Saturday, 10 March 2018

Red Barricades Once More - Advanced Squad Leader

Mal and I have returned to Stalingrad after I inconveniently moved to Ireland for a year. We decided to restart Red Barricades Campaign Game III, and have managed a couple of sessions so far. It's taking ages and we are only half-way through the first campaign scenario with potentially thirty more to go, assuming the campaign runs its full course. At our current rate of play, Mal and I reckon it will take us 10 years to complete the whole campaign. Well, everybody needs a project.
The view from the Russian end of the map
 The campaign begins with everything clustered in the north. The Germans enter the map and have to fight their way south through the factories. And loads of them are fortified. Eek!
The view from the German end of the map
The Germans have struck out strongly down both flanks while keeping a pinning force in the middle. Unfortunately, the promised artillery has not turned up so it is down to the grunts on the ground. I got one fire mission from one of my artillery modules, and that only after ages of trying and failing. The other was lost without a shot being fired. Ugh! Also, as I should have expected, the three-hex building on the German right flank is fortified and I am not going to be able to push through quickly. I really should have focused on the left flank more. Of course, if the artillery had come down as intended, it might have been a different story.
Overview of the whole map from the German end
I'm looking forward to the next session, but that won't be until later in April, because neither of us has a free Saturday before then. Ah well, anticipation only sharpens the enjoyment.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

BwendTV Tuesday Tussle - Gaslands AAR

Steve and I tried Gaslands for the first time this Tuesday. I think we mostly got the rules right, but more importantly we had a great time. The game played more slowly than expected. I imagine it will go more quickly now that we understand the rules better, and we need to add the skid dice table to the quick reference sheet, because neither of us has the skid dice that you can buy for it. As someone who played Car Wars to bits back in the eighties and early nineties, I found this a real pleasure to play. There was a good hit of nostalgia combined with a simpler game system: I was starting to find the Car Wars activation system a bit too detailed towards the end. This definitely scratches that itch.

Welcome to the Gladiolus Arena for our Tuesday Tussle. Today's match is a Death Race between the Gladcorp sponsored Team Ztum and the Albion Car and Motor Engineers Corporation sponsored Z-Cars. The teams must race in a figure-eight, passing through each gate in turn, before completing the course by crossing the start line again. The racers must pass Gate 1 before their weapons activate, and then it will be a free-for-all and may victory go to the swiftest and deadliest.


Here we are at the start line. Team Ztum has won the coin toss and taken pole position, choosing the inside line. ACME Corporation has occupied the outside line, perhaps hoping that their trike can take off quickly ahead of the slower cars.

In pole position is Helicopter 'Corners' Cutter in the Black Mamba. This sleek sports car features a turreted heavy machine-gun and will be relying on its driver's skill to keep it out of trouble. Behind the Black Mamba is Gurek 'Spin Doctor' Assigo in The Purple Peril, with forward-mounted heavy machine-guns, nitrous injection, and a nasty mine-dropper surprise in its tail end. The ACME Corporation has refused to reveal the names of its drivers or even the details of its vehicle designs, as is typical for any Albion enterprise. No doubt they are up to some trickery.


 Now to the start. RED LIGHT, RED LIGHT, RED LIGHT, RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT. AND THEY'RE OFF!

'Corners' immediately shows her true colours and practically spins the Black Mamba on the spot, heavily damaging the trike. You can almost hear the ACME driver swearing over the roar of the engines.


Unfortunately, as the trike breaks away 'Corners' is immediately rammed by the car behind the trike. The Black Mamba is heavily damaged and you can see panels falling away. Meanwhile the Purple Peril spins out of the starting gate, while the other ACME car seems not to have realised that the starting gate is lines by heavy Gladcrete(tm) walls.


The Black Mamba seems to have stalled on the start line after that smash, and The Purple Peril has spun around after driving through and writing off the trike. The trike's driver is able to hobble to the Porta-Potty near the crash site where they must wait until the end of the race now.


As the start line chaos shakes out, the two ACME cars form a line and head for the first gate with the Purple Peril in close pursuit. The Black Mamba is really having a hard time catching up though.


As they roar up through the gears, ACME hits the gate first but sideways, closely followed by The Purple Peril. Their guns are now active.


Through the gate, the cars turn, and The Purple Peril uses its nitrous injection to tear ahead of the field. Sliding sideways around the corner it rights itself and races over the second gate in fourth gear, and leaving a nasty surprise for the first car to cross the gate.


A brief spat between ACME and The Black Mamba sees the heavily damaged sports car wrecked, but not before tearing panels off the ACME car with its machine-gun. The Purple Peril races on ahead unchallenged as the ACME drivers try to hit the second gate.


They manage to hit the second gate as The Purple Peril crosses the third gate, but one of the ACME cars triggers the mines and is blown to bits.


With a clear field ahead of him, 'Spin Doctor' Assigo pilots The Purple Peril over the finish line to win the race, followed a long way behind by the one remaining ACME car.


Stay tuned for more auto mayhem with Amateur Night Action only on BwendTV.

I can't remember the last time we  laughed so much at the antics of our miniature alter-egos. Or, for that matter, worried so little about the outcome. Every spin, slide and even wreck was a cause for much hilarity. I'm looking forward to playing Gaslands again and trying a mini-series. I think we are going to have to come up with an experience system for our drivers though. The campaign system in the rules is ok, but it's not personal enough for our tastes. I really loved the corporate Car Wars campaign, and would like to see something like that where drivers gain experience while the team wins money, so you could have separate drivers and team championships.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Gladtown: 15mm sci-fi terrain pics

In this post:
Buildings and billboards: Mad Mecha Guy
Street furniture: Brigade Models
Mushrooms: unknown (they were a gift)
Battle mat: Dave Graffam

Crikey, I found the enthusiasm to do some painting this last week and a bit! After all my talk of ennui and an 18 month dry spell with no painting, I finally got it together to do some. Two things have grabbed my attention recently. One is my 15mm sci-fi terrain. I still can't bring myself to paint actual 15mm figures, but I did slop some paint on some of my Mad Mecha Guy buildings and print out posters for the MMG billboards. There's a lot more I could and want to do to enhance these buildings, but I'm just happy to have more of them coloured in right now. Once the rest are done, I shall go back and add graffiti, signs and other bits and pieces to improve the look.
Ages ago, I bought the pdf of Dave Graffam's Cobblestone Streets battle mat. It comes as a pdf including a file breaking the map up into A4 sheets for printing. I started printing it out and mounting each sheet separately on mountboard. They are not geomorphic so I am stuck with the standard layout, but that is fine. The advantage of printing this way is that I can easily stack the tiles, stick them in a box file and store them away. I can also lay out only those tiles I need.
My sci-fi faction is the Bwendi, a former African republic that models itself on a caricature of the British Empire. It's mortal enemy is the nation of Albion, descendants of the English whose warped perception of what it means to be English means that there can never be peace between Bwendi (the righteous guardians of fair play and cricket) and (perfidious) Albion. As part of that, I started wondering of Bwendi might not seek to make their towns more Olde Englishe. What better way to do that than to have cobbled streets? So, the Dave Graffam battle mat may well be used as the base for a Bwendi town. The cobbles are unlikely to have much effect on game play with all the grav vehicles kicking around, and they look nice, according to President for life Colonel Throckmorton P. Gladiolus XLVI. I hear that Gladcorp is planning to introduce fog generators in some city centres for a more authentic experience too.
The battle mat is sized for 28mm figures but I have printed it out at 100% and it seems ok for my 15mm figures. The roads are no wider than 100mm which is pretty much what I want, but they lack pavements. I'm undecided about this. Many places I have visited have limited or no pavements, so perhaps this works ok, especially with the perspective that Bwendi is a (darkly humorous) banana republic on a distant colony world, but maybe I need to make some pavements to put around the buildings. I must think on this.
Musings aside, I am really quite happy with the visual effect of the buildings on the Dave Graffam mat. I've been dithering for ages about what sort of base mat to use with the Bwendi stuff, and have printed up a bunch of roads from WWG's Streets of Mayhem set that I have used previously to form towns, but I think the olde worlde aesthetic may well work better for my vision of the Bwendi. We can leave the future, urban dystopia for Albion. After all, they do it so much better.
The other thing that has grabbed my attention recently is my ongoing 6mm WW2 Western Desert project. This project has been ongoing since Miniature Wargames published an orbat and campaign for Operation Brevity in the 90s. I painted up that orbat but became obsessed with checking it against the sources, and quickly realised that it was only a very rough approximation of what was actually present on the field of battle. That led to analysis paralysis and the project stalled. Since getting the Benghazi Handicap sourcebook for Command Decision: Test of Battle, I have been more enthused, but not enough to pick up a brush until this weekend. Once I have some of it completed, I shall start posting photos of that too.

Friday, 29 December 2017

2017 Retrospective

It has not been a good year for gaming or for blogging. I have not lifted a paint brush in anger at all this year, which is disappointing after last year's successes. I have bought no new figures (this may well be a good thing!). I have not really engaged with gaming at all this year. Certainly no new plans were mooted or initiated and I found little inspiration anywhere. I fear I am suffering from wargaming ennui.

Picture from http://existentialcomics.com/
On the plus side, I managed to get in a few board games, but no figure games. The games I played were:

  • Advanced Squad Leader (4 games)
  • Arcadia Quest: Inferno (1 game)
  • Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga (1 game)
  • Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King (1 game)
  • Border War: Angola Raiders (1 game)

This amounts to 8 separate gaming sessions, although the solo session of Border War: Angola Raiders only lasted about half an hour, so I'm not sure it really counts.

I returned from Ireland at the beginning of this year and moved to Nottingham which has hindered my gaming just as much as living in Ireland did. My regular figure-gaming buddy Steve does not often have Saturdays free, so the two of us managed to meet twice in the whole year, playing Arcadia Quest: Inferno and Super Dungeon Explore. Both games are similar concepts but different executions, and both are very enjoyable to play. AQ:I takes less time to play out while SDE really requires a longer session to finish.

Border War: Angola Raiders is a solo game. It's cheap and cheerful, but I found it a bit random in the game I played. When playing solo, I prefer to have a solid system to beat.

The four games of ASL were good. I have a keen ASL buddy Mal who finds it easier to play on a Saturday, so we managed to organise a few sessions. The scenarios we played were Russians versus Finns and Swedish volunteers in Finland. They were all enjoyable romps through the snow and extreme winter. It's just a shame that we could not organise more sessions.

I managed one game at the board games cafe in Nottingham where I work, but getting away from work in the evenings has proven to be particularly hard this year so gaming after work has not really been on the cards. Who knew that curating an exhibition about Vikings and sorting out a full public engagement programme would require such regular long hours?

Although I played no games in the Talomir Tales campaign this year, I did umpire it to a conclusion, so there was that to be pleased with. The campaign began in early 2009 as a vehicle for our fantasy gaming, and expanded to include half of the continent of Talomir. I am very happy that it lasted for 8 years and actually reached a proper conclusion.

So, that's my 2017. I have had too much work to do, and it has left me no energy for relaxing with a good game. I wonder if reducing the Unpainted Lead Pile (ULP) by just getting rid of most of it might not leave me more enthused to paint, but it is hard to decide what to focus on when I have such a butterfly mind, and time is so limited at the moment that I don't really feel I can sit down and sort through all my stuff yet.

For 2018, I would like to do that sorting. Hopefully work will not occupy so much of my time and I can sit down and have a guilt-free moment to sort out my figures properly. A good sort out and tidy up should put me in a better frame of mind for dealing with the ULP and actually returning to painting. I need to find something that will give me a quick fix, as it were, something easy to complete so that I see results before ennui sets in once more.

In terms of gaming, I hope to play more ASL. We are planning to start the big Red Barricades campaign again, so I hope to schedule monthly ASL sessions to get some good progress on that.

Other games/genres I would like to play this year are (in no particular order):

  • 6mm Command Decision: Test of Battle
  • 15mm science fiction 
  • 6mm Great Northern War
  • 6mm and 15mm Viking Age
I have armies for all of these, so they require little or no additional work on my part, which is a good thing given how little spare time I have. Actually playing them might encourage me to sit down and continue work on the remaining elements of my armies for these periods/rules.

One other thing I would like to work on is my terrain. I feel like I have too little terrain, and I particularly want to develop my 15mm sci-fi setting with new terrain to fight over. All those Mad Mecha Guy buildings won't paint themselves, you know.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Talomir Tales: A tale of a successful campaign

This blog has been neglected for a long time because of my peripatetic work life which led to a lack of face-to-face gaming. My Talomir Tales blog continued, largely because my players were remote, and I did not have to be present for the games. However, the long-running Talomir Tales campaign has finally ended (for now) with a victory for the Mirish empire. What gets me about this is that the campaign lasted for eight years and we could probably have gone on for another eight, had the freakish circumstance of Mirish acquiring all three artefacts not happened. As it is, Mirish successfully did this and thus wins. Presumably, the emperor will take them to the Peaks of Gorath and enact an unspeakable ritual to bring to pass a new age of the Black Moon.
This has caused me to reflect upon what made this campaign successful. To some extent, the reasons are probably nebulous. Steve and I made a connection with this campaign that endured and maintained our interest, where other campaigns that started well have foundered along the way. I have no idea what this connection was. Still, I can point to a number of things that contributed to the campaign's success.

1. We started small and built up. The campaign began with four nations fighting it out. That meant that we could get the armies painted quickly and easily with no downtime while we waited to finish the forces for each battle.
2. The campaign rules were simple with little book-keeping. I could easily run a campaign turn through in 15 minutes. This was a great help. When life got busy, I was still able to find time to run a campaign turn through and work out what the next battle was.
3. The campaign rules were focused on battles.This meant that the game was all about the table-top action, not the campaign actions. Players had little control over when they went to war, because that was dealt with by the campaign system. They only needed to focus on playing games and winning battles for their leader.

These are the practical matters that helped. The campaign was never a burden with loads of record-keeping, although it did become difficult when it expanded beyond a certain point, because we wound up with too many battles to fight. At that point, we recruited more people to help us.

This is where the chosen rules were also a great advantage. Rally round the King is eminently suited for solo play, so no one needed an opponent present to fight the battles. The rules include sections to aid solo deployment and fighting of battles, so that the player can get on with the important task of rolling dice. You can play one side against the system or you can let the system control both sides. The THW reaction system even drives most of the action anyway, so it is all very simple to have players all over the world even if they have no opponent present.

Finally, we got engaged with the story, and I think this is one of the main reasons why the campaign continued to a conclusion. We told stories about the battles, engaged in banter relating to the characters and generals in the armies, and we constructed a whole history for the campaign in our heads. We wanted to continue because we enjoyed the storytelling. The campaign could have been played to a conclusion without that, but I really do think that the storytelling drove us to continue.

So, head on over to the Talomir Tales blog if you want, and check out the history of the past 15 (game) years in Talomir. I hope you find something to inspire your gaming too.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

2 Yarthmont - Dinner time?

Broneslav opened the door into a corridor. Moving to the nearest door which lay to his right, he paused and listened. Nothing. He opened the door. The room beyond was covered in a thick layer of dust. The bed, writing desk and chest pointed to it being a bedroom and study. A sun symbol on the wall might have been religious, but Broneslav knew little about the gods of this area. Seeing nothing to warrant further attention, he moved to the door on the left, a little further up the corridor. He could hear nothing through the door and opened it. Like the other room, this one was dusty and in a poor state of repair. Unlike the other room, the dust here had been disturbed and scuffling noises could be heard coming from beyond the bed.

Warily, Broneslav stepped into the room. A large blue lizard poked its head out from behind the bed and hissed angrily at him. Suddenly it charged at him. Broneslav swung his sword and cut a large gash along its side [2 DAM]. It swerved away involuntarily because of the pain and missed its chance to bite him. A second lizard suddenly dropped from the ceiling onto Broneslav, but his armour stopped its teeth. He swung once more and this time his sword found the first lizard's heart. It twitched as it bled out on the floor, but it was no longer a threat. The second lizard made good use of his inattention and bit into Broneslav's leg [1 DAM]. He spun towards it and tried a thrust but the lizard dodged out of the way, before diving back in to bit Broneslav once more [1 DAM]. As it did so, Broneslav's sword flicked out and cut a line across the lizard's head [1 DAM]. This only seemed to anger it as it got a grip on his arm, but his armour stopped the teeth from cutting through. A furious moment of dodging and slicing followed before Broneslav finally swung hard at the lizard's neck and severed it's head [2 DAM]. He panted as he recovered his breath before bandaging his wounds.
1 square = 10'
Looking beyond the bed, he found a fresh corpse that the lizard had been feeding on. It was a human, but wearing a bird-like mask with gold inlay. The mask went in his pack and he prepared to continue his exploration of this pyramid.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

2 Yarthmont - Avoiding getting slimed

Broneslav opened the north-west door onto a corridor. Moving carefully, he advanced quickly to the corner and peered round it. Nothing there, so he moved on to the next corner as the corridor turned back on itself. Again, nothing there, but a door on the south side. Easing the door open, he was met with a strong, musty smell. Nothing moved within. The room was dusty and had obviously not been used in a long time. It was full of old crates, bales of cloth and rotting sacks.

He headed back out into the corridor and further along, following its twisting route. The next door was on the north side of the corridor. He could hear voices through the door, even as he approached. Carefully easing the door open, he peered inside.

"Oh, a man," twittered a high-pitched voice.

Broneslav had not been sufficiently quiet. Suddenly he was bombarded with questions by the small, winged people who were seated on the crates in the middle of the room. They all talked over each other, and did not appear to listen to his replies. He tried asking them about the place he was in, but the only reply that made sense was that he was in the city of Cynidicea. Well, at least he had a name for the place. He left the small people to their twittering ways and left the room.

The corridor ended at a door. No noise came from this one. He opened it and beheld an empty room, apart from a large pile of green slime on the floor. As he looked in, the slime suddenly moved. He slammed the door shut and retreated. There had been no door out of the room, and he saw nothing to gain by fighting this thing. He headed back towards the central room again.
1 square = 10 feet
As he walked back, he suddenly realised that there was something amiss with the wall of the corridor immediately before the door to the room he had first entered by. Checking further, he found that the wall swung inwards into another room. Something glittered on the floor in the middle of it, but his attention was drawn to the half dozen bird-like creatures that swarmed towards him as soon as he entered. The speed of these creatures surprised him, but he was up to the challenge. His sword darted with devastating swiftness in and out of their bodies, and in seconds six of the creatures lay crushed and skewered on the floor. Unfortunately, as these six distracted him, the last of them landed on his shoulder and sank its beak into his unprotected neck (1 DAM). He grabbed the creature and threw it to the floor, crushing it under his boot heel. He cursed as he bandaged his wound, before examining the room.

From this side, he could clearly see that there was a secret door on the opposite side of the room too. He had missed that before. On the floor in the middle of the room, for no readily apparent reason, there lay some gems. Broneslav cleared guano and dust off them, and put them in his pouch. Other than more guano and dust, there was nothing else in this room. He returned to the central room again. Just one more door to try, before he went down the stairs he had found before.