Thursday, 23 October 2014

Making cheap wargames trees part 1

Woods and forests are one of the essential elements of any wargames terrain collection. If you buy them, ready-made or in kit form, they tend be one of two designs. There's the mini christmas tree look to emulate conifer trees, or the toffee apple look to emulate deciduous trees. There's nothing wrong with them, I have a small collection myself, but they are a bit samey and far from realistic.

The problem with having more elaborate and realistic trees, is that they can be quite expensive to buy, or very time consuming to make. I want to make some reasonably realistic trees, but I want them to be cheap and quick. Is this possible?

I started with the roots, or rather the bases. I want my trees to be reasonably stable on the tabletop. The easiest way to do this is to stick several on to a large base, a piece of mdf, hardboard or plasticard is usually used. However, this approach can cause problems when little soldiers want to get in to the trees and they don't fit. For this reason, most gamers use removable trees. When the troops march up to the forest, just pop a few trunks to one side, march in, replace the trees and job done. So the trees need to be stable but also removable.

My roots are simply paper clips, bent into mini stands with one upright "pin" on which the trunk will fit. These are fixed to a two pence piece, the more recent ones are magnetic - it's worth testing this before you go further. You could also use a washer though these are not magnetic to my knowledge. I bent the clips using my fingers, you could also use a pair of plyers. I stuck them on to the pennies using green stuff, probably not the cheapest option. An alternative would be a hot glue gun, or maybe blu tac coated with superglue. Another option that might work could be a simple tack superglued on. But I just worked with what I had at hand.

The final stage in the bases was a coat of pva glue and a sprinkle of small stones and sand. When they are stuck on they look like this. If I was making just a couple of feature trees I guess I could take more time here and sculpt on some roots - the paper clips would certainly lend themselves to this idea. But these are quick and easy trees, so no time for that. Again, you could be more elaborate at this stage and add all sorts of extra to your bases, depending on your table theme and time you want to spend. For me, these are fine and will be primed and painted in part 2.

Monday, 20 October 2014

All Quiet on the Hobby Front

What a brilliant video! If it had been around at the time of the All Quiet on the Martian Front kickstarter project, maybe I would have been swayed. At the time I really liked the tank models but was not convinced by the tripods. Had they been conceived like these in this film, I would have more unpainted figures in my collection. Perhaps it was a good thing that I resisted.

There's not much of my own work to report on at the moment. I am in between projects. I have a few things I could finish off, and a few things not yet started, but little creative energy to tackle them. Maybe it's the end of summer blues?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A fistful of uruk hai

Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy?
In preparation for an upcoming large War of the Ring battle, I have been painting a few uruk hai. These five are to be added to my existing three to make a unit big enough for the game. I realise the central figure has far too many clothes to be a berserker, but he does wield a decapitated head, so it's close enough. Note the white hand markings and the war paint, just to break up the large areas of flesh.

We're all the same inside
As you can see from this photo, the skin of the original three is a little lighter than the new additions. I didn't write down my original paint recipe, they were quite bright orange to start with, so I have glazed them with with chestnut and black to make them more equal. They are not exactly the same, but I reckon Saruman is an equal opportunities employer and won't be too upset.

Of course I'm in charge, I have the biggest hat and pointiest finger
I also painted up this ballista, which I was lucky enough to pick up quite cheaply in an ebay job lot. It's missing a couple of bits and a crew member, but a little improvisation with a plastic figure did the trick. I think I overdid the rust and toned it down with some purple glazing. In truth, it's a bit rushed, but certainly serviceable for tabletop gaming.

The main "engineer" is a nice sculpt, I will probably use him as a character in games when the ballista is not in action. The same goes for the clothed berseker, so the rapid painting session has yielded two characters to add to my uruk hai collection.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Dystopian Legions Iron Scorpion Arrives!

The box in all it's glory
Christmas has come early this year. You may remember my preview post about the Iron Scorpion boxset. The delivery was a little late, due to a Spartan delay and  by me always seeming to be out when the postman arrives, but finally I have got it in my hands. Or rather, on to the table for a quick contents photo shoot.

I have to tell you that this is my official xmas present, so there's not going to be too much detail in this post. I have flicked through the booklets and will be checking the contents, and maybe even painting some of the figures, but I am trying to save it for the holiday season. With another 77 days to go, I will probably be at bursting point by the big day. Just a few photos to give you an idea of what's included, I will be looking at the contents in more detail in the coming weeks.

The contents when you open the lid

The contents laid out on the table

Starter booklet background story

Starter booklet scenario

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Tolkien Trail

No, it's not another feeble advertising campaign from the New Zealand Tourism Board, this is the real thing. On a recent trip to Birmingham I picked up this leaflet. Tolkien spent the early years of his life in and around Birmingham and it may be that some of it ended up in Middle Earth, as this selection of photos shows.

It's quite common for a trip to trigger an idea. A few years ago I took a trip to Glasgow and saw a painting that sparked an idea for a wood elf army. More recently a trip to the coast triggered a desire to revisit my high elves. The trip to the real Middle Earth, you might think, would surely inspire me to paint some Lord of the Rings figures. The truth is, I already have a sizeable collection awaiting paint, and don't really need to be inspired. I just need more hours in every day. More painting coming in the next few days I hope.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

War of the Ring first impressions

It's been a long time coming, but I have finally played my first couple of games of War of the Ring. For a decent overview of the game, have a look at this article on BOLS. For a very detailed look at the rules, check out this article on RPGnet. As both reviews noted, the game plays like a hybrid of Warmaster and Warhammer. The rules are quite streamlined and quick to play, with just one table to memorise - ideal for the more mature gamer!

Everything you need is in just one book. The rules, army lists, modelling section and scenarios, all in one big blue book, which is no longer in print but can be picked up on ebay for around £10, quite a steal for a hardback book containing more than 300 pages of the usual GW quality content.

Here's  a shot of the first game, as you can see we are still working on the movement trays, but it gives a good idea of the look and feel of a typical game. Note the orcs on the right moving up in a column formation, when they charge they can fan out into a wider formation to maximise attack potential.

The game is played in turns, split into movement, shooting, charging and combat, but in an alternating sequence. Players roll at the start of the turn for initiative, then player1 moves his troops, then player2 moves his troops, then player1 shoots, then player2 shoots and so on. I prefer this system, there's far less down time waiting for your opponent to complete all phases. It makes the game feel more engaging, you only have to wait a couple of minutes before you are called on to do something.

Movement is a straight forward affair. All units have a move allowance measured in inches, formations are free to move in any way as long as the companies do not exceed the move allowed. So a formation could turn, or move into a column, or widen it's frontage, or just plain old move forward. Terrain and enemy proximity halve the movement distance. That's basically it, the rules for moving are covered in just four pages. It's neat and quick without loads of measuring and fiddling that some systems insist upon.

Charging is performed in a similar way. Pre-measuring is allowed, then there's a dice roll with an amount (dependent on unit type) added  to see if the charge reaches the enemy. If it does not, the charger simply remains where he started. If successful, the companies move up and fan out, not necessarily remaining in the same formation they started in. I find this to be quite realistic and satisfying, compared to the rigid charges of other systems.

One Chart to Rule Them All
Shooting and combat are very similar, both use the same mechanics. The attacker first calculates how many dice he will use, better fighters/shooters get more dice and there are other bonuses for things like charging, or penalties applied if attacked in the flank or rear. Once the number of dice is known, the player then looks up on a single chart the score required. For each success, a casualty is caused. Thus, both shooting and combat resolution is performed in just one dice roll - considerably speeding up the game. There's no roll to hit, roll to wound, roll armour save, roll parry save - it's all performed quickly and neatly in just one roll. Casualties from shooting might cause a formation to be pushed back. Casualties in combat might see the unit take even more casualties, or become disordered, or resolutely dig in and refuse to give ground.

At the basic level the game plays smoothly and quickly. The rules are simple and logical for the most part, though the shooting stat is an oddity. For some reason a higher shooting stat means poorer shooting - probably this was the old "to hit" value in the skirmish game. There's also very little in the way of morale. There's no panic when nearby units are butchered, or for other unsettling events. But for the most part, the basic rules give a very reasonable and satisfying wargaming experience.

Characters and magic add greater levels of complexity and strategic choices, but I need a few more games before I can properly comment on this part of the game. It's a bit like moving from draughts to chess, there are far more possibilities and combinations to ponder, so I will come back to this in a future post. So far, with a grand total of two games under my belt, I am really enjoying it and looking forward to delving deeper into Middle Earth. Who knows what will be awakened?