and a level-up system. 

 The game is great in that games last around 30-40 minutes and several warband clashes can be played in an evening in a series of linked clashes.

 Have a Reaper frost wyrm you don't know what to do with? Stat him up for Song of Blades and slot him into your next game!

+ Great excuse to paint and collect cool but random  minis without having to 'buy into' expensive game requirements - the best $10 you will ever spend

+ Simple but interesting decision-making when deciding on each characters actions; risk vs reward

+ Combat is cinematic and fun

+ Fast, fun play allows linked battles or a 3-4 game mini-campaign to be played in an evening

+ Warband builder allows you to build your own characters and stat them out

+ Dungeon crawling supplement - usually 'RPG-lite' means 'painfully complex skirmish game which resolves combat slower than a rpg' - in this case it means 'lite, fun fast wargame that has rpg elements.'

- Although the traits modify things to a degree, the single 'combat' stat should have been divided into 3 (melee, missile, defence) with no extra complication

Overall: If you do not have this ruleset, visit wargamesvault and buy a pdf now.  It will put the fun back into fantasy gaming. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Gritty Fantasy - Recommended Reads

If reading the same story over and over (Raymond Feist/David Eddings) is boring; if talking dragons (Anne McCaffrey) seem stupid; if and impossibly brave, noble heroes and heroines (Terry Goodkind) induce a gag reflex; if puns are not your thing (Piers Anthony); if the author has taken 12+ books to defeat the dark lord (Robert Jordan); or if you feel the most fantasy rips off every Lord of the Rings cliche (Terry Brooks)....  ...then this list may be for you.

There has been a wave lately of 'gritty fantasy' - usually low on magic, with both heroes and villains who are motivated by realistic goals (revenge, power, greed) and possess human faults and motivations.  Unlike traditional fantasy, not  everything is black and white - gritty fantasy has shades of grey. 

 1. George R.R. Martin. With his "Song of Ice and Fire" series he practically invented the genre.  A very good TV series has been developed from his work.  Tends to be a bit wordy and had a 5-year hiatus between books.

 2. Joe Abercrombie. I feel he has really refined the genre, stripping it back to its bare essentials.  Violent, uncompromising, with an interesting array of characters. He also knows how to wrap up a trilogy in 3 (3!) books instead of dragging out a series over 12 or more.  Mr George Lucas, take note.This is an author who genuinely tries something different. 

3. Paul Kearney. Probably THE most underrated fantasy author, ever. His military fantasy in his "Monarchies of God" and "Macht" series is second to none.

4. Patrick Rothfuss. His "name of the Wind" is a bit more of a traditional 'coming of age' story, told with a new freshness.  A talented newcomer.

5. Scott Lynch.  His "Locke Lamora" series following a group of thieves make compelling reading. 

6. R. Scott Bakker. His "Prince of Nothing" series is uncompromising and philosophical by turns.  Difficult but rewarding. 

7. Stephen Erikson. I like this series, but its epic scale can be a little offputting.  It falls for the "too many books in a series Wheel-of-Time syndrome"  and while it is a fresh take on the genre, I feel keeping track of all the characters requires some sort of computer program.

8. Paul Hoffman.  His "Left Hand of God" perhaps tried to do too many genres at a time, but was nonetheless a refreshing change and an interesting read.

9. Daniel Polansky.  His "Straight Razor Cure"  was excellent for a first time author and I feel his future works are definitely worth watching.  Somewhat a grimmer, more violent version of the Locke Lamora underworld vibe.

10.  Brian Ruckley.  The "Godless World" trilogy also actually stopped at 3 books.  Violent, harsh, quasi-norse fantasy.

11. Andre Sapkowski.  The Witcher videogame was based on his books, many of which are twisted, ironic takes of old fairy tales. A cult hero in Poland, he deserves better recognition in the west (so more of his books would be printed in English!)

12. David Gemell.  Technically a writer of heroic fantasy, his heroes and villains were clearly aligned, but not always 'pure white' or impossibly evil.  Had quite violent action scenes for his era. 

13. Guy Gavriel Kay. Also not so much a 'gritty fantasy' author so much as an honourable mention. His realistic approach strikes a chord. Stephen Lawhead writes in a similar style.

14.  Grey Keyes.  The "Briar King" quadrilogy has some harsh plot twists and is a worthy inclusion.

15. David Anthony Durham.  "Acacia" has some huge plot twists and is developing well in book 2. 

16.  Brandon Sanderson.  "The Way of Kings" seems a better than usual series from this author, with a more grounded hero than usual.

17. Daniel Abraham.  A very talented author - a complete change of pace from normal fantasy. Highly recommend. His "Dragon's Path" is more traditional but the "Long Price Quartet" is his most famous work.

18.  Richard Morgan. Makes a real attempt to turn fantasy conventions on their head. A gay hero is something I could have done without, though.

19. Stephen Deas.  Talking dragons!  Bleeech!  However, he makes up for it with the backstabbing politics and intrigue. 

20.  Jon Courtney Grimwood.  An established author but a new entrant in the fantasy field.  His "Fallen Blade" was a good read but did not match up to his other series. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Infinity - Yu Jing

I have really be enjoying Infinity of late.  The 'reaction' idea works really well and I would like to see it used in more genres (i.e. space fighters/spaceships/other skirmish eras like Westerns etc)  It is quite a crisp, fast game, shorn of all the 'special abilities' and I think it would transfer well to other genres.  

Last game I played against Achilles (ALEPH) for the first time, and boy was he a monster!  We were playing 'use the coolest looking models' rather than official points list but he shrugged off small-arms hits like a light tank. He charged up the middle and killed a Moblot and a Kazak Veteran with ease and was only taken down by repeated hits at long range from outside his ARO arc.  Very cool, but I wonder if multi-hit models kinda mess the game balance and tactics too much.
Anyway I am trying to get my Yu Jing painted and ready for action.  These were my favourite faction to paint and are the only ones 90% complete (the rest I abandoned in dispair over my inability to do the models justice). I dislike overly colourful "Space Smurf" style uniforms but I felt a splash of colour was needed to unify my models. 
I have not got around to painting the Zhanshis so far as they are rather boring sculpts.  I am not a fan of the orange-plated Celestials and may repaint them, restricting the orange to a shoulder plate only to make them more realistic and less garish. I also have a ninja hacker that awaits a good paint scheme. 

My Yu Jing need more units - a pair of Tiger soldiers (rifle, HMG) would give more options with one cheap blister.  A doctor, a cheaper hacker option, and some tankbusting ability would also be useful.  However, for sexy factor, these transforming remotes take the cake:
It's like a TAG and Yaoking remotes had a baby...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

2300AD, Mach 1 Fighter Submarines & Supercavitation

I found this fascinating website:  Etranger - 2300AD Military

It is full of interesting articles in the 2300AD hard-sci fi universe.  Amongst them was an article on a fictious Walrus sub-fighter, which dogfights underwater. My imagination fired, I cruised the web to judge the feasibility of this type of craft. Given the density and drag of water, is it possible for submarines to travel over the usual 30-40 knots (about 60-80 kph) dictated by the laws of physics?  I found the answer was a resounding yes - supercavitation allows supersonic underwater speeds.

The Scientific American has some interesting info which I have condensed:

Already used by the Russian Shkval torpedo, supercaviation uses the specially-shaped nose cone of the ship/missile and gases from the engine to create a 'bubble' that torpedo 'flies' in – reducing water drag and effectively 'flying underwater.'
The torpedo could top 200 knots (with a variant that could apparently do 300 knots) powered by a liquid fueled rocket, to a range of 7000 to 13,000m. Unguided, it cannot maneuver.
The Shkval is nuclear-tipped, and if ambushed by a stealthier US sub, a Russian could fire in response, forcing the US sub to disengage and cut the guidance wires to their own torpedoes, as a kind of 'engagement breaker/get out of jail free card'. It has no known countermeasures.There are rumours the Shkval was involved in the Kursk disaster. 

A 100-knot underwater sub is supposedly being developed to infiltrate and exfiltrate SEAL teams.

A nuclear tipped underwater missile could disrupt entire task forces – supersonic underwater missiles can dash underwater before popping up to attack land targets before defences can react.

These seem to be primarily in the 20mm or 30mm calibre range.The USN RAMICs is currently being developed to rapidly clear mines (heliborne) and as a point defence against torpedoes (for ships). AHSUM is intended to be an underwater, sonar-guided Phalanx that can be used from ship or submarine hulls, to defend against torpedoes. I suspect it could also give hovering ASW choppers a nasty shock.

Supercavitating craft have the potential to be very agile; expanding and contracting the "bubble" allows rapid acceleration and braking through manipulating drag.
Fins or wings that interact with or pierce the "bubble" – and thrust vectoring using the engine exhaust, furthering the 'underwater fighter jet' comparison.
Propulsion is an issue – conventional rockets have limited range "tens of kilometres" and decrease in performance as depth increases.
Gas turbines and jet propulsion systems burning metal fuel such as magnesium, aluminium or lithium seem the best bet.
Propellor screws ("turboprops") also have the potential to boost performance by 20-100%.

This fighter is from the sci fi universe of supercav.

Potentially, noisy, fast agile sub-fighters, launched from sub "carriers" could transform underwater combat from cat-and-mouse stalking into underwater dogfights.  The noisy subfighters would be easily detected but impossible to engage with conventional non-supercav weapons. 

Your verdict
Impractical technology, or revolutionising naval combat?

PS: There is a fun fictional look at an underwater universe with supercav craft Empire Oceans Arise.
There is also an anime called Blue Submarine No.6 which has some fighter-sub sequences. 

Good Cheap Terrain - the Solution?

I've made a new resolution: to force myself to spend 25% of all wargaming outlay on terrain.

I currently have minis and rule systems lying unused as I have no suitable terrain.  It's like having 5 cars with garage space for 2!

Since playing with a sheet stretched over books and using shoebox buildings lack appeal, I considered my options:

Scratchbuilding. This has little appeal as I prefer to spend time painting the lead mountain.I have had some success with 5mm foamboard in whipping up lots of Infinity terrain. There are plenty of tutorials out there and Matakishi's Teahouse has some inspirational stuff. 

Resin.  Prohibitively expensive for 28mm, this is my preferred 15mm option. I like the stuff I got from JR Minis.

Paper or card.  Flimsy, unpleasantly 2D, hard on ink cartridges/or/surprisingly expensive to have printed. The WWG stuff is rather nice but given the effort, scratchbuilding is probably an easier, cheaper option. Terraclips shows some potential and I am awaiting my long-delayed order. 

But I may have found a solution. When reading Combat Zone (a funny and informative look at scratchbuilding) I came across this from Sarissa Precision. MDF! Yes, the cheap stuff from the local hardware stuff you usually see as the gaming table base.
The Old West stuff, being wooden, appealed to me most. With a wood stain you may not even have to paint it! 
Not only do they do hotels, churches and specialist buildings - the range includes 28mm and 15mm WW2/moderns such as this:
Pricing is literally half that of resin. 
The laser-cut mdf has the same detail as resin. 
Buildings can be snapped together in 22 sec and store flat.


I'm putting in an Old West order - finally my Black Scorpion Tombstone minis and Legends of the Old West rules might get an airing.  If they are good, I'll order from the modern range.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Cold Navy by Ravenstar: (Well) Hidden Gems

This is a really excellent line I have only found lately. I had heard good word-of-mouth, but ages (years?) ago I visited the old official website which has plenty of fluff but I couldn't find any photos.  I kinda forgot them and got some GZG ships instead.  

Ravenstar (famous for his excellent not-BSG ships) has the licence but the website also revealed no Cold Navy minis.   Ironically, his blog is where I found the first photos, and some price lists.  
As you can see, this Mauridian ship (I'm not sure what it is as it is confusingly labelled) has a really interesting design aesthetic. 

Even googling "Cold Navy" got only a few hits.  Cool Mini Or Not had some Mauridians:

Napalm Backflip had a nice Terran fleet

There was some Diesho on photobucket:

They are beautiful minis, and prices seem to range around $12 for a battleship, $8-10 for a cruiser, $10 for 2 destroyers and $12 for 3 frigates.

I feel they are nicer in design than Firestorm Armada and more practical in size for the tabletop.  A fleet equivalent to a $55 FA starter box: 1 battleship, 3 cruisers, 6 frigates - would set you back around $66, which seems fair value for money, given the quality, but put them a little out of the 'impulse buy' range.

Note: I emailed Ravenstar  ravenstarstudios@(Chris)charter(Lynch).net  and recieved a very prompt reply with photos and prices (more a collection of links than a catalogue per se), but this is definitely a line that would benefit from a more comprehensive online presence/ordering system.

Visit the links, and check them out - they are possibly the best spaceship minis you've never heard of....

EDIT: Chris from Ravenstar is running a 25% off sale this weekend (16th to 19th) - now is the perfect time to grab some.  Which I did.  Lucky my wife rarely checks this blog...  

Micropanzer SAS

Again my drab 28mm schemes did not translate as well to 15mm.  The larger guns (compared to GZG 15mm) and the red berets salvaged the army to a degree. I really like the pulpy character of the Micropanzer stuff but I would comment on a lack of variety in the poses.

The aim of this army was to do a British Red Berets/Russian paratrooper crossover.

The small GZG APCs were to fulfil a fire-support like the Russian BMD, transporting a 4-man fire team. My use of camoflage and washes on 15mm vehicles was a bit of a failure. I need to come back and highlight/drybrush them with sharper contrasts. 

The small GZG hover scout vehicles are REALLY small and the bulky Micropanzer troops highlighted this.  I love GZG stuff, but their scout vehicles in general look hard pressed to accomodate 1 trooper, let alone a 2-3 man crew.  They tend to look a bit out-of-scale on the tabletop.

GZG New Israeli

This was my attempt at a heavily mechanised PLA-meets-Halo army. 

It is instructive on what NOT to do:

(a) dark colour scheme with subtle drybrush was a mistake. Drybrush should be radically lighter. Subtle is for 28mm. 15mm needs to be bold and contrasting. In hindsight, Chris from Dropship Horizon has a green-wash-over-metal paint technique that I might have done well to copy.
(b) not enough contrast with weapons*. Another contrast colour is needed as the gold helmet visor is small
(c) too many vehicles (!)  Well, more than is needed for a Tomorrow's War game. I could have outfitted a second platoon with the excess vehicles
(d)  the PLA camo scheme on the vehicles was too effective in removing interesting sculpting details

*I also think the New Israelis mount a convincing argument for outsizing the weapons in 15mm.  Their realistic-sized assault rifles look rather puny.  Even if I painted the guns bright orange it would be hard to make them noticeable. The GZG UNSC have slightly larger weapons and it makes a big difference.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Renegade Legion: Interceptor

The Renegade Legion's most popular game was "Centurion". I am more interested in the spacefighter game from the same universe, "Interceptor" which is now abandonware and a free pdf download.

The models are still available from CinC - quite nice, if a tad pricey at $6 per model.

I doubt a player could control more than 1 or 2 fighters anyway given the complexity of the game.  Have a look at the damage sheet - it looks like the wiring diagram of a space shuttle!

But the game has a few interesting features: 
-alternating unit activation
-power allocation - energy is shared between weapons-shields-thrust
-pseudo-vector movement (pilot skill impacts maneuvers that can be attempted incl. engine overload)
-chance of hitting with weapons takes into account firing pilot, target pilot, and deflection

 I'm considering re-working these rules to use with cheap EM-4 fighters. I'd like to use 6+ fighter per side so radical simplification would be needed (always trickier than adding on rules!)

Tracking velocity could be done with a d20 beside the fighter base
Energy allocation would have to be altered to avoid so much math (and preferably recording it). Perhaps an overload/overheat system like in the the FASA Battleforce rules. <--free quickstart rules here
Damage system would be revised (and replaced with a threshold system like Firestorm Armada/DP9) and perhaps divided by 10, so a 12-damage laser would do 1pt.  Armour could likewise be divided and rounded by 10 to make things easier. So a ship would have a armour level that would have to be exceeded to do internal damage.  Ships would have an internal damage level that could make ships crippled or killed...

...or I might be better off starting a new game from scratch simply incorporating the design ideas...

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Counting the Cost - 15mm vs 28mm Sci Fi

I have been looking at the lovely new 20mm/1:76 for Elfheim and pondering the pros and cons of scale.
The 20mm has benefits of being able to use cheap and available 1:76 vehicle kits. However I am not in the least interested in making AND storing another bunch of terrain. 

So I will look at 15mm vs 28mm, with an eye to modern and sci fi forces.

15mm wins hands down.  The commercial buildings are rather good, cheap (at $5-15 per building) and you can fit an entire resin city in a 13l box.  28mm resin buildings can be unviably expensive, ranging from $30-60 for  the average building. If you scratch-build your own, it is more even - 28mm is more forgiving if your measurments and cutting are not up to scratch.

Most 15mm games use a 4 x 4 board. A card table vs the dining table is handy for those pressed for space.
Finally, 15mm looks better 'in-scale' on the table.

For skirmish games (10-20 individually based minis per side) I favour 28mm. For platoon sized games (half a dozen squads, plus vehicles - like a 40k game) then 15mm is superior.

With vehicles, there is little difference in finish and quality.  Vehicle heavy combat is where 15mm shines.  But despite the massive gains in 15mm sculpting, with the infantry, size DOES matter - 15mm will never match 28mm in sophistication (in sculpting and the ability to apply a quality paint job). So for small skirmishes not involving vehicles, 28mm is a clear winner.

Some 15mm can masquerade as 28mm though:
Miniatures by Khurasan

Cost.  For a benchmark I am using a 4-APC platoon, with 8 x 4-man infantry fireteams, plus some support fireteams and a scout vehicle.  I am avoiding GW products due to their pricing structure.

28mm Infantry (Pig Iron)
#Models   Type    Cost
20 x Colony Militia  $50
8 x Specialists $26
4 x Missile team $13
4 x Sniper team $13
Total $102

28mm Vehicles (Antenociti's Workshop)
#Models   Type    Cost
 4x Hunchback APC $120
1 x Zebu 4WD  $20
Total $140

15mm Infantry (GZG)
#Models   Type  Cost
24 x Infantry  $15
16 x Support $10
8 x Missile/sniper team $5
Total $30

15mm Vehicles (GZG)
#Models   Type  Cost
 4 x APC 8 wheeled  $40
1 x Scout car $10
Total $50

Cost (ignoring 15mm's superior P&P) is $80 vs $240.  To put it in a different perspective, a complete 15mm platoon with 5 vehicles and 40+ troops costs the same as a single GW tank. 

Force on Force - UNSC vs SAS Part 2

My wife sweetly made pancakes to go with our morning game. However her sunny mood evaporated when she realised she was up against it - I won the initiative and moved quickly to position myself in the central building.

Her support units' reaction fire was ineffective. To add insult to injury, return fire from my SAS smashed into the building containing her sniper team. She bravely sprinted a squad across to ascertain their injuries, braving a hail of gunfire - but the heroics were in vain as both snipers were discovered to be dead. 

A UNSC LMG team trying to break into the right-flank objective was shot down by the SAS scouts inside, leaving the objective secured an uncontested. 

The UNSC were really up against it - as they prepared for a last-ditch assault I merged some of my more mangled SAS units and moved them to reinforce the central building, on which the hammer-blow must fall. The units on the flank objectives went on overwatch, laying down a crossfire on the central area.

The USNC charged.  Cos my wife is cute and she asked me  for the purposes of practicing the CQC rules, the overwatch units successful reaction rolls were ignored and her units tried to assault the central objective.  They took casualties and fell back.  At the same time, UNSC attacked the mosque on the left, but also failed to breach the building, taking heavy casualties from defensive fire.

With all but 2 UNSC units combat ineffective, and SAS in control of all 3 of the UNSC hotspots/objectives, my wife demanded another game where she had vastly superior forces gracefully conceded.

Even without advanced stuff and add-ons, the FoF rules are fun. A few thoughts for those new to the game:

+ They flow logically and tend to follow 'common sense'

+ Real world tactics work. Overwatch, co-ordinating your units, and wise use of cover is essential. 

+ The reaction/activation sequence is excellent, making decision-making not min-maxing the 'core' of the rules

+ Both sides are continually involved, Infinity-style

- Lots of sub rules and exceptions. Sometimes the rulebook reads like a bunch of house rules thrown together. They have a quickplay sheet but I ended up making my own more comprehensive one with references to the rule pages.

- Lots of markers are needed - which detract from the game a little

- Lack of points system makes scenario-balancing mostly guesswork

Overall, this game is a excellent rules set (IMO the best platoon-level modern game) with a few minor quibbles.

The JR Minis terrain were excellent, even simply spraypainted. I will definitely be back for their next "free P&P" Christmas special.

Force on Force AAR Pt 1 - UNSC vs SAS

My new 'gaming room' being the unfinished shed in my new house, fading light forced us to finish early.

Cheated of my anticipated game of Force on Force, I cajoled my wife into a game. Despite the sci fi minis I used the modern ruleset, shorn of gadgetry and vehicles, for simplicity's sake.

She opted for USNC GZG marines.
CQ8, Morale 8.  3 fireteams of 4 marines (+rpg) and a hvy assault bot.  Supported by a sniper team and 2 HMG teams.

I was left with Micropanzer SAS.
CQ10, Morale 10.  A 4-man team stealthy scouts with scoped weapons, 3 fireteams of 4 marines (+melta), supported by a single heavy weapon melta team (I treated the melta-like BFGs carried by the SAS as rpgs for the gameplay purposes)

My job was to capture 3 objectives/hotspots by turn 3 otherwise she would recieve reinforcements from said objectives.  

The wife set up fireteams in buildings as I advanced rapidly to the objectives.

My troops in the middle ran into stiff opposition from her emplaced weapons teams. One fireteam was pinned and pushed back with serious injuries. 

My flanking SAS scouts occupied the far right objective under heavy fire from 3 UNSC fire teams. 

On the opposite flank, a fire team occupied the mosque despite taking sporadic fire and hits from the USNC sniper team. 

My attack in the centre was repulsed, my fire team falling back after taking casualties.  I had been bloodied but held two of three objectives, whilst only 1 enemy fireteam was in any shape to attempt a re-capture of a building.  As the wife was tired, her counter-offence was to be postponed to the morrow.  To be Continued:

Infinity AAR - Ariadna vs Aleph

This was a good test for the foam terrain.  The lift-out floors were appreciated and multiple doorways gave interesting choices.  In future I'm doing more buildings with multiple entries (3+ doors), but with LoS within the building blocked from entrance to entrance.  I'm keeping all my terrain to 2-story as different levels lead to over-generous firing lanes.

It was only 3 v 3 as we were waiting for others to arrive to play Warmachine (yeah, I know...). I setup with a Naga sniper, a Deva and a Dasyu.  My opponent had a Vet. Kazak, Tankhunter (HMG), and a Sniper scout.

He immediately set up his sniper on a balcony overlooking the central courtyard and his other two together out of LoS.  With no template weapons, I grouped all mine behind a large building.

The Ariadnan scout sniper was blocking the right flank so I moved my (superior) sniper to engage.  Sadly my Naga moved too far out to claim cover, and was promptly hit with a critical. *Boom* headshot.  I moved my Dasyu through the building and took a shot at his Vet. Kazak, pinging two shots off his armour and forcing him back into cover. The Ariadnan armour saving the day,  setting the tone for the rest of the game.

From this balcony the Ariadnan sniper controlled most of the courtyard and put a real hamper on my movements. 

The Ariadnans responded to my advance by setting up a HMG overwatch on the left flank and moving the Vet. Kazak into a central building. 

On the other side of the building, my Dasyu hugged cover out of LoS of the deadly sniper. The Deva cheerleader prepared for a dash across the open ground where my sniper had met her fate, hoping for a flanking move to get into the sniper's building.

The Vet. Kazak moved through the buidling to engage my Dasyu,and was promptly shot with another critical.  The Deva sprinted across open ground, avoiding a sniper shot, and began flanking the right sided buildings, headed for the sniper nest.

The Tankhunter moved to engaged the Dasyu, who was in cover.  In the ensuing firefight the Tankhunter took two hits which he successfully resisted, falling back.  The HMGer retreated into the building to support the sniper, just as the Deva was entering the bottom floor from the other side, intent on murder.

The Dasyu peeked around the corner and engaged the sniper from close range. Both fired from cover, which saved the sniper as two shots rattled off his armour and pinged into the balustrade.   Then - disaster! The Deva ran into the room with the Tankhunter, where her more mobile weapon favoured her, but fell dead, victim to another lucky critical. I felt really unlucky here.

The sniper and the Dasyu exchanged another round of fire, with the Dasyu getting the better of it, but being unable to damage his foe, who cowered back in cover behind the balcony balustrade.

It was with a sense of inevitability that the Tankhunter came back through the doorway to engage the Dasyu, who failed his first reaction roll of the game, to receive two shots through the chest.

The Tankhunter made 6 armour saves, the Scout 4 and the Kazak Vet. 2. With 2 kills to all the armour saves (and passed all WIP rolls) the Tankhunter was undoubtedly the star of the show.  My standout was the Dasyu who won 8 opposing rolls, garnering only one kill.

I feel apart from my stupidity getting my Naga killed at the start of the game, my tactics were sound, with a sequence of phenomenal armour rolls by my opponent making him nigh-immortal. 

I still need more buildings - and I'll be starting to paint and tidy up the ones I have as I feel they worked well for this test run. The foam is rather light and tends to be bumped easily but otherwise works well.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Space 1889 15mm Test Sculpts

The sculptor's site is here.

As you can see, the sculpts look good in 15mm -

 These would be useful for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - which could be a fun gang for Strange Aeons or similar pulp games.

I like the gas-masks - they would go well with a Martian dust storm.

I think this range looks very promising. I am looking forward to the Martian forces...

Space: 1889 in 15mm

This probably isn't a news flash, but in case you're a VSF lover who has been under a rock (or without internet connection) since April, the Space: 1889 universe is being revamped.

In.... wait for it...  15mm!

The sculptor has history with Splintered Light and Rebel Minis who are both top-notch 15mm manufacturers - so I have high hopes for the sculpts. I didn't really get into Space 1889 the first time round (by the time I 'discovered' the universe most stuff was hard to get).  I am especially looking forward to the airships and sky galleons miniatures. If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is one of THE pioneering VSF games.

"Role-Playing In A More Civilized Time. Everything Jules Verne should have written. Everything H. G. Wells could have written. Everything A. Conan Doyle thought of, but never published because it was too fantastic. Everything you need for adventures of the century! The Space 1889 role-playing game covers the exciting background of Victorian science fiction: ether flyers and Martian cloudships, the canals and ancient civilizations of the red planet, Venus' swamps and dinosaurs, the honeycombed interior of Luna, and the thrills of inventions and inventors: the driving force behind Victoria's multiworld empire!
Space 1889 is Frank Chadwick's registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era Space Faring. Originally published twenty years ago by GDW, Space 1889 is the original "steam punk" game, even though it pre-dates the term by a couple of years."

Here are some interesting photos from Alan Patrick's Wargaming site.

I have a few of their books and rules (I found the "Iron Clads and Aether Fliers" rather disappointingly 1980s clunky) and their pdfs are put out by Heliograph with most available at the wargames vault

I'm not a RPGer, but apparently Savage Worlds are porting the 1889 universe to their system which I suspect will be a bit more user-friendly than the old GDW stuff.

Although aeronef are mostly (in my mind at least) associated with Brigade games, I like the ones by Irregular Miniatures

I must say I have avoided Irregular in the past as people say "they paint up well" which is usually a polite euphemism for "the models are rather ugly and chunky." But what with 1889 re-launching, my resolve is weakening...

Secrets of the Third Reich - an excuse for cool toys

I must say that of all my 'toys' the ones that attract the most comment (even from non-gamers) are mecha.  Suckers like these:

They are primarily Rackham Red Blok walkers.  Left to right: AT-43 Urod, AT-43 Kolossus, M.a.K., Dust Tactics German panzerkampfer, AT-43 Dotch Yaga.

They are all prepaints.  To give you an idea of what they look like with a good paintjob check out this guy at DakkaDakka

They are startlingly cheap. The Rackhams are OOP but the largest (the 4-legged walker) cost me $15 from an online store.  The Kolossuses, similar to a GW dreadnought, cost only $5.  The Dust Tactics mecha are less sci fi (but by the same sculptor as the Rackham ones) and new ones are being released - about $25 from Maelstrom with free P&P. All the models, combined, cost me less than a single GW dreadnought.

If you know nothing about M.a.K., then I suggest you go here. A fantastic dieselpunk series in various scales - some truly awesome models.  Mine was a $5 prepaint - the proper kits are awe inspiring. Go here and check out the gallery, or google images of "Maschinen Krieger"

Here is a random sample:
 The MaK universe seems to attract talented scratchbuilders too. 

What do all these models have in common?  The weird war II game, Secrets of the Third Reich. The build-it-yourself points system so you can include random mecha is a fantastic idea, and what sold me on the game. 

In a nutshell, the game reminds me of 40k-style mechanics, with actual tactics added - such as overwatch, alternate move, etc. A very decent game system, which I am now switching to from AE: WWII. 

For more info, I recommend Anatoli's blog in my links section, which has a large SOTR section with lots of fun AARs.

Do yourself an favour - get SOTR, and have an excuse to collect and play with more cool toys!


This is my last, and favourite army.  As with all my 15mm, their bases are incomplete, which detract from the models.  However, these have my usual muted paint scheme and, I feel, carry it off better than usual in 15mm (where few colours and strong contrasts usually carry the day).

The bronze visor contrasts well with the grey and the drybrushed grey layers well enough to avoid the need of extra colours.  A little bland for some, but I prefer my troops in plausible paint schemes rather than bright yellow, blue, green or red armour worn by the marines of a certain company.

I feel drones will be more common in future battlefields in fire support roles, so I am increasingly including them in my armies, to the rate of 1 per squad or fireteam. The GZG spider drones are my favourite and will also star in my Terminator-themed army (which is a WIP).  They ride clamped to the top of the APCs until they need to deploy.  They will be very useful for clearing space stations and built up areas.

The hovercraft are among my favourite GZG vehicles and this platoon is a rapid-reaction marine team able to deploy rapidly after making planetfall. I feel I am falling into a bit of a pattern with my platoons - 3-4 transports, a scout vehicle or two, and a heavier fire support vehicle (either a tank or up-gunned APC).  Mechs or some other unit is added to give some individuallity.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Gundams for Space Games

I always liked my giant robots with a modicum of 'realism.'  I like the gundams that are seen being reloaded, serviced, repaired, re-armed, etc. 

Giant robots doing somersaults or riding jet sky surfboards whilst waving lightsabres or giant scythes have always seemed a bit ridiculous.  Special powers or magic power-ups or combining with other robots *cough* Godannar *cough* - no way!

 MS 08th team was probably the best at giving a 'gritty' feel.  The earlier ones are also good - MS IGLOO recently has brought back the old Universal Century Zakus vs Gundams with nicer animation:

While I liked the 'combined arms' feel, I think gundams really belong in SPACE.  Here is why:

-Ability to maneuver in any direction (in fact I think the RG-Ball is a very logical shape) and wide shooting arc would give an advantage over atmospheric-shaped space fighters

-Can board enemy vessels or space stations/habitats; or even clamp to the deck and act as an extra gun platform

-Can be used on the ground as a support unit as well; dropped in from orbit

For ground combat only, the superior off-road mobility, jump jets, and ability to interchange weapons is, I doubt, worth the extra complexity, size and weight compared to an advanced MBT.*  

*Yes, Veritech Valkyries from Macross, with their atmospheric flight ability, probably are more all-rounders than gundams but transforming robots, I feel, fall in the 'magic robot category.'

15mm Khurasan Felids

Khurasan produces many quirky, interesting sculpts and I feel is the most 'innovative' of the 15mm brigade.

One of the big successes has been the Felids - my first 15mm army.

As usual, my minis are scandalously under-based. I'm holding off decorating 15mm bases until (or if) I decide on a FoW-style multi-base scheme. 

My Felids are a mercenary force, equipped with battered metallic armour that is passed down from father to son.  They use cheap wheeled APCs for transport. Automatic grenade launchers and heavy energy beams provide fire-support to their "Claw" fireteams.  I do need to acquire some of the new helmeted Felids to add a bit more variety.