Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lord Hastinge recruits - Bidowers

Returned to my Lion Rampant Feudal English for the first time in a while, I have some space in their storage I can fill, and experience tells me I need some greater flexibility.  Consequently I dug out some models that would be simple to work on and add some firepower.  Hence, here we have a unit of Marches Bidowers, armed with slings.

No doubt you can see these as the Gripping Beast dark age infantry they are, but there would be little to differentiate the Welsh borders population of 500ad from those of 1200ad, so this is no issue for me.  Plus their lord has benevolently issued them with buckler shields, sourced from one of the Perry sets, giving him somewhere to ensure they show his heraldic colours.

Obviously these were a pretty quick job.  But I've kept my standards up for the painting and basing.  Generally they look acceptable.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Kierion - 48bc

Ah, an excuse to push around a whole bunch of soldiers at last.  Myself and Paul arranged a game to introduce him to Kings of War: Historical a couple of weeks ago.  Looking at what we had handy it was agreed to play my Peloponnesian League (aka: Sparta) against his Caesarian Romans.  A slight mismatch chronologically, but less extreme than many and one which I at least was happy with, after all it was still two ancient armies, and neighbours to boot facing one another.  In a club where DBMM still sees plenty of action with Han Chinese facing Egyptians, late Imperial Romans or Caroligians on a regular basis, it sat far more comfortably with me.

So one could suppose a timely rebellion of the Greek states, taking the opportunity of Civil war amongst the Romans to reassert their independence, this would be one more problem for Caesar to deal with if he was to become triumphant.  Thus my Greeks could take the field against Paul's as yet untried Roman army...

Opening Dispositions
Having laid out some classically barren terrain Paul opened the deployments, my Greeks having out scouted him, forcing more of his units to deploy.  Not that this made a huge difference, as he outnumbered me anyway so we finished deployment about the same time.  Both armies formed a central line, with Paul able to deploy more cavalry to his flanks, but I being able to lock the flanks with units of spearmen.
The Roman centre

Greek Phalanxes

Early movements
I took first turn initiative, which was probably of benefit to my opponent, who was new to the rules.  I began a steady advance and threw out a little missile fire; my cavalry decided on a re-positioning to the centre of the line hoping to charge down his artillery park.  For his part Paul largely held back except on his flanks, anticipating and eliminating my cavalry thrust but little else.  So on my second turn where the cavalry failed I was able to throw forth peltasts to undertake the same task.

Skirmishers vs. Artillery
In reply Paul charged down the peltasts on my left, but the success left his horse dangerously exposed.

Chaldicians lure out the cavalry
The Chaldician phalanx hit them in their flank.  Far away on my right a Spartan Phalanx had skirted around the farm and driven Paul's' other cavalry unit back onto the flank of his infantry.  His centre line still stood firm, but the Greeks steadily advanced.

Roman flanks under pressure
Finally in turn 4 Paul let the men off the leash, and accepted that if he did not advance I would dictate all the terms of the fight, already I was manoeuvring to threaten the flanks of his line and advancing was the best way for him to clear the danger.

The lines close
Battle was joined at my lead.  The Roman auxiliaries were thrown in disarray when they found the two strongest units of the Greeks (the royal guard and a toughened unit of Spartan heavy infantry) to be their foes.  This allowed me to threaten the flank of the Roman legionary line, which otherwise largely stood firm.  One unit its' centre wavered, and would not charge, but none broke.

Roman auxiliaries break

Then the weak city Hoplites break
The Romans made redress and countered.  The city Hoplites on my left, already badly mauled by missilery on the way to contact soon broke, so I would have to push forward my limited reserves, but elsewhere the Greeks held firm.  The artillery finally drove off the peltasts (on reflection I think we played a rule wrong here and the artillery may have been a tougher nut to crack than it should've), but their chance to contribute to the main battle was now passed.  They had been neutralised for the most part.

End game...
On the final turn the Greeks broke the centre of the Roman line, and Paul was forced to use commanders to hold the crumbling right flank.  His final reply failed to break any crucial units, but time and the turn count drew the battle to a close.

A quick calculation of victory points showed it was essentially a tie at this stage, I had had scored 15 more points against him, barely enough for bragging rights, but had we played a 7th turn, with my chance to reply coming first, the situation on the field would've been dire for Rome.  Both his flanks were depleted and turned, and his Legion was reaching a crisis point with more threats than it could respond to, where he had extra utility it still had to wait for the Greek wave to crash against it first before its' chance to reply.

I think nightfall saved Caesar this day.

This was a 2,000 point game of KoW: Historical, and as a club casual game it worked very well.  Given the rules were new to Paul he picked it up easily, how sold initially on the relative passivity you experience on the opponents turn he was is something we debated; unlike virtually all other wargaming rules you cannot influence the actions of your opponent at all on their turn, but of course this cuts both ways, and has the advantage of speeding up play.  It is something you get used to very quickly I feel, but it is the biggest difference in the rules from their peers.

Overall, KoW in general is a system I will keep coming back to, for its' simplicity and scalability.  And anything that lets me get a full sized army into play in a short week-night timeframe is fine by me.


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Boardgame round up - Imperial Assault, Conan and more...

Despite being very busy, I am getting a fair number of miniatures games in this year, but at the same time I'm doing so alongside a number of board games, something I like to talk about from time to time.  Not too often, y'know, this is a wargaming blog really.  But then three of the following games at least bear some links to that subject at least, so let's carry on.

Imperial Assault of course is just some 3D terrain away from being a full fledged wargame, after all it does contain a head-to-head skirmish mode.  However, here it is another episode of our ongoing campaign, with the players trying to break an imperial agent out of a cell before the Empire can pump him for the information needed.

The players found they were up against considerably tougher people than in some of their previous encounter, not least I seemed to have drawn on the Stormtrooper regiment who could shoot.  I don't think they missed many shots all game.

Additionally, in an effort to avoid the transmission of crucial data, the heroes moved around the longest possible way to the target, ultimately finding themselves surrounded.

The players released the prisoner, but found more royal guard and mercenaries blocking their way home.  In fact it looked like they would fail at the last moment, when he was raked with fire making a break for the exit.

Fortunately for them, he staggered to freedom, and it was another victory for the Rebellion.  In fairness, despite several of the games to date being closely balanced, so far the players have managed to win all of them.  The strength of the Imperial Assault campaign system is that it balances very well to the gradual improvement of the characters, indeed a large portion of the cards and upgrades in the game appear specifically there to allow this.  The way elements are drip-fed to both player and games master alike are its greatest strengths.

AS a palette cleanser afterwards we had a quick game of Kharnage:

This is a relatively simple multiplayer card game, where each player forms armies to battle their opponents in a King-of-the-Hill battle for glory.  Players choose a strategy card to play and then deploy units based on it before unleashing a range of attacks.

This is not a complex game, it does not take much to explain or understand, but there is just enough subtlety and tactical nuance to be hold an interest for its short duration.  The artwork is pretty good to and there are a few nice surprises amongst the card.  Overall not a bad little game.

By comparison, Letters from Whitechapel features no combat, and is a far more intellectual exercise.

'Whitechapel' is a one against many game in which a team of detectives attempts to stop Jack The Ripper in his London rampage before his historically recorded 5 victims are taken, and 'he' goes to ground, anonymity and ill-deserved freedom.  To this end it operates with the Ripper player using hidden movement to track his route between his victims and his hideout, whilst the detectives control 5 officer pawns attempting to triangulate to his position.  

I our game we managed to close in on the Ripper on his fourth kill, and make the arrest, despite him having managed to throw us off the scent of his hideout.  We were close enough it turned out, and so in the end his own attempts at cunning placed him where we could not fail to catch him.  Whitechapel is a game with a simple premise and straightforward rules, but within that it provides a challenging game.

Finally, and well it was definitely going to happen, and after the investment I can't say I wasn't nervous, I got to test Conan.

Conan is an adventure game, again using a one-against-many mechanic, with most of the players controlling a single hero against the overlords' hordes.  However Conan does things a little differently to some games, and in certain ways is quite innovative.

For one thing the Overlord controls his minions via the dandy little dashboard you can see there, paying an energy cost associated to the position of a unit on the track to activate it.  Any activated unit then moves to the end of the track, making activating it again expensive, but all the other units now slightly cheaper.

And that of course mentions the energy mechanic.  On the heroes turn - and they all activate as much or as little as they want at the same time - they spend energy to carry out a variety of actions in any order, even teaming their actions to set up attacks.  However energy spent is recouped very slowly, so there is a gradual exhaustion unless a hero rests, doing virtually nothing for the round.  But if needed a player can throw it all into one glorious attack, and - for example - kill a mighty serpent with a single mighty blow.

Additionally wounds permanently reduce your energy supply, and in our initial game at least, there was little in the way of immediate healing to save the players.  At first Conan was able to hack through swathes of Picts in a single round; but by the end of the game he was scarcely able to limp out the village.

And pleasingly, this all worked really well.  Thankfully Conan operates effectively as a game, it is not too hard to learn, despite the initial rulebooks being a little confused in English translation (revised editions are free online), but it offers an engaging and suitably heroic style of play, one that leads naturally to the players generating narrative battles with evil.  Within our game alone, Conan operated as a one-man battering ram, whilst his thief ally did much of the searching and his wizard ally supplied the firepower.  As the overlord I was able to relish unleashing wave upon wave of troglodyte warriors against them, in a game that takes considerably less time to set up and play than Imperial Assault.

What it however lacks, is any way to string those games together as a campaign, rather each scenario stands alone.  This may well suit casual play, and it is understood solutions will follow, but for fans of games like Descent and Heroquest, this may be seen as an omission.

But I for one can't wait to get it to the table again.

Which is a huge relief!