Friday, November 24, 2017

Bolt Action Second Edition Battle Report: Dunkirk

The Bolt Action set of rules for WW2 skirmish games have been popular around Fawcett HQ since they were published several years ago. We recently played our first game of Bolt Action, second edition and got a chance to see for ourselves what improvements have been made.

I came up with a scenario loosely based on the opening scene of the film Dunkirk, in which we follow "Tommy" (Fionn Whitehead) as he flees the Germans, ending up jumping over a sandbag barricade defended by some French soldiers. Our game follows the French and British defenders of a village outside the Dunkirk beachhead and the German attackers attempting to punch through the Allied defences to reach the beaches.

Here's the terrain set-up. German table edge is the long edge at top right. The Dunkirk beaches are off the table to the lower left. The Germans have to take the crossroads to enable their breakthrough to the beachhead.

British reinforcements move up.

Defending the barricades.

Germans infiltrate the village. Why is there an English sign on the French cafe???

Frontal assault on the barricade as the Germans roll up their 37mm PAK gun.

German HQ element rushes up to support the attack.

Firefight about to erupt in the village - British soldier just barely in view at top centre.

German HMG in support.

That's the spirit! German Pzkpfw. 38(t) crashes the barricade!

British and French AT guns prepare to engage!

Engaging over open sights!

One Jerry tank brews up in spectacular fashion!

I guess the Allied war correspondent must've been captured at this point because there are no more pictures of the action...

In any event it was a fun and good-looking game and the lads seemed to enjoy BA 2ed. The main change we noticed was the ability of officers to activate other units as well as themselves, which really enables some tactics to be used in supporting attacks. In the original BA rules, you'll recall, multiple unit activations are entirely at the luck of the draw. You could have had a meticulously planned supported assault planned but execution was at the whim of the dice gods, depending on you drawing the correct coloured die out of the cup. BA 2ed alleviates this somewhat because when you activate an officer, he can pull more dice out of the cup and activate other friendly units, enabling supported attacks or other combined tactics. I'm sure there were some other changes but that was the major one that we felt helped the flow of the game.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Elfin Knights Project Takagi Blade Runner Blaster

Okay, so this post is only tenuously related to the usual wargames content on this blog, but it has to do with painting at least...

So, assuming you're still tuned in, I'd like to introduce a small project - a repaint of the world's most awesome water pistol - Deckard's blaster from the original Blade Runner!

The story of the BR blaster has been told many places - the original prop was an unholy union between a Charter Arms .44 cal. Bulldog revolver and a Steyr-Mannlicher .22 cal rifle with some extra greeblies and LED lights sprinkled to taste. Long thought lost, the original prop resurfaced in 2006 at a fan convention called WorldCon. In the meantime, several prop makers had turned their skills to producing more-or-less accurate replicas of the blaster based on screen caps from the movie. However, the emergence of the "WorldCon Blaster" in detailed photos has lead to more definitive replicas being produced, one of the most popular being made in Japan by Tomenosuke and retailing for nearly $1,000.

photo: eBay
I'd always wanted to have a BR blaster of my own but $1K is just too much. Enter the Takagi "Elfin Knights Project" M2019 water blaster! Injection molded in translucent black and amber plastic, it's an amazingly faithful replica of the film blaster, at a knockdown price.

However faithful it looks, though, a plastic water gun is never going to have the have the heft of a full metal (or even resin) prop. I fixed this by plugging the holes in the molding and filling it brimful with clean sand - weight is now over 800 grams or almost two pounds. I then masked off the grips and primed the piece with satin black spraypaint.

After priming, I painted the upper receiver and triggerguard with a mixture of GW Leadbelcher and craft black acrylic, and the buttplate with a straight Leadbelcher. The rest was carefully weathered, mostly with a sponge technique using Leadbelcher, concentrating on the parts that would contact the holster or hand of the user. I also did some fine edge highlighting and light chipping on the metal parts using GW Ironbreaker and a fine brush.

I glued two metal BBs on each side of the piece to represent the red LEDs and painted them Khorne Red highlighted with Evil Sunz Scarlet. The molded in LED underneath the gun was painted similarly. The LEDs on the cylinder rod were painted GW Caliban Green highlighted with Privateer Necrotite Green. All LEDs were finished with a gloss coat.

"Made in China" apes the WorldCon Blaster's "Made in Austria" gravure. Serial number matches the real prop

Lastly, I had my friend Byron of Northern Lights build me a fantastic clear acrylic stand for the prop. This will look pretty cool in my collecting room - although after having painted this one, I'm thinking of buying a resin kit to do up with working LEDs... crazy? who knows.

That's it for now, and all there is left to say is "have a better one!" :-)

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Battle of Teugen-Hausen in 6mm using Fast Play Grande Armee rules

With our normal host Dallas busy with work last week, Greg and I decided that it was time to further amortize my 6mm Napoleonic forces with another game.   Since it has been a while since the last game, we decided a small battle would be appropriate so we were not struggling with the rules too much in a large game.

Greg being the history buff pulled a gem out of his hat with with The Battle of Teugen-Hausen.  The battle was between the Austrians and French in April of 1809 and focused on some historical issues that were common throughout the period:  French aggressiveness bordering on over confidence and Austria's poor leadership and indecisiveness.  Both played out well in this battle.

We used the Fast Play Grande Armee rules, which have several very flavorful features that played out in this game.  To recreate the leaders involved in the battle we assigned 1 command die to the Austrians and 2 to the French.  Davout was a +2 leader, and his officers were +1, while Hohenzollern was +1 and his officers were 0's.

A brief historical overview:  In mid-April Davout moved his corps southeast, attempting to link up with his Bavarian allies. Dense woods and rugged terrain limited the scouting, so it was with some surprise that French and Austrian units made contact on April 19. An Austrian corps under Prince Friedrich of Hohenzollern stumbled upon Davout, and the Austrian commander sent word to Archduke Charles that he had found the French. Hohenzollern requested the support of the IV Corps, as well as the archduke's grenadier reserve corps.    

The French started with Davout and Saint-Hilaire's Division on the table near Teugen.  Mean while the Austrians started with Hohenzollern cozy and settled in Hausen with Vukassovich's division forward in the woods.  To win the French needed to either break the Austrians or get troops over the stream into Hausen or off the table via point E.  The Austrians had to either break the French or hold them achieving their objectives.  The game would last 6 turns.

The French started by moving forward in their first pulse of turn 1 (FPGA plays out over turns and pulses, each turn being between 1 and 4 pulses) towards the woods.  The Austrians played cagey and pulled back in the woods.  This continued for the entire first turn as the Austrians were not keen on fighting it out alone.

Turn two saw more action start to get underway as both the French and the Austrians got re-reinforcements to join the battle.

The Austrians had two divisions show up to help.  On the first pulse of turn 2, St. Julien's division moved up into the town to cross the stream and join the battle forming in the woods, which Lusignan's division went left of the town to stop the French from reaching point E (one of the French's victory conditions).  The French moved Friant's division up from point B towards the woods to help break through.

Here is where things went badly for the Austrians, but fittingly so historically.  St. Julien once in the town, refused to leave!  FPGA works with a friction system using dice to determine what you can actually do with each division.  Ideally you want between 7+10 on two dice and you can do whatever you want, good commanders give you a +1 to help get into that range, and good Army leaders give you bonus dice to use so that you can roll up to 2 additional dice and pick any 2 of the 4 you want to get the numbers you need.  However, the Austrians lacked extra dice to assign and had to roll 2 dice only for 4 pulses over 2 turns, and had St. Juliens division sit in the town taking violin lessons or something, then retreat for some unknown reason (maybe to avoid paying a bar tab?) before finally moving through the town a full 2 turns later!

Meanwhile in the center of the table, the French force advanced into the Austrian line and combat started. 

Over the next several pulses and turns, the combat raged back and forth in the woods.  Units made contact, shots were fired, attackers were forced back.  However, nothing really significant took place.  There were very few casualties as combat in the woods required 6's to hit, and neither side could roll more than 1 in a combat.  The French got an additional division of reinforcements on turn 3 that came in from point C and started making moves straight across the table to point E.

Turn 4 arrived, and the Austrians had finally setup a solid defensive line and were prepared to attack.  They also were begging the Duke for his grenadier reserves to hold the line and push back the French, but he remained indecisive about committing his finest men.

The Austrians launched an attack, or tried to...  Once again their poor command structure let them down on one flank where they attacked and pushed back the French in pulse 1, then suddenly decided to retreat!  In the center they decided to hold instead of pushing forward when they had an advantage.  The minor fighting continued though as the French launched an assault, only to be pushed back once again.

The time spent delaying on the Austrian side favoured the French, as their command structure was not so indecisive and instead of being concerned that things might not be perfect, pushed forward aggressively.  Friant's division moved straight past the conflict in the woods in an attempt to flank the Austrian force and push through to the town. Turn 5 once again saw the Archduke refuse to release the Austrian Grenadiers which were sorely needed at this point.

After so may combats in the game were only 1 point of damage would be caused, the French hammered into the Austrians and caused a stunning 5 points in one go, annihilating a stand in one combat.  This also set them up to cross the stream and win the game.

The Austrians had one last go at the French, trying to push them back with a lone cavalry charge, since YET AGAIN the Archduke refused to acknowledge that his Grenadiers were actually required.  The attack had no hope of success and was only done so that St. Julien would not have to face the music from the Archduke for having lost the battle (or pay that bar tab from earlier).

The outcome while demoralizing to the Austrians was historically accurate.  The poor leadership on the Austrian side had cost them what could have been an easy victory several times throughout the battle.  The French had very few command failures and pushed through to their objectives.  The French did loose a few units while pushing through the woods, but not enough to cause serious concerns.  There were more times than described in the battle report that the Austrians had something lined up, then failed to act on it due to poor command rolls.  They would either fail entirely and have to hold, or worse fall back for no bloody reason at all, right after inflicting wounds on French units! 

Overall the game was really enjoyed by everyone and once again proved that we really need to play more Napoleonic games as no matter the outcome they are always fun.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Few More Mahdists

Fresh Mahdist troops prepare for rebellion in my kitchen...
Another unit is ready to join my growing force of 28mm Mahdist warriors! There is a warband group of warriors and another group of individual riflemen to act as skirmishers. The figures are 28mm metal castings from the incredible line of miniatures sold by Perry Miniatures.

A mix of weapons on the bases...a rifle, spears and a swordsman

The small group of individually-based riflemen will join the slowly expanding group of skirmish troops that will accompany the Mahdist main force to battle.

The Mahdist command base sports a banner downloaded from a free online flag source

The warband is a mix of figures painted years ago, topped up with some additional figures I painted recently in the wake of finally completing my re-basing efforts for this collection. I have tried to blend the weapons a little bit, with a mix of spears, swords and even a couple of riflemen here and there.  There are 29 figures total in the unit, ready to bravely assault the forces of the British Empire, and overall there are now four full "warband" units at the core of my Mahdist forces.

Mahdist riflemen ready for skirmishing

You can never have too many Madhists for a Sudan game, but I'm pretty pleased with how the collection is coming together, bit by bit, building into the sort of bunch that will be able to be part of a full-on Black Powder game.  I'm looking forward to getting these fellows on the table for a scrap, hopefully sometime this fall.  Imagining the searing heat of the Sudan might warm us as winter prepares to blanket Winnipeg once again...

Monday, November 6, 2017

20 Marine Imperial Fist Legion Tactical Squad

I finished this unit about a week ago, but only got around to basing them today. It took me a long time to complete this unit, but I'm happy with the results. Next up is a Terminator squad, Contemptor and terminator Centurion. I'm hoping they go a bit quicker.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Crystalline Winter Terrain Project

The one thing I find kind of odd about most sci-fi games is that they take place on terrain that looks JUST. LIKE. EARTH. Even back in the RT days the lads used to spiff up their (admittedly rudimentary by today's standards) tables with at least some odd-coloured lichen, to give a minimal impression that we weren't battling over Kansas anymore; but nowadays it seems like green grass and leafy trees are pretty much the norm.

I admit that I am a prime offender! Our tables generally look very good indeed (if I do say so myself) but they mostly look like temperate Earth. Fine if you're playing an historical wargame (great even!) but when you're in a galaxy far, far away or out among the Ghoul Stars and the like, is the terrain you're battling over really gonna look like, say, rural France?

The original idea was to pick up some crystalline shard terrain to spiff up my winter terrain mat for Horus Heresy duty. Gale Force 9 made a good-looking set for their Battlefield in a Box range, but sadly these appear to be out of production and unavailable even on the secondary market.

However, poking around on eBay, I found numerous vendors in China selling real quartz crystal shards, for use in jewelry, magic wands (!) and the like. And they are CHEAP - like about $4 shipped for a handful. Once they arrived, execution was straightforward - cut plasticard bases to the desired shape, superglue crystals to the base, apply texture gel, paint it your desired earth colour, paint the snowy bits white, apply snow flakes, static grass and tufts, and DONE.

Here are the crystal bases with some Games Workshop Genestealers for scale. Scary!

I purchased three 100g packs of crystals and used pretty much all of them in this project.

The terrain works great for 15mm too - maybe even better than 28mm. I reckon they would look pretty cool in a 6mm game as well.

It's not as if I don't have figures to paint, oh no. So the time and energy spent on this terrain mini-project certainly could have been put to use in painting a couple more Iron Warriors, or Adeptus Mechanicus guys, or WW2 Germans, or Indian braves, or... or... but the simple fact is that sometimes when I get an idea, I just want to run with it. Can't wait to get these out in an actual game!