Sunday, 26 January 2020

SELWG 2020 and a bit of telly

SELWG is one of the wargames shows I usually try and get along's the one that's closest to home and usually has a good range of games and traders.  I've probably been going on and off for around the last 30 years.

So it was a shame to see this post on Facebook yesterday (the post is actually from last October so this may be old news to you but thanks to the mysteries of Facebook algorithms it only appeared on my feed yesterday!)...

... to be fair I can see what they mean about the venue.  It has been held at Crystal Palace sports centre since I've been going and split over 2 floors adjacent to the swimming pool.  The facilities all seem a bit tired and the parking seems to have been increasingly 'challenging'.  The location is great for me but I can see that SE London's lack of tubes and Sunday service on the trains could make it tricky for people to get there although attendance always seems good.

I was quite puzzled by the idea of a move to Lea Valley in North London though... it seems a bit out of their patch and would probably mean I wouldn't make the trip but if it makes it more accessible to more people I guess that's a good thing.  [Edit: with a bit thought it might not be any more of a trek than Salute is so we'll least I have till 2021 to think about it!]

In other news...I'm usually way behind the curve when it comes to keeping up with the latest TV series...I still haven't watched The Wire or The Sopranos and only finally got round to Breaking Bad last year... so I'm very much 'on trend' now and saw the 1st episode of Star Trek Picard on Friday.

I have mixed experiences with Star Trek...again  I missed some series completely and when I recently re-watched some of the original series I was surprised with how badly it had aged (and not just the effects).  Picard seemed very good though and I'll stick with it.

I've also seen some of The Mandalorian which was very impressive although I was surprised at how short the episodes were.  For all its Sci-fi appearances it does seem to basically be a Cowboy series (not a bad thing) can almost hear the jingling spurs!

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

The 1st Battle of extravaganza!

I'm lucky enough to be a part of a slightly anarchic gaming collective gathered together by Eric the Shed of Shed Wars blog fame.  Mostly our gaming is a regular weekly evening game but for the last couple of years Eric has organised an annual full day extravaganza.  In previous years this has included Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift (both in one day!) and Hastings.  This year's spectacular was to be the 1st Battle of Newbury from 1643...a pivotal battle in the Civil War.

There are several posts on Eric's blog explaining the background to the battle and how he put together the terrain,  the armies, rules amendments, orders of battle etc.  He has now posted a great write up of the game itself here.

6 of us gathered at Eric's early on Sunday morning and after a fortifying bacon roll and coffee we went through the briefing for the day.  The table  looked excellent with every regiment represented on table...there had been a bit of last minute reorganisation to make it all fit but everything worked perfectly.  Each regiment and ech commander had an info card which outlined who they were and stats for Pike and Shotte rules.  I know some people aren't keen on cards like this on the table but they really helped and I don't think  we would have been able to keep track of things without them.

Before the battle...

I had been assigned the role of Essex, Parliamentarian commander but each commander also had a commander named after themselves who could take command of a battalia which was a nice touch...funnily enough despite several historical commanders dying in the battle, all of our own mini-me's survived unscathed!

The Parliamentary army had an advantage in infantry battalia but was outnumbered by Royalist cavalry with most of both sides cavalry massing on one flank.  In the centre Parliament's large gun battery were able to quickly get to Round Hill, the high  ground in the centre of the table, and command the field. In the end they were pretty ineffectual but they looked good!

The view from Round Hill

Both sides played a cagey opening couple of moves with the Royalists on their right flank spending several turns skulking in Newbury before they decided to venture out.  Parliament's left flank was a maze of hedgerows which slowed down both sides and in the more open centre both sides sat and stared at each other for a while, with the cowardly (or sensible)  Royalists staying out of artillery range.  It was obvious that the opening moves were going to be made on our right with a cavalry battle and sure enough, after a couple of turns of manoeuvring into position, both sides charged. In fact the very opening casualty was the Parliamentarian cavalry commander, picked off by a sniper!

The cavalry mass...

...and then charge!

The cavalry battle was to last all day and despite being outnumbered  the Parliamentarian horse managed to fight the Royalists to a standstill thanks to some excellent generalship. General Stapleton's death at the hands of a sniper was avenged a few turns later when Prince Rupert died in a clash of cavalry.  A small unit of dismounted Dragoons fought off several Royalist horse units throughout the day and became the target of increasing attacks by the frustrated Royalists before eventually being overrun but they had accounted for several cavalry squadrons before the end.

Although our far left flank had fought to a standstill in the centre-left we began to make some progress and towards the end of the day we had made some progress but in the centre my advance had stalled in the face of heavy musket and artillery fire. I had moved my reserves (the London Trained Bands) over the right to support the cavalry battle so now everything was committed and the clock was ticking down to the end of the day.

Fighting over the hedgerows on the left flank

...and in the centre

In the afternoon we had started checking at the end of each turn to see how close we were to the armies breaking and it was pretty much neck and neck throughout the day.  As we approached the end, generals were flying around trying to rally shaken regiments and shore up the defences.  At the end of the last turn the Royalists were 3 units away from breaking and Parliament was 2 units away so we called it as a draw... the King had failed to destroy the Rebel army which could slip away to London, a pretty historical outcome.

A really epic game with some desperate individual battles fought across the table.  The company was, as always, excellent and really made the day very special.  There has already been some discussion abut the 2021 game,,,I better get painting!!!

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Helion New Year sale

Publisher Helion & Company have been running their New Year sale since 6th January with some hefty discounts and free postage (at least it's free in the UK)

Included in the sale are 3 of the Paper Soldiers books (LINK).  I wasn't tempted by their War of the Spanish Succession book (well...I was tempted but realistically it would never get done) but I did weaken and order the Castle Assault book (set during the Wars of Scottish  and Welsh Wars of Independence) and their European Buildings book which looks generally very handy.

These are discounted down to £4.23 each so too good to pass up!

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Last and first games

My last game of 2019 was a 5 player game of the Game of Thrones boardgame.  I haven't played this for several years so was quite hazy about the rules...all I could remember was it involved a lot of treachery and backstabbing (obviously).  As the Lannisters I found myself slap in the middle of the map and it took a few turns for me to work out what was going on.  The southern half of the board was pretty peaceful as the 3 players here decided to largely ignore each other... the Pykes and Starks to the north had other ideas and I lost quite a lot of ground in a mutually destructive war with the Pykes.  Somehow (and I still don't really know how!)  I managed to sneak into the lead in the last turn and won the game!  I can only think that as everyone was targeting which ever player was in the lead no one noticed me until the end as I'd been pretty weedy for most of the game...a life lesson in there somewhere I think!

2020's gaming started with an outing for Star Wars Rebellion...another game I hadn't played for ages.  It took us ages to set up and remind ourselves of the rules but once we got started it all made sense.

Like a lot of Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars games this suffers a little from having too many 'bits'...I got very confused about which was the Action cards, the Tactics cards, the Projects cards, the Mission cards etc.  This wealth of 'stuff' was one of the things that put me off other FFG games such as Armada.  Luckily my son has a much better grasp of this than I do and kept me on track.  The game is a big strategy game set across a map of the Star Wars universe with the Imperials trying to locate and destroy the secret Rebel Base while the Rebels have to hang on and convince systems to join the alliance.

The Imperials not surprisingly dominate militarily with Star Destroyers, ATATs and even a Death Star available to crush resistance.  They can also potentially build the 2nd Death Star later in the game.  The Rebels have some troops but have to rely more on persuasion and sneakiness to survive until the game end.

Having decided  where my secret base was I then started with most forces in Ryloth in the top right corner...big mistake as I was immediately hemmed in and had a Death Star and Star Destroyer bearing down on me.  Luckily the rebels move first so I was able to slip away.

Each player gets to recruit characters from the film's (some are rather obscure) who can move troops or carry out missions.  Very quickly Darth Vader  captured the Rebel leader Mon Mothma who is their best diplomat and really useful for convincing systems to join the rebellion.

I did eventually manage to rescue her and support for the rebels was slowly building across the galaxy.  Unfortunately the Imperials were advancing faster...they can convince systems to join them but can also subjugate them by landing troops on the planet.  This also reveals whether or not the hidden rebel base is present.  My hideout was on the Wookie system of Kashyyk and had 2 Imperial fleets getting closer and closer so I had to abandon it and relocate to one of the few remaining systems that my son hadn't investigated.  Sadly this only bought me a turn or 2 and he quickly invaded with a fleet and ground over.

I realised part way through the game that I'd made some early blunders with my tactics.  Although the rebels are relatively weak in military terms, they still need to be a bit aggressive and stop the Imperials having free reign to march all over the galaxy gaining resources and sussing out the location of the Rebel Base.  My 'run and hide' tactic was always doomed to failure.

Good fun and a game that gives a very different experience depending which side you play.  Let's hope my success rate improves for the next game in 2020!