Thursday, 9 August 2018

'Nam: The Air War

F4 Phantom

The next air campaign that I intend to cover for my new game is the air war over North Vietnam.

F105 'Thud'

Accordingly, I have bought a few suitable 1:300 models from Scotia-Grendal's Collectair range. These are old fashioned metal models (lead alloy?) and some of the moulds are slightly ragged BUT they are excellent value for money. This whole collection cost less than £30 including postage.

Mig 17

The Soviet fighters are really small compared to American planes. These obsolete 17s gave the USAF and USN some real headaches.

Mig 19

The Mig 19 was not exactly a roaring success after the 17 and 15, and was not used much by North Vietnam.

Mig 21

The 21, armed with two reverse-engineered Sidewinder missiles, was a formidable opponent. The fighter/interceptor is the same generation as the Lightning and Starfighter.






Monday, 16 July 2018

Tamiya Clear Red vs Citadel Touchstone Blue

I recently acquired some Tamiya Clear acrylic paints and was well impressed so, as I have Malign Sorcery bits and pieces to paint, I decided to put Tamiya head to head with Citadel.

First off, I sprayed the pieces Humbrol Metallic Silver as both an under coat and a base coat. This is an excellent paint which covers well in one go straight onto the plastic.

The Tamiya paint is much thinner and runnier than the gloopier Citadel and is much easier to paint onto the model. Unlike the Citadel, the Tamiya is often used by modellers through an airbrush to freshen up the colours on a model.

The Citadel paint was a pain. I put on two coats and it tended to form thick globules in recesses while running completely off raised areas. Even after two coats I had to do two extended touch ups and it still didn't look quite right.

In contrast, the Tamiya went on in one coat and only needed a couple of touch ups in raised areas.

Army Painter gloss varnish, painted on completed the build.

And after all that the Tamiya still looks better!

Tamiya make a complete range of these paints in all the main colours - I shall definitely be buying.




Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Model Aircraft Scales For Wargaming





 From left to right - Scotia-Grendel, Warlord Games, Revell, Airfix.

Warlord Games introduction of their innovative Blood Red Sky has kickstarted WWII fighter games; a genre that has been in the doldrums for some years.

However, aeroplane miniatures are based on traditional model scales rather than wargame miniature sizes so I have pulled some planes out of my collection to demonstrate what's available. These are all ME bf 109 models.

1/72
The most popular aircraft scale with a vast selection of aircraft on offer. There is ferocious competition between manufacturers keeping prices down. You can expect to pay about £7.50 per fighter.
Pros: Large, detailed, look great, good value, many prepainted.
Antis: Large, take up space, expensive per model.
Equivalent: Usually reckoned to be 20mm to 25mm wargame scale, but they take up much the same table space as a 28mm vehicle model - planes are big.

1/144
This scale has languished in recent years but it has taken an upswing in recent years as Far Eastern manufacturers and diecast model makers have adopted the scale. You can expect to pay about £5 per fighter.
Pros: Large enough for reasonable detail, small enough to have a small footfall on the table, many prepainted, good value.
Antis: Restricted range in west, expensive per model.
Equivalent: Usually reckoned to be 8-10 mm but they take up as much room as a 15mm vehicle model.

1/200
This was the scale chosen by Wings of War/Glory and has been adopted by Warlord Games. Very few other models available. Expect to pay about £15 for a prepainted WoG model or £20 per six planes unpainted from Warlord Games
Pros: As 1/144 but prepainted are expensive, unpainted good value.
Antis: Very restricted choice of manufacturers and models.
Equivalent: Similar to 1/144

1/300
These are the classic metal wargame models. Expect to pay about £1.50 per plane.
Pros: Small so don't take up much room, cheap to buy, metal so tough.
Antis:Limited range of planes and manufacturers, small so undetailed, metal so heavy.
Equivalent: 6mm

Other scales

1/48: Are you mad? The classic model makers scale. These are big so good for play across a tennis court floor for demo games. Great range, all levels of detail and price.

1/100: The classic 15mm, these are rather rare.

1/285: Can be used more or less interchangeably with 1:300.


Saturday, 19 May 2018

Miniature Wargames Free Figures, Wild West Exodus





This months issue of Miniature Wargames has free figures from the Wild West Exodus game, now owned by Weyland Games.



I don't know much about the game but it seems to be steampunk using 30 mm (?) plastic models. These two retail for £17 the pair.

The models do not immediately impress. The plastic is one of those semi-resin types but does stick together easily with standard plastic glue. The models are fairly adjustable and lend themselves to a degree of customisation.

And the finished model is actually pretty decent - much better than the bits would suggest.

As these were free, I decided to lay around a bit with a different painting technique.

I undercoated them in Humbrol aluminium spray, which gives a metallic light grey and rather grainy appearance, and then coasted them with Tamiya Clear Red.


I was very pleased with the result: see above.

Adding a little Tamiya Clear Yellow overpaint gave some pleasing  highlights. All I did to finish off was to paint in a few details in Vallejo brass.

I will use this technique again. Next time I might try Humbrol silver or gold as the undercoat.




Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Review Gangs of Rome: Blood on the Aventine

Blood on the Aventine, Boxed Game

I had been hearing good things about the new Gangs of Rome rules for a while and took the opportunity to pick up a Blood on the Aventine boxed starter set at Salute. I clearly wasn't the only one as the game was selling faster than indulgences to politicians.


Box Reverse Showing Contents

Blood on the Aventine is a complete game in a box, in that there is everything one needs from miniatures to rules without needing an additional purchase. The rear of the box shows the contents.


Miniatures

Inside the box are six good quality gang fighters plus some rather nifty lasercut woodchip bases with a rather unique design feature. I have not yet painted my own set, so here are the photos from the rulebook.

The five 'civilians' on the group base are a 'Roman mob'. More about these later but, for now, I should say that these are not included and must be bought separately.

The Rules

As well as a scrumptious full colour rule book, one gets an exclusive Blood on the Aventine scenario complete with special model and terrain.


Talavus the Gaul

The special model in the set is Talavus, who is the caretaker of the half-built temple. He will attack any ganger who gets too close to his charge.

Sarissa Roman Temple

The exclusive half-constructed Roman Temple from Sarissa Precision is an absolute gem: a highly detailed kit as can be seen from the number of layers needed to make it.

Who're You Looking At, Sunshine?

Neighbourly Discussion Over The Garden Wall

I can't resist showing you some more of the photos in the rulebook: gorgeous or what?

Inside The Rules

The basic game mechanics are simple enough with figures being activated in turn until all have made their double action. However the rules have been carefully thought through with oodles of detail.

For example, page 16 solely discusses how to climb up a ladder or rope to get on a roof - without climbing and risking an agility test.
Awareness: concerns whether anyone on the roof already spots the climber and kicks the ladder away/cuts the rope.
Nasty Surprise: for anyone already on the roof who doesn't detect the climber.
Sabotage: the climber cuts the rope/kicks away the ladder after getting to the top to prevent anyone following him - PROVIDED the climber has an alternative way down.

Look, I can't go through all the detail in this short review but you can download the rules for free (and other goodies) and read them for yourself.

The Ganger, Livilla

Each ganger has a card detailing:-
Alignment: bonuses if all gangers come from the same 'hood
Favourite God: gives special 'blessing'.
Back Story: Livilla was found naked under a statue of Venus [could happen to anybody].
Fighter Special Abilities
Stats from top to bottom: Flesh (wounds & movement), Attack, Defence, Agility, Points Cost).

The base has two cut-outs for markers. One is the gang number so players can relate the gang model to a specific stats card. You need this as the system is flexible. The red marker shows the current wounds left, which is also the movement. This is a brilliantly simple idea to avoid clutter and confusion on the tabletop. You move the model and the markers go to. The markers slot out to be changed as the ganger takes wounds.

Manlius

Another ganger. he is number 3 in the 'greens' and has taken a few knocks. His wounds/move marker is down to 3: note the blood spatters.

Weapon/Object Cards

The model doesn't conform exactly to the card because one can provide a model with special weapons/objects. And these can be changed during the game. So a model can whip out a spear, throw it, and then revert back to a standard attack.

Player Aids

The game comes with a full set of aids that are well though up to smooth out and speed up play. The gladius is marked in 'gradus' - it's a ruler. Fortunately by some strange coincidence, one gradus = one inch so you can also use a more standard measure.

The 'stones' are put in a bag and drawn 'Bolt Action' style to give play order. The large diecut counters are Denarii and are used to mark which model has which special weapon or object.

Note the dice, marked in Roman numerals. I think this is a great touch to add atmosphere but they are basically D6s so can be easily substituted for people who prefer more standard fare.

Da Roman Mob

Multi-model bases are non-player controlled 'mobs' of civilians. They react to whatever gang actions they see in various ways governed by die rolls and add a fun level of unpredictably.

Streets Of Rome

Sarissa Precision have produced a whole new range of laser-cut buildings, ships and engines to support the game. Find them here. Do take a look as they are fabulous.

SO HOW DOES IT PLAY

The Villa Of Iohannes Agna

I set up a simple scenario with my regular opponent and playtester, the Saxon warrior called Shaun.

Iohannes Agna has built a posh villa in a small town just outside Rome on the Via Appia. His business methods, although lucrative, have made him enemies so the villa is walled and guarded by a gang under contract, the Samnian Sausage Eaters.

I hadn't finished my official models so we used some of my Roman skirmish models from my Foundry and Warlord collections. Shaun supplied the Roman town.

Gang Cards

These are the stats for my gangers. Note that the 'flesh' markers are on the cards as my old models are on standard bases. The turned over cards are the weapons etc.


Hey You In The Villa

The Sausage Eaters are lounging around the courtyard as usual when a challenge announces the arrival of the local Crossroads Brotherhood - who want to discuss certain market charges with Iohannes.

My gang move out to persuade the Brotherhood that the boss is otherwise engaged.

First Moves

The Brotherhood cluster around the entrance to the Villa courtyard. Samnian Aemillia (in the green dress) is an acrobat so she somersaults over the wall to catch the Brotherhood from behind as her colleagues block the gate.

Awkward

Aemellia produces a spear but hesitates to throw it which is a big error. Two of the brotherhood, well one brother and a sister, rush over and 'gang up' on her.

General Brawl

The Sausage Eaters try to come to Aemillia's aid but are stopped by the third Brother blocking the exit.

Sausage Eater Down

Aemillia suffers a nasty wound and goes down. The Brotherhood now gang up 3 to 2 on her friends as they force their way out into the alley (brawl combat rather than wound hits).

End Game

Another Eater bites the dust. My remaining ganger decided that maybe the boss is 'at home' after all and steps aside.

The Brotherhood swagger in without a backward look.

The game too about an hour to play - half of that was used looking up rules as it was our first game.

It was great fun and really allowed us to play out the narrative.

Highly recommended.

Gangs of Rome is super fun but if you buy Blood on the Aventine and don't like the game then the components alone are easily worth £35. Hell, the Sarissa model must be worth 25 knicker of anyone's dosh and you get seven great minis to caligula.

Now, I bet Iohannes has a few brawny lads inside the villa to look after his interests. I sense a sequel coming on......













Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Review: Warlord's Blood Red Skies

New boxed game

Some time ago I pitched an idea for a new airgame to Warlord. My theme was that it was time for a new approach to airgames. Warlord politely replied that they agreed.....and, in fact, they had already given a contract to some bloke called Andy Chambers to do just that!

From this you can draw two conclusions: (i) freelancers such as myself have to be always on the make and (ii) timing is everything.

I am a great fan of Andy's work so I was pleased to buy an advanced copy at Salute: here are my initial thoughts.

Let's start with what you get in the box for £40.

Bf 109E

There are twelve soft plastiky-resin 1:200 Battle of Britain models in the box. Detailing is good for soft plastic. The tails on the 109s are slightly bent. I tried the old trick of dipping them in a really hot cup of tea (makes for interesting weathering) and the plastic softened and could be reposed. The material did seem to have a memory and gradually change back overnight to some degree but this is really pretty trivial.

The models are supplied unpainted. I washed them thoroughly as I would any soft plastic or resin model, and the acrylic paint went on without any problem at all.


Close up of detailing

The upper camoflague rather hides the detailing but this shot of a spitfire miniature underside in light grey with black wash shows how good it is.

Achtung Spitfeur

The above photo shows the six Spitfire 1/II models included.

The stands slot in and out of the models to allow the card markers at the base of the stands to be interchangable, X-Wing style. The stands have three position click-hinges - that have nothing to do with banking or climb/dive. More about this later.

Markings on the stands show the aircraft 'front', and four quarters. The colour and number indicate pilot skill, varying from 2-5.

Rulebooks

There are three rule booklets, standard, expanded and scenarios.

The rules are written in a minimalist style so bear careful reading. A single sentence can have a vast impact on play.

Expanded rules are mostly about the various doctrine, theatre and plane ability cards with are played to give special impacts.

'Cheat sheets'

Included are two double-sided summary sheets with all relevant information commonly needed during pay.

Terrain

Flat terrain works well with airgames and the half-doz thick card double sided terrain markers with clouds on one side and balloons on the other are welcome.

Light bombers

Three double sided thick cards represent Do17s and Blenheims.

Markers

And the box is stuffed with markers, player aids, cards and D6 dice inscribed as victory bars - a nice touch.

Luftwaffe over Kent

I played a basic game using just the standard rules with no cards.

Have a look at the planes. The left four are horizontal - No Advantage.

The two right planes are tilted nose up - Advantaged.

The whole game hings on Advantage.

You can only shoot at a plane that has  a lower Advantage level than the shooter. And only a nose down, Disadvantaged plane, can be shot down. So the whole game hinges on forcing a plane into a disadvantaged nose down position and then shooting at it and getting a hit.

You can push a plane down an Advantage level by (i) scoring a hit on it - this doesn't damage the target - or (ii) by making an enemy plane within 9 inches take an agility test. Getting on a planes tail forces it right down.

The nose-up-level-down looks a bit odd but you get used to it. Advantage actually represents height, position and energy abstracted into a three position index.


Der Englander pig-dogs

Aces are best used to close within nine inches of a lower pilot-skill opponent - who can be at any o'clock - and automatically forcing it down a level - so follow up planes can kill it.

I made a bad error by using clouds as cover, forgetting that they would force me into Normal. I then discovered that the Spitfire had a speed advantage over the 109 - they move the same number of inches. This meant that my opponent always went first, so he could keep me down by shooting at me and forcing agility tests.

This game is all about forcing your opponent's aircraft into Disadvantage.

Splash!

It was a bad day for the Luftwaffe. they lost three to the jubilant Spitfire pilots.

The game took about two hours to play.


Conclusions

This game works.
It has very good physical components with everything you need to play 'in the box'.
It looks simple but it is actually highly intricate and requires a great deal of skill.
It is imaginative, novel and beautifully crafted.
It is highly abstracted, noticeably in its handling of height/position/energy.
It felt chess-like in that subtle positioning of your aircraft in a team on an opponent is the key to victory rather than heroics or cut and slash.


So should you buy it?
Well, that depends on whether you are a committed airgamer. Air-tekkies probably won't like the abstraction but people looking for a fun game based on the Battle of Britain should seriously take a look. They might prefer this to Wings of Glory.

One point: If you buy and don't like the game then the wargaming components - the models and the clouds etc. - are easily worth £40 so you haven't lost anything if you throw the game away. WoG fighters now cost about £15 each! There are plenty of air rulebooks out there, including some free on the web.

So: Recommended both for airgamers and casual players.




Saturday, 24 March 2018

Hi Tech Miniatures Inquisitor





I fancied doing something different for an Inquisitor model so selected something from Hi Tech Miniatures, who do a vast range of pseudo-40K stuff.

These models are high quality resin and not cheap but IMHO worth it.

Incidentally, if you only want to buy a single model you may find it cheaper postage-wise in the UK to buy from their eBay offers.


The only change I have made to the model is to remove the rather anaemic storm-bolter and replace it with a Mechanicus gun.