Saturday, 13 August 2022

Claymore 2022: Good enough!

 Introduction

There haven't been many wargame shows over the last 3 years.  Here in Scotland, they have been slow to restart, with Carronade (Falkirk) as the only major show to happen in 2021.  This year (2022), it looks as if Claymore (Edinburgh) will be the only big show.  Oh, well - better one show than none at all.

This post is about our experiences at Claymore 2022.  It's a very personal account and as such is a record of our experiences and activities.  If you were expecting a full description of the entire show then you might be disappointed.

Travel

As usual, we had to drive some 2 hours to reach the venue.  It's not a good location for public transport, especially if one is starting from outside Edinburgh itself.  We (well, I - as the driver) did get slightly lost in north-east Edinburgh on the final approach, but this was soon corrected and only cost us a few minutes.  My excuse is that it has been several years since my last visit to Claymore and I had forgotten one of the last turns.  Oh, well - no great damage.

One difference from before was that this time we had a party of three: myself, my son A. and a friend N. from the Helensburgh games club (HAHA).

Game 1: Tank Golf!

Before we had even finished an initial tour of all the halls in which the show was taking place, we were grabbed by a group who invited us to play a quick & simple game of tank golf (?!).

The serious part of this is that during the Japanese invasion of Singapore (in World War 2), some of the fighting took place on & around a (British) golf course.  Our hosts had a wealth of information on the area.  This included pointing out which areas had now been redeveloped as a highway, where undisturbed graves were thought to be located and so on.  All very serious stuff.

Then the game: each of us was given command of a Japanese tank.  The object was to drive it from the tee to the green within the fewest possible moves.  Apparently, this hole was a par 5, so anything under 5 moves would earn bonus points.

Oh, while we were doing this, we could shoot at entrenched British infantry - and they might shoot back with Boyes anti-tank rifles and a 2pdr anti-tank gun.


4 tanks lined up, ready to start (as there were 3 of us, one vehicle wasn't used).  I had the one on the extreme left, with the white dice)

After 4 turns, I made it to the flag.  Since this was one under par, I scored a birdie.  Also, I managed to shoot one of the ATRs, scoring a bonus point.

This was a quick and simple game with a very engaged set of hosts.  The only think I would say against it is that the movement was completely random; as players we didn't really have any decisions to make (well, we chose which target to try to shoot - but that was almost irrelevant in determining the overall outcome).  It would have been nice if we could have chosen which gear to use, or the direction to head, or even whether to observe from the hatch or button up.  I think the organisers missed a trick here, though it was still a fun little diversion.

Game 2: Test of Resolve

Just before lunch (and the timing might just have affected my son's concentration ­čśä), we joined in another game.  This was set during the Wars of the Roses and played with the Test of Resolve rules (under development?  Already published?  I'm not clear on this).  Again, the organisers were very keen and incredibly thorough on their topic.

So, we played an ambush.  My son and a stranger took a column of evil Yorkist loyalists who were advancing along a road.  N. and I took 2 commands of noble Lancastrian rebels who were hiding in the nearby woods in ambush.


My Lancastrians waiting to ambush from the woods at the bottom.  Unwary Yorkists keep to the road.


The trap is sprung a bit too early, as the Yorkist scouts see me waiting.


Battle is joined!  Initially, damage seems light, but entire commands can disintegrate very suddenly.  This happened to the other part of the Lancastrian command as it charged from the far wood - though at least they did take some of the enemy with them.


Feeling somewhat desperate, with slightly inferior troops and outnumbered by about 3:2, I staked everything on a swift charge.  Miraculously, I crashed through and scattered my son's advancing Yorkists with minimal damage to myself.  That left just one enemy battle to go.  They put up a stiffer fight, but my remaining troops finally managed to rout them and the field was ours!

I feel a bit conflicted by this game:

  • On the one hand, I wanted to like it.  If nothing else, the enthusiasm and background knowledge of the presenters requires some form of reward.
  • On the other hand, the movement abilities of the troops seemed a bit stilted, morale seemed to be accounted for twice (once by individual unit status and again by a pile of tokens for each command) and the combat results seemed very unpredictable (anything from no real effect to complete disintegration - situation and troop quality seemed to play only a very minor part).
My experience was only very brief, of course - and late medieval civil war is not really one of my main  interests.  I'd suggest that anyone with a real desire to play games in this period should find out more and make up their own minds.


Eye Candy

There were some very pretty display games at the show.  This one particularly caught my eye: it's a samurai-era naval battle:

I believe that all the ship models are made by Scheltrum, though I could have misheard that.


Here's a random picture of the Sports Hall (i.e the smaller-sized part of the venue).  The larger part of the show was in the entrance hall - but I didn't take pictures of that.  The layout in both is the same: games in the middle and traders around all the sides.

Game 3: Imjin River

Once again, we found a game with a very knowledgeable and dedicated host (there seems to be a pattern here!  Although I find it odd that this state of affairs should remarkable; engaged & competent game organisers ought to be the normal state of affairs at shows).

Our final game was a recreation of the battle of Imjin River, from the Korean war.  So, Chinese hordes are sweeping over the border and are only 20 miles from Seoul.  Can the vastly-outnumbered U.N. forces (in the shape of the British Gloucestershire regiment) delay them enough for a proper defense to be organised?

This game was notable for at least two things:

  1. The terrain was superb!  The boards were topographically accurate, having been built from maps of the actual location.  I was even told that the vertical scale was correctly proportioned - this land is really rugged.
  2. The game wasn't reset for each group of players.  Rather, we picked up the situation from where it had been left by earlier players.  I was told that our finishing situation would be recorded and set up as the start point for the next show which the game would visit (Partizan?  I probably didn't remember this correctly).  The entire battle would thus play out over several sessions throughout the show season.
So, the U.N. forces have a lot of firepower (artillery and aircraft), but the Chinese have stupendous numbers of troops...


At the time we picked up the game, the Gloucesters had just received orders to pull back several of their battered companies (which had weathered intense attacks all through the previous night).


It was really scary leaving our tranches on the previous hill tops in order to run across the plains back to our supports.  Each red disk is a Chinese battalion (or regiment or something like that).  Our pale blue disks are companies.


Air power and superior command & control are great!  We didn't lose any of our units at all (though 'A' company in particular was roughly handled and had very few stands left by the end).  Note that another Chinese army is now crossing the river and heading towards the U.N. positions.

So, this was a very intense game.  From the U.N. perspective, the communist attacks felt completely relentless.  Even when we wiped out a Chinese unit there would always be another one along soon after.  I imagine that N. (who took the Chinese) must have felt frustrated, as almost all his strongest attacks melted away under the withering U.N. firepower.  But when a communist attack did make it through, when the artillery & aircraft were occupied elsewhere and the Gloucesters were in open ground, significant damage was caused.

I don't know what rules were used - whether they were commercial or home brew.  However, we all picked up the important points very quickly and they seemed to give realistic results.

The only criticism I would raise is that there were a lot of small markers for various levels of damage, ambush status and the like.  These didn't always stay with the correct stand of figures, especially when models were balanced on steep hillsides.  A better solution would have been to integrate the markers more closely with the stands, either by swapping out models for "damaged" ones, or by giving each stand magnetised markers, posts for "damage rings" or some other mechanism for recording status.

Overall, this was a very impressive and enjoyable game, about a significant historical event.


Conclusion

This last game took us up to departure time.  I haven't mentioned our wanderings around the trade stands (there was plenty of that), or a couple of visits to the Bring-and-Buy room (the first time it was absolutely mobbed; later on not quite so busy).

Travel home was easy enough, taking almost exactly 2 hours of driving.  At least we had plenty to talk about!  Overall, it was a good show for me.  One good game, two acceptable ones and a certain amount of talk and shopping.

Ah, yes - the loot:

So, in no particular order:

  • Some new sets of rules.  Not that I really intend to play them, but just because I'm curious.
  • A box of Living Dead Peasants.  These are probably destined to become Mindless in my Viking-themed undead army for SAGA: Age of Magic.
  • Matt varnish.  I use a fair amount of this stuff and courier deliveries suck, so I try to buy it in person at any shows I visit.
  • More Perry Samurai.  Although technically these are peasants, probably destined to join my scruffy force of bandits.
  • More prehistoric goodness from Stone Axe Miniatures, as supplied by Iron Gate Scenery.  This time I have a Megaloceros family (giant Irish Elk) and some goats (generic small grazers).
  • Finally, a Club biscuit - my prize for winning the Tank Golf game.

Monday, 28 February 2022

HAHA SAGA Escalation League - 5

Introduction

Over 2 years ago, the Helensburgh Alternative Hobby Association (HAHA) set out to run an escalation league for SAGA.  We managed the first two of our planned monthly meetings, in January and February 2020 - then Covid-19 struck.  Since then we have been through lockdowns, isolations and other inconveniences, but as of a few months ago we re-started our event.  This is a momentous post, because WE FINALLY COMPLETED THE LEAGUE!

For descriptions of the league rules and the five planned events, see here:

The plan was always for a climactic, every-man-for-himself battle at the end of the league.  In this, each player would field the entire 4-point SAGA warband that he (or she) had collected over the duration of the campaign.  Although we started with seven or eight players, due to the lengthy delays we only finished with four.  The others had all moved away from the area and were unable to continue participating.  I hope they are still enjoying SAGA as much as they did in the first two events, wherever they are now!


Armageddon

Usefully, the SAGA "Book of Battles" has a scenario for exactly the kind of grand, chaotic game we had envisioned: it's called "Battle Royale"!  This scenario has an alternating placement anywhere on the table.  Victory conditions revolve around Survival Points and successful charges.

We read the rules slightly incorrectly and gave the VP only for a charge which caused more casualties than were received, rather than any charge that made contact.  In the end this wouldn't have made any real difference to the results, though.


Deployment

Initial placement was quite simple: the Skraelings filled the marsh and the wood with bowmen, planning to move all their warriors onto the hill (and not appreciating that the gentle hill gave no defensive bonuses at all).  The Anglo Saxons, Normans and Crusaders mostly kept to themselves and deliberately didn't interleave with their enemies.


Fighting

Much of the action in our game revolved around the foreground hill.  Although the Skraelings climbed it, they were then sandwiched and harried by both the Crusaders' and the Anglo Saxons' elite troops.  Skraelings don't do too well when defending and their forces just melted away.


The other early action was between the Crusaders' crossbowmen and the Normans' spearmen.  The crossbows proved deadly, both at range and in melee (though by the time the melee occurred, there weren't too many spearmen left!)


Little action occurred elsewhere, except that the Norman archers' volley fire was a constant, if minor irritant to anyone in range.


Finally, the Norman knights decided that they'd find out how squishy the nearby Skraelings were.  It turns out that the swamp didn't slow down the knights enough to save the archers and yes - the Skraeling levy were exceptionally squishy.


The game ended after fierce fighting left the Crusader warlord as "King of the Hill".  He had triumphed over all opposition, including all the Skraeling warriors, their warlord, the Anglo Saxon chief and all of his hearthguard.  He did have a little help in doing this, but the Crusader lord had been all but unstoppable!


Results

For this particular battle:
  • The Crusaders scored an impressive 17 survival points.  Much of that was due to successful charges, though many of their units still existed at the end of the game - albeit sorely reduced.  For such a clear victory, they score the maximum 3 league points!
  • The Anglo Saxons and the Normans scored 11 and 12 survival points respectively.  Mostly this came down to the units they had left, rather than scoring for charges.  Decent second places, so both are awarded 2 league points.
  • The Skraelings were hammered by everyone else (though the others all swore that there was no conspiracy against them!).  They gained a mere 2 survival points for the single unit of levy hiding in the forest.  At least the league rules grant 1 league point for just showing up, so their sacrifice had some purpose...

The HAHA Escalation League Conclusion

After all the points have been added up, the standings are as follows:

January 2020
Starter for ten
February 2020
Powers of two
March 2020
October 2021
Long live the peasants!
April 2020
November 2021
Bonus round
May 2020
February 2022
Armageddon
TOTAL
Byzantines11(damaged)(absent)(retired)2
Anglo Saxons3313212
Normans121(absent)26
Jomsvikings12(retired)(retired)(retired)3
Anglo Danes3(absent)(retired)(retired)(retired)3
Skraelings123219
Crusaders221139

Congratulations are due to the Anglo Saxons, who won 3 of the 5 rounds outright and thus achieved an unassailable number of league points.  They are the champions!

It's been a long campaign, but we finally got there.  I'm immensely pleased that we completed the schedule, whilst at the same time I'm saddened that it took so long and that we lost so many participants along the way (again, not due to lack of interest, but rather because "real life" got in the way).

Would I do something like this again?  Certainly I would - like a flash!

Friday, 28 January 2022

Frostgrave: the Giant

 Introduction

Among my purchases at Carronade 2021 was a model giant; part of the Reaper "Bones" range.  I stated at the time that I intended to paint him up for use in games of Frostgrave.  Well, I finished this model a few weeks ago and have finally managed to find enough time & enthusiasm to post a quick article, so here he is!

The Frost Giant

I suppose I could have painted this model in human flesh tones - probably as a pale Caucasian rather than anything else.  However, I really wanted to mark him out as something different - a creature firmly rooted in the icy wastes.  To emphasis this, I chose a cold, pale blue for the skin and an even paler blue for his extensive beard and hair.


As a warm contrast (and to avoid iron), I used gold, brass and bronze for the metal parts of the giant's armour and weapons.  The non-metallic parts of his equipment are a dark grey.


Finally, the furs he wears around his shoulders and boots are also very pale.  I think the paint I used for the middle highlight (i.e. the one which adds most of the colour) was called "linen" or something like that.  Whatever it's name, it is a very pale brown with just the slightest hint of green in it.


So, just how "giant" is this model (I hesitate to call it a miniature, because it really isn't - at least when compared to most of my other figures)?  Well, here's a photograph of the frost giant alongside a 28mm human.

As you can see, he's maybe 2.5 or 3 times taller than a man; also this giant is very solidly built.  I'm really glad that this is a plastic (PVC?) model, as if he were metal then the figure's weight would be substantial!


Conclusion

I've wanted to have a frost giant in my collection for some time.  Well, now I've got one!  The model was relatively cheap and (I think) painted up nicely, with only a slight bend in the shaft of his axe to hint at the soft plastic material.  He'll do nicely!

Monday, 3 January 2022

Japanese pirates: Scheltrum Miniatures' Wako

 Introduction

For some years now, I have been searching for more Sengoku-era Japanese bandits with which to populate my games of Test of Honour.  Some models are available from the usual suspects (such as Perry Miniatures, Warlord Games & Footsore Miniatures), but I want more variety.

Scheltrum are a long-established model manufacturer in Scotland.  They have a wide range of figures for some fairly unusual genres - but they really don't do the internet at all.  Eventually, I managed to track down this elusive company at last year's Carronade show in Falkirk, where they had a large stall.

I was curious about Scheltrum's Wako models - feudal Japanese pirates - and so I purchased one of the several available packs.  I thought that these would be suitable for use as generic bandits.  Read on to find out whether I was right!

First Impressions

There were 8 models in the pack I had bought.  Two of these were unique and three were pairs of duplicated figures.  Six of the eight had open hands for weapons, whilst one pair of figures were moulded with exceptionally large swords.  Other than the separate weapons, the models were just a single piece.

The supplied weapons were all spears with a variety of lengths.  Some of the longer poles had attachments just below the head; I'm guessing that these were "fire lances" - primitive gunpowder weapons.

A few of the figures had noticeable amounts of flash on them, but this was easy to remove (and quite soft metal as well).

Finished Figures

It took a while to paint all my Wako.  In the end, I replaced a fair number of the weapons with spare spears and swords from another manufacturer (AW Miniatures, if I remember correctly?).  This was because I didn't wish to have my bandits armed with fire lances, even though the supplied weapons were perfectly acceptable parts in all other respects..

The entire set.  What a bunch of ruffians!


Two figures with "half helmet" (not sure how else to describe this?).  The sword (from AW Miniatures) looks a little odd, perhaps - but I didn't want to make them both into spearmen.


The pair of swordsmen from the Wako pack.  I've converted the one on the right by removing the sword and replacing it with a spear.  In my mind, these both look a bit odd, as the remaining sword is huge and the overarm spear thrust is not something I associate with Japanese/samurai fighting styles.


Two bandits with spears, headbands and partial armour.  Good, serviceable figures.


The two unique models from the pack:
The left-hand figure - with the hat - would work fine with either a spear or (as shown) a naginata.
The right-hand figure is perhaps the most generic model in the set: there's nothing about him that makes me think of Sengoku-period Japan (maybe the hair style?).

Conclusion

There is a distinct lack of information about Scheltrum's products available!  Hopefully, this article goes some small way towards fixing that.  Note that their Wako range has several other packs as well; these have greater or lesser amounts of armour, I believe.  Indeed, one model even has a Spanish-style helmet, presumably looted from some unfortunate sailor!

The style of these models is definitely a generation or two behind the best available today.  I've already mentioned a bit of flash on the castings; as well as that the figures are anatomically a bit exaggerated (the heads & hands are big, for starters).  Add to that the soft metal and it all screams "old fashioned".

Having said that, I think they are perfectly acceptable crowd-fillers.  These models will help to bulk out the back ranks of my bandit warband and add some welcome variety to such motley crews.  I will most certainly use them in my games.

Addendum

Because there seems to be some interest in contacting Scheltrum, I have scanned the part of their catalogue that has contact details.  I cannot vouch for the accuracy of any of the forms of communication printed there; all I can say is that this comes from a paper catalogue which was handed to me in person at the Carronade show in late 2021.

Note: I do know that they have (at the time of writing) no website.  There is an old website name floating around for Scheltrum, but it seems to have been abandoned for a long time.