07 August 2014

戦車道 大洗

Sensha-dō ("the way of tanks") is a traditional martial art for girls and a national  (Japanese, where else) championships is held amongst high schools.  And it's not just a sport: tanks are an integral part of the society: you've got tanks shops (with models, clothing, gadgets...), tanks themed restaurants (with remote controlled tanks delivering tank shaped cakes to the tables, à la "sushi boats"), tanks inspired bentōs...

I first read about the Girls und Panzer anime on the 15mm Sci Fi TMP board where a tentative to spark enough interest to commission a range of 15mm tank crewing Japanese school girls went all the way to "it's child pornography!" and back (which is a fine illustration than negative publicity is first and foremost publicity!) Well, I just finished watching it with my wife and except for the very short (but never revealing) skirts, we had a hard time seeing anything to it but a refreshing coming of age story (albeit one with a surrealist premise) with lovingly depicted tanks. Something I'll definitely watch again with my children.

The heroes having tea and cakes on their Beloved Pz IV, in front of their school-carrier! What's not to love?
I have never had much interest in WW2 wargaming (nor in most historic wargaming but for the most ultra-modern things) but all of sudden I have an urge to buy WW2 tanks... Not sure what sort of game I'd use them for so it might just remain a Gedankenexperiment but if I'm going to browse the GuP wiki and WW2 miniatures webstores, I might as well consolidate my findings somewhere...

Oorai (the heroes' school, using a mismatched assortment of tanks from different countries, each decorated with both the school logo but also with the team mascot, hence the most intersting to model):

Ooarai Girls High School logo
The five initial teams:
  • Anglerfish Team: a Panzer IV (Ausf. D at the series start, upgraded to F2 for the semi-finals and to H for the final)
  • Turtle Team (the student council): a Panzer 38(t) converted to a Hetzer for the final
  • Hippo Team (the history club): a Stug III Ausf. F
  • Duck Team (the defunct volleyball team): a Type 89 I-go
  • Rabbit Team (first year students): a M3 Lee

Three more teams are added trough the series:
  • Mallard Team (the hall monitors) is added before the semi-finals: a Char B-1 bis
  • Anteater Team (a group of online gamers) only takes part to the final: a Type 3 Chi-Nu
  • Lion Team (the automotive club) is also a last minute addition the final line-up: a Tiger (P)
  •  I like the Hetzer better than the Panze 38(t) and it would be kind of a pity not to include the three late-comer teams to the "army", so I'll go for the final configuration (i.e. with a Hetzer and a Panzer IV Aufs. H)
  • I found this comparison really nice article comparing Tigers from different manufacturer!
  • Battlefront is the major player in WW2 15mm and has everything I'd need in store except the Type 3 Chi-Nu. Prices are £12.50 for most tanks and £14 for the larger ones (Tiger and Char B), only the Type 89 seems to be only available as £52 full (5 plastic tanks) platoon...
  • Peter Pig seems to be the reference for sculpt and casting... They've got the Panzer IV Ausf. H (£7), the StuG III is only available in Ausf. G, the earliest version available of the Tiger is the mid production I one, the Char B1 isn't the "bis" variant and they've got no M3 Lee nor any of the Japanese tanks.
  • Quality Casting appears to make slightly smaller models (1/108 instead of 1/100 or even 1/95) than Battlefront or Peter Pig. They've got the Pz IV, Lee and the Type 89 ($10 each)!
  • Command Decision has everything but the Japanese but only sells $25 three-packs...
  • QRF has everything (£6) but the Porsche Tiger and Type 3. But I've bought a couple of models from them before (French Puma helicopters) and wasn't overly impressed with the sculpt/casting...
  • The Plastic Soldier Company has single sprues for £5.25 each: the Panzer IV sprue allow to build a Ausf. F1, F2, H or G, so far so good; the Tiger I kit as part for early, mid and late production model, not familiar enough with WW2 tanks yet to figure out if I can build a Porsche one out of it and the Stug III kit as part for Ausf. F8 or G, probably close enough for my purposes. That's it: no hetzer, no Lee, no Char B and no Japanese tanks, but even using just the three available models shaves 20 pounds off the Battlefront shopping cart. And The Plastic Soldier Company might also be a good place to shop for the other schools that use more common tanks and usually several of a given type.
  • Forged in Battle as the Pz IV H and the Hetzer as singles for £7
  • The only place where I seem to be able to find the Type 3 is Gaming Models (just $5 but postage is gonna be a bitch for just the one model).
  • The first match sees the Ooarai fielding an array of brightly painted tanks. Although nice looking (and making sense from a story point of view), it's not really my thing.
The StuG III original scheme!

  • From the second match on, the tanks are reverted to more subdued shades but remain a mismatch of national colours: Panzergrau for most Germans, Dunkelgelb for the Hetzer, olive drab for the Lee and some sort of tan/olive/khaki for the Japanese and French tanks
Part of Ooarai final line-up.

  • I'd probably not stick to the canon on this particular issue and go for a single school colour for all Ooarai tanks (I like nicely uniform things, sue me) and paint all of them Panzegrau (i.e. Army Painter Uniform Grey; and don't go all button counting on me, even discarding the entire debate of what Panzergrau actually looked like, the issue of variations in the field, or the fact that scale models usually need to be painted lighter than the original thing, I'm not actually trying to emulate any historical unit!)
  • Company B makes GuP various school and teams logo in both 28mm and 20mm and does custom work... Shouldn't be too much of a problem to get them in 15mm!

26 June 2014

More Quar Memoir

Although my Quar infantry + All Quiet on the Martian Front steam tanks + Memoir 44 rules idea didn't exactly end up as promising as I initial thought, I kept toying with it...

After having a look at the other Command and Color system like the original Battlecry (ACW) or C&C Napoleonics and browsing through the Memoir 44 cards database I came up with the following solution...

This cute little Panzer III is about to be eaten by a huge All Quiet on the Martian Tank Baldwin MkIII!
Picture by Steven MacLauchlan at Outpost Zero.
Use cavalry instead of armour as the third basic unit of my games and demote steam tanks to special units. After all, this is not-WW1 so tanks are much less prevalent and cavalry much less anachronistic than during WW2.

Some play testing and fine tuning will definitely be needed but I expect to end up with basic unit looking like this:
  • Infantry moves 2 hexes without fighting or moves only 1 hex and fights, fights with 3/2/1 dice at ranges 1/2/3, may Take Ground on a successful Close Assault.
  • Cavalry moves up to 3 hexes and fights but does so with a slightly shorter range than infantry (3/2 dice at ranges 1/2, or 3/1, or maybe even 4/2 or 4/1?), may Overrun on a successful Close Assault.
  • Artillery moves 1 hex or fight with 3/3/2/2/1/1 dice at ranges 1/2/3/4/5/6, ignores LOS and terrain.
The steam tanks would take a leaf of the Memoir 44 Tiger special unit's book:

Memoir 44 Tigers special unit cards. Picture from Days of Wonder website.
  • Each unit is a single miniature (thereby solving my initial problem of not being able to credibly fit three tanks in an hex) but each hit needs to be confirmed by a second die roll. That gives them a 1 in 12 chance of being hit but a single "hit point" (thus on the average needing the enemy to throw 12 dice at hit to destroy the unit) making it both tougher than the regular Memoir 44 armour unit (1 in 3 chance of being hit and three "hit points" thus needing an average of 9 rolls to be destroyed) but also making it possible to destroy the unit with a single die roll (albeit a lucky one). I think it gives the steam tanks a nice "monster with an Achilles' Heel" feel that suits early tanks quite well! And I can live with introducing a second die roll in the fight system as it stays confined to a select few special units.
  • I'll probably reduce the speed to "Move 0-2 and fight" and drop the Overrun rule (but maybe give them Take Ground instead, although taking ground sounds more like a purely infantry affair?) to make them more the pondering behemoths I want them to be and give the cavalry more of its own tactical niche instead of just making it poor man's armour...
And with this Memoir of All Quiet on the Quar Front is back on the rails!

19 June 2014

X-Wing Miniatures - Wave 6 - Meet the Azzameens!

Previewing an entirely hypothetical and made
up expansion pack for X-Wing Miniatures*

"As long as we stick together, we can handle anything!"
     ―Tomaas Azzameen

Otana and Sabra leaving Azzameen station. Picture from Wookiepedia.
Assuming you were born somewhere around between 85 and 95, played computed games at all and are anything of a Star Wars fan, you played and loved X-Wing Alliance! If for some reason you didn't: here is a primer...

X-Wing Alliance
Picture from Wookiepedia.
The fourth game of a series of Star Wars starfighters simulators made by LucasArts, X-Wing Alliance came after X-Wing (where you got to fly Alliance starfighters as Keyan Farlander) and TIE Fighter (where you play Maarke Steele - X-Wing Miniatures "other" TIE Advanced pilot - flying various Imperial starfighters and rising through both the Imperial Navy and in Secret Order of the Emperor ranks). X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, the third game of the series is widely decried for its lack of story driven campaign.

X-Wing Alliance introduced the Azzameen Family: the protagonist, Ace is the younger sibling of the familly and starts the campaign flying freighters for the family business Twin Suns Transport Services. The early chapters of the game focuses on the commercial rivality between the Azzameens and the Viraxo, but the spreading Civil war gradualy forces the familly to takes sides and Ace becomes an Alliance starfighter pilot. He does, however, retain close ties with his family and, in between regular combat missions for the Alliance, flies his father's old YT-2000 on family business.

I loved the campaign and the Azzameen Family quite naturally made it into my role playing game campaigns (both Star Wars and - with a Vilanized spelling, Azzamiin - Traveller) a couple of years back... Now, with my gaming group powering up for a X-Wing Miniatures campaign, I went digging for my old notes... And although, I'm definitely not the first to think about using X-Wing Alliance vessels and characters for X-Wing Miniatures, here is my take at a while Azzameen Family Expansion Pack!