Saturday, 26 October 2013

Hold the line..

Putting you through now Sir!

One of my favourite diversionary tactics is to order something through the post and then spend a lot of time thinking about it when it arrives. This is entirely regardless of whether it actually relates to anything currently sitting on my desk. In this current example I now have a large box sitting where the Shermans ought to be with lots of very nice counters in it. To be fair, I've had this for a while but my recent postal arrival has caused me to rummage like a TB stricken badger and fill the study with STUFF!

The reason for this is the publication of Highland Charge by Worthington Games. This is a supplement to Frederick's War which has also been recently published. These games form part of an eclectic range of games known generically as Hold The Line, although each game has subtle differences. They usually have a 13 by 9 hex map and all have pretty much the same set of simple rules, reminiscent of Memoir 44/CnC but without the cards.

I have therefore rummaged out my Hold the Line game to allow me to play with Highland Charge.

It is probably worth starting at the beginning and seeing where this series of games came from. Initially, Worthington published Clash for a Continent about the American Revolutionary War (is this what we call it now?) and the French and Indian Wars. This was followed by a really interesting game on the War of 1812 called For Honor and Glory. not only did this cover the land battles but also the naval combats on the great Lakes and offshore (I mean at sea as usually naval combat is offshore).

Clash for a Continent

These two games came with thin wooden counters, a little like the CnC blocks from GMT. Both games seemed to take off with miniatures players, with many examples of the games being converted to large scale hex grids on material and played with toy soldiers. I suspect people were attracted by the simplicity of the games and the multiple scenarios. This next shot shows Lundy's Lane from For Honor and Glory which, I think, proves the point.

Lundy's Lane scenario

Both of these games were released in 2005 and are now out of print. I don't think they will ever be reprinted in their original format.

In 2008 Worthington published Hold the Line, a tidied up version of Clash for a Continent featuring completely new scenarios and some fantastic big counters made in Germany.

These counters are card but so thick they sound like plastic when you shuffle them together!

I understand that the earlier Clash for a Continent/For Honor and Glory scenarios can be played equally well with this set, unfortunately Worthington have not made a PDF of the earlier scenarios available. This is  great pity especially as people, like me, would be prepared to pay for them. You can, however, see the scenarios on the relevant Vassal module (of which I know nothing).

In 2010 Worthington took a slight diversion and released Napoleon's War: The 100 days. This looked at the four battles of the 1815 campaign in Belgium. These games used plastic troops rather than counters (like Memoir) and gave up the limited size map and terrain tiles for a series of bespoke printed maps. These looked really good....

Waterloo map with plastic figures

This was followed-up by release of two battle packs featuring new maps for four battles each (Alexandria, Jena, Auerstadt and Bussaco in Pack I with four battles from 1812 in Pack II). These used the plastic playing pieces from the 100 Days game. A second major release with plastic pieces was issued in 2011, Napoleon's War II: The Gates of Moscow covering Borodino, Aspern-Essling, Austerlitz and Marengo.

None of these games are badged as Hold the Line, but the basic rules and game play are very similar.

The latest releases are Frederick's War covering the Austrian Succession and the aforementioned Highland Charge. Frederick's War has some eight scenarios including the big ones such as Mollwitz and Kolin. This returns the series to the 13 by 9 map with terrain tiles and with counters. Smaller square counters this time, not half as nice as the earlier ones but still pretty good. This game features some rules changes to better fit with the larger scale of the battles.

Highland Charge is an expansion covering five scenarios from the '15, '19 and '45 uprisings (Sheriffmuir, Glen Shiel, Prestonpans, Falkirk and Culloden). Killikrankie is also available as a download from Worthington. Here is the counter artwork....

Nice. However, there are some issues with Highland Charge. Sean Chick, the designer, has flagged up some errata including missing counters (promised in the next expansion) and some rules clarifications. Although the rules are simple they are quite difficult to follow and I'm sure there must be a more simple way of expressing them

I don't have Frederick's War but I intend to play Highland Charge using my HTL map and tiles. The latest set of rules (Frederick's War) are required to play the game but these are available on Worthington's website.

If the above narrative is slightly confusing, here is a quick ludography (?) of the series.

  • 2005: Clash for a Continent (ARW/FIW)
  • 2005: For Honor and Glory (1812 land and naval)

  • 2008: Hold the Line (HTL)
  • 2008: French and Indian War expansion

  • 2010: Napoleon's War: The 100 Days
  • 2010: Napoleon's War: Battle Pack I
  • 2010: Napoleon's War: Battle Pack II
  • 2011: Napoleon's War: The Gates of Moscow

  • 2013: Frederick's War
  • 2013: Highland Charge expansion
Also, there are a couple of things not yet on the list:
  • Gettysburg 150: Due very soon, this covers the whole battle of Gettysburg;
  • The potential next release which will cover the Great Northern War and has just entered play testing.
If that's not enough, Sean Chick released a PDF (on BGG on the HTL page under the files section) covering 15 battles from the Austrian Succession including some of those in Frederick's War (in prototype form) and some, like Dettingen and Fontenoy, obviously not involving Frederick.

What I haven't covered here is the rules and that's what I'll go through next time and explain why this is causing me to rummage around in my drawers....

The pictures here were sourced from BGG and Worthington's website except for the obviously naff one taken on my phone.

Monday, 21 October 2013

At last, some Sherman action

Rolling off the production line....slowly!

I'm afraid my plan, to mate an M4 A4 hull with an M4 A1 chassis did not pan out as intended. The additional hull length on the M4 A4 sunk me without trace. Thirty years ago I might have had a go with a razor saw but with my eye sight and history of finger accidents I decided to give it a miss. I understand that Pandas have the same problem.

Here is the finished 1/72 PSC Sherman, painted in US colours but sans decals.

I can assure you that it looks fine in daylight. The Autumn darkness and poor camera work aided by one of those Soviet era airbrush artists have spoiled the effect. However, I'm pleased and it looks good alongside the two Armourfast Shermans.

I undercoated the vehicle in khaki (FoW British Armour Italy) and wet brushed Vallejo Brown Violet. This gave a really nice colour, reminiscent of very weathered OD. The undercarriage was dry brushed with GW Sepia wash and some Vallejo smoky ink was added to the pointy bits. I'll try for some photos of the developing US team for PBI2 at the weekend (if it ever stops raining!).

Friday, 11 October 2013

Gissa job!

Thankfully not more work angst


Every now and again I come across a job that, had I been born at a different time in a different country to different parents etc. etc, I really would have wanted to do. This job involves wearing a green suit and pointing at maps. In US Army speak it is an FA57:

"Functional Area 57 (FA57) is the Army’s Simulation Operations branch, though in fact FA57s are triple-hatted: they manage the use of simulations to provide simulated data to commanders and staffs during training; they manage mission command systems in order to help present real information to commanders and staffs when deployed; and they are the Army’s Knowledge Managers, responsible for organizing information so it is useful.  FA57s are expected to have both knowledge of the operational army, and also knowledge of computers, simulations, and battle command systems: they are expected to be able to translate between geeks and grunts in order to ensure that technical requirements and deliveries actually meet the needs of the field."
In other words, playing wargames and getting paid for it. I like the idea of having three hats as well. This is from an interview on Grogheads with Dr James Sterrett, the Deputy Director of the US Army Command and General Staff College’s Digital Leader Development Center’s Simulations & Exercises Division. Its a good read so if you have a yearning for an alternate career path go to Grogheads.

War Games still used in modern warfare

Another interesting thing I came across recently is this British Forces News item on professional wargames. I had not seen BFN before and I was very impressed with it. The video (at BFBS) includes interviews with Phil Sabin, Tom Mouat and Jeremy Smith and is well worth 2:40 of anyone's time. A matrix game on the Syrian insurrection makes a brief appearance.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

On the up...

Recovering from workplace trauma

The last few weeks at work have been pretty horrendous. It will be some time before things settle down a little and I will just have to persevere. My bloggering activities have suffered as a result because my mind is elsewhere. However, on the plus side the family is well and I have been engaging in some hobby related activity, albeit on a fairly low level.

I did manage to get to Derby the other weekend. I can't get used to the new venue. Although it is a simple 45 minute drive from my house, the parking is great and there are lovely views across the valley, the event lacks the ambiance of the Derby University atrium which was both relaxing and pleasant. As an example, these photos show the venue in use for gigs and interesting cars. Its great for these activities but as a great big box with no natural light (other than that filtering through the access doors) I find it gloomy and cramped.

I did however make an investment...

I have many Airfix Shermans and Matchbox Firefly's waiting to be built but, because Wargames Illustrated once gave away some plastic Valiant US infantry, I decided to have a go at PBI. Because the figures are true1/72 I bought some Armourfast Shermans to go with them. Two came in a pack and they looked OK but I really wanted three so I purchased a pack of three 1/72 Allied M4 A1s last year. This meant I had five and three of them came with cast hulls. They didn't look right with the Armourfast welded hull versions so I left everything for a while.

When I read that the new M4 A4s came with two alternate hulls, I had the idea of swapping out the cast hulls for the welded ones and the problem would both be fixed and produce some Fireflys. A cunning plan indeed.

I now have a total of 8 1/72 Shermans. The two original Armourfasts will remain unaltered. I have now started making up two cast hull M4 A1s which will become Sherman IIC Hybrids. These use the hull components of the M4 A1 and the Firefly turret. Beware that the pimply bit on the underside of the turrets is different between the two PSC sets. Choose the right components! I spent sometime wondering why things didn't fit and then levered off the half glued turret base and put the right one on!

Here is the first attempt...

I'm really pleased. Although there are a few fit issues, the model is very heavy and chunky. Very nice to handle.

Once I have built two IICs I'll make up the remaining cast hull vehicle with a spare M4 A4 hull to go with the Armourfasts (which are M4s with sand skirts and applique hull armour). The remaining M4 A4s will be made up as M4 A4 75mms (Sherman Vs). Funnily enough these will go nicely with my Valiant British infantry which will also do for PBI.

Even writing these thoughts up has cheered me enormously, as has the fact that at least one or two people have read earlier posts which I find very pleasing. Hi!

Well, this is obviously proof that workplace stress invokes a very weird reaction from the average wargamer who never needs an extra excuse to buy masses of the same thing and spend lots of time making these things into other things. Hey ho!