Friday, July 27, 2018

Are we experiencing a golden age in 28mm gaming?

I guess I’m getting a bit long on the tooth. I “started” wargaming back in the late 1970s with the ubiquitous Airfix 1:72nd scale HO/OO figures and kits. This was soon followed Matchbox with their 1:76 scale infantry, hanomags, 17pdr and Morris C8 tractor, pak 40 + SDKFZ11, Sherman firefly,  M16 half track, chaffee, wespe to name a few of the kits soon gracing my gaming collection. A year or two and I discovered Esci, which to my pre-teenage brain were light years ahead of both the two English companies in terms of detail on both figures and vehicles, and they became my first choice for infantry. I also liked their vehicles but they were a bit fiddly to put together and weren’t really in scale to Matchbox or Airfix, but that mattered little to my friend Ian and me.   

In those days Airfix kits and figures were readily available and building kits was a rite of passage for many boys. Military figures and kits were widely available in most specialised model railway and hobby shops not to mention more general toy stores here in New Zealand. HO/OO 1:72nd and 1:76th kits were the main scale used by most local wargamers I knew, and being pre internet and not involved in the local clubscene, that wasn’t that many! I guess that’s what in these globally connected days, we would refer to as the local meta. I know that Ian and I both looked with great envy at the beautiful metal figures and vehicles to fill out ranges available in the UK but with the prices in pound, the weak NZ dollar, exorbitant postage not to mention extremely limited gaming budgets they were right out of the question!

Over the years I built up a sizeable collection of 1:76/1:72nd plastic kits. In fact , the bulk of my first fulltime pay packet after leaving school went on buying 8x Hasegawa M3 half tracks to mechanise my US infantry forces!

But, as is often the way, in my later teenage years I put aside gaming for more appropriate pastimes- hanging out with mates, drinking, partying, girlfriends etc but never completely gave up gaming.
It wasn’t until just after I got married and I moved to Japan for three years that I really returned to the hobby. In my first few weeks in Japan I found a local gaming store that had a lot of Fujimi 1:76 scale kits. Pretty much the first Japanese I learned was how to order kits. The shopkeeper thought I was a crazy gaijin who didn’t understand Japanese at all when I ordered 12x T34s. Eventually he figured out yes, I was serious and so ordered them for me. They duly appeared the following week and I biked home (we biked everywhere in Japan) with two bags of models perched on my handlebars- having given the shopowner a second bulk order for the following week. I spent many, many evenings in Japan building 1:76 scale kits and would transport them home on my annual trips back to NZ as well as sending numerous repacked unmade kits back home Ian so we could fill large voids in our collections- especially for Eastern Front armour.

I returned to NZ in 1999 I then moved to Timaru and in time made contact with some other gamers a year or so later. A couple showed interest in WWII gaming and we started dabbling with Rapid Fire in 1:72nd scale. About that time a small company in NZ called Battlefront had their playtest version of the rules available online and were appearing to demonstrate the game of Flames of War: Company Commander at the NZ Wargaming Nationals in Christchurch (2002?). Ian and I had both checked out their website but the pictures of some of the 15mm staff looked pretty average at best so decided we’ better check them out in person. We did so and immediately decided to ditch 20mm/1:72 scale and so sold off all our staff and 15mm gaming became our main gaming scale of the next decade.

The local gamers embraced FoW and we ended up having a sizeable gaming community and many, many evenings of enjoyable games and I ran an annual FoW tournament for a decade. In time we started the Timaru Armchair Generals back up after more than a decade’s hiatus and I’m glad to say it’s still going strong some 15 years later.

I recall about 2010/2011 having a conversation with Kent of Galpy’s 15mm Painting Shed fame discussing 28mm figures. He’d just painted up some Warlord Games (metal) US paras and was sounding keen to get into 28mm gaming but we both concluded that the scale, and price of metal miniatures meant we’d stick to 15mm- so ended up building some 15mm Napoleonic armies instead and he sold his freshly painted armies!

I did have some Gripping Beast 28mm Vikings and Saxons I’d purchased in late 2000 when I briefly toyed with the idea of 28mm DBA but really hated the way the DBA basing for 28mm scale worked, it just didn’t look right so the project languished for a long time as no one I knew did 28mm gaming- it was too damn expensive-  and I wanted bigger armies and more dynamic basing to the DBA standard.  

It wasn’t till a year or two later that Kent and I changed our minds and decided to get into 28mm Napoleonic’s for the 200th anniversary of Borodino project and the rest is as they say history. Metal 28mm figures were a hell of a lot  more expensive than our traditional scale of 15mm but painted up nicely and were a damn sight easier to see than 15mm figures seemed to be becoming to my 40 something year old eyes.

So I guess my foray into 28mm has coincided with a bit of a renaissance in 28mm gaming. In the last six years or so we’ve witnessed a real growth in popularity for 28mm historics, driven in no small part by the ever increasing ranges of plastics out there that are making 28mm gaming cheaper and more accessible than ever before. Companies like Victrix, Warlord Games, Gripping Beast, Perry Miniatures, Fireforge, and for fantasy Games Workshop, Mantic and Oathmark to name a few. In fact the GW Lord of the Rings range were in truth probably the first to start this process with their excellent LoTR releases accompanying  Peter Jackson’s movies. Thy are still some of my favourite figures. 

However, some of the early plastic ranges were a bit hit and miss but the quality of sculpts (and increased use of computer aided design) has continued to improve and has meant some companies are producing really outstanding stuff. I’m still a bit of a metal snob in some eras- preferring metals to plastic in WWII for instance- too many bad experiences with subpar Warlord Games plastics and frustrated that they ditch very nice metals ranges for pretty average plastics ones. But other manufacturers, such as Victrix historics I buy without second thought as the quality is as good as, if not sometimes better, than the higher end metals available.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a deep love for metal figures and there are a number of outstanding companies out there that I buy but the plastics make it easier and cheaper to bulk out armies and get larger forces on table. The more dynamic/individualised metals can be used for special character and to add variety to rank and file units and many of my forces are a mix of both plastics and metals which I’m sure is the same for many gamers. As ranges increase options of mixing and matching and kitbashing new figures by combining parts of different manufacturers kits has also become easier and easier, not to mention ease of customising plastics in general.

I think a number of outstanding blogs- some of which I have links too, have also made 28mm gaming more attractive and there is nothing like the spectacle of a well organised 28mm game on beautiful terrain. My own participation in the Borodino and Gettysburg events in Christchurch a few years back being my first chance to take part in the truly majestic spectacles of massed 28mm figures on table with fellow wargame enthusiasts that I’d only till that point ever really ever seen in UK and US wargaming magazines.

So where is this post heading? I’m not really sure except to say that I think the development of the modern 28mm plastics has lead to a revival of interest in the scale and also in historic gaming in general. Great figures at more affordable prices for creating larger armies, coupled with a range of outstanding blogs,  not to mention a wide range of excellent rules available means that in my opinion we are indeed witnessing a revival, or renaissance of you will in gaming in this scale, long may it prosper.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Dragon Rampant- a last hurrah

Well I made it back to South Tarawa, Kiribati in one piece. From 8-12 degree Celsius days, fires at night and -1C degree nights to +31C days. A bit of a shock to the system, though a swim in the Pacific (a balmy 28-29 degrees) soon helped me adjust. Still, I actually enjoy winter and having a fire each night so it was great to be home for a few weeks.

Anyway I headed up to Christchurchon Saturday for my flights to Fiji on Sunday- and Tarawa Molnday. So I had teed up a game vs my old mate Ian. I arrived at his place to find a table already set up and ready to go, good lad. So it was to be the the first outing for my new Black Nunenoreans/ ex army off the dead troops.

Black Numenoreans (32 pts)
·         2x Black Numenorean Infantry- Heavy Foot(1 unit is the general)
·         2x Black Numenorean Archers- Light Missiles
·         1x Troll- Large warbeast
·         1x Warg riders   Light Riders
·         1x Scouts

Since I was using my based units Ian decided to use some of his 100 Year War English force. He painted this force up  close to 20 years ago and unfortunately it has not seen much table time. He has two very, very nicely painted 100 Year War French & English armies that we really must get onto the table a lot more often! The army is made from Old Glory figures and is very, very nice.

Ian threw together a quick force comprising of:
Human Kingdoms (32 points)
·         1x elite rider (Gen)
·         1x heavy cavalry
·         2x infantry- light foot offensive
2x archers 

Black Numenorean deployment

And the (so called) good guys
 The end of turn 1.
 The humans advance.
 I shuffle forward to meet them- and after having decided I was too close to my baseline if things went horribly wrong!
 The warg riders are sent on a scouting/flanking mission.
 While on the other flank, the human light infantry advances toward the woods.
 The vain glorious human commander leads from the front.
 So I send forward the troll to ruin his day.
 Troll and general clash

 Ian moves his archers to support the general, while my own archers and scouts trade missile fire with them.
 Peew-peew noises are always appropriate at moments like this
 As you can see the battle lines are more or less intact.
 General Goody-Goody-Two-Shoes drives the troll back
 Then my troll fails a courage roll and stomps off the table!
  However his rather rash general is now looking a tad...isolated. CHARGE!!!!!
 The two generals clash.
 As he troll had battered the General GGTS (under half strength so only 6 dice to roll) the result was a bit of a formality.
 At this stage I thought things were looking up.
 My other Black Numenorean heavy infantry-Offensive (aka BNHI-O) see off the lighter armed human light infantry-offensive (HLI-O).
 Still the human archers are starting to more than annoy my general
 In the end he too fails a courage test and decides discretion is the better part of valour- after all the battle is all but won...isn't it?
 The final mop up commences

Final Thoughts
My report may look a bit one sided but the game was in the balance right to the end. I got a  bit lucky at times but my plan to use the wargs to try to flank his line kind of worked. I was lucky that Ian wasn’t able to concentrate his missile fire early on. The middle stages were touch and go but in the end I managed to sneak away with a win only losing 2 units though others were badly damaged. 

It was a good fast game- as Dragon Rampant seems to be-no faffing around with unit frontages, ZoCs etc, etc, etc, very old school IMO it harkens back to the days where players and rules writers took things a tad less seriously,  so is right up my alley. 

Having the generals have a reroll once per turn to a unit within 12” worked well and stopped a few superfast turns. Even so you still had to be a bit tactical with which units to activate and when- which I liked. Losing the general was really noticeable from a command and control point of view (lots more failed command rolls) so maybe the lesson learned was just because you CAN charge with your general doesn’t mean you always SHOULD!

We both enjoyed it and are keen to scale it up to bigger games and I think Ian quite liked using unit style bases as opposed to individual figures- though I came away with a new respect for his 6cm x 6cm bases as they give a bit more flexibility. Oh no, not more basing dilemmas!

I look forward to plenty more games of DR when I return home and we are already plotting for a 80 point per side clash… 


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Black Numenorean Infantry done

Two units of Black Numenorean infantry, formerly Army of the Dead, done and dusted. I am very happy with the final result. They definitely no longer look dead, but their Shields etc do show signs of battle damage that would rate these guys as veterans. I also rebased another 6 of the rangers figures to make a unit of scouts. 

 The first unit. 
 The second unit.
Both together.

And the scouts, I'll repaint their cloiaks to match ther other two units.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to use them on Saturday.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

WIP- Black Numenoreans 2

Not a bad evening's painting and basing tonight. I managed to get one stand of Black Numenorean heavy infantry complete- one down, one to go. I changed the blues I used and am much happier with the result. Considering these guys started out as Warriors of the Dead figures I am very happy with the way they turned out.

How they typically look.

And converted to be Black Numenoreans.

 And a view from the rear

I also washed the cloaks on the rangers (Black Numenorean archers) to dull them down, I used a Nuln oil wash and am much happier with the result.

 The force so far.


WIP- Black Numenoreans

Nothing like your last week in the country to try and roll out another project! It's not my fault really. I remembered  had a set of metal Morgul Knights I'd swapped for someting some time n the dim ditant past. They are in my gaming room somewhere and that they'd make the great basis of another LoTR force, but what?

In the end I decided on Black Numenoreans as something a bit different. So I scoured high and low in my gaming room/hoarding chamber and found lots of unexpected surprises (oh, I don't remember buying those!) but no damn Morgul knights! Grrr. Where the hell have they got too?

Oh well never mind, at least I can start the project. I had a look at the GW Black Numenorean figures and one word sums them up for me...YUCK! Now don't get me wrong, I like some of the GW LoTR ranges, some are outstanding and really capture the look of Middle Earth for me, others are neo-gothic punkesque abominations that I really, really can't stand. And don't get me started on the ridiculous plate mail wearing crap that was PJ's take on Gondor! I prefer my LoTR to be more real world, Anglo-Saxon/Dark Ages inspired, so those spikey Black Numenoreans simply won't do.

But what to use? I found one inspired blog out there that had used the Warriors of the Dead figures to make them, brilliant. I had purchased 20 of the plastic undead from Poland via ebay for D&D purposes last year (and once I located them discovered 20 or so of the Galadheim elves to boot-eh gads, not another project!) .So I'll convert the undead up and deundeadify them- although I am also tempted to use the new Fireforge Byzantium spearmen longer term. The undead will fit a bit better with the Morgul knights spikiness though.

I'll also need some bows or crossbow units to go with them. After a bit of searching I came up with using the GW ranger figures. So I simply painted the cloaks and rebased the figures I had. However, these guys cloaks came out much too bright (at least in the photos) so will be dulled down to a more sombre/menacing/less happy shade.

I wanted dull, I wanted dark, I wanted drab. Instead I got these! Doh!

Leader of the Black Numenorean infantry. He had a bit of drastic surgery. His much too undead looking head was hacked off and a rather more sympathetic to the look I'm after Gripping  Beast plastic Saxon Thegn head was added instead.

 Same for this guy, whose fly swat was replaced with a  GB axe arm form the Dark Ages infantry box.
 Same here, and he has a bit of a gap at his throat at present, testimony of his radical surgery.
 This guy had his fly swat replaced with a Saxon blade from the aforementioned GB Saxon Thegns.
 And how they look once finished.

So there we have it, a wee project I'm trying to get completed before I fly out this weekend.