Thursday, April 30, 2015

Problematic Political Games

Game designer Brian Train is a guy I have a lot of time for.  I’ve mentioned his epic board game on the contemporary war in Afghanistan, A Distant Plain (ADP), here previously.    Another of his titles, Fire in the Lake, on Vietnam, is on my shelf waiting for a chance to get into it.  Both titles were designed by Train and Volko Ruhnke, and the two bring a ton of real-world and gaming knowledge and experience to the table.

On his blog recently, Train points to an article in the UK newspaper The Guardian which includes ADP within the subject of political games.  Unfortunately the article gives about as much coverage to a complicated subject as one could expect from a mainstream media piece - too little.  The Guardian reporter, Matt Thrower, has an angle he wants to take on the subject, and it’s clear from his first paragraph, where he talks about playing a terrorist faction in another Ruhnke title, Labyrinth, the War on Terror (GMT 2010).  Thrower describes playing a card, “Martyrdom Operation”, and then realizing that the card’s “clinical euphemism” simulated the killing of “dozens of innocent people.  I felt so sick I had to walk away.  A physical reaction from a mind game”.  

It doesn’t help that the article begins with a stock photo of a game of Risk and a caption describing Risk as a game that “gives players a chance to affect world politics”.   The article goes on to shoehorn in another “game” designer, Brenda Romero, whose “Train”, about the logistics of transporting people to Auschwitz, is to my mind more a piece of performance art than it is a conflict simulation.  As Brian Train notes in his post, the Guardian article shows the limits of media in a soundbite culture, where the focus (and I find this especially maddening listening to radio interviews by BBC journalists especially) is on the reporter’s own gut reactions to something.

Interestingly, Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies posts some related observations on his blog after debuting his new Afghan miniatures rules, Fighting Season, at Salute.  As Clarke notes, one punter felt that Afghanistan was not a suitable subject for wargaming, whereas a senior British Army officer felt that the rules would be useful for training platoon leaders.   “Square that circle if you can”, Clarke says.  I recommend Clarke’s post as a thoughtful defence of why someone might want to game this aspect of modern warfare.   

Personally I find the idea absurd that gaming modern warfare is any more ethically questionable than gaming wars of past centuries.  I don’t see how simulating a roadside IED going off is any more horrific than simulating the effects of canister on formed infantry.   If the argument is that gaming modern warfare might offend living veterans (and I have yet to hear of a veteran being offended by an Afghan game), I think it’s odd that we don’t mind simulating the experience of dead veterans.  We don’t worry about the sensibilities of Roman legionnaires, since they aren’t around to register their offence.   It seems more than a little hypocritical to me.  For my own tastes, I would rather play Train’s A Distant Plain, since I find it has more to teach me about contemporary warfare than a skirmish game like Fighting Season where ISAF is dodging RPGs and hunting insurgents.   The former is interesting to me, the latter, not so much, but that’s just my mental wiring.   Horses for courses and all that.  For folks who want to play games like FS or Skirmish Sangin, like my friend Rabbitman, more power to their arms as long as they do it thoughtfully.

It seems to me that as war gamers, whatever the medium of gaming we favour, we have an opportunity to go deeper into our subjects and think about them from a variety of levels - tactics, strategy, history, politics, ethics.   All of those learning opportunities are there if we want to pursue them.  It’s a pity that the Guardian article missed this complexity.


Monday, April 27, 2015

A Kind Gift of Nasty Orcses

Chris Stoesen is a good chap.    He’s a talented historian and scenario designer, runs an eclectic and interesting blog. and a budding author.  He’s also a kind fellow.   A while ago I did Chris a very small favour, and he mentioned that he’d send me some surplus GW Lord of the Rings figures, since unlike me, Chris has wisely decided to limit himself to certain periods and scales.   I was expecting a sprue in the mail, and was quite surprised to get a box full of plastic goodness.

Some men of Gondor and warg riders.

 Some rather rare Uruk Hai siege and assault troops, as well as Mordor orcs and some goblins.

And three stalwart Rangers of Gondor.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I have a soft spot for the GW LOTR line and while I don’t care for the GW rules, have wanted to do the War of the Ring on a large scale.   Chris’ very kind gift gets me a long way towards doing that.      In a recent post, young Kinch described getting a similarly kind gift and used a phrase I quite like:  “The freemasonry of the hobby working its magic yet again”.   I have experienced many acts of kindness from war gamers and bloggers over the years, and continue to marvel at how kind we are to one another.   Thank you, Chris.

Blessings to your brushes and die rolls!


Saturday, April 25, 2015

First Game, First Thoughts on Blucher

Last Tuesday I posted the start of my first game of Blucher, the Napoleonic rules from Sam Mustafa.   I had gotten as far as the initial setup, which is shown here in the first photo.  Two equal forces of 200 points, French on the left, Austrian on the right.  Both armies are organized into three corps each, two of infantry (four brigades plus an artillery unit) and one of cavalry (two light and two heavy brigades plus a horse artillery unit).  Both sides have one commander and one sub-commander.  The Austrians have to hold the road towards their table edge, plus the hill on the top of the picture.  The Austrians have one quality corps of four grenadier brigades (I Korps on the road) and one of two line brigades and two Grenz conscript brigades (II Korps on the hill).

 Both forces were generated from the Army Builder lists in the Blucher rulebook.   I could have created an historical battle but will save that for another day when I have more time for research.

I used the standard game clock of 30 turns.  Blucher is played in alternating turns, so each side gets 15 turns to achieve its goals.

And we’re off.   The French i Corps in the centre gets most of the initiatives for the first turn and marches at the Austrian centre.   What I quickly discovered is that even with a relatively small force, it’s hard to achieve your goals each turn.   Blucher uses a system of Momentums or MOs, which are generated by rolling 3d6 to generate the number of MOs a side gets per turn.  In a two player game, the passive player rolls the dice and keeps the total number of MOs secret from the active player.  The active player has to decide first which units in his Corps he will move (it costs one MO per unit in a Corps that wishes to move or fire), then decides if he will move or fire any units not part of a Corps (2 MOs per unit), then which units he will activate with his Army Commander, something you would only want to do if you had units from several Corps that were intermixed and you wanted to be sure of moving them in a single turn.  The problem for the active player is that he doesn’t know how many MOs he has at the start of a turn.  The passive player keeps track of the MOs being spent and then informs the active player when he’s done, which might come as a shock.  This means that in a two player game the phasing player can never be sure if he has enough MOs to achieve his goals for a turn, which could be quite suspenseful.

For a solitaire game, the problem is figuring out how to achieve a similar effect.  After a few turns of just rolling all the dice and the portioning out the total to my units as I wanted, I decided I was going to allocate dice to corps before rolling them.  For independent units (the French had one independent artillery unit) I would allocate the pips to that unit from whatever the total rolled would be.  This way, if I rolled a dice and had more pips than a corps needed, too bad, they were wasted for the rest of the army.  If I had less pips than the corps needed, also too bad.  If I wanted to be sure a corps got to act, I allocated it two dice knowing that that would sacrifice the actions of the other corps for that turn.

General Kurvi-Tasch watches from the II Korps position in the Austrian centre on the Plotzen Heights.    At this point I realized that I was using a table 6 foot wide by 5 foot deep, with 6mm figures.  Given that an infantry move using my base width system was 60mm a turn, that would take a long time to get into contact.   I decided that I would adapt the Blucher rule for Reserve Moves, which allows units that begin while Concealed to move 12 BW, provided that they do not come within 4BW or are observed by an enemy unit.  I decided I would borrow from other rules that allow for some sot of enhanced grand tactical move provided that they do not come within range of the enemy.  I allowed all units to use Reserve Movement provided that they did not come within artillery range (8 BWs) of the enemy.  Once units came within 8BWs of the enemy, they had to stop and used normal movement from then on.

Guns of 1 Korps on the Austrian left open fire.  Here I quickly discovered that counter battery fire in Blucher is a vain hope.   The number of dice artillery get to fire depends on their ammo level.  Most artillery units (which are the same as grand batteries) start with 5 dice, then get two turns of 4 dice, then 1 of 3 dice, then 2 of 2 dice, at which point they are out of ammo and leave the table.  Artillery dice are halved firing against other artillery.  As with all fire combat, only sixes hit, though heavy artillery get to count one 5 as a hit.   It takes two hits to drive an artillery unit off the table, while only one hit forces artillery to retreat.   Here the 1 Korps guns waste their best dice shooting at the advancing French artillery, while the grenadier brigades deploy behind the guns.

I Korps guns score a hit on the advancing French infantry of 1 Corps.   I used blue micro dice to indicate hits on infantry and cavalry units.   As Mustafa writes in the rules, casualties in Blucher are attritional.  Units are rated by élan, ranging from a starting score of 7 (elite) to 5 (conscript).  Once a unit falls to 0 élan, it breaks and is removed from the table.   Broken units count towards an army’s demoralization level, which is one third of the starting total of cavalry and artillery units.

The situation at midmorning.  The French have had some very poor MO roles,  so the 1 Corps attack on the centre has not really advanced.   The two cavalry corps face each other at the top of the picture.  By leaving the southern hill of the Plotzen heights unoccupied, the Austrians may have given the French an opportunity.

By noon the French attack is developing.   All four French artillery units fire in the same turn.  Two of the Austrian brigades holding the Plotzen Heights have been battered by artillery, and withdraw behind the crest   The French have gotten I Corp’s artillery onto the southern hill, before the Austrian grenadiers can get there, and fire a blast of canister into the oncoming Kaiserlichs.  Meanwhile, the Austrian cuirassiers advance and take some damage from the French horse artillery as they do.

Ouch.  Poor grenadiers have fallen to five élan and haven’t even gotten to the top of the hill.

The grenadiers press forward for the melee combat.  Melee, like fire combat, depends on the élan level of the attacking and defending units, which determine how many dice they get to roll.   Since artillery units don’t have élan, their dice in combat depends on their ammo level.   Here the 1 Corps artillery has ammo level four, so they will get 4 dice in the coming melee.

A bad outcome for the Kaiserlichs.   Normally the Austrians would get an extra dice for being a shock unit as grenadiers, but since they are attacking uphill they lose a dice.  The result is a tie, which means they lose and will have to retreat.   All attacking units, win or lose, drop an élan level because they have attacked.  Defending artillery in melee combat lose an ammo level.

Another example of melee combat in the developing cavalry duel.  The Austrian hussars are rated as elite (7 dice) against the French hussars’ six, but the Austrian roll isn’t that great (only 4s, 5s and 6s count in melee combat).  Both sides lose en élan level (defenders lose élan levels equal to the difference between the attacker’s and defender’s score).

Cavalry battle develops.   It hasn’t gone well for the two brigades of Austrian cuirassiers, one of which (bottom left of photo) is down to 2 élan and is retreating in the hopes of retiring from the battle.   In Blucher units can be retired voluntarily from the table if they are more than 2 BWs from an enemy unit, which means that depleted troops can be removed from play before they break and count against your demoralization total.  The downside is that you lose if you have more voluntarily retired units than you have units left in play.  I hope you all go oohhh and errr at that incredibly sexy measuring stick in the top left of the photo!

In Blucher horse artillery has the mobile quality, which means it can move and fire in the same turn at the cost of two MOs,  Horse artillery units can be quite lethal if protected, which doesn’t always happen if there aren’t sufficient MOs.  Here a depleted French dragoon unit (centre) charges the Austrian horse artillery, which loses the fight and is broken.  Meanwhile the French horse artillery torments the Austrian hussars.  At the bottom right I’ve used one of my cassion stands with a black micro dice to indicate the ammo level of the French guns.


In the last few turns of the game night is falling and the Austrian cavalry have been swept from the table.   On the Austrian left, the proud grenadiers of 1 Korps still stand firm.  One of their four brigades has been broken, but they still protect one of the two objective markers that the French need for victory.   Here two French brigades charge into a full strength Austrian grenadier brigade.  The French get ten combat dice, while the Austrians get seven, plus one for the Steady trait of grenadiers plus one for the Steadfast quality of the 1 Korps sub commander, General Brodzky.   In the final combat of the game, the Austrians have rolled four scoring dice against the French three, forcing the two French units to retreat.   With night falling fast, the grenadiers have successfully blocked the road to Szhod.  Brodzky is wounded in the battle, but he will survive and be handsomely decorated.

A view of the final positions at the end of the game.    The Austrians have three broken units, one short of the four required to demoralize them, while the French have only one broken unit.  However, the Austrians hold both the French objective markers, so it looks like an Austrian victory.   While the cavalry duel was won by the French, it cost them valuable MOs that could have better been spent assailing the Austrian centre, where the Austrian infantry was weakest, so the sacrifice of the Kaiserlich horse was not in vain.  General Turandotte will have to explain to the Emperor why he has not broken the Austrians and opened the road to Szhod.

In conclusion, I have to say that I am a fan of Blucher.   Some might prefer a more detailed, granular game.  For example, there are no morale tests for receiving fire or for being charged, and the command and control rules are almost entirely abstracted into the system of MO dice.  Other than having useful qualities which might bring sub commanders and commanders into combats (the French cavalry sub commander brought an extra dice to each melee he was in, and miraculously he was never killed or wounded), there is no point in having leader figures on the table.  However, as with Longstreet, the other Sam Mustafa rules system I’ve discussed on my blog, some might say that this abstraction gains a high level of playability.   Once I got the hang of the basic systems the game moved quickly.  I think with another game of this size, i could get through it in 3-5 hours, which is doable for evening with friends or at a club.

Also, as you can see from the last photo, there are some bookkeeping issues I need to resolve.  I’m not happy about the micro dice cluttering the table to indicate élan and ammo levels.   This bookkeeping could be moved to paper, but then I would need labels or tags to identify individual units, which I suppose could be developed and printed and then just tucked underneath the units, or glued to the back base edge, but I am loath to permanently assign unit identities to my stands - I would rather keep them generic for different battles and OOBs.  I would welcome your ideas.

There are some advanced rules with Blucher I haven’t tried yet, and as I said above, the dynamic of the MO dice in a two player game would be a whole different level of suspense and challenge.   However, I’m quite favourably impressed with my first look at Blucher and I’m sure I’ll have more adventures with these rules to describe here in future.   I think the next set of rules I try for this period will the Polemos General de Division rules from Baccus, once I clear the table and try something else for a palate cleanser.

In the meantime, mes brave soldats, blessings to your die rolls!



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Indispensable Napoleonics Playing Aid: The Foy Mug

I was quite saddened to learn that while I had strayed from the Interwebs this winter I had missed the deadline for a contest to win the highly prestigious MS Foy mug.  I wasn’t above emailing Max Foy including his agent Tony, and whining and snivelling until he relented and sent me one.  Here his stern and martial visage watches critically as I send La Grand Armee into battle.

And an inspirational message to keep in mind.

Bless you, Tony, I am quite delighted to have this prestigious and highly necessary piece of kit, from which I shall sip tea (hot, strong, sweet) while I contemplate brilliant moves and ask myself, What Would Foy Do?

First Game of Blucher: Setting Up

In the lull before the storm as we begin packing for my next posting, I’ve finished preparing for my first solo game of Sam Mustafa’s Blucher.  I’m using my 6mm French and Austrian armies, and it’s the first time they’ve been on the gaming table.  I used the army builder lists in Blucher to generate two small forces, 200 points each, for simplicity’s sake.   The forces are fairly symmetrical, at 200 points each; the French have more artillery, while one Austrian Corps is made up of grenadiers, the other is of mixed quality.


CinC, Marshall Turandotte

SubCommander, Cavalry Hero (General LaFlamme)

1st Corps, Infantry 3 Ligne, 1 Elite, 1 Heavy Artillery Regiment

2nd Corps, Infantry, 3 Ligne, 1 Elite, 1 Heavy Artillery Regiment

3rd Corps, Cavalry, 2 Cuirassier, 2 Hussar, 1 Horse Artillery Regiment

Army: 1 Heavy Artillery Regiment



CinC, General Kurvi-Tasch

SubCommander, Steadfast (General Brodzky)

1st Corps, Infantry, 4 Grenadier, 1 Hvy Art Regt

2nd Corps, Infantry, 2 Regular, 2 Conscript, 1 Hvy Art Reg

3rd Corps, Cavalry, 2 Cuirassier, 1 Horse Art Regt 

The field of battle.  It was randomly determined that the French are attacking, so their setup is behind the two measuring sticks (ils sont tres beaux, nest-ce pas?), eight BW in from the table edge.  To make it more interesting I randomized the Austrian setup.  There are five white blocks on the Austrian side of the table, two are dummies, and their identity is not revealed until the French are setup.

I used the Blucher system for terrain setup in the Basic Rules, with a random roll generating 4 choices of terrain features per side, somewhat constrained by the amount of 6mm I currently have available.  For my next game I may double the number of terrain features for 6mm and see if the table is more interesting.  The French chose two objectives.  One is the road on the Austrian side leading to the important provincial capital of Szohd.  The other is the left of the two hills, part of the important Plotzen Heights.

French initial setup.  Infantry Corps in the centre and on the right, III Corps (cavalry) on the left, artillery massed in the centre.  The goal is to push the infantry directly at the centre and hold the cavalry to exploit a breakthrough and guard against Austrian cavalry,

Austrian deployment is randomized but doesn’t work out too badly.  General Humperdinck rushes from a nearby beer-tasting session at the Monastery of St. Vitaliis to find his I Korps (Grenadiers) in the centre, his II Korps on the right side of the Plotzen Heights and the cavalry just arriving on his right flank.  

The tabletop, both armies in position, waiting for the French to make their first move, hopefully today.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Saturday Samurai Shenanigans

A very pleasant night Saturday evening at Rabbit HQ as the gang, which is the closest thing I have to a club at present and all stalwart chaps, gathered to blood some freshly painted samurai figures.  But first the usual show and tell.   Our chum Patrick, whose hosted several very original Interwar Chinese battles, unveiled this scratch built  Yangtze gunship in 1/72 scale, a crveryy nice piece of kit, looking appropriately dirty and rusty.  Talented fellow is young Patrick and a very kind one, as he gave me several packs of adhesive magnetic sheets found in his local dollar store - just the thing for storing my larger bases in thrift store biscuit tins for the coming move.

And another scratch-built vessel, this 1914-era Austrian gunboat, also built by Patrick, is modelled on the ships which opened fire on Belgrade at the start of the Great War.  It would look very suitable for a steampunk game too, methinks.  I quite like the big turrets at the bow.


Both James and Other Mike have been collecting samurai figures of late, and had a sufficient number that we felt we could put them on the table and have a bash, along with James’ wonderful and carefully assembled  4Ground Japanese village models and a terrific temple bell that Mike had found in a pet store - it looked far better ornamenting our table than it would at the bottom of a fish tank.

James has a samurai retinue painted up, while Mike has a force of monks.  We put about 20 figures a side on the table, with the objective being the bell tower in the centre of a table.  Never being one to pass up the chance to play fighting monks, I sided with Patrick against James and Mike.  Here my three bowmen and some Sohei warrior monks wait in the walled garden of an inn, while the rest of my force sneaks around to the left of the table to deal with James’ sneaky snooty fellows.   I am facing James’ samurai while Patrick, to my left, squared off against Mike.

For rules we used the Osprey-published set, Ronin.  James was driving the bus, as he had read the rules, maybe an hour before play started.   Here’s a closeup of some of his samurai advancing.   The picture doesn’t quite capture how nice they are.  James does nice work.

My monk archers start shooting and do some damage, inflicting stuns and light wounds on several of James’ fellows, and wounding his samurai boss’ horse.  One of my sohei monks rushes forward to have the honour of being the first to defend the bell tower,  He did quite well, cutting the samurai boss out of his saddle.

Two of my monks run into battle from my left flank to engage a samurai and an ashigaru.  Here’s where we found that the Ronin rules began to bog down for the number of figures we had brought to the table.  There was a lot I admired about the rules.  Fighters are rated for their personal initiative, modified by the kind of weapon they have and a base die roll.   Once initiative is determined, players get to secretly decide how many of their actions (the number depends on the class of fighter) will be dedicated to attack and to defence.   It’s a clever system, but it takes a while to go through a fight, even two on two, and the results are not always fatal - many of our fights ended with figures wounded but still capable of fighting on and doing damage.  It was quite rare for a figure to be cut down, especially when we started taking armour into account, which was too late, alas, for the red chaps in this photo, who got slaughtered right away.

 Within two hours things had gotten pretty bloody.  The red chits indicate where James’ samurai and ashigaru had been sliced and diced.   While almost all of my ten monks had taken one or more wounds, they were almost all standing, and we came to realize that monks in ronin are rated quite highly - they seem to be the Old Guard of feudal Japan.  James had pretty much thrown in the towel after two hours, whereas Patrick and Mike were still delicately probing, writing haiku, painting flower blossoms, or whatever else high born lords do.   James and I just got stuck in.

Conclusion - Ronin would probably work best as a club game with a dozen figures aside tops.  You can read James’ initial thoughts on Ronin here, but as for me,  I like the mechanics, as far as I understood them, and the choice of attack/defence options adds an interesting degree of tactics and suspense to the game.  However, as I’ve noticed from another Osprey rules set I’ve played, In Her Majesty’s Name, the rules seem quite granular and best-suited to small level actions.  For a battle involving retinues of twenty or more figures a side, I think one would need something that handled groups of warriors moving and fighting together.   I believe there is a variant of Too Fat Lardies’ Sharpe Practice for Shogunate Japan out there somewhere, and I’ll leave that to James and Mike to track down.   

While it’s not a period I’m overly interesting in, I would be interested in playing this again, especially when James gets his Ikko-Ikki bandits painted - that would make an interesting alternative to battles involving celestial elite monks.

Cheers and blessings to your die rolls!


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Batons for the Marshals - Getting Ready to Play Blucher

Slowly I’m getting ready to put my 6mm Naptoleonics figures on the table for the first time.   I’ve got enough figures - Austrians and French - rebased and ready to go.  I’ve got some scenery ready, with more ready soon.  I’ve got several sets of rules, including Sam Mustafa’s Blucher, which I’m going to try first.

 But how to move the troops around the table, given that Blucher, like other Sam Mustafa games, uses Base Widths rather than conventional measurements.  Well, Napoleon said that every soldier carries a Marshal’s baton in his knapsack, and I found four.

I decided to reuse an idea I had for Longstreet, and prepare several measuring sticks in different national colours, so two for the Austrians and two for the French.  My standard Napoleonics Base Widths are 30mm, so these dowels are measured and painted in 30mm increments.  They are currently two feet long, which seems like a good length, though I may cut them in half.

I think atmospheric touches like silly hats make a game, and these splashes of colour will hopefully make the game more entertaining, especially if I host a Blucher game at a convention.

Hopefully I’ll show these measuring sticks in use this weekend.

Blessings to your die rolls and brushes!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday Night Boardgame: Imperial Stars II

When I was a teenager, I was given a game called Imperium (1977) by Game Designer’s Workshop which became a classic in the genre of mighty starships being launched and tearing into each other in mighty fleets to capture planets and gain resources to build yet more warships  to control a vast galaxy- that sort of thing.  I wish I still had that game, it gave me hours of pleasure.   It’s been long OOP, and while I haven’t found another copy, I think I’ve found a game that’s almost as good.  

Imperial Stars II is a clever little game from one of my favourite clever little gaming companies, Victory Point Games.  The designer is Chris Taylor, who has done a whack of SF-themed games.  It’s a game about, well, starships being launched and tearing into each other in mighty fleets to capture planets and gain resources to build yet more warships  to control a vast galaxy

One of the admirable things about this game is that it includes two double-sided maps (11” by 17’) , giving you four possible maps to play on for a variety of gaming experiences.  This map in the photo below is a fairly cluttered one, with asteroids, nebulae, singularities and dust clouds.   Each special terrain hex slows down movement and poses a different headache in combat.  Maps vary in their degree of clutter.

Each game begins with a small fleet in being for either side, shown below in their starting positions on Turn 1.  Additional ships can be purchased from the groups in the boxes at the top and bottom of  the map. Ships are two kinds, escorts and capital ships.  Capital ships can survive one hit, and can be repaired.  Ships can also be turned into colony bases, which gives you a base of territory but reduces the size of your navy, so that’s a fine balance to maintain in the early stages of the game.  The light blue round tiles on the map are planets, which can be claimed by either player and turned into colonies.

The game is driven by these “Op Chits”.  They are turned face down and mixed up, and drawn randomly by players in turn. They determine how many things or Ops a player gets to do in each phase.  Besides the number on the chit, players get an Op for each colony they posses, which is an incentive to get as many colonies as you can early on.  After a “Galactic Cycle” when each player uses their five Ops Chits, the lowest number is taken out of play, which means that each full turn (or Galactic Cycle) is shorter than the last turn.  Essentially this mechanic builds a clock into the game and keeps the game fairly short.

You also have to like a game where all the charts and tables fit on a single half sheet of paper.

Another clever aspect to the game is that the planet hexes are assigned random qualities which basically act as power ups or wild cards.  Some have attributes that can only be used once, like advantages in a space battle, and others have ongoing benefits.  Here two ships from Red Fleet, a light carrier and light cruiser, close in on an unclaimed planet.

Having taken the planetary system, Red spends Op Points to convert the DD ship into a Colony Base, and gets the bonus, “Energy, Add Two Operations” which adds two op points to Red at the start of each subsequent phase for as long as Red controls the planet - one of the nicer benefits of the planet chits.



The situation at the end of the first of five Galactic Cycles in the game.  Red and Yellow both control five planets besides their home planets.  There have been no battles yet but I expect some will come soon.  Space combat is quite brutal and simple.  Ships fight each other using missiles if they have that capability in the first round of combat.  One hit destroys an escort and damages a capital ship.  Two hits destroy a capital ship.  Damaged capital ships can be repaired using ops points.  After the first round of missile combat, surviving ships fight a round of combat using beams, the number on the bottom left corner of the ship counters in the above photo.  Any ships surviving that round then fight another round of missile combat.  This sequence continues until one side is destroyed or runs.  Destroyed ships can be brought back into play as salvage, but that takes time and Ops Points.  A useful tactic is to build up fleets (up to six ship counters of the same side can stack in a hex) and try to intercept your opponent’s ships during his or her turn.  The forces of the two sides are symmetrical - same types of ships and same weapons capabilities.

Imperial Stars II is a simple and clever game, well suited to solitaire play because of the Ops Chits system.  It could be explained to another person in ten minutes and played to a conclusion in 2-3 hours tops.   At a fairly inexpensive price ($26.99 US) and with its four maps to give high replay ability, I recommend it to SF fans.  It could also be used as a scenario generator for miniature SF gamers who want some context for their space battles.

Blessings to your die rolls!


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Some Napoleonic Real Estate

OK, this picture has nothing to do with the subject, but the day before my MA thesis defence last Wednesday, a friend sent me a simple message:  “Le mot de Cambronne”.    I didn’t know that expression in French, but I know it now.

While I didn’t say anything rude during my defence, my friend’s message was inspirational, and fortunately the outcome was a lot happier for me than it was for the Old Guard.  Now I have a few days to relax before I get my military posting message and can start worrying about packing and moving.  Thanks to all of you who made encouraging comments on my blog during this last year while I was writing the thesis.  Those comments were always helpful.  At some point soon I’ll revise the manuscript and see if an academic publisher is interested, as my committee was quite encouraging.

The next day I celebrated in part by stopping by a craft chain store, Michaels, that was having a sale on these scrapbooking boxes.  Normally they sell for $9.00 Cdn each.  I bought six for about $12, quite a happy deal.  That same day also met a nice chap in an outlet mall who wanted to give me 70% off an $1800 Armani suit.  That too sounded like a good deal, but I decided the boxes were a more affordable luxury.  


And now I have a storage solution for my 6mm Napoleonics collection!  The Austrians have settled in quite happily.

I’ve used some of my time as a gentleman of leisure these past few days getting ready to try these figures out with the Blucher rules.   I needed some scenery, so I finished this lovely church model from Timecast, based on the 18th century German church new Leipzig.   A lovely model, though I found the pieces needed a bit of smoothing with a light sandpaper and the steeple is slightly askew, which I am sure will make this  famous tourist attraction in the years to come.  

It’s pretty much de riguer that all of my gaming tables have to have a model church.  I used a piece of MDF board as the base, and some balsa strips to suggest a walled church grounds with a bit of a garden path.


The paint scheme is pretty much stolen from the TImecast website.  I briefly thought about painting the dome of the steeple in bronze, but ended up thinking it would look odd.  I am going to southern Germany this summer, and will be taking lots of photos of Napoleonic era  buildings for my own reference.

Trees are also from a pack ordered off the Timecase website, just for a bit of show.



And a walled farm.  The buildings are metal, from GHQ, picked up at the 2013 Hot Lead convention thanks to my eagle-eyed friend James.


Again, base is MDF.  Walls are 10mm high pieces of balsa.   The texturing in the farmyard is DIY store plastic wood, dry brushed.


I scored an outline for a small gate in the back wall, forgot to paint it.  Better fix that.


I made each base large enough that it could hold one of my standard infantry bases, so these terrain pieces can serve as objective markers.




Also finished a set of three Timecast bridges.


I just got some rubber river sections in the post from Baccus that should be more or less compatible with these bridges.   

Thanks for looking!  Blessings to your bushes and die rolls!

These figures bring my 2015 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 19; Mounted Figures: 10


15mm: Armour/Vehicles: 5

6mm:  Scenic pieces:  5

Kilometres Run: 160

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