Sunday, July 25, 2021

Recent battles

 We are currently enjoying what I suspect may turn out to be a respite between pandemic waves here, so while my vaccine remains effective, it has been time to do some face to face gaming.  As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to get the NQSYW on the table at a HAWKs meeting (back on the 16th), so I figured that “With MacDuff to the Frontier” would be a better fit for table size and time available than Charge!

On the day of the game, I had a look through C.S. Grant’s Scenarios for Wargames, looking for something that would be suitable for the expected limited number of players, and ended up deciding to use Scenario #4, Holding Action (2), which I had never tried before.  

I elected to translate the suggested force ratio to 12 infantry, 6 light infantry, 6 cavalry, or 1 gun with 4 gunners per unit.  Scenery, apart from the river, is relatively sparse, which also made a good choice for an away game.  This was just as well, because, despite my best intentions, I did not allow enough time for traffic and arrived at the meeting in time for a very hasty set up, and then launched right into the rules explanation and game.  As a result, I did not end up taking very many pictures, nor any notes, so reconstructing a detailed battle report is impossible.

Soldiers of the Schoeffen-Buschhagen Adelmann Regiment seize a Hesse-Hattemstadt battery

Western League defenders prepare as Fredonians assault the western bridge

Schoeffen-Buschhagen Hussars discover a usable ford

As the battle played out, the forces of the Pragmatic Coalition (Schoeffen-Buschhagen, Wachovia, and Fredonia were represented on the table) were able to successfully assault the bridges, and the Western League defense was crumbling by the time the Coalition light cavalry discovered a ford and crossed, with the aim of cutting off the retreat of the league forces.  However, the cost of assaulting the bridge was not insignificant, and there was some question as to how closely the Coalition force would have been able to press the pursuit.  All of the recent NQSYW games have been described as part of the campaign to knock the Archbishopric of Schluesselbrett out of the war, and it would appear that the Coalition has finally forced the defenses of the city of Schluesselbrett.

I spent some time last weekend working on NQSYW figures instead of working on my Stargrave crew, so I was compelled to take the field in yesterday’s Stargrave game, the first game that will “count” in our annual campaign, with the same test crew I used last month.

The battlefield; a squabble over a wrecked spaceship

We are still finding our way through the rules, so the game took a little longer than we expected.  It’s rarely my turn to be the lucky one for the day, but my crew brought home three loot markers, which turned out to be quite valuable in terms of the game’s currency.  I did have my captain put out of action at the end of the game, but, happily he merely had a “close call” on the post-game out-of-action survival roll. (Unlike host Chris Palmer’s captain, who was put out of action in the final turn, and died as a result of the survival roll, wiping out all of Chris’s gains in the game…)

As expected, everyone had a look at the rules, and there was a lot of smoke grenade throwing going on.

A brief moment of glory for runner Leftie, who put Don Hogge’s flamethrower man out of action with his knife

Captain Toby, Holly, and robot casecracker G357 looking for loot

Captain Toby reminds Holly that she will have minions to climb trees when she is captain…

Except for Chris, nobody had any catastrophic post-battle results, so most of the “out of actions” were temporary, and things weren’t quite as grim as several players had feared late game.  I hope to get a few more new figures painted up by next month, as well as some additional scenery.

Testing out the new “locked” markers

I think that I noted that one of the differences from earlier games in the series is that loot markers in Stargrave start “locked”, and must be unlocked before they can be carried off.  After last month’s game I went looking for some clear plastic hemispheres which I hoped would look like force fields, to use as “locked” markers. I found these  “bath bomb molds” on Amazon.  There were not very expensive for 30 of them in three different sizes, and seemed to work reasonable well.  With the different sizes, we were able to cover most of the treasure markers we were using.


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Considering the NQSYW …

 Ross Macfarlane recently noted, regarding last week’s “Encounter at Steinbruecke”, that small games with big figures had become his preferred gaming style somewhere along the way.  While I don’t want to lose the ability to occasionally maneuver with 60-man Charge! regiments, it is a fact that home games going forward are either going to be on my 3x5 gaming table, as last week, or on a 4x6 temporary table in the library, as with the “Pass at Gelbehuegul” last summer:

In either case, the games will be more fluid and interesting if the unit sizes are smaller (e.g. the twelve man infantry units and six man cavalry units used in A Gentleman’s War), which gives the opportunity to deploy five or six units across the wide side of the table and still have some open space to either flank.

My Charge! infantry units are generally built from a single pose of Prince August castings (or two poses for the “firing line” units) plus command figures. A full foot regiment includes 48 musketeers, and three each of the various command figures.  So, I am considering, among other things, whether it would make sense to paint a few extra officers so that I could get a nice uniform look among the four derivative units each regiment could form.  On the other hand, I had long considered using a different pose for each of the companies in future Charge! regiments to make it easier to track companies on the table where desirable, and that would limit “pleasantly visual” deployment to three derivative units per regiment rather than four.  It’s been a few years since I painted a new infantry unit (hmmm….2012), perhaps because there are already enough units to more than fill the table.  So I am also considering whether it would be more fun and interesting to paint a few units designed to be twelve figures from the start, since motivation to paint 12 rather than 19 might be easier to find, and it’s likely that is how they are going to be deployed anyway.

To assist in considering this, I dug out the actual partially painted stock yesterday, as well as the box of partially unit-organized castings.  I have notes from last year, after a couple of games of A Gentleman’s War, which show that I was considering adding a couple of additional generals, and it looks like I got as far as priming some extra command figures on at least one occasion. Since primed figures on sticks have a  sad tendency to be set aside for years at a time, I should really get in the habit of writing some notes about my intentions on the bottoms of the sticks, so that I can figure out later what I was thinking … 

The other thing I noticed about the NQSYW, as I was looking through old blog posts for inspiration, is that the first game we ever played with the figures was some time in August 1996, which will be 25 years ago next month.  Here’s a copy of the notebook entry on the game:

We even have a photograph, a happy chance for the film era:

So, somehow, I think that we will mark 25 years of this next month …

Monday, July 5, 2021

Encounter at Steinbruecke

 Following the defeat at Gelbehuegel (during the War of the Western League), General Nordstrom (commanding the Pragmatic Coalition’s invasion of Schluesselbrett) sought an alternative route to the capital city.  A scouting detachment of light cavalry brought word of a possible route, although it was not without difficulty.  The river Blauwasser presented a considerable obstacle, but there was a damaged bridge at the village of Steinbruecke which might be repaired by the army’s engineers, as long as both banks of the river were held.  Accordingly, a reconaissance in force under the command of Colonel Schultheiss was ordered to seek a possible ford and, if found, cross the Blauwasser to secure both ends of the bridge until engineers were brought up to effect repairs.  Schultheiss’s force was a mixed bag, consisting of a battalion of his own infantry regiment, a battalion from the Adelmann Regiment, a detachment of the King Rupert Jaegers, two squadrons of dragoons from different regiments, and a battery of artillery.

With any luck, this maneuver would go unnoticed by League forces, who were occupied defending the main approaches to city…

The situation develops: cavalry seeks a ford on both sides

Unfortunately for the Coalition, the League was alert to the danger presented by the bridge, and dispatched a force to secure it, under the command of Brigadier Regelnmann.  Curiously, its composition was much the same as the Coalition’s force: two battalions of line infantry, two squadrons of dragoons, and a battery of artilley, all native Schluesselbrett troops, plus a small detachmanet of Saxe-Kirchdorf jaegers.

Advancing toward Steinbruecke from the north (right side of illustration), Regelmann set his dragoons ahead to determine if the river was fordable anywhere.  

General Regelnmann leads the infantry advance

Finding no usable ford upstream of the bridge, the League’s forces continued downstream.  As the Saxe-Kirchdorf jaegers neared a third possible crossing point, they saw a squadron of Schoeffen-Buschhagen dragoons on the south bank.  Preparing to open fire on them, they were surprised when the dragoons splashed across the river and charged them!  The jaegers were unprepared for the onslaught, and hastily retreated.  

As both sides converged on the crossing point, a squadron of Schluesselbrett dragoons hastily attacked the now-disorganized S-Bs, who in turn retired back across the river.  By then the lead elements of S-B infantry were able to drive the League dragoons off with musketry.  The S-B artillery battery was soon deployed and was able to bring the northern (lower in illustration) side of the crossing under effective fire.

For some reason, General Regelmann’s League infantry was slow to deploy, and the Coalition infantry was able tgo cross the river.  Meanwhile , the League cavalry discovered, upon questioing a local farmer, that the river could be forded with some difficulty upstream of the village (left of illustration), and a portion of the League force was dispatched to make the attempt.

The sun was sinking as a ferocious firefight broke out between the two infantry lines.  Both commanders were in the thick of the action, rallying their men.  On the south bank, a cavalry fight broke out, as a single squadron of Schluesselbrett dragoons, eventually aided by the Saxe-Kirchdorf jaegers and the long range fire of their artillery, faced down the remnants of two squadrons of their Coalition counterparts.

As the day ended, the situation remained in doubt.  The Coalition was in possession of both sides of the crossing, but the damaged bridge was contested, and their cavalry had been very roughly handled by the League.  Both sides sent messengers seeking reinforcements in the expectation that the fight would be  renewed in the morning…

Player’s Notes

With the HAWKs back to holding face to face meetings, I would like to dust off the Not Quite Seven Years War project, and give the other club members an opportunity to see their forces on the table.  It’s been a few years since some of them have been out. While I’m not done with Charge!, there is no doubt that it would be more practical to use some other rules, preferably with smaller units, for a club night game.  We have been playing A Gentleman’s War for the last couple of years, which I like well enough, but I haven’t been able to make it work for multiple player games to my satisfaction.  Therefore, my expectation is that I will use Ross Macfarlane’s home rules With MacDuff to the Frontier for this.  

With that in mind, I invited Ross to join me in a remote game to get the rules fixed in my mind.

Since the last time I hosted an NQSYW game remotely, I’ve upgraded my remote player set-up.  I can now put the iPad in a clamp on my heavy-duty photographic tripod.

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day around the house, so my preparations were not as thorough as I would have wished.  I looked through the Grant green and red scenario books for something suitable.  My desire to try something new was conflicting with my need to get set up, and I decided on Scenario 13, Finding the Ford, from Scenarios for All Ages (the Red Book).  I kept the scenery to a somewhat expedient level, without a lot of extra detail, and using the subscale 3D printed buildings I’ve painted up during the pandemic, since I was both short on set up time, and in need of fast clean up so that supper could be eaten afterwards.  There are some challenges with using your gaming table as your dinner table.

Nevertheless, despite the challenges, the game eventually got played.  We used Discord for a change, since Google Hangouts, the conference system of choice these many years, is being obsoleted by Google. It was good to see the figures out, and I have some ideas about optimizing large figure games on a smaller table which I need to write down while I still remember them…

Stargrave Test Game

 Before I forget about it, the HAWKs Saturday morning group played a trial game of Stargrave last weekend (26 June).  We had five players in attendance, and used the rule book’s first scenario, “Botched Deal”, to set up the game.

The Saturday group played two campaigns of Frostgrave followed by two campaigns of Ghost Archipelago, so the basic mechanics were fairly familiar.  I’ll hold off on doing a rules review until after I’ve actually read them carefully, but the initial impression is that the fact that all crew members will have ranged weapons, and that loot is “locked” when found (and can’t be carried off until someone successfully unlocks it), will combine to add more conflict to the game in comparison to the earlier entries in the “*grave” series.

I had a handful of figures already painted from an abortive attempt to play Rogue Stars a few years ago, and supplemented them with post-apocalyptic figures.  Following the game, I expect that I am going to need some heavy weapons figures.  I ordered a dozen or so figures from Reaper, which arrived on Friday.

I spent Saturday morning doing a bit of painting, for the first time in a couple of months.  The generator will be a treasure token, and was part of the Friday delivery, which may set a record for shortest time from delivery to painting.  The other fellow has been sitting around with a primer coat since the Rogue Stars game didn’t pan out.

Our next session is scheduled for the 24th of July.  I hope to have carefully read the rules by then, put some additional thought into crew design, and painted the requisite figures…