Friday, 20 October 2017

Uploads Updated

It's been a while, but I have updated some of my download links over on the right.

You can now get my Sumerian Warfare rules "To Ur is Human", and also the most recent versions of "Taiping Era" for warfare in mid-19th Century China, and "If You Tolerate This" for the Spanish Civil War. Both of these latter two have had significant changes from the previous versions.

It's been a while since I tried to upload any links, so let me know if they don't open.

Any comments welcome.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Monday Night in Mesopotamia

It's been a few days since a posting, and the frequency has dropped off a bit for a number of reasons. The main one is that I'm actually doing paid work on a contract which involves commuting to Belfast and that's taking up time, cutting into my wargaming as well as my blogging.

Anyhow, this Monday I'm back at Trebian Towers and not due to jet off until next week (a sound choice, I think you'll agree, with Hurricane Ophelia bearing down on the Emerald Isle) so a chance to re-assemble the Monday Night Group and fit in a game.

Whilst I've been spending some time on my 19th Century Chinese I thought I'd go back to a project I last looked at in 2014. That's the Sumerian armies, and my "To Ur is Human" rules. Well, why not?

It is always entertaining going back to something you wrote a number of years ago and wondering "What does that mean?" and "Why did I do that?". It's also quite helpful. When developing rules you can get into the same loop in terms of looking for game play solutions and taking a break can free up the thought process. Certainly taking a few year's break from the SCW improved "If you tolerate this" an enormous amount. "To Ur" has a central combat system that is still essentially ripped off from Neil Thomas' "Ancient and Medieval Wargaming" and probably needs replacing (although Phil likes it because (quote) "I understand it".

The scenario was that King Ergan of the Arkadians was out to punish the Erammites who had stopped paying him tribute. He had brought a large force with the aim of crossing the river that marks the border of Eram, burning a few villages and taking some Erammites as slaves.


Will and Chris K got the Arkadians, and Phil got the Erammites. In the picture below Will and Chris are to the right, Phil to the left. I did a quick introduction and ran through the salient points of the rules. Chris K missed the whole "To Ur..." development cycle and both Will and Phil claimed not to remember anything (although particularly in Phil's case you could see his eyes light up as he remembered how it was all supposed to hang together.

Chris took a look at the board, asked me whether the Battle Carts were Tanks or Helicopters* (er...neither, they're sort of fear and pursuit weapons) and then positioned his unit lined up on the ford for an opening charge, rather than leave them on the wing for a lightening dash to the rear which was where I'd put them.

So turn one, scene one, battle carts ordered to charge.

The rules have a three level Fear mechanism. Units are either in Fight, Fright or Flight mode. In order to charge you take a Fear Test, which tells you if the chargers will charge and if the defenders will stand. The test takes into account a few modifiers, such as support and whether you're likely to win the melee and cross references them with a die roll and unit type (Elite, Trained etc). That tells you if your fear level goes up or down.

In this case the Battle Carts looked at the block of infantry with supports on the ford and decided not to go, dropping to Fright mode. Even so, they were urged forward a square, and sat opposite the Erammite unit glaring at one another across the ford.

As both sides had a fair number of light troops with javelins, slings and bows casualties were already being inflicted.

The fords were proving to be a particular focus of attention.

As his Battle Carts resolutely refused to charge, Chris moved up his Lugal (General) to encourage his Carts to get on with it. They weren't having it.

On their right flank Will pushed forwards with his Battle Carts supported by massed archers.

Will then launched his Carts at the slingers guarding the stream. Phil by this point was demonstrating that he could, on occasion, exceed the odds on the dice consistently. Not only did they refuse to run as the wagons rumbled towards them....

....but they also inflicted a reverse upon the nobles of Arkadia that they will find it hard to live down.

By this point Phil was feeling quite pleased with himself and Will & Chris, whilst not in actual despair, were gazing upon the ruination of their plan with dismay.

Chris had to try to extract his carts in order to bring up his Guard infantry (the blokes in the white capes).

This occasioned a counter attack by Phil's infantry across the ford, which saw the Carts leave the field in a hurry.

The heavy infantry of both sides was now engaged all along and across the line of the stream. Some of the Arkadian infantry was already heading for home.

Chris had succeeded in forcing the line of the river and was fighting amongst the huts of one of the villages. His elites had also broken their opponents and were about to cross at the ford.

In the next two moves it all went a bit gooey for them, however. A counterattack in the village sent Chris' infantry away in Flight, and on the other side of the Arkadians at the ford, vigorous use of combined heavy and light troops had also broken the rest of the Arkadian phalanx. It was game over for the invaders. The Erammites won't be paying any tribute for a while.

I was a bit rusty with the rules, but I think we soon got into the rhythm of how it all works. The Fear Test component can be a bit extreme at times, but overall it works as I'd like. There's no real need to tamper with the system, but I might take some time to look at the combat mechanism if I'm not working on anything else.

Quite a fun way to pass a Monday evening.

*This is short hand in the MNG devised by Ian Russell Lowell. It means are they battering rams, like Assyrian chariots, or do they flit around shooting lumps of folks like Egyptian ones.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Derby Day 2017 (?)

So Derby isn't in Derby anymore. It's just outside a village called Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire, which is about 40 minutes from Trebian Towers. This makes it my most local show. That's the good news.

It had to move from Donington as the venue is no longer available. Also the organisers are now KaiserRushworth Ltd, the army carrying stuff people. The bad news is that the venue is quite a bit smaller. That means smaller trade stands and a smaller area for displays and participation games. Everything is really crammed in, which improves the feeling that it's really busy, but also means it's hard to get at stuff sometimes.

For the first time in ages I wasn't on a stand. Due to the changes the SOA/NBS/BT stand had slipped off the list and we hadn't got in touch to say we were attending. Still, it meant I could go to a show free and unfettered, and Phil got to play in the AdlG tournament.

Most of the traders you'd expect were there, but for some - eg Irregular - the shift is just too far south for them. We were also missing the wonderful WD Display team North, for similar reasons. Perhaps I should put camp beds up in Shedquarters next year so they can stay over.

The other bad news is that I'm really short of pictures. My compact camera finally gave up the ghost in Borneo and my Smartphone battery discharged itself completely for some unknown reason.

As the show is local I got Shedquarters newbie Gary to come along. He's new to figure games, so it was quite interesting to see his face and hear his reaction as we went round.

We did get to do one participation game, - Baccus 6mm's rather magnificent "Manchester 1642", built by Derek of that company. Last year I played in his first ECW game, which was of mixed success, being the first time he'd run it and using a version of the Bolt Action activation sequence. He's made quite a few improvements since then.

The model is superb. It really looks like a 3D representation of those 17th century city maps, with lots of little houses lining the streets.

Gary took the besieging Royalists, and I got the defending Parliamentarians. The game has a variable length, set at the start, and a weather mechanism. Turns represent a day, so you can do quite a lot, although you need to have command figures to do stuff, and they get a maximum of three orders a day. However, you also have a limited number of command dice drawn from the bag. You determine how many you get by playing cards each go, (court cards have a random effect) so you may have the ability to give 12 orders a turn, but only have 6 command dice in the bag.

Gary started the game in the pouring rain, trying to storm the main bridge from the Salford area at the east end of Deansgate. The fighting was fierce.

This is me counter attacking. Then the phone sort of gave out.

Gary managed to fight his way in at the west end of Deansgate, and also did get across the main bridge. By the cunning use of a parley (play a Queen card) I took a day out of proceedings to reorganise. I was able to counter attack and recapture the bridge, and drive back the Royalists at the west end. A last ditch cavalry charge across the main bridge was thwarted, and the two exhausted armies drew apart after four days of hectic fighting. Good, tense, close game.

Derek is still developing the mechanisms, but he runs the game in an engaging fashion so I'd recommend it. It's original and plays really well, and it's a break from the hulking 28/40mm figures, mechs, pixies and other stuff you usually see. (Peter Berry of Baccus wrote an opinion piece on his website about the obsession with 28mm which is interesting. It's here if you haven't seen it. It shares some similarities with this blog from a few years ago).

A quick turn round the trade stands and a catch up with the usual suspects and it was time to head home.

The show is back next year at the same location, so that's good for me. The question for the traders, societies and display teams is whether the footfall was enough, and can they deal with the space issue.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Bet you wish you had one of these

So a few years back I built that nifty looking Chinese walled house puzzle thing. I wrote a blog about it which implied I'd never build one of those things ever again.

When we were in Malaysia we saw a Chinese handicraft and toy stall in an indoor market. The man had a selection of the wooden 3D puzzles, including a Hall of Supreme Harmony and THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA.

Okay, so no fighting took place up there during the periods I'm building armies for, but, come on. You gotta have one of those. Even if you've sworn never to build any of these ever again.

Well, he was out of stock, so I sulked and bought the Hall of Supreme Harmony instead. Alas, nice tho' it is, it isn't a real substitute for  THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA.

Well, it took a while, but I finally found one at an affordable price on the Alibaba website. Yes, I know that means the Chinese Government now knows everything about me and has installed spyware on my PC, but it's worth the price.

Here's the cover. Looks cool, doesn't it?

Just trying to decide if I want to pre-paint or stain it. I think I will for the bushes you cam make out round the base of the wall, as I reckon they'll have a wider use than just covering up the bottom.

Aren't you all jealous now?

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Another Chinese Game

I made some rule changes for the EVA game, and then some afterwards, based on the game experience. I was pleased with how that went, but was concerned that it might have broken the game system for the more professional armies. Consequently it was time to have a go with them as my first game back after the holiday.

For this game I was joined by Chris K and Will (who played the Brits) and Phil, who helped me out with the Imps.

The Imps were set the task of guarding three river crossings. The British had one infantry division and a couple of cavalry regiments (Indian Army irregular horse) with the job of capturing them. The Imps had hordes of stuff, including some top-notch Mongol cavalry

After a quick discussion the British decided to strengthen their left wing and refuse their right.

I moved up the Mongol hordes to protect my right. The troops on the bridge were already suffering from accurate British shooting.

The British infantry rushed the bridge, and routed the defenders. I pushed across the stream and got entangled with the British Indian horse. Cunningly I had shielded my Manchu cavalry, which I was now busy manoeuvring round the flanks.

After the first round of combat the Mongols were forced out of the stream, but not without inflicting some damage. The re-written melee rules were showing promise, but they started to become unravelled around about now.

Back in the centre the British infantry had stormed across the bridge, and were getting stuck in with the bayonet. Minor damage had been inflicted on them, and Phil and I were planning to let them press in and envelope them with our superior numbers.

Our centre fell back under the onslaught as expected, and our troops started to turn in on the attackers. On our left our other Mongol horse is going out on a big flanking swing.

There's a minor disagreement about whether games based on squares are any good, as our cavalry slip through an arc of fire blind spot, but this is soon forgotten as some cracking shooting from the British Field guns stop our Mongols in their tracks.

Our centre is starting to collapse, and our inner wings do as well under sustained rifle fire from the support troops.

On the right there's been a change in fortunes, and my Mongols manage to break Fane's horse with some devastating dice rolling. My other cavalry is in disarray, but no worries. The British have been severely embarrassed, and the best was yet to come.

As the rest of our army streamed towards the base line our remaining Mongol unit on our left put in an unbelievable charge, and despite taking some heavy hits were able to overrun the British Artillery line. Win for the Imps, I think.

So I'm happy with the changes I made to the firing and the dice rolling resolution system. The melee system is in disarray and can't cope with multiple unit combats. I've got some work to do there, but it should be fixable.

In other thoughts there was discussion about moving to offset squares, which would fix the arc of fire issue.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Back from Beyond

It has been quiet here as Mrs T and I have been off on our travels. This time we've been to Borneo to look at wildlife and stuff like that.

It wasn't a history trip, so I have come back with no pressing need for a new army. We did visit Kuching and Sarawak, so I had a quick read up on Brooke of Sarawak, the White Rajah. I got interested in him after reading "Flashman's Lady", but couldn't work out how to game it properly, so I've left it and not gone back.

We did some river trips in small long boats, which (except for the modern motors) are close to what the locals used in the 19th century. The waterways are mostly unchanged by human interference, so are close to their primal state. It was quite atmospheric moving slowly up them. Easy to imagine Brooke and his men making their way up cautiously, prepared for attack from pirates at any turn.

It can be quite claustrophobic at times, and the side tributaries come up on you quickly, and aren't obvious. Ideal for ambushes.

Brooke took a side wheeler paddle steamer up rivers like this. Mad as a hatter.

The original locals lived close to nature in the forest/jungle, and used blow pipes with poisoned darts. We got to shoot one in a visit. The blowpipes are about 6 feet long and come with a spear head/bayonet on the end.

You'll be pleased to hear that I managed to hit a lager can with my third dart at a range of 10 metres. The pipe pulled to the left, so once I'd worked that out it wasn't hard. Admittedly I was using a rest.

Because I hit something I got a dart to take away. The tail flight is made of soft bark, so it fits snuggly in the pipe. The pipes are drilled out of a single piece of ironwood, using a metal bore. Before the advent of Europeans they drilled them out with bamboo. Must have taken forever.

The only other point of note is that one of our guides did talk about local traditions a lot, and let us know that his grandmother was a shaman in the 1960s, and his grandfather was a headhunter at the same time, until he converted to Christianity. When he died, they found his head collection amongst his things.

Finally, nothing to do with wargaming or history, but I did take this rather good picture of an orangutan in the wild.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

ETA for the EVA confirmed

With the EVA all freshly painted and ready to go, as predicted this Monday's game was a return to China, and my "Taiping Era" rules, which last had an outing a couple of years ago.

I had a quick rad through the rules the day before and made some changes. The rules have always worked okay but they have a clunky resolution system that involves rolling up to a dozen or so dice one at a time. This can take a while and can lead to very big swings in fortune. In a moment of revelation I realised that I could have the dice all rolled together if I only changed the "Moral Vigour" value for the unit at the end of each phase, rather than on a dynamic basis. I therefore type up the changes and got ready for the game.

The Ever Victorious Army at full strength are attempting to liberate a small town near Shanghai from the grip of the Taiping forces. The Taipings have marched out in strength to confront them. When I was setting out the armies I realised I had failed to supply the EVA with any command stands. Accordingly the colonel of the Dragoon Guards had to stand in for F T Ward or Chinese Gordon. I couldn't decide which. Anyway, the EVA are on the right of the picture, the Pings on the left.

To represent the town I used my wooden Chinese puzzle walled house and garden that I wrote about a few years back. I put a bit of a wall round it, which improved the look. I resolved then and there to disassemble some of it and paint the walls white to resemble a small Chinese town of the period, and get some pantile sheets to use on the roofs. Another mini-project on the list. I also really need to make some more paddy fields and look again at my Bellona river sections so I can build some river sampans to put on them.

Before the boys arrived I took this picture of two battalions of the EVA advancing in column up the road. The unit with the Green Dragon banner are the Bodyguard, armed with modern rifles.

The Taiping forces had formed up in front of the town, but deployed their guns behind the walls. I should have put them on raised platforms so the could fire over their own chaps.

The Monday Night team for this game were Phil, Will, Chris K and me. Chris and I took the Long Hairs, and Phil & Will the EVA. Both sides edged towards each other, but being numerically stronger Chris and I pushed troops out wide to try and flank  the EVA. I hoped to do great things with our one unit of cavalry on the right. We had massed all of our bamboo spear armed units in the middle to try to get some shock effect.

The EVA's artillery started to make dents in our army's morale. The Mah Jong tiles represent where a unit's MV rating has fallen. I used to use really dinky travel tiles, but we can't really read them now, so I bought a new box of full sized tiles when we were in Vietnam a couple of years back. Our jingals did hit the Bodyguard in the centre tho'.

Wading through the paddy fields was slowing my progress and exposing our troops to sustained fire. Our skirmishing jingal unit in the centre was doing a fine job of protecting our advancing spear units from the withering fire of the EVAs modern weapons. On our left we had our infantry units concentrating their fire on the battalion on the T junction, and we were causing some damage.

My left hand unit in the paddy field finally succumbed to the effects of modern, well handled artillery and had to fall back. The Mah Jong tile is a value of 1, meaning the unit must retire. My other infantry were also taking fire, but my cavalry had cunningly sneaked round the wood and were about to fall upon the flank of one of Will's infantry units.

The EVA's fire finally broke the skirmishing jingals, enabling us to charge in with our spearmen. The EVA battalions held their fire and delivered a pint blank volley to virtually no effect. Phil was again doing his best to break the rules by rolling in the lower quartile of outcomes. I mean, he's rolling 16 D8's three times, looking for 8s. So he should inflict a couple of hits on each unit. In practice he got two hits in total, missing one unit completely.

This meant he had an uphill struggle in the ensuing melee, compounded by another dreadful round of dice rolling. The Pings drove his unit back, and gleefully followed up. (Note: I was beginning to think that the melee rules might need some work, following the change to the MV resolution system referred to above.)

To the left the EVA had got itself fully deployed in line and was delivering sustained volley fire into our forces.

The next round and the Pings were compounding their advantage. The EDNA system at the core of the rules can make it difficult to claw back a position once it has started to slide, and it gets worse quicker the worse things get.

As the EVA got the initiative Will's men were able to form square and beat off my cavalry, who broke and fled. On our left at least one infantry unit is taking the better part of valour, and heading for an early tea. In the centre we're driving back the two EVA battalions opposing us, but it's hard work. If we don't finish them off quickly then our opponents will be able to bring more forces to bear on us and we'll get repelled. Luckily despite routing my cavalry had pinned the EVA left flank in place.

We finally break through in centre, but elsewhere we've got several units retiring as quickly as terrain and dress will allow. Our breakthrough troops are also about to get serious amounts of cannister served up in short order.

It was getting late, so we called the game off. I think the EVA were just ahead, and would soon roll up our left, and probably push in our right. The loss of two battalions would be a bitter price to pay, however.

So, a good evenings entertainment, with the rule changes working well. There's more work to be done on the rest of the rules, however, and after a two year hiatus that might make it a worthy project for the next few months.

"Taiping Era" is one of my favourite of my designs. There's a cleanliness where everything is driven by the EDNA mechanism that I like. It's elegant and economical. However it does mean that I have to work at how the mechanism will work in all areas when I make changes. I can't suddenly introduce a percentage die roll or the turn of a playing card as that isn't how the rules work. It requires careful consideration to make everything fit, but I think it is worth the effort.

Could be back to COW next year if I like the changes. And do the work on the Chinese House.