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 grĂ¢ce 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.