Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Army of the Month - A Hairy Horde

I realised I was running out of time for the inaugural Army of the Month posting, which I said would be before the end of Janaury. So here goes..

I've chosen my 15mm Goths for my first AotM. This army is a good few years old, and although not big by many wargamers' standards, it's not bad for me. It's been added to over time and has crept up from a single DBA-sized force initially, to its current strength of about 90 mounted and 160 foot figures. The vast majority are from Lancashire Games which, although they can be a bit flimsy at the ankles and with some of the weapons, for me they capture the look of the period very well (and they were cheap to buy!) There are a few Old Glory command and cavalry figures in there too.

The army is based around the Ostrogoths of the late 4th century onwards, containing as it does just 3 basic troop types; heavy cavalry, close order foot, and light archers. This means it can represent, or contribute units to, almost any dark age army which has these types, such as Gepids, Vandals and so on. The cavalry is nicely generic and the infantry can either represent fiery warband or poorer clumped spear-armed tribal levies. The archers are a mix of larger unformed 'units' and skirmishers, allowing for massed bows, a loose swarm, or a combination of both.

The army is based for the in-house rules I use (By Force of Arms), written by a wargaming buddy. These use a gridded board and a system where unit strength, morale and cohesion is defined visually by the number of bases remaining (plus any disorder markers added). Most units (skirmishers and light horse excepted) have 2 main bases which remain until the unit is destroyed or routs, and a number of smaller single or 2-figure bases to be removed as losses mount up, and otherwise add a bit of visual bulk to the unit. That's a brief explanation of why the army looks as it does for those who are interested.

I decided to take 2 sets of pictures, one 'dramatically' posed and telling a story, as it were, the other with the army deployed in a typical formation as they would under the rules (albeit in a narrower, deeper space than would usually be the case). I also dug out some old pictures of the army in action, including one where they were playing the part of Rohan-esque types in a fantasy battle with my friend's Orcs. Hope you like.

With their warchief slain by the enemy, his men bravely form up around his body while the rest of the army pours forth to avenge his loss..










Deployed for a game of By Force of Arms





 

Doing battle with the Orc hordes in 2008


Facing off against Late Romans in 2006
 
Taking part on both sides (as Visigoths and Ostrogoths) in a 2011 re-fight of the Battle of the Catalaunian Plans (Chalons) between Aetius and Attila















Hills and Rivers part 4 - Paint it Black

Stage 4 then..

Everything got a black undercoat from a big tin of ordinary black paint (which I kep well away from the beer to avoid an unnecessary, but inevitable, mistake). Yes, it looks awful, but it's all uphill from here.


Brown patches added, these will get highlighted later on.



Green basecoat next, hopefully one evening this week.


Monday, 27 January 2014

A 15mm Diversion

I recently fancied a dabble in a smaller scale, after all the 28mms I've been doing lately. I was given some very nice Khurasan 15mm Goth cavalry and command, and already had some Baueda Dark Age (Lombard?) foot command figures to go with them. These are intended as an extra command base, and some 'heroes' for my Goth army, which are inserted in the middle of a unit to provide some additional charaterisation and battlefield punch when playing more 'heroic'-style historical games. When I get round to certain future Armies of the Month this will make more sense!

In the meantime, while the Khurasan figures are very nice, the basic heavy cavalrymen lacked a bit of drama - specifically a lack of cloaks and some very short, insignificant looking swords. An upgrade was in order, so out came the green stuff for 4 cloaks and a couple of sword extensions. Much better. Quick pic below. I just need to squeeze them into the painting schedule somewhere now and they can join the army.


And that reminds me, after my earlier announcement, I've only got 5 days left to post January's Army of the Month. Better get cracking on that!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Hills and Rivers part 3

I've now reached the stage where, once the glue is dry, I can give all the boards their black basecoat. I have applied the second (partial/patchy) layer of sand to create a bit of depth, while still retaining a mostly flat surface. I have also added some patches of rougher, but still faitly low-profile, vegetation using loose leaf tea (as I do on my figure bases) and some small scenic rocks. These will add a bit a variety when painted and break up the otherwise featureless terrain.

Painting everything with a wash of black is going to be tedious and messy, but it'll be progress!

Second layer of sand



Patches of vegetation and rocks. I could stop now and call it North Africa!  :)




Monday, 20 January 2014

A Visit to Campaign Headquarters

This weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting the renowned wargamer and figure sculptor John Ray at his home, and more specifically in his tremendous wargames room; to meet him for the first time, be introduced to his post Seven Years War campaign (which he's kindly invited me to join), see the mighty collection - all sculpted by John himself, and natter about wargaming for several hours.

The company and hospitality were first class, and we discussed all aspects of our shared hobby - and our respective approaches to it. The figure collection was everything I'd expected it to be and more, with gorgeous units filling the display cabinets. As a big bonus, John had thoughtfully laid on a 'small' game (a tiny percentage of his armies but enough to represent an interesting tactical challenge) with which to illustrate how his rules work, and contribute a small piece to the overall campaign picture. I enjoyed the game very much and was impressed by the smooth simplicity of the rules, which belied their subtle cleverness and suitability for the mid-18th century period. I think my Wurttembergers made a sufficient showing at the border against the Prussian invaders to ensure that honour was served, before pulling back to preserve their strength for another day.

John also shared with me some of his plans which follow on from his book (A Military Gentleman - if you haven't got a copy already, get one now before they're all gone!), which sound very interesting indeed. I for one am looking forward to these developments, and the campaign is clearly going to be a fascinating experience.

All in all I had a superb day in the company of a true Wargaming Gentleman and came away inspired to keep working on my own 18th century collection while I look forward to my next visit.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Hills Part 2 - and Rivers

With the hills cut and shaped, I decided to plough on this weekend with getting them onto their boards, and making a start on the other terrain I've been planning for a while - rivers. As with the hills, there are always compromises when it comes to adding rivers to a wargames table. By their nature they look best with a bit of depth, and that's the challenge of course. In an ideal world these are carved into thick sheets of high density foam board, providing the opportunity for deep banks, as well as sunken roads and realistic undulations everywhere else. With my terrain built from 9mm marine plywood that's not a possibility, and with the rough texturing I use nor are 'place on' rivers.

So the choice comes down to painting rivers onto the boards and texturing flat ground up to the water's edge (which I've done before) or cutting right through the boards to create river banks and placing everything on an underlying 'water' layer. I've gone for the latter, for a couple of reasons. The deeper banks work better for me aesthetically, especially with larger scale figures. Also, the ply boards I use have a grain on their surface, making smooth-ish water a difficult effect to achieve.

So I enlisted the help of a good friend who assisted with some quality timber cutting to ensure that the river bank sections all match up, both in terms of positioning and angle (45 degrees, thanks to an angled jigsaw setting). The rivers were measured at 10cm/4 inches across, so represented the removal of about a third from the middle of each board. Of course, they then have the potential to be broadened by moving the 2 river banks apart either by a full board width (making a 16 inch wide river) or by any other incremental amount. Some of the cut-outs were rounded off to provide islands which can be placed in the river, and used in naval games too. With this batch I'll have 6 feet of straight/meandering river and 2 x 90 degree bends. Plenty to start with considering the biggest table I can manage is 6 x 4 feet.

On Saturday I kept warm outside by sanding all the board edges smooth, and rounding the river bank tops off a little. Then I stuck down the hills with PVA and a bit of tape, before moving onto covering the polystyrene with a layer of quick-dry plaster for protection and smoothness. The afternoon was then spent making a right old mess applying the first layer of sand - sticking it down with black masonry paint. I've decided to add some small raised areas on a few of the river banks so I have a bit more hot-wire cutting to perform, and then once all the boards are up to the same stage with a basic layer of sand I can move on to the remaining texturing before undercoating and painting. As the dining room table is now a sandy, messy work area, I better get my skates on this week!

Some pics of the various stages described:

Hills added to boards

Plaster coat

Plaster done, including some filling on a older board

River banks added to the workload

First layer of sand goes on

Sand done





Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Hills - Stage 1

I have a terrain expansion project planned, with which I hope to make good progress over the next few weeks (well, we'll see eh?)

This will mean more 1 foot square boards to join the existing collection, to accommodate some additional features in order to provide me with more scenario and tabletop options. One priority is for some more hills, especially some slightly bigger ones than I currently have. The ones I've done previously are fairly small and low - one of the natural drawbacks of 1 foot boards I guess.

I have (like all sensible wargamers) collected a variety of polystyrene pieces from packaging over the years, and I recently dug out a few promising candidates to take the good old hot wire cutter to. Pic below, black undercoated 28mm figures in the centre background give a sense of scale..


In order to completely integrate them into the small size of the terrain boards, I need to get them 'up and down' in under a foot of space. Inevitably there are compromises, but they are reasonable gaming compromises and I can live with them. On the larger hills I have been happy to leave a flat top as there is a practical need to be able to place figures and scenery on them without having trees and building leaning over. The smaller ones are really more for providing some undulations to otherwise flat boards and should work OK. The thickest sheet of polystyrene I had was big enough to provide 2 hill 'halves' which can be placed back to back for a large hill, or separately on the table edge. I'd like to perhaps do more of this type, perhaps something much bigger with 4 'quarter' hills.

None of these 'hills' are more than 25mm tall, but for the variety of scales I will use them with (6mm-28mm) they'll give a decent impression and break up the general flatness a bit. I'm hoping to have a crack at stage 2 (sticking them to the boards and applying a layer of plaster) at the weekend and will post an update when I've managed this. I will also then be able to dig out the raw materials for the other part of this terrain expansion exercise and get to work on everything from there..

Friday, 3 January 2014

Army of the month - An introduction

It occurred to me that with the nature of a blog being to tell an on-going story through updates, it was perhaps less suited to looking back or showcasing earlier stuff. So I've decided to instigate a review of my existing armies and forces, partly as an opportunity to do a bit of 'show and tell' on the blog and partly to build up a photographic record of the collections that otherwise spend their time hidden away in dark drawers (good for keeping direct sunlight off the paintwork but bad for enjoying the figures on display!)

So, from January I'll be running a regular Army of the Month feature which, while it won't necessarily contain pics of newly completed stuff (which will be the subject of specific posts anyway), will encourage me to get out my existing armies and possibly even get them onto the gaming table. It'll also give me something to post about if I'm having a barren painting spell and there's nothing happening hobby-wise!

Now I just need to clear a bit of space and decide which army to cover first...

Most of them are currently in here:

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Defence of Noelev and St Nikolas - Part 2

The Battle Report

Playing a solo game to a scenario you've written yourself means that you have a good idea of what's going to happen, but you usually still get plenty of surprises! First off, the random terrain rolls generated a nice handy forest avenue in the middle of the table for some of the beastmen to slip through without being targeted by defensive fire. The Kislevites were deployed in some depth in the centre, in and behind the church and village, as this was the key to the battle. However, their limited numbers meant that there were fewer units to guard the wide flanks, and these would no doubt prove vulnerable - depending of course on how and where the enemy attacked, and where and when the Empire allies arrived.

The beastmen went for brute power, with their toughest, nastiest guys (including minotaurs and a giant) in the middle. With chariots, centigaurs, warhounds and ungor skirmishers they also had the advantage in fast troops and would be able to move forward swiftly on the flanks, causing the defenders concern there too.



 

So, without further ado the game started and the forces of chaos pounded forward through the snow as fast as their hooves (and command rolls) would carry them. There was little maneouvring apart from the light units on the flanks, which the Kislev horse archers and skirmishers sought to counter, and within 2 turns the defenders were beginning to open up with their handguns at the approaching horde. Casualties at long range were light, however, and it was clear that hand to hand fighting was going to decide the day. That said, help was suddenly at hand with the arrival of the hoped-for Empire allies (a lucky roll!). Doughty swordsmen and fanatical flagellants came on behind Noelev and St Nikolas as additional reserves, while to their left a glittering unit of Reiksguard knights cantered forward to plug a gap and take on the enemy's boar chariots.





Led by a hero of renown the knights charged to victory over the chariots (typical, as the latter are of course a favourite scratchbuilt unit!) and helped to drive back the enemy on this flank. The allied units became scattered though, and their generals were never to have enough command points to make this early advantage count later on in the battle. On the other flank things were going most definitely in the beastmen's favour, and before long they were beginning to roll-up the Kossars who stood increasingly exposed as the enemy swept in. In the centre the battle was fierce, with casualties high on both sides. The defiant priests, and even the Ice Queen herself, led the Kislev forces in a desperate defence of the church. Helped just in time by the Empire swordsmen they saw off several units of beasts and minotaurs and killed 2 of their chiefs, but the chaos giant was causing mayhem and slaughter, aided by the wizardry of a sinister bray shaman.

Eventually, though the giant was finally brought crashing down on the very steps of the chuch, the onslaught was too much and the overwhelmed survivors were forced to retreat (the Kislev army had suffered the requisite damage score for the beastmen to win), resiging the village of Noelev and its church of St Nikolas to utter destruction, and leaving in the bloody snow the last of the guardian priests who had sold their lives dearly for their beloved holy ground.







All in all, a good fun game and well worth the effort of writing up the scenario and digging out the terrain and figures. I'm sure there'll be an opportunity for the Ice Queen's revenge at some point...!