In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Mmmm... toast.

We take toast for granted.

I like toast. I have to limit my consumption though, since my Snugglebunny insists on making all of our bread. So if we ate toast for breakfast everyday a batch of bread wouldn't last the week. But today is a day  off, so I'm enjoying thick slices of homemade toast with some delightfully runny homemade strawberry jam given to us by Mrs. Boss along with my ever present mug of very strong tea.

Toast is such a plain thing and terribly common these days. Toast is easy. Toast and beans after being out at the bar. Toast and peanut butter or CheeseWhiz (TM) for an after school snack. But if you think about it, before sliced bread and electric toasters, making toast was a major undertaking. Each slice having to be put on a grill before the fire or over the stove.

Toast. A small butter and jam covered miracle.

Contemplating toast also gives me an excuse to post this clip from the highly amusing and quite silly cartoon Invader Zim:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hail Caesar: A First Look

Hail Caesar: Battles with Model Soldiers in the Ancient Era
by Rick Priestley
Published by Warlord Games Ltd. 2011
Hard Cover 192pp
Cdn$47.00 (30 pounds)

I've been waiting for these rules since I first caught wind of them last year. After much anxiety, they finally arrived in my mail box the day before Canada Post went on strike for the summer. I've been reading them this past week in between work and painting and had an old friend over for a first run through last night.

Like Black Powder, they are straightforward and intended for big armies and a convivial atmosphere. You can add more grit and detail as you grow in comfort with the basic rules, but the basic rules still give a fun game.

My friend and I don't get to see each other much so the game kept pausing for a lot of catching up, in addition to the expected leafing through the rules but we still played to a result in 4 hours.

To try the rules out I got my Spanish tribes and my Marian legions out. I opted for 80mm frontages, giving 12 figure standard units for the Romans, 24 figure warbands for the Spanish and 6 figure skirmisher and cavalry units (the basing is very flexible and  adaptable to any basing scheme as explained here). We also measured the ranges and distances in centimeters instead of inches.

Romans deployed

The hand to hand combat is more detailed than in Black Powder (as explained by Rick Priestley here), and there are some differences in break tests and stamina levels. A nice change in Hail Caesar is if a unit takes a catastrophic number of hits (double it's stamina) then it is immediately destroyed without a break test.

Spanish Tribes
Even though Scott hadn't read the rules and I had only gotten as  far as Shooting, we were still able to make the game work by using the handy Rules Summary at the end of the book. This is a great feature which I wish Black Powder had.

Lusitanians boil out of the woods!
The rules are only the first 85 pages. Then there is a lengthy section (10 pages) on troop types discussing the various ancient warriors and how they fit into Hail Caesar descriptions. There are also the Useful Rules to add special rules to give more flavour to various armies. Then there is a 60 page section taking the player through seven different scenarios and corresponding sample armies. The scenarios cover the Chariot Era, the Classical era, Imperial Rome, Later Imperial Rome, the Dark Ages and the Crusades. There is also a brief section discussing the Middle Ages and using Hail Caesar for battles up to The Wars of the Roses even though they are intended for earlier battles. This section closes with sample, formal Army Lists (with points!) for two of the armies that Warlord produces; the Early Imperial Romans and Ancient Britons. Rick Priestley has announced that volumes of Army Lists will be developed for those who want them, but that books taking on a format more like their scenarios will also be published for those who prefer to go in that direction. The end of the book is the 10 page Rules Summary and 4 page QRS (available for download here). The QRS includes the basic stats for the common troops types which I found very handy since I hadn't made any rosters up.


As with Black Powder you live and die by your Command Rolls. I had a nice division of cavalry sent off to turn the Roman left but they seemed to have stopped for a picnic and butterfly catching! My Celtiberian tribe was also foot dragging, leaving the Lusitanians on their left and the Iberians on their right to do all the fighting.

Commanders can do a bit more in Hail Caesar as well. They can get stuck in in the best heroic tradition and add to a unit's attack dice. Scott's legate did this at the crisis of the game and I'm sure earned himself some honours from the Senate by destroying a warband and its supports.

Finally getting to grips!

The Crisis! Dice under casualties mark multiple hits.
There are some subtletites that Scott and I missed in our first game which we'll pick up on as we gain more experience.

  • very attractive production values
  • flexible basing
  • gives a fast game
  • players are encouraged to adapt rules as they choose
  • can handle big armies
  • price (although I have it discounted in my store for $30 Cdn!)
  • the flexibility leaves loopholes (but that's only a worry if you've got a rules lawyer in your midst) 
  • there might be issues with the binding after heavy use, but the rules are straightforward enough you shouldn't have to use the book after a few games
  • some of the pictures aren't quite up to the standards set in Black Powder (but that's a minor quibble)
I've written several sets of ancient and medieval rules, and played many others which never grabbed my attention, but I like Hail Caesar. If these rules are easy and fast moving enough to help my friends and I get our armies on the table more often for a fun game, then that is a big plus. I think I'll be playing Hail Caesar a lot in the coming months and years.
The Bitterness of Defeat!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rabbitman Puts on a Uniform

I always wanted to be in the Army as a kid. My best memories from my youth are from my years as an Army Cadet. I made a lot of really good friends, some of whom I still have, and had some great fun climbing mountains in Alberta, being a Staff Cadet at Ipperwash and commanding my Corps (#9 London) on parade. I almost joined up after University too, but I was already married, so I tried to pursue a career in book publishing and declined the offer. Sometimes I regret it, but the 80s weren't a good time to be in the Armed Forces and I'd probably be a divorced alchoholic by now. I don't think my wife would have enjoyed the life of a Service Spouse at all.

So two years ago I started working with the Army Cadets as a Civilian Instructor (CI). My oldest friend (he was the Cadet RSM when I was the Cadet L/Col) was an officer with his son's Army Cadet Corps and they needed help.  I was out of work so it was a way to keep busy, add some experience to my resume and make a bit of extra money. Once a week I'd go to school and then drive over to my friend's house for dinner, we'd go to cadets and then I'd finally get home late at night after a long drive.

From the start he had plans to get me into uniform as a Cadet Instructor Cadre (CIC) Officer. As a CIC Officer I'd be eligable for training courses to improve my skills and as I complete courses get promoted and receive pay raises. I'd also be paid mileage for travel on cadet nights (it's an hour drive each way). As a CI I wasn't getting any mileage and a CI could only be in a paid slot if there weren't enough officers to fill them. So by joining the CIC my position would be more secure and I'd get the training needed to be a more effective leader. I'm hopeful this will help me even in my duties at the Buy Food herding the teenage grocery minions. In Feb. of 2010 I submitted my massive application. Transcripts from every academic institution I attended back to High School (man, I'd forgotten how bad my marks were, I was a total slacker in HS), five references, every address I've lived at for the last 25 years (good thing we haven't moved much) and a police background check. Essentially it is the same application as if I were applying to the Regular Force but the physical fitness requirements are less and the police check is more scrupulous since I'm working with youth.

So I submitted my weighty application file with (I thought) all the boxes checked off into the labyrinthine depths of DND Bureaucracy.

And waited...

And waited some more...

My CO poked things to try and move my file along. But with that nonsense in Afghanistan diverting the Armed Forces attention, naturally Permanent and Reserve Force applications got priority.

Finally last fall I drove to the London Recruiting Center for my interview, which went extremely well.

A couple of weeks later I drove back to London for my Medical Exam.

Then the hiccups began.

I needed a new VSS (Vulnerable Sector Screening -i.e. Police check for anyone working with youth, the elderly, mentally or physically handicapped). This time I had to get fingerprinted. The fingerprints went off to the RCMP to be processed which took a few months and cost $75.

I needed blood work for my cholesterol levels.

My GP noticed a low iron count so ordered a FOBT (fecal occult blood test) to screen for colon cancer.

I needed a visual acuity test. This cost me $125.

The MO wanted another blood test to see if my iron levels had stabilized.

Each test added another month to 6 weeks onto the process, as I had to book an appointment, get the results back, see my Dr., transmit the results back to the CFRSC (Canadian Forces Recruitment and Selection Center) and then wait for the MO (who was cycling around the various CFRSC in Southern Ontario) to return to review my file and approve things (or send it back for more tests).

Then it was more waiting for CFRSC to forward my app to the ACSU (Area Cadet Support Unit ) -I can see that my life is going to be framed by acronyms now.

I hoped to be in uniform by the end of March, then in time for our last FTX (Field Training Exercise) in May, then maybe in uniform in time for the Corps Annual Inspection in June.

I was worried the Paperwork Fairy was going to grab my file and disappear on vacation for the summer. The deadline for the Fall BOTC (Basic Officer Training Course) was looming.

We were having our year end BBQ and Camp Info night. A casual event. Burgers, hotdogs, potluck salads and desserts. The parents attend and the kids who have gotten placements for camp get their joining instructions. I'm finishing off my salad and half listening to the announcements being made by Capt Bast (our old CO, but she'll stick around as a course officer) and Lt Tadgill (the new CO).

Capt. Bast says: "CI Manto would you come here a minute?"

So there I am, in shorts, sandals and tee-shirt making my Oath to Queen and Country in front of the cadets and their parents. She hands me a ziplock baggie with my Officer Cadet rank (dress and BDU) in them. My friend who started all this shakes my hand and gives me the CIC cap badge he purchased for me 18 months ago when all this started.

We then had to go and fill in more paperwork.

Now I just need to go to the ACSU to get a uniform to put the rank on.

But I am now the lowest of the low; an Officer Cadet in the Canadian Army Reserves, Cadet Instructor Cadre.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Panzer Marsch!

I've had these 15mm tanks almost done for a while now. They sat in a box assembled and primed for a year. Then in between commissions I got them base coated where they sat for another while. Then they got their dunkelgelb on. More waiting in their box. So while getting Ron's 25mm Canadians prepped I decided to finish up the German armour for Kampfgruppe Hotlead (which I blogged about last year).

Although scenarios requiring Tiger tanks have been thin on the ground with my group's emphasis on early to mid-war or the Italian theater. But now that I've been reading about the Normandy campaign and North West Europe... well it'd be a shame not to have a few, wouldn't it?

Since this posting has become rather picture heavy, I've made all the thumb-nails smaller to speed page loading.

First up, some PzIIIMs. Nice mid-war tank (I've got a thing for schurzen). Useful in late war for a command tank or artillery FOO vehicle. Some of them even soldiered on in secondary theaters. These are Old Glory models.

PzIII series. D, J, M, early StuG and late StuG

 Next the Tiger I platoon. These are Battlefront models with resin hull and turret. The metal gun barrel makes the turret a bit unbalanced.

With lots of area to work with, I decided to try my hand at the famous 'ambush pattern' camouflage.

Just for completeness sake, there is a platoon of every Germano-panzerphile's wet-dream; the King Tigers. These are Old Glory models, with a cut down artillery officer for the commander.

Here's a couple of comparison shots of the beginning and end of my German armour stable:

Old Glory PzI beside OG PzVIb

As far as main battle tanks go, my German armour inventory is pretty complete now. I even have a few representative SP guns and tank hunters, but I don't have some of the late war models like the Hetzer or Panzer Jaeger IV (yet). Since I usually have artillery off board, SP guns like the Wespe or Hummel are a luxury.

PzI series
 ( I guess I should have included a picture of one of my Panzer IIs here, just to be complete.)

Pz38(t) series
PzIII series

PzIV series

The 'Big Cats'

I also finished up a platoon of the big 8-wheeled Sdkfz234/1 armoured cars and a flak half track in late war camo to keep the Typhoons at bay.

Selection of armoured recce
 The only vehicles I have left for the Germans are another pair of 234 armoured cars (another 234/1 and a Puma given to me by Ron), a platoon of half tracks that will get late war camo and a bag of Old Glory Opel Blitz trucks. All are awaiting assembly.