Sunday, May 8, 2011

Odd and ends...

It's been a while since I posted anything, even though I have had a few things going on worth blogging about. Today's blog is a grab-bag of recent goings on. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera to the games I mention, otherwise I would include some nice pictures to ameliorate my vapid, tortured prose.

I've been fully employed again—and then some—for a while now. It was a slow start, then I started working two jobs (six days a week), and after today, I'm back to one, but the money is better than ever.

I like the latest gig. I get to play with words and I'm mostly able to do it on my own schedule with my own project plan. It's temporary (like Achilles), but looks to last through summer and maybe into the fall. What's after that, I don't know, but "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt. 6:34), so why worry now.

Hail Caesar!
I picked up the latest expensive, hardback, full-color rules from Warlord Games today. I enjoy Black Powder immensely, so Hail Caesar! looks to be more of the same fun--except that it's ancients now. I have so many ancients rules that I want to play (and don't), one more can't hurt.

However, I see the dreaded activity of debasing and rebasing in my future. It also means the end of my dreams for a revival of pre-DBx WRG ancients. Of course that was always a bit of a pipe dream. Kevin Smyth and I had a brief retro-gaming period playing WRG 6th, but everyone else turned up their noses at it. Alas.

I very much like Field of Glory, too, but no one plays it much. Besides, I already have 15mm armies for FoG. I'm looking for something to use for my 28mm figures.

I'm contemplating all the ancients figures I have—mostly unpainted—and it's really a hodge-podge. I have a lot of 3rd c. Romans that will require rebasing, as well as several more unpainted. Even with all that lead, I'll need to buy more to flesh out my cavalry units. And then I need an historical enemy to fight. I've also got a lot of Sassanid Persians and some Carthaginians, but these are almost exclusively bare metal.

Black Powder
Quite unintentionally, I got roped into not one, but two Black Powder games yesterday. I had planned to spend the morning/early afternoon having dim sum and shooting with Phil and Karen Bardsley and then back home to putter and hang with the cats. However, I stopped off at The Panzer Depot on my way home and Bob "the tempter" Mackler cajoled me into being an Austrian cavalry commander: Graf von Sullivan.

Game 1 went beyond my expectations. It was already under way, with Bob on the ropes. I was the cavalry reserve. After a few turns of rolling 10s for my commands (and doing nothing), I got lucky several times in a row. I sent in the Austrian cuirassiers and swept all before me: taking out some light cavalry, two batteries—and even beating back the vaunted Grenadiers au Cheval. This didn't make for an Austrian victory, however. Our center had ceased to exist. We had two units huddled in square formation on one flank while the French infantry occupied the rest of the board.

After game 1, I was nearly out the door. If I hadn't dallied to talk with John and Dave Redding, I would have made it home safely. Instead, Bob buttered me up with compliments about my superior Austrian cavalry-handling skills and worked on my vanity to lure me into a second game.

Game 2 was played on a bigger table with more figures. John Kennedy, Dave Redding, and I were the Austrians. Bob Mackler and Dick Larsen, the French.

Regardless of how many big Austrian units there were, the French seemed to outnumber us. Also, Dick had his all-grenadier division in play (he based this puissant formation on Oudinot's converged grenadiers ca. 1806).

I had two Austrian line battalions, two Austrian grenadier battalions, two batteries, and some jaegers. Facing me was Dick's grenadiers du mort. as well as Bob's grand battery. To my right was Dave with the Austrian cavalry, the same guys who had rode to glory in game 1. To my left was John with a division of Austrian infantry, a battery, and a hussar unit, and then farther left, John had a division of light cavalry with some grenzers and jaegers.

The course of the battle saw our flanks crushed while our center fought bravely but in vain. Dave's first attacks against Dick's cavalry wind seemed to go OK. His cuirassier forced two of dick's light cavalry units to retire off board and his lancers took out one of Dick's batteries, much to Dick's chagrin. However, a counterattack by Dick's "Gros Bottes" put the hurt on him. In short order, he lost his lancers, his light cavalry and rolled snake-eyes on the morale test for his supporting cuirassier unit. The remaining cuirassier unit was forced to retire because the division was broken.

In the center, I put one of my big battalions into line thinking that I would shoot up Dick's grenadier columns. They were on me in a flash and a vicious, prolonged fight ensued between two battalions of French grenadiers in column and my battalion in line. I got some advantage from being a big unit, namely more dice in combat and a stamina of 4. However, Dick was throwing 14 dice against my 9. My dice seemed unable to roll above 3; his dice were unable to roll below 5.

Nevertheless, after several turns of fighting, aided by the fact that all units were "steady" and automatically passed their first morale check, I managed to have both of Dick's columns shaken, while I was still hanging on. But even shaken, Dick managed to roll better and my unit was eventually forced to retire shaken to the other side of the hill.

On my left, Bob started early with an attack in line that ran all the way up to within close range of one of my batteries. I think he meant to shoot it up, but failed. The return fire from the battery, two of my columns, and John's jaegers caused Bob to go disordered and shaken.

I figured this was the time to send in a column of my own grenadiers. They performed magnificently, but Bob's unit was "steady" and so it automatically passed it's first morale check. It took another two rounds before I managed to rout him. At that point, I was exposed on a hill before Bob's merciless grand battery. At one point, I became shaken, failed morale, and was forced to retire out of cannon shot--exactly what I wanted to do. But then next turn, when I attempted to rally the unit, I rolled boxcars (blunder) and got an advance order, which took me back into the cannon fire, now augmented by Dick's howitzers. One turn of getting smacked by three batteries and the unit routed away.

John's cavalry wing fared about as well as Dave's—although John was facing Imperial Guard cavalry. The first few turns were a fight, and then everything went south. That division had left only a battalion of grenzers in square and some jaegers skulking in a hedgerow. Fortunately, Bob was unable to get his cavalry to do anything else after beating John. John's infantry in the center was completely unable to go forward against Bob's battery and infantry opposite him. John's guns kept up a lively fire at one of Bob's remaining battalions, but another battalion was free to work it's way down to take out John's grenzers who were fairly impregnable in their square against Bob's cavalry.

Dave Redding left, bequeathing me his single withdrawing cuirassier unit, i.e., the entire Austrian cavalry wing. I had been working away with some jaegers at one of Dick's grenadier battalions that had formed square back when Dave had a functioning cavalry wing. It wasn't much, but I kept him disordered and taking casualties so that he couldn't reform from square. I turned my howitzer battery on him now and in a few turns managed to smash him and rout him from the field. This left my small jaeger unit exposed to Dick's cavalry.

Dick charges one of his hussar units at the jaegers, who formed up and did the best they could. Their best wound up being pretty good. After a single round of combat, the hussars lost and routed.

It wasn't enough. After my line battalion retired from fighting Dick's grenadiers, I threw in my second grenadier battalion, in column, against one of Dick's shaken columns. The result was rather disappointing. I got chewed up, but stayed in anyway. I now had just one fresh unit, one unit routed, one shaken, and a third beat-up and locked in a losing combat. That was it for the Austrians.

I think I've learned that unless you must, there's no good reason to fight in line when your opponent is in a position to get you 2:1 with units in column.

Viva Mexico!
We played some Mexican War games using Fire & Fury Regimental. Chris Craft has been working on 15mm Mexican War figures for a while now. We played Resaca de la Palma a month or so ago and just a few weeks ago we played Palo Alto. The games went better for the Mexicans than one might think. Even though they are qualitatively outclassed, the Mexicans can put up a good fight.

In the Resaca de la Palma game, the US won handily, even though it was close at the very end. Palo Alto, however, was a real challenge for the Americans.

The Mexican players we me and Ken Kissling, while Chris and Steve Puffenberger were los Gringos. Ken had a lot of cavalry, but it was mostly middling to poor in quality. However, he managed to break a square of American regulars and push back the elite (but few) American dragoons.

Mexican shooting was better than expected. My guns even managed to shoot up Ringgold's flying battery, which Chris used as a position battery instead of flying it around. My Zapadores fought to the last stand, which held up the American left. My one cavalry unit played a part, too. Feckless though it was, I managed to work it onto the American flank where it caused Chris enough concern to dispatch an infantry regiment to deal with it. That was one less infantry regiment attacking the Mexican line.

At one point, when I foolishly thought los Gringos were on the ropes and my time to counterattack had come, I unwisely advanced the Tampico battalion, one of the best units in the Mexican army, against one of Chris' batteries. I got shot to bits. 'Nuff said.

The game eventually ended as a Mexican win, but just barely. Both sides took heavy casualties and most of the Mexican infantry was worn or shaken. However, the Americans had two infantry regiments rout off the board, one dragoon regiment destroyed, and Ringgold's battery nearly destroyed (one damaged section remaining).

So far, I've enjoyed the Fire & Fury Regimental games I've played. Kevin Smyth is play-testing a scenario for Hobkirk's Hill on Saturday in Tacoma, which I plan to play in.

Finally, the cats. Grendel seems to have developed Feline Hyperesthesia Sysndrome (FHS). It sounds more terrible than it is. The name is fancy veterinarianese for "we're not really sure what this is and what causes it." I noticed it first when Grendel started chasing his tail. Odd as he is, he's never done that before. That was back in November. From there, he started twitching his back and then running to escape from himself. It's a bit concerning to see. It's not something he does all the time, just in brief episodes.

I took him to the vet when the signs first showed up, but the vet said it's OCD. That's pretty much the line on FHS. It's an emotional disorder that may be due to diet, environment, or a lack of stimulation. I.e., it could be anything. And, it may go away if the cause is eliminated—if you can discover what that is.

I've been treating him with Bach's Rescue Remedy, which is supposed to calm the nerves. I put a few drops in his food at every meal. It seems to do some good. I also use the Zoom Groom on his back when he starts having one of his episodes. Whatever the vet says and what other information states, it still seems to me like his skin is driving him crazy at these times. The Zoom Groom scratches him where he itches. However, there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with his skin. His coat is full and healthy and there are no places where he has been biting himself. I'm just hoping it will go away, but I know I have to keep doing things that will stimulate him. He's almost 8 now and has been with me for five years. He's indoor only, so being cooped up all this time may be a factor. But I don't live where I want to let him out, besides, I have a townhome whose only door to the outside is on the first floor. I couldn't hear him coming and going if I did. He'd sit outside and whimper all night because I couldn't hear him to let him in. So I Zoom Groom and give him Rescue Remedy. It's better than the Prozac the vet recommended.

In other news, whereas I first thought that my cats were antiliterary, I'm now adjusting that view. I think cats may read by osmosis, which is activated when they rub their face against a book. This might explain why they do it so often. I can't get five minutes into a book before one of the cats has his or her face in it. I now think that their attempt to keep me from reading is just a ploy to ensure that they gain knowledge without my gaining it too. Plotting, always plotting. Little scamps.