Thursday, 23 March 2017

Death is in the eye of the Beholder!

Some stuff has rolled off of the painting table recently: 
BEHOLD!  The Harlequin Beholder. I like this monster, but I wish this model were a little big bigger and more imposing.

A new recruit for the  Orcs of the  Skull Smasha Lejun- they now have magical support on  hand!

The imperials rolled out two refurbished warengines. The first two I ever bought...

And of course, Zulus...

Alas only 'fasands more to go...


The Ring and the High Road

Well its been a busy week on the gaming table, and with games that the group has only recently started to adopt so I thought a brief review/AAR was in order! The games of Dan Mersey, such as Dragon Rampant and The Men Who Would Be King, appear to be gaining traction- their appeal is obvious- they are very quick and simple with no overly complicated mechanics are ridiculous army lists. One thing we've noted with them is that only a few turns in and you hardly need to consult the rule book. Ideal for those trying to learn or just play a game in the few hours available on club night!

On Thursday last we decided to try out Dragon Rampant, the fantasy version of Dan Merseys rules.  2 players aside, and each commanding 24pts- the two Daves with Daemons and Orcs versus Geoff and I with Men and Elves. The scenario rolled was The Ring, in which one of the Daves units was carrying a Macguffin, which served as the objective, with a tendency to scythe the battlefield clean of life if its bearer is the last unit standing! An interesting twist- to win the ring Bearer can't just hide at the back. If everyone else gets wiped out he explodes so both sides lose!

The Daves deployed. The nearest Dave has borrowed my Orcs for the occasion. Mostly Harlequin
with a Ral Partha Giant. The other Dave has a variety of scouting Imps backed up some nastier stuff!
 Unbeknown to us the Orc Warlord has the Ring! 
My force- Archers, Halberdiers, Free Company, and a Helblaster,
commanded by the Tsarina, and Legolas!
Geoffs Fully Painted Snow Elves - Mostly citadel 80's Noldor Elves I believe.

The Alliance advances, the Free Company leading.  In these rules each unit may attempt one action a turn,
usually having to test to do so. In Dragon Rampant the test varies depending on the attempted action-
 My Mostly Light Infantry force was quite good at getting moving, but less keen to press home the attack.
 If an order test is failed the initiative goes straight to your opponent! The game goes at a good pace, and large
 battlefields are covered surprisingly quickly.

Regular readers  know my theory on arm gestures and how they relate to the outcome of the game.
Compare Daves feeble and limp wristed effort with Geoffs much more decisive and definite gesture below...
The Allied advance had gone smoothly by this point- the Orc cavalry had been pushed back, and
everyone was in good shape. Then it went rather pear shaped.
The Free Company got beaten up by everyone, The halberdiers were roughed up, and the Archers were
 driven back. Worst of all, the Giant made mincemeat of the Tsarina!
Luckily the Orcs  and the Deamons had overstretched themselves; My Archers fought
back hard and drove offmarauding Orc infantry, while the Helblaster took down the Giant, and 
poked holes in the big daemon thingy.Most of our infantry was lost in this desperate scrabble.
 We suspected by this point that the Orc Warlord had the ring- he'd been hiding behind a tree all game! 
Legolas stepped into his charge range to draw him out, but wasn't able to evade the Wild Charge!
 The silly wood elf got his teeth kicked in, and the Orc went on a killing spree...
...which was promptly ended by the volley gun! With the ring bearer dead and the
rest of their forces inbits, the Orcs and Daemons quit the field.
 This was a great game, and very hard fought, with the Orcs and Daemons chewing up our melee units before our line steadied itself and brought its superior firepower to bear. Lessons to remember in DR are simply to be mindful of the order in which you try and active your units for certain tasks, to make sure you give yourself the best chance of completing as many of them as possible before the initiative is lost!

Last night I had the opportunity to play a Dave again, only this time it would be Fuzzie Wuzzies  (plus allied Pathans!) Versus Redcoats in the Men Who Would Be King!  This game is superficially similar to DR, the core rules are essentially the same. But enough is changed to give a different feel to the game, one more appropriate to the Colonial period.

We had 24 points for the Fuzzies, 18 for the Redcoats, with the Scenario "The High Road".  Daves objective was the British Camp.
Dave took one unit of Pathan Horse, and one of Pathan Foot, 3 units of Fuzzies and a captured/enslaved gun.  All the Tribal foot were rated Fierce. The Horse were Veteran.

I took 2 units of Regular Riflemen, one of Natal Volunteers, and one of Natal Native Contingent. No particular special stuff was added, but perhaps worth noting that my colonial forces are all based around units of 12, so for my tribal units I knock a point off to account for the reduced strength, so paying 2 for 12 rather than 3 for 16.

The Pathan advance past the generic African village...
The Fuzzies are stuck behind it.
The British Firing line deploys.  The NNC, a very long way from home, are beyond the camp.
Ignore the other stuff to the left- that was just Dave sorting his units out!
Daves assault falls to bits- He kept trying to double time; This requires a test and allows a
 unit to move an extra d6". The Tribal units don't normally have to test for their movement,
 but with poor Leadership andbeing made to test every turn they ended up all over the place! 
Just using their free move would have kept them alltogether and moving every turn rather
 than half the time. The Pathans got out in font by themselves- The Natal Volunteers 
charge and a couple of volleys from the Redcoats cleared both units from the field.

This is as far as the Mahdists got. They managed to beat the Volunteers back, but the
 Redcoat volleysripped into their piecemeal attack, and what was left was finished 
off when the NNC charged forward destroying the remaining Fuzzies...
 This was only my second game of TMWWBK against a live opponent, and I'd grown a little concerned that Native forces might struggle to win games- I'd seen the Redcoats win easily both times.  I had played Mr Babbage twice (TMWWBK includes rules for solo play with automated Natives!) and they'd been harder to beat there.  I wondered if it was the rules at fault, or the Tactics...both the games we'd played so far had seen the Native player trying to double time rather than make use of the free move, whilst heading straight at the Redcoat firing line. This broke up their attack and made them easy meat for the Martini-Henrys.

  So, we swapped sides, to see if I could do any better!

Dave deployed pretty much exactly as I did, and we used identical forces. The scenery was the same.
 Only the Native tactics changed.  Here a few turns in you can see that sticking to the Free
 Move has paid dividends-its not as potentially fast but it keeps everyone moving and together!  
Also I think I made marginally better use of the cover, and sent my cavalry against the NNC-their 
position was clearly the weakest point of the British line. The Horse piled 
through in short order, the Pathan  infantry close behind.

The Fuzzies actually got to within charge range before they took any casualties!

Having turned the flank the Pathan  horse tried to roll up the Redcoats. That didn't work but
 distracted the Redcoats for long enough that I could get infantry into camp, and more behind
 them. The Fuzzies kept up the pressure on the two units of Regulars, so they couldn't turn and fight.
 The Volunteers rode into camp to rescue the situation but were chewed up and spat out by the
 Pathans. The game ended with the British on the ropes; only 6 figures still in the fight! 
The Mahdists were in camp with 3 units still in the fight, and the gun just finally getting into range!  

I'm happy now that it was just the tactics that were lacking. My more concerted attack was far more successful than Daves version . Seeking the flanks and advancing in cover is the way to go, and with an extra unit of Horse instead of the gun I'd have been turning both flanks!

 My advice is to think like a Zulu- don't just rush headlong into the rifle fire, keep moving to the flanks...the civilized Imperialists don't get free moves, and can't move as fast so they can't keep up. Use this to keep forcing them to try and move (costing them firepower) and keeping yourself concealed  (costing them firepower!) .  Get round behind them and then close in from all sides.

Once close don't try and charge home straight away- firepower is key and the Natives have more, although of lower quality. Charge a Redcoat and he gets a chance to stick you with his bayonet- He'll almost always win that contest. However, throw a spear at him and even if he ducks there's still a good chance he won't get to shoot back! Then when they are pinned and thinned out a little, you can move into finish him off!

I'm now happy that TMWWBK is a suitable ruleset for use in our next project.
Each year at Gauntlet (our clubs annual show) a few of us put on a game. As big and impressive a game as we can manage (usually at short notice with little free time and a tight budget!). This year nobody had suggested anything and  nobody seemed keen to put themselves forward. We've done this for the last 4 or so years but it seemed this tradition was to be short lived. And then somebody told Rick that the table was booked for us. The organisers clearly expected something from us! I threw a few suggestions into the ring, based mostly on what was on my painting table at the time...fantasy stuff mostly, dungeon crawls etc. It got no takers.  And then I suggested the Anglo-Zulu War reckoning it was another non-starter...and Rick went and bought some Zulu's. And TMMWBK. That's about as close to committing to something as this group gets!

So for Gauntlet, in a little over 3 months we will put on as big an AZW game as we can manage using TMMWBK rules.  I've worked out a scenario, we have enough redcoats and their auxiliaries, I'm making the scenery...all we need now are Zulus...thousands of 'em.  I've 120 ready so far, but that's not nearly enough! Another 100 marched onto my painting table this week. 24 have already marched off again, but I must redouble my efforts if we are to put on a reasonable game for Gauntlet!

Toodle  Pip!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

An okay Kraal

I can't seem to spend any time just sat painting figures at the moment...I find myself getting distracted and wandering around.  However I have managed to divert some more energy into building terrain. This time, inspired by a new set of rules we've been trying-  The Men Who Would Be King, which I'm rather enjoying, I decided I needed a Zulu village.

So I picked up some polystyrene spheres, a roll of willow twigs and cloth from a cheap hardware store and set to it! I cut the bottom of the spheres and made a door from a scrap of cardboard and greenstuff on one side. The cloth was roughly cut to shape and glued over it.

The base for each part is just a bit of hardboard off the back of an old wardrobe. I removed a few sticks from the roll of willow twigs ( which I think is intended for edging a lawn or flowerbed, its just hundreds of sticks about 8" long held together with a bit of twisted wire.) and cut them down to 2-3" lengths and glued them into a rough fence. I did a smaller one for a separate Kraal. The bases were textured and the whole lot spray painted brown. Each component was then highlighted up with layers of drybrushing. And then flocked. 

Need to find a few civvies and cattle, but otherwise all done. Not the most accurate depiction of a Zulu village ever but I'm happy with it. Total time to build; about 5 hours. Total cost- well under £5!

Thanks for reading!