Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Check one off the bucket list.


Over the long weekend, the family and I managed a road trip up to Cape Breton, and I had the chance to check something off my bucket list; I finally got to see the partially restored Fortress Louisbourg. While active Louisbourg was the largest fortification in North America, one of the strongest manifestations of French power on the continent, and the continental base for the French fleet after the end of the War of the Spanish Succession.  It controlled access to the mouth of the St. Lawrence, securing the northern flank of French territory, and secured French access to the Grand Banks fishery.

It was taken twice, both times due to the failure of a relief force to arrive after a multi-week siege, once by New England provincial troops supported by the British Navy (in 1745), and the second time by British Royal forces in 1758.  The latter was the first step in the conquest of New France culminating in 1759.  Louisbourg is a critical element of the birth of the modern world; the trading of the Fortress back after '45 was a key step in the formation of a separate political identity in the British colonies, and it's fall in '58 secured the British path to domination of the continent, the consequent growing tension between Britain and it's American colonies, the creation of both the United States and Canada, and everything else that flows from it.  Much of the world we know begins there.

1751 Map.  Restored portion is the NW corner.

With the kids, the trip up is about six hours, so we stayed a couple nights, and spent all of Sunday at the Fortress. The restored site is several kilometers from where you park, so they run a shuttle bus; we were on the first bus in, and the last out ;)
Parking lot is a short bus ride away.  This is the view on the approach.

About a quarter of the Fortress has been restored so far, but that includes some small outlying settlements, including a collection of fishermen's huts, boats, and supplies.

Fishing village on the outskirts.

Interior, Fisherman on left.  Asked if Puddin' could fix his shirt.

Main access to the Fortress is via the Dauphin gate, and the view as you walk in is spectacular.

Approaching the Dauphin gate.

I got a picture of the guard post, but at this point was grinning so hugely my head was about to fall off, and forgot to take some of the interior.  Behind the small gate is a drawbridge, and then the main gate, which is overlooked by the Dauphin Bastion.

Exterior guard post, Dauphin gate.  Companie Franche de la Marine guard.  Cub recognized him as one of the guys I've painted.

Two of the original Bastions have been restored, the Dauphin, and the King's.

Top of Dauphin Bastion, bay side.

Firing a gun at the Dauphin Bastion.

Dauphin Bastion, harbour side.

Just inside the Dauphin Bastion, there's a sally port tucked away - I think most of the crowd missed it.

Sally port tunnel, just inside the Dauphin Bastion.

View of the King's Bastion from the sally port.

Once inside the walls, you start to get a feel for the scope of the place.

Part of the restored town, View from one of the crossroads down to the Frederick gate (i.e., the main quay).

Louisbourg was a fairly significant settlement, as well as a fortification, and building interiors have also been restored.  They've done a fantastic job with this, showing not only residences, but manfacturing / storage / mercantile buildings as well.  Period trades and crafts are actively pursued on site - we had an interesting conversation with both the boat builders and a woman making lace.

Boatbuilders' workshop.  This is an active project; we were talking with the builders.

Lace making; as with the boat, period crafts / trades are actively pursued.

They've also made a real effort to engage the Mi'kmaq tradition, albeit primarily back at the Visitors' Centre.  The alliance with the Mi'kmaq was key to French control of the region.

Gorgeous bead-work.

While there's nothing on the scale of farming, most of the residences have mixed gardens out back, and there's smaller livestock all over the place.  Puddin' was much taken with the geese, and vice versa.

One of the house gardens.

"Fancy" kitchen, the royal engineer's house.  The Friar serving as cook was an interesting guy.

There's also a few places where they've set up displays of household goods, reconstructed from wills and other descriptions of estate.

Series of household good displays.

Marie Rose's goods.

If you go in the peak season, there's a fairly extensive staff in period dress, who both wander about as mobile "historical interpreters", and who do scheduled events throughout the day.  One of the latter was a military demo, with a fife and drum performance, musket drill, and a cannon firing.

Cannon ceremony, King's Bastion.

Administrative building for the Fortress, King's Bastion.

Readying the cannon.
I had some interesting conversations with the interpreters, including one dressed as Captain Vauquelin, who ran the British blockade to get news to France of the Fortresses imminent fate.  He gave me a couple of readings tips that are panning out well ;)

Vauquelin, naval Captain who ran the British blockade.

Another guy was dressed as one of the militia who raided Canso, from Louisbourg, in 1744.  He's carrying a captured Brown Bess (i.e., English) musket, as well as a scalping knife.  While they don't really play up issues like scalp bounties or slavery, both the exhibits and the interpreters are frank about the existence and prevalence of such practices.  Cub was a little startled to discover that kids were a favourite target for scalpers, as they brought in the same bounty with less risk.

Militia.  Note the Brown Bess, captured at Canso.

There's a visible Compagnie Franche de la Marine presence in town.

Marine officer.  Invited us to a dance.

Other daily spectacles include the marching of a criminal to the post for public humiliation and summary judgement.  The drums and cries attracted quite a crowd, including a pack of kids, most of whom enthusiastically called for the more heinous sentencing options.  Nothing like a good mob to bring people together ;)

Marching a thief to the punishment post.

I had a fantastic time.  Louisbourg is pretty much the best restored example of my favorite period of history, and I've wanted to go for more than a decade.  We spent the whole day on site, and while we hit pretty much every building (including the Inn, for a period lunch, I recommend the fish soup), there wasn't one spot in which I couldn't have spent more time; there's also a few other daily events that we missed due to overlap, including one on a soldier's life, and one for kids.

If we're still around next summer, we're definitely going back, and I'd strongly recommend a trip to anyone with an interest in the period.  The Fortress, and the process of restoration, are frankly a national treasure, and while Cape Breton is a little out of the way, it's very much worth the trip.

Needless to say, this has whet my appetite for painting up more of my Acadian project, and I've already dug out and begun sorting through the next batch of figures for painting.


Saturday, August 29, 2015


Hi all,

A rather hectic summer draws to a close.  The Cub went back to his mom's for school this morning, so it's back to weekend visits, but before we shipped him off we got down to the GW for a game.  It's the first in a while, as I've been scurrying about with work, and we've spent the last couple of weekends camping, but it was a fun one.  1000 points, my orks vs. his marines.

The field of battle - Cub insisted on a clear shot before things were deployed ;)

I took my usual boot-heavy list, while the Cub took some toys, including his Redeemer.

The orks deploy, L to R: Shootas, Sluggas, Shoots, Tankbustas.  Couple of Deffkoptas around too.

Opening turns were fairly uneventful.  He pushed forward with his Redeemer, and laid down fire with his tacs and Devestators.  I moved the boyz up, found covere where I could, and poured fire into the Redeemer.  In the 1000 point games we usually play, it often comes down to whether I can take out his Redeemer before it delivers fiery doom, and / or whether I can close the boys into shoot + charge range before the Redeemer unloads said doom.

Binky's eye view of the table.  Target #1 ahead.  Fun fact:  Puddin's favourite staff guy, Chris, can be seen in background.

Tacs move up to secure the trench.

There were a couple of key terrain features dominating the centre of the board - a massive crater, and a trench system.  While neither would help me against flame templates, they'd do the business against regular shooting.  My Mad Doc earned his keep this game (really should paint him up), but he couldn't keep up with the volume of fire forever.

Orks converge.  See that open space in front of them?  Just wait for it . . . 

Quick, into the trench!

Then, glorious day (Kaloo!  Kalay!), I got in a barrage with my Tnakbustas that finally broke through the Redeemer's armour, and the behemoth ground to a halt centre-table.

Fist pump!!  The Redeemer about to lose it's last hull point.

Cub contered by dropping a 'pod and his assault marines right in the middle of my advancing formation, backed up by his bikes

Yeah, that open space was just the right size for a Drop-pod and some marines.

Remnants of the shoota mob move to engage the Librarian

A great and glorious barny ensued, with flame templates countered by sheer ferocity and buckets of dice.  Some fun moments saw Cub's Librarian terminator surrounded by the remnants of a shoota mob:

Feel free to whistle the theme from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" here.

And Warboss Binky lay waste to most of a tac squad:

Binky SMASH!!!

When the girls came back to check on us, the orks were pulling ahead, but it could have gone either way.  Cub still had an assault squad and some devestators, and I was down to a shoota mob and a few rump ends, with lots of open field to traverse.

Marines noticeably absent from the ork side of the table.

Although, the Tankbustas do seem to be missing here . . . . 

We decided to Rock-Paper-Scissors it, and old age and guile won over youth and enthusiasm.

Fun game, and a really nice way to end the summer with the Cub.  I'm finally starting to get some painting juices flowing - I managed to put together the figures from the Age of Sigmar box set, but haven't touched a brush in months.  Here's hoping I get some minis turned out over the next couple of weeks.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Warriors of the Lady


Been both busy and away of late, hence the lack of updates.  Spent a good chunk of the last 3 weeks in Ontario visiting family, and most of the last week catching up with work as a consequence.  That said, the big hobby news has been that our Age of Sigmar box set was waiting for the boy and I upon arrival, and today we got down to the G-Dub for our first full game with the new rules.

I had a great time, so did Cub.  I get that these rules are not for everyone; they represent a real departure from the old WFB rules, they are not a rank and file system, and they constitute a major departure from the official fluff of the old game.  That said, I played the equivalent of what would have been a 1000-1500 point game in old terms, got it finished conclusively in less than 2 hours, including first-time looking up rules etc., and got in a game that was fun, dramatic, and demanded constant, tactically relevant choices.

The Lady's forces, arrayed. 

The day was semi-organized, with players showing up with what they had, and the staff running us through the scenarios appearing in the new AoS book (which is gorgeous, and I might pick up in a bit).  We played the new "Watchtower" scenario, which has the tower in the center, occupied by a single unit + hero from one side.  Attackers deploy, then turn 2 the rest of the defender's army gets on the table.  From the end of turn 3 on, there's a 50/50 chance the game ends, and whoever holds the tower wins.

I had the larger army (in a pick-up game, I'd have just outnumbered my opponent, and been dealing with the sudden death clause), so was the attacker.  My opponent, running a goblin wolf-rider force, put his shaman and a unit of wolf riders in the tower, and I set up opposite.

Arrow Storm!!

The game plan was to hit the garrison with my knights, archers, and trebuchet, while the mounted yeomen ran interference, and the Peg Knights played shortstop.  I opened up turn one with an arrow storm from my peasants.  They now have a special ability where, once per game, they can fire a volley with triple (or quadruple, if a large unit) shots.  This is definitely a buckets of dice game; after 80 shots were fired, I think I took out 3 wolf riders, although cover from the building helped them.  My trebuchet fired, but poor roles and good cover saves blunted it's effect.

We took the top of the tower off for ease of reference.

With shooting out of the way, I sent in the knights.  The way combat works, charges aren't that hard to execute.  While distances are random, the Brets have access to a number of ways to re-roll (generally based off hero abilities), and I'd placed my knights close enough to the tower to charge it reliably.  The game treats buildings with relative abstraction; you can't move through them, and they give defenders a bonus to armour saves (in this scenario, to battleshock / morale as well).  Bretonnian charges are effective as ever, and after my knights, both knight heroes, and Pegs hit home, there wasn't much left in the way of goblins, just a weedy Shaman who was rethinking his life choices.

This is what a bad day looks like for a goblin shaman.

The aforementioned Shaman opted for the better part of valour, and high-tailed it back to the rest of his army, which had just appeared on the other side of the table.  There were a lot of angry wolves headed my way.

Run, Forrest!  Run!!

More to the point, there were pile of goblin units and heroes headed towards the tower.  I'd need to head them off if I was to have a shot at winning.  I threw pretty much everybody forward, including the peasant archers, intending them to take up residence in the tower.  A good run roll (you can run in the movement phase, sacrificing the option to charge) put me in range of the tower next turn.

A Scot's Greys moment.

Unfortunately, my knights didn't make it in this time (they were more or less at the limit of their charge range), and only my two knightly heroes, and my pegs made it in.

That shaman's day isn't getting any better.
On the plus side, I had gotten my Palading bearing the grail banner into combat with the runaway shaman.  If I killed the shaman, I could invoke his special ability that let friendly units within 15" ignore battleshock (the end of turn morale test that can force more casualties).  On the downside, my heroes were facing down a pile of wolf-riders, and looking awfully lonely doing it.

Grom, on the right, about to make his move.

On their turn (my opponent consistently won the role to go first each turn), my opponent piled in my knights, and sent Grom the Paunch (a chariot-riding goblin king) down the flank to cut off my archers from the tower, bypassing the mounted yeomen along the way.  Turns out, goblin war-chariot special characters are tougher than scruffy peasants with bows, and my lads started taking casualties left, right and centre.  The new morale rules meant they didn't break from combat (though I could have voluntarily left), but sticking around meant that they were losing extra models each turn.

While Grom was positioned so that I couldn't retreat into the tower, my mounted yeomen hadn't been engaged, and I moved them to occupy it instead, along with the Damsel of the Lady.

On the left, knights get set up for their big charge.  On the right, peasants are dying dutifully.

At the end of the turn, we rolled, and got another.  Putting the Yeomen in the tower would prove a key decision, however,  It gave me the initiative; my opponent now had to break through and drive out my garrison, or lose the game.

Just pretend they've dismounted, okay?

On his turn, my opponent did some damage, clawing down my Lord (who died fighting in a dogpile of snarling wolves and goblins), and my Pegs were on their last legs.  My Palading held out, however, and my knights charged home.  They slammed into the goblin line, and despite some spectacular saves on his part, between combat casualties and battleshock, tore apart the goblin lines.

No more goblins.

The battle turned in a melee, with my knight chasing down the last of the goblins.  Grom was dispatched by a trebuchet shot.  In the new rules, you can freely shoot into combat and while in combat, including with warmachines.  While I was okay with this with the archers (think of it as point-blank shooting), I'll admit I was a little flabbergasted regarding the Treb.  That said, the idea of a massive chunk of masonry kissing down and plucking the goblin chief is rather cinematic.  All I could think of was that bit from Return of the King when the camera follows the stone down into the orc army.

No more Grom.

The game ended on my turn 4, with all goblins dead, and the tower in Bretonnian hands.  Despite having a numerical advantage, the game didn't feel at all like a push-over.  There's aspects of this I'm only beginning to wrap my head around.  Movement is much looser than in the old WFB, but unit positioning, and threat projection, will be key, I think.  There's a clear degree of abstraction in the rules, and people will be comfortably with that or not.

A key thing for me was that by old standards, this would have been a problematically small game.  With the new rules, it felt like a real one.  The Brets still feel like "themselves" (combined arms, hammer cavalry, the charge matters, heroes lead from the front), but everything seems to work better than it did under WFB rules.  Heroes are heroic, but are as much leaders as killing machines.  Morale is different, but still matters.  Shooting is easier, but doesn't seem to be as immediately lethal.

This isn't WFB.  It is, however, fun to play.  I'm jazzed to paint Brets, assemble my AoS box, and get in more games.  Good times.