Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Army Focus - Star Wars Miniatures Starship Battles

This is absolutely my last post on my Star Wars miniatures collection (I promise), whilst I have already posted about all the figs used in the main game Wizards of the Coast also released a one off set of starship minis, which although part of their star wars minis line were clearly not compatible with the main range and in fact formed their own game; Starship Battles.

Of the 60 ships available in the range I actually have at least one of 59 of them (I'm only missing the droid control ship) SWM was my entire gaming life at this point and I was just buying stuff to try and complete collections, which has lead me to getting more than I could possibly need.  The game its self wasn't great and we only played it for a couple of months before mainly forgetting about it.  it wasn't a compete loss though, I do have a large collection of very cool star wars ships, and whilst X-wing is a great game for small scale dog-fighting, I always like battleship clashes, hopefully at some point I will get around to making a victory at sea mod which I can use these ships in.

The game only has two factions light side and dark side, which I've always found very odd.  The light side contains republic forces from the prequel trilogy and rebel/new republic forces from the original trilogy and just after.  The dark side forces feature the seperatists and the galactic empire.  We soon gave up this system and played either rebels/new republic vs empire or republic vs seperatists.

The ships are split into four classes, fighters, frigates/crusiers/transports etc, battleships and huges.  None of the ships are too scale and are essentially representations of a ship, or flight of ships (in the case of fighters).  Whilst it can be annoying it does allow you to field both X-wings and star destroyers on the same table.

The rebellion and a huge Mon Calamari ship that was built in the early years of the new republic.  I actually have a bunch of A-wings as well, but they seemed to have missed their photo-op!  The rebels were very much king of the middle ships with the Millennium Falcon, Tantive IV and the Nebulon-B frigates.

 The Imperial fleet has a lot less variety, but star destroyers are very good!

These few ships didn't quite fit into any of the categories 100%, but wild card and the two versions of slave 1 were useful ships nonetheless.

The republic fleet has quite a bit of variety and is a bit of a miss-mash of styles and abilities.  The Arc-fighter above highlights one problem with this range, occasionally the soft nature of the plastic produced figs  resulted in really bad warping and ruined minis.

And finally we have the mostly droid fleets of the seperatists.  the droid fighters were poor, but the big capital ships packed a real punch and were tough.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Flames of War - Late War British Armoured Squadron

I've  now painted all my allied forces from my open fire boxed set for flames of war.  It came to a solid 830pts and a quick look at the army list provided and I spied an opportunity to add 170pts with a single typhoon model, which makes it a nice round 1K force with very little effort.

The core of the force are the Sherman tanks crewed by the British, with a HQ section of 2 tanks and 2 platoons each with 2 Sherman V's and a Sherman Firefly.  I've not played a real game with them yet, but the shermans look like quite passable infantry tanks, but not very effective at anti-tanks duties, which of course is where the fireflies come in.  These are great little models and I really enjoyed painting them, it was really quick and easy as well.

The British are supported by a platoon of American airborne infantry, whilst I enjoyed painting the tanks, I didn't enjoy painting these anywhere near as much as the tanks, but I'm happy enough with the end result.

Finally we have limited air support from this Hawker Typhoon.  This is a very cheap model (£2.25 inc. postage from ebay) in 1:144 scale from the Revell microwings range (flames of war planes are in 1:144 scale not 1:100 scale like the rest of the range, I have no idea why, maybe someone can enlighten me).  It isn't the greatest model ever, the moulding is poor and there is no option to have the landing gear up, I had to improvise as a grounded plane wasn't much use to me.  However it does allow me to play around with the air rules for very little investment.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Flames Of War - Open Fire 2.0

So this time it's really going to happen, I'm going to start playing flames of war, yes, definitely!  Some time ago (2011 actually!) I bought the 2nd edition starter set for flames of war, it wasn't much, just 5 tanks and the rulebook, I painted the tanks and had a quick flick through the book and that was it.  Over 2 years later I've now purchased the 3rd edition starter set (somewhat lamely also called open fire like the 2nd ed boxed set) and I have a cunning plan to make sure I actually get to play some games.  I'm actually only keeping half this set and my friend Mike is taking the other half, so we both get a starter army and have someone to play against!  I've got the Allies and Mike has the Germans.  Lets have a look what we got in the box.

I'm going to start with the paperwork the box contains 2 books and two reference sheets.  The most important book is the full game rules, it's a A5 full colour format, much like the ones GW put into their starter sets, although this one is much thicker at nearly 300 pages!  Battlefront do produce a nice full sized hardback version, but I really can't see the need for me to go out and get it and I am very happy with this version, although I won't deny that nearly 300 pages of rules is a bit daunting.  The second book is the quick start rules this full size 50 page book contains the core rules in easy to swallow bites, considering the size of the main rulebook is this is very useful.  The best bit of this book is tucked away at the back, I was very surprised to find two army lists, not just the stats and points values for the troops you get, but actual army lists for a British armoured company and a German Grenadier company, which means you can start adding more models and expanding your game without the need to go out and buy an expensive hardback book straight away.  Finally the box contains two double sided army reference sheets which help new players to have their stats easily on hand.

Now onto the most important element of any set of this type, the miniatures.  The box contains two starter armies, one for the British (with American support) and one for the Germans, both are for the late war period and they both clock in at around 800 pts.  As I mentioned above I'm only keeping the Allies, so they're the only ones I've assembled, but it does actually feel like a real army and looks like we can actually have a proper game with what we've got in the box.

The bulk of the British force is 6 Sherman V tanks and 2 Sherman Fireflies arranged in one company HQ of 2 tanks and 2 platoons each with 2 Sherman V's and 1 firefly.  The British are also supported by a platoon of American airborne infantry that is made up of 9 stands including 6 rifle/MG teams, a command team a bazooka and a mortar.  The infantry is very good quality sculpted plastic's for such a small scale they really do look great.  The Shermans were a pain to construct, the joint didn't quite match up and I ended up having to place them in my mini-vice to get them to stay right as the glue dried.  However once stuck together they also look great, they retain the 'organic' look of the rest of battlefronts range and each sprue comes with a range of optional stowage parts that you can use to make all your tanks individuals.  I was also surprised to find the shermans came with little magnets which hold the turrets down and allow you to rotate them, they work really well.

Whereas the British force is a tank company with infantry support, the German force is an infantry company with armoured support.  The bulk of the force is made up of 2 platoons of grenadier infantry supported by a company HQ, 2 anti-tank guns and 3 StuG assault guns.  That's 4 platoons in total, which isn't a bad way to start a German collection.  the infantry are the same high quality as the Americans, I've not tried to put the stuG's or anti-tank guns together so can't really comment on these.

One thing that starter sets are often missing is any sort of terrain, it takes up valuable box space that could normally be better utilised by adding more models, but ultimately every wargame needs terrain of some sort or there really is no game.  Battlefront have worked out a good solution to this, firstly they've included a plastic V1 rocket launcher, which is rather nifty, unfortunately I said Mike could have this to go with his Germans, so I don't get to assemble it.  What I do get to keep though is a set of flat cardboard terrain that represents woods (4 lots) houses (3) and walls (4).  Now it's clearly not ideal to be using flat 2D terrain in a 3D miniatures game, but I'm really glad they included it, it's a good stop gap till I can get some more 15mm terrain sorted.  As another nice touch it actually has the rules for the terrain written on the card, this will clearly be great for new players as it's another thing that they don't have to remember.

Of course you also get a bunch of card tokens that you need to play the game with and some dice, it's a nice touch that you get allied & german coloured dice.

Overall this is an excellent starter set, and I'd like to see more like it, the full rules, two real balanced forces and enough terrain to cover a reasonable battlefield makes me a happy customer.  As I write this I've nearly finished painting the allies from this set, so expect to see them soon.

Monday, 31 March 2014

From The Painting Table #11

Another group of freshly painted models for your perusal today, this time we have a unit of Eldar Wraithguard for 40K, two mercs for Deadzone and a couple of tanks for flames of war.

These are the old Wraithguard models and I had to rebase them so they fit with the current rules, and whilst they looked a bit big on their small bases, they look rather small on their new ones.  Still these are primarily for gaming so large bases it is.  The next unit for my eldar will be a unit of the new Wraithblades, which are a big improvement on these models.

Here we have two mercenaries for Mantic's excellent deadzone game.  On the left we have 'The Survivor' and on the right 'The Helfather'.  Two rather nifty models I think, we've played quite a bit of deadzone since it arrived, but haven't yet got around to using any of the mercs, will need to try and remedy this soon.

And finally these two plastic British Sherman tanks for flames of war.  These are the company HQ for the British armoured company that comes in the open fire starter set.  Does this mean I've gone and brought yet another big box of models?  Well yes of course it does!  However I am splitting it with Mike so it's not too bad.  It also means that after a couple of years of slowly buying flames of wars minis I might finally get a game.  Full look at the boxed set coming soon.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Guest Post - Airfix Tiger 1 Tank (1/76) and Allied 25lb Field Gun (1/76)

Last month I let my friend Mike have a go at writing a post on this very blog, which turned into an epic three-part rant about the current state of Games Workshop.  Well he seems to have got the blogging bug, but isn't yet ready to commit to starting his own blog, accordingly he's written another article for mine. 

As I posted a few weeks ago we recently finally made a trip to the tank museum at Bovington, and I inevitably came away with a tank model (this Whippet), however I wasn't the only one, over to Mike....

I went to Bovington tank museum this month and came away with an Airfix Tiger tank model. My Grandfather fought against Tigers in WW2 so it was the obvious choice. I have also built the 25lb field gun he manned in the African desert campaign and the invasion of Italy.
The Tiger was a little more expensive than a standard Airfix 1/76 vehicle (at £9.99) . I was happy to pay it because the museum is really good, and I wanted to support it.
The Tiger was a beast of a machine in its day and this model reflects that fact. Its a typical, quality Airfix moulding which looks just like the real thing. I used Humbrol oil based paints (I'm not a fan at all of these - Keith), and as usual they worked well. There is some minor bobbling on each model, but that’s because I used a poor brush and I should have left a bit more time for each coat of paint to dry.

The turret is not glued onto the tank turret. That means it turns very easily, which is a nice feature. Apparently allied anti-tanks gunners believed the sides of the turrets to be a slight weakness on Tigers so they targeted this area. My grandfather said that Germans crews eventually began to attach slabs of concrete to defend the weak point. I have so far resisted the urge to make my own slabs.

The down side was the tracks. Airfix produce tracks as a strip of bendy plastic that needs to be bonded together and then fitted over the wheels. The instructions say “Join by applying heat”. I tried a ‘dab’ with a soldering iron but even quite a long touch wasn’t enough to stick the ends of the tracks together.  In the end I had to apply a little more heat than I’d initially wanted to, and this caused a small amount of bumping and warping to each track. It wasn’t disastrous, but its still mildly annoying. (I really dislike the Airfix method of representing tracks at this scale, see my Whippet post for my own thoughts - Keith)

Apparently one advantage of Airfix’s track design is that the tracks are able to move round with the wheels. Unfortunately mine do not. Initially I thought that one of the wheels must have been aligned, but they all appeared to be straight.  After construction I noticed that one track was bent to an angle. I can only imagine that when the track was stretched around the wheels the weak point, the soldered strip, had stretched slightly. Its a bit annoying that after all that work the track edges its way off after one rotation. If I were to build this model again I’d try to staple the tracks together instead. I rate the model 7/10. It would have been a 9/10 if the tracks had a better design, or if there had more thorough instructions for them.
I picked up the 25 pounder for £4.50 all in on ebay – Its a standard small Airfix model, not hard to build and quite accurate in its detail. The three sections of the model attach for transportation.    

Crew members are offered on separate bases. The crew aren’t very well moulded, but its hard to tell from a distance.  Airfix only offer a late war Europe colour scheme, and it took quite a lot of paint to cover the green plastic. Those are my only complaints about the kit really. 
Ideally I would have spent a little more time on each model, and possibly made a diorama. As it stands they can shoot at one another from opposite ends of the shelf!


Monday, 24 March 2014

Which Risk?

I had a great afternoon gaming yesterday and one of the games we played was my friends new version of Risk, Risk: the Walking Dead, or Risk, with added zombies.  It turned out to be rather good fun.  I'd be surprised if there were many of my readers who hadn't played a game of Risk at some point, and it's been an important part of my gaming life over the last 20 years, and even in my wargaming drought years whilst I was at uni it was the occasional game of Risk that kept me in the gaming fold.

This afternoon's light entertainment led me to the mull over the collection of Risk games that I own, and have played over the years and to pose the obvious question, which one is the best? If you could only play one version of Risk ever again which would it be?

So in reverse order of greatness I present my opinion of the 7 varieties of Risk that I've played;

7.  Risk: Transformers

The worst version of Risk that I've ever played, loosely based on the new transformers movies.  Upto four players, but only two sides (autobots and decepticons).  The gimmick for this version are the transforming territories and leader abilities.  The two sides ruin this game, in every game I've played it's just throw everything at your opponent, and you either win or loose.  The only real positive is that games of this version tend to be quick (we had game end on turn one when the first player effectively wiped out his opponent with his initial attack).

6.  Risk: Balance of Power

Balance of power was the attempt to create a 2-player version of Risk that worked well, centered only on Europe.  It introduced a neutral army that only defends and never attacks, it doesn't quite work, whichever side gains a slight advantage then steamrollered the other.  I played a lot of games of this at one point trying different ways to make it work, but we never quite could, Risk is a game of 3+ players.

5.  Star Wars Risk: The Clone Wars

This is another version with two distinct sides, the republic and the seperatists, but in this version they don't play the same.  As always the game centres around conquering territories and regions (which will give you more men), you do get added starships in this version though which is cool.  The twist is the 'order 66' mechanic;  The game is set up so the republic forces will be in the ascendency during the early game and at some point the separatist players will have to call order 66.  When this happens you roll for each republic territory and on a certain roll (the longer the seperatists managed to wait the better the odds) each republic territory might fall to the seperatists!  The emperor is then also placed on the board and if the republic can kill him they auto-win.  It's an interesting twist and I like the fact that it plays differently for both sides, but the game really does come down to how well you roll when order 66 is called.

4.  Risk: The Lord of the Rings

This version also has two sides, but based in middle-earth, it has a whole bunch of special rules about the ring moving across middle-earth and fortresses and leaders.  We normally got rid of most of these keeping only the fortress rules and then played standard Risk on the board.  What makes this version good is the map, it provides a really interesting tactical place to play Risk on.

3.  Risk: The World Conquest Game

The classic and original version of the game, conquering the globe in the age of napoleon.  Get yourself 4-6 players and set aside a whole afternoon and you will get a good game.  Taking whole continents is the key to victory, and against a wily set of players this isn't easy, as everyone else will get a turn to take it off you before you realise the bonus from it.  The real world geography hampers this version somewhat as the map of the world doesn't give a balanced tactical situation and somewhat surreally the key continent is usually Australia.  The game also unfairly favours those that go first, with the last players often being battered before they get a chance to move.  All is not lost however, informal alliances can bring victory, it is rare that any player is in a position to resist the attack of all the others.

2.  Risk: The Walking Dead

This is the game that inspired this post, and even after only having played a single game it's taken the no. 2 spot, and was very close to hitting no.1  This isn't a game of armies, but a game of ordinary people killing and being killed by zombies.  The basic gameplay is the same as any risk, the first thing to notice is the map has been designed to be balanced, it's not symmetrical, but regions strategic placing really do reflect their worth and there is nowhere really isolated ala australia.  The zombies are a major part of this game, as well as random initial placement, at the start of each round a number of random territories are attacked by zombies, this means the ususal Risk tactic of leaving your back territories with a single man is a risky one, you never know when those zombies will appear.  All this happens before reinforcements are distributed as well, an inconvinient zombie attack can deprive you of a lot of men.  For a bit of light hearted fun this is probably the best Risk, but due to the random zombie attacks it can all go horribly wrong even when you've done everything right.

1.  Risk: 2210 A.D.

Finally this is what I think is the best version of Risk that I've played, Risk: 2210 A.D. this is a grown up serious version of Risk, and if you can only ever own one try and make it this one (annoyingly I don't have this in my collection).  You can use this set to play a full game of classic risk which adds to it's versitillity, but why would you really.  The basic gameplay and map are the same, but this game set in the future also adds new underwater and lunar territories.  The extra territories are great, they add a bit of balance to the map, but to be able to access them you need to invest in extra leaders/space ports which adds a new level of complexity and tactical thought.  The leaders are pretty handy in a fight too and go some way to negating the random dice fluxuations, although not entirely of course, this is still Risk!  This also has a built in turn limit which is good, the last turn is normally a desperate struggle and territory grab, just don't overreach yourself.

In the end though it doesn't really matter, in my experience any afternoon spent playing any version of Risk will almost certainly result in fun, just don't take it to seriously!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Classical Ruined Temple

I was in the new 'The Range' store we have in my town the other day having a bit of a nosey around when I spied this fish tank ornament.  It was a couple of quid and I instantly decided to buy it as I've wanted a couple of bits of classical terrain for a while to accompany my ancient/mythological Greek collection.

Obviously it's the wrong colour, and there are some bubbles in it, but a very quick repaint and I have a rather nifty little terrain piece. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Army Focus - Star Wars Miniatures The Fringe

Finally we've reached the last faction in my epic look at my Star wars miniatures collection, this time the Fringe, which is also the largest faction in my collection.  The Fringe is a bit different from the other factions, it's not a unified faction in any way, but a dumping ground for assorted scum, villainy, aliens, monsters, droids and mercenaries. 

The fringe can either be fielded as a faction on their own, or more commonly can be added to squads of any other faction.  Some of these, such as the ubiquitous Ugnaught Demolisionist, were so useful it was rare to see a squad without them at one point.  More than any other faction the fringe also contains a lot of 'sub-factions', which I've separated out in the pictures below.

In the past I've always started these posts with a large pic of the whole faction, well this wasn't possible this time, my indoor table just isn't big enough and it's a bit cold out to be taking pics in the garage.

As always click on the pictures for a bigger version.

Tusken Raiders



Prince Xior and the Black Sun Syndicate

The forces of cloud city, Bespin, and the ugnaughts 



Bounty Hunters


Unique characters, from Jabbas palace, knights of the old republic, the cantina and many other assorted places.

Everything else that didn't fit into any of the groups above! 

And finally two Rancors, with a Jedi for scale.
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