Gaming with Zombies and Rebels

Last week, we had a kind of board game frenzy. It all started with my mates Sigur and Virago coming over to try out Zombicide, which I bought as a second-hand copy some time ago. Sigur brought his impressive collection of survivors and zombies, a mix of figures from different manufacturers, painted as always with the hand of a master.

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We first played the training mission, which was a bit boring and didn’t convince me. We then proceeded to the first proper scenario. The objective was to find foodstuff and escape. Our survivors fought heroically and we didn’t do too badly, but Zombie numbers started to add up and in the end, we succumbed to the undead horde. This time, I really enjoyed the game. The rules are quite simple, but there are lots of decision points. Zombicide is a cooperative game and you really have to work together to achieve your goals. One interesting mechanic is that the more experience points you have, the more Zombies appear each turn. The level of danger is dependent on the character with the most experience, so if one player just wants to max out his guy, all are in deep trouble. Each character has unique features and you can collect and swap equipment. It all makes for a very cinematic game!

The next day, my nephew was over, so we had another go at Zombicide. We played another mission and, proceeding carefully and methodically, managed to win the scenario. The kid was very pleased and voiced his enthusiasm by declaring it to be “the best game ever!”. He even proposed that we should paint up the figures together…

On Saturday, I met the kid’s dad and one of his friends and we had another game. This time, it was a close call and my and the nephew’s characters died, but the other players managed to win the scenario in the end. It again shows how close you have to collaborate: We split up the group early on and me and the kid got isolated and eaten by the Zombies. However, I like to think that our sacrifice provided enough distraction so the others could complete their mission…

Zombicide is a great game and highly recommended if you look for an action-oriented cooperative experience.

To get a change and top off the weekend, K. and I played our first game of Battle Cry. We played the first scenario, the Battle of Bull Run. I’m very pleased with how the 2mm figures look on the board as they convey the feeling of playing a big battle very well. Despite initial scepticism, K. liked the game, especially the card activation mechanics. While my Confederate cavalry swept away K.’s flank, her center advanced steadily and drove off the Rebels. There was a moment when it looked as if I might turn the tables, but in the end the Union won the close fought action. A great game which gave me enough motivation to finish the rest of the figures so we can play other scenarios.

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Small Fry for BattleCry

I might already have mentioned that I bought a copy of the American Civil War variant of the C&C series of board games, BattleCry. However, I pretty soon decided that I did not like the figures that come with the game. They are rather large – namely 1/72 – for the level of action depicted in the game. While there is no fixed scale, as far as I understand it a unit represents something between a regiment and a brigade (depending on the scenario). And, to quote an old adage, four guys taking a flag for a walk don’t look like a regiment to me.

I toyed with the idea of making my own wooden blocks but then thought of something that has interested me for some time: Irregular Miniature’s 2mm range. I recently came across pictures where these figures looked really good: Sidney Roundwood did a very interesting Thirty Years’ War game and the current issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy has an intriguing article about a siege game done in 2mm.

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They really are tiny!

I ordered enough figures to substitute all the plastic miniatures of BattleCry. Or so I thought – I actually made a stupid calculation error and had to place another order. Fortunately, the service of Irregular is top-notch! Those are not single figures, but they come in blocks, infantry being in 20 figure blocks with a flag, perfect to represent a regiment. For 30p, you get three of those blocks – a very good price, even if you need the large amount I did.

Now of course those are not detailed models of individuals, but the blocks give a good impression of a mass of men. You can make out the muskets, but all the other detail has to be painted in. An impressionistic approach to painting is really the only option: Dots with flesh colour for the faces, thin lines for the muskets, another series of dots with a steel colour for the bayonets. It’s easy and quick, but it does get rather tedious after a while. I’ve now painted 64 infantry blocks and feel like I need a break. Fortunately, as soon as I’ve finished some cavalry and artillery, this should be enough for a first scenario from the BattleCry rulebook.

2mm is an interesting scale. I kind of like small stuff and the figure blocks give a reasonable well impression of a large mass of men. They open up the possibility of playing really huge battles with very little expense. And now that the Perrys’ Travel Battle is all the rage, I already thought about making my own travel set – with 2mm, it would be possible to make a set for those who travel without a car and don’t want to shell out £50.

Visiting a Vauban Fortress

We’ve been living near some of the most spectacular Vauban fortresses for years and never managed to make the trip. However, the fascinating series of articles on Gravelines by Henry Hyde in Miniature Wargames finally inspired me to rent a car. K. was willing to come along, so shortly before we moved house, we headed for Neuf-Brisach, which is considered to be Vauban’s master piece.

Aerial image of Neuf-Brisach.
Aerial image of Neuf-Brisach.

While the fortress was planned by Vauban, the construction was overseen by Tarade. It was built ex nihilo on a flat piece of ground from 1698-1708. The reason for its existence was the loss of the old fortress of Breisach, which is located on the other side of the Rhine, after the War of the League of Augsburg.

Apart from one futile attempt by the Austrians to take the town in 1743, it was never besieged. However, it did play an important function in the system of fortification that surrounded France like a chain and that served the French well up until the napoleonic period.

Map of Neuf-Brisach.
Map of Neuf-Brisach.

For today’s visitors, the appeal of Neuf-Brisach is its good state of preservation. Walking around the town, one can see all the different elements of a Vauban fortress – a fascinating way to get a feeling for the dimensions.

I’ll just share some photos from our trip, for a detailed description of all the different elements of such a fortress have a look at Henry’s articles.

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The Porte de Colmar.
The Porte de Colmar.

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Views from the ditch.
A ravelin.
A ravelin.
Tunnel through a hornwork.
Tunnel through a hornwork.
View along the covered way.
View along the covered way.

There is also a small museum where you can find maps, documents and a couple of weapons. The main attractions are the three models: One old plan relief, a modern model and one for the kids to play with.

Neuf-Brisach is well worth a visit if you are around, and if not, why not look if there is a Vauban fortress in your vicinity?

Of course, such a trip may make you want to have such a structure on the tabletop. If you don’t have the Sun King’s money to spend, wargaming with a Vauban fortress is probably better suited for the smaller scales. Irregular Miniatures offers elements for building a fort or a fortress in 2mm as well as in 6mm. JR Miniatures and Stone Mountain Miniatures offer complete sets in 15mm, while Total Battle Miniatures makes elements for building a fort.

Less expensive is the paper kit by PaperTerrain, which is available in different sizes, even in 28mm if you feel up to it. However, the cheapest variant is building one from scratch – the Age of Eagles webpage has a good tutorial.