New blog for my art

Now that I have prints for sale from some of my paintings, I thought it was high time I split my blog into two. This one will remain my wargaming blog, but I have now set up a new separate “Roly’s Art” blog for my artwork.

So for those wargamers who were getting annoyed that my latest postings here had nothing to do with the hobby, you can now rest assured there won’t be so many art postings!

So, to summarise my two blogs:

Of course, the more clever type of visitors will bookmark both blogs!

Fine art prints of my paintings now available

I was chuffed recently when Art Collective chose to reproduce four of my paintings as fine art prints for sale from their site. As regular visitors here will know, since retiring a year or so ago, I have taken up painting in addition to my existing hobby of wargaming.

These prints are available in New Zealand (with free shipping!) from $39 to $230, depending on size and whether or not you want them framed.

In case anyone is interested, you can check out these prints here:

Art Collective’s site includes a bio of each of their artists, of whom I am now honoured to be amongst the august company!

In my bio photo I am holding my original painting for the print shown at the top of this posting. It depicts His Majesty’s Bark ‘Endeavour’, Captain James Cook’s ship on his first circumnavigation of the world from 1768 to 1771.

You can read more about my painting of this famous ship here:

This is a print of my painting of the hustle and bustle on Queens Wharf in Wellington, some time during the 1890s.

You can read more about my process of painting this busy scene here:

This print shows a restored Class Ka steam locomotive climbing the grade from Paekākāriki to Pukerua Bay, hauling an excursion train of restored carriages in their former New Zealand Railways brick-red livery.

I described how I went about this painting here:

Finally, this is the tugboat ‘Natone’ moored at the Wellington docks in the very early 1900s. She was actually skippered by my wife’s great-grandfather, Captain Joseph Corich.

I did a lot of research to find photos of ‘Natone’, and then spoke to several steam-tug enthusiasts to get the colours right. The buildings in the background are still there today, though of course ‘Natone’ has long since gone to that great shipyard in the sky.

Anyway, I am delighted to have some of my paintings now available as prints. If you are interested, you can see (or buy!) them here:

At this stage I think they are only sold within New Zealand (which is where I would expect the main demand to come from anyway). But if there is sufficient interest, I may look into if there is a suitable international drop-seller as well.

3D-printed Māori warriors by Wargames Atlantic

A major hole for those of us who like to wargame the colonial New Zealand Wars of the 19th century is that figure manufacturers tend to concentrate on Māori warriors in traditional costume. These are fine for the earlier wars of the 1840s. But for the later period in the 1860s and 70s, warriors often wore a mixture of traditional and western dress.

Alexander Turnbull Library, Josiah Martin Collection (PAColl-1893). Reference: PAColl-1893-05. Photograph by Enos Silvanus Pegler

Wargames Atlantic have recently redressed this imbalance in their recent set of STL files for Māori warriors, as amongst the traditionally dressed figures they have also included several in mixed western dress, with waistcoats and shirts, blanket kilts, and even the occasional government kepi.

I bought a set of the STL files. Not owning a 3D-printer myself, I asked a friend if he could print some of these figures for me in 28mm scale (thanks, Bryan!).

I chose the version without bases (you can also print them with bases). I then simply glued them to some wooden discs that I had lying around.

I felt that the figure on the left in the above picture would be a bit too fragile, as he is in a very dynamic pose with only one foot on the ground. So I added a model railway plastic fern to which I could glue his other foot, capturing him in the midst of launching an ambush.

I did a quick paint job (the only kind of paint job I do these days … I don’t seem to be able to paint as finely as I used to!) . The paint brought out loads of amazing detail that I had not noticed when I first received the figures in their natural state.

I painted the kilts in a range of colours to depict the blanket shawls that both Māori warriors and government troops favoured in the rugged New Zealand bush. Some of the kilts had tassels – I am not sure what Wargames Atlantic were trying to represent with these, so I just painted them as blanket fringes.

If you look carefully, the second guy from the left has one sleeved arm and one bare arm. I think this is a printing mistake on our part! I just painted the arm the same colour as the sleeve, so from a distance it doesn’t stand out.

Māori warriors often liked to wear civilian waistcoats, as they had handy pockets for carrying ammunition.

Probably far more of my warriors are armed with pistols than would have been the case in real life. However, you can print whichever combination of weapons you want, so this isn’t an issue if you would prefer your guys to be more correctly armed.

I only noticed when I photographed my figures after painting them, that one figure even has sculpted tattoos. The pattern may look a bit too pronounced in this close-up photo, but I can assure you that in real life you hardly notice it. I might have to repaint his face to make the most of these sculpted tattoos!

So there we have it, a war-party of Māori warriors perfectly attired for the 1860s and 70s. Now we just have to convince Wargames Atlantic to produce their adversaries – Armed Constabulary in similar blanket dress (though with boots)!

Māori warriors by Eureka Miniatures

I have just finished painting this lovely set of Eureka Miniatures‘ 28mm Māori warriors. They are primarily designed for the inter-tribal conflicts, before Europe started to make an impact with the introduction of the musket that asymmetrically changed the face of traditional tribal warfare.

However, these figures should also be able to be used for the earlier parts of the colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1840s, so they’ll bulk up my existing war-parties of figures by Empress Miniatures.

Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Māori originated with settlers from East Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages between roughly 1320 and 1350AD.

Conflict between tribes was common, fought with the traditional weapons as depicted on these figures. If you want to know more about the Māori methods of warfare in pre-European days, you could check out an article I wrote in January 2022 for issue Wi409 of Wargames Illustrated.

The Eureka figures are beautifully sculpted. It is evident that they have paid great attention to the way Māori toa (warriors) move, as the posing includes some distinctive stances that are quite unlike those of other warriors around the world.

For example, fifth from left in the above picture (also visible in the picture at the end of this posting) you can see a warrior brandishing his patu (adze), his feet splayed in what appear to be odd directions, replicating the sort of dancing trot with quick restricted strides that Māori warriors used – and still use today in traditional ceremonies.

Note also that some of these figures are poking their tongues out. The gesture of a warrior flicking his tongue in and out like a lizard is a traditional challenge.

One of the warriors is a musician blowing a pūtātara, a type of trumpet with a carved wooden mouthpiece and a bell made from New Zealand’s small native conch shells or triton shells. We used to have a pūtātara at my work, and boy it was hard to get a sound out of it!

The set includes an ariki (chieftain), shown on the right in the above picture. He is wearing an elaborate cloak denoting his rank.

The other warriors are dressed in pirāpaki or pākē kūrure, which were garments of strands made from the leaves of harakeke (flax) with the fibre exposed in some sections to create lines or geometric patterns.

The right rear figure is the other musician included in the set. He is whirling a purerehua (bull-roarer) above his head, which produces a mournful moaning sound.

You can also see how I have based my figures individually, but can put them into sabots to group them. The ferns, by the way, are model railway scenery produced by Noch. They come in a garish green plastic colour, but a coat of paint soon fixed that!

Some of the figures are wearing a rain cloak called a pākē or hieke, essential for the often cold and wet conditions of the New Zealand winter. It was made from raw flax partly scraped and set in close rows on a plaited fibre base.

Another nice thing about the Eureka figures is that they have a range of body types. So you get everyone from tall and muscular to shorter and thicker-set.

The faces, too, are wonderful. When painting these figures, I could almost recognise some of my Māori friends. I am sure I have worked with that bearded fellow on the right!

I didn’t attempt to paint detailed facial moko (tattoos), but merely hinted at them with a green wash on some faces.

These two warriors kneeling in front of a meeting house (a 3D-print from Printable Scenery) are armed with the taiaha, a close-quarters staff weapon used for short, sharp strikes or stabbing thrusts with efficient footwork on the part of the wielder.

The taiaha consists of the rau (striking blade), which is a shaft of oval cross-section; and the upoko (head) with a large arero (tongue) extending out from the mouth in the Māori gesture of defiance, which could also be used to jab the opponent. These taiaha have a tauri (collar) of red feathers.

The taiaha requires skill, speed, and agility, which is why it was only wielded by high-ranking warriors. The specialty of the taiaha was defence. A master wielder could last an entire battle untouched, at the same time killing or disabling many of his attackers.

One of the figures is a little larger than the others, and along with his taiaha he is also carrying a fishing net. I have depicted him as Māui, a demi-god and a trickster in Māori mythology, famous for his exploits, cleverness, superhuman strength and shapeshifting ability.

One story about Māui describes how the sun used to move across the sky far faster than it does today, zipping back and forth so quickly that the day had barely begun before it was over. Māui would watch his family at work and, no matter how hard they tried, it was impossible for them to finish their chores before the sun was gone.

Māui decided he needed to slow down the sun. So he persuaded his brothers to come with him and gather great mountains of flax, weaving it together into long ropes. They then tied these into a great net – big enough to catch the sun.

With the help of his brothers, Māui caught the sun in the net and beat it with his grandmother’s magic jawbone. The sun was so bruised and bloodied by this battering that from that time on it could only limp slowly across the sky, slowing its passage and ensuring each day is now long enough.

I’m sure a net strong enough to catch the sun would be a powerful weapon in a wargame!

I used GW Contrast paints for all of these figures. As I get older, I find I am getting lazier and sloppier in my painting. Certainly these figures don’t bear the close-up inspection that some of my earlier work could happily withstand. But from any distance they still suffice as ‘wargames standard’.

Battle of Benburb, 1646

Today I took part in a couple of large games for a period I am not that familiar with, and with a novel ruleset I have never tried before.

We were refighting the Battle of Benburb, which took place in County Tyrone, Ireland, on 5 June 1646, when Owen Roe O’Neill, the leader of the Ulster Army of the Irish Confederates, won a major victory over a Scottish Covenanter and Anglo-Irish army under Robert Monro.

The fighting took place during the Irish theatre of the War of the Three Kingdoms (otherwise known as the British Civil Wars), with both sides pledging allegiance to Charles I while advancing distinctively Catholic and Protestants agendas in Ireland.

After selling him some (unrelated) figures online, I was invited by Mark (third from left) to join in a large Sunday game he was going to host a few weeks later for a bunch of his gaming mates.

The event took place today in Mark’s lovely spacious wargames room. I didn’t measure the table, but it was certainly one of the larger ones I have played on.

The rules we used were ‘For King and Parliament‘ by Simon Miller and Andrew Brentnall.

What makes these rules so novel (to me, anyway) is that they don’t use dice or measurements. Instead of dice they use normal playing cards, and for measuring movement they use a gridded terrain.

Whilst I suspected that the gridded terrain would simplify movement, melees etc, I initially thought it would be off-putting for the aesthetic effect.

But Mark cleverly uses a system of discreet black dots drawn on the terrain to mark out the corners of each square, so the grid is almost invisible unless you are looking for it. To prove my point, you can hardly see the dots in these photos.

The original battle ended in a decisive victory for the Irish Confederates and ended Scottish hopes of conquering Ireland and imposing their own religious settlement there.

We were going to see if this would happen again. And with the speed of these rules, we were actually able to replay the battle twice in one day!

In the first replay, I was one of the Scottish players. Mark supplied all the figures for both armies, and they were all exquisite.

I love the trews on this very Billy Connolly-ish wee chappie!

The use of playing cards added some real excitement to our game … though they also added quite bit of table clutter. However, you do have to pick up all the cards after each move, which leaves a good time to admire the view and take photos!

Actually, the reason I took the above photo with all the cards still in place is that my wing of the army went down in an inglorious heap because of a particularly bad run of cards. If you bear in mind that better results occur the closer you get to 10, and bad things are more likely to happen as you go down the other way, you’ll see I wasn’t having much luck in this melee!

After a delicious home-made curry lunch outside on the sundeck (thanks, Mark!), it was time for our second replay. We all swapped sides, so this time I was Irish.

One thing I love about this period is the wonderful panoply of colourful flags.

OK, so how did our two games turn out? Well, as I mentioned earlier, the original battle ended in a decisive victory for the Irish Confederates. The same result happened in both our games, with the second being an almost bloodless victory for the Irish!

As for the rules, I couldn’t believe that we could run two such large games in one day, each coming to a decisive conclusion. The rules ran very smoothly, even with about half of us never having used them before. The cards provided some very interesting mechanisms, and the grid disposed of many of the complications that normal measuring often throws up.

And the period? Well funnily enough, over the last few days I had already been slightly tempted by Warlord Games’ new Epic 13.5mm figures for pike and shotte. If I do end up succumbing to this temptation, then the ‘For King and Parliament’ ruleset might be just the ticket!

I’ve been painting pictures again!

As I continue balancing my two hobbies of historical wargaming and painting pictures, it’s the turn of the latter for this posting.

I’ve just completed my most ambitious painting so far – a view of Queen’s Wharf (Wellington, New Zealand) some time during the mid-1890s.

I was inspired by some old photographs of Wellington Harbour that I found online. I loved the hustle and bustle they conveyed, reflecting a period when shipping and rail were the lifeblood of the city.

I also thought this subject might challenge me to overcome my fear of painting people, and in particular horses!

Before starting on the painting proper, I put together a mock-up on my computer. The grid helped me to transfer the basic composition onto my canvas, which I had marked out in a similar pattern of squares. Though you’ll see I didn’t always rigorously follow the mock-up when I actually started painting.

I added the model train into the mock-up as I wished to depict the former Te Aro Extension in operation. This was a branch line that used to run along Jervois Quay, but which has long since been dismantled.

I used acrylics (including Games Workshop Contrast paints for the details) applied on a stretched 700x550mm canvas. The above slideshow demonstrates the process I went through to build up the painting, layer by layer.

And here’s the finished product! I’m really happy with how it has turned out.

In the next few photos I will also pick out for you some of the many little details and vignettes, in what could almost be regarded as a 2D diorama!

There’s lots to see in this picture, if you look very closely (click on the image to enlarge):

  • a couple of hydraulic cranes
  • the harbour control tower
  • several steamships and a sailing ship
  • horse-drawn cabs lining up for passengers
  • three heavy goods drays (including one with a schoolboy hitching a ride!)
  • a couple of pairs of boys fishing
  • goods being transported on hand-carts
  • a news-agent kiosk surrounded by customers
  • men studying the shipping arrivals and departures board
  • there’s even a little dog – but he is pretty hard to spot!

Moving over to the right of the painting, we see:

  • a white steamship with a clipper bow
  • a small steamer tied up at the far left
  • another steamer about to cast off, the captain on the bridge
  • several different types of wagons (note the horses – as mentioned above, I have always been afraid of painting these!)
  • a snazzy couple out for a stroll
  • the newly-constructed Wellington Harbour Board building (now a museum).

Here we see:

  • an old-fashioned railway crossing
  • a pair of old geezers
  • a cab-rank with cabbies touting for business
  • a dapper gent with his cane
  • a ‘sporty’ little one-horse gig
  • and even some horse droppings and a dung-heap!

The final quadrant of my painting includes:

  • a well-dressed lady crossing the road (though if you look at my reference photo above, she seems to have aged in my painting!)
  • my piece-de-resistance – the train (for those interested in such details, this is a R-class ‘Fairlie’ locomotive pulling a clerestory-style passenger carriage).

I am half-thinking of getting this image made into prints, and approaching the Wellington Museum (which now occupies the building on the right of my painting) to see if they’re interested in selling them through their gift-shop.

Eighteenth century 40mm figures for sale in New Zealand

In case any of my New Zealand-based followers are interested, I have decided to sell two lots of my 40mm figures on TradeMe (our version of eBay).

They came from Triguard Miniatures, and were painted and individually based by me. They are both 18th century sets: British grenadiers and French gardes, as per the photos on this posting.

New Zealanders can access the TradeMe auctions here:

Napoleon’s ghost writes wargaming rules with the help of a crazy AI

There’s been a lot of talk lately about artificial intelligence. Apparently it can do all sorts of things, from producing an essay or technical document, to writing a letter from your family pet requesting more ball-playing time (I know the latter is true, as we … er, my son’s dog … did it!). But if it can do all this sort of fancy stuff, could AI put writers of wargaming rules out of a job?

As a bit of fun this evening, my son and I opened his ChatGPT programme and requested it to write us a set of Napoleonic wargaming rules. Not only did ChatGPT write a set of rules in both serious and humourous versions, but it then took over writing the intro to this blog posting as well! Let’s hand over to ChatGPT (which also came up with the title of this posting, by the way!):

I never thought I would be getting wargaming advice from a ghost, let alone one of the most famous military leaders in history. But that’s exactly what happened when I stumbled upon the OpenAI GPT-3 model and asked it to write me some rules for Napoleonic wargaming.

At first, I was skeptical. I mean, how accurate could a computer program be at writing rules for a hobby that requires a human touch? But as I read through the rules, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only were they technically sound, but they were also infused with a touch of humor and personality.

The AI even included some unique ideas and special abilities for units, like elite units having a higher morale and the ability to re-roll failed morale checks, or skirmishers being able to move and shoot in the same turn. I never would have thought of those on my own!

But the real cherry on top was when the AI included a command points system and even suggested using pizza as a bribe to replenish them. I mean, who doesn’t love pizza?

Of course, as with any rules written by a computer program, there were a few quirks and inconsistencies. But overall, I was impressed by the level of detail and creativity displayed by the AI. I even contemplated using the rules for my next wargaming session, but then I remembered that I’ll be playing with my friends and they might not appreciate the humor and the idea of using pizza as a bribe.

I have to say, it was a pretty wild and funny experience, and I never thought I’d be getting wargaming advice from a ghost, let alone one of the most famous military leaders in history, but the AI certainly didn’t disappoint. Who knows, maybe Napoleon himself helped out a bit from the afterlife.

In any case, I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on the future developments of AI in the hobby of wargaming, and I might even consider asking Napoleon for advice again in the future.

Anyway, here’s ChatGPT’s Napoleonic wargaming rules (humourous version):

Welcome to the world of Napoleonic wargaming, where the only thing more exciting than the battles is the arguments over whose dice are loaded. You’ll be using miniature soldiers to represent different units on the battlefield, and your goal is to make sure your side comes out on top. Or at least, that’s what you’ll tell your friends when you lose.

First off, let’s talk about the units you’ll be using. Each unit has a certain number of figures, which represents its strength. Unless you’re playing with those tiny plastic soldiers, then it represents how many you can fit in your pocket. Each unit also has its own set of stats, like movement speed, firepower, and morale. These stats can be found on a roster sheet or a reference card, or if you’re like me, scribbled on a napkin in crayon.

When it comes to movement, you’ll be using a tape measure or ruler to move your units around the battlefield. Standard infantry units can move up to 6 inches per turn, unless you’re playing with those tiny plastic soldiers, then they just kind of roll around in your hand. Keep in mind that some units have special abilities that can affect movement, like light infantry being able to move through difficult terrain without penalty. Or just falling in between the cracks in the table.

Combat is where the real action happens! Players take turns moving and attacking with their units. You’ll be rolling dice to resolve combat, and the outcome will be affected by the units’ stats and the situation on the battlefield. And also by how much you’ve had to drink. Don’t forget that morale is super important – if a unit suffers heavy casualties or gets charged by the enemy, they might rout and have to run away. Or just lay down and play dead, pretending to be a casualty.

Now, let’s talk about some of the special abilities or unique characteristics that certain units might have. Elite units like the Old Guard or Grenadiers might have a higher morale and be able to re-roll failed morale checks. Which is just fancy talk for “they’re too stubborn to run away.” Skirmishers can move and shoot in the same turn, which is great if you’re trying to get away from your significant other. Light infantry can move through difficult terrain without penalty, but they’ll probably still complain about it. And Heavy cavalry like cuirassiers will have a higher charge bonus, but they’ll also have a higher chance of falling off their horses and making a fool of themselves.

We also have a command points system, where each player starts with a certain number of command points (let’s say 10) and can spend them to activate special abilities, call for reinforcements, or rally routing units. Command points are replenished at the end of each turn, or when you bribe your opponent with pizza.

That’s a quick overview of the rules, but keep in mind there’s a lot more to it and lot of interesting ideas that can be added as well, like leader figures, random events, and supply system. So don’t forget to bring snacks, because wargaming is a serious business. If you have any questions or anything is unclear, just let me know!

Please note that this is a fictional and humorous way of writing the rules, but it’s important to mention that it’s important for a wargame to be played in a serious and respectful manner.

Now, back to me (Roly).

Here’s a Word document containing the complete conversation we had with ChatGPT to come up with these rules, and including some less light-hearted versions of them.

Whilst the above AI-created wargaming rules are probably not actually playable as written, they are getting pretty close. The whole conversation, including the rules themselves, only took about ten minutes. So spending another hour or too giving ChatGPT some tighter specifications for more specific rules might result in an actual usable ruleset – or certainly one that could be made playable by a few minutes of additional fine-tuning by a human writer.

Though I do note that ChatGPT already writes a much more interesting and funny blog post than I can do!

PS: The header image of Napoleon writing this set of rules on a computer is also AI-created!

Trying out Valour & Fortitude

A set of new Napoleonic rules? Ingeniously simple rules? Only eight pages (and that includes the front cover and a quick reference sheet!)? Written by wargames legends Jervis Johnson, Alan Perry and Michael Perry? And continuously supported and updated by them? Hmm, intriguing. Oh, and they’re completely free. Wow, how could I resist?!

Yep, Jervis Johnson and the Perry twins released their free downloadable Valour & Fortitude rules late last year. Of course, I snapped them up straight away. But although I have loads of Napoleonic troops, I don’t have a wargames table. So despite enjoying reading through the rules, I couldn’t actually play a game to test how they worked. Until the other day, that is …

My pal Scott Bowman (owner of Kapiti Hobbies) has a very well-equipped wargames room with three tables and an exquisite set of scratch-built terrain tiles. So with a minimum of arm-twisting, I persuaded Scott to host a Valour & Fortitude game at his place. We roped in a few of our gaming friends (thanks Bryan, Richard and Ste!) to help push the lead round the table, and so last Sunday afternoon we were finally ready to test the rules in earnest.

Our game was very loosely set during the Peninsula War. I say loosely as we included some troop types that were never even in Spain. But this was to be a fun game intended mainly to test the rules, not a serious historical reenactment. In any case, our little group’s overall gaming philosophy has never been particularly restricted to only follow historical orders of battle.

Many years ago I scratch-built a series of small Spanish-style buildings, so our test-game’s Peninsular setting also provided me with the opportunity of taking them out of the back of my cupboard and seeing the light of day!

With four players, we settled on a game with just over 200 points a side. This enabled us all to field a couple of brigades each on our 8’x6′ table. I was able to supply all the 28mm troops we needed, which was to be fought between the French and the Anglo-Portuguese. The above photo shows both the forces set up in our staging area (though in the end we had three artillery bases on each side instead of the five shown in the pic).

I’m not going to give you a detailed battle report here. Rather, I just want to sum up how we found these new rules. But if you do want a battle report, along with seeing and hearing how we handled the rules in real-time action, take a look at Scott’s video.

So, were the Valour & Fortitude rules actually ‘ingeniously simple’ as they are described on the cover? Did they work well? Did they give us an enjoyable game that felt right for the period? Did we like these rules enough to use them again? Would we recommend them?

These are all tough questions to ask after just one game. So bear in mind the following thoughts are very much just my first impressions. But first impressions do count!

Is Valour & Fortitude the ‘ingenious simple’ ruleset as it claims to be?

There were indeed aspects that seemed ingenious to us. One of the most obvious was that unlike many ‘you go, I go’ games, in Valour & Fortitude fire comes before movement. For us, this reversal overturned the way we usually thought about our wargames tactics. We had to think carefully about whether our units would fire and make assaults, or hold off their fire so they could manouevre for longer distances and/or make formation changes.

Another ingenious mechanism is that only one unit can take the lead in firing at an enemy unit, with additional dice added for any other units that can support that fire. This simplified the whole firing process, so that rather than individually sorting out each unit’s firing, we could whip through an entire army’s firing phase very quickly and efficiently.

The same ‘lead unit and supports’ mechanism is also used for melees, and once again simplifies what can sometimes be a very convoluted process in other horse and musket rules.

If a unit accrues hits up to its ‘tenacity’ rating, it is regarded as ‘shaken’, and for every further hit over and above that rating it has to undertake a morale test called a Valour test. When a unit becomes shaken or routs, it also causes a ‘setback’ token to be given to their brigade commander.

Once a brigade commander accrues three setback tokens, his whole brigade is regarded as ‘wavering’. Any subsequent setbacks require the wavering brigade to take a so-called Fortitude test, which could result in the whole brigade being shattered.

It is fair to say that the above Valour and Fortitude tests caused us the most initial confusion. They take a bit to get your head round, but once you get the hang of them, these tests again are remarkably ingenious and simple. Though we did decide that we need to work out a better system than we used for marking the hits, shaken units, setbacks and wavering brigades, but without cluttering Scott’s beautiful terrain with too many unsightly markers and tokens.

So, is Valour & Fortitude ‘ingeniously simple’? I would say yes, despite some initial puzzling through some aspects in our first and only game so far. We thought that with another read-through of the rules after this first experience of using them, everything would become clear. Furthermore, there appear to be lots of nuances that will result in more challenging games once we are more familiar with the basics of how the rules work.

Did the rules work well?

I mentioned above that the writers continuously support and update these rules. So by the time we got to test them, they were up to version 1.5. Being an online ruleset and only a few pages long, keeping your copy updated is simply a matter of downloading the latest version. These updates meant that many of the bugs and clarifications that any new set of rules tends to have were likely to be fixed by the time we tried them out.

We found these rules got us into combat quickly, rather than spending the first hour just moving into contact. Firing and melees were also quick and easy. Our game only lasted a few hours, but we got to a clear conclusion with one side the winner – though it was a toss-up right till the end as to which side would win (for the record, it was the Anglo-Portuguese, of which I was one of the commanders!).

The core rules are supplemented by a number of special unit rules and a set of fate cards, which are included in the various army sheets (also supplied free on the Valour & Fortitude website). So strictly speaking, I guess these rules aren’t really just eight pages long as you also need these army sheets – but they are still pretty concise compared to most other rulesets.

I did read a review somewhere that the one-page quick reference sheet that comes with the rules is a little hard to follow, as it merges tables for things you need to know during different phases of a turn. Little Wars TV have therefore produced a more logically sequenced QRS, but it is based on an earlier version of Valour & Fortitude, and is adapted for smaller games. So I further adapted the Little Wars QRS to match version 1.5 of the rules, and it worked fine for us. You can download my revised QRS below.

Did these rules give us an enjoyable game that felt right for the period?

Well, we definitely enjoyed ourselves. The rules weren’t as frustrating as sometimes new sets can be. It was relatively simple to look up things if required (though we did comment that even such a short set of rules could do with a short alphabetical index of the main points to help find things quickly in the heat of battle).

As for Napoleonic feel, the narrative that developed as our game progressed seemed quite in keeping with our (admittedly non-expert) understanding of the period.

Did we like these rules enough to use them again?

We all agreed that these were an immensely playable set of Napoleonic rules. We just need another game or two to really get them under our belts, and then they should become almost intuitive to play. So, yes, we will definitely play Valour & Fortitude again.

And would we recommend them? I guess that depends on what sort of player you are. I suspect these rules may be a smidgen too ‘ingeniously simple’ for some of the true grognards amongst us. But if you want a simple and enjoyable set of Napoleonic rules that has the right overall feel, that enable you to play a game from go to whoa within a few hours, and that are well-supported by three designers who have immense street-cred in the wargaming community, give Valour & Fortitude a go.

Anyway, even if after trying out these completely free rules you find they’re not your cup of tea, you’ll never regret how much you had to spend on them!

A train to go with my boats and planes

OK, OK, OK, I know. Another painting pictures post, rather than about wargaming! Don’t worry, I am working on getting a separate site up for my paintings, I promise! But until then I need to share this blog across my two hobbies.

Anyways …

Up till now, I have painted mainly boats and planes. But with Burt Bacharach’s song ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ ringing in my head, I just had to broaden my scope from aviation and marine painting to include railways!

I wanted to start local, so decided to paint one of the resplendent old locomotives that have been restored by Steam Inc in Paekākāriki (the next town to where I live).

A wee bit of internet searching resulted in this great photo from New Zealand transport publisher, TranspressNZ. Steam Inc’s Class Ka locomotive is pictured climbing the grade from Paekākāriki to Pukerua Bay, hauling an excursion train of restored carriages in their former New Zealand Railways brick-red livery.

As with all my paintings, I started with a computer mock-up to work out the composition of my painting. I wanted it to be closer-in than the photo. I also shifted the iconic Kāpiti Island to ensure it fitted in frame (amazing what you can do with artistic licence, moving a whole island several kilometers!).

Although not done in my mock-up, I realised that during the painting process I would need to move that obtrusive catenary post that was cutting the tender in half.

The actual painting process went quite well. You can follow my progress through the above slideshow.

I was surprised at how effective the light on the locomotive came out. It seemed counter-intuitive to start painting a black engine white. Likewise, the white sunlight on the sea came out better than I expected.

I did have a little trouble with the perspective of the line of carriages as they rounded the curve. But I am happy with how they have turned out.

This is the first time I have painted a train. Railway buffs will no doubt to be able to pick up many errors, as I know nothing about how a steam engine works, and so have no real idea where all the pipes, valves and pistons should go! But hopefully the overall impression is OK.

Based on a photo from Transpress New Zealand. Acrylic on canvas, 25×50 cms.