Saturday 24 December 2011

Gladiators Ready! Awoogaaa!!!

Thursday also saw me in the arena trying out the Rvdis rules for Gladiator fights. There were five of us playing and three of us were new to the rules. I was controlling a heavily armoured Myrmillo gladiator, Kelly and JP were both running net and trident wielding Retiarii, Trev had a lightly armoured and fast moving Secutor, and Matt was using the walking tank Hoplomachus.

The game itself is thirty years old and kind of shows it. Big reference tables with lots of codes can be really off-putting for the newbie. The game is organised in four round sequences with each character having a different movement in each round depending on their level of movement; for example, my Myrmillo only had 2 movment in the first round and one in the rest, whilst the Retarius had 2 movement in the first and third rounds and so was more mobile.

Combat is where the game shines with players having to nominate where they are feinting at and then secretly writing down where they will really attack (you choice is limited by where you feint at). The defender, if they are allowed to defend, must secretly write down where they will defend. If the blow isn't blocked then the attacker has a percentage change of hitting and then damage is determined by a further dice roll and the defender's armour.

Overall, I personally think that the game is good, if clunky. There are too many different tables and charts and stages for the game to flow freely unless you know it really well, and so the game is rather slow. I don't think that a gladiator ruleset is something I'll ever 'study', so I can't see this being remedied. However, the brinksmanship of the feint and block sequence is really good and prevents the game simply being a dice rolling contest as you weigh up the best place to attack or defend (always going for the weakest spot in your opponent's armour will usually find their shield in the way). With a little bit of streamlining and speeding up, this game could be quite addictive.

As for the game we played, JP's Retarius and Trev's Secutor made a beeline for each other, and Matt's Hoplomachus and Kelly's Retarius did the same and initially my poor Myrmillo was left to amble over to them slowly. Kelly found that although he could entangle Matt, he couldn't break through his armour, and JP and Trev sparred.

The deadlock was broken finally when half an hour later I made it into combat, and although I failed to stab JP's gladiator in the bottom, when Trev later turn his back on me I took his head off in one blow. What followed then was JP trying to dodge out of the way and entangle me, whilst I trudged wearily towards him (a bit like that scene in The Life of Brian). There was a bit of a hairy moment when my gladiator fell over and had to defend desperately for three rounds, however I got back off and the little Retard...sorry...Retarius ran away again.
However, our very slow chase sequence had brought us over to where Kelly and Matt were still dancing. Matt did actually manage to stab Kelly with his spear at one point, but not for a massive amount of damage. Whilst he was doing this I managed to sneakily lumber up behind him to get some free shots in, however, I failed to roll 80% three times!

As time was getting on we all bundled into one big fight to finish off. I once again failed to hurt JP, he failed to entangle Matt and Matt failed to hurt me. However, Kelly finally managed to stab Matt in his left shoulder (the Hoplomachus' only weak point) and kill him.

At that point we called it a day.

All in all an engrossing game, if a touch slow.

Friday 23 December 2011

Opening Salvo in the Struggle for Sheffield

Last night saw Matt and myself play the first game set in 'A Very British Civil War' using our adapted Necromunda rules. We played a variation of the Rescue scenario from the Necromunda rulebook; basically we mucked about with the deployment arrangements, deciding to use our entire forces and having Matt's table edge be replace with the cottage.

As a side note, before I begin, it was really nice to fill a table with scenery for once and make a really good looking table. As it happened, we only actually ended up using a quarter of the table, but it was really satisfying (is that weird?) to have a fantastic backdrop the the action.

1938 - Handsworth, Sheffield

Even before the Red Brigade's formation in Sheffield, the B.U.F. had never really enjoyed large scale support in South Yorkshire. When Mosely spoke at the City Hall in 1934, several thousand protesters voiced their dissatisfaction at his presence, and the party had less than a hundred uniformed members in the city.

Therefore, rather than launch a direct assault on this vitally important industrial city, the B.U.F. leadership in the north set about a recruitment and propaganda campaign around the outskirts of the city in an attempt to address the lack of manpower issue. It was as part of this drive that Recruitment Officer Heather Brown found herself knocking on a cottage door on the outskirts of Handsworth.

Little did the fascist femme fatale know that inside the cottage was the initial meeting of the Handsworth Volunteers, a local militia formed of war veterans who were determined to keep all armed factions, whatever their political leanings, out of their community.

Miss Brown was immediately 'arrested' for the crime of 'war-mongering' and placed in custody in the living room. Mrs Bean, the owner of the cottage provided the accused with tea and biscuits whilst the militiamen discussed how to proceed, completely unaware that their actions had been witnessed by Private Milligan (Miss Brown's escort) who now ran off to inform his superiors of the situation.

Realising that Miss Brown was unlikely to be alone, and that there were probably other fascists in the area, the Handsworth Volunteers placed sentries on the road and sent two men back to the village to fetch a car to move their prisoner to a more secure location.

Sure enough, Private Milligan returned with help in the form of Sergeant Jack Boot's squad of the South Yorkshire Cohort. One section moved up towards the cottage through some trees, whilst the section with the Lewis Gun set up on the hill. Sergeant Boot and a couple of men waited in a car with the engine running ready to dash in and race Miss Brown away from the scene should the opportunity arise.

The first that the less-than-alert sentries knew of presence of the B.U.F. was when a hail of gunfire wounded a couple and forced the rest to run for cover. The Handsworth men were only able to muster sporadic return fire.

However, the noise from outside brought the rest of the Handsworth men tumbling out of Mrs Bean's cottage with their stolen Lewis Guns and soon the shooting had escalated into a full scale fire fight.

With his men in the woods pinned down, Sergeant Boot realised that his initial daring plan would not come to fruition, so his section got out of the car and began to edge up the road using the vehicle as cover.

However, the local militia were able to counter this move with some well entrenched men returning fire from beyond the pig sty.

Soon the superior discipline of the Handsworth veterans began to tell and their accurate fire drove the fascists back through the trees and swept them from the hill.

Realising that his men were taking casualties without making much headway, Sergeant Boot regretfully gave the order to withdraw for the time being. However, he swore that he would find a way to free Miss Brown from the vile clutches of the socialist swine.

Despite the crushing defeat for the forces of fascism, the rules worked really well. The general lack of accuracy and relatively low casualty rate really captured the feeling of amateurs at war. The rather naturalistic terrain presented some real tactical dilemmas. Another success was the use of event cards (inspired by those on 6milphil's Adventures in Wargaming) which added a dash of humour as the opposing sides were helped and hindered by sudden downpours, impromptu cups of tea, crafty fags and a rogue nudie postcard.

In fact the only down side was that I've probably been a bit too restrictive with the faction 'gang' lists and Matt couldn't make his squad from the LDF list using the models he had and so he used the Regular Army list instead. At Matt's suggestion, I'm going to return to the faction lists and essentially make them more open but add flavour with a few special rules per faction.

Overall this was a really enjoyable game and something I'm sure we'll return to. I've already got plans to ambush the local yokels as they transport the fair Miss Brown back into Handsworth 'proper'.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Fascist Pigs!

I'm back. I've not been anywhere, I'm just conscious that the blog has been conspicuously quiet for a few weeks. The reasons for this are twofold, the Christmas Season and its inevitable work parties (which ALWAYS fall on a gaming night; have you noticed that?) have meant that I haven't played any games, and the general de-motivation I've been experiencing have meant that I ahven't done any painting either. Essentially, I've had nothing to write about.

So I decided to remedy both of those problems. Firstly, I've arranged a game of 'something' with Matt for Thursday and our first choice of game was one for which we neither had rules nor painted miniatures. If that's not motivation, then I don't know what is.

The game we're playing is 'A Very British Civil War,' an alternate history setting in which Edward VII did not abdicate and was forced by circumstance to ask Oswald Mosely, of the British Union of Fascists, to form a government, an act which propels Britain into civil war as the Church, the Communists and numerous other factions object to the 'new order'.

In terms of rules, we'll be using a variation of Necromunda I've been working on over the past couple of weeks. We decided to use these rules because a) we already know them, b) we wanted to keep the number of models required to a minimum and c) I've got a couple of articles from Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy which outline a variation of Legends of the Old West for the setting and it was easy to convert to Necromunda.

So with out further ado; here are my Fascists. Sergeant Jack Boot's company of the South Yorkshire Cohort and their best pamphleteer and recruiting officer, Heather Brown:

Why Fascists? Well, whilst out shopping I was perusing Wargames Emporium and spotted a little gem in the form of a second hand box of Plastic Soldier Company Russians for a tenner. A couple of them had been started but a price of less than 20p a model was a deal I couldn't pass up. I was originally intending to use them as Communists, but I'd want a more rag-tag feeling if I do them so another look at at the models in caps told me that they'd do a fair impression of the B.U.F. (to be honest, I'm also rather tickled by the irony of using Russians for Fascists...I need to get out more).

The models aren't completely finished (there's detail work and bases to be done) and I'm not entirely happy with them, but they're certainly usable. To be honest, I've found that the PSC models lack the definition that I kind of rely on for my painting style to work as I tend to use washes to hide my sins. I'd be disappointed if I'd paid full price for them. As it stands I can probably squeeze out another company of 10 and a couple of staff models and I'll still have enough figures left should I give in to my urge to do some Weird War II stuff.

To go with the B.U.F. I've dug out two vehicles for them, a Packard Victoria and a Hispano-Suiza. These were my Grandad's, each of the grandkids got two of his collection when he passed on, and so I won't be converting these at all. However, they will serve until I can get my sticky paws on something a little less flash and a little more British for the Fascists to drive about in.

Finally for now, the title mentioned fascist pigs...and here they are:

Secret Santa at work proved that since starting my new job in September, there's at least one of my colleagues who didn't have a clue what to get me, and so I smiled politely when I unwrapped a travel version of Pass the Pigs. However, it would be a shame to leave a gift unused and so the pigs have been quickly repainted as scenery (or objectives) for skirmish games. Yes the ears are a bit big and they are weirdly proportioned (and have freaky smiles), but they were free, are roughly the right scale and I can pretend that they're a rare breed.

Details from the game later in the week.

Monday 5 December 2011

Hey McCloud, get off of my ewe!

(I apologise for shamelessly stealing my title this week from Warlord Games' website)

This week saw me trying a new game out, and a new period. My dad's been playing around with some free rules he got for small skirmishes of Border Reivers to make it applicable for Highland Clan raids during the Civil War period and we gave the rules a first test drive. I would be leading the raiding party of about twenty strapping Jocks, and my dad would try to repel them with a slightly larger, but less skilled mob of tartan clad nutters.

We decided that the aim of the game was to contest three objectives: the croft, the sheep herd and the cattle herd. I would have to burn the croft and steal the herds, my Dad would have to stop me.

The Croft:
The Sheep:
The Cows:
As this was a test game, we changed and adapted the rules throughout the game, including adding rules for burning buildings, changing the panic rules and so forth. However, the game played much like most skirmish games with an IGO/UGO system of alternating by unit - an activated unit does all its actions, then an opposing unit is activated.

I deployed with the bulk of my raiding party going after the two herds whilst a small party were tasked with a 'commando' raid on the Croft. Here you can see my brave chaps menacing an old lady:
As it happened, my dad put most of his forces within reach of the Croft and left the defence of the herds to a small band of untrained and ill-equipped levy. As such my raiders advanced relatively unopposed:
And after a brief exchange (the other guys had only a single musket), were able to scurry off with a fine herd of cattle with no danger of being caught. The only thing that the opposing clan were able to do was fire their single musket with the hope that it might panic and scatter the herd.

It didn't:
Meanwhile, a smaller group of my bandits, who had been busy driving off the enemy warriors with their ace musketry were also able to sneak up and grab some sheep and begin the long drive for home:
"Where are the enemy warriors?" I hear you ask. Well, it was like this...

At the start of each turn both side roll a D10 and the highest gets to choose who goes first. I managed to win about five turns on the bounce and so was always able to get my unit attacking the Croft to go first. This allowed me to scurry forwards, take up defensive positions and take pot-shots at the incoming Clansmen; which I did with unerring accuracy.

The way that the panic rules work is that any casualty has the potential to cause panic in a unit and throw them into disarray, preventing them from doing anything in their following turn, and possibly even driving them back. To match my crack-shot marksmanship, my dad's command rolls were consistently awful which meant that a single unit of six of my raiders were able to not only hold up somewhere in the region of 18 enemy clansmen, but also manage to set fire to the Croft:
We came up with the rule that the fire in the Croft could be extinguished if my dad could get a clansman into it within d6 turns. We rolled a three and so my brave men hunkered down behind a hay bale and set to selling their lives dearly whilst the Croft burned. Despite facing half a dozen archers and a couple of muskets, I was still more than holding my own and the enemy Chieftain arrived too late to do anything useful and so was forced to stand by and watch the Croft burn:
At this my remaining two clansmen decided (or were forced by the death of their leader) to make a break for it. However, once they were running the enemy found their aim and both were shot as they ran:
Nevertheless, I had suffered only six casualties (and had inflicted roughly similar) and had achieved all three objectives. As the Croft burned in the distance, a large herd of livestock was guided back to our farms to feed our kith and kinfolk. Ay, there'll be a fine party in glens tonight! Och-ay!
All in all a fun game with a few glitches that need ironing out, but I'll definitely be playing 'Clan Wars' again soon.

Whilst I'm on here I'll take the chance to talk targets. I did manage to achieve my targets last month by the middle of the month and then I experienced a bit of a wargaming fatigue and did nothing else for the month. I suspect that working to the deadline of the Saga tournament got me feeling like painting was a chore again and that's never good for someone who doesn't enjoy painting that much at the best of times.

So, to combat this feeling of being motivationally challenged I'm going to set a small initial target this month and see if I want to add to it later. I suspect that getting bits and pieces done as and when I feel like it will be more stimulating than setting a massive target that I'll not want to complete and I know I'll fail to achieve.

Therefore, with our inaugural Blood Bowl seas due to kick off in January, I thought I'd take the opportunity to get my team finished. I actually have enough painted models to field a starting team but it would be nice to have everything done for the start of the season. My target will be these beauties:
The models are from Roll-Jordan and are part of my Slann team, the Slann Frogcisco 49ers (geddit?). Two blitzers, two catchers and a coach. I've also got a few WFB Lizardmen bits lying around that I'm tempted to use to liven the team up but we'll see, as I never get as much time around Christmas as I think I will.