Saturday, 9 December 2017

Gaslands - Quick Gates

We are tooling up for "Gaslands" - the new Osprey Post Apocalypse racing \ Mad Max game. It is a perfect fun game, can handle a lot of players, a bit brutal, and cheap as chips to buy into  - whats not to like?

The cars themselves are simply your bog standard "Hotwheels" from the toy shop or a child's un-watched toy box, suitably tricked up with the odd machine gun from the spares box.

The movement templates and stickers to make the special dice are available as free downloads from the website here

So after that you just need a track. Actually you just need some way of marking the track, and here I got a spark of inspiration.

So without further ado - here are my cheap "gates"

Yup grab a bit of sprue from your last unwise or impulse purchase - you know, the one you will get around to painting "soon" (in my case from used Shadespire stuff I rescued from the bin) - it helps if they're the same size. Strip them down, cut the bottom off and stick them to a suitable base (again old FoW ones in this case from the spares box) , and, jobs a good one - instant gates. I left the round "stubs" on at the top to look a bit like lights. It took about ten minutes to make three, and a further five minutes to spray them and splosh ink to weather them a bit - post apocalypse and all that. . These are the Mark 1 versions, but I'm planning some more with suitable signs to make them look a bit more glitzy and allow the sale of suitable advertising for the race organisers :-)

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Oh, wicked, bad, naughty Zoot! - Russo Japanese War

"She has been setting a light to our beacon, which, I've just  remembered, is grail-shaped.  It's not the first time we've had this problem.."

Or how it is easy to become distracted from your planned path

You may recall I mentioned attending Battleground 2017. What I didn't mention is that my friend Mark who runs the excellent blog Geordies Big Battles was part of a demo team on the day, with a game representing the Battle of the Denmark Straights, where HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismark. (as an aside, why do we say HMS Hood but never KMS Bismark?"

Anyway in the run up to the show Mark asked me to pop over to run through the scenario to see if there were any issues i.e. play with his toys while the associated wives were not around. This was of course irresistible.

So we played the game as is traditional in these cases on the floor in his lounge, and I enjoyed it - good old General Quarters before the bloat set in, with 1:3000 Navwar \ Davco ships. As it was going to be a demo we also discussed some options "prettifying" things which reminded me I had some "shell Splash" markers I had made 20-25 years ago when I was playing a Russo Japanese War campaign (more later).

A diligent search failed to locate them, but did manage to locate the Navwar 1:3000 fleets I had painted back then for the campaign. At this point I was mugged in memory lane. The campaign in question was a "quick play" one by David Manley which Dave kindly sent me a copy of after he read something I wrote in a gaming journal about the RJW. This campaign has special significance to me because it was one of the only ones we managed to run to the conclusion - or near enough anyway. On a nostalgia trip I searched Dave's site and discovered he had produced an updated version that was available from Wargames Vault and was available for less than a tenner, so I thought "why not?"

So that's why 2018 will see these guys making a reappearance, and why I'm spending some more £££ with Navwar just to be sure I have everything needed.

I would normally provide a link to the Navwar website but there is little point - for whatever reason he has decided to be an "oak of his generation" and only accepts orders through the post. Still if I want nine Divisions of Torpedo Boats I will just have to write him a letter.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Battleground 2017 - pleasantly surprised

It's all been a bit "doom & gloom" at Chez Renko in relation to conventions recently. Derby was "sub optimal" and our local show "Battleground 2017" has been a bit "meh" - not actually bad but it felt lacking in both footfall and major traders. Combined with the fact this happens on the Black Friday \ Cyber Monday weekend I was not expecting much this year but...

I was pleasantly surprised. The venue and organisation are excellent - due no doubt to the diligence and hard work of Leon Pengilly (from Pendraken\Minibits) who does the organising and associated donkey work that goes on behind the scenes. The venue is at Queens Campus Stockton, which is certainly a bit "out of the way" but nothing as rural as Derby, and here there was plenty of free parking and entry was also free.

Obviously the show was much smaller than Derby too, and there weres no competition games, but there were plenty of traders including Dave T and Warlord, plus some of the more locals - particularly worth a mention was Cozzmic Cakes who do, well, cakes. OK not something you would normally expect at a games convention but they are very nice cakes and available with a geeky slant if required. There was also a busy "table sale" area. I tend to be not too keen on this idea, where punters hire a table for an hour to sell their wares, as I prefer a bring and buy where you can make one sweep and see everything on sale, whereas a table sale means you have to call over every hour or so just to check on the rotation, but this one seemed to be busy and popular so what do I know?  One definite bonus was there was plenty of room to circulate with none of the crush we got at Derby.

Lastly there were a good number of demo games. None were what you would call Salute level showstoppers, but all were solid and interesting.

Crucially footfall seemed to be up this year - in fact most stalls seemed positively busy up to 2pm when I had to head off to another appointment, and in my usual round pressing the flesh and chatting most traders seemed upbeat on the whole.

So well done to Leon and his team. I'll finish up with some pics of just some of the demo games, including the popular Cozzmic Cakes "Imperial Knights vs Cup Cakes" (I kid you not). Looking forward to next year.


Thursday, 16 November 2017

Only one day late.... weekly Wednesday update

I had planned to have a Blood Red Skies update, but for a variety of reasons that hasn't happened yet.

In fact the last week has flown by but without a great deal of progress. Actually there has been some progress. I finished painting another half dozen AWI Militia and I can now go ahead and play another Sharp Practice campaign game in confidence - or rather I will once the next batch of movement trays arrive from Warbases but they tend to be fast and efficient.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, table and pool

No progress on Shadespire - actually a bit of a retrograde step as I bought the Ork expansion to get to the non orkish cards in the pack , which is as good an example of why you should avoid this sort of game (I'm looking at you X-Wing) like the plague.

The big news I suppose was the game of Zombiecide, which my non gaming non geek wife actually enjoyed and was interested in having another go. After 20+ years of marriage this is something of an eye opener - who knew?

Other big news is I pre-ordered by set of Blood Red Skies. Getting too close to release date to miss out.

So the big picture is the "Pile of Shame" aka unpainted figures has reduced by an aggregate of 2 figures this week.

That's all for now folks!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Wednesday update and some progress

I'm planning to do a bit of Blood Red Skies stuff in the near future. To do that I've started a new paint queue with the idea of clearing the decks of other projects then having a serious look at BRS. Basically I'm hoping to get my AWI project done before moving on to VBCW then BRS. At least  that's the plan.

And progress has been made. In the last week or so I have painted another six VBCW guys and six AWI Militia. I didn't particularly enjoy the AWI stuff - not great on painting civilians, but the VBCW was easier and helped out by watching the first series of Peaky Blinders for inspiration. That only leaves about six AWI Militia and the unit is complete. The VBCW stuff is more open ended and there isn't really any time pressure so that could be moved back on the queue, but there's also another couple of series of Peaky Blinders on Netflix so there is plenty of inspiration if I need it.

Then again there is the thorny subject of Shadespire. I went halves on a starter set with Paul D and got another expansion (undead). I've already painted the Shadespire warband (5 Khorne Berserkers) and the undead can wait.

So in the last week I've increased the painted score by 17, and added another 7 figures to the unpainted side of the equation. Progress of sorts.

On the gaming front I've got a slot on the playtest group for Impetus 2, and we had a trial session Monday night that went very well. Looking forward to more of that, particularly as Santa has dropped a hint that there may be a Warlord Games Successor starter army in his sack if I'm a good boy :-). Also I have been requested by a non gaming friend to set up a game of Zombiecide for the weekend - each to their own :-)

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Spitfire vs 109 in Blood Red Skies

The basic starter set for Blood Red Skies has probably the most two iconic WW2 Fighter planes included, the Supermarine Spitfire MkII and the Messerschmidt Bf109E “Emil”, both at their Battle of Britain zenith. I thought I would give a quick and dirty run down on how they match up in BRS, and my thoughts \ opinions on how that is reflects the historical record (or doesn’t). This should be clearly filed in the "initial assessment \ pinch of salt" folder as it's based on only half a dozen games and the information already released, but I think it still has some validity.

In BRS the two aircraft share the same basic stat line –  Firepower 1, Agility 3, Speed 7. The Spitfire has a marginal advantage in the initiative “tie break” of 357mph to the Emil’s 354mph. This means that in all circumstances except one, they are equal.

Speed first, because it has probably the most impact on how you play. Speed is one of the tie breakers when working out who has the initiative. Being faster is therefore important. This nicely segues into the first area I would like to mention – the idea of hard statistics. The problem with any statement about top speed or similar is that in “real life” this could vary quite a bit. Some factors are easy to understand such as speed varies with altitude, so when comparing speed data you really should have comparable altitudes. This is usually just not possible to do with any accuracy. Other factors are frankly bordering on the arcane – some Spitfires were faster than others because the factory that made them used flush rivets rather than mushroom headed ones for instance, and something as simple as a good coat of wax could add a couple of mph, which is why the Photo Recce Spitfires were waxed and polished before missions if they could help it. A good ground crew really did make a difference, even though they never flew in the plane. What I’m trying to say is we need to remember the figures given are estimates, and in all probability sources will be contradictory. In this case there is also a need for some sort of differentiation, so Andy Chambers has given what seems a marginal advantage to the Spitfire which really only counts as a tie breaker for initiative. One of them needed it, so dealers choice. I suspect this "speed" thing is going to rear it's ugly head a lot when BRS is released and discussed, but you just have to accept that in reality there really is no "correct" answer and the best we can manage is "x" aeroplane was usually faster than "y" aeroplane. Usually.

Secondly, Firepower. Here I think there is some room to raise an eyebrow at rating the two planes the same. The Emil has a pair of 20mm cannon and a pair of rifle calibre machine guns which are usually considered as vastly superior to the Spitfires eight .303 rifle calibre machine guns. The fact the RAF tried to switch to cannon as fast as possible tends to bear this out. On the other hand against smaller less protected single seat fighters there is something to be said for having a lot of fast firing guns with lots of ammunition (the 20mms on the Emil had only 60 rounds each). Andy has decided to group them all into the lowest firepower category. Again this is really going to cause some discussions when other aircraft are compared. It is a complicated area because not all guns are the same. This is particularly true of Soviet guns which tended to be just "better" in every way to the others, so when you look at apparently under gunned Soviet fighters, just remember their cannons and MGs are probably throwing out twice as much lead as their German counterparts, and often at higher velocities. In the end to keep it simple Andy went with three broad categories, and both the Spitfire II and 109E are in the lowest one. Its a game designers decision.

Lastly Agility. Both share the same Agility rating of 3 – the best there is. I can here various shouts from the audience about how the Spitfire could out-turn a 109 or the 109 could out dive a Spitfire, and the same as the idea of speed, the issue is more nuanced than first it seems. Firstly note it’s “Agility”, not “turning”, and so this rating includes a basket of general factors such as turning but also rate of roll etc. Could a Spitfire in real life out turn a 109? Actually the jury is still out. The Spitfire has a better wing loading and famously sweet handling. The 109 has a higher wing loading due mostly due to the small and narrow wings which continued to plague the design for the whole of its life. The 109 turned tight but as it did so it got harder to control. To compensate the 109 has a set of automatic slats that deploy at low speed, snapping the nose around, but the physical act of deploying those slats was not something the pilot had control over, and when they did deploy, they did so suddenly and did horrible things to the airflow. A seasoned 109 pilot probably could stay with a Spitfire in a turn, but it was far from comfortable and took a lot of experience and faith to hold your plane in a tight turn with all the problems that involved - and getting it wrong could and would be disastrous. Most pilots simply didn’t risk it, so a Spitfire in a tight turn would lose the 109, usually. On the other hand there is the Spitfire’s much examined lack of direct fuel injection. When a 109 went into a steep dive, because it has fuel injection the engine runs normally. A Spitfire (or Hurricane) has a normal carburetor feed – stick the nose down steeply and the engine is momentarily starved of fuel and stutters, power is lost and then you get an ominous belch of black smoke. Pilots could attempt to avoid it by rolling into dives, and anyway once in a dive the Spitfire would gradually catch a 109, but as with the 109 turning, it took a very brave and experienced pilot to try and get through the initial rather worrying coughing and spluttering, so most didn’t. These “facts” quickly became self-reinforcing – Emil pilots found they could usually dive away to escape, Spitfires could snap into a tight turn. 

So on the whole the stats are even and I think that’s the right choice.

In the advanced game however we get some further options by the addition of Trait Cards.

These are special cards that can be played to “break” the normal rules. In the case of our pair of aircraft the cards reinforce the operational differences I mentioned. The Spitfire has the “Tight Turn” trait, which allows the British player to make his turn at any point in his move, not just the end. In reality this means a Spitfire with a “Tight Turn” card can turn inside a tailing 109.

The 109 has two traits, “Great Dive”, and “Great Climb”. These are a little more complicated than the Tight Turn, but what they do in play is allow the 109 to dive away from a Spitfire, or prevent a Spitfire from gaining a height advantage. Both are a bit more situational than Tight Turn, but once you get the hang of it they will really help keep the Spitfires off your tail.

Lastly: The One That Got Away – Firepower. If you really do feel the need to boost the 109s firepower, there is a way to do it. There is a Theatre Card you could add (more on those at a later date) called "Superior Armament" that allows you to add an additional dice to your shooting attacks, but risks losing the effect when you uses it –like shooting off all 60 rounds of cannon ammunition for instance?

So to sum up, I’m rather impressed at the way BRS manages to represent not only the similarities in these two iconic opponents, but also with the addition of the Trait Cards encourages players to adopt historical tactics. This is starting to look like a set of rules that really hits the target.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Another interlude followed by a resolution

I've always tried to post when I have something to post about, usually a new project, a nice model or game report or whatever. The problem is that can mean long interludes where nothing gets posted up, because I'm either busy with "real world" stuff, or alternatively so busy having fun with playing toys soldiers that I cant be arsed to take the required photographs to illustrate the blog posts. This is a bit of a flaw.

So in an attempt to impose some discipline and structure I'm now planning to post at least once a week, probably Wednesdays. That will also mean my current scattergun approach to subject matter will also almost certainly get worse. C'est la Guerre I suppose.

So whats happened recently I hear no-one ask?

Well I visited Warlord Games for their 10th Birthday and had a really interesting time. There's so much musing there that can wait for another post. Also I resolved NOT to get involved in any new projects, and self righteously abstained from buying into Ghost Archipelago only to order Shadespire in a moment of weakness (thanks to Jamie White) and I'm sure I can follow that up with a detailed look later.

In other news one of my favourite game companies Hawk Wargames has been bought out by TT Combat. I'm pretty conflicted by that. I was (and possibly still am?) part of the Talon demo team for Hawk. They give me toys for playing their games with strangers. This is a good thing. Both Hawk games, Dropzone Commander and Dropfleet Commander are excellent games with superb miniatures and the head Honcho Dave Lewis is as nice a chap as you could want to meet, and a superb designer too. All the Hawk staff are also clearly "in" to the game - they're gamers not businessmen - T-shirts not "Suits". All that being said it is clear that after the problems distributing the Kickstarter for Dropfleet, Hawk had some internal issues that they didn't or couldn't resolve. Rumours were rife they were in trouble, and then the news they are being bought out, but that Dropfleet & Dropzone are still live and Dave is still lead designer. TT are (as I understand) the miniatures arm of Troll Trader, and they in turn are Kingsley distribution. Both Troll and Kingsley have pretty impeccable records at organising the toys getting to the customer, but pretty much zero on design etc, so if TTC are providing the heavy lifting leaving Dave to do the design work this could be a good thing in the long run. That being said, no matter how you sugar coat it a buy out is a worrying thing. I understand TTC have already culled much of the Hawk staff. That is entirely understandable but must be personally hard for the individuals involved. I hope they manage to move on and upwards. Similarly I hope Dave has made the decision to sell up early enough so that he hasn't lost out too much either. These are starting to look like difficult times for gaming companies, with Spartan, then Hawk and I doubt they will be the last.  I'm going to leave the postmortem speculation to others for now.

So on that happy note I'll leave you for now

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Chain of Command – Use of terrain, a cautionary tale

Last night saw the last of our Chain of Command campaign games. We decided to call a halt because we had reached a position where it looked like the British counter attack was simply not going to push through the German defences. The problem wasn’t the rules (which are great) or the campaign, but the terrain we were fighting over – or rather how we had decided to interpret it. I thought I would put a bit of explanation out there as a possible warning to others.

The root of the problem  is – well, the Desert, or rather our representation of it. When we decided to start playing a simple ladder campaign we lifted the locations straight from the excellent “At the Sharp End” campaign system (available from TFL for only £6 and worth every penny at twice the price if you play any sort of 20th C game).

We were very wary of setting up open flat terrain that would favour anyone with a German accent and an MG34. Other players had warned us leaving the terrain too open would mean a walk over for the DAK. We decided to use the club wadi \ gully terrain, and litter the area with rocks etc to provide cover. It looks pretty nice even if I say so myself.

Here were our first mistakes. We failed to appreciate fully how much the wadis would effect play and tactics, blithely deciding you could be in hard cover in the wadi. As we were generous and even handed we ensured the wadis were fairly placed on each side of the table. Basically we had created two parallel trench lines (doh!).

Slightly out of focus British trenches err wadi
Our second problem was that in our enthusiasm to provide cover we were liberal with distribution of our “rocky outcrops” (as an aside these were part of Peter Pigs “Patrols inthe Sudan” terrain and they’re absolutely brilliant for just about any scale. Unfortunately we used too many of the tall ones which blocked line of sight (LOS), rather than just providing cover. 

too many blocked LOS

What we should have done
Lastly, because our wadis were actually raised we tended to think of them as being almost walled areas, where in fact they're in reality flat and at ground level – ie have restricted visibility. A simple low wall should have totally blocked LOS from someone using the wadi for cover – but we didn’t think it through. What we ended up with was a pretty table but one which didn’t really represent what we were wanting. That in turn made our games too static – it was a no brainer to simply set up in a wadi and blaze away, and the difference between trying in to manoeuvre, even with tactical movement and smoke, and sitting in our nice deep wadi was just too stark – a problem highlighted on the odd occasion a squad did try and got badly punished for it.

The last problem was the choke point. The Afrika Korps won their first couple of missions but decided to halt at the pursuit through the enemy position to rest and rearm – also so I could paint up new toys I expected to need for the final assault mission. The Brits counter attacked. Having played over the terrain earlier we felt obliged to us it again, however this mission is a length ways push down the table through some choke points. It didn’t seem fair to start changing things around at this point. Frankly the combination of our poor terrain choices and table layout were making it too easy to defend, so we decided to call the campaign there, an honourable draw.

We had plenty of fun and some really interesting games, but it could have been so much better if we had thought through the consequences of our terrain choice. We will be back of course, probably advancing the timeline to 1942, but next time we will think hard about the effect of wadis – probably just treating them as soft cover, and cutting back on the amount of big areas of LOS blocking terrain, so that there are fewer “safe” areas where we can hunker down.

Comments welcome - indeed sought

Friday, 13 October 2017

Derby Worlds "Welcome to the new Triples?"

I spent the weekend at the "Derby Worlds" playing in the Impetus Competition on Saturday and just browsing on Sunday. The event has come in for a lot of negative comments on line and on the days, mostly from traders and customers so I think it would be useful to give a tournament player and organisers view. The main complaints aired can be summarised as location, size, and cost, so I'll look at each of these in turn

 1. Location. Rather surprisingly the venue this year for the "Derby Worlds" was actually in Leicestershire, out at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground near Lutterworth. Leaving aside the fact it wasn't actually in Derby, or even Derbyshire, this was pretty much as rural as you can get. Initially I didn't see much of a problem finding it - satnav - but that was because we had been staying in a hotel on the outskirts of Leicester and as it happened we were almost in a direct line to the venue down main roads - pure luck. I was a bit puzzled by all the "hard to find, windy roads, middle of nowhere" comment, til we decided to head home on Sunday and because we were heading for the motorway rather than the hotel we were directed into the middle of nowhere down those winding country roads I had heard so much about. Thankfully we were doing this fairly early in the afternoon so it wasn't too busy, but I'm guessing if you tried that as people were leaving or were in a van carrying your stock it would be "interesting" to say the least. Parking was ok for the competitors who arrived early enough to get a spot in the car park but if you were in the overflow (aka a field) it was less than ideal. Something this shares with Vappa in York. The other facilities - ie toilets were ok but badly signposted - in fact I didn't realise there were actually 2 sets of toilets until I saw some of the other comments. The shift South seems to have discouraged some attendance too - although overall I don't have anything other than anecdotal evidence I'm told visitor numbers were very much down on last year, and I understand takings were similarly down with all but one trader I managed to speak to on Sunday. More specifically I know of a half dozen players based in the North East who have been regular attendees at the old venue but who decided the new one was too far.  

2. Size. For the tournament players it was cramped. I can't really quantify the amount of space we had at Bruntingthorpe compared to the previous venue at Donnington Park other than to say it felt like we had a lot less room. We were lucky that we were situated on the end of the rows of tables so we didn't have to try and squeeze past a long line of players and their associated bags and boxes. All my games were interrupted pretty much constantly by people trying to get past to their tables further down the rows - not something I recall from other venues. The other notable effect of the spacing was there were far fewer interested or otherwise members of the public walking around to see the games.  At every other venue or event I've had chats with the wandering public explaining what the rules were and why we liked them etc, but there was no chance of that because the public were clearly discouraged by the obvious cramped nature of the tournament area. This was probably just inconvenient for the tournament players, but at the other end of the hall the traders were suffering somewhat more. They were packed in very tight, and this had a number of effects. Firstly, it meant they couldn't get their full "pitch" set up - I was told they were operating on a 25% smaller area. Secondly, the isles were too narrow. Any sort of group around one stall blocked the aisle to anyone passing. It is difficult to explain how tight these aisles were, but to give an idea a wheelchair user wanted to pass down between two rows of stalls, and this could only be done by everyone moving back out and then moving back in after they had come through. That cramped and tight location has two effects on me. Firstly I was discouraged from browsing or even just chatting with the stall owners because I was aware I was either being constantly jostled or needing to move out of the way to let people get past. Secondly I just didn't bother trying to get through the crush to some stalls. Obviously this cleared up later in the day, but it was a far from comfortable or relaxed situation. The other problem with the lack of space was clear from the demo \ participation games. Again they were too tightly packed to allow easy access and circulation, so in my case I didn't bother trying. I should add there was a fairly spacious entry atrium with a couple of demo games, and these did seem to have plenty of room. Actually the space in the entrance was if anything wasted as it was full of "event special" KR backpacks and "Aeon One" game apparently being sold by the Organisers. These backpacks were full of "stuff" - mugs, keyrings, etc. all ok but hardly "gucchi". As for Aeon One - I'll get to that later. 

3. Cost. The actual entry fee was the same as last year (£15), and as a bonus we got a voucher worth a fiver if we spent a tenner (IIRC) or more at any stall. On that count although it could easily be argued we got less for our money because we got less space, it wasn't bad. The food costs were very high. It cost more to buy a Mars Bar at the makeshift food area than to buy one at a motorway service station. Luckily I had packed some sandwiches etc - or rather bought them at Sainsburys so this wasn't really an issue for me.

OK having dealt with the stuff the main body  of commentary was about I'd like to throw in a couple of other points. Firstly organisation and attitude. We queued up for some time to get in on Saturday morning, unlike previous years. I'm not 100% sure what the cause of this was as it didn't happen at either Donnington or the other venues but I suspect that it was simply lack of staff on the entrance and lack of a specific tournament player queue. They were also taking money on the door which seemed to slow stuff down, particularly as the tournament guys had already paid. Once in we got zero involvement from the organisers, no directions or similar, no visits to check if there were any problems. OK you could argue we didn't need them, but in the past we've always had some contact throughout the day, which is appreciated.  

I mentioned Aeon One. I cannot for a moment understand what the **** the organisers thought they were doing here. It's some sort of fantasy \ Sci fi boxed game they have commissioned. It looked stunningly meh - basically reboxing already available stuff with some new rules and the now obligatory cards. This was retailing (if you can call it that) at £60. I have no idea how much this cost to produce but it looked nothing more than a vanity project. Some traders I spoke to pointed to that as being one of the reasons pitch prices were so high. I cant say if this is correct or not, but given the amount of material, time and printing that went into it, not to mention the ridiculous amount of column inches they have paid for suggests this is probably true.  

All in all I think the organisers need to have a rethink. Actually I don't think its just them who need a rethink, its everyone. Why are tournaments married to trade events? I doubt the tournaments attract visitors in any significant numbers over and above the players. I also doubt the players themselves spend that much with the traders - we usually don't have that much time. Given the space the tournaments take up in comparison to the revenue they generate, organisers would be better advised to give more space to traders and demo \ participation games rather than trying to do all three and failing badly.  As a tournament player I need some reasonable facilities and time \ space. I like the option of shopping and browsing, but I'm there for the tournament. So where does that leave the tournaments ? Actually I think there is plenty of opportunity to organise tournament only venues, smaller perhaps, and maybe with limited trader support - ie if its a Bolt Action Tournament maybe Warlord ? That sort of thing.

Derby this year was not great. Given the failure and apparent demise of the other great "Northern" shows Sheffield Triples, this is a bad time to drop the ball. The overall impression was the organisers tried to do too much with an inadequate venue, plus the whole questionable "Aeon One" vanity project. Lets hope they manage to do something about it next year.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Afrika Korps for Chain of Command

Having mentioned them in an earlier post I suppose it would be polite to show a pic of the Afrika Korps platoon I have been building for Chain of Command.

They're all Perry miniatures with the exception of the vehicles which are a mix of Blitzkrieg, Warlord and Empress, plus a burned out Opel Blitz from Any Scale models - only £6 and cheap at twice the price

I'm rather happy with how they turned out. Of course like any other project there is an element of project creep going on - I've ordered some more supports, this time from Warlord, and I'm working on converting some more Perry miniatures to represent DAK Pioneers. More on that later

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Bit of a Hiatus

Quick update.

Having spent the last few posts looking at model aircraft for Blood Red Skies my butterfly mind has flitted on to something else - in this case playing a Chain of Command campaign.

Chain of Command (CoC) is the best WW2 skirmish game I've played so far. It has a lot going for it, but even as a fan I have to say sometimes it can be a bit less fun because it is brutal - something it shares with the subject matter I suppose.

After one of those "Fancy playing ........." conversations I rapidly had to dig out my half finished Perry Afrika Korps, got them painted and are now preparing game five of the campaign, which is so far been quite a lot of fun as my DAK are chasing John's 8th Army back through Libya to Egypt.

On the crest of that wave I decided to paint up my support options to fill out the base bones force I had ready. There is nothing like playing a game to inspire some painting I find. I'm hoping to pick up some more DAK support - possibly a motorcycle recce section or some similar soft transport at the Derby Worlds (7th/8th October) where I'm playing Impetus. After that I suspect I'll be back to looking at Blood Red Skies.

Cherio for now

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Its the Bomber! Blood Red Skies

Not sure about that chin turret on a He111 Lemmy. Still a great album though :-)

Blood Red Skies is due for release by Warlord Games in December. The base set has a rather Battle of Britain feel to it, with Spitfire MkIIs vs Me109Es all in glorious plastic. Of course there are always going to be some things that for production or cost reasons they can't include in the box, and one of these are model bombers. The game includes three double sided bomber counters printed on card for use in bomber escort scenarios, with a RAF Blenheim MkI on one side, and a Luftwaffe Do17Z on the other. So I thought it would be a good idea to look for some models to replace them.

Deep breath. Firstly I'm sure I'm not the only one to be scratching my head at the inclusion of the Blenheim MkI, which had been withdrawn from service as a bomber before the Battle of Britain began and replaced with the MkIV. The problem is the MkIV had a very distinctive nose and canopy, totally unlike the rather angular and stubby MkI, so the two are not easily mistaken. OK now I have that out of the way the stats in BRS are probably the same for both anyway so it's not that much of an issue.

So replacing the card counter with models - where to start? Lets look at the Blenheim first. Actually there are two rather good sources of Blenheim MkIVs in 1:200 scale. Firstly there is the Russian model manufacturer Zvezda, who make a Blenheim for their "Art of Tactic" game. A quick digression, Zvezda's Art of Tactic range is rather interesting. They seem to be producing models to fit the hex size rather than a single scale, so their infantry are 1:72, tanks are 1:100 (15mm), fighter planes are 1:144 and bombers are 1:200 - spot on for BRS or Wings of Glory. The range is a bit limited, consisting at the moment of a Blenheim (hurrah!), Ju88, SB2, Ju52 and lastly an Li2. This last one is a Soviet copy of a US C47 and can be happily used as such with minimum alteration - ie removing the turret and blanking it over. These Zvezda kits are easy to get hold of both sides of the Atlantic, cheap (a Blenheim in the UK is about £4) easy to assemble and paint up a treat. Very much a box ticked!

The second source is the very fine range of WW2 planes produced by David Schmid of Armaments in Miniature (AIM) , who are based in the USA and who have an extensive range of WW2 models cast in resin. I don't have an AIM Blenheim but they do look good and at $5 (£3.80) a go are very good value too. I'll be taking a closer look at AIM in a future post but in a nutshell they are rather nice models, and reasonably priced, though shipping across the pond from the US makes them a little less appealing. Having mentioned that they are amazingly light and therefore dont really cost that much to ship.

So on to the Luftwaffe, what are the options? Firstly AIM again. David produces a beautiful Do17Z in resin and priced at $5 (£3.90 at current exchange rates), a steal really. If you are not bothered about your Luftwaffe bomber Kette being Do17s then the aforementioned Zvezda Ju88 is also available, though this is a little more expensive on average with prices on ebay between £4 and £8 - nice one ebay!  This is the Ju88A4 version, which was starting to enter service just as the Battle of Britain was winding down, but only rivet counters will be able to tell the difference. AIM also make a Ju88A1 (more correct for the majority of the Battle of Britain) and a He111H.

Lastly as a "millionaires option" or for those lucky few of you who may already have them, there are the beautiful pre painted models designed for use in Wings of Glory. The problem is that they are now rare as hens teeth and change hands for rather more than the £20 retail price, if you can find them.
In all these cases you will still need a base of some sort, but that shouldn't really be much of a problem.

I'm going to have a closer look at the Blenheim and Do17Z options next BRS post.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Blood Red Skies Models - Not a review, redux

So over the last five posts I've taken a pretty close look at the pre production models for Blood Red Skies. I've tried to be balanced and fair, but not glossing over issues. Here's my overall impressions.

Firstly, these are designed as playing pieces NOT exact scale models. The models are over scale in the sense they are a bit "chunkier" than they should be. Wings and tails are thicker and some details are missing. I'm 110% happy with this in theory as they are designed to be regularly handled and gamed with. In this it is rather important to understand as unlike most other WW2 air games such as Wings of Glory or Check Your Six! the BRS advantage rules and the way they are represented by moving attitude of the model on the base means these models will need to take a lot of handling, not just the base as in other cases. If you were to model propeller blades, cannon barrels and radio aerials to scale or even close to scale, as happens with some other models, you would rapidly find a lot of breakages during play. So there is a necessary trade off between accuracy and utility. I would however have liked to have seen some cannon barrels on the Zero. I don't suppose this is a big deal and in reality will be an easy fix.

The next feature that needs to be mentioned is those panel lines. I like panel lines on model planes, and I'm guilty of painting some in myself as you can see in this earlier post on a Pe2  .

In reality panel lines would be almost invisible at any sort of viewing distance, but they can make an otherwise rather bland model look cool. On the BRS models these are so over scale you could probably fly an X Wing down them. Again that's not really a bad thing as it will make them easy to paint if you want to, and at the same time they will not be so obvious if you just paint over them. So far so good. The issue is the 109 certainly has the wrong panel lines, and the Zero may have, which  sours the milk a little for me, however I would hazard a guess that 99% of the gaming public wouldn't notice and wouldn't care even if they did, so its not a big deal overall.

On a similar note is the cannon bulges on the Spitfire. They shouldn't be there, but in truth they're almost invisible to the naked eye - in fact I looked at the Spitfire for a week and didn't notice until someone pointed them out on a blown up pic I posted. In a strange way you could think of this as a bonus. If you are a real rivet counter you could (carefully) file them off for a MkII or leave them on and add some cannon barrels to make a MkV. In fact if I were to be modelling the Mk V I would probably have expected those bulges to be emphasised a little to make them more visible! I'm again prepared to bet this is not going to cause 99% of gamers any loss of sleep at all.

The 109E is slightly more disappointing given the panel lines and cockpit canopy but in reality I cant see that putting too many people off buying them.

The last thing I would mention (again) is the actual choice of models in this initial release. The Spitfire MkII and Me109E are "no brainers" and at that point the decision to diversify so that the first release of BRS isn't just the Battle of Britain makes some commercial sense. The Yak 1 also works and can match up with the Me109E, but at this point the wheels come off. The late war Zero and P51D are just too late and diverse in my honest opinion, and cant really be flown historically against anything else here. Even against each other there is a major miss match.  A far better choice would have been a Wildcat and A6M2 Zero, but for whatever reason that isn't happening.  Hopefully Warlord will follow this initial release with some new models to make these two a little more relevant.

So that's it. As I explained at the start I cant really "review" the models or make direct comparisons to others available as the ones I have are pre production only, so what you are getting is my general impressions. Which are on the whole rather good. Assuming these models remain similar once in the new hard plastic material these are going to be a very welcome addition to the WW2 air gamer. No confirmation on price point yet, but I guess somewhere around the £25 point packaged in "Squadron*" boxes of six models plus bases and the associated cards needed to play them in BRS. That will make them essential for BRS players wanting to expand past the 2 player starter set, and also very welcome and useful to players of other WW2 air warfare games.

* yes I know, six planes isnt a Squadron in any real historical sense, and tactically six is a strange number for anything except early war but they had to call it something!

Next post (hopefully) will be a look at some alternatives if you want to replace your bomber cardboard cut outs with real models

Friday, 1 September 2017

Blood Red Skies Models (6) P51D Mustang

Last look for now at the pre production Blood Red Skies models, in this case the P51D Mustang. Again this is as received, with no clean up, and the pics are on a 1cm grid.

Not a lot to say here. Like the Yak1 the BRS Mustang looks spot on. Actually it may suffer a bit with too many panel lines, but that’s getting extremely picky and you will need to paint it to really tell. I like the model a lot.

Which raises the big question with the P51D – why is it here in the first place? Of course I'm not for an instant suggesting we don't need or shouldn't get a P51D. The problem is more, "why now?"  You can realistically only match it against the Zero, and even then that is such a miss match it may not be worth playing. If only they had gone with a Wildcat, Hellcat or even a P40 WarHawk for the US fighter it would have matched either the Zero or the 109. As it is this feels like, and indeed is, a fighter from the future of the others in the first release. To play the P51D historically you really need a FW190 or late 109 to match against it. I'm sure these will come in later releases, but it does leave the P51D rather alone in the current release.

I'll wrap these "not reviews" up with a general overview.

Blood Red Skies models (5) Zero

Penultimate look at the soon to be released "Blood Red Skies" models, this time the Japanese A6M5 Reisen “Zero” \ “Zeke”. As with the others, I should stress these are pre production resin models not the hard plastic expected on release. They are exactly as I received them, ie I've made no attempt at cleaning up flash or mould lines. Lastly the pics are blown up so remember were dealing with a model about 5cm long - the grid shown is 1cm.

The model is listed as the A6M5, the original of which first flew in mid 1943. Dimensions and proportions are as close to 1:200 as I can tell. Detail is similar to the rest of these models, a lot of over scale panel lines which I think will paint up well, and the signature external exhausts of the A6M5. What is lacking are the 20mm cannon barrels I would have expected on the wings, but to be honest that could easily be fixed with a bit of sprue if it means that much to you. The wing panels also seem to be the earlier A6M2 configuration. The choice of A6M5 is a bit of a strange one given the in service dates are not a match with any of the other fighters in BRS – if it had been an A5M2 for instance it would have matched up with the first three planes in the range quite nicely at least on in-service dates. That raises the question, could you use this model as an A5M2? The answer is a fairly clear if qualified “yes”. The earlier version has a longer wingspan and lacks the exhausts I mentioned, but to the casual, or anyone other than a rivet counter gamer that is probably not a real issue.

Last I will look at the P51D Mustang.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Blood Red Skies Models (4) Yak 1

Continuing this look at the Blood Red Skied models. As before these are pre production resin models not the plastic ones we will get with the release. Pics are on a 1cm grid so details are blown up quite a bit. Additionally I have not cleaned them up in any way so there are still some pour lines and flash that I expect will not be on the production models. OK having said all that, here is the Yak 1

Err – as far as I can tell this is very good! Of course this may be due to my lesser familiarity with the Yak - (Airfix only made a Yak 9). Dimensions and proportions are spot on (ok I suspect the fuselage is a little too thick but you really wont notice it). Detail is the same as the other BRS models – ie over scale panel lines but the overall effect is very much a classic Yak to my untutored eye. This is the early model Yak 1 rather than the late version with the bubble canopy and cut down rear fuselage, which may be very welcome just as another source of 1:200 models.

Interestingly there is a lot of detail on the bottom too.

The Yak series bear a very close family resemblance to each other but most of the later versions have the bubble top canopy so you cant really use this model for the later Yaks without some serious whittling. Then again the Yak 1 soldiers on into 1943. I really like this model :-)

Next the Zero

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Blood Red Skies Models (3) The Spitfire Mk II

Here is a look at the second model planned for the Blood Red Skies WW2 dogfight game from Warlord Games, due out some time around Christmas. The Spitfire MkII

As with the Me109E, these are pre production resin models NOT the plastic ones that will eventually be released, so bear that in mind. Also remember in the pics that follow these are blown up to a size much larger than the original. The model is shown without any cleaning up or trimming, again the production plastic ones are expected to be much cleaner. The grid is 1cm to help give you an idea of scale. So without further delay....

The BRS Spitfire MkII has the same excellent proportions and over scale panel details as the 109.

Unlike the 109 the cockpit canopy and windshield frame don’t look like they are made out of scaffolding, so far so excellent. One minor niggle (because I so wanted this to model be "right") is that the rear part of the canopy has a raised bar running along its length when the “real” one has none*. If you don’t know about it you probably won’t notice it, but to me once I saw it, it sticks out like a sore thumb. You may be able to carve it away with a sharp knife if it bothers you. As with the 109 I think this is a result as much of design requirements as anything. I suppose you cant have everything.

*Actually there IS a frame across the top of the rear canopy, but it is internal rather than external, so in my view ideally shouldn't be there - ah well.

Other than that this is a quintessential and very good model Spitfire from the Battle of Britain era. Like the 109E however it would be difficult to pass it off as a later mark as these had very prominent 20mm cannons and the associated “bulges” over the breaches. The Mk II never saw action against the Zero (at least not as far as I am aware), but Mk Vs did. It is a beautiful and evocative model of a beautiful and evocative machine.

Next we're heading East for a look at the Yak 1

Edit: The gents on the Wings of Glory Aerodrome spotted an interesting fact. The wing has a bulge outboard of the landing gear blister (the bulge in the upper side of the wing that helps house the landing gear). This is exactly where the cannon breach bulge would be on a MKV (yes the one I called "very prominent" above). This is very much a "curates egg" as it shouldn't be present on the MkII but it does mean converting this to a cannon armed Mk V by simply adding either brass or stretched sprue barrels, which extends the usefulness of this model quite a bit. Thanks to Oldguy59 for the spot.  

Friday, 25 August 2017

Blood Red Skies Models (2) Me109E “Emil”

So moving on to a closer look at the Blood Red Skies models from Warlord Games. Just to repeat the earlier caveat, these are pre production resin prototype models NOT the plastic ones that will eventually be released, so bear that in mind. Also remember in the pics that follow these are blown up to a size much larger than the original. The grid is 1cm to help give you an idea of scale. The pics are of the models before clean-up so there are bits of flash that will need removing, but that should not be an issue with the plastics (Warlord plastics tend to be very clean)

First up the 109E, iconic fighter of the Luftwaffe through the Battle of France and Battle of Britain and which soldiered on into the Russian campaign.

Dimensions and proportions are good to 1:200, taking into account this is a model designed as a single piece gaming model that will be expected to take a lot of handling. I think the model captures well the angular clipped appearance of the Emil.

There is a lot of inscribed panel lines, which given the size of the model are going to be very over scale, however I suspect these will make painting much easier, which gets a thumbs up from me. The cockpit frame is also over scale, and I’m not so keen on this as it looks like it was made out of scaffold tubes. I’m also not convinced about the shape of the cockpit panels themselves, the last (rearmost) panel in the real 109 was triangular, this one is nearly square, a product of the “scaffold tube” effect which does look a bit strange, as does the front. I’m hoping this will be less noticeable when painted.

BRS 109 canopy

Real 109E canopy

Having said that, how much of that will be noticeable once painted and on the table is open to debate, and of those who do notice it, I would guess not many will care.

The Emil is the perfect opponent to the Spitfire MkII and was still in service (in the process of being replaced) when Operation Barbarossa began in July 1941, so will match up with the Yak-1 as well. It is therefore a great choice for the launch of BRS.  It is not so great as far as the US opponent in the initial release goes. By the time the P51D arrives in mid 1944 the Emils were withdrawn from front line service so they can’t really be used against each other. I cant imagine why the P51D is in the first release at all, when a P40 would have been a valid choice for the US, even assuming that was needed, but that's what is happening. The 109E is also physically quite a different shape to the main versions that followed it, the F & G, which had different (rounded) shape to the wings and tails so it will not be so easy to pass this model off as anything later without squinting quite a lot. I certainly would not.

All in all this is a very nice model of a 109E except for one minor glitch that 90% of the gaming population will find of zero interest. The other 10% (me included) will probably paint it out.

Next, the Spitfire MkII.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

As Public Image Limited might have said “This is not a review” - Warlord Games Blood Red Skies aircraft

OK disclaimer \ apologetic explanation for some of what is to follow. I'm a fifty something year old English man. That means in my childhood and formative years I didn't have computers or any real technology. Children's TV consisted of an hour of Bernard Cribbins reading a story followed by guessing which of three or four stuffed toys or dolls would be hiding behind the Round Window. I had a football, bike and Airfix to fill my time. These were the heyday of the Airfix model, Hornby trains, Warlord and Commando comics and parents and grand parents from a generation who had understood and in many cases directly experienced the war.  I became almost intimately and obsessively familiar with the Spitfire, Hurricane and to a lesser extent the Me109E.  I built models of them, hung the models from the bedroom ceiling (with the Spit always just about to shoot down the Hun of course) saw pictures of them all the time, and on a few rare but joyful occasions saw them flying. They occupy a unique spot in my memory, even today, and I still avow there is no more beautiful machine than an early Spit. They are in many ways my first love. and one that has lasted.

I should also add I have no affiliation to Warlord Games. This is also not going to be one of those reviews we see in some places that gushes with enthusiasm no matter what the product. I'm too old and cynical for that.

Ok now that's over with I hope it explains some of the comments that follow in subsequent posts, because there is stuff that others may find just a bit too obsessive.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on some sample pre production resin masters of the Blood Red Skies (BRS) models due to be released in plastic over Christmas. A big thank you to the guys at Warlord for that - hope you don't regret it!

I can’t really review them as the final product will be different – at a minimum the material will be different and who’s to say what else may change? For the same reason I can’t really do a direct comparison with other models available. So what follows is more a general look at the pre production models to give you an idea of what we may eventually get and my thoughts on them in general.

The models are a Me109E, Spitfire MkII, Yak 1, A6M5 Zero and P51D  As I said these are pre production resin versions cast in a nice grey lightweight resin. They are scaled to 1:200, which means for practical reasons there will be some stuff that gets missed off a model or has to be made over scale to prevent it breaking when handled, and as gaming pieces these will get a lot of handling. I'll show them exactly as delivered, so there are still some minor flash and pour vents that will need cleaning up, so what you are getting is a warts and all "not a review". I plan to paint them and post up the results at a later date.

Here is the group shot, taken in natural daylight and with no enhancements or technical jiggery pokery. The mat they're shot on has a 1cm grid which will help give a better idea of the size of these models.

Group shot - top

Group shot - bottom 
Tomorrow I will have a much closer look at the individual models, starting with the Me109E Emil

Monday, 7 August 2017

Fantasy Side Project - The Reckoning

So just what has this £50 budget project actually cost?


Golden Fleece £7.50
King Aeertes and Retinue £10
Minotaurs £8.90
Children of the Hydra (Skeletons) £7
Harpies £9.50
Hydra £10
Medea (and spares) £12
Bronze Bull £4.45

Total £69.35

Postage and Packing in total £22.77 (!)

Rules £15

Err £112.12

Biggest shock is p&p - partly a bi-product of using multiple suppliers, partly not being decisive and ordering several times from the same manufacturer. More planning needed "Next Time"

Fantasy side project Part 5 - Back to the Hydra (and kids, and other supporting cast)

So having got sidetracked by the Minotaurs I needed to get back on with the main protagonists, which are clearly The Hydra, and the associated Children of the Hydra that Aeetes summons in the film.

Bullets needed to be bit as I was in definite danger of either blowing a large amount of ££££ on a big model or stalling the project, so I decided to go with the Foundry Hydra. In reality it ticks a lot of boxes, being nicely detailed, no legs, and reasonably priced. What it lacks is size, but size isn't everything. I ordered it at the same time as the "Medea" pack so didn't incur any additional postage and it cost a tenner.

It's a nice model, but a bit of a bitch to assemble - main body, tail, two neck groups and seven separate heads. There was some rather big gaps after assembly and lots of filling needed, but the end result is "not bad at all"

Next up, The Children. In the film Aeertes uses the now dead Hydra's teeth to summon some animated Skeletons to attack Jason and his select team. It is my favourite bit of the film and quite an iconic sequence - these guys go through the Argonauts in short order and Jason only escapes by jumping off a cliff into the sea. Ideally the best models for these guys would be the Wargames Factory plastic skeletons, which were pretty much modelled on the ones in the film (if a bitch to put together I'm told). Sadly since Warlord Games took over distribution these have been removed from the catalogue and are rather hard to find. What I did find however on Ebay were some of the original Citadel plastic skeletons dating from the 1980s. I replaced the shields with some Hoplite ones, and a careful rebase and a quick paint session later I had enough for 2 bases worth - and yes I know I really should only have one base of seven but I got carried away and ended up with 2 bases each with six.

Lastly there are the Harpies. I was told the old GW ones were close enough and that was wrong - they're an EXACT copy of the ones in the film - E-Bay again provided six. I've given them a very quick paint job. The guy who I bought them off had clearly been trying to model them flying, having cut the "slotta" off the base and frilled a few holes. I completed this. I know they will fall off at the most inopportune moment but so far they look quite good!