Television is rather a frightening business. But I get all the relaxation I want from my collection of model soldiers.
Peter Cushing

Sunday 24 April 2016


I was in the process of building a dragon and then... Well, let's say there was an issue with the drill bit. 

And under my thumbnail. To cut a long story short, the drill bit is broken which means I can't finish pinning the dragon. 

So onto other construction matters. 

First, the dungeon. The rules are coming on nicely as are the tiles. A couple of more rooms and we'll be ready to paint. 

The other thing is having a castle. Every wargamer should have a castle. The problem, of course, is always coat. The new Renedra castle is lovely but - dear lord - the cost!

Allow me to present the Simba castle playset, available from Debenhams. 

How does it look? 

This is less than a quarter of the whole castle. A QUARTER. 

You can see the nice stone texture, so I imagine it will paint up very easily. The plastic has taken plastic glue very well and the scale is spot on:

It's obviously lacking a touch of detail on the inside but considering I got it for less than £20 how on earth can I complain?

More progress on these next week, I hope. 

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Going Deeper Underground

As i mentioned a little while ago, I'm intending to move forward on indoctrinating my children soon. To that end, they recently picked their own poly dice and I've knocked together a very simple set of dungeon bash rules.

All I need now is a dungeon. So based on some advice from the ever creative Harry from Lead Adventure and a quick glance at Stuart Bannister's great tutorial, I've started work:

Some basic planning should - in theory - make the process easier. 

Rock from the garden for texture. 

Checking different base sizes. Looks OK! Also, a bonus goblin fanatic I found. 

First room and a couple of corridors. 

Proof of concept seems sound; so I'll make the basic shapes and then paint some.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Where the Iron Crosses Grow

I recently mentioned that I'd purchased a copy of Iron Cross to use to help my Year 10 students with their GCSE History coursework. Last night I had my first test game.

So first an outline of the rules and a mini-review seem to be in order.

Iron Cross is a scale agnostic game primarily designed for Late War Western Europe based on the Orbats included in the book, though other theatres are covered by free lists from the website. The book is £12, full colour and lavishly illustrated - including hits and tips from a couple of Hollywood greats.

I ordered the £30 set that came with tokens and I'm very glad I did - the use of tokens is key to the way the game played so having easy to use ones made life much easier.

Gameplay is very simple; there are no ranges except for things such as PIATs and Panzerfausts. If you can see it, you can shoot it. This is elegant as it makes the use of terrain and movement key, exactly as it was in Western Europe. All die rolls are made on a 1d10 or 1d6 and the core mechanics are pretty simple to grasp; taking incoming fire effects your morale and when a unit's morale is depleted they bolt. Again, this is an accurate representation of the historical reality, especially when Units can fall back and attempt to regroup - in effect 'healing'; so it becomes a question for the commander of whether to press an attack or whether to try to preserve your troops. Troops have their combat effectiveness degraded as their morale suffers.

As you can see, the core of the game lies in that holy grail of game design, choice; making the player weigh up risk versus reward and Iron Cross handles this better than almost any other wargame I've played recently due to the way it handles initiative. Rather than a traditional IGOUGO mechanic, the player has a number of command tokens. Each one of these can be spent to activate a unit on your turn - you can try to activate a unit more than once, but this gets more difficult the more you ask of your units and the worse their morale is. The genius stroke is that the player whose turn it is not can spend a token to interrupt.So it goes like this:

"I'll activate these GIs and they're going to move and shoot but running across the road then shooting the grenadiers behind the barn."

"Yeah, I'm going to spend and activate my machine gun team who are going to shoot them as they cross the road."

So when it's the other player's turn you are constantly weighing up whether you want to react or not; likewise, when it's your turn you are constantly trying to weigh up how to work around the enemy. And you can't interrupt every action - because if you spend all your tokens, when the active player passes the turn over to you, you'll have no tokens left to do anything. And as the active player you're always trying to decide when the best moment to end your turn is to ensure that you have some tokens left to react to the enemy's actions.

This makes for an incredibly fluid and fast moving game with feints, probing attacks, use of terrain; it's a good simulation of mobile warfare and, more importantly, a great piece of game design.

My only concern is that some of the rules in the book are not written as clearly as I would like; for example, I'm still not sure if an infantry unit firing on tank inflicts a morale marker. I think it does but the rules don't specifically state it does; and whether it does or not makes a huge difference to how infantry deal with armour.

These things can be houseruled, of course, but it's just one of those things companies want to look at  - proofing for aspects other than errors. I think I'm right in saying that Magic: The Gathering and FFG for X-Wings have lawyers read their rules to check for clarity and reduce misunderstanding.

So how did it play?

Really well.

We set up a very simple edge of a village in Normandy with a mixture of terrain types. Three objectives - the truck was worth two as it had the Lost Ark of the Covenant in it - and two equal sides of 360 points. The US side was armour with two infantry units and the German side was infantry with two STuG III in support. The interesting twist here is that because the Germans had more units, they had more command tokens and thus the player - not me - had more options in making decisions.

Seems legit.

Here you can see the importance of using cover

Notice the wrecked tanks in the background

This is more or less the situation at the end of the game. In case you're wondering what the outcome was, look at the title of the blog. 

The game is sound and I will be using it again for fun - and I'll definitely be using it with the students. Highly recommended.

 Stay tuned for an update tomorrow on the new fantasy project.

Monday 11 April 2016

Another One Bites The Dust

Well, with the completion of two US rifle squads, that completes all the figures needed for the WW2 project.

The two sides will obviously play very differently as they've been designed as a teaching tool rather than for balanced gaming. I'll post an update and review of the rules for Iron Cross after I've done the first play test.

So what next?

There's still the Orc warband for Dragon Rampant to be getting on with but I still haven't got the taste of those mantic orcs out of my mouth so I don't know if I can face going back that. However, I did find this sitting in a cupboard...

So that's moved to the front of the queue. While we're on the subject of fantasy, of course, there's the matter of my sons to consider. At some point, I'm going to want to start indoctrinating them. To this end, they have just ordered their first ever set of poly dice and I'm currently in the process of designing some dungeon tiles and cobbling together some simple rules suitable for a 4 and 2 year old.  Hopefully this will give me the impetus to do some more generic fantasy miniatures - including some more orcs.

So I would imagine that the next update from me is likely to be a test piece of dungeon tile but we shall see. 

Friday 8 April 2016

The Wehrmacht and Excellent Customer Service

a couple of bits and pieces here. First off, my new WW2 rules arrived from the chaps at Great Escape Games.

Most splendidly, there was a slight problem with the order and I received the wrong set of command tokens. But those wonderful people at GEG sent me the correct ones and let me keep the originals. Fabulous customer service and a guarantee that I'll be shopping with them again. I'll do a full review of the rules after the first game.

Having now got some rules, I now needed to pull my finger out and finish the German force. First up was the armoured support, a couple of STuG by Battlefront I had kicking around. Done in the now infamous dunkelgelb, aka the most hideous colour known to man, I had to do the markings on theses by hand as well.

I also got the last few infantry detachments done, so I now have a 400 point German force for Iron Cross:

I also grabbed a simple little Zveda 1/100 kit for the princely sum of £2.50 to act as an objective. If you see any of these new little kits, by the way, grab them. I think they've set up for some odd little wargame of their own devising but they are fabulously detailed. Here it is under construction:

And the last little thing is more progress in the Memoir 44 campaign. We've now reached Sword Beach and I'm still loosing!

Saturday 2 April 2016

The Germans Are Coming

Got the first few teams done for the German force opposing the Shermans. 15mm are fiddly, of course, but basecoat, wash and highlight generally does the job. I think it's a mistake to get too caught up in fiddling about with them as it's the overall base of figures that is the playing piece and it's the effect of them together that gives the 15mm game its visual appeal.

Which is all by the way of saying these aren't wonderful but they were painted in about an hour which seems like a good return on investment to me.

I have to reiterate that the Plastic Soldier Company figures, although less chunky and a little flatter in detail, are significantly better to work with than the Battlefront ones which were plagued by flash and miscasts.

The rules should,be arriving next week do I'll do a quick review when they do.


"To a New Yorker like you, a Hero is some kind of weird sandwich, not some nut who takes on three Tigers."

Seeing Kelly's Heroes when I was a kid led to two things; a lifelong love of Donald Sutherland and an affection for Sherman Tanks. 

So I am pleased to share with you my first painted miniatures for WW2, 2 units of Shermans. 

Here they are just finished and weathered:

And here they are in daylight. 

In terms of markings it's all freehand; records suggest that most tank crews in Normandy removed the front star as it made a great target so some show then being partially obscured and most of then are missing it entirely. 

There is a mix of Battlefront resins and Plastic Soldier Company kits here; the PSC ones are substantially better, if lacking in the heft that resin gives. 

Next, some Wehrmacht infantry.