Monday, 25 April 2016

Off the Painting Table (April 2016); part 2

I have had some ‘free’ time this week or so, and have pressed ahead with painting my 10mm FPW French troops. Progress has been excellent and I have completed the remaining figures: 10 bases of Line infantry, 6 bases of Chasseurs, 5 bases of cavalry, generals and 9 bases of artillery! A few photos below (the Chasseurs are out of focus, sorry). Next up are the Prussian opponents.
French Line Infantry
French Chasseurs
French Artillery
French Cuirassiers and Generals

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Off the Painting Table (Apr 2016)

It has been a while since my bushes were used due to my indecision about what project to undertake next. Inspired by the Bloody Big Battles (BBB) rules I decided to buy some Pendraken 10mm armies for the Franco-Prussian War.

The first batch painted was 10 bases of French infantry. I chose a fairly bright blue for the tunic so the French army would contrast with a more blue-black colour to be used for the Prussians. The amount of detail on the castings is excellent and I am happy with the results obtained. The French look suitably bright and should stand out on the battlefield. I have not textured the bases yet because this can wait until the army is complete. The next group to be painted will be another 10 bases of French infantry, these will be followed by French chasseurs, artillery and finally cavalry. The Prussian forces will then follow, so I should have a few months of painting ahead.

On Saturday I visited the massive Salute show at Excel, London. The theme was ‘Steam Punk’ but this was not especially evident; I was expecting plenty of re-enactors and numerous demo games. The only re-enactors were the usual Star Wars Imperial troopers, and there was no preponderance of themed games, just the usual number of small scale games of Malifaux etc. There were a few zombie games but these hold little interest for me. I took no photos and others write better show reviews on various blogs, so the games that stood out for me included:

Vietnam game (25mm) by Essex Gamesters - beautiful battlefield and civilians.

ECW Siege of Bristol (28mm) by Crewe & Nantwich Club – great set up, not sure how works as a playable wargame.

Napoleonic Peninsular (28mm) by Victrix – beautiful but again not sure if playable.

SYW game (28mm) by Bill Gaskin – the most stunning game in the show in my opinion.

My Salute purchases included some trees from Last Valley, more 10mm Pendraken figures (1860’s Austrians), a copy of Bloody Big European Battles, a copy of Dropzone Commander (not sure why I bought this!). I resisted buying the new Baroque rules or the new ECW ‘The Kingdom is Ours’ rules from James Daniels. I was tempted by Horizon Wars by Osprey but these will wait until I have read a few reviews. The Chicago Way gangster rules by Great Escape Games almost got bought but I manfully resisted! I was interested to see Tomahawk Studios will be releasing a colonial set of rules, Congo, later in the year.
Whilst at Salute I bumped into my wargaming friend, Ian. We sat down to play a demo game of Peter Pig ACW riverine rules, ‘Hammering Iron’. I took the Union monitor force versus Ian with the Rebel force of Ironclads and steamers. Other players joined us, and a boy (13-14 years old) joined me and took control of the USS Monitor. What followed was an amazing game. My companion successively fired on 3 different Rebel vessels, each time doing enough damage to produce a critical hit dice roll: he rolled double 6 three times in a row, blowing up the enemy ships! The look on Ian’s face, his fellow Rebel players, and the game Umpires was a sight to remember. Ian and I later calculated the probability of 3 successive double 6’s to be 46,650:1 !!! I hope the luck has rubbed off on me!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Boardgame session: 10Apr2016

Our regular gaming friends, Val and Chris, visited and I decided to try Merchants and Marauders and a 4-player game. This is a game I have only previously played as a 2-player game with my wife, and we both enjoyed the game play,  although Elaine always goes for the Merchant side of things. The game can be long and difficult to explain, with many variables and rules involved. I think the pre-game explanation went well, and both Elaine and Chris clearly went for the Merchant role whilst Val and I opted for a more aggressive, Marauder approach.
On my first turn (as the English character Francis Wright) I tried to demonstrate how Merchant Raids work; I was too aggressive by pushing for immediate Glory, and promptly died! I think this showed the others the wrong side of pirating and maybe put off them taking a similar approach. Meanwhile Val threw rubbish Spotting dice throughout the entire game and spent much time failing to seek out victims! Elaine and Chris were both located in the Eastern Caribbean and were accumulating wealth and Glory by successfully trading goods that were in demand. A key moment was when Elaine in a Flute was caught at sea by a NPC Pirate Frigate; apparent certain death for Elaine’s character. After the opening cannon fire, Elaine successfully boarded and with a smaller crew (and good dice) managed to capture the pirate vessel! She now shot ahead in the game, getting both Glory and a larger ship. My new pirate character, the Frenchman Ch.Marquis, still struggled with failed Merchant Raids, although he did accumulate a significant Dutch bounty (level 4) on his head! Elaine was now within touching distance of victory, she just needed to return to her home port to win. She knew this (as did the rest of us) but she did not want to end the game early (!) and she had a full cargo of bananas she wanted to deliver to the port beyond her home port. This meant that she was still at sea and Chris attacked in a Galleon against her Frigate. This time Chris was the better sailor, won the gunnery duel and sunk Elaine! Chris then moved rapidly back to his home port for victory: Chris 12 Glory, Elaine 8 Glory, Val 4 Glory, myself 2 Glory.

Although Chris won, I think Elaine could claim the moral victory because she could have won 2 turns earlier but carried on for the sake of the game. I think Elaine needs to toughen up because I don’t think either of the rest of us would do the same.

Merchants and Marauders is a long game and this game took 4 hours. It is visually very attractive and thematic, but has possibly too much going on! The specific rules for each sea area frequently get overlooked, and none of the players really maximised on the advantages these rules could have delivered. Everyone agreed that sea battles take too long and break the flow of the game. The results of this game re-enforce the view that Marauding is not the best route to success, but I remain convinced that if done correctly then pirates can achieve victory. With hindsight I think a player should not start aggressively; a Marauder should acquire some wealth by trade before embarking on a lawless career. He certainly needs to purchase some special weapons, and possibly ship modifications, before starting any Merchant Raids. I am beginning to think that a Marauding life should only start once a Frigate is purchased.
To conclude, I hope all players enjoyed the game. We all got into the theme of the game and took pleasure trying to play adverse cards on opponents; for example I tried to ‘Frame’ Chris, whilst Elaine increased the bounty on my head etc. I can see us playing future games of Merchants and Marauders but not that often as it takes too long and is too involved.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

AAR; Pony Wars; solo (Din of Battle v2) 31 Mar 2016

I had a free day and decided to revisit the Piquet variant Din of Battle rules in combination with my 15mm US cavalry and Lakota native American armies. I played a simple encounter battle with 5 US cavalry units with some Crow scouts attacking 8 Lakota units, half mounted and half on foot. The battlefield was fairly open with gentle low hills and a scattering of woods. The game was played lengthwise on the 6 foot table. As there were less than 18 units in total, the initiative dicing used opposed D12 rather than D20 dice.

The US cavalry activated first and came rapidly on to the table in columns, and then they advanced a second time to almost the half-way point. Now the initiative changed and the Lakota side won a succession of opposed rolls. They very rapidly advanced, both cavalry and foot, in ‘mass’ formation. The US cavalry were now in a very precarious position, still in column, and were desperate to both win back the initiative and draw ‘deployment’ cards.

The Indians charged in to the cavalry columns, firing as they came, and now hoped to draw ‘melee’ cards from their deck. Fortunately on the Indian right flank the Lakota firing disordered the US Crow scouts allowing immediate melee combat. The scouts were routed and the supporting cavalry were engaged. In the centre the US cavalry did draw 2 ‘deployment’ cards in quick succession allowing them to get into line and then dismount. They now poured carbine fire into the Indians, routing a couple of units. Unfortunately this was not enough, the Lakota drew the required ‘melee’ cards and another couple of cavalry units were routed and the US cavalry right flank was totally destroyed. Both sides were now struggling due to a lack of morale chits, but it was clear that the Lakota had won. They had a couple of mounted units working around the open flank behind the diminished US cavalry force and the army commander would have no choice but to get the hell out of there with what was left of his forces.

The game moved at a rapid pace. The prime error by the US cavalry was to remain in column too long. They needed to deploy into line well away from the on rushing Indians, then dismount and use their firepower to win the game. The widely fluctuating initiative system employed by the rules allowed the Lakota to get the jump on the government forces and gain the win. Din of Battle (and the other Piquet variants) are excellent solo rules but the luck element, which is integral to the rules, would I feel make the game frustrating in a 2-player situation.
I have ‘found’ on my computer a variant set of Pony War rules produced by The Perfect Captain and I hope to try these out as an alternative to Din of Battle.