Barons at war

Stephen reports on a series of Barons War games played at a recent meeting.

We had a Barons’ War session recently.

We kept it small, with 500 point retinues, which meant we got three games in.

What’s nice about Barons’ War is the scenario content – there’s 15 different scenarios with 12 different deployment options. Which makes 180 different combinations. That’s not bad, eh?

Stand firm

We chose scenarios and deployments randomly.

Game 1

First up was #10 ‘Hidden Treasures’ with Deployment Map 3 (both opposite each other in the traditional way).

Deployment 3

In this scenario each player places 3 objectives. When a player controls an objective you roll a D6 and on a 6 you’ve found the treasure (all other objectives are then removed) and the winner is the one who has possession at the end of Turn 5.

Tony was using a mixed force of knights, sergeants, spearmen, and crossbowmen. He won initiative and, since he started in control of one of the objectives, rolled a dice and…nope, no treasure. This was the first time Tony had played Barons’ War, and it had been a while since I played, so it was very much a ‘get to know the rules’ game. He advanced his sergeants and his spearmen (being led by a sergeant commander).

Outlaws in the cabbage patch

My retinue was made up predominantly of outlaws. My archers also started in control of one of the objectives (in a cabbage patch) so I rolled a D6 and…I got a 6! The treasure was mine, now all I had to do was hold on to it for the rest of the game.

Both my archers and Tony’s crossbows were behind fences and hedges, and at long range to each other, so we stayed put and exchanged a bit of missile fire – the odd casualty but essentially harassment fire. I also engaged Tony’s knights with my archers as he moved into the centre. The rest of our units got stuck in with the melees  and by the end of turn 5 the treasure was still in the hands of my outlaws, so game 1 went to me.

Typical high street behaviour

Game 2

Second game was #6 ‘Tear It Down’ with Deployment Map 11 (in a kind of wedge shape).

Deployment 11

In this scenario the two players again placed 3 objectives each but the idea was that you had to burn your opponent’s objective by being in control of them. The first player to burn all their opponent’s objectives is the winner.

I was unlucky enough to get the red deployment zone, Tony got the blue zone.

This one went a bit catastrophic for me. In fact, the game lasted no more than 30 minutes (and could have been over sooner than that if I’d conceded sooner!).

Around the back of the barn

Again, Tony won initiative and his opening action was to shoot with his crossbowmen at a unit of my outlaws. It was long range and they caused a couple of casualties, meaning I had to make a Morale roll. Which I seriously fluffed and the outlaws went Broken and had to make a move away. Problem was, I’d deployed them quite close to the table edge, and so they routed off table having done exactly chuff all! Realising that my whole right flank, and probably centre, was now compromised (and I had two of my objectives there) I had to hurriedly plug the gap.  So I moved my knights around to delay Tony. He then charged my knights with his sergeants, which is fair enough (if he hadn’t charged me I was going to charge him). However, in Barons’ War if you roll a 10 it’s counted as a critical hit which can only be defended with a 10. My four knights got hit by four 10s! And I didn’t roll a single 10 for defence, which meant…off go the knights!

Truth is, that was pretty much the end of the game (my outlaw commander took control, so I could technically fight on but knew it was no hope). However, I just couldn’t let him win 3-0, so we played another turn and the other unit of outlaws then set fire to one of his objectives. At that point I conceded – at least I got one of his!

Someone is going to get hurt

Game 3

The third, and final deciding, game was #1 ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ with Deployment Map 4 (lined up opposite each other on short edges).

Deployment 4

In this scenario players place 1 objective each and the winner is the one who controls both objectives.

We both began by moving units up by Running, to make up the ground. Things slowed down once we got near each other as we tried to out manoeuvre each other. Both Tony’s crossbows and my archers were on the same flank. I decided to move my archers into the yard of an inn so they could use the fences for cover. These archers were led by an outlaw commander (a veteran, dispossessed, young nobleman – you know what I was thinking!) who used his multiple actions to order the archers to keep firing. They peppered Tony’s crossbowmen who promptly routed off the field. Good – I needed to get rid of them. This opened up the way to Tony’s objective and if I could get my archers there I would win.

Come out the house if you dare

Meanwhile, in the middle, Tony’s sergeant, led by his sergeant commander, engaged more of my outlaws and Broke them. And on the other flank I left my knights in control of my objective, with some spearmen hiding in the woods. Similarly, Tony was advancing on them with his knights and spearmen.

Next turn my archers double-timed to get to Tony’s objective. Realising how exposed the objective was he’d moved some sergeants up to take control of the objective, meaning I would have to fight for it after all. Well, I say ‘fight’ but what I intended to do was shoot more arrows at him.

Flashing blades

‘Intended’ is the important word there, because Tony won initiative next turn and, quite rightly, charged my archers with his sergeants. Fair enough, I expected that. But it went bad. A couple of casualties and, like the knights in the previous game, I rolled really badly for their morale, meaning they had to fall back. But, again, like the outlaws in the previous game, they were too close to the table edge and the flee move had them off the field!

I can hear them but I can’t see them

The game was decided in the fight for my objective. My knights were finally surrounded by Tony’s knights and spearmen. I counter-charged his knights and killed two of them! That took the smile off his face. But I was surrounded and every time I had to fall back I had nowhere to go, which meant I took an extra casualty. That quickly mounted up.

Result? Tony won the last game. But only just!

A clash of arms

 

The (Roman) Empire Strikes Back

A ‘Massed’ 28mm Skirmish Game Report, by Peter Merritt

Background

Somewhere in Germany, © 1st century AD, after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest….

The original idea behind the game was how to stage an increasingly large-scale ‘skirmish’ using quite a few very nice early imperial 28mm figures which I had acquired via eBay. Although it started off as 1:1 scale, the idea (and collection) soon grew so that we could actually stage larger conflicts but still retain some of the unique tactical flavour associated with each very different side. To achieve this in a fast, playable form, I turned once again to a fabulous old hybrid board/figure game, “Star Wars Epic Duels” by Hasbro (see links at the end).

THE GAME SYSTEM

The key features of this design are that each player controls a small team, with one main character (say, Darth Vader), plus one or two little helpers (Stormtroopers in Vader’s case). Normal movement is fairly standard, although some variability is introduced by means of a die roll. However, the design really scores because teams also get a dedicated pack of cards which are used for both combat and any unique ‘special abilities’ – such an elegant, simple way to reflect widely varying attributes, and without resorting to thick books of charts and +/- tables!

Although the original Star Wars game was very 1:1 oriented scale-wise (and thus fitted extremely well with early LOTR games featuring the Fellowship), I have also adapted the concept in the past to much larger affairs, with masses of Orcs, Wargs etc vs varying amounts of opposition from the Riders of Rohan. Whilst having so many figures would render a normal ‘skirmish’ unmanageable, by nominating so-many groups per player turn this can both speed-up the playing cycle and reflect the rather hap-hazard nature of combat before the advent of truly drilled and ordered units in the later gunpowder era. But to retain an element of massed if not co-ordinated movement, a simple movement rule addition allows an ‘active’ unit to also drag along a number of those adjacent groups, sometimes more so if enhanced by a special card.

I really cannot stress how much the use of such dedicated card packs adds so much to the ‘period flavour’ of the game, hopefully reflecting the different combat options and other unique actions of the various Roman forces – legionaries, auxiliaries and stirrup-less cavalry – vs the massed ranks of fearsome tribesmen.

Roman Cavalry

For example, the Barbarians can gain advantage by deliberately sacrificing figures in massed attacks or an ‘active’ leader dragging one or more adjacent ones with him (at some personal risk).

Barbarian Druid and Warriors

On the other side, the Legion ability to reorganise and their close-in pilum-throwing are deadly. Whilst your immediate choice of tactics may always be affected by the cards in your hand, like any ‘real’ historical combat, victory will go to the side which can maximise their peculiar advantages whilst exploiting the weaknesses of the enemy.

Legions advance with skirmisher support

Each turn consists of two phases per player, movement then two actions (Romans can do in any order, Barbies guys must move then do one action). Normal movement uses a grid or in this case 4” hex cloth and a die roll to generate movement points; however, some ‘special moves’ via certain cards are also possible, such as reorganising all adjacent bases adjacent to a standard-bearer, or signalling an ambush! Play alternates in a random manner between one Roman then one Barbie group (hex), so it can be that not everyone is quite in the right place at the right time. This has had interesting effects in multi-player games, as the ‘current’ player can choose which groups to ‘activate’ – including any previously organised by a colleague! Finally, once a group has been activated and finished it can only thereafter defend itself until either (a) all players have moved, or (b) the current player uses their turn to ‘rally’ their forces rather than move/fight, removing 1d3 active markers from units/groups. This was especially useful in the game as it allowed for maintaining a degree of offensive.

Combat was computed by hex vs hex, with a small list of +/- factors. Factors were either ‘straight’ card numbers or ‘specials’ which could seriously affect your day. Things like ‘arrow shower’ or ‘pilum charge’ will be long-remembered… Hits were then converted to actual kills (removing a base), or ‘disorder’. The latter sounds easy but units with too much disorder were then increasingly rendered ineffective and vulnerable to a follow-up assault – thus the advantage of having a 2nd wave or reserve handy to blow-away that otherwise formidable unit.

As we had long departed the original 1:1 skirmish idea, the figures were organised with four figures per base for the regular Legion or close-order Auxiliaries, and single-figure ‘clouds’ for skirmishers. Roman heavy units/groups were normally 4-6x bases, which fitted very nicely in a 4” hex! To me, this looked about right for a typical 80 to 90 man century. For the Barbarians, many of the figures I had were already on massed bases, so 2-3 of these constituted a ‘unit’ in one hex. Especially nice were the chariot units which their creator had turned into mini dioramas – the sort of thing which makes our toy soldier games a real pleasure, especially as you’re getting hammered into the ground.

Speaking of the games….

HOW DID IT GO?

 In the end I had two players fool- I mean, kind and raring to give this experimental version of the system a go, so I thought that they would be best deployed together as the Roman forces with me running a large but disorganised Barbarian opposition (this also fits my style of generalship). I had long decided on an overall plan (“Ok, men – go get ‘em!”), which as sole umpire made it easy for me to both control events and make a hopefully convincing ‘fist’ of a tough time.

Opening shot of initial deployments, with beautiful chariots to the fore!

The scenario, such as it was, had a Roman punitive column probing the territory of the German tribes near the frontier of Gaul, trying to establish if another major incursion was being prepared. As such, Eric and Mark were suitably impressed by the initial set-up with the Romans marching on and suddenly facing an edge-to-edge arc of extremely unfriendly-looking tribesmen.

The hairy barbarian battle line

However, although it certainly had the appearance of a tidal wave of terror about to engulf them, they gradually began to discern one of the key differences between the armies – the Roman organisation meant that units acted (fairly) smoothly in concert, whereas the Barbarian units were much more, ah, ‘individualistic’ let’s say, requiring frantic interventions by leaders to get any sort of co-ordinated action!

Early-on the chariot units thundered in from each flank, creating some wobbly moments for the Roman generals as they overran some outlying auxiliary units and routed a cavalry force which had scouted slightly too far ahead.

Roman Cavalry on their way to a messy end

These chariot units – especially using their rapid speed and special attacks – surprised everyone (including me!), and ended their initial run threatening the flanks of two Legionary units in the centre.

Chariots and escort

With no support to hand, however, the chariot attacks tended to run out of steam as they approached the main line, and as primarily offensive units, Eric quickly marshalled enough counter-force to ensure that they soon took so much disorder that they effectively fell apart. This was repeated on the Roman right flank by Mark, although the chariots here came in in waves (mainly due to terrain, not my planning), and thus caused a few sweaty turns as Mark’s forces had to keep an eye on their own flanks. The downside for the Barbarian efforts was that the sweeping to and fro of chariots tended to block some warband units from advancing together (not that there was much risk of this as it turned out!).

Barbarian centre begins its ‘lunge to destiny’ (ignoring the left flank)

By now the Roman players were getting into both the system and the specific opportunities afforded by each card in the deck, so tactics and plans started to get more ‘subtle’ (as befits the early Empire?!). So it was that what should have been the main Barbie ‘follow-up’ punch by the full weight of centre warbands quickly disintegrated into a hap-hazard race towards the solidifying Roman line! True, several auxiliary units were overwhelmed or brushed aside, but the Legion, with a few awkward moments, held their ground and developed a really nasty-looking right-hook…

As the Roman centre and left hold, the Roman right advance begins to advance…

As the central slog developed and the Barbarian flanks signally failed to get their act together (the chieftain/leaders were a might busy at this point, making some awful activation rolls or, err, dying at really inconvenient moments), it was then that two key factors began to sway the tide of battle:

    • The Roman generals co-operated in using the ‘pause to rally/re-organise’ option for units which had already been active.
    • These ‘reorganised’ units were then quickly thrown-in with support from those ‘brushed-aside’ auxiliaries in two-front attacks, converting disordered units into panicking mobs heading for the forest!

As it became clear that the central assault had failed and the core Legionary units had only been ‘dented’, with no sign of a pincer move from the flanks I thought it time that the tribesmen would consider they’d done enough for today and head home for some serious bardic singing and drinking, thus ending the battle.

AFTERWORD

 I think I’m correct in saying that the players, once they had mastered the system and individual cards, certainly seemed to enjoy themselves – which is a great end point for any game! Both players – not normal ancients types – seemed to like the idea that the system and cards were so tailored to that specific period and the armies concerned, rather than a ‘generic’ set spanning many hundreds of years which required the player’s experience to supply the realism. As I understand it, dear old Bob O’Brian (one of the key developers of WRG rules) only used to play strictly historical games – no Yorkists vs Egyptians etc.

As the designer I was also pleased with how ‘balanced’ the overall game was, both in terms of forces deployed, and my extremely amateur development of the various cards. It also validated the concept that the core system was so amenable to other ‘asymmetric’ situations, now covering subjects from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Roman Empire and (soon) Seven Samurai. A truly classic system, in my view.

Finally, the fact that my lightweight design had at least as much to do with a reading of Tacitus and Agricola than it did to a rewatching of ‘Carry On Cleo’ was not lost on the players, with one card allowing a bonus action for anyone who could name the actors playing certain supporting roles in that fabulous film…

My tremendous thanks, as ever, to a fabulous bunch of guys at the Maidstone club.

CREDITS

Rules and Card Decks:

As with almost all my games the rules are home-grown stuff and, as such, possible to extend or amend as you wish (the mark of a good product/system in my view). Hopefully these will appear on the blog site ‘real soon now’. If not, come along to the club and try it some time!

Original game:

Details of the original HASBRO “Star Wars Epic Duels” by Craig Van Ness (with assistance from Rob Daviau) can be found here:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3284/star-wars-epic-duels

 Figures:

Thanks to the advent of so many superb plastic 28mm ranges, the web (eBay etc) is now awash with old and 2nd hand extremely units which can be had for quite reasonable amounts. And if, like me, you can barely paint the side of a house, many of said units come pre-painted. If you prefer the ‘look and feel’ of massed forces, however, the core system is quite happy as (like a boardgame) it is base-oriented, so you can put shed-loads of 15, 10, 6 or even 2mm strips on said bases.

Other previous outings:

    • ‘One Ring’ (Weathertop or Amon Sul): 4+ Ring Wraiths vs pre-Fellowship
    • ‘Fords of Isen’: ambush of Prince Theodred by massed Orcs & Wargs
    • ‘Pelennor Fields’: the charge of the Rohan cavalry vs besiegers, including 1/24th Mumakil!
    • ‘Mines of Moria’ down in the claustrophobic setting with 1:1 Fellowship trying to escape Bernard the Balrog!

(for more pics and other rules, see here: http://www.werelords.com/games2.htm )

There is a great fan-following on the net as well (for this and the original Star Trek game), with lots of suggestions for other card deck, scenarios etc.

BTW, I am also in the process of using the wonderful character-specific card system for such diverse topics as:

    • ‘Seven Samurai’ (final battle in the village); objective for the bandits is to kill as many peasants as possible as these represent the resilience / surrender level, thus making it a challenge for the deadly, professional samurai to protect them!
    • ‘Ranks of Bronze’ is based on the fab David Drake book of the same name in which a captured Roman Legion is sold to aliens! These creatures then deploy the Legion on various worlds which they wish to exploit but are forbidden by the Galactic Council to use any technology higher than the locals! By creating card decks for the alien races, a very interesting mini-campaign can thus be created.
    • ‘The Four Musketeers’ will see a return to fully back to 1:1 ratio, as we can now have card decks specific to the main characters, as well as more generic decks for thugs, mercenaries or of course the Cardinal’s Guard (boo, hiss…..).
    • Really Super Heroes is another 1:1 scale effort, this time featuring the various comic-book heroes and villains such as Batman etc. We may not stretch to Superman, as any character who can alter time and spin the planet around is a bit out of the ‘biff!’, ‘pow!’ league…

 Stay tuned to this blog……

After-Action Report 26th August: ‘Square Bashing’ 6mm Franco-Prussian War

Club member Peter reports on a game that he ran at the society recently.

You know how it is – you collect all these armies, have great fun and lots of memorable actions – and then one day you realise that the last time you played this fab little game was the turn of the century! So, post-retirement I have been dusting-off a variety of games and systems which deserve wider exposure – and ‘Square Bashing’ is certainly one of them…

The System/Rules

Briefly, ‘Square Bashing’ was developed by good old 15mm manufacturer Peter Pig and some associates and is a sort of boardgame/tabletop ‘hybrid’ which allows for fast yet accurate handling of large formations, beyond the capability of most other rules. It achieves this by using markers on a normal wargame table to denote squares, roughly 25-30cm on a side. Units are made up of so many bases but orders/activation, movement and combat are by ‘square’. Movement in march mode is relatively fast, but once ‘deployed’ things slow down – a lot! Thus, it encourages thinking at the true Corps and Army level, as it takes precious time to deploy and then re-orient units in the field. Speaking of which…

The game also has a fiendishly simple but vital initiative and ‘battle clock’ control on game length, whereby the loser of the initiative roll each turn can choose to either go first or move the countdown clock on by whichever of the two dice scores they choose. Thus, can asymmetric forces fight on more equal terms, as the large force cannot simply sit back and grind an opponent down but has to ‘get on with it’ before nightfall or some other key event. More on this aspect later…

The system has been used very successfully for WW1, Russian Civil War – and now mid-19thC battles. It was the latter in which I had some input, and to demo the system it seemed the most appropriate -so……

The Game

The game was based on a real encounter during the opening phase of the Franco-Prussian War, when the initial French assaults had been thrown back in some confusion and the German States were seeking to force the nearest French army back into the fortified zone of the city of Metz. Whilst this was too strong to assault and the Germans lacked any giant siege guns, having 150,000 extra ‘guests’ for lunch would overwhelm the supplies held there and, eventually, force their capitulation.

The game was therefore set-up as follows:

      • The table was roughly 9×6 squares, each representing about 0.75Km a side. It consisted of rolling, low hills, dotted with farms and light woods with the odd dense bit of forest.
      • Two French Corps would deploy anywhere in the first three rows, with orders to keep any German units away from their base edge. Just off table behind them, however, was the main French escape route, with progress of other units denoted by very slow-moving wagon markers – or so it seemed to the players!
      • The three German Corps were allowed to enter anywhere on their baseline, but there had to be at least one square gap between corps (or risk massive traffic jams). Their orders were to simply push ahead and ‘slam the door’ on Metz. The only complication was that the three Corps were from two different armies, Prussian III Army and the Bavarian contingent. I had little to do by way of briefing to add a little ‘healthy competition’ between the different commands…

So yep, five complete Corps, plus reinforcements, on the table in one afternoon’s play!

The initial French deployment was extremely ‘sparse’ – worryingly so, until I noticed that they were only using 1x Corps! Somewhat happier when the available units doubled in size, they were slightly more chastened by (a) the ground scale, which meant that their ‘old fashioned’ artillery could not support everywhere if grouped too heavily; and (b) the unending stream of Germans now marching onto the table…

Prussians begin to arrive as French ‘beef-up’ their extended front line

I won’t give a blow-by-blow account, if only because I was too busy to observe the minutiae of turns. Essentially, a dramatic cavalry thrust by the French on their extreme left was almost immediately destroyed by a combined-arms Bavarian group attempting a right-hook. The French were a little worried about a follow-through here, but this was closed-off by the adjacent French infantry division left-facing and thus threatening any attempt to exploit.

On the main Bavarian front, the French reinforced an advanced village/farm complex at a key crossroads which they proceeded to hold against several Bavarian assaults until literally blown-away at game end by massed batteries, themselves taking long-range hits by infantry fire. The French stand had, however, blocked any advance in this sector, as per orders.

French left Corps throws back Bavarian assault in confusion, but is starting to be by-passed…

In the centre-right, the Prussians were feeling their way forwards whilst deploying stronger formations in their rear. An early probe on their left against a large farm complex was bounced in short order by some Algerian Legionnaires and a Light Infantry unit. However, long-range bombardment and a full divisional assault eventually carried this position and was threatening the French extreme right until a timely reinforcement galloped on in the shape of a Guard Heavy Cavalry division (to add some ‘tone’ to an otherwise unseemly brawl by foot-plodders).

The centre was initially a see-saw with no major advantage going to either side, despite the mounting casualties. However, when the main Prussian assault finally got under way the close-range firepower of the Dreyse rifles, plus long-range artillery support by rifled pieces finally blew a gaping hole in the French centre, through which one of the reserve cavalry brigades poured. These galloped over the low hills to see a most unusual sight – strung-out before them in the distance were a long column of French army vehicles and assorted support units!

French reserve cavalry (foreground) on their way to destiny…

While this information was relayed to the commanders in the rear and tired infantry units summoned to exploit the position, minds were soon brought back to the current battle as they looked to their left down upon the gaily deployed French Cuirassier Division – facing the other way. As the clock reached game-end, the French cavalry were thrown into almost complete disorder when hit in the flank downhill, at least one French commander choosing to die here on the field, safe in the knowledge that some of the army, at least, had escaped the vice closing on Metz….

Final moves – French right is finally destroyed as the Guard Cavalry arrives (not Prussians on hill to their flank!)

After game observations

All players very quickly got to grips with the system, and I was pleased to see how feverish conversations soon focused more on high level plans re bunging one or two divisions in here, how many brigades to place there, grand battery vs close support etc, possible terrain restrictions on exploitation and so on.

It was also salutary to see how reserves now played a key role, as although units fought well for a while, they soon lost their initial ‘edge’, then went to ineffectual despite several apparently holding ground. This is what happened to the Bavarians on the German right and the French in their centre-right. Once the Prussian reserves arrived, the previously successful French were stretched too thin and quickly dissolved – but not before buying vital time, which was the point! Gosh, commanders following higher orders – whatever next?!

Forces

The Prussian Corps were ‘square’ formations – 2x regiments per brigade, 2x brigades per division, 2x divisions per Corps. The French were similar except that these particular Corps had three divisions apiece. However…… Prussian forces had two important tactical advantages – their infantry at close range got a key bonus (Dreyse rifles being ‘slam-fired’), and their artillery was more numerous and had greater range (just). Lower-level leaders were more prevalent (not ‘better’, just more effective), and so individual units were slightly more flexible (elite divisional light infantry could be attached to brigades). Cavalry were still a threat as while they fared badly against infantry etc in stand-up fights (the French left were ‘vaporized’ in turn two!), they could also fall suddenly on disorganized units or a flank and create chaos out of all proportion to their numbers.

The French ‘advantages’ were not really of much use – their infantry rifles could fire two squares, and did seriously harass the Bavarian Grand Battery. Their prodding of the Prussian centre however may have simply stirred-up the ant’s nest which then lunged forward! But what of the famous Mitrailleuse machineguns? Well, they had to deploy with the artillery (as per doctrine), so missed-out on supporting the infantry fire-fights. On the few occasions where the enemy came to them (‘’Fortress Norfolk’ on the French left), the Bavarians soon saw their effectiveness……

The Clock

This feature as already discussed was central to the scenario design. It’s fair to say that the French were first to realise that ‘all’ they had to do was allow time for the sluggish Army wagon trains to exit left – terrain, losses did not really matter. The Prussians were slower to pick up on this, understandably focusing on the detail of battle. However, as they got closer to the French rear edge and could discern no form of counter-plan, it very quickly dawned on them what game the French were playing, and they went over from considered progress to major punches, sometimes surrendering the initiative for the turn to the French in order to adjust the clock by the smallest amount! This was very successful, as the French – on the overall defence – rarely needed the initiative anyway, although a couple of Bavarian brigades might dispute this plan!

My thanks to all for a great trip down memory lane (and for loans of scenery).

Prussian:              Pete S, Paul L

Bavarian (almost Prussian):          David P

French:                 Mark N and ‘Bob’

RAVENFEAST – A review and playtest

Stephen offers a review and playtest of a free ruleset…

Ravenfeast is a free set of  skirmish rules for the Viking Age. I’ve had it some time and finally got around to having a test game over the weekend.

The rules and all its components can be downloaded for free from here:

Free Downloads – Ravenfeast

Mopping Up Stragglers

The game is designed for warbands of between 12 to 20 models, though claims to be scaleable and even has rules for Big Battle Ravenfeast inside. I’m not sure you’d want to go much over 30 models a side (depending on number of players), nor so convinced by the Big Battle rules (you replace individual models with multi-bases that just use the same stats and rules as is!).

For my test game I put together two identical warbands, each comprising a Jarl, two Huskarls, a Berserker, six Bondi with hand weapons, and three Bondi with bows. A total of 12 models per side.

The game designers say that Ravenfeast is meant to be an introductory wargame, and so included in the rules are hints and tips on how to paint models and build terrain. This did make me wonder if the game would be too simplistic and therefore a bit frustrating.

So was it?

In brief, no. It wasn’t. Well, yes, it was simple but that doesn’t mean simplistic nor does it mean the game didn’t provide a good experience.

Battle Commences

Game starts by making an Initiative roll (a D6). Low rolls are good in this game. The player scoring lowest wins the initiative and decides whether to go first or second in each phase. Then players take it in turns to complete each phase before moving on to the next – these are Rally, Movement, Missile, Melee, End of Turn.

Any models that failed a morale roll in the previous turn were marked with a Cowardly marker and may attempt to rally in the Rally phase. All tests are a single D6 roll, with one or two (really, that’s all) modifiers. If the result is equal or less than their Morale stat then they recover, otherwise they are removed from the game and counted as killed.

Movement is also straightforward. Each model has a move stat (in inches) with movement costing double across rough terrain. And the simple approach continues with Missile fire – roll a D6 equal to or less than Missile rating to score a hit. If there are any obstacles between the shooter and target then the target gets a D6 roll for each intervening item – a roll of 4+ means the missile hits an obstacle and the target is saved. But if it gets through then an Armour roll is made which is, again, a D6 roll equal to or less than the model’s armour rating. If hit and wounded then a Blood marker is put down. Wounded models are not removed until the End Phase (nice little tactical touch that).

A Lot Of Wounds Taken

Melee is simultaneous, with each combatant rolling a D6 equal to or less than melee stat. When hit a model makes an Armour roll like Missile firing and, if wounded, a Blood marker is put down. In melee there’s something called A Death Worthy Of A Song. This represents a particularly gruesome and bloody killing and models struck by such a blow receive a Raven token, which could adversely affect the morale of nearby friends.

What I liked about the game was that attempt to put a bit of flavour into it. It can make a lot of difference with simple games because it gives flavour and flair, and becomes something that creates stories and fun. Another such thing is the ability to put your troops into Shieldwall, this improves Armour, but impedes movement. Again, period flavour and tactics.

Form Into Shieldwall

In the End phase you remove any model with a Blood token. You also make Morale rolls for things such as death of a Leader or Hero, if you’ve lost half or more models, or for witnessing A Death Worthy Of A Song. Models that fail are given a Cowardly token and must make a flee move. This is also the time you check to see if there’s a winner (e.g. time limit, scenario objectives, etc).

Included in the game are stats for your Vikings, plus alternatives for Saxons. There’s also a points generator if you want to create your own Vikings or any other troops (for example, Normans). To round it off are three scenarios.

Shieldwalls Clash

From the website you can also download more scenarios as well as fantasy Norse additions. What I also got were a set of Rune Cards. These are a great idea. Each player is dealt one or two cards. Each has a special effect – it could affect one of your models, or it could give you an option to either affect your model or your opponent’s. Play it when you want to and once used it’s gone. There’s also something in there called Geld, which is money you gain from a scenario that you can spend on things like re-rolls or extra Rune Cards, or more berserkers or…well, whatever you agree between you. This could also be used as a scenario objective – grab the loot.

Rune Cards

In summary, I found Ravenfeast to be a cracking effort. They got a lot in there and it all adds something. Yes, it’s simple, but it still has flavour. Naturally, not everything is covered, but it’s not something that a group of friends couldn’t easily house-rule. It’s the kind of game where you could easily get in three or four games in a day and create a one-day mini-campaign. And since it’s free…well, what’s to argue with?

Jarl versus Jarl

A helping hand for a worthy cause.

Andy reports on  a model build for a good cause.

A few weeks ago, I had a call from my brother-in-law, Dominic, asking for help with an IBG Models 1:35th scale model of Bedford QLD truck.

First off, a bit of background: Dominic is a follower of Al Murray’s We Have Ways podcast, and regularly attends the We Have Ways Festivals. He is also a subscriber to the “Independent Company”, a Patreon group associated with the podcast, that was set up during the lockdowns to share live streams and other benefits.

Within the “Independent Company” are many modellers (of varying skill levels), who, at a previous festival, put on a display of 1:100th 3D printed models representing the entire Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry (SRY) AFVs, rear echelon vehicles etc.

The SRY were chosen as James Holland, who hosts the podcast with Al Murray, had edited the SRY’s CO Stanley Christopherson’s diaries and then wrote Brothers In Arms which was about their NW Europe Campaign in World War 2.

Then someone, who we will call Al Murray, said “Wouldn’t it be great doing that Tank Regiment but BIGGER”.

So, a plan to do the same in 1:35th scale was born, and as an added incentive, this would be organised as a Fundraising effort for a charity close to Al Murray’s heart, Finlay’s Touch.

Finley was Al’s nephew, he developed a rare form of Leukaemia at 6 years old and had 3 stem cell transplants in under a year. Despite amazing care, he could not be cured and passed away on the 6th December 2021 aged 8

Link to Finlay’s Touch : https://finleystouch.org.uk/

So, back to the model.

Dominic had made a start on the kit, but came to the conclusion that he didn’t have the skills to finish it to the required standard. I wasn’t sure I would either, as I haven’t made a kit like this for decades, but as it was for a good cause I said I would take it on.

When I received the kit I had a good read through the instructions, and looked at what Dominic had done so far. I decided that this was definitely a kit for people who like sticking small parts together, why else would the rear axle be made up of at least three separate parts when it could have been moulded as a single piece? I also decided that I could split the build into four separate modules which could be worked on separately and then assembled at the end.

        1. The engine / chassis
        2. The cab
        3. The fuel tank and spare tyre rack
        4. The rear truck body.

Dominic had also bought some extras, in the form of a set of Revell Weathering powders and a Tamiya Jerry can kit to serve as the truck’s cargo. This had 6 oil drums, 9 German Jerrycans and 9 US Jerrycans. If these were to be seen this meant that the truck body had to be built open rather than using the optional closed tilt piece, and Dominic asked for the tilt supports to be included. He had made a start on the engine / chassis, fuel tank rack and cab, but hadn’t started on the truck body.

So, where to start?

The part Dominic was having most trouble with was the cab, so I thought I’d start there. First off, I fixed the seat backs to the cab base, and added in the gear sticks, hand brakes etc. One of the problems Dominic had was that he had primed a lot of the parts whilst still on the sprue, this meant that the surfaces that had to be glued together had a coat of paint that prevented the glue from doing its job, so I had to scrape back this paint to expose bare plastic before assembling the parts.

The cab interior

I continued with the cab, adding the back of the cab and mudguards, and more parts to the engine and chassis.

Cab and chassis

I added the left side panel and front of the cab, these had to be in place before I could add the steering wheel. I also built the rear of the truck and the cargo. These went together relatively easily and I did a dry fit of the cargo into the truck to see how much of the load bed would be occupied. I worked out that I could get 12 of the 18 jerrycans across the width of the load bay.

Cab interior painted and cargo dry fit

I went back and did some more work on the cab and chassis, adding the exhaust pipes and leaf springs to the latter, and painting the wheels and the inside of the cab.

A bit more done on the chassis

Regarding painting, Dominic had bought some enamel paints, and had painted some parts with them, however I hadn’t used enamels in years, and fortunately I had all but one of the Vallejo acrylic paints specified by the kit instructions so I decided to use those instead.

Vallejo Model Colour Vallejo Description
Black 70950 Black
Rust 70846 Mahogany Brown
Gunmetal 70863 Gunmetal Grey
Olive Drab 70889 Olive Brown
Light green 70942 Light Green

The only substitution I had to make was to use 70967 Olive Green instead of 70942 Light Green for the seats.

To make the painting of the cargo a little easier I glued the jerrycans into groups of 6 and 3 and temporarily glued these and the oil drums to some large lollipop sticks.

I then primed the cargo with Humbrol grey brush primer and the rear of the truck with Halfords grey spray primer, using masking tape to keep the area where the oil drums were to go bare. On the chassis I added the axles, engine and drive shafts and finished assembling the cab. I also painted the inside of the load bay.

Modules progressing

I added the wheels and a few last pieces to the chassis, added the cargo and tilt frame to the rear of the truck (10 separate pieces!) and finished painting the model.

The four modules finished, ready for assembly

Now for the final assembly, well almost. I would eventually need to varnish the model, I usually use spray varnish on my wargames figures, but I wasn’t sure how that would affect the clear plastic windows on the cab, so I decided that I would keep the cab separate and use brush varnish for the cab

So, I fitted the truck body and the fuel tank / spare tyre rack to the chassis and added some black camouflage to the model. I also added all the fiddley bits to the cab, headlights and sidelights, grab handles, door handles etc. I had a problem with one of the later, it sprang off my tweezers when I was trying to fit it and I couldn’t find it. Fortunately, I came up with a replacement. The Jerrycan kit had four buckets, I cut down one of the bucket handles to the right size and used that as a replacement door handle!

Chassis, truck body and spare wheel / fuel tank assembled.

The kit came with a set of transfers, but the organisers of the build had also commissioned some Sherwood Rangers specific tactical markings, these would be used to replace the tactical markings from the kit.

The transfers

When applying transfers to models, I put a coat of gloss varnish over the areas where the transfers are to go, this gives the underlying paint a smooth surface for the transfer to adhere to and prevents the “silvery” finish you can sometimes see with transfers applied to matt paints.

Once the transfers were dry, I gave the cab a coat of matt brush varnish and the rest of the truck a coat of spray varnish. Once that was dry, I fixed the cab to the chassis.

I made a couple of the buckets from the Tamiya Jerrycan kit, putting one in the back of the truck and hanging the second off the towing hook.

The almost finished model showing the cargo

Finally I used some Revell weathering paint (also supplied by Dominic) to add mud to the tyres, mudguards and the underside of the truck.

Rear view, with hanging bucket.

I had forgotten to add the rear-view mirrors before I took the photos above, another really fiddley bit, so these were the last thing to be added to the kit.

So, the kit was finished in time, and made its way to WeHaveWaysFestDrei over the weekend of 9th & 10th September to join all the other models that had been built, including  four models built by Al Murray: three Shermans including the SRY CO’s tank called Robin Hood and a Crusader AA tank..

The assembled regiment.

You can just make out the one I built in the right rear.

After the event the models were auctioned / raffled off to raise more money for Finlay’s Touch, so far raising £5,755.

If you are able, please make a donation to this worthy cause.

Link to the Just Giving Page Simon Errington is fundraising for Finley’s Touch (justgiving.com)

5 Parsecs – The Package

Club member Marcus reports on a solo game (with the editor’s apologies to Marcus  for the delay in getting this onto the blog).

As Pi in the Sky has blasted off from Palacco, we entered a new campaign turn. Firstly, space travel. I rolled a “It’s not supposed to make that sound…”.   Fortunately, Veyan rolled a success “but I know exactly what it is…just realign the phase couplers.” That could have been unfortunate, but instead the Pi arrived on Enout, a wild frontier world classed as dangerous.  Upkeep paid and ship debt increased to 22 Cr.

While Veyan and Pascal failed to attract any new patrons, Kell came up with a useful contact +1. Wellington traded for some basic supplies (-1 upkeep in turn 3). San (with a roll on the loot table) traded for…something interesting. A further roll identified this to be a military ship part; a 3Cr discount on the next ship component bought.  The crew already had a Patron mission lined up. This would be in a toxic environment (+1D6 roll + savvy when stunned or the character becomes a casualty). The mission: to deliver a package to the centre of the table, an abandoned facility. Unknown criminal elements have an interest.

I didn’t fancy setting up the opponents at one edge and posed some questions to players online. There are alternative deployment options in an expansion, but I opted to set up my own. I created my own random table and rolled for set up. The criminals in deployed in 3 groups utilizing a clock face method around the centre at roughly one, three, five, seven, nine and eleven o’clock. One group was also delayed in deploying.

The crew (pictured above) entered from the south – east corner. As luck would have it, the opposition deployed a group of two very close to them, with three on the diametrically opposite side of the board.

The table

The crew gain the initiative and Veyon, Pascal move into positions in the first phase.  Kel preps for snap fire, but no target manifests as no opposition appears immediately. The rest of the crew also move forward. In turn two both Pascal on the right and Nira and Wellington on the left seek to outflank an emerging threat amid the heavy jungle. Kel gets a close shot at Mant (a Rebel miniatures ant man) but misses, as does Veyon. Mant’s pal Worake (half worm, half snake) works its way forward.

Mant & Worake
Kell snipes at Mant & Worake

The third criminal group were now due to deploy. By chance they also deployed in close proximity to the crew in the south-east.

More antagonists deploy

In turn three Kell snipes unsuccessfully at Worake who shoots back at Kell, but he has the benefit of camo gear and blends into the jungle. Pascal spots the new intruders but in an exchange of fire goes down wounded.

Pascal is hit!
Standoff!

In turn 4, seemingly stung by the wound sustained by Pascal, the crew get their act together. Veyon targets Worake, hitting with a 5 and a damage roll of 6+1 puts Worake down. San similarly spots the newly arrived female gunslinger (Toogun) and despatches her and while her accomplice, Lazard (the lizard man) man responds, he misses. Veyon also gets a second shot and puts down Mant.

Kell gets a close-up shot using his blast pistol but misses even at close range. Wellington and Nira moved further up on the left concealing themselves in a grove of plants.

Nira & Wellington move up on the left

In turn 5 the crew got a good roll allowing Kel to aim and take a shot at Lazard. The opponents who deployed in the south-east are all put out of action. Meanwhile Nira and Wellington are hidden in the path of the remaining criminals and spring an ambush.

Ambush!

Nira scores a 6 to floor Hawk-man. One of the two remaining opponents, after squeezing off a couple of wild shots in the general direction of Nira, has already seen enough and decides to bug out on a morale roll. With only one opponent still in the game, Nira gains the benefit of a first-round action and with a well-aimed shot brings down the last of the opposition.

Delivery

While the crew successfully meet their contacts and deliver the package, what of Pascal?

Post Battle:

Despite the outcome of this battle this criminal enterprise clearly does not relish taking on the crew again as they don’t want to become rivals. The crew get paid 9 Cr. The crew also find a curious data stick which will provide them with a quest rumour. They also pick up another blast rifle.

Pascal’s injury initially proved to be nothing to serious, just a turn in sick-bay. However, I forgot about the toxic environment. Subsequently I remembered to roll this. Pascal failed forcing me to use a story point to keep him in the game. Pascal is after all an interesting character. I was reluctant to lose him. “That infection you picked up in the jungle gave us a scare Pascal.  We thought we had lost you…”

Naturally, everyone picked up experience points. We didn’t try any training or find any purchases worth making except…

Finally, campaign events: An alien merchant offers a strange artifact. How can we resist for 4 Cr? A quick roll on the loot table leads us to the rewards table and ship parts; roll for value: 1 Cr! Easy come easy go…

 

 

 

 

Work in Progress Wednesday 23rd August

Our usual WIP Wednesday editor is away this week, so Andy gets to put together this week’s round up of members efforts, and quite a variety we have for you.

First up is Felix, who has gone into WWII overdrive with some more US Airborne (see above), some Italians and some Germans.

Next up is Chairman Mark, making progress with his Sikorsky H-34 “Choctaw” helicopter from the Vietnam war.

Also in Vietnam is Stephen who is dipping his toe into a new period, but dropping to 15mm /1:100th scale. This is just testing the water for a 2024 project.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Mark is staying in South East Asia, but taking to the Korean skies with some Sabres and Migs.

Webmaster Tony has finished off some more Stargrave figures for his new crew, some of these may have been seen before as WIP in previous posts but the chap front left is new (Han Dee, another Diehard miniature).

And finally my contribution for this week. I’ve finished the Celtos Sidhe for the Elf King Red game, no photo as all that was left to do was varnish them. I thought I’d do a few more to make up a Dragon Rampant force, so I’ve got another 11 started, only cleaned up and based so far.

And, a bit of a change for me. I’ve taken over building a 1/35 Bedford QLD for my brother in law, who needs it in about 3 weeks time for something, not sure what.

Well, that’s all for this week, back to the usual management for next week.

Judge Dredd Battle Report – Attack the Block!

Club chairman Mark J reports:

On Saturday the 13th May meeting Mark H, Tim, Eric and I played Warlord Games Judge Dredd skirmish, we used 28mm figures and terrain depicting Mega City 1, including the famous Rowdy Yates block.

The infamous Rowdy Yates Block

The aim of the game was to take Rowdy Yates, there were four teams:

      • Justice, including Dredd (no creep messes with my home!)
      • Muties
      • City Def
      • Block Gang ‘Reasonable Approach’ (Albert Einstein Block)

City Def are located at Rowdy Yates, they are well armed with a sniper and rocket launcher, ready to take out anyone trying to take their block. The muties move in first dashing for one of the ground floor doors, there are fresh norms in there ripe and juicy for a cursed earth BBQ!

The Reasonable Approach Block Gang move in from the east, using the terrain as cover hoping to get in close with their sawn-off stump guns, they wave their reasonable banners as they move in shouting ‘we support the law’, ‘be reasonable’ and of course ‘e = mc2’!

The Reasonable Approach Block Gang

Justice next, coming in from the south; no one is fooling veteran street judge Milo who promptly shoots down one of Reasonable Approach, the gang immediately change their banners to ‘we hate the law!’. Meanwhile City Def start to pick off the muties on the ground floor, ‘supported’ by cadet judge Bow, city def attempt to fry some muties with a grenade but take out the young judge, game over for baby justice!

Rowdy Yates Tower , ground floor.

No way these muties are going down easy and street judge Bell takes a serious a hit after messing with a mutie packing a heavy spit gun. City Def buggs out to the second floor setting up an ambush for the muties, who are still pilling into Rowdy yates ground floor and heading for the lift and some tasty norms!

Dredd arrives on his Law Master ‘I am the Law!’, he’s not too happy that is old home is being attacked and he promptly jumps of his bike and heads for the front door his Lawgiver MkII at the ready. Reasonable approach keeps pushing from the east, taking out a mutie but taking some hits too. Dredd’s bike heads around Rowdy Yates and promptly dispatches justice taking out a mutie and a passing citizen! The not too happy muties head towards the lift at Rowdy Yates hoping to take out some norms.

City def unleash a rocket on Reasonable Approaching taking out one of the gang and exploding some fuel laden barrels. Seeing this, veteran Judge Milo moves to support Dredd and promptly runs into Judge Death who’s been lurking next to an add pod; a heart squeezing moment for Milo! Death also takes out rookie judge Reed and moves towards Rowdy Yates and Dredd ‘the ssentenccce isss death’.

The fight is getting hot in Rowdy Yates, city def wait on the second floor around the lift hoping to take out some muties. The muties oblige by coming up to the second floor, city def fire as the muties arrive but to no effect. One of city def is carrying a can of Boing and sprays the first mutie encasing him in an impenetrable plastic sphere! The second mutie roles out his buddy and heads back to the first floor. While all of this is going on, Reasonable Approach take out Dredd’s Lawmaster by exploding some chem waste. Dredd’s not happy and bursts into the ground floor of his old pad taking out two muties, he takes three hits but shrugs them off.

Death heads towards Dredd, seeing him from the corner of his eye Dredd spins around and fires a hotshot round at Death, nothing doing! Dredd rushes out of the building and attacks Death with his day stick and a culinary laser he happened to have tucked in his boot!

Judge Dredd and Judge Death

A mutie heads back up the lift, licking his lips in anticipation of some fresh norm meat. As he arrives on the second-floor, city def throw in a hi ex grenade, BOOM! The mutie manages to throw himself to the floor and the explosion comes right back at city def frying three of them but they remain standing and take out the mutie.

Dredd and Death proceed to knock lumps off each other but no-one’s winning the fight, Reasonable Approach move in close to Rowdy Yates and city Def seeing this, move back to the ground floor; singed but still in the fight. Seeing Dredd and Death fighting it out, the city def Boing guy moves in to help Dredd and manages to encase Death in Boing!

The games ends there, Dredd’s still standing but the rest of justice are dead, the muties are in bad shape but have caused a heap of chaos, Reasonable Approach are a few down but in the building. City def are a little charred but hold their block! A great game with many laughs and sticky moments, just as it should be in the Big Meg.

Mark H double checking his stats

Society Meeting 13th May 2023

A short round up of games played at our last meeting.

The usual FOG suspects staged a 6mm game, Mid Republican Roman vs Later Selucid.

Mark ran a 28mm Judge Dredd game, with virulent scenery, you may need your sunglasses.

Close up of the tower block

Jeremey and Stephen continued their refight of the War of the Roses, this time recreating Towton.

Each were “assisted” by two sub commanders this time, on the Lancastrian side with Stephen were Andy and Tony G, with Tony F and Peter joining the Yorkist commander, Jeremey.

Andy & Tony F both switched sides since the last campaign game (not unusual in the War of the Roses). There will be a full report on this game written up by the victorious commander.

Armies deployed, Yorkist on the left, Lancastrian on the right
Yorkist Centre
More Yorkists
Stephen’s victorious Border Horse.
A truly dismal roll by the Lancastrian’s French crossbowmen, three 1s
Lancastrian centre, what’s left of it.
The Lancastrian dead. Units with red dice were Andy’s, blue dice were Tony G’s and black dice were Stephen’s

 

MWS at Salute 50

A small contingent from the society braved the roads (and rails) to Excel last weekend to stage Peter’s Fallujah 2004 game at Salute 50.

A view from one end of the Salute 50 hall to the other, MWS were at the far right end in this photo.

The premise of the game is that a USMC platoon have been tasked with clearing an area of Fallujah, sweeping through buildings to clear them of insurgents. The three participants each control one of the platoon’s squads, and depending on the draw of Fog of War cards may have additional assets to aid them in their mission, for example, helicopters, an M1 Abrams tank, a LAV-25 APC, a sniper team or a Navy Corpsman.

Games are intended to last an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, and use a simplified version of Ambush Alley’s Force on Force rules. Figures are from Elhiem Figures Modern range, civilian vehicles from Matchbox or similar and buildings and terrain scratch-built by Society member Peter.

Peter and John explaining the finer points of the rules to the three volunteers.

Here are a few more photos of the game in action:

We were very pleased to be awarded a prize by the South London Warlords: “Best 10 – 18mm game”.

The game’s mastermind, Peter, receiving the award.

The trophy

Congratulations to Peter for creating an award winning game, and thanks to all members who have helped run the game at shows this year.

The game’s next appearance is at Broadside on June 10th.