The Jug Seller is in Business

So, a quick paint job and Achmed the Jug Seller is in business. This stuff is a bit boring so I didn’t bother with a step by step photo record, suffice to say that I gave the whole thing a pinkish undercoat and then worked up from there with a mixture of household emulsion paints including stone grey which I mixed with some brown acrylic to provide the base, then blended in some sand yellow and dry brushed up with stone grey and then finally stone grey mixed with white to get some highlights.

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The base was then covered in PVA and sand added. Once that was done I painted that a mix of brown and stone grey before dry brushing it with sand and then more stone grey and fionally stone grey and white. I left the ground a little darker than the walls.

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Finally it was a simple job to make the doors. These are a base of artists mounting board cut to size and then cereal packet stuck on top with PVA glue. I then painted this with a brown acrylic and, once dry, I dry brushed with the ubiquitous stone grey. Job done.
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All in all a very simple conversion project based on the Renedra model, but one which I think will add a lot to my small village. I was going to add a vegetable garden inside the compound, but I have decided to make a drop in garden piece for this as the compound is flexible as it stands and can be used for many purposes. I have yetto paint the rather nice jugs and pots that came with the kit, but Achmed already has a few with him.
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Deep Fried Lard – Saturday 13th June

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William Wallce once said (in a film) “Every man dies, not every man really lives” and what is certain is that you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten deep fried haggis in the Rainbow Restaurant in Musselburgh. Clarkie enjoyed it so much last year that this June he’s heading north again for a second helping. To make things even better, he’s combining this culinary festival of flavours with a day of wargaming fun at Deep Fried Lard III where a feast of wargaming fun will be on offer as we gather the clan Lard. Many of our rule sets, old, new and forthcoming, will be on offer including Chain of Command, Dux Britanniarum, Charlie Don’t Surf, General Bonaparte, Bag the Hun, Kiss Me Hardy and Red Dawn (she’s a lovely girl), as well as the usual jollity with beer and curry being on the menu in measures only considered normal north of the wall.

Deep Fried Lard III takes palce on Saturday the 13th of June at Musselburgh just outside Edinburgh, with the gaming kicking off at around 0930 and running through to 1700. For those that would like we are also continuing into the evening with the social aspect of the day, meeting for drinks in one of Scotland’s premier real ale establishments and then on for dinner at a local curry house. We do have a small number of places still available which we will be allocating on a first come, first served basis. If you’d like to attend or would like to hear more about what’s on offer then contact the Lard Entertainments Manager for Scotland, Wee Derek, whose email is derek@hodgenet.co.uk Why not join us for a truly memorable day at Deep Fried Lard III?

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The Jug Seller’s House

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“And there’s a great set of jugs in there!” said the salesman with glee and, if I’m honest, I couldn’t say no. At that point money changed hands and the Renedra Mud-Brick house in hard plastic with additional extras pack (including aforementioned jugs) was mine. As regular readers of this blog will be aware, I have aspirations to own my own Afghan village and this model looked like a great addition. However, never one to use things “off the peg” I decided that I would have a dabble with doing a minor bit of amending in order to make this into something a bit different. In my mind, I knew that I wanted to fill out the village centre a bit. I had the small row of shops, but I wanted something to add to that which would combine residential with retail so the centre of the village could merge seemlessly with the residential compounds.

The first step was to knock up the model. Here is used the four walls, the roof and the stairs to the side. I intentionally left off the short sections of wall which come with the model as my intention was to add my own walled compound. I used dense blue polystyrene for these new walls, much top my joy I found an off-cut which was almost the perfect size so I didn’t need to mess about doing much sawing and other nonsense. I just trimmed the wall sections to the right height and then stuck them in place with a hot glue gun.

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The plan was to put small vegetable garden in the compound, but even so the area looked a bit open and featureless to me, so I used one of the small wall sections which I had not used to create a small area where I would put a large pile of rubbish to clutter the whole thing up a bit.

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Next I added an area outside the compound which would be used to display the jug seller’s wares. This shelter was in the additional extras pack which on reflection may not be very robust. In the past I have made awnings for my North African buildings by drilling into the base board and glueing cocktail sticks in place before making the awning from paper tissue soaked in PVA. You can see a snap here…

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This Renedra model will, I fear, not have the same robustness for storage, but I can always replace this using my tried and tested method if one breaks. For now, it provides Achmed and his impressive jugs with shelter from the sun, and that’s fine.

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I then used the hot glue gun to fill in any gaps. This is a real time saver and a cheat, I just gun the glue on and then run my finger under a cold tap before smoothing the glue flat. I’m sure the Lard Island Health and Saftey officer would have kittens at this method, so DO NOT DO THIS AT HOME. But it works great!

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With the model essentially done, I trimmed the top of the walls with a sharp knife to get rid of the regular appearance and then used a mix of polyfiller, PVA glue and sand to paint on the walls. I’d normally use tile grout but I have run out and I honestly could not be bothered to drive to Homebase. I also bought the wrong type of polyfiller when doing some DIY and thought I may as well use it up. Lets face it, any old rubbish will do the job.
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I was going to fill in some of the gaps in the Renedra model carefully with green stuff but, ultimately, I couldn’t be bothered and just slapped on this gloop. At the end of the day we shall see what it looks like when it is dry. What should happen is that the polystyrene and the hard plastic should at least marry together well visually as thye have the same gloop on them.

This will need to dry overnight, but tomorrow I will be painting this up and then Nick and I have a day of gaming planned on Wednesday (with a full step by step report to be published here) by which time the Achmed the jug seller should be in business. Here is how his little business will fit in with the existing high tech shopping mall. Ahem.

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Fighting Season – Contact!

For some time I’ve been wanting to put a game of Fighting Season on Lard Island News, yet somehow all sorts of things had conspired to stop Nick and I getting together for a game. That is until now. We thought that to demonstrate the rules it would be a good diea to keep things simple, so we fielded a reduced platoon, a “multiple” of two British sections under the platoon headquarters and supported that with an off-table Fire Support Group armed with a 0.50 calibre HMG and a sniper team dedicated to support this action. The British objective was to do some human terrain mapping at the start of their tour; making contact with the local population and attempting to glean any useful information, so to that end they took an interpreter with them. Facing them was a relatively small insurgent force made up of three rifle/LMG teams, one belt fed machine gun team and two RPG teams. To support them they had two IEDs triggered by pressure plates and a sniper. The game was set in the Green Zone in Helmand province.

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The game began with the patrol phase, the system being the same as in the WWII rules and ended with the British gaining a real advantage getting a foothold in Compound 31, somewhere they could deploy to and form a good base of fire off which to manoeuvre. Meanwhile, the insurgents were able to spread themselves on a broader front, so in many respects it was a phase which left both players not unhappy. Here’s the positions of the patrol markers…

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…and here are the jump-off points.

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The game began with the British rolling 55441 and deciding to do nothing other than add +2 to their Chain of Command total. This was followed by the insurgents rolling 65433, a decent roll, but with no British on the table they decided to keep their powder dry and sit tight. As a force of local insurgents they knew the ground well and had begun the game with a full Chain of Command dice plus a further two points to reflect this. So now they were half way to a second full dice, handy indeed.

In phase 3 the British player rolled 65221 and deployed his first section into compound 31. It is worth saying here that better comms mean that a single 6 adds one point to the Chain of Command total so is no longer a “wasted” roll for the coalition player.

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Phase 4 saw the insurgents roll 64421. However, at this stage they were playing a waiting game anyway, so nothing lost.

Phase 5 was a coaltion roll of 54331 and saw section 1 move onto the roof of compound 31 and go onto overwatch while section 2 deployed into the compound, ready to manoeuvre forwards.

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In Phase 6 the insurgents rolled 64441, not ideal as they have just one senior leader and one junior leader, but they did deploy a sniper who missed but caused two shock on his target unit. The British, despite being on overwatch, failed to identify his position.

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Phase 7 saw the coalition roll 64321, a great roll. The Lieutenant deployed with his radio operator and put section 1 on enhanced overwatch, ready to deal with any insurgents who poppoed up. Section 2 puts their Delta Team on overwatch and then moved the Charlie Team out of the gate, triggering a minor IED which they failed to spot or identify with their Barma drills. It was a dud device, but caused two points of shock and stopped their movement for the phase. Number 1 section’s Corporal rallied the shock off his men as they watched out for the sniper.

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Phase 8 the insurgents rolled 54221, deploying their Senior Leader with the belt fed MMG and a teamn of riflemen/LMG. Seven hits resulted in four shock over the two teams in Number 2 section.

In Phase 9 the British rolled 65542 adding three points to their Chain of Command dice. The Lieutenant rallied shock off Number 2 section and pulled them back into the compound, slamming the hefty gate shut as they withdrew.

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Phase 10 saw an insurgent roll of 65543 and they senior leader began withdrawing the rifle team into the orchard from where he planned to withdraw them from the action, slipping away to re-emerge later.

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Phase 11 saw the British roll 43221. On the 1 the FSG were contacted and the 0.50 cal was asked to brass up the insurgents making for the orchard. The gunner had eyes on and sent a well aimed streal of heavy rounds to kill two men and add two shock. With that, Number 2 section opened the gate and Delta Team opened up, killing a further two men, pinning that team, and wounding the Senior Insurgent Leader. The insurgent force morale, so high at the outset, dropped to 9. The insurgent belt fed MG broke and fled at that point and the Force Morale dipped again to 8.

Phase 12 the insurgents rolled 66541 and the Senior Ledader used a single Chain of Command point to slip away and leave the table via a jump-off point but ready to return. The next phase was theirs as well, rolling 54432 but with their force so depleted for so little gain at this stage they decided to let the British commit themselves further before deploying any more men.

Phase 14 and the British roll 65443. The Lieutenant rallies Charlie Team in Number 2 section and puts down fire to rout off the insurgent rifle/lmg team, but it failes to affect the insurgent force morale. With the ienemy routed, Delta team moves into the alley, vallon to the fore.

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Phase 15 and the insurgents roll 55321. The sniper fires and misses but isn’t spotted. Nothing deploys as they allow the Brits to come onto them.

Phase 16 and the coalition roll 54421. The Lieutenant moves 2 section forward, Charlie Team moving tactically to deploy forward while Delta Team covers the jump-off point in the orchard on enhanced overwatch.

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Phase 17 the insurgents roll 44442 (a rubbish roll) and do nothing.

Phase 18 the British roll 44221 and Number 2 section moved up Barmaing its way up the alley. The Lieutenant moves up slightly behind them.

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Phase 19 54111 for the insurgents and they keep their powder dry.

Phase 20, the British roll 54311 and No.2 section’s Charlie Team enter compound 32 intent on making contact with the locals.

Phase 21. 66533. A double 6 at a key moment. An insurgent junior Leader deploys with an RPG and a rifle team and fires through the family being used as human shields. The British take shock and one man goes down. The cry of “Man down” sees British morale hit for the first time, falling to 6 from the starting point of just 8. To make matters worse some civilians are killed and two collateral damage points incurred on the “Proverbial Happens” table. On overwatch No. 1 section have two men who can see the insurgents clearly and open fire killing one man and putting shock on, but the GPMG has its line of sight blocked by the civilians and sticks to the principle of courageous restraint and holds its fire.

Phase 22 and the insurgents roll 66643. However, the British player interrupts with a Chain of Command dice and No.2 section withdraws from the compound dragging their casualty with them. The insurgents under the junior leader mass in compound 32, ready to emerge and the civilians attempt to hide b ut don’t run. Nevertheless the turn end sees the man down die (had a medic been able to attend the chances are the man may be wounded but survive), but the turn ended at precisely the wrong time. British Force Morale drops again to 4!

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In the 1st Phase of Turn 2 the insurgents roll 65532 and deploy a rifle team in the irrigation ditch with a clear shot on Number 2 section’s Charlie Team. They fire poorly but succeed in driving off the British who drag their dead comrade with them into the alley but with a large amount of shock (6 points on the trhee remaining men) they are momentarily combat ineffective.

In Phase 2 the Lieutenant rallies three shock, knowing that a roll of 6654 will give him the next phase. He then plays a Chain of Coommand dice to end the turn. With just three shock they can now operate effectively again.

In Phase 1 of Turn three, a pooor roll of 6651 allows the FSG to interdict the taliban in the irrigation system, killing one man, but the key next phase is British.

Phase 2 sees a roll of 5542 (the British have lost a command dice by now) sees the Lieutenant bring No.2 Charlie Team into compound 31. By now their Force morale means that the original objective of the mission has been abandoned, the objective now is to exfiltrate the area with no further losses and no more bad things happening. The “Proverbial happening” tally is at three, very close indeed to the British Force morale.

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Phase 3, the insurgents roll 65422 and depoly a rifle team and an ROG team in the orchard in the hope of hitting hard before the British can escape.

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Their fire is not accurate, however, only shock is inflicted.

Phase 4 and the coalition roll 5441. The FSG is contacted about the newly emerged in the orchard but fail to identify their target. Sergeant Prescott emerges and rallies Delta Team from No2 section and they fire, killing two insurgents. Meanwhile the Lieutenant gets No.1 section to drive off the insurgents in the irrigation ditch. They route, but the insurgent force morale fails to fall.

Phase 5. On 65433 the insurgent senior leader emerges in the orchard to take command, ralling some shock and send ing another RPG and 7.62 heading towards Delta Team, seven hits but incredibly bad rolling sees that convert to just three shock.

Phase 6. 6442 sees Prezza rally shock and Delta Team returns fire killing three. Meanwhile Lieutenant McLaughlin withdraw No.1 section from the roof of compound 31.

Phase 7, an insurgent roll of 53321 sees the senior leader rally and try again. But again poor shooting sees little effect. Meanwhile the junior leader is looking to use speed to move round to threaten the British withdrawal attempt. Tense stuff!

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Phase 8 sees Charlie Team from No.2 section move through the breached compound wall to try to withdraw through the orchard. Delta Team are still locked in their firefight and see the insurgent senior leaders killed, the RPG team wiped out and the remaning rifle team routed off the table. The insurgent morale collapses to 1 and the insurgent player calls it a day.

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At the end of the game the British Force Morale is down to 3, matching the “Proverbial happens” total. Local civilians have been killed, adversely affecting the trust of the local population and the political implications of another ramp ceremony will not be appreciated by the soldiers in the company or their leaders. This is slightly off-set by the fact that a local insurgent senior leader has been removed. Only time will tell how that, and the death of around a dozen fighters, will impact on the support that the insurgents can garner from the local population.

It is remarkable how relatively few tweaks to the rules can see a game with such a different flavour to WWII. The implications of losses on the coalition really hits home, as does the importance of attempting to protect the local population. Not firing the Gimpy when I could have hit the insurgents hard was a painful decision, especially as I was attempting to cover the withdrawal of friendly forces with a man down. However, with the “proverbial happens” tally running high it was not a risk I felt I could take. “Courageous restraint” is not a concept most gamers are familiar with, but what working on Fighting Season has taught me is how realy this needs to be.

Again, the British will put pressure on the insurgents when they work through their skills and drills and use enhanced overwatch to protect their advances. However, the insurgents benefit from being fleet of foot and able to hit hard and slip away. Only when they attempt to stand toe to toe (which they did here in the hope of just tipping the scales) do they get truly hurt.

Apologies for the less than perfect photography.

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Fighting Season at Salute – A Sitrep

Well, funnily enough, it was a boozy old night after Salute so my recovery time has meant that I have had time to contemplate on the gig and think about Fighting Season and how it was received.

For me, the low point was the suggestion, somewhat aggressively put, that we shouldn’t be gaming Afghanistan. The high point was an officer of General rank suggesting that the game would be great for platoon leaders to play. Square that circle if you can.

The game we took was very much an early playtest version of the rules, always a dangerous thing to do as (clearly) nothing has been polished to the degree that one would like. However, I really like the idea of taking the game on the road and getting feedback. And we had that in spades. All we were really attempting to show off was the move/shoot/command aspect of the game; when I say “all” that is clearly a big part but it fails to take into account some of the more subtle and sophisticated aspects which influence thinmgs like political opinion and the input that the legal team have in modern warfare. Fear not, that will be covered, but in a manner which does not intrude to deeply on the enjoyment of the players.

My thoughts on gaming the ultra-modern period are pretty well documented. I will not game a conflict which is currently being fought. However, after that, I WILL game it, with the emphasis on producing a game which is also a respectful simulation of the conflict. I first gamed the Rhodesian War as early as 1982 and I lost friends in that one, and my cousin served with the New Zealand forces in Afghanistan. My emphasis has always been about using a game to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the conflict, hence my endless reference to avoiding the “whack-a-mole” cliche of “bad versus good”. My game design never makes a moral judgement about who is right and who is wrong, I leave that to politicians who are far more adept at compartmentalising than I can ever be, but I do aspire to reflect the reality of the conflict through extensive research into how the war was fought. My colleague Nick spoke to one gentlemen who had served in theatre and was, I am told, sceptical, but upon reading our skimpy designer notes became more enthusiastic. I find that encouraging feedbaack this early in the process. I can promise all those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan that we intend to produce a game which presents the gamer with some of the same decision making opportunities as the commanders on the ground. This will not be a parody of modern warfare, but a homage to those who served.

I was extremely pleased by the way in which the rules were accepted by the players who took part in the four games we ran. I can but apologise for their abbreviated nature but this was the “taster” menu rather than the full banquet. The thing which pleased me most was the fact that the chaps who had played Chain of Command in its WWII garb were immediately able to recognise the game and leap right in from the off, appreciating that the changes we had made were subtle and only made where necessary, as opposed to a root and branch hack job, but subtle enough to provide them with a game which felt modern and contemporary, reflecting the dynamics of contemporary warfare, without changing the essential nature of the game. In other words, it was still Chain of Command but where small adjustments provided a very different flavour and game.

Of course, this early in procedings, there are issues still to be thrashed out. Leigh in Australia, our technical man on the team, is well know for his writings on the conflicts. His latest published work, The British Army in Afghanistan, 2006 to 2014, is one of the best overviews of the conflict, from a British perspective, that I have read. If you want a one-stop-shop introduction to the conflict then this is it.

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So where next for Fighting Season? Well, the next month is dedicated to putting the rules into a playtest format so that we can invite people to get involved in the playtesting. We hope to have something ready in around a month. Publication, despite my rather optimistic talk of June, is likely to be this summer. There’s a still a journey to travel, but we are confident that it will be an enjoyable and illuminating experience.

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Chain of Command Terrain – A Lard/Warbases Joint Venture

Part of the joy of wargaming is the opportunity to, albeit briefly, suspend our disbelief and see ourselves as Napoleon or Wellington, commanding vast armies, or Sidney Jary at the head of 18 platoon. For me, a big part in creating the environment which encourages that immersion in the narrative of our games is getting a table that not only is pretty, but also looks right. In so many cases it is the small detail which makes a big difference. In all of the games we have run around the shows, it has been stuff like telegraph poles and (believe it or not!) cabbages growing in the garden which have received the most comments. Interestingly, it is small detail like this which I have so often found myself having to scratch build, with varying degress of success if I am honest, as most terrain companies tend to focus on the big stuff, like buildings, bridges and walls, rather than the minutiae. Well, that’s all about to change.

Before Christmas I had a long discussion with my old chum Martin up at Warbases and floated the idea of starting a range of terrain for Chain of Command. To my mind it is the skirmish or platoon level game which really comes to life when you add some extra detail, and I wanted us to work together to start producing the type of items which I really wanted to see in my games. As always, Martin came up trumps, as my dodgy sketches and vague ideas were turned into something practical and VERY pretty. The great news is that we will have the first two packs available at Salute. These are as follows:

Pack One includes the following:
Lean to Greenhouse
Potting shed, including work bench
Chicken coop with two cast metal chickens
Cold frame
Compost bin

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As you can see below, the lean to greenhouse will fit neatly onto any flat walled building:

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Pack Two contains the following:
Free standing Greenhouse
Dog kennel with cast metal doggy (optional “woofs” to be provided by customer)
Garden bench
Wheelbarrow
Wood store

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All of the models are in laser cut MDF and, where shown they have suitably embossed paper to cover the roofs and serve as tar paper or roof felt as used in the early 20th century. Even better is the news that each of the packs will be retailing at just £16 each, great value for models which will really transform your wargames table. We hope to have these available on the web site immediately after Salute, although I reckon these will be a sell-out at the show!

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Fighting Season for Chain of Command

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It’s been a busy time on Lard Island over the past month. With Salute looming, we’ve been busy working on our annual game which, as so often is the case, is going to be a preview of a new game system: Fighting Season. Followers of the TooFatLardies Twitter feed and Facebook page will have noticed a few snippets here and there as we have been crunching our way through the new rules, always an interesting and challenging time which gets the creative juices well and truly flowing and, for me, provides one of the best buzzes a wargame developer can get; that moment where you can say “Yes. This is really working!”.

What has made the development process all the more interesting is that the main development work to date has been done on the oither side of the world in Australia by well know writer and specialist on ultra-modern warfare, Leigh Neville. Leigh is no stranger to wargames rules, having written numerous rules supplements as well as the Osprey books he is equally well known for. We thought we’d ask Leigh to tell us a bit about what Fighting Season is all about.

Leigh told us “I’ve been developing the “ultra-modern” supplement for Chain of Command for almost two years now, almost from the moment COC was released to the masses. By “ultra- modern” I mean the recent asymmetric conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. My regular opponent, Mick Collins, and I saw an immediate opportunity to extend the mechanisms that make COC superb at gaming small unit actions in the Second World War to the insurgencies of today (Mick reckons that COC does asymmetric even better than conventional but that’s a discussion for another day). Either way, Chain of Command serve as an outstanding basis for a set of ultra-modern wargame rules.”

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Good to know. So what was it that captured Leig and Mick’s imaginations? Leigh goes on: “First and foremost it’s the Patrol Phase. Gone are the artificial deployment zones and straight away, you as the platoon commander, are forced into conducting what amounts to a pretty serious terrain appreciation before you start to probe the forward line of troops. This beautifully abstracts both physical reconnaissance by specialist units and the process of intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) through ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance – read that as overhead UAVs and aircraft, Special Forces and all manner of signals and human intelligence). The Patrol Phase also lets us model, through scenario modifiers, all sorts of operations from surprise air-assaults onto a target compound to presence patrols moving into a village of questionable allegiances.

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Next, it’s the Command Dice mechanism- combined with the troop rating system, we have been able to model every combatant in both theatres. Need a determined enemy with decent warfighting skills but with poor C3 (command, control and communication)? Fanatical Regulars but four Command Dice. A local insurgency with rudimentary skills and similarly poor C3? Green with four Command Dice. Tier One Special Forces? Elite with six Command Dice (and maybe a few classified advantages…). You get the picture. What the Command Dice rolls allow us to do is also easily customised- we can model the C3 limitations of the insurgent whilst also modelling the relative tactical flexibility of the Coalition warfighters.

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Finally the combat system with its emphasis on Shock. Read any modern first-person account of small unit combat and you will soon note that winning the firefight revolves around suppressing the enemy. The system of Shock and its morale effects, suitably modified to simulate the unique position of Coalition Forces that literally have nowhere to run if routed, fits this model perfectly. Get enough of an accurate weight of fire, using the right weapons systems, against the target and they will break, sometimes without a single casualty incurred. Again the COC system allows us the room to modify the core system to reflect current tactical realities without breaking the system or bogging us down in innumerable “special rules”. Time and again we found that existing COC mechanisms could be slightly modified to bring things forward fifty plus years. That this can be done, creditably, for both Afghanistan 2014 and Seville 1937 points to a pretty damned robust rules engine under the hood.

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Leigh has been working very closely with Richard over the past few months now as intensive playtesting has been under way on Lard Island. We asked Richard how things have been progressing. “Very well. We are somewhat behind schedule as I did my back in before Christmas and couldn’t sit to paint up the required toys for playtesting. However, we are previewing the rules at Salute in just a few weeks time, so work has been intense to say the least. What we are striving for is a system which doesn’t reinvent the wheel, its important that current players of Chain of Command can plug straight in to Fighting Season. That has been Leigh’s and my over-arching design goal.”
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How has it been working on opposite sides of the world? “Surprisingly easy actually. When I finish a game at the club, I will send Leigh a report and by the time I get up the next morning all the answers are there. It’s a bit like me leaving my rough ideas out overnight, and in the morning the elves have stitched them together and made sense of them. I’m also helped by a healthy does of insomnia, so we’ve been able to have some prety productive late night/early morning discussions. What has really helped is that both of us are committed to producing a set of rules which provide challenges for both sides. Leigh wrote in the Christmas Special that he didn’t want this to be “Whack-a-mole” and I think that’s right. There’s no game in technology rich “good guys” zapping “bad guys” at will. This needs to be a sensible consideration of Insurgent and Coalition tactics and the rules must allow either side to win if they play to their own particular strengths.”

That must be challenging? “Sure, but then all game design is challenging. What is the real challenge is not the simulation of tactics, but turning that into an enjoyable and challenging game. There are a very different set of dynamics to consider when comparing modern warfare with WWII, but that tends to change the flavour of the game rather than changing the core mechanics which, as Leigh says, are robust due to their inherrent simplicity. The core move, shoot, morale elements of Chain of Command are so simple that they become intuitive. All the player has to concentrate on is the command dice and choose whatever tactical options are best for him within that phase. That’s the beauty of the rules and what allows them to be so flexible when shifting them to periods other than WWII”.

So, it looks like Salute will see much interest in the rules. Richard plans to run a number of participation games throughout the day. “We thought that short games, probably 45 minutes each just to give the players a taste of how the mechanisms work would be best at this stage. We’ll probably just run one big game with a rolling cast of players. We are always over-subscribed, but this will allow the maximum number of people to get a look at what is coming”>

Talking of which, when can we expect Fighting Season to be published? “I’m aiming for June” says Richard, with his well-known optimism.
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TooFatLardies and Eureka USA Make a Great Team

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It’s the news that North American wargamers and players of TooFatLardies games have been waiting for; The Lardies have teamed up with Eureka Miniatures USA and appointed them as their official North American stockist, importing our hard copy products across the pond. But this is more than just about selling rule sets. We talked to Rob Walter, the main man at Eureka USA, to find out more.

“Here at Eureka we have been providing gamers with what we think are some of the finest figures around for the past fifteen years or so. Of course it is impossible not to see the potential link up between our ranges and TooFatLardies rules, be that in the Dark Ages, Napoleonics, WWII or more modern conflicts. What we felt that TooFatLardies lacked was a real platform around the North American convention scene and we talked to Richard about how we could work together to improve that. We are looking not just to stock the rules, but also to host games highlighting the rules and, naturally, show off our figures in action. In 2015 we plan to be running Chain of Command games at Cold Wars in Lancaster, PA in March, Huzzah in Portland, ME in May, Historicon at Fredericksburg,VA in July and Cold Wars at Lancaster,PA in November. You’ll be seeing Lardy products and games feature at them all.”

Over in the UK, from his Lard Island base, Richard was equally enthisiastic.

“I first met Rob at Historicon a few years ago and he’s a great guy to do business with. His enthusiasm for the hobby is second to none. I knew the range Eureka produced very well, having met Nic before he was clapped in irons and shipped off to Australia and, let’s be honest, the quality is almost the stuff of legend. If anyone was going to be presenting our rules to the North American public we’d like the game to look its best and with Eureka figures that’s a foregone conclusion. What Eureka can provide our customers with is a speedy service with significantly cheaper postage rates on an everyday basis. But even better will be the focal point of the games which will, we hope, allow the Lardy community old and new to strengthen their bonds across the pond. In the UK and Europe, and now increasingly in Australia thanks to the work of our Lard Ambassadors, we have very strong social gaming links forged by a shared hobby and enjoyment of the Lardy rules and culture. It will be great to see that extend across the pond. I hope to be across for Historicon in 2016, so this will provide a great place to meet people and enjoy some fun gaming.”

Eureka USA stock an extensive and eclectic range of figures, from the “must have” Kung Fu School Girls (I kid you not!) to the internationally lauded AB range of miniatures. You can check them out here: http://eurekaminusa.com/ or, if you want to get your hands on Lardy goodness, you can go here to see the range Eureka are carrying: http://eurekaminusa.com/collections/too-fat-lardies-1

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Poldercon – The Shape of Things to Come?

Poldercon HeaderLast weekend saw me pack up my troubles in my old kit bag and set forth from Lard Island International Airport, heading straight into the heart of the EuroReich to visit a brand new show on the circuit; Poldercon in the historic Dutch city of Utrecht. Starting a brand new wargaming show is always a risky business, but the three wise men behind this venture, Patrick Diederiks, Jan-Willem van der Pijl and Jasper Oorthuys, had bravely chosen to dare to be different, taking a fresh approach and seeking to create a true Convention for wargamers.

“What’s the difference?” I hear you cry. Well, let’s start out by being honest. The wargame show we all know and vaguely love in the UK and Europe tends to have the emphasis firmly on shopping. We turn up, see a whole raft of traders with ranges old and new, and spend most of the day handing over our cash before having a sniff around the supporting act – the games – before buggering off home. If we’re lucky we may snatch a quick game, or we may catch up with a few pals, but the format is as well know and comfortable as an old pair of slippers.

Where Poldercon was different, was that the organisers began their planning with the game at the heart of the convention. For the average gamer, Poldercon was not about “coming” and “seeing”, it was about taking part. The day was divided into five chunks, two in the morning, two in the afternoon and lunchtime. During the morning and afternoon sessions, the gamers had a choice of participation games to play – there were no “demonstration games” – or workshops to attend. These were pre-bookable, on the same lines as a convention in the US, so the organisers could ensure that each game had its correct number of players and each workshop was prepared for the numbers due to turn up. A wide range of games were on offer, along side workshops on painting, terrain building, running participation games and similar, so it was perfectly possible to structure your day in order to have a real mix of activities. I know a couple of guys who left one slot free just to sit at the bar and chat with friends.

Of course, all of this involved something that we wargamers rarely find ourselves challenged to do: plan our day in advance; something we rather rebel against, being by nature free spirits and rebellious souls. Let’s be frank, I have many friends in the Low Countries gaming circle, and, at the start of the day, some of them were honest enough to admit to me that such a straight-jacket was not a comfortable fit. However, what the format did achieve was to oblige all of us to actually get stuck in and play some games or attend some workshops. By the end of the event four very successful sessions had persuaded all who I spoke to that the day’s structure was not just solid, but very enjoyable. I think the photo below really speaks volumes:
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What we see here is not the usual bovine crowd of gamers ambling around, chewing the cud of demonstration games, but a room full of people actually playing games. For me that really sets Poldercon apart from the crowd. Is it a better format than our normal show? No, but by being different it does make itself attractive in its own right. With our diaries absolutely full of wargames shows across the UK (I speak as a Briton here) whether I attend one this week or one next week is often of no consequence as the same old traders will be there with the same round of this year’s show games. With Poldercon I am getting something very different.

But what of the fifth, lunchtime, session? One of the great joys of the venue selected was that it had a bar and catering facilities. Part of the entry price included the provision of a very pleasant buffet lunch which was positively groaning with food. The opportunity to sit down with fellow gamers was really unique in any wargames event I have ever been to. I found myself chatting to a whole range of chaps and discussing the games we’d been playing the workshops and the format generally. This opportunity to linkup with like-minded gamers and kick off new friendships is surely priceless. And yes, even a trencherman like me had plenty to eat!

To my mind, the organisers taking the brave leap and daring to be different have not only achieved their goal, but hopefully done the hobby generally a service in showing that wargames events can be more proactive in terms of managing our enjoyment. Let’s take a look at the games on offer:

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Maybe it’s because I have my WWII head on at the moment, but the games below were real stand out examples of beautiful terrain.

Murphy’s Heroes of Delft were playing Chain of Command, set on a Dutch airfield in 1940:
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The terrain was so beautifully modelled, it was just like actually being in Holland.
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And this smashing Bolt Action game was put on by a very pleasant and clearly very talented Seb Burlage:
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One of the things I really appreciated about this game was the fact that the ubiquitous MDF buildings which one sees around the shows had been personalised so that they really had much more character than the “straight from the pack” originals. It is touches like this which make a good model, and a good game, really great.
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Also on offer were the workshops:
Painting
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More painting
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A fat bloke
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And, allegedly, some installation art.
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So, a real flying start for Poldercon. Will it be repeated? I do hope so. More importantly, I do think that show organisers generally can take much from what was achieved. With so much competition between different shows to attract a decent footfall, and therefore a good range of traders, there must surely be aspects of what we do currently which could be improved. Slavishly following any single model can only lead to stagnation. Considering what we can do better, what would improve the experience of those attending, must surely be the way forward and Poldercon certainly provided a chance to see how different can also be hugely positive.

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Williamsburg Muster, a Lardy Show Report

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2015 has been officially declared the year of Lard in the USA, with some BIG news due on that within the next week. US gamers should be seeing a much hightened presence of Lard on the Convention circuit this year, and to kick off the action we have just received this report from Williamsburg in Virginia where Ron Carnegie, flew the Lard banner in the Old Dominion.

Last weekend, February 6-7, brought another successful Williamsburg Muster Convention to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Williamsburg Muster is one of two conventions run each year by the Hampton Roads Wargamers, with Muster being the larger of the two. This year the attendance broke all records, with over 350 gamers gathered and ready for some serious action. Indeed, so great was the attendance that next year we may have to look at a larger venue!

Over the weekend, I ran three games from the TooFatLardies stable, Friday evening’s scenario was “No Pasaran” with Chain of Command Espana, than Saturday afternoon we had “The Battle for France” with Chain of Command before rounding off with “Kellogg’s Allies”, another game in the Sharp Practice adventures of Devon Kelloggs. [Ed. It's a cereal!]

No Pasaran was set in the period of the Jarama Valley Campaign with the scenario generated using the main rule book. It was my intention this weekend to demonstrate portions of the rules and thought I would randomly generate both of my Chain of Command games to show that part of the game to my willing players, Brian, Derrick, Ross and Gunnar. Two of them had no experience with the rules but Ross had played one of my earlier Spanish Civil war games and Gunnar was not only familiar with the rules but is in fact a subscriber to the Lardy Yahoo group.
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The game was an Attack on an Objective, the objective being a small Spanish Village overlooking a little valley somewhere in the Pingarron foothills. The “Lincolns” were commanded by Derrick and Ross. They were ordered to hold Santa Catalina and were supplies with their full complement of Valero mortars and light machine guns as well as an anti tank gun and a Russian made T26 tank. They also had three entrenchments. Their Force Morale started at 10. Brian and Gunnar were commanding a Spanish Foreign Legion Platoon with some of the ranks filled by Moroccan Regulares. They were supported by a Bilbao armoured car, a 75/28 Artillery battery with a forward observer, and an adjutant. Their Force Morale rating was 11.

From the very start luck smiled upon the Nationalists as they controlled the first three phases of the battle. This allowed them to deploy two of their sections. One that immediately moved forward to the olive grove and the other up towards the small house on the lower left of the pictures and by the entrenchment. They also deployed their forward observer who impiously called for a barrage on the church! Two of the Lincoln’s jump markers were close to be challenged already!

The Nationalists may have had the jump on the Lincolns, but now the Americans defended their jump of points by deploying the AT gun in the foxhole on their right and a light machine gun section on their left. A second section took positions in the church and the bell tower. From these positions they placed a withering crossfire onto the exposed Legion’s 1st section. The T26 was also deployed and with one lucky shot wounded the Legion’s Senior Leader, leaving him out of action for the rest of the turn.

The Legion’s 1st section bravely ran forth in an attempt to silence the republican AT gun, but the effort was in vain and the entire squad was lost. On their right however, the Legion was finding more success. Having gained positions in the Olive Grove, they began to reduce one of the IB’s Light Machine gun squads. Their artillery rounds were also now falling on the Church pinning any support the Republican LMG squad might have been hoping for.

Eventually these Legionarios would charge the house the LMG had been defending. Here they encountered the Lincoln’s Senior leader as well as a squad of brave volunteers. The Lincoln’s fought bravely and pushed the Legions back killing 8 of their men. The victory proved too costly however and the survivors could not stop the push of a second Nationalist squad. This time it was the Republican whose Senior Leader was wounded.

Finally the legion began to concentrate the fire of their 50mm mortars as well as the machine gun of their Bilbao on the AT Gun’s position. This proved to much for the brave crewmen, causing them to rout from their positions. At this point, the republican commander realized that his position was untenable, and he conceded defeat.

The game was long, and neither side had been reduced below 5 on their force morale. The forces appeared to be well balanced and it took some time before it was apparent who would prevail. All players seemed to have a good time and honestly so did the I, wish is certainly not always the case when one is game mastering!

The first game on Saturday was Fall of France. This was again randomly determined but would represent some of the action that happened in the first two days of the fight, as the Germans carved their way through Belgium. The player were Charles, Kai, Grey and again Gunnar the from the Spanish Civil War game.

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This battle was an Attack and Defend scenario. Gunnar and Grey played the French and began with 11 as their Force Morale. They were supported by a 25mm AT gun and a Hotchkiss H39 tank. Both players had experience with the rules. The Germans on the other hand were commanded by Charles and Kai. Charles had some experience with the game some time ago, his nephew Kai had none.

The Germans began the battle with a Force Morale of 9 and two vehicles, a Panzer 222 and a Panzer III. The Patrol phase began with the Germans gaining two preliminary moves. The Patrol Phase was where the experience Chain of Command players had the advantage. The French outplayed their German opponents who found their markers locked down on the wrong side of the available cover and one of their markers ended up being negated being behind all the others when the phase ended. The Germans would now need to cross into the open to close with their enemy. Clearly those French scouts were earning their pay!
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The French deployed their Rifle Grenadier team into the bombed out farmhouse as well as a section in the orchard in front of the house and one out in a field on their right. The Germans deployed to the right of the road, with one Squad behind the Farm shed directly in from of them and two in the woods. They also deployed their 5cm mortar team in the woods and tried in vain to silence the French grenades.

This began a firefight which the Germans, caught in a crossfire, suffered from the most. One squad was lost in that fight. Another allowed itself to be trapped behind a farm shed with their lmg team destroyed. Finally the platoon’s Feldwebel took command and ordered two squads to double time across the open ground to the large field on their right.
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Now the Germans deployed their armor, The 222 to a position alongside the trapped squad in the centre of the line while the Panzer III entered calmly right down the central road. The French responded by bringing on their Hotchkiss and this began a duel which did some damage to the armored car.

The real action however was on the German right. Having learned the lessons of maneuver, two German squads got into position to threaten the French in the orchard. Their assault was however premature and while doing serious damage to the Poilu, the German squad was lost. Now, with two squads and one lmg team gone, their armored car immobilized and there force morale having dropped to 5 the Germans conceded the fight. This was one of those classic convention games where players learn the rules as they play. It was impressive to see the German chances of a victory improve as the players became better acquainted with the game. I think if we had played the scenario a second time the results could have been very different!

The final game I offered was Kellogg’s Allies on Saturday evening. The scenario was adapted from the Fondler’s Allies scenario in “The Compleat Fondler” with some alterations made in force size and composition. The bridge was also altered having been inspired by the bridge in the movie version of Sharp’s Eagle. The Bridge called Ponte Alcantra in the Compleat Fondler is clearly the Roman Bridge at Alacantara and therefore larger and taller than I was able to put together in the short time I was working with. The bridge in Sharp’s Eagle is low, long and wooden and I could build it quickly around scenery I already had. I also replaced the 95th rifles with the 60th and my numbers were a little reduced due to a lack of figures.

The 60th Royal Americans were ordered to hold the bridge with the aid of the Spanish regiment of Irlanda until Engineers could place explosives to blow the bridge. French Dragoons were ordered to stop the demolition from occurring. The players were Mark and Zoe on the French side, Peter commanded the Spanish and Mike, the Rifles. Most of the players had no Sharp Practice experience, although Peter has played once before when I ran a game last August.
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The Spanish deployed with most of three of their five groups in a line defending the bridge. The remaining two were in column on the bridge with their commanding big man Major O’Higgins (The Spanish Irlanda are Irish expats.). The 60th rifles deployed in skirmish order before them.

The French entered on blinds which at the ranges we played without cover was probably unnecessary but it was fun nonetheless. More so because I had kept the existence of the French 4 pounder hidden from the allies. The French deployed that cannon on the highest hill available to them, giving it a clear field a fire on the whole battlefield. In the end however, the gun did little damage.

Half of the Dragoons were dismounted and made their way towards the Allied forces just below the road. The longer ranges of the Baker rifles caused a great deal of damage to them and one group was quickly forced off the field.

The mounted Dragoons suffered a different issue. By an accident in the placing of the blinds, the two groups of mounted dragoons ended up on opposite flanks. Apparently an order went astray or was misunderstood. This meant that these two groups could not easily make a formation with one right on the road to the bridge and the other on the extreme right of the French line.

The Dragoons on the road suffered quite a bit of fire from the rifles but what survived charged. The rifles were caught by surprise and one group was cut down leaving only a single riflemen to run off in terror. Worse than that, The Allied commander Lt Devon Kellogg, was grievously wounded and would play no further part in this fight. The Irishmen did stand the charge however. They were poor troops but their superior numbers held out and the horsemen were bounced back.
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A similar situation occurred upon the other flank. France’s Sergeant Martin charged forward on another group of riflemen who again suffered badly. Seeing the danger, Major O’Higgins had brought his reserve off the bridge and formed them in a line behind the rifles. This action saved the day. The fisticuffs were not decided for three rounds and that wing of the Dragoons had lost too many men to continue. The game ended an allied success!

Conclusion
Once again, Muster at Williamsburg proved to be a great Convention to attend. The games were all successful and enjoyed by those who participated and in some cases also attracted some observers. Many people spoke to me about Chain of Command and their high opinion of the rules, that even included one man who was running a game with another “leading brand” of WWII rules.

I met several people who were interested in playing more often and now may little club is considering offering an occasional game day. This would be sort of A one day mini convention. We are already looking for sites to try to make that happen. If this happens, we can be sure that TooFatLardies games will be much in demand there. Indeed, we had one other Sharp Practice game on offer at the convention, and introductory scenario by one of the men that played in my World war two game.

As an aside, I had the pleasure of meeting Joseph Legan, one of the Lardies most popular authors, having penned Platoon Forward and Squadron Forward. I was great to talk to him, a fellow Lardy Blogger, and we have plans to get together for some games.

Finally one of the vendors, my friend Steve at Age of Glory was selling some Too Fat Lardies product. He had Chain of Command, Mud and Blood and Sharp Practice which seemed to be selling successfully throughout the weekend. I think it was a successful convention in general and I for one am pleased at what seems to be an increased acknowledgment of all that is good and Lardy!

Our thanks to Ron for his report and, more importantly, his hard work and effort in running three games with three lots of figures, terrain and scenarios. Ron, you put us to shame! That final game, with the Irlanda deployed out to protect the bridge looks truly stunning. As stated above, we have some exciting news coming up in the next few days about Lard in the USA, so watch this space.

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