Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Reasons to be cheerful!

Reason 1: A short but sweet review of the Ramadi game by ToBG (watch at 08.25). I'm nervous about reviews of this game so it is nice to start with an enthusiastic one!

Reason 2: I was recently watching a Lindybeige You Tube video about memoirs, true or false. Mr Beige was as entertaining as usual but in this one he mentions a book: "From the city, from the plough" by Alexander Baron. A fictionalised version of the story of the 5th Wiltshires in Normandy but, essentially, a memoir. This was written in 1948 and sold a million copies. I had never heard of it even after reading continuously about the war for sixty years (OK so I mean from the mid-1960s when I learnt to read!).

5th Wiltshires were part of 43rd Wessex Division, brigaded with the 4th Somerset Light Infantry. Ring any bells? Well Sydney Jary's 18 Platoon were in the Somersets. The periods covered by the two books overlap in Normandy.

I say this with absolutely no hesitation, Baron's book is the very best book I have ever read about British infantry. The language is lyrical, almost poetic. The story is brutal. Watch Mr Beige's video linked above and hunt down a copy. You will not be disappointed!

Reason 3: I have been looking for a 20mm Hummer with a GPK turret. You would think this would be easy but it is not. I dropped a note to Peter at Butlers Printed Models and suggested it would be good to have one of these. He said he would put it on their to do list. He emailed last week to say that it is now ready!

So I have a parcel to collect tomorrow with one grenade launcher and two 50 cal versions. Really good value for £5.50 each. I think I may be cheeky and ask for some more turret options!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Ramadi launched!

Ramadi: Phew! The game is now available after a tense few weeks of final revisions. Well done to Mark Walker (publisher), Ilya Kudriashov (art) and Art Bennett (development) for some fantastic work on this game. You can find the soft version on Wargames Vault for $10 (bargain!). The hard copy is only $26 from Tiny Battles. There is also a BGG page.

What next? Good question. My head is spinning a bit but I do have a few things lined up between now and Christmas.

  • The Battle of Waterberg: A Steve Kling design which I am really pleased to be play testing over the next few weeks. This is the 1904 battle between the Germans in SW Africa and the Herero Tribe. It looks fascinating.
  • Steel, Steel, Steel!: More work on this. I have purchased War by Numbers by Christopher Lawrence which, on the basis of a quick skim, seems to suggest that the original Avalon Hill CRT was pretty accurate. However, it does contain analysis of Germans and Soviet attack success rates at Kursk which will assist greatly with the next iteration of Steel.
  • Desert Hammer: I have been getting into Nordic Weasel's Hammer series (Squad Hammer, Trench Hammer, October Hammer, Winter Hammer etc.). This was inspired by One Hour Wargames and is an intriguing tool kit. Desert Hammer is my version in which I raid the research I did for Desert Eagle and turn it into a workable game.
Anything else? I'm hoping to paint some Stukas (if it kills me). These have been hanging around for ages and I want to get them finished. I also played Hill 70 mentioned by Tim Gow recently. A really interesting narrative online game. For anyone that is involved in leadership training and development of any sort, this little game is a great indicator of your personal leadership style. Very telling. I'm pleased to say that I captured Hill 70 first time round. I might have a go at one of these myself.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Ramadi....nearly there!

Very cool cover artwork. More details on the TB page here. Brilliant artwork by Ilya as per these examples....

Hopefully it will go down OK with players!

Saturday, 28 July 2018

More Steel!

Norm has kindly reminded me of the importance of German control of the air over Kursk. I have been doing some more thinking about that and I now have some numbers to report on.

Here is the basic data on German air sorties for the Citadel period on the Southern Front.

Making sense of this in relationship to the Soviet air effort and the ground fighting is next. Lots more to do!

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Steel, Steel, Steel!

I'm afraid that Norm has encouraged me to start thing about Kursk again by playing Dark July and assorted other Kursk related games. Although this is a slow burner (like most of my projects), I have been doing work on it in between doing other stuff.

So, here is a really interesting question: what was the most powerful German unit on the southern front of the Citadel offensive? May be a great big SS panzer division? Grossdeutschland division?

Well, OK. You guys are quite right. The panzer pushers' favourites are the biggest baddest units on the southern front. 

I have been working on data about units strengths and the graph above shows the state of the German forces on the southern front on 4 July. What interests me is the strength of a couple of infantry divisions: 106 and 320.

So not as strong as the big guys but not at all shabby. So why were these units so strong? These two units formed Corps Raus, part of Army Det. Kempf. They are strong because of the sheer amount of attached artillery units. All corps assets were allocated at divisional level. So things to consider in designing the game are around what these scores actually mean in terms of manouvre ability, fire effects and combat capability. 

Steel, Steel, Steel! will be a solitaire game with the players leading the German onslaught. It will be designed around the same sort of ideas as my Ramadi game (which is obviously why I have this in mind at the moment, as well as Norm's enthusiastic prompting!). More to come, especially around the source of the numbers and how they will be developed into a realistic game.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

I've got a Vassal module and I know how to use it!

I'm currently working with a developer on the Ramadi game. He has come up with a Vassal module in the space of a few hours so is a bit of an expert. He did it more quickly than I could load Java and Vassal from scratch. Nevertheless, all done. Now ready for my first Vassal game. Very cool.

BTW the cups are the ISIS resource pools for IEDs, fighters and assets. I'm just trying to see if I get genuinely random selections from them.

Hopefully I will be back to normal by end July.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Fun in the Grey Zone!

I have been researching potential Grey Zone scenarios. I'm considering games about the battles in Georgia, Syria, the Baltic (potential) and also the Ukraine. I came across this video of a Ukrainian tank crew having a lot of fun with their tank and thought I would share it. I think this is just great fun.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018


I have much going on in thinking terms, including the Ramadi design, so its time to unburden myself on the interweb.

New stuff.....

There appears to be quite a lot of interesting things on the way and some have already arrived.

Red Alert: Just on Kickstarter this is another Richard Borg/PSC collaboration. Command and Colors in space! Not sure its my cup of tea but interesting nonetheless.

Sticks and Stones v2.0: Tiny Battles have refurbished Sticks and Stones, the first of their Platoon Commander games, with redrafted rules and new player aid charts. I'm a big fan of Platoon Commander. As I already have this game, I'm really pleased that there is a free download of the revised rules/PACs which is available now.

Barbarossa: Kicking in the Door... A Russia 1941 campaign game for platoon level rules (of whatever ilk). I came across this on Wargames Vault here. It looks like a really substantial piece of work at the princely sum of $4.95 for the PDF. One for my Father's Day list I think!

New books.......

Well, new to me anyway. Stout Hearts by Ben Kite is a detailed technical description of how British forces actually did things in NW Europe. Lots of technical detail with good snippets from combat veterans. Also written by a real soldier so it has much veracity. Bolt Action players should read and inwardly digest :).

The Defense of Hill 781 by James R McDonough. Another book by a real soldier (his Platoon Leader memoir from Vietnam was superb). This one is a Duffers Drift re-run featuring an unfortunate Lt. Col who is condemned to purgatory (the US National Training Centre) and must successfully overcome the resident OPFOR to get to heaven. Excellent descriptions of how to lead a combined arms mechanized battalion in modern combat.

Last but not least, Losing Small Wars by Frank Ledwidge. This is a book by a former Naval Intelligence Officer. This one analyses the failings of the British Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. Brilliant, well written and insightful. If you need to read a book about the real world this is excellent. Also a brilliant exposition of the need for strategic leadership and a book I would happily take to work and make my colleagues read (along with Platoon Leader and Hill 781).

I have been playing Zombie in My Pocket, a free solo RPG. Very simple and quick. I was incited to do this by Alan on The Stronghold Rebuilt. A potential candidate for re-purposing into a modern house clearing game (Battle Drill 6 brilliant YouTube video). Also, I am being incited to play Norm Smith's Tigers at Minsk again after seeing this great replay on Sound Officers Call.

I knew the unburdening would work, my current themes seem to be centered around platoon level combat and realistic combat mechanisms. Time to get to work on the Grey Zone project again, hence my sniper icon at the top. Thanks for listening folks!

Sorry about the spelling, I seem to be speaking American today.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

News and...


Not war in the Grey Zone (well not yet!) but the latest civil defence advice by the Swedish Government entitled "If Crisis or War Comes". A fascinating document, it reflects the increasing unease in Scandanavia and the Baltics about Russian posturing. Among the interesting things it says is that everyone from 16-70 is required to contribute to Sweden's Total Defence, in the army or civil organisations. It also makes the very striking statement that:
If Sweden is attacked by another country, we will never give up. All information to the effect that resistance is to cease is false.
As a child of the Cold War, under the very realistic threat of nuclear weapons, I recall being rather concerned about the public information films on TV. Not the namby pamby Protect and Survive but the "you have got four minutes from when you hear this siren!". Makes you think!

On the happier and safer wargame front, first up is some interesting news from Worthington. Not only are they prepping a Hold The Line ACW game but now they are working on:
Squad level combat in Europe during WWII using the Hold the Line system.  American, British, Russian, Italian, and German forces fighting in a streamlined tactical system based on the Hold the Line system.
Not sure if this won't look a bit like Columbia's Combat Infantry but nevertheless right up my street!

The other new thing is Tiny Battle's Dark War

It is an RPG and has vampires and stuff in it, so not my normal sort of game. However, it is set in 1985 in a small German town in the aftermath of a Hot War and is a small scale skirmish game with AK47s and RPGs so has a very Twilight 2000 feel. It also has stands so you can make your counters stand up (standees!). I like that idea very much.

Monday, 14 May 2018

The fear starts........


Having fixed my PC I'm now back in action. My first priority is the project related to the map above.

This time last year I worked as developer on Operation Icarus, the Tiny Battles game of the potential German invasion of Iceland during WW2. I found that a very difficult introduction to the world of real wargames. The game was very complicated and much work was needed to make it playable by people other than the designer. As publication approached I became extremely worried that, despite all of the tweaking and re-writing, the game would flounder. All it needs is some smart people to point out some obvious but overlooked faults for a game to crash and burn. Luckily that didn't happen and Tiny Battles shifted a good quantity of games. Phew!

This time round it is my own game on the Battle for Ramadi 2015. If anything, this is making me even more nervous. Luckily I have the support of the brilliant Mark Walker (Tiny Battles and Flying PIG Games) and Ilya Kudriashov, artist extraordinaire. The above is Ilya's first go at converting my map art to a proper map and it is looking great.

Updates will be posted on the Tiny Battles Facebook page. Fingers crossed it will be alright on the night.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Blimey, that's really small!

Well, blog posting has been limited this last few weeks due to ongoing WiFi problems which I aim to resolve tomorrow, fingers crossed. In the meantime I have finished a couple of Zvezda kits which have been on the go for a long time. 

First up the Hind (Yellow 5) suitably finished in completely non-descript cammo. This means it can be friendly or otherwise and is intended for my Ground Zero rules somewhere very dusty. It comes in at a respectable 13cms.

Second is the I-16 (White 9). I really enjoyed the challenge of painting this, even though I'm not a good painter. You can measure this one anyway you like but it doesn't much get past 4cms. I was chuffed I could paint the goggles on the pilot! This one will be air support for my Plan B rules Soviets.

I have done some more modelly-painty stuff over Easter and will report results when I have finished (sometime in 2020 at my usual rate).

One new purchase has been the latest Squad Hammer rule set from Nordic Weasel. 

Plenty of stuff in here (in 45 pages) including ski troops, commissars, FT17s and snipers. Available for less than your favourite monthly wargames magazine!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

40 years.....

that's a long time!

1978 Foreign Legion at Kolwezi

Indeed it is and my employers has seen fit to recognise my longevity. Not with a gold watch thankfully but with a small gift of my choosing. I have chosen widely and gone for.....

I chose this after reading Norm's insightful review on his blog. I'm really pleased with this game, the components are fantastic and there are only 5 pages of rules. The only problem is that the really nice maps have been folded by an origami fan so they look like concertinas. I may have to iron them!

I also got.....

A really neat little solitaire game.

Although that is 40 years down, I still have five to go. Plenty of time to stock up things to play in my old age!

In other news......

Albuera: I see that White Dog are nearing publication for Dave Kershaw's Albuera game. Nice one!

One Minute Che Guevara: I think this is brilliant, the 1967 Bolivian campaign in one minute. Another genius nano game from Pete Belli.

You can find it here.

With my son's help I'm going to try to sell some of my old games on e-bay. I'm not sure what the market is like these days for old stuff. I'm hopeful I can get some funds together for some small investments in new games for the future. There is some interesting stuff on my for sale list....

  • Blood and Thunder by GDW (this was originally second hand but in reasonable nick). The First Battles system applied to the Eastern Front.
  • Four of the S&T Central Front series: North German Plain, BAOR, Fifth Corps, Donau Front. All pretty much mint with the magazines, only NGP is punched.
  • C3i magazines with inserts, Issue 1, Vol 1 #2, Vol 1 #3. covering Hornet Leader, Arctic Storm and Korea 1995.
  • A whole bunch of Command magazines with games: When Tigers Fight, Proud Monster, They Fought Like Lions, Vietnam: Hamburger Hill and Op. Solace, Tet 68, Czechoslovakia 1938, Inchon, Krim all unpunched.
  • An lastly a copy of Johnny Reb III rules.
...but I'm not sure if there will be any takers. It will take a while to get these on, perhaps over the Easter holidays, so if anyone has any interest in advance of that please drop me a comment, any offers considered.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Oil Cheaper than Water....

and other news!

Somewhere in 1973

I have been very interested in recent battle reports by Steve and Duc using the rules being developed by Alex from the Up the Blue blog. So interested that I made enquiries and Alex very kindly sent me copies of both his draft WW2 and modern rules. I have now had a chance to give them a good read and report on what makes them very interesting.The two sets of rules (Oil Cheaper than Water for modern actions and Up the Blue for WW2) are variants of Neil Thomas’ OHW rules. So, although the guys have been playing games much larger than OHW, the rules work just as well with the OHW scenarios as in Alex's latest run through.

Key things of interest for me are:

  • Units are platoons with a frontage of 4" (around 350-400 yards) so a great fit with my hex grid.
  • Non-tank units can dig in giving protection but also allowing friendlies to shoot over them.
  • Units are destroyed on the seventh hit. Hits can be rallied off but....the great thing here is the introduction of permanent hits. Getting three hits in one combat creates a permanent hit which not only can't be rallied off but which creates a negative combat modifier. 
  • First player is determined by die roll but there is a negative modifier for lost units, good to represent force attrition.
  • Units activate individually, if carrying four or more hits the unit must roll to activate, failure results in the unit rallying.
  • Unit actions are move, fire, dig-in, rally and ready, a version of overwatch.
  • I'm still working through the combat rules which also look good, more complex because of ATGWs etc. There are fire priority and proximity rules which remind me a bit of Spearhead. Nice!
All in all, a deep game in only five pages of rules. Oil Cheaper than Water is aimed at the Cold War era and will provide a really way to expand OHW into the modern world. 

In other news...

  • Tigers at Minsk, west front expansion. Norm has started work to expand his TaM small hex grid rules for the war in the west 1944 as Tigers at Caen. I've been looking forward to these for a good long while so it is nice to know that Norm has them under development. Catch Norm's update here and the original TaM here.
  • There is a really nice demo of Trench Hammer on Jozi's blog. Its shows what a neat little system it is. WW2 versions are on the way, Winter Hammer (Winter War 1940) is up first. I'm looking forward to having a go at October Hammer when I get a moment.
  • Also, on Bob's blog the welcome return of the Sands of New Stanhall game, a very interesting divisional level grid game featuring companies represented by one figure and with a simple combat system. A Russian front version features in the next edition of The Nugget.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Getting a grip....

on 2018!

OK, so its nearly March and what have I been up to? Well, I have a couple of irons in the fire for this year but don't yet have a timescale so I have been a bit reluctant to get stuck into anything big until I know what the plans are. It is quite exciting and I want to be in a position to crack on with it once I get the green light.

In the meantime, work continues on GZ. I have a long term phobia about aircraft canopies. I get glue on them, muck up painting the frames and generally am not happy with them. Having procured a nice 1/100 Zvezda Hind I decided to follow the style set by Tim Gow over on Megablitz and More. As evidenced by his Sea Hawk model, Tim paints canopies with aplomb so......

Not yet wholly finished but I'm very happy with it. By the way, I have crawled around inside a Hind at Coventry Air Museum on cockpit day. I'm only average in size but I could hardly fit in the pilot's seat, let alone the gunner's position. Even the rear troop compartment was far too small for me. WW3 in Europe would have been a walkover for NATO as they would only be fighting very small Russians!

The key thing is that now I have a helicopter I can finally finish the air rules for GZ.

There are a couple of other things on my radar at the moment:

Up the Blue: I have been following developments on Alex's blog over recent months and his development of WW2 and modern tank rules for OHW style games. His latest battle report is here. Duc de Gobin has been busy play testing the rules (here). Duc has put me in touch with Alex and I'm looking forward to having a go myself in the near future!

October Hammer: Another masterpiece from Nordic Weasel. For a mere $5.99 (that is less than five pre-Brexit pounds) you get 40+ pages of rules including a campaign system and 15 pre-canned armies. Very nice. This will be the subject of a more detailed post shortly.

I haven't blogged for a while, mainly due to work but, having done this post I'm feeling back on track!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Phew, glad that's over.....

2017 that is!

GZ a work in progress!
I hope everyone has had a good Christmas and a happy new. I have taken a bit of time out to recuperate after a very busy year. As part of the usual festivities, I greatly enjoyed Norm's annual Xmas post. A great tradition that has replaced the Queens Speech in my house.

As for last year......

First up it is necessary to record my abject failure to take part in Capt. Kobold's 6 by 6 challenge (play six games six times each). And thanks to the Capt. for not mentioning my failure in his annual review. I had chosen to play six games largely focusing on solitaire techniques. However, immediately after exposing myself by volunteering I got involved in a number of projects which I greatly enjoyed and which took up a big chunk of my time.  

I developed Op. Icarus for the fantastic Tiny Battles outfit......

This was a real challenge and a great learning opportunity.

I then did some play testing for Steve Kling of the Historical Games Co.

First up was Poltava which was released as a freebie for an exhibition at the Swedish Army Museum and went down very well. Second was working on Steve's design for the Battle of St. Louis (1780) which used a similar system. I don't think this has been published as yet.

And then some further play testing for Dave Kershaw on his Albuera game which has not yet been published but will no doubt appear shortly. 

All in all, very challenging and a lot of fun.

On my own design front, I adapted a couple of excellent rule sets put together by Peter, a guy that knows how to design brilliant mechanics. First was Glorious Morning, adapting Peter's AWI rules to a hex grid format. 

I'm in the process of working up some small scenarios for Glorious Morning using a small hex grid with counters to cover the Southern Campaign. This one is for Camden but is not yet finished. I'm having trouble with the number of units and the scale of the grid, just needs further thought. 

Second was Ground Zero, this uses a great activation mechanic that I borrowed from Peter adapted to a hex grid and to modern warfare. This is definitely not yet finished. However, I am greatly enthused by the adoption of the mechanics by Duc de Gobin and friends to Vietnam.

The last project I started last year was Steel, Steel, Steel.  This is a solitaire area game of the Southern Front at Kursk. I've been working on this since 2013 and I'm determined to get it finished!

Now for 2018.....

Given how unsuccessful I was in my forward look to last year, this year I will mainly be planning to finish the scenarios for Glorious Morning, complete the work on GZ and look at a Vietnam version and also to get to grips with Steel.  

In readiness for some top quality brain work on these designs I have spent Christmas reading the collected Hammers Slammers novels. I have also been doing some literature research on combat values which, unfortunately, leads me to the conclusion that no one actually has the remotest idea about how to model modern combat. More on this later (and probably at great length).

My last thought for this post is that I am looking forward to a couple of really interesting things. 

  • Vicki has been working on a tactical grid based game of the battle of Stalingrad. The great thing about this is that the troops are worms and the fighting is in Wormingrad. Nuff said.
  • Nordic Weasel have been busy with a tactical rule set called Squad Hammer. This has now developed into Trench Hammer (WW1) and October Hammer (Russian revolution). I think these may be important research materials!
The last thing to say, but I should have probably said this first, is thank you to everyone that has read my posts, commented with helpful and constructive thoughts and has kept my enthusiasm up. Hopefully 2018 will be a good year for all of us!