Tuesday 27 December 2011

Late Xmas Salutations


Been a bit busy, and work has been a bit stressful and therefore not a lot of action going on.  So let me wish you all a belated very Merry Xmas, and a very Happy New Year, which will hopefully be prosperous and rewarding.

My Xmas indulgences...

All Panzer Depot 10mm prepaints.

No, this is not the start of another period, just an indulgence in tank oddities.

Saturday 26 November 2011


Still in the acquisition phase of my 10mm Vietnam gaming ambitions, which has meant a lot of inspirational thinking while the shiny toys mature in the their assigned shoebox.  However, I couldn't resist showing these lovely models off.

Also, when I was at Warfare last week, Leon at Pendraken reminded me that I promised him some riverine monitors, which I have the parts for, but not yet started work on.  Had to apologise profusely for my lack of intestinal fortitude, but I have a new job and I'm still in the probation period, which I am finding stressful.  Good intentions and all that really.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Shiny, Shiny, Shiny Model Miniatures


Okay it doesn't quite scan to the Lou Reed original, but what do you expect from someone who has virtually no musical talent?  I was going to to do a review of Warfare at Reading, forgot to take my camera with me, and I suck!  The above picture is about five times larger than the real thing.  This is a recent eBay purchase and I'm planning on using this for the Mummerset campaign, which we are playing tomorrow in fact.

Bought some of the new 10mm Fieldworks miniatures buildings that I talked about seeing at the Newbury show. Also bought a Char 2C from Pendraken. They only had the one when I arrived and it was soon mine after the exchange of folding money.

Have to say that I really enjoyed the show, again mostly because I get meet old friends and make new ones.  A good chin wag about stuff always lightens one spirit.  Met Martin B., at the show who was down from Manchester with a friend.  Xmas came early for Martin as I gave him my 15mm buildings that I've shown on this blog to him.

I made the decision some time ago that while I have a lot of 15mm figures, I can live with using them with 10mm buildings.  This saves me the bother of having to have two lots of terrain for games.  This is a big factor here at the Paint it Pink HQ, as I live in what most would describe as a shoebox.  Okay, it's a very nice shoebox, after all it's my home and I've lived here for 13 years, which is longer than anywhere else I have lived in my life.

So, shiny new toys...

More updates in due course.  As always, thank you all very much for taking the time, and having the interest in reading my blog and idle musings.

Battlegames Update

Good news this week as Henry announced that Atlantic Publishing will be taking over the publication of Battlegames, including the transfer of subscriptions etc. Henry will remain editor, so all good news really, though some doubts have been thrown on the long term developments given that Atlantic also own Miniature Wargames. Who knows what the future holds?

Saturday 5 November 2011

Battlegames News

Henry over at Battlegames has announced that the magazine, and hence him, are having financial difficulties.

Read more at the link.

I did my bit today, buying a few back issues and a couple of PDFs. A small thing, but it is what I can afford right now. Feeling saddened by this news as I only just found the magazine in the last six months, and have enjoyed every issue.

Heroic 6mm

I've decided that there is something heroic about 6mm in today's wargaming hobby.  Quite simply 6mm is no longer 6mm. The dread size creep that has plagued the 25mm mainstream end of the hobby for a number of years, so that we are now seeing 28mm figures that are described as large 25mm.  Then in turn these became the standard "28mm is the new 25mm", which are now in turn being replaced by 32mm figures standard of "32mm is the new 28mm".

In some ways this is a product of the expansion of the wargame market and the popularity of 25mm, which of course was driven by Airfix plastic toy soldiers that were nominally 20mm, though actually averaging around 22mm.

I'm not going to rehash the old do we measure to the eyes versus to the top of the head arguments, because quite frankly they are ad hoc post justifications for the state of the hobby, and are just opinions about what is, or should be the standards that should be used.

Instead I will say that I think it is a reflection on the economic growth of the hobby and competition to produce the best selling range that one can, which is no bad thing.

Therefore I now want to point back to the title of this piece. I think that 6mm is becoming more popular, and the evidence is in the size creep that we have seen over the last 25 years or so, ever since Herioc's & Ros brought out their figure ranges in the then newish 6mm. They of course were less than 6mm tall, averaging around 5.5mm, and newer ranges increase the size and bulk of the figure, thereby producing nicer looking, and therefore better selling toy soldiers. Hurrah!

However, we are now at the stage where the market leaders are producing figures that are 8mm tall (sometimes taller) that are marketed under 6mm branding. Originally the Ral Partha BattleTech figures were to this Heroic 6mm size, though later on they were joined/replaced by true 6mm figures, becasue AFAICT there was a drive to be compatible with GHQ, who are steadfast standouts for 6mm figures being to a scale, and therefore approximately 6mm tall.

Recently though, Iron Wind Miniatures have started producing figures of battle armoured troops for BattleTech that are 10mm tor taller, but nominally falling into the 10/12mm size range.  New standard infantry is being produce to match the larger figures, and so inevitably we have nominal 6mm figures that will be around 10mm.

For me this leaves me with one obvious choice. Go 10mm, as 10mm is clearly the new 6mm and get on the size creep bandwagon at the head of the curve, rather than be left behind with true 6mm. After all 10mm figures have more bulk, look better and paint up well.

So welcome to the world of Heroic 6mm, using 10mm toy soldiers to play games with.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Wargaming Phases

It has come to my attention that not everyone understands that wargames are played in phases. Heaven forbid I thought that this was a truism that everyone knew about, but clearly not as evidences by this recent'ish thread on the Pendraken forum.

So let me review the phases of wargaming...

1. The Acquisition Phase

This is the ooh shiny I must buy it when I see right now phase that is common to all wargames. Triggered by seeing something new, generally in a shiney metallic material that grabs one's attention.

2. The Maturing Box Phase

The acquired shiny toys are placed in a suitable place for painting later, usually some sort of shoe box equivalent, but it can be a cupboard. Neither is considered superior to the other, except that cupboards tend to be larger and therefore more stuff can be maturing at the same time.

3. The Inspiration Phase

Once one has bought new and shiny things for painting one can become inspired to dream about how one is going to paint them and the the great games that one is going to play with them? This is often call the the Daydreaming Phase, and much time can be "usefully" spent here while the shiney toys mature.

4. The Planning Phase

After daydreaming, sorry being in the Inspiration Phase, one then moves on to the Planning Phase where one finds that one needs to find out more about the subject and how to paint the shiny toys. This is not a do-one-thing then do-the-next-thing model so the player can then interrupt the cycle to go back to the Acquisition Phase, so as to get the necessary extra shiny toys to meet the requirements defined from the Planning Phase. In a clever game mechanism this can result in the whole project entering the Maturing Phase for another round before going back to the Inspiration Phase.

5. The Painting Phase

Shiny toy miniatures are now prepared for painting by being placed on the work bench. Depending on the demands on the wargamers spare time, this phase can stretch out and lead to more planning. This is especially true if a new set of rules are purchased that require a re-assessment of the basing requirements, and therefore the number of figures needed for the project, which can result in another round of going through the Acquisition Phase.

6. The Playing Phase

Once the shiny toys have been painted, based and varnished they can then be lovingly deployed onto the field of battles where the likelihood is that the you will lose the game you are playing. This will cause you to reassess the need for further acquisitions of new shiny toys that will add more flexibility to the deployment of the forces, and it's ability to deliver a satisfactory victory by roundly thrashing one's opponent, or not as the case might be?

And that in a nut shell is why wargames have phases.

Friday 21 October 2011

SELWG 2011: Crystal Palace

Hard to imagine that this time last year I was in hospital on an IVF antibiotic drip and had to have emergency surgery for a burst abscess in my breast. Where has the time gone?  Indubitably another sign that I'm getting older, as time just flies by nowadays.

Anyway, off I went this year to make up for missing the last one. Went with Trevor and his son Oliver, but like all good expeditions we arrive later than expected, around 11.45, and therefore missed bumping into Richard Clarke from TooFat Lardies.

This was not a big spend show for me as I only bought one thing, a book from Anita's Books, who always have a good selection of titles that tempt me to open my purse.  In this case I bought Aircraft of World War 1 1914 -1918 by Jack Herris and Bob Pearson published by Amber Books.

I thought the show felt quiet, but the traders all seemed to be happy enough.  Talked to Leon and the crew at Pendraken and Dave on Caliver, whom I have known for more years than either of us would care to remember.  Bumped into Richard Partridge from the Southend Wargame Club, not to be confused with the Southend-on-Sea Wargames Club, or South East Essex Military Society that started off as the Southend Wargames Club that was started by Ken Lazenbury.  The Southend wargame scene is a bit like a Welsh village and its churches stroke pubs, with ones that one doesn't go to, or not, as the case may be.

Games at the show were all rather nice.  First one to catch my eye was the Yom Kipper War game by the Essex Warriors.  Centurions massing, what was not to like?

Seen before at Salute, but here it is at SELWG, the rather lovely (to be honest I'm totally jealous of the look) WW2 game Budapest 1945 by Loughton Strikeforce.

Trevor and Oliver played in the Central London Club's WW1 Air War, which had some really nice 1/72nd scale aircraft.  The German schemes are my favourite, so here is a picture of some of the aircraft that appeared in the game.  Still think that the Bristol Fighter was the best Allied aircraft of the war though.

Finally, this WW2 Warsaw Uprising by the Shepway Wargames Club.  Again lovely buildings to die for.

Bought coffee from the Costa franchise, which was much nicer than the coffee at Newbury, and talked to a chap called Alistair who lurks on the TooFatLardies yahoo group.

Friday 14 October 2011

Busy Doing Nothing, Totally Spaced

Working the whole day long, as the song goes, but in my case not so much finding lots of things not to do,  as not being able to finish projects and photograph them.  As Trebian notes blogs are about what you haven't been doing.

I have been away too. Last weekend off to sunny Devon to see my Father-in-Law, family issues to discuss, but we did manage to go out for a meal with Maria and Cary (boyfriend) of Buffers for a slap up meal at the West Bay Hotel in Bridport.  Buffers is a great shop for all your terrain needs, and I bought some more Woodland Scenics Realistic Water, which I'm using for my Vietnam river project.

So not a lot of painting done last weekend, and this weekend it is SELWG, so Sunday I will be out with Trevor and Oliver lowering property values and generally causing mischief while having fun there.

In the meantime I've been watching Spaced, a geek sitcom starring Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson and Nick Frost, all of whom are recognisable for their roles in various things like Dr Who, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.  I can't recommend this TV series highly enough.

It is a sitcom that speak to my inner geek. So much of the humour just really resonates with me.  Writers block, imagining film scenes and quoting dialogue are part and parcel of what I think makes life fun.  So if you have any interest if SF films, comics and geek culture you should check it out.

BTW: Spaced is being repeated on TV, but the DVDs are dirt cheap, so go on treat yourselves.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

IABSM 3 Teaser

Breaking news just in from TooFat Lardies...

The rules are 104 pages long, full colour. The contents are as follows:

1. Introduction
2. Contents
3. Playing the game
4. The basics
5. The Game Deck explained
6. The Rules
7. Optional Rules
8. Aces
9. Recruiting Your Force
10. Normandy Handbook (Brits, Germans and US for Normandy with orbats, stats etc.
11. Random Scenario Generator; 6 types of random scenario, infinite variety of games
12. Historical scenarios, how to write them and balance your forces
13. Two starter scenarios
14. Two historical scenarios

Richard Clarks said "The cards arrived from the printers yesterday. The tokens are being made, and Hugh Jarce is being cast."

I can't wait to see these rules, just feels so exciting. Previews of the layout look really polished and I think this is going to be the must have WW2 rule set, and I hope to steal loads of ideas from it for my own games.

Friday 23 September 2011

Reprising Progress

I meant to post this a few days ago, but didn't quite find the time to sit down and write it on Wednesday afternoon as planned. Went to the dentist instead of writing a blog, I know which I prefer.

Anyway, been painting and doing basing of figures for my Mummerset campaign.  The basing being the problematical bit as after playing four games BattleTech with miniatures using our house rules certain things have been brought into focus for me and the group I play with.

Infantry are really tiny in comparison to mechs and vehicles and are readily confused by people who need glasses to read. BattleTech is not at heart an infantry centric game.  The clue is in the title, and while there are rules to expand the repertoire of infantry types, those rules tend to add to the rule burden, rather than actually creating a wider focus on combined arms.

As a result we have already gone from "realistic" platoons with mixed weapons by squads back to generic platoons that have a theme e.g: this is a laser platoon, or SRM launcher platoon, which is a shame in a way, because it loses flavour.  However, we are still employing squads that fire as platoons, which is good, and one of the things I've been doing is re-examining the way I base the figures.

BattleTech is a boardgame that has one hex equaling 30 metres, which means that infantry platoons are tripped up by the granularity of the time and ground scale assumptions; 10 seconds per turn for those who are not familiar with the game.

Therefore the game is working to a 1:1000th ground scale where the models are nominally 1:300th scale so we start from the position where the models are just over three times too large.  Now one solution is to use smaller models, say 2mm miniatures, but this is not to everyone's taste, and one can argue that one might as well use counters at that point.  Depending on your taste for such things. The other side of the coin is that you change the ground scale, which funnily enough is exactly what the official rules recommend.

Of course the eagle eyed alert reader will of spotted that even increasing the ground scale from 1:1000th to 1:500th still doesn't make the model scale equal to the ground scale.  Not generally a problem except for two things.  BattleTech miniatures are notoriously inconsistent in scale, with the dreaded scale creep over the last 25 years making newer models larger still, and the original smaller models were in my opinion closer to 1:220th scale (Z gauge in model railway terms) to begin with.  What you are left with is how to decide what compromise works best for you?

I'll be direct and to the point here and say that my tastes run towards mechs being shorter than the nominal 40 foot height that the board-game assumes,  and having a larger range of sizes depending on weight class.  So I visualize a light mech at around 20 to 25 feet tall, a medium mech around 25 to 30 foot tall, a heavy mech 30 to 35 feet tall, and assault mechs 35 to 40 foot tall.  Just my opinion.

So measuring up mech models and making some choices about how to interpret their size we can chose a scale that makes us happy.  My choice is to assume 1.6mm to the foot, or around 1:160th scale. Now that choice means that even with a a larger ground scale the models are still about three times larger than the ground scale.  So all that examination has lead us precisely no where.

Therefore one just has to be pragmatic and accept that one's choices have costs and benefits and decide what is important to you.  I want the infantry to based as squads that make up platoons, but given the size of the infantry models the most I can get on a 25mm base is three to four models, which to me is not enough to represent a squad.  So I've ended up having two bases per squad, and four squads squad platoons require eight bases in total.  However, as we have played games the need to be able to remove single casualties became apparent, and after some experimentation the solution I have reached is to add to single figures bases, and one base with two figures on it.

My reasoning being that the double figure base represents the platoon commander and RTO, while the two single figure bases represent a sergeant and runner.  The second single figure base is not strictly necessary for playing the game, but does keep the numbers even, which for some reason pleases me, as the number is 28.  The same a standard British platoon, and nominally the size of a standard BattleTech platoon.

We shall just ignore the whole frontage that a platoon occupies, as we've already accepted that the figure to ground scale is an abstraction to make the game playable on the size of table we have available.

Friday 16 September 2011

Mummerset 09.04.11: The 2nd Battle of South Boring AAR

This session was to resolve the situation from the Republican Guards pincer movement on the defenders of South Boring.


Elements of Colonel Whales's 3rd Royal Guards have pinned down by an attack by General Spencers 1st Republican Guards who have numerical superiority. See the last report for further details in the first link above. 

1st Republican Guards 2nd Battalion

1 x Hornet custom modified 3132 Inner Sphere tech worth 585 bv (move 5-8-5, armour 69 points, and 10 single heat sinks). Loadout 2 x medium lasers, 1 x LRM5 (with 24 rounds of ammo), and 1 x small laser.

1x ConstructionMech MOD custom modified 3132 Inner Sphere industrial tech worth 335 bv (move 3-5-0, armour 40 points, and 1 single heat sinks). Loadout 1 x LRM10 (with 12 rounds of ammo), 2 x machine guns (with 100 rounds of ammo), and a lift hoist.

1 x MaintenanceQuad MOD P custom modified 3132 Inner Sphere industrial tech worth 576 bv (move 3-5-0, armour 48 points, and 6 single heat sinks). Loadout 2 x LRM10 (with 12 rounds of ammo each), and 2 x lift hoists.

4 x Vedette light tanks worth 475 bv each (total 1900 points).
4 x Striker light missile tanks worth 564 bv each (total 2256 points).
4 x 3039 wheeled APCs that could carry one squad of infantry worth 157 bv each (total 628 points).
4 x 3039 GEV APCs that could carry one platoon of infantry worth 102 bv each (total 408 points).
1 x Morningstar City Command vehicle worth 412 bv.

1 x mechanised infantry platoon.
1 x PAL infantry platoon.
2 x jump infantry platoons.
2 x foot infantry platoons.

Also again on call were three artillery batteries in support of the assault.

4th Battalion of the House Steiner 4444 Regimental Combat Team

1 x Firestarter 2C XP custom modified 3132 Clan tech worth 1683 bv (move 6-9-6, armour 58 points, and 10 double heat sinks). Loadout 1 x ER Large laser, 2 x ER medium lasers, 2 x flamers, and 1 targeting computer). 

3rd Royal Guards 2nd Battalion

1 x AC5 field gun battery.
4 x foot infantry platoons.

Initial Deployment

As the players had aerial recon and orbital dominance the forces under the command of Major Alexander Mercia (Oliver) were deployed on table in order of the line of march. After this Trevor deployed his forces, which were all initially out of sight or hidden.

Click to embiggen.

The above shows Major Mercia's forces moving down the main road hunting for the enemy, which he has to engage and eliminate and then leave the opposite side of the board within fourteen turns (time set by length of the previous game where General Spencer transmits the withdraw order to the Republican Guards).
So, Oliver was very much on the clock and he can't just rush everything to the other side as he would lose if the defenders are still in place.

At the far left you can just glimpse the missile tanks that were positioned to provide indirect fire for the supporting forces, it was a pity that the enemy was so well hidden.
In the middle left you can see the advancing industrial mechs and slightly further right the wheeled APCs moving towards a building they suspect is defended. Smoke from an artillery barrage has also been placed on the table.

Click to embiggen.

The first shot of the game sees Trevor brewing up Oliver's leading GEV APC and effectively killing all the infantry inside it too as an added bonus. 
Oliver's forces are very bunched up due to the choke points (it is assumed that routes outside of the board are mined or blocked to prevent passage). It sucks to attack dug in defenders.

Click to embiggen.

The battle has just got down and dirty with Trevor's Firestarter bugging out to the far right with Oliver's mech forces in hot pursuit.
As can be seen another GEV APC has been hit, but this time the infantry inside were able to get out. Also a wheeled APC has been brewed up with the loss of one PAL infantry squad (Power Armour Light).
One of Oliver's industrial mechs is very lucky in that an offboard artillery barrage just misses it after over shooting its target; the building to the left near the front of the board.

Click to embiggen.

The Firestarter is leading the Republican Guard mechs in a merry chase around prime down town real estate that presents exciting investment opportunities for an entrepreneurial real estate developer looking to get in on the ground floor of a major redevelopment of an up and coming residential area.
Oliver's Hornet has jumped on top of one of the building trying to catch up with the Firestarter that can just bee seen center top of the picture.

Click to embiggen: Last turn of the battle that ended up being quite a blood bath.

Result of the Battle

Oliver's Hornet mech was taken down by a combination of SRM armed infantry and one of his own artillery barrages overshooting and hitting it just to rub salt into the wound. One industrial mech was still standing relatively unscathed, but the other had been well and truly cored.
Trevor's Firestarter fell to three critical hits on the engine shielding and a whole heap of armour sanded off by being under constant fire.

Losses were high on both sides.
The Oliver's Republican Guards lost five platoons of infantry, which left one platoon of infantry that was combat effective. He also lost one tank, three GEV APCs and four wheeled APCs.
Trevor lost two platoons of infantry. However, Trevor's remaining forces were not in a position to control the battlefield having no armour, and so they agreed to collect the wounded and allowed each other to retrieve mechs and vehicles for salvage.

Oliver and Trevor.

Since Oliver did so well, actually inflicting losses on House Steiner I have promoted his character Major Alexander Mercia to Lt. Colonel, and of course the Republic news service will hail this as a great victory over Colonel Whales Royalists, who only withstood the attack down to the support of the offworld mercenaries that he had employed to subjugate the citizens of Mummerset to the old rule of Kings again.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Colours 2011: Newbury Racecourse


I haven't been to Colours, which is held at Newbury racecourse for a couple of years. When I checked my diary I see it was 2009. That was the year I was checking out terrain and making the decision to make my own, rather than buy a commercial product.

Going back was like visiting the past, as it seemed to me that nothing much in particular had changed, which is not a bad thing by any means. What had changed though was the fresh coffee stand was not open this time, and as far as I'm concerned this was a disaster.

I don't want to be drinking alcohol as I'm driving, so I want something nice to drink, and for me that doe not mean instant coffee. So that was a disappointment.

We drove down to Newbury from St. Albans where I had been taking a few pictures for Richard Clark, so by the time we arrived we were quite hungry, as well as thirsty. To say the least the food service was desultory and I ended up having a hot sausage roll thing that was very unsatisfactory. So from a culinary perspective Colours was an epic fail, which may sound a bit unfair, but the lack of choices really affected my experience of the show.

As to the show itself.

Traders were in the usual plentiful abundance. The win of the day was getting a copy of Battle (1970 edition) for five pounds from the bring and buy stand. I then found a dealer with Testors Dullcote and bought their last four tins. Then I bought some Basetex texture paint as I had run out. Yes I know I can make this stuff by mixing paint, texture and glue, but it is simpler and less messy to buy a pre-prepared product. Spoke to the crew at GZG, as we go way back to when we were all young and foolish

Looked around at other stuff but didn't buy anything, partly because the most of the traders I might have bought stuff from weren't taking credit cards. I don't know if this was something to do with the venue, or what? So mostly browsed, rather than bought anything. However, did see some fabulous new building from Fieldworks, but though they said these would  be up on the website this week they are not yet posted. However, as soon as they are I will be ordering one of each of the nine new buildings I saw. I should have taken a picture I suppose?

A couple of games caught my attention. First up was Edward VIII Cocktail Bar - A Very British Civil War set in 1938 called The Battle of Ambridge.

I especially liked the seaplanes above. The other more low key affair being the Royal Air Force Wargames Association game Stargate GB-1.

Reminded me of a miniature version of the Contact! airsoft LARP I'm involved in. Talking of this, a picture of a twelve inch to the foot scale military vehicle at Colours 2011.

An American M1009 CUCV radio truck in three colour NATO camo.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Weekend Photoshoot

Been a bit of a busy weekend for me as I went up to St. Albans Saturday morning to shoot a few photographs for Richard at TooFat Lardies for his forthcoming I Ain't Been Shot Mum 3. He says he is pleased with what I did, but for me the proof of the pudding will be seeing the end product etc.

For me the photo shoot was quite stressful, because it has been an awful long time since I've taken pictures on any sort of commission basis, and it was a lesson in how stress makes you forget things. However, in spite of all that I took 94 pictures in an hour and a half, which was all the time we had, because the hall was booked for use by another group.

Some are appallingly out of focus, and other have camera shake to die for, when one take 94 shots one is bound to get a few good ones. I just hope that I got enough good shots for Richard to be happy and able to proceed with producing the rules.

I've been looking at the manual and dummies guide I bought to refresh what I need to know to get the maximum out of my camera. Oh ye,s some very cropped teasers for your delight.


PS: I'm really excited by these rules and I don't even play WW2, but I can see I'll be using them for modern actions though.

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Some Quick Comparisons

I'm so excited having a new toy to play with...

Been spending the day reading the manual, as that always helps, and setting all the options to what I guess will be the best settings for me; close-ups with maximum resolution and depth of field. And here are some comparisons of old pictures from previous posts versus one very quick and dirty hand held. All are posted at original size, so pretty much WYSIWYG.

Pendraken WW1 British officer, which is cruel enlargement from a group picture. The figure is 11.5mm tall.

MechWarrior battle armour figure, again taken from a group picture, which shows the best quality I could achieve with the Sony using aperture priority and a tripod i.e: F8 multi-second exposure. This figure is 14.5mm tall.

MechWarrior power armour figure that is 12.5mm tall, paint job unfinished, taken as a handheld and blown up from a group picture. Sorry no idea of the F stop etc as I haven't quite got to grips with the information overload from the on screen display. I swear this camera's viewfinder is like looking through an aircraft HUD.

All have had the same amount of post camera tweaking to improve contrast etc. All pictures are shown here at actual size. So I'm well pleased with the results so far. Now all I have got to do is become one with my camera through the process of Zen meditation!

End of an Era: Photographic Meanderings

As is my wont I'm meandering a bit off the general theme of wargaming to talk about photography, as I've just bought a "new" secondhand camera off eBay.  This act has been quite unsettling in some ways, as it marks the end of me using a 35mm SLR (single lens reflex).  Though realistically this is more like the full stop that ends the sentence, one that has been left unfinished since 2002, which was when I last used my Pentax MX in anger.

When I came back into wargaming circa May 2008 I started to take pictures for a modelling thread that I have on the BattleTech Universe Form here: Workbench.  This required me to be able to post digital pictures, and for a time before I had considered buying a scanner and using film etc, but quite frankly the cost in time and effort, as well as money, just wasn't worth it.  I was lucky in that my partner lent me a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V1 a 5 megapixel camera with four times optical zoom for me to use.

The shift from film to digital was quite interesting, because it turned me from an experienced user into a complete newbie.

Start of extreme photographic geekiness...

Below is a picture of my SLR system that centered around my Pentax MX, which I've owned for many years, having bought it in I think 1981 from new.  Over the intervening years I bought lenses for it and a spare Pentax ME body about twelve years ago.

As you can see above The black MX has a 2.5 FPS auto-winder, which was a big deal in the 1980.  This is actually my second one, as the first fell to bits and I bought a second hand replacement many years later, which has served me well ever since, and still works like new.

To the extreme left is one of the two original lenses I bought back in the day, a Pentax M series 100m F4 macro for taking pictures of models funnily enough.  Mounted on the MX is a Pentax M series F3.5 15mm super wide angle lens that I bought second hand, which I loved for its extreme 114° field of view.  In the middle is a second hand Pentax M*(star) series F4 300m, which again back in the day was the smallest, lightest telephoto lens of its generation.  On the ME (original ME not ME Super) is the other original lens I bought back with the camera, a Pentax M series F2.8 40mm pancake lens, which was the slimmest lens that you could get, and made the Pentax MX feel light weight and compact (for definitions of light and compact that today seem laughable).  Finally, on the far right is a Pentax M series F4 24mm wide angle, again bought second hand.

The reason I emphasize the second hand acquisition is because in their day these lenses were arm and a leg expensive, costing way more than the camera.  Needless to say I used this camera quite a lot over the years, and as my first degree was in photography I have a certain amount of technical competence.

It can also be said that I was a manual everything user, as I never saw the need for automatics and the purchase of the ME was a bit of an aberration given that all of my lenses have the capability of resolving more detail than high street commercially processed film can render, which was driven by the desire to have a cheap point and shoot camera.

End of extreme photographic geekiness...

So, it was a bit of a paradigm shift for me to get my head around the fully featured Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V1.  However, I did get to grips with it and have been taking pictures with it for the last three or so years.  Still haven't used all the features, like for instance the nightshot feature.  Not felt the need, as my main aim was to take pictures of my models, or pictures of full size vehicles etc.

Just for the record the above picture is the first taken with my new camera, which I'll come to in a bit.

This Sony model first came out in 2003 and was pretty dam good for its day.  It has a 1/1.8" (7.2 x 5.3, 8.9mm diagonal) CCD (charge coupled device; the thing that acts like a film in my Pentax) with 5 megapixels, and the lens is a F2.8/F4 zoom that can be stopped down to F8 (stopped down is when you make the aperture of the lens smaller that then gives you a greater depth of field, which is really good when taking pictures of small things).  You've seen the results here on this blog.

However, even with the lens stopped down to F8, using a tripod to compensate for the long exposure times, the fact of the matter is that I've not really been able to get the picture quality I want (namely close-ups of very small 10mm figures) that shows the work I've done in the best possible light.  So I took the plunge and bought a new second hand camera.

Above is my new Panasonic Lumix DMC GF1 that has a micro four thirds CCD (18 x 13.5, 22.9mm diagonal) that shoots at 12 megapixels.  The lens is a 14 to 45 F3.5/5.6 zoom that stops down to F22.  So this camera is big step up from the Sony, as not only does it have more megapixels, it also has a much larger CCD, which means better "quality" too.  Once I've got my head around all of the controls and set up everything to my satisfaction I shall be posting pictures using my new camera in the weeks that follow.

Saturday 27 August 2011

WW1 Interregnum

It has been a while since I've posted anything about my efforts to put together two WW1 forces so that I can play games set in late 1917 and finishing with the 100 day offensive of 1918. While I'm no where near finished painting anything of note, what I have done is finally finish basing all of the figures for both the Germans and British forces I am building.

Above shows the British company and I'm thinking about about adding another base of three Tommies to all the rifle squads because as they stand each platoon is only 33 men. This would strengthen the platoon to 39 men. As you can see I have six Vickers machine gun teams and a four mortar teams to support this lot when in defence. I'm also making up shock markers using casualties on stretchers, but again I haven't decided how many I will need? Or,  I could use one each with a die next to them to indicate shock points. Any advice would be welcome.

Alternatively, if Pendraken were to do some poses of Tommies firing either prone, kneeling and or standing, then I could add two scouts to each platoon, which would only strengthen them up to 35 men. I'm undecided about this.

The German company organisation is taken straight from the example in TooFat Lardies Through the Mud and the Blood book, and represents a late war company with Stosstrupen attached, which makes them quite formidable and what has caused me to re-evaluate the number of Tommies I have in my British company.

Above is the basic company consisting of three kampfzuge (platoons). Two of the  kampzuge are made up of eleven man einheits gruppe (squads); seven riflemen and one LMG four man team, plus NCO. The third kampzuge is half strength einheits gruppe consisting of of 32 men; two groups of eight riflemen, and two groups of with one LMG with eight men.

To strengthen the German company each kampfzuge will have a stoss gruppe (shock troops), or assault grenade squad attached to stiffen them when attacking. Finally, there are the erganzun zug consisting of sixteen men with four NCOs and the reserves made up of a recce squad and granaten werfer squad. In addition, I've added two flame thrower teams and one 37mm artillery piece that the stoss gruppe could have attached when in assault.

I also have tanks for the British; three MkIVs, three MkVs and three MkI supply tanks, plus eight Whippets for the break through group, and plan to add a cavalry troop/squadron to this as well, but no pictures of them yet as I haven't managed to assemble the models.

Besides WW1 actions I intend to use this force as the basis for a what if continuation war that rolls over in 1919 and beyond that is based on the Germans not counter attacking when the Americans arrived, but rather basing their strategy on defense in depth with mobile quick strike formations. This story could then develop into a breakdown of both sides ability to wage war when the inevitable discontent the lengthening of the war produces leads to uprising and civil war breaking out. This does preclude me going all out and adding H. G. Wells Martians for a War of the Worlds scenario. I have some tripod war machines that would serve quite nicely for this idea.

Saturday 20 August 2011

1st Republican Guards & 3rd Royal Guards of Mummerset

I'm writing this a couple of days later than planned, because I've allowed myself to be side tracked with stuff; Real Life (TM). One of the things I was musing on, as one does when one is thinking about writing is topics. I have loads of topics to write about, but as most of them involve pictures of stuff I've been painting etc, and I've singularly failed to take said pictures, they will have to wait. Not that every post needs pictures, but the feedback I get is generally along the lines of where's the picture! 

Anyway I've been following advice given by Gordon Y in the comments of the previous post, and have primed up and dry brushed some of the vehicles I need for the Mummerset campaign; in particular those that I need for OPFOR and the occasional friendly support stuff.

First up is the OPFOR, in this instance the units for the 1st Republican Guards of President Marx, under the command of General Spencer. All of these are MechWarrior models de-clixed by the removal of their bases. At the back are four missile tanks with the battalion/regimental command truck in the middle. Then there are four wheeled tanks with an anti-aircraft platform in the middle. In front are four APC/armoured cars, and a Morningstar the company command vehicle leads the way. What I plan to do next is clean up the castings before I paint them up properly at my leisure.

What I'm short of for this company are suitable vehicles for transporting the the company of infantry. I had originally planned on using the APC/armoured cars, but to my eyes they only seem large enough to hold a squad, which is very realistic, but it would mean I would have to acquire and paint up another twelve models. I'm lazy and feel painting as few models as possible is a far better thing to do than paint up hordes.

Here are the 3rd Royal Guards under the command of Colonel/General Whales. Again all of these are converted MechWarrior clix models. At the back are are four SM1 self propelled guns that have been converted to troop carriers, and I've also added a small missile launcher to each so that they can provide indirect fire support. These are quite large models and I can fully imagine them carrying a platoon each. Next are four hover tanks, and in front of them are four scout craft. At the front is the company command vehicle.

Originally I wanted all the APC GEVs to be based on the model I'm now using for the company command vehicle, but it is one of the MechWarrior promo models that I was lucky to get hold of, and I haven't seen any since on eBay. The plan had been to to use the models at the back as the basis for missile carriers, rather than troop transports, but needs must as they say.

Finally, HMS Burlington, a resin model from Pendraken miniatures, which I've assembled, but not yet finished. It is a pastiche of a WW2 Flower class corvette, which I intend to detail up with gubbins and gribbly bits to make it more visually stunning, because as it stands it is a bit bland.

 So there you have it, a picture of another weeks progress on my workbench. Well not quite as I've done a load of infantry, but have yet to find time to take some photographs of them. Neither have I found the time to take pictures of the completed infantry that I promised to post up here from a couple of blogs back.

 However, all things considered not a bad weeks worth of work, even if I feel I could have done more the truth is I've been too tired to concentrate on making and painting things.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Too Little Time, too Much to do

On this TMP thread there is discussion come poll for how many periods one plays? I tend to think of myself as primarily a Sci-Fi wargamer who does some modern era stuff, but when I sat down and listed all the different miniatures I have I found I 'm spreading myself quite thin...

1. BattleTech is probably my first and foremost commitment. Certainly it is one of the few games where I have miniatures that I bought for the game that are over 20 years old. I have a large lead mountain of unpainted figures in spite of my best efforts.

2. MechWarrior follows, there is no argument that I actually have more stuff for this game, but on the other hand this is not saying much given how was easy as it was to buy all pre-paints after the game folded bought off eBay.

3. 15mm SF. Mostly Traveller and Dr. Who Daleks, which again are mostly over 20 years old by now. However, very few unpainted figures.

4. 6mm OGRE/GEV most of these are again old models from the first time around and are again a minimum of 20 years old in most cases. Have a shoebox full of unopened blisters and another box with unpacked models that have been sorted into company's etc waiting paint to be applied.

5. Spaceships, a motley collection of older stuff with a few more modern additions to fill out the fleet. Mostly languishing unloved and unplayed with for some time now. I also have a box of unpainted models to add to my lead mountain.

6. 15mm AK47R. One of new additions since I got back into wargaming again, more unpainted than painted, but that pretty much goes without saying, and is equally true of my unpainted BattleTech miniatures. About half based, while the other half form a small mountain of lead.

7. 10mm WW1 late war Western Front. Another new period brought on by buying Through the Mud and the Blood from TooFat Lardies. Still mostly unpainted, though largely all the figures are based.

8. 10mm Spanish Civil War. Lead mountain awaiting some TLC.

9. 10mm VietNam. Another lead mountain awaiting attention.

Well that is a lot more periods and scales than I would have given myself credit for being involved with. No wonder I don't get any thing finished.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Historical Wargamers Have it Easy

I  know that the title of this piece will cause a bit of controversy, but it is made partly in response to  Neil Shuck and Henry Hyde's podcasts View from the Veranda, where they assert that Sci-Fi & Fantasy don't have to do research for their armies. I inferred from this comment that they think that having to do research somehow makes historical wargaming a more serious activity requiring dedication to achieve the goal of fielding an army, whereas Sci-Fi & Fantasy just require one to buy an  easily digested source book.

Neither of them would appear to be anti Sci-fi & Fantasy, far from it in fact, as there is clearly evidence that Neil is a player an collector of Sci-fi & Fantasy wargame armies, and Henry plays Neil. However, I really want to beg to differ about having to do research makes historical wargaming somehow harder, and or that one has to be more serious about the hobby.

Okay, I will admit that I have a research background, it goes hand-in-hand with my job, and I have to be able to interpret the results of research trials and apply said result in my work. This without doubt gives me more skills when it comes to researching stuff, but given that any person who can read can go to a library, or in this age of the internet search on Google, I can't see that a determined person can't find out all they need to know about any given subject. Whether or not what they find is correct, or not, is of course another matter indeed.

Of course, if a person is not determined to follow their passion then that is another matter. In this case they want the stuff in an easy to digest format, and preferably be able to buy the miniatures and rules to go, which is all well and dandy until you realise that one still has to paint all the stuff you've bought up. And this is the Elephant in the room, which in all fairness to Neil and Henry they do acknowledge and muse upon possible solutions.

The other problem is that miniature wargames can segueway into military modelling. This is epitomised by the fastidiousness over the correct colours for painting uniforms and the details of the uniforms and equipment carried. I always have a wry smile to myself when this topic comes up, because of the old adage that a unit that passes inspection is not ready for combat. and any unit ready for combat will not pass inspection. You only have to look at the field expedient changes and modification to the gear that is worn by serving soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to see that this is as true to day as it ever was. In my opinion this fastidiousness is driven by the scale/size of the figures that are being played with. I'm with Peter from Baccus in that 6mm is the one true wargames scale.

Actually I'm not completely with Peter, because doctrinally 6mm is not a scale, but rather a very loose definition of the size of a figure that varies depending on assumptions made about the height of a man, and how to measure said height, with complications like variable average heights across the ages.

However, in principle, smaller is better and I would consider 3mm to 10mm, where the average is approximately 6mm as being a good size for miniature toy soldiers, if you want to play anything other than small skirmish wargame. For me the figures need to be as close as possible to the ground scale that one is playing over if one is going to make the most of the benefits of using toy soldiers, rather than having all the downsides that toy soldiers bring to a game when the ground scale is grossly out of proportion.

The topic of ground scale deserves a blog entry in its own right, because what I might consider proportionate others might consider foolish. I'll come to this another time.

Anyway, I've meandered off the topic of research and historical wargaming versus Sci-Fi & Fantasy wargaming, and why I think that neither is easier to do than the other. Quite simply if you are modelling a British WW2 regiment, you chose the one you want to represent, a period where they are deployed and with a little bit of faffing you will be able to get an ORBAT (order of battle) and away you go. Painting the uniforms is then just a matter of finding a paint that matches the colour the uniforms were, and Bob's your Uncle and Charly's your Aunt.

On the the other side of the coin if one is making up an army for a Sci-Fi campaign, and I will use my own Mummerset one as an example, I had to decide what colour were the uniforms would be, how the platoons would be organised, how many men, what sort of infantry would they be, how many platoons to a company, how many company's to a battalion, and how many battalions to a regiment? Admittedly I could just pick figures off the top of my head, but I know that this stuff comes from doctrine. So I had to think what sort of doctrines would the armed forces of Mummerset have? And then I had to think what was the main arm of the army?

All of this actually required a lot of historical knowledge into how armies grow and develop wen reacting to past wars fought and the introduction of new technology. Of course one could by a book on Ork armies, but I'm not playing Games Workshop Warhammer 40K, and I think to label all Sci-Fi & Fantasy wargamers as people who play Games Workshop products rather blinds one to all the other wargamers that are getting on and doing there own things, like for example Gruntz and the Society of Science Fiction & Fantasy Wargamers , not to mention BattleTech of course!

Friday 5 August 2011

Battletech Interregnum

Like most wargame hobbyists I too fit the stereotype of someone who buys stuff and then doesn't get around to actually doing anything with it, all the time buying new stuff that is shiney, which has caught my attention. I'm currently off work sick, and have as such a lot of time, but very little inclination to do anything, hence the sick part. However, I have dragged myself to the work bench this week and spent sometime texturing bases of trays of infantry figures.

The picture at the top are all the extra figures I need for the Mummerset campaign I'm running. Basically more infantry than I've ever painted for BattleTech. What you can see here are two motorized infantry platoons, followed by two standard foot infantry platoons, and at the rear one platoon of Power Armour and one jump infantry platoons. Oh, the bases to the left are modified MWDA clix flight bases for VTOLs and helicopters.

Texturing infantry bases is not the most interesting task in the world, but suits my limited concentration span, and it is something I can do while listening to a podcast. Not something that I would have thought I would ever find myself doing as I find listening to talking voices on the radio rather distracting, but at the moment as long as it is the right kind of distracting I can listen to a podcast about wargaming.

In particular I've been listening to View from the Veranda and Meeples & Miniatures both are quite fun, though I prefer View from the Veranda more, because the chemistry between Henry Hyde and Neil Shuck just really works. Anyway, those of you who want something to listen to can check these out and make up your own minds.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Card Decks for Epiphany


I was asked in the previous blog how I decided what cards to design for using with BattleTech?

The answer is actually by trial and error, though at the time I started I thought I had worked out what I needed and that it wouldn't need correcting. How wrong can one be? Hubris I'm sure. Anyway, I thought that the question deserved an answer, if only so that others can make their own mistakes and not repeat mine, which is always a good things to do.

I started by having a pack of cards that were made up for TooFat Lardies Through the Mud and the Blood and Charlie Don't Surf games that I got from ArtsCow that had been graciously posted as being freely available to anyone who wanted to buy a set. Unfortunately, I don't think I can return the favour as I've used some imagery for my sets from Catalyst Games Limited, and therefore my sets fall under personal use only, so you will have to make your own. Having a pack of cards to look at allowed me to at leat think about what I might need.

So the first thing I did was make a list of all the mechs I had and to what factions they belonged.

Obviously, if you are not fussed about factions, or just want a card for very mech you own as a generic card, then I can't see why one couldn't just make up a deck with all the different mechs you own, or want to play with. Though I'm not a big faction fan, I do have all my mechs assembled into units that I think match each other in some way. So all my Dougram bipedal mechs are in my Pink Panthers Battalion, while the Dougram quads are in my House Steiner unit, along with faction specific mechs like the Zeus.

My House Kurita unit is made up from models from the Macross show UN Spacey forces, while my House Marik unit has Marauders from Macross and Locusts from Crusher Joe, mostly because I think that a unit should look like all the units came from one design philiosophy. YMMV.

So, where was I? Ah yes, making lists. I then added some extra cards to the pack. These included two what I call "vent" cards. When both of these are drawn the turn ends. Given that they are shuffled into the pack at random this means that some turns can be very short, or you can run through the whole pack on occasion, but by and large you only get through about two thirds of a deck. So not every unit in the deck will move every turn.

This mechanism generates a lot of extra tactical problems for players, and yet at the same time it simplifies things. The first thing is that you can't be sure when the vent card is going to appear, but as soon as one does then you know that the turn could end on the next draw of the cards. This strangely makes it a lot easier to move units as over planning stuff by micro managing doesn't work when you can't guarantee what you will be able to move in a turn. This also speeds up the turns.

At first I planned on giving all units a card, but since this is BattleTech, a game about battlemechs, I decided to make all vehicles and infantry move by platoon. However, after the first game it became apparent that battle armour is better moved by squads, as each squad is effectively equivalent to an infantry platoon in defence and offensive capabilities.

For artillery I again had a card per battery, but wrote on the cards that they could either move or fire. Now most of the time artillery will be off board, but given I was going to allow counter battery fire, adding in the option seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, not yet play tested, but I imagine it will happen at the next game. I also added a forward observers card so that one could call in the artillery. This allows one to dispense with tracking how many turns the fire takes to arrive, as all too frequently what happens is that the artillery cards are drawn before the forward observer card and when it is drawn no more artillery arrives before the vent cards are drawn to end the turn. Neat huh?

Finally, I added special cards. First of were cards blind movement, again not yet play tested, but in principle one will be able to move units as blinds, which are not revealed until spotted, fired upon, or when they fire with a certain amount of dummy blinds to add to the confusion. Then I added a special event card that could be scenario specific, and a faction specific card. For the House Steiner unit this was the "wall of steel" that makes all the units fire when it is used at the expense of being able to move, and of course the units can fire again at the end of the turn as well. Assuming the player manages the heat build up of course. I plan to have a House Kurita "banzai" when I make up a pack for them at some point. I will have to think what special stick I can assign House Marik though? Suggestions welcome if anyone has any ideas. And I think that is it?

Not quite, I remembered I also made cards for air strikes, which we play tested as if they were artillery strikes. That didn't work out all that well, so the use is going to be changed to when the card is drawn it can be used there and then, but afterwards it has to be discarded from the deck. This is to represent the limited amount of air power available in the campaigns and the fact that aircraft have to go back to re-arm and refuel between sorties.

So, I made a couple of decks up and I then had to go back and make a couple more decks up from the refinements that came from play testing the idea. Ideas for variant cards become quite addictive as one thinks if I had a card that did this? So this is not something for people who want a ready to go answer as making cards, by whatever process, will require some play testing and modifications to meet your needs, but I for one will not be going back to games without cards for controlling movement and length of turns, because for me it has just made the game so much more fun to play.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Epiphany Cards

As I said in an earlier blog entry I would come back and describe the card system that we have implemented for playing with BattleTech. The goal for using the cards was to remove the control players had over the order they move their units in and too replace the certainty of knowing one would always have one spare unit to move last if one had won the initiative.

By replacing the you move one unit and then I move one unit with a random order of movement system one has to deal with the battle developing from chaos into order, rather than having control from the get go.

The way the cards work was shamelessly stolen from TooFat Lardies games, in particular their Charlie Don't Surf  and Through the Mud and the Blood rules. At first I found the need for cards off putting. Why oh why not have some simpler mechanism driven by dice? However, after playing Terrible Sharp Sword, an American Civil War supplement for their Sharp Practice at Salute this year I was taken by the flexibility that the addition that cards bring to a game.

So I set out to make some cards of my own, and not satisfied with using standard playing cards with sticky labels stuck on them I took advantage of a Hong Kong based playing card maker called ArtsCow who do print on demand cards set to one's own specification.

So I made up a list of all the units that I wanted to be able to field for my campaign, used ArtsCow's online Silverlight design package and got my first two sets of cards made up for my Mummerset campaign, which you can see a selection of in the picture at the top of the post.

I also stole another idea from TooFat Lardies, the idea of a variable length turn that is governed by what they call the "tea break" card, but for BattleTech I'm calling the "vent" card. I use two of these for the game shuffled into the pack. One ignores the first draw, but the turn ends when the second one is drawn. This means that turns can have lots of units being moved, or very few units being moved, and it is all down to the luck of the cards.

Besides the vent cards and the various different unit cards each side has, I also added other specials. For instance artillery barrages that need a forward observer to be called in, and again the order that the cards are drawn in matters. If the forward observer card comes first then the players keep it until the time when the artillery barrage card is drawn, and can then use it to designate a target. If on the other hand the artillery barrage card is drawn first and there is no forward observer card to use, then the artillery barrage doesn't happen.

I've also added a House Steiner "Wall of Steel" card that allows the Steiner side to fire when the card is drawn, and fire again at the end of the turn, but at the cost of losing movement for all battlemechs that haven't yet moved that turn. However, this is a very powerful special card and after the game we decided that once the Steiner player uses it, the card is then discarded from the deck.

Other cards include "airstrike" and moving on "blinds". Airstrikes work a bit like an artillery barrage and a special event, so the airstrike doesn't require a forward observer card to use, but once used is discarded from the deck. Blinds are for hidden movement. Each side will be able to deploy as hidden identity, with a number of dummy blinds as well. Units on blinds are revealed if observed on a roll of 8+ on 2D6, when the unit on the blind fires, or if it is fired upon.

No doubt I will think of other special event cards, for instance "Banzai" for House Kurita, and add them to packs of cards I will need to design for my other BattleTech forces I have, but at the moment I'm concentrating on only adding stuff I need for the campaign, so I will need to think about House Marik next.