About Me

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I'm a bit of a born-again wargamer! I played many of the Games Workshop games when I was in my teens and early twenties, but left the hobby behind when I went to University. Over the last few years I have gradually got back into it and am literally having a ball! I'll play pretty much anything now, ranging from ancient historical to the far future! I think that I get more out of the painting side of things than actually playing, but that might just be because I get more opportunity. Hence the title...this blog is all about the colour of war!!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Red means danger!

Well...for whoever gets in the way! :) Here's the latest bunch of Magister Militum Romans, this time in a fetching scarlet tunic, which is the very height of fashion amongst discerning Ancients gamers these days! You should be able to spot the shield I had to fix. It's the second from left in the first photo which is a bit more dipped than the rest. Due to the miscast that figure sits a bit more forward, butit's not too bad!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Why everyone should have some modelling putty lying about

Typical! After just singing the praises of Magister Militum I broke open the next pack of gladius wielding world conquerors to find that some of the Republic's equipement suppliers are letting their standards slip:

If there's one thing I hate more than flash and mould lines is a miscast figure like this! And it's not like it's somthing you can easily ignore...half the shield is missing! So I decided to break out the greenstuff and try to remedy the situation! I could have used Miliput, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to get a bit of practice with the GS:

It's not the smoothest of finishes, but it should be good enough! I'll maybe keep track of this guy as I paint him and see just how well he integrates!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Polybian Romans - Essex vs Magister Militum

For about a month or so I had 4 bases of primed Magister Militum (MM) Republican Romans sitting about my painting area and really just getting in the way. Once I finished the gladiators I decided to just slap some paint on them and get them out of the way, but as I started I soon found out that these wee figures really, really take paint well! In all honesty I wasn't trying to be particularly neat and tidy and was painting faster than I normally do, but they seemed to come out really nicely!

When I originally decided to do 15mm ancients I didn't really know which manufacturers were out there, but I had seen Magister Militum at Claymore and was highly impressed with the quality, so it seemed pretty straightforward to buy from them and I ordered the equivalent of a couple of FoG battlegroups (in mixed poses and with both pila and gladius) to get started. I was pretty happy with the figures, but they got shelved as something else came up. I then spied an Essex Roman DBA army on eBay and got it quite cheaply and endeavoured to paint it all up (as seen on this blog before). Once I'd seen the finely detailed Essex figures I thought the MM looked a little rough around the edges, but painting really brought them to life. So, I thought I'd take some comparison pics to illustrate the differences and maybe help anyone thinking of using these manufacturers to decide which they like best.

First off, the Hastati. The most obvious differences here are the different stance and the lack of a bronze plate on the back of the MM. The plumes on the helmet are also somewhat different and the shields are slightly different, but not by much. On close inspection, the MM are beefier than the Essex and would actually stand a bit taller if it weren't for the more dynamic pose, but from arms length they mix with no problems at all.

Essex on the left and MM on the right

Essex still on the left

This shot shows the tunics off quite well

Next are the Principes. These are the figures that are the most similar to look at from a distance. When you get a bit closer, though, I think the mail looks more finely detailed and regular on the Essex than the MM, which is what drew me to the conclusion that MM were a bit rougher round the edges than the Essex. Also the tunic and mail are a bit shorter on the MM, but the shields are again quite compatible despite the MM being a bit more oval. Both sets model the Montefortino helmet quite closely to the pictures I've seen, but again, the MM have higher, more impressive feathers on the crest. As with the Hastati, the MM are bulkier then the Essex, but will mix and match OK on the tabletop. I suppose that comes as no surprise!

Just to mess with you the MM are on the left in these pics

This angle shows how the Principes will mix well

This angle shows the difference in texture of the mail. The Essex are a
bit dull, though, due to slightly too liberal application of matt varnish!

My personal preference for the Hastati lies with the MM due to the more action-like pose and the lack of the back-plate which shows off the tunic a bit more, but that is not to say I suddenly dislike the Essex. The Principes I am less inclined towards a preference due the similarities, but I think the MM slightly win out due the pose and the somewhat more imposing crests. If I had to only buy one of these ranges I would probably go with MM, but I think Essex are maybe a shade cheaper and are by no means a poor alternative. Also, Essex often have 3 for 2 sales on DBA armies. The ratio of troop types in a DBA army mean that this would be a very cheap way of putting together a core force and is how I gained at least half of the legionaries I have!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

We salute you...!

So I've just managed to finish my first painted figures of 2011 and thought I'd share them. These are a Murmillo and Hoplomachus gladiator from Crusader. My WWII Brits and Fallschirmjager are Crusader as well and I really like their figures. For the Murmillo, I think that's the first shield I've painted since I played Warhammer in the 90s so I blatantly plagiarised a shield from a Murmillo on the Crusader website! :) I think it looks pretty good, though. For the Hoplomachus I was torn between going for bronze or iron for the shield, but I knew I wanted the face plate to be iron, so I thought an iron shield would tie up all the iron rather than having bits of bronze and iron here and there which might look a bit fussy. So the bronze helmet and greaves nicely frame the figure with all the metal in between being iron. I think I made the iron a bit too bright, though, so I might go back and darken it down a bit.

The flesh is also a bit of a departure for me. I normall use GW Dwarf Flesh with a wash of Devlan Mud and then highlighted with Elf Flesh and that works fine for faces and hands, but we have a bit more on show here! So I thought I'd try just painting it. I originally picked a triad from the Cool Mini Or Not ethnic skintone guide but found the contrast a bit too much, so I just added a bit of Vallejo Chocolate Brown to Cork Brown for the base, Cork Brown for mid tone and Cork Brown with some Flat Flesh for the highlight.



Hope you like them!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Wargames in a box

First off.. Happy New Year! Right, now that's out the way onto the gaming! :)

My first buy of 2011 was a semi-impulse purchase of Battle Cry (an American Civil War version of the Commands and Colours game system). I noticed it at a local comic/toy shop and thought 'oooh...should I buy that?'! I left it, though, and went home. At that point I decided I did want it so went back the next day and got it. It's no secret that I like games that are easy and quick to set up (and by that I mean assembling and painting figures and terrain) which is one of the main reasons I like Commands and Colours Ancients (CC:A), so Battle Cry seemed like a reasonable addition to the collection. In particular, I like the portability of the CC games which are, literally, wargames in a box! Most people's initial impression of the CC games is probably that it's a board game, but it really isn't. The system was designed for miniatures but for some reason it's produced as a board game rather that a paper rule set with various supplements.

So, with CC:Napoleonics pretty much on everyone's radar at the moment I thought I'd do a quick comparison of Battle Cry (BC) with CC:A. The box I got was the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War edition which is not, I believe, just a reprint, but includes some tweaks and all the scenarios from the original game plus supplements, so that's a meaty 30 scenarios in all compared to 15 in CC:A.

First off, the actual production of BC is nothing short of lavish. The board is good quality and sturdy, the cards are nice and glossy as is the rule book (which contains the scenarios). The hex terrain tiles and various counters are all made from heavy card and the plastic figures are nicely detailed. The box comes with a plastic tray insert with compartments for all the various tiles, cards, dice, tokens and figures which is very appreciated. Contrast that with CC:A which came with no tray which means all the terrain tiles, cards, dice and blocks are all loose (all my blocks are segregated in zip-lock freezer bags, which I thought absolutely necessary if you want to set up a game in less than half an hour!). Finally, the dice in BC are properly engraved, nicely-sized dice and not just cubes you have to put stickers on. The dice in CC:A are my biggest bug-bear with the game...they're massive, clunky things!! Given that I picked up BC for £45 which is actually cheaper than I picked up CC:A for, then BC wins by a mile!

The Mechanics
The first section there is more of a comparison between different companies productions (Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast for BC and GMT Games for CC:A). The game mechanics themselves are very similar, unsurprisingly. However, BC is a actually a lot less complex than CC:A. In BC you have three troop types -infantry, artillery and cavalry. In CC:A there are also infantry and cavalry, but they are graded as Heavy, Medium and Light and that is what you are trying to throw against.
Also, in BC, the generals are a lot less important and do not have a symbol on the dice. They simply allow a retreat to be ignored and allow activation of attached units on leadership cards (usually with an extra dice in combat). In CC:A they have all those benefits plus a distinct effect on combat with leader symbols on the dice hitting for any units attached or adjacent.
Next is the major difference in the games - firepower, of course! In CC:A, light infantry can fire a couple of hexes (three for bows) and generally do little damage, as only unit symbols and flags count. In BC, infantry get 4 dice and lose 1 for each hex past the first to the target (so 4 at a unit in adjacent hex, 1 at one 4 hexes away). Artillery get 5. Cavalry get 3 but must be adjacent to attack (at first I was surprised at cavalry having to be adjacent as it felt like melee but they weren't generally used in the mounted, sabre-wielding role, but you can rationalise the short range as representative of the smaller numbers in a regiment, plus the fact that a portion have to hold the horses).  So firepower degrades nicely over range. This feels pretty good.
Associated with the firepower is the lethality of attacks. With the absence of a leader symbol on the dice it means there is a face going spare and it has been filled with another infantry symbol. Given that crossed swords always hit in BC it means that, against infantry, every dice has a 50% chance of hitting. In CC:A there is only one symbol for each grading and swords only hit for Medium and above, so the light infantry are really there to harass and it's the Mediums and Heavies that are the killing machines. The addition of a leader means you can achieve a 50% for each dice, but on the whole it's easier to get hits in BC than in CC:A.

I always thought that CC:A is a very simple game that you can teach a new player in minutes (and I mean that!), so I was interested to see just how an even simpler version would play as well as the obvious difference in warfare. I have to say I was not disappointed! In CC:A it's very much about getting your battle lines organised and into the enemy. Victory flags are mostly won through getting light troops behind targets and getting the heavies into the fight as soon as possible. BC felt completely different. Getting close to the enemy, especially one in terrain or dug in, is suicidal unless you're very confident of winning in one go, and artillery can really close off avenues of attack. I found that troops were generally moving into terrain a lot more (and the scenarios tend to have a lot more terrain, understandably) and blasting away at each other until the opportunity for a bayonet charge presented itself. So terrain becomes incredibly important, infantry are much more lethal, but are in turn killed a lot more easily. Throw in trenches and earthworks and all the flavour of the ACW is there!

Commands and Colours as a game system is simply brilliant! The same easy mechanics, with some simple tweaks, can satisfactorily (at least for me) represent warfare as widely different as Rome going head to head with Carthage and the ACW, which is really the first glimpse at modern warfare! As mentioned, CC:N is grabbing all the headlines at the moment, but I would heartily recommend Battle Cry to anyone as a fun, easy and quick game that really does play like a miniatures game and captures the flavour of the period. Of course, ditto to CC:A! It sort of feels like I'm criticising CC:A here, but I'm really not. I still love that game and would probably love Memoir '44 and CC:N if I ever got them! However, I have Napoleonic and WWII minis so I can get my fix that way. CC:A and BC really do fill a hole in my gaming spectrum, though, which is another reason why I'd urge people to consider them...they're a really cheap and accessible way of getting into period you don't currently have the minis for!
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