On the Painting Table

CRISIS really gave me a motivational boost – I’ve been quite busy painting since coming back from Antwerp. One big bunch I could finish was the ACW artillery. I’m still working on bringing my ACW forces up to regimental level, so I needed a couple of guns.

This is what I have so far. The crews are mostly from Peter Pig, while the guns are from QRF/Freikorp15. I’ve ordered some more, so in the end I’ll have at least six guns for each side as well as a couple of limbers.

I’ve also touched up the river I bought from Products for Wargamers. I still have to put grass and lichen on the banks. I also knocked up a small bridge and a modular ford to go with the river.

Finally, the painting tray:

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In the back, you can see Union ‘enthusiastic soldiers’ from Old Glory – those are the ones I got at CRISIS. In the front rows we have Confederate soldiers at ease from Essex. Additionally, there are two ‘out of ammunition’ markers from Peter Pig.

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Queendomino & Lords of Waterdeep

I recently had twice the opportunity to play eurogames. The first one was Queendomino. As I understand it, it’s an enhanced version of Kingdomino, though I’ve never played the latter. Queendomino looks like a typical specimen of its kind: There is an intricate scoring system, so you only know if you’ve won (or even if you’re leading) at the very end of the game. There are no dice, chance is limited to drawing the terrain tiles. There are many different ways of acquiring points and many strategies are possible. The mechanics look well thought-out and balanced and I’d say that, objectively, it’s a very good game.

queendomino_coverHowever, I didn’t enjoy it that much. I don’t play many eurogames, and when playing Queendomino I was reminded of the reason for this. There is a theme, but it is irrelevant. Everything is very abstract. There is no story, the only purpose of the game is to understand and exploit the mechanics well enough to accumulate the most points. In the end, it feels a bit like a lesson in accounting.

Waterdeep_coverThe other eurogame I played was Lords of Waterdeep. One could call this a eurogame disguised as an adventure game, and of course I liked it. There are all of the usual eurogame mechanics: worker placement, set collection and resource allocation, as well as the intricate scoring system. However, there is an actual story behind the game: The players are, well, lords of the city of Waterdeep, famous from D&D lore. They assemble and send out adventurer parties to do all kinds of jobs while also building their influence within the city. While it’s still about accumulating points, it feels more like a story is developing. The players are actually invested in the game world and not just trying to be better at exploiting the mechanics. It is also a surprisingly friendly game: Although there are intrigue cards, there a few opportunities to actually harm another player – most of those cards just give an advantage to you, without taking anything from the opponents.

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Now I’m not really into games where backstabbing and being mean is the only way to win, as I prefer to play in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. However, one thing that I notice about eurogames is that player interaction tends to be rather low. People tend to play parallelly instead of with or against each other. Everyone is concentrating on optimizing their moves and collecting points. Sometimes, there is a short interaction when a sheep is exchanged for some wood, but that’s about it.

Apart from the narrative aspect, which is the single most important aspect of gaming for me, the centrality of player interaction may be the reason miniature wargames and co-operative games are my favourite types of games. In wargames, player interaction stems from direct conflict. You are constantly engaged with what your opponent does (or doesn’t) do and you have to react to each and every of his or her moves. With co-op games, the conflict is between the players and the game itself. This, however, means that the players have to interact and coordinate their actions so as to beat the game mechanics.

Eurogames have been at the forefront of the boardgaming renaissance and have been an area of innovation for many years. And don’t get me wrong: I like games that use eurogame mechanics. I’m just not interested in the bare, abstract mechanics in themselves. If there is a well-integrated theme and a story, like in Lords of Waterdeep, I enjoy them very much.

Scratch Building Wagons in 15mm

Wagons are cool: They can be used as scenario objectives, but they also look nice as pieces of scenery. Unfortunately, wagons are also among the most expensive models a wargamer can own (at least, for those of us who play periods before the 20th century).

So I decided to scratch build my own. I found some examples of scratch-built wagons in 28mm on the internet, but I couldn’t find any in 15mm. Fortunately, 15mm is a very forgiving scale and you can get away with a lot, which is a good thing for a sloppy person like me.

I didn’t use a lot of materials: For the chassis, I used balsa wood, match sticks and polystyrene. The wheels come from Langely Models, who offer a good selection of sizes. Several miniatures producers offer spare horses, e.g. Alternative Armies or QRF/Freikorp15. Drivers are a bit more difficult to find and I’m not really happy with what I got, but it will work.

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The first thing I made was a simple hay wagon. The hay was made out of dried tea leaves, which were covered with several layers of thinned down PVA glue.

I then proceeded to build carriages for the artillery train. First up was a mobile field forge. I’ve modeled it in the working position:

The second model is a battery wagon:

Last, I made an ambulance wagon. This is modeled after the two-wheeled Coolidge ambulance wagon. The Perrys offer such a wagon in 28mm, which has been masterfully painted by my mate Sigur, from whom I got the idea to make my own. The roof was made out of green stuff.

Making wagons is fun and the results are, while not perfect, good enough for me. The next thing I want to make is a pontoon train – I have an idea for a scenario dealing with the river crossing at Fredericksburg…

Relief Force – Sharp Practice AAR

Last week-end, Sigur and I had another game of Sharp Practice. I had devised a short and simple scenario: A Union held fort was attacked by a Confederate force, but a relief column was on its way.

Sigur decided to command the attackers and got a couple of infantry, a unit of cavalry and a small mountain howitzer. I had three rather weak units in the fort. To make things more interesting, I drew card for the composition of the relief force, which gave me three units of regular infantry and one unit of cavalry armed with breech-loading carbines – quite a potent combination.

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The set up. Sigur’s cavalry moves along the road towards the bridge.
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… and there goes the cavalry! Having been shot to pieces by the Union soldiers in the fort, it flees to never be seen again. Sigur’s skirmishers adopt a more methodical approach.
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With the cavalry heading towards the rear, it’s up to the poor bloody infantry.
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Hurrah! At the earliest possible moment, the Union cavalry arrives.
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The Confederates haven taken position in the rough ground and a musketry duels starts.
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The Union infantry rushes towards the fort. In the foreground, you can see the already dismounted Union troopers.
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The dismounted Union cavalry tries to work around the Confederate flank and rear to take out the mountain howitzer, which is shelling the fort with some effect. One group of Confederate infantry have taken position in the wheat field to check the bluecoats’ advance. The shooting at the fort continues.
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While the well-drilled Union infantry has formed line, the dismounted cavalry has been repulsed by the Confederates in the wheat field.
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The Union line advances, trying to hit the Confederates in the flank.
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The Union line is in a bad position now – it’s either forward with the bayonet or being caught in a cross-fire.
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Forward it is, then! One group runs towards the howitzer…
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… while the other two charge the Confederate line. Alas! Both attacks get stuck and do not reach their intended targets.
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The Confederates counter-charge and break the Union line! The Union skirmishers have taken position to screen the line from the shooting coming from the wheat field.
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The Union attack breaks down. The group charging the howitzer was pelted with canister and took to its heels, while the rest are falling back or routing, being shot at by everything the Confederates have.

Well, that was that. With my Force Morale at 2 and Sigur’s at 7, I conceded defeat. My relief force was routing and the garrison in the fort would probably surrender.

This was a fun and interesting game. Sigur was very unlucky at the beginning, as the turns were short, he couldn’t deploy much, and then my relief force turned up at the earliest possible moment. He squandered away his cavalry, but so did I. Detaching a group from his line and positioning it in the wheat field was a prudent move. For a moment it looked very dangerous for the Confederates, but I don’t think it was actually that close a game. I took a huge risk by moving my infantry that far forward and by trying to charge his units. Playing aggressively can have a psychological effect on the other player which can make a situation look more dangerous than it really is – believe me, I’ve been on the receiving end of aggressive moves many times!