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.


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 DarkOps.com 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.