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?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Hay, Hay, My, My

I needed some haystacks for the next Lion Rampant game.  Searching through the bits box I found some off-cuts of the PVC board I've started using for basing my terrrain projects, some bits of the foam you get in the back of bubble packs of figures, and some offcuts of doormat too small to make wheat fields.

I started by cutting the PVC board into rough 3" circles with chamfered edges. I then ripped the bits of foam into irregular shapes and glued them to the board in piles.

I applied my usual paint-and-tile-grout ground covering around the edges and used PVA to stick on fibres from the doormat.

When the PVA had dried I painted/dripped watered-down PVA one the top to seal everything in place.

When that had dried I painted the whole thing with cheap brown acrylic paint (from Home Bargains).

More drying time and then a couple of progressively paler dry brushes over the top and there you go...

Just ripe for some raider to either steal or set alight!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Foraging at the Farm

We played the latest in our series of Lion-Rampant-by-Skype games yesterday. This time I adapted a scenario from The Pikeman's Lament that had the four players each trying to "forage" (steal) supplies from a farm somewhere near the besieged town of Dickerhausen.  The farm is defended by two units of Serfs (I called them Bauer) who will fight against either side to retain their goods.

The forage token markers in the picture above (the pile of boxes and the donkey) are two of the four in the scenario. They had differing values. When a player picked up a forage token by I revealed the value of a forage token to him only. I'd prepared playing cards of the relevant values as a way of randomly selecting them.

The table was symmetrical this time. North is at the top of the map.

The central farm area was deemed to be Rough Going and to provide cover from shooting.  The big brown rectangles are ploughed fields (also Rough Going) and there's a small wood on the northern edge of the field. The blue dots represent the four forage tokens.

I gave each player an entry point at a corner of the table. Northwest was Albert Saysions-de-Dôge (Burgundian, Gus).  Southwest was Gerhardt-Heinrich von Schimmel (Burgundian, Mark). Northeast was Gustav Sneffl (Swiss, Andy) and south east was Beat Züsli (Swiss, John).

I allocated about thirty points a-side and allowed the players to split the forces between them. Although the table was symmetrical, I wanted the tactical problems between the two sides to be different. For this reason I gave the Burgundians to units of mounted men-at-arms. I declared these to be Fastidious; a special house-rule that allowed them to ignore the Bauer for the purposes of Wild Charges but also meant that they would play no part in the actual carrying of forage tokens!

I'd assumed the Burgundian players would take one unit of Mounted Men-at-Arms each so as to share out the inconvenience but instead they chose to give both of them to Gus.

Somewhat unusually, Gus managed to get all of his forces (Men-at-Arms and longbows) onto the table on turn one! There was much rejoicing in the Burgundian camp.

Andy's Swiss mounted crossbows made use of their 12" move distance to hare towards the east side of the farm.

With a couple of shots and then a short, sharp melee, they drove off the Bauer guarding that side of the complex.

Meanwhile, two groups of Bidowers (John's Swiss in red and white, foreground below) and Mark's Italian mercenaries were also converging on the east end of the farm.

Soon the mounted crossbows were making heir way east with the captured sheep (who turned out to be worth four forage points).

Mark's Italian crossbowmen got the better of John's Swiss bidowers and were soon making off with the barrel (also worth four points).

They were, however, chased by John's Swiss and Irish mercenaries.

In the picture above we can also see the western units of Bauer cowering back from the accurate arrows of Gus's Burgundian longbowmen.

At this point, my slapdash efforts at photo-journalism let us down. I got no pictures of Albert Sayssions-de-Dôge leading his Burgundian men-at-arms into the teeth of the Swiss attack.

Surrounded by enemy troops including very menacing unit of halberdiers (Fierce Foot) lining the edge of the woods, Albert three times challenged the Schimmel to a duel and was three times refused.  There was some delay to the arrival of on of the Swiss pike units as they debated whether this was acceptable behaviour (a couple of failed courage tests as a result of the failure to accept the challenges).

We played another House Rule, this time that a Men-at-Arms unit led by a Leader whose Challenge was refused could subsequently activate, ignoring the Wild Charge rule that turn.

Eventually there was a melee when the Swiss pikes advanced on Albert's men-at-arms. Both sides took serious casualties but of course a six-model mounted unit can absorb less damage before it becomes degraded in its fighting power.

Finally, Albert's unit could no longer put off the Wild Charge that had been brewing. With von Schimmel out of Challenge range, Albert charged one of Beat Züsli's skirmisher units that had been trying to sneak round the farmhouse to steal the penultimate forage token. Fighting in Rough Ground, Albert was unhorsed and dashed to the ground!

In the meantime, the second unit of Italian mercenary crossbowmen had made off with the third forage token (the six pointer!) putting Mark well in the lead.

A subsequent charge by the other Burgundian Men-at-arms unit did wipe out the Swiss skirmishers allowing Gus's longbowmen to grab the remaining token. Sadly for Gus this was had only a two point value.

The game then degenerated into a chase in which the Burgundians tried to escort off the last forage token using their last two units; Mark's pikes and Gus's longbowmen.  After much cursing over failed activation rolls this was eventually achieved in a tense finish.

At the end of the game Gus decided that this time he would roll on the heroic escape table from The Pikeman's Lament (which we're using in this "campaign"). The result was that although initially believed dead, Albert Saysions-de-Dôge escaped to return to the Burgundian camp with a thrilling tale and an impressive scar.

At the end of the game the distribution of Glory was as follows:

Gerhardt-Heinrich von Schimmel* gained ten points of Glory for a running total of 10

Albert Saysions-de-Dôge gained two points, less one for a failed Boast, plus one for his heroic escape for a running total of 2. In fact make that 3; I'm going to use umpire's privilege to award an additional point for conspicuous bravery.

Beat Züsli failed to add to his Glory. His running total remains at 10.

And finally, Gustav Sneffl added four points of Glory to lead with 12 despite turning down a grand total of three challenges to single combat and surviving a fourth! I have feeling the rules don't allow such multiple challenges but what the hell, it was fun!

* Note that in previous write-ups von Schimmel has been called Heinrich but throughout this game he was definitely referred to as Gerhardt so I've decided he must be Gerhardt-Heinrich.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Messenger to Dickerhausen

We had another game of Lion Rampant by Skype again today. We played a four player adaptation of the scenario The Messenger from the Lion Rampant rule book.

On this occasion Mark's Burgundians were escorting a messenger down a road to Dickerhausen (i.e. from bottom left to top right on the map below).  Gus would command another party riding out from the Burgundian camp at Dickerhausen (top right) to escort in the messenger.

Andy would command the Swiss pikes, halberdiers, and mounted crossbowmen from the top left, while John would enter on the road through the forest with a force made up entirely of Bidowers (a mix of Swiss skirmish troops and Irish kern mercenaries).

The thin, olive-coloured line represents a field boundary (an Obstacle in Lion Rampant terms).

Action was slow getting started thanks to some shockingly poor dice rolling by both sides. If I recall correctly, only a unit of Burgundian skirmishers from the camp were on the table at the end of the first pair of player turns!

Gus (as Albert Saysions de Dôge) split the Dickerhausen Burgundians in three.  The skirmishers headed for the forest while the pikemen marched down the road and the Men At Arms crossed the hedge into the enclosure.  This was designed to put them in a position to intervene at the road junction without being lured into the forest.  It was a good plan but it was to be hampered by Gus's ability to repeated roll four on 2d6!

John's (Beat Züsli's) skirmishers advanced through the forest along and alongside the road.

Mark (Heinrich von Schimmel) decided that the coustilliers should escort the messenger, that his personal men-at-arms should follow them and that their left flank should be guarded by the Italian mercenary crossbow-men.

Andy (Gustav Sneffl) led the Swiss force advancing across the open ground. He had a unit of mounted crossbow-men, two units of pikemen, and one of halberdiers.

The Burgundian coustilliers advanced quickly along the road and it looked at one point like they would outpace Sneffl's pursuing troops and march straight into the arms of Saysion de Doge's men.

Unfortunately for the Burgundians however, their ability to fail to activate at key moments would see the horsemen stop when they reached the road junction. Presumably they were uncertain as to the route. The only slight ray of sunshine was the fact that the Irishmen in the forest, within easy javelin cast, were equally confused.  Were these enemies or not?

By the time the coustilliers had got their act together, Sneffl's halberdiers were within charge range.  They charged in and the coustilliers, surprised it seems, were caught at the halt.

The halberdiers charged. Their vicious weapons did bloody work among the enemy horsemen.

The survivors fled. The halberdiers charged again. Once more the coustilliers were too disorganised to counter-charge and now the escort was reduced to a single figure... who was then killed by a handgun ball fired from the forest.

The messenger was left unguarded...

Under the terms of the scenario, the game therefore ends in a Swiss victory.

Towards the end of the game, Gus rolled four consecutive fours on 2d6 to (fail to) activate his troops.  He managed to get his pikemen off the road to allow the coustilliers a clear path to the camp and he lost not a single figure all game but in the end he was unable to influence the result.

Mark lost the messenger and so both Burgundian commanders came out of the action with no Glory points (neither had made a Boast).

Andy had Boasted that he would "Strike the first blow" but failed to get into position to declare a charge and so ended up, again, with four points of Glory. John's Irish lost no casualties and fired the fatal shot that took out the last of the escort.  He finished with five points of Glory.

At the end of the third* game we see the "league table" looking like this:

Beat Züsli (John), 10 points
Gustav Sneffl (Andy), 8 points
Heinrich von Schimmel (Mark), 0 points
Albert Saysions de Dôge (Gus), 0 points.

* Effectively the second game as I'm regarding the first as a test (and anyway leader casualties mean that none of the commanders in that game continued into the second).

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A bit of woodwork

I've had a couple of 25mm scale draft horses for many years and wanted to make some use of them. I'd thought something suitable for use in either Mexico or the Woebetides would be useful. Eventually I spotted an artillery limber among the items in Warlord's War of the Spanish Succession range and decided to have a go at copying it.

I built the basic frame out of left-over MDF strip using lap joints and PVA where the two crossbeams meet the main longitudinal member.  The diagonal braces I cut by eye and attached with superglue.

The wheels are from the old Airfix Napoleonic French Artillery set and are attached (again using superglue) to a plastic rod axle simply glued to the lower surface of the cross-piece.

At this stage I painted everything with slightly thinned PVA for strength.

I decided the easiest way to make sure the finished piece was strong enough was to start building straight onto the base it would eventually sit on.  First I glued on the horses, having dry fitted everything to work out how far apart they needed to be.

I made a jig from a spare piece of wood to hold the frame whilst I drilled out the hole for the spike onto which the towing eye of the artillery piece will sit. I cut a groove in the wood for the axle to sit in. Of course it would have been easier if I'd thought to do this bit before I'd glued the thing together but there you have it.

A short piece of the same plastic rod I'd used for the axle made the spike.

The next question was how to make the limber sit securely behind the horses. In reality the front cross-piece would have two eyes into which the hooks on the rear of the swingletrees (those wooden bars at the rear of the harness) would seat.  No way could I build that and anyway one of the singletree hooks was miscast.

In the end I superglued strips of thick foil (form the top of a wine bottle) from the bottom of each swingletree.  With a little bending I could glue these foil hooks to the bottom of the front cross-bar of the limber and fold the spare foil up the rear edge of the crossbar where they are virtually invisible.

I then trimmed the base to size, glued down the wheels to the base (superglue again) and started reinforcing the join with my usual paint-and-Tetrion ground cover.

I always apply the gloop to bases in more than one session, allowing the first lot to set before completing the job. This prevents the base warping too much.

I then got the painting done in one session.

I decided not to repaint the horses but added little detail to the previous (probably twenty-year-old) paint job.

By comparison to modern 28mm model horses these guys are small but then horses and ponies differ in size wildly so I'm not bothered.

This piece should be useful pulling guns whether they're being retrieved from Matamoros by the bandit Cortina or moved along the forest trails of Grand Woebetide.