Sunday, May 5, 2019

Battle of the Crossroads


I had the opportunity yesterday to break out the 1/72 scale plastic Portable Fantasy Campaign figure to resolve a pending battle in my solo Northlands campaign.  I’m still evolving the campaign resolution mechanics, but I had reached a point in March where I had a full-scale battle (using Hordes of the Things), but it’s taken a few weeks to finally get it done.  It’s terrible when you can’t find the opponent for a solo game...

The Cold Islanders (loosely Vikings) had invaded the Kingdom of Darmis (loosely medieval French), but a skirmish previously reported (last May) and a lot of parleys were the only actions up to now.  I may have to tweak the battle generation system, so that the amount of record-keeping per battle is a little more favorable.  However, with a battle in hand, I decided to take a suggestion from Ross and try a scenario battle, randomly chosen from Neil Thomas’s One Hour Wargames book. I ended up with Scenario 11, “Surprise Attack”, based on Quatre Bras in 1815.  I randomly assigned Darmis the role of the attacker, which was appropriate since they had been trying to force a battle in the strategic decision system.
The Northlands Map, Rienne toward upper left

This left the Cold Islanders split up, with part of their force on the table and two parts arriving later.  I elected to go with the 15 turn time limit, but, as you’ll see, that didn’t end up being the decisive factor.  The Cold Islander had, in Hordes terms, a Hero-General, 2 Blades, 4 Warbands, and 2 Shooters, and Darmis had 4 knights (including the general), 3 Blades, 2 Shooters, and a Wizard.


Battle drawing, showing the opening phases

From the Northland Chronicle, as maintained at the University in Darmis:



In the seventh month of that year, King Rollant of Darmis, having failed to secure the removal of the Cold Islanders from the lands of the Count of Rienne by negotiation, resolved to attack the encampment of the barbarians.  Perhaps muddled by fine wines looted from the territory around Rienne, and lulled by the exchange of parleys, Eric Stronghand, leader of the Cold Islands army, was caught off guard by the King’s advance.

     Nevertheless, the Cold Islanders drew up their shield wall, and waited as the king and his knights formed their battle array.  Impatient with this maneuvering, the captain finally advanced to within bowshot of the knights, and the battle began in earnest.

     King rolland had secured the services of Cassara, of the Blue order, a sorceress of the great university in dramas, and hoped that her powers would enable a swift victory.
Knights of Darmis deploy into a battle formation
The first part of the battle, though, was won by steel and valor, as a charge by the king and his knights scattered most of the barbarians.

Eric and his shield companions finally reached the field, and were able to gather the scattered barbarians into a second shield wall.

Cassara sent a messenger to the king to tell him that the augers were propitious for her sorcery, and the king held back to allow her to do her work.  Four times the sky darkened and the mystic energies crackled about the field, and/or times Eric Stronghand stood against the spells.  But the fourth time was enough for him, and he and his companions charged toward the dreaded sorceress.

The final charge of Eric Stronghand
In close combat, axe against spell, Cassara finally prevailed, wrapping the Cold Islander in unbreakable bands of enchantment.

With their general ensorcelled and casualties heavy, the Cold Islanders broke and fled the field, racing to protect their boats.  Well pleased with this result, King Rollant withheld his knights, not permitting them to scatter in pursuit, and bade Cassara bring Eric to his table to discuss the terms of his ransom...

So, it wasn't a bad game overall.  I wasn't sure what would happen with scenarios in Hordes, but it seemed to work reasonably well, with a caveat for starting the Cold Islanders with their general off the table, doubling all their maneuver costs initially.  In retrospect, it might have been better for the Cold Islanders to take their chances with the Sorceress, since she used most of the command pips for four turns unsuccessfully casting spells at the enemy general.  However, past experience has led me to believe that a Hero-General has little chance in the long run against a Wizard, so I went ahead to see if I could eliminate the threat.

Now it's back to the log book to consider the next set of moves, and see what sort of battle will generated.



Friday, May 3, 2019

Battle Reports


One of my personal hobby challenges this year is to try to keep more entertaining records of games played, so I have been sketching maps with colored pencils to memorialize the games.

I was getting a little behind, so I was pleased to be able to take some time today to catch up on entries for the latest two games.
The Ambush scenario from the 20th of April

Here’s the Ambush scenario as played with Ross Macfarlane on the 20th...

Ghost Archipelago game from the 27th of April

and the Ghost Archipelago campaign game from the 27th.  I may yet get a fuller battle report for that posted here, since I do have a few additional pictures.

At any rate, since I am now caught up, I can set up the solo game for my (theoretically) ongoing fantasy campaign without a sense that there’s anything else I should be doing.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Slight Excess of Inspiration


April has generally not been a good month for miniatures gaming in general, although we did get that 40mm Not Quite Seven Years War game in last weekend.  In painting, I have casually been working on a group of figures intended for some sort of urban fantasy game, although whether it will turn out to be a role playing game or some sort of skirmish war-game remains to be seen.  An urban mat from Cigar Box Battles arrived recently, although I haven't yet started on any of the card buildings to develop it.  

Of the group shown here, the two in the back were previously shown, and were my test figures from the Hero Forge custom miniatures service.  I am trying to be good about that, and only order them as fast as I am painting them, so they were duly followed by a second order for three figures late last fall, just before moving occupied my time.

The front row includes the first of those three, Violet with her exotic pet, and three Reaper figures from their Chronoscope range.  

Friends, Foes, or Bystanders? As yet, unknown...

But at least I know their names...
However, the combination of a 40mm game on the table and the arrival of A Gentleman's War (AGW) has apparently got my Muse working overtime, since I started thinking about dusting off my long-neglected French Revolution figures to use with the rules.  According to my records, I haven't had them on the table in the entire ten years I've been keeping this blog, although my son did run a game at Cold Wars a few years back.  With the Scarlet Pimpernel scenarios we were using, we already have a selection of unusual and personality figures to use with the Cameo Roles rules from AGW, and I'll have to see what else I can create.

That sent me digging through the basement to see whether I had any castings left over from the last round of work on the project.  Now, my painted figures are reasonably well labeled and sorted into storage boxes for easy deployment, but the unpainted figures, especially home cast ones, are generally not.  It took several hours of search to conclude that I have only a handful of potential new recruits, but at least I now know where all the 40mm Renaissance expansion figures are, and have collected the 40mm NQSYW figures into one location.  I set aside what French Revolution expansion pieces I had, and also found some partially painted NQSYW figures to work on while the FRs are being assembled.

I don't know if it's possible to have too many miniatures, but, if it were, being unable to find them when the Muse provides inspiration would likely be a sign...At least the collection of molds for casting more is well organized, so I shall hope for some good weather in the near future.

Friday, April 26, 2019

An Incident from the Not Quite Seven Years War

Ross Macfarlane and I had an opportunity to put a game on the table last weekend, for the first time in a while, although this was the latest in a series of remote games.  I have these tagged as "Skype" on the blog, but we have been using Google Hangouts in recent years.  

The Not Quite Seven Years War has traditionally been played using Charge!, with our collection of Prince August and Meisterzinn 40mm home cast figures, but we are scheduled to host a couple of games at Huzzah! in Portland, Maine, next month, and have elected to use With MacDuff to the Frontier.  On Saturday it was time to try out one of the scenarios, Ambush-1 from C.S. Grant's indispensable War Games Scenarios, or "The Green Book".  This action involves a convoy, represented by two wagons in our game, attempting to make its way across the table to a bridge, through some rough territory in which an ambushing force is concealed.  Ross took the convoy, and I took the ambushers for convenience, since the hidden deployment aspects were easier for me to handle as the physical host of the game. Convoy troops were a mix of allied forces, and the ambushers represented my usual image-nation of Schoeffen-Buschhagen.

The convoy had an escort of two cavalry, four infantry and an artillery unit, and the ambushers had a light cavalry unit, two light infantry units, and two line infantry units.  I elected to deploy three of my four units in a blocking position near the bridge, with the cavalry and one light infantry further forward to harass the convoy as it advanced.

Convoy guard (in red) deploy
Things started well enough for me.  Ross led off with a unit of allied hussars, who were readily put to flight by the Schoeffen-Buschhagen hussars, who appeared out of some dead ground around the middle of the table.



S-B Hussars sweep down upon the enemy
After that, however, things became more difficult.  Ross carefully advanced the wagons behind a screen of his line infantry, and covered the tail of the convoy with his gun and a squadron of dragoons.  My forward light infantry were reluctant to advance out of covered position in some woods onto open ground in the face of the dragoons, and my hussars were clearly outmatched as well and hung back.

Wagons advancing cautiously, well screened...


Schlusselbrett foot advance against the S-B blocking force

That left the fight in the front, where Ross's allied infantry pressed ahead and engaged in a close range firefight with the blocking S-B infantry.  After a deadly exchange of fire, the remaining S-B forces were now outnumbered significantly by the allies, and their commander prudently elected to break off and hope for better luck on a different day.

After some technical difficulties in getting started, the battle took about three hours, which was a pleasant diversion for a Saturday afternoon.

I was reminded how much I enjoy seeing the big guys on the table, so perhaps it is time to get a few more painted.  It does look, however, like I am going to be limited to 4x6 or smaller tables for home games for the foreseeable future, so there probably needs to be some reconsideration of the upper limits of the project given the numbers that can be maneuvered.

For some variety I recently acquired Howard Whitehouse and Dan Foley's new book A Gentleman's War, which contemplates 12 man infantry and 6 man cavalry units, and has rules covering the mid-1700s up through the later 19th century, and should therefore be suitable for use with these figures.  I shall hope to post a full review sometime soon, after a game.

Friday, March 1, 2019

A Battle Near Dale

Last Saturday (February 23) was a busy gaming day.  After the Ghost Archipelago game and a lunch with elder son Norman, I came home and played out a battle on the new table.  My brother Norman (yes, it can be confusing at family gatherings) called in by FaceTime to help me out.  We played Dragon Rampant using two armies composed entirely of vintage Minifigs Mythical Earth (ME) figures.  The MEs were the first fantasy figures I bought, and I think of this as an effort to do things the way I would have wanted to 40 years ago, had I been able to paint...

On one side we had the Orc King (a three figure "reduced model unit") as elite foot, a unit of elite foot bodyguards, a pack of wolves (regular war beasts) , and two units of orcs, a lesser unit of light for, and a better unit of light foot with mixed weapons (i.e., having some bows and shooting capability).  On the other we had the allies of the Lake region, led by the Elf King (a reduced model heavy foot unit).  The elf king commanded two units of elvish light foot with mixed weapons, a unit of the men of Dale (light foot), and a unit of dwarves of the Lonely Mountain (elite foot).

Sketch of the opening moves

Overview of the start of the battle
We rolled for sides, and I ended up commanding the allies.

Aggressive as ever, the orcs rolled forward, with the wolves and bodyguard engaging the two units of elves, while the lesser orcs advanced to threaten the men of Dale, and the better orcs headed around the woods in a flanking maneuver.

The wolves attack the elves

The battle on the orcish left was bloody on both sides, and, at the end, the elves and the orc bodyguard both broke on the same turn.



That left the kings to engage each other.



Meanwhile, on the orcish right, the lesser orcs formed a hedgehog to deal with the appearance of the dwarves out of the woods on their flank.


The dwarves eventually drove the orcs from the field, but the flanking maneuver finally culminated in the arrival of the better orcs within shooting range of the men of Dale.  Unprepared for the volleys of arrows, they withdrew.

That left just four units on the table, and we rolled for game ending in accordance with the scenario instructions.
Position at end of game
That turned out to be the last turn, and, with more points left on the table (and in better condition, though it wasn't a scenario criterion), we deemed the orcs to have won.

The total time elapsed was about an hour and a half.  It would probably have been half an hour shorter if we hadn't been compelled to discuss the moves over FaceTime.  Nevertheless, it was a fun little game, and I look forward to getting a few more units done so that we can add a bit of variety to the encounters.  Two years of auction haunting have left me with a generous pile of these figures awaiting my attention.


2019 Ghost Archipelago Campaign Game 2 -- Spider Island

     We played the second game of our 2019 Ghost Archipelago campaign on Saturday, 23 February.




From the log of the Manticore:

     Word reached us of a place called the Island of Spiders.  Spider eggs are said to be of value in certain alchemical processes, and I thought it might be prudent to put in and collect some, the state of our treasury being of some concern.

     We landed and passed on toward the center of the island, finding ourselves near a ruined temple of the Dricheans.  As we approached the temple, I took several of the crew with me around to the left, toward a smaller structure visible through the underbrush.

Our area of operations

Our Warden, Quartz, Thorn the archer, and a pair of crewmen started around toward the right-hand side of the temple, attempting to take some cover among a patch of tree stumps.

Taking cover among the stumps

Suddenly, advancing on them from the distance, several of the tribesmen making up the crew of the Heritor Arkhan appeared.  We had run into them recently, and Quartz was naturally concerned. 

     Ali, one of the crewmen with me, had found an interesting chest concealed in a thicket, and I ordered him to carry it back to the Manticore.  Ahead of me, I saw an archer pop up out of a thicket, and I threw a heavy rock at him.  He staggered, and Thetis (our pearl diver) ran forward to finish him off.  She stood for a moment afterward, considering whether she should enter the small structure (which had proved to be flooded) and dispute the ownership of a treasure being recovered by a pair of halflings.  As she did, an enormous fellow appeared and attacked her with an axe.  Despite the axe, we later learned that he was a Warden serving with the crew of Barley Gibletberrysauce, or some such outlandish halfling name.  She barely escaped with her life, and perforce left the treasure to the little people.  

     The crewman Redhand, spying some remaining gold work in the upper reaches of the temple, had carefully scaled one of the ruined columns.  Dislodging the golden carving, he dropped it to the ground, were the wounded Thetis picked it up and started for the ship.

     I heard the sound of swords clashing within the ruins, and clambered up to see what was afoot.  I found two of my crewmen attempting to drag away a large chest.  They had been set upon by the Heritor Arkhan himself.  Both of them were knocked out, and while I briefly stunned Arkhan with another rock, I thought it best to quit the area while I still could.

     As I dropped back to the jungle floor, I met Quartz and Thorn retreating hastily around the temple corner.  Arkhan's tribesmen had laid low the two crewmen who had accompanied them.  Moreover, a prodigiously huge spider had been attracted by the commotion.  We heard screams from the enemy crewmen, and had no interest in getting any nearer to the beast. 

     Once all were gathered, I signaled for a retreat.  Redhand was nowhere to be found.  He later showed up at the Manticore carrying a knapsack full of spider eggs.  It seems he was trapped in the upper works of the ruin, and escaped by waiting for nightfall and the departure of the monster spider.

     We waited for some time, and were rewarded by the sight of our wounded crew members straggling in.  Eventually all members of the landing party returned, although two of the crew were seriously wounded.  

     While the treasure found was meager, at least no hands were lost, and it is to be hoped that the experiences will prove to have imparted a useful lesson or two.

Those left to retreat

Friday, February 22, 2019

Painting -- 1/72 NPCs and Minfig ME Figures

Some of these may have been shown in the last post, but here are the 1/72 figures I have recently finished, for use with the Portable Fantasy set-up.  The elf banner bearer is a Caesar Miniatures figures; the remainder are all from the Linear B Age of the Tudors set.



The other project that I am getting back to is the Minifig ME (Mythical Earth) battles.  I dusted off this mostly complete unit of "true orcs" and finished them up on Monday, which was a holiday.


That finally gives me enough to field two 24 point Dragon Rampant war bands, one of Orcs of the Misty Mountains, and the other of allies of the Lake region.  I have a solo game (!) set up now, which I hope will provide some inspiration to get some additional painting done.  Battle report to follow...

Even without a battle, I pressed ahead on the painting today, and painted these goblins in an extended sitting.  Allowing the glue to dry on the basing treatment took as long as the painting, but at least they are done.  I cleaned up and primed the next dozen, so the Orcs of the Misty Mountains should have some choice in their order of battle next time.


I don't recall when I last got a unit finished in a day, so February will have been a good month gaming-wise, whatever else does or doesn't get accomplished.