30 April, 2012

Top Wargaming Films: #10, #9, #8, #7

So a while back, when I did my Favourite Figures some of you expressed an interest in seeing more of those kind of posts.

This time, I'm going to list my top ten wargaming films - that's not my favourite films, or even my highest rated war films; but those films which inspire me to wargame.


Plots, adventure and humour makes this a fantastic film just by itself. The main cast are all note perfect, and the action scenes go from night-time assassination to a chase through mountain passes and town. These brilliant swashbuckling scenes need to be wargamed, if only we could find a set of rules to match their tension and excitement...


I haven't seen this is years, so it may be that it's not as good as my childhood memory allows. A real boy's own adventure which ticks quite a few boxes . I think there are entire Pulp lines built around this kind of thing and I believe someone a few years ago did a game based on it at Salute...


Let's see, a straight-up planetary assault, an asteroid chase and some corridor combat to round it out. If this doesn't tempt you, I don't know what will. Some cracking dialogue too, and in my opinion the best of the Star Wars films (this even creeps into my best films ever list in my moments of geek-weakness).


Somehow I've never been tempted to play this in a wargame, but this kind of last stand is definitely an attraction. I'm not embarrassed to say that this is a film I will watch if I ever see that it's on TV (even though I have it on DVD!). Constantly referenced in my wargaming circles (whatever the situation) it's difficult to pick out anything wrong with this film (historical nitpickers may step outside).

So next three will be on their way to you soon. 
Been a strange April, no gaming at all (been chasing a few writing deadlines of my own) but May is shaping up a little bit better, so hopefully you'll see something less fluffy here in a couple of weeks...

24 April, 2012

Battlegames vs. Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy

The other article I wrote for #1 of The Gazebo is this comparative review of two wargaming magazines: Battlegames and Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy

Though the quantitative comparisons tell their own powerful story, that can’t be all there is when contemplating a magazine subscription. There are a few major differences evident between the two magazines.

Editorial Overview 
Battlegames, well into its sixth year of publication has a strong editorial voice in Henry Hyde. Published articles all share a little of his ‘old school’ outlook, though this doesn’t prevent fantasy or science fiction material being covered. That Henry’s professional background is in design lends an organic connection between the magazine’s content and its layout and photography. Battlegames nearly went under recently and the last three issues have been published by Atlantic Publishers – though this doesn’t appear to have impacted on the editorial policy at all.

Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy is younger than its current issue number might suggest. Prior to #54 it was owned and run by completely different people (in fact it was a Spanish magazine). As an editor my impression is that Guy Bowers is still finding his feet. Some design elements have been tweaked since the first few issues, for example the two guest columns had darker backgrounds and italic text and were actually relatively difficult to read; that problem’s been fixed.

Quantitative Comparison - Content

Exactly where the dividing line between a Historical Overview and Scenario lies is probably up for debate, though in broad strokes I think you get a clear picture. Where an in-depth playtest of rules systems has been done, I’ve tended to categorise it with Scenarios, Rules etc. rather than with the standard Reviews.

Quantitative Comparison - Price

I’ve converted everything into Euro for easy comparison (but Sterling prices are given below).

1.  £34.50
2.  £40.50
3.  £19.50

Qualitative Comparison


Battlegames has established a pattern of articles, with the well-developed scenarios of Tabletop Teasers written by wargaming doyen C.S. Grant giving way recently to the Command Challenges. These are written by a variety of authors and are more diverse in style, so far covering such dissimilar eras as the Western Desert of 1940-42 and the Great Northern War 1700-21.
Other articles can include general wargaming issues (like Chronological Relocation for Scenarios from #27 or Rules and the Eclipse of Generalship from #26). One recent three-part series following a campaign set in 18th Century fictional nation of Grenouisse is well worth a look. There’s usually a scenario or two and an in depth or comparative review which along with a regular feature on modelling projects and the usual reviews to round out each issue.

Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy pursues a different tack, with a theme for each issue (a holdover from its previous incarnation). These run the gamut from niche interests (The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and 1920s Pulp) to more mainstream (Napoleonic Wars and American Civil War). One very useful article in the theme is an overview of suitable miniature lines for the era.  The theme comprises a handful of articles (between four and six), so while it’s a common thread there are as many articles in the issue about something else entirely. An extra couple of scenarios and some modelling articles make up the rest. One aspect of the editorial approach is strongly seen: there’s often quite a lot of historical background in the articles. Worthy of specific mention are the regular columns by well-known games designers Rick Priestley and Richard Clarke.
One note on the reviews; the editor’s quite generous with the space allowed, being half a page for miniature/book reviews or a full page for a game, with a photo or cover image. In Battlegames it’s a tighter arrangement, with three columns of heavy text broken up with the odd image. The Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy approach makes for easier reading and easier searching, but I’m not sure that there’s more content (and I’m not counting words!).

While the quantitative table counting pages of articles is useful (I hope!) a description of the contents of the latest issue may be easier to digest.

#28 of Battlegames contains two modelling articles (making fields and useful tips for the painting novice); two scenarios (French and Indian War and the Napoleonic War); a guide to wargaming A Very British Civil War and the dramatic climax of the Grenouissian Intermezzo.

#59 of Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy contains six articles on the theme of the Viking invasion of England (a brief history, a campaign outline from the Siege of York to the assault on Wessex, a campaign system for Saga, a stand-alone scenario and an overview of suitable miniature lines for Dark Age Britain); three modelling articles (Viking diorama, Napoleon’s Hanoverians and using ‘The Dip’ aka Army Painter’s Quickshade); two playtests (War & Conquest and Point Blank); two scenarios (Pyrrhus vs. Spartans and Anglo-Dutch naval warfare). An interview with the Field of Glory: Napoleonic team and the two regular columns (Rick Priestley on ground scale and Richard Clarke on unit scale) complete the issue.

Brief Highlights

In #25 of Battlegames Jim Purky guides us through his decision to concentrate on Napoleon’s campaign against Prussia in 1806, and how he came to such a restrained (compared to most of us) outlook on wargaming. He goes through unit size, basing system, army makeup and figure availability.

In #55 of Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy Richard Lloyd writes a step-by-step modelling guide on making sabot bases whereby single-mounted figures can easily be mounted on a good-looking movement tray, one where they’re not too regimented. This one will definitely be take out at some stage over the summer when I have some leisure time for a project.


You certainly can’t fault Henry Hyde for being passionate about a heartfelt cause – he gives a page every issue of Battlegames to highlight his Combat Stress Appeal which supports a helpline for the military community and their families in the UK. With the page count of articles relatively low already it probably represents the only criticism which could be levelled at the magazine – though you may guess I find it difficult to reproach Henry on this front.

One surprising aspect of Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy is the amount of history which is included in articles. Sometimes this is a short introductory piece to a scenario or the initial article for the theme section. Other times however it seems to overwhelm the wargaming aspect of the article altogether. For example, in #56 there is a four-page article on naval wargaming in the Wars of the Roses – we get to the last page of the article before we have a short section on figures and ships and another paragraph on available rules. This is a little infuriating and barely represents a kick-start for the aspiring wargamer.

In Summary

When it comes down to it my quibble with regard to the amount of history in the magazine just isn’t a strong argument against the magazine – there’s plenty of good wargaming content there too. Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy beats Battlegames hands-down in terms of value for money, but at the end of the day both represent good value for a wargamer with broad tastes. €6/€8 a month gets you both and to my mind that makes a lot of sense. I renewed my subscriptions to both of them in the last few weeks.

Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy is published bi-monthly by Karwansaray Publishers 
Battlegames is published bi-monthly by Atlantic Publishers

The Gazebo is on Facebook & Google+

You can view and/or print issue #1 from here

If you want to join the attack email me.

17 April, 2012

Inspiring this Gazebo Hunter, #1

Here's one of the articles I wrote for issue #1 of The Gazebo; in which I wanted to identify things which wargamers might find inspirational, not just blog posts, but books and films as well. I hope to make it a regular column

Lard Island News (the official blog of Too Fat Lardies) is always a good read. Giving us some valuable insights into why they design wargames the way they do. In this post ‘Fight on the Via Claudia’ they give us a good look at their work-in-progress Dark Ages game – looks like we’ll be getting a fine campaign system to develop warbands and it’s nice to see that leading from the front isn’t the only viable option for a warlord. Sidney Roundwood gives us a very different report of the same battle with his more epic approach.

If you like that, check out The Winter King by Bernard Cornwall – presents a very different view of Arthurian Britain from usual fare. He keeps to history as much as possible albeit with a generous pinch of poetic license. Fantastical elements are barely recognisable behind the grime, but this authentic take on the legendary King is compelling stuff.

Tiny Solitary Soldiers have done some great work on these Guncrabs from Khurasan’s 15mm Sci-fi range (though unfortunately not available yet). While I’m firmly wedded to my 25mm sci-fi collection, I am being constantly tempted over to 15mm by Khurasan’s releases and Spacejacker’s paintjob on these so good it hurts!

If you're more historically inclined, Claymore Casting's Medieval Scots are well worth a look. Claymore Castings are a new company and it’s great to see a fringe area get a bit of coverage – specifically for the late-14th century. From the look of them they’ll be usable for the Hundred Years War and War of the Roses without too much heartache, and given they seem to measure up pretty well with the Perrys’ range. Have a look at Saxon Dog blog for more photos.

Non-Fiction Book
Lords of the Sea by John R. Hale tracks the story of the ancient Athenian navy and its deep connection with democracy. It starts with the formation of the navy against the Persians, following its development to strangle the Aegean world with its naval empire and then to Athens’ confrontation with Sparta and its eventual demise. Not an academic history by any means, this is a fascinating look at how deeply naval matters permeated Athenian society, and there’s certainly enough time spent on the campaigns and battles of the era to whet the appetite of any naval wargamers out there.

If you like that, check out Tides of War by Steven Pressfield – a bit of a slow burner of a historical novel (and certainly not the crowd pleaser that his Gates of Fire is) but this is still an absorbing study of the career of Alcibiades, the Athenian general who sided with his native city as well as the Spartans and the Persians during the Peloponnesian War.

Fiction Book
Darkie's Mob by John Wagner – originally published in Battle, this comic strip (republished in a hardback edition by Titan Books) follows the exploits of British soldiers behind Japanese lines in Burma during the Second World War. Like most of its contemporary comic strips, it’s a ‘boy’s own’ action adventure, but unlike many of them it includes great characterisation as we follow the vicious escapades of Captain Joe Darkie and begin to unravel his mysterious past.

If you like that, check out Quartered Safe Out here by George MacDonald Fraser – the well-known author of the Flashman series recounts his experiences as a young officer in Burma during the last months of the war.

The Beast – a virtually unknown film set during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. After a punitive raid on an Afghan village, a Soviet tank takes a wrong turn and is hounded by Mujahideen as it seeks a route to safety. Where this makes its mark is the interaction between the tank’s crew and their tyrannical commander. I’ve already taken inspiration from this for a Force on Force game set during the conflict.

Though really, it’s probably much better suited to a roleplaying format - if you fancy that check out T-72 for Fiasco. Fiasco is a game about ordinary people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control – designed for single-session play with no prep, they release a free playset every month.

Random Site
Season 6 of the Lead Painters’ League is underway over on the Lead Adventure Forum
If you're not familiar with it get yourself over there to see some fantastic eye candy (as well as people going through their lead mountains at a cracking rate!) Every round participants paint up a team of miniatures, they're randomly paired off with another contestant, and then everyone votes for their favourite in the pairing. There are ten rounds after which a league table of sorts has been established. There are bonus points for matching themes in three of the rounds.
I'd urge you to join up, take a good look and vote. Here’s a favourite of mine from Round 3, featuring some exceptionally well-painted Quar cavalry.

Zombiesmith produces miniatures, rules and background with a unique sci-fi vision for the Quar.

The Gazebo is on Facebook & Google+

You can view and/or print issue #1 from here

If you want to join the attack email me.

14 April, 2012

The Gazebo is Loose!

A while back Anita Murray and Noirin Curran raised the prospect of doing an all things to all gamers e-zine for the UK & Ireland - I jumped on board as the (non-GW) wargames editor. The first issue was published yesterday and you'll notice a lot of varied content from a lot of different people.
You can view and/or print it from here but if you want to download it instead you'll need an account (pretty quick sign-up though).

For roleplayers out there of a certain age, the tale of The Gazebo needs no introduction (up there with the Head of Vecna as one of the all-time tall tales of D&D)

GM: You see a well-groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you see a gazebo.
PLAYER: A gazebo? What color is it?
GM: (Pause) It's white, Eric.
PLAYER: How far away is it?
GM: About 50 yards.
PLAYER: How big is it?
GM: (Pause) It's about 30 feet across, 15 feet high, with a pointed top.
PLAYER: I use my sword to detect whether it's good.
GM: It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo!
PLAYER: (Pause) I call out to it.
GM: It won't answer. It's a gazebo!
PLAYER: (Pause) I sheathe my sword and draw my bow and arrows. Does it respond in any way?
GM: No, Eric. It's a gazebo!
PLAYER: I shoot it with my bow (rolls to hit). What happened?
GM: There is now a gazebo with an arrow sticking out of it.
PLAYER: (Pause) Wasn't it wounded?
GM: Of course not, Eric! It's a gazebo!
PLAYER: (Whimper) But that was a plus-three arrow!
GM: It's a gazebo, Eric, a gazebo! If you really want to try to destroy it, you could try to chop it wih an axe, I suppose, or you could try to burn it, but I don't know why anybody would even try. It's a @#%$*& gazebo!
PLAYER: (Long pause - he has no axe or fire spells) I run away.
GM: (Thoroughly frustrated) It's too late. You've awakened the gazebo, and it catches you and eats you.

Looking forward to issue 2; got an early draft of an article and promises of a couple more already. If you have ideas for wargaming articles (anything else I can pass onto the right person) email me.

07 April, 2012

Lead Painters' League continues

Round 5 is underway over on the Lead Painters' League and I am very impressed at the variety with which peopole are approaching the 'Lord of the Rings' theme for this round. Especially given that I was expecting a lot of Mithril or GW's recent 28mm line.

As before I'm not picking out my favourite pieces, but I'm hoping to highlight a few match-ups which are (or ought to be) very close. (Not everything follows the theme...)

Ambush in Beleriand vs. Hunting

10mm LotR vs. Ugluk's Last Stand

In the Westfold (10mm) vs. Rider Rivals

Celtos Gael Warband vs. Honor Guard

20mm Nebelwerfer (1/76) vs. In the province of Rome

Anyway, if you have the chance take a look and vote for your favourites while you still have time

04 April, 2012

Hunters Hunted

Having conducted raids a light platoon of Spetznaz are closely pursued by a large group of Mujahideen, the Spetznaz are trying to buy time for their extraction from the Panjshir highlands.

Their first stand went well, from concealed and prepared positions they have inflicted over 30 casualties on the enemy and now they are withdrawing to their second defensive line – though three of their number have been killed and one seriously wounded.

Defensive positions

Two scouts on the left flank (equipped with night vision goggles and suppressed weapons) pin back the Mujahideen attack, calmly slipping out of contact after picking off the Afghan leaders

Scouts pin back flank

Feeling under threat, the scout team jump into one of the foxholes, continuing to suppress and drive back the Mujahideen attack

Scouts jump in foxhole

The first assault goes in on the central Spetznaz defensive position, but is driven back - the platoon medic races forward to see to some casualties, but it's just a scratch

First assault goes in

The Mujahideen send in a further attack, this one is met with devastating effect by some carefully placed directional mines

Massive attack

Near the scouts' position, the second wave of Mujahideen arrives

Second wave arrives

The pair continue to hold them off - faced with these Soviet demons, the Mujahideen morale suffers and their advance falters

Holding them off

The arrival of more Mujahideen further up that flank makes the prospect of holding it very suspect

Flank looking suspect

There's too many of them! Keeping the rest of the Spetznaz busy, the Mujahideen concentrate on these two scouts and try to envelope them and render their technological advantages useless

Too many of them

The scouts make their escape at the last possible second - running up to the ridgeline overlooking their escape route

Scouts make their escape

With the scent of blood in the air, taking that ridge will dominate the Spetznaz escape route. The Mujahideen rush up the ridge

Last stand on the ridge

Despite taking losses on the way in, the Mujahideen gun down the two scouts, and now the Spetznaz below realise that they've tried to hold on too long


The race to the extraction zone leaves them in the open and without their defensive positions. Now without fear the Mujahideen close the distance and begin to take them down

Trying to get out

One group of Spetznaz nearly makes it, but the pursuit from the Mujahideen cuts them all down and the rest of the platoon are overwhelmed

Close pursuit

With the remnants of the whiskey washed down, a brief but very constructive post-mortem ensued. Some changes were pencilled in, and then we retired downstairs to watch The Losers!

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