Sunday, 26 November 2017

First FUBAR competition come and gone!

Time for an update. There has been a lot of gaming, purchasing, painting, and just idle daydreaming on all things hobby related since my last post.

Everything except blogging, which is simply because I spend much more time on the iPad these days than I do on the computer, and Blogger isn't very tablet-friendly. 
Japanese SL in Russki livery.  The train made choo-choo noises- what more could a gamer ask for?
Anyway, here is an account of my mixed fortunes at FUBAR, our first ever Bolt Action tournament held way back on the 1st of October, and held at the community centre at Seiseki-sakuragaoka here in the west of Tokyo.

I have to be honest and admit that I actually enjoyed it much more than I ever thought I would. I had never played in a tournament before, in fact I've tended to be quite suspicious of them in the past, due to those stories you hear out there of overly-competitive, unwashed basement dwellers who delight in sucking the fun and energy out of gaming.  

Now that's unfair stereotyping to be sure, but I had never been much for competitive play, preferring my games to be scenario-driven, firmly grounded in at least some historical context, and played against plausible historical opponents.  

I'd heard horror stories about tournaments where one finds Japanese flame-thrower teams darting around the front lines in Kurogane field cars, or unlikely mixed platoons of SS, paratroopers, and- for all I know- COBRA troopers; win-at-all-costs power gamers busy mini-maxing points with not even a cursory nod towards historical plausibility.  

Each to their own, but I wanted nothing to do with that scene.

But I needn't have worried.  There were no such excesses evident, the air was redolent of soap, and as a change from my usual gaming fare it actually proved a nice break.  

It turned out being a very enjoyable tourney, with great people to game with.  There was loads of enthusiasm, with everyone playing to win but not wanting to do so at the expense of everyone having a good time.  Lots of good humour and nobody taking it all too seriously.  

In fact it was surprising just how much we were all able to learn about the finer points of the rules through accessing the group's "hive mind", especially given the range of experience when it came to playing Bolt Action.

In my case, all my experience had been against Matt's Far East British, so I was not at all confident about my chances.  I duly managed to come in 9th out of a table of 12! 

But better than I thought I would, given that the Japanese would be up against all manner of Axis and Allied mechanized nastiness.

For a one-off day of gaming I can live with any of the historical anachronisms, and I have to say I really like the second edition of the Bolt Action rules, which seem to play much better than the first edition. Hurrah to that extra dice for LMG's and MMG's.

We had five, very nice tables laid out for the games. 
Jungle table- The sun doesn't shine in jungle; neither did my IJA.
Giovanni was responsible for this rather nice desert table.  This was much more to my men's liking on the day.
Fear, loathing, and weirdness in Peenemunde
My mountain fort finally saw combat!  I didn't have the chance to play on this table, though.
Psyche Ops.
I liked this one; very "Market Garden-y".
I had decided to risk all and go for what was very much a light infantry force. No tanks or vehicles. Japanese armour would most likely get toasted by anything the Germans or Soviets could bring to the party, so why bother?

Instead, I would spend the points on what was my army's strength; being able to throw wave after wave of good-quality infantry, in large squads of twelve or more, straight at the enemy and to get in close with the bayonet.  And shrugging off any pins or casualties, as was the done thing.  

With just about all my troops being fanatics, no one can better my IJA as far as force morale goes.

I've been gaming long enough to realize that numbers often count, both in being able to absorb casualties and in the number of dice to be rolled; the more dice, the more things average out.  Just being able to roll a dozen dice in a firefight means I'm bound to hit something, let alone unleashing them in a Banzai! charge.

So in the end I went for a very vanilla infantry platoon- straight by the book. My only luxuries were a sniper team, a suicide A/T team, a 70mm light howitzer in support- and the combat debut of my new pointy stick guys- bamboo spearmen.  

To be honest I doubt the historicity of being able to field spearmen in separate squads.  In reality, it's most likely that any army troops finding themselves reduced to having to wield spears instead of rifles would have been skeletal, emaciated, malaria-ridden, poorly-supplied waifs, so it seems to me that having them as a separate troop type seems kind of gamey  (as, I suppose, they were...).  

But for game purposes, they would do; I could get a lot of them, and they were as cheap-as-chips. 

When first putting together the list, I had most of what I needed except for that squad of bamboo-spear armed infantry and  70mm light gun. These were ordered, and came mercifully quickly from Warlord Games.

The morning of the tournament I was knackered, having been up until 2 o'clock the previous night furiously trying to get them ready for the day (some things never change...).  I probably could have had them fully finished, had I not decided to break out the epoxy putty and do a few conversions, which took time.
So I ended up just block painting them, with no shading or highlights, so I knew they wouldn't be winning any painting prizes. But at least they were table ready, and after the game I would take my time to dip them, go over the highlights, and tart up the bases.

I'd rather do it this way then try to do a rush job with the basing just for the sake of the competition.

On to the tournament.  I played three games, all against people I've never played against before; all were good sports, and everything went smoothly, with very little in the way of rules clarification or refereeing needed. 

First round, and I ended up being butchered badly in a face-off against a platoon of Soviet combat engineers- and that in what should have been my natural habitat, jungle terrain. 

Faulty tactics and deployment on my part- my opponent was more focused on the objective.  I dithered around, and I paid the price.  Some nasty hand to hand combat was to take place, so it was no bloodless walkover; but it still came to an end rather embarrassingly quickly!
Reach out and touch someone- with a T-34/76.
Sub-machine guns; don't leave home without 'em.
The only army I really fear is the Russians. My strength is in the number of infantry I can field, and the Soviets can match as many boots on the ground as I can- and have exponentially better quality tanks and support kit, even if their morale can be suspect.

And I'm here to tell you that their veteran SMG squads are fearsome things.

Chalk one up for International Bolshevism.  


Next round, and I went on to again lose the second game, this time fought over a Russian factory complex against- as one does- a reinforced platoon of the Afrika Korps. 

It was a lovely table, and a challenging scenario.  And did I mention that the IJA didn't have any AA assets?
Still, I only lost by a very slim margin due to my opponent being smarter than me meeting the scenario conditions first.  

This despite the fact that not only had I managed to thumb my nose at his Pz-II, but that I had actually ended up dishing out more casualties than I received- admittedly helped in part by a DAK "own goal" from its own air support. 

Shades of Matt and his Royal Artillery, as regular readers of this blog will remember.
Fear not, the train was just a static wreck.
Humiliation came in the form of Erik's DAK sending a motorcycle combo down the flank of the table, where I had nothing to counter it.  Thus he was able to seize the objective and hold it right up to the point when time up was called. 

Didn't see the Hun in the sun.  Be sure to check your six next time, Robato-san.
The spearmen did manage to wipe out a squad of over-confident Jerries.
Damn these internal-combustion engines, anyway.
Quite unsporting, and just the thing I would have done had I had the chance! Next time I will get my bicycle squad painted.

Erik was a great opponent, and despite the disappointing outcome the game was a lot of fun.  And it was fought against a good-looking army; I have to admit I find myself tempted to do a DAK force one day.


The third and last game, fortunately, was much more to my liking; a delicious triumph, one against none other than the much-vaunted late war Germans.  And what's more it was largely won by my bamboo spear-armed, inexperienced troops at that. 
By this time I had gotten into my stride. In the second game I had figured out how better to coordinate my all-infantry force, and this scenario, coupled with a relatively open desert(!) terrain, allowed me to play boldly and aggressively.

Despite being pitted against a late Wehrmacht army armed to the teeth with assault rifles and other nasties, the Japanese launched an assault that ended up wiping out two German squads plus a Nebelwerfer, and in doing so the spearmen- underfed, malodorous, yet valorous-  led the Japanese army on to victory!  

Banzai! indeed.

It helped that James, for all his high-tech Teutonic instruments of frightfulness and death, had no tanks- or any armour at all- with which to crush Imperial Japanese dreams. 
I had dreaded the prospect of facing just a Pz-III, let alone a late-war nasty such as a Pz-IV or Panther.   I've had enough trouble in the past with Matt's M3 Lee-Grant.  Against a Panther I would have been Kat food; all I had was my suicide A/T squad. 

Fortunately, they were to remain under-employed, holed up in a small building and no doubt relaxing with a few games of Go, or getting in a bit of Karaoke practice.
Through the swamp and on to the Nebelwerfer!
Loved James' dice bag; luckily this was the nearest thing he had to a Panther or Tiger.
It was evident to the both of us that with the Japanese being fanatics, the opposing player has to destroy all my squads virtually to the last man, as they rarely rout.

This meant that while the enemy is having to take two turns or more concentrating fire from several of his own units to try and actually wipe mine out, I was able to leapfrog my larger, relatively unscathed squads around the rest of the table, flanking weapons teams and mopping up his smaller squads here and there in hand-to-hand combat and/or firefights. All the time adding more victims (and victory points) into the bag.

Love it when a plan- finally- comes together.  Third time lucky.


great way to spend the day.  There were some wonderful modelling and painting in evidence, good sportsmanship in spades, and it was clear that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves- really positive vibes all round.   

We had an excellent turnout, and both Giovanni and James Kelly did a fantastic job organizing the day- many thanks to both of them for their hard work.

On top of all that, we were also able to recruit a new player for our Napoleonic games as well, so all in all it well worth attending.  I'm looking forward to the next one.

In the meantime, it's more Napoleonics at my place on Dec. 10th.  Need to get some painting in.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

A Decade of Drivel!

I've just realized that this blog is now just over 10 years old; my first post was dated August 4, 2007. 
Delusions of grandeur are not limited to vertically challenged control freaks with nasty hemorrhoids.   At least I'm tall.
Where the devil does the time go?  Not on painting a huge shed-load of figures, that's for sure.  But looking back there has been progress. 
In 2007, actually gaming anything- let alone 28mm Napoleonics- was a pipe dream.  Ten years on, and...
  • I am enjoying a reasonably regular diet of wargaming, with a great bunch of gaming buddies
  • I have a modest, if growing, collection of painted miniatures, enough to play some quite decent games (in fact I am close to completing an entire IJA force for Bolt Action) 
  • we have found rule sets we are happy with and (almost) never argue over
  • I've even got my own wargaming table now.
The only real downside is that we never seem to game as often as we would like, and there always new rules and periods to tempt us.  But I suspect that's true of most groups even in their best days.

Of course the lead/polymer mountain remains imposingly Andean in size; but sod it, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a wargaming pack rat.

All told, it's pretty satisfying to be where I am today, and on reflection starting this blog was instrumental in helping me get to this point in no small way.  Had Giovanni here not stumbled across it and sent me an email, we would never have known about each other's existence; and for me at least, my enjoyment of the hobby would be but a pale shadow of what it is now.

Basically, I blog for myself; it's a record of games played, figures painted, and of the fun had in gaming and communicating with like-minded enthusiasts.  It's also an outlet for a bit of written creativity that I wouldn't otherwise get (especially living, as I do, in a non-English speaking country). 

There are way better blogs out there for sure; grander games, more visitors, more impressive painting and terrain, and more regularly updated.  I know this because I bookmark and eagerly devour them, and enjoy reading them all.  

But Serrez les Rangs has always been my own little public corner of the wargaming universe, and I get a lot of pleasure from it.  

To all who are taking the time to read this in an increasingly busy world, and especially to those of you who come here regularly, who have commented, and who provide me with the encouragement to keep at it- a very big "thank you"!

Monday, 4 September 2017

Piccies and Purchases

"Come and get some, Rosbif!!!"
Following up on my last post, as promised, pictures from the second game we played on the day using Black Powder and the OHWG scenarios. 
First though, some retail therapy.  I've been guilty of a deplorable excess of book acquisitions these past few months, and most recently I just "pre-ordered" (is that actually a word?) this; a new Black Powder Napoleonic supplement from Warlord Games.   
A Clash of Eagles looks at the 1812 Russian campaign and beyond.  This one has me really excited.  I've long been waiting for something from Warlord on the 1812-1813 campaigns, which always seem to take a back seat to anything Waterloo and Peninsular.
To be honest I've found the Black Powder and Pike & Shotte supplements rather hit-and-miss so far; some have been great, others somewhat underwhelming.  But given my interest in the theatre, and what with coming in at an impressive 200 pages, I'm fairly certain there will enough meat to keep me satisfied beyond the obligatory potted history.
I'm sure there will be special rules for characters like Kutuzov, Bagration, Ney and others. I will ignore these, as I am not a fan of character rules in my games-  most of the characters the rules have covered so far would be commanding at a level way higher up the command hierarchy than that which most of our games are set. 
The eye candy will be bound to inspire, as it always does, and the special rules, stats and scenarios often give me food for thought.  The tool kit approach taken with Black Powder gives me lots of leverage here- we can use, modify, or reject them as we please.  
I'm looking forward to receiving them. And the Marshal Ney giveaway figure will be duly demoted to colonel, and as such will lead my French skirmish line.

Anyway, here are photos as promised from the second of the two games we played earlier this year using the scenarios from Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames rules.  This was based on the 1866 Battle of Langensalza as mentioned in the previous post.
I won't give any details on the scenario- buy the book!  Suffice to say it was fun, challenging, and it ended up a (very marginal) Allied victory, notable for the absolute massacre of French horseflesh before they could even couch their lances.  Memories of our games with Achilles all those years back...

Pretty- pretty useless, that is...
How to destroy a French infantry battalion in line by close-range enfilade fire in 3, 2, 1...
Col. de la Botomie, seeing caution as the mark of a poltroon, orders his French lancer regiment to disdainfully show their flank to Allied artillery across the river.
And then there were none...
"You kids get off my lawn!"
That's all for now- I've another AAR in the works, and some figures coming off the painting table.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Black Powder meets OHWG's (again!)

Some serious catching up to do. Too many fingers in too many pies recently, not to mention way too much time spent at a keyboard than was good for my eyes. Not helped by the fact that Blogger has been temperamental these days.

As I mentioned in my last post, we had another Napoleonic bash at my place. 

We were looking forward to this one, with four of us available this time for a game. And we actually managed to get two games in on the day. The first was a very scaled-down, abstracted version of the Battle of Wavre, 1815. For the second game we chose a scenario that was based on Langensalza, a tactical victory for the Hanoverians over the Prussians(!) during the Austro-Prussian War in 1866.

Both were taken from my now very-well-thumbed copy of Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames, and both proved to be challenging and fun. Huge armies of half a dozen units per side determine the fate of nations; truly, gaming in the (not quite so) Grand Manner. 

As I have often said, it's a stubborn myth that Black Powder- or just Napoleonics in general- only works with large games. Definitely not.

With 28mm miniatures on my 6'x4' table. We found that using the BP rules with the scenarios from OHWG makes for ideal games; having no more than six units a side leaves us with enough space for maneuver.

As before, out of a pool of ten units (4x infantry, 2x skirmishers, 2x artillery, 2x cavalry) each player rolls a dice and then consults a chart to see which six out of the ten will be available. This means that a player might be tasked with taking the village, only to find that two out of the six units are cavalry, which will not be of much use during the game. Or that you find yourself without the desirable artillery.

Fog of war: you fight the battle with the army you have, not the army you would like to have. It's a simple solution, but works well. The only downer is when your newly completed regiment of rifles or hussars is finished and ready to go; only for you to find out that they are too far behind the front lines to catch up, so they won't be seeing the elephant today. But them's the breaks.

Over the last year or so, we have been using the scenarios from Neil's book for quite a few games now, all set in different periods; Napoleonics, World War II, and even a few Viking vs. Saxon games (the only game where we used the actual rules from the book). The scenarios have always managed to provide with some interesting tactical challenges.

Sunday's games were to prove no exception. The table looked good, dice were fickle and non-partisan, and the scenarios themselves proved tense, being close-run things.

Remarkably- and mark this in your calendars, as you're unlikely to see its like again- Matt, "The Redcoat's Redcoat", opted to play the French this time. Which may well be why les bleus managed to win the first scenario, and to put in a very creditable performance in the second. He was taking on the British, led by Sada and Rod.

I actually wasn't engaged in the game myself; after setting up the terrain and scenario, I pretty much restricted myself to the roles of Kibitzer-in-Chief and combat artist. My real responsibility on the day was with the commissariat, as the troops needed to be victualed during the heat of combat (I do a pretty mean toad-in-the-hole).

Here are the (belated) pics, from our (sort-of) Wavre game:

'orrible little men..

A parley?  "Commanders of armies have better things to do than to shoot one another, by God..."
Classic Napoleonics; "Form square!"


This was also the last time that Rod would be joining us for a wargame, as after a number of years in Japan he made the decision to return with his family to Portugal, where his parents are now living.  So what better way to send him off than with the colour and spectacle of a Napoleonic game.

Rod has been a core member of our group since not long after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, so he'll be very much missed. On the other hand, I understand that a few Napoleonic battles may have been fought in Portugal and Spain, so perhaps a visit in the future may be in the offing for a bit of sightseeing.

Keep in touch, Rod!

I've more pictures from the second game that I will try to post in the not-too-distant future. This month, though, will see me painting more of my WW2 IJA.

The West Tokyo Wargamers will be putting on our first Bolt Action tournament on October 1st.  So this coming month it's organizing and sprucing up terrain pieces, as well as putting the finishing touches on my 750 pt. IJA expeditionary force. I'll be trying out my recently-acquired airbrush and compressor, too.

Matt will be there with his Fourteenth Army contingent, most others will be (of course) Germans of various flavours- Wehrmacht, paras, etc.  The Allies may include British Commandos, and French from North Africa or even Dien Bien Phu.

This will be the first time for me to take part in any kind of wargaming tournament.  As someone who has always played BA using an historically-organized Japanese force, against an historical opponent and fighting in suitable terrain- and who much more often than not been used to coming up the winner- I need to go into this with a different mindset.

Namely, I should expect to get royally clobbered.

I can't count on having much jungle to hide in, and I'll be most probably up against the likes of various SMG's and assault rifles, quad 20mm guns, Pz-85's, King Shermans, KV-FlammenChurchills and other assorted hi-tech and/or armoured nastiness. 

There's no hope for my beloved Ha-Go's and Chi-Ha's; Kat food.  Unless I end up finding myself matched against early Yugoslavs or Italians, going "tabi-to-toe" with enemy armour is futile- it would be like taking a Nerf ball to an Uzi fight. 

So I'm not even going to try. First off, there's not a lot anyone can get for 750 points. That means if someone decides to field a Stug-III- let alone an IS-2 or Panther- that's going to eat up a lot of points, and there won't be too much left in the way of infantry.

My plan is then to stay objective-focused, and to make the best of what I've got- lots of fanatical and resilient infantry.

I'll be taking as many infantry as I can squeeze into 750 points, including grenadier squads with light mortars. I'll be laying down smoke, playing aggressively, and trusting in numbers, Seishin and the Banzai! rule. Artillery is my real foe, so I'll have to keep moving.

And with big squads (or a larger number of smaller squads- I need to experiment first), I'll be rolling considerable numbers of dice. In that case, if faced with a better-armed but smaller force, the law of averages may be on my side once the cubes start rolling.

That's the hope. More likely I'll get waxed, big time. 

Which is fine, all the time I go down with panache, and in doing so hopefully give my opponents a few bowel-loosening moments as they experience the blood-curdling Banzai! charge...