Saturday, 12 March 2016

Procrastination on Painting, plus some Basing

I have done some, honestly. I just haven't finished anything.

I started doing a platoon - three squads of eight plus two command (officer and FO). The attached photo shows the method, if not the quality.

First a white gesso undercoat, then a thin black wash, followed by blocking in colours. I'm not trying any camo yet, just an olive green.

In the background you can see hints of how I intend to do the basing to try and get the best of all worlds.

The cloverleaf sabots - a special order from Warbases - take three 15mm round bases. I decided not to go with the 2mm base as well, so that the entire structure isn't 4mm high (base + sabot). That just seems excessive! I've just used thin card stuck on with PVA glue. With the glue and a layer of paint it's pretty sturdy. Each sabot (I also ordered some to take only two bases) is 4cm at its widest. With that shape you can also alternate the bases (point forward, point to the rear) so that the figures look like they're in two contiguous rows, and the average frontage is then about 3cm per base of three, which just happens to be the size that fits with AK47 rules without being stuck with basing 3 on a square base. Success!

However ...

... unfortunately the bases don't sit securely in the sabot, so I lose a lot of the benefit of multiple basing. I'm now looking at magnets to see if they will keep the figures securely in the sabot. I've tried 0.5mm flexible magnetic sheeting, but it's not very "sticky" in small amounts, and is a nightmare to glue securely.

I've now ordered some small rare earth magnets (and brass tweezers), with the idea that I glue one in the centre of each hole, and mount the figures on steel washers which will fit over the magnet, and stay secure in there. I am nervous that the magnets might be too strong, and suck entire units into a prickly sphere, but only time will tell.

If it works I'll have the additional benefit that the bases will sit securely inside  steel toolbox - as long as the magnets aren't so strong as to tear through the the card of course.

Friday, 11 March 2016


Right, so I want to base my figures to be able to use CoC (or a more modern development thereof), IABSM and also AK47. There's no reason why I can't use multiple basing really, but I want to have the flexibility of having individual basing.

So here's what I have come up with.

- all "rank and file" figures based individually on 15mm circular bases

- these can be grouped together in socket stands of 2 or 3 which have a maximum frontage of 4cm. Depending on how these are arranged, the "triangular" bases will have an average width of 3.3cm, which is functionally the same as the AK47 3cm bases of 3. So it works well for AK47 and it makes it easier to move figures around in multiples.

- officers/big men (for IABSM) will be based on polyhedral bases. Divide sides or vertices by 2 to get the level of Big Man. So a Big Man IV is on an octagonal base, a Big Man III is on a hexagonal base, a Big Man II is on a square base, and a Big Man I is ... well actually he's on a 2cm round base, so the pattern breaks down there, sorry.

- light weapons teams don't really matter for IABSM, they are counted in with the section strength, but they do for AK47 (if it's an RPG-type weapon) and for CoC. It is difficult to spot a LSW on 15mm figures from a distance, so I will mark them, and figures armed with and RPG, LAW or other light support weapon, with a small rock on the back of the figures' stands. For CoC these will be grouped with their assistants on the same base (of 2 or 3). For AK47 it's a stand of 3 anyway. So "cherchez la pierre" for such figures.

- For larger teams crewing heavier weapons, e.g. for HMGs, medium mortars or the larger RCLs, these can probably be fitted as stands of 2 or 3, depending on the number of figures. I haven't experimented yet, but I suspect some at least will not be individually mounted.

Admittedly unified field theory may have to wait, but I'm happy with this solution as a way forward.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Thoughts on Rules

AK47 Republic

The obvious set of rules would, of course be AK47 from Peter Pig. They're a neat set of rules, are available as a pdf (the old Republic edition anyway, not the newer Reloaded one). There's a clever pre-game political system that can cause major surprises. You can get a nice variety of figures and models onto the table, and everyone has a good time.

My only real issue is the perennial one of scale. 

Infantry groups can fire 10" (25cm), RPGs 6" (15cm) and tank guns 26" (65cm). That seems to me to be an effective ground scale of about 1" = 25 yards (or 10cm = 100 yards) or more. Suddenly I'm no longer sure whether a tank model is one tank, or maybe it's 2 or 3. And maybe the figure scale is 1:10, so that a stand represents about 30 men. As you can spread them out to have 3" between each stand, that's maybe 100 yards frontage per stand which sounds about right for poorly trained troops. 

Why does this matter? Well it matters because the entire number of main battle tanks received between 1964 and 1985 by Zambia (to take an example, and according to arms registers(a)) was 25. That's 5 x T54's and 20 x T55's if you're interested. Count 'em. That would be 8-12 models for the entire army, assuming all were in a road-worthy state (which is unlikely). Those numbers alone show how African warfare can be on a very different scale from so much of the rest of the world, and most wargamers would thoughtlessly burn through that many models in an afternoon of gaming. 

So it's not a definite "no", but it bears some thought. It would help if I were better at suspending disbelief, of course.

Chain of Command (CoC)

Chain of Command by Too Fat Lardies looks like a definite possible. It's specifically 1:1 and is designed to be based round an infantry platoon plus supporting elements. It's not quite the sweeping scale I was hoping for, but it may well do the job nicely. The stated ground scale is 12" to 40 yards, and that's not a million miles away from the 1/100 scale that is 15mm figures - it's actually 1/120. It has an innovative patrol phase that drives unit setup and where reinforcements can appear. 

I Ain't Been Shot Mum (IABSM)

Also from the Too Fat Lardies stable, this is designed for actions with a supported Company on each side. It probably has the sweep of bigger units that I would like to employ, with infantry and vehicles deployed on a 1:1 basis, with squads and vehicles being the base elements. It has card activation which throws in a nice element of the unexpected into a game. Units will do better if motivated by the few "Big Men" in your force, which sounds just perfect for this kind of conflict. The stated ground scale is 12" to 80 yards which is OK for me, as it pretty much fits with "if you can see it you can shoot at it" which makes more sense for this scale of warfare. There is an excellent supplement, B'Maso, that deals with African bush wars from the 1950's onwards. The related rules "Charlie Don't Surf" that cover the Vietnam War also have a take on some asymmetric warfare rules that could possibly be ported across. 

Force on Force

Published by Ambush Alley Games and I'm still looking at this one. Like CoC it's 1:1 with individual infantrymen. Unlike CoC I suspect that taking a full platoon plus supporting elements on each side might overload the mechanics. It also has a "Bush Wars" supplement which covers much of the period in question and is a useful source of information, at the very least. 

Initial Conclusion

There are many other rules sets out there, but I can't really look at them all. 

I don't really want to base all figures individually - moving them around would take forever. I will probably go with 3cm x 3cm bases as for AK47, with two (for support weapons and better troops) or three figures (for the rest) per base. I can then go for sections/squads of 4 bases which will fit in a truck under those rules. I suspect I will end up going for IABSM, and CoC for smaller actions, but I'm sure it will work for those as well, and at least I can get on with collecting!(b)

(a) Zambia also received the following combat vehicles from the Soviet Union:
44 x BRDM-1
44 x BRDM-2
13 x BTR-60PB
50 x PT-76 
This information comes from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute register of arms sales here. I might question how complete it is, but given that Zambia is a landlocked country it probably isn't so far out for big kit like MBTs. It's a great little tool. 

(b) OK, confession time - I actually picked up an army pack from Peter Pig many, many years ago. In fact so many years ago that some of the figures have been redesigned and are not what appears on the website today! 

EDIT: I have fixed some of the more egregious calculation errors

Monday, 24 August 2015

First Post, with Apologia

What follows is an occasional attempt to record my thoughts and progress on an AK47 wargames campaign, much of which will likely be fought in my own head. 

For those who aren't in the know, let me quote from the Peter Pig rules set "AK47 Republic":

"These rules are intended to cover warfare at the battalion/Local Warlord level. The rules cover the period from c. 1955 until about 1990. 

It is accepted that these rules make many generalities. The reason for this is to provide a playable game. The rules should allow players to gain a good flavour of military operations in Africa whilst giving a satisfying and sociable game. 

The rule writers have considered that the game must not only attempt to simulate warfare but to provide an opportunity for players to socialise and have fun.

Modern wars in Africa have been frequent and bloody. Little ever changes for the civilian population. A new leader's title, be it democrat or saviour, does not necessarily indicate his true political nature. 

It is important at this stage that it is made clear that the suffering of people is not a subject for glorification by these rules. However the warfare on the African continent is very different from that in other theatres and therefore deserves study.

The term "army" in Africa covers forces ranging from the highly professional South African Army to the wild militias that so many conflicts let loose. What they do have in common is the ability to change a leadership. Many African leaders are put into power by strong support from their own tribal or ethnic faction. These factions are not necessarily the most numerous of a country’s inhabitants but the most powerful/able at that point. With the necessary backing a very small fraction of a population can indulge in its own policies to the detriment of the majority of a population. Such "backers" might be neighbouring countries, industrial giants or superpowers." 

My musings will hopefully lead me to an "Imaginations" state, with its residents and neighbours; its trials and tribulations; its PR face and its darker underbelly. If I do get it right it will take on a life of its own, for better or for worse. 

One of the first thoughts in an imagination campaign is to visualise the layout of the nation. Not in full technicolour detail, perhaps, but in broad terms so that you can get an idea of it's layout. Where are its borders and who/what lies beyond them? Is it blessed with natural resources, and are any of these in easy reach of its grasping neighbours? In my initial musings I panned through Google Earth, and came across an area that seemed to offer an ideal canvas on which I could paint the picture of the campaign.

I must therefore make an up-front apology to the good people of Zambia and its neighbours for freely plagiarising, adapting and corrupting their geography, history, administration and ethic groupings to suit the storyline. On occasion I may have been too lazy or forgetful to change the names of entirely innocent people and places, or changed them only slightly, and perhaps I have even hit upon them by random chance. Nothing is intended or implied by such thoughtless misuse of real names and their close proxies. This truly is a work of fiction.