Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Ancient Near East is HOTT

(Note from Alan: The HOTT 2.0 rules contain a set of lists covering Sumerian and other ancient near Eastern mythology. These were written by Nigel Tallis, but were only a small sub-set of his original contribution. This piece is the lists that didn't make it, plus a couple of others devised after his original submission. They should be considered a supplement to the Sumerian Myth lists on Pages 39-40 of the HOTT 2.0 rules.)

The Ancient Near East is HOTT
Army Lists for 'Hordes of the Things'
By Nigel Tallis

THE SLAIN HEROES (The dead gods)

Stronghold: the underworld, Kurnurgi or Dannina (see UNDEAD HOSTS)

1 x Behemoth general @ 4AP (Palm Tree King)
1 x Dragon @ 4AP (Dragon)
4 x Beasts @ 2AP (Seven-headed, 4-legged, mushmahhu-serpent, Six-headed wild ram, Bull-man, Saman-ana)
1 x Sneaker @ 3AP (Imdugud bird)
1 x Blade @ 2AP ("Gypsum")
1 x Blade @ 2AP ("Mighty Copper")
1 x Horde @ 1AP (Magillum-boat)

The idea of the Slain Heroes in Mesopotamian mythology came about in the time of Gudea of Lagash following the gradual amalgamations, and demotions to the ranks of monsters and demons, of many minor and local gods. They were then absorbed into the cult of their divine conqueror, originally. Ningirsu/Ninurta (son of Enlil, patron of Nippur), then Lugalbanda, Zababa, Nergal, and eventually Marduk.

In different myths, the lion-headed Anzu or Imdugud bird was variously a friend of man, or a thief who stole the Tablet of Destinies. Its wing-beats caused sandstorms, and its beak was like a saw. The bird was killed/tamed by Ninurta/Ningirsu, and thereafter became one of his attendants. Often found nesting in highly inconvenient places, like holy mountains or sacred trees. The call of the Imdugud bird is recorded as "Kapp-i! Kapp-i!" The magillum was a bizarrely magical living boat from the lands of Makkan and Dilmun (Oman and Bahrain). There are representations of a half-human, half-boat creature that may be the magillum.

The demon Saman-ana's preferred diet was an eclectic mix of young people and harlots. He had the mouth of a lion, dragon's teeth, eagle's claws and a scorpion tail. The Palm Tree king, ancient progenitor of all things animated and woody, should be represented as a huge palm within a grove of smaller palms. Interesting and tasteful fragments of the same best depict the personifications of gypsum and copper...


Stronghold: The primaeval sea of chaos

1 x Magician @ 4AP (Tiamat) 
1 x Hero general @ 4AP (Qingu with the "Tablet of Destinies")
1 x Dragon @ 4AP (Mushushshu snake-dragon, Umu, the storm-demon, and Ugallu, the great storm-demon)
5 x Beasts @ 5AP (Mushmahhu, ushumgallu and bashmu, the giant horned snakes; Uridimmu, lion-man; or Girtablullu scorpion-man; or Kusarikku/gud-alim, the bull-man)
2 x Hordes @ 1AP (Kulullu, fish-men and the army of Qingu)

Tiamat, or "sea", was the personification of the chaotic primordial salt ocean, the female counterpart of the male Apsu, or fresh ground water. The only beings in existence after the separation of heaven and earth, they gave birth to the line of Annunaki or "older gods", including An, and Enki/Ea, who in turn produced the Igigi, the next generation of "younger gods", the "Great gods" of heaven. Apsu was so irritated by the incessant noise of his progeny, which kept him awake, that he attempted to destroy them - only to be killed and then fashioned into a bijou new home by Enki/Ea. Any parent should empathise.

In revenge, Tiamat spawned the "monsters of her insides", led by her lover Qingu -whom she made invulnerable with the all-powerful "Tablet of Destinies". Eventually Aššur/Marduk, the youthful champion of the Igigi, slew Tiamat and Qingu and routed the spawn in an epic battle. The defeated red Mushushshu dragon, "furious snake", then became the loyal beast of Aššur/Marduk.

From Tiamat's body, "split like a fish", Aššur/Marduk fashioned the present heaven and earth, while mankind was created to serve the gods, though unfortunately from the tainted blood of the evil Qingu. In retrospect something of an oversight. Tiamat fought only with spells during the battle and is therefore classed here as a magician, rather than a behemoth.


Stronghold: Nippur/Babylon/Assur or An (heaven)

1 x Aerial Hero general @ 4AP (Ninurta/Marduk/Assur in storm chariot)
1 x Dragon @ 4AP (The seven winds)
2 x Knights @ 4AP (The Annunaki and Igigi in divine chariots)
2 x Blades @ 2 AP (The Igigi)
2 x Shooters @ 2 AP (the Igigi)

This list was designed as an opponent for that of the Spawn of Tiamat. The Annunaki and Igigi are the lesser gods who accompanied Marduk into battle against Tiamat. According to the Babylonian Epic of Creation the gods were ineffective against Qingu. Storm horses drew Marduk's chariot, and he is described as being armed with a bow and a huge net. He also had a sack in which is contained the four directional winds and the seven evil winds. It is these winds that are ultimately used to defeat Tiamat.


Stronghold: Mighty-walled Uruk

1 x Hero general @ 4AP (Gilgamesh)
1 x Hero @ 4AP (Enkidu the wild-man)
1 x Sneaker @ 3AP (Shamhat the harlot)
1 x Blade @ 2AP (Birhurturri, the officer)
11 x Hordes @ 1AP (Young men of the city)
Alternatives: Cleric @ 3AP (Siduri the barmaid)

King Gilgamesh, 2/3rds divine, was the offspring of the deified king Lugalbanda and the goddess Ninsun, or "Lady Wild Cow". He caused endless trouble in Uruk by oppressing and levying the young men for war, and by his constant ravishing of the womenfolk. The god An created Enkidu, a mighty wild-man introduced to the pleasures of urban life by the harlot Shamhat, to tame him. After a wrestling match won by Gilgamesh they become friends and adventurers (or, in the Sumerian version, proper protocol is maintained and Enkidu becomes his servant...) killing Huwawa, the guardian spirit of the great pine/cedar forest. The goddess of love, Innana/Ishtar, became a deadly enemy after Gilgamesh turned her down for a date. Siduri, a protector of Gilgamesh, was a minor goddess of brewing and wisdom, presumably on the basis that most people think they're a genius when drunk. She hosted the tavern at "World's End", which, despite the name, probably isn't the one you're thinking of!


Stronghold - Eanna, the house of the sky/heaven

1 x God @ 4AP (Inanna) 
1 x Behemoth @ 4AP (Bull of Heaven)
1 x Sneaker @ 3AP (Galla/gallu)
1 x Lurker @ 1AP (Snake)
1 x 6 x Beasts @ 2AP (Gate guardians)
Alternatives: Hero @ 4AP (Huwawa, guardian of the great forest)

Strictly, as Huwawa had got the chop before Inanna became an enemy of Gilgamesh, he shouldn't be included here at all, but good baddies are hard to come by. In the Babylonian version of the Sumerian stories, Gilgamesh became obsessed by his own ultimate mortality after the gods decreed the death of Enkidu for his insult in slaying the Bull of Heaven. He roamed the world searching for the secret of immortality, eventually meeting the Mesopotamian "Noah", Utnapishti or Ziusura, on Bahrain, who took pity on him by telling him of the plant which gave renewed youth. Naturally, Gilgamesh lost it (a snake stole it from him while he was having a swim) but eventually the hero found some solace in the permanence of his city, the mighty Uruk.


Stronghold: walled city and the temple, E-mete-ursag

1 x God @ 4AP (Patron divinities, Zababa)
1 x Hero general @ 4AP (Mesalim in battle-car)
1 x Cleric @ 3AP (Priest or priestess)
4 x Blades @ 2AP (Guards)
2 x Shooters @ 2AP (Archers)
1 x Horde @ 1AP (City militia)

Kish was the pre-eminent city of early northern Sumer. Zababa, the local deity of Kish was a war god, later associated with Ninurta. In the Kassite period his symbol was an eagle-headed sceptre.


Stronghold: walled city and the temple, E-kish-nu-gal

1 x God @ 4AP (Patron divinities, Nanna/Suen)
1 x Hero general @ 4AP (Meskalamdug in battle-car)
1 x Behemoth @ 4AP (Bull of Nanna)
1 x Cleric @ 3AP (En priest or priestess of the Gipar)
4 x Spears @ 2AP (Guards and city militia)
1 x Horde @ 1AP (Other militia)

Nanna, Suen or Nanna-Suen is the Sumerian moon god, later known as Sin. The hero general here is the owner of the famous electrum helmet excavated at Ur, his name means "Hero of the Land", appropriately enough, but others are equally suitable.


Stronghold: walled city, the temple, E-ninnu, and the Gu'edena steppe with burial mounds

1 x God @ 4AP (Patron divinities, Ningirsu)
1 x Hero general @ 4AP (Eannatum in battle-car or on foot)
1 x Sneaker @ 3AP (Imdugud/Anzu bird)
1 x Cleric @ 3AP (Priest or priestess)
4 x Spears @ 2AP (Guards and city militia)
2 x Horde @ 1AP (Other militia)

The world's oldest coherent historical composition, of ca. 2,500 BC, survives as the so-called "Stela of the Vultures", by which Eannatum of Lagash celebrated his victories over the neighbouring state of Umma. Eannatum was credited with suitably supernatural attributes and divine affiliations (of which a height of 2.75m was one of the more immediately obvious.)


Stronghold: walled city and temple, Akkade or Ur

1 x God @ 4AP (Patron divinities, Annunitum, Nanna/Sin or king)
1 x Hero general @ 4AP (King or mortal general in battle-car, or on foot)
1 x Cleric @ 3AP (High priest/priestess)
2 x Blades @ 2AP (Guardsmen)
5 x Hordes @ 1AP (Soldiers)
2 x Shooters @ 2AP (Archers, frontier troops)
Alternatives: Sneaker @ 3AP (Soldier with pin)

This list covers the imperial armies of Akkad and the Third Dynasty of Ur. The patron of Akkad was the war goddess Annunitum, also called Ishtar of Akkad. Later Akkadian and Ur III rulers, after the illustrious Naram-Su'en (the prototypical "flawed hero") adopted divine honours, so the God can in fact represent the king, while the Hero general remains a mere mortal. Later Babylonian myths of the fall of Akkad recount the annihilation of one huge army after another by the supernatural creatures of the "Hostile Lands", so most of the soldiers here are classed as Horde. A soldier was sent armed with a needle to see if the creatures from the Hostile Lands were human or demonic - they bled: they were human. Strange that spears or axes had failed to reveal this, but that's myth for you.


Stronghold: a mountain cave

1 x Hero general @ 4AP (Memandah, the oldest brother)
6 x Blades @ 2AP (The other sons of Anu-banini)
8 x Horde @ 1AP (360,000 warriors)

The allies of the Hostile Lands were human invaders of Akkad, led by the seven royal children of Anu-banini (also known as an historical king of the Lullubi..) They were said to have the faces of ravens and the bodies of richly plumaged birds, which might just be meant to imply big noses and brightly-coloured dress, of course! This list is derived from the later, more fantastical, versions of the myth.


Stronghold: a rocky jebel surrounded by open steppe

1 x God @ 4AP (Patron divinities, or the god Amurru)
1 x Blade general @ 2AP (Truffle-grubbing, raw-flesh eating barbarian chief)
1 x Blades @ 2AP (Retinue truffle-grubbing, raw-flesh eating warriors)
2 x Shooters @ 2AP (Truffle-grubbing archers)
11 x Horde @ 1AP (Truffle-grubbing barbarians)
1 x Lurker @ 1AP (Devious truffle-grubbing barbarians)

An alternative title might be "no townie likes a traveller", as this list is inspired by the written impressions of the settled peoples in the Near East. It covers semi-historical Amorites and their ilk (while mythological Lullubians and Gutians are covered in "The Hostile Lands" list and in the HOTT book as the Asag list, respectively).


Stronghold: walled city and temple

1 x God @ 4AP (Patron divinities)
1 x Hero general @ 4AP (King in early chariot, on ass, or on foot)
1 x Cleric @ 3AP (Priest or priestess)
2 x Blades @ 2AP (Guards)
2 x Shooters @ 2AP (Archers)
5 x Horde @ 1AP (Militia)

This is the list for the time of Hammu-rapi of Babylon, or, since this is fantasy, one can just about get away with calling him Hammurabi!


Stronghold: Ziggurat - E-sharra, or Eanna

1 x God @ 4AP (Assur/Ishtar/Sin/Shamash/Ninurta/Adad) 
1 x Hero general @ 4AP (King or Queen in chariot)
1 x Behemoth @ 4AP (Winged bull-man gate-guardian)
1 x Rider @ 2AP (Cavalry)
4 x Spears @ 2AP (Soldiers)
1 x Flyer @ 2AP (Scorpion-man, gate guardian)
Alternatives: Cleric @ 3AP (Scholar, prophetess, ashipu and asu physicians, or divination or incantation priests), lurker @ 1AP (Brawling women, each missing at least one finger), behemoth @ 4AP or sneaker @ 3AP (Queen Semaramis' dummy elephants), Knights @ 2AP (Chariots), Regrade soldiers as equal numbers of blades and shooters.

As offensive magic was regarded as black sorcery in the Near East, we have classed the various state magicians as Clerics. Gate-guardians were powerful, semi-divine, and benevolent protective spirits. Either bull or lion bodied, they were thought of as winged with human heads, equally adept against evil on earth, water, or air.

The brawling women are inspired by the Assyrian laws - a woman who crushed a man's testicle while brawling forfeited a finger, if she crushed both she was executed. The dummy elephant is a later Greek attribution, but I don't see why it shouldn't be in.


Stronghold: Ziggurat, E-temen-enki or Temple, E-sagila "the palace of heaven and earth"

1 x God @ 4AP (Marduk/Sin/Nabu) 
1 x Dragon @ 4AP (Mushushshu snake-dragon)
1 x Hero general @ 4AP (King in chariot)
4 x Hordes @ 1AP (Soldiers)
4 x Shooters @ 2AP (Archers)
Alternatives: Cleric @ 3AP (Lama or lamassu, scholar or priests), Knights @ 2AP (chariots)

Lama or lamassu were extremely attractive minor female deities, tasked with protecting individual humans from evil. Early Assyriologists confused them with bull-men, but nobody has done that for years - mistaking a maiden for a bull being a largely fatal error ...


Stronghold: Khatushash, walled town on steep hills with a small latrine...

1 x Hero general @ 4AP (King in chariot) 
2 x Knights @ 2AP (Chariots)
2 x Spears @ 2AP (Severely constipated guardsmen)
4 x Hordes @ 1AP (Famished, plague-ridden soldiers)
2 x Beasts @ 2AP (Amorous horses, bulls and sheep) 

Please Sir, May We Leave The Room?
This list, deeply informed by history in every line, pays special attention to Hittite textual sources; particularly the proper chain of command for obtaining permission to go to the latrine when caught short. Plagues ravaged the Hittite homeland so severely that their Egyptian allies sent food aid (having previously sent the plague in the first place) while the Hittite laws reveal the seemingly incessant molestation of innocent citizens by lecherous farm stock.

All in all, it's a wonder the Hittite Empire lasted as long as it did.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Two Flanks And A Centre

On the train and walk home from work tonight I was musing on how to do a Memoir '44/Battle Cry style activation system but without using cards. You see, the things is, I like the simple mechanisms of games like that, but I also like games that are easily played solo. The card mechanisms of those games don't make for good solo play. yes, you can devise systems to create a 'dummy' player, but I generally like to play solo games where I take the role of both players equally, not gaming against a system (I'll make an exception for Avalon Hill's 'Raid On St Nazaire' or 'B17 - Queen Of The Skies').

So, what am I after?

Well, anyone who knows the M44/BC style of game will know that you have a board divided into three sectors - two flanks and a centre. Cards allow you to activate a number of units in one or more sectors. By managing your hand you can try and ensure that you keep acting in a particular sector for as long as you need to, or wrong-foot your opponent by switching the focus of your activity.

I want to be able to simulate something like that, but without a hand of cards.

Leaving aside how many units are activated, the simplest solution is to say that on a turn the player rolls a D6 - on a 1-2 they operate on the Left Flank, on a 3-4 the Centre and a 5-6 the Right Flank. But where's the fun in that? It's totally random. What I want is a mechanism where a player can't necessarily choose which sector they will operate in that turn, but where they can influence that choice somehow. And, ideally, where their chance of influencing the choice of a particular sector decreases with time, forcing them to stop and regroup from time to time.

And this is what I came up with:

Both sides have six counter, numbered (imaginatively) 1-6.

They place these counters by each of the three sectors. At least one counter must be placed by each sector, but no sector may have more than three counters assigned to it. So, for example, the Left Flank (L) may have 1, 2 and 3, the Centre (C) 4 and the Right Flank (R) 5 and 6.

On your turn you roll a D6. You play into the sector containing the counter with the number rolled on the die. Easy. So if you roll a '1' you operate in the L sector. A '4' means the C sector.

All well and good; your activity is weighted to where you want it to be, but still random.

Having taken your turn, you must now move the counter with the number you rolled to another sector unless it's the only counter in that sector in which case it stays where it is. So if you roll a '1' you must move the counter, but a '4' means that it stays put.

A counter may be moved to either of the other two sectors, but no sector can end up with more than three counters. Obviously you will try and keep moving counter into the sectors in which you wish to move troops, increasing your chances of rolling that sector on your next turn. But each time you roll that secor you reduce your chance of getting it the next time.

So, with the above setup we have:


The player rolls a '1', so moves troops in the L sector. They move the 1 counter to the R sector:


On their next turn they roll a '4'. They move troops in the C sector, but the counter stays put. On the turn after they roll a '3'. That's the L sector again, and the 3 counter must move. It can't go to the R sector, as that already has three counters, so it must go to the C sector:


So whilst the player had weighted their efforts to the left, the odds have temporarily shifted away from them acting there in the next turn. Instead it looks likely they'll be operating in the second preference area, the Right Flank. In doing so, though, counters can be shifted back to the Left.

I hope this makes sense. I haven't tried it out with any thoroughness yet, so I don't really know how much choice it actually gives and how much less random than just assigning a one in three chance to each sector would be. But I hope it's a start.

Any comments welcome.

Friday, 26 October 2012

A New Nation Takes To The World Stage

Last night saw the debut of a new nation in our continuing Maurice learning games - The Confederation Of Tea States. Looking suspiciously like 10mm 1840s Mexicans bought on a bring-and-buy they took the the field with their national advantages of proper artillery and dashing cavalry.

We tried more new rules - proper set up of terrain and attacker/defender roles. The Confederation found themselves defending a small town against an attack by troops from the Duchy of Sand Couleur. The Duchy opted for a combination of massed columns and bayonets, fully intending to remember that they had them ...

Here's the pictures.

Infantry of the Confederation of Tea States, painted by Caesar. He paints faster than I do ...

The army of the Duchy of Sans Couleur.

John looked after the town garrison, whilst Caesar made the life and death decisions. Tim watched.

Dave takes a break from running Wollongong to supervise the game.

Sans Couleur infantry advance on the town. By this stage the columns had already suffered badly from artillery fire.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the room, Geoff and Peter played Full Thrust. A NAC fleet was attacking an enemy star system.

NAC capital ships, screened by fighters.

The asteroids were planetary defence installations, supported by small escort vessels.

In the meantime Sans Couleur was attacking the town.

And after a stiff fight they took it.

To support the assault they sent their cavalry in against the Confederation's cavalry.

A swirling melee ensued.

However at this point it was getting late, the game was less than halfway through the second deck, and both sides still had plenty of morale left. With the objective - the town - in their hands the Duke of Sans Couleur sued for peace. Their army was fairly beaten up, though, so I reckon were were looking at a draw.

Most of us have had a stab at Maurice now, and everyone seems to like it. So I suspect there will be a few pseudo 18th century armies being constructed from whatever figures we have laying around. And Caesar and I are looking out for more pirate Risk sets ...

Next Week - Saga.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Mythic GME Flash

I think this has been around for a while, but I only came across it yesterday ...

I sometimes like to dabble in solo role-playing. To run the games I use a useful booklet called the Mythic GM Emulator, which allows you to generate a story and incidents by asking a series of yes/No questions and interpreting the results within certain guidelines. Using you can generate a full session with a fairly involved story with virtually no preparation. It suits light role-plying games in which it's easy to generate characters and threats on the fly - Risus or Supercrew for example.

Anyway, what I hadn't realised, until yesterday, is that there's a Flash version of the emulator available online

You can get it HERE.

Although it's possible to get the gist of how it works from the page alone, it's really helpful to have the original booklet, with its guidelines on how to run a game and phrase questions.

But it's a useful tool that I shall use the next time I feel the need to run a game.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Two Armies For $25

Almost seems a shame to paint them.
I've spent most of yesterday afternoon with glue and scalpel making the Risk armies for Maurice a little more permanent. I've glued the figures to the bases now, but also chopped a number of the flag-bearers off spare guns, stuck them to Milliput bases and included one in each infantry unit and one with each general.

I have also trimmed back the flags on some of the guns to make ramrods, and added an infantry figure to each base to give the gun two crew.

I went through the spare figures after that and, mixing colours within a unit, was able to make two more infantry units and one cavalry unit per side. So each army is now:

One General
Eight Infantry units
Four Cavalry units
Four Artillery units

The next stage is, perhaps, to think about painting them.

Here's the obligatory pictures.

Each infantry unit now has a colour-bearer, snipped from one of the many cannon that comes with the Risk set.

The generals also have a flag.

And each gun now has two crew.

The dashing, jolly, colourful Riskovians.

The dour, miserable Sans Couleur army.

Anyway, that's two small Maurice armies for $25. A bargain.

Mind you, I have about 40 cannon left over ...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Maurice - The Next Generation

On Thursday the Gong Garage Gamers tried out Maurice again. This time we played with slightly larger armies, as well as adding in troop quality and national Characteristics.

Once again the majority of each force was made up of the garish and unpainted Risk figures you know and love. Caesar has acquired some 10mm figures in the meantime, and had painted a few as well as undercoating others, so we had extra units to boost the armies with.

Once again the Duchy of Sans Couleur faced their arch-enemies from Riskovia. Both sides had eight infantry units, forur cavalry and four artillery. One infantry or cavalry unit had to be downgraded to conscript, whilst two could be upgraded to elite.

San Couleur opted for two elite cavalry and an elite infantry, and chose the Deadly Volleys advantage.

Riskovia went for En Masse and Bayonets, upgraded two infantry and downgraded one.

Ralph commanded the Sans Couleur army, assisted by new player Travers. Caesar commanded the Riskovians, with me taking the cavalry command (any Staines Wargamers reading this will know where that will probably go. Prepare to be surprised.)

Here are the armies ready to go. Once again the opposing arms faced each other - cavalry to cavalry, artillery to artillery and infantry to infantry. The Sans Couleur infantry formed up in line ready to use their Deadly Volleys, whilst the Riskovians formed up in massed columns ready to go in with the bayonet.

The Riskovian columns:

The Sans Couleur line:

Geoff didn't make it this week (he doesn't like horse and musket stuff, and an arranged alternative of Full Thrust fell through), so instead this week's guest star is Tim Death. No bow-tie.

The Riskovian artillery pounded away at long range, and broke the Sans Couleur conscripts. This was the high point of the battle for us ...

Our infantry also took a pounding from the well-laid Sans Couleur guns, and we soon had a hole in our massed infantry:

Maurice can use handfuls of dice. And here they are. I tend to use the purple ones for rolling and the pink ones for showing disruption:

The Riskovian columns hit home. Careful use of hoarded cards meant that we completely denied the Sans Couleur infantry the use of their volleys by denying them a volley phase two turns in succession. All we had to do - all Caesar had to do - was complete our cunning plan by winning the ensuing close combats.

He didn't.

An interlude - the Riskovian cavalry. Still on its start lines, having received no order to do anything. And so it remained, for the whole battle.

A second go at the close combats. And a second round of abject failure, aside from destroying the sans Couleur artillery. And even that took a charge by the elite Pink Grenadiers.

Obligatory fish-eye shot, as see on Instagram:

And with the Riskovian columns stalled in front of the Sans Couleur line, the Sans Couleur cavalry arrived, sweeping in from he flank and carrying all before it:

The Pink Grenadiers were charged in the rear - but won. Our only real close combat success of the evening:

At this point the Riskovians conceded.

And why did we lose so badly. Because someone forget to tell the Riskovian infantry to actually fix the bayonets they'd bought as a National Advantage and that would have allowed a reroll of all those ones and twos. There will be questions in the Riskovian Legislature about that ...

On paper our plan was OK - we stacked up card which allowed us to dictate whether volley phases would take place and would modify them in our favour if they did, then launched a full-frontal assault. Bad die rolls, and forgetting about our National Advantage meant that we threw the whole thing away.

For the record here's Caesar's side of the story:

"Great battle last night, thank you Alan, Ralph and Travers (and Tim for being such a well-behaved observer and politely abstaining from heckling as my Riskovian army disintegrated).
Some surprising developments occurred in this game of Maurice, not the least of which was the failure of Ralph and Travers' forces to shoot before the Riskovian assault columns crashed into their firing lines. To the casual observer it appeared like Alan and I hung on to a "Fire Fight" card to use at just the right moment but I'm informed by my spies that a certain subaltern positioned in the front ranks of the Sans Couleur line prematurely issued the fire command, which had the effect that the entire side spent their shot without effect and were hit with a bayonette charge as they attempted to frantically reload their muskets.
The fact that this occurred a SECOND time is inconceivable, though again I am told by my spies that the treachery of Lady de Winter, once time mistress of Comte de Cesare, my have been to blame, as she had be seen passing through the Sans Couleur officers' tents the night before, which may explain the utter incompetence of the junior officers of the firing line and the exasperation of their commander in chief, Von Sparker, as he looked on to an uncontested bayonette assault a second time.
This incompetence was only exceeded by Comte de Cesare, who completely forgot to capitalise on the "a la Baionnette" national advantage to re-roll his ones and twos in combat and saw his assault columns roundly defeated by a stout defence lead by Duc Travers."

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Aeronef Turning

One thing we noticed in last week's game of Aeronef was how easy it was to remove the ability of larger vessels to turn. The biggest vessels have a turn value of '1' - that is they can make one 60 degree turn in a move. If a ship takes 25% of its hull hits then it loses one point from its turning capability. If you have a turn of 3, 4 or 5 then this is a minor inconvenience. If you have a turn of 1 then it's fatal - the rules say that you can only make a single 60 degree turn if you can roll a 6 on a die at the start of your move. Essentially your ability to manoeuvre is gone, despite only taking 25% of your hull. Forget getting any bombers on target, or doing anything else that requires your vessels being in a particular place; that 25% threshold is fatal.

I was thinking that the lost of turning capability should be less extreme.

When a ship's turn reaches 0 then it can make one 60 degree turn on a roll of 4,5 or 6
When a ship's turn reaches -1 then it can make one 60 degree turn on a roll of 5 or 6
When a ships's turn reaches -2 then it can make one 60 degree turn on a roll of 6
You can't go below -2.

All vessels must be built with a turn value of at least 1.

This variant would keep larger, lumbering, vessels viable after that first damage threshold is reached. I shall suggest it for the next game we play.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Aeronef - Did It Happen?

If there's no photos, it didn't happen.

Guess who left his camera at home, and his phone plugged into the computer last night? That's right - me. Which is why you're just going to hear that three of us played Aeronef, without any pictorial evidence that such an event took place.

We played the 'Scramble' scenario from the rules. It was slightly less one-sided than last time, but still heavily biased in favour of the French; it's still far to easy for them to bomb the three targets before the British can stop them. One of the big French bombers was very badly shot to pieces (there was no way it would be getting home), and another was wandering along the English coastline looking lost after delivering its on-target bomb-load. Otherwise the French came out of the attack OK. The British lost a couple of gunboats, had their larger destroyers shot up quite badly and lost the war. That's my story, anyway.

In lieu of Aeronef pictures, here's one of a cat:

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Immortal Persians in HOTT

This piece was contributed to The Stronghold by Russell Strachan, and also includes input from Luke Ueda-Sarsen, Colin Hagreen and Jim Davis. I edited it.

I thought you might be interested in my take on a HOTT early Achaemenid Persians (my all time favourite historical army).

The sub period of course has to be Cyrus the Great & the wonderful contraptions attributed to him by Xenophon. These include his double mounted camels classed as Riders, although a case for them being Knights due to their anti-cavalry effects could be sustained; the scythed chariots Knights I think. Warband might be better but who needs scythed chariots in woods? And of course the mobile towers, Behemoths of course.

Of course we can't forget about Mithras, the war-god in his golden chariot, true he became a little marginalised by Ahura Mazda but perhaps the soldiery maintained stronger links as in Roman times.
One cannot forget to mention Cyrus the Great himself. He probably should be classed as a Hero general and if Mithras is not taken then that is how I would represent him. However APs are at a premium when trying to represent all the diverse parts of a Persian force, so something has to give!

Other oddities include Flyers represented by various winged lions, ibis and gryphons.

So, to the list...
Cyrus the GreatRider General @ 2AP1
MithrasGod @ 4AP1
Immortals/SparabaraShooters @ 2AP4
CamelryRider @ 2AP1
Scythed chariotKnight @ 2AP1
Mobile towerBehemoth @ 4AP1
Persian cavalryRiders @ 2AP1

Hero General (Cyrus the Great) @4AP, Flyers (Various winged beasties) @2AP, Riders (Subject cavalry) @2AP, Hordes (Levy foot) @1AP, Cleric (Group of Magi) @3AP.

Luke Ueda-Sarson writes: I can't classify siege towers in HotT (a problem when doing Mordor armies too). They are huge things, but don't charge around like Behemoths. They are crammed full of archers, but shoot over the heads of the real archers, so don't really work as shooters - the though of one going into a forest to fight efficiently is a it worrying too. They don't shoot far enough for artillery, and should probably be a bit more resistant in combat that Artillery too...

Colin Hagreen writes: I would have to class them as artillery - despite the range, which you could possibly rationalise as being extended because of the elevation. They can take a stronghold in contact, in fact it is the only element they can move into combat with, which is a point in favour. As to their resistance in combat, the tower itself may be a solid structure, but you could imagine the occupants to be driven off and the tower abandoned under these circumstances.

Jim Davis writes: As an opponent of Cyrus the Great I would propose King Croesus/Kroisos of Lydia:

King MidasMagician @ 4AP1
Mounted ArchersRiders @ 2AP
ChariotsKnights @ 2AP2
King's GuardSpears @ 2AP2
ArchersShooters @ 2AP2
Various FootHordes @ 1AP6

Saturday, 6 October 2012


So I went to a major Aussie wargames show and, aside from some great HOTT memories, what did I come away with?

Well, the answer is 'not much'. I'm not feeling that inspired in terms of projects at the moment, and my finances are such that arbitrary purchases 'just in case' are not something I really want to consider. I ended up getting just a  few odds and ends, mostly from the bring and buy.

So here's my haul:

Two DVDs - 'Aliens', because, amazingly, I still only have it on VHS and 'Memphis Belle' which I only ever had taped from the telly (and which got ditched in the great post-emigration VHS purge). $6 for the pair. 'Aliens' is still shrink-wrapped.

'Latin America - A Naval History 1810-1987' by Robert L. Scheina. Because for $5 it seemed worth the effort.

Some Dystopian Wars small flyer tokens. You get 30 in a pack, which should be adequate for all of my Aeronef needs.

Three old GW Epic Hellhound flamethrower tanks. I'm not sure which Epic 40K HOTT  army they'll end up in; possibly my Sisters of Battle force.

The obligatory free Freddo that all MOAB attendees get. I still haven't eaten it. Perhaps later ...

And that was it.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Flames of War

Ralph invited a couple of his friends to the club this week - Bryan and Lachlan - so he could have a crash-course in Flames of War. The rest of us either watched and learned or, in the case of Geoff and Tim, played. I took a few pictures.

Geoff was the steadfast German defender of a Russian village. Here he is looking at the oncoming hordes of T34s

There were also hordes of Russian infantry. There are always hordes of Russian infantry.

A long shot of the game. Dave was merely an observer. Tim looks concerned that my phone was going to steal his soul ...

Despite Geoff's concerned look his defenders did the job, easily holding off the Russian assault.

Anyway, I think we all came away impressed with how well marketed and presented Flames of War is, and with at least some idea of how the actual game works. At core it's a basic, old-school set, with lots of add-on special rules. My personal view is that it had great potential for pick-up games, but possibly wouldn't supplant Tac or Blitzkrieg Commander in my affections for scenario-based games, which I really how I prefer my WWII stuff.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

'Sakura Taisen' in HOTT

This list was originally written for The stronghold by Kent McClure. I have applied my usual deft editorial hand.

'Sakura Taisen' takes place on a steam dominated Earth in the early 1920's. World War 1 never happened. Instead, there was the Great Demon War, in which mankind emerged victorious. But the demons did not go completely away and the humans knew it was only a matter of time before they return. To prepare for that eventuality, a special unit of steam-powered mechas (called ubas or spirit-armor) was formed and based in Tokyo. (In fact, they are specifically tasked to defend Tokyo above all else.) This unit is the elite Imperial Floral Assault Unit. The ubas are crewed/directed by the spirit energy of their pilots, and, apparently, this sprirt energy is strongest in young women. Currently, there are only 7 ubas in existence - each uniquely coloured - and all but the commander's is crewed by women. Now on to the list.

Stronghold: The Imperial Theatre (Okay, at least the front of the theatre. And yes, that is their HQ in the show)
1 Knight General @ 2APIchiro Ohgami's Uba (white)
6 Knights @ 2APUbas piloted by Sakura Shinguji (pink) Maria Tachibana (black or very dark blue) Sumire Kanzaki (bluish purple) Iris Chateaubriand (golden yellow) Ri Kohren (green) and Kanna Kirishima (red)
1 Airboat @ 3APThe armored airship Shogei Maru
3 Shooters @ 2APRegular Japanese infantry (1920's style uniforms)
Options: The Aerial Battleship Mikasa (Airboat @ 3AP), the armored Bullet Train Goraigo (Behemoth @ 4AP), very large steam powered cannon (Artillery @ 3AP), additional Japanese infantry (Shooters @ 2AP), Japanese infantry in steam powered trucks (Riders @ 2AP).

Note: The ubas should be based 1 figure per base.

Figure availability: The easiest figures are the Japanese infantry. Use figures from the Boxer Rebellion period or the Russo-Japanese War. The trucks could be WW1 vintage trucks converted to steam power by just adding tall exhaust stacks. The aerial battleship, armored airship, armored Bullet Train, and the steam cannon could be scratchbuilt, although some gashapon ranges may provide suitable proxies.

Finally, the ubas themselves. Small, hard plastic ones are available on the ends of keychains in anime shops, so that would be the first place to look. Otherwise they would also have to be sctachbuilt. At a small scale - 15mm or less, this should not present too much of a problem, as the suits are fairly crude and clunky.

Monday, 1 October 2012


The HOTT tournament at MOAB has been and gone for another year, and I'm pleased to report that a member of Team Wollongong - John - came away with the first prize for the third time in the four years I've taken part in it.

Once again I took the Morally Ambiguous Elves Of Mantic - Spear General, 3 x Spears, 2 x Shooters, 2 x Warband, 1 x Hero and 1 x Magician.

I took some pictures, but they're poor quality phone shots so don't expect to see too much detail on the lovely armies in use.

Caesar sets up his first game:

John and Geoff play their first game, John using the forces of Gondor and Geoff using his Dark Elves. Geoff opted not to wear a bow-tie today ...

... the rest of us did, however. We're quite well-dressed. For Australians.

The Morally Ambiguous Elves faced some Renaissance Orcs, under Victor, in the first round. I lost. My army just sort of disappeared.

In the second round I faced new player Andrew, who was using an army of Teutonic Order knights. It was an epic, all-mounted army.

Meanwhile, on another table, Graham's gorgeous GW airboats were on display. Not the most practical of gaming models, but lovely to look at.

Back to the Teutonic Order. They charged into the Elves.

There was lots of fighting. The Teutonic Order lost.

My third game was against some kind of GW-based Imperial army. They had an Aerial Hero, so I wedged my army between tow woods, and played defensively.

My Magician nipped out from behind the lines, and zapped the Aerial Hero. The Imperials advanced, and there was much fighting up and down the line. My Magician killed a Rider. There was more fighting. The Magician got really lucky and killed a Behemoth. Game over for the Empire.

Meanwhile the Teutonic Order rode over the top of Geoff's Dark Elves.

My final game was against Graham's undead - my chance to kill one of those lovely Airboats in combat.

Let's look at the positions at this stage. John, Caesar and Graham were all in equal first place, with Graham slightly ahead on the tie-break. If Graham failed to beat me, the one of John or Caesar must win. If he did beat me, then he'd probably finish on top. If I beat him, then I would come second. So there was a lot to play for.

Getting a  '1' for about half of my PIP rolls was not the best way to secure a victory. But that seemed to be the strategy my army adopted. Luckily Graham adopted a strategy of not winning combats, even when the odds were in his favour, so the game settled into a long, frustrating but quite exciting slog.

I had a few kills to my credit when, in the last ten minutes, my PIPs came together. I used them to knock off a few more undead elements (never got one of the Airboats though), and as we went into the last bound, time having been called, I just had to kill one element to win. I was in this position:

Magician vs Knight. I'm on a +4, he's on a +3 with an overlap so down to a +2

I lost it.

The game ended in a draw.

This left John with a clear win, as he'd beaten Caesar. I finished fourth.

Thanks to the Southern Battle Gamers for another great comp, and for keeping it running in the face of sickness and disaster.

Finally, is this what they mean when they say Flames Of War is just wall-to-wall tanks? ;-)

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