Sunday, January 29, 2023

Another ACW Officer

The box of figures I bought from Richard P recently contained rather more Union officers than I really need for Sharp Practice games. And they are probably Union officers as they have the rectangular shoulder tabs as rank badges rather than the knots of cuff lace more typically worn by Rebel officers.

Looking through Phillip Katcher's The American Soldier (which is basically a collation of colour plates from Osprey Men At Arms books) it occurred to me that I could use an officer model to represent an army surgeon. 

This webpage would also have been useful if I'd found it before I finished painting the figure!

One of the available figures looked suitable but for the fact that he was brandishing a sword in a most unmedical way! I replaced the sword-holding hand with one from the spares box and added a sword hilt to the scabbard from the same source.

He wears a green sword sash and has green shoulder rank badges. The latter, I understand, makes him more likely to be a US Army surgeon rather than a surgeon attached to a state volunteer regiment.

The sword isn't the right pattern (and I'm prepared to live with that) but the all-metal scabbard is certainly appropriate.

The hand I added was slightly too small so I built up the cuff and the hand with Green Stuff. If you look closely you'll see that I didn't bother resculpting all of the fingers. As a result this medic will be noted in scenarios as being Major Jakob "Six-fingered Jake" Schultz - the most feared (by his own side) man in the Mississippi Marine Brigade.

Samurai At Last!

With the exception of a big-battle Hordes of the Things game in October 2003 and of a subset of the collection forming one of my HOTT armies for Berkeley a decade ago, my 15mm Samurai have seen virtually no use. In fact I believe they've been rebased more often that they've been used in anger. So when Andy, Mark, Phil and Ron came over on Saturday afternoon and we played a Samurai version of The Pikeman's Lament it was something of a relief to feel that they were at last earning their place in the collection.

The situation was roughly based on the siege of Hachigata in 1568. This to fit with the fact that the majority of my models bear the mon of either the Hōjō or Takeda clan. I allocated the players randomly and gave them made-up names of Samurai commanders, Mark and Andy being Takeda Mochinaga and Honda Gozemon respectively while Phil and Ron opposed them as Hōjō Tsededetsu and Ii Masamune. The latter was an error on my part as the figures Ron was using bore the Date clan mon

Our game used a four-player adaptation of the River Crossing scenario from the rule book. 

Phil and Ron led a sortie from the Hōjō-held castle and attempted to cross the river to demonstrate their superiority over Andy and Mark's Takeda besiegers.

I gave Phil and Ron an extra turn at the beginning of the game to simulate their surprise attack and to compensate for the fact that there were more cavalry in the Takeda force. In addition, the Hōjō sortie was somewhat slowed down by the need to exit from a single gateway.

The simple rules allowed the game to flow quickly and smoothly - more so than when we played the related Lion Rampant via Skype during the recent unpleasantness. 

We greatly enjoyed the table of bonuses and penalties for rolling boxcars or snake-eyes when activating units. In fact it seemed like the dice were determined to give us a taste of all of the options in that table. Twos and twelves seemed to come up more often than they should and the subsequent dice to select a particular random event were all over the place. In fact I think we saw three of the possible negative effects and all six of the positive.

A highlight was Andy's Honda samurai who repeatedly failed to activate when advancing through the woods and then suddenly withdrew from them altogether as a result of rolling a double-one. We decided that had been struck by the sublime beauty of the trees and had withdrawn to contemplate them a distance.

The action developed, as expected, into a confused melee along the river.

Lion Rampant has the concept of Boasts. These are chosen by the players before the game and if the player achieves the feat boasted of, they additional Honour (aka victory points). The Pikeman's Lament replaces these with Special Orders but "boasts" had such an appropriate ring to it for Samurai games that I decided to adapt the TPL list back into the boasts format, tweaking the language in places to make it more oriental-sounding.

Andy chose "the katana not the bow", undertaking to cause more casualties in melee than he did by shooting. This he achieved handsomely.

Ron selected "All out attack!" - a mistake as it required him to instigate close combat with all of his units; something his two groups of skirmishers weren't best suited to.

Finally (Phil, perhaps wisely, kept his own counsel before the fight) Mark chose to "Charge!" - undertaking to declare the game's first Attack. Unfortunately he was beaten to it when Ron's sole mounted samurai unit wildly charged into combat.

The game ended when the Hōjō forces were driven back across the river. It had looked good for them at one point. They had nearly all of their forces on the Takeda side when Ron rolled a double six activating a unit. This saw senior commanders sending out another unit to reinforce the sortie. The battle, rather then ending immediately, continued as now there were still Hōjō forces on their own side of the river!

In then end, despite heroic efforts by the Hōjō commanders, the Takeda were able to force a victory. The game was deemed a great success and there was some talk of playing further games to follow the emerging careers of our young samurai leaders.

Honda Gozemon emerged from the battle with most renown having achieved his boast on the winning side for a total of 7 points of Honour.  Takeda Mochinaga finished with, I think, four points - five for being on the winning side, -1 for failing in his Boast, another -1 for acting without panache during the advance to the river, and +1 for killing the loud-mouthed agitator who emerged from the ranks of the Ii skirmishers.

The two Hōjō leaders scored one point of Honour each as a result of dashing actions in the fighting but unfortunately Ron's leader was cut down during a cavalry melee. 

The Pikeman's Lament has an Officer Casualties table on which we need to roll to determine if he survived. I've just rolled on it and got double six revealing that Ii Masamune "escapes the enemy with mere scratches and ranges to get back to the castle thorough a daring and honourable adventure"! He gains +3 Honour and is available for the next game.

I am declaring (to fix my earlier error) that Masamune is, as a result of his exploits, formally adopted by a powerful clan and will henceforth be known as Date Masamune.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

ACW officer

I bought a few leftover ACW figures from Richard P at Penkridge. This chap is currently on the workbench.

Is it just me or is there a hint of Rupert Grint there?

Monday, January 23, 2023

Bookshop finds

A recent trip to a local second-hand bookshop (the one where I got the Battles and Leaders of the Civil War set) produced a fine haul of reference material.

The Civil War in Art - A Visual Odyssey by Doranne Jacobson is a coffee table book full of reproductions of paintings and photographs of the ACW. I thought it would be useful, if nothing else for the portrayals of civil war battlefields to support terrain building.

The Union Cavalry in the Civil War by Stephen Z Starr is a well-researched and densely footnoted study of the subject and I'm already a chapter into it. The narrative as I understand it is that Union cavalry is initially outclassed by their Confederate counterparts but that with experience and Sharps breech-loading carbines, they eventually come to dominate. I'll be interested to see if this turns out to be the case.

Finally, Russian Eyewitness Accounts of the Campaign of 1814 by Alexander Mikaberidze is a couple of years out from the 1812 mini-campaign Richard Phillips and I are working towards but it's got to provide some useful insights, surely?

Fifteen quid for the lot strikes me as tremendous value for what must be fabulous Sharp Practice research material.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Accommodation Block?

When I build a large piece of terrain I try to have a storage box ready and build the terrain to fit the box. The Tcherbevan International Airport air traffic control tower was a classic example. It needs to be turned upside down and shaken to get it out of its well-fitted box!

Just occasionally, though, the fancy takes me to go ahead and build something and hope to find a suitable box later. Such was the case with this industrial thingie for Rogue Stars games.

It was built over a weekend from bits of scrap material attached to the barrel of a toy gun from the local pound shop. I've added a Copplestone Street Wars figure to give some idea of scale.

The model is in two parts, the staircase:

and the main tower:

The two parts currently live in a rather tatty cardboard box that's slightly too short to accommodate the tower properly. The red insulating tape identifies this as part of my fantasy and sci-fi terrain selection when I'm pulling stuff off the shelves for a game.

My thought today is, "Can I build a storage box for this piece that will also function as a piece of terrain in its own right?"

My original vision for a Rogue Stars setting was of an industrialised planet where an underclass of criminals and ne'erdowells struggle for everyday survival while corporate drones speed by in their Škoda-Bentley electrocars on raised highways. Blade Runner, the underground scenes in Demolition Man, and the opening credits of Hill Street Blues were all in my mind.

So I could build some kind of industrial structure into which the tower and staircase will fit for storage or I could go for some kind of corporate office block accessed by raised walkways at first floor (second floor for our American chums) level. I'm thinking of something that would usually sit on the edge of the table forming a backdrop to the events of the game.

The next question is whether to build something using the existing box as a skeleton, needing to find a way to add some height, or to build a new box that's the right size to start with. Either way, any decoration on the outside of the building will need to be robust and capable of being dusted off when it's brought into play. I'm wondering about getting some sheets of EPS foam from Hobbycraft to form an outer skin?

I could imbed rare earth magnets into the exterior of the box to allow for the attachment of decoration that's a little more delicate.

The building needs to be about 33cm tall so I'm guessing four or five storeys high?

I'm taking a chance here by letting you know of this idea in advance. I'm hoping that will pressure me to persevere with the project. I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have for design and/or materials to use.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Christmas Games 2022 part two

Our second Christmas game (or more precisely games) this year took place on 30th of December when Jamie and I were joined by five other gamers for the latest incident in the Song of Pavis campaign entitled A Treasure for Whitewall.

Regulars here may recall previous episodes. On the other hand, it's been so long since the last game, perhaps a reminder is in order. 

Protect and Serve - Jaxarte Whyded accidentally interrupts an incident on the streets of Pavis.

Raid on Ogre Island - a confused melée in the Big Rubble.

A Foggy Day in Pavis - yet again, Jaxarte finds himself involved in events he doesn't understand.

Part of the challenge of organising these Christmas games is that I often don't know how many players I'm going to have and not all games systems work perfectly in a multi-player environment. Song of Blades and Heroes works fine with two or three players but if you have to wait for five other players to finish their turn it can be a bit pedestrian. I decided I would run two or three linked one-on-one games simultaneously. These would be as follows:

  1. Orlanthi rebels raid a warehouse in Pavis - they have a guided teleport matrix that will take one of them to a nominated location. Unfortunately for some reason it will only take them to a cave in the Vultures Country.
  2. Another party of rebels will travel by boat down to the Vultures Country to intercept the escaping rebel from game 1 who hopefully will have stolen the Battle Banner of the EWF.
  3. A third party of rebels will guard the riverside camp of the party in game 2. If attacked they'll be reinforced by Ostrich Rider mercenaries returning after guiding the game 2 party to the cave.
Game 3 could be played if I got five or six players or dropped otherwise. If I got a seventh player unexpectedly I would add the long-suffering Jaxarte Whyded as a further complication in game 1.

Game 1 was set on the streets of Pavis

The game 2 rebels approach the cave entrance led by the
Ostrich Rider mercenaries

Only a small number of rebels were left to guard the boats

In game 1 young gamer Josh ran the rebel raiding party. Unfortunately they never got close to overcoming Jamie's Lunars. It was almost as if the Lunars were expecting them and had strengthened the guards in and around the target warehouse!


Game 2 was much more one-sided. I'd hoped that the Trollkin bandits who had taken over the cave system would have been able to put up a better fight for their home but Mark, in his first game of SOBH, took a bit of a pounding from Andy's rebels despite the presence of a spirit of darkness in the tunnels.

It was nice to get some of my newer and more detailed dungeon sections into use. Resin casts from Zitterdes and Scotia featured.

Game 3 was also a bit one-sided, this time against the rebels. The thinly guarded camp was overrun by Morokanth (led by young gamer Sam) who made off with plenty of loot despite Gus's attempts to fight them off long enough for the Ostrich Riders to save the day.

In the end, the rebels failed to get into the warehouse. This didn't make too much of a difference as it turned out the banner they were after was a fake, planted by Lunar spymaster Gimgim the Grim to draw out previously unidentified rebels.

The rebels did manage to capture the caves and discovered therein a prize of great value - the missing sword and helm of Vingkot. These artifacts of the Gods' Age would be vital to the defenders of the besieged city of Whitewall if only they could be got there! However...

The rebels' riverside camp was overrun by Morokanth and many of their supplies were stolen.

Will the rebels be able to re-enchant the amulet to take the treasures to Whitewall or will they have to trek there across the trackless wastes of Prax? Find out (perhaps) in the next thrilling episode!

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Christmas Games 2022 part one

As regulars here will know, I always try to get in a couple of games over the Christmas-New Year period here at Stately Counterpane Manor. I aim for games that are fun and light-hearted without being silly and that can accommodate reasonable numbers of players with varying levels of experience. The number of players available can sometimes be hard to nail down due to family commitments so the design of scenario needs to be flexible.

What a Tanker from Too Fat Lardies is a good choice as it plays quickly, will accommodate any number of players and requires very little scenario design work. We played on the 27th, adapting a couple of scenarios from the Skirmish Campaigns book Grossdeutschland at Kursk

John, Andy and Jamie ran various German Panzers, while Kevin, Ron and Simon took the roles of Soviet tank commanders.

The idea was to get through as many games as we reasonably could so as to try out to rules for crews with "kill rings" getting bonus cards in subsequent games.

Because the games ran relatively quickly (we played two games in four hours with a comfortable break for lunch) it wasn't a disaster when one player (sorry John) got his chariot shot from under him. He was able to come back before too long in the second game. If the first had looked like going on much longer I'd have allowed John a second bite of the cherry as a late-arriving reinforcement.

The first action, "Spearpoint", ended in a Soviet victory. I then hastily rejigged the terrain for the second game, "Red Counterthrust". This saw some tremendous, close-range fighting with Jamie's Panzer IV at one point sheltering behind Andy's Tiger to engage Kevin's marauding T-34...

As our only Tiger commander Andy was plagued by tremendously bad luck. He repeatedly failed to roll 7+ or even 6+ on 2D6 to hit and when he did hit, his ability to roll fives or sixes to damage his opponent was pitiful low.

He did, however, demonstrate an almost supernatural ability to roll fives on his command dice at one point. 

For those unfamiliar with the rules, this hand of five fives allowed nothing but reloading at a crucial point in the battle. And the Tiger was already reloaded!

What a Tanker worked well for the kind of game we wanted people were keen to try it again. Maybe next time with more dense terrain. Normandy maybe?

A few days later we played Song of Blades and Heroes but I'll leave that for another post.