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.

Victory Points
26.5 points
23.5 points
21.5 points
Tied 4th
14 points
Tied 4th
14 points
13.5 points
10 points
9 points
3 points

The victory points come from three categories. First, Prestige Points (PPs), which come from battlefield success:
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:
Scenario Victory Points (SVPs)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
Erie (Mike Demana)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)

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).
Beaver Pelts
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
Erie (Mike Demana)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I miss the rains down in Africa...

20mm Liberation Miniatures modern Africa figures. The minis themselves were from their Falklands War line, painted to go with my Africa collection
 A storm has been building in my gaming world. The longstanding supremacy of the French & Indian War on my hobby time is looking to be replaced. Oh, I will continue to promote and run my Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules and games at conventions -- at least for the rest of this year. After that, one of my coauthors will be making the thunder at conventions.
A great series from Casemate Publishers: Africa @ War
So, what will I be doing? I'm going back about 10 years and digging out my 20mm modern Africa figures and games. I've been building to that in my reading, lately. I've read a few books on 20th century Africa, and at Historicon, I discovered a new series of publications called Africa @ War. They are carried by Casemate Publishers here in the United States. I have a contact there who sends me occasional new releases to review, so I emailed her and she sent me one of them: Rhodesian Fire Force: 1966-80. It was a great read, and definitely got me interested again in gaming the small scale, low intensity conflicts that accompanied Africa's struggle towards (and since) independence.

Of course, if I'm interested in something, it likely means I'm painting it. I grabbed a batch of 10 unpainted 20mm Liberation Miniatures that have been sitting for years in my drawers of unused lead. I had a good time painting them. I remembered 20mm figures go much faster than 28mm ones (especially, highly-detailed, tattooed Native Americans!). I was very pleased how quickly I was able to get them done. I liked how they turned out, too.
Another batch of 20mm modern African soldiers out on patrol in the jungle. Note the non-matching variety of equipment colors on the figures
African flesh tends to be much darker than African-American flesh here in the U.S. So, I used a very Dark Brown as a base coat, and hit the highlights lightly with Howard Hues Camo Brown to give the facial features some definition. I painted the uniform shirts and pants a base coat of a dark olive drab craft paint that I own called English Yew Green. I dry brushed them with a light olive drab craft paint called Timberline Green.

My philosophy on painting equipment for the ragtag forces of 20th century Africa is that there was likely a lot of non-standardization. So, I don't paint everything the same color -- as if it were some U.S. recruit walking out of Basic Training with his newly-issued kit. My favorite of these color variations are the huge backpacks on the first group at the top of the page. I painted them a very light gray-green craft paint called Stonewedge Green. Then I did a couple washes of Timberline Green over it until I was satisfied. All in all, I'm very pleased with how they turned out.

Expecd more Africa stuff soon...!