Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Fearless Vampire Killers 3: Capt. Richard (Dicky) Byrd

Here is the third of my first four Weird War 2 core personalities. The miniature is one the set of four currently marketed by Warlord as the "Christmas Truce" set. I believe the figures were initially conceived as a tribute to the four key personalities behind Too Fat Lardies. Perhaps because of that connection, the figures have tons of personality and a not so serious quality that makes then perfect for pulp gaming,

This fellow was so much fun to paint. As with Padre Mercer, I based him on flagstones, to make it look like he could be looting some dusty wine cellar, or maybe a ruined French chateau (hence the hint of rubble on the base). I gave him some medal ribbons on his battledress tunic, and a hint of a David Niven type moustache.

Because S Commando has been cobbled together, not all its members are as elite and upright as Captains Jarce and Mercer. Since qualified intelligence officers are hard to come by, S Commando ended up with Captain Richard Byrd, because, well, no one else wanted him.

Byrd, or "Dicky" Byrd as his cronies call him, took a degree in European History and Linguistics at Cambridge before the war, and thought it would be a cushy life to stay on as a don. He has a good mind and a flair for languages (he can speak five fluently, though his Finnish and Albanian are a bit rough) but he can't resist wine, women, or song. As a result he lost his position at Cambridge for gross moral turpitude, and then had an undistinguished series of posts at increasingly provincial public schools. His teaching career ended one morning when he awoke, quite drunk, and headed to class wearing only a mortarboard cap.

The Army gave him a refuge and he found himself in France in 1939 as in IntO in the BEF. The Phony War was great for him because half the chaps were squiffy most of the time and the girls were fab. Byrd wasn't so keen on the Blitzkrieg, however. In the retreat, he was given a lorry and a chateau of sensitive files to save. After a good bordeaux to steady his nerves from all the bloody shells and Stukas, he decided the files weren't that important, not compared to a collection of pre-1914 vintages he had assembled, and so took them instead.

At Dunkirk Byrd was arrested for desertion and theft, but in the chaotic final days of Dynamo he vanished. The story of his reappearance in Dover in a motor launch with a gaggle of orphans and two charming French nuns may just be a rumor, but it may explain why Byrd was not court martialled and was assigned to Project Alice instead. However, once he begins Commando training, he may long for the firing squad.

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Location:Trepassey, Newfld, Canada

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Fearless Vampire Killers 2: Padre Tristram Mercer

My Warlord Miniatures figure is done and he is the second of the four key members of S Commando to be introduced here.

A quick word about the basing. I figured that the good padre would likely confront his vampiric nemesis in some crypt or castle dungeon, which called for flagstones. Not wanting to shell out for some expensive resin bases, I opted for cut squares of cardboard painted gray. Hopefully it doesn't look too cheesy.

Warlord calls him "Major Terntadust" but on reflection I decided to give him a less corny name. In the backstory for is project, he is Captain (Honourary) the Rev'd. Dr. Tristram Mercer.

Before the War, Father Mercer was ordained in the Church of England, and did a doctorate in Reformation Studies at Tubingen University in Germany before taking the chair in Theology and Church History at St. Anselm's College.

It was while he was at St. Anselm's, on the eve of the abdication crisis of 1936, that Mercer stumbled on the existence of powerful vampires and their minions in Germany and England. Through a series of bloody murders at the College and in London, Mercer came to the attention of Chief Inspector Flayle of Scotland Yard and then of then Lt. Col. McAllister of the Secret Intelligence Service. Both men recognized Mercer's value as a fluent speaker of German, as a researcher, and as an ordained priest. In a series of bloody adventures, they succeeded in thwarting vampiric plans to retain Edward as a puppet king and routed the dark powers in England, but could not halt their rise in Nazi Germany.

Since 1936 Mercer continued as a priest and scholar at St. Anselm's while working under deep cover with SIS in a series of missions overseas. Now, under the cover that he has been called up as a chaplain to the Royal Army Service Corps, he will play an integral role in S Commando, the crack outfit being built by his friend, now Brigadier, McAllister.

Mercer is single, a shy and quiet man whose lectures are always packed. He is a competitive amateur distance runner, a passable cricketer and fast bowler, loves fly fishing, renaissance music and American films.

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Location:Gower St,St John's,Canada

Monday, August 27, 2012

Weird War Two: The Fearless Vampire Hunters 1 - It's Hugh Jarce!

The first thing I want to say in this post, dear readers, is that it is being written on my iPad using the BlogPress app, high above Lake Superior as Mrs. Padre and I jet east across 4 time zones towards two weeks holiday in Newfoundland and Ontario.

Isn't technology amazing? I should be napping, since we were up at 03:00 for the drive to the Calgary airport, but it was between closing my eyes as we took off that I saw, miraculously, a vintage B-17 Flying Fortress (possibly this one) coming in to land on the next runway, so I am loathe to close my eyes again in case I miss more wondrous sights.

Here are the first of four characters in my Weird War Two project. One of them has already appeared here on my blog.

The chap in shirtsleeves with Thompson SMG is a special cast designed by Richard Ansell to celebrate the 2011 launch of Too Fat Lardies' IABSM 3 WW2 rules. He is in the likeness of Hugh Jarce, the two fisted, lantern-jawed here that appears in some TFL rules sets.

Actually I blame Hugh for getting this whole thing started. As I've said herebefore, I had no intention of doing WW2 in 28mm -- I already do it in 20mm and 15mm, for heavens sake! But there was something about Hugh's cocky swagger, his combative readiness to take on every hound of war and hell that the Nazis could let slip against him, that whispered encouragement into my dreams. And odd dreams there were.
James Manto, author of the thoughtful and whimsical Rabbits In My Basement blogreplied to a previous postof mine and asked if I had plans to use Hugh as a Big Man in this project. Well spotted, that man. Hugh's job is to provide the military and operational command for the inner circle of "Commando S" (S for Supernatural, of course), a secretive group being assembled early in the war to fight rogue Nazi elements, their undead and diabolical allies, and their perverted schemes to enslave humanity.
Hugh's job is to liaise with Allied assets and personnel that may be tasked with supporting Commando S and it's CO, Brigadier Kenneth McAllister (code name "Alice"). Alice has made it clear to Hugh that his most important task is to provide close protection for key personnel, including Padre Mercer, occult specialist and D S Ops (Director Supernatural Operations) and Captain Birdwell (Intelligence Officer). Since it is crucial that the enemy not realize how much the Allies know about its sinister schemes, Alice has strictly ordered Hugh that if things go wobbly, he must not allow either Mercer or Birdwell to be captured alive. Whatever Hugh thinks about these orders he keeps to himself.
Hugh is courageous, untiring, tactically daring, and a keen sportsman, the perfect commando. His mind is a simple, tidy place, and while the idea of undead Nazi chaps is all rather like something cooked up by some American film director wallah, well, never mind, it promises a damned good scrap and that's all that counts.
We're coming into Toronto now so I must stow this. Not sure how large these pictures will be but they give you the idea. Over the holidays I'll introduce you to the rest of the team, and for those who like background fluff, as if this wasn't enough, I'll post some of that too.
Cheers, and stay vigilant, chaps.
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Some Tanks For Tank Girl

Helen, the owner of the wonderful Tank Girl blog and a painter whose work I greatly admire, is kind enough to visit my blog from time to time and so this post is for her and all other armour fans.

If you haven't seen it on my other blog (what Richard Clarke once called the God blog), I described a visit last week to the Scots Dragoon Guards on exercise here in Canada. In this shot, the crews of four Challenger 2 tanks are engaged in morning routine around 06:30 on what promises to be another hot and dusty day on the prairie.
You can see more pictures of that visit here if you like.
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Location:Silver Dart Dr,Mississauga,Canada

Sunday, August 26, 2012

ACW Union Cavalry Dismounts

I don't know why most of my posts start with the words "I've finally" but they do and so does this one. I've finally finished a unit of Yankee dismounted cavalry, ready to do battle and buy time for the infantry to come up. The figures are 28mm Foundry - I'm a big fan of Foundry's ACW range, and I don't mind paying the big bucks for these figures on occasion. I would happily pay smaller bucks if someone made dismounted cavalry in plastic, and maybe the Perry Bros will follow up their ACW mounted cavalry with a dismount box. That would be awesome.

Flag is by GMB (Grahame Black). I am a fan of GMB and use his flags for all my ACW figures.

I would describe the painting job on these guys as being Good to "Meh". I used a black undercoat, a practice I am slowly getting away from. I tried to some blending with the faces that I don't think was helped by the dark undercoat. I also did a very rush job on these at first, as I was trying to achieve one of those miniature forum build deadlines that I totally missed, lost heart, and ended up putting these fellows on the back burner. I have since sworn off miniature forum build projects and competitions.

However,in 2012 I have finished both a CS mounted and dismounted cavalry unit, and one mounted and dismounted for the US, so that's a good result. I think I'll give horses a rest for a bit.

I love manufacturers who include a good solid flagbpole in their castings. It was a little short for the GMB flag, but it was much better than faffing about with superglue trying to get the copper wire to stay on. I have a bag of copper spears from North Star, and they make nice flag poles, but I am forever regluing them onto stands.

That little twig doesn't look like much cover, does it? I'm not terribly happy
with the faces on this group, as I've mentoned already, but here I think the bright sun washes out some of the details. The kneeling chap looks better in real life. I like the arrangement of poses here, this is perhaps my favourite stand.

Here's another base I really like. The eyes on the kneeling figure ended up suggesting that he is looking over his shoulder, perhaps at the soldier coming up behind him. It's as if the kneeling fellow doesn't like what he's hearing: "Not falling back? Whaddya mean the boss says we ain't falling back?"

Cheers, and thanks for looking. Hope to show you these fellows on the gaming table soon. Mike

Monday, August 20, 2012

Twenty Questions For The Mad Padre

Following the example of Fran the Angry Lurker (email me if you want your shirt, git) and Ray Rousell, here is the Mad Padre's take on twenty questions for wargamers.

1. Favourite Wargaming period and why?

The American Civil War. It's the period I keep coming back to. I love the tragic clash of romance and idealism versus the brutality of industrial scale, total war. It's the point in the 19th century where you can look back and see the Napoleonic Age in all its glory, and see ahead to the Great War and all its horror It's also a war where both sides had enough idealism, however misplaced, that I can paint and play with CSA troops without thinking of them as the bad guys. I can't muster the same enthusiasm for the Germans in WW2 gaming, which is my close second favourite period.

2. Next period, money no object?

I am just dipping a toe into Napoleonics with an initial 6mm figure order from Bacchus. If money was no object, I would get into this period in a big way, and buy the books, figures, and terrain I needed to do corps level battles - but since I'm kind of cheap, and a slow painter, I think I'd keep to 6mm.

3. Favourite 5 films?

Tunes of Glory

Doctor Zhivago

Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eighth Dimension

Mystery Men

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

4. Favourite 5 TV series?

The Middleman

Babylon 5

The Wire

Avatar: The Last Air Bender

Barney Miller

5. Favourite book and author?

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology

6. Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!!

Maybe not the greatest, but a personal favourite, fellow Canadian Bert Hoffmeister from World War 2.

7. Favourite Wargames rules?

I am a big fan of Too Fat Lardies rules, and would likely rank Troops, Weapons and Tactics as their best rules, though I refuse to use the acronym.

8. Favourite Sport and team?

Baseball. I'm a loyal and often disappointed fan of the Toronto Blue Jays.

9. If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?

Keeping with baseball, I would go to Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, New York, on 15 April, 1947, and see Jackie Robinson break the colour barrier playing for the Dodgers.

Afterwards, I'd go up town and buy a bunch of those awesome late 1940s men's suits and hats.

10. Last meal on Death Row?

Pork souvlaki and a Greek salad with fresh olives, with a nice crisp lager, and a shot of ouzo afterwards.

11. Fantasy relationship and why?

I would love to have been in Oxford in the 1930s and 40s and been a regular in the Inklings. Going for pipes and pints w J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Nevil Coghill, and hearing them read their work and talk about art, literature and religion, would have been wonderful.

12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?

Kenneth More

13. Favourite Comic Superhero?

Cerebus the Aardvark

14. Favourite Military quote?

"Loss of hope, rather than loss of life, is the factor that really decides wars, battles, and even the smallest combats." B. H. Liddell Hart

15. Historical destination to visit?

I would like to do a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Spain some day.

16. Biggest Wargaming regret?

I will totally echo what Paul from the Man Cave wrote when he essayed these questions: "Not having the opportunity to have a regular gaming group each week, and having to move away from gaming friends every two years."

17. Favourite Fantasy job?

Running a small pub and well-stocked wargames shop in the kind of resort town that women drag their husbands to. While the wives are looking for crafts and antiques, the men can drop in for a pint, a game, and a chat. Mind you, I couldn't run a business to save my life, so this will remain a fantasy job.

18. Favourite Song, Top 5?

This could change in a few months, but for now ...

Pretenders, Back On The Chain Gang

The Clash, London Calling

R.E.M., It's The End Of The World As We Know It

Steeleye Span, Sheep Crook

New Pornographers, Crash Years

19. Favourite Wargaming Moment?

That special moment when you meet someone in the hobby, play a game or talk shop, drift into other subjects, and start to realize, "I like this person".

20. The miserable Git question, what upsets you?

Politicans who lie when they need to tell people the truth. Corporate greedheads. Ignorant and intolerant people of all religions. People who drive with aggression and don't give a f**k about others on the road.


That horrible moment when you meet someone in the hobby, play a game, and realize he (its usually a he, but it could be a she) has his army packed with elite troops, tries to use the rules against you, lacks any empathy, fair play, and hygeine, and then turns into a whiny little b***h when they lose.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vampire Hunting Padre In Progress

Warlord Miniatures Padre from their "Out For The Count" series - The Rev. Capt. (H) Dr. Harry Terntadust. Nearly finished. A few more details to paint and he also needs his Commando decals from the Warlord/Bolt Action Commando box I purchased as his close protection detail.

Back, hellspawn, in nomine Christi! A sneak peak at the Padre and his nemesis. These two guys can't wait to get off the painting table and at each other's throats!

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Maida Mayhem Magically Materializes

Those who follow Conrad Kinch's blog (which is everyone who's anyone, really) will have noticed a post in which he mentioned an experiment we have been conducting using Apple's FaceTime technology. In our first session, we found that by using our iPhones and FaceTime we could have a conversation, and see details of a wargaming table with sufficient detail to have a game. During that first session, CK was able to explain the basics of GMT's Command and Colors Napoleonics. The beauty of it was that, other than what we paid for our gadgets, the connection was free. FaceTime does not use a phone line to connect, so if you both parties have a wifi connection, you're good to go.

Last night, despite a brutal seven hour time difference (Alberta, Canada vs Dublin, Ireland) which CK gamely took on the chin, we tried phase two of the experiment and played a game of CC Nap, with CK's gaming table and figures as the battlefield. The scenario CK chose was Maida. Because CCNap is card driven and players activate select units by playing one of their cards each turn, there was the problem of how I could manage my hand without CK, who physically held the cards, from knowing what was in my hand. We solved the problem by CK holding up the cards to the camera, me writing the card details down at my end, then CK placing the cards face down, in a sequence numbered 1 to 5, on my side of the table. It worked quite well. The details on the cards were hard to see at tomes, but visible enough that I could compare what I could see with the downloaded rules. It was a bit squinty but it worked.

A shot of Kinch's gaming table from a previous setup of Maida, courtesy of Donogh McCarthy's blog.

The game itself was cracking. It was the first Napoleonics game I've played in ages and my tactics were guided by CK's kind coaching. Within an hour and a half we were able to obtain a result, a very narrow 4-3 French victory, with the French light cavalry covering themselves in glory. I quickly learned that simply pointing my pen at units on the screen of my iPad did no earthly good in showing CK what I meant. Fortunately CK uses a Hotz hex mat which made it simple for me to tell him how I wished to move my troops and to visualize ranges of fire. I am not sure how we would have managed had we been using a tape measure instead of a hex map.

So good stuff all around. As this sort of technology gets better and easier to use I think wargamers will use it more frequently as the internet allows us to find kindred spirits who are geographically removed from each other. The game was good, having a drink and a chat w CK afterwards (and meeting his cat, Sir Harry Flashman) was even better.

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Location:Maida Mayhem Magically Materializes

Monday, August 6, 2012

Napoleon At The Ball Park

Some reading while waiting for tonight's baseball game to start.

H.C.B. Rogers' classic Napoleon's Army. I've pretty much decided that my first Nappy figures will be in French (seems the obvious starting point) in 6mm, probably the 1806-15 period.

Now the next question: if Napoleon were around today, what sport would he be a fan of?

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Location:2 St SE,Medicine Hat,Canada

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mad Padre vs Mad Padre

One of the great pleasures of my job working at CFB Suffield/British Army Training Unit Suffield is getting to meet my chaplain colleagues from the British Army. The UK padres I've met are all excellent, hard working fellows with difficult jobs. They come over with their units to train, live in fairly austere conditions far away from home for months at a time, minister to their soldiers while in the field, listen to their complaints, and sometimes help repair the damage when a squaddie goes into town on a tear and gets into trouble.

Last month I had several padres over to my house in Medicine Hat for a chance to rest and get away from camp. Several days later, I was having a brew with one of them, Kevin, chaplain to 2 Royal Tank Regiment, and he said "I noticed a wargaming magazine at your house last night. Do you wargame?". His tone was that of a fellow conspirator, and over the next hour we talked about our collections, favorite rules, and all the
other stuff that war gamers go on about. We checked our schedules, and found that it was possible to get a night of gaming in before Kevin went back to the UK.

Kevin wanted to try out The 3rd edition of Too Fat Lardies'I Ain't Been Shot Mum so we chose the third scenario, "Action at Galmanche". In this scenario, British infantry and armour have to push through SS infantry with a PAK 75 AT gun in support. We cut a platoon per side since I don't yet have enough figures for a company each, but kept the two British tank troops. The dice assigned me the Germans.

From Mobile
Kevin plans his cunning advance. My forces are woefully deployed in the buildings on the right, and in the woods and buildings in the centre. The woods above the road are impassable by tanks, so Kevin eiher has to swing around to my left or go through the hedgerows on the right. In fact he did both.

My pre-positioning was pretty dreadful. I scattered 1 Zug in the buildings on my left with the PAK forward in the woods, so no element could support another. 2 Zug was in the woods on my left, unable to support 1 Zug or the PAK, and the tank killers of Coy HQ were in the buildings on the left. I didn't notice the scenario rule allowing seven German elements to entrench, and I suffered badly from the opening British barrage. Kevin placed his stonks masterfully, and as a result my AT gun and most of 1 Zug were crippled with shock and/or down several soldiers before the game began.

Kevin's HQ came on first and my shock raddled AT crew were unable to hit them in their carriers before they dismounted.

From Mobile
Coy HQ in carriers advances. The PAK opens fire on them but note the red dice - 5 shock from the stonk! It misses.

The CSM, "Basher" Bishop, quickly got the Coy Vickers into action, killing the German big man with the PAK and driving off the crew. From there 1 platoon of his infantry descended on my infantry on my right, pinning and assaulting my lead two sections and bundling them off as easily as tossing out a drunk at closing time.

From Mobile
Kevin's infantry handly tosses my infantry out of the buildings on my right.
From Mobile
One of Kevin's two tank troops swings around my right as his infantry consolidate. The second tank in the column is a Centaur proxying for a Sherman. I have one section left in the little cafe below the road, but it has 5 shock left over from the stonk.

I had a little more success when his 2 platoon wandered into the LOS of my 2 Zug. I caught his lead section moving in the open and mowed them down.

Kevin watches his second platoon cross my front, unaware that my PZ Grenadiers are lining up on his lead section. Ha!

My success was fleeting, however. By then he was moving his Coy support weapons up on the south side of d woods, behind 2 Zug, and engaging it from two sides.

Having cleared the buildings on my right, Kevin's infantry and armour start to put the squeeze on me in the centre.

Matters were not helped by my four sections of off board 81mm mortars, which were unavailable for the entire game through my poor rolling. This caused us both much mirth as we imagined the voicemail greeting that the poor FOO kept getting. "Guten tag, ziss is zee artillery. Vee are not available right now, but pliss to leave grid coordinates, und vee shall get back to you. Auf weidersehen und have an ubermenschen tag!". Proof, if it was needed, that a good game is about how much you laugh, and not whether you win or lose.

Two things towards the end of the game lightened my spirits somewhat. Kevin, like a good tankie padre, pushed one of his Sherman troops hard and fast across my front and then hooked down towards the two buildings I held on my left. Unfortunately for them, they drove their pretty flanks right past my tankillers and a section of my infantry, who let loose with a volley of Panzerfausts and Panzerschreks.
From Mobile
Hello Tommy! The lead Sherman explodes in a fireball, while the Firefly behind it takes an engine hit (hence the little green spanner, one of the tokens that came with the IABSM bundle) and a point of shock. Not having any HE or MG, the Firefly is pretty helpless.

The second good thing about ambushing Kevin's armour was that I got to use some of the cool little burning markers I recently ordered from Litko. Before the game, Kevin didn't think I'd need them. Double ha!

From Mobile
A close up of a Litko marker adorning a burning tank. Such a heartwarming sight!

That was about all the good fortune I had. Kevin had an intact armour troop and 2 intact infantry sections worked behind my centre, and they were poised to shoot my infantry out of the woods and houses they still held. I conceded.

Getting set to winkle out Jerry.

So that was our game. The estimable Conrad Kinch wrote in the latest issue of Battlegames that the principle joy of wargaming is social. He quotes the late Paddy Griffiths that "a wargame [is] a social occasion like a dinner party", and that the most desirable quality in an opponent is really, "would I gladly have a pint with him?". Hear, hear, Kinch. One of the great joys of this summer was making a new friend in Padre Kevin, and then deepening our friendship with a shared passion for toy soldiers. I look forward to pitching up on Kevin's doorstep in the UK at some point for a rematch and a few more pints. That won't be for a while, though. Not only am I unlikely to make it to the UK anytime soon, but Kevin and his lads are getting ready for a trip to Helmand, and then a difficult time as the two Royal Tank Regiments are amalgamated into one. He's a good padre and will be up to that task, but if you wish, say a prayer for him.

From Mobile
Happy padres give IABSM 3 two thumbs up. I'm the chap with the double chin on the left. Two cracking moustaches, don't you think?

So, in summary. My tactical deployment sucks and needs to be improved. My Litko markers are fun to use. There is a second mad padre out there, and I've met him. God is indeed good, all the time.

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