Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Spirit and Energy Part 1 An unorthodox campaign for Sharp Practice 2

I've been trying for a while now to get my teeth into a longer term project, and hopefully I may have found it.

I bought Sharp Practice 2 (SP2) last year and was quite happy with it - it looks very interesting to read, but when we tried it out I found it a steep learning curve. Actually that's not the fault of the Lardies, who have used variations on the "Big Man" rules mechanic for years now, but more of a case of trying to run before we could walk by throwing ourselves in to a full sized game without getting enough practice with smaller forces. For whatever reason we have stayed away from it after an initial flush of enthusiasm. I suppose its a bit like watching Kurasawa's Seven Samurai - you know its great but sometimes you just cant be arsed to put the hours in.

I'm also a fan of Bernard Cornwell, who tells a good story. OK its the same story - eponymous hero overcomes prejudice and initial disadvantage to succeed in the end, transposed onto a back drop of historical events, but he does tend to tell it well. Which is why I found his stand alone book "The Fort" rather interesting. Unlike Sharpe and the other series this is an embroidered telling of a historical event, but this time with "real" characters. It is the story of the Penobscot Expedition, an attempt by the Americans to prevent the British building a base of operations in what is now Maine during the American War of Independence. It is clear Cornwell is fascinated by the story, and particularly how the American Command system seemed to work against themselves. I was interested too, and that sent me searching for other sources. The more I looked into it, the more I thought this could work as a campaign.

The campaign is split into two totally different elements. The first is a Committee game with three players each representing the three main American Commanders . They are each provided with overall briefings and also personal objectives, some of which may conflict, plus maps etc, and they sit down and decide what plan of action they will take. That plan is then translated to an on table scenario that will be played by a totally different set of players using SP2 and the result fed back to the Committee for further action. This has the advantage for me as freeing me up to act as Umpire, but also generating smaller scenarios that will allow me and the players to get up to speed with SP2 without the "sink or swim" problem.

That's all for now -  part 2 will deal with the logistics and some more details on both sides of the campaign.    

Monday, 13 February 2017

Winter Panthers for Tanks

Some time last year I mused on buying into Gale Force 9s new Tanks game as discussed here

Plastic Panthers

I played the first "Organised Play" campaign using mainly Cromwells (and for shame) Comets - something of an achievement as the campaign was supposed to be set in Normandy - I refer you to my earlier comments M'Lud, however the second campaign is late War Eastern Front and even I have limits so I needed some new toys.

I decided to get those Panthers painted, and in a fit of enthusiasm decided to try a whitewashed winter camouflage scheme - actually I initially undercoated them white then decided in a "sod that for a game of soldiers" moment to try a winter scheme as I was already half way there :-)

So here's the finished products. No decals (yet) but looking at pics there are many "real" vehicles where everything was over-painted anyway, so I may yet not bother.

So suitably inspired I'm now looking to expand my winter tanks collection, and I'm going to give this another read for inspiration.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Building an Impetus Army - part 4, The Toys

Following in from the last couple of pieces, having selected your army and decided on the rough numbers it's time to actually buy some figures. This can be fraught, so here again are a couple of pointers.

Plastic or Metal?
In many ways we are living in a golden age because plastic 28mm historical figures are making some armies financially viable again. What is more, the availability of cheap plastic figures has imposed something of a cap on metal figure prices. This is good for the gamer in the short term but we may end up with less choice in the future. As a personal choice I prefer plastic over metal for a number of reasons. Firstly, the aforementioned price. Historical plastic figures tend to sell at roughly around half the price of metal ones. A second advantage is weight. Seems a bit of a strange thing to have to consider but humping around several hundred metal figures can be something of a chore. On the downside be prepared to stick more bits together in plastic rather than metal. There are a couple of excellent sources too - Victrix, Perry, Gripping Beast and Warlord Games are probably the leaders in plastic, but you should also look to smaller outfits such as FireForge, Agema and Conquest. One word on Warlord. Their Hoplites are reboxed "Immortal Miniatures" ranges, which were probably the very first Ancient figures in plastic. They're ok, but not a patch on Victrix. The same can usually be said about the reboxed Wargames Factory Persians and Hoplites available from Warlord, although they are damned useful and very flexible figures. Victrix are currently in the lead here as they have just released their first Cavalry sets with more to follow, including Elephants in 2017.

That's not to say you should ignore metal, but you do need to be careful if you are going down that route. Twenty years ago Essex miniatures ruled the roost, but today they are largely ignored due to their static poses and lack of variation. Out and out leaders in the UK are Perry & their old employer Foundry,both great sculpts and wide ranges. Old Glory in both the US and UK are however very much worth looking at (the US website has many more pics than the UK) and the quality ranges from "rough and ready" to "Foundryesque" but with the advantage of discount prices. Warlord also produce a good selection of metal figures that vary in style and proportion, a result of their "hoovering up" of smaller ranges such as Immortal and Bronze Age. Mention should also be made of more niche suppliers such as Footsore, Gripping Beast (Kings of the Dark Age), First Corps \ Kingmaker, Aventine and many others, some of who produce exquisite and complete ranges in their chosen specialised area.

So going back to the earlier post on Romans, where would I get them? There is a stand out range available in plastic from Warlord, with Victrix promising another later in the year. To recap I suggested the following number of units to make up a core Early Imperial Roman force:

4 Legions
3 Auxilia
2 Funditores (Skirmish slingers)
2 Equites Alares Medium Cavalry
2 Mauri Javelin armed Light Cavalry (Moorish fits the bill)

Numbers of figures per base is not fixed in Impetus - you are free to go with as few or as many as you feel looks good, as long as you and your opponent can differentiate. In this case Warlord produce a box of thirty Legionaries in plastic, which would allow you to build four bases each with six or more figures on each. That's not too shabby. Warlord also produce an Auxilia box set with 24 figures, again that is more than enough for three units of Auxilia. At this point if you can still find them the older Wargames Factory Numidian Skirmishers and Early Imperial Auxiliary Cavalry boxes would cover most of your other requirements, but if you cant get them Warlord will sell you suitable metal figures, an Imperial Roman Cavalry Regiment will get you 12 figures for £24 which is actually very good value, and will happily furnish you with two bases of cavalry you need plus a couple of spares. In fact comparing it to other stuff on their website I think they may have screwed the pricing up so maybe strike now before it changes?

Cheap Romans!

Similarly you need 4-6 light horse with Javelin, or two packs, but the "Regiment" deal works out cheaper plus some slingers (one pack - Balearic) and you probably should grab a Command set of your choice.

So £50 in plastic Legions and Auxilia, £24 Cavalry, £18 Light Horse, £8 Slingers and £4 for a general, so just over £100 and you are done. If you were to buy the same numbers in metal from Foundry they would be about 12 packs so £144 but they do a deal that would bring the price down to £120 - worth considering. Old Glory in the UK sell their figures in packs of 30 including command (10 for Cavalry) so you would need 5 sets - 2 infantry, 2 cavalry and some skirmishers - again about £130. First Corps also come in at around this price point. Check them out and go for the one that most tickles your fancy

One word about the best deal going - Warlords Imperial Roman Starter Army. You can still find these on ebay for £65 and they're excellent value - 100 Legionaries and 24 Auxilia. You can build your army and have enough spare to gift them to a friend!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Building an Impetus Army Part 3 - Ecce Romani

 or “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

The Early Imperial Roman Army is something of a classic. The hard core of the army are the Legionaries. These are the benchmark Heavy Infantry in Impetus, and they represent the Romans at their most basic, a simple and horribly efficient meat grinder. You feed the opposition in at the front and mincemeat comes out at the rear. You need to take a minimum of four units, and a theoretical maximum of twenty. At a basic cost of 28pts each they’re not cheap, and you can upgrade them to A class if you really want to push the point home.  The trick is to ensure you keep these efficient killers in fighting condition and get them into contact at the appropriate point. The rest of the army exists to funnel the opponent into the blades, or protect them from pesky things like cavalry and skirmishers. 

To do this you have two different supporting arms, both of which are worth getting. Firstly there is the Cavalry. Roman Cavalry is not very special. There is nothing wrong with them, it’s just that they’re a bit err, Meh. They can have some average medium cavalry, and a couple of javelin armed light horse. You don’t get enough of either to make them a main fighting arm, and the opposition are usually either better or more numerous, or both. That is in many ways fortunate in that it makes you concentrate on doing the main thing, staying uncommitted and keeping the opposition cavalry off the Legionaries until they’re in position to do their thing. 

The other troops you need are your light infantry. You get some Auxilia infantry, and a few skirmishers. The Auxilia are a bit of a puzzle in some ways, particularly to new players, as they look a little bit like weak Legion, and they don’t have a missile weapon unlike most other light infantry. They do have a high initial combat factor and also the handy ability to negate the Impetus bonus of warband. They’re also very good at clearing woods – something the Legionaries are pretty poor at, and you really should take at least a couple of units. You also need some skirmishers. These can harry opposition heavy infantry as the Legions move up, or screen the Legions from enemy missile troops.  

Proportionally I think you need enough Auxilia to intersperse them between your Legionaries, so 4 Legions will require 3 Auxilia, 5 Legions 4 Auxilia, That allows you to intersperse an Auxilia between each Legion if you are fighting Warband, or to mass them to fight enemy light troops in bad terrain or operate as a mass on a flank if your opponent does not. Half as many skirmishers as Legions is more than enough to act as a skirmish screen. Your Cavalry force needs to be large enough to hold it's own, or rather not get overrun too early, so one or two medium Cavalry and two light Cavalry are probably enough.

So where does that leave us?

4 Legions @ 28pts each = 112
3 Auxilia @ 23pts each = 69
2 Funditores (Skirmish slingers) @ 14pts each = 28
2 Equites Alares Medium Cavalry @ 23pts each = 46
2 Mauri Javelin armed Light Cavalry  @ 21pts each = 42

Total so far is 297, so plenty to play with if we are planning a 400 point Army.  Romans have an Average or Good Command Structure, for 12 or 20 points, and you will need some Generals too. How many Generals and how good they are is up to you, but at least two. There's a big debate to be had as to the merits of three smaller Commands over two larger ones, but the Romans seem to be able to make 2 work as long as you are careful with the cavalry, so you can split the cavalry into one Command and the Infantry into the other, which is a straight 60/40 split so within the list building constraints. The Romans don't rely on flamboyant or high risk tactics, so they don't really need high value Generals - two Fair, or even Poor Generals will manage, but you do probably need some help from The Gods so maximise on 3 Rolls of Destiny (re-rolls) at 5 pts each.

So here is the a suggested Roman Army based on the above ideas. It's solid, conventional, and efficient.

Average Command Rating
3 Rolls of Destiny

Commander in Chief (Poor)
4 Legions
3 Auxilia
2 Slingers
Total Break 20, Breaks on 10

Cavalry Command (Poor)
2 Medium Cavalry
2 Light Cavalry
Total Break 8 Breaks on 4

Army Break Total 28 Breaks on 14
Total points 344

Your opponent will only guarantee a win if he breaks the main Infantry Command, or the Cavalry and a chunk of the Legion. If you are cagey with your Cavalry he will find the latter hard to do, and if he breaks the Legion its Game Over anyway.

That leaves you 56 points to play with. The Romans get a lot of support options, and plenty of Allies too. The Allies are a bit risky as they have to deploy as a Command themselves, so at 400 points I would tend to avoid them. You could upgrade you Legions to Veteran for 11 points each. Veteram Legions are superb, but if you are fighting enemy Warband you will probably not be doing much other than walking steadily forward so the extra training and experience is probably wasted. Other options are to add a couple of Archer units, or maybe some Light Artillery.

Weaknesses - deep heavy infantry - here I mean good quality Hoplites or Pikes deployed as large units. In Impetus large units maintain their fighting power longer than normal ones, so Legions are in danger if fighting 1-1, however those Large Units are sacrificing width for fighting power, so can usually be outflanked and then surrounded - another good use for your Auxilia.

Charging cavalry can sometimes bowl the Legions over, but they are rare and will certainly be outnumbered.

So that's it - a possible Roman Army for Impetus - next, what to buy and where? 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Building an Impetus Army Part 2 - Which Army?

So picking your army.

I'm not going to say which you should pick - for reasons that will become quickly obvious, but rather give you some things to think about that may help you in your choice.

First - Period or Free?

Are you planning to play in a narrow historical period or take on all comers? Impetus will happily allow you to play armies from the Biblical Era to the end of the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance, and it will  allow you to use New Kingdom Egyptians against Medieval Burgundians if you so wish. That doesn't mean they are equal however, as armies from different periods will have wildly different fighting styles and capabilities, and unlike Fantasy or Sci Fi armies, they have those styles and capabilities for real world reasons which are mostly to do with their "regular" opponents. As a general rule the later armies are smaller and harder hitting, so if you are looking for "killer" armies Late Medieval ones may well fit the bill (pun), however the earlier periods are often far more interesting AND more fun to play. Again this is very much a question of your gaming group. If there are already a core of period armies it would be best to choose something that fits in, DO NOT PICK HUSSITES*.  There is a good core of "Classical" Period armies in my area, Greeks and Romans etc, so they are a great place to start.

Second - Competitive or Friendly?
Yes we are all friendly around here, but there is a little bit more to it than that. (If you are not a competition player please don't get put off competitions by what follows, just be aware.) The problem with competition formats is you need to play three games in a day, plus time for lunch, fags, cuppa's, a bit of shopping etc. It follows that you have usually about an hour and a half to three quarters to play each game, from opening the box to packing up. Also to "do well" in competitions you need to score well in all three rounds - narrow wins or draws do not help. That means winning competition armies must be direct and to the point - you can't spend too much time softening an opponent up, messing with ambushes, flanks etc or trying a lot of finesse, you just need an army to smash the opponent in the face and shock and awe him into oblivion. The ultimate competition army is of course Swiss Confederates, who are so single minded and aggressive it is hard to believe the same people gave us Cuckoo clocks and Toblerone. Getting hit by a Swiss army is something like getting hit by a truck. The other side of the coin is if you are playing friendlies or not that interested in being a top scoring competition player you can pick armies with more finesse or that take time to wear an opponent down. A good example of this phenomenon in action are my beloved Persians. They lack any real punch so usually do average to poor in competitions, in fact I've only ever came top once using then and that was a fluke. On the other hand they're a great army for club \ shop games where you can take a bit more time and enjoy the game more.

Lastly, and most importantly, do you feel a connection?
Eh? Ok what I mean here is that you need to feel some kind of connection to your army, know a bit about them, or at least find out a bit about them, learn why they fought in the way they did. Impetus armies are a major investment in time and effort, not to mention money, and if you are going to get to the end of that building stage and get the return in enjoyment it helps if you can identify with "The Lads". I'm not suggesting you dress up as Hannibal (you can if you want) but you will get more from the whole experience of building and playing with your army if you have an affinity, no matter how daft or indirect. All my armies are chosen because I feel something about them interests me. I like the  religious pigheadedness and modernity the Hussites represent, I like defending Richard III as the brave and savvy King not the panto villain Shakespeare turned him into, etc etc

* unless of course you are playing with armies from Late Medieval Europe in which case wheel them on, OR if you just take pleasure at watching 99% of opponents stare across the table at you in perplexed puzzlement. Hussites are almost unbeatable in competitions. They are also totally useless in competitions because they rely on your opponent smashing his army to pieces on the front of your wagons. As soon as they realise this you may as well call it a draw and pack up.

Next - a couple of examples of what armies to do, and possible what not to do

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Building an Impetus Army - Just in case Santa got the note!

I've been asked a couple of times by the guys in the shop about playing Impetus and choosing your armies, so I thought this would make an interesting post topic (I hope you agree!). What follows is a list of things I think you should think about before you start.

1. Scale
OK I know this seems stupid but "some" people (looking at you Mark) seem to forget that you really need an opponent. Make sure whatever you are buying is in the same scale as the local gaming group, unless you are ploughing a lonely solo furrow, it really helps if your toys are the same scale as your likely opponent. In my area this means 28mm for preference. There are several advantages here. 28mm is easily available, and although the individual figure cost is higher than 15mm and 20mm, you will use fewer figures per unit, so 28mm also tends to be cheaper. Lastly , if you are of "a certain age" they're still big enough to see :-)

2. Cost
The next thing you need to have in your mind is budget. Historical wargaming is not expensive compared to the Fantasy \ Sci Fi stuff around at the moment, and if you are used to paying GW'esque prices this is probably not such a problem. That said do a little bit of a costing per figure to give you a rough idea, and if its looking too rich, maybe think again as if you cant hit the playing points level, you probably wont get to play.... As a general rule historical infantry are about £1-£1.50 each in metal, cavalry between £3-£5. Plastics are cheaper

3. Time
One thing non historical gamers sometimes are surprised by is the size of historical armies. There are a few that can be built at low figure counts, but most are going to be 100+ infantry and at least a couple of dozen cavalry. That can be a significant painting time commitment.  Impetus isn't a "boutique" game with a few figures and simple rules. Building an Impetus army is a much bigger and challenging project. Of course it is worth the effort, but it is a lot of effort and will take you months not weeks to complete.

So that's part 1. If you are still interested I will look at what you should think about when choosing an actual army.


Monday, 28 November 2016

Valiant Miniatures 1:72 scale IF8 Infantry Cart

Sometimes you come across a model that just makes you say "wow". The Valiant Miniatures IF8 Infantry Cart is one of those.

Firstly, you have to wonder why no one did one before, as it is such an iconic piece of German military equipment. Shortly after you have to wonder about why Valiant did it at all, and did it in injection moulded plastic, when there are so many other things they could have done.

Bit of history. The Infantriekarren IF8 to give it its proper name was a simple cart issued to just about every infantry unit in the German Army. Anyone who has seen pics of the Germans on the move will probably have seen one, even if your mind fails to register what is in fact a simple two wheeled cart. They were designed to be hand pulled, horse drawn or even by motorcycle or Kettenkrad. I've even seen pics of one being pulled by dogs! You could pull two together in tandem. They were used for carrying, well anything, but mainly ammunition and other infantry supplies.

However, I can hear you thinking - as I did, why? Wargamers are notorious for wanting big tanks and guns and on this measure I admit the IF8 is a bit lacking, as it doesn't do anything "kewl" and you would be hard pushed to think of a special rule to apply to it. On the other hand this is a fantastic piece of military equipment that will enhance the look of your game just by being there. I plan to use mine as jump off markers for my German Infantry in Chain of Command.

Back to the kit. Its a nice and well detailed kit, you actually get 2 identical sprues in the box, each will make one cart, plus a horse and a soldier to lead it. It goes together well and quickly, and you can build a number different load-outs including a Panzershrek frame and an MG42 AA mount.

You can't mention Valiant without mentioning scale. It says 1/72 on the box. Received wisdom in wargaming circles is 1/72 equates to 20mm. The problem is that the soldier provided is rather taller than that, much closer to 25mm, but still small when compared to other "28mm" ranges. In short (pun intended) these really only fit with other Valiant models.

I'm still totally conflicted about Valiant. They're superb models, but they just don't fit with anything else.