Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ja, it's gut to be der König

John Palmquist ran his long anticipated playtest of Dan Mersey's The Men Who Would Be Kings on Saturday. I played a modified version of these rules when Kevin Smyth ran his America Rampant variant game at one of our local game events.

John is putting together a game for our Enfilade! convention in May. This was this first chance he's had to actually play the rules. Ralph Holloway and I got to the Panzer Depot in Kirkland just after John Kennedy opened at 11:00 a.m. John P. got there much later.  The game didn't start until 2:30 p.m. by which time Wes Rogers had wandered in and joined the game just as we were setting up.

The scenario was a force of German colonial troops rescuing Mighty Joe the prize gorilla from a casbah in some unnamed East African country. No explanation was given for how Mighty Joe wound up in the casbah. No one asked. We weren't sure we wanted to know. In the upcoming convention game, the German force will be rescuing kidnapped missionary children, but those minis are still ohne Farbe.

Mighty Joe and his captors in the casbah

Wes and I were the Germans; Ralph and John P. were the natives. John K. kibitzed.

I had a unit of German marines (Seebattaillon) and a unit of sailors. Both were highly rated regular units. Wes had one unit of regulars and a unit of askaris, who were rated irregulars, but with good stats.

The native forces were all irregulars (no tribal units) with modern rifles, except for a unit of Ruga-Ruga, who had obsolete rifles—but top-notch leadership.

Troublesome Zanzibaris

There were four German units against five native. The natives were both outclassed (regular v. irregular) and only slightly superior in number, so the Germans had a big advantage.

At start, there was one native unit of Zanzibaris in the casbah with Mighty Joe. All other native units came on board if they rolled any doubles for activation. The Germans started on board: Wes was near the casbah and I was farther down the board edge.

Deployment—Alles in Ordnung ist!

My plan was to sweep around engaging the native units coming on board while Wes attacked the casbah and rescued Mighty Joe.

The native units all entered soon after the start of the game. One unit dashed towards the casbah to retrieve Mighty Joe in order to take him off the board. Wes was engaged with shooting at the Zanzibaris in the casbah.

Wes rocking the casbah

I was carrying out my sweep, but wound up splitting my force with the sailors going in through a small cluster of buildings (calling it a town would dignify it too much) and the Seebataillon going off to the left and trading shots with a native unit coming on board. These were Custer's tactics at The Little Bighorn, so I had military precedent to go on.

Splitting my force against superior numbers—very Custer-like

The sailors got to the edge of the building cluster just as the native unit was dashing in to take Mighty Joe away from the casbah. I wanted to get some shots off and possibly pin them, but I came under fire from some Zanzibaris on my left flank and started taking losses.

Gallant stand of the Deutsche Mariner

The effect reminded me of Kipling's words about the "Kurrum Valley scamp," who

...being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

The Zanzibaris had the range and the sailors were in a bad spot. I never suffered a lot of losses with any single shot, but I was eventually down to almost half strength. Also, I kept failing my pinning tests. I managed to rally every attempt, but then got shot and pinned again. That meant that they were pretty ineffectual as the natives were attempting to whisk away Mighty Joe from the casbah.

Mighty Joe whisked away

The Seebataillon was slowly shooting to pieces a native unit on the far left, which meant that I was basically out of the action where it mattered.


With the native unit reduced to 3 figures and utterly pinned, I decided it was time to marsch vorwärts! to glory—or more particularly, to go teach the Zanzibaris a hard lesson about pinning down my sailors.

Hup! Hup! Hup!

John managed to get the natives into the casbah and then out again with Mighty Joe in tow. Wes managed to get a couple shots at the group (risking hits on Mighty Joe, but killing the unit's leader), which pinned them in place so he could charge in and take the monkey.

Zanzibaris pinned and at bay

There was a lively skirmish as Wes won the combat and freed Mighty Joe only to have to defend him against an attempted counterattack from the Zanzibaris pouring out from the casbah.

Mighty Joe is rescued!

By this time, the Seebattaillon was shooting chunks out of the Zanzibaris who'd been shooting chunks out of my sailors. This gave the sailors a respite, which enabled them to rally and then start shooting—at close range—at the native units swirling around Mighty Joe, which now included the Ruga-Ruga, whose shorter range (obsolete rifles) put them at a big disadvantage against the sailors and their Mausers.

Wes defeated the counterattack and was able to get clear control of Mighty Joe. The natives swirling around trying to take Joe back disappeared in a few fusillades from the regulars.

My final act was to charge the Seebataillon into the thick of the Zanzibaris, who by now were badly pinned and much diminished. It was short work. Deutschland über Alles and all that.


Joe was safe and the natives got a lesson in messing with Kaiser Bill's boys. Back to base for sausages and beer!


I liked how TMWWBK plays. The rules are straightforward and the game flows easily. I'd read the rules only once when I first bought them (ever so long ago), but they were easy to pick up again.

The rules are definitely Merseyoid in flavor, though a bit different than the Lion Rampant style of game. Shooting is one D6 per figure and a target at short range in the open suffers one figure lost for each hit, which is typically 5+ on a D6 or 4+ for sharpshooters. Bad shots are 6s. It can mean a lot of losses suddenly. When my long-suffering sailors got a shot at short range against the Ruga-Ruga in the fracas surrounding Mighty Joe, they decimated them, even though they shot with just seven figures.

Because shooting can be so deadly, the game relies a lot more on cover. Shooting at long range reduces the effect to 1 figure lost per two hits. Soft or hard cover further increases the number of hits needed to remove a figure. Crossing the deadly ground is a lot deadlier in TMWWBK.

Regulars, which are basically European units, have advantages over irregulars in leadership and discipline. They can also form close order, which gives them an advantage defending against an attack and also enables them to volley fire.

I've heard from other players that European regulars vs. other European regulars is a very deadly game. A few European regulars vs. hordes of native/tribal units seems to be more the type of scenario the rules were designed to represent. I think this scenario is a good balance, but maybe there needs to be a greater disparity between the number of European and native units.

I think the Germans might have been too well-rated in the game. The rules stipulate that no unit can be modified higher than 9 points. The Seebataillon was regular + elite + sharpshooters + fierce, which would make them 10 points. Of course in a scenario game, you can do anything and it didn't bother me too much to command Teutonische Übermenschen. In the convention game, I expect, too, that there will be many more natives coming on to harsh the Germans' high.

I have, as I mention frequently, altogether too many irons in the fire. That won't stop me from being tempted to paint units for this period. I've never painted colonials before. There's just nothing jumping out at me in terms of minis for this period except maybe the lovely Indian Mutiny figures produced by Iron Duke Miniatures. These figures really are a treat, so we'll have to see where the passion goes. I'm not sure if I can lure anyone else into the Indian Mutiny and I'm not inclined to undertake another project where I'm painting multiple forces for both sides suitable for hosting convention games (like I'm doing now with the Irish Project).

On other fronts

Speaking of the Irish Project, I just today got another package from Timeline/Hoka Hey! in the UK. After painting all the Irish I had, I figured I needed more. What arrived today will be another pike unit, two shot units, and four commanded shot units of kern with calivers—60 figures in all.

Also arrived today was part of the order I made to The War Store for Perry Miniatures AWI, to be used with the upcoming Mersey/Leck Rebels and Patriots rules. I got some Southern militia cavalry, riflemen, and part of the militia troops I ordered. The rest (more militia) is backordered from Perry in the UK and will be sent as soon as they come in to The War Store.

Kevin Smyth turned me on to the four volumes of Nothing but Blood and Slaughter, which are a really informative narration of all the actions big and small (and even the really, really small) that took place during the AWI in the Carolinas (and Georgia, too). There are a lot of OOBs in these accounts, so it will be easy to create historical scenarios. It's ironic that just a few years ago, I sold a lot of unpainted Perry AWI that I thought I'd never have a use for. Let this be a lesson to me in parting with things that I might later want to have kept.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Sometimes a Fantasy

[Yes, more than a month after the event, I'm finally publishing the post about it—replete with misrememberings of plays and sequences only foggily understood when fresh in my mind. If this AAR bears any resemblance to actual events, it's purely by accident.]

On Jan. 13 , we held our Dragon Rampant game day at the Gig Harbor Public Library. There were 12 of us playing on 6 tables. We arrived at 11:30 and most of us stayed until about 5:00, getting in two games.

This was my opportunity to test the centaur warband I've been painting for the last four months. Overall, the ladies (and one man in game 1) acquitted themselves well.

Game 1

I played the first game against Dean Motoyama and his Men of the (Pacific North) West warband. He made up his splendid little army using a lot of classic Games Workshop Warhammer minis.

Dean's griffin-mounted general - nasty business with wings

Dean's army had several shooty elements. There was one unit of heavy missiles, for which Dean used a formidable Games Workshop death ray on a wagon-looking model. He took the unit as having a weighty projectile, which gives it only a 12" range, but let him shave off 1 point from his warband cost. He also had a unit of Elite Foot with missiles, some very natty-looking pistoleros, a unit of Scouts, and a unit of Light Riders with missiles.

Shooty heavy horsemen

I deployed my scouts to my left. Right of them, the Bellicose Foot (feminotaurs). Right of them, my Spellcaster. Right of them, one unit of Light Riders backed up by my Elite Riders (my general's unit). On my far right and across the river, the other unit of Light Riders.

The field of battle

Except for the Spellcaster and Terrifically Shiny Armor for the Bellicose Foot, my units could have passed for stock Lion Rampant units—except for being sythyrs, feminotaurs, and centauresses.

Since I have three different spellcaster figures painted, I had to decide which to use. For game 1, I went with  ...Tim?

What manner of man are you that can summon up fire without flint or tinder?

Early on, Dean's and my Bellicose Foot clashed.

Cow-ladies against wild two-hand swordsmen

The initial combat went in Dean's favor and I retreated back to lick my wounds.

Bloodied, battered, but unbowed: Feminotaurs at bay

I managed to rally on my turn, but Dean came right back at me. This time, however, the worn turned in my favor. As our Bellicose foot smashed away at each other, I started moving the weight of my forces to my left to counter what I feared was Dean's advantage there. I also engaged my Scouts against Dean's fearsome Weighty-Missiled War Machine of Doom to my advantage. I was in the cover of the buildings, which gave me better armor defense against Dean's weighty projectiles.

Feminotaurs reengaged and a shift to my left

My feminotaurs eventually beat Dean's Imperial sword-wielding madmen only to get shot up by his pistoleros and rout away. This brought on my Gorgeous Ladies of Doom (GLoD) to counter the pistolero threat. Already hit by a Befuddle Thee! spell from Tim the Spellcaster and shot up (a bit) from my scounts, the pistoleros were easily routed by the GLoD.

In position, ready to charge

My Spellcaster got late into play. I intended to move him to a forward position in some scrub where he'd benefit from the cover, but Dean pretty much kept his distance from the magic man. I had to move him up a bit more, and out of cover, to get him into the action. Once in, he performed well.

I mostly used his Powerbolt! spell to shoot. It's the same shot as heavy missiles: 7+ to activate, 4+/18" shooting. Although, the best effect came from using the Befuddle Thee! spell as noted above.

Beating the pistoleros brought the GLoD into conflict with Dean's general. It was a tough fight, but Dean prevailed. The GLoD got beat up and failed morale. Soon, however, it was Dean's turn. The fight between our generals was nearly a repeat of the Kilkenny cats:

There once were two cats of Kilkenny
Each thought there was one cat too many
So they fought and they fit
And they scratched and they bit
Till (excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails)
Instead of two cats there weren't any!

Except that Dean's general had just a bit more than his tail left and I had no tail at all (nor the rest of me), but he was hurting bad. The Gorgeous Ladies had done their bit. A little shooting and a spells finally caused Dean's general to fade away after a failed courage test.

Over on my right, my lone unit of centauresses faced Dean's Light Riders and a Scout unit. I ended up getting the better of the shooting exchange and chased Dean's Light Riders away after a few shots.

Forward to the foe
I also brought my other unit of centauresses to counter Dean's Scouts. They took a bit of a beating, but survived the game (and Dean's Scouts didn't).

Worse for wear, but still hanging in

The far right centauresses managed to get all the way back into Dean's flank and put the coup de grâce to Dean's pistoleros, who'd retreated back to the edge of the marsh away from the GLoD.

The bitter end for the pistoleros

This was pretty much the end of the game. Dean's forces were all but non-existent. I was pretty beat up, too, but had much more at hand comparatively.

Game 2

For out second game we played doubles. Ron Beery and I teamed up against Dean and Scott Abbott. Ron and Dean faced off to my left and I faced Scott. Dean's and my warbands remained unchanged, except that Dean switched in a different Warhammer tanky thing for his heavy missiles. The switch did not contribute to its survival.

Dean's tanky-shooty machine version 2.0

I also switched out Tim for Ursula, the Shadowforge tribal shaman figure, who was my original Spellcaster. The WITCH! never got to play. Next game.


Scott's warband was only four units: A single model unit for his general, which was Elite Riders with a Wizardling attribute, a single model unit for a Great Warbeast with the Venomous attribute, a unit of Bellicose Foot (also Venomous), and a unit of Scouts with Magical Weapons (which failed to activate for the game).

I decided to use my units with the Ranger special rule (the feminotaurs and syhtyrs) to run up the river (rough terrain, which they ignore) to get to the heart of Scott's position. That sorta-kinda worked. The feminotaurs managed to attack and wipe out Scott's Scouts. However, they then ran afoul of Scott's Venomous Bellicose Foot, who put them out of action.

Ranger types advance up the river

My sythyrs responded by shooting away at Scott's Bellicose Foot, managing at least one evade, and eventually causing them to spectacularly fail morale and go away. They'd already taken some losses while wiping out my feminotaurs and the shooting losses put them over. Bellicose Foot (like all the wild thangs kind of units in the "Rampant" rules) are really a one-shot deal. If you can get more out of them, good for you, but normally they get so beat up they fail morale soon after they start fighting. Like me, Scott took Terrifically Shiny Armor for his Bellicose Foot. That gave them a bit more staying power, but you know they're bound to fail a courage test as losses mount.

Feminotaurs second death in two games

At this point, Scott had only his general and the nasty scorpion Great Warbeast. He'd originally run his Warbeast up into a wood, but pulled it back into some scrub near his baseline. I advanced my sythyrs towards it, but got too close. He charged out, I failed to evade, and got slaughtered. At that point, Scott started to move his Warbeast down the river opposite the direction I had run up with my now eliminated Ranger troops.

Centauresses vs. General Doom

On my left, Ron and Dean were banging away at each other, mostly around the stone walls that enclosed a few fields. Dean was using tried and true WW2 squad tactics to seek defilade and cover from Ron's missile troops.

Skirmish among the ruins

With Scott's Warbeast coming down the river at me (though already with 2 of 6 hit points lost), I interposed my Spellcaster, who managed a Powerbolt! shot before getting smacked into by monstrous, hexapodal, insectoid death with a nasty stinging tail. I didn't win, but I didn't lose too badly. My Spellcaster is heavy foot, so I had a 4+ defensive combat value and 3 armor. The Warbeast hit hard at 3+. I lost three strength points and got pushed back, but passed my courage test. I gave back pretty good and knocked the Warbeast down to half strength.

The warbeast cometh

On my turn, I took another Powerbolt! shot with my Spellcaster and sent in the Gorgeous Ladies of Doom for their first combat of the game. Warbeasts are nasty, but their defensive combat value is unimpressive. I hit on 3+, Scott hit on 6—but because the Warbeast is venomous, every 6 counts double. Nevertheless, I whacked the nasty thing good and suffered no ill effect. Scott failed his courage test and the evil scorpion monster was gone.

This left only Scott's general, who proved hard to kill. Scott's general was an Elite Rider with Wizardling powers. I had my Gorgeous Ladies of Doom, Ursula the Spellcaster, and one unit of centauresses left.

GLoD move up

It came to a battle of Powerbolts! and arrows. Scott focused a lot on the centauresses because, being in 12" range, he got 4+ shooting at them. He kept knocking them down to half strength and I kept propping them back up to four figures using the Heal Thee! spell from Ursula.

Endgame: Closing in on General Doom

While this was going on, Ron was working at finishing off Dean, who was down to one unit. This put us in a strange situation. The scenario rules stipulate that if the unit bearing the Ring of Power is the last defender unit, then it kills everyone and the game is a draw. We weren't sure whether the last unit was Dean's Elite Foot or Scott's general.

I moved the Gorgeous Ladies of Doom into position and charged Scott's general, who countercharged. I failed to break him, but managed to push him back.

Before I could take out Scott's general, Ron killed off Dean's Elite Foot, who had the ring. Game over.

Post mortem

I like Dragon Rampant. It's a very fun, very wild 'n' woolly version of the "Rampant" genre. All the basic mechanics are there plus a few extras—not a lot of extras, but enough to change the flavor of the game. Units can have a lot more bells and whistles, which allows creating a much more idiosyncratic warband. It makes for some nasty surprises, too, but adding those bells and whistles drives up points cost tremendously.

Spellcasters are way cool. I wasn't sure what to expect. I bought the full meal deal version at +4 points. I had pondered buying just a Wizardling at +2 points, which would allow me to pick any three spells, but I opted for the full smorgasbord of spells. Even though I think I used just three in both games (Powerbolt!, Befuddle Thee!, and Heal Thee!). Heal Thee! was a surprisingly good spell. I didn't hit on using it until game 2, but I was able to keep one of my Light Rider units in play for several more turns by bringing lost figures back from the dead. If I'd used the spell in game 1, I might not have lost my feminotaurs.

The drawback to Spellcasters/Wizardlings is that the spells are almost all 7+ or 8+ to cast. It's a bit dicey to have to rely on it as an initial activation, even though setting up disaster for your foe by using a Beffudle Thee! spell and then attacking the befuddled (i.e., battered) unit is a neat trick.

I've really enjoyed this foray into fantasy gaming. Even though the basic mechanics are the same as Lion Rampant, there are enough nuances in Dragon Rampant to give it the feel of a whole new game. I still have some idea of doing a Lion Rampant retinue using the Grenadier minis available from Milrliton. I can order from Noble Knight Games in the US and avoid the nasty, nasty postage charges from Italy. The fantasy range has great figures for Late Medieval, but also a few truly fantasy type things (like dragon-riding knights) that can be mixed in/swapped out to reuse much of the same units for DR and LR.

I'm still a devoted historical miniatures gamer and not likely to go off and start playing D&D. However, Dragon Rampant hits a spot. It's just a fantasy, as Billy Joel sang, but sometimes a fantasy is all you need.