Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Mystery Counters

(Image found on Tarleton's Quarter Wargaming Blog)

I have a small mystery on my hands and I'm searching for answers.

Some years back, I won a couple of bids on E-Bay for a bunch of painted World War II German micro-armor and 1990's American micro-armor.  As it turned out, my windfall was part of an estate sale.  I get a unsettling, yet pleasant feeling every time I handle these figures from a gamer who's passed on.  Which by the way, have a far superior paint job than anything I can accomplish in this earthly life.

While attaining artistic excellence is a mystery to me, it's not the subject of this post.

Also included with the miniatures were two sets of handmade wooden counter blocks.  I packed these away, and didn't give them a close examination until I was doing some re-organization of my miniatures and boardgames several days ago.

The first set are generic pieces representing infantry, cavalry artillery and leaders.  The set is unequally divided into three factions, which I'll call Yellow, Red and White.  These blocks are smooth wood (pine?) and measure about 1 1/4 inches square by 1/4 inch thick.

First, the small Yellow and Red Faction:

The Yellow Faction consists exclusively of cavalry, with two leaders (LDR), organized into two divisions.  First Division is the smallest, comprised of 1st CAV and 2nd CAV; while the Second Division is made up of 1st CAV, 1st BDE and 2nd BDE.  The brigade counters are half-black half-yellow, which I'll assume to be heavy cavalry.

Meanwhile the Red Faction is comprised entirely of infantry, divided into five divisions, containing one to two brigades.

And then there's the large White Faction:

This sizable force consists of four cavalry units (brigades?), two (heavy?) cavalry brigades, 10 artillery batteries and 10 infantry brigades unevenly divided into five divisions.  There's a leader for each division, along with a II Corps LDR and an Army LDR.

There are no numerical values on any of these blocks, but from the unit symbols I'm assuming they fall within the general "Horse & Musket Era."

There are 54 duplicate pieces of various 1st & 2nd BDEs for the five White Faction divisions.  I'm not sure if this was deliberate or an oversight on the creator's part.

I'm certain the collection is incomplete, but this isn't what's so puzzling.  I haven't seen a game using playing pieces this large, and they're not quite thick to stand on their sides like GMT's Block Games. I think these were intended for either battlefield hidden movement, or to represent miniature units on a campaign map.  A very large map.

The second set of counters is even more puzzling.

These counters are larger, but thinner than the first set, measuring 1 1/2 inches square, by 1/8 inch thick.  They're painted blue or green to represent Napoleonic French or Russian units, respectively.

Here's a sample of the various Russian troop types and headquarters elements:

While I can identify the unit symbols, it's the number system that I find so baffling.

Here's some Russian cavalry:

There doesn't seem to be a consistent pattern to the number system.  Most units have a number in each corner, while some have three numbers along the top separated by dashes, along with a percentage rating in the lower left corner.

However, with the artillery units...

...the numbers on the lower left corner with the hashtags probably indicate the size of the guns.  In the above case, 12-pounders, and 6-pounders, respectively.

Some units of the same type also have a different color scheme.

With the Russian cavalry, the counters are either white & yellow, or white & black.  (Light and heavy cavalry?).

There's a similar color differentiation with infantry units.

Russian infantry units come with white, green, or yellow unit symbols, with the majority being white. My guess on this is the colored unit symbols denote elite troops.

Russian headquarters units are in three different styles...

...with armies being named, while others (corps?) have Roman or Arabic numerals.

There are no named-leaders in this collection.

I'm wondering if the values on the counters are based on a boardgame.  If so, it's not a system I'm familiar with.  But these counters are even larger than the first set, so the map would have to be huge.

Or these counters could be used in lieu of miniatures.

I'm hoping someone out there in cyberspace will see this post, recognize the game system and give me a clue on how to utilize these pieces.

The French counters are similarly formatted.

French army and corps headquarters:

Field headquarters:

Various artillery units:

I'm not sure if there's any significance between the red and green symbols.  The black dots with gold lettering appear to be Imperial Guard units.


Like the Russian infantry, I think the color differentiation indicates elite status, with blue being veteran troops and the alternating white-blue being Imperial Guard.


I didn't find any white-green cavalry units among the Russians.  That doesn't mean there aren't any--I just haven't found any yet.

Hopefully, I'll make good use of these someday without needlessly getting rid of them, or altering them.

(Image:  by Wojciech Kossak, found on Art of the Russias blog)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Short "Off Topic" Webcomic

(Click on images for a larger view)

I'm taking a small break from my long-form webcomic Breakout from Bongolaan.  This short "intermission comic" was inspired by a story one of my friends told me.

A detailed account of the comic's origin is explained below in the Author's Notes.

Author's Notes (i.e. Methods To My Madness):

During my anonymous friend's tour in Afghanistan, he told me how much he and his soldiers loved Afghan Bread.  So much so, that one day when his squad was suppose to go out on patrol, he asked his interpreter-guide to take them to a village where they could buy some.

This isn't hard to imagine, especially after being on a steady diet of MREs.  Nor is "going off mission" in a quest for Afghan Bread an isolated incident.  Throughout history soldiers have shown a tendency of venturing out, not to engage the enemy, but to search for food, booze, war souvenirs, etc.

Since I only have four US Marine figures suitable for Iraq or Afghanistan theater of operations, I decided to set this story elsewhere.  I have plenty of micro-scale Arab-Israeli War figures, and I recently posted about my new village model, Khaliat Min Bus.  So I blended my friend's story with my miniatures pictures to conjure up this timeless tale.  I also substituted Afghan Bread with Falafel.

All but one of the pictures used in this comic are mine.  I needed a picture of Israeli micro-armor to evoke an image of a sweeping advance.  Thanks to Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy, I found a suitable one for Page One's top picture on Eric Lauterbach's "Fate of the Nation" After-Action Review (AAR).

To give Going Off Mission some semblance of historical accuracy, I scrolled through Wikipedia's entry on the Yom Kippur War, and rummaged through the playing pieces of my game Golan: The Last Syrian Offensive.  I chose the 6th Armored Reconnaissance Battalion counter as the story's military organization, because I assumed soldiers from a recon unit would have the best opportunity to gallivanting off on their own agenda.  I also figured guys in intelligence organizations, like Israel's Military Intelligence Directorate ("Aman"), would also know where to find the best "commodities" for soldiers to "liberate."

Despite such assumptions on my part, I hope you enjoy the story, which can also be found under the Studio Pages Sidebar, at the top right-hand corner of this blog.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Honoring Martin Luther King Day

(Image found on Edom Nuts & Bolts)

As someone who's blogging about current events, this picture of, and quote by MLK struck me the most.

Best wishes to all of you.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Product Review: Manoeuvre

Last week, my copy of GMT's Manoeuvre arrived.  While the game has been available for several years, I've held-off buying the game until I stumbled across it on the Miniatures Market for nearly $20 off.

I haven't punched out the counters yet, but I repackaged the playing cards and geomorphic map sections.  It took me exactly 40 minutes to read the 20 page rule booklet.  I know this because I was on a stationary cardio machine while I was reading.

Manoeuvre is a simple game loosely based on early 19th Century warfare, primarily the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812.  It's something like a cross between chess, with an 8-square x 8-square map board, and De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA), in that armies are comprised of a set-number of units, in this case 8 regiments each.

These armies come from the following nations:  America, Austria, Britain, France, Prussia, the Ottoman Empire, Russia and Spain. Each army consists of a mixture of infantry and cavalry regiments, most of which are in a ratio of 6 x infantry to 2 x cavalry.  The exceptions are the American Army with only one cavalry regiment supporting 7 x infantry, and the Ottoman Empire with an even split of infantry and cavalry, of 4 each.

Artillery is represented by Bombardment Cards some regiments may have within a card deck.

And speaking of cards, movement and combat is initiated by any of the 8 army card decks.  These can be unit-specific, or overall command, or "HQ" type of cards, which can, depending on the nationality, can include spies, ambushes, guerrillas and famous leaders who "ride-in," inspire the troops and "ride-off."

My initial impressions of Manoeuvre is that this is an easy game to learn, but hard to master, which can be played within 40-120 minutes.  According to the rules, it may take up to two hours to play the initial game, with the playtime decreasing by about 5 minutes after each subsequent session.

I've whined constantly mentioned occasionally on this blog about my shortage of game time due integrating my rotating work schedule with that of my gaming buddies.  So a quickie game that can be whipped-up, completed, and put away within a couple of hours can fit into my limited gaming time.

The sturdy box and small assembled map board makes Manoeuvre highly portable.  Excellent for road trips, like to gaming conventions or to historical sites, and one you could play in your hotel room.

Despite the game's merits, there are some detracting aspects of Manoeuvre.   While the game gets an average 4.4-stars out of 5 rating, on GMT's site, there was one 2-star rating that I took note of.  His main complaint was about the small cards and flimsy map sections.  The 8-square by 8-square battlefield is assembled using 4 card stock map sections. 

I certainly couldn't read the cards without my glasses, and I can see where players have to be careful about maneuvering in Manoeuvre, lest they jostle the assembled map board.  Laying down a sheet of plexi-glass may keep the map section in place, but certainly reduces the game's "portability factor."

As an aside, one of the problems I have with using plexi-glass is that it makes picture taking rather difficult.  It seems no matter what I do, there's always a glare-spot somewhere, even when I turn off the lights.  This may be due to my lack of photographic skill, but this would be a subject for another blogpost.

I'm not a huge fan of square-based maps in boardgames, especially since diagonal maneuvers aren't allowed in Manoeuvre.  On the one hand this simplifies players' movement options, but it also seems to make movement limited and clunky.  However, since I haven't played the game yet, I'll hold off on judging this aspect for the time being.

Anyway, despite these concerns I'm happy with my purchase and have pre-ordered the upcoming Manoeuvre: Distant Lands Expansion.

In the meantime, before taking the fight to distant lands, the original game can still be found, in prices ranging from $30 to $50; along with some fan-made supplemental material which can be found on BoardgameGeek.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Webcomic Chapter 14 Posted

Chapter 14 (pages 424-437) of Breakout from Bongolaan is now available.

For this chapter's Theme Song, I chose Prepare for the End uploaded by xDarkLegacyx2. I think this tune fits the epic, space opera aspect of Star Wars, while it's steady--almost monotonous--beat, implies impending danger.

I'm now in the process of re-writing Chapter 15, which is giving me some trouble narrative pacing-wise.  Once I'm satisfied this chapter is good enough to post, then it's "back to the drawing board" for the Chapters 16 onwards.  That is, I'll need to snap a batch of new photos.

In the meantime, I've been looking at some webcomic hosting sites to determine which one I'd like to join in order to make a "second home" for Breakout from Bongolaan.

Until then, I hope you enjoy this latest chapter.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Webcomic Chapter 13 Posted

Chapter 13 (pages 383--423) of  Breakout from Bongolaan is now available.

Since I wrote Chapters 12--14 in one fell-swoop, which took me several months to complete, the "only" thing I had to do was some editing on Chapter 13.

For this chapter's theme song, I chose two pieces of music.

Since our heroes are still dealing with the aftermath of the initial attack in a planetary coup, I thought the Coruscant Thug Boss Fight Music from the game Jedi Power Battles, Episode I, fit the overall mood.

And for the last few pages, I felt the "traditional" Imperial March was appropriate for the chapter's finale.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Great War Naval Games

A few weeks ago, I came across another great Great War buy at Half Price Books.  This time it was the Avalon Hill (AH) classic Jutland.  My brother use to have this game when we were teenagers, but it somehow disappeared after we both joined the military.

So I was happy to re-acquire the game for $15.  This is on the lower end of the price spectrum which ranges from $9.99 to $29.99, depending on the game's condition.

Neither the box, nor the counters showed any significant wear-and-tear.  Only one strategic map/time record was used, along with a British Hit Record Sheet and a German Hit Record Sheet.  Oh, and a minor quibble--my game didn't come with a die.

Jutland was initially published in 1967, and a second edition was released in 1974.  I think my copy is the second edition.  I remember the Maneuver Gauges and Battle Area Markers of my brother's game being made of thick cardboard, while in my copy they're only made of thin cardstock.

Jutland isn't the only Great War wargame that I own.  Several years ago, I purchased Great War at Sea: Jutland...

(Box cover from Avalanche Press's GWAS: Jutland)

...along with several other Great War at Sea (GWAS) games.

Unlike AH's Jutland, GWAS games have two distinct differences.  First, while AH's Jutland used a hex-grid map to plot fleet movements with a pencil, GWAS games come with operational maps for counters, representing task forces to maneuver on.  Second, even though AH's Jutland is considered a boardgame, there is no board.  It's more of a miniatures game using cardboard counters.  The GWAS games on the other hand, have a hexagonal tactical map that is used when two opposing task forces encounter each other on the operational map.

About the same time I began collecting GWAS material, a local game store (that is now out of business when the owner retired), had it's annual Christmas Sale.  One of the items I acquired was the hefty Fear God and Dread Nought (FG&DN).

(FG&DN is part of Larry Bond's Admiralty Trilogy)
And when I mean hefty, I'm not just talking about actual weight, but price and the depth of detailed material. 
FG&DN is not a wargame--it's a World War I tactical naval simulation, or a naval reference publication with a naval simulation included in the package.
However, in addition to the scholarly research that went into making FG&DN, the ship counters are GORGEOUS!  Who needs miniatures with playing pieces this fine looking? 
They certainly make AH's Jutland counters look amateurish by today's art and printing standards.
So which game do I like the best?
I can't really say.  Even though I've read the rules to GWAS several years ago, and AH's Jutland a few decades ago, I haven't played any of them.
Sad, I know, but I'm sure many other gamers have similar difficulties getting together with friends--and deciding on what game to play--especially ones that require multi-day commitments.
But for a "shot across the bow" first impression, I'd say these are the best aspects of each game, along with detailed reviews by other players:
FG&DN--The detailed research and the counters; review by Mitch Freedman on The Boardgaming Way.
GWAS--the operational maps, along with the corresponding rules; review by Paul Comben on The Boardgaming Life
Jutland--the miniature-style rules*, which are simple in comparison to the other games; review of the 1974 Edition by "The Maverick" on Boardgamegeek.
*Note:  The GWAS tactical rules are actually simpler, but don't give players a sense of naval tactics, other than closing within range of ships' guns and blasting enemy vessels with "buckets of dice" salvoes.
As the Centennial Anniversary of the actual battle is less than six months away, my New Year's Resolution New Year's Hope is to play at least one scenario from one of these games before 2016 comes to a close. 
(Image found on Think Link)

Happy New Year!

(Image from: The Seattle Times)

Best wishes to all of you in 2016!