Saturday, 18 October 2014

X Wing... Stop the Transport!

This week's game was an X Wing game with regular opponent Andrew fielding a Rebel Transport supported by an X Wing [with Luke and R2D2 on board], a Y wing and an A Wing.

Matching this were a 3 TIE fighters, my new Imperial Shuttle and an Advanced TIE fighter with Darth Vader at the helm.  New-ish club member Julian joined us taking the 2 TIE fighters.
The objective was pretty straightforward...destroy the rebel transport!

The Transport is an impressive model, if rather pricey.  The Transport isn't cheap [the Corellian Corvette is even more expensive] but has some interesting new rules for the game and comes with a campaign system of linked games based on the rebels attempting to flee Hoth.

It is unarmed but has the ability to allocate its power each turn which means it can rather annoyingly boost shields and carry out repairs.  Damage is also allocated to either the front or rear of the ship with 2 separate damage decks giving appropriate critical hit effects depending on where it has been hit.  The Rebel player can choose to fly slowly but have lots of energy to reallocate, or speed along but risk being too badly damaged.  At least the lack of weapons on-board meant that it wouldn't be able to damage any of my ships.....hmmmmm........

The Imperial and Rebel fighters face off....
The Imperial plan initially worked well with the shuttle, advanced fighter and bog-standard TIE fighter heading straight for the rebel fighter while Julian's better class TIE fighters [ie with named pilots with special abilities] took the long way round, avoiding a fight but then swinging round to attack the transport.

Vader vs Luke
The fighters spent a few turns dog-fighting with no one actually any significant damage although Vader's shields were beginning to take a bit of a pounding.  The Rebels were very annoyed to discover that the Shuttle had some Rebel prisoners on board which meant that they were given a Stress token each turn if they attacked it....I'm not sure how they knew they were on-board...presumably the Imperials were dangling the Wookiee prisoners out of the cockpit like some kind of fluffy dice ornament!

The shuttle then managed to break through the line of fighters and, along with Julian's fighters began to attack the transport.  The combination of firepower was beginning to tell when I realised that I'd left my shuttle sitting directly in the path of the transport.  Andrew sensibly increased to full speed and crashed straight into the shuttle...collisions in X Wing don't normally cause damage except in the case of the Huge ships like the transport in which case they destroy the other ship!  Boom went  third of my total points!  At least it took a couple of the transport's shields with it...

The Imperials continued to harass the transport but time was beginning to tell.  The Rebel fighters were beginning to get a bit battered but the ability of the transport to restore shields and repair itself was making it hard to cause significant damage.  Time was now against us so we called it a night.... the result was still very much in doubt but the loss of the shuttle was an embarrassing loss for the Empire.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Back from SELWG

I managed to make to SELWG this afternoon as planned, after a quick dog walk and then a morning at a concert my son was playing in at a local theatre in Sutton...the Sutton Youth Brass Band since you ask.  Really good concert which by way of a wargaming connection included a brilliant version of  Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan as part of the performance.

Anyway quickly drop wife and son back home and scoot across South London to Crystal Palace by 1.30.

SELWGs always been a favourite show,  partly because it's local but also because there's always a nice buzz about it, but this year I found it a bit flat.  The show is held at the huge Sports Centre there and takes up a main ground floor and a sizeable first floor balcony.

The ground floor

...and the 1st floor
As you can see it looked fairly busy when I got there but the ground floor was noticeably quieter than usual with a number of familiar traders missing.  More room to look at things and less problems caused by crowds of punters but it was shame to see the gaps.  By about 3pm a number of people had packed up and gone...

Game-wise there were a good number of interesting looking games going on although nothing that really made me stop and go 'wow'!  Admittedly they were all a lot better in terms of terrain etc than anything I could do so maybe I'm just being curmudgeonly and a bit unfair!

Some photos [apologies as I've no idea who or what these were, but they all looked really good!]...

The only one I can identify...a demo of the revised PBI rules from Peter Pig!

I found a lot of the traders seemed to be becoming very generic... apart from what seemed like relatively few figure manufacturers [Ironclad Miniatures, Essex, Foundry and Magister Militum were there]  a lot seemed to be selling pretty much the same products.  Lots of stalls seemed to be mainly made up of boxes of Warlord Games/Perry/PSC figures and 4Ground buildings.  Again I'm probably being unfair but it did mean there was a very samey feel to each of the stalls.

Shopping-wise I picked up some French and British Home Guard infantry and a couple of vehicles from Peter Pig, some 1:100 plastic kits from Zvesda and a couple of 4Ground houses.  I'd had my eye on a copy of the Heroes of Normandie board game and saw a copy sitting on a shelf in one of the stalls and stupidly didn't pick it up and of course it was gone when I came by later.  A quick browse later on eBay turned up a copy cheaper than the stall and with free P&P so no harm fact I then discovered the seller lives about 5 miles from me so either they'll drop it round or I'll pop by and get it!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Tweet tweet

Henry Hyde over at Miniature Wargames withe Battlegames magazine has been championing the cause of Twitter of the last couple of issues.  Now Twitter was something that I really didn't get at all...I do Facebook, I blog, but couldn't see the point of tweets!

But, as an experiment I set up an account and have joined the Twitterati and I have to say it's actually been quite interesting....tweets seem to range from the mundane to the really interesting and like most things I guess it's down to picking who and what you follow carefully.

Anyway, if anyone feels like joining in, I can be found at @alastairtweet.

See you there!!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

"Shuttle Tydirium, what is your cargo and destination?"

I have a game of X Wing coming up in a week or so in which the Imperial navy will be carrying out a policing action against the very impressive Rebel Transport which is being fielded by Andrew.

I decided the Imperials could do with a bit of a boost and then discovered that my local Waterstones had a few of the FFG ships in stock and before I knew it an Imperial Shuttle had made its way home with me!

The Shuttle isn't exactly a dog fighting star but I reckon it won't have to be against the Transport... not sure about all the fighters that will doubtless be escorting it though.

The Shuttle's strength is in the number of upgrades it can have, many of which benefit the other ships in the squadron so it acts as a flying command centre, as well as toting a few powerful guns.

It's also a really nice model... I'd heard there had been some issues with the wings not deploying fully but they seemed fine to me.

Of course if Andrew reads this my secret weapon is going to be revealed a little early.....

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Martian Empires

Last nights game was a set-to between Native Warriors and a plucky British Expeditionary Force on the dusty plains of the Sudan...erm...Mars!

Mike [of Black Hat Miniatures fame] had arranged a game for a couple of new club members which he was kind enough to let me gatecrash. The game was played using Martian Empires, a rather neat ruleset covering Wellsian Martian invasions and Burroughs-ian [not sure that's a thing] battles set on the Red Planet.

The British fielded a mix of regular infantry and Martian Askaris backed with Lizard riding cavalry, a couple of steam tanks and a very impressive Walker.

The Martian hordes were more basically armed with muskets and in some cases rather fearsome halberds and were supported by Giant Martians riding even more Giant Lizards and a large Cannon being dragged by what appeared to be a Triceratops.  They also had less Giant Cavalry and some Flying vehicles.

The rules themselves are from the Warmaster school of game design where units can attempt multiple actions which get increasingly difficult, but run the risk of whole commands becoming paralysed.

The game started as a cagey affair mainly because we all kept failing command rolls but eventually the Martian Askaris began to advance while my regulars faffed about on the left flank.

After a few turns of inactivity the Giant Martian Cavalry charged my Scout Tank and proceeded to spend the rest of the game hammering on the outside but not actually causing enough damage. 

My regulars continued to not do very much apart from one successful volley which wiped out a unit of enemy artillery.  Colin's natives and cavalry meanwhile had charged home crashing through successive units and causing the Martian left flank to collapse, winning us the day.

As a true Imperialist however I decided that the British Regulars had won the day and tried to take as much credit as possible!

I hadn't played Martian Empires for ages and had forgotten what a fun set of rules they are.  They'd also be easily adaptable for 'normal' colonial games.  I've never really got into the Burroughs stories but I'd be very tempted by them for a Wells inspired game [not that I'm going to because I don't need another project and I have willpower... yes I do...honest...!].  The rules and figures can be found here

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Land of the Free

I was lucky enough to be sent a pre-release copy of Land and Freedom from the lovely people at Osprey.
This is the latest in their steady stream of rulesets that seem to be coming out every month at present.  I’d expected these to be in the same format as the other Osprey rules I’ve played [In Her Majesty’s Name, Ronin and World in Flames] which are relatively slight softcover rules but this is a much chunkier 192 page hardback book, retailing at £25.  It’s a very pretty book to look at with lots of illustrations, both the artwork you’d expect to see in an Osprey, but also lots of photos of figures on the tabletop.
As the title suggests it covers conflicts in North America, from the French Indian War through to the War of 1812.  Most of my FIW gaming is at a very skirmish scale with rulesets such as Musket and Tomahawk and La Longue Carabine [the Sharpe Practice variant]  and these rules would appear to allow the player to field units ranging from ‘tiny’, consisting of 2-6 men, up to ‘large’ units of up to 30 figures.
Throughout the rules the author stresses that there is no mandatory size of unit of composition of armies other than each side having to field a Force Commander and a minimum of 2 Group Commanders to take charge of parts of the army [which in turn have between 2 and 6 ‘elements’].  Because of this attempt to keep things flexible, the rules use quite generic  terms for units/regiments/companies etc: the unit of manoeuvre is referred to throughout as an ‘Element’ which I must admit I found a little confusing at first... too much DBA in the past perhaps!
Each Element has a number of stats including its Manoeuvre rating [the number of movement actions it can take each turn ...move, change formation, reload etc], Combat rating [the number of times it can fire or melee in an activation], Discipline [how well it maintains cohesion/casualties], Morale [kind of obvious] and Action Dice which are added to firing or melee.  These stats vary depending on the size of the unit .  At this point in the rules I was a bit concerned as the unit descriptions seem very generic with no distinction between different armies etc...more on this later.
Units.. sorry...Elements... are activated each turn by either the Force Commander or their respective Group Commander, each of whom has a Command rating.  This gives him a variable number of points each turn with which he can order Elements to do additional things such as extra actions. Boosting morale, an inspirational charge or a concentrated volley among others.  Each commander  has a sphere of influence dependent on his skill rating , so has to make sure his troops are within a specific radius.
Combat seems fairly straightforward with each factor adding or subtracting  a d6 from a starting total and 5s or 6s needed to cause a hit.  Melee follows a similar structure.  These sections of the rules, like the others, are well illustrated with examples of play and there are plenty of diagrams to aid clarification.
Casualties aren’t represented by figure removal but instead cause units to take a Discipline Morale test which can force a unit to withdraw if they fail and also degrade the units Discipline level, moving it from ‘Fit’ down to ‘Shattered’ [via ‘Shaken’ and ‘Exhausted’...actually this sounds like the effects of my normal day at work!] but this can be improved by Commanders judicious use of Command points to rally the troops.  This is likely to involve the use of markers or tokens which may be a turn-off for some gamers.  Apparently tokens are already in production....
There is a comprehensive, and again well illustrated, section on the effects of terrain and then a section of Advanced Rules.  These include ‘specialist’ unit types which are specific to different theatres or combat roles.  This came as a bit of a relief after my worries about the generic feel.  Here there are troops such as Dragoons, Hessians, Grenadiers, Light Infantry, Indians, Militia  etc as well as special skills for some troop types such as Vanguard units, Ambushing, Woodsmen, Marksmen etc, allowing you to tailor your army to suit the period and scenario.
There are a series of general scenarios  ranging from straightforward encounters to Flank Attacks and Ambushes  before the rules conclude with 20 Historical Scenarios: 4 from the FIW, 7 for the AWI, 2 for the Northwest Indian War and 7 for the War of 1812.
So, what’s the verdict?? ......
Well, I haven’t played them yet, but plan to soon.  The rules seem clear and well-explained once you get past the use of terms like Force Commander and Element which do feel a bit generic and don’t give a feel for the period.  I like the way they reflect combat with casualties degrading the units morale and ability to fight rather than figure or stand removal [shades of Black Powder]. 
There are lots of explanations and illustrations which was helpful]. No index sadly which might have helped, but there’s a pretty clear contents and the layout and sequence makes sense  [which is more than can be said for some rules!]. 
On first reading I’d been a bit concerned as it places a lot of emphasis on each unit/Element being made up of a number of stands and has a section of how these should be made up, but having read them again it’s clear that this isn’t really necessary.  All my FIW troops are based singly and although this can be a bit of a pain when manoeuvring them, it wouldn’t really make a difference to using these rules.  My only reservation is that they might lack some of period and theatre specific flavour that works so well in Musket and Tomahawk but could make a good alternative to other rulesets covering this period and are well worth looking out for... definitely worth looking out for if you've an interest in this period.