Monday, November 30, 2009

Road Trip and SYW Plunge

I had to head out to Toronto last week for work. I figured that since I was going to be away for a chunk of time, I might as well bring some "homework" with me - a bunch of Napoleonic French 25/28mm plastics from the Perry range as I gradually expand my army....the plan nearly backfired, as the exquisitely incompentent buffoons at Air Canada decided that my luggage and I had no need to be on the same plane, but I managed to get 11 guys done last week! Being away from home sucks, but at least you get work done.

Of course, this is an "all-trenchcoat" unit, so it is kind of like cheating, as the coats paint up pretty fast compared to the uniforms. I finished the command group for these guys on the weekend (unfortunately the command is not in great coats...oddly, that is the one oversight of the Perry collection, if you can call it an "oversight" - it is a pretty magnificent line-up and I'm not about to complain). That unit is "baking in the goop" waiting for final basing.

Switching gears, some of you may dimly remember some smack-talk (by me) of painting up a "Leuthen Battlepac" of 6mm Austrians from the Seven Years War that I had inexplicably obtained about three years ago (I believe a distributor sent it to me as a 'makeup' for an incredibly late shipment of 6mm Napoleonics - I never did get an explanation as to how SYW stuff would make up for Napoleonic stuff, but free is free). The bag was Austrian SYW stuff by Adler miniatures (outstanding 6mm figs) - about 180 musketeers, 24 grenadiers, 3 sets of command, some hussars, some cuirassiers, some artillery batteries and mounted officers - a nice set of stuff.

I don't know much about the SYW, but it is a period that has interested me because the uniforms are really, really neat - with the huge coats, cuffs, collars and tricorne hats! But I never got into it, given that I had enough other stuff on the go, and besides, once you have seen Brian H's 15mm collection of SYW stuff, well, really - what can you hope to add to that??? Also, any encounter with a Prussian Army of Frederick the Great's time tends to feel like you are playing against the Eldar in 40k.

On the other hand, 6mm - well, it has a different look, feel, and will be more forgiving (I hope) of the fact that I don't know a whole lot about the different units' facing colours etc. I started off painting a few "test" figs last night. These are Austrians in the "advancing" pose (I prefer the marching pose, but you go with what you have - like I said, it was free stuff).

I will base them to go with the "Might & Reason" rules by Sam Mustafa. With the test figures out of the way, I can get to a more "industrial" approach.

I have ordered some books for the armies of the period, so I can hopefully figure out other facing colours etc. and of course I'm hoping to get some flags from Brian too. If I actually get a Christmas holiday, look for a SYW war force in 6mm appearning in a Fawcett game soon.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Horse and Musket Madness

Some pics of recent progress from the painting table. Up first, a completed unit of Austrian 15mm regulars. These were completed in the midst of a recent mad run on some long overdue 15mm Napoleonic projects, which itself was inspired by a recent game.

This unit has only one flag (all of the other ones have two, but I'm running short of standard bearer models, and I have not noticed the extra flags helping the Austrians fight any harder!). This brings the total number of regular infantry units for the Austrians to 16 - still four short of my goal of 20, but one thing at a time.

Much MORE exciting is the completion of my very first unit of 25mm scale Austrians! Well, technically they are Hungarian, but you get the point. It only took me THREE YEARS to finish this group of 22 infantry and one mounted figure. I did the first 6 infantry three years ago, then 8 more, including the officers last year, and then finished the balance this week, including the excellent painting nite Dallas hosted. The figures are all from Foundry, and the bases provide a very satifying heft! Excellent banners (in this unit and the 15mm one) courtesy of Brian.

Hopefully this bunch will inspire me to proceed a little more quickly on reinforcements, but generally I am trying to get a critical mass of French done first in 25mm. Here is a (admittedly poor) photo of some French Voltigeurs I finished last week, based as skirmishers for Shako. The figures are Perry, from their plastic French infantry box set.

As you can tell from my insane scatter of different projects and periods, focus is not one of my strong suits! I have some other horse-and-musket nuttiness to go in my system (read - Leuthen Battepack) before I get back to preparations for the final showdown on Toxo IV...but I still harbour ambitions of a 25mm Napoleonic game sometime next year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another Poll Winner

Well, the latest poll has concluded, and it looks like 15mm Bavarians are the winner.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that we typically pressure/abuse fellow conscript Cam into painting something - indeed, anything. Cam, while we're on that topic, I understand the modern Chinese have arrived. I look forward to photos, uploaded via Iphone!

But for fun, it was time to pressure Mike F a little bit too. Thanks to our abuse of Mike F, he now collects British troops for, what is it, five different periods? And he's been great about it. His modern 25mm brits are awesome, as are the WW2 ones, and his 6mm modern brits have dished out (and received) quite a bit of abuse to my Warsaw Pact chaps. And who can forget Future Gordon Brown?

Seeing Mike F's strong progress along the path to the dark side, it's time for him to take the ultimate plunge. Come on Mike....I need to order some 15mm Austrian stuff anyways, so let's get some 15mm Bavarians from AB miniatures via Eureka, track down an Osprey book for painting reference (pictured above for convenience), and your journey to the dark side will be complete!

And I guess it's time to think of a new poll...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Battle of Moreuil Wood

"It's a charge, boys!"

Yesterday, after attending our usual ceremony at the local cenotaph, I finished painting my Great War Canadian cavalry (fittingly, as it was Remembrance Day) and we set up a wargame for the evening. As I'd written before, I've wanted to game the Battle of Moreuil Wood, one of the last great cavalry charges in history. In that action, Lt. Gordon Muriel (!) Flowerdew (!!) won a posthumous VC leading the charge of Lord Strathcona's Horse against German infantry and machineguns outside Moreuil Wood.

The terrain set up above represents the eastern edge of the Wood (bottom) and the German positions (centre). Canadian dismounted cavalry troops are pushing through the Wood, while Flowerdew and the bulk of "C" Squadron of the LSH ride to cut off the German retreat. We used the new "Great War" ruleset from Warhammer Historical Games and played "The Pocket" scenario which seemed to fit the historical situation reasonably well. The game lasts six turns, and the victory condition for the attacker (Canadians) is to eliminate every scoring unit in the German deployment zone. Any result other than this is a German victory.

Cam took up the German command and deployed his troops (An Assault Company of three platoons, Company Command section, two HMG sections and a 77mm field gun, led by Battalion HQ).

Mike F. commanded the Canadians and used the scenario "reserve" rule to keep two cavalry troops and the Squadron HQ in reserve, while deploying the other two dismounted troops in the Wood, and his two HMG sections to the north.

The Germans and Canadians exchanged fire, with Cam seriously depleting one of the dismounted cavalry troops while Mike destroyed Cam's assault platoon with concentrated rifle fire. Cam's troops on the northern edge of his deployment zone, behind the wall, shot up one of Mike's HMG's but the other wreaked vengeance, killing half of Cam's platoon.

Then in turn two, Mike rolled for his reserves...

...and on they came! Mike deployed his cavalry on the far short table edge, opposite the Wood. Flowerdew had clearly taken the extra time to maneuver around to the flank of his enemy, and his cavalry worked into position for the charge.

1st Troop struck hard, killing the crew of the 77mm gun before it could fire a shot! Meanwhile, to the north, 2nd Troop charged home against the Germans defending the stone wall.
Unfortunately Flowerdew and his command section were caught in between in open ground and subsequently slaughtered by Cam's machinegun... making the posthumous VC possible after all. This was the end of turn three and things were not looking so good for the Germans. Shortly thereafter, Cam bid "auf Wiedersehen" and I took over the German command.
Sadly for Mike I brought a hot hand to the die rolling and the Germans started to come back, big style. The key for the Canuck cavalry was to hit hard and wipe out an enemy unit each turn. Even starting at a strength of ten models, they don't have the staying power to keep in close combat turn after turn with large enemy units. However this is just what happened. The Germans on the stone wall lasted two turns longer than expected and whittled the cavalry down. The German battalion commander, Major Haase, turned out to have a real taste for mixing it up hand-to-hand and ended up the sole survivor of his HQ group. Luckily the Assault Company command section was able to charge in and help him out, ending the Canadian threat for good.
At the end of turn six the Germans still controlled their zone, but just barely. Of the troops that began the game, there remained one assault platoon a bit reduced, a machinegun section, the Assault Company HQ, and Major Haase. The assault platoon is a scoring unit so that was enough for a German win. A very fun and good-looking game!
I also have to give a shout out to Jon at Blaze Away Miniatures for supplying the cavalry models. They are just super-nice, easy to paint and characterful. Rich at Dayton Painting Consortium generously supplied the sabres I used to convert several of the models, so thanks very much to him as well.

Monday, November 9, 2009

That's a LOT of figs! - 60,000 Point 40K Apocalypse Battle

The Battle for Armageddon

(click on the photos for larger images)

On Saturday, Nov. 7, the Astronomi-con boys (Christian, MikeM and Keith) organized a grand battle, involving a themed game between Orks and Imperials on the planet Armageddon. The Eldar played a third side, who had their own mysterious objectives.

As the morning dawned, the players gathered at the University of Manitoba for the game. As it turned out, 15 players showed up, with approximately 60,000 points worth of painted models, to battle it out.

The photo above gives an indication of the scope of the affair. The 5 large Ork war machines in the photo are 4 Stompas and a scratch-built Gargant. That's a lot of dakka...


As stated above, the game was basically Orks vs. Imperials (11 players total) with 4 additional Eldar players, including myself. There would be three factions' turns during the course of each game turn: Ork, Imperial, then Eldar.

Factions received victory tokens each turn for possession of various strategic locations on the board, for killing named characters, and for inflicting structure point damage against super-heavy vehicles. The margin of tokens at the end of the game would decide victory, but you could try to trade tokens between factions (for example, in exchange for a one-turn truce) and a faction could "cash in" tokens to purchase various in-game assets like orbital strikes, during the course of the game.

The complete rules of the grand battle can be found online here.

The Eldar could score tokens, usable to trade or buy assets, but for no other purpose. At the start of the game, we drew randomly from a set of scenario cards. On the card we drew, we were presented with a points spread between the Imperial and Ork forces - if the Imperials won by between 6-15 battle tokens, their victory would be downgraded and the Eldar would win a major victory. Other specified spreads on the card would result in Eldar minor victories or a loss.

So, the Eldar would have to try and manipulate the battle and manage its received victory tokens, to manufacture an Imperial win of the required spread. Very atmospheric.


As usual, I fielded my Swordwind army. This time, I brought around 4,000 points of models. All the Aspect temples were represented, plus various psykers, other supporting troops, wraith constructs, a Nightwing aerospace interceptor, and a Scorpion superheavy grav tank (represented by the old Tempest superheavy from Armorcast):

Noah and Mike, two of the other Eldar players, also fielded Swordwind themed forces. The fourth player, Derek, had a mixed force of Guardians and Aspects. Between the four of us, we were able to field a 5-tank Fire Prism formation (controlled by Noah), a 5-tank Aspect Assault Wave (controlled by myself), and an ersatz air squadron of 3 Nightwing interceptors and a Phoenix fighter-bomber. The Eldar had the only aircraft on the board, so we had air superiority - but could those planes make any dent in the walls of steel we faced?

Below is a picture of Christian, who fielded all the Imperial Guard forces on the table immediately behind him. I think he likes tanks.

Below is a picture of MikeM, taken during the Imperial setup. Note the Warhound Titan to his right - a treasured relic from the mid 1990's.

The Game

The Orks set up on a broad front, sending a "Green Tide" of Boyz towards the spaceport tower in the centre. They set up more Boyz to hold the city within the middle of their (South) board edge deployment zone. On their left flank they set up the heavy iron, multiple superheavies leading many, many more boyz on the ground.

Later on in the game, they ended up strategically deploying a multiple-Trukk Cult of Speed near a river crossing to the northeast, and a wing of jetbikes just north of the Warhound Titan.

The couple of hundred or so Boyz in the Green Tide by the spaceport looked awesome.

The Imperials set up mostly to the north and northwest. A couple of dozen Leman Russ tanks and Chimera APCs, backed up by some Baneblade and Shadowsword superheavies, would make their way towards a strategic hill in the west.

The Space Marines, including two(!) Vindicator Linebreaker squadrons, would make for the spaceport, supported by Imperial Guard and Grey Knights, and one each of Malchador and Baneblade superheavy tanks. Deep in the Imperial deployment zone, near the north board edge, Guardsmen occupied on or near a strategically located village with various supporting elements, including the Warhound Titan, some more Shadowswords, and a Basilisk artillery squadron.

The fighting started right away, with the Orks advancing towards the spaceport and the hill. Off board artillery was dropped on the close-packed Imperial forces, killing 2 of 3 Basilisks. Further fire from the guns of the Stompas and Gargant cut a swath through several tanks.

In return, the Imperials lobbed several extremely large blast markers at the Orks, inflicting several casualties that somehow didn't seem to make a dent in the greenskins' numbers.

Pre-game, the Eldar marked on maps where they would appear on the table, including Waygates (out of which any ground forces would move) that were deployed only at the start of the Eldar players' turn. Surprise!

The Eldar deployed entirely in the eastern third of the table, to help ensure that their outnumbered forces would not be separated and defeated in detail. Also, we set up each of the 4 Waygates within 36" of another one, to assist all the psychic activity we hoped to rely on. (Within 18" of a Waygate, Eldar psykers would automatically pass psychic tests and gain a strength bonus to strength-based psychic attacks.)

Below, from left to right, Mike's, Noah's and my forces stream out of their respective Waygates (we had models to represent two of these assets, and markers for the remainder).

Mike's forces quickly coming to grips with the enemy.

Looking at how the battle was shaping up, the Eldar decided to concentrate their efforts against the Imperials. After Noah dropped an orbital strike and I fired the Scorpion's Pulsars, the 6-gun Vindicator battery was reduced to one effective gun.

Later, the Imperials dropped several drop pods worth of Marines and Dreadnoughts in the middle of the Ork city, to take pressure off the spaceport and to be, basically, heroic.

The Ork jetbikes appeared to the rear of the Titan. IIRC, they managed to damage the Warhound, but were all killed by subsequent shooting.

The Eldar aircraft were kept in strategic reserve. When they came on, they concentrated on the Titan and the other superheavy tanks in the Imperial rear. The Titan lost all its guns, and had a single structure point remaining.

As the battle progressed, a giant scrum developed around the hill, involving the Orks vs. the Imperial Guard and some Space Marine Dreadnoughts. One Stompa cut a Shadowsword in two with one swing from its chainsaw. The big Ork vehicle to the right of the hill disgorged lots of Boyz, and the Gargant itself carried 20 or 30 more Boyz...

A pair of Ork Pulsa Rokkits landed beside the Malchador, the Grey Knights, and some other tanks, temporarily reducing their BS to 1 due to the seismic effects. Ouch!

The large open area in the middle of the photo below was the former location of a Baneblade and several of Noah's Aspect warriors, consumed in the explosion of the Baneblade's reactor.

As the game progressed, the Scorpion superheavy tank and a mounted Seer Council led the Aspect Assault Wave towards the spaceport, which was protected to the east by the Malchador and the remaining Vindicator. The Malchador expended its fire against the Fortuned Seer Council.

After several rounds of epic close combat, the Marines finally took the Ork-occupied city. Only a few Battle Brothers survived to celebrate their glorious accomplishment.

In the centre, the Green Tide had been greatly reduced by the staunch Imperial defenders of the spaceport.

As the final Eldar turn started, the Eldar declined to buy any more assets and gave all their 19 victory tokens to the Orks. The Ork generals, being badly behind the Imperials, gladly accepted those tokens.

With the numbers of active/effective forces around the spaceport so reduced (the Green Tide was almost completely gone), the Scorpion superheavy tank led several other Eldar units in to capture the spaceport without firing a shot. The subsequent victory tokens for holding the spaceport would thus be denied to the Imperials.

Below, Mike's Eldar forces move away from their own Waygate, ceding it to the Orks. In this way, the Orks would gain a few more victory tokens.

Mike redeployed his 3 aircraft to the rear of the damaged Gargant, destroying it with massed Bright Lance and missile fire. This loss put the surviving ground forces around the hill at rough parity, so in the end no one controlled it - it was merely contested.

To the southwest, a unit of Thunderhammer/Stormshield Terminators had been holding a strategic bridge. Three squads of deep striking or jumping Swooping Hawks poured grenade and Lasblaster fire into them. The Marines rolled too many "1's" to keep the bridge. Derek's Hawks alone killed 3 Terminators:

Derek's forces held onto the Waygate located within the collection of red buildings below:

In a final show of Eldar disdain, Noah fired the Fire Prism battery at the weaponless Warhound Titan, destroying it. This had no effect on the outcome of the battle; it was merely esthetically pleasing.

As the final victory tokens were tallied, the Imperial forces ended up with 61 tokens, 6 more than the Orks. The Eldar players revealed their scenario card, and the Eldar managed to steal away the win.

Eldar = Major Victory
Imperials = Minor Victory
Orks = Loss

The Eldar victory conditions were very interesting. The Eldar forces had to manage their victory tokens and assets very carefully, and fight (or decline to fight) at the appropriate times. Kudos to Noah, who kept track of all the victory tokens won, expended and traded each turn by all three factions.

This was also the largest 40K game I have ever played in. Despite it being a floor game, no one's models were actually crushed underfoot. Phew!

Everyone involved seemed to have a fun time. I certainly did.

Fun With Shako Rules

During last week's game, we rekindled our 3/4 love - 1/4 hate relationship with the Shako 2 rules (or, more like Shako 1.5). Leaving aside the rather unfortunate production values - the book quality is disappointing for the price, but then, maybe I should publish my own book or shut up - Shako 2 still has a lot going for it, namely the ability to play out a reasonably sized battle at the battalion level without needing a whole weekend just to play one turn.

Well, of course I'm exaggerating. Not a whole weekend for a turn. But some of those other battalion rules can take a long while, meaning a whole weekend for a battle. And, unlike General de Brigade, you can actually hope to assemble enough painted figures to play a game in one lifetime.

Alright - I'm ranting again! Obviously, if you wanted to play one of those General de Brigade scenarios, you could do it in 15mm, and maybe paint enough figures in your own lifetime to play a game....but I'm digressing. Back to Shako.

Shako is nice and reliable, and relatively simple. And yet, and topic that came up for debate was the penalty for a failed volley inflicted on a unit that is being charged. Is a unit compelled to always fire? You would think that would work out - generally, I would want to try and shoot anyone, or any group of people, running at me with a bayonet and shouting. But in Shako 2, it's a real roullette if your unit is "staggered" (disorganized slightly from the effect of previous musket fire or artillery). Basically, you will be a disadvantage already in the melee because you are staggered. If you miss the volley (which you will be likely to miss, because you are staggered) your disadvantage becomes even greater, so much so that it was often worth it NOT to shoot the people charging at you with bayonets fixed.

Following some research and email discussion, over the weekend, Brian provided the clarity that alluded us last Thursday. Basically, in a firefight situation (i.e. nobody is charging), units must shoot. In a melee situation (i.e. you are getting charged) you have the option to shoot.

I think for house rule purposes though, we will find some way to pants the failed volley modifier. You should, generally, always want to shoot people who want to stab you. Any rules mechanism that perverts that for some sense of "reality" (when so much else is abstracted - after all, that one cannon is representing something like 10 guns) I think is a bad one. As if getting stabbed in the face isn't enough of a penalty already!

Thanks to Brian for sorting it all out for us. Too bad he was not able to make it out last week!

Meanwhile, I am waiting to peruse a copy of some new rules - "LaSalle", by Sam Mustafa (creator of the incredibly awesome Grande Armee rules) and "Black Powder" (I forget who wrote those).

On the down side, if I want to use these rules for 25mm, I might have to rebase the stuff I have already painted (OR do Austrian units with 36 figures!). On the upside, I really like Grande Armee, so I hope "LaSalle" will live up to the high expectations.

Friday, November 6, 2009

After Action Report - Note To Self: Paint More Grenzers...

Last night we assembled at Dallas' place for a game of Napoleonics, using the Shako II rules. The scenario was based on the battle of Teugen-Hausen in April 1809, when the Austrians, during their invasion of Bavaria, had an opportunity to knock out Marhsal's Davout's 3rd Corps.

Dallas, Cam and Mike F. went with the French side, while Dave V., Bill and myself rolled on the Austrian side. The game was set on a 6'x4' table, with Teugen on one side, Hausen on the other, and hills and forests dominating the middle, and a road and a clearing being the most direct rout between two towns. The objective for each side was to capture the the town on the other side.

The Austrians had an advance guard and two brigades moving down the road starting almost on top of two of Davout's brigades. One French brigade in particular was loaded with experienced batallions who enjoyed elite morale ratings. Head on collision ensued right from the start of the game.

An Austrian brigade moves through the high ground in a snail-like flanking attempt

The French side was quite concerned at the fact that the Advance Guard for the Austrians, run by Dave, was almost on top of them at the start. The Advance Guard had two regiments of light cavalry, some Landwher (poor quality infantry) and some Grenzers (average conscripts drawn from border marches toward the Ottoman empire).

Although the French were griping, I figured the Advance Guard would be lucky to be a speed bump in the face of the French vets. On the Austrian side, we hoped Dave would die gloriously (or failing that, at least die in place) while we moved up and flanked the French with our massive field battalions.

And indeed, although they had no cavalry on hand, the French units ventilated the Austrian cavalry and defeated them in two turns, at the cost of a few skirmish stands. Even though Bill's brigade moved into the gap to fill in for the empty saddles, I was concerned, because my flanking brigade was taking a very long time to move to its objective.

The French flank - I never got there...

Bill's brigade started to get lit up as well at this time. But Dave V impressed everyone (well, on the Austrian side at least) with an incredible performance by his Advance Guard. Although the history books indicate the Grenzers were conscripts drafted from the border area of the Ottoman region, based on Dave's rolling last night, Grenzers appeared to have been an elite formation armed with machineguns.

Revised artists rendering of Austrian Grenzers from the battle of Teugen-Hausen

Dave V rolled "6" after "6" for his musketry witht the Grenzer unit. They ventilated two elite French infantry battalions, and halted the charge of a third, basically stalling the advance of the elite French brigade, even as Bill's brigade of regulars began to waver. For the French side, Mike and Cam had a tough time hitting the broad side of a barn, much less the "Croation Sensation" Grenzer battalion that was in the way.

To add insult to injury, the Landwher battalion defeated a battalion of French regulars in melee!

Austrian grots hold the line, while regulars eat cannister and start to fold

Even with this heroic effort, by turn 8 the French were starting to punch through, so while we had to call the game at around midnight, it was definitely tilting toward a French victory, even if it would be one with a bloody nose.

It was great to play Napoleonics again, and a lot of fun to roll out with my Austrian figs. These games are always a good spur to finish some long dormant projects, and it was great to add some units again to my Austrian 15mm collection. I hope to add some more.

Thanks to all for coming to play, and to Dallas for hosting once again!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Painting Update - 15mm Austrians

As covered previously in the blog, my 15mm Austrian Napoleonic collection has been short of reinforcements for quite some time. I tidied up a few loose ends over the weekend and last night during Monday night football to try and give them SOME new blood.

In addition to the Landwher from last week, I finished off a unit of skirmishers, for starters, so at least one Austrian brigade can get a skirmish screen. I also added some artillery pieces, including one base that can stand in as horse battery.

The other unit I finished was a unit of Cheveauxlegers - Austrian light cavalry. Oddly, I had started the unit 8 years ago, but not finished it. So I added the command base, and one more base, to round out the unit.

Hopefully they'll see some action this week!