Sunday, 20 July 2014

1 Thaumont 1000AC - The Shearing Ceremony

1 Thaumont 1000AC
Broneslav Torenescu was not impressed to be told to take a message to Threshold in the far northern wilderness. He was a keen hunter so one might have thought that the wilderness would be his choice of habitat but he preferred to hunt closer to home. That way he could sit by the fire drinking ale and telling tall tales in the evening after a day out. He was not happy that the journey would take him so far from that fire or from the lovely Milka, she of the white flesh and rose red lips. But, as a younger cousin of the Torenescu clan he had little choice in the matter. When the Old Man spoke everyone had to listen and obey or the gold Royals would cease to flow in your direction. In this case he had been shamed into asking for the Shearing Ceremony and the Old Man had taken advantage.

His parents had been hinting for some time that he should ask for Shearing but he had resisted until Milka started to ask if he were a man or a boy. That decided it. Shortly after that he stood in the courtyard of the family home while his father cut a ragged strip from the bottom of his cloak. The family all cheered, patted his back and wished him luck. Various family members pressed packages of food into his hands as he was ushered to the gates of the villa. His father handed him a sealed packet, "Take this to our factor in Threshold. The Old Man has asked this of you and suggests that you may best prove yourself in that wilderness there. You would be wise to heed him."

As the gates swung open, Broneslav saw the rain ahead of him as a token of his near future. He trudged out into the street and headed towards the north gate of Specularum. Footsteps pattering in the mud behind him caused him to turn. It was Milka. She pressed a kiss onto his lips and said, "Don't take too long to prove yourself. I'll wait for you but I can be impatient, you know." With that she turned and fled to the cover of the villa once more. The gates closed again and Broneslav was left alone with his thoughts and the prospect of a long journey ahead of him. It was early morning so he had a full day's march to come. Time to head for the Duke's Road. With any luck he would get to the ruins of Krakatos for an early lunch and to visit the shrine of Petra. Then he would press on and overnight at the village of Midwood. It was tempting to stop for the night in Krakatos, but he really wanted to get the journey over as quickly as possible. Then possibly he could start making his reputation as the Shearing Ceremony demanded.

The road to Krakatos was not busy but Broneslav passed several travellers heading southwards and a few heading north. It was mid-morning when he first caught sight of the walls of Krakatos in the distance. Unfortunately, it was also mid-morning when a group of bandits decided that he looked like he might be worth robbing. The hedges of the fields beside the road provided sufficient cover for them to hide behind and choose their prey while remaining unspotted. Sadly for Broneslav his keen eyesight was not as good as the bandits' skill at hiding and he was among them before he even knew they were there. Broneslav found himself facing 5 men armed with swords and spears.

I made an opposed test to see if Broneslav spotted the lurking bandits. He lost miserably so they ambushed him. Being bandits I assumed that they would prefer not to fight and would rely on intimidation so they lost the ambush advantage and it went straight to a combat round.

"Hand over all your stuff and no-one needs to get hurt!" ordered the head bandit with an ugly sneer on his face, "You're outnumbered and don't stand a chance, so save yourself some pain."

Broneslav's hand leapt to his sword hilt but three of the bandits were quicker. He ducked under the blow of one bandit, leapt over the sword of the second and landed straight in the path of the spear of the third which scored a bloody line across his leg. Then his sword was out and he slashed across gut of a fat and slow bandit. The man's legs folded under him and his intestines poured out of the hole Broneslav had made (4 damage!). Continuing the slash, Broneslav spun and took the head off the next bandit with a rising blow, slashed downwards cutting a diagonal line from shoulder to waist of the third and sliced the leg off the fourth with a blow to the knee. Then he backhanded the final bandit in the face with the hilt of his sword breaking the man's nose and crushing his face. In just a few seconds all five bandits were dead. Broneslav wiped his sword on the clothes of the cleanest bandit and bound up his wound. Then he sheathed his sword and continued on his way.

Notes: So, wow, that combat was quick and brutal. It lasted one round thanks to the massive amount of damage that Broneslav rolled for his sword attack. He does 1d8+3 damage with his sword but damage points are not read as they would be in other games. Instead, a 1 is 0 damage, 2-5 is 1 damage, and so on. He rolled 10 and got 4 damage. Unlike other games, the monsters can take an amount of damage equal to their hit dice. The bandits are 1 hit die each and so can take 1 damage each. In Scarlet Heroes damage carries over, so you can kill more than one creature each round, thus with 4 damage Broneslav was able to kill four 1hd bandits. The second attack was his Fray Die, which is a die that a hero may roll each round they are in combat with enemies of equal or lower level. It does damage in the same way as the ordinary attack. This is one way that the system balances out the normal monster numbers against a single hero. Broneslav took 1 damage in the fight, which he was able to heal by bandaging his wounds. He can bandage up to 2 hit points of fresh damage per fight.

The rest of the day was peaceful as he passed only farmers and traders along the way. Lunch at Krakatos was a little watery and disappointing as the rain continued to fall, but his visit to the shrine of the Warrior Princess Petra bolstered him for the rest of the journey. Shortly after he left a small offering of food at the shrine the rain let up and Broneslav was able to make good time for the rest of the day, reaching Midwood early in the evening. Fortified by a good meal he retired early to bed. It would be another busy day tomorrow.

Broneslav's journey. Day 1
Note on the map
Broneslav is not on an island. The map only shows his route for this first part of the journey. I had filled in much of the rest of the area shown on this map, but CC3 crashed and reverted to this version instead of the newest version I had saved, so I have decided to use it rather than spend ages filling in the details again. I am a tad irked by this, but shall continue to fill in the details as Broneslav travels further. In this way I hope to have a 1 hex = 1 mile map of Karameikos in the end.

Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, hp9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)
XPs: 50
Traits: Torenescu Family Member 1, Hunter 1, Keen Vision 1, Good Education 1, Empathy with Animals 1
Goal: Prove that he is an adult following the Shearing Ceremony
Quest: Deliver a message to the Torenescu factor in Threshold

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Scarlet Heroes, Solitaire RPGs and Nostalgia

Now, here's the thing. I began gaming with Basic D&D many years ago and I have held a singular affection for that style of gaming, and particularly the Mystara background, since then. Every so often I want to get back to these gaming roots, but the actual rules of D&D no longer work for me. They are clunky and there are better systems out there that do the same thing now. However, I still want that old school gaming experience, so I have been casting around for rules that do the job.

First off I bought Castles and Crusades. It has much to recommend it and the SIEGE Engine that drives it is a particularly neat mechanic. It will also run the old D&D adventures with a minimum of reworking which is a major plus. Unfortunately it really requires a group or a player with henchmen for characters to stand a chance of surviving. I downloaded Kevin Crawford's Solo Heroes from RPGNow and was presented with a means to adapt C&C to my needs: a game with just one or two player characters and no need for a supporting cast of henchmen. It looked like just the ticket until I backed the Scarlet Heroes Kickstarter and obtained those rules.

I instantly loved the Scarlet Heroes character generation system which is very freeform and gives you many options. I loved the basic four character classes with no fancy pants monks, necromancers or other rubbish as optional classes. I super-loved the traits system that is part of the character generation and experience process. Using the traits I could make my character into any of the other character classes that D&D added. So, my fighter takes the traits Hunter and Empathy with animals, and he effectively becomes a ranger. Cool. I found the rules simpler than C&C, and they are loaded with material to help the GM-less solo adventurer too. Clearly this was exactly what I needed and so I have decided to start an intermittent solo campaign.

The Game
The game uses the Scarlet Heroes rules as modified in the house rules section below. The campaign background is that in Gazetteer 1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos for Basic D&D. I plan to use the Basic D&D adventure module B1-9 In Search of Adventure and attempt to play the scenarios solo using the mechanisms in Scarlet Heroes to help adjudicate decision making.

I was tempted to meld elements of Scarlet Heroes with Castles and Crusades, but have decided to go with Scarlet Heroes initially to see how the system pans out. There are a lot of things I really like about it and I shall write a review of it in the near future once I have used it a bit more, and hopefully Broneslav's journal will give you an idea of how the game plays.

I hope to post something about this game once a week, but it will certainly be intermittent, depending upon how much time I can devote to playing it and writing up the adventures.

House Rules
Scarlet Heroes has a very simple experience system, where you get 1xp each time you complete an adventure (however you define adventure). It takes 2xps to reach level 2, 4xps to reach level 3, etc. I would like a system where progress is more obviously seen to be happening, so I shall use the Basic D&D Fighter's experience progression table for all character classes in Scarlet Heroes. I hope that this will mean my character keeps on track with how the scenario designers envisaged progress.

I shall use the Basic D&D spells instead of the Scarlet Heroes spells. Conversion of the former to Scarlet Heroes is very simple and it keeps me wallowing in that old school nostalgia for just a bit longer.

I shall use the Basic D&D encounter tables and monsters for the same reason I am using the spells.

I am also using the tables from the Karameikos gazetteer to determine the character's social status, family, etc.

Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, hp9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)
Traits: Torenescu Family Member 1, Hunter 1, Keen Vision 1, Good Education 1, Empathy with Animals 1
Goal: Prove that he is an adult following the Shearing Ceremony
Quest: Deliver a message to the Torenescu factor in Threshold

Broneslav is a not-particularly significant part of the wealthy Torenescu clan, one of the few Traladaran clans to have prospered since the Thyation invasion of Karameikos. He has just come of age and undergone the Shearing Ceremony. This is a Traladaran ritual where the young person is sent out into the world to make something of themselves before they return home as a full member of their family. The head of the family is using this opportunity to send a message with Broneslav to the town of Threshold in northern Karameikos. Once he reaches Threshold, the adventure will really begin.

Friday, 30 May 2014

GZG Heavy Grav Command Vehicle

It's been ages since I painted anything for one of my 15mm sci-fi forces. Actually, it's been ages since I painted much of anything really, so it was a bit of fun to dig this out over the weekend and finish it off. It had been languishing part-painted on the painting desk for ages and I had to dust it first. Still, I am happy with the final version. It is the command APC for my Laserburn Imperial force. Now I need to get on with painting the rest of the transports for the Laserburn Imperial assault force.
I can't wait to see this chap perform its first orbital insertion
 While painting the APC, I also started thinking about flight stands for them. I had a length of 15mm acrylic rod, some 12mm rare earth magnets and some 15mm washers, so I decided to experiment. This is my first flight stand and I am very happy with it. The vehicle sits comfortably and securely on top. There is little lateral shift even on steep terrain. The magnetic flight stand should mean that I need fewer of them and that my AFVs are easier to store. Time to retrofit washers to the Bwendi tanks too.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Viking Experience - Book Review

A positive book review is a thing to treasure and the Nottingham Post has just published one of my book. Naturally this pleases me so much I had to share it. :) You can read it HERE. I particularly liked the concluding paragraph:
This beautifully illustrated book provides a revealing portrait of the Vikings' incredible legacy.It's a book to treasure and an added attraction is the collection of removable documents. These include drawings and photographs from archaeological dig sites and an extract from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, describing a Viking raid on Lindisfarne.


If this whets your appetite for Viking related goodness, the book is available through Amazon and the link on the sidebar will take you right to it. Clicking through from the sidebar will also help me buy a tin of beans for dinner this week (or maybe get some more metal washers for basing figures).

Friday, 23 May 2014

Command Decision: Test of Battle - Notes and Thoughts

 I have played all the iterations of the Command Decision rules. I first encountered them in the mid-nineties when a colleague introduced me to the first edition and we had a blast playing a spot of WW2 wargaming. The rules have always been geared towards scenario play and have not included any kind of points system until the Test of Battle (CDTOB) variant came out. Originally it was well supported with Command Post Quarterly which included scenarios, orders of battle and campaign games. There were even a couple of campaign games included as articles in Miniature Wargames.

So, when the Test of Battle variant came out, I snapped it up at the first opportunity. It has all the rules, streamlined to make the game less involved, while still maintaining the right feel. There is no longer any need to track ammunition usage for each individual vehicle, and you no longer get a bazillion shots per turn. Spotting no longer relies on a die roll and is now purely deterministic based on range and cover. All of this makes the game easier to play and yet does not detract from the feel.

The first printing of the rules (the version I have) includes six late war Western Front and six late war Eastern Front scenarios to get you started easily. It also includes a scenario generation system including a points system, so you can more easily create pick-up games, and tables of organisation and equipment are provided for late war German, Russian, British and American forces. The ToEs for various armies are provided free on the Command Decision website and you can also download the battlegroups for the scenario generation system. Additional force lists are provided on these pages and in various supplements that have been released.

Scenario Generation System
You are given a core force (usually a little below battalion strength) and buy reinforcements for it. These comprise additional infantry companies, tank squadrons support assets and command elements. The final results seem to reflect battlegroup composition quite well, with not too much room for finagling the super-army or fielding 500 Tiger IIs. As you buy troops they are allocated to one of three forces: Holding, Reserve and Assault. The allocation is done in order, so the first 750 points must be allocated to the Holding force. Then the next 600 points must be spent on the Reserve force and finally 600 points on the Assault force. At each stage the force must comply with the minima and maxima in the lists, which means that you cannot beef up one force and use another as a dumping area for the less good stuff. Leftover points may be spent on later forces, but you may never underspend on a later force and allocate those points to an earlier force. The final result seems to reflect battlegroup composition quite nicely.

The rules include a system for generating the battlefield. A composite map has been compiled from the scenarios that should give players a 'typical' area to fight over. There is one map for the Western Front and one for the Eastern Front. These maps are 6x10 squares, with each square representing a 2'x2' area. The standard battlefield is 6'x6' at full scale. I play at half scale in 6mm because it fits my gaming table better. Anyway, one player chooses a square that must be part of the battlefield and the other then designates a 3x3 square area on the map, including that one square, which will be the playing area. The first player chooses their baseline and the players set the terrain up.

Then the mission is generated. Each player may either pick or randomly determine one of the six possible missions. The mission will determine which force(s) they get to field and which may arrive as reinforcements.

I like this system. I have played around with the various options for the Western Desert which is my preferred theatre and think the games that it generates should be good fun. I suppose that means I should get on with sorting out my forces and playing games using it now, but first WW1.

The Death of Glory
A WW1 supplement, The Death of Glory, was released and I snapped that up. It includes nine scenarios for 1914, one of which features Belgians versus Germans, while the rest feature French versus Germans. There is a small campaign covering the action in the Lorraine which looks fun to play and more manageable than the 'Home before the Leaves fall' campaign in the original CD WW1 rules Over the Top. The book also includes British, French and German battlegroups for 1914 so you can use the Test of Battle scenario system with this supplement.
Death of Glory test game. French on the right and Germans on the left
We put together a test game comprising an infantry battalion each with a single artillery battery in support. Given that it was our first game, the whole thing went very smoothly. For simplicity we ignored spotting this time around but plan to use it in future games. The end result was that I was even more enamoured of the system and that I have realised that I need to buy or make a lot more fields for my French countryside. I am now looking forward to our next game, although I still have a lot of French troops to paint if I am to use painted figures for all the scenarios in the book.

We plan to play all the scenarios and then the campaign this year. If I fail to paint my troops in time for a scenario, should I penalise their troop quality, morale or both? Totally unpainted troops suffer a drop in both? Partly painted troops suffer a drop in just one of the two? What about using proxies? Do they suffer for being substitutes?

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Tillykke med dagen, Norge

17th May 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian constitution. It's a national holiday in Norway and quite a jolly time. Now, if that's not an excuse to work on an army with a Norwegian connection, I don't know what is. Did someone mention Vikings? Yes, don't mind if I do. If anyone needs me I shall be in the corner celebrating by painting some more Vikings. Or maybe I should paint some trolls instead ...

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

How Vikings got the horn!

This blog has not seen much love for a while, and I feel ashamed of that. My excuse is that my academic life is taking up all my time. Anyway, I had time to post a short note about horns on Viking helmets over on my academic/professional blog which receives too little love from me too. You can check out the new post on Berserkjablogg and give yourself an excuse to field Vikings with horns on their helmets in your armies. This post may also prove that Aussies are the true descendents of Vikings, but I shall let you make your own minds up about that.