Sunday, January 20, 2019

Review of Osprey's Rebels and Patriots


Oh boy! I got a copy of Rebels and Patriots four days early. Rebels and Patriots is the long-awaited new rule set from Michael Leck and Dan Mersey, published by Osprey. I say long awaited because the release was announced about a year ago and I've been on pins 'n' needles ever since. I'll cut to the finish and say that I've found that it was worth the wait.

One initial fear I had about R&P was that it might attenuate the Lion Rampant system to the breaking point. I love The Pikeman's Lament, but in some sense I felt that it took Lion Rampant unit types and rechristened a lot of them, with just a few tweaks. Overall, that works. But I feared that doing the same thing for 18th/19th c. warfare would fall flat.

I'm happy to say that R&P has really broken new ground without divorcing itself from its heritage. Part of this is by incorporating some ideas from Dan Mersey's colonial rules The Men Who Would Be Kings. To paraphrase the quotable John Kennedy (proprietor of The Panzer Depot), Rebels and Patriots took the best of Lion Rampant and TMWWBK and left out the worst. While I wouldn't classify anything in those rules as "worst," I must agree.

Indian fighting in the Old Northwest

So what follows is my take on Rebels and Patriots. I won't cover everything, but instead try to highlight the ways in with R&P differs from the previous rules in the Lion Rampant series.

Unit types

Gone are unit profiles with a different activation for everything and "armor" or "stamina" ratings. The basic values are mostly the same for every type. Activation is a universal value (more on activation below but in case you're wondering, they're all 6+). Fighting is almost always 6 (i.e., only 6s on a D6 are hits). Firing is all 5+, except for shock cavalry, who prefer to hack at things with sabres. Morale is all 6+, there are no unpolishable turdy peasants. But although these basic numbers are generic, unit types can be modified to change a lot of that and provide a very large variety of troops.

R&P limits unit types to the following:

Line infantry (4 pts) - As you'd expect, these are the basic foot sloggers of the period.

Light infantry (6 pts) - Nimbler foot sloggers, more expensive than line, but they can skip and run.

Shock infantry (6 pts) - Bad-tempered foot sloggers, think grenadiers, Highlanders, hungry Confederates attacking a Union supply train. Better at activation and better at fighting.

Skirmishers (2 pts) - The nimblest foot sloggers who flit around shooting at people and—if they're lucky—run away when attacked.

Natives (4 pts) - Basically Indians, of which there were plenty in colonial America. Practitioners of the skulking way of war, i.e., not the kind of people who stand in ranks and shoot. Instead, they run around fast, making the most of cover, taking marginally effective pot-shots, then rush in for the kill.

Artillery (4, 6, or 8 pts) - Speaks for itself, the last argument of kings even in the wilderness. Artillery can be light (5+/24"), medium (4+/36"), or heavy (4+/48"). Crew is just four figures, but the Limber option adds two more, which also doubles the movement rate—except for heavy guns, which can't move.

Light cavalry (4 pts) - Fast, skirmishy types on horseback, think light dragoons.

Shock cavalry (6 pts) - Men on horseback who mean business. The basic size for these are 12 figures, so, a lot of shock. This type is rare in America since only the Mexican army actually fielded large cavalry forces of types that charged in (for example, lancers and cuirassiers), but some Confederate cavalry might also fit the profile.

However, the basic types can be significantly altered by unit upgrades (this might have been better stated as "options" since some of the upgrades are, in fact, downgrades). The upgrades, which vary in their availability for unit types, are:

Veteran (+2pts) - Increases the likelihood of activation.

Green (-1 pts) - Decreases the likelihood of activation.

Good shooters (+2 pts) - Upgrades firing to 4+.

Bad shooters (-1 pts) - Downgrades firing to 6.

Sharpshooters (+4 pts!) - For skirmishers only, makes 'em deadly at long range (24"), think Natty Bumppo, Dan'l Boone, or Davy Crockett.

Aggressive (+1 pts) - Increases fighting value.

Timid (-1 pts) - Halves the number of dice rolled for fighting. These are the men who would be kings if only they had bayonets.

Large unit (+1 pts) - 18 figures, rather than standard 12. Theoretically, the unit lasts longer because it can take more casualties before becoming permanently disordered or eliminated.

Small unit (-1 pts) - 6 figures, rather than the standard 12. Likely won't last long, but costs less.

The only people who actually remember the Alamo (the Texicans all being dead)

Because these upgrades vary the unit profile so much, you have a lot of leeway to create units that conform to historical types. The only limit is that no unit can be less than 2 pts or more than 10 pts. For example:

  • Militia, who were ubiquitous in American forces from the French and Indian War through the Civil War, can be fielded as line infantry or skirmishers, with varying qualities. The better quality militia in the Civil War might be green line infantry rated as poor shooters for 2 pts (4 pts basic, -1 for green, -1 for bad shooters). Bad militia could be green line infantry, poor shooters, timid, large unit, also at 2 pts (4 pts basic, -1 for green, -1 for bad shooters, -1 for timid, +1 for large unit). 
  • Line troops, would likely be line infantry, but the quality can vary. British infantry in the AWI might be line infantry, veteran, aggressive at 7 pts. American Continentals might be green line infantry, good shooters at 5 pts.
  • Riflemen, like Daniel Morgan's boys or the over the mountain men who beat up Patrick Ferguson at King's Mountain, could be line infantry with the good shooters upgrade (6 pts), but I think of them more as skirmishers with the sharpshooter upgrade (also 6 pts, but half the size). Other riflemen, like Hessian jaegers, might be skirmishers with the good shooters upgrade (4 pts).

    I have to say that I was unsure how the rules would handle riflemen. Being merely skirmishers wouldn't do them justice, even being better shooting skirmishers wouldn't cut it. The sharpshooters upgrade satisfies me no end. It's pretty much how I'd hoped riflemen could be represented, although it by no means exhausts the possibilities.
  • Bloody Ban's green dragoons could be aggressive veteran light cavalry (7 pts) or shock cavalry (6 pts). As light cavalry, they can shoot. As shock cavalry, they're a larger unit and they're tough fighters who can chase down defeated enemies. I see them more as the latter type, so their historical designation as light dragoons obscures how they tended to operate.
  • Confederate infantry could vary considerably. I tend to think of them as aggressive shock infantry, poor shooters (6 pts) to model the "attack and die" style of fighting—but maybe only if they're Virginians under Stonewall. In this case, shock infantry are a bonus. They already have the +1 discipline that benefits testing for actions, they fight at 5+, and they have the follow up option that enables you to run down your defeated enemies. Add aggressive to that, and they fight at 4+ or 3+ if attacking. Just don't get 'em shot to bits crossing the open ground.

1st Kansas Colored regiment stopping a cavalry charge at Honey Springs

Actions

Actions in Rebels and Patriots follow the same flow as in the previous Lion Rampant series games, except:

  • All actions are a 6+ (modified by officer, close order, green/veteran status, and disorder markers)
  • Failure to perform an action doesn't end your turn, you can keep on going until all units have attempted to perform an action.
The actions that a unit can perform are:
  • Move
  • Attack (random movement distance)
  • Fire
  • Skirmish (if ya got 'em)
  • Form close order
  • Volley fire (if in close order)
  • Rally (if disordered/broken)
The attack action is the biggest departure from the previous LR rules. The unit's activation roll also functions as its move distance (cavalry adds 6" to the dice roll). 

For example, a shock infantry unit testing to attack while in close order within 12" of its officer is testing to attack. It needs a 3+ (normally 6+ with +1 discipline for shock infantry, +1 for close order, +1 for officer). The unit rolls "8", which passes the activation, and moves 8" to attack. Note that if the unit rolled "3" it would still pass the activation, but only move 3", which may make it short—just hope the unit you were attacking fails its activation roll to shoot you.

Shock infantry, natives, shock cavalry, and all aggressive units also have the follow up special rule. If they force an enemy to retreat in fighting and have no disorder markers, they can move up to half their normal move and, if they contact the retreating unit, attack it again. Follow up was introduced in The Pikeman's Lament for some unit types. It's pretty powerful—as I've learned from being on the receiving end of it.

Part of the excellent Wm. Stewart, esq. collection of Sash and Saber ACW minis

Casualties

The way casualties are inflicted and removed in Reels and Patriots is similar in some respects to previous Lion Rampant style rules, though more like The Men Who Would Be Kings, only different.

R&P uses the LR system where units fight or fire with either 12 or 6 dice, but is more like TMWWBK in how the results are applied.

Instead of armor values (or stamina in The Pikeman's Lament), the ability to resist damage in R&P is not inherent in the troop type. Instead, it depends on cover or defense, which is more in keeping with a game that represents an age when firepower started to really matter.

In TMWWBK, results can be very deadly. In close range firing and in fighting, every hit scored on a die equals one casualty removed. This number can be modified down depending on range, cover, and defensive positions.

In R&P, it's less deadly. Close range firing and fighting cause one figure loss for every two hits, which is diminished by range (3 hits), cover (+1 for cover, +2 for hard cover), and position in fighting (+1 for defending cover or obstacles or uphill). Light infantry and skirmishers also count open ground as cover.

But firing in R&P can still be deadly. The standard firing value is 5+ (i.e., 5s and 6s are hits). At close range, using first fire, volley firing, with the good shooters upgrade a unit will hit on 2s and remove a figure for every two hits. Unless the shooters roll poorly, it's easy to see four figures lost in a blast, which will cause a morale check at -4. With good shooting, a unit could inflict six figures lost, which will cause a -6 morale check and for a 12-figure unit cause permanent disorder, which would make the morale check at -7.

Don't fire 'til you see the whites of their eyes!

Fighting seems to be less deadly than firing, but not always. The base fighting value is 6 (i.e., hit only on 6s), which seems anemic. However, shock troops are a base of 5+. Also charging is +1 and the aggressive upgrade is +1. Aggressive shock cavalry charging standard-issue line infantry in the open will score hits on 3+ which remove one figure per two hits. The line infantry fighting back only hits on 6s and inflicts one figure loss per three hits. Also, if the infantry were timid or disordered, they'd only throw 6 dice.

But before a unit—however puissant it may be—reaches its target, it likely has to move through a turn or two of being shot at, with at least one turn in deadly close range. Instead of J.E.B. Stuart scattering the Fire Zouaves at Bull Run, you could easily wind up being the 5th Texas Lancers (yes, lancers) at Valverde.

First—and last—charge of lancers in the ACW

Morale

The morale rules have a new twist to them. Much essentially works the same, but moral failure is expressed as disorder. All units test morale when taking casualties from fighting or firing and need a result of 6+ to pass. Unlike previous LR series games, there are no differences in morale between types.

The roll for morale is modified by being within 12" of the company officer (+1), being in close order (+1), and the number of casualties incurred in the action that required the test (-1 per). This last point is another big departure from the older rules in the series where a unit incurred a cumulative -1 per casualty. Now the -1 per casualty is taken only for the immediate cause of the test.

For example, if a unit that started with 12 figures and has already taken 4 figures lost takes another casualty from fighting or firing, the die roll modifier is just -1 for the casualty just taken. Cumulative casualties aren't taken into account.

In three of the four occasions for taking a morale test, there are no minuses because they don't involve figure loss.

When units fail morale, they take one or two disorder markers depending on the severity of the failure. Again, unlike older rules, rolling snake-eyes on a courage test when your men-at-arms lose one figure from a volley of javelins thrown by smelly bidowers doesn't pull the unit off the table. It does, however, give you two disorder markers, which is perilously close to being removed from the table. Disorder adversely affects how your unit behaves. Three disorders for a unit is a strike-out and your nicely painted figures go back in the box.

When you have disorder, you can rally it off. It's basically the same as a morale test, but subtracting 1 for every disorder marker, as well as getting the plusses for officer and close order (if only one disorder, two disorders and you must break close order). Rallying removes all disorder markers.

The new morale/rally rules look pretty good in theory. I haven't played a game yet, so I'll have to wait and see how they work in fact. It makes me think that large units are a good investment for +1 pts to the unit cost and being in close order near your officer is a good idea. Large units are also a nice investment since a unit becomes permanently disordered after falling to half their original number or less.

We fired once more and they began to runnin'
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf o' Mexico

Final thoughts

If you're familiar with Lion Rampant and The Pikeman's Lament, then a lot of the rules won't be a surprise.

Many of the newer features are adapted from The Men Who Would Be Kings.

There are 12 scenarios in the game, plus a random scenario generator.

I think Michael and Dan have done a great job with Rebels and Patriots. I only wish that in the year I waited for its release, I'd have spent more time painting minis for it. Now I'm scrambling to paint all the Perry AWI figures I bought last May, but only puttered with all these months.

I look forward to many enjoyable games. In addition to the AWI I'm working on, I have some ACW minis on order and I'm starting to think wild thoughts about other areas. For right now, I'm concentration of AWI in the Southern theatre. I think the actions there are much more interesting and smaller, well suited for Rebels and Patriots. I've got Patrick O'Kelley's multi-volume set Nothing But Blood and Slaughter that provides details about numerous small actions in the Carolinas in the Revolution. That'll keep me going for now.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Feeding the ravens: Saga mass battle


I've been playing a lot of Saga lately, more so than anything else I've gamed since September. I gave Saga a miss in its 1.0 incarnation. Now that Saga 2 has been released, I've jumped into the deep end. I have two warbands painted and am completing another two with more ideas for other warbands to come. There's something satisfying about the game that makes it always a delight to play.

Everything in Saga is about trade-offs. There are no über-warbands or über-troops. Where a unit is strong, it has corresponding costs or weaknesses:
  • Javelin-armed troops are powerful (as I've learned to my joy playing Welsh), but have lower armor in melee, making them easier to kill.
  • Mounted troop types (I have mounted hearthguard and mounted warriors with my Spanish warband) move fast, but are more vulnerable to missile shooting—unless they're cataphracts (in the works for my Byzantines), in which case they're expensive.
  • Building larger units gives you advantages in combat, both in how many dice the units throw and in how well they survive taking losses. However, larger units will mean that you have fewer Saga dice for activations.
The three basic troop types (apart from hero/warlord) provide a good set of options for building a warband:
  • Hearthguard have the best combat punch per figure, provide a Saga die even if only a single figure survives in the unit, and have the best armor. But they cost 1 point per four figures and despite their better armor, they die pretty quickly. I've experienced melees where two 4-figure hearthguard units took each other out like the Kilkenny cats—only without even the tails being left. You need to use them judiciously. 
  • Warriors still have decent armor (typically 4) and also have numbers on their side. 1 point buys eight figures. A unit of 8 warriors throws as many combat dice in melee as a unit of 4 hearthguard. Hearthguard may be harder to hit because of their better armor, but Saga abilities and using fatigue against them can change the balance of armor. Even if the losses are even, a 4-figure hearthguard unit suffers more from three lost figures than an 8-figure warrior unit does. Eventually, losses will cause a warrior unit to stop generating a Saga die, but the unit will still remain in being and can melee or shoot with half its figures rounded up.
  • Levy missile troops are the bomb. At least that's what I think. They're not going to do well in a fight (though they can sometimes drive off their attackers), but they don't need to fight. They can torment their enemies from a distance. You may get only a couple turns of shooting, but that can whittle down an opponent. When they are hit, it's highly unlikely they'll be destroyed in one go. 12 figures (you should *always* have 12-figure levy units) are hard to kill. Even after getting thwacked a few times, there always seems to be a few still hanging on. They may not be worth using at that point—especially since they won't be generating a Saga die after getting chewed down to fewer than six figures. Nevertheless, a timely missile shot—even if it's just 2 dice—can turn out to be a game-changer.
The game

The players were Mike Lombardy, running his Irish, and me, running my Welsh on one side. Dean Clarke and Bill Stewart, on the other side, both ran Late Roman warbands from the Aetius and Arthur book (a.k.a. Age of Invasions).

This was the third time I'd played my Welsh, so I was feeling good about my options on the battle board. I've found that the Welsh suit my style of play very well. They've got some defensive reaction abilities, but they also have a very strong offensive or counter-offensive punch. They do well in rough terrain because they have a Saga ability that lets them move through uneven and dangerous terrain with no movement loss.

The Roman players were both using their armies for the first time. The Impetus rule for that faction is a little like trying to rub your tummy and pat your head. You have to activate Saga abilities that increase your impetus so you can activate abilities that use up impetus. You have to keep priming the pump or you're stuck doing just basic stuff, which can get you from here to there, but it lacks sparks.

We wound up with a lot of terrain in the center board, which benefitted us skulking Celtic types, but didn't do much for the Romans. It gave us stuff to hid in and behind, but which we could also burst through at full move if we played the right Saga ability. I got to use my Fogou Games ruins for the first time.

The men of the Tiber won the coin toss and deployed in an impressively tight, straight linear formation. We just kind of formed up in clumps higgledy-piggledy. Bill was opposite me and Mike and Dean faced each other.

My Welsh formed up against Bill's Romans
Bill had two 6-figure mounted hearthguard units, two 8-figure warrior units, and one 8-figure warrior bowmen unit, plus his warlord. I had two 4-figure hearthguard units (with javelins), three 8-figure warrior units (with javelins), one 12-figure levy bowmen unit, and my warlord (with javelins). I certainly had the missile advantage.

The Welsh teulu ready to rock 'n' roll
The Romans moved first, but with only four Saga dice on turn one. Bill didn't rush in and take the ruins. It would have required two moves for one unit. Instead, he used his four Saga dice and warlord's abilities to get the whole straight line moved up one M move.

On my turn I played my Children of the Land ability to move without penalty through the uneven terrain. I rushed a warrior unit into the ruins with the intention of making them sacrificial lambs to inflict as much pain and misery as I could on the Romans before they overwhelmed me. I got off my free javelin shot and took out one of Bill's warriors. I also moved up my bowmen out from the woods they were skulking in and took a shot at Bill's other warrior unit, which effected one more loss for him. The rest of my move was just shifting things in my backfield to support my forlorn hope in the ruins.

Sticking my chin out
Bill pitched in right away. He shot a volley of arrows at my warrior unit, but I escaped from injury. He followed that up with a charge by one of his warrior units. To my surprise, I won with no loss to my unit. Bill took four casualties and went reeling back.

Holding fast—like their descendents will do at Rourke's Drift
Bill's next attempt was to turn my left flank using one of his fearsome 6-figure mounted hearthguard units. I think he decided that doing a von Paulus and sending his units into a meatgrinder was a bad idea. 

Looking for the soft underbelly
I decided that I had to get ballsy at this point. The Welsh don't defend well—despite my warrior unit's survival in the ruins. At his first opportunity, Bill would charge my hearthguard behind the ruins to my ruination. Fortunately, I rolled a dragon on the Welsh Saga dice. That meant I could use the very nice Wild Charge ability. I supplemented that with the Deception ability. The upshot is that I added four dice to my attack for wild charge (in addition to getting +1 on my dice for charging with javelins). Deception let me discard two attack dice to gain four additional defence dice. There were no other Saga abilities used by Bill or me. No one had any fatigue to use. I was rolling 10 dice looking for 4s, bill rolled 12 dice looking for 4s. (Had Bill been attacking me, I would have 8 dice looking for 5s against his 12 dice looking for 4s—and no additional defence dice.) I came out just ahead. Bill lost three figures, I lost two. 

Knowing Bill's hearthguard weren't defeated and seeing Dean's hearthguard looming just beyond, I decided to withdraw my surviving two hearthguard to prevent them getting slaughtered.

A rare moment of caution
The turn also saw the demise of Bill's other warrior unit. I shot my bowmen twice, both times scoring 5 hits, not enough of which Bill managed to save. It was a pretty hot dice turn for me.

On turn 3, Bill attempted a main strike against my bowmen: revenge for his warriors. I had a Saga die on the Evade ability of my battle board. I placed it there on turn 1 figuring that I would get to a point where buggering off rapidly was my best move and I wanted to have it available. However, I really had no place to bugger off to. Bill's warband came in and smacked me. When the dust settled I was seven figures fewer and hunkering down.

Bill then sent his warlord in to fight mine. At this point I wanted to invoke the run away rule, but I found out that not only was that cowardly, but the rules don't let warlords evade from warlords. Bill had one fatigue from moving + charging; I was fresh as fruit. We also both had hearthguard within S distance so they could die for us. I used his fatigue to up my armor to 5 and we rolled off even odds: 8 dice looking for 5s. I suffered one casualty, which I took from my hearthguard. Bill suffered three, which he took as fatigue and two dead hearthguard. And he scurried back.

One the other end of the table, Dean and Mike had been fighting their own little war. Mike was getting the best of it, having taken out two of Dean's mounted hearthguard. At this point it looked like certain loss for the Romans. We were already very much ahead in points. We decided to play out our half of turn 3 and see where we were.

I got two dragons on my Saga dice roll. I was reduced now to generating just six Saga dice, but I had dice still on my board, so still eight dice in play. I set up what I hoped to be a chain of events against Bill's hearthguard and warlord:
  1. I removed my warlords fatigue.
  2. I moved up a full unit of warriors and took a javelin shot at Bill's hearthguard (to no effect).
  3. I charged in with my hearthguard against his three surviving figures.
  4. I used Wild Charge (+4 attack dice), Combat Bonus with a dragon die (+2 attack dice), Deception (-2 attack dice, +4 defence dice).
When the fighting was done, I'd lost two figures, but eliminated Bill's hearthguard unit. Then I charged his warlord with mine. Bill already had two fatigue from earlier in the turn. I got +1 to my dice for attacking with javelins, so we were 8 dice each looking for 4s. I took one hit, Bill took two, which ended him.

The end
That same turn, Dean lost his warlord to Mike. The Romans decided Wales wasn't worth the effort.

Afterthoughts

It was a fun game—for Mike and I. I'm really liking the Welsh. They're kinda brittle because the javelins reduce their armor in melee. I've found that they die quickly if I'm not careful. The key is to maximize the effect of their javelins and to not get caught standing by a charge. The one-two punch of Wild Charge and Deception is a nice combo for a crucial attack. Adding Combat Bonus dice to that is just gravy. If you can use your opponents fatigue to increase your armor, all the better. It's a good riposte style warband.

Bill got to use his beautiful newly painted Late Romans for the first time. Every army needs to get bloodied; they just more so this game. The local ravens had Italian for dinner.

Bill's lovely Romans
I got to use my Fougou ruins. I bought them online from Fogou Models in November. They came quickly and are very, very nice resin castings. They're a lot of bits and pieces that can be arranged in multiple ways. For this game I used the Osric's Outhouse set. I'll use the Farmhouse later.



Saturday, December 29, 2018

Back to sniffing glue


Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop building plastic models.

After having gone lead 40+ years ago, I was sure I'd never go back to cutting model parts off sprues, trimming little nubs with very, very sharp XActo blades, and breathing in the mind-altering vapors of plastic cement as I assembled all the bits and pieces. People who know me know that I am an adamant foe of plastic minis. Don't worry, I haven't gone over to that. I have, however, built my first plastic models since I was in high school. It took a bit of convincing.

The catalyst for this change was picking up a box of the Cruel Seas 1/300th scale German S-boats. I initially thought of giving Cruel Seas a miss. I already have a sizable collection of WW2 coastal ships in 1/1250th scale; I was pretty sure that I didn't want to go into another scale for the same period. But then I saw some of the models that came as free samples in an issue of Wargames Illustrated. It was like that line from the song, "then I saw her face, now I'm a believer." The models are really nice.


Free samples in magazines. Well played, Warlord Games, well played.


So I bought a boxed set of the S-boats. I brought them home and beheld the bewildering array of bits on a sprue. I earlier bought some sprue cutters and a tube of Testor's cement for plastic models. That impulse came after buying a kit of a Soviet SU-100 for the 15mm scale Tanks game. The plan is to use that for What a Tanker! I wanted to get the standard resin and metal kit from Flames of War, but they didn't offer that model. It was only available as a plastic kit. I let the SU-100 kit sit for months. I hate fiddly and plastic model kits are fiddly.

But I finally bit the plastic kit bullet with a couple of the S-boats. It was easier than I thought. I had 'em built and primered (white) in an evening. Two days later, I bought a box set of the Vospers.


I now have four of the S-boats and two of the Vospers built and primed.


I've looked around at painting ideas. So far, I've given them a base coat of Vallejo Light Sea Gray (973). Darker gray decks and some camouflage, then touching up details. They should paint quickly, though it means jumping the queue ahead of all the other projects I have in the works.

I'll get to completing them this week (maybe). I have another week of vacation for Christmas—Epiphany is the 6th, so my time off works out perfectly for the complete holiday.


I don't have a copy of the rules yet. At this point, Warlord is sold out of starter sets. Now that I have six S-boats and six Vospers, I'm pretty loath to get a box set with more of the same. So, I'll get the rules separately. I suspect I can get some other bits I want separately as well.

I'm not the only one in my circle who's been sucked into the Cruel Seas vortex. Dave Schueler has bought in and written a review on his blog Naval Gazing. Bill Stewart, Mike Lombardy, and Dean Clark are also building flotillas. I hope we'll get a game in sometime in January or February.

Postscript: I've built the SU-100. It's not painted yet, but I've overcome by plastic kit aversion. I don't predict that I'll ever go for plastic minis. That's a sprue too far for me.



Monday, November 26, 2018

I, Regicide (10x removed)


As I was climbing the family tree this weekend, I learned that my 10th great-grandfather was Lord John Lisle, one of Cromwell's cronies who signed the death warrant of Charles I. He was prominent in the Protectorate and administered Cromwell's oath of office when he became Lord Protector in 1653.


After the Restoration, he fled to Switzerland along with other regicides. He considered himself somewhat safe from Charles II's vengeance until August 11, 1664, when he was gunned down by a blunderbuss-wielding assassin in a Lausanne churchyard.

He was the husband of Dame Alice Lisle, who is famous for being the last woman beheaded under law in England. She was convicted of harboring refugees from Monmouth's rebellion in 1685. Judge Jeffreys condemned her to be burnt at the stake, specifically noting who her husband had been, but the sentence was commuted to beheading. Alice was John Lisle's second wife. I'm descended from his daughter Alice by his first wife Mary Hobart.

Arrest of Dame Alice Lisle
Alice married John Hoar and they settled in Concord, MA. During King Philip's War, John created a refuge for Indians who were caught in the middle, not siding with their fellow natives and not trusted by the English settlers. The refuge was short lived. Samuel Moseley, one of the prominent captains in the war and a confirmed Indian hater, removed the Indians from John Hoar's refuge and marched them into internment on Deer Island in Boston harbor.

John Hoar was also a go-between with the Indians. In 1676 he negotiated the ransom and release of Mary Rowlandson, who had been captured by a band of Indians (which included Narragansett, Wampanoag, Nipmuc, and Nashaway) in the Attack on Lancaster, MA in February, 1675. Mary wrote a famous account of her captivity among the Indians.


John and Alice's daughter Mary married Benjamin Graves, my 8th great-grandfather, who served under Captain Thomas Wheeler during King Philip's War.

The Graveses have an interesting family tree, which is funny because the one Graves male ancestor for whom anyone has living memory is my 2nd great-grandfather George Graves. He died when my father was 10 years old. My father remembers him as a "crusty old duck" who sat in a rocking chair on the porch wrapped up in blankets and calling out orders to his daughter Minnie, my great-grandmother. My dad and his cousin Doug used to sneak up behind and make his chair rock violently. George would would yell and flail about with his cane trying to thwack them. My Grandmother recalled him as a "bluenose" who was a bit on the tyrannical side, not surprising given his solid Puritan heritage. Her family, the Van Buskirks (descended from New Amsterdam Dutch), never liked him.

Nevertheless, he had a fairly illustrious heritage. Other Graves ancestors were veterans of the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. But I've found nothing in my ancestry so far that trumps having a regicide for an ancestor.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sanguinis et furor


We played Studio Tomahawk's Jugula on Saturday at the Panzer Depot. It's been a long time coming and was a welcome return to the game. The players were Mike Lombardy, Bill Stewart, Wes Rogers, and me. Mike and I are veteran players, but the others picked it up quickly after a walk through of the rules. Soon we were all going at full speed.

It was a four-player game, so we each took a corners and chose our ludus. All the figures we used were from Mike's collection. Everyone started with a murmillo because Mike has a plethora of them. After that we went in rounds picking the rest. In addition to the murmillo, I picked a dimachaerius, a retiarius, and a crupellarius. The crupellarius is irresistible for me. He's like the Tiger tank of the arena, sort of. He's very slow and kind of awkward, especially against light gladiator types, but he's encased in iron and hits hard. He's also intimidating. Even if he isn't thumping someone, he can extert a slow, steady pressure while your other gladiators are running about slashing at things.

My crupellarius against Bill's sagittarius (I never got him)
From the get-go, Wes went full-court press against me in my corner. He dispatched my murmillo in just a few turns. However, I came back. My crupellarius crunched his secutor. and my other two started pushing back hard.

I also had to content with two of Mike's gladiators, whom he'd sent my direction. Bill saved me a bit from that because Mike needed to pull back and face Bill's advance on him.

That left me free to focus on Wes. After a few rounds, I managed to kill off another two of his. By the multiplayer rules, when you're down to one survivor (or all are wounded), you withdraw from the arena. Ave atque vale.

Mike and Bill squaring off
Wes' withdrawal gave me a breather while Mike and Bill started bashing away at each other. I used the opportunity to pump up my Vox Populi numbers and improve my card deck. Then I moved up and started to nibble at the flank of their melee.

After a while, they'd bashed and wounded each other enough, while I still had my remaining three unwounded gladiators. At that point they realized that fighting me was the wiser option if either wanted to survive.

Bill's scissors trying to cut up Mike's diamachaerius (didn't happen)
It was pretty hairy and we all managed to pull out of scrapes that seemed like sure doom. In the end, Mike killed off Bill's penultimate gladiator (his scissors) forcing him out, but lost one to me. This left the me in the arena still with three unwounded gladiators and Mike with one unwounded and one wounded gladiator. That's when we called it.

The last survivors
Jugula is a great game. Mike has talked up the career system that works like a kind of campaign where gladiators improve over time and you play the role of lanista working to make your ludus preeminent. It's a great system and would be a rewarding use of one weekend a month.

Ludus building

Ludus Dave is in the works. I've completed four of the big 35mm "official" gladiator minis that are made by Gripping Beast. I have another four in the works and another eight unstarted. I bought those minis separate from the Jugula rules in order to use them for some other rules. They're very nice minis, but I doubt the range will increase much. Gripping Beast has released three "familia" sets of four minis each (the last of which includes my beloved crupellarius!). I'm not confident they'll release more. The minis released so far can be customized to some extent. The sets come with extra heads, weapons, shield, and other accessories so that no two minis need be the same. You can even create multiple armaturae from the same basic mini. I converted the murmillo of familia one into a secutor, though in familia three, GB released a figure designated as a secutor. Maybe I'll convert him to a murmillo...

After playing Jugula for the first time, I bought some of the Crusader Miniatures gladiators. They make an fairly extensive 28mm range and the figures are very well done. I bought three packs of four initially, which have been sitting half done in my growing pile of partially completed minis. On Saturday, I added another three packs and plan to add another still—I declined to buy a pack I thought I already had.  I also have a dozen female gladiators that I got from Eureka minis a few years ago.

Cal me crazy, but I'll soon have enough to host a four-player game in two scales. In 28mm, I can likely put on two four-player games (a thought for Enfilade!) if I get a second game mat and another four decks of cards.

Saga recuitment

Mike and I hoodwinked Bill into jumping on the Saga bandwagon, thus adding another Studio Tomahawk game into our repertoire. Bill has Crusaders and Late Romans painted, but still not based. He can easily jump into two Saga warbands with them.

Bill was a bit reluctant based on some other feedback he'd heard about 1st edition Saga (played with generic activations, not with the battle boards). So, now encumbered with the rules, Age of Crusades army book, and a nifty set of Crusader Saga dice, he's ready to roll.

I'm chugging away at my Welsh warband with full expectation that I'll have it for the mini-tournament in December. Otherwise, I'll run my Spanish with whom I'm 2 for 2 in the first two games I've played. Having played the Spanish a few times now, I'm not crazy about their Saga abilities. My style of play is to thrust rather than parry, and the Spanish are a parrying kind of warband in Saga with just a touch of riposte.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax

 The time has come,' the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'
I could write a lot of little—or not so little—posts on various things or I could just write a grab-bag of scattered topics. Much is going on and, to quote Lewis Carroll again, "you must run as fast as you can just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that."

So I'm running twice as fast as I can—or trying to. I have so many new wargaming irons in the fire that I don't know where to start. I'll just go from today and work back.

The Miniature Company is my homeboy

Quite by accident, I discovered The Miniature Company. I forget how. I tend to bump into a lot of things on the Interwebs when I'm not looking where I'm going. I think I saw some pics of one of their recent releases (Dark Age Welsh) and when I went to their site, behold: Egyptians. The pics of the minis looked very nice. So, after pondering a purchase for a responsible period (i.e., overnight while I slept), I made a small order. It just arrove on Monday. They're lightening fast on fulfilling orders.

I was pleasantly surprised I must say. You can never really tell enough about a mini from a picture. You have to have the tactile experience of feeling it, weighing it in your hand, turning it around to see it from all angles. The minis did not disappoint. They're BIG. They have HEFT. They're METAL (of course). I love them.

TMC (left), Warlord/Cutting Edge (right): Same scale, the difference is heft
I just finished cleaning and primering a dozen bowmen. The castings are clean with just a bit of mold lines to burnish out. The metal is soft enough to make it easy to clean. The style of the figures is a bit exaggerated, which is correct IMO for any figure. Save us from sculptors who want to make sure everything on the mini is exactly proportional.

TMC has only four packs released so far for the Egyptian line: spearmen, bowmen, command, warrior priests (basically, bald-headed bowmen). I ordered enough of the first three packs to make two units of archers and one unit of spearmen for a Chariots Rampant army. Dave from TMC says that there will be a total of 20 packs for the Egyptians, so I'll have to wait a little bit for the chariots, which will finish the army.

Bowmen
Command
Spearmen
TMC has other lines that look promising. Hittites are planned (no minis yet), Saxons have just started to appear, the aforementioned Welsh are well underway (all foot so far), there is a pretty impressive Classic Indian range, and Persians too.

After spending a while on Tuesday evening cleaning the Egyptian bowmen, I got so enamored of the minis that I ordered enough Welsh for a Saga warband. The next morning, I got an email from TMC saying they'd been cast and posted. I should have them early next week. Lightening fast I tell ya.

TMC has become a new infatuation for me. I may need an intervention.

I'm still working on my Sumerians. I only have some basing to do and one four-equid battle cart to finish before I have a 24-point Chariots Rampant army. Then I go in search of opponents to fight and kingdoms to conquer.

All things colonial (America)

When the eventual (Jan '19) release of Patriots and Rebels was announced earlier this year, I got pulled back into gaming the American Revolution. From there it kind of snowballed into a multifaceted Amerindian fest of epic proportion.

I have posted before about my foray (aided and abetted by Kevin Smyth) into early, early Native American warfare using Pulp Figures/Crucible Crush Flint and Feather minis and the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules. That lead to an increasing interest in the French and Indian War, which I was never too interested in before. I bought a pile of Galloping Major Canadian milita and Huron allies, which are well under way and adding to the clutter of my painting table and the various nooks and crannies at Stately Chez Dave where I stage or sidetrack projects. There's only so much room on the painting table to clutter up.

I've just started the last 19 figures of Hurons. I like Galloping Major minis. Like TMC, they're big and they have heft. The metal is pretty hard, so filing can be chore, but there's very little to clean on the figures. An hour or so sitting down and filing with Netflix playing on the computer in front of me, et voila.

Galloping Major Hurons on deck
Galloping major is now shipping the Troupes de la Marine from their last Kickstarter. I didn't get in on that; it kicked off well before I caught the FIW bug. They likely won't be available on the website until January or so. I can wait. I'll start with colonial militia and rangers for their opponents. I'm sure I'll eventually add in British regulars and, whenever Galloping Major produces them, French regulars of the line.

With my recent research into my ancestry, I've discovered two direct ancestors who were killed in King Philip's War: My 8th great-grandfather John Graves (along with his brother Isaac) and another 8th great-grandfather Nathaniel Parmalee. (The Parmalees were once nobility in what is now Belgium. Ardent Protestants, they were displaced by the Spanish during the 80 Years War and forced to take refuge in England. There they turned Puritan and wound up coming to America as part of the Great Migration of Puritans and other non-conformists escaping religious persecution in England.)

17th c. colonial militia
And what do you know? Brigade Games produces a line of minis for King Philip's War. I've known about it for a little while, but I resisted buying anything until I found that I had ancestors who met their demise in the war. So of course I ordered a small force of armed and dangerous Puritans (foot and dragoons). I'll order some Indians from the range too, as soon as the smoke clears from all my other impulse buys—assuming no intervening impulse buys get things all smokey again. The number of figures won't be large, less than 60 or so overall. I plan to use Song of Drums and Tomahawks (a new favorite among rules sets), so it doesn't take more than 30 figures per side to have a reasonably-sized multiplayer game.

I read, therefore I game/I game, therefore I read

There's also the literary aspect of these projects. In January of this year, I had zero books on colonial American Indian wars. Zero. Since then, I've read several books on the French and Indian War and am now reading a handful concurrently with others queued up. One of them is Fred Anderson's massive groaning tome The Crucible of War. I'm a third of the way though its 746 pages. Massive though it is, the book reads quickly. Anderson is one of those historians that can flawlessly combine deep scholarship with the readability of a novel. I started reading Braddock's Defeat by David Preston. It's another very readable history. Preston acknowledges his indebtedness to Paul Kopperman's 1977 monograph Braddock at the Monongahela, so I had to get a copy of that too.


I've also got a few books, which I'm also concurrently reading, about the early American frontier generally. The First Frontier, by Scott Weidensaul is especially good. It's another of those very readable history books.

The plethora of books published about King Philip's War is astounding. It's a pretty obscure conflict and only lasted 16 months; yet it has captured the attention of a lot of academics of late, who have been churning out books. I have two books on order and a few others on my Amazon wish list.

I have piles of  books on Ancient Near Eastern warfare, but I came across a new title yesterday, Warfare and Weaponry in Dynastic Egypt. It's recent, having been published in 2017, so it may have some new information. With my enthusiasm for the new TMC Egyptians, I couldn't resist ordering it. It'll be in my hot little hands tomorrow (thanks, Amazon). It will add to such books I already have like Fighting Pharaohs (2002) by Robert Partridge, War in Ancient Egypt (2005) by Robert Spalinger, and Yigael Yadin's classic two-volume work The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands (1963).


I'm happy so far with using the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules for the colonial American projects. I think the nature of this warfare lends itself to that kind of game.However, I'm looking forward to Patriots and Rebels. I'm also eager to get a copy of Muskets and Tomahawks, which is out of print and unavailable at any price. The rumor is that Studio Tomahawk will publish a new edition now that Saga version 2 is out. I'm the impatient sort, but better to wait for the expected new release that spend time and money tracking down a copy of a version that will soon be superseded.

And its place knows it no more

I had dinner with Karen Bardsley a couple weeks back. She's the widow of my Friend Phil, who died in January 2017. She's still gearing up to sell his large collection of books, games, and minis. Among the items to be sold are three limited edition signed prints by Dale Gallon showing aspects of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Phil was a direct descendant of Nathaniel Greene (his middle name was Greene), who commanded the Patriot forces at that battle. The prints meant a lot to him. I acquired one myself and am in the process of finding buyers for the other two (I can't afford them all—nor do I have wall space for them). The one I got shows Greene giving directions to the North Carolina Militia. In the background the bare field stretches back to the Hoskins house where the British are forming up.


It was great to see Karen again. She has a new man in her life since about April/May this year. He's recently moved in. He's not a gamer, but a good man anyway.

However, the visit left me with a lot of melancholy. I can't count the number of times I've sat on Phil's patio drinking the obscure sodas he was fond of buying or getting sloshed on Arnold Palmers spiked with Bourbon as we discussed game projects and shared our latest work. Or sat in his family room filling it with smoke from expensive cigars while we watched movies and drank Scotch. I've eaten dinner there numerous times and enjoyed so many of Phil's enthusiasms for barbecuing. I'm a fatter man because of Phil.

I recall his enthusiasm for adding new aircraft prints to eventually cover the den wall. I remember all the times I looked at various works in progress on his painting table wondering if or when he would finish them (as I wonder about all mine).

All gone. Don, the new man, has made Phil's den his own. The aircraft prints are gone, replaced by Don's collection of edged weapons (I think Phil would approve, he had a Civil War saber himself). The painting table is gone along with all the half-finished projects that cluttered it.


I'm happy for Karen. Don looks to be a keeper. Phil didn't want her to be left alone.

But for me the melancholy remains. A place that over a quarter-century had become as familiar to me as my own home was familiar no more. I couldn't help recalling the words of Psalm 103:
As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
As I move about cluttered, cat-infested Chez Dave in formerly bucolic Lynnwood, I have to imagine that one day it will be an empty place awaiting new occupants and so on until it's gone. No trace of me will remain in it. We don't live in imperishable caves any more (which is a good thing). Our homes are like the wood, hay, and stubble that burn up in the fire. But if we lived in caves, maybe we could leave a mark, like the handprints left by paleolithic man, to say, "I was here." Otherwise, it may one day be as if we never were.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Climbing the family tree


I've been fiddling about with my family tree and DNA mapping recently. It's one of those engrossing things I dragged my feet on for a long time before I finally dove in. It's been pretty rewarding, though I may be close to having satisfied all my curiosity—unless something really unexpected pops up.

My ancestry has never been that much of a mystery to me, although we all have family lore that might indicate, however tentatively, that we're 1/1024th Cherokee. I've heard stories about my family having Blackfoot ancestry, but it hasn't surfaced in the family tree or DNA (so far—maybe I should hire a Stanford professor to check it). Maybe I'm only 1/2048th Blackfoot, which would exclude me from Harvard's minority hiring preferences. 1/1024th seems to be the cut off. I do, however, have high cheekbones.

I submitted some spit to Ancestry.com for a DNA analysis. The result was initially disappointing and left me highly skeptical about the validity of the testing. I know that I'm half Swede on my mothers side, but Ancestry put me down as 79%. That's too much. They also had me at 10% Iberian peninsula, which I knew couldn't be true, and 2% "Southern Europe," which is anybody's guess.

However, a recent update of the results, which Ancestry routinely does as more samples become available, brought the results back into sanity. I now show as 49% Swedish; 31% English-Welsh-Northwestern European; 14% German; 2% Norwegian; 2% Balt(?); and 2% Scotch-Irish.

Behold the primordial soup whence I came
I expect that it will refine further as more samples are added to the database. In the meantime, I'm having analysis done with two other DNA testing services: Helix and Living DNA. Both use a methodology different from Ancestry. I ordered them back at the I-can't-believe-this-is-really-me stage of the original DNA results. Because the updated results are more in line with what I know about my ancestry (apart from the Baltic thing), I'm less interested now in correcting things than getting a bit more information.

I've also gotten to work on Ancestry.com's family tree builder.

I've had some genealogy information for several decades as well as some old family lore. My paternal grandmother's family are van Buskirks. She once told me that the original van Buskirk ancestor came to America from Denmark, which I knew had to be wrong. Danes generally don't have Dutch surnames. It turns out, however, that she was right, only his surname was Andriessen, very Danish that, and he changed it to van Buskirk after he settled in New Amsterdam in 1655, when he was 25 years old. He lived near a church in the woods, which is what van Buskirk means.

There is an document that turned up in Italy in 1900 called the Castello Plan, which is a map of New Amsterdam in 1660. The shoreline today is much farther out. The current site of the World Trade Center was still part of the Hudson River in 1660.

Castello plan of New Amsterdam in 1660
There is also an index that someone compiled showing the owner of every residence in town. Laurens Andriessen's house was on the Churchwarden's land just west of what is now Broadway. The current site is covered by the Broadway Atrium building at 45 Broadway, NYC.

Chez Andriessen on Broadway - a much different neighborhood back then
In 1658, Laurens Andriessen married a Dutch widow named Jannetje Jans, She was also a newcomer to the New World, having been born in Hoorn, but settled in Delaware with her first husband. He died of some New World sickness and sixth months later she married Laurens, who had gone to Delware with a commission to help the people affected by the outbreak if disease. Laurens and Jannetje were fruitful and multiplied and after many generations, I showed up.

The Andriessens/van Buskirks intermarried with other families that had deep roots in early European settlement in America. My 5th great-grandfather, Stephen Graves, served as 2nd. Lt. in the 3rd Co. of the 9th Regt. of the Albany County Militia (Van Ness' Regiment) during the Saratoga Campaign of 1777.

Thomas Graves, my 10th great-grandfather, his wife and children arrived in Boston sometime before 1632. I haven't yet found specific information about the exact year. One official record has them in Hartford, CT in 1645 where Thomas owned three plots of land.

In 1661, Thomas and family left Hartford, shaking the dust off their feet after an apparently acrimonious church split, and were part of the founders of Hatfield, MA, which was just across the Connecticut river from Hadley, MA, which was founded just a few years before in 1659. Hatfield was originally just a outgrowth of Hadley, but being separated by an unbridged river made church attendance—a must for pious Puritans such as they—difficult. The Hadley town council's refusal to allow a second church to be built west of the river, led to a formal split into two townships ca. 1663.

Hatfield/Hadley was smack in the path of King Philip's War. The legend of the Angel of Hadley is that William Goffe, an English Civil War veteran, one of Cromwell's major-generals, and one of the regicides who signed Charles I's death warrant, hid out in Hadley in the home of Rev. John Russell. (After the Restoration, Charles II had his father's killers tracked down. Goffe and Edward Whalley were two who escaped to New England.) As the story goes, when Indians attacked Hadley in 1675, Goffe, being a formidable soldier even then, came out of hiding, rallied the town militia, and beat back the attack, after which he left Hadley. The Merry Monarch never got his mitts on Goffe or Whalley.

Up Hadlians and at 'em!
My 9th great-grandfather, John Graves, was in the Hatfield/Hadley militia and would certainly have been involved in the fighting. His brother Isaac was a sergeant in the militia. John didn't have long to rest on his laurels, however. On September 19, 1677 John and Isaac were ambushed and killed by Indian raiders while they were shingling a house. The raid killed several others in the townships.

John Graves' 5th great-grandson was George Seldon Graves, who married Mary Willet, an Irish immigrant (and family servant, according to family lore). Their daughter was Minnie Graves, who married Rufus Judson van Buskirk, who was Laurens Andriessen's 6th great-grandson. Their daughter was my grandmother Mildred van Buskirk/Sullivan.

The Sullivans arrived in Boston in 1845, Johnny-come-latelys compared to the van Buskirks and Graveses, but they married into old families.

My 2nd great-grandfather, Daniel Frederick Sullivan, married Lovisa Jane Ranney in 1871. The Ranneys were here before the van Buskirks. Thomas Ranney, my 9th great-grandfather, was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland ca. 1592. He and his wife Bessie arrived in Connecticut sometime before 1640. They settled for several generations in Connecticut.

My 5th great-grandfather, Abner Ranney, served in Capt. Eli Butler's Co. of Major Elisha Sheldon's regiment of Connecticut light horse during Washington's retreat through New Jersey from October to December, 1776.  He was 29 years old.

Howard Pyle's Retreat through the Jerseys
Elisha Sheldon formed the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons in December, 1776 and served as its commander through the rest of the war. According to one record I have, Abner Ranney was discharged on December 22, 1776. There is no record (so far) of him serving later with the 2nd Continental Dragoons. However, there is some information about him serving briefly in 1782 in a troop of horse commanded by Daniel Sloper, who was another of the troop captains in Sheldon's Horse of 1776.

In any case, Abner married Lovisa Shepard in 1778. Lovisa was the daughter of Jonathan Shepard, with whom Abner served in Capt. Mosley's troop of Connecticut militia horse in September, 1776. Abner and Lovisa had 13 children, the oldest born on 9 April, 1779. Lovisa died in 1818 and Abner remarried. He outlived his second wife, too, and died in 1847 at the age of 100. Those Connecticut cavalrymen were long-lived. The last living veteran of the Revolution was Lemuel Cook, a Connecticut man who served in the 2nd Continental Dragoons and died in 1866 at the age of 106.

As I go through more and more records, I'm finding a lot of information about ancestors who were veterans of this or that conflict. I haven't really touched on the Civil War yet, but I have some information I need to flesh out about an ancestor who served in the 79th PA, which had a storied history from Perryville through Mufreesboro, Chickamauga, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta, the March to the Sea, and ended up at Bentonville.

This has been a pretty rewarding exercise. I've traced several ancestors back to Europe, but it becomes more difficult to get information once the records are not in English. As I said, I'll stick with it until it comes up flat, but so far it's been a wild ride of discovery. Who knew I had ancestors who fought (and died) in King Philip's War?

I'm expecting the Helix DNA test to tell me whether I have any Neanderthal in me. Maybe that's where I get my high cheekbones.