Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Reading List for Team Yankee

Since the release of Team Yankee, I have pulled a fair number of dust covered books off my shelves to read, along with buying a small pile of new ones – thank goodness for the Kindle I say!

Here is my 2 cents on where you can start if you are looking to get in the Team Yankee mood…

Team Yankee
Pretty much the book that started it all. If you are looking for a fun read, that follows a single US Combat Team through World War III then this is the place to start. If you are planning on playing US forces in TY then this is a no-brainer to give you a little inspiration.

Red Storm Rising
Tom Clancy was one of the most riveting writers of last century as far as I am concerned. Red Storm Rising covers WWIII with a great mix of “in the trenches” coverage mixed with the strategic concerns of fighting the war. Some of my favourite aspects of the book include his coverage of the war in the Atlantic onboard the USS Reuben James – needless to say it lead to me playing a lot of Harpoon in the late 80s and 90s.

Red Phoenix
Larry Bond worked on Red Storm Rising with Tom Clancy and not long after ended up writing a number of great books including Red Phoenix. In this, his first solo novel, he explores a war in the Korean Peninsular. After a domestic incident in South Korea, US politians seek to withdraw troops, leading to the North Koreas taking advantage of the situation and rushing forth across (and under) the DMZ.

Spoiler Alert: there is a sequel that follows on from Red Phoenix, called Red Phoenix Burning, but is set 20-something years later…

If you want to read more from Larry Bond then Vortex, which is set in South Africa is a good read. Sadly, I left my copy on a trans-tasman flight about 20 years ago. Luckily there is a Kindle version.

Last, but not least, is Cauldron, where France and Germany unite (you can tell this is fiction already right) to dominate Europe politically and then militarily. Great if you are looking for a book where the French and Germans are the “bad guys”.

The Red Storm Series
I’ve been devouring this series of novels by James Rosone and Miranda Watson over the past few weeks. Set in Europe “now” these novels feature the Soviet Union and China teaming up to take on the US “head-to-head” for control of the world. 

Set against an all to real backdrop of high tech social media manipulation and quickly developing battlefield weapon systems this series reminds me of Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising book – just longer.

The Red Effect
Set in the 80’s, The Red Effect (along with the two follow-on books, Black Effect and Blue Effect) chart a similar course to Red Storm Rising with the Soviet Union launching all-out war on the west. Unlike a number of the other books of this genre it explores the use of battlefield WMDs by both sides. I really enjoyed the coverage of the lead up to the war with some interesting insights in to the work of the British Army Intelligence Officers that were responsible for spying on the Soviet Army in Germany.

Armageddon's Song
This series of novels written by Andy Farman is a whole lot more enjoyable than the cover art appears… As a series of novels I found it to be more “boys-own” adventure rather than Tom Clancy accurate, but it is a good roller coaster ride with plenty of action and adventure. Just leave your rivet-counting to the side and enjoy the explosions.

So, which one is my favourite? Good question... I've read Red Storm Rising over and over again, so much so I have two copies. But I've also been picking up some of Larry Bond's other books about submarine warfare - you did remember how much I enjoyed playing Harpoon though. Right now I am devouring the Red Storm Series on the train each day even though I could be watching the final season of Game Of Thrones so that must tell you sometime.

Check them all out, read the reviews and take a risk, you will probably enjoy them...

Friday, November 23, 2018

Canadian Painting List?

As I mentioned in a previous post I've found myself quite energised about Team Yankee after FlamesCon 2018. One of the outcomes of this is a desire to paint an expansion pack for my Canadians. Right now I have a solid 100 point Force but looking through some of my options about how to expand it I found a wealth of options that I have previously discarded, but now with a little game time I find quite desirable.
So what's has me wanting to pull out the brushes?
I really enjoyed how my single platoon performed in-game so adding a second platoon, and therefore a second Formation, is looking really good as a tactical choice. In fact a lot of my painting requirements stem from this. I have the Formation commander painted already, so this just means adding 4 M113s and the full strength infantry platoon.

SP Mortars and an OP
Adding a cheap battery of M125s are a no-brainer as far as I am concerned. They count for the Formation morale, have smoke, and best of all I have two painted already (for some unknown reason).

The OP is as much about the hobby opportunity as anything. I figured I guy either crouching on top of the M113, or high up in the commanders station with some maps on front of him would be fun.

TOW Launchers
The ADATS is great (with a capital G) but also quite expensive. An infantry Formation can pack a lot of M150 TOWs and they are fairly cheap, but quite lethal vs most enemy tanks. Plus I get to shoe horn a few more M113s into my army.

Leopard 2 tanks?
The Canadians didn't get Leopard 2s till fairly recently but that is not to say they wouldn't have acquired a platoon somehow during a hypothetical WWIII. If I painted 5 I could run them as an allied Formation....

I have four F-18 Hornets at home assembled and ready to paint, along with some period correct (more or less) Canadian decals. Plus Hornets are cool.

More ADATS and Blowpipes?
Not on the list, but very tempted to fill out the platoons. After-all if I am going to paint this many things, what is another 5.

There you have it, I just want to paint another 35-40 things to round out the Army... hmm, lets hope my newfound energy lasts long enough to even build all this stuff!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

4CMBG Canadians For Team Yankee - Finished?

Not long before FlamesCon 2018 (9 hours before if I am being precise) I finished my Canadians Force for Team Yankee. I am really pleased with how the army turned out, especially since I experienced a few "speed-wobbles" during the painting where I thought that the Leopards were going to be way to dark and boring. Luckily a combination of a little remedial dry brushing and a decent matt varnish pulled them back.

To find out more about the vehicle numbers check out this excellent article by Dan McLean on the Team Yankee website.

Scroll down past the images to find out why I say "Finished?" in the title.
The HQ Platoon (minus 1 Leopard 1)
There are another 16 more Leopard 1 tanks, all looking like this... so many tanks!
The Company Commander with the "39" tank.

Some of the M113 APCs
Canadian flag on the front, vehicle numbers on the side in low-vis black and high-vis white on the rear
M150 TOW Platoon
And a look at some of their markings
Crowd favourite, the ADATS
Blowpipes, for a little extra AA support
Two units of Recce Lynx
And a closeup of their markings.
And some of the infantry (as used in Free Nations)

So why did I say "Finished?" A couple of reasons really. 
  • Firstly, I found that even though I applied fresh gloss varnish under my decals, and then put two coats of DecalSol on them I still got quite a bit of silvering. I did a little experiment where I used a very sharp blade to pop a few small holes in the decals, as well as cutting them along panel lines, then reapplying DecalSol and this seems to have helped. 4 vehicles down, now I just need to do the other thirty-something.
  • Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I really enjoyed running this army at FlamesCon and so now I found myself wanting to add a bit more to the force, just to round it it. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Unboxing BSG: Starship Battles from Ares Games

Battlestar Galactica (or BSG) was one of my favourite TV shows growing up as a kid. When it returned to the small screen in 2004 I was pretty excited - I can still remember watching the Pilot whilst my nephew fell asleep on me (he was a pretty small toddler at the time). The combination of outstanding story lines, brilliant "WW2 gun camera" style space cinematography and deep characters made it a must-see each week for me.

Fast forward some years and the FFG Board Game came along and it was equally brilliant. I've played many games, lost more than I have won, and been excited to play it each and every time. 

Now we get a chance to scratch that BSG itch again with a new spaceship game (from Ares Games) that promises a lot! Best of all I've managed to get hold of a copy thanks to some friends that went along to Essen SPIEL last month..
The box.... it is just a box.
Lifting the lid we find... some amazing ships (more on this at the end), flight dials and stands
The flight dials are pretty cool and give a little heads up on the complexity of the game
Next up we find the rule book, scenario book and ship ID tokens
A quick look at the Index. I've got some early thoughts to share (in a later post) about the rules
Tokens and templates. I wondered why the Asteroids were on a thinner cardboard stock. Presume it is because of the movement mechanics?
The bottom layer is filled with movement cards, pilot and ship cards and upgrades. Not a single square piece of paper in sight...
And now what you have really been waiting for....

The Raider:
A surprisingly impressive paint job. I expected much less detail if I am being blunt.

Apollo's Viper:
Apollo's ship looks nicely battered and weathered. I didn't even see some of the detail till I took these photos and looked at it at 400% size on my screen.
A bit blurry... sorry.

Hardball's Viper:
Hardball's ship is much cleaner, but no less detailed.

Viper Comparison:
A top down view of the two ships to see the major differences.

Thinking about the components (excluding the ships) they are nicely printed, stored in some useful vac trays, with really high quality pieces. You can see why the game has a higher RRP than X-Wing.

The ships however are where the game truly shines, and shines brightly for that matter. They are absolutely fantastic. I don't mean that in a "oh these are mass produced so how high a quality can you expect" kind of way. I mean it in a "these are painted better than I would paint them" kind of way. By comparison they are as good, or better than ANY FFG X-Wing model. I guess I should have expected this high level of quality given their Wings of War aircraft, but I was still blown away.

Now for the rules.... stay tuned. I've read them once, didn't quite "get" them and watched a couple of the GENCON videos to help.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

FlamesCon 2018 Report

Well another FlamesCon has come and gone... and this one has left me really buzzing!

The Turnout:
This year was (I think) the beginning of a resurgence for Flames Of War in New Zealand. Going back a few years we could comfortably count on 45-50 attendees to a FlamesCon, but as V3 became more convoluted and bogged down with contextual rules and clarifications the numbers began to drop.

The release of V4 certainly saw the event (last year) take another hit, much like other events around the world as there just wasn't enough Mid War lists to make the period interesting.

This year the organisers decided to run Late War, with (hopefully) an eye towards Mid War next year. It was really heartening to see so many players coming out of the woodwork to see what V4 was like. Best of all, everyone had good things to say about the new version. The numbers were still down on the days of old (with about 30 players across Flames Of War and Team Yankee) but I finished the weekend with a good feeling about the turnout for FlamesCon 2019.

The Gaming:
Team Yankee is taking its own good time to build up momentum in New Zealand (looking forward to Panzerschreck 2019!) as there are plenty of people with armies but not as many coming out to play. One positive of this was that with an 8 player event, I got to play everyone except the eventual winner, Andrew Duncan. It was quite nice to face off against almost everyone over the course of the event.

I can say without shadow of a doubt it was also one of the most enjoyable events from a gaming perspective. I really enjoyed all my games, felt like I had a chance of winning, felt like I had a chance of losing, and thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with my opponents. I cannot recall the last time where I finished an event and could honestly say that.

Two thumbs up!

The Army:
"I starting building my Canadians before they were cool" was my catchphrase for the weekend. Long before Free Nations was on a writers schedule, I was planning to build the army. Sadly, is an indictment on how long it takes me to finish an army these days that I was doing the final painting and varnishing at 11.30pm on the Friday before the tournament. My list was simple (click the image for a bigger version) and built around a lot of Leopard 1 tanks, some infantry and anti-tank assets. It was a blast to run!

The Leopard 1 tanks were awesome at killing things and burnt so brightly when they got lit up by anything (Carl Gustavs, Milans, 120mm AP rounds, as well as the odd HESH round from a Scorpions 76mm gun). The ADATS was fun, but tended to be targeted quickly once people realised how good it was! My star performers were probably the infantry, mainly because;
  • I like how they turned out (paint job wise), 
  • they are fairly useful on the table, 
  • and they are great for taking (and holding) ground when the Leopards couldn't brave the enemy RPGs and Charlie G's!

The Final Word:
Great event, great opponents, middling result (5th, I think, out of 8), but with a Best Painted award! Believe me when I say that has been a topic of much good-natured abuse around the office.

Roll on FlamesCon 2019 I say!

If you want to check out my photo dumps from the event, including army shots click the links below.
Team Yankee Armies...
Flames Of War Armies...
Day One Gaming Shots...

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Czechoslovak People’s Army (ČSLA) in Team Yankee

Team Yankee has really captured my gaming imagination over the past couple of years and whilst I started with World War II and Napoleonics, the passion for WWIII has always lurked just under the surface (much like a Los Angeles submarine hunting its prey) waiting for a chance to burst out.

I have a few armies on the painting table and for the past few months I've been slowly putting together a plan to add a Czechoslovak force to that list. I cannot really explain why this particular force has captured my eye other than perhaps a strange liking of the Vz.61 Skorpion thanks to playing Twilight 2000 all those years ago?

The Czechoslovak People’s Army in Team Yankee is much like the other Warsaw Pact nations in that they have 2nd line tanks with the T-72M and T-55AM2, along with a few other (super cool looking) locally built vehicles like the DANA SP Artillery and OT-64 APC. They lack the really first line gear that the Soviets have but make up for by just being cool.

Other than gear, where the Czechoslovakians differ from their allies is their Courage and Skill ratings. They have a base Courage of 5+, whereas the East Germans have a 4+. This  represents a little less commitment to the cause than their allies and some long memories going back to 1968. They also have a slightly lower Counterattack (1 point less). This means that for a company of T-72Ms you are paying 1 point less at the bottom end with 3 for 6 points vs 7 points (for the East Germans) and 27 points for 10 tanks, vs 35 points.

When it comes to T-55AM2 Companies it is a similar story with 5 tanks costing 1 point less and 10 tanks being 3 points cheaper (at a total of 13 points).

My current plan is to finish building two T-55A2 Companies, each of 16 tanks. These would be supported with integral (min strength) infantry Companies in OT-64 armoured personnel carriers, small scout platoons with BRDM-2 and perhaps (depending on points) some AA in the form of some SA-9 Gaskins. Each of these companies come in at 28 points (or less depending on how I support the infantry). 
They would form the aggressive core of the force, pushing forward to get up close with the enemy and hopefully causing some casualties to the enemy support elements or even their tanks if I can hit the flanks. 

To give the Force a little more punch I'd add some T-72M tanks. Ten of these backed up with some infantry in BMP-2 APCs and BMP-1 Scouts are 35 points. In a 100 point game this doesn't leave me with much left over for support units, however I can either chose to play a bigger game, or drop a Tank Company (either the T-72Ms or T-55AM2s) or merge them by swapping the 3rd platoon in the T-55AM2 Companies with some T-72Ms. Assuming I get everything built and painted I'll have plenty of options to choose from!

To support the Force, I have a wealth of very nice options.
  • Hinds - yes please.
  • DANA SP 152mm guns - wait till you see what they look like.
  • RM-70 Rocket Launchers - oh why not!
  • Spandrels - because I can.
  • SU-25 Frogfoots - it would be rude not too as the Czechoslovakian Air Force was one of the few (in addition to the Soviets) that used them.
Hinds helicopters are problem solvers in my opinion. Their Spiral AT missiles are more than capable of knocking out enemy tanks whilst their save means they have a good chance of ignoring enemy ground fire. 

Because they are airborne they can move around the table with far more freedom than my ground based anti-armour assets and unlike all other helicopters they can move and shoot their missiles.

Plus, they look cool, and there are specific Czechoslovakian Hind decals! 

Next up are the DANA Self-propelled 152mm guns. As Leeloo said, "Big Badda Boom!" 

These look phenomenal and pack some fairly serious firepower with AT 4 vs top armour and 2+ Firepower. They also have the Autoloader rule which means you reduce the score to hit teams under the template by 1.

Oh, and did I mention the words Smoke Bombardment? Just another tool in their arsenal.

RM-70 Rocket Launchers are what you get when you take a Hail (or Grad) rocket system and put it on a much better-looking truck.

Thanks to their nice large Salvo template they should provide a useful option for taking on British Milan teams.

The addition of some Spandrels to the Force is a bit of a no-brainer to me as they come in at a very affordable 2 points for 3 vehicles and their AT 21 missiles are quite potent on the battlefield. Plus, they have wheels and in this force anything with wheels gets a look in.

Last, but certainly not least is the crowd favourite, the SU-25 Frogfoot.

Much like the Hind, they benefit from the ability to target models that think themselves safe hiding behind terrain. Their Kh-25 missiles are deadly with a capital D thanks to AT 27, Firepower 2+, and just to finish it off, Brutal, Guided and HEAT.

They will find you, and they will kill you. Of course, they only turn up half the time so a bad series of dice rolls could result in 21 points and 6 Frogfoots never turning up... so don't roll badly!

With so many projects that I want to work on I had better start planning my Christmas holidays!