Friday, 17 July 2020

Altar of Freedom - 2mm cavalry Mk2

I wasn’t happy with the first attempt at 2mm cavalry.  The issue was the heads of the horses they didn’t look right, in fact it looked like they were balancing a plank along their foreheads.  I posted some images on Facebook and asked what people thought the main reply I got was that they would look better as individually coloured horses. I didn’t want to paint individual horses so I went back to Microsoft paint and created a strip With individual heads and tails which I then glued on to the existing piece of cardboard. I think they look a lot better and are fine for normal wargaming use. I also took the opportunity to create a mixture of colours on each strip. The trick is to make sure that the heads and tales matched up as these are printed on two different strips.

As you can see from the photos they are not perfect but I think they are fine for playtesting the rules.

A simple block of colour is all you need to Mark where the heads are.

Same for the hind quarters, which is good as it’s about all I can do in paint!

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Altar of Freedom in 2mm - The cavalry

Creating infantry units is fairly easy, after all they are pretty much a simple rectangular block of men.  Cavalry are more difficult as they are not regular shapes.  I have tried to create cavalry units in the past using bits and bobs I had to hand,  they never really convince me.  Its the look of the frontage that spoils the attempt I think.  Cavalry form up with slight gaps between each individual horse and I am not going to sculpt dozens of individual 2mm horses, that way madness, or more accurately further madness, lies.  On the other hand creating the files rather than the ranks causes issues with the look of the flanks as there are also gaps between the ranks.

The side profile I can live with
The current solution is to use two matchsticks glued together along the long edges as the body of the horses in the unit.  This creates the start of a single rank of horsemen.   Glued between those is a slightly taller  bit of card with  a printed rank of riders glued to  it.  The heads of the horses are then created by gluing a long strip of card along the front edge of the resulting block.  This is the bit that spoils the look of the thing for me.  It doesn't look like a row of individual horse heads.  That said I really don't want to have to cut and glue lots of individual heads on, even assuming that I could cut them out in the first place!

Its that one big horse head that I don't like!
Ideas are to try some kind of pinking shears to create a zig-zag edge, but I have concerns that the angles will not be right and the distances from point to point (I'm sure there is a really bad horsey pun to be had there) will be too large.

I don't need huge numbers of cavalry and I could always buy some but having started so well with Infantry I'd like to find a solution to making the cavalry.  I'm open to ideas here.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Catching up on my reading

As I was lucky enough to get an Amazon voucher as a birthday gift I was able to purchase some books I have wanted to read for a while (in one case a very long while).

The first purchase was the ACW history trilogy by Shelby Foote.  I'm about halfway through the first volume and really enjoying it.  The books run through the war chronologically and focus on the personalities and politics rather than the military detail, although that is there too.  What I am really enjoying is the character analysis of the main players.  It's a warts an all discussion of them showing the good and the bad.  So far McClelland is coming off better than he is usually shown as the level of political interference he had to deal with is explained in detail.  Neither Lee nor Jackson are subjected to the usual appraisal of being capable of very little wrong.  Jackson especially coming across as a real oddball and probably not someone you would want to invite to one of those which historical characters would you invite to a dinner party if you had a time machine things.  Not that he would have been likely to accept anyway.

The Civil War Volume I: Fort Sumter to Perryville

What I'm finding interesting is the almost clinical approach which Foote takes, it works on the basis of these were the decisions, this is why they were made, these are the people who made them and their personal objectives and this was the outcome.  No significant attempt to blame or praise the decision makers just a straight forward analysis of cause and effect.  Others have said Foote is a novelist rather than a historian, well that's as may be but it doesn't impact on the content in any appreciable way.  I have more subjective accounts from bone fide historians.

I bought these as Kindle downloads and they work remarkably well.  The maps especially are a joy.  Passing the cursor over a map opens it up into a larger view.  In fact the maps are really informative which is not always the case with these things.

The other purchase was a physical one a copy of a book I have wanted for a very long time.  David Chandler's Atlas of Military Strategy 1618–1878.  Many years ago I was writing a dissertation on marketing strategy for a college course and I was discussing a then current theory about the similarities between marketing and military strategy from one of the leading textbooks on Marketing.  I needed some images to show the classical military battlefield tactics  and a friend provided an excerpt from Chandler's book which was perfect.  Ever since that day I have wanted to read the book but it has been long out of print.  I found a second hand hardback copy on Amazon for £8.50 which was in excellent condition.  It shows it's age in parts, but it was written in 1980 so its to be expected.  I'd have liked something that looked into grand tactical manoeuvres for the same period but Chandler isn't bad, especially for £8.50.

It covers what it says on the cover - and does it really quite well.
What I should really like is something that looks at grand tactical manoeuvres across the same period in the same way.  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

First Manassas - The 2mm Armies

I'm a cheapskate when it comes to new periods, I will always look to try rules out without buying figures.  It stops, well limits, overspending on little lead men I may end up never using.  Trust me I have done that a few times and oft, that's how lead piles get started.

So for Altar of Freedom I decided to go cheap, very cheap, 2mm lets me do that, especially in an ACW setting where most of the troops are infantry.  The beauty of 2mm infantry is that a couple of matchsticks provide the basics of an infantry line.  As AoF uses brigade bases four blocks of infantry on a base looks like a brigade.  The base frontage is 60mm so four regiments on 25mm frontages deployed in two lines of two regiments works nicely.

The massed matchsticks of a Federal Infantry Brigade
To make the 'regiments' take two lengths of matchstick cut into 25mm lengths and glue then together along the long sides this represents two ranks of troops.  Four of these get glued to a base. Paint them blue or gray for a kriegspiel style look or if you are feeling ambitious take to MS Paint (other graphics programs are available) and create a paper print to glue to the front, top and rear of each regiment.  I do that as a single piece that wraps around the match sticks using PVA glue. The downside is that I have to draw the individual figures pixel by pixel, the upside is once I have done a couple of figures I can cut and paste to create the rest of the rank.

Artillery and Generals are trickier and I will probably limit myself to top down pictures or maybe a portrait taken from the OOB in the rules for Generals.  Cavalry will be bigger blocks, well horses are bigger then men after all.  I have tried out a couple of modelling styles for cavalry but  haven't decided which I prefer yet.  One thing I do know is that the beauty of 2mm is that it isn't that much extra work to do mounted and dismounted versions.

For First Manassas (or Bull Run if you prefer) I need 23 infantry brigades as against  two cavalry brigades, eight artillery batteries and three command groups.  The total costs costs will be measured in pennies rather than pounds which really pleases that cheapskate streak that I have!

Friday, 10 July 2020

Project updates

I seem  to have been a bit scatter brained of late with new projects starting that were not on my radar at the start of the year..  Other things that I intended to do have stalled, so at the half way point of the year, it seems like a good time to take stock.

I was going to try out Seven Years War gaming and created some paper figures to do that.  So a win for creating the figures but after that I didn't actually play a test game!  I may come back to this I have the rules and the armies I just need the motivation to try a game.  Replacing the 7YW project on the front burner has been a later linear warfare period; the American Civil War.  I have the rules (Altar of Freedom) and perhaps more importantly an understanding of the tactics and grand tactics of the conflict.  As I have mentioned before it is also a period I have gamed in the past using a set of rules from the 1970s called 'Circa 1863' these were set at regimental level and required a lot of record keeping, I have hopes that the more abstract system in AoF will be more engaging.

On the figure painting front things are more positive.  I have finished converting my Late Imperial Roman DBA army to an all Baccus force.  The Picts and Scots-Irish DBA armies are completed and I have made a start on extending the Picts back to the earlier period army list by adding more chariots to the queue on the painting table.  Both of these are Irregular Miniature armies.  I do like the chariots and will probably order some more to flesh out the Scots-Irish to cover the early period for them too.  So that's three things off my to do list there.  There has been some scope drift though as I have started to increase the Late Imperials to create an ADLG baseline army at 200pts.  The Sassanids are already completed as a 200 point ADLG point force.

Early Sassanid Persians for ADLG completed 
Video Fly by of the Sassanids

The ACW Ironclads are finished too but I need to complete the Chilean and Peruvian Ironclads for the Great Pacific War.  The ACW ironclads might feature in Altar of Freedom games in due course.  So lets call that fifty percent success to date.

ACW Ironclads plus some tugs and a sloop in the rear
I'm calling the World War One dogfight rules done now, as I have finalised some spotting rules I can live with and have amended the rules for rear gunners to make them a less effective.
Oh and I got bored so I made a Barker Marker and recoil gauge for DBA

The list of unfinished projects isn't getting any shorter though as I keep getting tempted.  So there are still a number of World War One aircraft needing painting and there is a list of extra ones I need when Heroics and Ros reopen that list for new purchases.  I have read that this is likely to be early in July.  There are some building and modelling projects linked to the ACW that I need to get under way so I can try out AoF. Oh and that Dark Ages campaign isn't going to play itself.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Random Thoughts # 7 - a shopping frenzy

New boy's toys have been purchased this last week.  It was my birthday last weekend (65th if you really must know) and some pension lump sums fell due.  Most is already earmarked for work on the house and garden but there was some left over for fripperies.  Accordingly, I was treated to a new gas barbeque by Mrs E as a birthday present (it seems I have been a very good boy this year).  This has been a bit of a revelation in outdoor cooking terms.  So much less mess if using gas only, but with a dual fuel capability.  Which means I can use charcoal if the whim takes me.  I already have a shopping list of accessories I'd like to add including a cast iron griddle plate and a second charcoal tray.  It's time to extend my barbeque repertoire to extend beyond burgers, sausages and kebabs because this baby will do oven cooking too if I close the hood.

Of more interest to blog readers I also bought a new PC to replace the Windows 7 machine that currently falls over everytime I try to transfer a file between applications.  I opted for another Acer as the last one lasted so well.

This got me to thinking about the nature of shopping frenzies, that's the local term here at Elenderil Towers for engaging in comfort shopping for things you probably don't really need.  Its a hunter gatherer thing isn't it.  Set deep in the genes bequeathed to us by our early hominid ancestors is a need to grab and to hold on to things that seem to make us safer and more comfortable.  Many years ago I studied marketing and I recall Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a theory describing the psychological basis of human motivation (Look it up it really is a thing).  Briefly it says that there are a set of ascending needs that drive us humans.  As we fulfill one set we then start to work on the next.  Those needs start with basic survival like food and water move onto security needs like shelter and become increasingly aspirational as the lower needs are meet.  Finally, we reach self-actualisation needs and before you ask, no I'm not really sure what those are either, but I'm pretty sure new computers and gas barbeques are right up there somewhere!

That said I liked Douglas Adams explanation of how those same drives works because it seems to describe how we really think.  The progression goes something like this:

  • Will something eat me today?
  • Will I eat something today?
  • What do I want to eat today?
  • Who shall I eat with today?
  • Where shall we eat today?
  • Where do I want to be seen eating today?
That seems to sum up a lot of the human experience, it made me smile and it kind of ties back to the gas barbeque.

In other news, here in the UK the lockdown relaxes a further stage in the morning.  Pubs and hairdressers reopen and social distancing is reduced to 1 metre.  To be fair neither one of those is really going to tempt me as I don't have much hair left and I can't drink alcohol at the moment!  But it does seem more important than ever to suggest that you all try to stay safe out there.

First Sight - Altar of Freedom ACW rules

You know the saying "I need [insert name of thing you don't need here] like I need a hole in the head", well yes it's that, although I could do without any additional holes.  This time it's the American Civil War.  By way of explanation or possibly excuse I should state that after ancient period wargaming the other big period I used to game was the American Civil War in 20mm using Airfix figures.  This stemmed in part from my having been an ACW re-enactor back in the 1970's before I became embroiled in the homegrown variety of civil strife.

It's "The Mild Bunch" circa 1977.
A few days ago while browsing the web I came across a review of a set of rules called 'Altar of Freedom' and they sounded like they were using some interesting mechanisms.  They were available on Wargames Vault for $15 with scenario books for the major battles in the Eastern and Western Theatres for an additional $15 each, available for a simple couple of clicks of a mouse button.  Online purchases, its  what we do in lockdown and it was my birthday on Sunday and they come as a PDF so no incriminating parcels.  Did I mention that the recommended scale is 6mm too.  It's not my fault it was more than mere flesh could bear.  So I bought a set of the rules and the Eastern theatre scenarios.

Nice cover art work too
Lets say right from the off these are not rules that work well for solo gaming (although I'm going to see what I can do about that).  This is because of the activation and game turn length mechanisms.  The whole point of the rules is to have a live opponent.  What they do cover really well is the grand tactical level command and control issues that the Army Commander focuses on.  Each manoeuvre element is a brigade, there is no micromanagement of Regimental formations to worry about that's happening down the chain of command and is beneath the interest of the Army command.  No this is a game that focuses on the bigger picture with the objective being that full scale ACW battles can be fought on a reasonable sized table (the biggest needed is 6 feet by 4 feet).  They are tailored to refights of actual battles rather than fictional encounters or point based competition encounters which suits me fine.

The rules a short, crisp and have the minimum of modifiers to combat.  The core of the game is the activation bidding system.  Each player has Army and Divisional commanders represented on the table.  These all have command points available plus some traits that may impact how they can allocate those points, along with some which impact on other things such as combat.  At the start of the turn those points are allocated between divisions to determine the sequence of activation.  Highest bids go first.  Points can only be applied to units in that general's chain of command.  Some points can be held back to be used in the admin phase at the end of the turn (where reserves can be moved and units may attempt to rally amongst other things.  The other important use of these points is to gain control of the turn clock.  The turn clock has a value ( determined by the scenario) after each group of divisions on the same bid value have moved and fought both players throw a dice and the player who controls the clock decides which one to use.  The value on the chosen dice is deducted from the turn clock and then the next set of divisions are moved at the end of those divisions turns the players throw the dice again to count down the turn clock.  Once the turn clock passes zero the turn ends.  So by having control of the turn clock a player who needs to do a lot in a turn can choose the lowest dice rolls and delay the end of the turn or if they want to block the oppositions plans they choose the higher dice rolls.  this can be useful if there are a lot of reserves needing to be brought up or broken units to rally.  Although its a bit 'gamey' it does allow the impact of generalship to be modelled.  The traits assigned to generals reflect their performance on the day of the battle so as army commander the player has to deal with the personalities.  This is something I really like.

The units are generic brigades on standard bases which makes creating the units easy.  They have a numerical modifier to reflect larger or smaller formations or a better or worse performance at a particular engagement  allocated for each battle.

The scenarios cover the major battles of the war with a tablelayout, order of battle and specific traits for the relevant commanders for that battle.  These vary from battle to battle to reflect how they behaved on that specific day.

Of course this being me a confirmed 6mm player I decided to try the rules using 2mm figures as the recommended scale for buildings is 2 mm.  Plus I can make markers quickly and easily to get up and running.  In due course I may use 6mm figures, or I may not!

The website for the game is excellent (a real plus in favour of the rules in fact)  there are free introductory scenarios to download, a free Gettysburg campaign rule set (also free) and a select of paper building's to make (again free).  These can be found here along with the rules and other helpful advice on building terrain.

So I have a start on Brigade bases and terrain.  So its "On to Richmond" next with a try out of First Manassas as soon as the rest of the units are done.