Wargaming in the Pandemic – Playing Nightfighter over Zoom

As we currently have no meetings and gathering indoors is not possible, we have been starved of our wargames for 2 months!

We tried a game of GMT’s Nightfighter over Zoom.  The game uses some house scenarios that allow multiple players on the German side.  The main game map is enlarged and uses miniatures to substitute for counters.

There were four Ju88C-6 night fighters patrolling to intercept bombers over the targets.  These could be coned by the searchlights on the ground, spotted by the onboard radar, or spotted visually.

Here is the hidden umpire map showing the Lancaster position at close of play:

We played until a Lancaster was shot down.  Mark shot down ‘E for East’ after a four move duel.  The bomber spotted him before he attacked and got two rounds of fire, but failed to score a hit.

The Ju88 missed on the first pass from a poor position, then scored heavy damage on the second pass.

The Ju-88 mis-timed the third pass, but finished the target off on the final pass.

Sean had meanwhile homed in on a bomber with one of his Ju-88s, but ran out of time to shoot it down.

This was the game board at close of play:

A scan of the battle map was shared on Zoom with the players and annotated with the fighter positions, radar sightings and searchlight spots.

Game play is slowed, as moves have to be described sequentially, so the game would have worked faster with less planes controlled by one player with hindsight, but the board game hex playing surface does make a game over Zoom possible!  We may give it another go having worked out the snags.

Painting 6mm Romans

New(ish) member Mark2 shows us how he paints his little fellas…

I’ve recently started playing Field of Glory at the club and decided to purchase a 6mm late Roman Army, never owned a Roman army but I have dabbled with late western Roman reenactment and enjoy this period. After consulting the FoG ‘Legions Triumphant’ army list, I picked a Dominate army (3rd to 5th century). Bought my figures from Baccus, they have a good range of late Roman and allies to pick from, the whole army cost around £90. Bases where purchased from Warbases and I used a mixture of Citadel and Vallejo paints, plus the Baccus basing kit.

Baccus figures are pretty chunky for 6mm and have quite a bit of detail, after consulting with some experienced 6mm painters at the club I decided to start with a black undercoat and work up from this, dry brushing light/bold colours to accentuate the detail, finally picking out detail such as weapons, helmets and banners. It’s important to use lighter or bolder colours at this scale, without this figures tend to look like a dark blob on the table. The black undercoat acts as shade/black line effect. The trick here is to ’trick’ the eye, with the aim of producing hopefully decent looking figures on a tabletop battlefield.

These figures are Baccus late roman with helm, I’m using them for my Auxilia palatina. In a Dominate army these troops were usually deployed as medium infantry but where also used as heavy infantry. I believe this was to fill gaps in the legions which were becoming a little more scarce during this time. I’ll be basing the auxilia on a FoG 15mm medium infantry base (40x30mm) but will pack the troops together in the style of heavy infantry. The figures come in fours and I use 16 per base, two lines of eight, that’s about as many as you can get across a stand this size using Baccus.

These figures where tacked to temporary painting bases, I usually permanently base before painting if I can, but didn’t fancy painting these guys when they are so closely packed together. I tack using a small blob of super glue as it’s easy to break off when you’re ready to base.

I base coat using a black acrylic spray, I find cheaper car sprays work well with metal figures, not to be used with plastics. It’s a messy job, but you can cover a whole army fairly quickly. I tend to undercoat in chunks, usually around 4 units at a time.

I begin by dry brushing the main colour, for the auxilia it’s their tunic, which I have painted using Citadel Lothern Blue, a bright powder like blue. I chose this colour as I have seen artists impressions using blue and it plausible that it may have been used. I dry brush with one of my 0 size brushes that has seen better days, you can purchase dry brushes but they tend to be on the large size and you need a relatively small brush for this scale. Dry brushing involves removing moisture from the brush by sweeping it across some kitchen role or the like and then lightly brushing across the area you want to paint, at a 45 degree angle if possible. This technique highlights raised detail and leaves recessed areas darker, giving a fairly good and realistic contrast, I find it works really well at this scale. I don’t tend to dry brush at larger scales as I prefer to wash and layer, however this is a quick and effective way to paint 6mm armies. You need to be careful not to contaminate other parts of the figure, such as the spear, shield and forearms, but this is relatively easy with some steady sweeps of your brush, any miss-haps can be blacked over.

Once I’ve completed the main colour I move on to the ‘large’ peripheries, in this case the shield (Vallejo Scarlet). Note that I am not dry brushing here but applying colour to the front of the shield leaving the middle and rear black, the same technique is also used with the spear (Vallejo Beige Brown), helmet (Citadel Mithril Silver) and flesh (Vallejo Flat Flesh), more on this in a moment.
Fourth picture – helmet, spear.

Before moving on the next stage, now is a good time to check for any contamination, such as tunic colour on flesh or weapon areas by touching up with some black, this sounds fiddly but it’s worth doing and doesn’t take long at all. I spend about 5 minutes per unit, the auxilia have eight stands with 16 figures on each so it gives you an idea of what I mean by not taking up much time.

I now move on to the flesh, hands and face in the case of these figures. As I mentioned above, Baccus are quite detailed for 6mm, so need a little care and attention when doing the Faces. I use a three spot method, one at the mid-top of the face and two below, left and right, this creates a face rather than a flesh coloured blob (at least that’s the theory). I’ve found the Baccus figures do have different faces, some work well with three dots others are better with two, this can only be about casting variations. Remember the effect works at battlefield level, on the table top, not close up. Next is to add any metal colours, I used Citadel Mithril Silver for the helmets, spear tips and shield boss. Gold (Vallejo Brass) for the standard, instrument and helms for the officer, musician and standard bearer. I use the same technique described above, making sure to pick out highlights and leave those in shade black. After this it’s the spear poles and then onto shield detail (see below). I also apply paint to the leggings at this point (Vallejo Pale Sand).

I’ve chosen to add a pattern to the shield, I’ve done this as it adds a little more detail to the figures and helps to catch the eye, really important at this scale. I’ve used Vallejo white, note that there are two units both with differing patterns. I’ve done this based on research carried out about the period, which indicates that Roman armies of this time were subject to more barbarian influence.

Finally the base materials are applied, basing is important at all scales, for 6mm it’s really important as it helps to bring your units to life. Again, brighter colours should be used for same reasons described above. I’ve chosen to use the Baccus basing system, which involves applying fine grade sand using PVA glue, washing the sand with a light brown ink and then dry brushing three progressively lighter sand colours over the dry wash. Don’t worry about hiding the figures’ stands at the moment, this comes next. Once the dry brushing is complete, you add the grass, this is done using a small plastic device called an Uff Puff. It’s best described as a plastic bellows, which you fill with grass and then apply the grass over the base, this means that the grass is more likely to stand up, and less likely to lie flat or clump. So, water down a little PVA apply around the figures’ base and hey presto you have some grass and no step showing from the figures’ base. Finally I paint the edges of the base Citadel Moot Green. I’ve also included some of my archers and cavalry, these were done without using temporary panting bases and there’s more space between these figures. I have also added grass between each figure. So that’s it, I hope this has been helpful, I am also working on a 6mm Spanish Peninsular army and hope to share some photos of these in the not too distant future.

Horsin’ Around

Andy goes equine.

Among my Mexican forces for the Maximillian Adventure I have some dismounted Irregular cavalry, to represent these as Mounted Infantry in “The Men Who Would Be Kings” games I wanted some rider-less horses. I eventually found some Sash & Sabre ACW Union horses (and holders) at Colonel Bill’s. Not ideal as they are uniformly equipped, but they’ll do for my purposes.

After cleaning up any vents and flash and washing in soapy water they were glued to 50mm x 25mm pill bases, 4Ground base render was used to build up the bases and they were undercoated with Halfords grey primer. The horses were painted black or various shades of brown, the latter with an Army Painter dark tone wash. Horse furniture, blankets and saddle rolls were painted a variety of Vallejo colours to give the impression of an irregular unit.

Bases were finished with Banshee brown and flocked, and then matt varnished.

ROMANES EUNT DOMUS: A game of Basic Impetus

Stephen gets impetuous…

I downloaded Basic Impetus yonks ago, when it was available as a free download.

Unfortunately it’s no longer available as a freebie because the publishers subsequently brought out a separate edition because it proved so popular as a game in its own right and not just as a stepping stone on to the full Impetus rules. After my recent game I think I may buy the bells-and-whistles published version because Basic Impetus is a great game.

I went with Romans, invading the Germans. The battlefield was set up with a river going across the middle, some woods either side of the river on one flank and an area of rocky ground on the other. The Romans lined up with their auxiliaries facing the wood, the cavalry and legionaries in the middle, and the artillery and archers on the left. Similarly, the Germans also lined up with their warbands in the middle. On their left they put their cavalry and some of their skirmisher archers, and on their right they had the rest of their skirmishers. The Roman tactic was to use their archers and artillery to engage the Germans.

The risk was the Germans would take up position along the river, meaning it would cause disruption to the Romans as they crossed. So the Romans chose to use the archers and artillery to draw the Germans across the river rather than just sit there taking all the hits. The Germans put most of their skirmishers on their left flank, to make their way through the woods and outflank the Romans. Both sides initially held their cavalry back to act as a reserve unit to exploit gaps.

The Germans did indeed move up to the river and take position along it. This was an understandable and obvious tactic. The Roman auxiliaries moved up using the woods as cover, trying to shield themselves from the German skirmishers. This was fine, but as soon as they cleared the woods and moved up to the river they would be exposed, and the German archers opened fire. The Romans were trying a similar tactic on the other flank – their archers moved up and engaged the German archers that had taken up position in some rocks, and the artillery fired at long range in an attempt to disrupt the German battle line. Neither had any effect (something that would continue throughout the game).

The Germans did indeed move up to the river and take position along it. This was an understandable and obvious tactic. The Roman auxiliaries moved up using the woods as cover, trying to shield themselves from the German skirmishers. This was fine, but as soon as they cleared the woods and moved up to the river they would be exposed, and the German archers opened fire.

The Romans were trying a similar tactic on the other flank – their archers moved up and engaged the German archers that had taken up position in some rocks, and the artillery fired at long range in an attempt to disrupt the German battle line. Neither had any effect (something that would continue throughout the game). The Roman artillery and archers continued their firing but were having little effect. Fortunately, neither were the German archers.

The auxiliaries had made good progress against the Germans – having advanced across the river and pushed their opposition back. It had come at a price, though, and the auxiliaries had taken damage in securing this bridgehead. Now it was up to the legionaries. With initiative finally going the Roman way, the legions splashed across the river and charged against the Germans! A shoving match ensued, with the Germans counter-attacking. But the Romans were winning and steadily pushing the Germans back.

There now came the chance for the auxiliaries to show their worth once more. Although they had taken damage and were no longer fresh, all that stood in front of them were the German cavalry, commanded by their general. If the auxiliaires could eliminate the cavalry and general then victory would go to the Romans. Fortunately, the cavalry had also taken some damage, but it had rallied and was no longer disrupted. Nevertheless, the auxiliaries formed up and they charged against them.

This would prove to be the decisive melee. In went the auxiliaries and they managed to destroy the German cavalry and with it the German general. Final victory went to the Romans who, though many of their units had taken damage, had not lost a single unit.

Mounted Legionnaires

Andy takes his brushes south of the border again.

One of the last units to be painted for my Maximilian Adventure collection is a unit of mounted French Foreign Legion. Mine came from Wargames Foundry, most are actually cavalry and have carbines rather than rifles, which gave me a thought.

In “The Men Who Would Be Kings”, a mounted Regular Infantry unit needs 12 figures, whilst a Regular Cavalry unit needs only 8. As I only had three with rifles, I decided to give most of them white trousers so they could be used as either Cavalry or Mounted Infantry, with 4 of the 12 with the red trousers used bythe Foreign Legion.

After cleaning up the models by removing any vents and lines, and washing in soapy water, the horses were stuck to 50mm x 25mm pill bases from Warbases, then built up with 4Ground base render and undercoated matt black.

The horse’s coats were painted a variety of browns, or black, apart from one which I decided to try painting as a grey, so this one had a coat of white paint followed by Light Grey applied with a stippling brush.

Horse furniture was black, saddle and saddle bags Saddle Brown, horse blanket Black Grey dry brushed Basalt Grey and cape London Grey dry brushed Light Grey. Bases were painted AP Banshee Brown and patches of flock applied with PVA glue.

The riders were also undercoated matt black, face and hands were base coated Brown Sand and top coated Medium Flesh. Tunics and lower Kepi Dark Blue with AP Blue wash, trousers either white or Flat Red, the latter with an AP Red wash. The upper part of the kepi was also Flat Red. Some of the riders had sombreros, painted various shades of brown or grey; others white kepi covers. Carbines and rifles have Beige Brown woodwork, Gun Metal Grey metalwork and German Camouflage Beige straps. Belts and scabbard were black.

I originally based my mounted figures for this period on 50mm round bases. These proved to be a bit of a bugger to store in the KR Multicase boxes I use. I also started using some rules where it would be useful to have multiple figures on a base. I looked around and found that Warbases do both mdf bases and movement trays to take them. They will also make custom movement trays to your own specification (they kindly made some for me for some Vikings for Dux Bellorum). So, I decided to change my basing strategy. I’ve mounted these (and a few others) on 50mm x 25mm pill bases. Here’s the old and new styles:

I’ve also bought some compatible movement trays, 120mm x 60mm, with four slots:

So all I’ve got to do now is rebase around 25 older models once Warbases reopen and I can get some more bases. ☹.
I think I’ll be using the same bases for my Dark Ages mounted so I can use the same figures for SAGA, Lion Rampant and Dux Bellorum, but I’ll need to get some customised bases the same size but with only three slots.

OUTREMER: Upon Yon Crossroads

I decided to have another game of Outremer, having really enjoyed the first one.

The game was set during the Baron’s War of Simon de Montfort. Rebels loyal to de Montfort were scouting ahead, unaware that men loyal to King Henry were doing the same. Ahead was a road junction – the winner would be the side that could control the junction after 8 turns (this was scenario #3 from the book).

The rebels were led by Sir Maddox Melior. Amongst his retinue he had two skilled crossbowmen – Beric Morris and ‘Big’ Eddie. This duo would prove invaluable.

Sir Maddox, Tankard, Beric, and Eddie

In charge of the king’s men was Sir Guy de Ferris. With him were a trio of archers and a motley selection of men-at-arms.

Sir Guy with Louis and Guy Cartwright

Sir Maddox, being a bit of a loner, sent his crossbowmen rushing forward along the edge of a wheat field. The two took up position behind a hedge overlooking the junction. Sir Maddox sent his spearmen down a lane, with a French sellsword (Roul Allaire) and a young archer (Gamal) making their way through the wheat.

Meanwhile, Sir Guy had ordered his archers forward, to skirt around the edge of a pond. Sir Guy led two of his men through the woods whilst the others made for the lane that ran alongside a travellers inn and down to the junction.

It was the two archers, Rowan Windrush and Derek the Eel, who opened hostilities. Seeing Sir Maddox’s spearmen coming down the lane they let fly. But no one was hit. Beric and Eddie saw the two archers and so loaded up their crossbows and shot back. Down went Rowan! This left Derek with a dilemma – whether to shoot back at Beric and Eddie or try to stop the spearmen.

Rowan goes down and Derek draws his bow

Quite unexpectedly it was Tankard Jenkins, a Welsh spearman and bondsman of Sir Maddox, who clambered over a hedge and plonked himself defiantly in the middle of the junction – more of a fingers-up at Sir Guy and his men than anything else.

Tankard Jenkins stands defiant

Sir Guy and the rest of his men met up on the road beside the inn. They couldn’t let the rebels hold on to the junction, but Beric and Eddie were in a strong position, and both were skilled with their crossbows. If they tried to rush the junction they may get cut down. So Jean Paul, a young and impressionable Frenchmen, climbed over a wall and made his way around the back of the inn to outflank the rebels. Guy Cartwright, with his whooping great two-handed sword, did similar, but made for the gate that led on to the junction.

Sir Guy’s men surround Sir Maddox at the junction

Sir Maddox’s spearmen had now come down to the junction. Hallet Adkin decided to distract Big Eddie by charging him. But Eddie was quick with his bow and as Hallet came across the field he was felled by an arrow.

Hallet Adkin foolishly runs forward

If the royalists were to win the day then they had to act quickly. Guy Cartwright climbed over the stone wall and waved his massive sword menacingly at Sir Maddox. But it was just bravado, since he lacked the courage to actually charge.

So it was down to Sir Guy to draw his sword and lunge forward for Sir Maddox!

Sir Maddox managed to fend the English knight off and with a flurry of blows Sir Guy was beaten. Just in time, Roul Allaire came to Sir Maddox’s defence to engage Guy Cartwright before he could attack Sir Maddox from behind.

Sir Maddox wounds Sir Guy

And down went Guy Cartwright as well and with it, the end of the game.

The rebels had won.

In Outremer, just because a figure is taken out, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are dead. An end of game roll is made to see what happened. Fortunately, Hallet Adkin only sustained a flesh wound and would live to fight again. The same could be said for Rowan and Will (another of Sir Guy’s men).Sir Guy himself had taken a bad wound to his leg which would mean that in future games he’d be at a disadvantage. Some of Sir Guy’s other men had also taken bad wounds and would also be hampered. Guy Cartwright, however, had been killed in the melee.

Down goes Sir Guy and Roul lays into Guy Cartwright

BLACK OPS – Battle Report

Stephen goes dark…

Black Ops is another Osprey game I bought when it came out but didn’t have a chance to play.

Once I had my copy and read it, I felt as if it had been mis-sold to me. The pre-launch blurb was all about futuristic stealth missions. And the cover art of the rules enforces that feeling.

However, once read, you can see the author is more aiming at contemporary special forces missions – SAS and Delta Force style anti-terrorist actions. Oh yes, there’s a brief bit on near future tech at the end, but you feel that’s been added solely as a bit of lip-service.

Maybe that’s why it stayed on the shelf for ages, unplayed.

However, I have now played it and I must say I thought it was a great game! I always wanted it to be more sci-fi, if I’m honest, but I didn’t let that stop me. How I rationalised it is that at this level of combat it will always come down to frightened men desperately trying to stay alive and eliminate the person trying to kill them. The battlefield tech is for the…well, battlefield.

So I decided the weapons were all relative. Whether you call it an assault rifle or a gauss carbine, or a LMG or an autolaser, who cares? Well, I don’t.

I decided the game board should be loaded with terrain. This creates a more tactical game, enhances the stealth nature of the rules, and cuts down firing lines. The scenario was simple, the humans had to break into a communications station, download some data, and get out.

What I liked the most about Black Ops is how the rules were geared to the setting. This, as you may have read in a previous review, was the main failing of Zona Alfa for me. Since Black Ops is about stealth missions then the rules must reflect that. And they do. You can either play against an opponent or you can play solo and you make rolls to see if the guards spot your troops and what they do. It worked really well.

My sci fi humans are all named after French philosophers and writers. Leading them was Foucault with Voltaire offering heavy support and Camus, Balzac, and Flaubert as back up. The cyborgs are all named after 70s and 80s computers. The venerable Dragon 32 was control with the ZX81 equipped with a heavy bolt gun and the Spectrum, C64, TI99, MSX, and CPC 464 also on patrol.

Turns are done by card activation (I like card activation, as any club member will tell you). Foucault with Camus and Flaubert made their way around the north of the compound with Balzac and Voltaire sneaking through the breaker’s yard.

Standing guard outside the comms bunker were the Sinclair duo – ZX81 and Spectrum. The rest of the ‘borgs wandered around. How the stealth and observation rules work is that if a model moves into a position where they could be seen a roll is made. This could be modified if there’s any gun fire, running, fighting, etc. If heard, the observer has a choice – they can either raise the alarm or take a shot. Once a guard has heard the enemy then they are under player control and no longer roll for their actions.

The humans moved up part of the way. To the north, Foucault, Flaubert, and Camus were held down as Dragon 32 and MSX kept pacing back and forth. They could have made a dash for it, but they might have been seen, so decided to be cautious and stay hidden.

Most of the cyborg guards seemed to be drifting toward the south, where Voltaire and Balzac were. It was proving hard for them to move up. It reached that point where any more movement may compromise the mission and so, deciding to take the fight to the borgs rather than the other way around, Balzac opened fire! Voltaire took his lead, and also let rip.

This fire drew the attention of the cyborgs. On their turn, they got to roll for observation and they were alerted by the firing. This drew the guards toward Voltaire and Balzac, allowing Foucault and co the chance to move up!

Amongst the trash the firefight hotted up. ZX81 went down (not for the first time) but TI99 returned fire. Dragon 32 dithered a bit, unsure whether to stay where he was or cross over to where the shooting was taking place. MSX was in position around some junk, and he was making it difficult for Foucault and the boys to sneak up to the comms bunker.

Meanwhile, the firefight with Voltaire and Balzac took a turn for the worse. Balzac went down under fire from TI99 and C64. Voltaire moved up, firing from the hip with his rail gun. C64 went down, with CPC464 close behind him. Foucault sneaked around behind some tires but was seen by MSX, who promptly started firing at the French linguist. He missed, and Foucault returned the gesture. Down went MSX.

The two sides now got stuck in to a fire fight. But due to cover no one was scoring any more hits. Foucault saw his chance, albeit a risky one. He moved around the side of the comms bunker and had to take the risk – a dash for the bunker doorway where he could deconstruct the cyborg data. Dragon 32 also took a risk and made a rush for Foulcault and the two became locked in close combat. Dragon 32 had the advantage on the first round by attacking Foucault from behind, but he failed to exploit this. Foucault turned to face his attacker and managed to take down the 8 bit monstrosity.

Success went to the humans.

I thought Black Ops was a great game. Loved it. The stealth rules work well, and so do the guard reaction rolls, without being too stodgy. The other mechanics are nice and simple and there are also lots of equipment options for specialists. I will definitely be playing this again.

The Russian Baltic Fleet in 1914 – Organisation, Modelling and Painting Guide – Part 1

2nd Cruiser Brigade

Our Treasurer recently decided to expand his WW1 naval campaign into the Baltic – a theatre that saw a lot of interesting naval actions and a major amphibious assault.

That meant acquiring the Russian Baltic Fleet.  Fortunately Russian naval enthusiasts have unearthed a lot of good material from their naval archives in the last few years and made it available on-line.  After brushing up on the Russian alphabet and with liberal use of Google translate, this information is just a click or two away as long as you use Cyrillic text for your searches!  I’ll give the correct 1914 Cyrillic names of the units, commanders and ships below with their western script equivalents.

1/3000 is the scale of my German Fleet, so off went my order to get started to Navwar – who still have an unrivaled range and reasonably priced models for this period.

First up on the painting table are 6 cruisers from the 1st and 2nd Бригада Крейсеровъ (Cruiser Brigades).

The flagships were the big old armoured cruisers Громобой (Gromoboy, meaning Thunderer), and Россия (Rossiya, meaning Russia)  respectively.  These are oldish Navwar sculpts and needed some work, but also needed quite a bit of conversion work to bring them up to 1914.  Both had been considerably upgunned from the 1904 era Navwar model with prominent new casemates on the top decks  – Gromoboy had also had a complete new set of boilers, but you can’t see them!  Bring on the modelling knife, plasticard sheet and rod, bits of old national trust membership cards and superglue and voila:

Original models of Gromoboy (top) and Rossiya (bottom)
Gromoboy (top) and Rossiya (bottom) after conversion – casemates and guns moved/added, boats re-positioned, funnels and bridges tidied up/added and for Gromoboy stern shape and ship length corrected with a new stern casemate and conning towers also added

Next were two other much newer, smaller armoured cruisers of 1st Brigade, the sisters Адмиралъ Макаровъ (Admiral Makarov, a celebrated admiral lost in the war against Japan) and Баянъ (Bayan, a celebrated 11th century bard).  These needed very little work – not much more than just filing away the 11pdr gun in the bow and moving a couple of boats.

Last in this first batch were two 2nd class cruisers of 2nd Brigade, the sisters Богаты́ръ (Bogatýr, a Russian medieval warrior/knight) and Олегъ (Oleg – the name of several celebrated historical figures).  These veterans of the Japanese war also needed some tidy ups and removal of some of the small guns from Oleg:

Oleg (top) and Bogatýr (bottom) with funnels tidied, turret shape/size corrected, aft superstructure enhanced/corrected, boats added and 4x11pdr guns removed from Oleg

Finally painting and basing.  The Baltic Fleet introduced a two tone paint scheme for all large warships in an order of March 7th 1912, with light grey upperworks and a darker grey hull side.  All of these warships had unpainted wooden decks.  Finally the Baltic Fleet continued to use 1m wide funnel bands throughout the war (painted out in most other navies).  1st Brigade used red and 2nd Brigade blue in 1914.  First ship had a band at top of 2nd funnel, 2nd ship a band half way down 2nd funnel, 3rd ship a band at the top of 2nd and 3rd funnels and fourth ship a band half way down 2nd and 3rd funnels:

1st Cruiser Brigade
2nd Cruiser Brigade
1st Cruiser Brigade
2nd Cruiser Brigade
1st Cruiser Brigade
2nd Cruiser Brigade

These ships underwent a bewildering number of changes in their armament during their lives, but contemporary records, photos and plans confirm their armament in 1914 as:

1st Brigade

Контръ Адмиралъ Коломейцевъ – Rear-Admiral Kolomeytsev

Gromoboy (flag) – 4×8″, 22×6″, 4x75mm(11 pdr), 4x47mm (3pdr), 2 TT

Admiral Makarov (2nd ship)- 2×8″, 8×6″, 20x75mm(11pdr), 2 TT

Bayan (4th ship) – 2×8″, 8×6″, 22x75mm(11pdr), 2 TT

2nd Brigade (initially titled Бригадой крейсеровъ 1-й резерва, 1st Reserve Cruiser Brigade)

Контръ Адмиралъ Лесковъ – Rear-Admiral Leskov, promoted on 10.8.14, having been appointed to command a couple of days before war broke out

Rossiya (flag) – 4×8″, 22×6″, 15x75mm(11 pdr), TTs all removed

Bogatýr (2nd ship) – 12×6″, 12x75mm(11pdr), 4x47mm (3pdr), 2 TT

Oleg (3rd ship) – 12×6″, 8x75mm(11pdr), 8x47mm (3pdr), 2 TT

Most 3pdr guns and all 6pdr and 1pdr guns had been removed from the ships as they were found to be ineffective deck clutter in the war against Japan.

The next batch will add the remaining cruisers in these Brigades and begin adding the destroyer and torpedo boat flotillas…….

Birch Forest

John Lambert gets green fingers.

I’d missed out on the bargain miniature Christmas trees from The Works but needed some trees for Zona Alfa. I thought about birch trees, this is how I made them.

Wire Armature
I used wire armatures for the trees and found a tutorial on the Marklin model railway site. I had some thin wire from B & Q Garden section and start by cutting two pieces about 45cm long and folded them in two. I placed the handle of a wooden spoon in the bends and gripping the 4 strands of wire in pliers, rotated the handle to twist the wire. I continued twisting until I wanted to inset a branch. These were made by taking a piece of wire about 20 cm in length which I bent half way. Taking one of the 4 strand of wire, I twist this around one half of the new piece of wire, the second half of the added wire now becomes a strand for the trunk, then continued twisting the trunk until I was ready to insert another branch. I then went back to twist the two wires for the branch until it was long enough, leaving lengths of wire at the end of the branch. The tree canopy will be attached to these. I then continued up the trunk, dropping the number of trunk wires or splitting the trunk into two near the top. The loops at the foot of the trunk are folded out and glued to a base.

The next stage was to get rid of the twisted wire appearance and add some body to the lower section of the trunk. I used Decorator’s acrylic caulk for this, using a wet modelling knife to smooth the caulk and provide texture. I didn’t add caulk to the free ends of the branch. Once the caulk was dry, I painted the trunk pale stone colour, applied a thin pale green wash then dry brushed white. I painted the ends of the branches black. I had a look at our local birch trees, the branches lose thickness abruptly then a mesh of fine branches drop down almost vertically.
I had a pack of black scourers also from B & Q and by gently ripping the scourer, I could get a very thin mesh which I would superglue to the black branch ends

This mesh is pretty robust and ideal to provide the canopy. For foliage, I had some small clump foliage which was just the job. Once the canopy pieces were glued to the branch ends, it was time to add the foliage. I dry brushed the canopy with PVA and sprinkled the canopy with the clump foliage, leaving to dry overnight. The next day, I gently brushed off any loose foliage and the tree was complete, once sprayed with matt sealant.

Tree on left is painted Armature ready for canopy mesh, Tree on right has partial canopy applied. Tree in centre is finished tree.
If you look a photos of Birch forest, the trees are often grouped closely together in stands, I think due to a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria. I decided to create stands that would conveniently fit into a storage box. These could be grouped together as dense clumps, or spread out to form a birch forest. I used the same technique as the trees above.

Outremer: Faith & Blood

Stephen gives us his views on the Osprey rulebook and follows up with a battle report.

I am a big fan of the Osprey ‘blue book’ rules. They’re the right physical size and just the right price that they’re worth taking a punt on. I bought Outremer: Faith And Blood when it came out but it just sat on the bookshelf for ages. This weekend I finally managed to have a game of it. What follows are my thoughts and a battle report.

Like all the blue books the rules can be a bit patchy in places. That’s no bad thing, but it is something to be aware of and you have to realise that player input may be needed. Some are patchier than others, and I’m pleased to say that Outremer was less patchy than some. Though some bits were unclear and did need a bit of improvisation (mainly terrain – but I’ll come to that below).

The game is designed so that each player controls about 6-12 figures. Activation is done by drawing cards. Since each figure is likely to have slightly different stats and a few extra traits I decided to cobble up some character cards. I made them business card size so they could be put in a plastic wallet. The rules suggest using a pack of regular playing cards and you assign a card to each figure. What I did was knock up a bespoke card with the character name and picture for this.

Character Cards

I did a simple game – seven a side with the French versus the English. It’s worth saying here that though Outremer is set during the crusades it is really just a generic set of medieval skirmish rules. So that’s how I’ve used them.

View from the English side

It seems to me the key to these mini-games (‘mini’ because they don’t have many figures) is to ensure there’s LOT’S of terrain. So I had a large ruin in the middle, all of which counted as rough terrain and hard cover, and some wood – which also counted as rough terrain and soft cover. This is where I had to do some improvisation. The rules say nothing about shooting into and out of terrain. So I adopted a Saga approach – you can fire into and out of terrain but you cannot shoot through terrain. Since there were a lot of ruins I had to think about how that would affect the game. The rules don’t really help. The choice is either count the terrain as a piece of rough terrain and is symbolic only (so if there are high walls then you can still move through that, etc) OR figures can only move around the ruins through gaps or climb over walls and high walls block line of sight. I can see pros and cons with either approach. In the end I adopted the former.

The game started with both sides either side of the ruins. The French were led by Sir William le Bon with his squire Luc Brecon. The English were led by Sir Walter de Marsh and his young squire Henry Wilton. Luc took up place with the French crossbowmen in some woods overlooking the ruins whilst Sir William took charge of the spearmen and moved up to the ruins.

The English longbowmen advanced to the ruins, with Walter Fletcher taking a particularly advantageous position behind a wall.

With all that rough terrain movement was slowed down. When a model’s card is drawn it can make two actions. Most actions cost 1 point but some cost 2 points. A model completes all actions before the next card is drawn.

French Crossbowmen led by Luc

The French crossbows let fly nice and early as the English tried to cross the ruins. But the combination of long range and hard cover meant the English took no casualties. Models have a series of stats and, depending on how good they are, the better the die type they roll. I like that game mechanic. It’s nice and simple and does the job well. Thierry, a French crossbowman, had the ‘corrective shooting’ trait, which meant once per game he could re-roll a failed shoot roll. He took a pot shot at Sir Walter, missed, and decided to re-roll. Fortunately he missed again.

Luc spots the English archers

Sir William and one of his spearmen, Louis, moved into the ruined chancel. By now Henry Wilton and Adam (an English spearman) had also made their way into the ruins. The two sides faced off against each other. However, an English longbowman, Peter Ashdown, had also moved in to the ruins and decided to see if he could bring it all to a quick end by taking out Sir William. He missed.

Sir William with Louis and Jean

Realising they couldn’t afford to wait, both Sir William and Louis advanced against their adversaries as soon as they could. In the game it’s not just a matter of moving models in to combat. They have to make a Faith Test to summon the courage to go in. The charger rolls his die and he has to beat his opponent’s Presence score. If he fails then he stays where he is. If he passes then in he goes!

Walter takes position

Walter Fletcher’s sniping position was paying off. The French crossbowmen had to advance to shorten the range so they could get a good shot in and as they did so Walter started picking them off. Squire Luc could see the only way out of this was to cut Walter down – he had no choice but to charge the Englishman. Not this time though. He dithered and before he could summon the courage he was taken down by Walter’s bow skills.

William and Louis in the ruins

In the chancel the fight was coming to a conclusion – Sir William and Louis had defeated both Henry and Adam. Sir Walter had now advanced through the ruins toward the chancel. There was only one way to sort the matter out – the two knights would have to square off.

William takes on Henry and Adam

It wasn’t to be though. Walter Fletcher drew his bow, took aim, and…there went Sir William.

Carnage!

Game over.

I enjoyed that game. I wasn’t sure what it would be like with such a limited number of models on the table. I think it works best with a bit of role-playing and players investing a bit of character into the models.

There’s also a campaign system in the game whereby after each encounter the models gain experience and can improve. Oh, it’s also worth saying that models that are ‘killed’ in the game aren’t necessarily dead. Being ‘taken down’ merely means they are out of the game. At game end you make a roll and see what’s happened – they could be dead, could be a slight scar, or something more inhibiting.