Saturday, May 23, 2020

Trench Hammer Test Game

Remember how I bought a Warzone 2nd edition boxed set, painted up the 40 Imperial Regulars figures, bought more stuff to round out the army, and then wondered what I should do with the remaining 40 Bauhaus Militia figures?

Well, I came across this kickstarter, thought about getting myself a unit of cavalry and maybe a support weapon with crew... but ended up backing it at the Starter Army level, which will give me a unit of cavalry, a unit of infantry, several specialist figures, and 6 ogryns. Add to these the 40 Bauhaus Militia figures, and I will have a force that matches my Imperial force.

I started looking at WW1 rules - because why use a sci-fi set of rules for WW1-themed sci-fi troops if you can use WW1 rules, right? - and came across Trench Hammer by Nordic Weasel Games. I have bought a few of their rules before and have enjoyed them, and there are a few websites with detailed reviews of the game, as well as fan-made QRS and unit cards.

I got the rules, read them, and liked them enough to also buy the Expansion booklet. I made my own QRS, some unit cards, and played a small solo test game using my Warzone Imperial figures against my Space Marines.

I set up two opposing lines of cover just over 24" apart, with the Imperials holding a position on top of a low rise (in which I placed the heavy machine gun), and two positions at the bottom of the rise.

The Space Marines are the attackers, and start off from cover too.

My initial plan was to silence the MG on the rise, suppress one of the other positions, and then charge it with the Assault Squad. As it turned out, both sides soon shot each other to bits.

I reset the game, and this time I classed all the covers as trenches. This time, I had the opposite problem: shooting was rather ineffective, with the troops simply hunkering down to recover each time they sustained too many hits - in Trench Hammer hits are not permanent, but are more like "shock", which can be recovered; a unit is only removed if it accumulates 7 or more hits.

Eventually the Space Marines rolled well enough to eliminate the machine gun, and the Assault Marines charged out of their trenches... to be cut down before they could make contact.

I decided that what I really needed, just like the combatants in WW1, was some indirect fire.

I switched the positions for both sides, this time deploying two squads of Marines on the side with the low rise, and attacked them with two squads of Imperials, a mortar, and a squad of cavalry kept out of the line of fire.

The mortar was not as effective as I had hoped though, and eventually I decided to take a risk and launch my cavalry against the first trench. Despite the bonus for shooting at troops moving in the open, both Marines units failed to score enough hits to stop the cavalry. On the next turn the Imperials won the initiative, and I rolled 6 on the bonus movement, allowing the cavalry to assault the trench... and drive the Marines back. It was a Light Horsemen moment.

From the short test games, I think I learned some things about the rules.

As with all games, scenario design and terrain placement is very important. Without enough cover, units will be destroyed before they have a chance to come into assault range. On the other hand, with too much cover, troops will just hunker down and not move or attack, so the scenario must force the units to move out of cover, and/or have a time limit.

With just 2 to 4 units per side, one almost always has enough command points to activate all the units; I believe the game will be more interesting if there are 6 or more units per side, which will force the players to prioritise which units they wish to activate or rally.

I enjoyed the rules enough to want to try them in a larger game, so as soon as the art supplies store opens again, I am going to get myself some Feldgrau paint...

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Froeschwiller Solo Game

The Prussians enter the table

I decided to play a solo game of To the Last Gaiter Button since I had a few off days, and could afford to let the game sit on my table for a few days while I slowly played it to a conclusion. Instead of randomly generating a battlefield using the rules, I wanted to see how the game would play out with a historical scenario.

I picked the Froeschwiller scenario from 1870. It was of course not possible to play out the entire battle, so I decided to play only the southern end of the battle, pitting the Prussian 22nd Division versus the French 4th Division.

The TTLGB rules work well for an attack-defence game, since it has a 'running clock' mechanism that allowed a player to trade initiative for time. In this scenario the Prussians had superior artillery (don't they always?), and could in theory just sit tight and pound the French into submission - but due to the running clock they could not afford to do that.

The 42nd Brigade attack the French position in Nieder Wald, supported by the Divisional artillery.
In my game the Prussians slowly chipped at the French left, hoping to slowly roll up that flank before launching a two-prong attack on their centre. It worked well too, until I got bored.

As much as I enjoyed the rules, playing without a human opponent just wasn't engaging enough for me to see the whole battle through. It did, however, show me that with some thought about the distances, the rules can be used to replay historical scenarios.

Getting the figures and terrain out also reminded me of how much I enjoy the spectacle of a 10mm game; as a result, I went on a little shopping spree and bought myself enough stuff to start an Arab Revolt project.

The Arab Revolt had been on my wargaming bucket list for a while, but I have been putting it off until now. As the stuff I ordered arrive over the next few weeks, I hope to update the progress of this project on this blog. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Fireforge Games Living Dead Knights and Renedra Ruins

I painted these multi-part plastic mounted skeletons I got from the Fireforge Games kickstarter several weeks ago, but I only finished the basing after FG passed me the GW stule cavalry bases last week. The leader figure is a resin model that was a poor piece of work, and one of the resons I will never spend any money on Fireforge Games products.

Here is the foot version of the leader figure, again a poor product.

The ruins are of course Renedra's plastic ruins. They are quite basic, and sadly come in too few styles. One of the pieces also suffered from the "impossible physics" problem of stone blocks which would not possibly be staying in place - I solved it by gluing the top part of the arch, which includes the keystone, back to its proper place.

I bought these frames to go with my small collection of ruins from the GW LOTR range. The Renedra ruins come with their own integrated bases, and I have applied the same stippling technique to help make them blend with the game mat I have.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Gaming in the time of Lockdown

Since the pandemic has made face-to-face gaming nonviable, I have been forced to look into other ways to play with my friends.

I managed to borrow a laptop from FG and got a zoom session going with the gang yesterday (more of that in the future), but I've also managed a couple of other virtual games since this whole things started.

The first is The Somme Campaign 1916, which my friend Steve and I set up. Since we live in different time zones, a game that required a quick response was not possible. Fortunately, by trawling through Wargames Vault, we found an operational level game that had a theme we enjoyed (as much as anyone can enjoy trench warfare), and which played at a pace that suited the limitations we faced.

I downloaded the game, printed out the board and chart (which you can see below), and instead of using counters I used the coloured pins I had and made counters out of them using a sharpie. I set everything up on a cork board, which made it easier to keep all the pieces in place, and to take photos of the board. I originally planned to play out all the moves and send them to Steve by email, but he was so inspired by my set-up he went ahead and built something similar on his end, so we traded photos each turn, with me playing out the orders and rolling all the dice. 

The second game was a game of Kings of War 3rd Edition with FG. I had spent a bit of time doing the movement trays for the two armies I own, and was really looking forward to some play with them this year... so why not now?

We played the game over a weekend afternoon. I prepared the army lists, set up the board, and sent FG a photo of the battlefield and my deployment via Whatsapp. He relayed his deployment, and once I sent him a photo of that too, he gave his orders by drawing arrows on the photos I sent him and returning them to me.

Granted the game lacked the social element of face-to-face gaming, but it was a good way to try the rules out at a leisurely pace, and give the figures some sunlight.

In the coming weeks my friend Dave will be GMing a Warhammer Fantasy Role-playing Game campaign for us via zoom, which I am really looking forward to.

I hope you are getting some gaming done in this difficult time too. Stay safe.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Some Fantasy figures I painted

My self-imposed social isolation has given me time to do some painting, and here are some figures that I painted up over the past couple of weekends.

From left to right, we have:

A Northstar Frostgrave female wizard. I have given her a 'peasant' look instead of a 'wizard' look as I wanted to use her as the default Mama Clay figure - it's now a running gag that all old-woman-NPCs in my campaigns are called Mama Clay and they all have the same voice and may in fact be related to each other.

The 'Expedition Pack Mule' from an old Citadel starter set. My brothers and I have owned this figure for literally decades, but have never actually painted it. With an old school dungeoncrawl campaign in the plans, I decided to finally get it painted.

A lantern-bearer/porter, made from Northstar Frostgrave soldiers set. When you run an old school dungeoncrawl, you need some henchmen: someone to hold the lantern while your party fights the monsters, and to help you haul all that gold (read XPs) back to town. I made this figure using parts from the Frostgrave Soldiers set, loading him with a large backpack, rope, extra arrows, and added a bamboo toothpick cut to 10' length in scale.

A generic swordsman from the Northstar Frostgrave soldiers set. The head may have come from a different (Gripping Beast?) set, but I made this figure for a PC I was planning to play. I wanted to name him Bojack Horseman and paint his clothes in the same colour scheme, but did not see it through. Now clad in green and holding a green shield with a white horse motif, he can be a Kai Lord, a Rohirrim foot soldier, or a mercenary/caravan guard type.

An undead dog from Fireforge Games' Living Dead Knights set in their Forgotten World range. I backed their Kickstarter, and was very disappointed by the quality of their resin pieces, and their so-called customer service. Suffice to say that I will never buy anything from them ever again.

The reverse view to show the amount of gear that the henchman and mule are packing. The 'floor' in the photos is a page from Loke BattleMats' The Dungeon Battle Mat Book Set - it blends nicely with the backdrop.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Heroic Maps Ancient Dungeon tiles

With no games scheduled, I decided to use the time I have to prepare for future campaigns.

One of the planned campaign is a megadungeon using Five Torches Deep rules.

Now I have a few map books in my collection, but while they provide a lot of variety, most of the pages tend to be 'packed' with no dead spaces, making them resemble more indoor floorplans than your old-fashioned dungeons, which sometimes have inexplicable-long corridors between rooms, when it would have made more sense to have shorter ones which would have reduce the labour required...

Anyway, the solution to this was the equally old-fashioned modular dungeon tile.

To make a set of dungeon tiles, I turned to my favourite 2D maps people, Heroic Maps. After looking through their catalogue, I decided that the sets that fit my requirements were the Ancient Dungeon Rooms and the Ancient Dungeon Corridors sets. The dungeon depicted in the sets look suitably old (as befits their name), and fit the theme of the megadungeon I am planning to run. As I already own both sets (and have used the Rooms maps previously), all I had to do was to get the material components.

Heroic Maps also have modular dungeon tiles in several other themes, including a cleaner-looking dungeon, frozen dungeon, mossy dungeon, abandoned dwarf dungeon... If you are looking to run a megadungeon and planning to make your own set of modular dungeon tiles, you should definitely check them out.

I then went through the various maps to decide how many of each type of tile I would likely need. Now this requires some planning as the sets had rooms with doorways/archways which are one, two, or three squares wide, and there were corridors which are one, two, or three squares wide, and 'adaptor' tiles which allow you to transition from one width to another. I decided on a two-wide system, but included a single two-to-three adaptor tile so I could use a room tile with a three-wide entrance.

One I have decided on that I made a rough estimate of how many straight, corners, and junctions I would likely need. I also printed out the 'pre-made' rooms that looked interesting/useful, as well as enough pieces of the 'make-your-own' modular room (room corner, wall on one side, plain floor tile, wall with entrance) tiles to give me the capacity to make any odd-sized room the module required, and a very large room if I needed one.

I printed out the selected pages using my home laser printer, at the recommended 91% size for 1" grids.

For the board I got some A3 size black mounting board. These were sturdy enough for my purpose, and more importantly were black throughout their thickness (instead of being black on the outside but white on the inside), which meant they would blend in better to my usual black tablecloth.

I cut out the tiles and test-fitted them on each sheet of board to best utilise the surface area, placing long edges against the edges of the board to save on cutting.

Once the shapes had been cut out I turned them on their backs and used Elmer's spray adhesive on them. The spray gave an even coat, and had just about the right amount of time to made adjustments once you put the paper to the board. It does leave a sticky residue on the surface you work on, so I recommend you use some sort of a tarp (or a large trash bag as I did) to cover the surface you are working on.

Then came the laborious task of cutting each and every piece out. Once that was done, I went over the edge of each side of the tile with a black marker to cover the white edge of the paper.

Here you can see them in action. The set contains enough tiles to make an interesting layout, including alcove pieces and round shaped rooms.

After I was done with the set, I realised that there was a lot of unused surface on the reverse sides of the tile. I went back and started looking through the Heroic Maps catalogue again to see if I should maybe glue a different-themed set of tiles on the reverse side, but decided that they were all too specific for my current plans (although the dwarven one was tempting).

Then I saw that they have a couple of sci-fi sets also, and that their Industrial Spacecraft sets (which I also already owned) have tiles in the exactly configurations as those of the Ancient Dungeon ones, just with a different skin! OK, they didn't have the make-your-own room modular pieces, but those aside this meant that I could essentially duplicate the Ancient Dungeon set in Industrial Spacecraft by gluing the exact counterpart on the back of each tile!

The problem with the Industrial Spacecraft Corridors set, however, was that while the Ancient Dungeon set had multiple identical tiles on a page (say three identical straight corridors on a single page), the Industrial Spacecraft set had different tiles on a single page, say the straight corridor with a corner and a two-to-one adaptor. This meant that to get say three straight corridors, I would need to print three of the pages - not the most economical on paper and toner.

To overcome this, I cut-and-pasted the required tiles to a Word document and resized them to the correct dimensions. The fit were mostly good, and if they were a little larger I just trimmed the excess with an Exacto knife.

And what do you do when you have a set of modular sci-fi corridor tiles? Well, play Space Hulk, of course!

Of course the configuration of the tiles (two-wide instead of one-wide) meant that some tweaks have to be made. I am still in the process of doing that, so hopefully I can write a post on that too once I have found something that works.

If you have any question about making a set of dungeon tiles, or some cool hacks or ideas I might have missed, so let me know in the comments section.

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Games, Interrupted

On 03 Feb my RPG group got back together after a two-month year-end break to begin the next arc of our Terrinoth A Team campaign. It was a little hard getting back my GM legs after the long hiatus, but we had an OK session, and I was looking forward to the following session.

Then we went DORSCON Orange on 08 Feb.

I work in healthcare, in a front-line role, so we made the decision to stop our regular sessions until the epidemic is over.

Fortunately, I had stocked up on food and supplies over the preceding weeks, and on most days now I don't leave home except to go to work, and I come back home right away after. On weekends, I can go for more than 48 hours without leaving home.

Unfortunately, the dozen or so miniatures I was hoping would deliver in January did not arrive, and I am left with few things to paint. After bumming around for a couple of weekends, I decided to make a set of modular dungeon tiles using the Heroic Maps pdfs I already own, since I am planning to run a megadungeon campaign in the future.

I hope to post photos of how I made the tile set, as well as the projects that sprang from it over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.