Monday 28 February 2011

Wargaming "Moderns", Resources Vol. 1: Gathering intel on the subject

Welcome friends to what I hope will be a continuing series of articles about the subject of wargaming "moderns". I got many private messages and emails from people, who dealt with WW2 or historical gaming before (mostly ancients or middle ages) and from those, who obviously have played computer games or know movies about "modern" warfare. Most of them asked where they find a good start for getting into moderns. Well, the answer is rather easy - searching the internet, get in contact with others on forums such as "The Guild". But in this particular article I want to take a look at books on the subject.

The forthcoming new release of "Force On Force" and its supplements is under the flag of Osprey Publishing - the world's biggest publisher on books about military history and the history of warfare through the ages.

Of course Osprey has a series of books on the topics and conflicts, Force On Force is going to cover. Interesting about this is the fact, that some of the authors of these books are also writing the rules and scenarios you'll later find in your gaming resources. Let's take a look at what's out there - in this example I'll pick what I am personally interested in: Iraq and Afghanistan and the conflicts in those countries, as well as NATO involvement over there.

Osprey has many series of books - for wargaming "moderns" the most interesting ones however are "ELITE" series, "WARRIOR" series as well as "NEW VANGUARD" series and "ESSENTIAL HISTORY". I'll try to cover the others in the next volumes. Let's have a look at the "ELITE" series first:

Both books seen above are written by Leigh Neville, an Australian intelligence specialist with excellent contacts with the US, UK and Australian special forces. Leigh is also writing for Force On Force and the forthcoming supplement called "Enduring Freedom" has large parts of his knowledge packed into some awesome scenarios to game! If you are looking for books on the topic of the rather silent and hidden ops that took place (and well continue to do so nowadays), the Osprey ELITE series "Special Operations Forces in Iraq" and "Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan" are top notch resources.

These books give you an insight in what took place and how missions were performed - it has a lot of potential to go deeper into the subject and find inspiration for many gaming sessions. Coloured images, drawings and tablets of gear and weapons should give the modeller and painter enough ideas on how to paint/convert their figures and vehicles accordingly. If you want to know how to set up a group of SOF soldiers for your games, this will give you an idea where and how to start.

In the next volume I'll write about the Osprey WARRIOR series - those cover the regular troops like the modern US Army or the USMC participating in the ongoing conflicts like those in the middle east.

Sunday 27 February 2011

An interview with "Big P from GMG" - Piers Brand (Ambush Valley's author)

Piers, reading one of the first printed copies of the new Osprey Publishing's Force On Force.

Piers Brand (writer of Ambush Valley, painter and photographer for Force On Force) offered me the chance to do a quick interview with him that is also covering parts of his involvement writing the forthcoming Force On Force supplement for Vietnam, called Ambush Valley.

Piers, you are a wargamer for a long time now. How and when did it start?

I always had toy soldiers. My very first toy was a Corgi King Tiger that my uncle bought back from a trip to Bovington tank museum. I progressed to setting up grand battles with hordes of plastic soldiers to actually wanting to do something with them. What happened was at the age of ten, my uncle and his friends started playing role-playing games and I joined in. They used metal figures and soon my step-father was buying them for me. Weekly trips to a local gaming store became more serious when in 1984 we discovered Warhammer. For the next three years my poor step-father built a huge army of Orcs to face my ever growing Dwarf army. Then around 1988, I joined a local wargames club and embarked upon historical wargaming starting with, of all things, the Indian Mutiny! From there its remained pretty much constant through my life as my hobby.

Tell us a little about your general interests – why do you love wargaming?

Well I have always been a rapid devourer of military history, especially WW2, as I spent part of my early years living with my Grandparents and my Great-Aunt who would tell me stories of the war and buy me books on military history. My love of toy soldiers and model kits led me to find something more to do with them, as just sitting them on a shelf always felt a bit pointless to me. I love all military history but I do have my 'favourite' periods... yet I seem to be constantly adding new ones. What do I love about my hobby? All of it I guess. I love the fact I have something that gives me escapism from the real world and helps me relax and unwind. I also love the social side of the hobby and most of my closest friends are also my gaming buddies. I also love the fact my wife has no interest at all in it...

I know you have learned a lot about history just because your historical gaming needs proper research – is this a fundamental part of the hobby for you?

Yes I think its all part of the same hobby for me. History goes hand in hand with gaming. My university degree was War Studies and I love to read as much as I love to game. I try and be 'historically accurate' but I also have an over active imagination so I indulge in fantasy and sci-fi gaming too. All that said, I never let history get in the way of a good game... as an up coming Austro-British versus French Napoleonic game will prove. I love history and so its a big part of my hobby.

Could you actually enjoy gaming when there is no “story” involved?

I guess so, but I find it so much better with a back story. Even my one off games seem to develop a theme as those who read my AARs will know. I guess its my old RPG days showing through... a good story gets you in the right mood for the game.

You must have stumbled over tons of rules in all those years – do you have any favourites?

Apart from Force-on-Force, actually very few favourites... as I hate reading rules. Rapid Fire is a set I adore and play alot. This is closely followed by Blackpowder which is a recent addition to the stable. Other than that, I still play and love Mordheim from GW and the 2nd Edition of Warhammer holds alot of fond memories, as does the original 40k. The original set of Indian Mutiny rules I had back in 1988 were great but sadly I lost them and have no idea what they were called!

Eventually you came across “Ambush Alley” and "Force-On-Force" – how did you learn about those rules?

You know I cant really remember... But I think it was from Shawn Carpenter (AAG Head Honco and all round gimp) on The Guild. I eventually gave in to his constant pleas and bought them. The rest is history as they say...

You probably have taken them down to your gaming group (Green Machine Gamers) – how was their opinion on those rules?

Indeed I did. The group loved them. The AAG rules are a real regular feature at the club and we hosted an Ambush Alley Day a few years back. They really suit my group very well.
Given that you are an author contributing to Ambush Alley Games’ books now, when did you decide that you want to write for them?
Im not sure I ever did... I think I just fell into it. I wrote a small campaign for AA that went into Wargames Illustrated and from there started using the game for Vietnam. Then somehow I volunteered to write a full supplement on Vietnam. I was hooked on the rules from the moment I got them and I saw the wide potential the system had. I was lucky that Shawn at AAG knew the potential in his rules and was willing to let me try and help out. It started with playtesting the original Force-on-Force and led to 'Ambush Valley' my Vietnam supplement, that is currently being revised and expanded for release by Osprey later this year.

How was the relationship regarding your work with the Carpenter family (the original AAG authors) ?

They are ok... But I dont like their music. Oh wait... Not that carpenter family... Seriously, I think I get on very well with them, especially Shawn who seems to have a similar mindset to me - Too many ideas and not enough time! I wouldnt call it work... Its an extension of my hobby with some people who I now regard as good friends, despite them being on the other side of the Atlantic. Great people to work with and its been an honour to be along for the ride through very exciting times for AAG. I hope the relationship will last a long time... or at least until Shawn wears his mankini again.

You seem to find much interest in Vietnam, which after all is the conflict you are now actively writing about for AAG. Why especially Vietnam?

Not sure really. It was a period that I played at my old gaming club and its imagery hooked me right in. It has everything you could want, even cool music! Its a period that lends itself perfectly to the rule system as well as to gaming and every game we have played has been enjoyable and exciting. Vietnam is also so different from most other wars with such a difference between the combatants. I think it also a rather unique war from the way it was fought and the reception it had at the time, and still does today. Im interested in a lot of wars of the post-war period but Vietnam has come to the fore partly due to how it fitted with the AAG game system. I finally found a system that allowed me to game Vietnam the way I wanted to.

How came you thought the Ambush Alley rules are just perfect for your ideas? What was the special “twist” you were looking for on the market?

I immediately felt at home with the rules. They allow you to use real world tactics and it works. They also keep all players involved all the way through, are quick to play and are easily modified to whatever period you are playing.

With the new releases of Osprey Publishing, distribution of the books will reach corners of the world, that before never heard of Force On Force – why should those people get into FoF rather any other set of rules?

To see pictures of my miniatures of course... Kidding! Force-on-Force is a great game. Its fast, furious and alot of fun to play and you dont need massive armies to get started. Its actually a very cheap entry into the hobby. Its also a game that will make you think and no two games will ever be the same.

Do you have any special tips for gamers that never before played “moderns”? Any hints for newbies?

Play whatever you are interested in. Look around various internet forums, see what other people are playing and whats available and then see what it is you want to play.

Which brings us to the community. You are a well known individual around the world wide web when it comes to wargaming WW2 and the post-WW2 era. How much do you enjoy interacting with the crowd in different forums?

Im not sure Im that well known... But I like being on a variety of forums showing what we are up to Ireland. Their aint much of a hobby scene over here so the internet gives us a great way of interacting with other hobbyists and show off our games and miniatures. I have alot of good friends online and have picked up lots of ideas and tips.

The Guild wargamers forum in particular has a special place in your wargamer-heart. Why?

The Guild is my second home. Its the latest incarnation of a chain of forums run by myself and three other guys. We have been running a wargames forum in one guise or another together for the last six or so years. It also hosts our club forum and alot of the members are close friends of mine. We also met up last year for a huge Cold War bash! The forum is also heavily centred towards 20mm gaming, my preferred scale, but we cover everything. Its also just a jolly nice place to hang out on the internet.

Do you give much about the opinons of the people out there? It sure feels good to have “fans” – but how about people that are trying to point out that something doesn’t look right? How much is their feedback changing your work (modelling and writing)?

My work constantly evolves with other peoples ideas and examples of their work. Thats the greatest strength on the internet is that it allows people to share ideas and also show the results. My style has developed for the better thanks to various peoples comments and ideas over the years. I dont mind people pointing out things that are wrong, but Im also pretty much a stubborn git, so I do tend to do things my way most of the time. Im not sure I have 'fans' though!
We sure hope to see AAG’s books having great success – will you continue to write about eras in history that you have a particular love for?

I hope so. There are several periods that I have begun work on for wargaming supplements, the Iran-Iraq War being one. This is a period, that along with the Indo-Pakistan Wars, fascinates me and I would love to write a wargaming supplement to cover it. I have done a great deal of research on the period and begun work on a few bits. My other big interest at present is the colonial period and I think the AAG system is perfect for this. I would love to develop a set of rules for AAG to cover the 1850-1900 period of colonial expansion. Other than that, I guess I would like to work on a WW2 version of Force-on-Force, but that is likely to be a big undertaking. Of course the main problem is getting all this done while having a demanding full time job and a young family. Apparently both of those think they come before my toy soldiers...

Piers, you have established a great amount of connections into the world of kit and miniature makers for the conflicts you write about – could those one day result in a set of miniatures and rules in a box? A “starter” set like other companies sell?

Yes its been thought about for a long time... Never say never.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Mainly from those on The Guild and other forums. I dont tend to rate my own work very highly, Im my own worst critic, so I strive to be as good as some of the painters out there. There are some amazingly talented people in this hobby with skills that put me to shame!

You also have a daytime job and a little family to take care of – is there always enough time for your hobbies?

No never enough time... With baby No. 2 due to arrive any time now, I will have less and less. But thats all part of the grand scheme... Besides you get alot of painting done in between night feeds. There is never enough time, but I have a great balance at the moment and a superb wife who allows me a 'studio' in the house and lets me go gaming every Friday, so I aint gonna moan too much.

Does your family always fully support your hobbies?

In their own way... Yes. My wife has no interest in it at all, but allows me to do what I like. My daughter on the other hand is already painting soldiers...

What would you suggest if people’s gaming groups have never played a certain style of game before?

Try it... What have you got to lose?

Is it worth to start collections on your own and hope, others will get hooked eventually?

Of course. I do this alot as it allows you to put on games and other people dont have to supply anything to play. Its great to have a group where people all collect to a group project but I also quite like doing my own projects and put together armies for both sides. I do this alot with Force-on-Force as the armies can be quite small.

Thanks for answering my questions, Piers!

Friday 25 February 2011

Modern US Army: "Cobra Band Aid" M113 ambulance

The M113 ambulance is yet another vehicle for my growing force of US Army vehicles to play the Thunder Runs into Baghdad that occured in April 2003.... Soon there should also be some Abrams. ;-)
The model shown is an old Airfix M113 ACAV kit in 1/76 scale. The former JB Models sprues should normally be smaller than other 1/72 scale kits, but it is barely noticable. I added a lot of detail and stowage, mostly resin from Legend Productions.
The front shows the added smoke dischargers (normally they look a bit different, but those were the only ones I had spare to add some at all) and the red cross decals I took from another kit (Revell HMMWV Maxi Ambulance I think?!)
A closer look at the side reveals the crew tent, an ice box and CIP panel.
MRE (Meals Ready to Eat), CIP panel and even more tents, back packs etc. Operation Iraqi Freedom vehicles were covered with tons of personal items.
Given the age of the kit, the towing cable looks very simple...but you got to deal with what you have. For a price of around 3Euro for a kit on ebay, I guess that's alright.

Force On Force: even more sneak peeks of the actual product

Piers got his brand new copy of Force On Force from Osprey (writing for them seems to get you some advantages - LOL). I thought you might as much like to look at the images showing all the fine detail of the book. Enjoy and kudos to Big P.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Modern US Army: M2 Bradley IFV (finally) finished

Congrats to myself - I finally finished the two Bradley that should have been part of last years "Big Build" challenge over at the Guild *roll-eyes*. Well, I didn't finish them in time (obviously) and therefore dropped out of the competition...However they are finished NOW :-p
This is a very old kit from Revell - it has far less detail then the Dragon one I've build together with it at the same time. The stowage you see above is form BlackDogCZ. You may have noticed I did use only 3-colour BDU (woodland and desert) and no ACU (digital camo pattern) camo for the stowage and kept the tankers in green overalls. I wanted the vehicles being universal purpose: from Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Normally that would have required to use the old "chocolate chip" 6-colour BDU, but I couldn't - as it would have been far outdated for Iraq after 2003.
The sister vehicle's left side. This is the better Dragon kit. Covered with stowage it really has the "Thunder Run" feeling to it.
Right side of the Revell Bradley. I will later add paper detail sets (of Water and Coke Bottle boxes) to the empty stowage bin.
Right side of the Dragon Bradley. The orange thing in the stowage bin is supposed to be a huge piece of cloth that would have been draped on top of the vehicle to show coalition aircraft that the tank is friendly - basicly to prevent friendly fire incidents (which in reality didn't work too well as there were quite a few).
The back of the Bradleys. I know - one has the wrong back hatch (the one of the M3 to be exactly). Cannot fix it anymore. I couldn't find out where the right one went to and therefore had to use the only available alternative.
Nice shot from the frontside. Note the lack of details on the Revell kit on the left.
The Commanders of the IFV are from RH Liberation. Green suits instead of camouflage. Most US tankers use these universal jumpsuits. The black helmet is the heavy kevlar variant to protect their head when un-buttoned.
Just some random shots from above and frontside...
Comments welcome!

Sunday 13 February 2011

Battle For Skira: USMC Hmmwv with .50cal heavy MG painted

With another stunning miniature from Elhiem's range of gunner figs, the HMWWV armed with a heavy .50cal MG has been finished tonight. Now I can field a small unit that the USMC calls CAAT (=combined anti-armor team).
In its most basic role, a CAAT platoon and its various sections and teams will engage armored vehicles (tanks, APCs, etc.) first with heavy machine guns, usually the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. This is to "button up" the vehicle, or have the vehicle operators close all the hatches in order to protect themselves from the incoming rounds. When the target is effectively buttoned up, the TOW missile operator will fire a TOW missile, which, upon impact, will cause a dramatic increase in pressure in the closed target vehicle (such as a tank), causing it to explode from the overpressure, eliminating the enemy.
The HMMWV used for this model is the brilliant one made by Dragon. Excellent model, really!
I had to put down a small piece of plastic into the vehicle to get the gunner figure into the correct position, to actually have his hands over the "butterfly" triggers of his good old reliable M2.
The figure got a quick paintjob in woodland camo. I really painted it from head to toe - after all the legs can be seen through the glass of the vehicle's windows.
I'll be putting down some tutorials soon, to show how I paint my camo patterns for various armies. They will show my way of doing this in a step-by-step description. I am not saying mine will be perfect for the different styles of camo, but for those interested - stay tuned :-)

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Ambush Valley Vietnam 1965-1975 Supplement: release in THIS year! UPDATED February 10, 2011

Gentlemen, Charly is somewhere out there.

Today it was announced that the supplement for Vietnam, which a lot of fans and gamers have had high hopes of re-release for, will be available in THIS year's October! While the first version of the book already had a 100+ fully coloured pages, the new release will be even bigger than that. And of course it comes with the expected Osprey quality and historical detail as well with stunning artwork and eye-candy above and beyond any other Vietnam rule set has offered before.

As Piers Brand (the author and Ambush Alley Games in-house painter and photographer) has put it:

"Can I just say that this book, compared to the original edition, is going to be something I suspect military historians interested in the period will purchase. Thanks to Joe Trevithick, my co-author on this one, we have quite possibly the first and complete, selection of T,O&Es for the period that collates around ten years of hard research work by Joe. This book will simply be a 'must have' for every Nam gamer. Its gonna be like no other. Add to that, 11 new scenarios, new rules in line with the new F-on-F edition and new pics and its gonna be something very special."

At this time it is available for pre-order through Amazon, but will also be through Osprey themselves, Ambush Alley Games themselves and bookdepository (uk).

UPDATE: February 10, 2011

Piers just gave me a list that I may provide for a preview of what sort of scenarios you can expect to get within Ambush Valley. Note that this is not final yet, there will be more than those!

1 - Battle of Ap Bac, 2nd January 1963
2 - First with Honour
4 - Enemy at the Gate, 31st January 1968
5 - Shutting the Barn Door, 1st February 1968
6 - Battle of Ban Houei Sane
7 - The Ben Cam Sweep, 28th November 1969
8 - Firefight along the Dong Nai, June 1969
9 - Battle of Binh Ba, 6th–8th June 1969
10 - Battle of Prey Veng 1970
11 - Patton of the South, Bien Hoa Highway, 1975
12 - Operation Tailwind, September 1970

Friday 4 February 2011

It's there!!!! Ambush Alley and Road To Baghdad - first glimpse into the final product

So this it guys, that's how the new Osprey Publishing release of Ambush Alley and the supplement Road To Baghdad is going to look like. As you can see, both books will come in fully coloured pages (all future releases will be), covered with real deal photos, nicely painted figures and Osprey's very own incredible artwork.
All books will cover the conflict they describe in detail (a "must have" speaking of an Osprey book!!) and provide you with scenarios to game these historical events, based upon what really happened. All source books will give you an idea of events, forces and men involved. The rule book will give you everything to start right away - with scenarios of different wars to show how versatile the actual rules really are: The rules cover all aspects of modern warfare from the confidence and supply level of troops to air-strikes and off-board artillery and incorporate tailored mechanics that allow the same rule-set to accommodate scenarios set anywhere from the end of World War II to the conflicts on today's news without sacrificing either character or playability. From infantry and armor to artillery and air support, Force on Force presents everything gamers need to recreate post-war warfare between conventional, combined-arms forces.
Thanks to my "boss" Shawn Carpenter for taking these pics. We hope to have been able to give you a feeling of what we are trying to achieve with every release for Ambush Alley's games! You will get a top quality wargame that plays different compared to anything you have ever gamed in the past. Trust me!
Update February 13, 2011:
Just found the first review for the new book(s)

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Scale shots, vol. 3 / House Kurita Infantry squad finally has arrived

Finally, after three long weeks of waiting, my Rebel Minis 15mm infantry has arrived. I use these figures as House Kurita's regular infantry (they look Japanese to me, must be the style of the battle plate and helmet). In this comparison you can also see how they look next to "Kanazuchi" (left) and "Ravager" (right) Battle Armor.
This impressive pictures shows Kurita's next reinforcements, towering over the regular infantry. I'd say they are perfectly sized to look good next to each other on the table.
Twenty-one men form an Inner Sphere platoon, so I go with seven men in a squad. I have put one light AT weapon and a flamer into every squad. Here some of them are next to a "Rifleman" Mech.
And another sidenote: 25.000+ views now. Wooo-hooo ;-)