Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Heroes of Normandie


Back in November I posted a review of the Heroes of Normadie boardgame which I'd bought just after SELWG (link) but for some reason I hadn't actually managed to get round to playing it.

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I managed to remedy that with 3 games in a few days... a practice game with my son and then playing through the first couple of scenarios with Anthony at the club.  There are some thoughts on the game itself and the components in the earlier post but it's worth restating the lovely quality of the components.  The boards and counters are suitably chunky cardboard with nice illustrations and the wooden blocks used for orders are suitably hefty.  There are lots of counters to cover all the eventualities in the scenarios and it feels like a really well made product.  There are a few errors in the rules (eg I spent ages looking for a US officer only to discover he doesn't exist and I should have used an alternative officer instead) but there are handy errata lists available including some on Boardgamegeek.

Image result for heroes of normandie rex      Image result for heroes of normandie rex

I'd had a concern that the attempts by the designers to put all the necessary info around combat bonuses, movement restrictions, cover bonuses etc on the counters and/or the maps might make them too 'busy' and feel cluttered but actually this worked really well.  We both picked up what each meant pretty quickly and soon found we weren't having to refer to the rules much.

The game deliberately takes a Hollywood approach to combat but it still feels quite realistic.  The make up of the scenarios drive the plot along well...game 1 was the introductory scenario where 2 matched forces are attempting to retrieve, and escape with, some top secret documents which have been spotted slowly descending by parachute on the corpse of a dead spy.  When I played this with my son I was quickly beaten (as usual!), mainly because I failed to think through the victory conditions and allowed him to dominate the possible landing spots for the spy.  When I replayed this against Anthony I pushed forward more aggressively and we had a much more even handed tussle for the centre of the board...I still lost though :(

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Game 2 was the Saving Private Rex scenario... a US general's dog has escaped and is wandering around no mans land pursued by a hand picked US squad while the Germans attempt to prevent them capturing him.  I managed to deploy my Germans in the right spot to keep the US squads away from the doggy for a couple of turns and my MG nest caused some problems for Anthony before he managed to knock it out.  Annoyingly he managed to get close enough to Rex to call him over to one of his squads.  I took great delight however in then playing one of my cards (you have a hand of 4 which give assorted bonuses etc) which meant the dog-walking squad had stepped onto a mine which, with a lucky dice throw, wiped them out but left the indestructible pooch intact.  Spooked by the noise he ran back towards the Germans and it looked as though I was going to get to the final turn in possession of Rex.  Anthony's newly arrived Jeep raced across the table however and with a skilful flurry of card playing he was able to zoom back to the table edge as we reached the final turn, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat!

The gameplay is very intuitive and fun and we picked it up really quickly.    There are a number of scenarios with the game and more at the Devil Pig Games website but the game also allows players to build their own forces which will need some more investigation.  There are also a range of supplements for Commonwealth forces and intriguingly there are some Cthulhu rule variations available on line too!

Saturday, 14 March 2015


An occasional theme on the blog is castles. I've always enjoyed a good castle and my long - suffering family have regularly been dragged round assorted ruins having me "explain" things to them (or if, in doubt, just making things up!).

Anyway here are a selection of very impressive photos (mine never look like that) from today's BBC website...

BBC website

Thursday, 12 March 2015

On the bookshelf...

So, not a lot of gaming or painting has been going on since my last post.  A combination of real life things like work (boo!) and a trip up to Glasgow to visit family (yay!)  put paid to that.  Normal service should be resumed next week.

I have had a chance to catch up on my reading though and by way of a change I thought I'd mention some of the books that have been on the shelf/kindle/side of the bath (actually that's not true... the bath tends to be reserved for magazines...easier to dry out when I drop them in the water!)

The Hollow Crown by Dan Jones

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My son convinced me that subscribing to the BBC History magazine was a good idea since we were buying it every month so we'd save money and there was a choice of a free book.  Since I'm planning to do a Wars of the Roses project for Lion Rampant (still no further forward on that one so far) the Dan Jones book seemed like a good choice.  I haven't read any of his other books (a couple on the Plantagenets I believe) but this was a good read and made sense of the convoluted plotting and fighting during the WotR.  Probably not detailed enough for some but as an overview of a very muddling period it was an excellent primer.

Stormbird and Trinity by Conn Iggulden

Image result for conn iggulden books war of the roses   Image result for conn iggulden books war of the roses

Following on from the factual account of the WotR are the first 2 books in Conn Iggulden's latest series.  I was struck by how well he manages to weave real events into the plot and at least he acknowledges when he's had to stretch things to make this happen.  It's also entertaining spotting the obvious Kingmaker event cards turning up (oh look, Scrope has been made Warden of the Cinque Ports...there are bound to be French raids any minute!).  The books are fun and entertaining as well in a way that Cornwell used to be.  (Is it just me or has his last series gone on far too long??)

Johnny Alucard by Kim Newman

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This is the 4th in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series which assumes vampires integrating (sort of) into society from Victorian times onwards.  Previous volumes have been set in Victorian England, WW1 (with the giant flying bats of the RFC) and 50s Italy.  The latest volume takes us into the late 70s and early 80s and includes Coppolla's production of Apocalypse Now/Dracula and vampires stalking Studio 54.  The books are a bit Marmite... you either enjoy the conceit or you don't.  There is a lot of fun in spotting the literary and cinematic references which fill each page.

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

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I'd guess most people have read or heard of Charles Stross' books...The Laundry series are a sort of John Le Carre/Cthulhu mix up with, in the book, a dollop of Fleming thrown in.  I'd only read the first book in the series (this is no. 2) but so far it's an excellent, funny read and I'll be getting vol. 3 asap.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

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This is the 3rd book in the Gentlemen Bastards series which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora.  While this is a fairly traditional fantasy type series the plotting and detail is excellent.  The books outline the adventures of a pair of thieves in a Renaissance style world with convoluted plots and a healthy disregard for worrying about killing people off when it suits the author, something I always find refreshing.  Book 2 had a nautical/pirate theme and this book takes on the world of the theatre and local politics (sort of)...really well written and fun.

Conan the Barbarian by Robert E Howard

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I'd never actually read any of the Conan stories and having subscribed to the recent Kickstarter I thought I should try some of them.  My only experience was the Arnie movie!  As there was a very cheap compilation on Kindle this seemed worth the 99p it cost me.  To my surprise they were very readable...I'm not sure why I was surprised since they have an enduring popularity, perhaps I was expecting something more clichéd.  To be fair they are quite clichéd  but I guess they weren't when they were written and that's the point...you can see the deep influence in lots of fantasy books, films and games.  More importantly though, they were actually quite fun and I found I'd ploughed through several of the stories in quick order.

The Bloodline Feud by Charles Stross (again)

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Another Charles Stross book...this is actually 2 books combined and takes the "traditional" gateway to a fantasy land/lost princess type story but  does it in a modern, business focused way.  Not as much fun as the Laundry books but an entertaining read