Saturday, 15 June 2019

Glasgow: The Great Game


This weekend, the University of Glasgow plays host to one of the biggest wargames ever played.  Indeed, some have claimed that this could be the biggest game ever, though I'm not at all sure what the contenders for such a title would be and whether this game would top them all.  Anyway, here's the official website for anyone who wants to find out more: The Great Game: Waterloo Replayed.

My son and I visited as spectators; we've just returned home.  Casual visitors are allowed in the gallery that overlooks the main event, though numbers are limited and therefore they requested that visitors spend no longer than two hours.  This was enough for us anyway; we were quite tired of the heat, the noise and the sounds by the end of our time.

The Waterloo Game

So, here's a photo dump.  I've very little idea what is going on here, though I was told that the players in charge of the French are wearing blue and the guys commanding the British are in red.  Makes sense...  I don't know about those in white, though I'd hazard a guess that they were umpires.

Note that there were 3 tables, each 6 feet wide and 80 feet long.  I believe that they are conceptually meant to go end-to-end (thus forming a "front" of 240 feet), rather than having the gaps close up to create a playing area of 80 feet by 18 feet.  [Edit: the 240x6 layout is based on a conversation with another spectator who seemed plausible at the time.  However I think this opinion is probably mistaken and the correct topology is indeed the 80x18]

There were announcements occasionally, but some form of commentary and/or diary of game events would have been very useful to us observers.  If anyone is ever planning something similar to this event then I would suggest that more connection with the public would be very useful.  Tell the viewers what is happening 😃!

Rules were Black Powder, figures are 28mm.

Prussians, waiting to arrive at just the right time.

A massive French attack (top) is developing on Hougoumont farm/chateau.

The Gallery

As well as the huge game on the floor of the chamber, the gallery was filled with stands.  There were a number of demo/participation games, scale model displays, many reenactors and their kit laid out, plus representatives from the archaeologists who fund and veterans who benefit from the charity in whose name the entire event was staged.  Apparently some of the veterans at the Erskine soldiers home paint figures as a form of relaxation, even if they don't play games themselves.

Here's a selection of photos from the gallery tables:

A Viking raid participation game.  Sadly we didn't get to try this.

A very helpful reenactor from a French ligne regiment (the 21st?)

Model from the archaeologist's exhibition.

"Muskets and Tomahawks", hosted by Flags of War using his own beautifully-painted figures.
We did play this game: my Government troops raced my son's Jacobites to find some hidden treasure.  This picture was taken just before a volley from my redcoats almost wiped out the highlanders.

On the other side of the table, 2 groups of my son's Régiment écossais decimated a column of redcoats.  However, they were too gentlemanly to fire on my lone hero as he questioned a couple of women about the hidden treasure. 

In the race to find the gold behind a rocky outcrop, the redcoat officer just beat the Jacobite leader.  Having recovered the treasure, I reckon that he would immediately seek ship to Barbados and live the rest of his life in luxury.  Or he could give it all to King George... 

A rather nice Bolt Action table from Warlord Games.  Interestingly, it contained a Stug III (out of shot) and a British Mk IV (male) - so I'm not really sure whether it was WWI or WWII.  The host was too busy to ask, so I never found out...


This was very different from any other wargaming event I've attended.  It's been quite well publicised and I know that at least one news organisation (the BBC) was in attendance.  I suspect that most of the media attention will go on the great game itself (i.e. Waterloo).

We did our duty as spectators and watched what was happening on the main floor.  However I think that as non-participants we actually had more fun in the gallery by talking to reenactors, looking at exhibitions and playing demo games.

Finally, anyone who filled out a show feedback form was given a copy of the Black Powder rules (1st edition).  Since I already have the subtly different 2nd edition I declined, but my son accepted this offer with glee!

The Great Game continues for the rest of the weekend, so if you can get to Glasgow for a couple of hours tomorrow then I would recommend it.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Congo: Mungo Mah Lobeh, Game 4


It's taken me a month to get round to writing up this game.  I can still remember the overall result, but I have probably forgotten many of the details.  Still, I have the full set of pictures, so I'll just try to spin the best yarn I can from those, filling in the blanks where necessary...

OK, game 4 in our Congo campaign is set in a forest.  Both columns are exhausted and are searching for parts of 2 mysterious statues (one obsidian/black and one jade/green).  Each statue is split into 3 parts which are scattered around the table.  Victory conditions are weighted towards the side which collects the larger number of pieces, with a hefty bonus for gathering all three parts of either the jade or the obsidian statue.  Note that my painting for these statues was a bit rushed and so the bits of the jade statue are a lot darker than I had intended.  They look almost black and are easily mistaken for bits of the obsidian statue.

Mary Kingsley's "White Man" column.  The pre-game exhaustion rolls resulted in all of the 5 units taking a stress token and two of them suffering a casualty as well.  Harsh...

Ujuwa's "Forest Tribe" force.  Only 3 of his 6 units suffered from exhaustion and only 1 of those lost a man.  Must be some tough guys.

The Game

Both columns advanced and easily picked up one nearby piece of statue.  The only real difference at this point was that Mary's forces moved a bit more recklessly, covering more ground but picking up some stress tokens (or at least, not rallying from those inflicted by the pre-game exhaustion).  Ujuwa's tribesmen were a bit more circumspect.

The first significant event of the game occurred when one of the Ruga Ruga picked up a lost item...

Realising too late that he had touched a forbidden totem, the man screamed and screamed.  His cries of horror unsettled everyone within earshot.  [That is to say, pretty much all of Mary's groups suffered a Terror stress token, apart from the Ruga Ruga themselves - who drew a red Panic token].

Moving on in the thick jungle, Mary's ascaris suddenly realised that they were marching parallel to - and close to - Ujuwa's warriors.  They opened fire and felled one of their opponents, but the tribesmen threw assegais back and knocked out 2 ascaris in return.  Then, both sides vanished back into the vegetation.

By mid-game, both columns had become very strung out and scattered, though there was relatively little contact between them.  From memory, each side had collected 2 statue parts at this point.

Just as Mary's advance guide (hired young warriors) collected another piece of statue, Ujuwa cast a successful ritual.  Monkey poo was thrown at the men by a bunch of treetop primates, but it did little more than annoy them.

Mary's warriors now had 2 pieces of the black statue, whilst another group [the Ruga Ruga?] had a green piece.  While it was unfortunate that these 3 pieces weren't all the same colour [as it would have scored a lot more!], at least holding these would prevent Ujuwa from collecting a matched set as well.

As they left a dense thicket, the Ruga Ruga caught a glimpse of the witch doctor through a gap in the forest.  He was casting his evil spells on their friends, so they immediately opened fire on the group of tribesmen.  Only one hit was scored, but when we rolled for casualties it was Ujuwa himself who took the bullet.  That'll put a dent in his plans!

Meanwhile, Mary's hired warriors were having a busy time!  Firstly, they fought off - and killed - a leopard which ambushed them...

...and then they were assaulted by some of Ujuwa's warriors, led by a chieftain.  Mary's men were slightly outclassed, but they fought off the attackers, killing 2 and forcing the others to retreat.

When the dust settled, the victors realised that the tribesmen had left behind a piece of the onyx statue behind.  Mary was ecstatic, as this now gave her three matching parts - indeed, they were all held now by this single group of hired warriors.  Ujuwa was correspondingly despondent: he was wounded and this lost skirmish was very costly.

Elsewhere, more tribal warriors fought Mary's soldiers to mutual exhaustion.  The soldiers were almost [but not quite] wiped out, losing their Doctor along the way.  This game was very hard on named characters...

Back at the main event - and with only 1 turn left in the game - Ujuwa's last 2 warriors [in that area, at least] made a last-ditch attack on Mary's tribesmen.  They were outnumbered quite considerably and the odds didn't look good, but the amount of loot to be gained was almost certainly game-winning and so the risk was taken.

In a stunning upset, both of Ujuwa's men felled their opponents, whilst Mary's disorganised warriors failed to make any impact.  They fled precipitately, leaving the jubilant tribesmen in possession of all three parts of the black/onyx status as well as a rather fine leopard skin.


As the turn limit ran out, there was no possibility of Mary recapturing the onyx statue.  That meant Ujuwa had won a crushing victory, with 4 [or was it 5?] pieces of the statues in his possession against Mary's 1.  The witch doctor also had the loot [leopard skin] and had knocked out Mary's doctor.  Against this, he was injured himself and had lost his chieftain.  Truly this game was rough on named characters!

In many ways, it was a somewhat unusual game.  There was relatively little fighting, as both sides were too interested in cajoling their flagging troops into moving faster and further in the race to the most distant objectives.  When there were clashes, they were mostly side shows with little real impact on the overall result.  In the end, only the fight for the 3 parts of the onyx statue had any real significance: winning this would determine the game's winner conclusively!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Carronade 2019 - Everyone's a winner!


It's the start of the show season, at least for me!  In early May the Carronade show occurs, run by the Falkirk and District Wargames Club (FWDC).

This year, as last year (see here for 2018), it was a fine spring day.  My son A. and I caught an early train from Helensburgh to Falkirk and walked from the destination station to the high school where the show is held.  There we met up with my friend Steve and waited outside with many others until the doors were opened at about 10:00.

As always with my show reports, this article is not an attempt to document everything that was happening, but rather it is a personal account of what we did on the day.  I'll leave it for others to provide a full photo dump.

Here's the bottom line: it's a large show which was very busy in the morning and rather quieter in the afternoon.  We were there from the first opening until packing up time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  So, what did we do?  We played some games, did some (well, quite a lot of) shopping and marvelled at some boards, all mixed up throughout the day.

The Huge Diorama

Pretty much the first thing that we encountered was a gigantic fantasy pirate setup.  From memory, the table was 18 feet by 6 feet (!) and it was an incredible display.  There were many, many little details; we kept coming back to see how many more we could spot.  For example, my son noticed a woman taking a bath in the upstairs of one of the buildings; he told me not to look.

It would be impossible to remember everything about this display, but here are some of the things I remember:
  • a native fleet of outrigger canoes
  • sea monsters
  • a volcano
  • a colonial fort
  • cursed pirate ships
  • poison jungle frogs
  • dinosaurs
  • a torture room
  • a flying ship (!)
  • the ruins of lost cities
  • ...

Here are a few of the better pictures I took of this display:

Game 1:

After our encounter with the pirate table, we found ourselves playing a quick-n-simple Monty Python and the Holy Grail game using the range of figures from Studio Miniatures.  There was relatively little to this game - just a series of branching paths which led to different encounters - and the only player choice was to go forwards (in a random direction) or to retreat to a previous junction, but it was fun!  Anyone who knows and loves the film will instantly recognise all of the events.

I chose to play the brave Sir Robin, while A. played Sir Lancelot and Steve (who joined in slightly later, having been caught up in a discussion at another table) took Sir Bors (?).  Each of us progressed through various encounters, usually moving forwards but occasionally having to go back to the start.

Eventually, Sir Robin met the white rabbit - but this was OK as the monks had previously given me the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and I defeated the little bugger.  Following this, Sir Robin drove off the taunting guards and was the first knight to reach the castle...

...where he found the Holy Grail (which I got to keep and take home.  It's very nice).  So, I won my very first game of the day!

The Factory Ruins

Another display caught my attention; this was a 28mm rendition of Stalingrad or some similar WWII battle.  My interest here was in the model-making, as I've been looking for inspiration on how to complete my own ruins (for Frostgrave, mind).  Well, this table certainly did have ruins!  Here are a couple of pictures, for reference:

Game 2: Pod Racing

A little while later, we came across a group who were hosting a pod-racing game.  This used the Gaslands rules (from Osprey).  As I understood it, there were no special adaptations for the Star Wars setting, other than the natives who would occasionally shoot at passing racers.

There were 5 players; the three of us and a couple of strangers.  Our hosts explained that the race was a (fairly) simple figure-of-eight, passing through 4 gates to mark our passage.  Oh - we were all armed and could shoot at each other as soon as we had passed the initial gate...

So, we all set off and quickly got the hang of the very nicely-made perspex movement templates.  Some of us chose to go one way around the central rock formation towards gate 2, whilst others chose a different route.

Shooting was generally savagely effective.  By the time the leader (Steve) reached Gate 2, two of us (me and another guy) had succumbed to gunfire.  I did at least reach the second gate, if only just!

Shortly after that, Steve was wiped out, leaving just the other stranger and A.  Even that didn't last long, as A. managed to swerve through gate 2 and shoot the remaining opponent out of the sky.  Our hosts gave us each a die to take away.  As victor A. got 2 dice and a small packet of Haribo sweets.

Weapons fire in Gaslands does seem enormously powerful; even the best of us barely made it around 1/3 of the track.  We were told that in Gaslands terms, the weapons being used in this particular scenario were actually quite middling in power.  Hmm...

Game 3: G.I. Joe

After lunch, we entered our 3rd game of the day.  This was a skirmish with the forces of Cobra versus G.I.Joe and friends, using the Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes rules.

My son and I took the bad guys, at least in part because I wanted to control the tank and the Cobra commander (who, in cloak and helmet, bore a passing resemblance to Darth Vader).  We had 2 vehicles, a few characters and many minions; opposing us were about half a dozen goody-goody heroes and a jeep/dune buggy.

Early on, A.'s white-clad ninja type scaled the walls of an office or warehouse to look for a minor objective (the red die).

Meanwhile, I sent my forces surging forwards, partly to attempt a major objective (the orange dice) and partly to try to pin down the Joes with my tank and my squad's firepower.  Unfortunately for me, my minions failed repeatedly to climb onto the gantry which held the nearest orange die - and my commander was lurking too far in the rear to be of much assistance.

For several turns, I had been needling the enemy dune buggy with rockets from my squad's missile launcher.  Suddenly it surged forward and ran down almost all of my troopers - not very sporting, I thought!  Considerably annoyed, I spent a couple of turns shooting it with my tank, finally finishing off the vehicle by ramming it.

Meanwhile, the sole trooper from my doomed squad who had managed to get near the orange die/objective was pinned down by fire from the heroes.

Here's a fun thing: one of the Cobra characters was an infiltrator whose disguises were so good that he could replace any enemy figure.  We chose the moment when 2 of the G.I.s were attempting to claim a major objective in one of the further buildings.  My man revealed himself to be one of the pair and caused consternation to the remaining enemy.  For several turns, they (and another G.I. who joined in from nearby) squabbled and fought until, sadly, my character was defeated.  However, he had delayed the opposition considerably in their pursuit of objectives.

We weren't prepared to let the good guys take the objective easily, though.  When they finished off our spy, A. opened fire on the building with his Stinger rocket truck.  He blew off the entire top floor, thoroughly destroying the objective in the process.  Sadly (for us), the 2 G.I. heroes in the building managed to leap clear at the last moment.

Despite our best efforts, the G.I. Joes managed to claim the last of the 3 minor objectives near their start line in the next turn, thus winning the game.  We (Cobra) had only claimed 1 minor objective, though it was almost certain that we would have scored the 2 remaining majors within one or two more turns.  Ah, well - it was a fun game, even if we lost (and I did kill that irritating Striker buggy).

Game 4: The Hunt for the White Stag

For our final game of the afternoon, we decided to go hunting.  The setting is somewhere in the British Isles, the time is around 800 AD, so it's the "Dark Ages".  Each hunting party (there were 5 players) consists of the main guy (or gal) plus an archer and either a spearman or a dog handler:
  • The spearman gives an extra attack in melee
  • The archer enables the group to make a ranged attack
  • The dog gives a bonus when searching a rough area to flush out prey.

It's amazing how the hunters just vanished into the landscape after a turn or two!

Various wildlife was discovered; some of it was quite aggressive, though everyone other than myself did manage to kill at least something.  Even the bears and wild boars (which should have been quite dangerous) seemed tame; they all rolled really poorly and no hunters were injured.

This stag looked genuinely shocked when it was attacked by most of the hunters all at the same time.

I thought I'd found the motherlode when I came across this many deer - but they all escaped my attempts to slaughter them.  My guys really couldn't hit anything in this game!

Finally, I stumbled across a family of wild boar and managed to kill one of them.  This seemed to enrage the other adult; it gored two of my men in quick succession.  These were the only casualties suffered by any of the hunting parties, despite the other players encountering far more wildlife than I did!

Finally, the whole point of the game - the white stag - appeared.  Our host spent several minutes telling us that the player to kill this animal would win the game, or we would all lose if it escaped.  He also made a point of explaining how it was harder to kill than the other creatures, and more dangerous too.

On the turn that it appeared, Steve was the only player with any hunters in range.  His archer shot at the white stag and immediately threw the double-six required to slay it.  It was a very abrupt end, but none of us begrudged Steve his win; we'd all enjoyed both the premise and the mechanics of this game.


Finally, it's common to show pictures of loot acquired at a show - and who am I to go against this custom?  I went a bit overboard this time, I think.  Here's as much of it as I can remember:
  • Perry Muslims (for my SAGA Saracens): mounted commanders and some Greek-fire-throwers.
  • Muslim SAGA dice.
  • The SAGA Age of Magic supplement.  I'm not necessarily planning a big venture in this direction, but the rules are full of interesting ideas.
  • Some more Azanti warriors for my growing "African Kingdoms" column (for Congo).
  • 3 undead/zombie cheerleaders
  • A few more Nightfolk, from Northumbrian Tin Soldier.
  • Some bargain-price Dice Masters; both a new starter set and an assortment of boosters.
  • A couple of resin swamp/march pieces.  Nothing I couldn't make myself from MDF and filler, but they were relatively cheap and it will save me the time and effort.
  • The Games Workshop Tau skimmers are for my son, A.
  • Forbidden Sky.  I've enjoyed the earlier games in this series; we'll see if this one lives up to expectations.
  • Spray varnish.  I always buy this at shows if I can; courier fees for home delivery are outrageous (and the regular postal service won't deliver aerosol cans any more).
  • Our winnings from games: 3 dice from pod racing (2 for A. and 1 for me), plus my Holy Grail.
Too much?


Last thoughts?  This was a good show, with enough choice of public participation games (we didn't run out of things to try during the day) and some nice displays.  We were there from before opening time until the dying moments when exhibitors started to pack up.  Possibly I spent too much money, though I doubt that the traders at the show would agree with me!

The return journey on the train was straightforward and fairly quick, though we were hot from the walk to the station and this was less than ideal (not the train company's fault, of course).  I'm pretty sure I slept for at least some of the ride...