Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A neat way to record casualties

In many games, especially those where you have bases with multiple figures, you need to be able to keep track of casualties. There are various ways of doing this, counters, beads, micro-dice etc, but a while ago I bought a bag of skull beads to do this. These are approximately 1cm high and are pierced so you can make necklaces from them. The holes are about 2.5mm across which I discovered was wide enough for me to thread them onto the kind of bamboo skewers that are used for chicken satay and small kebabs.

So, it was a small step from that to cutting some skewers up into short segments and glueing them to 2cm square MDF bases, et voila!

A bit of PVA glue and some base texture, a spray of acrylic sealer and I now have a dozen little stands that will each take up to three skulls.

These will be perfect for Alien Squad Leader where bases and vehicles with more than two hits are removed from play as permanent casualties, and will probably also be useful for other rulesets too. Field Of Glory, IABSM and Sharp Practice all spring to mind.

I could make some taller stands so that more casualties could be recorded, or use different coloured beads to record unit status conditions like Pinned, Suppressed etc.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Reinforcements for my Human Imperial Army

Having now played a game of Alien Squad Leader with my Human Imperial army, and acquired a playtesting copy (thanks Alex!) of the next edition of the rules, I've decided to round out my forces with a few of the new options, as well as bolstering my basic Stormtrooper infantry contingent.

These additions now mean that I have six stands of Stormtrooper Regular Infantry and two Stormtrooper Command stands, giving me the required eight stands of regulars for a 200 point army.

The changes to the rules currently being tested allow this army to take Snipers and a Medic, so I have painted up a Medic character figure and two Snipers, one with a Heavy Weapon. I know that characters really ought to be single figures, but for a nice effect I've given each sniper a spotter figure. I think that this works rather well, visually. I've decided that the sniper's Aiming Device is actually contained in the spotter's distance viewer and linked via a secure microwave beam to the sniping weapon.

I've used a kneeling figure using a tablet device, which portrays an advanced diagnostic tool.

These figures are all, as usual from the excellent Ground Zero Games 15mm range.

So, some nice additions to the army. I think that my next additions might involve a ground attack craft and then I'll look to paint up some more power-armoured marines, mainly because I've got a load of them in my lead mountain.

Monday, 20 March 2017

My first Alien Squad Leader AAR

Yesterday my Human Imperial army, of Ground Zero Games 15mm infantry and vehicles, had its first outing on the table at the club. My opponent was Alex Self, the author of the Alien Squad Leader rules, so I approached this game with some trepidation. His army was one made up from the Victorian Imperial list, which represents the troops of a human empire whose formerly advanced technology has gone into decline, but whose troops are subjected to a regime of iron discipline.

The objective of the battle was to take and hold a particular location, identified here as the "Production Centre". In the end, the attacking side (me) was unable to achieve this, although I did manage to cause a lot of casualties on Alex's army, for the loss of much of my basic Stormtrooper infantry. Poor command dice rolls by me also led to my tanks being immobile for a fair part of the game. The "Victorian discipline" rule helped Alex on several occasions, allowing him to re-roll failed command dice throws. 

My heavy battle droid, despite early success against the artillery on Alex's right flank also suffered from rubbish dice-itis when I really needed it to knock out his gunboats and the infantry in the main built-up area which was my objective.

To illustrate the battle, I have put together a narrative that explains why the two armies came to fight one another.

 Long ago, this region of the galaxy was under the control of The Neo-Solar Autarky (NSA), a human empire whose ships ranged far and wide across dozens of star systems, exploiting the resources of countless worlds and bringing them under the paternalistic rule of the imperial government. Hundreds of planets were ruled by colonial governors whose rule was imposed by the brute force of battle-hardened regiments of disciplined troops, backed up by massive war machines of frightening power and complexity. However, absolute power brought complacency and, over the centuries, the knowledge of the technology behind the machinery was lost and the technologists of the empire were forced to admit that they could no longer build new weapons of the same complexity, nor even maintain the weapons that remained. Therefore the giant factories on the imperial industrial planets found simpler ways to build weapons systems and the empire maintained itself using cruder methods, relying on the stern traditions of the regimental system, draconian drill and discipline and massed formations. Against the primitive planetary populations of humans and aliens of the empire, these methods worked, but the decline continued. 

Eventually, younger human societies, possessing newer and more advanced technologies and using superior weaponry began to make inroads into the imperial domains, planets were lost and systems began to break away from imperial control. One of the most aggressive and expansionist of these new societies was the Third Human Condominium (3HC), whose leaders saw the decaying Autarky and proclaimed that their mission was to free the subject peoples of the empire from the iron boot of tyranny. The opportunity to exploit the resources of the NSA's planetary systems was, naturally, never mentioned.

This AAR covers just one raid by 3HC forces against an NSA production facility on an agricultural colony world. 

 Commandant Henry Fortescue-Smythe's family had centuries of military tradition in the service of the Benign Autarch. He himself had fought aliens and humans alike, defending the empire against pirates, raiders and insurgents. Now, his latest posting was to the grain-belt planet of Hospar IV. Three days before, a corvette of the Imperial Navy had brought news of a raiding fleet from one of the upstart worlds approaching the planet and now he knew that the planet's Fourth Production Centre was the target. He concentrated his troops around the target site and awaited the raiders. He had powerful ironclad land cruiser tanks, artillery batteries, hover gunboats, massed regiments of infantry and his beloved cavalry, mounted on their marvellous mechanical steeds. He even had a unit of troops in the latest clanking mechanical armour, sure to vanquish all before them.

His initial deployments filled him with confidence. His command post, together with his line troops and the armoured mechanicals, was located in the central production facility itself, surely the main target for the upstart pirates.

His cavalry and gunboats took up their positions in a wooded area;

The mighty ironclads supported by massed artillery batteries held his left flank;

And skirmishers and more artillery held his right, taking over a barracks block for agricultural slaves;

Meanwhile, the 3HC strike-force deployed to the south of the main facility. Force commander Brigadier Natasha Franklin, secure in her armoured command vehicle took up position in a wood, supported by a unit of powerful heavy weapons.

To her left, stormtrooper infantry and power-armoured jump-pack marines were supported by the fearsome fire-power of a Vanquisher class heavy battle droid.

To her right Goliath main battle tanks waited to unleash their weaponry on the forces of the corrupt and decadent imperialists.

In the centre, some of the 3HC stormtroopers and the marines advanced towards a ridge, known as the Razorback to the south of the target site.

Fortescue-Smythe's mechanical cavalry clanked into action, piston joints creaking in the light of the rising sun. His gunships waited for the coming onslaught.

Brigadier Franklin's  left wing stormtroopers advanced to take up position in a built-up area around a storage silo complex. A road stretched northwards towards the barracks block occupied by imperial troops.

Initial exchanges of fire led to the destruction of the artillery on the imperial right, but their cavalry, supported by skirmishing infantry forced the 3HC stormtroopers back from their positions. The fighting around the storage complex would continue throughout the battle, eventually leading to the loss of most of the clanking robo-nags (as the 3HC troops called the brave and impetuous imperial horse).

Many buildings were destroyed, but eventually the marines of the 3HC managed to gain control over this flank of the battlefield. Despite some appallingly poor firing from the Battle Droid, no doubt caused by some kind of NSA jammer mechanism interfering with its targeting software, the threat of the giant machine was sufficient to occupy the NSA gunboats, whose weapons were unable to cause any damage to it.

In the centre, the battle for the Razorback was long and bloody, with the imperial armoured mechanicals being an early casualty, but eventually the 3HC troops won and forced their enemies off of the heights and into the valley below, where they were destroyed by massed fire.

On Brigadier Franklin's right, the Goliath MBTs destroyed the massed artillery of the NSA but were then assaulted by Fortescue-Smythe's hulking ironclads, spewing fire from their guns and oily smoke from their exhausts. Eventually, these primitive behemoths managed to delay the progress of the superior 3HC tanks sufficiently to prevent them from driving forwards to take control of the battlefield.

A final assault by 3HC infantry, supported by marines was unable to dislodge the Autarky's troops from the Production Centre and Brigadier Franklin was forced to recall her troops from combat. 

So, a pretty tense battle in the end. My technological superiority wasn't really enough to neutralise Alex's army, even though I did manage to knock out a lot of his troops. It was interesting that the threat of his tanks and massed artillery on my right was enough to stop me pushing my tanks into the gap between the two hilly areas, from where they would have been able to fire on the objective. I just couldn't risk losing them. In the centre and on my left, both combats pretty much descended into a meat-grinder slog, which went my way in the end but still wasn't enough to take the objective. 

In the end, we ran out of time.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

....and now for something completely different.

In a break from my usual 15mm figures, and also from my ongoing projects, I bought some 28mm figures from Bad Squiddo Games, which is owned and run by Annie Norman, a.k.a. The Dice Bag Lady. 

In her own words "Bad Squiddo Games provides gamers and painters around the world with the largest selection of female miniatures out there. As well as manufacturing my own line, I carefully hand pick stock from over 50 different manufacturers."

She goes on to say that "The number one aim for Bad Squiddo Games is to create and supply the miniatures that would have made the hobby far far better for my 10 year old self. To welcome more young girls and women into wargaming and miniature painting, as well as providing diverse options to the entire gaming community. And yeah – cool toys!"

I think that a look at her catalogue on the website shows that she is definitely achieving her main aim. Lots of lovely shiny stuff to tempt all sorts of gamers.

Anyway, I am a huge fan of the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and when I found out that my club would be putting on a Cthulhu Mythos-themed game, I started looking at the kind of figures that were around. We were all invited to submit a named character for the forthcoming game, which I have done, and this made me look around to see what was available in case  I might want to have a particular miniature to represent her in the future. 

I decided on the set of Four Female Archaeologists by Copplestone Miniatures.

Here they are, as I painted them;

From left to right they are; Dr Laura Carter Ward, Prof. Jacqueline Thomas, Dr Marie-Claude de St. Aubin and Miss Catherine Broadbury.

Archaeologist biographies

Dr Marie-Claude de St. Aubin
Research Fellow in Transdimensional Architecture
Faculty of Metaphysical History
École Nationale des Sciences Arcanes
Bordeaux, France

Originally a mathematics graduate and amateur archaeologist, Dr de St Aubin first developed an interest in prehistoric megalithic sites and the geometry of such sites while undertaking her Mathematics DPhil at Oxford. Her research, published some years after completing her doctoral thesis, was entitled “The night sky and sacred geometries of pre-historic sites in south-western France” and attracted the attention of Professor Markus Mazur of the University of Krakow., an expert in prehistoric alignments and obscure cult practices. This led to Dr de St Aubin taking up a post of research assistant to Prof. Mazur. Developing her interest in archaeology, Dr de St. Aubin returned to France and studied the subject at the Sorbonne.

Dr de St. Aubin is known for her archaeological studies at a number of ancient sites in Anatolia, the Caucasus and the Levant. Her work on early Bronze Age ritual sites found near Carchemish in Syria, which identified them as being sacred to a number of obscure and arcane deities, although unknown to the general public, is widely considered in Arcane Studies circles to be the definitive study of the cults of a number of previously unknown deities, two who have tentatively been identified as Azathoth and Nyarlathotep, in the Bronze Age Middle East. A noted polymath and linguist, Dr de St Aubin has spent the last three or four years translating a copy of The Necronomicon from Mediaeval Occitan into modern French.

A keen horsewoman, Dr de St. Aubin has represented France internationally. She is also a former national pistol champion and Olympic-standard modern pentathlete.

Dr Laura Carter Ward `
Senior Reader in Advanced Arcane Studies
Faculty of Social Sciences
Miskatonic University
Arkham, Massachusetts, USA

Originally forming her doctoral thesis, and later expanded into a three-volume study, Dr Ward’s groundbreaking work on the subject of prehistoric chthonic cult survivals in the Graeco-Roman world is widely considered to be the authoritative text on the subject. Her work on the relationship between the Pnakotic Manuscripts (Koine Greek translation) and the Enochian texts of Dr John Dee is considered to be a classic example of Arcane Anthropology.

First joining the staff of Miskatonic U as a research assistant to the late Professor Ferdinand Ashley, Dr Ward was later Curator of Arcane Incunabula and Manuscripts before taking up her present duties. She has undertaken lengthy fieldwork in the Andes, Polynesia and Tibet. Dr Ward is currently combining her academic duties with field research into the Witch Cults of 17th century New England and their links to similar cults in Europe.

Dr Ward is a former champion fencer and a keen amateur photographer.

Professor Jacqueline Thomas
Head of Archaeological Sciences
University of Brichester
Gloucestershire, UK

A History graduate of Cambridge University, Prof. Thomas undertook post-graduate research at the University of Göttingen and later completed her doctorate in Archaeology at UCL. Professor Thomas is considered to be the world’s leading authority in the subject area of pre-Druidic cult practices in the British Isles and has published a number of works on this subject. She is a visiting lecturer in Arcane Archaeology at both Miskatonic University and the École Nationale des Sciences Arcanes, where her Summer Schools are always well-attended. Her most recent publication is “Pre-Bronze Age West Semitic Cult Survivals in Mediaeval Palestine and the Crusader States”. She is also known for her archaeological investigations at Megiddo and elsewhere in the Middle East. Her recent identification of a site 75km north-west of Sakaka in Saudi Arabia as a candidate for Irem of the Pillars has been controversial, but some authorities who have examined cult objects and inscriptions excavated from the site are supportive of her claim.

Miss Catherine Broadbury
Parapsychological Investigator
Broadbury Manor
Upper Melchett
Somerset, UK

Although not a professional anthropologist or archaeologist, Miss Broadbury is well-known in specialist circles because of her work as an assistant to her late great-uncle Professor Sir Henry Exham, the famous Egyptologist and Professor of Hittite Studies at Brichester University.. A graduate of St Hilda’s College Oxford with a Master’s in Classics and Ancient History, Miss Broadbury is fluent in many languages and has written a number of books on popular history, archaeology and the paranormal. A prominent debunker of fraudulent psychic practitioners, Miss Broadbury is widely-respected in the field of Arcane Studies for her breadth of knowledge and familiarity with obscure cultic practices. She has carried out unspecified investigative work for certain agencies of the British government.

Miss Broadbury is an accomplished pianist and horsewoman and has represented the UK internationally at the long jump and 110 metres hurdles.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A few more odds and ends for Alien Squad Leader

Not a lot here, just a matter of finishing off a few things that might or might not get used, but, hey, there is a lead mountain to reduce and there are also my submissions to the TooFatLardies Painting Challenge to consider.

So, first off here are two stands of wheeled droids from GZG which will be used as Robotic Infantry;

And secondly, four stands of jetbikes. The two at the back have Space Marine riders and the front ones are ridden by Stormtroopers;

The Space Marine bikes could, I suppose, be used as part of a Human Imperial Strike Force. I do have a fair few other power-armoured figures to paint up, including Heavy Weapons. I'd just need a few Armoured APCs and/or maybe a dropship to bulk the army out. One for the future, I think.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Alien Squad Leader

I recently joined a gaming club, the Lincombe Barn Wargames Society, and the first game I played there was Alien Squad Leader, which is a popular S.F game at the club (the author of the rules, Alex Self is a club member) and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to create my own army for the game.

Luckily, I had a reasonably-sized lead mountain of GZG 15mm figures and vehicles to paint so, with the addition of a couple of heavy Main Battle Tanks, which I bought from GZG specifically for this army and some suitably-sized MDF bases I set about putting together enough toys for both a 150pt and a 200pt army of Human Imperials. I also painted up a couple of character figures, who will feature strongly in the next version of the rules, but who are optional extras in the current edition.

For me, Human Imperials are an ideal starting point, and not only because I had pretty much everything available. I think that they suit my style of play, being both shooty and featuring tanks. There are also options to field fighting droids of varying sizes. Happily, I had a GZG battle mecha model waiting to find a purpose, so it seemed only right to equip my forces with a big shooty battle droid. I shall look at smaller droids in the future and possibly also some kind of ground attack flyer.

Anyway, I have put together some basic infantry Stormtroopers, some Heavy Weapons support, a couple of command stands, some Space Marines, light AFVs (tracked and anti-grav) an armoured command vehicle and the aforementioned MBTs and Battle Mecha.

So, here are the pictures, starting with the Poor Bloody Infantry (plus an army High Command character);

Next, the Space Marines, equipped with jump packs (and a Hero of the Empire);

And then the armour. First, the light stuff. Two tracked AFVs, two anti-grav ones and an ACV;

And, finally, the heavies, the real sloggers;

I went for a desert/semi-arid planet camouflage style for this army so that the vehicles at least will fit in with my Quadrant 13 armies. I rather like the way that they have turned out and I am looking forward to seeing them on the table in the near future.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

British Rifle platoon for Chain of Command

I posted my German infantry for CoC a little while ago and I then began work on some British infantry as opposition. I finished these last week and then forgot to write up a post about them, which I have now remedied.

These are, once again Peter Pig figures in 15mm, from their Late War British list. This platoon will be suitable for the Northwestern Europe theatre from D-Day until the end of the War.

So far, I've painted up the basic CoC platoon according to the Army Lists in the rules. I need to think what support options I will need and start planning those accordingly.

Anyway, here they are;

In CoC, the platoon is split into three sections, each with a Junior Leader with a Sten, a three-man Bren team and a six-man rifle team. The platoon HQ has a Senior Leader (lieutenant, in this case with a rifle and a pistol), Junior Leader (sergeant with a Sten) a two-man 2" mortar team and a 2-man PIAT team.

There are plenty of support options available, many of which I can fill from my existing tank and vehicle collection, but others will require additional purchases.