Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Distant War Drum

Hugh brought his French and Indian War collection down to the club and I got in my first game of Muskets and Tomahawks. From the makers of SAGA, M&T is a skirmish game representing the small wars fought in North America during the late 18th Century.  There have been a number of excellent reviews of M&T so I won't revisit the game mechanics.  Anatoli's Game Room posted up a superb review here if you'd like to read about them in detail.
Hugh gave me a 20 minute rules review and we dived right in.  As the French & Indian player, I rolled up "Slaughter" in the scenario generator and Hugh got "Protect" as the British. He placed 2 units of civilians in cabins and his British light infantry in a firing line. The British had an Indian warband and Rangers off board.  At the beginning of each turn, he had to roll to activate them. Turn 1, he managed to activate his Rangers and it was a race to the cabins!
My plan was to use my French irregulars to tie up the British light infantry and send my 3 war parties through the tall corn and into the cabins.  My irregulars got excited when the British moved up to the split rail fencing.  They missed entirely with their first volley and the the British reply sent my irregulars reeling.  This was a blunder on my part as it allowed the British lights to pivot 180 degrees, reload and fire into my approaching warband.   
My first charge on the cabin was rebuffed by a volley from civilians manning the windows and doors. With two dead, my warband retreated into the cornfield. My other two warbands waited on Mogwai to sort out what to do next.  

Mogwai ordered a 2nd charge into the cabin that caught the civilians reloading.  Thrown tomahawks took out a civilian and the ensuing melee panicked them into a flight out the back window.  My warband raced into the cabin in pursuit, and not a minute too soon.  The British lights crossed the rail fence and prepared to loose another volley.

Things were trending very poorly for me.  The British Rangers opened up and sent one of my warbands fleeing.  I charged a depleted warband into the British lights and failed to budge them.  The only bright spot on the board was the fleeing civilians I was about to run down from behind.

Before my warband could dispatch the civilians, the Rangers charged my warband. The short and sharp melee sent the Rangers back in flight. If they'd beaten me, the British would have won on the spot as this was my last healthy warband.  As it was, my warband caught the fleeing civilians from behind and dispatched them.  A back to back activation allowed me to turn and charge the second unit of civilians from behind and dispatch them as well.  Out of the teeth of defeat, a surprising victory!  

I was really taken with M&T. Our tense game had many interesting decision points and was resolved in two hours.  In particular, I loved:
  • The card driven activation with random events built in.  
  • The Fog of War opening movement with dummy counters.  
  • Morale and special unit characteristics. 
I ordered up a copy of the rules as soon as I got home. Hugh and I agreed M&T is on the menu for 2015.  What a nice surprise and I have to ask myself, why did it take me so long to try these rules?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Under a Raven banner

To finish my Norse-Gael warband, I decided to paint up a raven banner.  Accounts of the Battle of Clontarf (fought between the Norse Gaels and the Irish) include Jarl Sigurd and his magical raven banner.  Here's hoping that one of these bring me some magic in my games of SAGA.

How did it turn out? Well, I didn't like my first banner so I ended up with versions 1, 2 and 3. That gives me 4 choices for a banner.  I'd love to hear which you like the best.  And I promise I won't be offended if you choose the LBMS transfer.

I painted the white linen down to a dark base color.  It seems to me that you need a dark base and at least two highlights to make a banner pop. Below, you'll see an odd figure that comes from a 10th century Norse-Gael coin.  I love the figure but I haven't figured out how to make it look good on a banner.  So he ended up being a bit of a dead end.

This shot includes the green version. Since the background color was quite dark, I had to use a light color for the raven. I used bright red dots to try to make him pop.  

For my 3rd and final attempt, I painted the linen black.  Then I worked up to a sky blue background and highlights, being careful to keep black intact for a rough look.  

Thanks goes out to Michael of the Dalauppror blog for his tips and suggestions.  I was getting a little frustrated with this and he helped see me through.  That is the great part of blogging, isn't it? You can always reach out to a fellow blogger when you get stuck or need encouragement.  

Both of my kids are home from college and that is the best part of Christmas.  Where-ever you are, I hope you get to eat well, drink well, and spend time with the people you love.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chop, chop, choppin' on Odin's door...

Architects of War comes through again!  Reworking my Norse-Gael list, I decided I needed 8 more warriors with Dane axes to get me to 24 total. I put in an order last week and 2 days later, they're at my door. With weekly games of SAGA, how could I pass on painting them up right away?  The photos confirm I couldn't. These Gripping Beast figures come with undrilled hands so be prepared to do grunge work before you break out your brush.

A bunch of our local SAGA players are registered for the Grand Melee in Chicago and interest in the game has never been higher. I've been able to get out for weekly games and all the practice is helping me get a handle on running this warband. I'm finding that the more Danish axes I field, the better the Norse-Gael perform. Most importantly, they're fun to run. My favorite tactic is to point the warriors at something and charge into them with "Howling Axes" and "Slaughter."
I'm still working on my linen banners for the warband.  I was a bit disappointed with my first attempts so I reached out to the banner expert, Michael of the Dalauppror blog. His lovely banners are the reason I wanted to try this. I'm going to incorporate his suggestions and see if I can paint something worth keeping.  Fingers crossed and thanks Michael for your help!   

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Death and Axes

The Footsore Miniatures I got in the mail last week were so lovely I had to paint them right up. It's very rewarding to take figures off the painting table and into a game. Footsore mixes well with Gripping Beast, and this crew adds plenty of characters to my Norse-Gael warband. I really like the new warlord and the fellow sporting a head for a trophy is perfect for the Norse Gael personal challenges.  The bannerman lacks a banner as I'm waiting on some linen to paint one up. This will be my first attempt at it so, wish me luck!  

The barefoot madmen below get me to 16 warriors with Dane axes. The SAGA Grand Melee has a "what you see is what you get" rule. I just realized I need another 8 of these for the tournament. D'oh! Time for another order and some more SAGA painting.

If you're thinking of painting up Dark Age Irish or Norse-Gael, do take a look at Footsore. I understand sculptor Bill Thornhill will be at Adepticon in March. Perhaps he'll be running his Irish warband at the Grand Melee?  If you haven't seen Bill's Irish warband, click over for a look as they're damned lovely.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Goodbye Gauls

I've painted and played 3 Gallic armies in the last 4 years. They were the first army I ran in our local Field of Glory group and they were an exceedingly poor choice for these rules. Average, undrilled and outclassed by nearly everyone in their era, my Gauls were like Milk-Bones in a dog pound. Everyone wanted to play my Gauls and why not?  I lost over and over again.  When the beat-downs became too painful, I sold the army off to a good fellow in Australia.

Within a year, I painted Gauls for Impetus and that was a great change-up.  They were fun to play under Impetus and the extra "impetus" dice in impact gave them a fair shot every time out. Unfortunately, Impetus didn't catch on with our club so I sold these off as well.

The FoG v2 update made Gauls slightly less rubbish and that was enough incentive for me to paint them once again, this time sans pants. At the time, I was getting army lists and tips from a father and son FoG tournament team and I'd hoped to leverage their knowledge into success on the battlefield. I also read the rules repeatedly and kept a folder with ideas for running my Gauls.  I had some success initially but then my opponents started neutralizing my large units of heavy foot with loads of terrain. In our 2014 campaign, I managed a single win and it was a lucky one at that. Updated rules + new Gauls  =  the same sorry results. Once again, off to market!

My FoG customers all passed on the Gauls when I posted them for sale, confirming how poorly they're thought of.  Oh, the shame of being unwanted.  Luckily, I found a buyer who wanted this army and a lot more. Mustering off the table are 32 bases of medium foot, 16 bases of light horse and archers to buff out the Gallic army. They'll face off with a large West Wind Roman army I'll be painting in January. The Gauls will run under a tabletop adaptation of Command and Colors Ancients, meaning they have a fighting chance!

To close out the third and final chapter of my Book of Gauls, here are pics from their sole victory this summer. A heavy foot army has slim chances against a shooty, mounted foe. Here, I managed to steal a victory when my Gallic cavalry decisively beat armored Steppe cavalry in impact and melee too. The Steppe cavalry wing broke and ran after their General died in combat. Meanwhile, my Galatian foot spent the game slogging across the table and soaking up arrows.

Reading about the Gauls, planning a Gallic army and and painting them up was great fun. Playing them in FoG is painful so I won't miss that a bit. Goodbye Gauls and good luck on the West Coast. Before stepping out in the California sun, do put on some sunscreen, or pants!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

US SAGA Grand Melee-I'm in!

Eric Hagen is co-running the US SAGA Grand Melee next March.  Eric organized the stellar SAGA Storm last fall, so the Grand Melee is guaranteed to be amazing. Two days of gaming, six scenarios, forty players and prizes galore...I've heard the call and I'm in!

I can't wait to see 40 warbands out on the tabletop.  I was planning to paint up a new warband to throw in for the "Best Painted" competition but I just picked up a huge 15mm painting contract. No worries as I have 5 warbands to choose from.

I've been playing Norse-Gael lately so I'm taking them. Personal challenges make up half of their battleboard and that means you have to win a pre-melee dice-off to unlock these abilities.  This makes them a bit of a gamble as losing a challenge costs you all the dice you parked on that ability!

A number of our local players have registered for the Melee and we've started weekly games to tune up.  As much as I enjoy painting and playing SAGA, I'm an average player.  I lose focus during the game, I fail to see the "long game" and if I have a beer on an empty stomach, victory is lost!  My chances of winning the Melee are equal to my chances of winning the Triple Crown. I do want to make a good show of it and practice games are perfect to that achieving that end.

With batttleboard abilities like Howling Axes and Slaughter, I'm buffing up my warband.  I've got some Footsore Miniatures axemen on the table and wow, they're lovely sculpts! I should also put in a plug for my new Nordic dice bag from Broake and Thumb Studios on eBay.  Here's hoping the raven rune brings me the lucky dice I'll need on game days!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I love a man in a uniform #2

Round 2 of the British project is officers, specialists and HQ. Figures are a mix of Bolt Action and Artizan.

PIAT team,  2" mortar and and medic.

Forward Observer, Platoon and section leaders. Last week, I posted up pictures of the British sections but I forgot to include the section leaders. They were a bit shy but I managed to get them in front of the camera today.  Leaders are mounted on larger bases.

PIATs, mortars, minesweepers, engineers, Brens and flamethrowers. I think I'm required to add an "...oh my!" 

The Brits are all block painted and washed with Army Painter Soft Tone. Selective highlights were applied.  Painting neat, I kept black intact for shadows on backpacks, straps and other gear. Flesh was done with Vallejo hull red as the base followed by Foundry Flesh 5A, B and C.  

I got in the second game in our Arnhem campaign game.  I muffed the patrol phase so badly that Hugh advanced his Paras through the woods unopposed. In game 3, I have the option to call on reinforcements (including armor) for a German counterattack.  My force morale is pretty brittle compared to the Paras but I'm going all in.  I hope to make a game of it and include a full report!

Below are pictures from our reset.  The area south of the road is woods.  The area north of the houses is wooded also. The Brits didn't want to go house to house so they concentrated on a thrust through the woods south of the road.  It was a very short and sharp engagement!