Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Boduria in the Realm of the Forest Folk

Myself and Matt got a game of Dragon Rampant in a few weeks ago, and it was the first outing for my Bodurian Pseudo-Napoleonic force.

The Forested battlefield
Matt, for his part, used his developing forest folk army.  On this occasion incorporating 'Bellicose foot' in the form of bat-like stirges, Mushroom Men light foot, and a Greater Warbeast giant wolf.

 I fielded my available 24 points, including Heavy Riders, Elite Riders, Heavy Shooters, Skirmishers, and Elite Foot with a Wizardling.
 So battle was joined, as the Bodurians advanced into the forested glades.
Initially the engagement went well for Boduria, with the Stirges rashly approaching on their tiny wings and soon being shot away.  Our leaders showed little sign of taking too active a part in the battle at this stage however, whilst our cavalry was driven back by the advance of Matts' giant wolf.
Fortunately the 360 degree view of troops allowed my ranked up musketeers to keep the wolf at bay.  At about this stage I discovered that one of my Wizardlings' spells was actually far more use than I thought. I started using Dragons' Breath to screen enemy units, so that they couldn't target my advance.  This made the missile armed Mushroom Men largely impotent and allowed me to advance safely on the centre and left.
Smoke and mirrors 
Gradually the Forest folk were whittled down.  In combat terms luck was not going Matt's way, with several turns ending with either only one unit activating, or none at all.  Also in combat even with the odds in his favour the forest folk rarely achieved more than one wound.  And the less said of my fortunate rallying rolls the better!
Cavalry redeploy and encircle the enemy 
However, Matt had at least selected the right Boasts for his force, and was managing to ride his fortune in that area.  Nevertheless the game ended with only a couple of the forest folks' Wizardling unit left on the field.  All others having been slain or having fled.
For my part it was a thrashing on the table for my opponent, but as ever, I had failed to get anywhere with my own boasts, and in the end I technically lost the game by a couple of points.  The story of the battle would suffer terrible spin at the hands of the Elven propagandists, as my last ditch efforts to capture them came to naught.

 But for an army making its on table debut, this was still a pretty impressive result; no 'curse of the new models' here.


Monday, March 11, 2019

Race for your life - Gaslands once more

A little while back we had another game of Gaslands at the club, a chance for me to roll out my most recent gang cars:

 The problem I think we encounter with this game, perennially, is over ambition.  With five players, we had ten cars in a race to the finish.  And this meant a couple of things.

Firstly the start was chaos.  With that many cars trying to negotiate a start accidents and attacks were almost immediate.

And secondly, we had virtually no chance of finishing; both because of the combative chaos, and the sheer number of different turns to be resolved.

I feel I'd like to try the game with just two or three players, or with only one car each.  With more than six or so vehicles it feels like there are simply too many moving parts to complete a game.  I mean I like it somewhat, but I don't feel I'm getting a real experience as intended from it yet.

Nevertheless the game provided some priceless moments, not least the destruction of the runaway leader, in sight of the finish, by a burning hulk that crashed clean across the centre of the circuit into the leaders side.  But in some ways this is exactly what makes the multiplayer games unmanageable!



Sunday, March 10, 2019

Rebels and Patriots: The TML Review

Okay, so it's a big day at TML towers, as I've played the latest iteration of the 'Rampant' game engine, Michael Leck's (with Dan Mersey) 'Rebels and Patriots'.

The hot take, R&P takes the Rampant Engine and makes it work for the 18th & 19th century, it also fixes many of the things that people who disliked the previous iterations hated, but it naturally lacks the sheer variety of the Fantasy version.

Rebels and Patriots is a set of rules for black powder warfare in North America, roughly the period 1750-1870.  Like all the Osprey rule systems, R&P is pretty short, and like the various iterations of 'Rampant' before it, rather straightforward.  The battle rules themselves run to only 16 pages of the 64 in the book, but this is to discount the various key elements of the game subsumed to the officer, unit and scenario rules.

For those unfamiliar with the previous versions of these rules, they run at a large skirmish scale, without detail to an individual soldier level, except for the commander, but with units being in groups of 6, 12 or 18 men.  It is an Igo-Ugo system of alternate turns, everything is measured in inches, and everything in D6's with units generally rolling fixed numbers of dice regardless of individual losses.  If this sounds overly simplistic, do not fear, there is enough nuance to the rules to make it interesting.

Units are activated individually, requiring a modified roll of 6+ on 2D6 to carry out the desired action, which include moving, firing, Skirmishing, Attacking (engaging in melee), and rallying.  Disorder, caused by casualties and other negative situations.  If a unit fails to activate - unlike previous versions - you move on to another unit until all have received an order to attempt.  Leck, clearly believes the 18th & 19th century soldier was better drilled than his medieval forefathers.

All forms of combat boil down typically to rolling 12 or 6 (occasionally 3) D6, typically needing 5's or 6's to hit.  Two hits cause a casualty at short range and you add one to the number of hits required to modify for adverse factors.  In melee, both sides roll, and special reactions like evasion can apply.  Overall commanding troops on the table is easy and fluid, and handles the particularly American contexts of regular, militia and native forces operating together, well.

Morale is handled based on immediate losses from fire, not total accrued losses, therefore casualties could be seen as representative rather than literal, but the clever disorder mechanic is what really makes it tick.  A unit with one disorder token can continue to act but at some disadvantage, including essentially -1 to all rolls; a unit with two disorder tokens is considered Broken and is likely to retreat a lot until rallied; which is made harder thanks to the -2 to morale/rallying rolls this will apply.  On your third disorder token you rout and quit the field entirely.

The mechanics therefore are straightforward enough, units essentially operate as blobs, with 360 degree lines of sight, movement is simple enough and the commanders offer little initial benefit.  But the details really make the game.

You would expect troops of the period to be drilled, and so Close Order (an advanced version of the old 'Shield Wall' rule, in previous books) reflects this, troop types then go a long way to bring to life the period.  Line infantry may present dense walls of fire, Light infantry can utilise ground better, Shock infantry reflect Grenadiers with their improved aggression, and so on.  The rules also cover cavalry and artillery, and also - key to the region represented - native troops.  To do this it has stretched the core of the Rampant engine, but also made numerous changes (some may well say, accurately, improvements).  There is also some streamlining, but it works well.  This therefore allows room for a campaign system, based on the career of your commanding officer.

This has the potential, along with the scenario section of the book, to be almost universally useful, regardless of whether you play the rules themselves.  You create a commander very simply and they begin with 10 Honour and a personality trait - one of 36 available.  As you gather honour from engagements, your commander improves, or if you are unlucky, enters a reputational slump of epic proportions; but he will generally remain in command of your company, until death.

Honour is one of the drivers of the scenarios, and is a development of the old Glory/Boast system.  Gone is the lottery of assigning your own agenda to each battle and winning or losing based more on this than battlefield performance.  Now each scenario has fixed objectives, and victory goes to he who achieves these.  A pleasing 12 scenarios are offered (13 if you count, just beat each other up as a scenario).

The final section of the rules gives a range of example companies and the briefest precis of various engagements in North (and Central) America, from 1754 to 1871, all very useful, and as a player of the War of 1812, interesting to see.  But one obvious question would have to be, why only America?

Well, in essence the answer seems to be IP infringement.  Osprey's own!  As Osprey already have skirmish and mass battle rules covering this period for the European wars, Rebels and Patriots has had to keep to a tight subject to remain distinct.  But could it be used for other regions?

First of all one perhaps should interject by asking are they any good at all?  Well, in this writers opinion, yes they are.  As with every version of the 'Rampant' system they evolve and develop in positive ways, building on the best of previous versions.  At this stage I only have one actual play to go on, but that was most entertaining and they felt like they were a fair reflection of a general period feel.

So back to the previous point, are they any use if you are more interested in Simon Bolivar, or Richard Sharpe?  Absolutely.  There is nothing to stop the rules being turned to South American or European conflicts, and there is probably enough to permit some colonial wars to be reflected (though I imagine Mersey's 'The Men Who Would Be Kings' may cover that bent more than satisfactorily).

In conclusion then, I think Rebels and Patriots is a delightful little set of rules, and I expect I will personally get a lot of mileage out of them.  They appear well suited to their key periods of the American War of Independence and the American Civil war, whilst ably covering all in-between.  The rules are fast, simple and fun to play, with enough subtlety for a diverting and thoughtful evenings play.

Overall it's a strong approve here.


Thursday, March 07, 2019

That moment when...

...You fumble a miniature in the worst possible way!

Thankfully this was only basing emulsion, and after a rinse under the hot tap Papillon here made an almost complete recovery.

Still something of a worry.  I must be getting clumsy in my dotage?

Monday, March 04, 2019

Boardgame Roundup - 2019 so far...

I've managed to play a few board and card games so far this year. so a quick trot through some of them is in order.

Firstly I've played a few games of Magic: The Gathering, including one with the significant other!  I first played M:TG some 25 years ago, when it was a radically new game, and I still play on and off, though I didn't touch it for some twenty years.

Compared to back then the game is both far more complex, and in my opinion at least, far fairer.  The sheer range of cards has levelled the playing field somewhat, at least for the casual players, and the prebuilt decks are at least capable of providing a fair challenge.  Despite the potentially mind melting variety of cards and potential complexity, its a game I enjoy from time to time.

 Next up, and in no particular order, me and Gav have been playing some more Imperial Assault, this time with me getting a victory as the Empire. I'm starting to wonder if they have all the best troops...

 But it may very well be simply that they have the most troops in a typical game.  To this end I feel I need to pick up some more rank and file for the Rebellion and Mercenaries forces to even the odds.

Priests of Ra is a Reiner Knizia classic, from his auction period; with players bidding to create the finest civilisation on the banks of the Nile.  Players can push their luck to win auctions for the favours of the gods, but at the same time they can only do so by sacrificing their riches, and can only ever win four auctions per age.  Over three ages the player compete for glory.  It's a relatively simple concept but one that I find I enjoy.
Santorini is a classically simple abstract game, with beautiful components (albeit a little pricey as a result) for 2 or 3 players.  Rather like a three dimensional version of connect four, players vie against one another to build and then ascend to the top of a three storey building.  The problem being that whenever you move you must build somewhere adjacently, and you have no exclusive rights to build or climb a tower.  Also players can cap a three storey tower, with a dome.  Thus making them unscaleable. 

Such a simple game may not sound much, but it is really engrossing.  Having played it five times in a row, I might well say that though!

 If you'd prefer a game of near suicidal sub-aqua exploration perhaps Deep Sea Adventure would be for you.  It's the sort of game that you can teach the whole family in five minutes, and get lots of fun from.  As you dive to the depths you attempt to discover and retrieve undersea treasures, but each players efforts impact all and soon the oxygen will run out; leaving any players who let hubris dictate they dive deeper and grab more gold in need of the kiss of life.  Rarely does the first go at this game not end with every player sinking to the depths!

Lastly, some Azul, another abstract and one of my favourites.  Another game with lovely components, and some simple to learn mechanics that as in the best abstracts, can be hard to master whilst allowing the novice a chance to still win.

Board and Card games are always a nice break from miniatures for me, and certainly easier to arrange and transport.  Plus easier to 'sell' to the unfamiliar.

A nice relaxing social diversion for the modern geek-hipster.


Sunday, March 03, 2019

Another new Project....

Is it timely I wonder?  I just draw a line under one fantasy project - at least having enough to call an army - when something new arrives at my door.

Something from the US of A

Ooh, shiny metal...

As to the contents, well, if you can't make it out above; here's an enormous clue...

Monastic marginalia can be sooo entertaining