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...

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Braddock Down 1643 - Part 2: the refight

And so we come to the battle itself.  It was a normal club night and there was no inherent ceremony to the event, just myself and Gav getting together for one of our occasional games.

The terrain was laid out as best we could to reflect the map, and the troops likewise deployed.

Royalists closest to the camera here
 Hopton had thrown forward some of his cavalry and infantry to the area around the Middle Top house, whilst the rest of his force was disposed to the gentle ridge behind.

 Whilst the smaller Parliament force was gathered on the opposite side of the moor.

 Battle was led by the Royalists, who did not have the best of starts, kicking off their orders with a confused blunder, resulting in the entire company of foot wheeling to its' left under the impression Hopton wanted it to outflank Ruthven rather than attack him head on.

 This was a valuable delay as far as the Parliamentarians were concerned, the longer the Royalists took to advance the more chance there was of their artillery arriving.  They brought their cavalry up to secure the left flank on the boggy ground, but the right refused any orders to advance.

Hopton managed to organise his lines and make the best of the initial confusion.  he found his troops rather deeply arrayed, but clear of the fields that could've obstructed his advance.

End of turn two
 Hopton's Dragoons trotted gamely forward past the farm.

 Ruthven had brought up his reserve Scottish and  tried to present a reinforced line, but it was never going to be as stout as the Royalist line.

 However Ruthven had a greater strength, at least in numbers, of cavalry, and so tried to use them to stall or unnerve the Royalists.  Ruthvens heaviest cavalry found themselves close to Hopton's dragoons, and thus proceeded to entertain them with their swords.  Meanwhile in the rear, the Parliamentarian artillery train had arrived.

Roundhead cavalry advances
 The dragoons saw the worst of the engagement and were swiftly routed.

Curse you all!
 Ruthven's horse advanced and soon engaged Hopton's second line.  But the Royalist infantry was happy to level pike and march on the Parliament horse, given their numbers they felt assured of a victory.  Hopton's horse on his right were ordered to charge the flank of the enemy horse, but confused by such fancy words as 'attack the enemy left', turned left (blundered) and trotted off behind their own cavalry.

 Ruthven's horse were unable to hold nevertheless, 80 or so swords and pistols against some 1000 pikes was  one sided affair.

Add caption
 But the right offered more promise and Ruthven was able to commit Carew's best cavalry to a combined charge.

 Which went disastrously.

All is lost!
 The lead regiment collapsed after being fought to a standstill, and as it turned and ran it swept away its' support.  The Royalist cavalry was exhausted but held the ground.

Hopton's foot now sought to press their advantage in numbers against the Parliament foot.  Unsurprisingly at the first whiff of shot, the Cornish militia turned and fled, leaving only Ruthvens three Scottish regiments to face the five of the Royalists.

More fleeing 
 By now however the artillery train had reached the front line, and the train guards dashed ahead to enfilade the Royalist lines.  The greater fire-power of the Scots afforded them valuable time as the Cornish loyalists found themselves out-gunned and in constant disorder.

The centre becomes a grinding match
 Having failed to charge the Parliamentarian left flank earlier in the battle, a series of blunders had seen the horse from Hopton's right end up on the Liskeard road on the left.  As a unit they were ill disciplined and rash, and having achieved nothing of any use thus far in the battle, charged the first enemy they saw; who just happened to be hastily deployed artillery.

Boom boom boom boom boom, as Baldrick might wax poetically.
 Heavy cannon raked their lines and sent them into an immediate panic.  The award for most useless unit of the day was clear therefore.  At least Ruthvens Cornish foot had advanced when and where they were asked to, Hopton's cavalry couldn't manage even that.  At this stage both sides cavalry were dispersed and it was down to an infantry and artillery battle.

Crisis point
 Grenville's veterans turned the flank of the Scots, as both lines were locked, pouring a fire upon the second line whilst a fresh regiment pressed the front line to push of pike.  In hand to hand the greater numbers of pike in the Royalist units played to their favour, and overall the Scottish were severely mauled.

We're finished this day
Ruthven recognised his centre was broken and conceded the field to the Royalists.  

Gav had commanded of the Royalists, whilst I'd taken the Parliament cause, it was fair to say we had more of a scrap than occurred on the day itself, which had boiled down to the royalist cavalry chasing off the enemy horse and causing the infantry to lose heart at the first advance,  The outcome did not feel certain here, though it gradually moved to a point of inevitability.  

For a more balanced battle one could keep the same forces but allow Ruthven his artillery from the start (perhaps Hopton delays too long), or you could allow commanders to deploy troops as they see fit and see what results.  Either should produce a less certain result in my view.  

Overall this was an enjoyable little battle, and nice to get the old boys back on a table.  I realise now that I hadn't used these models in six years.  Damn!