Sunday, 4 December 2016

Batrep: Robin Hood and the Forest Road

Introduction

The Sheriff's men, plus assorted rich merchants, churchmen and ladies

England, 1193.  The King, Richard I, has vanished overseas whilst returning from his crusade and his brother, Prince John, has seized power.  Normans lord it over Saxons, peasants are opposed to the nobility, taxes, corruption and general dishonesty run rife and the land is in turmoil.  In these dangerous times, merchants and clergy have begged for protection from the authorities whilst travelling through the more dangerous parts of the land.

Deep in Sherwood forest, the Sheriff of Nottingham and his ally Guy of Gisborne are escorting such a caravan along an overgrown track.  As they reach a small bridge over a stream, the knight at the rear of the party notices that there isn't a sound coming from the trees - even the birds have stopped singing.  His wariness almost pays off; he shouts "AMBUSH!" just as green-clad figures swarm from the undergrowth on both sides.


The Scenario


I've adapted a scenario from the Song of Arthur and Merlin rulebook (part of the Song of Blades and Heroes series, though both are separate, standalone games).  This started off as a cattle raid, but I've substituted rich civilians for the cattle and changed the mechanics of how they move somewhat.  See what you think:

The Outlaws

The outlaws are split into 2 groups of about 300 points value each:
  • Robin Hood and 7 (?) archers are in the trees to the north.
  • Little John, Friar Tuck and 7 (?) archers are south of the track.

The Normans

The authorities are also split into 2 commands of 300 points.  Note that we removed the Rabble trait from the Sheriff's men-at-arms.  In previous games this attribute made them exceptionally brittle; they died or ran away very quickly.  They're still not great fighters, but not quite so easy to kill:
  • The Sheriff of Nottingham, Yorik the jester, 1 minor knight (dressed in black), 4 crossbows/archers and 4 men-at-arms are at the front of the caravan.
  • Sir Guy of Gisborne, 3 minor knights and 9 (?) men-at-arms are at the rear of the party.

Special Rules

  • Neither side wishes to injure the civilians (they are too valuable!), so these models may not be targeted or injured in any way.  Equally, the civilians are frozen with fear; they will not undertake any movement or other action of their own volition.
  • A combatant from either force can move a civilian: if the combatant is in base contact with a civilian and the civilian is not in contact with an enemy combatant then both models may be moved together.  Whilst doing this the combatant's move is reduced by 1 step to represent the extra effort of dragging the civilian, pleading with them or whatever else it takes to motivate them!  So, if a model normally moves 'M' then he/she/it will move 'S' whilst accompanying a civilian.

Setup

  • The authorities and 10 civilians are deployed in the centre of the table.
  • The outlaws enter from 2 opposing sides of the table.

Victory Conditions

  • 1 victory point is gained for each 50 points of enemy who are killed or flee [note that this is a maximum of 12vp since the combined forces of the enemy amount to 600 points.  To gain the full 12vp, the enemy would have to be completely obliterated, though...]
  • Each civilian is worth 3vp, but only if they can be escorted off the table.  For the authorities, this has to be off either the edge where the path enters the table (i.e. where they have come from) or the opposite edge where the path leaves the table (where they are heading).  The outlaws use the other 2 table edges (where they deployed) instead.  Since there are 10 civilians, this gives a maximum of 30vp, easily outweighing the victory points which might be accrued for slaughter.

The Game


Initially, all sides moved somewhat sluggishly.  Little John and his men advanced cautiously; Guy of Gisborne moved to confront him.  From the other side of the stream, Robin Hood's men were even slower off the mark, though Robin did open the score by shooting down one of the men-at-arms.

The Sheriff directed his crossbowmen to harass the approaching outlaws, whilst he escorted the Bishop of Lichfield to safety.  His leadership skills seemed to be working quite well this game, as the exchange of missiles was probably in the Norman's favour.



Despite the lack of close support from his own men, Guy went steaming straight towards the biggest, meanest-looking outlaw he could see.  Initially, the fighting was inconclusive, though; Little John and the other outlaw forced Guy to step back.



Over the next few turns, the men-at-arms started to shepherd the civilians towards safety, though Guy's and the Sheriff's commands chose to go in different directions!  The Sheriff realised that his soldiers were struggling without his leadership so he abandoned the bishop and returned to give them directions.

His commands were so successful that Robin Hood was first distracted by Yorick (the jester) and then knocked down and assaulted by the black knight and various others of the Sheriff's men.  The nearby outlaws were slow to respond and for a while, Robin seemed to be in real trouble.

At the other end of the table, Friar Tuck finally puffed into sight, only to be confronted immediately by the yellow knight.



With one stroke, the knight beheaded the portly friar [gruesome kill!].  Not many outlaws were nearby, but those that were mostly blanched with fear and stepped back a few yards.  Little John used the distraction to dodge past Sir Guy and head towards the civilians [in other words, he failed 1 die of his 3 dice morale test and therefore ran 1 move away from the grisly sight; Guy didn't manage to stop him with a free strike at the big man's back!]



Little John's initial charge bowled over one of the men-at-arms in the central group - but he was hotly pursued by Sir Guy.  When the knight caught up, it was the outlaw who was outnumbered and knocked to the ground.



Elsewhere, things were going somewhat better for the outlaws.  Robin's men rushed through the trees to his aid and turned the odds against his attackers.



Two of the Sheriff's crossbowmen managed to seize one of the outlaws.  "Hold him tight, lads!" said the Sheriff, as he drew a long dagger from under his robe.  He stepped forwards, wielding the weapon and snarling "This is the price for your banditry, outlaw scum!".


...and that's all I have time for this evening!  Parental duties call and I have to go & fix a kid's computer.  I'll put up Part 2 as soon as I can (it'll probably be a few days, though).  In the meantime:
  • Will the Sheriff kill any of his own men for cowardice (he has done this in every previous game we've played)?
  • How will Robin fare against the dual threat of Yorick the Jester and the Black Knight?
  • What exactly does Sir Guy have against Little John?  He does seem rather fixated on pursuing the big outlaw.
  • Who will "rescue" more of the civilians; the authorities or the outlaws?

Sunday, 27 November 2016

TTCombat: the Construction Office

Introduction

This has been a fairly busy weekend, with a full day's gaming on Saturday (2 exciting battle reports to come, in due course!) and my daughter's Christmas Dance Show on Sunday afternoon.  Consequently, I've not had much time to put together a blog article for today.  Still, here's a short discussion of a piece of MDF terrain that I was given for my birthday.

The Construction Office


This model is a "Construction Office" from TTCombat.  It looks very much as if it's intended to be the office for a construction site or a builder's yard - some form of Portakabin or other prefabricated building and is described as "Great...to use with...28-35mm wargames".  Very useful; I can think of many scenarios involving modern or even sci-fi scenarios where such a hut could be used.



The kit costs a mere £3.95 and (like other TTCombat kits I've built) is extremely easy to assemble into a very sturdy model.  The parts are relatively few in number and fit together very well indeed.  Although there is no interior detail in this hut, the roof can be left unglued to provide access so that you can decorate it yourself, if desired.  Excellent!


So why haven't I painted it yet?


As soon as I had finished gluing the parts of the hut together, I felt that something was wrong.  The building was fine in itself, but it just seems too big!  I placed a fairly average-sized 28mm figure alongside the Construction Office and my suspicions were confirmed.


Captain Haddock cannot see through the door window, even though he's mounted on a base that gives him an extra 4mm or so of height.
 My measurements confirm that the overall height of the hut is 3" (75mm), whilst the door alone is 2" (50mm).  If we assume that a Portakabin door is about 6' 6"" (2m) tall then the model door is at 1:40th scale.  This is almost half as big again as it should be for my 1:56th scale/28mm models.

So, this lovely, cheap model of a prefab building is so far out of the scale of my figures that I won't be able to use it.  It would work well for 42mm figures, though!  Or maybe 35mm models at a pinch, if they had fairly thick bases on the figures and you weren't too fussy.



Here's a last, slightly flippant thought.  I borrowed a Lego minifigure from one of my children for a few minutes, just to take this photo.  The hut is quite a good fit for him...

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Let it Snow...

Introduction

Earlier this year, I completed some stepped pyramids as scenery for my games.  So far, they've been used exactly once in an arid setting (Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Venus), but hopefully that will change soon.

Even at the time I made them, I intended the pyramids to be used in multiple different types of terrain, such as in frozen wastelands and steaming jungles.  However, the bare masonry wouldn't look quite right anywhere other than a desert, would it?


Snowdrifts


Fortunately, I still had a large number of offcuts of the blue polystyrene from when the pyramids were built.  Even better, the edges of these scraps were already cut to the same angle as the sloping sides of the models.



It was a simple matter to take my hot wire cutter to the fragments of polystyrene and sculpt them into irregular shapes.  I cut the ends on some of them square so that they could fit against the staircases; the remainder were rounded off all along their lengths.



Once the pieces were cut to size, they were painted white, with a little fine sand added to the paint for texture.  This took rather longer than cutting the pieces out, as I needed several coats of paint and had to wait for each one to dry before applying the next.  Still, it wasn't exactly an onerous task!


Conclusion

Although I haven't used them in a game yet, I think these add-ons should hold in position fairly well.  They are very light, but there's still quite a lot of friction between them and the main building so I don't think they'll be knocked out of position too easily.

The white drifts will allow me to use the pyramids in a snow-and-ice setting.  I'm wondering now if I could do something in this line for jungle?  I could use similar offcuts and paint them brown, then cover them with vegetation.  To look effective, I suspect that such jungle "drifts" would need rather more effort than the piles of snow, but maybe it could work...

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Work-in-progress: the Space Fighter

Introduction

This starfighter is my son's model, completed as the kit intended but then somewhat broken and missing parts through careless play
Some 6 months ago, I wrote an article about my acquisition of a couple of Revell EasyKit "Jedi Starfighters" that were in perfect scale for 28mm wargaming figures: here. At the time, I couldn't decide how to finish these kits, but that doesn't mean I haven't made any progress since!

Work-in-Progress

I've built one of my own two models so far.  There were some modifications made to suit my needs, as described here:


1. The "R2-D2" droid protruding from the port wing has been removed and the gap filled with green stuff.  This detail was too recognisable as coming from Star Wars...

2. I cut the wingtip panels from their "folded out" positions and glued them back into the recesses in the wings.  This left an abrupt end of detail on the very ends of the wings, so I've added some fluted cylinders instead.  These could be extra fuel tanks, engines or cannons; I really haven't decided and I'm not sure that I care!  As you can see from the picture above, these extra bits have been built from the cap and end of some expired felt tip pens.


3 holes have been drilled to take the support pegs/undercarriage
3. I want my craft to be usable for land-based games, perhaps as decorations at a space port.  For a while, I wondered how I was going to scratch build a suitable undercarriage (probably skis rather than wheels).  Then it hit me: you won't even be able to see under the craft when it's placed on a table.

Instead of anything complex, I intend to use transparent pegs (cut down from spare posts for Games Workshop flying bases) just to lift the model off the dirt.  I can always claim that it's a grav effect of some kind rather than a physical undercarriage!



So far, this first tester model has been undercoated.  I used a white primer rather than my usual grey as I thought at first I might paint it up in Star Trek Federation colours (white with a red trim). Since then, I've changed my mind: I'll probably colour it dark green and use it as a Klingon machine instead.  Or maybe Federation white would be better after all?

Aargh - I just can't make up my mind!

Sunday, 6 November 2016

28mm Terrain: The Greenhouse

Introduction

It's been quite a while since I built and showed any terrain.  Indeed, I'm not a great terrain builder - I tend to prefer to paint figures - but it is necessary for when we play games!


The Greenhouse

Here's a small piece that I finished recently:


The greenhouse kit is produced by Blotz and comes with the outer shell and 2 full-length workbenches.  I've added glazing cut from clear plastic food packaging and a base made from a scrap of MDF.



You can see some interior details through the windows.  As well as a single workbench (I felt it was too full if I used both benches from the kit), this greenhouse contains some seed trays and a large potted plant.


  Since this is a model that I've built for wargames, the greenhouse does come off its base.  As well as allowing you a much better view of the inside, there is also space to place several figures.



For the record, the seed trays are adapted from a Supreme Littleness shallow box, whilst the plant and the plant pot are cheap model railroad products from Chinese companies.


Conclusion

I'm pleased with the way this outbuilding has turned out, though I think it could do with a lot more clutter (sacks of compost, trowels or other tools, a watering can, stacks of unused flower pots and the like).  Of course, there is always a tension between realistic detail and suitability for use in games.  Too much detail and the model will be vulnerable to damage & will probably not have anywhere to place figures.  Too little detail and it won't engage the player's imaginations in the desired way.

No, the real problem here is that I cannot use this piece in isolation.  It cries out to be placed in a realistic setting.  For example, such a greenhouse might be found in the property of a serious amateur horticulturist or as part of a commercial market garden.  And I haven't thought that far ahead & don't have plans to build any of the necessary surroundings...

Monday, 31 October 2016

Battle Report: A Plague of Evil

Introduction


It's time for my annual Halloween battle report.  In other years, we've usually played Witches vs Witch Hunters, using the excellent Song of Blades and Heroes [SoBH] as the ruleset:
This year, we played our usual SoBH game, but added a twist.  Since there were 4 players, we'd have 4 warbands; as well as the regular witches and witch hunters, we introduced the Three Musketeers [except that there were 5 of them in our game] and a Plague of Rats.

Let the match commence!


The Scenario

An unholy alliance of rats and witches has descended on the small, sleepy village of Simply Bibbling in the dead of night.  Most of the villagers have fled, but a few unfortunate souls have been captured by the forces of evil.  These prisoners are being herded from the village towards the nearby dark forest; should they enter that then their fate is sealed and they'll never be seen again.

However, all is not yet lost!  2 bands of armed men are blocking the escape route.  If they can prevent the prisoners from being carried off then the witch's evil plans will be foiled, hurrah!


Special Rules

  • Each side is made up from 2 factions.  These activate independently, but can interleave their activation attempts in any order, as they see fit.  For example, the "good" side may decide to attempt an activation from the Musketeers, then from the Puritans, then from the Puritans again, then from the Musketeers.  If one faction cannot continue [because it has rolled a double failure or because it has run out of models that it can activate] then the other faction in the alliance may continue to activate its models until it finishes.  Only then does the side's turn end.
  • The evil side [Rats & Witches] starts with 3 townsfolk prisoners.  To move one of the prisoners against his will, a captor in base contact must spend 1 action "subduing" the prisoner.  Further actions from that captor in the same turn may then be used to move both captor and prisoner together.
  • If during any turn, a prisoner isn't subdued in this fashion then the opposition [i.e. the Puritans or Musketeers] may attempt to activate the prisoner themselves using Q5+.  Presumably this would be with the intent of making the prisoner run away, since they have no combat score and cannot be involved in any melee.

Victory Conditions

Very simple; this is determined entirely by the number of prisoners that are carried off by the bad guys:
  • If the evil side can move all 3 prisoners off the far side of the board then they win a major victory.
  • If 2 prisoners are moved off the board then the evil side score a minor victory.
  • If the forces of evil take only 1 prisoner into the deep, dark woods [i.e. off the other side of the board] then they suffer a minor defeat.
  • If all the prisoners are rescued, or all the evil forces are killed/flee then the evil side have a major defeat.

The Forces


Each faction has about 250 points, according to the Song of Blades and Heroes rulebook:
  • Musketeers: D'Artagnan, Porthos, Athos, Aramis (all very competent, with varying extra skills & abilities), Leroux (a points filler, not quite as competent as the other four).
  • Puritans: John Sterne (professional witchhunter), Major Fairfax (leader), Sergeant Stone (unfit & reluctant), 3 musket-men & 3 soldiers (inexperienced country boys).
  • Witches: Meg (magic-using leader), 3 hellhounds (savage critters), 4 ghouls (gangrel misfits).
  • Rats: Plague Priest (middling leader), Rat Monster (terrifying, overpowered behemoth), 3 giant rats (vicious rodents), 5 rat swarms (chittering tide of vermin).


The Game

How did our game play out?  Read on...



The first turn was mostly predictable.  The evil forces advanced slowly from the outskirts of the town, herding their captives along with them.

There was an exception, though: the rat monster caught the scent of humans and bounded off into the distance, snarling as it went [its berserk attribute meant that it had to roll all 3 dice for activation and then use all its actions to move towards the nearest enemy.  Even though it was only Q4+, it scored 3 successes and moved 3 times in a beeline for the Musketeers].

At this point, the players on the evil side were quietly amused by this; either the monster would tear some men apart and terrify the rest, or else it would tie up large numbers of enemies as they tried to surround & outnumber the ogre to even the odds.  Either way, it would mean that the rest of our forces could just saunter past the melee and vanish into the dark forest with our prizes!



The rat ogre continued its canter towards the men with another 3 successful actions in its next turn.  Worryingly, it didn't quite reach them (it was about 0.5" short) and the Musketeers swarmed the monster before it could catch its breath.  Even with 4:1 numbers against it, the rat ogre wasn't to be taken lightly, or so I thought.  However, Leroux managed to trip the creature up; it ended flat on its back and therefore lost its berserk status.

The remainder of the evil forces tried to pick up the pace, but ended rather spread out as certain models just refused to move at a decent speed.  In particular, the witch ordered all 3 hellhounds to attack the Puritans, but only one of them sauntered forwards.  The other 2 beasts skulked at the back and wouldn't do as they were told.



The Puritans then spent the best part of 2 turns pouring shot after shot towards the one hellhound which had advanced towards them.  Although the creature was knocked over, most of the firing resulted in just a lot of noise and smoke.  Throughout this, the witch cursed and swore at her other minions, but none of them would move up to assist the endangered hound [the witches warband is becoming somewhat infamous for the number of failed activation rolls it makes, I fear].



The musketeers continued to fence with the huge rat creature.  Even outnumbered, its formidable combat rating of 6 [C5, +1 for being huge vs man-sided opponents] should still have given it quite an advantage.  However, the musketeers barely worked up a sweat; Porthos ran his sword through the monster's heart and it dropped to the ground, dead.  [What?!  How did that happen?  Porthos attacked it; he rolled a '6' and the rat ogre rolled a '1' - the only result that would kill the tough creature outright rather than wounding it]



This, of course, freed up the musketeers.  They now came pouring forwards to threaten the scattered and dismayed forces of evil.

Almost unnoticed, the seething swarm of normal-sized rats was carrying one of the prisoners away, with none of the men in any good position to stop them from escaping.



Whilst a few of the Puritans made a half-hearted attempt to catch the river of rats on the flank, the musketeers swept onwards, into the ghouls.  The men slaughtered 2 of them [Porthos strikes again!]; the other 2 ghouls fled for their lives, leaving one very relieved little boy prisoner to be rescued by the Frenchmen.



Then, the musketeers and the Puritans joined forces to attack the remnants of the witch's warband from both sides.  The giant rats made a noble (?!) effort to impede them - for one brief moment they threatened to take John Sterne down - but there were just too many Puritans and the rodents were outnumbered and overwhelmed.

Meg was forced to release her captive in order to defend herself, but to no avail.  She was cornered by a common soldier, thus allowing Porthos (him again!) to cut her down.  Seeing her fall, the 2 remaining hellhounds fled.

We called the game at this point.  Although the rat priest had been skulking about in the background all game, there was no realistic prospect that he could take on the rampant forces of men to recapture even 1 of the prisoners.  I suspect he blended into the shadows and slunk away quietly...


Conclusion

Well, that was another fairly disastrous outing for the witches!  We (Steve & I, representing the forces of evil) didn't even cause a single casualty to the combined forces of men.  I'm not sure that we won even one combat roll!

In my games, it's becoming quite common for the witches to be hammered; mainly due to recalcitrant underlings who just won't do what they are told.  I'm seriously considering switching allegiance to the forces of good.



Still, all was not lost.  One of the three prisoners was carried off the board on a tidal wave of rats; the men failed to stop us from this.  Consequently, we only suffered a minor defeat, despite the casualty figures.  Remember you victory conditions, kids!


Saturday, 29 October 2016

Zomtober 2016, Week 5

<==  Week 4 is this way

Introduction

I can hear you all thinking "Wait a minute - it's still Saturday.  Zomtober posts are traditionally made on each Sunday in the month".  True, but there's nothing in the rules (such as they are) to say that it can't be done earlier than Sunday, as long as it's each week.  Anyway, I've got a Halloween battle report to come on the 31st, so I wanted a bit of a gap between that and this post.

This will be the last of my zombie/survivor duels for 2016, so make the most of it.  After all, it's not every October that has 5 Zomtober Sundays (err, Saturdays) in it!


The Duel


Today's confrontation is between Matt and Big Momma Zombie (BMZ).  As you can see in the picture above, he is creeping up behind her, with a spade raised and ready to strike!

I usually pose my "duels" with both models facing each other.  However, when I took this pair to be varnished, I just happened to place them down on the spray turntable with her facing away from him.  I decided that I liked the way this looked; it gives quite a different angle to the story!



BMZ is from Studio Miniatures' Zombie Mob 002.  There's not really a lot of detail to paint on this model, just flesh and nightgown/slip.  I attempted to make her clothing slightly translucent, just to try out a new technique.  However, I don't think it quite worked out; the nightgown looks like a dirty white instead.  Which is OK for a zombie, but not really what I had intended.

To add a little colour to an otherwise very drab model, I painted a little tattoo on BMZ's right shoulder.  It's possibly a little too bright & solid, though?  I also added quite a bit of detail to the newspaper at her feet.  I wonder if anyone can guess which (UK) publication I used as a pattern?



Matt is one of Offensive Miniatures' street kid/young rioter models.  He's been fixed to a Basius II base, but is otherwise unconverted.  I've tried to decorate his clothing with the various stripes, slogans and logos that such a young thug might well wear in real life; this probably makes him a bit more interesting than if he was dressed in a plain-coloured top and plain trousers.



OK, here's the important bit: who wins?  Matt clearly intends an attack; presumably BMZ is blocking his path or his access to some resource.  Although maybe Matt just feels like shovel practice - you never can tell with barely-educated street kids?  He looks determined enough, but is he strong enough to inflict fatal damage in one blow (and skillful enough?  I think I might use the edge of the blade to hit the zombie, rather than the flat part)?



If Matt doesn't fell BMZ with a single strike then he might be in trouble.  If she turns and grabs for him then he'll have difficulty breaking free - just look at the size of her hands!  And I don't think she'll have any qualms about eating him either; I'm pretty sure that not all the blood on the gown is her own!