Monday, November 28, 2022

Napoleonics and Battletech Destiny

The Austrian cavalry take the heights north of Aspern, while simultaneously the Grenzers advance towards the orchard west of the town.

Desperate fight for the heights.

Mecha mayhem!

Yesterday Rick brought along the 15mm Austrians that he had bought literally ten years ago for their first game ever. While we own a French, an Anglo-Allied, and an Austrian army between us, we have seldom played Napoleonics as all the rules we have tried before we too labourious to prep for and play; systems like Age of Eagles required special labels for the command base of every unit on the table, the application of which already take up a chunk of time.

When Rick mooted the idea of playing a game, I revisited the To the Last Gaiter Button rules for FPW, and decided to give them another go. Looking at the distances and ground scales, I realised that the game could easily translate to Napoleonics by halving the scale and making one unit a battalion; better yet, by seeing the number of bases as a representation of the Combat Effectiveness of the unit and not the number of troops in the unit, it made it easier to translate historical orders of battle to game.

At this scale we could only play games with one or two divisions aside, for the our scenario I decided to depict only one part of a larger battle, in this case the Austrian attack on Aspern, pitting 11 battalions of infantry, four double-squadrons of light cavalry, and three foot batteries (each of 2 bases) against seven battalions of infantry, three double-squadrons of light cavalry, and one foot battery of the French. Unbeknownst (but suspected) by the Austrian players, the French would be reinforced in the middle of the battle by two double-squadrons of heavy cavalry.

The game uses a grid-based movement, and the players were initially a little surprised by the short movement and "shooting" ranges for infantry, but they pretty soon warmed up to it and realised that the limited movement meant that once a formation is committed to a particular axis of attack, it would be difficult to change one's plans. This was made worse by the fact that the game had a running clock: the Austrian had to capture the whole of Aspen (represented as two grids in our scenario) by 30 on the clock for a victory, and to capture the road leading from the south into Aspern for a major victory. At the start of each turn each side rolled a d6, with the side rolling higher choosing whether to move first but let the other side choose which of the scores to add to the game clock, or letting the opponent move first and choosing which score to add instead.

In our game the battle centred on two actions: an artillery bombardment followed by an infantry assault from the west and the north of Aspern, and a fight for the heights north of Aspern. Our game actually ended more or less as the historical battle did at the end of day 1, with the Austrians controlling half of Aspern and the French still keeping the road south open.

For our second game we played Battletech Destiny, which as I understand it is not a set of wargame rules, but a mash-up of the combat rules from the Mechwarrior: Destiny RPG and Battletech Alpha Strike rules.

I enjoyed the more streamlined combat resolution of the game, but perversely I would have preferred to keep the fiddly hex movement and facing of Battletech Classic.

Our group will be trying out the Alpha Strike rules in the future too, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Oathmark Dwarf Light Infantry

Here are a few Oathmark Dwarf Light Infantry I painted as ghosts for our Dwarrowdeep campaign. They were simply primed white, and then given a coat of Citadel Contrast Aethermatic Blue. This seems to be a quick and effective way of making ghostly miniatures.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Dwarrowdeep #9

In the month of Wintermarch, as the snowmelt began, the thaig received a visitor from Nevarra - Auric Pentaghast. He told the tale of how he had tried to slay a young dragon in his home country, who fled after killing his apprentice. For months he tracked the dragon, until at last he found her in a ruined tower on an island in the middle of a frozen glacial lake in the Frostback Mountains. The dragon had made her lair in the middle of the tower, where there was a breach in the wall. Pentaghast had tried to take on the dragon alone, but she was guarded by a pack of drakes, which made approaching her undetected impossible. Hearing of the thaig, he had come looking for adventurers who will aid him.

Now news of the dragon roosting near the thaig caused concern among the dwarves, for a dragon roosted to raise her brood, and when her eggs hatched she would no doubt begin hunting for food to raise the dragonlings, and her hunting could quickly strip an area of prey and drive her to attack man and dwarves alike. The records found in the halls of records indicated that the tower found by Pentaghast was likely the High Gate of the thaig, which of old was where the dwarves had their trade with nations west of the Frostback Mountains. Rolf Khundar thus gave permission for Pentaghast to take the Long Stairs to reach the High Gate, on the condition that he would keep the head of the dragon.

Pentaghast tried to recruit the adventurers, but the Orlesians considered the venture suicidal. Our heroes (see PC profiles here) were skeptical of Pentaghast's credentials, as although he came from a famous family of dragon hunters, no one had slain a dragon in more than a hundred years. Nevertheless, when they were offered each an equal share of the value of the gold that the carcass of the dragon would fetch, they agreed.

But before they embarked on the quest, our heroes wanted to test their mettle against the drakes, which the Avvars told them were taking prey in their lands. They laid the carcass of a deer out as bait, and when the drakes arrived they attacked, and quickly slew three of them. Their confidence boosted, they began preparation for the hunt, and had an arbalest fashioned for them by the dwarves, from which they purposed to launch a harpoon to catch the dragon to prevent her from fleeing.

Venturing east from the Quarters District, they came upon the High District of the thaig, which did not have the signs of carnage they witnessed in the other districts of the thaig - it seemed that the haigher caste dwarves had evacuated the district in good order before the thaig fell. They soon found the long stairs - its stone steps wide enough for four dwarves to walk abreast - which ascended some five hundred yards over three thousand steps to reach the base of High Gate Tower.

As soon as they entered the tower they were attacked by drakes, which they overcame. Venturing further, they came across more drakes, guarding the stairs that led up into the tower, and by means of a sudden assault were able to slay all of them before they could flee and alert the dragon.

Ascending the tower, they at last came to the chamber where the dragon laired, sleeping atop the clutch of eggs she had laid. With Lorca's aid, Boggart launched the harpoon at the dragon. The bolt pierced the hide of the beast, but only barely; yet the barb had taken, and did not come free. The dragon let out a mighty roar and charged at the intruders - all but Lorca and Zunn turned and fled, and the two were engulfed in dragon breath. But the others soon regained their wits, and returned to aid their friends.

With so many attackers, the battle soon turned against the dragon. She severed the rope attached to the harpoon, and then turned her breath onto her own eggs, choosing to burn them than to have them fall into the hands of men, and fled through the breach in the wall.

Lorca had fallen to the dragon's breath also, and despite Bertil's magic the burns on his skin and his throat would not heal. Pentaghast told our heroes that the burns from a dragon's breath did not easily heal by magic, and instead told them to feed Lorca the blood of the dragon that remained on the tip of the harpoon. This they did, and instantly Lorca began to breath better, and they began their long trek back to the thaig.

Prepping and Running the Game

I have foreshadowed the dragon hunt by prefacing the previous few sessions with news of dragon sighting. When Lorca's player reached level 4 and took the Reaver specialisation, I asked him to delay the features he is supposed to receive until we could play this session, since the rules suggested that a ritual involving the drinking of a dragon's blood be required.

According to the lore, dragons were though to have been extinct for more than a hundred years by the time of campaign, hunted by the famed dragon hunters of Nevarra. I thus decided to involve one of them, specifically a Pentaghast, of the royal house of Nevarra. However, as no one had slain a dragon in more than a century, I reasoned that he was probably learned in the theory of hunting dragons, but lacked practical experience. As such, I played my as a pompous middle-aged nobleman who sought to overstate his abilities. I had a lot of fun roleplaying him, while the players were (probably just as their characters would have been) both annoyed and amused by his pretensions.

I left the preparation for the hunt to my players, and they rose to the occasion, suggesting a practice fight against drakes to gauged their threat level, and commissioning an arbalest.

The next session will take place in a couple of weeks, but we have a wargames session scheduled, so stay tuned.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Battletech Alpha Strike Timberwolf

So after the last Battletech game we played I asked about piloting a Timberwolf (aka Mad Cat) because to me it is the quintessential mecha. Sadly, I learned that it is a Clan Mech and that it is anachronistic with all the other mechs the other guys have painted. Nevertheless, FG passed me his models from the Alpha Stroke kickstarter, and I painted the Timberwolf.

I used a Clan Ghost Bear variant colour scheme for the mech. The model is quite easy to paint, and dark grey is a rather forgiving colour.

Will this be the first of several Clan Ghost Bear mechas? Only time will tell...

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Cutting Edge Miniatures

With the release of the second edition of the Tribal rules, I decided to finally paint up the two units of Bronze Age figures from Cutting Edge Miniatures this week.

The Cutting Edge range seems to be a little all over the place, with the skirmishers shown above being larger and more pleasing to the eyes than the spearmen or the Sea Peoples I painted earlier. Add this to the fact that the other miniatures in my collection come from Redoubt, Eureka, and Newline, it means that they do look rather mismatched side-by-side - but I cannot summon the effort to redo the period with figures from one single range.

The new edition of Tribal will have rules specific to the Bronze Age and chariots, so I am looking forward to receiving my copy. Stay tuned for a review here.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Relief of Luckpore - Campaign and Battle Wargames Rules for the 1857 Indian Rebellion

Every so often a set of wargame rules comes out of the left field and gets me all excited about a period. This time it is Relief of Luckpore by Real Time Wargames.

Now regular readers may remember the name of the company - the first posts on this blog were about a Franco-Prussian War campaign we played using their rules for that conflict. I also own their rules for Wars of the Roses, the Shenandoah campaign, and the Sudan campaign.

I already own a sizeable army for the Indian Mutiny, but as I haven't found a set of rules that I really enjoyed to use with them, the figures have sat at the bottom of my stack of boxes of figures until this week. What drew me to the rules are the grid-based system and a relatively simple movement and combat system.

I do have a little quibble with the rules though, specifically in the rating for Sikh and Gurkha troops, as well as some ambiguity over how skirmishers are deployed, and close combat resolution.

I also liked the terrain generation rules, which is what I used to set up the solo test game table (substituting walls for ditches/trenches). As you can see it provided a rather believable terrain which gamers of the Mutiny period will find familiar. The mat has 15cm grids, which is a little small for my 15mm figures on 40mm wide bases, but it is still serviceable.

Like their Sudan rules, the game aims to provide different experiences for both sides. The mutineer player will almost certainly have a numerical advantage, but will also have troops of lower quality, as well as limited command initiative.

The British have high-quality troops, more "command points" per turn, but their troops accumulate Fatigue as they act, which will make them less effective as the battle progresses.

The victory conditions for both sides are also different. There is no "break point" for the British - they give up when the player decides he cannot win. The mutineer commander has a chance of leaving the field whenever a unit is routed. Both sides thus have very different strategies: the mutineers need to wear the British down until they become ineffective and give up, while the British need to break the morale of the mutineers by routing as many units as they can before that happens.

The rules are fun enough for me to want to refurbish my army and perhaps add a few more bases. It is also suitable for multi-player games, and I hope to run a game for the gang in the near future.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Billhooks, Battletech, and Beer

Last Sunday we actually managed to get five of us together for an afternoon of gaming.

We opened with a game of Never Mind the Billhooks in preparation for the release of the Deluxe edition of the rules later this month. I used the set-up for Towton, and the game started with twenty-four 16-figure units on table, or close to 400 15mm figures. The archery was savage and decimated the front ranks on both sides before the Lancastrians finally made melee contact and the Yorkist right flank collapsed. Norfolk entered the table just before this happened, and decided to turn back to London.

We then played a test game of Battletech, which was really fun. Regular readers may remember that I have been looking at Battletech Alpha Strike and Reaper CAV as possible options for our regular mecha game, but now I am thinking Battletech (regular) may be a contender for the times we have enough players to play a team game.

We are now organising another session for the end of the month, when I hope to try out a grid-based Napoleonic game based on the To the Last Gaiter Button rules, and another game of Battletech.