Thursday, May 23, 2013

A wargamers' first impressions on Wargame: Airland Battle

I saw an eye candy filled trailer of this game a while back and decided to give it a try. Wargame: Airland Battle is a sequel to Wargame: European Escalation, which I haven't tried out. Airland Battle isn't out yet, but if you preorder it you get access to the beta where you can try out tutorials, skirmish versus the computer and play multiplayer. The single player campaign isn't available yet so I can't say anything about that.

The game paints a "cold war gone hot" -scenario set in Norway and Sweden. Apparently the European Front has resulted in a stalemate so NATO and the Warsaw Pact duke it out in the fjords of Norway and in the green fields of Skåne. A lot of the major and minor nationalities of the cold war are present. To my mild disappointment the Finns are not present. I guess we managed to hold on to our red-tinted neutrality even though it would be easy to write the scenario so that Finland would join either side in the fight. We had a cooperation pact with the Soviets even if we were not part of the Pact after all.

The game is basically an RTS like World in Conflict but with added tactical depth and some realism (take the realism statement with a pinch of salt). The objective of the skirmish game is to inflict enough casualties on your opponent without him managing the same. At the same time you conquer zones which give you a faster rate of resupply points you can use to buy units with. The point control / reinforcement system is very basic RTS. The main difference is that you have to park a very vulnerable HQ vehicle in the zone you want to control. The HQ vehicles are easily destroyed if the area is not properly secured and there is a limited number of the vehicles available during the game. Also, games are not won merely by quick grabs of objectives to get the most reinforcements and by swarming your enemy. Rushing headlong into unscouted territory is a sure way of getting your units quickly killed, and its the killed units which count. The more advanced and valuable the unit is, the more it gives points to your enemy when killed and the less of them you have available during the game. This gives Airland Battle a lot of depth compared to most RTS's.

The pace feels a bit too quick at times. You get reinforcement points quickly so while you plot your masterful moves you might earn enough points for a full platoon of tanks without noticing it. Driving from one part of the map to another takes a couple of minutes though. When the manure hits the fan it's also difficult to keep doing smart manoeuvers instead of just pointing and clicking at the enemy. Still, it pays off to use terrain and flanking to your advantage and you can really tell the difference when you drive one platoon of tanks to the enemy's flank while they are engaged at the front.

Tanks dominate open ground, infantry dominates woods and towns, aircrafts dominate everything not covered by AA. Every unit in the game tends to run out of ammo and gas however, and you have to maintain supply lines. You get supply from bases and from supply vehicles you can drive around. Its nasty to see that all powerful platoon of Abramses run out of ammo just short of their goal. At times it feels like the units run out of stuff all the time, but I suppose it's all because of the compressed time scale of the matches and it works fine after you learn to keep and eye on your forces.

Airland battle will probably not please the hardcore modern wargame crowd, but if you're looking for something that is casual without being too simplified, this is a good game to try out.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

GW discontinuing Specialist Games

Looks like the news has been around for a while and we've definitely expected it to happen but GW has dropped all of it's Specialist Games. No fanfares or rifle shots at the funeral, I can't even see an announcement about it on the GW pages. They just sell their remaining stock and then you'll have to start looking for Specialist games on Ebay if you want them. Looking at the GW webstore, a lot of the stock is already gone so if you are waking up late to the news like I was, better hurry and stock up on whatever you might still want.

Of course keeping the Specialist Games on their shelves wasn't probably profitable by GW standards but it sure is a pity seeing them drop the games which still had some tactical depth to them. They're even dropping Blood Bowl! Instead, they concentrate on releasing bigger and bigger plastic kits for their core ranges. Their new Eldar Wraithknight will stand only an inch shorter than the Forge World Warhound Titan. I guess you have to compensate the loss of Specialist Games somehow, har har...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Concept for using my 6mm Fire & Fury stands in Volley & Bayonet

I got the Volley and Bayonet rulebook a few months back as I'm looking for a grand tactical ruleset I could use to play entire ACW battles in reasonable space and time. The game uses three inch squares to represent brigades whereas my ACW is based for Fire & Fury with 1 inch * 3/4 inch stands.

Here's my quick and dirty sabot basing scheme:

I had some leftover MDF and I took some time with a table saw to make a hundred or so of these squares. Then I just sanded the edges, painted the base brown and glued on some terrain flock mix I used for my Normandy game. I then blu-tacked some  F&F stands on the base and there you go. The white slit is the space reserved for me to print out the unit data on. By placing down one stand per strength point I can give a visual difference between the small and the large brigades, which is an advantage over "static" 3" bases. The visuals suffer a bit but I think it'll work just fine. There's just one small problem:

The Blu-tack leaves an ugly mark once I remove the stand. If I don't use anything to make them stick, I think the units will be fiddly to move around. The small stands have a magnetic strip underneath so there is an obvious and attractive solution but metal bases cost a fortune, especially as I need a hundred of them to do a battle like Gettysburg.

Ideas? The solution should be cheap and quick to do.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

New place, new possibilites

Me. my wife and my son moved from the city to a house in the country a little over a week ago. We bought it from my parents who didn't need as much space anymore. The place used to be a small farm built after WW2 and my parents bought the place from the sons of the original owner after he had died in the early 90's. When we originally moved in, there wasn't running water, the electricity wiring was original (1950) and there was a lot to do. We did some small scale farming there until Finland joined the EU and well.. small scale farming ended up being a losing business. My father has spent a lot of time, money and effort modernizing the place and we're continuing the effort.

The house is a 25 minute ride away from my place of work so it's quite well situated. What's more important, there's plenty of room for all sorts of hobbies and activities. When I originally moved out from here to study in the university, I felt claustrofobic in a 12 square meter dormitory room. Not much space to paint miniatures and build terrain there, either. Now.. I have this:

Its the old barn of the farm. Part stone, part wood. My dad kept horses there until a couple of years ago, and its now used as storage. I intend to convert it into a workshop/gamespace/mancave!

The barn is filled with junk and it will take a lot of work, but I will dismantle the enclosures, put down a new floor, paint the roof and insulate the walls. As manly it would be to have stone walls in your workshop, the temperature drops sometimes below -30 celsius during the winter and the place definitely needs the extra layer of insulation inside if I intend to keep it warm and dry during the winter months. 

Building the workshop is somehow not on the top of the list of things to do over here according to my wife, but once I have time for it, I intend to bore you with the details. I'm happy I have enough space to put down a decent gaming table and leave projects lying around again. Heck, I have enough space to host a re-enactment if I want to!