Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Boardgame Roundup

A few words on recent board gaming activity are in order today folks, I obviously do a lot of board gaming but tend to keep the blogs focus more on miniatures, still, I hope you won't mind the diversion.

Firstly I was pleased to receive the last of my Conan Strategy Game pledge this week, when the freshly minted Adventures in Hyboria expansion arrived.

Conan with Lightsaber, it appears...
 The expansion greatly increases the involvement and Influence of Conan in the game, as well as adding a new type of unit for the players - Spys.  I've yet to do more than scan the components, but they look to be of the promised high standard and will no doubt provide some interesting wrinkles to the base game.

I'm happy to report that I managed to get a game of 1812: The Invasion of Canada going in the last week.  Given the original cost of this game, I'd really like to get my money's-worth from it, but more than that, it's one of the best board wargames I've ever played.

The field at the end of play
It was only as a two player game on this occasion, but the game can accommodate up to five players; recommendations are that it works best with two or five players.  Head to head, I duelled with Ross' command of the British for five rounds; the Native Americans seized Detroit and the west whilst the British marched south from Montreal; things looked bleak for the Americans.  

Little did the British know that I had a forced march and a naval manoeuvre in hand and was able to sweep troops across Lake Erie and the Niagara.  Although the British had signed the Treaty of Ghent to end the game when they thought they were ahead, they suddenly found themselves on the back foot.  It was only by a paramount effort that they were able to pull the game back to a draw. 

As a light wargame, 1812 provides everything I could want from it; easy to learn and simple mechanics, but one's that provide for an enormous range of possibilities.  A game that is hard to master, and should vary every time.  Highly recommended.

Much of which can be said of Concordia too, except the wargame part.

What have the Romans Ever Done for Us?
Concordia is an archetypal 'Trading in the Mediterranean' Eurogame, a sneering cliché critics of European board games like to throw around; and sure, there is no fighting in the game, no dice rolling, no randomising element during game play to speak of.  But the game manages to address this with a semi random board set up and a card driven play mechanic that allows players to forge differing strategies for success.  

The game is only partly about the action on the board too, for all your efforts to establish trading outposts across the known world can be for naught if you don't acquire enough favours of the gods (cards) to maximise your efforts.

This would be a good Monopoly replacement for the more able family group, or for gamers looking for a mid weight game with plenty of re-playability.  Just ignore the dull as dishwater box cover, which really doesn't sell the game.

And on a final note for my British chums, if you've not already noticed, get yourself down to your local branch of The Works (or online) for they again have a batch of modern board games in stock, including for the military minded amongst you 'Sun Tzu', 'Chosun' and 'World of Tanks - Rush', as well as various others of a more varied nature; all seem well regarded by those I know who've picked them up, with perhaps 'Origin' 'Artificium' and 'Madame Ching' being the best reviewed:

For £10-12 each you really can't go wrong though, most of these games would've been £30-40 each.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Clash of Warlords

Today is International Tabletop Day, did you know that?  Well, it is more of a board game inspired event, so maybe not; but the closest to gaming I'll be doing today is upkeep on the blog.  At least today I have a game to recount for you!

Myself and regular opponent Gav arranged a game at short notice, and by dint of organisational simplicity I suggested Saga as the best option.  We selected six point forces from my collection, and Gav opted for the feisty Vikings, a first outing for their sparkly new troops to gather for battle.  I as usual was left by default with the Frankish options; I opted for Carpetians, to give me access to Crossbows for my troops.  The Viking Battle Board is simplicity to use well and ideal for a beginner or occasional player, whilst the Frankish board is a finickity one that requires careful handling to deliver on it's promise.

We rolled for the battle and got the Warlords scenario.  Scenery was set up per the rules and deployment was simply done.  The ruins represented the remains of a Frankish farm the Vikings had attacked during their campaign, so it made sense that my Force included a priest and his attendant, bent on enforcing the wrath of God upon the heathens.

The forces array behind their respective commanders
 In Warlords, the leaders of the units start in advance of their troops, as if in a hopeless parley, or intending to duel.  Both of us were backed up by loyal brethren, though in the case of the Franks rather more of these were horseflesh and man...

Fresh looking Vikings!
Tired looking Franks!
 Gaining the first turn, my Lord bravely high tailed it back to his own lines!  But this was at least lateral movement as his troops dashed forward to support him.

The Franks Advance
 On the left flank I saw an opportunity for easy meat, and stampeded six of my mounted nobles into Gavs Hirdmen, but I hadn't seen he had thoughts of Valhalla prepared on his battle board, and knowing his time was likely come he sacrificed three men to the gods and used some other dice to ultimately nearly triple his combat pool.

A bold Charge...
 The result was murderous: Repelled
 I decided I needed to be more careful with my remaining Milites, and so threw them wide to the right in the hope of drawing the enemy away from their lord, then I could us my manoeuvrability to outpace them and strike at a hopefully isolated leader.

The Warlord leads a Flanking Manoeuvre
 In the centre it was down to my infantry  to thin out his, mostly with their bows.

Hirdmen Suffer Withering Fire
 The Vikings again played their tricks - the power of Loki no doubt - forcing the crossbowmen to move instead.  Not a problem, the Vikings were so close, the Franks could simply charge them and make as it turned out a quicker conclusion to proceedings.
A Pincer move Develops
 The Vikings were by now running out of men, but the various action had cost my warlord a few cuts and bruises, and by the terms of the scenario my foe was ahead.  I needed to pull out all the stops in the final turn to outrun his withdrawing lord and deal him maximum harm.  I used the Frankish abilities to move my spearmen at the double and allied to an attack by my lord, I gave the Viking a brutal sustained attack.

The Frankish Lord and his priest goad a Final Assault
 But it didn't do quite enough.  My lord had 9 wounds to Gav's seven.  He won the game therefore by a narrow margin.  Never mind the loss of virtually all his men!

Few survive, but the Viking Lord Prevails
A typically bloody game of Saga!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Agincourt Diorama at Leeds Armouries

So obviously, whilst at the Royal Armouries on Sunday I took the opportunity to view the new installation of the Agincourt diorama; produced by model maker David Marshall and the Perry twins.  The presentation is very nicely done with the model itself being about the size of a Snooker Table

Nice environs too 
The fringe of the table is covered with a narrative of the battle, and details of the nobility involved.  A great feature here being that the images of the characters are pictures of the painted models themselves; given they are shown some 8-10 times original size, they display amazing detail.

A 28mm model blown up 800%
 The model features many thousands of painted miniatures, well lit under three large panes of glass:

Whilst the massed impression is fantastic, it is worth looking for the periscopes placed around the model - both on top and along the sides - which allow you to get a soldiers-eye view of the field.

Here from the English right 
However, these were a challenge for my camera to get a decent photograph from.  Much easier to get shots from above.

French Knights approach the English centre
The quality of painting is certainly good enough for wargame standard, and the en-masse effect is ultimately impressive.  The terrain is also very good, though with a little of the model railway about some of it.  I liked the simple touches for authenticity, such as the coppiced woodland, the ploughed field, and the thousands of footprints obliterating it behind the initial French advance.

French infantry await their moment
Some of the models are apparently mass castings in resin, but they are not that obvious, fringed by individual miniatures, and all painted to the same standards.

You get a real sense of the press 
Having read many accounts of the battle, I personally feel it is a good representation of the field, naturally it is somewhat scaled down, but you can't be so surprised by that.  In essence the effect is what you'd want it to be and the little details are enough to keep you exploring for some time.

Contrastingly, a little further around the display you'll find the Siborne model of Waterloo, part of Waterloo anyway.  Some 170 years separate the two dioramas, but their aims are the same, with each trying to represent the field of battle as accurately as it can.  Siborne's model is far larger, covering at least twice the space at a smaller 18-20mm figure scale.  Again it manages the sense of scale well, even if the individual models are not as attractive:

British Cavalry clash with French foot
 The details of the terrain are perhaps most interesting here, I noted the depth of the sunken road and sand pit at the La Haye Sainte, far more pronounced than most wargames tables could reflect - how often is their physical impact on the battle forgotten as a result I wonder?

The same too can be said of the rolling hills the British used for cover; Siborne's model really gives a sense of the value of the English defensive line.  Alas the main detraction from the Siborne display is the lighting, which makes viewing the model frustrating, and photography of anything other than small details nigh on impossible.

Still, two displays well worth a trip for any gamer or military history buff.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A visit to the Royal Armouries

If it's been quiet on the blog, well that's understandable, I've been neck deep in Masters Degree study for a very long time; a very-very long time.  But having completed a fiendish programming assignment yesterday, I was able to justify a day off today, and this timed nicely with the Royal Armouries in Leeds' 'RAGE' Gaming event; an event timed to coincide with the unveiling of the Agincourt diorama (more on that later in the week folks).

Obligatory up-shot...
The Royal Armouries Gaming Event, so far as I know is in its' second year; last years' event as Napoleonic themed, and this year was also themed, not unsurprisingly to the Hundred Years War theme reflecting the Agincourt subject of the weekend.

This year the event was in the smaller Newsroom on the 4th floor of the Armouries, but in terms of games it probably had only one or two fewer than the previous year.  Not being a traditional convention, there were no traders and on this day no Display games; just a dozen or so participation games.  The Royal Armouries had generously provided each group with attractive little display stands, which made the whole even look a little more professional, and made you humble author's task of recall far easier.

That said, we kick off with  a Game whose presenters eluded my camera.  The game appeared to be called 'St. Crispin's Day' and the rules looked homebrew.  Nice scenery and what looked to be mainly Perry Miniatures.
Free figures for participants to take away too
 Derby Wargames Associates had a couple of games, using some very familiar terrain mats.  This one was another skirmish based game featuring only a handful of models.

 My very own Headingley Games Club represented with the DBMM players putting on a 15mm version of Agincourt, featuring plenty of beautifully painted miniatures.

 It's just a shame that DBMM is a system apparently prejudiced against the use of decent scenery.  I've kept the photographs tight here to hide the horrible spray-painted pieces of cardboard masquerading as woods and hills.

Damn fine 15mm painting tho'
 Doncaster Wargames Society, went with a slightly different feel, and presented Sluys; with papercraft ships.  The models were oddly effective, in a retro way.  Unlike the sea...

It's material; somewhere someone is wearing that!
At the time I missed the club presenting the best game visually at the show; I'm since informed it was Harrogate Wargames Club.  One of several 'thematic' interpretations of Harfleur, this one used Lion Rampant in a scenario based on sallying forth against the siegeworks.

Good numbers of  28mm minitures
And well painted to boot
With decent scenery
 If I'd had the time to play one game this would possibly have been it.  Though I also could see the appeal of the absolute retro presentation by the Peterborough Wargames crew:

D Featherstone would be proud
This was part produced by one of the bloggers I follow Mike W over at Trouble At T'Mill.  I should have said hi, but I'm a stalker when it comes to my blogging!

 Lastly the Leeds Wargames Club decided ugly was this years' new look, and made spray painted scenery and seventies fashion waves look like maximum effort.  Sure you can make a wargame out of stuff in the cupboard, as their version of Agincourt propounds; or you could play a decent boardgame version of the same.  Or at least bring some models!

There were a couple of other games on ,but I didn't get decent enough pictures of any of them.  Overall it was  nice enough way to spend the hour or so I had to spare, and good to see some regular everyday museum visitors enjoying a bit of gaming.

Monday, April 18, 2016

'Orruks. Well, that's my opinion...

Photo's of the new Age of Sigmar 'not Orcs' have hit the interspazz and frankly I'd have been surprised if they didn't make huge nods to 40k and models you can charge an arm and a leg for:

I mean, really, why not just give them bolt pistols now, you've already put them in Terminator armour.

In absolute fairness one or two of the models look ok, but I know they'll be way beyond my reconcilable budget:
A great Shaman model (edit: £20)
Brutish (edit: £65)
I guess that's me sticking to eBay to fill the gaps in my Orc force hereafter.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Plastic Late Romans for Salute

Thanks to Von Peter Himself for spotting these before me:

GBP09 Late Roman Infantry (plastic) (44)
Ooooh.... [linky]
These are due out before the end of the month, well at least if you are able to make it to Salute, for the rest of us mere mortals it may take a little longer.  To the best of my knowledge this is the first time this period has been touched in 28mm plastic, but there is plenty of potential to a set like this so it's a good choice.

GBP09 Late Roman Infantry (plastic) (44)
Only 5 torsos?

Pack makes 16 bowmen, 16 unarmoured and 8 armoured infantry, along with 4 command figures; a criticism would have to be that it looks to be spreading the basic poses a bit thinly, but the specific subject matter may mean this isn't too bad a problem - drilled troops and all that.

Salute is traditionally the time of year Gripping Beast releases a plastic set, and often it is when the Perries, Warlord and others make big announcements; we'll have to see what comes to pass....

Sunday, April 03, 2016

10 Years is a long time on the Internet

Yep.  It turns out today is the tenth anniversary for my little blog.

When I started writing this blog a decade ago, it was with the intention of recording my wargames - at a time when I was just managing to get regular gaming in again - and to do more writing, to stir some creative juices.

It has worked to a point, though gaming levels have fluctuated wildly over time, presently being on something of an enforced low; whilst my creative juices are tending to flow into other projects at the moment.  Nonetheless I'm pleased I've managed to keep it going this far, and I do hope to continue when time permits.

So far as wargames, my last one was a month ago, but if I could rely on one a month I would feel I was doing well, half that rate seems more plausible,  Painting continues, with a regiment of French Napoleonics on the table at the minute, but the Masters study rather intrudes upon the time for such trivialities.  Add to that a return to the mountains for a couple of snowboarding trips this winter and you have many reasons why the blog output has been low.

Time, opportunities and motivation.  But everything is cyclical.  There are some topics I want to address in the future at some point, as well as the completion or continuation of some projects.  I won't expect a 20 year anniversary, any more than I did the 10th; but you never know....

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game

I may have mentioned many moons ago, backing not one but two Conan the Barbarian based games on Kickstarter.  Last year proved to be Conan's year on the Crowdfunding sites, with at leas four different games appearing over the year.  Xmas Eve saw my copy of the first of the games I funded arrive and finally after a bit of a break due to study I was able to get the game to the table a couple of times last week.

Age Of Conan: the Strategy Board game, is as the name implies an area control strategy game, in simplest terms it has a passing resemblance to games like risk, but it is more sophisticated, and whilst of course these additional complexities add to the learning curve, the reward is a far more interesting game.
 Early game view of the Board
Between two and four players each take control of one of the major kingdoms of Hyboria - Aquilonia, Hyperboria, Turan or Stygia, beginning the game with a small supply of gold, an army and a number of emissaries.  With these they will seek to expand their power either by politicking and trading or in conquest.  The actions a player may take on a turn are dependent on the results of a set of dice rolled once every 7 actions - only the displayed actions are available until all the dice have been used - a single die is taken by a player and then used to initiate peaceful or hostile actions, or to gather cards and possible utilise Conan.  

Combat resolution sees armies set about a campaign that may require 2 to 4 victories to be complete, an activity which may take time or can be accelerated at the cost of men.  Cards are played to confer advantages, and certain other cards may be retained for repeated use.  Diplomacy carried out by emissaries operates similarly, but relies on a network of friends to succeed and offers different - largely financial - rewards.  Players may attack one another, and this can lead to sieges and great battles.

As to our titular hero, it is fair to say he acts for no man save the man whose cause serves Conan himself best - be it acquiring the trophies of combat, of lust, or of gold.  Players bid at the start of the game and periodically throughout it to 'control' Conan, who travels the world seeking adventure and fortunes.  Some of which end up in his sponsors pockets.  Whenever a player takes a die for Conan he or she can also gather cards which may aid in their attempts to conquer the known world.

A three way contest develops
There are three ages in the game, reflecting Conan's career, at the end of every fourth adventure for Conan an age ends and certain victory conditions are checked for scoring and players may buy additional resources/troops and reset their cards in play.  Victory is based on a number of factors, but controlling land and using Conan to gather you riches are both important and it is vital to balance both.

We played it twice in fairly quick succession, and I have to say it was a great game.  There are a number of balancing factors built into the game that mean that superiority on the battlefield is not the only way you can win, and careful governance of your resources will be rewarded.  There are also degrees of luck in the order dice and rolling of other dice to resolve combat (all dice in the game are custom printed with relevant faces) which ensure no one can ever be too certain of an outcome.

Play of a full three-age game is likely to be around the three hour mark so it is probably in the range of longer boardgames by today's standards, but that investment of time is rewarded.  Similarly the investment in the game offers rich returns in the form of beautiful cards and counters, custom dice and well over 100 plastic miniatures.

This game comes highly recommended, particularly for the wargamer who likes to dip his toe into boardgames now and then.  It feels like playing a campaign sped up to an evening, and I'm sure you could very easily replace the board game combat resolution with a traditional wargame if one preferred.  It wouldn't take too much to figure out.

Monday, March 07, 2016

The last Bondi

I began this new force of Vikings back in 2012, and after three and a half years of stilted progress I can finally call them finished with the addition of a final unit of bondsmen:

Team Burgundy
Almost a shame that this last unit should be the one where I feel I got the muted colours for the rank and file right.  This gives me a compact little force of 7 different units and a Warlord, for Saga; some 37 models all told.  It would be nice to improve the Warlord's base to match the softer shape of the others, and add a unit of bowmen in due course.  But as they stand they are pretty pleasing:

In all their glory
Certainly they show huge leaps in quality over my old Vikings, even if these chaps had more variety in pose going on thanks to being metal.

One last hurrah!
Still for these gentlemen it is finally time to go to the halls of Valhalla, well, ebay anyway!  Hopefully, being in good nick and passably painted these will recoup a few bob into the paypal account.

In the meantime perhaps I need to get back in touch with my old Saga opponent, a new family got in the way of our games last year, but hopefully he can be tempted back to the battlefield soon...