Saturday, 31 January 2009
"Very good, Captain. Proceed with the next phase of the plan."
With 2VPs in the bag, we now need to defend Mars from the invaders. The primary objective for February will be painting two companies of Black Hat 15mm Martians for a game of Soldier's Companion. Soldier's Companion is the miniatures game from GDW's Space 1889 setting. It is essentially a set of colonial rules with extras for adding in various staples of Victorian Sci-Fi, including walkers, Martians, Venusians, etc. The whole Space 1889 setting is a rich and fertile playground for gaming and the role-playing game supplements can be adapted to create miniatures games. It is our intention to play a game involving the British colonial powers from Syrtis Major on Mars versus my Shastapshian Martians, so we need painted figures. Steve is producing the Brits, while I work on the Martians. Here are some Martians I painted earlier to whet your appetite:
This is the Black Hat character pack that includes a servant, a scholar, a Martian warrior, not-Dejah Thoris, not-John Carter and a big game hunter. I plan to use these figures as the basis of a Fantastic Worlds game, as well as providing characters for Soldier's Companion. The figures I plan to paint for February are shown below. The first picture shows the battalion command, while the second picture shows the two companies that form the basis of this month's mission.
This mission is also worth 2VPs. I have not defined a secondary objective for this month. It is likely that I shall probably focus on more 6mm Great Northern War activity, possibly continuing to rebase my figures, and making sure that, whatever I do, we get on and play games with those same figures.
"Cover me, chaps, I'm going in."
Thursday, 29 January 2009
The Saxon garrison of Nieder Kurzhosen has sallied forth from the town in an attempt to drive off the Swedish advance guard. They are afraid that the Swedes will be able to cut communications to the Saxon main army if left unchallenged, so sitting out a siege in the town with its poorly maintained defences is not an option. The Swedes wish to drive the Saxons from the field and sack the town because they are badly in need of the local schnapps, which drink is famous throughout the country.
In a bid to speed up the game, and taking our cue from the rules, the Saxons set up in their half of the board, while the Swedes were allowed to set up within 1' of their base edge. This meant that the two armies would start about 5 Base Widths (BW) apart. The Base Width is the basic unit of measurement in Polemos: GNW. My Baccus 6mm GNW figures are based on 60mm x 30mm bases so 1BW is 60mm. The table was 4' x 3'. The figures were deployed as shown in the picture below: The progress of the game was simple. We had two hours in which to play the game and managed seven turns. The Saxon infantry occupied earthworks in front of the town and stayed there for most of the game. Only one infantry battalion ventured forth to fire on the Swedish cavalry and that was both late in the game and ineffective. The Swedish infantry were assailed by the Saxon cavalry over on the Swedish left flank in a ding dong battle that saw first one Saxon cavalry unit routing and then a breakthrough by the Saxon second line that routed a Swedish infantry unit. Overall this fighting was inconclusive and honours were about even. On the Swedish right flank all of the Swedish cavalry assailed the Saxon dragoons and drove them from the field in the end. Typically, I had managed to give my worst commander command of my best cavalry, so their progress towards the fight was slower than might have been desirable. The following pictures were each taken at the end of a turn and hopefully should give you a taste of the flow of the battle (More pictures from this game may be found in my Photobucket account).
This game flowed much better than the last one. We achieved roughly the same result in half the time. Issues that were not covered in the rules still cropped up but we were able to work out our own solutions to them until I could ask about them on the Polemos yahoo group. All of my questions so far have been answered very quickly and I would commend Nick on his customer service in that regard. We still think that the game needs a better QRS, but other than that, it plays well and is worth checking out if you enjoy this fascinating period of history when Sweden was a great power.
Both armies used in this game are Baccus 6mm starter armies. Baccus are linked from the sidebar if you want to investigate further. They also produce and sell the Polemos rules, which were used in this game.
If you are interested in the Great Northern War, I would recommend reading Voltaire's Life of Charles XII (the Everyman edition is good and usually fairly cheap secondhand) and Robert Frost's Northern Wars. The former should give you a good feel for the war from the Swedish perspective, while the latter is a drier but more informative history book. If you opt to buy either of these books, please use the links above because clicking through the Amazon link at the top of the page will help support my thrifty gaming project. Thank you.
Other sites you may find useful are:
Dan Schorr's Northern Wars site. This site keeps running out of bandwidth so get in early in the month. It has many useful pdf files about the period and is probably the most useful site for the period that you will find online.
Nick Dorrell's Great Northern War site has other information and links to other sites too. This is also an excellent site that neatly complements Dan's site.
Monday, 26 January 2009
Sunday, 25 January 2009
We played Polemos:GNW for the first time yesterday. I have had the rules for a long time but have never yet managed to play them. One of the things that has put me off is difficulty in reading and understanding the rules. Normally I am very good at learning rules from the rules and do not need someone to demonstrate them first. However, I have really struggled with Polemos:GNW. There seems to be a lot of assumed knowledge on the part of the rules' author, which makes understanding the rules difficult. For this reason I have not previously got around to playing them. So, we steeled ourselves, girded our loins and set to.
The rules themselves are fairly standard in many respects, with attack and defence values for each unit and opposed die rolls to see if you succeed. You then consult a table to see what result your attacks have had. The effects of combat see your units gaining levels of "shaken", possibly recoiling back from their enemy, or even being driven back. Casualties per se are not removed. Instead, when a unit reaches three or more levels of "shaken" it will rout. Under some circumstances it can be rallied, but otherwise it is removed from the game. This is how units are destroyed.The really new idea that they present is in tempo bidding. Tempo is initiative. Each side gets a fixed number of tempo points each turn and add the score of a six-sided die roll to that. Then both players decide how many points they can afford to bid to win the initiative and still do what they need to do in that turn. The bids are compared and the higher bidder wins the initiative. Both players deduct their bids from their total tempo points and that is how many points you have left to do things. These points are used a bit like PIPs in the DBx series of games, but the person that lost the initiative has to spend more points to act with their units, which means that they could wind up unable to do as much as the player with the initiative can. One problem with the tempo bidding was allocating points to commands. This can take a little time as you try to work out what you need to do where.
So, how did they play? We set up a small battle on a 4'x3' table with two Baccus starter armies. I took the Swedes and Steve took the Saxons. The figures were set up 2' apart for an encounter battle as recommended in the rules.
Our game took four hours, before Steve had to leave, and the game had not reached a conclusion, although it seemed to be favouring me, because Steve's right wing had all routed from the table. This left my left wing able to regroup and then they could have fallen on the enemy flank. However, this would have taken time that my centre and right wing might not have had. At this point we decided to call it a draw.
The game was fun to play despite our difficulties with actually reading the rules. More than any other rule set I have played these rules required game play to show how they worked. I would say that they are not for beginners purely because of the way they are written.
The tempo bidding was good fun and a great way of determining who would be able to act first and how much they would be able to do. Both Steve and I like this type of mechanism where you are trying to second-guess your opponent all the time.
Combat was simple enough with the opposed rolls, although the long list of modifiers might put some off. There were a number of situations that cropped up in our game, which did not appear to be covered in the rules but we were able to come up with solutions easily enough and I have now asked about them on the Polemos Yahoo Group, so I hope to have answers soon.
One thing that the rules really need is a coherent quick reference sheet. The QRS that comes with the rules seems to have bits put in wherever they fit rather than putting all the firing tables together, the close combat tables together, etc. This did cause us a few delays in game play as we tried to work out where the relevant tables were.
Overall, we enjoyed the game a lot and will be trying the rules again. We hope to significantly reduce the amount of time that the game took to play as we become more familiar with the game and its mechanisms. Producing a better QRS could help with this. We shall see how it works out.
If you have the time and patience to work through the rules then the game play is ultimately rewarding and I would recommend these rules to you. If you need everything served up in bite-sized chunks then these rules are not for you, unless you can find someone to teach you.
Friday, 23 January 2009
One problem I have had with achieving my objectives this month has been our games of Koenig Krieg. We have played a couple of games this month and enjoyed them very much. The pre-game manoeuvring section of the rules is particularly fun, because you manoeuvre your brigades on 'blinds'. Each 'blind' is a large cardboard counter that represents a brigade. Depending upon the initiative level of your general, you may get a number of dummy blinds too. In short, you set up your 'blinds' so that only you know where your troops are and try to scout out the enemy forces and manoeuvre your own troops into a strong position for the attack. This makes each game different and very interesting.
Anyway, playing Koenig Krieg has led to me being distracted by my Great Northern War armies, so I have been fiddling with them, rebasing some of the figures and generally preparing them for more games, instead of painting Goblins and Normans. I have also realised that the armies at Helsingborg are too large to work comfortably with the Koenig Krieg rules. Therefore we plan to try Polemos:GNW this weekend and see if that suits us better. Failing that, I shall fall back on Volley and Bayonet, which are simple, fast rules and fun to play. They don't really have as much period flavour as I would like, but they do make for a great game that can be finished in a reasonable time. We shall still play Koenig Krieg because the rules are good fun, but our games will be smaller than the one I had envisaged.
Below is my Swedish army for Helsingborg in 1710. As you can see, the bases need finishing. The same is true of my Danish army for the battle, which is all painted but still needs the bases finishing. I propose to work on these armies as a secondary objective in February.
(Click the picture for a larger version)
All this focus on older projects and actually playing games using them, seems to me to embody the essence of thrift. I have had the Great Northern War armies painted for nearly 10 years now and have played maybe four or five games with them at most. This is due to a lack of opponents that were interested in the subject matter. With the emphasis now on using what I have and making the most of existing resources, this is the perfect time to work on completing a project that has lain dormant for ages. With the bases on the figures done, the next step will be completing the terrain, which is also half-finished and in storage at the moment. I hope it has not gone mouldy!
Monday, 12 January 2009
Here are some of my goblins in all their partly painted glory, pretty much as I left them before the course (click the images for larger versions):
I also decided to rebase the D&D minis that I am using for the rank and file goblins. I was not going to do this, but the completist in me insisted. Looking at them, I am tempted to do a little bit more painting on them, and maybe treat them to the dip too.
Finally, I wanted something quick to do, so I printed out some paper terrain that I had bought from WorldWorksGames and folded that up to provide the first few houses in my goblin village. Producing these small models has at least given me a small sense of achievement. I have printed a few more out to build so the final goblin village should have a dozen or so huts as well as the altar as a centre-piece. The huts are from the Pirates of Skull Cove set, while the sacrificial altar is from the Gothic Realms set.
Given that I have done little over the past 12 days, here is a photo of my painting desk for you to marvel at the luxurious comfort of my work space!
Hopefully, I shall have better news to report by the end of next weekend, after I have finished writing the report on my course.