Friday 30 September 2016

Workbench Wired Up

I have now installed my sons unwanted CD Player and Radio above my workbench, which means I am far more likely to sit in my dusty, freezing cold garage late at night over the coming months to paint figures, rather than sit in the nice warm dining room at the laptop. The sound quality isn't too bad either, so I can annoy the neighbours with Queens of the Stone Age at full blast, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to sing along. As you can see, the Congo figures are lining up in the painting queue and are getting restless, as all good natives should, so I'm hoping to paint up a couple of units over the weekend.

Thursday 29 September 2016

Back of Beyond Club Campaign Four

I've been thinking about the Back of Beyond campaign that I promised to set up this year and have decided to kick it off later in the Autumn. The game this week confirmed the use of the Second Edition of Contemptible Little Armies as the rules of choice with the addition of a few house rules for things like moving and shooting, unarmoured machine gun carriers and so on.

I've also decided to use my Bolshevik Army, the Third Workers and Peasants Shock Brigade, rather than my Texan Oil Prospector expedition. This will get a few extra bits including a light machine gunner and standard bearer for my Cheka, a Medium C tank and possibly a Tchanka, although I may go completely nuts and build another armoured train!

I'm really looking forward to this campaign and hope to get it rolling sometime in next couple of months. There's a post about the Back of Beyond campaigns over on the club webpage, so you can take a look and, if you're around, perhaps even sign up and join in:

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Iron Cross Ideas

I had the chance to see Iron Cross in action at the club last night and to have a chat with the chaps who've been playing it of late to see what they thought about it. The overall impression seems to be that it is a very neat and enjoyable system, with lots of decision making and tactical play enhanced by the use of the counters which determine who does what. This was a simple but really effective way to add an element of uncertainty and randomness to the game.

This was seen as a really positive aspect of the rules system and certainly seemed to result in a cut and thrust style game, with lots of choices and plenty of game play. I was duly impressed and thought it looked like a lot of fun, so I've dug out my copy of the rules for a proper read through. I bought these when they first came out but didn't get round to doing anything with them, despite being frustrated by Bolt Action, the rules of choice at the club.

One thing that does really appeal to me about Iron Cross in particular is the use of four or five man fire teams as the building blocks of a force, which means that I will have more than enough figures, heavy weapons and vehicles to put together a late war US unit using my existing collection, so no need to add loads more figures as with Chain of Command. I'll see if I can wangle a game at the club sometime soon....?? 

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Bolshevik Victory!

I had an enjoyable game of Contemptible Little Armies in the Back of Beyond this evening, which was designed as a test bed for the third edition of the rules but which swiftly reverted to the tried and tested second edition. The third edition just didn't make much sense and threw up too many inconsistences, so we kept things straightforward by using the older version. I think we'll now stick with this established edition for the Back of Beyond campaign.

An initial artillery bombardment by the Reds did no damage but then one of the White Officer units decided to launch a frontal assault on the Bolshevik positions, leading to the entire unit being wiped out by concentrated Lewis gun and rifle fire. This swung the game in the Bolsheviks favour although the White cavalry were still a potential threat at the end of the evening. I had, however, inflicted far more casualties on the enemy so was able to claim a Red Victory!

If the White cavalry had managed to charge down and outflank my infantry then it could well have ended in at least a draw. It was interesting to use the Bolsheviks for a change and to get my head around the rules again, as I haven't played a game for ages. The White commander was also very sporting opponent, putting up with my constant flicking through the rules and with having his infantry shot to bits! I hope it didn't put him off?

(P.S. Apologies for the murky photos...wrong setting on the camera!)

Saturday 24 September 2016


This is the latest addition to the library, this time from a different second hand book source at the local cathedral, which I hadn't visited for a long time but will return to soon as it has an excellent history section. This almost perfect condition hardback only cost me three quid but just a quick flick through convinced me that it would be worth it's not inconsiderable weight in gold as a source of fascinating information and insight. 

Here's the blurb from an online review:

Submarine is almost certainly the first book to bring together eye-witness accounts from almost every navy that deployed submarines in WW2, and it is far more than an account of WW2 missions. With self-deprecating modesty, humour, pride, sadness and sometimes bitterness, submariners from Britain, Germany, the USA, Italy, France, the former USSR and Yugoslavia, Norway, Greece, Poland, the Netherlands and Japan describe every facet of operational submarine life, from firing torpedoes, the illicit distillation of alcohol, going to the toilet in heavy weather, rescuing a cat and how to treat appendicitis, to the terrifying experiences of being depth-charged, disposing of a bomb, escaping a doomed boat and planting charges beneath an enemy warship.

Rufty Tufty Red Refurbishment

I painted my Bolshevik Army for the Back of Beyond way back in 2006, well before the arrival of grass tufts or other decorative basing materials, so they've been in dire need of some refurbishment for quite a while. This morning I used an entire pack of Gamers Grass Light Green tufts to tart up the bases on the infantry, vehicles and heavy weapons, leaving some of the figures as they were for contrast. The end result is much better than the original appearance I think, especially as it only took half an hour or so to complete the job.

I've also worked out my army composition for the game on Tuesday at the club. The opposition has declared a total of 881 points, so I was a bit worried that I might have to throw everything on the table to match this, but in the end it was quite straightforward to adapt one of my existing orbats to fit. I have actually managed to field exactly 881 points thanks to a bit of creative accounting and some upgrades, whilst still sticking to the restrictions in the army lists. I don't fancy my chances against the massed ranks of White cavalry but I think the Reds will still put up a good fight!

Friday 23 September 2016

Back of Beyond Bolsheviks

I have a long awaited and very overdue game of Contemptible Little Armies in the Back of Beyond at the club after the weekend, so I thought I'd dig out the old Bolshevik army, dust it off and take it along. I haven't used this army, the Third Workers and Peasants Shock Brigade under Military Specialist, Comrade Commander Igor Tubugerov, for ages so it will good fun to get it out of the box once again. The figures may need a bit of a brush up and I may even add some grass tufts to tart up their rather basic bases, if I get the time.

They will be up against Colin's new White Army, with 850 points a side, so it should be a fairly big game. We're also using the Third Edition of Contemptible Little Armies which I haven't played before, although the only significant difference is in the procedure for shooting, which makes use of the Tactical Factor of the target unit. Anyway, I now have to work out the composition of the Shock Brigade, in an attempt to counter the ominous White cavalry threat. Now, where did I put those heavy machine guns...?

Thursday 22 September 2016

The Armed Forces of Iskanderan

A brief overview of my plans for the ToE of the Iskanderanian Army and Air Force, both supplied and equipped by the United States under the Military Aid Program (MAP), over on the 3mm imagi-nations Turkmenistania campaign blog:

(and yes, that is actually Lee Van Cleef with a 3.5'' rocket launcher!)

Wednesday 21 September 2016 3mm!

The other day, I asked fellow gamer and all round nice chap Colin if I could join an imaginations project that he announced over on his excellent Down Amongst the Lead Men blog. This was inspired by the equally excellent Hakuna Matata Wars blog by Just Jack, which we had both been following over the summer. This involves two fictitious African nations, Hakuna and Matata, in an on-going conflict on land and in the air.

Colin's idea was to follow Jack's example but to set his imaginary Cold War era conflict in the Middle East, somewhere in the general direction of what is now Turkmenistan. The three nations involved in this campaign, which is set around 1960, are aligned with the UK, USSR and USA. Colin has created a separate blog to chart the progress of the conflict and to develop the background to Pumbaaskaya, Timonistan and my own nation state, Iskanderan.

It's all very early days at the moment and we're both in the stages of assembling our respective 3mm armies and 1/600th scale air forces, but I'm sure there will be regular updates on the blog to explain more about what we're up to. I'm waiting for my 3mm early 50's US equipment to arrive in the post and, in the meantime have been devising the key elements of Iskanderan's government, economy, society and military capabilities using the very handy Fivecore nation generator tool Not Just a Brush War.

I'll keep you posted or you can check out Colin's imaginations campaign blog here:

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Beyond the Limits

I was lucky enough to get hold of a free ticket to a talk by Sir Ranulph Fiennes this evening, thanks to the lady wife who thought I'd be interested. This was a really fascinating presentation based on the content of his latest book, Beyond the Limits, of which I now have a signed copy. I've read most of his other autobiographical and historical titles, so this is a welcome addition to the bookshelves. He spoke at some length about his time in Oman, which was very interesting and full of the sort of details that would add a lot to a skirmish scenario or two. In fact, it got me thinking again about post-colonial skirmishes in 15mm, using Fivecore No End in Sight or Company Command but I will resist as it is well beyond the limits of my current wargaming plans!

Monday 19 September 2016

Congo Cannibals and Characters

I finished basing and spearing the last of the figures for my Congo forest tribe this evening, apart from the basketwork shields which I will add after I've painted them separately. In a change of plan, I decided to add two units of cannibals using figures with some really cool plumed headgear and body scarring, rather than the single unit of five mask wearing figures that I originally planned to include. To compensate for the extra unit I also scaled back my archers to a single unit of six instead of two.

To complete the tribal line up I also have the chieftain, a witchdoctor, a healer, a talking drummer and two 'sacred warriors', the latter using two of the mask equipped figures left over from the abandoned cannibal plan. These are really nice figures and I'm looking forward to painting them up in suitably funky mystical colours. The whole forest tribe now stands at a not unmanageable forty five figures, which I'm hoping to tackle one or two units at a time, once I've decided how to go about it.

Sunday 18 September 2016

Tank on Tank

I've been playing a lot of this simple WW2 board wargame over the summer and think its really good fun. In fact, it would make a very sound basis for a miniatures game, which I've seen done by another enthusiast for the Tank on Tank series using multiple based 6mm figures and vehicles. I reckon it would work very well with Hexon modular terrain and 10mm or 15mm miniatures, making the most of all those plastic tanks, guns and infantry that are now available from the Plastic Soldier Company, Flames of War and so on. Anyway, you can take a look at my latest game over on the other blog if you are interested:

Saturday 17 September 2016

Target Locked On!

A while back I started to plan out a modern air campaign based on a fictitious but potential conflict in the Baltic States, with the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission clashing against the Russian Federation over some sort of incident. This Flashpoint Baltic concept got to the drawing board stage but I then stumbled over the rules to use, with Airwar:C21 and Typhoon as the  front runners. These ticked all the boxes on my checklist but, in the end, I moved on to other things.

Now, there is a new set of modern air combat rules about to be published by Rory Crabb, which look like they might be ideal for the Flashpoint Baltic project. I really like the style and pitch of the two naval rules that he's written, although I've yet to try them out, so I'll be interested to see what these air rules will be like. If they turn out to be what I'm looking for (fast play, easy to use and good for 1/600 scale) I may well dig this project out of storage and give it another go.

Congo Scouts and Warriors

I have a handful of extra figures to prepare for the Forest Tribe column that I'm putting together for Congo. Today, I based a unit of three scouts and a unit of five young warriors, the general theme being an absence of clothing and a more youthful selection of figures compared to the bog standard warriors in the tribe.

The scouts also have some rather natty feather headgear, which picks them out from the crowd, although it might be a bit of a giveaway when they are in ambush. The javelins were a good way to distinguish them from the spear armed warrior figures, for which I used some metal pins that I bought in the DIY bit of a supermarket when on holiday in France.

The packet label said they were Pointe a placage acier trompe, which even my French wife couldn't translate into English, but whatever they are they make excellent 28mm javelins or 15mm spears. I'll get the rest of the extra figures based up tomorrow so that I can start painting them at some point over the next couple of weeks, if all goes according to my best laid plans?

Friday 16 September 2016

Indo Pak Tracks

This is a bit of a unexpected diversion but I thought it would be an interesting read, as it's something I know very little about and may well give me some ideas. I haven't been able to get to the Oxfam bookshop this afternoon so had to rely of a digital download for the Kindle for my weekly book acquisition and literary fix. I spotted this Osprey Duel and decided to take a punt on something a bit different, so will be dipping into it over the weekend. There is an underlying logic behind this, however, although it's all a bit tentative at the moment and does involve a bit of 'imagi-nation'. All will be revealed.....?

Monday 12 September 2016

Umbongo Umbongo...

...all together now.

Yes, I have succumbed to the lure of Darkest Africa once again and have bought myself a copy of Congo, the colonial exploration and skirmish game by Studio Tomahawk. This wasn't cheap but is a lovely book and what looks like a really original and exciting set of rules for exploration in the deepest, darkest bits of the African hinterland. The eye candy production values are right up there too but this doesn't detract from what seems to be a very well thought out and imaginative set of rules.

The big persuader for me was that I already had a load of figures, both still in their packs and in a ready-based format, which I originally gathered together for In the Heart of Africa literally years ago. The core of these formed a tribal villagers army based upon the Nkonde of what is now Tanzania and Malawi, with several large units of spearmen, archers and muskets. However, to re-purpose this force for Congo required some lateral thinking, as it didn't really fit any of the two indigenous forces in the rules.

In the end, after a bit of head scratching and some rummaging, I've put together what I think is a pretty good Forest Tribes column for Congo, using many of my pre-based figures and a few extras. This consists of some characters including a chief, witchdoctor, healer and drummer, a unit of five cannibals, two units of five warriors, one unit of five young warriors, two units of six archers, one of five 'bundukis' and three scouts. This is a bit excessive but, as I had most the figures all ready to paint, I thought I'd bring the kitchen sink.

This lot will be kitted out with some really nice wickerwork shields, of which I have enough for four or five units. I think they'll look pretty good and I'm hoping will be relatively quick to paint, even for me with my sloth like speed and ever diminishing eyesight. I have plenty of figures left over too, so another force is a distinct possibility based around the African Kingdom army list in the rule book. It also means I can denude the garage of my stash of plastic aquarium jungle plants, which has been festering away in a corner for ages waiting for an opportunity to be released into the wild.

Now all I need is the time to sit down and get some painting done!?

Sunday 11 September 2016

Shellhole Scenics Plastic Cactus

This was one of those unexpected but fortuitous finds at Colours yesterday, although I had thought about getting some of these 20mm resin cactus a while back, when I was thinking about the Mexican Revolution. I saw them in action, so to speak, in the Crush the Kaiser: Achtung Gringo! game that Shellhole Scenics laid on at the show. This reminded me to take a closer look to see if they could be used for 28mm and 20mm terrain, with Fistful of Lead: Reloaded in mind.

The cactus themselves come in a mixed pack of a dozen or so plants, which costs a very reasonable nine quid, not bad compared to other offerings on the market. The resin is moulded in an appropriate shade of green and the cactus are pre-based, so all you need to do is add a bit of texturing then give them a wash and a brush up. The resin is a bit like plastic and is quite flexible but very strong, so ideal for a bit of rough handling in a game situation.

I think these are a great product and have splashed out on two packs to populate my desert terrain with for Fistful of Lead: Reloaded and, perhaps, for Achtung Gringo! in due course. The Shellhole Scenics Mexican Revolution game did look really cool, so I'm still keeping it open as a possible future project. The figures aren't the best sculpts on the market but they look like they paint up really well and have bags of character. I have other things to do at the moment, however, with Congo now about to bump things off the workbench for a couple of weeks at least.

Saturday 10 September 2016

Colours 2016

I had a very enjoyable time at Colours today, especially as only one of the sprogs was in tow. There were some very impressive games on show with a particular highlight being the 28mm WW1 Mespot game, which featured some lovely terrain and figures. I also really liked the 28mm Winter War game, which looked splendid, the 20mm Mexican Revolution game and the RCW riverine game, all of which caught my eye as they are things I'm interested in to start with. These were all very well presented and active, with lots of players getting really stuck in rather than just standing about. In fact the vast majority of games were actually being played which is a really good thing to see.

The 2mm ECW Siege of Portsmouth game has to have a special mention, as it was devised by Mark Backhouse and included some brilliant 2mm flocks of sheep that he had sculpted himself, along with some excellent terrain and figures. I enjoyed having a chat with him about his future plans for this terrain set up, which sound really interesting and will be one to watch I think. I also forgot to take any photos! I liked the 54mm skirmish game set in post-colonial Africa, although I forgot to ask exactly where, assuming it was Kenya or Mozambique and there was a very attractive Pacific island hopping game tucked away in a corner too...nice waves.

I failed to find anything that I set out to get today, which is unusual as I'm usually pretty well focussed and tend to avoid impulse buys. Although some Tumbling Dice pre-dreadnoughts were on my shopping list, I decided to hold off getting some as I'm still unsure about the best scale to use, preferring something a bit less tiddly. Instead, I picked up some great plastic cacti from Shellhole Scenics for the Old West and Mexican Revolution, together with some blue and green three stage paint sets from Foundry. I also bought some new X Wing models for the boys including a B Wing, which I haven't got, and an Imperial Aces duo of a TIE Bomber and TIE Defender.

The biggest divergence from the plan was, however, a copy of the Congo rules by Studio Tomahawk, which I had originally decided to pass by as yet another diversion. The one thing that finally persuaded me was that I have all of the figures and terrain ingredients that I need for colonial darkest Africa games, having stockpiled loads of lead for In the Heart of Africa over many years. I even have an entire African tribal village worth of figures based and ready to paint. This means that the £30 outlay, while not exactly cheap, is all that I will need to splash out to make this project viable. That's my excuse anyway and I'm sticking to it!


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