Wednesday, 12 August 2020

More Summer Infamy & Doctor Fell

Second half of our second outdoor face to face day was some more "Infamy, Infamy". Whilst playing, I was reminded, slightly, of an old nursery rhyme/epigram:

"I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why, I cannot tell,
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell"

To be fair, it isn't a case of me not liking "II", it's just that I don't love it, or see what is so great about it. I don't dislike them. Question is, do I mind playing them again if offered? I really needed another go to be sure. This time round we played it a bit more as it should be done, with a better grasp of the rules, although not knowing all of them, still. There are a lot of rules, and (unlike in some systems) it pays to know them. This is a game where tactics are mostly driven by understanding what the rules tell you you can do. This is not a good or bad thing, it's just a thing.

We did a Romans v Britons game, with the Romans having a forage mission. We used the terrain set up system, which was not quite as painful as the instructional video made it seem.

This time round we used the Infamy deck. This is the card that Phil & I drew as the Britons. Chris had the Romans. We were still not using the entire system - for example we didn't have any Roman exploring officers - and this will have affected the outcome. To me, this was less important as I wanted to understand the movement/combat/morale system, rather than the game setting chrome. The figures and scenery are all Richard's, except for the ambush markers (like the wild boar) and the hills, which came out of Shedquarters.  Oh, and the wagon. Richard had brought one of these, and ambush markers, but they weren't painted.

You have this random arrival thing from your deployment zone. I got a unit of average warriors and some levy. I had them surge out of the village, to cover it from the legionaries sneaking round the wood. I tucked the levy out of the way in the second rank, so they gave support but could not be targeted.

Here's a better idea of the layout.

Chris had most of his stuff out. We'd passed on some deployments, hoping to be able to spring a trap. Ah Ha! It worked! Phil rushed out of a marsh with two groups of elite warriors, and caught some auxilia bowmen in the rear.

I was whipping up my fervour (the number on the white dice), as a unit of elite legionaries, lead by a level III leader (that's the best) headed for me.

Having overrun the bowmen, Phil's warriors next crashed into some auxilia foot. They had turned to face, and done some defensive thing with their shields, and braced for impact (hence the markers)

Phil did a number on them, and inflicted some damage (red dice is figure losses, green is shock).

I absorbed the first round of combat with the legionaries (no pictures), and was very lucky with the dice. That bounced them back a bit, which meant I could then shuffle my groups around and hit them again with a fresh unit. It looked a bit cheesy to me, but it might be what is intended to represent some kind of passage of lines. Chris suffered from poor dice rolls, and because his supports were slow coming up.

In the other fight Phil drove the auxilia back by enough to enable him to get a fresh unit in, and then tag his previously used unit on behind as supports. Again, either cheesy or genius, take your pick.

Final turn. Phil killed the auxilia, I killed the level III commander. I also bounced the legionaries back into the charge path of Phil's victorious warriors. That was about it.

Alas for Chris he got nowhere near his objective of sacking two out of three locations on the board. Looking at the game he never really had a chance, even taking into account how lucky I was with the dice, and Phil did nearly as well.

Having said that, Romans are really hard to kill, and a little bit of luck from Chris could easily have had us running for the hills after a round or two of combat. The "Fervour" mechanism means the barbarians need to get on with it, or their advantages evaporate. They erode pretty quickly in combat, so if the Romans can keep it together, you'll take a pasting .Which has a ring of verisimilitude about it.

So, do I like Doctor Fell now? Well, I understand the mechanisms better, and some - like the Fervour - do a good job of creating an impulse on the Britons to get stuck in. Some I was less enamoured of. It's obvious that there are bucket loads of chrome stuck on this to create period flavour, which makes for a game system you really have to learn to get the most out of it. I've been accused of writing board games because I use squares. However, in terms of how this works it's almost more like a board game than anything I've done - I'm not saying this is a bad thing, as I play board games.

We had the playsheet off the Lardy site, which is free and helped the combats move along. If we're to play it again, then we need "cheat sheets" of the tactical options for each army, and possibly to read the tactical guides they've posted up on the Lardy Blog. If I cared enough about the game.

So, I don't not like it. It's like seafood. I don't dislike it, but I don't choose it off a menu if I can have a fillet steak.

In summary:

"I don't dislike you Infamy,
It's just I think you're not for me,
The reason why I just don't know,
Don't ask me why, it's just so"

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Taiping Town Test

After the recent success of the gamezebo last month, we thought we'd have another go. As you'll note from one of the photos I've now got a printed proof of "Taiping Era", so I took this opportunity to test the town fighting rules, which needed a thorough workout, and would inevitably require reference to the rule set on numerous occasions.

What I wanted to try was typical EVA attack on a Taiping held walled village.

I even made some card buildings for the occasion.

Richard and Chris had the Ward/Burgevine era EVA, with four battalions and a similar number of batteries.

Being cocky, they rode up and deployed their guns really close (I'd given them a time limit to capture the town, to ensure the game didn't bog down), not knowing I had protected the gate with some jingals.

With the aid of some mah jong tiles they were able to see over the walls and open fire.

This gave Richard some pause for thought.

The rest of the EVA moved up.

I lined the walls with musketeers.

The front gate soon took a severe hit.

My jingals also took some damage, and dropped back out of sight.

Soon the gate and its supporting wall was rubble.

The EVA didn't attack yet, and decided to bring down even more of the walls.

I was now joined by Phil, and whilst they were dithering, he launched a sally, to try and capture one of their batteries.

He made contact, and a vicious melee ensued...

...driving him back to the walls.

The walls were crumbling along the whole front.

As the EVA stormed through the rubble at bayonet point, Phil's Wang brought up some spearmen and a jingal to throw them back.

It was tense, as the Taipings were driven back, step by step.

Elsewhere we were ready for the onslaught, too.

I was able to spring a trap on the assaulting troops, catching them in front and flank.

The EVA was bringing up their guns. This move wouldn't help them.

We were being driven back in the centre, however.

But we had got the upper hand on the left, pushing the EVA back.

We got ourselves squared up to deliver another two for one on the troops advancing down the main road.

Phil's men had given up the ghost, however, and were fleeing over the rear wall...

...just as we managed to break an EVA unit by the gate, overrunning the guns as well. We'd cut off some EVA units in the town, but at some cost. As the lunch bell beckoned, it was time to call it a day, and the EVA were forced to withdrawn in the gathering gloom.

The system works well enough for this type of game, although it isn't a dedicated set of city fight rules. I was a bit chaotic with the rules (gosh, it was HOT!! when we played), and I let Commanders do too much. I also applied the retire after combat rule incorrectly. You drop back a square, not the equivalent of one unit of measurement, which meant things should have been even more fluid.

It kept the four of us entertained for three hours, with a fair amount of tension, so I count it as a success.

Now, on to correct the proof properly.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

The Summer Wargamezebo (part 2)

After a thoroughly satisfactory game of Taiping Era, Richard was up next with the infamous "Infamy, Infamy", from TFL. Richard is a TFL fan, Phil just wants to find one of their games he likes. I'm just trying to understand why they are so popular.

Infamy, Infamy is Sharpe Practice transposed to the Roman Imperial period. I couldn't get what SP was supposed to be (other than a simulation of the laughably small reenactments that were part of the TV show), so not sure what I expect from II.

Richard had brought all the bits and his nice toys. The game doesn't play on a grid, I just didn't take the cloth off.

We had some Romans with a wagon and some Gauls with a village. We (that is the Gauls) had some ambush jump off points marked by unpainted figures.

Phil had some Romans. You get to deploy things as their tokens are drawn from a bag. Or cards turned off a deck.

I had some levy warband. They leapt out of an ambush point and stood there. I didn't quite understand the mechanism.

Then Chris got some cavalry out. He did understand the mechanisms, and launched a flank charge.

Archers taken from the flank!! Ha ha! Roll 'em up.

Or get bounced due to bad/good dice rolling.

Richard explains the niceties of moving things to Phil.

We're in the second round of moving, so my levy wheel round to take on the auxilia.

But what's this? Elite warband storm out of the woods.

Lots of dice and lots of damage, almost. Romans have heavy armour and are tough to kill.

I was then able to throw my weight in. More mayhem ensued.

We then had to pack up, as Richard had a long drive home.

Conclusions? Well, it makes sense if you ignore what units the figures are meant to represent and just get on with it. I watched one of the original II videos about how to set the game up, and was prepared to kill myself after 20 minutes of "roll these dice, put this here, roll more dice, put this here". We had a chat about terrain generation systems. On the whole I'm not a fan.

There's some fun stuff here, like the random sequence units move in, and the ability to store up extra commands whilst not knowing when the turn will end. The combat system is sort of "whatever". You roll dice and get extra ones for various reasons, make saving rolls, then record deaths and "shock". Seems to work.

As someone starting out as a rules writer and publisher, I'm impressed with the quality of production. They've been at this for a long time, so I don't know if it has improved over time, but a lot of effort has been put in here. Plus you can buy bespoke card decks and counters. I'd guess, based on the effort, that £26 is a good price. I don't know if that's print on demand, or if they've laid a stock in. I'd guess the latter, as they have a solid fan base, and know sort of how many will sell. Still, £26 is a lot more that I'd dare to charge (they charge £16 for the pdf, which is more than I'd ask for hard copies). I don't know if they make a living out of this, but the profit margin, based on my costings is sizeable. Best of luck to them. It would be good to meet up and talk to them about how they go about producing and marketing what they do.

Friday, 31 July 2020

The Summer Wargamezebo (part 1)

Lockdown has driven me a bit wargame crazy. As I observed in my last post I don't get on with solo wargaming as much as some people do. However, I noticed some light somewhere in the tunnel. This week we'd have some nice weather, and I have a large gazebo, AND some foldable tables. The latest guidance/rules allow for six people outdoors with a bit of distancing. What did the Quarterly Group think?

The Quarterly Group thought that sounded great, except for Gary who is locked down near Leicester. So, up went the gazebo, and out came the toys.

This was exceptionally good news for me, as it meant that I could get in a proper Taiping Era play test, as I've done a lot more writing than testing than usually happens. By now I should have been testing every other Tuesday night, if not more frequently, with perhaps a COW session as well. Consequently I  have lost a little of the feel for how it all hangs together.

This group have mostly played Westerners against Imperialists, or EVA against Taipings previously, so I went for Taipings against Imperialists, as that should be the core of what really works under these rules. The Taipings, outnumbered but up for it, are on the left. The Imperialists, a bit more diffident but with some Mongols prepared to mix it up are on the right. Richard (standing) and Phil took the rebels, Chris and I took the Imps. I got the wing with the Mongols.

There was a bit of shooting in the middle, by our artillery, and we managed to ding their skirmisher screen. Open order infantry can deploy across two squares. No one does this if I let the players set the toys up, so I put them out like this and left them to it.

In a blink of an eye I launched a charge against the Taiping cavalry on my wing. They immediately evaded - you can see them circled in yellow at the back, out of focus and nearly off the table. My charge got a bit raggedy, as one of my units decided not to bother, despite the imprecations of their Mandarin.

In the centre the opposing skirmishers got stuck in to one another. We had Tiger Men, so what could possibly go wrong?

Well, quite a bit, of course, as they take a hit and are forced to retire back behind our right hand main body.

Over on my flank Richard committed his cavalry reserve to stop my Mongols running riot in his rear. This enabled Phil to bring back his unit which had evaded. One of my Mongol bands took a hit from their jingal in the centre.

Richard's reserve cavalry beat my Mongols and pushed them back.

The other opposing skirmishers get into it as well. This is unimportant, as they have fulfilled their function of screening the main body from jingal and musket fire.

As the Taiping's Maio Allies (in grey) press forward they are met by the massed fire of several yings from the Firearms Division of the Banner Army. Much damage is inflicted upon them.

Over on my wing I pressed forwards with my cavalry to force a breakthrough on the flank. Phil was shifting infantry across to shore up his position should I prevail.

Chris had taken charge of the mah-jong box tile distribution.

The Fu Wang lead his reformed cavalry back in a charge on my Mongols. It held up my onslaught...

... but at the cost of his own life.

Meanwhile, Prince Li the Chung Wang was leading his men in pushing back my Mongols.

The Maio press in on the Fire Arms division. Ignore what appears to be a baguette and glass of wine in the background. I can assure you this game took place in England, not France.

My Tiger Men had been given a kicking by the Taiping sword and buckler men. So much so, in fact, I was forced to send a unit of Mongol horse to ride them down.

The first line of musketeers have taken a pasting from the rebels. Perhaps these gunpowder weapons from the West are not the future, after all?

Chris quickly points out to Richard what he has been doing wrong all this time.

Not withstanding Chris' taunts, Phil and Richard look pretty pleased with their progress.

Things suddenly aren't going well for me. Prince Li has broken one of my cavalry units, and my infantry have all suffered from musketry and jingal fire.

On Chris' flank one of his firearms yings turns and flees. The emperor will be displeased - if anyone deigns to tell him.

I do finally break a Taiping cavalry unit on my left, chasing them into the hills.

However, as you can see most of our stuff is now going backwards rather than forwards.

So, as our final unit of Tiger Men are chased off the table, it is clear that we have lost the day, and the Taiping Rebels surge on towards Peking.

A very satisfactory game and play test. It is true that we were all a bit rusty, and decision making was slower than normal. I was really rusty with the rules, despite my earlier solo game, but I think everyone ended up happy.

The massed, multiple units in squares worked well, and having less firepower than is normal when you have Western forces about made it a more close up and brutal game. Luckily for me the core system held up really well, and there were only some items of detail and clarification required. I had the full rule book on my tablet, but I have to say I prefer having a printed rule book when I need to look things up.

Enough of game one. What did Richard have for us?