Monday, February 23, 2015

Conscripts Storm Legio-Con 2015!

LegioCon 2015 took place this past Saturday at the St. James Legion here in Winnipeg. As in previous years, the Conscripts were invited to put on a participation game at the convention. This year, I brought out my new Great War trench terrain and set up a WWI game - more on which below!

The Legion is a cozy venue for gaming and was absolutely chock-a-block with games and gamers. Lots of 40K, but some historical stuff too.

Mark, manager of the local GW store, helped organize the convention and as you can see, was going a mile a minute all weekend.

One cool feature of the convention was a "gamer's buffet", where you could get a 30-minute taster of various games from an experienced player. The games included 40K, WHFB, Flames of War and Infinity. Neat idea.

Conscript Jim was also involved in organizing.

Members of the Manitoba Model Soldier Society put on miniature painting demos throughout the weekend.

Here's a period we don't see all the time around here: English Civil War in 15mm.

Check Your 6! game in progress - Pacific War action.

This table was outstanding - rural France for a 20mm WWII game using home rules. There are several terrain ideas here that I'm happily pinching for our games.

A side room was used to display models and figures entered for judging.

Some really nice work on display.

Now to our game! I set up a modified replay of the first WWI trench game we played on the terrain, still using Warhammer Historical's "Great War" rules. Here are the German defenders - the Battalion commander, two companies of two 8-man platoons each, two MG08s, a 77-mm field gun, a trench mortar, a "T-Gewehr" anti-tank rifle team, and a sniper. A "beute" MKIV tank and platoon of storm troops come on in reserve.

The British: battalion commander, two companies of three and two 9-man platoons, two Vickers MGs, an 18-pounder gun, a scout platoon, and a Highlander platoon, plus two MKIV tanks. A cavalry squadron of three 7-man troops plus squadron commander are in reserve, ready to break through as needed.

German gun placed in the "Holland stellung".

MG08 team emplaced in a shell hole.

The game commenced with a preliminary bombardment by the British, the only effect of which was to eliminate a section of barbed wire, albeit in a key position! The British then commenced their advance across No-Man's-Land.

Unfortunately for the British, the Germans were able to seize the initiative and take the first turn, opening up with machineguns and cannon all along the front.

Fokker D-VII chases an SE-5a over the trenches. I put the planes out for an additional bit of eye candy.

Far above the mud and the blood...

The British took advantage of the long sap to run their Scouts and Highlanders into the heart of the German defences. The Scouts are pictured here about to assault a German platoon.

Firing revolvers and flinging grenades, the Scouts overcome the Germans and wipe them out! Close combat in these rules is bloody indeed, and the side with the higher Initiative value has a huge advantage when they can catch the other side out of cover. But look out for the platoon at top centre - the following turn they leapt up and gunned down enough of the Scouts from an enfilade position to cause them to bottle out and run.

Meanwhile, the cavalry has come on from reserve and pick their way across the cratered landscape, towards a gap in the German lines.

On the British right, the MKIV suffers a minor mechanical mishap but lurches into the German trench zone, its 6-pounder cannon and machineguns concentrating on a German MG nest right beside it. The last gunner miraculously survives the onslaught, only to be gunned down by a Tommy from an enfilading position.

In the centre, the Highlanders follow up the doomed Scout platoon and assault the remaining Germans. Highland steel proves decisive as the defenders are slaughtered to a man.

Under fire from the German field gun, the cavalry works forward, with losses...

In the skies above, the hunter becomes the hunted...

Highlanders consolidate their victory in the front-line trench.

The surviving cavalry have the green fields in sight, but the crew of the 77-mm gun in the "Holland Stellung" may have other ideas for them...

The game ended in a (rare) victory for the attackers - but not a cheap one. The British got several units into the German trenches, but several had been reduced to only a couple of models and had stuck around only thanks to excellent Leadership tests. One of the tanks had been damaged and the German MKIV was still operational, together with the storm troop platoon at full strength. But the requirements for a British victory had been fulfilled.

I had made a few changes to the scenario from last time; most significantly, moving the British start line to 12" onto the table. I also allowed a preliminary bombardment (per the Great War rules) and slightly reduced the number of German reinforcements. These helped the British side quite a bit, but we were denied the grisly War Horse-like spectacle of cavalry charging machineguns, at least.

I think the guys had fun and I had a good time running the game. My thanks go out to Conscripts Greg, Dave V., Frederick and Cam(!) for playing, as well as to convention attendees Bob and Mac. LegioCon is always fun, especially since there is a small, inexpensive cafeteria and bar directly downstairs from the gaming venue. Thanks again to the organizers (Bryan G., Mark T., Garth B. and Conscript Jim) for a great job in organizing and for the invitation to bring out our game.

See you next year!  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sedition Wars Project mini-update: TheXLC Pre-printed MDF Terrain

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I just received from TheXLC my rewards from their November Kickstarter project. I received two building kits made from 3mm thick, laser cut MDF: a vehicle workshop, and an admin building.

Their terrain comes pre-printed and ready to assemble. They developed a technique where they print onto a substrate, laminate it to a 3mm MDF panel, apply a protective covering, and then laser cut. This allowed them to produce printed components without scorching to any of the printed surfaces.

The other night I assembled the vehicle workshop. The kit consisted of 16 MDF parts. It came with exploded diagrams for assembly. The model building went together easily; the parts fit well, and I only needed white glue. The hardest part was peeling off the protective covering. One has to take care not to also remove the printed substrate. The tip of a very sharp knife should suffice.

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Below, a 28mm GW tank crewman and a resin truck from Old Crow are shown for scale. The building itself measures 250mm x 183mm x 106mm.

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The printed details are nice. The corrugated siding is rendered clearly. There is some shadowing around the garage door edges, rust stains from the AC units, broken/missing pieces of siding, and appropriate warning signs. The windows and doors are all scored, so you could cut them out very easily if you wanted to.

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The only real downside is the lack of printing on the edges where the MDF is keyed together. Not a bad trade off, considering that you don't really need to prime, paint and weather the model.

The manufacturer recommends that one leave the roof unglued if you want to use the interior for gaming, which interior comes already primed gray! For this particular kit, there would not be enough structural integrity, so I glued the two roof pieces on. There is no floor, so you could still place figures inside the building during a game, especially if you used light card or construction paper to outline the floor plan.

I could add some more highlights, weathering, and do something about those scorched edges. Even as-is, I think the model makes a neat addition to my growing collection of terrain for modern and sci-fi skirmish games.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Forgeworld Titan Crew

When you have a Titan I guess you'd better have a crew as well. So awhile back I'd ordered Forge World's resin Titan crew. Interestingly for GW models, they come with integral bases cast right on!

So here they are - the Princeps (centre) and two Moderati. I pinched the colour scheme from that used by another enthusiast, found on the Internet (thanks man!)  I think the red sets off the red on their Legio Metalica Titan nicely.

The Forge World models are lovely indeed (as you'd expect for the price) and they turned out nicely. They'll be handy for a scenario where they have to cross a hostile table to mount up in their ride, or in a similar game.

Forgeworld 40K Arkurian Stormblade

We all love the resin crack produced by our friends at Forge World, but sometimes you can luck into some of that resin-y goodness without taking out a second mortgage. So it happened last summer when I found a local chap selling this Arkurian Stormblade model on the local kijiji buy-and-sell site. The model was mostly assembled and painting started but it needed a bit of work. We arrived at a price that was about half of a new one and the deal was closed. I got it home, fixed what was broken, primed it black, and it sat on my shelf for a good 8 months :-)

Being that this is our long weekend here I resolved to finish the model up. I basecoated it dark grey, then brushed it up with a lighter grey, painting the lascannon turret weapons and sponson heavy bolters with Leadbelcher. I named it "Cyklop" after an A7V tank in German service in WWI. (My Shadowsword is named "Wotan" for the same reason)

I'd also mudded up the tracks with artist's gel medium basing stuff to match the muddied look of my Shadowsword. Mud was brushed up with Dryad Bark and Mournfang Brown.

Just for some visual interest and to break up the expanse of grey, I decided to paint in a white aerial recognition stripe for this Titan-killer. Note the exposed powerplant.

Rear 3/4 view shows the massive exhaust stacks. Try passing California smog checks with those!

The auto-shrine is visible in this shot as well.

I really like the massive... presence of the GW super-heavies.

Cross tactical marking also matches the Shadowsword. I used a decal from a 1/72 WWI airplane kit and filled in the white background with paint. Death's head is from the Tamiya 1/48 StuG III kit.
Paintwork was heavily chipped with a sponge. The stripe was weathered first with Codex Grey chipping, then with a mix of black and Dryad Bark to represent deeper chips. Lenses painted and glossed in standard technique.

 View from the business end.

Powerplant close-up.

Here are the two super-heavies together. It'll have to be a big game to accommodate these two, but we have plans...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mega-DBA: Heraclea, 280 B.C.E.

De Bellis Antiquitatis ("Of the Wars of Antiquity") used to be a big thing around these parts. The game, a fast-play set of ancients rules, was used for a long-running, twice-yearly tournament held at Conscript Frederick's school. I was taught the game by former North Dakotan gamer DougR, over drinks at a sci-fi convention. Over the years it provided me hours and hours of fun,

The game has languished for a few years now, going out of print for awhile, and undergoing a seemingly interminable re-design prior to the recent release of its latest, 3rd edition. Conscript Kevin was musing about how much fun we used to have playing DBA and its big-battle incarnation, "Mega-DBA".

Accordingly, for last Thursday night I organized an ancients battle (using DBA version 2.2) based upon the Battle of Heraclea, a big dust-up between the Roman Republic and a coalition of Greeks.

Scenario: The Battle of Heraclea
Date: July, 280 B.C.E.
Location: Heraclea, Basilicata, southern Italy
Commanders: King Pyrrhus of Epirus (Greek/Epirote alliance) and Publius Valerius Laevinus (Rome)

Pyrrhus has landed in Italy, in support of the city of Tarentum, who were in conflict with Rome. Pyrrhus had a mixed force of ~35,000 men: Greek/ Macedonian and allied heavy infantry (phalangites, hoplites, and hypaspists), war elephants, Thessalonian cavalry, and archers and slingers from Rhodes.

After hearing of Pyrrhus' arrival in Italy, the Romans mobilized eight legions with auxiliaries, totaling about 80,000 soldiers. They divided these forces into four armies. Three armies defended Rome and otherwise marched against the Samnites, Lucanians, and Etruscans, to ensure that they did not ally with Pyrrhus. One ~45,000-strong army, under the command of Publius Valerius Laevinus, marched to Tarentum (after plundering Lucania on the way).

Pyrrhus decided to fight the Romans on a plain near the river Siris, between Pandosia and Heraclea. Pyrrhus took up position there and waited. Before the fight he tried to treat with the Romans, who denied his request. The Romans entered the plains on the right of the Siris river where they set up camp.

Who would win this conflict between Legion and Phalanx?


Each side ended up having the equivalent of 4 complete DBA armies. With a ground scale of one inch = 100 paces, and one figure casting representing 250 men, each side had around 40,000 troops spread across a few miles of front! We didn't have some of the exact historical units, but the following is our approximation of the forces involved:

Greek Alliance:
  • Seleucid (the C-in-C, run by BillC): representing Pyrrhus riding with his Companion cavalry, sarissa-armed phalangites, lighter troops, and the elephants he brought from Africa
  • Later Hoplite Greek (run by Dallas): representing a spear-armed infantry phalanx and supporting troops of Greek allies
  • Later Hoplite Greek (run by me): representing some more spear-armed infantry and their supporting troops
  • Early Spanish (run by MikeF): representing Greek colonists and others rising up against Rome

Republican Rome:
  • Polybian Roman (C-in-C, run by Frederick): representing the manipular Roman army, drawn up in three lines (triplex acies of legionaries formed into Hastati, Principes, and Triarii) consisting of small units (maniples) of 120 men, arrayed in chessboard fashion, giving great tactical strength and flexibility
  • Polybian Roman (run by Keegan): representing more legionary Roman forces of the period
  • Carthaginian (run by Kevin): representing Rome's non-citizen armed forces (an ala or an actual foreign allied force fighting under their own system; fun fact, Carthage was a Roman ally at this time)
  • Carthaginian (run by Devin): representing more non-citizen forces or allies

Below, Frederick and Bill loom over the table, after initial deployment. The photo looks south along the length of the Siris River valley. On the left (east) bank of the river are drawn up the two Polybian Roman forces. Further to the left/east, the Carthaginians are coming up from reserve. Near the north and south ends of the table are fords; everywhere else the river had to be crossed with restrictions as to movement and formation. Small units of Roman light and regular cavalry are set up by the far, southernmost ford. The Greeks refused their left (northern) flank. Dallas' Greeks are set up in a long line along the road. Further to the south are my Greeks and Bill's Seleucids in columns. Mike's lighter forces are set up to contest the distant river crossing. A forlorn hope of Greek and Seleucid light infantry are on the west bank of the river, staring at thousands of Roman legionaries. 

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In the centre, Bill's Seleucids and my Greeks in column. My Greeks were modified and painted for me by TimP (of Gisby fame). All the spears are hammered wire.

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Dallas' Greeks in line; his figs are owned and painted by Conscript Brian, who replaced all the spears with hammered wire and hand painted all the shield designs.

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The Greek and Seleucid light infantry stare down legionaries across the river.

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The battle started with light forces coming into contact under a hail of sling stones and javelins.

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Though putting up a stout resistance, the Greek light infantry in the centre were overwhelmed by their more numerous opponents.

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However, their sacrifice allowed the balance of the Greek forces to form line of battle.

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The Greek elephants were unleashed early, in an attempt to roll over the Roman commander, Publius Valerius Laevinus.

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However, the Romans held fast in the face of their monstrous foes, forcing them to recoil and panic. Both elephant units were destroyed! The phalanxes moved forward to plug the resulting gap.

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To the north, Greek cavalry demonstrated against the Carthaginian light horse as the rest of the Carthaginians advanced to the river.

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To the south, the Romans failed to cross the river, but a couple of stands of Roman cavalry tied up a quarter of the Greek forces. In the centre, the battle lines got confused as forces collided, recoiled, and surged back into battle. In the distance can be seen a fight between Greek and Roman cavalry, between the lines of Dallas' hoplites and some legionaries.

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The cavalry from both sides in front of Dallas were all destroyed. The left end of the Roman legionary formation started to turn in as the pike and spear phalanxes ground ahead.

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After losing 12 stands (1/4 of their entire force), the Romans called it quits. However, the Greeks had  in return lost 9 stands!

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Below, a photo of the butcher's bill: all the units removed from play.

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Though the Romans got stalled by the river, the game was very close. Frederick also claimed a well deserved moral victory in the destruction of the Greek elephants. In retrospect, forcing the Greeks to deploy just a little further away would have allowed more of the Roman and Carthaginian heavy infantry to get into the fray.

Historical note: The phrase "Pyrrhic victory" is named after Pyrrhus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at both Heraclea and at Asculum in 279 B.C.E.,  during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch relates in a report by Dionysius:
The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him

The only ancients gaming we usually do on a Thursday night is the odd Gladiator skirmish game. It was fun to see everyone caught up in a large game involving such substantial forces. The game also went much faster than if we had used a more complex set of rules, such as DBMM, Hail Caesar, or Clash of Empires. Looking forward to playing more ancients in the future!