Sunday, 28 November 2010

Game More!

Yes, play more games! Well, I have just had a most excellent weekend of gaming down in Chelmsford with m'buddies Derek and Brendan. Derek's sons were there too for part of Saturday and had a riot (not a student one!).

Nuclear War
I had not played this in ages but it is really easy to pick back up again. The games went quickly with much hilarity and picking on each other as much as possible. The first game proceeded with a clear demonstration that the participants of the game were largely warmongers with a couple of clods that might inadvertantly cause a war instead. The second game was much the same, but it also provided a clear demonstration of the insanity of mutually assured destruction as a doctrine; I was wiped out first, but my retaliation killed Derek and Elliot. Their retaliation then wiped the other two out. Ouch! All in all, it was a brilliant game and well worth returning to after all these years.

Groo the Wanderer
Groo is a very stupid barbarian who inadvertantly destroys pretty much everything around him. You are the mayor of a town that Groo is likely to visit. Your goal is to build up your town before the others while avoiding Groo's visits. This is a card game based on the brilliant comic by Sergio Aragones. The game plays quickly and saw all of us trying to ensure that Groo spent more time at our opponents' towns than at our own. We laughed, we howled, we cursed each other. Yup, definitely one to return to. Again, like Nuclear War, I have had this game for ages but not played it often enough.

Shadows over Camelot
I had never played this before. The idea is that each player is a knight of the round table. You are supposed to go on quests to recover the Holy Grail, Excalibur and Lancelot's Armour, which help you win the game. Each quest puts one or more white swords on the round table. When there are twelve there, you have won. The twist is that one player may be a traitor. A card is dealt to each player that tells them whether they are the traitor or not. The traitor is trying to get seven black swords onto the round table or to place twelve siege engines outside Camelot. Siege engines can get placed by the knights, because they have to take one evil action in their turn as well as their good actions. Black swords are placed by failure to complete quests or by falsely accusing a good knight. It is entirely possible that no traitor is present, but I wound up being the traitor. Not knowing the game, I just played it gormless and eventually wound up in position to place the twelfth siiege engine and win. I was never unmasked as the traitor (yay!) and enjoyed the game a lot. It was tricky trying to make sub-optimal plays all the time, but that just added to the fun.

Fire and Axe: a Viking saga
This has to be one of my favourite games ever. You play a Viking, whose goal is to trade, raid and settle your way into the history books. In this game you can settle the New World, pillage Rome or Constantinople, or sail down the Volga to trade in the East. The length of the game is controlled by the saga cards. There are nine of each type and the game deck is made up of six from each level. The saga cards describe activities that you must complete to score them. The person that completes the final element of the saga gets the card and the cards can be worth points at the end of the game. I really like the fact that there are several ways to score points and win the game, and the game play is tense as people compete to score the saga cards. It is rarely evident who will win until the end and the final scoring is done, which enhances the experience. This was a really competitive game and the final scores were close. Most excellent.

Overall, this was a brilliant weekend and all the games we played were fun. It helps to have great people to play with but the games themselves are all ones that I would recommend too and enhanced the whole thing. If you are tempted, you can check the games out at Boardgamegeek by clicking the links in the game list to the right.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Rally Round the King


Rally Round the King has now been released. This is an updated and refined version of the Warrior Heroes rules that we use for our massed battles in the Talomir Tales campaign and very fine it looks too upon a first read through. I must admit to having had some input into this iteration of the rules, so I may well be a little biased, but I am thrilled to see the rules back in print and brought into line with the newer sets from TwoHourWargames. I really hope that they enjoy success.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

More pics of Helsingborg

Right, here are some more pics of our Helsingborg game. Click the pics for larger images.

First up is an action shot of my poor, long-suffering opponent Steve as he plots my demise.


Swedish cavalry on the right flank charge uncontrollably forward in pursuit of the fleeing Danes.


Meanwhile over on the left flank the Danish cavalry are doling out some hurt to the Swedes.



In the centre the Swedish Livregiment til Hest sidles crabwise from one flank to the other. I should probably make some column stands for each unit too, so that they can march properly.

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Battle of Helsingborg, 10th March 1710

On a freezing cold day in March 1710 the Swedish army gulped down a shot of vodka for breakfast and set out on a march towards Helsingborg. Their march brought them down on the flank of the defending Danish army, which was forced to redeploy, leaving their guns behind. The progress of the Swedish march and the Danish redeployment can be seen in the picture below (Swedes in blue, Danes in red):


The Terrain of the battlefield was largely flat with marshy areas, streams criss-crossing it and a small number of low hills. You can check out a full description of the terrain on the Helsingborg page on this blog (see the toolbar at the top of the page. I plan to complete the full translation and post it there at a later date). For other images of the battlefield, you can view older maps on the Terra Scaniae website. These are really useful for understanding the terrain. We based our terrain for our refight on the map above and the maps on the Terra Scaniae website.

The Battle
Historically, the battle saw the Swedes advance on the Danish flank. The Danes had to redeploy to face the Swedes. The Swedish Centre and Right wing advanced steadily, but their Left wing seems to have had some difficulties, so a portion of the Right wing cavalry was redeployed to the Left wing and soon the Danes were being driven back. At the end of the battle, the Danes were in flight and the Swedes held the field.

So, how did our game go? Click on the pictures that follow for larger images.

The view from the Swedish lines:


The view from the Danish lines:


Overall view of the set-up:
We began the game with both armies deployed and ready to fight rather than modelling the approach march, largely because of lack of time, but also because we just wanted to get to the action as fast as we could.


Turns 1 and 2:
Both sides advance.



Turn 3:
I decided to try redeploying part of the Swedish right flank to their left flank, just to see if the rules would enable me to do this.


Turn 4:
The redeployment continues, while the Danish left flank cavalry have now crossed the stream and are ready to fall on my cavalry.


Turn 5:
The Danish cavalry learn the error of their ways, as the Swedish cavalry drive them off. Meanwhile on the Swedish left flank the Danish cavalry are looking decidedly stronger.


Turn 6:
On the Swedish left flank their cavalry are really getting the worst of it, but they are just holding on, while part of their force attempts a swift march around the flank. On their right, the victorious Swedish cavalry is proving hard to control, but the loss of the Danish first line of cavalry has caused that command to fail a command morale test. They are not happy.


Turn 7:
The failed command test causes the Danish left flank to begin disintegrating, while most of the Swedish cavalry comes under control again, with only one troop disappearing off into the distance in pursuit of the fleeing Danes. In the centre, both sides have started some desultory fire resulting in one Swedish battalion being driven back slightly, but no really effective fire. On the Swedish left flank, the cavalry is still struggling, but the flank march is now in place (and in view in this shot), ready to fall on the Danes just as soon as they have reordered their ranks.


Turn 8:
The Danish left flank is almost non-existant now. The Swedish right flank is close to routing and the infantry in the centre are now firing at close range, with the Swedish infantry getting the worst of it.


Turn 9:
The Swedish flank march falls on the Danes and drives off a number of them, while the rest of the cavalry on that flank has fallen back to regroup. The fighting in the centre still continues in a rather unenthusiastic manner.


Turn 10:
Things start to improve for the Swedes on the left flank as Danish units rout, but casualties have been fairly heavy and a Swedish cavalry troop has routed. Those that were fighting before are content to hold their ground and recover before charging again. In the centre a Swedish battalion has routed, but all is not lost yet.


Turn 11:
The Swedish flank march pays off. By falling on the enemy flank they are able to cause enough casualties to break the Danish right flank. With their left flank fled and Swedish cavalry swarming all around the Danish infantry surrender.


Conclusions
We had a good fun game using Polemos:GNW. I am warming more to these rules as we use them more, but the learning curve is steep and I can see how others might be put off. We managed to get a few rules wrong over the course of this game. I would like to refight it again and try to get the rules right, but even with the mistakes, the battle was enjoyable. In total, it took us about eight hours of playing time over three evenings, which was not too bad really, considering that we were busily relearning the rules as we went.

I have added some notes about terrain and orders of battle below, as I felt these comments needed more detail and sections of their own. Hopefully you can use the information here and on the Helsingborg page to refight the battle yourselves.

Terrain
We played the game on a 6x4 foot table with the terrain as closely modelled on the historical terrain as possible, within the limitations of the terrain tiles, etc, etc. We also set up the armies at the recommended 600mm apart so that we could get into the action quickly. Other rules might need to adjust that distance.

One area where we had to compromise was the stream through the deep gully on the Swedish right flank (closest to the camera in all the shots). Modelling that would have entailed raising the entire rest of the table, so we just agreed where the ravine went to and made allowances for that in our game play.

The streams are far too wide on the table, but we made some allowances for that in how we administered the terrain rules, once we saw how it was affecting the game. In a future refight, I would count the streams as rough going/area terrain so that they cause a level of shaken while you are in it but you lose that shaken level immediately upon exiting. What we found was that the Swedish infantry could not mirror the moves of their historical counterparts if we counted the streams as streams for terrain type.

The villages may have had too great an effect as well. I am not sure they hindered the real battle that much, so perhaps we should have just treated them as decorative features.

So, I suggest the following terrain rules for this battle using the Polemos rules:
Boggy areas, villages/farms and streams count as Rough Ground (does not hinder movement but disorders troops).
The Wall counts as a linear obstacle with an Obstacle Value of 1 (Reduces movement and disorders troops).
Roads are treated normally, even though they were barely more than muddy tracks at the time of the battle.

Orders of Battle
Another problem we had with the game was fitting in the troops into the space occupied by their historical counterparts. There were simply too many troops for the space available. Given that we modelled the terrain to the ground scale of the rules, the stands should have fitted in. Analysis of the orders of battle suggests to me that Nick, who wrote Polemos:GNW, has used the ration strengths of both sides to calculate the order of battle. This is fairly sensible because we know what they were for both sides. However, the Danish staff history records the field strength of the Danish army too so it is easy to work out what they actually fielded. The Swedish army is more problematic. On 17th March 1710 the Swedes reported that they had 4308 cavalrymen and that they had lost 1187 in the battle, which suggests that they had c.5500 cavalry at the battle. No records survive of the infantry losses. If we assume a similar level of loss for the infantry though, then we get a total army strength of around 14000 men versus a Danish strength of 14000 men. So, the armies are similar in numbers. How do their various arms compare though?

Danish Army:
Cavalry - c.1750 men
Dragoons - c.2250 men
Infantry - c.9600 men
Artillery - c.400 men (note that most of the Danish artillery did not see use in this battle because of the redeployment)

Swedish Army:
Cavalry - c. 5496 men
Infantry - c.8000 men
Artillery - c.400 men

So, the Swedish cavalry outnumbers the Danes while the Danes have more infantry. That should make the game interesting. So, where does this leave us in terms of numbers? For the Swedish army, I propose the following numbers and order of battle based on these calculations.

Swedish Army

Cavalry

Ration Strength

Probable Strength

Polemos Stands

Enkedronningens

976

770

3

Vestgöta

679

536

2

Vestgöta Tremänninger

632

499

2

Uplands Fyr- og Femmänninger

787

621

2

Skaanes Tre- og Femmänninger

678

535

2

Smalands

986

777

3

Østgöta

1000

788

3

Livregiment til hest

986

777

3

Adelsfane

250

197

1

Infantry

Ration Strength

Probable Strength

Polemos Stands

Elfsborgs

1216

959

2

Uplands Fyr- og Femmänninger

930

733

1

Sachsiske

700

552

1

Malmø Garnison

600

473

1

Uplands

1068

842

2

Østgöta

1165

919

2

Kalmar

1019

803

2

Vestmanlands

1141

900

2

Kronobergs

930

733

1

Jønkøpings

734

579

1

Sødermanlands

1167

920

2



I also suggest giving them two light guns and two field guns.

For the Danish army I propose the following order of battle:
Danish Army

Cavalry

Ration Strength

Field Strength

Polemos Stands

Livgarden til Hest

400

300

1

1st Sjællandske

452

250

1

3rd Sjællandske

392

200

1

1st Fynske

455

360

1

2nd Fynske

456

300

1

1st Jyske

456

330

1

Dragoons

Ration Strength

Field Strength

Polemos Stands

Livregimentet

992

700

3

Ungarske (Bulow)

994

660

3

Sjællandske Landdragonregiment

1200

900

3

Infantry

Ration Strength

Field Strength

Polemos Stands

Grenaderkorpset

1200

826

2

Garden til Fods

1344

925

2

Dronningens Livregiment

1365

940

2

Prins Christians

1408

969

2

Jyske

1352

931

2

Fynske

1335

919

2

Marineregimentet

1366

940

2

Prinsen af Hessens

1300

895

2

Leepels

1216

837

2

Vestsjællandske

1612

1110

2

Østsjællandske

1500

1032

2

Laalandske Bataillon

800

551

1



The Danish army could have one stand of light guns too.

Hopefully this should permit you to refight this battle. If you do, I hope you will post reports and let me know how it went. Any suggestions for ways to improve the details would be appreciated, as would any additional information on the battle. In the meantime, I shall continue trying to improve my html so that my tables take up less space and I shall also finish the translation of the staff history of this battle, when I can find a bit more time.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Italian Aeronavy

It's been a while since I painted the Italian torpedo flotilla, but I have finally managed to get around to painting the rest of my Italian Aeronefs. So, here is the whole of my Italian fleet overflying Orkney on their way to pay a courtesy visit to the British Aeronavy base at Scapa Flow:

This means that I have painted all of my Brigade Models figures. This is the only company of whom I can say this is true. I guess that means it is time to buy some more figures from them! I quite fancy the Aeroenef over the Aegean scenario pack. A lone Austro-Hungarian 'nef taking on the might of the Turkish Aeronavy is the kind of thing that stirring Boys' Own Tales are made of, and therefore it really appeals to me.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Church What I Built

Those of you that read my other blog, Talomir Tales, will already have seen my newest completed terrain. This post is for the rest of you. I have spent rather longer than I ought on building a set for the latest Warrior Heroes: Armies and Adventures game that we played, but I reckon it was worth it. The game consisted of Steve's character, Brother Cedric, getting into the church and then into the crypts followed by the undercrypt and then finally the denouement in the chambers under the undercrypt. You can read the battle report over on Talomir Tales, so here is just some of the eye candy. More pictures can be found in my Photobucket album. The whole lot is built using Worldworks Games card terrain. Click the pics for larger images.

The Church of St Lindorf


Some of the expensive stained glass windows


The upper level of the church



Ground floor of the church


Beneath the church lies the crypt


Beneath the crypt lies the undercrypt



Beneath the undercrypt lies under the undercrypt


"At last we meet, Brother Cedric. I have been expecting you."

Runebound - A mini review

We played Runebound from Fantasy Flight Games recently. I had played it before and was not sure about the game. I really wanted to like it but the game play did not strike me as being that great. Then I was on the FFG website a couple of weeks back and found out that I had been getting a key rule wrong! Apparently, when it tells you to roll the dice to attack, it does actually mean both of them and not one die. Had the rulebook said 'roll 2d10', it would have been clearer. As it is, it could mean one die or two dice, because dice is used as both singular and plural by many people these days. Anyway, rambling aside, with this simple change the entire texture of the game improved massively and we had a great time.

So, what is it about?
Runebound is a fantasy quest game. You move around the map to adventure locations, draw an adventure card and try to defeat it. Defeating adventures nets you gold and experience, and sometimes a special reward. You can go to towns to buy equipment or recruit sidekicks with the gold and you can buy stat upgrades with experience counters. As you gain in experience you can take on more difficult encounters until eventually you take on the most difficult encounters and defeat the big bad guy. Meanwhile the other players are busily doing the same, so it is in essence a race game.

The basic quest in this game is "The Rise of the Dragon Lords". The evil necromancer Vorakesh is trying to find the ancient dragon runes and wishes to use them to resurrect the high lord of the evil dragons, Margath. As a heroic adventurer it is your duty to stop him.

What do you get for your money?
12 Hero cards and the corresponding plastic miniatures
84 Adventure cards
84 Market cards
60 Wound counters
54 Exhaustion counters
58 Adventure counters
60 Experience counters
6 Undefeated challenge counters
50 Gold counters
8 Doom counters

Game Play
The game board is a hex map with town locations, different terrain and a series of adventure locations marked on it. It is set up by placing adventure counters of the right colour on each adventure location. Adventures are rated as green, yellow, blue and red in increasing order of difficulty and the locations on the map are marked in these colours to show which counter you should put on each.

At the start of the game each player draws a hero card. That is their character for the game. Each hero is slightly different and has a special ability that relates to their character class. Some are stronger in melee combat, others in missile combat and others in magical combat. All characters start in the same town and set off from there to explore the map

With everything set up, the first player rolls the movement dice and moves as far as they wish, or can. The movement dice have terrain types on each side, so you need to roll the right sort of terrain to move into it. If you have no dice showing rivers, then you cannot move into a river hex. If they finish their turn on an adventure location with an adventure token on it then they draw an adventure card and resolve it. If they finish their turn in a town, they draw a market card, which may be an item or an ally, and place it in the market space for that town. There may already be market cards in that market space. If they have the gold, they may buy any item or recruit any ally that is in that market space. At the end of their turn, they may spend any experience counters they have to buy experience tokens that increase their stats. Once they have done all this, then their turn is over and play passes to the next player.

Adventure cards
Adventure cards may be challenges, encounters or events. Challenges always involve combat and every adventure must include dealing with one of these. Encounters usually involve skill tests instead of actual combat. If you draw an encounter you often get to keep the card and use it at a later date for some special effect. Events introduce global effects to the game. There can only ever be one event in effect at any given time, so newly drawn event cards tend to replace old ones, although in some circumstances they do not. If you draw an encounter or an event, you must draw another adventure card after resolving the immediate effects of the encoutner or event. This means that every adventure must finish with a challenge card.

If you fail to defeat the challenge card, then it remains at that location and someone else can come along and try to defeat it. Losing means you lose all your gold and one ally or item that you own, and then you are returned to the nearest town.

How does it play?
As I noted earlier, it feels more like a race game than anything else. There is little interaction between players, although it is possible to attack or trade with each other if you finish your turn in the same space as someone else but that is where it rests. Leaving aside this last, your actions only affect you. This means that there is potentially a lot of downtime between turns in a larger game. We got around the downtime by getting into the role-play and reading out the adventure cards in portentous tones. The social aspect of gaming comes in at that point too.

We only have a two or three hours to play games on our regular gaming evening and even with only two of us, we did not actually finish the game in that time. To some extent that was probably because neither of us felt up to dealing with the most difficult encounters at any point, but I get the feeling that a larger game could take much longer again. There is a mechanism for forcing a conclusion to the game using doom tokens. This system puts a limit on the length of the game based on the number of players. Once the limit is reached, each player must take it in turns to try their hand at the endgame confrontation, which consists of just drawing red challenge cards and trying to deal with them until you have achieved the game's victory conditions or you are defeated. This feels a bit contrived to me, but it might be worth using to ensure that the game actually does get completed within a reasonable time frame.

Overall, and with the addition of playing the rules correctly, I enjoyed our game much more than I did the times I played it in the past. I shall certainly play Runebound again. I am also keen to try the various character decks that are meant to increase interaction between players. It will be interesting to see how they affect the game play and the experience of the game for the players.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Coming Soon: Brother Cedric Rides Again

At last I have completed the set for the next Brother Cedric adventure (to be found over on the Talomir Tales blog when we have played it). It has been far too long. Remind me not to embark upon any more large terrain projects in the future! Anyway, here are some shots of the exterior. Interior shots will follow in due course. The terrain is from WorldWorksGames. Click the pictures for larger images.

Treyine soldiers guard the church of St Lindorf (figures by Perry Miniatures)


General shots of the church


Monday, 28 June 2010

The Best of All Possible Mining Outposts - A 5150 report

Captain Pangloss of the Bwendi Levy was engrossed in his book when the alarm call came; he loved reading about his ancestor in Old Earth history books.

"Captain," yelled Sergeant Candide through the commlink, "We've got incoming. Unidentified space skimmer approaching. We don't recognise the type or the markings. Looks like it might not be ADF this time."
"Very well," responded Pangloss, "Sound the alarm and get your men deployed to meet them. They could be friendly but let's not take any chances."

The Levy stumbled over each other as they took up positions, but Pangloss was not too worried. The men might be green but they had the best of all possible commanders in Candide and Pangloss. Sgt Candide had taken half the men and was covering the left flank from the roof of one of the supply huts, while Pangloss and the rest of the men occupied the main command hut, which provided both good lines of sight and a comfortably fortified position from which to observe the approach of these newcomers. They did not have long to wait. Gunfire from Candide's position indicated that the newcomers were indeed hostile. Then the gunner spotted one of the enemy, as did Pangloss. Blimey, these were proper aliens and of a type that he had never previously encountered. They were huge and heavily armed. Pangloss opened fire at the alien, scoring multiple hits but it just kept coming until the gunner stitched a burst of fire all the way across its head. (click the pics for larger images)
Over the intercom, Pangloss could hear the shouts of Candide's men and Candide's orders. It all sounded rather chaotic, but that was for the best because, if it were not chaotic there, it would have to be chaotic somewhere else, as likely in Pangloss' ad hoc command bunker as anywhere else! As he thought this, suddenly a hail of automatic fire ripped into the walls of the hut and several shots came through the window, tearing chunks out of the gunner and his number two. Both men dropped in a pool of blood. Pangloss immediately raced over to grab the gun and keep it in action. It's firepower could be crucial. Then Private Thunder-Ten-Tronckh collapsed in another welter of automatic fire. Their position had been flanked and the troopers Pangloss had left outside had been dispatched rather too quietly. Over the commlink he could hear Candide rallying his men, who had lost their courage in the face of overwhelming enemy firepower. Candide was now manoeuvring to assault the enemy again. Perhaps he could flank them as Pangloss had been. Still, it was just as well that Pangloss had been flanked because otherwise it would have happened somewhere else and Pangloss was better able to deal with such a situation.
Candide's men were now moving into position as Pangloss sought out the cause of the problems round his own command. It turned out to be a single alien with two unfeasibly large machine pistols. Pangloss was impressed despite himself. Surely those must be the best of all possible machine pistols! That did not stop him letting rip with the LMG though. His burst of fire tore visible holes in the alien's armour and made it duck for cover. Unfortunately it did not appear to be hurt.
As Pangloss adopted a suitable firing position, the alien suddenly appeared at the window again. Private Cunegonde was frozen with fear and the alien dropped her where she stood, with her weapon unfired. Pangloss was alone in the hut. Over on the other flank, the cries of the wounded could be heard, as were the exhortations of the routed. It sounded like Candide's command was running for its life. That was probably for the best. Pangloss dropped back into the corner of the hut and prepared to resist the aliens when they came for him. He was the last of his command and in this situation going down with his ship was the best of all possible outcomes. The end did not take long. The big alien stepped into the window and stood there as Pangloss opened fire until his gun clicked empty. With unfeasibly large machine pistols opened fire and Pangloss collapsed on the floor. As blackness overcame him he reflected that he had at least held the best of all possible commands in the best of all possible mining outposts.
Steve decided to field some aliens for a change and I had been making some 15mm terrain using the WWG Mars Station set, so we agreed a 1500 points battle and bought figures accordingly. He had 4 aliens using the Grath template. I had a 14 man levy squad, most of whom were Rep 3. The game progressed rather predictably. I did manage to hit the aliens but could not get the OD results I needed to kill them, except in one case. My efforts were not helped by the vast number of 1s I rolled to hit. I also spent half my time rallying my troops, instead of having them shooting back. Steve's shooting was much more effective. I think he has loaded his dice or something! It was a fun if frustrating game that saw my star (Pangloss) getting captured. I wonder what the aliens will do with him, and is he important enough for my troops to rally and try to rescue him? Half of them survived by routing very soon after the aliens started shooting, and a few could test for recovery if the aliens did not gather up the wounded and take them off to be probed.