Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Our bayonets were fixed

Saturday was another great Fix Bayonet! game day at Historic Fort Steilacoom. Lawrence Bateman and Damond Crump have been running this event for ages now. There were several games played and a good crowd of gamers. I got there, I thought early, only to find a pile of people already there.

Kevin Smyth and I ran a game of Song of Drums and Tomahawks with 6 players in the first period.  In the same period, Dean Motoyama ran a Black Powder Napoleonics game with his excellent minis.

Mitch Berdinka ran a Sharp Practice game of American Revolution.

There were three games in the second period: Dale Mickel ran a game of All Quiet on the Martian Front and Scott Murphy ran a game of Star Wars Armada, but I only got pictures of the game I played in, which was What a Tanker! run by Lawrence and Damond (see below).

Round 1: Death in the thickets

The game Kevin and I hosted was a replay of the game we played earlier at Meeples Games in West Seattle: A force of Dutch colonialist oppressors and their Iroquois allies are trying to make it across the table, but their way is blocked by a lot of vengeful Hurons.

The Dutch/Iroquois were Scott Murphy, Mark Serafin, and Chester [?]. The Hurons were Kevin, Mark Waddington, and Gary Greiss. The Dutch/Iroquois started just at a small river ford. The Hurons diced for arrival and wound up coming in separately from 3 sides.

Dutch and Iroquois cross the ford
Mark Serafin was in the lead with a force of 8 Iroquois. He made a rapid dash for the opposite table edge, but was intercepted by Kevin's and Mark Waddington's Hurons. Mark S. dashed for cover into a small thicket of heavy woods. Wargamers tend to use modern-era fire & movement tactics whatever period they're playing.

A shot rings out, a Iroquois falls, Mark takes cover
Mark W. plowed right into the thicket after him and a lively scrape ensued. Meanwhile Kevin kept a lively amount of bow and musket fire against Mark S. I though Mark S. was done for, but the combined efforts of Kevin and Mark W. failed to destroy him. He did lose his leader, but his hero stayed alive. I don't think he ever got down to half-strength.

Mark and Kevin surrounding the thicket
Chester (commanding the 8 Dutchmen) and Gary sparred a bit just past the ford. There were a few kills back and forth, but the fighting was mostly desultory.

Dutch and Hurons skirmish
Scott pushed his force of 8 Iroquois into the melee at the thicket, which contributed greatly to Mark W's discomfiture. After a while Mark W. was reduced to 2 figures left and heading away from the fight.

The thicket of death
Kevin's losses weren't too bad, but it looked as if there was nothing to stop the Iroquois from getting off the board. The Dutchmen may have been a different matter. They were less than half-way across the board and still had Gary's Hurons hounding them, plus Kevin's not insignificant force. The Iroquois players didn't seem to mind that the Dutch were doomed.

General mayhem at game's end
Song of Drums and Tomahawks is a fun set of rules. They're easy to learn and take some experience to master. Things can turn quickly and managing your activations is everything. Even then, best-laid plans can go awry.  Mark W. is considering Song of Drums and Shakos, the predecessor of Song of Drums and Tomahawks, for some Napoleonic gaming. The whole family of rules from Ganesha games is the most fun you can have with a handful of minis.

Round 2: Dave und Panzer

I dithered on whether I wanted to stay for round 2, but the lure of playing What a Tanker! again was too strong. I brought my fancy-schmanzty tanker dashboard (the only one I've finished so far), and my nifty 14mm Flames of War German dice that fit the squares.

The situation was Americans v. Germans in Normandy '44. The terrain was well broken up by hedgerows, walls, woods, and buildings. There was also a river than ran across the board separating the two sides. I think the Americans had objectives, but I don't know what they were. In any case, they didn't get across the river, so I assume they didn't achieve them.

Das Schlachtfeld bei Normandie
On the American side there were some standard Shermans, and Easy-Eight, and an M-36 Jackson, which mounted the best gun in the game. The Germans had a StuG IIIG, two Panzer IVFs, and a Tiger I.

I leaped to play the lone Tiger tank. It's nice to have such power, though it turned out to be a paper tiger. Being naturally aggressive, I did a Wittmann and impetuously ran my Tiger across the river hunting Shermans.

Meine Tiger
I came under fire immediately from one of Lawrence's Shermans. Lawrence rolled amazingly well all game. The rest of us, not so much. He managed a number of hits, but I bounced them all off my "10" armor. George Kettler came on with a second Sherman and for a while I was engaging both—to little effect.

I was cursed with bad dice rolling. Both my command dice and combat dice were painful. I took several shots at George's Sherman, but missed every shot. Every. Single. Shot. One shot resulted in snake-eyes, which ended my turn immediately and lost me the aim and acquisition I had.

Intimidating, but not deadly
Meanwhile, Will to my left with a Pz IVF was engaging Lawrence's Sherman. Will got many hits and Lawrence took a lot of damage, but stayed in the game. There were only two kills in the game. Ted Henkle blew up the StuG, but then got his M-36 blown up in turn by the replacement StuG that came on afterwards.

Mein Panzerkamerad Willi
George eventually gave up the line of advance that would have brought him up close and personal with my Tiger. He had to leave and left his Sherman to Damond.

The George's eye view of the Tiger situation
On my last turn of the game, I got the right command dice to get right up to the Sherman. I used my "3" aim die, but converted a "6" wild-card die into an aim die to get a +1 to my to-hit roll. I'd been failing to hit consistently throughout the game and I wanted every chance I could get. Turns out I didn't need it as I rolled "10"—my first and only hit of the game. But then I rolled 11 strike dice and got a single hit. Damond's armor roll provided just one block.

Closing in for the non-kill
The kicker is that if I hadn't converted that "6" to a "3" for the +1 to-hit, I could have converted it to a "4" and taken a second shot. Maybe taking the Tiger was too much for me.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Saga begins

Some weeks back, John Kennedy posted on Facebook about nearly completing a Moorish warband for Saga 2nd edition (Saga 2). That got my brain turning like meat on a spit and it dawned on me that the El Cid retinue I'd created for Lion Rampant could easily be used for Saga 2 as well—without having to paint a single additional mini.

Fueled by this inspirational brain-fart, I jumped at the chance to buy a copy of the Saga 2 rules at The Panzer Depot. When I looked at the price, I thought I'd gone back in time. $15.00! I haven't seen a set of rules cost $15.00 since the 70s. My rejoicing at this bargain, was short-lived as John informed me that the rules were nothing without the supplements, which cost a mere $45.00 per book. And the dice were $20.00 for a set of 8.

So, still firmly rooted in the 21st century.

He was out of the Age of the Crusades book, but expected them in soon. When they came in, I shed $65.00 (not including the aforementioned $15.00 for the core rules, which I'd already spent) and got the Crusades book and a set of dice. (Yes, you can just use standard D6 in lieu of the expensive Saga dice, but the dice are so charming and being a dice fetishist, I can't resist.)

I'm normally very doubtful about spending so much money to buy into a game system that just sucks you into buying more and more. I've been through it before, most recently with Bolt Action and every army list booklet, plus the 2nd edition rules, which made all the army lists obsolete. In fact, I bought the 1st edition Saga rules and one of the booklets, which I eventually sold—having never played it—at the Enfilade! swap tables before I wound up buying more booklets. But, as St. Peter wrote, a dog returns to its vomit...

At our last gaming get together in late July (was it?), Mike Lombardy, Dean Clarke, and I discussed the possibility of a Saga game. Saturday, September 1 was the day.

I'd read the rules and studied the board for the Spanish. I went into the game with only a fuzzy idea of what was supposed to happen. Since I'd never actually played 1st edition, I had no need to make a paradigm shift from Saga 1 to Saga 2, which probably helped.

We played with 6-point warbands. My warband consisted of my warlord, 2 units of 4 hearthguards (armored cavalry), 2 units of 8 warriors (armored foot), 1 unit of 8 warriors (jinetes), and 1 unit of 12 levy (crossbows). I played Dean, who ran a Saracen warband consisting of his warlord, 4 units of hearthguard (mounted with composite bows), and 2 units of warriors (basic spear-armed foot).

I had a slight advantage in that my hearthguards were more heavily armored, but I soon discovered that the composite bow was not my friend. I formed up with my hearth guards in the front, supported by the warrior foot with my warlord just to the left of them. My levy crossbows were on the left in a field and my jinetes were on the right hidden behind a wood.

The warbands deployed
Dean had his hearthguard on his left opposite my hearthguards with 3 units up and 1 behind. His warlord in between the two of the front units. His 2 warrior units were on his right opposite my levy crossbows.

I had first go, which only allowed me to roll 3 Saga dice, but I used one flag die to get a roll of 2 more. So, basically, 4 Saga dice. My first move was to go forward on my flanks. I took first blood when the jinetes shot away one of Dean's hearthguards.

Dean came back by attacking my 8 jinetes with his 3 hearthguards. It was bloody. I lost 5 of my 8 figures in the unit, which deprived me of it generating a Saga die, but I managed to kill all 3 of his remaining hearthguards, thus wiping out the unit and depriving him of its Saga die.

Javelins to the left of them
Dean moved his other hearthguards and warlord up towards my center, ignoring my 3 surviving jinetes—which he would later regret.

The fighting in the center was pretty nasty, especially for me. Both my hearthguards got beaten up pretty badly in the first rounds, although I managed to reduce one of his hearthguards to a single figure (still generating a Saga die, though). One unpleasant surprise for me was a Saracen Saga ability called "Damascus Steel" that gave him 4 or 6 extra defense dice.

Mayhem in the center
Meanwhile, on my left, Dean moved up his warriors into the beanfield to oppress my levy crossbows. I got a shot off earlier that hurt him a little bit. When he came at me, he had a bit of advantage, but we tied in the melee and back he went. I managed another shot at him. He came at me a second time and got hurt even worse than before. I kind of expected the levy to crumple, but they hung in there. He came at me a third time with just 2 figures in his unit and managed to push me back. However, I still retained 6 figures in the levy unit, so it still generated a Saga die.

Action on the left flank
All the while since turn 2, my jinetes hung on Dean's left flank like a gadfly. I only had three figures, but that still gave me a pool of 2 dice for shooting. I manages to take out a couple more figures as the game went on. Annoying as they were, Dean was loth to send off his warlord or a hearthguard to drive them away. Too effective to ignore, too puny to deal with.

Annoying the flank
Still the Saracens came on and it was looking very bad for Team El Cid. His "Damascus Steel" Saga ability made several of our melees lop-sided. By rolling so many extra defense dice, Dean was able to nullify any hurt I did to him, while I was steadily worn down.

4 to 1: Death of my hearthguard
However, the worm slowly turned for me. As a desperate measure, I threw in my reserve of foot warriors against Dean's hearthguards. I managed to kill the last figure in one of his hearthguards by shooting them with my jinetes.  Before long, Dean was down to 1 unit of hearthguards, reduced to 1 figure, and his warlord in the center. At this point, we started bashing into each other with our warlords. Back and forth, Dean charged me or I charged Dean. All to no effect. We each soaked off losses by taking fatigue and never got more than 3.

Nearing the end
I eventually killed off the last figure of his Dean's last hearthguard with my jinetes. By this time, we'd likely gone over the 6-turn limit (we really didn't keep track). When we counted up victory points, I managed to pull off a surprise win at 23 to 16.

I think the jinetes were probably the heroes of the game. They managed to take out one hearthguard unit straight-up and then managed to whittle away at the rest, providing the coup de grâce on two of them by shooting.

I have a lot of finessing to do with the Spanish. The Saga abilities seemed anemic to me. They donlt seem to have much that helps in reaction or any really killer combat abilities (like that nasty Saracen "Damascus Steel"). I probably need to paint another unit of jinetes. There are some Saga abilities for them, but with only 1 unit having 3 figures remaining for most of the game, I couldn't take advantage of them.

I really like Saga 2. I'll plan some more warbands with them. I'm also eyeing the Aetius and Arthur supplement. It'll give me something to do with all the Picts I painted forever ago for Pig Wars. I'm also contemplating a Saxon warband for Age of Vikings, if the book ever becomes available again. At this point, no one in the world seems to have it in stock.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

We're in Dutch!

We had a good time playing at Meeples Games in West Seattle on Saturday. Kevin Smyth and I were testing the scenario (more or less) for the Song of Drums and Tomahawks game we'll be running at the Fix Bayonet! game day in September at Historic Ft. Steilacoom.

There were six of us playing: The Daves (me, Dave Demick, and Dave Schueler), Kevin, Bob Mackler come up from Sumner, and Bill Stewart from literally around the corner in West Seattle.

The Hurons: Dave, Dave, Kevin
The scenario has a mixed force of Dutch and Iroquois on the wild outskirts of New Netherland ca. 1640 trying to make it off the board lengthwise against an equal number of Hurons trying to stop them.

Bob, Bill, and I were the Dutch/Iroquois. Kevin, and the other two Daves were the Hurons. We set up in three successive files marching Indian-style and the Hurons came in from off board to attack us. Bill was out front with 8 Iroquois, I was in the center with 6 Dutch musketeers and two officers, Bob had the rear guard.

Marching on
We ended up engaging pretty soon. As far as advancing down the table goes, we hit our high-water mark pretty much after the first move. The Hurons all came in on one side—probably more to do with where they were sitting than with actual strategy.

See how Bill hastens to his death
Kevin swooped in on Bill's group in the lead. The dice favored Bill not, yet smiled benignly on Kevin. After a few turns of fighting, Bill was getting pasted and Kevin hadn't lost a man. Bill had to make morale checks for losing his leader and then for losing half his force. This was probably for the best because his skedaddling men managed to get away from the maelstrom.

One, however, stayed put as the Huron tide washed over him. Beset to his front, but not overwhelmed, he fought on as the exultant Hurons washed past him in a flood.

Bill's brave musketeer fights on
In a head-to-head fight with Dave Demick's masked chief (Dave had rushed about half his force to help Kevin against Bill), Bill's heroic musket-armed Iroquois managed to inflict a killing blow against him and run back to saftey.

Kicked butt, changed position, reloading...
While Bill was suffering at the head of the line, Bob and I were engaging Dave Schueler's and the other half of Dave Demick's groups. I turned off the marching path early and started taking shots with my musketeers as soon as the Hurons came in close range.

Sucking them into .85 calibre range!
The fight around the middle of our line turned out to be the hottest. Dave Schueler called it the Plain of Skulls because of all the Litko skull tokens we used to mark where a figure had fallen.

Bob and I were engaged mostly with Dave Schueler's group and some of Dave Demick's. I managed a few effective musket shots right off the bat. In our first game of Song of Drums and Tomahawks, we'd (or I'd) forgotten about the leadership bonus until late in the game. Trying to reload, which takes two actions, or to get an aimed shot, also two actions, was pretty dicey with Q4 troops. This game, I was able to keep my troops close to my leader, Lt. Groot, and found that reloading and aiming was easier to accomplish—although I had many, many (it seems) activations where I missed the two required to reload. I eventually started using my musketeers for melee since it was easier to get into contact than to reload/shoot.

Firing line: bows and muskets
Muskets are pretty effective. There were many bow-shots in the game, but I can't recall any shot putting a figure out of action. Muskets were dropping figures all over. In this regard the Dutch had an advantage with having 6 musket-armed figures. The Indian groups had no more than 2 each.

I started out with Lt. Groot in the forefront of the action, flanked by 2 musketeers. My hero, Cpl. Van Buskirk, was off doing his own thing, mostly in reserve as I fought the urge to pitch him in the midst of the fight. Both leaders were armored and had the Primitive Weapon trait for their quasi-Medieval pole weapons, but I only gave them C2. Their big advantage was having a better chance to beat defeat or death and the possibility of an instant kill when they won on a natural 6 die roll.

Groot's first stand
For Lt. Groot these advantages weren't enough. Surround by 3 Hurons, he fought bravely but was felled by a blow from a big war club, which counted as a Primitive Weapon. In the ensuing morale checks everybody but my hero (who was immune to checking) fled back a bit.

Groot's last stand
Bob was nibbling away at Dave Schueler's force, but taking losses himself. He lost his leader and went down to half strength.

Chief Mackler (pre-mortem)
Bob's hero, however, survived the fight with tales to tell. With his wooden armor and a big war club, he could pretty much take on anyone and live.

Don't mess with Smashing Bear
As our position on Bill's front deteriorated, Kevin rushed in with his still intact group and smacked into the flank of my beleaguered Dutchmen. It was dicey going. At one point, Cpl. Van Buskirk endured five bow/musket shots against him in one turn. Thank goodness for steel cuirasses!

Kevin's Hurons come on
I was soon surrounded and taking losses. Apart from Lt. Groot, I'd only lost 1 musketeer up till now. But Kevin's and Dave Demick's groups coming up on my flank changed all that. I quickly lost another 2 musketeers and was looking for an opportunity to fall back.

Kevin's hero taking out Musketeer Van Dyke
Kevin's reign as the intact player ended, however. Bill lost half his force—including his leader and his hero—but he was still a potent enemy and sending shots into Kevin's warriors as they moved into our center.

Bill still in the fight
After a few turns of intense fighting, Kevin wound up losing both his leader and his hero. In the morale check after losing his leader, every one of his figures scampered back 2 or three moves.

Kevin's leader fatally takes on Bill's remnants
We called it soon after that. Kevin's group was the least molested of all. He had 6 figures out of 8 remaining, but his two losses were his leader and hero. Dave Schueler had 2 figures remaining, both in contact with Dutch musketeers with the issue in doubt. Dave Demick had, I think, just one figure remaining. Bill had three. I had four. Bob had four.

The Dutch/Iroquois patrol would make it through, but much diminished.

The Plain of Skulls
The game was fun and Meeples is always a nice venue for occasional games, although the tables are generally small. The food and beer is good.

Song of Drums and Tomahawks is part of a great system from Ganesha Games. The engine is pretty useful and I've played several of the Song of... variants for everything from the Bronze Age to the ECW. We talked up using Flying Lead for gaming WW2. I have several Copplestone Back of Beyond Chinese warlord minis that I can get paiting on, plus a couple FT-17s. Bill has a vast amount of single-mounted WW2. I see something happening with that later this year.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sumer-time and the paintin' is easy

Sumer? Yes, Sumer, I Akkad you not. I may be rash, mercurial—even mistaken—but to Ur is human and the urge to Ur is upon me. As with many serendipitous projects, the moment has met the man and I'm going full speed ahead. Sæpe erro, nunquam dubito!

I blame Ernie Calvillo for this sudden development. (The cats are innocent—this time.) He posted on the Lion Rampant Facebook Group about the Sumerians he was painting, and that got me all worked up.

Ernie's Sumerians
I've been a fan of Sumerians for pretty much ever. Yet in all that time, the only Sumerian minis I've painted were for a 15mm DBA army (Essex Miniatures), since sold. I'd wanted to do a 28mm army for a while, but I never had a feel for the right minis to use. Wargames Foundry started a range years ago. I love their minis. The range looked promising, but they abandoned it. It was unavailable for a long time and is now available again. However, it's a very limited, unfinished range and there's no chariots; in fact, it's just spearmen and javelinmen.

Cutting Edge (Warlord) makes Sumerians, but I can't bring myself to use that range. I bought some Middle Bronze Age Amorites (think Mari) from them a few years ago. I was pretty eager when I orderd, but then very disappointed by the minis when the order arrived. They're beautiful and have a lot of nice detail—but they're so wee! Compared to other 28mm ranges, they're like skinny children. I like chunk. Cutting Edge minis have no chunk at all.

Newline (L) and Cutting Edge (R)
I'd seen a few other ranges, such as Eureka Miniatures and Castaway Arts from Down Under, but I hung back. I didn't want to make a move without first seeing the minis or at least seeing better pictures of them.

Finally, I just wasn't sure of what I would do with a lot of Sumerians after I'd painted them. I love Ancients, but the state of that part of the hobby seemed to be in a doldrums, at least to me. But now I know: I'll use 'em for Pat Lowinger's Chariots Rampant variant for Lion Rampant (Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy, Issue 82).

Ernie and I gamed together back in San Jose, CA 30+ years ago. He's now in San Antonio, TX and I'm in here in Beautiful, Formerly-Bucolic Lynnwood, WA. Ernie has always been an excellent—and prolific—painter.  He's also always had an eye for good minis. When I saw the pics in his post, I asked who made them. He told me that they were Newline Designs and that for July they were 20% off their normally reasonable price of a bit more than £1.00 per figure. In my head the voices screamed, "BUY NOW!" What could I do? I bought now and for a ridiculously low price, I got more than enough minis for a Chariots Rampant army—with options! Now I have an unexpected summer Sumer project on my hands.

So, why Sumerians?

Well, because they're cool. They're one of the oldest civilizations on Earth. So old they're just on the cusp of being prehistoric—and I like prehistoric things (see my love for prehistorical Europe) as I love all that is old and arcane. I strive every day to be older and arcaner myself.

Sumerian soldiers wear sheepskin skirts and go barefoot; they're like The Flintstones with ziggurats. They used four-wheeled, shambling proto-chariots drawn by "equids," i.e., not quite horses. They fought in phalanxes 2000+ years before the Greeks figured it out. They wore shiny copper helmets and fearsome, metal-studded capes long before Batman made wearing capes cool.

Caped Crusaders - 3rd Millennium BC
Sumerians invented writing, art, literature, and law. (They also invented government bureaucracy, so it's not all good.) They invented the cat—no, seriously, see this. They invented cities. They had ginormous eyes.

They invented sexagesimal mathematics, which we still use to calculate time, angles, and compass points. They invented the sail (maybe) and the wheel (also maybe—at least it wasn't that guy from the B.C. comic strip). They created the first armies and also produced the first records of how soldiers looked (ca. 2500 BC) on the Standard of Ur and the Stele of the Vultures.

Standard of Ur
Stele of the Vultures - detail
So, yeah, Sumerians are cool.

They're also easy to paint. Prehistoric, and nearly prehistoric, people dressed simpler than we do, and we dress simpler than people in the past. Try painting early 18th c. British regulars to see what I mean. But I digress.

The sheepskin, capes, and shiny helmets I mentioned above are about all the costume the Sumerian soldiers had. Only bare-nekkid Celts could be simpler—and they have those elaborate shield patterns to muck up the whole simplicity groove thing.

Sans spear, axe, cape, helmet, and shield he'd pass as Cro-Magnon
I ordered from Newline in two batches. After my initial order, I convinced myself that I needed more and made a wee supplemental order. The second smaller order came on Wednesday. It contained more of the infantry I ordered (spearmen, slingers, javelinmen, command), but also three straddle carts. The straddle cart seems to have been developed a bit later than the better known four-wheeled battle car. I haven't seen any actual Sumerian art depicting them. Yigael Yadin doesn't address them in The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands, but The Two Nigels show them in Armies of the Ancient Near East 3,000 BC to 539 BC. I had one in the first order, so I have four. I'm not really sure I wanted four.

Straddle this x4
I cleaned up several minis right away. The flash is minimal and the metal is softish (not rock-hard pewter), so cleaning was pretty easy. I replaced the cast lead spears/javelins with Northstar wire spears. I love those things. I must have bought a thousand of them.

Bronze Age warriors with brass spears
At this point, the first order hasn't arrived. International postal service isn't a science. I expect it'll come this week. Meanwhile, I've started painting what I have. So far, it's just the skin tone. I used Vallejo Medium Flesh. They look suitably Sumerian to me. There's not much else to paint for the most of them. They either wear a fringed kilt or some kind of sheepskin. It won't take much time.

I have a lot on my plate right now, but I hope to get a few units of these banged out this month and the rest in September. Then it's time for another Rampant game day.