Sunday, April 25, 2010

Miniatures work in progress 15mm Pirates and SF figures

At last I've finished the first set of 15mm Pirates for my Hordes of the Things army.

Gun crew waiting for me to finish the cannon.

The first set of shooters (pirates with longarms)

First set of warband (melee weapons)

Officers (blade general)

FSE Legionnaires

FSE Legionnaires closeup

Size Comparison 15mm figures (Laserburn, Ground Zero Games, Laserburn, Peter Pig) 

Kim Newman - Master of Post-modernist Horror

I've recently been reading a lot of Kim Newman's older short stories in the collections  The Original Dr. Shade and Famous Monsters. This has been interesting to see the evolution of his writing style as many of the stories in the Original Dr. Shade are very early pieces where the use of pop culture references, particularly to film is not as developed as in his more recent work.

Doctor Shade features a number of Newman's recurring characters including the sinister figure of media mogul Derek Leech. Though funnily enough the figure that Leech seems closest to in real life has actually changed from its original target in my opinion, though others may not agree with my expression of it.

My favourites stories in The Original Dr. Shade are the title story, which is an interesting riff on an apparently fictional character emerging into the real world; Gargantuabots versus the Nice Mice, satirising the toy industry and its 'hot toys'; D-and-D and The man who collected Barker. D-and-D is one of the first times I've seen the fantasy Vietnam scenario used in wide circulation, though we did have A Private Hell in the Dungeoneer from 1979 as the first time I saw Vietnam era US soldiers trapped in a fantasy world. Newman makes good use of the alternative reality scenario with dwarves and other creatures allied to the human forces.

Generally the stories in Famous Monsters show the development of Newman's writing style and it includes alternative histories as well as horror stories. There are a lot of stories including one of Newman's favourite tropes of mixing historical figures with existing fictional characters, both his and other authors. An example of this is The Big Fish, a Cthulhu Mythos story where Geneviève Dieudonné from Jack Yeovil's Warhammer stories appears. The Big Fish is a nicely written piece that works by conflating the horror and detective story genres. Some of the stories are a bit dated such as Pitbull Brittain which is very much of the Thatcher government era and I think might be hard to understand for a reader that, unlike me, couldn't remember the era.

There is an interesting rework of the Zorro legend in Out of the Night and I'd say that is another of my favourite stories from Famous Monsters using a werewolf trope and a finale in contemporary Los Angeles.

I'm probably going to return to writing some more about Kim Newman and his associate Jack Yeovil's fiction in the near future.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Miniatures Review 6: Ground Zero Games 15mm SF

Ground Zero Games has a number of SF figure ranges in scales ranging from 25mm to 6mm. The figures I'm reviewing are 15mm scale which is probably my favorite for SF miniatures gaming. These are a small selection of figures from the ranges they have which are mainly intended for the Stargrunt rules, which can be freely downloaded from the GZG website. Price wise GZG are at the higher end of the 15mm market with a pack of 8 figures costing £2.50 in the UK, but there are a wide range of platoon packs, etc which allow saving money on purchases.

Overall comments are that these are a pretty much standard 15mm size with the measurement being foot to eye with a less pronounced sculpting style than the Peter Pig figures that I have reviewed. The sculpting is reasonably correct anatomically and has quite clear definition of weapons and equipment against the clothing, the folds are not as deeply modeled as Peter Pig, but are still clear enough and will allow use of washes in painting. There is a little flash on many figures and some moulding lines to remove before painting. I intend to pick up more of these figures and will soon do a size comparison of them against some of the Laserburn 15mm SF range.

GZG make an extensive selection of vehicles mainly in resin and at some point I'll try to look at these and the starship models for Full Thrust.

Pack SG15-U1 UNSC Hardsuit Marines (8 figs)

This pack contains 8 figures in 4 poses, 2 of the poses only have 1 figure supplied the pointing squad leader on the left and the support weapon trooper second from right, with 3 figures in each of the other 2 poses. These are an armoured troop, but not power armoured with most having an assault rifle type weapon.

SG15-U2 UNSC Light Infantry in Advanced Combat Armour, Rifles Pack A

This pack contains 8 figures all with an assault rifle type weapon.

SG15-G1 Generic Command Team pack (8 figures, 2 each of 4 types)

This set includes 4 different poses with 2 of each provided. These are a seated figure for use as a vehicle crewman or equipment operator, a standing officer in peaked cap, a standing figure using a laptop computer and a standing figure with a small personal weapon (SMG). These are pretty much usable for any human nation as the uniforms and equipment are not particularly specific to any group.

SG15-F2 FSE Colonial Legionnaires (8 figs) in kepis

These figures have two heavy weapons included the squad automatic weapon third from left which is pretty much just a heavy version of the assault rifle carried by the other troops and a rocket launcher with the figure at far right of the picture. Only two of the figures are bareheaded, the rocket launcher operator and another figure that I took as the squad leader. Their assault rifle resembles the French FAMAS bullpup design with a handle on top.  There was a little flash between the legs of these figures which probably reflects them being one of the older packs in the review and the amount of use the moulds will have received. There have been a few figures with a moulding fault in the middle of their kepi which has required a small amount of filler to correct and this probably reflects this being an older mould.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wargames rules and realism, part one command and control

One thing that often tends to crop up in debates about wargames rules is how historically accurate they are, with often more 'rules dense' systems being claimed as more accurate than other systems simply because of the volume of rules included. One problem with many sets is a lack of clarity about the actual part of warfare or level of command that they are simulating. This leads to the games lasting maybe a dozen turns which according to the scales in the rules would actually be less than three hours for the action. Another factor will be excessive concentration on details which may not be relevant to the level of command being represented as an army level game should not be trying to include a detailed simulation of combat at platoon or lower levels.

An example of a popular game system where I feel one key element of simulation is omitted despite there being an abundance of 'chrome' in other areas is Advanced Squad Leader.My main objection is the telepathic communication between groups that may not be in Line of Sight of each other and the ability of the player to have pretty much total control of their good order units (it is true that broken units will only rout to safety if possible). The advocates of ASL would maintain that it is a highly realistic system because of such factors as ammunition depletion numbers for ordnance, multiple versions of support weapons such as bazookas and panzerfausts for different years and the different unit and national characteristics for squads. That said I have all three of the Starter Kits for ASL and will happily play using those, though I feel the whole game system is too much for me.

Another problem for ASL has been the fact that it is used in competitive gaming where it is important to make rules unambiguous in meaning requiring a more detailed and legalistic style of writing that unfortunately makes it harder to learn the system.

This problem of rules becoming less clear and more legalistic in their content has been apparent with the Wargames Research Group ancient rules, which due to their early success and adoption for competition tended to a more legalistic drafting in the familiar 'Barkerese'. Ironically more complex detailed drafting continues to create or leave gaps that can be exploited by the dreaded rules lawyers. The best option is probably to have umpired games, but unfortunately it is hard to find many people eager to give their limited gaming time up for running games for other players.

Probably the two biggest problems that reduce the realism of wargames are the lack of the 'fog of war' where all troops are visible all the time and telepathic command where units are able to receive and obey perfectly orders and changed orders from a general that is physically distant from them. Both of these are easily addressed in the traditional umpired Kriegspiel where players give their orders to the umpire who then records the movement onto the map and only reveals the presence of opposing forces at appropriate times.

The 'fog of war' is something that can be represented by use of blinds which represent bodies of troops, but do not actually show what is present to the opposing player. The actual units will be revealed when the opposing player is able to spot them. It is not a perfect system, but this does at least create an element of uncertainty that is workable in a game without an umpire or referee and using dummy blinds increases the level of uncertainty.

Limiting command and control can be achieved in a wide range of methods from written orders which will be followed until a messenger figure is able to move from the general figure, to limited numbers of moves based on a die roll (e.g. DBA) or drawing cards from a deck (most Too Fat Lardies rules). I think that will be worth discussing in a separate post as this is quite a lengthy topic in how they can affect the play of a game and I would like to include quite a large number of games including Crossfire and Song of Blades and Heroes.

As an example of a ruleset that tends to include the elements of limited visibility and command limitations that I desire I'd use Troops, Weapons and Tactics from Too Fat Lardies. In these rules a card driven system is used to control which units can move or act within a turn, though at turn end all units are able to fire if they have not already used all the dice allocated to them. In TW&T all units will normally start the turn represented by blinds, which are standard shaped cards with each side having a number of these depending on the size of the forces involved plus a number of dummy blinds. Leaders are important in being able to motivate units to take additional actions or to un pin units. I'm going to make a more detailed comment about these in the next post on this topic to avoid this turning into a vast essay.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Miniatures work in progress Pirates and SF figures

Continuing progress with my Peter Pig 15mm Pirates and starting on some Ground Zero Games FSE Colonial Legionnaires.

Pirates overview

Pirate captain close up

GZG FSE Legionnaire squad in the start of camouflage based on French Foreign Legion Paratroopers

Monday, April 05, 2010

Miniatures work in progress 15mm Peter Pig Pirates

First 16 pirates being worked on. Two guns are also in the queue, but I've not got past undercoating them.

So far just put base coats on the flesh and the white fabric areas and painted the weapon bodies in dark brown. Plenty more still to do including highlights and washes. These pictures help show the detail much better than the ones in the review of these that I did.

The full set of pirates

The captain and some pirates in close up.