Tuesday 31 October 2017

Batrep: The Witches' Revenge


Fore several years, I've played an annual Halloween game.  Usually, this has involved witches and has been gamed with the marvellous "Song of Blades and Heroes" rules.  Here are some of our previous efforts:
So far, the record for the forces of darkness in these games has been poor.  I'd even go further and say that they have performed dismally!

This year I've made some changes to the attributes for both sides, but especially for the witches and their minions, hoping to make them a bit more cost-effective.  In particular, I've removed Flying from the witches and added a sorely-needed Leader instead.  Also I've toned the ghouls down a bit by removing the Savage attribute to make them a bit cheaper.  Can the evil-doers win a game?  Read on to find out...

The Scenario

We decided to repeat the scenario that I created for The Flames of Justice: one witch has been captured and is about to be burned at the stake.  It's up to the other two sisters of the coven to rescue her before the Puritans can light the bonfire!

One adjustment was made to the setup rules for this scenario: we decided that any attackers with Swarm or Stealth attributes. or which was designated as a Ghost, could set up without being limited by proximity to a defender - as long as they were placed in or touching a piece of terrain.  This would represent them having infiltrated the town ahead of the battle and then appearing suddenly from under a hedgerow, through a wall or similar.

Forces were slightly larger than the previous time we played this game: each side had 2 commands.  There were 3 players; Steve took all the evil-doers and my son A. and I each took half of the humans.  Roughly speaking, these were the forces:
  • Witches: 2 witches, 2 hell hounds, several ghouls, 1 ghost.
  • Ratmen: 1 leader, several dog-sized rats, 5 swarms and 1 gigantic, berserk rat monster.
  • The Colonel's Men: Colonel Brandon, Sir Jasper (the magistrate), Sergeant Stone, several musket-men and several other soldiers.
  • The Witch Hunter's Posse: John Sterne (the witch hunter), Brother Matthew (the mad monk), Major Fairfax, several musketeers and several swordsmen.

From the other perspective: The rat monster contemplates an apparently-deserted village street, with just the pyre in the distance.

The Game

Fairly predictably, the combined forces of evil (witches and rats) advanced.  They were very successful with activation rolls and even managed to assault the nearest defenders.

In return, most of the men just stood around, bewildered at the sudden onslaught.  A notable exception to this: Sir Jasper, the magistrate, lit the pyre.

On turn two, most of the men again held their positions; their leaders were all engaged in combat and the ordinary foot soldiers weren't going to move without specific instructions, or so it seemed.

One dog-sized rat was shot by a musketeer (so, first blood to the humans!), but otherwise Colonel Brandon was hard pressed by a hell hound and a pack of ghouls.

In a most unlikely turn of events, the captive witch on the pyre caught fire and blazed brightly; within a moment she was consumed by the flames and killed!  [What?  That happened in our last game too!  On the first possible turn where the fire might injure the captive, we rolled a 6:1 split on the dice.
  • Witch: combat score of 2 + roll of 1 for a total of 3
  • Fire: combat score of 1 + roll of 6 for a total of 7.
Fire doubles witch, so witch dies].

At this point, the men have technically won the game as the captive cannot be rescued alive.  We decided to play on anyway - and I made a mental note to revise the victory conditions for this scenario.

Before the soldiers could celebrate, a horrendous rat monster charged through the smoke, grabbed the nearest man and smashed him to the ground.  Major Fairfax and his immediate group were sandwiched between various rat swarms, giant rats and the black-robed rat priest.  One swordsman perished immediately; the rest of the band were forced to fight back-to-back against the seething horde of rodents.

Their desperate plight was saved when Major Fairfax fired his pistol into the sea of grey bodies.  He must have loaded the weapon with some special ammunition in anticipation of such a foe, for he caused a gruesome kill on a section of the rat swarm, causing the rest of the rat tide to part like the red sea and scatter in several directions.

On the other side of the bonfire, the rat monster flattened the next man to stand in front of it.  Only John Sterne (the witch hunter) now stood in its way.

Colonel Brandon was harried backwards by hell hounds; only his skillful direction of his horse enabled him to stay in one piece.

His retreat was covered, in part at least, by Sergeant Stone.  The portly NCO held his ground as if rooted to the spot; neither the hell hounds nor the ghouls could move him or penetrate his armour and cause him injury.

The rat monster tore through John Sterne as if he was of no more consequence than any of the other men.  In desperation, Colonel Brandon broke off from his fight with the hell hounds and faced the gigantic creature.  At least being mounted, he could strike at it without being disadvantaged by inferior height.

Taking advantage of the scattering of the rat swarms, Brother Matthew charged up to the plague priest, screaming some very unholy imprecations.  He swung his staff so hard that the rat-man's skull was shattered and its brains splashed over the cobbles [another gruesome kill, though not very many other rats were close enough to require a morale check].

Colonel Brandon survived his initial encounter with the rat monster, but then decided to withdraw and seek reinforcements [the rat ogre killed another musketeer; this took the Colonel's force below half strength and he partially failed a morale check, as did Sergeant Stone].

The monster, perhaps confused by the smoke, didn't follow the Colonel.  Instead it moved around the other side of the pyre to seek fresh prey [it was still berserk and therefore had to attack the nearest enemy.  Although it could see Sir Jasper on the other side of the bonfire, it couldn't quite reach him - yet].

Elsewhere on the field, Major Fairfax's men were hunting down the rat swarms.  Although this wasn't entirely one-sided, they did manage to kill enough to reduce the rats to half strength.

No-one really cared about the resulting morale checks for the swarms, but everything swung on what would happen to the rat monster.  Of course, it rolled a triple '6'; the huge creature's blood lust was so fierce that it didn't even notice that it was almost all that remained of the rodent force!

A collection of heroes surround the rat ogre.  From the left: Colonel Brandon, Sir Jasper, Major Fairfax, Brother Matthew.

In one desperate gamble, all the remaining men who could reach assaulted the monster at the same time.  They had basically one shot at this before the completely undamaged witches' force overran the centre of the village.

The dice were rolled, but it was only enough for a push-back - probably about the worst result possible for the men, since they hadn't (quite) managed to place figures to prevent the monster from retreating.  At least the defeat cost the rat ogre its berserk status...

After this, it was all too obvious that the humans were doomed.  The valiant Sergeant Stone, who had done so much to hold up the dark forces to the west, was surrounded by ghouls and torn limb from limb.

Once the witches and their hell hounds attacked Colonel Brandon from behind, the game was effectively over.  Rather than fight it out to the bitter end, the defenders conceded and we went off to get some lunch.


Yikes - that rat monster is an unholy terror!  It has a combat score of 5, plus 2 for being berserk (at least until the first time it is defeated), plus another 1 against opponents who are smaller than it (i.e. just about everyone).  That means the only way to defeat it is to gang up on it, ideally with 5 or 6 men at once.  In this game, we weren't able to concentrate our forces in such a manner until too late - and even then it was too little.  Contrast with the last time that we used the rat force, where the monster was killed almost immediately!

The witches handled their force competently and didn't lose even a single model, but were stymied by the often sluggish behaviour of the hell hounds (this has happened in other games too; these beasts just don't seem very biddable) and by the heroic resistance of Sergeant Stone.  He may not have landed any blows of his own, but he just couldn't be killed or pushed out of the way for much of the game.  Also note that the ghost underperformed: it drifted about the battlefield but didn't do much other than moan softly!

Finally, the captive at the stake was burnt to death.  I'm going to have to revisit the victory conditions for this scenario, as an against-the-odds, technical win for the defenders in turn two just doesn't feel right!

Sunday 29 October 2017

Zomtober 2017, Week 5

<==  This way for Week 4


Thank goodness: it's nearly over!  This is the fifth and final week of Zomtober 2017; I've really struggled to motivate myself to paint enough models this month.  Here's the final entry at least - I made it after all!

Last week, I showed a survivor who was, in my view, not dressed appropriately for the apocalypse.  This week, I have another survivor who isn't taking it seriously, though for a very different reason, I suspect...

Freya vs. Female Army Zombie

So, today's duel is between a woman called "Freya" and a model of a female soldier turned zombie ("Female Army Zombie", henceforth "FAZ").

Freya is harnessed to a flame-thrower and holding a gold cigarette lighter; it seems as if fire is very much her "thing".  At a casual glance, she appears to be dressed in a wet suit, but closer examination (especially of the placement of zips on the upper chest) suggests that it is some form of fetish wear.  This assessment is reinforced by the inclusion of pink platform boots and elbow-length gloves.

I cannot see that this is appropriate wear for any situation beyond a handful of bedrooms, let alone as survival gear for the zombie apocalypse.  The inclusion of flame weapons (which as everyone knows aren't good for anything apart from being mauled by burning zombies) suggests that Freya is - how can I put this delicately - a bit of a wacko!

FAZ is a Mantic "Plague Zombie"; I've showed at least one of these before in a Zomtober duel.  They're technically sci-fi models, though I've shaved off most of the protruding spikes and excrescences which were bursting out of the figure.  This isn't the greatest model I've ever painted and it only has a very simple paint job.  Still, FAZ should do as a "disposable" horde opponent.

In contrast, Freya is an old metal figure from Wargames Foundry's "Street Violence" range.  If I remember correctly then she was a promotional figure entitled "Hot Whacks"; I've no idea whether the model is still available or not.  It's taken me many years to paint Freya, not because she's especially difficult but rather because I had difficulty in deciding how to do the job (just what colour should a gimp suit be?)


As ever, the question is this: who wins?

Personally, I think that Freya will turn FAZ to ashes, but I'm not sure that she actually cares whether she wins or loses.  Indeed, I rather suspect that Freya intends to go out in a blaze of glory, fulfilling some half-imagined immolation fantasy in the process.  It's the first time that I've ever felt that a human in one of my duels might actually not wish to be a survivor!

Sunday 22 October 2017

Zomtober 2017, Week 4

<==  Week 3 is here


Zomtober - is that still going?  I feel as if I've been posting these articles like, forever!  Ah, well - there's no rest: here's another Sunday and so I owe my readers another zombie/survivor duel...

Danny vs Men-In-Blue Zombie

Today's pairing is between a very newly-completed survivor named Danny and a newish build of a zombified agent from the Men-in-Blue organisation.

I've hinted at my Men-In-Blue agents before in a couple of posts (one of which was a Zomtober duel some years ago between a MiB female agent and a zombie.  Sadly, I cannot remember which article and I can't be bothered to look, so if you want to know then you'll need to find it yourself :-) ).  However, I've never really explained what type of organisation MiB might be.  The truth is that I don't know myself, yet!  I've painted up 2 live agents so far, plus a zombified ex-agent - but without much of an idea as to what they do...

Men-in-Blue zombie (MiBZ) has got a gun in his right hand.  However, he doesn't appear to know how to use it.  Indeed, he seems to have only just noticed his left hand for the first time; it's clearly engaging a lot of his very limited attention.

On the other hand, Danny is dressed for a day at the beach, or maybe for a visit to Disneyland or a sports match.  His sandals, tee shirt and shorts don't suggest to me that he is particularly likely to survive zombie fighting for long.

Then again, he's picked up an assault rifle from somewhere - and he has a water bottle as well.  I've mentioned before the importance of having good access to hydration during the apocalypse, so maybe Danny isn't as helpless as he looks?  Or maybe he just got lucky with the gun and the sports bottle?

Both of these figures are out-of-the-box builds of Warlord Games plastic kits.  Danny is from the "Apocalypse Survivors: Men" set that was previously owned by Wargames Factory, whilst MiBZ is from the new-ish male zombies set.  The man is on the base which came with the kit, whilst MiBZ is mounted on a resin base from Escenorama.


The final part of each of these duels is always the same question: what happens next?

My 2c worth: they're both pretty rubbish at their jobs: MiBZ is too busy staring at the five wiggly appendages on the end of his hand and Danny, despite lucking out in obtaining a gun, just isn't prepared for the fight of his life.

All other things being equal, I think I'd give the win to the man because he has the greater intelligence and dexterity.  Even if only slightly...

Onward to Week 5 ==>

Sunday 15 October 2017

Zomtober 2017, Week 3

<== Week 2 is here


Right, I've just returned from a week's holiday in Kintyre (it was muddy!) to find that I owe another Zomtober post.  Is there no respite?

At least this time I had prepared a couple of figures in advance to present as this Sunday's zombie vs survivor duel, so that's not a problem.  Of course, there are 2 more weekends yet to come in October this year; I still have to paint up some models for them...

The Duel

This week's confrontation is between an unarmed survivor named "Lee" and "Orange Boilersuit Zombie" (OBZ).

Lee is a short, thickset man, dressed in denim dungarees and a white tee shirt with strong, thick-soled work boots.  He could be from almost any manual trade.

Judging from his actions, Lee knows a bit of Kung Fu - or at least he thinks he does.  Perhaps he is indeed an expert, but I suspect from his slightly ungainly posture that he's more of a Jackie Chan fan than the real deal.

OBZ is a straightforward zombie in a brown boilersuit; he might have been an electrician, mechanic, plumber or similar artisan when still alive.  But why is he handcuffed - and what happened to the rest of the person to whom he was thus shackled?  Also, all the skin has been torn from his face, leaving just a grinning skull.  How did that happen?

The zombie model comes from Warlord Games' male zombies frame; he's mounted on an Escenorama resin base.

Lee is from the slightly weird Golgo Island range, specifically from Character Pack 5.  These are available from East Riding Miniatures, at least in the UK.  He's on a simple, home-made base.


So, what happens next?  If Lee is smart enough or lucky enough then he'll use his steel-capped boots to crush OBZ's kneecaps.  He can then run away (or walk, indeed) without being pursued.  However, if Lee has delusions of grandeur and believes that he can emulate Chuck Norris then I fear the worst for him.  If the zombie catches him then I think it'll end badly for the man.

Of course, if Lee really is a kung fu maestro then he'll kick the cr*p out of the zombie!

This way to Week 4 ==>

Sunday 8 October 2017

Zomtober 2017, Week 2

<== Week 1 is this way


I've had to plan ahead for this article, since it's school holiday time here and some of the family (including myself) are away from home.  So if this post appears on the second Sunday of October, 2017 then I'll have set up the schedule properly for my Zomtober entry.  Otherwise you won't see it until much later and I'll be annoyed with the technology...

Ice & Snow

This zombie/survivor duel is a bit of a departure for me.  Always in the past, I've presented modern, Western figures for my Zomtober articles.  However, just this once, I have a medieval setting instead.

The story goes something like this: a lost traveller is battling his way through a snowstorm in an attempt to find shelter.  It's growing dark and the wind is howling; flurries of snow are swirling all around.  The man sees movement in his peripheral vision; is it just the wind howling or is it something more sinister?  He draws his sword hurriedly and calls out "Who goes there?"

Both of these models are official figures for Frostgrave, in case you hadn't already guessed.  The swordsman is a plastic henchman; he's the first miniature that I have completed for my "red" warband.  The "blue" warband was finished quite some time ago and can be seen here: Blue Warband.

The zombie is one of the special objectives from the Ulterior Motives expansion.  All the other objective pieces are static terrain; I described them here: Ulterior Motives.

Personally, I like the swordsman a lot.  The Frostgrave plastic kits are very adaptable and can be built into some excellent models.
I'm less certain about the zombie; the figure isn't particularly well sculpted or cast.  It's acceptable, just not a really good model.

So, who will win this fight?  On the face of it, the swordsman should be able to chop the zombie into little chunks quite easily.  But what if he's cold and tired?  His sword might slip in his chilled fingers, or his boot fail to grip on a patch of ice.

Even if he wins this encounter, he might lose all sense of direction during the melee and end up wandering until he drops from exhaustion.  And what if the zombie isn't alone; there might be further horrors lurking in the snowstorm...

This way for week 3 ==>

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Battle Report: Hail Caesar Baggage Raid


So, our second game of Hail Caesar was played last weekend.  After last time (here), we decided to avoid built-up areas for now, but we didn't want to line up equal forces for a straightforward "encounter" battle either.
I searched the Internet for suggestions and one of the first sites I found was this: https://janwillembootsblog.wordpress.com/scenarios/ .  The very first scenario in this article was titled "Crusaders raiding an Ayyubid caravan"; that sounded interesting.  It was easy enough to transpose it to 700BC to suit my 15mm armies, so we now have my Assyrians attacking a Hebrew supply train.  Since these supplies are being transported as payment for the Hebrew's Midianite allies, the Midianites have a joint interest in defeating the raiders.

The Game

We decided to use 3 divisions each, randomly selected from the 4 divisions fielded in the previous game.  For the defenders:
  • The infantry from Hezekiah's (Hebrew) Division guarded the mules, bearers and caravans of the supply convoy.  Hezekiah's chariots were off-table to the right.
  • Midianite divisions would enter as reinforcements from the left.
The attacking Assyrians had these:
  • The Nineveh infantry division was on-table from the start.  One unit was hidden down by the river and would spring the ambush; the remainder were further off.
  • The Royal division was split: the cavalry were on-table (to the right); they intended to cut off the Hebrews' path of retreat.  The royal chariots were off-table in reserve.
  • The Ashur infantry division was entirely in reserve.

The ambush was sprung!  Assyrian regulars leaped up from their hiding places amongst the river reeds and peppered the leading Hebrew unit with arrows.  They did a lot of damage, but not enough to make the defenders flee - or even to prevent them from counter-attacking.

Midianite camels were quick to aid their allies, though the rest of their forces were still some way off.  Meanwhile, 2 of the baggage units attempted to skirt around the ambushers' melee, but they were very slow-moving and didn't get far.

The rest of the Nineveh division moved forwards at great speed, no doubt desperate to relieve their compatriots and much encouraged by the prospect of so much loot with so little protection.

None of the Assyrian reserves arrived.

The rearmost baggage and its supporting infantry attempted to double back and escape that way.  Assyrian cavalry advanced rapidly to intercept them, though and it looked as if this part of the caravan might be overwhelmed in short order...

...but swift Hebrew reinforcements caught the Assyrians in the flank.  The horsemen barely had time to turn to face before the Hebrew chariots rumbled into them.  To be honest, I didn't think my cavalry had much of a chance, but amazingly even though they were thrown back in disorder, with heavy casualties, they didn't break for several turns

The second Hebrew chariot unit then attempted to catch the other, now-uncovered Assyrian cavalry in the flank as well.  Once more, the defenders only had time to turn and shoot a few arrows - but this time a lucky near miss caused the chariots to fall back in disorder.  Obviously the leader of this group of Hebrews was a court favourite rather than a warrior: I suspect that some prophet or other would be preaching sermons against decadence and nepotism amongst the nation's elite before the week was out!

Meanwhile, the baggage camels were getting away.

At the head of the convoy, the Nineveh division tore into the caravan guards and started chasing down the baggage, while Hezekiah watched helplessly from his nearby command chariot.

One fly in the ointment was that the leading Midianites were perfectly positioned to charge into the rear of the ambushers.  Astonishingly, the Assyrian regulars held their ground and even inflicted some hurt on their attackers [Maybe this isn't completely surprising, as the Midianite camels are not a particularly strong charging force.  However, they had quite a margin of superiority in this situation and might well have expected to brush the infantry aside].

Assyrian reserves entering the table this turn: none.

Unexpectedly, the camelry was so badly shaken up that they fled soon after when shot up by some Assyrian skirmishers.  However, there were many more Midianites on the horizon - and no sign at all of the Assyrian reserves.

The Nineveh division started to retreat with its captives, when finally the Ashur division arrived from reserve.  They were a long way off, though - could they reach the fight before the Midianites?

On the right-hand flank, the Hebrew chariots were still occupied in chasing down the outclassed Assyrian cavalry; a task made somewhat more urgent by the approach of the Assyrians' own chariot force.

The Hebrews planned to sandwich the last of the Assyrian cavalry between their two chariot units.  This would almost certainly have been enough to wipe them out, but the Hebrew Gibborim infantry decided to join in as well [A blunder was rolled: King Hezekiah was attempting to rally the infantry.  However they were so fired up that they decided to attack, dragging the king into the melee with them!].

Once again, the Assyrian horsemen managed to drive off one chariot unit with accurate archery, before the cavalry disintegrated under a combined rear and flank attack.

The masses of Midianite infantry advanced very sluggishly - there was even some pushing and shoving [disorder!] as units fought not to be in the lead.  Their camel riders were obviously made of sterner stuff, though: they charged forwards, saw off a unit of Assyrian territorials and claimed one of the baggage units for their own.

Before the Ashur division could wend its way through or around the broken ground to reclaim this lost loot, the Midianite general took personal charge of the baggage.  He issued a "Follow me!" order and led them rapidly off the field, leaving all the other combatants (on both sides) dumbstruck!

After this unexpected, but rather brilliant, manoeuvre it was immediately apparent that the Assyrians couldn't move fast enough to recapture the loot, so I conceded the game.


In case you have lost count, here's how it stood at the end:
  • The Hebrews spirited one baggage unit safely off the right-hand side of the table.  For a brief moment it looked as if the Assyrian cavalry might have a chance of capturing this, but it wasn't to be.  The Assyrian chariots did drive off the Hebrew chariots to avenge their fallen horsemen but this was just revenge; the baggage was long gone by that time.
  • The Nineveh division had captured 2 parts of the caravan with relative ease, but they were unsupported and could only hold on to one.
  • The Midianite commander took the third baggage unit and ran with it.  Realistically, the Ashur division wasn't likely to catch up with him this side of Jericho!
So each of the players ended up with 1/3 of the spoils.  However, since the Hebrews and Midianites were allies their combined forces won the game by 4 points to 2!

Everyone had something to grumble about.  The Assyrian reserves took forever to appear, the Midianite infantry just didn't want to move forwards and the Hebrews were fighting one and a half times their own numbers.  Yet, for all that I felt that it was a good game with a lot of narrative and you know what?  Everyone had something to cheer about too!

Sunday 1 October 2017

Zomtober 2017, Week 1


Would you believe it?  This is the 5th year running that I have participated in Zomtober (see here for rules and a list of participants).  As a quick reminder, here are my previous efforts:
"I'm not scared of you, mister!"
 As ever, my Zomtober presentation is a "duel" between a survivor and a zombie.  In this case, the survivor is a little girl named "Abbie".  I'll call her opponent "Generic Male Zombie" (GMZ for short), because I cannot think of anything particularly unusual to mark him out from the crowd.

GMZ is a plastic model from Studio Miniatures (at least, the body and arms are; I'm not certain that I didn't take the head from somewhere else).  His tee shirt has been decorated with a home made decal.  The figure is mounted on a base from Escenorama.

Abbie is a metal model and I really cannot recall where I obtained this miniature.  She has the look of a figure from Foundry Miniatures, but could just as easily be from somewhere else with a similar sculpting style.
In fact, I wasn't even aware that I had this model until I was looking through a box of part-painted figures a few weeks ago, with a view to finishing off some old projects for Zomtober.  No, I really don't remember her at all...

So, who will win the duel?  Abbie seems confident - defiant, even - but I don't think there is a remote chance that she could win a physical contest with GMZ.

Is she aware of the danger and taunting him?  Perhaps (trying to be charitable here) she is trying to lure the zombie away from another survivor who is in trouble?  Or is she really so sure of herself that she sees no danger here?  Playing "chicken" with the undead doesn't seem very sensible, but not running away if/when he lunges for her would be truly disastrous!

Week 2 is this way ==>