Category Archives: wargame

Taranto Progress… Planes almost done

Surprisingly, I’m making a fair amount of progress quickly.

23 Pico Armor Fairey Swordfish models are assembled, painted (rudimentary style) and 21 are even mounted on bases precariously on wires.  I will bump the final count up to 24 so I can have 8 teams of 3 in the final game.  21 flew the historical mission in two waves.  I will have the real pilots names on all the bases (and 3 fictional pilots).  I have 8 Fulmar aircraft, only 1 of which is shown above.  Records indicated Fulmars flew as combat escorts, I’m not sure how I will include them.  It might be fun to have a range of hypotheticals included on the Italian side, including possible support from the Regio Aeronautica.  I’ve ordered some period Italian planes to cause havoc in the future.  i need to touch up the paint jobs, add some detailing and decals, and they are finished.

I’ve got barrage balloons in various stages of completion, these proved to be easy, but I’ll need another order of them.  I have 10 AA tokens painted up, and I just got ten more on EBay.  I’m going with an zone style approach to anti-aircraft fire.  The Italian response was vigorous but inaccurate historically.  The ships all had various AA factors and it seems to be clear that they participated in defensive fire as well as gun emplacements.  I might nominate an AA gun range and give each ship a choice of which plane to target per turn, and that plane gets another AA roll against it.

The fleet is done– painted, based and labeled with names.

Next step is to figure out terrain.

Swordfishes, Fulmars and Barrage Balloons, a laugh a minute

Checking in with the Taranto 1940 project, I’ve finished assembling the Fairey Swordfish aircraft from Pico Armor, which were an ungodly pain in the butt to do.  The top wing doesn’t fit snugly with the rest of the aircraft, see, so you have to glue it, then hold it until it dries.  It’s no a quick process and results in gap filler glue all over your fingers after a while.

Two Swordfish and one Fairey Fullmar

Of course, the mounting on flight stand drill isn’t very straightforward, either. I had to drill the holes out a little using a tiny drillbit. Then I’m mounting them on art wire mounted on a series of MDC squares about 30mm wide. I know, they aren’t painted in this picture. I wanted to test the setup. I’m going to paint the rest of them BEFORE mounting them, but I wanted to see if it works or not before going to a lot of trouble.

I like the Pico Armor planes but the Fairey Swordfish is not my favorite– it’s not made very well, the drilling, mounting, drying and fiddling about element is very high.. so this process is going to take a while, lots of hands on piece work involved and I have about 30 planes to mount. The Fullmars by contrast, come together very quickly and seem to balance on the end of the wire better than the Swordfish do. There has to be a better way…

The Barrage Balloons from Shapeways

One pleasant surprise were the barrage balloons I picked up from Shapeways, the 3D printer miniatures company. These are in scale with the Italian fleet (and there were about 20 in the air, so this works in terms of scaling). My idea is to mount two per small 20mm MDC round base, and place there here and there around the fleet, adding to the difficulty of making the torpedo runs. The models themselves come mounted 20 per small sprue and pop right off. You knock the stem off and drill right into the base of where the stem was straight up, and it mounts snugly and easily onto the art wire. Finally, something easy!

I still want to find an easier way to mound the Swordfish, this part of the job is pretty tedious. However, I am making lots of progress towards getting this game done. It won’t be ready for Fall IN! but it will be for Cold Wars.

On other fronts, I picked up tokens for Anti aircraft batteries (Axis and Allies AA Guns painted up) and torpedo markers from Litko. I’m slightly disappointed with the torpedo markers.. the ink is very faded and the torpedo is kind of hard to discern, I’ll have to end up touching them up with paint.

VPG’s Napoleonic 20 System and Tolentino 20/Waterloo 20, a short review.

The Napoleonic 20 System Games

I’m relatively new to this series of games published by the redoubtable Victory Point Games.  To summarize up front the 20 series games are a series of low complexity wargames that are designed to be low density, fast playing and easy to learn.  The “20” in the titles of games indicates that the counter mix for every scenario module contains 20 units per side or less, plus some generic system counters for unit actions, leaders and turn markers.   Individual battles were published before in this series in VPG’s older ziploc format from 2008-2011, so this is NOT a new system– it’s just new to me!

Operational level units, doing operational level things (from the Tolentino module)

As is somewhat obvious The “Twenty” series is a System Game.. meaning the basic rules and game mechanics rarely change, and the individual scenario/game module rules always change, to create the historical scenario being gamed.  Although at some level there may be exceptions in the historical game module that might “trump” the core rules, the historical material isn’t designed to do so, so this is a rare occurrence.   My philosophy on reviewing games Napoleonic 20 games (and I have 3 of them to get to) will be to review the series rules ONCE, and the modules at the end of this article and in follow on articles.  I’m not going to repeat myself, but I will link to this review in future reviews.

Components: Note that my comments refer to the newer components published in 2014-2015, after VPG had switched formats to thicker counters, better card stock and graphics.  I have some of the earlier ZipLoc games from VPG’s 2009-2011 period (not in this series) so I imagine they did a perfectly adequate job considering the small countermix and focused smaller map areas of this series.   With the current quality standard, VPG really shines.  As I’ve stated in many previous reviews of VPG games, they’ve migrated to a much higher standard in the last 3 years.  Counters are big, laser cut and chunky, card stock is professional (albeit a tad thin), maps look fantastic, and most importantly the ink doesn’t run or rub off!  That was my major whinge factor about earlier efforts.  As I’ve mentioned, each side has roughly 20 counters and some supporting markers, leaders and system markers.  The countermix is done very well.  The map was more than adequate, certainly up to an Avalon Hill or GMT standard, with bigger (18mm?) hexes and easy to understand graphics.  Some of my previous game maps were printed in a sort-of-mounted “jigsaw pattern” that I really like (and miss, a little), the maps in this game were heavy cardstock.  On the plus side, they fold back easily and line up perfectly.  There’s also a Player Aid Mat included (full color) and it is very useful indeed (as we’ll get to), and a staple bound, color illustrated rulebook for the Standard Rules and the Individual Game Rules (which trump the Standard Rules).   The graphical improvements are well worth the investment VPG made in improving the printing process– I suspect many of you are familiar with the VPG components by now and agree with me, but if you aren’t, there’s a sort of visceral thrill to big, chunky counters on a big, thick map that is satisfying in a hard to define, umami like way– it’s savory.

Standard Rules: At the heart of all this glitz is a very workmanlike, easy to play game system, originally by Joe Miranda from Decision Games (mostly).  the series rules recreate operational level campaigns, and thus aren’t exactly on the tactical level– they are simulating, by rough order of magnitude, units from divisonal to corps level (as the rules state, 8,000 to 20,000 men, and their equipage).  Think of “operational”, in this context, as ‘making decisions about largish bodies of troops moving around the countryside and bumping into each other for combat, then seeing what happens“.  Maps are covered with a hex overlay to regulate movement and zones of control.  Each hex space equates to a distance about one-half to one mile across, though this distance will be impacted by the Exclusive Rules for each individual game.  Unit counters depict a corps, division, or cadre sized unit, with a nice icon representing the troop type and the statistics at the bottom.  Those stats are pretty basic– Movement Allowance and Combat Strength.  Counters are one-sided and don’t change unless someone a card to combine cadre units with certain units at start.

Counters from the Tolentino Battle

Counters from the Tolentino Battle

Each game (I assume) come with a card deck for each battle.  These are random events that are bifurcated to reveal an event that transpires during the course of the engagement that impacts one side, the other or both.   The text on the card is shaded with a specific color associated with the side the event applies to.

Text of one of the cards from the Waterloo Module. If the phasing player was playing the French side, the blue shaded event applies to him. If the phasing player drew the card was playing the Allied player, the pink shaded text would apply to him.

Text of one of the cards from the Waterloo Module. If the phasing player was playing the French side, the blue shaded event applies to him. If the phasing player drew the card was playing the Allied player, the pink shaded text would apply to him.

  1. Random Events are resolved as the first step in the turn sequence.  Simply draw the top card of the face-down pile and apply the text to your troops or the enemy force, whatever it says.  This is not an option for the first player playing his first turn.   Note that many event cards are the mechanism for bringing reinforcing troops into the game.  Note, also, that the FIRST PLAYER designation is (apparently) determined by scenario.  The players alternate  thereafter.
  2. First Player Movement is next.  The first player may move some, all or none of his units, subject to constraints imposed by movement rates on the counters, terrain effects and enemy zones of control.
  3.  Second Player Reacts is next– if the second player has any cavalry on the map he may elect to move these in reaction to the First Player’s movement.
  4. First Player Combat is the next step, where the first player indicates which units initiate combat, if they are in command, and if he opts to commit reserves to get a bonus.  More on combat later, as it’s the most complex thing you will attempt with this system.
  5. If the turn track is in the night zone, First Player then opts for Night Operations.  Night operations covers Rally, Morale Recovery, and recovering Concealment.
  6. The SECOND player then moves through the same sequence above, with roles reversed for reaction movement.
  7. If there is a little Dice Icon on the current box on the turn track, that indicates Rolling for Sudden Death.  That means some portentous event has occurred to bring about an early end to the battle.

I’m getting a vibe that the units “activate in a certain way, move in a certain way, fight in a certain way, and retreat in a certain way” that is very familiar to anyone who has experience with classic hex and counter wargames.  So let’s take a closer look at crucial elements to this system: Combat Operations, Card Events  and Morale/Recovery.  I think you can arrive at what makes this system unique by studying these three elements of the design.  The rest is chrome layers added by the historical scenario.  NOT that there is anything wrong with that– I expect this approach from a series game.


Combat is handled as a differential based system which the initiative player brings on by moving into the Zone of Control of a target enemy unit.  ZoCs make sense in this game scale, recall we’re talking about 8,000 plus men per cardboard chit here, and it’s easy to imagine them having flanker units out and skirmishers, provided some level of control around the parent unit.   Combat is declared in advance before the dice are rolled.  What happens next is classic 80ss era wargaming.

The Combat Resolution Table for Napoleonic 20 games.

The Combat Results Table for Napoleonic 20 games.  Yes, a CRT, much maligned by Tom Vasel and company in a recent show.  I’m sure Tom’s a savvy wargamer with lots of experience, so he knows best, but the CRT does seem to work for this game and provides meaningful results.

A) Designate Attackers and Defender(s)
B) Total combat strength, Attackers. That’s the number to the left on each unit marker. You have the option to spend a Morale Point to commit reserve troops to bolster the attacking score by one.
C) Total combat strenth, Defenders. That’s also the number to the left. Also add or subtract the single best terrain benefit from the defender’s location (if he is defending from a woods, etc.). The Defender can also commit a morale point for a bonus, if he can afford it.
D) If you have special status troops (denoted by the colored attack numbers on the bottom of the counter), basically Guard Elite (red) or Unreliable (Yellow) attack numbers will create different results during combat resolution.
E) Check the differential column on the Combat Differential table.  This is a CRT, right from classic wargames 101.  Find the right column and roll a six sider.
F) Apply any one of these results immediately for either Attacker or Defender: Break, Routed, Withdraws, Exchange, ENgaged.  If you have experience with board wargames, you’ll recognize these results, but pay particular attention to BROKEN and ROUTED troops, as they decrimate your Army Morale.

Real combat result from my first game of Tolentino. The Neapolitans, all full of themselves, move down the road to intercept the Austrian cavalry. The Cavalry (though a mix of lucky dice rolls and a card draw), end up causing the Neapolitan cavalry to Withdraw (DW result). Could have been worse, at least this wasn’t a rout!

In general, this is a pretty bloodless CRT.  The worst thing that can happen as a result is Breaking, but in game turns that IS a pretty bad thing (as we’ll see when we look at morale, next).  I think it is very fitting for operational level games.  You’re not going to see horrific blood and guts at this level– we’re talking about 8,000 men or more per unit, here.. comprised of all sorts of brigades and regiments and demibrigades, and it’s those units that do all the bleeding.  A larger unit’s commander figures out that he has something more productive to do with his men and pulls them out of action after reverses… or he should at any rate.

Morale is the big element of this design that makes or breaks the game.  Army morale is tracked with a special counter on the army moral track on the player mat, I found it cumbersome to use this and just put the morale on a corresponding square on the turn track and moved it backwards when an Army took losses.  Army morale level is the general ‘Stance’ of your side in the face of battle.   Battles are a series of events that impact on Morale levels, and mostly negatively.  Fatigue from forced marches, Lulls during the fighting, units Breaking, units Routing and inhabiting objectives all have their effects on Morale Level.   The crucial take-away is that when an Army Morale level reaches zero, that’s it, game over and you have lost.

The cards add a nice random element to the design.   Many designers are using cards as a way of adding historical detail to a board wargame, which isn’t exactly a new thing.  In the Napoleonic 20 series games, they also serve a critical function of adding reinforcements into the battle in a variable fashion.  Since there are only 20 counters maximum, this doesn’t happen very often and every unit is critical.

Cards in action. This card contributed to the Neapolitan cavalry withdrawing back where they came from in the previous example.

Conclusions, Napoleon 20 series

I like the low counter density, and I like the speedy play of this design.  I rarely have had a game go over two hours.   However, you buy that speed and low complexity at the cost of a lot of detail.  I’ve played other games at this level of scale and even own a few– Le Grande Armee du Nord, Napoleon (Columbia) and if you want to simulate the campaign level (the decisions that make those large bodies of troops move around) this would be a fun and fast way to do that.  However, La Battaille it ain’t.  There’s not a lot of unit variation (even with the special troop rules) so in my opinion, I’m not really getting the Napoleonic experience that I personally enjoy, which is more on the grand tactical side of the house.   However, it is still fun and interesting to play, since it doesn’t require huge chunks of time.

The Historical Modules for 100 Days

Waterloo 20 — Napoleon’s Last Campaign and Tolentino 20 – King Murat’s Throne

Both of these play like old SPI microgames (though not at that level) tucked into a big box, so I’ll start with the more famous one and end with the one I liked more (hey, I’m not making a secret of it!).

Waterloo: Oh, come ON, do I even need to be typing this?  Arguably one of the most famous battles in history conducted by one of the most famous generals in history.  If you haven’t heard of this you probably need to turn in your wargaming card– because that’s nothing but a big bucket of fail.

At this scale, I was reminded more of NAPOLEON (Columbia Games) than anything else.

As I’ve said, I’ve played my fair share of Waterloo games. I have yet to find one that really sings to me, and Waterloo 20 maintains that fine tradition. Why?  A couple of reasons. The scale, for one. Marching Corps around the countryside isn’t what I associate with being the Battle of Waterloo.  When I think of Waterloo, I think of the Grand Battery shelling the Allies, Wellington sheltering on the reverse slope, the cavalry charge up the center, The spirited defense of La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont, The Prussians marching in in the nick of time, and the final doomed attack in the center.     You don’t really get to see any of that in Waterloo 20.  It’s not like the Rod Steiger film, it’ s more like moving big map flags on a map.  Which is fine, but not my favorite.  Secondly, and more importantly, WATERLOO IS KIND OF BORING.  What?? You’re gasping, I’m sure.  Yes, it was the final dice throw of Napoleon’s empire, but as a *battle*, it’s almost a non-event.  The British sit there., sheltering on the reverse slopes, trying to Not Die as the French pound them here there and everywhere, mostly in the center.  Sure there are interesting points like La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont chateau, and the fending off of several attacks, but they don’t really maneuver at any point except that infamous cavalry charge.  The rest of the day, it’s like trench warfare.  The French are certainly active but unfocused.

Tolentino: This is a much more interesting small campaign going on at almost exactly the same moment in history.  Murat, the current King of Naples and Napoleon’s General of Cavalry, has turned his coat on Allies present at the Congress of Vienna, after hearing he would be deposed from his throne and replaced by the old Bourbon king, Ferdinand.  The Austrians react by sending two corps South under Baron Bianchi to depose the traitorous Murat and end his short-lived dynasty.  Tolentino is an interesting matchup to be sure.. the game starts with the Austrians spread out and reinforcements due from the West and North.  The Neapolitans are much more condensed and can support each other easily.  Gradually the Austrians will blunder into the Neapolitans, and then throw more and more troops into the mix as the cards are drawn.

Tolentino all setup and ready to go, cards dealt.

I like the situation. The Neapolitans are not a pushover and can certainly stand toe to toe with Austrians. It’s a fairly balanced game.

In general, I liked my first experience with the Napoleonic 20 system. It fills a certain niche for games that play fast and are easy to learn and easy to teach. The battles are interesting and fun to play.

Lepanto big and chunky and in 1:300 scale.. just the way I like it

Recent developments in pre-cut, laser etched designs have created a new niche market in wargaming.  I recently built a Viking ship in 28mm scale from just such a kit, and was impressed with how quickly it came together and how well it represented the historical ship.  There are other vendors popping up here and there on a small scale, vending historical products– such as 4Ground Ltd‘s building and terrain bits.  Another niche company is a small outfit called Skull and Crown.  They are mostly specialized in doing spectacular flats of soldiers from various periods called “Wooden Wars”, but they recently branched out to create a product called Galleys, Guns and Glory!, a set of rules for fighting in the Renaissance era, with an emphasis on Galley combat, a la Lepanto.

More importantly, Skull and Crown has also produced a line of wooden punch out and build kits for several types of Mediterranean galleys of the period. You can see the Venetian Galley above (and at 25 USD, it’s a little higher than average price for a single ship).

I can’t attest to it yet but construction appears easy from a blogpost I read.  The player takes the template, which is precut, and punches the pieces out and build them from the ground up. I built the Viking ship in exactly the same way.

I have no idea what the build time on this might be, but I’d have to include paint time in there as well, and probably pre-build painting and sanding too. So maybe a little under an hour per ship. Maybe more to paint some fiddly little details.

The end result is quite colorful and spectacular.

Credit: Jay’s Wargaming Madness. Read the exciting AAR of his first big battle of GGG! by clicking this picture.

As for the rules? Well, I don’t know squat about them. They appear to be simple and elegant, and that’s what I want out of a naval system. Jay (of the blog mentioned above) seems to have a high opinion of them. I’d be inclined to go with the published rules instead of making my own or using something I have in my collection, as they clearly have a long “tail” of support from Skull and Crown.. lots of neat odd little markers and bits that seem tailor made for the game. I can’t help myself, I love the little fiddly bits.

Will I invest in this? Probably not until after I get done with the Taranto game (what’s that?? you ask? Stay tuned for another post this week on that subject). I at least want to get one galley to put together and see if I like the results.

Realistically, at an average of about 15 dollars a ship, and most fleets looking like this:

A thumbnail guess, that’s probably just a little under 300 bucks there for a fleet.. multiply by two to get an order of magnitude..
Credit: Skull and Crown GGG Blog

Note, I’m not begrudging Skull and Crown their prices, they aren’t that shockingly high for a ship model.  I’m just bemoaning the cost of jumping into a very narrow niche period where I know there won’t be any cheaper options in this scale. I won’t have any other models that I can swap in to save money, so it’s these models or not at all.  So I’m rubbing my chin and saying “Hmmmm” for now.

Stay tuned!

Game Camp 2015 Day 3 (Wednesday): “Ride that Fury Road”

Wednesday, I put on a repeat of the scenario I created for HISTORICON 2015, “Ride That Fury Road”, which is a post-apocalyptic romp down a highway in pursuit of a giant fuel truck that may or may not be the answer to everyone’s dreams. We added in the factions in this game– Scrappers, Capture Gang, Lawmen. plus a lot of independents. The game, which isn’t over yet (more later) featured MORE metal carnage than previously witnessed, zero team work and zero mercy. Almost every player has cycled through at least two cars by now and some have had as many as three. To discourage the kids from getting pouty when their car dies, I encouraged them to all run more then one car or keep a replacement car handy for when the first car dies.

The Truck breezes by the Trading Post

I didn’t get the cafeteria that I wanted but did get the Arts and Crafts room. We ran four tables down the length of the room. Not quite what I wanted, but it would have to do. It looked great!

The Chase Cars initially. This lineup changed fast as they did the Road Warrior classic and fought each other in brutal fashion.

The carnage piled up fast. This is not very forgiving game, and I told everyone that they would have to get over it quick if they lost their vehicle.. because everyone was going to lose one and many would lose many.

Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

Early on, the Mystery Machine jumped into its new role as the “Evil Scooby Gang”. Reid released Scooby XXII (raised as a bomb dog) to run back and take out the Turtle, coming up fast behind it. BOOMM! the ensuing explosion fragged Turtle and damage the cars around it seriously.

Poor Scooby!!

But that wasn’t the bottom of the Evil Scooby’s depravity. They hit a new low!

Evil Fred actually trading Daphne for a rocket launcher. Wow.

At least he hit on one of the things traders want in the post-apocalypse. I wonder if Velma could have got more ammo for the Recoilless?

“But Fred! What? I’m to do WHAT???”
“See ya Daphne! You’re a sweetheart!”

Game Camp 2015

“Yessir, that Daphne’s a swell gal.. what a great deal!”

Game Camp 2015

It’s a hard life in the Apocalypse. We played right up to 2:50 when I had to call it for time. Many kids requested we play this again tomorrow so I have left it set up in situ.

For an interesting slideshow of all the pictures from today, click on the picture below:

Click the picture to see more pictures on FLICKR

Anarchy supreme by the end of the day… CLICK HERE to see more pictures!!

It was a great day, a great game and all the kids loved it.

Major Guidebook Update for HISTORICON 2015

Hey HMGS Convention Attendees, we have a MAJOR Guidebook Update for you.

Hey Historicon! There’s an app for that!

First of all, I tried floating events early without room numbers.  That was a bad idea, as updating them (later) WITH the numbers nuked most of what I had done before, causing me to reenter data for tournaments and seminars!  Woo hoo! I love entering data twice.

So I’m making a business decision– we don’t post events (that is, regular games) until the events guy irons out what the table numbers are and where they are at.. it’s too painful to bounce back if the earlier input crashes on you.  If that means we post Guidebook a little closer to the event, so be it.

So, what do we have?

  • TOURNAMENTS (again)
  • SEMINARS (again)
  • HOBBY UNIVERSITY (first time)
  • GAMES (again)
  • Maps!

What am I missing?  The map of the Exhibitor Hall and Exhibitor List.

And then we will be done, unless we get new games between now and the convention itself.

How to get it

Go to the Guidebook Landing Page which is HERE and follow directions.

To Preview the Guide

Go to the Preview Page which is here

Historicals versus Non-Historical Count

New feature: I thought I’d do an actual count by period.  The reality of Non-Historical versus Historical by counting the actual numbers, not by hand waving*:

Source: Events Spreadsheet extracted on 6/18/2015, Historicon 2015

So the reality is 20% non-historical games at Historicon.  And I’m grouping in anything that could remotely be considered fantasy and SF together.  There are the numbers.

Events by Rules mentioned in PEL

You may have to click to see original size. There were a lot of rule sets.

This was all over the map.. there were a lot of rule sets being used.  Where it was possible I combined version and flavors and variants into the parent.

In any event, there’s the true facts, and a big, big, big guidebook update.  See you at HISTORICON 2015.

* Note on the period count above– it excludes all tournaments, which probably should be entered under fantasy in some respects.  Did I say that out loud?  I’m trying not to snark…

Some Road Warrior/White Line Fever Edits, ver. 2.65 out now, plus Veh. Sheets


Sorry to keep doing this to anyone who is interested, but I got some feedback to from a guy who ran these rules recently and he had some handy suggestions.  Out of this came the recent Trifold handout (which I revised the main text in the Epub to match in v. 2.5) and also the new Vehicle Sheets which are attached*.

Version 2.65 revision expands the vehicle statistics (what do these MEAN?) and shows an example of a filled in Vehicle Sheet.   I don’t forsee any other major changes before Historicon.  I might have some changes in the wake of a large multi-player game at a convention, but nothing to worry about until then.

Thanks to Shane Metzger for both his feedback and contributing vehicle sheets to this design.   Contributions like his only make a game better.

* The Vehicle Sheet sample linked to this post is in the PowerPoint 2013 format.

Post-Apocalyptic Scooby Gang, in Color!

Creating a post-apocalyptic car combat game has its whimsical moments.  I present “The Scooby Gang”, alongside the Mystery Machine:

L to R: Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy. Mystery Machine (up armored) in background. Scooby is in foreground.

 Figures were Elhiem, the Van is Hot Wheels with some Stan Johansen flourishes..

Same lineup as before, another angle

“1970’s Style Teen/twentys Pesky Kids and Great Dane”

and another new car…

The Grease Palace! He drops oil slicks and junk parts behind him…

Yes, it’s fun living in a blasted Apocalypse, devoid of all hope!

Post-Apoc 20mm Pedestrians..2

Just a quick look at Post-Apocalypse 20mm pedestrians, for use with a variety of games but mostly Road Warrior/White Line Fever.  These come from a variety of sources, notably East Riding and Stan Johansen Miniatures.

Assorted Pedestrians with guns. Click to enlarge

The various groups are:

The Bugeyes: a group of hardcore survivalists with decent weapons and NBC gear, giving them their trademark “look”.  Somewhat paranoid about radiation/chemical poisoning.  They are out scavenging.

Street Punks: Some of the local armed gangs, armed mostly with lower tech rifles and crossbows or melee weapons, as bullets are getting rare.  They will shoot first and ask questions later.

Dirty Texans: Remnant of a Texas Ranger group.  They wear trademark dusters to keep the worst of the hard rain off.   They will defend themselves vigorously.

Low Rent Paramilitary: This is a group of survivalist, paramilitary types from an old private security company.  Armed with National Guard castoffs and flak jacket, they are using older weaponry which still works just fine.

In painting, but not done: The Big Hair Boys (old Citadel Mohawk wearing punks, way taller than the ones above, closer to 25mm) and Cultists of the Circle (Stan Johansen figures which will match the above)

Let’s flail that dead horse– more car conversions

With the appearance of a postal truck I had been expecting, I’m done with car conversions for a while.  I couldn’t resist getting just a  few new art deco styled classic cars when I saw them hanging on the rack at Safeway of all places, for less than a buck a piece!  Also, I’ve been experimenting with adding crews to the cars with exposed cockpits and fighting areas, and I thought I’d display a few of the better attempts.

HW 49 Merc convertible

Click me for larger view

Part of the 2009 Hot Wheel Treasure hunt series.  I took this lovely bright and shiny Detroit Iron, originally brown with gold highlights and a cheerful tan and brown interior, and totally filthed it all up.  The interior went dull black.    I didn’t want to lose the original paint job, because that’s just lovely, but I did dull it down with 3 coats of flat matte varnish, and then a filth wash of blotches of tan paint.  The crew are both from Stan Johansen.  The .30 cal is from ERM miniatures, and the flame thrower up front is from Stan.

MB Postal Van, modern

Going Postal. Click to enlarge

A pretty old and hard to find diecast, actually, the Matchbox Postal Vehicle (circa 2000) is a design that is still in use today.  Like many of these recognizable “service” vehicles, I wanted to retain the look and feel of the original, just with a lot of wear and tear (and armor) on it.  So I added plastic styrene “plate armor” on either door, plus a piece to represent a hatch cut into the roof.   There’s cage armor on the front (I’m going to need to repaint this) and an air cooled .30 cal machine gun bolted to the roof (from Stan Johansen).  I will likely have a figure up there as well eventually.   I’m thinking of some graffiti as well.. perhaps DISGRUNTLED or GOING POSTAL.

MB Checker Cab, circa 1958

Click to enlarge

I had to pay homage to the old 1993 Windows 3.1 game Hellcab, of course.  This is a Checker Cab from Matchbox which is kind of difficult to find with the original Checker logo.  The more modern and generic “Taxi” markings of later Matchbox cab models seemed kind of cheap and inaccurate so I held off until I could find a decent original model.    I wanted to keep the original paint job of bright yellow, especially the decals.  So I matte varnished it repeatedly, added an autocannon up front, added side cage armor and a half slab of styrene “armor” over the windshield to protect the autocannon gunner, then added generous rust and a thin coat of sepia wash on top of it all.  The result is one grimey hellcab for cuties.

HW Custom 55 Chevy

Click me to enlarge

This is also part of the 2009 Treasure Hunt series from Hot Wheels.  I ended up getting a two tone Chevy with a somewhat annoying bright metal flake paint job that was hard to dull down.  Still, I love the two tones.   I used the same approach I take to any car where I wish to retain the base paint scheme, dull it down and add some filth.  I reeled in the “extra armor” I usually add on this one and built a small Heavy Rocket mount box from plastic card.  This car will have two heavy “Fire and Forget” Rockets (painted standard rocket red), then the driver is down to a pistol.

MW Volkswagen Transporter Van

I did mention this vehicle in passing in the last post on the “Hell truck” but I wanted to show a closer look.  This isn’t exactly Detroit iron here, but I felt we should have one of these in the game to represent the 1960s.  The original is a two tone, bright colored blue VW Van with a skylight, lots of clear plastic windows and tons of chairs for passengers.  Nice, but it wouldn’t do for combat purposes.  I added an interior platform for gunners to stand on, painted the interior all black and the windows all grey.   I’m including this picture in the post to show that I’ve been painting up crew and militia figures for the game, and plan on adding some as crew permanently.   The weapon up front is a four shot flame thrower, angled down somewhat– envisioned as being operated by the crewman standing on the firing platform.


Two small pickups with Harpoon Teams, Datsun and Volkswagen pickups

For some reason I’m tickled pink about harpoon guns. Click to enlarge.

I think these are both Hot Wheels.  You’ve seen them in the background of a few pictures so far but I wanted to post them with pictures of crew on board.  Crew is all Stan Johansen, so are the weapons.   I see them as equivalent of technicals, but with harpoon guns designed to ensnare and roll vehicles of roughly the same mass.

I love the visual effect of adding crew to some of these vehicles.  It wouldn’t be practical (or possible) to crew every car with an open cockpit, but I can do enough to add that action element to the game.

Road Warrior / White Line Fever 1.2 Revision


A quick note– I’ve revised WHITE LINE FEVER (the expanded version of Eric Goodlater’s ROAD WARRIOR rules).  The Fire Combat Table was lacking to hit numbers after the range numbers.. that’s fixed  I also added some ideas for Mortars and Recoiless Rifles, and redid the damage table to include them.

You can find it on the DIGITAL RULES page  See the tab above.  It’s rather prominent.

Expanded Road Warrior Rules now as an EPUB in Digital Rules section

As part of the WHITE LINE FEVER project, which entails producing a post-apocalyptic Road Battle game in the spirit of ROAD WARRIOR and the upcoming FURY ROAD movies, I am using a set of rules written by Eric Goodlater that I have played at a few HMGS conventions (Fall IN! 14 and Cold Wars 15).   I liked the ease, and more importantly the SPEED with which they depict the finale of ROAD WARRIOR.  Eric was happy to share the rules with me, which showed up as a word file and a scan of a chart done in pencil.  ROAD WARRIOR is a pretty simple rule set heavily influenced by G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. skirmish rules.  Being a tinkerer kind of guy, I tinkered with it, and created an epub out of the results, which you can see here.  You can get it from the Digital Rules page. 

Jon Southard’s CARRIER (VG) for IoS project of Mr. Cyril Jarnot

Carrier Box


Jon Southard’s CARRIER game was published by Victory Games in 1990.   Victory Games was a subsidiary group of the venerable Avalon Hill Game Company, comprised of ex SPI Staffers that were on the beach when SPI folded.  From the start, Victory Games were designed and marketed to the serious gamer crowd; their games were known for lengthy rule books chock full of detail, and games that took a lot of thought and time to commit to.  I owned several of them in my day, notably VIETNAM, AMBUSH, HELL’S HIGHWAY, 1809 and a couple of the Fleet series games.  One game I did NOT own was the subject of this post, CARRIER, a solitaire design by Jon Southard, an industry veteran.  Given how high this game is priced in the secondary and tertiary boardgame market, it’s unlikely I’ll acquire it at this juncture, which is regrettable.  I love good solitaire designs– and Carrier is definitely a game that fits that category.

Carrier is a solitaire simulation of both historical and hypothetical carrier battles in the Southwest Pacific Theater during 1942 and 1943.  The player plays the U.S. commander, maneuvering recon flights and task forces to located and destroy the enemy before he can locate and destroy the player’s forces.  Game mechanics governing the movement of the Japanese are not all that difficult to grasp.  One of the aspects of the simulation I like is the ability for the game to surprise you.  You will not know the Japanese are on top of you until they are flying bombing runs on your airfields.  Carrier, like a lot of older wargames, is also a tough, slow playing game with a lot of charts and detail.  Or so I thought.

Splash/Front Menu

Mr. Cyril Jarnot, an IoS developer of no small talents from France, has been slowly working on a conversion of the game from a series of charts and counters onto an Ipad virtual map.  I had opportunity to try out this conversion in playtesting phase and so am able to relay a few impressions.    Note Bene, all pictures reflect a playtest version, not far from final release but not final at time of their capture.

To begin with, all the chart-checking to simulate the movement of Japanese forces is still taking place, only the computer (Ipad) is now being doing all the dice rolling behind the scenes, which make the Japanese movements far more mysterious.

They could be any number of things… from a tuna boat to a task force.. but they are definitely Japanese contacts.

and closer up… details reveal themselves after you send reconnaissance planes out to check what’s under those counters…

Oh ho, see what lays in wait to bomb my airfield, eh?

When you DO bump into the Japanese, combat can be multi-stepped and sequential.  To commit planes to combat, the US Player has to move them to various ready areas on his display to simulate where they are in the process of confronting the Japanese over a combat area.

The sequence you follow to commit planes to combat… and there is a LOT of air combat in this game.

You can’t just “commit  everything I got to CAP and hope for the best”– you have to move groups to the ready state, in a sequence, as you see here (above).  Once combat does occur (The Japanese come to you, or you search out and find a Task Force or incoming flight of planes), you will see this sequence:

If there is a CAP force over the target, it would engage the incoming planes first. If not, then they attack the ships (or shore) immediately., subtracting losses for AA Defensive fire.

The game is quite challenging on the Ipod, I was very pleased at how aggressive and uncompromising the AI is.  For one thing, you are outnumbered in this time and place in the war, and that always works against you.

oh.. THAT Japanese Task force.. as opposed to those OTHER Japanese Task Forces…

The game teaches itself at a nice programmed pace, similar to the old SQUAD LEADER “programmed instruction” approach from Avalon Hill. This is just as well– the game (in paper version) is pretty complex and that’s a lot of meat to chew on in one bite. Mr. Jarnot has taken the approach of cutting your meat up for you and feeding it to you in delicate little bites, a bite at a time. So keep in mind (as of this writing) you will have to go through ALL of the tutorial modules before “free play” can happen with CARRIER for the IoS. This decision is in spirit of the old Victory Game rules and Jon Southard, apparently, approves.

Now, is it a straight port? Is it replicating every nuance of the old paper map and counters version published in 1990? I am not educated enough to say for sure. I never owned Carrier. It certainly plays in the spirit of the old VG games I played back then; lots of complexity under the surface, and thankfully (for playing time) it keeps a lot of the chart checking behind the scenes. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I have no idea what Mr. Jarnot’s plans are for this game or how to get a legal copy for yourself; I will steer you towards the CARRIER forums on Boardgamegeek, where he is easy to find. Direct any questions to him there. I sincerely hope the IOS app I helped test becomes a commercial product, I would gladly pay for the final version, and support Mr. Jarnot’s efforts.


White Line Fever car conversions, Preamble

Slideshow of all Road Warrior photos: HERE I have been playing Eric Goodlater’s ROAD WARRIOR rules at the last few conventions.  It’s the kind of game that you play at night with a lot of beer and pretzels nearby, and loud talking.    After the third game I decided I could probably run something like this and started purchasing Hot Wheels and Matchbox.  They are surprisingly cheap and there are manufacturers out there that will gladly sell you armor and weapon add-ons to make your bland kiddie cars turn into highway death machines.  I’ve bought, I think, maybe four bundles of Hot Wheels and some select matchbox packs, and they cost 4 bucks -ish each.  This yielded an amazing amount of useful cars for a Road Warrior style romp in the post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Hot Wheels, in particular, makes some pretty bizarre cars these days, all decked out in neon orange and green colors– and maybe just a tad too fanciful.  However, once you begrime them and turn the bright colors into muddy dusty earth tones, they look very appropriate for post-apocalypse and very interesting to boot.

Click to see closeup. Pre-conversion cars, all from a discount store, all sold in packs of five for four dollars and some change.  First challenge is to get rid of the DayGlo Hot Wheels color schemes.  Check out the bright Lime green HMMV and glow in the dark green windshield on the car next to it.  Or the orange engine of the blue car in the first row.  Right.  That has to go!

I’ve started adding conversion kits from Stan Johansen Miniatures, plus plastic pieces (styrene) and pieces of the gridwork from needlepoint grids.

Vehicles in the foreground came from a Matchbox “military vehicles” set and a Hot Wheels “Horror Cars” set. Even the goofy horror cars start looking tribal when you give them a post-apocalyptic paint job. Click to enlarge

And a few more from the military set and a couple of cherry picked vehicles. That’s the same kind of car as in Mad Max just south of the reddish SUV with a turret up top. Had to have one of those. I gave Max a gatling gun, though.
Click to enbiggen

They look dingier, to be sure, but I’m not remotely finished. I’m going to give everything a big patina of rust and dust, so that means a lot of washes and then dry brushing. Also I have to color the windows/cockpits and add a few color highlights here and there.

An expanded look at what’s been done so far and what remains.
Click to enlarge

I’m not done yet with collecting; I’ve just got the easy stuff you can get from Wal Mart and comparable places in the Value-bundles. I have some specific vehicles I want to get in the game– I have a Nash Rambler on the way, and a Tanker Trailer (of course), and a Gyrocopter, which wasnt’ easy to find. I also would like at least two pickup trucks, a couple of vans and a Mystery Machine (from Scooby Doo), but that has eluded me so far. The next post will be about other Vehicles (including the Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile), the Tanker and any other vehicles I’ve picked up between now and then. I think a psychotic Lunch truck, a postal vehicle and School bus (in scale) need to be added! I’ll run this at Historicon of sure and definitely for game camp.

Relevant Links:  Stan Johansen Miniatures:

  • ROAD WARRIOR accessories and miniatures can help convert regular Hot Wheels and Matchbox into post apocalyptic Road Warrior style vehicles with weapons, armor and turrets.
  • Aberrant Games WARLANDS is a new series of rules set in post-apocalyptic ravaged highways.  The miniatures are nice– they have a Gyrocopter for the tanker chase, and several small dune buggies and motorcycles.
  • And of course, there’s the grandaddy of them all: Car Wars by SJG.

Wars and Battles: Review

Wars and Battles
Turned Based Strategy, multiple eras
Publisher: Kermorio (France)
SRP (as of writing) 6.99 base, 9.99 per IGC module

I was given the opportunity to play and review the recent game from the Battle Factory, called “Wars and Battles”.  The core of Wars and Battles is a hex based battle game with an old school look to it, set in a very narrowly defined battlefield in linked campaign.  Battles are launched from a standard interface that should be able to host future campaigns from other eras.

The main screen

Kermorio is gambling on a standard interface approach, somewhat modular with unit icons OR 2D pieces being the default view.  These are played on a standard 22 hex map with variable terrain features whose cumulative effect is usually reduction of movement or influencing combat or line of sight.

In game touch tip and tutorial help is very good, as you can see above.

A Campaign is essentially a linked progression of battle scenarios played out on these 22 hex battle maps.  Campaigns are in game purchases, with the base game being 6.99, and at time of writing, the Normandy Campaign in WW2 is available for additional charge beyond the default basic game.

Having played through the Normandie (sic) campaign, I would recommend this IGP.  Historical material is very well done and it’s clear research went into this game– each unit has a background piece and it’s more than a drag and click interface.  The historical campaign follows Normandy closely and I had no complaints based on what I know about the campaign from a historical viewpoint, which is a decent familiarity.    Campaign missions follow a progression from Easy to Very Hard, and you are debriefed for success or failure at the end of each one.

Mission Debrief, end of every scenario

I’m not sure if the map sizes will expand beyond the 22 hex per screen standard or the approach will be to stay modular.   I can see the benefits of a modular system when

More Normandy Fun

More of the Wars and Battles in tutorial mode

Artificial Intelligence in this game is decent to moderate and the decisions being made were okay, though predictable at times.   I found it to be overly defensive and not as aggressive as it could have been, but if you factor in that Normandy actually is a defensive campaign for the Germans I guess that makes sense.  The campaign structure is logical and sensible.  Players will accrue experience over time and replacement units to fill in for casualties.  In this respect I was reminded, strongly, of several other games I’ve played in the last year that use a similar progressive campaign structure– in particular and variation of Panzer General or its various incarnations over time, or near-knockoffs.  That’s neither here nor there– a campaign really needs some form of structure or it is difficult to execute, and the PG template works as well as anything.

The modular “game engine” approach is somewhat new for wargames on the IOS.  Kermorio has high hopes of porting the same approach to many different battles, including Napoleonic or ACW era battles.  I remain unconvinced the scales of those two eras will work in this engine, but I’d be willing to give them a try.

In Summary, Kermorio has had a very decent first outing with WARS AND BATTLES– which is a mix of old and new ideas that will appeal to hard core wargamers and newcomers alike.  For 6.99 plus a pittance for the IGPs, I certainly think there is plenty of value for the retail price.