Monday, 23 April 2012

Winning the Battle of Who Could Care Less.

Real Life 1.... Timely and Frequent Blog Updates, Nil.

'Nuff said?

Actually between real life demands I have been rather busy on the terrain making front.  The rocky hills are finished and I'm very happy with the results.. photos later.  The dollhouse collection has grown to four buildings in varying states of conversion, including a successful experiment with Instant Mold to create copies of windows.. again photos later.  Incidentally I had a very encouraging reply from Mr Dodo (the wargamer responsible for the Shamlingham terrain that inspired this little project.)  Work on the pier for the Battle of Weston super-Mare has also continued, with a piece to transition between ground level and the elevated pier.

I've also been experimenting with the conversion of 00 scale railway buildings into something suitable for 28mm.  This is a lot easier than you might think.  Provided you're happy to accept buildings with a slightly too small footprint, the key indicator of scale is the height of doorways.  If you cover over existing doorways with 28mm scaled replacements you wind up with a petite but acceptable building that looks like 28mm figures could fit into, albeit a touch snugly. They may not fit well with other, correctly scaled buildings but for isolated specials they do.

The other advantage with this approach is that it's possible to pick up bargain 2nd hand buildings on eBay, especially those that have been salvaged from old railway layouts or have otherwise seen better days.  I got an Airfix signal box, missing the steps and railings (which I had to rebuild for 28mm anyway) for a couple of pounds including postage, and a set of two Airfix station buildings for about four pounds.  One station building I've built up with an extended "skirt" of balsa wood and added 28mm doors scratchbuilt from card. The other I'm going to leave for now and just spray white as an "end of the pier" building, to be returned to later.

Photos... yes you've guessed it... Later.

Onto the main reason for writing this post, the battle report of last weekends GASLIGHT game testing the new morale rules.

But first a word about gentlemanly conduct.

Or to borrow archaic cricket terminology, the difference between Gentlemen and Players.  A Gentleman plays for the joy of the game and though he doesn't mind yielding when the honours of the day have clearly gone against him, he expects the same treatment from his, presumably, honourable opponent.  A Player on the other hand sees winning as everything, and will stoop to any means, no matter how low, in order to secure a win.  He will twist the rules to his advantage, and even... as a completely random example... call a game to a halt as the tide of battle turns against him, only to turn around and later argue that he would have one, if only the game had continued.

Sadly this game, while for the most part seeming to be a most Gentlemanly affair, turned out somewhat soured by the post-game conduct of one Player.  The Gentlemanly war correspondent must, however, put such petty bitterness behind him and report the facts as they stand.  In that spirit, I shall endeavour to relay the following battle report in as honest and impartial a manner as I can.

The game, in addition to being a test of the new Morale rules, was to be the first outing of my brave Fenian Brotherhood boys against the forces of British Imperialism.  My opponent was some unwashed, unshaven ne'er-do-well dragged in off the street, you know the sort of uncouth ruffian who scorns a genteel Family Sunday in favour of some common dicing game.  Certainly no-one I'd characterise as friend or mock-hispanic-kin-by-choice, and his name shall not sully this account with its presence.  Before his arrival I had laid out most of a terrain on my 4x4 table, including the Amera Mouldings church with its Renedra Plastics graveyard (two more debuts).  While I fulfilled my hostly duties in preparing a hot beverage for my guest, he completed the setup by adding such details as, no doubt, he saw would benefit his forces in the long run.  When deciding which direction of the table to fight across, I absent-mindedly rotated the table by 90 degrees, a development which my opponent  responded to with glee, clearly seeing further advantage.
The field of (dis)honour

We decided to do a game of staged reinforcements, although I was somehow gulled into starting with only two units of militia and a steam wagon facing three units of regulars and a small landship.  Against such odds I deployed in what cover I could, one unit of boys in the village hall, the other in the churchyard (though as good, respectful Catholic boys, they didn't profane the church itself with their armed presence) accompanied by the noted Fenian hero Seamus O'Hooligan. (to any readers expecting political correctness on this report... oy vey have you got the wrong blog!)

The Brits came on up the road, with the landship in the middle and the infantry spread out on either side.  A lucky shot at long range from the village hall scored first blood, but the return fire sent the Fenian militia ducking away from the windows. This was the first failed morale check of the game.  Strictly speaking the Fall Back result should have forced the militia back to just outside the building, but my opponent in an uncharacteristic bout of good manners suggested that they might merely duck away from the windows to the back of the hall.  This seemed like such a good idea that I've since incorporated it into the new rules, allowing troops in heavy cover to "hunker down" in place instead of falling back.

The Fenian Militia in the graveyard
On the Fenian right, O'Hooligan and the second militia unit took cover among the gravestones where they were faced with assault from first one then two units of British regulars.  Although the boys gave a good accounting of themselves for a couple of turns, they were forced back by weight of fire leaving O'Hooligan alone and caught in a crossfire to which he quickly succumbed.

The boys in the Village Hall took further casualties from the advancing Brits including their leader, causing them to flee their position (a "half fall back, half skedaddle" result).  The unit regrouped and rallied on the far side of the main street, but this allowed the Brits to advance unopposed up to the far left side of the village.

The duel of the steam tanks
Meanwhile in the centre we initially had a splendid gunnery duel between the Fenian steam wagon and the British light landship.  The Fenian wagon's gun fell strangely silent and its crew remained inactive for a couple of turns however.  As the third turn of inactivity I was compelled to raise the matter with my opponent who it transpired while serving as the guardian of the initiative card deck had "accidentally" dropped the steam wagon's card on the floor at his feet.  With their ability to act returned to them, the Fenian gunners scored a direct hit on the British landship, jamming the steering and spurring the cowardly crew to bail out (although somehow the landship never got to make the compulsory "turn left" move, and the British player argued that instead of falling back the 6" required by the morale result, the crew should just take cover behind their stricken vehicle, allowing them to return to action more quickly.)

The Militia defence of the graveyard had taken a heavy
toll on the two units of attacking Brits.
On the left the rallied Fenian militia managed to catch a couple of the flanking Brits as they sprinted across main street.  The Brits still came on in the same old fashion, around the side and charging into the back of the militia's position.  They failed morale and fell back 6", across to the other side of the road.  The Fenian Steam Wagon, the threat of the British Landship momentarily removed, fell back to support them and its main gun caught the flanking Brits killing a couple and sending them falling back.

It was around this time that the first of the Fenian reinforcements arrived on table - a unit of regular infantry and an armoured car armed with a Nordenfelt machine gun and led by the Fenian brigade commander.  Unfortunately I made a mistake blocking the road with the infantry which stopped the armoured car taking advantage of its fast road move and getting to the fight sooner.  The Militia in the graveyard rallied long enough to inflict a couple more casualties on the British infantry before being all but wiped out and forced to flee the field.  The following turn though the Fenian Brotherhood regulars made it to the graveyard fence and renewed the fire on the British, supported by the Armoured Car's Nordenfelt.  The Brigade Commander headed left to join the leaderless militia there and rally them into a force that would be able to hold off the Brits in the village.
Fenian reinforcements.   Hurrah!

The final act of the battle saw one of the two British units attacking the graveyard take a couple of casualties and fail morale, causing them to skedaddle off the table.  It was at this point that the British player called an end to the game.  We even shook hands on the matter.

It was while we were halfway through clearing away the terrain that I made an off-hand comment that I was pleased the Fenians had done well on their first outing.  It was at this point that my weaselly opponent informed me that the game was in fact a British victory, that the unit that skedaddled had not in fact left the table running directly away from the cause of the casualties but had somehow run at an angle allowing them to remain on the table.  Thus reinforced, he explained, his surviving forces would have been able to brush my remaining defenders aside.  Sadly this was not the first time this particular player had argued for a post-game victory based on the result of turns not played.

As no amount of reasoning seemed likely to dissuade him from his "victory" and he even refused to accept that the battle should be allowed to impact the ongoing narrative campaign that ALL my GASLIGHT games are a part of, my opponent was asked to leave the premises, after which I made a count of the silverware to ensure it was all still accounted for.

From this sad tale, we can learn three important lessons...

1) Once a competitive gamer, always a competitive gamer.
2) Every wargame, even a casual friendly like this one, should have clear cut victory conditions.
3) Do not.. I repeat... do NOT piss off a writer.  They'll make you famous.    

"I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity." - Chaucer, A Knight's Tale 


  1. A nice report.

    You have my sympathies, about your opponent - he sounds an utter cad! If he dares approach your fine gaming establishment again, I'd suggest hoisting him with his own petard!

    1. I don't think he even has the decency to have his own petard, preferring instead to mooch off others . He's always turning up at peoples houses saying "Go on mate, lerrus use yer petard fer a bit. Mine's in the shop for repairs." Then he returns it weeks later, all scratched up and empty.

      Terrible, terrible man. :-)

  2. Hmm, I know all too well the likes of your opponent. I call them "Warrens" after a particularly nasty example of the kind who habituated a former wargames club I was in. At least you seem to have benefited from the game in refining your GASLIGHT amendments.

    1. Indeed. The Rules Lawyer breed, if properly domesticated, can be a boon to the gentleman gamer in ironing out inconsistencies and uncertainties in one's rules writing, using their unerring instincts for tracking down misplaced commas that lead to unbalanced rules exploits.

      Sadly, like certain agressive breeds of dog favoured by the working classes, they do have a tendency under pressure to revert to their feral nature and deliver a nasty, unexpected bite once in a while.

  3. I game with the Baron, Baron von J, whose blog you commented on recently. We strive for gentlemanly games. When someone starts taking advantage of quirks in rules, you generally hear "I call cheese-dickory". I have no idea who came up with that, but cheese-dickory it is. It usually gets a laugh and gets us back on the right track.
    Nice blog.