Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Saturday, June 29, 2013

6mm painting guides: WWII infantry

German infantry.

Undercoat the figures Mr. Hobby Color Spray No. 117, RLM76 Light Blue.

Paint weapons black.

Paint helmets Hobby Color H32 Field Gray 1

Mix two different washes, one based on Field Gray XF-65, and the other on a H32.  Apply washes in different strengths to different figures.  Finish up with a strong XF-65 wash and use that to paint the bases of the miniatures.

Dab flesh areas with Turner Acryl Gouache Apricot.

Paint gas mask cases H36 Dark Green.

Paint entrenchment tool handles and pistol holsters Turner Burnt Sienna.

Paint jackboots, officers' gloves and entrenchment tool holders black.

Highlight trousers and officer caps in Turner Neutral Gray 5 or Tamiya XF54 Dark Sea Gray.

US infantry.

Undercoat the figures Mr. Hobby Color Spray No.70, Dark Green.

Paint weapons black.

Dab flesh areas with Turner Apricot.

Paint helmets XF-62 Olive Drab.

Paint webbing XF 60 Dark Yellow

Paint webbing, entrenchment tool handles and pistol holsters Turner Burnt Sienna.

Paint trousers XF-49 Khaki.

Paint every 3rd or 4th tunic as a  jacket using XF-57 Buff.

(Figures are all from the Heroics and Ros ranges)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sunday Crossfire

Luke and Pat came down for a game of Crossfire on the weekend and we ended up getting through two battles.   I umpired, but probably did more to confuse things than to clarify them!

The table was not of a very high standard as I don't have dedicated 6mm terrain (yet), but being gentlemen, Luke and Pat tried to downplay that as best they could.

The scenario we used was taken from Steven Thomas' site, and pitted a company of attacking US troops against two platoons of Germans.

The first game was a bit of a write-off for the German player because I read the victory conditions wrong and the US had an easier time of taking the objective than they should have.  That said, I don't think the result would have changed; the boldness of the attacker rushing the objective under cover of smoke paid off against the defender's concern to reinforce his north flank and defend the objective with fire rather than occupancy.

All photos courtesy of Pat Hirtle.
In this shot (looking from the east) we can see the objective in the middle ground with a platoon of Germans lined up on the crest to its right as the Americans in the distance steel themselves to make their assault.

This shot (looking from the north) shows the result of the attack - the Americans have taken the hill, and although they've been somewhat cut up in the north, the diversionary attack drew off the German reserve and left no one available for a counter-attack.

For the second game the German employed a more central defence.  He occupied the hill with a squad, platoon commander and forward observer, put a platoon in reserve behind it, a squad covering the field to the south, another the crest to the north, and the HMG in a field to the rear covering the approaches from the south east.

This game was much tighter.  The American rushed the field to the south of the hill and got badly mauled by the single squad of Germans behind it.  The defenders pinned one squad with reactive fire, suppressed another, and then killed the close-assaulting third squad and platoon commander in close combat.  Not a bad effort from those men.

This photo shows the attack through the field: a textbook approach confounded by the dice heroism of the German squad.  Their heroism was not enough so save them from later American fire, however!  But leaderless and exposed, the remaining two squads from the American platoon now began to take fire from the German HMG.

Meanwhile, the American commander remained undaunted by the close-combat prowess of the Germans, and ordered his second platoon to assault the hill in identical fashion.  This time his close assault was more successful.

Here you can see the Americans attack, again under cover of smoke.  The Germans were quickly swept away by the assault, but the defenders behind the hill then began to lay down some effective fire.

Although time was running out for retaking the hill, the Americans were very near their breaking point, and on the last initiative of the game the Germans were left with the task of killing two suppressed squads to win.  The first squad was killed, but the second, on the last roll of the game, survived the fire of the deadly HMG.

It was a torrid battle, and I think really showcased how well Crossfire works.  The rules are fairly simple, but the results are believable - as are the way that we get to them - and the players are able to concentrate on gaining (or squandering!) advantage through tactics rather than by applying the rules better than the other fellow.

That said, there were a few murky areas in the rules when we got into some unusual situations, so some house ruling might be required here and there.  We were also a little iffy about how direct fire with mortars worked (though I may have read the rules wrong here) so a wee tweak or two might be in order with this, but we shall see.

Thanks to my comrades in (miniatures) arms I now see that Crossfire should work fine for solo play as well, so I'm looking forward to a few more sessions, and perhaps even a campaign.

So, a great day had, and many thanks to Luke and Pat for making the trip down.

But I really do need to get some better terrain...

Friday, June 21, 2013

6mm figs for Crossfire painted

With a Crossfire game coming up on Sunday I've been trying to get a couple of companies of 6mm figs painted up quickly.  I'm still a bit unsure of the best colours for the uniforms etc. but I've done what I can in the time I've had available.

First up, Germans.

These are meant to be 1944-ish.  I undercoated them a light grey-green and then applied a series of washes.  One was the Tamiya field grey, another was the Mr. Hobby field grey, which is rather browner.  I still need to give the trousers a grey highlight and paint some of the kit (as well as flock the bases, of course!).

Next up, Americans.

These (also supposed to be 1944-ish) have been painted to the same recipe as my modern Americans.  They need a bit of olive drab in there, so I'll try to get a brush to trousers and shirts as well as kit if I have time.  It's likely however that, for the time being, undercoat with flesh and weapons picked out will probably have to do!

I'm quite keen about the game actually; I've not played Crossfire before and am really looking forward to seeing how it goes.

The next task is to do up some terrain pieces and finish learning the rules...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Crossfire infantry rules summary


Fighting bases are 30mm square, with each one representing a squad, an HMG or a mortar.  In addition, commanders (company and platoon) and forward observers are represented on table.

A platoon is represented by 3 rifle stands, a PC (platoon commander) stand and perhaps an attached HMG stand.  There is no fixed ground scale.

Actions and Initiative.

The side with the initiative can perform any one of the following actions:

1) Move a squad or group straight ahead any distance (may pivot first) but may not enter and exit the same terrain feature in the same move and must stop if pinned by reaction fire.

2) Order a squad or group in open ground to 'ground hug' which confers a 'target in protective cover' benefit.

3) Order a squad or group in open ground which is ground hugging to stand up.

4) Order a squad or group to do a retreat move.  Stands in a retreat move cannot be attacked by reactive fire in the terrain feature they begin the move in.

5) A squad or group may shoot at an enemy squad, or fire at a terrain feature for 'recon by fire'.

6) Attempt to rally a pinned or suppressed unit.

If an action fails, if a moving squad is suppressed by reactive fire, or if the phasing player gives up his turn, the initiative passes to the opposing player.  Otherwise, the phasing player may continue to activate other or the same squads, HMGs, commanders or groups for subsequent actions as long as he retains the initiative.

Command and Control.

German squads can move at at any time.  An American squad can only move if it begins its move with line of sight to its platoon commander.

Group moves can be undertaken by squads from the same platoon who are in close proximity to one another.

To move as a group, one squad/HMG, platoon commander or company commander is designated the group leader.  All other stands from the same platoon within one stand of the group leader are then also able to move in conjunction with it.

Terrain Features.

The board is made up of open ground overlaid with terrain features.  Movement does not rely on rulers, but is limited by entering a new terrain feature, by being fired upon and pinned, or by player choice.

Some terrain blocks line of sight, other types provide protective cover, others hinder movement.

As a general rule squads in adjacent terrain features can see each other, but intervening terrain may block LOS.

Depressions - do not block LOS.  Troops in a depression can only be shot at by troops on higher ground or by troops also in the depression.

Hedges/walls - squads must stop when contacting a hedge or wall.  It takes one move action to cross to the other side, and on a third action may continue moving normally.  Hedges block LOS; walls do not.

Woods - block LOS and provide protective cover for all fire (-1 attacking dice).

Hills / crests - intervening hills block LOS: crests block LOS unless squad is touching crest.  Both hills provide protective cover from direct fire only.

Rough ground - does not block LOS.  Provides protective cover from all fire.

Fields - block LOS in season; do not block LOS if out of season.  Provide protective cover from direct fire only.

Orchards - in season function as woods; out of season as rough ground.

Direct Fire.

Ordered stands roll a number of dice (typically 2, 3 or 4).  Hits are scored on a 5-6, and fire is by individual squad or weapon.  One hit causes a pin result, 2 hits a suppression, and 3 hits a kill.  A suppressed squad that is suppressed again is killed.

There are three kinds of direct fire: single squad/weapon fire, fire group fire, or crossfire.  Fire group fire requires a fire group leader to be designated, with other stands within 30mm of that stand also allowed to fire at the same target.  A crossfire requires a PC or CC to direct the fire of two  or more squads or HMGs from one platoon to fire on the same target.

Rifles roll 3 dice, SMGs 2 (4 at point blank range), and HMGs 4 dice.

Indirect Fire.

Mortars can be called in by forward observers to fire or land smoke.  They roll a number of dice depending on the weapon and hit on 5s and 6s, and may have an area effect.

Close Combat.

Attacking stands which move to touch a target squad will perform close combat.  Attacker and defender roll a die, add applicable modifiers, and the high die wins. Commanders can influence combat and more than one attacking or defending stand can take part.  Defeated stands are eliminated.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More counter sorting...

Trawling through the counters from a local auction win from a couple of years ago.  Have put off doing this for a long time because the map is so awful (to my eyes at least) that I haven't wanted to play it.

But I'm starting to get a bit of an itch...

Friday, June 7, 2013

D-Day +1

One of the things I always remember on D-Day concerns no one who was there.

When I was studying at university I had a friend who was what in those days was called a mature student.  What that meant was that he was a guy who, having spent twenty-five or thirty years slaving his guts out in a job he disliked, had decided to quit the job, enroll at university, and study the things he'd never had the chance to study as a young bloke.

We were regular mates for a few years, and around the time that the movie Saving Private Ryan came out, he and I met one Friday afternoon at the bar, as we usually did, and amidst the talk of rugby and books the subject of the movie came up.  I remember saying that one of the interesting things about it for me was the mix of cliche and anti-cliche, and that I wasn't sure if I'd liked it.  He then sat back for a moment, took a swig of his beer, and told me that he had never known his father.  I nodded and said that I could perhaps understand what that might be like.  He then said that his mother had married a fellow after the war, and that he'd always considered this man to have been a father to him, and that no one could have asked for a better father than this man.  Again, I nodded.  He then told me that his dad had been killed in the landings at Dieppe, and that this was the reason why his biological father and mother had never married.  I felt pretty bad for him at this point and didn't know what to say except to say how sorry I was to hear that.

He sat back for a moment more and then said that after having watched the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, he now had an idea of what his father's last moments in life must have been like.

So when I think of D-Day I always think of Andrew, the father he never knew, and the man who took on that father role in Andrew's life.

Some years later, in Japan, I told Andrew's story to a student of mine.  The student was a-typical: he was an 80 year old doctor who had fought in the Pacific war, had kept himself sane at the time by playing Go - and at the time I knew him by denying that Japanese had committed atrocities - and had been periodically bombed by Australians.  He always used to joke with new teachers or new students that he and my grandfather had fought each other in the war.

During one particular lesson I was asking him about his favourite movies, and as he listed them it turned out that almost all of them were war movies.  I wondered if he'd seen Saving Private Ryan, and as he said he had, I told him Andrew's story.  Well, during my telling of it the doctor's usual cheerful demeanour changed, and by the time I'd finished he'd sort of hunched over and leaned on the table.  I thought he might have taken ill suddenly, but then realised that he was shaking and opening and closing his mouth in an effort not to sob aloud. I wasn't sure how to handle the situation, so I patted him on the back and apologised for upsetting him, but he shrugged off my hand. Soon he looked up, and without wiping the tears that were still coursing down his face started describing to me the plot of an Italian movie that he had once seen, and he continued on in this way until the end of the lesson.

He never mentioned that movie (or lesson) to me again - though he would still make jokes about our grandfathers' having fought each other.

So now when I think of D-Day I think of Andrew and his situation but also of the Japanese doctor, and how that day and the stories we have of that day have affected all of us, often in surprising ways, and sometimes at not such great remove.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Commands & Colors: Ancients review

Many years ago, when I was a member at boardgamegeek, I wrote a review of the GMT game Commands & Colors: Ancients by Richard Borg.  I found the review again recently, and thought I would post it here.  This was written in 2007, and as it refers to another user's review of C&C:A on the boardgamegeek site, and to the online play yahoo group, I've linked to those places within the text.  

Otherwise, apart from adding a photo, I've not changed the review at all.  I hope you enjoy it!

Just when you thought we didn't need another C&C:A review...

Anyone who follows the Commands and Colors forum threads may already know that I am a fan of this game. I have rattled on about this and that, defended it here and there, encouraged people to try it, and added my tuppence to discussions on various aspects of the game, its play, and its variants.

Why then write a review? There are plenty here already, and by people of far more import in the gaming universe than me: so what is the point?

Basically, this game fascinates me.

I have thought fairly deeply about it over a long period of time. I have played close to a hundred matches, toyed with variants, and to my great good fortune participated in tournaments which have given me the opportunity to closely observe the play of many different opponents, some of whom I would class as masters of the game.

So what am I going to say that is different from what has been said before, and how am I going to keep this out of the realms of fan-boyism?

As a first step I’d like to look at some of the game’s flaws, and at one or two of the things that are sometimes - and in my view erroneously - perceived as flaws.

The scoring system is faulty.

As Garysax noted in his review, the scoring system can lead to a “prey on the weak” situation. In order to get the required number of banners it is often tempting to go for the “easiest kills”, which usually means attacking auxilia with heavy or medium infantry, or cutting off retreat routes for cavalry or light infantry and slamming into them with a powerful unit.

This is not a problem as far as the game goes, but it is a problem as far as trying to give a sense of history goes. Historically, the usual tactic was to engage the main body of the enemy infantry in an attempt to inflict as close to a catastrophic defeat on the foe as one could manage.

To compound this, there is no distinction in the victory conditions between destroying a unit of light infantry and destroying a unit of heavy infantry. Both count the same, even though historically the heavy infantry were far more valuable than the light.

How does one get around this? The simplest solution is to not worry about the historical aspects and just treat it as a game. This, however, is not always entirely satisfactory if one wants to be able to maintain the suspension of disbelief.

In practice, I have found that most games are decided by the clash of infantry, but the chance of dissatisfaction is there, and is usually more marked in the larger scenarios. Nevertheless, the preliminary skirmishing does not usually lead to a victory unless one is prepared to get to grips with the main enemy line at some stage. It is also perhaps appropriate to bear in mind that ancient armies did not usually fight to the last man, despite what happened at Thermopylae. Things usually turned to rout and pursuit fairly soon after the issue had been decided.

As an aside, it can be a disadvantage in the endgame if one has gained most of one’s banners from the weaker units. It is sound play to win the battle first and worry about winning the game later.

In summary, the scoring system can be legitimately criticized, but I do not see it as a game-breaker. If you have noticed a trend towards bloodless victories, add an extra banner or two to the victory conditions, play scenarios where this situation does not arise, or - better yet - give your opponent a sound thrashing through the heavies and force a rethink of strategy.

The game is not historical enough.

This one has exercised a few people, and there are a few ways in which the game falls short. Comments include: a player will not learn anything of much significance about the historical battles through C&C; the game does not effectively model command and control; the troop-types are too generic; there are not enough modifiers; battles do not usually play out as they did historically; the game is too light, etc.

All of these criticisms can be backed up by valid points, but they can often be deflected with valid points, also. C&C:A can be thought to suffer in terms of historicity by comparison to heavier games such as the Great Battles of History series. That is partly true, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a complicated system does not necessarily make for better history. It might get you closer to the historical result, but in order to do so certain biases have to be built into the game, and for this period there are some rather large gaps in the historical record, which means that the more detailed one wishes to be the more guesswork one has to employ.

I do not wish to condemn attempts to add appropriate complexity, but would like to say that while such-and-such a tactical system might seem to model the Roman legion brilliantly, we are still mostly walking about with our eyes half shut.

C&C:A is not attempting to function as a working model of ancient combat. It is a game and it makes no pretence to be otherwise. It’s just one of those things we have to take or leave. Some people will not find this to be a problem, others will. Still, in my view there is no need for fans of the system to have to nurse an inferiority complex on this account.

The game is too reliant on luck.

This is a comment which comes about now and again. There is some merit to it as games occasionally are decided by luck, but this is rarer than one might think. Skill is the major factor, and I say that after playing many games against many opponents of different levels of experience and ability.

No move is taken in isolation; everything hinges on what has gone before and what one knows or anticipates will come in the future. The clearly better player will win 80-90% of the time, in my experience. Between nearly equal opponents luck will have more of a say, but the better player will still win more often than not.

My advice would be to study the rules, plan some tactics, and play more games.

Well, with some of the more commonly mentioned flaws addressed, it’s time to move on to why I find the game so fascinating.


This game is very deep. The rules are simple, but so are those of chess. When everything is put together in combination, the possibilities are endless. Different players have distinct styles, and it is a great challenge to find a method to counter those individual styles and the way that those styles naturally develop with time and experience.

As a case in point, one tournament I came up against BGG user Zatopek in a best of three series using Don Clarke’s Scenario X system. Zatopek’s army was highly manoeuverable, composed mainly of light troops and camelry, with some auxilia for bulk. Opposing it I had 2MI, 3MC, 1LI and 6 auxilia. I knew that my MI would never get into contact against his army. He would stand back, pick me off with his shooting and wait for an opportune moment to bring his camelry into play for the decisive blow.

I lost the first game, and spent a long time thinking about how best to counter these tactics. I hit upon an unusual method, which took him by surprise. He was flustered for a time but my auxilia could not land the killing blow. Finally he let fly his camels and took the win.

As a kid I was brought up a chess player. I loved the game but was prone to lapses in concentration at vital moments, and had given up playing seriously. After this series with Zatopek a light switched on in my head: this game also repays study and thought. To that point I had been in the “great fun but it’s not really a serious game” camp. After this I started to see just how great this game could be.


The thing that has turned C&C:A into a grail game for me has been playing in the tournaments organized by the tireless Bill Bennett . The game takes on a new life in a competitive environment. When a game means something it forces a different approach, raises the stakes, and increases the tension. When competitive play is matched with the theme and game value of C&C:A it makes for a compelling formula. I find something missing now when playing a ‘friendly’; I really need that competition to bring out the best in the game and in me as a player.

There have also been a number of innovations brought about through Bill’s yahoo group. As mentioned, Don Clarke has put together the Scenario X game generation system in which players choose armies, select their units from the army list, and have at it. It is brilliant and lends itself well to tournament play. Each army has its own character, and when that is combined with the styles of the various players it makes for some enthralling games. I cannot recommend it enough.

Another innovation organized by Bill is the posting of VASSAL logfiles on the yahoo group. This makes it possible to review games played and increases the knowledge base of the entire community. It is an excellent learning tool.


Mainly, I hope that I have achieved my earlier stated objectives of saying something different and of avoiding the fan-boy trap.

If you are reading this you have probably already made up your mind about C&C:A, and may well have already played it. If you have played it and are ambivalent, I would urge you to give the game some more time and thought before letting its perceived flaws put you off.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gauls blooded

With the cavalry and the first third of the infantry now done, it was clearly nearing time to get the Gauls to table.  One of the wargamery mid-term plans I have is to finish off an article and Lost Battles scenario I'm putting together for Slingshot, so I decided to give the nascent scenario a test run last night using a quarter-sized game board.

And wouldn't you know it, but the Gauls came out on top.  They didn't win the battle, but they won the game.

Not bad for their first attempt!

Of course, the second test went the way of the Romans, but that is only to be expected...

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