Sunday, 31 December 2017

Review of 2017

And so 2017 draws to a close, and another active year of gaming fading into the mists of history. This year has been dominated by the Six by Six Challenge, which I started in an attempt to get more people blogging game reports instead of just painting progress. It was a lot of work to run, and a number of participants  fell by the wayside, but several of us stuck it out to the end, and the result has been a great selection of games played and blogged.

I picked up two new games this year: Ganesha Games' excellent 'Galleys and Galleons', and the Rampant system, which in my case has seen me trying pike and shot using 'The Pikeman's Lament' and fantasy games using 'Dragon Rampant'. In addition I brought 'Mighty Monsters' out of hibernation and discovered that it was a better game than I remembered it being. All three of these games inspired my to greater efforts with my 3D printer, producing ships, terrain and, in the case of Dragon Rampant, whole warbands. I even produced almost all of a HOTT army from the printer (and have, in fact, got an entirely printed army awaiting painting, but you don't know about that yet).

Other games which have provided me with plenty of entertainment this year are DBA (I even played in my first ever competition) and Machinas (which I spent an exhausting, but great , day running at MOAB).

On with the post. I have followed the formula of previous years, selecting the post from each month which got the highest number of views.


Galleys & Galleons - This game had been around for a year or two before I bought it, so I was late to the party in my enthusiasm for it. It is a little 'beer and pretzels' in its approach, but not unrealistic and extremely versatile in what types of vessels can be represented. This post covered my first game, when I simply used my Napoleonic naval collection. This game was on my Six by Six Challenge list, and I completed all six games within a month.


One Hour With Scum of the Earth - 'Scum of the Earth' is a set of rules from Nordic Weasel which I did a small amount of playtesting and reviewing on. In the end I didn't feel they quite did it for me, but it was fun finding out. This game was one of the One Hour Wargames scenarios, set during the South American Wars of Liberation.


ECW Scum - 'Scum of the Earth' provided my most-viewed post of March as well. The published version included ECW army ideas, so I gave them a go in a game.


Battle of the Dunes - The tail end of the pike and shot era provided my most popular post for April; a refight of the Battle of the Dunes using 'Twilight of the Sun-King'. We bought the latest version of the rules, having enjoyed them a couple of years ago, but found that whilst the mechanisms are outstanding in how simple yet clever they are, the rules are not clear in a number of places. It's still a game we will persevere with, though.


Spandau and Lewis - Proper Release - One of the participants in the Six by Six Challenge selected my 'Spandau and Lewis ' WW1 air-combat rules as one of their games. I realised that the version available online was out of date, and didn't include a number of key changes I'd made, so I updated it.


Supanova 2017 - As ever, May and June saw us cosplaying at both Comic Gong and Supanova. This year my wife and I went as Jessica Jones and Kilgrave.


The Unstoppable March of the Dead - Victor introduced us to Dragon Rampant about the time that other members of the group decided to try out Lion Rampant. We took the the system likes ducks to water. I even added it to my Six by Six Challenge list eventually. Whilst I was able to play using HOTT elements, I fired up my trusty printer, and started producing warbands for the game. This was their debut.


Kaiju Triple Event - The printer remained hard at work throughout August, after I rediscovered 'Mighty Monsters' and set to work producing models of each of the key Jaegers from the film 'Pacific Rim'. This particular game had an unusual structure in that each player ran an attacking monster and a defending mecha, with the aim being to be the first player to destroy a particular objective with their monster.


MOAB 2017 - The Saturday - At MOAB this year, we scrapped the gladiators and just ran Machinas all day on the Saturday. It worked a treat, with plenty of mayhem.


We're Knights of the Round Table - One feature of my Six by Six Challenge was that whilst HOTT was on the list I could only count a game if it featured a new army. This has meant me producing armies all year, and King Arthur and his Knights were one; a Peter Pig army I started some 15 years ago.


Dinosaur Rampant - My most popular post in November was a game of Dragon Rampant using some cheap plastic dinosaurs I picked up in a charity shop. The game was so much fun that I rewarded them with a proper paint-job afterwards.


Rocketship - December was a fallow month, with holidays and apathy controlling most of it. The most viewed post was this shot of a model of a spaceship from the 1980 'Flash Gordon' film. This has subsequently been painted and takes pride of place in a new iteration of my venerable Flash Gordon HOTT army.

What are my plans for next year? Well, truth to tell I have no idea. I'm finding myself lacking in inspiration a lot these days, or, at least, the desire to enthusiastically follow up on any inspiration I get (there still being plenty to find). I'm hoping something will fire me up and kick-start me. Otherwise the 2018 version of this report is going to be a bit thin on posts.

Epic 40K Encounter

I tried another Epic 40K Portable Wargame this afternoon, once again pitting those renegade Imperial Guard against some heroic Space Marines. I decided to try out some thoughts on the damage effect roll I'd initiated in my previous post. I like the Sudden Death option for this style of game, as it makes the 40K world fast and deadly, as it should be. But I wanted to fine-tune it a little for different troop types.

I rated each unit as having either 2, 3 or 4 strength points, basically as in the normal rules. A unit increased its strength by 1 if it was elite and reduced it by 1 if it was poor. This gave a range of 1-5 strength points.

When a unit is hit it rolls a D6 for the effect. If the score is equal to or less than its strength then the unit retreats 1 space. If it can't retreat then it is destroyed (but I allow diagonal retreats - if the unit can legally move into one of the spaces to its side, and then straight back it can do so). If the unit rolls greater than its strength, then it is simply destroyed.

This is basically the same as in the existing rules, with a simple +1/-1 factored in for the unit's strength. But it's easier to remember and resolve.

Both forces consisted of 36 strength points.

The Marines had: 6 x Infantry (at 5SP each) and 2 x Tanks (at 3SP each)
The Guard had: 4 x Infantry (3SP), 4 x Tanks (3SP), 1 x Super-Heavy Tank (4SP), 1 x Cavalry (3SP) and 2 x Artillery (2SP). In fact that was only 35SP, so I should check my arithmetic in future.

Exhaustion was 12SP for each side.

The Super-Heavy Tank had a starting strength of 4SP, a move of 2 and a range of 4. Working out rules for Big Things like this is on my to-do list.

I placed two ruins towards the centre of the board, then randomly placed more terrain. Both sides would enter from opposite sides, from any of the centre four squares on their edge. Victory went to whoever controlled the ruins after ten turns.

Here's the position at the end of the second turn. The Guard had got most of their forces on the board, and already taken out one of the Marines' tanks, but the lively duel was developing on the right-hand side. On the left of the picture the Marines had occupied a ruin.

The Guard pushed their tanks forward in the centre. I scrapped the rules that infantry and cavalry couldn't harm tanks, but they did take a -1 when firing at them. I think this balances them up nicely for this genre, taking into account the fact that the infantry do tend to have access to some portable AT weapons. Infantry close-assault tanks at full strength.

The Marines pushed forward aggressively in response. They could afford to do this because, if hit, they are only destroyed on a '6', retreating otherwise. Their push destroyed the Guard tank holding the ruins, so that by about Turn 4 the Marines held both objectives.

The Guard had numbers on their side, though, and were able to assault the Marines in the ruins relentlessly. Artillery drove them out, and waves of infantry destroyed them. This highlighted the downside of the Marines; each unit lost counts far more towards their exhaustion point than those of the Guard. With two tanks and some infantry lost, the Marines were close to breaking.

The position about halfway through the game.

As the Marines tried to retake the ruins they had lost, the Guard used their numbers to flank them. Despite this the Marines did briefly reoccupy the objective, but I'd made a tactical error in sequencing; they did so before the Guard took any actions that turn, and the Guard used their artillery to drive the Marines straight back out again. Had the Marines held off for a couple of activations, the Guard would have either committed their artillery elsewhere, or been forced to forgo its use for that turn.

The super-heavy tank was now in action. The artillery shelled the other ruins, and the Marines in them died to a man. This broke their army, forcing them to break off offensive operations.

I played out the rest of the turn. The Guard occupied the second area of ruins, whilst the Marines made a steady withdrawal.

One unit found itself surrounded, but resisted all attacks.

The position at the end of the game. It had lasted eight of the ten allotted turns. The Guard could afford to sit tight since the Marines couldn't push forward and take back either of the objectives. Guard losses were two tanks; their infantry seemed to be impossible to hit.

I was quite pleased with how the game played out, and feel content sticking to my dice-based initiative system, which forced some interesting decisions on both sides. I might try a couple more games with these somewhat conventional forces, before trying out something more exotic.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Mongo vs Barsoom

And so we come to it; the final game in my Six by Six Challenge.

Although Flash Gordon united the races of Mongo into a great alliance, the planet still faced outside threats. And, ironically, one of them was warriors from another planet united by an earthman - Barsoom.

Flash assembled an army to meet the invasion.

1 x Hero General (Flash and Barin)
2 x Fliers (Prince Vultan and his Hawkmen)
2 x Warband (Prince Thun's Lionmen)
2 x Riders (Queen Fria and her Frigians)
2 x Lurkers (Arboreans)
1 x Airboat (War-Rocket)

The Barsoomian invaders looked like this.

1 x Hero General (John Carter)
4 x Blades (Warriors of Helium)
2 x Knights (Tars Tarkas and the Warriors of Thark)
2 x Airboats (Large Flyers)
1 x Flier (Small Flyers)

I dressed appropriately, if possibly in a biased way. And, yes, I'm listening to the soundtrack whilst writing this.

Flash opted to defend on a closed battlefield, hoping the threat of the Arboreans would keep the Barsoomians channelled into good going. Areas of brush would allow the Hawkmen more opportunity to outmanoeuvre the slower but more powerful Barsoomian aerial navy.

John Carter opted to lead his force through a gap, hoping to outfight Flash's aerial troops and bring his swordsmen into line before the varied Mongo forces could respond.

Flash advanced, but Vultan was obviously hungover, and didn't immediately respond to the order.

The Barsoomians pushed forward quickly, with their navy heading confidently into battle.

The first fights.

Things didn't go well for Barsoom. The first of a series of bad combat rolls which were to dog them in the early part of the game saw Vultan destroy their scout flyers, and other Hawkmen drive back one of their larger warships.

Exploiting their advantage, Vultan assisted the war-rocket in bringing down a mighty Barsoomian cruiser.

John Carter's navy was almost gone, and the battle was still in it infancy. Badly positioned to come to the support of his remaining airboat (mostly due to a patch of bad going), he rushed to shift the focus of the battle elsewhere, leading Tars Tarkas and the Green Martians into an attack on the Mongo left.

Flash responded with an excellent PIP roll ...

... which saw attacks all along the line The last Barsoomian airship was assaulted front and flank by Hawkmen, whilst Flash led the Frigians against the hordes of Thark.

Flash and Barin defeated the Green Martians facing them, and the Barsoomians were thrown back in disarray. A rapid defeat looked certain for them.

John Carter moved to reorganise what was left of his forces ...

... leading them in a fierce counter-attack.

He cut his way through the Frigians opposing him ...

... and attacked a band of Lionmen who had retreated to the rear of their army earlier.

Tars Tarkas did what he could to hold the Barsoomian right flank, but fell to Queen Fria (with some help from Flash and Barin).

John Carter was now hotly engaged with Prince Thun who was now assisted by the war-rocket, dispatched to bring back the earthman's body. It wasn't enough - the Warlord of Mars scattered the Lionmen.

The Barsoomians were now only 3AP from defeat. All the forces of Mongo had to do was destroy the last of their navy and victory would be theirs. But the Hawkmen couldn't do it; for round after round the battle ended in a draw.

John Carter rallied his army for one last desperate push, with helium's finest swordsmen rushing the Lionmen on one flank and Queen Fria's bird-riders on the other. John Carter went for the war-rocket.

The Barsoomian warship broke the stalemate, destroying the Hawkmen attacking it.

But elsewhere the Lionmen routed some of the swordsmen. Queen Fria fell back to avoid destruction.

John Carter destroyed the war-rocket. If he could catch Dale and Zarkov, who had a fled an earlier fight, he might be able to take them prisoner and force the army of Mongo to concede.

Unable to directly assist his friends, Flash ordered the Lionmen and Frigians into a coordinated attack on the Barsoomian swordsmen.

Victory! With the loss of the swordsmen the Barsoomian army was defeated.

Dejah Thoris held back her husband: "Leave 'em, John," she cried. "They ain't wurf it."

The two heroes met to discuss terms.

The Barsoomian losses: 13AP

And Mongo's losses: 9AP

This looked like it was going to be a quick win for Mongo after some terrible early combats for Barsoom, but John Carter held on admirably later on and came close to setting up a win. They were always on the back-foot, but didn't end up being a pushover.

And so that's it' I have played a sixth HOTT game with a new (or, in this case, partially new) army and with it I have completed my Six by Six Challenge.

6x6 - Game 1.6
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