Wednesday, September 21, 2016

African Huts in about 20mm for a couple bucks each!

$4.99 (half off for $2.50) at Michaels craft store -- an inexpensive way to create an African village! Posed with my 20mm Liberation Miniatures modern Africans.
I always enjoy wandering the aisles of my local craft stores -- Michaels and Hobby Lobby. Just about every time I can find something I can use for one of my projects. I keep their online coupons saved on my iPhone's web browser, so I can pull them up quickly and get something I see for 40% or 50% off. It was when that day's Michaels coupon was for half off of a regularly priced item that I stumbled upon these round huts made out of some type of resin-like material.

I picked them up, eyeballed them, and thought they looked surprisingly close to 20mm scale. I know I should probably keep a 20mm and 28mm figure in my car to be sure, but I usually think to do that only when I'm at the flea market of a larger convention. The more I looked at them, the more sure I was they would be perfect African huts for my 20mm Modern Africa games. They were priced at $4.99 each -- not bad, but a steal at $2.50 (less with the 15% Teachers' discount they let me pile on top). I picked up two as I had a friend tagging along when wasn't buying anything (another valuable asset to keep handy...ha, ha!).
The round hut and its Chinese factory paint job
Although they came already painted, I figured I could do a better job than the random Chinese factory worker. I spray painted them black, then went over that with a 50/50 mixture of black paint and water. Essentially, I gave the huts the same treatment that I give my Acheson terrain pieces I talked about in the previous post. I painted the mud plaster walls a base coat of a spice tan, then dry brushed them my usual khaki color. The thatch was done in a butternut color, with a light gray dry brush on top. The interior of the hut was painted black for uniformity, as were the recessed window openings. Finally, I mixed up black paint and water for a black wash to give it that shaded effect and soften the transitions on the drybrushing.

I was unhappy with the flocking I did in the doorway, though. So, I decided to go back and correct it by putting something to grab the eye in the doorway. For one, it was a paper towel rug painted with white glue and various colors. For the other, it was a tiny plastic bowl from the craft store painted as an African basket. Some flocking and clump foliage, and my African huts looked decent for the tabletop. I have purchased three more of the huts so that I can represent a village on the board, and will likely keep my eye out and buy more when I get another 50% off sale.

I posed them next to some of my more recent 20mm Africa figures, so you can see they do a good job of looking the part of an African village!

Acheson Creations stumps and rocks and stuff

A few of my 28mm Pulp miniatures amidst the newly-painted Acheson Creations resin terrain pieces
 I will be buying some more stuff from Acheson Creations in about a week and a half at Advance the Colors gaming convention in Springfield, OH. I love their various resin terrain pieces -- they are easy-to-paint, look great on the tabletop, and very affordable! So, since I will likely come home with a bag bulging with new terrain for the tabletop, I figured it made sense to paint up what I still had on hand from previous purchases.

Most of the unpainted pieces I had on hand were tree stumps and rocks. No problem -- I could doubtless use them to create a blasted forest, or to add color to an ordinary section of woods. When I say Acheson Creations pieces paint up easy, I mean really easy! Here is all I do to get great looking terrain for my games:
  • Run the pieces through a short cycle in the dishwasher on low (or no) heat
  • Spray paint the pieces black with acrylic
  • Go over the black with a 50/50 mix of black paint and water to ensure it seeps into all the ample crevices and folds of the piece
  • Dry brush a medium brown for the wood pieces (I use Howard Hues Camo Brown), or Dark Gray for rocks
  • Dry brush the pieces khaki for the wood (Howard Hues Colonial Khaki), or Light Gray for rocks (Howard Hues Rebel Gray)
  • Very lightly dry brush wood pieces a light gray -- don't cover up all of your brown, but enough to give it a weathered look
  • Wash with a black wash of your choice
  • Flock
The deep folds and crevices of Acheson products make them to dry brush
 Bingo! You're done. Goes very quickly. I highly recommend Acheson Creations products. They are my single favorite wargaming terrain manufacturer.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Beaver Wars in Ohio playtest, Turn 9

Four games were running as the campaign comes down to the wire to see which tribe will be victorious
Our next-to-last turn of the final playtest of the Beaver Wars campaign rules took place last weekend at the local pizzeria. All players were in attendance, so as GM I sat out with my Erie tribe. An interesting dynamic had developed in the strategic card play phase of the game over the last two turns. Early on, most tribes played Hunt cards, to obtain more beaver pelts. Now, there was a preponderance of War cards as tribes competed to be near the top of the order for launching attacks. Both 2nd and 3rd place tribes (Neutral and Mohawk) chose high value War cards and both chose to attack tribes far beneath them in the standings. Each player claimed that they did that because they had not fought that particular opponent in the campaign yet, but I’m not so sure they weren’t targeting a tribe that would field a potentially less powerful force (as far as firearms and trait upgrades go).
The Honniasont quickly cut off the pathway, forcing the Neutral Scouts to fight
The first battle saw the Honniasont turning the tables on the Neutrals in the Ambush the Scouts scenario. The Honniasont are our last-place tribe — mainly because Bruce joined the campaign several turns into it and has been unable to close the gap on points. His strategy of fielding a force of all Youths with one Chieftain has been challenging to everyone he has faced. Keith’s Neutrals were the first opponent to take a Youth-heavy force to oppose the Honniasont. The Honniasont moved to block the Neutrals path, and sabotaged Keith’s idea of racing around the enemy to exit the table (as the victory conditions required).
The Honniasont spring their ambush and charge in to catch the Neutrals unaware
Bruce’s rolls were good and soon he had slain several Neutrals. Bruce was living up to his reputation of giving everyone he faced a challenging struggle. Keith’s favorite tactic in this campaign, though, has been to try to kill his opponent’s chieftain. Anytime an enemy leader enters the fray (or gets within his movement range), Keith will try his best to swarm him and force his opponent to take the required morale test if he successfully kills him. Plus, a force without a chieftain is more vulnerable to activation turnovers than one that is well-led. This tactic has served Keith well in the campaign, as the Neutrals’ position in the standings will attest.
Keith points out how he plans to kill the Honniasont leader to Bruce
Keith’s bid to kill the Honniasont chieftain was successful, and Bruce’s forces were scattered by morale failures. With that, his good fortune at activation rolls seemed to disappear. The game quickly went from a hard-fought struggle, with the Honniasont having the edge, to a mopping up operation by the victorious Neutrals. It was a Major Victory for the Neutrals, with the score 18-3 in victory points.
The Mohawk advance through the Susquehannock town, driving the defenders before them
The Slaughter Amidst the Lodges scenario that pitted the Mohawk attack on a Susquehannock town catches the battle in the middle of all its fury. The entire board is an Indian town, with the players using the birchbark longhouses and various skin-stretching frames, sweat lodges, and fish-drying racks as cover. The Mohawks had used their upgrades to make many of their warriors Strong (+1 in melee). So, they were quick to close with the enemy. Although they lost a couple warriors, the Mohawks quickly began tomahawking their enemy. Soon, Steve’s forces fell below half and were scattered by the mandatory morale check.
Steve moves his Susquehannock warriors to try to stave off the Mohawk attackers
The chieftain and three others remained on the table, and bravely continued the fray. The Susquehannock leader even rushed to attack a Mohawk warrior, but was soon outnumbered and cut down. His remaining warriors fled the village with his loss, leaving the Mohawk in possession of the town. This battle was actually our biggest margin of victory, with the Mohawks triumphing 19-2 over the Susquehannock.
As the Miami spring their ambush, the Seneca hunters drop their bundles at the portage
The third battle was another ambush — this time of a Miami raiding party catching Seneca hunters at Ambush at the Portage. The Miami concealed themselves and waited until the Seneca were very close to spring the battle. Apparently, there was confusion among the Miami, as the warriors did not recognize the signal to attack and remained frozen in place. The Seneca took advantage of the Miami activation failure and dropped their bundles and quickly closed with their ambushers. Seneca matchlock fire was deadly and soon Miami warriors were dropping as the momentum quickly swung in favor of the defenders.
Jenny looks on in despair as the Seneca aggressively charge her Miami and begin to cut them down
As more and more of their warriors fell, the Miami knew their attack was doomed to failure. The Seneca showed little mercy — scalping their opponents and continuing to close on the reeling and disorganized enemy. The Miami did account for three of their attackers, but lost eight of their own, including their leader. It was our third Major Victory of the turn, as the Seneca rolled 18-3.
The Kickapoo traders stalk forward, certain that some of their goods have been stolen by the Shawnee also visiting the fort
The final battle took place between two trading missions that encountered each other within the walls of a European fort. Both had arrived within a day of each other and had just concluded trading their pelts for firearms, powder, and European goods. Unfortunately, the white man’s curse, whisky and rum, was also sold to the Indians. Combined with past wrongs, that sewed the seeds of conflict between the Kickapoo and Shawnee parties.
Andy's Kickapoo -- I really enjoy how so many of the players have painted up their forces as the campaign progresses
The entire battlefield of the Who’s a Thief? scenario is contained inside the fort, with cabins and warehouses as cover. A special scenario rule has a hostile soldier appear anytime an Indian tries to enter a cabin or climb atop the palisade. Neither side risked angering the soldiers, though. The warriors instead massed towards a passageway between the walls and a warehouse. The Shawnee quickly gained the upper hand in the fighting. As a warrior fell, more entered the dusty lane. Soon, the Kickapoo began to retreat and fled back towards their encampment. Once again, the Shawnee held the upper hand in a battle. Their 14-4 victory maintained their position as the most dominant tribe in the Ohio Valley by 1 single point! I'm sure that both they and the Neutrals will be examining the categories to determine how they can move up in the categories they are competing in.

Tribe
Place
Victory Points
Shawnee
1st
25.5 points
Neutrals
2nd
24.5 points
Mohawk
3rd
22.5 points
Seneca
4th
18.5 points
Kickapoo
5th
14 points
Miami
6th
12 points
Erie
7th
11 points
Susqehannock
8th
8 points
Honniasont
9th
3 points

Tribe
Prestige Points (PPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
22 (7 MajV, 1 MinD)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
22 (5 MajV, 3 MinV, 1 MinD)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
15 (4 MajV, 1 MinV, 1 MinD)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
15 (3 MajV, 3 MinV)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
11 (2 MajV, 2 MinV, 1 MinD)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
10 (3 MajV, 1 MinD)
Erie (Mike Demana)
8 (2 MajV, 2 MinD)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
5 (1 MajV, 2 MinD)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
3 (1 MinV, 1 MinD)

Tribe
Scenario Victory Points (SVPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
124
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
121
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
101
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
98
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
83
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
72
Erie (Mike Demana)
65
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
62
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
36

Tribe
Beaver Pelts
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
54
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
47
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
43
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
42
Erie (Mike Demana)
37
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
36
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
33
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
32
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
23















Sunday, August 21, 2016

Modern African 20mm Leaders

An officer of the UN Contingent from Ghana talking on a radio set. I think this figure began as a WW II American command set.
I am in the process of getting my modern Africa rules ready for publication by our company, First Command Wargames. One of the tweaks I am adding is a leader figure for each player's force. The only problem with that is I have not painted any figures up to specifically be leaders. There is one with sergeant stripes here and there, or ones waving their arms forward that players could use, sure. But I wanted ones that would stand out a bit more.
An officer from the Belgian-trained paratroop battalion of the Congo. Yet another figure I have no idea where it is from -- it was given to me in a pack of several figs by a friend who knew I was doing 20mm Moderns
I scoured my bags of unpainted 20mm modern miniatures and picked out 10 of them. Well, one was actually already painted -- a gift from a friend (but I planned to redo him anyway). I cleaned them up, primed them, and then designated which force they would be painted up to lead. Throughout the process of fielding my 20mm modern Africa figures, I have purposely utilized a variety of uniform styles so each player's faction would stand out on the tabletop. Some are more obvious -- like the United Nations troops in their blue helmets, white mercenaries in khaki, or the paratroopers in camouflage and red berets. Others are more subtle variations -- a couple different types of camo patterns, troops in olive drab, or khaki.
A mercenary commander from the same mystery pack. I called this one "Rambo" while I was painting it.
I wanted to ensure I had a figure that could be used for each grouping, so that would make painting this batch a lot like when I did the same with the RPG and LMG armed batch I did awhile back. Still, with organization, it shouldn't be too tedious. I tried to trick out the figures a bit more -- give them more flash on their uniform. Many had red epaulettes or even campaign ribbons on their chests. The militia ones were harder, so I gave one gold chains and another gray hair and beard (which I am going to have to go over again, as the black wash darkened up too much).
A militia commander, bedecked with gold chains, leads his boys through the streets
As a final touch, I made their bases raised a bit. I took wooden stars from the craft store and glued them onto the washers I used for my 20mm figures. I beveled the edges of the starts down with an X-acto knife to give a more sloped surface. The figures were glued to this raised area, which hopefully will look like a small mound the leader is standing on. Or even better, not be directly noticeable but just subtly make the figure stick out more.
Three officers in OD uniforms, the center one with campaign ribbons on his chest, direct their commands after dismounting from jeeps
I'd also recently painted a ruined resin building for terrain for this period. It belonged to my friend Keith and was cast in a white, sparkly material. I'm not sure where he got it, but it looks like a Dollar Tree or similar pickup. The scale is about right, and the building looks perfect for a gaming. So, I offered to paint it up so I'd have some more modern buildings to use in games. The front and back are significantly different, and the sides are essentially brick walls. I was really happy with how it turned out. So, it appears in all of the photographs on this page -- different sides, faces, or corners used for different officers. I also posed some of the already-painted rank and file from the squads the officers were meant to match alongside them.
A lieutenant leads his squad on a patrol through the streets. Note the raised bases to make him stick out more visually.
I like how they turned out, for the most part. Painting 20mm moderns is vastly different than 28mm Indians -- that's for sure! In my opinion, they are more akin to 15mm. You simply don't get as much detail to paint on them. Still, they go quickly! So, I'm sure I'll be scraping another batch together soon for the painting desk!
A good look at the resin building I recently finished off. Saluting out in front is an officer in dress uniform that I repainted as part of this batch of 10.


Another militia officers. I need to go over his gray hair more -- it was to subtle and had partly disappeared in my final black wash.




Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Beaver Wars in Ohio Playtest, Turn 8

Attack at the Portage was my scenario for this  round, and saw my Erie hunters spread out carrying our canoe and bundles of goods past a section of rapids
Being out of the country for 5 weeks this summer meant our playtest of the Beaver Wars in Ohio Campaign Rules and Scenario Book was put on hold for awhile. The tribes must have missed the chance to settle some scores, as more players chose "War" cards this turn than in any previous turn. The higher the value War card a player selects, the better chance he has of selecting his opponent. In particular, the tribes in the middle of the scoring range (Mohawk, Seneca, Kickapoo) wanted a chance take the leaders (Neutrals, Shawnee) down a peg.

After the cards were played and the order set, here were the declared attacks this turn:
Mohawk attacked the Neutrals, rolling “The Creek Runs Red” (War vs. War #3)
Seneca attack the Shawnee rolling “Rescue the Captives” (War vs. Hunt #6)
Honniasont attacked the Erie, rolling “Attack at the Portage” (War vs. Hunt #3)
Kickapoo attacked the Miami, rolling “Give Them Time” (War vs. Hunt #1)

To read the account written by Keith covering his Neutral tribe's battle against the Mohawk, visit his Game Reports page.

With an odd number of players, as GM (and Erie tribal chief) I sit out some of the turns. However, this turn the Susquehannock player was feeling under the weather on the morning of our meeting, so I substituted in for him. I was actually happy that I got a chance to play the "Attack at the Portage" scenario, because I think it is tactically a very interesting game.
My battle plan would be to have my Erie hunters carry their bundles to the rocky outcrop, left center. We would deposit them there, and consolidate to make our stand against the Honniasont
I chose my standard force -- one Chieftain with matchlock (Q3, C3, Marksman);5 Warriors (Q4, C2) with matchlock; 2 with Bow, Light Armor, and Primitive Weapon; and two Youths (Q4, C1, Wavering) with Bows. Taking a couple figures with Light Armor was a new one for me. My tribe's Beaver Pelts accumulated so far meant we could upgrade only 6 figures of our 10 with Matchlock. I always give one to the chief, and the remainder to the Warriors. That left two armed with Bow. I knew I would likely send them forward into melee, so I figured I'd see how this strategy worked out of giving them a Primitive Weapons -- think Last of the Mohicans, the big sword club -- but protecting them with Light Armor. As it turned out, I liked it quite a bit. I knew I'd be involved in melee regularly, facing the Honniasont. So, I figured it was best to come armed for it.

Why was I expecting a melee rather than a shooting match? Well, Bruce -- who plays the Honniasont -- has hit on a favorite tactic of maxing out his troop list with Youths. He seeks to overwhelm the enemy with numbers. He's had mixed success with the tactic, but is having fun tweaking it to see how he can make it work better. So, my 10 Erie would face a force of 17 Honniasont (1 Chieftain, 16 Youths). It provides for some interesting, though a slight bit longer, games. The key to me is to try to pick off his Chieftain so you can force a morale check. The Youths all have the Wavering trait, which means they should begin to flee fairly quickly once he's gone. Otherwise, it can be a long and dangerous process wearing them down to 9 losses (more than 50% is the point where you check morale if your leader has not died).
My troops have almost all made it to the rocky outcrop. Note the warrior with wooden armor holding the spear on the right side of the rock
The other reason I expected a close quarters game was because of the scenario. The background story is an Erie hunting party is portaging their canoe and supplies across a stretch of rapids. My two Youths were carrying the canoe (hey, put those young muscles to work!), while the rest of the men carried a bundle of supplies or goods. While carrying those supplies, we fought at -1 in melee, and could not move more than one Movement distance per turn. We were carrying our loads along a curving path through rocky areas and forest. We were dispersed along the path, and only a handful of my men would be within command range of the chieftain in the middle.

My battle plan was to have all of my men move to a rocky outcrop inside the bend of the road. We would drop our bundles there, and consolidate against the more numerous Honniasont. My command rolls on my first turn were abysmal. I think out of 14 die rolls I scored no rolls above a "3" -- not a great start! The Honniasont had split their forces into one advancing from my right and another blocking the trail ahead. My rolls improved enough that slowly, my men moved to the rocky outcrop, put down their loads, and readied their weapons. The Honniasont also began to take shots, and edged closer. He began to rush in Youths, attempting to gang up on my Warriors and force an even-up or roll at an advantage.
And here they come! The Honniasont Youths begin to throw themselves against my Warriors (two are in contact in the center of the picture, while another line advances from the top)
My advantage was on the counterstrike, though. When he put two against one, all I had to do was move one of my Warriors into contact with one of those two and they'd be a severe disadvantage. Slowly, I began to whittle his forces down. He scored several kills against me, too. I made it a point to grab any scalps of Honniasont I killed immediately when I had a chance for the victory points. I never did get a clear shot at his leader, though. However, my own Marksman leader began to score kills or wounds against the Honniasont clustered beneath him atop the rocky outcrop. I used my Warriors with Light Armor as the point of my spear, so to speak, though I did lose one. We stayed consolidated where my leader could use his command influence to keep my men activating, shooting, reloading, fighting, and moving to where they were needed.
What our enemies saw -- the view from the woods as Honniasont Youths work up the nerve to assault my troops clustered around the rocky outcrop
Eventually, his ninth Youth died, and the Morale tests began. Some fled offtable immediately, while others fell back a great distance. We managed to kill another, and these morale checks spelled the end of the Honniasont threat. Bruce acknowledged his forces could not win, and withdrew from the field. We were successful because we kept our men together. Whenever one Warrior was drawn into a melee, others would immediately go to his aid. Although he outnumbered me in total forces, at the point of attack, it was either even up or we had the advantage. This ended up being my most overwhelming victory, points-wise, of the campaign, so far. We scored a 27-3 victory -- killing 10 of the enemy, taking 7 scalps, and maxing out on the points for staying in control of the bundles.

As it played out, Turn 8 belonged to the Defender. All four attackers lost. Sadly, for the middle pack who'd initiated the attack on the leaders, they failed. The Neutrals and the Shawnee entered the turn tied for the lead. Both scored major victories -- the Neutrals over the Mohawk and the Shawnee over the Seneca. On the remaining battlefield, the bitter foes the Miami and Kickapoo met again, with the Miami getting the upper hand, again.
One of the other scenarios: At top left, Shawnee braves pursue a force of Seneca who have raided their town and taken some women and children captive
There are two turns left before this playtest ends. I am happy with how the rules work, but I want to more playtests of the scenarios that will be included with the rules. I also want to see how the numbers play out -- if I need to increase the maximums, so that players don't max out early on Scenario Victory Points or Beaver Pelts. Plus, the players all seem to be having a good time. So, no reason to cut the fun off early!

Here is the score in the campaign, so far. The Shawnee have edged out in front of the Neutrals! The Mohawk, despite their loss on the battlefield this turn, remain in close contention for the lead. We'll see next month if that means the two front-runners will face off, or if they will continue to fight off attacks of the other tribes.

Tribe
Place
Victory Points
Shawnee
1st
26.5 points
Neutrals
2nd
23.5 points
Mohawk
3rd
21.5 points
Kickapoo
Tied 4th
14 points
Seneca
Tied 4th
14 points
Miami
6th
13.5 points
Erie
7th
10 points
Susqehannock
8th
9 points
Honniasont
9th
3 points

The victory points come from three categories. First, Prestige Points (PPs), which come from battlefield success:
Tribe
Prestige Points (PPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
19 (6 MajV, 1 MinD)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
19 (4 MajV, 3 MinV, 1 MinD)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
12 (3 MajV, 1 MinV, 1 MinD)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
12 (2 MajV, 3 MinV)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
11 (2 MajV, 2 MinV, 1 MinD)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
10 (3 MajV, 1 MinD)
Erie (Mike Demana)
8 (2 MajV, 2 MinD)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
5 (1 MajV, 2 MinD)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
3 (1 MinV, 1 MinD)

Next, is SVPs, or Scenario Victory Points, which come (unsurprisingly) from fulfilling your objectives in the scenarios you play in:
Tribe
Scenario Victory Points (SVPs)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
107
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
106
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
82
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
80
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
80
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
68
Erie (Mike Demana)
65
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
60
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
33

And finally, the Beaver Pelts. The higher value "Hunt" cards you play, the more pelts you collect. This also translates into the more Firearms upgrades you obtain for each battle (those Europeans will give matchlocks for quality beaver pelts).
Tribe
Beaver Pelts
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
45
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
43
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
41
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
36
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
32
Erie (Mike Demana)
31
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
29
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
23
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
22