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Xenophon's Ghost covers military history and wargaming from the ancient period to modern times.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WWII & Napoleon

Having considered my next project options, I compromised.  I bought the Blitzkrieg Commander II rules (ebook version) and deciding to move forward with 15mm single-row based DBN armies - Austrian and French.

My rationale was simple: I had a box full of Nap figures primed and ready to paint, so I resisted the temptation to keep them in the box and buy a lot of WWII miniatures instead.  I was also encouraged by the continuing sale of Essex Miniatures at 50 percent off at the www.wargamesminis.com webstore.  I was planning to buy some hoplites to complete an Arcananian Army for DBA, so buying the Napoleonic figures was a good deal in terms of shipping.  I now have plenty of figures to paint for several months.

As discovered through my comparison of 15MM and 10MM figures, I won't be able to reuse every DBN stand for Lasalle later on, but the difference is minor.  When I buy the final batch of Napoleonic's from another webstore, I'm going to buy a batch of WWII 10MM figures, too.  I might even buy a sample of 6MM for comparison sake.

Another reason that I decided to hold off on WWII miniatures purchases is the VAST range of options, in terms of theater, campaign, and army for this war.  Working on an overseas Army post, I am fortunate that the library has a great military history section, particularly for WWII.  The contrast in the availability of reference material for classical armies, Napoleonic armies, and WWII is stark.

Having started out with an AWI and Napoleonic armies, I easily found reliable material on uniforms (down to button color) and order of battle on the internet and in the county library back in the USA.  I bought a few books that provided solid reference material for my painting efforts, allowing me to paint figures for specific regiments.

In trying to finish a double-row based armies for Lasalle, I ran out of steam with the painting and realization that I wouldn't field two armies for a year or longer given my available hobby time. Discovering the WADBAG Unofficial Guide to DBA turned me on to the Ancients period, and I have had a fun year cranking out multiple armies and actually playing games.  However, the lack of reliable information on many of the Classical/Hellenistic armies in terms of uniform design and colors was both liberating and discomforting compared to Napoleonics.  The DBA lists kept me out of order of battle research, thankfully.  My reading of Xenophon and Herodotus certainly indicate that orders of battle are not very precise in the source material...

With WWII, the material even in our small library is overwhelming.  The BKC Army Lists provide numerous options in terms of armored vehicles and infantry forces.  I will want to focus my initial forces around historical units, so I have some reading ahead of me.  Simply choosing a theater will be a chore!  When painting begins, I won't be short of reference material, that is for sure.  I'm leaning toward Tunisia 1943, but I wouldn't be able to reuse the Germans for the European theater due to the paint scheme.  I picked up "An Army at Dawn" by Rick Atkinson to learn more about the Tunisia campaign.

I will post a Blitzkrieg Commander II review in the future.  For now, let me say that I am very impressed with the rules design, clarity, and integration of the game concepts.  The game appears to have the balance of command and control and combat just right for the intended force echelon.  I have been lurking on the DBA Yahoo Group and watching the debate on DBA rules clarity for months now, so BKC II was a joy to read. The game site is: http://www.specialist-military-publishing.co.uk.

My last post garnered some great comments, thanks readers!  I will share my thoughts in future posts on both the AWI rules and ideas for Army/Corps operations that seem to be lacking in games I have reviewed thus far.  As a teaser...

At the Army/Corps level, logistics, intelligence, and leadership of other leaders are important factors in warfare - can these operational level factors be represented in a miniatures game while keeping it fun?  Using terrain at a larger scale, focusing on the next terrain features more than the current battleground, is also a decision factor.  Can a game depict operations at the operational level successfully?  There are plenty of smaller scale games and theater level campaign systems out there - what about the middle level of warfare?

Finally, I have been thinking about ways to design rules that include features appealing to younger gamers and that teach military history (beyond button colors!) through the gaming process.  My draft AWI rules are an attempt at this goal.  Maybe it is a Quixotic effort, but I would like to see younger gamers get involved more in the historical miniatures hobby, not just in Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Next Project

As my Macedonian/Hellenistic Morph army winds down, I am contemplating a few new projects.   The  first priority will be improving my terrain collection.  After that, I need to make a decision on what is next.

DBA 3.0

I could start painting up a Persian army for DBA, but I am a wee nervous about changes to the Army lists until DBA 3.0 is finalized.

I could return to my DBN project. After analyzing the costs and doing a test painting run, I was leaning heavily toward a switch to 10mm.  I'm not so sure now.  I have sunk money and time into 15mm Austrians double row-based for Lasalle and already bought a batch of additional French and Austrian troops.  I may go with single row-based elements for DBN.  In theory, I can use them for Lasalle as well.  With rebasing and some more paint work, I could have single row DBN armies assembed pretty quickly. Ignoring sunk costs (time/money) the switch to 10mm makes sense, particularly for the aesthetic value.  However, it is hard to rationally ignore completed 15mm elements... One reason I am considering this compromise, even though I like the look of double row bases, is a new interest  (really a revived old one) - WWII.

Blitzkrieg Commander II
When I first started down the wargaming path, I stumbled across Flames of War when buying some collectible cards for my son at a hobby store.  In running the cost numbers, I started looking at other options that didn't involve a huge investment, settling on AWI.  (I definitely didn't appreciate the addictive nature of the hobby regardless of era...).  Having read several rules reviews and blog accounts, I'm considering purchasing BKC II and giving it a go.  I would go with 10mm or possibly 6mm for this WWII game.  On all accounts, the rules are well written and fun.

Ideas for an Army-level Game
I remain intrigued on the idea of wargaming at the army/corps level.  I have yet to find any miniatures game that simulates the decision making of an army or corps commander-decisions about logistics and intelligence as well as maneuver operations.  I have an idea for such a ruleset. I could reuse miniatures for BKCII for testing the Army-level rules.

Working on my AWI rules
I have a nearly complete set of rules for AWI that have been tested locally.  I would like to be able to share them and possibly publish them once I return to the States.  I need experienced gamers to test the rules, though.  The rules incorporate innovative ideas about leadership and unit capabilities that seem to appeal to younger (teenage) gamers.  I am interested in promoting the next generation's involvement in historical gaming.

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy recently got me interested in HOTT, but I think that idea has passed for the moment.  The rules look fun, though, and my son Ryan seems interested.

Choices, Choices!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Successor Test Drive

I finally primed up the last batch of figures for my Hellenistic morph collection despite the low temps and wind.  Living in a high-rise apartment makes some hobby tasks harder: I took the models out to the Han River park to prime up.  The group consists of four elephants and two scythed chariots.  I will use one of the chariots for the morph and save the other for a future Persian army.

I also have a batch of Auxilia that just needs ground cover on the bases.  I carried the Auxilia with me on a trip to the States.  This is the first time that I have carried along a painting project, and it was worth it.  I also used Essex miniatures labeled as "Assorted Hoplites with Pilum" to create imitation Legionnaires to use with the Ptolemaic and Seleucid lists.  With jet lag waking me up at 3 am, I had plenty of painting time!

I am also painting more Pikes, Cavalry, and Camels.  Although I plan to use the elements to morph numerous Hellenistic armies, I am painting the last batch of Pike and Cav as Seleucids.  When complete, I will be able to field any two enemy armies from the various successor states as well as the Alexandrian armies.  I suspect that the collection might also work for other games like DBMM or Field of Glory.


My son Ryan was interested in playing DBA tonight, so we fielded the partially painted Elephants to try them out.  Ryan fought with the Lysimachid (II/17b) army.  He deployed all but two elements in one large group, keeping two Psiloi back to guard his camp.


I tried out the Kassandros Army, placing all elements but my Knight General and Cavalry in a group.  I played the defender.

 We used the 2.2 rules and the draft army lists for 3.0.  Since we had not played 2.2 in a while, we reviewed the quick kill situations before starting.  The armies present several interesting quick kills.  Ryan had many elements that could quick kill my Elephant and Knight General.  I initially deployed the Elephant near my Pikes, but I rotated the element to face off with Ryan's Knight General.  I was a little nervous about his Light Horse going after the Elephant, but he decided to use it for a swift attack on my camp.

The two main groups moved to contact, and I killed his General on the first round of fighting with my Elephant.  We decided to count it as two lost and continue playing.  Two turns later, I flanked his Elephant with mine and managed to kill it.

Ryan's turn was uneventful.  He rolled low PIPs and used them to attack my camp.  The Light Horse recoiled.  On my next turn, I moved my Elephant forward, forcing the Pikes to turn to face the attacker.
With Auxilia on the flank and no luck on the dice, Ryan lost the Pikes and the battle.

Shout Out

I recently met a very experienced player, Jeff, who lives in Seoul.  We played several games, and Jeff patiently taught me the finer points of DBA 2.2.  I credit that gaming session with my attention to the deployment in this game.  Ryan is very competitive, so I suspect he, too, will look for a good deployment approach when we next pit a few miniature armies against each other.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


While flying on my latest work trip, I tried out an iPad app called Hexmap.  I used the free version, creating a DBA board and armies using the tokens available.  The app appears useful for such games as well as for campaign maps.

The gray squares mark the corners of the board.  The green hexs are woods; the pink hexs are hills.
The app allows you to turn on a hex or square grid pattern or set it to clear.  I used the grid for arranging the terrain and then turned it off.  There are several backgrounds available.  The only annoying feature is the fact that the terrain cannot be saved into a different layer, which would prevent it from being accidently moved.

I'm making good progress on my Hellenistic morph army.  I will post updates on the projects and a few game reports soon.