Friday, 31 January 2014

Five minutes of war

.........Breaking News........Slavikovan aggression in the Epirou........Hav troops in firefight......ISOF intervenes......

This was the scene this evening as elements of the Slavikovan 93rd Motorised Regiment and an unidentfied militia force pushed across the border and moved towards the village of Baklava.

The militia at 9, the 93rd at 6; the Hav troopers  have bailed out of their hummer - the SL and his team face the militia while the rest try to get to the rest of the hamlet. The SL is already on his radio calling for support.....
".....radici! Splodoci! Slavikovakici!"

The sinister militia stalk across the beet fields, 
"Soon, Latka, these goats will be ours..."

The Hav fire team stops the motor rifles.
Savage AK fire pushes the recon troopers back. 
Taking cover by a cottage they await the next onslaught

The Militia however get caught crossing the field and go to ground but the pressure is on the Hav troopers as the 93rd are within metres of breaking through. Then, over the radio....."move up. Daz, Chaz take left - Baz, on me GO GO GO!"

A hail of accurate fire slots into the militia as men
with big 'taches pepper pot across the beet field....

This was an impromptu affair very much influenced by the film and over pretty quickly, we've been nattering about using "SAGGERS"- ie "SWATTERS" but without the aliens. The 93rd and the Hav troops were Q4 with the militia Q5. The SF who appeared at the end were Q3 . I'd say it worked.

The figures are mainly Liberation minis but the Hav troops are Hotspur Grenada USMC. Hav is yet to upgrade to M4 and Bradley.... Apparently Capt Price is briefing some new lads fresh in from selection, so a potted background to the current state of play in Hav and Slavikova is imminent.


Thursday, 23 January 2014

Council Flats

I've had this low relief block of flats specially commissioned in OO scale for Winter of '79. I thought it would make a nice background piece to add vertical depth to my tabletop urban environment.

A second block of flats in the same style will be around 40mm deep and have three removable windows to reveal sniper perches. Two of these, some garages, a couple of skips and a low rise shopping precinct will make a tidy little arena within a mid-rise estate.


Sunday, 19 January 2014

A Bit Rusty

Painted up this 28mm corrugated iron shed from eBay today.  A good, sturdy resin model, separate roof, detailed inside as well, I think it may be from Ainsty Castings. Still have the woodwork to do of course, but I'm pleased with the effect so far. Will be useful in a host of locales from the 1850's onwards.

Kitted out for the Sudan, Freddy
defends the Regimental Gin Store

If you are interested in how it was done.....sprayed with a grey undercoat. Each side of the shed was given a heavily diluted wash of Citadel Waagh Flesh over the whole surface, whilst keeping the corrugated channels horizontal until the paint had dried to prevent the wash from simply pooling at the base.

Allowing the grey to show through gave the corrugated iron the aged and weather effect you see. In this instance, I decided less is more. Hope you agree. To add the rust, I simply took one of those sponges you get in a blister pack and dipped the edge into a terracotta hobby acrylic called Mars Orange. Then used a dabbing motion, building up the rust until I was satisfied. A couple of minutes and job done.


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Adding to our Housing Portfolio

 Winter of '79 is regrouping in the hills, readying ouselves for the next push into the urban centres.

 Inner City Decay

An entire Saturday, printing, cutting and gluing resulted in 15 of Tony's Urban Decay card building range put together. Managed to mess up one through rushing and left four more for 'super' detailing at a later date.

Suburban Des Res

My 70's housing estate continues to grow. Been picking up these kits on eBay when they've been relatively inexpensive. Bachmann brought out a similar ready built OO scale 70's detached last year which is very nice but at £25 a pop I've understandably held back and taken the eBay option for these OOP Hornby kits.

These houses are representative of the housing boom in the late 70's and eighties. They filled suburban estates on the edge of cities. In some more industrialised towns they would be close together, probably with a small patch of grass and tarmac driveway out front without any boundary walls or hedges. Elsewhere they could be set apart in closes where children could play safely. Each with long front gardens, walls hedges and trees.

As time wore on the kitchen would gain a flat roof extension, the garage converted into a bedroom and a sun lounge added. Additional bedrooms would spring up in the eaves, often with ugly dormer windows.

These estates might grow around existing Victorian housing for professionals or on the edge of Trading Estates. At their centre might be a purpose built shopping arcade, often attached to a public library. Sometimes in the larger developments an enterprising home owner might convert their corner house into a newsagents or convenience store.


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Of Gods and Mortals: Our Take

We needed a bit of cheering up before Christmas, so Maff bought us both a copy of Osprey Publishings new Of Gods and Mortals mythological wargame rules.

Of Gods and Mortals is laid out very closely to In Her Majesty's Name and I'm guessing this is going to be a familiar format and not a bad thing at that. Of Gods and Mortals is 'Fantasy Lite' with plenty of club gaming potential, allowing a quick transition from historical with minimal outlay.

Of course, we can't just leave Of Gods and Mortals as it is.... I suggested to Maff we use it for Hyborian Gods but he shot back a cracking idea, which was to use it within my very own Dark Ages Valley of the Fire Dragon setting.

Valley of the Fire Dragon is open-ended so we can include the VoFD Gods and supernatural elements if we wish at any time, but what we want to do with OGAM is have more of a 13th Warrior quasi historical approach based on primal fears and superstition.

How does that work? The OGAM rules basically remain the same. The main change being that Gods are replaced by Superstition, Legends by Champions, whilst Mortals more or less stay as is.  

Superstition can be embodied by a simple totem, a Druid, a Witch Queen, even standing stones or a grove of trees. Of course you lose some of the powers that the Gods can wield that are equivalent to an 88 or Stuka raid but you have a more subtle game in tune with the men who read the Sagas rather than the characters in them.

During the break between Christmas and New Year, I started sorting through my Dark Ages figures, Norse fighters and fantasy barbarians for suitable OGAM/VoFD goons (see above).  It was really great looking at them again in a different light. A real benefit of OGAM is that the number of figures required for a faction is 20 or less and VoFD means you can use your Saga or Brytenwalda collection practically as is. Maybe a Druid, Shaman or similar and you are off and running. Plus I have a good excuse to add my favourite Hasslefree Barbarians, Fighters and Shamans.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Zulus Rising

Perhaps I expected too much but there was nothing 'epic' about Ian Knight's treatment of Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift in this book. I had re-read my now very worn copy of Morris' Washing of the Spears back in November and whilst dated, it still gets the blood pumping.

Where Zulu Rising did prove valuable is in new research at Isandlwana, for instance giving some of the distances the British forces opened fire at, Zulu tactics, their horns skirmished forward taking advantage of cover.  Zulu Rising was £2.98 on eBay, post free from Greener Books and certainly feel I had £2.98 value from it. The book itself arrived quickly in perfect condition, so I thoroughly recommend Greener as an eBay seller.

I'm disappointed because I've read and enjoyed many of Ian Knight's papers on aspects of the Zulu War but Zulu Rising leaves me questioning whether I'll buy another of his books. Though to be honest I'm not sure I really need to. I also question the value (at full price ) for a wargamer either.  By comparison Rorkes Drift by Adrian Greaves was gripping and spurred on the activity you see below.

Cut, cleaned, washed and now ready to glue together. Plastics? you can keep 'em. Seriously, I'd rather buy metals in future. They have their place in the hoby, but not in this house.


Friday, 10 January 2014

Stop That Tiger!

German Fallschrimjager gatecrash American preparations for Christmas and waltz to the tune of Kampfgruppe Panzergrenadier in this week's Battle of the Bulge inspired game.

The Americans bravely held the roadblock, getting a couple of Bazooka rounds off before getting the "Hell out of Dodge!". Leaving behind three M5 Stuarts and the road to Stavelot open.

It's 3 in the morning, you're not getting any more out of me. Need to crash before Im up at 6am. Can a scratch force with Tank Destroyers plug the gap and Stop that Tiger! next time round?


Friday, 3 January 2014

The Ghost Men of Bakonga - with IHMN and Belgians in the dark heart of Bakonga......

"So, Harry, you english, you have heard of our Fort Namur, on the Upper Bakonga, to the north of your Protectorate of Transbakonga? It is a small affair, garrisoned by a few Force Publique and their Askari but we like to think we do our part in eradication of the unlicensed slave trade. 

I diverge. Some months ago, my colleague, Commandant Dooderhever led a routine patrol after some ruga-ruga who had been molesting cattle. They ran these ragamuffins to a belt of jungle some kilometres to the west....upon entering the jungle they follow a track leading to une edifice. A temple perhaps. A ruin of zembabwe maybe? A runner arrived telling me this, and I led some of my Askari to the scene. The scenes of what? A chase of the goose of the wilderness my English friend. For the entire patrol had disappeared. Save of course for Commandant Dooderhever and one Gendarme, Morgan? Marant? One of your Anglo Saxon non de guerre no doubt. He ran, the malefactor and Dooderhever, he says nothing but drinks. So, he is normal for a garrisonaix of Namur. But there is a speculation amongst the wives of the Askari as to what happened and I now relay that to you, do not ask how I heard the tale, what? Yes, men of the world, of course.......

The Belgians advance to the strange ruins, scenting treasure some rush ahead....

Dooderhever and the Askari cover the rear but Lt Groot and the Gendarmes stumble on seeking ivory, gold! But what is that in the jungle, is it .... a lion man of Bakonga?

sadly, the Belgians fail to notice the lurking threat and with a cacophony of war cries, the Bakonganese crash out of the bushes. The dope addled  Ruga-ruga banging away with their muskets manage to hit no one, well perhaps a monkey. But a savage one, yes?

The Belgians drop some natives as they charge in but a lot of mobbing takes place and spread out as they are, the Gendarmes face a stabby and short future.....

Gendarme Moran (straw hat) holds his own while Groot and Doodehever fight hard to cut free.....

Moran has slipped away having killed his enemies, while Doodehever uses his trusty revolver to shoot his way out to safety

Lt Groot fights a lonely battle to the very bitter end......

"And so, mon ami, my little grey cells tell me that all of the command died that day, or in the case of poor Groot over a few days, perhaps. If we catch this man Moran, he who ran, well, the penal battalion maybe or perhaps a fair trial and quick firing party? As for Doodehever he is quite insane and so runs one of our smaller outposts, even deeper into les horreur de Bakongue. Now, I repair to my hotel, I meet some of your Transbakongenbosch Republicans tomorrow. Au revoir, Harry."

This was an ad hoc game of IHMN made up on the spot; Mark's recent frenzy pushed me over the edge. having glued up the last of my planned commandos, a game was called for. Figures are Foundry with two Perry Sudanese Askari. 



Umboko Gorge IHMN: Freddy's Sticky Wicket

You don't need half a ton of MDF masquerading as Victorian brick to enjoy In Her Majestys Name. Here, a young Freddy Pirbright leads a patrol of the Benson and Hedges down the Umboko Gorge to chastise Chief Catawali for some colonial misdemeanour.

With only a dozen redcoats on the table the game provided all the majesty, tabletop colour and thrills of a fully fledged battle utilising larger forces. The game ebbed and flowed, balance shifting constantly. And it was fun!

Umboko Gorge Royal Krall
Chief Catawaili in residence

Umbokos win initiative and assegai Private Steven
scouting ahead of Pirbright's command.

 Our trusty Sergeant advises Freddy to wait for the cavalry

 Nonsense! Freddy crosses the Umboko
in skirmish line with supports

An sniper on the terraces and another ambush take their toll

 Closing on the kraal, the Umboko Regiment
launches it's horms of the buffalo attack

Freddy steadies the firing line to meet the horns of the buffalo

Fix Bayonets!

 Hard pressed. The power of the Martini-Henry wanes

 The final stand. Down to bayonets now.
Freddy Pirbright makes off to save the colours

I learnt a lot about IHMN mechanics from this encounter and concocted a few house rules of my own during the course of play (such as scouting, figures fighting back to back/back to wall or as in this case rock). Well you have to don't you? Afterwards I tried out some further ideas whilst I still had figures on the table, but these need more testing, eg, the effect of leadership on shooting, all enemy bases in base to base contact (or in a contained area such as an alley, gap between rocks etc) becoming eligible targets for Volley Fire.

Using Zulu warriors on multiple bases certainly upped the visual and theatrical impact of the game. I'll base the rest on skirmish bases with the intention of replacing one of the warriors with a casualty figure to show when they are 'Knocked Down'. I made up stats for the Zulus and created some Traits using those in the rule book as examples, such as 'Iklwa' being their equivalent of 'Bayonet Drill' (+3). 

 Well there we have it, a simple scenario leading to another thrilling game of In Her Majestys Name. When I was a lad, one night in 1975 my dad came home and gave me Skirmish Wargames by Don Featherstone. It was completely out of the blue and not like him at all. I was immediately enthralled by Featherstone's new book, beginning a wargaming odyssey that night that and today's game with IHMN has recaptured those feelings.


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Victorian Officer Conversions - 2

Following on from my previous post in the early hours of this morning, thought I'd take a break at this stage to show you some of  my efforts so far. Heads are just blu-tacked into place for now, prior to being drilled, glued and having collars/facial detail rebuilt with Green Stuff.

First up our eponymous Victorian hero, Freddy "Umoboko Gorge" Pirbright. Fagged for Potter H. at Scones and a demon in the outfield. 

The head has been taken from the cook in Empress Miniatures' ZWB63 Rorkes Drift defenders! Body from Foundry DA15/1 British Command Characters.

Next, a variation on the movie version of Henry Hook from Empress Miniatures. I took the head off the Hook figure drinking from the bottle in the Empress Hollywood Heroes pack and will be attaching it to this body taken from Foundry's DA15/4 British Infantry Characters.

I may change my mind and use the historical Henry Hook body in shirtsleeves from Empress Miniatures ZWB39 but I'm really happy that Hooky now looks like he means business.

So, now the original movie Hooky's body is 'eadless, what do we do with it? Hands up here, I bloody hate square-on standy around figures, don't understand why gamers would want to buy them myself? In this instance, we use the head taken from the Foundry officer in patrol jacket who is drawing his pistol, marry the two together.....and we have O'Reilly, inept political agent, corrupt trader & Irish adventurer to fate.

 That head was a sod! Took best part of half an hour of careful cutting at different angles before I was able to remove it without damaging any detail on the figure, the head or my fingers. What made it harder was the rear of the sun helmet came down over the collar . I decided in the long run it would be easier to preserve the shape of he helmet rather than recreating it with Green Stuff.

And finally, before I return to the cutting mat on the kitchen table....Dr Watson in patrol jacket? One of the necessary but unspeakable Corps chappies? Definitely needs more facial hair though, clean shaven he looks too much like Ben Affleck rather than a Victorian gent at war and that will never do. So maybe this head instead taken from a Black Tree Design figure, for the last stand around the Mess. Last man standing pays the Mess bill.

If trying this yourself, and I know some of you are proficient, I recommend surveying the model before you start to determine the best and safest cutting angles. If the figures needs to have mould lines or flash cleaned, nows the time, especially around the head. Unless the figure has a pronounced neck, rather than cut straight across, I angle my knife slightly down and will cut from each side, producing a V shaped cut. I find this the safest way and it usually prevents a slip of the knife or too much pressure applied in error (or frustration) slicing off the figure's chin/jaw or drawing blood. I then make smaller cuts front and back following the best line to join up the cut, applying pressure as necessary.  It can be time consuming and hard on the fingers, but worth it to create some unique characters if like me, you are not a whizz with Green Stuff.


Quick Victorian Officer Conversions

Thanks to eBay I've been able to duplicate my Foundry British Zulu War command figures relatively cheaply and I'm just playing around with them tonight before starting some conversions tomorrow.

I really like these Foundry figures not only because they are so full of Zulu War character, but they are equally incredibly versatile for any gamer interested in Darkest Africa, Victorian Pulp and VSF gaming. In fact, some headswops, maybe change the rifles to the SMLE, a C20th paintjob and you have some extra characters for VBCW.

For gamers of In Her Majesty's Name, you have a nice little adventuring company just there. Note that the official Foundry pack also includes a soldier in shirtsleeves. To make these figures even more interesting, the two officers armed with swords (top right, bottom left) come with separate left arms and the pack includes a sprue with an extended arm firing pistol, crooked arm with pistol and an arm with binoculars.

The easiest conversion I'm going to do is to the officer firing a pistol,shown top left. I'll  swop his head with the one taken from the NCO (bottom middle) and add a Zulu shield. That's it. A simple conversion yet I think you'll agree he's now brimming with even more character.

It might be worth pointing out that being officers, the majority of castings have no equipment beyond their pistol belt. This would make it easy to add some additional IHMN furnishings such as steam driven exoskeletons, electronic ocular enhancers, ornithopters etc. And if you want to make them usable on the streets of London as well as the Veldt, just replace the sun helmets with Glengarries which are available as separate heads from Empress Miniatures.

Hope that's given you some food for thought. At the very least It's got me wanting to create some interesting figures, regardless of final use on th table and paint them. A good thing, as I barely touched a brush in 2013 and a small discrete group of figures like this may just break the anxiety that's now compounding the problem. In addition, you know, it's just occurred to me that I entered my first painting competition back in the seventies with a 54mm Cliff Sanderson Zulu War British officer. Maybe just maybe there's an omen in all this.....and it's a new year after all.