Thursday, February 23, 2017

Combat Mission: Black Sea

This post is a bit of a divergence from the main topic of the blog, but hopefully people will see the linkages with 3mm gaming by the end of the post?!

Following on from my previous post on 1:1 gaming, I thought I'd share some of the inspiration.

A prolonged amount of time away from home has severely depleted my tabletop gaming time. So I have recently been doing a bit of computer gaming. I was put onto one excellent game by my mate, John. Produced by Battlefront (the computer game one, not the tabletop game one!), it's called Combat Mission: Black Sea. The game was released a couple of years ago and features a near-future conflict in Crimea in 2017 between NATO & Ukraine on one side, and Russia on the other. As it's now 2017, the game setting is very current and relevant!

Game play is very detailed and the simulation, AI, and data behind it is fantastic. It's very much a tactical level game, with battles at the platoon up to multi-battalion level. Real-world tactics are rewarded, in fact if you don't use them the game tends to be pretty punishing!! The game can be played either real-time or turn-based (each turn representing 1 minute of real time).  I prefer playing turn-based as its closer to what I'm used to with tabletop gaming. Real time is also fun; it goes quicker, but at the higher level of games there is a lot going on and you really need to prioritise your attention for orders (that's more realistic, but I prefer having more control!). There are even options for opposed online play, or play by email in turn-based mode. The latter I'd like to try at some stage down the track when I get more skilled at the game!

Some screen-shots are shown below. There are also some pretty good videos of game play on YouTube if you search for them - in some the players go through a whole game scenario so it's good for getting a feel for the game.

The view allows you to zoom right out for working out your high level maneuver plans and orders, and zoom right down to the lowest level to see the various troops moving and fighting. The screen-shots below show a mix of different levels of views, as well as various terrains and equipment. As I said, the level of detail is great!!

A nice rural wooded terrain

And again, zoomed out a bit

More open terrain, with village and river

Very open! Tanks forming up for assault.

The road into town...

M1A2 SEPs form up behind a wood before dashing across the fields.

Some nice fields and treelines. M2A2s in the treeline.

An urban terrain

More urban terrain. Plenty of carnage already going on here!

Another town.

Zoomed out aerial view of the same.

US armour bringing freedom to Ukraine.

Russian tank in reverse slope.

Ukrainian artillery spotter in MTLB.

Russian BMP-3s advance.

US tanks suppress a position.

Ukrainians dismount their BMPs.

So this is the link with 3mm gaming. The fantastic detail and gameplay of the computer game has provided me inspiration for some 1:1 gaming in this conflict. I'm thinking of bringing the scenarios and forces to the tabletop myself as I'm enjoying the challenge of the scenarios so much! I want to make up some forces, with which to play some of the CM:BS scenarios on the tabletop with 3mm minis at 1:1 level. Probably in either true 1:600 ground scale or (more likely) 1:1000 ground scale. I think it'll be awesome, and a very interesting (and current) topic.

The good news is pretty much all of the stuff needed to do CM:BS on the tabletop is available in the PicoArmor/O8 range, including: M1A2 SEP, M2A3, Stryker (all variants), M109A7, T-80, T-72 (various), BTR-80, -'80A, -82, BMP-2 (various), BMP-3, MTLB (various), Ukrainian BTR-4, T-64B and T-64BM Bulat. Various helicopters and other aircraft on both sides are also available. The only model I can think of that is currently missing in the O8 range is the T-84 Oplot, so I'm crossing my fingers that Marcin from O8 may see this and will do one of those soon!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

3mm gaming at 1:1 - Painting and Basing

This post follows on from my last post about 1:1 gaming with 3mm miniatures.

I made my decision on the base I would use for my minis based for 1:1 gaming. I decided to go with option 3 from the last post. These are the 1.5mm thick acrylic bases from Gamecraft, 1"x 5/8" (25x15mm).

So I decided to paint some minis up quickly to see what they would look like in the finished state instead of the mock-ups I laid out last time. Minis are all from Oddzial Osmy (PicoArmor)  and comprise some of their new Russian T-80Us and some of the US Modern Infantry.

The process for painting and basing is below. All paints are Vallejo Model Colour, except where otherwise specified.

Stick the infantry minis to the bases.
I decided to use the smaller 5/8" x 1/2" bases for small 2-3 man teams,
otherwise they'd just look silly on the bigger bases.

Stick the tank minis to a stick.

Undercoat infantry Russian Uniform WWII.

Vehicle bases were textured with Vallejo Brown Earth textured gel...

...This is the stuff.

Infantry bases too.

T-80Us were undercoated Vallejo Russian Green Surface Primer.

I decided to make them camouflaged. Spots added with Deck Tan.

The bases again, showing the fine grainy texture.

Dry-brush vehicles with Desert Yellow.
Looks very messy at this stage, but the dry-brush brings out the raised surfaces.

Also dry-brush the raised texture on the bases.

Infantry get the same treatment.
Desert Yellow highlight also gives the US Infantry their final uniform colour.
(close enough anyway - there's no way I'm doing MultiCam in 3mm!)

MGs painted in German Grey.
This close up shows how messy the dry-brushing looks, but later stages rectify this.

Infantry Small Arms too.
Infantry also get little flesh (Sunny Skin Tone) dots for fles areas.

Javelin ATGM tube is painted in Dark Yellow.

Then my favourite stuff:
Army Painter Soft Tone Quickshade wash.

The Soft Tone wash provides all the shading, quickly and easily.
Also covers the messy dry-brush look.

Same on the infantry.

Bases get some fine flock.
Here it is Woodland Scenic Earth Blend and Grass Blend in patches.

Infantry bases too.

Stick the tanks onto their bases. Then add some static-grass clumps.

The four tank T-80U platoon complete.

US Infantry Squad complete.
Larger base is the Rifle/MG team (in Team Yankee type terms).
Smaller base (5/8" x 1/2") is the ATGM team.

I'm pretty happy with the results. Quick, effective, and I think the minis will look good on the table for some lower level actions. Team Yankee style, or perhaps FFT in 1:1, or even something like Sabre Squadron.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

3mm Gaming at 1:1

I'm thinking of moving into playing some lower level games in 1:1 with 3mm miniatures. By 1:1, I mean those rules where each base represents a single vehicle, or infantry fire-team or squad. Examples include Team Yankee (or Flames of War), Sabre Squadron, FiveCore Company Commander, or my favourite Fistful of TOWs (using the 1:1 Play Chapter).

In 3mm the bases would have a single vehicle on them, and I'm thinking for infantry of basing as fire-teams (or weapon teams) of 2-5 men. So just like Team Yankee basing, but using smaller bases and 3mm minis. The games could consequently be played on much smaller tables, or alternately the ground scale could be reduced. For example:

  • When playing Team Yankee I'd substitute centimeters for inches in any measurements; so a 6'x4' table (72"x48") would only require a table space of 72x48cm. Alternately use a bigger play surface, but it gives you the equivalent of a much bigger table than when played in 15mm. Using centimeters and the small scale minis and retaining a 6'x4' tabletop provides the equivalent playing surface of 180"x120" table (15'x10')!! A playing area this size would be the envy of 15mm gamers, but it's eminently do-able in 3mm using centimeter measurements.

  • The other alternative for TY is just to play as-written, using inches. This would mean there is just a much more realistic looking spatial relationship between the minis and movement and firing ranges.

  • Likewise for FFT play at a ground scale of 1:1000 by substituting 10cm (100mm) for each 1" in the measurements. So 100mm (tabletop) = 100m (real world), or if you'd prefer 1mm=1m. A 6'x4' table still gives you a play surface of 1.8km x 1.2km - big enough for company sized actions common in 1:1 level rules.

  • Playing at *exactly* 1:600 (where 1m on the table = 600m in real life) is do-able for smaller scenarios in closer terrain  - eg. up to about company sized forces in urban or wooded terrain where LOS would not extend beyond about 1km maximum. I would actually prefer to play at 1:1000 scale using 1:600 minis for realistic looking spatial relationships, but with just a little compression/abstraction for increased playability. 1:1000 makes converting real-world distances to the tabletop VERY easy; it's simply 1m on the tabletop = 1km on the ground, or 1mm = 1m. On a normal 6'x4' table (1.8m x 1.2m), equating to 1.8km x 1.2 km, this allows play of slightly larger games - probably up to battalion level in close terrain, or company level in more open terrain

I'm currently experimenting with basing ideas to get the 'look' right. I've bought some sample bases (all in 1.5mm thick clear acrylic) in different sizes, shown below:

The first is a custom base from Litko, 10x20mm, with rounded edges (so 'pill' shaped) I quite like the look of this one as it's distinctly longer (for vehicles) or wider (for infantry). To me this would provide some nice linear formations on the table - for example vehicles in column, or infantry in line-abreast.

The next is from Gamecraft. 1/2" x 5/8" (~12x15mm). This one is maybe a little too small (not long enough), even for 3mm minis. It's not quite long enough for the T-80U on it, and the T-80U is only a medium sized tank, so a large tank like M1A2 SEP would be even worse. The 5x infantry minis also look a bit crowded.

The final one is also from Gamecraft. 5/8" x 1" (~15x20mm). This is actually marketed as a Flames of War (medium) half-scale base. Because both the width and length of the base are halved, the area of the base actually ends up being 1/4 of the size of the equivalent FOW base (do the math!).

This one doesn't look bad, but is maybe a little too big? There is quite a bit of free space around the miniatures, but this could be good if I decide to go for a more scenic look with grass clumps, etc. They also may not get 'lost' on the tabletop as easily, and would provide space for a label if I go that way (haven't decided on this yet).

I think number two is probably out (except maybe for two-man teams), but will continue to ponder the other two since both have merits and deficiencies.

Big decisions to be made! More to follow...

Friday, February 17, 2017

3mm Friendly Rules - Part 2: Board Games Rules for Miniatures

The Question came up recently on the PicoArmor War Room forums about whether it is possible to use board game rules to play miniatures games. I posted a rather lengthy response because it is a question that has always intrigued me over the years, and I've tinkered with a few options. The post below is a re-hash and slight expansion of my response on the PicoArmor War Room forums.

Yes, I think it's pretty easy to convert many board games to the tabletop. They generally have to be lower level though; 1:1 level or platoon to a counter (base or stand on the tabletop) to work well.

I have dabbled with using the board game rules Air & Armor from West End Games on the tabletop. There are previous posts on this topic if you search back through.

It works ok, but is right at the upper limit of the scale you can play as you get issues with ground scale and stacking etc. It's a fantastic system though, and I'm working on an article on using it instead as a higher level tactical campaign system for several divisions per side, where the resulting clashes (generally multi-company to brigade level) would be played on the tabletop using other rules.

There are other board games that can also be used as a campaign system to generate lower level battles - eg. GDW's Third World War series, and SPI's Central Front series.

But back to board games that can be (in my opinion) easily converted to the tabletop. Some that I've come across are below. The list is by no means exhaustive, but gives a taste:
  • GDW's Test of Battle Series (Team Yankee, Test of Arms, Blood and Thunder, The Sands of War) is really good and at the right level. It even includes a nifty little campaign system for playing linked games in a couple of the modules. Platoon-base level.

  • Avalon Hill made some classics that are convertible. Squad Leader and the Advanced Squad Leader series were fantastic games at the 1:1 level (ie. individual Tanks and Squads/Half-squads). ASL is a lot more detailed and subsequently counter-heavy than most rules on the market specifically designed for minis. Also the Panzerblitz series and it's modern AIW version (the Arab Israeli Wars).

  • More recently the World at War series by Lock 'n Load Games. From looking at LnL's website it looks like they will soon be re-publishing these. But in the interim, you can download the rules for free from their site if you don't need the counters and boards. Also platoon-base level.

  • I recently picked up the re-released version of the classic 80s board game, MBT by GMT games. It is pretty chart heavy and detailed but great if you are into that kind of thing, and the production value is superb. Like the WaW series above, the rules are available for free download from the GMT Games website if you just want to see what they are like and potentially try them for the tabletop. 1:1 level.

The main things you need to tweak to play board games on the tabletop are pretty much common:
  • convert the 2D map boards to a 3D tabletop representation
  • use miniatures in lieu of the unit counters. Status counters from the board game (eg. 'pinned' etc.) can often still be used on the miniatures table with the minis though.
  • convert the hex measurements into inches or centimeters. This is even easier and unnecessary if you play on hex terrain!
  • determine whether the board game hex-facing rules are essential to the game mechanics. If not, don't bother with them. If they are, determine a system for how to represent the rules on the tabletop.
  • convert the board game hex 'stacking' rules to an equivalent C2 mechanic that replicates the effect (eg. a command radius or spacing requirements).
  • determine a way to record and/or remember the information most board games include on the counter itself. This could be replicating the info on the miniatures base via labels, or unit cards or rosters with the info.

Now having said all this, unless you've absolutely fallen in love with some aspect of a set of board game rules (eg. the detail of ASL or MBT), there is not really any compelling reason to use them instead of purpose designed tabletop rules. That's my opinion anyway.

There are simply too many sets of rules specifically designed for tabletop miniatures out at the moment that are good. Often the board games are great for nostalgia value (like the GDW games), but their mechanics were actually overtaken and modernized by their own tabletop rules (like Command Decision and Combined Arms in the case of GDW), or subsequently utilized in more modern tabletop rules on the market today.

Anyway, many board games have some cool aspects. I like collecting them to cherry-pick cool concepts and mechanisms (like the campaign system in the Sands of War) that I can use with my favorite tabletop rules. As a result, a have a bookshelf full of them! Most I have never played, but I enjoy reading them and the nostalgic value they provide...