Saturday, October 29, 2016

Meanwhile, In Isengard - 3 The Hosts Gather

Recently my friend James (Rabbitman) and I went in together on an order of fantasy figures from Vendel Miniatures to flesh out our mutual Lord of the Rings project.  James opted for a mx of elves, dwarves and orcs.  I decided on orcs, as well as these shaggy, furry fellows.  I thought the Vendel Hillmen would be ideal for the Wild Men of Dunland, allies of Saruman.

"All Isengard must be emptied; and Saruman has armed the wild hillmen and herd-folk of Dunland beyond the rivers, and these also he loosed upon us”.  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers.

They can be used as Light Infantry in Dragon Rampant terms, or perhaps Bellicose Foot. I used a black spray paint as a primer, and had a bad experience on some of the figures when it dried in a blobby, granular way.  You can see it on the shield of the chap on the right.   

Obviously, some of these shields are forged in Isengard and supplied to the Dunlendings.  

‘Yet there are many that cry in the Dunland tongue,’ said Gamling. ‘I know that tongue. It is an ancient speech of men, and once was spoken in many western valleys of the Mark. Hark! They hate us, and they are glad; for our doom seems certain to them. ‘The king the king!’ they cry. ‘We will take their king. Death to the Forgoil! Death to the Strawheads! Death to the robbers of the North!’ Such names they have for us. Not in half a thousand years have they forgotten their grievance that the lords of Gondor gave the Mark to Eorl the Young and made alliance with him. That old hatred Saruman has inflamed. They are fierce folk when roused. They will not give way now for dusk or dawn, until Théoden is taken, or they themselves are slain.’

I found this GW Saruman figure, half-painted and left over from when my son and I played the GW LOTR rules a lot.  I finished basing him and added some detail to the face and hair, so I guess that counts as a complete figure.   I am not sure why one needs a Saruman figure, as he basically keeps himself locked in his citadel of Orthanc.

So besides these thirteen figures, there are additional hosts on the march.   In my last post I described going to Council Fires, a local wargaming event.   I made the mistake of going too near the Bring and Buy table, and found this small horde looking for a new home.  On the right, 46 goblins, and on the left, 31 Mordor orccs.  A few of them have the white hand of Saruman painted on their shields.  I will have to change that to the Red Eye of Mordor.

Saruman meets his new friends, 31 Uruk Hai.


With the Dunlendings arriving for the fight, and more of them on the painting table, things look quite grim for the Free Folk of the West.

Not counting the miniatures purchased at the Bring and Buy, these figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 89; Mounted Figures: 10; Buildings: 3; Terrain Features: 2

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monstrous Mayhem, Triceratops Tactics, and Brantford Battles: A Day at Council Fires

Council Fires is one of those small, regional wargaming conventions that keeps out hobby going in eastern Canada.  Each is a labour of love run by a small organizing committee, with a handful of vendors and, for the most part, the same familiar faces.   This event has been staged in various places and venues since I arrived in SW Ontario in the 1980s, but in its current incarnation in Brantford, it was worth the day.   I got up rather early on a Saturday morning for the two hour drive from Barrie after picking up Stephen M.  

$15 for a day of gaming goodness seemed like a bargain, especially as the fee included a gift figure from local manufacturers, Crucible Crush (partners with Bob Murch in the very lovely Flint and Feather Range) and RAFM.  I was delighted to receive this RAFM figure from their Air Pirates game, which I am sure I can use.

We arrived at 9, just in time to get in on the  game of Frostgrave.  Never played Frostgrave before but was curious. This was the setup that awaited up to six players, each taking a different faction.  The blue tokens indicated a treasure to be picked up, with the best treasure belonging to the frost giant in the centre.   Some lovely scenery with a winter-themed map (by Cigar Box, I think?).

The frost giant.  Since my war band started in the centre of the table, closest to him, and since I had a bunch of stout-hearted dwarves, I decided to take him on.   A magical grenade, well placed on a natural 20, helped take him down.

Part of the lovely scenery on the table.  A rival war band consisting of tree spirits, as far as I could tell, are climbing this tower to get the treasure therein. Shortly after this was taken, a third rival war band used a Crumble spell to collapse the walkway and drop one of these figures to a horrible death.  I quite liked the magic system in Frostgrave.  Spells are not automatic, and failure to cast one can take a toll on the wizard’s health.   Each war band has a wizard, who are reasonably adept at casting spells, and an apprentice, who is, well, less adept.

Two more of the rival war bands brought packs of dogs to the fight.   It was kind of an off-leash park for giant killer dogs.


My dwarves were able to kill the frost giant, but just as we were about to seize the treasure, the evil Bruce teleported his wizard in to seize the treasure. The tokens are made by Six Squared Studios, who sponsored the game.  They have tons of useful products.


So we killed Bruce’s evil wizard.  However, every time someone grabbed a treasure, there was a chance that a horrible creature would be summoned from the void.  This demon grizzly bear appeared and shambled towards the centre of the table.  One of my dwarves was so intent on grabbing treasure that he got cut off in this ruined tower.  Terrible decision.  He got a big bear hug for his troubles, and another one, and another one, and then he sort of ied.  A horde of other rift creatures closed in on the survivors of my war band, who also being attacked by several other war bands.  My high-risk gambit of going after the frost giant’s treasure did not pay off, but it was jolly good fun while it lasted.

Frostgrave had some very clever ideas going for it.  The activation rules are clever, and the magic system is creative and fun without being overpowering.   Because it uses d20s and uses opposed die rolls for its combat resolution, there ca  be some wild swings of fortune.  Fun if you like that sort of thing, but perhaps a little chaotic for some tastes.

In the afternoon I got involved in an ACW skirmish game by GM Kirk D, using his lovely figures and the Brother Against Brother skirmish rules.  Here’s Kirk’s table, featuring some first rate bespoke buildings.


I had a plan of trapping Mike’s infantry on three sides in the centre of the table, but the trap rather got closed on me and my chaps got bushwhacked in three sides.  I didn’t think touch of the rules, I confess.  If I wanted to play an ACW skirmish game, I would want to play Sharpe Practice


I noticed this interesting Mexican-American War game, laid out on a sheet of disruptive pattern camouflage fabric.  Rather hard to see the figures, one might think.

This War of 1812 game was one of the nicest at the show, I thought.

American cavalry from the same game - beautiful figures.

In the evening, Stephen, Bruce and myself, as representatives of the Barrie Old Guys Gamers (BOGG), pooled our resources to put on this Dragon Rampant game for six persons. The big flat thing was a lost temple that could possibly bestow advantages to magic users.  Whoever controlled the  village in the centre would win.  We had six factions and four players, so Bruce and I got to run a faction each.


Andrew, our youngest player, drives his armoured triceratops packed with lizard warriors into Bruce’s Orks on Pigs, in one of the many kinds of fights that makes Dragon Rampant so glorious.  Most of the figures on the table, including these, were old Games Workshop Warhammer Fantasy figures.


Goblin warband marshals its skirmishing light cavalry, mounted on (of course), giant spiders. Giant spiders …. ick.

Human cavalry in elvish service engage the spiders and drive them off.  Unfortunately, by this point the goblin wizard got onto the temple and blew the horsemen to smithereens. 

 There was more chaos raging elsewhere on the table.  The Orc army I brought was wiped out by, well, a rival Orc army with help from some nearby rampaging mastodons.  It all happened so fast, I didn’t get photos.  Sorry, but Dragon Rampant can be a bit like that.  Perhaps it was overambitious to have six players, each out for their own interests, but for the last game of the day, it was agreeably silly, and I think we Barrie Old Gamer Guys put on a good show.

I mentioned the presence of Six Squared Studios at Council Fires.  I like these guys for their creativity.  Besides doing some nice laser-cut bases, they are kind of the Canadian Litko, as they offered an interesting range of gaming tokens.  I picked these up quite cheaply as patrol markers for Chain of Command.  Pity the British markers are not coloured, but I can live with that.

From their line of resin scenics in various scales, I picked up these resin haystacks and a horse watering trough for my Rohan village.

I did get some other items if loot, which can wait for another post.   I hope your gaming weekend was as much fine as mine was.

Blessings to your die rolls!  MP



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Meanwhile, in Rohan -3

 This week I’m still getting some more Games Workshop Lord of the Rings themed figures off the paint desk.  The figure on the left is Theoden from the OOP Warg Attack boxed set.  It came with  five metal figures: a mounted Theoden and Aragon figure, and three warg riders -  finally all finished.   The figure on the right is something called “Sons of Eorl” which can still be found on the GW webstore - by their standards, it’s surprisingly cheap.  He looks like a trusted retainer.

 The Theoden figure, like all the Perry sculpts, does a fine job of capturing the likenesses of the actors, in this case Bernard Hill.  I am currently watching Bernard Hill as Norfolk in the BBC series Wiolf Hall, based on the Hilary Mantel novels.   So much better than the terrible series, “The Tudors”.  Do yourself a favour and watch it.

 Trademark Rohan green cloaks.

I also refurbished these three Rohan Royal Guard figures.

Elite hearth guards for the heart of the battle line.   Not sure why the Rohirrim would fight dismounted in any situation other than defending Helms Deep, but there you go.

“Forth, Eorlingas!"

While I hope to get some more Rohirrim into the ranks, I think I will be looking elsewhere than GW for them.   The Footsore Miniatures Goths are very tempting.  I just found some amazing shield transfers and banners from Gripping Beast; even with the Christian images I think the banner is fantastic.  

Many thanks for looking!  Blessings to your brushes!

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 76; Mounted Figures: 10; Buildings: 3; Terrain Features: 2

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings:  2

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Meanwhile, in the Elven Realms

Just under a year ago, I received a very kind package from my good friend, Duke Alan of Tragardland containing some Games Workshop Lord of the Rings figures.   It was one of those unsolicited actions that spurs young Kinch to refer to the Freemasonry of the hobby, a very fine phrase.

That package contained three elven lords.  I had a bit of free time at the brushes this weekend, and so here they are.


Seeng as these chaps looked fairly noble, I tried to find some colours to offset the usual green.  

Thank you for this thoughtful gift, milord Duke.  I am slowly assembling an elven host for Middle Earth, and these fellows will be useful captains of hosts.  

I also finished these two figures, from the OOP GW box of metal figures, Heroes of Helms Deep,  The figure on the left is the Haldir figure - Tolkien purists will gnash their teeth at the memory of Haldir and his troops showing up for the battle of Helms Deep.  The figure on the right is Legolas, hastily painted when my son and I used to play with the LOTR mins a lot, and given a touch up and a proper basing/


I have some GW elven warriors from their First Age plastics set who I will paint up as elven “regulars” to serve with the Haldir figure.  I had painted his armour gold and then given it a wash of AP Strong Tone, which was a mistale, I think.  For the other figures, I think I will paint the armour black, and then pick out the plates in gold and not use a wash.

The last sight many a charging orc will ever see.

These figures bring my 2016 totals to:

28mm:  Foot Figures: 73; Mounted Figures: 8; Buildings: 3; Terrain Features: 2

20mm:  Buildings: 1

6mm:  Mounted figures:  36;  Buildings: 

Thanks for looking and blessings to your brushes!



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Awaiting Pickett's Charge, Or, Do I Need Another Set of ACW Rules?

A lot of this going on at my games club lately.  Would it be better with another set of rules?

I noted with interest this recent interview by Sidney Roundwood, one of the Too Fat Lardies braintrust, with Dave Brown, the designer of the forthcoming Pickett's Charge rules. 

 PC, as I will hence refer to it, is being published by TFL under their new imprint, Reisswitz Press.  As TFL's Richard Clarke explains it, Reisswitz will allow TFL to support the work of other rules writers who share what one might call the Lardies philosophy of  ''a large dollop of Clausewitzian friction and an emphasis on command decisions ''.

While I am exited by this news and always happy to support one of Big Rich's projects, I suppose a fair question would be, ''Does the hobby really need another set of ACW rules?  Now I am not a tyro in this genre of gaming, but I'm not exactly a grognard either.   I started 25 years ago playing Johnny Reb II and found it somewhat maddening.   One worked through long lists of modifiers, which gave the impression of realism, but units could charge and strike like summer lightning, in a way that seemed profoundly unrealistic because it didn't seem to reflect any command and control issues or any tactical limitations of the period.  I vividly recall having my mouth drop open when I closed in on an enemy formation from its rear, only to see the unit about-face and charge me before I could get a volley off.  I suppose one could pivot a tank like that, but not a line of 600 men in the midst of a battle.

Since then I have dabbled in Black Powder and find it somewhat generic.  The activation rules are a attempt to model friction, but they seem essentially a random element.   Readers of this blog will know that for the past two years, Sam Mustafa's Longstreet has been my ACW drink of choice.    I will go to great lengths to defend these rules - they are simple, they force difficult decisions on players at every step of the way, and they capture the narrative arc of the war, so that there is an appreciable difference between a fight in 1861 and one in 1865.   In the campaign game we are currently playing at the club, I can assure you that it is more fun to be late war Union than it is to be the early war Union, as the faces of our Reb opponents get grimmer with each battle!

Just two ways in which it is very satisfying to be a late-war Union player in Longstreet

At the same time, while the cards in Longstreet can be very satisfying when you stick an Interrupt card in your opponent's spokes at a key moment, they are a little, well, gamey.   Longstreet is a game where you watch your hand just as closely as you watch the battlefield, and while the mechanism is ideal for the kind of three hour club matches we play, it may be the reason why true ACW grognards will always look down their nose at Longstreet, which is unfair, because I don't think Sam aspired to make a game that would appeal just to grognards.

There are other established ACW rules out there which I don't know at all.   Fire and Fury is probably the most well known rules set I have never played, which is odd, because Regimental F&F is probably ideally suited to my 28mm collection.  I noted with interest the late John Hill's Across A Deadly Field rules, published by Osprey last year, but felt committed to Longstreet and didn't buy it.  Beneath these two titles lurks a veritable iceberg of other ACW rules.

Seems familiar.  You never forget an elephant.

Curiously, one set of ACW rules I have played is the set entitled They Couldn't Hit an Elephant (TCHAE or 'Elephant') published sometime around 2008 by TFL.   I can't recall who was the main author behind it, whether it was Clarke or someone else.  I did play TCHAE quite a bit when it came out, and remember liking it, but thinking it a tad abstract.   You can find a thorough review of TCHAE here.

Briefly, TCHAE shows the influence of TFL's popular WW2 rules, I Ain't Been Shot, Mum (IABSM), in that it uses a system of blinds to bring hidden units into the battle, and uses a card activation system to determine the order in which commanders are activated.   Once a commander is activated, he gets a number of commands, or pips, determined by an average dice with some plus or minus mods depending on how skilled or wretched the commander is.   Commanders use their pips to achieve tactical effects: moving and changing the formation of units, rallying them, etc.   Also, the IABSM influence is seen in the random termination of each turn when the Coffee Card (shades of the Tea Break card) is drawn.  Units that have been given pips to reserve their fire can shoot on the Coffee Card.

Not everyone liked TCHAE.  One review noted the occasional ambiguities of the rules and some frustration with the TFL philosophy that the rules are as much a toolbox as they are a complete system.

Last week I sent Richard Clarke a message on Twitter, asking him if he could say how TCHAE differed from PC, and he was honest enough to say that it was years since he had played Elephant and didn't remember much about it.  I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by this answer, since rules publishers need to publish new product to stay in business, and hopefully each iteration brings improvements from lessons learned.   In terms of TFL's evolution, one hopes that PC is to Elephant what Chain of Command is to IABSM, a natural development of concepts and mechanisms.

What I see in PC from the Roundwood interview is a more nuanced approach to command and control than the pip system.  I like the idea that brigade commanders see their degree of control start to degrade as the battle wears down their troops.  I also like the idea of the commander sending staff officers to try to keep units on task.    I suspect that PC has jettisoned the idea of blinds, which I never felt worked very well for the ACW in the scale (28mm) that I play it in, though perhaps in 6mm.

So, while I am curious to get my mitts on PC, I am going use this Thanksgiving Weekend to put some ACW figures on the table and see how TCHAE plays after five or six years.

In the meantime, blessings to your die rolls!


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