Sunday, 31 July 2011

After the ball was over

Well the Big Birthday Battle went off successfully, my first real foray into GASLIGHT in 28mm and the culmination of six weeks of planning, figure painting and terrain building . Had a bit of scare first thing when after thinking the club we were playing at opened at 11:30, I spotted a note this morning on the MAWS mailing list saying the club would be opening from 9:15 this morning because of the planned practice tournament. So I threw everything into the car and raced down there thinking we might struggle to get a table. Luckily it wasn't too bad, and I secured the side room for our use so that we wouldn't disturb the serious business of the competition wargamers. Players started turning up from 11 onwards, and we soon had seven players, with an eighth arriving in time to join in turn 2.

Here we have a view of Nether Fondle from the south. The River Fondle runs diagonally across the southern half of the table, with the village itself on the right and South Wood closest to the camera.

The table is bisected exactly by the West Crumshaw District Railway line, with the 11:30 just halted at the station following reports of beastly Huns in the area.

Here's a view from the North West, with North Farm closest to the camera. It could be said that the locals were a bit lacking in imagination when naming local landmarks.

Here are all the forces I brought along for the game. When you consider that when I first put forward this idea to the guys at Phalanx on 18th June, I had one unit of British Infantry and one unit of Germans painted, plus the five P5 dreadnought suits that I used to use for 15mm, I think putting together all these troops and all the terrain (which was also all put together from scratch) in six weeks is quite an achievement (again big props to Mi Hermano Pintando Jonesy for helping with the figure painting.)

There were way more figures and vehicles than we needed, though in the end we did actually use most of them when the Germans regrouped for their second wave attack, but more of that later.

And these were the players, god help us all. From left to right we have the German Empire (Bruce, Andy, Marvin, Em), My Evil Genius Henchwoman (Alice) and the stout hearted defenders of Britannia (Jonesy and DeadEdd). I naturally played Doctor Vesuvius and started out the game with my MoleMachine having just gone underground at the crater marker by the Bridge. This battle saw the Evil Genius forces temporarily allied with the British.

The first few moves were fairly cagey as the players, uncertain of things, slowly advanced to contact positions. The Germans were crippled by a series of failed Sustain and Start rolls, which left two of their Landships inactive for several turns.

It seems to be a rule of VSF games. If you put a nice train on the tabletop as pretty terrain, someone is going to get inside and try to ram it into something. In this instance a whole platoon were entrained and the engine commandeered by Colonel Roger deRRs (a very old family name)

The German Infantry advance around South Wood. Left unsupported by the Ludwig Quad Walker and the Imperial Landship Parsifal which both suffered Sustain failures.

Similar story in the north - the Imperial Landship Lohengrin is stalled just off to the left of camera. The Tigger MkII Springenpanzer was luckier and was able to move up in support of th infantry and Jaegers.

Rumour has it that Farmer Barleymow and his good wife were terribly ill-used when the beastly Huns barged through his farmhouse.

Here's a fine example of German "soldiering" in action. Hauptmann Kramer "encouraging" his troops to enter South Wood. "But Hauptmann, I'm scared, Joachim says there may be in there!"

The British defenders in and around Nether Fondle itself.

After about turn 6, Doctor Vesuvius surfaces the Molemachine near to South Wood. As I mentioned previously, with the Molemachine moving underground the player has to plot move orders on a piece of paper, operating purely by eye and without measuring on the tabletop. When the machine surfaced, those orders were replayed, in our case by a passing-by MAWS club officer who happened to be wearing a Britcon Umpire shirt (thanks Geoff). As it happened, I was about one move short of where I thought I was, which I thought was pretty good going for a first try.

In the far north, the girls got into a bit of a cat-fight, with my henchwoman (the appropriately named Dr Rebecca Henchman) and the Teutonic markswoman Heidi Brecht trading shots. Their vehicles were unfortunately ill matched, the very heavy Thunder Hammer Tank outgunning the lightly armoured Springenpanzer, whose Steam Dynamite Cannon had little chance of piercing the Thunder Hammer's armour. The first shot from the Thunder Hammer penetrated, but luckily turned out to be a straight "in and out" shot, doing little damage.

The next shot, on the other hand, saw the Springenhammer's throttle stuck into full speed forward. Em calculates her uncontrolled course and in true Victorian fashion is Not Amused.

Lord George Fox and Captain Hurst with his Grenadier Guards take up a defensive position on the edge of town.

... and soon afterwards are rewarded. The German infantry are distracted by the now moving train, and position themselves to engage it, opening themselves to enfilading fire from the town. First Blood to the British! In the next turn, the train advances and the infantrymen on board unleash a volley on the Germans in the open, which combined with a second volley from the Grenadier Guards, breaks their morale and pretty much blunts the advance in the German centre.

And the same turn, the loss of the Quad Walker to a shot from HMLS Pinafore in the centre cements that collapse.

At South Wood, the Molemachine advances on the German Infantry. They courageously run away.

Hauptman von Blitzen (in the fetching green patrol jacket) and his troops stand fast at North Farm.

...but disaster strikes the Springenpanzer. Barrelling forward out of control, it's hit a second time from the Thunder Hammer Tank. This time a fuel line is breached and the fighting cabin fills up with noxious smoke. The crew are incapacitated for three rounds.

It was at this point that I inform the British players that the large white building that the Springenpanzer was ultimately heading towards is in fact the Red Lion Pub. This prompts shouts of "foul" and "bad show" and some very quick re-assignment of targeting priorities. Despite the best efforts of HMLS Pinafore over the, they are unable to bring it down, but before the Springenpanzer reaches it, it clips the end of the last train carriage and unceremoniously topples over. Not an auspicious first run out for the Tigger Mk II.

Meanwhile in South Wood, Hooligan O'Hara and his Masked Minions spring out of the Molemachine and charge after the retreating Germans. A vicious melee ensues, but the tide quickly turns against the Masked Minions, On the next turn, Doctor Vesuvius himself leaves the safety of the Mole Machine and joins the fray, accompanied by his faithful companion, Wolesley the Wonder Dog. Disaster! The good and kindly doctor is viciously cut down, along with the last of the Masked Minions. Who will buy the poorhouse orphans their Christmas presents this year?
But Huzzah for good old Wolesley! He steadfastly guards his master's fallen body and the melee concludes with the unseemly spectacle of five German soldiers all trying to bayonet one small dog. He manages to take two of them down before succumbing. "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

It was now 3pm and at this point the German players decided that their current attack had no chance of succeeding. We paused for a brief break, and reformed the German forces with some fresh reinforcements, which saw all three landships and the two surviving Ludwigs, plus two early Laufmaschines backed up by fresh infantry and cavalry. Repairs were made to the Iron Men, and I took the second unit of Masked Minions, led by Ivan Tukhiliu, the Mad Axeman of Minsk, who didn't wind up doing an awful lot in the rest of the battle.

Here's a long shot of after the restart. The British were allowed to start in possession of the battlefield and the Germans came on at them in the same old fashion. Far up in the north, the Thunder Hammer got into a point-blank gunnery duel with Imperial Landship "Siegfried", which was a little more evenly matched than the Springenpanzer. The Germans weren't quite so crippled by failed Sustain rolls as the previous attack and were better able to advance in support of the infantry.

Just north of the railway, just about visible in this picture, HMLS Pinafore and the two Royal Horseless Artillery Gun trucks got into a duel with Imperial Landship Lohengrin and the two early Laufmaschines. Gun Truck #2 "Oliver" gets stuck in forward gear and winds up ramming through the wall at North Farm with none of the German vehicles ever really being threatened. In the foreground, the Imperial German Uhlans had advanced to threaten both the Grenadiers and the regulars. They somehow manage to survive the volley fire intact, but Ludwig#2 behind them manages to effectively wipe out the regular infantry on the hill with heavy machine gun and cannon fire. The Uhlans went on to charge the Grenadiers and after a couple of rounds of vicious fighting cut them down to the last man, at the cost of half their number. The last surviving Grenadier rolls failed morale, and gets "Charge nearest enemy" so we decide he's staying in the fight, Impossible Paladin-style.

In the foreground we see Professor Pondsmith's Perpendicular Perambulating Paladin No 1 "Annie" breaking through into South Wood, stalking Ludwig #3. Again the accompanying German infantry steer well clear of the metal behemoth.

Impeccable timing, as the landship "Parsifal" rounds the edge of the woods moments after Annie makes it into cover. Ludwig #3 is suffering steam problems...

...which Annie takes advantage of. I'm a little hazy on how melee between vehicles and conveyances should go, I think it's one of those "GM's call" hazy areas of the GASLIGHT rules. To keep things moving fast I had each vehicle roll a morale dice, as per normal close-combat rules, with only a 19 or 20 being a failure. The Ludwig threw a 20! Its crew, seeing the onrushing P5, decides that discretion is the better part of valour and bail out of the stricken vehicle before it was smashed up by the oncoming juggernaut.

It was now 4pm, with the club due to close at 5pm I called last turn. Since the British hadn't even brought on their cavalry yet and we simply had to have a glorious Cavalry vs Cavalry charge, they decided that the British lancers must have been a flanking force arriving on the table side near the Uhlans. After protests from the German player that he had already lost half his strength, the British player agreed they must be a under-strength flanking force and reduced their number to match the Uhlans.

The resulting melee is brutal and mercifully short. In the aftermath, with only a couple of troopers a side, both players decided they would each withdraw from the field with honour. The last action of the game was for Lord George Fox, pictured above waving his sword, in a last Huzzah decides to single-handedly charge the unit of German infantry advancing through the South Woods. I ask the German player for a morale check, saying pretty much anything but a 20 would be OK. He rolls a twenty. Taken aback by the crazy Englishman's suicidal charge, they scatter in panic.

And that is pretty much where we left it. I know I'm leaving out a ton of details, but these were the scenes from the action that I got on camera and can remember. A full detailed account of the battle would take many more hours to compile.

The second German attack seemed to have been much more successful than the first, though the British were still hanging on by the skin of their teeth, the outcome was still uncertain and both sides agreed to call it a draw/stalemate. Everyone said they enjoyed it, and I got some nice compliments on the terrain and, bizarrely on the figure painting. Considering I was using Army Painter Quickshade for the "Magic Dip" technique, I'm chuffed that people liked the results.

Several players have expressed an interest in more GASLIGHT gaming, and we've already scheduled another game for mid September, that being the first club meet any significant number of us will be available for. Now that everyone's gotten some experience playing the game, I think we can increase the number of units fielded per player from the recommended 1 Main Character, one unit of troops and one vehicle.

I'm feeling absolutely drained - after all the work over the last six weeks to make this game happen and also after a day of running the game without having time for a proper meal, so right now I think I'm going to crash.

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