Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Big Game Skirmish Activation

Background:  I continue low-level planning for a future 18th century Woebetides skirmish game weekend.  I'm considering either Muskets and Tomahawks or Sharp Practice 2 as the rules of choice.  How each of them scales to a larger game will be crucial in the decision I guess.  Let's think first about unit activation.

Sharp Practice

Sharp Practice 2 (henceforth SP) uses a card-driven system  where each card represents one Leader and where there are "flag" cards that enable special actions or troop enhancements.  The turn and is unpredictable with the "Tiffin" card ending the turn.  Unused flag cards of the right colour, when Tiffin is drawn, allow you to activate units that missed out by dint of their Leader's card not being drawn before the Tifffin card.

In an over-sized game like we plan, I'd need to make some additions to the standard card deck.  First the usual two colours (red and blue) would need to be supplemented by say green (the Arabs and pirates) and black (the natives).  Secondly, I think I'd add a second Tiffin card and only end the turn when both have been drawn; that way we increase the chance all players will get to do something active each turn.  We'd need to think carefully about how many Flag cards to include.  Too many and a single player's forces can dance around the opposition, too few and we risk players doing nothing for ages.

In considering how this might work I'm going to assume a twelve-player game in which each player has three Leaders.  There are four factions: English (red), French (blue), Natives (black) and Arabs/pirates (green).  Let's assume we're part way through and all units are on the table.

A typical turn might look like this:

Black Flag - nothing happens immediately but the flag is available for a native player to pick up and use later.

Blue 1 - All three of the French players get to activate their own Leader 1 and his accompanying troops.  Richard's marines fire at some English militia, Mark's French settler militia march down a road, while Andy's naval landing party continue trying to repair the bridge at Al-Smut. 

Green flag - nothing yet. 

Black flag - nothing happens.

Black flag - the Native players now have three black flags on the table and any native player could pick them up and use them.  However, they seem to have agreed it's worth holding on for a fourth card and the chance of an additional activation this turn.

There have also been three consecutive flags so we need to roll a random event. As the last action was by Blue 1, we need to determine which Blue 1 was affected.  A quick die roll by the Umpire reveals that it's Mark's French settler militia so a movement random event is rolled for them and their Leader is revealed to have stepped in something unpleasant!

Green 2 - all the "Arab" players get to activate their second Leaders.  This includes the second in command of the European pirates.  He's currently attached to the same formation of pirates as the pirate chief so he can do nothing but remove Shock.  The pirates are under heavy fire from the English regulars and are beginning to waver so he quickly grabs the green flag card and uses it to remove an extra point of Shock this time.

The actually-Arab players are annoyed at missing out on the flag but they should have shouted sooner if they wanted it!  They make their moves and we move on....

Blue flag - the French have one at last!

Tiffin - because this is the first Tiffin card of the turn we ignore it.

… the turn continues for a bit with cards being drawn until...

Tiffin - the second one comes up and the main part of the turn ends.   

At this point flag cards can be used to more as-yet-unactivated units. But how to determine who gets to use them? Perhaps one red card allows each British player to activate one previously unactivated unit?  That should reduce the arguments between players and reduce the chance that someone will be stuck with no opportunity to act for ages.

Muskets and Tomahawks

Muskets and Tomahawks also uses a card deck to drive unit activation and here again we'd need to extend the deck.  The system is different, though, in that a given card activates all the units of a particular type.

Let's try playing through a sample turn.  The first card is...

French Regulars - All of the French players now check their rosters to see if they have any Regular troops.  This might include the army or marines.  All Regulars cards give two actions which the relevant units take now.

British Militia - Likewise any British player who has militia troops in his force may now activate them.  Will has two units of militia raised from the staff and hangers-on at the Fort James trading factory and they now get a single action.

Arab Irregulars - The Arab and pirate players can now activate all their irregular forces.  Given that the Arabs are all irregulars apart from the Wali of Smut's personal guard, this could take a little while.  Likewise, "irregular" sounds like a spot on description for your typical pirate so they all get one action too.

British Civilians - It's now the umpire's turn to move the civilians dotted around the table.

French Regulars - Ah, the second of the two French Regulars cards comes out early!  The same troops who went first now get to activate again.

Natives - all the Woebetideus are classified the same and they all get one action now.

Natives - there are four Natives cards in the deck so not that surprising to get two consecutively...

Event 1 - We decided before the game that a random event would be rolled if Event 1 was the first event card (there are three) drawn in a turn.  It was.  We roll two consecutive d6 and get 2,1.  This random event allows one player to place an area of extremely bad going.  Fine; we can just identify a player at random by rolling a D12.

French Artillery - the swivel gun on the ramparts of Fort Charles gets to fire and the naval party can continue pulling their gun up the beach.

... and so on until all of the cards have been drawn from the deck.

So, what difference is there between the two set of rules as far as activation is concerned?

If we give each player the same number of Leaders, they'll each be activating some of their troops about a quarter of the time in Sharp Practice.  This is probably OK.  The problem (if it is such) that arises with Sharp Practice is with the Tiffin card.  Because the end of the turn is unpredictable, it's possible for a player to not get to activate any of his forces in a turn.  And the random variation of cards being what it is, this may well happen more than once in a game.

With Muskets and Tomahawks, at least every player gets to activate all of his trips in a turn.  There is however, an issue with the distribution of activity.  Let's take two British players.

Will, commanding the detachment of McNally's Regiment of Foot in the Woebetides, has six units of Regulars whilst Tom has a single unit of the regulars, three groups of Militia formed from the civilians at the trading factory, and a small group of cavalry (classed as Irregulars).  Will will get to activate his figures twice during the turn for a total of four actions (two for each of the two British Regulars cards in the deck).

Tom, meanwhile, gets involved in the game nine times during each turn!  His Regulars activate with two actions each on two cards - just like Will's guys.  His Militia have three cards in the deck and each gives one action at a time.  Finally, his cavalry get four single-action cards each turn.

Is it a problem that Will gets only two, very intense periods of activity over the course of a turn?

I'd love to hear your views on this.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Not the Contrast Paints Post

So it seems that Games Workshop's new range of "Contrast paints" are the most exciting thing since something really quite exciting.  OK but I'll not be rushing out to buy them.

I first encountered the idea that thin "stains" of watered down paint over a white undercoat could give an impressive result with little investment of time in rules box for the RPG Traveller: The New Era.

The recommended approach was to apply "stains" of thinned-down paint over a white undercoat before finishing with a brown wash to outline the details. A stain is diluted paint but not as diluted as a wash.

As it happens, when I bought the rules in 1993, I tried out the approach using some actual Traveller miniatures - 15mm Aslan from the original GW/Martian Metals range.

They are a bit worn as they've been in storage for 26 years but I think you can see that the stain gives highlight and shadow to cloth and fur particularly well.

This civilian is a Traveller figure too...

As are these guys in vacc suits...

I've not really stuck with the technique for whole figures, though it is quite quick to use, but I do use it for parts of figures from time to time.  An exception is this recent spirit, which uses an all-over stain technique.

So my advice is buy GW Contrast Paints if you like but bear in mind you may get just as good an effect with conventional acrylics and water.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Protect and Serve

Tom and Simon came over last night and we got in the first game of the Song of Pavis campaign. I ran an asymmetric scenario in which neither side was aware of the other's victory conditions.

A Pavis street-gang had been hired to clear the Lunar street patrols away from a particular location from which a thief could enter a target building (for purposes unknown to the gang but they were paid well).

The Lunars had to protect the nobleman who just happened to be in the area and not kill anyone (on either side) in the process.  The Lunars could turn a draw into a victory if the noble (Jaxarte Whyded, Commissioner of the Census) managed not to draw any attention to himself by summoning either his Lune or his ancestor spirit.

Tom played the Lunars as it was an excuse to use one of his many silly hats:

Simon and I announced that we were OK thanks very much.

The game covered a single street and its surrounding alleys in New Pavis.

I gave Simon control of the many civilians dotted around the board.  They wouldn't fight and were hard to get moving (Quality 5+) but they did offer the possibility of slowing down the Lunars.  Any time two or more civilians were within Short distance of each other, they formed an area of Bad Going that slowed down the Lunar troops (but not the street-gang, all of whom had Streetwise - my home-brew Special Rule that allows models to ignore Bad Going in the city).

At the start of the game there were two Silver Shield peltasts in the small guard post. Jaxarte, accompanied by his bodyguard, was asking them for directions.  Several street-gang toughs were converging on the scene.

In the first action of the game, the red-and-white-clad tough threw a rock at Jaxarte.  Jaxarte objected to this and went over to speak firmly to the miscreant.

He was set upon by two of the street-gang and a scuffle ensued.  Because this was meant to represent a street-fight in which neither side was particularly trying to kill the others, I'd declared in advance that "kills" would become "knocked out" and that only "gruesome kills" would actually result in the death of a model (but they'd still have the morale effect of a gruesome kill).

Unfortunately it seems Jaxarte didn't get the memo.  Tom rolled a six and Simon a one and suddenly the local tough was on the ground gasping his last breath!  So much for the Lunars' "don't kill anyone" objective!

This resulted in morale tests for the remaining street-gang members, several of whom run away from the immediate scene thus allowing the Lunars to identify them.  The peltasts launched a pursuit...

 At this point another three peltasts entered the board from the lane adjacent to the guard post.

I should mention at this point that the thief had started at point A in the picture below and was trying to get to B.  Unfortunately, Tom had chosen to put the Lunar entry point at B too.  This meant that the area Simon needed to clear of Lunars was crawling with them. 

As time went on, the Lunars were beginning to get the upper hand.  With a bit of helpful die rolling the peltasts were beginning to acquire a decent collection of unconscious thugs.

Simon had sent the thief around the end of the table and was about to turn the corner and head for his objective when Tom suddenly rolled three activations for one of his peltasts.  This keen soldier rushed up to the thief and beat him to the ground.

Although the thief was able to stagger to his feet, he decided the jig was up and ran off, disappearing into a gathering crowd of onlookers.  (In reality he rolled three fails on the morale test that resulted from the street-gang losing half its members.)

In the end, then, both sides had failed to achieve their objectives so a draw would be called except that Jaxarte hadn't drawn too much attention to himself by summoning powerful magical entities in the street so a Lunar victory was declared.

The Lunars have one win and are on their way to achieving their strategic aims - whatever they may prove to be!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

People of Pavis - the Lunars

I'm running the first game of my long-planned Song of Pavis Campaign on Monday evening. That's the name I just thought up for Song of Blades and Heroes skirmishes in that ancient city on the River of Cradles.

Needing some figures to populate the city, I've been repairing and repainting loads of old generic fantasy figures and building a few new models from various plastic ancients.  Here are a few of the characters to be found in and around my Pavis:

Jaxarte Whyded
Jaxarte Whyded was created by Mike (MOB) O'Brien as the protagonist of a series of "travelogue" articles in Tales of the Reaching Moon magazine.  His role as Commissioner of the Census required him to visit many parts of the Lunar Empire.  The figure is an old figure of Alan Slater's that I recently repainted.  In the process I carefully bent his sword into a Lunar scimitar.

Sister Ulara
Sister Ulara of the Whirling Blades is a member of a Lunar martial arts society/cult.  She's an old Lance and Laser Models miniature.

Vanides Moondance
Vanides is the bodyguard to Jaxarte Whyded.  He's a steadfast warrior but he's over fond of looting the bodies when he should be keeping an eye on his employer.  He's a recent construction based on a Gripping Beast plastic Late Roman with a republican Roman head and a Games Workshop shield.

I needed a Lune, a Red Moon elemental, but they are a feature of Glorantha whose appearance I've never been sure of.  The Miniature Adventures in Glorantha Facebook group provided a number of helpful ideas.  In the end I decided to use an old Games Workshop figure I've had lying around unpainted for years.  I think it may be another one Alan left with me when he went off to Japan twenty-something years ago.  Layers of red-pink dry-brushing were aimed at simulating a red-moonlight glow, including on the base but I don't think the latter works too well.  Maybe I'll revisit it one day.

Ancestor Spirit
I needed an ancestral spirit (I'm not revealing why until after the first game at least).  The figure above is another old GW mini with progressively lighter dry brushing.  Edit: No it's not; it's a blue wash over white undercoat!

Erisina of Peldre
Finally for now in our review of Lunar residents of the New City, here's Erisina.  She's a skilled swordswoman and not someone you want to get on the wrong side of.  This is another Lance and Laser model originally marketed as Jar-Eel the Razoress.

I'll post pics of some members of the other factions later.  I may also reveal the SOBH stats of these and other models but only after they've first revealed their secrets in the campaign.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Streets of Pavis

Having finished another building for Pavis, I thought I'd have a go at seeing what kind of set-up I could put together.  

Mixing in adobe buildings originally intended for Mexico and a couple of other suitable structures, I can field a believable two foot square chunk of the New City...

The structure in the fore-ground below is attempt at modelling one of the small guard-posts scattered around the city by the Lunar occupiers.  It's made from cocktail sticks and has a plant-frond roof made from fibres from a coir doormat. 

My plan is to make more terrain pieces that will do for either Prax or Mexico.  With one of the key Praxian terrain types being chaparral, it seems likely that the two are a good match.

The new building (see above and below) is a two-part structure with a mud brick part built onto a stout structure made of mortared stones.  I've decided that the roofs of a couple of the structures are too dark.  More dry-brushing to follow!

Oh, and the base board here is the one I use for twentieth century games.  I'll be using a paler desert-coloured board for actual games.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Posh Lard 2019

On Sunday, still a little hoarse from cheering on Liverpool's Champions League Final victory the night before, I got up early to drive down to Peterborough for the first ever Posh Lard.

What is a Posh Lard?  I'm so glad you asked.  It was a day of Too Fat Lardies games organised by Peterborough Wargames Club.  At organiser Mike Whittaker's request, I was taking my Menton 1940 game as the theme was "Invasion".

The journey down took me just shy of two hours without a rest stop and was very straightforward.

I arrived to find three tables, two of them already set up with lovely terrain - the Peterborough club's 15mm Omaha Beach game looked great as did the Gravesend club's Ste Mere Eglise in 28mm.

I managed to run the game twice, both times with two players.  In the first game, Carl played the French while Kevin led an Italian fusilieri platoon.

Carl chose to take a tripod-mounted machine-gun and a medical orderly for his support choices.

Carl admires Richard P's hotel
I'd forgotten to pack the box of Mediterranean houses so the French defensive position was dominated by Richard Phillips's marvellous hotel.  This led Kevin to choose a mortar section and observer as his first support choice.  He reckoned the French would be bound to use the hotel as the keystone of their defence and if he waited to call in a mortar barrage he could pin down a significant portion of their force therein.  Kevin bought the engineer flamethrower team with rest of his support points.

Carl and Kevin at play whilst Richard 'Stripy Blazer' Clarke
admires the Ste Mere Eglise table
The woods on the southern flank proved attractive to the Italian attackers.

The first game saw Carl deploy his MMG and one section in the hotel and Kevin call down a mortar barrage that pinned them in place.  Carl eventually built up a chain of command dice to end the Turn and so stop the barrage but by the time he'd done so Kevin had one too and so was able to keep the mortars firing.

Carl the deployed a second section and his platoon sergeant on one of the terraced hills on the north side of the table. Unfortunately this just put them into the cross-fire from the four machine-guns in the two Italian sections.

By lunchtime Carl was down to one point of Force Morale so we called it a day and went to M&S for sandwiches.

Game two featured Ian (French) and John (Italians).  I decided to pitch in and play the Blackshirt militia in the three player version of the scenario.  Given the disparity in forces, Ian had a completed CoC die at the start of the game.

This time I remembered to add the war memorial I'd made specially for this table and I added a bit more terrain to give the defending French some more deployment options.

Somewhat remarkably, both players chose the same support options as their respective predecessors had done.  Once more an Italian section deployed in the woods.  Once more the mortar observer deployed in the villa with the swimming pool.  Once more the French MMG and a section deployed in the hotel and once more the mortars targeted them.

This time, however, things were very different.  The Italian infantry deploying from the jump-off-point at the swimming pool villa took heavy casualties from the MMG and were soon bogged down.  The French kept upon withering fire on the Italian fucilieri, and my Blackshirts never had the command dice to do anything useful in taking the pressure off.  

The mortar was far less effective. With the arrival of the first spotting round, Ian pulled his troops back to the rear of the hotel, thus avoiding being trapped under the mortar barrage when it arrived.  The Italian mortars only cover a 12" square area.

In the end (about 4 o'clock) John's force morale was down to one and we called it a day.

I really enjoyed both games and I have to say both were played in a splendid spirit.

I'd highly recommend anyone who enjoys Too Fat Lardies games to give Posh Lard a try if Mike organises another one.  I'll certainly attend if family commitments allow.  I'm also looking at the Ebor Lard (near York) in September.  I'd like a chance to put on a Mexican Adventure Sharp Practice game at an event.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Pavis in the Spring

You'll have noticed (or more likely not noticed) that May's Saturday Afternoon Wargame hasn't been reported here.  All in all it was a bit of a disaster.

I announced the subject early and I'd no sooner suggested Shot Steel and Stone that I had nine or ten volunteers and had to start turning late-comers away.  I planned the biggest game I could manage to fit everyone in.  I know the rules are suitable for big games because Ayton.  I was also pretty sure I had a handle on them having played a previous solo game.

Then things started to go awry.  A couple of players had to call off and a couple more clearly forgot, perhaps because I'd called the game so early, and didn't turn up on the day.  Then the rules turned out to not say what I thought they said and we go total confused over how the sequence of play was meant to work.  I took a prompt decision to abandon play pending another review of the rules and more test games.

The early abandonment of the planned game meant that I could grab something off the shelf and arrange a very hasty game for the four players we did have.  That something was Song of Blades and Heroes - a game that's easy to pick up and that I can run blindfolded.

The scenario, such as it was, was a four-way fight in the Big Rubble.  Richard P played a small force of Lunar peltasts led by a female Hero, Harry had a handful of Broo, young gamer Sam had a group of Sun Dome militia led, somewhat incongruously by a Vingan warrior-woman, and I pitched in with a small force of Scorpionmen.

None of the forces were properly pointed up and I've no idea whether they were "properly balanced" but we had fun nevertheless.  the photos aren't great because I was too busy running the rules but here they are...

I'm using my To The Strongest disorder markers to mark units that lose a combat on an even roll.  I've decided I don't like lying figures down.

What did come from the experience was a reminder of how much fun SOBH is and a determination to get my Pavis project back under way.

In the past week I've revisited the collection of old fantasy figures to see what might make for interesting Pavis characters.

The three women on the left are figures Stella painted.  That must have been twenty five years ago or more.  I've touched up the paintwork to fix decades of minor damage and based them in my usual skirmish-game style.  A little static grass will eventually appear.

The two guys on the right are ones I've painted recently.  Both a smallish 25mm figures and probably about 30 years old. They will both do nicely as members of the Cult of Pavis or similar.

I've also done a couple of Morokanth.

I have Morokanth for both SOBH and Hordes of the Things and I pride myself on not having two identical figures in either force.  This is a challenge because there ain't that many Morokanth models out there!

The one on the left is a simple conversion of a model from Tabletop Miniatures.  I've added a shield from a Foundry Plains Indian figure and converted his spear into a mace.  This is the fourth or fifth different model I've produced from this same basic casting.

the other figure is from Mad Knight Miniatures.  He's a much better representation of Morokanth as depicted in Glorantha artwork but clearly not compatible with my existing models.  At £5 a shot there was no way I was going to replace the whole force with Mad Knight castings!

I decided that I could justify the difference in appearance by painting him as a Morokanth spirit. I think this works visually.

I'm rating the Morokanth as Quality 3+, Combat 4, Savage.  Morokanth are strong and likely to rip your guts out with their sharp, powerful claws which I think justifies the greater chance of a Gruesome Kill as a result of the Savage special rule.

The Spirit will probably be Quality 3+, Combat 1, Free Disengage, Tough.  Not particularly lethal in combat but it'll be hard to get rid of!