Saturday, January 20, 2018

Death in the Dark Continent: First Game and Impressions

My gaming group has been regular users of Chris Peers' "In The Heart of Africa" and "Contemptible Little Armies" rules for our Africa games, and we've found them to be quite enjoyable for our casual get togethers. With North Star releasing his new "Death in the Dark Continentrule set, we wanted to see if it brought anything new to the table.

For our first trial game, Steve and I tried a clash of two European forces: British and French.  We went with the basic "Pitched Battle" scenario to be fought over a jungle outpost. The scenario description says that bases can be placed anywhere up to 6" of the opposing table edge, so we both decided to deploy around the middle of the table.

Steve won the dice role for initiative, and placed his French in the village while I did my best to surround them.

 The British askari charged the French tirailleurs holding the trading outpost, but were pushed back and received 2 disorder markers.

Meanwhile, the British soldiers moved in on the left to threaten the French baggage, while Sikhs moved in on the right behind the outpost.

The askari and Sikhs opened fire on the tirailleurs and failed to eliminate any bases, but managed to cause some disorder. The 1st legionnaire squad began firing at the Sikhs, while the 2nd legionnaire squad moved to protect their baggage from the advancing British.

The askari and tirailleurs continued their exchange of gunfire at the trading outpost, with neither side managing to dislodge one another. Meanwhile, the Sikhs changed targets and charged the 1st squad of legionnaires.  Their action was unsuccessful and they were forced to retreat. 

On the other side of the village, the 2nd legionnaire squad and the British unleashed a hail of bullets at each other.

Shooting continued for another round and though no bases were lost, the disorder markers continued to pile up.

 The 1st legionnaire squad finally launched a counter-charge against the Sikhs, but after a short stalemate they were pushed back.

The 2nd legionnaire squad and the British exchanged another round of fire, with the British eventually deciding to take cover behind the huts and move into position to support the asakri advance towards the tirailleurs.

The Sikhs eventually managed to eliminate a base of  legionnaires while the askari overran and slaughtered the tirailleurs.

At this stage we decided to call it a British victory and end the game.

So our thoughts on the rules:

  • The production value is top notch, with beautiful pics, extensive army lists, and a lot of historical reference.  And it's well indexed with quick reference sheets to boot!
  • It generally plays similarly to his previous rules, with the major difference being the use of multi-figure bases instead of individual figures. We didn't want to rebase out figures, so used 2x1 movement trays from Warbases. The larger bases did cause us some confusion in determining how to draw line of sight for shooting, but we later got some clarity from the Facebook group (2 corners of a base need to be visible to the attacking unit).
  • Our impression is that morale breaks are what is going to win or lose combats much more so that base loss. In our game, only 2 bases were lost to critical hits.
  • There are a lot of dice modifiers for the shooting and melee (16 each, both additive and subtractive!) that really slowed the attacks as we tried to work out the math. I think this is the weakest part of the new rules and it would have been better if they had fewer modifiers and and had stuck with either additive or subtractive instead of mixing in both.  Or perhaps they could better organize them to help with improving the processing speed.
  • For close combat, the unit sizes don't actually play a role in any of the above modifiers, which we found rather odd. It will be interesting to play again with natives to see if this confers any advantages to to either side.
Final verdict: While solid, we weren't really sold that the rules are a significant improvement over Chris Peers' other rule sets. It seemed more like a variation on a theme, with some things working better and some less so. If you've already invested in the other rules and army books, I'm not sure this would be worth picking up.  However, if you're just starting out in African gaming, this would be a good purchase, as the rules include all the army lists and histories, plus a bonus big game hunting set of rules.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

IJA Grenadiers

Happy belated New Year!  I've been away from the hobby table for a bit with the holidays and family events, but finally managed to get some figures wrapped up. These are a squad of Japanese Grenadiers created using the Warlord plastic Japanese Infantry box. 

As with my previous squads, I've gone with the yellow green uniforms more common to China than the green used in the pacific.

The rules allow for up to 3 mortars per squad, and I've decided to take the maximum.  Rather than individually base each figure, I've decided to include the loaders and base per mortar team.

This is my second squad created from the plastics and I have to say I feel like I'm getting a good handle on this kit and am enjoying the construction and painting even more than before. Definitely worth the investment if you plan on fielding an IJA force.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Zulu War Artillery and Officers

I've been moving slower on this project than I would like, but I've finally gotten a few more items off the painting table.  First up is a 7pdr gun from Empress Miniatures

The cannon included no instructions, so it took some investigative work to figure out how to assemble it. Overall, I found the assembly to be a bit fiddly and I ended up damaging one of the axle ends during the build.  However, I think it still looks reasonably good in the end (though not sure I'd want to assemble another one).

As with my infantry uniforms, I struggled trying to find the right blue among all the variations seen in images online. I opted to continue on with the Dark Sea Blue I had used previously. It ended up looking a bit grayer than I planned on, but I think it will still get the job done.

The officers are also from Empress and and in my opinion look like proper toffs, in particular the one with the monocle. While I like the sculpts overall, the helmets appear to have four panels rather than the correct six (same with the artillery crew). As a result, I've done my best to file the seams down and paint them to better match my plastic Warlord figures.

I've now reached the halfway point on this project, and my aim is to try to have it complete by the Christmas holidays.  Fingers crossed!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Zulu War Natal Native Contingent

My British army continues with a group of Natal native warriors.  As with the European soldiers, these are plastic figures from Warlord Games. The figure frames appear to based on the Zulu plastics, but with changes in the heads and some of the arm detailing. 

The frames have four body types in total, just like their British counterparts, but the variety of head and arm options are much better.  All the figures in the below photos are built off the same bodies, but as you can see, the resulting variability is pretty good.  For this particular unit, I've opted just to use melee weapons and forgo the firearms.

As is often the case with plastics, there are areas of soft details and some of the poses look a bit wooden or awkward, but en mass I think the overall effect is going to look good on the table. And at around $1 US per figure, you get a lot of bang for your buck. So while these will never be your star figures, I would not hesitate to recommend them.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Gundam: Titans vs. AEUG Amongst the Wreckage

So my youngest has been itching to give the Gundam Collection 1/400 Tactical Battles system a go and today we tried our first battle.  He decided he wanted to field the Earth Federation Titans and I went with the Anti Earth Union Group rebels. Being new to the system, we used the simple rules and ignored formations and New Type actions.

Titan Mobile Suits:
 RX-110 Gabthley
RX-139 Hambrabi
RX-121-1 Hazel Custom Gundam

AEUG Mobile Suits:
MSA-005 Methuss
MSN-00100 Hyaku Shiki
RGM-79N GM Custom

The battlefield was an orbiting debris field  from a destroyed space station.  The Titans spread themselves across the battlefield, while the AEUG decided to stay close together and try to pick off the enemy mobile suits one by one.

The AEUG were the more aggressive at the outset, rushing forward while the Titans' Gabthley hid in the wreckage and waited. The Methuss charged the Hambrabi, but came up short and was unable to deploy any weapons.

The Methuss quickly paid for this mistake.  The Hambrabi scored a critical hit with its beam gun, and the damage was severe enough to destroy the Methuss in a single turn.  

 The Gabthley turned to face the arriving AEUG Hyaku Shiki, while the Hazel Custom in the background rushed to support the Gabthley. The Gabthley was unable to do any damage with it's beam saber, while the Hyaku Shiki reduced it to half strength with its counter-attack.

The Gabthley managed to disengage and retreat, allowing the Hazel Custom to take a shot at the Hyaku Shiki, but it was a critical miss.

The GM Custom dodged the fire from the Hambrabi and caused some damage with its machine gun.

 The Hazel Custom made up for its earlier miss with a critical hit on the Hyaku Shiki.  The damage was severe, with the Hyaku Shiki barely surviving. The Hyaku Shiki attempted to return fire with its bazooka, but missed.

The AEUG's GM Custom continued it's attack on the Hambrabi, with the Hambrabi and Gabthley unable to do any damage in return.

 The Hazel Custom charged the Hyaku Shiki hoping to land a death blow, but though nearly crippled, the Hyaku Shiki evaded the attack and delivered a damaging counter-attack with its beam saber in response.

 Being stronger in melee, the Hambrabi assaulted the GM Custom with the Gabthley in support. The GM Custom took damage and had no melee weapons with which to respond.

 In response, the GM Custom successfully disengaged from the hand to hand combat, but was unable to do further damage to the Hambrabi with its machine gun.

The Titans' Hazel Custom also broke of from melee and scored a shot with its beam rifle, bringing the Hyaku Shiki to an explosive end.

 The Hambrabi and the Gabthley also scored victory, with their final shots destroying the GM Custom.

The Titans were victorious, and their commander couldn't help but revel in his win.

The verdict: Both my son and I had a fun time with this game.  The rules are simple enough for kids to pick up (though we discovered a few holes we needed to fix with house rules), and game play was about 45 min, which was a perfect length for him.  He's already asking when we can have our next game.

For those interested, the rubber trading figures are no longer in production, but can often be found on the second hand market. Some of the later figures never had stats released in English, but by looking up their specs on the Gundam Wiki and comparing them to other figures, you can create something reasonable from scratch. 

Lastly, the special effects were added using the Effects Cam app for the iPhone. The picture resolution sadly goes down when using it, but I couldn't resist trying it out.