Monday, 6 May 2013

The Boys are Back in Town

This weekend, for those of you unlucky enough to live in "forn parts", was a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK (i.e. today was a national holiday, making it a long weekend)  As a result, many folks' thoughts turn to leisure activities.  For example, my friend Bruce, a regular attendee of the "Old Farts" gaming night, whose good lady happened to be away on a Girls Day Out on Sunday inspiring him to invite a bunch of us over for a Boys Day In.

When we'd arrived and the question was asked "what shall we do today?"... I leapt straight in with the inevitable answer "WE SHALL PLAY WITH TOY SOLDIERS."

Now Bruce is a veteran wargames dabbler, with an impressive man-cave of bits and bobs collected over the years.  He's particularly interested in matters naughtical, mainly in the Napoleonic and World Wars eras, and being of the Scottish persuasion is also interested in matters pertaining to folks with names like "Robert The" and "Bonny Prince".  But his dabbling nature means he doesn't tend to have a regularly played game and/or armies ready to go, the way regular player of, say Flames of War or one of the Warhammers might.  Putting together an instant pick-up game was a matter of poking through boxes till we found some interesting figures, then poking through another set of boxes till we found some rules to go with them.

(In case it sounds like I'm being disparaging, I was exactly the same way until I got my 28mm GASLIGHT armies sorted a year or so back)

Anyway the first game we settled on paired a box of what looked like Redoubt's 3 Musketeer figures with Ganesha Games "Flashing Steel", based on their Song of Blades & Heroes system.  Between us we cobbled together a scenario that saw Rochefort & the Cardinal's Guard searching a small French village for the Queen, who was returning from an assignation with Buckingham, while the Musketeers sought to escort her to safety.  Surprisingly, the rules didn't provide any sample characters, so we basically read through all of the games Special Rules and collaboratively assigned them to the various named characters, based on our favourite movie versions. (I have to confess I shamelessly mix my movie versions, favouring Ollie Reed's Athos from the 1970s and Ray Stevenson's Porthos from the most recent remake)

What was notable about the game was how bloodless it was for the first hour and a half, despite being full of action.  The rules used the usual 1d6 + combat rating + modifiers opposed roll system used by most Ganesha rules, with the winner normally needing double the loser's total to put them out of the fight.  Although we had lots of pushback results, nobody ever quite managed a straight double result.

The stalemate was broken when Rochefort and Athos both arrived at the village church at the same time, facing off down the aisle.  The ensuing duel lasted three or four game turns, seeing both parties knocked down and the advantage passing back and forth.  In the end, Athos managed to land a hit while Rochefort was knocked down, which turned it into a killing blow.  In fact almost all the casualties in the game came from this rule.

Once damn had broken casualties came thick and fast.  Athos came to the rescue of his brothers-in-arms, saving a fallen Aramis by skewering a guardsman>  But in the hard fought melee Aramis fell again a few rounds later and was slain, with Athos succumbing a few rounds later.  D'Artagnon found himself facing off against three guardsmen by himself, and under the weight of numbers was knocked down and killed, with the valiant Porthos following suit a couple of turns later.

With hindsight we possibly made the Cardinal's Guard better than the should have been in such a cinematic game, a situation made worse by the fact that half of their figures were armed with a main-gauche off-hand dagger, letting them roll a second defensive dice in every combat.  But it was a great fun game and something  we must try again soon.

For the second game of the day, after briefly looking over Bruce's collection of Redcoats and Clansmen, bought in bits and bobs over the years and all on different basing schemes, we settled on a Napoleonic naval game.  Now despite being an age-of-sail nut and having quite a collection of 1/1200 ships, Bruce doesn't actually have a set of rules he plays, even semi-regularly.  Time for another dive through the boxes of the man-cave until we found a likely candidate in Strange Tydes by Wessex Games.  Now although this was written for a "Napoleonic Fantasy" world in the vein of Flintloque, I'd heard good things about it as a general-purpose fast-play age-of-sail game.

The game uses a 5 phase movement system that would be familiar to players of Car Wars or Star Fleet Battles, and the familiar 1d6+combat rating opposed roll, with the amount by which the firer exceeds the target's roll translating into points of damage.  For some reason, both sides struggled to inflict damage on the other throughout the game, although within the first two turns the lead ship in my division took two critical damage results telling me that first the captain had been killed, and then the ship's parrot, after which the ship struck its colours and surrendered.  I can only assume that the first officer really didn't care for his Captain but man he really loved that bird!

Despite everything we all had a blast and several of us went away with plans to hack the game to solve various issues for a future replay.  All in all it was a cracking day's gaming.

Today, Mi Hermano de Fiesta Jonesey came round for the Bank Holiday, and we decided to take advantage of the sunny weather by having a painting.crafting session outside.  He worked on basing some 15mm SF figures and painting & rebasing some GZG spaceships, while I looked at my own 15mm modern/street violence figures, long shelved since the very earliest days of this blog.

Here's the funny thing.  I used to be a great proponent of 15mm gaming, even with rules and periods where 28mm dominated.  They offer so many advantages - cost, storage, playing room - 15mm makes a lot of sense, and some of the sculpts we're seeing today in the smaller scale put some older 28mm figs to shame.  And yet, looking down at the pile of unpainted 15mm figures in front of me, I just couldn't get excited about them.  I kept thinking "Why should I spend time working on these?  I don't know if my paint method is going to work on them?  I know it'll work on the 28s, why don't I do those instead?  God these things are so tiny!"

In the end I resolved to force myself to work on one set of figures - a group of Rebel Miniatures US-style police officers, as a testbed for my usual "daub and dip" technique, to see whether I'd be happy with the result.  I found I was really struggling to work on them, and only managed to get them primed and started, but will persevere.  While waiting for the primer to dry, I grabbed all the remaining primed TAG 28mm US Marines from the man-cave painting table and started painting their guns.  I figure they were such a simple paint job last year (guns, skin and a couple of picked out details) they should make for a quick win to start this year's painting season.

It might seem counter-productive to be working on both 15mm and 28mm figures for the same period and style of game.  It probably is.  But with all the 28mm terrain bought for VSF/Steampunk gaming that can be repurposed, I can easily put on an impressive table, whereas in 15mm I'll be starting from scratch again.  Whether the advantages offered by the smaller scale will make that worthwhile remains to be seen.


  1. I haven't got "Flashing Steel" but if it is anything like Ganesha's other games, winning die rolls that are "even" numbers result in a knockdown. Knocked down models are KO'ed on ANY hit, not just 2X hits. Double-check the rule in Flashing Steel. The situation you describe sounds much like me and my wife the first time we played SoB&H.

    1. Yep, that's the rule and that's how we played it. Like I said, in normal combat, fighters were struggling to get double their opponents total for an Out of Fight result. It was only when characters were knocked down by even numbered rolls that subsequent hits became killing blows and we started to see casualties. Sorry if I didn't explain that clearly.

      Two rules we did get wrong - a fallen Leader doesn't provide the usual Quality bonus to nearby allies until he stands back up. And the extra defensive dice for the Main-Gauche only applies if facing a single opponent - if you're being ganged up on you don't get it. That would have made those guardsmen a little less resilient.

  2. Those Musketeers are surely just laid up in some inn or nunnery or something, being patched back up. (and the Cardinal's Guards probably dragged Rochefort's not quite lifeless body back to be patched up as well).

    1. I prefer to think that our little story was a a draft chapter, scribbled out one evening by Dumas-Pere after a bad portion of escargot left him a little the worse for wear, only to be screwed up and tossed in favour of one with a more heroic outcome once le alka-seltzer kicked in.