Sunday, 28 January 2018

Cancon 2018

Yesterday I headed down to Canberra for Cancon 2018. It's nice to go down to look around the games and stalls and chat to random people, but these days I go down for the annual bloggers' meetup as well. Only three of us managed it, but here we are. That's me on the left, Millsy of Canister and Grape in the centre and Barks of Wargaming with Barks on the right.

We met up again in the evening for food and drink, and a better chat, covering issues as diverse as the history of the Boxer Rebellion and domestic chickens as apex predators.

Cancon has now grown into three halls, which gave a lot more space and also made each hall a lot cooler than they seemed to be from previous years. Especially good was the extra space for the bring and buy.

There was, indeed, tons of stuff to be had on the bring and buy, but I confess I only saw one thing which excited me; an enormous pile of 54mm plastic ACW toy soldiers, including infantry, cavalry and artillery. All unpainted, but just the kind of toy soldiers you wouldn't paint. Of course they were in the category of Awesome, But Would I Use Them?, so I hesitated. They were still there at the end of the day, unsold. I resisted. But I was staying overnight and, whilst I had no plans to go to Cancon for a second day, I decided that I had to drive past on my way home, so I'd pop back in and see if they were still there. If they were then I was meant to have them. It would be fate.

They weren't. I don't know if they sold or not. If they didn't, and they're yours; I'd like to buy them.

I found little else to excite me on the other trade stands either, although I'm on a tight budget these days and also trying to resist buying stuff that I know I'll never paint (on the grounds that I currently loathe painting with a passion). Here's my loot:

This will fit right in with my giant monsters.

This? It's a Reaper Bones figure, but I have no idea what I'll use it for.

More Reaper Bones. They were going for a dollar each, so I picked them up on the grounds that if I ever do paint any more figures they can join my Mantic Elves.

This little beauty might be worth a quick hate-paint; he'd fit right in with my Battlesworn Dwarf warband.

I also picked up this delightful little family game.

It's a game of dexterity and a kind of reverse Jenga with elements of Uno. You have to rid yourself of a hand of roof cards by building a high building which obviously becomes more and more stable as the game progresses. Scaling the building, in a quest to fight petty crime, is Rhino Hero, who is strong, clever, brave and, sadly, very heavy. He's a wooden piece who sometimes gets moved from one roof tile to another, requiring a steady hand and a stable building. 

Catherine and Maya were keen to play it when I got home today. So we did.

Maya won the first couple of games mostly, it has to be said, by virtue of going first and none of us having quite got the knack of the (admittedly simple) card-play.

(You can just see Rhino Hero on the second level from the top if you look closely)

After a couple of games our building skills got more impressive.

This was one of the highest buildings we managed.

Sadly Rhino Hero hadn't thought to track down corrupt building inspectors, and his crime-fighting efforts initiated a disaster (with Maya's help).

There are two sizes of this game. I got the smaller one, because it has great pub potential for when we go away. Look out for Rhino hero coming to a rural NSW pub near you!

Returning to Cancon, I did have an issue with the handful of demonstration games. I visited each one, and stood quietly watching them, or looking at what was on display. I chose not to speak to anyone, but not a single person at the tables took the time to speak to me. Guys, the point of a demo game isn't to spend the day playing with your mates. It's to engage and communicate with the other people at the event. I'd like to see more of that next year.

Anyway, that's Cancon done for another year. As you can see I took the step of attending as the lovely Rachel, which was a first for me for any wargames event. Whilst I seem, and am, very confident about such things, it was still a big step, but one I'm quite happy to do again. 

A big thank-you to John and Cathy for putting me up for the night, as well as everyone else for simply putting up with me.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Pirate Attack!

A dramatic title for what was a rather quick game of Galleys & Galleons. I'd like to say I was trying out more rules I hadn't explored before, but I wasn't; I just set up the Pirate Galleon from the rules chasing two Merchant Galleons, (also lifted straight from the rules).

It all started in a promising fashion. The merchants used their Pilot ability to cut close to an island rather than run into the middle of the board and close proximity to the pirate.

As the pirate approached they each fired a broadside. Both merchants scored criticals, and both criticals were fires.

The pirate blew up.

As I said; a quick game.

I ran it again, with a more cautious approach from the pirate this time. The pirate fired a broadside at the lead merchant who (you've guessed it) promptly caught fire and blew up. The other merchant fired a broadside which damaged the pirate's rudder. The time the pirate lost turning into the chase meant that the merchant managed to build up a decent lead. A pirate with the Razee ability could have closed the gap, but this was a simple chase downwind involving two ships of equal speed. The pirate kept up a steady fire from its chasers, but couldn't score the crippling critical it needed to bring the merchant to a halt. So one merchant was destroyed and the other escaped; probably not a win for the pirates, nor for the stockholders.

I have, however, been thinking about how criticals affect movement. There are six means of locomotion in Galleys & Galleons: Sail, Oars, Steam, Unorthodox, Ornithopter and Gyrocopter. A 'Rigging' critical affects each one differently, but not at the same rate. Some methods suffer an effect from the first critical, then suffer a total loss of propulsion from the second. Others can take two hits, with the third causing a loss of propulsion. My view is that the first four listed (Sail, Oars, Steam and Unorthodox) should all be able to take a two step loss, with the third hit immobilising the vessel. (Ornithopters and Gyrocopters are supposed to be fragile, so I am happy with their one step loss; a second 'Rigging' critical actually destroys them.) Sail and Unorthodox both take two criticals with the third immobilising, so all is good there. Really all I need to do is house-rule Steam and Oars, both of which are totally lost after two hits. But I haven't decided how I'll do this yet.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Ghost Ships

Having got my Galleys & Galleons head back on I played another game this afternoon. One thing I've not tried yet are the magic rules, so I decided to see how they work out. I put together a force consisting of a galleon escorting three merchant ships. The galleon carried a priest (theurgist) because in these waters lurked ...

Ghost-ships! A ghostly galleon and two boatloads of spectral warriors.

All three of these vessels were Spectral, and I also gave them all the Unorthodox trait, which makes their movement unpredictable, but unaffected by the wind. I thought it would nicely reflect some kind of magical propulsion.

The convoy deftly negotiated some shallows.

Unfortunately it then failed to turn to avoid the shallows around an island, and one of the ships scraped its bottom.

It all got a bit messy. The final ship in the convoy was obviously not going to safely clear the island by following the others, so broke off to go around the other way.

Meanwhile the ghost ships were blundering around trying to move into position. The Unorthodox trait makes life very difficult indeed; more than I thought.

The two galleons approached. The priest tried his exorcism ritual against the spectral foe, but to no effect.

A boat full of intimidating spectral warriors slipped past the galleon and menaced one of the merchant ships ...

... who slipped away after firing an ineffective broadside.

The galleons passed each other. Both fired broadsides and the escort was damaged, but the priest's ritual also bore fruit, damaging the ghost-ship.

The spectral ships continued to blunder about, unable to turn fast enough to catch the convoy.

The lone merchantman that had gone the other way found a ghostly boat in its path, but was able to evade it.

The escort turned up into the wind and fired more broadsides. The priest blessed the cannon as they fired, and the now holy weapons caused severe damage to the ghostly galleon.

The lone merchantman escaped, although not via the designated exit point.

Still, the other two did.

Then, finally, the escort.

The escort galleon took one hit from firing, and one merchant vessel had damage from the shallows. Otherwise the convoy escaped unscathed.

Basically a group of ships with Unorthodox propulsion are very difficult to control or coordinate, relying as they do on activations for even the most basic moves and even then having no idea how far that move will be. It's very much a trait for a one-off ship in a force I suspect. I might retry this scenario with more points loaded onto the Ghostly Galleon (and a higher Q value) and maybe drop the boats.

Here are the ship stats:

Escort Galleon - Q3 C3 - Galleon Rig, Drilled Soldiers, Chasers, Magic User: Theurgist, Razee, Trained Gun Crews

Merchantmen x 3 - Q4 C2 - Galleon Rigged, Merchantman, Veteran NCOs

Boats of Spectral Warriors - Q2 C2 - Intimidating, Iron Grapples, Spectral, Unorthodox, Unarmed

Ghostly Galleon - Q3 C4 - Spectral, Unorthodox

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Return to the Azores

I've been meaning to get Galleys & Galleons out for a while, but with finishing off my Six by Six Challenge last year, and getting delightfully caught up in the Portable Wargame after Christmas I hadn't got around to it. This afternoon, though, I managed a quick game, replaying the Ambush in the Azores game I played almost exactly one year ago today. In this game, a Portuguese treasure-ship heading home from the Indies is ambushed by two English galleons.

The treasure-ship Nossa Senhora da Guia, accompanied by two escort brigs, Flor de la Mar and Cinco Chagas.

In the distance are the two English galleons, Auk of Onan and Popinjay. They are faster than the Portuguese galleon, but much lighter. Whilst the Nossa Senhora da Guia worked downwind to avoid the sandbank in the middle of the board, the two brigs moved across the wind in order to attack the English from the rear.

First fire! the Portuguese galleon fired a mighty broadside at the lead English ship, the Auk of Onan, damaging it.

The English returned fire, but failed to make an impression on the Portuguese leviathan.

Faster and more agile, the English raked the Nossa Senhora da Guia, but still couldn't damage it.

There followed several turns of terrible activation rolls for both sides. All three ships basically spent their efforts in turning to avoid islands and each other; despite being at close range, no-one was able to use their activation rolls to fire.

Popinjay collided with Nossa Senhora da Guia, but neither ship was damaged.

The Nossa Senhora da Guia was heading for the exit point, whilst the escort brigs were finally coming up in support. Fire from one brig damaged the Auk of Onan, and a shot from the Portuguese galleon's chasers crippled it.

The Cinco Chagas collided with the Auk of Onan, and both ships were so badly damaged that they sunk.

This left the Nossa Senhora da Guia free to escape, giving the Portuguese a decisive win.

It took me a few turns to get back into the swing of the rules, but they soon came back to me. As ever tracking the ship's relative positioning with regard to the wind was the biggest drain on my frazzled brain, and I may need to make myself a gadget to assist with that.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Battle Of Hookham

Oh, all right, it's not really Hookham - it's just Hook's Farm with a different name. I decided it would be fun to have a go at the classic HG Wells scenario using my ECW forces. I set up two equal armies consisting of six units of pike & shot, three of horse, one of dragoons and one artillery.

I decided on Hookham rather than Hook's Farm because the eponymous farm became a village for the purposes of this battle.

Firefly Church remained a church, counting as an enclosure. Firefly is a odd name for a church (unless you take you classic TV sci-fi very seriously indeed), so perhaps we'll call this feature Hook Hall.

Anyway, controlling Hook Hall and Hookham were the objectives of this particular battle. Purists will note that the cottage and hovel weren't present. I decided that the granularity of the game didn't allow for them.

Parliament pushed forward, occupying Hook Hall. In the centre the Royalists occupied a small field which gave shooting cover to foot and forced horse moving through it to stop.

Parliament also managed to push quickly forward and grab the village, but came under immediate attack from Royalist foot and horse.

On the other flank a brisk cavalry action took place. I love the phrase 'brisk cavalry action'. Parliament had massed all of their horse on this flank, and it proved a good move. Although the action was constricted by the board edge and a wood, they were able to pull damaged units out of the fight and replace them with fresh, leaving the Royalists under constant pressure.

The Royalist horse was soon driven off, and they were forced to swing some of their second line of foot away from the advance on Hook Hall in order to cover their flank.

However on the other flank they managed to capture the village with an heroic push of pike.

The woods on that flank were occupied by Royalist dragoons, who kept up a steady fire on their Parliamentarian opposite numbers. This action was to last all game with no conclusion.

The Royalists had enemy cavalry in their rear, and responded with their surviving unit of horse, supported by the guns.

In the centre, Parliament's foot had broken against the Royalists along the hill and in the field, although they kept up a fierce counterattack on Hookham.

Meanwhile Hook Hall was now under attack.

Parliament's foot was looking distinctly shaky, with many units on their last hit. But the Royalists were close to their exhaustion point as well, and if their attack didn't succeed quickly they would have to break off.

One last push and they took the hall.

The Royalist guns held off an attack by enemy horse.

The Royalists consolidated their position in the grounds of the Hall.

Another Parliamentarian unit broke, leaving the army exhausted. With both objectives in Royalist hands, and unable to engage in offensive action, they withdrew.

The Portable ECW rules worked pretty well here. I made all units average, because I'm beginning to have reservations about how the Portable Wargame as written covers unit quality, but I'll play with that in another game, and probably witter about it in another post. Let this post stand as testament to a smooth-running, closely fought and entertaining game.
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