Friday, June 22, 2018

I Have Found It!

A replacement for Dullcote, that is.  For several year now, I have been lamenting the inconsistency and "failure to flatten" of Testor's Dullcote.  See my earlier ramblings on this topic at Reliability of Primers and Dullcote.  Prior to the last four or five years, Dullcote was my dulling agent of choice.  It rarely failed to take the sheen off of my freshly painted figures.  But then something changed.  The packaging changed and my suspicion is that the formulation changed too.  That I could not prove.  Was the Dullcote having difficulty knocking the sheen off figures stained with MinWax?  I could not be sure.  All I knew was that results were inconsistent.  So I began a hunt for an alternative.  In ever case, I returned to Dullcote and hoped for the best but the hunt never stopped.  
Several months ago I came upon Rust-Oleum's Clear Dead Flat in a Big Box hardware store.  "Dead Flat" certainly sounded promising and my expectations were set high.  Having applied this in various weather conditions, my verdict is that this product is NO WHERE near dead flat.  It leaves a satin sheen as do most matte clear topcoats.  Very disappointing.

Recently while browsing Dick Blick in search of a replacement Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush, I came upon W&N's Professional Matt Varnish.  After reading a few reviews, the product looked promising.  Given that this product is about a third the cost per ounce of Dullcote, I figured what do I have to lose?  Not much really.  My hobby closet holds many a half empty bottle of matt varnish that has failed to meet expectations.

Well, when the order arrived, I grabbed a stand of figures that still had the Dullcote satin sheen and gave them a spray with the W&N matt varnish.  The results were incredible!  Dead flat!  I have not seen this level of dead flattedness since the days of using Floquil's Figure Flat about twenty years ago.  Next I grabbed a unit of recently "dipped" figures.  Again, absolutely dead flat was the result.  Splendid!  I have found a new dull coat.

The only issue now is that I have become accustomed to figures showing a slight sheen...

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

SYW Pr Cuirassier RGT #10 - Two More Squadrons

Two more squadrons from Prussian Cuirassier Regiment #10 Gendarme trot off the painting desk.  While I awaited a resupply from Eureka Miniatures for Prussian hussars in busby with which to bolster the Prussian army at Zorndorf, a dozen cuirassiers went into the painting queue and emerged on the other end completed. 
As I have mentioned many times before, Eureka SYW cavalry are my favorite for the this period in 18mm.  Unfortunately, once commits to fielding Eureka cavalry, no other manufacturer compares favorably with respect to size.  Eureka cavalry are real monsters.  Big and beautiful.  Also in work for the SYW project is a regiment of two battalions (46 figures total) of Prussian fusiliers.  Rather than Eureka, this time I chose Blue Moon.  

Speaking of a Eureka resupply, that package of reinforcements arrived in yesterday's post.  A lot of stuff in the package primarily figures for the SYW and 1799 projects.  Looking over a potential OB for Rivoli, early French horse artillery ought to be recruited into the painting queue.  Several more Austrian infantry battalions are in the queue as well.  Always lots to work on.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

WWII Spearhead in HO

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a WWII game presented in HO scale.  Many ROCO Minitanks, Haswegawa, Fujima, Airfix, and other models crowded the landscape.  Not since my youth have I seen HO and 1/72nd armor deployed upon the field of battle.  In my younger days, I had a large collection of plastic models for my own "Little Wars" situated primarily in North Africa if I recall correctly.  Great memories.
Soviets ready for the German counterattack
The action on this day featured two German formations attempting to thwart a Soviet breakout from a bridgehead.  The Soviets began the game with most of their forces deployed but concealed on the German side of the river across a broad swath of table.  The German plan of attack was to bypass all of the Soviet prepared positions on the Soviet right and drive down the center towards the village with one formation while the second formation attacked the Soviet left.  This strategy proved disastrous to the Soviets since Soviet commanders had planned for a German drive directly into the awaiting formations on the Soviet right.  With poor chance to change orders, the bulk of one Soviet formation lay motionless and unengaged for most of the game.  Brilliant German plan!  
Jon's German column drives on the Soviet Center
Bob's German column advances against Soviet left
As the German left column swings around possible Soviet defenses on the German left, Soviet positions pop up from concealment to harass the attackers.  Having exposed their positions, the Germans call in mission after mission of artillery to suppress or destroy the Soviets.  Some missions were successful; others not so much.
Germans make a left hook toward the objectives
With great success on the German right, the Soviet defense begins to crumble on that flank.  Those not killed outright in the assault stream toward the rear.  In the center, tank duels are frequent and casualties high.  Fortunately for the German center column, they dish out more punishment that they take.  The Soviet armor formation astride the road dissolves.   
Traffic jam!
After one or two more turns of heavy Soviet casualties, the Soviet's capitulate.  A major victory for the Fatherland!
Soviet positions collapse
The rules in use for this game were WWII Spearhead.  While I played Spearhead a few times many years ago in microarmor, I recalled very little of the actual game mechanisms.  The Sequence of Play seemed straight forward and not too complex.  With a veteran umpire at the helm, the game progressed rapidly and smoothly.  Moving from my recollections of Spearhead in microarmor up to a game in HO was a new experience.  Shocking too.  Visually, the closeness of the models in HO I find not as believable as I do in microarmor.  Vehicles hub-to-hub is a rub.  I need to sit down and read the rules for the author's perspective on this visual disconnect.  My preference would be to field fewer models on the table in HO to reduce this visual clutter.  Traffic jams were common in this game with many models having little space to move or deploy.

Nevertheless, this was an enjoyable half day out at the gaming table.  I look forward to doing this again.  Until then, I have rules to read.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Austrian Light Infantry in 1798

Work continues on the 1799 project with the mustering of one battalion of the 2nd Carl Rohan Light Infantry Battalion.  The light pike grey uniform with white webbing is a welcome change from fielding battalion after battalion of the White Menace.  The white over grey provides a good contrast too. Three battalions of the white-coated, Austrian line infantry are working their way across the painting desk.  So, the 2nd Carl Rohan offers but a small respite.
For a change of pace, the 15mm foot figures are from Battle Honors rather than the more usually seen AB Miniatures' figures.  While the Battle Honors figures were sculpted by Tony Barton, they are somewhat slighter in stature than his later AB Austrians.  Very fine figures nonetheless. As always, the mounted colonel is an AB.  The Austrian line infantry, mentioned as in work, are Battle Honors figures as well.  Purchased from 19th Century Miniatures at a hefty discount, I doubled down and ordered two more bags of these figures at 30% discount.  I real bargain!

Also working across the painting desk are more 18mm SYW Prussian heavy cavalry and 18mm SYW Prussian fusiliers.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Montcalm & Wolfe: Ambush & Amphibious Assault

Ambush!
The trap is sprung!  Caught on the march through the mountains, a regiment of British Regulars is surprised by Rigaud and his mixed force of militia and Regulars.  Peter details the battle account of the French ambuscade at Grid Based Wargaming FIW Game 14. 
Rigaud ambushes British Regulars in mountains
With a BMU multiplier of four for this battle, each regiment on the boardgame translated into four stands on Peter's gaming table.  The British regiment, caught in ambush, lost three of its four stands in the action.  The only stand to escape destruction was the light infantry stand.  In the campaign, regiments not completely destroyed in the tactical combat are assumed to come back up to full strength in the next turn.  What this means is the the British infantry cadre of one stand, having suffered 75% casualties, returns to full strength when play returns to the campaign map.  Perhaps a unit losing more than 50% of its strength should be eliminated instead?  Something to think about. 

NB:  Having given it some thought, I propose the following amendment for consideration:
A BMU having retired from battle must pass a cohesion test.  To pass, a BMU that has lost component stands must roll less than or equal to the percentage of stands remaining from the original BMU.  For example, a BMU with four component stands, having sustained three stand losses in combat and retiring, has a one in four change of returning to battle next turn at full strength.  If the roll is failed then the BMU is removed from play permanently.  

June 1758
There was a good reason why Wolfe was gathering a large force of Regulars at Trenton.  That reason?  Wolfe has gathered his force for an amphibious assault on Quebec!  Loading the ships with five regiments of British Regulars, Wolfe sets sail for the hub of New France.
With the British fleet packed with troops preparing to disembark its holds, the French under Montcalm has some tough choices to make.  Does he sally forth from the citadel and confront Wolfe and his army or remain inside the citadel and subject himself to a siege?  Choices that Peter will make when he sets up and plans the battle.  The Battle for Quebec provides Peter his first chance to bring his mighty fortress into the game and give his siege rules a test.  The two best leaders of the war face off against one another.   Should be an interesting battle.
Battle of Quebec:
OB:
British: Wolfe (A4D4), 5 x 5-6 Regular Infantry Regiments
French: Montcalm (A4D4), 2 x 5-6 Regular Infantry Regiments, 1 x 3-5 Militia Regiment

Could this be the deciding moment of the war?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

GMT's 1914 Offensive a Outrance

Michael, the Good Padre from The Mad Padre's Wargames, and I decided to give this GMT game a try via VASSAL and email.  Our objectives were three-fold: Learn VASSAL as a means for conducting boardgames via PBeM; learn Resch's 1914 series on operational WWI warfare; and play an enjoyable game with a like-minded friend. When did we take on this challenge?  Well, almost exactly one year ago!  I guess one might say we have taken the long, slow road to learning the game.

For a brief overview of the game and its scope, I pulled the following from the GMT's website:
1914, Offensive à outrance, The Initial Campaigns on the Western Front in WWI realistically covers the battles fought in Belgium, France, and Germany during the first months of World War One.
Historically, Germany launched its armies through Belgium and northern France in an attempt to achieve a quick triumph and avoid a long costly two-front war. The first weeks of the war resulted in a series of German victories that took them to the outskirts of Paris. There, in early September, the French counter-attacked at the River Marne and forced the Germans into a short withdrawal. Subsequently, when the Allied counter-offensive stalled at the Aisne River, the belligerents unsuccessfully maneuvered to outflank each other in what is known as the “Race to the Sea.” The campaigning season ended in exhaustion and stalemate at the Battle of Ypres.

1914, Offensive à outrance (translation: Offensive to excess) is a comprehensively researched model that explores this fascinating set of campaigns with an accurate order of battle and detailed game map. The map encompasses the entire theater of war from the English Channel to the Swiss Border. The game system used is a streamlined derivative of the 1914, Twilight in the East system, modified to speed play, with care not to lose focus on those aspects of warfare that made the opening stages of WWI so unique. This game system, in conjunction with the accurate map, allows the German advance to be conducted along historical routes with the eminent “Open Flank” present (instead of units strung out from map edge to map edge). The Allied player has an opportunity to recreate a “Miracle of the Marne” type victory or to stop the Germans earlier. Likewise, the German player has a chance to change history and defeat the Allies’ armies in 1914.

The Grand Campaign scenario covers the period from the fall of Liege on August 16th to exhaustion at Ypres in mid-November. Two shorter scenarios, The Battle for Lorraine (a learning scenario) and From the Marne to Stalemate are also provided.
1914, Offensive à outrance is a playable “Monster Game” designed with the expressed goal that the majority of the game can be completed by four dedicated players in one five-day long Expo. The 24-page rules booklet is concise, well written and organized. The game is exciting and gives wonderful insights into one of the most important campaigns of the twentieth century. The result is that 1914, Offensive à outrance is a game that the "WW1 enthusiast" must have and that a gaming connoisseur will enjoy.

1914, Offensive à outrance is designed by Michael Resch, winner of the 2007 CSR Award for Best pre-WWII Board Game and Best Wargame Graphics for his design 1914, Twilight in the East (GMT 2007).
TIME SCALEEach turn = 2 to 4 days
MAP SCALE8km per hex
UNIT SCALEDivisions with independent Brigades
NUMBER OF PLAYERS1 - 4




This is a monster!

In my younger days, a monster wargame would see me heading straight for the full battle or campaign game and dismissing the introductory scenario.  Being older and hopefully somewhat wiser, Michael and I prudently opted to learn the ropes of 1914, Offensive à outrance (OaO) and VASSAL by means of the Introductory Scenario, The Battle for Lorraine.  This scenario is only four turns in length but provides plenty of action and a splendid introduction to the system.  Yes, four turn scenario and we are still playing one year later.  As described in the Playbook, 
29.0 THE BATTLE FOR LORRAINE – Introductory Scenario This scenario is intended to be a learning scenario. Players are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Player Aid Cards and to practice with the movement and combat mechanics. Specifically players should concentrate on paying MPs when crossing a hexside (rather than when entering a hex). It is also beneficial to learn the Forced March procedure, Cavalry Reaction procedure and the effects of placing Prepared Attack markers. The combat resolution procedure is unique and can be experimented with until the process is mastered. This scenario has not been designed for winning and losing. The intention is to allow players to take a small bite of the apple. Historical Notes In order to fulfill France’s prewar promise to Russia, General Joffre ordered an offensive into German-held Lorraine when mobilization and deployment were completed. The offensive began on 14 August with the advance of the First and Second Armies in the direction of Saarburg (Sarrebourg) and Morhangin (Morhange) respectively. The advance was methodical but whenever German forces were encountered the French attacked “à outrance” as per their pre-war doctrine. The German forces opposing this advance consisted of the German Sixth Army and a large portion of the Seventh Army. Initially ordered to take a defensive stance, the Germans allowed the French to slowly advance. On 20 August, the Germans launched a counter-offensive that threw the French Armies back across the border. The Germans followed this success with an advance into France. 29.1 Scenario Length and Map The Battle for Lorraine begins on the French Player turn of GT 1 and ends after the completion of the German Player turn of GT 4. The scenario is played using a portion of the South map. The boundaries of the playing are (all hexes listed are in play): NW: 48.49, NE: 64.49, SE: 64.60, SW: 48.60. Players can download a 8-1/2”x11” scenario map from http://www.consimgames.com/docs/1914_Oao_The_Battle of_Lorraine_Scenario_Map.pdf.
At start positions
Using VASSAL and the OaO module provided, everything needed to set up and play the game was included.  After discussing a reasonable process flow, we dove in. 
German counter offensive
The combat engine is nothing like I have experienced in a wargame before.  Despite this being a monster game with a moderately high level of complexity, we have been able to work through the rules with little difficulty.  Some processes had us scratching our heads momentarily but we persevered.  Using VASSAL as our game engine actually simplified play as the designer of the module incorporated much of the required record keeping right onto the counter.  With VASSAL tracking current unit status, we could focus on game mechanisms and strategy rather than bookkeeping.  That is a mark of a good design!
Front line At Game turn 3
OaO is a clever system and models WWI operational conflict distinctly.  With multi-step losses, diminishing combat effectiveness, intrinsic artillery ratings, individual unit proficiency, and an interestingly abstract artillery model, OaO presents an intriguing puzzle.  Sticky ZOCs and an attritional CRT almost guarantee little chance of Blitzkrieg style breakthroughs even at favorable odds.  Participants can choose the level of combat intensity too.  With 550 combat results, a wide variety of results are possible.  Victory in individual combats is never certain and the victor will often sustain as many casualties as the vanquished. 
German Counter attack Game Turn 3
Where we stand at present is the German Move of Game Turn 3.  As seen from the screenshot above, the German player has launched a series of attacks all along the front in the penultimate turn.  Historically, after the French offensive across the border ground to a halt, the Germans launched a counter-offensive.  The German counter-offensive pushed the French back to their borders.  Not likely the situation in this game.  Before the German attacks can be resolved, the French player gets a chance to conduct any counter moves.  Still some play left in this one.

An interesting and challenging game that provides a plausible model for WWI operational combat.  Clearly the best operational WWI game I have seen or played.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Spanish Command for Reconquista

Unhappy to be the standard bearer?
Does the standard bearer seem unhappy to be carrying the banner for his knight?  The sullen facial expression of the standard bearer is very animated.  He certainly is not pleased to be bearing his burden. 
With the two units of Spanish foot crossing the painting desk of late, a few spare figures remained when the two dozen figures took their place in the ranks.  Having an extra mounted knight, I figured the Spanish could use another command stand.  
Black Tree Design mounted knight and two Casting Room Miniatures' spearmen come together to create a command stand for the Spanish cause.  A good use of a few leftover figures. 

After this brief 28mm distraction, back to painting 15mm figures for the SYW and 1799 projects.  After having recently returned from two weeks in Bavaria and the Austrian Tirol, expect a travelogue or two on the horizon (some with military history content) along with more work from the painting desk.
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