Wednesday 27 August 2014

Meeting at Longlier - CDTOB AAR Part 1

Last night, we continued the Command Decision: Test of Battle game that we began last week. At our current rate of progress it will take us another couple of weeks to finish the game. The scenario is the second one in the Death of Glory supplement. It pits the French versus the Germans in the Lorraine area in August 1914. Both sides have a regiment of infantry, a battalion of artillery and a recon cavalry squadron. The game will be 8-12 turns long depending upon a random die roll.

The game began with the recon cavalry ensconced in and around Longlier. The French had dismounted to occupy the town better while the Germans remained mounted. Reinforcements in the form of a battalion from the regiment arrive each turn, marching to the sound of the guns. The German artillery battalion must arrive as a unit, while the French artillery battalion arrives as individual batteries together with an infantry battalion. After three turns the French forces have all arrived and the final German battalion is nearing the battle area.
The situation at the end of turn 3 (Not all units are shown to make things clearer)
The French in blue arrived from the south. The Germans in grey arrived from the north-east. As you can see, a traffic jam was building in the town of Longlier. The northernmost French recon cavalry unit (hollow blue symbol) charged the German recon cavalry in the rear but the Germans were able to turn to face and eliminated the French unit. It was at this point that I realised that cavalry charging get no significant benefit from doing so. Boo! We are French, we are dressed well and we have style. We deserve significant bonuses for that!!
The table at the end of turn 3
At least by this stage I have deployed two artillery pieces and can bring fire to bear on the Germans. With any luck I can suppress the enemy infantry with artillery fire in the next turn and my brave poilus can charge home and drive the enemy from the woods with great elan. For the rest of it, I think there is going to be a turn or two of marching and re-ordering the troops so that we can occupy good firing positions and protect our homeland.
View from the west towards Longlier. French troops march bravely to support their brethren while singing lustily as they go
The scenario requires both sides to capture built-up areas, and to destroy the enemy. There are 3 victory conditions: one for capturing the most built-up areas, one for destroying enemy personnel (infantry/cavalry) stands, and one for destroying enemy artillery stands. The winner is the player that has achieved more victory conditions. I made some French and German flags to mark control of the built-up areas.
View from the south-western road. My artillery deployed on the reverse slope where their commander can call fire onto the enemy positions. A second artillery piece will take up position next turn
I am hoping that artillery on this hill in the south-east corner of the table will be a good firing position for my artillery. With two pieces there and the artillery battalion commander, I can call fire onto the approaching Germans and also shell Longlier in support of my own troops as needed. It only requires that my infantry drive off the Germans in the woods. I think I'm going to need better dice!

Figures by Irregular Miniatures
Hexes are GHQ Terrain Maker hexes that I fettled myself

Monday 25 August 2014

Ancient Black Ops - TV Series

A new TV series Ancient Black Ops will be airing on Yesterday from 17th September. It is a series of programmes about various elite warriors of the past. The first episode is about the Assassins, and will be followed by an episode about the Spartans. Probably airing sometime in October will be a programme on Berserkers, in which I am the talking head. It was good fun filming it earlier this year. Look out for my natty woolly jumper if it makes it into shot.

I have no idea how the programme will have been edited, or anything like that, so I shall just blame all bad things on the editors (the producer was lovely so it's not her fault at all! :) ). The programme on Berserkers will be followed by one on The Varangian Guard to keep the Vikingophiles happy.

I suppose I had better get back to my normal service now. I'll try to get the next Scarlet Heroes session up soon, and there will be photographs from our refight of the battle at Longlier on August 22nd 1914. I meant to take a photo at the end of the session last week, but forgot, so I must try to remember to do so tomorrow evening.

Sunday 24 August 2014

I am officially a world expert!

If Professor Judith Jesch says it (or tweets it) then it must be true. My twitter ID is @Berserkjablogg and I have a much-neglected but doing better Viking-themed blog on Wordpress if you want to check that out too.

Basically, this means that I passed my PhD on berserks in May. Pass with corrections gives me 3 months to submit an approved version of my thesis and is the most common result. So, I submitted the corrections in July and they have now been approved. The corrections were not overly onerous and it is a satisfying conclusion to a part-time PhD that has occupied most of my forties. Next up is actually paying for the hard-bound copy to be produced and submitted. Eep! My wallet is already cringing in anticipation of the hit. Once the final version has been submitted, I shall be Dr Dale and my wife will have to start keeping a diary to broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. I look forward to listening to it.

With the corrections submitted, I really am the world expert on Viking berserkers. I have to admit to being pretty damn chuffed about this. Expect future discussions on forums about the subject to implode as a result of me stating 'I'm right, because Dr Berserker!'. ;)

Now I just need to get a proper job again, write the thesis up as a book, write a couple of articles based on it and write a popular publication on berserks that is targeted at the wargaming market. Not much to do then, eh?

Wednesday 20 August 2014

16-24 Thaumont 1000 AC - A Harrowing Journey

Broneslav woke early at the keep. He had little choice because the dormitory where he slept was too busy to permit him to sleep late. With no choice but to get up, Broneslav broke his fast as heartily as possible and set out into the grey drizzle of the day. The road northwards was largely empty with only the occasional traveller heading southwards. The first two days passed in a misty haze but on the third day disaster struck.

The mist had cleared by mid-day but a hunting red dragon spotted Broneslav and soared down from the clouds. It was a few hundred yards away when Broneslav noticed it. With few places to hide he unslung his bow and loosed a stream of arrows at the creature. Those that hit it bounced off its armoured scales. It roared and a stream of flame poured over Broneslav (-4 HPs). He gritted his teeth against the pain and dived forwards under the advancing dragon. His sword slid off its steel-hard scales but he had not seriously been trying to hurt it. The blow was just reflex. The dragon tried to claw him as he rolled forwards. One mighty claw struck him and sent him hurtling off the path into a small ravine caused by a stream. Fortunately the foot-long claw only caught him a glancing blow that slid off his armour (0 damage). Wet and muddy, Broneslav let the blow's momentum keep him moving and squelched towards a narrow gap that he had spotted. Fire erupted behind him as the dragon breathed again. The stream's water boiled and steamed. The hissing covered Broneslav's escape and he was soon huddled away from the dragon's gaze as it rampaged by the road looking for its meal. Eventually it gave up and went looking for easier dinner.

Why do I keep rolling dragon encounters in the mountains? I did not think that Broneslav could survive this, but he is meant to be heroic so he fired his bow at the dragon as it approached. He missed lots and was then hit by its breath weapon. Basic D&D has an evasion roll for wilderness encounters. I rolled that Broneslav was able to evade this encounter and wrote that into the story afterwards. At least he will have something to tell people. He probably needs a new cloak now too.

On the sixth day out from Duke's Road Keep, Broneslav saw two stone giants fighting near the road. He sneaked around them. He was still hurting from the encounter with the dragon and did not want to draw attention to himself once more. "One day, though," he thought, "One day I shall wear that dragon's hide."

On the eighth day he made it out of the mountains and onto the plains. He was in Darokin now. Late in the evening he strode into the village of Reedle. This was the first proper settlement in Darokin on this road. Gratefully he slumped onto a bench in the local inn and ordered a meal and a bath. He decided to rest up for a day and continue on the following day. There would be time enough to complete his mission after he had recovered from his journey through the mountains.

Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, HP 9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)
XPs: 60
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
Goal: Slay a red dragon
Quest: Deliver a parcel to Merisa in Gray Mountain Village

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Prelude to a Meeting at Longlier, 22 August 1914 [CDTOB]

It has been a long time coming but I think we are finally going to play a WW1 game tonight. I have spent ages fettling my GHQ Terrain Maker hexes, cutting them true so that there are not too many gaps between them, and reflocking many of them. I have reworked the stream/river hexes with new paint and a spot of Woodland Scenics Realistic Water. I have painted a bunch more buildings so that we have enough built-up areas. N.B. I am not a fan of painting buildings. I never seem to get them quite right, so I tend not to have enough. Not being able to afford to buy more at the moment, some of the buildings for tonight's game are really medieval cottages. It bothers me a bit, but not enough to do anything about it! Fields were constructed to provide additional cover and the roads were fettled to my satisfaction. It's not perfect but I am much happier with the hexes than I was in my previous post about them. The answer is to trim the bought hexes and supplement them with some hand-cut ones that I made myself. The 1/4" hexes that I used for my old rivers are still not right, but I can replace them later as I build terrain for more new scenarios. I have also had to make compromises with some hastily constructed templates, because some of the wooded areas are sized to be only really useful for this scenario. I'm not going to make specialist hexes with limited usefulness until I have a much fuller set of more useful terrain.

My French army for this battle is fully painted and all units now carry objective/control markers to demoralise Steve by clearly showing how much of the table my troops control. Expect to see the Tricolore being raised above each town and village as I capture it. This is sure to be a morale victory for me that will lead Steve to surrender in record time!

So, the terrain is set up, and I now eagerly anticipate some family emergency occurring and forcing us to cancel. If it does not, then tonight we shall refight an action at Longlier that took place on August 22nd 1914. The scenario is number 2 in the Death of Glory supplement for Command Decision: Test of Battle. The scenario begins with cavalry recon elements encountering each other at Longlier. They are reinforced as the game goes on by a regiment of infantry each, supported by a battalion of artillery. The goal is to capture the built-up areas and destroy the enemy.

The game will be fought using Irregular 6mm miniatures.
The view from the west. A French cuirassier squadron (centre) rides towards Longlier
A passing aeroplane snapped this aerial shot from the west
The view from the south. French reinforcements enter from the south. German reinforcements enter from the east.

Saturday 16 August 2014

8-15 Thaumont 1000AC - A man with a mission

1 hex = 8 miles
Broneslav set out early on the 8th. His first goal was to head east to Penhaligon around the southern side of the Windrush Lake. The roads were poor and the forested hills made it heavy going. He had barely covered 20 miles by the time he settled down to camp for the night. He was woken in the middle of the night by a large party of men passing close to his camp. Fortunately the fire had died down ages ago and the smell of smoke dissipated. They sounded a rough lot. Broneslav was pleased that they had not noticed him. The rest of the journey to Penhaligon passed without event and he reached there late on the evening of the 9th.

From Penhaligon the roads were better, because he was following the Duke's Road but that did not make the toiling through the mountains any less arduous. Broneslav was cursing his luck on the third day out of Penhaligon when a large shadow flew overhead. He had heard of dragons before but the sheer heart-stopping terror that accompanied the beast's sudden appearance and sheer physicality was not what he had expected. Diving into the lee of a rock, Broneslav waited and hoped. Ten minutes later he emerged uneaten. The dragon had not spotted him or was not hungry. He would take either of those options happily.

Eight days after setting out, Broneslav reached the Duke's Road Keep. He was half way to his destination but the worst of the climbing was not over yet. He sighed with relief as he relaxed in the common room and wondered why he was bothering with all this. His feet hurt and he had spent rather too much time being cold and miserable and wet already. He supposed that this would be the way of things if he did not prove himself, because the family would disown him. Ah well. Half way there and he could look forward to relaxing in Selenica in week's time with enough money to have a properly good time.

I ran out of time to fit in much on Broneslav's journey this past week and a bit. I had hoped to take Broneslav to the start of B7 Rahasia in this post. Writing up this bit happened quickly enough but I have had no time for mapping or working on the next part of the journey, so I decided to post now with the 8 mile/hex map instead of producing the 1 mile/hex map for the whole of Karameikos. If I have time I shall return to the stupidly large map. Alternatively, as I outlined in this post, I shall produce maps of individual 8 mile hexes at 1 mile per hex and try linking them all together into a bit interactive map. The lack of time is disappointing and I hope to get more done later.

This time around Broneslav had two wilderness encounters that could easily have slaughtered him. He wisely chose to hide and got lucky enough that the bad guys did not spot him, although I made the test fairly easy because they were not looking for him.

Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, hp9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)
XPs: 60
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 parcel to Merisa in Gray Mountain Village

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Broneslav's Progress: CC3 and Mapping Karameikos

I was fiddling with Campaign Cartographer 3 and decided to do a standard 8 mile per hex map of Karameikos. Looking at my 1 mile per hex map, I had started to wonder if it would become too large, so I thought I might amend it. CC3 will let you produce maps with hyperlinks that allow you to click on an area and the next map in the series will come up. One example of this might be clicking on a town icon on a larger scale map to see the town map. The town map might have important buildings linked to floorplans of those buildings.

I would love to do that for all of Mystara but need to work through the tutorials to learn how it works and how to structure it so that I can have a fully clickable map. The idea would be to work from the 8 mile per hex map so that each hex is clickable and brings up a 1 mile per hex map of the hex itself. Then, any settlements, dungeons or places of interest could be linked from the 1 mile map. In this way I could build a fully interactive map of Karameikos and surrounding areas as Broneslav explores the place. By building the map slowly I can avoid burnout, I hope.

In the meantime, here is the 8 mile per hex map showing Broneslav's initial travels. I think some of the settings still need tweaking, but it's ok. The red arrow shows his journey in the campaign so far (of course). The areas north of the Karameikan border have only been filled in along the route that Broneslav should take to reach Gray Mountain Village and then Selenica.

Monday 4 August 2014

7 Thaumont 1000AC - An Important Meeting

Broneslav Torenescu
When Broneslav awoke, he knew immediately that the Ale Troll had been. He could feel the lightness of his purse where it had taken all his money, and his guts churned where it had punched him in the belly. His head ached where it had repeatedly shaken his brains too. He groaned. He had no money for breakfast, but that did not matter. He doubted that briefly renting some food would be good value for money. The previous night had been a good one with music, song and dancing. It turned out that he had many friends in this town. They shared the beer he bought and danced with him through the night. Good times.

He splashed cold water over his face and spruced himself up as much as he could. He needed to find the factor, deliver the message and then find some money. Then he needed to make a start on succeeding in life so that the Old Man would accept him back into the clan. It took him most of the morning to finally get control over his body. Then he stepped out of his room and headed downstairs. He asked the bartender for directions to the factor's office. The bartender did not know, but did direct him to the right quarter, where Broneslav was able to get further directions.

The offices of Sindar a'Chossum were typical of the area. They occupied the front of a warehouse and comprised painted wood. Sindar probably had a bedroom in the back, like most factors for merchant houses. When Broneslav stated his errand, he was quickly ushered into the office itself and faced a plain desk covered in paperwork, behind which sat a silver-haired elf. Sindar was old even by Elven standards and his clothes were of a fashion that was out of date even before Broneslav's great-grandfather had been born. Still, Sindar was comfortable in them and clearly did not care so much about the latest fashions.

Sindar read the letter and tucked it away in the drawer in his desk. Broneslav waited patiently, his head still buzzing. Sindar looked up.
"All seems in order. You have done well to bring this letter to me. It will benefit Clan Torenescu in the long run, I think. Now, what are your plans? I see that you have been sheared and must make your own way. How do you propose to do this?"

Broneslav replied croakily through his dry throat, "I'm not sure, sir. I had thought I might join an adventuring company from the Guild of White Shields and see where that lead."

"Tsk, that sounds a little dangerous. Perhaps I can help you get started. I have a package that I need delivering to my cousin Merisa in Gray Mountain Village to the south of Selenica. If you do this for me, I shall pay you 10 Royals now and give you a letter of introduction to my trading partner Arnulf in Selenica. He will be instructed to pay you a further 10 Royals upon proof of delivery of the package. Arnulf may be able to point you in the direction of further work, or you may be able to buy a share in a caravan from there. Arnulf can help you with that too. How does that sound?"

Broneslav winced at the thought of more travel, but he had drunk almost his entire purse last night. He had little reason to look this gift horse in the mouth, so he accepted and listened carefully to the directions that Sindar gave him. It would take nearly three weeks to reach Selenica and the roads between Threshold and the Duke's Road to the east were not good. Things would get better once he was on the Duke's Road, so that was a small mercy.

Broneslav left Sindar's office and headed for the market. He needed food for the journey. That ate up half of the advance. He decided to husband the rest and headed to bed early that night, despite the obvious desire of many of the inn's denizens to party with him once more. In the morning he would be on the road again.

Notes: There were no random encounters this time around and I wanted Broneslav to follow a particular adventure path, so there was nothing to roll here. He gained 10XPs for delivering the letter.

Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, hp9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)XPs: 60Traits: Torenescu Family Member 1, Hunter 1, Keen Vision 1, Good Education 1, Empathy with Animals 1Goal: Prove that he is an adult following the Shearing CeremonyQuest: Deliver a parcel to Merisa in Gray Mountain Village

Saturday 2 August 2014

Some thoughts on playing an RPG solo

My recent foray into solitaire RPGing has highlighted for me a couple of issues that I have had with it in the past. Previously I have sought to play the character in a range of situations. I have identified with the character and then got frustrated because it is not a simple matter to role-play, when you are also determining the situations they find themselves in. This has inevitably led to the death of each campaign. The only ones that have had some success were those that were task-oriented.

I followed a character through a variety of exploration missions in a diary-based Traveller campaign back in the eighties or early nineties. The game was based on an article on real-time Traveller in Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society 13. It was an interesting experience with the character's timeline following my own exactly. I kept a (long-since lost) diary that varied between minimal entries and quite expanded entries, and my character explored uncharted areas of the galaxy for a while before I got bored and wandered away from the campaign.

The other successful solo campaign was a GURPS one. I had a fire wizard who was based in my core fantasy world of the time. I still have the massively extensive notes from that game world. I guess I really did not have much else to do back then! Anyway, this one used the GURPS job system to determine what was happening. The character did not go on adventures as such but rolled for the jobs he was doing and I adjudicated things based on that. It was ok, but lacked something.

In both cases I was interested in being the player character, because I was the GM in almost every game I played. Both games were moderately successful in their own way but they still lacked something and it is only really now that I have worked out what. They lacked a GM. I know. It sounds odd that a solo game should lack a GM but it is true.

This is where the Scarlet Heroes game comes in. I have chosen to take the role of mostly GM in this campaign. I say mostly GM because my character has been created to suit me, and is one I would be happy to play, but I have written him up with character traits which I can measure his actions against. Instead of deciding what he will do in every situation, I can test against his character traits to see if he does the expected or does something wildly out of character. If he does something out of character, I can develop his character some more by working out why this action does not fit his normal pattern of behaviour. In this way, the character is a lab rat in my GM's maze. I am also mostly GM because I let the solo system in the rules guide the narrative, but I still draw the strings together and make decisions about what directions it should take in areas of doubt, or where I think the narrative will be more interesting by ignoring the dice rolls.

It's an interesting position to be in, and I am finding it very satisfying at the moment. This mix of investing myself mainly in the role of GM and partially in the role of character feels right, where my role as mainly character in the other solo games felt out of kilter. With any luck I can maintain my impetus and keep posting adventures once or twice a week alongside my regular miniatures and board gaming, because the solo game does not take long to run through and write up. I look forward to seeing where it all leads.