On Thursday I placed an order from Architects of War for some Perry plastic Prussians and the Operation Squad rulebook. ¬†The Prussians I needed for an 1813 campaign that I’m participating in; well, nominally anyway, I haven’t made any of the games yet ūüôā and the rule book I just wanted. ¬†I’ve been after a good set of fast play WWII skirmish rules for a while. ¬†I’ve played a couple of different sets at cons, and they all have their pluses and minuses, but what I really am after is a set of rules that is true squad level skirmishing. ¬†Operation Squad promises to deliver that as it is playable with only 8-12 figures per side.

As I said, I placed this order Thursday and Architects of War, in true gaming god like fashion, got the order to me today (Saturday) via USPS. ¬†If you don’t know Architects of War, check them out. ¬†They have an ever expanding line of top quality products, and are nice people to deal with besides.

Once I’ve given the rules a good read through I’ll post a review of them. ¬†Next step will be to paint up some 28mm WWII figures and give the rules a go. ¬†Where I’ll find time for that in the midst of all the Napoleonic painting I don’t know!

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Feature


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Most Awesome TotalCon Ever!

Hmm, seems my last post was in August.  I suck at blogging, but I hope people will keep checking back periodically anyway!

Go to your kitchen calendars (oh who am I kidding, open up your scheduling app of choice) and block off February 23-26. ¬†Those are the dates for this year’s TotalCon. ¬†The convention is held at the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, MA and is always a very enjoyable time. ¬†Lots of D&D, Magic, 40k, Warmachine and the like, as well as plenty of board games.

Why am I promoting a con which is not really geared toward historical gaming? ¬†Well, for one thing, it’s just a fun, well organized event and I believe we should do our best to support gaming in all of its forms. ¬†The second reason is my friend Jonathan Reinhart¬†has been talking with the con organizers and they are interested in holding some historical events. ¬†Broadening their appeal as it were. ¬†In response to that, Jon, myself and our friend Cort Naeglin are going to be running a American Civil War themed Black Powder game. ¬†We will be running a scenario provided in the Black Powder rule book, “Daybreak at Hangman’s Creek”, which is a hypothetical battle involving a surprise Confederate attack on a Union held munitions factory.

And that my friends makes this the Most Awesome TotalCon Ever!

We have been play testing the scenario a lot and think it will work well in a convention setting. ¬†The units in it are pretty basic and it doesn’t make use of too many special rules, so teaching the game to newcomers ¬†will be easy. ¬†Black Powder is an easy game to learn anyway. ¬†Pretty much all of the toys are being provided by Cort. ¬†He has some very very nicely painted 15mm Civil War figures and 15mm terrain, so all thanks are to him because otherwise this event wouldn’t be happening.

I hope to see some folks come out for TotalCon this year and I really hope that you’ll consider playing in our event. ¬†We are hoping to become historical gaming ambassadors to the 40k crowd, some of whom might not even be aware that historical wargaming exists. ¬†Our hobby is reasonably healthy at this point, but without bringing in new blood it won’t stay that way!

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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Feature


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Victory at Sea: Age of Dreadnoughts

Naval combat games have always been of special interest to me.¬† Considering I spent 22 years in the Navy, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.¬† Or maybe it should; after 22 years you should be tired of something.¬† But while I have no desire to return to my deck-scrubbing days, or to stay awake for two days just for sake of staying awake, naval combat still fascinates me.

I haven’t had an opportunity to play any really good naval games for a long time now.¬† I picked up the Trafalgar rules set from Warhammer Historical a while back.¬† I’ve read through them several times and I like the level of detail and they seem like they would play well.¬† Unfortunately, though the Age of Sail is one of my favorite periods to game, I find the prospect of assembling and rigging sailing ships to be daunting.¬† In the past I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play with friends’ toys.¬† Right now, I have three British 74’s from Langton in my lead pile that may never get done.

I have been playing Axis & Allies War at Sea a fair bit lately, and while that game is thoroughly enjoyable, it’s not quite what I was looking for.¬† No offense to the game or its devotees, but it’s more like checkers with ship models than it is like a naval simulation.¬† I continued searching for something more suitable.¬† There are plenty of rule sets out there, but I needed something that would satisfy my historical/realism needs but that would not frighten off my fellow gamers.¬† Good bunch of guys, but they’re unreasonably terrified of any game with a chart in it.¬† Some of them have been known to curl up in the fetal position and whimper like a lost child upon seeing an armor penetration table.¬† Seekrieg and Fear God and Dread Nought were out.

I decided to concentrate my search on rule sets that covered the pre-Dreadnought and WWI era; the period from roughly 1900-1920’s.¬† I’ve been itching all over for a good WWI game lately and decided now was the time to scratch it.¬† The rules I settled on are Victory at Sea: Age of Dreadnoughts from Mongoose Publishing.¬† I became aware of Mongoose a few years ago when they re-released two role-playing games that I wasted a LOT of time with when I was a kid, Runequest (formerly published by Chaosium) and Traveller (formerly published by Game Designers Workshop).¬† Mongoose did a good job with those games so I decided to throw the dice on their newest naval product.

The Good:
The rules come in a nicely bound, hard cover book.¬† Illustrations are in black and white, and there aren’t too many, but the quality is good.¬† The actual rules only consist of about 18 pages.¬† Twelve pages or so for the basic rules and a further 6 pages for advanced rules.¬† The rest of the book consists of scenarios (5 generic, 5 historic), guidelines for setting up a campaign game and data sheets for ships from Britain, Germany, Russia, Turkey and the United States.¬† The ship data includes,for capital ships, not just items of interest to the game, but also a brief historical rundown of the ship or ship class, a photo or two, and usually the number of ships in a class.¬† Destroyers, torpedo boats and some light cruisers are given briefer coverage, consisting of just a line of game data.¬† The last few pages of the book consist of turning and gunnery templates that you will need to photocopy (or download in pdf form from Mongoose’s website) and cut out.¬† I mounted the turn templates on balsa wood, but you don’t have to do that with the gunnery templates really.¬† It would be nice if someone offered these as clear or smokey acrylic templates…

The Bad:
While the physical production qualities of the book are top-notch, the editing is not.¬† There are still placeholders in the rules for page and chapter references.¬† For example, when a rule refers you to Chapter XX for more information, the text is literally “see Chapter XX”, not “see Chapter 7”.¬† There are a couple of places where complete paragraphs should be removed (these are specified in an errata sheet available from the Mongoose website).¬† In one case, the section to be removed is a cut & paste error.¬† Text from Mongoose’s WWII game, Victory at Sea, was inadvertently carried over to Age of Dreadnoughts.¬† Some errors in the rules are not covered in the errata sheet.¬† One example is a problem with the “Agile” special trait that some ships can have.¬† Agile according to the rules allows a ship to turn twice in a move.¬† But according to the rules, all ships are already allowed to turn twice in a move.¬† You have to go to the user forums on the Mongoose website to find out which is correct.¬† These errors are significant and they do mar an otherwise good product.

The Highly Questionable:
Let me first say that Victory at Sea: Age of Dreadnoughts is not a hard-core naval simulation.¬† I knew that going in, and was fine with that knowledge.¬† The game has enough detail in terms of combat and damage to ‘feel’ like a sim, but it is easy to manage by novice or chart shy players.¬† In short, it’s exactly what I wanted for my group.¬† And while there are clearly many nods to playability over realism in the rules as you would expect, there is one thing that I can’t quite accept.

Every ship in the game has the same turn radius.¬† The biggest, nastiest battleship turns at the same rate as the smallest destroyer.¬† The way movement rules work, a ship is allowed to turn twice in its move, once at the halfway point and again at the end.¬† So if a ship is moving 6″ it can turn once after moving 3″, then again after moving another 3″.¬† Each turn can be up to 90 degrees, so every ship can turn 180 degrees in a move.¬† This could possibly be justified because time in the game is abstract.¬† Distance is not, 1″ = 500 yards, but time scale is not specified.¬† This just doesn’t feel right to me, though I don’t have any data or math to back up my position.

Mongoose maintains a fairly active users forum, and this point has been raised several times there.¬† The rules author has replied that his research showed that there was little practical difference in the turning radii of ships in the WWI period.¬† He did not cite his sources, but I believe he did the research; I can’t help but question the conclusions is all.

While there are some problems with Victory at Sea: Age of Dreadnoughts I think it is a worthwhile purchase.¬† The rules are easy to learn and play fast and they ‘feel’ right.¬† The game is not a simulation and if that’s what you are looking for AoD may not satisfy you.¬† But if you want a game that will let you play large engagements quickly, that you can easily introduce novice players to, or that you can run as a club or a convention event, AoD is worth a look.

This post is running long, so I will end it here.  I had a chance to play AoD last weekend, and so my next post will be a summary of that game including the details of some of the rule mechanics and a nod to Panzerschiffe, a manufacturer of good quality, low-cost 1:2400 scale naval miniatures.


Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Product Review


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The Whiz in Westborough MA, moving to a new location.

I suspect most people who play and shop at The Whiz are on their mailing list and so should have gotten the “we’re moving” email, but if not, here’s a link with details:
The Whiz new location

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Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized


Black Powder AWI demo game

Today a couple of friends and I got together at Battleground Games & Hobbies in Abington, MA to play a very small “demo” game of Black Powder.¬† Jonathan, Cort and I are assembling armies so we can run some AWI era games using the Black Powder rules.¬† None of us have a huge number of units completed yet, but rather than wait until we had “acceptable” numbers of figures ready to go, Jon suggested we play a small scenario with what we had available.¬† I designed a small, simple scenario using the finished (meaning painted, not yet based) forces that we have.¬† These lined up as follows:

Hessians (Me)
1 Musketeer regiment

British (Cort)
2 British line regiments

Colonials (Jonathan)
1 Militia regiment
1 artillery battery

The scenario revolved around a hypothetical situation where the British were trying to move a strong column of infantry and artillery south from Boston.  One small regiment of Hessians, the Prinz Carl infantry regiment, was assigned duties as flank guard.  As the column passed the small town of Abington, the Hessians encountered and engaged a small rebel force found to be occupying the town.  The column commander detached two line regiments, the 9th and 62nd Foot to assist the Hessians in rolling up the Colonials.

The colonial militia started behind cover in the town.  The Hessians started out on the board, the British arrived on turn 2 as reinforcements entering on the east edge (from the right in the picture).

Being only one regiment, and a small one at that, I found the prospect of charging the colonials, even drunken militia, to be undesirable; especially given the fact that they were supported by artillery.  I advanced my troops to the edge of the woods and opened fire on the militia.  Unfortunately because the traitors were cowering behind a fence the fire had no effect.  Return fire from the colonials was equally ineffective.

On turn 2, reinforcements arrived in the form of Cort’s line regiments.

The rapid movements possible in the Black Powder rules enabled Cort’s brigade to arrive almost in the laps of Jon’s colonials.¬† On a small table like this, 4’x6′, it isn’t a bad idea to halve the movement and shooting ranges for units.¬† We’ll probably do this for our next game.¬† With the British on the table I decided it was time for the Hessians to charge.¬† My goal was to make Jon waste his closing fire on my small regiment allowing Cort to freely close in.

As expected, Jon’s closing fire was quite effective, forcing a break test on the Hessians, with the result that they had to fall back a full move.¬† This cleared the way for Cort’s crack British line regiments though, which was the goal.¬† At this point I fully expect that the rebels will be rolled up like a cheap carpet.

The British 62nd Foot is unable to engage, having been disordered the previous turn by musket and canon fire.  The 9th charges home however, yelling like banshees and inflict one, just one, casualty on the rebels.  The rebels hit the 9th for 3 casualties.  Even with the 62nd standing in support, this means that the British have lost the combat round and must take a break test.  They are unable to believe that the colonials have hurt them as bad as they did and, discretion being the better part of valor, the 9th Foot flees the field.

Using their initiative move Jon moves his colonials back behind the fence line and gives fire to the the 62nd Foot.¬† The British regiment takes a few more casualties and, having watched their comrades flee, can find no reason to stay behind.¬† The 62nd fails its break test and runs for the safety of General Lord Howe’s column.¬† Only the Prinz Carl musketeers remain on the field, and they are shaken and disordered.¬† The musketeers hold at the line of the woods and exchange some desultory musket fire with the rebels, but are finally convinced to retire after some accurate shots by the artillery.¬† The American militia wins the day!

This was obviously just a very small scenario, played mostly to keep up our interest in painting.¬† Jon is right that the danger of waiting until you have enough troops to fight a grand battle is that you’ll never actually get enough troops to fight a grand battle.¬† Better to use what you have and get familiar with the rules.¬† This game was a perfect size for that.¬† A very simple scenario, and not a lot of troops to get bogged down with, so it was possible to just concentrate on the mechanics of the game.¬† Cort in particular has never played BP and hasn’t had the chance to read the rules, so this was¬† a good introductory game.¬† Jonathan and I have each played before, but aren’t hugely experienced with the game, so it was good for us as well.

My hope is that by the next time we play, perhaps in two weeks, I will have a grenadier regiment and an artillery battery completed.  This will give a reasonable sized brigade.  Ultimately I want my Hessian brigade to consist of one grenadier regiment, two musketeer regiments, a regiment, probably small sized, of the Jaeger corps and an artillery battery.  Once these are complete, I will work on some British units or some Continental infantry depending on if Jonathan needs the help.


Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Feature


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Flames of War – British Artillery

I finished up one gun section of a Royal Artillery¬† battery (25lb guns).¬† I bought the box set which I recommend doing since it saves you some money, and you get the very nice sculpted bases from Battlefront.¬† I painted the unit up in late war colors, but they probably are going to be first used in an early or mid war game and I hope they won’t look too out of place next to Matildas and Crusaders done up in desert tan.

To finish this unit up, I have to do the other gun section, 2 guns plus crews, the HQ team, staff team (which has an AMAZING looking sculpted base to go with it) and the observers.¬† That’s a lot actually, but I think it will come together fast.¬† Actual painting time for the 2 guns I just did wasn’t all that long.¬† Most of the time was spent waiting for things to fully dry.

Below are a few shots of one of the guns.¬† The camera really brings out the flaws doesn’t it?¬† ūüėõ¬† It looks better on the table I promise.

Next up for Flames of War I have some Sherman III’s and V’s that I want to try my hand at weathering.¬† I just finished up a Firefly and the results were “meh”.¬† I’ll post some pics of that when the varnish is dry.¬† Also on the table are more Hessian Musketeers.¬† Will start those tonight, pictures when done.

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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in Feature


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Painting 15mm Flames of War

So in an earlier post I think I mentioned that painting some 28mm figures for Black Powder was going to be like a vacation from painting figures for Flames of War.¬† Well, this weekend I went back to FoW.¬† And I was right.¬† I painted some Sherman III’s and V’s, including a Firefly and one gun section of¬† a 25lb artillery battery (pictures when they’re varnished and based).¬† It wasn’t exactly painful, but boy do I like 28mm better!

I’m not building any specific unit, just Generic Mid War British Infantry/Armor unit.¬† I have the Motor Company and Medium Royal Artillery Battery box sets as well as the Sherman platoon and some Matilda Seniors.¬† It’s been slow coming together, but my motivation is back up as it always is post-convention.¬† I’m a bit tired of playing Germans in FoW and needed something different.¬† Right now I have enough units assembled to field an 800 point armor/infantry force, using the 600 pt build rules in the book.¬† That is a company hq and one combat platoon combined with any supporting units desired.

I will finish these guys up tomorrow and start the second gun section.¬† Also I will prep and prime some more Hessians tomorrow night.¬† I’m in a painting mood which doesn’t happen often.¬† Gotta take advantage of it while it lasts!

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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized


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