Taking a Sideways Step

Lets start with the Too Long Didn’t Read: I’m no longer going to play my Ultramodern games using real world settings or real world events. Going forward, all ultramodern games will be set in an ultramodern setting that shares similarities with the real world but bears no direct connection to the exact situation in the real world.

Now let me explain why.

As you may have noticed, things have gone a little bit quiet around here regarding the main focus of the blog for a long time, Ultramodern Wargaming. I’ve managed to play a few games, paint a few models but nowhere near the same level as I once did. As well as The Ongoing Situation, I’ve definitely felt myself losing interest in pushing around tiny figures representing the real world. Like many of us, I’ve spent a good chunk of the last year bouncing between being incredibly angry at the world and the politics that have brought us here and chewing through a reading list that contains a big chunk of analysis and personal accounts of the last 20 or so years of war. And frankly, the combination has made me increasingly uncomfortable with directly linking playing games for fun and using the current ongoing events as a background.

The latest additions to the library

Wargaming is fundamentally about taking humanity’s worst features and turning it into something you play with for enjoyment. And people have different points where they draw the line – for some it’s nothing Historical, for some it’s no go post WW2. I’ve always found myself to be pretty loose in my no-go point – nothing super Nazi (so no SS), nothing too extreme in Iraq/Afghanistan and nothing over the top gruesome. But time changes us all and I’m definitely feeling that unease creeping in.

I will also say, like with many things in the last year, I’ve definitely felt the tone of a lot of places where Ultramodern wargames have been discussed shift slightly and in a direction I don’t feel 100% comfortable with. A lot of terms and opinions are thrown around that can make it hard to think of it as a simple game. Even something as innocent as troop experience levels can lead to frantic disagreements. And frankly? I just don’t have the energy to give a damn any more.

This whole situation reminded me of a comment from Richard Clarke of the Too Fat Lardies when asked why he’d stopped working on Fighting Season. At the time, I was a petulant child a little annoyed at not being handed a favourite toy. But now? I 100% can understand where he was coming from.


Now, there are tens of hundreds of figures in cases in my house which are going to top me from simply dropping Ultramoderns and taking my ball to play elsewhere. And frankly, I don’t want to stop Ultramodern gaming entirely – I get too much enjoyment out of some of it. (Also if I stop buying Spectre Miniatures, I get worried messages from the team there).

This lead me to sit down and really think about Why I wargamed Ultramoderns. Why did I spend hours painting things various shades of tan? Eventually, I realised that the things that have interested me the most can been split into three elements:

The tactical and moral challenges squad and platoon leaders on the ground have faced (on both the BLUFOR and OPFOR sides) in the wide variety of situations that the ongoing conflicts have provided

The moment I always knew a game I was running at SESWC was going well was when a player would pause, step back from the table and actually genuinely consider what to do next. Realistic situations where players need to think like the soldiers on the ground rather than an uncaring god rolling dice is what gets me excited about these games.

The correct application/experimentation/evolution of force organisation, weapon systems and supporting technolgy in the modern day.

As wargamers, we all enjoy getting our toys on the table. Ultramodern Wargaming is jam packed full of toys, from NVGs to armed drones to the latest in protected vehicles. I also found the progression of troop organisations fascinating, seeing weapon systems and numbers of forces change from year to year as the situation changed, and then seeing how they affected groups on the board.

The telling of stories, both to setup the games and using the outcomes of the games to influence future events.

This is the main thing. “You bring your 1000 points, I bring my 1000 points and we’ll play a scenario from the book” is boring as hell. Wars don’t happen between equal forces, or equal situations. Using the fiction to setup events makes for more interesting gameplay. Add to that the campaign element and suddenly the merging of game and fiction leads to some very exciting games or sudden plot twists as things don’t go quite as expected.


After sitting down and thinking about it, I realised that none of these elements required me to specifically use the current conflicts. As far as my enjoyment of the tactical challenges and stories, it didn’t require me to reference Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, it didn’t even need to map to the exact events we know of.

And this got me thinking about the Strange-Real.

For anyone who doesn’t play video games, the Strange-Real is where the Ace Combat arcade flight sims are set. In many ways, the world matches ours – armed forces are equipped with real-world weapons (mostly), the landscapes you fly over and fight in are based on the real world and nations act in ways very similar to our own. There are some original elements and some which are just the real world with the trademark filed off but overall it’s a mostly accurate world that works.

This setting means that you don’t have to deal with the issues of the real world intruding upon the game. Referring to the Belkans as a bunch of terrorist assholes who blew up their own country causes 0 issues as they don’t exist. But at the same time, the number of people who declare that Belka did nothing wrong shows you can still make a connection to them.


So what’s going to happen next? Well, I’m going to do some world building, set up some nations and then return to game playing. Honestly, I really enjoy writing and designing things so this part is going to be some fun events all by itself. I’m also aiming that it won’t just be the real world but flipped upside down, but that there will definitely be some of the same dynamics at play. And don’t worry – Bazistan and Aden will still be here.

I’m also going to take a look at Chain of Command and see how best I might update it to Ultramodern gaming. There has already been several attempts covering modern conflicts like Vietnam and Mogadishu and although these things are very close, there are still little tweaks I’ll need to make. Of course, many of the forces I’ll be assembling will be fictional, but there will once again be similarities to the real world and there will be a focus on realistic elements to them – no dual wielding 249 gunners here.

I appreciate that these changes won’t be what everyone wants or is interested. But I feel like it’s something I need to do, if I want to keep playing this time period or these rules. Hopefully, you won’t find it too much of an obstacle when it comes to reading my after action reports

#HobbyStreak Day 50

In case you haven’t seen on my Twitter (or have managed to avoid taking part in what can mostly be a hell site), I’ve restarted doing the #hobbystreak. This is where you attempt to do a little bit of hobby every day and keep the streak going. Now, I admit I’m very lucky in being in a situation where I am able to do this – I work from home (at the moment), live by myself and can make it very easy to carve out some time no matter what.

However, I’m really excited to say I managed to hit 50 days! I don’t have a specific target for days I want to hit, I just want to see how far I can keep it rolling.

If you want to follow along, I’ve added a moment with all the streak so far. It’s interesting to see just what I was working on when I started off.

Impressions: Spectre’s Delta Release

A little delay on writing this one, but I finished off painting up the release of Spectre’s Delta Force guys from earlier this year. The first major release of 2021, these guys were definitely packed full of cool details and gear to paint and I had a pretty good time getting into them. While also learning how to paint camo again in a little bit of a death march.

If you want details on what the range consists of, I covered it in a previous post, so this will be more focused on what they were like as models and getting them painted up.

Assembly

As you may expect, they arrive in the traditional Spectre boxes with the foam interiors. The specialists come individually while the standard assaulters are in the squad pack.

Unlike the previous Spectre guys, however, these are now multipart. This is probably on the more extreme end, having two separate pieces to assemble, but shows off that these figures are now designed in multiple parts. Overall I found the fit reasonably good. There was definitely some that needed a touch of liquid green stuff in the gaps to fill them in.

Now that said, these new arrangements aren’t perfect, although this might be more of an issue with the inspiration. SIG MCXs have a very thin folding stock on and unfortunately on a few of them, the stock failed to appear in place when moulded (rather than having any signs of damage or debris in the box).

Luckily while 3D printing you generate a literal pile of resin tubes and so was quickly able to find a replacement. This isn’t perfect but with the right paint job should be much easier. On the other hand, the number of barrels I had to bend back into place was much much slimmer than a usual shipment of Spectre products. I think this change is definitely a positive, although I’m interested to see what other figures in this style look like.

Painting

Painting up these guys was a throwback to my traditional method of painting Ultramodern Special forces – aka, it’s time for a crapload of MultiCam painting with some tan webbing. However, there are a few little tweaks based on the models and their details. The first is that several models have softshell tops rather than the usual Crye Precision battle dress. For this, I decided to go with a mix of colours to make it a little more visually interest, mostly going for tans and greens.

There are two exceptions for these basic colours – the Delta Commander and the Scout. For the Commander, the basic t-shirt look is always cool. There is maybe a little look of “Captain America” to him with the blue, which would definitely make him stand out a little among a rebel force that he’s assisting. For the Scout, I originally wanted to do tigerstripe. However, I then realised I had 0 of the paints I wanted to use for it. So I shifted to try Desert NVG camo which I attempted… but then failed during the attempt. Instead, it ended up as a bit of blurry green which is distinct enough from the MultiCam to make him look like something special and unique (for the camo butterfly in the squad).

I also did some work with a few little details, just to make the operators stand out a bit. Little things like the Mechanix gloves or colouring in the glow sticks in Moot Green. The guns were also a new take on my usual setup – rather than the gunmetal grey, I instead used Leadbelcher with a thin layer of Contrast Black over the top. I’m actually really impressed with the final result, and I’ll definitely be doing it more.

Finally, the bases. These are the first modern guys I’ve finished using the Gaming Scenics Arid Grassland basing material. Like the others, I’m really impressed with just how good the mixes work out and are definitely an improvement over the pure sand I’ve done in the past.

Final Thoughts

So what do I think of this release now I’d finished them? I’m a big fan. These are definitely one of my favourite sets that Spectre has produced, with a good mix of poses and a great set of weapons. I think also the range is a pretty good starting point for anyone wanting to get into Ultramodern gaming, giving you a full squad of operators with a mix of gear ready for a variety of missions.

A few people asked about the sizing of the models. I do agree they are a little bulkier than most of the rest of the other operators, but nothing outside the realms of human variations. They just look like some boys who have been to the gym a lot.

(End of) February 2021 Project Update

This may only be a little shorter than the other updates but it is coming out at the start of the next month rather than at a random time.

Project 365

First up, this month’s count is standing at:

Painted: 32

DescriptionMakerNumber
CypherGW1
Winter British InfantryWarlord10
British SnipersWarlord2
British InfantryEmpress4
Delta ForceSpectre12
Task Force BlackEmpress2
Tier 1 OperatorsSpectre1

Purchased: 34

DescriptionMakerNumber
Comet TankRubicon1
SigvaldGW1
Chaos Lord on KarkadrakGW1
Chaos KnightsGW5
Chaos WarriorsGW10
Daughters of Khaine MelusaiGW10
Daughters of Khaine KhineraiGW5
Melusai IronscaleGW1

I’m aiming for 31 models painted every month so I managed to hit it. I am a little bit down on the running total for the year (January missed it by a chunk) so I’m going to have to slightly increase my numbers coming up. However, having a lot of models ready to be painted, it should be much easier to hit those goals.

As for the purchased – well technically not all of it was purchased… I’ll get to that.

Project Database

Not much more on the web plugin but I have managed to do some database wrangling to turn data into visuals. I’ve set up a page on the blog with all the graphs I’m to all my graphs, as you can see above. I’ll sit down and do some analysis at some point (because I find it fun) but it’s interesting to see how the shift in my collection is going, as I throw off that idea that I’m “just a Moderns wargamer” and actually start collecting what I want to and what excites me.

Project Modern

The Delta Operators are now all painted and based. I’m really happy with how they turned out – it’s been a while since I painted Multi-cam and then painting 12 of the buggers in it was a bit of a shock to the system. That said, it’s neat to get them all done and relatively quickly, managing blocks of four roughly every three days (base colours, details, camo).

I still need to do the writeup on them, but I’m waiting on a lightbox – the large one is good but it’s not really suitable for only a few figures.

Project WW2

Project WW2 is now the focus project. After the first section was finished earlier this month, I have also finished off the Warlord Sniper pair and have started on the bulk of the Empress guys with the first section. There was a little bit of relearning the paint scheme, mostly due to the different equipment worn by the Empress figures and the finer details that the sculptor brought to them. As you can see above, it’s definitely worth it. The camo jackets and helmets covered in scrim were really fun to paint and I adore their poses.

Perhaps the biggest thing is finally getting my hands on some snow powder. I got it from the same place I have picked up the rest of my scenic supplies from, Geek Gaming Scenics after waiting a little bit for it to come back into stock. It actually works incredibly well, requiring a few blobs of glue to get this semi-melted snow effect on the guys. These aren’t in the depths of winter – it’s January/February and so it should be started to melt, mixing with the mud and forest floor.

One thing I have decided is that I’m not going to focus on the WW2 guys in a single big block of painting. I did notice the Enforcers definitely reached a point of “oh god they are finally done” – with the WW2 guys being a full platoon, that’s a lot of green and brown to paint.

Project Fantasy

So I’m going to be writing some more stuff about my fantasy gaming. It’s an idea that has really captured my mind, and has some potentially very exciting elements to play around with.

Remember how I mentioned the sudden jump in purchases? Well, that’s because I had a nice surprise when my pre-order of the new Sigvald figure and some Chaos Warriors arrived. At first, I thought I might have been an incorrect order but nope, I’d managed to win the lucky draw from Leodis Games and ended up with a special prize… and a lollipop.

Now, this box is great. It’s a pair of really rather nice armies. However, despite having just bought the new Slaanesh model, I actually don’t have any plans for a Slaanesh force. Luckily my Creative Opponent up North, in his slow decline to Chaos, decided he wanted to give in to temptation and leap in. I’m really happy it went to someone I know – I feel a little funny about just selling off a prize. Instead, it will be going North, while I will be keeping the Dark Elves to add to my force.

Speaking of Dark Elves, I also managed to assemble both of the Warbands from the War Cry Catacombs box I got for Christmas. Like all of the GW figures, these are beautiful to look at, with carefully designed pieces fitting together. They were also complete bastards to assemble, especially figures with multiple part cloaks that fit together. However, I think they are well worth the swearing and fingers covered in glue.

But what of the Sigvald I purchased? Well, remember last update when I mentioned the idea I had for him? Well I’ve managed to work out the basics. In my head, this guy is a cursed ancient king skilled at the art of war and perfecting his skills in it. However, despite having attracted an army of Chaos Knights and Warriors, he is no simple follower of the Chaos gods. Instead, he spites them, breaking his horns to reject the gifts. Of course, anyone who recognises the spear and shield I’ve given him might work out where this story arc might be going. Lets just say, he has a patron who I might need to purchase in the future for when she has to enter the fray…

Story aside, I’m happy with the first assemble of this conversion. There needs to be a little bit of greenstuff work on his spear hand, and the painting will be the proof of the design. A lot of this design came from playing Hades and the basic model having some very greek style armour, and I think the giant spear and shield nail that image that came into my head. It’s going well, so the next step is actually painting and putting him together fully.


That’s it for this month’s update, I’ll see you in a month!