Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Birthday books

 Yesterday was my birthday and I was given an excellent present by my son.  He's a keen fan of Folio Society editions of books... they produce really lovely editions of interesting books.  He knew I've always been a fan of historian C.V. Wedgwood and gave me this lovely set of her trilogy of books around the English Civil War/ War of the 3 Kingdoms.

Wedgwood is a great author and produced her Great Rebellion Trilogy in the 50s so it may be a little dated these days but her writing is very accessible.  She wrote a number of books, especially around 16th/17th century European history.  Her book The Thirty Years War is an incredibly readable account of a very confusing period.

These editions are really lovely things and of course there's now a real danger I could go off down an ECW wormhole!

And he baked me a lovely cake...

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Action Stations...attack the convoy

Following last week's Stingray game, we're sticking with the naval theme...

I really do need to iron my rubbish sea cloth

It's been a  while since my Coastal Forces boats have had an outing so this week we planned a game using the most recent edition of Action Stations, which have always been my go-to rules for this setting.  I have tried Cruel Seas (which is where the models come from) but found it a bit oversimplified, even with the variant  rules by David Manley  (Action Stations author) which appeared after CS came out.  Cruel Seas does work well for multiplayer games but as there were only 2 of us it was a good chance to see what the most recent edition of AS looked like. 

Mostly the the rules are the same but some things seem to have been simplified and streamlined.  There is less book-keeping with movement and damage which is a good thing but the core rules remain the same.

For our game I'd wanted to have something vaguely historical so found an account of an action from 1941 in the Osprey MTB vs E Boat book which sees British MTBs and MGBs intercepting a German convoy.  The British attacked in waves with 2 Vospers initially making their attack and a 3rd MTB following up behind a few turns later.  At the same time as the 2nd MTB arrived, some Motor Gun Boats also attacked, trying to draw off the escorts... or at least that's what happened historically!  In our game the MGBs weren't quite so committed

Each counter might (or might not) be a boat

Initially the boats moved as blinds (or 'blips')... more skilled crew get more markers adding to the confusion.  I'm not convinced we got this bit right...boats moved surprisingly close to each other before being spotted.  Looking back I think I should have reacted sooner.  We ended up deploying all the boats as we were both getting a bit frustrated with this part of the rules... I need to go and read them more closely I think.

Uh oh...

The 1st British MTB deployed and launched both of its torpedoes towards one of the cargo ships.  The range was just right and, although 1 torpedo missed completely, the other struck the freighter on the port bow with resounding clang... a dud!!!  The MTB then sped up and headed off table as fast as it could, its work now done.

As it passed between the freighters it was illuminated by a flare and drew lots of fire from the escorting S Boats and was quickly sunk.

The 2nd MTB fired its torpedoes at the 2nd freighter which, despite some desperate maneuvering, couldn't avoid them and both struck it on the port beam (I'm now throwing nautical terms around like I know what I'm talking about... my dad would be proud!!)  These both hit and exploded causing massive damage to the freighter, sinking it straight away.

The MGBs now sped past the sinking freighter and decided not to attempt to support their remaining MTB comrade and headed off into the night!

This left one remaining Vosper to take on the surviving freighter.  A lucky shot from the escorting armed trawler which had been chugging  along slowly beside the freighters destroyed one of the 2 torpedo tubes, leaving just one torpedo to sink the freighter.  Somehow the MTB managed to survive the hail of cannon fire from the 2 S Boats and fired off the torpedo which hit the freighter square on the bow.  I'd hoped that the narrow angle might result in a miss but no.. the torpedo hit, and wasn't a dud this time, sinking the 2nd freighter, and the last Vosper sped off into the safety of the darkness.  

A successful hunting trip for the Royal Navy with 2 freighters being sunk for the loss of 1 MTB.

Great rules and a fun game... definitely need to check on the hidden movement part though.  It feels like an important part of these type of engagements but didn't really work for us.  I suspect it was down to my reading of the rules rather than any flaws in the system!

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Post-viral Salute

So yesterday we travelled back in in time to Salute 2020.  For lots of reasons this was a very odd day at Salute... not least because I was helping with a participation game rather than being there as a punter.  I was helping with the Relief of Fort Pippin game organised by Mike Lewis and Anthony from the Little Wars Revisited forum... a great looking 54mm toy soldier style game with the evil Prussians attempting to seize Pippin Fort before the British reinforcements (presumably led by  Captain Snort) can relieve them.

Some of the British troops can arrive in style on a train (again  I'm assuming that this is the Chigley train, driven by Lord Belborough... can you tell I was a big fan of what I've now learned is called the Trumptonshire Trilogy).

We didn't have any near neighbours...

We used Bob Cordrey's excellent Portable Wargames Rules with the 'sudden death' option which means units either retreat 1 square or are destroyed... very bloody but ideal for a participation game.  The rules are really easy to pick up and participants in the 3 sessions we ran needed little help and seemed to be having great fun.  The main takeaway from the game was that you should never play against children because they will ruthlessly annihilate you every time!!

So how was Salute?  Very odd...

I arrived early and immediately it was noticeable how much free space there was.  

This was before the punters entered.

I gather the hall space was larger but it was quickly obvious that there were a lot of no shows with several big companies dropping out late and lots of games not happening... speaking to some of the Warlords it sounds like maybe 40% of games didn't happen and attendance was way down.  It's not really that surprising given how the last 18 months have been.  Although I live on the edge of London this was my first proper trip to town and on the tube since Spring '20 and I was a bit nervous about it so I can imagine many people didn't want to risk it.  When you add in supply issues for traders, Brexit affecting some overseas visitors and traders and the cost of pitches its understandable why numbers were down.  There have also been quite a few shows scheduled close together as things have opened up so perhaps some fatigue has set in?

Numbers did pick up a bit by lunchtime but then quietened down again in the afternoon.

This is the only photo I took...a  shocking example of scale creep!

I got a couple of chances to have a look around but failed to take any photos of games as I was doing a bit of browsing and then hurrying back to our game.  It did feel that there was a lack of big  spectacular games...I think this is a trend that has been growing  over the last few years, but there were some exceptions.  The huge  Stalingrad game for example looked fantastic. 

My Salute loot amounted to absolutely nothing!  (unless you count a free Warlords mug and a £3.99 meal deal for lunch).  I'd decided there was nothing I particularly wanted but I fully expected to spot some unnecessary purchase: in the event nothing really caught my eye... that must be a first!

The Excel Centre was also hosting a Star Trek convention so the day was a perfect storm of nerdiness.  I'm sure Salute will bounce back and it will be interesting to hear if other shows experience the same issues.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Anything can happen in the next half hour...

 As you can probably guess from the post title last night's game was Stingray (Stingray... Stingray... doo, de doo-doo doo-doo.  Sorry, the theme music automatically pops into my head!)

The rules were from the South London Warlords Salute game from many years ago.  Anthony has an  excellent collection of WASP submarines and Aquaphibian Terror Fish from Matchbox and Konami and must have stripped his local Pets At Home store of aquarium plants to create an excellent looking table.

Because this was designed as a participation game, the players are all piloting a Stingray submarine with the Terror Fish being activated and moved according to cards.  The objective is to get within range of Titanica city and destroy it with your limited supply of Sting Missiles.  Players select a variable number of cards each turn which determine moves and/or firing.  The Terrorfish then activate, following the instructions on their card...they're much faster than the Stingrays but are vulnerable to a well-aimed Sting Missile.  Of course, if you use all your missiles taking out the Terrorfish, you won't have enough left to target the city...

Each players cards allow them to choose from  a range of manoeuvres including leaping out of the sea and over obstacles. Damage is also determined by drawing a card which can cause various problems, ranging from losing a Sting Missile, reduced mobility and if you're very, very unlucky, exploding

In our game the opening turn saw a Terrorfish move straight towards my sub and fire.  I drew a damage card and my Stingray immediately exploded!  We decided that this was actually all part of a pre-game nightmare Troy Tempest was having... then he woke up and all was well.  We decided to re-set and draw a different damage card instead!

Both of us destroyed one of the Terrorfish before heading as fast as we could for Titanica, dodging the next waves of incoming Aquaphibians and mostly avoiding the undersea terrain (OK...that was me... I'm rubbish at plotting manoeuvres!) before unleashing our remaining Sting Missiles and destroying the city.

The game was clearly well playtested and comes in at about an hour max which is ideal for a participation game at a show.  One flaw is that once you have managed to get past a Terrorfish it's unlikely to manage to successfully turn round and chase you.  Instead it's likely to wander around the table rather aimlessly unless it draws a card which let's it reorientate towards a Stingray.  We discussed this and reckoned that with a few rule tweaks or a more complex scenario (eg the Stingrays have to make their way back down the table after achieving their goal) this could be fixed.  A good filler game with some lovely models... very nostalgic!

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Stop the train... a VBCW bash

A long overdue outing for for my VBCW  figures  in a Bolt Action game at Eric the Shed's this week

In this game the brave Communist/Socialist allies were attempting to stop the King's mistress making it to the station where she was due to be whisked off to safety by an approaching train.  

Hamilton Accies bringing up the rear

As always with VBCW games the fun is in fielding wierd and wonderful units: in our game a rag-tag assortment of Fascists were confronted by a combination of the Postal Workers Union, Cornish Fishermen and my flying column which had headed south from Lanarkshire, consisting of miners, Cameronians and some of Hamilton Academicals finest  all armed to the teeth.

My armoured car takes  a direct hit

Avanti Popolo comrades!!

Sadly the King's mistress made it by the skin of her teeth, speeding off on a passing locomotive and leaving much devastation and destruction in her wake.  The game prompted lots of discussion about new factions for our collective armies and has made me think I ought to add some more troops to mine.