Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Zulus, Mr. Rico! Zillions of 'em!" : A Quick Review of Zulus on the Ramparts by Victory Point Games

 

 

“Men of Harlech, stand you …  AAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!” 

Don’t let this happen to you.

If I’m a little bleary eyed this morning, it’s because I was up past my bedtime playing Zulus on the Ramparts, a solitaire game about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift from Victory Point Games’ States of Siege series, designed by veteran grognard Joe Miranda.  In the few times I had played it already I had gotten a quick and unpleasant result, as the Zulu imps almost effortlessly overran my defences and the rifles fell silent.    This game was a different result.  Miraculously the Zulus held off until the defences were reinforced, giving me time to get all my heroes, Bromhead, Chard, Colour Sgt. Bourne, Hook, Hitch, and Ammunition Smith the Padre among others all on the firing line.  When they came on, we let them have it, and while they got close to our final redoubt, it was Steady Lads Steady and Men of Harlech and we dropped them as they came.   All through the night we held, and then the last impi came on like a black thundercloud,  and we were down to our last cartridges, but we held, by God.  It was a Martini Henry miracle with a bayonet and some guts behind it.

Well, as you can see, I enjoy this simple game.  If you’ve played other VPG solitaire games, like Dawn of the Zeds, you’ll recognize the basic idea.   The bad guys (four Zulus impis of various strengths) each start on their own track and their progress is chit driven.  If any one reaches the centre of the board, you lose.   You can help your cause by building two sets of barricades, if you have time, to buy yourself some more space and time to defend. As the Zulus advance, you are drawing cards which allow you to bring various heroes and personalities into play (like Dick, the Surgeon’s dog) and Pvt. Hook, or any of the various volley cards which allows you to engage the Zulus from various ranges.    Each turn you have to chose an action - do you fire a volley, work on extra barricades, pass out more ammo, or get one of your personalities into the battle to use their various abilities?  You have a lot of heroes (all those VCs, after all) which help, but never enough time.

There is a day phase, and a night phase, which is worse because it’s harder to hit the Zulus at night unless buildings catch fire, which they can do.  There are also some random event cards, and some what ifs, like Company G actually showing up and helping the garrison.  If you want pics and more comments, you can find the ZotR page here on BGG.  At $40 it’s at a midrange price for a boardgame, and the components have the usual VPG high quality of treatment - a hard mounted board, professional cards, and thick MDF laser cut playing pieces, so to my mind that’s a good game at a fair price.  While this is a solitaire game, it would be fun to take to the pub/club and play a few times.  A quick defeat can take twenty minutes, but an epic stand might take an hour.  My record so far is one out of three wins, so it’s a challenging game.

 I have this week off, so I’ll probably watch Zulu for more inspiration.

Blessings to your die rolls!

MP+

 

 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Surprise Stuka

Hello all.
Another highly irregular post, just to say hello, really and to acknowledge a lovely piece of kindness.   Recently a box arrived in the post, all the way from California, and inside was this lovely painted 15mm Flames of War Stuka


It was a gift from Dai, the gamer who runs the blog The Lost, the Damned and the Stunted, which I greatly enjoy.   In one of my fitful posts here, talking about my efforts to field an early WW2 Germany army for the Eastern Front, I was lamenting how the Germans fare against the Soviet KV1.   What you need, Dai said to me, is some air support, and I just have a Stuka that is surplus to requirements. So he very kindly painted it, boxed it, and sent it all the way from California to Canada as a gift.   And it is a nice little kit, done up at least as well if not better than I could have managed.


Thank you, my friend, for your lovely and thoughtful gift.   As young Kinch has said, the Freemasonry of our hobby is a wonderful thing, and it makes me feel fortunate to have found this community.
I am hopeful too that this gift might nudge me out of a months long painting and minis gaming slump.   Some of you who follow me on Twitter (@madpadre1) know the reasons why, and I’ll leave it at that for now.  I wish I was visiting your blogs as they deserve, and I thank you of you are reading this post.
Anyway, thanks Dai, you’re a good chap, and I hope to get this fellow into the air soon to clear the road to Moscow.
Blessings,
MP+

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Bombers and Builders: Two Game Reviews

Madame Padre and I are on holiday, enjoying the train, the famed “Canadian”, as we roll across northern Saskatchewan towards Alberta, Jasper and the Rockies on our way to Vancouver, where Madame has a bucket list of gardens, parks and other beauty spots to enjoy.   We’re told we won’t see the mountains until early evening, so lots of time to write up some thoughts on a game I’ve been playing for a few weeks now.

Target for Today (TfT) is published by Legion Wargames, a solo game with a tactical focus as you fly a B17 Flying Fortress or B24 Liberator in a campaign of daylight bombing missions over Europe.   The game thus has an ancestry that includes Avalon Hill’s B17: Queen of the Skies.  Solitaire games (GMT’s submarine games like The Hunters are other recent examples of the genre) have good and bad points.  On the positive side, you don’t need an opponent, which is how I do most of my gaming these days.  On the negative side, you are playing against the game, which really means working through a series of charts and tables, rolling lots of dice, and hoping for the best, which can get rather repetitious after a while.

TfT is a very granular game, with charts and stats for early and late models of B17s and B24s as well as the short lived bomber escort version of the B17.  The game features each individual crewman and crew position, and the gun positions that most of the crew members man.  Once your crew is aboard, your mission is determined by a random die roll featuring a list of targets appropriate to the year and month.  Each target, depending on its distance, has a series of zones that most be transited on the route to the target and the route back home.  Zones are rated for being over water or land (which can effect your survival chances depending on whether you ditch or bail out) and the chance of fighter interception by the Luftwaffe.  Depending on the distance to the target, you may have a lot of zones to navigate, which determines the time necessary to play.

A typical zone transit works as follows.  For each zone you first check the weather, which can vary from clear to 100% cloud cover.  Heavy cloud cover can make it harder for the Luftwaffe to find you, but if the target is cloud covered, it’s obviously hard to hit.  Then you roll for the chance (usually 1-3% for B17s, 1-5% for Liberators) of some sort of mechanical failure.  Then you check for contrails, which if formed make it easier for fighters to intercept your bomb group.  The you check the chance of interception, and if unlucky the intensity of the opposition, the number and type of German fighters less whatever your own fighter escort can do) and then the positions of the enemy fighters.

Fighter combat is played out on this battle board.  Depending on which of your gunners have good arcs of fire, you allocate your guns and the type of fire (spray fire is good for forcing fighters to break off, but uses up your ammo faster).  Once your defensive fire is determined, any German aircraft which are not shot down or aborted can make their attacks.  If successful, damage is checked on a series of tables depending on the angle of attack and the parts of the plane likely to be hit from that angle.  

Here is where the game breaks down a little, because by the time you have reached this point, you are moving between three printed booklets, one of rules and two of tables, including one booklet just for hit and damage tables.   Since a zone may have up to three waves of fighter interceptions, each of  which can have several rounds of combat, it can take a long while, especially as the level of damage is quite granular.   While there are several results that can end the game outright (for example, a flak shell exploding in the bombs in the bomb bay), most of the results are non-fatal but have a cumulative effect.

As an example, I took an early model B24 Liberator on a raid in early 1943.  The target determined was an airfield in Cottbus, which is nine zones from the airfield, so a lot of die rolling there and back.  By the time Lucky Lady (as I called her) reached home, she was badly shot up.  One waist gunner was killed, and the other was seriously wounded.  The bombardier was manning a waist .50 cal because the nose gun was knocked out.  Each wing root had taken two out of four hit points (four and the wing falls off, which is bad).  The radio was destroyed, making an SOS rescue call impossible in the event of a ditching. The intercom system was shot out, giving a negative modifier to all defensive fires.   One of the aerlions was shot up, increasing the chances of a crash on landing.  One of the four engines was damaged and racing, but still working.  Both the ball and the top turrets had one of their two .50 calls inoperative.  The navigator’s workspace had been wrecked, meaning that Lucky Lady would have a harder chance getting home if she had fallen out of formation.  Nevertheless, she persisted and made it to Cottbus, dropped her bombs, and made it home, successfully landing on a very tense percentage dice roll.  The wounded waist gunner would survive, but would go home on a hospital ship for the duration.  Lucky Lady was repairable, and the surviving crew could go on to their next mission, with two new waist gunners.  Crewmen who had recorded 5 kills (the top turret gunner) would qualify for an ace positive modifier on defensive fire in future missions.

In return, I calculated that the crew of Lucky Lady had accounted for at least a dozen fighters destroyed, and that many more damaged.  That result seems excessively high to me, but that is only a gut reaction.  I suppose the downside of this sort of game, like a Hollywood film, is that you have to have the perception of risk but the emphasis on the agency of the heroes, otherwise it would be a dull game.

As an extra layer of chrome, there is a sub-game where you can follow the fortunes of the bomb group that your plane is part of.  For each round of fighters or flak the player consults a table to see if another plane in the group is at risk, with the possibility of damage (1-6 points out of 6) or even the plane being destroyed.  This sub game can also interact with random events from the main game, which can result in mid-air collisions among the bomb group or individual cells of planes being temporarily disrupted and more vulnerable to attack.  In Lucky Lady’s first mission, the entire bomb group returned safely, though eight planes had sustained damage, of which three had lost four of six damage points).

 

TfT is a lot of great ideas crammed into one game.  Some of the systems may need to be discarded or streamlined at the player’s discretion for a faster game.  For example, you may not care that Navigator Bloggin’s left forearm is grazed according to the wounds tables.  It may just suffice that he is lightly wounded.  Likewise, while it may be satisfying after shooting down a FW 190 to check the enemy plane destroyed table to see how it was destroyed, that is the chromiest of chrome and wholly unnecessary.   While there are a host of player logs and damage/ammo records that can be photocopied and used during play, I have found that a running log on a scratchpad saves the aggravation of sorting through multiple log sheets in play. Even cutting a few corners, a long mission can take a long time to play.  It easily took 3 hours of real time to complete the epic journey of Lady Luck and that time cost could be a problem for those looking for a quick gaming experience

For fans of the bombing campaigns over the Reich, TfT may well provide an immersive experience.  However, for a game where the question of interest is, can I survive 25 missions, the player may lose interest before learning the answer to that question.

As a quick bonus review, I had a chance to play a game called Mare Nostrum - Empires at the club last week before going on holiday.  It’s an expansion/reboot of the 2003 Eurogames title, this time published by Academy Games - the kind of game where you expand, build, and maybe fight other players on your quest for glory.  It is very loosely historical, since the empires in play include Rome, Persia, and Atlantis.  Different races have different advantages.  Egypt, being most civilized, can build stuff more easily, whereas Rome is best at fighting, and so on.    The owner of the game picked up this deluxe, extra-large rubberized map, which really shows it to advantage.

 

Mare Nostrum allows sudden death victory in several ways, such as being the lead on all three of these tracks (trade, civilization, and military prowess) at any time in the game.  The cards above the tracks are various superheroes (such as Penthilsea, the Queen of the Amazons) who can be purchased in lieu of buying temples, cities, troops, ships or other useful things). Again, get enough of these superheroes and you win the game automatically.  

I

n the one game I played, I was slowly chugging along, trying to expand my little Roman empire.  I had expanded to Sicily, hoped to colonize the legendary city of Syracuse and get a hidden legendary city goody that might help me, while raising some troops to deter my neighbours, who were also slowly building stuff.  The guy playing Carthage had opted to recruit a stable of heroes, but he was two away from winning the game that way, and those last two heroes were pretty expensive, so I wasn’t worried.  Then, the Egypt player, who also owned the game, revealed that he had raised 10 gold pieces that we were totally not tracking, enough for him to buy the Great Pyramids, which was, quelle suprise, another Sudden Death way to win the game.  

Because I had been so invested in the idea of slowly building up Rome the traditional, incremental way, and maybe fighting some battles along the way, I was oblivious to the game as game, and to the various routes to victory that it offered.   I have trouble remembering that games of this sort are, well, gamey, and need to be approached as such.  Instead, I was fixated on the idea that I was playing a more complex, traditional sort of expansion game.   As the victor pointed out, one of the advantages of Mare Nostrum is that it can be played to a resolution in under two hours, which for a club game on a weeknight is a highly desirable outcome.  Nevertheless, I found myself dissatisfied.  Despite the myriad numbers of chrome and levels of complexity in a game like TfT, it offered a substantial experience, whereas  Mare Nostrum was like a delicious creamy pastry, lovely to look at but easily disposed of in a few bites and leaving me wanting more.

If you are on Twitter, I invite you to follow my account, @madpadre1, because I have live tweeted several B17 missions, putting my Twitter friends into the various crew positions for a mission somewhat abbreviated for playability.  It has proven to be a lot of fun, as over a couple of hours you get the chance to risk flak and fighters, with lots of silly banter and some .GIFs along the way.   I try to give folks a few days notice to reserve their spot in the crew, so grab your sheepskin bomber jacket and come along for the fun but be warned, on our second mission we lost our navigator, who lost an arm to a flak splinter, and is now going home.  Maybe you can replace him?

Blessings to your die rolls and bombs away!

MP+

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tuesday Night Boardgame (On Wednesday): GMT'S Fields of Despair

 

I couldn’t resist this title by GMT games - any World War One game generally goes to the head of my purchasing queue, and this one was no exception.    Fields of Despair (FOD) is a strategic scale block game designed by Kurt Lewis Keckley - you can find his blog here and follow him on Twitter at @PhotoAvalanche .  It comes with an attractive hardback folding map, several hundred counters and blocks which need to be stickered (thankfully, for Command and Colours fans, only on one side).  

I’ve only played FoD solo which is a pity because that is rather like driving a Ferrari in stop and go traffic and never getting out of second gear.  This is a game designed for two players, and the one-sided blocks mean that you never know exactly what is waiting for you when you launch an attack.   I can’t wait to try this game head to head because the suspense would be epic.   The blocks themselves are the heart of the game, reminiscent of the four-sided blocks used in well-known Columbia games such as Quebec 1759 and Waterloo.   Blocks range from 1 to 4 up to 17 - 20 Strength Points, with 20SP blocks representing a multi-corps army.   Most blocks represent infantry, with a few cavalry units given to each side.

In addition, players can commit artillery to key battles (representing strategic artillery assets) and can also commit aerial units in the hopes of forcing the other player to reveal some or all of his blocks before battle.   Aerial reconnaissance is not a sure thing, however, because the defending (or passive) player can throw in his/her air units as well to try and keep the observer planes from carrying out their missions.   Besides his/her own blocks, the defender can try to hold the line with a few key fortresses, such as Verdun, which are very hard nuts to crack.

Here is a shot of the game board in the early stages of the three-turn introductory scenario, set in 1914.  Infantry units move two hexes a turn, and cavalry three, but units have to stop when they enter an enemy controlled hex.  Unless all defending units are removed from a hex, it is considered contested and remains in the defender’s control, so the ownership counters seen here are quite important for deterring victory.

And the same game at the end.  The Germans have taken heavy losses, but have done worse damage to the French, and have come within an ace of capturing Paris before the end of the game, which the Germans won 9-7 based on hexes control.  The British (tan counters) are slowly building up strength, but were separated from their French allies by the German advance.

In retrospect this game might have gone better for the French if played H2H, since playing it solo it was impossible as the stronger German side to hit the French where they were weakest.   There is a slightly intimidating solitaire system for one of the late war scenarios, which I hope to try at some point.  

WW1 fans will appreciate the fact that the game is highly attritional.  While breakthroughs are possible and  can be exploited, they are difficult to achieve and hard to exploit.  Manpower is a very finite quantity in the game.  The Germans have an initial advantage, and their army grows considerably in 1914, but like the other countries the manpower streams dry up later in the war, so every SP lost early in the game is one you won’t have later when you may need it.

There are several economics and technology R&D tracks, where players can put resources into developing new weapons (poison gas, gas masks, better aircraft, tanks, etc) and also put resources into maintaining the Allied blockade vs the German submarine campaign, ether of which can hurt the other side’s resources.    The German player must also think about the second front with Russia, which is represented in a very abstract but effective way.  Don’t put enough resources into the Russian front and you as the German can lose the game.   

While the game does not use a card system like Ted Raicer’s WW1 classic Paths of Glory, it does have a series of technology thresholds that introduces events like aerial combat, the start of trench warfare, as well as political events like the US entry to the war.  

FoD is a simple and highly playable game with enough chrome to give it a good feel for the strategic choices faced by the combatants in the Great War on the Western Front.   Fans of WW1 should check this out.  While it would be huge fun with an opponent, the solitaire mechanism looks promising and there is also Vassal.

Speaking of Vassal, here is some bonus WW1 content.  This is a screen shot of a game that Jonathan Freitag and I are playing online - it is from the introductory scenario of GMT’s 1914: Offensive a outrance, from their operational monster game about the first months of WW1 in the West.  My French divisions begin the war by hurling themselves on the Boche to erase the infamy of 1870 and to recapture France’s provinces.   Latest communiques from French HQ confirm that all is going well.  

The cool thing about this game is that it is a 100% digital version of the real game, and while the going is slow, Jon and I are learning a lot about Vassal in the process.

Good luck to your die rolls, virtual or otherwise.

MP

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Catching Up: A Miscellany

Time for another report from Casa Padre in Central Ontario, where the cool wet weather is being quite English.    I have not been in much of a mood to blog or paint lately, a small funk that I hope I am coming out of.  Some of you know that the news about Madame Padre’s fight with cancer has not been great, and she continues to battle a series of challenges with her usual humour, faith and sang froid.  I am so proud of her.  My continued thanks to all those who have reached out to me about this, it is most appreciated.

So here are, in no particular order, some items of interest.   First, I was astonished to find that there is a Facebook group called Cats and Wargames.  I discovered this after someone saw my post on the adventures of Kampfgruppe Von Topper and told me about the group.  Lots of photos of kitties helping their humans to play wargames, mostly boardgames.   Needs some more miniatures content. I encourage you to check it out.

I haven’t had much time for gaming, lately, but here is a shot from last week’s club game of Dragon Rampant.   An effort to play a campaign game foundered badly, and so we reverted to what we know and love,  four plus players putting their armies down and fighting all against all.   In this game, Charles’ Vikings (bottom left) and Bruce’s Orcs (top centre), Stephen’s Medieval Types (top right) and my Fantasy types (bottom right) fought over a the rights to plunder a hapless wagon train.  Good fun, and shows that sometimes the best club games require only a few brain cells.  The guys would like me to paint more of my lady elves, can’t imagine why.  

I continue to be amazed at the versatility of Dan Mersey’s Rampant engine.  The guys are getting together tomorrow night to try something called Xenos Rampant, an adaptation of the DR rules to SF.  I will probably pass, but if you are interested, it apparently has something to do with this chap.

Finally, I saw this on some chaps’ door at work last week, and I am desperately hoping that these are the promised new Canadian Armed Forces dress uniforms, because they are super blinged out and I could totally rock these.

 

I have some other things to report but will save them for my next Tuesday Night Boardgame report.  I regret that I have not visited as many of your own blogs as I wanted to, and I thank you for visiting mine.

Blessings,

MP+

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Panzer Reinforcements For Kampfgruppe Von Topper

Here are five new tanks for the early WW2 Wehrmacht force I am slowly assembling.  These are the excellent Plastic Soldier Company 15mm PzKpfwIV models made up as AusF models, suitable for Barbarossa.    I really like the PSC philosophy. which allows you to make different variants of the same basic tank in the same kit.  Very clever.  Likewise, their T34 kit contains two turret variants, for the 76mm and 85mm guns.   Nice.  Sadly these don’t have any stowage or decals yet.  The models don’t have much room for turret numbers.  I suppose a cross on the top of the turret might not go amiss.

I’ve dry brushed them liberally to suggest the dust of the summer/fall of 1941, though it turns the panzer grey almost green, which I’m not sure I like.   Otherwise no weathering, other than a little rust on the tracks and the track sections used as frontal armour.  I have glued them to the magnetized bases I like to use for storage in cookie tins, which keeps the models from getting bashed around.  The bases also look sharp, in my humble opinion.

 

These platoon had its introduction to combat the other night, when I was pushing them around the table to try and understand the mechanics of Flames of War 4.0.   Please don’t judge me harshly on this, it’s what the WW2 guys play at the club and it’s that or nothing, right now.   

I put them under the command of the household’s junior member, Leutnant von Topper, who has volunteered to command all Wehrmacht forces in future, though he wants to call them “Purrmacht”.  Here he works on digging the Soviet defenders out from cover.

                                                                                             Come out, little red mice!

As an exercise, I put the PzIVs up against four KV1s that are almost ready to roll of the Red Banner Workbench.  The Germans were rated Confident Veteran, the Soviets were rated Fearless Conscript.  I quickly learned that with KV1’s front armour of 9 and a side/rear armour of 8, there is no chance of a PZIV’s 75mm gun being able to knock out one of these monsters.  The best one can hope for is that the Soviet rolls a 1 on his armour save on a side/rear shot against the 75mm gun’s AT rating of nine, meaning that 1+8 ties the AT rating and causes a bail.  So basically the KV1 doesn’t get knocked out, it just fails a morale check.   Meanwhile the PzIV has a front armour of 5 and a side armour of 3 and while the Conscript Soviets are crap shots, it’s bad when they hit.

 

                                                      These comrades will ruin a tanker’s d

I think Kampfgruppe Von Topper will be asking for 88mm AT and Stuka support in its next requisition.  I think in the short term they will have to settle for some infantry support to go close assault those beasts.

Blessings to your brushes!

MP+

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 8, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 86;  Mounted Figures: 11; Terrain Pieces: 17


 

 

 

 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Battle of Shiloh Update Day 1 08:00 to 08:30

Here’s a brief update on my solo play of The Gamers’ April’s Harvest: Battle of Shiloh.

It’s 08:00 on the first day of the battle, Union turn.  This turn McClernand’s 1st Division is now alert but will need to wait for orders from Grant.  Meanwhile, Sherman (right) and Prentice (left) brace to meet the Confederate tide.

An incident during the CS 08:30 turn.  Gladden’s brigade of Wither’s CS Division advances along with the division artillery.   In the game mechanics, the non-phasing side shoots first, and in this case, Peabody’s US brigade of Prentiss’ division  gets to shoot and causes some casualties.  However, as it is in extended line, each time part of the line shoots, there is a chance it can run low of ammo if it rolls an 11 or 12, which is what happens.  Then Gladden’s men and supporting guns return the fire, the US rolls boxcars on its morale check and Peabpdy’s brigade routs backwards two hexes.  It takes casualties and stragglers and is now the second Union brigade to become wrecked.

 

Situation at the end of the CS 08:30 Turn .  Peabody’s routed brigade has left a large gap in the US line.  Will the Union be able to plug the gap?  Grant better arrive soon to take charge!

 

 

 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Some Captains Of Mordor

It’s been quiet here, with little painting done of late, but here are four Games Workshop figures from their Lord of the Rings line a Mordor orc command team.  The figures are fine case resin, which I suspect are now done on a print on demand basis as orders come in.  The figures are generally good, with a little flash, but the banner bearer’s sword is quite wavy and to quote Blackadder, looks a bit like an Oriental disembowelling hook.

The banner is totally coped from one done (better than mine) by my friend James.

I’ve been toying with some modified command rules for Mordor for Dragon Rampant, which I need to revisit.   These fellows will play a role in getting otherwise inert and quarrelsome lumps of orcs going anywhere.  Also, the fellow on the right is described as being an Orc Shaman, or a chaplain, which I find kind of creepy, that the orcs have their own padres.

Blessings to your brushes!

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 3, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 86;  Mounted Figures: 11; Terrain Pieces: 17


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Meanwhile, In Gondor

MINAS TIRITH, MIDDLE EARTH PRESS SERVICE:  After accusations from the White Council that Gondor has gotten lax and fallen behind on its security, the Office of the Steward announced that the Gondorian army has been increased.   Said Denethor, Steward of Gondor, “Our new rapid deployment force will allow us protect our borders and keep the people of Gondor safe.  Our troops are the best.  Not that Sauron is a bad guy.  I don’t know Sauron, but I am sure that if he and I got together, we could do some deals together."

Twelve new troops for my Gondorian force.   These are of course the classic GW plastic sculpts as per the Peter Jackson films.  They are figures that Chris Stoesen sent to me at Christmas as part of the Santa Clause project.  Thank you, Chris, great gift!

Also finished are these eight figures from the GW Warriors of the First Age sprue.   You get four per sprue and I had two sprues, so …   I think they could pass for palace guards or some sort of ceremonial or elite unit.

They have comfy blue cloaks.  Definitely an elite unit.

 

Then, just to have a bit of a gloat, I put all of my Gondorian figures together for a group shot and was pleasantly surprised.  Almost fifty figures in all, and this force has never fought together on the tabletop before.  Shall have to fix that.

Gondorian archers.  My take on them would be that they are the best archers of the race of Men, second only to the elves.  Other races of Men, like the Rohirrim, use shorter bows suitable for mounted work.    So, for example, in Dragon Rampant I would give Gondor 18” missile range and allow the sharpshooter upgrade as well as an upgrade to their armour from 2 to 3 on the grounds that they walk around inside tin cans.  Of course, that would be an expensive unit to field.

“Men of Gondor …” sung to the tune of Men of Harlech.   Inspiring lot, and very shiny.

Thank you and blessings to your sharp swords of Men.

 

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 3, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 82;  Mounted Figures: 11; Terrain Pieces: 17


 

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday Night Boardgame: April's Harvest by the Gamers

A quiet week at the Mad Padre's wargaming chapel.   Spring is slowly coming, I've been doing some painting, including reorganizing my 15mm Red Army of the Great Patriotic War (more of that anon) and am generally being delighted that Madame Padre is doing so well.

 

While my GMT 1914 game is still raging at home, at work things are pleasantly quiet and I have found a space in the stockroom to set up a game to tinker with during my lunch hours.   Because it’s April and spring is gloriously here, II chose this 1995 title by The Gamers', April's Harvest, an ACW game on the battle of Shiloh.  It’s a design by Dean Essig, the well-known and distinguished designer behind The Gamers,  and Alan Wambold, part of the Civil War Brigade series now available from Multiman Publishing.  I blame Jon Frietag for telling me about an MMP sale a few years ago.

 

Most of the books in my ACW library are about the war in the East, and I don’t know much about Shiloh except the rollicking account in the first volume of Shelby Foote’s Civil War series, so it’s an opportunity for me to learn a little more about this battle that started the Confederacy’s long slow death spiral in the West.  

Here’s the game set up and ready to go.   The Confederate army is marching on in the top left corner, and the Union are the blue counters scattered around in the centre.  Because U.S. Grant let the Confederates assemble right next to his encampment at Pittsburg landing, without being too bothered by reports of trouble coming, most of the Union troops start immobile and off guard.  Each counter represents a brigade, a battery, a cavalry unit, a commander or a supply train.

I am still working my way through the rules, which are generally well written and moderately complex.   One of the things that appeals to me as a miniatures gamer is the command and control dimension of the game.   As I understand it, divisions and corps need orders (seize this, defend that, go here, etc) that can need to be written in broad terms by the players.   It’s not at the micro detail of hex by hex movement, but broad strokes.  For example, the three CSA divisions that start on the board all have territorial objectives that they are ordered to capture.   If new orders need to be given, there is a mechanism that marks the time necessary for the orders to travel from commander to subordinate, and then a mechanism to see if they orders are accepted and understood.  

I’ve just had time to run the first turn (6:30am).  It wasn’t clear to me which side went first, so I let the Union go first and moved the two Union brigades that had orders.   Since then I have had access to the errata, and discovered that the rebs should go first.  Ooops.  Here Moore’s troops of Prentis’ Division have been ordered to scout for rebel tools.  They run right into Hardee’s third corps and are falling back.  Both sides have fired shots and taken casualties, with a rebel brigade pushing the Yanks back but becoming Shaken after a failed morale check.  Shaken is not a terrible thing, but it does stop troops from making Close Combat (shock) attacks.

The counters on either side of Confederate units showing red arrows indicate that the brigade has adopted an extended line formation.

More to follow as the Union camp starts to wake up.

Blessings to your hardtack and coffee!  

MP+

 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday Night Boardgame: GMT's 1914: Attack A L'Outrance

Returning to an old and occasional custom here at Mad Padre Wargames, it's our Tuesday night boardgame feature, in which I spare some love for my first love, hex and counter wargames. 

Tonight's subject is the GMT Games Title, 1914: Offensive a Outrance, a modest monster game working on the operational level that recreates the first weeks of World War One on the western front. a 2013 title designed by Michael Resch. 

1914 features a fairly rigorous model of army organization and attachment, and forces the player to think carefully about each army's designated areas of operation and objectives.  It uses historical war plans that guide each army's movement and objectives, which is useful for solitaire play.   Plans can be suspended and armies can be relocated, but initially the game works according to the designs of the 1914 war planners.

Logistics is a big deal in this game, and there are detailed rules for fortresses, siege artillery, and rail movement that I haven't yet dived into.

Because it's quite the big beast, I am only playing the tutorial scenario, which features the Lorraine offensive of France's First and Second armies in the first days of the war as part of the Republic's Plan XVII.   Here Second Army throws itself at the German lines in the true spirit of the bayonet, while the Germans do their best to improve their positions.  The black counters indicate Prepared Attacks, which cost movement points to execute, thus forcing the offensive to move fairly slowly, but which yield better odds of success.  Attacks can be moderated by the Attacker and then the Defender declaring if the battle is to be Intensive, which increases the chances of casualties.

Combat units are rated by attack and defence strength, the two large numbers at the bottom of each counter.  The smaller number between them indicates combat proficiency, and the small number to the side of the unit symbol indicates organic artillery.   Besides the usual retreat/advance/step loss results, the CRT gives a modifier that each side must use in what is basically a morale check after each fight,  which may result in a unit's combat effectiveness being degraded.




Turns allow the defender a limited move after the attacker or phasing player completes his/her movement.  Here below the French 21st XXX was trying to sneak through the Vosges to pressure Strasbourg.   In the German reaction face, elements of 15 XXX have moved far enough south to check the advance, showing that the game has some potential for solitaire play, as one can think through all options for both sides each turn.  

Here the 30th XX has moved into a fortress hex (as in the red lines around Strasbourg.  I did some checking and concluded that this hex must represent the Fort de Mutzig, which I was delighted to find has a website and looks well worth visiting.  in fact, the whole Alsace region looks like a beautiful destination, perhaps a cycling holiday.




I am only half way through a four-turn game, but the tutorial is doing its job and teaching me the basic mechanics.    I am working up the nerve to try the big game this summer, but am liking it so far.  Following the spirit of the French generals, I shall throw myself on the German lines like a tiger and reap the certain victory.  Faith in the bayonet and the spirit of the attack shall prevail!

Marshall Luigi watched the fighting for a while, but could not bear to witness the casualties.







Monday, April 3, 2017

Wargaming With The Big Boys And Girls



Sometimes this image, from a recent Canada/US military exercise, is how I would like to wargame, stomping around on a big map in my combat boots, pointing at things, with player aids and counters carefully prepared by dutiful underlings.  

This last week on The Strategy Bridge, an online journal for military, government and think-tank types, there has been a good discussion on wargaming from a professional perspective.

Of course, for some of us, wargaming is a subset of military history that looks backwards rather than forwards.  We focus on past conflicts, and ask ourselves if the games are faithful models of the past (assuming that we can know the past), or, in the words of the old Avalon Hill box titles, if we can do better than Alexander or Rommel did. 

However, for those of us in the hobby that want to look forwards, who are interested in wargaming the near future, we will know that wargaming as a hobby has often intersected with military training.  Mark Herman, for example, was one of a stable of games designers who cut their teeth with Jim Dunnigan and SPI imagining future wars with the USSR and other likely opponents before the fall of the Berlin Wall becalmed SPI and ultimately bankrupted it.  Herman, I think on the Guns, Dice and Butter podcast, talked about how he was picked up by the Pentagon for the work he had done with SPI.  More recently Brian Train and Volko Ruhnke have attracted attention from the military community, who see their contemporary titles as useful training aids.

So, depending on where you are in our hobby, the stuff in the Bridge series may not be earthshaking news, but it is interesting to hear professionals talk about the same issues of simulation, probability and uncertainty that we also think about.

Rex Brynen , asks how wargames can help planners calculate the likely actions of actors who may be unpredictable (think Donald Trump) or who want to be seen as unpredictable (think Nixon vs Vietnam).

Krisjand Rothweiler talks about various types of wargames, including matrix and seminar games, to imagine solutions or strategies to problems such as geopolitical rivalries over territories and resources, or terrorism.

Tom McDermott writes about the importance of capturing the psychology of the opponent in a wargame, in the spirit of Clausewitz's use of the metaphor of a duel with a thinking, feeling opponent rather than a dispassionate, predictable adversary.

Mark Jones writes about using wargaming in a predictive manner, assuming that you can get the probabilities write.  He starts with an anecdote about US troops preparing for Desert Storm, using a boardgame by Frank Chadwick's (sadly now defunct) Games Design Workshop to prepare for their war.  Jones notes that predictions of allied casualties for Desert Storm were wildly off, and asks how wargames designers can and should address uncertainty in their models.

Finally, Benjamin Jensen writes about how military leaders since Moltke the Elder have used wargames to learn about their craft and to prepare for the future.  Jensen ends with the promise of a series of games being published online by The Strategy Bridge over the year to come, a project I shall be watching with interest.

Obviously the types of games and the mindsets described in this article may be vastly different than the typical club game  fought in a few hours, where Vikings and Saxons, or Tigers and T34s, are pitted against each other in a purely tactical context.  However, if I could go to a weekend event where there was a game, perhaps lasting half a day or a day, run according to some of the principles described in these articles, for example, any of the matrix games described here on the Paxsims website,  I would be all over that.

Blessings to your imaginings!

MP+



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Games At Hot Lead

Hot Lead is one of the shining stars in a fairly modest firmament of Canadian wargaming shows.   It is a labour of love, put together by a group of gamers and friends in Stratford, Ontario, for two decades now, and it is one of the red letter events on my gaming calendar.

Last weekend I made the three hour drive down to Stratford and was able to game on Friday night and Saturday, before heading home.  Here are a few highlights of my time there

On Friday night my friend James and I decided to put all of our Middle Earth figures on the table and see how big a Dragon Rampant game we could manage.   It was pretty epic.   We were going to keep it to ourselves, but the angels of our better nature prevailed and we invited some folks to game with us.  I can’t say it was a well designed game, and some folks had more fun than others.  The chap on the top left had his Dunlendings routed pretty quickly by some Ents, and I still feel badly about it.

On the other side of the table, James’ Vendel Trolls take on my Bombshell Minis tree sprite and her faerie friends, who did quite well until a werewolf gobbled them up.

On Saturday I played in a terrific Napoleonics game put on by Rich Brooks, using the Blucher rules.  I have tried these rules and enjoyed the chance to get a master class in them from Rich, and learned a few things that I was doing wrong.   Rich has a very clever system of laminated cards attached to each base, which allow players to use dry-erase markers to mark off hits on each unit.   Rich’s game was a recreation of the 1809 battle of Bad Wurzbach between France and Austria, and my French corps under Lannes faced very determined resistance from a bright young player who punched hard.  The French took one of two key objectives but lost the game when we hit our break point first.   

An amazing co-operative game by Alex Karolyi and Thomas Walker, where the players work together to blow up the Death Star.  

An utterly breathtaking layout. I tweeted these images to some Star Wars fans and they were quite gobsmacked.  There is a plastic sheet over the death star model to allow the ships to maneuver and to protect the tons of work that obviously went into the Death Star model.

A huge 28mm Battle of Eylau game, using the Shako rules, ran all day.  Quite popular.

A stunning 28mm Stalingrad game, using Bolt Action rules, hosted b Mike Scott band Duane Adams from London Miniature Gamers.   

I took this shot to show the fine quality of brushwork on all the figures.

The iconic Stalingrad fountain.

A nice looking Vimy Ridge game, to celebrate the upcoming centennial of Canada’s most important Great War battle.

I loved this pre-gunpowder Flint and Feather game, using the Crucible Crush figures. 

I was quite captivated by these three canoes.

A fantastic British fort is besieged by beastly Saxons, hosted by the chaps from the Kent Essex Gaming Society using the Dux Brittanorum rules.   Terrific layout.  One of several Too Fat Lardies game at HotLead, always nice to see.

My other high point of Hot Lead was that I put all of my Warhammer 40K figures in the Bring and Buy and got a decent price for them.   To everything there is a season.   Did a little bit of shopping, nothing too dramatic - some 15mm WW2 FOW blisters, some objective markers from Army Group North, a nice scenic terrain piece for LOTR, and a used boardgame.   Mostly it was just fun to see friends again, and to wonder why we all seem to be a little older.

 

 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Meanwhile, In Rohan - 5

For months, as dark clouds gather near Orthanc and rumours multiply of yet another steading put to fire and the sword by merciless raiders from the hills, the word among the crofters and far folk of the Westfold has been, “What news of Eomer?”   All know that the King is preoccupied, and that his household riders are too valuable to be sent out after yet another raiding party.  All hopes rest on the good Lord of the Riddermark and his hardhanded, chosen warriors.

Now, in this small village on the edge of the wind-swept plains, one boy comes running from the outer pastures.  “Mother!  ’Tis Eomer!  Eomer and his riders have returned!"

Brythbart’s parents exchange looks, for the boy is ever given to flights of fancy.  But scarce are his words out when the sentinel in the watchtower sounds his horn, the single blast that means friends!

Forsooth, it is indeed Eomer!  The Lord of the Riddermark has returned at this most dangerous of hours!

 

The villagers cheer lustily.  “Will you feast with us this night, Lord Eomer?”, the headman cries out.  “I thank you, good headman,” Lord Eomer calls out graciously, “for we have long days in the saddle and are weary, for many orc helms have we cloven this last fortnight.   There are dark things stirring, yet the might of Rohan has not yet waned, I think!!"

Bakkonraed, Pig of Rohan, looks on anxiously, wondering if he is invited to dinner.  Look at those sexy SixSquared resin haystacks, they have doubled in number this last while!

These nine GW Riders of Rohan are not new - I have had them rattling around in a box since 2006 when my then teenagers and I were gaming together.  They have since been repainted and flocked, and I am quite pleased with them.  Very glad to see that they are getting new life.  All are plastic except for the Eomer figure on the front, though his horse (my attempt at a dapple grey) is plastic.  I never understood why GW put metal cavalry figures on plastic horses, as the anchor points for the hooves were quite fragile.  No fear now, everything is fine cast plastic.  Even so, the GW Riders of Rohan are lovely figures, fully capturing the inspiring scenes of the films.   As someone once said to me, the Rohirrim are sort of Vikings on horses, and these figures fit that bill nicely.

Here is the might of Rohan’s cavalry on maneuvers, though a few figures were forgotten in a box and missed the photo shoot.  I think i can field 20 figures, with another half dozen purchased second hand currently in the basing shop.   That should give Sauron and Saruman something to think about.  

 

Thank you for looking and blessings to your brushes!

MP+

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 3, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 62;  Mounted Figures: 11; Terrain Pieces: 17


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