Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saga Sunday!

Mike, Sean, and Casey came over today for some Saga action.  Casey played Moors against my Norse Gaels in a Homeland scenario.  What's that?  You never heard of the Moor invasion of Dublin? Well, here's how that looked:

I was lucky to be playing a defense-favored scenario; the Moors have a very impressive and manipulative battle board and Casey played a great game.  Had I not been able to hide in buildings to fight, I would have been soundly outmatched.

On the other table, Sean's Vikings took the fight to Mike's Irish (and his Wolfhounds) in a battle for the fords.

All in all it was a very fun Sunday.  Saga remains one of the funnest miniature wargames out there.  Thanks to the guys for coming over and gaming.  Lots of really well painted minis make for great games.  Looking forward to more!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bolt Action Battle Report: Normandy 1944

Owen and John came over today and we played a homebrew scenario of Bolt Action.  Mike showed up as well to help drink beer and cheer-on the combatants.  This game was an experiment in asymmetrical force structures, asymmetrical terrain placement, and less-than-certain information about the game, the opposition, and victory conditions.  The intent was to develop a realistic scenario that emphasized orders analysis, planning, and realistic tactics, while it de-emphasized artificial gamesmanship.  

The scenario was based on real events from the afternoon of 6 June 1944 when a platoon from B Company, 116th Infantry regiment (US), augmented with remnants of a platoon from A Company, 5th Rangers tangled with counterattacking forces from the 916th Grenadier Regiment (German) as the Americans started to push inland from the beach landings around Vierville (Omaha Beach).  There were no tanks in this engagement when it happened, but we added some since we are still trying to learn the rules.

Each player was given an Army-style OPORD that assigned them tactical mission tasks and provided a commander's intent, but stopped short of detailing the game conditions that would lead to victory.  As the GM, I tied these tactical mission tasks and commanders intent to victory point values which I revealed to the players following the game.

The general force distribution shook-out thus:

US (1064 Points)
2/B/116 IN [regular] HQ section; 2 squads; sniper section (404 Points)
1/A/5 RGR [veteran] HQ Section; 1 squad; forward observer section (425 Points)
1xM4 Sherman Tank 76mm [regular] (235 Points)

All US forces entered the game on turn 1 through the woods in the upper left of the picture below.  Their objective was the area around the crossroads in the bottom center of the picture below.  Their task was to control this intersection, which meant that they needed to finish the game with at least one unit within range of the intersection (or an FO within line of sight).  They also received their commander's intent, which tasked them with preserving 75% of their forces at the end of the battle.

German (1620 Points)
First Wave 2/2/916 GR [regular] HQ section; 3 squads (309 Points)

The first wave deployed 2 squads with ambush orders (hidden setup with MG-42 locations marked on the player's map) and held 2 squads in reserve.  The reserve squads were allowed to roll to enter the game as soon as the first shots were fired.  The mission of the first wave was to defend/retain the crossroads.

Second Wave-began rolling to enter game on turn 4
3/2/916 GR [regular] HQ section; 4 squads(437 Points)

Third Wave-began rolling to enter game on turn 5
2/916 HQ [regular] Captain; FO; Panther Tank; Stug III; Captured American M3 [inexperienced] (874 Points)

The mission of the second and third wave was to destroy the American forces.

Neither player knew the opposing player's mission, and neither player knew how many victory points each of their mission tasks was worth.  

Owen played the Americans and moved his forces cautiously onto a completely empty terrain board.  He knew that there were German forces hidden on the tabletop, but did not know where they were.  Using some house rules for spotting, however, Owen was able to detect the two German squads before they were able to spring their ambushes.  Fearing anti-armor forces (that were not deployed), Owen proceeded slowly against John's squads, giving the Germans a chance to reinforce their positions.  

Playing the Germans, John was able to establish a very strong position among the hedgerows of the bocage, but reserve rolls held the tanks off the board for quite some time, preventing John from engaging in an all-out offensive against Owen's Americans.  By the time the tanks did arrive, Owen had positioned his forces where he needed them in order to accomplish his mission goals.

The game featured two air strikes called-in by Owen, one of which went horribly wrong as a rookie pilot strafed Owen's sniper section instead of the German target.  John's FO came late to the fight and never called-in a strike, while the German company commander never showed up at all (FUBAR-ed his reserve roll and ran).  To add injury to insult, Owen's M4 scored an improbably vicious hit against John's Panther tank and popped the turret right off.

In the end, John was able to score 4 of 5 victory points, and Owen scored 3, which resulted in a draw.

The experiment was a success from my point of view.  While hopelessly outmatched on paper, the US forces were able to stand against superior numbers due to the constraints placed on German reserves.  This game required a GM (yours truly), but with a little work I think we can refine it to enable two opposing players to fight it without a GM.  My takeaway is that asymmetric forces and terrain makes for a very entertaining and realistic game.  Also, by carefully controlling the amount of information the players have regarding the game, their victory conditions, and their opponent, the excitement created by tension and uncertainty increases, and artificial gamesmanship gives way to tactical analysis and realistic game play.

John's Germans using the cover of the hedgerows

Owen's GI's move into a ruined church

 Germans maneuvering for a good engagement

Germans overwatching Owen's Rangers and M4 advancing through the woods

BAR gunner firing through a gap in the wall of the church

John's Germans advancing to retain control of the road intersection

German infantry advances past the burning Panther tank

Rangers in the woods

End of the game

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Winning Miniatures from the NOVA Open Capital Palette

This Northumbrian Earl took bronze in the Historical Single Miniature category

And these Orks took silver in the Sci-Fi Collection category

Many thanks to Mike Schaefer for running a great event.  Huge congratulations to John Stiening for his awesome Best in Show.  Oh hell, screw the link, just look at this thing:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

WIP Late War German Infantry, A Cautionary Tale

I'm starting work on my Bolt Action models with the hope that I can get some of the guys together for a demo game in a couple of weeks.  I have been talking up the game in a big way, so I am excited to get some models on the tabletop.

I started with German infantry.  After cleaning and assembling the models, I primed them using P3 white spray primer.  I can say that this is the best spray primer I have used so far.

Because these will be late war Germans, I wanted to ensure that I got the right shade for their uniforms.  Late war German field grey uniforms generally had a more brownish appearance than the blue grey uniforms of the early war period.  To capture this I mixed 1.5 parts Secret Weapon Blue Black Wash with 1 part Secret Weapon Concrete Wash and painted the uniforms with the wash mix.
I then mixed 3 parts Vallejo Sombre Grey Game Color acrylic paint with 1 part Vallejo Heavy Charcoal Game Color acrylic paint and then diluted that mix 2:1 with water.  I then painted the helmets with this mix.
So far so good.

The next step was to apply a black oil wash over the base coat uniform.  I prefer oil washes to acrylic washes because the capillary action seems more even (acrylic washes succumb to gravity more than oils) and pooling is easier to clean up.  Here is how the technique works: I put a dime-sized dollop of Rembrandt Ivory Black paint in the bottom of a shot glass and thin it with about an ounce of mineral spirits.  It takes a lot of stirring to dissolve the paint in the thinner-several minutes-so make sure you get all the lumps of paint out.  I then put another splash of thinner in a second shot glass.  I wash the basecoat and then use a paintbrush or q-tip dipped in the clean thinner to clean the pooling wash off high points (and any other places I don't want it). The result is more even blacklining, less gross pooling in low spots, and subtle shading. 

Except things didn't go so well this time.  I have used this technique before to good effect, but this time things went wrong.  When I applied the wash, it became clear that the acrylic was was either not completely dry, or did not completely bond with or cover the enamel primer.  The thinner started to dissolve the primer, causing a faint milkiness to seep through the basecoat in a couple of places.  I wasn't too concerned about this, as these are army pieces, not show pieces, and I hoped that the milky wash would darken and blend with the field gray/black wash as it dried.  I finished washing the models, being careful to dab the wash onto the surface (instead of painting the wash across the surface) and then then turned to the clear thinner to clean up the high points.  Here's how things looked at this point:

I should have anticipated the ensuing catastrophe.  I'm sure you astute artists out there already know what I am about to write.

Because the thinner had already started to soften the primer underneath the basecoat, the first time I swiped the brush loaded with clean thinner across a model, it took the primer and basecoat off with it.  You can see my handiwork in the picture below.  The model in the upper left has a huge gouge in the top of his helmet, while the model on the lower right has lost a large chunk of paint from the top of his outstretched arm. The model on the upper right shows some of the primer bleeding through the basecoat of his tunic on his left hip.

Brushes down.  Walk away.  Take stock.  Make a recovery plan.  Prevent a repeat.

I have used this technique before, but with acrylic paint, not washes.  That said, I painted the helmets with paint, and they were affected just like the basecoat of wash.  The one thing that is different this time is that I only waited about an hour (maybe less) between applying the basecoats and then the oil wash.  When I have used this technique in the past, I have adhered to my hard and fast rule of waiting 24 hours for an acrylic layer to bond and dry fully before painting any effects over the top.  This time, I am speculating that the acrylic had not bonded to the enamel primer, allowing the thinner to seep through and dissolve the primer.  For the next batch of soldiers, I will repeat the process with a full day between acrylic basecoat and oil wash.

As for repairing the damage to these guys, I will try to remove the basecoat and primer from the affected areas (helmet and arm) and then re-paint them.  If the milky areas don't blend I will probably just reapply a field gray wash over them to darken them sufficiently so that they won't stand out in a crowd.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Bolt Action Battle Report...sort of

Welcome to the first Bolt Action Battle Report from Cheatin' Steve's.

OK, so this isn't exactly a Bolt Action battle report.  Because I do not have any WW2 miniatures painted, my Son, Connor, and I decided to use IG Steel Legion models as Germans (mainly because of the sweet heavy bolter models) and Orks as US infantry.  This is pretty appropriate because the US special rule in Bolt Action allows rifle/BAR models to advance and fire without penalty-pretty Orky.


Steel Legion (Late War German)
3 Squads: NCO with Submachine Gun, MG42 team, 3 riflemen
1 Officer with Veteran (2x submachine guns)

Orks (Late War US Army)
2 BAR Squads: NCO with submachine gun, BAR, 6 riflemen
1 Sniper team (2 models)
1 Officer with Veteran (2x submachine guns)

Mission: Maximum Attrition

For referencing the pictures, I'm at the top of the board, Connor is on the bottom.

Turn 1:  Our forces move onto the board.  Connor moves one MG42 squad onto each flank.  I place a sniper on my far right flank (on top of the tall building in the upper left corner of the photo) and run one BAR squad 12" onto the board.

Turn 2: Connor moves his third MG42 squad and HQ into the center of his line.  I give my snipers an ambush order and move my HQ up behind the BAR squad on my right.  My second BAR squad ignores my orders to advance onto the table.  Insubordinate fucks.

MG42 Heavy Bolter team set:

Ork Sniper team (YES, I SAID THAT) has commanding fields of fire

MG squad moves into position

Orks skulking behind cover

Turn 3: Connor inches his squads forward, positioning them to establish an engagement area when the time is right (while staying out of sight from my sniper team).  I move my BAR squad and HQ forward on my right flank, keeping behind cover.

Turn 4: Connor establishes his engagement area by moving his MG42 squads into the open and onto rooftops.  My sniper fires at the MG42 in the center but fails to cause a casualty.  I consolidated the BAR squad and HQ behind cover on my right, while the second BAR squad finally obeys orders and moves up behind the first squad and HQ.

Turn 5:  Connor stays put, waiting for me to enter his engagement area.  My sniper team refuses my order to fire, but the BAR squad on my far right advances and destroys the MG42 team on Connor's left flank.  This launched an extensive rules review which determined that Connor could have removed non-MG42 models that were out of line of sight from my units, though he opted to remove the MG team.  It ended up a moot point because of what will happen in Turn 6, but I get ahead of myself.  Throwing caution and tactical acumen to the wind I race my second BAR squad forward into Connor's engagement area in a vain attempt to gain the cover of the building in the lower left. I'm  banking everything that I will get first draw next turn and move the squad safely into the cover of that building.

Turn 6:  Connor totally catches me with my pants down.  He draws the first two orders, meaning that he can fire at my vulnerable BAR squad with two MG42 squads.  The MG42 squad on the right does its job and kills two models from the BAR squad.  But then the MG42 squad in the center rolls a FUBAR (double 6's), panics, and fires on Connor's own squad on the left, annihilating it.  This gives me an assailable flank, and I press my advantage.

Connor's MG squads sight-in on my defenseless Orks

Avoid this:

Turn 7: Connor's left flank is turned, so the outcome is pretty academic at this point.  Being a hardcore gamer, he keeps his Steel Legion troopers firing at the BAR squad in his engagement area, piling on casualties and pin markers, but the Orks manage to pass their morale roll and stay in the game.  I fire at the MG 42 squad in the center with my sniper and with my BAR squad that is advancing on the left.

Turn 8:  We keep playing because we can, though the outcome is already decided.  Connor's MG42 squad on the right causes a casualty on my advancing squad, but not before the BAR squad annihilates the MG42 squad in the center.  My snipers manage to kill a soldier in the remaining MG42 squad, but fail to disable the machine gun itself.

Turn 9: To the bitter end.  I get the drop on activations this turn and complete my sweep of Connor's line.  He is left with his HQ sheltering behind cover in the center.

Reactions.  This was a very rudimentary game, with my Son and I getting a feel for the mechanics using small forces.  Big thanks to Connor for sticking with it after his panic-stricken squad in the center lost the game for him.

Our first impression is that this game responds very well to real tactics (unlike Warhammer 40k).  The alternating activation is awesome, the prohibition on pre-measuring any distances, along with the FUBAR rule (which caused catastrophic panic in Connor's force and lost him the game), represent the fog of war really well.  Competitive/strategic gamers will not like this game due to its unpredictability and lack of control (though one does have the opportunity to construct douchy, optimized lists if one wishes to depart from historical reality).  Narrative/tactical gamers will enjoy Bolt Action for its entertaining flow and tactical realism.


I'm looking forward to more.

Monday, September 1, 2014

I Won Silver!

I've always felt that there was something special about these models, and, apparently, so did the judges at the NOVA Open Capital Palette painting competition this weekend.

My Ork Warboss and his retinue earned me a Silver in the Science Fiction Collection category.  My first ever painting award!  Thanks to the Capital Palette and the judges for a great competition and a huge honor.

I also took home a bronze in the Historical Single Miniature category.  More photos will follow.

Already planning for next year....

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Game, New Project! Bolt Action Late War!

After I am done with NOVA this weekend, my next game is one that I picked up at Historicon this Summer: Bolt Action.

After one read through, I like what I see from the rules.  Alternating and random activations, reactionary orders, shooting, and assault rules all look to make a fun and tactically realistic game.  Just how I like it.

The game was written by Rick Priestly and Alessio Cavatore, who both had the good sense to leave Games Workshop in 2010, so the rules show great promise right from the starting gun.  Anyone who fled the GW trainwreck before that organization went from lost to pathological might actually have some talent.  The fact that the authors are billing this as a platoon-sized game tells me that they learned from one of the fundamental design mistakes that doomed Warhammer 40k to fail as a wargame.

But enough of that for now.  As a career infantryman, the two rules I like best so far, well, OK, three rules, are shooting, assault, and off-board artillery.  Shooting is not going to be decisive in one turn.  Rather, it looks like you will use shooting to affect your opponent's units over a number of turns.  Assault, on the other hand, is completely decisive.  If a unit assaults, it will either destroy its target in one turn, or it will be destroyed.  This is how it goes down in real combat: it takes a little bit of time to win a fight with shooting, but if you close into hand-to-hand, soldiers are going to start dying really fast.  Assaulting generates huge risk, and huge payoff.  If you get it right, you get a Dining Facility named after you.  If you get it wrong...well....

Then we have the off board fire support.  Alessio, Rick, I have been waiting for a long time for a good 28mm wargame with realistic indirect fire support (and CAS) that includes smoke.  Gentlemen, thank you.

So I'm off to Normandy next where I will learn Bolt Action.  I will start by building two forces, German Wehrmact troopers of the 352nd Infantry Division, defending the Normandy beaches, and U.S. soldiers from my old unit: the 116th Infantry Regiment (The Stonewall Brigade), the first Americans ashore on Omaha Beach.

Ever Forward!

Monday, August 25, 2014

NOVA Narrative Terrain 2014

Now I'm not supposed to show you this, but I can't help myself.  Just a little leg to catch your attention.

If you want to see all the sweet new terrain for the 2014 NOVA Open Narrative Campaign, you need to register and head down to Crystal City this weekend.  

Come find me and I'll buy you a drink.  You know you want it.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Surgery, Age, Fitness, and Marathon Training

So here's the deal.

I just had major rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder.  On a scale that went from minor to major, my surgeon described my tear as "fucking massive."  He showed me the pictures, it was gross.  The pre-repair inside of my shoulder looked like a pre-cooked bowl of kung pao chicken.  Seriously, there were peanuts.

Six years ago I had a similar surgery on my left shoulder.  That tear was pretty bad, but my surgeon (same dude) described the repair as a "chip shot."  He operated, the recovery and rehab was indescribably miserable, and I eventually recovered full use of my left shoulder.  Back to the recovery, though: it took me over a full month to tie my shoes.

Yesterday marked one week since my most recent surgery.  A more serious injury than my last surgery, a more traumatic repair than my last surgery.  The day BEFORE yesterday I tied my shoes and walked nearly three miles fast enough to break a sweat.  On its own, this means nothing, but compared to where I was a week (hell, a month) following my previous surgery, I'm left scratching my head trying to make sense of things.  To put it in perspective, last time, a week following my surgery, I could barely make it from the bed to the bathroom without passing out; this time, a week out, I nearly trotted out 3 miles.

How is this possible?

There are two major differences between the last surgery and this surgery: this surgery was on my dominant arm, so the muscles had a lifetime of better development; between the last surgery and this one I became a marathon runner.

I have no idea why this recovery is progressing as freakishly well as it is, but I will take it.

Suffice to say that I will start my next Marathon training program as soon as I can.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dark Angel Terminator Librarian

This Librarian was the 2nd HQ for my Dark Angels army at the 2013 NOVA Open.

Saga Irish Warband

Being of Irish heritage (among others), I am compelled to field an Irish warband for Saga.  I have also found a copy of The History and Topography of the County of Clare, by James Frost, which is providing me with lots of inspiration for developing campaigns that recreate the turbulent Dark Age history of the kingdom of Thomond and the rise of Brian Boru.  I am bummed that I did not discover Saga until after the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf.  It would have been fun to field Brian Boru against Brodir and his Viking pals.

I imagine this dude leading my Dál gCais ancestors on cattle raids up and down the Shannon river valley.

A large group of elite Fianna forms the core of the warband.

The two Fianna in the foreground are heroes, or Curaidh, who have provided some pretty epic and entertaining exploits in their brief campaigning history.

Not all that historically accurate in the sense of warfighting, but what Irish warband would be complete without a pack of fierce and loyal Wolfhounds?

Finally, a group of brave Bonnacht accompany the warband, eager to prove themselves worthy of ascending the ranks of the Fianna.
The Irish are a fun, if tricky faction to play.  Their battle board embodies the oft-heard critique from historical wargamers that Saga incorporates too much foolishness into its mechanic to count as a proper historical wargame.


My position is that Saga is easy to learn, fun to play, and way more tactically satisfying than any comparable wargame I have played so far.  To be fair, the number of wargames that I have not played far eclipses the number I have.  Still, Saga manages to hit a sweet spot between ease of play and tactical realism.

Who knows, maybe there is still time to replay Clontarf before 2014 comes to a close.