Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Cutting Out

I had another go at the 'Galleys & Galleons' Cutting Out scenario last night, using a similar setup as before.

I made the harbour slightly bigger, and modified the ships slightly. I dropped Derring Do from all vessels; for HMS Possum I replaced it and Shallow Draft with Carronades and Pilot, whilst for the three small pirate junks I replaced it with a bow-chaser apiece.\

This was the setup, with the pirates anchored safely in their harbour.

As before, they can't do anything until HMS Possum fires on them or initiates a boarding action. So the British warship steamed in right under their noses. Actually a fluffed activation at this point would have seen the captain pile his gunboat into the rocks.

HMS Possum moved into position and fired a devastating raking broadside at one of the pirate junks.

The pirates rushed to arms, raising anchor and maneuvering their junks into action, whilst the fort fired wildly.

HMS Possum fired another broadside at the pirate, crippling it, but raised steam, not wanting to get caught motionless by the now alerted pirates.

The pirates couldn't get into position to board, but did open fire, with no effect.

HMS Possum began to turn to starboard, hoping to run past the fort and take one of the larger merchant junks, then escape through the small channel behind the fort.

But it wasn't to be. One of the pirate junks had got the range, and a broadside holed the naval vessel.

A shot from the fort shattered HMS Possum's rudder, leaving the ship in danger of running aground. However a shot from the steamship's pivot-gun sank the crippled junk.

The captain changed course, but firing from the fort and the junk shattered HMS Possum, and it sank.

The final position. HMS Possum had sun an enemy ship for 2VP, but the pirates scored 6VP for destroying the steamship, and only lost one for their own sunk vessel, so won 5VP to 2VP.

I still don't know if it's really possible for the attacker to do this attack with gunfire alone. Maybe an attack by one or two vessels with mortars might be fun - anchor them away from the fort then bombard the pirates, scooting away when the pirates emerge to try and drive them off.. But I think the setup is designed for an attack by boats, or similar, and boarding actions.

Has anyone else tried the Cutting Out scenario? How did it go?

Friday, 15 March 2019

Gaslands In The Wilderness

We finally got enough people together last night for a game of Gaslands! We did a five-play Zombie Bash (with counters standing in for the zombies).

Instead of an arena I set up a wilderness terrain, with treacherous woods, hazardous rough ground and low hills providing cover.

I used my new Mishkin nuclear-engined vehicle, accompanied by a bike with a mini-gun.

The other players were Caesar, running a couple of Warden-sponsored ram-cars, John running a pair of Miyazaki performance cars, Damo, running a pair of Idris vehicles and Jason running a single horribly beweaponed Rutherford station-wagon.

Jason shot up one of John's performance cars.

I found myself heading headlong towards Damo's Idris team. His car evaded my nuclear-powered ram ...

... but his truck didn't. Sadly neither of us inflicted much in the way of damage on the other.

Caesar brought The Shovel into play, but failed to hit my nippy motorcyclist. I deftly slipped past him, damaging him with my gun as I went past.

Jason cruised around blazing away with machine-guns and rockets, backed up by a fearsome array of perks to make every shot count.

He shot up my nuclear car with rockets, causing it to go out of control, flip and explode in a deadly fireball. The Idris pick-up truck survived, badly damaged and out of control.

Caesar brought Skull-Dragger into play, smashing up Jason's weapon-wagon.

I can't remember what happened next. I think Jason destroyed Skull-Dragger with rockets, but was then taken out by by the wrecked vehicle smashing into him.

Anyway, by the time this photo was taken the only vehicles still running were one of John's performance cars, Damo's damaged pickup and my bike, which was out of shot as I was avoiding contact with other vehicles.

Damo was the only player to take a drive through the woods.

Jason got his battlewagon back into play as John and I squabbled over 'zombies'.

His remaining rockets made short work of my bike, which, in a repeat of the earlier incident, crashed into the front of him in its death-throes.

At that point we had to call time. John won with 12 'zombies' collected, whilst I came second with 10. Caesar had 8, whilst Damo and Jason barely troubled the scorer.

It was good fun seeing the different sponsor strategies in play. I'm not sure a nuclear engine on a pickup truck is entirely the best design to go for on my team, though. The speed is useful, but bad things happen if the vehicle goes out of control, and pickup trucks are not noted for being easy to keep under control. However my bike did great in this scenario, picking up most of my 'zombie' total. Indeed had Jason not destroyed me at the end, forcing me to lose five tokens from my collection, I would have had a runaway win with 15 points.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Gunboat Diplomacy

I'm currently rereading Bryan Perrett's 'Gunboat: Small Ships At War', and it has numerous accounts of small actions involving Royal Naval gunboats fighting pirates and other ne'er-do-wells around the world. So I felt inspired to set up a suitable 'Galleys & Galleons' game.

Really Victorian gunboat actions are outside the scope of G&G, but if you aren't too fussed about the detail they work fine.

I decided to run the game using the Cutting Out scenario from the rules, as it's one I'd not played before. It's a curious scenario, with a massive disparity in forces - 240pts of defending vessels vs a 60pt attacker. It was ony reading it the other day, however, that I realised that the special rules kind of assume that the attacker might make use of captured vessels as well.

Anyway, I set up a port as described in the scenario; a dangerous nest of Chinese pirates. They had three small pirate junks, a couple of large merchant junks and a small fort.

And steaming towards them, the gunboat HMS Possum.

The scenario dictates that the defenders can't do anything until the attackers open fire or attempt a boarding action. Obviously this is where the use of a steam vessel breaks down a little, but I rolled with it.

One thing I did change in the scenario setup was that I assumed that the defenders were anchored. Anchoring isn't covered in the basic game (it's in the expansion), but I wasn't sure how the setup of the defending ships worked without it. The setup rules say that the defenders must be in irons, which is fine, but if the wind changes, then what? Having them anchored solves this, although it does mean that they ships have to spend actions to raise anchor once the fighting starts.

HMS Possum glided into the anchorage, and shaved close to a pirate junk, firing a broadside as it did so, and waking the pirates up.

The small fighting junks raised anchor, and started to close on the gunboat.

And the fort opened fire as well. However for the first couple of turns the defenders fight and fire with penalties to represent them being surprised.

Hemmed in by pirate junks, HMS Possum moved to board one of the merchant ships.

And that's where it all went wrong. A pirate ship grappled HMS Possum's stern, and the navy found themselves caught up in two boarding actions. They drove hard against the merchant crew, and almost held off the pirates.

But a bad activation roll saw them strike, and that was the end of the scenario.

So all in all a rather embarrassing defeat for the Navy. To be fair, though, it's the first time I've played this scenario, and I'm not sure I picked the best means of picking up victory points. Ironically the best catches are the small pirate junks. Victory is based on how many points worth of enemy ships are captured or destroyed, and the pirate junks cost twice as much as the merchants, albeit that they have more fight. But sinking or capturing one, and then making an escape would secure a win. Going after the merchants in that setup was too risky for a single ship.

In fact the more I look at the scenario, the more I think it's one where two or three bases of boats may be the best attacking force, which more than makes sense in historical terms. But I will probably try it with the gunboat again first.

Here are the stats for the ships:

HMS Possum - 60pts
Q3 C2 - Steam Engine, Gun Turrets, Shallow Draft, Yare, Trained Gun Crews, Drilled Soldiers, Derring Do

Pirate Junks - 50pts
Q2 C2 - Lateen Rigged, Derring Do, Intimidating, Reinforced Hull

Merchant Junks - 24pts
Lateen Rigged, Chaser Guns, Merchantman, Reinforced Hull

Fort - 38pts
Q4 C3 - Bastion

Gaslands Campaign System

At long last Mike Hutchinson has released the much anticipated campaign system for Gaslands. It's the latest issue (Issue 4, at the time of writing) of 'Time Extended', the source for all official Gaslands expansions.

You can find all issues of Time Expanded HERE

You can find TX4 HERE

And you can find Mike's design notes HERE

The last link is of great interest because it explains why the system is set up the way it is. Essentially there is a mechanism for dealing with the problem that arises in most campaigns, that once players start to pull ahead they become too powerful to stop, and that players further down the rankings lose interest as they find it harder and harder to achieve victory. Essentially in this system there's a secondary goal that you can aim for if the main goal - Fame and Glory - begins to slip from your grasp. It's neatly done, and the mechanisms behind it fit beautifully into the background and add some fun possibilities in games. The campaign mechanism also includes three new scenarios, all of which look like they'll play as standalone games.

If you;re a fan of Gaslands, or just interested in a cleverly-designed campaign system, then this is worth a look.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Dread Pirates

We were meant to play Gaslands last night, but our third player couldn't make it, so Caesar and I resorted to Galleys & Galleons instead, mostly because the stuff was out and ready to use.

We had a couple of games using the Pursuit scenario - three merchant galleons were stalked by a couple of pirate vessels.

I took the merchants in the first game, whilst Caesar ran the pirates.

Caesar deployed badly with regard to the island, shallows and wind, which meant that whilst my convoy simply had to broad reach across the table to reach its exit point (with one small course change to round the island), he had to run instead. 

The result of this was that his best intercept point was very close to the point of exit, leaving him having to pull off a 'just in time' victory. In this picture the convoy has already negotiated the island, and is on a course for safety, whilst the pirates hadn't even got the targets in gunnery range.

Eventually Caesar brought the pirates in, and fired some shots

But the merchants were not without their own guns, and actually inflicted damage with their return fire, holing the smaller pirate vessel.

The smaller pirate ship took a battering from the merchant vessels, who very much had their act together.

The lead merchant ship escaped, but Caesar brought the larger pirate ship up and boarded the second merchant.

It quickly struck, but at the same time the crew of the smaller pirate vessel decided that they'd had enough of being the subject of the convoy's gunnery practice, and hauled down their colours as well.

The third merchant ship had a hairy moment when it sailed too close to its struck companion, and they both took damage in the ensuing collision. However this also took it along the opposite side of the struck merchantman, and allowed it a clear run to the exit point before the remaining pirate could engage it.

So Caesar captured one merchant vessel, but two escaped and had inflicted reasonable damage on the pirates. This was a win for the convoy.

We kept the same terrain, and swapped sides. Caesar ran the merchants to windward of the island and shallows. I brought the pirates in from the convoy's exit point, aiming to intercept the convoy as it was tied up with the minor course adjustments required to avoid the shallows around the island.

The pirates closed in far, using their chasers to try and inflict some hits as they did so. They didn't.

Both pirate ships grappled a merchant. The opponent of the smaller pirate quickly surrendered, but the larger pirate ship found itself up against a crew ready for a fight.

The smaller pirate ship came up in support, but it's larger consort cravenly struck its colours before the two ships could combine to take down what would have been their second merchant. The merchant deftly cut the grapples, and escaped through the shallows. The third merchant ship was also running free as well.

All was not entirely lost for the pirates. The fat merchant ships were slow to turn, and Caesar had to make a few course changes to line them up on the exit point. In order to mitigate the risk of them sailing off the table if they failed any activations, he was obliged to reduce sail. This gave the smaller pirate ship, which turned more quickly, time to extricate itself from the shallows and turn on an intercept course.

One merchant escaped, but the other found itself under fire from the rapidly closing pirate's chasers. Sadly, though, the pirates were better at sailing than they were at shooting, and they couldn't slow the merchant's escape.

Once again, two merchant ships escaped, whilst the pirates captured one and took some damage. Another win for the forces of commerce. This second game was a closer one, though, with the big pirate ship being unlucky to strike. Has it not done so the capture of the second merchant ship was almost assured, which would have given the pirates a pretty convincing win.

Fun Fact: Most of the strikes were caused by rolling a '1' on coloured activation dice whilst grappled to an enemy ship. Rolling for activations with coloured dice whilst grappled is very risky.

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