Friday 29 November 2019

The Painting Challenge and a Tactical Error

The call went out a little over a week ago for the Tenth annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge and I was quick to throw my hat in the ring. I've been planning a couple of projects for the challenge for a while now and I just need the kick up the bum that the competition provides to get them done. One of the things Curt asks for when signing up is a target score for each individual. For those of us that can't possibly compete with the top fighters in this event, the personal targets are our benchmarks of success. The problem is trying to estimate how much you're going to paint over the 13 weeks of the Challenge...and I may have been a little over-ambitious!

My previous personal best was a modest 1307 points back in Challenge VIII, so for this year's event, I decided I would aim to beat that, setting my target as 1308 points. The problem is now that I have totted up all the stuff I have bought to paint I'm falling short by several hundred points. Painting 6mm doesn't net huge point scores (except when painting hundreds of Zulu's!) so I knew I was being ambitious. So having set myself what feels like an unrealistic target, how the hell am I going to achieve it?

The main project this year will be a new 6mm army. I have wanted to paint a classical Indian army for a long time. In particular, I wanted to paint the army of Porus the Pauravan King that fought Alexander at the Battle of Hydaspes in what is the modern-day Punjab region of Pakistan. I bought most of the models I needed back in April at Salute so this has been 'in the pipeline' for a while. I hasten to add I don't yet have Alexanders army to face it, but that's a project for another day. The Indian army is all prepped and ready to be painted but will probably only net me about 500 points, so a long way short of the final tally.

The next project is something entirely different from my usual fare. The young Padawan has been badgering me to play some fantasy wargames to offset the historical games I force her to play (!). I didn't particularly want to have to paint big armies so I opted for a skirmish level game that could utilise some of my existing RPG figures. Frostgrave is the ideal option and I have already converted some models with suitably winterised bases. What I need now is terrain and lots of it. So the second major project I'll be working on this Challenge will be a wide selection of ruined walls and buildings. I've bought myself a stack of Blue Foam (well it's black now, but its the same stuff) and am busy learning the techniques I need to use this material as I haven't done anything like this before. However, at 20 points for each 6" cube of terrain, I doubt very much if I can net more than a hundred or so points this way.

It's unclear at this stage how the Challenge Island thing is going to work, and if it will provide the bonus points that the old bonus rounds used to, but for now I'll assume it will so hopefully I can scoop up 250 points by participating in this side challenge. I always enjoy the bonus rounds as it forces me to step outside my comfort zone and paint models I wouldn't normally work on. Curt will be announcing the details of Challenge Island this weekend, and I wait with bated breath.

So far the balance of the projects for the challenge is made up of various odds and sods that I need for different games. I have some 15mm Normandy farmhouses that need to be painted; some Spanish Cavalry for my 6mm Carthaginian/Punic forces; some 10mm fantasy figures for a charity project I agreed to contribute to; British Lancers and Highlanders for my Zulu War project; and more 28mm figures for Frostgrave. None of this (at the moment) looks like it will earn me lots of points, maybe a couple of hundred for the lot.

I'm still wracking my brains for ideas but so far the project list adds up to approximately 1100 points, give or take. I need to get my 'thinking cap' on and close the gap if I am to hit my target. For some of this year's veteran Challengers, a mere 100points per week is a trifling amount, but for mere mortals such as myself, it's going to be a real challenge.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

The Shrinking Wargamer

It's not gone unnoticed, but this wargamer is getting smaller. I'm not talking about the inevitable height shrinkage that comes with old age (not quite there yet!) but my 'horizontal' footprint is diminishing and has been for several months now. Back in April, I turned fifty and I was diagnosed with Hypertension and in my GP's usual offhand way I was advised to lose weight. I've been here many times before but I had never been as heavy as I was at that time (I was starting to develop my own gravitational field) so I knew I had to make a real change to my diet. The problem is that after a lifetime of diets I think anything actually labelled a 'diet' is by its very nature, doomed to failure. At some point, the diet comes to an end and the weight inevitably piles back on. I imagine that the vast majority of people that have struggled with their weight like I have will recognise the phenomenon only too well.

This time I can't let it happen again, not if I want to keep mobile (my knees complain VERY loudly these days). Let's face it, I'm far too young to have mobility problems especially if I want to continue to enjoy my hobby and all its associated activities. Standing for long periods during games, walking around wargame shows or exploring museums or historic sites had become increasingly painful and the Salute show earlier this year was a watershed moment for me. I could honestly see a point in the not too distant future when I would be forced to abandon an event because of the pain in my legs. I'll probably need a knee replacement at some point in the future (the damage has been done) but in the meantime, at the very least, I can take some of the tonnage off the joints to ease the pain.

I'm pleased to say that I have lost the best part of six stone (38 kilos) and am closing in on my first target weight. I still have a way to go, but I'm confident I can do it because I have a new regime that can best be described as a non-diet diet. One of my key objectives, when I started this process in April, was to lose weight without becoming obsessed with hard and fast rules. I didn't want to count calories or ban particular foods or even increase my exercise all that much. In short, I wanted to make changes that would produce results without having to think about it. This sounds like the holy grail of diets but I think I have done it and the results so far seem to confirm that. So how the hell have I done it?

Yum. I love bread. 
In short, I have cut out a lot of the bread I used to eat. I have switched to oats and fruit for breakfast instead of toast and of course, I have largely cut out cakes and sweets. Within a few weeks, I found that I didn't miss the latter and learning to say 'no' has been one of the big successes of this effort. The main change I have made is that I have given myself permission to break the diet occasionally. I can still enjoy a blow-out takeaway or a fancy meal out now and again, so long as I don't follow up by falling off the wagon entirely. It helps that I have always enjoyed plenty of vegetables and fruit in my diet, and while I'll NEVER be a vegetarian, I'm not weeping myself to sleep for want of a steak! I'm also not much of a drinker so I don't have to reduce my alcohol intake to cut calories. So in some ways my diet was already on the right track, I just needed to cut out all the extra stuff I was eating. And that's it; no fad foods, no medical supplements and certainly no surgery!

What about exercise I hear you say. Well, to be honest, I'm not a 'sporty person' and never have been. Most physical activities I could do would be too high impact on my dodgy knees, I refuse to waste money at a Gym and I hate swimming (unless it's on holiday in the Med!). I have been walking more, mainly because my legs hurt less and I don't have so much tonnage to drag around, so I guess I have increased my activity but its a chicken and the egg scenario.

So there you have it, my solution to a lifetime of indulgence. Hopefully, by the time Salute 2020 comes around, I'll be a shadow of my former self and bounding around the excel exhibition centre like a spring chicken. You have full permission to bully me if I don't keep up the good work. Seriously, keep me honest, keep me on track and in return, I'll stay around dishing out easy victories for my opponents in the wargames scene for years to come! 

Sunday 17 November 2019

Roadtrip to Warfare in Reading

I have to admit that I have a limited range of shows that I attend regularly and often lament that I miss some of those a bit further afield. Having missed SELWG in October I was determined to get a hobby fix at another event before the end of the year, and Warfare in Reading seemed like the perfect candidate. I've never been to this show before, although Ray and Postie have over a decade ago, so we hatched a plan to attend the show on Saturday. I pick up the lads at some ungodly time of the morning and then we set off around the M25 towards Berkshire. Despite it being a 5 hour round trip (for me at least) it was worth the effort and we all had a great day and agreed we should do this show again.

As usual, I took a load of pictures but this time I had to rely on my phone camera as I had forgotten to charge the batteries in my main camera. On the whole, this worked out fine and there were only a few instances where I missed having a decent zoom facility. Here's a selection of the better pictures from our day.

The Bring and Buy - We were able to get into this bit of the show area early so we had a good rummage while we waited for the main trader area to open up. This was probably the best Bring and Buy - in terms of quality of the stuff on sale - that any of us have seen for a long time. Some of the stuff was a little overpriced but on the whole, there was a wide selection of top quality items to choose from. Postie can be seen encouraging Ray to buy some artillery pieces... not that he needed much encouragement. 

The competition and demo hall. Two-thirds of the hall was dedicated to competition games and this is the first show that I have attended with such a large element of this. It was interesting to look at the wide range of tables and games taking place and it definitely created a different atmosphere than I'm used to experiencing at shows (not bad, just different). This side of the hobby isn't for me though, I have enough humiliation and defeat at the hands of my friends in the shed-o-war without me needing to hand easy victories to a series of very competitive strangers! 

Another shot of some of the Competition tables. I was surprised to see some very good looking games tables being played across. Most of the armies being brought to the tables looked very nicely painted although I saw a few that I would be embarrassed to let out in daylight! Each to their own I suppose, if playing competitions with half-painted figures makes you happy, who am I to pass judgement. 
Also while we waited for the trade hall to open we had a chance to look at some serious model builders exhibits. The young Padawan would have killed for this, but at four foot across I would have had a hard time sneaking it out the building!

Finally, at 11am sharp, the trade hall opened and the main reason we were here was able to commence. 

Ray made his first purchase from the Warbases stall. By the end of the day, we had all parted with some serious dosh here. 

Meanwhile, I headed off to the Baccus stall. I hadn't pre-ordered anything this time so this was purely a recon mission...or so I thought. I ended up buying a Celtic Village for my ancients games and made a list of other items I needed to buy online when I got home. I'm trying to expand my current 6mm collection to give myself multiple options for my 3rd Century BCE armies and one of these is to add some Celtic/Gaulish units. Unfortunately, they didn't have any at the show (someone cleared them out earlier in the day) so my order will be going to Baccus in the next few days and I'll have to wait for the delivery. 

What a pair of handsome fellows. Well, we didn't break the camera lens so I'll take that as confirmation that we aren't completely hideous! 

I didn't buy anything from Gringo 40's but I did like their display cases..I'll be hunting the interweb for something similar in the near future. 

I had a good hunt through the Ainsty stall but unfortunately couldn't find what I was looking for. Again the interweb's success is the physical store's loss. Still, I have always enjoyed the quality of the Ainsty stuff and have been buying their resin scenery for years. 

Ray perusing the goodies on the PSC stall. I think we all got a little carried away. There were a lot of traders in a very small space (it was a little cramped) but this was probably the best and widest selection of traders I have seen outside Salute. I know my experience is a little south-east biased but still, I was very impressed. 

With our initial retail therapy needs satisfied we nipped off for a spot of lunch (awful...don't bother with the cafe in the sports centre, overpriced and not very nice). Then we went and had a proper look at the demo tables in the adjacent hall. As previously mentioned two-thirds of the hall was dedicated to competition games and the remaining third, while a little cramped, had some very good looking games on display. I have to say that my usual bugbear - unlabeled tables and a lack of engagement from some of the clubs running games - did rear its ugly head again, but fortunately, this wasn't the norm. Where I was able to label the pictures correctly I have included it below. 

The Malvern Old Wargamers playing a game using the Armati rules. A simple setup, like you would get at any regular club night. 

This participation game table by Boscombe Down and Amesbury Wargames Club had a very impressive terrain feature at its centre! I went back a little later and the game was surrounded by eager looking players. 

A little blurry but this picture shows how popular the game was. I went back three times during the day and it was packed with participants every time. The sign of a successful game and a good team effort by the club members running it. 

The South London Warlords put in their "Dark Side of the Moon" game which has been at a few other shows this year. Still very impressive and like the previous group, was well attended by participants and well supported by club members. 

Newbury and Reading Wargames Society put on a 28mm game featuring hundreds of miniatures. "Caractacus Strikes Back" was subtitled the Battle for Britain c45 AD. 

Some of the commander names may have been a little tongue-in-cheek but the seriousness of attention to quality was undeniable. This was one of those games where you're initially impressed with the number of figures in the table and then - when you look closer - at the quality of the painting. Well worth lingering over. 

Getting to eye level with this table was worth the pain coming from my creaking knees!

Huntingdon and District Wargames Society put on a very impressive 54mm Rooke’s Drift game based on the film Zulu. It's unusual to see such large figures on a games table but it was worth it for the visuals.

At this scale, you can only expect to have part of the Drift station represented, but it did look good. I particularly liked the scratch-built tents. 

These big figures are ideal for a skirmish game where individual actions and heroism (and cowardice) really count. 

My favourite table was this one by Combined Oppos'. This wild west setting was 'winterised' in a very clever way for a setting that looked as unique as it was spectacular. Multiple small actions could take place in different parts of the town and all the buildings contained details to surprise and delight (especially in the Bar!)

The town's version of Boot Hill was no doubt a busy location!

Aylesbury Wargames Club out on a 28mm Bolt Action game, "Berezina Bridge" was set in the OST Front September 1944 and featured some impressive looking terrain. 

There were also a load of very well painted vehicles in this scenario. 

Battlefront Wargames put on a very impressive looking game called "Operation Reindeer" which was the Cassinga Raid in Angola in May 1978. 

The compound at the centre of this table was very well presented. There was a very good handout available...but I managed to lose mine! So all I can say is that I was very impressed with the look of this table. 
The use of several aircraft on perspex stands above the table gave the whole thing an extra dimension. Nicely done gentlemen. 

I think this is the WAR Club (Pat Wingfield) with their 1980s naval game. I took another picture with the group's details but it was too blurred to read! I liked their board setup and commented to Ray that maybe we could adapt this idea in the shed-o-war for strategic movement before setting up the battle that may then be asymmetric in nature. Its something I'm going to give some thought to in future. 

The South Oxfordshire Generals put on a game of "To the Strongest.  

There were a lot of units here so this must have been a rather large battle (in terms of points) unfortunately when I was there I didn't get to speak with any of the club members running the game. 

Maidenhead Reapers ran a winter game using the Bolt Action rules. Their game, "Panzer Brigade 150" was set during the Ardennes Offensive in October 1944. 

The terrain was scratch built for this demo and all the vehicles were suitably 'winterised' for the period. 

I came back and looked at this later in the day and by then several tanks were burning with some rather cool looking smoke and flame effects. 

Skirmish Wargames had an attractive table set up for a game of  A Very British Civil War in 54mm. 

A bit of a gunfight takes place on the driveway. The Groundsman will be most unhappy!

Grid Wargaming were also showing off their game system. 

Sealed Knot put on a clever night battle game set during the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685. They used the blank squares to hide the battlefield so units were effectively moving blind across the landscape. The colour palette used on the terrain and buildings made this look very distinctive. I'm afraid this is the best pictures I had, so keep an eye on Rays Blog, he may have some better ones. 

This game used the Age of Reason rules and featured some nice miniatures. Apparently, this game would take the best part of the two-day event to come to a conclusion. The group running it was called 1066 and the battle being played is Warburg. 

Oxford Wargames Society run an interesting air warfare game "Bombing Berlin, Tangerhutte 6th March 1944". This participation game recreated the Eigth Air Forces bloodiest day as they are hit by the Luftwaffe defending the Reichs capital. 

There were a few more demo/participation tables but either through bad timing or lack of attention they didn't get photographed. Some were between sessions for the participation games and there wasn't anything to see and photograph. I meant to catch them later but for some reason still missed them in the tick of the game. There were also a couple where none of the club members playing the game even seemed to notice that someone was watching their game. Without any table signage telling me what was being played I left them to it and hence no pictures. Personally, I can't see the point in running a demo only to ignore visitors. 

The obligatory 'Loot' post. I bought a lot! Having missed SELWG I needed a restock of quite a few items and there were the inevitable impulse buys. All the books were bargains which always feels good. I bought a load of resin scenery from Debris of War which I will be working on during the Painting Challenge. I'll be painting it for use in Frostgrave games with the Padawan, and to that end, I bought the winter game mat from Deepcut Studios. 
All in all a very successful and enjoyable day out, despite the five hours I spent driving there and back! I am lead to understand - but don't quote me - that this location (Rivermead Leisure Centre) is being redeveloped and that next year Warfare will be at Ascot. Wherever it is, I expect the Rejects will be there and maybe we have just added Warfare to our annual list of not to be missed shows. 

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Battle of Landsburg 1813

Reject HQ had a visit on Sunday from one of our lost sheep, Dave, who moved away a couple of years ago (maybe we should have taken the hint?!?). We had six players around the table for this game, more than we have had in quite a long time. Postie put on a large Napoleonic game and had a lot of figures down on the table for this battle so we were set for what would prove to be an epic struggle. 

The Setup
This is a fictional encounter set just before the Battle of Leipzig, so Postie drew up our orders of battle form the units that would have been in this area at this time period. The armies facing each other were ostensibly Swedes versus Poles, but in reality, these are international armies with troops from half a dozen nations represented on the table. 

As usual, Postie set up the deployment but there was enough room for some finesse in the movement of our armies before we met in melee. We pulled sides from a hat as normal and for my sins, I found myself commander of the Swedes. 

Order of Battle
Rather than struggle with Posties handwriting as I usually do, I decided to post pictures of his OOB's. My clumsy attempts to transcribe the lists usually only serve to highlight my ignorance of the period!

The Army of Crown Prince Charles John of Sweden

The Army of Prince Poniatowski of Poland

The Action
The initial setup. Both armies are facing off but there is room on the flanks for some manoeuvre. The 'Polish' army are on the left with Ray and Surjit, the 'Swedish' army is on the right.  

The Swedish Army advances...we were tasked with 'attacking' by postie so we moved everything forward in the opening moves of the game. The real attack, however, was to happen on the left under Dave. I would feed some of my regiments to support his position for a concentrated attack and gambled that I could hold the centre with a weakened division. On the Right (out of shot) Richard would also try to press forward and draw units from the enemy centre. 

The first setback for the Swedes was a failed Brigade check resulting in an entire brigade having to fall back a full move. Suddenly our right flank looked like it was in serious trouble. Richard didn't mind though because it made his game much more interesting!

The whole Brigade has now been pushed back disordered and have to remain stationary for a turn in order to recover order. This leaves Richards other Brigade exposed and in a tough spot. 

In the centre, my troops get a whiff of Jaffa Cake and the Generals lose control... The line quivers and begins to surge forward. 

The 'Polish Army' is being very restrained and isn't attacking as we expected. Rays troops build for a massive assault in the centre but Mark restrains his men and keeps a well-ordered line facing Dave. 

On our right flank, Richard is having a very interesting day! Surjit piles in several columns and the battle turns into something of a meat grinder. We lose several colours and the points begin to accumulate for the Polish team. 

My troops are in a well-ordred line with their flank anchored on a nice solid building. Why would I move from here? 

Dave has gathered his forces and I have diverted some regiments to support his line giving him the superiority of numbers on the flank. Dave is now poised to advance. 

My boys in the centre can't resist the smell of Jaffa Cakes any more and surge forwards....exposing their flank and paving the way for some serious pain....I'm an idiot for not seeing the danger I was putting my troops in but I got a little 'carried away'. 

Dave is poised to charge right through the centre of the enemy line but gets a little bogged down dealing with a threat on his flank. The line does move forward but not as far as I thought it would. 

The one highlight of the game was Daves use of his Rocket Battery. They fired twice in the game and hit their target twice dealing four casualties against enemy cavalry units. 

Over on the right flank, Richard has stabilised the debacle that had been developing here. Despite being mauled the line looks strong and Surjit seems to have run out of steam on this flank. 

A view down the centre and left of the line. 

The trap I set for myself closes and I am charged in overwhelming numbers...this is going to be painful and it's entirely my own fault. This was one of those moments when I wondered why I hadn't taken up fishing instead of wargaming as a hobby. 

Ok, this is why. We may be about to be thrashed soundly but by god, this looks impressive! 

Ouch... Flippin heck! That has done it. 

We called the game at this point. There seemed little point fighting on as my centre pretty much dissolved, and entirely my own fault. What can I say, I'm a shit wargamer! Postie added up the points (to rub salt in the wounds). The Polish Army ended on 24 points with the Swedes on just 10. Richard did very well to recover after the disastrous Brigade check early in the game and Dave still had a viable force on our left flank, but without a centre to connect them, the battle was lost. Sorry lads, my bad!

The only good side to this game was the good-natured banter that crisscrossed the table. The neighbours were probably wondering why there was so much laughter emanating from the shed but the answer is simple, we were enjoying the game and each others company, and at the end of the day that's all that counts. 

My tally of defeats this year is fast becoming legendary. In fact, looking at my records I am now just one defeat away from a record low. I have another game planned in December so maybe I should pull out now and not tempt fate?!