Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Battle of Midway

The last few days I have been reading the Battle of Midway by Craig L. Symonds.  A very readable general history of the early days of the war and of course the battle itself.  The book starts right after Pearl Harbor when Nimitz is assigned to CINCPACFLT, covers the battle of the Coral Sea, the Doolittle raid, and then fairly exhaustively covers the planning and execution of the actual battle.

Prior to reading this book, I did not know much about Midway, other than that crypto intercepted some of the plans from the Japanese, and that the torpedo bombers were wiped out, which allowed the dive bombers to do their thing.  I saw some reference somewhere to how D-day was celebrated, but Midway was not, even though Midway was much more critical to the overall war effort, and that prompted me to read this book.

As this book is fairly new, it covers the most current research and understanding of the battle, which at least in a few cases is counter to the "received" history that many understand.  The author spends extra effort to explain what the crypto folks did and did not have on the Japanese fleet's movements leading up to the invasion of Midway, and extra effort explaining what happened during the "flight to nowhere" when the USS Hornet's attack element flew away from the known contacts until they had to turn back for loss of fuel.  In the first case the crypto folks had the date, target, and rough composition of the Japanese forces deduced, but not composition of task forces, or actual locations. In the second case the flight probably suffered from a combination effect of looking for a "second carrier group" (however, all four were operating together), and poor navigational technique.

This book was quite enjoyable, and given that it is clearly a "general history" rather than a scholarly work, quite readable as well. I can now say that I know quite a bit more about the battle and what lead up to it, and since that was the goal of the endeavor, it should be judged as a success. The book also made me more interested in gaming this period, and I spent some time looking at the (glorious, and at $20 per CV costly) GHQ 1/2400 ships.

Wargaming the Battle of Midway specifically would be difficult, since the battle hinges on the surprise of having three carriers where none are expected, timing of search patterns, and of course beyond visual range combat, none of which are easy to incorporate in a game, particularly without umpires (or computers). For that reason, it seems that a board game would probably do it best; however a search of boardgamegeek did not yield a clear "winner", so that avenue remains to be explored.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Age of Sigmar II

Well, I got White Dwarf 75, and it appears that all rumors about the new Age of Sigmar game are true.  It does replace Warhammer with some sort of rules light skirmish game, and it does have Sigmar Marines, sorry "Stormcast Eternals" as being the fluff drivers in a new era with a bunch of new worlds.

(Apologies for the hasty cellphone snaps throughout)
So the old world is dead... what is left?  Well, terrible "fluff", new names (Orruks instead of Orcs and so on), and I suspect new models being the only focus going forward. (There are rules for existing models on the website, but it seems likely that only new figures will be featured in the future, and certainly in the new campaign books.)  As someone with 4+ Warhammer armies, it is somewhat depressing, but to be fair, I have not ever played the game anyway, and was likely to stick with 6th edition when I did get around to it, so it is not much of a loss for me ruleswise... only in the demise of my beloved Empire.

After that depressing stuff, lets move on to the cool part about this post, which is the Sigmar marine included with the White Dwarf.  This is the first time since 5th Edition 40k that I have gotten a figure with the magazine (that time it was a Terminator and an Ork).  Indeed this is the newest GW figure that I have, since most of my kits are older.  I must say it was very sharply molded.  It may not be evident from pictures, but the figure is not a "press fit" one, in that the head, shield, and chest pieces need to be glued for permanency.  In the picture below I super glued the shield arm but left everything else loose. Interestingly, the pauldrons are split down the middle, even down the middle of the Sigmar symbol.  The fit is so tight though, that at least on the right side (the one with the symbol) you would never notice.

40mm base
The conversion potential of this figure, and indeed the others from this set is pretty good... if you are looking to make true scale marines that is. When the first rumor pictures started circulating, I thought that maybe these guys would be useful for inquisitors, but as you can see from the slightly blurry picture below, they are very large.  Fortunately they will work nicely as a true scale marine, with some judicious clipping, and marine arms. Mainly, I think that using marine arms, pauldrons, backpack, head, and a chest plate will be sufficient to do the job.

He is a large fellow

bit of a perspective issue here, but the head seems to fit nicely...
Originally I thought that I would convert the Sigmar Marine into another Deathwatch marine, but I decided that I did not want to wait for a bitz order.  Now I have a selection of Chaos bitz on one hand and some imperial ones on the other, trying to decide which way to go...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Comic reading

Recently JB, author of Leadplague, had a run down of some influential comic books, which prompted me to order some from the ever handy inter-library loan service. While most of the titles recommended were not available, I was able to get a copy of The Incal, and Judge Dredd Case files.  My wife had her wisdom teeth taken out last week, so I had plenty of time to read, and managed to get through all three books.

The Incal: The epic conspiracy
This book is part of a larger Incal cycle, which unfortunately continues beyond this volume.  Unfortunate, because this might be the only one I can get through the library.  However, the story that is contained here is pretty good, particularly the first part, which is set in a hive city and features John Difool finding the titular Incal. Lots of great artwork here, as might be expected from Moebius. The story gets decidedly weirder as it goes on, and the travelers featured on the cover here travel "down and out" so to speak.  The hive world scenes would be useful I think for Rogue Trader/Necromunda, and some of the other sequences were pretty evocative for gaming as well.

Judge Dredd Case Files V1 and V2

I am sure that most of you are familiar with Judge Dredd, if only because of "I am the Law!"  In any case, Judge Dredd is from a future Mega City One (the East coast of the US) where Judges are selected/created to enforce the law in a strict, and sometime brutal way. These two books collect most of the first Dredd stories from the 2000AD comic book.  These volumes are in black and white (as was the majority of the source art I believe), and I really enjoyed some of the longer stories that would have stretched out over multiple issues, particularly the Judge Cal sequence.  Plenty more of these are available from the library, so I will be getting a few more of them.

Happily Judge Dredd miniatures are available from both Wargames Foundry and Warlords Games (from Mongoose) I believe that the ranges are broadly compatible, but it is hard to say for sure without having them in front of you (and I have read that some of the Mongoose figures are not necessarily internally compatible, being from different sculptors). Foundry's figures are specific characters, taken from these early Dredd stories, which is nice, since I now know the stories behind the evocative figures.  Mongoose's figures seem more in support of skirmish gaming, and are more generic in nature (citizens, Judges, punks, etc.)

In any case, plenty of figures available to create some Mega City One skirmish action, or battles between judges from different Mega Cities.

Some of the figures would also be useful for Rogue Trader-esque games, which of course makes sense, given the influence of Dredd and 2000AD generally on Rogue Trader (and Necromunda).  In particular the MegaCitizens A and B would be great to mix in with more "standard" 40k civilian types, and more random weapons are always useful as well. Plus Walter.  Everyone needs Walter the Wobot.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Age of Sigmar

You have probably already seen these pictures from a White Dwarf leak, but if not...

New Sigmarites

By the power of giant feet and giant shoulder pads, I am Sigmar!
New Chaos
Yo dawg, I heard you like muscles...
Supposedly the contents of the Age of Sigmar (Aos) boxed set that may or may not be the 9th edition of Warhammer. [there is some talk that this is really a separate skirmish only game, and that "real" 9th edition will come later]

Have to say that I am not terribly impressed... the technical quality is surely there, but blech.  This is not what I want in Warhammer.  There was talk of this having rules similar to LotR, which would be good, but then again it would be even less like traditional Warhammer Fantasy than this looks like.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Homage to Catalonia

This week at work I read George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia , his 1936/37 account of his brief time in the Spanish Civil war, and the Barcelona fighting between the anarchists and communists. Mr. Orwell fought as a member of a later suppressed Marxist militia (POUM), and was seriously wounded on the front lines near Huesca. He then returns to Barcelona to find his organisation has been suppressed, and his membership in the party a liability, and manages to escape Spain.

The book itself is excellent, and very readable, as one might expect from Mr. Orwell. Reading it contrasts the civil war in Spain with the experiences of soldiers in the Great War, particularly as Mr. Orwell was involved in static trench fighting and sieges, neither changed much by the limited introduction of airplanes and tanks. Mr. Orwell himself comments on this, as much of the equipment issued at this stage of the war to the Anarchist Militias is very old, or home made.

War-gaming the Spanish Civil War is very popular, at least outside of Spain.  With the sort of "proto-WWII" feel of the war, but Great War style battles, and the large international aspect, it seems to attract war-gamers interested in the more colorful aspects of the war, as well as those interested in smaller scale actions. (company or smaller)

Another reason for its popularity may lie with the excellent miniatures sold by Empress Miniatures. Great looking figures, and at £7 for 4 figures, a nice price as well.

Picture from Empress

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fury (2014 Movie)

This week I slogged through Fury, the 2014 movie staring Brad Pitt as a WWII American tank commander in the last days of the Third Reich.  Mr. Pitt commands a M4 Easy Eight called Fury, with a hardened veteran crew that needs a replacement assistant driver, naturally supplied by a brand new guy who has been in the army only a couple months, and is a clerk typist, not a tank crew man (much like the character in Saving Private Ryan).  After a few experiences, the new guy becomes part of the crew, learns to kill Nazis, and then is a hero.

First the good stuff: I did like how the tanks and equipment were real (mostly) and watching the tanks operate with infantry was pretty interesting.  Tank rounds seemed to either penetrate or be deflected, rather than be absorbed by armor, which was an interesting change over most movies. Shia the beef was also pretty good in his role as the gunner of the tank, so apparently small doses of him are not bad.

The Hollywood element was a bit much though, for example when dueling with a Tiger I, they both rush towards one another, and the Sherman manages to out turn the Tiger to shoot it in the rear (although Wikipedia says that a Tiger I could traverse the main gun 360 degrees in 19 seconds, so...).  [I was also going to say that the tank should have been a Tiger II or a Panther at this stage of the war, but apparently a few old Tigers really did fight in the last days of the war]  A character also takes two potato masher grenades inside the tank, but remains whole so that another character can weep over them later... which stands out in comparison to the unrelenting (and unneeded) gore of the rest of the film (and no one ever bails out of a knocked out tank).  There is also the obligatory "totally-consensual-and-not-at-all-rape" scene with a contemporarily attractive and dressed girl, which is in contrast to her more period appropriate cousin.

Over all the movie was just ok, and I am glad that I did not pay to see it in the theater.

If you were interested in gaming the battle between the Tiger and the tanks, Plastic Soldier Company sells a 15mm Tiger I, but not an Easy Eight to represent the titular tank, although that can be sourced from Battlefront. The supporting tanks seem to be a mix of M4A3s, which Battlefront has in plastic.  [they also seem to have plastic Pershings, which means you could easily field more on your table top than fought in the whole of the war]

Friday, May 8, 2015

Painting Preview

A few preview pictures for your review. I say preview, because I took them on my phone, and because I was not able to get the colors to come out very well, so please assume they are both sharper and more nicely colored! Sometime I will get around to taking better shots. Obviously both set of figures need further base work as well. 

 First up is an INQ28 group, consisting of four members of the Watch, a local police force.  They are built from Empire handgunner bodies, various Cadian arms, and some other bitz.  They were also an experiment in undercoating in a color closer to the final, as you can see from the light blue around their feet.  Unfortunately, the light blue was much harder to cover up than I anticipated, and I would not repeat its use even for mostly blue figures. 

The next figure is a mild conversion of a Reaper Bones figure.  I replaced the head and added a shield, both of which were very easy conversions, as a sharp knife cuts right through the vinyl.  Painted as a somewhat generic chaos champion, with no cult markings so that he can be either undivided, or Nurgle as needed (the armor being green tinted).

Monday, May 4, 2015

Rebel Blockade Runner

Ignore the contents of my counter... the light was good there. 

The "real" CR90 should be about 150 m long, so this works out to ~1/360 scale
For a fifth birthday gift, I got #1 child got the pictured Electronic Rebel Blockade Runner, which was new in box from 1996!  Bought on ebay for not very much at all, particularly considering how long it had been moldering away in a box.  The batteries were still good, and the lights and sound work as well as they did back when it was released.

This will eventually pull double duty as a X-wing piece, although I have to figure out or acquire the rules for the official piece, and make a base.  It probably could stand to be detailed a little more, and would benefit from some weathering... this is after all for Star Wars, and grubby is the goal!

At 16 inches long this works out to about ~1/360 scale, and is too small as compared to the 1/270 scale of the official X-wing miniatures, but it is still quite a bit larger than the "official" figure.  (plus it has lights and sounds!)  It will be pretty dominating on the table top, since it is about 44% of a total table length!

The important part is that the kid liked it, and was zooming it around the room after opening it, and really, that makes it worth while.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Defeat by Phillippe-Paul De Ségur

As I have mentioned before, I have been doing a lot of reading lately (and not as much hobby as a result).
Probably not a period picture...
Thanks to my local library, I have just finished reading Defeat by Philippe-Paul de Ségur, who was an Aide-de-camp during Napoleon's invasion of Russia, and thus, was there to see much of what he writes about in this book discussing the Grand Army's invasion of Russia, and its subsequent defeat by winter and poor planning. This version of his book is a abridgment of the original two volumes (Histoire de Napoléon et de la grande armée pendant l'année 1812) published in 1824.

The book is full of vivid detail, although it tends more to salacious anecdotes than to detailed history, as might be expected by the publication date (and possibly due to the abridgment as well).  The author seems to have a poor opinion of Berthier, Napoleon's chief of staff and blames him in part for some of the disaster. By contrast, de Ségur, paints Eugéne de Beauhamis in a very heroic light.  (interestingly both Berthier and Eugéne were relatives by marriage to the King of Bavaria).  As might be expected from an Aide-de-camp, the more personal stories tend to be of arguments between the marshals, and not of combat action.

The book is full of great scenes like this one:

The terrain he [Napoleon] had to cross to reach Moscow presented a strange appearance.  Enormous fires had been lit in the middle of the fields, in thick, cold mud, and were being fed with mahogany furniture and gilded windows and doors.  Around these fires, on litters of dam straw, ill-protected by a few boards, soldiers and their officers, mud-stained and smoke-blackened, were seated in splendid armchairs, or lying on silk sofas. At their feet were heaped or spread out cashmere shawls, the rarest of Siberian furs, cloth of gold from persia, and silver dishes in which they were eating coarse black bread, baked in the ashed, and half-cooked, bloody horseflesh - strange combination of abundance and famine, wealth and filth, luxury and poverty! 

So, an interesting book, and you should check it out.
Gaming: As you might expect, the Perrys have a complete range of figures that would be useful for gaming the various parts of the 1812 expedition, both in the beginning as the Grand Army, and the disastrous retreat.  It has certainly increased my interest in the retreat, and in the following 1813 campaigns.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Eureka 28mm Chaos

Now that is Chaos
I am the egg man! 
Not just goat men. Coming out in the next few months from Eureka Miniatures, although they will have some stock at Salute.

Pretty good looking figures, and the one Eureka 28mm figure I have is a good size, so these should work pretty well with older GW Chaos figures.  Should also be good for inquisitors to hunt down.