Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lessons Learned: First Tournament since Historicon

My first trip to Historicon (2014) also lead to my first two major tournaments - both 1,000 point Bolt Action tournaments. The list I put together for both tournaments was a project I was working on for a local Stalingrad multiplayer game. It included a heavy hitter (StuG 33b) which was also a heavy point sink. In a 3v3 matchup, that's not such a big deal. In a 1v1 tournament match, sinking over 30% of your list into one element can be hit or miss. Unfortunately there was a lot of misses at HCON... Except when being shot at. The mobile heavy howitzer was an AP shell magnet and was knocked out in the first couple turns in several of the matches. In the matches where she did last, she rarely made up her point value in enemy kills. Of course, it just as easily could have gone the other way as it did in my local matches leading up to HCON where the massive 3d6 HE rounds eliminated several large units in one swing.

Almost immediately after HCON 2014... Scratch that... While sitting around after Saturday's tournament at HCON, I was already listing for next year's tournaments. I was considering an early war Blitzkrieg list with more order dice and lots of bullets (i.e., MMGs). One die to do lots of damage didn't work out so well, so how about many dice to do a little? Perhaps playing the percentages would serve better than playing the 3d6 lottery.

So I'm trading in the StuG 33b for a Rad 6 and two Panzer Is. With the points leftover and some other list modifications, I'm planning on adding two leFH 18 10.5cm medium howitzers. The nice thing here is they can still dish out a respectable 2d6 HE and unlike their sIG 33 heavy howitzer brethren, can be moved around without the need of a prime mover.

Unfortunately, for my tournament Sunday, I did not have either 10.5cm ready and instead shuffled things around to get two Forward Artillery Observers - which given the scale of the game is probably more realistic than indirect fire from a 10.5cm howitzer firing from and landing on the sane table anyway.

Game 1: Hold Until Relieved

My first opponent was fielding a Japanese list. Given the infantry centric nature of the Japanese and the large quantity of rounds I'd be sending down range, this was probably the best matchup I could hope for in my first game.

I was thinking I'd rather attack than defend, but my opponent won the dice off and chose to be the attacker. I stuck my 7 man, all SMG Pionier squad and 9 man Regular Rifle squad in the building/ruins surrounding the objective. My forward observers would have to be in the First Wave to utilize their Forward Deploy rule, so I chose them, my pair of Pz Is, and the 6-Rad to form my First Wave. The truck, loaded with the two 2nd Lts and two 5-man fire teams (one a Pionier squad with 4 SMGs and a flamethrower and the other a Regular LMG squad with 3 rifles, an SMG, and an LMG) and the Motorbike would form my Reserves.

Since most of his infantry started on board right away, I had quite a few targets to sight my off board artillery on. He had his three suicide bombers on my side along with a small squad and an MMG team (which was setup in Ambush). After getting the FAO Fire orders out of the way, I brought the first Pz I on. It Advanced and fired at the MMG team taking out one crew. The Recce capable 6-Rad moved up close to the lone suicide bomber toward the center of my long table edge. Using its light auto cannon, it shredded the AT bomber, leaving the center of the table free to roam. The second Pz I moved up that center path and fired some long range rounds into a large squad advancing on the Objective.

At the start of Turn 2, both of my artillery strikes hit, including one 6 which wiped out the remaining 11 Vets from that large 13 man squad. A great start indeed. The remaining arty rolls dished out several pins, but that wouldn't matter much on the other large squad as it just kept using its Banzai ability and running toward my squads holding the objective. That is a nasty National Rule by the way!

The game continued in a similar fashion - the massive amount of flying lead would eventually dwindle down the Japanese fighters and lead to a German victory.

Game 2: Demolition

Game 2 saw Germans face off against Germans. Both players were 1-0 and with a small pool of players, we mutually decided this game would settle our fate: Win, Lose, or Draw.

This opponent had two large Pionier squads, each loaded up in their own Hanomag; with AT support in the form of a Hetzer. Similar to last game, I knew I would not have a highly effective way to deal with the armor, but the thin sides Hetzer did present a means, albeit never the opportunity to possibly knock him out. 

Since this scenario has a First Wave and units held in Reserve, I chose not to fire my FAOs on the first turn; waiting instead for the Hetzer to appear. My opponent made a bold and daring dash with his Hanomag - running it across the table and within striking distance of my marker. This through me off my game a bit as now I had to deal with an immediate threat that MMGs could not destroy. They did a fine job of applying pins, but if I wanted to remove the threat, I would have to deploy my truck loaded with my flamethrowing Pioniers - something I had hoped to deliver in the vicinity of his marker; not mine. I also placed the nearby Pz I into Ambush hoping to spray the Pioniers with lead as they disembarked... However, my flamethrower destroyed the 251/1, forcing his Pioniers to take some hits, but go down rather than move. A bit of a wasted turn for the Pz I.

The other Pz I was on my right moving up toward my opponent's marker, but was KO'd by the Hetzer. My two FAOs were largely ineffective this game, one coming on board on its first try and the other delaying for a turn and then rolled to come on. In both cases, no more than 1 or 2 pins resulted. I made progress up the right side with my SMG squad, 6-Rad, and motorcycle; but his second Hanomag brought on his other flamethrower squad and wiped out my Pioniers just inches from the marker.

I loaded up the truck in a last ditch effort to get men on the objective quickly, but the order die drawn after the truck moved was his and his Hetzer destroyed the truck and effectively everyone on board. The remaining Pz I darted toward the objective and eliminated his Regular squad guarding it. The motorbike made a running dash but came up short when time was called. A Draw!

The Results

Not a bad outcome for the new list, 1-0-1. The FAOs can bring some Pins and some pain, but it left me wondering if getting a shot each turn (or 4-5 even per game) out of two medium howitzers would be better. That was the original plan after all. So, I know what to do... Get assembling! We'll see how the intended Blitzkrieg list fares next time.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Quick and easy DIY Dice Box

I can't recall where I saw someone else post theirs elsewhere on the web, so apologies for not giving credit, but here is mine.

Quick and easy (and relatively inexpensive) dice box

Shadow box frame (9"x9") from Michael's (on sale for $8)
Felt foam ($0.99 before coupon)
Apply 20% off entire order coupon (including sale items)
Total (with tax): <$8

Apply spray adhesive to glass (was the cover of the shadow box).
Apply felt foam to glass.
This will now go in on bottom rather than top.

Reassemble shadow box.

Roll dice!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Itinerant Hobbyist: 10 Games Challenge

Check out Itinerant Hobbyist: 10 Games Challenge

What 10 Games (or Game Series) would YOU focus on?

Here was my response:

If I had to focus on 10 games (or 10 game series), it would likely look something like this (in no particular order):

Bolt Action - My first major dive into the miniatures scene... and man has it been a dive off of the DEEP end!! It's not a great simulation, but it is fun and easy for folks from other genres to come in and play. That has helped grow the community.

Chain of Command - This is where I'd like spend some more time. The beauty part of miniatures, just buy the rule set and go (already have minis from BA). This one focuses more on the doctrine of the time. It feels more historical than BA and leadership/command plays a much bigger part.

(TBD) Modern rule set (playing Force on Force at Historicon) - I've heard horrors of the rule book for this one, but seems once you get into it it's an enjoyable Skirmish level system. It also has the benefit of covering multiple theaters. Building on a theme here... Focus on one core system to cover multiple theaters.

Smoke on the Water (ACW Ironclad rule set) - This was truly my first miniature purchase. I bought a couple ironclads, painted them up and found this rule set for free! Having played and enjoyed the board game Wooden Ships & Iron Men, there were some additional features here that really stood out - like rate of fire... bigger guns take longer to load.

Dead Man's Hand - I bought the rules and some minis, but have only gotten through a few pages and primer. It intrigues me, but haven't had time to focus on it just yet.

Board Games:
LNL "Heroes" Tactical Series (to include WWII, Day of Heroes, Ring of Heroes, etc.) - Once you get through the rules, there's a really good tactical game with some chrome and even better covers a wide range of theaters. To your point, once you focus on the series and grasp the core rules, you'll have hours of tactical goodness.

Combat Commander Series - Almost dropped this one since LNL covers a similar level of game play but is broader (Vietnam, Falklands, etc). However, every time I play it, I'm reminded how much FUN it is. The card play, while random and frustrating to some, is what differentiates this from the other and makes for some good chaotic fun.

No Retreat Series - Fairly accessible Operation level game series. Eastern Front to N. Africa are different enough that you need to read through the rules for each, but most of the core rules and counter markings carry over.

Labyrinth: The War on Terror - I've only played it once so far, but really enjoyed getting into it. It also plays along with my recent interest in moderns.

Thunder Alley - I'm going to throw this one up here for now... Our group has played this one a couple times now on Vassal and it seems like some good fun. Grab some beers, grab some friends, and let's go racing boys! The only thing missing here is running someone into the wall ;)

EDIT: After posting, I realized I had forgotten about LNLP's White Star Rising / Nations at War Series! I recently acquired Desert Heat and prior to that the expansion to WSR, Operation Cobra. This is one I would like to focus on as well.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

More than just a magazine - C3i Nr 27

Finally opened the latest C3i (Nr 27)... I continue to be amazed at the content of this publication. In general, it's very good. But when you own games of the added content, it's like opening the shrink wrap all over again. In C3i Nr 27, I think this is the most content I've been able to add to my collection. Counters, errata and clarifications (much needed for Rebel Raiders), new scenarios, and even some terrain (coastline,  island and sandbar grids for Iron & Oak). Also includes a new (for me) solitaire game (Soviet Dawn). And Designer's Notes and Player's Notes articles for Rebel Raiders... Hey, it is a magazine after all ;)

For more information and ordering you're own copy, check out GMT's C3i site

Monday, March 17, 2014

Intro to Chain of Command

I started messing around Chain of Command the other night after being told about it by a fellow gamer. We had discussed it over the course of a few days and some things really jumped out as being appealing. Leaders in this game play a huge part. The "lists" are meant to be historical based on doctrine of the time. LMGs/MMGs have a much higher ROF than in Bolt Action. (There will likely be comparisons, but these are really apples and oranges for what their intent is - at least IMO). Another BA deviation, and one for the better IMO is the absence of heavy guns, mortars, etc. 45mm, 5cm, and 60mm mortars will be seen on board, but an 81mm mortar (medium mortar in BA terms) will be called in by a Forward Observer. To me, this is a much better representation of what should and shouldn't be on board in a skirmish level game of this scale. 

This is Scenario 5. An attacker/defender scenario where the attacker is moving from the left and rear as seen below. The defender started in the quadrant to the upper right. 
The Patrol phase didn't gain much ground for either side on the small board (4'x4' as opposed to recommended 4'x6'). The black and brown BA dice represent Drop Off Points (DOP). These all say Rally as a reminder. All German DOPs had to be moved back to the edge. The Polish DOPs are behind cover of the ruins and wall.

There's a blue BA dice out there on the German Senior Leader that says Down. I'm using this to represent that he moved Tactically. If needed, I'll likely use an Ambush order die for Overwatch. 
There are also markers available - free to print from TooFatLardies (TFL)
The bluish-gray dice with copper pips are the Command Dice. The Command Dice are a cornerstone of this game system. 

For my intro game, I have down sized the Polish Platoon to one section (same as described in 1939 list) - Jr Leader, BAR with 3 crew, and 14 riflemen. This is all one section - no separate teams. 
I also included their two Sr Leaders and ATR team. I do not have the light mortar at this time.

For the German list, I included their 1 Sr Leader and 1 of their 3 Sections comprised of their Jr Leader, an LMG team (LMG, 3 crew, 1 rifle) and an 8 man Rifle team. 
Normally, the Force Morale of these two would be +5 for the Poles and +1 for the Germans. But since I had broken up the platoon structure, I wasn't quite sure how this would be affected. I went ahead and gave the Germans a medic (List 1) and a flamethrower team (List 3). That still came out to a +4 difference. Hopefully it's not too skewed.

The photo above had just seen the German Sr Leader send the Jr Leader and his attachment of riflemen to the left on the Double (3d6" -yes, the maximum distance for movement is randomized by die rolls), moved himself closer to then remove their Shock from the Double Time (need to make sure that was legal use of Command Initiatives), and then ordered the LMG team to move into a firing position where they opened fire with half effect (all missed). 

The play is dynamic. How long will the Turn last? Which side will have the next phase? Who will be able to activate in the current phase? All of this is a focal point of the Command Dice. And it instills a bit of randomness or chaos. War as they say, is chaos. If I were to draw similarities to board games, Chain of Command has the feel of GMT's Combat Commander series or Lock N Load's Band of Heroes series (both favorites of mine) which is why I think I will enjoy this set of rules for 28mm WWII skirmishes. But what about Bolt Action? As I said before, there will be obvious comparisons, but I feel these are comparing apples and oranges. Overall there is a place for both of them. For some, the relative ease of entry into Bolt Action and lack of excessive chrome will appeal to many. For others, the more historical centric lists and tactical gameplay with a focus on leaders will be a bigger draw. While others will split their time depending on their mood or game partner.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to picking up where I left off last night before having to pick up my Poles for tomorrow's Bolt Action Escalation League game. Stay tuned for more Chain of Command... That's an order!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's been One Week...

It's been a productive week after getting the air brush. Monday and Tuesday were a struggle - even to the point of nearly throwing in the towel - but Thursday and Friday were very productive. It's like it suddenly just "clicked". I've gotten a lot better with mixing and flow control.

Mind you, assembly of everything pictured was done in advance. But still, 23 Polish, 24 French, and 32 British figures base coated; two ruined buildings and a corner wall section near complete; another ruined building almost there; and an M10 beginning to weather. Yeah, it's been a very productive week! This little experiment is starting to pay off tremendously!

Painting vehicles will definitely be an improvement. I had been using a spray can base coat and then just washing it with some ink and brushing on the Army Painter dip. I was happy with those, but this is going to take my vehicles to the next level - weathering, camo, etc. Even painting the tracks was a vast improvement over brushing them. 

I'm pretty much hooked at this point. I wanted to try a color scheme for some Rangers/Mediterranean GIs and thought this would be a good test to see how well I can airbrush in tight corners and to a finer level of detail (as opposed to the monochrome basecoats)

Not too shabby. 
As for the color scheme, I think it could work... I may try one monochrome in Field Drab and use the Khaki more for packs and gear with the occasional Khaki jacket (NCOs, weapon's crew, etc.).  That and maybe trying a slightly greener or darker khaki on top with the brighter khaki for packs and gear.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Adventures with an Airbrush

After this past Black Tree Design (BTD) 50% off sale, I'll have a lot of metal to paint up for various armies. Plus I've been doing a lot of terrain building and painting, so with an Amazon GC from Christmas in hand, I figured now would be as good a time as any to see if an airbrush was for me.

Since this was primarily an experiment, I wouldn't be getting anything too extravagant and would curb my expectations as well. 

I found this Master G22 starter kit for under $50. With that $25 GC, this would be a minimal investment to experiment with. 

I had primered the metal figures as usual with a matte black primer by Army Painter. Apologies for the lousy photo... black on black is tough to see otherwise.

These are the French and Polish by Warlord Games; the BTD figures haven't arrived yet. They both wore similar color uniforms so this should be a perfect example of any potential efficiency to be gained using the airbrush to base coat large lots of minis. 

I'll be using Vallejo's Green Brown for the base coat thinned with water. 

I had read the mix should have the consistency of milk, so I started with that in mind. I didn't know if we had any pantyhose  laying around, so I didn't strain the acrylic at all. This may have been a culprit of some of the issues to come, but I'll give it a try later to see if the results are any better. When I did get flow from the airbrush, it seemed very watery when it hit the metal figures. I tried adding some more paint and mixing, but this usually resulted in a no flow situation. So I would dump the paint mix into a cup and clean out the airbrush. I did this several times and as a result am getting much more proficient at disassembling and reassembling the airbrush - something I read to be one of the more time consuming and troubling parts of using an airbrush. Well, at least that's one obstacle overcome.

In the amount of time spent, I really would have expected to spray all of them, so there's still some things I need to figure out. Someone has suggested Tamiya's airbrush thinner and of course another recommendation for straining the paint mix through a pair of pantyhose.

If you have any other recommendations, please feel free to post below.

Here are some of the results - some taken midway through and a few others at the end when I called it a night.

Perry Miniatures Desert Rats

The British have arrived and are assembling to counter attack Rommel's Desert Afrika Korps. 

The value in this box is great - 38 plastic infantry with some support weapons available, including: 2" mortar(s), Boys anti-tank rifle(s), and Bren light machine guns. There is also a radio operator and officer. For even more customization, there are separate heads for SAS/LRDG troops: nine with Arab headdress and nine commando caps.

The detail on these hard plastic figures is excellent. As for the size, they are slightly smaller than a comparable Warlord Games Bolt Action miniature. The Warlord units have a slightly "heroic" build, whereas the Perry Miniatures are perhaps closer to scale when it comes to girth. 

As you may have noticed above, this LRDG soldier is mounted on a 25mm plastic base that you'd expect to find in a Bolt Action kit. These are not the bases that are included in this box set. The included plastic bases are also smaller. Since bases play a part in movement and range, I'd prefer that all my models be based on the same size bases when possible, so I purchased some extra Renedra 25mm bases to use with this kit. 

After assembling a few figures, my one complaint is with the manner in which the parts are fixed to the sprues. These lads won't be falling off - in fact, they'll have to be cut free and then filed down extensively to stand level. I suppose a minor quip, but one that will add some significant time to assembly.

I've also posted an unboxing video on YouTube which can be seen here:

UPDATE (1/7/2014): It would appear that I never actually published this post back in August when I composed it. Since that time however, I ended up selling off the Perry Miniatures, along with the Armies of Great Britain book (which I later received new again as a Christmas present). I've replaced the Desert Rats with a platoon of Airborne and Commando models from Black Tree Design to be used as an SAS/Commando raiding platoon. The Perry Miniatures' figures were top notch; it's just that I've grown tired of assembling all things plastic. That Warlord Games Japanese Banzai Starter Box and Plastic Soldier Company Russians are still looming, but at least the Tommies are now all metal.