In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Geek Awakens

Daughter No. 2 and I went to see Star Wars today.
In 3-D.
To my surprise, I found the experience quite enjoyable.

I'm not one of those folks who was posting "Ermagherd!!!! Star Wars!!!!" On Facebook in the lead up to the release.
In fact I found it all exceedingly tiresome.

Between Episodes 1 thru 3, Ewoks, what J.J. Abrams did to Star Trek and what Peter Jackson did to The Hobbit, I was prepared to be disappointed and my enthusiasm wasn't just lacking, it had taken a bus out of town.

But The Force Awakens hit all the notes we loved in A New Hope;  epic, space opera action with enough humour to keep it light, but not enough to make us wretch into our popcorn and wonder where Jar Jar is. The plot also was not just a mash up of disjointed action scenes and characters lacking in motivation, leaving the audience wondering "what the F*ck?"

The homage shots were nicely done without being heavy handed. I didn't cry when Han died. I felt it was making a nice hand over to the new characters so they can carry the story forward. Although the Bad Guy isn't quite as imposing as Darth Vader. I can't even remember his name.

I do hope that this new champion of the Dark Side isn't motivated by teen angst like Annikin though.

I also found the 3D not bad either. Most of the time it just gave some depth to the scene without being all "hey! We're in 3D kids!". I don't know if this is from a technological change or maturation in how it is being used by the director.

This all gives me hope though that I won't need to hand in my Geek card just yet.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

It's a nice relaxed day in green and sunny Rabbitland. We went to Mass last night and there are no visiting plans today, so there is no rush to get dressed. Son-in-law can't get time off so he and No. 1 Daughter are still in Calgary, so it's just the three of us today.

I received a pleasingly gamerly haul this year. The Mad Padre sent me home from our game day/sleep over with an intriguing wrapped parcel which is the Euro board game Samurai. No. 2 Daughter gave me the first three seasons of Game of Thrones on DVD. I've only seen a few bits of the show when daughter 2 was watching it from an illegal downloading site, so I'm looking forward to it.

Mrs. Rabbitman got me a bunch of titles from my Amazon wish list: the new Osprey Catalaunian Fields AD 451, plus Lion Rampant which looks like good fun (and after a cursory review I'm already wondering how they'll do for Samurai) and The British Army in Afghanistan 2006-14 Task Force Helmand which will probably cause more miniature temptation. Lions of Kandahar looks intriguing, giving a view on what the American special forces were doing during OP MEDUSA. Last in the pile is Mark Zuehlke's Juno Beach the only one of his titles I haven't read yet!

So now it's a day of good cheeses, reading, watching GoT and not worrying if I'm fit to drive.

I hope everyone is having a Merry Christmas out there!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Some Different Ruins

I felt more in the mood to hack up foam core Sunday afternoon instead of working on a commission project (28mm Later Imperial Romans), so I started on a few more feet of walls and some ruins for Afghanistan. Between decades of war and coalition airstrikes, smashed buildings ought to be a common sight.

I arranged the wall pieces in either a T or U shape on some CD bases and then cut them down at jagged angles. I included a few doors as a visual clue that these are ruined houses, not just walls. I also decided to do a smashed grape hut too. However, with the inside being visible as well I needed to punch the vent holes all the way through. It mostly worked but the paper peeled off the foam in a few places.

I then used blobs of PVA glue and the ground corn cob litter we use for Biggles the Bunny to make piles of rubble around the bases.

Close up of grape hut with some Christmas cheer.
Sanding the rest of the bases, a bit of broken roof on the grape hut and texturing the walls are the next steps.

Monday, December 14, 2015

OP Thundering Dice

Ever since the Mad Padre got posted to CFB Borden we've been talking about a boy's gaming weekend. We tried to organize one in October but illness caused a cancellation. Finally this Saturday morning I loaded my Afghanistan kit in the car and headed for Barrie for Operation Thundering Dice!

We played my Afghanistan game first using the FUBAR rules again.

Here's my terrain set out on the Padre's 5x6 table. I think I've achieved a decent level of density and complexity, approximating the Panjwayi district.

Canadians entered from the bottom of the picture over the empty fields
Table from the other side
The Canadians can come in from any direction and have to search the village for the weapons cache and try to find a mid-level Taliban leader which cell phone intercepts tell us are in the area.
The Taliban commander, Masoud ibn Pedaji, the Lion of the Panjwayi
Mike took the Taliban. All Taliban (13 fire teams, two weapons teams, two snipers and two suicide bombers with 4 low level and 1 mid- level leader) started hidden, plus he had 15 IED markers to which he could allocate a total of 12 firepower dice.

More table shots:

I opted to come in dismounted through the open fields, so I could avoid IEDs on the roads and get quickest access to the most number of buildings without fighting my way through grape or pot fields, or have to cross ditches.

First a sniper, then a fireteam opened up on Call Sign 12, the platoon HQ, causing a bunch of suppression.

Another RPG strikes CS 12A, knocking out the co-ax MG. Those two LAVs failed a couple of activation attempts and when they did fire rolled abysmally. Obviously all the RPG fire rattled them and then they had breach jams in the main guns.

More Taliban have appeared behind the compound wall and in the pomegranate orchard across the road putting CS 12 in a deadly cross fire! CS 12A takes another hit giving a negative on its next activation attempt.

CS 12B and 12C start maneuvering to clear the orchard from the flank. They start taking fire from the pot field to their right and the building in front of them.

Disaster! CS 12A becomes a mobility kill and CS 12 is knocked out by a lucky RPG hit. The crew bail out but two are wounded.

Aided by cannon fire the riflemen from CS 12B clear the orchard to help the pinned down plt HQ.

The LAVs and other section on the right flank engage the pot field and the building to their front, they don't realize it but the Taliban commander is cut down in a hail of 25mm cannon fire!

On the Canadian left RPGs streak from the grape field to further punish the immobile LAV. One section member goes down and is dragged behind the LAV. The C9 gunner and a rifleman with grenade launcher move to hold the flank.

Covered by fire from the orchard wall, one fireteam dashes across the road to fire into rear of the fighters in the courtyard, killing a low level commander and taking the pressure off the HQ team who are busy stabilising wounded and calling in every air asset and gun in range to cover their withdrawal.

So a pretty heavy defeat for the Canadians, two LAVs knocked out and 4 casualties. Even if none of them are fatal, there will be bad headlines in the press, questions in Parliament and the Lt. is going to have a very uncomfortable debrief with the Boss. The 20 or so fighters and 2 leaders taken out are not much compensation.

The building with the sniper apparently had the weapons cache in it too! So close yet so far. I can only hope some covering airstrike blew it up....

But actually I think the situation at game end could make another tense scenario, as Mike had 6 or 7 fire teams moving through the village to attack me.

After dinner we had our second game. Mike wanted to use the new ruins I gave him (see last post) and so we played Dux Gondorim with his Lord of the Rings collection. This is a variation of the popular Dux Britannarum rules.

I was the Riders of Rohan and Mike took his Orcs of Isengard. I deployed on a hill between the ruins because it was both the strongest position and it was closest to me and I didn't want to get out of my chair!

Theoden with his Companions flanked by archers. Then on the right another unit of warriors with Gamling. Some horse archers down the slope to the right and behind the hill Aragorn with 4 Riders.

My horse archers skirmished with warg riders. Then some Orc warriors charged into Gamling, beginning a bloody melee, which I only just won because Aragorn charged into the Orc flank.

The warg riders then attacked Aragorn. In the ensuing melee buckets of blood was shed. One warg rider survived to flee in panic and Aragorn kept the solitary Rider from doing the same.

Two units of Orc Levy then charged Theoden and his Companions. It was another bloody fight which the heroes of Rohan won but suffered losses, so after the levy Orcs fled a unit of elite Orc berserkers charged the wounded king and his remaining guards.

It wasn't pretty....

Luigi the cat watched impassively.

So a good day even if the Padre did spank me like a naughty choir boy in both games.

After breakfast on Sunday it was time to make the 2.5 hour drive home in the rain and fog.

We're already looking forward to the next time!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ruins of Numenor

Faffing about with that building toy Patrick gave me, and following the Mad Padre's occasional Lord of the Rings gaming post, got me thinking that these clay bricks could make a jolly good ruin or three. Middle Earth of course is dotted with the ruins of ancient Numenor and the fallen splendour of Men, so I thought I'd like to knock a few together for the Padre.

So on a Sunday afternoon I grabbed the bricks, the Aleene's Tacky Glue, my trusty side cutters and some old CDs (because all terrain is based on old CDs now) and set to work!

I just started gluing at a corner and worked out from there without any but the vaguest of plans. When I decided it was time for the wall to be crumbled I chopped a brick with the side cutters to give it an irregular edge.

Once I built things suitably high, I added some more rubble around the base trying to be mindful of still letting figures occupy the area. I also nibbled away at edges with the side cutters to make them look distressed.

I'm using a Ashigaru archer for scale and to make sure figures fit.

The rest of the CD is then covered with glue and sand prior to painting.

Painting was pretty simple. Black on the stones, burnt umber on the sand. Then dry brushing lighter shade over top. I've lined up the colours I used in the back of the pictures.

Then it's just more glue and some flocking and foliage.

Tucking the grass tufts into gaps both makes things look weedy, old and overgrown plus hides awkward to paint bits. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Good War

The Good War. Why We Couldn't Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan
by Jack Fairweather
Basic Books, New York, 2014. 395 pp.

It is often stated that "Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires." I suppose Afghanistan was the graveyard of the brief post-Cold War dreams of an Imperial America using its military might to spread democracy and Western values to the oppressed peoples of the globe under a Pax Americana. Afghanistan was at least the graveyard of a lot of naive good intentions.

After reading a lot that was focused very narrowly on the Canadian efforts in Afghanistan, and much of that having a very personal point of view, I thought I should read something broader and get some sense of the wider strategic and political scope of the war.

This book delivered that. Fairweather lays out the background from the overthrow of the King of Afghanistan, the rise of the Taliban to 9/11 and the American response until the final withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014. He follows the decision making in Washington, London and Kabul and how political pressure influenced military decisions, plus how military pressure influenced the political.

The author maintains objectivity with both Bush and Obama. Even Karzai is depicted fairly objectively. But all come in for criticism. Even international aid organisations are taken to task for their patronising approach which ended up undermining the government and contributing to the instability they were trying to fix. Pouring in money didn't help, pouring in troops just made things worse. Classic COIN OPS just drove the population to side with the insurgents instead of separating them. Allies like Pakistan actively aiding the insurgents didn't help either.

The politics of the war were agonisingly complex and beyond the scope of a blog post, so I'd highly recommend that you read the book for yourself to gain some insights.

But a few things did strike me. The Americans in the east, the British in Helmand and the Canadians in Kandahar were fighting three very different wars. The slowness with which the Americans and British equipped their troops with MRAPs is appalling. The American author's take on operation MEDUSA is also interesting; in a Canadian book on the battle, TF Grizzly, composed of American special ops, the remains of C Coy 1RCR (down to half strength after attacking the White School House and then being strafed by an A-10 before they could renew the attack) and some ANA, is tasked with pinning the Taliban and keeping their attention on Masum Ghar in the south while the weight of the NATO attack is shifted to B Coy 1RCR driving in from the north. In this book the author credits the American special ops with winning the battle and implies the RCR didn't really try at the White School House and that Omar Lavoie, CO of the RCR wasn't up to the job. So I also wonder about his views on the British experience in Helmand.

Except for that it's a good book for the strategic overview.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Some toys arrived in the mail today!

A nice package from Don Cameron of Five Arrows Figures containing another S and S Models LAV III, and three ASLAVs.

The LAV will be used as a FOO, engineering detachment or Coy HQ in case the scenario needs it.

The ASLAVs will become Coyote Recce vehicles. I had only wanted two to form a patrol, but there was a miscommunication and he sent three. But that's OK, I'll put the third car to use, it will help use up left over stowage! :-)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

JTF 2, Chimos and more Timmys

A medley of finished pieces for the Afghanistan project.

First up, some JTF2 operators.

Naturally these guys don't stand around for photo ops, but a video from the Canadian Armed Forces shows them looking a lot like US Navy SEALs in the DEVGRU kit and very dusty and subdued looking, so I tried for the same look. One of each of Elheim Figures three packs plus the special edition figure gives me 13 operators to add to the sniper team. They can keep busy trying to rescue this guy, a downed pilot.

Next is the Wartime Figures (which Elheim also sells) EOD set.
A sapper (sappers are nicknamed "Chimos" in the Canadian Army, it's an Innu word apparently) with mine detector and a sniffer dog.
The dog handler is a previously painted Canadian rifleman. The suspicious digging\ IED marker is from Mikey. He got a few mine field markers from his Battlefront North Africa stuff and gave me one.

The Wartime set also includes an EOD tech, seen here defusing one of my homemade IED markers.
Next up are reinforcements for the Taliban (nicknamed Timmy by Canadian troops).
The Wartime insurgents with support weapons pack gave me two LMGs, two RPGs, another sniper and a fellow with a grenade launcher on his AK.
The Wartime insurgents with AKs gave me some more figure variation.
Then three packs of Elheim Figures TAL03n, local Taliban with AKs, another pack of RPGs and the pack TAL33 Taliban with PKM LMG to boost my fighters.

These additions give my Taliban 6 more fireteams, or a 120% increase in troop strength.

Naturally the new Black Ops  from Osprey have piqued my interest for the special forces actions.