Monday, August 22, 2016

Back, after a delay

OK, it's been a while. But I'm back and looking to make up for some lost time. So, where were we?

Helsreach.

I still want to do a Rogue Trader-inspired game (but not with the Rogue Trader rules). I had kicked around the idea of doing a ship-boarding game in conjunction with a space naval game. Over time, the ship has become a space station.

I like the idea of it being under the control of a renegade governor. Of course, the Space Marines will need to regain control.

The shuttle bay. The scene of many future fights, methinks.
So, I'm building the space station, one section at a time with my brother. Details on its construction and the rules we're devising will follow.

It's good to be back.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Like fluttering cherry blossoms

Keeping the beer linked thematically is a crucial component of any gaming experience.
So, my friend Erick came over with his copy of Samurai Battles from Zvezda. The box contains a boat load of their 1/72nd scale plastic miniatures, some hex-printed battle boards, terrain tiles, some nifty plastic stacking elevated terrain hexes, and two sets of rules. The first is Zvezda's Art of Tactic rules and the second is Richard Borg's Commands & Colors.

Art of Tactic looks interesting, but we didn't get to it. Instead, we played the introductory scenario for Commands & Colors. If you're a fan of the other C&C systems, you'll be able to jump right in. There are plenty of descriptions of the basic mechanics out there, so I won't go into too much detail here.

The Samurai Battles version is basically C&C: Ancients with two major points of departure. First is an Honor mechanism. Second is the Dragon Card deck. Both are linked together. Each army starts a game with a set number of Honor points.
Honor is a finite resource and must be managed. They are represented by cardboard counters with a white chrysanthemum on a purple field (as seen on the die in the picture, above).

Leaders can use Honor to inspire their attached units, adding a die to their attack rolls. Luckily, dice are used to possibly regain additional Honor. When an Honor symbol is rolled in melee, an Honor point is restored. It is possible to have more Honor than you started with. Note that the Honor symbol replaces the purple leader's helmet from C&C: Ancients dice.

Honor is also used to activate Dragon Cards. These allow leaders or forces to perform special actions, give bonuses to combat, ignore retreat flags and a myriad other abilities.

If a unit is forced to retreat, it may also cause a loss of Honor. Furthermore, Leaders who retreat as a result of being attacked lose Honor as well. However, if he has the stones to commit Seppuku instead of retreating or getting captured/killed, he gains Honor for his side.

Speaking of killing leaders, a unit that causes damage to an enemy unit in melee can attempt to kill an attached leader on a single die roll of crossed swords. A ranged attack achieves the same on two crossed swords on two dice.

Overall, I like the Honor system and the Dragon Cards. They add an interesting thematic flavor to the game. Erick and I discussed adding it into our regular games of C&C: Ancients. But rather than devote time to that, I think I'd rather just play C&C: Samurai Battles.

So, what about what's in the box? Although very beautifully sculpted and nicely molded, the figures are awfully fiddly to move during the game. Furthermore, most of the units are armed with either naginata or yari. Since they are nearly to scale in thickness, there is very little material in play and they bend easily and could break without much effort at all. The sashimono all of the figures have suffer from the same issue. Erick told me he spent essentially an evening per unit assembling the figures. Most of them were four to six pieces per figure. Awfully fiddly. Erick's looking to find some wooden blocks to play as if it were C&C: Ancients or Napoleonics.

All of the printed items seemed cheap and not particularly well thought out. The maneuver cards are very thin and cut somewhat roughly. The graphics on the cards are functional, if uninspiring. The quick-reference sheet is glossy paper instead of the sturdy cardstock I've come to appreciate from GMT in their C&C games. Furthermore, it's very wordy instead of the more chart-based approach GMT takes. As a veteran C&C player, this wasn't a huge issue, but I can see how a new player could be slowed down in finding the movement distance, number of dice used in an attack, or other vital bits of information.

The board, being made of six separate cards seemed cheap as well. If there's a nice part to the boards it is that they have water features printed on the opposite side, so no need to fiddle with terrain tiles for that. I still would prefer a single board or a mat. The plastic stacking terrain hexes are nifty, though.

I really like the dice that are included. They're solid and hefty. They rolled nicely and mostly in my favor this go around! They're the same size as the wooden C&C dice Valley Games makes. They are nicer than the dice that are included with C&C: Ancients and Napoleonics, at any rate. But that's not saying much.

On the balance, I had a fun time. It's a good product, and I'd like to try the Art of Tactic rules, even if they do look somewhat fiddly in their own right. Since I already own C&C: Ancients and Napoleonics, as well as Battle Cry, I don't see myself getting it anytime soon. Especially since Erick has it. The printed materials are the only real negative I have with the game, overall. The figures are nice, but the game would be better served using wooden blocks, as with the GMT games or even better 6mm metal miniatures, painted and based. But then, I'm biased.

If you're new to C&C and want to see what all the hubub is about, Samurai Battles is a good way to enter into the family. If you're already a fan of C&C, I'd suggest getting it only if you're also a fan of the Sengoku era.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Well, what's new?

Ok, it's been, gosh, three months and change since I posted.

A quick recap:

I won the Baccus 6mm ACW figures I wanted from James at Exiles Wargames Painter. Plus he threw in some Napoleonic British figures as well. Just in time for me to obsess over another game, Command & Colors: Napoleonics. I was able to pick it up along with the first two expansions for a song on eBay.


Don't let the silly hats fool you. These guys mean business.
This led into my annual gaming weekend, affectionately known as Jay's July Jamboree (J3). A weekend of gaming, friendship, good food and held at a winery. Who could ask for anything more? The big event was a big X-Wing Miniatures game recreating the Battle of Yavin.

The start positions. My brother Chris (not pictured) put the board together. There are PDFs out there.
Our long-time friend Chris (pictured) contemplates his initial moves. The Rebels lost. I played Vader.
Based on our experiences with this game, I started considering modifying the X-Wing rules to use for another era. I'm not quite ready to talk fully about that project, but here's a hint:

Never before have so much been owed by so many to so few. This project is going full steam ahead at the moment.
Additionally, in looking to next year's J3, I've started preparing a large fantasy mass-battle game. The project is still in its infancy, but is looking to already to be a fun and exciting project in its own right. More than a few Skaven will be making an appearance. These are the first:

They have a bit of paint on them, now. Just not painted all the way.
So, the Helsreach project is on hiatus for the moment. But never fear, old school Warhammering is here! Out there in the blogosphere, there exists links to a certain book near and dear to some which had page after page of card buildings one could cut out, glue or hammer (ahem) together and have a decent townscape (ahem) to war (ahem) over in relatively short order. I printed up a page or two and cobbled the following building together using black foamcore as the structure:

I have since completed the roof. I'll be doing more of these buildings. If I were looking for the PDF, I'd look here.
So, that's what's been going on. I'll get some more in-depth reports on each of the topics discussed above in the next coming days. Or weeks. Or something.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Have paint, will travel

Not me of course. My painting progress can be described as glacial. However, the Exiles Wargames Painter looks to do a very nice job in relatively short time. He's hosting a contest to celebrate the third anniversary of his blog. I'll leave finding the contest as an exercise for the student.

Of course, posting this is indeed self-serving, as it gets me extra entries in his contest. I wants to win me some 6mm ACW figures!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A few words with Henry


Recently, I posted a link to an eBay auction Henry Hyde was running. The proceeds from that auction went to the Combat Stress Appeal in the UK. In that same post, I pledged to donate a matching amount to Wounded Warrior Project here in the US. Thanks to some vigorous bidding, Henry’s auction raised £76.66 GBP or roughly $116 USD. I decided to make it a nice round $120, plus a kicker from my dad of $20 made the total $140 donated to Wounded Warrior Project.

I took the opportunity to shoot some emails back and forth with Henry about his ongoing commitment to raising awareness and funds for Combat/Post Traumatic Stress treatment. Henry provided all of the photos in this post along with the captions.

Longbows To Lasers: Henry, thanks for agreeing to this Q&A. As a veteran myself, I want to applaud your efforts to bring combat stress and the difficulties returning service members face at home, whether in the UK, US or any country, really.

"Myself (yellow 25) at the Royal Commissions Board examinations in 1981,
_nearly_ becoming an officer in Her Majesty's Royal Horse Artillery."

Henry Hyde: You're welcome, and I'm flattered that you feel my efforts are worth commenting on. I look at how much money is needed to really cope with the problem, and I often feel that what I've raised is just a tiny drop in the ocean. But perhaps the more valuable aspect of what I've been able to do is use my position as a magazine editor to raise awareness, so that many more people in our hobby understand more than they might otherwise have done.

I'm humbled by the risks that people like you have taken on behalf of those of us at home, and feel that the very least we can do is make sure that those wounded, both physically and mentally, as a result of their service in our name are well cared for. Only very recently has our government started to wake up and realise the sheer scale of the combat stress/PTSD problem, with thousands of reservists as well as regular soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen being exposed to terrible experiences, made worse by the asymmetric nature of modern counter-insurgency warfare in which absolutely anyone you encounter might be the enemy.

This means that it becomes a problem for the whole of society as the aftermath of these experiences is not confined to the returning veteran alone, but shared by their family, friends, neighbours and co-workers too, as they find themselves dealing with people whose personality has changed and who often end up self-medicating rather than admit their problems. Combat Stress report that on average, it's a shocking 14 years before a veteran will seek help. By raising awareness, I hope that those affected will cease to feel that there is any stigma attached to seeking help (often difficult, of course, for someone trained for combat and a macho environment) and that family and friends will know who to call to get them the treatment they need.

"My grandfather, Harry Knott (right) in a funfair photobooth
with one of his pals, early 1915 just before shipping out."

LTL: You've mentioned before on the View from the Veranda podcast how your own father was in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm during WWII. Do you have other personal connections with service members now, either family or friends?

HH: None of my current family are in the services – though I nearly joined the Army myself when I was at university (I took our Army's Royal Commissions Board to become an officer, but a wise Brigadier urged me to pursue a different, creative path). My father was in the Fleet Air Arm during WWII and I recall the terrible nightmares he had, and sudden tearful episodes, as a result of his service – he had been bombed early in the war when temporarily posted to Biggin Hill airbase in Kent, the famous fighter aerodrome, and as an air mechanic, had also seen some terrible accidents dealing with propellor-driven aircraft.

Both my grandfathers fought in WWI, and my mother's father was wounded and invalided out in 1915. His battalion had been involved in a fruitless attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt during the Battle of Loos. I have his war diary and published part of it in issue 7 of Battlegames.


"My grandfather's pocket diary, showing the entry when he was wounded during the assault
and was left lying in no-mans-land and the trenches all night. 'Did go through the mill'
is a euphemism of those days meaning that he was in agony (he had been hit by shrapnel
in the groin and hip)."

My friend, retired Brigadier Charles S Grant OBE (I imagine that he and his late father must be two of the best-known names in wargaming) is one of the Vice Presidents of the Combat Stress Charity here in the UK and was instrumental in encouraging me to get involved. In fact, the Combat Stress Commemorative Miniatures idea was first launched by Julian Evans, who used to own the Figures in Comfort business. He was in the British Army and suffers PTSD as a result of his experiences in Bosnia. He decided to emigrate to Australia (and who can blame him?) in 2008 and asked me to take on the task of getting the miniatures cast and sold, but I decided to go one step further and created the Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal.

Another highly respected wargamer and writer here in the UK with whom I have had the pleasure of playing is retired Major General John Drewienkiewicz CB CMG (everyone knows him as just "DZ"). He too served as the British Army's Engineer in Chief in both Bosnia and Kosovo and, just to prove that PTSD has no respect for rank, he also suffers from PTSD.

There are many ex-servicemen in the UK hobby, both full-time and reservists. Bill Thornhill of Musketeer Miniatures served in tanks – he now lives in the US. "Eclaireur" (whose real name I have promised not to use because he also holds a prominent job in television) also served in an armoured regiment. Dave Brown, author of the General de Brigade Napoleonic rules, is still, I believe, in the Territorial Army. I can't begin to guess how many to the guys I've met at shows, or have subscribed to my magazine, or that I chat with online (such as yourself) have served or are still serving, but I guess it's quite a few.

But I'm very much a civilian, and don't have day-to-day close contact with the military.

LTL: Since you mentioned it, how much have you raised via the Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal? Any fun stories about the figure auctions and sales so far?

HH: The current total stands at £11,886.59, plus the gift aid tax relief that the government allows on charity donations, which amounts to another £1,082.78.

The figure auctions have been fun. Naturally, the amounts they raise are unpredictable – it could be the nationality of the figure depicted, the period it covers, the 'elite' status of the unit, the person who sculpted it or the person that painted it, as well as the overall 'look' of the thing. But the current auction for the Australian SAS trooper from the Vietnam War is on target to hit around £80, which is excellent for what is, after all, a single figure!

But again, the main function of these auctions is to raise awareness over a period of 10 days, with repeated posts drawing attention to the charity.

LTL: I seem to recall you taking a little bit of a hike, to use English understatement, to raise awareness, if not funds for Combat Stress. What other avenues of fund raising have you gone down so far? Anything new on the horizon?

"Myself and Simone Drinkwater of Casemate Publishing at Battle Abbey
at the start of our marathon walk at 8am ..."

HH: The 27 mile walk was spectacular, as it turned out, because we walked on the hottest day of the year! I won't be in a hurry to do that again …

Coming up with new ideas is hard for any charity fundraiser, especially when you're trying to fit it into your spare time. I've been fortunate in that other groups have latched on to my Appeal and have managed to raise generous donations to add to our total. For my own part, especially now that I have a doubled workload, I have to be realistic about what initiatives I can pursue, but one thing I am planning is a range of my own e-publications, and a percentage of the revenues from these will go to Combat Stress. If I get the chance, and mad as it seems, I may well do another sporting challenge like a long walk, because it also gives me a good reason to improve my fitness! Other ideas spring to mind like playing wargames for 24 hours non-stop. To increase the 'fun' factor, I might do it using hugely complicated rules from the 1970s, just so the sponsors know I'm really putting myself through torture ...


"... and then at the finish at Lewes Castle at 6pm after 27 miles.
Spot the difference! It was the hottest day of the year, October 1st 2011,
with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees C."
- Editor's note: That's about 86 degrees F.
Or a typical day in June for us Midwesterners.

LTL: You have recently become the editor of one of the "Grand Old Men" of wargaming magazines, Miniature Wargames. What does the Battlegames merger with Miniature Wargames mean for the Battlegames Stress Appeal?

HH: The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal continues exactly as before, unchanged. Atlantic Publishing own the Battlegames brand and they are happy for me to keep it for the Appeal.


"A pic of me working on my Wars of the Faltenian Succession campaign."
- Editor's note, in the storied "Loftwaffe" by the looks of it!

LTL: You recently posted on a small wargames show in England raising funds for Combat Stress. How did they get along, then?

HH: The Cavalier Show in Tonbridge, Kent, is run by the Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society and they raised a spectacular £500. This has already been donated directly to the JustGiving page at http://www.justgiving.com/battlegames

LTL: Have you had the opportunity to visit with any vets that receive help from Combat Stress? How were those visits, do they "get" wargaming? Do any of them use wargaming as therapy or any type of gaming as simply a distraction?

HH: Last autumn I was invited to visit the headquarters of Combat Stress at Tyrwhitt House in Surrey. the occasion was the opening of a new garden courtyard, specifically designed for veterans suffering from PTSD. I wrote a report about this in BG32. I was especially moved by the art therapy, in which veterans had expressed themselves very powerfully both in words and pictures. I was lucky to meet half a dozen veterans there, some in their 60s, some as young as in their 20s, and with service ranging from the Falklands War through to Iraq and Afghanistan.

They were all very kind in their comments, and perfectly understood the appeal of wargaming, even if they didn't do it themselves. Neither they, nor any of the other serving or ex-servicemen I've met have specifically mentioned using wargaming as a therapy: like the rest of us, they see it as a welcome distraction and an absorbing, fun hobby. It would be an interesting study, I'm sure, to examine its therapeutic potential.

As I was finishing up this post, Henry sent me a post script:

HH: I forgot to mention that something that's happened lately is that people have sent or given me stuff to auction on eBay for Combat Stress, such as signed books from authors, collections of magazines and one guy has even given me a modern British wargames force that he painted.

This is lovely and I'll be auctioning them shortly BUT people need to please consult me first before sending me stuff because, as you know, I'm extremely busy and setting up eBay auctions and handling all the postage and admin is extremely time-consuming. Far better for people to organise their own auctions and just donate the proceeds either to our Combat Stress Appeal or direct to Combat Stress via eBay's Missionfish system.

Cheers.

In conclusion, I’d like to thank Henry for his efforts to raise awareness and funds for Combat/Post Traumatic Stress. I’d also like to thank those who bid on the SAS figure. I encourage everyone to give what you can to any number of veterans’ charities. Every dollar helps.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Make me give 'til it hurts

Henry Hyde, the editor of Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Magazine, is an ardent supporter of the Combat Stress Appeal. In the UK, they call Combat Stress what we in the US refer to as Post-Traumatic Stress. One of his most effective means of raising funds for this worthwhile charity has been auctioning 28mm figures of soldiers painted by some of the foremost artists in the field.

His most recent auction is for a lovely figure of an Australian Special Air Service trooper set during the Vietnam War. Rather than bore you with the details of the figure, read them for yourself on the page for the auction.

As some of you know, I am a veteran of the US adventure in Afghanistan. While there, I was a Security Forces squad leader in Herat province and then later a mentor to an Afghan National Army Kandak (Battalion) in Farah province.

Our correspondent, shortly after "mentoring" near Shewan, in Farah province.

I won't bore you with any war stories here. Those have a cover charge.

It doesn't have to be a Shiner Bock, but it helps.
Anyhow, PTSD is a hot-button topic, often not understood fully by those experiencing it. Even more shocking is that those professionals that are supposed to be diagnosing and treating this condition often don't understand it themselves. The less I say about politicians and their understanding of PTSD, the better.

The fact remains that we have a long way to go and too far short of resources to understand, diagnose properly and treat PTSD. Combat Stress Appeal is doing great work in the UK. I was thinking it would be great to bid on the figure to raise funds for this noble cause. I then realized I can also do something special and be somewhat of a multiplier for Henry's support of the Combat Stress Appeal.

Henry, that handsome devil.

After a talk with the missus, we have decided that whatever the SAS figure auction raises, we will match and donate to the Wounded Warrior Project. There will be some exchange differences, but that's ok. It's something we should have done earlier, but never have.

The Wounded Warrior Project is an analog here in the US to the Combat Stress Appeal. I know some dudes with some troubles and luckily, there are ways for them to get help. The Wounded Warrior Project is multi-faceted in that they help vets overcome physical as well as psychological difficulties as a result of their deployment.

So, why am I telling you this? Simply, the more you bid, the more we give. I would challenge you to give what you bid (whether you win or not) to either Combat Stress Appeal or Wounded Warrior Project or any veteran charity of your choice. I hope the checks we all write are hefty.

Share your stories of giving to veterans' charities in the comments below. If you are a veteran and need help, please contact any one of the veterans' charities out there. You are more than welcome to contact me offline also.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Marines have arrived

My beakies arrived from Blighty today. The photo I posted earlier does not do these figures justice. They are much, much worse than the photo would have one believe.

No big whoop, they're going into the Simple Green here in a moment.

Actual size of container may vary.
Also going to dunk a number of insurgents. I hope they get along. Pics soon. I promise.