Thursday 31 December 2015

2015 In Review

And so another year comes to an end. And with it the obligatory review of "the plan". I wonder how I did this time?

1) Project X - I will get phase 2 sorted out by the Summer.

"Phase 2" was to get my medieval naval rules done, dusted and published. This happened at the beginning of August so that's a "yes". I also managed to get a few scenarios written up and published as freebies, so I'm claiming 100% for this one. A good start :)

2) Engage! - I'll renovate my FASA Star Trek fleets, sort out the various unpainted ships that I have to hand and will put together stat sheets for all the models.

The BV crowd liked these rules so had a big push on this in January. Stat sheets for most of the ships in the FASA fleet books are done, but I naver managed to get started on the model renovation, nor the stat sheets for the non-FASA ships in my Star Trek collection. So this is a work in progress, but there has been considerable progress so far and I did manage to scratch build something "interesting" for a scenario (all a bit hush-hush, details when the game has been played next year). 75% on this.

3) FLoB - Yes, get those fleets renovated like I was supposed to do last year, and expand the 1/450 fleets for the Adriatic campaign (which means a few galleys needed)

Failed completely. I really do need to crack on with these flippin' galleys!

4) Burma Skirmish - I've been picking up odd bits and pieces for this for some time. 20mm "retro" gaming, going back to my wargaming roots in the 1970s and 80s. I'll put together at least a platoon's worth of troops for each side (and possibly some US as well, especially if I can track down a 20mm LVT(A) somewhere)and get some games in. "Operation Warboard" likely to be the rules in use to complete the whole retro thing :)

Slow progress - my Japanese troops were painted up early in the year and just need basing, my Aussies and Gurkhas stalled. I found some nice LVT(A)1s at a show in February for a very reasonable price, and some decent 1/72 Matildas that will support my Aussies, but still not able to get  a game in.

5) Mad Max - Inspired by the new film coming out later this year I've always had a hankering to do some sort of "road warrior" gaming. I have an idea about some rules, and there are so many handy Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars that I think will be ideal for kitbashing.

Lots of fun models made for this now. Still no rules.

6) BASF - Bolt Action Sci Fi. We've tried this a few times at BV. I have a pile of stuff to sort out for this. Fun to do.

Mostly done, although the small pile of androids and other bits & pieces I had to do in the Summer remain undone. Overall though, decent progress.

Part of the reason why things slowed down a lot in the second half of the year was that my wargaming room has relocated to my "log cabin". It is a far better setup than the "half a dining room" I had before, although its bl**dy freezing out there in the winter unless I stick the heater on. The main problem though is that I haven't managed to sort out my painting desk; a new table is required and some better lighting so that I can see what I'm doing. So "the table" will be a key element of the 2016 plan. 

Other than that there were the usual diversions, including:

Thunder Boats - Dave Schueler's hydroplane racing game which I now have set up and ready to run.

Stingray - went from a stalled project from 5 years ago to an award winning participation game in just  a few months. I was really, really pleased at how this turned out

Pre Dreadnought Naval - kicked off by thoughts of my end-of-year game, I managed to sort out some of my existing fleets and ID'd a pile of fleets to do. I expect these, especially the Chinese, will be part of the 2016 plan as well.

There were other reasons why 2015 went a bit off the rails. Some readers will know the reasons why, not for discussion here really, but for those that have helped us through the tough bits so far, many thanks. 

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Russo Japanese

I decided to end my wargaming year with an inaugural "big" naval game in the log cabin with some of my old NWS chums. Tim,. Peter and Stuart came over yesterday to try out my Russo Japanese mini campaign and a modified set of the old "DBN" rules that were published in Wargames Illustrated many, many years ago. The first challenge was finding my 1/3000 pre-dreadnought collection - I recall having all the ships for the campaign down to protected cruisers, but some seem to have gone AWOL over the years so some French proxies were brought in to fight on each side and a few ships had to "double up" for sisters.

I never expected to get all that many turns in - we didn't start until nearly eleven and ENDEX was at 1600 (plus we had a very nice pub lunch at the George over the river which took up quite a bit of time). In the end we managed two (out of a maximum of 40!)

In turn 1 the Japanese surprise attack on Port Arthur was detected before it went in and the Japanese decided to withdraw. The Russians decided from the outset to go for an aggressive strategy which saw the entire Port Arthur fleet sail to contest sea control in the Tsushima Straits (a few protected cruisers stayed behind to shell Japanese troops at some of the minor ports in Korea). The Russian move coincided with the first large Japanese troop convoy sailing from Sasabo, which was given a very heavy escort (the entire Japanese battleship and armoured cruiser force, plus a number of protected cruisers).  Ineviatbly the two forces clashed and Tsushima happened early, although in this case it was the Japanese who came of worse, losing four battleships to two Russian losses. The cruiser fleets of both sides were savaged and the Russians lost a number of destroyers. However the convoy escaped and returned to Sasebo.

Outset of the February 1904 Battle of Tsushima, as seen from the Japanese side. The armoured cruisers are deploying to the east, the battleships to the west. In the end the battle effectively split into two separate actions as each sides battleships and cruisers headed away from each other and squared up against their opposite numbers. 

Turn 2 saw another attempt by the Japanese to get their troops to Korea. This time they assembled just about any warship that could float and sent them along as escort. They encountered a patrolling force comprising their three undamaged battleships (ships hit in actions are required to remain in port for repairs on at least the following campaign turn) and a handful of cruisers and destroyers. The Russians, clearly intoxicated by their earlier victory, steamed in to the attack, but numbers tell and the battleships succumbed to a hail of gunfire from the Japanese armoured cruisers and a skillfully delivered series of torpedo attacks. All three Russian battleships were sunk, he surviving lighter ships making a swift escape to Port Arthur. The Russian commander later cursed his aggressive approach and agreed that letting the convoy through, given the size of he escort, would have been prudent

In little more than a month of "real time" both sides were fought practically to a standstill as far as major warships were concerned, the Russians reduced to three operational battleships, the Japanese to two. The rest of the war, had we played on, would have been much more subdued as the players realised the need to play the "long game", the benefits of basing out of multiple ports, covering their strategic objectives and gaining a better understanding as to how the area movement and sea control system would help them.

The rules themselves worked fine, as always the post-action discussion revealed a few areas where clarifications were needed and where rule tweaks would help, and so a revision was duly typed up in the small hours. But what we did establish was that the campaign and tactical rules did provide for a fun and relatively fast campaign system, easily adaptable to other pre-dreadnought theatres of operation, and well suited to a weekend or an occasional evening campaign.

Friday 25 December 2015


As some readers may know our place is a bit of a menagerie. Well, our six cats and seven horses have been joined by three new residents that Santa left for me last night. Introducing Nico, Pendragon and Alastair, the Alpaca trio :)

I hope all my readers had a lovely Christmas and have been blessed with wonderful and unusual presents as well.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Circus Maximus

As 2015 draws to a close the Berkeley Vale club has embarked upon another new project, Roman chariot racing. Steve brought along a decent set of card driven rules that he found on the internet and adapted them to his existing "Circus Maximus" table cloth. Add a selection of 28mm chariots and seven insane drivers and the stage was set for a fun evening. Three laps later and we had four crashes, Shaun killed as he was dragged behind his bolting team, Steve run over and killed by Andy as he swept to victory and three more crashes on the last lap.

In the end only three chariots made it intact to the finish line. Andy won a well deserved victory, I came in second and New Dave was third.

Great fun and we will be starting a league in the new year. I'd love to put together a chariot team of my own using Steve Barber's models (I'd like to include the dragged driver and "pedestrian" figures) but they seem to be unavailable. Anyone who could help in tracking down a set please get in touch!

Sunday 29 November 2015

Reveille 2015

I spent the day at the Reveille show at Lincombe Barn in Bristol with the Wings of Glory Aerodrome participation game. Great fun as usual and I actually managed to shoot down more aircraft than I lost this time (5 kills, killed once, so much better than usual!)

As in previous years it was just as much about catching up with old friends as playing the games. I passed on some good ideas to a chum who coincidentally is planning exactly the same mini campaign as I am (Java Sea, 1942) so we swapped notes, I got some wicked ideas for a more combative version of "Thunder Boats" and I chatted professional wargaming with John Curry. I also was reminded how good children are at extorting money from adults as the raffle "brute squad" ruffed us up for tickets :)

I was aiming not to go shopping but a few odd items caught my eye. A 37mm M6 Gun Motor Carriage for the USMC offshoot of my 20mm "Burma Skirmish", a set of four Airfix 1/600 destroyers for a quid each and - the prize of the day - a copy of the original Battlelines edition of "Wooden Ships and Iron Men", which I have never seen before.

There were some lovely games there as well, a few photos below for your enjoyment. Looking forward to next year!

Saturday 21 November 2015

Thunder Boats!

A short post today after  a long break with some pics of a new (to me at least) game, "Thunder Boats". Its  a lovely set of rules for powerboat racing written by Dave Schueler in the US. Dave sent me a copy recently and I've spent the last few days printing up the rules, laminating the boat and event cards and making the few markers needed (course marker buoys and "rooster tails")

As far as models are concerned I haven't been able to get hold of any of the hydroplane boats similar to the ones Dave and his friend Kevin Smyth but I have been able to get hold of some modern "Hot Wheels" model boats which do the job nicely. The only issue here is that they are larger than the hexes on my hex mat, but to counter that I just have the boats filling two hexes instead of one and after plying it through a few times that works perfectly well.

The game uses a dice based movement system with the type of dice thrown depending on the throttle setting of the boat. It uses unconventionally numbered dice, the same that are used in the "Formula De" tabletop motor racing game.. I've colour marked the boat control sheets to make it easier to tell which dice to use for each setting.

So this joins my (short) list of naval non-wargames, and I'll be looking to try this on the chaps at the BV club sometime. But it has got me wondering about a "death race" version, and some of the ideas would work very, very well for a Star Wars pod race variant.......

Sunday 25 October 2015

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!

Despite a nasty fever (102 degrees yesterday, down to a manageable 100 today) I felt I couldn't let the 600th anniversary of Agincourt pass by without  some fun and games in the newly recommissioned wargames HQ. So I broke out DBA and gave it a bash. I don't have 100YW armies so my Wars of the Roses and Burgundians stood in for the action.

Things went fairly according to "plan", although some poor die rolls on the part of the English as battle was joined made it look a bit iffy for a while.

However, normality was restored as good King Henry despatched d'Albret for the 4th element killed and victory once again went to the English.

Just curious to see that my green sheet looks blue in these photos - obviously the ground was pretty waterlogged :)

Sunday 11 October 2015

Goodbye XH558

Today was a bittersweet day as Vulcan XH558 made her final "tour of the South". I went up to our local airport at Staverton between Gloucester and Cheltenham to join a thousand or so other Vulcan enthusiasts see the old girl stage a flypast of the airport and the Jet Age Museum. I got there early and spent a while watching some of the other traffic, it was surprising how busy the airport is. We were also entertained by a Pitts Special which took to the skies a few times and did impromptu aerobatic displays, often very low and often just seconds after takeoff (for example 3 complete rolls between wheels up and before reaching the perimeter fence)

After a long but pleasant wait in the semi-sunshine XH558 hove into view over Gloucester for a single fast pass along the runway, waving her wings as she went, then off in a roar towards Brize Norton and her next appointment.

It was all over in a minute, but it was well worth the wait. There were quite a few damp eyes at the airport, I can tell you.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Stingray at Blast tastic

Today has been a lovely day spent in the sunshine at Frampton where I have been a fence judge at the FFRC Hunter Trials. Great fun, and spoilt with plentiful supplies of tea and cake during the day :)

But yesterday saw the latest (and probably last) public outing of my "Stingray" participation game at the Blast Tastic sci fi wargames show in Bristol.

We got through a few very enjoyable games using the latest "tweaked" rules and it was interesting to see the development in tactics that the new rules encouraged (especially counter missile tactics). My planned pit crew had to drop out for various reasons but I was ably assisted at short notice by Chris, Neil and the "mystery wargamer" - many thanks chaps.

Of course these games themselves have led to a few modifications which I've implemented today. I think now very close to being the "final" set (until the next time, anyway!)

Monday 28 September 2015

Blood Moon

Nothing to do with wargaming, I managed to remember to wake up in time to see the lunar eclipse this morning, And what a nice sight it was at some silly time just after 3am. Lunar photography still eludes me but what I managed to snap this time wasn't too bad I think :)

Will try for a better one in 2019!

Sunday 20 September 2015

Doncaster - Day 2

So, the second day at Doncaster and after a lovely breakfast we closed up at the air museum for more games. I played Chris Haigh's "Frigate race" game, pitting my HMS President against four other ships in what was supposed to be a race around all the islands but ended up rather shorter than that.

Other games included an Operation Pedestal WW2 game and a WW1 seaplane game with the Germans trying to sink a British submarine.

The lurgy did its best to kill me off during the morning so I called ENDEX and headed home at lunchtime, but I did manage to finish off the Vulcan part of my weekend with a visit to the aircraft's hangar at Robin Hood airport for some happy snaps :)

Saturday 19 September 2015

Doncaster - Day 1

This weekend I am at the Wings of Glory weekend at the Doncaster Air Museum. I came last year and was struck down by a particularly nasty bug and sod it, its happened again. So as I write this I have a temperature of lots and I'm dosed up on Beechams.

This has of course put  a bit of a downer on the gaming side of the weekend, but regardless today has been a rather lovely day.

The first game at the event that I played in wasn't Wings of Glory, it was Sails. A "fleet action" (actually four ships, one first rate and three 74s a side) where a late call to go independent spelt disaster for our RN squadron. Fortunately some deft manoeuvring (after piling into each other) and some lucky chit draws had my 74 force three of the Frenchies to strike and in so doing won us the game - and me the prize (which was coincidentally the same kind of ship as I was driving in the game). Alas I wasn't in a photography mood so no pics.

Game #2 was a WW1 two seater bash. But I dipped out of this to head over to Robin Hood Airport to see the Vulcan depart for her display today at Southport. As many readers will know this is the last year that the Vulcan will be flying and we missed out on seeing her at Old Sarum when she suffered a fuel leak last weekend. So it was basically see her today or never again.

What a sight!

Well worth bunking off the game for. And having seen her go I was on the verge of heading back when the nice old chap with the lovely daughter to whom I was chatting said "wait until she returns, it'll be worth it"

How right he was, as the Vulcan made her approach the went back to full power, gear up and away for a fast pass across the airport and around again. And the second time a "bolter" as she touched down and then back to full power and back into the skies again to come around for her third circuit, anding and back to the hangar. Apparently this extra "mini display" happens rarely, if ever, and I felt quite privileged to see it. And it brought a tear to many viewers' eyes.

Saying my goodbyes I returned to the air museum where a massive WW1 dogfight was taking place (nearly 30 players, "respawning" aircraft and the biggest single game I've played in). Unfortunately the room was baking hot - one of the younger players keeled over with heat stroke - I was going downhill fast and I never really got into the action, so it wasn't as much fun for me as it should have been, but the others had a great time and everyone won a prize

So now off to bed and Beechams, hoping tomorrow is another - and rather less germ-ridden - day!

Sunday 13 September 2015

A Short Time Ago....

.. at a supermarket not far away...

Just back from the weekly grocery shop at Tesco where I discovered that the old Star Wars Micro Machines have been spruced up and reissued as Episode 7 models. I understand there are at least 2 sets out there but the only sets available at the time contained two TIE Fighters in the new black/dark grey and pale fins scheme and two of the new model X Wings. I think the other set includes two X Wings, a Y Wing, TIE/Adv and a TIE fighter, presumably the original models (as it is entitled "Trench Run").

As before the models fit very well with FFG's X Wing range, and thanks to FFG's policy of putting just about everything son their website to download it is possible to get everything you need to play these ships with the game. They don't come with flight stands but the undersides of the models have the holes from the originals so they are easy to stick on whatever stands you have to hand, As with the originals the lasers on the X Wings are a bit bendy but I think the application of some hot water should sort them out nicely.

Also included are a couple of pilots (one Imperial, one Rebel, and a Stormtrooper "skiff" thing with a heavy laser or similar "50 cal"ish weapon. Ideal for SW skirmish gaming or, if you aren't into this, for general 15mm skirmish gaming as they look like they'll make ideal downed pilots and recce units.

Not bad for a tenner and it would seen that Clubcard holders might get something more off them as I got a £3.19 voucher for my next shop :)