Battle of Hürtgen Forest

Last Thursday I played a game of Flames of War (FoW) (version 4) against Guus under supervision of gamemaster Lex. Guus is working on a FoW incarnation of the Windhundpanzerdivision; to test the first batch of his freshly painted troops a setting and scenario in line with their history were chosen.

The setting was inspired by the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, in which the Germans fought American troops in the last phase of ww2. In our case however it was my Tsejcho-Russian tank army that would try to drive off the defenders of das Reich. Lex had worked out a scenario based on the 'No Retreat', with some tweaks. And he was also our very hospitable host, rules official and just judge.

Like always I had prepared properly and read Lex' instructions intently (right...). However, one of those minor tweaks, stating that the attacker (me) was not allowed to use air support had somehow missed me. This was not a big thing, since I had expected to fight a panzer army (never heard of the Hürtgen battle before) I could now replace the Sturmovik points for tank riders, which would hopefully come in handy against all the infancty Guus had selected.

The other major setting for this battle was that almost the whole table would be 'forest' (the 'FoW type' of forest being indicated by the shade of green of the playing mat). My tanks would have a hard time driving through let alone fighting infantry!

German trenches

In so far this was a historicly correct setting the battle worked out fine, for Guus and the Germans that is. Guus deployed his force dug in, waiting for the invaders, panzer IV's and HMG's in reserve and a small but important scouting group forward (in turn 0). My tank force of 15 T-34's, 3 SU-85M's, a pack of T-70's(!) and 4 BA-64's were deployed in a way to make most use of the one road on the board. My idea was to make use of my recce to spearhead a force of tanks up that road, but Guus clever use of his recce prevented this (wonder where he got this cunning plan from..?).

Left flank

This meant my main force of a small and big contingent of T-34's were 'blocked' by the recce unit and stuck on the lef flank. To put some pressure on the other side I sent the T-70's and BA-64 there, trying to manouvre past the dug in troops there.

This plan did not work out too bad, except for some small problems: The smaller group of T-34's did not manage to get past the three stands of recce, the main force did smack through the other part of the German recce unit, but this took (too) much time. Moving through woods means bogging down a lot, taking (too) much time. Failing armour saves against artillery fire (PAK 50!) takes (too) much losses, even if you have a Russian number of tanks.
Medals (hero of the motherland!) went to the 'little ones' of my army: The BA-64 and especially T-70's made a heroic quest through the woods, around the left flank of the Germans just in time to pin down the defending infantry and PAK's to support the final all out atttack of the main unit on the trenches.

Assault fought off

However Guus' dice rolling was not up to Guus' normal high standards, hitting, destroying and bailing enough tanks to force a break off of the assault :-)

All in all a very good start of the year and a return to the Flames. Can't wait for the next engagement!!


2019: the year of existing games with new rules

New years resolutions are the starting point for new initiatives and restarting long running items like this blog.
We started the blog to combine all our wargaming efforts. TO show what games we are playing and to keep track of campaigns like the Mordheim campaign we were running for a long time. Somewhere in 2016 this blog stopped a bit. All other new media were taking over quick sharing of information and with facebook groups, very large groups of like-minded people are reached. On the other hand these quick sharing media (also the use of twitter and the likes) do not give a solid medium where all efforts are in one place. This is one of the reasons that we want to restart our blog. Let's see if we can do this again, because sharing our ideas on this platform always proved to be an interesting one. Personally I think that writing a blog gives you more time to consider things and to explain more what the thought process is behind a specific game, squad list, opinion on a ruleset, selection of miniatures to paint and why you are painting/converting them as you are converting them. The fact that you have more time and more specs to elaborate is quite a good thing opposed to volatile media. Therefore, let's start the blog again with fresh gusto. We will share all our discussions and thoughts we have during our gaming nights or during a run that I do weekly with one of my gaming friends. Running is the ideal way of pondering on rules, coming up with new battle systems, miniature ideas and what to try next week. Even coming up with compete new games happend once. The downside of doing this while running is that during the run it seems great and everything is complete, after the run this tends to be forgotten so soon we never get back the great idea that we thought we had during the run :D.
What to expect the coming year? We are busy with a lot of Kill Team. Expect more of that. We have terrain and warbands painted and games being played. New terrains are on its way ranging from strange forests to industrial hives, warbands are popping up everywhere (I am busy with a set of Harlequins). With speed GW is putting out new add-ons to the game we find it hard to keep up, but we try!
Next to Kill Team we tended to play a lot of zombicide! Great boardgames now even with a lot of miniature painted! Last Crisis event in Antwerp I bought a couple of player add-ons I need to try in the game yet!
Maybe we go so far as to revive our Warhammer miniatures in one game or the other. 9th age might be tried or a skirmish ruleset in fantasy setting, maybe even AoS 2.0 rules, who knows!
X-wing was a game that was played a lot but stopped the last year with the 2.0 ruleset coming in. Also last Crisis event I bought 2 upgrade kits for the empire and scum to see if we can revive the game into the new ruleset. I already saw a lot of new rules making it almost a new game in my opinion. Upgrading the collection took me some time by the way! Making sure all the ships I have are upgraded and also finding out that sometimes you have more ships then the upgrade set provides. Also finding out that the empire upgrade does not upgrade the first order flyers (needs a new upgrade) etc. etc. But with the upgrade in place I want to fly some ships with the new rules and if OK I will by the other sets as well. Good stuff!
What else.....ah....just thought of the good old Flames of War miniatures lying around somewhere. I have and Italian army waiting to be played. I want to give that a new go with again a new ruleset.

Closing off I thing this is the year of trying out new rulesets for old games and existing miniatures. This gives me a bit of a retro feeling which is nice but the danger is that the new rules "are not the old rules". On the other hand being open minded about it and using the old mini's once more is a good thing, let's go 2019! You will read all about it in this blog!


Have transports - will battle/flee

For some time now playing wargames does not make it on the agenda. Except for the occasional game of X-wing, no other games were played and painting miniatures stalled as well. For various reasons I could not set myself to either go to tournaments or setting up a local game.
Though I really like X-wing, I miss the feeling of a 'big battle' and the painting and building of the army up front. Luckily I found the 'why we fight'-podcast which addresses Flames of War players and their struggle to stay motivated (amongst other stuff). So I decided to start a new project, one that was connected to playing but without the 'hard' connection to an army list or battle: I would paint all the FoW transport units that I had collected and not used or painted in games. Wonder if not using transports is (one of the many) reason(s) why my generalship is so faulty at this game?

All in all it turned out to be a very pleasant exercise. In boxes lying around a nice collection of vehicles was found: Sd Kfz 7 halftracks and trailers to move heavy 88 guns around, Kfz. 70, Kfz 15 field cars, a small collection of Kübel- and Schwimm-wagens and a ZIS-5 truck. The latter being a Zvezda model, were the rest were all Battlefront products. Somewhere in the middle I realized that crews would make a nice if not essential add on, so I started a search and rescue mission for those. Found a lot of battlefront miniatures and a few plastic soldier ones. The style and scaling of the two did not really match, so I used the PSC's for one field car (and then placed a roof on top so they're fully painted and out of sight...) Results shown below, comments and tips (also on how to use them in 'battle') more than welcome!

Perhaps the one I'm most happy with! After painting vehicles and crews I placed the crews starting with the drivers and distributed the rest over the vehicles. Only to find the next day that this one was missed in the last step and only got a driver. Looking around I found some Peter Pig minnies that I purchased at last Crisis. These two fitted in theme and in the car, however, they were standing. In the end this works out real nice (I think). They give an impression of being lost on the battlefield with all plans gone wrong or worse.. Same feeling I have most of the time when playing Flames of War :-)

The Zvezda truck was the first in line because it had been staring me in the eye for some months after I had constructed it. It can be used as 'beute-wagen' or in my Tsjecho-Russian lists. Though not as detailed as Battlefront ones, it still is a rather nice model.

The 88 guns come complete with halftracks and lorries for transport, however most of the time these guns spend their time stationary on the battlefield (and for good reason). I therefor painted the lorries as 'snowed in', being left behind close by the guns.
The tractors are in my 'normal' style, doing serious work behind the lines. The crew is painted in HEER/Luftwaffe style in line with the gun crews.

Two 'old' Kfz. 70 transports, still around in late war to carry my Waffen SS troopers.
Mud and snow were created by a mix of Tamiya and Woodland Scenic products.

Last but not least the light brigade: Three Kübelwagons and one Schimm'er. The size of the Panzerschreck bazooka's compared to the cars makes me wonder if they're really in proportion or wether this is caused by 'heroic scaling'.


Not another game...

I miss working with plastic…I really, really miss working with plastic. I don’t miss Games Workshop, not at all, but I miss what it used to represent to me. I don’t want to get into a Games Workshop discussion; the rules system, pricing or miniature aesthetics are no longer for me. I dislike that it is that way, but in the end it is what it is. In leaving GW behind I’ve gained and lost something. A world has opened up since stopping with Warhammer. There are a lot of really cool games and miniatures out there. Since the coming of AoS we (meaning me) have started up Frostgrave, X-wing and Infinity.

Frostgrave came and went in our group. It was great working on a warband and the ruleset was very good. But in the end it didn’t get the traction in our group like previously Mordheim and Warhammer got and we’ve moved on. A shame, but again it is what it is.

I love X-wing, this is one of the best games I’ve ever played. Not being a huge Star Wars fan is not a problem, the way this game plays has gotten me enthusiastic like nothing before it. I don’t think I’ve ever played wargames as regularly as nowadays. However, it does have a downside: it doesn’t require much hobbying. Everything is build and prepainted, though we have repainted some of the ships it is mostly a gaming-game (?). So that allows to have a game on the side and that game became Infinity. Infinity miniatures are all metal. They look great, but the fact that they are metal and pricy means that I’m less inclined to take up a saw and start cutting into them. And this is finally where we get to the point that I feel I’ve lost something.

What I miss is how in Warhammer you could immerse yourself in the background of an army and make it yours. I was a beastmen player and especially in the 6th edition when chaos was one big army you could basically do anything miniature-wise. I made all types of centigors, mountain beastmen, swamp beastmen etc.  

The different plastic kits allowed you to mix and match and the only limit was your imagination. Or sometimes skill; I’ve ruined a good amount of miniatures before my conversions succeeded. :D

Anyways this is what I’m starting to miss. Just sit down with a couple of sprues of plastic and stuff from your bitz box and figure out what you can do to make your warband or army visually interesting.

So what’s the answer you ask? Why start another game off course and an historical one at that!

Since the fall of Warhammer everyone in our group is looking around for what is out there. Sometimes we discuss the different rulesets, such as Dragon rampant or Saga! Now I’ve never considered Saga before, but because I’m a huge fan of the TV show “Vikings” I started looking into the ruleset. And to my surprise I found that I really liked the system. But what army to take?

I looked at Normans, Franks and Irish, but in the end I settled on Norse-Gael. I visited Dublin a couple of years ago and liked it a lot. The old centre of the city was build by vikings and the image of vikings in a city trying to keep the Irish out always stuck with me. Since these are in essence the Norse-Gael I decided one them.
With a box of Gripping Beast dark age warriors and a box of Viking hirdmen I have enough to make 88 warriors. So there is enough room to start kit bashing. With greenstuff I can add Gaelic elements to the minis. All in all I have high hopes for this game and my hobby spending hours.

Stay tuned for a SAGA blog on these pages.


Trial game of Frostgrave

Last weekend for the first time in over half a year my beastmen saw some action again, not in a GW-game but in my first game of Frostgrave (the whole AoS-thing had really put a downer on my desire to game and/or hobby but now Frostgrave has sparked my enthousiasm again)!

I used my Beastmen as a Witch warband with my Shamans as wizard and apprentice, Ungor raiders as archers, Gor as thugs, Beastlord as a knight and my Razorgor as a War hound. One of the great things of the game is the liberty in using mini's from other systems and from different races in your warband (basically race etc. don't matter as long as it's clear what hireling type your miniature represents).

We played with 7 people at Arjan's house and here are the two tables that he laid out in his living room using terrain that we normally use for Mordheim:

I played Ludo and Arjan on the table with the trees (Sigilist and Thaumaturge warbands), the other 4 guys played on the more open table. One observation we made is that the game plays better on a table with more terrain. 'Cause on the open table ALL 4 mages got magic missiled/shot out of the game(!) while on 'our' table you had to work to get line of sight.

The scenario we played was 'The Silent Tower' in which you can find a special treasure on top of a 3-story tower that is surrounded by a magic null-field: no spells can be used by or aimed at anyone that is inside the tower. Also magic items don't work in the tower. There were 4 other 'normal' treasures placed on the table as well.

As for the game itself, I'm happy to report that the Beastmen Witch-band won with claiming 2 normal treasures besides the treasure in the tower! :-) Key to my victory were 2 utility spells, Telekineses (that allows you to 'pull' treasure towards you) and Teleport (that allowed my Wizard to quickly escape to the edge of the board with the scenario treasure).

Here are some piccies of the battle:

Overview of the table with my ungor archer climbing on top of a tower to get a good overview of the city:

Members of the Sigilist warband advancing:

A Gor thug running off the board with a treasure:

My wizard claiming 'the bounty' (harhar) on top of the silent tower:

Getting out of the tower's null-field before Teleporting to safety:

To summarize: I had a lot of fun with Frostgrave, the D20 system makes for fast paced and often brutal combats. And even though it's Wizard-centric it isn't all about blasting your opponents off the board but also about utility spells to win the scenario objectives. Finally the fact that you only need ~10 mini's for a warband that can be of any system/race makes it very accessable to existing and new players. I've already gone through my old pile of lead miniatures to put together new warbands, probably going for something Viking-themed next!


Half tracked, half tricked

Finally, after a long production run, I finished eight (8!) Sd. Kfz. 251 half tracks. These iconic transporters were needed for my Tsecho-Sovjet army(!). Captured two or three of them will be used by a spetsnaz unit, leading a spearhead attack into enemy territory. Two 251's are for this purpose 'masked'' with canvases (of Heer46 make). Serious trickery!

Spetsnaz under the canvas?

A while back I was at the receiving end of such an attack at a tournament. My opponent used a spetsnaz unit to lead a group of nine (9!) T-34's. That meant that after turn one they were in assault range, threatening a objective defended by a lone group of panzergrenadiers. Only a ambush of Pak 40's saved my day...

Command group

Besides the two 251's with the canvases there are two ridden by commanders, one with the characteristic framework antenna and one with a 3.7 cm Pak cannon, to annoy Russian tankers.

Crowded, must be rush hour

One thing that I found out when placing miniatures in the vehicles is how crammed they are. Having been a passenger aboard a real 251 once, I had not remembered that. At maximum I managed to place six soldiers on the benches; this were the smaller plastic soldier passengers, battle front soldiers are a bit more bulkier.

Top view: Spot the differences between PSC and Battlefront 251's

The unit consists of five Plastic Soldier Company and three Battlefront vehicles. They mix well, and I used the stowage of both kits on 251's of both builds. The canvases of Heer46 fitted the battlefront vehicles better, so they were used on that ones. Machine guns were standardized by using the Battlefront ones, a matter of taste.

Assembly line: Half tracks in half...

All in all a very nice, but as usual more time consuming than planned, project. In a few weeks the captured ones will been seen in battle at a tournament in The Hague. And a few weeks later the whole group will probably join my german force in the next tournament.

Hopefully they will do a good job (if only they had a commander who knows what he's doing...) And now: Time to paint my Frostgrave wizard!!


First game of X-wing and how to make a space mat

After debating the fact that x-wing is such a cool game, we actually got a starter set and played our first game! First we played the introduction scenario with very basic rules. Played quickly, took us some time to get the rules right but in 1 hour a game was done. Just the 2 tie fighters and 1 x-wing, but fun! We directly set up another game with "proper" rules. 
Played it and with some knowledge of the rules under our belt this game also took us an hour or so, but was great fun. The "beer&pretzel"-game attitude was really there. We thoroughly enjoyed playing X-wing and still without all kinds of pilots, extra rules, damage cards and whatnot, all the possibilities to open up the game are there. With the simple game and simple rules as of yet we already had great fun, took in the feel of dog-fighting in a star wars setting and are ready for more!

Looking up some sample space mats I thought it easy to make one myself. First accessory for our game here! Order me 5 metres of black felt (synthetic: made from recycled PET-bottles, good for the environment!). I cut of 1,5m (1m wide) with a fabric "pizza"-cutter my wife has lying around. This gives a nice straight line I must say. Took out the airbrush and went away with spraying the stars as white dots, small and big. Then sprayed some nebula by making white "clouds" random with white paint over all the stars.The stars keep shining through at this stage. Switched to blue paint and added it to the white nebula. Mostly at the edges of my nebulae as a refraction look and feel. Also sprayed some of the white stars blue since some indeed have different colors! Finish this all of with red in the airbrush. Other edges of nebula clouds are now sprayed and some stars are made red. The trick is to randomize as much as possible and to keep "dark" patches as well. A star field has a lot of dark matter and space and since the ships will be flying through this it mustn't be too crowded.