Sunday, September 2, 2018

Book Review: Six Days of War by Michael B. Oren

The Six Day War (also known as the June War1967 Arab–Israeli War, or Third Arab–Israeli War) was never a conflict that I had thought much about.  

However with the release of the new edition of Fate of a Nation by Battlefront Miniatures, my interest was sparked, and I thought it was time to read up more about it. 

I wanted something that would give a complete  and unbiased overview as possible of the topic, but that would strongly focus on the military aspect of the conflict.

The book

The book I selected was Six Days of War - June 1967 and the Making of Modern Middle East by Michael B. Oren. 

Although the book is around 14 years old now, I choose it after some brief researching. The reviews were positive, and the author seemed credible.

I'm please I did because this was a fascinating read. Oren does a great job of taking the reader through the whole journey of the conflict (the lead up to the war, the war itself and its aftermath) and placing it within the larger frame of the Middle East conflict.

Another strength of this book was the way is it covered multiple aspects of the conflict: political, social, diplomatic and military. It was also drew on extensive Egyptian, Jordanian and Syria sources where possible, in addition to the written and oral records of the Israeli participants. 

It also covers the role of the United States and the USSR in this conflict, and weaves this into the larger story of the Cold War stand-off between the East the West, which help explains a lot about the actions of the actors involved.

The bulk of the book is divided up into the six days of the conflict itself, with each chapter outlining the major event of the war almost in a chronological account. These chapters cover the both the military events of the war, but also the politics and personalities around this.

Like any good historical author, Oren knows how to pick key events and vignettes which unlock the whole historical narrative. Here he combines insightful observations and historical facts with personal accounts to draw you into these events and make you feel like you are part of them.

This isn't a detailed military history though, so if you were interested in the real details of each battles, including orders of battle and unit by unit deployment, then this isn't the book for you. However I feel now much better equipped to read one of those histories having read this survey work.

Wargaming value

In addition to being interesting as a history book, I also thought this book did a great job of painting a compelling picture of some of the conflicts of the Six Day War that would be great to reflect in a game like Fate of a Nation or similar, including:

  • expansive and dynamic tank battles as the Israeli armour pushed the numerically superior Egyptian army across the Sinai Peninsula;
  • the close urban fighting between Israel's paratroopers and the Jordanian defenders as part of the battle for Jerusalem; and
  • the brutal and bloody assault by Isreali forces on the the Syrian Golan defences, including bitter trench fighting.


In summary I found this to be an excellent read. If you're looking for an introduction to the conflict for whatever reason, then this one is recommended.

My only one minor complaint is that the book could have benefited from more maps. While there were some, it could really have used a few more.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Call to Arms 2018 - Team Yankee in 6mm

On 4 and 5 August wargamers of all types descended on Wellington for the annual Call to Arms event, which features a range of tournament and demonstration wargames.

My wargaming buddies and I generally attend most years to put on a large scale demonstration games, with Dystopian Wars and Legion being our favourite for the last few year. It's a high point of our gaming calendar, and something that we are always keen on.

This year we decided to go for a two-day 6mm Team Yankee event as we have been playing a lot of it lately and really enjoying it. Day one would involve the Americans and the British defending some vital bridges from a combined Russian and East German attack (Red Dawn), while on day two we would flip it around with NATO forces looking to secure some strategically important Scud missiles (Red Dusk).

You can read about it more on my friend Dale's excellent blog, but suffice to say it was a great time. All the amazing scenery that you can see in those photos is his hard work, and he designed the scenario for the two days.

As usual our ambition slightly outstripped our speed of play, so everyone was completely exhausted by the end of day two (which thankfully finished with a drink at the pub). I am pleased to say that the Warsaw Pact forces (more or less) took the weekend.

I also left my painting run for the Russians late (as usual) which meant two days of pretty full-on painting even before we hit the table. I'll get them photographed soon and up on the blog.

We're already making plans for next year's Call to Arms, however we might reduce our ambition a little in terms of how much we can physically get through. We're also looking at adopting some house rules that might make it slightly easier to dislodge dug-in infantry, as moving these was the focus of both days.

Below are a few random photos from the two days, but do check out the blog (they will make a lot more sense).

The start of day one

The Hinds arrive to drop off their troops

The Russian take the bridge at great cost

The East German defend of day two 

NATO prepares the attack 
The attackers strike...

But the Scud missile remains secure

The Generals assess the options

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Preparing the troops for Call to Arms 2018

Wow. Over a year since the last post. This is generally the part of the blog where the author talks about how busy life as been with work and family (and that is all true in this case), but I thought I would skip past that and get straight to the update. Hopefully more regular content to come in the future.

At the beginning of the year my war-gaming buddies and I got stuck into Battlefront's Team Yankee, in which you play the NATO and Warsaw Pact forces squaring off against each other in cold-war-gone-hot 1985. We've had a blast playing it, and its quick pace and dynamic movement has been a refreshing change from our previous experience with Dystopian Wars.

However instead of playing in the default 15mm scale we've dropped it down to 6mm. I feel that the game works better visually at this scale, and there are some lovely cold war 'micro-armour' miniatures at this scale.

This year at Wellington's Call to Arms war-gaming convention we're are putting on a large scale demo game, which is something we have done over the last few years. Day one will feature the US and British forces defending two vital bridges while the USSR and East German forces advance towards them. On day two we will flip things around and the Warsaw Pact forces will defend against a NATO breakthrough.

Although I'm still busily painting up my massive Russian horde, this weekend we ran a trial game of the day two scenario. It went well and it helped test its balance and general enjoyment.

Below are a few random photos that I took. They aren't particularity great, but I'll try take some more painting photos soon. And of course expect a Call to Arms write up in a few weeks.

Here is a view of our beautiful battlefield before deployment

The British forces advance towards to the Warsaw Pact lines

My staunch Motor Rifle Company defends a crashed Hind

The East German dig-in around a strategically important tent 

Monday, May 8, 2017

200 Word RPG Challenge

I'm well overdue a proper update, but I wanted to put something up to acknowledge my surprise and delight at being one of the winners of the 2017 200 Word RPG Challenge for my game Route Clearance.

I was stoked to make it to the finals, and even more pleased to be one of winners, especially given the fantastic quality of the entries this year. Congratulations to everyone who entered, and all the others finalists and winners.

A huge thanks to David Schirduan and Marshall Miller for organsing the Challenge, and to all the Judges for their hard work.

I want to say a special thanks to Dale from Imaginary Empire Games for all his support, encouragement and feedback on the draft of the game.

I'm going to do a couple more posts in the future about the origins of the game, but in the mean time feel free to get in touch via Google+ or Twitter if you would like to chat.

I'm also working on an expanded version for the future, so keep an eye out for that.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Dystopian Wars - Feilong Sky Fortress

February sees my Chinese Federation force gets some much needed reinforcements in the form of the mighty Feilong Sky Fortress.

A very useful reinforcement
I have had this model kicking around undercoated for some time, but it finally found its way to the painting table to help fill a large unit sized gap in my force. This way I can send my battleship towards the enemy with wanton abandon while (hopefully) keeping my admiral safe in the clouds.

I love the ridiculously design of the Dystopian Wars models 
The Feilong bristles with weapons, including two 270 degree turrets and a nose mounted fore cannon, as well as node projector for its fury generator, allowing it to ignite fires on board enemy ships and aircraft from a distance. This is in addition to its carrier  ability, which allows it to rearm and retask its 6 stands of small aircraft.

Being a carrier makes the Feilong highly versatile
It also carries 10 assault points worth of angry conscripts, giving it a potent boarding threat. What they lack in skill they make up for in raw numbers.

Red, silver and gold are the predominant colours, but the jade green is a nice spot colour
The Sky Fortress is essentially finished, but it could do with a few touch-ups here and there, which I'll get to later in the week. I spent time on giving it a few shades of a lighter red than most of my force, but I think it really helps the model stand out more on the table (now I need to go back and do the rest of them).

It was actually a bit of a pain to assemble, which is probably part of the reason it has remained unpainted for so long. I ended up painting it in pieces before assembling it at the end with a judicious combination of greenstuff and superglue. I didn't pin it, so lets see if that decision comes back to haunt me.

The Feilong on patrol with two Zhulong Interceptors
It took me roughly a week to paint. I was planning to use it for a game this weekend, which I couldn't make in the end (you can read about it though - sounds brutal). This means I am looking forward to getting it to battle next month, maybe with another surprise reinforcement if I get my act together.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Kapcon 2017 RPG convention

Last weekend was Wellington Anniversary Weekend, as well as my return to Kapcon, Wellington's venerable annual role-playing game convention.

It had been a couple of years since I had last been to Kapcon, due in part to clashes with weddings and other events out of town, but also due in part to the fact I found myself starting to enjoy it less and less. I'm pleased to say that this year I had a great time, and that I really enjoyed the experience.

Kapcon comprises of two pretty intense days of gaming and role-playing, including LARPs, story-games, special kids session as well as plenty more. As usual it was excellently organised, and everyone I dealt with were decent human beings.

Here is a quick overview of what I played:

Session one - Monster's Brawl (DramaSystem); GM - Morgue

First up on Saturday I joined the Games on Demand session, where different GMs pitch the games that they would like to run or facilitate, and whatever gets the most support gets played.

There was a range of awesome games on offer, but I put my hand up for Morgue's Monster's Brawl, a game about inhuman monsters on the edge of society trying to survive as modern day gladiators (think pro-wrestling meets Fight Club). It used the DramaSystem rule from Pelgrane Press.

This was a great game full of strong dramatic interaction, great characterisation from the players and some pretty serious themes around alienation and exploitation. I felt that we covered a lot of ground in a short time, but the pacing never felt rushed or laboured, and the interactions between characters never felt forced.

I backed the Kickstarter for DramaSystem a few years ago, and while I have always love the concept of the game, it has never quite managed to click for me as a rule set. Thankfully Morgue's game helped it all come together, so this is now something I'll definitely give more thought to running again in the future. I can see how it would really shine over multiple sessions.

Now I think I know how you work

Session two - Shadowbrook Manor (Maze Rats); GM - Me

In the second session I ran Shadowbrook Manor, an adventure for first or second level characters (originally for Labyrinth Lord) using the Maze Rats rule set. Maze Rats is a light, free-wheeling set of rules for OSR style gaming that aims to capture the feel of early Dungeon and Dragons.

This session was a lot of fun and I had a table of players that really leaned into the themes and tropes of the session.
I mean, just look at these names...
The band of adventures spent the session cautiously (and not so cautiously) poking around Shadowbrook Manor trying to claim as much loot as possible. Highlights include:
  • All five characters splashing around the dirty water of an old pond trying to kill a giant toad and failing miserably
  • The sprightly magic user Leopold Silverless driving his dagger into brain of a fearsome zombie that was giving the party trouble (rolling a critical hit), and declaring "Now THAT is how you take care of a zombie"as it fell at their feet
  • The party, led by the Ranger Barnaby Cheeseman, sawing a cloak of alignment changing (light side up of course) onto the back of a un-animated flesh golem, before inserting the floating brain that they found in the alchemy lab into the body, thereby creating a heroic ally to join them.
Eventually they manged to conquer the manor and claim their treasure. Although I managed to get a couple of them down to one or two hit points, they all walked away (curses!)

In hindsight, the scenario was a bit too big for a three hour session, and I probably didn't need to start the characters at second level (I was feeling generous). However these are all very minor comments that didn't detract from the experience.

This was a really fun session, and one of the highlights of the con for me. The rules worked really well in terms of pushing the action forward, but without getting in the way. I can definitely see myself using these rules again for another convention game, or even just for a pick-up game with my own group, as it feels like the kind of rules light system for OSR gaming that I have been after for a while now.

There is also an active Maze Rats community on Google+ if you're interested, or pick up the rules as PWYW.

Session three - Death of LegendsFacilitator - Me

The next game I ran was my friend Dale's Death of Legends, a GM-less game of dark fantasy, in which the players tell the story of how their characters grew up to become heroic legends of the Free Territories who once defeated the Great Enemy, and who now must do so again as these evil hands tighten around their necks.

I have played this game a few times now, and it is a reliably good experience, so I was looking forward to running it myself. It does put a requirement on the players to me a bit more active than traditional games with a GM in terms of framing scenes and narrating events, so I was a little surprised when a thirteen year old and two ten year olds sat down to play and wondered how things would play out. 

Despite the young age of the players, we pushed on, which I'm glad I did, because they brought a lot of creative energy and imagination to the table. They had so many ideas they wanted to include, and detailed aspects of their characters that they wanted to share, that I occasionally had to bring them back to focus on the scene at hand.
Things at this stage are not going well
Fortunately the other old players at the table were happy to support the younger players, and we ended up having a really fun time playing up the complex web of relationships we developed for the characters.

Unfortunately the fate of the Free Territories was sealed when we entrusted the General with the weapon of power, only to have him betray us to the Great Enemy. Never trust the quiet ones!

I can't recommend Death of Legends more highly if you're looking for a low-prep game where the system does all the heavy lifting, leaving the facilitator free to join the fun. Check out the Imaginary Empire website for more information.

Session four - Beer and sleep!

Session five - Forget Me Not (Call of Cthulhu 7e); GM - Dale

I was up bright and early on Sunday morning to play in Forget Me Not, a modern day Call of Cthulhu scenario ran by my friend Dale.

The game kicked off with our characters awakening battered and bruised in a crashed van in a rural Michigan back road with no memory of who we were, or what we were doing there.

As we slowly started to piece together our memories, we uncovered that we were the cast and crew of a TV show debunking the supernatural.

However we also stated to learn the sinister truth that lurked beneath the surface of sleepy Clio, Michigan, as well as the dark relationship that the town had with a nearby abandoned farm. The same farm in which we lost our memories.

I can't say much more with giving the central story away, it is fair to say that this was a great, if pretty dark session. Dale ran a strong game, forcing us to make some pretty hard choice, and nailed the 'nice but sinister sleepy town' feel perfectly.

A great new edition of the classic rule set

Session five - Fall of Magic; Facilitator - Deana 

For my last session at Kapcon, I went back to Games on Demand and three of us ended up playing Fall of Magic.

In Fall of Magic each player uses a few key words to create a character to join the pilgrimage of the last Magus as he or she travels back to the place where magic was born,

This journey is represented by a beautiful scroll which the players unwrap as the journey proceeds. The scrolls is like a map with a number of stops, and at each stop there are prompt which the players use to narrate scenes to give some insight into their character, or the world at large.

This was a really interesting game. It had a slow, contemplative, dreamlike feel to it as the three characters undertook both a physical and metaphorical journey. This feeling was exacerbated by the raging storm that was going on outside as we played.

In many ways it reminded me of a European festival film, where the coherency of the story isn't as important as the feeling evoked during the experience.

Certainly one I would like to try again one day, as is Life on Mars from the same company.

Such great game bling

All-in-all I really enjoyed this Kapcon. All the games I played in and ran were good experiences, the people were awesome and feel I did a good job of managing my own energy levels and stress. I guess it took a couple of years of being away to remind me what I enjoyed about it.

I was even lucky enough to win a copy of Young Centurions as a participation award for playing in Games on Demand, so my sincere thanks to the organisers of the con. Keep an eye out for it at next Kapcon.

This is a gorgeous book
Most importantly, attending Kapcon has helped reminded me of how much I love role-playing games. They create an experience unlike any other, and this has really encouraged me to try and fit more of it in amongst my painting, war-gaming and board-gaming.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Holiday update

The holiday period passed quickly and well in our household. Here in the Southern Hemisphere the Christmas and New Year period also coincide with our summer break, so I have had a few relaxing weeks off from work to spend time with family, friends and gaming.

I haven't managed to get as much miniature painting done as I would have liked, mainly because work around the house has taken up most of our time. We have managed to get through a fair bit of DIY over the break, including building a section of a retaining wall, adding extra railings to our decks, and repainting and repairing some metal around our house. In addition, we also replanted the garden and cleaned our a couple of spare rooms (including my gaming wardrobe of wonders), which were really big jobs.

I am pleased we got this work done while the weather was good. We also got away out of town for a few short breaks which was brilliant, including New Years Eve in the Wairarapa and a few sunny days in the Hawkes Bay.

The beautiful Hawkes Bay of New Zealand
However I did managed to get in some good gaming time as well of many different varieties.

My Radlandz gang still lies unloved and unfinished (I'm sorry guys - you're next I promise) on the painting table, but as my buddy Dale organised a game of Dystopian Wars over the break, I busted my arse over a couple of days to quickly get a unit of 5 Zhulong interceptors painted for my Chinese Federation force.

Two of the five Zhulong Interceptors
It was a great game, which you can read all about here. It has gotten me excited about the upcoming release of the new 2.5 version of the rules, which should only be a couple of months away.

There is also nothing like a deadline to help with the panting, and while I still need to go back and finish them off, the Interceptors were a fun and simple unit to paint.

Chi Long Class Assault Flyer is escorted by two Zhulong Interceptors. Note the different in the red between the two units.
I also added an additional layer of highlighting to the red, which I think really helps the model shine and lifts them on the tabletop. The other models in the fleet have a much duller red with a Agrax Earthshade over them, so a job for the future is to go back and repaint them a little so that they all match.

Over the break my gang and I also played a bunch of brilliant board games, including Cuba, Scythe, Terraforming Mars and Agricola. I am a fan of Euro style games which strong themes, so these were right in my wheelhouse.

This game has such beautiful and evocative art work

I also picked up and played some of the Doom 2016 game for the Xbox. While I haven't played much of this yet, the time I have spent on it has been great. It'll be something to get back into when I need some soothing demon murdering to help me relax after a week at work.

Role playing-wise we concluded the main story of our epic Horror on the Orient Express campaign for Call of Cthulhu. Although the good Dr Ambler survived, not everyone did. While we stopped a great evil, the price was very high.

Next weekend is also our annual Kapcon role-playing game convention. This is one of the highlights of the gaming calendar, so I'm really looking forward to it. I'm running a couple of low prep systems this year - Maze Rats and Death of Legends - as the organisers are a bit short on games. There is definitely a fantasy theme in my offerings.

Such a wonderful game

With all this going on, as well as getting ready to go back to work, means that while things are busy, it is also a great time to be gaming. I better get back to it!