Monday 23 April 2012

Still Not Grown Up

It was my birthday on Saturday (yay me!) and so I’ve had the first significant influx of new models for a while. So far the intake is as follows: Northern Fury (Saga Expansion), 2 boxes of plastic Norman Knights, 1 box of plastic Sherman tanks, 1 artillery template for Flames of War, 1 pin vice. I’ve also got a decent fighting fund for further purchases, although most of this will wait until Triples.

This birthday was well and truly cheaphammered. Whether it was rigourously planning what I asked for; picking up deals on specific days when I got a bigger discount; considering units that can be used both Mid and Late War in FoW; or begging for javelins to convert the Normans into Bretons, you can rest assured that being another year older, has not made me any more profligate in my spending.

Looking back on last year, I've achieved the following gaming successes:
  • I took the Bretonnians from about 500 points to 1800 points
  • I painted a six point Viking warband for Saga
  • I painted 1000 points of German infantry for Flames of War
  • I completed my Slann Blood Bowl team
  • I've created a decent VBCW force (roughly a brigade)
  • I played in two Saga tournaments, run a WFB campaign (briefly) and a Blood Bowl League
  • I helped start a new Wargaming Club
  • I begun to build my own terrain
  • I designed my own Superhero wargames rules

Projects for this year include:
  • Get my Mid-War German Grenadier list to 1500 points (moves are afoot to achieve this)
  • Get the Bretonnians to 2400 points (Aneurin's campaign should help here)
  • Paint up the Normans as a Breton warband for Saga
  • Paint up 12 Viking Levies for when I have to fight the Welsh again
  • Begin working on an American armoured company for the Flames of War campaign later in the year
  • Run a WFB tournament
  • Paint up a new Blood Bowl team (and win the league with it)
  • Build more terrain and furnish my own games room (I'm hopefully moving house)
Whether I'll get all of this done is anybody's guess. The list will also grow and change as I get tempted by new projects (Muskets & Tomahawks is already calling).

Thursday 19 April 2012

Spring Tide: A Tale of Woe

Last Sunday was the second WFC Saga event, Spring Tide, held (after some last minute terrain shifting) at the Green Room in Sheffield. Unlike the previous event, Winter is Coming, held last November, this was a campaign day rather than a straight tournament. There were 12 players divided into three factions: Vikings, Welsh and Anglo-Danes/Saxons, using four point warbands. We fought over the area surrounding Shrewsbury after the local Saxon Cheiftain had died leaving a power vacuum.

I brought along my Viking warband, looking forward to getting stuck in...oh how I would be disappointed...

Game 1 - The Battle of the Pant Mounds
Clash of Warlords vs Carl's Welsh

Vikings: Warlord, 8 Hirdmen, 8 Bondi, 8 Bondi
Welsh: Warlord, 4 Teulu, 4 Teulu, 8 Priodaur, 8 Priodaur

The Welsh Warlord and his loyal retainers stride to the top of a rocky outcrop to survey the field of battle.

Seeing the Welsh position divided by the great hill, the shrewd Viking chieftain elects to mass his warband on the left, facing only half of the Welsh force. His goal was to smash this part of the enemy warband before their Warlord could bring up his support. The Viking also aimed to hit the end of the Welsh line first to avoid the inevitable hail of javelins if the Northmen strayed too close to the heights.

The Vikings advance confidently towards the Welsh. Despite taking a couple of hits from the enemy Javelins, the Bondi smash into the Priodaur and drive them back.

With the Priodaur pushed back, the Teulu were isolated below the hill. The Viking Warlord knew that if he could slaughter these seasoned warriors in full view of their Chieftain, the Welsh leader would surely become dismayed and lose stomach for the fight (I was aiming to wipe them out and spread fatigue to the Warlord and Teulu on the hill), and so he lead his storgest Hirdmen screaming war cries towards the enemy.

A lone Teulu staggered away from the fight (curses!) and it seemed that the Vikings would continue their surge deep into the Welsh lines. However the Welsh Warlord simply seemed more incensed by the slaughter of his men and he and his retainers hurled javelins down upon their foe with great wrath, slaying the greater part of the Hirdmen (I wasn't aware that the Welsh were allowed to be equipped with machine guns!), leaving only one alive.

The Viking position suddenly looked desperate as the Welsh began to press forwards, hurling javelins as they came.

The howling Welshmen savagely hunted down the last Hirdman.

And their Warlord led the chase after the defeated Viking leader.

It was only a matter of time until they caught him.

Ignominious defeat. This game began well, but when my big charge was blunted by the survival of the Teulu and the subsequent hail of death that the Welsh unleashed I was literally caught between a rock and a hard place. I'm not sure what I would have done differently, not having archers meant that I had to go after the Welsh, which plays into many of their most effective abilities. A unit of Levies (that I don't own) would have made the Welsh come to me and the Viking counter-punch is deadly.

Carl said that this was his first proper game of Saga, but I'd say that he'd got the hang of is already, he did everything right to take advantage when I overstretched myself. This game also set the tone of my day against the Welsh. Chase them down, fail to make a significant impact, get whittled down in a hail of javelins, have my Warlord killed by a final charge. Read on, you'll see I'm right.

Game 2 - Dispute at Wem
Challenge vs. Mal's Anglo-Danes

Viking - Warlord, 4 Berserkers, 8 Hirdmen, 8 Bondi
Anglo-Danes - Warlord, 8 Huscarls, 4 Huscarls with Dane-Axes, 8 Ceorls

The Anglo-Danish Thegn strides out from the shieldwall to parley with the Viking raiders.

When talks turn to dispute, the loyal Ceorls rush out to support their lord, driving the Viking back...

...but the ambush incenses the Berserkers who leap forward into the fray...

...butchering the Ceorls...

...and severely wounding the Thegn.

More warriors rush forwards to support both Warlords.

The Huscarls leap towards the Viking Cheiftain...
...but the Bondi leap to his defence and the Huscarls are driven back.

In a last bid for glory, the last of the Huscarls sweep forwards bringing their great axes down upon the brave Bondi...

...yet the arrival of a host of Hirdmen sees off the last Anglo-Danish threat...

...and they surround the Thegn and cut him down.

Victory! From the moment that Mal's initial assault with the Ceorls failed to have a significant impact, this game was going my way. The Berserkers were outstanding, slicing through the Ceorls and then inflicting a massive eight wounds on the Warlord. This put the battle firmly in my grasp and the fact that I still had eight Hirdmen left to bring in at the end is indicative of what was happening to Mal's dice.

To be honest, I feel that of all the factions, the Anglo-Danes are the ones that I've got the measure of with my Vikings. Speed seems key to taking the initiative in the Challenge and the use of Frigg to gain a charge range of L with no fatigue cost, gives the Vikings the edge in speed over the Anglo-Danes, who seem to be at their best when they sit back.

That was the high point of the day in terms of winning and losing, and I went of to lunch feeling full of optimism. Little did I know (as I bought my M1A1 Shermans with the 15% discount JP had arranged for the day at Wargames Emporium - great move) that my afternoon would be full of Welsh, Welsh and more Welsh. And defeat, defeat and more defeat!

Game 3 - The Massacre at Oswestry
4 Players: Viking vs. Welsh

My Vikings: Warlord, 8 Hirdmen, 8 Bondi, 8 Bondi
Gaz's Vikings: Warlord, 6 Hirdmen, 6 Hirdmen, 4 Hirdmen
Mike's Welsh: Warlord, 4 Mounted Teulu, 4 Teulu, 4 Teulu, 4 Mounted Priodaur, 4 Priodaur
Dave's Welsh: Warlord, 4 Mounted Teulu, 8 Mounted Priodaur, 8 Priodaur, 12 Levy (Javelins)

The Northmen had learned that a Welsh warband (Mike's) had camped for the night outside of Oswestry, awaiting reinforcement for an assault on the town.
If the Vikings could concentrate their forces before the Warband was reinforced, they could destroy the Welsh piecemeal and so they advances on the Welsh camp from two directions.

Welsh scouts spotted the advancing Vikings, hurled their javelins and fled back to their lines.

The horde of Welsh reinforcements appeared on the horizon to the south, the Viking had not made enough headway.

More Welsh scouts skirmished with the flank of the northern Viking force.
Whilst the massed cavalry ambushed the spread out western Vikings. However, the norther Vikings were now ready to hurl themselves into the Welsh lines. 8 Hirdmen were poised to attack only 4 Teulu and spread fatigue through the enemy lines before pressing on to slaughter the isolated Warlord...

...this picture has been censored due to images of unseemly brutality on the part of the FOUR Teulu agains the EIGHT Hirdmen, however the dice I rolled tell the story of what happened pretty well.

With the loss of the Hirdmen, thing looked grim for the Northmen.

The remaining Vikings were picked of by javelins and coordinated charges.

One Viking Warlord fell.
Quickly followed by the other. A slaughter!

To be honest, I think the Gaz and I were always going to be up against it in this game. We lacked numbers and any ranged ability and were quite badly separated at the start. The enemy had cavalry and javelins a plenty and Mike and Dave knew what they were doing so they used a combination of Taunt, Hit and Run and Holy Ground to isolate and destroy our units one at a time. A spectacularly bad round of combat from my Hirdmen didn't help, but I still think we would have lost.

On the other hand, this game was probably the most fun of the day simply because it was so desperate as Gaz and I tried increasingly futile tactics to get back on terms.

At least having played the Welsh twice and the Anglo-Danes only once I would probably find myself up against a less tricksy Anglo-Danish force in the next game...


Game 4 - The Halls of Valhalla
12 Players across three boards

On my board:
My Vikings: Warlord, 8 Hirdmen, 8 Bondi, 8 Bondi
Mike's Welsh: Warlord, 4 Mounted Teulu, 4 Teulu, 4 Teulu, 4 Mounted Priodaur, 4 Priodaur
Andy's Welsh: Warlord, 4 Teulu, 4 Teulu, 8 Priodaur, 12 Levies
Kev's Anglo-Danes: Warlord, 4 Huscarls, 10 Ceorls, 6 Ceorls, 12 Levies

The Welsh had arrived to capture Shrewsbury and the Saxons manned the Church hoping to defend both roads to where other battles were taking place for control of the the town. Initially dismayed by the appearance of Viking on his flank, the Saxon Thegn was relieved when to appeared that the Viking had only one aim, vengeance upon the Welsh.

The Viking line surged forwards towards their bitter foes.

Despite taking losses to the Welsh javelins, the Vikings pushed on...

...and the Hirdmen looked set to isolate and slaughter the Welsh Warlord.

Suddenly, the Welshmen took the initiative and after a withering hail of javelins, their Warlord led the Teulu into the Hirdmen, butchering them and then the Viking Warlord.

The Bondi were left isolated and confused.
Ripe to be hunted down by packs of screaming Welshmen.

Meanwhile, after trading arrow and javelins on the other flank, the stand off was altered by the arrival of another horde of Welshmen.

Despite their stalwart defence, the Anglo-Danes couldn't hope to stand against this new enemy...

...and the end was inevitable.

Aaarrgghh! I had him. I was facing Mike again and I was poised to smash into his Warlord and wreak my vengeance, but on a single dice roll, he seized the initiative and the window of opportunity was closed with javelins.

I really need some bows.

And so ended my day and the campaign. The Welsh had driven the Saxons out of Shrewsbury and into Mercia and what remained of the Vikings returned north empty handed.

Tactically, I don't think I did too much wrong despite getting hammered three times by the Welsh. As I said earlier, I do need to get round to painting some Levies as I was critically short of range a lot of the time. I also think that 8 Hirdmen is too much in a four point game of Saga. I was sacrificing a Saga dice for either complete overkill or total dice fluffing. I probably won't take such a big unit in small games again. I did have some bad dice at some crucial moments, but that's dice games, if your going to complain about dice you might as well stop playing. The key point is that my opponents really took advantage very well when things went wrong for me. I was beaten by good players, not dice.

At the end of the day was the prize-giving. The Welsh players all got one of the Limited Edition Macbeth models for their victory and I fear that the Scottish hordes may descend upon us next time. To my surprise I was given most sporting (it's really nice to know that people enjoy playing against you) and was given the choice of several prizes. I chose this:

This seemed to cause some surprise as I turned down a Jomsviking Warband. My reasons were simple: I'm building a Breton Warband and was planning to convert William as my Warlord anyway; I already have Vikings that I can use as Jomsvikings; the Jomsvikings would go to the back of my painting pile (remember those tanks I bought at lunch?); and most importantly I'd just spent the day being slaughtered with a force very similar to the Jomsvikings...I'd had enough. Give me horses and javelins for the next one please!

More importantly, the Jomsvikings then went to Mike who deservedly won the prize for best painted warband. Given how brilliant his Welsh are (sadly my pictures don't do them justice), those Jomsvikings are going to be stunning. Also, the next time we meet he'll have slow moving chaps with no bows and I'll have horses and javelins...vengeance shall be miiinnnneee!!!!

All in all a great day. Well organised, well run, great location, great games, nice people, cheap figures. What more could you ask?

Thursday 12 April 2012

Not Very Exciting

Just to prove that I am making some progress, I thought I'd post about some rather uninteresting wargaming tasks I've been getting done.

First up, a couple of bases for my woods. Simply done using the MDF from the drawers of some broken furniture, cut to shape, smoothed and sanded (this bit was done by Andy as being an impractical flounce of a teacher I don't own tools) then a liberal coat of PVA, sand, brown paint and finally flock. It's not going to win any prizes but it's better than bits of carpet or cloth.

Next up, my Saga measuring sticks and counters. Andy had these made for everyone taking part in the club campaign and I need to make mine a little bit different to differentiate them. However, I quite liked the look of the laser cut MDF, so I've just gone for a simple wash of brown ink to make them a bit darker. I may do more to them in time but for now it's enough to avoid confusion.

The question is though, why am I doing this dull stuff rather than painting models? The answer: I'm out of models.

Seriously...well almost. My lead and plastic slag heap has diminished to such an extent that all I have left to complete are 5 Questing Knights, 4 Knights Errant and a Hippogriff Rider for my Bretonnian army and 8 Chaps with Shotguns for VBCW. And that's it. As neither of these games are my focus at the moment, I'm not really motivated to get them done for now. However, the next time Matt challenges me to a VBCW game or as soon as Aneurin's WFB campaign kicks off, that will change.

Admittedly there's a couple of clean up jobs I need to do on a couple of my armies (my Wood Elves need fixing still) but I began this blog with the aim of reducing the slag heap and it's worked.

However, my birthday is at the end of the month and I already know that there are at least thirty cavalry models incoming, so there'll be plenty to do in the coming year.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Change of Plan

Despite what I said a few weeks ago about a Flames of War campaign in a hypothetical Scandinavian front, however, things have changed. I decided that the map I'd designed was going to lead to a complicated campaign which risked becoming bogged down and losing the interest of the participants. Having a somewhat short attention span when it comes to wargaming (this blog is evidence of that) I tend to prefer campaigns which are short and intense or longer and more casual. So I began to cast around for alternatives.

The first option was the Infantry aces campaign from 'Cassino' book. This had a lot going for it: it has a short, four round structure; it's an escalation campaign so the games get steadily bigger; there's a built-in big multi-player game to round off; there's a narrative element as players' commanding officers (their 'Infantry Ace' gains additional skills and abilities). It seemed perfect.

Unfortunately there was a problem. Well, several problems actually. It turns out that very few players at the club only have armoured companies and don't have enough infantry to run the campaign. I was a bit puzzled why nobody had mentioned this when I first mentioned the Infantry Aces campaign, and also why I didn't already know this from previous games of Flames of War...and then I remembered this...

...and this...

...could it be that my fellow clubmates have been avoiding me and my tank-eating Panthers? :)

It also seems that mid-war is much easier for folk to do (I knew this was the case for one, but wasn't aware that it was true for others), so Cassino was abandoned.

I returned to the the mid-war period (1942-43) and an idea I'd originally had for a late war 'Race to Berlin' campaign. This idea uses the 'Axis of Attack' campaign format and has the three major allied powers (USA, Great Britain and the Soviet Union) competing to reach Berlin first along three separate quasi-historical routes. However, I needed to transfer this concept to earlier in the war when the allies were fighting on different continents. I was also limited to a point after America's entry to the war.

A little bit of research revealed that in November1942 three very significant events happened at roughly the same time. Firstly, the British won the second Battle of El Alamein, turning the tide of the war in Africa and beginning the Eighth Army's long push along the coast to Tunisia. Secondly, the Russians launched Operation Uranus to encircle the German Sixth army, and despite several major German offensives, saw the Russians break out and eventually capture Kursk several months later. Finally, an American led force launched Operation Torch, landing in Morocco and Algeria, easily defeating the Vichy French and then forcing the German and Italian troops in Tunisia to fight on two fronts.

This gave me my three Axis of Attack lines. The British and Americans would move from opposite ends of North Africa to drive the Germans and Italians out of Tunis, and the Russians would break out of Stalingrad and push the Germans, Romanians and Hungarians back to Kursk.

Here are the maps (the North Africa one is adapted from a map on

The aim for the each Allied nation is to reach their objective before the others. The aim for the Axis powers is to stop them. However, to liven up proceeding and bring in a greater level of variety, I've decided to allow players to use both Axis and Allied armies. However, they must choose to be in the British, Soviet or American factions, and they cannot play games against players in the same faction, but they can play as the Axis against the other two Allied factions in an attempt to slow them down.

Hopefully this plan also gives the couple of players with only German armies a focus as they have to fight on three fronts and can only win if all the Allies are held back (a difficult and fairly historical objective).

I've had an idea to run the campaign as a relaxed, long-term affair with the start date being November and the end being May reflecting the historical time frame, and see if the players can beat their historical counterparts. As such, I'll probably not make it straightforward to capture the next territory along the track. I also suspect that I'm going to throw in some special rules when the campaign reaches certain locations and dates. (The Americans shouldn't be looking forward to the Kasserine Pass!)