Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Hlobane - Battle Cry

Another 54mm game courtesy of Anthony's excellent collection of figures.  This time a refight of the battle of Hlobane, using an amended version of Battle Cry.

I really like lots of the games that use the same mechanics as Battle Cry (Memoir 44, Command & Colours etc) but have never played the original. Anthony had tracked down some amendments and scenarios for the Zulu War and came up with an intriguing scenario.

The British have been caught out by approaching Zulus in very rough, hilly terrain.  They could fight it out but are outnumbered so have the option to win by successfully extricating enough troops.  Of course they can't simply run away but have to occupy 2 specific hexes before this option is available... I guess a bit of face needs to be saved in case it looks too much like a rout. The other special rule is that the Zulus need 2 orders to initially move a unit off the base edge but once they are on the move they go back to just needing a single order.  This, and the broken terrain, mean the Zulus can't simply overrun the British in the first couple of turns.

One of the risks with these type of games is that you can be a bit at the mercy of the cards and a bad hand can really scupper your tactics.  My cards were mainly for units on the flanks so we were able to adopt the 'Horns of the Buffalo' tactics and try to envelop the British and try to block their exit route .  I also had a couple of skirmish units who did their best to defend the objective hexes but, despite wiping out a couple of cavalry units, they were ultimately doomed.

An ADC explains to the general that his cavalry seem to have disappeared

The almost-victorious Zulu general

Although the Zulu centre hadn't moved far from the edge of the table, the 2 flanks were pressing hard.  The British exit point was in danger of being seized by a Zulu regiment but it came under some surprisingly accurate point-blank rocket fire and was broken, leaving the way free for the British to make their escape.  Had the game continued I didn't fancy the chances of the units off on the British right flank who had a long way to go to get to the exit but the point threshold had been reached and it was a narrow British victory 

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Star Wars Armada- giant sized!

 My friend Andrew is a keen fan of Armada, the FFG Star Wars, 'big ship' game ( Cruisers and Star Destroyers as opposed to zippy starfighters in X Wing).  We last played this 6 years ago (one of the advantages of having a blog is that I can check things like that) and, although I really wanted to like the game I've always been a bit Armada-phobic.

When the game came out I loved the concept and I'm a big fan of the other FFG Star Wars games (I think the only one I haven't played is Legion).  The thing that put me off is the host of additional cards giving upgrades to ships, special characters, bonus tactics etc.  These end up becoming overwhelming and there a million 'special' rules to try and remember and which inevitably get forgotten  until part-way through the game we realise we've missed something critical.

Andrew has been trying to convince me to give them another go for years and I've always broken out in a cold sweat and run away, but the other week he unveiled a secret weapon to tempt me to the Dark Side... a huge Star Dreadnought (..who says size doesn't matter!!?).  

So we decided to play a stripped back game with no bonus cards, just the ships 'out of the box'.  And it was fun...

The Empire fielded their enormous Dreadnought with an escorting Cruiser and several swarms of TIE fighters.  Against this I was commanding a plucky mix of Corvettes and Cruisers (including the Heavy Armoured Cruiser from Rogue One) backed up by some X Wing and B Wing squadrons.


One of the interesting features of Armada is that bigger ships have to pre-plan their orders over several turns so in theory my smaller ships should have been a bit more flexible which would be an advatage against the firepower of the big ship.

Of course that doesn't take account of my inability to manouver without crashing into things and I managed to hit the Dreadnought at least twice... not surprisingly I came off worse!

The fighters that managed to actually get past the TIE fighters did quite a bit damage but the real big hitter was the Armoured Cruiser which caused a lot of damage to the Empire ship (including by crashing into it) before being destroyed.  Eventually the Rebel Fleet was pretty much devastated with the survivors flying off after causing almost (but not quite) enough damage to destroy the Dreadnought.

As always with the FFG games the models were lovely with the Star Destroyer being particularly impressive.  So there we go, I've managed to overcome my Armada-phobia.  I still think it would be too much if we used all the cards but the stripped back version was great fun and we'll definitely have a rematch at some point.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

War of the Ring update

 So we finished the first War of the Ring game session (previous post).  Like all boardgames, when the box or Boardgamegeek suggest the game takes 2 hours to play, you can always add a few more on top and we finished our session over a couple of evenings.  To be fair the first evening was slow, partly due to setting it up, and then our fumbling through the first few turns.  Subsequent rounds were much faster 

What I've really enjoyed about this game has been the way it plays out as a story.  The blank canvas of strategy was a bit daunting but we both felt that when we  replay it we'd have a better idea of possible options.

So what happened?  Well, I'd been over-cautious moving the Fellowship so they had a lot of ground to make up but were still relatively uncorrupted by Sauron and most of the Fellowship was intact.  I pushed them on towards Mordor (largely following the 'official' route in the books).  Gandalf had reappeared as Gandalf the White and led a relief force from Dol Amroth to save the Rohan army at Helm's Deep where he was joined by Aragorn. Sauron's armies, led by the Witch King, lost badly trying to besiege Helm's Deep and were destroyed when the Rohirrim sortied out from the fortress (again very in keeping with the books).  They went on to capture Orthanc and bump off Saruman.  Unfortunately Sauron's armies were stomping all over Middle Earth... most of Gondor was occupied, Erebor was captured and the Dwarves largely destroyed, the Elves were beseiged and Sauron was close to a military victory.  

Frodo & Sam on the last steps to Mount Doom...

My best hope was to hole up in my remaining fortresses and push on with the Fellowship.  They slipped into Mordor via Minas Morgul... once the Fellowship reaches this endgame, its a lot tougher as the Corruption begins to stack up (they're tramping through the Dark Lord's home turf!) and so all of the Fellowship were sacrificed one by one, to stave off the corruption which was now coming in thick and fast.  With 2 steps to go to reach Mount Doom, Frodo succumbed to temptation and gave up the ring... appropriately it was Gollum's card that tipped the scales!

A great game and  definitely one that offers lots of replayability!

Sunday, 9 January 2022

War of the Ring

 Last year a friend very generously gave me a copy of the War of the Ring boardgame... one I'd never played.  It dates back to 2004 and has one player taking on the forces of Sauron while the other tries to lead the Free People's and sneak the Fellowship to Mordor.

I have a copy of the old 70s SPI game which shares similar themes but this is a more up to date and a less clunky version with a hefty dollop of Risk thrown in for the combat system.

There are a host of figures for each faction and a shedload of tokens and counters to keep track of, but the rules themselves are relatively simple.  Each player rolls a number of Action Dice which determine what you can do each turn.  As you'd expect Sauron has more of everything and is able to pile the pressure on from the start.  The Free People's have limited forces and a lack of reinforcements and are unlikely to win in a straight fight.  But of course they have the Ring and the Fellowship and can win by sneaking past the Dark Lord's armies and getting to Mordor.  Most of the Free People nations start unprepared for war, and there's a political effort needed  to raise the alert level before they move to a war footing.  Members of the Fellowship can be detached to help with this political agitating, or sacrificed to stave off the growing Corruption that affects the Ringbearer and which can lead to a Sauron victory.

The Witch King marches into Minas Tirith

Gandalf defends Helm's Deep

We're part-way through our first game and so far Minas Tirith has fallen, Merry has been despatched back to the Shire to raise the Northern armies, Gandalf has died but reappeared as Gandalf the White and is leading a force from Dol Amroth to save Helm's Deep from Saruman's armies.  I've probably been over-cautious in moving the Fellowship and they still have a long way to go but are relatively uncorrupted.  I really need to be less risk-averse and pick up the pace or we'll never make it to Mordor before Middle Earth has been over run.

The game is fairly simple to play but a bit bewildering when it comes to knowing what to do next.  I suspect there are good strategies to follow but neither of us have worked them out yet (although I suspect my son is way ahead of me in this respect!).  Good fun and it certainly has a big storytelling feel to it.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

2022 plans...

This is the time of the year where traditionally we make our unrealistic lists of things we think we're going to achieve but which we'll probably never actually do.  I don't usually do these kind of lists  as I always come unstuck and fail to achieve anything or get completely sidetracked, but this year I do sort of have some projects in mind and so perhaps saying them out loud (or writing them down) will help me stick to my guns... feel free to come back in January 2023 and point and laugh!

Last year I made a start on an Arthurian army and this has crawled along really slowly as I've lacked motivation to get painting. So priority #1 is to get a shift on with these.

I've also had a load of ACW Ironclad ships sitting in the loft for  years and would really like to get these on the table so #2 is to get enough of these painted up for a game.  This is definitely their year!!

#3 is to sort out my WW2 naval ships...mostly picked up 2nd hand a few years ago these have languished in a box and need a bit of TLC.

If I actually manage to get these done (ha!... who am I kidding!!) then there are several past projects where I have painted up just enough to have a game but could do with adding in more troops or models.  Filling in some of the gaps and broadening the range of the armies seems like a sensible approach rather than launching into something brand new.  This includes things like my AWI armies, Napoleonic ships, Gaslands cars, cowboys and WW2 aircraft.

Of course there's always the danger of being distracted by one of those ideas that rumble around at the back of my mind, and I wouldn't be a gamer if I didn't have a couple of those.  So if you spot a post about 6mm biblical armies or 28mm Mythic Ancient Greeks you'll know I weakened...