Wednesday, 18 April 2018

There's no place like Rome!

So the first part of the 'Roman terrain build' part of the current project is done with my collection of Warbases MDF buildings and fortress wall now complete and ready to grace future tables.

The completed collection of fortress, temple, villa and spare medium store room

I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of putting these models together and working out how I wanted them to look.

The idea behind this collection is to allow me to have table features that immediately tell the casual observer that this battle is somewhere on the frontier of Moesia or Pannonia or indeed outside the walls of Sarmizegetusa where the artwork from Radu Oltean's great book on the Trajananic invasion of Dacia inspired the plan to build a fortress wall that could double for Roman or Dacian.

The Roman temple took a bit more work to move it on from the last set of build posts I presented with the addition of the portico roof that also needed tiling together with a few strategically placed cocktail sticks.

In addition the panelled door was fun to paint and I developed a way of watering down the beige brown to allow it to run into the circular scrolls and really bring them out.

I also decided to leave the typical Roman style fence or railings in the original MDF as I thought to my eye the colour was perfect as it was. Another plus point for MDF, in that yes you do need to wor on it to make it stop looking like it but occasionally it works in its own right.

The wall sections are easy to build and very cost effective and I am sure I will add a few extra to allow for the Zvezda Roman artillery I picked up on Ebay to have plenty to shoot at, not to mention a battering ram, testudo and scaling ladders.

The interesting challenge the walls create is putting troops on them as my big battle bases are to wide. My solution I think will be to create a few skirmish bases of Romans and Dacians who as well as performing that function in smaller skirmish games will also stand in as my wall sentinel garrison with formed units standing behind the walls to indicate which unit is actually defending a ceratain section at any time.

As you can see there is room to mount wall place scorpion bolt throwers which can also be set up in the towers should the fancy take me.

The fortress gates are a real feature of the model and I acquired a Zvezda battering ran as soon as I put the thing together which also comes with an oil cauldron that could be set up over the gates.

Finally, there is the villa which I added to with a walled gate section and some floor mosaics to wind the barbarian player up as he gaily puts flames and smoke gushing from those arched windows with a few dead and dying slaves lying about the courtyard as a Dacian warband moves off.


As with the temple, I decided to leave the balustrade fence 'au natural' and think it matched up well with a similarly panelled door.

You might notice in the previous shots that I also completed a medium store room that with another added could replace the two small ones seen in my completed villa.

This would certainly create more of a footprint for the model but allow more room to put together a formal garden to add to the look and something I will add later.

The interior wall of my fortress will need to be compliment with additional buildings and I plan to build some of the other Warbases offerings to complete it over time.

So there we are, some new terrain to add to the collection and with these first few buildings done I now have my resin marching fort on the desk together with some very nice Baueda Roman tents which will help complete the look.

However the figures need some attention and Warband number three is close to completion so I think they will be up next.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Dux Bellorum at Devon Wargames Group

I had great fun meeting up with the chaps at the DWG yesterday and getting to give the Saxon/Viking collection, covered here on JJ's there first run out using Dux Bellorum.

If you are interested in reading the AAR and my thoughts about the rules, then just follow the link to the club blog.

I thought I would share here on JJ's some of the ideas for running a game of Dux Bel I used yesterday and found added to the whole affair.

There are principally two aspects of a game of Dux Bellorum that need to be readily seen on table by the players to indicate the decisions they take and the results incurred.

These are the placement of Leadership Points against groups and or units to indicate where they intend to influence a combat or movement phase in the current turn.

The players can lay up to three of these chits against any one group or unit and I wanted something that was discreet but easy on the eye.

My choice was to use the SAGA Fatigue Chits that I picked up from Gripping Beast last year at Warfare.

Mr Steve later came up with the added idea that we could use them shield side up to indicate when they were being used in combat for defence and flipped over when being used offensively.

The other idea that I was really pleased with was the inclusion by both Steve and myself of sabot fillers to replace the unsightly gaps caused by the removal of figures during combat which we used to record hits against bases.

I really like the degrading this seemed to imply to the respective lines of figures and now feel I need to get several groups of casualty figures painted up to lay about the lines to give an impression of the casualties the fighting has caused.

Finally, one of the key aspects of Dux Bel is the design of the force and a record of its losses during the game to enable easy assessment against the victory conditions.

These list assemblies are very much left to the players to decide how to use, but for a simple pick up game I wanted to get things set around the collection available by listing a core group of units each side would have and then leaving it to the players to decide how the remainder would be structured.

Below is copy of the sheet I gave to the players based on an idea developed by Nick at the DWG which lists that basic core of figures plus the six Leadership Points and then allows a further 23 points to be added at the players choice.

I then added a set of boxes to record the 50 and 75% losses in warrior bases that required a test or caused a break with boxes to tick off as losses were accrued.

Finally I added the unit stats together with my base width measure as a ready reference tool.

If I were use a mounted force I would need to produce a similar sheet but with mounted troops indicated in the core list.

The other addition I think I will make based on yesterdays game would be to add a terrain effects chart on the back of this as a ready reference.

As you might guess I came away very enthused about this set of rules and looking forward to playing again.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Romano-Dacian Terrain Build Part Three

Progress has continued in the week on finishing off my first few pieces of terrain for the Romano-Dacian collection and the character of these models is starting to show with the application of a few colours.

No work on these today though as I am off to the monthly meeting of the DWG in Exeter where I will be hosting my first game of Dux Bellorum with the Saxon/Viking collection finished off earlier this year along with Mr Steve who will hopefully be contributing a few of his Scots and Irish to bolster numbers so we can include a few players a side.

I am hoping to 'break the back' of this little project tomorrow and put up a few close ups in the week when they are finished.

I have also picked up a couple of blank MDF terrain bases from Products for Wargamers so I can start practising putting together some other scatter terrain items along with some new trees.

More anon

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Romano-Dacian Terrain Build Part Two

This time of year, namely early spring, is ideal for me to get stuck into a bit of terrain building which I like to do in our sun lounge.

The light in the room is perfect for constructing and painting and the weather is comfortable thus avoiding it being too hot to sit for several hours at a time messing about with terrain.

So picking up from my last post, the buildings were put together but needed work to stop them looking like MDF.

The first part of that process was to apply the Warbases sets of Roman tiles, which I think are a must purchase item if you are going to build these kits as I find the stencilled roofs don't really cut it, if you'll excuse the pun, and the tiling adds that much needed three dimensional effect, particularly when they get painted.

There is something really satisfying applying tiles to roofs and aligning each row, one with another.

I know this kind of stuff is not for everyone, but I see this as all part of the creative process that makes the hobby such fun and, once done, leaves you with a great sense of satisfaction.

I guess the other aspect is that the models start to feel more self created rather than bought off the shelf.

The Villa and Walled Gate House are supplied with dowel rods to complete the roofs with a ridge tile, but the temple isn't. With a much narrower gap that needed filling once the tiles were on I scratch-built my ridge tiles with cocktail sticks liberally applied with PVA to fill the grove.

Note the temple building doesn't have its veranda roof and railing up yet as I wanted to leave the wall open for painting and so will add them afterwards.

Likewise the Villa front porch roof and railings are not stuck on so I can easily get at the front wall to paint it.

Once the tiling was done I needed to something about those lasered joints on the corners of each building.

The roofs were taken care of with their layer of tiles, but those corner joints are an eye-sore with MDF models and in my opinion need covering.

So each building received a coat of watered down PVA to seal in the brown gunge that can ooze from these joints if you try and paint over them.

The next stage was to smear a layer of wet plaster over each and every corner seam, that is until I ran out of plaster, so decided to prime a few of the completed buildings with my trusty 1829 Clove Brown emulsion paint from Homebase, which does the job off giving that bitter chocolate brown undercoat.

Once I had replenished my supply of quick dry plaster the day was spent undercoating all the other buildings and wall sections with not a nasty MDF joint still in sight. In fact you might think this lot was resin!

I know Martin at Warbases has some lovely looking curved wall corners he has created that I am eagerly looking forward to and then you will be able to produce a Hadrian's Wall effect as well.

Anyway, focus JJ on the job in hand. With the undercoat on and dry we can now press on with the really fun bit of making this lot look pretty and ready to grace the table.

One final little extra was to produce some floor mosaics for my villa, which will have its roofs detachable and so I decided to copy Jim Duncan's idea, see the link below, of adding these examples taken off the net and resized appropriately.

I now need to refresh my memory on the look of these buildings following the various examples visited here on JJ's and with memories of Xanten to inspire the work on the city wall.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Dacian Wars Project Update

One of the fun aspects of keeping a blog like this going, over time, is that you get to see how projects percolate into fruition as ideas are worked on and refined.

None so than the current project focused on the Dacian Wars of Domitian and Trajan where I posted about ideas to build a collection around back in December 2015 and even constructed a campaign module using the Hail Caesar campaign book scenarios and linked campaign as a basis for that collection.

I have that campaign in Cyberboard ready to go and have taken forward the plans around the collection to set up the games involved, as recent posts have illustrated.

That said, as I have thought about this collection the plan has broadened into a wider scope taking into other Principate campaigns that would be fun to do such as the Year of the Four Emperors in 69 AD and the campaigns of Germanicus into Germainia following the Varian disaster.

The linked scenario, ladder style of campaign battles is great, especially for involving groups of players fighting separate scenarios as part of the greater backdrop and I still intend to develop that plan.

However I was keen to explore the idea of having a campaign where the armies and set ups were entirely in the hands of the players as results of the decisions they took in response to events and circumstances, with armies manoeuvring on a map that encompassed the normal fog of war.

The whole idea being, to create battles that have that all important context behind them and thus give meaning to the result.

The last few weeks I have been bringing those ideas together with the help of other peoples ideas such as James Roach and his great blog and lovely collections over at 

James' collections are an inspiration to the kind of games I plan to develop around this period and he has some great ideas around those I have outlined here.

The map you can see of Dacia and the neighbouring tribal and Roman regions, now hanging in my games room, is my own creation based on those ideas, as are the cards I have put together using a great site highlighted recently on TMP by Anatoli who also has a video clip up on his own blog page on how to produce such cards.

The really cool thing about this system is that armies on the map are in full view of all the players with the fog of war being built into the campaign by the cards and how they are played. Not only that but I now have a system of generating my armies and relating the result of any tabletop battles back to the map in lost strength-points without too much book-keeping and mental stress.

I aim to give the system a stress test using a simple die combat system to replace the figures on the table while they are still being put together, so I'll do a post about that going forward.

Talking about constructing armies for the tabletop also reminds me that I am also in the process of recreating my map world on to the table; and my 15/18mm terrain collection will not be fit for purpose, hence a build project similar to Trajan's own efforts, all be it in a smaller scale, is now going ahead.

This week I finally got some time over the Easter Bank Holiday to get stuck into my Roman buildings that I have been acquiring in the time between now and that post back in 2015.

With all the Napoleonic work completed, I now have time to give this part of the project my attention and as you will know, I love the aspect of the hobby that is putting things together.

Like plastic figures, MDF has revolutionised our hobby and I have thoroughly enjoyed constructing my Villa, Temple and Fortress together, not to mention a few wagons and carts.

This lot are now awaiting the addition of roof tiles and then, after sealing with a PVA wash, to have a good lick of paint together with some interior finishing.

In addition to these, I have a Roman marching fort to get done, plus loads of new trees and scatter terrain to build and those river sections will need a bit of tarting up before they can grace the table.

These buildings are just the start as I have to get some appropriate German/Dacian hovels and a Roman Limes tower, as seen above, plus enough wattle fencing to shake a stick at.

All the buildings are from Warbases and the wagons are from 4Ground, that I picked up from Colonel Bill's Store.

Colonel Bill's

My river sections are from Products for Wargamers

Products for Wargamers

Finally thank you to Martin and Diane over at Warbases who sorted out an issue with some pieces on my city gate that was resolved quickly and helpfully.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Maurice - AWI Scenario adapted from Hold the Line

A few weeks ago Steve M and I got together again for an evening of 'Maurice' fun continuing where we left off in our first game in January, playing with the AWI collection and messing about with brigade commanders.

This time we allocated 'Notable' cards to a couple of them, one on each side to see how the command attributes that notables bring could be used with our new level of command.

A US brigade holds the defences as the rest of the army defends forward on the ridge line

The scenario Steve chose to set up with was based on a game I ran at the DWG back in 2015 based on a scenario from the board game 'Hold the Line' recreating the Battle of Long Island.

You can find the details of the orders of battle and set up on the link below to the club blog.

General Howe's mighty British army of 1776 looks formidable as it approaches the American held ridge

As you will see the forward American line is pushed forward onto a commanding ridge in front of the American embarkation point and they are tasked with delaying the formidable British force long enough to allow that embarkation to be successful.

American confusion as the line falls back too early

Sad to say, I, commanding the Americans, made the cardinal error of order/counter-order and the inevitable confusion that created by neither defending forward on the ridge and gaining the benefits of it in the subsequent combat and leaving my pull out too late that I was locked into a rolling fight going backwards with little opportunity to break off.

The British don't need to be asked twice and come rolling forward over the ridge

Steve to his credit never let me recover from the error and although burning through his cards often leaving him with just two or three in his hand at a time continued to apply the pressure as the American line fell back.

All the defenders can do is watch the carnage

At the completion of the first deck the Americans had lost three of their conscript battalions and managed to destroy one British unit in return but the Rebel morale card was in a desperate state as my line recoiled back in front of the defences.

American commanders work hard to stem the British advance

Eventually the US troops found themselves trying to get units into the defences whilst forced to leave a rearguard which succumbed to the pressure of the British assaults and broke the army morale.

With three American battalions out of the fight the pressure grows on the left flank

This scenario demands a robust stand by the Americans if they are to make a game of it and even then it is a tough one for the Americans to win, but the challenge of trying to bleed the British force makes it a compelling set up.

That said Steve played a great hand and never let the pressure up once in the driving seat.

It's all over and I can go home and reflect - note the heap of American casualties to the left of picture
Despite getting my rear end handed to me I really enjoyed the fun of managing a desperate situation that had me 'fire-fighting' all through the evening.

The notable card effects didn't really come into play although the brigade command system played its part when we had brigades split apart when units were destroyed which interfered with the Americans pulling out formations in one group which I think replicated the difficulty of retreat in the face of the enemy quite well.

Thanks to Steve for hosting our game and nice to give his new Tiny Wargames mat its first blooding.