Sunday 20 November 2016

Warfare 2016

I spent yesterday at the Warfare show in Reading, one of my favourite shows of the year. This time I felt some of the "fizz" of he event was missing (along with some of the traders that I'd expected to see there), and there was little on the trade stands that excited me (with one exception, but that'll have to remain a secret for a few weeks yet). The B&B was good though and i picked up a set of Waddington's "Formula 1" game which for me is a trip down memory lane - it was one of our regular family Sunday afternoon games and, whilst this one was a reprint and not the original, it still feaures the lovely car dashboards and plastic racing cars; I'll probably merge this set wit our very battered original copy at some point.

Where Warfare did a grand job was in the games. As usual I was fronting up with the Wings of Glory aerodrome where we got in several games and had a great deal of interest from the public - just a shame that no-one at the show was selling the game. Anyway we played through three games (or was it 4?) and I managed to shoot down 4 enemies of the Queen whilst only being shot down once myself.

 Of the other games on display there were many lovely examples. the high spots for me were the lovely 28mm "Chain of Command" game set in the winter of 1944, the "Minions" racing agme and the Tring wargamers "Schweinfurt" bomber game.

A selection of photos from those games and others below:

Thursday 17 November 2016

Get To Da Choppa!!!!!

No. I haven't been watching "Predator" again, nor playing out its more entertaining bits on the wargames table. Instead the title refers to my recently arriving birthday present from my mother in law. MiL is great because she just asks me to buy myself something I'd like so satisfaction guaranteed :)

Anyway, my present was a "Chopper II" modelling tool from Northwest Short Line, sold by EMA Model Supplies in the UK. Basically it is a razor blade in a chopping handle mounted on an aluminium base that has an inlaid rubber cutting board. Also included are  30, 45, and 60 degree removable cutting guides that are secured in place using clamps. This means you can set it up to cut items consistently to the same length and/or angle very, very quickly and consistently. I decided to test this on its first run out today, cutting bases for 51 1/1200 renaissance galleys and 21 bergantines. This would normally be a job for an hour or two and getting consistent corner cuts  on them all would have been quite annoying (not to mention prone to error). Once I'd cut the 30mm wide strips from which the bases were to be formed it took about 20 minutes using the Chopper, and every cut pretty much perfect (apart from a few where I realised I'd not screwed the clamps down tightly enough, but that just meant the strips were a bit too long and thus easily cut down).

So, an excellent piece of kit, guaranteed to improve productivity. The only downside I can see is that the measurements are all imperial, so I will need to produce a metric overlay. Oh and the blade is quite sharp so don't accidentally get your finger in the way ("ain't got time to bleed")

Oh, by the way, did I mention the galleys? More on these later.....

Sunday 13 November 2016

Fighting Sail

The last couple of months have been really busy, not that you'd know it from my lack of posts here. Hopefully I'll be able to free up some spare time to write about the latest batch of models and games, but for now here's some thoughts on Osprey's "Fighting Sail" rules by Ryan Millar

I preordered a copy from Amazon when it was first announced and had my copy arrive on the day of release, but I've only just recently had a chance to play it. Alas I wasn't all that impressed.

Lets start with the good points. FS is well presented, mostly well written and illustrated with pictures from various Osprey titles and a selection of GHQ models which aren't so brilliantly made that they demoralise the reader. Plenty of diagrams, counters and play aids to copy and cut out (and these can be downloaded from the Osprey site so no need to get worried about bending the pages back too much). A good selection of fleet lists (Britain, France, Spain, the USA, Russia, Portugal and the Netherlands as well as privateers and pirates). And the rules are very simple and play quickly. 

The problem I found is that they don't feel like a set of age of sail rules. The movement rules use dice to determine how far a ship can move which is fine (FLoB) uses dice as well, albeit in a different manner). But under these rules it is quite permissible to turn directly into the wind, move a considerable distance directly upwind and then make a turn to put the ship back on a point of sailing with the wind over the port or starboard side. For example, I had great fun driving a US privateer rolling seven movement dice with a "navigator" trait (this allows some reroll of failed dice) moving in ways that no sailing ship should ever be seen to be doing. A simple house rule removes the problem - turn into the wind and lose all remaining movement points unless they are used to perform a tack -  but I can't help thinking that rule should have been there from the start. 

As far as manoeuvrability is concerned, all ships are equal. So a nimble schooner rigged privateer turns as quickly as a lumbering 1st rate. Which, combined with the movement and initiative system gives some interesting and atypical possibilities as ships of the line deftly manoeuvre around frigates into the perfect raking position - in one game recently a British 64 did just that, sailing around the Constitution to perform a rake which killed the US ship in a single turn of gunnery). Suggestions? - increase the minimum move between turns for ships with lower manoeuvrability, or place a limit on the total number of turns that can be conducted in a single game turn.

Also on the movement front, any damage causes a ship to take an "anchor" token which slows movement. Further damage affects fighting ability, which is a simple halving of effectiveness - no graceful degradation here but since this is a fleet action set of rules (in theory) thats OK. It is possible to remove damage if a discipline test is passed, but damage tokens come off before the anchor token (the author states "damage control takes precedence over getting moving"). To me this feels completely wrong, going against the evidence one sees in reports from actions. I would prefer to see anchors removed first, at least as an option that the player controlling the damaged ship can take. Ships just seemed to slow down far too easily in this game. Also, as befits a set of fleet action rules, there is no choice of shooting at hull or rigging (much to the annoyance of some friends playing the French - another house rule perhaps that allows players to select rigging over hull, automatically makes the first damage token suffered an anchor and allows a ship to hold 2 tokens).

The initiative system and its interaction with the movement system (initiative winner moves a ship first, then the other player moves one of theirs, players continue to alternate) mean that the initiative is practically always with the larger fleet. Which is critical when also combined with the degree to which ships can manoeuvre. 

Ships die very quickly in this game, especially at short range. Awfully fast, in fact many ships in a stand up slugging match were dead in the water after a turn of gunnery and sunk or struck after 2. Which makes for a quick game, but again doesn't really feel right.

To me thats quite a lot of negatives and, whilst the production and supporting material in terms of presentation, fleet lists and scenarios is good the whole package was, for me at least, disappointing. I expect these rules to be similar in their appeal to Warhammer Trafalgar - popular because of who is publishing them and appealing to casual gamers but ultimately disappointing for those with a deeper knowledge of the subject. Which is a pity since I think that, with a bit more effort, they could have been so much better.