Tuesday, 20 April 2021

A walk on Reigate Hill (and a new dog)

I had a plan for a blog post based on a walk we were doing this morning but my route was scuppered thanks to our neurotic dog, so I've had to improvise a bit and base it on the things I might  have seen if Cisco hadn't been such a wuss.

Firstly let me introduce Cisco who joined us 6 weeks ago.  We got our first dog, Trigger, back in 2012 (unbelievably just after I started the blog) and he was then joined by Lizzie in 2014. Sadly we lost Trigger back in January.  We hadn't planned on getting another dog straight away but then we met Cisco...

Cisco is a Podenco... specifically he's an Ibizan Hound.  He was used as a hunting dog but was handed in to rescue centre in Spain (luckily for him...often they are killed when they're no longer wanted)... I suspect it was because he was rubbish at it!  He's a lovely, goofy boy but very nervous, especially around people (probably because of the treatment he's had in the past) and this usually shows itself by lots of barking.

Our planned walk today was going to be along the path on Reigate Hill in Surrey and I knew there were some wargame-related points of interest along the way.  Thanks to Mr Barky we never made it to them and had to find a quieter spot to walk in (and more annoyingly we never made it to the cafe for a coffee and a cake!).  To be fair we had a lovely walk on a sunny Spring morning but that doesn't make for an interesting blog post so here are some of the things that I would have seen if Cisco hadn't been so stressed... I've been to them in the past but the photos are lifted from elsewhere on the internet (mainly the National Trust)

For those who don't know it Reigate Hill is part of the North Downs in Surrey.  There is a long flat plane to the south before the land rises again at the South Downs and then falls to the South Coast.  

Back in the 19th century when the biggest non-colonial threat to Britain came from the pesky French, the North Downs were a logical place to site a series of forts designed to protect the approach to London.  13 forts were built covering a 72 mile stretch from Guildford to the Thames and into Essex.  Reigate Fort is now owned by the National Trust and was really an ammunition and equipment store in use from the late 19th century till it was stood down in 1906.  When my son was younger we came to a re-enacting event here with lots of Victorian and WW1 re-enactors

Reigate Hill's war efforts didn't stop there though.   Buried in the hillside is a building which may have been a WW2 radio monitoring or communication station.  

The National Trust are still investigating but apparently the area around Reigate Hill was known locally as 'Radio City' because of the many radio aerials that could be seen

Not far from the fort is a memorial to a WW2 tragedy when a B17, returning from a daylight raid on the German/Czech border in 1945, crashed into the hillside, killing all 9 crewmen.  The plane was returning on a foggy evening and clipped the trees on the hillside in the fog, crashing and exploding.  The news of the crash was embargoes until 1946

The final historical site on the route is the Inglis Memorial.  This was donated to the town by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert William Inglis in 1909. 

 Clearly a military man, I struggled to find out much about his army career but he served with the  Queen’s Edinburgh Rifle Volunteers, 1859-1866 and the London Irish Rifles, 1872 before retiring in 1891.  His post army career seems to have been with the Stock Exchange and founding various rifle and gun clubs.

So there we have it.. I almost had a history walk.  Now I just need to provide my neurotic hound with some therapy before the next one!

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Gaslands - best of 3


Lockdown is nearing, if not an end, then at least a change in England's restrictions and the prospect of a proper game is on the horizon.

In the meantime my son and I have been digging out smallish games we can do at home,,, we haven't a decent sized table for a large game.  Luckily we both like skirmishy style games played in a relatively small area so we have plenty to choose from. The game of choice over the last couple of weeks has been Gaslands, which we played a lot last year but which hasn't been out for a while.

In previous games we haven't really used the rules around Sponsors and Perks properly and so we wanted to test these out.  In the rules there are a number of Sponsors... factions which give you different bonuses and skills but which can limit or influence how you play.  For example my son played a couple of games using the Mishkin Sponsor.  This is a group backed by Elon Musk a high tech masternind which gives the cars access to lots of flashy experimental tech, while I used the Highway Patrol who are good at pursuit and whose sirens can cause opponents cars to slow down or take hazard counters.  These defintely add a lot to the game.

We also tried some different scenarios: we've generally just stuck to the Death Race scenario which as it suggests, is a race around a track.  This time we tried a couple of scenarios, both set in an arena.  The 1st couple of games were using the Saturday Night Live scenario.  In this players gain Audience Votes by a changing rota of tasks (eg being the active player and deliberately choosing a move which gives you a hazard, or crashing into something)... votes are generally useful and can be spent throughout the game but in ths scenario they also give you victory points.   Thanks to my inept driving skills and repeatedly accidentaly crashing into things, I found I was somehow racking up points and somehow won the game.  

As we hadn't played for ages it took us a while to get going with this game so we stage a rematch using slightly different cars.

This proved a closer game but again I was able to win... partly because my son had concentrated on flashy high-tech wizardry at the expense of guns that actually caused damage, but also because he had opted for faster but more vulnerable vehicles which didn't stand up to being rammed.

A near miss by 2 trucks

A crash about to happen!

And another crash!

Wrecked vehicles everywhere!

Our 3rd game used a similar scenario... this didn't have the changing menu of audience votes but did have a selection of gun turrets deployed around the arena which indiscriminately attacked any car which came close.  This proved a very close game with us both being reduced to 1 vehicle each after a turn and the game ending in a hail of rocket fire as both our trucks blasted each other, with mine coming off worst.

The games were great fun and increasingly close as we got to grips with tactics.  I'm now feeling inspired to add some more vehicles into the mix and paint up the Lorry and Trailer I have waiting on the paint table. 

Monday, 22 March 2021

Gamma Wolves


So I have a couple of projects on the go now... the 54mm Paper Soldiers and the 28mm Arthurian figures.  Both have slowed a bit, mainly because work is incredibly busy.  Obviously the last thing I need is to be distracted by something new and shiny that comes along and screams "look at me!!!  You know you want to play me!"  And of course you know what's coming next....

I'm at that age where in have a hankering for games I played in my youth.... as most of my wargaming was with WRG rules, thankfully I have little urge to go back there (although 6th edition weren't a bad set of rules, were they?).  Usually this Proustian nostalgia takes the form of role-playing games or boardgames and, thanks to reading an article online I had a bit of a moment recalling games of Battletech, something I haven't played in 30-odd years.  

It's always a bit of a gamble revisiting games like this...or indeed other old memories.  I'm still scarred by a return trip to a childhood seaside favourite haunt in Ayrshire which was a very, run-down disappointment a few years ago!  Similarly Starfleet Battles wasn't the game I remembered when I was tempted by it a  few years ago.

I only played a couple of Battletech games...this must have been sometime in the mid-80s.  But I remember them fondly and had been beginning down the slippery slope of just having a look on eBay.  Obviously not to buy anything you understand.  Just having a look.  I had a suspicion it would be quite clunky, like a lot of 80s games seem today.  But while I was looking into the world of big stompy robots I came across Gamma Wolves, a relatively new set of rules from Osprey 

These sounded like a simpler, more accessible game so, after a bit of delving into reviews and Facebook groups I picked up a copy of the rules.  The good thing about Osprey rules is that they are pretty affordable so even if they aren't what I'm after I don't feel like I've had to sell a kidney to buy them.  Gamma Wolves come in a hard back format, similar in style to Gaslands.  In fact there's a lot about them which felt like Gaslands... not in terms of actual mechanics but in the style of the rules and the writing.

The setting is a post-apocalyptic world with roaming bands of mechs traveling around, fighting it out for assorted reasons, or gathering in neutral zones for resupply and competition fighting.  Like Gaslands party of the fun is in designing your own Mech (or Frame as they call them in GW), adding in your own choice of weapons and systems.

Movement and combat seems pretty straightforward and its all d6 based...no fancy dice (unlike Gaslands).  Frames acquire reactor stress if they try to do too much and may temporarily shut down and similarly pilots may also acquire stress which affects their ability to fight and manoeuvre.  Frames are initially deployed as blinds until they are spotted or they do something which causes them to power up their reactor (eg firing).  Like Gaslands there are a selection of Factions (or Arcologies) which mechs fight for and these influence the style of Frame, weapons and abilities you can deploy.  As you'd expect there is a campaign system and various scenarios included.

I haven't played them yet so this is all based on a read through but hopefully we'll get something on the tale soon.

So now I'd got the rules I obviously needed some robots to stomp around with.  I've had a look at various posts on the 2 main Facebook groups and become even more confused.  One of the good things about rules like these is that players are encouraged to make use of whatever models they have in their collection and this means that there are all sorts of mechs in all sorts of scales being used.  The rules do suggest some standard base sizes to differentiate between size of Frames but even these can vary depending on what you have handy.  I'm no expert on the whole Stompy robot genre and there are lots of different styles of mechs being used... from the Battletech style robots I remember, to a whole world of Japanese mechs and even Games Workshop models repurposed as robot mechs.  These models come in all sorts of scales and at all sorts of prices... many of them are eye-wateringly expensive (even by GW standards) !!

I wanted something cheap to let me try the rules out and came across some figures from a company called Joy Toy (which sounds like a budget range from Anne Summers!).  These are based in China and offer a ridiculously cheap set of mechs...about £8 including shipping from China. They arrived within a couple of weeks and came in an oddly shaped box

Inside were 12 clip together Mech models.  To be fair these aren't the greatest models in the world but they look pretty good and, for the price, can't be sniffed at.

From the discussion online, the models are...erm...heavily inspired by... kits from other ranges including AT-43, Dust and Games Workshop.  I'm not familiar with the first 2 but the mech below clearly has a lot of love for the GW Dreadnought models....

The box claims these are 1/35 scale... they clearly aren't although I knew this before I bought them,  I reckon these are somewhere between 1/72 and 1/100 scale.  I also suspect that there is more than one Joy Toy company... one producing the more expensive detailed models and one knocking these out.  The models themselves aren't bad... a bit lacking in detail and the arms and legs need gluing rather than just clipping together as some of the fit isn't great.  They also don't take paint well... my 1st attempt at base coating them failed as the paint just wouldn't take: I guess there must be some kind of coating on them which will need to be scrubbed clean.  

There's a bit of an ethical debate here about whether it's ok to buy cheap, knock-off models.  My excuse is that these are just a small selection to try out the rules... if I like them then I'll look at better (and more legit) models.  So the next steps are a test game and some quick painting of the models...

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Samurai #3... Ronin


So the final game of our Samurai trilogy unfolded last week (current score son 2, me 0).  Having played a couple of games of Test of Honour we decided to dig out the Osprey rules, Ronin...

I haven't played these for ages but had good memories of them so we decided it would be interesting to compare and contrast with ToH.  In many ways these are a more straightforward set of rules with alternate figure activation and nice straightforward dice (plus modifiers)... no fancy dice required!

The USP for these rules is that each figure has a number of counters in their Combat Pool each turn. At the start of each round you secretly select some for attack and defence, so you could, for example, fight an entire round on the defensive... hoping to hold off your opponent until reinforcements arrive.  Alternatively you could throw everything into multiple attacks and hope to finish your opponent off, but risk being injured in the process.  Counters can also be used to enhance attack or defence rolls or to boost your chance of gaining the initiative in the round.  I believe a similar system is used in Osprey's En Garde rules which I own but which are still in the great 'unplayed rules' pile.

I used some beads for attack and defence counters: I picked these up at a local Hobbycraft and they have a suitable 'Go' style about them...

Some figures also have additional bonuses and skills in certain weapons to add to the list of things to forget each round.  Our game pitted a band on Bushi (or regular warriors) against some Sohei monks who were defending their temple.

The quiet temple...

The monks rush out to defend the temple...

The Bushi arrive, determined to loot the temple

Ashigaru armed with Teppo (or arquebus) take some
long range shots across the river...

The melee concentrates around a rice store.

Neither of us made any attempts at subtlety.  I had split my troops and one of my Samurai and an Ashigaru armed with a spear made a brave rush towards the river but were quickly driven back by Bow and Teppo-fire, leaving the Samurai badly wounded and out of the fight.

Everyone else was drawn into an increasingly brutal melee which I really ought to have won.  At one stage I had a 2:1 advantage in numbers but my son fought a defensive couple of rounds, holding me off long enough for some extra monks to arrive to balance the odds.

more Teppo-fire rings out but with little effect...

The markers in the picture above indicate light or grievous wounds so you can see how bloody the fight was!  Despite my early advantage, the battle slipped away from me and my troops were cut down, leaving the monks victorious and me conceding a 3-0 defeat in our latest round of games.

On reflection we decided that we preferred these to Test of Honour... nothing wrong with ToH but these felt less chance driven and had more elements of tactics and skill in choosing where and how to balance attack and defence. That's enough Samurai for now though... time for them to retire to the loft to lick their wounds and find something else for our next game.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

No one would have believed, in the last years of the 19th century...

 "No one would have believed, in the last years of the 19th century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed we were being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us..."

I've always loved the Jeff Wayne version of War of the Worlds, and the original book.  Less so the recent BBC tv adaptation, and let's not talk about the Tom Cruise film.  I saw the stage version of the Jeff Wayne musical back in 2014 at the O2 which quite a spectacle.

My 54mm Little Wars project continues with an attempt at building one of the Martian Tripods that come with the Paperboys book.  Many mistakes were made... many fingers spread glue on things that shouldn't have been glued... several pieces were glued on upside down... a lot of patience was lost...

The first thing you realise when building these is that 54mm is big!  I know that's kind of obvious but I hadn't really thought about just how big the tripods are.  To illustrate this the figure underneath the tripod is a 54mm figure so you can get a sense of the height.

The models are designed to represent the descriptions in the book and look really good... very evocative of the period...

The building process is relatively straightforward.  The body rests on a central support...

Each leg is built up from 3 sections: the end of each one slides into the next.  Getting the shape is a bit fiddly but the book suggests using a knitting needle (or in my case a skewer) as a shaper when rolling the paper.  Somehow I ended up with a tripod with one leg shorter than the others!

The main body is made up of 2 sections which are then glued together...

...and the roof is then shaped and stuck on...

The machine then has some tentacle-like grabbers 

Even though the upper body is quite light I was worried about whether the legs could support it so these were reinforced with bamboo skewers.  As I was building it I realised that the biggest problem with the tripod was going to be storage so I haven't permanently attached the legs.  For the photos they were blutacked on which meant it was all a bit precarious and shoogly!  The legs gave way several times as I was taking the photos,  Ideally they would need to be permanently glued on but where on earth would I keep the giant model!!?

I also realised that I'm very impatient when it comes to building things like this.  It obviously takes time for the glue to dry and I kept being tempted to try and move onto the next stage too quickly, spreading PVA and Prittstick glue around everywhere like a stroppy 5 year-old in nursery!

So that's another itch scratched.   I was pleased to have built it but I don't think I'll be building anymore as they are just too big and unwieldy, although the thought of several of these facing down a massed 54mm army is quite tempting but I think I'd definitely need a much, much bigger table and a lot more patience!!!  This has reminded me that after seeing the stage version of WotW back in 2014 I had a notion to do this in 6mm which is a much more practical idea.  My 6mm redcoated Zulu Wars British could just about pass muster (if you ignore the helmets) and it would all take up a lot less space... one to add to the "to-do someday list" I think.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Guards Guards


Another family boardgame night and this time it's Guards Guards, one of the Terry Pratchett themed games that came out a few years ago.  These are out of print and can be found for silly money on eBay (or at least people are asking for silly money...I assume no-one actually pays it!).  I managed to source this one on BGG for a very reasonable price.  The seller had even kindly printed out and bound all the FAQs and errata and included a Moist Von Lipwig miniature.

We have already played the Discworld: Ankh Morpork game which is a popular one in our house.  Guards Guards  appears a bit more complicated at first glance but was actually quite simple.

The premise is that spells have escaped from the Unseen University and need to be rounded up and returned.  Each player represents one of four Guilds (Alchemists, Assassins, Thieves and Fools) and recruits a band of volunteers to help catch the spells and make it back to the University on a "spell run".  These volunteers can also be placed as sabatoeurs to spoil other players Spell Runs and generally interfere.

To add to the confusion dragons can sometimes be summoned (if you've read Guards Guards this will make sense)...we didn't get round to this.  Other hazards include The Luggage (which runs around the city as each new volunteer is recruited, trampling players) and The Pox which is caught by touching a card marked with the Pox or getting too close to an infected player.  Both of these can be fixed (for a price) at a hospital.

Each Guild also has a specific ability which can be used if another player gets too close but we never risked getting near each other.

The runaway Luggage

The game was quick to pick up and really good fun...lots of opportunities to trip up your opponents and spoil their plans.  It came down to the wire with all 3 of us within touching distance of a win but my son was able to complete his final run first and, despite our best efforts to stop him, won the game.

As you'd expect the components are lovely with some really nicely illustrated cards for a host of Discworld characters (with a reference to which book they're from), all presented in a suitable Pratchett style.

A few of the character cards