Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Project Kursk Part 10: Soviet HQ

This term in the wargames club we are making a big push with Battle Group Kursk. The plan is to learn the game, paint up lots of minis and make some terrain boards, leading up to a big game during the next holidays.

All of this gives me a reason to keep going with my own figures for Kursk as well! The latest is a M3A1 Scout car for my Soviet Headquarters.

The figures are from Plastic Soldier Company, and the vehicle is from Battlefront. This was my first experience of making a Battlefront mini, and it made me appreciate nicely engineered plastic kits even more, what with its wonky wheels and all. Mounting the .50 in the centre of the car at the front is a bit of a guess, based on some photos I've found. I'm not unhappy with the final product, although I'm not sure about the shade of green. Is it too green? Am I justified in calling the car Kermit? Advice on a good green for Soviet vehicles would be appreciated!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Anglo-Saxon Levies for SAGA

These chaps have been hanging around on my painting tray for a while looking reproachful, so I thought I had better finish them off. Painting them, that is.

Anglo-Saxon Levies can be archers or slingers in SAGA, so I mixed them up a bit for variety. The figures are from Black Tree Design, and I like them a lot. The faces in particular are brilliant. Black Tree often seems to be overlooked, largely I suspect due to their history of terrible customer service that is widely publicised on the interweb. I must say though that I have had no problems at all, and the comparative slowness of their delivery is made up for in my mind by their comparative cheapness. Just don't expect them to arrive the day after you order them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SAGA at Leviathan 2013

Space Pixies as far as the eye can see. Creature unknown to wargamers on the right (sorry Tamsin)

While some of you lucky lot in the UK were swanning about at Salute on the weekend, I visited the somewhat more modestly sized Leviathan convention in Western Sydney.

Enough dice to keep even Rick Priestley happy. 10 points for anyone who can identify the future project on the cutting board in the background.

I kept purchases to a minimum, but did manage to pick up an absurdly large package of dice for the club at school. Probably these are someone's cursed dice that will bring their users only despair, but I might try to organise a blessing ceremony to get them on side. Possibly the Mad Padre could organise something?

There were lots of games happening on the Sunday when I attended, mainly of the Space Pixies variety. However, I took part in a fun SAGA tournament with my Welsh, winning one game, drawing one and losing one by 67 points to 73. However, I was fortunate enough to pick up a nice little trophy for best painted against some tough opposition, so very pleased with that.

Thanks as always to War & Peace Games and The Hall of Heroes for organising the competition. It seems to me that since it isn't very easy to power game in SAGA it tends to attract gamers who are more interested in having a good time than necessarily winning, so as usual the atmosphere was great.

Game 1: I score a victory against a Viking army made up entirely of shield maidens

Game 2: Sacred Ground against Anglo-Danes

Nicely painted figures these! A massive unit of 12 hearthguard did for me, but I wasn't helped at all by failing to roll a six for five consecutive turns.

Damien Z with his Norse Gaels. Lovely bloke, and nearly managed to beat him!

Very nice Norse Gaels by Damien

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vale Chrissy Amphlett

A great Australian rock icon, Chrissie Amphlett, has sadly lost her battle with breast cancer and MS at the age of only 53.

Growing up in Sydney in the '80s, I seemed to hear her great voice every time I turned on the radio - and there was no mistaking it for anyone else's! She could rock as hard as any bloke, and stood out as a strong, sexy and brutally honest woman in the world of entertainment. Sad news.

Here's some of her work - a great song, with a mandatory pretentious '80s video featuring locations in Sydney and a sadly prescient lyric.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New for SAGA: The Pagan Rus

I hope everyone heading off to Salute on the weekend has a great time, and spares a thought for those of us too far away to attend (sniff!). Apart from seeing lots of exciting new toys, I will miss the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers in the flesh.

As my little pre-Salute gift, I've written up a brief introduction to one of the new SAGA factions coming out at Salute in the special 'Varjazi and Basileus' expansion. This will appear on the Muskets and Tomahawks blog as soon as Alex Buchel has a moment to put it up.

I did some playtesting on the upcoming factions, and the one that I enjoyed the most were the Pagan Rus. Here's why:


The Vikings are the people who connect all the factions that feature in SAGA, and in the Pagan Rus we get the chance to field a warband drawn from the very eastern edges of the Scandinavian world. The name ‘Rus’ itself probably derives from the Norse term for ‘the men who row’. This warband represents the Scandinavians, mainly from Sweden, who traded, explored and conquered their way along the Russian river systems from the Baltic to the Caspian Sea from the ninth century until their gradual Christianisation during the eleventh. In particular, although it is disputed, the Swedish Rus are generally credited with founding the early medieval state of Kiev from the late ninth century. These are the warriors that the Arab traveler Ibn Fadlan encountered on the Volga in 921, describing them both as ‘perfect physical specimens’ and ‘the filthiest of God’s creatures’.

In SAGA terms, the hearthguard of the Pagan Rus are the Varjazis (Varangians), probably originally a sort of Scandinavian aristocracy, but increasingly likely to have become assimilated with their Slavic subjects over time. The warriors and levies of the warband are more likely to have been Slavs, and indeed the javelin-armed levies of the Pagan Rus are called Slaves.

The battleboard of the Pagan Rus is built around a strong theme of the brutal Russian winter, with abilities with names like ‘The Great Winter’, ‘Frozen’ and ‘Endless Wastes’. This is definitely a faction to go to town with snow effects on the bases of your miniatures.

According to Sun Tzu, ‘what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy’. Sadly, Sun Tzu never had the opportunity to play SAGA, but if he had he could have been describing the Pagan Rus. If you like the idea of messing around with your opponent’s treasured tactics, you will enjoy this faction very much. Whereas the Anglo-Danes are very good at thwarting the plans of their opponents, the Pagan Rus make their opponents suffer for them. They are a challenge to any enemy foolish enough to venture into the land of the Rus with warbands dependent on mobility and missile weapons, and I particularly like the way that their abilities can be used in combination with each other.

A good example is the Shooting/Reaction ability Cold Winds. For every 6 scored by an enemy’s shooting (or 5-6 depending on the die placed on the ability), the enemy unit takes a fatigue. To really ruin your opponent’s day you can then follow this up with Endless Wastes during your own Activation phase to kill a figure in every unit on the table for each fatigue it has. During playtesting I used this combination to brutal effect against a Breton warband, which is prone to creating a monster unit of twelve hearthguard. It charged in against one of my units of four hearthguard, threw lots of javelins, scored lots of sixes and wiped my unit out, but then suffered so many fatigues that it was exhausted, lost four figures during my turn from Endless Wastes, and then found itself being charged by one of my fresh units.

Another ability I just love to bits is called Fear of the Dark. For the cost of two 4-5 dice, this Activation ability targets an enemy unit more than M away from any other unit and instantly gives it enough fatigues to become exhausted. Follow this up straight away with Endless Wastes, and the fatigues cause casualties. So the solution when fighting the Pagan Rus seems to be to bunch up your units. However, if you do, you run the risk of the Pagan Rus warlord really losing his rag and using Eastern Anger, a kamikaze Activation ability that launches a shooting attack of six attack dice against every unit, friendly and enemy, within M of the Rus warlord. Including the Warlord himself!

Other abilities play on the weather theme by slowing the game right down. Frozen is a useful and cheap Activation/Reaction ability that prevents an enemy unit from activating more than once in a turn. The Great Winter reduces the movement of all units to S for a turn, which will create some tactical dilemmas for some Pagan Rus players. The ability certainly creates a level playing field against more mobile opponents, but it may make achieving victory conditions in some scenarios difficult for the Pagan Rus if it is overused.

That should give you a sense of what you are in for with the Pagan Rus – and I haven’t mentioned the abilities that increase armour in melee or increase hits against an opponent if they have any fatigue. In short, you will enjoy playing this faction a lot if you savor the prospect of using nasty battleboard combinations to upset your opponent’s plans. If you choose to suspend your disbelief at the apparent ability of the Rus to control the weather, and instead allow this faction to evoke images of swirling snow and the sound of wolves howling in the distance you will have a lot of fun.

So there you are! If you're at Salute, go and buy a copy of Varjazi and Basileus. And if you see the Angry Lurker or Ray slap them manfully on the back from me.

Resistance is Futile!

I find myself the victim of a global conspiracy.

In a brilliantly executed double envelopment, first Phil Broeders wins my painting giveaway, and I find myself painting 6mm figures for the first time...and enjoying it! I find myself pulling out my copy of Lasalle and thinking how good a game would look with hundreds of tiny little men.

Then, I go and win Ian's competition over on the Blog With No Name. I am now the proud owner of a 25% discount on an order of new 6mm French Napoleonics from Baccus. These haven't quite been released yet, but when they are a sizeable contingent will be marching my way.

My resistance has therefore crumbled and I have run up a teeny weeny little white flag. Another scale! A new project! Hooray! As Harry Pearson wisely points out in 'Achtung Schweinehund', 'you can never have too many of something that you didn't need in the first place.'

Thank you Ian for running a great giveaway, and to Peter Berry at Baccus for the generous prize.

Monday, April 15, 2013

More Pagan Rus

Here are the last of my Pagan Rus, all ready for the official release of the new SAGA faction at Salute next weekend. I have done some playtesting on this new faction, and like it a lot. I'll write up some of my impressions this week if I get a chance.

When the new blister packs of figures for the faction come out I'll add some javelin armed levies to the warband, but otherwise I have a good solid unit of figures who will work as hearthguard or warriors. Shields are hand painted, as always, and I've got to say that I'm pretty chuffed about the wolf design.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

This week I have been mostly...

....being feral in the bush!

Term finished with Army Cadets on bivouac, which was quite a nice way to finish up. We were incredibly fortunate with the weather, and I was delighted to remain leech free throughout the camp. I was FMO (Food Management Officer), so responsible for ensuring that I didn't kill any cadets by issuing them with rations they were allergic to, and was very relieved to succeed in this task.

Back home now and on holidays for a couple of weeks. A great development in the last day or so has been The Boy deciding that he wants his own copy of Wargames Illustrated. He practically lives in his batman costume at present, but has also started taking a copy of WI wherever he goes. Perhaps coincidentally (or perhaps not), the issue he has taken possession of is number 291, in which my good friend and all round Excellent Bloke, Paul of the Man Cave, has an article about training his son to be a gaming buddy. Hopefully my own socialisation of Bat Boy is succeeding...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Happy Birthday Loki!

Loki is running a terrific giveaway over at his Great Hall. Although Loki being Loki perhaps it is all a trick.... What the heck, it's too good a chance to miss out on.

Friday, April 5, 2013

For Phil Broeders: The Legio Prima Homunculorum

I've finished Phil Broeders' prize, and the Legio Homunculorum will soon be packed up and on its way to its new home in the UK.

So, what are my conclusions after this first foray into painting 6mm figures? On the whole I really enjoyed it. My eyes certainly hurt a bit more than normal after a painting session, but I was impressed with how easy it was to paint these little chaps and with how much detail Peter Berry at Baccus has managed to include. When I showed the result to the Duchess, and after she had overcome her indifference, she remarked 'wow, they really look like an army', and I think that sums it up.

Would I paint more 6mm figures? Yes, I would. As Richard Clarke suggested in the latest issue of Wrgames, Soldiers and Strategy, every scale has its uses. For me, 28mm is a brilliant scale for skirmish games, and also for Dark Ages battles that generally did not involve huge numbers. They also have individual personality, perfect for games like SAGA. On the other hand, I just can't see myself ever wanting to put the effort into painting a 28mm Napoleonic army. The available figures are stunning, but to my mind a unit of 28mm Napoleonic infantry just doesn't convince as a battalion or regiment or even company. I am seriously considering 6mm for either Napoleonics, 2nd Punic Wars or Wars of the Successors. Something where units look reasonably uniform. I certainly wouldn't want to paint an army of, say, Ancient Britons, where every figure should look distinct. I have always had a hankering to play Quatre Bras, and 6mm might be just the ticket.

Brilliant! Another scale to be interested in. Thanks Phil! May the Legio I Homunculorum bring you victory. That's me on the white horse, by the way.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

School SAGA Tournament

We have just finished our second SAGA tournament in the Historical Wargames Club at school. The interest this year has been great, with 18 boys entering the tournament with warbands covering just about all the currently available 14 factions apart from Skraelings, Norse Gaels and Franks. Welsh and Bretons were the most popular.

Today we awarded prizes, and I really must give a shout out to Ian Crabbe at War & Peace Games who has been a brilliant supporter of our club and donated some very generous prizes. He is definitely on the Ducal Honours List. While you're over at his site, check out the tasty deal of the week on Saxon figures for Dux Britanniarum.

I can't put pictures of the happy young warlords up on the blog, but here are some of the figures from the winning Irish warband.

The boy who painted these figures (and came first in the tournament) didn't even know what wargaming was 2 years ago. He's probably been painting for about 18 months, and everything he comes out with is noticeably better than the last. Impressive eh? No way I could have done this well at his age.

Incidentally, the blue dice in the last photo are a set of famously cursed dice that thwart me at every turn. I refuse to use them, and play mind games with opponents by trying to get them to use them. Such are the depths of pre-Enlightenment superstition to which we gamers descend.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Legio I Homunculorum Takes Shape...

I've finished the triarii and hastati/principes for Phil's prize. Just velites and a couple of generals to go. And of course the basing. I must say I felt a small buzz of pleasure seeing them all together. They really do look like part of an army, which is of course the whole point with 6mm.

I think I will also do a little highlighting of spear points etc, just to give some contrast to the darkening effect of the varnish. I think I'll be going with raw umber as a base colour, with some lighter highlights.