Monday, August 30, 2021

Rehearsal for Crisis Point

This afternoon four of us managed to get together for a game of Sharp Practice. For me this was a first in-person game with folks from outside my own household since January 2020. Andy, Richard P, Jamie, and I gathered to play Sharp Practice so we could test out some of the mechanisms I plan to use at Crisis Point and also to see how some of the troop types are balanced. Oh, and also to remind ourselves how the rules work!

I set up a symmetrical, 3-player scenario in which each force needed to achieve a plot point (a concept pinched from Pulp Alley) in order to find the location of some buried treasure and then return it to their deployment point.

Richard P ran a force based on his Woebetideus tribesmen. This consisted of three Groups of tribesmen (classified as Clan) and one of carbine-armed skirmishers (Irregular Skirmishers under the SP2 rules).

Jamie brought out his Arab pirates (Three Groups of Clan and a ship's gun).

Andy used my French force - three groups of Sepoys and one of marines.

I allowed some support elements that will appear in the Crisis Point story. Andy's French were accompanied by the lovely Josephine de Pommefrite, the wayward daughter of the comptoire; her presence gave them a bonus to their initial Force Morale. 

John Gillick, the European who taught the Woebetideus to use firearms, was available to Richard. He counts as a Sharpshooter and as a "man of letters". The latter is one of the categories of specialist I've added to the rules for the purpose of our story. It would prove useful in this game.

I'd intended to give Jamie a "strongman" (another new type) but I forgot to mention this to him before the game. As it happened, it wouldn't have made any difference.

At the start of the game there were three Plot Points, represented on the table by small scenic bases each bearing a hollow tree. The Plot Points were positioned such that each was halfway between a pair of players' Deployment points.

When Force reached a Plot Point, they rolled a d8 to determine what kind of task was required to "achieve" the Plot Point. For example, when Richard's Woebetideus skirmishers reached the first Plot Point, a roll of 4 revealed the description, "A literary reference". This, along with a subsequent roll of 3d6, told us that a running total of 11 was needed to complete the Task. The presence at the Plot Point of John Gillick gave Richard a +2 modifier when he rolled to complete the task.

Andy's French sepoys had a potentially harder job of it. Their Plot Point required a single score of 10+ on two dice to move "A heavy weight". The sepoys proved up to the task, though, with Andy rolling 10 at the first attempt.

Jamie didn't go for a Plot Point - I think blasting away with his ship's gun was a bit too tempting. but he also had the problem of a horde of Woebetideus heading towards him through the woods...

Jamie put together a reasonable firing line to deter an attack from Richard's natives...

The natives did get into close combat with the French over on the other side of the field but they were driven back by the superior organisation of the French (and Andy's superior dice rolling).

Richard managed to complete his Plot Point first and this pointed him to a second Plot Point that would give him access to the treasure everyone was after. With a skirmisher unit in possession of the treasure, Richard was able to make a dash for his Deployment Point with it. 

At this point it looked like the game was pretty much done. In one of those lovely coincidences, Jamie had no sooner said "It'd be good to finish on a chapter end here" than I turned over a Tiffin card at the start of the next turn. Chapter end; game over!

All in all this was a fun game and a useful rehearsal for next month. Thanks players!

I'm going to clarify the rules for Plot Point Tasks as follows. Note to Jamie and Richard, this is different to how we played it:

On making contact with a Plot Point, a Leader with an unused Command Initiative may spend it to determine the nature of the Task required by rolling on the Plot Points table. This may allow the player to bring up nearby relevant specialists to assist before the Task is attempted. Otherwise the nature of the Task is revealed as part of the process of attempting it without any impact on its completion.

A Plot Point may be attempted by a Leader, who may or may not be attached to a Group. Attempting a Plot Point uses the Leader's full Command Initiatives for his Activation. If the Leader wishes to rely upon an attached Group to attempt the Plot Point (e.g. if the Group contains a marksman and this gives a die roll modifier) the Group must also remain in contact with the Plot Point marker and has no actions to spare for any other activity during this Activation. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Andreivia: an imagi-nation (part four)

Links to previous parts:

Part One    Part Two    Part Three

2015 saw what was perhaps the high point of our exploration of the Andreivian Civil War of the 1990s.  Those who've been following this rambling tale may recall that, earlier in the year, the 'Return to Tcherbevan' game at Crisis Point had ended when the US 101st Airborne had detained Serj Benkian. 

The Andreivian-Armenian leader's covert visit to his compatriots fighting in and around the capital had proven to be an error of judgement. It would also prove to be the seed for a chaotic and most enjoyable gaming experience.

As I recall them now, the hot summers of my early-1980s sixth-form days were spent playing boardgames during the day and attending drunken teenage parties in the evenings. I'm sure this wasn't by any means the full picture but it's the boardgames I want to focus on here.

Among the games we played, at a friend's house in genteel West Kirby, was an old SPI game called, if I recall correctly, Russian Civil War.  This had an unusual approach to the subject. Players controlled forces chosen at random from more than one faction. Thus you might have some Latvian nationalists, Red Army units around Moscow, Denikinite troops in the south, and some stranded Czechs in the Far East. You would build up victory points as the game went on but in the end you'd only keep the points you'd gained in favour of the side that ended up winning the war.  

Memories of this approach bubbled up from my subconscious in late 2015 when I was thinking about a game to run at Christmas.

At some point in the past I'd mentioned that the capital of the breakaway Andreivian-Armenian republic was called Vani. 'Trouble in Vani' would see the power vacuum caused by Benkian's detention spill over into fighting in the streets of that previously peaceful city.

In a moment of unabashed Monty Pythonism I created four rivals for power in the Andreivian-Armenian Republic. The Armenian Popular Front was led by Daron Bogassian. Its rivals were the Popular Front of Andreivian Armenia, led by Adam Kardashian; the Armenian Republican Movement, Benkian loyalists led by Deputy President Sergei Agassi; and the Democratic Union of Armenia, led by Alexandra Tankian.

Each player would randomly draw three units that they would command during the game. Each unit would be able to score victory points by completing its objectives. The victory points were represented by different coloured tokens.

Arc of Fire came very much into its own during this game. The card-driven activation system meant that the action swung about all over the board as first one and then another unit attempted to achieve its aims. 

The PFAA Snatch Squad broke into the Amina Modi ladies' outfitters as Adam Kardashian apparently likes to wear women's clothing when not in front of the TV cameras. The Police patrol spent much of the game hiding in a stationery cupboard in the Town Hall, while the APF Militia lost their commander to a well-positioned DUA sniper right at the start of the fighting.

Serious the game was not but all involved seemed to have a good time. As I recall Benjamin Sharrock did a great job of gaining victory points but alas for the wrong faction. The Democratic Union of Armenia were victorious overall and Andy Sangar ended up having scored the most points in their support. Well played sir!

By 2016, the situation is Andreivia was sufficiently familiar to the Crisis Point regulars that we were able to have multiple games each run by a different umpire. We played Arc of Fire again of course but also Force On Force (thanks Mark Kniveton) and Pulp Alley.  I won't going to too much detail here because reports have appeared elsewhere

Aside from the actual play, however, Crisis Point 2016 also featured some interesting conversations in the pub. By September of that year, those conversations, carried on whenever to or more Andreivian scholars were gathered together, had steered us in the direction of an earlier period of history.

Unlike the original imagi-nation, which as we've seen grew out of my desire to use the assorted late-20th century kit I'd collected, the new concept was driven by the consensus among the players that they'd all like to try something different whilst keeping some sense of continuity with what we'd done before.

Andreivia: Dawn of Liberty would take us back to the dark days at the end of the First World War. If Russia and Turkey were convulsed by civil war and the collapse of empire, surely little Andreivia would see its fair share of conflict too?

After a little research, I chose a date of April 1918. Although the Turks and Russians had signed a peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk, fighting continued on the Caucasus Front involving both powers and their various proxies.

This time we decided to represent the whole of Andreivia with a few large tables. Skirmish-sized units would represent the larger forces sweeping through the Caucasus in this time of chaos. By choosing another fictional setting we were free from the constraints of historical research and many of the players were able to contribute forces from existing collections. Ian Shaw brought a load of Andreivian infantry and the fact that they wore British uniforms, whilst mine were converted Airfix Foreign Legionnaires, could be hand-waved away with ease. 

We seem to have got into a pattern whereby a new concept will see us through a couple of consecutive Crisis Points and this was no different with the 2017 and 2018 events both featuring the 1918 version of Andreivia, as did a couple of stand-alone games played in between.

Across these gaming sessions we managed to write some great stories into the history of Andreivia. The principle that events emerging during games becoming a firm part of stablished history and the commitment of players to the setting are both illustrated by the Soviet Cossack's slaughter of an Andreivian police detachment in the graveyard attached to the English Church in Tcherbevan. 

This prompted Richard Phillips to construct a memorial that, in modern-day Tcherbevan, stands at one end of Culture Ministry Boulevard. It's even got its own roundabout base!

Looking at the layout of the base I wonder if Richard may have accidentally established which side of the road Andreivians drive on?

The slaughter of the police was perfect grist for the mill of the great Andreivian propagandist Solomon Rubenstein (played by Tom Davis) whose leaflet-scattering biplane flights over the battlefield were the stuff of legend. Tom also had propaganda posters erected to promote the Government's line on the key issues of the day:

And that is pretty much it, as far as games played in Andreivia are concerned. If the pandemic hadn't scuppered our plans for 2020, we could have expected to see more of the sad history of this war-torn land if Crisis Point had gone ahead with an "Andreivia Through the Ages" theme.

Jamie Crawley has put together the forces for the Battle of the White Stones - a clash between the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires in the late sixth century. This will be played in 6mm scale with Simon Miller's To The Strongest rules when we get the chance.  

Another 6mm game planned for a future gathering is one exploring Andreivia in the eighteenth century. Neil McCusker and Andy Taylor will be at the helm for this one and I believe Sam Mustapha's Maurice will be the rules in use. I like those rules so I'll be interested to see what they come up with.

Finally on the cards for Andreivia Through the Ages was a WW2 game using, I think, the Battlefront rules. Will McNally, Andy Canham and Richard Phillips are behind this one. It doesn't fit with the timeline I originally created for Andreivia but I'm delighted for them to run with the idea. As I would say to anyone who wants to have a go at using this setting: Your Andreivia May Vary. And that's a good thing.

So that's how Andreivia got to be how it is today. I hope this provides an interesting counter-point to the build-everything-up-in-immense-detail approach done so painstakingly by the likes of Henry Hyde. I admire Henry's approach but it's not for me.

So however you do your imagi-nation gaming, I hope it gives you as much joy as Andreivia has given me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Livonia 1812

I've finished the first Group of Prussian infantry for the 1812 Sharp Practice side project.

I'm going to create a company from 7th Infantry Regiment (2nd West Prussian) as they were present at Gross Ekau (Iecava), the best-documented of the battles (at least in readily available English language sources).

These are Perry plastics. They are far from being brilliantly painted but they're to a standard that I find acceptable for gaming purposes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Yet more Woebetides stuff

I've finished the last remaining 28mm metal figure for the Woebetides!

This guy is from the Foundry Last of the Mohicans range. I've painted him as a mounted version of the Comte de Frou-Frou. He's not a perfect match with my dismounted version but he'll do.

The other recent addition is this rocket launch template.

Rockets in Sharp Practice work on a system (I've seen it before but I'm not sure in which other set of rules - something by Donald Featherstone?) whereby you roll a die for each 6" of flightpath. Depending on the score on the die, the rocket may diverge from its path or explode prematurely.

This marker has a base 6 inches long so it can be used to track the rocket's course across the battlefield.

I made the rocket just like for the rocket-launcher guy, out of a spear and piece of cocktail stick and then glued it to a length of pipe cleaner. The pipe cleaner was glued to a base and then I added clump foliage as smoke.

Monday, August 9, 2021

More Woebetides Toys

Richard Phillips very kindly sent me an Empires At War MDF kit of a caravanserai for my birthday.  It's been completed for a while but I've only just got around to photographing it. You can see it here on my new Deepcut Studio cobblestones city mat.

As you can see from the 28mm figures on the walls, this thing is huge. It will serve as the Wali of Smut's palace at Crisis Point but even so I might leave some of the sections out and/or have it on the edge of the table with only the front and side walls actually used. Available space will determine this when we start to see things set up.

Thank you Richard, this is a marvellous addition to the Woebetides terrain!

The Wali is a non-player senior commander in the campaign. It's not fair to have a player have to sit by and defend the palace just in case it's attacked so I'm not going to "waste" a playable force for the role; just have a few spare figures to represent the Wali's household troops. 

I was keen to try and include some Indian rocket-armed troops in the game if possible. The Sharp Practice rules for rockets are such fun. Having some rocketeers on the walls of the palace to shoot at any foreign forces that come too close seemed like a good idea.

I'm out of suitable 28mm figures (in fact my 28mm leadpile is now negligible) but I do have some odd fantasy assassin/ninja types that look vaguely Middle Eastern. They came from the Box of Delights that reached me from Tim Gow before making its way onward to Richard P.

I decapitated one of the figures and chopped off his oversized (and empty) scabbard before adding a spare plastic head from the Perry Mahdists box. I made a rocket by attaching a length of cocktail stick to a spear. I added straps from paper and a fuse from a length of black thread. At the time I took the photo I had yet to paint the base.

Ideally I should have five figures in an artillery unit. I'm not sure I can be bothered creating four more such guys but I've got some additional rockets on the production line. I might just bulk out the unit with some generic Middle Eastern types to remove when casualties are taken. Actually, I wonder if I could create a base with a brazier? They'll need something to light their fuses from!