Monday, 18 June 2018

Whalley Again

This evening I played through a refight of the Battle of Whalley using the Portable Wargame. I used the same troop classifications as the previous game,  but with a few changes to the setup and the rules.

Firstly I shifted the map up one row so that the Parliamentarian right flank wasn't so exposed. Secondly I started the two Royalist units facing the wall with a hit each. Finally I made two changes to the actual rules. The first one was that I used the Average line on the hit results for all troop; 1-3 the unit takes the hit, 4-6 they can retreat or take the hit. I'll discuss this below. Secondly I reflected quality by varying the number of hits a unit could take; Poor units took one less and Elite one more. This was factored into the Exhaustion Levels as well. Finally I added a small change to the initiative roll; if the score is a double, then the side which eventually gains initiative was allowed to recover one hit on a unit of their choice. I rather liked the idea of a double having an effect. Again I'll discuss this below.

So this was the setup. The fields were just for show; the key terrain consists of the villages, hills river, bridge, ford and wall.

The Royalists got a rally on the first turn, removing the initial hit from their rather poor dragoons. After a brief exchange of fire at the wall, the Royalist troops fell back across the stream to await reinforcements.

On the other flank the horse of both sides met at the stream.

The Royalists pushed forward boldly, since their troops had the edge in terms of quality.

They were forced back, though. Both sides lost a unit, but the Parliamentarian horse was better supported. Parliament pushed forward against the retreating Royalist foot and horse.

The Royalists best foot unit was badly mauled in the attack, and sought shelter in a village on their side of the stream. But the rest of the Royalist army stabilised their position, and with the pressure mounting, the parliamentarians fell back to the safety of the walls. The Royalists followed up.

The clubmen attacked an elite parliamentarian foot regiment in the flank. This was a bold move that rapidly came unstuck, as the regiment simply turned and shot the hapless peasants down. next time theyll learn to attack with support.

Despite their lack of quality, the Parliamentarian horse drove forward with panache, and eventually routed the other unit of Royalist horse. This pushed the Royalists over the Exhaustion Point, stopping their attack.

The Royalists started to fall back to their side of the stream, but Parliament pressed them hard.

The Royalist dragoons were routed at the ford (far distance in this picture) and at that point I decided that the day belonged to Parliament.

This was a fun game, with a real to and fro to the action; the Royalists were pushed back at first, rallied and went on the offensive, but were then driven back again. Their best foot unit was savagely mauled early on, and they never got a chance to recover it, whilst their horse were totally outfought.

But let's discuss the changes to the rules. Firstly the change to the way units take hits. The current method does work. Poor units are more likely to take hits whilst better units have the option to avoid them by falling back. But  I found that this method didn't really feel right when one side was defending a position. In this case a retreat really isn't an option, so the effect of quality is almost irrelevant. One option was to add results which forced a retreat, making it more likely for Poor units to receive it. But I couldn't quite work out how to build it into the table in a way that made sense. But the rules themselves include an option for changing the number of hits a unit could take. Combined with the retreat rules this makes Elite units rather too good; an extra hit and less chance of taking hits in the first place. But with all units getting stand and take a hit or retreat equally, then the extra hit a unit was allowed makes a difference. It didn't seem to adversely affect this game, and I'll try it again in some more I think.

The second change simply makes use of doubles for the initiative roll. I should say that I don't like wasted rolls, where you simply roll again until you get a result.. One option was to automatically give the initiative to whichever side didn't have it in the previous round. But I opted for the rallying off of a single hit instead, as it seems more dramatic. One downside is that it doesn't connect too well with the Exhaustion Point rules, as a side opposing one which has reached its Exhaustion Point, and which can't take offensive action, could simply pull back and recover all hits before going in again. Maybe playing games to a turn limit would mitigate this. I think I'll try that in future games. A final thought on the rallying is to go back to the original system where a side reaches its Exhaustion Point based simply on hits taken, rather than units lost. With rallying this allows a side to possibly recover from exhaustion, but there's still the danger that a good run of combats along a line of battle could break a side very early on in a game. This was, in fact, the reason I shifted to basing things on lost units.

Anyway, plenty of ideas to explore, which means more games I guess.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Battle of Whalley

With one thing and another it's been a while since I set up a miniatures game at home, so I thought I'd make an effort this weekend. I felt the urge to have a go at a Portable Wargame, so I got out my paper ECW armies again, and played through a scenario based on this scenario for the 1643 Battle of Whalley.

I used an 8x8 grid, with forces as follows:


1 x Commander (Colonel Shuttleworth)
1 x Elite Pike & Shot (Shuttleworth's Foot)
1 x Average Pike & Shot (Brereton's Foot)
1 x Average Dragoons
2 x Poor Gallopers


1 x Commander (Earl of Derby)
1 x Average Pike & Shot (Molyneux's Foot)
1 x Elite Pike & Shot (Tyldesley's Foot)
1 x Raw Pike & Shot (Fylde's Clubmen) - This unit cannot fire and starts with a Strength of 3
1 x Average Trotters (Derby's Horse)
1 x Average Gallopers (Houghton's Horse)

This is an encounter and the scenario starts with both sides partially inactive and the Royalists especially at a disadvantage, surprised by the sudden appearance of Parliamentarian foot from behind  a stone wall to their front. I started with this setup; Royalist foot and dragoons facing Parliametarian foot behind a wall, whilst the bulk of the Royalists were back towards their baseline.

I gave the two Parliamentarian units behind the wall a free shot, and then started the first turn. However on the first turn, only the four units nearest the wall could activate. On Turn 2 all Parliamentarian units could activate as normal. Royalist units had to dice, and were available on a 1-3. On Turn 3 all units on both sides move and activate normally.

The initial Parliamentarian surprise didn't seem to impress the Royalists much; the Royalists simply fell back so that they could regroup with the rest of their force.

The Parliamentarian horse moved forward.

They crossed the stream, and were engaged by their Royalist counterparts.

Meanwhile the Royalist foot formed up on their side of the stream, ready to take the fight to the Parliamentarians ensconced behind the wall.

The advanced, with the dragoons and clubmen swinging around the flank.

Meanwhile more Royalist foot had driven Parliament's dragoons back away from the farm covering their army's left flank.

The Royalist dragoons finished them off.

The cavalry action was also going the Royalists' way; one unit of Parliamentarian horse routed ...

... and then the other.

This now left the Parliamentarian foot holding off the Royalists. They held out for a while, but there was little they could do.

A Royalist push saw one of the units break, ending the battle.

The Royalists had a few units that had taken hits, but didn't lose any.

Once again I ran the Exhaustion Point based on units lost, not just hits inflicted, and whilst I counted a Commander as 6SP for calculating Exhaustion, loss of a Commander didn't count towards the break-point.

If I ran the battle again I think I would simply start both of the units in front of the wall with a strength point lost, and then proceed with Turn 1 from there. Also Parliament's right flank was probably too open, making it very easy for the Royalists to turn it, so a slight shift in the map might work. However the rules gave a perfectly fine game, and that's what's important. It felt good to be pushing lead around on a Saturday afternoon, even if the lead is paper.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Maurice Campaign - Round 2

JohnP and I finally managed to get together an play our outstanding Maurice campaign game last night. It was a cobbled together affair; John doesn't own an army, but uses figures borrowed from Caesar. Caesar couldn't make it, so dropped off the figures at my place during the afternoon. Neither of us own a deck of cards, so Peter provided those. And I have a fast turnaround on a Thursday evening these days, and am prone to forgetting things. Which, in this case, meant my army list and my phone. I managed to reconstruct my list (and the casualties from the previous game) from memory, and John obligingly took a few photos on his phone.

Still, on with the game.

The war didn't end after the first round, something both I (The Electorate of Haapasaard-Skando) and John (The Irish mercenaries of Cearbhall's Cataphracts) had hoped for. Both of our armies had mauled each other badly in their first encounter, and consisted mostly of conscript troops. The old enemies faced each other the plains of En y Bold, with the Irish defending this time.

As I said above, there aren't many photos. John concentrated his force on his left flank, where the objective was, so I massed my cavalry, put them in column and swung them around his right, with my Cossacks lurking in some woods. The infantry were to pin the Irish from the front. 

It was a good plan. John responded by bringing his heavily outnumbered cavalry over, and most of the photos are of that getting a thorough beating. 

One Irish unit did break through the Swedish cavalry line, but the Cossacks dealt with it. Unfortunately this cost me time and cards, and I ended up badly coordinating my strong cavalry presence with the infantry, who were now too far back from the battle to be useful.

In a bold move, John pulled his infantry right back, turning it to face the Swedish horse, and their musketry steadily annihilated them. My attention was focused on pushing the infantry up in support, whilst replenishing my cards which had been depleted by the cavalry action. As my cavalry slowly disappeared the Swedish infantry engaged first the Irish artillery and then their infantry rearguard. The damage was done though; the two wings of the Swedish army were too far apart to support each other, and casualties were mounting quickly. The Cossacks attacked an exposed Irish infantry flank, but two charges failed to break the line. One round of shooting saw the Swedes pull back; the Irish failed to inflict any serious casualties, whilst the Swedes routed the centre of the Irish infantry line and came close to breaking one of the Guard units as well. Both armies were teetering on the brink, but it was the Irish who broke one more Swedish cavalry unit to win the battle.

Neither army saw much in the way of post-battle promotions. In fact the Swedes saw nothing. But this battle saw the Ottoman/Swedish/Austrian alliance sue for peace, ending the first war. This means, I believe, that all of our conscript troops (the bulk of the Swedish army now) get to be trained for the next battle.

It was unfortunate that I hadn't brought my phone; there were three other games on the go whist John and I were playing. Dave and Geoff played HOTT, Peter and Ralph played Black Powder Napoleonics with 15mm figures and, finally, Ian and Gary had another go with the WRG 1685-1845 rules (another Napoleonics game)

Monday, 11 June 2018

Fairy Tale In My Pocket

Fairy Tale In My Pocket is a re-skin of Zombie In My Pocket, although it does change the rules around a little bit as well. In this game the you are a hero in a fairy-tale kingdom. The Princess is about to marry the Prince. Except only you know the truth; the Princess has been replaced by an evil impostor, and the real Princess is under an enchantment, asleep in a hidden cottage in the forest. You must find the Princess, wake her with a magic rose from the rose-garden then travel with her back to the kingdom and present her at the castle before the wedding takes place at sunset. Easy.

The mechanisms are the same as ZimP - you move from tile to tile in the first area (in this case the Forest), and on each draw a card to see what you encounter. When the card deck runs out you reshuffle it and time advances. The game runs  for three passes through the deck. You start at a lake, and must find the Rose garden and Cottage tiles in order to wake the Princess. Then you must find and/or travel to the Forest/kingdom Path tiles, enter the Kingdom and find the castle where you can stop the wedding.

Here's the game set up. The art is charming, although I think the location tiles are a little murky and hard to read.

Here I am on my quest. I used a spare 15mm figure as a marker.

I found the rose fairly quickly, and even managed to acquire a shield. One change in this game is that you don't just stumble across items; you encounter a peddler instead, who has a random selection of items for you to purchase. The game adds a Gold attribute which you use to buy the items. Gold can be gained by opting to help people in some of the encounters (which costs you time).

Here's the end of the first stage of the game; I had awoken the Princess (who joins you and adds to your combat score), acquired a cat wearing boots (another increase in my combat score) and even helped Snow White find the cottage of the seven dwarves (for a generous cash reward). And I was now on the path out of the forest and into the Kingdom with a reasonable amount of time to spare.

A good first game. I walked straight into the castle and stopped the wedding before the second deck had ended.

My second game went less well. I wandered the forest for ages finding both the path out and the sleeping Princess, but unable to track down the Rose Garden, which was at the bottom of the deck. Fortunately I started the game with some Seven league Boots - you start with one of three magical items - which meant that I could teleport to any other tile on the board.

I used the boots to get me back to the Cottage and wake the Princess, but then we spent forever crossing the Kingdom, ad failed to get to the castle before the wedding took place. Like the Rose Garden, it was also at the bottom of the deck.

So, one win and one loss.

This is a fun little game; the look of it instantly gives it a different feel to the Zombie version, and the slight rule changes add to the character and make for some slightly different decisions. I do like games that re-skin like this; it allows you to enjoy a game for the mechanisms whilst setting it in a background in which you can have an investment. BGG has a number of versions, ranging from the original Zombie setup, to Aliens, this Fairy Tale one, and even one where you are a paratrooper knocking out a German bunker on D-Day. They're all worth a look.

Did I say the art was charming?

Friday, 8 June 2018


I played HOTT last night for the first time in what seems like ages. Just a couple of games, but they really hit the spot in what's been a bit of a rough, stressful week.

Peter was my opponent in both games, and went for the 'Try a Dragon' option in both of them.

In the first game I used Prester John, attacking Daenerys Targaryen's ex-slaves and mercenaries. And dragons. Peter ended up with a couple of woods in his deployment area, which made his setup and command quite tricky.

The cream of both armies was on one flank. I attacked; knights and elephants led the assault, whilst wild warriors rushed to secure the woods.

The battle swung back and forth, but the Targaryen army got the worst of it, with mobs of freed slaves being cut down in the woods, and Prester John's knights riding down the Dothraki and the Unsullied. Then the dragons arrived.

Unfortunately they were too late to turn the tide of battle; another charge by the knights saw Daenerys's bodyguard cut down, forcing her to mount a dragon and abandon what was left of her army.

A rare win for Prester John (who actually took no part in the fighting).

In the second game Peter decided to give my Hawaiians a try. They are a tricky army, that only start with 14AP on the table - a total of six elements. The rest of the army consists of a god, a dragon and some lurkers, so the army relies on luck to get the best troops into play. I used my Fishmen - a force of spears supported by artillery, missile troops and a mighty sea-troll.

The core of the Hawaiian army - spears backed up by their hero king. In the woods are the rank and file warriors, classed as warband.

Pele the volcano goddess put in an early appearance. She watched the battle for a couple of turns, then got bored and went away.

The Fishmen closed on the Hawaiian centre whilst their missile-troops engaged the warband in the woods.

The Fishmen had dragged their artillery right across the battlefield, ready to take a pop at the Hawaiian general. Just as they got it into position the Mo'o (dragon) appeared and destroyed it.

The climax of the battle. The Mo'o attacked the flank of the Fishman army, whilst their troll attacked the Hawaiian stronghold. The troll died, but the spears held, and eventually ground down the Hawaiian troops to pick up a win.

Also on show last night was an AWI game put on by Ian, featuring 25mm figures and using the old WRG 1685-1845 rules.

American troops tried to hold a hamlet full of supplies against marauding British and Loyalist troops somewhere in South Carolina.

There were plenty of players, who were apparently obliged to communicate with each other by courier. Eventually the British prevailed in what looked like a very entertaining game.

Sunday, 3 June 2018


Last week I downloaded another print and play solo game - Desolate - but I only put it together in order to play it yesterday. It's a trickier one to assemble than Zombie In My Pocket because the backs of the cards are useful for identifying the decks, and double-sided cards are harder to do (or I find them so).

Anyway, in Desolate you are the pilot of a spaceship which has crashed on a small moon with an abandoned research station on it. You enter the research station looking for power cells with which to charge up the shuttle in which you can escape. You have limited oxygen, so are working against the clock. Oh, and the station is swarming with hostile alien life-forms. You're armed, but your ammo is limited. Good luck.

Exploring the station is done by turning over Exploration cards, which can either be an area of the station (like a storage area, sickbay and so on) or an alien attack. The areas allow you to pick up objects - medi-kits, more ammo, oxygen and (in the engineering section) the vital power cells you need to escape. You need five such cells. Each time you burn through the deck you expend oxygen, shuffle it, and continue exploring.

Conflict is quick and simple. Each alien attack has a strength which is determined partially from the card itself and partially from a randomly drawn Conflict card. These cards also dictate how much damage the alien attacks to to you, and each attack automatically hits you first; these aliens always get the drop on you. You decided how much ammo to expend, and roll 1D6 per unit expended. If your total beats that of the aliens, then you kill them, otherwise they take damage and you fight another round. If you defeat an alien then you get a reward in the form of extra ammo, oxygen or health.

The game runs very smoothly and is fairly entertaining. It's all about managing your limited resources, and risking whether to grab more of one resource hoping to replenish another in the next chamber. However either I'm playing it wrong, or it's not actually that difficult to beat. As in, I've played five games, and found the five power-cells in all of them. Yes, you get a 'score' based on how much health, ammo and oxygen you have left, but part of the fun with games like this is the fact that they are a challenge to beat. I haven't found it so yet. yes, in one game I ran out of ammo and had to beat an alien to death with my fists, nearly dying in the process, but I was one cell of winning at that stage, and found it in the next draw. It was close, but not too close.

I shall give it some more tries and see if I can spot where I'm going wrong or, I hope, lose a few games and be sure that my victories were a fluke.

The files for the print and play are HERE

Update: I played three more games. In the first I won it, but was on my last health point. I lost the other two - killed by aliens in the first and ran out of oxygen in the second ;)
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