Christmas in March – A Cold War 2017 Product Review

One of the nifty things about going to an HMGS convention is you get to oggle all the new products that are on display in the dealers’ hall. Because tabletop miniature (and board) gaming is primarily a cottage industry where producers ply their trade only part time, the amount of new toys to be had is often enormous. There is no way I could possibly cover everything that I saw, so apologies to those worthy items that didn’t get mentioned below. Instead, here are four that really caught my eye and hurt my wallet. A lot.

Old Glory – Blue Moon 15/18 mm Mexican American Figures. Blue Moon is the 15mm wing of Old Glory Miniatures, and as the name suggests, they are a larger 15 mm figure. Sculpting for Blue Moon is of the heavy variety, in that etching and ridges are very pronounced. The line is also notable because of the variety of poses contained in each pack. For example, cavalry comes with at least three different poses for horse and rider, while the same can be said for the infantry as well. In the well-known march attack pose, for example, one figure may carry his weapon at right shoulder shift, another on the left, another with the weapon tilted more rearward and another with his head turned and so on. One equine pose I am particularly fond of is normally included in a mounted generals’ pack, that of a horse with head down on the ground munching some grass. The firm is also known for releasing complete or near complete lines when tackling a new period of history.

This convention Blue Moon did not disappoint as they finished up their Mexican-American product series with specialty packs, meaning unique, one off units and the like. This time around the booty includes Mexican and US generals, Texas Rangers, Jefferson Davis’ red shirted Mississippi Rifles, Mexican Infantry in frock coat, Mexican Light Infantry, Mexican Light Cavalry, Presidial (fortified outpost garrisons) Cavalry, the Polish Czapka wearing Jalisko Lancers, the Mexican Grenadier Guards of the Supreme Power (bearskins and all) and the armor clad Mexican Tulanchingo Cuirassiers (whew). There are a lot of lancers here, but the lances are very thick and have the pennants flapping so that it is attached to the head of the rider, making it far less like to break. This I like.

This war featured more color than a Napoleonic dress ball on drugs, so it’s a shame it’s not played more.

Compass Games On to Paris! The Franco-Prussian War 1870-71. This counter supported board wargame drew me in not only because of the subject matter, but also because it’s from a smaller, less well known company, and such firms are also among the most innovative. Like most hex and counter boardgames, the product is not cheap, but does include an awful lot. The price is $ 89.00 US for the boxed set, but that includes 456 counters, two maps totaling 38 x 25 inches, a 62 page rulebook, a 56 page scenario book, 12 heavy stock pages worth of historical and game charts, not to mention six colored dice, those smaller ones like SPI used to include way back when.

This is an operational level game with units being corps and armies. Scale is 15 days per turn and 15 miles per hex. Both Imperial and Republican campaigns are represented and as such, the game does seem complex (a 4.33 out of 5 rating on Board Game Geek). Generally the game is interactive and focuses on leaders vice units, plus the allocation of command, strength and logistics points to enable operational activities. Where and when to husband and distribute such resources is key.

Or I think so, because getting past the unbelievably high production values when opening the box was a chore. Seriously, folks, this game is drop dead gorgeous. Everything is full color to include all rules and charts, and the former is really heavy on graphics as examples for play. Counters are superb and the map can easily be played during a blackout. Given the rules do look pretty solid in their own right, I really look forward to giving this one a whirl, maybe even as a miniature campaign system. Most. Beautiful. Game. Ever.

Legion Wargames LLC Quatre Batailles en Espagna, the Peninsular War 1808 – 1814. This hex and counter wargame is actually an English reprint of a French design published by Pratzen Editions in Europe. The game, designed by Didier Rouy and decorated by graphics giant Charles Kibler, is a battle level simulation of four engagements from Napoleon’s war in Spain. These include Ocana 1809, Salamanque 1812, Vitoria 1813 and Sorauren 1813. This one sparked my interest for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was its design by someone outside the English speaking world. The counter style also drew me in. As I soon learned the overall design such as sequence of play was pretty standard, but the game’s scale was regimental vice battalion (such as GMTs Austerlitz) or brigade (as with any of Keven Zucker’s fine Napoleonic games). This allowed the author to introduce formations as an integral part of game play, and thus the counters are not square, but rectangular. The front of the counter represents cavalry or infantry in line, the back in column, or for artillery unlimbered or limbered. When in line, the front of the counter is from the long edge of the rectangle, in column or limbered it’s from the shorter edge. This means that the formation and the direction the counter faces within the oversized hex makes a big difference in the unit’s ability to move, turn and fight.

It really makes the game miniature like and for me that’s a good thing. The war in Spain is one of the few Napoleonic campaigns where my interest level is simply not high enough to buy and paint figures for it. This game could well allow me to satisfy my interest in the so called “Spanish ulcer” without reverting to paint and brush. Although the rule and scenario books are in black and white, the rest of the game is full color glossy and quite attractive. The map reminds me a lot of Clash or Arms products while the counters convey an overhead shot of infantry marching, cavalry at rest and cannon deployed, with an infantry regimental (as in the real one’s they carried, not a modern Spanish tricolor, etc) as an extra bit of spice.

Cost is $ 84.00 US for a boxed copy and includes 560 counters, five 22 x 34 inch maps, a 40 page rule book, a 20 page scenario book, eight game cards and two dice. Scale is 250 meters per hex and 30 minutes per turn.

The Army Painter Wargaming Accessories. First of all the Army Painter is located in Denmark. No, I didn’t stutter or stammer, I said Denmark, seriously. Founded in 2007 by Games Workshop (don’t hold that against them, please) vets Bo Penstoft and Jonas Faering, the firm sells a huge variety of specialized paints, brushes, glues and wargaming accessories, all from one of the best looking (and working), most informative Websites anywhere. It’s a relatively new firm for us in the colonies, but when they landed on our distant shores they did so in a big way. They now have 292 retailers carrying their wares, all of which can be located via their Website, down to the specific item in stock for each.

OK, now a confession. I didn’t pick up the two items below at the Cold Wars convention – because I bloody well didn’t have a chance. I had to order them. The sad story is that a couple of chaps showed up at the games I hosted with their stuff, and as soon as it was over I bolted for the dealer hall only to be told, “Sold out, we really didn’t think it would sell THIS well.” So I ordered a couple of Rangefinder Tape Measures at $ 4.49 US each and several Target Lock Line Lasers for $ 6.80 each.

The Rangefinder is no ordinary tape measure, but like all their products is specifically wargaming made. It has a heavy duty, rubber like construction with riveted surfaces top and bottom to hold the thing snuggly to a wargames table. The tape measure itself is three meters long (that’s close to 10 feet for all you colonials like me) and boasts both modern centimeters and roadblock to progress inches. Yes, it has the standard locking button on top, but also a second lock button on the right side and yet a third on the bottom of the tool. I’ve been to Lowes’ Hardware and honestly can’t find anything this good for such a low price, if at all.

The Target Lock is a small laser pointer that projects not a dot, but a straight line. I knew these things were out there, but had never seen one so small before. It also never hit me how useful one of these things might be for miniature wargaming until one was used at my gaming table. Tabletoppers will understand. In our games things such as line of sight and arc of fire become real important. My own rules require charges down a line from the center of the attacker to the closest point of the defender, so you see what I mean. Yet trying to determine such arcane values with a regular straight edge is often why some folks turn to drink. The ruler is a solid piece of material that doesn’t work well with terrain or other deployed military units in making such determinations, so this makes life a whole lot easier and games a whole lot more fun.

And in closing, let me share an additional plus, but only if you share a domicile with a furry, feline critter. Remember how cats like laser pointers? Well, if you really want to put the little dude into therapy, let him meet up with this thing and try to figure which end to chase. Loads of fun. Until I remembered my cat has opposable thumbs and a concealed carry license.

It did not end well.


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