Wednesday, 19 April 2017

All quiet on the southern front

The blog has been somewhat inactive in the past month, and one could be forgiven for believing I have fallen off the face of the wargaming world. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but what the silence does indicate is a lack of gaming. Earlier this year I decided that in an effort to keep the blog tidy and make me focus on the gaming side of my hobby more, I would only post battle reports on the blog. So no painting updates and no navel gazing (surely in a wargaming blog that should be naval?).  With John in the process of extensive renovations and my games table covered in bits and bobs a gaming space has been hard to come by, and as regards time, I have been using it to build and paint. However, I feel the urge to write an update and get some decent navel gazing in, as I have embarked on a series of new and exciting projects in the past couple of months.

First of all, the painting:
Spanish Marlburians..
Their British opponents (and sheep in the background...)
Some of the painting that I've done for Craig.
A close up of some of the WWI tanks I've painted for him
A whole paratrooper company along with an SS company and other assorted Flames of War painting have come to their conclusion, and so today I received the next batch of German grenadiers to start on. Not that I'm complaining, as this, as always, is funding my own projects.

So what's he working on now then?

The release of the Pikeman's Lament rules has been a filip to my wargaming ambitions. At first I decided that I would do the Thirty Years War and invest in a battalia box from Warlord Games, which would give me virtually everything that I needed. But while that package was going AWOL I came to the conclusion that there is no reason that these rules wouldn't work wonderfully well for the Wargames Factory Marlburian figures I had lying around. Having bought Nick Dorrell's book on the Allied armies operating in Spain, I decided to concentrate on this theatre as the background to the project. Then I began reading about Peterborough's campaigns. Needless to say I am hooked. Currently I'm halfway through building companies for the Allied and Bourbon forces.

The other thing that Pikeman's Lament stirred in my imagination was that they would be eminently suitable, with very little adaptation, to the second, and rather more famous, Peninsular War. So add a box of Victrix French and a box of Perry British, and that plastic mountain just continues to grow. It therefore means that I have three skirmish scale projects under development all using the same basic rules. Even better, PL is so much like Lion Rampant, that the same rules system is also my go-to for Gallic Wars skirmish. Although I have decided to start calling Eagle Rampant, 'Caesar Rampant', due to the Napoleonic version of Lion Rampant having the same name. And just to maximise the utility of the rules, I also have three boxes of plastic Gripping Beast Dark Ages on their way to be kitted out for the same games system.

On top of this I also have ordered some  Black Hat 15mm Marlburian armies to be used with the Honours of War rules, meaning that these will now form the basis for my Seven Years War, Great Northern War and, (now) Spanish Succession gaming.

Just when I was thinking this seemed like a lot to deal with, Mike announced his intention of playing Team Yankee, Battlefront's World War Three game. A couple of quick messages and my Great War Flames of War were swapped with Craig for his Cold War Soviets and the beginning of a West German army too. 

And as my butterfly like mind refused to settle anywhere for more than  few seconds, a final project has begun to develop in my mind. This is to get hold of some of the Irregular Miniatures 42mm toy soldiers and paint them up in gloss varnish, using dead simple HG Wells/Young and Lawford/Featherstone/Grant style rules. My mind is thinking of British and Germans in the 1890s. Guards in Bearskins, line infantry in home service helmets, Life Guards in crested helms taking on uhlans and pickelhaubed hordes. The sort of thing that would happily grace a nursery floor at the end of the Victorian period.
Image result for HG Wells, little wars
Will this new endeavour require the growth of a moustache?
So stay tuned, a lot of new projects on the horizon.

And hopefully some gaming. Which will mean blog posts.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

First game of Broken Legions

In my list of 6 x 6 games to get played this year is Broken Legions, published by Osprey Wargames. I put it in never having played it before, but looking forward to giving it a whirl. For those that don't know much about it, the game is a fantasy skirmish game set in the days of Ancient Rome, with small warbands of troops trying to recover precious relics and fight monsters. I have to admit, it was this setting that made me want to play more than anything. The author of the rules is Mark Latham, who has a pretty impressive resume in the wargaming world, having written one of my favourite rulesets, Legends of the Old West.

I set up a game based around scenario 1 in the rulebook, with Soldiers of the Eagle (Romans) vs Argonauts (Greeks).

The Argonauts on the table.
The battlefield and starting positions.
A sagitarius wounds the Heraclean hero.
The rest of the warbands move towards each other.
The Romans are outnumbered, but determined to protect their scouts who are busy discovering lost artifacts in the ruins.
The two forces close for hand to hand combat.
The Roman centurion takes out a mercenary hoplite and the Heraclean champion loses his last wound to a legionary's gladius strike. The Oracle tries casting a spell to weaken the enemy.
The Centurion removes another Argonaut while his Paretorian bodyguard chases off his opponent.
Sensing victory the Centurion and Praetorian charge forward , to be met by the Argonaut captain.
Three for three, the Roman centurion adds to his tally in the final turn. Meanwhile the Roman Frumentarius and Legionary scout have secured 14 VP in recovered artifacts, compared to the Argonaut total of 8 VP.
So, what is the verdict on this game?
Initially I was enjoying it - the initiative, movement and distance combat was very smooth. But then I got into melee. I should preface this by saying that I played solo and so every combat involved me working out the sums for both sides simultaneously. It might feel a bit smoother if playing an opponent so that you only have to think about your own totals. But I did find the whole thing quite clunky. Roll a d10, then add any combat modifiers, then the model's combat ability then any weapon attack bonuses. Both sides do this. The higher total has hit. At the same time roll another d10 which is the critical die. On a 10 you get an extra hit in, on a 1 you fumble and your opponent immediately attacks you back, rather than in the priority sequence which is a bit confusing. Then to wound, you roll a d10 and add any strength bonus from your model's physique along with any weapon strength bonus vs your opponent's armour rating plus a d10. In other words, to wound your opponent you roll three times and consult 4 different tables, some of them twice. And then you might not beat his armour, so the whole thing needs to be repeated again. I also found that the priority for models fighting was a bit convoluted when you got into your third round of hand to hand combat.
Did I find it counter-intuitive? No, not really, but I did find it painstaking, particularly playing both sides. Was there no way to have a single roll for melee, or to include some of these stats in the base profiles so there weren't so many tables to consult? As for the critical die, it did make a difference, but why roll an extra die? Why not just use the base d10 you roll anyway? I have to admit, by the last couple of turns I was looking at the dice and just going with my intuition as to which side was going to win, rather than doing the maths for both sides again.

I don't think these are a bad set of rules, and if you've got an opponent I could imagine the dice duels that go on in combat would be quite fun, but as a solo player I want to streamline them. The excitement you get in a face to face battle with an opponent is in the tension of these dice contests, but in a solo game that feeling arrives in meeting the victory conditions of the scenario, or moving into the next phase of a narrative campaign, without any need for granularity. As such, I look for smooth mechanics without multiple factors, like Lion Rampant, or the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game or DBA.

I feel that I should play another game at some point, just to see if it can run any smoother with experience, but deep down I'm thinking that I will probably just write my warbands some stats for Lord of the Rings and go from there.


Saturday, 18 February 2017

It's raining moon...

Kaptain Kobold has recently come up with a new idea for dice based activation in Clobberin' Time, so this afternoon Liv and I sat down to roll dice and play superheroes.

I wanted to have a go at using a single master villain against a team of heroes. Given the embarrassing defeat of Zol-torr in his last outing, I was hoping he might make a better showing with the new rules. Prior to getting my daughter to join in I had a quick run through, just to get a feel for things. I was bit disturbed when Zol-Torr just about won the scenario before the heroes even got a move, but then the rolls started to even out and it was a narrow win to the newly reconstituted Delta Wave. The dice system was giving a good game. What I wasn't feeling was the in-built sub-plots. Zol-Torr rolled arch-enemy and targeted Speed, but it didn't really add much to the game. I also felt like it slowed things down and I knew Liv would struggle to stay focused if we used the sub-plot rules. So aside from this quick run-through I haven't really played the new sub-plots. More on that later in the post - now, on with the story.

Zol-Torr has built a mega-cannon to destroy the moon. Why? Because he is an intergalactic conqueror and that is the sort of random thing one does when one has taken on such employment. He needs six clear uninterrupted turns at the cannon to calibrate it just right. In that time, Delta Wave need to show up, distract and hopefully stop him.
Zol-Torr readies the Mega-cannon. Delta Wave, consisting of Spectra, Speed, Aquaria and the Green Golem have come to stop him.
Speed rushes forward to try to slow the preparation of the cannon.
Zol-Torr, annoyed at this disruption, turns around and swats him. 
Aquaria and Green Golem head to the attack, while Spectra sits back and shoots laser blasts.
The activation dice are working well - in a single turn Aquaria is knocked back and the Green Golem is knocked out. Zol-Torr returns to his cannon.
The game ends with Delta Wave unable to stop the cannon firing. Luckily they distracted Zol-Torr just long enough for the Silver Shield (in his lab) to programme a moon hologram that confused the mighty conqueror and made him think he was victorious.
 So this game saw Zol-Torr doing what cosmic entities should and not getting smashed in three turns. As the trial game had seen a narrow Delta Wave victory, and this game Zol-Torr didn't get a scratch, it shows that the battles can go either way.

Liv had her blood up, so we had another game - this time we were hunting Baron Death, somewhere in Deathonia. He was hiding, and the team had to find him and take him down before he could hatch his next evil plan. It would give me a good chance to see if a Master Villain could perform when they were a Level 3 character.
The broken castles and skeletons of genetically modified monsters litter the table top as Delta Wave approach.
Spectra and Green Golem investigate the main castle, while Speed searches an outwork.
Aquaria investigates the skull of the long dead Deathosaurus.
Speed finds Baron Death! A quick attack is repulsed.
Realising Speed has located the Baron, Delta Wave rush to help their teammate.
Baron Death mind controls Speed who puts a wound on Aquaria, before the Baron himself activates and blasts her out of the keep. The Green Golem comes around from behind to trap the Baron.
Sensing the danger Baron Death flies away, pursued by Speed and Spectra. Spectra unleashes a powerful blast that leaves Death staggering. Speed looks to capitalise, but before he can, Death unleashes his own attack that knocks the speedster out.
The Green Golem arrives in time to see Spectra fire one more blast and knock the Baron down.
Two relatively quick games, no sub-plots or anything, just straight forward knock each other out with the new dice activation. I have to say it works really well. I now realise that I forgot to remove activation markers when the heroes rolled a six, which might have gone some way to unbalancing the Zol-Torr game. I was so focused on the 'quick' rule I forgot that both sides get to remove an activation marker if they roll a 6 for activation.

So I'm a convert, I think dice activation works better than the card activation. I'm not sure about the sub-plots, especially regarding levels of sub-plots etc. Part of CT is that it is such a simple and intuitive system to use that any chrome should be tacked on rather than integrated. I'd rather just have a list of sub-plots that I could choose from or roll for at the beginning of the game, and add that to my characters as part of their storyline. We'll see how Kaptain Kobold's playtesting goes with them. Quite often when you've written rules yourself they play much smoother than someone who is testing them for the first time.

I also altered the Speedster powers. I gave Speed a 12" move (double the norm) and allowed him a reroll in attack and defence to mimic his lightning fast reflexes. Speedster in the rules gets an extra move or attack. There was no real reason for this other than I find it intuitive to how I see Speed's power working.


Monday, 13 February 2017

Botched relief in the Crimea

Tonight I was meant to get the brushes out, but wasn't really feeling it. There were a couple of posts I read in the weekend that made me keen to get in a Crimean War game, so I decided that I would choose a scenario and fight one out.
The scenario that I ended up with was #28 Botched Relief, pitting 4 units against 6 units. The only problem was four of the units in the larger force would only activate one at a time because the commanding general was somewhat inept. Meanwhile the 4 units would be determined to attack and capture the town. Forces rolled for and picked I set the board up in the lounge.

General Linguini had been given the role of raiding the small town of Gederovme, near the Black Sea coast. He had two battalions of Sardinians and some supporting Brits in the form of a rifle battalion and the elite 92nd Highlanders, so it was a pretty potent little force. Two battalions of Russians garrisoned the town, and on the hill to the west a relief force was gathered by General Standoffich, consisting of artillery, cavalry and two further infantry units. Standoffich was of the opinion that Gederovme was not worth expending his small army on, but decided that he had better follow his orders, if somewhat unenthusiastically.
General Standoffich arrives on the hill with the relief force.
The town of Gederovme

The Allied force led by General Linguini.
The Allies advance and the first unit of Russian infantry is sent down from the hill. The Rifles turn to face them.
Gederovme firmly in sight the allies begin an advance in echelon.
As they get closer the first casualties are taken and shaken off as General Linguini rallies his men.
The Rifles and the Highlanders hold off the menace to the flank.
The rifles take casualties, bearing the brunt of the Russian attack.
Fire rains down on the Sardinians as they are bounced back from the town.
The Gordons take the lead on the flank.
And in a hail of rifle fire the first Russian unit is broken.
The brave Sardinians charge the town walls again
But one battalion is shattered by the volleys of musketry coming from Gederovme.
The second battalion from the hill charges down into the Highlanders.
Success! The Sardinians push the Russians out of the Eastern part of the village. But can they hold?
While the melee continues to their right the Rifles target the cavalry sitting on the hill.
The Russians are not deterred...
And they push the Gordons back!
Not that it helps them - in the next volley by the Rifles and Gordons combined the Russian battalion ceases to be an effective force.
Meanwhile in the town the two battered Russian battalions open fire on the Sardinians.
A couple of serendipitous sixes and the massed Russian volleys break the Sardinians. The town is completely reoccupied by the Russians.
Facing off against the Russian Hussars the Rifles start to take a battering. The Highlanders renew their advance, determined to capture Gederovme.
Pacing themselves the Gordons poor in volleys of rifle fire ahead of their charge.
And successfully capture the western part of the town.
Having disposed of the Rifles, the Hussars turn towards the town, but are unable to charge a built up area.
The British unleash a volley into the Eastern part of town and the Russians finally abandon it. There is now no Russian presence in Gederovme.
Unable to activate, the artillery watch on as the cavalry, who are unable to charge acknowledge defeat.
I've made some further modifications to the OHW rules for the Crimea to what I have on my Crimean War rules page. The Russians shoot at an additional -1 (for a total of -3) at long range to represent their muskets not being as potent as the opposing rifles at a distance. The general can now rally one hit automatically by being in base to base contact with a unit, rather than rally off d6 hits, as I found this was too many. Rather than removing a base after 4 hits, I've changed it to five and brought unit strength back to the original 15 hits. This means that units lose 2 bases upon 2/3 casualties and this decreases their effectiveness. It means no single bases running around by themselves anymore, which is much more aesthetically pleasing.

The game was bloody with the Allies barely holding on for their victory. I was certain that the Gordons would not be able to resurrect the situation, but they proved their worth. All in all, it came down to the wire and provided a good hour of entertainment.