Friday, 13 February 2015

Encounter at Pharrp Oynt

Some seventy two thousand, five hundred and ninetyfour Light years from Earth, hidden deep within the Fretaxis Region of the Edni Spur, nestled amongst the star cluster Hundrini Epsilia lies the somewhat unremarkable star known to Imperial Astrologicians as Mot. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly 125 million kilometers is a small mint green planet recorded on Imperial star charts as Pharrp Oynt, meaning, in the tongue of its ancient settler communities "Quite a nice place to bring up the kids, and certainly better than that last planet we looked at, I mean seriously, it had fleas the size of a Landraider!". On the surface of Pharrp Oynt, on the westernmost continent, south of the Icedragon Mountains, on the plains of Evabella, the renowned mercenary company the Trevuntular Grenadiers, under their commander Peribon Krate neared the end of yet another interminably dreary patrol through the fringes of the disputed territory
  "Its not that I mind not getting shot at or anything," said Doctor Xrises Enfastable, Krates best friend and comrade, and the company's medic, as they trudged wearily on "but six months of patrolling the quietest sector in the galaxy without so much as a sniff of the Nouvaeu Pretenders forces could drive a man mad!". Peribon Krate nodded gloomily. It was dull work without a doubt, and there was no chance of picking up any bonus's without seeing any action, but orders were orders, it said so in the contract. A sudden explosion knocked him from his feet, rocked the Wolverine MBT on its tracks, and showered the section with dirt and debris. The vox network was suddenly alive with chatter as the grenadiers took cover and returned fire at unseen targets, the sergeants barking orders. Spitting earth and curses Krate rolled over to snap at the astonished Doctor."Well, I hope your happy now..."

Ain't played 40k in a long while. But I've been paying close attention to the growing Oldhammer movement, and getting interested in Gates of Antares and had prepped a small force for playtesting it. So when Rick suggested we have a crack at 40k 2nd edition I couldn't resist. I didn't play it much back in the day, being to busy playing WHFB (which was more popular in my area), and only got properly involved with 3rd edition, but the smaller skirmish style game, like GOA appealed to me. Ive sort of drifted away from 40k in the last few years, with my attention more drawn to historical games, and 40k was changing too- more super heavies and titans and flyers turning up everywhere. The sort of stuff that was fine in Epic 40k, but didn't really belong in a company level skirmish game. Anyway, Rick had kept hold of all the required gubbins, and I dug out my Trevuntular Grenadiers- My old RT era Guardsmen, the first 40k figures I bought (second hand!), 20+ years ago. After many years battling Orks and Ultramarines they got a new lease of life when the GOA playtest rules came out, and after a hasty renovation, they've been giving merry hell to all manner of Bormites and Daleks, so it seemed appropriate that Peribon Krate and his boys should make a return to the 41st millenium!

Some slight organisation changes were required. Id never seen the Codex of the day but I discovered I could fit my available troops into a 1000point game easily enough. Alas I don't have the exact points to hand but the result was more or less this!

The Trevuntular Grenadiers-
HQ- Commander Peribon Krate with Laspistol, Powersword and Carapace armour.
4 Guardsmen with lasguns/laspistols and chainswords, 1 with grenade launcher and 1 with battle banner.
2 commissars with Laspistols and Chainsword/Powerfist.
Squad 1- Sarge with lasgun and chainsword, squad with lascannon and plasmagun.
Squad 2- Sarge with shotgun, squad with flamer and heavy bolter.
Squad 3- Sarge with laspistol and chainsword, squad with plasma gun and missile launcher
I believe everyone gets frag grenades as well.
Wolverine MBT (counts as Leman Russ minus side sponsons) with hull heavy bolter and pintle heavy stubber.
Chimera with Multilaser and heavy flamer.

The opposing force consisted of a command squad and 2 infantry squads, a hellhound, a sentinal, 5 rough riders, a missile launcher equipped heavy  weapon squad, and a Leman Russ mbt. They appeared to be mostly of the Cadian persuasion.

Rick had his set of wargear cards and we decided to randomly assign a couple- I forget what he got but I drew a master crafted plasma pistol which went to a Commissar, and a Force Weapon which went to the Quartermaster for safekeeping-with no psyker I could make no other use of it!
We also dealt a mission card each- I drew Guerrilla War, so bonus points for melee kills and destroying tanks on my side of the table. Rick drew one that required him to take the three highest points on the battlefield- a Redoubt, a Watchtower and a hill.
So with scenery arrayed (including a set of ruins I cobbled together in an hour flat the previous evening!) , we deployed and set to!

Initial deployments with the Cadians about to advance
on the left, the Grenadiers on the right.

Advance! The wolverine rumbles forward, followed by Krate's HQ,
while No.3 Squad advances to take the tower.

No.2 Squad advances into cover amid the ruins.
Now you see 'em... you don't; The wolverine decapitates the Cadian commander with the
opening salvo! The rest of the HQ goes down to heavy bolters whilst the
last man standing runs for the trees! Beyond, the Chimera uses its Heavy Flamer to good
effect on the Cadians in the Redoubt
No.1 Squads Lascannon team begins its daily target practice, but is
unable to prevent the enemy MBT damaging the Chimera's tracks and turret.

The Cadians take cover amid the alien vegetation and only a
 duff shell saves them from oblivion.

The Grenadiers launch their ambush as the Cadians advance.

Unfortunately the enemy recovers and No.2 Squad comes under heavy fire..

...which the overwatching lascannon is unable to nullify.

On the Right flank the Cadians make their move to take the high ground,
the Rough Riders charging home against Krate and his Headquarters- Alas they
bite off more than they can chew as the lead horsemen are dragged from their saddles
and their comrades flee- Krate promptly leads his men on into the Guardsmen behind! 

No.1 Squad continues to push foward to avoid the Hellhound
causing chaos in the centre- their Lascannon team have stayed back
to cover them.

With the enemy on the Right crushed the Grenaders can turn their attention to closing
down the Cadians advance in the Centre- No.3 Squad's missile launcher finds a chink
 in the Leman Russ's armour, penetrating the sponson and causing fatal damage to the hull.

The Cadians are all but crushed as Peribon Krate leads the final assault!

When the smoke cleared and the dust settled the Grenadiers were victorious- Victory points were added up (perhaps a little unnecessarily but Rick had been going on about them at the start of the game so I made him tally up the results!) with a 14vps to 4 in favour of the Grenadiers, with 5 points coming from my Mission card. My losses amounted to most of No.2 Squad and a commissar (though their heavy bolter was still fighting), No.1 Squad's lascannon team, and a damaged Chimera. Ricks survivors were half the heavy weapon squad, the Sentinal and the unkillable Hellhound, plus a few stray chaps hiding in a result he didn't achieve any of his three objectives!

A very enjoyable game and I'm glad Rick suggested it, I hope we shall do it again, though he has threatened me with Tyranids for next time! I think we will probably need to reread the rules- there was some stuff we forgot, as we mostly relied on Ricks memory and stuff I vaguely recalled from white dwarf battle reports! Should be easier next time as I now have copies of the relevant books as well!

This game was played at our local club, Deeside Defenders, and it was interesting to compare it with the other games going on . I like to have a look around and see whats being played and whats popular and see if I can spot any trends etc- This week there was an apparent resurgance of popularity for 40k with no fewer than 6 games running, including our own; more than I've seen for about 3 years! There was a marked difference in style though- ours had small forces skirmishing and with few vehicles and less power armour- the other games were exclusively hordes of Marines backed up by masses of landraiders, titans and mini-thunderhawk things, all packed together in handy battlecannon-friendly formations. At least one didnt appear to have any terrain at all, which I thought was a bit strange...surely even marines aren't immune from enemy fire now?

I didn't get a chance to see all the games being played, but it was quite a busy evening- 6 40k games, 1 FOW, 1 pike and shotte, a dystopian wars I think, 2 KOW, at least one other small scale historical game, something that involved Zombies, that later FOW game (arab-israelis or something?) and a bunch of other board games.

Thats all for now, thank you for reading!

The bayonet came lunging low through the undergrowth . Deftly, Peribon Krate sidestepped to avoid the thrust, catching it on his sword and sweeping it away. He jammed the muzzle of his pistol into the camouflaged figure at the other end, holding down the trigger until his opponent fell back. Around him his command section were finishing off the remaining enemies.
"Prisoners!" He called out, "Get me a prisoner!" Divisional Headquarters would want as much Intel as could be got.
"Got one Boss!" came the reply, and moments later his vox operator was dragging a disarmed prisoner through the foliage towards the rear. Krate wiped his blade and returned it to its scabbard with a sigh. The comms chatter in his ear was less urgent now as his squad commanders reported that the remaining enemy were retiring, though the occasional shot still rang out to hurry them on their way. He looked around at those fallen at his feet. Weapons, kit, armour and uniforms, ammunition, personal belongings, and what appeared to be a packet of fine Anatraxian cigars protruding from an NCO's pocket (probably themselves looted from a previous engagement),lay all around. He smiled and leaned down. Payday appeared to have come early this month. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Sudan Death

The sand of the desert is sodden red,—
Red with the wreck of a square that broke;—
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

Greetings weary interwebber! Welcome to my blog thingy. First post, eh? Let me see, what shall I ramble about today? Well, last night I arranged and took part in a exciting game of Black Powder set somewhere in Africa, so lets start with that shall we?

Over the last few years Ive amassed a few figures for one of my favourite periods- the Anglo-Zulu War, but not had the opportunity to get them on the tabletop. I was remarking on this to Dave, a fellow member of our local club, the Deeside Defenders, and he remarked that he too had a collection of colonial figures that had never seen a battle. We decided to rectify this, and after recruiting Chris to help push figures around and shout "Charge!" a lot, a date was set and I got working on a scenario. 
Due to the limitations of our respective collections the battle would be set somewhere in Africa in the last quarter of the 19th Century, where a Pan-African Regional Partnership (or PARP) has been arranged to fight the British Empire! Not wanting to play a static game where everyone charges towards the Redcoats and gets shot I decided to play a "Relief March" scenario, based loosely on the countless similar expeditions the British army embarked on over this period.

Somewhere in Africa the town of Kamarobi, a trading outpost of the British Empire, is under Siege, surrounded by hordes of extremely miffed folk from all over Africa intent on kicking the Brits out, they are hoping the siege will draw a British force into the open where it can be destroyed. The garrison is holding out but running short on supplies. A British Army Relief Force (aka BARF) under General Fred Thesiger would attempt to break through the encircling hordes to deliver vital supplies, or even try and lift the siege entirely.

The scene was set using the clubs modular desert terrain to give a table 8ft by 4ft. The town (or rather, a representative portion of it, would be in one corner with a small garrison force. In the opposite corner would be the edge of a British camp with basic fortifications around it. The Relief force would start from here. The African alliance, a dangerous cocktail of Zulus, Fuzzy Wuzzies and Zanzibar Pirates amongst others, would contain more "z"'s than Ive ever written in one sentence and would ambush from the long table edges. To facilitate this Dave and Chris arranged their brigades and assigned each a playing card. Also for each brigade a Decoy card was issued. They then placed these along the table edges as they desired, so that I would see an array of cards but with no idea which ones represented troops, or which were red herrings. Each turn they would reveal a card apiece, and replace it with troops if appropriate. If they felt the British weren't yet fully in their trap they could simply reveal a Decoy card to delay their arrival. Of course I as the British commander can only wonder where the attack will come from.
The only other rule of note that I introduced was the Limited Supplies for the garrison force: This was represented by a deck of 53 cards- one of which, hidden in the deck, was a joker. Each time one of the garrisons units fired I would draw a card. If I drew the Joker the garrison was out of ammunition! 

Victory conditions. I perhaps didn't clearly define these as much as I aught, though it wasn't for lack of trying- I just couldn't come up with anything workable. Suffice to say that this is a trap and the aim for the Africans is to wipe out the British relief force, with the town as the secondary objective. The British aim is to get their wagons into town (at which point the supply problems cease!), or failing that to try and drive off the enemy force.

The Forces engaged.
General Thesigers Relief Force would consist of 6 companies of Riflemen drawn from the 13th, 60th and 91st foot, a 7pdr gun, a company of the NNC, and a mixed squadron of Volunteer Horse (formed from the Newcastle mounted rifles, and Natal Carabineers) . Two wagons completed the convoy.
The Garrison consisted of two companies of the 80th Foot, 1 of the NNC and a RN Gatling gun.
The African force consisted of 10 companies of Zulus in two brigades, and around 12 company sized units of Mahdists/Zanzibarians in 3 brigades, two of which also contained captured Egyptian artillery pieces.

The Game:
The Volunteers lead the Column out of camp

Colonel Caine and his troops defending this corner of the town

The Column moves out smartly, the auxiliaries
 covering potential points of ambush!  
The Volunteers keep a sharp eye open on the flank

It all seems to be going well...

And then the Zulus sweep down from the heights!
The first wave of Zulus drive the Native Skirmishers back behind the towns
 meagre defences, and the 80th returns fire!

A series of blundered orders see the Column get stung out as the Regulars fail to
 keep up with the wagons, and plod along in the columns, leaving the NNC
 and Volunteer Horse to try and cover the whole column! 
To make things worse, half of General Thesiger's rifle companies haven't even left camp yet!

The Zulus mass for the next rush... the Mahdists arrive on the other flank.
Zulus to the left of 'em, Mahdists to the right; The lead elements of the column
are caught strung out and defenceless! The lead wagon is overrun,
and a company of the 91st highlanders doesn't last much longer.
As the Brigade commander desperately tries to restore
order more Fuzzy Wuzzies arrive!
Things look desperate as the enemy closes in overwhelming numbers...

...and on all sides as the beleaguered 60th Foot fight for their lives!
British fortunes begin to change at last as
General Thesiger brings up the rearguard .

Meanwhile, on the edge of town the British have driven off countless
assaults-a whole Mahdist brigade lies shattered by the volley fire of the stalwart Redcoats.
 But the Gatling has jammed and the Colonels dead and the Zulus have gained a foot hold in the streets!

The steady volleys of the regulars finally thin the mass of enemies a little;
General Thesigers troops are halfway to their objective but time, alas, has run out!
And with that the battle ended, slightly too soon to give us a decisive result unfortunately. Various factors slowed us down; we hadn't played the Blackpowder rules for a while, and the mass of figures and lack of movement trays was an issue! Also we attracted a lot of attention from the rest of the club, as it was a genre of game not often seen there, and of course you can't help but stop and point out interesting bits and exchange anecdotes about the game and tidbits of the history of the British in Africa...Its all part of the fun, but does leave you wandering how it might have ended if played out fully. The situation at the end was this- The British column was largely intact, though a little battered. It had managed to survive due to desperate bayonet work against the Mahdists (who had proven to be bullet proof!) , the timely arrival of the rearguard and the reluctance of the Zulus to get stuck in! A whole zulu brigade had stood inactive during the most critical turns when they should have been the hammer to the Mahdists anvil and crushing the isolated 60th Rifles and NNC, but their reluctance to move allowed the British to recover. As it was they would have had to have faced the full fighting strength of the Column alone, as they were the only troops still active between them and the town! The bulk of the Mahdists had been worn out by successive assaults on the Garrison and the Column with only a handful of units were still in the fight. I would have happily declared a British victory in that light, except for the events in town- a Brigade of Zulus had overrun a company of the 80th foot, and the jammed Gatling! The NNC and the other redcoats still grimly held their ground, but it didn't look good. So we agreed on a draw pending completion!

Overall it looked good, attracted a lot of attention and was great fun. The scenario worked more or less though I felt Dave and Chris sprang their ambush to early and spent to much effort attacking the towns defences-  they sent 5 units of Zulus and 4 of Mahdists and a gun to attack 3 of my units and a gatling which jammed on its second shot! In the process they lost all the Mahdists and 2 units of Zulus, troops which would have been better fighting in the open against my strung out and over extended Column. I had pointed out the value of the town as bait before the game, explaining that you don't bait a hook to catch a fish and then eat the worm yourself, but Chris was having none of it!
Id have also waited till the British had marched up the field a bit before bringing on a brigade behind them and thus attacking from all sides at once, buts that's only personal preference. In any case this is a game I definitely want to do again soon!