Been a while since I blogged. In fact, I haven't had much of a chance to game. The group has been playing a lot of Armati and Armati Renaissance both of which (the latter under development) are fantastic games. We also did a bit of WWII naval action as illustrated below. Must say that as much as I love pushing lead (or plastic....) the fun of getting together and doing this hobby with friends is the best. Ok, ok....I'll stop with the misty-eyed rubbish and get back to the game....
As much as possible I try to make markers for all the games I play into part of the aesthetic of the hobby. For BFE we have lots of casualty figures available from Old Glory to make this possible. For the Zulu War I have both British and Zulu casualty markers: Falling wounded figures for 1-3 casualties and dead figures denoting 4-7 kills for which negative modifiers apply.
I also made Shaken and Disorder markers using shields: 1 for Disorder and 2 for Shaken.
Like so many gaming groups, we play games from ancient times to WWII. Avoiding generic rule sets to ensure period feel, we have to choose rules that are not too complex and allow for large multi-player games. We use Armati for all early periods up to 1650, Shako II for Napoleonics, BFE II (of course) for colonials and WWI, and good old Rapid Fire for WWII. We are still looking for the ACW rule set of choice -- we have tried loads over the years -- and pull out lots of naval, aviation and skirmish games for occasional fun.
A couple of weeks ago we played an Eastern Front Rapid Fire game. We don't play WWII games as often as I would like, but RF lets us get into the game quickly and easily. We did amend the small arms rules to a dice throwing system that is quicker and more fun, but overall we play the game as per the rules. Here are a couple of shots....
When Peter Gilder wrote these words and used them for the title of his Napoleonic rules it wasn't hard to imagine what he meant by them. Thousands of figures and beautiful terrain decorating a huge table. Having played a game at the Wargames Holiday Centre back in the 1980s and meeting the man himself (alas, he was already ill, but his passion for the hobby seemed undiminished) I experienced his definition of the game. It was a definition that I aspired to achieve and I bought lots of figures and modelled them after his rules, both Napoleonic and Colonial (at the time a few sheets of A4 and clarifications from Gilder over dinner).
Well, years have past and I still love his figures and the notion of "in the grand manner gaming", but in my efforts to achieve that end, I have adjusted what I think those words mean. While I played ITGM Napoleonics for a long time, I never felt that I was playing much more than brigade, perhaps divisional actions. Historical scenarios were scaled down in much the same way that Gilder scaled down his Holiday centre scenarios. When I played Austerlitz at the WHC, my Russian Column (corps) was about 10 battalions and supports. Lots of figures to be sure, but in the end I had relatively few decisions to make over the course of a weekend game.
Like games that render down Napoleonic armies into Brigade units, something feels missing regardless of the number of figures being pushed around: the complexity of managing and coordinating the actions of large numbers of units. War-games are decision games. Hence the reason I have never bought into systems like those by Rick Priestly where the game plays the players. They a loads of fun and well designed for what they do, but in the end I want to make decisions and those decisions are made complex by the need to coordinate large numbers of units. If this is difficult in large battles, that is good. That is where the friction comes into play. When we play Shako II battles representing Eylau, Austerlitz, Wogram, or Waterloo, and do it with every unit represented at the battalion level, I feel we are achieving "in the grand manner" wargaming. The number of figures is impressive, but no more (or less) than what Gilder presented at the Holiday Centre. But the decisions are many times multiplied albeit with a set of rules that can handle all those units easily.
For colonials I feel the same is true. My collection of colonials is reasonably large, but because the units are a little smaller than what might normally be pushed around "in the grand manner" I get the look while having the decisions be a little more complex.
In the end, "in the grand manner" is what you make it. I suppose it does mean lots of figures, but how you divide them up and what the game presents in terms of decision making is part of what makes gaming "grand" for me.
Finally getting back into some painting. Some time ago I sold off lots of my Sudan collection to generate some extra cash to expand the collection. My figure choice is usually Connoisseur. Gilder's style is my favourite and his Sudan range is excellent. The figures take me back to the Wargames World magazine specials put out by WI that featured Gilder's Sudan campaign. I played Gilder's Sudan rules. Based on Pony Wars they were loads of fun and are now available, fleshed out and complete, from a crew in Australia. Of course, I fell out with the rules as my go to set as they were a novelty. Everyone on the same side and having the rules play the players was great for the odd game, but I wanted something that allowed for historical scenarios to be recreated. Hence, BFE.
Anyway, back to the figures. Connoisseur really suit the dipping method I use on most colonials. In contrast to my Napoleonics (and Zulu War) that I paint with a black base coat, my Sudan, NWF and Boxer colonials are given a more utilitarian finish. I still like the effect and think it suits the khaki, linen and earth tones common to many of the uniforms and dress of the period.
You will notice that I also did up some Perry Bazingers. These are nice figures, but forgive me if you are Perry fan-boys (or girls) but Perry figures can drive me crazy. As nicely sculpted as they are, they lack some of the cartoonish character of the Connoisseur line. Also, in contrast to Bicorne's fantastic casting quality of Gilder's figures, Perry figures, with all those venting 'worms' that I never find prior to painting, can be frustrating. I also find the smoother finish is a little less friendly to dipping.
Alas, these are small gripes and we are lucky to have so many wonderful figure choices. Now on to finish painting the bases, dry brushing, and flocking them.
For years we have been using dice towers. They keep things tidy, consistent and civil. The latter is not really an issue, but it just heads off at the pass any disagreements.
Some of the guys use natural wood box-shaped dice towers. I have made my own using carpet cardboard tubes. I cut slots into them at opposing angles, stick art board card into the slots to create the agitation I then finished them as castle ruins. These have served me for years. I would, however, like to make period specific ones that fit into the terrain of each game. This might be particular ruined buildings or disguising the towers as rocky hills....not sure yet.
The move is done and I hosted my first game in the new 'bunker'. Alas, not BFE but rather Armati Renaissance (which is an ongoing project). I was delighted with how well the game played and am looking forward to having Arty Conliffe give the go-ahead to have other play test groups have a go. Needless to say, many will object to the rules but having too many chefs in the kitchen can be a disaster for a set of rules. The revision that we have developed is a good balance between being familiar as Armati, respecting the first version of the Renaissance rules as published in the original book, but having enough differences to make the game feel distinct.
My family is in the process of moving, so little time for toy soldiers, BFE and blogging. The last game we played was the Rorke's Drift scenario. I have played loads of variations of this battle but never with the new terrain I made (as yet incomplete but playable). The scenario in the free supplement worked really well and it literally came down to the Zulus needing one solitary hit/kill to win the game. Alas, they didn't make it. We made a couple of rule changes and clarifications on the fly and I have added these to the scenario. I will send along the updated version of the scenario to Eric to update the one available to you.
Back again. Managed to play a quick game using one of the scenarios from the scenario supplement. This is one that was written and played many years ago but hadn't had an outing in a long time. Intombe or Meyer's Drift. This was a riot. The British player was completely caught flat footed. In fact, asleep! Somehow, the Zulus just couldn't finish off the last British unit getting across the drift. In fairness, the British player threw in his supports to save the fleeing redcoats really effectively. Lots of fun. There is also a picture of my basic Rorke's Drift buildings. Still lots to do on them, but the basic buildings are coming along. I decided to start by painting them in a colour that I think represents local materials - reddish mud. I might paint the hospital in a white wash. Not sure.
Hope that you are having fun with toy soldiers using Battles for Empire. Please do remember that the scenario supplement is free at the link to BFE at Hotz.