Sunday, July 26, 2020

Virtual Lard 2

Yesterday I took part in the second Virtual Lard event organised by Jeremy Short. As with the first it was a great success. Both games I was involved with were played in an exemplary spirit.

In the morning I played in Mike Whitaker’s “Dawn on the Gothic Line”, which involved three of us commanding a British force attacking a German-held village in Italy. Mike ran the game using I Ain’t Been Shot Mum. Mike knows these rules really well and was able to provide us with a pretty seamless command experience.

It was my first time with IABSM and it tallies with my expectations - every forward move was made with the expectation that it might trigger a devastating German response! Mike ran the game using low camera angles so we could only see approximately what our commanders could see from their battlefield locations.  This added tremendously to the atmosphere and to the sense of paranoia.

Thanks Mike and to my fellow players Henry and Noah for a terrific experience.

I don’t have any pics of Mike’s lovely models but I’ll edit in a link to Mike’s blog if he posts any. Oh and I think there might be a YouTube video too!

After lunch (homemade soup and Tesco’s sourdough bread) I ran my first non-solo Woebetides game "A Bridge Too Far Up River".  I didn’t go with the point-of-view camera approach as to me the Sharp Practice rules are about the story-telling approach and I wanted my players to see the story as it emerged.

In this game Mike Wilkins and Tom ran a British force tasked with escorting a waggon-load of rum across the table. Mike Whitaker and Jim, meanwhile, were  in charge of a French force tasked with destroying the bridge the British planned to use.  In retrospect maybe I should have put both Mike Ws on the same side!

I’d built not one but two new bridges for the scenario. As well as the main road bridge across the Borno river, there was a rather worn-out-looking rope bridge between to perilous crags. 

The French arrived by boat in the form of two Arab dhows and two longboats. Their players had to decide on the positioning of these boats which would be both their Deployment Points and their means of escape. Each dhow could carry two Groups and each longboat one.  

This was a very asymmetric action with the British attempting to drive of the French with fire while the French had three tasks to complete - demolishing the bridge and getting the two dhows successfully turned around in the narrow river. 

As usual, the vagaries of the Sharp Practice activation system led to some interesting command problems for the players. The French struggled to get their larger formation of Sepoys across the bridge and into action, having deployed them from a dhow on the far side of the river from the British. However, by careful play of the flag chits they were able to get their sappers into position and working on the bridge demolition from early in the game.

The British did manage to form a nice, straight firing line along the edge of the woods and caused some significant casualties to the French troops but this was not enough to prevent them completing their mission. By the time Ensign Tom Laine led his group of civilian skirmishes forward towards the crag it was too late; the French had mostly reembarked  and were making their way down-river leaving a demolished bridge behind them. 

When time for the game elapsed there was only on outstanding question. Could M. Choufleur the engineer pick himself up from the dirt in time to catch the last dhow for Fort Charles?

The British, I think, became hypnotised by the effect of their own firing.  Their chances of victory would have been higher if they had engaged the enemy more closely but then they had gone into the action in the first place not knowing what the French intended to do.

Or were they perhaps fooled by Mr Whitaker's insistence that the French engineers were just there to inspect the bridge for the purposes of planning permission?

I really enjoyed the game and I think the players did too. The spirit of the game was honoured throughout And the few rules issues we encountered were resolved amicably.  Thanks Mike, Mike, Jim and Tom for making this such fun.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Virtual Lard 2 scenery test

I've had a go at setting up the terrain for the Sharp Practice game at VL2.

It's all a bit uneven at present because the boards are set up on the spare bed in what was until recently Charlie's room.

You can see the new, large bridge over the river in the centre of the picture. On the left is a rope bridge fore clearly seen below...

I'm going to add a little flock to the new crags to help them blend into the base boards better.  Other than that, I think we're ready to go.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Bridge on the River Borno

I'm running a game of Sharp Practice at Virtual Lard 2 on Saturday. The scenario needs bridge on a large river.

The structure is built from some square-profile bamboo skewers courtesy of J Sainsbury.  The deck is made from some pieces of thin wood veneer I had left over from a previous project and the ramps are scored card as I didn't have enough of the wood.

I painted the structure in Vallejo Medium Sea Grey and then gave it a bit of a semi-drybrush with some Grey Green.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Last Hills

On Sunday we played our first test-game-of-Future-War-Commander-by-Skype. I'd created a scenario based in a Frank Chadwick article in the Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society about forty years ago!

Gus and John commanded elements of the armed forces of LSP (Pynchan) Inc - the corporate government a planet in the Third Imperium (the setting of the Traveller RPG).  Andy and Mark represented to revolutionaries closing in on the capital and on the verge of winning the planet-wide civil war.

As so often with these games, I was too busy trying to keep things moving to take photographs but here are a few.

I set the table up as a desert area with a small settlement and artificially irrigated fields in the centre. There were a few low ridges (marked by lines of gravel), a steep hill, and a steep-sided gully. 

The game was fairly slow as we were feeling our way into the rules.  I think we managed about three turns in four hours. 

Inevitably the built-up area was the focus of the fighting. Below we can see mercenary infantry passing the condenser unit adjacent to the crop-fields. 

The rebels' light combat walkers proved to be unfortunately vulnerable to fire from the government's relatively low-tech tracked tanks...

The picture below shows Government infantry at the front edge of the village.  At that point they had just destroyed a rebel recce unit which had got too close.

I'd made sure I gave all of the players two HQ units and the Government side had a Forward Air Controller. Of course both sides had a CO too. The opinion of the players was that the game had been slow as a result.

We're going to give the system another go, probably with smaller forces. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Back to Future War Commander

It looks like we've had enough of Lion Rampant for a bit - one of my players finds the activation system particularly frustrating.  I've been casting around for other games to play virtually.  I've rejected Maurice (not well adapted to multiplayer and too difficult to keep track of who's holding what card) Dux Britanniarum and Pulp Alley (also card driven). Infamy Infamy is coming soon but I'll not be ready to run it straight away.  

I've had a (very) few 6mm sci-fi models in my collection for years and I only played Future War Commander a couple of times. I have an idea for a ladder campaign so I thought I'd dust off the rules and have a play, solo, to refamiliarise myself with them.

Here we see some mercenary forces in action against government troops on the planet Pyncharn. 

The rules are sufficiently similar to Cold War Commander that it wasn't too much of a struggle to get the hang of them. As with CWC they can bog down into a static firefight but, experience shows, it's the side that manoeuvres successfully that wins in those circumstances.

In this case the mercenaries managed to get round onto the flanks of the government forces and force them to retreat.

I'll run a test game with my four players next and see how that goes before committing to the campaign idea.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Virtual Lard - Cortina at Matamoros

Saturday saw the first Virtual Lardy Day organised by Jeremy from Bury. 

Eight Too Fat Lardies games happened - Chain of Command, Sharp Practice and the new Infamy Infamy all saw action. The games tables were in two countries (the UK and Germany) and there were players, to my knowledge, from another three (Canada, the USA, and South Africa).

I ran two games of Cortina at Matamoros - a broadly historical scenario based on events in the northeast of Mexico in April 1865. It's a very small game by usual Sharp Practice standards - only less than forty figures were deployed between the two forces. However, it worked pretty well; not as prone to finishing early as I feared.

We played using an audio-visual channel on the Discord server set up by Jeremy. I was very pleased with how this worked and I think I might try using it for my own regular games.  

I was busy running the games, though, so I didn't take an appreciable number of photos. What I did do I'll show here.

In the first game, Frazer ran the Republicans from the south of England whilst John (near Edinburgh) and Will (near Boston, Mass.) ran the Imperial forces.  I don't want to give too much away about the scenario in case I run it again but Frazer managed to pull off his mission with some aplomb.

In game two Henry (somewhere in England) ran the Republicans against Wee Derek (Musselburgh) and Wil (Seattle, Washington). It was another very enjoyable game. This time the Republicans were a little more pedestrian in achieving their aim and Derek's mad dash across the plaza to gather together a force of Imperial troops proved decisive.  Although we ran out of time to finish, I think the Imperial forces had enough of an advantage to seriously interfere with Cortina's plans.

What I learned:

1. Discord worked well but I need to bear in mind that the iPad draws more power than it saves when running the camera even with a mains connection.  Recharge between sessions!

2. Derek and I disagreed (amicably) on a couple of rules interpretations. We were each right on one of them. It didn't interfere with the game but it would be helpful to clarify the command radius of a zero rated Leader.

3. Maximum Game Fun - I got this idea from Gloranthan role-players. You could paraphrase it as "Say yes, but..." to any request from a player if it will add to the fun of the game. When Wil's shooting accidentally set the hotel on fire, he asked, "Can we put the fire out?" The rules don't say anything about this but I made a conscious effort to say "Yes, but".  "Yes, but it'll be a Task with a Value of" (rolls a handful of dice).  Much hilarity was had as a result.

Smoke and flames billow from the hotel
Smoke and flames billow from the hotel

4. Lardy lads are a great bunch. Both games were played in a terrific spirit and the evening virtual pub was great fun throughout. 



Sausages with Mustard

The latest game in our series of Lion-Rampant-by-Skype games took place last Sunday.

We played the Sausages with Mustard scenario from the rules book - adapted slightly to cope with our usual two-small-forces-a-side approach.

The Swiss (Andy and John) were expected to march on to the table and burn as many as possible of the four haystacks near the centre of the table. Gus and Mark's Burgundians wanted to stop them so they could use they as fodder for their horses.

The battlefield was entirely open apart from a partly hedge-lined road between the Swiss baseline and the haystacks.

Gus had been finding mounted men-at-arms frustrating to use in previous games so I took steps to give him an alternative. With no rough going there was no danger of knights being drawn into muddy field and chopped down by the lower classes but I'd also added some other options to the available Burgundian forces.

In the event they decided to take no mounted men-at-arms at all! From left to right in the picture above they had a unit of dismounted men at arms (newly built and painted for the game), ordonnance pikes, longbowmen, a unit of bidowers (half of a crossbow unit also newly built), and some coustilliers.  Between the haystacks are a unit of Italian mercenary crossbows and more bidowers (the other half of the new unit).

The Swiss also had some choice as to units. John again went for four units of bidowers (two Swiss and two Irish), whilst Andy had two units of pike (again one of them new for this game - yes, that's 30+ figures painted in three weeks), mounted crossbowmen, and of course halberdiers.

As is the way with Lion Rampant, the Swiss arrived rather piecemeal at the hedge.  Below we can see the halberdiers and the leading unit of Irish kern about to start crossing.  The bidowers between the haystacks have already taken three shooting casualties from the Swiss mounted crossbows seen passing in the distance.

The other unit defending the haystacks was the old faithful Italian mercenary band.  The game was characterised by Gus being unable to activate anything that required him to roll 7+.  The Italians just couldn't manage to do anything useful to the Swiss.

Before too long they found themselves charged by the halberdiers...

The results were fairly predictable.  A couple of halberdiers were killed but the Italians were routed.

Meanwhile on the edge of the field, a fierce little cavalry fight took place between the Burgundian coustilliers and the Swiss mounted crossbows. Somewhat surprisingly, the Swiss won the fight and eventually only Gerhardt-Heinrich von Schimmel (Mark's leader)survived.

Where Gus could get moving, his dismounted men-at-arms made short work of some of the Swiss bidowers.

The two blocks of Swiss pike were a bit late arriving but one of them got to a haystack...

... and the Irish reached another one.

Soon both haystacks were alight.

Having driven off the Burgundian coustilliers, the Swiss mounted crossbows were themselves forced to retreat from the accurate fire of the enemy's longbowmen.

Gerhardt-Heinrich von Schimmel was the only survivor of the coustillier unit.

Somewhere in the confused melee around the haystacks, Beat Züsli received a poleaxe blow to the head and was believed killed. Fortunately his men carried off his body and he was found to be merely stunned.

The Swiss were driven off having fired two of the four haystacks.  So overall a draw perhaps?

Well maybe but this time boasts were to prove significant.

Albert Saissions-de-Dôge had boasted that his men would kill more with missiles than and-to-hand. Sadly Gus couldn't get the crossbowmen or bidowers to shoot and his men-at-arms carved their way through the enemy bidowers racking up about six times as many casualties as the missile troops had caused. He gained four points of Glory as a result of two haystacks remaining intact (I'd changed the rules slightly to allow for there being two forces on each side) but lost one for the failed Boast. Net gain of three for  running total of six.

Gerhardt-Heinrich von Schimmel also gained four Glory for the remaining haystacks and lost one for failing in his Boast that "Every blade shall be drawn". He moves up to a running total of 13.

Beat Züsli was believed to be dead on the battlefield but later turned up alive and well (thanks to the Pikeman's Lament officer casualty table). With a net three points of Glory (burned one haystack but failed in his "My retinue will stand firm" Boast) he is now also on 13.

Finally, Gustav Sneffl survived the action without really doing anything.  His men burned a haystack for four points of Glory. However, before the battle he'd boasted to his men "My own sword shall not be drawn". This was a three point Boast giving him seven Glory for the battle and a running total of 19!

I think we may get in one more game of Lion Rampant. If we do so it's going to have to be the Burgundian assault on Dickerhausen isn't it?