Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Review of 2019

There's no other way of putting it; I've kind of lost my gaming mojo this year. Looking back over 2019 I don't feel that I achieved much. Yes, I played games and I enjoyed them, but I haven't felt inspired to push my boundaries and try new things or seriously expand on existing projects. It's been a year of treading water.

Some of it will be that my burlesque activities have continued this year, and have taken up more of my time and, more importantly, attention. This was the year I went solo for the first time, and it's been an amazing experience. All things being well, this will continue in 2020, but maybe I'll get better at juggling gaming with glamour.

Anyway, here's the most popular post in terms of views from each month of 2019. Looking through it there are still some fun games in there, and fond memories, so maybe 2019 hasn't been quite as bad as I make it out to be.


Risk: Europe - The post-Christmas sales always turn up some bargains, and this Risk variant was one of them. I bought it not for the game, but for the gorgeous playing pieces. Needless to say after the enthusiastic unboxing and sorting I haven't done anything with them ... yet.


Rebels and Patriots - This was probably my favourite new game of the year; a variant of the Rampant system from Osprey it extends the game into the 18th and 19th century 'black powder' era. The focus of the rules is very much the Americas, and our first few games used American Civil War forces.


Gunboat Diplomacy - I've found myself going back to Galleys & Galleons a few times this year. Along with HOTT it's becoming one of those games that's easy to get out and set up when I need a quick gaming fix and, whilst terribly random sometimes, always gives an unpredictable and fun experience. This scenario saw a Royal Navy steamship trying to clear out a nest of pirates in the far East and, it has to be said, failing dismally each time I played it.


Night Witches - Very occasionally I dabble in role-playing games, and this year saw one of those times. I came across references to the game 'Night Witches' online, was intrigued by the setting and bought it. I ran it for my wife and daughter, and we had a great time, but somehow life has prevented us from taking it any further, which is a shame. It's a game which allows any player to pick up and run the campaign, so I'm keen to continue what we were doing as a player as well as the gamesmaster.


Simplicity in Hexes - Simplicty in Hexes was a variant of Neil Thomas's 'Simplicity in Practice' which I picked up off another blog (you know who you are), and very much geared up for a One Hour Wargames style of game. I gave it a try and rather liked it.


Daleks, Dinosaurs and Rocketships - Where would this blog be without HOTT? I think every year has seen at least one game of HOT make the annual review, and this year was no exception. This game saw Daleks fighting Flash Gordon, and if that doesn't make you want to click through and read the post then really there's no hope for you.


Dinosaurs on the Dneiper - I think this is the thing I did this year that I enjoyed the most. I got Dragon Rampant out but used my Great Northern Wars armies rather than traditional fantasy forces. This game saw Charles XII's Swedes fighting dinosaurs in a lost Ukrainian valley, and was tremendous fun, as well as looking good. It's something I'll be trying again sometime.


Expanded Table for 'Four Against Darkness' - Part 1 - This was probably my one big 'new game' discovery of the year; Ganesha Games' 'For Against Darkness', which is basically a simple pencil-and-paper classic dungeon-crawl game. Because it's designed for solo play it's very easy to tweak and add to, since the only person you're breaking it for is yourself. I took it away on holiday with me and, worried about exhausting the possibilities of the tables in the basic rules. So I made up a few extra ones of my own, and shared them here. People seem to like them.


Napoleonic Rebels & Patriots - Back to Rebels & Patriots. This time we used 28mm figures, and played a classic Napoleonics action, just to see how the rules worked in that setting. We thought that they worked very well, and we also got a close and exciting game out of it as French and Austrian troops fought for control of a ruined farm.


Frocktober 2019 - Part 1 - Regular readers of this blog will be used to the Frocktober fundraiser posts in October, and the glimpse it gives you of my ever-increasing collection of dresses. I wore twelve different dresses this year, none of which were repeats of the thirteen dresses I wore in 2018's fundraiser. My wife, daughter and I raised over $800 for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. This year I give you a picture if my daughter, rather than one of me.


Waterloo: The Prussian Bit - Every year the Gong Garage Gamers do some sort of Waterloo game. Usually we try to do it around June, but this year we ended up doing it later in the year. We used Blucher ended up playing an exciting game based around the Prussian attack on the French right.


One-Hour ECW - I've finished off the year with a return to my ECW armies. Mostly I've been playing around with my Portable Wargame variant, but in this game I got out my One-Hour Wargames variant to see if they still gave an interesting game. They do, but at the moment I still think I prefer the Portable Wargame. Maybe the real answer is a mashup of the two, but I haven't quite got there yet.

2020 will still, I suspect, be a compromise between gaming and getting my kit off. I'll make sure that this blog focuses predominantly on the former.


I was considering maybe doing another gaming project in 2020. In 2017 I did the 6x6 Project which was tremendous fun, albeit a bit of a 'mare to administer. So this time around I have decided to just do something on my own.

This blog was originally set up to replace the old Stronghold site for 'Hordes of the Things', but very quickly became an outlet for all of my gaming activities. So I have decided that, whilst covering the general stuff, I'd do something that was in keeping with its roots. The idea is HOTT 52.

What is HOTT 52?

Well, HOTT is a quick game, and easily set up. So I thought of setting myself the challenge of playing at least once game of HOTT every week in 2020. Not simply 52 games during the year - that would be relatively easy - but at least one game within any given week.

Since 1st January is a Wednesday (at least I think it is; I lose track of days in this weird perineum time of year), I shall run each week from a Wednesday. Within each seven day period from the 1st January onward, I will endeavour to play at least one game of HOTT and will record it here.

How far do you think I'll get?

Sunday, 29 December 2019

The Battle of Lower Sitting

From time to time it's fun to play one of the 'classic' wargames scenarios that were in the books that people my age grew up with. The Battle of Sittangbad is, I confess, not one I have much memory of. I know I read 'Charge!' in my youth, but the era it covered wasn't really something I was interested in until relatively recently. However I've seen refights of it over the years I've been blogging, and today idecided to give it a go myself.

I adapted it to the ECW and using my Portable Wargame rules on an 8x8 grid. Parliament holds the village of Lower Sitting and its vital crossing over the River Sitting. Their small force is protected by the village, a redoubt, and an impassable marsh on their right flank. They have a train of supplies they need to get across the river. A group of engineers is attached to the force; they promise that they can blow up the bridge given enough time, thus denying the crossing to the Royalists.

And what of the Royalists? They are advancing in force from the west, and at the start of the day an advanced guard of horse and dragoons already occupies the small hamlet of Upper Sitting.

The Forces

Parliament (Defenders) - 2 x Foot, 2 x Horse, 1 x Artillery, 1 x Dragoons, 1 x Commander, 4 x Supplies.

Royalists (Attackers) - 4 x Foot, 3 x Horse, 2 x Artillery, 1 x Dragoons, 1 x Commander

I used my dice-based initiative system. Parliament can spent up to one activation to move one of their supplies over the bridge to safety. They can also spend up to one activation to place a barrel of gunpowder against the bridge, up to a total of five. Finally they can spend one activation to try and blow up the bridge, rolling a D6 and adding the number of barrels placed. On a score of 6+ the bridge is destroyed. If the attempt fails, remove one barrel from the pile, but an attempt can be made next turn if desired (or more gunpowder can be placed). Supplies cannot be moved if the square of the village closest to the bride is unoccupied by a Parliamentarian unit, but is also in the front square of a Royalist unit. Any remaining supplies are lost (counting as a lost unit) if the Royalists enter that village square. Gunpowder cannot be placed or detonated if the bridge is in the front square of a Royalist unit.

Parliament can retreat units off the board over the bridge, and these units do not count as lost.

The Royalists win if the bridge is still intact and if they hold the village end of the bridge at the end of ten turns. Parliament wins if, at the end of ten turns the Royalists haven't won and their own army hasn't broken.

Basically Parliament need to get the supplies off the board, rig the bridge for demolition and perform a fighting retreat before blowing up the bridge.

Parliament's forces at the start of the day, in and around the village of Lower Sitting. Beyond them around Upper Sitting, you can see the Royalist advance-guard. The rest of their forces start off-table, but can come on starting on the first turn.

The village of Lower Sitting, and the river.

The Royalists drove in hard on their right flank, attempting to clear and control the South Woods, occupied by dragoons supported by horse.

Their commander fell in the attack, however, but the Royalists kept fighting, their numbers offsetting the loss of leadership.

Parliament's line held firm and Royalist foot advanced on their right. The supplies were slowly withdrawn across the river.

Parliament also held firm around the South Woods, routing a unit of Royalist horse.

Parliament began to pull back units to cover the outskirts of the village and prevent the Royalists outflanking the main defences.

The Royalists pressed forward. They overran Parliament's artillery (which, let's face it, was never really going to get withdrawn)

With the bridge ready to blow, and all of the supplies safe, Parliament's troops made haste through the village and across the bridge to safety. But the Royalists closed up on them quickly, leaving some horse trapped and fighting in the narrow streets, unable to flee for safety over the bridge. So long as they held there was always the option of blowing the bride, but if the Royalists broke in and gained control of the village then it would all be over.

A desperate fight ensued.

But the horse routed just as Parliament's commander decided that blowing the bridge was his only option. Loss of the horse broke parliament's forces, and they withdrew without lighting the fuses.

The Royalists won a fairly easy victory, having suffered little in the way of losses. Their artillery never appeared; their desire to press forward quickly meant that there was no room for it in the plan.

"I'll be back!" vows the Parliamentarian commander.

It was quite fun adapting the scenario, even if the village fighting got a little messy rules-wise. One to try again sometime.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Happy Christmas

Have a great day. As a little gift from me to you, here's a picture of Aloy looking after some of my books. 

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Battle of Cheriton

I did a refight of Cheriton this afternoon, using my ECW Portable Wargame and using the dice-based initiative system I described in this post . Since I played that I've refined the random events part of it, as follows:

If a double is rolled, and it doesn't trigger the reduced firing effect, then roll again to see which player is affected by the event, then once more to see what the effect is. The event is resolved before either side takes their turn.

1 - Remove the player's leader for the whole of this turn. If the side has already lost its leader, then reduce the number of units they can activate by one.
2 - The opposing player picks one of the player's units. That unit cannot be activated this turn.
3 - The opposing player picks one of the player's units, and immediately resolves a full activation with it (movement, shooting and/or combat). The unit may still be activated in the player's regular turn.
4 - The player picks one of their units and may immediately take a full activation with it (movement, shooting and/or combat). The unit may be activated again in the player's regular turn.
5 - The player picks one of their units and rolls 2D6. For each score of 4+, remove one hit from the chosen unit.

6 - The player picks an opposing unit, which takes one hit automatically. However this cannot be the last hit required to remove it.

So here are the two sides set up, Royalists in the foreground and Parliament beyond. I didn't set any objectives and just ran it as a straight fight.

Both sides' horse got stuck in on the outskirts of Cheriton itself. The terrain meant that the Royalists couldn't bring their numbers to bear; the Royalists had stacked their horse on the flank, whilst Parliament's was more spread out as a reserve.

Grabbing the initiative on the first couple of turns, Parliament advanced, sending dragoons into Cheriton Wood.

The Royalists held their ridge, and the two sides exchanged fire.

A lucky shot struck down the Royalist commander.

The foot blazed away at each other, and casualties mounted.

The Royalists lost the cavalry action on their right, their horse collapsing quickly and scattering.

Parliament lost their commander, as he led an attack on the ridge. But Parliament had the upper hand by this stage with the Royalists being close to their breaking point. Both sides were low on ammo, and smoke obscured the field.

The Royalists seized the initiative, as one of their foot regiments rushed the woods sheltering the enemy dragoons.

And other Royalist foot held the line on the other flank, fending off attacks by the surviving Parliamentarian horse, and pushing forward to drive off their attacking foot. Indeed much of Parliament's foot ran at this stage, leaving both armies at their breakpoint.

The Royalists made a final push against Cheriton Wood, routing the dragoons.

Parliament fell back, leaving the field to the shaken Royalist army.

The last three turns saw three doubles in a row, the only ones of the game. The first saw a reduction in firing, the second allowed a Royalist unit a free turn, and the final one saw a Royalist horse unit unable to act, although this latter even had no effect because the Parliamentarians immediately failed their morale test anyway.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

The Dutch-Portuguese War

Obviously I love trawling through Wikipedia and similar sites looking for inspiration, and the other week I found this article:

Dutch-Portuguese War 

Essentially the Portuguese were pretty well the only European power in and beyond the Indian Ocean from around 1500-1600, and did very well out of it in terms of trade and dominating the locals. But publication of their Secret Sailing Directions allowed the Dutch to muscle in, and a series of conflicts ensued (with other powers getting involved on one side or the other). I mean have a look at the summary details, and look at the combatants:

Doesn't that make you think "Ooooh, there might be some potential there!". Read the article and see how it all panned out.

I think there's potential for a campaign of linked Galleys & Galleons battles. A lot of the fighting was naval, so that's obviously the route to go down. I haven't really got a detailed plan about how I'd run it, but at a simple level I'd have the Portuguese controlling a series of colonies of differing values, and have them assign resources to their defence. The Dutch then have to decide how to spread resources into attacking the colonies - do they target a few low- to mid-value ones, try to take them all, or simply go for one of the big prizes? Historically the Dutch picked their targets carefully, although their achievements impacted the value of Portuguese areas they didn't attack. I think any campaign would involve a series of games each centering around one of the Portuguese colonies which the Dutch have chosen to take. The results might feed back into the bigger picture, thereby influencing later games, so the order in which battles are played becomes important. Each colony would have its own particular local allies  or third-parties to add extra complexity and colour.

Anyway, as I said, it hasn't got further than the stage where things are bouncing around in my head when I'm out for a walk, but maybe I'll come up with something. I can still recommend reading about it, simply because it's colourful and has potential for something.

Saturday, 14 December 2019


I was going to spend some more time on the Portable ECW Wargame today, but instead ended up making this.

At the rate I work, I'll probably end up painting it next year.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Portable Newbury

I had another go at First Newbury last night, this time just using my ECW Portable Wargame rules. However I simplified them a little - I dropped different types of Horse and just ran everything as 'Horse' and I used an idea I had for reflecting ammunition expenditure and similar reductions in firing capabilities later in the battle. This involved a change to the initiative system, and I'm going to indulge myself by going through it now.

I stuck to the idea that, in a player's turn, they can activate a number of units equal to about half what they started with. We'll call that the AV and it is half the number of starting units, rounded up.

Each turn, both players roll a D6. The player that rolled the highest goes first in that turn. See below for what happens on a draw. The number of units they can activate depends on what a player rolls:

1 or 2 - AV - 1
3 or 4 - AV
5 or 6 - AV + 1

So for this battle, both sides have 10 units and their AV is 5. On the first turn Parliament rolls a 4 and the Royalists a 2. So Parliament goes first, activating up to 5 units (the AV). The Royalists then take their turn, activating 4 units (AV-1).

But what if the scores are tied? In this case the side that went first in the previous turn goes first again. Both sides still use their die roll to determine how many units they can activate. However a double also triggers a Random Event.

If the score on the dice is equal to or less than the current turn, then the Random Event is automatically Reduced Firing Effect. For the rest of the game all firing is at -1. This simulates units going low on ammunition, battlefield smoke or even a weather effect such as fog or rain. This only happens once. If the event is not Reduced Firing Effect, then roll a D6 to see what it is. Or that's what I did; I worked out a table of six events and used that. But it was a bit sketchy, so I won't share it just yet.

Anyway, the result of this is that as the battle progresses it becomes more and more likely that firing will become less effective, making it more attractive for foot to resort to a push of pikes instead. It also means that you can't rely on dragoons or artillery to effectively shoot at an enemy all battle.

I took a few pictures of the game. Here's the starting positions.

Unlike my earlier refight not all units move in each turn, but both sides went to the cavalry action on Wash Common.

With the Portable Wargame having retreats as a combat option, this flowed back and forth very nicely.

The Royalists held their foot back, and Parliament advanced, using a run of good initiative rolls, plus their gaining the upper hand in the cavalry action, to bring the fight to their opponents. They Royalist artillery was overrun by horse, and the Royalist right compromised by dragoons. But by this stage firing had been reduced.

The Royalists fought back, and soon Parliament's foot were in trouble.

The Royalists had also won the cavalry action as well, and were mopping up Parliament's horse.

Parliament was now at half casualties, which meant testing on each of their turns to see if they continued fighting. Normally this requires a 4+ on a D6, but I ruled that if a side held Round Hill then they only needed a 3+. Parliament hold the hill and for turn after turn defied the odds to stay fighting.

The Royalists threw all they had at their opponent, whittling down their units, but the Parliamentarians wouldn't quit. Specifically the foot on the hill (the London Trained Bands) held of attack after attack, causing losses to the Royalists that pushed them over their break point as well.

And the Royalists weren't so lucky; pushed to their break-point they failed their first army morale roll, and quit the field, giving Parliament and unlikely and pyrrhic victory.

The initiative system worked well, and I was fairly happy with the reduced fire effect event as well. But I'd need to play a few more games to see if the timing of it works out.

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