Sunday, 28 June 2015

Slippery Slope or From Wales to Ireland via Roman Britain in several confusing steps

Just back from Asgard Games in Middlesbrough where we had another game in the Dux Brit campaign.

But first a quick explanation as to why I need to buy some more figures. I’m writing this down just so I can get my head around it J

I decided to try Dux because it offered a couple of interesting and quick gains. Firstly the idea of a campaign based game where each on table fight had something to connect it to the rest. Secondly, it was by TFL and they seemed to be on good form producing types of games I like, and thirdly, and most attractively, this was going to be both cheap and easy game to get into because I could use the figures I already had painted and based up as Welsh for Saga as my Romano-Britons, so the only expense was the rules – can’t go wrong!

Want to bet?

When I had the rules it became clear that while this was all ok in principle, in practice I would have a problem as most of my Welsh were lightly equipped and trying to pass them off as a Shieldwall when most of them had bucklers or no shields at all was a stretch too far. So I bit the bullet and bought some suitable Romano British infantry – just a dozen to stand as shieldwall, then I got some plastic Gripping Beast Dark Age infantry to provide the bulk of the Levy, and then another couple – ok , eight, figures from Footsore to be the Elites. At this point the only part of my Dux force that was actually from the Saga Welsh was 4 skirmishers with javelins (which should really have slings) and the three Nobles.  

I had plenty of spare plastic figures from Gripping Beast so I decided to convert four to slingers. May as well as they would only join the “lead & plastic pile” In the end I used some old Wargames Factory Persian arms and slings rather than the GB ones as they looked “meatier”. I gave them the same rush paint I did for the Levy and they all went through with me to Asgard today for our next campaign turn, so only the "Welsh" Lord and his Nobles would be used of the original Saga force.

The well laid plans………..

So when we gathered it became obvious that due to other commitments we had managed to get only one raider player to attend – yup, three Romano Brits were there, but only Steven was available to represent the Saxons etc, and his warband was still recovering from his last attempt to cross the border.  We all say around looking a bit dazed as this was something no one had really predicted, and it was agreed we maybe should look at getting the British players access to a Saxon army just in case that happens again,  then I heard myself say “I think I can do an Irish list if someone can lend me some cavalry – I don’t have any Irish as such but I do have these Welsh guys I got for Saga……….”

A short while later I found myself commanding an Irish raiding force looking to capture a Roman Noble from a border tower. 

Mark was the defender, and here is his noble returning from patrol in the badlands with his command of two units of warriors.

Here is the rest of his force, happily ensconced in his border tower.

And here are some suspicious looking raider cavalry who have just appeared !

The game went quickly. Mark sallied forth with his main force in an attempt to link up with the returning patrol but they were intercepted first by the light cavalry, which they drove off

and then by a much more aggressive force of Irish (with Welsh accents) and their Lord, intent on gaining Honour and Glory. The Irish also kept up a steady rain of harassing javelin fire interspersed with a sling-stone or two.

The Irish charged, and in a quick and brutal melee overwhelmed the returning patrol, but their leader failed to get himself that all important war wound to show off back home. Their captive safe in their hands they then asked if the British wanted to contest their withdrawal. Mark decided it was not worth the risk, so the raiders made good their escape.

Great little game, and good to see campaign causing both players to play the long game.

Rob & Steven them played their raid – again against a border tower, and this time Steven got away with a noble hostage who he has already ransomed back to Rob.

So with a bit of flexibility we got a couple of good games in and fun was had by all. Only problem now is I need some Welsh ..err sorry Irish Cavalry to complete that Irish list now, you know , the one that was going to be a good stand in for the Romano British that meant I would not have to buy and paint lots of figures to play the game – you do remember don’t you?

Thanks to Steven, Mark Rob and the rest of the Guys at Asgard for a great day gaming. Next week there is no campaign turn as some Numpty has organised a Dropzone Commander demo, but the week after we hope to be back to the borders, protecting Christianity and the Empire!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Dux Campaign March 550 Anno Domini

The first Saxon raid got our Hartlepool Club Dux Brit Campaign off to an interesting Start.

Paul and his Saxons had snatched some livestock and were heading back to the boats through some fairly bleak and marshy terrain - see pic. He also managed an awful pre battle speech which cost him Force Morale points and a Fate Card. My Romano Brits managed to over indulge on the booze "Nunc est Bibendum! gaining two points of force morale, losing a fate card (and two bibamous cards added to the fate deck) followed by some pretty damned impressive speechifying which cancelled out the lost fate card and gave the Lord level 4, at least until he and the troops sober up :-)

Table looking up from Saxon start to their exit at the other end

The ill gotten loot
The initial set up and scenario went badly for him - he only got one turn head start on the Romano Brits , and they in turn came on very close to his forces.

The main British force arrived quickly as the Saxons struggled to get their stolen sheep home

A well thrown javelin slows a Saxon Unit

Romano British arrive in force
The British closed steadily with their Warriors and Elites while the Saxons tried to face them off.

At the last moment the British Lord tried to wheel his shieldwall to give him maximum frontage fighting, only to roll a "6" for the move and the whole formation fell apart in front of the Saxons! Luckily the Romano Brits (me!) won the next initiative, reformed the shieldwall, and charged in!

The fight that followed was hard and bloody, with only the Shieldwall saving the Romano Brits from terrible casualties, and the pre game drinking session hadnt helped, with Paul playing a sequence of Bibamus cards as the melee ground on.

Luckily the Shieldwall held, and the Saxons broke after a prolonged fight, just before the Saxons could outflank it.

Paul wisely decided to abandon the sheep and other livestock and leg it - and I certainly was not going to contest the retreat. The Saxons got away using some well played retreat cards to minimise their losses, the Romano Brits scoring an overall +2 win.

Good fun, and the Saxon threat to this part of the Kingdom has retreated for a while at least.

This scenario went badly for Paul from the outset, and demonstrated just how unbalanced some of the campaign scenarios can be, but in a good way. Had Paul gained more of a head start, or the pursuit not started as close this could have been very different. It also showed some really interesting facets of the rules off to good effect. Shieldwall is great as long as you can close - in the post game chat Paul admitted he made two mistakes, the first being getting involved with a melee with the shieldwall. Even then he almost managed to outflank it, which would have been pretty bad or me. His second mistake was keeping his Lord at the back with the sheep - he thought it was a good idea to survive campaign turn 1, but in doing so he negated his main commanders ability to influence the fight - lessons learned. From my point of view I learned a couple of interesting ones too. Having two Bibamous cards in the deck from my overindulgence pre game left me with some pretty apprehensive moments every time Paul reached for his fate cards. The +\- 1 in combat is bad enough, but the loss of control, particularly when trying to get a shieldwall together, was a very big worry. May make me less likely to reach for the beer next game.

The other point I was impressed at was just how much fighting a campaign game made us both wary of our campaign positions. My losses were initially low but as the fight at the shieldwall wore on they began to grow to the point that even if I won I was risking my campaign status. I'm going to pay a lot more attention to the pursuit cards in my fate hand next time - it may even be worthwhile letting the Saxons win the odd raid rather than suffer heavy losses fighting over a sheep.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Quick and Dirty Dark Ages Part 2

So now I had the figures assembled and based all I had to do was paint them. I grabbed a selection of fairly neutral colours (this is supposed to be the Dark Ages after all) and basically blocked in areas, no shading, no highlighting, bugger all finesse, just speed.

Once done I then applied a coat of Army Painter Strong Tone - or as it is known here "gunk". I brushed it on, using it as a dip is just too messy and wasteful, and you do get some control with a brush. Then I left them to dry overnight.

The final parts of the cunning plan stumbled a bit. I had intended to use Late Roman Chi-Rho style shield transfers from Little-Bigman Studios but these were uncharacteristically late in arriving so I decided to go with some simple geometric patterns - quarters etc. Lastly the bases were painted with earth shades and highlighted, and then everyone got some nice, bright static grass clumps. These are important as they add some brightness to otherwise dull figures and also allow me to tell which group is which - ie one group has a green and yellow clump etc,

The end result after being blasted with matt varnish

I'm OK with these. They look ok on a table at normal viewing distances. I have to admit I feel a bit cheap and uneasy at the speed and short cuts I took, particularly the Army Painter which I'm still not 100% happy with. I tell myself I will go back and add highlights and more detail, these are still works in progress etc (some hope). What I also think is that these guys have now been on table five times, which I think means they have already done about 10 hours "in action" and I probably spent somewhere like a quarter of that time painting them. That is a damned good ratio under the circumstances.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Quick & Dirty - Dark Age Infantry

I was in something of a rush to get my forces ready for playing Dux Brit.  I bought a box of plastic Dark Age Warriors from Gripping Beast and decided to go all out for the quickest turnaround I could to get those peasant levy units ready - no corner was to be left uncut!

Firstly I assembled the 18 figures I needed, then stuck them to 1p pieces. Then I covered the bases with pva and a sand & talus mix. All done in our back yard with assistance from our new Tomcat Greebo

Once the pva dried I had the cunning plan of cutting another corner by undercoating in suitably drab colours. A quick search of my cupboard produced a tin of beige and a "British Tank" green, - I was dissapointed to discover I had used up all the German Dunkelgelb on a previous project. Anyway here are the results.

Part 2 will be the end result

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

RTFM - Musing on rules

I've realised I have been guilty of falling into games unprepared. By that I mean over the last year or so I have been caught up in the enthusiasm of a new rules set, skimmed the rules while rushing headlong to get the toys painted, and arrived at the table with much fanfare to find the games halting and not as successful as I had hoped. 

A prime example I played a game of Dux Britanarrium last week at the Hartlepool Club. It was our first try out, and at the end I thought it went OK - but just OK. The truth was we had missed large bits of rules we skimmed over in our enthusiasm, and as a result both our enjoyment and enthusiasm suffered - what should have been a good gaming session was just OK.

That got me musing, because it is not the first time it has happened. So I decided to have another game, this time just to try out the mechanisms, and whenever there was any doubt to read the rules carefully.

So I set up a game between Dave & John with me manning the rule book - a full battle rather than a raid so we could concentrate on the rules rather than rushing around in the chaos and tempo that raiding scenarios involve, and we got stuck in. Actually before that I READ THE RULES again just to refresh my memory, and read the rules as things happened to make sure we were getting it right.

It took a while, but we learned rather a lot. One thing I learned was just how good and well thought through Dux actually is, Our skimming and fumbling had meant we had missed some of the more subtle bits in there, and at the end we also had much better understanding and dare I say it, fun. Last night wasn't an OK gaming session, it was a good gaming session. I'm sure the others felt it too.

Moral of the story RTFM!

One last rambling thought. For the last few years I had heard of the Two Fat Lardies rules but had never really tried them. They were for me pigeon holed in the same niche as some Peter Pig rules - nice mechanisms but too light hearted and tongue in cheek to be thought of as "serious" sets of rules - the Carry on Wargaming style of naming, and indeed the whole company name and pie and pint logo thing helped reinforce that. I was (and am) a fan of some of the older PeterPig rules but the layout, presentation and general impressions were always of an amateur production - one man and his photocopier (which to be fair is pretty much what they were at the time). I had subconsciously  expected the same from TFL. The other side of the coin was the WRG style written in almost legalistic precision (Barkerese). Like them or loath them you had to take them seriously and read them carefully.

Taking the plunge with Chain of Command educated me otherwise.  I think it also showed a step up in ambition for the TFLs. Here they had a product that was in their view (and mine as it happened) superior to the market leader (Bolt Action) in almost every way, but it still lagged behind BA in popularity. I don't want to get into the whole "why" one rules set is better than the other, or what drives popularity, but having looked at both, Chain should have beaten BA hands down in my opinion, and it didn't. 

Like Chain, Dux is a well put together and very nuanced set of rules (at least as far as I can say that after 3-4 games), and the resulting game is interesting and enjoyable. It deserves a bit more respect, to be treated more seriously, but I think my initial expectations that the TFL "brand" is a little frivolous had coloured my view. I wonder if the happy go lucky branding that TFL have used in the past is now starting to bite them back a little?  I hope not, because if Dux and Chain are any indication, TFL are producing some of the most interesting, thought provoking and, yes fun, rules I have seen in quite a while, with production quality to match. Long may they continue

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Protecting Civilisation - Dux Brit Campaign at Asgard Games

I think I mentioned we were looking at playing Dux Britanniarum from TFL?

My gaming schedule is a bit disorganised but when I dropped by Asgard Games in Middlesbrough during the week Steven (the owner) mentioned they were just starting a campaign. I politely enquired if there were any spare slots (ok it was more like begged) and he was happy to oblige, with the first game being set for today (Sunday).

I turned up to discover I was now responsible for protecting Auld Clut against the ravages of Saxons and Picts. It's not a bad place - two provinces on the very edge of Roman Britain (the wrong side of Hadrian's Wall!) and the food is deep fried, but there are worse I suppose :-) 

Steven then very kindly decided to raid my province with his Saxons - Game On!

The Saxons were aiming for a village to plunder, the Romano Brits hoping to head them off before they could steal the family silver. 

The Saxons were having a bit of a bad day - they started with fairly low starting morale roll, which was made worse by an ill advised speech by Steven that went down like a lead balloon. Brit Morale on the other hand was pretty good, so I decided to get stuck in and start the on table part of the game without further ado. 

Steven had the main part of his force running for the target village but detached two groups of warriors to try and delay the Brits who were starting on the flank - rushing to defend the locals.  The Saxons needed to search the houses and find at least 2 units of plunder, and the Brits were keen to stop them - glory is fleeting but a chicken is a chicken!

Sadly the Saxon delaying force got a bit enthusiastic - charging one of these groups out of a copse and into a group of Brits. Unfortunatly a second group of Brits was very near at hand and these joined in the melee. Outnumbered 2-1 the Saxons fought gallantly but broke due to accumulated casualties and shock- not good for already shaky Saxon morale, but at least they had killed 4 Brits for the loss of only three of their own and a wounded leader.

Aftermath of first clash - Brits reorganise as the main Saxon force reaches the Village - meanwhile remnants of the first Saxon group go to check the boats are still secure :-)
At this point the Saxons had another unpleasant shock. A well thrown javelin from some British missile troops plunged towards their Lord as he lead his men forwards. His loyal Champion and banner bearer saw the missile at the last second and threw himself in the way, giving his life for his Lord, but his loss crumbled Saxon morale again.

The Saxons reached the Village and started to look for anything of worth, but even the chickens were hiding.
Knock knock......

Meanwhile the second Saxon delaying group was caught by the British Elite group who threw some pretty amazing dice, killing 5 in one round of melee, and capturing the wounded Saxon Noble.

That was enough to break Saxon morale and they broke and legged it back to the boats leaving the Romano British Lord in possession of the field, the Glory, and indeed the chicken!

Lord of all he surveys Centurion Titus Aduxas and his gallant Warriors!

The post raid results were good for the Romano Brits, losses have been replaced quickly and the Lord has impressed the locals so much four youths have joined his band to act as skirmishers - indeed the Commander has gained a soubriquet "the Good", which while lacklustre is a bit better than "The Bald" which was the original result before modification :-). Meanwhile Steven and his Saxons will have to spend two months recovering their losses before they can raid again.

Great game and a great little shop with some nice members - well worth a visit. While I was upstairs in the gaming room here the shop was busy with a couple of 40K games. I took a couple of general pics to show the layout and general hustle & bustle - not bad for a Sunday. Steven has three tables upstairs in his gaming room and another two downstairs, with tea & coffee facilities. He stocks a wide variety of games and figures and if you want something he doesn't have in stock he can usually get it for you in a couple of days. The shop is located very close to the Middlesbrough bus station so it is quite easy to get to. Recommended - in fact I will be back there on July 5th for a Dropzone Commander event.