Monday, June 19, 2017

Plastcraft Bridges Review

One of the purchases I made at the Williamsburg Muster last month was a set "medieval bridges" from Plascraft Games. Though designed for use with the SAGA rules system, the two pieces are fairly generic, and since my collection was lacking in bridges, I figured it was a useful set to pick up.

These are rather simple kits, and so there is not much to write, but I am very pleased. Each bridge is just a few pieces and I was able to glue them together in a matter of minutes. I thought the buildings from Plastcraft had been pretty straightforward, but these were even easier!

As one of the ColorED offerings from Plastcraft, they are completely game-ready once the superglue sets.

Here are a few photos to illustrate the finished products

The arched bridge:

My rivers from Hotz mats are almost perfect-sized

Some views of the plank bridge

Another great view with the Hotz rivers

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Odds Stacked Against Me, or a Williamsburg Muster 2017 AAR

As it often does, life has gotten in the way of more regular posts, but things are starting to stabilize, so I'm hoping to get a few things up in the next week or two.

Memorial Day weekend I traveled down to Williamsburg, Virginia for the Williamsburg Muster. Typically, the local game clubs host two small shows a year in town - the Williamsburg Muster (usually in February) and the Guns of August - but in an effort to breathe some new life into the conventions, it was decided to run a single show this year at a new venue and to invite some of the boardgaming and RPG groups in the area, too.

Besides being the site of many family vacations in my youth, Williamsburg was were I went to university and where I had my first full-time job, so any trip back is always welcome. The town was also where I really dove into miniature wargaming with a local club, the Williamsburg Legati (see the link to the club blog in my links section), and with the urging of my old clubmates, this trip fell into place.

Unfortunately, in the days and hours leading up to my arrival, my plans started to unravel. After months of anticipation, I was scheduled to pick up my WWII 20mm figures from my painter at the show, but he informed me that due to new projects he'd taken on with his full-time job (a wargaming company), the completion of my figures would be delayed...c'est la vie. At least the terrain is all ready to go once they arrive. Then, shortly after I departed Friday morning, I heard from my friend Peter, with whom I planned on running a pick-up trial of The Men Who Would Be Kings on Saturday, that he had thrown his bag out and would not be able to attend.

After running into some traffic, I arrived at the convention (at the Doubletree in Williamsburg) late on Friday afternoon, did a quick walk through of the dealer area, and met up with my friend Ron, who was running a game I hoped to play that evening - a Chain of Command scenario set during the Arab Revolt of 1916-18. This particular set-up was based on a scenario for Too Fat Lardies' "Through Mud and Blood" that appeared in the Lardie Christmas 2010 Special and featured a joint Arab-Imperial raid on an Ottoman supply depot. Hidden inside one of the four buildings in the Turkish compound was a supply depot (the other three were marked as barracks). To win, the Arabs needed to find which building had the supplies and bring one of their senior leaders to it, to oversee their capture (or destruction, I suppose).

Being designed a for different scale game, Ron explained how he had to some of the rules to make it fit Chain of Command and since he had been unable to playtest it beforehand, he wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. The biggest change would be in the forces involved. The scenario originally called for a platoon of Arabs and a platoon of Indian infantry on the Allied side and a platoon of Ottomans and a surprise reinforcement platoon of Germans on the Central Powers side, but since we only had two players, Ron decided to start us out with just the Arabs and Turks and only add the others if we really needed them, Nevertheless, it had the makings of an entertaining game and since I already knew about the possibility of the surprise Teutonic reinforcements, I offered to play the role of Johnny Turk,

The pregame set-up showing the Ottoman (my) supply depot in the top left corner and the hordes of Arabs (commanded my opponent) waiting to enter from the right-hand side of the board.
Besides troop levels, another significant modification in the scenario was in the handling of the patrol phase, an element unique to Chain of Command. To represent the surprise nature of this midnight attack, Ron allowed the Arab patrol markers some free moves, which meant that two of my patrol markers were locked at the sandbag wall before I even got a chance to move them and my third was locked on its first move. This point my jump off points back within the buildings and left me hoping that I could get to the sandbags in time to fend off the marauding irregulars.

We rolled for force morale and my Ottoman infantry wound up with a 10 and the Arab raiders got an 8, a promising start for me, but fortune was fleeting. The Arab player won the first few phases and before I knew it, three of his sections were up near the sandbag wall. We were playing with night fighting rules (visibility was 18" unless the target had fired previously and everywhere on the table was considered one level of cover higher), which meant I wouldn't have been able to shoot much farther beyond the barricade, but I was certainly starting to sweat a bit. My concerns were further multiplied by the fact that, to represent the surprise to my garrison, I started out with only one command die and would only receive an additional one each turn after the alarm was raised. When I finally got a chance to act, I deployed a Maxim team which caused little damage before it was wiped out (thankfully my force morale only dropped one point from the loss of these two men). I was also able to bring up a senior leader and infantry section rather quickly and positioned them on the rooftop of the northern-most building. From that position they exchanged a few rounds of fire with the approaching raiders, but thankfully did not suffer any serious casualties. They were, however, unable to stop the advancing enemy section, and before I knew it Lawrence himself was leading a section of Arabs in an assault on the building. This was one of the times in which my opponents' inexperience with the rules left its mark on the outcome (I say this having only played one or two times before). To conduct effective close assaults in Chain of Command, the opposing force must be seriously whittled down by casualties and/or shock. My section was almost completely in tact and only had 2 or so points of shock. Considering my advantage in numbers and the benefits of defending the higher level of the building, the odds for the Arabs did not bode well. In what I assumed was a brief, but ferocious melee, we both took heavy casualties, and all the junior and senior leaders involved received some type of wound, limiting their abilities. The "Bad Stuff Happens" tables were consulted and both sides wound up with equal levels of force morale. Though I had paid dearly for it, a serious threat to the compound had been blunted. For the remained of the game, pot shots would be exchanged by the remnants of the sections, but no more serious action occurred on that flank.

Elsewhere, the rest of the raid quickly lost its steam (partly due a string of three consecutive phases for my Turks) and something of a stalemate took shape, with the Arabs pouring fire into the compound from behind the sandbags, while my other sections and machine gun team clung to the rooftops on the other buildings. A few men fell on each side, but fortunately for me, the two enemy sections on the southern flank were rated "green" and lacked the Lewis guns of the other two "elite" sections in the attack, which gave me the edge in the firefight. While a moved one section up to occupy the building where the failed assault had taken place (and where the supplies the Arabs sought were hidden), my other section and Maxim team laid heavy fire down on the enemy squads, eventually destroying one. With more than half of his original platoon gone, all of his remaining leaders wounded, and his chances of completing his objective dwindling, my opponent decided to pull his forces out of the fight. A surprising victory for the Ottoman garrison caught off-guard. Thanks Ron for a fun little game!

The situation shortly before the Arab withdrawal.
Without the game Peter and I had planned, the next day passed by rather uneventfully. I spent some time chatting with vendors and made a few purchases (a copy of the Blood and Plunder pirate rules and a long OOP Flames of War Irish Guards dice set - not that I'm a FoW player, but just because the dice are cool and it was a good price). Midway through the afternoon, Chris and I played a demo of fantasy game called "Chronicles" that will launching a Kickstarter soon. I don't typically play fantasy games but the GM crew seems nice enough and the figures and materials looked great, so I decided to give it a try. There is a very elaborate backstory for the game's universe and some well-written specials rules for various characters, but it wasn't my cup of tea. Instead of operating part of a unit, each figure moves and fights independently, which means the game can quickly devolve into a giant, bloody rugby scrum. We didn't even play through two turns and both had suffered probably close to 2/3 or 3/4 casualties. The rules are still underdevelopment (and we were ignoring the shooting rules), so I can't cast serious judgement, but if you're in the market for a new high fantasy game, keep your eyes peeled on Kickstarter.

Beginning our demo of "Chronicles"

Sundays at gaming shows are usually not the most exciting of days, but the Williamsburg conventions have the added bonus of a free flea market in the morning, so I came back early the next day to see what was being offered. Though I was unable to move the painted French Napoleonic infantry I had brought along, I did sell some storage trays I purchased to hold some boardgame components I sold a few months back. This gave me enough cash to make my last purchase of the show - a starter painting set...we'll see where that leads me.

Though not as eventful as I had hoped, the Muster made a nice weekend with good friends and (if anything) a nice refresher of Chain of Command as I anxiously await to get my own WWII games up and running.

Stay tuned for some scenery reviews in the next couple days.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cold Wars 2017 Wrap Up

I apologize for the silence from Hanover the past six weeks or so. I was waiting on some purchases to arrive and was settling into a new job. This, I am glad to report, is at the Seminary Ridge Museum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. For those not familiar with the intricacies of the battle, the museum is house in the oldest building on the grounds of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, which was at the center of the fighting on July 1, 1863. The museum covers the events of that day, the building's use as a hospital for weeks after the fighting, and the role the seminary and surrounding community had in the development of faith and emancipation in the American Civil War. My role is largely managing the museum tour, but I also lead tours of the building's famed cupola (which offers a stunning view of the battlefield) and the seminary's campus. Though this position is only part-time and seasonal, it is a great fit for my interests and professional experiences and I have been enjoying it immensely thus far.

Schmucker Hall - The seminary's oldest building and my new workplace
Regarding my ongoing Chain of Command project, I finally received all the bits of terrain, extra vehicles, and accessories that I ordered after Christmas. Once I get the last of my 4Ground farm buildings assembled, I'll post a review. While I was hoping to pick up my infantry from my painter at the convention this weekend, but he's got a lot of other irons in the fire at the moment and will have them for me in a few weeks. I did however, get to pick up the rules and tokens from the Disposable Heroes 2 Kickstarter I backed in December (I had played a demo with the author back at Fall In! in November) and am looking forward to testing that ruleset out as well when the minis arrive.

Then came Cold Wars. One of the many advantages about being back in Pennsylvania is my proximity to the HMGS East shows, especially those at the Lancaster Host (located just an hour away). Just as in November, I was fortunate enough to get both Friday and Saturday off from work, and so was able to take it a good deal of the show. I was signed up for a participation game on Friday morning, but it was not what had been advertised in the Preliminary Events List, and instead utilized a set of homebrew rules that were terribly-written. As a result, I politely took my leave and killed some tiem walking around the gaming and tournament areas and grabbing lunch. Then, I moved onto the vendor area where I caught up with some friends and made some purchases. Once it opened, I made a pass through the flea market but didn't see anything that piqued my curiosity.

The vendor area in all of its glory
A photo from a Helm's Deep game in the main gaming area

More of Helm's Deep

A shot from the awesome World War II Burma Campaign game at the Wargames Illustrated booth (it won the best of show award)
After some more time catching up with my friend Chris from the Phalanx Consortium (a good friend from my Williamsburg days) in the vendor hall, I grabbed a quick dinner (from the awesome pig roast the hotel always puts on for the show in the lobby) and began setting up the participation game I was running that night. I had GM'd a few games back in high school but since GMs get free admission to the show and Chris was looking for someone to showcase the new Skirmish Sangin Platoon Plus rules (see my January 10 post), I was more than happy to volunteer.

The rules were originally set for release at the convention, but as I had said in some earlier posts, the preliminary playtests made us realize that the rules needed some more polishing before it would be ready for publication, so Colin (the author), Chris (the North American distributor), and myself decided that the participation games at Cold Wars would make for great blind playtests and would hopefully provide great feedback and constructive criticism for the game's development moving forward.

Taliban troops take cover behind a wall

The set up for Friday night's playtest

To my delight, both games had all their participant slots filled and I even took in a walk-up participant in each as well. Friday night's session began with a quick 10-minute intro to the rules and we jumped right in. I gave each side a basic platoon and the scenario up as a generic meeting engagement. This would be the quick of the two demos, as the British players spread their forces rather thin and kept allowing their fireteams to be caught in the open, resulting in horrendous casualties. After about an hour and a quarter of play, the British platoon was below half strength, while the insurgents had suffered only one casualty, so we called the game. Since there was still a great deal of time left in the time slot, the players agreed to stay on for a discussion of the rules - what they liked, what could be improved, and how we could make those changes. The consensus was that the biggest weaknesses seemed to be in the spotting mechanism and in the cover bonuses. We also discussed how the rules could better represent assymetrical warfare (for this we received some excellent invites from a convention attendee who had stopped and join the conversation and who had happened to work at ISAF air command in Kabul for the RCAF in 2008). The players agreed that the foundations of a good game were present, but it definitely needs some polishing.

Saturday afternoon's field of battle

A Taliban militia squad takes cover near a while, while the PKM team is shot up by British UGL rounds

Keeping these suggestions in mind. I made a few tweaks to the draft as it stands and prepped for the next day's game. I arrived at the show on Saturday morning, where I was joined by my father, who drove down from his place about an hour and a half away. After taking a walk through the vendor area and morning flea market, we took in a quick lunch and started prepping my second playtest. Set-up went much faster with a second set of hands (Thanks, dad!). This time around we had 7 players, most of whom were new to modern era gaming. Besides the minor tweaks to the rules, I changed the deployment a little bit from the previous evening's contest. Instead of a general meeting engagement, this time, I predeployed most of the Taliban squads to represent an ambush on the patrol. Overall, this game ran much smoother than Friday's - partly due to my edits and partly, I'm sure, to my growing familiarity with the rules. The players led their troops right into the fray and, for a time, it seemed that the game could go either way, but a few critical rolls went in the favor of the British troops (the British players used their support weapons with great success). After about two hours, it became apparent that the Taliban platoon would not be able to hold against the British and so we called the game a little early. We spent a few minutes afterward going over some of the points the other playtest group brought up and a few more suggestions were made for improvements.

Overall, it was another great show. Though I did not take part in a participation game as a player, the two games I hosted were well received and provided a lot of useful insight for improving the next draft of Platoon Plus. I also made out pretty well in the vendor hall and flea markets. I picked up some paint and flocking to spruce up my new 4Ground kits (more on that later), finally got the books and tokens from the Disposable Heroes 2 Kickstarter, and exchanged the "Mixed Ground" mat from Cigar Box mats for the plush version of their "New Grassland" mat. The colors of the new mat look march more realistic than the one I had picked up at Fall In and the plush pile of the mat give the ground covering some realistic depth. I also snagged an Army Painter Target Lock Laser Line, which will put an end to all line of sight debates in my future games. My favorite purchase, however, were some handmade trees and smoke markers I picked up in the flea market that were made by an 11 year-old girl who manning her table with her parents. The trees are well-proportioned and aren't made of the typical model railroad flock that falls apart all over the table. The smoke markers are definitely a much better fit for my 20mm vehicles than the larger ones I picked up a while back on Ebay. She was also selling baggies of homemade cookies! I was so pleased with the terrain and baked goods I bought Saturday morning that I went back in the afternoon session to pick up some more, but the family was gone. Maybe next time!

My new trees on the plush New Grassland mat from Cigar Box

The flame/smoke markers from the same producer

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Plastcraft Games EWAR 15mm ColorED Review

When I started gathering terrain together for my CoC Normandy projects, I faced a big decision to make regarding the buildings to choose for my tabletop. While there are loads of options for 28mm gamers and, thanks especially to flames of war, a ton of great 15mm options (including pre-painted ones), my choice in using 20mm figures found me a bit limited. Sure, there are plenty of HO scale model railroad buildings that could fit the bill, but at least from what's available in the States, these looked better suited for a 1950s suburb than a 1940s French battlefield. Both Sarissa and Charlie Foxtrot offer 20mm ranges, but they are quite limited and I wasn't keen on painting the buildings myself (at least not yet, anyway). 4Ground has some nice agricultural buildings in the scale, but not much in terms of residential buildings, which I knew I was going to need. Then I heard about Plastcraft's EWAR ColorED range of printed PVC buildings and my curiosity was picqued.

I had seen the company mentioned on a few forums and on the Plastcraft website, but the the only reviews I could were for their other ColorED ranges or for their unpainted WWII models. Thankfully a number of participation games at Fall In this past November featured the 28mm EWAR ColorED buildings and I was hooked. The detail on the models was fantastic, they seemed rather easy to put together, and the price seemed extremely reasonable for the quality, so when I found out that my boss at the bookstore could get them through his wargame distributor, I promptly ordered the 15-20mm Building set, an additional two-storey building, and the Saint-Mère-Èglise church (the latter was not required for either of the two CoC campaigns I am putting together, but just looked cool!).

I had to wait a few weeks to get all the models in from the distributor, but they all came before Christmas and thankfully my fiancée was gracious enough to help me put some of them together one evening.

Here a some pics of the finished products:

The "Two-Storey Buidling"

Second and third floor interior of the same

The ruins/base for the "Two-Storey Building"

The "Semi-Detached Building"

"Semi Detached" interior. I love that the two buildings have markedly different floors 

The "Town House" and its base

The Saint-Mère-Èglise church

Stained glass windows

Bellfry interior

Lovely details inside the church
The buildings arrive packed flat in cardboard boxes (the 4-building set came in one box) and most of the parts were rubber-baneded together. Some of the parts in the big set had become separated in shipping, so I had spend a little time sorting those pieces out, but it wasn't much of a problem. Regrettably, the large window for the grocery was missing (I can just pretend it's been blown out), but otherwise, all the kits were complete. Unlike the 4Ground kits, printed directions are not included, but the instruction sheets can be found on the company's website.

In terms of actual assembly, these models are pretty straight forward. Since they require superglue and not the PVA of MDF kits, they go together pretty quickly. The downside of this, however, is that these buildings are less forgiving when it comes to making adjustments. A few pieces, especially some of the roof tiles, needed to be forced into a dry fit before gluing to ensure they would sit properly, but for the most part the pieces assembled easily. It took me a few tries (and very careful prying) to adjust the doors to fit over the ruins base and stoop. Though the first building took me about an hour to complete (it took a while to work up a system for installing the windows), I completed the last small building in about 20-25 minutes and did the whole church in about 45. No waiting for interior walls to dry, no need for rubber bands or clothespins to hold everything together.

As you can see in the photos, the printed exteriors are full color and are wonderfully illustrated and the interior floors are exceptionally detailed. The windows add a nice touch to the realism (especially with the church).

They are styled as "15-20mm" which I assumed would mean they would be a bit on the small side for my 20mm figures, and they are, but not by much. This is also partly due to my preferred 20mm figures being on the bulkier side of the spectrum. Since CoC's ground scale is truly fit for 15mm anyway, I'm not too concerned. For anyone using 15mm  or the popular brands of 20mm, these pieces should fit in with the miniatures just fine.
A 20mm modern British soldier from Elheim Miniatures outside the "Grocery"

The same figure inside the "Two-Storey House"

Outside the church (and a bit out of scale)
So for my residential building needs, I think I made the right choice. Since Plastcraft has yet to release any farm buildings for the EWAR range, I've opted to go with 4Ground for those (review to follow), but for my Norman villages, these will do nicely. I've included photos of all 5 buildings from the 15mm-20mm range. The same structures (with some variations in color) are available in their 28mm range, which also includes a warehouse model. For anyone looking for an affordable, pre-painted  scenery option for Chain of Command, Bolt Action, Flames of War, or any other WWII game, scenery option for Chain of Command, Bolt Action, Flames of War, or any other WWII game, I can't recommend these kits enough

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Year's Gaming

As I've mentioned previously, I currently work part-time at military history bookstore in downtown Gettysburg, PA. My boss's son is visiting while on a break from school, and since he's an aspiring wargamer, I offered to host a game for them. One of his favorites is Force on Force, so I decided to blow the dust of my modern Brits and Taliban fighters for the occasion.

I chose to run Scenario 16 from the Enduring Freedom book, "The Battle of Danaweh II." Modeled after a pitched battle between Marines and Taliban forces in 2009, this engagement presents the ISAF player(s) with three objectives to complete. First, they must come to the aid of a wounded comrade who has been caught in the open by enemy fire. Second, they must evacuate said injured marine back to a designated HLZ to be evacuated from the battlefield. Finally, their EOD team must safely dismantle an IED on the opposite corner of the table. All tall order indeed, especially since the Taliban forces in this scenario are rated as regulars and have all kinds of nasty support weapons they can bring to bear. Though the scenario is based off a USMC action, I don't have enough American figures to field the complete force, so my Brits had to stand in for their Yank comrades!

The ISAF forces cautiously advance to the aid of a wounded leatherneck
The ISAF forces (played by my boss, "Big" Larry, and his son, "Little" Larry) began with some rather cautious movements, but took care of the first few Taliban ambushes without incident. Big Larry's squad got to the wounded marine quickly and began working their way back toward the HLZ, dispatching 2 large Taliban groups and a PKM team in short order. During this strategic withdrawal, a series of unfortunate die rolls meant that several of my Taliban groups failed to spring their ambushes on the unsuspecting ISAF troops, whose own miserable rolls on spot checks meant that the lurking insurgents went unnoticed. Once their whereabouts were successfully pinpointed, not even a sudden windstorm (brought about by fog of war card), which eliminated the Americans' advantage in optimum range firing, could save the Taliban forces from the withering fire laid down by the marine squad and its support weapons.

A horde of Taliban fighters in an alleyway overlooking the IED.

Meanwhile, Little Larry's men advanced with no opposition until they got just within sight of the IED, when a massive Taliban group ambushed the fire team and machine gun team escorting the EOD men. A number of casualties were taken, but the bomb disposable tech was able to reach the the IED unscathed. Little Larry rolled the TQ check to defuse the device, but failed, causing it to explode. Remarkably, neither the disposal tech nor anyone in his team were harmed by the blast. With their objective taken care of and more Taliban reinforcements rushing to the group in that intersection, Little Larry made the wise choice to begin pulling his squad back and consolidating with the rest of the platoon at the HLZ.

This decision brought an end to Turn 3, and we actually decided to call the game early. We had started later in the evening than we had planned, so it was getting close to midnight. Also, near the end of the turn, a fog of war card was drawn that gave the ISAF forces a UAV which would fly over the battlefield and help reveal hidden insurgent units. Seeing as ambushes from the two or three groups I still had hidden were my only hope in inflicting more casualties (it was pretty clear at this point that Big Larry was going to successfully get the wounded marine to the LZ), this really ended any chance I had at a significant victory. Overall - indecisive, but advantage Coalition forces.

Less than 48 hours, I hosted a second game for my father. My friends at Dishdash Games and Phalanx Consortium (their US distributors) are premiering their new platoon plus-level modern ruleset at Cold Wars in March and I've agreed to run two demonstration games at the show. I was given a draft of the rules a few weeks back and since my dad's factory was on shutdown this week, he offered to come down and be the opposition for my playtest.

The draft didn't have much guidance in terms of force composition or scenario design, but I figured I'd try some different things in the playtest and see what worked the best for the convention. I must confess that I've never considered myself very good at scenario or map design, but I was pretty pleased with what I threw out on the table:

After giving my father a brief overview of the key mechanics of the rules, we jumped right in. Unfortunately, the draft rules I had were very much a rough draft and though we were able to push our way through a full game turn, some confusing sections and missing parts of the rules made it a frustrating playtest, but that is what playtesting is all about. In the aftermath of this run some conversations with the game designer have already led to a number of clarifications and additions. I look forward to the next test!

The next evening, the Larries came over once again for another Force on Force game. This time, I ran one of my go-to scenarios from the Enduring Freedom book, Scenario 10 - "Sangin Ambush." I've run this game with friends, clubs, and at shows, and have seen completely different results each time, so I was anxious to see how it turned out.

The dramatic opening to the scenario
The scenario begins with an RPG strike to a British vehicle column, resulting in the brewing up of a Bv10 Viking. The British players are then tasked with rescuing the crew and passengers in the burning vehicle (and either putting them safely in another vehicle or to a casualty clearing point), "winning the firefight," and extricating their over-strength platoon from the ambush.

Unfortunately for the Brits, the situation immediately went from bad to worse as before their first vehicle could move, a Taliban DShK team opened up on the landrover, reducing its movement by half for the remainder of the game and incapacitating the entire crew. Though returning fire sent the insurgent fleeing from their machine gun, they had certainly earned their pay for the day. With two vehicles in need of first aid checks, the British began dividing their forces to deal with the two crises. A number of Taliban ambushes were sprung, resulting in more first aid checks, but these new threats were quickly dealt with, largely due to effective fire from the Vikings' .30 cals.

A well-aimed burst from a Taliban DShK team wreaks havoc on a Land Rover WMIK
The next turn saw nearly all the British casualties come out of their first aid check OK or with light wounds (only the driver of the destroyed Viking was killed). The next turn proceeded much the same as the first. A round of fire from some Taliban RPGs incapacitated all but the driver in the other Land Rover, forcing one of Vikings to drive up to their aid. By this time, the fireteams in the unharmed Vikings had disembarked and were beginning to clean up the Taliban resistance. A number of insurgent leaders and support weapons were neutralized, though a fog of war card gave one of the insurgent groups a cover boost and made them a little harder to move.

The British infantry rallies around two of the Vikings

Near the end of Turn 2, a British fire team arrived at the rear cab of the damaged Viking, setting up a very import first aid check at the start of the new turn. Miraculously, all six of the cabin's passengers well were pulled out with either no or light wounds. More firefighters followed and the ISAF forces seriously whittled down the insurgent resistance. By this point, all but one of the hidden Taliban groups had been located and all but one of those had lost their leaders. Things were not looking well for my irregulars. By the time we reached the end of the Turn 3, it was getting clear that the Taliban forces would not hold much longer, even if my remaining reinforcement roles were exceptional. A brief look at the scenario's victory conditions, however, showed that though the British had rescued the men from the destroyed Viking and would probably evacuate the force from the table by the end of Turn 8, they had suffered enough killed and seriously wounded that a successful result for the ISAF forces was mathematically impossible. A Pyrrhic victory for my Taliban fighters!

After going quite some time without a miniatures game, three games in a week was nice treat, though I am looking forward to having more gaming options beyond my modern and SAGA stuff. Only two more months until I pick up my painted WWII minis at Cold Wars!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Chain of Command Bits and Bobs Review (Care of Monty's Wargaming World)

Not too much to update regarding my Scottish Corridor/Chain of Command project, but I did want to give a little bit of the spotlight to some accessories I've recently purchased from Richard Morrill in the UK (or "Monty" as he is known among fellow Lardies).

As with any miniatures game, a necessary amount of markers and tokens are needed to track information in Chain of Command. While most gamers make these themselves, I decided to look online for tokens and markers which would look much better than anything I could produce.

Richard is one of the big names in Chain of Command (he authored the excellent Operation Winter Storm campaign book) and it was no surprise that when I checked out his website of hand-made gaming accessories, that I found the pieces I needed.

The first were patrol markers. The "patrol phase," sort of a game within a game, is one of the unique features of the ruleset. Before the shooting begins, the search for the enemy's whereabouts by scouting patrols is played out by the two sides maneuvering circular counters around the table in an effort to secure the best positions for their platoons to "jump off" into combat. While Too Fat Lardies provides free patrol markers that can be printed out, I wanted something a little sturdier. Monty's website advertises that customers can order generic markers or unit-specific ones. To add a little flair to the campaign, I decided to order markers for the four divisions primarily involved in the fray. On the British side of things, this meant the 11th Armoured Division (whose 3rd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment will be covering the Allies' right flank in the campaign) and the 15th (Scottish) Division, who gave the name to the "Scottish Corridor." On the German side, I went with the divisions from which the bulk of the two kampfgruppes were formed: 1st SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler" (the parent unit of KG Frey) and 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich". Specifics of the patrol markers' construction were not given on the website, but they wound up being poker chips with the appropriate unit insignia printed on paper and affixed to the chip. Richard even ensured that the 11th Armoured's distinctive yellow flash was mounted on a chip of the same color!

Patrol makers for the 1st SS Panzer Division (top left), 2nd SS Panzer Division (top right), 11th Armoured (bottom left), and 15th (Scottish) Division (bottom right)
The sets of patrol markers also come with a set of jump off points (which are placed after the patrol phase ends at the start of the game proper). I've seen a number of gamers make their own out of barrels, ammo crates, and other bits of military supplies/stowage, but, personally, I think those items look a bit out of place in the "no man's land" between the two armies and so was looking for something different. Richard offers two options: non-scenic, which are just smaller versions of the patrol markers, and scenic, which are distinctive terrain bases - available in temperate, desert, and winter versions. Since my first campaign will be set in the Normandy campaign during the summer of '44, I chose to order two temperate sets and was pleased with the results.

The scenic bases have a mix of features. Two include rather unfortunate cows, a few have rather distinctive logs, and the rest either have large clumps of grass or larger rocks. The jumping off points are well made and will stand out as noticeable features on my battlefields.

Lastly were the shock markers. While I've seen some people using acrylic tokens or small dials to track the amount of shock their units take in the game, I decided to go with Monty's dice bases, which I figured would look the least obtrusive (and a little less "gamey"). In the games of Chain of Command and Sharp Practice that I've played before, we used some microdice I had lying around from the old Pirates of the Spanish Main game but they were almost too small to handle, so I ordered a few packs of the bases offered with 10mm dice, which seemed a little more manageable. The bases are nicely flocked and are magnetic, too, which will help with storage (they'll be able to go right into the storage trays with my miniatures).

While there was admittedly nothing really flashy about these game markers, they're all necessary bits for conducting a game of Chain of Command and will look great on the table. Richard Morrill makes some excellent products and his customer service, both in his communication and willingness to bundle products and get the best deal on shipping, are second to none! I'd highly recommend checking out his page at Monty's Wargaming World (

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Britannia 20mm Review

My ongoing Chain of Command project took a big step forward a few weeks ago when I finally ordered over my miniatures. When I had first planned the campaign, I considered using 28mm figures, but quickly realized that the miniatures, vehicles, and scenery would be a little out of my price range at the moment and would be a bit cramped on my 6' x 4' table. Then I thought about 15mm, which would match the ground scale of the rules, but decided that it would be a little too small for what I imagined for a 1:1 scale skirmish game. That led to me deciding on 20mm, which would serve as a happy, and affordable, medium.

Then came the decision about which manufacturer to use. The World War II range from AB Figures is probably the best on the market, but didn't have all of the support options I need and is sold in specific packs that would have meant a lot of extra lead sitting around. While there are many other manufacturers who make both plastic and metal 20mm ranges, I find most of their figures to be rather spindly. I've always liked my miniatures with some chunkiness to their proportions (probably a throwback to my first miniatures game, Alternative Armies' Flintloque) and so I turned to Britannia Miniatures (available from Grubby Tanks). I first encountered the range when I picked up a copy of the Rapid Fire World War II rules years ago and really liked the bulky, somewhat-cartoony look of the sculpts. They are for a game, after all.

Having settled on a range, I took my copy of the Scottish Corridor pint-sized campaign booklet (and the Operation Martlet one for good measure) and made an extensive shopping list. The Allied force is comprised of a standard British infantry platoon, with a variety of supports from a sniper to a anti-tank gun and crew. The Tommies are supported by Stuart, Sherman (standard and Firefly), and Churchill tanks. Their German opposition is made up of a Waffen SS panzergrenadier platoon with its fair share of supports (forward observer, infantry gun, anti-tank gun, etc.), backed up by a Panzer III, Panzer IVs, a Panther, and a Tiger.

An advantage of ordering from Grubby Tansk is that all of the Britannia's WWII vehicles are available painted. I also found out, after the order, that the figures are also available painted for very competitive rates. I opted to have the miniatures painted by my go-to painter friend, but since the vehicles were only 2.00 GBP more painted, I decided to order them with that option. Though this added a few weeks to my wait time, the end result was worth it.

My new Sherman and one of the Churchills (with 75mm gun, though 2 and 6 pdrs are also available)

Panzer III, Panzer IV, and Panther
The vehicles were expertly painted and, for the most part, tabletop ready. Andy Grubb (the proprietor of Grubby Tanks, and the painter) contacted me a number of times throughout the painting process to ask about the paint and camouflage schemes I wanted and which gun barrels to use on the models that included options for the armaments. There were a few spots of paint that needed some touching up and the turret of my Stuart had a small piece of the turret chipped of (though nothing a little dab of super glue couldn't fix), but considering that the majority of the twelve models had made their way across the Atlantic in excellent condition, I was rather pleased. Though tank nuts may appreciate the crisp, accurate details provided by plastic model kits, these resin models are more than worthy to be pushed around a gaming table. Andy even included an extra Panzer IV with the order...a gesture I greatly appreciated.

British rifleman, Sten gunner, rifleman, and bagpiper

Another shot of a sampling of Brits
Waffen SS rifleman, MG42 team, MP40 gunner (with potato masher grenade), and STG44 gunner

Then there were the figures...over 130 of them and 4 guns. Since I already own some Britannia WWII figures and a fair number from their modern Afghanistan range, there weren't too many surprises with these. As previously stated, the miniatures have rather bulky/chunkier proportions, but means they are by and large sturdy little models. There was some flash from the casting process present, especially along the bases (you can see some of this in the above photo with the felt), but it was comparable to what is seen on figures from most manufactures. The weapons and limbers were ramrod straight. I had ordered a wide range of poses and was pleased with the variety and realism of the pieces. While some manufacturers produce figures in unnatural poses or one that would never be assumed if following the manual (and common sense), the Britannia figures all appeared as if they were out on patrol or taking enemy fire. I was confident that with this animation, both of my platoons will be brimming with character. I was also extremely please with the details on the figures. For instance, though British infantryman were officially issued with a cumbersome entrenching tool, large t-handled shovels began filtering their way into the sections by D-Day (and one or two pick axes as well) and most of these battle hardened soldiers are kitted out with these rather noticeable engineering implements. A little bit of research and realism goes a long way with me.

Overall, I was very pleased with the quality of my miniatures and painted vehicles from Britannia/Grubby Tanks. Andy Grubb is an excellent retailer and his customer service is as best as they come in the hobby. The prices for the figures (0.65 GBP per miniature) and vehicles were extremely affordable and the shipping across the pond reasonable as well (20% of the order). It was a delight doing business with Grubby Tanks and I certainly will again in the future. I'd highly recommend the figure range and the company.

For now, the minis and guns are in the possession of my favorite painter and I'll be picking them up the next time our paths cross at Cold Wars this March, so stay tuned!