Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Board game Roundup - Vol IV

Lots of board games recently, including many in the 'Dudes on a Map' genre; i.e. area control style games whose roots you could trace back to risk - genetically at least.

Cthulhu Wars is not something you make a small investment in, it is a hugely expensive game, assuming you can even find it at present.  However, Matt invested in the Kickstarter and we had a game of it at an all day event recently.  As a visual experience the game is a treat, with sumptuous models - many standing over 6 inches tall - and beautiful component quality around them,  

Thematically, it's the end of the world and we know it.  The Old ones of the Chtulhu Mythos have usurped the natural order and now battle for mastery of the planet; this is done through the actions of cultists to summon their favoured gods and dominate the earth.  Sandy Petersen, the designer has had a long association with Cthulhu, having written the classic 'Call of Cthulhu' Role-playing game and many of its' supplements, so the game oozes with theme and knows its source material like few other games.

As a playing experience, well....  It is in no way that complicated a game, the basic rules are really pretty easy, but like many Games Workshop games (though it is not from that manufacturer) added complexity comes in the form of special rules for each of the factions.  Also like GW, it feels like these rules were not always play-tested against one another; and game balance is where the game struggles.  It can become a one sided affair if one faction identifies a winning tactic before the others.  Each faction has a thematic scheme to victory, and some are easier to achieve than others (The King in Yellow has won two thirds of my games) and some stymie each other very effectively giving one side a clear advantage.

As a game overall it is a easy to learn and speedy experience but one where familiar players will have a massive advantage; thus a group on an equal footing of some experience will get the most out of the game.

The same could be said of Tigris and Euphrates, which I brought to the table next, though for slightly different reasons.

 Tigris... Pre-thrashing
Tigris is a classic, potentially brutal, abstract game that's gone through many editions.  It is a creation of one of the great modern designers, Reiner Knizia, and has some advocates who play it with the devotion of chess.

That said the rules and the way some of the components are presented, for all their high quality in this Fantasy Flight edition, are a bit of a brain burner.  I've read the rules many times now and played the game three times and still don't feel I've fully got the game.  We were 'lucky' to have an experienced player to teach us the game as a group; TML Towers tip, always be wary of a player who can explain the entire rules to a game from memory!  On the positive side we all had some clue how to play.

On the negative side, we were massacred!  In an almost luck free system errors against an experienced player were punished all round, however knowing the game a little more than the other beginners I took more risks, and resultantly made grander mistakes and came dead last!

Tigris and Euphrates is definitely one for more the Chess crowd, I enjoy it, but have to be of a mind to play something punishing and challenging.

Time to relax with a little 'trading in the Mediterranean'.  Macau is a game that is also hard to find, having had only modest print runs, but it contains some clever little mechanics that make use of supplies of goods and cards with an ingenious planning mechanism for future turns.

 Let's sail off to Amsterdam!
This is a non-combative game, not even passive aggressive, unless you count someone grabbing trade goods before you.  A real pallet cleanser as you build up a little team to develop your trade network.  Highly recommended.

The following Day I got the chance to play Rivet Wars, a simple cartoony board wargame based in a wonky version of World Ward One.  Seriously, this game features Unicycle cavalry, rocket launching infantry and Robot tanks.

 Trench war in progress
Once again, the production values here are top notch, being from CoolMiniorNot, one of the major players in miniatures-led board games in the last five years or so.  Each force (broadly Germanic and American) having around sixteen models representing about eight different unit types each.  units have profile cards, and a handful of simple stats to drive the action, alongside special ability and secret mission cards.

Despite not having read the rules before, we were able to set this up as a two player game in around half an hour.  Simple moves and D6 rolls are easy to figure out.  You spawn a number of points of unit each turn dependent on the scenario and then try to achieve a mix of scenario and secret objectives.  I managed to pull a win and a draw before we ran out of time, but really a game once the rules are understood lasts only an hour or so.  I would heartily recommend this for someone looking for a light and quick wargame, or for something to introduce new gamers to the hobby whose interested may be driven by computer gaming.

Time to wrap up I think.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Conanesque - Dragon Rampant Times

Let's get back to some game recounts; myself and James T had a couple of battles of Dragon Rampant using my newly painted Conan forces, the photo's below reflect the first of the games, in which a Pictish force tried to make it's way home in the face of pursuing and ambushing undead opposition:

The field of battle.  The Picts must reach the yellow lines to escape

Undead piquets awaited the Picts in the centre of the field

the Pict animal handler has trouble stopping his charges gnawing on skeletons

Picts charge out of woodland to attack the other unit of skeletons
At this stage early in the game, the Picts had easily dispatched the skeleton vanguard.  but small groups of terrifying mummified undead were now in pursuit whilst the arch necromancer approached from the opposite end of the field with his consort and demonic guardian.

Their shaman and totemic snake were bringing up the Pict rear

By necessity the snake took shelter in a crypt when Mummies moved to attack 

Meanwhile swampy ground allowed the Necromancer to block the Picts way
 The Shaman was slain and other groups of Picts scattered, but the elite Pictish hammer warriors were able to smash past the Necromancer and his demon.  Pursued by Mummies, these and their scouts were finally able to make their escape.

The survivors flee
Thus the game concluded, with only a handful of troops left in play.  By the terms of the scenario it fell in James' favour, but with the secret quests I think the picts just edged it.  on a 5' by 4' board it could have been a little easy for the Picts  to escape, but with only foot troops on each side (Warbeasts excepted) both forces were slow enough the a small table allowed time to engage.

A good fun little game.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Field Day

Huzzah!  I no longer have any study; unless I've fluffed majorly the Masters is finished.  Back to having free time and all the benefits that come with it!
So one of the first things this permitted me to do, was to finish off another little terrain project for my gaming club.  I decided the club needed a little bit of extra 10-15mm terrain, specifically some fields.  Rather than make loose hedgerow, I opted for fixed fields; scenically they look better overall and they are less likely to get lost in the bottom of a storage box, come to less harm in general in fact.

A  fair range
 Honestly, can you not see what they are made from?  For shame if not, anyone who doesn't recognise a 'green dish scrub' when they see one is probably eating dinner off paper plates regularly.  Process wise it was really simple.  I'll summarise thus:

  1. Slice the scrub into regular sections, these were 25mm wide and a 100mm long.   For taller hedgerow you may want to cut it a little wider; 30-35mm.
  2. Apply Evostick or hot glue to one half of one side of scrub strip, fold over to create a double thickness section with a rounded top.  place a book or similar on top to hold in place whilst this dries.  Repeat for all sections.
  3. Cut out sections of wood for bases.  Draw layout of hedgerows on boards.  You may want to ensure fields contain enough space for your favoured units in the design process.
  4. Skim the whole base with a universal DIY filler, using a a scrap of strong card.  Into this surface scrape clean the line for the hedgerow, leaving the gaps for gateways untouched.  You can also scrape in indications of ploughing as I have.
  5. Once that dries (probably overnight), fix the hedges in place with a hot glue gun.  If you wish you can add gateposts or bits of fencing with scraps of wood.  The hedge will be flexible enough to form corners readily.  Trim any rogue strands away at this stage.

15mm Austrians for scale
Painting was pretty easy too, with basically chocolate brown as a base for everything other than the hedgerow itself which wasn't base-coated at all, its' natural green was fine and any bleed of brown on the base of it was not an issue.  Then it was a case of dry-brushing lighter and lighter browns to the ground and woodwork, and greens to the hedgerows.  Finally a little scatter was added to break up the appearance.

Given the cheap materials and the simple approach, I'm really happy with how these came out.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The most one sided game I ever had!

This may also be the shortest battle report I write.

One of my long-time opponents, Ross, is moving to Eire soon (lucky guy); and had been badgering me for a game of Kings of War: Historical for the longest time.  No small reason being that he has a fledgling Mongolian army he wanted to field.  Bare plastic, but you have to start somewhere eh?

I was happy to face them, even though I knew I didn't exactly have a historical opponent, and that they would be a very difficult opponent.  In the end the best enemy I could offer was a version of the Holy Roman Empire, essentially a German army.  I decided on bringing a reasonable chunk of firepower, but it would prove of little value.

As it turned out I was facing unit after unit of mobile machine guns, aka, Mongolian Horse Archer regiments.

 What followed deployment can scarcely be called a battle.  The Mongols advanced into bow-shot and unleashed a storm of arrows on first my artillery, obliterating it before it could fire a shot.  In the next turn the Mongols decimated my crossbows and bowmen, and my one unit of knights without loss.

At the same time they retired in front of my pike blocks, permitting them time to deal with them once my ranged offense was destroyed.

I conceded on turn three.  There was no point continuing; I had no ranged attacks left and only a handful of light cavalry able to even keep up with the enemy.  It was clear my force was finished and their best bet was to retreat.

Ross lost no units at all, heck, I barely inflicted any damage on him.  On my part some 50% of my force was gone before I yielded.

I have to say that the horse archer units in KoW:H are completely f***ing broken; they fire the same distance as foot, and some units don't suffer movement penalties, and count as skirmishers so can shoot anywhere.  But the worst is that unlike any other shooting unit, they double their ranged attacks when scaled up to a regiment; infantry only gain about 25% more attacks in the same situation.  Sure, this matches how non-shooting cavalry are structured, but for mounted archers it does not work; they are simply too effective.

Anyway, rant over, and I hope you may learn from my experience!  It remained a good natured game, and I will miss Ross as an opponent when he does finally go!

(BTW: We used my own terrain for a change, I think I need to upgrade those woodland templates, the trees really show them up...)

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Hastinge in Ireland - Part the Second: Baggage Train

Two months* passed, the weather and the belligerent Irish kept Lord Hastinge holed up in the largest local village he had made his base.  All the Irish under O'Reagan need do was keep piquets to watch the gates to know his business, and business was poor, for suppliers were slight and his men wanted for much.

With spring weather and an improvement in the seas and roadways there was a hope of getting a convoy of vital supplies through.  With an adequate escort there was a chance for Hastinge to break a de-facto seige of his force and return to a more active stance.

But O'Reagan would be aware of his every move.  Nevertheless horsemen were able to communicate with a supply train and additional forces made their way north to relieve Hastinge and his men.

Part of the wagon train advances
 The English were able to advance their wagons for many miles without incident, but as they closed on 'home', O'Reagan's men began to appear in numbers.  A retinue of knights advanced to clear the ground before the wagon train, whilst substantial infantry forces acted as their entourage.

The Knights dash off
 Of course the urge to engage and gain glory soon resulted in the knights leaving the convoy far behind.

Irish axemen would prove rash adversaries
 A band of axe armed warriors attempted to draw the knights into a scrub of woodland on the fringe of a farm, but instead were caught in the open and soon retired to the trees.  The knights followed and despite the difficulty of the ground, pursued the tribal rabble to the finish.

Other issues may arise
 A mixture of skirmishing kerns and tribesmen were by this point harassing the convoy and normal order was momentarily lost.  However the English axes and Bills were enough to hold the Irish at arms length.

 The English knights began to flank the Irish, who had stationed their own men at arms squarely on the road.  A series of charges against these more heavily armed foes thinned the horsemen until they finally broke away.

Run away!
 However this had bought the main convoy time to outrun the warriors behind them and get close to the relative safety of Hastinge's hold.  Some of the wagons made it through the Irish lines, though others would fail at the final gasp.

So close...
A handful of wagons got through, but most of the infantry were able to fight past at the sacrifice of their supplies.  Hastinge would find himself reinforced, but in a parlous situation regarding his supplies.


From a Glory standpoint it was another victory for the Irish.  And so for the next battle the initiative will be with O'Reagan.  The English were able to make their opponents run before them, but not able to achieve a great degree of harm.  At the end of part two of the campaign therefore the results now stand at:

Ireland: 6     England: 0

*Actually, two WHOLE years!