Sunday, 27 February 2005

DBM 3.1 - worth a look

Now, I know that DBM has many critics in the gaming group around Zemst, Leuven and Brussels, but I have to confess that I still enjoy it. For me, it's like playing chess with toys soldiers. A really interesting challenge, where good play within the rules system will be rewarded by good results. Luck of course is a factor, and can swing games, particulary of course between reasonably matched players.

One of the criticisms of DBM is that certain army types are disfavoured by the rules, and most notoriously the Romans and Byzantines. I won't weary everyone with this debate, but I do want to report that the latest amendments to the rules will help out the beleaguered ranks of legionaries and other hard-done by outfits.

Version 3.1 of the rules redresses some of the imbalances caused by version 3, which gave a helping hand to armies of massed ranks of irregular Barbarians. There are some very interesting innovations, which reduce the power of skirmishers and really help out massed ranks of regular infantry.

I won't bore you with the detail.

Graham and I tried it out, with his favourite army, the dreaded 'Early Hu' ( a sort of Scythian type outfit with support from Chinese warbands) against my 'Sciri' (Ostrogoths helped out by renegade Dacians and Huns). Both armies are a tad cheesy in design, but both are great fun to play. I'm sad for my bank account that our old gaming friend, Xavier from Barcelona, did not succeed in purchasing this army at Christmas, which was the plan. But very happy for my wargaming. My Gothic knights and Dacian warband are a good match for the Hu masses, and in a cracking game, which could easily have gone either way, my brave Kinghts cracked Graham's warbands and archers to score a glorious, if close, victory. the new rules had some effect. Our troops are classified as 'fast', ie are more mobile but a little fragile. In the new rules they are even more fragile and we indeed found them dying off in bulk. Significantly, it was much harder for GW than usual to skirmish me out of the game, which is clearly a major improvement in the DBM world.

Ordinary Warband (Saxons, Goths, etc) also get a huge helping hand in the new rules, and this will have an interesting impact.

Watch this space for more news.

Thursday, 24 February 2005

Red Barons Convention XVI

Next Saturday sees the 16th edition of [Red Barons']( yearly [convention]( in Gentbrugge, near Gent (Ghent for the anglophones and -philes among you).

While [we ourselves]( will not be able to attend ( having to get one house finished and another emptied, and indoctrinating future generations of engineering students, respectively), we nevertheless heartily recommend this convention to all of you. It is among Belgium's best wargame conventions, and the guys from Red Barons do their best to promote the hobby in Belgium through it (hi Henk, Koen & Jan :) ).

If you happen to be around Gent (or, if you're American, anywhere around Belgium, as our distances pale in comparison to the ones you're used to), by all means drop in and say hi to the organizers from us!

Finally, the website of the convention is linked to above, but bears repeating: [the website is here](

We'll be there next year, guys.

Friday, 18 February 2005

Do you want to come up and see my toy soldiers?

or - On the Benefits of a Wargame Room.

As has been mentioned several times before, we're moving house. One of the perks of the new house is that it is bigger than the old one. Of course, much of that space will be taken over by the ever expanding supporting infrastructure of a growing child, but there will be room left for that holy grail of the wargames hobby: a permanent wargame room. Yay!

Now, the story of the wargame room in the new house is a quite convoluted one. The original intent was to build one in the cellar, but than the cellar turned out to be prohibitively expensive, so it is not build. The idea was than the put the wargame room on the attic, but the presence of a gas mains on the floor in the middle of the space there makes that impractical (not so much because the gas is dangerous, but because people will trip over it, and Murphy will dictate that they will consequently fall straight down the stairs and, what's worse, do so while clutching a batch of freshly painted miniatures). So the attic will have to wait until it is finished into seperate rooms (in a couple of years), and those rooms will probably go to the offspring anyway.

So that leaves the wargame room in one of the small bedrooms (about 3.5x3m). That gives me space to put in a 1.8mx2m table and my modelling and painting desk, along with oodles upon oodles of shelf space to stock all of the terrain, supplies, figures and other more or less exotic paraphernalia of our hobby. If I host big games, I'll probably put them up on the attic anyway, and just hope for the best :).

As to benefits of a seperate wargame room; apart from the obvious, often stated ones (games can be left set up, centralised stocking, ...) there is the advantage of containment: all of your hobby stuff can be confined to one room, which can then be defined as such. It makes it easier to keep children away from your wargames stuff (for as long as you want to keep them away - I can't wait until Britt can paint :) ) when it is all in one room. Somehow, a child finds it easier to understand "you're not allowed to go into that room without asking" than "if you ever see a tiny tin man hanging about, or a pot of paint, or an exacto knife, or superglue ... DON'T TOUCH IT". I think.

For those among you with wargame rooms, what are the advantages, or disadvantages, to you?

Monday, 14 February 2005

Leipzig photos

Packing miniatures

As we're moving house soon, I'm packing up miniatures for transport to the new place. I use a variety of methods, mostly because we don't have far to move (about 3 km), and because I'm using the boxes the miniatures are stored in as much as possible to avoid having to transfer them between boxes too much.

Mostly, I'm concentrating on keeping the miniatures relatively stable in their boxes, and preferably immobilise them. Some of the boxes have magnetic or steel bottoms, so I'm just adding some bubble wrap or packing styrofoam pellets on top of the figures to help immobilise them. The majority of figures are loose in their boxes, however, and I'm looking for a quick and easy way of immobilising those. Any ideas? I have these wild thoughts of spraying polyurethane foam all over them, but I'm really looking for an easily reversible solution :)

BTW, the packing up stuff is also the reason why you're not seeing many new painted figures on the left - no time left (and soon, no space left between the full boxes :) ). I do have a few extra stages of the HIPPIE figure done, so expect a post on that soon.

Saturday, 12 February 2005

A Nappie Big Game in Cheltenham

Last weekend, I went to see our old wargaming friend, Adrian Bird, in Cheltenham. He and his wargiming group had decided to organise a 'big game' on the the theme of Leipzig 1813.

As Guest of Honour (I boast shamelessly), I took the role of Napoleon, cast in the role of underdog, assailed by the mass armies of the despotic and autocratic regimes of Europe (commanded by James, Andy, Stewart and John). My trusty Marechal was David, who did superb work in keeping the Russian Barbarians at bay on Sunday.

The game was played at the Bird Mansion in Cheltenham, an extraordinary house which on the outside is pleasant but modest yet on the inside boasts four or five staircases and endless rooms and pleasure zones, full of soldiers, wargamers and... children. A heady mix, for Adrian is the remarkable father of many battalions of beautifully painted Napoleonic troops and three young children, Fred, Felix and the latest recruit, Conti, a charming but self willed young lady of 12 months. One of my abiding images of the weekend is Conti walking about the kitchen at mid-night on Saturday, gnawing chickem bones while the rest of us played Viking Fury and a motor racing game. Who was the real real viking? No contest.

Happily all was kept under close control and supervision by Carol, who for some kind reason, had decided to tolerate the invasion of her house by a mass of wargamers.

Now to the games.

Saturday - we re-played the battle of Liebertwolkwitz, the largest cavalry battle of the Nappie Wars (nothing to do with young Conti). Masses of stands of beautiful cavalry appeared on the table. The French, commanded by Murat, had to defeat the mass ranks of Prussian cavalry on an openplain, while a small infantry division had to defend a town being attacked by an Austrian Corps.

We played the game using the excellent Shako rules, which I found easy to use and gave an excellent feel of Napoleonic warfare. There was no messy book-keeping, no complications but a very realistic feel, even in complex situations. I will, as a consequence dispose of all my other Nappie Rules and convert to this system, which works.

The Battle itself was a glorious, swirling mass of cavalry rushing forward, fighting and then retiring again (in the rules cavalry charge and then are spent - they take a turn to recover, either at the last point of engagement or retiring a move). There was a real feel of a chaotic battle, swinging to and fro. In the end, the Allied forces came within a whisker of winning, doing severe but, alas for them, not mortal, damage to my French light cavalry. While all this was going on the town of Liebertwolkwitz fell to an Austrian assault, thus securing a nice base for the all out assault on Leipzig on Sunday.


The outcome of the game on Saturday had an impact on Sunday's game, the French victory (huzzah!) restricting the Allies's deployment and having an effect on the numbers of cavalry available.

We played on two tables. The north, defended by David, who had a small French force and a mission to hold off the Russians. The south, I commanded, with a mission to exit the priceless French baggage across the length of the table, while being pounded by Allied artillery and attacked by the combined might of the Austrian, Swedish and Prussian forces. Although defending city walls, I must have been outnumbered by, ooh say 6-1 at least.

The game was dramatic. I won't bore you all with details, but on my table my defences just about held out aginst mass attacks. We had dramatic scenes of desperate French squares being broken in the city centre by massed charges of Prussian cavalry. But they held out long enough for the baggage train to escape, though taking fearful losses. At various points, as Napoleon I received news that the defensive line that we had set up to the North had collapsed, but in fact David valiantly held on long enough to allow Napoleon and his stash of gold and plunder to trundle over the bridge and escape.

What a game! Very exciting, very close. Analysis? The Allies failed to be postive enough, especially on the Northern tablem letting us off the hook. The French were focused on their objective and held outm but only just.

Well done to Adrian for a terrific scenario and thanks to all the players for a good game, fought in a friendly spirit. Not a single argument about rules. Adrian will hopefully now make this an annual event.

Friday, 11 February 2005

Doom the boardgame

Last week I tried out Doom the Boardgame, a new game from Fantasy Flight games. This game is in spirit similar to other games of this genre, such as the various versions of GW's SpaceHulk (original version at BGG).

The box includes a lot of plastic miniatures, representing various denizens of the DOOM universe, but that is not the main topic of this post.

There is a very interesting rule mechanic in the game, which could be used for the tabletop as well.

In order to shoot at a target, there are a couple of colored 6-sided dice in the game. Each D6, on each face, lists 3 things (all on each face): a number of bullets holes (indicating damage), a range number, and possibly an ammo icon. The different colors have slightly different statistics.
When you shoot a weapon, you roll the corresponding number of dice for that weapon (e.g. 2 red and 1 yellow). The total number of bullet holes is the damage you inflict; if any of the dice shows an ammo symbol, the weapon has run out of ammo and you have to reload; but the interesting part is that you also add up the range numbers to get the maximum range at which your wepon has succesfully fired. In DOOM, the range is measured in squares.
Of course, various abilities and weapon types add modifiers to any of these outcomes.

An interesting idea would be to try this out on the tabletop. In typical rulesets, for each type of weapon or unit, there is some sort of range table, giving modifiers at each range for the to-hit probability or damage inflicted. But now, range itself is a stochastic outcome. Thus, you could throw some dice to fire at a target, and read from the dice not only the damage inflicted, but also the range at which this is effective. Only then you have to measure the actual range and determine whether you have scored a hit.

This could help in speeding up gameplay, since measuring ranges becomes an afterthought. Also, pre-measurement becomes somewhat useless, since you do not know beforehand how far your weapon can shoot (although you should have an idea of the most likely outcome and distribution).

In some sense, it is of course similar to variable ranges that some systems have used before (e.g. drawing sticks that each have slightly different marked ranges), but using dice like this struck me as a really good idea. At least I hadn't seen it before.

Sunday, 6 February 2005

Pestilence game pics

Just a quick heads up that there are now pictures up of the Te Wapen game [reported here earlier]( You can find them [here](

The innocent public is forewarned that we ourselves feature in some of these pics.

Thursday, 3 February 2005

Pestilence rides the land

Yesterday saw the second playtest of Phil's new version of his Te Wapen rules (see posts about the first playtest and the then current version of the rules [here]( and [there]( Four players -- Phil himself, Alan, Vince and myself -- trundled up to Phil's gaming attic to crunch down at his game table for the first in a series of linked games revolving around the Four Riders of the Apocalypse, featuring the malodorous Pestilence.

Alan and Phil controlled Pestilence's forces, consisting of a bunch of rattling skeletons (Alan) and a swarm of furry ratmen (Phil), opposing Vince and myself with woodland creatures and hobgoblins respectively. The first side to gain 20 victory points (mostly through destroying the opposing side's units, but there were also special victory conditions) won the game.

The armies deployed along both baselines, with the ratmen roughly facing my hobgoblins, and Alan rattling his collection of bones in front of the buzzing bees and hulking ents of Vince's woodland troops. Our plan (although calling the result of a hurried ten seconds of discussion a plan shows a capacity for a suspension of disbelief that is only matched by that needed to believe that pigs do, in fact, fly) was to hold with the hobgoblins on the left flank, anchored by some troops (and a wizard) behind a river. The mobile troops (hobgoblin wolf riders and buzzing bees, eagles and a dragon for the woodland forces) would utilise their speed advantage to try and pick off isolated enemy units. As plans go, this sounded like a good one.

It turned out, however, that the plan, for all its simplistic geniality, was found to be somewhat lacking in depth and resilience. While our charge down the middle of the table certainly _looked_ impressive, and Pestilence himself (itself?) was briefly threatened when attacked and somewhat mauled by a green dragon, its effectiveness was dwarfed by that of a corresponding advance of the malodorous sides elephants.

As it turned out, a bunch of elephants that had thought joining a swarm of gibbering ratmen was just the thing for a nice day out in the country trampled most of the hobgoblin front lines. I had put up a front line of troops armed with a variety of ranged weapons backed up by a second line of close combat troops, with the intention of softening up the enemy before crunching into them with the heavies. Well, the softening turned out not to work, as most of the missile troops were dead by the time they got to shoot, and the crunch I had envisioned with the heavy troops did materialise, except that it was the sound of my troops being crunched into the ground by the rampant elephants.

Meanwhile, Vince was doing some damage over on his side of the table, putting serious dents into the undead forces, but to no avail, alas, as the hobgoblins succumbing in droves to the enemy advance lost the game for us. Sorry, Vince :)

As said, this was the second playtest of Phil's latest incarnation of Te Wapen, and -- besides a few troop stat that need to have the kinks worked out -- it is shaping up to be a rather enjoyable and playable set of fantasy rules. Good work, Phil!

Tuesday, 1 February 2005

Starting the 1:300 collection

Regular readers will already be bored by our new found enthusiasm for Blitzkrieg Commander (see the 100 other pieces on this subject). I've started to acquire some figures and have noticed a strange phenomenon.

Some companies that sell the figures are very impolite. I have tried Navwar and Scotia Grendel. Navwar sent me only half my order, claiming I had tried to order obsolete figures discontinued in 2002 (this was underlined in the unsigned compliments slip, just to show ahat a fool I am I suppose). But I obtained the codes from their web site. It seemed reasonable to me. Scotia Grendel absolutely refused to confirm the total cost of their order to me so that I could send the right amount by paypal. Their emails consisted of 2 word grunts, very unhelpful.

I'm sure Irregular will be ultra helpful, and I will try them out.

Anyway, I bought some Belgians ( as a little encouragement for Bart) from Scotia, and these make up a fine force.

I am now painting up a 1940 German army, which can serve to wipe out Bart's brave Belgians and also fight on the Russian Front (a future project). I will have two armoured regiments, one with Czech Pz 35 and 38s (to give Bart's guys a chance) and a nasty one with Pz III and IVs.

Watch out for photos, as I'm on the verge of buying a camera.

Warning order online mag

In the spirit of [our earlier discussion]( on the effect of the Net on wargames magazines, allow me to point you all at the [Warning Order Online Magazine]( Mike is doing a very good job at putting out a regular magazine, filled with oodles (yes, that's an official English word -- says so [here]( ) of interesting articles (a bit like TTM, I hope :) ).

The [latest issue]( has a whole crop of articles on our favourite WWII ruleset [Blitzkrieg Commander](

Everybody go there (and then come back :) )!