Friday, August 31, 2012

Podcasts (sorta) for Gamers: Ken Burns' Civil War

Netflix on the iPhone with unlimited data is pretty sweet. I noticed that Ken Burns' "Civil War' was available on Netflix instant view, and having found the Civil War almost too large to grapple with (Burns' Civil War is like 18 hours long, and it's just a brief overview!) I had avoided learning much about it.  Even with the streaming option, I didn't' feel I could commit the huge amount of time necessary to work through the entire series, but once I realized I could stream it wirelessly and listen to it during my commute it became much more manageable. Relying on still photographs and interviews, the "Civil War" is largely and audio experience anyway, and while I may have noticed more nuance by actually watching it, listening to it proved highly rewarding.

I found it a great introduction to the war. It illustrated the personalities involved, showed the various offensive and defensive moves by both sides, and was able to draw distinctions between the battles. I toyed with the idea of getting into ACW for real with Black Powder, but the large number of troops required for the set piece battles, and the  rather bland uniforms put me off.  I might do some ACW skirmishing with An Uncivil War from Architects of War though.

The Best of the "Hail Caesar Yahoo Group"

The Hail Caesar Yahoo group contains a ton of great info, often from Rick Priestly who wrote the game, but I have a hard time keeping up with the conversation. I also seem to lose track of those neat tips  and clarifications months after they pop up in the group. To make sure I don't miss anything and to create a resource for finding those bits of info a bit easier, I've decided to pick the very best tip from each month's messages and repost it here.

August was a pretty slow month on the Hail Caesar Yahoo board, but I thought this tip from Dave Bosse (irondog068) was great:
How do you handle sieges?
"I have run a Samurai siege game before. Treated the wall as a +2 save. Had one watch tower with one teppo treated as small. Every attacker was assumed to have scaling ladders and the wall was looped for fire the whole length. To force the defender off the wall the defender had to lose and fail a morale check. If they did, the winner went over the wall but was disordered for one turn."

I have plans on running some sieges in the future, and I thought Dave's mod fit the rules and would be easy to implement. Hope this turns out to be useful for other Hail Caesar players.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Last Day for Reaper Bones

Just about 24 hours left, and the Reaper Bones kickstarter has unlocked a mind-boggling 220+ figures for $100. That includes things like giants and griffons, and without even mentioning the optional figures ($10 for a massive dragon? That's a steal!)

But not everyone is a fantasy gamer. There are still of great deals to be had. Check it out:
  1. The kickstarter includes non-fantasy figures such as cowboys, pulp, modern, and steampunk heroes, along with two types of sci fi soldiers. The Townsfolk I and II could even be used for historical medieval games.
  2. Four sets of Reaper paints. $18 for 12 paints. That's way cheap. Just pitch in $1 and you can add a paint set to your order without springing for any figures. $19 = 12 paints. 
  3. Same deal for their 100 figure carrying case which is going for $25. With the dollar buy in you can pick the case up for $25.
  4. Even if you have never gamed fantasy before, the Vampire level pledge essentially gives you everything you need to get started: heroes, villains, monsters, etc.
  5. Shipping for US and Canadian customers is free. International shipping is generally $5, but double check with the folks in the comments section. You'll get an answer within seconds.
If you pledge, keep these points in mind:
  1. Always input your total pledge. For example, if you sign up for the Vampire deal ($100) and later decide to add a hydra miniature (+$15), you would click "Manage your Pledge" and enter $115 for your pledge. 
  2. If you happen to sign up for the Vampire level pledge which gives you a veritable army of fantasy figures in plastic, you'll also receive a metal "Sophie" miniature, but you can swap the metal Sophie (and only the metal Sophie) for rewards that total $25.
This is a crazy good deal. Really happy I was able to get in on it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Reaper Kickstarter is quite a deal

Pretty surprised at the generous offer the Reaper kickstarter has turned out to be.  Close to 200 28mm figures for $100.  Still four days to go, and look at everything you get:

That's nuts.  Just spreading the word since I haven't seen a deal like this in 25 years of painting miniatures. Check out the whole kickstarter, including the huge figures at the Reaper Bones Kickstarter page.

Death to the FLGS!

I've been going to my Friendly Local Gaming Store for 25 years now, and been increasingly disappointed over the last decade with their service and stock. I have two shops within 30 minutes of me, and another about an hour away. Time and again I've made the trek only to find they either didn't carry what I was looking for, or were out of stock. Some things I expect to be hard to find: historical miniatures can't really compete in popularity with Games Workshop and Yu-Gi-Oh. But c'mon. Paint? You've got a rack of GW paints and all that's left is two bottles of bright yellow and a bottle of orange? Combine that with the typical aloof game store staff that's more interested in hanging out than engaging with anyone on the other side of the corner, and each trip was invariably a disappointment.

Despite countless unproductive trips, I'd still try hit the store. I think a physical shop is important to the health of the games hobby as it provides not only merchandise but a place to play and exposure to the outside world of window shoppers. I also loved the idea of immediate gratification, of heading to the store, grabbing some paints and being home painting all within an afternoon. But after leaving these game and hobby shops dozens of times empty handed I finally gave up on them. I'd used Amazon for some game purchases because of their free shipping, but their stock is limited, and the free shipping option usually takes at least a week to arrive at my house.

I finally relented and placed an order with the War Store. I expected a hefty shipping fee, and was hoping to get delivery in one to two weeks, but was shocked to see a shipping fee half that of what I expected, with delivery two days after my order. On top of that, I contacted Neal at the War Store with a question and not only did he respond quickly, he followed up several times for additional clarification and to point out some products I had missed on his site. Amazing!

I'm kicking myself for not trying the War Store before now, but now I'm sold. Let the FLGS die. I'm happy to spend a few extra dollars on shipping for such exceptional service.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Are Reaper Bones Any Good?

I came to wargaming via the fantasy and sci-fi miniatures expressway. I cut my teeth on Games Workshop, TSR, Grenadier and Ral Partha, and while my interest have veered towards historical wargames over the last few years, I still keep a foot in the non-historical side of gaming. A week or two ago I caught wind of Reaper's Kickstarter for their Bones line of 28mm fantasy miniatures. The Bones line is a series of inexpensive figures based on existing metal sculpts, but made from some sort of plastic.

Checking out the Kickstarter page my jaw dropped at the horde of figures they were making available to pledges, the gorgeous quality of the sculpts, and the incredible value (less than $1 per figure and dropping fast). This seemed like a deal too good to be true, but I wasn't sure about the Bones material. I'd heard it was "rubbery", that it didn't need to be primed, that it didn't have mold lines, but I was skeptical. I decided to pick up one of their existing Bones figures and put it to the test to see if it held up to the hype. All the details after the jump.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hail Caesar Skirmish #5: Driving out the Barbarian

It's been a busy summer and far too long since we got any minis on the table, but my wife and I found a  single free evening to play a short game of Hail Caesar. Each time I play Hail Caesar I try to get a better handle on the rules and try something a bit new. For this game we came up with a scenario rather than fight out a simple bash.

Julius Caesar is throwing around his muscle, using the migration of celtic tribes as a pretense to launch attacks on their "aggressive advances". In this hypothetical scenario a detachment of Roman legionnaires, having defeated one celtic tribe in battle, advance on celtic village intent on burning the inhabitants out. Will the defending celts summon a defense in time to drive the Romans off? AAR after the jump.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Doctor Fausts' "How to Paint Horses"

I bookmarked this video tutorial about painting 28mm wargame horse some time ago and just got around to watching it. I've been using a staining method in which I apply a base coat, then a dark oil overlay which I wipe off with a rag. It's fast, and honestly, I really didn't quite know how to handle the "large rounded surfaces" mentioned in this video.

The multi layer technique is probably too time consuming for churning out mass quantities of cavalry, but I'm going to try it for the next mounted general or hero I tackle. Lots of great tips, and watching painting techniques is so much easier than trying to learn a painting process from still images and written descriptions.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Last Hurrah of my 20mm World War II miniatures

20mm tanks by Revell and Italeri, SS infantry by Pegasus

I started my wargaming career with two sets of opposing forces: Revell and Italeri World War II Germans and Americans. I had stumbled across wargaming after trying to find out more information regarding HBO's "Band of Brothers" while it was on the air. In the image search of my Google results I saw a number of World War II miniatures staged on some intricate European terrain. I was familiar with  the fantasy side of gaming, but this was my first exposure to historicals.  That single image lead me down the rabbit hole to Crossfire, TMP and the whole world of WWII wargaming, but with a limited budget at the time, I jumped into the hobby with the cheapest option available: 1/72nd scale plastics.
Apparently the Germans didn't really use the shoulder mount? Too bad, I was really proud of my custom job on that.

I slowly put together the antagonists, fumbling my way through uniform research, painting German oak leaf camouflage, basing, and trying to figure out what the heck a "Stug" was ("they made tanks without turrets???"). My gaming group played quite a few Crossfire games and I had grand plans to expand into the Battle of the Bulge, the Eastern Front, and Italy, but I became distracted by ancients and over time my additions to my WWII collection slowed.  We still broke Crossfire out occasionally, but the lack of tanks and the focus on platoons didn't quite scratch my WWII itch.

With my latest surge in interest in WWII gaming, my long time game partner Mike taking his first steps into painting up and army, and our decision to drop to 15mm in order to get more vehicles on the table, it looks like my 20mm collection may be shelved for some time. As a send off we got them on the table for at least one more game, but this time trying out the Blitzkrieg Commander demo rules just to see how they compared to the other rules we've been looking at. Pics after the jump.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Quick Review of Plastic Soldier Company 15mm Soviets

The Soviet hordes ready to be primed for the Motherland.

After dithering with the idea of doing Eastern Front in 10mm, Historicon finally pushed me over the edge into 15mm.  My buddy Mike and I really enjoyed the North Africa armor game of Fireball Forward we played, and with 40 tanks on the table it convinced me that a 15mm game with tanks could look reasonable. At least it looked reasonable to me at the time. I've even begun to soften towards Flames of War which I've managed to resist until now.

Mike and I loaded up on rules (Fireball Forward and the Flames of War Starter Set ), some Zvezda tanks (50% off at the show) and we each grabbed a boxed set of plastics. He took home some Wargames Factory Late War Germans, and I grabbed a Plastic Soldier Company Russian Infantry in Summer Uniform.

I've built plastics in the past.  I started wargaming with 1/72 Italeri, Revell and Airfix and even when I moved to 28mm I built a number of plastic WGF and Warlord Games plastic kits. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the Plastic Soldier Company Soviets.

Like most plastics, the detail is softer than metal and the poses are a bit flatter, but there was still a lot of decent poses, and no real "stinkers" that are unusable. The plastic is much harder than the soft plastic in 1/72 kits, and there are also a number of multi-part sculpts, that require arms or heads to be attached separately. Unlike the 28mm plastic kits Iv'e built, these aren't multi-pose kits. The arms and heads only attach in a single configuration, but the precision with which the pieces fit together was frankly shockingly good! Most likely as a result of the computer modeling from which the molds are made, the pieces fit in snugly making the build fairly easy. Some of the bits are quite small (the officer's arm in particular is quite tricky), but with patience and good lighting I didn't run into much of an issue.
Basecoated Plastic Soldier Company Soviets. Ready for Army Painter dip and basing.

I totally botched priming them though and managed to obliterate the detail on a few figs, but it was totally my fault. On the 90% that I managed to give a nice even coat, the detail is still crisp and clear. I've started painting them up, and while I'll likely pick up more metals in the future, I'm really happy with the PSC plastics which went together easily, had zero flash, and are half the price of metals.  Certainly the most painless way of starting up World War II in 15mm.

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Eastern Inferno", an Eastern Front Kindle eBook

I've been reading FIFTH GUARDS TANK ARMY AT KURSK to get a handle on the Eastern Front. I'm enjoying it as a high level perspective on the lead up to the Battle of Kursk, but so far there have only been a few snippets of company sized engagements that could be turned into a wargame scenario. I have the German counterpart volume, but I'm betting I'll have to dig into some more personal accounts to construct scenarios for potential games.

I happened to see Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43, a Kindle eBook mentioned on the WWPD forum, on sale for less that $2.00. I haven't read it, but thought I'd pass on the news in case anyone else was searching for personal accounts of Eastern Front combat to turn into wargame scenarios.

Lego Wargaming?

Sherman disembarking from a huge (too big to capture in an iPhone pic) cargo ship.

My son is four. A bit too young for Hail Caesar, SAGA and Fireball forward, but not too young for playing games and rolling dice.  "Cooties" and "Hi Ho Cherry-O" don't quite cut it in our house, so we invent our own games, hack the rules of existing games and are constantly on the look out for new games we can enjoy together.

We introduced him to Legos about a year ago and they've been one of his favorite toys since then, even if some of the smaller pieces are a bit tricky for him.  I saw a Lego based wargame pop up on Penny Arcade the other week, and I was hoping it would be something we could play together, but the rules are a lot more complex than I expected from a game designed around colorful building blocks. The game, Mobile Frame Zero is a sci fi skirmish game in which players build miniature mechs or robots and duke it out for control of a certain number of "station" objective markers. I glanced over it and it appears to use a dice pool for each mech's subsystem (offensive, defensive, movement, etc.) and there's a points system for balancing forces. There's a Flickr group dedicate to the custom mechs that players have built. Lots of clever designs and a robust rules set at first glance, but not exactly something my preschooler could handle at the moment.

I thought that was the end of our Lego wargaming excursion, but over the weekend I took my son to a local Lego festival, Brick Fair. I'm not a "Lego guy", but my wife and I thought my son would enjoy attending the show, and it was a good day trip to get out of the house. What I wasn't expecting was a number of displays centered around military subjects. Even with a limited selection of shapes and colors, the tanks, artillery and battles were easily recognizable. I snapped a few pics, but there were scores more of outstanding models.  Maybe there's hope yet for a Lego wargame for us :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

My Battlefront Soviet Paint Set Confusion

I've got a hoard of soviet infantry and armor to paint, and the one shade of Vallejo paint I don't seem to own is Russian Green, the ubiquitous shade the Russians slathered on their helmets and vehicles. I didn't have the time or patience to research the paint colors I'd need for Russian uniforms and audit my current paints to see which I'd need, so I put my faith in Battlefront and ordered their Soviet: Paint Set .  As a basic paint set, I figured they'd have all the shades I'd need to get my Russians on the table quickly, and if it turned out I received a duplicate shade it would get used eventually.

What I didn't expect was for Battlefront themselves duplicate colors in the paint set.  The set has 6 bottles of paint, enough to cover uniforms, bedrolls, satchels and helmets, but surprisingly, they send two different shades of green (Russian Green and Luftwaffe Camo Green) and khaki (Khaki Grey and Khaki). The Luftwaffe Green and Khaki are both listed as "alternatives" in the paint description. I guess this is to represent the varying quality of Russian dyes and paints which varied throughout the war? Why not include a bottle of flesh, or even black? I'd even like two identical bottles of Russian green as I'll be using it on hordes of T-34s.  Oh well, maybe their wisdom will come to light once I put paint to figure.

Contents of Battlefront's Soviet Paint Set

 Russian Green (894) A useful colour for helmets and painted metal surfaces, such as on tanks.

USA Tan Earth (874)
For greatcoats, bedrolls and other such gear for your Strelkovy troops.

Flat Earth (983)
Used for tank camouflage and SMG pouches.

Khaki Grey (880) Soviet uniform colour

Khaki (988) Alternative uniform colour. It is also a good highlight to Khaki Grey.

Luftwaffe Camo Green (823
) Alternative painted metal color for tanks and vehicles.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Celtic Village Terrain

Just a few pics of some terrain I painted up.  I bought some low stone walls and three 15mm Celt huts from Falcon Figures while at Historicon. While researching colors for the Celtic hut I found a pic that seemed to be the model these moulds were emulating, and used it as the basis for my color scheme.

I intend to create a sunken, circular Celt village to place these buildings in, but for now these generic stone walls will give them slight protection.  The crude walls should be useful in every period, from ancients to modern. At a buck a piece they were well worth the time savings it would take me to build something similar from pebbles, pink foam and ballast.