Friday 30 July 2010

Reflecting Progress 3


I've been working on some of the serried ranks of toy soldiers that I have on my shelf awaiting some brush love. This includes the MechWarrior: Dark Age/Age of Darkness clix figures that are a good match for Pendraken's 10mm range, which I'm now using for my infantry in BattleTech games. What I have is 9 platoons of figures waiting for me to progress them further along the route to being deployed in a game. That's about 300 figures, give or take.

Four of the platoons are made up as specialist weapons. Either snipers, rocket launchers, heavy lasers, and flame thrower platoons. I just finished basing the remaining sniper and flamethrower figures this weekend, and when I have primed them, added a bit more texture to the bases, and drybrushed the base coat, all of the platoons will be at the same stage of incompleteness.

BattleTech works around 28 men platoons, but I've only used 27 figures, as my feeling is that two sections of 13 men, with a commander feels right to me. However, part of me thinks that a platoon of specialist weapons is not the way they would be fielded in real life. Okay, BattleTech is not real life, but what I mean is how does on deploy such assets on the field of battle?

My instinct suggests that one would assign either squads, or sections as support to generic infantry platoons. Squads being six men, and sections 13 men. However, this may be a bit too 20th Century of me, and perhaps I need to think a bit more laterally about the ORBATs?

Anyway, I also have two 21 man jump infantry platoons, and two 21 man, and one 36 man, battle armour platoons. at the same stage of the painting production line that I have. The latter 36 man platoon is a Word of Blake Purifier battle armour unit. So, all in all, quite a lot of infantry requiring painting.

My original plan was to use all the infantry with my Demi-Brigade armour formation that I have, but my intent now is to have only battle armour or jump troops to go with the vehicles and all the plain infantry will form the basis for a generic planetary militia defense force. With this in mind I have assembled support platoons for the specialist infantry platoons, and plan to expand my generic infantry from one platoon, to as many as I need.

A figure I've not yet worked out, but probably at least one generic platoon per specialist platoon, but I might end up having two generic platoons per specialist one. We shall see how I feel in due course, after fielding some formations in a game or two. Another option is to have Company combat groups with generic infantry, specialist and integrated support and artillery assets all together. Might work quite well in fact.

The support platoons will be made up of mechanised infantry. These are defined under the BattleTech rules as infantry who fight from light vehicles; jeeps, quad bikes etc. The artillery assets will be made up of sections of mortars, heavy machine guns, light towed artillery auto-cannons, and gauss rifle battery's. In addition, I have a rocket battery's based up too. All a bit ad hoc, but this only adds to the charm of planetary defense militia.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Reflecting Progress 2

Following on from my previous post, I cast my eye across the next lot of toy soldiers on my work bench and it indubitably true that one cannot out-stare a lead figure. The next group that awaits the soft touch of my paint brush are my Pendraken WW1 British & Germans troops. I have a platoon of British painted and based, but need a Company, as I have plans to do a Company level attack with tank and artillery support, for a game that represents a small part of a much bigger action. So there sits on the shelf the rest of the British infantry company, based and primed, with dry-brushed with one colour. The Germans are based, but not all the bases have been textured, and none are yet primed.

In a shoe box, on a shelf above my work bench, I have a French Company that I haven't looked at since I bought it. This includes tanks and artillery too. I also have some tanks put aside for the Germans; one AV7 and the rest will be made up with repainted versions of the MkIV, Whippet and FT17 tanks, representing captured equipment. I also have some lovely MkVs from Pendraken, which are noticeably longer than the MkIVs, and I also have some MkI howitzer/supply tanks too. Lots of toys, and that is why I like modern games. The variety of machines fascinates me much more than the intricacies of uniform details.

When I was younger, WW1 was considered a pretty "black" period to play wargames about. The image that had arisen in the sixties, from dialectical arguments by arts academics were solely focused on the "lions led by donkeys" idea. Depending on your point of view, revisionist historians have challenged that point of view, and what has emerged is a more complex and challenging reflection on the Great War. Certainly the Great War epitomised industrial warfare, even if the first fully modern war was arguably the American Civil War, which we Europeans dismissed as a Colonial affair with no relevance. It is also arguably true that the lessons learnt by the major European powers, between the end of the Napoleonic wars and WW1, were the wrong ones due to confounding variables specific to each conflict.

All my reading around WW1 has also got my creative juices flowing about how to use historical events in Sci-Fi games, of either Ogre/GEV, or more likely Battletech. For instance the whole evolution of tactics and the introduction of tanks can be mirrored in a Battletech game through the use of the "primacy" of the battlemech over other more conventional forces as one's starting point. I especially like the idea of replaying historical civil wars using Battletech. For instance the Spanish Civil war, or even WW1 with mechs, though that is more a Games Workshop Space Marine thing, if truth be told.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Reflecting Progress 1

One of the interesting things about writing a blog as being a metaphor for having a conversation, is that you can readily check your hit stats and comments. The former is like how many people think you are interesting to talk to, while the latter gives you a fair idea of whether what you are saying is a conversation or a monologue.

I tend to view post with no comments as monologues, while those with comments are conversations. I prefer conversations to monologues, if only as a nod to the evil villain trope of monologuing.

Cue evil laugh...

I've also been looking at my work bench recently, at as importantly, looking at the growing expanse of unfinished figures, in various stages from being based on the road to becoming fully painted units. It is hundreds of figures that stare back at me.

I've been working on some Peter Pig AK47R 15mm Somalian militia. Two companies, each of four platoons with four squads each; based at nine figures per squad, which is not AK47R compliant.

Why did I do it this way? Well, for me, I like my toy soldiers to be something more than just a token, otherwise I might as well just use a token. Therefore I like my single toy soldiers to represent a single soldier on the table.

I know it limits the scale of the conflicts that one can realistically manage, but when I want to play strategic, or grand operational level games, I'm not fussed about using toy soldiers anymore.

Anyway, Somalia is an interesting modern conflict that causes a lot of upset with wargamers, because it is modern, yet they would not flinch at Rourke's Drift, or the tribal wars associated with Africa at that time.

For me it's all about the toy soldiers on the table top. When people ask me "Hey Pip why you do play wargames, are you some kind of war junkie?" Nowadays I don't say a word. Why, because they don't understand why wargames are fun to play. People don't understand why we do it, because it's all about the game and toy soldiers you play with and paint. And that's it, that's all it is at the end of the day is people playing with toy soldiers.

So I'm fairly open to playing "black" wargames, assuming you agree that such a thing exist, one of the reasons I am driven to playing Science Fiction games is that it allows me to play games inspired by modern conflicts; without the baggage associated from the reactions from people who bristle at modern wars from Vietnam on.

Of course, one then gets the reaction of "I don't play Sci-Fi Fantasy games as they are not real" response. Funnily enough, as an aside, I don't play fantasy wargames anymore either, and by fantasy I mean games with creatures from mythology, folklore and involving magic.

I asked myself why do I avoid fantasy games?

For the same reason I no longer play ancient historical wargame, because for me their technology is too tactically limiting. The reason I like modern warfare, as in WW1 and on, is that the technology drives the tactics, though arguably that is always the case, but that the selection of "toys" is greater in modern periods.

Not just siege artillery, or mobile artillery, but self-propelled artillery too! One can even mix traditional horse, camel etc cavalry, with modern mechanised versions of same. Then there are the extra bells & whistles of main battle tanks and helicopters functioning as cavalry too. 

IMNSHO what is there not to like about this kind of variety?