Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vehicle Fun Part Two

The Normandy campaign for Chain of Command is moving along at a spunky pace and the Americans I command get some vehicle options. I like vehicles, especially bizarre and obscure ones. I like early war desert light tanks and the Soviets have a real talent for putting motors in things (I'm talking about you,  Aerosani!). Imagine my dismay, then, to discover that the Americans had essentially four vehicles. Trucks and halftracks, jeeps, Sherman tanks, and tank destroyers. Granted there are a few oddball creations like the M-8 and early on the Grant and M-5 are active but even so, American vehicles are just plain dull.

Resigned to equipping my fellows with Shermans and tank destroyers I picked up a pair of Armourfast models. Armourfast makes affordable models and the range is fairly decent. My initial impression when I unboxed the kit was neutral. It certainly didn't look too complex, rather the opposite. That initial impression was borne out as the construction commenced. The kit is slightly less complex than the Pegasus models and is really lacking in detail. Further, it had a good number of fit issues and I found myself puttying up a lot of spaces. Finally, the sprues attach at points that are highly visible, meaning that if you detach them carelessly you end up with big, visible gashes in the model.

I finished up a Sherman and M-10. The models are fine. Not fine like fine dining but fine like not terrible. They build fast and the price is right but if you're putting something on the table it may as well look special. And if I want simple, fast builds I think I'll go back to Pegasus.

Camel Racing!

I like racing games and I own a copy of Formula D. One drawback to the game is that I repeatedly crash my car long before the finish line. I've played a good number of games and I think I've made it to the end maybe once. Now granted this is solely my fault, the game is brilliant. Still, it's depressing. And that leaves me looking for a racing game in which I can't crash and burn both literally and figuratively.

A few weeks ago Camel Up appeared at the Myriad Games game night. Camel Up is a camel racing game and it comes with a colorful board, amusing cards, a pyramid that dispenses dice and a set of solid wooden camels. In one sense even if the game was terrible the components looked fun to play with! Happily the game is great fun. And the components Are fun to play with as well.

In Camel Up a set of camels race around a board in a series of phases, or "legs." In each leg the players bet on which camel will be in the lead. You can bet on several camels but you lose points for each incorrect bet. During the game you can also bet on which camel will be the overall winner and the overall loser. As above, you could bet on several winning or losing but each wrong bet loses you points. Further, the first right bet wins more points that bets made later in the game. And that's the central dynamic of Camel Up- you want to make guesses early but you also want to be accurate and it's hard to be both.

Big Hefty Components
The movement system of Camel Up is what make the betting "educated" rather than random. Each camel moves once per leg. There are five camels. They move in random order and one, two, or three spaces on the track, also rolled randomly. You can imagine that it's going to be harder to guess which will be in the lead when only one has moved and easier when four have moved. The overall movement system is dead simple in principal but leads to a lot of calculation and guesswork during the game.

Camel Up is simple but very exciting. The camels move on their own, your job as a player is just to calculate which will be in the lead. There's a lot of plotting and planning and then also moments of surprise as your plans fall apart over an odd die roll. It's a great game for people who like a mix of surprises and planning. Kids could play it easily enough and non-gamers should like it too.

Vehicle Fun Part One

My friend John and I are in the midst of a Chain of Command campaign set in Normandy and I've been slowly adding to my forces. John started in 1/72 scale and amassed a huge collection of great looking scenery so I went along and started up a whole new scale to collect.

Having set up a decent base of figures I turned to vehicles. There seem to be a few choices to work with. There are a number of "toy soldier" style manufacturers, a huge number of "plastic model" style sources, and finally die cast vehicles. I picked up some Plastic Soldier Company tanks, some Armourcast vehicles, and then looked for some 1/72 plastic models. I needed some late war Normandy gear but also some armor suitable for the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled into Hobbies With a Twist in Concord, New Hampshire, and found a huge pile of 1/72 obscure Russian early war vehicles. On sale!

The immediate and obvious drawback to eastern European plastic models is that the engineers have excessive confidence in my ability to manipulate and glue tiny 2mm bits and bobs. Does the tank have a knob of some sort? Then clearly it needs to be modeled! But once my initial dismay at the array of tiny soft plastic pieces dissipated I was struck by how easily the model fell together. The fit was smooth and the instructions generally clear. I needed to scratch build one section that was ruined through my doing, and I made a machine gun barrel out of syringe because the plastic barrel would have a lifespan of minutes. Otherwise the model was a real pleasure to assemble.

Early War Wunder Weapon
I'm working on another Soviet flame tank by the same manufacturer. It's going even better than the first. Once the initial tiny piece shock goes away these kits are great fun.