Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Action at Sackville Creek

 Hi all,

Stop the presses, hold the ketchup, and pass the parcel, because an honest to gum, real-life, against a human with miniatures, HISTORICAL game just went down in Monkeyland.

Early stages.  Royalists attempt to seize the bridge.

Jura (with whom I've been playing C&C online, among other things) came over and we played a 20-point game of Pikeman's Lament.  It was particularly fitting, in that the bulk of the ECW stuff I have (all the Scots, and about half the Royalists) came from him in The Big Trade last fall (?  I'm losing track of time . . . ).  Having spent the winter beavering away, and finally finding a day that was both conducive and sunny, we set to in the back yard.  He took the perfidious Royalists, whilst I took the staunch defenders of Kirk and Covenant, i.e., the Scots.

Another angle of the early stages.  That one unit dragging behind just would not move.

While the Cavaliers are facing a fair whack of angry Scots.

We played the river crossing scenario, which I tweaked a little by adding a second crossing to our river (more of a creek, really), so we ended up with both a bridge and a ford.  Hills and forests made up the rest of the terrain, and I appropriated the Cub's house for the look of the thing.

Their first time on the table painted, however, so you can't blame them for being eager.

A certain amount of back and forthing left both units of horse somewhat battered.

We deployed in opposing corners, and set to.  The objective was to get as many units across the river as possible, whilst preventing the opponent from doing the same.  Forces were more or less mirrors, except that the Scots traded a shot unit for a small unit of commanded shot and a frame gun.  Game ended when one side got all of their surviving units across.

The Scottish right pushes on to seize the ford.

On the other side, the Royalist foot pushes to the creek.

There's a fair amount of "command friction" in PL, in that each unit must dice to activate, and any failure end one's turn.  This leads to a certain amount of predictable, if amusing (for the opponent) frustration, as that one key unit you need to do one key thing won't.  Persistently.  Case in point, one of Jura's Shot units simply would not advance for the first several turns of the game.  We eventually decided they were drunk.

The mid game had the two of us ranged across the creek from each other.  Basically, whoever pushed into the creek was going to sacrifice a couple of turns of offensive action for movement, and leave themselves open to shots or attack - the latter at a disadvantage while crossing.  Much maneuvering took place, along with some shots fired, as we jostled about looking for an advantage.

Scots horse got bogged down in the creek, and ended up being cut to pieces.

Eventually, I forced the ford, and Jura got his boys across the bridge and creek.  We each more or less lost a flank, and though I ended up getting some reserves (lucky result on a very good activation roll), they were too late to affect the outcome.  We had each gotten three units across, but Jura's Royalists had the edge on points, and that, plus a few extra his officer had picked up along the way (again, a lucky roll, but we attributed it to his rather fancy hat), the Royalists won the day.

It was great to get the minis on the table and get in a game of Pikeman's Lament.  It's the first time I've been able to play against another person (as all games to date have been solo), and it's super fun.  Jura and I had a chat about how the different units performed, and we'll likely try another game soon-ish.  I the meantime, I'm feeling quite charged up to paint, and with a few points remaining for a "normal" sized game, I've got some Royalist Dragoons in the queue.  We'll see how they turn out.


Sunday, July 4, 2021

Review, long past review

 Hi gang,

Finished up a couple more units of Russians for Blucher, a second unit of grenadiers, and the last of the line.  With these two finished, I've now got eight units / brigades done up - the planned infantry core for my initial 200 points of Russians, so I figured it was worth getting them all out for a review.


This leaves me with another unit of heavy cavalry, one of cossacks, and two batteries of guns to finish up, which is relatively easy striking distance.  I've been slightly sidetracked by some GW stuff (as I noted last post, there's a new edition of Age of Sigmar in the pipeline, and the Cub is here for the summer, so 40k is once again a thing), but I should get to these in the foreseeable future (the Cuirassiers are staring at me intently from the painting queue as I write this).  


In semi-related news, I spent a rather enjoyable morning loitering about the Virtual Joy of Six.  This is the UK based wargames show focused on 6mm that I drool over each year, but don't get to attend (what with the inconvenient ocean in the way).  This year, they did an on-line version, due to Covid.  While I missed some of the morning sessions (time zones are a thing), I did manage to catch the main panel, some painting and trader discussions, and lurk in the background of some great-looking games.  Saw a number of "faces" that are familiar from the 6mm scene and the blogosphere, and generally had myself a delightful time.  Many thanks to those who organized the event!


We've had some odd weather here lately (stonking hot, then a week of rain) which has put a bit of a damper (HA!) on outdoor gaming, but it looks like we've got a break next week.  If I can clear the decks of some work stuff, I should be able to get in a Pikemans' Lament game against a real-live opponent.  


The Cub and I have also played the first of our traditional summer 40k bonanza, and I'll get up some pics of that in a bit.


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

A new Age

 Hi gang,

Monkeyland has been quiet of late.  After a hiatus while the Cub was away (our region was in lockdown, so we kept him at his mom's), life has resumed with some degree of normality.  While I've been picking away at a number of projects, impetus to get up posts has been low.  On the plus side, that means I have a backlog of stuff I can photograph and get up.  Add in that GW, in their infinite wisdom, are launching the 3rd edition of Age of Sigmar, and I actually have some enthusiasm to natter about hobby stuff.

The two side face off.  Goats vs. Ogors, what could go wrong?

My initial impressions are that the game has added a bunch of elements that, while they have the potential to slow down play a bit, also make the game as a whole resolve faster.  It took my about two hours to play two turns, including set up and break-down of the table; given I've not played in around a year, and there are LOTS of changes to the rules (so I was constantly looking up both general and army rules), the game moved slowly.  However, by the end of turn two, the game had also more or less resolved, with the Ogors clearly in a winning position.

Still need to finish painting the Ironblaster, but getting awfully close to 1000 points of painted meat.

Some notable changes involve command points.  You now get more of them, to the point where, especially at the start of the game, I had 4-5 on my turn.  That said, there's a lot more you can do with them, now, and I always ended up wanting more.  I think the judicious application of CP is going to be critical in the new edition, even more than before.

Never enough goats.

Part of what moves the game along are the changes to points, unit sizes, and playing space.  Units generally got more expensive, while there are now more restrictions on unit size (you can have a small number of "big" units, but they're limited), and the table size is smaller.  I played on a 4x4 at 1000 points, which is about what the recommended size would be.  With two fast moving armies, I had contact turn one, and my sense is that this wouldn't be unusual.

More goats.  Still not enough.

The change to coherency is subtle, but will have ripple effects through the game.  Models in a unit need to stay within an inch of two other models - which means practically speaking you're looking at loosely ranked formations now, rather than long lines.  This also limits the frontage units have, hence the number of attacks they're throwing at the opponent, which means less dice, less time, etc.

Ogor gluttons.  AKA, the meat wall.

This also impacts the relative utility of troops.  Anything with a reach weapon, that can fight in multiple ranks, has a massive advantage.  Units that concentrated lots of attacks into small bases are also solid (looking at FEC ghouls here, thank you very much).  Ranged troops, especially ones with a GOOD ranged attack, will be dominating, I think - because the whole unit can "see" and shoot, you'll get maximized effect from that shooting.

Turn two.  Goats have ambushed, and are putting pressure on the objectives.

In terms of my relative experience of the two armies, my sense is that they were what they were before, but more so, if that makes sense.  Beasts of Chaos (or at least, the kind of goat + monster sort of list I tend to run) are still crazy fast (core units can easily move 16", charge up to 13", and then pile in 4"), but lack any kind of staying power (mediocre to poor saves, mostly single wound, low bravery), and are poor to mediocre in combat.  Some of the tweaks to command abilities help here (+1 to hit, re-rolling charges, etc.), but the opposition has then as well.  Beasts must choose the terms of engagement, must kill what they attack, and can't really afford either mistakes or bad luck.  Their summoning remains strong, but if games resolve in fewer turns, which I suspect will be the case, the advantage that brings is diminished - and summoning multiple units over a game was their main avenue for attrition play.  I definitely made mistakes in this game (as I'm super-rusty), but Goats remain what they've been for a while - hard mode AoS.

Some units definitely benefitted from the changes.  The ability to give monsters +1 to hit makes the Ghorgon way more reliable.

Ogors are also what they've always been.  Elite heavy infantry, with solid core warscrolls.  A unit of 12 gluttons (rendered immune to battleshock) stood off chump attacks from a large, buffed Gor unit, a Ghorgon, and a Beastlord, and were still swinging and dishing out damage 3-4 rounds of combat later.  Ogor Tyrants kill things.  Ironguts murder everything.  They're fast when they need to be, super hitty, and reliable.  They're also going to run fewer units and heroes than most armies, will need to put their limited number of units in the right spot, and once committed, will struggle to redeploy.  If I'd played my Beasts smarter, I could have picked off the smaller ogor units before they'd gotten in their hits, and been in a position to dominate the table.  Ah, well.

Herdstone.  Where you kill your own things, for a change of pace.

I think the learning curve in the new edition is shallow, but long.  The basic changes will be pretty simple to internalize within a few games, but the tactical implications of those changes will take much longer to figure out - and will vary considerably between armies.  Part of me is tempted to commit to the Beasts, as I think they'll take the most learning, and their basic mobility will be powerful in an objective-based game, but there's something to be said for taking a simpler army initially to learn the system a bit.

Ironguts, about to give some Ungors a really bad time.

I want to try out another test game with my FEC vs. Khorne.  Priests work a little differently this edition, and there's some new monster abilities that I didn't get to explore with this game (only applied in one turn, and I forgot ;) ).  It'll also be interesting to see how a magic-heavy vs. anti-magic force works.

Ungors, having just a terrible day.  

Next post, I'll likely get up shots of some 6mm napoleonics, and then we'll see what comes.  Summer is close upon us, so hopefully I'll be getting in some outside games of various kinds, along with some games with the Cub (who'll be with us for the summer in about a week).

Leadbelchers on an objective, having smugly seen off a pack of chaos hounds.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Pikes for Vicky

 Hi all,

It's Victoria Day here in Canada, also known as May two-four.  This was, historically, the occasion upon which my grandmother (who I've come to realize was eccentric, though to me, she was just Nana), would ritually intone the following:

The 24th of May,

is the Queen's burthday.

We shall have a holiday,

or all run away.

The beauty of May two-four, is of course, that while it is a beacon of tradition, precisely what tradition one follows seems pretty flexible.  Based on the super-abundance of memes on my social media feed, this is the weekend that many of my fellow Canadians traditionally devote to getting pie-faced and piloting Sea-Doos.  

I know it more as the weekend after which one traditionally can plant with only reasonable risk of frost, aka, the weekend I spend digging out the garden.  These days, since I do much of the gardening, live in a place where it rains 3 days in 4, and am married to someone with Olympic-class pollen allergies, I managed to duck that traditional duty, and instead spent a pleasant couple of hours playing Pikeman's Lament.  While the garden will still need digging, I'm currently enjoying a nice glass of Dewar's, and writing this, which seems a far more civilized way to commemorate Queen Vic than either spreading diesel waste or digging in the mud ;)

View from the Royalist side.  Pay no attention to the night-camo unit.

It's the second game of PL I've played, and I opted, perhaps unsurprisingly, for the second scenario, Patrol.  This has the two forces attempting to pass by each other, to exit the table on the opposing side.  It has a turn limit, based on the slowest movement on the table.  Basically, enough turns that the slowest moving unit could travel across the table, in a straight line, along the shortest path.  For my game, it was 10 turns.  It quickly became clear that actually getting units, particularly Foot, off the table would be tricky, but the scenario did impact game choices; in the end, you win based on the units that "escape", and that gives you reasons to try and evade where possible.

My self-painted Royalist continent continues to grow, if slowly.

I used different lists this time around.  Although the core of my Scots remained more or less the same (Pike, 2x shot, regimental gun, Trotters), I dropped the unit upgrades, and took a unit of dragoons.  I was impressed last game with their utility, and will likely turn my hand to updating the ones I have.  My current supply of dragoons arrive painted as part of the Big Trade, and while they're nicely done, they don't fit in as well as I'd like with what I have.  Some TLC and rebasing are likely in order.

The Scots horde arrives on the table.

The Royalist side was a significant departure, in that I built it around a core of the Warlord figs I've painted up since last time.  The Royalists took 2x Pike, 3x Shot, and a unit of Gallopers.  While PL seems very much oriented towards the Petite Guerre elements of the ECW/W3K, this would be a clash of more conventional forces.

Royalists advance.

Scots won the roll to be the attacker, and deployment commenced.  There's a nice element to PL in which slower units (foot, basically) deploy before faster ones, or scout units like Dragoons, and defenders deploy before attackers.  This leads to a staggered, alternating deployment in which one gets to respond to one's opponent - and presumably might influence force selection for a more analytical player than I am ;)

Scots push forward.  Dragoons move to secure the fords.

After a slow start (Scots rolled a blunder to activate their first unit of the game, causing them to lose their turn, and the unit itself to waver), the Scots pushed forward.  The Trotters moved out to the flank, while the Dragoons pushed up to try and cover the fords.  I'd set the table up with a creek running across it (difficult ground).  While crossable, it would slow progress, except at the fords.

Royalists continue to press forward.

The Royalist side, at this point, caught a bit of a break, when their Gallopers rolled a double 6 to activate.  I seemed to roll a surprising number of both double-1s and double-6s this game.  Don't know if that was just the odds, or if the Auld Queen was looking over my shoulder.  In any event, the Royalist horse (which I'd just put together the other day), surged ahead on a double activation.


This game actually looked "proper", at least to my novice eyes.

There were a few turns of manouevring at this point.  Both the Royalists and Scots pushed forward, shaking out into lines in an effort to both block the opponent, and bring their forces to bear.

Royalist pike advance.  Wish I'd gotten the last bases finished in time ;)

The festivities opened when the Scots frame gun, which had struggled to activate for several turns. managed a beauty of a shot at the approaching Royalist horse, which was followed up by a volley from the Scots Shot at the Ford.  Riddled with shot and cannister, the Royalist Horse recoiled.

Scots horse cross the river, and prepare to charge.

This gave the Scots horse the chance to cross the river (leaving the ford open to the infantry), and set themselves up for a charge.  At the other ford, the Scots dragoons and second Shot had established a defensive line, but the Royalists had seized the hill, and their Pike were pushing down the road.

Dragoons in the woods, Shot at the ford.

Pike and Shotte, together at last.

The Scots horse charged, scattering their Royalist opponents, but effective fire from the Royalist lines withered the Scots dragoons, and drove them back from the copse of woods in which they were hidden.

State of the battle from the Royalist side.

In the meantime, the forward Royalist units, particularly the shot, continued to pour fire into the Scots pushing towards them.

Royalists on the hill.

Scots at the ford.

The Royalist pike block on the right flank surged forward.  While they'd have to weather a turn of fire, they were poised to smash into the Scots shot defending the ford.

Royalist pike charge, and push back the Scots.

The charge of the pike was enough to drive back the Scots shot, who wavered, but rallied in the next turn.  While they'd be able to stand, they lost the turn reorganizing themselves.  


On the other flank, the Scots horse pushed forward, looping around the woods to threaten the Royalist flank.


The game was winding down now.  The Scots charged the Royalist shot unit, drove them back wavering, survived the next turn (when the Royalists flubbed their activation roll), and then made haste for the table edge.  They were the one unit with a chance to get off table before the game ended.


Meanwhile, on the other flank, the Royalist pike kept driving back the Scots shot, which, while taking casualties, held on, and managed not to break.

Discretion, rather than valour.

With the Scots horse off table, and the Royalists pushing hard on the right, the game more or less wound down.  No other unit was going to make it, and with each side having dedicated the bulk of it's strength to the right flank, had the game continued, they'd likely have been free to either push past, or need to significantly redeploy to engage.

The Royalist right.  Might be a fight brewing across those woods, but then again, maybe not.

The Scots took it, essentially 1:0.  This was a much more even fight than the last game, and the scenario, while perhaps not determining, did matter.  It meant that fighting was more about breaking a hole for other units to follow, rather than the point itself, and affected some choices directly (for example, the Scots pike kept pushing to the flank in an effort to evade the barney in the middle of the table).

I quite like Pikeman's Lament.  Given the small sample I've experienced, the game moves well, the scenarios impact play, different units play clear roles, and it looks good on the table.  While I suspect there's a fair bit of learning curve to go, this game went much smoother than the first, and I'm looking forward to many more games to come.  I'd been losing a little steam on painting the Royalist opposition, but I'm now looking forward both to getting the horse finished, and adding some options to the Scots.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The big boys

 Hi all,

I found myself needing a beak from painting 28mm, and turned, perhaps predictably, to 6mm, specifically my Napoleonic Russians.  


I painted up a brigade of grenadiers.  The Russians fielded both dedicated grenadier regiments, and converged.  This brigade is made up of battalions from the Moscow and Kiev grenadier regiments.


Along with the grenadiers, I also painted up my first brigade of cuirassiers, made up of squadrons from the Little Russia and Novgarod regiments.


As with all of my units, these are based off of those that operated in the 1813 campaign.


As I was wrapping these up, the Victrix Vikings arrived, and promptly took over my hobby desk.  I've put together several, and will have a post on them soon.


Sunday, May 9, 2021

Plans, progress, and painting

 Hi all,

Still getting darker pictures.  I must live on the coast, or something.

I've been plugging away at the ECW stuff, mostly the Royalist opposition for the Covenanters in Pikemans' Lament, and have been making reasonable progress.  Pike is 2/3 finished, along with a sleeve of Shotte, and I've got pics to prove it.

I've also found my attention wandering a bit to other projects, new and old, which has got me thinking.  Add in that I've now got time to listen to podcasts (as I'm getting in solid blocks of painting time, rather than snatching 15-20 minutes here and there), and a general sort of hobby rumination has been going on in the background.

I quite like the Warlord pike and command figs, but the muskets are so-so.

Two podcasts I've been listening to quite a bit have been the God's Own Scale podcast, and the Yarkshire Gamer's Reet Big Wargames Podcast, which share a passion for the hobby, and more or less diametrically opposed visions of what that hobby can and should be ;)  What I find interesting is I rather enjoy, and to some degree sympathize, with both.  That, in turn, got me thinking about my own sense of the hobby, what I want out of it, and what I'm willing to put in.

I've been mildly surprised by the level of focus I've been able to maintain on the ECW project.  It's what I've worked on, pretty much exclusively, since before Christmas, which is almost unheard of for me.  Compared to how quickly I stalled out on the Carthaginians, it's shocking, and I've been trying to figure out what accounts for this relative success.

Bit of a departure on these guys - tried a white basecoat and lots of washes.

I think a major factor has been the "intermediate" scale of Pikeman's Lament; not so much the game itself, but rather the force "scale" (maybe 4 dozen figures a side), and the flexible approach to basing.  PL means I can hit a "game-able" number of figures, while still maintaining basing designed for larger games.  I can build a range of units, and use them, but still fantasize about the "big game" somewhere in the future, without having to build exclusively for that theoretical future goal.

Turned out okay, but I can see a few places that might need a little more shading.

What I'd somehow managed to overlook, up until a couple days ago, was the applicability of PL's sister game, Lion Rampant (and the open architecture of the "fantasy" variant, Dragon Rampant) in that role.  Although designed for medieval games, the core mechanics are readily adaptable to earlier periods.  This realization seems to have triggered a burst of energy; in addition to painting up some Carthaginians for the first time in ages, I've finally caved and ordered a box of the Victrix vikings as well.

Lybian skirmishers.  Focal depth a little off here, apologies.

L/DR is perfect for the kind of ancients / dark ages "petite guerre" I'm interested in.  On the Carthaginian side, it means I can also build their hodge-podge army while doing historically relevant gaming at the same time (Carthos vs. Numidians, Cartho-Numidian vs. Spanish, CNS vs. Gauls, etc.).  On the viking front, I can start even smaller with Ravenfeast, and have some locals interested in games as well.  Once they're hooked, I can introduce Lion (or Dragon) rampant, and Bob's your uncle.

Honestly, I'm just happy to get these guys done, they've been dragging for ages.

This puts me in the happy position of having multiple projects on the go, all of which I'm interested in pursuing - 28mm Carthos, Vikings, and ECW, 6mm Nap Russians, and 6mm SYW (which I've not forgotten about, never fear).  Happy days.

I've spent a chunk of the weekend putting together a couple of tester dark ages houses.  Once they're done up, I'll post some pics.  Until then.