Operation Dragon’s Hoard: Vapnartak, York

If you haven’t checked out the previous posts in the series on Operation Dragon’s Hoard, check out the page I’ve set up for it at http://hntdaab.co.uk/blog/demo-game-operation-dragons-hoard/

Last weekend was Vapnartak. This was a show I’ve been particularly looking forward to; Its one of my “local” shows (thanks to one of my buddies in the wargaming being based in York) and it’s also a massive event spread over three floors (and mezzanines). Its big enough to lure many of the southern companies (such as Empress) up to the frozen north. Getting to run a game has been on my wish list for a while and I was a little disheartened when they initially reported they had ran out of space. However, thanks to the guys at York we managed to squeeze in and we were off to the races.


So with the whole uncertainty around if I was running a game, I didn’t manage to do the main task of making the plane look a little less hacksawed by using my new airbrush and dremel. With only two weeks, the idea of having to repair it in the event of dremel related mishaps was too much to take. Instead, the focus shifted to improving the other elements on the table.

First stage was repairing the boards. This was pretty simple – reapply the filler, textured paint and the cover up with lashings of Zandri Dust. The repair work was mostly effective. However afterwards there were one or two places where I don’t think the filler had set properly before I painted it and so it wasn’t quite as hard-wearing as it should have been. However, between these tweaks and changing how I transported the boards (bubble wrap rather than foam spacers) meant there were no massive chunks of surface that had been knocked away.

The next step was to add some more terrain elements. Finishing off another RedVectors buildings gave the OPFOR some height (useful for the marksman) and make the board look a little less empty. As I mentioned in the impressions on them, this one is great but I did have one or two events where the rooftops dropped through the rest of the building. Luckily no figures were lost to the fall damage.

Another element I think that was missing from the board was debris. Even if you ignore the straight edges on the plane wreckage, it’s easy to notice the lack of material that a plane shredding itself in mid-air would eject. This would also add some more detail to the board and provide some difficult ground to cross. Building them was pretty simple – get more plasticard, cut out kidney shapes, add plastic elements from the C130 kit and then cover in filler. Some of the plastic elements were trimmed to be closer to the ground making them look like they have sunk into the sand.

Once assembled, the same process I used on the boards again came into place. The difference this time was that I added a rough spray of grey over the plane elements, oversprayed by the base colour and then finished off with some drybrushing grey and the old faithful, Iraqi Sand. Overall I think they worked out quite well – it helps to make the board look closer to the ideal.. The only issue was again due to the filler. It hadn’t set correctly and so, as you can see above, a few bits chipped off over the weekend. It’s easily fixable but if I had more time it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Moral of the story – don’t try to rush things at the last-minute.

For a while, I’ve been wanting to upgrade my central objective from “white SUV” to something more suitable to the mission title of “Dragon’s Hoard”. After throwing a few ideas around, the idea of a big chunk of gold was just too tempting. I’d already bought the components I was going to use as part of Bank Accessories pack from TTCombat in 2017 and just hadn’t got round to building the actual objective. With time pressure adding focus, I built the pile of gold you see above. The three stacks were to act as the base, with one of the smaller piles placed on top for detail. The other smaller pile was chopped up into single bricks to be loosely scattered around the base.

After basic construction, the next stage was adding the tarp. This was the classic modelling standby – toilet paper with watered down PVA painted over the top. Once this was dried, painting began. Rather than painting up like terrain, this was closer to a figure – sand on the base, black undercoat, base colours, lashings of agrax and then drybrushing. The tarp was painted dark blue first before going over the top with a layer of light blue. Gold on black is always interesting and it took several coats to get the look I was after. Also Agrax is still my method of choice for fixing any issues with painting.

Something else I needed was smoke cloud, both for the operators to deploy and also to mark when explosions went off. Rather than cotton wool, one of my fellow SESWC members pointed me in the direction of teddy bear stuffing. After a Saturday where I couldn’t find any in Edinburgh I went to Amazon and ordered 1kg of the stuff. Now, I may not have anticipated just how much 1kg of stuffing is. The package was literally straining at the packaging when it arrived. To put it mildly, I don’t think I’ll be buying much more, even if I decided to model shooting lines for a Napoleonic battle.

Once I’d pulled lumps of smoke off the pile, it was painting time. Rather than just dropping lumps on the board, I used some old bases to keep the clumps anchored to the ground. Rather than just using the same colour for all of the smoke, I set up a few schemes. The white smoke had Mechanicus Grey spray for the lower portion with white spray paint for the top half. The black smoke was a little more involved. The bottom was black spray done relatively close to the clump for a dark colour. The next step was black again but further away. Finally, a light dusting of grey for the top of the cloud. For a first attempt, the smoke clouds worked fine – the only change I’d make would be to get a glue gun to stick the smoke to the base.

Some of the final prep was getting some more cards printed out. This was for a few reasons but primarily, it was because I repainted my insurgents. Along with finishing the other insurgents, I had I ended up with a fair number of cards left over to fill. This was a perfect excuse to keep working on the Task Force Operator pile, with a particular focus on some of the cool gear people may want to pick (such as the airburst grenade launcher). I also added the December releases to the list of guys I have on cards so pickup games of Skrimish Sangin will be even easier to arrange. Once again, personalised card creator knocked it out the park in terms of service. Downside: I didn’t do any post processing on the images so you can plainly see which cards are from which packs I made. However, they were once again a hit.

As I mentioned in my last post, the game at Fiasco ran well but it did feel like the operators, once on the objectives, were basically fated to win which is fine but not quite as exciting as it should be. Having managed to use two of the cards in the new pack for some Technicals, I decided that the operators going loud (be that by lots of gunfire or by blowing the cockpit) should prompt the arrival of some insurgents reinforcements. This basically moved the response squad from a building to a much larger threat, as a four man team of veterans were accompanied by two technicals with HMGs. The operators, thanks to the technicals lacking armour and BLUFOR having brought AT weapons, would find it relatively easy to destroy these reinforcements, as long as they react fast enough. This also makes the end game as exciting as the start, forcing the players to change-up the plan rather than getting all the time in the world to work out how best to approach the problem.


After setting up the boards on Saturday afternoon (thanks to traders and game organisers being let in early), Sunday morning was a quite relaxed affair where we were able to turn up, get the figures out and then get ready for everyone turning up. Once again, we managed to run the mission three times, rotating players and observers each time.

Game 1 was the usual show started in that I get to play against my number 2. As well as making the game look busy while everyone is doing the early morning lap of the show, it’s also a chance to iron out issues and show off exciting gameplay. Game 1 had a nice mix of stealth and violent gunplay with BLUFOR achieving most of their objective before we called time.

Game 2 brought in some of the public to participate. I actually disappeared off for my lunch break during this battle so I didn’t see all of it but there was everything from awesome sniper shots, some clever tactics and a slightly explosive fumble that luckily didn’t cause any harm other than the need for some fresh pants.

Heading for the black box leads to some close quarters gun battles.

The final game of the day showed just how deadly Skirmish Sangin can be. Thanks to the operators picking a lot of explosive weapons (ranging from two AT4s to the multiple grenade launcher and airburst grenade launcher) the game was all action all the time. With both BLUFOR players ignoring stealth in favour of all action all the time, this was one game where the technicals were actually rolled out. The .50cal scared a few people, but the return fire was able to cut

The pickup takes an airburst round, shredding the insurgents near it
Later on, the MGL gunner engages the horde of technicals heading for the gold.


That was the game, how was the show? Well, apart from two evacuations after someone set the smoke alarm off twice, it was a fantastic show. Vapnartak does really well thanks to its timing at the start of the year, dragging in everyone looking to pickup new projects for a new year. The range of sellers is always great, and I was very excited to see both Spectre and Empress there. The combination of these two (plus people like Pig Iron Productions and Crooked Dice) is perfect for any ultramodern gamers.

Speaking of gamers, thanks to the size of York it’s perfect for meeting up with people you’ve only talked to online. Putting voices to names is always exciting and getting to talk about the hobby is one of my favourite things.


So what’s next?

  • Work on the plane – change the edges of the cut to look less uniform, curl some of the panels, add some interior details (dangling wires and cargo nets) and then tweak the paint job
  • General repair work – make sure there are no chipped edges
  • Get the new buildings from Supreme Littleness Designs ready for action – I’m really excited to get these buildings into action. As I want to build and paint them up myself, there is going to be a little bit time to put aside to get these things built up but they should improve the look of the board and provide a nice tactical challenge for the players.
  • Tweak the battle – We’re almost there. The final gameplay tweak is going to be adding another two-man patrol to the OPFOR start. However, this patrol will be further back – they are not designed to be sentries, instead they will be backup once the action starts.

Something else I’m thinking about is future games. In the projects post for this year I’d mentioned my plan to do a second demo game, with its first run at Fiasco. As fun as this would be, one of the things I realised is that I kind of missed going to Vapa as a customer rather than as someone demoing. Chatting to the figure makers was limited to during a few small breaks. I also didn’t get to do as much browsing as I would like. Combining this with possible work schedules and I think I’ll be having a year off. Game 2 will be bumped back, giving me some more time to work on what exactly I want to do.


I’m so glad that we managed to show off at York. I’m even more glad that people really seemed to enjoy it. I had lots of great feedback from people (as always, a downed C130 draws the eye) and was really happy that lots of people totting cameras stopped to take proper photos. Seeing as the planned items is also much smaller, I think we are almost there with this game. Fingers crossed, the version shown at Hammerhead will be the definitive version, perfect for its final planned showing. So keep your eyes open for the final part of Operation Dragon’s Hoard at Hammerhead in March.

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