Thursday, 31 December 2009

Playing With My Xmas Pressie!!

Today all the guests and visitors had finally gone, and I had my painting table back to myself again.

But before I brought in all the modelling bits and pieces down from the loft and in from the garage, I decided to break open my "unofficial" Xmas present, the 4th expansion set for Commands & Colors: Ancients. Imperial Rome.

I was aching to see how the C&C: Ancients system handled Caltrops and the new Cataphract units, both Camel and Cavalry. The answer was; very simply and elegantly, and the rules work really well.

Using Cavalry to chase away Light Foot now becomes a very risky business indeed. Before, the Light Foot had to choose to stand and fight if they were to inflict any losses at all on attacking Cavalry, and that was usually a foolhardy decision to take. Instead, they would usually evade, reducing their chances of casualties but also totally negating the possibility of inflicting any.

With the Caltrop rules, those Light Foot units listed as being equipped with caltrops (which are scenario dictated) may still choose to evade attacking Cavalry for all the usual benefits (the attacking unit will only hit them on a Circle symbol, and cannot follow up into the vacated hex), but now, the attacking Cavalry can face total disaster! Every Sword symbol rolled on the attack they make, results in a hit against themselves!

The heavily armoured Cataphract Camel and Cavalry units gain the ability to ignore the first Sword result in any Close Combat. This is not a massive advantage and doesn't make them supermen, but it can make a difference.

I picked a scenario that would allow me to try out both of the Cataphract units, and the caltrops. The battle was Nisibis - 217AD, between the Parthians led by Atrabanus IV and a Roman force led by Macrinus. It was a solo game, with me developing a split personality and taking what I genuinely thought would be the best move available for each side, given the cards available.

It was a large battle by C&C: Ancients standards, with around 25 units on the Parthian side and 20 on the Roman. I'm not going to go into a blow-by-blow account, but the game was a see-saw fight; a real punch-up, with the Roman left flank almost totally collapsing even after their legionaries had inflicted horrendous losses on the Parthian horse. And yes, the Caltrop rules worked fine, as the Parthians found to their cost. Forced to try and drive away the Light Foot in front of the Roman main line, time and again they suffered from the pesky little devices while the skirmishers and bowmen dodged back. Again, the caltrops were not a battle-winner, but they had enough of an effect to force the opposing side to re-think their tactics.

The result was that the Cavalry-heavy Parthian army became sluggish, and suffered high attrition while trying to get into contact with the main Roman Legions. Once they did, the Legions started to suffer against the strong and tough Heavy Cataphract Cavalry. The fight went right down to the wire, but in the end the Parthians lost by 8 banners to 6, as their Heavy Cataphract Cavalry got bogged down in a slow-moving, grinding match with the Legion Infantry.

The end came with a swift Roman counter-attack, which caught a distracted and weakened Camel Cataphract unit and wiped it out.

Now I understand how the new rules work in practice, I shall give my regular(-ish) gaming opponent a ring, and see if he has the time to get a game in over the New Year holiday.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas Everyone!!

Happy Christmas Everyone!!

Have a Great New Year.


Saturday, 19 December 2009

More Battle!

I have been rather productive this last month, considering all the other stuff that needs doing around the house in the run-up to Christmas.

The first batch of Vulgarian Infantry is now complete and varnished. Three Vulgarian AFV's and a truck have been completed, as has a Moldovian light tank, and two more Moldovian AFV's, a Panther and a BA-6 armoured car, are on the painting table as we speak.

However, in a day or so the painting table has to be tucked away as the Festive Season approaches. We have a guest coming to stay, a good friend, and she will use this room. I doubt it will be back out for a couple of weeks afterwards, as trips away will limit my free time.

And who knows? After the holiday I might fancy a break from "moderns", and crack on with my old Spencer Smith ACW project, which needs a couple more units finishing off, and some more artillery purchasing for the Rebs.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Battle! On.

Having completed almost half of the Vulgarian Infantry and all but one of the original batch of Vulgarian AFV's, I have started to work on the paint schemes for the Moldovian forces now.

The Russian Green/Catachan Green idea did turn out to be a bit bland, especially on the cute litle Pegasus tanks. I finished the base coats on a Panther and Jaguar, but to be honest I wanted something with a bit more pizazz to it. I had no desire to copy the historical German three-colour scheme, so I cast my mind back further and decided to try something along the lines of an old WW1 tank "splinter camouflage" scheme that I recall seeing a while back, with three colours and thick black outlines around the colour demarcation points. I used GW paints for the scheme; Chaos Black, Catachan Green, Vermin Brown and Bubonic Brown (very close to dark yellow).

I gave it a go on the Pegasus Jaguar and although it is not yet finished, I like the effect. It sort of gives the impression of a "not quite up-to-date" army, and has also opened my mind to the possibility of using the HaT 1/72 WW2 Polish Infantry as the troops for this nation, rather than the Italeri US Infantry I had previously envisaged.

In the background can be seen the first Vulgarian Opel Truck getting its base coat. This is the old Airfx kit. It's handy for the project as it comes with a 75mm AT Gun and crew, but it has drawbacks as a wargames model.

It is, to be honest, a little too fragile for the wargames table. I deliberately left out lots of the smaller parts, such as the cab interior, drive shafts, front mudguard width indicators and driver's door mirrors, in an attempt to make it less vulnerable. But even so, the thinness of some parts has already caused breakages at the painting stage.

Now I am by no means ham-fisted, but I managed to weaken and then break off both front wheels simply by holding the model very gently by them, while applying a base coat. The spindles on the axle are so thin (less than 0.5mm thick) that they barely offer enough strength to hold the weight of the model itself. In the end I cut the axles down, and will have to superglue the wheels directly to the springs in order to get a strong enough joint. This will work; it's not perfect but I'm not worried. I have another one to make up, but I think for the rest of the wheeled transport I shall use the Pegasus quick-build Opel Trucks as far as the Vulgarians are concerned.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Battle! Project Update.

I've been busy finishing off some figures during the few spare hours I have had recently. I did come to a full stop because, after years of Horse & Musket and Fantasy projects, where the figures were finished with gloss varnish, I found I had no matt varnish to hand.

Or I thought I hadn't. Eventually, after digging through some boxes that had been tucked away for years, I found a small bottle of Humbrol matt varnish. Luckily if had not gone yellow or solidified, but it had separated and the top was solid, and required more muscle power to shift than I could manage. Thankfully a jar opener was purloined from the kitchen, and the top eventually yielded to brute force. I spent a couple of minutes stirring the thick gunk at the bottom of the bottle and eventually I got a good consistent thickness of liquid varnish. I tried it out on the underside of a tank to see if it was still OK, before risking it on a painted figure.

But it was fine so the first batch of finished Vulgarian Infantry got a coat of it and it worked well, with no yellowing. However, I tend not to brush varnish onto AFV's, as it always looks dreadful when I try it. But trying to get a matt varnish spray by mail order is damned hard now, as many companies are loth to post them via RM. Aberystwyth lived up to its reputataion for not having anything beyond the mainstream, and so things had to wait until a trip to Hereford yesterday, where I managed to find a can of Humbrol matt varnish in a model shop.

I now need to move onto transport for the two sides, and sadly it looks like the total budget will have to go over the £100 mark in order to procure the numbers of halftracks and trucks needed. Frontline will certainly be getting an order from me, as their prices are a good match for most of the quick-build halftracks out there. But that will be in the new year, I expect.

For now, I shall crack on and finish the AFV's and infantry I have.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Battle! Project Proceeds.

Well, in spite of the pre-Xmas housework, and having to run around taking the little one to various parties, Xmas Fairs and Stage School sessions, I have managed to crack on with this simple and inexpensive project.

I have established a set of rules for the project. In order to keep costs down, almost everything will be 20mm plastics, and as available time is also limited, fast-build kits will be used in most cases. I have also set a financial limit (so as to avoid breaking into the house-keeping money) of a maximum of £4 per vehicle and £6 for a box of figures. With this in mind, my initial outlay so far has been around £50 and I should have both sides done, with a good selection of vehicles, for around £100, at which point I shall cease building and start playing.

The first army is from the rather bombastic central European nation of Vulgaria.

The Italeri Germans' transformation into the Vulgarian hordes is coming along nicely. There are a few wasted poses (I do not like prone figures!) and a little flash on some others (easily trimmed), but most are usable and paint up nicely.

The paint scheme for the Vulgarian military is:
Uniforms: Cote D'Arms Russian Brown.
Webbing: Cote D'Arms Faded Khaki.
Boots: GW Snakebite Leather.
Equipment (helmet, entrenching tool handles, grenades, Panzerschrecks, mortars): Cote D'Arms Grey-Green.
A dark GW Flesh Wash is applied over the uniform, boots and webbing, and then when dry, the figure is dry-brushed with GW Kommando Khaki to highlight.
Guns: GW Chaos Black. (Note to wargamers: modern military weapons are NOT shiny bare metal!)
Rifle Furniture: GW Snakebite Leather and GW Flesh Wash.

Vehicles are all Cote D'Arms Grey-Green.
Once dry, they are then dry-brushed with GW Kommando Khaki, and then areas like the engine deck, gun muzzle brake and exhausts are given a thin wash of a brown/black ink to simulate oil and soot.


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Odds & Sods.

My first attempt at fictional Horse & Musket armies.

I am always driven by a need to keep costs down to a minimum, so the initial attempt involved some 20mm plastic figures. These are from Italeri, although the figures at the back are, so I seem to recall John Preece informing me, VERY early MiniFigs.

I was intending to use DBN rules for this project, hence the basing. But in the end I just fell in love with Holger Ericsson figures, and nothing else would do...

I very rarely buy figures just for the sake of painting them, but these next ones I did. Picked up for a song on eBay, there were about 25 in the box, all unpainted castings, of which this is a small sample. Renegade I think, and so wonderful to paint! They now reside in the USA, as a buyer there took them off my hands for a fair sum.

And finally, another aborted project; a Punic Wars Republican Roman Army, for DBM. These are the Psiloi for that army. I did a few Blade units too, but ran out of enthusiasm. Figures are HaT. Not a great paint job, but I never really go overboard on plastics, even though I do love them....