More stuff from the Grab Bag

July 13, 2018

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Real Life (TM) seems to take up much of my time lately.  I finally have enough steam to write and plenty on my mind so here it goes.

I’ve finally gotten around to reading Panzer Army Africa by James Lucas.  I have read as far as Operation Crusader and getting ready to start the section on Gazala but have formed some opinions.  I think Mr. Lucas does well when he lays out the details.  His writing style, while a bit dry at times, is to the point and easy enough to read.  I am enjoying the book so far.  I do have some quibbles.  The author tends to spin some of the facts to show the British in a bad light with regard to  equipment (especially tanks) and leadership.  For instance, the chapter on Crusader is called Rommel Deflects Crusader.  Honestly, Rommel did not “deflect” anything.  He was beaten and driven back to his early 1941 start line.  The author states that the 2-lbr anti-tank gun was “useless” which is also not true.  It was quite capable of knocking out German tanks in the desert at 500 yards.  These guns were quite useful though they did have their flaws – the lack of a high explosive shell and the relatively short range for instance.    If you can ignore the author’s opinions, the book does a nice job of telling the story of the North African campaign from the German perspective.

I’ve been eyeing up a game called “Table Battles” by Hollandspiele for sometime now.  I finally took a chance and bought the Wargame Vault PDF version.  I’ve not played yet but am very much looking forward to some games with my son.  It is a static and abstract game that allows you to play out any battle in history on a small table.  There are cards that represent the various formations or wings in a battle line.  You use dice to “power” the various attack abilities on the cards.  One card might need 4’s while another card might need doubles or even a small straight.  One review joked that it had elements of Yatzee.  Why, yes.  Yes it does.  The PDF does require that you assemble the cards and you do need to provide some match sticks and cubes as well as 12 dice, 6 per side.  The match sticks are to be painted in red or blue (one color per army) and you will need about 40 per side.  The cube can be painted a neutral color or just left natural wood.  I have the cards printed but not cut out yet.  I also have the cubes and blue army painted.  My red craft paint dried out so I will be making a trip to the craft store for another bottle.  I probably won’t get a battle in before I leave on vacation.

I have started collecting some old/new folio games from Decision Games (Think SPI).  I’ve picked up Marengo, Carentan and Zama so far.  They are three distinct game systems that deal with the era they portray.  DG has settled on a differential for their combat resolution and have added some twists to the old systems to help differentiate the various units without overcomplicating things.  For instance, in Carentan, Armor may move through a zone of control by spending half its move allowance plus the cost to enter the hex.  Infantry can do something similar but it spends its entire move allowance to get to the next hex in a ZOC. Artillery and aircraft are treated as off board assets to be used per turn to influence combats.   Leaders in Marengo, as another example,  can add to the moral move and or combat of a unit but doing so puts them at risk of being hit.

I’ve been on a bit of a Robin Hood kick lately.  I watched BBC’s Robin Hood (2006) from start to finish.  It was generally good with a sort of Robin Hood meets Hercules/Xena vibe.  If nothing, it was pretty entertaining.  I am on to the 1980s BBC version called Robin of Sherwood.  The costumes are much better in this version.  It does play the legend out better than the newer version.  It is, however, a product of the times.  Robin looks a bit more like a rock star than a bandit.  Curiously, there is also a good bit of mysticism injected into the story.  Hurn the Hunter appears frequently and there was a sorcerer.  Still more medieval goodness with a bit of fantasy thrown in.  I am getting ready to watch season 2 soon.


Pikes, DBA, Campaigns…Does this count as a Grab Bag?

May 4, 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve said anything about DBA.  I own the v3 rules and like them quite well.  The one thing that bugs me is how Pikes are handled.  Pikes, by the reckoning of several primary sources is a direct offshoot of hoplites.  really, the only difference between the two is in the equipment.  Pikemen (aka phalangites in wargaming parlance) operate in a rigid formation (phalanx) with long spears that could be measured up to 24 feet long.  The phalangite had a round pelta instead of a metal aspis (hoplon) shield.  They both wore similar armor though during the time of reform, phalangites were said to have been wearing quilted armor.  That did not last long though since people back then, as they do today, like to enjoy as much protection as they can practically have.

With that in mind, in DBA the Pike element has a +3/+4 combat factor and enjoys +3 rear support.  I am not sure why the +3 against infantry as they were quite effective against all comers save maybe Gallic style warbands who could swarm the flanks.  Perhaps they should have a +4 all around just like spear/hoplite elements.  But then what do we do about support?  You could give them side support as with the spear. That would raise them to a +5 combat factor which pretty much gives them the same strength as spear.  You could also include a rear support which gives the a total combat factor, with side support, of +6.  Another idea would be to simply give them +2 for rear support only.  In either case, I would still make them pursue infantry after combat as per the rules.  Pike phalanx routinely became disjoint after prolonged combat and often this would lead to their downfall on the battlefield.

I was looking for a map of the ancient world online and found this one here for Web Diplomacy with an ancient theme.   I was thinking that this could be a good way to resolve ancient battles, especially for quick play games like DBA, Mighty Armies, Ancients D6 etc.  Each city you control would allow for 1 army in the field.  All battles are standard games.  If you are fighting more than one army at a time, you fight each one in turn but cannot replace your losses between battles if you have only 1 army.  If you outnumber your opponent, then you simply fight each battle with each separate army if needed.  Like in the DBA campaign, cities would not automatically fall.  Rather you roll each turn to see if they capitulate.  Roll a 1 after the first season and the city surrenders.  2 or less after the second, 3 after the third etc up to the sixth season which afterward they automatically surrender.  Breaking the siege automatically resets they siege level and you start over.

$20 Desert mat anyone?

April 26, 2018

I’ve been looking for craft felt by the yard for a while now.  Amazon, for a while, did not seem to have what I was looking for.  I came across this the other day.  Rainbow Craft Felt in sandstone.  

3 yards at 6 feet wide will run you $20.40 US plus shipping of just $1.99.  A pretty good deal when you consider how much even Monday Knight game mats cost. You can also get it in olive which makes for a nice grass mat.  You can, of course, doll it up with some flock and paint if you are so inclined.  Me?  I can’t be bothered.


Back from Cold Wars

March 19, 2018

Got back from Cold Wars yesterday in the early afternoon.  Early you say?  That bad?  Well no.  It was an interesting event with some odd changes.

  1. The Host.  You know you are dying to hear about it.   Construction is going at a good pace.  There was a lot of stone work done on the exterior of the building.  There are doors where their once were no doors.  There are windows where their once were no windows.  The tennis barn, for instance, has a huge pane of windows on the front letting in much natural light.  The side effect is that the barn is now quite warm!  Some of the space has been walled off.  The space outside the HAWKs room, for instance, has been walled off to make another room.  The finished rooms are quite nice.  They are as nice as some of the nicer hotels.  Ours, however, did not have a phone and at one point some workers had to come in to fix a problem with the cable.
  2. Food: The general food situation is about the same as before.  You could get tacos and burritos throughout the day from the upstairs station.  Downstairs was still serving the usual fair of cold sandwiches and hot dogs as well as coffee, soft drinks and even beer!  The kitchen food was a large disappointment.  The breakfast was merely OK.  It has been better in the past.  The dinner at the bar was a complete disaster though.  I ordered a burger cooked medium.  It came out well.  I would have sent it back had I not been pressed for time.  My friend got the prime rib sandwich, which in the past, is quite tasty.  His came out as a thick, tough slice of meat well overcooked.  I heard others complain the same about the food in the kitchen.  That was the only non-breakfast meal I ordered from the bar.
  3. There were plenty of games going on.  Lots of interesting and beautiful games.  The HAWKs room remained very busy on Friday and Saturday.  Even on Saturday night, Distilfink room (the huge ball room) seemed to have every gaming table full.  I’d not seen that in several years.  Sunday was another matter and perhaps the big reason I left early.  There was not a single game going on when I walked around at 9:30am Sunday morning.  I did see one gentleman in the big room with some Star Wars stuff including an AT-AT but it looked more like he was just inventorying or repairing than setting up a game.  HAWKs room also seemed to have just one game setup.

It was a good time and I enjoyed seeing my friends who came from as far as Indiana.  I understand that 2017 will be the last year of conventions at the Host.  It seems HMGS-East and the new owners of the Host could not come to an agreement for future conventions.  From what I’ve heard, all HMGS conventions will be held at a Marriott (I think) in downtown Lancaster.  The last HMGS convention in the Host will be Fall-In 2018.

3D Printing 20mm Figures

February 25, 2018

I’ve been experimenting with some figures created by “Duchmogul” on thingiverse.  The figures are billed as 18mm but after fiddling with scaling, I have found that they match 1/72 scale figures perfectly as is.  There are some older models that he has done that are more in line with 20mm figures but that is neither here nor there.  They all do work without modification to scale.  I’ve printed them perpendicularly with mixed results.  The lines are rather pronounced and as they are fairly detailed, sanding is not really an option.  Painting these figures requires an old school mentality.  Much of the detail has to be painted in by hand not unlike painting in the belts and straps on some of the very old figures out there.  The figure I tested with is called “Hollow Soldier.”  He sort of screams “Barrow Wight” or “Ghost” so some sort of dull gray paint scheme will be in order.  here is the finished rough along side of a Viking Huscarl.  The cloak on the Huscarl shows off the print lines.  At 3 feet away, they are hardly noticeable, especially to the Grognard’s eyes.

How a 45 degree print looks fresh off the printer. The cloak of the Huscarl to show off the print lines.

Front view with all supports removed.

Rear views. It does look like a fair bit of scraping will be in order.

And there you have it.  It is rainy today so there is no chance this fine fellow will be primed.  I’ll post another WIP pic or two when the time comes.

Friday Grab Bag #14 A Mechanical Symphony

February 2, 2018

I have the History of Gaming book on Lionel Tarr.  This book is filled with all sorts of rules, notes and campaign ideas the Mr. Tarr used throughout his wargame campaign.  I think his early rules, with a few modifications would make for a very solid game.  I have no problem with tanks making an abrupt departure from the table if the dice gods will it.  However, infantry seem to get the short end of the stick.  Caught in the open they would get murdered.  Let me explain.  Each 6 rfilse, 3 sub machine guns or 1 machine gun causes a D6 casualties.  Period.  Now this is modified for cover where the target takes casualties at a quarter rate.  It was noted in an editor’s note in Wargames (Featherstone) that some folks introduced a saving roll per casualty based on unit grade.  Elites saved on a 4+, regulars a 5+ and green on a 6+.  I like the idea but would change it as follows.  Instead of basing it on morale grade, base it on the various cover the unit occupies.  For example, infantry moving in the open save on a 5+ and in cover save on a 4+.  If the unit is stationary or creeping at half speed, you may add 1 to the die roll.

Artillery is similarly deadly.  Saves will tone the artillery down a bit.  I like the idea of open sites, observed fire and map fire, all of which are handled logically well.  In his later rules, he made artillery hit on target with a 4+ for open sites, 5+ for observed and 6+ for map fire.  Anything else is subject to scatter.  A direction die and another D6 would handle the scatter well enough.  Burst templates and possible saves also apply.

Finally, there is a matter of morale.  The infantry company, the standard unit in the game, would be around 10-12 figures.  Any time a unit takes casualties, roll 2D6.  If the total is less than or equal to the remaining figures, the unit is fine.  If the check fails by 1 or 2, the unit is pinned and can’t move.  It fires at half effect.  If it fails by 3-4, the unit retreats to the nearest cover and does not stop until it reaches cover.  It then spends the next turn pinned.  If the check is failed by 5 or more, the unit quits the field.  Armored units can be checked for in a similar fashion but with a single D6.  Each tank in the company (assuming a tank equals a platoon) is worth 2 points.  The die roll must be be less than or equal to the total points.  In all likelihood, the tanks would fire at a penalty on a failed check.

Not much of a grab bag on subjects but certainly on game mechanics.

Sellswords and Spellslingers: First Impressions

January 22, 2018

Sellswords and Spellslingers is a new cooperative game by Ganesha Games.  The idea behind the game is that a player makes several characters with various abilities and go on adventures (scenarios) gaining loot and and experience to become more powerful.  The game can be played cooperatively or solo.  The scenarios are scaled up based on the number of participating players.

Characters start with 3 hit points each.  Lesser monsters do one hit of damage while greater ones can deal out 2 hits.  A player has 60 experience points to spend among his characters.   He might spend 25 on one and 10 on another and so forth until all 60 are used.  He can not spend more than 40 and less than 5 on a character.  There are also disadvantages which will allow you to gain a few extra experience points.  They do incur game penalties, some quite severe.  My hobbits, for example, had “good shot”, “stealth” and “forester.”  This allowed a +1 to hit with throwing weapons, the ability to hide from shooters who were shooting at longer range than 4″ and the ability to move freely through thick vegetation.  I took the “slow move” disadvantage which makes a character move at 3″ per move instead of the 4″ standard move.

The game works on individual activation as there is no traditional game sequence.  A player moves all of his characters once.  In a solo game, you must move everyone before you can move another character a second time.  In a multiplayer cooperative game, play passes to the next player and so forth.  Like in his previous game series, Song of Blades and Heroes, a player will roll 1, 2 or 3 20 sided dice (D20) to gain actions.  The score is 8+ to get one action.  If a die fails, (7-) an event card is drawn.  Most cards drawn govern how the monsters behave.  Usually it will be something like a horde activates or a loner activates and occasionally a monster frenzy card where all monsters go.  So, like SoBaH, there is a risk and reward to how many dice you roll.  On a side note, for each natural 20 you roll, you may take one extra action or reduce the event cards about to be drawn by 1.

Combat, be it missile or melee, is performed the same way.  The player rolls a D20 and tries to meet or exceed the target monster’s Danger Level.  Danger level is the relative strength of an enemy.  If he succeeds, the monster takes damage.  If he fails in melee, the character takes damage.  Missile fire is just a miss.  Similarly, if the monster attacks, the player rolls a die just like he was attacking.  In melee, if he succeeds, the monster takes damage and if he fails the player character takes damage.  When being attacked by missile fire, the player is rolling to dodge for one of his characters.  A success will avoid damage.

Hordes are a special grouping of low level monsters.  Each of these minions still has a DL rating but for each minion in the group, the DL rating goes up by one.  As monsters are slain, the group strength lessens.  So large hordes (I think the max size is 6) can be quite dangerous.  That is where you will want lots of shooters.  They are not affected by group size.  You target hordes member individually with missile fire.

There are activities between scenarios that players can do like repairing armor, creating spells or potions and so forth.

I managed to get a solo game of Sellswords and Spellslingers in this weekend.  While I did get a couple of minor things wrong, I think I have a pretty good handle on how the game works.  I started play with the first scenario which is quite basic in nature.  The object is to get the party of heroes from one side of the map to the other.  It’s only 3 feet.  How hard can that be?

One green Troll. 4 dead Hobbits.

The scenario called for a 3X3 board covered in about 1/3 brush.  I chose to add some other terrain items including a bridge at the other side which needed to be crossed in order to get to Bree.  I used 4 Hobbits.  You know their names!  I did use the monsters in the scenario.  My hobbits had no melee weapons.  In retrospect, I should have had them as fighting barefisted incurs a -4 penalty.  That will result in a lot of damage to the player character in melee.  They did have a bonus to missile weapons and were always armed since you can always find a rock out doors.  I also used stealth which proved useless since none of the enemies had missile weapons.

My plan was simple.  Move as quickly as I can to the other side.  That meant rolling 3 dice for actions every time.  I rolled an inordinate amount of 7s and lower.  Each failure results in an event card being drawn.  So, that means the monsters would potentially move twice.  Frodo made it up the road pretty fair and discovered a short blade in the hollow of a tree (random event).  Alas, the event deck is not always kind.  While one character did spot something valuable the Troll was wearing, that just enticed my to do something stupid like try to defeat the troll!   I got close, scoring 5 hits, 3 with missile shots and 2 with that fancy new blade Frodo found.  The others tried to fight it as well and were dispatched one by one.  Eventually, it ended in defeat for the Hobbits.  I guess Middle Earth was plunged into darkness after all.

I do like the game.  In some ways it is everything Frostgrave should have been.  It leaves the player with the ability to play any sort of characters they want.  The event deck is a very clever idea.  There are reshuffle cards in the deck so that you never run out of cards in a game.  There are also one-off cards that you remove after the first time you draw them.  I suspect the game will lend itself very well to those that wat to design their own scenarios.  Each scenario has sets of instructions so that the more generic “one-off” cards have some different meanings.

On the downside, there is a relative dearth of concrete magic items.  There are opportunities to find scrolls and potions but not so much magic weapons, armor, staves and the like.  There also is no treasure tables.  The treasures are written into the scenarios.  I am hoping the author will expand on this in future supplements.

As I play more, I shall write more about my impressions.  Until next time, may your adventures end better than mine! 😉