Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Sort of Bayonets & Ideology

For reasons I won't go into here I left organising the regular weekly game a bit late. As I was casting round for something to put on quickly, my eyes fell on RFCM's "BAIT", the PBI version for the Spanish Civil War.

Since we last did a game at this level I've acquired a load of extra Spanish buildings from Bob Cordery. What an excellent opportunity to make use of them.

In this scenario (I don't use the pre-game shennanigans in BAIT) several platoons of militia (1 Anarchist, 2 Communist) were tasked with seizing a small town. Once done, this would be consolidated by the Asaltos from the neighbouring large town. The town itself was protected by some Guardia Civilia, who could call on a Falange section and, if really needed, a small regular army force from a nearby barracks.

To add some more spice the Anarchist commander had to seize the bank, on the Town Square and pinch the gold stored there, whilst the Communists needed to capture the Town Hall with all the land records and burn them.

Dave was the Communists, and started with a broad approach. He was soon under fire from the Police.

In the ensuing fire-fight, both sides took casualties.

Tim was the Anarchists, and took a more direct approach by storming up the road in his armoured trucks.

Dave then followed up with his second platoon,

They worked their way into the buildings, taking fire as they went.

Ah. Yes. The long establishing shot I forgot to take at the start of the game. Key buildings are to the left of the Town Square

The fighting on the far side of the board gets more intense.

Tim gets out of his trucks, but without enough APs to assault the buildings. A fire fight breaks out

Tim is now pinned down from all sides of the Square. He's starting to take casualties but without inflicting any in return.

Soon his platoon is broken, and heads off the table.

Dave is now pinned down in the orchard.

The Guardia launch an assault...

... and EVERYONE dies.

Meanwhile the Falangists have marched into town, flag waving, and occupied the bank.

One of Dave's platoons is now broken, and the other is pretty badly trashed. The Asaltos have arrived, but seeing that the town is still firmly held, decide not to intervene. Game over.

So, a big win for the Nationalists, helped probably by the inexperience of the Republican players and some lethal dice rolling on both sides. It gave an intense game which everyone enjoyed and I probably need to bring this back more often, so players know what they should be doing.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Back to Newark

It's August, so it must be time for Partizan again.

We didn't have anything new, except that the rules system for running Edgcote is getting a bit more intuitive. We were lucky to have Paul M assist us, as it's a hard day, given our amount of display space and the large game. In fact the game is sufficiently large that we had to take two cars, as my estate car is still in the repair shop.

We had a steady traffic throughout the day, without ever being really heavy. I recognised a lot of faces as Partizan regulars, so as we're not really showing anything new they don't tend to stop.

Norman stayed a while to take the weight of his feet, however. And played 1460. And had a thoroughly wretched time. He managed to get Edward of March, Richard Neville & Fauconberg killed, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Wars of the Roses? What Wars of the Roses???

I did a quick turn round the hall to pick up some stuff and eye the games. I liked the idea of this Bay of Pigs game.The guys were enjoying themselves. They even had an SU 100 like this one below:

This is the one Fidel Castro used to shoot at the US ships off shore. He supposedly sank one with it.

I asked them if it was Fidels' tank. The bloke said "Dunno, It's my brothers". If he was playing Raul Castro I guess that's the right answer, but I'm not so sure that's what he meant. Still, nice to see something different in terms of subject, although the source books I could make out at the end of the table mainly seemed to be Western and not Cuban. What it has done is inspire me to have another look at the whole operation. I thought I could do something with my AK47 Republic forces when I got back from my Cuban trip, and I still think that's possible.

This game was about rioting in Trumpton. Nice idea, but the figures used didn't look like the figures we all remember so fondly (although I didn't see Pippin Fort turn out, so I may be partly wrong), and if you're going to do this sort of thing, you need to get the look right.

Across the way from us was a big pirate game. Aaaarrr! And all that sort of stuff.

We had 28mm Edgcote as our game, which was slightly offset from our main run of tables.

We do have an impressive array of banners when we have them all out at once.

Phil & Paul got to run the game through once with a member of the public, and got a Rebel win. We get a few people to stop and chat, but the layout we're forced to have at Newark means our resources in terms of people can't be easily shared between the show stand and the game. Especially when you factor in comfort breaks, tea & coffee runs and the odd bit of retail support. And we really could do with more volunteers to do an hour or two. It has been a long time since I played anyone else's game at a show. It doesn't help that this clashes with the second day of the Bosworth big medieval weekend every year, as a couple of our committee members are committed to that.

Friday, 16 August 2019

It's all about me. Truly it is.

A month or two back I proof read, fact checked & commented on a book written by a Northamptonshire Battlefields Society colleague, Mike Ingram. This book, about Richard III & Bosworth, isn't an NBS publication, but is being put out by Helion.

I have railed against Helion in these pages before, and warned my colleague about the proof reading and editing. Still, he stuck with them, and I believe they have actually employed a proper editor for him, so high hopes that it would all be okay. Anyhow, writer copies arrived this week, and I picked one up. It's a nice looking book. I'm working my way through it and compared to some other Helion products it hasn't been marred by masses of typos and page setting errors (I noticed a problem with the family trees as soon as I opened it, - the Tudor wiring diagram doesn't have a title, although there's clearly space for it, and Edward V isn't highlighted like all the other kings.).

So why is it all about me? Other than a credit in the acknowledgements?

 Well, it is the first book to list my Edgcote book in the bibliography, that's why! Yes, there it is, within 6 months of publication already adding to the academic weight of a book about the Wars of the Roses.

It has also been gratifying as I read through it to pick up where suggestions I have made have been incorporated in the text (or even things removed!). What is odd to me is the thought process in what has and hasn't been included. Mike & I don't see entirely eye-to-eye on a number of Richard III issues. He, together with the President of the Richard III Society, think that Richard didn't have a hump, and if he did then no one really knew about it. And that bloke in Shakespeare's play? That's really supposed to be Robert Cecil, who was really a hump back*. I, however, do think he had a noticeable curve to his back and that lots of people knew (his armour had to be specially made). The original draft also had Richard having the throne thrust on him by people clamouring him to take over. The final description of Richard's coup is very even handed and seems to carry with it the air of paranoia or distrust that surrounded Richard as he cynically bastardised his nephews and stole the Crown.

In truth that's not really important in the context of what is really significant in this book. There's very good stuff on the way late medieval armies were raised and fought, and the European background to the campaign and battle, placing Henry Tudor's invasion in the overall context of Louis XI's scheming is ground breaking for a popular history book on his 1485 invasion.  All of that is really good, as is the analysis and description of the Battle of Bosworth itself. That makes the book a must buy if you are interested in the period at all.

* Robert Cecil really did have a curved spine and hump. He suffered from scoliosis, the same condition as Richard III. This fact is generally not used when Ricardians point to the Robert Cecil analysis.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Something Strange on the Plain

After last week's RCW skirmish, something a bit more modern. When I say "Modern", I mean retro 1970's sci fi, with a dash of Doctor Who from the classic period.

I have had the Harlequin DW figures for a lot of years, and the rule booklet too. The figures are really nice, and the rules are okay in a "roll a six to hit" kinda way. The designer does a good job of differentiating the creatures in the DW universe, but it is still mostly roll a six to hit +/-, with slightly different movement rates.

I haven't run a game with these for probably nearly 20 years, so it was good to find that past me had left some design notes and suggestions in the box for future me.

I don't ever recall using my Ice Warrior unit before, so why not this time?

Player Briefings:

Briefing – Sgt Benton
Last night there was what appeared to be a localised severe localised thunder storm over part of Salisbury Plain. This had not been forecast and came out of otherwise clear skies. Anomalies were seen on early warning radar, and early morning flyovers by RAF Westlands identified sites of  interest with unusual ground discolouration, but they were unable to get close due to interference with instrumentation arising from atmospheric conditions. 

UNIT has despatched several squads to make an initial reconnaissance of the areas of interest. You have been allocated the abandoned village of Embrary, which was used for training purposes during the Second World War. It is mostly ruins.

Your squad of 6 includes a Corporal, a radio operator and a couple of specialist grenadiers.
Your mission is to recce the area, identify any anomalies, and then report back. Should difficulties occur UNIT has a mobile response team under the command of Captain Yates that can be requested by radio.

Sgt Benton and his brave squad of men
 Briefing – Captain Yates
Last night there was what appeared to be a localised severe localised thunder storm over part of Salisbury Plain. This had not been forecast and came out of otherwise clear skies. Anomalies were seen on early warning radar, and early morning flyovers by RAF Westlands identified sites of  interest with unusual ground discolouration, but they were unable to get close due to interference with instrumentation arising from atmospheric conditions.

UNIT has despatched several squads to make an initial reconnaissance of the areas of interest. You are at a central location with a mobile response team to provide back up if needed. Needless to say there is a lot of concern that this is an off-world attack or visitation. If possible evidence of alien presence needs to be retrieved and returned to the UNIT labs for investigation.

You have a team of 6, including you, a Corporal as a driver, and four troopers in a Land Rover.

The Dashing Captain Yates and his reliable Land Rover
 Briefing  - Commander Ilyxyr
Last night the Ice Warriors started their colonisation of Earth! In order to make this too-hot planet generally habitable to the denizens of Mars the planet needs to be seeded from space by plants that will alter the atmosphere to a more Martian mix. This will also cause the temperature to drop, allowing ice to form in even the warmest of climes. Last night’s drop into a remote part of a small island was a test run before final deployment. Your mission is to determine the success of the test.

Initial indications are that only some of the drop canisters opened, so the drop from space wasn’t entirely successful. You need to find and secure the undeployed canisters and either activate them or retrieve then to stop them being investigated by the local ape-descended life forms.

You and your squad were deployed by a trans-mat device still under development. After usage it normally requires at least half a solar day to recharge before you and your team can be extracted or reinforcements sent.

Commander Ilyxyr's advance guard
As it turned out only one of my regular players could make it, so Richard got Sgt Benton, and I ran the Ice Warriors.

The ruined village of Embrary

Richard started the game with Sgt Benton, and his brave men.  All the figures have names painted on the bases. They are taken from the actors who played UNIT soldiers in the original DW series, as mostly UNIT soldiers don't get names

The Sergeant split his squad into two, sending Corporal Pike on a wide flanking manoeuvre, whilst he sneaked up the hedge line. So far, everything quiet...

...including my Camera when the battery went flat, so I switched to the camera phone.

Soon movement was seen in the ruined buildings and sonic blasts rang out. The first of Benton's men is killed by an Ice Warriors sonic blaster, fired from the building to the right. Benton returned fire with his Stirling SMG, but inflicted no obvious damage.

Pike's men likewise took a hit, but the threat was snuffed out by the simple expedient of lobbing a grenade into the building.

Benton switched his attention to the Ice Warrior in the open, and drilled him with a sustained burst from his weapon.

Pike & his squad (well, his one remaining subordinate) made their way stealthily through the ruin, avoiding any contact with the alien looking plant life. Pike machine gunned the one next to him, but inflicted no damage. He then marvelled at how resilient the Post Box was, amidst all the rubble.

Benton rushed the building, as the Ice Warrior guard lumbered out of the back door.

More Ice Warriors emerged from another ruined building

The Ice Lord reveals himself, and exhorts his minions to destroy the puny Earthlings.

Surprised by the Ice Warrior as he tries to open an alien looking crate, Sergeant Benton is laid out. He fails his saving roll, but he's a named character. Is he really dead???

Another grenade is lobbed into an Ice Warrior strong point. It kills one of the guards, but the Ice Lord is unscathed. As is the alien tech in the crates and the mysterious plant life.

At last Captain Yates arrives, in response to frantic radio messages. The Ice Warrior starts to wade through the duck pond to close with his target.

As smoke continues to spew out of the building, the Land Rover screeches to a halt.

Believing the building to be empty, Corporal Pike enters and starts to search. Ice Lord Ilyxyr sneaks up and blasts him.

Yate's Corporal from the Land Rover rushes Ilyxyr, and empties a full magazine into him at close range. He falls, riddled with holes.

The Ice Warriors start to move ponderously down the main street towards the Land Rover.

Captain Yates opens fire on the nearest Ice Warrior, and hits him. Unfortunately it keeps on coming.

Captain Yates is beaten to the ground by the wounded Ice Warrior.

Another grenade, lobbed over the house from behind the hedge. The radio operator has retrieved the grenades from the unfortunate trooper who got killed at the start of the game. One Ice Warrior is obliterated by it.

Undaunted by the explosions going off around him, an Ice Warrior continues to advance on the Land Rover.

I can't remember the exact sequence of events, but there's a big shoot out, and a grenade gets lobbed into the house, which blows up and detonates the Ice Warriors' "Fiendish Device" this time round. That disposes of the last Ice Warrior, and (unbeknownst to the UNIT player) destroys the trans-mat so they can't bring any more reinforcements.

The UNIT player now just needs to retrieve evidence of aliens for the lab with his two remaining troopers. Alas he chooses the mysterious alien plant like thing, which sort of gives off a blast of spores that renders one of his men inert.

So the last UNIT soldier bundles a dead Ice Warrior into the back of the Land Rover, and drives off.

I think he's going to need counselling, but it is the 1970s, so he'll probably just be told to get on with it.

The rules give a fun game, although there are a lot of things that make you wonder if they could be improved. It's pretty brutal too, - the humans normally only take one hit to kill, and the saving rolls for characters are either a 6 or a 5,6, so don't rest your hopes on them. In a campaign I think you might have a dead/wound/recovery roll for each figure between games, especially named characters. What makes the game, of course, are the figures and the scenario and the basic nostalgia of it all. I don't know that I'd be so invested in wargaming the modern period DW, much as I love it. There's something special about UNIT and the 1970s and those shoot outs with various aliens.

Richard enjoyed himself, so I might bring this back. I'm a bit limited on the Ice Warrior front as I deployed my full force, bar the one figure who is in a display cabinet in the dining room. All my Doctor & Companion figures are in there too. Obviously I have loads of Daleks, but they can be a bit cliched, although they do provide a good excuse to get the bazooka team out.

And I probably need more terrain. Some buildings that aren't blown up, for example. And a space ship looking thing. May be I'll have a look at Partizan this weekend. If you're coming along, stop by the History Zone and say hello.