Sunday, 23 February 2014

Cavalier 2014

My son and I ventured down to Cavalier in Tonbridge this morning.

About a year ago I posted a report on the show and, having re-read it the other day, I was generally disgruntled and unimpressed but couldn't pin down why.  This years show was broadly very similar but I came away much happier! Why?  I've no idea...maybe I just got out of bed on the right side!

The show takes place in the Angel Leisure Centre...I've always thought there's an ironic cruelty making us wargamers hang out in the same building as fit people!  The list of traders looked a bit thin this year and I was worried it might look a bit empty but it did feel as busy as usual.  TWWS had also decided to not hold a Bring and Buy this year: on their website they explain that the EBay effect has affected the quality of items and they've suffered from increasing thefts, as have a lot of other shows. It's a shame but I've certainly noticed the impact of EBay so I can understand why.

There were a number of games on, all of which were the usual impressive show standards...I've included a number of photos but as usual I struggled to remember who had put them on...apologies to anyone who I've missed out or miscredited!

The Battle of Cape St Vincent (Tonbridge Wargames Club)

Sunset over Shumshu: The Soviet invasion of the Kuril Island
of Shumshu in 1945 (Deal Wargames Club)

Tabletop Teasers On Tour 1709: Gentlemanly wargaming
in the Age of Marlborough and the Sun King (SEEMS)

Chrysler's Farm, 11th November 1813 (Southend and Rayleigh Wargames Club)

My shopping haul was relatively modest (as I explained to my wife when I got home!!) consisting of some new trees,  some additional vehicles for our French/Belgian Chain of Command forces, and  a Motorcycle section for the French...I'm not sure we needed them but we liked the idea of riding them around going "Brrrrrmmmmm....."!!

All in all a nice day's also given us some food for thought  for future projects and shopping lists....we've decided we need to be a bit more organised before we go to our next Show... Salute!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Donnybrook review


Bugger, buggery, bugger....

I had a plan for 2014...I really did!  I wrote it down and everything.

Finish off the 15mm Early WW2 Germans and French for Chain of Command, work on the Darkest Africa/IHMN project and begin a Fallout Post Apocalypse variant of IHMN.  It was always quite likely that something would tempt me off course but I'd at least hoped to last beyond January.  And then along came Donnybrook...

This is the new set of skirmish rules from the League of Augsburg and very nice they are too.  Presentation-wise these are 110 page bound rule book with lots of colour pics.  Throughout the book are excellent photos, often used to illustrate points from the rules...they've also included some comic-strip style illustrations which I guess people will either love or hate.  I found them very entertaining and useful way of helping clarify the game process.

The rules are aimed at the period from 1660-1760 and include a number of scenarios and settings ranging from fighting Berbers in Tangiers through the WSS to Jacobite skirmishes.  Of course this is a period for which I have virtually no figures so logically this should have no appeal, but hey, we're wargamers... things like that don't stand in the way of frivolous impulse buys!

I do have some 15mm WSS figures but, although I've tended towards 15mm as an ideal scale for skirmish gaming [eg with Muskets and Tomahawks, Force on Force etc] this does feel like a ruleset that cries out for 28mm.  

The rules themselves appear to include elements of various Too Fat Lardies games with a card activation system, and Force on Force with different flavours of dice used to represent troop quality.  Like many TFL games units and characters are activated on the turn of a card, with an optional Turn End card meaning you may not get to activate everyone in every turn.  I know this is a bit of a Marmite feature that people seem to love or hate and the writers sensibly advise ignoring it if you don’t like it [... personally I do like it.. it adds a real degree of uncertainty to each game]
The dice used range from d6 to d10 for different types (d6 for Recruits, d8 for Drilled and d10 for Elite) and hits are scored on a 5 or  6, so the common rabble aren't going to be great shakes in a combat!

Characters use d12 so are suitable heroic and have additional abilities which can assist troops in various ways.

The rules are designed around 7 factions although it would be very easy [and encouraged] to develop your own.  The factions listed include the Army, Civilian Mobs, Cultists, Covenanters, Highlanders, Outlaws, Raparees and Tribal.  Again each of these has a number of special abilities to make them distinctive.

So given that I don’t have any figures for this era what am I going to do with the rules....
Well, a couple of years ago I went through a not very well thought out phase of painting 28mm ECW figures.  I think I had a plan to build up  Covenanter and Royalist/Parliamentarian armies [I couldn’t decide which] but clearly my gnat-like concentration span  meant that was never going to happen.  It does however mean I conveniently have enough a couple of factions for  Donnybrook... some Pike and Musket armed troops and some Scots and Parliamentarian Cavalry.  The rules are aimed a t a slightly later period but wouldn’t take much in the way of tweaking to be ideal for the Civil Wars or the 30 Years War.
I’ve always had a bit of an interest in the 30 years war period ever since I read CV Wedgewood’s excellent [and snappily titled] “The 30 years War” and it would be a short hop from this to other similar genres such as Pirates, Three Musketeer *  style games etc. From some of the discussion on the LoA forums it looks as though there are plans to produce supplementary resources for later and earlier periods anyway as well as some ‘darker’ material....hmmm... Witchfinder General....
All of which gives me the perfect excuse to link to this... the best theme song of any ...erm...’historical’... drama.....


There’s a bit of rebasing to be done with the ECW figures before I can try the rules out but I’m already thinking of other periods that would interest me.  Barbary pirates are tempting but I’m not sure how easy figures would be to come by.  The whole Covenanter/Jacobite period is tempting too and  there seem to be a whole host of obscure early colonial wars in North America that I’d never heard of.  The period that tempts me least is the ‘big one’ for the span of the rules... the War of the Spanish Succession.  I can see the appeal for big army games but I’m not sure about lower level skirmish actions.

Overall the rules look very impressive... a combination of mechanics that I like and at a skirmish level that I'm increasingly preferring to larger battles.  Really nicely presented too.  Recommended [on the understanding that I haven't actually played them yet but have been swayed by the pretty pictures!!]

*  The Three Musketeers... I have to say I’m distinctly underwhelmed by the latest BBC offering on Sunday evenings.  It might have passed muster as a Saturday teatime programme in the same way that Merlin or Robin Hood did, but as a peak time Sunday night programme it’s a bit meh...


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Tomorrow's Star Wars

Andrew at the local club [actually one of 3 Andrews at the last count] had suggested a game of Force on Force this week but left the choice of scenario to me.  In the past we've played several games based either in Afghanistan or somewhere similar or in Vietnam but this week my cunning twist was to actually play Tomorrow's War instead!

If you've never looked at the 2 systems, you may be surprised to learn that they are to all intents and purposes the same rules.  The system is exactly the same with a few additions for the near-future setting of TW.  These additional rules include drones and sensors, roots etc as well as more sophisticated artillery and airstrike rules.  The game also features the 'Grid'... an internet type network that enhances communication and intelligence but which can be countered by ECM.

Knowing Andrew was a bit of a Star Wars fan this seemed a good opportunity to dig out my son's Star Wars miniatures.  When he was several years younger he was a huge Star Wars fan [shamefully of the more recent films... he was just the right age to get into them when they appeared] and was really keen on the series of collectible minis that Wizards of the Coast produced.  These were produced in random collections in sealed boxes so you were never sure what you were getting... the equivalent of wargamer-crack! 

We collected lots of these as well as the boxed starter set, which was actually quite a good game.  The problem with these type of collectible game is that you end up with lots of obscure figures... for every Obi-Wan you also get 10 obscure aliens that are based on a character that appeared briefly or in a novelisation.  As the box sets progressed these became even more obscure and the figure quality also declined.   It did mean, however, that in amongst all the obscure aliens, we have lots of Stormtroopers and a good random collection of Rebels.

The opening scenario in the Tomorrow's War book is very similar to the 'Contracting trouble' scenario from FoF... I think there's a post about that one elsewhere on the blog from last year.  A downed pilot [in this case belonging to the Imperials] is hiding out in a small complex of buildings.  While an Imperial patrol is en route to rescue him a nefarious band of Rebel Scum are lying in wait figuring this is a good opportunity to wipe out the Stormtroopers.

Andrew took charge of the Imperial patrol, led bizarrely by a Bounty Hunter, presumably guiding them in to scene.  Martin meanwhile had organised the Rebels who were concealed in jungle around the buildings.

Both sides were fairly evenly matched... the Stormtroopers were generally of a higher Quality rating [meaning they rolled 8 sided dice vs the Rebels 6 sided] and had a couple of heavy weapons.  The Rebels outnumbered them and were led by a certain Mr Skywalker. 

There don't seem to be any specific rules for Force type psionics in TW but I gave Luke an extra couple of attack dice reflecting his uncanny accuracy ["...use the Force..."] and allowed him to roll on the Advanced First Aid table instead of the ordinary one. Both sides also had an off table mortar with a FO attached to one of the units.

The Rebel Scum lie in wait

Andrew briefly contemplated launching an un-Stormtrooper like charge across the table before deciding to be a bit more cautious and use cover to edge into optimum range.  An early mortar attack from the Rebels caused little damage but drew the attention of the Stormtroopers and the poor little Spotting droid went down in hail of bleeps and sparks!  The return mortar from the Imperials was more effective but the jungle cover managed to deflect most of the damage.  The Rebels continued to lie low, meaning they couldn't be targeted  until spotted... one unit did break cover and after a couple of rounds of fire were all hit.  As there was no one left standing to do a 1st Aid check they remained out of action and were overrun and horribly massacred by Andrew [who was now definitely getting into the whole Evil Empire thing].

A second Imperial unit moved up to the buildings while another flanked the central Rebel squad.  There then ensued a classic Star Wars style gun fight in which all 3 units blazed away with blasters at close range and failed to hit anything!  Eventually the weight of fire told and casualties began to mount... mainly among the Rebels.

Andrew now decided to launch his cunning Masterstroke... the 3rd Imperial unit which had been doing sterling work providing Overwatch now charged across the table and into the building containing the Pilot.  The final Rebel squad who had been lurking round the back launched themselves through the other door taking on the Stormtroopers in hand to hand combat.  The Imperials failed to stand and, conveniently for them, fled heading straight back towards their own table edge with the Pilot in hand.  This placed them too close to home for the Rebels to stop them and after a few unsuccessful potshots the Rebels conceded the day.  There were a few Imperial Officers breathing slightly easier at the end of the game... their units' cowardice being off set by actually enabling them to achieve their objective and avoid Lord Vader's displeasure.

The Tomorrow's War mechanics worked well for the Star Wars setting.  I'd kept it fairly simple, so no Grid, Combat Stress or vehicles .  Despite this I still managed to forget several rules... most significantly the Morale rules!  Actually it probably wouldn't have made a huge difference... the most likely outcome for some units would have been  Pinned result but as they were hiding in jungle for a large part of the game they would probably have just stayed put.  Still a bit annoying though... I think next time I need to prepare myself of 'things to remember'... I did this for a previous game and it was very handy: I blame old age!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Wargames Illustrated #316

I picked up the latest issue of Wargames Illustrated the other day on my way back from a meeting in Reigate.

Usually their issues are themed around a particular era or battle which can make it a very hit or miss affair (although I usually end up buying it anyway) but they seem to have gone for a change of direction this month.  The latest issue is themed around 'Assaults from the Sea' in a range of eras.

So the Raid articles include a Saxon Coastal raid in the 11th century,  Barbary pirates attacking a Cornish village and a Napoleonic naval battle at Brest which features absolutely humongous ships!

There are also articles on...

ACW uniforms.... leaves me a bit cold...I really try to be interested in the ACW but tend to drift off...

Hobarts Funnies in WW2... interesting article

A view of a new set of ACW rule, 'A Firebell in the Night'... hmmm...ACW again...

The seemingly never ending series of articles on 19th century games, Savage Wars of seems to have been going on for ever but looks like it's finally over!  I love this era but the articles seemed to have overstayed their welcome and there's only so much cod-Victorian talk I can take.  Admittedly there were some useful points in there but I tended to gloss over them after a while.

A report on Warfare in Reading

The obligatory Flames of War article...these often seem to draw criticism ever since WI was taken over by Battlefront.  I don't know why...after all they paid good money for the mag and I think they generally strike a really good balance between FoW and other periods.

An interesting interview with the writers of of the recent Zulu supplement for Black Powder...I got this at Xmas and really must put up a review at some point.

Finally there's an overview of the Dust Weird WW2 game with a free set of starter rules in next months issue...I sense a connection somewhere...
I've never played much in this son and I once got roped into a Demonstration game at a show (Cavalier I think) of Secrets of the Third Reich in which it took the club members who were putting it on half an hour to make a move...we wandered off..I don't think they ever noticed!

Despite this experience and my general disinterest in anything featuring Zombies (don't know why, but they just leave me cold) these did look quite interesting... I think someone at the club has this game so I may need to persuade him to give me a game.

Despite my moans about ACW, I thought this was an excellent issue and well worth picking up.