Monday, 14 October 2019

The Vanity Project (part 1)

As regular followers will know I write a set of wargames rules most years. Sometimes I go back and revisit earlier efforts and make changes. There's nothing like a 5 year break to realise what rubbish you wrote previously. I learnt that from Stephen King.

Many of my sets are available as free downloads, over top right. People who end up playing my games at COW will usually be handed a printed set, together with a playsheet in the desperate hope they might then write up the game for The Nugget magazine or otherwise provide me with feedback. Occasionally (very occasionally) I get asked if I intend to publish.

Generally my feeling has been not to bother, and just post the files here. But then, I did that book earlier in the year, and it seemed that it wasn't that much of a faff to self publish. So why not?

The main "Why not" is that it takes time to get things right, and I don't really want the thing to cost me money. Well, not a lot of money. And suffering the humiliation of no one at all buying a set of rules from a generally unknown wargames writer.

Still, vanity is a terrible thing.

And then I was asked to run a session at the Society of Ancients conference. So I dragged out "To Ur is Human" and decided that it might be suitable. Of course, as previously covered on this blog, I felt I needed to make some changes to the combat system. And tighten up some of the wording. Oh, what the hell. Why not just work them up for publication? After all I'm going to end up printing out a half dozen copies or so and collate them at home. Why not get Amazon to do that. And then I can charge people £5 for a souvenir.

So that's what I'm doing.

Wish me luck.

Or go to Amazon and buy a copy, when it's released.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Phil Brought Infantry

We did a bit of PBI this week. Phil brought along his Desert War Italians and French. Dave was learning the game, and Chris K was there, in need of a bit of a refresher.

CK & I were the Italians. Dave got the French. Phil's forces are always nicely themed with a lot of interesting stuff, often scratch built or heavily converted. I don't know where he finds the patience.

I didn't really take a lot of pictures or follow a narrative. This is what I got:

Phil is steadily modifying PBI 2006 to make it more acceptable both to himself and his audience. The pre-game has gone and there are changes to activation and some of the weapon effectiveness. And the winner points system. For this game CK and I had to attack, and all players had to build up a story of what they were trying to achievce so they could win a matrix argument at the end

My Italians occupied a cactus field and rescued two maidens.

Chris drove up and parked next to the Radio Station. He got out but couldn't occupy it in the same turn. That enabled Dave to rush in and take control amidst a hail of mostly ineffective fire.

Our "iron fist" looked quite impressive. Not quite the same when in action.

We then had a supply drop that fell both near the French and mostly in impassable terrain.

The firefight round the Radio Station got quite fruity. It was steadily sucking Dave's troops into a killing ground (like Blenheim nearly 250 years earlier). At least that's what we're claiming.

Boom! A hit on our armoured car from an HMG disables it.

The French then got some air support. It missed.

But I did manage to blow up a bren carrier thingy with an anti-tank gun on it.

And loads of other stuff happened. All very confusing, but quite a bit of fun.

We're having another go in a fortnight.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Making some Err-Urs

After the last game of "To Ur" I decided to make some changes. I wanted to get away from saving rolls, if I could, and make some other minor changes to areas where the game had some loose ends and illogicalities. As it turned out I hadn't exactly broken the system, but I did blunt the effectiveness of some units to produce fewer casualties in combat. This isn't necessarily a problem for the overall game design concept, as the central mechanism is the "Fear Test", in which it is determined which unit is gaining the moral ascendancy. However, it does make things slightly less interesting for the players, so I will need to look at that again.

I had two players. Steve took the aggressors...

... and Phil took the defenders. The scenery was quite open so I could see the main mechanisms work. It was a mistake to put the trees on the flanks, and the deployments should have had the light troops screening the heavier ones.

As it was I loaded the flanks with light troops, and Phil didn't disappoint by pushing them forwards to provoke an encounter.

Steve took up the challenge and closed to javelin range.

The battle carts engaged. In response to Phil's charge Steve's lead battle cart unit came off badly from its Fear Test, and dropped back behind its supports. That meant the Support unit was slightly "mushed up", but counter-attacked none the less. Steve lost the combat, and was slightly pushed back. This wasn't too bad, however...

...his General was killed as a result, which was a less than optimal outcome for him.

He fared better in the light infantry encounter in the woods.

With the loss of his General Steve's remaining battle cart unit retired as well, leaving quite a hole in his centre.

He was able to throw a lot of light troops at the village, however, in an attempt to evict the defenders.

Phil turned his remaining cart and attacked the flank of one of Steve's units already engaged in combat. It failed a Fear Test and broke.

Steve has taken the village, and is pushing on through the woods/orchards

He has also managed to rally back one of his broken battle cart units to shore up his centre.

The game stopped there. The new modifications weren't a complete success and a number of things came up that I hadn't dealt with in in my original rules, - either that or I forgot how I'd resolved these issues in the past. Going to need to make a few changes.

I learnt a lot from this game, and I still like the way it works. The Fear Test does what I want, much to the frustration and occasional annoyance of the players. It is possible to win the combat and have your morale go down. What this represents to me is a unit becoming downhearted because although they think they're winning their opponents refuse to break. Alas for the game this happened several times, with outcomes looking a bit perverse due to the equivalent of a double 6 being rolled quite frequently. Sometimes, to paraphrase, 1 in 36 chances come up 9 times out of 10.

Still, not as bad as one of our other MNG's who lost a game recently on a dice rolling chance of 1 in about 47,000. That's tough.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

More on Small

I grabbed a few minutes between other responsibilities over the weekend to paint up the tents for Pembroke's camp on the Edgcote model, so here's a short update on the battlefield model.

The tents are all from Leven Buildings, and are a mixture of his medieval tents and Roman marching tents. I thought that the medieval tents would do as accommodation for the nobility, and the Roman ones for the peasantry. I know that the foot soldier probably slept on the ground or under a lean too made from brush wood, but these give the idea of a camp.

I'm not sure whether I've over done it for the number of tents I'm putting out. There's a big area on the top of the hill, however, and nothing else to put there. Well, I have some Baccus oxen and pack mules left over from other projects, so I'll put them in, with some random figures from the bits bag, probably.

My other dilemma is whether to base them up as well. My inclination is not to bother, as the 2mm bases will make them stand a little too proud, and might stick up a bit, given the curvature of the hill. In other circumstances I would have glued them down, but, as with the trees, I want to minimise the height and any sticky-out bits for transport purposes.

I probably need to find away to add some banners, floating over the ensemble, but which ones and how I go about doing it are yet to be decided.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Big is beautiful, but so is small

As the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society we've been taking Phil's 28mm Edgcote model round the shows this year, and we've had a load of good feed back about it. It is the third Northamptonshire battle model Phil has built, after Naseby & Northampton, both of which were done in 15mm.

We don't take all three of the models to shows with us. We could probably manage the two 15mm models, but the 28mm model is a car load on its own, without necessarily putting in the rest of the Society stand. What we tend to do, in fact, is take one model and then my 1460 game board as well, so we cover two battles.

I therefore had a think and concluded that what we needed were two other small models/game boards, one for Edgcote and one for Naseby. We could then major at shows with one of the bigger models, but cover the other two battles with smaller displays.

My first attempt was therefore to put together an Edgcote model using 6mm figures that fits on a board the size of my 1460 game, or about half of a pasting table.

I thought that I would base it off OS maps to get the contours and lay of the land right. I did this for 1460 and built it using layers of mdf. Consequently it is a bit heavy. For this one I used sheets of modelling foam. Luckily for me Hobbycraft had a sale on, and I got a big stack for next to nothing.

I scanned in an OS map, and then got to work with Serif DrawPlus. I put in a layer for each contour line, and traced it with a pen mouse. I was then able to superimpose the grid that I needed for my board, so that I could scale up the various contour layers.

Here's the work in progress. That's a base layer, with half of the first contour layer on it. Each layer was securely PVA'd in place.

Several layers in and I'm able to carve out the track of the "riviere" that the armies fought across.

The contours mount up. You can see that I put a frame round the outside to protect the board and neaten it off.

Nearly there now.

That's all the layers done. The final piece of edging frame is also gluing, being held in place by a hammer as I don't have a big enough clamp.

Next I mixed up a bucket of filler from a packet of powder, rather than use ready mix. That enabled me to smooth the contours into one another by varying the consistency of the filler. NB The vertical scale isn't correct to the ground scale, as that would have increased the depth by about twice, and I thought that would be too much. I'd have had to interpolate the line of the contours to avoid any cliff edges too, and I wasn't comfortable with that as an idea. Once it was covered I made a wide spaced tooth cardboard comb and ran it across the filler to approximate ridge and furrow field systems. Could still see the felt tip pen grid through it, however. Ooo-err.

Once that dried (and it took DAYS!!!) I painted the surface with textured paint to seal it all in and protect it, as well as give it a consistent surface. And painted the endzone and frame with gloss white paint

This took forever to dry too, but it covered up the blue grid lines.

In the meantime I did some labelling for the endzone, so that when it all dried I could get right to finishing it off. Textured paint is great, as it takes emulsion paint really well. Which is good, as that's what I use to paint all my bases and boards. The place names and the arrows are aids to explaining what happened, although they might be part of a 1460 type game eventually.

It all looked a bit green at this point.

We have a good idea of where the field systems ran in medieval times, due to an archaeological atlas produced by Glenn Foard and colleagues. I was able to overlay this onto my OS grid. I was then able to put in hedges using pipe cleaners. You can get them in black, and I dry brushed with my base green. They were buggers to glue down, however, hence the masking tape. I replicated the strip fields with different crops by buying a variety of matchpots from a DIY superstore, and painting alternating strips of colour.

Those hedges still wouldn't glue down. The most recalcitrant were weighted down with paint pots until they jolly well stuck.

I'd acquired a couple of packs of trees from Leven Buildings (which, incidentally, I can't find listed on his website) and set to work with my trust pin drill.

The trees mostly go on field junctions and on hedgerows, although there's a small plantation part way up one side. The trees are removable for ease of storage.

The figures are still being painted, but I've finished the main armies. They're Baccus 6mm, and very nice they are too. This is Redesdale's army

On the opposite hill stand Pembroke's forces. The banners are partly scanned from the Freeezywater books, but where they didn't have drawings I cheated and put the blazon description into this website rather than paint them by hand. It did most of what I wanted, but it didn't do quartering well (or I couldn't work it out), so for complicated banners I generated each quarter separately and then stuck them together in DrawPlus.

Here's Pembroke and his brother charging the rebels on the line of the stream. Each base has a label with the relevant name and heraldry. I may dispense with these, as they get in the way a bit, and they interfere with the magnetic adhesion in the storage box.

I have a bit still to do. I've painted Devon's forces, but I haven't done Redesdale's skirmishers who start off the battle. Part of Warwick's men are done (from an earlier project where they were never used), but I have to finish them, as well as Clapham's reinforcements and Gates & Parr. I've also got a bag of figures for Edward's army, complete with some little guns. Oh, and a load of tents for Pembroke's camp on the hill top.

However, I've made good progress, and I'm pleased with the look of it. It has met the design criteria, - it is fairly lightweight, easily portable, and can be set up in minutes. With some luck I'll be able to take it to a speaking engagement I have at Banbury Museum in October, or if not then at the Moulton Literary Festival in November.

Once it's done I can set about thinking about Naseby, which looks like it will present a slightly different range of problems.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

End of summer Sumerians

The first game of September went back to some older rules. Partly this was down to chronic lack of planning again, and partly because I promised the West Country Richard that I'd run a session at the SOA Conference, and this is the best set of ancient rules I've done. So time for a refresh.

Of course, having not thought things through properly I set up a game with too much terrain, too many toys and too many units in the wrong place (like all of Dave's archers opposite a wood he couldn't shoot over or through).

Steve and Richard were to the left, Dave, soon to be joined by Phil, were to the right. Only Phil had really played these rules before, and he wasn't entirely sure how they worked. Neither was I.

We commenced with some cart on cart action as neither side was prepared to back down.

Steve and Richard are looking pretty confident. This was well merited as Steve turned out to be on a demon dice rolling run.

Dave & Phil might well look concerned. Phil's carts, near the camera, are already the worse for wear, and Dave is being shot up by Richard's skirmishers.

The battle carts near the camera line up again for some more action.

Steve has been able to bring forwards some heavier foot to support his carts, driving back Phil's skirmishers.

Phil's carts have lost a base and are being driven backwards.

Another hard fighting round leaves Steve with a melee win, but his troops are a little disconcerted by their inability to see their opponents off completely.

Richard leans over and offers advice. Phil points out Steve is doing quite well enough on his own, thank you, especially as his random number cubes are dancing to his tune.

Phil has outfoxed Steve, however, and a flank attack by his skirmishers inflict hits and knock the carts off the road.

Phil is then able to charge in again, and inflict enough hits to cause a base loss. This melee then bogs down for a long, long, time.

What's going on elsewhere? Well Dave is pressing forwards, but he can't get at the troops in the woods.

Plus Richard has occupied the town, and brought up his carts in support. Steve's skirmishers have also inflicted damage on Dave's carts.

Steve is now pressing hard on his flank, but can't break Phil's carts.

There's then a big collision in the centre, as the carts, led by their respective generals can't hold back any longer.

Dave takes more hits, but imposes his authority on his opponents who are intimidated by his aggressive style.

Richard's chariots are driven back hard, tumbling towards his base line.

Back near the camera the heavy infantry are facing off. The opposing battle carts commanders discuss the relative advantages of their equids.

Richard's carts lose again, and are chased to the edge of the board. Miraculously his "Lugal" (Big Man or General) survives.

Phil's foot take a hammering. In the background Dave attacks the village.

Dave's assault is thrown back.

Steve finally prevails over Phil's last cart. It has been a long slog.

Dave is being pushed back as well.

Steve is starting to close down this flank. In his confusion, however, he orders a charge on the rear of one of his own units before Phil points out the error of his ways. Ah, we have missed this sort of thing since Ian left us.

Not concluded by any means, but Dave & Phil are out of options. Dave's victorious carts are isolated, having over reached themselves and outrunning their support. Elsewhere, it is hard to see where they might make a breakthrough.

A lot of things wrong with this game, most of which I gave above. The mechanisms have some holes, - there was obviously a thing or two that were so obvious I never wrote them down. And I've never had such a prolonged drawn melee. And we had a whole run of 1:6 dice rolls on Fear Tests, which gave some curious outcomes.

Still, it was good to be back in Mesopotamia. I love those carts.

(I wrote this two weeks ago, and forgot to post it as I was off on holiday)