God Wills It: A Lion Rampant Battle

Stephen gets a bit nostalgic…

The first historical wargames army I ever bought was a Crusader army. It’s always been a period of great interest to me, especially the later crusades of the thirteenth century.

I resisted buying a crusades army in 28mm because that meant I’d also have to get some Saracens and I just didn’t want to paint all that patterned cloth.

Then a while ago I was given a box of plastic Gripping Beast Arab infantry. They sat in a cupboard for a couple of months because I still didn’t have the will to paint all that fabric. Then I saw some pictures of other’s Saracen armies and I saw how they’d done them in plain white material. ‘That’s a good idea’, I thought. So that’s what I did, and decided I’d make the Ghulams a bit more colourful – representing wealthier troops able to buy expensive fabrics.

Being motivated to get these done, I motored through them. And this weekend I decided to have a game. I was going to play Saga, but it doesn’t play solo so well. So instead I went with Lion Rampant…

Forces Deployed

The two sides lined up opposite each other. Both had 24 points a side.

The Crusaders had two units of Templar knights (LR: Mounted Men at Arms), two units of Mounted Sergeants, and one of foot Crossbows.

I gave the Saracens two units of Ghulams (LR: Foot Men at Arms), two units of Ghazis (LR: Foot Yeomen, armed with short range missiles – javelins), and two units of Ahdath (LR: Bidowers).

I did a simple meeting scenario – both sides hacking at each other until one is gone.

I rolled for leader traits and got Vulnerable for the Crusaders (leader killed on a Lucky Blow of 2 or 3) and Lionheart (ironically) for the Saracen leader (meaning his unit could re-roll 2 failed hit dice).

The Saracens went first and they were lucky enough to activate all their units – moving up to occupy favourable terrain that would hamper the mounted crusaders. The Ahdath would be well placed in these areas of bad terrain, where they could lodge themselves in and shoot at the Crusader cavalry. The only solution to this would be the Crusader crossbows, so it would be worth the Saracens taking out the Crossbows as soon as possible.

Saracens Advance

The Crusaders were equally lucky, activating all their units. The Sergeants on the right went galloping past the village, the Crossbows moved up to get into range of the Ahdath hiding in the scrub, and the Knights also moved up.

One thing became obvious – there was a natural funnel to the battlefield between two areas of rough terrain. The Ghulams had moved up to block this gap, with the Ahdath either side with their bows to shoot at anything coming between them. The only thing the Crusaders could do was to advance as quickly as possible to minimise their exposure to the enemy arrows.

Getting Ready To Shoot

The Saracen Ghazis kept moving up to the Crossbows, desperate to engage and eliminate them – if they could it would make a Crusader victory difficult. The other unit of Ghazis, over by the village, decided to hurl their javelins at the approaching Sergeants, scoring enough hits to take one of them out. When it came to the Crusader’s turn they were more than ready to return the gesture. Although the Ghazis were approaching the Crossbows, it was obvious the Crossbows had to take a shot at the Ahdath in the scrub. Spanning their bows, they took aim, and…a devastating volley! The unit of Saracen skirmishers were devastated and routed off the table! Both units of Sergeants advanced – those on the left moved into the middle of the funnel to threaten the Ghulams, whilst those on the right put in their spurs and charged the other Ghazi unit.

Sergeants Charge In

Casualties were taken on both sides and the Ghazis were bounced back. But the Sergeants were now down to half strength which meant their combat effectiveness was also halved.

It was then over to the Saracens to go on the attack. On their activation they sent the Ghazis in to charge the crossbows.

Ghazis Rush The Crossbows

Improbably, the Crossbows prevailed! They didn’t take a single casualty and pushed back the Ghazis who failed their courage roll and were now battered. The other unit of Ghazis managed to rally, ready to block the Sergeants. The remaining unit of Ahdath drew their bows, trying to decide who to shoot at – the unit of Sergeants leading the attack through the funnel, or the unit of Knights who were coming in behind to mop up any remnants the Sergeants left behind.

In Go The Cavalry

Deciding that the Ghulams should be able to resist an attack by the Sergeants, the Ahdath took aim at the Knights and let fly. No effect this time.

Now it was over to the Crusaders. The Sergeants were in charge range of the Saracen leader, so decided to go for it and see if they could get a lucky hit. And they did! OK, so the Saracen leader didn’t go down, but a couple of his Ghulam bodyguards did and had to retreat. The Crossbows, knowing how lucky they’d just been in repelling the Ghazi charge, took aim and let rip. A good shot that took out a couple of the Ghazis. However, best of all, the Ghazis then failed their courage test. It was such a bad fail that they routed off the table.

Sergeants Charge The Saracen Leader

The Saracens had to go on the counter-charge. The Saracen leader ordered his men to charge and in they went against the Sergeants. But it happened again – the Sergeants came out on top. Sort of – no casualties on either side, but since the Saracens had charged and failed they had to retreat. The Ahdath had another go at the Knights, this time scoring a kill. And the Ghazi unit by the village threw more of their javelins at the Sergeants, taking another rider out and leaving them battered.

Templars and Ghulams

Things were coming to a head. The Sergeants, not believing their luck, charged the Saracen leader again. Not such a good result this time – the Sergeants took heavy loses and were pushed back, under half strength and battered! The first unit of Crusader Knights went in and charged the Ghulams. A fairly even result, meaning the Crusaders had to retreat. Had the Saracens managed to turn things around?

Back to the Saracens, and they spent most of their turn rallying units. The Ahdath once again took a shot and once again took out one of the Knights. They were starting to become a real pain.

So on the Crusader turn the Crossbows moved up so they could get in range of the other unit of Saracen skirmishers. The Crusader leader also decided to take part (remember, his leader trait would make him more susceptible to a lucky blow, so he’d been wise to keep out of it until needed). So the Crusader leader took command of his Knights and they charged one of the Ghulam units. Casualties were taken on both sides, and a Lucky Blow roll was made against the Crusader leader: double 6 – nowhere near!

Templar Leader Takes Control

On the Saracen turn I noticed the two leaders were near each other. There was only one thing for it – Leaders Challenge! The Crusader leader accepted. Into the middle they went and rolled for it.

Challenge Accepted

No hits for the Saracen leader, but the Crusader leader scored a hit, meaning the Saracen leader had been killed in personal combat! All the Saracen units now had to make courage rolls. Only the ex-leader’s unit failed, leaving them battered, but all the others passed. There were still enough Saracens left to make it worth fighting on, so I kept the battle going – despite losing their leader, could the Saracens still manage to win?

Well, maybe. But on the Crusaders’ turn the crossbows took a shot at the remaining unit of Ahdath in the rocks. Despite the extra protection, they still lost half their unit and fled. It was now looking extremely unlikely that the Saracens could win this one. All they really had left was a single unit of Ghazis. Well, there were the Ghulams, but both of those units were down to just two models each, so they’d lost their punch.

One Last Charge

Ultimately and inevitably, it would be a Crusader victory. The Crusader leader, emboldened by his victory with the Saracen leader in single combat, led his knights in repeated charges on the final unit of Ghazis. The Ghazis were steadily whittled down until they finally failed their courage test.

And that was it – a Crusader win.

The Saracens

What A (Grav) Tanker! (Part 2)

Marcus gives us the next instalment of his Sci FI adaption of What a Tanker!

I have continued to develop my WA(G)T ideas since the first outing and this is the third time on the table. Well actually on the floor again, but I did at least get to use the table for game 2.

I have introduced some changes, and there are more ideas to come. Firstly, I went back to the original Lardy allocation for the dice orders. On reflection I didn’t feel much was gained by that change.

Secondly, this time I added in a command group each. I tried this in the first game but adjusted how they worked this time.  For simplicity I gave both command groups four dice. The idea behind these is that they can (apart from making nice objectives for the enemy maybe…) use their dice to cancel enemy orders or supplement their own units die rolls. I played it that the command units needed to roll at least one 6 to use as a comms/data link. At first it was too easy to disrupt enemy shooting by allowing any dice rolled by a command unit to cancel an enemy order dice. This time I went for the following options:

      1. Cancel one enemy move dice or substitute a friendly unit dice
      2. Cancel or add an acquisition dice
      3. Add/Improve aim
      4. Add a shoot dice
      5. Add a defensive dice
      6. Comms/data link

I also added in missiles in both games. However, in the first game they didn’t work satisfactorily. In the second, well, you’ll see.

I added in a wider selection of cards than in the original WAT game, to add some sci-fi flavour. Some were successful, although those relating to missiles need to be revised.

Finally, influenced by PSC’s “Red Alert” which I have written about previously, the biggest change in this iteration was the number of vehicles on the table (sorry, floor!) with a shift to multiple element units. Essentially these employed the same stats as used previously with a hit just removing one vehicle.

There were a few new or adjusted vehicles. The “attack boats” were a Callisto class boat, as seen in the previous game, but with a change to a missile launcher in place of the forward twin gun. It is a modular design (the turrets on the models are magnetised). The two smaller boats notionally have vertical launch cells under the bow cover. These still acted like one unit, although in retrospect I think I should have upped the defence value and/or the hits that could be taken, especially on the larger Ganymede.

Additional units:

Core Dice Max Attack Defence Movement
Attack Boats 6 Ganymede 8 missiles; Leda & Ersa 4 each 8 6
Pz 35 “Hornisse” 5 15 9 9
Command Units 4 0 8 7

The British started with 2 groups of 4 Chieftains, one of 4 Ferret’s and the naval group of Ganymede, Leda and Ersa plus the command group, see the header picture.

The NAU had 3 groups of 4 Wespe, 1 group of 4 Hornisse  and the command group.

The Hornisse models are envisaged as earlier models which have not been completely replaced by a later version, but are ideal for service in a riverine/swamp environment (maybe they should be better than grav vehicles over this kind of terrain. I always envisaged grav vehicles having more “mushy” responsiveness over wide stretches of water)

Ersa and Leda are also from GZG. The Hornisse is from the Osario from the Scotia range. As an objective I thought about both making this the command groups or taking the previous route; the British was to get the Callisto off the far river edge with the NAU needing to prevent this. In the end I went for just targeting the naval group and playing out a few turns.

Activation worked as previously, but I forgot about the “exploding 6’s” for hits. It seemed likely to be a more destructive game anyway…

Here is an “drone” shot of the initial set up:

With shots from the British perspective:

And the NAU positions:

Turn 1:

The NAU took the initiative moving the green Pz 37 unit up, seen at the bottom of the drone recce photo,  and the corresponding yellow unit to the top. The yellow unit benefited from a stealth card requiring an additional 2 acquisition dice. The British Ferrets activating next were unable to move, but prepped for future activation with the idea that they would designate targets for the missiles on the naval units if possible. The Ganymede group also moved up and were able to acquire and aim at the NAU yellow group having rolled three 6’s.

The cautious positioning continued since the British had no data link and the GBR yellow group were therefore unable to acquire the stealthed NAU yellows. No firing took place this turn.

Turn 2:

The NAU again gained the initiative (on exactly the same number of dice as the GBR), continuing a theme from the last game.

NAU command had rolled two 6 (one of which could be used as data link) and two “shoot” dice last turn. The dice rolled for the last turn continue to be available until a unit activates in the subsequent turn and rolls a new “hand” of dice.

The NAU orange “Hornisse” hover tanks moved forward in the centre, but were unable to find a target in line of sight. However, NAU blue had no such difficulty. Moving to acquire the naval group they launched a 15 dice attack. Despite the GBR side using a card for a D6 firer systems down, resulting in a reduction of only 1 attack dice to 14. A roll of 6655 didn’t seem too threatening, until the 8 defence dice yielded no blocks! A further desperate defensive systems card for the GBR took out one of the critical hits, but under the new rules either critical (6) or a double hit (55) would destroy a target. While the card saved the Ganymede the Ersa and Leda were destroyed.

In response the GBR yellow Chieftain unit moved out of cover and launch a retaliatory attack on the more exposed NAU yellow unit.  With 13 attack dice -1 for range attenuation, the Brits roll 666655. Despite playing an “All power to shields” card, the NAU rolls only a 65 against the incoming fire, seeing three of the four vehicles in the unit destroyed. The remaining vehicle rolled a test and stayed in the fight (D6 higher than the number of vehicles destroyed)

GBR orange Ferrets attack the “Hornisse” unit, having rolled 6543 (using the wild 6 as a 2 to acquire), but hits of 665 were all blocked . The Ganymede went into stealth mode with a card.

Both command units now activated successively and maintained comms/data links.

The turn concluded with a GBR Green Cheiftain attack on the exposed NAU yellow over the river with a 6555 on 13 dice. With only a defence of 4 the unit still blocked with 65 resulting in one tank destroyed.

Turn 3:

This proved to be the final round of a vicious confrontation.

The NAU maintained the initiative and their yellow unit used an extra command unit acquisition dice to make 3 allowing them to target the Ganymede in stealth mode. 15 dice resulted in a 66666. A defensive systems card d4 roll resulted in two of these being cancelled. The Ganymede’s defence dice only took out one of the remaining hits, resulting in a mighty explosion as the last two critical hits crashed home. BOOM!

The NAU red Hornisse unit rolls 65511. However, despite being unable to acquire or aim, using a “snapshot” card, they are able to make a reduced level attack. A ten dice attack results in an unlikely 66655. The green unit with all power switched to attack is unable to stop any of these critical hits, although a damage control card cancels the non-criticals.

NAU command rolls a 5321. Without a data link it cannot use any of these dice to support its units. NAU Green rolls 633322  continuing the paralysis on the NAU left flank as without a shoot order, they cannot get into the fight.

The GBR command group still has data link and the GBR yellow unit uses a command unit 2 to acquire NAU yellow. With a 13566 and the 2, the GBR unit can make two attacks using the wild 66 as 44 shoot orders.  A 66655 followed by 65555 leaves the NAU unit doomed, having only two for defence against each attack.

That effectively ended the action for the round and the game, with both sides more or less suffering equal damage and choosing to retire.

As alluded to earlier, the missile rules didn’t get tested and the cards need further development given the rule changes. Overall though, I like the changes; having the extra vehicles on the board “Red Alert” style and the command unit rules, although these could evolve further.  While the game was excessively destructive I think that was a function of the lack of defensive allocation and a need to restructure the cards  to reflect rule developments. The cards are a key thing to work on going forward.

However, missiles still need work. I am thinking of rolling one dice (probably a D6 but maybe others depending on missile characteristics) per missile and in the spirit of using the same dice in a different way, rolling the defence dice to block the specific number rolled (i.e. a defensive 6 would take out any attacking rolls of 6, a 2 would take out any attack rolls of 2 etc.)

I hope to develop the command group idea and use multiple groups (2/3 perhaps depending on the size of game).

I have an idea that I might do an Antarctic game going forward. I have a suitable shower curtain that I used as a mat for a club show game. However, I have no suitable vehicles or other terrain. In the interim I may break out my island terrain (a couple of pictures of which can be seen here) for the next game and hopefully some future blogs might cover painting vehicles (probably striping and re-painting old vehicles) in snow camo and creating some terrain.

Look out for further developments!

Night Raid on Qui Nhon

John reports on a follow up game to Treasure Islands, using Ganesha Games Galleys and Galleons rules and his scratch built junks.

Angry that she’d missed out on treasure from the wrecked ships, Li Chee the Pirate Queen shadowed Admiral Feng Shui from the islands to Qui Nhon in the South China Sea. Determined to exact revenge, she planned a night raid on the harbour at Qui Nhon (see picture above).

She hoped to capture one of the junks, avoiding the larger Treasure Ships and the Admiral’s Flagship. She’d also have to avoid the attentions of the fort guarding the harbour entrance.

Li Chee passes the fort guarding Qui Nhon Harbour

All Feng Shui’s ships were moored facing into the wind. Li Chee decided to go for the smallest Junk. This would make a fine pirate Junk to accompany her on further adventures and was bound to hold some treasure too.

In this scenario, Feng Shui can only activate when Li Chee performs a boarding or firing action.

The first activation. Li Chee rolls up to 3 activation dice requiring 2+ to take an action. The double 5 indicates a change in wind direction of one point clockwise.

Li Chee slowly and silently passed by the fort and after several moves is in a position upwind of the smallest Junk ready to strike in a swift and deadly boarding action.

Li Chee’s crew have ‘Derring Do’. This reduces the combat value of both vessels to zero in the first boarding action of the game. They are intimidating so get a +1 modifier. The enemy Junk has a -2 modifier from the scenario and a further -1 being a Merchantman. The Junk is tripled and takes 3 damage. Ouch!

The hapless Junk attempts to cut the grapples and head away.

Two activations are sufficient to cut the grapples but the ‘1’ requires the ship to take an all at sea roll. A ‘3’ is reduced by 1 as Li Chee is a Dread Pirate. Li Chee decides to let the Junk continue. She will move in for the kill next turn.

All this commotion has alerted Feng Shui, who turns his junk which is in irons to a firing position.

In the next round of combat, Li Chee takes her prize – now to escape!

The captured junk is now manned by a prize crew and Feng Shui opens fire on it.

Feng Shui opens fire to no effect. The reinforced Junk hull proving invaluable.

As the pirate junks begin to pull away to safety, Feng Shui makes a boarding attempt on Li Chee’s junk. Li Chee is in great peril.

Boarding! Li Chee has an intimidating crew and gets +1 but Feng Shui has a higher combat value, high castles and Drilled Soldiers. The dice roll saves Li Chee but the Feng Shui’s veteran NCO rallies the troops.

It had been a lucky escape for Li Chee and using actions to cut the grapples and break free she was able to move away from Feng Shui, who was now in a bad position and would have to sail round the island or lose time in irons. The two pirate junks would now have to run the gauntlet of the fort.

The fort opens fire first on the captured junk.

The Junk is not doubled but the ‘6’ dice roll causes a point of damage.

And then on the Pirate Queen.

The fort fires on the Pirate Queen to no effect.

As the pirate Junks head for safety, the fort manages to fire on them again a longer range but fails to score a hit.

As the sun begins to rise in the east, Li Chee and her pirate crews make good their escape.

It had been a close-run thing but now, Li Chee had a second junk which she would repair and turn into a formidable fighting ship. Feng Shui was worried as he tried to get to grips with the Chilli Crab. The treacherous Straits of Malacca would have to be negotiated with their swirling currents and risk of ambush – things did not look good.

Appendix

This game was based on the cutting out scenario from the Galleys and Galleons rule book. Vessel and fort stats below:

Feng Shui’s flotilla:

Li Chee’s ship:

KONTRABAND – A ZONA ALFA EXPANSION

John gives a the low down on the Kontraband expansion for Zona Alfa, and a prize winning battle report on one of the scenarios from the book.  

John tells us “There’s a competition on the F/B page for battle reports. I sent a copy of the article to the rules author and I’ve won a copy of the rule book signed by the author and illustrator.”

Zona Alfa was published by Osprey in early 2020. It’s a skirmish game set in the Chernobyl exclusion zone where teams battle for salvage and hope to survive. I’d hoped to play it at the club, then along came the pandemic. The author supports the game well via the Stalker 7 website and solo or Coop rules were soon developed, where the player games against the zone itself rather than a physical opponent. I’ve posted 3 battle reports here and you can check out Guerrilla Miniature Games U Tube channel where a full 7 game campaign is played out. These rules are highly recommended.

Kontraband is an 80 page expansion to the Zona Alfa ruleset (which you will need to play Kontraband), available through Amazon as hardcopy or Wargames Vault as a pdf. It develops the ideas above to take the game in a different direction, recommending a play area of 3’ x 3’ and a crew of 4 veterans. It is set deep in the Exclusion Zone at high threat level so it’s worth playing through a few standard Zona Alfa games before diving in. Here’s what’s in the book.

Crew Members.

Crew members can either be Stalkers – good at combat or Scientists – good at technical tasks, a further option is to include a dog companion for which there are detailed rules and additional rules for Hazmat suits. Each crew member can have different equipment or skills so it’s worth spending the time to make them complementary.

Zone Setting.

The play area is populated with a recommended nine searchable locations (points of interest). The crew have to live off the land so these need to be searched for food, drink, ammo etc. to sustain the crew for the next game. There are 20 points of interest cards from which the 9 are randomly selected, shuffled and placed as an Incident Deck, the top card being revealed when a point of interest is searched. These cards are nearly all bad news and may spawn a zone hostile within close combat distance, dangerous plants or booby traps. There is a greater emphasis on melee combat than in Zona Alfa.

The objective of the game is to search Anomalies to retrieve artifacts (the recommended goal for a campaign being 12 artifacts). It is recommended that the play area for a game has 3 Anomalies to search. The rules for anomalies are fleshed out and there are options for different area effects if the anomaly search goes wrong – four ways to die. Models can be caught in a gravity force field, electrocuted, blasted or teleported away from the anomaly.

There is no game turn limit, the risk of staying in a dangerous area is handled by zone events. Starting on the second move, and becoming more likely with each subsequent move, there is a risk of a zone event, for example: an energy wave, vermin stampede, security patrol, angry mutant or anomaly movement to ruin your day.

New Stuff

This covers a better way of dealing with wounds than the original rule book, there are new weapons and accessories with better options for melee combat. Zone hostiles can be made more dangerous and the concept of fatigue and obsessions are introduced. In Zona Alfa, progression is covered from Rookie through to Veteran. In Kontraband, crew members can add sixth sense, extra toughness, and an additional skill after a number of survived missions.

Missions and Expeditions.

There are 6 separate mission ideas for pick- up games or to link together to form an expedition and a sample expedition of 5 missions in the rulebook. So whilst waiting for some new figures, I decided to try out the reconnaissance mission.

Here is the table layout with 9 POI (blank dice) and 3 anomalies (Spheres), the crew will enter at the bottom RH  corner. Their mission is to search the 4 POI at the corners as a minimum, destroying all Zone Hostiles and retrieving samples from any of the corner POI which contain a hazard. I selected a crew with 3 Stalkers and 1 Scientist.

Turn 1.

For the first turn the crew will check out the POI closest to their entry point, the abandoned farm equipment. Each crew member can have three actions per turn and it’s worth using one action “alert” to provide overwatch for the Searcher. The top card from the Incident deck is revealed.

Here the vermin swarm is spawned by using a D10. The dice roll number is the distance in inches/2 from the POI and the facing gives the direction. The Leader (Nimzo), with the steady hands skill and a red dot sight has one action before the swarm can charge into the nearest model and attack it. They are destroyed.

Had the incident card been a bandit ambush, it’s likely that one or more crew members would have been out of action on turn one, unless crew members are on alert to take pre-emptive action.

The Searcher (Ali) has the scrounger skill so can search the POI twice, He secures rations, water and ammo which the crew will need for the next mission – in the game you have to think about the future as well as the present.

Turn 2

At each turn after turn 1 a D10 is rolled. The die roll is added to the turn number and if the result is greater than 10, a zone event occurs the subsequent turn. No zone event for turn 3.

The crew head up the board and Sukova (a Scientist) is best equipped to search the anomaly, which she does.

Here, a skill roll of 8 would normally fail but Sukova is equipped with a Detector which gives her a +2 bonus and she recovers an artefact, which would count towards a campaign goal.

Turn 3

A zone event, an anomaly shift will take place at the start of turn 4. The crew move up to the top RH corner of the board to search the POI, next turn. This will not affect the crew as they will be out of range.

Turn 4

No zone event is rolled. Spassky (Bounty Hunter) checks the POI – not the best option. The card reveals a zone hazard ‘Spores and Spitters’. He survives one attack and retrieves a sample from the POI.

Turn 5

The zone event roll results in an Alpha Predator entering the board at the start of turn 6.

The crew move towards the POI at the top left hand corner of the board but reserve an alert action to use against the Predator when it enters the board. Where possible, they move into cover, this will give protection against the attacking Predator which has Ranged and Melee combat abilities

Turn 6

An area emission effect will arrive at the start of turn 7

The predator enters, this is a dangerous opponent with high armour value. Ruined buildings prevent a direct attack route and it is forced wide and after 3 movement actions it has none left to attack the crew. It’s the crew’s turn and Ali fires the grenade launcher and scores one wound. The Leader gives him an extra action to get into cover. Spassky with Steady hands and a Red Dot sight on his battle rifle fires at the predator. It takes 3 firing actions but the predator is downed. Spassky is stuck in the open.

Turn 7

The Zone event roll results in another Alpha predator arriving. Things are not good for Spassky. He takes the full force of the Zone emission, he’s pinned and wounded and it takes all his actions to recover. Nimzo gives him an action to go on alert. The rest of the team move round to deal with the Predator when it enters.

Turn 8

The zone event roll brings up another zone emission at the start of the next turn.

The Predator enters, Ali fires a grenade which causes one wound, whilst Nimzo causes another. Spassky lobs a smoke grenade at the Predator which has to take a will check. It rolls a 10. This is an automatic pin and the will failure adds another. It will take 2 actions to remove the pinned counter but the Predator will still be able to attack Spassky once when it emerges from the smoke.

It’s a straight roll off, Spassky has the knife man skill and is armed with a Trench knife. Both adversaries roll a hit. Spassky could use his roll to parry the attack from the Predator but he’s a Bounty Hunter. Both take a wound and the Predator is destroyed.

Ali makes it to the thicket which holds the POI they must search for. Sukova manages to search a second anomaly and  grab an artefact before ducking into cover. Nimzo orders Spassky to seek cover under farm machinery. Nimzo joins him there to apply a med kit.

Turn 9

The zone event for the next turn is another Alfa Predator

This turn, the effect of the zone emission is negated because all crew members are in cover. Nimzo and Spassky go on alert whilst Sukova searches a POI, which reveals a mutant.

The mutant spawns 4 inches away from the POI and is downed by Spassky. Sukova retrieves some ‘hotload’ ammo for the crew.

Meanwhile Ali’s search triggers a Zone Hazard  – cobwebs.

Ali avoids the effect of the Zone Hazard, collecting a sample and retrieves a Lithium battery, Med Kit and heavy weapons reload. He will need this for the grenade launcher next mission.

Nimzo gives Ali an extra action so he can go on alert and get in position to attack the Predator the next turn

Turn 10

The zone event for move 11 is another zone emission.

The Predator enters but the crew are ready. Ali fires a grenade causing one wound and Spassky finishes it off with two shoot actions, the extra damage from his AS Val battle rifle proving crucial. In their move, the crew race towards the final POI that needs to be searched to complete the mission. They duck into cover to avoid the effect of the emission. Ali moves slower as he is slowed down by the heavy weapon.

Turn 11

The zone event for move 12 is the arrival of a Spetsnaz zone patrol

The zone emission has no effect and the crew continue towards the final POI. Spassky searches the POI – Marsh gas, if he fails the will check, he will fire at the nearest crew member! He passes and collects a sample having an action to clear the board. The rest of the crew follow, Ali needs to take a swig of Electric Juice to give him the extra action before the Zone Patrol enters.

The incident packed game had taken just over 90 minutes, a bit longer to make commentary notes and photos. I really enjoyed the game which adds extra detail to the Zona Alfa ruleset. I’ve played this scenario 4 times now, each game was different and challenging. I’d recommend this game to all players- whether you are a regular player or a sceptic who felt the original game wasn’t for them.

Reflections

Zona Alfa and Kontraband are well supported by the author who has answered any queries or clarification promptly. The Facebook page is an excellent and supportive source for the game, no bitchy point scorers on this site which is refreshing compared to other wargaming Facebook pages I subscribe to.

 

What a (Grav)Tanker!

Marcus presents a Sci Fi rules adaption and game report…

Ever since I picked up “What a Tanker” (WAT) from Two Fat Lardies I have been thinking about a sci-fi adaptation. I have always felt something lacking in the various large-scale sci-fi sets I have played. Ground Zero’s Dirtside Two was the first, and is probably still my favourite, but none quite deliver what I want. This may have more to do with my personal tastes than any merit in the various rule sets I have tried.

I have been playing WAT with my children using sci-fi vehicles as my 15mm World War Two western desert tanks have languished un-painted for years. The boys really like this game and we have played it a few times with around three vehicles a side. The time now seemed right to try out my sci-fi ideas.

My inspirations for this version stem from two sources. Firstly, Jon Tuffley’s “Full Thrust” source book “More Thrust” which contains the first rules for the Sa’vasku aliens. From the first time I read them I was intrigued by these. They feature a simple system of power allocation based on a number of dice rolled for the size/power plant of these “living bio-ships”. Perhaps because my first exposure to Sci-Fi was “Star Trek”, the idea of switching power between the three core systems; attack, defence and movement resonates strongly with me.

Secondly, “Silent Death” a system for space fighter combat by Iron Crown Enterprises utilizes a system in which the same dice are read in different ways to determine hits and resolve damage.

I set up a very rough proof of concept game based on these “back of a postcard” ideas. One minor difference was to change the roles allocated to the dice in the WAT “hand”. I didn’t want 6 to be wild; rolls of multiple sixes would be increasingly powerful. I opted for the following:

        1. Wild
        2. Acquire target
        3. Aim
        4. Shoot
        5. Reload
        6. Move

For Sci-Fi games, I am not sure reload is the right option, but for the moment I left it in.

Vehicle stats:

For my previous games, I just chose the stats from particular WW2 and assigned them to Sci-Fi models. This time each vehicle would have a max level of power that could be used by each system with a +/- “free” bonus. The concept was that the bonus applied as soon as any power is allocated to that system. In fact, I somehow ended up playing it that the bonus applied only when the maximum allocation was applied. Special characteristics can also be added, but in this game, I only assigned one.

British:

Core Dice Max Attack Defence Movement
“Callisto” Gunboat 6 15 (+5 bonus) 8 6
Chieftain 5 13 (+2 bonus) 7 11
Ferret* 4 8 5 (-1) 15 (+3)

*Manoeuvrable. Doesn’t pay for turns

New Aryan Union (Sci-Fi Nazi’s):

Core Dice Max Attack Defence Movement
Pz. 37 “Wespe” 6 15 (+2 bonus) 10 (+2) 10

The British started with 3 Chieftains, 2 Ferrets and the Callisto.

The British forces, the Chieftains follow up Callisto flanked by the Ferrets.

The NAU with 2 sections of three Wespen.

The NAU Pz 37 Wespen

The notional objective for the British was to get the Callisto off the far river edge. The NAU needed to prevent this.

To decide activation order I used a set of dice, one for each vehicle on each side. All vehicles were marked with a coloured sticker which corresponded to a dice. Each side rolled its individually coloured dice to determine precedence. In the spirit of reading the same die in two different ways. I added up each sides dice. This determined initiative. In the case of any draw (e.g., vehicles on both sides rolling 6’s) the side with the initiative would move first (or defer, although I didn’t choose to use this option in the game)

As I was using a simplified system, the defence dice were considered energy shield which had the same effectiveness from any angle. I would probably develop this along the lines of Full Thrust and say that due to drive mechanics, the rear cannot be as effectively shielded, but not this time.

Vehicles were considered to be able to take up to half their core dice value in critical hits (6’s), although I didn’t give critical hits specific locations/effects this time in aid of simplicity. More than half the core value in critical hits destroys the vehicle. A hit of 5 would just reduce the current core dice level. 5’s could be repaired but not 6’s. In addition, any 6 rolled could “explode”. Each was re-rolled to see if a further 6 resulted. If so, a further roll would be required, and so on.

Firing within 6 hexes resulted in a close-range bonus of +1 to each die rolled.

The mat I used for this game was a present bought for me a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I haven’t previously used it as my table isn’t big enough. Today it was pressed (apologies that it wasn’t pressed beforehand, and you can see the fold lines. It was an impromptu game!) into service on my eldest son’s bedroom floor while he was at school. It is from Tiny Wargames. I hoped it would be a useful generic mat for air games either around the Pacific or Far East. I also had half an eye on games like this where I could use my gunboats.

A note on the models. They are a bit vintage. The Callisto is from GZG (slightly modified with a turret from Ral Partha which has again been converted from a single to dual cannon). The other vehicles are all from grav versions of miniatures from Scotia Micro Models sci-fi range. The Chieftains are Abrams 4000 (SF0022); Ferrets are Merkava 4000s (SF0031) with Bradley 4000 turrets (SF0049). The Wespen are Challenger 4000s (SF0028). The stands were home made many years ago. I usually use clear Lego or clear acrylic bases now.

A drone shot over the delta at the start of the game.

A drone shot over the delta at the start of the game. British forces on the left, NAU on the right.

And from the British perspective.

The British Ferrets leading the Chieftains and Callisto

Turn 1:

The NAU took the initiative and on their third activation “red” Wespe opened fire on the British orange Ferret achieving a 665, however, these were all blocked by defensive die rolls. Subsequently the “Callisto” opened fire on the white Pz37. A 66665 from 20 destroyed the target. However, the NAU hit back with the green Pz37 destroying the British blue Ferret.

Blue Ferret destroyed

NAU orange gets a 6555 on British red Chieftain, of which two are blocked leaving 2 hits. The NAU blue Wespe gets a very big roll of 30 (665544), but with no acquisition or aim dice it is not worth much except to power a solid defence. By contrast, British yellow Cheiftain rolls a 66111. With 3 wild dice, and a total of just 15 energy points, the Brit can post Att: 9 Def: 4 Move: 2. Those 9 dice yielded a 66665. Despite a defensive roll of what would normally be a respectable 6555, NAU blue loses 3 core dice.

At the end of turn one it’s about even. Only the Brits have lost a vehicle but also have one damaged, while NAU have two damaged.

Situation at the end of turn 1

Turn 2:

Early on neither NAU orange Wespe nor the “Callisto” make significant actions despite big rolls. British green Cheiftain then gets four hits on the red Pz37 with a 6655, but these are all blocked. This then launches a fierce attack on the British red Chieftain with a 6665. The Chieftain can’t block any and explodes into an incandescent ball of gas. Neither NAU green nor yellow can engage a target, but the little orange Ferret moves within 6 hexes of a target to get a bonus of +1 per dice and 6655 for 4 hits, but these are all blocked! The yellow Chieftain inflicts 2 hits on the yellow Pz37 to wrap up the turn, although NAU blue Wespe manages to repair a core die at the end.

The turn ends with another loss for the Brits; now down to a Ferret and 2 Chieftains plus the “Callisto”. The NAU have taken damage though, but it isn’t enough when some of that is being repaired. It’s not over yet though.

Situation at the end of turn 2

Turn 3:

The green Wespe is blocked from targeting the British yellow Chieftain and turns on the orange Ferret: A roll of 555211 gives two wilds allowing an acquisition, aim and shot. With an attack of 17 (max dice of 15 plus 2) the NAU gunner gets a statistic busting 66666555. The target can only block a 6/5. BOOM! Another Brit gone. NAU Wespe blue now acquires and aims at the “Callisto”, but can’t open fire. It is a similar story for The British green Cheiftain. NAU red inflicts a 66555 on the British yellow Chieftain. It blocks 2 hits but leaves the 2 crits and another hit!

British Yellow Chieftain takes damage

“Callisto” now gets to respond with a 665421. The wild is used as a 3 to aim with a shot of a maximum 20 dice (15 max allocation +5 bonus; it’s a twin turret!)  But the 666555 are all blocked by the maximum 12 defensive dice.

As the turn ends there is finally something to cheer for the Brits. Yellow Cheiftain, already having an acquisition and aim on his NAU opposite, adds an additional aim for a bonus. A 15 dice attack results in an astonishing 666666 5555. 6 defensive dice just aren’t going to be enough…BOOM!

NAU Yellow Wespe brews up

Turn 4:

Despite the earth-shaking destruction of NAU yellow Wespe, things are slowly deteriorating for the Brits.  As turn four begins NAU orange, having previously acquired the Brit yellow Chieftain rolled a hand of 533311. Using both wild dice as 4’s allowed a shoot, reload, shoot action. Amazingly, of the 20 dice rolled resulting in 6666 5555, only one 5 wasn’t blocked for one damage on the Brit. And now Callisto responded in kind. Having previously acquired the orange aggressor a 655443 allowed another double shot, but this time at 20 each. Of the 66 5555555 resulting hits, only two were blocked for another titanic explosion!

For a moment it seemed like the Brits could claw their way back into the fight as NAU greens attack on the Callisto is blocked and red can’t get a shot. However, NAU blue rolls up a 543221. This means that blue can acquire, aim, shoot, reload and shoot again with the wild die as an additional 4. Two crashing volleys later, although the Callisto blocked 7 hits, 2 criticals and another hit landed.

Turn 5:

With the Callisto damaged and the initiative never having left the NAU, the red Wespe weighed in with a 655443, and having already acquired and aimed last turn the inevitable double shot resounded across the turgid green waters. Callisto was able to block the only two hits from the first volley and generate a repair, but hope turned to despair for the Brits when the second round of fire resulted in 666 5555. Could Callisto’s 8 defence dice hold up? BOOM! That would be a no.

Callisto is hit and destroyed.

I think that was a very interesting and quite exciting test of the basic mechanics of this variation on the Lardy rules. There are some things I might like to add; Range attenuation for the powerguns. I was thinking maybe reducing the power by one for each increment of range beyond the power level (i.e., Attack power 17. At 18 range the power would reduce by 1. At 19 by 2.) Also, WAT has some cards which are awarded for on table success. I didn’t use them this time but this feature could be used to add sci-fi flavour. Finally, Full Thrust utilises a capacitor where some power, probably equivalent to core dice level, can be held over to the next turn.

I remain unsure about the reload option, but less so. It worked quite well in the game, and I saw it each attack not as a single shot, but as a volley, which would fit in with automatic reloads. So, the reload is less actually reloading than preparation to fire another fusillade.

The three surviving NAU Pz 37 Wespen

As I failed to clearly define in my own mind whether vehicles could take half their core dice value or need to take more than half, this was an error on my part that impacted on the game. Deciding at the point in turn 1 where the NAU blue took 3 hits that it would survive (that hits should exceed half the core dice level) weighed significantly in the NAU’s favour.

The game came in around the three-hour mark, but then I was having to work it out as I went along and write it up, while moving about on the floor instead of a table. Overall, I was very pleased with how this variation on the rules worked. Maybe another test soon. Hopefully on a table…

Richie Pays a visit

John reports on A Border Reiver Skirmish using En Garde Rules…

Introduction

I’d always been interested in this period since before I started wargaming. Picking up  George MacDonald Fraser’s book ‘The Steel Bonnets’ fired my enthusiasm , I started with modified Redoubt figures and scratch built some buildings and it became a club game for 2002. I sold off figures and buildings to purchase a collection of Outpost figures which promptly gathered dust. The advent of Osprey En Garde rules and finding I have links to two Border Reiver families sparked the flame again.

The Border Reivers occupy a unique position in British history. Before the Union of England and Scotland, the area between the nations was effectively a buffer state with it’s own set of rules. Over population and depredations from either nation took its toll. Cattle rustling, kidnap and blackmail ( in its original sense a protection racket) became commonplace. Fortified buildings, the simplest being a two storey Bastle house, of which there are more than 900, provided some shelter from Reivers who became very skilled in their craft and earned them the reputation of being the finest light horsemen in Europe.

En Garde is an Osprey blue book set of rules for small scale swashbuckling skirmish games for about 20 figures maximum. Each figure has a stat line which provides its rank which can range from peasant to Headman. The higher the rank, the more capable the figure. Each figure has a combat pool (cp) for hand to hand combat. When this takes place, the figure is allocated a number of chits for either attack or defence, which allow the figure to use ploys such as riposte and feint to give a sword fight feel. The higher the cp value, the more attack or defence options for the figure. Each figure has an initiative value which is a dice roll modifier to determine which gets the first hit in. Fight and Shoot stats give modifiers to the attack and AR is an armour protection value. Finally, higher ranked figures can add attributes for example beguiling means that an opponent is less likely to attack the figure, afraid of the consequences. All these features allow the player to develop the character of a figure. A bit like role playing.

The Game

Set up

This scenario is set in the late 16th century Border between Scotland and England about 8 miles east of Carlisle. Richie Graham of Brackenhill (Brackenhill Tower still stands and is a successful self-catering holiday retreat) runs a successful blackmail business. The Bells of Gilsland have failed to make payment and Richie and the blackmailers decide to teach them a lesson. Richie sits in the top three all-time Border bad guys and he’s accompanied by Thomas ‘The Merchant’ Hetherington (possible distant relative of the author) who collected blackmail payments on his behalf.

Forces

 

Terrain

Bastle house with Barnkin wall containing cattle in the centre of a 3’ square board. One boulder close to the bastle, two patches of Heather in the corners and a Long house with fencing containing sheep.

Time and Weather

Weather – a 6 is rolled which is wind and rain. Line of sight reduced to 24” and all shooting has a -1 modifier

Time of day – a 3 is rolled which is dusk. Line of sight reduced to 18”

Typical conditions for a border raid!

The Bell reivers, Willie Red Cloak’s wife and young son (both classed as peasant) are in the Bastle. Two peasants are in the Long House

Move 1

The Bells win initiative and Jamie fires through the window at the leading Graham. He rolls 4 and 2. +1 for skill, – 1 for weather, – 1 >12” away. Gives a score of 5. He needs more than 6 to cause a wound so it’s a fail. Willie runs to take cover behind the Barnkin wall. There is not enough room for all the gang so Richie does an ordered run into the cover provided by the heather.

Move 2

The Bells win initiative. Jamie concentrates his aim on the Barnkin gate. Bell’s son is sent to light the warning beacon beside the bastle. Richie orders a group move and the Grahams run around the Barnkin wall.

Move 3

The Grahams win the initiative and continue to run around the Barnkin wall. As they pass the gate, Jamie Bell fires at Wat. He rolls a 9 +1 for aimed shot, +1 for skill – 1 for weather -1 for the gate – 2 for distance gives a score of 7 A hit is scored but the armour saves Wat.

Move 4

The son is in serious danger but the Bells win the initiative. The boy gets back inside the Bastle and the drawbar is slammed shut behind the door. The Grahams prepare “Fire to the Door”. They are going to smoke out the Bells, this tactic was known as “scum fishing”.

Move 5

The Bells win initiative and a group move is ordered for the armed Bells to descend the ladder into the Barnkin and take on the Grahams directly. This is overheard by the Grahams and a group move is ordered to the gate with Jock of the Peartree (crack shot) in the lead. He waits by the gate looking for a target. Thomas (The Merchant Hetherington) waits by the ground floor door to make sure the smoke builds up. Screams from inside the Bastle alert the two peasants in the long house who move, just out of view towards Thomas.

Move 6

The Bells win initiative and move towards the Barnkin gate. Its slippery, the cows are in the way so only a short move is possible. Jock of the Peartree fires his latch and rolls a double 1! The latch bolt is stuck and Jock will have to spend a move clearing the latch to fire again. Wat attempts to climb over the wall but fails his dexterity roll and falls, grazing his shins.

Move 7

The Grahams win initiative. Archie fires at Davy. He rolls 6 and 6  = 12 – 1 for weather = 11 – 6 = 5 a hit has been scored. Davy’s armour is 1 plus 1 for the shield = 2. Final wound score = 3. A light wound. Willie Bell opens the gate and moves into combat with Wat.  Willie’s combat pool is DDDA (where D is defence, A is attack) in Case Richie attacks. He rolls 8 + 4 for his fight ability = 12. Wat defends his combat pool is DD. He rolls 6 + 2 for his fight ability. A wound is caused to Wat but his armour saves 2 and it’s a light wound. Richie attacks Willie with a combat pool of ADDD He rolls 10 + 4 fight ability gives a total score of 14. Willie rolls a 5 from 2 dice attempting a parry and using one of his remaining defence chits,  +4 for fight ability = 9. A difference of 5. Willie has an armour of 3 giving a wound score of 2 a light wound. There are no more attack chits available so combat ends for the turn.

Move 8

The Grahams win initiative. Jock fires at Davy. He rolls 11 + 2 for sharpshooter -1 for weather -6 = 6. A wound has been caused. Davy has an armour of 2 which gives a final score of 4 a Grievous wound. When this is combined with the light wound he is killed. Because Willie has a light wound, Richie has the initiative and launches an attack and goes for the subdue option. If he can kidnap Willie Bell, He could get a ransom and the outstanding blackmail payments. Willie uses his Weapon Master attribute to attempt a riposte.

On two dice Richie rolls 7, not great. Willie only rolls 1, a difference of 6. Willie already has a light wound so his combat factor is reduced to 3 a difference of 7. A subdue attack is a -1 modifier and Willies armour is 3. A final score of 3 another light wound. Two light wounds become one grievous wound and Willie is subdued.

It looks grim for the Bells now. Ritchie has his dagger at Willie’s throat and a retreat would be covered by the two latchmen. Meanwhile at the Bastle door, Thomas the Merchant is fighting off the two farm hands. His combat pool is ADD He attacks one of the farm hands whose combat pool is D. He rolls 8 with two dice plus a combat factor of 3 = 11. The Farmhand rolls 10 with two dice but with no armour, a hit is scored. The farmhand is stunned. The second farmhand attacks He rolls 5 from two dice but Thomas only manages 2 from two dice. His fight skill of 3 saves the day and as there are no attack chits left combat ends for the turn.

The Bells now need to take a morale test they need to roll under 7 on a modified roll of two dice. They roll 3 and pass.

Move 9

The initiative roll is tied but the Grahams have a higher initiative leader now so win the initiative. Thomas goes on the offensive with AAA in his combat pool against the farmhands. He attacks the unwounded farmhand and rolls 11 The Farmhand Combat pool D rolls 4 from two dice and dies. Thomas then attacks the remaining farmhand who is already wounded. Thomas rolls 5 + 3 for fight = 8. The farmhand rolls 6 – 1 fight value for already wounded. It’s a second light wound and this now becomes grievous.

It’s all over and the Grahams win the day. It’s going to be a long hard winter for the Bells!

We’ve played a few games at the club and it’s a game I’m keen to bring back once we are allowed to meet again. I’m keen to run a mini campaign involving two feuding families a group of outlaws known as ‘Mad Meg’s Bairns’ and the Hebburn garrison (complete with sleuth hounds).

The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross – 3rd Feb 1461

Stephen has fought another battle in the War of the Roses campaign…

So this is the next one in my Wars of the Roses battles.

Like all the others, the intent is that anyone should be able to game it. This was played on a 3’x2’ table using Basic Impetus.

This battle was the famous one where the atmospheric phenomenon known as a parhelion was witnessed and was interpreted by Edward of York as the Holy Trinity and was, therefore, an omen for victory. In recognition of this he took the Sun In Splendour as his personal emblem.

But a victory for who?

Order of Battle

From a gaming point of view there is one important thing to take into account – the Yorkists deployed some of their archers and cavalry hidden in the woods on the Lancastrian left. I decided that the Lancastrians could not move against these hidden troops unless they either moved or shot their arrows to revel their presence.

The battlefield itself is a rather simple affair. The river Lugg on the east border, and a ridge and woodland on the west. Other than that, it’s all open – these two terrain features dictated the deployment of troops.

Deployment

How did it go then?

Historically, the Yorkist ambush opened the battle. This had the desired effect on the Lancastrian line. Although the Lancastrians had a slight numerical superiority the Yorkist ambush did the trick and Edward of York sealed the victory.

This is how my re-fight went.

The key was obviously going to be when to spring the ambush. Since both sides were up for a fight there was no postponement of initiative rolls like in previous games – initiative was rolled for from the start. This can frequently mean that one side gets a double go – last to move in one turn and then first to move in the next turn. Would this affect the ambush?

Yes, it would.

Edward leads his knights

The Yorkist plan was to let the Lancastrian knights advance past the hidden cavalry and then be peppered by the archers and Edward of York leading his knights in a charge on the weakened cavalry. Meanwhile, the hidden cavalry would rush out and slam into the Lancastrian infantry line. At least, that was the plan.

The ambush is finally sprung

Sure enough, forward went the Lancastrian knights. This put them in range of a bow attack from the archers and a follow up charge by the cavalry. This was tempting and would probably rout them. But if things went the Yorkist way (i.e. they won initiative next turn) they could then have their cake and eat it and their plan would go the way they wanted. Had Edward of York’s omen of the parhelion been true – was it a blessing from the Holy Trinity?

Well, if it was, it wasn’t just yet. The Lancastrians took the initiative which meant the Lancastrian knights not only galloped past the archers but they also managed to take the charge into the Yorkist knights (who were being led by Edward).

The knights clash

Meanwhile the rest of the Lancastrian line trudged forward. The Yorkists, kicking their heels at missing out, nevertheless managed to spring part of their ambush and the cavalry charged into the Lancastrian billmen.

Over on the Lancastrian right flank, where they had their currours and hobilars, they decided to spur their cavalry and take the charge to the Yorkist longbows. Otherwise they’d just find themselves turning into pin cushions.

The currours advance

Although the Lancastrian knights had cleared the ambush they were still far from safe. Their charge had taken them past the York battle line, and into the Yorkist knights. They needed to pull this off or they would be in a dire situation. And pull it off they did – they pushed Edward and his knights back and followed up with a pursuit.

The two infantry lines had started sending arrows over at each other, but these long shots had little effect. However, as they closed, casualties started mounting, particularly amongst the Lancastrians. Despite the less than auspicious ambush, it could be the day would still go the Yorkist way.

The centre battleline

The Lancastrian levies took firm hold of their spears and went for the Yorkist archers who had despatched the currours. They dropped their bows and took up hatchets and swords and, supported by billmen, gave melee. The result was indecisive – all units suffered hits and stayed locked in combat.

Over in the ambush area things were starting to get dirty. The Lancastrian billmen had stood firm against the cavalry and routed them! But that wasn’t all. The struggle between the Yorkist and Lancastrian knights also came to a conclusion – the Lancastrian knights had won the fight and not only routed the Yorkist knights but had also killed Edward as well!

So much for the Holy Trinity!

Edward is gone

This still wasn’t the end for York, far from it. On the eastern flank, by the banks of the Lugg, the Yorkist infantry had routed the Lancastrian levies. In the middle it was still a mix – the two lines had yet to come to blows, preferring to exchange bowfire. This had affected both sides with no absolute winner.

In go the levies

In the west, by the woods, the ambush had come to nothing. The cavalry had been beaten, the Lancastrian knights had slipped through and killed Edward of York, and it just left the archers, feeling all alone and surrounded.

It wouldn’t go on for much longer. The Yorkist archers inevitably fell. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Enough was enough, and the army of York had reached its break point. Victory would go to Lancaster!

Not looking good for the archers

It had been a slight victory. Had the Lancastrians lost one more unit it would have been a York victory.

The undoing had been the poorly executed ambush. It had been a gamble on whether to wait for ideal conditions, and a gamble that didn’t pay off. It didn’t help that dice rolls had been poor all game, poor for both sides, meaning that fights drew on. Any winners in combat had generally taken such a pummelling that though they may have won they had also been left spent.

Next up is a return to St Albans…

Frostgrave: Dark Alchemy campaign

Stephen recounts a solo adventure, using some of his recent terrain builds.

I’ve always liked Frostgrave.

It is a very terrain intensive game and, if you go with the game setting, very game-specific terrain at that.

So I decided that I wouldn’t use the Felstad setting, preferring to make use of miniatures and terrain I already have to get some extra mileage out of them.

That means I use models and buildings from my large dark age/early medieval collection. So let’s call it ‘Darkgrave’, shall we?

For lockdown Osprey offered the Dark Alchemy campaign as a free download. (Ed: available as a pdf or e-book for £1.49 from Osprey at date of posting).

So this weekend I finally got around to playing it.

Dark Alchemy is a 3-scenario campaign based around a raid on a large alchemical factory. Or, in my Darkgrave setting, a raid on the ruins of a large alchemical commune.

The burning ruins

My warband is led by a druid (Witch, under Frostgrave options) called Rollo Magwitch and his apprentice, Eadberht Blackthorn.

I played the first two scenarios but forgot to take any pictures. Suffice to say that after a bit of plunder the group had grown familiar with each other, and identify any short comings. They’d made enough to pay the landlord of the Puking Pig Inn for permanent rooms as their home base.

So what follows is a report on the last of the campaign scenarios – The Spreading Flame, where they have to escape the ruins before they go up in flames!

A golden chalice up for grabs

The board was set up with ruins and undergrowth. Then the treasure tokens were placed. Then three fire tokens were placed, and then four fire-flingers – constructs that can move around shooting flames at interlopers. The warband has 10 rounds to collect as much treasure as possible and get off the board. After 10 rounds the place explodes in fire with anyone left onboard having to make a casualty roll.

For this scenario you are only allowed to take four warband members. I chose Rollo Magwitch, who teamed up Wilfred (a fyrd man), and then Edward (a slightly wealthier thane with great axe) teamed with Alfred (an archer) – meaning that each pair had a melee fighter and missile/spell user.

Edward and Alfred skirted around a ruined chapel where ahead they could see the glint of gold. However, they could also see the flickering of flames, so Alfred notched an arrow and let fly into a fire-flinger. Edward chose to duck into the ruins, hoping this would make it difficult for the fire-flinger – two targets instead of one – and maybe a chance to get around the side to either destroy the construct or make a nab for the treasure.

Rollo and Wilfred sneak up

Rollo and Wilfred had made their way around the other side of the same ruined chapel. In front of them were the ruins of a large building, possibly a chapter house or something. Same thing – gold (a chalice) could be seen, but so could a fire-flinger. Trying the same tactics as Alfred and Edward, Rollo decided to see if he could hit the fire-flinger from distance by casting a Bone Dart spell. The spell didn’t go off, so Wilfred stepped forward to block the fire-flinger in case it moved up.

Edward gets ready for a fight

Alfred let off another arrow, scoring a hit, but doing little damage. Edward continued through the building, but had miscalculated how far away he was and found himself struck by a lick of flame from the fire-flinger. If he stayed where he was it would come to no good, so he pulled out his axe and charged into the construct.

The fire-flinger didn’t last long.

Rollo also had another go with his Bone Dart spell. This time he was more successful and a flurry of small shards of bone spewed from his hand and riddled the fire-flinger. A good hit, but not good enough. Wilfred then went forward, hoping that the damaged construct could easily be dispatched. Not so – the fire-flinger gave him a good burning!

Wilfred engages a fire flinger with Rollo giving support

Having destroyed the first fire-flinger, Edward then moved forward to grab the treasure, but lo and behold, another fire-flinger had come up. The blade of his axe had warmed up nicely now, and so emboldened he decided not to wait for Alfred’s bow fire and just waded in. This wouldn’t go so well – it didn’t take long for Edward to fall under the searing lashings of the fire-flinger and burnt and smouldering, down he went.

Down goes Edward

It is hard to say whether Rollo then showed wisdom or, perhaps, opportunism. With Wilfred engaged with the fire-flinger, this left the treasure – a large gold cross – free. Rollo cast his Leap spell, bounded the ruined walls, and grabbed the cross! As Wilfred continued his fight with the fire-flinger (a fight he would go on to win), Rollo (holding the treasure firmly) fled the ruins to safety.

Rollo loots the altar cross

Alfred, having seen Edward go down, drew his arrows and proceeded to pepper the second fire-flinger with arrows. When that did for the construct, he ran forward to see what state Edward was in. There was no movement. Time was of the essence. Maybe now Edward’s soul resided with God. The only honour he could was grab the treasure and make off with it, to make Edward’s sacrifice mean something (well, that’s what he would later claim).

Alfred runs to Edward’s rescue

Now it left Wilfred all on his own, with time ticking down. There were no fire-flingers around that he could see, so he was left with a dilemma – leave now and be safe, or go further into the ruins and see what he could find.

Curiosity got the better of him.

Forward he went, where he could see a gold chalice lying in the rubble of the ruins. Unfortunately, this also drew the attention of another fire flinger. If he was quick, though, he should be able to make it to the treasure and be off before the fire-flinger got near him. There would be no room for mistakes though.

And fortunately for Wilfred no mistakes were made. He got the treasure and then sped off after Rollo, with the fire-flinger’s flames shooting out after him.

Wilfred makes off with the chalice pursued by flames

Game over.

Edward would count as still being in the ruins on turn 10, meaning that he would have to make a roll to see what happens – would he be killed or would he survive? I’m pleased to say he lived to tell the tale, but he had been badly wounded by the flames, and would have to miss a game, holed up in bed in the Puking Pig Inn until he had recovered (in game terms – he has to miss a game).

Rollo is now a level 7 witch (that may sound impressive, but levels are easy to gain in Frostgrave and you get small increases with each level. Level 7 is still very low in game terms). With the money he’s made he has managed to recruit a huscarl: Godwin. This should provide some good back bone to the warband.

The Battle of Northampton – 10th July 1460

Stephen continues his refight of the War of the Roses…

This one was never going to go well for the Lancastrians.

This is the third battle in my plan to re-fight all major encounters of the War of the Roses. Like previous games I am using the Basic Impetus rules. There were a couple of important aspects to this battle that had to be reflected if it were to be a faithful re-fight.

Firstly, due to the rain (typical British summer) the Lancastrian artillery could not fire due to wet powder. They were in the line but totally ineffective. That was easily dealt with.

The Lancastrian Battle Line

The second, and most important thing, was Lord Grey’s betrayal of King Henry. As Warwick and the Yorkist army marched north they entered into secret talks with Grey and promised they would not harm him in return for his help. What happened in the actual battle was that the Earl of March (on the Yorkist left flank) advanced against Grey (on the Lancastrian right). As March’s retinue crossed the ditch and bank Grey’s men gave way and allowed them to roll up the Lancastrian line and capture King Henry.

This would have to be reflected. I was in two minds about how to deal with this. It didn’t help that this would be a solo game so I could hardly spring a surprise on myself. In the end, I decided that if March’s troops neither fired nor attacked Grey’s troops then Grey would give way when contacted (effectively counting as loses against the Lancastrian army). This, of course, would have a major impact on the Lancastrian army, but then that’s exactly what it had in reality!

Order of Battle

OK, so let’s get on with the battle.

The Lancastrian army had ensconced themselves in a bend in the river Nene on the opposite bank from Northampton. They had put a ditch and defences in front of their position. King Henry VI was with them but the army was led by the Duke of Buckingham.

The Yorkist forces were led by the Earl of Warwick with Lord Fauconberg on the right and the Earl of March on the left. With Warwick’s skullduggery and plotting with Grey, the advance of the Yorkist forces was led by March.

Armies Deployed

Like the previous two battles, this was little more than an attack on a prepared position. Therefore, I gave the Yorkists the initiative until things got within bow range.

The last thing the Lancastrians wanted was poor dice rolling. Being in a stationary position meant their fire should be more effective. But no. The God of Battles (the dice) were against them. Warwick’s troops in the centre got within bow range of the artillery and they soon sent the gunners packing.

Warwick Urges His Men Forward

March’s men started moving up. Now, it may seem like it would be a done deal – why would I engage the Lancastrian line with March’s men? However, I did decide that if the Lancastrians gave a good account and their bowfire proved effective, and the Yorkist looked like they would take a beating, that this would prove enough motivation for Grey to reconsider and then engage March’s troops. However, the poor rolls by the Lancastrians made that look unlikely.

Fauconberg also started exchanging bowfire with the Earl of Shrewsbury.

A couple more turns, and it still wasn’t looking good for Buckingham and his men. In truth, neither side was rolling that well for their archers, but the Yorkists had the edge. March’s men carried on with their advance, still holding back from loosing their arrows.

The First Casualties

Buckingham moved up his plate armoured men at arms and his billmen, hoping the Yorkists would have the decency to engage in melee rather then sit back and keep shooting.

March’s Troops Contact Grey’s

Finally, March’s men started clambering over the Lancastrian defences. No casualties had been caused to Grey’s men and so Grey dutifully pulled back and allowed March into the Lancastrian defences!

Across The Line They Go

It was now only a matter of time. It wasn’t a case of if the Lancastrians would lose but how much damage they could cause the Yorkists before they did.

March Engages Buckingham

Buckingham swung his billmen around to try and put something in the way of March’s assault. However, the levy spearmen in March’s retinue got stuck in and charged the Lancastrian archers. After a brief melee the archers fell to the spearmen.

And that was that!

The Battle Is Over

A Yorkist win. It had been a convincing win at that – Warwick’s troops hadn’t taken a single casualty. Exactly how it happened historically. The real battle lasted less than an hour and my re-fight took only a bit longer.

Next up then, is the battle of Wakefield. Unfortunately I will have to bypass that one – Wakefield was a large cavalry engagement and I don’t have anywhere near enough cavalry bases. Shame, because the castle would make a great backdrop to the battle. This one would make a good club game when we can get back together.

Therefore, I’ll move on to Mortimer’s Cross…

Nature vs the Resurrected

Andy reports on a game of Dragon Rampant organised by Jeremey to follow our AGM, played in an MS Teams meeting. With observations and comments from Stephen and Jeremey.

Jeremey organised the forces and set the terrain, and arranged 3 different cameras to show the battlefield. Having to provide both armies allowed him to use his Celtos undead army and his completely scratch built Rock and Wood army.

One of the camera views captured by Andy

The combatants were Stephen, with Mother Nature’s Finest lead by a Rock Lord; and Andy, with the Army of Darkness commanded by a Necromancer. Both sides totalled 35 points.

Mother Nature’s Finest

      • The Rock Lord: Greater Warbeasts, Cunning, Mystical Armour. (10 pts)
      • Rock Trolls: Lesser Warbeasts.(4 Pts)
      • Mini Ents: Lesser Warbeasts, Cunning. (6 pts)
      • Light Rockmen: Light Foot (3pts)
      • 2 x Heavy Rockmen: Heavy Foot, Offensive. (6 points each)

Army of Darkness

      • The Necromancer: Elite Foot, Spellcaster (10 pts)
      • Skeleton Scythes: Elite Foot, Undead/No Feelings (6 pts)
      • Zombies: Ravenous Horde, Undead/No Feelings (1 pt)
      • Skeleton Sickles: Light Foot, Offensive, Undead/No Feelings (5 pts)
      • Skeleton Spearmen: Light Foot, Undead/No Feelings (3 pts)
      • Wraiths: Bellicose Foot, Fear, Undead/No Feelings (6 pts)
      • Flesh Eaters: Bellicose Foot. (4 pts)

We decided that Jeremey would roll unit activation and courage tests, but that the generals would roll their attack and defence dice (Jeremey – we also decided that Andy and Steven were not allowed to moan about my dice rolling!). (Andy – Oh no we didn’t!)

Once the Armies were deployed the two Generals rolled for their Traits. Stephen’s 3D6 scored 13, lucky for him, this gave a result of Boneshaker, allowing him to automatically pass one Attack order per turn. Andy (or should I say Jeremey rolling on Andy’s behalf!) only scored 5, making his Necromancer Cowardly, no Attack orders for him. Well, there’s a certain narrative logic there.

After rolling for first turn Andy ordered his unit of Flesh Eaters (on the left flank) to advance to outflank Stephen’s Heavy Rockmen, needing a 5 or more on 2D6. It was not to be, sadly Jeremey rolled low and the Flesh Eater went nowhere. End of Andy’s first turn.

On Stephen’s turn all his movement activation rolls were successful (thanks Jeremey) and he advanced on a broad front.

The Skeleton Sicklemen occupy the hill

On Andy’s next turn he managed to advance a unit of Skeleton Sicklemen on the right flank to occupy a hill in front of Stephen’s Rock Trolls, but then failed the next activation. Back to Stephen.

Bonsai charge into the Zombies

Stephen’s Mini Ents (otherwise known as ‘Bonsais’) were now within movement range of Andy’s Zombies and were required to take a Wild Charge test, which they passed, so steamed in to the Zombies killing (?) 8 of the 12. The Zombies promptly failed their Courage test despite the proximity of the Necromancer, scoring less than 1, so they promptly routed of the board. Ta Jeremey.

The Wraiths counter attack and devestate the Bonsai

On Andy’s next turn the Mini Ents were now within Andy’s Wraiths move distance and following a Wild Charge Test the Wraiths went in, turning two Ents into kindling and causing the Ents to also catastrophically fail their courage test. One unit down on each side.

A wild charge sees the Rock Trolls hoping to take the top of the hill

On Stephen’s next turn his Rock Trolls were now within move distance of Andy’s Skeleton Sicklemen occupying the hill, they were obliged to take a Wild Charge test, which they passed and went in. One casualty on each side, both passed their courage tests and had taken equal losses, so the Rock Trolls bounced back leaving the Sicklemen controlling the hill. This would be replayed a couple of times, with the Rock Trolls throwing themselves at the Sicklemen and bouncing back until eventually they forced the Sicklemen back off the hill. The Rock Trolls followed up and eventually both sides had taken enough casualties for both to fail their courage tests and rout.

Heavy Rockmen infantry charge the Skeleton Spears

On the opposite flank, Stephen had advanced his Rock Lord to within Andy’s Flesh Eater’s move distance so they also had to take a Wild Charge test, which they failed and stayed rooted to the spot. Andy did manage to get his Skeleton Spearmen to form up in Shieldwall, expecting to be charged by the Rock Lord.

One of Stephen’s Heavy Rockmen (AC/DC or Van Halen?) units then charged Andy’s Skeleton Spearmen, who managed to beat them back. Andy then charged his Wraiths into the Heavy Rockmen causing a few casualties on each side, but both passed their courage tests.

The Wraiths and Rockmen exchange blows

Stephen then sent the Heavy Rockmen back into the Wraiths, this time both units failed their courage tests and routed from the table.

The Rock Lord charges the Flesh Eaters

The Rock Lord finally charged into the Flesh Eaters, causing enough casualties for them to fail their Courage test and flee the field.

As the battle drew to a conclusion Andy only had his Necromancer on the table, whereas Stephen has both his Rock Lord and Light Rockmen (Heart and Bon Jovi fans).

The Necromancers fate is sealed

Totalling up the losses, and comparing successful Quests, gave a Stephen a total of 10 Glory, and Andy -2 Glory as none of his Quests were achieved. A decisive victory to the forces of Nature.

The Necromancer will skulk back to his lair and set about reanimating another army.

The view from the other side of the hill (or Stephen’s viewpoint):

The final Glory totals don’t reflect how close the game was – for most of the game it looked like Andy the Necromancer would win. I often had to use my units in pairs, sending in one unit to soften the enemy up and then sending in another to finish things off. Both Andy and myself were cursed with Jeremey’s bloody woeful dice rolling for Courage tests (Jeremey – we agreed not to moan about my dice rolling) (Andy – No we didn’t). Andy was also beleaguered with poor Activation rolls at the start, which allowed me to advance on him and put him on the defensive (he seemed to spend most of his time forming Wall of Spears – probably needed to increase the armour of his skeletons).

Playing via Teams worked OK. There’s always going to be compromises – some of them could be seen as fog of war. The fact that Dragon Rampant is a simple game and we all knew the rules helped. Ultimately, it was a good opportunity to play soldiers with friends, no matter what the results were.

Jeremey – for this game I deliberately picked a ruleset we knew, went for a small battlefield and only one unit had any ranged attacks. This was all to allow the game to flow with the players only able to see the battlefield from the camera views.