VBAL May

Life can really get in the way of your hobby at times. I did managed to sign up for a tour of duty for the May Victorian Bolt Action League event. Three games in a day, held at the excellent House of War in Ringwood. I liked how Tristan organised the day. Rather than the usual swiss chess sort of thing, we were divided into axis and allies, so no blue on blue. He had also appointed overall commanders, who (in consultation with their team) allocated people to tables. Each table had a different mission, so the terrain matched the mission. Both terrific things to bring to an event, and greatly lowered the stress levels because there was no “top-table”.

I took my Germans, of course. They are still my only painted 28mm WWII. At 1,000 points I left my Tiger at home and gave my Stug III a run instead.

I faced Soviets twice and the US once. I didn’t win a sausage all day, but had a cracking good time.

Round 1 Loss to Rick Vaveliuk’s Soviets. I ran out of momentum (and men) in the centre, while a T34 demolished my supply dump on turn 7 to turn a draw into a good win.
It is always a pleasure to fight Rick and was a nice way to start the day

Round 2 Another loss. Soviets again. Having trouble keeping the Bolshevik hoards back today. Kittyhawk Down and a great game.
Thanks Tim, and nice to see the citizens’ militia on the table

Round 3 Loss to Chris in hold until relieved. Turn 3 just saw my Germans taking too many pins and I failed order tests across the board.
Clear victory to the marines.

D.

MG- you’re doing it wrong

This has been a topic of conversation in Bolt Action circles for a while, and with format season 3 not long released and BA edition two apparently about to be a thing, debate around what to do with LMG continues.

And the debate is around is what should be done to alter the squad support LMG (and to a lesser extent MMG). Remarkably for gamers, there is broad consensus that the rules surrounding these weapons require some tweaks. I tend to agree but won’t weep if no official changes occur. Of course, being gamers, we all have different ideas on what to do.heer03At this point US players just shrug their shoulders and pick up their BAR! The rest of us need to think about this.

Playing Germans, I found the change in the season format rules reducing the points cost from 20 points to 5 points, combined with Hitler’s Buzz-Saw rule, made the decision to include LMG in my squads an easy one. Although, truth be told, it didn’t change my build much as I already took LMG. What did happen is that I had extra points that avoided a decision on medic or kubelwagon. Under season 3 I can take both.

I have also heard some folk argue to not alter the points but instead increase the LMG rate of fire so the cost “makes sense”. The usual calculation is shots fired per regular dude. For 40 points you can have 4 regular guys with rifles: 4 wounds and 4 shots. Under RAW, your 40 points for an LMG  is two guys (wounds) and 3 shots. Two wounds and one shot down. To balance this at least one extra shot seems to be required. There is even some temptation to go to five shots as base, but with the risk of making the Germans too good.

Applying this sort of maths to 5 point LMG sees them now compare much more favourably, with an LMG team getting one more shot over the same two guys armed with rifles. A rate of fire increase not dramatically different to arming one of the dudes with an SMG.

Variations are possible, of course, 10 or 15 points and 4 shots, etc.

So far I have also ignored MMG, which perhaps would need to move to be suitably more dangerous than LMG. Changing rules is not for the faint-hearted.

Perhaps a more profitable way to approach any change is to consider the effect and role of squad based LMG and supporting MMG. They were common in WWII, basic squad structure was often little more than a delivery mechanism for LMG. They were feared. Squad based assault relied on a fire base built around the LMG and an assault group that pushed forward under its cover. Support weapons were also central to defence. I think any set of rules for a WWII game played at squad/platoon level needs to allow this to occur.

To a large extent Bolt Action already does this. A modest tweak may help bring this out.

However, a fundamental complaint would remain: people feel that LMG and MMG should be more common on the table. Clearly the rules writers also feel this, LMG are a near ubiquitous support option and the standard reinforced platoon selector – and nearly all theatre selectors – include an MMG choice. They want, and expect, us to take them.

Just take the LMG. They are historical and integral to the period.

In some ways it is that simple.

Commanders rarely had exactly the equipment they wanted. What they were issued with were LMG. The other stuff is cool. The other stuff may lever the rule set better. Use it by all means. But take the LMG, consider it a history tax.

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Table supplied by Battlefield Accessories

If I get a call from Warlord asking my advice, I’m tempted to say use season three format, but with this added rule: give hits from LMG added pins. Given medium mortars are the smallest weapons to potentially generate additional pins, instead of D2 pins I suggest that LMG cause 2 pins on a 6 (and one otherwise) and MMG 2 pins on a 5+.

What do you think, do machine guns need to change? Do we see them often enough?

 

 

 

Airfix Bedford Truck

Man, life can really get in the way of hobby sometimes. So in an attempt to get my mini-mojo back I picked up an Airfix kit I bought a couple of months ago in a moment of nostalgia. It is a Bedford truck. As I don’t collect the British (in 28mm) I figured I could use it with my Germans, reasoning that it was left behind in 1940 and subsequently found its way into the Wehrmacht service.

I have not built an Airfix kit in a long long time, so I got a bit of a shock when I opened the box. There are a lot of parts for such a little vehicle.

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Forty steps! What had I got myself into?

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Actually, the kit is a pleasure. The molding is crisp, the plastic well behaved and the instructions clear. I did get a reminder on why you should read the instructions first. I’m mumbling along at the many tiny parts that create the engine when I realise that I can just glue the hood shut and not have to do any of those bits!

I realise as I type this I’m a windscreen short of finished, but even without it I’m pleased with the result:

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Brrm! Brrm!
D.

Betting on hedges

I love it when a plan comes together.  I had the pleasure of attending Bolt Action Melbourne in August, and playing three fun games on three of the many fine looking tables on the day.  I rarely think to take photos on the day, I’m generally too busy generalling to remember.  Buy the terrain was great. Trust me.

This made me think that my own tables have, after years of playing little else, a very 40K look.  Great for the grim dark future but not so useful for defeating nazis. Time for some new terrain, because we always have time for a new project.

Another happy accident took me to this blog and a tutorial on how to build hedges.

My efforts are not so smick as Gimgamgoo’s but his instructions are clear and easy to follow. My observation is that orange dish scourers work surprisingly well but blue ones not so much. Pretty much green is the go, for reasons that are obvious now but not so obvious when I grabbed the packet in my local $2 shop.  I’ve seen hedges done with single fat scourers, which seems labour saving, but the shop didn’t stock any.

Anyway, craft sticks, scourers, some hot glue and cheap $2 shop paint.  I’m happy.

D.

Oh! What a Lovely War

There is an embarrassment of riches here at Faith and Steel, with not just one but three packages landing within a week! I picked up some partizans from one of the many sales at Black Tree Designs that I think will be perfect for delivering lots of theme in smaller Bolt Action games. I also took advantage of Warlord Games buy a rule book, get a box offer. More on that later.

The biggest parcel, coming at 3.5kg, was the arrival of the joint Richard Berg-Plastic Soldier Company Kickstarer, The Great War.

GW14I suspect that this game will be a worthy addition to the Command and Colours family. It improves on the high production values of the Memoir ’44 series by including a nice range of 15mm hard plastic miniatures from Plastic Soldier Company to accompany the nice looking, full-colour cards, map and tokens.

Inside the box- oo, shiney

Inside the box: oo! shiny

Straight from box

Straight from the box

The cuts are clean and the pieces come out easily

The cuts are clean and the pieces come out easily

The hex board is double-sided and the terrain will make for flexibility and easy expansion, just like Memoir ’44

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The funky dice are used to resolve combat. This is very abstract but makes for fast, tense games.

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There are 8 dice; this shows the proportion of the symbols

The highlight for me are the new miniatures from Plastic Soldier Company.

One of the three German spues

One of the three German sprues

The British have the same mix but different poses

The British have the same mix but different poses

For board gamers the naked plastic will serve quite adequately. However, I think taking the time to paint these will make quite a spectacle.  My friend Andy converted me to this point of view when I first saw his Memoir set with painted 20mm plastics. It makes for a visually stunning game. So this means washing before getting some paint on (it’s too windy to head out to the backyard to prime, so things will have to stop here for a wee while)

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Here is my first niggle. I love it that the Brits have fixed their bayonets ready to get stuck in, but you need to be very careful removing them from the sprues or you will break bayonets and even barrels.  The Germans did not seem subject to this, so I don’t know if the different colour has different properties or it is the pose itself. Whatever the cause, clippers and patience are required.  Apart from that there is no real clean-up required, the models are pretty much ready to go.

Being Kickstarter there were some bonus material:

GW15Some bonus scenarios (always useful), sets of German and British artillery (that don’t appear directly in the base game but do look very nice) and a set of metal generals:

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Perhaps indicative of future releases, even if not useful on the board.  I’m personally looking forward to the Turks:

GW12I haven’t played yet, but the rules look like they will capture the challenges of trench warfare pretty well. Machine-guns are going to be very dangerous and I cannot see how to cross no-mans land without enormous casualties.  So, the title of this post is ironical, just like the musical I pinched the title from. But it does look like it will be a lovely game.

D.

Heer come some reinforcements

They’ve been a while coming but some specialists have arrived to support my German Heer for Bolt Action.

A kubelwagen for the boss, complete with a machine gun in case he needs to cause some havoc at a distance.

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A sniper team. I’ve been on the receiving end of these often enough and I think they fit my Monte Carlo theme very well. Wearing camo smocks will help tell them apart from the regular grenadiers and also alludes to their tactics of hiding in cover waiting for kills.

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Artillery was a prominent feature of many of the Monte Cassio battles (as was air support for the Allies), so a forward observer will be useful in larger points games to bring down the big guns. What could go wrong?

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Medics are great and I do like this model of one of these brave soldiers running through the battle to help his comrades. The Bolt Action medic rules are pretty cool too, effectively given a unit feel no pain rolls!
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Not quite done is a truck. This a spanish one but I figure some Italian troop drove home in it after the civil war and it is now commandeered by the Germans.
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It is a bit clean to reflect such an old jalopy, so a bit of weathering is to come.

I’ve not got any Bolt Action games in recently. Family committment meant I missed G-Patrol (which sounded like a top day), but I’ve got Bolt Action Melbourne in August in my diary and I’m looking forward to that. I am getting some WWII games in with regular evenings of Memoir 44 with my friend Andy. Memoir is a ripping little game. We have fought through Africa and Italy and now we moved into the Ardennes in December of 1944. Hard fought battles all.

cheers,
D.

Zebra Cavalry, Lee Tanks and Imperial Rome

The wargames club I attended as a teen did WWII and not much else. Fair enough and good fun, but I never had enough terrain or tanks for decent battles at home.  What I were some boxes of Airfix plastics, a mix of WWII, black powder and ancients (both kinds: Romans and Britons!).  So my brother and I made do and lined up across the floor with a sort of colonial-fantasy hybrid where columns of muskets would try to keep out sword wielding hoards!  Rarely balanced, but throw in a wizard or two and things evened out. No cannons? Doesn’t matter, a fireball will sort out those pesky Commandos trying to sneak across the river!

I wish I had some photos: Lego towns, paper roads and a beloved Airfix Roman fort.
Hills were the classic books under a blanket.  We even tried our hands at conversions. I particularly remember soft plastic zoo animals pressed into service as cavalry mounts. I’m sure they were just a bit crap, but one day my Zebra riders took out a tank!
Wargamers live for moments like that.

Of course, rules that covered such diverse situations didn’t come straight out of the box. We used a home-brew of some WWII rules lifted from a magazine (Battle maybe?) and a little tome by one Gary Gygax, Swords and Spells:

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It is basically what is says on the cover – it is the D&D combat rules expanded to deal with big armies.  Forty years on I have to say that they are just a bit shit!  I think we even knew that at the time. It didn’t allow for panzers for one thing.

They do contain some really interesting ideas though. You don’t roll dice to work out combat. It acknowledges that with that many dice you are basically averaging things anyway, so it just calculates what the average would be and then applies that.  Needless to say, we largely ignored that bit and got on with the much more satisfying task of rolling dice.

All of this is a long way of explaining why I’ve never played a game of Warhammer Fantasy. By the time Warhammer came out I was roleplaying and when I started gaming again my friends were into 40K.

Never say never though.

What about you? What rule sets did you begin your gaming journey with?

Biggles Sweeps the Desert

Tally Ho!

After fresh water and somewhere to cool down a few tinnies, air support will be high on any desert survival list. So enter No. 3 Squadron RAAF, flying Kittyhawks that will provide much needed air cover for my mid-war Australians.

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Can you hear something Blue?

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No 3 Squadron RAAF flys over 2/9 Div positions

AfricaWWII_02 AfricaWWII_03The P-40, Kittyhawk to Commonwealth nations and Warhawk to the Americans, was one of the mainstays of the RAAF in the second world war. Out gunned by German machines in the fighter role, they proved reliable and capable in a bomber-support role in North Africa and in the Pacific. They also held their own against the Italian air force, that unlike the Italian navy or much of the army, was very professional and dedicated even as they flew rather outdated machines.

No markings yet as the box came with a US decal set, so on the lookout for suitable RAF/RAAF markings in 144th scale or thereabouts.

The company itself is not much larger than the models shown, a few more tanks plus some 25 pdrs, so there is not much to do now.  That will be nice as these were my first Flames of War models but I decided to do some German Tigers just to get a force table ready. An heavy panzer company is like 12 models, including infantry, so was very quick to paint. I’ve hesitated finishing as while 15mm tanks are really fast to paint, I find the little mens a bit daunting. Not totally rational as they really don’t take much to do, so it is time to get on with them, I think.

Hoo Roo.

D.

Heer we go, Heer we go, Heer we go

So while I’ve been playing a bit of 40K, I have been getting some vicarious Bolt Action in via two pod casts. The rather blokey LRDG is one of three blogs based at boltaction.net and is made right here in Melbourne. I have also been listening to Home Guard Radio, coming out of Edinburgh. HGR are up to episode 3 now and one of the things I like is that while the members are veteran gamers, I think they are relatively new to Bolt Action, so the pod cast is dealing with list building, learning the rules and smaller points games (for the moment).

And while you’re listening to podcasts, what better thing to do than paint?

Careful students will already know about the Stug III waiting in the depot, to which I now have added another infantry squad plus some support weapons.
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The miniatures are black tree designs. They are not my favourite models but with a 50% off sale the price was right. All the Germans are metal so far, which gives the army a nice “heft”.  I think it comes to about 750 points, so time to find somebody to play …

D.

Late Christmas

My golly gosh! What a busy and rather fabulous couple weeks for gaming here at the Republic of Northcote.

A Stug III ordered from Black Tree Design one lazy day between Christmas and New Year arrived in the post. While the kit took three attempts plus some green stuff to assemble, I got it base coated this morning and it looks OK.  My Germans will be pleased that some reinforcements are on the way.

Then there is Arc.  That needs a whole post for itself but will need to wait until my head stops spinning. It was a great weekend of gaming. Six good games against six great opponents, amidst the mayhem of 150 other gamers doing the same.
(Five losses, but you can’t have everything.)

The forces of chaos were not totally at a loss over the weekend because WATT – on our 9th attempt – won the Saturday night Apocalypse game known as the Golden Fez.
A twitter run down can be found here (For those who don’t know me, I’m the homeless looking guy holding the fez; the one on the left, not the homeless looking guy on the right.)

Arc is such a blast I arranged a day off work to recover. And I’m glad I did, because a Kickstarter from Empress Miniatures arrived today: a platoon of modern Chinese PLA. These are really very nice miniatures and I’m looking forward to get them on the table against some of my Eureka moderns. Another blog post waiting to be written.

I’m off to bed now. I need a lie down after all this excitement. Oh, and I have to read the Fate Core rules that Gaming Guy put me on to.

Photos and detail will follow in the next week or three
(painting desk and work permitting).

D.