Friday, 28 April 2017

Back to square one?

Following on from my last post here a week ago much has happened with regards to my approach to my hobby. Having set up the table for a solo game of FoW I found that I simply did not have the enthusiasm to play it. The table looked great, it fulfilled all of my expectations, I was happy with the figures and the terrain but just did not know to get underway. To be honest, as anyone who has followed my blog/s over the last ten years will understand, this is nothing new, a look back through the pages of this blog reveals endless projects enthusiastically started but subsequently abandoned. I must have painted and sold thousands of figures over the years, in addition to those painted on commission, there is no doubt that this is where my pleasure lies, I still get a huge buzz from completing a well painted unit but put them on the table and it fizzles out! Lack of a regular opponent could be a contributory factor, it was not always this way, I have enjoyed many multi player games over the years, but somewhere along the line I know that I lost interest in the gaming side. I do have a solid group of old (non wargaming) friends, all now in their fifties or pushing sixty from the festival and party days of 30 odd years ago, but they have no interest in my hobby at all.

So, together with our intended move to Spain this year and the general scaling down of stuff for the move I have decided that I need to focus on something small scale and portable for the future. If I am to play the occasional solo wargame then it needs to be something I can quickly set up, plays quickly using rules that I have memorised on the whole with minimum need to check tables etc and can be played to a finish in around an hour or so.

As soon as I read Bob Cordery's 'The Portable Wargame' something clicked, I saw immediately how well these rules could work for me on a solo basis and provide a game sufficiently interesting and challenging to satisfy my needs. This was buzzing around my head for days, and I took the decision to give it a go. My starting point was going to be a fully portable one piece board just 90cm x 120cm, dotted out in 100mm squares, so 9 x 12 squares. As I had a few extra TSS space saver boards I used these for the basic boards, these will be fixed down onto a thin lightweight ply base and neatly edged with wood. I have play tested the rules and enjoyed myself immensely doing so, going forward from here I'm going to outline the construction of the board, terrain features and organising the armies for the rules, together with a description of how the rules work and general review of 'The Portable Wargame' book itself. I'm currently using the 'E' version but have the hardback on order and due any day now.

For now a few pics showing the current state of the board and terrain, also how the figures are based to work with the rules. Each 1p base (2 figures) represents 1 Strength Point as per the rules, what struck me in play testing was just how realistic the ragged lines of men look as they advance across the table. I'm working on new roads (MDF from Tony at ERM), and other scenic items. I discovered that my TSS hills are all in 100mm measurements so it's possible to overlay the grid with conventional contoured hills as you can see. I think that overall the table looks pretty conventional for a gridded game? More to follow.

Scaling down, board size 3 ' x 4'.

US infantry advancing. 2 figures per base gives me squads of 8 figures for these 'average' troops. This can be varied with Veteran squads starting at 5 SP's - 10 figures.

Shermans facing a solitary Tiger out of sight behind the cornfield. Micro dice will record hits as they reduce Strength Points.

Terrain so far, note the TSS hills marked with the grid.

German Panzer Grenadiers attack with StuG's in classic support role.

Board will be fixed and edged.

German infantry with MG42 (MMG) and Mortar section support.

My 4Ground buildings fit the grid, troops can be placed inside them or behind them, even my wall sections are 100mm lengths!

So far so good, the ruler has been put away and this is working for me, first time I have ever used a square grid in over 30 years of wargaming and I'm liking it a lot.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

At last, some action!

I have become aware recently that this blog is lacking in battle reports, mostly focused upon what's on the painting table as I tend to churn out a fair bit of stuff each week. Whilst I'm still enjoying building and painting 15mm Flames of War models and figures, my enthusiasm for wargaming generally has declined over recent months. A couple of weeks back for example I set up a nice Normandy themed table that featured hedgerow lined roads and fields, standing cropfields, woods and a central village containing no less than ten 4Ground houses.  I sorted out a couple of small forces, stood back and looked at the table and realised that as realistic as it looked, from a wargame point of view it was going to be almost impossible to play on. There was little or no space to maneuver a formation of tanks, hardly any open sight lines and the hedgerows were going to make both movement and shooting difficult. The models went back in the boxes and I started to think about how to simplify the terrain.

For this game the table will be far more open, with far fewer hedgerows lining the roads, just two wood templates and only a few buildings. This is a more traditional approach to table top terrain I think, far more practical if less realistic, with each piece of terrain clearly defined according to FoW V4 rules. The standing crop fields for example are no longer contained within tall hedges as before, but still offer concealment to troops within it. The outskirts of the small village are now more open and sight lines are also more open, offering opportunities for longer range shooting. Having got over the temptation to cram everything onto the table I now feel I can run through a solo game to get to grips with V4.

FoW 4 does make some changes to the previous version, much has been simplified to speed up play, hit allocation is one example where you now simply declare your target team within a platoon and that team takes the first hit with other hits allocated to next nearest etc. The dreaded Bogging checks become Cross checks with a slightly better chance of passing, and formation commanders can issue a 'Follow Me' order to gain an additional 4" of movement if within 6" of a unit. Aircraft rules have been bought more into line with the game with streamlined shooting, fighter interception and flack rules. The assault rules also look to have been tidied up.

So with the table set up as below my youngest daughter diced for sides and placed a couple of objectives for the game. Forces are two late war armour based armies with infantry and artillery support. I'll roll for air support each turn and will be using my Typhoon & ME 262 models, although I'll use the 'Stuka' stats for the latter until I can find something more suitable!

US to move first, it's a simple straight encounter game across a fairly open field, the tall hedgerows remain in the box, the standing crops offer concealment and soft cover, the ploughed fields offer soft cover, the woods are also soft cover and require a cross check to enter, and the railway embankment also requires a cross check to move across. Buildings of course are hard cover, I simply had to get the church on the table although the model  will be much enhanced once rubble sections have been produced as per those made by James at The Mad Tin Hatter blog, well worth checking out, a great idea.

Images show the table before move 1, Dining room booked until Sunday so I can leave it set up and take my time. All terrain items from my collection are as follows:

  • Baseboards by Total Systems Scenic 'space saver' boards. I resisted the urge to add hills at this time although I do have a lot of matching hill pieces.
  • Rural roads, cobbled roads & rail sections are 'Battlefield in a Box' range.
  • Buildings by 4Ground MDF kits.
  • Trees and wood templates by S&A Scenics.
  • Fields made from door mat and carpet tiles recoloured and flocked.
  • Wall sections by 'Small Terrain Miniature Scenery' (eBay)

Battle report and pictures will follow, possibly broken down into a couple of posts.

Edited to add a few deployment shots, Turn 1. Deployment is difficult when playing solo, so both sides move onto the table and the shooting can begin in Turn 2. Things look pretty linear but that quickly break down as the game develops. The Germans are massing on the right for an attack on the village, StuG's advancing supported by the Panzer Grenadier platoons with mortar sections. On the Allied right the M10 tank destroyers have advanced in open ground, their recce advancing to find targets while Stuart light tanks move up to protect their exposed right flank. Panzer IV's move toward the woods, they will make short work of those Stuarts if they can get through the woods quickly. Sherman's advance across the entire front. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Adding foliage to Jagdpanthers.

I'm continuing to work on my Flames of war collection, with a first run through of 4th Edition planned for the Easter weekend. I'm pulling together 2 basic armies from the 'Open Fire' lists, reorganising the command structure and finishing off some final touched on the models. My tank/AFC collection for US & German forces now exceeds 100 models, but for this game my German armour will consist of 5 x StuG's, 5 x Panzer 4H's and 2 x Jadgpanther as 1st and 2nd in command. I'll also field a company of 2 platoons of Panzergrenadiers, supported by 3 medium mortar teams, 2 anti tank guns, 2 recce armoured cars and air support in the shape of a JU87 Stuka. I have painted more bases of Peter Pig late war infantry to make up the two platoons to complete the requirements.

I had painted the 2 Jagdpanthers some time ago, and decided to try and match the StuG's with their foliage so typical of the late war period when the Allies dominated the skies. Twig cuttings were taken from the garden, trimmed down and superglued to the superstructure - Germans tank crews were supplied with 'D' rings that were welded on and the branches poked through rather than netting.
Pictures show the various stages of gluing on the twigs and then building up the foliage using Noch leaf products, light, medium and dark shades. I use thick PVA 'blobs' to apply the leaf on the sticks until I'm happy with the look. Having completed these I'm now working on the Panzer 4 platoon, trying not to overdo things!

A Sherman commanders nightmare.

Small twigs ready for gluing.

The StuG's I'm trying match.
Foliage added.

First of the Panzer 4H models with foliage added.