Monday, November 30, 2015

Behind the Scenes at Canada's War Museum

My brother the Mad Colonel has the best volunteer gig ever.  Now that he’s finally retired, he spends much of his time helping out in the workshop at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, which is always worth a visit if you’re in that fair city (foreigners be advised to avoid visiting in winter).
The other day he sent me this shot of the Museum’s manned V1 rocket, currently in the workshop for repainting.    He also included the caption below.

"The manned V1 is one of six in existence - this one was selected and sent back to Canada by Capt Farley Mowat.  There were some 130 constructed in Germany but finding pilots was problematic.  Only 17 actually signed up and had to sign a declaration that their service would result in their deaths.  The first two manned rockets that were flown on test flights resulted in the pilots being killed. The pilot of the third flight was Hanna Reitsch, Hitler's private pilot.  She actually landed the beast and announced that the issue with the first two flights was in the gyroscope.”

He also sent me this photo of five vehicles from different eras visible in the workshop.

Bonus points if you can identify them all. I got two right and a third close.
Cheers and blessings,

Sunday, November 29, 2015

In Praise of Game Masters, Or, Eye Deep In Heck

Mike M. is one of my oldest gaming friends.  We have an acquaintance of over twenty-five years, long enough to see children born and raised, divorce, career advances and setbacks.   In all that time I’ve known him, Mike has always been one thing - an enthusiastic and inventive gamer and games master.

Every hobby needs extroverts, because who would run our games otherwise?  Mike is an extrovert. with a personality and a way of talking that often reminds me of the actor James Mason.

I’m sure this is how Mike sees himself when gaming.

Every gaming group needs a fellow like Mike, someone to show up with five boxes and a plan for a game, while the rest of us our shilly-shallying and wondering if Frostrgrave is just a fad, a lamentable trend, or something to get in on.  By the time that debate has gone in circles a few times, Mike already has something laid out and ready to go.  In short, he’s a leader of men.

Mike’s a good chap to be around, even if I would want to be shipwrecked on a desert island with him.  Unless, of course, his collection of models and figures was also shipwrecked.   Though, knowing Mike, I am sure he would have made a game of the Charge of the Light Brigade out of palm fronds, coconuts, and bits of lava while the rest of us were trying to spear our first fish in the lagoon.   But I digress.  For as long as I’ve known him, he’s been both thrifty and resourceful.   When we first met, his terrain unashamedly included packs of green kitchen scouring pads from the dollar store, which could be hills or ridges.  The troops were almost always plastic and 1/72nd scale/20mm.  It was always eclectic and productive.   If Mike had a notion to do Thirty Years War, he’d find a great deal on a truck of Revell figures,  and emerge three months later with a game ready to go.

As we’ve gotten older, Mike is still thrifty, but more concerned about the look of the thing.  As he said to me recently, he’s become a terrain snob.  Perhaps this is the same impulse that leads men in middle age to pursue trophy wives half their age, only in Mike’s case channeled in a more fruitful direction.

Yesterday the local games were invited by Stephen to his palatial estate in the country and about eight stout fellows answered the call after meeting for breakfast at a greasy spoon.  Not surprisingly, Mike had a game in his car.  It was based on the Gallipoli campaign, a Turkish assault on Anzac defences.  Mike trotted it all in from his car, and in thirty minutes had this set up.

The troops were all from Mike’s collection, all painted.  Some were HAT, like these fellows who were actually Turks.  When he described how he had made more out of plastic Japanese from the Russo-Japanese war with heads from BEF figures only with the headgear altered, I confess I went a bit cross-eyed.  

A view of the Anzac trenches, defended by Aussies and Kiwis.  The trenches are his own manufacture, though Mike admitted he had bought the wire off of someone else.  The  game was laid out in squares, and theTurkish objective was to cut through both lines of trenches along one row of squares and establish a unit in the Turkish rear.


Kiwi defenders wait for their prey, doubtless after a good haka.  The rules were Mike’s, loosely based I think on Peter Pig’s Square Bashing but slimmed down to one sheet of paper.

It started so well.   Both sides had artillery, and the Turks had four dice of off board guns that they could allocate each turn, plus two onboard infantry guns.  As the artillery commander I used all my dice to successfully clear out two of the three MG nests on turn one.  Hurrah!  Turks surge forward.

As Mike warned us, it soon got bloody.  The Turks got stalled and were badly cut up on our left, but on the right we used artillery to reinforce success.  Soon we had the wire cleared on some of the forward trenches and were assaulting, only to be thrown back several times before we got a foothold.


The Kiwis on the far left of the line did very well, throwing back repeated assaults.   By this point, several of the Turkish players were talking about putting their underwear on their heads and pencils up their noses.

No pictures of the game’s end, though it was a squeaker of a victory by the Turks.  I am not sure if the game really taught me anything about the Gallipoli campaign, but it provided a satisfying lesson in trench warfare but still playable enough to be a game.  I had to leave by lunchtime, and the lads were setting up spaceships for Full Thrust and figures for Chain of Command.   I was sorry to leave, but had a splendid morning.

So here’s to the Mikes of our hobby.  It would be a damned poorer show without them.

Blessings to your die rolls.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Officious Officers

Here are two German officers for my Weird War Two project.  Both are Black Tree Miniatures, from their WW9034 Wehrmacht Officers set.  I’ve never painted any BTD figures before.  I can’t say I’m overly fond of them, but the price on these two chaps was certainly right.    The nasty looking fellow on the right, who is either grimacing or laughing, will be a senior Wehrmacht general, with a set of nefarious plans in the black briefcase under left arm

There was a bit of a disaster with briefcase guy, as when I had almost finished him I realized I didn’t like the way he was listing to one side and was trying to push the figure a little more upright and he snapped clean off at the ankles.  Some superglue was required.   I think he is sculpted this way, but he looks like he’s a little tipsy.


I painted the fellow in the pistol in black.  He’ll be a useful officer for my Bob Murch Pulp Figures SS Guards set.

The General goes well with my recently finished Artizan sculpts.   I suspect he will be playing a very crooked game, double crossing the Heer and the carious occult branches of the SS.  Perhaps that’s why he has that evil grin.



These figures bring my 2015 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 67; Mounted Figures: 13, Artillery: 2, Vehicles: 2, Scenic Pieces: 2

20mm:  Vehicles: 1; Artillery: 1, Foot Figures: 6

15mm: Armour/Vehicles: 5; 15mm Scenic Pieces: 5

6mm:  Scenic pieces:  7

Blessings to your brushes!


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Emissaries From Tradgardland

Last week, in the midst of a busy and tiring week, I was buoyed to come home and find an unexpected parcel from my favourite imaginary place, the Duchy of Tradgardland.

 Good Duke Alan like me is a longtime fan of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and has been very encouraging in my own gaming efforts in Middle Earth.  The package, pleasantly heavy and not cheap to post, I am sure, spilled out this alarming bunch of Games Workshop Isengard orcs and half-orcs, very nice metal castings with an interesting variety of shields, swords and boys.

Three stalwart elves ready to defend the woodlands against muddy iron-shod orc boots and bad breath.


Bilbo Baggins, ready to record these adventures!


And finally, this quite terrifying Nazgul Dark Rider, who will be quite lovely, though I don’t think I could hold him upright like this for an entire game.  Going to have to do something about that. 

 A very kind gift and sign of friendship, milord Duke.   Many thanks from your Duchy’s most loyal Canadian friend.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rohirrim vs Warg Rider

A little work finished last weekend for my ongoing Middle Earth project. 

Plastic 28mm Games Workshop Rider of Rohan.   I am not fond of GW mounted figures, especially if, like this one, the horse is only anchored to the base on one paw … err, hoof.  Don’t know much about horses, do i?  Anyway, that one anchor point just begs for the horses to get snapped off the base.  

Anyway, I bought a bunch of these figures years ago when my kids were teens, and got them roughly half painted but lost steam when my kids lost interest.  I am slowly finishing and refurbishing them.  This fellow is one of them.  I am mostly following the colour scheme from the PJ movies, earth tones for the leather armour and green for the cloak and shield.

And his adversary, a Warg rider.  Unlike the first figure, this one is a metal casting, warg and rider, so a much more stable figure on the base.   I wasn’t sure about the face but I decided it looked scary with bare skin and nasty yellow eyes.  i”m not sure about the utility of his weapon - not effective as a lance, perhaps, but maybe useful for pulling something off his horse?

It’s sort of like one of those terrible History Channel documentaries, pitting famous warriors against each other.  Warg Rider vs Rohirrim, who will win?  Find out after this commercial break.

Don’t bite my horse, you nasty thing!


I’m slowly getting to the point where I might put some LOTR toys on the table and try Dux Rohirrim.  Or Gondorum.  Or something.

These figures bring my 2015 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 65; Mounted Figures: 13, Artillery: 2, Vehicles: 2, Scenic Pieces: 2

20mm:  Vehicles: 1; Artillery: 1, Foot Figures: 6

15mm: Armour/Vehicles: 5; 15mm Scenic Pieces: 5

6mm:  Scenic pieces:  7

Blessings to your brushes!


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Preparing the Ground: My Napoleonics Battlemat Takes Shape

A few months ago I posted some pics on a project to paint an old bed sheet to make a battle mat suitable for 6mm Napoleonics gaming.  The idea came to me on a train this summer, watching the German countryside go by.

I finished painting all the fields in a variety of shapes and brought it in doors.  It was quite stiff from the acrylic craft paints I used, even after putting it in the dryer a few times to soften it.   I spread it out on the gaming table and smoothed it out with my hands until it lay reasonably flat.

The idea was to suggest a variety of fields, with some just plugged or lying fallow, with various shades of brown, and then different types of crops in greens and yellows.   I’m not a farmer, though I have had parishes in the country, but I don’t claim any great degree of knowledge as to whether one would see these sorts of colours at any one time.  Madame Padre looked a bit sceptical, but granted me a degree of artistic license.

Since I had watered the paint quite a bit to apply it, there were many places where it had seeped through under the painter’s tape I had used to mark out the various fields.  I used various shades and types of artists’ pastel crayons to smooth and blend the field boundaries as much as I could.

Covering the darker colours with the lighter ones didn’t work out perfectly, but it did begin to look better.

The only downside was that I ended up with a lot of dust from the pastel crayons.   I had to wash my hands a few times, and then ran my shop vac over the mat to pick up as much dust as I could.

Now to prove the concept by laying out some terrain items.

I think the size of the fields looks alright with the 6mm scale figures.   Here two of my Austrian regiments (or brigades, depending on the scale) prepare to hold the bridge on the Punkenbruch.


My original intention was to show the roads by laying down play sand, but I confess I don’t like the effect.  I think it looks rather messy, as the sand wanders all over the place.  I’m not sure what to do.  I could splash out on some resin roads similar to the river sections, or I could draw them using light colour pastels and draw over them later to change the look from battle to battle.


I put down some sections of styrofoam under the mat to create contours.  The sheet doesn’t cling to them, but it lays down flat enough that you can see the elevations well enough.

Another elevation view.


And when all is done, it even rolls up, after a fashion.  

I won’t decide until I play a game with it, but I’m reasonably happy with my result.   Hopefully players won’t mind if they hands get a little discoloured, I hope.



Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hapless Heer and Horrible Hans

Here are three lovely Artizan 28mm sculpts from their Europe Ablaze series.  They will be useful in my Weird War Two project as sentries, guards, and general-duty human targets.  They are really just asking for a Fairbairn-Sykes knife in the back, if you ask me.  

I’ve painted them as bog-standard Wehrmacht troops.  The way I see the project unfolding, the various occult branches of the SS and other sinister organizations will need spear-carriers to provide their outer-perimeter security or even as bait to lure the Allies into the clutches of unspeakable horrors. But don’t tell these fellows that.

 I amy augment these fellows with some of the Foundry 28mm German sentries and guards sets.

Halt!  Papers!   

Commandoes’ eye view.

The boys like my 4Ground Sentry Box and Gate kits.

Forbidding Fritz.

Sergeant Schlachter.  He fancies his moustache makes him a hit with the ladies.

Laconic Lars.  He doesn’t say much.

And here is Horrible Hans,  He’s a wonderful figure from two-fisted sculptor, fellow Canadian Bob Murch.

With his bundle of seven stick grenade, it’s not clear if there will be anything left to stab, but you never know.  I figure my mad scientists will need some hulking psychopaths as their bodyguards.

Just don’t get in his way.


These figures bring my 2015 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 65; Mounted Figures: 11, Artillery: 2, Vehicles: 2, Scenic Pieces: 2

20mm:  Vehicles: 1; Artillery: 1, Foot Figures: 6

15mm: Armour/Vehicles: 5; 15mm Scenic Pieces: 5

6mm:  Scenic pieces:  7

Blessings to your brushes!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Bit More On Military Wargaming: Lessons Learned From MC'02


Apropos to my post last week on last week’s post about a disastrous and badly flawed US military war-game, here is another article from the same website, War on the Rocks, by two of the Red Team members in MC’02.  

Point Four is especially interesting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hit and Mist: Playing Chain of Command With OP Martlet

If you listened to the recent Meeples and Miniatures podcast, you’ll know that Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies has been a bit distracted of late, but he has managed to put out a little corker of a campaign supplement for Chain of Command.

“Pint sized campaigns” are cheerful and cheap supplements to CoC, allowing players to fight a series of linked engagements, ladder-style, based on an historical incident.  They are affordable little gems (the same prize as a pint, Clarkie notes) and I chose Operation Martlet because I have the toys to model a British/SS matchup in Normandy.


 Operation Martlet, a prelude to EPSOM, begins with a platoon of the Royal Scots Fusiliers probing towards the village of Fontenay on 25 June between 04:00 and 08:00.   Unfortunately the British have too problems.  First, as you see below, they have a fairly unforgiving amount of open ground to cross.  Second, their deployment is hampered by heavy morning mist, which requires each element wishing to deploy a 50% chance of getting lost per turn.  Each element that fails this roll twice is lost to the British player for the battle.

 The British get a standard infantry platoon, with two Senior Leaders, a 2 inch mortar team, PIAT team, and three full sections.   The Germans get three sections, each consisting of two 3 man LMG teams.  As Stephen the German player remarked, “They’re just kids with a lot of machine guns!”  Spot on.   The Germans are reinforced by a single Panzer IV, which they widely chose to entrench in a hull down position as per the campaign rules’ support choices for the Germans.  The German took an extra full rifle team as a support choice, and got to reinforce one building on the map to create a bunker.

We used my 15mm collection this time, which made the table seem even bigger, emptier, and scarier.

 The German positions.  If the British can slip one team past the German setup line (the grey road in this photo) they win as per Scenario 2 in the main CoC rules.

 German jump off points.  Unlike poor Tommy, the Germans got a lot of cover as a result of the Patrol Phase.  We did make one mistake in setting up.   The double building left of the grey road and below the brown road was not supposed to be a building at all, but a local monument, a Calvarie.  Of course that was the building Jerry chose as his bunker.  A hard wicket for the British to start on.

German Panther IV hiding behind its invisible entrenchment.

Bruce the British player soon regrets his support choices, 2 X M4 Shermans.  Both were at a disadvantage trying to hit the German tank hull down, a base 9 on 2d6.  One Sherman explodes, the other is hammered and shocked into submission.


 A full section, a senior leader, and the 2 inch mortar are lost in the mist and fail to arrive.  What infantry did arrive is hammered by MG fire from several angles and isn’t going far.


After about six game turns, the British player decided to abort his attack.   He lost three men killed, and has to use At the Sharp End, the Chain of Command campaign rules, to see who is available for the next battle.   Fortunately the Royal Scots have a mostly intact platoon to try again.  Will they try their luck again with the mist in the second campaign turn, from 0801 to 1200, or will they wait until noon for the sun to burn the mist off?  Time is working against them, as they will have to fight through this table and push on if they hope to win the campaign.  Perhaps different support choices?  If it was me, I would take every mortar option I could lay my hands on, and use as much smoke as possible to screen my advance.

Maybe we’ll have another battle, depending on what the chaps at the club want.

Despite a tough initial challenge to the Brits, Operation Martlet looks like a very valuable way to get more fun out of Chain of Command.

Blessings to your die rolls! 

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