Friday, 18 December 2020

Lard Magazine 2020 is out!



As usual just before Christmas, TooFatLardies has just released today its Annual Lard Magazine. This is HUGE 180 tome of scnearios, special rules, army lists, etc, covering a broad range of rules sets from this publisher, as well as some other very useful wargaming-related materials. 



At an unbeatable price of GPB5.5 (equivalent to 1 pint of beer in the UK and around three beers if you live in Spain), you cannot miss it.



Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Board Wargaming Projects for 2021


As COVID 19 will unlikely go away so easily (or anytime soon), my gaming group and I will continue meeting by VASSAL over the weekends and almost daily during the Christmas break. In fact,  some new boardgaming projects are being planned already during the early part of 2021.

One game to be extensively played next year is GMT's Empire of The Sun. This is a game to become very popular in the Spanish-speaking world, following the recent publication in our native tongue by the nice people of Devir Iberia.

The game was released almost coinciding with the Pearl Harbour Anniversary last week. The Spanish version can be considered a deluxe variant of the English original, with mounted boards, high quality cards and some extras like the mini-scenario publsihed in the C3i magazine issue 30. I ordered my copy the release day last week and it is now on its way home. It will have a distinctive place under the Christmas tree on the 25th.

For those of you not familiar with the game, Empire of the Sun (EotS) was designed by Mark Herman, also the father of the monstergame The Pacific War. Unsurprsingly considering who is the designer, EotS is a very robust game despite being card-driven, profitting from Herman's deep reserarch and knowledge of the Pacific Theare of Operations. 

The game takes an strategic view of the conflict, in which the Japanese player is doomed over time when confronting the industrial, demographic and economic power of the United States. Japan's only hope is eroding the social and political support of the American public, enough to force a negotiated truce before becoming too weak to resist the almighty US military force.

I'm fairly familiar with the game, as I had the opportunity to play three long campaign games during the summer via VASL and to attend as an observer a a few other played by my gaming group. This past summer I also read two tomes of the Pacific Crucible trilogy by Ian W. Toll. These are books that I cannot recommend more if you are interested in the topic, covering not just the military aspects but also the political and economic; the content is also well balanced, describing the internal situation at both sides (Japan and the Allies) with good level of depth.

The second major boardgaming project for next year is the Battles from the Age Reason (BAR)system, published by Clash of Arms.  This is a battalion level wargame covering most of the XVIII century period, from the Wars of Spanish Succession to the American War of Independence.

The system currently covers 10 battles, of which 3 is in the period of the Austrian Succession War (Fontenoy, Mollwitz, Chotusitz), 3 from the AWI (Monmoth, Brandywine and Germantown)  and 4 related to the SYW period ( Kolin, Lobositz, Prague and Zorndorf).

I have always been attracted by the period to play with miniatures, but I have been scared about the complexity of painting the uniforms of that age. The boardgame will hopefully allow me to recreate the period reallistically withouth having to make a major investment (and painting effort).  

One important dimension for me in the hobby is to study the history of the period. I have been doiung some research and bought a few interesting books, including a "classical" tome The Armies of Frederick the Great by the well known military historian Christopher Duffy. This is an out of print work but you can find second hand copies at very reasonable prices in eBay among other sites. Nonetheless, to get a high level and quick view of the period, I decided to buy the conrresponding Osprey book  about the conflict.

BAR is no a light set of rules. The system is very detailed in many aspects (from movement, to fire and close combat, to changes in formations) and takes into consideration the very different tactical features of each nation in conflict, as awell as specific factors affecting each battle within the system.

Some people argue that the level of complexity equals that of Advanced Squad Leader. It is no an easy system but it's far less complex than the ASL system. I am just getting myself introduced into the system through some videos in the YouTube channel of the Spanish wargamer celebrity Agustí Barrio, and reading the rules and the primer manual (available in pdf from the Wargames Vault site). 

Last but not least: Caesar- Rome vs Gaul. This is a recently released title by GMT Games by one of my favourite designers Mark Simonitch. The system is very similar to Hannibal Rome vs Carthage  This is

a pure card driven boardgame (very different to Empire of the Sun in all aspects), based on a system designed to be fairly asymmetrical at the beginning and the end of the game.

Caesar's campaigns in Gaul are very dear to me and no doubt I was going to be hooked by the game as soon as it was announced; a plus in my interest is of course the designer. For some reason copies of the game have not yet arrived to our local stores in Spain (or they arrived in limited numbers and flew away in just a few days) so I'm in a waiting list with my usual supplier of games.

As you can see an exciting wargaming year ahead. In addition to these three new sets, I plan to continue with my regular weekend ASL games on VASSAL. And if the pandemic allows it, I plan to return to my miniature games specially with Infamy!Infamy! and Chain of Command. It's a shame that I heavily playtested the former and when the book was finally released, the club was shutdown I haven't had the opportunity to display my minis yet!!!  

Tell me about your plans in 2021 in the comments section of this blog.







Friday, 11 December 2020

How (and Why) I Did Get Back to Squad Leader


If 2019 marked my return to boardgaming, 2020 marked a rendez-vous with my old friend Advanced Squad Leader (ASL). The image above is a photo of my venerable copy of the binder book acquired in the late 80s to the Avalon Hill Game Company incarnation pre-Hasbro.

I have had a sort of a love-hate relationship with this game over the yeas. Love, because I've always been attracted by tactical games in a Second World War context. Actually my very first wargame was Panzerblitz in 1980, and naturally I moved to the original Squad Leader (SL) system as soon as it was released.

Hate because, after gradually learning the different original SL modules, I went into shock with the ASL binder book: how on earth I was supposed to play a game whose rules book was closer to lawyer's manual than a typical wargame? 

Over time I decided to give up on the system; not much later, I discovered the world of miniature wargaming, first fantasy related games (Warhammer Fantasy), followed by Ancients, Napoleonics and finally Second World War.   Boardgames were abandoned and my hobby time was since then dedicated to researching, painting and collecting miniatures. 

So how and why the return? The how was simple: a dedicated group or boardgamers at the club invited me to join a Holland ´44 game last year and I got immediately hooked to it. The why even simpler: being Market Garden one of my favourite periods, I realized that boardgames were a superior and more efficient means to explore the campaign.

The COVID arrival and the long-enforced lockdown (from March to June) made the rest: with the club shutting down sine die and the impossibility of playing miniature games, my boardgame group planned a busy calendar of weekly VASSAL games, extending from Friday evenings to Sunday afternoons.

Longing for playing some tactical games, one of the members introduced us to ASL around May and almost eight months later I have become a proficient player of the game. True, I have invested a lot of time in playing the game (the only realistic way to learn the rules). But believe me if I tell you,  the monster is less fearsome that it may look at first glance, juts by planning a little bit your steps into the game and setting some realistic targets.

What follows are some of my personal lessons learnt, shared now with all of you potentially interested in the game.

1.  Find a sherpa

 ASL is one of the most popular wargames in the planet. Try finding someone in your gaming circle that already plays the game and train with him. For many of ASLers this game is like a religion and attracting new souls to the congregation is like a spiritual mission, they will never reject your call for help.

If you are unlucky enough to find a ASLers near you, then find online assistance in one of the many hundreds of ASL forums on Internet. There you'll find all kinds of support and advice for newbies.

2. Watch videos

Another silly advice. Browse YouTube and find introductory videos to the system. I cannot recommend any in English unfortunately because I was lucky enough to have a long series of introductory materials by one of Spain's most active and reputed wargame youtubers (Agustí Barrio). But I'm sure there are similar characters in every single language and specially in English.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Curt's XI Annual Painting Challenge Launched



You know the year is coming to an end when Curt from Analogue Hobbies releases the roll call for the Painting Annual Challenge. This is a very friendly international miniature painting contest hosted by Curt (a.k.a. The Snow Lord) and his lovely wife Sarah, with the help of a bunch of voluntary minions, extending through the bleak winter months.

You score points for each painted and based mini as well as get extra points completing a set of challenges. Last year, the challenges took a twist and we were all set to explore different dwellings in the mysterious Island X; and after a great success, this year (marking the 11th year of the contest) we are bound to explore the terrifying pits and dungeons below the Island is search of the Snow Lord's Altar.

Readers of this blog (if any left, as I have much neglected posting in 2020) may remember that I usually plan a core project for the Challenge: for example, last year was a German Blitzkrieg Army for Chain of Command... which incidentally was abandoned middle of the way for the lure of Ancient Romans and Gauls for Infamy! Infamy! 
For this year's Challenge my only plan is not a major new army. COVID and the lack of in-person games have deteriorated my appetite for painting minis. Therefore, I decided to search in my boxes and drawers, collecting the remnants of all those projects never completed over the years. 

I'm amazed about the huge number of long forgotten blisters, boxes and models that I had in store. Projects won't be a problem: Napoleonic Austrians and French, 2WW German Fallschirmjagers, British Red Devils, Ancient Romans, Gauls, Britons and Germanic tribes, Spanish Civil War International Brigades... and many, many vehicles of all sizes and periods, from ancient chariots to Vietnam-era helicopters.
I'll try to keep regular postings of my progress with the Challenge, starting on December 21st.  Hope also this marks a return o blogging, although I cannot promise much at this stage.


Friday, 31 January 2020

X Painting Challenge - Exploring Unchartered Territory

The rules of engagement of this year’s Challenge (marking the 10th Anniversary) have changed… and for good in my view. 

The main novelty is the contest to explore “Challenge Island”, in which participants are required to explore several key landmarks, across one the paths to the interior of the island, to reach the Snow Lord Peak in its centre (conveniently marked as the “X” of the island). You can read all the details here
Each landmark represents a special painting task for those brave enough to dare exploring this unchartered insular terrain in the middle of some unknown ocean. Incidentally, each landmark is named after some of the longer-standing challengers and I was honoured with one of the locations (Benito’s Brook”).
Today I have been studying the map in order to plot my adventure and considering the different tasks involved, I have concluded that my best way to reach the Snow Lord Peak is through the Path of History.
This path covers only 4 milestones, and I need a fifth to get access to the Snow Lod Peak; therefore, I’ll use the Sarah’s airmobile services at least twice, one to be transported to another landmark and after that to be airlifted to the presence of the Snow Lord.
As mentioned, this looks like we are going to have a lot of fun this year as, not me specially, but some of the contenders have already displayed in the past a significant level of creativity in their projects.
If you are reading this and you are a challenger, I wish you Bon Chance. If you are not, then I recommend staying tuned and to follow the Challenge daily because you are going to enjoy it a lot.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Clock's ticking to the 10th Painting Challenge

Madrid Puerta del Sol Tower Clock

I can hardly believe that 8 months have passed, and the new edition of the Painting Challenge is looming now sooooo close in time (it will start as usual on Dec 21st and hopefully it will be announced over the next days).
This year I entered into the planning phase at a very early stage (late September) and by now I have most of my core project for this Challenge almost ready (assembling, basing and priming).
As many of you may know, my strategy is to concentrate my efforts in one single project or army (Fallschirmjagers, Napoleonic Austrians or British Red Devils as in 2018/19…) and then complement with some leftovers from other projects.

This year I decided to focus my effort in building an early II World War German Army for the Blitzkrieg period. The reason for this is twofold: on the one hand, TooFatLardies released this year the first major supplement for Chain of Command centred around the France 40 campaign. The follow up videos uploaded to its YouTube official channel with Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner playing a few of the campaign games only light my desire.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Back to the Future or 2019 The Year I Returned to Tabletop Wargaming

It’s late October and I thought the right time to provide an update and y whereabouts. I just realised my last post is from May this year, some of you may wonder if I’m still life (which I am, as you can see). The truth is that I followed my own advice from late last year of “doing it as and when” and not getting worried of setting targets or goals to publish in the blog.
So what I’ve been up to? Well, I can say that it’s been of a back to the future of sorts year: very little playing with minis and a lot with tabletop wargames.
Fist a ittle bit of context and history Unlike many of the anglo-saxon wargamers, my first steps in the hobby were not with little toy soldiers or the Donald Featherson’s book (totally unknown in Spain the 70s) but with boxed wargames in the very early 80s.
Given my interest for history and particularly 2nd World War history, my late father found like the perfect Xmas gift for me in December 1980 in the form of wargame: Panzerblitz (followd soon after by the sister game Panzerleader). It was like a revelation from heaven and the start of my long standing interest in the hobby. I played with my brother and collected close to 30 Avalon Hill and Victory Games products.
In the mid 80s I was cofounder of Club Dragón in Madrid and my interests started to widen towards the games with minis, initially fantasy games (WFB) and very soon historical games in the Ancient and 2nd World War period.
Gradually I abandoned tabletop wargamers and haven’t literally again played a single game since AH went through the financial drain in the late 90s and was sold to Hasbro.
This has completely reversed this year. I coincided with a very active small group of wargamers that gather every Friday afternoon. Coincidentally, we have moved the office of my company from the suburbs to new premises centrally located and 10 minutes walking from the club in late January… so all stars aligned.