what’s out your window?

Everyone loves a little internet challenge and I have been enjoying this one started by Borganwald to show people the view from their windows.

My place is set in bushland in central Victoria, in Australia. It feels a bit like bragging, but it is not a bad place to be if you need to isolate. I’m certainly not stuck indoors, and being laid off work (like so many others) I have plenty of time to plant more trees and maybe even get a bit of hobby done.

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A shout out to some of the other blogs I’ve seen in my feed: The Imperfect Modeller, Just Needs Varnish, Pat’s. Be sure to check out some of their other posts too. Talented hobbyists all.

Cheers,
D.

 

Wombles of Chernobyl Common

These have been in the lead mountain for a long time. I always thought they might end up fighting zombies, and while I don’t rule that out, it seems a radioactive wasteland is calling out to be explored. Zona Alfa is the latest in the Osprey blue series of wargames rules. A small confession, all I know about it is from this interview with the writer on the Cast Dice podcast and that my copy of the rules is due to arrive tomorrow. There is no downside here, since even if the rules turn out not to be my jam at least these long unpainted minis now have paint. Huzzah!

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The miniatures are from Eureka Miniatures, 1980s Soviets in NBC suits, loaded with  character and are pretty much complete with a squirt from a rattle can and a wash.

See you in the Zone.

Company Assets

In the 1940s and 50s Australian army, MMG and medium mortars were typically company (sometimes battalion) assets, deployed in support as missions required. Given how lean the Communist Chinese were in everything except soldiers, I suspect these heavier support weapons were also managed by Co. HQ (or higher). I have completed an MMG and medium mortar, the last of my initial wave of Chinese Volunteers for Bolt Action Korea. I now have enough for a small game with what I hope is a balanced force.

I like medium machine guns despite being mostly ineffective in Bolt Action games. They are historic, commanding far more respect and consideration on actual battlefields.
A topic of much discussion among Bolt Action players, perhaps a topic for another post.

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Now to get a game or two in, even as I start on some reinforcements, two more squads on the paint-table.

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Turns out my local library has a good military history section, so I’m also continuing my reading. I suspect by the end of this lot I’ll have had my fill of Korean War history for the moment.,

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I’ll let you know if any are worth picking up.

D.

An anti-tank asset

A wee fudge, the Chinese did have Soviet produced anti-tank guns but this one comes with some uniforms too. It is a Soviet a/t from the very useful little kit from Plastic Soldier Company (in 28mm). I will be use using it as a support choice for my CCV in Bolt Action Korea.

It went together easily, and being all plastic means no super-glued fingers which is a modest bonus. I’m very much enjoying this project, it is coming along nicely.

D.

Korean Reading

The Korean War often comes with a tagline The Forgotten War, but this doesn’t seem quite right to me. The Korean War is remembered, although the details are certainly hazy. ANZAC Day here in Australia acknowledges the conflict, but I don’t recall Kapyong or Maryang San called out separately in speeches unlike the major battles of the world wars. My own understanding was (is!) equally hazy. But I knew enough to think it probably had some rewarding gaming potential. So, in addition to picking up Bolt Action Korea, I have been doing some reading.

Like most Bolt Action books, BAK has a lot of history in it. I made some observations on the gaming part here (which not surprisingly is most of the content). The history chapter is a good introduction to the conflict. It is a tough gig presenting a summary of such of varied and complex war, and authors Steven Urquhart Smith and Jon Russell have written an accessible overview that goes to some effort to place the war is a larger historical context. Those with a bit more history probably skip this section anyway and head straight to the gaming content. I normally do. But those that do this chapter are rewarded with a history that starts in the mid-7th century, an amount of context not found in most overviews.

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Anyone interested in more detail will quickly reach for other books. The Men-at-Arms series from Osprey is a common first (or at least early) choice among wargamers starting a new conflict. For those who have already read BAK (or other introductions), there may be little new in The Korean War 1950-53. It comes with the usual colour plates, which were the main reason I picked this one up. I also enjoyed the snippets on Ethiopia, Turkey, Thailand and some of the other smaller nations who made up the UN forces.

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My copy is print on demand, which makes sense for a publisher with such a large catalogue. The Korean War was first published in 1986, and so may otherwise be hard to get hold of. However, while the text is crisp, some of the pictures are not (yet) the same quality as the full off-set print runs. Side by side here is the same illustration, on the left in Bolt Action Korea, the left the print on demand Men-at-Arms. Not awful, and better than not having access at all, but a drop in quality can be seen.

Scorched Earth, Black Snow (2011) is written by a western journalist who lived in Korea. By focusing on just the initial period of the war, and just the Commonwealth Brigade the author has the opportunity to go into detail that more general narratives cannot. One of the strengths of this book is that includes information (where available) on the Chinese, ROK, and KPA, and acknowledges the terrible civilian toll (North and South).

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More focused again is The Last Call of the Bugle (1999), the story of 3RAR the first Australian battalion deployed. This is one of the source books referenced in Scorched Earth, Black Snow, and brings the action closer again, down from brigade and battalion to company level.

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Published by the Australian Army History Unit, the Australian Army Campaigns Series is a terrific line of studies. This is the only one in the series that covers Korea (so far), but is a concise and informative description of the engagement. If you are interested in a theater or war that includes Australian troops I recommend you check out this series.

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A shout-out to the Goldfields Library in central Victoria. It turns out they have an ace collection of Korean War books, larger than the Melbourne or State libraries. It is wonderful to have resources like this publicly available, especially in regional areas.

What about you? Are there any titles on the Korean War that you have found useful or interesting?

D.

We’re on a road to Erehwon

Not so long ago, a company far, far away (from me anyway), released a new game.  Warlords of Erewhon, published by Warlord Games and written by Rick Priestly, is a cracking game that extends the bolt action family of games into fantasy skirmishing.
IMG_1198In the large hadron collider that is his brain, Rick has smashed together the desire to play with some of your favourite old skool fantasy toys and some modern, clever-yet-simple game mechanics. WoE, or Erewhon to those in the know, is fun, fast and simple.

As the title suggests, these rules are not tied to a particular world. Its inspiration is pretty much any fantasy tropes you enjoy. Ninja rabbits? Sure, use the Samurai list. Amazons? Yep, got that. Mammoth riding neanderthals or berserk viking warriors? The barbarian list will cater for either, or both. The flexibility and choice of the lists means you can use any models you have. I have faced a smurf-necromancer leading the undead; and chaos dwarves (little GW dudes with big hats). Both worked, both were fun games. In addition to the 12 warband lists in the hardback book, the author has published new armies (along with revisions of the existing ones) at his blog, This Gaming Life. It is well worth keeping an eye on this site, as he has been adding material fairly steadily since launch.

Gaming buddy Brad and I have been playing a bit of WoE recently, and this time I actually remembered to take some photos! My orcs lined up against his barbarians. All the models on both sides were painted years ago and it was great to see them on the table once more.

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The big dude at the back is an old Chronopia model

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Orcs with hand weapons and shields

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Orcs with halberds

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Today’s Warlord and bodyguard; the Uruk Hai beserkers are fun figures

And Brad’s Barbarians

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Combat can be brutal, which is just the way I like it. It can also be uncertain. While your rock hard hero will probably take out that squad of archers, there are no guarantees. And in a game where if you loose half your starting units you are will pretty much loose the game as your warband breaks and runs, this means every combat can make a difference.

It also means a brave move at the right time can turn things around. I thought I had this game won, but Brad charged his remaining coherent unit deep into my battle line and killed my warlord. It left them exposed and badly mauled, but broke my army in the same turn I broke him and turned a likely loss into a narrow victory!

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The Barbarians form up their battle line

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Who let the dogs (of war) out?

For players of Bolt Action, the rules are both familiar, but distinct. Orders are re-skinned, so while the same dice are used, the orders themselves have differences. The largest change is to Ambush, which is more like “Reserve Action”, and allows a unit to react to an enemy unit nearby, interrupting their turn allowing you to counter-charge or fire a spell, or what-ever other dastardly plan you may have.

Moral works differently too. Pins are still crucial, and are accumulated through receiving wounds or coming under fire. Units might end up fleeing and being able to rally, and get back in the game, but more likely too many pins and a unit will break and be eliminated. Did I mention combat was brutal?

Heroes are tough, but don’t totally dominate. This is a game of small units more than individuals. And a fine game it is, I suggest you give it a go if you get the chance.

D.

Bolt Action Korea

Warlord Games have released supplement that covers the Korea War, extending the game for the first time into the post-war period. Bolt Action Korea is an ambitious book, covering army lists for the diverse belligerents on both sides, and history and scenarios all the way from the initial, frenetic North Korean invasion to the brutal trench-warfare that lasted until the armistice three years later.

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It is a terrific addition to the Bolt Action family, extending the game beyond the second world war into a complex and challenging battle space. This is clearly a labour of love by the authors, play testers and the Warlord production team. There are some good podcast interviews about where you can hear from the authors on their thinking and challenges. I recommend both the official Warlord Podcast and SNAFU for a listen, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Including lists for all the major armies is a wise choice. There is list for everyone. Korea, North and South, have dedicated lists, as do the Chinese. The UN forces are represented by British Commonwealth and US lists. Five distinct lists in one book.

The US list allows for many of the other UN nations with smaller contingents like Turkey. The addition of the Korean embedded forces is a nice touch that makes the US list feel different to their (late) WWII counterparts.

The missions help tell the history, and also showcase some of the armies such as the hoard aspect of the Chinese army. The missions in the core rule book, and I suspect many in the existing campaign books, will still work fine too. I like that not all the scenarios seem to be totally balanced. In any game that purports to a historical bent, this totally makes sense to me.

I have a few niggles with the book. It suffers from the usual frustrations around editing. Deployment descriptions can be vague, and briefing maps are not always clear. Not enough to ruin the book, but I know this puts some people off. Rather than a complete how-to, I think BAK is more of a source-book for your own inspiration. I like this, but I know this puts some people off.

What makes Bolt Action Korea different to the WWII range? Well, I don’t know for sure because I haven’t played any games yet- I’m still painting. I think missions will be the key to bringing out any distinct flavour, but even just a chance to get some late war toys on the table (for British and US players), and three new armies to try out seems like a winner to me.

Bolt Action Korea is a terrific addition to the range.

Nearly table ready

My Chinese for Bolt Action Korea are edging closer to being ready. Some highlights and basing to go. I have also started on some support options, an MMG and a medium mortar.

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Looking at these photos, the putties need to be a different shade to the pants,  and I need to perform some touch-ups here and there (particularly the boots). I finally had a look at what squads I can assemble. Together with the self-propelled gun, and assuming they are regular, I have around 750 points across around 13-14 order dice.

Officer+man
Commissar/Political Officer
Medic
3 or 4 squads of rifle men (2 with LMG), depending on the squad size
Grenadiers
Guerrillas
MMG
Medium Mortar
Light anti-tank gun (or maybe medium, I need to check)
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plus the free 12 man conscript squad.

A lot of bodies, I suspect I need to increase the squad sizes and add 2 or 3 more large squads to bring the points up to 1,000. Lucky they’re pretty straight forward to paint.

The grenadier squad is funky, armed only with grenades (same as pistols in game effect), they can forward deploy. Alone they will get massacred which is why I took a squad of guerrillas too, who can also forward deploy.

I think it will be hard to win with this army. It will need to be played aggressively, getting stuck in early but keeping enough punch in reserve to followup. I fear not many will get to see their loved ones again north of the Yalu river, so it’s starting to look a bit historical.

D.

SU-76 ready to roll

I decided to take a wee detour on completing my Chinese for Bolt Action Korea and (mostly) finish an SU-76. It is a resin model from Warlord.

I may do some more weathering, but but it is close enough to finished to put it on the table. The model when to together OK after a false start where I forgot to wash the resin first! There was very little clean up required, and the parts fitted with very little fiddling, although I did choose to pin the barrel.

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There appears to be some debate about just what self-propelled guns the Chinese volunteer force had, given the confusion of the time this is not surprising. The little bit of reading I’ve done mentions SU-76 in battles the British Commonwealth Brigade had with Chinese in both early (Kapyong and elsewhere) and later, at Maryang San. This is good enough for me to field one. There is an added bonus in that I had one in the cupboard waiting for a project!

There is quite a lot of material about, once you start to dig, and I’m very much enjoying learning more about this period.

Now back to the infantry.

D.