Impressions: Empress August Releases

Empress did a rather cool thing back in July and put out a list of things they planned to release. When I first saw it, I assumed we would see them dribbled out over a period of months. Empress instead dropped them all at once, leading to a rather exciting day watching the Empress Facebook page as lots of shiny new things were shown off.

For a change, I didn’t pick up all of the kits that were released; Empress also brought out a pack of pilots all ready to sit in 1:48 helicopters. As I’m currently focused on crashed aircraft right now, I didn’t see much need for this set. However, I’m tempted to pick up a Little Bird at some point and these guys would be perfect for it.

But for now, let’s focus on the guys sat on my desk.


TV Crew

TV Crews are an element that is always an interesting addition to the battlefield, often as a way of forcing some restraint on a more powerful force. Empress’s is perhaps my favourite rendition of this role with a fair amount of inspiration from the real world that a British tv watcher would recognise.

The pack contains two figures. The first is the bald-headed, sunglasses wearing presenter. He is wearing body armour and has a bare helmet under his arm. His cameraman is also wearing body armour and a helmet, with a shoulder rest camera and rucksack with all his gear

Both models are packed full of character. I only have one tiny issue and that’s the presenters nose. When it arrived it looked like it had been knocked off. I simply added a tiny blob of greenstuff to correct this. Apart from that, I really like this set. It should be handy to include in photos of the game and be a concern to the BLUFOR player. Although I get the feeling the presenter is well ‘ard and might have done some time with the SAS. Hopefully this is the first pack in a range that might include other figures in civilian roles such as photographers or journalists. They really help to bring the battlefield to life

Paint wise, the aim of the game was something deserty but not camo. Tans for everyone and blue vests to mark as civilians. Inspired by a photo online, I also free-handed “TV” in grey paint on the cameraman’s helmet to represent someone frantically taping identifying marks onto their helmet. It’s a fun detail no-one will notice except me but it’s still cool.

US SF Character

Empress already has a pretty fantastic range of figures suitable for the US Special Forces Community, from the Rangers to the US Frogman team and everything in between. Their latest release includes a character figure for the US teams but with an intriguing addition. In tribute to an iconic photo of an injured special forces soldier who has returned to the fight, this character has a prosthetic lower leg.

There are lots of little details easily visible, from the attachments on the gun to the NVG shroud on his fast helmet. Like the Rangers, the new character seems a little taller than some of the older US Special Forces figure. Much like the US Navy SEAL sniper from last year, he would be an ideal squad leader or to represent a more veteran soldier.

My figure is painted in multicam and three colour desert with tan gear, the same scheme I plan for the rest of my Empress Rangers. As for the leg, I went with a base metallic colour and then painted over the top in tan to represent a cover over it.

Universal Range

Okay, so here is the big one. Empress announced they were looking into making some third world armies which led to a flurry of questions based on what they would be like. Having now arrived, they are a neat combination of US gear and Russian weapons, very similar to the ANP models released by Eureka. I chose the MICH helmets as they are one of the most modern and western option but the M1 and Soviet helmet will be very useful.

The two packs currently available are split, with pack 1 being four riflemen and pack 2 being a pair of riflemen, a machine gunner and an RPG gunner. Details are super crisp, even down to buckles on the mag pouches. There is also some variation in terms of guns, with one of the rifleman having a folding stock AK rather than the standard one, an ideal chance to show off a squad leader or more veteran guy.

As with many Empress releases, most of the models look awesome and then there is one who just looks slightly off. The winner in this pack is the chap moving with gun down while reloading – with a minor tweak it would look really cool but at the moment he just looks really odd. The RPG and machine gun gunners are both moving – it would be nice to have them in a firing pose but that is what future releases are for.

I’m not 100% on the way they are selling them. Rather than offering heads and bodies separate, they are assembled into product codes combining bodies and heads. On the one hand, I can see the appeal for this. On the other, as someone with lots of spare heads from other upgrade packs (so many British helmets), this would be a cool way to be able to reuse them. It would be awesome to be able to pick up the heads separate, especially for people planning to build their own imagination. But no matter how they are sold, the combination of gear and guns make them a really cool idea while the separate heads gives you a huge amount of customisation.

As for me, these universals are going to represent the Bazi Army. This meant oldish AKs (hence the wood) combined with black MICH and 3 colour desert camo. These are the first figures I’ve actually done fully in this camo and I’m happy with the end effect. Requiring only three steps, it’s also a pretty easy camo to do. When more universal figures arrive, they will be swiftly joining the Bazi ranks. As for the heads, the plan for the Aden Defence Force (the British backed guys south of the border) will be British gear but MICH helmets. Hopefully I can pick up a few sets once they become available by themselves.


Overall, a really solid release from Empress. Rather than a simple expansion, most of the sets show possible future routes for Empress to go in. Universal have me really excited about the combinations we are going to start seeing people make, it now just needs more bodies. As for the TV crew, getting Empress’s excellent sculptor to start working on some civilian figures is a genius idea – more journalists would be a great way to bring the board to life. As for the SF figure? It’s something unique – I’m not sure many other companies would bring out a figure in this style. Of course, I’m now interested in see what comes next…

Impressions: Empress Dismounted AFV Crew

When you start to add vehicles to the tabletop, it’s just a matter of time until you need crewman figures thanks to some lucky rebel with an RPG. For light vehicles the standard line infantry will do but as you start to get to the heavier end of the AFV’s available, crewmen start wearing different helmets and vests.

Luckily, Empress have just released some packs to help you out. Available for both the US and the UK armed forces, each nation gets both a mounted and dismounted version. As I haven’t got any vehicles waiting to assemble, I just picked up the dismounted version.

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I then made a fatal mistake. Rather than just relying on unpainted figures, I decided I could get all of my figures painted in a week. WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Well, the delayed posting time on this should tell you all you need to know

US Crew

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The US Crew has a pretty even split weaponwise, with two armed with M4 carbines and two with just pistols. There is some nice variation in the poses although the injured crewman clutching his arm reminds you that this is very much a scenario pack rather than figures for a standing army. The crewman with the pistol has a bandana across his face, similar to images you can find online. As you can also see from the photo above, three of the figures in the pack are multipart using Empress’s usual system of a pin and hole.

There seems to be some variation amongst US Army crewmen as to if they wear coveralls or camo uniforms. To keep things simple, I went with the ACU pattern I used for rest of my troops, relying on the different poses and helmets to distinguish them.

Of course now I really need to paint up an AFV for them to use – the two Strykers I picked up at Salute will be perfect for them to use.

UK Crew

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The British crew is much more ready for a fight, with three soldiers with L22 AFV carbines (a tiny variant of the standard L85) and one with a pistol. Two of the figures have separate arms but it’s only one arm rather than the matched sets. Interestingly, with the right paint job the British Downed Pilot set that Empress do (BRIT07) would fit in perfectly, giving you two additional figures.

When the models first arrived, my initial thoughts was to use the old method of MTP painting. However, Spectre have released their multicam guide so I finally bit the bullet and tried. The process was easy and I’m really happy with the end result. I made a few alterations to the listed method:

  1. Used larger brown areas to give it a browner tinge
  2. The dark brown and white patches were thin lines rather than smaller squares.

I like the scheme enough that there is going to be an interesting part to Monday’s Weekend Warfare.

Outro

Overall these are fantastic models. They are obviously designed to standout on the battlefield. I don’t think you would use these models in every game but they really help to make scenarios standout, giving you something more interesting to defend than just a counter. The fact they match up to their mounted counterparts is even better. If you have any AFVs and there is even a chance that it might need bailed out crew, these models are a must buy.

If you are on the Russian side, Empress already does some Russian AFV crew on foot as part of their Red Star range. I don’t have these models but from looking at them at shows and on other people’s’ blogs

Wargaming Week 19/06/2017

Let’s start, covering the 12th of June through to the 18th of June.

BLOG STUFF

This weekend’s post is part 2 of the scatter terrain impressions. This time I’m looking at MDF parts from multiple manufacturers. There will be more parts coming (Spectre keep dropping things I like the look at) so keep an eye open for that.

A bit of bad news, I’m not going to be ready to run my demo board at Claymore in August. Between work, holidays, going to the Spectre weekend in July and wanting to have some free time I just won’t be able to get it done. Its a shame, but I’d rather the first showing be okay and not horribly rushed.

GAMING

No gameplay yet working on hobby stuff instead

PURCHASES

Still nothing but eyeing a few things up.

HOBBY

Week 2 of proper painting at work is going well. Three days spent painting (I had a day off and one busy lunch) and four figures done. The two boiler suited gentlemen were painted from undercoat up to finish in one lunch time which was a bit of a rush but pretty cool to get done.

The other two figures were Empress Insurgents. One was simply painting up the RPK gunner to match my other Russian Contractor but the sniper was something else. Now, based on the figure he may or may not be inspired by the antagonist in a film about crashed jet. However, cheap tracksuits are not very Bazistan and so I wanted to make him look a little different. This, of course, led to me grabbing some green stuff and trying not to make too much of a mess.

Now, I am not a great user of green stuff (there is a poor GW Arwen somewhere with a terrible cloak) but I’m pretty happy with the end result. Here are my steps:

1. Basic cloak covering back of torso.
2. Add the shape of a hood at the top, scoring a single line
3. Add layers of green stuff and then while still wet scoring vertical lines
4. Repeat step 3 until the entire back is finished
5. Add a few leftover scraps to wrap around the gun barrel for decoration

This might be the first step to me trying some more sculpting – the post on it prompted some useful tips. It would be an awesome skill to have so I might try and spend some time on it.


That’s it for this update, expect more updates next week!

Wargaming Week 22/05/2017

Let’s start, covering the 15th of May through to the 20th of May.

BLOG STUFF

This week’s post is up, looking at Sarissa’s industrial buildings. Little terrifying to notice that Sarissa actually reposted it on their Facebook page. Thanks to them, Saturday hit some record numbers for views though and I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the blog.

Speaking of posts, if you want to know the best time to check the site for new posts, it’s midday Monday (for wargaming week) and midday Saturday for the post of the week. I’m going to try to stick with this pattern although additional posts may pop up. For example, Weekend Warfare installments will probably go up pretty quick and outside the usual pattern.

Upcoming posts! I’ll be looking at some scatter terrain and smaller terrain elements over the next few weekends and TTCombat’s depot should be turning up. There will also be upcoming impressions on some figures as well, just need to decide who to look at first.

Also more plugging of the facebook page. Share it with your friends (as long as those friends enjoy wargaming)! The page is getting quite a lot of activity during the week as I’m posting a lot of the images (such as WIPs or finished models) there rather than on my personal profile.

GAMING

Still no gaming and I’m starting to have withdrawal. However, writing on the book is going really well – getting great feedback on the new rules and the scenarios are cracking along. I’m also still trying to work through the details of CGS Episode 3 for weekend warfare

PURCHASES

Nothing purchased (shocking I know). Too busy building and painting the stuff I have. Also I keep trying to avoid getting into Napoleonics.

HOBBY

Lots of hobby work this week! Despite being in the middle of crazy work time, I got a fair amount of stuff done.

In regards to the demo board I started building the C130. I knew it was big but dang, this thing is huge! The plan is to build it in subassemblies, apply a basic paint job, assembly fully, take a saw to it and then apply the final weathering. The cool thing with working in 1:48 is there are much fewer tiny pieces than back when I was making airsoft kits.

I also started and did some painting. A few friends that used to live in the frozen north have now moved to Edinburgh and wanted to start painting all their Dark Souls figures. We ended up hanging out for most of the day and did some painting which might turn into a biweekly thing. It’s cool to have some other people in the room while painting, it really helps to keep me focused. Thanks to this, I finished off these five Spectre Insurgents. They are some really cool figures, rolling Western guns rather the usual AKs and looking semi professional. My plan is to use them as a snatch squad for the militia, grabbing VIPs from the streets of Bazi City or turning up to militia fights as the ace in the hole.

After having started them at the painting session, I finished off these three contractors as the weekend finished. These guys are Empress US SF in Light Kit and I’ve already finished one of their number for the first Weekend Warfare. Painting the rest was great fun, especially as I tried not painting them with the same hair colour as everyone else. The ginger was especially fun to paint and should be distinctive on the board. These guys will also be playing roles in the Weekend Warfare as other members of Commando Global Solutions.


That’s it for this update, expect more updates next week!

Battle Report: Spectre Operations 23/10/2016

I’m writing this just after two weeks of manic work and then a weekend away getting back to the airsofting/shootmans for the first time in a while. Airsoft was really good, great site and I got to rock and roll with my favourite airsoft gun that hasn’t been used in a year (thanks Timehop for that reminder). I also got to spend some time with friends and have a fun drive back up through some great countryside – Autumn really is the best time for driving (except for the torrential rain that came out of nowhere as I got past Newcastle).

More importantly, I got to play some Spectre Operations with my wargaming friends down south. As usual, I took the OPFOR while the 6 SAS operators were split between three new players to the rules. So without further ado, lets take a look at the game.


Barzistan is a breakaway region in the Middle East, containing parts of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. 24 hours ago, two civilian aid workers were kidnapped by militants. In response, SAS operatives in the region have deployed on a snatch and grab mission. Based on recon information, they strike at dawn before the major groups of militants return to the target village.

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Forces

BLUFOR

All BLUFOR has body armour, a pistol, radio and three types of grenades (Frag, Smoke and Stun)

1x Elite Commander w/ Carbine (Laser, Red dot, Scope, Suppressor) and Underslung Grenade Launcher

1x Elite Operator w/ Carbine (Laser, Red dot, Scope, Suppressor), Underslung Grenade Launcher and RPG w/ Thermobaric Warhead (a M72 ASM)

2x Elite Operator w/ Carbine (Laser, Red dot, Scope, Suppressor)

1x Elite Operator w/ Compact Light Machine Gun (Laser, Red dot, Scope, Suppressor)

1x Loitering Tactical Munition

OPFOR

1x Militia Commander w/ Assault Rifle

1x Militia Squad Leader w/ Assault Rifle

20x Militia w/ Assault Rifle

1x Militia w/ Sniper

1x Militia w/ DMR

1x Militia w/ LMG

5x Militia w/ MMG

4x Militia w/ RPG

The Game

As the operation starts, the SAS team is formed up near the communications mast. Inside the village, the militants are split into several groups. The two largest were the attack groups with around 10 figures in each group. There was also a 5 person sentry group (just heading out to their prepared positions) and two pairs of sentries on various roof tops.

The SAS figures quickly split up, with two forming a fire support team while the rest moved into the village. Approaching the first house, the fire support team spotted the 5 man sentry group getting close. Rather than risk detection, they opened up with the suppressed weapons. Three guys went down but two more were left standing forcing a quick response from the assault team. Sneaking in closer, the assault team managed to carefully dispatch the other two sentry groups, the last just moments before they tried to set off the alarm. However, by now both mobs of militia were sat on the outskirts of the village and would pose an issue in getting to the target building.

Upon agreement with all three players operating the SAS, the team decided to go kinetic. First up, the Commander dropped a Loitering Tactical Munition out the sky and onto group 1 causing multiple KIA and a pile of suppression points. Group 2 was engaged by the fire support element, dropping rapid fire onto the mob and forcing them back behind the buildings. Two more of the SAS planned to  advance onto the taller building, stacking up on the doorway and planning to breach.

However, at this point we rolled for the civilians (having forgotten to do so up until this point – oops). Most groups scattered but one group took offence at the arrival of a bunch of westerners and immediately mobbed on of the breaching operators. One short close combat later and an elite SAS operator was knocked unconscious for the loss of one civilian also knocked down. His buddy managed to drag him into the building’s cover and then proceeded to stun grenade the angry civilians.

Ignoring the public relations work two of the SAS were doing, the renaming 4 operators went off to finish the militia. Group A (lead by the commander) worked its way round to start finishing off the group recovering from a drone strike. One of the suppressed militia managed to pop a shot off but the suppression was cleared pretty quickly. Group B waited for the larger mob to pop its head out. As soon as they appear, the two man team performed a Fire Control Order, dumping a burst of MG fire and an M72 ASM to pin the remaining fighters down with a pile of suppression. With all the militia combat ineffective and unable to rally off the suppression, we called the game

As the militia huddled under the blistering fire, forced away from their captives, two of the SAS operators manhandled the hostages and the team broke contact, falling back into the desert. The rebels will need to find another way to get the leverage they need…

Gallery

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Play begins as the sun rises across the board
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The SAS deploy near the old communication hut
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Guard group A finishes their work at the target building and prepare to go on sentry duty
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On the roof tops above, a sniper team watch the horizon while Ahmed attempt to get some signal
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Two SAS trooper provide cover as the rest of the team advances forward
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“Hold on, I might need to call you back. The Americans are here again”
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Team A gets ready to advance
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A loitering munition drops out the sky
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The aftermath
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Fire support take up position on the roof tops
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SAS 5 regrets sticking his head round the corner – even the stunned soldiers are still armed
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The breaching team conducts some PR work
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Fire support comes out of overwatch and drops the hammer

So how are the rules? Well I was playtesting the rules for a little bit (see previous posts in the Spectre Operations tag for the early days) but this is my first time with the final version. Overall I think they are a fantastic little set of rules. The addition of squads really make the game standout – its not just focused on the individual characters but really focused on how a squad works together. Combat is pretty nasty (up close the tooled up operators were getting masses of modifiers thanks to compact/red dot/laser and more) and remaining unaware is very bad if you intend to stay in one piece (unlike the militia in this game). My biggest issues with the game are fixed – suppression is limited on professional and elite figures so they feel a little more special while frag rules just make more sense and are much harder to break. It is a little strange when you initially work out points values – 6 elite figures tooled up are equal to 50 odd militia fighters with AKs. However, after playing you soon see they can handle it. The game has a nice flow to it, even with the various markers and additional dice that end up on the board. It also still gives you the kid in the candy shop feel with the massive list of weapons and gear. There are a few beta features I miss but based on what Spectre have been saying it looks like they have plenty of stuff planned out.

Overall, I am super happy with Spectre and I’m really looking forward to playing some more of it. I have some more situations I want to try with it and see how it works (the big one being militia hunting AFVs) but I’m already getting sorted for my next game of it!

Now I’ve played this rules, I’m going to start work on the comparison article of the various modern rulesets. It won’t be a “X is better than Y” but more a comparative look into just what is available and what each does well/less well.