Archive for March, 2015

A Pleb Plays…Vietnam ’65

Posted: March 23, 2015 in Gaming, Vietnam War

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Joseph Crouch is back, and this time we’ve dropped him via Huey into the Ho Chi Minh Trail…

On starting Vietnam 65’ I am struck by the simple design, the almost retro but not quite old school aesthetic…which is the point, based on further reading.

At first I really disliked this game.  This I attributed to my lack of understanding in what to do; my first go amounted to just clicking pointlessly in the hopes that I would encounter some VC. Granted this was the basic tutorial section, teaching you what you need to know to pass the tutorial but not necessarily what you need to know in order to beat the game. The child in me hated this, and being used to games which led you by hand in almost every faculty, it was a change of pace that I wasn’t ready for.

Then, something quite marvellous happened.

I carried on playing.

5405588_origInstead of turning my back on Vietnam 65’ I delved deeper, looking at the advanced tutorials to fuel this now insatiable need to understand the game. Something about Vietnam 65’ struck a chord with me; I imagine the same chord that Dark Souls had strummed vehemently a few summers ago. For whatever reason, either my own ignorance or the loose objectives of the game, I wanted to master Vietnam 65’.

The structure of the game is quite simple: you move, they move. I mean, there’s a tiny bit more to it than that, but I think it’s the simplicity of this game that marks it in memory. You’ve got forty-five turns in which to battle the VC/NVA.  Victory is measured via a “Hearts and Minds” meter. Keeping it above fifty will ensure your success, letting it fall below determines how badly you lose. Things like killing VC and detecting mines alter this value and also give you the funds to buy more units! There are nine unit types, from infantry, land vehicles and choppers. Each has it’s own strength and also it’s own cost in political points (the currency used to buy and move units). Your turn will focus on supply management as much as combat. In fact, and quite obviously, you ain’t going to be firing on VC’s without bullets son!

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Suffice it to say, my first playthrough didn’t end well. Hell, my first coupl’a playthroughs saw me sending units blindly to the end of the map because I thought I was “capturing control points”. And yeah, there’s an element of that, but the main goal of Vietnam 65’ is outlasting. And this is the first instance where gameplay has made a point so succinct. The point being that this is a war that cannot be won. That’s not even your job, you’ve just got to survive until the turn count is up and hope that after forty-five turns you’ve managed to keep the “Hearts and Minds” score above fifty in order to gauge your success.

I’ve never played a hex-based game, let alone a Vietnam based one, so instead of trying to keep my H&M score up I spent the time trying to even get to turn forty-five.

But, even after the defeats, I still want to come back for more.

And that’s why I can heartily recommend Vietnam 65’.

Joseph Crouch is back with more news on Total War: Attila, and this time he’s been playing with the Longbeards Culture Pack

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The Longbeards DLC has only proven to me that beards are the way to go if you want to decimate half of Europe.

I begin my new playthrough as the Langobards. They looked pretty cool, appearing slightly Viking-esque, a culture which I relished pitting against Atilla’s horde.

The playthrough begins with a short cutscene detailing the beleaguered nature of the Langobard’s plight. From what I gather, a tonne of infighting and cultural shifts fractured the culture and left the Langobards largely weakened. Cue the player, and the countdown to Atilla’s birth. The first “Mission” so to speak.

Prepare.

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Now, at the start of this game I spent a lot of time calling these dudes the LangoBeards, and I’m expending a lot of energy to refrain from calling them that, though I find the name endearing enough to get me quickly attached to the plight of “my people”.

I’m quickly informed by my favorite gruff advisor that whilst the LangoBeards don’t have much in the way of land, they make up for it by having the gift of the gab.  I’m then told that I should focus on building my ties with the neighboring Saxons, Franks, Gauls, Alamans, Thrungians and other European staples of the time, all this, before being told to crush the Vandals.

A few things worth noting are some of the units, in particular, my new favorites the “young wolves”; bare chested thugs who don a wolf’s hide and wield sword and shield, inspiring fear in other units and…in general look fucking cool. Seriously, I saw these guys and gasped like an excited child. Now I make sure I always have a couple of units in each of my army purely to see them charge the enemy. I was interested to use the clubmen in tandem with the Young Wolves as, in general, I really love the image of a charging bunch of guys wielding wooden clubs.  It’s silly, probably not for any obvious reason, it strikes me as quite Pythonesque.  I might be a bit damaged actually.

Naturally I erroneously go for the Vandals first without first properly looking into sweet talking some trade routes out of my brothers from other mothers. They’re positioned south-east of our position, just underneath my friends the Macromans.

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One thing I immediately notice is the appearance of a dialog box at the start of every couple of turns detailing a kind of “choose your own adventure” style sub-game. I don’t know if this is a standard narrative for all players, but I was given control over the actions of a little chappie called Y’bor. A few turns in and I’ve safely seen him off on an adventure, having to choose which parting gift to impart on him and later on choosing who to save in a confrontation. These little subplots in Y’bor’s journey go some way into assigning his skills as a general, albeit in a protracted way that’s tied to the narrative of your playthrough in a much more substantial way than the normal “go fight an army – yay you’ve leveled up”. I really enjoy the extra immersion this brings and feel like it’s the right direction for further entries to take.

Back on track, and I quickly learn the errors of my ways. A quick reload later saw me engaging in diplomacy like I should have done, and this time I didn’t meet an untimely end. This time, in a few short turns, I manage to get a good portion of like-minded provinces on side, establishing strong links to the north for trade and military alliances. This gives way into my subsequent conquest of Europe via words. For the next twenty turns I sweet talk everyone and ultimately declare war on the ever encroaching Western Romans.

My little, one province, two army LangoBeards done good. Done real good.

Currently, as of the 19th March, the Beards are working hard to stomp out the Western Romans to the east, whilst protecting the eastern provinces from the Hun. I’m now quite invested in my force of Beards and very eager to see what happens next on Y’bor’s adventures.

In general, the DLC isn’t just cosmetic, though I really enjoy that aspect to it, there’s also some welcome additions here, ones that I would like to see continued with in future DLC.

Total War: ATTILA is out now. For further information visit www.totalwar.com

I couldn’t not show you all this post of a Giant Wooden Rabbit.

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Chris Palmer     This weekend I finished up a couple 10mm stands for my ?Bear Yourselves Valiantly? fantasy armies.  The first of these is a 10mm 3-D printed ?Trojan Rabbit?, purchased from Shapeways.  My friend, Buck Surdu, and I both got one of these; and in talking about it, we decided we?d treat it as a kind of self-propelled  armored personal carrier.  So, to enable the ?self-propelled? part, I modified some extra War-of-the-Roses figures I had to become ?pushers?, and glued them on the base as if pushing the rabbit forward.

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Let?s hope they remembered to get inside this time!

   The other figure I completed this week was an Elf Wizard for my Sea-Elf army.  I used an extra GW High Elf Wizard I had, and painted him in my Sea-Elf army colors.  I tried to paint him as if standing upon a water spout, and…

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British Paratrooper 1940–45

Posted: March 18, 2015 in Books, World War II

9781472805126Inspired by the exploits of the German Fallschirmjäger in the blitzkrieg campaigns, Winston Churchill called for the formation of a 5,000-strong Airborne Force in June 1940. From these beginnings The Parachute Regiment became one of the foremost units of the British Army both in World War II and up to the present day.

This new history of the British Paratrooper, from 1940 to 1945, details the unique training, weapons and equipment used by these elite troops.  This book is exceptionally well-paced; hitting the ground running and giving you a true crash course in the life and history of the British Paratrooper.  A wealth of material brings the history of the ordinary paratrooper to life – helped by the author’s (Rebecca Skinner) position as a former curator of the Regimental Museum.

Royal_Marine_Commandos_attached_to_3rd_Division_for_the_assault_on_Sword_Beach_move_through_Colleville-sur-Orne_on_their_way_to_relieve_forces_at_Pegasus_BSkinner manages to strike a really nice balance between a historical overview of the subject, and some in-depth personal anecdotes.  This not only covers all bases, but it also makes it a really well-paced read.  The anecdotes and personal stories are especially engaging, and vital for a book like this, where it is the individuals and their action that make up the history.

Illustrations and photographs illuminate the equipment and combat performance of the elite ‘Paras’ in the context of some of the most significant campaigns of World War II, including D-Day and Operation Market-Garden – and they are truly excellent.

British_Paratroops_inside_one_of_the_C-47_transport_aircraftThis is a truly excellent Osprey book, and recommended to WWII gamers and enthusiasts of the period.  Hope to hear more from Rebecca Skinner in the future.

British Paratrooper 1940–45 is available now.

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The Vietnam War Experience is a dramatic guide to the suffering, sacrifice and heroism of the Vietnam War. It sees the highs and lows of the world’s first television war through the eyes of those who fought in it – both the generals commanding the war and the ordinary soldiers on the ground and in the air.

Setting it apart from other current books about The Vietnam War, it is made unique through the inclusion of facsimiles of paraphernalia such as posters, official documents and Airborne Death Cards.

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The Vietnam War Experience is not only a very attractive and substantial coffee table book, it is also an excellent introduction to the war for those who are newcomers to either gaming or studying the period.  In fact, as an overview and/or introduction, it’s simply superb.  The photos are excellent, covering all different theaters and aspects of the conflict, and while some detail is obviously sacrificed for the sake of space, what is included is very sufficiently explained.

What is also a nice touch is that – especially considering its status as a “coffee table book”, it is very well paced indeed, developing more of an action-packed tone as the war builds in intensity.  A slow burning introduction covers the setting of the era, The Battle of Dien Bien Phu and the gradual buildup towards US involvement.  When Rolling Thunder or Linebacker are underway, it feels almost adrenalised.  This really helps with the immersive experience that the book endeavours to produce.

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The pull out and paraphernalia sections are excellent facsimiles of documents, cards and posters, which add to the immersion and experience of the book.  The reference cards and posters provided are especially eye-catching and interesting.

All in all, this is an excellent art book for those who are already aficionados of the war, but also provides an excellent “jumping on point” for that who are interested, but don’t rightly know where to start.

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The tank played a hugely successful part in the Allied war effort during the First World War.

It is a mystery, then, why the development of the weapon took so long and was resisted so fiercely by a number of key men and government departments. The idea of an armoured vehicle was far from new by the outbreak of war in August 1914. As early as the fifteenth century Leonardo da Vinci imagined wheeled vehicles equipped with canons. In 1903, H.G. Wells described his version of the tank to be armour plated, have internal power and be able to cross trenches; characteristics that were remarkably similar to the tanks that trundled onto the Somme battlefields thirteen years later.

In his book Foley analyses key questions surrounding the tank, including the all important issue of why senior army personnel were so opposed to its development and content to continue to send wave after wave of unprotected men into the mouths of German machine guns. We also learn more about Lord Kitchener and his scepticism of the tank, which led to the weapon being developed by the Royal Navy under the watchful eye of Winston Churchill.

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The Rise of the Tank is a fascinating read, being a full and intricate history on the development of the tank from its drawing board, all the war through to the end of the First World War.  Not a single point seems to be left uncovered, and it’s loaded with fun pieces of trivia alongside all of the key information.

The first few chapters of the book covering the development and design of the first landship/tank is especially engaging and interesting.  It seems bizarre now to think that the tank was rejected and overlooked so frequently, now that we know its merits.

This is an excellent book for both beginners and expert tread-heads alike.  Two thumbs up!


The Rise of the Tank: Armoured Vehicles and Their Use in the First World War is available now from Pen and Sword Books, priced £19.99 (Hardback) and £11.00 (eBook).

Greek Fire

Posted: March 8, 2015 in Ancient

Not truly a full battle report, but I managed to get a few cool photos of my brother and I playing a game of Tumbling Dice’s Thud Ridge last night.  We played on a slightly smaller 5’x3′ table, as opposed to the recommended 6’x4′, and I have to say that I think it actually worked better.  It cut down on the first couple turns of flying straight forward, and unless we were playing a particularly large battle, or if I were fielding four B-52s or something, I’d probably stick to playing on a 5’x3′ in future.

Thud Ridge is a great system; the always desirable “Easy to Learn, Hard to Master” gaming grail.  For £10 you can pick up the rules, as well as more than enough planes to get you through your first few games.

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Two F-105 Thunderchiefs (background) look like they’re in danger of being intercepted by two MiG-21 Fishbeds.  The gouts of flame indicate that the planes have fired their afterburners this turn.  Afterburners both allow a significant speed boost, and give planes a little more leeway when pushing their vehicles to the limits.  The number in blue represents the plane(s) height, and the red number represents their “Energy” (an abstracted combination of thrust and momentum).

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The SA-2 guideline (MDF disc on he left), manages to get a target lock onto Echo, piloting an F-4 Phantom II.  The USAF player then has one turn to either pull off enough evasive manoeuvres to break the target lock, or hope that a Wild Weasel plane can eliminate the SAM, or force it to shut off its targetting.  This disc is just a place holder until I can knock up some model SAMs that I’m happy with.

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Echo and Splashdog flying the F-4s in formation.  Formation flying allows you to move one plane, and then place the wingman in any position with the bases touching.  It serves no apparent strategic purpose, but does speed up movement in the early stages of the game.

11044501_10153256272650832_1206192453592889998_nTwo MiG-19s prowl around the railyard which – for this scenario – is the USAF’s prime target.  They score points for dropping ordnance on target, so stopping them is vital for an NVAF victory.

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MiG-21 breaks to the right of a wing of F-105s.  The call-signs on the base, combined with the character sheets (on the clipboard, top right) are an invention of my own for tracking ordnance and damage to individual planes.  The call-signs for the USAF planes are taken from Phantom Leader, one of my favourite boardgames.

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The F-105 Thunderchiefs (nicknamed “Thuds”) are debatably the fastest and most manoeuvreable planes in the game, with both a high energy capacity, and afterburners.

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The Thuds drop Mk82 Iron Bombs on their river target, and easily avoid the inferior MiG-19s.

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Cajun dives his Phantom to Height Level 2, which effectively screens it from the SA-2 on the other side of the ridge.  SAMs cannot draw line of sight through high ground, if the target is at Height Level 1 or 2.

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Mastering the banking and turing circles is vital to victory.  Here, the MiG-21s have just overshot the F-4, and will not be able to make a shot on it just yet.

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The history of the Cobra helicopter is a long and varied one, characterised by extensive deployment in some of the most dynamic theatres of war. Designed in 1965, we have hit the fiftieth anniversary of the AH-1’s inception into the world of combat flight, so it seems timely that we should be presented with this, a comprehensive historical account of the various landmarks of the Cobra’s service history.
ID45165_600This heavily illustrated volume relays the story of the Cobra from the days of early development and concept dissection right through to modern day uses, in both combat and civil contexts. Details of the early trials at Rucker are detailed, as is the birth of air mobile deployment, offering an illuminating insight into a most eventful period of developmental expansion. A full account of the Cobra’s service history during the Vietnam campaign is also included, describing the various tactics and weapons employed. The development of iconic variants such as the King Cobra and Supercobra is outlined, their individual histories set alongside those of lesser known and under-sung types, one off designs and oddities that add yet more colour to this fascinating history.

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The photos through Cobra!: The Attack Helicopter are absolutely incredible.  They are numerous, and all interesting (turns out you can have quantity and quality!).  The text is interesting, entertaining and informative, without getting bogged down in all the technical details that can sometimes render the text virtually unreadable among all the version numbers and sub-classifications!

The Cobra’s operational history is comprehensive, and a nice mixture of operational level overviews, and some first-hand memoirs and stories from the people who flew in the Cobra in theatre.

If you’re interested in the Cobra – or attack helicopters in general – then Cobra! – The Attack Helicopter: Fifty Years of Sharks Teeth and Fangs is an essential purchase.

Take a preview here: