Tuesday, 26 October 2021

A Song of Ice and Fire

 Last night we played a trial game of the Song of Ice and Fire game from CMON.  This was using the starter set which came out in 2018 and features Stark and Lannister forces.

The starter set comes with a load of very nice figures (as you'd expect from CMON) but my opponent Andrew had also added in some extra troops to beef up the forces.  

The Stark army

The rules are relatively simple.  Figures are assembled on the provided movement trays in ranks... as you take casualties and ranks are whittled down, units become less effective.  Each unit has a card detailing all of its stats and special abilities.  These reflect the factions character so the Starks are pretty aggressive and good for attacking while the Lannisters seemed more sneaky and better armoured (or at least that was my impression).

Units can also have special characters attached who have their own bonuses and abilities, so the Starks were led by Robb Stark and the Lannisters by Jaimie Lannister (booo!!).  You also have non-fighting characters who can be deployed onto the Tactical Board where they can give bonus moves, restore casualties, force opponents to take a morale check etc.  This was a nice touch and gives a good role to non-military characters like Cersei Lannister and Sansa Stark.

Finally each player has a hand of cards to give bonuses or to penalise your opponent.  So, quite a few special abilities to remember (or in our case, forget until it was too late!)

In our game we went for a very simple, balanced game with no confusing terrain since it was our 1st game.  The mechanics mostly worked well... there are a few bits which were unclear although I suspect there has been a lot of clarification online since the game first came out.

The Lannisters advance quickly towards my Stark army with their Knights and Halberdiers leading the way.  The Stark army (with some Umber allies) held back to allow my archers to cause some damage first.  Andrew's missile troops were an annoying unit of Pyromancers armed with Wildfire!  

The Lannisters advance towards the Stark lines

Stark Outriders hunt down  Lannister unit

...and charge into the flank

My light cavalry unit advanced wide on the flanks, making the most of its extra movement and charged a Lannister force in the flank, repeatedly breaking off and retiring before harrying them again and again.  I felt this worked really well as a way of reflecting the role of Light Cavalry.

The Lannister Knights were also very effective, causing carnage despite being worn down to 1 man by the end of the game.  Maneuvering and placing flank attacks seemed to be key although I suspect if we'd had more terrain this wouldn't have been so easy to achieve.  Several of my units were badly beaten up by flank attacks  and despite my best efforts to reinforce losses the tide turned in the Lannisters favour.  The nasty Pyromancers even took to lobbing Wildfire bombs into melees regardless of the risk to their own side!  In the end it was a convincing Lannister win although it was pretty bloody on both sides , which is kind of what you'd expect for a Game.of Thrones battle.

So, thoughts....  I really enjoyed the game.  It's pretty simple and there were bits that I thought could be expanded (morale tests for example) but on reflection I think its better leaving these simple  and uncomplicated.  The game is what it is... a quick and fun Game of Thrones bash which reflects the books/TV series well and captures  the flavour.  Adding too many extras to it risks losing that.  I immediately thought that the mechanics would also work well for non-GoT settings... Arthurian or Wars of the Roses for example.  

The biggest drawback of the game is the price... the starter set retails on Amazon at £109 although I'm sure it can be found cheaper.  A cavalry unit of 4 figures is an eye-watering £25!  Definitely one to play again though.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Recent games...

 So I've been able to squeeze in a couple of great games in the last couple of weeks at Eric the Shed's

Lancastrian pikes advance over the hedges

Men at Arms clash

Last week saw the penultimate Wars of the Roses battle at Eric the Shed's ... Tewkesbury.  As usual there is a great write up on Eric's blog.  It was a really close game which went down to the wire.  Bosworth next!

And then this week we moved to the Sudan and the battle of El Teb.  Again, a close run game with both sides pretty much exhausting themselves (although to be fair the Brits were broken first so it was a Sudanese victory...questions will be asked in Parliament and there may be some terrible Victorian poetry written to commemorate the defeat...)

The British columns advance

But Sudanese skirmishers lie in wait

Both sides clash at the dry riverbed

The machine guns advance (but are both jammed...again!)

The Sudanese hold the high ground

In other shock news I have actually picked up a paint brush and done some painting for for first time in months.  When I looked out my brushes to make a start on my Late Romans they looked like a 2 year old had been mashing them on the table and they were in terrible state so it was off to the excellent Gamers Guild in Redhill to restock on brushes and some paints.  A great little shop which is a bit of a rarity these days

Monday, 27 September 2021

Undaunted Normandy


My son and I were looking for a game at the weekend and as I hadn't had a chance to brush up on the rules for some of the more complicated games (I'm terrible at remembering game mechanics these days) and I hadn't had a chance to read through Western Legends properly, we went for something a bit simpler... Undaunted Normandy, which I hadn't played for almost 2 years and he hadn't played at all.

It's a card driven game with players moving their cards around from their hand, discard pile and a supply deck which varies depending on the scenario.
Cards represent individual squads of riflemen or scouts.  Both are equally effective at fighting but scouts are more brittle.  Riflemen are able to control tiles and seize objectives, but can only move onto tiles which have been checked out by the scouts first.

Officers aren't represented on the table but can be activated to add in cards from the supply deck.  The final card type is the Fog of War card which does nothing but take up vital space in your hand.  Scouts are able to remove these or, more annoyingly add them to your opponent hand.  My son took great delight in doing this repeatedly!

We played out the opening scenario which a straightforward encounter between 2 equal forces.  We both patrolled out into the centre of the battlefield before settling down for a close range, and surprisingly ineffective firefight.  This showed up one of the limitations of the game, or at least this scenario, where it was a bit too even.  The breakthrough came when I drew 3 cards for one of my rifle squads (out of a hand of 4) which allowed them to run across an open field, seize the final objective and win the game.

I enjoyed the game... my son was less impressed.  As the scenarios progress more elements are added in, including MGs and mortars and mission specific objectives... I think this would make it more interesting.  This was a bit too balanced but for an introductory scenario that's probably fair enough.  The ending also felt a bit too gamey.  It was easy to explain it as the US riflemen grabbing the opportunity when the Germans had their heads down under fire and breaking from cover and cutting them off, forcing them to retreat.  It felt a bit of a cheat though as it was a very flukey combination of cards.

It's a fun little game, not too complicated and playable in an hour or so.  I know there's a N African addition and another one due for release soon... hopefully these won't add in too many extra rules and overcomplicate it.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

What I've up to...

 No blog posts for a few weeks but that doesn't mean there haven't been any games.

At Eric the Shed's we played a fun Bolt Action game with German paratroopers attempting to cause as much damage as possible ahead of an invasion.  The Home Guard did a good job of holding us up... I failed to achieve my objectives but tied up the opposition, allowing my colleague Mark to merrily destroy or occupy lots of key points in the village (or at least that's my story!)

We also played out a cracking instalment in our Wars of the Roses series of battles.  We've now reached Barnet where fog played a key part in the battle.  The game featured treachery and knife-edge dice throws and there is an excellent write up on the Shed Wars blog here.  

Spoiler alert... I finally won a game of Never Mind the Billhooks!!!

Oh and there were a couple of games of Twilight Struggle against my son but I'll draw a veil over those as they were very short and I was soundly beaten!

I've also been away for a week, back home to Glasgow.  I usually try and post some kind of wargamey/historical link when I've been away but this time it was a bit of a struggle.  I did take the dog for a walk up to Cathkin Braes which look out over Glasgow from the south.  Local lore has it that Mary Queen of Scots watched her army's defeat at the  Battle of Langside from here.  In theory it's possible but, like most things to do with Mary there's a lot of myth confusing the facts.  Practically every castle or large house claims that she slept there at some point!

Anyway here is the spot where she watched the battle (possibly) with Cisco doing his best MQoS impression...

The view looking north to Glasgow.  Langside is somewhere in the bottom left

The Battle was the opening fight in a civil war between Mary and forces acting on behalf of her infant son James VI.  The battle was a huge defeat for Mary... she fled, eventually heading for England and never returned to Scotland although her supporters continued the fight.

The only other interesting local history spot on our walks was in Cambuslang Park.  Cambuslang is a town a couple of miles from my old home and where one side of the family come from.  I hadn't been to this park in 45+ years.. last time would have been with my Granny or on a Sunday School trip.  In the never-ending quest to find somewhere new to walk the dog I ended up here.  It isn't a particularly old park (built in 1913) but, as I learned on this visit, was the site of a strange religious event in the 18th Century, the Cambuslang Wark (or Work).  

This religious revival event happened over 6 months in 1742 at a time when there were similar things happening elsewhere in Britain and in the North American Colonies.  It culminated in up to 30 000 people gathering in this small Lanarkshire town to hear a local preacher's sermons.  The mass hysteria which seems to have been behind it led to people hallucinating and suffering nosebleeds and other injuries.  Inevitably there was a schism with some seeing it as the work of the Lord and others as Satan and a "pamphlet war" broke out between rival believers.

I know it isn't wargame related but I found it fascinating and had never heard of it before.  And let's face it... most things involving religion in Scotland usually end in a fight!!


Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Gunfight at Calton Creek

Time for another Wild West shoot out and a game of Fistful of Lead.  In this week's thrilling episode the villains have just robbed the bank and are escaping town laden with gold bars.  The Sheriff and his men have conveniently arrived at the other end of town, blocking their escape. 

Each marker is a gold bar, slowing the bandits down

But look...there's a convenient wagon...

For some unexplained reason Calton Creek is festooned with random wooden crates, providing convenient cover...

The gunfight was particularly bloody.  By the end of the game 4 out of 5 gunfighters on each side were lying wounded or dead with only 2 left standing.  As one was the Sheriff and mine was my least effective Greenhorn I decided to abandon the gold and run for it... sorry... hightail it out of town!

Grab the wagon!

I tried grabbing the wagon and getting a couple of gunfighters on board.  I'd worked out some ad hoc rules for stampeding horses and random movement, all of which proved  unnecessary when Andrew cruelly shot the horse and scuppered my plans.. PETA will be furious...

My Wild West town is now officially renamed Calton Creek in honour of the Glaswegian comic strip created by Bud Neill.  This was very popular in the Daily Record (a Glasgow newspaper) in the 50s and featured Sheriff Lobby Dosser and his arch enemy Rank Bajin.  Although it was set in Arizona all the characters were Glaswegian (Calton is in the East End of Glasgow) and a lot of the dialogue is very Glaswegian.

The strips have been republished and have a bit of a cult following.  It was well before my time but my dad was a big fan and always used to talk about it whenever a Western was on TV.

Lobby and his 2 legged horse El Fideldo

There's a statue of Lobby, Elfie and Rank Bajin in the West End of Glasgow

Friday, 20 August 2021

Space Fleet


Another week and another bit of retro-gaming (does 1991 count as retro?  I mean it's only...oh god...30 years ago!).  This time is an adaption of the Games Workshop space combat game Space Fleet.

I've never really played any of the GW games apart from Lord of the Rings and Legends of the High Seas so this was a new one for me.

I used to be a fan of Starfleet Battles but found it overwhelmingly fiddly and clunky when I tried playing it a couple.of years ago...this is a much simpler space combat game with a limited range of manoeuvres and options for shields etc all displayed on the ship cards.  Weapons are also very simplified with ships having forward firing guns that are better at long ranges and side firing ones which are better close up, so getting in a good position to get the drop on a facing with weakened shields is key.  There's no faffing about with repairs or changing shields although I gather more rules and variations between factions in the GW universe were introduced in expansions

Our game took a Star Trek slant instead of 40K with 2 Federation Cruisers facing off against 2 Klingon D7s.  Moves are pre-plotted and there's an art in second guessing where your opponent is going to move to which neither of were very good at!

One of my D7s was quickly battered and destroyed but I did manage to take out a Cruiser before my remaining ship, now full of holes and without shields was finished off by the evil Federation.  Nice and simple and ideal for a quick game... I can see it would be easy to add in some extra flavour and options without over-complicating things.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021



"The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
Willie Nelson

I picked up a couple of boardgame bargains this week via eBay and Boardgamegeek...both were games that have been on my 'want' list for quite a while.  One was Western Legends which I haven't played yet but we managed a family boardgame night  with the other one this evening... Wingspan.

I've always been keen on birdwatching...when I was young I used to regularly go on trips with the RSPB and while I've always enjoyed spotting birds, but I got a but more into birdwatching when I started working from home a few years ago... my desk looks out on the garden and some bird feeders and it's been a welcome distraction from work!  So Wingspan sounded really interesting...

The game came out in 2019 and is an engine-building game.  The aim is to build an collection of birds, gaining points for specific objectives, having the highest scoring birds, eggs, cached food etc.

It's a lovely looking game with really nice components including 170 bird cards.  In the main game these are mainly North American birds but there are some that are also found in Europe.  There are expansions for specifically European or Australasian birds.

It's a relatively simple game and reminded me a lot of a less complex version of Terraforming Mars.  Each turn you only have 4 actions to think about... playing a bird, gathering food (which you'll need to play a bird), collecting eggs (again, you need these to add birds) or adding a card to your hand.  

Of course there's a bit more to it than that...as you activate habitats to gather food etc, the birds you've played activate and some have additional 'powers'.  So for example a Peregrine can try and catch smaller birds (which will ad VPs) or some birds will store food away which again adds to the VP count at the end of the game.  Like Terraforming Mars careful playing of the right cards can build up a powerful sequence of actions, gathering more resources or racking up the VPs.

I'm not usually a fan of dice towers but who could resist one that looks like a birdhouse...

A lovely game... not too complicated and playable in 40-70 minutes (both increasingly important these days I find) and really good fun.  

Oh, and as usual in our family boardgame evenings I was soundly beaten by everyone else!!