Tuesday, 25 February 2014

History Is Bunk!

It’s been a slow week or so. I have done little in the way of gaming; the solitaire C&C: Ancients battle of Raphia has not moved since last Sunday. Mostly this is down to me being too tired after work to bother much in the evenings. After my sit-ups and cross-trainers sessions, my body is as tired as my mind and I am asleep within minutes of hitting the pit.

And the weekend was spent cleaning and clearing out the rubbish that has accumulated in the flat over the last two years; mostly cardboard boxes for stuff I have bought and might have had to return. They soon mount up. So Saturday was lost to that exercise, and to driving to the rather distant recycle dump in Warrington to drop it all off.

Sunday, however, saw me in the mood to do a little model-making; in this instance a SMER 1/28 Klik-Kit of a Skoda Favorit. I have had two of those wagons over the years, with differing levels of enjoyment. I bought the model years ago, but just found it again in the clear out and decided it was time to make it. It took less than an hour to click the major components together, and the painting and final assembly can wait ‘til later.

The rest of Sunday I sadly wasted catching up on a film I had promised myself to watch, but not got around to for years; Flyboys.  Now I am a keen WW1 aviation historian, and what with the breadth of modern research and the current standard of GCI, I expected great things for this film, which was supposedly based on the exploits of the Lafayette Escadrille in the early years of the First World War.

What I got was a film with a plot and script so dire that a 1930’s audience would have thought it clich├ęd, and dreadfully unhistorical and inaccurate combat scenes. For Odin’s Sake, Hollywood. With GCI it’s just as easy to get it right as to get it wrong, so what the hell was the reason for making all the German aircraft Fokker DRI’s? And red ones at that - except for the sneering baddy of course, who flew a black one. The only reason that springs to mind was that the director thought his audience so stupid that he believed they would only be able to recognise the “bad guys” if their planes had three wings and were painted red. This mismatch grated, and set the tone for the rest of the “history” in the film.

I would hate to have been the historical adviser on that film; they must have had a hell of a time with that director, or perhaps they were just as clueless. Every clash involved massive squadron-sized formations, and the air over the Lines was full of Gothas and Handley Pages and Zeppelins! Okay, so some of the little details were right, such as uniforms, flying gear, etc… But what’s the point of making sure those tiny details are fine, when the major part of the supposedly historical film is banal rubbish?

The guns fired wispy smoking bullets that made a little swishing noise as they passed. Anyone who has been shot at knows that bullets crack when they go past, but obviously the little swishing sounds matched the smoky trails better. And those smoky bullet trails? Tracer existed back then and was widely used. By 1916 all sides had tracers that could be followed out to 500 yards or so. The only rounds that left smoky trails were incendiaries, which were not widely used except against those specific targets that required it, such as balloons and zeppelins.

The rotary engines did not rotate. Ok, some of the footage featured actual modern replicas with radial engines, but the CGI aircraft could have included it. Deflection shooting? Not in this film, baby! The sights were always spot on the target when the triggers were pushed or pulled. And the scene were the hero carefully managed to time his swerve to ensure that a stricken Triplane, falling from above, plunged down to strike the Triplane sitting on his tail, was derisory. Another hoot was generated when the hero deliberately pulled up from a head-on attack and, with incredible skill, ripped off his opponent's top wing with his undercarriage, which remained remarkably intact afterwards!

Next week I intend to catch up on The Red Baron, a German-made film which preceded Flyboys by a couple of years. It can hardly be worse.... can it?

Sunday, 16 February 2014

It's been a while, I know...

Re-building my career has taken most of my time and energy over the last seven or eight months and I've had little time, or indeed interest, in my hobbies for a while. However, now things have settled well and my earning power has been restored (and then some!), I can go back to relaxing and having fun (well, at least the kind of fun where one keeps one's clothes on).

Painting has come to a full stop, and I have yet to find the mood to restart that. Partly this is down to a lack of brushes; the tiny 000 and 0000 ones I have got used to using for straps and tiny details are now dead, and my source for them is down south, and does not do mail order even if I was willing to risk it, which I am not.because I like to have a good look at a brush before I buy it. So I need to find a local replacement source for such brushes. Sadly the nearest model/painting shops nearby do not seem to stock brushes that small.

But my interest in boardgames has been revived, and lately I have been re-purchasing the Commands & Colors: Ancients sets, as and when I can find them. I had a full set a couple of years ago, but sold them in hard times. Sadly a few are now out of print, but I understand GMT is re-releasing them soon.

Not having played the game for a couple of years, I needed a solo run-through to get back into the swing. So yesterday I cleared some table space, and picked a scenario. Zama was deemed straightforward enough and included most of the basic unit types, and although the game dragged out through constant referrals to the rules, it porved as much fun as it always had. I love this system!

So today it is another solo game; Raphia.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

How Time Flies When You Are Not Having Fun.

Gosh, it's almost the end of June!

The projects continue, albeit slowly.

I have finished off a few more Assyrians, but after painting nearly 200 I have got a tad bored with them and wanted to start something new.

So I moved onto organising my Thebans. There are going to be four large Phalanxes, three with 32 figures and one with 24. There will be a unit of 12 Heavy cavalry and another of 12 Light cavalry, and perhaps three small units of skirmishers, armed with javelins, bows and slings. It's been a very cheap army, with a total outlay of around £30 for almost 200 infantry and 24 cavalry. Bargain hunting on eBay kept the price down. The figures are by HaT and are amongst some of their nicest ones.

I also have started collecting the Ancient Indian army but as yet that is in its infancy, with just a couple of boxes so far tossed into the big plastic bin under the work table.

Other expenditure has been on paints. I mostly use Coat D'Arms, which I like for their smoothness and the fact that they come in large bottles and are much cheaper than GW or Valejo. I do buy the odd GW, but it's rare.

Sadly I missed this years Phalanx show in St Helens (again!)  I had forgotten the date, and it was one of those rare weekends when I had actually decided to have a social life and go meet some friends for a shopping trip in North Wales. But on the way there I suddenly realised that it must surely be the show that Saturday. I stopped in a lay-by and checked my Note, and found I was right.


Torn between going to the show or carrying on to Llandudno on an undies-shopping spree, I finally chose the latter. And so the M&S lingerie department got my money that weekend, instead of the show retailers. Sorry boys. Better luck next time!

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Plastic Bug & Other Stories

I really do seem to have caught the 20mm plastic bug big time now.

I can think of so many Ancient armies that I want to do. I have one (the Assyrians) almost completed, a large Theban force in priming stage, a New Kingdom Egyptian army washed and sorted ready for priming, and am starting a line of purchases to make up an Ancient Indian army, complete with elephants and chariots. I bought the excellent Lucky Toys King Porus set, which has clearly been mastered and moulded for them by Caesar Miniatures. The rest of the force will be HaT figures. Granted the Lucky Toys figures don't really match the HaT ones, but as the King Porus set mostly just concentrates on the command figures, most of the poses in it will be useful. The Commander's elephant, the chariot, plus a few of the infantry figures, will all make great unit leaders, standard bearers and musicians.

The future might well see a Caesar Hittite force, plus a good sized HaT Parthian cavalry army (if I can get over my dislike of painting horses). Part of me feels seized by the desire to do a Strelets Anglo-Saxon force and a matching Norman one. It's perverse, but there it is..

I've also been looking through the Bolt Action rules. I think they will give a fun game with a few tweaks (and by ignoring the GW-inspired silliness of Commissars and Medics and other "characters"), and as I intend to stick to 20mm figures and models the cost will be kept very low, as the force sizes are quite small. I will use HaT AFVs and guns, and the 1/72 Valiant figures, as I have found a cheap source for the latter.

I'd still like to do a Steam-Punk force (or rather forces). But that will have to wait a year or so. I have enough to be going on with for now...

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Renewing My Vows

Well, I made a vow not to start another project until I had finished the one I was doing.

Was that realistic? Nope.

Because I had forgotten that, as wargamers,  we NEVER finish a project, do we? Seriously?

So I have amended that vow, and now I will not start a new project, until I have completed the one I am working on to the extent that I have a playable army. That is much more realistic. I have already reached that stage with the Assyrians, and the rest of the bits I have still to complete, including the chariots, are simply reinforcements.

And there are so many other armies I want to tackle. I have a large part of the New Kingdom Egyptians purchased, washed and sorted. I picked up three boxes of HaT Theban army sets very cheap, and they are very nice clean figures. I have washed and primed the first unit. I will start on this army before the Egyptians.

I am also tempted by a Late Roman force, and a Parthian cavalry army (even though I hate painting horses!).

Over the last week or so I managed to find the time to finish off a small group of cavalry and the first chariot.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Project Progresses

The Assyrians are coming along slowly. That's because I am now working once again, and only have a few hours at the weekend to crack on with painting.

However, I am finishing some units. The Auxiliary units are complete, save for a unit of a dozen Archers.

The Assyrians still have a long way to go, but I finished one unit of Archers and a unit of Slingers, and a good start has been made on the second Heavy Infantry unit. The third Heavy Infantry unit, some reinforcements for the unit of Archers, and another full unit of Slingers, have now been primed.

Whilst I have made a start on the Heavy Chariots and the Cavalry, they remain on the back burner as I hate painting animals! I know it's easy once one gets back into the swing of it, but I have always hated painting them. As far as numbers are concerned, I have decided to get another box of Heavy Chariots, and I also have another box of 12 Assyrian Cavalry lying around somewhere, which I shall probably paint up later as Royal Bodyguard. And that will do for the Assyrian project.

On other fronts, I made a start on the New Kingdom Egyptian project and purchased some cheap Caesar Egyptian Infantry on eBay a while back. I am thinking twice about this source of figures for future purchases though, as the P&P charges of some sellers has gone through the roof. When you are being asked to cough up £9.50 for a single box of plastic figures, it's not even a bad joke. I won't pay those kind of prices. I am going to look at mail order shops like Hannants in future.

I also found a mint copy of Bolt Action, the WW2 skirmish rules, for almost half price. They are essentially 40K WW2. Very gamey, very lightweight. Having said that, the rule mechanisms themselves are okay and one can easily disregard the sillier stuff, especially the scenarios, which are dire. If I ever do end up gaming WW2 then I will certainly use 20mm instead of 28mm, and these rules might do the trick for the fast, small scale tactical games I want.

I have aborted at least 3 WW2 projects over the last five years, and I am not sure why. It's a period that attracted me to wargames all those years ago, so why is it I find it so hard to get back into it? I still love reading Charles Grant's Battle!, but just can't seem to get the enthusiasm. Maybe it's the boring colour schemes...?

Thursday, 28 March 2013


I have decided to scale down my Assyrians a bit more.

The original points cost of my planned WAB Assyrian army was well over 3500, which is HUGE. But I was using the older v1.0 rules, and the newer ones have some changes, notably in Rank Bonus, that mean large units are perhaps not as useful as they once were. WAB v1.0 had a maximum Rank Bonus of +3 in resolving Close Combat. That meant it was good tactics to have large units with four or more ranks, so that more losses could be absorbed and the Rank Bonus would still not drop for a couple of rounds of Close Combat.

WAB v2.0 drops that maximum Rank Bonus down to +2. Basically that means 20 figure units, arranged in four ranks, are now in real terms just as effective as 25+ figure units arranged in five or more ranks. Few combats will go on long enough for the extra figures to make any difference at all. So I decided I might as well spare myself some of the painting. I also put aside one unit of 12 cavalry, a unit of 12 armoured Slingers and a unit of 12 armoured Archers. That drops the points down to a more realistic level. Cavalry especially are horrendously expensive.

I will paint those back-burner figures up at a later date, but right now I want to concentrate on getting a balanced army fielded as fast as possible,

So now the Assyrian army proper (minus its auxiliaries and/or allies) is as follows.

1 x General/King in Heavy Chariot
1 x Standard Bearer.
1 x Royal Guard unit (20 figures)
1 x Heavy Chariot unit (3 chariots)
1 x Cavalry unit (12 figures)
2 x Armoured Infantry units (20 figures each)
1 x Armoured Slingers unit (12 figures)
1 x Armoured Archers unit (12 figures)

The Auxiliaries / Allies are less affected by the v2.0 changes, as they were going to be small units anyway, albeit with a lot of Archers. They remain the same size.

1 x Infantry unit (20 figures)
2 x Infantry units (18 figures)
2 x Archers unit (10 figures each)
1 x Tribal Skirmishers (Archers) unit (12 figures)