Dim Sum’s First Foray

John Lambert plays with his junks.

I scouted around for a suitable set of rules for Chinese Junk Warfare. I wanted a set that would allow ship v ship action during the age of Discovery in the Far East. I saw that a set of Solo play instructions were available for the Galleys and Galleons ruleset and so took the plunge. After three play test games, I’m glad I did. They fit the bill well and whilst they may not appeal to purists they appear suitable for other theatres. As they are quick play, with a minimum of reference tables you could easily play large scale encounters such as Galley battles in the Mediterranean, Armada battles or pirate adventures in the Caribbean prior to Line of Battle tactics.

Play Area and Measurement
The rules are designed for 2ft, 3ft, 4ft square table options. All ranges and movement distances are measured using measuring sticks scaled to the play area.

Vessel Stats
There are example stats for 36 different vessels in the rulebook and 27 individual special rules you can use to build your own ships using a downloadable fleet builder to tailor your own designs and calculate a points value for the vessel. Each vessel has two common stats these are Quality (Q) and combat (C). C can never be more than Q+1. The lower the Q value, the easier it is to activate a vessel and it is likely to carry out more actions in a turn though this is likely to be disadvantaged in combat compared to a larger vessels which are likely to have less actions in a turn though the use of the special rules can add combat bonuses so for example a Race Built Galleon may have a Q value of 2 and a C value of 3, add trained Gun crew and Master Gunner special rules and you have a tough customer though this comes at a point cost. Points costs re used to provide a balanced game.

Activations
To start with three ‘white’ dice are rolled for a designated vessel and compared to the Q value. Any roll equal to or over the Q value allows an action. All sailing ships get a movement action but if they fail to succeed any activations rolls, they continue on the current setting even if they sail over the edge of the world or into shallows. These vessels which have the Razee special rule have been lightened and can move an additional short move – good for chasing down an opponent. All movement distances are based on the type of rig – Square Rig, Galleon Rig or Lateen Rig and attitude to wind. Other special rules include Yare which allow an additional change of direction and shortening sail – important to avoid those rocks. When a player fails to activate a vessel or completes his turn, initiative passes to the opponent.

Combat
This is a straight D6 roll with C value added and any other combat bonuses depending on gunnery or boarding action. Additional actions allocated to combat can boost these too or are required to deliver a stern rake broadside and during boarding, so timing of a boarding attempt is critical. When a vessel is damaged, it has to roll on the critical hit table (2 x D6)

Effect of damage.
If vessel is damaged, usually by combat a ‘white’ dice is replaced by a ‘red’ dice. If a 1 is rolled on the ‘red’ dice, bad things happen. Of course, you don’t need to roll a ‘red’ dice but your actions are limited. Quite neat.

Scenarios and campaign rules
There are five scenarios of which I’ll use four in my games and simple campaign rules for a Mercantile or Pirate player. There is also a section on Fantasy beasts – a Kraken and Leviathan which have some appeal. One of the drivers for me was the Korean film ‘Pirates’ where a huge whale swallows the royal seal of the Emperor and the ‘plot’ centres on it’s retrieval.

Playtest
I pitted Dim Sum’s Pirate ship against a Merchantman using the introductory pursuit scenario.

Dim Sum’s Junk : Q3, C2 lateen rigged, reinforced hull
Merchantman : Q4, C3 lateen rigged, reinforced hull, Chaser Guns (360o), Merchantman (not so good at firing or boarding actions).

In this scenario, the defender Merchantman sets the play area and wind direction with terrain items to bog down the pursuer. The objective for the Merchantman is to cross the play area diagonally. The pursuer can select one of the other three corners to deploy on and starts with the initiative.

Dim Sum choose to broad reach around the shallows and get at the Merchantman as soon as possible. Dim Sum’s lower combat value and reinforced hulls would make damaging the Merchantman difficult. When activation dice are rolled and there is a double, the wind changes direction. Mid table both ships traded desultory boardsides at long range to no effect but in the final third, Dim Sum managed to get three successful actions and was able to move into position to deliver a stern rake broadside at close range.

The Merchantman had been doubled , taking a damage and having to roll on the Critical Damage table, 2 D6 (avoiding an 11 or 12)

Oh Dear! The Merchantman’s magazine has exploded and Dim Sum had his first victim.

On Farthest Tides

John Lambert prepares to sail the Oriental tides.

I’d been interested in doing this for some years and with Lockdown decided to take a closer look. I’d considered the ruleset Galleys and Galleons last year and collected information on junks. A solo adaptation of the rules was available on line and I decided to scratch build the ships for variety. Here’s how I got ready to play.

Sea Mat

I decided to make my own based around the smallest playing area in the rules 20” x 20”. For this I used Weed Control Fabric from Poundstretcher and Acryllic Caulk from Wickes. I spread one layer of caulk thinly to one side of the fabric and when this was dry (overnight), flipped it over and applied two layers. When this dried, I painted the surface with acrylic Hobby Craft paints which I blended using a J Cloth. I added Pthalo Blue (a really great intense pigment) as a wash and when this was dried, I dry brushed white on any raised areas. Finally I sealed it with Wilko lacquer spray. This last step was a mistake as the surface remained as tacky as a dodgy pub carpet!

Terrain

I made shallows and whirlpools using the same method as above. I made islands from some old polystyrene tiles and made Karst Columns and a cave from carved polystyrene covered with filler then fine sand, then added flock and clump foliage.

Ships

For the hulls, I used 30 thou card for the basic hull (white) and 20 thou for the sides(black) and then on some ships I detailed the sides with microstrip. For the sails, I started with 10 thou card (white0. I then added battens from 20 thou rod. On the front of the sails I added strips of 20 thou (black) and when dry, sanded down to form the sail profile. I used cut down pins for the masts. I based the hulls on mounting board adding the sea texture from filler and painted the sails separately before fixing with superglue. I didn’t make the ships to a set scale, I just worked on what the smallest I could make was then scaled up from there.

Player Aids

All distances in the game are measured using measuring sticks appropriate for the play area. I used a Bamboo skewer for this. I copied the weather gauge from the ruleset and laminated it. I bought a wind direction indicator, some coloured dice and fire arc from Warbases. After this I was ready to play.

For Lancaster!

Stephen reports on a clash between the Yorkists and Lancastrians.

I had myself a game of Basic Impetus the other day – a Wars of the Roses game.

The table was set up with the Lancastrians being led by the Earl of Oxford and the Yorkists led by Lord Stanley.

Oxford set up his Welsh archers in the yard of St Botolph’s church, his household troops (men at arms, billmen, and archers) in the middle and on his right flank, amid some trees, were some Welsh spearmen and some Flemish handgunners.

In response, Stanley had arranged his troops in a line. On his right flank, opposite the church, were some archers and a pair of ribaldequin (multi-barreled cannon). Stanley had also put his household troops in the centre and on his left flank were some Genoese pikemen and archers.

Battle begun.

Stanley’s tactic on the right was obvious enough – use the cannon to pester the Welsh archers. Either they would be dispersed or they would have to come forward out of the cover of the churchyard. Which is what they eventually had to do. The Yorkist left flank made an early advance because the archers had some difficult terrain to negotiate and the sooner they got going the better. In the meantime, the centre was a bit tardy and made slow progression.

In response the Lancastrians initially decided to get involved in a missile exchange using their archers in the churchyard. To start with, though, they were out-ranged by the Yorkist cannon so they had no choice but to advance. The rest of the Lancastrian line made quick progress. The handgunners and Welsh spearmen moved into the woods, to what would prove to be a commanding flank position. Oxford urged his men forward, the billmen and archers being particularly keen, whilst his household men at arms were a little more cautious.

The Genoese pikemen were the first into the battle line. However, they found themselves in a precarious position – the Welsh spearmen threatened their flank, as did the Flemish handgunners. This made it difficult for them to be too aggressive or else they would be charged in the flank. The billmen of both sides eventually came to blows in the centre. It had been a cautious contact though, due to the risk of either side outflanking the other. The slow advance of the Lancastrian men at arms finally prompted the Yorkists to push the attack before they could join in.

Meanwhile, over by St Botolph’s, the Welsh archers had advanced beyond the hedges so they could get the Yorkist artillery in short range. Though the cannons had been pouring steady fire at the archers they had little effect. And once the archers were in range the artillery crew fared poorly against the weight of arrows falling on them. Off went the artillery! They’d done their job though – they’d drawn out the Welsh archers into the open where the Yorkist billmen could now advance on them.

The battle in the middle carried on. The pikemen were sent packing, but the Yorkist archers, who had to cross some rocky ground at the start, finally came up and a unit of billmen also turned to threaten the handgunners and Welsh spears. The clash between billmen and men at arms went back and forth with neither side really getting the upper hand. Then the Yorkists had a lucky turn with some demon dice rolling. The Lancastrian billmen were routed and things were starting to look dicey for Oxford.

But two can have luck! The Lancastrian men at arms showed their mettle and, with Oxford personally leading them, took the charge into the Yorkist men at arms, who were also being led by Stanley! Dice were rolled, and only one side could come out victorious…

Against the odds, the Lancastrians achieved an unexpected victory, routing the Yorkist men at arms and killing Stanley. It would be Lancaster’s day.

Looking at the result would give an unrealistic idea of how the battle went – Stanley’s men had taken far more casualties, but it hadn’t felt like that. For most of the battle the Yorkists had been in a commanding position, but the Welsh spearmen and Flemish handgunners had been in a good position, securing that flank, and Oxford’s men at arms had rolled some good dice. That proved more than enough.