Monday, March 29, 2021

Fire in the paddies: Flying Lead AAR


Our much-anticipated limited return to FTF gaming happened on Saturday. Kevin Smyth and I played our first game with our freshly-painted 28mm Vietnam minis from Gringo40s. The venue was Zulu's Board Game Cafe in charming, renaiscent Bothell, WA. This was our first gaming since Kevin hosted a redo of the Battle of Manilla Bay in his garage in subfreezing weather on December 12.

I loaded up the car on Saturday morning, something I haven't done in what seems a very long time, and headed south to Bothell, which is just a short distance from me (St. Brendan, my home parish, is just north of the main street area of Bothell, where Zulu's is). 

For Kevin it was a longer trek up from Puyallup. Yes, readers from beyond the region, Washington state has a town named Puyallup, which is just a bit less odd a moniker than Humptulips, which is also in Washington.

We reserved the space at Zulu's for 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. Zulu's has been expanding since its opening. The building was formerly a residence right on Main St. What was once the basement now has some larger tables that can be used for miniature gaming, although they're not as large as the 8' x 6' (or 12' x 6') we were used to at The Panzer Depot. 

The table we used is custom built for gaming and has a 4' x 6' recessed well. That worked fine for us. I used my 8' x 6' relish green felt folded in half. I finally got to use the roads I bought a year ago from the UK, just as COVID was shutting down our gaming activities. Kevin brought some buildings, his rice paddies, and some bamboo stands—all terrain he has for his 1898 Philippines project.

The scenario I came up with pitted two equivalent squads of 10 men consisting of one NCO (leader), a LMG, a 'grenadier' (in my case a guy with a RPG, in Kevin's a guy with an M-79 "blooper"), and seven riflemen (AKs and M-16s).

We used Flying Lead by Ganesha Games for our rules. Because we use single-mounted figures, we can pretty much use any skirmish set and we have others to try.

I ran the NVA squad (I only have NVA painted at this time).

Kevin ran the Marines (Kevin has everything painted).

The Marines' mission was to search the three huts on the board for weapons and/or document caches. They got 1 point for each search successfully completed (a successful search required two actions in the same initiative), 2 points for finding anything (a D6 result of 6 after completing the search; a 1 result would be a booby trap!), and 1 point for every NVA casualty. To win they needed to get 10 points. The NVA got no points for nothin', they just had to keep the Marines from getting their 10 points.

We deployed on the short ends of the table and got right to it.

For reasons that I understand less now than I did at the time, I had most of my troops moving slowly through the woods. We were far enough away with intervening terrain that being in the open wasn't an issue. It took me a while—and several failed initiatives—to get my men forward.

Kevin got right in and searched the nearest hut to him. He found nothing, but nothing blew up, so 1 point for the Marines.

I soon learned—scratch that, I soon experienced what happens when you have men in the open. I learned nothing. Kevin made a long-range shot at a guy I had well forward crossing a road, which resulted in the first casualty of the game. In this case and Out of Action result, which is effectively WIA.

This would not be the first time I had men out in the open getting shot. I trusted too much to luck and luck buggered me. Indeed, my dice rolling was almost entirely ill favored. After my second initiative, I resorted to attempting only a single action per figure lest I tempt the angry dice gods to abort my activation phase. I was a bout 50% on single attempts, but whenever I tried to make two or more actions for a figure, disaster struck. I had a few snake-eyes results and a couple of the dreaded snake-eyes-with-a-third-eye results.

Kevin's rolling was a bit better, but not great. He, too, tended to stick to single action activations.

We soon got into a firefight in one section of the table that drew our other forces in. At one point, Kevin seemed poised to dash for the second building, but instead moved to consolidate his forces around the first hut. I had a few figures in some scrub and one in the third hut, which were facing Kevin's growing mass of men in a patch of scrub just in front of hut #1.

Kevin continued to advance his men through a rice paddy to reinforce his position.

I was able to put his M-60 gunner out of action, but that remained my sole success for a while.

Meanwhile, I got another two of my men shot in the open.

In all this, I never got my LMG into action. Several failed activations while he was deep in the woods, prevented me getting him anywhere where he could make any effect on the game. For few turns, the wood-creepers got the benefit of my NCO with a +1 to their activation attempts. That turned a few failures into single successes. However, I soon moved my NCO across the road and out of range so he could have some influence on the escalating firefight.

Getting him in soon made a difference. I managed one good shot using a group fire that resulted not only in a KIA, but a gruesome kill (tripling the defender's role along with a natural 6 on the die sort of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre version of a combat result).

The gruesome kill required everyone nearby (which was everyone) to check morale. This caused a lot of men to run backwards at least one move distance. Only one Marine held his position.

At this point, Kevin decided it was time to withdraw and call in a Thud strike.

The game went pretty well for a first try of the rules. Ganesha Games basic engine is pretty simple and easily modified if you want. The rules aren't well laid out, however, and we spent some time flipping through pages to find how to do a specific thing. I need to make up a cheat sheet that has the most encountered questions right at our fingertips.

Gaming at Zulu's was nice. They serve beer and some basic eats; we enjoyed chicken tenders and tater tots for lunch washed down with beers (a Belgian ale in my case). Their full kitchen has been shut down for COVID, but they say it will be reopening soon.

We'll return to 'Nam gaming soon. Our next game will feature the Giac My rules from 1978(!). They may be a bit more fiddly than we like, but it will be nice to give them a play.

I also uncovered WRG's old Infantry Action 1925 - 1975 rules from my stash. I'm keen to give these a try as well.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Gringo40s Vietnam: A review


I just completed—yes, actually completed—all (yes, all) my Gringo40s NVA (North Vietnamese Army) minis. They’re the first part of the Vietnam War project that Kevin Smyth started rolling and which has extended beyond me like falling dominos to Bill Stewart and Dave Schueler, and has got others thinking about it as well. It’s as if suddenly, Vietnam!

As significant aspect of this project, which is true for all my projects, is the minis I use for it. In this case all my minis are from Gringo40s Vietnam range, which, like the universe, is expanding.

My first order was a batch of NVA. We were thinking small at that time. It arrived in from the UK in 6 days. All Gringo40s orders are shipped with similar dispatch. My last order arrived in 12 days, which is still impressive speed from the UK to here.

The first thing that stands out about Gringo40s is their impressive size. I like a big mini and Gringo40s doesn't disappoint. They're not chunky, however—at least not chunky as I define it. I like chunky minis; the Timeline/Graven Images minis for my Irish Project are my heart's delight, but chunky isn't everything, or even anything in some cases. The proportions for Gringo40s look correct, which suits them well.

Proportionality notwithstanding, Gringo40s are bigger than the figures available in other ranges (e.g., Empress and The Assault Group), which makes mixing within units a bit awkward. The jury is still out on how they compare to Pulp Figures. Dave Schueler has just received his order of these, so we'll have a chance to see.

The Vietnam range so far consists of US Marines for the Battle for Hue (1968), North Vietnamese Army, Vietcong, and US Army. For now, I'll focus on the NVA that I just completed (all of them, yes, really).

The variety of figures is pretty good, with just a few lacunae. The NVA are mostly armed with AK-47s, with gear that includes ammo pouches, canteen, and a belt of grenades. Headgear is either the standard NVA pith helmet, a boonie-style hat, or bareheaded.

Heavy weapons so far consist of a 60mm light mortar and 2 crew. This is a very nice set and comes with extras (ammo box, mortar rounds) to place on the base. (There's also a separate AK-armed figure schlepping an ammo box who could be a third crewman.)

There's one figure with a Chinese Type-56 RPD light machine gun. 

It's quite nice and I'm hoping there will be another pose or two for this weapon.

One of the nice extras are the command figures. There are some NCOs (with pith helmet and bareheaded), an officer blowing a whistle, and my favorites: a bugler and a flag bearer.

I can't really imagine a role for either, given the skirmish scale we plan to game, but they're very nice.

There are also two figures armed with RPGs and one armed with a Chinese-made flamethrower and sporting a stylish East German helmet.

There are also figures I haven't bought yet, such as snipers, more command types, sappers, and an 82mm mortar and crew. There a currently no RTO figures available. One heavy weapon I'd like to see is a DShK 12.7mm MG and crew.

A few other additions nice to have would be some variety in armament. As I mentioned, for the most part the average figures are armed with AK-47s (or the Chinese made version). However, there was a lot more variety, such as the bolt-action Moisin-Nagant rifle, various submachine guns like the PPSk. The range is focused on 1968 at this point, but earlier in the war, the NVA would not be so universally armed with AKs.

VC and Marines

I'll write more about the VC and Marines as I get them painted (yes, I will get them painted). For now, I'll just say that the figures are excellent and offer a nice variety of poses and armaments. I already have several VC under the brush and I'll get started on the Marines soon.


I'm very happy with Gringo40s Vietnam range. Ged Cronin, Gringo40s genial proprietor, says that more are coming this year. We've already seen additions for more female VC figures and the US Army.

As we (hopefully) start to thaw out from our 1 YEAR+ COVID freeze, I look forward to expanding this project with more minis and gaming.

Kevin and I plan our first game, using Ganesha Games Flying Lead, tomorrow. I'll post after the dust clears.

Monday, March 15, 2021


I'd never much leaned towards miniature gaming the Vietnam War. I'm not sure why. I was too young to be involved myself, but I have known several Vietnam vets among my gaming friends and associates, some of whom were scarred by their experience there. I have played Vietnam-themed board games, however. Hue and Search and Destroy remain some of my favorites (I even have two copies of Hue).

Yet, there has been temptation from some very nice minis that have come out. The first that took my notice were the excellent The Assault Group minis. Phil Bardsley bought several of these when they first came out, but never wound up doing anything with them. I also looked benignly upon the range from Empress Miniatures. Empress makes a very nice range that includes ANZAC troops as well as US, North Vietnamese, and VC troops. They also make some nice heavy weapons.

Now, however, Kevin Smyth has suckered me into it. He enthused about the most excellent Gringo40s Vietnam range. I'd seen these before and gave them a very positive, "Hmmmm." But Kevin's entry into this field swayed me. I ordered a pile of NVA minis and then another pile after that. They ain't cheap, so it's good that were limiting ourselves to skirmish gaming. Nevertheless, with subsequent orders for VC and Marines coming, I'll have about 80 figures (I could tabulate an exact number, but that would take actual thinking).

Gringo40s are expanding their range and have recently added US Army figures to their Marines. I'm hoping they move on to ANZAC, ROK, and the much, much neglected ARVN (I don't think anyone makes ARVN in 28mm).

I've got five minis totally completed. 

There's another larger batch (12) that just need final touches to their basing. 

Another four that need a bit more than final touches, and—a surprise—another four that I just discovered on Saturday night during our Zoom chat that required cleaning, assembly, and primering. The primer is drying on them now as I write this.

I'm awaiting my last two orders for VC and Marines from Gringo40s.

Kevin has a lot of Marines painted, with smaller numbers of NVA and VC. He's also ordered an Ontos. To top it all off, he's ordered a 3D printed set of 28mm scale buildings for Hue, 1968. They'll be very cool when they get here, but that might be a while still.


For rules, we'll start with Ganesha Games' Flying Lead. I like the Ganesha game engine and find that it works for a lot of periods. 

I also managed to reacquire a copy of Giac My. I had a set I got used about 30 years ago. I thought I'd kept it, but couldn't find it when I actually wanted to look at it for this project. Mark Waddington stepped up and gave me his copy. Giac My is a more complex set than Flying Lead; it's old-school. There are a lot of modifiers for shooting, sighting, and such. With Flying Lead, I can see one person running up to 20 figures easily. Giac My will need to be smaller scale, maybe 8 figures max.

I also bought a PDF copy of Two Hour Wargames FNG: Tour of Duty

Ed Texiera was a WA resident for a while and quite active in NHMGS, our regional wargaming org. FNG is a different approach to gaming the conflict and looks to be interesting. Ed threw in a free copy of FNG: Unconventional Warfare.

Because we're sticking with single-mounted figures, any 1:1 set of rules will work for us.

First game

We've planned out first game for March 27 at Zulu Games in beautiful, refurbished, resurrected Bothell, WA. Zulu has been around for a few years now and has increased their space considerably since they opened. I've played there a few times with my friends Rick and Janet Martinez. They're a game pub, so food and beer is an option.

Now that Panzer Depot is no more, Zulu is the only public place to game with minis in the North end.

We'll start with trying Flying Lead with about 8-10 figures each, If that goes quickly enough, we'll dip our toes into Giac My using about half that number of troopies.

Life during COVID-time (or, Who was that masked gamer?)

Apart from my requiem for The Panzer Depot—in OCTOBER, I haven't blogged for some time—at least I haven't posted a blog for some time. I've begun several, but through sheer indolence and torpor (habits I learned from my cats), I've left them in varying states of unpublishabilness while I devoted myself to other things, mostly not involving brushes, paint, and wee lead soldiers. Blogging for me is often overly ambitious and involves much work. I, like water, tend to flow downward along the path of least resistance. I am fluid.

This post is my attempt to make amends and catch you up on my gaming (and other pursuits) on the first anniversary of our "14 days to flatten the curve" lockdown, which may just be coming to an end possibly this year (or next, or 2023...). That's not a lockdown, it's a sentence.

Naval gaming under canvas

Dave Schueler set up a canopy on his front lawn with some tables under it to provide a mostly flat, even surface for naval gaming.

Since Kevin Smyth got us enthused for 1:1250 pre-dreadnought action, we've played several games and collected, or expanded, our wee navies. We've had usually four players in our games: mostly Dave Schueler (obviously—unless he wanted to watch us from the window), Kevin Smyth, John Gee, and me. Eric Donaldson has joined us on occasion as has Michael Koznarsky; Bill Stewart has appeared to lend support and encouragement, even though he was mostly engaged in l'affaires domestiques, which prevented his staying to play.

The games have given me a chance to shake out my collections of ships and spurred a rash of naval appropriations to keep ahead of the arms race. My once Great Wee Squadron is now truly a Great Wee Fleet.

Battle of the Yalu

Decades ago, I bought the complete Japanese and Chinese fleets for Yalu from Houston's Ships. Now long unavailable, they've been a treasured possession, although I only partially completed building/painting them. John Gee also has the complete fleets, which he—lacking my exquisite sense of torpor—has completed. We both finally got our ships in action.

I supplied all of the Japanese main battle line along with two Chinese cruisers and one of the battleships. John supplied all the rest of the Chinese plus the Japanese flying squadron and the Akagi and Saito Maru, which not strictly part of the Japanese line.

We used Fire When Ready with the ADV/DBV calculation of 1 box of ADV/BDV = 300 tons. This still made for some very fragile ships—especially the Chinese—but also made the game manageable. This was the largest number of ships we've used in a game, it's the Jutland of the Sino-Japanese War.

The Japanese flying squadron was pounded hard at first, but sustained the damage well and gave back some of its own. It took a few turns, but the Japanese main battle line slowly entered the board. 

As it did, the weight of Japanese shot was telling. Although, it wasn't so much the weight as the volume. Most of the Japanese ships were armed with 4.7" QF guns—and plenty 'o them. The Chinese had larger guns, but fewer and were mostly devoid of any QFs.

John Gee made a great effort to escape with his squadron by attempting to cross the Japanese T, but in the end, he fell victim to superior Japanese fire as his fellow Chinese navy players had. The Japanese flying squadron was pretty much wrecked; the main battle was nearly unscathed.

Battle of the Philippines - 1898 (hypothetical)

Having amassed a goodly amount of Japanese and German pre-dreads, I was eager to get them in a fight with each other. As a kind of one-off opportunity a week after our Yalu escapade, Dave offered his lawn and canopy and he, John Gee, and I got together and gamed my hypothetical German vs. Japanese in the Philippines scenario.

The Japanese had  Fuso and Tenryu as outpost ships covering the flank of a Japanese landing in the Philippines in a free-for-all in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. Backing them up were Chiyoda and Akashi, which could start to roll for entry on turn 2. The German squadron was three Gazelle-class cruisers (Gazelle, Nymphe, Arcona) and Geier.

My idea was to see if the four Germans could take out the Japanese in detail or if the Japanese outpost ships could survive long enough to form a stronger battle line with their reinforcements.

Fuso covered herself in glory. She withstood the combined fire of four German ships and rammed two of them (doing about as much damage to herself in the process). Fuso benefitted from an armored belt (9" of wrought iron) and the fact that although small, she was stout and heavy.

The Germans were getting badly shot up while the Chiyoda and Akashi were fresh. Fuso was also no worse for wear, although she'd lost most of her already slow speed. Tenryu wound up a burning wreck. In the end, the German effort failed. They were too damaged to continue. 


Amidst our great COVID hunkering down, I've been spending a lot of my hobby time (and money) on the 3D art stuff using DAZ Studio. It's surely addicting. I'm finding new things to explore with it all the time. I started out thinking that I'd focus on sci-fi themes, which I have done, but I got sidetracked into fantasy themes in late August. The catalyst was a sale on with stupidly low prices for assets to use creating centaurs in DAZ. As long-time readers of this humble blog may recall, I'm big on centaurs. Armed with my new toys, I've created and rendered some scenes that I'm pretty happy with.


I still feel pretty amateurish as a 3D artist, however. There's much to learn, especially about lighting a scene and getting the effect you want. 

I see other artist's 3D work and wonder how they got the effect they did—although post-render work in apps like Photoshop, Topaz, etc. can add much to an otherwise simple render. I typically tweak my images in Photoshop after I render them, but it's mostly things like color balance, levels, brightness/contrast, denoising, etc. Although, I'll often add in dust or fog effects, plus backgrounds in renders that have a transparent background.

Buying assets to use when building a scene is a lot like buying minis. There's no lead pile per se, but I have many GB of digital assets I have yet to use. I just bought them because they looked cool and maybe I could do something with them—and they were on sale. As with minis, I can't quite keep from buying new things, but I'm starting to feel as glutted with DAZ assets as I am with minis. The best idea for both, is to make the most of the surfeit I have before buying more, but then...

Blogger blues

Blogger has "improved" itself. With most cloud services, the phrase "We've updated our service!" is as ominous and foreboding as hearing "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

One of the reasons I've crapped out on my blogging duties is that Blogger went all "New Coke" in their editing tool. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a phrase that's apparently unfamiliar to the good people who develop for the tool. Some of the things I did to get the pages to work like I want are now not possible; getting images to format correctly, especially, is a source of unending chagrin. So, in several cases, I started to write a big, extensively illustrated blog post and then got too frustrated to continue. 

This "improve until failure" model is all the rage now. I realize that the need to innovate or die motivates change, but can we just admit to ourselves that not all change is good change? I'm still working through accommodating myself to the improved, i.e., dysfunctional, Blogger. I'll get that figured out just about the time they screw it up improve it again. Hey, it's "free" (that is, free only in the sense that if the product is free, you're the product).

Zoom zoom

Will Depusoy started a Saturday evening Zoom and paint thing. It basically got people from the Cascadia Tabletop Gamers group (formed around gaming at the Panzer Depot) together over Zoom to chat while painting. It took a while before I joined, but liked it so much that I extended it to my own gaming group of Kevin Smyth, Dave Schueler, John Gee, Eric Donaldson, Michael Koznarsky, Mike Lombardy, and (if he ever attends) Bill Stewart.

It's been a great boost to my gaming/painting. With my productivity way down, the couple hours I spend painting and chatting on Zoom contributes hugely to my output (about which more in a later blog). It's also the best means to keep up with the people I don't see much anymore because we can't game together.

Since we started Zooming and painting, I've gotten more active in painting at times other than Saturday nights. Our convention, Enfilade!, is tentatively scheduled for Labor Day weekend (moved out from Memorial Day weekend). I need to get my aborted Enfilade! 2020 games back on track. You'd think that having 18 months prep time, I'd be sitting pretty, but I'm only now getting myself in gear again.