Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Commando Comics - a holiday read

A little holiday reading...I grabbed a copy of this from our school library shelves just before we adjourned for the summer holiday, and it was quite a trip down memory lane. I grew up with the occasional read of these comics, hiding them in my wardrobe because my parents didn't approve.

But it has left me thinking about our war-gaming hobby and the perceptions of some of our colleagues. I wonder how many 'gamers, and rules writers for that matter, shaped their perceptions of battle on this sort of literary diet? When I think about some of the rules systems I have read, some of them bear an unerring likeness to the Commando Comic view of battle. On the other hand some don't, some are indeed based on good evidence, and some on hard core academic research.

A good friend showed me a copy of 'Lost Battles', written by Phil Sabin ("Philip Sabin is a British military historian who is currently a professor in the War Studies Department of King's College London. He specializes in air power studies and ancient warfare. He is a member of the CAS Air Power Workshop, a small working group of scholars and other theorists convened by the Chief of Air Staff." - Wikipedia), this is a good case in point. The rules are an afterthought in some ways to an analysis of a number of ancients battles, and are therefore firmly evidence based.

For quite some time I have been a fan of the Spearhead stable of rules, and have been closely involved with the Great War Spearhead set in particular (Shawn Taylor). The original development by Shawn, the discussion of these rules since publication, and their further evolution into GWSHII (currently underway) have been very largely evidence based.

All great stuff, and a long way from the Commando Comic inspired ideas of war-games rules.

Of course, war-games are just that: games, and I guess regardless of their basis, if they inspire hobbyists, then it's all good stuff. Just don't try to tell me that they represent an accurate simulation of command and control in war.

In the meantime, I must hunt out another set of these comic reprints; they are a great holiday read.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Failing eyesight...and hope!!

Hmmm... for the past 6 months or so I have been unable to do any painting of note at all. Why? Failing eyesight. Age catches up with us all, and for me the onset of presbyopia a couple of years ago has meant that seeing  anything close up has become more and more of a trial. I finally succumbed to the need for progressive lenses in my glasses in order to cope with daily life, but still found painting to be difficult. I considered getting special magnifying lenses for painting, and then.. a revelation: try painting in daylight!!!

I managed to move my painting table into a position next to a window, and.. fantastic. I have just been able to get back to painting some long suffering figures (some sample HaT WW1 German infantry.. sorry for the delay, HaT.. but at least I'm back!). That's a far cheaper solution than the dollar cost of magnifying lenses. 

The only down-side is that I used to paint in the evenings, after completing work for the next day etc. Now, painting time will be limited, but.. at least I can get back to completing armies.. oh, yes.. and starting new ones.

There's the British VSF army, the Semi-Historical Chinese HotT army (and the equivalent Chinese historical DBA army), the WW1 Russians, and Austro-Hungarians, the French League of Augsberg (they've only been waiting 7 years).. and then there's the...

Oh dear!!! But at least I can paint again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Morphing DBA into HotT

Good friends Nick and Stan gave me a simple piece of inspiration on morphing my recently completed DBA Early German army into a HotT army.. and a 'gamer from Temuka (a town south of Christchurch here in New Zealand) kindly offered me a GW Dryad figure for a tree man hero (saving me the purchase of an entire box of 12 Dryads).

And so the initial morphing is completed:
9 x Warband
2 x Lurkers
1 x Hero

I think the army might need a little more mobility though (as does the DBA army) so some riders might well find their way onto the painting board sometime soon. The warband composition makes this quite different to any of the other four HotT armies completed so far, and brings with it its share of playing challenges. I think some war dog "beasts" might be suitably barbarian, but finding dogs in 20m is quite a challenge. Still, I'm not one to give up easily..... morphing is fun....

Friday, December 12, 2008


I added this little lot to my DBA collection a month or two ago, drawn from a larger DBM army (which frankly I don't use that often any more - well not at all, and yes I could use it for FOG, but haven't really taken too well to that either).

So I took the necessary stands from that larger DBM collection, and tidied them up a little. Here they are. Mostly foundry figures (so 25mm rather than 20mm), while the ballista is 20mm Irregular.

They make a nice opponent to the Early Germans I completed a few months ago. The scale difference is ok for us.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The other view of the Somme

All of my previous reading on the Somme (1916) has been totally Anglo-centric. I had read accounts of the British advances against German trenches, the fruitless 'battering' of those German lines with row upon row of British bodies, the allied successes in the south etc. This reading had shaped my entire perception of battles on the western front between 1914 and 1917.

And then I read "The German Army on the Somme, 1914-1916" written by Jack Sheldon. The book (published by Pen and Sword Publishing, 2005, ISBN 978 1 84415 513 2) gives an account of the gargantuan battles of the western front on the Somme from the German perspective, drawing from German unit and personal diaries. The insights that I gained from this book have been profound. The paradigm within which I think about those mammoth battles has been changed forever...

This was not some sort of battle in which fresh German troops emerged unscathed from deep dugouts to mow down row upon row of pristine British infantry. This was a battle of materiel in which human beings of all three nationalities were caught up. All suffered the inhumanity of battle, the inhumanity of man to man.

My enduring image is now not only that of British troops suffering in no-man's land, but also of German troops suffering under the often described British and French 'drum fire', artillery barrages of such intensity that men shivered in fear for day after day. I have wanted to type a quote from the book to show what I mean (despite the publisher's concerns about such activities.. such quotes could do nothing but promote the book to all serious students of the first world war), but I have struggled to decide which to type. I chose the following, knowing that in itself it cannot do justice to the book, nor to the experiences of the men whose words are printed there.

"After dawn, the artillery fire increased, peaking at about 8.00a.m. Enemy airmen flew low over us, machine-gunning the position and giving their hooter signals. One entrance to the dugout was crushed. The artillery fire continued relentlessly, high explosive being mixed with shrapnel fired by the flanking batteries. casualties were already considerable..... At about 1.00p.m. the second entrance to the dug out as crushed, so, for a time, I was cut off from the company. We worked with all our strength to open the entrance and succeeded."

And from another entry dated 12 December:

"The regiment has now been in the line without relief since 26th November. because of the adverse weather all types of colds, chills and gastro-intestinal illnesses have appeared. Despite every effort to improve the lot of the troops, it has proved impossible to counter these illnesses, or to prevent them from spreading. The freezing wet and cold weather, wet dugouts, work in flooded trenches with a mud a metre deep, extremely strenuous carrying duties to transport rations and trench stores......."

and so they go on.

These words from Professor Richard Holmes in thbe forward to the book:

"Jack Sheldon observes that the Allies did not succeed in breaking through on the Somme, nor did they destroy the morale of the German army. But he agrees that it was never the same afterwards, and quotes a Bavarian general who acknowledged that: "The monster of the modern overwhelming machine of war gobbled up our finest men". But in a sense to talk of victory and defeat is to miss the point. as this book makes so very clear. the Somme was a supreme test of human qualities, and the soldiers on both sides displayed them more abundantly than their political leaders deserved, or those who were not there could ever really recognise."

This is the other view of the Somme.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

HotT Carnage.. and it certainly was!!!

It was Christchurch's first.. HotT tournament that is, and 8 layers gathered (it was meant to be 10, but 2 were unavoidable detained..). The tournament followed the Berkeley format, with 5 rounds of play during the day. The players and armies fighting it out for the 'Emperor Dragon' trophy were:

* Simon, Dwarves
* Nick, Mountain Indians
* Mark, Lost Worlds
* Kevin, Cavemen
* Gordon, Zulus
* Basil, Mediaeval
* Andre, Republican Indian
* Stan, Wood elf

These two photos from the day: some of the guys at play....

And the Lost Worlds army messing around with some Indians...

The games were exciting, many of them close calls, and the Gods were as fickle as you'd expect, coming and going as they saw fit. Notable for their absence were Dragons.. none to be seen in any army lists (no wonder they didn't appear on the table!!).

The overall winner of the tournament, and so holder of the "Emperor Dragon" trophy, was Basil (club president.. no connection there.. truly!!). The best concept army was won by Gordon with his Zulus (a close one, as Gordon vied with Kevin and his wonderful Cavemen for the prize).

Special mention of Simon who, despite only 3 games before the day, managed to finish first equal on tournament points. He lost to Basil on casualty count back. Well done Simon.

Kevin managed the record for the greatest casualty count in army points.. a hard general, but totally in character with his Caveman army theme. Kevin had also played very few games before the day.

Many thanks to the guys who played... as you'd expect the games were played with a great sense of sportsmanship - what else would you expect with great guys and a few games of HotT. Plenty of mayhem and fantasy worlds murder: HotT Carnage - it certainly was.

Finally thanks to the Christchurch Wargames Club for supporting the event.

You can find a lot more photos of the event here

Friday, November 28, 2008

Indians discover Lost World .. and destroy it!!!

The Indian Emperor's forces discovered a strange Lost World deep in the jungles. What would you do? Attack them of course.

And so it was, in an epic clash that saw a strange ape god (the subject of long lost Indian myth) lead never before seen dinosaur creatures and savage tribes people against Indian elephants and bowmen. The Lost Worlds tribes people invoked their God's presence early in the battle, and he swept down on the Indian flank supported by an oddly screeching flying pterosaur.

However. despite early successes destroying Indian riders, the Indian Hero general took the fight to these savage people and, supported by a behemoth elephant intent on squishing tribes people between his large toes, managed to destroy the very heart of this oddly assorted opposition.

The Lost Worlds right flank, composed of beasts and behemoth, never managed to make contact with the Indian tiger beasts that opposed them, and frantic attempts by the Lost Worlds shaman to cast strange and lurid spells on the Indian hero were to no avail.

Our evening had seen two games played, the first saw the Lost Worlds army decimate the Indians before their God had even deigned to make an appearance, but this second game was a different story.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Squishing spiders....

At last, the Spider army is finished.. a piece of inspiration really.. it needed a God, and who else but .... Spider man himself. So here he is in all his glory.. well, maybe not... as we shall see. Their first full game was against my son's Indian army... complete with beasts (those nice looking tigers), and lurkers (take a look at the amazing snakes further down the page.

The spider army composition for this game was:

* God (Spider man himself)
* A hero general (large spider)
* Another hero to keep him company (a second large spider.. hey. it's lonely work being a hero)
* Two lurkers
* Ten spider Hordes

It all started off well.. a good solid body of spider hordes in the centre, right flank protected by some woods with lurkers ... and the two heroes on the left flank.

Turn 2 the pip die rolled 6 and, guess what.. Spider man appeared. You can see him in the photos, on the left flank, ready to act in support with the two heroes. So the manouvring started.

Unfortunately that's as far as it got. Turn three, the pip die rolled.. ta da!!! .... a 1, and off he went again. It was really downhill from there. I tried to get stuck in, but lost both lurkers (Nick put his own two lurkers into the woods .... spiders versus snakes.. if you'd told me 10 years ago I'd be playing a game with that combination I'd never have believed you!!). I simultaneously tried to manouvre against the Indian left (beasts and behemoth) with the two heroes while pinning these from the front with the hordes, only to have my hero general ensorcelled by the Indian magician. It was just one of those nights.

To cap matters off the beasts and the behemoth managed to destroy more hordes than I could bring back, and that was the game. And by the way, this is not the easiest army to use when you are slightly arachnophobic....he! he!

The Indian behemoth went crazy, .. squishing spiders.. nothing more to say really.. but a great game filled with plenty of wonderful dramatic moments.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Slide show AAR of a classic HotT game, and a BBDBA

My good friend Nick Grant sent me the link to this ANIMOTO slide show of a recent HotT battlebetween his fantasy EIR army and my own Lost Worlds army (commanded by wiley player Mark O)

The game was one of a series of games played at our first HotT games day 'A Hott Winter's Day' played in July.

Nick also sent me links to two shows that relate the two halves of a Big Battle DBA game: Early Imperial Romans (with Numidian allies) versus Gauls.
All of the figures were painted by Nick himself. I have to confess to commanding the Gallic right and got a little carried away with the chariots: for some reason I thought I could play the Numidian allies at their own game.. silly boy!!

The first half.
The second half.

Nice stuff, thanks Nick

Sunday, October 5, 2008

'ere we go again... more HotT stuff

I was in Melbourne recently attending a conference, and my wife and I scheduled a litttle additional RnR time.. during which of course shopping was in order. Now it was, quite honestly, pure coincidence that we stumbled upon 'Mindgames' in Swanston Street.. no, truly, just an accident,.. hey, really, nothing was planned... anyway..

Browsing as we are want to do, my wife spotted a bag of.... Zombies....they had completely slipped under my radar... must be getting old... but, sure enough.. 100 20mm plastic Zombies... She asked.."Are these any use?" Now seriously, what could I say? 100 Zombies for only $16Aus... really.. silly question.

Oh, no.. irresistible...... I could see HotT Zombie Hordes .. shambling slowly but irresistibly across the table top.. I had similar visions when i spotted those little spiders a few months ago...

Now I have already seen where that lead....and I could see much the same again.. but this time not a new army, rather a variation on a theme.. Zombie Hordes for the Undead to play alongside.. I do need to be careful though. I am trying to make each of the HotT armies fundamentally different from the others,. so they each play differently on the table. I already have a Horde army.... careful, Robin.

The only downside is that the figures are ALL identical.. only one pose...hardly shambling.

'ere we go, 'ere we go ' ere we go.. again.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Volley and Bayonet goodness...

I'm like a 'Pig in S--t" as my Mother used to say.. I received my copy of the second edition of Frank Chadwick's "Volley and Bayonet: Road to Glory" rules. I have played with the play-test version of these for a number of years now, and they quickly became my all time favourite rules set (and that after 40 years of gaming, and I don't know how many rules sets).

The rules set allows gaming from 1700 to 1900, (with minor rules variations for each sub period) and plays so elegantly and subtly... they have given me viable 'gaming access to many sub periods of this era that I had longed to play for most of my gaming career. The rules I had previously found were (for me) always cumbersome, awkward or.. well, they just never suited me. Now that's not an atack on the other rules sets, they just never suited me: Volley and bayonet does.

There are some subtle yet significant changes in the second edition, but unlike some other rules systems, we have not seen a wholesale re-write of the system. The rules have a comforting familiarity that leaves me feeling secure after 9 years of using the earlier edition. As a 'gamer I like that.

The rules come with a scenario generation system that looks rather cool.. i might write more once I've actually used them.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a lot of Napoleonic games (my 25mm French, Spanish and British need some exercise)... more Volley and Bayonet goodness...

Larry Leadhead does DBA

I'm on a bit of a DBA/HotT kick at the moment. Just in case there are blog readers who haven't seen Fanaticus, by way of a teaser (with no intention to contravene copyright!!):

And you can find the rest here..

In the meantime, back to revamping those 25mm Early Imperial Romans for DBA. They match up reasonably with the 20mm Early Germans (if you squint a little).. photos to come in the near future.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

DBA II/47(g) Early Germans

I've had a bunch of 20mm Esci Barbarians sitting in a box for probably close to 20 years. They were painted in my days of block painting - so no shading or highlighting, well ... nothing really, just block colours. I thought it was time to get these guys out and give them a spruce up ready for some Book II DBA gaming. I simply gave them a 'Dark Flesh' wash, followed by a dry brush highlight with a light flesh, and then put them on new bases and ... voila!!!

The first photo shows the army complete.. 10 Wb, a Wb general, and a Psiloi. The other photos are just .. well, more warband basically, because that's all there is.

Of course the army will easily morph into a HotT Barbarian army as well... a few beasts, a Magician/Shaman and.. well, we'll see.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

HotT Tournament

We have confirmed a date for Christchurch's first full HotT tournament (I think it's the first!!!): it is 30 November, as a part of the "Carnage" tournament.

This is a full on Fantasy Wargames day at the Woolston Club, with the HotT Tournament, and a WFB tournament.


Gather your Ghouls
Patch up your pirates
Zap your Zombies

and get ready for HotT Carnage...

I am looking at using the Berkeley HotT tournament rules (I hope the Berkeley guys take that as the compliment it's intended to be). 
So watch out for details .. in th meantime.. back to the spiders..... which incidentally had their first outing today. Lost the first game.. wow!! warbands sure eat Hordes as my hordes found out, but won their second. The two heroes did the business while the Hordes held up the larger part of the opposing army, dying regularly, but coming back often.. now that was a good feeling.

So I think this horde army could work well if handled with care.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Creepy stuff? Go the spiders...

There I was in a local bookstore, and there they were.. packets of small black plastic spiders, 12 to a packet for $2 ("Ming Shing Creepy Spiders") - love at first sight, really!!!. It's a mark of obsession I guess, but my first thought wasn't 'oo, creepy black Spiders', it was... 'Oo look, Hordes'.... I saw creepy hordes of spiders scuttling across a barren landscape, the bases with enough terrain on them to suggest unstoppable spiders climbing over everything, nothing standing in their way.

So, 24 Horde bases? Well, a lot of horde bases, but maybe a few other things as well. Down the aisle of the mall was a 'Nature's Discoveries' shop.. full of neat plastic animals and insects: arise two spider heroes, rather large creatures, guaranteed to creep even the hardiest player. One is a hairy looking Tarantula, the other a shiny redback, a Katipo spider, both nasty creatures for those of us with arachnophobia.

So far, the army has 12 Horde bases, and 2 Heroes.

More to come.. I'd first thought spiders could also be sneakers and lurkers, but on reflection maybe just lurkers? I was after a different HotT army to my other three, and lots of Hordes seemed to be very different in composition to the other three armies. I certainly expect this army to play differently to the others. We'll see.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

TAGCon 08 and DBA

Wow!! well that was it.. my first tournament or competition in 27 years, DBA at the Timaru Armchair generals Convention (TAGCon) 2008.

A day of fantastic games with great people, each of 8 of us playing 7 games, with armies from Book 4. My own Ottomans fared pretty well i thought: 4 wins, 2 losses and a draw.. not bad for an army i'd used twice before (losing both games. 

You see, I've never considered myself a Light Horse type of guy: give me some solid Romans, or Hoplites, any day. However I pretty soon became master of the 5 march moves opening gambit, positioning a column of light horse on my opponent's flank.
Anyway... here  is a taster, and a link to a pile of photos on the day.

Thanks to Dave Batchelor and his team for a tremendously well organised and jolly good fun day.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A HotT Winter's Day

Today was the day: 'A HotT Winter's day'.. a HotT games day played here in Christchurch, New Zealand. Nine players played 13 games in a superb atmosphere of fun and cameraderie. Players varied enormously in experience, but brought a fascinating array of armies to the day: re-animated terracotta Chinese, British VSF, Chaos, Lost Worlds, Dwarves, Semi-Historical Mediaeval, Semi-Historical Indian, Undead, and more. Mark O won all games played, while Andy Gorman won the prize for the most creative army (the VSF army with air boat, flyers and behemoths, judged by fellow players) while Gordon Pinchin won the prize for best painted army with his Dwarves as judged by the wargames Club President.

So successful was the day that the players all voiced the desire to repeat the exercise, perhaps in a more formal tournament format.

Below is a range of photos, in no particular order.

Forcing the Uvarova

The vastness and the difficulty of the terrain through the Caucasus meant that by 1915 there were still avenues to be explored if victory wa...