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


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Bavarians: No.5 Preysing Regiment

Another 15mm Bavarian Regiment is ready for battle:

Not much to say on these, Warrior Miniatures, so the whole unit effectively cost under a fiver.  This gives me 3 regiments of foot, so about one third of the infantry I think I'll want.

Next up might be some more cavalry.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Boduria Marches Forth

So, stage one of the Bodurian Project is finished. It may appear this was a lightning fast effort, but in truth assembly of the models began in August last year and painting began in late November; still, not bad going.

Whilst scouts and cavalry can perform many functions, it is infantry that are the backbone of any Musket armed army.  The Bodurians are no exception, and so the 1st Company of the 1st Regiment of Bodurian Fusiliers appears here.

Under a Company Standard


Salts of the Earth
 Such troops form the bulk of the army, and are a mix of Volunteer officers and NCO's and conscripts.  Pay is good in the army, but longevity less so, so recruitment can be an issue without drillmasters touring the nation.

These are models straight from the Perry Russian set.  The standard is my own efforts in MS Paint, with additional text added by hand in Russian.

Leading the Regiment is famed commander, and favourite of the Emperor, Valentin Kornishon; riding his enormous dire wolf mount, Otmshcheniye.


 The figure here is a mix of Perry cavalry parts and a cloak from the Fireforge Knights set.  The wolf is a Games Workshop Space Wolves miniature, that needed a degree of reworking to look natural, but is in an incredibly dynamic pose.

And so I have a full 24 points of Dragon Rampant 'Napoleonics'.

A reconnaissance force
These comprise, roughly:

  • Elite Rider Reduced Model Unit, in Command
  • Elite Infantry with Wizardling
  • Heavy Shooters
  • Scouts
  • Heavy Riders

I also have models waiting for two more units of shooters, and two other - rather more idiosyncratic - units.

But for now this is a project I can tick off as complete.

I best try to get them to the table at some point...


Monday, February 11, 2019

All for One!


James has been busy working on a new project, and arranged a game for us using his shiny new 18mm Blue Moon Three Musketeers collection.  We played the game using the 'En Garde' rules from Osprey, a set which my limited experience to date have proved to be quite appealing.

Each of us would take a Musketeer - I got Athos, which was nice! - in an effort to escort lady Constance, with the assistance of Planchet, the loyal servant.  Facing us were 16 of the Cardinal's Guard, determined to ensure the information lady Constance held, was never placed in the hand of the King...

The suburbs of Paris
 Our mission was simple, to get off the opposite side of the board in ten turns or less, but we were heavily outnumbered, speed and stealth would be the order of the day.

En Avant!
 However the Guards had a good idea where we would be, and although initially dispersed the soon gathered on our position.

Most of the Cardinals' men waited in the Marketplace
 The Musketeers moved through the alleyways of Paris, hoping to dash past the Guard, but they soon began to appear in ones and twos before us, and the more bold amongst them soon sought the glory of felling a Musketeer by the sword.

Porthos goes climbing
 His boldness ended with a deft thrust to his heart by Aramis, blessed with speed and skill.  Still his valour bought time for his allies to encircle our heroes.  Athos soon found himself in a brawl with a number of the Cardinals' men, as did Porthos.

Athos distracts a cluster of Red Guards
 Meanwhile, D'Artagnan had no end of trouble providing a distraction for lady Constance; he seemed to have met the finest swordsman in the Guard, and it was only the aid of Planchet that saved his bacon.

D'Artagnan struggles... 
Aramis was scything through the Guards, and helped all of the Musketeers in one way or another.  This permitted the Musketeers to advance, but by now the final Guards had arrived en masse, including the dastardly, and skillful Captain - Count De Rochefort.

Ultimately D'Artagnan falls to the Cardinals' Captain of the Guard

As time ran out the Musketeers gathered at the wall of the Eglise d'St Mary.  Where Rochefort fought D'Artagnan to a standstill, delivering him finally what could easily have been a mortal wound.  Lady Constance had to avoid attacks of the Guards too whilst Planchet too was grievously wounded.  The final Guards were dispatched and Rochefort retired, but his work was done, at great cost,  but the messages of Lady Constance would not arrive in time to save the day.

We were defeated alas, but it was a fun game none the less.  My thanks to my brothers in Arms, Matt, Joe and Charles; and thanks to James for arranging the game.

Here's to a rematch sometime soon...


Thursday, January 31, 2019

The rise of the Bodurian Army...

Readers may recall my Fantasy Cliches post last year, it had its' tongue in cheek but it made a clear point; Fantasy gaming tends to stick to fairly narrow tropes.  Which is not true of fantasy fiction for example.  Consequently I thought I should maybe spend some time on a project that tries to break a few, if not all of those rules.

So what to do, well, Given my present Historical interests, it seemed there was an obvious choice:

 Yes, a Napoleonic-esque force.  Drawing a little inspiration from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell perhaps, alongside a little bit from several other sources, and lastly a big chunk of my own imagination....

As a tester for an overall style I kicked off with a unit of Scouts, using Perry British Rifleman parts, paired with Russian infantry heads and a French Dragoon sword for their commander.

I went for a winter scheme, as my vision is of Boduria as a rising state in a Eastern European context.  Mixing modern Black Powder and military theory, with the old ways of dark arts and sorcery.

Part of this would allow for magic and mystery to be a part of the force, but I wanted it also to feel like an established structure in the military; Hence the Regimental command is a mix of a traditional officer corps and a religious order.

 The composition of this elite infantry unit has a rather Transylvanian tone to it perhaps.  A young witch is accompanied by monastic cultists and her protective Golem and ever present eyes and ears (bat swarm), as powerful as she may be though, she is junior in command to the Colonel, who military skill, tactical knowledge and discipline are what truly leads men.

This unit is a Perry Russain command figure, two Perry Crusade Monks I had spare, a couple of Reaper Bones models and an antique Julie Guthrie scuplt for the witch.  From the old Grenadier range.  I think this had sat unpainted in a box since I purchased it in about 1989!

Finally, to begin with, I prepared a unit of Heavy Riders, making sure I broke the rule about humans only using horses as mounts.  In fact the beasts of burden here are to become a theme across the army (See the army standard above).  Wolves:

 Bodurian Guard Hussars ride massive wolf-like creatures, in fact an ugly but effective crossbreed with blood from savage heavy jawed dogs, giving it enough docility to be trained by normal means.  True wolves in Boduria are far more massive, and generally only controlled by magical means, and deep bonding with their masters.  But more on those another day...

These are a blend of spare parts from several Perry French cavalry sets, combined with the Games Workshop Hobbit series Fell Wargs.  All the 'horse furniture' was sculpted with GreenStuff; making these a slow process to prepare.

In  the interest of speed I used a glaze technique to paint these models up fast; wanting a good wintry finish I dusted the bases with a frosty highlight and then added globs of fake snow.  I hope it gives the right impression.

These three units represent about half of the initial 24pt army, with lots more in the works.  Hopefully this project will continue to develop quickly in the coming months; and continue to steer away from the usual fantasy gaming tropes...