Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: Wargames Illustrated 271

It's been kinda quiet on the blog this week. Frankly, it has been crunch time on several competing deadlines and I just haven't had the time to keep up with the blog. 

I received my copy of WI 271 this week and I got a chance to read through it, so I'll offer a quick (and probably incomplete) review: 

The Flames of War material for The Road to Rome theme, based on the Dogs & Devils release, was pretty good. Lots of interesting bits on army lists and army building - I especially like the advice article on creating a US 3rd Division company at different point levels. I was pleased with the Market Garden coverage few months ago and Battlefront continues to put high quality articles in place. I don't get to play this  game as much as I'd like, but I find the historical content interesting and appreciate the special scenario mechanics. 

I also liked Neil Smith's The Perfect Battle: Aliwal, 1846. Not only is it an informative piece on the Anglo-Sikh conflicts of the mid-19th Century, it has some great sidebars on the 16th Lancers and contemporary accounts of the fighting - as viewed by the soldiers. It also features Black Powder stats for the scenario game. 

The Battle of Melle, 1745. I have actually just started reading it, but it involves WI's Dan F and some of the Warlord Games guys putting on another scenario using Black Powder rules. Nice town layout, and the BP unit tweaks to fit the troop capabilities were good. 

The Little Fighting Fours. I have only skimmed this one, but it looks like it will be a good read also. I really liked the article about the Prussians a few months ago and this one is done along those lines. I'd really like to see more units explored in depth like this in the magazine.

There's more, of course, but I'll stop here. I do want to say that the photos for my Brunanburh article were pretty dang awesome. Again, my hat is off to Dan F's photography. 


Friday, April 23, 2010

Battle of Brunanburh Bonus (More Vikings!)

Wargames Illustrated 271 features my take on the epic Battle of Brunanburh, where the Dublin Norse made their last great attempt against Alfred's scions in 937. This material was written in support of the previous issue's Vikings of Ireland theme. The WI website features orders of battle I created using Warhammer Ancient Battles and Warmaster Ancients rules.

I mentioned previously that I really liked Howard Whitehouse's article on the Battle of Clontarf because he made the effort to present the scant historical facts as best as possible and let the mythology provide flavor. This is exactly the way I felt Brunanburh should be handled. Most of the medieval text concerning the battle should not be taken at face value. The orders of battle noted above were created with these kinds of thing in mind. The Brunanburh battle poem, found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (and also presented in the online bonus material), served as my guide; the tweaks especially try to bring out the flavor of the poem.

So now I'm wondering what the lists might look like with Howard Whitehouse's beta Clash of Iron. That sounds like a fun project to try out next month. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

The S.I.E.G.E.

With luck I will get to attend the second annual S.I.E.G.E. in Chattanooga this coming Saturday. This game convention will feature miniature games (fantasy, sci-fi, and historicals), role-playing games, card games, board games, and console games. It's got tons of tournaments.

Dicehead Comics & Games (located in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN) is organizing the event, but they have received a lot of ground level support from game clubs in East and Middle Tennessee. Shane Grubb, one of Dicehead's owners, really raved about the prize and game master support the convention has received from Battlefront/Gale Force 9. 

I think this all-games convention is what the region needs. I can't recall anything like it in East Tennessee, ever. Folks really have to travel to Nashville, Atlanta, or farther to enjoy a good game convention. Here's to more good gaming in the Southeast.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Coming Soon: Wargames Illustrated 271

It's been a long week as I work on a number of project deadlines, and I expect updates will be a little irregular from time to time. But here's a preview to the next Wargames Illustrated issue, which features my take on the Battle of Brunanburh 937 - more on that later. It also features a cool 19th Century India article by Neil Smith - and more on that later too. 

If you read the kind words WI US Editor Dave Taylor had for me in WI 270's editorial, you saw that I'm involved in an American Civil War project. Yeah - more on that later too - I'm sworn to secrecy at the moment. I did want to say I've had a lot of fun researching and writing about a military subject outside of my Ancients/Dark Ages favorites.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I finally played Rio Grande Games' Dominion recently, and I definitely saw similarities between it and AEG's Thunderstone (see my brief review here). Players assume the role of medieval aristocrats attempting to increase their controlled territories through judicious use of political and economic resources. 

I believe the game may be played with only two players, but it seems like it is more fun to have four players (maximum). Again, this is a game of card resource management and the players must decide on whether to build/trim their decks or pursue victory points (growing their kingdoms). The choice between strengthening your hand and purchasing victory points becomes more acute as the game progresses. Offhand, I'd say anytime you get a chance to make a big score on points (grabbing a province), you should do it.

The resource cards do a great job of linking the late medieval/renaissance theme and their game functions/mechanics. For instance, throne rooms and council rooms - the corridors of power - let players multiply the effects of other resources or bring more resources into play, respectively. Players can't ignore things likes workshops or woodcutters, either - they are nuts-and-bolt cards that can serve a number of minor, but essential purposes. 

I highly recommend the game.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Whitehouse on Clontarf in WI 270

I must say that I really like Howard Whitehouse's take on the Battle of Clontarf in his article "The Plain of the Bull" in Wargames Illustrated 270. I got to drive the content for the Vikings in Ireland theme and I knew that the battle would be difficult to portray in any way close to reality. Whitehouse took to dispelling the saga myths, but used them for flavoring - and I think that is the best way to go. Off the top of my head I can name a few introductory books on the period that I've read that don't bother much with exploring the scant historical facts - they just recount saga legends as if they were history - and readers deserve better. Kudos to Howard.

Also of interest - the article presents orders of battle and some basic info for playing the Battle of Clontarf using Whitehouse's "Clash of Iron" rules, currently in beta. The rules should be available for download at in the "none-too-distant future" according to Whitehouse's posts on the Wargames Factory forum

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wargames Illustrated: Painting Vikings

Editor Dave Taylor and Josh Landis show us how to paint up some Viking and Irish figures in Wargames Illustrated #270. The article includes some of Wargames Factory plastic Vikings and some of Crusader's metal Dark Age Irish, and a painted likeness of Brian Boru (based on an Angus McBride plate). We also get some how-to steps for painting Celtic knots. 

Speaking of plastic Vikings, Gripping Beast will join Wargames Factory with their own releases later this month. I'm tempted to give both a try. The cover art for WI 270 is taken from the new Gripping Beast figure box.

Paul Davies also gives us a very cool Early Irish Christian Church in his How To Build series. He breaks out the foamcore, Dulux paint, and Dremel tool like no other to make a model church complete with a tower. I wish I could do stonework like that. Anyway, lots of great pics of project and the finished work, plus a picture of the real thing and a list of inspirational source material. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Greek Fire

I was able to grab some feature space again in Dragon magazine based on Dark Age history. Issue 
#334 featured my piece on Greek Fire, a staple alchemical weapon going all the way back to the 1st edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game. I took it back to its famous historical roots, complete with flame-spewing siphon projectors in "The Fires of Alchemy."

The editors did a great job of putting together a theme that evoked historical and legendary elements of the medieval eastern Mediterranean world. "Monsters of Arabia" (by Wolfgang Baur), "The Janissary," and the "Ecology of the Kraken" were all great pieces. Ed Greenwood's Cities of the Realms feature, "Crimmor, City of Caravans," could easily serve as the basis for a real world trading city between Italy and Asia Minor. 

This wraps up the short look at Dark Ages and Dragon (and Dungeon) magazine this week. At another time, I may take a look at other historically themed content that appeared in its pages. Some of the most interesting things I read in Dragon's pages were based on people, places, and things from the world's past.

Next week may be slow going on the blog, but I think it may be time to talk a little more about Vikings...