Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Science Museum Robots Exhibition

Met up with my mate Dave to go to the Science Museum's Robot exhibition at the weekend. Not bad at all (and also nice to see the old Apollo 10 capsule again - even if it's not in their main space exhibition for some reason - so people gaze in wonder at a model of the LEM but walk past the almost rusty looking piece of hardware that actually did fly around the moon!)

The exhibition is split into 4 main parts - mechanical automata, robots in fiction, creating a robot, and current robot examples. The focus is very much on humanoid robots, but pity not to see more cultural robots (C3PO, Robbie, B9/Lost In Space for example).

I'd certainly read about most of the "current" robots, and even seen a few, but great to see them in all in one place. Pity that they didn't have Kismet (although they had the Kings "copy"), and no space for Aibo (even though there was a robot cat!)

Highlights in image form below:

Henri Maillardet, the “Draughtsman-Writer”

Not my photo as I forgot to take one, but in some ways one of the most interesting things there. Brass discs encoded hand movements so that the "boy" could write poems and create drawings - all in 1800!

The Gemma Chan robot created when they tried a Gold standard Loebner prize/Turing test, not so good close up!

iCub - state of the art robot boy

NAO - keep looking for an excuse for Daden to buy one!

Kaspar - used with kids with ASD

A nice functional bot!

Zeno - mimics your facial expressions, sort of

Pepper - heard a bit about this one

Robothespian - manually controlled mainly

Kodomoroid - a typical Japanese "real" Android, convincing over Skype possibly

Telenoid - gives you hugs when you're on the phone to someone

Industrial bot meets 50s SF!

Asimo - not doing anything sadly

Harry - the trumpet player

We also took the 15min to see Last Supper by Giles Walker, a very atmospheric piece of 12 robots supposedly debating sin and death and swearing a lot, even if I couldn't work out what it was all about!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Kingmaker (and other games)

Just had a really nice long weekend at Barmouth. The plan was to get out in the mornings and play boardgames in the afternoon and we succeeded in that pretty well. We played Agricola  (I didn't lose!), Mysterium (a Cluedo/Codenames hybrid that is a bit too complex for its own good), and The Dwarves (excellent enemy AI that I'm trying to work into miniature gaming on a hexon layout). The main game as far as I was concerned was Kingmaker, which I last played almost 30 years ago, and finally rebought on eBay last year.

Jo and I both started with fairly week hands, her in the North and me in Wales and SE. Tom had a cracking hand and sat in the middle of the country so it looked like he'd win hands down. I nabbed a minor royal from undefended Cardigan, and since I had the Cinque ports started to head SE to go across to Calais. Then Tom took a major royal from Coventry with his main army - but the very next go the Plague hit Coventry and the royal and his main army were wiped out! The next big change was Henry being sent to the south coast from the safety of London for an embassy - putting him in the idle location for my gathering force to nab him. Getting across to Calais was slowed a bit by chasing Henry's embassy's around the country but eventually I got across and grabbed the royal.

I then swung my boats down the English Channel and up to Harlech - discovering how Safe being at sea is, despite storms, in terms of escaping embassies and raids. Landing at Harlech I took the Earl of March (despatching him to join his kin), nd then marched on Tom's recovered force in the Midlands. A stop at Chester en-route to call a parliament so as to beef up the post holdings of my now large band of nobles meant that when I met Tom near Warwick he stood no chance. The rain intervened though and he slipped away north, but fittingly I finally ran him to ground at Towton and demolished his Army.

Jo was still lurking in the North and when one of my main nobles (the Warden of London) was called south, so she fancied her chances. The King was then called south as well, but I decided it was safest to send him on his own, ready to be picked up by the Warden. Her Army finally clashed with mine at York, she thought she'd have the upper hand, but in hidden cards I had a 150 pt army under the Earl of Northumberland so immediately swung the odds in our favour and we were victorious. So with all the other nobles dead Henry VI was last man standing and had never lost his crown!

ENDEX - after the Battles of Towton and York
Overall a great game. The first hour was pretty slow as we tried to worm out the ambiguities in rules and map (does Windsor block a road, what is the Crown discard pile for etc), but by the 2nd hour we have the game pretty fast and smooth and it was all over in under 3 hours.

Would certainly play again, and indeed plan to, and would have a far better idea for a winning strategy. The randomness of the events cards does make planning hard though - witness my delays in getting to Calais - including one trip to Hull, but that probably makes it ideal for solo play. Indeed its next outing will probably be as a solo campaign system, with battles being decided by Hordes and Heroes with 1 tabletop unit per 10 pts of an army, and some random inf/cav (or Bow/Knight) allocation.

Fittingly the day after the game we visited Harlech Castle - where my force made its historic landfall - and not to far from Milford Haven - Henry VII's landing point.

Harlech Castle

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Blucher 100 Days Cards

The card deck for the 100 Days Campaign for Blucher arrived. Means we can progress with setting up the game with Nick and Alan. Next task is to draw sides!

The Battle for Grosse Mahner Gap - Update

Soviets at bottom, attacking up table
The Battle for Grosse Mahner Gap game in CWC has been progressing well, if  a little slowly, just getting a couple of turns in a night. Currently on turn 13 I think, so is that 1 or 2 hours in in game time ? Feels more like 1.

The Soviets are making heavy weather of it - although they are only just up to Bn+ on the board, with another Bn+ yet to come!

On the left they deployed a BTR60 coy to root out A Coy Gp DERR which had ambushed the road, but they lost their Coy HQ and have been immobile every since (v low roll needed to activate as woods and Russian and lost OC).

A BMP Coy sent up the road cleared it of mines but then again got ambushed (poorly) by A Coy Gp. The Soviets deployed from their BMPs and are now looking to push up the slope. They've called in mortar support (off target) and the AGS17 is not being too effective either.

In the centre a new T64 Coy has taken over from the first one that got destroyed covering the mine clearance operation. They are supported by a BMP Coy. As they came in range of B Coy Gp and the Chieftain troop in Nienrode the Chieftains opened fire, but only caused slight damage. To help arrest the coming onslaught OC B Coy called in air support and a couple of Harriers raced in, dodging the Gaskin and SAM-7 (just one minor hit) and used PGM to effectively take out one platoon of T64s.

Harrier pair on its way in

The first Harrier inflicts damage

A second BMP Coy has just arrived in Liebenburg to help clear the ridge and road to Grosse Mahner. The next few rounds should see some intense fighting on the ridge and around Nienrode.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Return to 2mm?

When I first got seriously back into wargaming about 10-15 years ago I soon realised that I had neither time nor space (or budget) for 20mm or bigger, so I started looking at smaller scales. I played Borodino in 2mm and enjoyed it  a lot, but the lure of the bigger 6mm figures was in the end just too much.

But I think 2mm does have its place, so I've dusted off the old figures and I'm looking at a better way to base them, with, as ever, the aim of using them on Hexon terrain (1 hex = 400m so each element is a Division).

I do like hexes as bases as well, as they give more of an "area" feel than rectangles. So I bought a range of hexes at Salute, and I've decided that the 70mm hexes are best, as they can then sit in any orientation in a Hexon hex, and you can see any underlying terrain features (I use felt as a "base" for BUA and woods). The images shows a prototype Inf and Cavalry division (may go for more stands for the Inf), along with my original 2mm buildings on my original 4cm hexes, and some 1/1000th buildings from Brigade Models that may be a better match.

Plenty of space at the back of hex for labels/dice holders, and space at front for skirmishers.

Now just need to buy up some more blank hexes and base the rest of the troops in time for a game of Jena or Eylau.

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Battle for Grosse Mahner Gap - Startex

The next step in my "move" to Cold War Commander is to try it on a proper size game, Soviet Motor Rifle Regiment against a British Reinforced Battlegroup, with 1 element = 1 platoon/troop, and 1 hex = 10cm = 200m.

The Soviets are attacking form Line of March, so there is a delay between each of the main elements.

In the first few turns it was just the recce group which got nicely brewed up by Scimitars of the close recce company as they reached the minefield (fires in the distance).

Then delayed Combat Recce Patrol (Platoon) arrived, closely followed by the Forward Security Element (Coy+). Next step is for the Soviets to clear the mines, although an ambush waits up on the ridge.

Playing nicely so far, and I've done my own 3 page QRS so I can do away with most of the book, and also have some unit cards nearing completion so I don't need the army list pages.

Saw that WW2 new edition was out at Salute, will buy it when I do Western Desert, hopefully in the Autumn, and apparently Modern new edition is due out around Christmas.

If this game works out OK then the next step will be an SPI BAOR based campaign.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

"French" Knights

My first painted unit since January, given work and hols. Four units of 6mm knights, ostensibly French, for 100YW. Ostensibly since the heraldry is based on places/things I know: Espereza, Rennes-le-Chateau and Montsegur in France, and then various peak District landowners!

Flocking of bases to follow - and photo actually taken outdoors!

The current batch of about a dozen painting "sessions" (about 4 days each, total 30 units) should bring me to the end of my WOTR/100YW 6mm figures - a period/scale actually finished! Figures are Baccus and been using the Kallistra Hordes & Heroes rules.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Hexon Catan

Apologies for the carpet, but as mentioned in the Salute post I've finally started to pull the bits together for my Hexon Settlers of Catan board. Not as much bigger than the regular board as I'd expected (standard Settlers desert card on the blank hex), but should still be fun to make and play with!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Scharnhorst Campaign and Blucher Game

The day after Salute Nick and Alan finished off the Scharnhorst campaign and played the resulting Blucher game. I was umpiring and neither of them had played either system before.

We set the campaign up on a powerpoint slide on Google Docs (Vassal on the cheap!) so that we could get some moves done remotely during the week, but we finished it off on paper on Sunday morning. As expected the battle was pretty much in the middle of the map by the big town. Both sides had 3 columns on and 1 column as reinforcements.

The table was quickly laid out using Hexon and the blinds deployed. We were using the Along the Danube orbats - but neither side knew any detail about the other.

The big surprise was when the lead French units (bottom centre of the photo) turned out to be Nick's Reserve Cavalry Corps! Alan (Austrian) surprisingly sent his cavalry off  down the opposite flank, so the battle quickly settled into one of two halves, Nick pushing left in the south, and Alan pushing right in the North. There was some stout Austrian defence on the southern ridge, and their garrison in the village at its foot never got attacked. By about turn 16 we got to the point where both sides had lost 4 of their 6 units needed to reach break point, but the Austrians were looking the more precarious. Neither sides reinforcements had arrived, but around turn 16 the third French Corps arrived on the North edge - right on the Austrian flank and it was pretty much game over.

Overall everyone enjoyed the game. By the end Nick and Alan hardly needed the rules or my help - it is a very simple system. There are certainly still oddities, but not as many as I had in my initial game. The Scharnhorst system is great, and they both liked the blinds and  M0 approach, and I think we'll be playing it again. My sabot bases to turn my 6mm battalions into brigades worked superbly - especially the double wide strip at the back for the damage and capabilities chit.

The French move against the Austrian ridge in the South

Austrian Kurassier trying to outflank in the North

Damaged, but outflank complete - a poor French cavalry unit is for it!

Alan deep in thought as a French Corps arrives on his flank!

Newly arrived French push into the big wood


And some photo's from Nick:

Me setting up, Alan looking on

Starting positions - with blinds. French on left.

Most of the forces revealed

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Salute 2017

Nice Hexon Battle of Cambrai

Nick, Alan and I went up to Salute today - first time we've ever all been there at the same time. We must have got there a bit earlier than normal (and left a bit earlier than normal?) as it seemed a lot busier the whole time.

That said I was disappointed at how few "big" wargames there were - lots of small skirmishes, but nothing with the big sweep of the Ligny, Waterloo and Quatre Bras games of a few years ago, or even last years Golan Heights (?) or ECW Bristol game. As Nick said most of the bigger games did seem to be more like static dioramas than active wargames which was a pity. Ironically it seemed to be the ones being played were also the ones where people were most likely to tell you what was going on.

As a result of the lack of big games I've only got a few photos.

In terms of booty I also bought less than I expected. I picked up pre-orders from Kallistra (mostly slopes and the bits for my Hexon Catan game) and Heroics & Ros (BTR60 Battalion), placed an order with Newline Designs (taking advantage of their 4 for 3 offer), but otherwise it was odds and ends like some 28mm sheep (for Hexon Catan), MDF hexes I various sizes to try out for my 3mm figure bases, and  hardback 3rd Edition copy of Tony Bath's classic "Setting Up A Wargames Campaign".

Overall made me question whether I'd make the trip next year, particularly if I can get to WMMS, and possibly Hammerhead.

Cambrai game - whole board - nice lot of hexes!

Cambrai - love the British tanks

WW2 Desert game - Battlegroup Tobruk

Detail - Battlegroup Tobruk

Top cover - Battlegroup Tobruk

Battlegroup Tobruk

General d'Armee I think

Didn't get a pic of the one big Cold War game - 1/300th but 1 model =1 veh - nice big table though!