Sunday 28 September 2014

SITREP: Well done!

Heather's finished university! Huzzah! Not only is the MBA in the bag but it looks like it could be a distinction too! Huzzah!  Her interview went very well, but....the other candidate rescheduled to this coming Monday, so we won't know the result till Tuesday at the earliest.

So, this weekend we are catching up and regaining our equlibrium. The last few months have been tough in many ways and in this final week, tensions reached an unprecedented peak.

Then.....I came home from work on Friday to find Heather waiting with a "Thank you for your support" present; Infinity's new Operation Icestorm boxed set. She had pre-ordered the set over the phone with Firestorm Games back in August (you can tell she likes to be prepared) and subsequently can't rate the store highly enough for their pleasant and informative customer service. She thought Icestorm would represent Mass Effect on the tabletop but apparently what definitely swung it was when they mentioned that one of the (Nomad) figs could pass for a fem shephard and that there was a free limited edition female figure in sexy business attire - 'Corporate Security Unit' - thereby ticking all my personal likes in one go!

 Seriously though. Well done H! Proud of you and a big well done also, to our Canadian chum Natalie and everyone else on the MBA course who has shared our lives for the last 12 months.


Meanwhile.... in a galaxy far, far awaygogagogh.... Huw Solo and the crew of the Millenium Dragon try out... Lock Stock 'n Two Smokin' Blasters!


Saturday 20 September 2014


This week has gone to hell in a handcart and next week isnt going to be much better. We are in the final count-down now to end of H's tour of duty at university. Next Friday it's all over and done with. What can I say but Thank F***!  But in the meantime she has to finish her dissertation, give a presentation at university, give a presentation to the company where she is an intern, and sail through a second interview (including presentation) for a major position with a leading Scottish company. I'm sure you can imagine that stress factors in the house are at an all time high.

We've also had THE referendum this week. Many of my colleagues plus some of my team were directly involved working at the polling stations. They are all very proud to have taken part in such a historic event and returned to the office yesterday with amazing tales from the front-line of democracy in action.They were bouyed up by their experience in a way I've only seen in volunteers from the Glasgow Games and London Olymics. As for me, with the exception of following the Scottish Independence thread on ARRSE (not for the faint-hearted), I blindedly ignored the media, the leaflets, the campaign, the personalities et al to make my own informed decision based not on flags or fear but a balanced view which lay somewhere between head and heart.

To help me ignore the political chaff, I've read a lot over the last two weeks or so. With a 35 minute train journey each way plus 10-15 minutes in the waiting room in the morning, I can get through a lot in a week, especially now I have the Kindle app on my iPad.

Too Far Too Few, is a tribute to Naval Party 8901 and their defence of South Georgia during the Falklands Conflict. It gets you into a bootnecks mindset but be warned that the salient battle for the defence of South Georgia is limited to one short chapter. I bought this after The Yompers (Kindle edition), about 45 Commando in the Falklands. It follows the all too common We Heard, We Sailed, We Landed, We Yomped, We Fought, We Lost Mates, We Won, We Came Home formula. Reasonable account of Two Sisters but had disappointing maps.

Also picked up Nine Battles To Stanley by Nicholas van der Bijl for 2.99 or so on eBay. All I can say is it's a poor man's version of Hugh Bicheno's Razors Edge. Bicheno wins hands down and in fact I use the very detailed battle maps in Razors Edge to follow the action described in both The Yompers and Three Days in June (Kindle edition). If you don't know Razors Edge then all I can say is that as a wargamer it is THE one and only book you need to read about the Falklands.

Three Days in June by James O'Connell I've had for about a month now and thoroughly recommend. I just keep going back to it. It's Mount Longdon from the mouth's of the Tom's who fought there and is superb if you want to get into the mind of soldiers in action as they fought from rock to rock. The book also includes lots of photos of 3 Para with 16 photos of Mt Longdon which help get the scale of the place, location of participants at given times and course of the battle as it unfolded. However,I still found I had to use Bicheno's map in tandem with reading the text to have real clarity of the actual situation. I felt the Kindle format detracted from the fact that with a real book you can more easily flip back and forth between pages to study maps and photo.

At the same time as reading 3 Days in June, I also read Brains and Bullets: How Psychology Wins Wars by Leon Murray. I can't recommend Brains and Bullets enough. I even bought a copy for Maff so we could be on the same page.  In fact when I finished reading Brains and Bullets I went back and read Three Days in June mapping the Toms accounts of their actions or reactions to battle against Leon Murray's pschological model of men in combat. And it works.

Gaming wise, the Enfilade 20mm SAS arrived mid-week. Put an order into Matt at Elhiem for a a clutch of 20mm 'Nam figures on the back of the fun we've had with Lock Stock... Don't be surprised if you find a Lock Stock 'n Two Smoking Hootches (or similar) variant in the future.


Saturday 13 September 2014

More Hereford Hooligans

Harry Two Spoons and his Hereford Hooligans

This week we've pounded Lock Stock 'n Two Smoking Sterlings into the ground. Resulting in a small tweak to the customisation of characters that has just lifted the entire game. Well worth the effort and a great excuse to down a couple of celebratory beers!

We'll take a look at Elhiem Figures' new BAOR and 1970's civilian releases over the coming week as they are perfect for Winter of 79.


Monday 8 September 2014

Sssh...You Ain't Seen Me....Right!

In the run up to the publication of our new dedicated Winter of '79 rules, Lock Stock 'n Two Smoking Sterlings, we are getting our forces in order.....these are some of Maff's new SAS from RH Models.

SAS or Free Taff Commandos?

What can I tell you about Lock Stock 'n Two Smoking Sterlings? We've had a blast writing it and playing out the draft rules and we are having the cover professionally created just now. So it's close.  As with any labour of love, we ended up with far more ideas and rules systems than we could comfortably fit in and yet retain the overall fast, slick and fun game we wanted. So we had to be pretty harsh with ourselves and the result is definitely worth it!

Lock Stock... itself is a character driven skirmish game. Ideally you are looking at an optimum range of 4-12 figures together with the odd vehicle. Up to 20 figures will work just fine but you'll find the game turns will begin to creak with more figures than that unless you have more than one player on each side. Whilst the rule systems have been deliberately designed to handle everything from gangs and coppers vs criminals, to urban insurrection and full on shooting war.

We strongly recommend no more than an armoured land rover and an armoured car or CVR(T) as part of your force. There are plenty of Cold War an Modern game systems already out there if you want to pit troops of Scimitars, Foxes and Saladins against each other, so you are not losing out. So vehicles should be kept to a minimum as part of the mission parameters or to add period colour in order to maintain the ethos of the game.

If you know us of old, there will be a certain familiarity about the game, but you will also find a lot that is, I hope, different to anything you've experienced so far in this level of game. We like to think of Lock Stock... as a bit tongue in cheek fun but with a gritty edge. Above all, we've endeavoured to keep the late 1970's, early 80's at the forefront of our design. It is after all winter, 1979, and there's 'oop's for tea!


Saturday 6 September 2014

Enfilade Figures: 20mm Cold War & Moderns

Let me introduce you to Enfilade Figures based in Germany. Robert is a great guy and is new to figure sculpting. I like his stuff, which is very reminiscent of early figures by Matt over at Elhiem.

Painted Enfilade Figures 20mm SAS
 (from the Enfilade webshop)

Robert initially caught my eye on his Rifles and Muskets blog, where he was previewing his 20mm Cold War SAS. Perfect I thought for Winter of '79!

 Enfilade Figures 20mm SAS
(from Rifles and Muskets blog, used with permission)

Robert also sculpts Cold War and Modern Insurgents, Germans, Taliban SADF and more. A second set of Cold War SAS are on the way. Worth taking a look.

I like the very natural human flow to many of his figures, so I've given Robert some encouragement together with an order including three packs of this initial Cold War SAS release. I'll review the Cold War SAS fully on Winter of '79 once they arrive next week.

Check out Enfilade Figures range here.


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.