Monday, 1 September 2014

Little Chef: Some Corner of a Foreign Field Playtest

Jeanette absent mindedly leaned on the counter. It had been another busy day at Little Chef on the south lane of the East Whittington bypass. The customers were mostly soldiers these days, and by the lorry load too. There was still lorry drivers, families going on holiday and the odd travelling rep, but there were far fewer than when the crisis began. Most families who stopped had cars piled high with personal possessions. She felt sorry for them. As short order cook Jeanette had lost count of the number of gammon steaks and pineapple she'd cooked on the griddle. Takings were good today at least and that would please Terry, the manager. It was almost end of shift so he was in the back doing the reconciliation from the tills whilst Pauline, was out front conspicuously cleaning tables in an effort to hurry away their last customers. Right now Jeanette was looking forward to the end of her shift, getting her feet up in front of Coronation Street with a big mug of tea and a Mcvities chocolate digestive.

CRASH! BANG!!! "Nobody Fecking Move!" Jeanette suddenly faced a terrifying reality as 3 armed and masked men burst into the Little Chef.

Baz had noticed something wrong with the Rover and it's occupants back at the Saville Heath Petrol Garage when he'd gone back to collect his Green Shield stamps. "Missus will kill me. Saving up for a new ironing board". They tailed the car at a safe distance. The driver of the rover seemingly unaware that he had been rumbled by Baz and Daz of 13 Close Reconnaissance Company in a souped up but heavily fortified Q Car. When the Rover pulled into the Little Chef, Daz smiled "Got 'em!".

Sergeant Fry of the East Whittington Special Patrol Group was just taking his first bite of a Curley Wurley when the "All Armed Units" call for assistance came over the radio.  When Dispatch "Foxtrot One Two, Foxtrot One Two, be aware, armed undercover army personnel on scene", Constable Baldwin turned to his partner "Sounds like we are heading into a war Kev!".

 So this was the setup for my play test of Some Corner Of A Foreign Field, modern skirmish rules kindly sent to me by Matt of Morningstar Productions. I took to the rules straight away on first reading. And it wasn't a lot of reading because Some Corner Of A Foreign Field (SCoaFF) are only two pages long. Yes that's right, two pages like the One Cell wargames rules emanating from Wargames Developments back in the 80's and early 90's.

I deliberately chose this scenario as it had to be fun for me whilst play testing but allowed me enough characterisation to test the rules several times using different quality stats - called Skills & Drills (S&D) in SCoaFF to measure the effect of the different levels. The houses behind the Little Chef had gardens which would allow for a running battle if it came to that.

SCoaFF uses D20, familiar with RPG players. It is dead simple to pick without the learning curve of other similar modern skirmish rules and flows smoothly allowing you to concentrate on the game not the rules. 

There's no rules for vehicles or heavy weapons as the game is clearly focused as a squad level skirmish game and is no poorer for that. Integral support doesn't generally go higher than platoon level though MGs, company mortars and snipers can all be brought into play as off board support elements if required by the mission. This is because the intended engagement zone of this game is about 500-750 metres square on a 4x4 board (give or take). For most major assets this would be danger close, particularly once the two sides start to mix it up.

There are 5 Skills&Drills levels, 1-5. All else being equal, you will find that a model at one S&D level is worth 1.5-2 models at the next one down (i.e. 4 S&D4s are worth 6-8 S&D3s). The set-up of your scenario (eg ambush) and weapon mix will alter that of course. In the play tests altering the S&D for various  figures had a significant role in effecting the outcome.

A neat touch is that combat builds up Stress levels throughout the game and effects morale which differs depending upon whether you are regular or an insurgent. Having just re-read Brains and Bullets: How Psychology Wins Wars by Leo Murray for the THIRD time this month, Some Corner Of A Foreign Field was very timely and speaks to me to a degree where the two become the same.

Stretched out with colour pictures and associated fluff I could easily see this as a contender for becoming an Osprey rule set. As it is SCoaFF definitely packs a punch above it's weight in pages and everything is there to play a robust squad level game on the table that equals Battlefield or Call of Duty Modern Warfare on the Xbox with minimum of fuss and maximum enjoyment.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Plastic Squaddies: 1/72 British Infantry of the 1970's

Want Winter of '79 in a box? These 1/72 plastic Toms from A Call To Arms: British Infantry of the 1970's are just that.

So what do you get? Four identical sprues each with 8 unique figures for a total of 32 men. These are divvied up into:

4   macho officer types firing pistol
4   very macho Charlie G No.1s standing firing
4   patrolling GPMG No.1s
20 assorted riflemen with SLRs in five poses

This is essentially a platoon in a box with some left overs.  You know,  I really like these plastic squaddies.There's a lot of potential here with just the odd headswop. Plus, these figures are simply reduced versions of  Britains 54mm SuperDeetail Paratroopers which were first launched in 1978 and of course because of that they have the bang on feel of the 70's, Life on Mars and a streets of Ulster thing going on for them.

Rather than repeating others, here are links to Paul's excellent PlasticWarriors blog which shows these Toms painted as Falklands era Scots Guards and Argentine 602 Commando Company. And of course the ever interesting Bennos Figure Forum shows their compatibility with Matchbox/Revell's plastic British Paratroopers (Falklands War).

A box of each of these plastics plus some TQD-MF1 SAS Commandos from C-P Models, and you can start your own Winter of '79 shooting war.


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Anarchy in the UK!

Punks came pogoing into the 1970's. They were a groundswell movement of working class kids bringing energy and a new urban rebellion that would quickly become the popular image of Anarchy for over a decade. Even today perhaps thanks to the Mad Max franchise Punks are synonymous with visions of post apocalyptic feral gangs.

Apocalypse Miniatures 20mm Punks
(images courtesy of Apocalypse Miniatures)

Since the demise of the excellent Citadel Miniatures Dark Future range, surprisingly no 20mm manufacturer in the UK has picked up the mantle of this distinctive and popular sub-culture. Until now that is... Apocalypse Miniatures have just released 10 new 'heroic' 20mm post-apocalyptic Punks.

 They definitely look the biz and I've already put an order in with Apocalypse Miniatures through their eBay store, so they will be headbutting my door in sometime this week. Which is great timing as we finished  the 'gang' warfare section of our upcoming rules last week and these new Punks will fit straight in and become part of our test games.

I plan to leave some as is but others will have their weapons replaced by SLRs, Sterlings and Brens for pure God Save the Queen, Winter of '79 anarchic urban chic.

 I'm also looking forward to using these new Apocalypse Miniatures in more traditional post apocalyptic games and use them against a stream of different dystopian future and Sci Fi foes. Time to break out the Ambush Alley SOG 2010 post apocalypse Wasteland scenario pack from Apocalypse Miniatures informed me on the back of my purchase that trench coat gangers and futuristic police are on their way too.

Go and check out Apocalypse Miniatures on Facebook and eBay.


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Winter of '69: Somewhere in the Boonies

As Mark indicated we have been working away during our break from blogging at a dedicated set of Winter of '79 rules. Needless to say I have been....distracted. Mark kindly pointed me to what he described on eBay as "all you'll ever need for Vietnam in 20mm."  I think he did mean all "I" ever need as there's far too few choppers for Mark to even consider it. Well, here's the proof:

 Winter of '69: You don't know man. You weren't there!

In order to get an idea as to how our Winter of '79 rules are stacking, I worked up a fast and dirty solo Winter of '69 Nam variant using more or less the same game mechanisms.

So, my squad of grunts, led by a Sorry Honky of a LT, headed off to search the Ville of Dak Plop. In the section are various panicky dudes, slick grunts and some gung-ho honchos. There's even a Sorry Ass REMF. The LT proves to be useless and it's down to the Slick RTO to get the HQ and M60 team moving. The plan was that they'd give cover to Sgt Greensboro and his grunts as they slid down the track to the ville.

At this point Charlie made his appearance and the oh so simple plan went down the tubes. After about four turns of shooting in which the honky LT actually led by example, Charlie broke off leaving the Medic panicked, the REMF down and Tallahassee (Grunt No.2) applying bandages....then, a sniper emerged together with another gaggle of Charlie. The M60 and the scout drove off the sniper while the RTO got ready to call down The Big One......the LT was paralysed in full on panic so it was down to Sgt Greensboro to man up and grimly pushed Charlie back.

Apart from some pigs, all was silent in the Ville, the bunker was empty and reports had Charlie massing on the trail back to the LZ. A lone sniper popped away from across the paddy but was silenced by concentrated massed fire.

The terrain worked magnificently as did the core rule mechanisms. At one point in the game with the LT and Medic panicking, a couple of wounded were being treated by Tallahassee, plus some weapon stoppages on the firing line there was a very real rising sense of crisis. It was Sgt Greensboro who gathered the scout and pig team around him that turned everything around. Perfect!


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Semi With A View

Getting the right type of 1970's house types for Winter of '79 has got easier. Kingsway Models have recently released two new OO scale cards kits that are perfect for the new estates that proliferated during the 1970's especially within 'New Towns'.

 SEMD Half relief Modern semi detached houses x2
 Great for filling the edge of your table

 SEMD Modern semi-detached houses (full version)

 My granddad lived in one of these 'New' houses after they bulldozed his Victorian terrace. As they were quite literally NEW the amount of conversion by residents was minimal. Gardens both front and back were uniform.Which means you don't have to mess around with flowers, kitchen gardens etc. The odd shed or clothese line would break this up and provide a more lived in feel. They could also back onto playing fields, more traditional sorts of shops or even a small industrial estate to add another dimension to the gaming table.


Monday, 18 August 2014

A Nice Little Detached in the Suburbs

The Dapol (formerly Airfix) Detached House is a classic. First released in 1956, it stands the test of time despite it's obviously dated appearance.

 Dapol 1/76 C27 Detached House
Cheap, Cheerful and Readily Available

When you see them painted up, they tend to look like the type of houses seen on Army estates. I've bought several of these for Winter of '79 games but I have to admit that I am struggling to use them as is. I will admit myself in advance that I'm being a bit precious here, but once assembled they simply don't fit the mental image I'm trying to create for my Winter of '79 suburbs.

Then I fell across this beaut of a kit bash on RMWeb. The very same Dapol model house but sympathetically converted into something more akin of my memory growing up in a house like this. I really take my hat off to the guy. Do check out the other photos in his gallery.


The thing to consider about these detached suburban houses over say classic Victorian terraces of the industrial heartlands is footprint. Together with gardens and leafy back alleys if you want to model them, you need far fewer buildings and have greater opportunity for manoeuvre and cover. Think of the scenes in Shawn of the Dead where they are making their way to the Winchester via the relative safety of the house backs.  By comparison the average 1/76 Victorian semi is only 6cm wide. That's a lot of red brick. Waltham Forest Council have produced an informative PDF on housing typologies found across their borough, whihc provides an excellent primer on C20th British housing in cities and suburbs.

Now, whilst that kit bashed Dapol house on RMWeb is perfect, it does need a lot of modelling to replicate.  I was umming and aahing about the effort required, when I came across this photo of a similar, if more down at heel house from the period. From this I figured that the the addition of a brick course, shingle roof over the front door porch and bay window could make a huge difference in the final look with far less work.

Then quite by chance I found the above Linka compatible Bay Window mould available from eBay seller Martin.Stancer. This arrived on Friday just gone. I've got plenty of Slaters OO scale (4mm) Brick embossed plastikard, so I'm going to give it a go. Will let you know how I get on.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Do Not Adjust Your Set

You won't be surprised to hear that we needed a break from blogging over the past couple of months. The 'freedom' gained had the net result of allowing us to be creative and explore new ideas or try new wargaming memes such as the test game below of our new Victorian character based skirmish rules. Here Perry's new 1860s British Intervention Force are pitted against a mix of ACW and Foundry Filibusters as Fenian rebels.
Trouble in Canada....Assorted Fenians 
waiting to take on Victoria's boys

It doesn't take much to scratch the surface for Winter of '79 to reappear. We've had a lot of fun working on our own rule systems for Winter of '79 during our downtime.  Starting with a platoon level combat system aimed at several sub-units on each side, where my emphasis was on recreating the gritty feel of small unit actions in both urban and rural environments involving 1970's/early 80's British Army and rebel forces.

1979 Land Rover patrol on the streets

 Teasing out the 1970's vibe we couldn't help following an evolving path which branched out into a more character driven approach with factions of 4-16 figures with perhaps a vehicle or so on each side. In all honesty this was great fun to develop. The scope very naturally opened up to encompass everything from gangs on the terraces to hardened criminals vs the Sweeney, revolutionaries and rebels of every political shade and of course the forces of the civil powers and British Army. So we have two very different types of game to show for it but with so many popular published Cold War/Modern'rules on the market we thought we'd initially concentrate on giving you bags of 1970's character and we'll begin to blog some of our play test games over the coming weeks.