Wednesday 17 April 2013

I Don't Believe It!

Who'd have thought it possible. The wargamer who's 'perfectly happy with two periods' has started a new period! Butterfly wargamers of the world unite! And furthermore, the time from inspiration to first game was five days. Cost? Zero. Is this a record?

Well, no, to be honest. This has been brewing for a long time. I've been looking for an alternative wargaming experience that gave me a genuine miniatures game, but with a quick set up that didn't involve lots of scenery, scenario development and rearranging the dining room. You know how it is sometimes - middle of the week, back from work, rush that early tea then usher family out of 'gaming room'. Maybe an hour or more to get the terrain how you want it and the figures and scenario paperwork prepared. By the time everything is ready, you just want a rest. And the whole lot has to be put away once the game is over, before you can retire to bed. It's all a bit too much like hard work.

So I've been looking for a 'dining table game', for those occasions when I just can't be assed. My acquisition of the 'Bridge Too Far' boardgame was a move in this direction - a game I continue to enjoy, but it's not toy soldiers. Of course, some of you will be thinking that small scale figures (6mm or even less) are the answer - a full battle on a 4' x 3' board. Get thee behind me Satan! These days I need proper size toy soldiers to scratch that itch - perhaps it's my failing eyesight. To cut a long story short, DBA became my favoured solution.

The cynical amongst you will probably blame my enforced sojourn at home, due to an arm broken whilst skiing. I can only reply that you're probably right - reading about and reflecting on wargaming has filled much of my time over the last week and a half. So, staring at that dining table and considering the options, the decision was made. What finally swung it was the prospect of expansion into 'Big Battle DBA', where you use 3 x 12 element DBA armies on each side, on a 4' x 2' battlefield. A real wargames battle could take place on any kitchen or dining room table. My own dining table measures 5' x 2.5', and with a Games Workshop battlemat thrown over it would form a battlefield just a bit bigger, to allow for more manoeuvre. So this was a rules choice with a future.

I already had the DBA rulebook (v2.2), purchased a couple of years ago when similar thoughts were brewing. I chose the normal 15mm size of troops. My Polish WW2 wargaming in 15mm and my previous flirtation with DBR (see below) would provide me with all the terrain I needed (which isn't much for DBA). Choice of period was between Rome vs Carthage, or Rome vs Ancient Britons. For me, ancient wargaming always had to include the Romans. Eventually the Ancient Britons won out - the choice would give me two contrasting but equally capable armies. And I think I had fond childhood memories of the Airfix figures in my mind as well.

Of course, I wasn't intending to paint my own armies. My goodness no. There's still lots to do for my other two periods. The internet led me to a UK painting service with a high standard and prices comparable to those charged by asian-based companies, namely Mount and Blade. A commission has been agreed, and it looks like my two armies will be around £65 a piece, all in. But I will have to wait until July for delivery. With time on my hands, the Fanaticus DBA resource site led me to some printable paper armies which I could mount on card and which would allow me to get going with some games. The left arm was just about serviceable enough to allow some sticking and cutting to take place.

And so, within a week from deciding I would add DBA to my wargaming world, my old buddy Paul was round for a game or two.

Paul deploys his Romans
Now I'm not going to pretend that cardboard counters fill the shoes of real toy soldiers - they're fiddly to move and position, and much more importantly the visual appeal just isn't there. But two very enjoyable games were had, and the counters are better than nothing. I really do like DBA. DBM and DBR can be a little complex, but DBA v2.2 retains the simplicity of the original. The battle rules cover just 4 pages of a small booklet. It's a shame you have to get past the famous 'Barkerese' to access this delightful and unique game, but careful reading usually does the trick. The 'Unofficial Guide to DBA' is invaluable in helping you through.

I've Been Here Before
As already mentioned, the world of DBx is not entirely new to me. Around 2006-2007 I owned French and Spanish Imperial armies for the Italian Wars. I was lucky enough to hook up with a very experienced DBM player and we had some excellent games, although my opponent's guidance was vital in keeping things flowing. In the end, however, they became an 'army too far', and were sold off.

Blog posts need photos, so here are a few images of the armies taken before their sale on eBay. Not painted by me, of course - another pro job.

Italian Wars French Army

Gendarmes and generals

Spanish Imperial commanding general

Spanish pikes
Don't expect to hear too much more under the DBA label until the figures arrive. Blow by blow accounts of DBA battles with counters would be of limited interest, I reckon. But rest assured I will be filling some pleasant hours battling away on my 2' x 2' tile.

Thursday 11 April 2013

SYW Rules v.8

Having some time on my hands, I decided to make the latest version of my SYW rules available for free download. They can be found here on Mediafire. Just some minor amendments over v.7 but it's only fair to make the latest version available. Don't be downhearted if you use the 'view' option on Mediafire and the formatting looks crap - if you download, everything is as it should be. All comments/questions/howls of derision cheerfully accepted.

And to make the post a little more worthwhile, here's another shot of the groaning table at the commencement of the recent game from the post Story of a Scenario.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

More Reinfoircements

Two more SYW units are recently arrived from the Dayton Painting Consortium. My Prussian forces have received a unit of Freikorps, whilst the Austrians are better off to the tune of a Bavarian battalion.

These units were freshly painted to order, and so arrived unbased. What a pleasure to spend my weekend spare time basing up these units - a few hours work and two new battalions are available. Painting them myself at my usual speed would have taken a couple of months.

The only fly in the ointment was a demand to pay customs charges and a handling fee to the Royal Mail. The former I don't mind too much (as I understand it covers unpaid UK VAT) but the latter just adds insult to injury, and reminds me of the bank charges racket. But even with these extra charges, total cost per figure (and I mean total) was only around £2.80p.

Richard at DPC didn't name the units that were sent, but working from uniform guides on and offline I have judged the Freikorps to be the Freibatallione Volontaires de Prusse, whilst the Bavarian unit is a battalion of Regiment von Morawitzky, which conveniently was one of the regiments assigned to the Austrian Auxiliary Corps fighting the Prussians.

1st Battalion, Regiment von Morawizky.
1st Battalion, Regiment von Morawitzky
Freibattalione Volontaires de Prusse
Freibattalione Volontaires de Prusse

Two points are worth mentioning. Freikorps units didn't have flags, but the flag bearer provided was so nicely done that I have kept him for the minute. I think that I will eventually take away the flag and replace it with a musket - individual weapons are available in the RSM95 range, and I have a selection in my bits drawer that Richard has sent me from time to time, for no other reason than that he is a generous soul. The other point is the shade of blue chosen for the Bavarian coats. This is significantly darker than the shade of the Bavarian battalion that I painted myself a while back, but I don't mind this. The exact shade of 'cornflower blue' used, or whether cornflower blue was used at all in the SYW, seems to be a subject of continuing debate. That the shade may have varied between regiments seems entirely believable.

Command Markers
Wargamers love their markers and tokens, and I am no exception. Overall, of course, table clutter should be kept to a minimum so that the toy soldiers and terrain may be duly admired. But recently I felt the need for some professional-looking markers to designate my brigade commanders, which under my rules are either Dashing, Dependable or Dithering. I needed to look no further than Warbases who do a range of acrylic tokens you can order directly from their website. Wanting something a bit stylish, I eschewed the MDF and opaque acrylic options, and went instead for the 'transparent ice blue' (dithering), 'fluorescent acid green' (dependable) and 'fluorescent yellow' (dashing).

Fluorescent acid green doesn't sound very SYW, but as I hope you can see these markers catch the light nicely and I am pleased with my choice. I was able to choose a custom font for the writing, which matched the antique-looking font I have used in my rules. Such are the satisfactions of the true geek.

Retired Hurt
Last week I went skiing in the Alps, but like a damn fool I fell and broke my left arm quite badly. I now sport a rather fetching metal plate near my shoulder holding everything together, fitted in a French hospital. Real wargaming and painting will therefore be suspended for a while, but whilst convalescing I am catching up on my reading and passing the time with some blog posts, which just goes to show that every cloud does indeed have a silver lining.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Total Battle Miniatures

We all know that the scaling down done in wargames doesn't just apply to the miniatures. When it comes to terrain, a dozen model trees must represent a wood, and a few model houses a village.

When it comes to buildings, I try to help this process by using models a scale smaller than my troops, so that the footprint of the models on the table is reduced. If I used 25-30mm size buildings with my RSM95s, I would often be stuck with using just one building to create a 'village'. But if you match 15mm buildings with 25-30mm figures, 2 or 3 buildings can be used, which I think creates a more pleasing effect.

One company has taken this process a little further by producing model buildings that have a deliberately minimised footprint on the table, in relation to their nominal scale. The company is Total Battle Miniatures and I finally got around to buying a couple of their products recently, namely the 'Town Tower' and the 'Three Storey Single House', from the 15mm Black Powder range. My idea was that these 2 models could be added to a built up area to make it seem more like a large village or small town, whilst adding only a very small amount to the space taken up on the table. Each model is only 50mm wide by 50mm deep, but has a good height of at least 100mm.

The photo shows the models as they arrived. The Total Battle website shows how they look painted up. They are cast in what seems to be a durable resin, and are good quality castings, although a few minor holes from air bubbles are present. Only a tiny amount of filling will be needed. For their modest size they are not particularly cheap (see the website prices), and postage is charged at a fairly high rate. They also took about 2 weeks to arrive, which is slow by contemporary standards. Nevertheless, I definitely think this company is on to something and the product range is well worth looking into. I'm looking forward to getting them painted and on the table.

However, any minor price reservations about Total Battle Miniatures fade into nothing compared with Hawk Wargames. If you haven't already heard about them, check out this link. Quite frightening really.

For Stokie Steve (9th April)

Hmm... Yes, it would have been a good idea to have some figures in the photo to show how they match up with the buildings. Readers should note that these Total Battle models are very compatible with the JR Miniatures 15mm buildings which can be seen in the photos of my SYW battles throughout this blog. In the picture below the figure is a Minden Miniatures 1/56th scale officer, 30mm from bottom of boots to top of tricorn.

I hope that helps Steve. Personally I think these buildings would work very well with your smaller 1/72nd scale figures.