All I Want for Christmas (2015 edition)…
With the holidays upon us it is time once again for us to look at some goodies. This has been another great year for gaming and there are almost too many high quality releases especially on the miniatures front. Maybe not so surprising, there has been a lot of progress in the same systems as last year.
Below are just a few items you might want to add to your list…if you’ve been nice! ...
- Front Towards Enemy is Multi-Man Publishing’s upcoming tactical Vietnam boardgame. Looks interesting.
- Operation Mercury: The Invasion of Crete is another MMP title. This is in their grand tactical series with seven maps and over 1,000 counters. We’ve always found the battle of Crete an interesting topic.
- Star Wars Armada from Fantasy Flight Games is better than X-Wing in many ways. With the new Star Wars movie out very soon you’ll want to pick this up if you have not already.
- Heroes of Normandie from Devil Pig is 15mm miniature gaming as a board game. If you like WW2 tactical gaming this is a lot of fun. Don’t miss the computer version either. The new Shadows over Normandie adds even more variety. Fight through the hedgerows in just a couple of hours.
- Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth is actually not a bad game. It debuts the new HH plastic minis to boot. Worth a look if you like either. It remains to be seen if the game itself will have the legs of Space Hulk.
- Dropzone Commander continues to be an excellent game with great minis. It is almost impossible to beat the plastic starter sets. Hawk Wargames keeps making a great game better. And don’t miss the new 4Ground 10mm buildings either.
- Firestorm: Planetfall from Spartan Games gives a lot of the feel of Dropzone Commander but at a much faster pace and slightly grander scale.
- Dropfleet Commander funded on Kickstarter in a matter of minutes. It will ship in mid 2016 and is essentially a must get for any spaceship combat fan. Hawk’s twist is the game takes place in orbit over a planet instead of deep space. The miniatures look amazing.
- Halo Fleet Battles from Spartan Games is probably the best mass battle spaceship game out there. If you want to see 100 ships slugging it out look no further. The plastic minis are great.
- Deadzone is a unique take on sci-fi skirmish. A couple of Kickstarters have brought (and will bring) nice plastic minis to replace the restic. A new version will make a new game even better in 2016.
- Mercs 2nd Edition. Coming very soon along with the boardgame Mercs Recon. This should give the system a nice reboot.
- Infinity 3rd Edition saw Corvus Belli improve a good set of rules. Lots of new support and upcoming supplements will give players more of a good thing in 2016. We’ll also use this as an opportunity to mention 4Ground’s great new 28mm Jesserai sci-fi building range useful for any sci-fi system.
- Maelstrom’s Edge funded quickly on Kickstarter and should ship very soon. The minis seem ok but the real treat is going to be the rules. From the sound of it this could be THE ruleset for grand skirmish (~50 figs) sci-fi gaming. Moreover, it has great support with novels and audio books already available.
- Beyond the Gates of Antares beat MEdge to the starting gate. It probably has better minis — and now some core sets in plastic — but, while the rules are good (a derivative of Bolt Action), we’ll see if they can stand toe to toe with MEdge or not.
- World War Two gamers are not left out. Both Chain of Command and Bolt Action continue to be excellent skirmish games with great support. And Warlord keeps making great new plastic tanks. And of course 4Ground once again has you covered for buildings and Crescent Root Studio does even better.
- Modern gamers are being well taken cared for as well. Coming soon from TooFatLardies is Fighting Season a modern version of Chain of Command. Available now from Dish Dash are the new Skirmish Sanguin supplements with a new mini range coming soon. Osprey Publishing’s new Black Ops skirmish rules are quite nice as well if you are looking for a quick play set of rules. If you want modern miniatures don’t miss Empress Miniatures’ great 28mm line.
- Team Yankee might be the title we are most excited about. The Cold War is one of our favorite topics and an area that doesn’t get much wargame attention these days. We would have preferred 12mm but the new modern 15mm plastics from Battlefront look great. Battlefront is also releasing a range of modern era terrain as well. There has been a slight delay but we should see the first items in time for the holidays.
- Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Player’s Edition is certainly at the top of the list of computer wargames to check out. Excellent Cold War action and now with the new Germany Reforged expansion.
- Combat Mission: Black Sea gives you more modern warfare with the CM engine moving to a hypothetical conflict in the Ukraine. Available now.
- Space Hulk: Ascension will scratch the sci-fi corridor itch. It got a few nice updates this past year.
- XCOM2. Delayed but probably well worth the wait. This will burn away a few hours…ok days…in 2016. An all new version of the venerable sci-fi tactical game.
- Wars and Battles still has perhaps the worst name ever for a wargame but for the iPad it is still one of the best wargames to date. The past year has seen new campaigns added and 2016 will see more.
A Visit to 4Ground
TemplarsCrusade01 takes a visit to the 4Ground studios. This is a very interesting look behind the scenes at 4Ground and their excellent production of pre-painted laser cut terrain.
It has been a busy few months with lots of random progress.
I’ve been focusing the most on Dropzone Commander recently. I’ve finished my Scourge, except for some of the new units, and am making steady progress on the PHR. Up next is the UCM. Hawk Wargames continues to impress with their releases. Related items:
- The Frontline Gaming Hi-Tech Mat is very nice.
- 4Ground continues with its great 10mm releases. The latest District 1 Hab block units are much quicker to assemble than the District XII units that take a good 5-10 hours to complete. The new District 1 units do not have any window frames or headers with which to fiddle.
- Craig Gallant on one of the recent D6 Generation podcasts mentioned N-Scale Kato buildings from Japan. Well sure enough Amazon has a bunch of them with free shipping. They are perfect for Dropzone Commander. N scale is 12mm but because DzC units generally represent larger sized vehciles they fit just fine. Moreover the larger N-scale buildings are also quite passable for 15mm gaming. What is amazing about these things is they are priced the same or cheaper than 4Ground but come completely assembled and painted (well colored) — literally ready to go in minutes from the box! They are not weathered in any way and are mostly colored plastic not painted so they have a different look from the Hawk and 4Ground stuff. But they still mix in just fine and those wanting to spend some time on weathering will be well rewarded.
Speaking of 10mm games, Spartan Games’ Firestorm Planetfall miniatures are starting to become generally available including the new Leviathans. Compared to Dropzone Commander the miniatures are probably lacking but the comparison may not necessarily be fair. Spartan has gone for a simpler, chunkier look and the models generally have much more mass than Hawk’s. The surface detail is amazing but they opted for simpler models so you do not get the overall complexity of shape or ultra-fine detail as you do with Hawk. The Planetfall infantry are quite nice and have a unique basing design. But they also seem closer to 12mm but one can argue they are in powered armor so should be larger. Yet there is no doubt they look quite nice and give further uses for those now collecting 10mm terrain.
I got distracted by some of the very nice 15mm sci-fi miniatures being done by Khurasan Miniatures. Specifically the new Zantin Reconquest line and the new units for the Nova Respublik Crimson Army. The GOTA line replaces the NAC as my favorite sci-fi 15mm infantry (with the Arc Fleet Heavy Infantry from Critical Mass Games a close second). Also new was the Kickstarter from ACP Games with their new Vanir dropship. They also included a good deal on their existing line of units along with a new Humvee-esque vehicle. Looks like our Gruntz rules will see some action soon.
28mm Sci-Fi and Modern
Not to be left out, I’ve at least been looking at my Deadzone Enforcers sittting on my table needing paint. I’ve made some progress on assembling the new hard plastic Enforcers as well. These are light years better than the restic stuff but still mix in just fine. The Anvil Industry Kickstarter has still not arrived so I was spared that distraction only to have the Beasts of War show off some 28mm modern vehicles from Empress Miniatures. These look really amazing. That motivated me to finish up an old 28mm Antenociti APC that is unfortunately no longer available. Squirrel!
Star Wars: Armada
Last but not least Fantasy Flight Games released Star Wars: Armada after an extended delay due to dock strikes. The game was worth the wait and offers a fun but fast starship combat game. It won’t replace Firestorm Armada but for those who love Star Wars or simply do not want to paint it is certainly a great option. Speaking of painting, while the capital ships in the game come painted just as nicely as the X-Wing miniatures the small fighters are just colored plastic. After seeing Steven MacLauchlan and other folks paint theirs I had to take a crack as well. In just a few hours you have some nicely painted fighters that reward the effort.
- Outpost Zero has some nice battle reports: The Outpost, Gunnery 180, Hyperspace Assault
All I want for Christmas…
With the holidays upon us it might not be a bad time to look at some goodies. This has been an especially good year for gaming and the recent months have seen some very high quality releases. Below are just a few items you might want to add to your list…if you’ve been nice! . .
- Star Borders: Humanity 2ed and Star Borders: Aliens are two notable sci-fi titles from Victory Point Games. Surprisingly high-quality components and a quick playing but engaging game system make for a real win. Best of all is that there is more to come.
- Star Wars Armada from Fantasy Flight Games looks like it could be more fun than X-Wing.
- Galaxy Defenders may seem a bit odd but it is a nice co-op/solitaire sci-fi tactical game. Take a little XCOM and a dash of Men in Black and have some fun saving the world. Very nice components.
- Heroes of Normandie from Devil Pig is 15mm miniature gaming as a board game. Tons of options available with even more coming. Fight through the hedgerows in just a couple of hours.
- Dropzone Commander is almost impossible to beat with its new plastic starter sets. Hawk Wargames keeps making a great game better. And don’t miss the new 4Ground 10mm buildings either.
- Deadzone is a unique take on sci-fi skirmish. Mantic’s minis require some effort but the game play is worth it. And you certainly don’t want to miss the Battlezones terrain good for any sci-fi game.
- Infinity 3rd Edition made a splash when Corvus Belli released the Operation: Icestorm starter box. The new rules are due out mid-December 2014.
- World War Two gamers are not left out. Both Chain of Command and Bolt Action are excellent skirmish games and the new plastic tanks form Warlord Games are a must. And of course 4Ground once again has you covered for buildings and Crescent Root Studio does even better.
- Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Player’s Edition is certainly at the top of the list of computer wargames to check out. Excellent Cold War action.
- Combat Mission: Black Sea gives you more modern warfare with the CM engine moving to a hypothetical conflict in the Ukraine. Available for pre-order.
- Space Hulk: Ascension will scratch the sci-fi corridor itch. Who doesn’t want to give Genestealers a special present?
- XCOM Long War. Thought you were tired of XCOM? Think again. The Long War mod adds a huge host of improvements to the venerable sci-fi tactical game.
- War in the West is out now and could be Grigsby’s finest. Refight the campaigns in the West on a grand scale. Can you do better?
- Wars and Battles is perhaps the worst name ever for a wargame but for the iPad it is one of the best wargames to date.
4Ground – Cafe Gondree
For the D-Day 70th Anniversary 4Ground released a number of new pieces. The famous Café Gondrée from Pegasus Bridge fame was one of them. As usual 4Ground did the pieces in 15mm, 20mm and 28mm. We picked up the 15mm and 28mm models. 4Ground keeps getting better and better with their quality but Café Gondrée must be their finest piece yet. It doesn’t have the level of internal detail that some of their other buildings have but the external detailing is simply amazing at both scales.
Assembly was very easy for both models but very time consuming. It’s probably at least a couple of hours for each one. Much of the detailing is delicate, especially in 15mm, so extra care is needed. There are a couple of minor misfits on the 15mm model that will need a couple of cuts and at least one mistake in the instructions. As usual the pieces come out of the frames with almost no cleanup needed. Also refer to historic photos to get the chimney placements correct.
Below are the two scales together for comparison and the open view of the 28mm model.
Also see our 4Ground Building Review.
Sci-Fi Terrain — Buildings
One thing every gamer needs is lots of good terrain. Nice looking terrain enhances the play experience and plentiful, well placed terrain increases tactical options. This is especially the case for skirmish and small scale games. Games like Mercs, Deadzone, Infinity and others all come alive with good board layouts. Luckily producing good terrain, specifically buildings, is easier than ever.
There are four primary types of materials used to make model buildings: resin, hardfoam (a form of resin), laser cut wood (or plastic) and injection molded plastic. Each material has its advantageous and disadvantages.
- Resin – Probably the most common resin buildings are those produced by Gale Force 9 in their Battlefield in a Box line. These have the advantage of being highly detailed, pre-painted and ready to go right out of the box. They are moderate in weight and slightly fragile. Depending on the scale and environment you are trying to represent the Gothic line or even the historical Flames of War line are useful.
- Hardfoam – The most numerous options for hardfoam buildings and terrain come from Micro Art Studio. Hardfoam is quite detailed and easy to paint. It is also light but somewhat fragile. Its biggest disadvantage is that it is solid so hardfoam buildings almost never have an interior and models cannot be placed under them either. This of course limits their use in certain situations.
- Laser cut – Laser cut wood (plywood, MDF, etc) as well as newer PVC products are perhaps where the gamers’ options have recently really started to increase. Manufacturers have gotten better and better with designs and choice has grown considerably. Laser cut buildings have the advantage of variety in design, detailed accessible interiors and complex layouts. They are also generally quite durable. Their big disadvantages are that they need to be painted well to really look good and often lack sufficient surface detail. The process itself also limits designs to a certain degree. 4Ground really set things on fire with their pre-painted line of buildings. They only have historical buildings at the moment but have announced a sci-fi line is coming soon. Crescent Root Studio has perhaps done even better but so far has no sci-fi options. Manufacturers we particularly like are Warsenal, Underground Lasers, Micro Art Studio, Systema Gaming and Spartan Scenics.
- Injection Molded Plastic – The nirvana of gaming building material is perhaps injection molded plastic. It is relatively cheap, has high detail, is easy to work with and easy paint. It is also light and reasonably durable. Its main disadvantage is basically choice. Until recently Games Workshop had the only really useful line of plastic buildings available, but of course you were stuck with the Gothic look. With the arrival of Mantic’s Deadzone a whole new line of Battlezones were also created. The Battlezone line is comprised of a variety of pieces based on a 3 inch square. Gamers can assemble them in almost infinite ways to create buildings and environments that suit their needs. Certainly future options will help break away from the cube to create even better variety.
Of course even great buildings need to sit on something. Thanks to recent technologies the old grass mat is no longer needed. Certainly gamers can use foam board and other materials to create detailed urban battlefields but far easier, cheaper and more portable options (and more practical for actual gaming) are the new gaming tiles and mats. This was perhaps started in concept by Games Workshop with their Citadel Realm of Battle Gameboards but they never took the line anywhere to its full potential. It took Secret Weapon Miniatures to produce its upcoming Tablescapes line to start to unlock the varied options of plastic molded gaming boards. Tablescapes are one foot square injection molded plastic tiles in a variety of designs. What is great about them is that because they are plastic it is very easy for gamers to glue them together and use regular modeling techniques to create custom sizes that fit their needs. Or one can simply leave them as individual tiles for maximum flexibility.
Of course plastic tiles still have to be painted and stored. An even easier and quicker solution is the new gaming mats produced on the rubberized ‘mouse pad’ material. Probably the first to produce a variety of both 4’x4′ and 4’x6′ mats was Frontline Gaming with their FAT Mat Mega Mats. These give a great looking surface on which to place buildings and terrain but are also flat and smooth for easy gaming. Mantic produces a similar Deadzone mat and now Micro Art Studio probably has the ultimate urban mat with its new District 5 mat. What is unique about District 5 is that it has a geomorphic design so multiple mats can be placed together to create varied urban layouts.
Lastly we should also mention Hawk Wargames’ Cityscape and Ruinscape line of urban tiles. They are designed for 10mm gaming but easily used for 15mm or even in 28mm as sidewalks. The ‘scapes are full-color cardboard tiles you can layout to create varied cityscapes. Keep them loose for variety and flexibility or glue them to board and enhance as needed for an even better look.
There has never been a better time to fight in the city. So go grab some buildings and storm the gates!
15mm Mechs from Critical Mass Games
With some of the new mech games out like Titanfall we’ve gotten into the mech mood. Obviously the tabletop gaming environment gives far greater variety of engagements limited only by your imagination and, well, miniatures.
To help set some background The Art of Titanfall is a great place to start even if you never plan on playing the game. Likewise the Titanfall: Prima Official Game Guide is also flled with nice art (a lot from the Art book but not all) and looks at the battlefields. If you like graphic novels Hawken Genesis is an interesting story but lacks in mech action. Speaking of Hawken, a nice filler game is the Hawken Real-Time Card Game. It is a fun card game that plays in about 15min. There are two sets out so far that can be combined.
Certainly 6mm with Battletech may be the first thing some think of for mech gaming. But the computer games offer a more personal look so we wanted something with a bit more presence so went looking for 15mm options. The most obvious choice is Critical Mass Games. They have a number of 15mm mech options now and even a new ‘mecha workshop‘ that lets you buy bits to customize your mechs to your own tastes.
Below we have pictures of some of the Critical Mass Games’ mechs. From left to right is the Imperator, Arc Fleet Support Combat Walker, Blackguard, Ravager and Predator Assault Suit. [Note: We used alternate weapon options on the Blackguard and Ravager] They have a number of other models as well within those lines. The Imperator is the big boy of the bunch. We easily magnetized the waist and arms on the Imperator and the torsos on the others. As you can see the various mechs scale well with each other giving you large, medium and battlesuit options along with gun and jumping close assault mechs. Add in the mecha workshop and you can really create a force to your specifications.
But if you are wanting that Titanfall aesthetic have no fear, the new Flytrap mechs fit the bill. The Warfighter Epoch line currently offers three different mech designs along with pilot/troop figs. Unlike CMG these are all metal models. The metal is quite soft as are the details. They are very fiddly to put together and need to be pinned but once complete are nice. The arms and legs are the same on all three models with only the torso unique. Size wise they are sort of in between the Blackguard/Ravager and the Assault Suit.
For rules we are going to try Gruntz and Strike Legion (and if you haven’t seen it yet the new Strike Legion v1.5 Compilation is great) but there are other mech specific rules coming out soon as well that will be worth a try.
Chain of Command in 15mm
We finally had a chance to get in some games of Chain of Command from TooFatLardies. Because we are still painting up our 28mm forces — and because we have tons of 15mm Flames of War forces — we decided to try it in 15mm. It not only worked just fine but looked great at that scale. Two issues came up using FoW-based figures: First, tracking casualties was a bit cumbersome. We later came up with the idea of using colored bases under the FoW bases that would denote the number of casualties off the stand. This would probably work just fine. The second issue was a positive one; because Chain of Command is very team focused using the standard two FoW infantry stands per squad works out just fine and makes movement and placement generally clear. You of course do lose a bit of placement flexibility but this is generally not a big problem but visually can be odd at times (such as when moving down a road or along a hedgerow).
But we liked how that worked so much we went ahead and based up some 15mm figures individually. We used custom plywood bases from Litko. General troops went on 15mm round bases, heavy weapon and crew got 15mm square bases and we put junior leaders on 15mm hexagon bases. Senior leaders, with two figures per base, went on 20mm hexagon bases and 20mm square fit well for weapon teams such as Bazookas, snipers and observers. Mortars and MG’s we placed on 1″x1.5″ bases (standard FoW small base). Not shown in the photos below are the colored bands applied to the back of each base to denote squad affiliation. This all worked out very well. The different base shapes makes it easier to pick out different troops with the smaller figures. Another idea could be to base troops on 20mm bases and use some of the excess space to add color for easier identification and spotting. You could also use the different base shapes for different squads as well.
With individually based figures casualties are easy to remove as is moving troops between teams and breaking off troops. You can also place the figures exactly where you want them. The only real downside to the individually based figures is that they are a bit fiddly to move around and on a nice table can actually be hard to see. But with the low unit count in CoC this really was not an issue.
While we have not tried it yet I think a combination of the above two approaches could be ideal. Start out with the regular FoW-based figures and as casualties are taken or units broken off convert them to the individually based figures. One could easily make unit trays as well for the individually based figures.
In the photos below you’ll see some of the American Late War Armored Rifle platoon figures (all Battlefront miniatures in this case). The fields with walls terrain piece is from Crescent Root. Buildings are from Crescent Root, JR and Landmark.
Overall we really enjoyed Chain of Command. If you like WW2 skirmish games give it a shot and don’t worry too much about scale and basing. Basing really doesn’t matter that much so just go with what you have or your preference.
Flames of War – Fate of a Nation
Battlefront released its first Middle East module for Flames of War. Fate of a Nation comes as a free supplement with Wargames Illustrated Issue 312
Fate Of A Nation:
Arab-Israeli Wars, Six-Day War, 1967
On 5 June, 1967, Israel surprised the Arab forces massing on its borders with a pre-emptive strike. By the end of the day a hundred thousand soldiers and several thousand tanks were locked in battle — a struggle that would decide the fate of Israel.
Both sides had spent a decade preparing for this titanic struggle. Both sides acquired every modern tank they could, and upgraded those they retained from earlier wars. The opening battles saw more tanks in combat than the famous Battle of Prokhorovka between the Germans and Soviets near Kursk in 1943. The clash was swift and brutal. Within days a thousand wrecked tanks littered the battlefields and Israel was victorious..
There a number of supporting release for Fate of a Nation with certainly many more on the way. Here are some of the highlights:
Of course Battlefront is not the only option for Middle East miniatures. Most notably Khurasan Miniatures have a very nice range of both vehicles and infantry with more on the way. We’ll have a comparison between Battlefront and Khurasan soon.
Napoleon!! – Update
It has been awhile since we looked at what is new in the Napoleonic realm. Since our last post there have been a number of new goodies released and we even discovered some old ones.
Perhaps most recent is Columbia Games’ new Napoleon 4th Edition block game fresh off its Kickstarter. Napoleon is a classic game that is now better than ever. Also from Columbia is their Eagles: Waterloo 1815 card game. We finally got a chance to try this and really like it. It takes a couple of plays to get comfortable with but is a quick playing game that gives a nice feel of Napoleonic warfare and the cards are very nicely illustrated. We wish they would expand the game with more battles. Annoyingly Columbia has not posted the full rules, but check BoardgameGeek for a nice rules summary.
Another classic game we got to the table is Age of Napoleon 2nd Edition. If you want a grand strategic game for two that you can play in one sitting this is a good choice.
GMT Games has been busy and put out the Russian forces for their excellent Commands & Colors: Napoleonics system. Either the Prussians or Austrians will be next. They also released Fading Glory: Napoleonic Series 20, which is a package of four small games previously done by VPG. They are small games that are fun and quick to play. We look forward to the next set.
Warlord Games released two Napoleonic expansions to their Black Powder miniature rules: Albion Triumphant Volume 1 – The Peninsular campaign and Albion Triumphant Volume 2 – The Hundred Days campaign should keep fans of Black Powder busy for awhile. As always the books are also useful to players of many other game systems.
Another very recent addition is 2HourWargames’ new Muskets and Shakos rules. This is a 65-page ruleset covering the period of 1803-1815 at division level.
Computer gamers are in luck as well. Matrix Games released the excellent Napoleon’s Campaigns game. It takes a bit of time to learn but has a nice tutorial and manual and your time spent will be rewarded with a challenging game.
That should be enough to keep your inner conqueror busy for awhile.
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