Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End of 2010

So this is Christmas... and what have you done? Thanks to you John for the lyric!

This loaded question can send one's mind reeling for hours considering the year past and the new one to come. I will simply keep my thoughts here framed within the wargaming arena. This will spare you the tales of me not keeping my previous resolutions to lose weight and become a generally better person (missed on both of those targets, I'm sorry to report).

2010 Highlights/Lowlights
Highs: This year brought me within sight of finishing my 25mm/25mm Napoleonic French Army for General de Brigade and nearly ready to stage a version of the Lincoln County War, also in 28mm,  using The Rules With No Name.

Lows: A string of really bad games has brought to light the fact that I may not be the best scenario designer in our club! I also failed to live up to the promise that I made to myself that I would have ALL of my 1914 French and Germans painted and in a game before the year was out. Fortunately, these things can be remedied with a bit of work...

2011 "Goals"
I usually hesitate to put resolutions... err... targets out where folks can see them but it seems that a bit of gentle "encouragement" from my few readers may give me a needed kick in the &@$$ when needed...

1. Lose weight and become a better person - always a favorite list starter
2. Add 4 battalions of infantry and 6 sections of artillery to my Garde Imperiale so I can declare the Napoleonic French completed
3. Begin running the Lincoln County War by the end of March - paint a few buildings and that is a go
4. Stage a LARGE 15mm Pirates game
5. By steady effort, complete my 1914 collection

Looks like my pal Rex of Rex Painting Service will be a busy man this year!

May your 2011 bring you blessings, peace, and health. Also, I hope that 2011 sees you reach your gaming goals... Good Luck!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Planning my Fun Pt.II

OK, so it looks like my old method of just buying figures in a random fashion might have been better!!! As I sat down and began listing the 25mm figures that I want/need to get some units together for WW1 gaming I quickly realized how much it will cost (in money and time to paint) and became a bit overwhelmed. It seems that when I plan out my figures needs I feel compelled to add one of every possible unit type "just in case!"

I am looking at @100 to 150 figures per group that I want to represent and there are 8 to 10 groups that I want to collect!

Germans: 1914 and 1918 (Different uniforms, so...)
French: 1914 and 1918 (Different uniforms, so...)
British: 1914
And some troops for operations in Middle East/Mesopotamia

If I had sat down and planned my Napoleonic collection like this then I would have been too daunted to have ever begun the project!

In truth, it is actually nice to have a plan going forward. While the project is large it has obvious increments that make it easy to break up into manageable bits. Time to get focused on completing one of those groups so I can mark them off of my To - Do list.

Whats the old saying...
"How do you eat an elephant?

"One bite at a time..."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Planning my fun?

I have never been much of a planner when it comes to wargaming. I buy whatever figures that I like in whatever quantity I want/is currently available. Mind you, I don't buy 100s of figures at a time - after all, that might actually get me a discount - but I do buy in batches of 40 or 50 at a time. Oddly, that usually equates to about 1.5 units in most of the games that I play! I will never learn...

Lately, I have been staring at the assortment of figures that I have stored away for my various projects and trying to choose between buying more of them to fill out these armies or to sell off (unpainted) collections that have not seen the light of day in 5 years, or more. I have, more or less, completed my French Napoleonics and have loads of odds and sods left over from that. There are a variety of special units that I can make with all of these unpainted figures but I find myself wondering, will I actually do it? Further, I have piles of 25mm Saracens, ACW, WWII, Cowboys, and Vikings awaiting the call up. A quick examination of those piles reveals that I need more of them to make enough units for the games I think that I want to play. So I am faced with the hard choice of buying more to "finish" things or selling off what I have and moving on. Being a realist, and knowing how I am, I will buy more figures.... :)

This brings me to my Great War project. I have been "just buying figures" as I saw them. I can already see how this is going to get out of hand. So, I have actually written down what totals I will need to collect to have the forces that I want to play with and will buy the appropriate figures to meet those plans. Now I just have to settle on whose figures I want to buy!

This is as close as I can get to taking "The Pledge"...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Never clean the garage

I made the mistake of cleaning the garage and during that process I found two BIG boxes of 15mm and 25mm houses that I bought a year or two ago. Now I realize that I have a pretty big, as slow as I paint, project to paint up the 30 -40 buildings that I just rediscovered. It seems that hiding things from yourself is a double edged sword... fun to find something forgotten (a gift to myself!!) but kind of overwhelming to have a new project to add to the list.

I think that the most important factor to consider here is the very fact that I somehow forgot buying that many buildings! Proof that a good sale will tempt me to spend all of my hobby money!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Current Projects & Ideas

I am trying to work on a few projects that seem to be crawling along...

Grand ideas:
1. Starting an Old West Lincoln County War campaign using The Rules With No Name
2. Trying to figure out how to do a Napoleonic Campaign with General de Brigade

Mundane tasks:
1. Finishing the standard bearers and command stands for @ 12 - 15 units from my Napoleonic collection and my ACW collection
2. Basing and terraining painted figures to complete @ 12 - 15 units

As usual, my progress is slow. I hope to have news of completing one of the above listed tasks soon - check back to see which one gets done!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Colonial Battle

Yesterday saw our group play a game of Colonials that wasn't really a game of Colonials...

This game was part of an ongoing campaign at our club that combines role-playing elements and large scale battles. It is a novel approach because the events of the role-playing game trigger these larger battles but, generally speaking, none of the role-playing gamers play in the large battles. This method for generating games has led to some very interesting games with scenarios that we otherwise would not have tried.

For this game I was commanding a sleepy German outpost in German Southwest Africa near the banks of a small river. The scenario began with my troops asleep in their fort, a nearby town, and at the dockside barracks house. Naturally, I expected hordes of natives to begin appearing all around the edges of the table (it is a Colonials game after all). Much to my troops' surprise, steamboats full of British and Indian troops begin to approach the docks! If you know anything about me, you know that I have awful luck when playing wargames. Therefore, it should not surprise anyone that I failed my rolls to identify the ships as British or to raise the alarm.

The first that my troops knew of something being amiss was when my troops on the docks were gunned down by disembarking British infantry. Now aware that danger was afoot, my troops began to file out from their quarters and form for battle. I was able to form a "grand battery" in the center of my lines and those guns wrought havoc on the steadily advancing British and Indian troops. While my center was strongly held, it was my flanks that proved my downfall. The Askaris sent to each wing to delay the British were ultimately overwhelmed and eliminated. As British numbers began to tell, my troops fell back to relative safety of the fort. Quickly realizing that the fort was about to become a prison camp the remaining German units elected to retreat into the interior and left the port in British hands ... for now.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I shot myself in the foot...

...and then cracked my skull open when I bent over to examine the damage! At least that is how it seemed to me.

This is a tale of scenario design gone awfully, horribly, catastrophically, disastrously, and hopelessly wrong. Brace yourself, it isn't pretty!

First, to set the mood, a bit of background. We play 25mm Napoleonics with the General de Brigade rule system that has been modified to fit our 1:30 ratio mounting system. I love playing Napoleonics, it is easily my favorite period to wargame. I love the ridiculously ornate uniforms, the over exaggerated tales of heroics, and grand sweep of events triggered by the movements of Napoleon's troops. I enjoy the General de Brigade rules well enough. They are a bit clunky in a few areas but are generally simple and fair to all nations. However, they lack ... something. Perhaps it is the old "national modifiers" that I became so used to in wargaming over the years (if troops are French they get a +10 to morale, Russians become unformed if they move, British troops get a +10 when firing while in line ... that sort of thing) or some other "flavor" that is missing. Don't get me wrong, I am glad some of those things aren't in the rules as they were just plain wrong. This all led me to a brilliant idea (not really)...

Since I did not want to tinker with the rules, I decided to "spice up" my most recent scenario with a couple of random event charts to provide a bit of excitement. To be fair, it worked. However, things worked out in a manner that I could not have imagined...

On the map you can see the general dispositions. Just off the game table behind Lindenau there is a stream of French troops retreating away from Leipzig. The Allied objective is to take Lindenau to threaten the French escape route. Each turn, the French would roll for the result of recruiting efforts by a fictional French officer, Crappet, who appears in our game when "unusual" events occur.

Allies Prussians/Russians/Minor Germans:
1 Division General - Russian
6 Brigade General (They may all be used or some may be kept as AdC)
14 Infantry Battalions (1 of them can be light infantry 2nd Rate Skirmish, 1 other will be Elite class)
2 Cavalry Regiments (heavy, light, lancer, whatever...)
1 Artillery Battery of 3 sections of 8lb foot guns

French Empire
1 General de Division Wolski
4 General de Brigade (and the ever present Crappet will be lurking, of course!)
10 Infantry Battalions
2 Cavalry Regiments
1 Artillery Battery of 3 sections

Special troop rules:
The Imperial force will be composed of 6 Polish Battalions and 4 French Line Battalions. The Poles and French Infantry are Veteran quality but must roll 1d6 EVERY time that their quality is relevant (morale, charging, shooting, etc...). Roll 1d6 with a 1 or 2 rating as 2ND LINE, 3-5 rates as VETERAN, and a 6 reveals that unit to be ELITE at that moment. These ratings are not permanent but change with every instance where quality affects events. This is to portray the unsteady performance of otherwise good troops.

The Crappet factor/Le factour de Crappet:
For a further bit of fun, there are lots of troops streaming away from Leipzig to escape the Allied advance just off board. Chef de Escadron Crappet can be sent to attempt to persuade those troops to assist Wolski's troops in holding Lindenau. Of course, since it is our old friend Crappet things may not work out just as planned. During the order phase, at the beginning of the turn, Crappet can roll on 1d6 in an attempt to persuade troops to join the fight. He may roll once every turn but he can only add a maximum of 2 battalions to the French force.

1 = Crappet has learned nothing during his travels, especially German. He leads a battalion of Prussian Landwehr(LINE) onto the board after mistaking them for Poles... Iron Cross flags or Silver Eagle flags, who can tell the difference? They appear on the French back line wherever the French commander chooses.

2 = Crappet locates a priest who will bless the troops in Lindenau in exchange for Crappet lowering his pistols. His blessing adds +1 to any/all Polish/French troop quality roll for this entire turn.

3 = Crappet gets jeered as the troops keep on retreating past him. However he meets a Saxon AdC. He sends him towards the fight. What Crappet does not know is that the Saxons have changed sides! Roll 1d6 with 1 – 4 = AdC goes over to the Allies. 5 or 6 = the Imperial troops have a new AdC.

4 = Crappet gets threatened by a rather grumpy Grenadier and quietly moves to a new location.

5 = Crappet manages to persuade a French Line Battalion to enter the board directly behind Lindenau. They are low on ammo so ANY roll of doubles leaves them unable to shoot any more today. If the 2 battalion limit has been reached then see 2.

6 = Crappet displays his Legion d'Honour (that he picked up from a dead officer and “awarded” to himself just yesterday) and inspires a French Line Battalion to enter the fray from directly behind Lindenau. If the 2 battalion limit has been reached then see 3.

Now, all of this is the setup to describe the most improbable of events. The French commander rolled a 1, resulting in a Prussian unit appearing behind the French lines 6(!!!!) times over the course of 10 or 11 turns. Conveniently for the Allies, he also rolled a 3, which generated a Brigade commander to lead all of those unexpected Allied troops. All of these troops proved to be way too much for the French and Poles. In the end, my "tweaks" turned into a disaster. My efforts to add a bit of "flavor" to the battle pretty well ruined the game's balance.

Back to the drawing board...

Friday, June 04, 2010

25mm UPDATE: Uhh, now what?

It seems that I have reached a day that I didn't think would ever arrive... I have so many French Napoleonic Ligne and Legere Infantry battalions painted up that ... gasp... I do not need any more! I have always been collecting and painting these units, off and on, since 1980. First, I painted a large collection of Airfix. They were replaced by a larger and more varied collection of Minifigs. Finally, the old reliable Minifigs were replaced with a new force built from Foundry (mostly) and Front Rank units.

When I was doing all of my own painting things moved slowly. Looking back, I probably spent the best part of 20 years, off and on, painting (BADLY) about 30 French infantry battalions, if you count the Airfix and then the Minifigs. For the newest army I enlisted the services of Rex Blackwell of Rex Painting Service (my highest recommendations for his services!) and it was done in, by my standards, a blink of an eye. I estimate my new army of @22 French battalions only took 4 to 5 years to be made ready to fight. That isn't even counting the Duchy of Warsaw Brigade that I have to go with them. Lets see now... add them all up... carry the 2... and that equals... too many to use all at once at our club! Mon dieu!

This leaves me on unfamiliar ground. As I am always looking forward to the next French unit to buy and paint, and I have been auto pilot for 30 years, I am forced to consider doing something else to get my Napoleonic "fix". I already have enough cavalry and artillery to go with all those infantrymen. I have plenty of generals, Marshals, and AdC types to lead my rabble. I already have an army to fight in Egypt and the Holy Lands wearing that polyglot of colors designed by Kleber.

There seems to be only one reasonable solution... a nice sized brigade of La Garde Imperiale (with attendant artillery, of course!) in full dress! Ahhh, it is good to have a goal again......!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More on Scenarios

I played in a 25mm WWI battle set in Palestine today. It was great fun. Nice figures, good terrain, and simple rules made for a good game. As always, there were a few points of confusion/contention but not so much that it really detracted from the game. It was interesting to watch Scott trying to "run" the game and his struggle to translate the battle as he saw it in his head onto the gaming table. It was then that the light dimly flickered into life in my brain. It sort of illuminated the struggle that I have been having over scenarios and games.

I am having trouble turning what I know into a framework to allow two sides to compete against each other with a fair chance for either side to "win" the game. I am still learning to "balance" the game so that each side has some obtainable goal that can make even the most unbalanced games "winnable", and therefor enjoyable, for both sides. In most cases, I take an historical situation and scale it down for our game's scale while trying to be accurate about unit density (number of units in a given geographic area), historical positioning, unusual terrain or situations, and leadership abilities of the real life leaders. Where I seem to lose my way is the simple question of "So how do I win?" asked by each side's commanders. It seems simple enough, but sometimes I really don't seem to have an answer, other than "You need to destroy enough of his units so that he runs away..."

I gotta work on that...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Scenarios: To try hard or not to try hard...?

I have run a few ACW scenarios lately for our gaming group and I am not entirely satisfied with the results. I find it difficult to strike a good balance in regards to game size (how many units per side) and victory objectives. My last two scenarios were lifted from historical situations; The Assault on Oak Ridge at Gettysburg and the opening hours of the first day at Chancellorsville, and in both cases there are very few possibilities (at least as I designed the scenario) for a CSA "win" unless there was a total Federal collapse. In both cases this led to an unsatisfying "tie game" sort of situation that indicated a Federal victory. Each was unsatisfying because the Federals didn't have to do much, other than survive, until it was time to pack up and go home. I say that not to belittle my Federal opponents but rather to indicate that I gave them very little to do really...

The first scenario (Oak Ridge) I worked on for a few evenings while researching accounts of the action and learning about some of the characters at that specific encounter. In the case of the Chancellorsville game, I only drew up the scenario late on the night before the game. Yet, in both battles I produced eerily similar scenarios with predictable results. Frustrating.

I am not sure how to overcome the common factor here, ME, to improve my scenario design. I think that the biggest problem I encounter is seeing a battle from only one side. I am going to try to develop my next scenario as two versions of the same battle so that I can "see" the contest from each side. Hopefully, by combining these two views together I may come up with a better scenario that will keep everyone more involved and make for a better game...

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Basing 25mm troops

I have received many nicely painted figures over the last 6 weeks, or so. I am in the slow process of basing them in preparation for upcoming games. The process is slow because my new daughter isn't too interested in my miniatures and seems to need to be held just about the time I sit down to do a bit of wargaming related work. Mind you, I am not complaining!

I have 6 battalions (24 figures each) of 1809 Polish infantry, along with some generals, painted by Rex Painting Service that arrived before Christmas. As always, they turned out very nicely with superb painting by Rex. I have some GMB flags to mount on the standard bearers. They should look great once they are mounted and ready for action!

I also have a few regiments (20 figures each) of pre-painted Old Glory ACW Federal infantry to be based. These are nice figures ("2nd edition" I think) and the painting is pretty well done. I have some GMB flags for these units that will give the regiments an excellent finishing touch.

I have no pics at the moment, but I hope to post some shots to show my basing methods. This should provide anyone still reading this blog plenty of material to criticize (my methods - not the figures!!).

Happy New Year!!