Thursday, December 28, 2023

New Year Plans

I hope you had a good Christmas. If you didn't because you or your spouse (Hi Odette!) was poorly, I hope you have a better New Year.

For me, this year was dominated, hobby-wise, by the preparations to run Harpers Ferry at Steel Lard and Posh Lard. 

Having spent so much time building the terrain and researching the history, it feels like I got in less gaming than usual this year.  Looking back at the records, though, I find that I played in or ran 19 gaming sessions using six different sets of rules (The Pikeman's Lament, What A Cowboy, HOTT, TacWWII, Chain of Command, and Rogue Stars). And I'll be running Song of Blades and Heroes tomorrow so make that seven. That's actually right up there with the last few years.

Anyway, now I've been thinking about wargaming plans for 2024. I'm sure my priorities will change as the year goes on but it won't do any harm to put down some markers now.

I would like to run some more games at Lardy Days next year but I'd like a project that doesn't dominate as much as Harpers Ferry did this time around. As I've said previously, I'm tempted to go back to the Maximilian Adventure and run a participation game based on the siege of Puebla. I already have a lot of suitable figures and a combination of existing adobe buildings with some from the Woebetides I reckon I'm close to being able to field a 6'x4' urban board.

The Wali of Smut's palace may find a new role
as the penitentiary in Puebla

Speaking of the Woebetides, I put a lot of work put into the setting in preparation for Crisis Point back in September 2021. The event didn't really work as well as I would have liked because I took on too much of a burden as the sole umpire. Disappointed, I put the toys away and largely went on to other things afterwards. 

As a result I don't feel like I've properly got value-for-effort out of the Woebetides toys. I'd like to put that right and maybe run a small (possibly solo?) campaign inspired by one of my Christmas presents...

My previous approach to campaigns has been quite freeform. I've tended to avoid detailing too much in advance and instead allowed events to develop organically. The Woebetides might be a good place to try out Henry's more prescriptive approach and specify the populations and military forces of the islands in frankly excessive detail!  

Finally on the Sharp Practice front, Richard Phillips and I have been threatening to explore Marshal Macdonald's advance to Riga during the summer and autumn of 1812. Family matters have kept getting in the way this year but I'm hopeful we can get something going in 2024.

Away from the horse and musket era, I am keen to play some more TacWWII this year. At the moment the plan is to hold a Crisis Point event in Dungworth this spring. If it goes ahead I intend that one of the games on offer be my Prague Summer 1948 - The Race to Stary Boleslav.

I say "if it goes ahead" as initial response to the idea of another Crisis Point was a little muted. Early in the New Year I plan to raise the proposal once more and find out whether there's sufficient enthusiasm to justify going ahead. If there isn't I may switch to just running my own game at some point during the year, probably at the village hall instead. Either way I'll need to get in some practice games to make sure I have the rules down and to test some of the house rules I've included in my version 1.5.

That aside there's a good chance I'll get Chain of Command to the table at some point; old mate Stuart and new acquaintance Matt have asked to have a session to help them learn the rules. I'd also like to have some more games of Rogue Stars and Shot, Steel and Stone before too long.

Doubtless other things will come up during the year and who knows, maybe some or all of the above will still be on the To Do List in December 2024?

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Adobe Dobe Doo

The new cluster of adobe buildings for Pavis is now complete. 

In the end I didn't go over the top with the fantasy elements; just the little statue (probably containing the family's guardian spirit) over one of the doorways.

After photographing the piece I realised I'd neglected to add any roof hatches. I'll probably put some on later along with a little burnt-grass flock.

One of my thoughts about next year is to run some more Maximilian Adventure Sharp Practice. Focussing on the 1863 siege of Puebla would make use of existing models - both 28mm soldiers and suitable buildings.

The completed building below was a quick project earlier this year to fit a suitable storage box that came my way. Now I'm working on a destroyed version.

The 1863 Siege of Puebla has long interested me. During the Crimean War the French had taken Sevastopol as soon as they captured the Malakoff fortress. They assumed the convent of San Javier was likewise the key to Puebla. They were wrong and the subsequent fight for the city itself threatened to become a nineteenth century Stalingrad.

I wonder if I can create a game for the coming year's Lardy Days that sees the French attacking from block to block while the Mexicans scurry from rooftop to fortified rooftop via improvised bridges?

Some degree of mashing up Sharp Practice and Chain of Command may be called for, as will a lot of play-testing.

Friday, December 8, 2023

On the workbench

I was putting in a Victrix order while they had their Black Friday sale running and was just short of the total needed to to get free shipping so I added in a pack of Gallic cavalry. I figure I may one day use them to play Infamy Infamy.

Feeling the urge to paint something just for the hell of it I made a start. Adding in a couple of existing Warlord Gauls I'm not far off a six-man unit with Leader.

There are only three horse sculpts - it doesn't look line the halves are interchangeable to give more variety in poses. I'm therefore working on using Green Stuff to vary the harness decoration. I'll share comparison pics when they're done.

Meanwhile I continue to persevere with the 3D printer despite problems with build plate adhesion. Successfully printed was this medieval tower. Yet another addition to the Eastern European 6mm urban terrain.

An earlier version of the print failed part way through so I'm working on a ruined version using quick-drying Polyfilla, grit, and slices of wooden coffee stirrer.

I've used a 6cm base, which I'll paint to resemble a paved square. 6cm happens to be twice my standard road width.

Finally, one of my planned Christmas games is another Song of Blades and Heroes skirmish set in Pavis. I wanted to reflect the fact that Pavis isn't depicted as all right angles so I've knocked up this cluster of buildings.

Very much made up as I went along, this one. The long balcony has been in my terrain bits box for years and the length of that side of the building was determined by the desire to use it. 

I even broke my usual rule of designing the building to fit an existing storage box but fortunately a new pair of walking boots provided exactly the size box I needed.

I generally make adobe buildings generic enough to pass for Pavis or Mexico but this time I'm thinking of going all-out fantasy with a statue in a niche above one of the doors and maybe painted runes on one of the walls.

Well that's it for now. I'll share finished pics when done.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Posh Lard 2023 Report

Far too early on Saturday morning I set out to drive down the A1 to Peterborough for the latest Posh Lard. Peterborough being roughly southeast of Sheffield and this being November I was driving with the morning sun in my eyes virtually the whole way. Still that was better than the lunatics in SUVs on the same road going back in the dark!

The George Alcock centre at Fletton is a nice venue. For those of you who've attended Ebor Lard, it's very similar to Green Hammerton Village Hall. It wins on having on-site caterers but loses in that we weren't able to take in the closing stages of a village cricket match at the end the gaming session!

Wanting to get back to Sheffield before it was too late, I didn't stick around for the traditional post-event curry but it was pleasant to chat with like-minded gamers throughout the day.

I again ran my Harpers Ferry game and the players (Pippa, Carl, Lewis, Peter, Kevin and Chris) were great. 

Surprisingly the first game progressed so quickly, with the insurrectionist players taking about an hour to get the hostages from the paymaster's office to the engine house, we had time to go on and play Act Two.

The Federal forces managed to get into the engine house led by Marines Luke Quinn and Matthew Ruppert, with Lt Israel Green close behind. Eventually Green found himself face to face with John Brown and attacked with his sword. 

Historically Green had brought his light-weight dress sword in the haste of leaving Washington. His initially thrust at Brown's torso was ineffective as the sword bent after  hitting Brown's belt buckle. Green then beat Brown unconscious with the hilt of the sword. In our miniature version the same thing happened - I'd decided in advance that Green would be treated as if trying to capture his opponent in terms of the Brawlin' rules. This worked really well.

After the first Harpers Ferry run-through, I had a chance to take some quick pictures of the other games.

New Tribes Beyond Us was a Strength and Honour battle put on by a couple of members of the Peterborough club. 

Nice tiny (2mm) units.

On the next table was a Sharp Practice Peninsular War game called Ducrot's Day Out

I liked the models for this game...

Another good looking game was this, using the What A Cowboy engine to run a pirate skirmish action.

I liked the cliffs and the ship, which was obviously based on Gary Chalk's templates in Wargames Illustrated years ago.

Finally we had the Peterborough club's Chef du Pont game covering the hinterland of Utah Beach in June 1944. This game was previously seen at the Joy of Six in the Spring.

Posh Lard is a nice event that should really be better attended. I think there were fifteen players but it could have easily have accommodated another half dozen even with just the games we had and I reckon there was room for at least another game, probably two. If you can come to a future Posh Lard, I'd recommend it.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

City Planning

I want some substantial 1/300th scale built-up areas to represent Stary Boleslav and its surrounding towns for this coming year's Prague Summer extravaganza. By using my 3D printer, rebasing some existing suitable buildings, and adding some homemade ruins, I'm on the way to a reasonable Central European cityscape.

My city units are a mixture of sizes as dictated by the footprint of the available building models.  However, two sizes predominate; I tend to have bases for which at least one dimension is either 9cm or 10cm. The advantage of this is that an entire block of buildings modules can sit between two parallel roads. The first row of modules below, although they vary in width, are all 10cm deep.

The second row, including the small city park below, are on 9cm deep (and often 9cm wide) bases. The mix of depths avoids the whole city looking too obviously grid-based.

In the picture below you can see some pieces added to bring three differently-sized bases up to a common 10cm depth. The strip of pavement in front of the half-timbered house, the strip of bare earth with trees in front of the flats, and the shrubbery in front of the red-roofed building all serve this purpose.

The next plan is to add some triangular modules to allow for some roads going off at angles other than 90 degrees.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Steel Lard 2023 report

This Saturday saw fans of the Too Fat Lardies rules at Patriot Games in Sheffield for the annual Steel Lard gathering. Across the day we had 46 people each playing two games across nine beautifully turned out tables.

Matt Slade brought along The Spy Who Larded Me, a Sharp Practice game set during the American Civil War. I know Jamie greatly enjoyed it and one of the players reported that he now, at last, understood how Sharp Practice scenarios are supposed to be designed.

Also Sharp Practice and also ACW was Ken Welsh's Morning Glory on the Combahee. I'd have loved to see more of this game as integrating infantry action with ACW gunboats is something I'd like to explore with my Mississippi Marine Brigade chaps. Sadly I was too busy to get much of a look at events as they progressed.

While we're in mid-19th century America, it probably makes sense to mention that Steel Lard saw the first public outing of my own Harpers Ferry game. As we've seen here during its development, this covered the events of John Brown's 1859 insurrection at the Virginia town's Federal Armoury.

With only three hours per session, I was unable to fit in the original plan of running the Martinsburg Militia's attack and the later U.S. Marines assault on the engine house. We stuck with the former and it went successfully on both run-throughs.

Another game using the What A Cowboy rules engine was Simon Walker's Death in the Donga. This took the Wild West-themed rules to Zululand and to the events that, historically, saw the death of the Prince Imperial, the son of the deposed Emperor Napoleon III, whilst serving with the British Army.

Jamie played in this game and managed to ensure the Prince Imperial's escape but had his other character slaughtered about halfway through the action.

Chain of Command was, as always, popular with game-runners and players alike. Alex Sotheran ran Oh Sugar, his WW1 adaptation covering the attack on the ruined sugar factory at Courcelette by Canadian troops. In 15mm scale th ground scale and figure scale match perfectly and really give the impression of the relative emptiness of the battlefield.

John Savage also adapted Chain of Command, this time taking it to the Vietnam war with his scenario Walk this Hue. John is a skilled designer and presenter of scenarios and his players were noisily engaged throughout.

A welcome return to Steel Lard this year was Graeme Atkinson's A Rock and a Hard Place, a Chain of Command representation of the Fallschirmjäger attack on Tavronitis Bridge during WW2's Crete campaign.

This game was seen at Steel Lard a few years ago and it was good to see it one last time before it makes its way to Crete where it will be displayed in a museum close to the battlefield.

An always welcome visitor to Lardy Days is Charley Walker. The charming Borders farmer can always be relied upon to bring a game that has the players enthusiastically engaged throughout. This time it was Mayhem in the Med, a Napoleonic naval battle using a streamlined adaptation of the Kiss Me Hardy rules.

Finally we had Ken (Yorkshire Gamer) Reilly with Rome Or Death. Ken needed reassuring that this was allowable as a Lardy game, the Pickett's Charge rules being published by sister company Reisswitz Press. I figured that if people can run Lard-inspired systems of their own, an official Lard-adjacent game must be OK.

The scenario is set during the Risorgimento - the nineteenth century wars culminating in the unification of Italy. It's always good to have Ken at Steel Lard as his penchant for big games contrasts nicely with the skirmishes we usually see from others.

I'm sorry I haven't been able to present more photos here. I was so busy running Harpers Ferry or dealing with administrative matters that I had no time to do a proper photoshoot. 

For some lovely coverage of the Combahee game visit Ken's blog here.

Also Alex has a video of the tables on Youtube.

Friday, November 10, 2023

What A Cyberman!

It occurred to me that I should have an emergency game to take along to Steel Lard in case one of the scheduled game-runners has a last-minute problem attending.

For a non-Lardy event I'd happily bring along my portable Death of Gustavus Adolphus game or the figures and models to play one of my Pavis skirmishes but these both use non-TFL rules sets (The Pikeman's Lament and Song of Blades and Heroes respectively). I need something that can be set up quickly, understood by at least one of the likely players, and that comes from the Lardy stable. What A Cowboy seems the best bet.

I had an errand to run down in Birmingham this week so five hours in the car gave me plenty of time to plan something using figures I already had to hand and a setting that most people could grasp quickly. The idea for What A Cyberman was born, and yesterday I got to play test it.

The scenario involves the Doctor arriving on Earth in the 1930s to find UNIT involved in a confrontation with Cybermen. Any terrain could be used but I used my existing dungeon modules as they can be taken to the event just by throwing one additional box into the car.

The scenario has a few special rules. 

The Doctor cannot be activated normally, doesn't fight and cannot be attacked. He is pursuing his own agenda. He moves whenever a player rolls three or more sixes on their Action Dice. There are six pre-determined, numbered "Important Locations"on the board. The Doctor starts on Location 4 and moves 4>5>6>1>2>3 etc. If the next Location is blocked by another character being on it or in contact with it, the Doctor moves to the next available numbered Location. 

Initially the Cybermen are hard to kill. They treat all Wounds and Critical Wounds as Shock results. This persists until one of the UNIT figures moves into contact with the Doctor. At this point, UNIT learns of the Cybermen's secret weakness and they can be targeted normally.

In addition, Cybermen don't dodge but any Cyberman can move up to three Action Dice from any Cyberman's Shock Pool by spending a Bonanza Token. They can do this even if the Cyberman in question has been put out of action.

The Cybermen aim to capture the Doctor and take him to the transmat platform from which they can beam him up to their control ship. UNIT (led by Lieutenant Lethbridge-Stewart) hope to prevent this.

The game looks to have some interesting tactical challenges. The Cybermen can use their fast-moving Cybermats to block off some Important Locations, thus steering the Doctor closer to the transmat platform.

In my solo playtest the Doctor was fairly mobile, briefly being captured before escaping (he continues to move, even if captured, when three or more sixes are rolled.

The Doctor is captured whilst exploring
the torture chamber

Lieutenant Lethbridge-Stewart played a key role in UNIT's eventual victory. Firstly it was he who managed to reach the Doctor and discover the Cybermen's secret weakness. Some time later his action dice gave him four threes and two fives. He diced to use all four Aim dice to put a single shot into the Cyberman that was menacing the Doctor. A roll of six gave him a Critical Hit and this was followed by another six - instant death!

Later still a roll of five fours by Private Anderson gave the lieutenant the chance to deliver the classic line, "Anderson, silver chap next to the statue, five rounds rapid!"

In the end the Cybermen were forced to withdraw and Earth was once again safe from the alien menace!

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Rogue Stars solo

Having printed and painted some marker trays for Rogue Stars I thought I'd have a go at the game to remind myself of how the rules work.

I decided on a starport setting (so didn't roll for terrain) but rolled up the "Rescue" mission profile. The roll for complications gave me "Space Demon", which I decided to ignore while I got back to remembering how to play!

It seemed like a good idea to baptise my starport security building. This suggested a mission by the crew of the free trader Gilgamesh to rescue a crew member held in the cell. The Okh security team would be holding the fort.

I deployed the Okh inside the security building (green with the dark grey roof) apart from one constable standing guard on the door. Roslyn, the free trader's engineer, was in the cell inside.

Roslyn in her cell

The game began with the Okh having the initiative thanks to a roll of 1 by the free trader's crew. Constable Zok moved from his position guarding the door to a location from which he could see black-clad Iklwa approaching with drawn vibro-sword.

Three failures to activate gave Iklwa three reaction chances. He succeeded with all three, sprinting six inches then jumping eight thanks to his bionic legs before striking a blow that immediately put Zok out of the action!

Meanwhile, the robotic member of the Gilgamesh crew, D4QP, approached the door to the security building. It came under fire from Sergeant Gnaar from the roof and replied causing one Pin to the sergeant.

I assumed that, at least initially, the door to the building was in automatic opening mode à la Star Trek. Later the Okh inside would lock it. This resulted in some exchanges of point blank fire through the doorway. Eventually D4QP was put out of action.

By this time insectoid crewman Kekkex and Captain Sabrina had approached the building and started to engage those within in a close-range firefight.

Eventually we ended up with a situation where only three figures remained active! Constable Glyke took a critical hit to the head before spectacularly failing his Endure roll. Dead!

Kekkex and Sabrina broke in through the windows of the office while Sergeant Gnaar waited around the corner within. 

Briefly both sides yielded the initiative to reduce their Stress counters and there was a period of rolling dice but not taking actions until the ideal combination of dice rolls came up. Eventually Sergeant Gnaar rolled two successes and a critical success to activate. This gave him the chance to roll another activation and this too was successful. The resulting four actions allowed him to dodge around the corner and gun down Sabrina before dodging back out of the line of fire.

Another decent set of dice rolls saw him also finish off Kekkex.

So the crew of the free trader Gilgamesh are all captured. Perhaps a prison planet breakout is called for?