Wednesday, 8 November 2017

What do we need to see in a set of rules?

I just had a really interesting conversation with Alex from the Team Yankee Facebook community and it was actually so interesting for me because it's probably the first time I've put into words the different things that I believe I need to see in a game before I will buy into a game.

I thought I would offer it up to the community as a whole for a discussion on it.

For those of you who are not aware, Team Yankee is a Cold War wargames system produced by Battlefront, using a new(ish) system that Flames of War has been completely rewritten into, which has had the majority (or at least an over indulgent slice) of the community up in arms due to a perceived divergence from historical acceptability and a claimed over-abstraction of reality into a set of rules that bear small resemblance to historical occurrence... or at least that's the argument from at least one side of the community.

Ambrose T Burnside
Despite the beauty of the miniatures on offer I had concerns about buying into Team Yankee when I started seeing all of those photos out there with peoples solid walls of tanks lined up and moving across a table. In the real world this has never happened, could never happen and will never happen unless somebody as inept as Ambrose T Burnside was suddenly resurrected and given command of an entire Soviet Armoured Corps, conveniently placed across the battlefield from an Italian or Spanish Napoleonic army (or else some other army renowned for showing the enemy their heels)... which of course will never happen!

I probably don't need to say this but the quality of miniatures that so many of us crave can now be met, along with an ever diversifying and dizzying supply of art materials to enable the dedicated among us to, after some graft, produce some beautiful pieces of work that just look amazing on the table... but is this plethora of beauty aptly supported by the games systems that are supposed to be supported by these miniatures?

An image of wargaming beauty...

So, this raises another question; 'just what is it we need to see in a set of rules before we will commit all of this artistic endeavour to them?'

Now, I was around for the Wargames Research Group days in the late 70's and 80's when a group of crusty ol' duffers sat around a table and decided that all wargaming should be done for the purpose of historical simulation, drew up lengthy tables of numbers and grammatical punctuation and spent the whole day chewing on cucumber sandwiches, debating the wisdom of invading Russia (or the Soviet Union) in the winter (or as one could more conveniently say; their Christmas holidays!)!!!

Apparently those that Pol Pot left alive
were never taught about grammar
A worthy aspiration to be sure, but as dull as ditchwater and if the rose tinted spectacles of the past are removed and the big stick with 'reality check' written down the side applied sharply to the back of ones head, we have to admit that these methuselahs probably did more damage to wargaming kudos than Pol Pot did for democracy in Cambodia!

However those dark days of autocratic, modifier toting, number crunching geekdom are behind us now, and modern manufacturing techniques, the relative skills of miniature sculptors of all scales and a whole plethora of art materials has enabled something akin to art, crafts and beauty entering the dark closets of us wargaming anoraks out there as we constantly rub our sweaty palms up and down our pant legs as we browse through (web)page after (web)page of miniatures!

So what about the rules then?

One categoric fact needs to be stated before I go into this, and I feel that this needs to be stated right at the start for the simple reason that far too many people use this throwaway comment when this particular subject is being discussed and/or debated, and that, ladies, is: 'Well we have to accept some level of abstraction in the rules!' YES! Of course we must expect a degree of abstraction in the rules that we game.

Abstraction is the first point, chiefly because this is such a bloody blindingly obvious thing to say that even the three blind mice could have left their three blind white sticks on the three blind mice trap and calmly went back about their incredibly three blind way through any given three blind conundrum you decide to throw in their three blind way would be able to see this! Anybody and anything can see this! Even a blind thing that is so ridiculously blind that it spends all of its time being blind, eating blind food and sleeping blind sleep you blinding bloody idiots!

OK rant over! Abstraction isn't just an obvious thing to point out it is in fact so fundamental to the writing of a set of rules that one could actually say that its the skill of abstraction (and not the abstraction of skill) that a smooth, fun, pseudo accurate set of rules relies on. This then could be said to be one of the key pillars in determining which rules are rugged enough to stand up under a cursory scrutiny. No abstraction =  No rules. Fact!

How far can abstraction be taken  before a game is reduced to farce and becomes nothing more than an exercise in rolling dice against each other with little regard to statistical probabilities? I suppose the question is; at what point does abstraction force on us a loss of historical or genre flavour?

Really? REALLY? 
This loss of 'flavour' is where, I suppose, the first of my 'pillars' of a good rule set lays. It is, I believe, the 'aesthetic' that will initially attract any given geek (and I use this term loosely of course. In fact so loosely that it encapsulates a diversity of character ranging from the old Prussian military aristocracy, English science fiction authors (H.G Wells for those of you who are unenlightened) all the way down to the disgusting sweaty 12 year old acne ridden gimp that is too embarrassed to take his unicorn out of his mothers walk in wardrobe!). It is the aesthetic that initially reaches out and says "Oi! You! Come and deliver your dice to the table as if you were the living left hand of God itself!" If the aesthetic doesn't meet your approval its likely to be a game you will bite your thumb at (Mercutio: Romeo and Juliet) shouting "Jog On!" (Simon Pegg: Run Fatboy Run. See what I did there? Diversity of culture never hurt anybody right? Well, unless you live in the Belgian Congo of course, you may be in trouble for liking Simon Pegg out there!).

Just because...
Think about this for a moment. Picture yourself at a convention or your local club. How many tables have you walked past without stopping because 'you aren't into Western games' or 'Ancient games' or Naval games'? As a moderate, reasonable and equitable person a lot of us would likely check ourselves at this question and say 'Damn! I should really have checked out the rules first, just to see if its something that I would play', but lets face it, in a modern age time is precious, and certainly too precious to be playing games that don't deal with your first love! (be that history or Sci Fi/ Fantasy) No, we just wouldnt. If it isnt our 'thing' its already on a loser!

A game that may just have some flavour!

Where aesthetics are concerned, I think it may be fair to say that its the overall aesthetic that draws us to a game initially but its the narrative function that keeps us coming back for more.

Now, narrative function all of a sudden makes a wargame sound more like a Hollywood feature film script. Absolutely no substance at all unless you are prepared to pay top dollar...  but lets face it; until very recently in the wargaming world it was the independents that initially blazed the trails. The Indies that trialled new rule mechanics and attempted new ways of combining abstractions... Just check out Flintloque by Alternative Armies or Rapid Fire or Gruntz if you want proof of this statement!

Now of course we have all the Corpocrats and their boxed games with only marginally tested rulesets and a half life of less than a Crisp Sandwich!

Damn straight!!!!
Can anybody remember Rogue Trader when it was vogue? How signal it was as a ruleset and how it opened up an entire universe? EVERYBODY knew Citadel then, and everybody with even the vaguest stirrings of a Sci Fi fetish had played games of it. I myself had myself whooped on a number of blood soaked occasions! Warhammer Fantasy was already hitting 3rd Ed. when RT was released so there was already a pretty strong grass roots following but just as it was then the same is true now. A grass roots movement that supports a set of rules is how a REALLY good set of rules grows, because its the community that is the benchmark and safety check for how a set of rules is developing.

Now witness the collapse into farce that 40k suffered after 5th edition (ironically coinciding with GW's separation from its own community and relying on the white collar criminals (sorry, of course I meant community conscious wardens of the company who have absolutely no interest in targeting games at 7 year olds and targeting prices to their parents pocket - In  fact this does make me think that wargaming 40k and demanding to be taken seriously is a bit like reading the Sun and expecting a place on the Executive Board) to develop all of these wonderful (cough, splutter) rule sets that (along with an utterly insane pricing model) caused so much resentment in its own core market.

Has Flames of War gone the same way? Well in my considered opinion (and I'm not claiming to know much less than everything but much more than anything) it isn't too late for the Flames guys to fix things. I don't necessarily think that the TY system is a bad one, I haven't played it yet so I obviously have no right to comment and in any case ANY changes will draw criticism from someone, but so long as the game is served and by extension the wishes of the community they will, I hope, be in rude health for the future. It would be a crying shame to lose Battlefront to the siren call of Form under Function

But I digress;

A game possibly lacking in flavour?
What I mean by a 'narrative function that serves' is not in fact films by Harvey Weinstein but is more a reflection of how smooth the gameplay of a set of rules is. A measure of how much of your willing disbelief you are prepared to suspend for the short term in order for a game to be completed and pretzels successfully thrown at all losers. How interesting does the recital of the facts prove to be, although this particular point is perhaps more to do with the difference of whether you find more identification with a corporate negotiator or if you fit into the shoes of a used car salesman! Just how much of a storyteller are you? The enthusiasm that naturally bubbles to the surface following a really good, interesting and gripping game however is very difficult to fake, and it will of course rely on a plethora of factors, such as how much you like the people you are gaming with, how lighthearted the company is, and whether or not you have had your morning ablutions... there is nothing worse than the results of an entire game resting on a constipated die roll!.. and maybe nothing more gripping? But when all is said and done however can we at least agree that a bad set of rules will rarely generate any excitement much less the enthusiasm to talk about it to all whose eardrums look ripe for a bashing!

Because of these considerations the Narrative Function represents the second pillar of a good set of rules for me!

The technical aspect of a rule set comes next for me. Pillar No.3. Essentially this is the nuts and bolts of the rule themselves. The pieces that make up the whole. The use of statistical probabilities to bring an abstract reality to the table top. It is very difficult to justify a set of rules that claim to mimic reality (and in this case I mean serve as a representation or in the case of Sci Fi and Fantasy games an mimicry of an historical event) if they have thrown all statistical probabilities out of the window... although one also has to bear in mind that if rule sets were written solely with the purpose of historical simulation in mind then if the statistical probabilities were adhered to you would likely have a very boring set of rules with very few casualties and an awful lot of people running away!

This is a difficult one because some good rulesets are very complex with lots of rules, and therefore lots of technical elements, whilst on the other hand there are also lots of simplified rulesets that abstract the majority of the technical quantification into meta-systems. Both types of rulesets can be very good, but sadly far too many of them are very bad with nowhere near enough forethought and play-testing to failure.

Fog of War?
Where this is concerned it should be emphasised that if the groundwork is done on the Technicals then the abstraction shouldn't matter because with the occasional exception of aberrant results the rest of the abstracted results are close enough to historical occurrence to maintain a players suspension of disbelief, so long as the aberrant results do not become the predominant result.

Despite me only addressing this in such a short fashion it is the Technicals that will cover processes such as command and control, fog of war, shooting, casualties, movement, morale and game housekeeping. It is these nuts and bolts that need to be really REALLY nailed down well if the rules have any hope of 'making the grade'

The final pillar for me, Pillar No 4. is the Rules Mechanics. What is the difference between the mechanic elements and the technical elements I hear you ask? Well, this is an arbitrary term of description chosen by me, but it does allow me to separate my own thought processes when I'm writing rule sets.

The mechanics is what stitches all of the technical elements of a game together resulting in how the game flows. We must have all played those games where all of those different rules were excellent and made so much sense but when you put it all together it was just a heavy and slow, unwieldy system? Right?

Some wargames are winners!!!
What about those systems where all of those rules that you read ALL seemed to make perfect sense and then when you played the rules they just flowed. Easily and without obstruction? Now THAT is a set of rules that has well chiselled abstraction at its core!

Abstraction is supposed to simplify reality... not break the rules of physics so for me when I see a common occurrence in a game where an abstraction routinely breaks reality, to me this is a real cause for concern and is very likely to diminish any interest I can work up for a game.

Where Team Yankee is concerned, with its habitual 'tank bricks' this is an extreme example of an 'abstraction fault' and I have to say that I was living in West Germany at time of the military exercises for Operation Lionheart and I have to tell you, at no time did I ever see, or even hear of British, nor American nor even West German armour bricks rolling across the German countryside.

hang on a minute....
Mike (McSwiney of Miniature Ordnance Review) has kindly taken the time to explain that this problem occurs because of the scaling of the game. Now this is a funny one because this is actually a VERY common practise in wargaming which I will go into in just a sec. Apprently the game designers decided that they would design a game with a 'sliding' ground scale that was more appropriate for 6mm to 10mm Miniatures but would instead use 15mm on the table.

Now admittedly this sounds like an obscenely stupid idea. A bit like making the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon fight the battle of Waterloo but replacing their armies a lot of Colossi of Rhodes!

British GPMG operator on deployment
However when you consider the games that you already play you may be surprised by what you find. A British GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun), a 7.62mm death dealing hammer of the Gods will go through a solid brick wall AND still be able to kill a man at over a mile and a quarter. At 1/100 scale (or 15mm to the rest of us yokels) thats a distance of 20 metres on the wargames table, or in this case a school gymnasium! Utterly impractical for wargaming purposes. A Thompson submachine gun had an effective range of 150m. At our scale of discussion thats a range of 1.5 metres... again utterly impractical. When you scale up to 28mm and start playing stuff like Bolt Action just think what that implies.

It is an absolute necessity to reduce the ground scale of a game to bring all weapons within the reach of a table. This is also carried over into the Artillery of a game.

Do we know any games out there where the majority of weapons in a game have practically unlimited range? If not why not?

However this Ground Scale Abstraction has its collateral problems and where Flames of War and Team Yankee are concerned, in my opinion its the tank bricks.

Now, there is a silver lining to this massive problem and that is the control of points values on a table. Apparently if you limit the points value of a game relative to the table size being played across the games can play very well. For me the jury is still out on the rules, at least until I play them. They look fun, I just LOVE the models, Ive been put off by the abstraction fails BUT with good control of the game it looks like it may be a winner. Time will tell.

So to summarise; for me there are four pillars that underpin a majestic set of rules.

i) The Aesthetic. Probably the easiest to get right, and capable of attracting a lot of new blood
ii) The Narrative Function. Based more on personal skills than ruleset elements but if it isnt achieved the game will likely die very quickly anyway no matter how good the next two pillars are.
iii) The Technicals. How well thought out and rugged each of the component parts of the rules are. If you cant get these right then the rules are as good as dead anyway
iv) The Mechanics. How well does it all stitch together? Have the abstractions that are written into the rules reinforce the technicals or detract from them?

The first pillar can be taken as a standalone element that may not really have too much impact on the following three pillars BUT the next three fulfil a circular function and if there is a break between any of them, then the rules themselves breakdown.

I personally have a problem when I see a break between the narrative function and the mechanics especially because when I see this I believe that the game isn't serving the aesthetic and if there is a break between these two pillars you will end up where Games Workshop is now, with their 4 page toilet paper rule sets.

So thats my thoughts on what has to go into a set of rules and what may make or break them.

What do you guys think?

Is there any room for a Bayonet in all of these postulations at all?

Fix Bayonets!!!!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Flames of War Slovakian Infantry trial run...

Slovakian Infantry about to cross the Dniepr river in 1943 - Colourised Historical Plate

One of the bottomless wells of joy that comes from historical gaming is the vast amount of subject material there is to pick from.

A view of Slovakian riflemen in action
One of the beauties of this is that there are some armies and/or forces that nobody in the world has considered producing, or else have written them off as not interesting enough to enough people to make the project commercially viable. My Polish 'Obrona Narodowa' is a good example of one of these, and so as it happens is my next big project for 2019. 

A Slovakian army that took part in the invasion of Poland in '39 and then assisted in the invasion of the Soviet Union in '41 in 15mm.

To my knowledge the only organisation that has shown any interest in the Slovaks in 15mm at all is Battlefront and as usual they exercised the usual prerogative of ramming a square peg through a round hole... essentially using poorly chosen Italian miniatures to represent the Slovaks.

Battlefronts version of a Slovakian Infantryman
converted from an Italian Fucilieri

Anybody who decides to take a close look at Slovak uniforms will immediately hone in on the fact that the Slovaks don't carry ammo pouches over their belt buckles, as the Italians did and use leg wrap puttees as opposed to the Italian whole calf wrap around puttees. In fact it seems that whoever took charge of this particular project chose to convert the Italians based solely on the ease of modifying the helmets. 

The rear of a Slovak uniform
Now, clever dick here (yup that is referring to yours truly) had actually bought a stupendous amount of Italians in order to convert them to Slovaks before I realised this... you are more than welcome to read that as '...before I bothered to look closely at a picture I chose to part with my hard earned money!' Fortunately the more I look into the CSIR (Corpo di Spedizione Italiano Russe) the more I like everything about them... and they have some REALLY cool uniform options for the Fascist Militias and the Bersaglieri :D So now I have another giant Flames of War army to paint...

Anyway I digress. To come back to the Slovaks; a decent examination of the miniatures that Battlefront manufacture will eventually bring you to their Romanian range. If you ignore the sculpts from the neck up you will see that the uniforms are almost perfectly fitted to be a Slovakian analogue.

Slovak reenactors showing off their nice shiny uniforms...
I duly started buying up all of Troll Traders excess stock (and yes, so many in fact that I now have a Romanian army as well as a Slovak army!)

Owning all of these miniatures however still presented one serious problem; Helmets! NOBODY... ANYWHERE... AT ANY TIME... has done a miniature Slovak in 15mm with a helmet that is reminiscent of Slovakian helmets. I duly contacted the powers that be at Peter Pig and put a request in for some Slovak heads to be sculpted for me. This was duly done and a month (or three) later a large order was placed.

Slovakian Infantry Reenactors staging a mock advance...
I have to say that I was over the moon at the sculpts. The scale and dimensions of the sculpts were perfect relative to the size of the Romanian bodies.

Finally, I had the miniatures. All that remained was to pull a convincing paint job out of the bag!

A Militaria Uniform Plate showing
the elements of a Slovakian uniform.
After studying as many photos as I could lay my hands on it became clear that I had an option of two differing directions that I could take. 

Either I could make the troops look just like my Poles (based on all of the colourised historical photos and illustrations that I had seen) or else I could take a stab at slightly greener uniforms (which was based more on militaria uniform collection plates and photos of Slovakian reenactors). 

Slovakian helmet details
I opted for the greener reenactors colour schemes for two reasons. Reenactors are notoriously anal about making their uniforms correct (and thank God for that!), even if they aren't so hot on vehicle colours (just take a look at the Slovak reenactment groups and their disco paint scheme on their Lt-35 and secondly it gave me a slightly different looking army than I had just spent the last two and a half years painting (and thank God for that too!) so I am able to bring a bit of variety to the table!!!

So, I tried a few things and I am very happy to say that I think I've nailed it, by which of course I mean that its a variation of the colour of the uniform that I am happy with so without further ado let me introduce my trial miniature for my Slovaks circa '39-41

Its funny but even though we always know that these miniatures are only the size of a little finger nail... the photos never seem to look as good as they do in the flesh (so to speak!)

Anyway, for those of you who think you may want to dip into the murky waters of the Slovakian army in a ridiculously small scale I have included my colour table below for your use...

Colour Table for painting Slovakian Infantry: V- Vallejo, AK- AK Interactive, GW- Games Workshop

Fix Bayonets M***** F*****s!!!! The Slovaks are coming!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

100 blog posts!!! What are you going to get out of this?

Well, this is the big 1-0-0! 

100 blog posts.

... ok well actually this is going to be a REALLY short Blog Post :D

To give myself a reason to pat myself on the back for reaching this milestone I thought I would offer my services to the community.

So, I've decided to do this:

In one week after this post goes live (so the 30th October) I'm going to put the names of every one of my 'followers' (that's those who have chosen to follow my posts) into a hat and I'm going to draw a random name.

I am then going to offer that person my services to paint one unit of any scale. 

It may be a regiment of Napoleonic Infantry, it may be a Chaos warband, it doesn't matter to me what it is. You will send me the figures and I will paint, package and send them right back. 

The only caveat that I will make is that the troops must have a uniform look and not be a collection of individual pieces of art such as Games Workshop Grail Knights that all have their own costume designs completed by the V&A Museum staff!

I really felt that I wanted to give something back a bit because I really appreciate the experience that I have had through this blog and the social media communities that it has helped me be a part of. 

When I started this back in 2015 I thought that it just may be nice to have somewhere to record all of my colour schemes that I was using in my various armies but for me its become a lot more than that.

Over time I have made friends (albeit social media only) through my blog and it has helped put me in touch with a lot of people I thoroughly enjoy talking to who I otherwise would not have had the chance to talk to at all.

Ive met some great people like Johnnie and Kevin from the Flames of War Painting Group and Mark from House of Hengist and Achtung Panzer, Ljevid from Dropzone Commander and a lot more besides.

Now I think I probably get a lot more value from all of you than you probably get from me so I think I should in some way try to thank you all for being a part of this journey that I've been on.

Long story short: Follow my blog and in a weeks time you will be put into a 'prize draw' to take a little painting weight off of your shoulders... if you think you would like to of course. If you don't want to make use of my services I will certainly not hold it against you :D

Friday, 20 October 2017

Why do we do it to ourselves?

Thats a question that could (and probably will) open up a whole can of worms for a lot of people out there!

On the surface to an outsider we are a group of people who spend far too much of our lives immersed in alternate realities and/or events of the past and not enough time living in the real world...

She who must be obeyed hates that this is my hobby, ney; my raison d'etre! She resents the space that all of my gear takes up (and she hasn't even experienced the mountain of stuff I have in storage yet). She hates the time that it takes out of my day and resents that even when I'm not 'doing it' I'm spending my time thinking about it, slowly forcing her into a waking coma by caving in her eardrums banging on about 'it'.

In truth I think that most of my girlfriends from my past have had similar feelings.

...and I couldn't care less!

Contentious huh? Let me explain:

Roxi is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me, providing more stability in a very stormy life than I have ever known. Every day that I get up I expect to find her kneeling down, sporting a wimpole, hands clasped together in prayer, desperate for relief! She actually does have the patience of a saint (I should probably qualify this point by highlighting the fact that based on the never ending conflicts that the Vatican state has found itself in with all manner of European powers through the ages, it seems to be very clear that Saintly patience is at best a cosmetic slap on to the deeper truths of power and greed!). I am lucky to have a partner who, even when hating what I do, more often than not leaves me in peace to attack my relentless list of self imposed deadlines without being stupid enough to get in the way of this flagellation.

There seems to be an issue of allegiance here; the Confederacy or Cymru? You decide!

When all is said and done however, history and wargaming are such an integral part of my character that if these two elements were stripped away I'm really not sure there would be much left behind that would be worth talking about (and its an obvious point that most human beings don't think that history and wargaming are worth talking about). I think I would probably end up being defined by my job, and whilst I love what I do for work (engineering on the railways) I am a staunch egotist when I state that there is more to this book than its cover! I would always rather talk about a tank than a train!

Just having an interest in models and/or history is not enough however. Just a passing interest does not, a wargames fanatic make! I would like to submit to you, the audience, that this particular cross that needs to be carried requires an addictive personality (Roxi keeps resolutely informing me that I have 'a problem' and that I need to go and seek specialist help!?!?!?) and a character predisposed to forming habits...

A Great looking Great War game going Great guns!

Whatever the reasons I am now deeply obsessed with completing painting and modelling projects, spend my waking hours reading, watching, digesting anything related to pushing pointy objects into soft things that breath or else blowing things up!

One of the things that really reinforces this love of history, well for me anyway, is keeping tabs on what others in the gaming community are doing. I love seeing what other people are painting, and talking to them about it. I love getting asked questions about what I am doing and sharing how I do things. Its a remarkably satisfying thing to have this self affirming and mutually reinforcing community packed with individuals, male and female, young and old who you may never even meet, but through social networking have a modus vivendi whereby you always have a wide and deep resource of knowledge that you can tap at any hour of the day.


But still it is not enough. If the limits of our experiences were based on what I have said then wargames would be crammed with accountants and clerks, pushing numbers around a piece of paper and congratulating themselves on a good algorithm well done! Fuck that!!!!

There are a lot of facets to a love of wargaming. The aesthetics, the statistical probabilities, the technical innovations of the eras and/or genres and of course the raw competition of pitting yourself against others, but these on their own I do not believe are enough to keep us all coming back and flaying ourselves on the altar of wannabe warfare.

No caption needed!  Dougie Howser MD says it all!

So just what is is that keeps us all coming back to this?



The Tales of what happened...

They say that the history of warfare is the history of man. Story is, I believe, the greatest gift that the human race ever gave to itself. We know people, or as well as we can do, because of stories that are passed on down.

For me personally, story is probably the single iron rod at the core of my personality. I am obsessed with it. How to structure one, how to tell one and how to receive one. What works and what doesn't. A 10 year career in the film industry before leaving in disgust at many of the people I had met had at its most fundamental base a love, ney an all consuming obsession, with the method by which good stories are told.

How to tell a good story digitally...

Storytelling is some of my earliest memories with my mother reading me books such as Gullivers Travels and the Three Musketeers. The Hobbit was the first book I ever read on my own when I was four and starting to write and illustrate my own stories from a year earlier.

I even piss Roxi off by refusing to turn off bad films as I feel a story that has been laboured over, no matter how bad, deserves the opportunity to finish once started.

I love EVERYTHING story related...

... and it is at this point I would like to introduce you all to House of Hengist Comics, and their secondary site Achtung Panzer!

Their titular head Mark Landymore put this group together a couple of years ago with the express purpose of telling the story of the Second World War through war gaming but by focussing on the narrative dimension of gaming as opposed to concentrating on 'equal points' etc etc. Largely inspired by the 40-something generation cornerstone; Commando Comics this pulp history has provided a VERY fertile garden of possible stories all surrounding the events of the Second World War.

Now THATS what Im talking about!!!!

I came across these guys when I was drowning in Polish as they had just started their magnum opus with each battle they fought highlighting a different part of the Polish campaign.

Their methodology has evolved since then with news reports being given, introductory videos to the next battle and what actually happened in history.

A photo from one of Hengist's games with a motley rabble bulldozing their way through a checkpoint!

Its a committed process demanding of its players BUT I believe that THIS is the way forwards for wargaming if we want to keep attracting new blood to wargames market.

Every one of their videos I watch drooling about what they are doing wishing that I could be a part of it.

The videos may not be professional level quality with a lot of rough edges, but these 'flaws' only add to their charm.

You should all head over to their channel and start following the story of the Second World War. It will inspire you to achieve and create.

House of Hengist Battle Reports

You are, remember, only human!

P.S Pack a bayonet for personal use!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

...because sometimes, an artist just wants MORE paints!!!!

The entire new paint collection in all its heady glory!

I have been painting miniatures and models for almost 30 years... give or take a 7 year hiatus at the start of my 30's

One would have thought that by now I would be toting the same quality painted miniatures as Mike McVey himself but no. For me, the ability to paint at that level just isnt attractive to me. What really ticks my boxes is producing entire armies of miniatures that are just good enough to draw the eye and get people talking. 

Im satisfied with this.

However I am a bit funny about the quality of what I will paint and what I will paint with. I really have a snobby attitude to poor quality product!

Some people drink, some do drugs, some are into travel, some follow footballers and some others are into some proper weird pursuits. For me, its paints! I would rather paint than do almost anything else in life.

Anyway, so to cut a long story short I was sitting at my desk wrestling with another Zulu regiment (have I mentioned by the way how much I hate painting these little bastards?) and I said to myself 'Self; you need more paints!'

There is just so much out there now to play with and try stuff out that I decided to grab a load of stuff for the projects that I have on the drawing board so let me take you around my latest purchases:

German Armour Colour Combo triples 1937-1945
 As anybody who reads my blogs or is forced to listen to my relentless rambling about my collections will know, the next big army on the drawing board is my Slovakian Army 1939 - 1941. Backing up this all too small Axis power however is my ever expanding German army.

Has any of this been painted yet? Not a bit of it by God!

My interest is the early war period and in line with this the right hand colour combo is for the early war German vehicles. The Late War German Colour combos however are almost perfect for two projects on the board. Primarily the colours are almost perfect for Slovakian armour with one substitution. The Dunkelgelb will have to go and I havent decided what I will replace it with yet. 

It occurs to me however that these three colours would be perfect for my Fallschirmjager splittertarnmuster... time will tell! 

ummm... yup! Clear doped linen!
 I havent been able to reach my Napoleonic French naval squadron this year, and in any case I want to partner this project up with learning how to photoetch brass so that I can put deck crews onto these 1/1200 ships but as is my usual want I ruminate on these projects long long loooooooong in advance working through issues and problems to find potential solutions.

One of the problems I have with my previous napoleonic naval ships is the sails and the decks. I liked them 10 years ago when I did them but now I just think they look shite! 

So I figured that along with my other weathering and tinting products I would try the colours for Clear Doped Linen along with another couple of other steps I'll let you in on in a further post.

A couple of loose paints and a thinner to try out...
 One of the things that is a constant source of irritation for me is the way pigments group together when diluted with water too heavily causing tide marks and such like. I've tried other solvents like Flow Release but have had little joy. I just wanted to have a bash using a high quality thinner specifically for fine grade pigments and see if I get any joy... haven't decided what to try this on yet though. :D

The two loose paints are linked to my Slovakian project. The uniforms are very similar to my Polish army's khaki green but I need a way to differentiate between the two forces and photos of modern reenactors show a somewhat greener cast to the uniforms than illustrations in books show. I figured that an adjustment in the filter used along with a highlight of a slightly lighter and greener colour may provide what it is Im looking for. You guys will get to see the results of this experiment all too soon, Zulus notwithstanding.

German Panzer Grey paint set.
 The other German Panzer paint set is a limited three paint collection. For most uses this may be fine and dandy at 15mm, however if I'm not satisfied with the results I wanted something that would enable me to really open up with the big guns. If it doesn't go right with three paints and I cant get it right with six something has gone desperately wrong!

German Field Grey Uniforms Paint Set
 I have a bucket of German infantry now and some of the German infantry I've seen painted up on the Flames of War Painting Group has really set a standard for me so rather than continually tunnelling through 250+ paints that I have I thought I would just buy a decent set of tailor made paints that I could deploy every time I need a Field Grey set of clothing...

Weathering powders, pigments, filters and washes...
 For the last 2 years I have been building up my ideas and plans for a batch of Dropzone Commander scenery and I anticipate that by next year I should have enough space in my office to be able to actually store it all.

The scenery project I have planned is very dystopian which just ticks so many of my boxes I'm not actually sure there is a word for the pleasure it will give me.

This means that rampant verdant arboreal growth and decrepit and derelict vehicles and human detritus are the way forwards.

I have rather a lot of stuff in a couple of boxes that should, by now, provide me with almost everything I need to create convincing mini-vignettes of an old human dystopian city-scape...

These two medium sets are just icing on the cake...

Uniform Definition Filters
 When I started out painting my Polish army way back in the day I was never completely happy with the colours that I was achieving... until I took a punt and put a Filter over the figures. This figure literally transformed the colour to an almost perfect recreation of the Polish uniform colour from 1939, on top of which after a bit of experimentation with thinning the Filter, how much to wipe off and leave on I was also able to balance the colour with the figure definition that I was achieving. Now I'm satisfied with the fact that my Obrona Narodowa are probably some of the best 15mm WW2 figures I've ever painted.

Uniform filters it would seem are the way to go. As I am not yet decided on which colours to use on my Slovaks I decided to take a chance with this Uniform Filter set. It provides two different colours with one of the colours (the brown) in two different strengths. This should give me enough alternatives to nail the uniforms the way that I want them to be.

Old & Weathered Wood Volumes 1 and 2, and the Realistic Wood Effects book
Last but not least, it should be said that at the start of the year I set myself a ridiculous amount of tasks to complete this year. By year end I will, with some confidence, be able to say that I failed in this.

However this is in no small part due to the fact that I just cant seem to put my Polish army to one side and in line with this sad state of affairs I have been so pleased with my Obrona Narodowa platoon that I've decided to expand it to a full company... and this means horse drawn carts!

I really wanted the opportunity to paint these wagons to look old and beaten up but if there is one thing I am not too flashy at it is emulating wood. I decided to take the plunge and buy one of  AK Interactive's instructional books along with the two acrylic paint sets and see what I could wring from these wagons...

Oh yeah, and there is of course also the fact that I will be able to use it on my dystopian scenery for Dropzone Commander and of course all of the wooden buildings that one finds in eastern Poland and the Russian front in WW2

So there we have it! New toys and I feel reinvigorated again....

Fix Bayonets!!!!!!!