Tuesday 20 November 2012

Kasserine: Passed

Remember when this blog used to be about painting? Well, me too, and it's high time it went back there, however briefly. As I still have plenty of "new dad" duties, I don't get to spend as much time at the paint station as I used to, but dogged persistence has eventually paid off, and I've managed to get my Flames of War US Armored Rifle Platoon ready for the table.

The platoon arrayed in all its many-weaponed glory

This really is a pretty spectacular platoon option for the yanks in Mid War. 255 points gets you 5 half tracks, 5 stands of riflemen, a commander, a mortar, 2 machine guns, 4 bazookas and the choice of an anti-tank gun or another bazooka.

Throw enough men at the enemy and eventually they will go away!

With 14 teams on the table when dismounted, the platoon is big enough to spread out and cover a wide area of the table, or can obviously jump in the half tracks and quickly redeploy - with its own AA machine guns to protect it from marauding aircraft or infantry as it goes.

The M3 37mm anti-tank gun
With a full loadout of bazookas, the armored rifles are a fearsome prospect for enemy tanks - they can scramble all over them, fire shots into side armour, and then assault with the means to destroy tanks, or they can sit back in their foxholes, fairly safe from enemy firepower, and repel assaults from tanks as they come in.

The M3 gun has a high rate of fire and decent range, but isn't that powerful against armour, so for me it's a toss up whether to include it or swap for a bazooka at the start of the game. It would depend on whether I was planning to assault with the platoon I would think, in that case an extra bazooka would be very handy.

If the enemy gives up on the tanks and tries sending in infantry, there are two machine guns to start with, with the option to dismount the guns from the half tracks and swap the rifles for another five machine guns. 

In case any infantry get ideas, this platoon has its own machine guns

I found these fairly simple to paint, and they would have been pretty quick if I'd had a few hours to spend on them in one go. All I did really was follow the guide on the Flames of War site for the base colours, and use an ink wash. To my eyes, flames of war infantry models are a bit small to do anything else with, so I save the more in depth techniques for the armour. I quite like how the bases have come out though (flat brown followed by drybrushing english uniform and then usa tan earth), so at some point I'll go back to my Airborne and make their bases match these.

I do still need to paint the dismounted machine guns - at the moment I don't have that option as they are still in the blister pack, so I've dealt with that by cunningly arranging to fight against German armour!

And with that, I've segued nicely into a quick battle report from this weekend's game at the club.

Kieron of Cheaphammer fame is running the campaign and is also my teammate on the US side. As I went into Sunday's game against Andy, Kieron had just lost a game against Andy the week before, and so I had the opportunity to be Patton to Kieron's Fredendall...

I was using the US Armored Company I've been putting together, and Andy had his panzers. We rolled Cauldron for scenario, and since we both had tank companies rolled to see who would attack. With Andy attacking, I was left with defence. Since "at least half" of my platoons had to be in delayed reserve, I had to pick two from the 5 I had available. I chose the armored rifles, which I deployed without the half tracks, and the security section from the tank destroyer platoon, which I placed in immediate ambush.

Andy deployed some panzer IV's, but my attention was immediately drawn to the Tiger on his left flank. I knew it would be in his army somewhere, since it had given Kieron so much trouble the previous week, and so I placed the ambushing security section as close to the Tiger as I could, knowing that the scenario gave me the first time and a chance to take out the Tiger before it mauled my other tanks. This was especially important as nothing else in my army had much chance of hurting the Tiger at long range.

The "entirely suprising" trap was sprung in my first turn, and the M10's appeared and drove around the flank of the Tiger - I decided to sacrifice rate of fire for a greater chance of hurting the big cat with shots that hit. The M10's let rip, and... managed to bail the Tiger. Oh dear.

I wasn't too worried given the low rate of fire of a Tiger. Surely my M10's would be reasonably safe, until Andy brought on his reserve Panzer III's immediately next to them. His first round of shooting destroyed one of the M10's and bailed two others, leaving me with a single operational tank destroyer. I had more luck in my second turn and was able to destroy the Tiger (without which I think I might have started to get into some trouble) before the Panzers destroyed the entire tank destroyer platoon in return.

Meanwhile, back in my deployment area, the sheer number of teams in the armored rifle platoon and the short distance between the objectives I had to defend (thanks to the smaller deployment area in the Cauldron) meant I was able to use the single platoon to hold both objectives with dug in infantry, bristling with bazookas and an anti-tank gun. Since Andy needed to take the objectives he threw his tanks at them, but wasn't able to winkle them out - in the whole game they only lost a single rifle team, in an assault.

Andy got a platoon of reserves in each of his first two turns so soon had his whole army converging on my dug in infantry. Oddly, this actually helped me out as it meant that when my own reserves finally arrived they came behind Andy's tanks and he was forced to choose between engaging them and continuing his attack.

Also, having my reserves off-table for so long meant that my air support could keep hunting stray tanks while Andy had to call off his aircraft as they were too close to his attacking forces, and he had no luck at all in shooting down my planes.

All of this combined to allow me to destroy quite a lot of panzers (many of them in defensive fire as they assaulted the armored rifle platoon), including Andy's commander, and eventually forced the company to break. A 5-2 win to the Americans, giving me bragging rights the next time I see Kieron I think!

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Wargames - A Guide For Gift Buyers

When Christmas or my birthday roll around, Mrs Matt complains that she'd like to be able to get me surprise wargames presents, but doesn't know enough about the hobby to know what to get. I wrote this guide to try to make it easier, so I've posted it here in case anyone else would like to increase their odds of getting something really useful for Christmas...

What's all this then?

Well, as often happens at this time of year, we're approaching Christmas. I know I write a list of things I want every year, but if anyone wants to buy me a surprise present related to my hobby, they tend to struggle because it's a bit complicated. So this is an attempt to explain what I do with all my spare time and money in layman's terms, so hopefully you might feel a bit more confident about buying me stuff.

Hang on, that just sounds like a veiled way of saying "please buy me more stuff".

I was hoping you wouldn't notice that.

Fine. Go on then, what are wargames all about?

I'll assume that you don't know anything about it at all. So, in simple terms, the hobby is about fighting battles with model soldiers on a tabletop. We use tape measures for things like how far things can move and shoot, and the effects of what we're doing are decided by rolling dice. We tend to have model scenery on the table as well to give us something to fight over.
To make games "fair", we normally use a points system to decide which models we can use - so I might have to choose between 30 men on their own, or 10 men and a tank, for example. That way both players can use different armies but both have a decent chance of winning. We don't just use all the models we have every time.

That sounds fairly straightforward. Why do you need so many models then?

Well, there are a few reasons I like to have more and more things!
First of all, the more models I have, the bigger the games I can play. If 10 men and a tank cost 100 points, then if I have 20 men and 2 tanks, I can play a 200 point game (so long as my opponent has 200 points' worth of models too).
Second, I like to fight battles from a wide range of different time periods - one week I might be playing a World War 2 game, the next a game set in 1066. I need different models for each period.
Third, if I have models for more than one side I can use either in my games, so I have models for the Americans and Germans in WW2, for example.

Alright. So if I wanted to buy you some models, what do I need to know?

Well first of all, don't worry too much. Whatever models I ended up with I'd be able to find a use for them, even if they become the start of a new army!
However, if you want to buy something to fit in with what I already have, you really need to know two things - the period and the scale.
The period is the easy bit - that's the point in history (or the future for science fiction!) that the models are meant for.
Scale is the size of the models. Wargames model scales are listed in mm - it's supposed to be the distance between the feet and the eyes of a man standing upright in that scale. Typical scales are 15mm or 28mm, and I use different scales for different games.
There's a list of periods I play and the scales I play them in at the end of this guide.

Ok, I think that makes sense. I've seen you with lots of books as well though. What are they for?

Remember earlier I said that I need different models for different periods? Well, the same thing is true for the rules used to play the games. Warfare in 1066 was very different from WW2, so we use different rules for different periods as well.
For example, for WW2 I play a game called Flames of War, but for Vikings I play a game called Saga. Each has its own book.
On top of that, there are books for each game which list the points values for different armies, and give scenarios to play, and things like that.

What do I need to know about buying you books then?

Well that's a bit harder. New rulebooks are always welcome but they tend to be pricey - a lot of them are big hardbacks at around £30. The supplement books are cheaper, but I need to have the main rulebook for that game as well. Really you need to know whether the book you're buying is a complete set of rules or not - they normally mention in the blurb whether a copy of something else is needed to use them.

Ok, so models or books. Is there anything else that you'd like?

Why, yes there is! I mentioned earlier that we have model scenery on the table when we play. Well, that needs to match the scale and period of the game as well (you might fight over a viking longhouse in 1066, but in WW2 that wouldn't make sense) and it's always useful to have more scenery.
It's also called "terrain", if you're doing a Google search. The same periods and scales that I use models for are what I can use terrain for.
I also need to transport my models to games. In the past I've used whatever boxes I could lay my hands on, but it's much nicer to use custom made carry cases that are lined with foam to protect the models. Any of these are useful - I have so many models of different sizes and shapes that you really couldn't go wrong getting me a case of some sort.
Finally of course there's painting supplies - paint sets and brushes are always useful. There are more and more things like basing kits and modelling accessories that you can buy now as well, I'd be happy to get that kind of stuff as I can experiment with it when I'm painting.

There's lots of information here, and I'm confused! What if I buy the wrong thing?

You can't buy the wrong thing, not really. I'll have a more immediate use for something that matches up to a game I already play, but wargamers joke about the "butterfly syndrome" - as soon as we see new models or rules or even a film related to a period we don't already play games in, we want to give it a go, normally abandoning a current project for a while as we play with the new thing. If you bought me something completely unrelated to anything I play at the moment, I'd still end up finding a use for it and it would probably cause me to find a new game to play. So don't worry, I'm just happy as long as there are toy soldiers to muck about with!

Then I gave a list of games, periods, factions etc that I play, and some websites that you could buy stuff from. We'll see how well this all works out...