Sunday, 19 February 2017

Bits and Pieces (and storage solutions)



There's been a bit of a lull in posting for the last few weeks but I've been busy in the meantime with some games and a spot of semi successful building.

My paints (mostly GW paints as they're easy to get) tend to be chaotically chucked in a large.storage box which means it can take ages to.find the one I want.  I came across a Kickstarter deal for a self-assembly storage box from Warmage.de and rather rashly bought one

There were various options for GW or Vallejo style paints and varying sizes so I went for the standard GW can.   There were also options for a lamp, brush storage etc which I left out.  Building things, and any form of DIY in general isn't my thing...I'm very much of the "get a wee man in" school.of DIY but I thought I'd give it a go and actually it wasn't too bad... the various stages are shown below and it all seemed to work!

The only bit that I still haven't got to grips with is he locking mechanism which consists of 4 pegs which slide through and twist, locking the lid.  For the life of me I can't get these to either go all the way through and/or twist but it may be that I'm being too gentle.  If all else fails a couple.of.elastic bands work just as well, even if they aren't as aesthetically pleasing.  Despite the fail on the locking device, which may well be down to my construction techniques rather than the design, I'm pleased with it and it should help.organise some of the clutter.











I've also managed to fit in a few games.  I've had a couple of games of Conan, both of which were very enjoyable.  I played the same scenario twice, once as a player and once as the Overlord/umpire.  In the first game we nearly succeeded in escaping from the clutches of some evil Picts with the Princess and the head of their leader but fell down at the last hurdle as the turn limit counted down.  On the second outing (as Overlord this time) the players took their time getting organised but managed on the very last turn to escape the village and win the game.  In both games the mechanics worked really well and there weren't too many uncertainties in the rules.

There's a review of Conan in the latest Tabletop Gaming magazine which praises the game mechanics but is very critical of a couple of points.  The 1st of these I definitely agree with which is the lack of a campaign system or even an attempt to link the scenarios together.  Players acquire treasure from chests etc in each scenario and it would nice for these to have some meaning beyond an immediate fix of health points.  This shouldn't be too difficult to introduce if wanted though.

Their 2nd criticism is a bit more complex and is around the generally racist and sexist tones of the Conan universe.  Undoubtedly the books are both racist and sexist and the scenarios certainly suffer from a lack of strong female heroes apart from Belit.  The Princess figure only seems to exist to be rescued.  A number of the enemies also suffer from racial stereotypes as well.  Now, as a dyed-in-the-wool lefty I do get the issues that this throws up but I can't help but think that a game set in the Conan world needs to reflect the books.  Perhaps more effort could have been made to challenge some of the stereotypes though.  Food for thought perhaps.

Interestingly I bought the game as a Kickstarter and I happened to see it (without all the Kickstarter bonus bits and pieces) in Static Games in Glasgow today at an eye-watering £92!!  When did everything get so expensive!!???


Finally last week I had another game of Star Wars Rebellion and despite starting earlier than usual we still didn't quite get to a conclusion.  Still excellent fun though.  I really enjoy the mission section which does give a very cinematic feel as you despatch Princess Leia or Boba Fett etc.  on missions to stymie the enemy or gain rewards.  By the end of the evening I'd managed to increase the Rebels reputation and was only a few points from a win, but the Empire had a fleet sitting in the system adjacent to my Secret Base (which luckily remained secret) and I suspect they would have discovered it in a turn or 2 so a very close ending.





Friday, 27 January 2017

Rorke's Drift

So, following on from my last post about Eric the Shed's epic Zulu day, here is part 2'...Rorkes Drift.

We'd made an early start and fought through Isandlwana in the morning and had a short break for pizza and a reset of the table.  Legatus Shedlius has also written up his account of Isandlwana and no doubt Rorke's Drift will follow shortly and it can be found on his blog...Link

 
 
 
 
 
The afternoon game was to be a refight of the defence of Rorkes Drift, again using Black Powder rules but with some adjustments.  These are all set out in detail on the official Shed Wars write up which can be found here...Link

In summary the Zulus made a series of attacks,  each of which played out as a series of normal rounds until the Zulus decided to call of that attack.  The next phase could then either be another assault or a recovery phase where wounds were patched up,  the managers gave inspiring team talks and  (in the case of the British) some frantic shifting of mealie bags took place.

The other significant change was that the Zulus were able to make use of dummy units to force the defenders to spread out and never be sure where the main attack was heading.  This worked very well,  forcing the Brits to commit troops that could have been invaluable elsewhere.

We swapped sides for the afternoon game so James,  Legatus and I took the defenders while Eric and Mark got to lead the Zulu hordes. Each of us was allocated one of the characters from the film...




...in my case I had Owen, Hughes and both Jones'.

The initial Zulu attack was against the hospital building from the Western side and was pretty successful, driving the British back in a series of bloody fights inside the building.  Casualties on the Zulus were also mounting though and they eventually withdrew but not before achieving their main aim for this assault...setting fire to the hospital.  Once the fire was established in 1 quarter of the building we checked each turn to see if it spread.  Unfortunately it quickly took over the whole building meaning we could no longer use it as a strongpoint and nicely illuminating the camp as night fell.


The Hospital catches fire...
...which quickly spreads!



The Zulus now had a choice to either go for a recovery phase or to assault again and they clearly had a taste for blood as they piled straight back, but this time switching their attacks to the NW and NE corners.  The fight in the NW was a bloody affair with Allen falling and the Zulus, despite heavy casualties, pushing the British back from the walls.  In the first 2 assaults the Zulus had a +1 to Morale saves to reflect their early enthusiasm and this had a real impact. 

The Zulus advance from the Kraal


Over on the NE corner where I was the defender the Zulus were advancing from the Kraal and although I initially managed to flush out a number of Feint units, they were able to charge up to the defended wall, negating the cover bonus I'd been enjoying as we tussled over the rampart.  I was forced to pull one of the defenders from the Southern store building to throw them into the fight to try and hold them back.  Thanks to a successful multiple movement order Mark was able to throw an Impi onto the flank of one of the defenders wiping them out and killing Owen.  At least this spared us yet another rendition of Men of Harlech!! I also lost a Jones at this point although I can't remember which one...these Jones' all look alike!!

The Zulus then decided to withdraw again and this time had to have a Recovery Phase.  While they regrouped and tended to their wounded we decided to use this respite to build the Redoubt in the centre of the camp and waited for the next assault.

Again the attack was split, this time against the NW corner and against the Stores on the South wall.  This time the Zulus didn't have the +1 morale bonus and it showed as Zulu casualties mounted rapidly.  Fighting in the NW was again a tussle over the walls while in the south the Zulus were caught between fire from defenders at the wall and in the stores and Jones holding out in the Redoubt.  Several Zulu units were routed before they finally called off the attack but again they succeeded in setting fire to the building, forcing the defenders out.

Zulu snipers watch from the hills...they weren't very effective but were very annoying!



At this point we'd reached 5pm and as it had been a very long day and we were all pretty knackered we decided to call a halt.  We reckon there was potential for at least one more Zulu assault and this may well be played out as an evening game at the Shed once the weather is a bit warmer.

The game was really tense and exciting with the Feint rules and the changing phases adding to the uncertainty...where was the next assault going to come from, would we be granted a short respite or thrown straight back into the fight, were we facing real troops or was it a bluff?  Detailed rule amendments are all on Eric's blog and if you're thinking of a Rorke's Drift game it would be well worth checking them out.  What was very interesting was how different the game felt to Isandlwana in the morning, despite using the same rules (apart from the amendments).  The smaller battlefield and being confined to a defended camp made it feel much, much smaller and changed the nature of the game completely.

Huge thanks to Eric for hosting us and putting on 2 excellent games and to his wife and son for allowing us to take over their kitchen for the day!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Isandlawanniversary

Over on Eric the Shed's blog you'll find a post about his all day Zulu-thon which took place yesterday, not in the Shed itself but in his considerably warmer kitchen.  I was lucky enough to be one of 4 wargamers plus Eric himself who took part in both games.  One of the other players was Legatus Shedlius and no doubt there will be a write up on his blog too very shortly.

As every wargamer worth his or her salt knows, 22nd January is the anniversary of both Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, and as you can read in Eric's blog it has been a long-term plan of his to refight both battles on the anniversary.  Do pop over there and have a read as it will explain more about his reasons and the epic months of painting to get it all ready on time.


The huge Zulu army...over 800 figures painted by Eric in record time! (and some by Legatus too!!)
 
We assembled at 9am for some fortifying bacon rolls...very gratefully received as I'd already been out in the park with the dogs in -4° for an hour before the game.  The morning game would be a refight of Isandlwana with Eric and Mark taking the plucky but doomed Brits and James, Legatus and I leading the Zulu hordes. We used Black Powder with only a few amendments... the Zulus didn't have an overall Commander and each unit was allowed to either make a guaranteed single move or roll for orders as normal.


The British camp


...enter the Zulus


I commanded the Left Horn of the Zulu army.  The British right was held by a Rocket battery and assorted Boers, Cape Police and the Natal Native Contingent, commanded by Durnford.  Apart from the Rockets these were all skulking in a donga so our cunning Zulu plan was to largely ignore them for as long as we could and push on towards the British camp while the Right Horn swept round the defending redcoated infantry and into their flank and rear. 


The troops in the Donga


Some lucky successful orders meant the Zulu advance on either flank was pretty speedy but the mounted force decided to come out of the donga and take the fight to the Zulus.  I managed to overrun the Rocket Battery (although it did manage to hold off a Zulu Impi for a turn before breaking) and luckily Durnsford's orders to the Sikhali Horse and the Boers resulted in a blunder forcing them to retreat for a turn which gave me time to move another Impi into position to attack them.  I also tussled with the NNC  who did surprisingly well, holding back a Zulu regiment for several turns.  Ultimately though they were forced back and although I wasn't able to rout any of Durnsford's individual units the command finally broke due to the number of shaken units: at this point Durnsford sensibly decided discretion was the better part of valour and led his troops away as fast as their horses could  carry them!

The fight against the Horse
 
The British commanders continue to look confident...I think it must be the hat...
 
 
This left the British camp and right flank wide open and we duly piled in.  Over on the Zulu right it had been a bloodier affair as Stephen and James were facing Line Infantry but the sheer volume of 15000 Zulus had told and they were forcing the troops back and units were beginning to fall.  As units began to break and the camp was plundered the last remaining British unit was appropriately the Colour Party who made a last stand on a hill surrounded by Zulus in properly cinematic style!


The view from the Zulu right


Endgame...the Zulus pour through the camp


Despite there being no chance of the British winning from the outset it was still a surprisingly tense game and set us up nicely for the afternoon's defence of Rorke's Drift.  As Eric hasn't posted his report on this game yet I'll wait until he does before posting mine.  Suffice to say it was an equally exciting game and despite using the same rules (with some more substantial tweaks) felt really different. 



Thursday, 12 January 2017

100k!!!

So, it's 4 years and 2 months since I started this blog and 206 posts on my counter has hit the 100k mark!




I'd like to thank everyone who stops by and has a read (and the Russian bots that pushed up the number of hits last year!).  It's always a pleasant surprise to find that people read this stuff...the blog has introduced me to some good friends and fellow bloggers...here's to the next 100k!!!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Finally...a game of Conan!


Waaaay back in October last year I received the Conan game from Monolith games which was part of a Kickstarter that was funded in Feb 15, was due to arrive in October 15 and eventually arrived on the back of a lorry a year overdue.  To be fair the delay was mainly due to the huge amount of extra bits and pieces that the producers introduced during the Kickstarter campaign which netted them a staggering $3,327,757.

The 2 boxes which came with the basic pledge

I blogged about the game itself here, back in October.

Since then I've painted a few of the figures...the game came with a huge amount of miniatures including a number of major  heroes and villains from the books as well as assorted Picts, pirates, guards and monsters to fight against (including an impressive giant snake and a hideous tentacled thing...with extra tentacles thrown in for free!).  I think it's safe to say I won't be needing any fantasy figures for a while!  I hadn't actually managed to play a game though (I'd hoped to have a go over xmas but we got distracted by Twilight Struggle)


Some of the heroes
 
 
...and a giant snake
 

Last night I finally managed to actually play the game and tried out the 2 player scenario provided in the main box.  The games have up to 4 heroes pitted against all the baddies who are controlled by the Overlord.  In this scenario Conan is on his own racing around an inn trying to find the correct priest (out of a group of 5) who will lift a curse, while fending off a growing number of Bossonian Guards and Thak,  a giant man-ape, all of whom have decided to stop off at the pub while on a lunch break.

The game mechanics are nicely managed...each player has a character sheet on which he/she places a number of gems.  These are then allocated to actions such as movement, attacks, re-rolls etc.  A sensible player also hangs on to a few gems to aid defence when it's the Overlord's turn to attack.  The drawback is that you only get a limited number of gems back each turn and they are lost permanently when a hero is wounded so careful planning is necessary.

The Overlord has a similar set up using an arrangement called 'The Book of Skelos'...I can't help thinking that should be written in capitals and accompanied by a roll of thunder...


The Book of Skelos is a plastic tray that is set up for each scenario.  Units are shown in the bottom row: the cost to activate a unit increases from left to right but once a unit has acted it is moved to the right hand side and everything slides along to the left.  This means you can, in theory, keep reactivating a unit but the costs will be very high and you'll run out of gems.  The tile with the Raven on it is an event tile which is scenario dependent.  In our first game the result of activating it varied depending how many priests Conan had interrogated (or killed...it amounted to much the same thing!)...either bringing in more guards, giving some a bonus move or unleashing Thak!

The mechanics worked well and were all pretty straightforward.  There has been some criticism of the 2 rulebooks  and I'd agree they could be better laid out but a good read-through and watching some of the helpful playthroughs on YouTube made it all pretty clear.

 
In our game Mike, playing as Conan quickly checked out one of the priests and killed a guard before getting a bit bogged down in slugging it out with a growing number of Bossonian Guards.  It seemed quite difficult to kill the guards and I need to check that I haven't missed something but they had a knack of fending off Conan's attacks.  This did come at a price though as I had few gems left after defending to actually do much but nevertheless Conan was slowly whittled down, losing gems/health as the game progressed.  Mike tried raiding a couple of chests in the hope of finding a handy health potion but only came across Explosive Orbs which, while they were entertaining, weren't what he needed.



The guards have clip on coloured bases to distinguish groups

Damn...another Magic Hand Grenade!!
With hindsight Mike should have concentrated on working through the Priests as killing guards didn't gain him anything and the Priests held the only way of winning.  Towards the end of the scenario Thak was activated and headed off Conan who had finally identified the correct Priest, lifted the curse and was about to make his escape...sadly a massive punch from Thak did 8 hits which Conan wasn't able to stop and he died on the steps of the Inn.

The gem allocation system is pretty neat and forces the player to carefully look after their dwindling supply of gems.  As this was a single-hero scenario we didn't get a feel for how it would play with multiple players but I suspect this would add a lot as players don't take individual turns to act but can coordinate and switch between actions.  It would be good to try this next time.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Twilight Struggle

My xmas present from my wife this year was a copy of Twilight Struggle, the strategic Cold War game from GMT Games.  To be fair it wasn't a surprise as I'd emailed her assorted links to Amazon etc but I still looked surprised on Xmas day.

Image result for twilight struggle

My present to her also wasn't a surprise...she wanted a hat and although I'd considered trying to measure her head surreptitiously to ensure the surprise,  I decided that trying to sneak up on her wielding a  tape measure when she was asleep would end up in a trip to casualty so the safer option was to let her pick the hat!

Back to Twilight Struggle...

I'm guessing quite a few people are already familiar with it...it's been around for a few years now and won a shed load of prizes over the years.  It's also constantly rated as the number 1 game on BoardGameGeek.

Image result for twilight struggle

It's a 2 player game, pitting the US against the USSR over the course of the Cold War and has a suggested playing time of 3 hours.  The players take turns playing cards which either give them a number of points to gain influence in other countries or to trigger an specific event.  Rather neatly if you play a card to gain influence points but the event on the card would benefit the opposing player then it is triggered aiding your opponent.  This causes much frustration throughout the game and you spend a lot of time trying to balance the benefit of gaining influence with the pain of providing your opponent with a nice bonus

The cards are divided into early, mid and late war and match historical events from the period.  In the Early war period the focus is on Europe, the Middle East and Asia but as the game progresses South & Central America and Africa also become battlegrounds.  Players can also us cards to take part in the Space Race which is time consuming but provides some handy victory points and bonuses if you are successful.

Image result for twilight struggle

Image result for twilight struggle
Players also have to commit to a certain amount of military activity...no one wins the war by being peaceful I guess.  This takes the form of attempting coups in certain countries or playing War cards (eg the Arab-Israeli war etc) but this also causes the Defcon level to rise and the player who moves it to Defcon 1 loses the game!

Image result for twilight struggle


It's a deceptively simple game but one that benefits replaying as you need to understand the scoring system...scoring occurs when either player plays a specific regional scoring card (eg Scoring in Europe) and the impact of various cards.  My son and I have had a couple of attempts at it.  In the first game neither of us really understood what we were doing and it showed...I spent a lot of time and effort building influence in South America before noticing that this doesn't have an impact till the Mid and Late game.  My son meanwhile was rampaging through Asia picking up Victory Points!

For the first run through we only played about 3 turns but we then managed  a complete game.  This stayed finely poised till around turn 6 (of 10) when I took my eye off the ball and allowed him to shoot ahead in Victory Points...I think I got distracted by S America and Africa again!  We also spent a whole turn battling over SE Asia; I'd made it pretty obvious I was going to play a Scoring card for this region and since Poker was never my strong point so he saw through my attempts at deception straight away!)   In the end I only managed to gain 1VP out of a whole  turn of furious coups and building influence but we both wasted a lot of time and cards...I guess that pretty much sums up Foreign Policy in SE Asia in the 60s though!  By turn 9 he'd  won the space race and achieved the VP target and the game was over.

The game is a lot of fun...think Risk but with the option to deploy Lone Gunmen, Death Squads and Fidel Castro.  There's  a huge amount of depth to it which would certainly reward repeated playing but it was actually pretty simple to pick up the basics.  Highly recommended!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago



And here we have it...the first bit of temptation for 2017.  Over on Joe McCullough's blog there is an announcement about the latest development in the Frostgrave world.
 
I've played a couple of games of Frostgrave and enjoyed it although I haven't played it more recently, but now it looks like the next logical development is....Pirates! 
 
http://therenaissancetroll.blogspot.co.uk
 
 
According to the post the game is set in "A dense maze of shifting islands, the Ghost Archipelago is covered in the ruins of lost civilizations that are hidden deep in the jungles and rocky mountains. More than one intelligent race calls these islands home, and scores of deadly animals hunt in the swamps and forests".
 
The same team behind Frostgrave are involved so we can expect to see figures from Northstar again (and a Nickstarter perhaps?).  At least it isn't due until the 2nd half of the year so I can start saving my pennies....