Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Proteus Diet - 40k Battle Report

Land Raider Proteus makes a tabletop debut
To mark the visit of Conscript Sean M from parts out east we squeezed some extra gaming with a pair of 40k 6th Edition games.  My most recent experience playing 40k was typically horrible, but what the heck?  For a change of pace I rolled out with my Tau - a collection of figures I painted over 10 years ago.  Dallas brought out his Howling Griffons retro "beakie" Marines, and Dave V brought his Eldar.
Table just before deployment - the artifact is in the middle, by the crossroads

During our previous game, Dave V mentioned that the Tau were pretty vicious to deal with in the current edition of the rules.  I haven't played a game using the Tau for like....I'm not even sure - maybe eight years? If a 40k expert like Dave V is concerned about the Tau, then there absolutely must be something there, so I figured it would be fun to wheel them out for the current edition. He was right...
Fire Warriors prepare to take out pretty much anything with their high power weapons

We played 1000 point games on a 6' x 4' table.  Up first I played Dallas' Marines.  The scenario involved capturing an old relic from the centre of the table.  My force included six Crisis suits, two Broadside suits, a small unit of four drones, and two squads of twelve Fire Warriors.  Dallas had two squads in Rhinos, a squad of Terminators, and his brand spanking new Land Raider Proteus (click here for a post showing some excellent WIP shots on this outstanding project by Dallas).
Broadside suit goes hunting
The Proteus advances, not expecting what comes next...
The game involved a lot (a lot) of casualties for the Marines.  The Tau are...broken.  The firepower of their basic troopers is sufficient to knock out Rhinos.  They put out a volume of high-AP fire that decimates armoured troops like Marines or Terminators.  The Crisis suits can move, fire, then move again.  The Broadside suits' rail guns have strength of 10, and AP1, and that really wreck vehicles.
More Fire Warriors in a wadi on the flank
Gun drones irritate the opponents - note the flaming Rhinos...
Tau Commander with Crisis suits
Dallas' outstanding Land Raider model suffered from an acute case of the "first-game-for-a-new-model-curse".  My Broadsides fired on it on our first turn, and we rolled vegas.  The Land Raider was reduced to a crater without firing a shot...ouch....about the only consolation to offer Dallas on that one is to assure him that at least the "curse game" is over with.
This crater was the Land Raider Proteus the top of the second turn...
Marine vehicles burn while the cheesebag Crisis suits hop around and cause trouble...
On the plus side for Dallas, despite a stack of casualties, it was a tie game.  The victory conditions revolved entirely around seizing the artifact, which Dallas' Marines did on the second turn, and held until the game ended, even as the smoking boots piled up around them. A very "Marine" ending.  The Tau got points for "first blood", for killing the enemy warlord, and for "line breaking".  The Marines got three points for holding the artifact.  Three points each.
The Crisis Suits had a successful "deep strike"

The Terminators looked great, but struggled to take down the pesky Tau...
After Dallas and I played, Sean took my Tau army out for a spin against Dave's Eldar.  Although they lasted only a little longer than my Elysians did, Sean's rolling wasn't much better than it had been during the Spearhead game earlier in the week. Dave V took some photos, so I'm sure he will post a report on that game.
The Marines hold to the bitter end - successfully!
Fire Warriors - so close, but so far away from the artifact
It was great to see Sean M once again.   And it was interesting to play 40k and not get completely killed before the game even starts.  But the Tau are out of control in this new edition of the rules.  Of course they "suck" at close combat, but close combat is not much of an issue when you have guns that mow down everything in sight.  And as for the Land Raider Proteus, I know it will be back...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Battle Report - Crisis In Kaliningrad - Modern Spearhead

BMP-3s and motor rifle troops take up a position to defend Russian sovereignty - and Gazprom pricing

Last week Dallas hosted the Conscripts for a game of Modern Spearhead.   The scenario was an imaginary ultra-modern confrontation between Poland, NATO and the Russian Federation along the border of the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.  The battle was a "limited engagement" taking place in the context of escalating tensions around a Russian cut-off of gas supplies to Poland.

It was a great turnout on Thursday, and we were particularly happy to host veteran conscript Sean M, returning to Winnipeg for a visit from parts east in Canada.  Was great to see you again Sean!
Polish Leopard IIA4s advance

The scenario pitted a mixed brigade of Polish and NATO troops against a brigade of top-notch (for the most part) Russian Federation troops.  The Polish/NATO goal was to surround the small border town of Bagrationovsk (political symbolism for Poland).  The Russian goal was to break the Polish units only - Russian leaders, while making all sorts of noise in the media - were privately concerned that any excessive casualties on NATO countries would inflame public opinion in the West to encourage further conflict.
Another view of the BMP-3s on the hill

The Russians had two battalions of top-end T-90s, a battalion of BMP-3 motor rifle troops, and for "flavour", a battalion of naval reserve T-55MVs.  The Polish had a battalion of Leopard IIA4s, a battalion of PT-91 Twardy tanks (upgraded T-72s - we used T-80BVs to represent these on the tabletop because they have the reactive armour bricks), and a battalion of motor infantry in BWP-1s (domestic Polish BMP-1 IFVs).  The Dutch had a mechanized infantry battalion in YPR-765s, with a couple of YPR-765 TOWs for support.
PT-91 MBTs (represented by GHQ T-80BVs) advance against the will end in tears...
Both sides had off-table artillery and air.  The Russians also had some Hind F helos.  But I substituted the normal "check for support" table with one of my own for the scenario to represent the general queasiness of the higher level Russian/NATO command to send in all sorts of assets that might lead to a general escalation of the conflict.
T-90s under fire as they try and hold the Leopards back...
Kevin H, Sean and Dallas took command of the Russians.  Mike F and Brian H rolled with the Polish/NATO combo.  Brian surprised all of us by volunteering to run the Dutch - but he was later disappointed to learn their battalion had zero MBTs (after all, the Dutch sold off their Leopards).
Sean's T-55s hang out in reserve, waiting to score a moral victory...

The game would last 10 turns - or until one brigade or the other broke.  The game itself proceeded quickly - fast enough that we were able to take a number of breaks to catch up with Sean's hilarious stories, and watch the Winnipeg Blue Bombers somehow win a game.  
A Tunguska provides AAA/SAM cover to the BMP-3 motor rifle troops
Kevin's T-90s took a real pounding - from air strikes and from the Leopard IIs of the poles - but they managed to stick in to the bitter end.  Mike pushed the Leopards and the Polish mechanized infantry around the west of the town, while sending the PT-91s around the east side.  Dallas had the BMP-3s dug in on a hill to block that move, and the BMP-3 were absolutely amazing, and with Dallas' hot rolling, they massacred the PT-91s with AT missiles and 100mm guns.
Dallas' troops got hit hard by an air strike, but otherwise the NATO troops didn't get to them. BMP-3s are awesome

Sean had the T-55s hanging back on the north of the town.  He tried to move up and support Kevin, but rolled the "scottish number" on his order change check for three straight turns, leaving the T-55s in place while poor Kevin was hammered.  Sean did rack up a moral victory when one of his T-55MVs managed to engage and knock out a Leopard IIA4 using tube-fired ATGMs.  I think he will be talking about that for months...
The Dutch move out.  Dallas's company commanders, however, are pretty sure they "look" Polish...
Down a battalion, the NATO troops brought the Dutch in to try and take the Russian motor rifles out.  Dallas was aware of the command direction to NOT inflict excessive casualties on the Dutch, but in the heat of the battle, the various platoon commanders could not be certain the new troops were not Polish, and so let them have it with a combination of 100mm HE and 30mm cannons.  The Dutch got blasted to pieces...
Kevin's T-90s paid a high price against the Leopards, so he evened the odd with a call for air support.
The outcome was a military victory for the Russians - the Polish/NATO brigade broke on the seventh turn.  On the other hand, with CNN footage of the helpless Dutch mechanized troops getting ventilated by the BMP-3s, public opinion in the west will harden dramatically against the Russians.  Poland lost the battle, but took a step forward in the war....until next time....

A big thanks to Dallas for hosting, and to everyone who came out to play some Modern Spearhead!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Game This Week- Modern Spearhead - (Imaginary) Crisis In Kaliningrad

Russian Federation armoured forces mobilize...
We have at times past gamed an imaginary ultra-modern conflict in Poland.  Poor Poland - it just seems geographically placed for these kinds of scenarios.  Thankfully it is all imaginary - at least for now. We have previously used the Cold War Commander engine for those games, but this week we will employ the tried and tested (and much faster) Modern Spearhead rules.

The scenario imagines a crisis brewing in the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.  A confrontation has developed between the Polish government and the Russian Federation over the transit of gas. An angry and aggressive Polish administration has responded by blockading and occupying small parts of the Kaliningrad Oblast, with the assistance of the Lithuanians. 

"You will pay what GazProm is asking...seriously...."
The Russian response is forceful - they have moved some elite armoured and airborne formations into the isolated enclave, and are preparing the "push the Poles back", with deadlines announced and a stated intent to use force to "protect their sovereignty". 

NATO representatives meet to discuss the possibility of a meeting to establish an agenda for a framework consultation to evaluate a report on further discussion of a review on the matter of whether the circumstances in Poland constitute a crisis or a non-specific event...
NATO is preparing to assist against Russian aggression, mostly by having meetings about meetings. 

"So, I totally don't need this right now, just so you guys know...."
Distracted and broke, the EU members of NATO (other than Poland and the Baltics) are not keen to be involved.  GazProm is cutting side deals with them to up the ante. Distracted and broke, the US is not that keen to help either, as Polish gas rights hardly seems like something to galvanize US opinion, but it doesn't want to wimp out either.

"Can you believe this whole Polish thing? At least Sarko isn't involved...."
Seeing all this mushiness, the Poles are sticking to their guns, concerned about the cold winter that will be on the way if they do not stand up to what they see as Russian GazProm-gunboat diplomacy...

The Poles are ready with their new NATO kit....
A "limited engagement" is in the making - will it stay limited? Will the Russians give the Poles a shove, or will they receive a bloody nose in the process?  Will the conflict be limited enough to be resolved, or become something that even the jello-spined countries of NATO might actually sort of have to do something about....

It's (ultra) Modern Spearhead! The latest MBTs and IFVs! But will your command be allowed to fight all-out? What does that secret second order to the brigade commander say? Does the brigade actually have that much ammunition anyway, since no countries can afford anything these days? Will the use of air power really be authorized as diplomats scramble to avert a larger war? Will the infamous "Black Eagle" tanks make another appearance? Hope to see you Thursday for some "conflict resolution".

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Syrian T-62s and Infantry - 15mm

Syrian build up continues
After a few small diversions I was looking forward to sharing some more progress on my Golan Heights project.  I have had these models finished for a few days, and kept waiting for a chance to take some decent photos, as the lighting in my house is just awful for pictures.  I tried again first thing this morning, and I guess my house is meant to be a monument to soft light - so sorry for the quality on these.

T-62s from Old Glory
I have added three T-62s and a group of nine infantry to my Syrian forces.  The T-62s are from Old Glory, and the infantry are from Peter Pig.

Dining room table column formation
As I have said before, the Old Glory T-62s are average sculpts at best.  The turrets are a little squished, the detail is a little soft, and the casting on the tread assembly adventure.  I use a lot of weathering on tanks, but I went extra hard with the powders and dry-brushing on the treads and road wheels of these vehicles to cover for the various casting defects and soft details.

Old Glory tanks need a lot of black lining to have any hope of seeing detail on the casting
My batch of custom ordered bases arrived from Litko, so these tanks have bases.  This is the first time I have based 15mm vehicles - I used to think basing vehicles was silly, but I think it turned out well, and gives a bit of a more uniform appearance with the infantry.  I will go back and add bases to the T-55s and ZSU-23-4, while the rest of the tanks and other AFVs will receive their bases prior to priming from now on.

The base on the vehicle helps it fit a little better with the can see the very slight bend in the base on the tank....
One obstacle I should have expected, but did not prepare for with the vehicle bases - they warped! It only makes sense I guess - they are thin plywood, and the moitsure from the paint, humidity etc. would make them vulnerable to warping.  I think I will order metal bases for the next round of vehicles....

Infantry from Peter Pig

The infantry are Peter Pig troops from their "Professionals" selection in their modern range. These were test models, so they are not meant to represent a specific squad and there is a mish-mash of weapons - several RPD MGs, a couple of officers and a couple of guys with RPGs. I don't believe Syrian infantry sections were that heavily armed...

An RPG, some AK-47s and an RPD
I based the infantry individually, and I used the bases sold by as opposed to the thinner bases from Litko.   I used these bases for two reasons: one, I had some handy, while the Litko bases were on order and, two: I think the thicker bases will make it easier to pick up and move the figures without having to grab the figure itself.. 

It is hard to see in these terrible pictures, but the infantry have khaki pants and green jackets with camouflage splotches applied to both.  It is almost impossible to find a colour reference of a Syrian infantryman from the 1973 war - the Osprey book does not have one, and I have never seen one on the Internet.  So I just bodged from pictures of their uniforms used in Lebanon (would they have been that different? Probably not, I hope...).

One note of caution to others - I used the new GW "145" paint range on the infantry, and it worked well for the most part.  But I have found that the "Agrax Earthshade" wash - this is meant to replace the universally useful and awesome "Devlan Mud" from the previous range - will often leave an incredibly glossy finish once it dries.  It's not the end of the world, but it is still annoying, and if you want to use it, be sure to have some Testor's Dullcote or similar product handy

At some point I might do some infantry based in groups (as seen in games such as "Flames of War") but I really like the individual look of the infantry in this scale, so I will stick with it and see how it goes.

Monday, July 23, 2012

BMP-2 Re-Paint - 1/56 Scale

BMP-2 from Sloppy Jalopy
Last year we moved to a new house in Winnipeg.  I am now finally getting around to unpacking some parts of my collection from storage (a.k.a. the big pile in a room downstairs) so I can display them on some new shelves. But as we have all experienced, transportation of our gaming figures, particularly vehicles, can be dangerous. I was disappointed to find that one of my BMP-2s from Sloppy Jalopy had experienced a "transportation failure", and was in a few pieces when I unpacked it.
Before the repaint - the cannon had been knocked off the turret, and bent a little...
I had painted these vehicles several years ago....2007 to 2008 timeframe, I think.  While I was re-attaching the gun barrel to the turret last week, I thought it would be fun to try and upgrade the paint job a little bit.  I originally painted this model along very "Soviet" lines - everything was a dark, military green - and the treads were metal.  No flash, no camouflage, just green cannon fodder for the front lines.
Close up of the damage
These vehicles have typically seen action in Afghanistan games - because they are 1/56 scale (i.e. the wrong scale for anything) they have seldom been used in our Soviet vs. NATO games as they appear comically small on the table next to the (allegedly) 1/48 scale Kitech tank models that served as the basis for the original Soviet armoured force as part of our insane modern build-up.
Finished re-paint - the 28mm motor rifleman is from Mongrel Miniatures
I have been doing some Osprey reading lately, and found many references and pictures to camouflage patterns being applied by Soviet troops to the BMPs in Afghanistan.  I decided to throw a quick cammo  pattern on the tank, as well as some other small improvements.
Rear view of the re-painted model.  You can see from this photo why 1/56 scale sucks with 25/28mm models...or for anything, for that matter
For cammo I stippled a layer of "Tallarn Sand" from GW's new paint range, and stippled a layer of "Rakarth Earth" (also from the new range) on top of that, before yellowing it again with a bit more Tallarn Sand.  After the cammo was down, I did a lot of black-lining to try and bring out more features on the vehicle.

I painted in the "glass" on the search lights and the vision ports.  These things seldom look like real glass on actual tanks, but I like adding this effect to models as it makes the ports etc. really pop and gives you a clear idea of what they are supposed to be.
I need one of those lighting studios for these pictures....
I used floral wire to add an antenna on rear of the turret, and repainted the canvas section around the 30mm cannon on the turret, using GW "Snakebite Leather" as a base and "Rakarth Earth" as a highlight.  I also re-painted the AT-4/5 launcher on the top of the turret with a different colour of green from the armour of the vehicle, as many of the references I have seen on line over the years show something similar.

Last step was the weathering powders - as this vehicle is fighting in Afghanistan, I wanted it to be plenty worn, so I was heavy with the dust and rust on the tracks, and lots of dirt over the engine vents.  I blackened the tip of the 30mm cannon as well to give it the appearance of use against the Mujahideen.

I left the original decals I used for the tactical numbers (from a GW Cadian decal sheet of yore) in place, but the weathering faded them out a lot, and I like the look of it.

Overall I was very pleased with the results, and it did not take long at all - just about an hour.

Now that I have more vehicles from Imprint - which are 1/50 scale - my Sloppy Jalopy BMPs may yet make an appearance in a game versus NATO or other opponents on the Fawcett tabletop.  I have four BMPs from Sloppy Jalopy - three BMP-2s and a solitary BMP-1.  At some point in the future I may give them a similar re-paint (or something different, perhaps, who knows).  But that can wait for now, as progress on the Golan Heights Project continues....progress report pending very soon on that...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cape St-Vincent, 1797

Yesterday, DaveV showed up at the motorhome for some beer and wargaming. We played the Battle of Cape St-Vincent using a simplified version of Trafalgar, by Mark Latham. Basically, there is only one type of guns, saving throws are converted into extra hull points, opportunity fire can be done at will, all changes that make the game flow much faster.

Here we go: On the morning of 14 February 1797, a British squadron of 15 ships of the line met a Spanish fleet twice as numerous, with 27 ships of the line, including the giant Santissima Trinidad. To make the game playable, the fleets on both side were downsized to about half the original numbers (9 vs 14).

Dave asked what were the objectives for each fleet and I realized that I neglected to prepare clearly defined goals. Oh well, we just pounded each other for about 6 turns, just for fun. As it happened, the direction of the wind and the formations of both fleets kind of dictated the course of the battle. After a single devastating run at each other, both fleets were happy to resume course.

Here are the initial positions of both fleets, from the Spanish point of view. Minding her own business, the Spanish fleet was sailing in two groups, enjoying a well deserved morning siesta. But suddenly, a bunch of sails appeared from the North. The British! Those trouble makers were already parading into a splendid line in the middle of which Admiral Rowe was commanding from the H.M.S. Victory.

Ah, but the Spanish had no fear for within their fleet the plumply Nuestra Senora de la Santissima Trinidad (Santissima Trinidad for short) was sailing majestically. What could possibly go wrong with such a powerful vessel? [The fat Wonder of the Sea, unfortunately, would have an opportunity to vomit raging cannonballs from her 136 guns only on the last turn of the game, and at long range.]

El Grandissimo Almirante DaveV del Winnipego confidently moving his ships forward. Note how convenient wargaming in a motorhome can be: proximity of a counter top for beer bottles and sheets, quick exit, etc.

Admiral Rowe, Earl of Regina, moved his line like a vengeful wedge between the two groups of Spanish ships, just like Admiral Jervis did in the real battle. Wargaming and History, once again, were about to meet for a fabulously accurate re-enactment of the action. Ah, tears come to my eyes!

But wait! Instead of a RIGHT tacking AFTER passing both Spanish groups, Admiral Rowe had his line turning to the LEFT, BEFORE passing the enemy ships. [Note from the British player: my goal was to cross the T in front on the Spanish Lee Division. But some miscalculation regarding the distance occurred...]

Iiiii! Crrrash! Aaaargh! What a mess! H.M.S. Diadem, the leading ship of the line, was quickly dismasted by the Spanish guns aiming high. She can be seen wandering South while the new leader, H.M.S. Prince George, takes the line to the East. Lots of hull rubbing ensued. adding some damage here and there to both fleets. Thanks to raking, a few spectacular dice rolls on both sides resulted in lots of critical hits and lots of damage. H.M.S. Prince George suffered greatly.

Uh oh! The Spanish Weather Division is getting closer and closer. Will the British fleet become trapped like tuna salad between two slices of bread?

Abandoning the H.M.S. Prince George, now crippled beyond repair and useless,  the following ship in line, H.M.S. Orion takes the lead and manages to break through the Spanish Lee Division. The unfortunate San Juan Nepomuceno (with black smoke), because of the direction of the wind, had to come facing the H.M.S. Victory. 50 cannon balls later, the Spanish ship, badly raked and with two fires raging on board, struck down her colors.

The British line tried again to turn, this time BEHIND the Spanish Lee Division and apparently succeeded. Trapped by the crippled hulk of the H.M.S. Prince George, the Principe de Asturias (both ships have red markers), a 112 guns First Rater, became the focal point for the fire of the turning ships, just like sun rays are focused by a concave mirror. Despite all the beating, the Spanish Vicealmirante stubbornly refused to surrender. At the end of the British line, Commodore  Nelson decided that NOW was the time to do something heroic and rolled for a command check... Heroism had to wait and Nelson decided that the best course of action was to stay with the line. Meanwhile, the Spanish ships decided that it would be great fun to remove Commodore Nelson's name  from the Royal Navy's payroll and concentrated all their fire on the H.M.S. Captain. Because of the distance, however, Nelson and his ship survived the onslaught.

In the final turn, the British line continued to perform parade-like maneuvers. Reduced to a few boards and planks, the Principe de Asturias finally struck down her colors. The heroism of the Vicealmirante on board is certainly worth of the highest medal that there is in the Spanish kingdom. The British had one dismasted ship (H.M.S. Diadem) and one completely crippled ship (H.M.S. Prince George). Nelson felt a little shy and did not perform any heroic deeds. The Spanish fleet left behind two 74 guns and one 112 guns. Other ships on both sides suffered considerable damage. Considering the confusion resulting from the melee, the game could have gone either way. And playing with DaveV made the whole experience very enjoyable.

Regarding the rules, there is certainly room for improvement. The simplified stats work well, but bookkeeping proved to be fastidious, especially for the Spanish Almirante with 14 ships. In order to fight bigger battles, I will have to figure out a more intuitive way of managing a squadron with a large number of ships.