Thursday, September 19, 2019

Delicate (too delicate) beauties: Lucid Eye Amazons

A short while ago, I found an image of the Amazon figures that are being produced by Lucid Eye Publications for their Ziggurat range. In the pictures I saw, they looked good enough to eat. Plus, they're sculpted by Steve Saleh, one of my favorite figure sculptors out there. He's the one who did Wargames Foundry's World of the Greeks range—in my opinion the best figure range ever made.

I ordered one of each pack they had and the figures arrived yesterday.

They are beautifully sculpted. The detail is very good and I look forward to them being a delight to paint. They're 28mm from foot to eye, but have a very tall look to them. They're also very slender figures, which is a good look for willowy Amazons.

Willowy Amazonian war-women
However, I was immediately disappointed in a few crucial aspects of them. Overall they seem delicate—so much so that I effortlessly broke off a plume while working on one figure. The metal is softish. Trimming, filing, and drilling into the metal is pretty easily done, maybe too easily.

When I saw the pictures online and on the Lucid Eye website, which show the sculptor's greens for the figures, my impression was that the spears were cast on. That gave me pause. I really don't like cast-on spears. It's a sculpting practice I had hoped to have been left in the 70s. Nevertheless, many companies still do it. The effect—as it was in the 70s—is to have oversize barge-pole spears that, after a bit of use, wind up being all wibbly and wobbly. Even before use, it's impossible to get cast metal spears straight. Separate never-bending wire spears have been a thing for four decades. We have the technology, why don't we use it?

Why, oh why?
But it's worse than that. The spears are cast on, but cast onto the hand. Just the hand. The hand isn't cast onto the figure. You have to glue the hand holding the spear onto the figure. The point where hand joins figure is the wrist, the delicate willowy wrist of an Amazon war maiden. It's a very, very small point to attach them. It does not threaten to be a future place where the figure breaks, it promises. In simple, normal use of these figures I can guarantee that I will lose hands and spears. I should prepare myself for replacing them with hooks or some similar prosthetic.

Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
My joy of finding the package from Lucid Eye in my mailbox yesterday was soon dissipated when I saw how the figures were. Had they left the hand attached to the wrist and made it open to accept either a cast cartoonishly large spear or a metal wire spear, they would be infinitely better figures for gaming. I can only ask myself, again and again and again, "What were they thinking?"

Hire people with hooks
Rather than just butt-weld the hand/spear to the wrist, I drilled out both and pinned it with brass wire. I hope that helps, but I'm not at all confident that will create a strong join.

The shields are separate, which is typical for figures with shields. They too are attached by a simple butt-weld of fist to hollowed out bit behind the shield boss. That's also pretty standard for figures. I have a lot of Aventine Romans whose shields attach exactly this way. (Aventine, BTW, provides their legionaries with separate sword arms to glue on. That's not great—I hate having to glue appendages onto figures—but at least it's not butt-welding hand to wrist.)

Probably OK if I don't drop it
Apart from the shields, the sword-armed figures are one piece. Also entirely one piece are the archers, which are very nice, so nice as to practically redeem the entire range by themselves.

Perfect, one-piece, what's not to love
I may be whinging a bit—but I'm not merely whinging. Wargame figures are playing pieces that get handled a lot. Even if you're the only one handling them (and you never are) there's the ever-present danger of mishap that results in lost spears or shields. With these figures, I will lose whole hands, which are not easily repaired once broken.

I fell in love with the images of the figures I saw on the Internet. I'm much less in love with the figures I received. Having glue-on hands holding big barge-pole spears is just dumb and ensures future breakage. Had I known this about the way the range is cast, I would never have bought them.

I'll make the best of it now. I'm primering the first batch today. I have another package coming with more spears, more archers, and a new figure: the Amazon queen. I plan to use them with Mortal Gods either as part of the Mythic supplement or just as normal troops—albeit willowy, bare-breasted troops with delicate wrists. But still I ask myself, "What were they thinking?"

Monday, September 16, 2019

Battle of Barlowe's Necessary: Rebels and Patriots AAR

Kevin Smyth and I ran a game of Rebels and Patriots on Saturday at the annual Fix Bayonet! game day held at the Fort Steilacoom museum. We were challenged with trying to maximize participation for 6 players with a rather small table size of 5' x 6'. The scenario we come up with was a variation of a classic 'take and hold' engagement. We had three commands on each side all of roughly equal—and low—points value, between 12 and 13 points per command. This meant that commands had two to three units.

The AWI scenario had advance units from the American and British forces fighting for control of a space that held advantages for position in an imminent fight between the main forces. There were three objectives:
  • Farmer Barlowe's farmhouse, which could be used for a command post
  • Barlowe's bridge, a small footbridge that would improve communication across the creek
  • Barlowe's necessary, a humble outhouse on farmer Barlowe's back forty, the only outhouse around since the one at Barlowe's farmhouse was destroyed by a drunken British gunner taking pot-shots the day before. After weeks of hard campaigning in the wilderness, officers on both sides were eager to perform their bodily evacuations in a civilized manner.
The honor points value for holding these objectives at the end of the game varied and were randomly chosen and secretly assigned before the game. None of us knew the value of the objectives we fought over until the game was over. We also awarded honor points for each enemy force reduced to 33% (counting figures lost from original force) and for honor points gained or lost as a result of double 1s or double 6s activation rolls.

In addition to the usual grumpy old men, we had three younger boys playing: Sean, Chris, and Isaac (if I recall their names correctly). The teams were Mark Serafin, Sean, and Isaac playing the British with Kevin Smyth, Chris, and I playing the Americans.

We rolled for officer traits after we got our commands. Not many surprises there except that I got a an officer that adds +2 to activation rolls and Kevin got added to his force a unit of local militia: Line infantry, green, poor shooters. Given that each American command had similar units of militia, it was not a burden to have more.

Kevin, Mark, and I are old Rebels and Patriots veterans, the boys picked up the rules pretty quickly—a nice testament to the playability and inherent sense of the rules.

One the British side:
  • Mark's command was a unit of 12 grenadiers (shock infantry) and a unit of 18 light infantry.
  • Isaac's command was a unit of 18 line infantry, a unit of 12 light infantry, and a unit of skirmishers.
  • Sean's command was a unit of 18 grenadiers and a unit of 12 grenadiers.
The British deployed
On the American side:
  • Opposing Mark, Chris had one unit of 18 line/militia (green), one unit of 12 light infantry, and one unit of skirmishers.
  • Opposing Sean in the center, Kevin had one unit of 6 light cavalry (aggressive), one unit of 12 light infantry, and one unit of skirmishers. He also had one unit of 12 line/milita (green, poor shooters) that he got from his officer trait roll.
  • Opposing Isaac, I had one unit of 18 line infantry, one unit of 18 line/militia (green, poor shooters), and one light gun (no limber).
American initial moves
Because of the way the objectives were placed, we started in possession of the bridge and the British started in possession of the loo;  the farmhouse sat between Isaac and me and was the only objective actually fought over in the game.

Overview: farmhouse and bridge, Barlowe's necessary is just above the Brits in the upper left
The fight in the center of the table between Kevin and Sean looked like a losing proposition for Kevin from the start. He made one rash charge with his cavalry against Sean's skirmishers uphill in a small wood. The skirmishers failed to evade, but Kevin failed to made any effect on them and got bounced back with loss to then stand in the open getting peppered by British musket balls.

Kevin advances in the center (before the mayhem)
I advanced towards the farmhouse through some pretty rough terrain with my force. I got the line infantry (Continentals) through the brush, across the creek, and up against a fence line opposite the farmhouse at about the same time that Isaac was moving one of his grenadier units into the house. The other one was under steady fire from my Continentals, militia (to almost no effect), and pop-gun. 

The Continental Artillery makes its presence felt
The light gun may not pack the same wallop as a heavier gun, but I was scoring hits from 24", well before his grenadiers could fire back.

Crossing the creek
Mark, with the privy secured, advanced his troops against Chris but was bedeviled by his own poor dice rolling. He failed a few activations, but worse still were failed morale tests. Just after mid-game, his grenadiers buggered off, leaving his with just his light infantry to hold against Chris' relatively unscathed force.

Grenadiers approach the farmhouse
Sean, in the center, was getting quite aggressive against Kevin and me. After repulsing a cavalry charge, his skirmishers kept up a steady fire, his line infantry crested the hill, and his light infantry worked away towards the right flank of my Continentals.

The 23rd advances

In response to this, Kevin moved his light infantry (Lee's Legion foot) against Sean's lights. Lee's Legion took a lot of punishment, but stayed strong. Kevin has always had a knack for passing tough morale tests in Daniel Mersey games.

Looking desperate for the Americans
One good service that Lee's Legion performed was being a bullet sink and keeping the shots from Sean's light infantry from hitting my Continentals. 

At this point, Isaac made the fateful decision to abandon the house he'd been occupying. He was taking shots from all my units and decided to pull back to cover. This gave me the chance to pop my Continentals in the house, which would make me the target of all the British fire—except that Lee's Legion was still hanging on occupying the attention of ean's light infantry.

Kevin decided to go for broke and charged his light cavalry—William Washington's 3rd Continental Dragoons, which he'd just completed for the game—into Sean's light infantry. It was dicey. The dragoons were at half strength, the Light infantry was not. The dragoons were aggressive, so hitting on 5+ with 6 dice, the lights hitting on 6 with 12 dice. Kevin won the first round of fighting forcing the lights back 4" and disordering them. Then he followed up and destroyed the unit.

Smyth's charge: the aftermath
The dragoons later took more fire from the British line and were reduced to one figure (Kevin's officer William Washington). 

On the last turn of the game, Isaac charged the house with his grenadiers—a still formidable force. He was hitting on 5+ and I was defending on 6, but I had a defense bonus for the house. He failed to get a single casualty, while I managed to roll a slug of 6s and took out three attacking grenadiers. With the last charge repulsed, we called the game.

Americans held the house (2 points) and the bridge (1 point). The British held the outhouse (2 points). Americans got 2 honor points for two British commands having 33% losses, British got 1 point for that (Kevin's command had been through the wars). Americans also got 2 honor points that were awarded when Kevin rolled double 6s and got a +1 honor points result. End result: Americans 7 points, British 3 points.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Οι γυμνοί και οι νεκροί (the naked and the dead): Mortal Gods AAR

I just finished painting 9 naked Athenian hoplites from Wargames Foundry's excellent World of the Greeks range. With them still smelling of dullcote, I lead them to ignominious defeat in a four-player game we had on the 7th. My only satisfaction for the defeat was in dying to a man—no retreat, no surrender! Like Leonidas and the 300, my lochos is legend.

Mike Lombardy and Eric Donaldson played one side, Wes Rogers and I were the other. We played the Field of Glory scenario using deployment map 7. Each player had about 300 points.

The troops I have painted so far are relatively light. As one might assume from naked hoplites, they weren't well protected. I ran a lochos consisting of one one phalanx (3 bases) of experienced medium hoplites (peripoloi), 2 bases of archers (toxatai),  1 base of peltasts (peltastai), 1 base of slingers (sphendonetai), plus a heavy lochagos. Wes had a similar force: one phalanx (3 bases) of medium hoplites, 2 bases of slingers, 1 base of peltasts, 1 base of javelinmen (akontistai), and a heavy lochagos.

Eric and Wes square off
Eric went with a very light lochos of a phalanx (3 bases) of light hoplites, 2 bases of peltasts, 1 base of slingers, and a heavy lochagos. Mike went with the heavy stuff: a phalanx (3 bases) of experienced heavy hoplites, 2 bases of experienced medium hoplites, 1 base of archers, and a heavy lochagos.

My doomed lochos faces Mike
I started out being aggressive with my slingers and got a shot off against one of Mike's experienced peripoloi—to no effect, a theme I revisited again and again in my attacks. Mike came back punching. His peripoloi charges my sphendonetai and inflicted 5 wounds, i.e., reducing my 3-figure base to a single wounded figure. Because his total wounds inflicted was more than double than my base resistance (actually, nearly triple my base resistance), he took a free action and smacked into one of my archer bases, inflicting 3 wounds on it, which removed a figure.

Moving against my archers
My whinging could be heard next door. Throughout the game, Mike continued to roll amazing hits scores against me. I, on the other hand, consistently threw less than average. I think I never inflicted more than 2 wounds at any time. In an attack against one of my archer bases, Mike scored 7 wounds—enough to kill the whole base and then some.

My peripoloi advance foolheartedly towards Mike's men of bronze
I thought I might get some benefit from being the first to strike when our phalanxes clashed. My experienced peripoloi hit as hard as Mike's hoplites, but lack the armor. My attack was anemic. I'm not sure he'd noticed I'd struck.

Mike's dealers of death, impervious to harm
Wes' and Eric's fight was going a bit more evenhandedly, with—initially—fairly equal losses on both sides. Eventually, Wes' heavier (barely) peripoloi got the edge as Eric's losses started to exceed Wes'.

Wes' peripoloi, backed by slingers, javelins, and peltasts
After my initial whiff at striking Mike's phalanx, Mike sent in his lochagos, which Mike tends to do. Lochagoi are heavy-hitters, although losing one is a game changer.

Mike's lochagos begins to bedevil me
The battle in the center see-sawed a bit. Employing my peltasts in his rear, I manage to cause one (1) figure loss to Mike's phalanx, which broke it up. It became something of a wild scrum after that. My pathetic peltasts were first shot up by Mike's archers and then disappeared in a red mist after getting struck by Mike's heavy hoplites.

General mayhem
Mike and I each managed to inflict five wounds on each other's lochagos, with each of us surviving wounded. He eventually managed to re-kill my lochagos, which left me leaderless, but not out of the game since Wes' lochagos was still in play.

Eric, too, lost his lochagos to Wes, but since Mike's lochagos was still living, we all played on.

Wes killing Eric's lochagos
Lochagoi are glass hammers. They hit hard and they can take a lot of damage, and possibly survive their own death. However, in a 1:1 game, losing your lochagos means losing the game. My own inclination is to keep my lochagos back issuing commands and generally looking imposing. Mike tends to send his into the fray early and often, tempting fate but benefiting from the strength—like the way some chess players use their queens.

Eventually, I was entirely on the defensive. I kept getting hit so many times by Mike that I used all my actions for my anemic attempts at defense, leaving me few opportunities for hitting back. When I did hit back, I managed to inflict no hurt on Mike whatsoever.

In an act of desperation, my lone surviving slinger—really just a naked guy with a rock—ran up and attempted to bean Mike's lochagos. He managed just one wound, not enough to kill him (a second time) and I had to hang on in hope that I'd have a next turn to try again.

We will, we will rock you!
It wasn't to be. On turn 4, Mike went into blitzkrieg mode, killing every remaining figure I had on the board (and probably several I haven't even painted yet) and then started to redeploy against Wes. I lost all 22 of my figures to Mike's loss of 4 out of the 19 he started with.

My end is nigh

Post mortem and further thoughts

Despite my pitiful and frustrating experience this game, I like Mortal Gods. I like the period and think that the game does a good job bringing out the feel of the period without requiring the play to be nothing but a slog between heavily armed phalanxes. Phalanxes tend to be a short-lived formation. After the initial advance and first clash, phalanxes tend to break up and the fighting becomes more piecemeal.

Heavier lochoi tend to do better, I think. Mike had a much heavier force than I did. Even though the number of hit points was the same (56), heavier types defend better. Most of my troops were psiloi, Mike had only one unit of archers, the rest were experienced heavy hoplites or experienced peripoloi (medium). Wes' lochos was similar to mine. Eric's lochos was all light. He benefited a bit from his light peripoloi taking 3 wounds before being out of action, but he never put them into phalanx formation and so lost the advantage of using their defense value—and deprived himself of their nifty javelin toss. Nevertheless, Eric still had two full bases of troops at the end of the game and Wes was pretty beaten up.

I like that the game is expanding to other aspects of war in the classical world. I've ordered the Persian card set and have started working on my Wargames Foundry Thracians in anticipation of a card set being released for them later this month. I'm also working on a few Greek horsemen in anticipation of cards for them being released soon. After that, Andy Hobday has indicated a shift to the early Roman world with Etruscans and Tullian era Romans due for card sets at some point down the road.