Saturday, May 1, 2021

Old Friends

 Hi all,

I sing of Haemar inn Haegi,
gift-giver, sword-weilder.
I sing of his glory,
his deeds are remembered.

So, I made the mistake of watching the "Little Wars" viking episodes, including the one where they debut their Ravenfeast game.

Haemar, friend-feaster
gift giver, mead bringer.
To his hall, his huscarls,
his hirdmen he called.

This, of course, prompted me to dig out my Wargames Factory figures, and try out the rules.

Fast friends he feasted,
great logs were burning.
High heat in the Hall,
mead-tempers flared hot.

The scenario I played was "Fight for Honor", which has two leaders square off, with a chance of their warbands piling in to the fight.

Proud boasts were shouted,
hot words were cutting.
Like sword blows exchanged,
no shields to bar harm.

The figs are serviceable, but don't really compare to some of the other options.  They were, however, cheap as chips, as I got a good deal on them at the time.

Hot tempers flaring,
to night air were carried.
Harsh words to harsh blows,
brothers now foes.

I did spend some time on them, back in the day, so they generally look okay on the table.

Haemar our chieften,
swift striking, quick witted.
The first blow he struck,
the honour was his.

The opening rounds of the fight saw Haemar tear up his opponent pretty well.  In Ravenfeast, leaders have 3 wounds - one more, and Haemar's nameless opponent would go down.

Jarl's men close-watching,
his life's blood saw spattered.
In wrath they strode forward,
our chieftan to slay.

In the scenario, if the leader takes a hit, and fails morale, his men pile in.  Haemar's in trouble!

At Haemar they struck,
sharp spears hard-piercing.
His heart's blood they sought,
to spill on the soil.

Attacked by multiple foes, Haemar fights at a disadvantage, and is badly wounded.

Against many stood Haemar,
proud-fighter, sore wounded.
As waves against sea-rock,
the foe-line did break.

However, Haemar's men rush forward.  Can they relieve him before he falls?

To Haemar we rallied,
gold-giver, war-leader.
Hearth friends and hirdmen,
to his side we strode.

The first rush of Haemar's men takes out some of the opposition, but they don't quite break through to the man himself.  

Fell blows were given,
false friends struck down.
Many hewed Haemar,
though he would not fall.

The fight starts to even up.  Snorri, one of Haemar's Huscarls, draws off the opposing Jarl, while Haemar deals with the man left on him.

Hearth-friend of Haemar,
strong Snorri, quick killer.
The foe-jarl did battle,
While Haemar slew men.

Behind the duel, more drama.  Arne, a hirdman (i.e., a grunt), duels and kills one of the opposing elite troops - a multi-attack berzerker.

Young Arne, axe-wielding,
struck down the bear-sarker.
Great honour he won there,
from Haemar a ring.

Haemar re-engages the opposing Jarl, with assistance from Snorri.  I'm missing a pic here, where the loose enemy Hirdman on the far left moved over to attach Haemar.  Snorri ended up dueling the opposing Jarl solo.

Brave Snorri, stout hearted,
to Hel sent the false friend.
Who's death-stroke killed Snorri,
he feasts with the gods.

With the opposing Jarl dead, Haemar rallies his surviving men, to drive off their erstwhile friends, now foes.

Brave fighters of Haemar,
drove false-friends, quick fleeing.
From hearth's hold they drove them,
to feast there no more.

The Ravenfeast.  Odin's hall has many new warriors tonight.

The ravens fat-feasted,
the corpse-reap was hearty.
Odin was happy,
his war-throng swells more.

So, that was pretty fun.  Ravenfeast seems pretty accessible, lets you take a range of fighters, is absolutely character-driven, and seems to produce a fairly engaging game.  Although the mechanics are pretty simple, I can see them becoming a little unmanageable if you tried to run much more than a dozen models or so - but it would probably work quite well as a multi-player game.

As it happens, between the Little Wars stuff, trying the game, and a little late night perusing, I ended up springing for a box of the new(ish) victrix vikings.  Kind of looking forward to them, though I suspect it'll be a few weeks anyways, with the mail the way it's been.

Gratuitous shot of the Fenris-cat, who took an interest in the battle.  Also, how about that house?  The Cub's work - he's developing a real knack for terrain.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021


 Hi all,

The semester is over, grades are in, I have several months to look forward to in which I can focus on revamping courses and writing . . . and we've gone into lockdown.  The main impact in Monkeyland is likely to be a few weeks without the Cub, as he's at his mom's, and we're not bringing him up into the lockdown zone.  Skype and email will serve for now..  He's shifted well into teenager mode at this point, which means we generally have to lure him out of the basement with food, but still, I'll miss him.

In hobby news, I finished up the bases for my first unit of Scots cavalry.  Cav units in Pikeman's Lament are six strong, so that's where I started.  I figure as the collection grows, I can either supplement existing units, or combine them into larger 12+ bunches.


Pics are a little dark, I'm afraid - I struggle to get decent ones in the office, despite my best efforts.  Next time I get them on the table, I'll see about some glamour shots.

I've based them on the Pike and Shotte standard of 25x50mm per figure.  Double basing for some, single for others (and casualty removal).



In addition to finishing off the cavalry, I made a start on a few opponents for them, and broke open the warlord box I received at Christmas.  A couple of stands of shot and one of pike were enough to get a feel for the figures, and how they compare to the Old Glory figures that make up the Covenanter force.


Generally speaking, the warlord figs (all plastic) are a little taller and slimmer than the Old Glory.  Not enough of a difference to matter on the table, certainly, and the varying height seems well within the kind of range you'd normally see among humans.


The Warlord plastics seem to fall somewhere between "old school" GW, and their newer plastics.  They're more refined than the old plastic kits (I'm talking about the old multi-part, mix-and match), with fine details generally well picked out.  They do require a bit of fiddling, however (I've found arms especially so), and there's a limited amount of mixing and matching you can do without breaking out the hobby knife.


You get quite a bit of variation in head-gear, and my sense is that's one's greatest option for customization.  I'm sticking to a majority of floppy hats, and some Montereo and stocking caps for variety for the Royalists I'll put together.


While I'm generally a fan of plastics, for reasons of durability, storage, etc., I'm finding that the figs are already getting a bit "same-y" to paint.  While metal figs can be a paint, I found the OGs to have a ton of character, and like most of their range, they "take paint well".


That said, they'll do just fine as opponents for the Covenanters in Pikeman's Lament.  The nefarious plan is to get a couple of forces together by summer.  That will give me the opportunity (weather, plague, etc. permitting) to have some folks over for games in the backyard, and perhaps spur some local interest in the period.  I'm reliably informed there's at least some folks out there with the makings of 28mm ECW armies, so anything to get folks out and interested would be great.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Trial run. Possibly a running trial


Hi all,

Been in a bit of a funk the last couple of months, likely a combination of weather, work, and the accumulated stress of a world gone mad.  I've had zero energy or motivation for hobby, aside from some Command and Colours games via Vassal (which has me increasingly interested in C&C).  In the last week or so, however, the clouds seem to have lifted, and I've not only finished up the last of the Scots cav which have been glaring dourly at me, but also cracked open the Warlord ECW box I got at Christmas, and started in on some Royalists to oppose / ally with them.

The boost from getting some painting done, in turn, prompted me to set up a table, and try out a test game of Pikeman's Lament.  I picked up the rules a ways back, and read them, but hadn't actually bothered to paint them.  With the "core" Covenanter force done, I figured they deserved an outing, so I carved out some time this afternoon to set up a table.  It turned out to be a shockingly one-sided affair, and I've a few reservations about unit balance in the game, but overall, I was quite chuffed with the rules; they seem to provide for smooth, intuitive play, and once I get into the more developed scenarios, are likely to prove quite fun.

Royalist deploy in the woods.

I tried to keep the game pretty simple to start with.  The table had patches of woods in one corner, and a hill and broken ground in the opposing corner.  A small creek, with a track paralleling it, crossed the table, broken by a couple of fords.  Trees, rocks, and non-ford creek were rough ground, and the woods gave cover.

Captain Donald Monroe leads his Covenanters forward.

My covenanters were made up of the minis I had painted so far; a unit of pike, two of shot (all three veterans), along with a unit of "Trotter" horse, and a regimental gun.  Pikeman's Lament has a bit of character flair for commanding officers; my Covenanter leader, Capt. Donald Monroe, rolled the "Strong" background, which gave the unit to which he was attached (the pike) a free re-roll in combat.

Royalists line up to stop the (other) Scots.

The Royalists were made up of a hodge-podge of units I got in The Big Swap, in a range of states.  Unlike the Covenanters, I went with bog-standard units, and rather than the "regular" troops, I used 3 units of dragoons, and three of commanded shot.  I somehow missed that the commanded shot only cost 2 points each (a standard force is 24 points, and most units are 4), which meant the Royalists were actually fighting at a disadvantage.  In theory.  They also had an officer I didn't bother to name, who rolled the "Brutal" characteristic, meaning he could execute a model to force a successful morale check.  40k, eat your heart out ;)

Turn 1.  Covenanters move to take the southern Ford, Royalist Dragoons surge forward to take the northern.

This raises the first question I ended up with post-game.  I have no idea why Commanded shot units are worth only 2 points, or why Dragoons are worth the same as most other units, as it quickly became clear that the Covenanters didn't stand a snowball's chance against the Royalist light troops.  Even with a 4:3 advantage in points, the Royalists steamrollered the Covenanters in this game.

Lesson 1.  Commanded shot and Dragoons move faster than everyone else.

The early stages of the game saw the two sides advance, and take up positions.  The Royalist foot moved up through the woods (which Commanded shot can traverse without penalty), and established a firing line at the edge.  The dragoons, which out-numbered the Covenanter cavalry 3:1 pushed toward the northern ford to block it.

Covenanters move up.

On the other side, The Covenanters pushed forward.  I think I had some notion that they'd defend the river edge, but that turned out to be a bad idea.

They have no idea what they're in for.

It quickly became apparent that the superior number of guns the Royalists could bring to bear were going to be decisive.  Commanded Shot and Dragoons both have a shorter range (12 vs. 18 inches), but their base shooting ability is the same in terms of numbers of shots and chance to hit - despite that both of those units have half the number of models in their unit.  Commanded shot are also just as resistant to shooting as regular shot, and Dragoons are more resistant.  It's just as easy to get Commanded Shot to act as with "regular" shot, and easier to get Dragoons shooting.

First blood.  The Royalist Dragoons fire on, and damage, the Covenanter cavalry.

While they had fewer models per unit, the sheer number of shots the Royalists could put out meant the Covenanters very quickly came under significant fire, and started taking casualties.

Under fire from three Royalist units, Captain Monroe urges his men forward; if they can just get into contact.

On the right, the Covenanter cavalry launched a charge against the Dragoons guarding the ford.  They have an advantage against the lighter Dragoons, and should have been able to drive back at least one unit.  Dragoons, however, have an evasion ability.  Even if an attacker successfully motivates to charge, the Dragoons, more than half the time, can not only pull back out of the way, but also shoot while doing so.  So, having weathered fire on the way in, the Trotters launched a charge into what turned out to be thin air, and took casualties for their trouble.

Pike start to push across the creek, but it's slow going.  Shot are finally in position to lay down some covering fire, but can't match the number of shots coming back.

A critical moment in the game came when the Covenanters brought their Shot and Gun units in range; their major advantage being that they have a longer range than the light troops on the Royalist side.  On that critical turn, however, I rolled a double 1 (a blunder) for the first unit I tried to activate, thus ending my turn (and causing sundry other negative effects).  The Royalists effectively got 2 turns in a row, and the Covenanters never recovered.

In the later stages of the game, the Covenanter horse were shot off the table, and the pike eventually suffered the same fate (after taking more than 50% casualties, they simply broke and fled as fire from multiple units raked them).  

The high-water mark for the Covenanters.  This was about as far forward as they got; they were driven back by musketry, and eventually broke and fled.

The Covenanter shot did have some effect on the game, as did the gun, but not enough to balance the Royalist firepower.  Once the Covanter horse were gone, the Royalist Dragoons advanced, brought the Covenanter right flank under fire, and started to claw up the Shot unit anchoring it.

View from the Royalist side.  Someone's getting knighted for this.

I kept playing, but it quickly became clear the Covenanters were going to lose this one.  While I realise that there are situations where the "irregulars" are going to be at a disadvantage - if the pike had ever made contact, they should have pushed the Royalists out of the way - it seems unlikely to me that they'd ever have the chance to do so.  The Royalist force, for the same points, was simply better than the Covenanters, which raises the question of why someone would ever take regular troops outside of a specific scenario..

Covenanters driven back.

The table, in retrospect, also favoured the royalists.  It slowed the pike, and gave much of the Royalist shot cover - making them even tougher against shooting.  I also had some extremely lopsided dice.  The Covenanters regularly struggled to activate units (and got the only blunder of the game, on the first unit to activate, no less!), while the Royalists shooting regularly posted results far beyond what probability would suggest.

Just before the Pike broke.

I get the sense that while the game absolutely involves skill and choices, luck is definitely a factor.  It simulates command friction with an activation role for each unit, which forces the player to make choices about what moves are important vs. what moves are more likely to succeed.  A bad roll at the wrong time, however, can throw all of your plans in an uproar.  For those of you who've played Blood Bowl, it actually felt quite like that; you can clearly learn to play the game well, but at some level, what happened was in the hands of Nuffle.

Nearing the end.  Pike have broken, Shot on the right are being driven back.

That said, I do actually like the game.  Even when the Covenanters were clearly going to lose, there were always choices to make, and a reason to stay engaged.  The outcome was also predictable in retrospect.  Dense, slow moving troops should struggle against swarms of mobile effective shooting.
I suspect there's a learning curve regarding the role of the different troop types, and playing more equivalent force constructions will likely also help.

Last stand of the Covenant Shot.

From set-up to break down took 1.5 hours, the game ran about 7 turns, and that was with me looking up damn near everything.  I could easily see a couple of experienced players getting in multiple games in an afternoon or evening.  The rules are also relatively flexible (in regards to things like basing, for example), and are intuitive.  Once I started to get the unit profiles down, the game ran smoothly; any time I had trouble finding a specific rule and just guessed, it turned out later I'd been correct.  The "character and campaign" elements would be fun, I suspect (your officers grow and develop, over time), and I'm keen to try one of the other scenarios (which quickly move from the meeting engagement I played to a range of objective-based options).

As one-sided as this game was (even with me playing both sides), I'm keen to see what else the rules have to offer.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Off to off some sasanachs.

 Hi all,

Been dealing with some hobby doldrums of late.  After the initial, and highly productive spurt of enthusiasm for the ECW Scots in late December and January, I've been feeling a bit off painting for the last couple weeks.  Starting to come out of it, but I learned long ago not to try and force the issue.  In the mean time, I did finish up the basing for a good chunk of what's done so far.

The first battaglia, plus a frame gun and officer.+
The pike unit currently has 12 figs, for Pikeman's Lament, but I'll paint up some extra for use in Pike and Shotte.
Not used to units taking up this much space on the table ;)
Close up of the officer.
And the frame gun.  Evidently, the Scots had a pile of these, especially early in the wars.

With some degree of motivation creeping back, I've started in on a first unit of cavalry.  Also been picking away at various GW things, and am eagerly anticipating the arrival of my Dystopian Wars starter set - the nice people at customs and excise having taken it upon themselves to hold it at the border for reasons unknown.

I've also been continuing to eye the Victrix 28mm range.  I know, I know, my Carthaginians are already languishing, I have a dozen projects on the go, etc., etc.  But the vikings and saxons continue to appeal, and the soon-to-be-released Normans are looking rather smashing.  Maybe in my next life . . . 


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The bad new days?

 Hi all,

ECW progress . . . progresses.  I've got the infantry component of a Pikeman's Lament force sorted, and have made a start on cavalry and guns.  Once I get the matt varnish on them (they're still in shiny mode), and finish up the basing, I'll get a glam shot of the first battalia for the blog.  Yesterday, however, I came across some interesting news:


Those of you who've been reading this for a while, might recall that waaaay back in the Toronto days, I put together the start of a Blazing Sun force for Dystopian Wars.  I loved the game, had fun every time I played it, and bought into the expansion kickstarter that Spartan ran - just before they went out of business.  DW was a game that hit a ton of buttons for me (integrated land/sea/air, grand scale, steampunk, walked a fine line between cool and silly), and it gutted me that Spartan went south just as a local scene was starting to develop.

Show me where Spartan Games hurt you.

Yesterday, I found out that Warcradle, the people who do Wild West Exodus (another game I suspect I'd like, but haven't gotten into), bought the DW license, and are relaunching the game in the next few weeks.  They're starting with the Hunt for the Red Oktob . . . I mean Hunt for the Prometheus boxset illustrated above, but are planning a set of releases over the next year to expand the game.  One of the two factions for which I have ships (Russian Coalition), is in the starter box, and rules for the Blazing Sun are due for release later this year.  This has me, needless to say, just a wee bit excited.

Bombers, and frigates, and escorts, oh my!

I dug out all my stuff from storage last night, and knocked out a couple of frigates that had been sitting around, along with bombers and some escort ships.  Next up is the Ikko Ikki robot squid.  From what I gather, the game will be changing a little bit.  Warcradle is focusing on the naval stuff to start out, is planning to release the aerial stuff later, and is planning a rescale of the land game for some time in 2022.  I'm a little disappointed that I can't use my Tenkei helicarrier right away, but given how iconic the aerial stuff was in the game, I'm pretty confident they'll get to them in time.  The land rescale is a little disappointing, as I loved the idea of being able to run land and naval/air units in a single game, but that was always more of an aspiration than a reality, anyways.

If I get really organized, I'll paint a blazing sun icon on the bombers.

The other big news is that Warcradle has tooled up to produce new ships, which combine the old resin cast tech with plastic sprues.  Evidently, the starter kit battleships combine elements of both.  Carriers are still a thing, thank god, and the new stuff seems intended to supplement the existing range, rather than replacing it. Rules look to have been streamlined a bit, and I've tracked down a beta version to familiarize myself with what's coming.  I've got my existing Russian fleet primed up, and am playing around with colour schemes.

While it's unlikely I'll find local players who want to collect the range, I'm pretty sure I can talk several of my usual gaming buddies to play games with my stuff.  I can see some kind of DW Russo-Japanese thing developing.  Might have to look into 3d printing for some terrain flair as well.