Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Deja Vu - or I wrote this a few weeks ago and forgot to push the "Publish" button.

So it's Derby World Wargames next weekend, and that on Planet Renko usually means one thing - Impetus. Ok Impetus and beer. Impetus, beer, a curry...

Usually I have my army chosen and a fair few practice games under the belt before the big day - not so this time. This year we are stepping up to 400pts from 300 \ 350. I had originally planned to paint a new Thracian army up for Derby, but that particular bit of mo-jo leaked or was stolen after about half way. That left my Old Faithfull Early Achaemenid Persian, or Richard III, or Ancient British, or.....Hussite

The problem with the Persians is they are very old figures - some of them are from the QT Models range where you got to build the troops by selecting bodies, heads & weapons. All very Avant Garde in the 1980s but now they look rather sad. I have a big pile (a technical term meaning "enough") of Foundry Persians to replace them, but have not quite got around to painting them yet. A also need a camp making. This should be easy, and when completed will look like this

But better and made out of pink foam :-)

So having left it to late to rebuild Persepolis that leaves Richard III - aka Uncle Dicky  and his Yorkists. Problem here is that they are spectacularly unlucky, and not a great army to use - their tactic being to stand still and shoot a lot. All WotR armies are similar in that respect, and it makes for interesting games when they play each other but they are horribly one dimensional, and I didnt fancy that.

So Ancient British? Again I'm not feeling the urge. the Ancient Brits are the diametric opposite of the Yorkists - they charge across the table and win or die. Not a lot of command decisions there either, and open competitions like Derby tend to feature a lot of late Medieval armies with Knights - and they ride the Brits down in droves.

So the unloved child going to Derby is Hussites. I have a 300pt 28mm Hussite army based for Impetus. It looks quite nice, but it has all the on table charm of a car crash. I've decided to give it a go at 400pts to see if this step up improves it at all. I should add the Hussites are spectacularly good at what they do, which in Impetus competitions tends to be to act as a massive tripping hazard to competetive armies, particularly light horse armies, who may as well pack up and go home. This Hussite has seen off Mongols, Scythians, Numidians, Sassanids and Templars - mostly without breaking a sweat.

In case you are not au fait with middle European History, the Hussites were a religious group from Bohemia who fell out with the Church in about 1419 over such major issues as who should get the wine at Communion and which way the Priest faced. This all got out of hand to the point Joan of Arc threatened to lead a Crusade to put them right. The Holy Roman Empire thought it could handle this, and descended on them in a wave of heavily armoured knights. In almost all other circumstances this would have ended quickly with the Peasants ridden down and the wine being back as the sole prerogative of the priesthood. In this case they has a secret weapon - Jan Zizka. Zizka had lived the life of a fairly un-noteworthy soldier up to that point, but cometh the hour, cometh the Jan. He realised his army of peasants and townsfolk couldn't fight knights in the open, and couldn't stand a siege forever either. So he perfected a new form of warfare where his peasants fought from wagons that could be chained together to form a sort of mobile fortification. Each wagon was crewed by crossbowmen and handgunners, with some polearm equipped infantry just in case anyone got close. They also used numerous small cannons - another first as no-one thought they were of any use except in sieges.  The opposition didn't have a clue how to deal with this and so resorted to plan A - "Charge!!". This lead to a string of Hussite victories - in five years of constant war against just about everyone  Zizka never lost a battle, dying in 1424 of the plague. Hussites it is!      

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Painting Scourge for DropFleet Commander - First ships off the production line

So Dropfleet Commander Kickstarter pledges are due "soon" and retail release hopefully mid October. I was lucky enough to get some Scourge ships pre-release and decided to try and paint them. The aim was to have a system that could be repeated without too much effort but looked nice at table ranges - so here goes.

First I undercoated white - I used Citadel white undercoat as it was recommended - and it certainly did the job.

This was followed up with airbrushing everything Vallejo Model Air Chrome - I airbrushed because I didn't have any spray silver - I don't think you need an airbrush but I had it there so used it rather than getting a spray can.

Then everything got a heavy wash with Citadel "Nuln Oil" and left to dry

I followed the Null Oil with a heavy drybrush of Chrome again to return the highlights to a nice shiny effect.

Purple ink (Citadel Druchii Violet) was added to the ridges and left to dry, followed by green (Citadel Athonian Camo) to most of the rest. I went for green as I always see the Scourge Cruisers as almost serpentine in my head.

Once dried I deployed my secret weapon - a make-up brush as recommended by the Hawk painting gurus at Cardiff. I  drybrushed everything with Vallejo Model Air Gold. This gives a really great sheen I think

Picked out "eyes" in red etc, quick coat of matt varnish for protection followed by gloss varnish on the eyes and done. I tried a rough yellow \ white effect on the engines but this may get changed.

Not 100% happy - I think they may need a bit of red ink on the arms \ tentacles but not sure? Similarly the matt varnish takes the sheen down a little which is a shame - not sure if plastic models need a coat or should I try gloss then matt? On the plus side none of this took much time and I'm pretty sure I can churn out a reasonable force once the KS delivers.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Imperial Skies - First Clash over the Baltic

Our copies of the Imperial Skies rulebook arrived on Friday - and so as we had a free evening Saturday we decided to give the rules a try. Typically we had more enthusiasm than sense so niether of us had fully read the rules before we started. However we decided on a 400pts per side game and got down to choosing our fleets. Before going further I have to apologise for the quality of the pics in this report - I was using my phone rather than a real camera, and it shows :-(

As I have Russian models for Aeronef, and Paul has British, that part was easy. I went for a Borodino Class Battleship, supported by a Light Cruiser, Destroyer, and a squadron of 3 Novik class Torpedo boats. Russian ships seem to be a bit slow (the round hull forms can't help) but have a good balance of firepower across all three gun categories.

Paul went for a squadron of an Agincourt class Battleship and three Exeter class Cruisers - clearly he was on a long range patrol and my ships had sortied to intercept. The Battleship had marginally more heavy firepower and was slightly faster than it's Russian counterpart, but had less light and medium firepower. The Cruisers were faster than the Russian but had less firepower all round. 

Our mix of forces proved very fortuitous as it allowed us to try out the target priority rules - more later. 

The game went fast and fairly smooth - particularly considering the fact both of us had no real idea what we were doing and had to constantly refer to the rules, at least at first. Both squadrons turned on to parallel courses to allow maximum firepower to be brought to bear, and the Russian Torpedo boats headed off towards the British. The poker chips are being used to represent Command Points - these are used to issue orders that can allow special actions - increase speed, turn tighter, re-roll some shooting dice etc. This is not really a new system, but in Imperial Skies it is quite nuanced.

The Russian Torpedo boats closed on their target. The British were concentrating their fire on the leading Russian ship - a cruiser, but also the target priority rules prevented them from using their main armament on the little ships - we rationalised this by saying you wouldn't waste your main guns in big, slow traversing turrets trying to hit fast moving small targets. The Borodino managed to hit the nearest Exeter quite heavily, and it dropped out of formation to play no further part in the game.

The first torpedo shots missed, fired from too far out, but the little boats pressed on and managed to score a heavy hit on the Agincourt. Return fire was not very effective and it was clear what the British really needed as a fast Destroyer sized ship to mix it up with the Torpedo boats.

Meanwhile the Russian Cruiser suffered a series of heavy hits when trying to screen the Borodino. Remember those command points? - well you can spend then to use smaller vessels to screen the capital ships they are escorting, taking some damage for them if positioned correctly. This worked too well, and a lucky hit caused the cruiser to explode from a magazine explosion.

As the range was now down to "snotty" (very close) the ships were pounding each other relentlessly. The Russian Destroyer succumbed, followed by the Agincourt, but by that point the Borodino was in serious trouble and the Torpedo craft were out of torpedoes so only had their puny light guns - this wasn't enough and the Borodino soon joined the Agincourt as floating wreckage.

That ended the game. We had a lot of fun and are keen to try it again. The target priority rules in particular worked well, meaning we both quickly recognised you cannot just rely on your big ships, you have to take plenty of escorts to stop enemy torpedo craft getting too close - a nice reflection on the historical tactics.   Looking forward to another game, but this time ........

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Imperial Skies - VSF Evolved?

I'm a big fan of Gruntz - the 15mm Sci Fi rules by Robin Fitton. They're very playable but flexible enough to allow you to play as any faction you can imagine. When I heard he was producing a set of Victorian Sci Fi rules dealing with airships and flying gunboats I thought it would be worth a look.

I've always been a fan of VSF - I particularly liked Space 1889 and it's expansion Ironclads & Ether Flyers, which incidentally made quite a reasonable set of real world Ironclad rules. The problem with Space 1889 was the models were either unavailable or ridiculously expensive, so it never went very far.  I tried Aeronef from Wessex Games. They were fast play but were clearly lacking in some elements - the damage system particularly meant very soon larger ships were condemned to moving in straight lines - not great to be honest. The core rules were solid enough, but there was still a lot of rough edges and the overall result was ok but not great. We did however buy a fair few ships (Nefs technically) from Tony at Brigade Models but these have on the whole gathered dust, which is a shame as they are nice models.

So along came Imperial Skies - announced as a Kickstarter last winter with an expected delivery date of April this year.

The Kickstarter was reassuringly simple - just the rules, with a few add ons and stretch goals, so hopefully not one of these that manages to kill itself by promising too much (I'm looking at you Baker Company and Prodos). The project was a joint effort with Brigade Models and would tie in with their Aeronef range, so I thought it was worth a punt. Of course like all Kickstarters, you have to take the expected shipping date with a pinch of salt, and this was no different, arriving in the first week of September, but it is finally here - so is it worth the wait?

I think so. Production quality is good, with lots of pretty pictures, diagrams explaining rules, an alternate history time line, some associated fiction and the now obligatory painting and modelling section. All well and good. The rules are brief but comprehensive, and well written. Those diagrams I mentioned earlier at first seemed to be a bit overdone as explanatory diagrams, however I soon realised they are actually an integral part of the rules rather than an attempt to explain the text elsewhere, and once I grasped that they were VERY clear and easy to understand. The basic rules bear a resemblance to Aeronef, but with some nice additions and much of the rough edges smoothed off, plus the addition of some very nice command and initiative rules, plus some optional stuff for a more in depth game, topped off with design and construction rules. They read and play fast.

The timeline \ history section is pretty standard stuff, but I was interested to note they had pushed the setting back to what would be WW1 - so I suppose that's Edwardian SF (ESF) rather than VSF. This is a good move, as it makes the inclusion of fixed wing machines much easier to understand and justify.

I do have some gripes - none of them major. The fiction sections are interspersed through the rules. They are not bad as far as they go,  but are not at first glance easily differentiated from the rules sections - ideally I prefer this sort of thing in obvious text boxes so they don't interfere with reading the core rules. More problematical is the data card section. Each ship has a corresponding data card, and they are all printed in the book. The problem is you can't copy them without folding the page all the way over, risking breaking the spine. Robin is working on a set of printed and pdf cards which will fix this. The quick play sheet is the same - it has everything (just about) you need, but you can't copy it without risking damaging the book - another pdf needed I suspect. Additionally the data cards don't get fully explained in one place, which is a bit strange as the following page appeared on the facebook page (I hope he doesn't mind me repeating it here - copyright Rob Fitton etc) but didn't make it into the rules, which is a shame because it helps explain stuff quite a bit. On the other hand once you do understand the layout the cards are very easy to read.

  However, all that aside these are an excellent set of rules with a lot of scope - I heartily recommend them.

Next post will be a quick battle report, so watch this space!  

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Is there such a thing as Painters Block?

I think if there is, I had it.

And the culprit was this little feller.

This is a MT-90 Jackson Armoured Personnel Carrier from the Resistance faction of Dropzone Commander, parked in front of a suspiciously 1950s looking LiftHawk dropship. It looks a bit brighter than in real life - me being lazy and using a flash on my camera rather than get the light right. It is a strange vehicle, supposed to be a military leftover from before the alien Scourge invasion. As far as APCs go it is fine, however it is not used very often in the game, mainly because there are usually better ways for the Resistance to deliver their infantry to the battlefield. You get three of them in a Resistance Starter Army set. This is quite important in that I have two starter boxes of Resistance troops, meaning six in all. Having painted three up in fairly standard military colours I was searching around for inspiration on the other three and read in the fluff that the Jackson was also quite common in Police forces, particularly with SWAT units. So I decided to paint it up as a Police vehicle taken over by the Resistance.

And then it happened. Painters Block. I could not for the life of me finish the model. I got so frustrated that I put the damned thing away and left the Resistance stuff to gather dust as I fluttered to other projects. Then earlier this week I volunteered to loan out the Resistance to a friend who wanted to play Dropzone but had no suitable toys. I was a bit rash as I could not for the life of me remember what I had painted. When I checked I was relieved to discover I already had painted to one degree or another enough toys for now, but there, staring up at me like a lost grail. was the "Police" Jackson. How hard could it be? Actually not hard at all - whatever caused the block was gone and I ran up the little number in short order - and I was free! So I'm now looking forward to painting yet more Resistance - probably another blue & yellow M90, but also maybe a black SWAT version, then a Police LiftHawk and then....

Normal service will be resumed just as soon as we are sure what that is............

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Dropfleet Commander - a short update

Still twiddling thumbs waiting for DFC Kickstarter to ship. This is something of a problem. Anticipation is very high, but at the same time there is a dawning reality that when it does land I will have a metric sh*ttonne of ships to assemble.

In the meantime I have decided to try and get the painting technique down to something manageable.

I have had a bit of an experiment with the Seattle I built earlier from the sprue given away* at the "pre-launch" in Cardiff.

Firstly I undercoated the whole thing in GW white undercoat - I don't know the name and care less, but it did give rather a good covering. I suspect I may have to review my long held GW antipathy as at the moment they seem to be doing some nice stuff as far as paints etc goes. Still a long way from buying any Space Marines though :-)

Once the undercoat dried I painted a basecoat of Vallejo German Grey with my airbrush. With hindsight the airbrush is probably unnecessary. Once that dried I went for a generous wash with GW Null Oil - really generous,

Left that to dry, then a heavy drybrush with German Grey again. Then a couple of progressivly lighter drybrushes with Vallejo light greys. For these I pinched a trick from the painting tutorial they ran at Cardiff and used a soft make up brush which helped keep it light.

All the weapons and engines were picked out or drybrushed Vallejo Oily Steel - I've ran Null Oil over the engines and will probably drybrush them again with Oily Steel - just to see if its worth the effort.

The dorsal panels wer painted with Vallejo Off White followed by some real white in thin coats where possible, and some other details picked out.

I still need to do the flight deck \ hangar - with hindsight this would have been so much easier to do before sticking the damned thing together!

So here she is - still work in progress but looking quite nice I think

And here she is with the Frigates

* if you pre-ordered £75 worth of toys on the day!

Friday, 26 August 2016

Dropfleet Commander "We DO need those Stiinking Magnets"

My previous post was about building one of the new Dropfleet Commander ships, in that instance a Seattle class Carrier. There has been a lot of talk on line about the possibility of magnetising the new Dropfleet Commander models. After a bit of shameless begging I managed to get hold of a second sprue from my mate Paul who had also attended the pre launch event at Cardiff last weekend, so decided to try magnetising the model to allow building different versions. I thought about this quite a bit. I certainly don't intend to do this a lot, but there are a couple of UCM Cruisers - the San Fransico Class Troopship and the Madrid Class which is a specialised orbital bombardment vessel, that I dont think I will need often, but having the option would be nice. As you can see from the pics below, they share the same superstructure and general layout, except the ventral positions have a large troop compartment or the orbital bombardment turrets.

These are rare specialist ships so I don't think I will be using them regularly, so it would be useful to be able to have the model do double duty. There are two much more common Cruisers that share the same layout, the Berlin Class which has a burn-through laser, and the Rio, which has a pair of heavy turrets. The Berlin has been one of the stars of the demo games I have seen, everyone loves the burn-through laser and the ability to saw a target in half, but I suspect the Rio may well see plenty of table time as a good all round mid sized cruiser. All I would need to do would be to magnetise a burn through laser and a couple of heavy mass-driver turrets and do the same with the troop pod and bombardment turrets and I could in theory field any one of four versions from the same model - sounds good.

Firstly I needed some magnets. I had some 2mm x 1mm disk magnets I used for small turrets on Dropzone tanks so they seemed to be a good starting position. I assembled the troop pod and the two sides of the main hull, then drilled out some holes using a pin vice. One tip to pass on, the turrets sit on 3mm "plugs" so take a lot of care drilling your locating hole for the magnet as you only have half a mil each way. I used a 0.5mm drill bit to create a guide hole before opening it out with a 2mm bit. I found wood bits were preferable to metal ones - no idea why but they seemed to work better.

Once drilled I stuck the 2mm magnets in the holes being very careful to get the polarity right. Another tip is to use a wooden tooth pick or a non ferrous tool to position the magnets. Its bloody fiddly anyway.

After that it was plain sailing! Actually it wasnt. The turrets on the Rio and Madrid both fit the socket fine, but the troop pod and burn-through were designed to be glued over \ on to the now redundant turret rings. This created a gap between the two sets of magnets which meant the connection was not that strong. With hindsight I could have predicted this - in fact if may be possible to glue the magnets directly to the burn-through without drilling out a hole, but that may cause other problems with the magnet detaching. In this case I dealt with the problem by gluing a second magnet to the first ensuring a contact with the one in the hull. I suspect it may even be possible to do away with drilling on the Troop Pod altogether and surface mount a 3mm x 1mm in the sockets - but I don't have one at hand, but will pick some up to try it out when the Kickstarter delivers "soon".

Once the magnets were in I assembled the rest of the model and here are the results:

San Francisco



So is it worth the hassle? I think so. The magnets give a good attachment to the various components so I can run several different options with the same model. The last step would be to magnetise the dorsal cowling to allow you to build the Moscow \ St Petersburg type Heavy Cruisers, but that is I think a step too far.