Napoleon In Elba

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My gentleman's blog about wargames, miniatures, military history, miniature painting and wargame scenery. A great pastime! I love good rules, good books, good whiskey and good fun. I like style, not fashion. From Elba, with love!
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Unknown WW2-battles in the Low Countries, 1940-1944/1945

July 4, 2018 - 20:53

Tired of Normandy, Arnhem, Berlin? Try Scheldt, Rotterdam, Overloon!History is full of clichés and so is wargaming. WW2-history of the Low Countries is often summarized as surprise attack in 1940, then 1944 Market Garden (not a gamble, but a blunder, btw) followed by the liberation. Being a Dutch wargamer, I focus on battles in Holland or with a Dutch component. So I researched the subject and discovered many battles that are more or less similar to well-known battles. But - gaming-wise - they have a different 'twist'.

Rotterdam is Arnhem, but with German paratroopers. Overloon is very Caen/Berlin.

I will give a wargamer's summary with links to sources.
The Fall Gelb Dutch Assault: The Other Market Garden
The May 1940 campaign was a smaller version of Market Garden. Parachute troops captured the bridges into the Dutch heartland and had the order to capture the Dutch queen and cabinet in The Hague and the Moerdijkbruggen in Rotterdam. German tanks and infantry would come to the rescue. In fact, The Hague was 'a queen too far' - the Dutch reorganized their defense and withstood the attack on airfield Ypenburg. The German paratroopers captured a bridgehead in Rotterdam but were nearly defeated by the Dutch Marines. German tanks stormed Dordrecht to reach Rotterdam in time. But the Dutch defense was tougher than expected. So in the end and because the Germans needed an instantaneous capitulation, Rotterdam was bombed.

Fall Gelb modernized the Allied military thinking, but should have been a warning as well. The execution of Fall gelb lacked coördination, the power of the Dutch defense was underestimated and the power of the parachute attack was overestimated. Grebbeberg, Mill and Dordrecht slowed the German attack.

Flames of War gives an excellent summary of the Dutch campaign here. Different (historical) link here or in Dutch here. If you're looking for a tense 'capture/defend the bridge' scenario with German paratroopers, try Rotterdam.
Fall Gelb subscenario #1: MillInteresting skirmish sub-scenario is Mill: a German armored train breaks through a gap, the train derails, Germans attack Dutch bunkers and minefields and the Dutch counterattack. A (Dutch) historical site here (Mill historical society. and this Mill battle report might help you. Flames of War summarized:
The most important result for the Germans was the capture of one railway bridge. This allowed an armoured train, followed by an armoured troop train, to advance towards the Peel-Raamstelling, more precisely: towards Mill. For both parties Mill was the key to taking the Peel-Raamstelling (...) the armoured train reappeared and was then thoroughly demolished. The German battalion split up into two forces, one of one company, one of two companies, each advancing on either side of the railroad.(...)
Acting on his own initiative, the Dutch captain had the full battery turned 90 degrees and open fire. This proved enough to force the Germans back. However, the other German task force managed to capture several bunkers and trenches by attacking from the rear. But, they failed to fully break the line, became pinned down, and had to wait to be relieved. (...)
The Dutch commander realized that a breach of the Peel-Raamstelling could jeopardize his withdrawal. He ordered a unit of motorcycle hussars to reinforce Mill and help to retake the bunkers and trenches. (...) Although this threatened the Germans, they were able to repulse attempts to retake the position. The lack of a sufficient amount of bridges led to huge traffic jams around the available water crossings. All troops were in a hurry and disputed priority. It wasn’t until the German Feldgendarmerie took over traffic control that the situation improved. The only unit that managed to reach the Peel-Raamstelling in time was an infantry battalion. The regimental commander was concerned to relieve his ‘trapped’ train battalion and recognised the need for speed. The German infantry commander had to attack whatever the cost and it was made clear that there was no artillery support available. (...)
Just as the attack was about to set off and much to his surprise, a flight of Stukas appeared (...) many Dutch soldiers left their positions and fled, (..) The troops at Mill however did not receive the order and stood their ground until they were almost surrounded (...) The Peel-Raamsteling had been breached in one day. The German armoured column destined to relieve the paratroopers had been able to race towards Moerdijk almost unhindered. But, after that they would meet more spirited opposition.
Fall Gelb subscenario #2: MookOr try Mook. If you can read Dutch and are interested in a 1940 skirmish scenario for an amphibious bridge crossing, read this elaborate Dutch military report / analysis about the defense of the Mook bridge or check the pictures. The bridge was blown up in time but the Germans crossed the Maas river, captured the bunkers and built a pontoon bridge.
Eben-Emael: The Other Pegasus Bridge

The airborne commando attack on the Belgium Eben-Emael fort was in fact - although a Nazi victory - a brilliant commando action. Pegasus Bridge, but more daring. A small skirmish, good for Bolt Action, Chain of Command, etc.
Geel: The Other Bridge CrossingThe Battle of Geel is overshadowed by Arnhem, but it was the largest WW2-battle in Belgium, between 8-23 september 1944, 2000 victims on both sides. It's a canal crossing not unlike the Nijmegen river crossing, with hard fighting and a German counterattack on the town of Geel. Wikipedia gives a summary of the battle. A good Flemish historical blog about this unknown battle can be found here.
Veghel: The Other Saving Private RyanAmerican paratroopers captured the Veghel bridge and defended it against heavy German attacks. This would be a very heroic wargame. A good summary of the events can be found here.

In fact the situation is quite similar to the closing part of the Saving Private Ryan movie, the defense of the Ramelle bridge.

In the town, Miller's squad find a small group of paratroopers preparing to defend the key bridge, and where Miller tells Ryan about his brothers and their orders to bring him home, with two of his men having been lost in finding him. He is distressed at the loss of his brothers, but asks Miller to tell his mother that he intends to stay "with the only brothers [he has] left." Miller decides to join his unit with the paratroopers in defense of the bridge against the imminent German attack. Miller forms ambush positions throughout the ruined town, preparing to attack arriving tanks and infantry with mines, Molotov cocktails, detonation cords and "sticky bombs" made from socks filled with Composition B smeared with thick grease.

Elements of the 2nd SS Panzer Division arrive with infantry and armor, comprising two Tiger I tanks and two Marder tank destroyers/light assault guns. The Battle of the Scheldt: The Other D-DayAfter Overlord and the invasion of France the German defense collapsed and the Germans hastily retreated. The Allied forces captured Brussels and Antwerp but overlooked the logistical importance of Antwerp port, leaving the mouth of the Scheldt in German hands. Instead of cornering the German army in Zeeland and thus end the blocking of the port of Antwerp, Arnhem became first priority. The rest is history. Bloody history.

The Scheldt is the story of veteran Canadian forces battling Fallschirmjäger and other troops for five weeks in murderous battles. Wikipedia:

Despite the fact that Montgomery had chosen to fight the Battle of Arnhem instead of clearing the Scheldt in September 1944, thus having allowed the Germans to dig in, he criticized the 3rd Canadian Division for its slow advance, saying the Breskens Pocket should have been cleared weeks ago and calling the Canadian officers cowards for their unwillingness to take heavy losses.[63] As a result, the 157th Brigade was withdrawn as a punishment and the 3rd Division was ordered to press on with "all speed".[65] Despite the fact that the Canadians could not afford heavy losses, the 3rd Division began a period of "intense combat" to clear out the Breskens Pocket.[66] The Régiment de la Chaudière attacked the town of Oostburg on October 24, losing an entire company, but since they had been ordered to take Oostburg at "any price"

(...) The Battle of the Scheldt has been described by historians as unnecessarily difficult, as it could have been cleared earlier and more easily had the Allies given it a higher priority than Operation Market Garden. American historian Charles B. MacDonald called the failure to immediately take the Scheldt "[o]ne of the greatest tactical mistakes of the war."[92] Because of the flawed strategic choices made by the Allies in early September 1944, the battle became one of the longest and bloodiest that the Canadian army faced over the course of the Second World War.
Overloon: The Other Caen/BerlinAccording to Wikipedia this was a ferocious battle, with many tanks involved and German infantry trying to halt the Allied forces in a strong defensive position. "The battle of Overloon has become known as the second battle of Caen due to its ferocity and also as the forgotten battle, because like the other engagements in the Peel area it is not well known in much of the Netherlands." (the Dutch version of the Wikipedia battle report is more detailed than the English version, btw).

The Dutch War Museum summarized:

On 30 September the Allies began a large attack with 7th American Armoured division, which had been called in specifically for this purpose. It was the beginning of one of the fiercest battles in Western Europe. For nine days, the American Sherman tanks tried to breach the German defences, but time and time again, they ran into German mines, artillery and Panther tanks. (...) On 12 October at 11.00 a.m., all hell broke loose. For an hour and a half, the Allies attacked the German defences with heavy artillery and air strikes (...) When Overloon lay completely in ruins, the advance of the British began. House by house was conquered, at the cost of huge losses. And intense man-to-man fighting also took place in the woods. (...) The Germans re-grouped in the woods between Overloon and Venray. The British gained ground only very slowly under harsh weather conditions. The greatest drama followed at the small river Loobeek.(...) The Germans were able to prevent a bridge being spanned across water for a long time, but in the end it was done. The tanks that passed over the bridge immediately got stuck in the mud. Under murderous machine gun fire, the British tried to reach the other side over the bridge and through the water. The brook ran red with their blood, and thus got the nickname 'Blood Brook'. In the evening of 16 October, the British managed to cross en masse. Three days later, Venray was also taken after heavy house-to-house fighting, which meant the end of the great battle. Anger Over Arnhem: The Other Arnhem Battle

Following the invasion of Germany, the Canadians finally liberated Arnhem after conventional river crossings and artillery barrages. 'Cannonshot' was the river crossing near Deventer and 'Operation Anger' was the liberation of Arnhem in April 1945. Wargame stuff is the SAS operating behind enemy lines, the Dutch SS Landstorm with tank support attacking the Canadians, the German counterattack/city fight at 16 April 1945 near Otterlo and the Canadians attacking Dutch SS in the city of Ede. Historical action with good old fashioned black knights vs white knights mythology. A detailed report of the Canadian March-April Campaign to liberate Holland including the Canadian attack on Germans dug in at Delfzijl can be found here, btw. A good what-if campaign could be a southern attack on Holland - Antwerp/Scheldt first - and THEN a Rijn crossing, or a Canadian/British maneuver to capture Utrecht, Dordrecht, The Hague and Kornwerderzand (a mirror image of Fall Gelb).
A 1945 Mini Market Garden Subscenario: Operation Amherst

From Wikipedia:

Operation Amherst was a Free French and British SAS attack designed to capture intact Dutch canals, bridges and airfields during World War II. It was led by Brigadier Mike Calvert of Chindit fame (...)
The operation began with the drop of 700 French Special Air Service troopers of 3 and 4 SAS (French) on the night of 7 April 1945.[3] The teams spread out to capture and defend key facilities from the Germans. Advancing Canadian troops of the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment relieved the isolated French SAS. The majority of the French paratroopers were dropped over the north-western part of the province of Drenthe. Here they occupied a series of bridges and conducted hit and run attacks on the withdrawing German troops. A small group of paratroopers under the command of Captain Pierre Sicaud were dropped in south-east Friesland close to the border of Drenthe. (...) Sicaud and his paratroopers occupied an important bridge, seriously frustrating German troop movements. A series of running battles between the French, the Germans, and Dutch Nazi collaborators were conducted near the bridge (...)
One group of paratroopers was dropped too far from Captain Sicaud and ended up on the outskirts of the small village of Haulerwijk, ten kilometers north of Appelscha. German troops discovered the French in the early morning of 8 April and a fire fight broke out between the French and the Germans. This mini battle was referred to as "the last Amherst" where part of the town was destroyed, and a huge conflict ensued.
A French/English SAS-page describes it as the most important SAS operation of WW2.

The whole operation, the Canadian breakthrough from Arnhem to Leeuwarden/Delfzijl is a Market Garden operation on a smaller scale, which can be played with less miniatures than the standard Market Garden wargame table. For Dutch readers: the whole campaign is archived in this archived newspaper article
Kapelsche Veer: The Other Hamburger HillAfter Market Garden the Germans retreated from the south of Holland, but kept a small bridgehead near Kapelle, Noord-Brabant. They dug in and hoped to support the German 'Battle of the Bulge' counterattack from there. The Allied attack on the stronghold became a prestige battle between the Allied and the Germans, both employing elite troops. A report in English can be found here.

Throughout the final three days, the battle for Kapelsche Veer became a contest of wills. If Crocker's decision to attack the island is to be questioned then what of the 6th Parachute Division's determination to hold a position of little strategic or operational value? The German attempts to continuously reinforce their garrison and to mount counter-attacks simply made no sense. Allied artillery, using air bursts, inflicted enormous casualties on the enemy especially during efforts to cross the river. As late as the evening of Jan. 30, artillery fire smashed several crossings and inflicted many casualties. This proved to be the enemy's last gasp and on the night of Jan. 30-31 the paratroopers who were still alive abandoned the island.The Georgian Uprising on Texel: The Real Final Battle of WW2This story (wikipedia link here) is a good background for Germans vs Germans skirmish, with involvement of the Dutch resistance and Canadians, but it is a sad an bloody story indeed:

Shortly after midnight on the night of 5–6 April 1945, the Georgians rose up and gained control of nearly the entire island. Approximately four hundred German soldiers were killed in the initial uprising, almost all while sleeping in the quarters they shared with Georgians, who used knives and bayonets. (...)

A counterattack was ordered (...) Approximately 2,000 riflemen of the 163rd Marine-Schützenregiment were deployed from the Dutch mainland. Over the next five weeks they re-took the island; fighting was particularly heavy at Eierland and around the lighthouse. The German troops then combed the length of the island for any remaining Georgian soldiers, while the Dutch inhabitants sought to hide them. The German commander of the 882nd battalion, Major Klaus Breitner, stated long after the war that the uprising was "treachery, nothing else"; the captured mutineers were ordered to dig their own graves, remove their German uniforms, and be executed.

During the rebellion, 565 Georgians, at least 812 Germans, and 120 residents of Texel became casualties. The destruction was enormous; dozens of farms went up in flames, (...) The bloodshed lasted beyond the German capitulation in the Netherlands and Denmark on 5 May 1945 and even beyond Germany's general surrender on 8 May 1945. The fighting continued until Canadian troops arrived 20 May 1945 to enforce the German surrender, and disarmed the remaining German troops.Miniatures & Scenery 1940 Dutch & Belgian defenders: May '40 miniatures has a great range of historically correct Dutch 28mm infantry and marines, vehicles and artillery.
In 15mm I found Peter Pig, Old Glory and QRF.
Romanian WW2 troops have the same helmet as the Dutch, you can convert them quite easily to Dutch.
Belgians: in 28mm try Warlord, in 15mm Old Glory and QRF again.
Gamodis has a Belgian 15mm vehicle range.
For an impression how a 'Dutch' tabletop should look like, check this FoW article.
A Final Word: WW2 Or The Other History

Reading the sad 'true' stories - not the articles in Wargames Illustrated, Lead Adventure of WSS magazine, but historical websites - made me realize again that my innocent hobby is inspired by war movies, Alistair Maclean novels, Airfix box covers, my uncle's model railway table. And Risk.

Not by real war. Real war is ugly. Many of my wargame friends are ugly, too. But that's the only similarity!
Categories: Best Blogs, General

How To Cheat In Tabletop Wargaming

July 4, 2018 - 05:33

(So-called) top 40K-player Alex Harrison turned out to be a magician last week at the final of a London 40K-Grand Tournament. He thought he was smart, but the camera caught him red-handed. For example he used his glass of water to invisibly push his models in a better position, changed 5 wounds into 3 wounds and bluntly lied about objective cards that he had not discarded. Full list of his tricks here (he certainly is a waterglass-at-al-costs-player). Funny: he just started his tactics blog and cheating was not included.

After studying the game video the jury banned him. Wargaming is a gentlemen's sport and gentlemen don't cheat. Or do they?

My regular club opponent Freddy 'Friday 13th' Wildborough and my other common enemy Eltjo 'Skyscraper'' Faraway often, if not always, defeat me so they MUST be cheaters. You see, I'm the Napoleon of wargaming and Waterloo can't happen EVERY game. But I'll be back. I'm the terminator. For my own pleasure and for other not-so-gentlemen, including Alex Harrison, I'll give you a quick list how-to-cheat with wargaming. Lawful good paladins, stop reading here.

(hey, I told you: STOP READING!!!)
Simple tricks (the Harrison's, aka the Wikipedian's )
  • Lying: The easiest way to cheat is to simply lie about a die roll. Ideally, the die should be disturbed or scooped up before any observer can verify the number.
  • Making mistakes: A way of indirectly influencing a die is to make arithmetic errors when calculating modifiers to a die roll. Ideally, calculations are chosen which are painful for others to recreate.
  • Collisions: When rolling, do not roll all the dice simultaneously, but pour them out gradually. Aim the falling dice at any low rolls already on the table.
  • Flipping: One method of altering a roll is very simple. As the die stop rolling, quickly flip over any die that comes up with a 1. You can wait till others look away, or simply move your hand over rolled dice while your other hand continues to manipulate the remaining dice. The movement is so quick it is virtually impossible to notice out of the corner of one's eye. It requires no precision, since anything is better than a 1.
  • Deliberate manipulation: Like flipping, but keep in mind that is is slower and easier to observe.
  • Careful rolling. With a few hours practice, most people can practice "rolling" a die with a simple double or triple flip that reliably lands on the desired number more than half the time. [in fact this is exactly what my 8-year old son does when he plays dice games against me]. Although rarely practiced, deliberately rolling specific numbers is not terribly difficult, and can be picked up accidentally just from handling dice a lot. The only countermeasures are when someone insists you drop the dice straight down, roll into a cup, roll against a wall or screen like a craps player, or otherwise disturb the die's original trajectory.
Advanced cheating(Hey mr Paladin, are you still around?)

Wargamer Fritz blogged quite some time ago that cheating was rare in the 40k-scene (that was before the Harrison scandal). He however mentioned a cooking recipe that's better than most of Nigella Lawson's work: Chessex Dice Du Chef:

  • "Chessex dice are notorious for this since they are low grade plastic and often have many imperfections anyway. Place a half a dozen dice in the microwave with the “6” at the top and zap them for thirty seconds or so. Wait a minute and zap them again, rinse and repeat a few times. This melts the inside core of the dice and pulls the weight down to the “1”.
  • Mix them back in with the regular dice and 1/3 of your dice will always roll a “6”, which in Warhammer 40K is always good or what you need. One could even cook a bunch of “5”s.
  • Mix them in with a pool of dice and they are VERY hard to detect.
This gentleman-wargamer, who also performed as a stage magician, added:

  • We are playing Warhammer 40K and I’m shooting my huge unit of models into your unit. Over to my right I have a pile of dice, and as I pick up the dice to shoot, I sleight of hand a few more dice to add to the pool. So if I’m pulling up twenty dice to shoot, and I add three more- when I roll the results and quickly pick up the misses and add them back to the dice pile on the right, it is very hard to detect that an extra three dice were rolled in. Add in some misdirection by talking and the player will never know… My take is that if you are going to cheat me, do it with flair, style, and skill. 
Cheating as a true NapoleonI don't want to suggest that cheating is a 40k issue. Check this blog from Howard Whitehouse.

  • "One players glued his Napoleonic Russians down on huge movement trays in massive attack columns, and swore he’d remember casualties rather than remove the figures. Of course, he never did.
  • One guy knew exactly how long his arm was, elbow to fingertips, and would ‘casually’ lean on the table when he needed to estimate a distance for shooting or movement. I can’t believe anyone fell for it.
  • In a Napoleonic tabletop game, a gamer manipulated with markers the table so that he could easily estimate artillery shooting ranges, much better than his opponents. During lunch when he was away, his opponents uncovered his trick. They came with a cunning plan: they remanipulated the markers and added new markers, so all of the cheater's artillery estimates were suddenly wrong. That's the true revenge of a gentleman!"
According to other stories, some players use elastic rulers, or even a professionally made cheater's ruler: A fraudulent Historicon gamer had a
  • "ruler on which the markings were really 1,5 inch rather than 1 inch apart (...) it looked professionally made like and ruler but his troops moved faster than anyone else’s. It took a turn of two to catch him as he was careful to never put his ruler down near anyone else’s"
The zenith of cheating however might be this great Whitehousian true story about a Napoleonic campaign game, with secret strategy discussions in a separate room. During a planning session, a player noticed a whirring sound.
  • He checked the lockers, and found a tape recorder, placed there by the enemy general. There was some arguing about this – the opponent claiming it was simply legitimate spying – but it was decided that tape recorders were not properly Napoleonic. At the next strategy session a different sound was heard from the equipment locker – a sneeze. Opening it, a small man with a notebook was discovered. The enemy had hired a midget to take notes.
  • The player thought this was all too bizarre, confronted the cheater and abandoned the game. The cheater explained to the others that the player "was taken into a mental hospital on a long term basis and would not be able to play anymore", thus hiding the true reason why he didn't show up anymore.

Let me finally add that Napoleon was a well-known cheater himself. Not only on his wife, but also with blackjack, his favorite cards game. His private secretary Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourienne observed:
  • "Vingt-et-un was his favourite game, because it is more rapid than many others, and because, in short, it afforded him an opportunity of cheating".
Napoleon’s mother Letizia would call him on such stunts, as noted in this description of evenings during Napoleon’s exile on Elba:
  • When Napoleon was losing at cards he cheated without scruple, and all submitted with such grace as they could muster, except the stern Corsican lady, who in her decided tone would say, ‘Napoleon, you are cheating.’ To this he would reply: ‘Madame, you are rich, you can afford to lose, but I am poor and must win.’
So, remember, next time, if, when playing against me, you find a midget in your closet, you are rich, I am poor, and I must win!
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Vassal, Cyberboard & Computergames: Tools for Tabletop Campaigning?

July 4, 2018 - 05:09

Now that I after 4 years finally have a few bigger 15mm and 6mm armies (Ancient, Renaissance, Napoleonic and a WW2-army in the making) I'm looking to find a tool for linked battles. A campaign. I researched the possibilities of several wargame campaign manager tools.

Fellow players from Utrecht have organized an inspiring Saga campaign with linked battles. I'm not into Saga. I'm not into Utrecht (a dark, chaotic town with the third worst football club in the world - the worst criminals are Feijenoord Rotterdam and PSV Eindhoven, btw). But the idea is great. I often lose my first battle at a club day. If best of three counts, or best of five, or best of eleven if I lose the first five, then I have more chance (or should I say chances) to be a strategic genius - in the end.

I felt also inspired by the Dux Brittannarium rules - another era I might start somewhere in de grimdark future. I haven't played the game yet, I know Delft players who regularly play a game, but according to Sigur Skwarls review the campaign is pretty much at the core of Dux Britanniarum, rather than being bolted on in the back of the book or released as a supplement:

  • "running a campaign is the best thing in the world and the thing we all aspire to in our wargaming. In theory. In practice they often just stop because someone loses interest or it looks horrible for them (with weaker campaign systems bolted to more tournament-y sets of rules, I find) or they just stop because interests go in another direction (“hobby butterflies”!) or nobody wants to bother being the umpire/bookkeeper. With this in mind Dux Britanniarum’s campaign system is extremely robust and requires minimal amounts of book keeping.

But as I understand from his review the 'campaign' is mainly in terms of financial gains and replacing losses and growing stronger, like the Total War-computer games that I used to play. A good tabletop campaign manager should have
  • fog of war: miscommunication between commanders:
  • surprise and hidden movement: not knowing what your opponent or allies will do
  • forced marches toward strategic cities on an unknown map: getting there before your opponent grabs them
  • victory points: as easy way to determine who wins the campaign
  • intercepted orders: intelligence about your opponents
  • importance of good scouting: to direct your armies
  • multiplayer: so that different generals can work together: and PBEM or Dropbox modus, so that we can play it online
  • automatic resolution of minor battles or battles that can't be played by the table top commanders
  • something that is detailed enough for army composition, but not tied to a certain rulesystem. I like Blücher for instance, but maybe I will fight this time a Blücher battle and next time a Black Powder battle, depending on my opponent(s) or the time or miniatures that I have.
It must be a board game or computer game that easily converts into a tabletop game when needed, and can be played in advance of the tabletop battle via the internet.

What I want is replaying a campaign on a grand tactical map (France, Germany, Spain, Russia) with independent corps commanders who communicate with the general staff. With a fellow club member I have plans to run a campaign with distant friends from an Aberdeen wargame club. What are the options?
Berthier Campaign ManagerThe Berthier Campaign Manager is a free program from Anthony de Lyall which is useful as internet 1vs1 campaign game or as referee tool, for computer assisted wargame campaigning.

It's a kind of excel database with a grid map. You define your units in the database. And you define the grid, yourself, and plan the movement of your units. The program keeps track where your units are (which hex number) and generates intel reports about units in your line or sight. The reports can be incomplete or wrong, depending on the settings. The opponents can't see each other units, unless they are within line of sight or make contact. The underlying functions are great: Berthier creates 'fog of war' by concealing the movement of the two opposing forces: automated movements. tracking of unit positions: 27 campaign units per side. When opposing units enter the same square, Berthier indicates that contact has been made. Contacts can then be gamed out on the wargames table or with Berthier's combat resolution function. Units can scout nearby squares. The campaign can be saved at any time and re-commenced later.

The big downside is the interface. The gridmap is ugly, it has a very oldfashioned MS-DOS/Win 3.1 look and feel, and you have to fill interlocking tables with data. As user I prefer predefined units, and a point-and-click interface on a 2D map. Berthier movement is with a cursor and hexes: unit will move "from hex 331 to hex 558" and a corps reports "contact with the enemy" in hex 226. It's VERY basic. Generals can send messages to other allied generals so this two player free campaign manager can be used as campaign assistant for a referee. But it's not intuitive. I can't recommend it.
Blücher via Vassal

The Sam Mustafa Napoleonic tabletop wargame Blücher has a campaign chapter, Scharnhorst. Scharnhorst is a chessboard system with counters with a hidden stack of units moving across the map. You can play it as a simple campaign game in 20 minutes in preparation of a tabletop campaign. Niall Taylor designed a Vassal module for Scharnhorst. Basically it's a 1vs1 player campaign with victory points and different possible strategies to win the campaign. The moving and grooving will result in at least one decisive battle. It's not a long campaign, but excellent as try-out.
Waterloo 20

My future Aberdeen opponent (Bill Ray) advised to try the GMT game Fading Glory, aka known as Waterloo 20. As you see, the idea is more or less the same as the Scharnhorst/Blücher board, stacked counters moving at a map. Waterloo 20 has a Vassal board. The simple rules can be found here. If players have no time to play a battle, they can roll dice online. We will probably try this first.

I found an online review. The writer played it with his wargaming newbie wife and blogged:

  • "One of the reasons I love the Napoleonic 20 games is the level of narrative generated from such a simple system, with only 20 unit counters on the board. I've been trying to play as historically as possible to give my wife a better reference as she reads. This is her first time trying a hex-and-counter game. She's picking up the rules quickly and I think getting a decent basic understanding of Napoleonic warfare."

I also considered Richard Borgs Command & Colors, but that is more a battlefield game and not a campaign. 'Campaigns of Marlborough', another option, is a simple campaign game with a Cyberboard. But for now Vassal is enough.
More complex Napoleonic campaign boardgames; Zucker, Vol de l'Aigle, Tomb for an Empire

The Kevin Zucker Napoleonic games were on Facebook recommended to me as a good simple skeleton games but with blind sides. Zucker is a well-known Napoleonic expert who published for the - for boardwargamers famous - companies OSG and SPI.

In his games you don't know where the opponent is. Scouting is imperative. Vassal modules can be found here and rules online. The rules are simple but the game is apparently complex. A BGG reviewer

  • As it plays out, the game initially resembles a type of ‘shell game’ with leaders and dummy units being moved around with the opposing player generally unsure as to what is a real force, where the main leaders are and just where the main thrust will be delivered. All of this promotes a very realistic ‘fog of war’ and until forces come into contact for the first time, a player can never be quite sure as to what he is up against. While this may be anathema to many players, it in fact promotes the correct mindset of a commander of the era. You must look to keep your forces concentrated for the battle and consider where is the best terrain to fight battles.

I found Vassal modules for 1807, 1809, 1813 or 1815 campaign with his system. He has no Vassal online Spanish campaign board, sadly (yet). Again, this are 1vs1 games, sometimes 3-player games.The Heretical Wargamer featured a blog about his 6mm-Peninsular campaign using the game A Tomb for an Empire, Vassal module here:

Although there has been the odd tricky moment, I have throroughly enjoyed this campaign. I have fought 25 tabletop battles with wins and losses for both sides. The Tomb for an Empire boardgame has given a very successful framework, all there have been a few minor issues to iron out in terms of the translation of the boardgame situation onto the tabletop and vice-versa.
Vol de l'Aigle

Le Vol d'Aigle is a fantastic PBEM grand campaign system with different commanders who try to communicate with each other and try to coordinate their movements. A Vassal referee aid is available. It's a campaign system in optima forma:

  • To start the campaign, the umpire gives each player a copy of the appropriate 19th century period map for the fight that is about to unfold. These maps are provided in the game and lend great authenticity to the Kriegspiel. Players will need this map to plan out their routes of march and coordinate maneuvers. The game is well-suited to team play with one player being assigned the commander-in-chief and other players taking the role of his subordinate corps commanders. Each commanding officer, other than the commander-in-chief, will be assigned a corps. Each corps has several divisions or maneuver elements (..)
  • Players will need paper and pencil to plan out there March orders for the day and write messages to fellow commanders and their commander-in-chief (...)
  • The umpire plots out each side’s movement on a master map depicting both enemy and friendly forces. He also sends back reports from player patrols and scouts (...)
  • Fog of war is paramount since communication between players is strictly limited to written messages and reports dispatched by aid-de-camps (...) 
  • Players will find they are dealing with extremely fragmentary information as to the enemy’s location, where their own forces might be and what outcome their actions had on the overall campaign. This is absolutely the strongest element of the game conferring extreme challenges and excitement for the participants. Common sense and personal initiative are paramount in directing your forces to a successful conclusion. In short, players feel as if they are actually in the role of a 19th century commander trying to follow orders with incomplete information. This type of angst from fog of war simply cannot be re-created in typical hex and counter board war games.

However, his campaign lasted a full year and was quite intensive, communicating results to players, maintaining deadlines etc. Another reviewer who umpired a game sighed:

  • It was also a LOT of work. The most assiduous of the players went to the lengths of building a spreadsheet for fatigue losses and was tracking his divisional roster down to the individual trooper. I spent many hours prepping for the day - copying maps, making roster sheets, sending out instructions, briefing players, buying stationery and the like - but that paled into insignificance compared to the umpiring effort on the day. I was exhausted by the end.

The Vassal module might facilitate the umpiring, but what I want is a computer program that automates all umpiring. If I have to plot all patrols and scouts and need to do this for a year, I'll suffer a wargame burnout. So I'll keep this module in mind. If have nothing else to do, I might try to teach myself Vassal and make a module that has deadlines inbuilt
Grand Campaign/Diplomatic gamesInteresting simple multiplayer boardgames that are apparently convertible to tabletop miniature battles are Age of Napoleon, La Guerre de l'Empereur and the Marlborough campaign game Nine Years War/Not Without Spain. These are more like 'advanced Risk', or Twilight Struggle. The multiplayer aspect is nice, but I have been only interested in the military side so far, not in resource management.
Computerized Tabletop Games

By accident I stumbled upon two wargamers who design computerized wargames. As I understand it, the concept is that a quite complex rulebook with tables and subtables is converted to a computer program. C&GII from wargamer Nigel Marsh (interview here) has a system with checkboxes. You check the appropriate boxes which accurately describe the situation of the shooting unit and the target, press enter and then the computer automatically calculates the number of hits.

More or less the same idea at first glance are the Computer Moderated Wargame Rules from Australian Clinton Reilly,

The basic idea for both systems is that the computer does the dice rolling and reports the results while the commanders on the tabletop concentrate on the battle. It's a diceless rulebook. The commanders only take care of the data input. Based on the description, it's the 21st century version of the written battlefield order which is put in an advanced database that gives exact combat results, based on fatigue, ammo use and morale and the results of preceding battle rounds. Marsh himself writes:

"Obviously C&GII is unlike other traditional rule sets where even the simplest formats require a minimum of accounting, charts and die rolls. In those the players have a literal eye to the mechanics of the system - this is a +1, that is a -2 etc. (...) Some gamers need dice, and that's fine too, they need to balance their generalship with a healthy dose of chance, ‘I lost because I rolled badly’ or ’I won because the dice were with me’. (...) But it's never a simple comparison of numbers balanced to chance. Morale and fatigue play an incredibly important role in the mechanics of the system.
The gamers place their miniatures on the tabletop and move them, just like standard dice wargames. But the computer calculates the firing and combat results, and the relative cohesion of the unit. "The issue for the attacker is to be in the right spot at the right time to affect the charge on the 'halted' unit, and the issue for the defender is to ensure that he has no potential 'halted' units in positions where an attacker can take advantage of the situation".

A blogger:

  • "I made mention of the interesting reports [by C&C2] generated about officers and their misbehaviour or in some instances where they were suddenly offering great encouragement to their men. As you will see this is not just 'chrome' in the system accompanied by the period pictures that flash up on screen and are attached to this post but actually part of the moving feast of events generated during play and that if acted upon can influence subsequent outcomes (...) 
  • Of course as the senior Allied commander I was aware of these aspects but also caught up in the 'big picture' command decisions that require looking ahead by at least a couple of turns (half an hour in battle time) to try and assess where everyone needed to be then."

Marsh is busy with a campaign game, expected in autumn 2018. Instead I bought Clinton Reilly's Renaissance set because Magister Militum sells it for just 10 pounds and CR has already a campaign modus. No PBEM or Dropbox but he's working on an upgrade. I'm curious how these computer rules work and if the campaign modus can somehow give me a framework for a tabletop campaign. Reilly informed me that fog of war and intelligence gathering are already part of his rules

I'll buy C&G2 later this year. I want to compare these electronic rulebooks.

This is part I: I will one or more of the campaign/boardgames above in the upcoming year and in the end report what the best multiplayer campaign solution is.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Why Wargamers And Outlaw Bikers Are Similar

July 3, 2018 - 21:16

Or: Why do we play wargames - because we're mad?

My evil twin Pijlie (he's a lawyer like me, he's 52 like me, and a wargamer, like me, but he's pure evil, if not chaotic evil ) wrote this small pearl about why we play:

"Playing teaches us that failure, learning from failure and improving oneself is an essential and unavoidable part of life and actually conditional for achieving anything at all."
I think I will engrave that on his gravestone but I fear that he will outlive me - evil always conquers good.

I'm not so thoughtful.

I knock you down
step on your face
slander your name all over the place
I'll do anything that I want to do
AND I step on your blue suede shoes.
Now and then wargamers hate me because I step on their shoes and then they ban me. But Pijlie brought me in a thoughtful mood and made me ask myself: why do I play tabletop wargames? Or as a more general question, why do we play wargames? Those violent, childish, much too complex, everlasting games with the too expensive- never-to-be-finished miniature armies?

First, it's the zen of painting. Battletech painter Paintitpink wrote, almost poetically

I enjoy making up my models and customising them too, but alternate between making and painting, which I also enjoy as I like making up futurist SF camo schemes. I put the oscillation between the two states as being a bit like the description of a photon acting like a particle and wave depending on how it is measured. It strikes me that motivation to do different aspects of the hobby are very much down perspective, which IMO is driven by mood.
When things go wrong I see this as an opportunity to excel; adapt, improvise and overcome. ::)
As to my collection I find that I have more than I ever had, but play less games than I ever did. The former is correlated to the latter, but not causing the latter. Playing games requires getting a group together who want to play at the same time. This also strikes me as a process that is subject to Quantum interference (especially as one gets older, as the confounding variables add friction to the process leading to frustration, which is when being mindful really helps).
Second, it's heroic male fantasy.

Some regard tabletop wargaming as violent but in fact it's less violent than ANY first person shooter and more fictitious. I often tell non-players that we don't recreate war, we recreate war movies. And war fiction, and legends. One of my favorite stories about Napoleon is how he returned from Elba in 1814 and met the troops who were sent by Louis XVIII. Government troops aimed their muskets at the great man.

The government troops took nervous aim as Napoleon’s few Polish lancers rode towards the pass and then wheeled aside to reveal the veteran soldiers of the Old Guard. These had been the shock troops of the imperial Grande Armée, thrown into battle at a decisive stage to break the enemy line. Utterly fearless and fanatically devoted to the Emperor, they had accompanied Napoleon into exile and had returned to bring him back to power. On Napoleon’s orders, the Guard advanced with their muskets reversed, with Napoleon himself at their front. The commanding officer of the government troops gave the order to fire. The soldiers disobeyed and refused.
"If there is one of you who would kill his Emperor, here I am." Napoleon continued to walk on, to within easy range of the guns. "Soldiers, I am your emperor. Know me! If there is one of you who would kill his Emperor, here I am’". He threw open his famous grey greatcoat, inviting a shot.
It was more than the government soldiers could bear; they abandoned their weapons and ran towards the invaders, shouting ‘Vive l’Empereur!’
They tore the white royalist cockades off their shakos and threw them to the ground. They clamoured around Napoleon, reaching out to touch him, weeping. Their great leader was back amongst them. The hapless officer offered his sword to Napoleon and may well have feared the worst. Instead he was swept into a forgiving embrace.
The courage! The greatness! The drama! The legend! I don't disregard that thousands died at Waterloo, but my tin soldiers don't bleed. My tabletop battles are a bloodless honour to the makers of Saving Private Ryan, the legendary greatness of Napoleon and the equally legendary adventures of Alexander the Great who singlehandedly conquered the world after having cut the Gordian knot with his sword (another great story).

It's a thin line. Tolkien was fantastic but fantasy battles are too legendary for me. I feel ambivalent about WW2 sometimes (Waffen-SS etc) and dislike all post 1945-wargames as too realistic, although a Vietnam tin or plastic soldier doesn't bleed more than a tin or plastic Polish lancer. But that's a matter of taste. Napoleon is my heroic champion just like (for others) Conan the Barbarian or Luke Skywalker.

Third, the social aspect. Never underestimate the social aspect. I think it's even the main aspect for many of us.

I play wargames and I'm member of a wargames club because I like the social interaction. Before I played roleplaying games and I was member of an improv club. I like to have fun with likeminded people. Middle-aged intellectuals interested in history are clearly my peer group. They share other traits with me: enough money (this hobby is expensive), an analytic mind, education (no illiterate will study a complex rulebook) and they are competitious (headstrong, try to outsmart you, rule discussions, they want to win - almost court). We congregate for the same reasons as members of motor gangs. A former gang member explained:

"You've gotta understand, we were all Army guys, a lot of us came home from Vietnam, and we got into motorcycles because we were looking for the same camaraderie and brotherhood we had in the Army (...)
you could probably say 60 to 70 percent of outlaw motorcycle clubs are regular working guys. They have jobs. They have families. They have kids. The only thing they're guilty of is having too much fun on the weekends."
I never served in the army and the friend I play my first wargames against - he's still a friend and a wargamer - is a life long self-proclaimed pacifist and conscientious objector. But amongst my peers I feel camaraderie and certain brotherhood and we have too much fun on the weekends. What do we really do? We drink beer. We roll dice. We talk about battles just like West Ham fans discuss the last match against Manchester United, and chat about the latest rulesets just like outlaw gang members chat about the newest Harley Davidson. It's the fun of being together.

And that, my friend, keeps the dice rolling. Not the obvious reasons like military history thing, logical reasoning, the quality of certain miniatures or the art of painting alone. It's comradeship.

I almost feel sorry that I never bought a motorbike.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Vergeet 9th Age. Adepticon deed het ook.

July 3, 2018 - 20:01
Interessante ontwikkeling voor al die boze witte mannen die Age of Sigmar verketterden en overstapten naar 9th age. Zeker: er zijn prachtige 9th-age toernooien: onlangs in Duitsland met een World Tournament Championship met 180 spelers en dit weekeinde in Nederland met 50 spelers. Echter: op belangrijke beurzen/conventies speelt niemand het. De google-belangstelling voor het spel is matig. AoS daarentegen wordt door GW best goed verkocht. En na twee updates krijgt AoS steeds vaker goede recensies. Eigenlijk staan alle seinen op rood voor 9th Age.
Negatief?Vooraf: ik heb niet per se een hekel aan 9th age. Hoogstens heb ik geen bijzonder gevoel bij fantasywargames, geen bijzonder gevoel bij GW, geen bijzonder gevoel bij toernooiwargames en geen bijzondere jeugdherinneringen aan Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Verder heb ik geen hekel aan of vete met 9-Age-admin 'Blonde Beer' of zijn kompaan Pellegrim. Nooit gesproken, nooit in de ogen gezien. Lieve kerels, vast en zeker. Goede organisators. Ik hou van hen.

Ik zeg het maar vooraf omdat kritiek of twijfel in het kleine Hollandse blogwereldje mij te vaak slecht landt. Ik ben kritisch omdat ik geloof dat de 9th agers zich net als de ridders van Constantinopel onaantastbaar wanen achter hun muren; terwijl hun rijk afbrokkelt.

Het internationale groepje als geheel (dus los van bepaalde personen) heeft in mijn ogen het imago van GW-fanboys (of eigenlijk-ex-GW-fanboys) die geloven in de superioriteit van 'Warhammer'. Jehova's. Dat kwam eigenlijk door teksten op de 9th-age-website dat de filosofie van deze 'top national Warhammer players' is (aldus hun moderator 'Sir Joker')

"to stay true to the core principles to maintain the "Warhammer" feeling on the one hand and to streamline the rules, balance units and magic on the other hand (...) We firmly believe that the disintegration and fracturing of the community must come to an end. People around the world don't know how to move forward because their beloved hobby has been terminated. We offer you the chance to reunite the community and send out a clear sign that there is still a reason to paint miniatures, organize campaigns and play tournaments. Our goal is to create the rule system people deserve, a rule system that is designed to be played competitively, a rule system build by the community for the community."
En dit allemaal zonder een spoor van ironie! "De mensen in de wereld weten niet hoe ze verder moeten omdat hun geliefde hobby wordt beëindigd". Grutjes. Was Mandela overleden? Voetbal afgeschaft? Was het wereldwijde financiële systeem ingestort? Nee - een grootgrutter in hardplastic figuurtjes haalde een spelregelboek uit de winkel omdat het niet meer verkocht.

De 9th-age-club is op hun eigen site verbazingwekkend optimistisch over de toekomst en de eigen aantrekkingskracht. We will overcome!

"Europe has already largely embraced T9A. This is due in large part to the reasons stated above, good community involvement with advertising the game system. Other geographic areas may take more time (...) Now that a stabilized rule set is here, it is expected that T9A will grow even quicker (...) As people see the project extend year after year, the fears of non-sustainability and not being “official” will fade because T9A is one of the best war games available and it is just too fun not to play."De groep is obsessief bezig met het vinden van 'balans' in het eigen regelsysteem en houdt niet bij of 9th-age aanslaat. Het doet me denken aan de Jehova's die zeker weten dat ze de wereld kunnen redden door van deur tot deur te gaan, omdat ze immers het enige ware geloof hebben. Maar het laat de wereld onverschillig.
BeurzenNeem om te beginnen de miniaturenbeurzen. Adepticon is een jaarlijkse grote wargame-beurs in de VS. Ze noemen zich 'de grootste' maar dat is vast Trumpiaans. In ieder geval hebben ze 4500 bezoekers per keer. Afgelopen maart 2018 heeft Adepticon het hele 9th-age toernooi doorgehaald en ruimte gegeven aan andere spellen.

Reden? Ruimte (althans officieel), kostenbesparing, en populariteit:

"table counts based on previous event performance. These steps were taken as part of a larger compromise between the availability of gaming space and the growth in many events, along with the interest in new game systems coming to market, including, but not limited to, ‘Song of Fire and Ice’, ‘Shadespire’, and ‘Star Wars: Legion."
Waarbij Adepticon de bakens verlegd heeft naar meer casual games, in plaats van een grote toernooibijeenkomst van verschillende systemen.

"AdeptiCon, once perceived mainly as a tournament event, has become a much more diversified gaming experience and it has taken a lot of work to make that possible. So while we still try and support everything we can, these more recent additions to AdeptiCon deserve as much consideration and attention as the hundreds of attendees that make use of them."
Age of Sigmar was er wel, op vrij grote schaal. Kings of War was er ook. Tuurlijk, geld speelt een rol, maar kennelijk is het niet gelukt om Adepticon ervan te overtuigen dat de 9th-agers een 'leidend fantasysysteem' hebben gemaakt dat opkan tegen de commercieel ondersteunde spellen van GW, Mantic en Fantasy Flight. Het breekt niet door.

Salute 2018 dan? Een 9th-age demo? Niet dus. Niemand.
Gencon? Eén vrijwilliger nu en nog geen tegenspeler. Het 9th-age forum stimuleert wel dat spelers reclame voor de regelset maken, maar dat blijft steken in losse plannen voor losse tafels op losse beurzen.
Crisis Antwerpen? Onduidelijk. Iemand oppert in hun forum dat de 9A-ers misschien wel dobbelsteentjes kunnen laten maken met 9A-logo. Toe maar. Daarmee ga je het echt winnen van Games Workshop. Verder staan 9A-tafels per definitie vol met GW-miniaturen, dus het blijft meer reclame voor Games Workshop dan voor een onafhankelijk systeem.
Age of Sigmar is ondertussen bezig met een opmars. 180 spelers voor een 9th-age World Tournament Championship is natuurlijk indrukwekkend. Maar ondertussen zijn er steeds meer en grotere AoS-toernooien, zoals blijkt uit deze lijst. Het South Coast Great Tournament in Engeland trok 200 spelers. Adepticon had een toernooi met 160 deelnemers. De twee GW Heat-toernooien vorig jaar trokken tussen de 70 en de 100 deelnemers. Er is zelfs al weer een Europees toernooi gehouden met 50 deelnemers. Het gaat sinds het General's Handbook uitstekend met AoS.
Algemene interesseDe aandacht voor 9th Age in Google houdt niet bepaald over.

Oranje is Age of Sigmar. Blauw/grijs is 9th-age - die rechte streep onderaan, ja.

Na een piek bij introductie en een dip daarna zit AoS in een opgaande lijn, volgens Google Search/Trends is 'Age of Sigmar' zelfs een 'snelle stijger'. Het stond eind november 2016 op 6 punten en per 1 mei 2018 op 19 punten. De zoekwoorden 'the 9th age' en 'warhammer 9th age' blijven tussen de 0 en de 1 punt, gedurende de hele periode. Het schiet niet op met de belangstelling. Gewoon - helemaal niet.

Kings of War, tussen twee haakjes, zit gedurende de hele periode ongeveer rond de 10 en blijft sinds juli 2016 wat achter bij Age of Sigmar.

Over fora en nieuws kan ik niet zoveel zeggen, maar het verandert het beeld over de beperkte populariteit van de 9th age in ieder geval niet.

  • Bell of Lost Souls had op 7 november 2016 het laatste artikel over The 9th Age.
  • Beasts of War publiceerde in mei 2016 een stukje en in hun forum is er maar 7 keer over gepost, de laatste keer in december 2016.
  • DakkaDakka is kritisch. In een recent draadje plaatsen posters kanttekeningen. Er is daar zeker waardering, maar ook twijfel of de achtste editie wel de beste editie was om op voort te bouwen, op de traagheid van het doorvoeren van regelwijzigingen, op de bureaucratie van het spelregelcomité en de kritiekloosheid in de 9th-age fora.
  • GWHobby publiceert relatief veel, maar daar zitten Blonde Beer en Pellegrim.
  • Lead Adventure Forum kon ik slecht doorzoeken maar er leek niet een speciaal subforum of zoiets ervoor.

Al met al geven deze fora (met uitzondering van GWHobby) vriendelijk gezegd niet de indruk dat spelers laaiend enthousiast reageren op 9th Age.
Idem Facebook. De grootste 9th-Age Facebook-groep is die van Australië met 577 leden. Zweden, Nederland en Engeland hebben rond de 130-140 leden. Vergelijk dat met de groep Kings of War Fanatics: die heeft er 9207. Of natuurlijk de FB-groep Age of Sigmar Fan Network: 17.129
Verkopen Age of SigmarAparte verkoopcijfers van AoS publiceert GW niet. Ik heb in Amsterdam wel eens gepolst en toen kreeg ik als antwoord dat AoS veel beter verkocht dan WHFB. De financiën van GW zitten ondertussen in een stijgende lijn. Dat heeft met van alles te maken: koers van de pond, 40K, verkopen in Azië, de deal voor het computerspel Total War: Warhammer, de groei van hun webshop; maar (voor een beetje) zéker met het kennelijke herstel van hun fantasy-verkoop.
Voorzichtige blogs/analyses geven het idee dat fantasy voor GW in ieder geval nu weer kostendekkend is. Dat was het niet. In de GW-winkels zijn regelmatige AoS-toernooien. Het loopt gewoon - zie ook de GW-toernooien
Positieve recensies AoSTenslotte verschijnen er nu soms zomaar positieve recensies of Age of Sigmar. Kijk bijvoorbeeld naar deze recensies/commentaren op ARRSE van AlphaKenny e.a. Kenny schrijft over WHFB:

"Essentially, it didn't make enough money. Warhammer accounted for about 10-15% of sales compared to Warhammer 40,000, and only 1-2% of those people actually played the game, yet it still made up 50% of most of the shelf space in stores and development. It was immensely difficult for new players to get started with, thanks to a 300-odd page rulebook. As such, Gee-Dubz decided to shitcan it and release something entirely new that was more appealing to all. This sparked huge outrage amongst many that their complicated game had been annihilated, but the new version is much better so it's all good."

Hij is zo tevreden over AoS omdat:
de regels gratis zijn, en beknopt: "It has a rulebook that is 4 pages long, and it is very, very simple to play. It is easier than Warhammer 40,000, yet just as enjoyable in its own right."
In plaats van de ingewikkelde stats van WHFB een beperkt aantal overzichtelijke karakteristieken zijn gekomen
De regelaanvullingen op AoS uitstekend zijn: "Games Workshop release yearly a book called the General's Handbook, which contains an absolute wealth of information on different ways to play, these being Open Play, Narrative Play and Matched Play. The annual game update is a great addition."
Verder is hij enthousiast over de goedkope AoS-skirmish-variant voor maar 6 pond.

"The Skirmish supplement is works by itself, follows the same rules, but each model is its own unit, you don't need to move them around in 'squads', and you pay for them individually points wise. The scenarios in it are great, with a little storyline to follow and ways of upgrading your warband between each battle. Games of AoS Skirmish take anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour, depending on the size of the warbands.The cost of getting started is literally the cost of a unit and the Skirmish book, so £25. Alternatively, the small set shown above with the Skirmish book for £31 is plenty good enough for some decent intro games."

Hij concludeert: "A shame all the lore from the 'Old World' was cast aside, but as for the game itself, it's a lot better than its predecessor with a much greater player base."

Natuurlijk reageert iemand op zijn recensie met: "Sorry to disagree, but it's crap. It's basically a bigged up skirmish game aimed at kids." Tja, zegt Kenny:

"It's funny you should say that, as myself and everyone I know was of the same opinion when it first came out. It was just... shit. Boring, and shit. You just ran a load of models to the middle of the table and rolled buckets of dice until enough stuff died. No tactics, no thinking, just.. bleh. Anyway, after a year of it doing crap and all the old players refusing to touch it with a barge pole, they released the General's Handbook in 2016 which... fixed it, basically.

Introduced points, matched play scenarios for tournament organisers (...) The layers of complexity are slowly being added with each new army, and in its current form it really is a good game. Of course, if you're a die-hard WFB fan, then it's never going to live up to your expectations the same way that 9th Age will. They've done a great job with that. But they're different games, you're right in that AoS is a giant skirmish game at heart, but it accepts and embraces that to good effect."

Is hij de enige die behoorlijk enthousiast is over AoS na twee updates? Nee. Er zijn veel meer positieve recensies, bijvoorbeeld hier en hier en hier. Het lijkt alsof GW met de aanpassingen de juiste vibe weer gevonden heeft, door fantasy battle om te bouwen naar een betaalbare, simpele, casual skirmish variant. Terwijl 9th Age vastgeroest is in ouderwetse toernooiregels voor fantasy-massaslagen die alleen een belletje doen rinkelen bij boze witte mannen die zich bedrogen voelen door GW en een Oude-Wereld-trauma-hebben.

Mijn beeld, kortom, is dat AoS een eigen fanbase opbouwt en dat 9th Age niet groeit. De ouwe hap van actieve toernooispelers is onverminderd actief. Ze sluiten zich op in hun eigen forum en eigen scene. 9th Age wint echter geen terrein op Kings of War of Age of Sigmar. Het is marginaal en het blijft marginaal.
Het is vast een goed systeem om met je vrienden van vroeger en je legers van weleer als 'modded' toernooiversie van WHFB 8 te spelen. Het is bovendien een fantastische manier om met een toegewijde groep van mensen uit verschillende landen je eigen gezamenlijke regelsysteem te schaven. Een schitterende internationale hobby, net als internationaal duivenmelken. Ga zo door! Blijf gamen! Drink meer bier!
Maar jongens - vergeet die pretentie. Jullie zijn een incrowd. The 9th Age is niet het evangelie, niet de laatste kans to reunite the community, niet het rule system people deserve. Het is niet een per definitie beter regelboek omdat het uit de achtste editie voortkomt. Het is niet per definitie beter dan de gelauwerde zesde editie WHFB, de nostalgische derde editie of de concurrerende snelschaakvariant Kings of War. Of het doorontwikkelde AoS.

9th age is een prachtige collectieve droom, een schitterende herinnering. De groep heeft een eigen mooie en heel actieve Beatles-fanclub opgericht - maar als ik moet gokken wat er eerder komt, een hereniging van de Beatles of de comeback van 9th Age - dan gok ik op de Beatles.


Bovenstaande column riep op internet/Facebook nogal heftige reacties op. Mijn mening dat de 9th-age-beweging nogal pretentieus is maar het aflegt tegen het herrezen Age of Sigmar staat niet iedereen aan. Andere lezers stoorden zich aan de spottende toon en vinden het not-done dat ik een bepaalde scene die erg actief is met toernooien belachelijk maak. Onder meer enkele A6S-clubleden vonden dat, zie hieronder. Ze maakten zich bezorgd dat de kritische toon negatief afstraalt op de club.

Over systeem en de populariteit: klopt, er is een actieve toernooiscene in bepaalde landen. Dat misken ik niet en die toernooien noem ik ook hierboven. Blijf fijn wargamen, ga door met je toernooien, live long and prosper! Neemt niet weg dat de belangstelling voor jullie systeem buiten jullie eigen scene gering is. De kans nieuwe spelers te trekken is niet groot, ook al denk je misschien dat je het 'beste' systeem aan het maken bent. De 'wereldtaal' Esperanto heeft ook nog steeds verenigingen.

Over de toon: klopt, ik maak me schaamteloos vrolijk over de bombarie van Sir Joker en anderen op de 9th-age-website. Ik neem daar geen schaamteloos woord van terug, spot mag, maar ik benadruk nog eens dat de toon, de woordkeus, de kritiek, de onderwerpskeus geheel mijn eigen stijl en verantwoordelijkheid zijn en dat ik uit niemand anders zijn naam spreek. Er is geen clubmening, ik ben geen clubwoordvoerder, ik ben gewoon een individuele Amsterdammer met een grote mond. Ik hoop dat het zo duidelijk is. Ik ben ook maar gewoon mijn eigen grotemondblog begonnen, déze blog.

Toch nog boos? Kom gerust in Amsterdam langs en daag me uit voor een duelwargame 9th Age, dat is de beste manier om wraak op me te nemen :-) In het echt ben ik best een lieverd.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Star Wars Legion: is het wat?

July 2, 2018 - 22:57

Snelle update: Star Wars Legion is uit, zoals geen wargamer zal zijn ontgaan. Het is de Warhammer 40K-killer van Fantasy Flight Games. Nu de licenties van GW zijn ingetrokken gaan de twee bedrijven de concurrentie met elkaar aan. In Amsterdam bij de 6shooters hebben we het nog niet gespeeld, spellenwinkel Friends & Foes had de primeur, het zal in de loop van het jaar wel op tafel komen. Ik vat kort de eerste webreacties samen:

Shut Up& Sit DownShut up & Sit Down heeft een Star Wars-fanboy gevraagd die vooraf vaststelde dat hij in ieder geval niet onbevooroordeeld is, aan de ene kant heeft hij de neiging om alles ge-wel-dig te vinden, aan de andere kant vreest hij misschien juist te kritisch te zijn. In zijn review is hij allebei, positief maar ook kritisch

"Once built, the figures look great. They’re not fancy – Star Wars has a simpler aesthetic than the skull-bedecked ornamentation of Warhammer or the weird steampunk stylings of Malifaux – but they are higher quality than even Fantasy Flight’s usual offerings."
Het is een systeem met/ door activatie van eenheden.

"At the beginning of a turn each player chooses a command card. This card is both a bid on whether you will activate first and the number of units you can give orders. Legion uses alternating activations, meaning that you use one unit and then your opponent responds with one of theirs. In the case of units you gave orders with your command cards, you may activate them freely. For other units you have to go fishing in a bag for order tokens. These tokens designate types of units rather than individuals, so there is some flexibility, but you won’t always get the one you want. In practice this means that each player must prioritize. The last thing you want is to desperately need to activate a unit whose order token is at the bottom of the bag. The closest analogy to this system for many is going to be Shut Up & Sit Down’s much-loved Memoir ’44. While (unlike in Memoir) every unit can activate in Legion each turn, in both games the command structure means there is uncertainty about what will happen on the battlefield.
(...) As you get shot at you accumulate “suppression tokens,” basically the cardboard equivalent of people screaming “Oh God, oh God, we’re all going to die!” As these tokens build up your troops might lose actions or even start to flee."
Hij heeft ook kritiekpunten:

"To play a miniatures game as it is meant to be enjoyed requires lots of money, and Legion is no different. The core box is affordable, but it only provides half of the army size FFG recommends. (...)"
Er zit een leuke onzekerheidsfactor in het spel omdat je niet weet welke eenheid ingezet mag worden, maar de omvang van de legers in de basisdoos is te klein om daar plezier van te hebben.

"It makes sense with games of 7-10 units, which is the range I imagine most armies will field. With only the 4 units in the starter box most of its uncertainty is removed. Likewise, thanks to the limited size of armies, a little bad luck in the core set can feel crippling. As in most dice-based games, you need the law of large numbers to smooth out the probability curve. Losing a unit to a spike in the dice matters much more when it is 25% of your army than when it is only 10%. Certain models in the core set – especially the commanders – can also become nigh-indestructible, reducing the outcome of games to luck-fests. All of these problems disappear when playing at the game’s recommended size – I proxied a bit to test out that level and it is a much more even experience. But if you are treating this as a single-box game, I’d honestly say you should give it a pass"
Maar hij ziet potentie:

There are already numerous expansions planned, ranging from other basic troops to iconic units like AT-STs or Princess Leia, but I haven’t played with them yet. In a year or two, if that support continues, Legion could be a dominant force in the wargaming landscape, potentially even dethroning Warhammer 40,000. That, however, will take some time to see.
TechRaptorDe site TechRaptor plaatste de tweede review, hier. Techraptor is vooral positief en doet de meeste kritiek (die kennelijk via forums was doorgedrongen) af als onterecht.

Techraptor beoordeelde drie aspecten
  • The hobby side (the models themselves)
  • As a stand-alone core box product (for those who want to dip in but not commit long term)
  • The wargaming side (how the product stands as a future tabletop wargame)

Techraptor is zeer te spreken over de modellen en het in elkaar zetten:

Those coming from a wargaming background won’t find anything too difficult with this. All the parts are ready to be glued together, all precut and clean, and the only really tricky pieces to glue are the front wind guides on the speeder-bikes, which have to be held at a slight angle after gluing. I’ve got a background in all types of tabletop gaming, and it took me less than an hour to get everything out, sorted, assembled, and drying. The models look great(...) The expressions and positions capture iconic scenes, from Vader holding out his hand, to the speeder bike trooper looking back over his shoulder with his pistol aimed.
Als spel is het volgens hen compleet.

There are enough figures, counters, and cards for two players to get a lot of enjoyment out of the core box, and the only thing I noticed is that there aren’t enough dice.
Het spel is als wargame gestroomlijnd volgens Techraptor.

Each round starts with issuing a command card, which are selected from a set of generic command cards and three from your force commander. These cards dictate if you go first or second in the round and how many units you can assign direct orders to; the rest are put into a random pool. This means that at the price of going first, you might not be able to activate the key unit you need. Unit movement is done by moving the unit’s commander and then arranging the rest of the models within unit cohesion, which streamlines the need for measuring and moving every model in a unit.
Conclusie Tech Raptor: het spel krijgt een cijfer 8.

"The Star Wars Legion Starter Set is very much a wargame and comes with everything expected of that. For a small amount of effort over other boxed products, you get a very rewarding experience. The rules aren't as straight-forward as I'd like but are very well-presented and streamlined. The models are incredible and full of all the right detail. It's a great start for wargaming in the Star Wars IP and feels exactly like a Star Wars game should."
Het probleem met webreviews van weblogs/videoblogs/gameblogs is dat ik nooit zeker weet of a) de website niet gesponsord is, dus of ik een advertorial aan het lezen ben en b) of de recensent het spel wel echt gespeeld heeft en het spelontwerp kan beoordelen. Hoeveel referentiekader heeft hij?

Ik heb het hele spel nog nooit gespeeld en geef dus geen oordeel. Ik heb wel wat referentie:
  • Het systeem van activatie van een commandant of groepje figuren op basis van de initiatiefscore is een bruikbaar, bekend systeem, de systematiek vond ik ook terug in het 2-dollar WW2 tweepagina-regelsysteem van Wargame Vault, 'Some Corner of A Foreign Field'. De insteek is simpelheid en speelbaarheid, niet allemaal ingewikkeldheden.
  • de dobbelzak en de suppress-markers doen erg denken aan Bolt Action/Antares.
  • Allerlei kaartjes met statistieken maken het spelen veel gemakkelijker. Dat is een moderne aanpak, herkenbaar uit X-Wing, maar bijvoorbeeld ook zichtbaar in Conan.
  • Het komt uit de reviews over als een soort SF-wargame voor beginners, dat meegolft op de Star Wars-hype. Het kan FF dezelfde boost geven als de LOTR-films GW gaven.
  • GW heeft als unique selling point dat ze speelruimte bieden in hun eigen winkels. Hoewel het Star Wars-spel als genre en systeem concurrentie betekent voor WH40K denk ik niet dat het GW naar de kroon zal steken. Dat is Mantic en Warlord ook nog niet gelukt.
  • De miniaturen zijn op zichzelf prima te gebruiken voor andere systemen. Star Wars/ Hordes of the Things of Star Wars/Gates of Antares zijn prima haalbare varianten, misschien als spel voor de ervaren wargamer geslaagder.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Amsterdam Acid Test for Wargames, Part IV: Deltavector As Inspiration

July 2, 2018 - 21:28

Since some time I have been looking for a method, a more systematic way of reviewing wargame rules. Many rules are hypes: a new kickstarter gets the attention, a well known company promotes a new set of miniatures accompagnied by a ruleset, or a well known game designer with a group of followers publishes a new ruleset.
Test of Honour was published last year by Warlord after they acquired the Samurai range from Wargames Factory. Is it better than, say, Ronin, by Osprey? Or the free Samurai Knight Fever, via Wargame Vault, written by seasoned rule writer Todd Kershner? My favorite rule writer is Sam Mustafa, but is his grandscale 'Rommel', a hexed tabletop game, better than Pendraken's Rick Priestly/Warmaster-inspired Blitzkrieg Commander, or companyscale I Ain't Been Shot Mum? Can I compare I Ain't Been Shot Mum with Flames of War? But how? With a topic list or a historical scenario?
Online reviews don't really help. Many are fanreviews of just battle reports. "We had a nice game of XXX which has many good and some bad points and we will soon play a second game and this is what we really liked". Or short entries in a forum like The Miniatures Page. Just a few bloggers are reliable. One of the blogs that I visit infrequently is Deltavector. I admire his insights about wargame design, but today I discovered that he writes reviews with the help of a standardized topic list. Here's his list.
  • Activation system (description, good/bad)
  • Combat system (ibidem)
  • Rulebook (price, layout, clarity, fluff, supplements needed?)
  • Advanced rules (unit builder and/or scenario's included?)
He mentions the rule family ('belongs to the WH40K/Bolt Action rule family') and often comments on the logic or (dis)advantages of certain game mechanisms. He doesn't 'test' or review the 'battlefield realism' or the 'historical veracity' of a ruleset, he's more into skirmish games. But a good example of a good reviewer he is.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

"I'm new in miniature wargaming, which ruleset/scale should I buy?"

July 2, 2018 - 16:52
A Newbie Survival Guide

O no. Not again.

The problem is not that you're a newbie, the problem is that when you start a facebook thread asking "I'm new in miniature wargaming, which ruleset/scale should I buy?" helpful veteran wargamers overwhelm you with suggestions. Try Black Powder! No, try Blücher! DBA in 15mm is FAN-TAS-TIC! And do you know quickplay Kings of War?

Soon, you cannot see the wood for the trees. So, here's my simple step-by-step guide. A survival guide in reaction to the x-tiest Facebook or TMP-forum thread going nowhere.
1) It's all about fun, not rules
First: welcome! Welcome in the miniature wargame scene! Wargaming is big fun, partly because of the hobby thing, the zen of painting small toy soldiers, partly because you have fun with other guys, with gaming, beer and banter. That automatically means that the ruleset you play is less important. The scale is unimportant, too. This is (to quote founding father Donald Featherstone) "a pastime - a hobby for played for enjoyment and amusement with a little leavening of brainpower as in chess, perhaps". Not a pseudo-science with 'best' rules, or 'best scales'.

It's just like other games. Is bridge better than poker or chess? Difficult to say. Is computer bridge or solo poker or computer chess bigger fun than a game against real players in a local pub? (if you answer 'yes', on that last question, stop reading. Go back playing Total War. Grow up).

So, visit a club or a store. Find friends who you like to play with. Let others introduce you in the hobby. Start a school club or university club. Just buying rules and lot of lead is not rewarding. Social interaction with others, that's what will reward you.
2) Ask yourself: which era do I like?For some reason I like Napoleonics. Heroism, colourful uniforms, big battles. However, it's not the only consideration. If my opponents would only play WW2, I would consider WW2 wargaming, and if they play ancients, an Ancient army would be my choice. Again, having an opponent is more important than having lots of lead in boxes in a shed in your backyard.
3) Think about Games Workshop gamesMany 'veteran' gamers are 'against' Games Workshop because they blatantly 'exploit' the hobby and are incredibly expensive. Well... that's sort of... true. GW is a company with chain of toy stores that commercially publishes rule books and promotes gaming to make you buy their own brand of SF- and fantasy miniatures and paints. Their goal is to make money. But they have a well thought-out concept. The shop crew will introduce you in the hobby, they have in-store gaming tables, good internet support, rules are simple, shop assistants will teach you these rules to make you an accomplice and possible opponents hang around in the store.

I'm too old to play with Space Marines or Orks against a 14-year old lad or a 20-year old 40K Win At All Costs-tournament player, but that's more a generation thing than a GW antipathy. O, yes, I dislike space and fantasy wargaming these days but I did a lot of fantasy role play with like-minded friends when I was 20. Good fun it was.
4) Think about X-WingI played it only once or twice, but for newbies, the game is great. a) it's a simple game, fastplay rules b) it's a miniature game with prepainted miniatures that you can play against 1 opponent on your kitchen table or a pub in less than an hour. Just like chess you will quickly find opponents c) the Star Wars movie theme is nice, and for many game-minded people more inspiring than the real life battles of Alesia, Waterloo or The Bulge. Buy a box online and start playing.
5) Think about a board game with miniaturesIn particular: dungeon crawlers. Dungeon crawlers have simple rules, standard scenario's and unpainted miniatures. Try, for example, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Dungeon Saga, Descent or Conan. Excellent for a night with friends and beer and pretzels. In the meantime you can try out painting 28mm mini's. See if you like it. Or hate it.

Other options: Command & Colours, a board wargame with wooden blocks (which can be replaced by miniatures): Memoir '44, a WW2 quickplay battlefield board game with miniatures, Axis & Allies, a 'light' board wargame with miniatures, 2 or more players, much better than Risk.
6) Or think about a wargame with cardsHeroes of Normandie for example is a 1hr-WW2 boardgame with large card counters, and simple game mechanics that are very wargamish. If you like HoN you might like a miniature wargame as well. Besides, you can play HoN against your uncle, a good friend or bring it to a local boardgame club. And if you like the game and want to try miniature painting: the game can be played with 15mm miniatures on the cards as well

Blücher is a traditional Napoleonic wargame with the stats printed on playing cards. Order the cards and try the game on a green table cloth. If you like the gameplay and found an opponent, THEN buy miniatures. Check this blog.
7) How many miniatures do you want to paint? How much time do you have?
I enjoy large scale battles, but these battles are played with 300-600 15mm miniatures, or 1600 or more in 6mm. Quite an investment in time and money. I like painting more than watching television, so I have the time. If I had less time, I would consider the popular skirmish miniature games that you play with 30-50 28mm models and a few buildings on a table. The larger your battles are, the smaller the miniatures you buy. At least that's how I see it. I play Renaissance and Ancients in 15mm, but Napoleonics and WW2 armored battles in 6mm. The large armies cost months to finish. I also painted a few 28mm WW2 platoons for skirmish games, a few evenings speedpainting and I was ready.

I never buy/paint just one side. Buy Orcs AND Dwarfs, Greeks AND Persians, French AND British, German AND Allied troops. Thus you can always invite anybody to play a game against you and test rules. Otherwise you're dependent on that one and only single opponent.
8) Large or small scale? Single piece or multi-part? Boxed set or different vendors?28mm is virtually the standard, so if you want opponents, a good choice of models and a simple paint job then buy 28mm. 28mm is more expensive than 20mm (1/72) plastics) but hardly anybody plays wargames with the soft plastic 1/72 Airfix models anymore.
Often 28mm hard plastic models are multi part: that involves glueing arms and heads or helmets to upper bodies and upper bodies to legs. Not too difficult. However, I would hate multi-part if I were a total newbie. I recommend the more expensive one piece white metal soldiers for skirmish games.
Also popular and good to start with is 15mm. I love 6mm, but I wouldn't recommend it to a newbie who is just discovering a new pastime.
A boxed set can be a good investment. You get the rules, two opposing armies and scenery. If you don't like it you sell the box for half the price.
9) What is your budget?An important question which is somehow less important for the wargamers that I know. Anyway:
Every basic set (rules & two opposing armies), regardless of range, scale, era will cost you 75-100 pound/euro/dollar
Wargaming is never 'cheap'. However, when you have the basic set, you can often buy extra models via kickstarters, ebay, bargains etc. 50-75ct per model is (anno 2018) a very reasonable price
The bigger companies regularly update their rules and models to push you to buy more/other updated miniatures. Other rulesets are a short hype and are then followed by a new wargamer fashion. Next!
1/72 (20mm) is cheap and has a good range, but is out of fashion
6mm is cheaper but you glue more on a base. For example a Baccus 6mm 4-fig strip is 36 eurocent. I glue 4 strips on a base = 1,14 . In fact about the same price as a single plastic 28mm model. 28mm cavalry and armor is much more expensive than their 6mm counterparts, but I game with many more bases in 6mm. So in the end it evens out.
10) Which miniature ruleset should I buy?It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all.

But because you're asking, I'll give you an overview of the classics and some recommendable sets for newbies, not because I like them but with a rationale. Feel free to disagree.

  • in general: I was impressed by the 1hr wargames-book. Generic rules for all historic eras. Quickplay. Cheap. Generic scenarios included. For every possible scale, you can use 1/72 soft plastic or even use cards. Good start. Also playable as solo wargame (though less fun).
  • Ancients, medieval: sadly, good old DBA lost popularity, but the rules are as good and simple as chess. Fastplay. Army listst included in the book. Free scenario's online. Many 15mm lead soldier companies sell boxed DBA-armies. About 50 one piece quick-to-paint 15mm miniatures per army (but good in other scales as well)
  • Medieval, 28mm: Lion Rampant is a very playable, light ruleset for 28mm skirmish (and other rulesets), 10 standard scenario's included.
  • Renaissance: I can think of free rules. 'For Parliament, King & Glory' or 'Victory Without Quarter' - both free and quickplay. However, commercially available is The Pikeman's Lament, a P&S adaptation of Lion Rampant, above, only 11 pound, simple skirmish, not too many miniatures, nice layout, excellent if you're new to this hobby and this specific era.
  • Napoleonics: Sharp Practice, 28mm/15mm skirmish game, 40-60 miniatures per side. Large battles: Blücher, complete ruleset with army lists and campaigns. No need for miniatures. For different scales.
  • WW2: Bolt Action, skirmish, buy a starter set (be prepared to glue legs to bodies however): or a Flames of War 15mm starter set if you like larger battles. Both games have a large community of players and good support. Tank games: What A Tanker is a fastfun beer&pretzels game that can be played with 4-6 players and any tank on any scale. Good starter for those with old 1/72 tanks and some railway scenery in a box.
  • Fantasy and SF combat: although I value 15mm Hordes of the Things higher than Age of Sigmar and 40K, AoS and 40K have the unbeatable support of market leader GW. Recommendable other fun skirmish games: Dragon Rampant, Frostgrave, Songs of Blade and Heroes.
  • Space Combat: X-Wing

What Not To Buy - As Newbie

  • Hail Caesar, Pike & Shotte, Black Powder 28mm. Too many models, a very large table needed. Not for newbies/starters
  • Kings of War Fantasy. Probably as good as Age of Sigmar, cheaper and more towards big battles. Starter boxes available. However, only buy this game if you have KoW-opponents and no GW shop nearby.
  • 9th Age. A fan version of 8th ed. Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Free. Tried and tested. Tournament/points rules. However, this fan community will probably whither away.
  • Gates of Antares. Excellent game, Bolt Action in Space, but WH40K remains the market leader. Recommended if you want a diversion from Bolt Action or a more casual SF-game outside the grimdark GW scene. No problem to play it with GW models, btw.
  • Kings of War Historical. Fastplay fun mass battle rules. More 'fantasy history' than 'historical wargaming'. Generic system with relatively big random factor. Good. Intended for bigger battles, and I regard that as a disadvantage for newbies. Try DBA in 15 or 28mm if you want a smaller, faster game, try Hail Caesar if you want something a little bit more specific, try Lion Rampant if you want a 28mm fun skirmish game.
  • A Rapid Fire Boxed set (although with pain in my heart). The boxed set is a great deal! The rules are simple and effective and I'm a big fan of their scenario books. However their hardplastic 20mm is incompatible with 1/72 AND incompatible with 25/28mm. FoW 15mm is then a better investment, try to buy the RF rules second hand however.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Flux Battle Objectives: Bringing More Flavour To Standard Wargames

July 2, 2018 - 14:34

I like a well researched historical battle - but often I don't have the time to research what the goal was of Caesar, Louis XIV, Ney, Blücher, Rommel or Patton. Then I play a quick play pick up game, but pick up games are often bland. No time clock. No clear goals. Just terrain, a couple of divisions, an enemy, and some time to kill with dice. Good fun, the best dice fun I can imagine, but can I enhance it? Well, I recently found a quick and very cheap 'pick up battle enhancer' to make the X-points vs X-points pick up games more lively. More challenging.

It's called Flux Battle Objectives, via Wargame Vault, here, just $1,13 this week. Cards with a main battle goal for every player, a sub-goal and a minor goal. Players randomly and secretly select a goal in every category and start to play. They win 10 points if they reach their main target, 5 for a subgoal and 1 point for a minor goal. For example, Player A draws the objectives
Main Goal: Crucible Targets (secretly determine the d3+2 most valuable opponent target units, gain points in proportion to the number of high value targets that you
take out)
4-point Subgoal: Captive recovery (rescue a prisoner from a building on the table)
1-point Minor goal: President;s favorites: (secretly select 3 of your own miniatures, (sub)commanders excluded, that must survive the battle)

Player B gets
Main Goal: Data Theft: designate 1 d5 table objectives, known by you and your opponent, that you must capture, gain points in proportion to the number of objectives captured)
4-point Subgoal: Demolition Job (destroy a certain building on the table)
1-point Minor goal: Capture the Flagbearer (kill a certain (secretly selected) miniature from your opponent

It's generic, these battle objectives can be used in Ancient battles and Death Star battles and everything in between. But think, for example, of a Battle of Arnhem. The Germans (player A) try to destroy the 1d3+2 British paratroops (player B), who want to capture certain buildings and a certain bridge and hold them till the end of the game. The Wehrmacht commander however has to save Schütze Reihähn, a German soldier who already lost two brothers and who is captured by die Engländer (a story retold in 'Saving Schütze Reihähn'). In the meantime the paratroopers try to take out the German Flak cannons, transported to Arnhem from the island of Navarone. If ace tank commander Schumacher and Schütze Haagen and Schütze Dachs, favored by the German Oberkommando, survive the game, then the Germans gain an extra point. The paratroopers in the meantime try to take out the shiny new German pink Mercedes transport used to transport troops to the front.

With the Flux objectives, a pick up game becomes much more cinematic, and less one sided 'you won, I lost'. Yes, you won, because in the end you had 6 points and I had 5. I lost my rockabilly pink Mercedes. But I saved Schütze Reihähn!

Categories: Best Blogs, General

Chain of Command: No Moneyspeak From Richard Clarke

July 2, 2018 - 14:24

I don't watch Beasts of War too often, it's more or less an advertising channel for the wargames industry. Maybe out of remorse they decided to pay attention to the Lardies and Chain of Command. Or maybe because Wargames Illustrated awarded CoC the 'best game 2017 award'.

Richard Clarke, gentleman-gamer, was interviewed. Nothing new for me. Fun, however, were the questions. The interviewer looked bewildered. A game designer who likes ... gaming? Not making profit? Beasts of War's first question:

This is a ruleset. You don't produce miniatures. Why?Because Clarke doesn't name a miniature range himself, the interviewer drops the names of a few of his advertisers and asks Clarke what he thinks about their ranges
..just to name a few, you got Perry, you got Warlord of course, you got Battlefront..Yes. "Just to name a few", mr Beast of War? The website promo for the interview, added afterwards, specifically links to these advertisers. How....surprising!

Clarke slips in the names of the much smaller Empress, Crusader and Artizan miniatures (definitely not advertising on Beasts of War)

And then the interviewer wonders about Clarke who sees no problem in mixing models from different manufacturers
that's a very ecletic way of collecting for Chain of Command, it's a very ecletic way for anyone who collects something like thathe says, looking at the viewers.

NO IT'S NOT, BEAST!! Collecting miniatures from different ranges is very usual for any historical gamer. It's very UNusual for gamers who play GW or Privateer Press games. GW in particular forbids miniatures from other brands, changes basing and sizing to prevent mixed armies.

It's fun to see how the interviewer struggles with the idea that Clarke is not the regular miniature company guy who wants to sell miniatures, but a genuine game designer who doesn't bother too much about the 'right' scale, the 'best' miniature, 'the only official miniature allowed for this unit'. Clarke wants a good game. Not double digit profits.

I don't blame BoW. It's good that, within their commercial format, they give airplay to something different, outside the bigger companies and kickstarter campaigns. But when they do it, you see from where they come, what their home turf is.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Rommel? Good, but better than ...Heroes of Normandie?

July 2, 2018 - 13:58

I like the games designed by Sam Mustafa, Maurice is an intelligent mix of a card game and traditional wargaming, Fast Play Grande Armee is excellent, Blücher a favorite of mine, but Rommel.... I hesitate when I see a gridboard wargame. Is it miniature wargaming or just a large scale 3D boardgame? More, is it fun, is it challenging, is it more challenging than popular games like the gamey Flames of War, fastplay Blitzkrieg Commander or puzzling I Aint Been Shot Mum? I'm in doubt.

I found a good review here. Tom Burgess from WWPD writes:

Rommel picks up where the other WW2 wargames leave off. Wargaming with Rommel starts at the Division command level and extends upwards to the corps and even army level, this level of command in wargaming previously was for the most part the domain of board based wargames.
Indeed, many may see Rommel as more of a board game than a miniatures game, and I can tell you that's exactly what Sam wants. As with rest of the Honour series, he wants you to make what you want out of the game. Sam has designed Rommel and other Honour series wargames to be equally playable using miniatures or without by using unit cards.


The battlefield is set up as a 8 x 12 grid system where each grid approximates a kilometer. On a 4' x 6' table this would make each grid square 6" x 6", however with 15mm and smaller scales you could go with 4" x 4" grid squares to either expand the battlespace for your games or possibly play it at the standards size on a 3' x 4' table (Kitchen table?).


Combat occurs in Rommel when opposing units end a tactical phase contesting the same square with enemy units. The combat power of units in a square is combined and modified based off of tactical considerations. A die roll then determines how many hits the enemy must take. Generally combat results are simultaneous. If after the combat, the defender has a unit remaining in the square, the attackers retreat. If the defender is eliminated the attacker wins the square. Motorized/Mechanized units may make an evasion move after combat in which they discard their last hit taken, but retreat from the contested square

Hmmmm. Hmmmmmm.

If I want to play a fast pick-up gridded wargame, why not play... chess?

If I want to play a quick WW2 boardgame, what's wrong with Axis and Allies? Memoir 44?

If I want a fast paced square gridded WW2 unit card wargame, why not play Heroes of Normandie, a unit card gridded wargame that is a miniature game printed on cardboard?

Why Rommel?

Maybe it depends what your starting point is.

If you have played 28mm or 15mm skirmish or platoon games so far, then Mustafa's approach is refreshing. Rommel allows you game something on a grander scale, using your 15mm now not as single elements, but as playing pieces representing armored divisions of brigades.

I play 6mm grand scale battles. I will reserve my final judgment until I have played a real game. But for me on first sight the Rommel ruleset appears to have not much added value to other grand scale non-grid-sets that I own. Small BKC2 games for example are played with 20-40 bases per side and large games with 100 bases per side. In other words I can play grand scale BKC2 on a proper table. So, hell, why should I play grand scale on a gridded map?
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Herstelt slecht geleid GW zich? Kirby exit

July 2, 2018 - 13:52

Op het dieptepunt van de Age of Sigmar-crisis schreef financieel journalist Richard Beddard een interessante financiële analyse van Games Workshop. Interessant met name omdat hij een aandeelhoudersvergadering bezocht, en de indruk kreeg dat GW een nogal cynisch businessmodel had. Hem viel op dat GW in omzet en winst een vrij flinke veer had moeten laten. Games Workshop had nu dan wel een lijn ingezet, maar was vrij kwetsbaar in zijn nichemarkt. En zorgwekkend arrogant.

The company only seemed to be interested in big-spending older customers. By and large these customers have stopped playing Warhammer, the war game that got them into the hobby as teenagers. They often pay modellers to assemble and paint elaborate models costing up to a thousand pounds. No doubt these are highly profitable customers, but the company's inability to lift revenue despite rising prices suggested the number of customers was slowly diminishing. To maintain profitability Games Workshop threw its efforts into manufacturing and retail efficiency, churning out millions of models as cheaply as possible and selling them through its new one-man store format. There was very little talk of the game in annual reports and, since gamers were complaining about cost and rule changes that required them to buy new models, I though the company may be throttling the next generation of hobbyist. Frankly, I didn't know whether to believe the hypothesis or not. It seemed incredible to me that the company would be so short-sighted, especially considering its oft-repeated ambition to remain in business forever. But the results suggested something was wrong.

Voor een samenvattend overzicht van zijn eerdere analyses, zie hier.

Hij is inmiddels positiever. Is it a buy? vraagt hij zichzelf af, na de cijfers van dit jaar met een omzetstijging van 21% en een verdubbelde winst. Hij geeft verschillende verklaringen.

Some of this supercharged performance was due to good luck. 75% of Games Workshop's revenue comes from abroad, so it benefited from the devaluation of the pound.

Most of it was due to a plethora of Games Workshop initiatives, though, including the one-man stores, rebranding them Warhammer, relaunching the classic Warhammer game in a simpler guise as Warhammer Age of Sigmar, providing a wider range of miniatures at different price points and a drive to recruit better managers.

Hij ziet enige verbetering in de toonzetting van het jaarverslag. Het cultuurtje blijft hem tegenstaan.

Rountree and chairman Tom Kirby still strike a somewhat maniacal tone, though. They brook no criticism from outside the company, or within. The biggest risk they say, is ego. Not their own egos, but those of their managers and they will not allow private agendas to rule. They give the impression of a cult. Reading the testimony of employees on Glassdoor, a site that invites reviews of employers, reinforces that impression. If you don't fit in - you won't last long. I don't think I'd like to work there

Kirby krijgt ondanks zijn pensioen nog 250.000 per jaar als consultant. Mooi pensioen!

Los daarvan, gezien de betere resultaten, kopen dus?

Not so fast, hot shot. First of all, one swallow doesn't make a summer. This was a year in which a lot of things went right. It won't always be so. My expectation is the Games Workshop of the next 10 years will probably be more profitable than the Games Workshop of the last 10 years. I doubt it will always reach the amazing heights it achieved this year, though.

Verder is de waarde van de aandelen nogal gestegen, waardoor het op dit moment geen winstgevende aandeleninvestering meer is, aldus Beddard.

NB: ik denk zelf dat hij een punt maakte in 2015 dat nog steeds geldig is:

The essence of the changes, more efficient distribution, makes sense, but only if Games Workshop invests enough to maintain the cult, which is to an extent a social activity centred on its stores. Customer alienation is not a good sign.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Terug van weggeweest: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay!

July 2, 2018 - 12:20

Bij een van de dingen die Games Workshop twintig jaar geleden bij het oud vuil zette zat het fantastische, geweldige, prachtige, schitterende Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Bij Sigmar - wat heb ik daar geweldige rollenspelavonden mee gehad! Mijn held was de lepe, leipe, luizige Gregor Fallstaff, die zijn medespelers en de spelleider tot gekmakens toe verveelde met zijn fake Italiaanse accent, zijn foute Austin Powers-grappen over vrouwen en zijn voortdurende omkoopbaarheid waardoor hij van de ene rel in de ander viel. Maar dankzij zijn vlotte babbel, kenmerk van de charlatan, liep het toch weer goed af. Jongens waren we, maar aardige jongens, en Fallstaff was een nuttige schakel in een groep die verder bestond uit een depressieve zwaardvechter, een iets te principiële natuurpriester en een jager met een geheimzinnig verleden.

Fallstaff was doortrapt, maar dat paste, want heel WFRP was mooi doortrapt. Alles was dubbelspel. De edelman in The Empire kon duivelsaanbidder zijn, de koopman had een dubbele agenda en de schijnbaar vrome priester werd gechanteerd door de bordeelhouder met de demonette in de kelder. Het was fantasy-rollenspel voor volwassenen, en dat was een verademing na de Donald Duck-achtige tegenstellingen tussen goed en kwaad in AD&D. De regels zaten goed in elkaar: niet te veel tabellen, innovatief, flexibel, je kon gemakkelijk overstappen van beroep als je was uitgekeken op je character class. Net zoals in Cthulhu kon je allerlei kanten op in een zwarte, donkere wereld, terwijl het ondertussen iets vergevingsgezinder was dan Cthulhu: in Cthulhu wordt je personage al snel geestelijk gestoord of gedood door 'the other side', terwijl je er in WFRP langer mee weg kunt komen. De drie boeken van de 'Enemy Within' Campaign zaten goed in elkaar. Tof spel.

Het was jammer dat het stopte, al was de neergang al eerder toegeslagen. Latere scenario's waren veel slechter, het werd langdradig en simpel zwart-wit dungeoncrawlen, The Empire verglaasde ondertussen tot bordkartonnen decor voor Warhammer Fantasy Battles. De derde editie WFRP ging in licentie bij Fantasy Flight dat er een soort Warhammer Heroquest / Warhammer Dicemasters van maakte.

Tegen die tijd was ik het al lang vergeten. Onze groep was trouwens uit elkaar gevallen, zoals dat gaat. Boven staat het boek nog in mijn kast, en soms blader ik er nog eens in, met weemoed. Alles gaat voorbij.

Maar het is terug! Games Workshop en Fantasy Flight Games zijn tegenwoordig concurrenten en GW heeft besloten de roleplay-markt niet door FFG af te laten pakken. Subcontractor Cubicle kondigde op 30 november de vierde editie aan van deze klassieker, een core rulebook en een doos met startersset. Hoopgevend was de volgende tekst van de uitgever:

The initial plan was to make some small updates to the awesome second edition, and that would mean we would be able to release the game in 2017. We’re all huge fans of the first and second editions of WFRP, and we wanted to take the game back to those roots.
Er komen toch nog iets meer aanpassingen (huh? was dat nodig?) dus daarom wordt het de zomer van 2018. De uitgever belooft de terugkeer van "a multi-part campaign favourite from first edition", dat kan niet anders dan de Enemy Within Campaign zijn.

Overigens is er al een tijd een non-profit gratis auteursrechtelijk toegestane fankopie van WFRP, Zweihänder, recensie hier, waardoor het spel op dezelfde manier levend is gehouden als Blood Bowl en 9th Age.

As featured on, ranked #3 in the Platinum Seller’s list on DriveThruRPG and having raised a combined $90K to-date on Kickstarter & CrowdOx, ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG is a bloodier, grimmer and grittier version of classic tabletop role-playing games you may already familiar with. The community calls this style of gaming the pathetic aesthetic, but we simply call it grim & perilous gaming. (...) an OSR, retro-clone spiritual successor to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay first and second editions, an unrepentant heartbreaker released under Creative Commons License Share-Alike. It is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game, one where adventurers will:
Live in a gritty, ‘realistic’ fantasy world
Make morally grey decisions & enact vicious reprisals
Uncover insidious plots & political intrigue

Zo dus.

Ik heb inmiddels andere hobbies, een gezin, twee kinderen, mijn eerste liefde wargaming heeft mijn tweede, het rollenspel, verdrongen, ik heb geen groep meer, de jongens die we waren zijn mannen geworden en ik weet niet of ik het nog zou kunnen, tot diep in de nacht dobbelen en slappe grappen te maken met depressieve zwaardvechters. Maar sinds vandaag praat ik tot gekmakens toe nep-Italiaans met mijn twee kinderen, en ze snappen er geen barst van.

Jij wel?
Categories: Best Blogs, General

The Amsterdam Acid Test For Wargames, part III

July 2, 2018 - 11:24
A Review Manifesto: Stolen Thoughts For Future Use

Today I'm a thief. I steal words and thoughts. I have plans to publish comparative wargame rule reviews in the future, with a summary, topic list, and a rating, subjective but systematic at least. Being a professional journalist and lawyer (and hobby wargamer) I regard many reviews as substandard they're not informative in a well-written way, and not analytic enough about the rules. Maybe I'm too critical. Sorry. Still looking for the Philosopher's Stone.

I unearthed a leading article about game reviews hidden in the wayback internet archive machine, "A Review Manifesto", by Peter Sarrett, He might state the obvious in some aspects, but anyway, useful stuff. I republish it, for easier reference. No copyright infringement meant. Website was shut down. I can also recommend the boardgame geek discussion about reviewing, here.

A Review Manifesto/ Peter Sarrett

I've been writing game reviews for over eight years. In that time my style has evolved as I've developed a better understanding of what makes an effective review. Recently I've been frustrated by the appearance on the web and in other publications of reviews that don’t satisfy me as a reader. Writing a good review is an art just like any other form of writing. The problem is that many reviewers have never been taught their craft, but are just picking it up as they go. That's certainly true in my case. It doesn't have to be that way. Herewith I offer a few guidelines I've adopted for writing a stronger, more valuable game review. I'm certainly not claiming that my way is the only way, or even the best way-- there are other writers who are better at this than I. But it's a place for a writer to begin, and perhaps some will find it helpful.

The most common mistake reviewers make is to spend most of their words explaining how to play the game. It's not a review's job to teach-- that's what the rules are for. Readers don't need to know how much money everyone starts with, how many points things are worth, or all of the special event cards that are in the game. Such information is vital when learning to play, but is extraneous and distracting in a review. My eyes glaze over when I read such reviews-- at that point, the author has lost me. A review should touch on only those rules most vital to creating a sensation of the game for the reader. It shouldn't concern itself with the minutiae of a game's rules so much as with an overview of the game's systems. Focus on what gives the game its distinctive character, generates tension, or produces interesting challenges.

Don't merely describe these systems, either-- analyze them. Talk about why they're important and how they influence strategy. Discuss their impact on the player and the game. The best movie reviews don't merely summarize the plot and give a thumbs-up or -down recommendation-- they discuss what works and what doesn't, analyzing the reasons why in multiple contexts. Most importantly, they offer an opinion and back it up with reasoning and examples in support of that opinion. Game reviews have a similar mandate. A review is an opinion piece and as such is subjective. Reviewers should revel in that subjectivity, because that's why readers come to them-- not for a sterile numeric evaluation or abstract letter grade, but for a critical evaluation of a game's merits from the author's personal viewpoint. Ideally the reviewer's opinion is threaded throughout the review, always raising questions and offering insights. When an author offers only a cursory opinion (as in a brief summary paragraph) he fails his reader, whose taste might differ from his own. Long-time readers of a particular reviewer will come to know how their tastes compare and extrapolate their own likely opinion based on that accumulated knowledge. New readers don't have that advantage. A reviewer should therefore be careful to explain his opinions, to provide the background a reader needs to decide whether he'd share the reviewer's problem or enthusiasm.

The primary audience for a game review is the set of people who have not yet played the game and who want to know if it would be of interest to them. But a good game review is of interest to all readers-- people who've played and perhaps already bought the game as well as those who've never heard of it before. It entertains as well as informs. It goes beyond the surface description of a game into analysis and insight that makes a reader already familiar with the game reevaluate his own experience with it. It suggests strategies a reader might not have encountered, draws comparisons he might not have considered, and challenges his preconceptions.

As he writes about an aspect of a game, a reviewer should constantly be asking himself, "What’s good or bad about this? What do I like and dislike about it, and why?" The answers to those questions should make it onto the page, because they're the heart of a good review. When I write, I constantly remind myself to inject more opinion and analysis into each paragraph. It's too easy to get lured into laziness, relying on description and sweeping generalizations to replace incisive thought. Sometimes, due to space limitations or the nature of the game itself, I find myself forced into the dreadfully boring introduction-description-summation format. But I try to break it whenever possible, because doing so invariably makes for a stronger review.

At the end of a review, a reader should have a sense of how the game plays-- the complexity level, the kinds of decisions involved, the level of player interaction, and so forth. He should know what the major game mechanisms are and how they impact the game. Most importantly, he should have a feel for the game, a vibe on whether it's the kind of game that interests him. He should also have data points from the reviewer on the game's strengths and weaknesses, with enough support behind those opinions to weigh them appropriately for his own taste. Above all, a reader who previously knew nothing about a game should not walk away from a review unmoved. If the reviewer has done his job, the reader will be pulled off the fence one way or the other (and not necessarily onto the same side as the reviewer). That's why the reader picked up the review in the first place, to get that little push.

Allow me to reiterate my most essential points. Don't regurgitate the rule book-- only summarize elements vital to a player's understanding of the game. Focus on a game's key systems, analyzing what does and doesn't work and why. Don't just sum up your recommendation in the final paragraph, weave your critique throughout the review. Support your thoughts with reasoning, anecdote, and examples. Remember that opinions, not facts, are the heart of a review.

Reviews following these guidelines are typically the most useful to me as a reader, and I strive to adhere to them as a writer.

The Game Report Online - Editor: Peter Sarrett (

Update: I found the original author via Facebook. He gave his permission to republish it. Thank God! I'm not a criminal anymore.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Is Nobody Big Battling Anymore?

July 2, 2018 - 11:15

News from 6mil-land. And the wargame magazine planet.

My favorite 6mm-trader Peter Berry from Baccus, in some circles well-known for his j'accuse rant against 28mm, started an interesting discussion about the dominance of 28mm skirmish games and the role of the wargaming magazines. Are we seeing a "a major trend in the hobby whereby historical gaming is now predominantly played at skirmish level and the big games are rarer and therefore become more noteworthy when staged"? And do wargame magazines overemphasize 28mm skirmish scenarios? Do the magazines reflect the state of the hobby, or are they biased against small scale big battles? The editor of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy and the subeditor of Wargames Illustrated reacted. Full article here, full forum follow up here. A quick summary:

Berry thinks that the wagame glossies present an
"overwhelming predominance of 28mm figures, almost to the exclusion of all else (...) This ‘could’ just reflect the bleeding obvious that 28mm figures are by far and away the most popular size pieces of metal and plastic in the hobby. Fair enough, and I can accept that most wholeheartedly. No, it’s the unwritten assumption that oozes from the pages that is the ONLY option."
He also thinks that 
"the majority of games and actions that are presented as scenarios [in the magazines] are skirmish and small scale. A lot of the reason for this is that 28mm figures are becoming increasingly costly and labour intensive to paint, so big armies are becoming impractical and an increasing amount of time and love is being put into games where you can play with a handful of figures. As I said, this may just be down to the fact that the magazines reflect the interest of their readers and contributors.
He read articles in the wargame glossies about large scale battles like Waterloo, the Somme and Kursk. "Then came the scenarios. Yes, you guessed it, squad scale skirmish with 28mm figures. Hardly representative of the large nature of the subject." He doesn't blame the editors, 28mm is easier to photograph and their pages reflect their readers’ views and they must satisfy expectations. But

The way that people game in 28mm is changing. There are fewer and fewer large armies being put together. A recent discussion on TMP centred around people referring to a collection of 60 figures as an ‘army’. This trend is being influenced and reinforced by the example of fantasy/SF/Pulp/genre gaming where this sort of game is the norm. Larger games are increasingly becoming the province of smaller scales. This makes sense on so many levels it is almost self-evident. However, larger games which don’t feature 28mm figures don’t get the pictures taken and so don’t get the publicity or acknowledgement of their presence.
In the Baccus forum he later added that the small scale community fails to provide good pictures to the wargame magazines: "It’s just that as a group we hide our collective light under a huge bushel (...) Whatever the reason, we can’t accuse the editors of an anti-6mm bias if we don’t give them something to put in their pages."

What the editors saidGuy Bowers, the editor from WSS, commented:

"As I said on Facebook, my main issue is finding the content for smaller scales - both photographs and modelling articles. In fact, I have one 6mm and one 10mm modelling article commissioned, both of which I have been waiting an inordinate amount of time for. If and when I get them, they'll go into WS&S. Readers of WS&S will know we've had several recent 2mm articles by Mark Backhouse and I plan to have more smaller scale stuff.
There is a reason why 28mm ends up in the magazines, it is easy to come by. If I ask the Perrys or pop into Warlord, I can access vast collections. Frankly, I have to compete with WI. I have struggled from day one with getting any photographs of anything smaller."

And Wayne Bollands, sub-editor from Wargames Illustrated, added:
WI is very lucky to be based in Nottingham, which means we have access to some of the best companies in the business, but we can be a little lazy and focus on 28mm, largely because most of the main manufacturers around here do the same. If we're pressed for a deadline, our 'go to' is to grab some miniatures from one of these companies and get some scenic shots done.

Now, if people take the time to write quality articles, and marry these up with great photos or can come and visit us / we visit them for a photoshoot, we're more than happy to feature any scale at all.

Others in the forum blame Games Workshop, the general lack of history education at schools, the dirty attractions of 28mm bare muscles and big boobs, bad marketing or the perceived difficulty of painting 6mm-miniatures.

Anyway, the question is: are big battles losing turf? How many wargamers are really interested these days in the grand strategies of the 100 days, the Blitzkrieg in France or what the attack plan was when William battled at the Boyne?
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Miniature Quality? It's the basing, stupid!

July 1, 2018 - 17:49

Endless reviews are written about the so called superior quality and detailings of certain miniature brands. And yes, it's true, all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

In the meantime soft plastic is often described by gamers as very inferior, low quality, prone to flaking, etc. And yes, it's true, all animals are equal but some are less equal than others. But it's a prejudice as well. Modern 1/72 miniatures are much better sculpted than the old Airfix from the seventies and modern acrylics stick very well to good old soft plastic.

I have plans for a simple demo set with simple rules and cheap figures. So I asked around and a club friend had an old set 1/72 miniatures, excellent for the simple 1hr wargames rules. 8 figures on a large 15x15cm base. Nice for a diorama base.

I frantically painted them, quick & dirty, 39 miniatures in 3 hours. Brown undercoat, flesh, khaki backpacks, black boots, brown rifles, Army Painter dip. That's it.

Looked OK. The basing however did the trick or me.

Good enough for gaming. Nothing to be ashamed of. With the right treatment. 1/72 is an excellent scale for wargaming. Cheap fun with lots of detail. A wargamer from Cuijk sent me a large box with unused Germans, Americans, and vehicles. With his stuff I can easily build two opposing forces.

Not that I will abandon my 6mm Napoleonics, 15mm Renaissance or abstain from 28mm Bolt Action (I have two unpainted 28mm boxes in my storage). In fact, this project encourages me to mega base my 6mm WW2 in a similar way, with relative large diorama style bases. It's the basing, stupid! The 'quality' is less important.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Minwax vs Army Painter: What's Best?

July 1, 2018 - 17:46
I ran out of my Army Painter Quickshade varnish. The AP dipping method was inspired by the older and much cheaper Minwax dipping technique, and many wargamers think that Minwax (a floor varnish) is actually the same product as AP, but with a different price tag. I researched the question. I'm a wargamer on a shoestring.Wargamer Pumper Jones did a test. Conclusion here.Youtube:
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Bolt Action in1/72: Only If You Really, Really Want...

July 1, 2018 - 17:40

I tried to make a 1/72 copy of the Band of Brothers set this week.

I am aware of certain disadvantages of 20mm soft plastic, like flaking, and the mediocre quality of older sculpts.

I don't accuse Warlord of exploiting this wargame hobby and charging unreasonable high prices. Compared with monopolist Games Workshop, Warlord is relatively cheap. Space Marines (12 miniatures) cost EUR65. about 5,50 per miniature. Warlord's German Infantry (25 miniatures) cost EUR30, about 1,20 per miniature. A GW 40K starter set (53 miniatures and a rulebook) cost EUR125, a Bolt Action starter set EUR86 (sometimes just 70). For 36 miniatures, a vehicle, a house and a rulebook.

I'm nostalgic. As kid I played with 1/72. I like to walk down Memory Lane. Besides, we wargamers need money to pay taxes, booze and alimony, so why spend 86 euro if cheap 1/72 and Ebay/Marktplaats is all you need? I came. I saw. I lost.

Although my 1/72 Bolt Action imitation is cheaper, it was not as cheap as I hoped. Here's what I did:
I bought the rulebook for just 4 euro via internet. First edition, allright, but hey, 1st ed is fun as well. A digital rulebook would cost me 22 euro. I rather save 18 € for my other hobbies, like women. Besides, updating isn't that difficult
A standard Band of Brothers starter set has 10 order dice with fancy printed lettering. A blogger made his own order dice with blank dice, ordered via the web, and stickers. So I ordered 26 blank dice in 5 different colors, website here. Just 10 euro. Instead of the dice bag a standard 1 euro black wash flannel is just as good.
Two boxed sets with 50 1/72 miniatures (German panzergrenadiers, American Airborne) are 8-9 euro each: an Armourfast halftrack is 12 euro. Total 30 euro, but that's for 100 1/72 miniatures with two 1/72 Halftracks, not 36 28mm and just one vehicle. A friend gave me a shoebox with old toy soldiers.
Via ebay/marktplaats I can buy very cheap 2nd hand railway houses, max 5 euro. But I have Linka plaster moulds and Dave Graffam paper models and prefer DIY.

So, finally, I paid:
book: 4 euro
dice: 10 euro
wash flannel: 1 euro
german & US soldiers: 0 euro
Armourfast halftrack (2) 12 euro

= 29 euro. Which is a competitive price compared with 86 euro, but
the imitation is not as smooth as the original. It's good enough, however not perfect
for me as adult gamer with a paid job ... I have that 86 euro, no problem. So in the end I thought, why be nostalgic if I can pay my booze and alimony AND 28mm Bolt Action?

I checked other options, smoother, but the BA starter set is hard to beat, moneywise. I think it's strategic price marketing. Too cheap and the profit is too low. Too expensive and players will buy 1/72 or 15mm instead. Consider this:
two 1/72 boxes, a vehicle model kit in 1/72, the official rulebook, two sets official order dice, a house: 85-90 euro
An Italeri boxed diorama set (30-40 figures per side and a house, just like Warlord), 50-55 euro plus 7 euro P&P): 90 euro with official PDF and home made order dice, about 110 euro with official dice.

Sure, moneywise, you can save on the extra's.
In an Italeri diorama set are included an anti tank gun and three tanks.
In 28mm three tanks are worth 20-25 euro each and a gun 15 euro. 25 soldiers cost 30 euro or more while 50 soldiers in 1/72 cost 8-9 euro.
An Italeri diorama set with blank dice and the official Bolt Action 2nd edition rules as PDF would cost 60+10+20=90 euro
An official Warlord starter set with 3 tanks and a gun would cost 86+15+3x25= about 160-175 euro.

That's also a price strategy, I think: break even on the basic starter set, make money with the expansions.

Anyway, I concluded that a 1/72 is indeed a sort of viable option ONLY if you really, really want to recycle your old miniatures and have old model kits lying around. If not, it's not worth the saved money: I'd rather spend 100 euro more for brand new 28mm that's compatible with what my wargame friends have, than spend less money but more time on a scale that none of my regular opponents is interested in.
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Which Are The Best & Worst Wargame Rules?

July 1, 2018 - 17:32

I stumbled upon two (2015) lists by Deltavector, with good rulebooks and good PDF rulesets. Deltavector is mad. He posted 114 rule review blogposts. He's still married.

I will not quote his full list, but only mention some of his interesting choices:
(A few of the) best, according to Delta Vector:

  • Infinity the Game. Great decision making that glosses over the annoying amount of special rules. Amazing art and production values. Good mechanics, crying out for a simpler WW2/modern conversion and a decent campaign system. A great game that rises above its flaws.
  • LoTR:SBG+Battle Companies/Legends of High Seas/Old West/Gladiator. A surprisingly subtle and underrated game engine. Clean design that gave birth to a range of skirmish campaign systems. Easy to learn, and easily adapted with house rules - samurai and medieval mods are also available.
  • Song of Blades/Song of Our Ancestors. SoBH is like a box of LEGOs. You spend more time making warbands than actually playing the game. SooA is a spin-off book for the wonderful world of the Quar. A whimsical, wonderful, coffee-table rulebook.
  • Chain of Command. The pre-game scouting phase is awesome. The emphasis on "Big Men" and spotting gives a real flavour to WW2 gaming. I also like Sharpe Practice - pity I never play Napoleonics...
  • Secrets of the Third Reich. A weird war game that is very simple, yet still more realistic than Bolt Action. Great vehicle building rules for using DUST and MaK mecha as well as random 1:48 models. 
  • DBA. A triumph of simplicity and elegance. The only mass battle ruleset I have minis based for.
  • Battlefleet Gothic. I couldn't afford the models so I played with cut-outs made of ice-cream lids. Stood out from the usual Full Thrust clones. Even had a campaign system.
  • Musket and Tomahawk. SAGA's lesser known sibling. Interesting blend of familiar and new ideas for French and Indian Wars.
  • Bloodbowl (free) I made my own board and spent countless hours playing against myself, in a solo league, using plastic counters as players as I was too poor to afford the official models. Awesome game. 
  • Mordheim (free) Somewhat unbalanced, complicated, and showing its age, but still the benchmark for campaign skirmish games. I'd like to see an updated version with better activation (not IGOUGO!) and reactions.
(A few of the) worst, according to Delta Vector:

  • Beyond the Gates of Antares (beta - free) Another GW-rip off. Warlord is trying to nudge further into the GW gravy train.
  • Deadzone (beta - free) I may get the set for the terrain, but it's missed the mark in trying to claim the Necromunda crown for Mantic. From the stats it looks pretty hard to actually kill anyone. After Infinity, most sci fi skirmish games seem bland.
  • Warhammer 40K. 5th edition? I've lost interest in the codex "arms race" a long time ago and GW's business practice slashed and burnt my remaining goodwill. 
  • Flames of War. Not interested in replicating all the faults of 40K in 15mm WW2.
  • Fields of Glory/DBM/Impetus. Yawn. Zzzzzz.
  • Future War Commander. I found the rules surprisingly inaccessible and how the anti tank/anti infantry dice worked didn't make sense.
  • Rapid Fire. WW2 platoon level combat is a crowded market. It's probably my 6th choice rules for this genre. 
Categories: Best Blogs, General

Pied Piper Rules: 1hr Wargames by Neil Thomas

July 1, 2018 - 17:20

I recently ordered the Neil Thomas wargame book "One-hour Wargames: Practical Tabletop Battles for those with limited time and space" published in late 2014. I wanted scenario's. The book is a combo of beginner's rules and 30 scenario's. I skipped the rules. What do I need rules for? I'm a seasoned wargamer. I own at least twenty intermediate or advanced rulesets and played about sixty, quite few by the way, because many wargamers I know own a hundred and played hundreds.

It's cheap. My Kindle e-book was 9,70 USD, about 8,50 euro. The scenario's are good, and digital, so I can on my smartphone easily find a scenario and a basic set up for a quick battle with one of my advanced rulesets. So: even without the rules this book is useful.

Last weekend I checked the rules and I must say they surprised me, in a positive way, as good, straightforward quickplay rules for introductory games or a swift hour fun. I like his approach.
Simple,easy, quick, cheapHe starts with an observation which is very true: the wargaming ideal is

a table measuring 8’ x 5’, and featuring hundreds of beautifully painted 28mm metal wargames figures. Such games look magnificent, and are a tribute to what can be achieved after years of effort spent amassing and painting a huge collection of wargaming material. They cannot however be described as practical for everybody: massive financial expense is required (at the time of writing, a single 28mm unpainted metal infantry figurine costs just over £1); painting hundreds of figures takes a vast amount of time; and logistics can make such games impossible.

200 figures on a 6x4 table is still too many on a giant table. His 'practical' alternative is

"a genuinely small tabletop (3’ x 3’); appropriately sized armies (no more than 100 figures per side); and games that can be completed in about an hour, allowing for contests in the evening after school or work.

Despite easy rules, the game must be challenging. So:

"The battle scenarios included after the rulesets allow for a variety of encounters, all of which ca"n be fought using any of the rules included. They are intended to show that there are many more types of wargame than the basic competitive encounter, when two armies face each other over an essentially open battlefield, with no context provided and with the sole aim of eliminating as many enemy units as possible. Such battles can be most enjoyable, but are rather basic; more variety eventually becomes essential, and certainly provides for a more challenging (and hence rewarding) wargame."

His beginner's advice is to look for the 1:72 scale plastic figures made by Airfix and other manufacturers, cheap, light, transportable, very compatible with model railway accessories, "allowing the wargamer access to terrain features of exceptional quality".
Cheap & easy - trending?In fact his simple-quick-lightweight-scenario's included-approach is the same as the Perry Brothers, who recently published their Travel Battle. I quote from their "Travel Battle" description:

It is intended for gamers who have limited space (...) The two terrain boards are designed to be placed together on any edge, giving the potential for 16 different battlefields (...) The simple rules system should allow a game to played within an hour
Just like the Perry Brothers he mentions that his system can be played with unpainted (1/72) miniatures: "It is, for example, common to see Second World War British infantry rendered in a khaki-coloured plastic, with their German rivals featured in an appropriate shade of grey." He prefers a painted army and gives the usual beginner's tips how to give 1/72 soft plastic armies a basic paint job. I like that approach, this approach might indeed convince people with just a casual interest in wargaming and no time and money to collect large armies to give it a try with two cheap boxes 1/72.

So, is "cheap & easy" a new trend in wargaming? In fact it's a revival of the once hugely popular DBA 'movement', famous for one hour quickplay on a 90cmx90cm board with 50 miniatures each.
Game overview
What are his rules?Thomas devised in fact one basic, simplified wargame system with era variants. He uses a system with 4 troop types:
  1. infantry 
  2. a shooting unit type, like artillery/archers etc 
  3. cavalry (chariots, knights, hussars, tanks, etc) 
  4. and a period-specific fourth troop type 
for example the Ancient rules have besides infantry, archers and cavalry the class of 'skirmishers', the P&S rules have 'Swordsmen' and 'Reiters' and the WW2 rules have infantry, tanks (the cavalry) anti-tank guns (artillery) and mortars (long range artillery).

All units have 15 hit points and hits are scored with a single die. For most eras Thomas uses a simple modifier system: "add +2 if the attacking unit is cavalry, -2 if the unit is skirmishers, hits against units in woods are halved", etc. The WW2 system is the most advanced because it has a simple 4x4 crosstable. Movement and shooting range depend on unit type: and that's all.

It's more or less DBA without pips, very easygoing rules, on a single A4-sheet, based on unit archetypes, with a loose rock-paper-scissors-approach. Alternate turns/I go, you go. Nothing simultaneously. Classical. No rocket science..

A typical game is played with 4-6 units on large (10or15cm/ 4 or 6 inch square or rectangular) bases. Thus you can make 'diorama bases' with a group on it. Like Impetus, below

Thomas describes and explains his simplified approach accross the book. For example, about the Ancient he writes that having just four unit types :

inevitably rules out some troop varieties such as horse archers, scythed chariots and elephants; it does however give some approximation of ancient battlefield activity, and allows for interesting challenges in the coordination of disparate troop types (...) In particular, there is absolutely no prescription of how many figures should constitute a given unit. (...)

This serves to avoid pedantic and unnecessary edicts concerning unit frontage, and precisely how many figures should be crammed onto each base. The game relies upon the use of alternate turns, with one player moving, shooting and engaging in close combat, followed by the second player. This is far more manageable than the option of having both players act simultaneously, and is somewhat surprisingly more realistic.

(...) Turning is instead depicted in a simple manner, by pivoting units on their central point. This avoids the complexity of wheeling manoeuvres, where wargamers have to precisely measure the movement distance of a unit’s outer corner. The difficulties of turning are instead provided for by only allowing evolutions at the start and/or the end of a unit’s move, but not during it. This reproduces the historical effects, but makes the tabletop process much easier (...)

The effects of terrain are also dealt with in a straightforward manner; so that only certain types of unit may enter a particular type of difficult terrain, but that these do not have their movement restricted after entry. This avoids the unfortunate situation of (for example) allowing all units to enter woods, but giving each different type specific movement penalties – a result that arouses all kinds of confusion in the heat of a wargames battle. My rules instead only allow skirmishers to enter woods, and not suffer any movement penalty in so doing. This is much easier to remember than the convoluted and distinctly unrealistic alternative – no sensible commander would ever have contemplated sending a hoplite phalanx into a wood, which is why I don’t allow any wargamer to do anything so daft either.

ReviewsI haven't played it yet. I think I can imagine how it works, just no sweat move and roll a dice for shoot and combat. For normal pitched battles this would be too easy. Just like Dales Wargames said in his long review of Neil Thomas rules:

Finally, there came One Hour Wargames: Practical Tabletop Battles for those with Limited Time and Space (OHW). These rules were, by far, the simplest yet. They combined the simplicity of unit representation from Simplicity in Practice by having each unit represented by a single base, with a combat system that was the least complex yet: a unit inflicted a single D6 of hits, with modifiers, on the enemy and when 15 hits were reached, the unit was removed. That was basically it. No real discussion about what a unit represented and each period was limited to four unit types. At first blush they are too simple. My mind cannot comprehend how I could find such a simple game enjoyable, at all. That said, I still have not tried them.
I agree and think that these rules are too simple for a pitched battle with similar forces on an open field. However the wargame feeling is very much enhanced by the scenarios and the unequal composition of the opposing armies. Thomas promotes 'imaginative scenario's':

I have accordingly included thirty different games in this chapter, which can be fought using any of the rulesets included in this book. All are designed to be fought on small tables of 3’ x 3’, allowing for accessible encounters in all households; each can be played in one hour. Maps are provided with each scenario in order to facilitate their re-creation on the tabletop (...)
The sizes of each army are the same in nineteen of the thirty scenarios, but variety is always provided by varying the composition of each (...) players must roll a die and consult the relevant table below to ascertain the composition of his or her army (if identical armies are generated, players should re-roll their dice until distinct forces are created):
So, depending on the die roll, a player has more cavalry but less infantry or archers than his opponent. That's an interesting twist, the player gets a more or less randomized army and must make the best of it. Combined with the 30 scenario's this can result in interesting, varied games. I will for sure try this ruleset.

Other reviewers who tested the rules are positive: Tim from Tims Battle Blog commented:

The rules are great for basic demo/participation games or for just having fun. My kind of rule set!
Very thorough is The Stronghold Rebuilt who is busy trying/ testing all 30 scenario's with different the 1hrWG ruleset with some modifications and a few other rules, Stronghold prefers to use a slightly different scoring system, with more dice for a more balanced scoring, but in general he's content with the rules. A few Stronghold conclusions:

(Pitched Battle scenario) The game lasted 12 of the 15 turns allowed, and took 40 minutes to set up and play, including a coffee and biscuit break.For a scenario that is basically a head-to-head fight on an empty field there was a lot more maneuver than I expected. The rules are not perfect by any means, but are more subtle than you might expect, especially if you use squares.

(Double Delaying scenario) Again I abandoned the 1D6-2, 1D6 and 1D6+2 hits system in favour of a number of dice hitting on a 4+. The set actually has finer granularity than the original OHW rules, as it also has 1D6+1 and 1D6-1 rolls.

(Surprise Attack Scenario) Once again the rules held up well, with the multiple dice hit system making combat less predictable than the system in the original rules.

Blogger Steve the Wargaming Addict concluded after one game:

The game is certainly very quick to set up in terms of scenario selection and units required, which is a big bonus.

I really like the random die roll to select the forces you have at your disposal. This makes things interesting for the player as you may not have the troops you would want to fulfil your mission. Ditto your opponent.

The rules are incredibly easy to pick up and so are perfect as intoductory rules for new players to wargames.

The game only lasted around 30 minutes, so in an evening you could get in around 3 games and make a mini-campaign if required. Nothing fancy but nice if you want to.


There are no break points for the units, so you could play on until mutually assured destruction almost takes place. In reality I think it becomes clear rather quickly when one side is beaten, as happened in this game.

Pied Piper Rules

I was looking for a simple set of demo rules for demo games. I'm 51 and grew up with Airfix, after modelling wargaming was a logical step. But youngsters nowadays grow up with computer wargames or the extremely expensive GW miniatures. Others play complex boardgames while thinking that wargames are overly complex, and that for playing you need a large collection of figures, expensive and difficult to order, and too difficult to paint.

I'm sometimes worried about the greying of this historical wargame hobby. I'd like to show the sceptics, the newcomers, the boardgamers, the young men who play X-Wing, Warhammer or 40K that a simple yet tactical wargame on a nice table can be good fun. 1hr Wargames might help and convert them. That's what I hope.

This can be a great ruleset to play at board game conventions, a demo at a board game shop or to entertain newcomers in the hobby. The Pied Piper of Hamelin- ruleset. Or maybe a set to entertain my own son, 7 years old now, I hope he will follow his father's steps. Time to dust off some very old Airfix boxes!
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