Wednesday, February 10, 2016

So what’s the plan for 2016?

This year is already looking exceptionally busy on all fronts (whether it is home, work, or hobby/gaming) and whilst I should set realistic expectations of what I want to achieve, it is far more fun to dream of doing more.

Team Yankee
Let’s be honest I am pretty excited about Team Yankee and all that it entails. My copy of Team Yankee (along with a host of other great “Cold War Gone Hot” books) were read over and over again way back when and the chance to return to some modern gaming using our figures is too appealing to pass on.

Americans: I’ve been chipping away at my US force for a while now and making slow progress. They are largely assembled and some parts are painted. I think I just need a burst over the course of a weekend to really push them along. Of course it wouldn’t hurt if this year’s FlamesCon had a TY event as part of it!

Soviets: On the list somewhere – who doesn’t want to paint up 6 Hinds and then terrorise their opponents. I’ve managed to hold off since I haven’t finished my US force and because I haven’t really worked out a hook for the force yet. It will come though.

Germans and British: I’m in… end of story! I have a plan for the British but still need to work out something for the Germans.

Other nations: I spent a little time over the Christmas break assembling some more of the Syrians and I figured that I could proxy their T-55s for Soviet T-72s until I work out a list that appeals.

I’m pretty happy with how the first couple of test Tablescape pieces have started and whilst there is still plenty to do to finish them I’m going to push ahead and get the rest of the pieces airbrushed up to the point where I can start putting oil washes on them – primarily so that I can mix up a couple of batches of different oil washes and not run out half way through and need to remix.

The new Team Yankee terrain also has me pretty excited and I am planning on doing a short article for the website on enhancing the Petrol station with a couple of easy steps; painting the pumps white and roofline in yellow with a red band, putting some product posters up etc, and maybe making a base that it can go on alongside the road.

Yeah, you know the drill…. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but let’s see if I can get my first 50 points finished this year…

US Marines
With the Pacific book Gung Ho due our shortly I am definitely planning on building a Amphibious Tank Company with the intent of taking the basic building blocks of it (i.e. the first 1000 points) to Panzerschreck later this year.

Sounds like a full year’s work, anything else?
Probably… who knows what will strike my fancy part way through the year and completely distract me? I’m still keen to paint up my Armada fighter squadrons and there will be a plastic Berserker kit for Warmachine that would go nicely with Karchev. Not to forget the thing, with the thing… (and so it begins!). 

What about Tanks!
Too early to say much about this one, but it is coming soon, it’s cool, and along with the rest of the team here I helped to design it. Definitely going to be painting a few Pershings just for this project!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

So what about that 2015 eh…

Looking back 12 months ago I can see a year filled with a measure of confidence and a hint of common sense. Did I manage to achieve anything from my plan?

Flames Of War 
Yeah, let’s cut to the chase there and say… no. Most, if not all of the items on my list did not progress very far at all. I still want to do my British Comets and got to see how good a list they can be when handled well at FlamesCon last year. The Masters were a wish that I never even came close to achieving after only heading out to a handful to tournaments. I feel a bit guilty about that given I work for the company but I do get to spend my days thinking about all sorts of Flames Of War goodness that it's nice to have other things on the go.

Dust Tactics 
The hiatus continues on the Dust front. I have my extra Steel Guard units now (Thunderbolt and Lightning) but haven’t had the enthusiasm to get them primed and painted. I blame Victor for not organising some games for Andrew and I.

WarmaHordes – aka The Year (Decade) Of The Troll.
I actually did a decent amount of painting last year! I didn't finish my 50 points but I made more progress on it than any preceding year. My friend Chris Baker gave me some wonderful pointers on airbrushing 28mm figures and I was able to do a pretty decent job of remembering some of his tricks. Certainly the army (half finished) looks really good and given a concerted effort I think I could push my way to 50 points for the next big tournament that I am likely to get too (in August/September). I also took the half-finished force out to Lords Of Ruin in Wellington last year and it was excellent. Almost every game ran the full time on the clock making for hard fought, exciting games where I felt like I had a chance to win – unlike most of my WarmaHordes games. The recent nerf to Warders has dented my enthusiasm a little, but being competitive in WarmaHordes is not a priority so I am sure I will bounce back.

X-Wing (and Armada)
Loving it. Having less hobby time now than in the past I am really enjoying the casual nature of the game and the low requirements (i.e. zero) on my hobby time. I took 3 Phantoms to the NZ Nationals last year and had a blast. It was not a very competitive list (could have been the Squadron Leader?) but it really surprised a few opponents. The NZ meta is quite variable with a good mix of lists, so vs low pilot skill hordes it was awesome, whereas elite high pilot skill squadrons it suffered. Taking such a wacky squadron made the day loads of fun. Looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings after the release of The Force Awakens.

Building Battlefields
Yet another year went by on this front… in the middle of 2015 BF moved offices and we lost our massive gaming/hobby space and I have not been organised (or incentivised?) enough to make a space at home where I can leave everything laid out for a while as I paint and flock up a pile of stuff. I still want to tackle all my Battlefield in a Box product though and get them all flocked up as the roads and forest bases (especially) look better with a little flock on them. I did spend some time on my Tablescapes Urban Tiles and the sample tiles are coming along nicely!

So What Happened?
I was sitting on the train heading home one night last year and found myself getting annoyed at how little gaming and “hobby stuff” I’d done over 2015 and I realised that there were a number of things getting in the way.

1.    “Life” –The average week day looks like this; Get up, shower etc, organise breakfast for my son, walk to train, catch train, walk to work, work, walk to train, catch train, walk home, have dinner, play with my son, bath (for my son), put him to bed/do dishes and tidy up, and bang, its 9pm at night, watch TV or play some World Of Warships to decompress after the days activities and it is off to bed. Another day done. Weekends have more time spare but 70% of the week looks like this.

2.    “Laziness” – Looking around my traditional gaming group (which goes back over 20+ years to university days) that instead of gaming we tend to sit round playing Clash Of Clans during our usual catchups. Instant gratification, no effort, and when you are all playing in the same Clan you get a similar feeling to tabletop gaming where you can discuss raids, plan for Clan Wars etc. Our “group” decision was that this year we will make much more of an effort to put down the tablets and play a game or two a month. So far it has worked.

3.    “Kids” – My son is three and a half and loves playing with dad so there is plenty of time kicking footballs, playing with lightsabers, watching Thomas the Tank Engine etc. We have also recently added another member to our family and as time passes I am sure he will want to do the same thing. Bottom line, less time and less energy for hobby stuff.

4.    “Work” – Some (or more than a usual amount) of my blog energy last year seemed to be directed towards stuff for work. Whilst there was no one project that consumed it all, it was a thing here, an article there, and some painting for that. 

I am envious of my friends that have similar constraints on their time but still seem to do it all. Guess I need to train up the kids to paint.

So Whats The Plan?
I’ll cover this in another post but I am heading into 2016 with a realistic take on things, but still deluding myself that I’ll get a lot done. Team Yankee, Terrain, Trollbloods, and US Marines are all on the schedule for this year and that’s taking into account an almost four week old baby at home.

However the one New Years resolution I plan on keeping is that this year there won’t be so many posts on the blog starting with “So its been a while since I posted anything…”

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A visit to the Great War Exhibition

On the same day that we visited the Scale Of War exhibit at Te Papa we also went along to the Great War Exhibition (created by Sir Peter Jackson).

The staff at the Great War Exhibition went to great lengths to talk about the different way that they chose to talk about the differences between what you would see here, and at Te Papa. The focus here being more about the war as a whole, but with some exceptional coverage of Gallipoli at the end.

I didn't take as many photos as I'd liked to as the lighting was very mood enhancing (read dark) - but that means there wont be as many spoilers for when you go to look for yourself!

The Exhibition is inside the old National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, a short walk from the National War Memorial.
The first stop in the tour is a small Belgium village, where you can learn about the root causes behind the war, as well as set the scene for the rest of the visit.
A selection of weapons. Walking around there are plenty of examples of various weapons from machine-guns down to trench knives and fighting implements. Walking around there were plenty of things to stop and look at.
A cutaway of some defensive works. Opposite this was a model of a Big Bertha Howitzer (too large and too difficult to get a decent angle for a photo unfortunately).
Moving into the next room you are confronted by an artillery crew galloping at full speed, a converted bus moving troops around and a French biplane handing from the ceiling.

And just opposite were a selection of uniforms so you could see how different the armies looked at the beginning of the war.

Located around the exhibit were some really interesting little signs that talk about phrases from the Great War that are still in use today. There were quite a few that came as a complete surprise. This was one of them.
And by the sign about Bangers, a life size trench with soldiers going about their daily activity. One of the things I really enjoyed about the place was that there were very few physical barriers (other than glass cases) so you could get really close and even lean into the exhibits. Looking closely these men were lifelike enough that if they talked back to you, you would not have been surprised (shocked yes!).
Here a Mark I tank lumbers over a German trench line, underneath it German soldiers scramble to not be crushed. Nearby there were also a couple of small boxes that you could open to get a whiff of the various types of Gas used.
The next room had some examples of the use of camouflage. After this we ended the "Great War" section of the tour where you come across the final example of the human cost of the war where we see an old man, sitting on a bench with his grandchild, his arm lost during the war (and in an earlier part of the exhibit as it happens).
Moving on into the Gallipoli section of the exhibit we see walls covered in colourised photographs and stories from and about the men serving. Throughout the museum there were a lot of these photos, but it was here in the Gallipoli area that the walls were covered in them. Whilst I can understand why the Imperial War Museum (and others) guard these images so closely as the licensing of their use no doubt helps cover the cost of running their exhibits, it seems a shame in this digital age that they are so difficult to see unless there is something special like this.
British and German field artillery and machine-guns.

As a gamer this was the part I was really looking forward to this - 4,000 54mm figures painted by wargamers all around New Zealand, originally sculpted by the Perry Twins and installed on this massive diorama of Chunuk Bair. The scale of this was staggering and basically impossible to get a decent angle for a photograph to show the size. The figures though should give a good impression.
What really stood out to me were not just the lines of men charging up and down, attacking and counter attacking, but it was also the number of little vignettes in the middle of all the action. The one that I wished I had gotten a photo of was that of Cyril Bassett (who was to be awarded a VC for his actions) moving back and forth ensure that telephone lines were kept working.

The two Exhibits were very different in what they chose to focus on, and how they delivered the information. Each one had their strengths and weaknesses but together they provided an amazing way to spend an afternoon along with a much deeper appreciation of the events that happened so far and so long ago! I think the Te Papa exhibit was my favourite of the two as the 2.4x figures were just so amazing and I felt I probably absorbed more information there. However if you can make it to Wellington, just do it!

For a bit more information check out the Great War Exhibition website.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Visit to Te Papa and the Gallipoli; The Scale Of War

A couple of weeks ago a group of us ventured down to Wellington for a tournament, taking an extra day off work we headed to the Great War Exhibition (created by Sir Peter Jackson) and the National Museum (Te Papa) and their exhibition Gallipoli; The Scale Of War.

I had seen and heard a lot more about the Great War Exhibition as it features hundreds (thousands?) of figures sculpted by the Perry Twins and painted by gamers all across New Zealand. The Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa was something I knew very little about… Let me tell you, I was about to blown away!
Cool logo! I'd play a game that had a logo like that...
Walking through the doors and rounding the first corner you are confronted by Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott in 2.4-up scale! Yes, 2.4x their actual size. He (and his companions in the exhibit) dwarf those of us that walk around in awe. The detail is truly unbelievable and the work done by the team at Weta Workshop has to be seen to be believed.
The Lieutenant was one of the first Kiwis to land on Gallipoli and was shot in the arm whilst leading his men up a ridge. He was stretchered out that night. 'So ended the most glorious day of my life'.
Round the next corner we see Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick.
He arrived in the first hours of the attack and found himself treating casualties on the beach.
'Total to date: 5,000 casualties, about three men per yard of ground gained' - Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick.
Taking a break from the giant figures the next room is a lot more interactive with things to touch, watch and feel. A welcome break after the first two rooms. I didn't take many photos in here but I can never pass an opportunity to take a snap of a good diorama.
Both of these images are of Quinn's Post, literally a grenades throw away from the Turks. Chicken wire and an improvised roof covered the trench lines to stop unwanted visitors dropping in. The exhibit also had their first of two awesome 3-D maps with projectors underneath here showing the time lines for the invasion and subsequent attacks. Think about the old museum dioramas with lights that you could turn on and read about what happened, and then update that with 21st century technology.
Next up we are confronted by Private Jack (John) Dunn.
His face tells a story of a man that is broken, having been sick with pneumonia and returning to the front line still ill he would fall asleep at his post and be sentenced to death. Taking his illness and previous conduct into account he was sent back to the front line to fight.
I hear that todays MRE's are a bit of a mixed bag, but they sound like a picnic compared to this image. Leaving Jack there was a second interactive room where you could learn more about life in the trenches. From there you then proceed up a trench where you are bombarded with noise, the floor shaking under your feet and displayed on the wall are two more trench lines where Turkish and ANZAC troops carry on day to day activities, or fight to the death.
Leaving the trenches we find the Maori Machine-gun team of Private Colin Warden, Corporal Friday Hawkins and Private Rikihana Carkeek.
I feel very un-Kiwi saying this but I've never had an urge to travel to Gallipoli and much of it's history has been a mystery to me. Walking around this particular piece, reading about the events, the people and their actions I was surprising emotional. Perhaps it was the actions of these men (and so many more) putting all thoughts of their survival aside to help the man next to them, or maybe it was the culmination of everything I'd seen up to this point. Maybe it was just the scale of what stood in front of me!
On the final stretch we come across Staff Nurse Lottie (Charlotte) Le Gallais. She was a military nurse stationed on the hospital ship Maheno. Here she finds out that her brother Leddie had been killed at Gallipoli, her letters returned with a black stamp that read: 'Killed, return to sender'.
The next room contained a model of the hospital ship and then prepared the way for the final figure...
Sergeant Cecil Malthus on the Western Front.
The exhibit was really focused on the events of Gallipoli. It was appropriate given its place in our history but it was a little disappointing that the Sergeant Malthus was the only real nod to the contribution of New Zealand Service men and women outside of this campaign.
It was a pretty powerful 'nod' though, standing tall with his feet surrounded by red poppies.

For a whole lot more images and information check out the official Te Papa website...

Next week I'll have some images from the Great War Exhibition.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Soviet Big Tanks and Berlin

I thought I would put up a follow up post in the same lines as my previous one entitled "See, Want, Must Have Now (SWMHN) Disorder" and this time take a look at Hero Guards Heavy Tanks and Hero Heavy SP Artillery Regiment in Berlin.

First up we have to understand what it takes to become a Hero Of The Soviet Union... you have to be:
Luckier: basically it is harder for the enemy  to kill your Company or 2iC, needing a 5+ instead of a 4+. For most nations this wouldn't be that useful but with your Guards Heavy companies when you don't have a 2iC keeping the boss in play is useful.
Smarter: pass Skill tests on a 3+, useful all the time especially if you are assaulting or firing bombardments.
Sharper: no Hen and Chicks

So you are about as close as you can come to being a Veteran team, without being one. Yep I know that there are a bunch of people that wanted true Veteran teams but then I may as well just be proxying my Soviet vehicles as Americans or Germans... with the Hero rules I have some flavour and most of the benefits with less of the negatives (a higher points cost per team).
So on to the Companies themselves: - they are both very similar in terms of their structure which is why I thought I'd look at them in tandem. An IS-2 in command with 3 platoons as your core. For your IS-2 company you can choose between the obr 1943 (FA 10) or obr 1944 (FA 11) versions, each packing a 122mm breakthrough gun coming in with AT 16, FP 2+. For that point of armour you are paying around 10-15 points per tank. Personally I am not convinced that I would be dropping those extra points unless I had them left over at the end and certainly in outset I would be putting on .50 cal AA MGs (+5pts), Bedspring Armour (+5pts) and Tank Riders (+10pts) first as these give you more all round bang for your buck.


For the ISUs you can choose between the ISU-122 and the ISU-152. Each has FA 9, nothing outstanding but you can ignore a good percentage of medium tanks out there with that, and Volley Fire making them pretty useful up close. The 122 has the same gun as the IS-2 meaning it slices through most tanks and knocks out soft targets, whilst the 152 has an AT 13, FP 1+ Bunker Buster. Don't sit in front of it as you may not like the results. Like the IS you can put the same upgrades on the ISU and the .50cal AA MG is an easy choice and the rest comes down to personal preference.

So why do I like these two sets of combat platoons? Previously I've been a fan of the IS-2 as a support tank for other lists where it could add some heavy armour, hunt down mediums and sit in front of AT guns. With the Hero list I think it expands on that role but this time on centre stage. For 1,110 points you can put 7 IS-2 obr 1943 tanks in your list fully geared up with all the add-ons. Doesn't sound all that wonderful at first glance but you still have 400-650 points to put some support troops in and 7 IS-2 obr 1943 tanks all grinding towards an objective take a lot of stopping... and when you are running them you don't stop! Trust that you need to be lucky to get any hits with your guns thanks to ROF 1 and don't worry about. 

Force you opponent to change their plans and hope for a few lucky hits on the way in, then get to the objective and ground your opponent out of there with all of those attacks in an assault. Bedspring Armour gives you a 4+ save on the defensive fire from enemy Panzerfausts and Panzerschrecks. You get a 2nd attack per tank (thanks to your tank riders), hitting on 3's, and your Turret Rear MGs help you bounce off some of the enemy attacks back.

The ISUs are a different kettle of fish and my preference run the ISU-122 and stick back a bit with them where you should get the benefit of +1 armour (from long range) and work over the enemy tanks, then close in where the Volley Fire will help to make up for the low ROF. For this to be successful you need screening troops to stop enemy tanks from getting in amongst you and then protect you once you close the gap. The ISUs are not as forgiving in my opinion but I love their look and that counts in my books.

Plus until I unlock the Object 704 in World Of Tanks this is my substute of choice.

Next time up, what would I like to run in the Divisional Support section...