Sunday, 29 April 2012

Quick Film Review - As The Earth Turned

I had the absolute pleasure to attend a film world premiere in the wondrous setting of ...... er, Bangor?  yes Bangor (the one in Northern Ireland), because this was no ordinary film premiere.  No.  This was the world premiere of 'As the Earth Turned'.

As the Earth Turned is a unique little film written, directed, and shot in Northern Ireland (mostly in Bangor) on a budget of, er, nothing.  The writer, director, producer and cameo is Bill Taylor from Craic Addict Films.  He has put a lot of effort into the film as well as the actors and it does show.

Don Farrell is down on his luck and having a crisis.  His girlfriend is cheating on him, his prospects are bleak working in Hodgekiss food processing plant making processed chicken products, and to cap it all of a strange tattoo has appeared on his arm.  Could his life get any worse?

Well. Yes, actually.

The premise is that Don Farrell wakes up after a night on the town with a strange mark on his arm and an overwhelming urge to save the planet from a returning evil.  The mark leads him to two others with the same mark and through a series of (mis)adventures he finally finds his purpose in life.

Now down to the brass tacks.  I will not say too much, as there are a number of twists in the tale.  However, i will say this, it is well worth a watch. :)

Now, being absolutely honest, while the effects are good, they don't compare to other small company films' effects.  But don't forget, Bill had NO budget.  On that alone I found the film to be a miracle and he should be rightly proud of this little belter.  There were some really funny moments, plenty of action, and a good background.  The script could have been a bit tighter, but that really didn't matter too much in the end.  The film never really takes itself too seriously, and that, to me, is the real bonus.

The actors include the welll known local actor and of South African descent, Robert Render, who recently won  "Best Actor" award at the Florida Freakshow Horror Film Festival, October 2011 for "The Last Light".

The public showing of As the Earth Turned is in the Black Box, Belfast on Monday 30th April, 2012 from 7pm.  Tickets are £3.  I'll be there for another chunk of NI talent :)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Flames of War: A battle report with a difference

Our good friends at the Causeway Giants Gaming Group play a lot of Flames of War.  And as with anyone the After Action Reports (AAR) are always a source of fun and reflection on how well troops or tactics work.

The Causeway Giants did an AAR with a real difference.  I read it and re-read it. And I loved it.  This is how I would like to see more AARs done, not all the time, but definitely more.  Sit back with a cup of Brown Joy, put your feet up, read and enjoy.

What you are about to read is a battle report with a difference, fought between 2000pts of SS-Gepanzerte Panzer Grenadiers and a 2nd US Armoured Div Tank Company.  

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Hans Goering. I am a private in Colonel Owens’ S.S. Battalion. Our army has been decimated after the Allies stormed the beaches, and our division has been forced to withdraw, with my own company heading to the small farming village of Saint Jean de la Croix. We have attackers on both sides – East and West, and Colonel Owens has been given orders to retrieve important documents for the F├╝hrer. It’s to be transported here – on what we call a suicide of a rendezvous – by Panzer. And this may very well be the final account of the final day of my life.

We heard, by wireless, that the Panzer had run in to an A/T mine left here after the Victory over the French in 1940, and had become stranded just outside a farm a mile from the town. As a precautionary measure Col. Owens dispatched a jeep full of infantry to retrieve the papers which itself run into trouble at the farm. I was on lookout, along with Karl Raust, a fellow private, up in the clock-tower at the factory a few thousand yards over-looking the farm and the town.  It was sometime in the late afternoon, my watch had been broken for days by this point – when I saw an enemy scouting party, consisting of a few bazooka teams and riflemen.

We called in the spot, just as a roar of Sherman’s appeared, both east and west of our position. That sound will be implanted in my memory for these few short hours I have left. Pr. Raust radioed in to inform the dug-in infantry of the impending doom. We look on as our Company hastily follows their instructions. I should tell you that our unit consists of: A company command, including a second-in-command with two Panzerfausts and two Panzerschreks. The combat platoons were two Gepanzerte Panzer grenadier platoons with two Panzerschreks and a further Panzer grenadier heavy mg platoon. Weapon platoons were three PAK40 A/T guns, two SIG33s, heavy infantry guns and Company support platoons consisted of four STUG G assault guns, two FLAK 88’s and three 3.7cm FLAK 43s. From what I could see through my binoculars, our attackers consisted of two M4A1 Shermans, four M4 Shermans led by none other than Sergeant Lafayette-Pool himself! in an M4A1 76mm tank. To the East were, five M4A1 Stuarts and three M57mm A/T guns and three bazooka teams. One HM6 platoon carries a further three bazooka teams. Finally, six Priests and four armored AAM6s.

All I could do was gasp, as I watched Pool’s Shermans appear to the West of our position, he signalled more Shermans in support to the North-East. It wasn’t long before they started bearing down on the farm. They had us out-flanked and out-gunned. I hear the terrifying pitch of low flying Ally air-support coming in on strafing runs on the small farm.  They mustn't know of the Intel.

Our hearts catch in our throats as our heavy A/A units scare off the bombers. It’s the Allies that nab first-blood as Pool’s Shermans open a barrage of twenty shells; nine find their target – more than enough to destroy our decoy Panzer platoon at a farm situated to the south of De la Croix. Pool ordered a second wave of p47s over the farm, but our A/A gunners are on-form enough to shoot down one of the two planes and the other is forced to miss-fire and route. Lafayette turns his attentions to the farm and calls in a Sherman attack on the large farm-house, three shells see that the farm-house becomes a tomb for the unfortunate infantry dug in there.  It’s our turn this time as Owens orders a counter-attack and sends the A/T units and Schreks to take out the Shermans. As the dust clears we see that we’ve only managed to destroy one of the four half-tracks escorting the tanks. Back over to the east, Owens calls in a bunker-buster at the encroaching Stuarts, anything to stop the enemy from bottling us in. All we hit were a 37mm unit. It’s hot and a bright midday sun must've blinded the shooters.

The sky rumbled as one of our PAK 40s fire upon Pool’s Sherman escort, taking out one of his tanks, but leaving him unscathed. With a quick victory in mind, Pool called in a third run of p47s but, yet again, our A/A Units fearlessly see to it that the Ally bombers all missed their target.

Our enemy rallied his troops in to position and we saw a Sherman platoon descend on the farm whilst a second moved on to the South-Eastern road to the village. Shots from the latter rain down on our SIGs and 37s - with the 37s getting destroyed. As a reply, we see Pool’s Stuarts making short-work of routing riflemen.

Karl pats me on the shoulder and directs my attention to the  farm and surrounding buildings, now all a pile of rubble, we can see the stranded jeep and dead infantry. Sergeant Pool has reached the southern side of the village and he begins clearing the buildings with his tank. It’s a massacre, my brothers had no chance. Karl and I are left with a choice; he ran from his post only to catch a stray bullet as he ran to pick up the documents.

I remained, transfixed at the horror, as the realization of defeat descends in my mind. I look back at the town and slump, all I could do was watch as Pool practically reduced this once peaceful village to ashes. Our 37s posted at the north of De la Croix see that Pool has run into a bottleneck and open fire. The pressure of defeat caused our boys to miss their target. In a desperate last-ditched move, Owens orders the PAK40s to open-fire on the Stuarts securing the North of the village. It’s no use. I left my post and now, here I sit, in this abandoned factory, trapped, all sides surrounded and Pool himself is clearing the rout to the farm. It’s only a matter of time before I’m found.

I can only hope this letter reaches someone and the true story can be told. This was a massacre, a suicide. Why didn’t we get support from the main army? They’re at the door. Tell my family I lo[redacted, document was retrieved during a routine sweep of a factory at designation point Echo]
Steve Hopkins and James Owens play with little toy WWII soldiers and tanks along with their comrades in the Causeway Giants Gaming club - Website | Facebook Group | Facebook Page.  They are currently obsessed with Flames of War.  Just in case you hadn't noticed.

Wee Ivor

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Friday, 20 April 2012

Achtung! Baby! Battlefront revamps Flames of War starter set

It had to happen.  Battlefront have updated their old introductory set for Flames of War.  

It had been called Open Fire in Second edition, but that has been changed now to "Achtung!".  I like it :)
With a thunderous crash another shell smashes into the wall above you, showering your trench with rubble. Looking around, your entire position resembles a cauldron of fire -every roof ablaze, black smoke billowing into the night sky. As the echo of the blast dies away the crack of rifle fire breaks out, and an ominous clanking and rumbling. Suddenly, out of the flames roars a Tiger tank! Leaping from your trench you run forwards. Bazooka! Bazooka, now! Even as the din swallows your shouting, you see a trooper leveling his rocket launcher at the great beast's tracks. It may not be enough. You are in command. Take control. What are your orders?

Achtung! is the introductory boxed set to help ease people into playing Flames of War or event help ease players into the new 3rd Edition.

Like the previous incarnation 'Achtung!' is a complete introductory box set and includes

  • Flames Of War full-colour mini-rulebook; 296 pages (this is the same full rulebook we gave away free to existing Version 2 rulebook owners!) of clearly laid out rules with plenty of diagrams, including: 
  • Rules for tanks, infantry, artillery, aircraft, snipers, reconnaissance, night fighting, fortifications, street fighting, and more. 
  • Special rules for the nation involved in WWII.
  • 16 page full-colour introduction booklet to walk you through your first Flames Of War battles.
  • 3 detailed plastic British Sherman tank miniatures. 
  • 2 detailed plastic German StuG G assault gun miniatures. 
  • 6 Rare-earth Magnets. 
  • 5 dice. 

The mini rule book is superb i have to say.  The 'Open Fire' mini rulebook had a lot of problems with it, not the rules set but it seemed to pretty much fall apart for everyone i knew who had it.  

There is absolutely no problem this time.  I will say it again - the mini rulebook is superb - production, layout and new examples played out with German, US, UK and Russian characters.  It is so easy to read and understand now.  Or at least easier than second Edition.  the really nice thing was because I had the second edition hardback rule book, I got the mini rulebook for free! Battlefront, I salute you for your love for your customer base.

What I also noted was that the mandatory compliment of two Stugs and three Shermans have become plastic!  Something long overdue from Battlefront, especially if they want to compete with the likes of Plastic Soldier Company.

And as you may have read, they are also including some rare earth magnets for your Shermans.  A stroke of GENIUS!!!!! 

 The plans for putting the little fighting tanks together

The new plastic Sherman

The new plastic Stug

They look fantastic.  And even though I already have enough, OK, you can never have enough, I want to buy this!

When I get my hands on one I will do a full review

Wee Ivor

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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

In the future ....there is only war

Fantasy Flight Games have just announced something I had not expected at all.  Something to do with the Warhammer 40k universe that has piqued my interest.  Warhammer 40k Roleplaying has taken a new twist.

I have Dark Heresy, which I quite like, and have played Rogue Trader and Deathwatch.  I have not had a go at Dark Crusade yet, but hope to at some stage.  And now Fantasy Flight Games have announced a fifth roleplaying game based in the 40k Universe.

Only War (which, I have to say, I am slightly under-whelmed with as a name) gives players the chance to experience the 40k universe through the eyes of the Imperiums finest (apart from Space Marines, of course).  Yup, you get to be a Guardsman.  This has got my excitement juices going and my thoughts turn to phrases like 'AWESOME SAUCE'. :)


Well, I enjoy a gritty feel every so often.  

To get down and dirty with a bit of tension or horror thrown in.  I just get the feeling this is going to fit the bill.  Remember, Guardsmen pretty much know bugger all about the universe so everything that 40k players on the table top know as rote is non existent to the Imperial Guard.  I already have a few possible scenarios running through my head like 'Thunderhawk Down', 'Armageddon Now' and 'Full Metal Plasma'.  Are you getting where i am going yet? :)

It can really be run like Cthulhu in the 40k universe and I like that.  You are not a super human, you are a foot slogger trying your best to stay alive in a universe doing its damnedest to kill you in unimaginable ways.

The blurb from Fantasy Flight gives a nice precursor to what is coming.
As Imperial Guardsmen, your characters will be called upon to undertake dangerous missions deep behind enemy lines. Your squad might be ordered to infiltrate an enemy base to acquire vital logistical plans, or to quickly set up an ambush against an incoming xenos convoy. With missions as varied as the galaxy’s innumerable warfronts, you and your squadmates must often rely on nothing but your own grim determination and your faith in each other. Take the role of a Guardsman with one of twelve distinct Specialties, bringing unique skills to your squad to complement those of your comrades. Will you support your team as its Medic, rushing headfirst into fire to perform life-saving feats, or will you draw on the energies of the Warp as a fearsome Sanctioned Psyker? Perhaps you’ll protect your squad with suppressing fire as a brawny Heavy Gunner, or become the team’s Commissar and “motivate” them to greatness at the barrel of a bolter. Whatever your function, you’ll be an important part of the Imperium’s efforts to protect humanity. Bloodthirsty xenos and the foul spawn of Chaos are hardly the only threats to a soldier’s life, however. Throughout your adventures, you and your fellow Guardsmen will also contend with paralyzing bureaucratic apathy, a leadership that often views you as expendable, and the fickle political maneuvering of those far beyond your humble station. In spite of this, your squad must make the best of the situations you encounter, embodying the ideals of the Imperial Guard while punishing the enemies of the God-Emperor. A Guardsman must take the glorious fight to the enemies, and spread the Light of His Word to the darkest corners of the galaxy. In the face of overwhelming opposition, Guardsmen fight against mankind’s many enemies for the very survival of their species. It is the very immensity of this challenge, however, that strengthens a Guardsman’s sense of brotherhood and duty toward his squadmates. Though you are just a few among a faceless multitude of your brethren, chance or fate has singled you out for some special purpose. Prepare to join the greatest fighting force the galaxy has ever seen!
In the Grim Future, Xenos don't surf.
Only war is coming in third quarter 2012.

Wee Ivor

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

In Ambush Valley, Charlie don’t surf

 ++ Whiskey Echo Echo One. Come in, Whiskey Echo Echo One. This is Alpha November Delta Yankee calling. You receiving? Over++ 

++Roger that, Alpha November Delta Yankee. This is Whiskey Echo Echo One. You are being received loud and clear. Please report++ 

It may seem odd as an opening shot on a company’s product line to kick off with a supplement, and not even the latest one at that. But Ambush Valley was a release from Ambush Alley Games through Osprey that I know I wasn’t alone in waiting for with baited breath. 

It wasn’t by accident or lack of choice that when we put together our first demo game for Force on Force at Arkham, that we picked the Nam mission from the rule book, and bought up every Westwind Productions 'Nam model we had on the shelves, and then some. 

Everyone has a fetish and taste when it comes to a wargame period and Vietnam for myself and many others comes pretty darn high up the list. So while we will look at Force on Force itself shortly, its to Ambush Valley’s Vietnam expansion that my first display of fandom must be given.

There’s no guff when you pick up an Osprey/ AAG publication. The writing style and content assume a level of awareness and talk to you like a grown up. The introduction tips its hat to the original pdf from Ambush Valley, but this is no mere glossed up reprint. In Ospreys style and with AAG now having that firm backing to take things up a level, the book provides the wargamer a lavish background to the events of the time, accurate troop types and many exciting missions.

We see sections for example that give us the lowdown on how the VNMC Infantry Company worked, and what stats it should have, accompanied by designer’s notes on VNMC Armour and why it is what it is and how it should operate. Special Rules are clearly highlighted right next to the Unit descriptions for the troops they refer too and best of all are the Historical Notes, which detail the real and actual events or methods of operation that the various Troops or missions called for.

The 6 Missions that are included detail everything you need to play in the Vietnam era including unit composition, deployment, and terrain. As with all AAG FOF missions, those based on real events are accompanied by Historical Outcomes and what really transpired. The Missions are varied and represent the different nations and actions that took place in the region. The sheer wealth of data, which is very accessible within the book, allows you to easily understand and make your own missions. While FOF is not a points based game, the method of developing balanced missions isn’t rocket science - and any amount of willing help and advice exists on the AAG Forums itself.

A Section at the start outlines all the New or adapted Rules specific to Nam, this is another reason I Love FOF. You don’t get bogged down in an ever expanding rules set. The Core rules are what they are, and anything new is only applicable to the theatre of combat you have selected, AAG generally keep the rules representative, sensible and straight forward. Their core aim being that you have an enjoyable and absorbing game that accurately depicts the conflict being fought, but doesn’t descend into a dice and rule fest that forgets about gameplay and fun.

If you are a follower of Vietnam, then Ambush Valley is a worthwhile resource, even if you never play FOF, its detailed as you would expect from the stable its sprang from. It is clear to read and broken down into sections that flow together, not fight for your attention. The Book itself is 177 pages long, including the FOW Fog of War cards to copy and use in play. Full colour, with pictures both of miniatures in play and art work from Osprey’s other related publications.

Here’s another joy, with AAG/Osprey you always get plenty of colour plates of the various troops and their uniforms, making painting your models that little bit handier. Unless you’re a total fact freak who needs every last detail 100% right :-)

Those unsure where to start are aided by the suggestion of companies already producing ‘Nam Minis in various scales. While most FOF is about the MEN, I have to say this is one supplement that cries out and in your blood you know it’s true, to have Hueys, tanks and APCs trundling around, playing ride of the valkyries in the background while you wear your tin hat and chew on a cigar.

I’m sure there is more useful stuff I could tell you, but really it boils down to this - If you like ‘Nam as a wargame or not. If you do, and you’re looking for a good aid to your games then this is really worth a look, as is Force on Force itself.

For Me Ambush Valley is a 10/10 - hands up to being biased, I love FOF. If nothing else I’d tell you it’s definitely worth checking out. So pick up a copy and have a look.

 Right, I’m off to watch Full Metal Jacket and shout ‘get some' at the TV - peace out.

Ambush Valley Vietnam 1965-1975 apx £15 soft back : available from Osprey and all good hobby stores and bookshops. ISBN 987/1/84908/534/2 Force on Froce Companion 3

Wee Andrew

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