Monday, July 28, 2008

Back from Historicon !

It was a great trip. I met some terrific folks (some of whom I only knew by name until now) and had a boatload of fun. Now, exhausted, I take stock of what I came home with, and wrestle with the problem of justifying "just a few more" lead figures !

For now, here is a picture of Miniature Wargamer Nirvana (a.k.a. the dealer room)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Off to Historicon !

Well, I'm off to Historicon with stopovers in Manassas and Gettysburg. I'm putting on a ancient naval game (I think its at Friday at 3:00 PM) called "Sea Sick Sailors". I hope to see some of you folks there !

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And now for something completely different (sort of)...

Getting a little burned out with my ancient stuff, I decided to do some mapping for my WW II skirmish game, called illustriously A__Load of Heroes. You can guess what the ___ is for- it rhymes with "Pass" :)

Why that name ? In an earlier incarnation, the game seemed to generate a lot of heroes in-game, until I tweaked the rules a bit. "Boatload of Heroes" wouldn't make sense so I went with what was said in-game by the players :D

Anyway, I created this countryside map to be geomorphic with any more that I cared to do. It is approximately 36" x 40" with a 1.25" hexes, which fits 15mm pretty well, allowing up to 3 infantry (not a good idea in-game though :D) and vehicles covering 2 hexes. The ground scale came out to about 10-12 feet per hex. The map represents about 70 yards by 90 yards or so- good for some close in skirmish fighting !

For the scenario, I had a squad of Germans (2 SMG, 6 Rifle, LMG) facing a very weak platoon of 19 Russians (4 SMG, DP LMG, 14 Rifles) over control of the farm complex in the center of the map.

The Germans were set up as follows:

The Russians were set up as follows:

Here is the map at the start of the game. North is to the left.

While I'm at it, I'll throw in a quick word about the rules I'm using- they require very small six sided dice (D6s in wargame parlance) to be thrown for all the figures and placed in their hexes- this marks how much initiaitive they have. A turn is composed of 6 impulses. Both sides alternate one hex at a time, activating units that have the same initiative dice as the impulse (e.g. only units with "1" can activate in impulse one). This seems to leave a bit of "fog of war" in the game, as you never really know just what order things are going to happen (as will be seen in the game-replay that follows).

I actually based the units on magnets that I trimmed to their base size- this allows them to stand up (the weight of the magnet seems to help a lot) and it lets me mark the units by placing washers under them. The Germans in the above picture, for example, are marked green and are moving (which effects their firing attempts, how far they can move next time, and their target class if fired on).

I use markers to indicate a unit is currently moving (green), firing (red), pinned (white) or doing nothing (no marker at all). This effects the targeting of the enemy and also helps negate the helecopter effect a little bit. When firing, one has to take the closest enemy target in that class (Moving, Firing, or Doing nothing) as its main focal point for the attack (automatic weapons do have a hex spread though- so they can actually hit more than one hex).

But enough with the esoteric stuff. On to the game !

Turn 1- The Russians sent most of their SMG guys to the trees on their right flank, in order to interdict the road leading to the farmhouse complex the Germans were on. The DP set up at the base of the road to provide fire support, and the remainder made for the farm buildings on by taking the left side of the road. The Germans split their forces so as to get to the farm buildings nearest them first.

Turn 2- The Russians began to enter the woods on their right flank, while the rest made as quickly as possible to the closest farm building. The Germans, rolling badly for the initiative, were forced to set up their LMG in the field, so as to get shots at the advancing Russian horde. A lone SMG guy ran up the road to sieze the farmhouse that was furthest to the north. Half of the rest fanned out across the field, while 2 troopers went in to sieze the barn (building "C" - the biggest building).

Turn 3- The Germans rolled badly on the initiative dice, and as a result, the LMG in the field was cut down by long range Russian DP LMG fire. A bad loss of firepower, but on the plus side they managed to capture the barn and get into firing positions behind the trees.

Turn 4 & 5- The Germans, now in good firing positions, begin taking their toll of the advancing Russians (hence they are marked with red "fired" markers). The Russian DP LMG becomes a casualty, weakening their firepower. The Russian attempts to suppress this fire fails miserably. The Russians running pell-mell to the farmhouse arrive and begin to enter it, as well as lay fire on the Germans in the barn.

Turn 6 & 7- After an ineffectual grenade attack (they all bounced off the windows and fell into the yard harmlessly) the Russians rush the barn, and are met with a hail of gunfire, driving the initial attackers back and killing a few. The German SMG guy in the small farmouse at the top of the picture picked off some attackers creeping up on the far side of the barn. On the flank, the Russian SMGs begin taking their toll and supressing the outnumbered Germans by the field. Despite this, the Germans are holding their own, but barely.

And then... it happens ! The German SMG guy just south of the barn heroizes and begins taking out the Russian SMG guys in the woods with some great shots. With their flank secure, now they can concentrate all their attention on the groups rushing the Barn. "That ought to earn me an Iron Cross, ay ?" is overheard. Unfortunately the picture came out a little blurry, so I think he would be denied. Of course, he would have to survive the game :D

Turn 8 & 9- The Russians get a lucky kill on the SMG guy in the house and enter the barn. The few Germans coming from the field to the south for support are too late to save the day and are caught between the field and the barn. When the last German SMG guy goes down, the game is over. The Russians have won !

The game took 1.5 hours to play, and simulated about 5 1/2 minutes of real time. It had enough drama in it to want me to write an after action report. I didn't use wounds (I treated all hits as fatal), which would've lengthened the game a little bit, but it would've added even more drama.

Time to start getting things ready for Historicon, coming up in about a week.....

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Making Unit Counters

Since I have all these nicely painted figures, it would be a good thing to be able to make unit counters (for the campaign map and even as reference for the tactical game) instead of generic counters. I'm making 1/2" counters here for use in the Vidi Vini Vici campaign game. Click on the picure for a better view of the draft print.

For graphics, I took some good high-res pictures of the figures that were going to be used.

I had to doctor the figure pictures so that there colors are more contrasting (when you shrink them down to fit on 1/2 inch counters, they lose a bit of resolution, so this helps compensate for that) and remove the background white, creating a transparent mask (so I can make counters of different countries different colors- see picture at the bottom).

These *.PNGs I import into my drawing program (Visio). I add the counter info, counter outlines then paste the PNGs into them. I use layers to organize and help me with editing, as it can get pretty messy when you have to say, change the color of 1 stat so that it appears better on the counter when you have a page full of counters.

I wanted these as double-side counters with a weaker strength and ID on the back, so I divided the page in half, where the 1st half (the color PNGs in the picture) is mirrored by the second half (the gray PNGs in the picture). This way when I cut the page in 2 halves and mount the 1st half on cardboard, I can turn the cardboard around and mount the 2nd half and it will line up reasonably well. Note that I use 1/2" boxes around the counters on the 1st half of the page, but make them transparent on the 2nd half. You use the boxed side of the counter sheet to cut them out. That way, if your alignment is not perfect, you still get reasonable looking counters.

A word of advice, be sure that second half of the page is a mirror of the 1st or your counter backsides will be wrong ! In this case it did not matter, as each horizontal row was composed of the same counters. It becomes important if you have say an ID on the front you want to match with the one on the back.

I printed this sheet out on an 8 1/2" x 11" full label sheet (Avery Laserjet Labels).All I had to do was cut the page in two halves, peel and stick the halves on some thick-ish cardboard (being careful to line them up as well as possible). In no time I had some decent counters. With a few clicks, I could create army counters in various colors, such as the Red army counter below

I can't wait to get more of my troops re-based (especially the cavalry)- I'll be able to expand my troop types and army possibilities.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Map and Terrain Generation

I do have 3" hexes and other terrain I can use, but they are too heavy to haul around. So I generated and printed a 3" grass hex map that is the battlefield for my campaign game battles. It wound up to be a 40" x 48" map when I printed it. Click on the picture to get a better view of the hex grain.

For my terrain, I printed 20 woods and 20 hill templates on clear acetate that can be randomly generated by the players for the terrain setup of the battlefield. I also created two template card decks for the woods and hills templates so that they can be selected when that terrain appears on the map.

To standardize the setup of terrain and forces, I segmented the map into zones for the attacker and defender, as well as marked where the possible terrain points on the map are. In the picture, the setup zones are denoted by the yellow blocks. The green blocks are where woods can appear, and the gray blocks where hills can appear.

For randomizing the terrain, there are two terrain pools of markers- woods and hills. The composition of those terrain pools is a mixture of blanks and non-blanks that depends on the terrain in the strategic map battle hex. There are 8 woods points on the board and 8 hill points on board. Each side chooses 4 woods markers and 4 hill markers randomly from the appropriate pools.

They get to look at their markers and decide where to place them, alternating one at a time at the points on the board. If the marker is not a blank the player randomly picks a template card, then places the template on the card in on that map point in any way they desire, as long as the template ID printed on the template covers the terrain point on the board. A plus with using clear acetate is that the template can be turned over on its back and used, creating even more variety than otherwise possible.

Here is a picture of a randomly generated map using the above system. I've denoted the start areas for clarity (the defender is at bottom of the picture). It takes about 5 min to setup and create.

Here is a setup for this particular battle and how it looks with the templates and flocked figures. The white tower in the bottom left is a space holder for the defender's camp- I don't have any yet, but
I'm working on it !

Here is what the map looks like if I want to add my trees and 3D terrain hexes into the mix.

All in all, I am pleased with the results. I can easily and quickly generate terrain boards to handle the many, many battles Vini Vidi Vici will generate.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A word on logistics

"Armchair generals talk tactics. Real generals talk logistics"

The logistics I'm talking about here are the storage and transport miniature armies. It does no good to have a large collection of figures, rules, and terrain if I can't get it to the players who want to play the game ! What I've found out (from others as well as trial and error- emphasis on the "error") is described below.

I finished rebasing the Romans and most of the Carthaginians on individual metal flocked bases. Here is a picture of 3 of the 5 trays I had done. Needless to say, it is a lot of troops (over 700 at last count) and I still have many, many more to go.

After all that work, there is a problem that crops up- where do I put all these figures for storage and transport ?

Ideally, I need a storage medium that is flexible to handle the various size of armies I have, be pretty tough and stackable for transport and storage, and keep the figures from getting banged up.

I use those cheap plastic tackle boxes (these figure fit into 5 of them) with strong 1" magnetic strips glued onto the bottom. I had magnetic strips that had an adhesive on the backside, but some of the boxes I had did not have flat enough trays for the thick strips to take hold (so I had to glue them as well). In the future I will look for trays that have the flatest bottom possible !

Since my figures are on small metal bases they adhere to the magnets quite well. A word of caution- be sure that the base of the figure is lying flat on the magnet. When I fill a box, I shake it gently and see if any figure moves around- that one is not seated properly ! That one figure that is loose can cause damage to others and have a terrible pinball effect on the others in that row. An ugly sight with bent spears, swords, unbased figures all tumbled together......

It turns out that I can fit about 60 per row, or about 200 per box (less if cavalry- they take up about 2.5 times as much space). This means my 1st Roman army takes up 2 boxes, the Carthaginians 3 boxes. They are stackable and not too hard to transport.

All in all I'm pleased with the results. Now I have to repeat this process of basing-> flocking -> storage with my other armies (2nd Roman army, Germanic Barbarians, Asiatic Horde Cavarly and that is not even starting on the medievals). A lot of work still left to do