Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Lumbago Expedition

Many years ago I drafted up a map for a short Victorian colonial campaign. It is set on a fictitious continent called Rapala. A British trading post had been destroyed by a native uprising, and the British learn that the inland principality of Lumbago has incited the revolt. Thus, a British force has been sent to punish its rajah.

Each of the numbered squares on the map is a battle location. The British have to fight their way to Lumbago against a variety of different enemies in varying environments. Alas, I did not have the figures for it. I bought some Historifigs 10mm but never got them painted.

So why bring this up now? Well, I have been pondering taking my Francesian rivalries to colonial battlefields. I have also been considering making up some block armies (see this). It dawned on me that the Lumbago expedition could be an excellent opportunity to experiment with both these ideas.

Currently, my plan is to make a Redgravian block army using the One Hour Wargame list (I would need a maximum of 4 infantry, 2 cavalry, 2 artillery, and 2 skirmishers). My initial campaign would be against the Zamundans. Their army would be based on the Ancients list - comprising spear-armed infantry, archers, and skirmishers. I think I can complete both armies in short order. I just need to pop into Michael's or Hobby Lobby.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Thinking About Block Armies

I am a really SLOW painter (primarily because I hate doing it for extended periods of time). As a result, my miniature projects tend to drag on interminably. Such is the case with the Horse & Musket Francesian armies. I started working on some 6mm troops but my Bluderian infantry have been sitting on my work table for a few  months already. Anyway, because of of my dawdling nature, I have periodically toyed with the idea of creating block armies.

I visited the Tradgarland blog today and encountered a post about a computer pike & shot era wargame. The good Duke provided a link to another blog that had some screen shots. As I perused the screen shots I thought that the units looked like blocks. Once again, my mind goes veering off into making block armies.

Once I start going down this path I get stuck trying to decide how to create them. David Crook has some nice block armies (for example) using standard military symbols. I would prefer something that looks more like a block of soldiers. I could use Junior General top downs (such as this). Or I could just paint them. Infantry seems easy enough; just do it like 2mm figures. I just don't know how I would make/paint cavalry. At this point, I usually throw up my hands in disgust and just say I might as well just use 2mm! But something about those screen shots really has my mind turning.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Francesian Conquest - Raider's Ridge

After the battle at Quadrivium, Lothar continued his advance into the heart of Meditera. The Legate Dumias was given command of Imperial forces in Meditera and ordered to stop Lothar's depradations. He marched forth and arrayed his army across Lothar's advance at the little village of Nilium.

Scenario Notes
Yesterday's Retrospective mentioned the influence of Song of Blades and Heroes on my games. The Francesian Conquest is an excellent example. My medieval rules essentially use the SB&H activation and combat rules using units rather than individual figures.

Once again, I am using a scenario from Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames. In this case, I randomly rolled for scenario 2 - pitched battle. The objective is to hold both key points: a crossroad (which I represent with a village) and a hill. I added some randomly determined terrain.

The opposing forces are as follows (with Quality and Combat scores in parentheses):
  • Redgrave - 4 Infantry (Q4, C4), 1 Warband, 1 Skirmisher
    • Because I don't have any suitable figures, I replaced the warband with an elite infantry unit (Q3, C4) representing Lothar's personal guard.
    • I don't have any skirmishers either so I used some archers.
  • Empire - 3 Cavalry (Q3, C4), 1 Archer (Q3, C3), 2 Levy (Q5, C3)

Battle Report
Initial positions. The objectives are the single hill (top left) and the village of Nilium (bottom right- represented by a single building).

Lothar was furious with Sigurd after the last battle but he gave command of the Redgravian left flank to his subordinate so that Sigurd could redeem himself. Determined to succeed, Sigurd advanced his wing towards Nilium. Imperial cavalry advanced on the hill.

 Lothar reached the hill first and held off charges by the Imperial cavalry.

The Redgravian foot swung into action as both sides battle for the hill. Sigurd's advance was disrupted by archery from the woods.

The Imperial cavalry broke off its attacks against Lothar. Meanwhile, Legate Dumias swung his cavalry onto the ridge.

Dumias wreaked havoc among Sigurd's command, chasing off the Redgravian skirmishers and smashing to the flank of a band of infantry. The Imperial cavalry tried again to break Lothar's line.

Dumias ran amok, wiping out the skirmishers.

The Imperial cavalry broke one of the Redgravian infantry bands and continued up the hill .

Only to be crushed by Lothar's guards.

 Sigurd resumed the advance on Nilum. Dumias was reluctant to commit his weakened cavalry.

But seeing Nilium threatened forced his hand. Alas, Dumias's charge was repelled and his cavalry scattered.

 Despite the loss of cavalry support, the archers in the wood and the levies in Nilium held out against Sigurd's attacks. As night was falling, Sigurd personally led a last-gasp assault on the village. He was struck down in the fighting and his infantry fell back.

The day ended with neither army in control of the battlefield. Lothar and Dumias would boast of a great victory, but both commanders would withdraw the next day.

At first, Lothar was angry with Sigurd's failure to seize the village but when he learned of his subordinate's death, he expressed his approval that Sigurd had redeemed his honor.

Following the battle, the locals renamed some of the landmarks. The hill where Lothar made his stand became known as Bloody Hill and the ridge became known as Raider's Ridge.

Final Thoughts
There were 3 very dramatic points in the game.

  1. Lothar stubbornly holding the hill despite being attacked by 2 cavalry (and he was often fighting alone!)
  2. Dumias's charge along the ridge, which practically took out two enemy units.
  3. The levies holding Nilium against Sigurd.
Although it looked like it would end as a draw fairly early in the game, the Redgravians did have a chance to win. If Sigurd's band could have taken the village and held it until turn 15, then Lothar would have another victory. Alas, the levies proved capable defenders and stymied Sigurd.

A draw truly benefits the defenders in this campaign. I was wondering if I should extend the campaign but now I think I may keep it 3 battles (although next time I will do 5 battles). However, I think Lothar should have 2 victories to be able to claim Meditera. He may be up against a tough challenge.

Friday, April 17, 2015

RESTROSPECTIVE - Song of Blades and Heroes

It seems weird to write a retrospective about a current game but it has had an impact on my gaming so I wish to include Song of Blades and Heroes as the conclusion to this series.

I first discovered SB&H a couple of years ago when I had an interest in some medieval gaming. I provided a brief synopsis and then promptly shelved the game.

SB&H is a fantasy miniatures game designed for skirmishes between forces of 8-15 figures on each side. Each figure is rated for Quality (low numbers are better) and Combat (high numbers are better), By themselves these statistics would not create very much differentiation between different figures, but SB&H has another mechanism to create variety. There is a long list of special powers that can be allocated to the figures; anything from spell to heavy armor. Using the two stats plus special powers allows you to really individualize your figures.

Combat is very similar to De Bellis Antiquitatis in that it is based on opposed die rolls. Each figure in combat rolls a D6 and adds its Combat value plus modifiers. If one rolls twice or more than the other then the loser is killed. Rolling higher but not double will cause the loser to either recoil (retreat) or be knocked down. SB&H avoids the back-and-forth stalemate that occurs in DBA by giving negative modifiers to figures who are knocked down.

The combat system is workable but not unique, but I found inspiration from the activation system. On his turn, a player will nominate a figure to activate, then can choose to roll 1, 2, or 3 dice. For each roll at or above the figure's Quality score, the figure may take one action (move, fight, etc.). If 2 or 3 dice failed the activation roll, then the player's turn ends after that figures acts. This creates some interesting decisions during activation. First, the player has to decide the activation order. Based on the positioning on the board, he may wish to activate a poor Quality figure but if he fails then a better Quality figure may not be able to act that turn. Next the player has to choose how many dice. Rolling 1 die guarantees that another figure will have a chance to activate, but it limits the current figure's options. It's a really intriguing and thought-provoking sequence.

I have adopted the activation system for some of my games, although I substituted units for individual figures. Previously, I used either DBA pips or I rolled C&C dice and activated the troop types rolled. Both of these systems provided some fog-of-war that limits the control of the player (an especially good thing for solo games!) The SB&H system, however, creates much more suspense. With the other systems, I know how many units can act at the beginning of the turn and I can plan accordingly. I can't do that with SB&H activation because activation is rolled after the prior unit acts. Thus, I can push forward a unit on an assault and suddenly its supports are frozen! This creates some delightful randomness that challenges the solo general!

Although Song of Blades ad Heroes is a fairly new system, I wanted to include it because it has indelibly influenced my gaming experiences. I love the activation system and have begun to adopt it in my home-grown rules. Thus, it is a worthy conclusion to my retrospective.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Star League Season 4 Concludes

It's been a while since I published an update regarding Star League. Today, I finally completed the 4th season.

Blitz vs. Knights
The season ended with a bang. The Blitz visited the Knights in a game that would decide the division (both were tied with 7-2 records). The Blitz were the Cinderella story of the year; they never before had more than 3 wins in a season. The Knights were the powerhouse of the league, winning 2 titles and never having a losing season.

Despite being heavy favorites, the Knights fell down early as the Blitz scored a quick goal thanks to a magnificent shot by their star forward (game note - I used Star Power to force a re-roll. In order to encourage scoring, I made a rule that Star Power could not be used to negate a goal). Then surprisingly, the Blitz scored again. The Knights pressed forward on offense and fed their striker. Alas, the shot sailed wide (failed Star Power). In the last seconds of the half, the Blitz struck again for a 3-0 lead!

The Knights began pressing on offense and finally managed to sneak a shot past the Blitz goalie. Seconds later, the Knight's star stole the ball, raced down the field, and scored (more Star Power!)  At 3-2, the Knights were back in the game!

The Blitz then gained control of the ball and looked to run out the clock. But the Knights stole it and pressed forward on offense. Time was running out; the Knights had one chance to send it to overtime. They tried to get it to their star but the Blitz covered him like a blanket. With no chance to get it into his hands, another player took a shot. The Blitz goalie dove for the ball. Save! The Blitz preserved a 3-2 victory and the division title.

The final standings look like this:

Galactic Division
Blitz                        8-2
Knights                   7-3
Dynamos                5-5
Avengers                3-7

Stellar Division
Fury                       7-3
Helix                      6-4
Electrons                3-7
Gravitons               1-9

The Blitz and Fury are both first-time division winners. They will meet in Star Cup 4.

RETROSPECTIVE - Mythic Roleplaying Game

I have been remiss in posting lately but I have a couple more Retrospectives left.

As you may be able to tell from some of my prior Retrospectives (such as this) I was once an avid participant in role-playing games. Although I don’t regularly play anymore, I still am a fan of the games. Occasionally, I get the itch to play in an RPG but I didn’t want to join a group of strangers. One day I was musing that it would be great if there were a way to play solo RPGs. I knew about Choose Your Adventure books (and played them when I was younger) but these seemed so limiting. Well, I poked around on the internet a bit and found Mythic.

Mythic claims that it can be run without a GM and without any preparation. It does this with its very clever GM Emulator. Essentially, the player asks a Yes/No question about the world or adventure, estimates the odds, and then rolls on a table to determine the answer. For example, my character could be moving through a dungeon and comes to a door. He opens the door. Question: Are there any monsters in the room? I decide that the odds are likely and I roll against the table. The result comes up as yes. I know that I stumbled into trouble. I can use more questions to decide exactly what I’m up against (or I could just make it up on the spot).

Another cool feature is that the some rolls can result in exceptional successes or failures. For example, my character, Hiero the Humongous is trying to pick a locked door. I roll and get an exceptional no. The exact result is up to the player’s imagination. In this case, I may decide that not only did Hiero fail to get into the room but he also made some noise that alerted a guard in a nearby room!

Furthermore, Mythic has mechanisms to create random events and it has a lengthy random event table. These events could crop up while you are in the middle of some task or could occur between scenes and could alter the story in some way. Let me backtrack a bit to explain. Mythic games are organized into scenes. A player will use his or her imagination to set the scene but then roll to see if a random event occurs. The event could modify the scene in some way or it could cause an entirely new scene. Players will have to use imagination to fill in the blanks (of course, they can use the Yes/No table to help them out). As another example, let’s say that Hiero’s love interest has been kidnapped by the nefarious Lothario. For the next scene, I decide that Hiero will ride to his love’s rescue. I roll for a random event and get an interrupt scene. That means that a different scene will occur. Off the top of my head I think of an ambush, which makes sense. So the next scene involves Lothario’s minions ambushing Hiero! This mechanic can introduce some unexpected plot twists to the game.

You can use the GM Emulator along with another RPG system (such as running combat using D&D). Mythic does include a complete RPG system. Characters are made using descriptive terms (Hiero may have above average strength). The Yes/No table takes these descriptions into account. Thus, taking actions are resolved using the table. The character creation system reminds me a lot of FUDGE.

Does it work? I’ve tried it a couple of times and can say unequivocally that it does, sometimes too well. It certainly generates interesting plot twists. Occasionally, though, it created too many twists for my tastes and I found the story bogged down with excessive side stories. I also found that I was writing down every random thing that occurred, which bogged down the game. Finally, I decided that I did not like Mythic as written because it uses percentile dice, which I hate! Because of these concerns I stopped playing the game.

Nevertheless, I am still using ideas from Mythic. I use the random events table (I found a version that uses 3D6 – all hail the mighty and wonderful six-sided die!). If I get stuck during a game, I’ll use a yes/no question like the Mythic GM Emulator to come up with a response although I simplified a bit. I’ll probably just roll a D6 with 6 being a good result and 1 being bad. Essentially, my solo RPG sessions are Mythic-like in approach even if I do not use the exact system. Thanks to Mythic, I realized that solo RPGing is not only possible it is also quite fun!

Note: If you are interested in the GM Emulator but not the whole game, Word Mill Games does sell it separately.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Francesian Conquest - Battle of Quadrivium

It is Easter morning and I have some free time. What better way to celebrate than with some bloody conflict?

Although it has been a long while, I decided to stage a battle for my Francesian Conquest campaign. When last I visited medieval Francesia, Lothar the Lascivious had overrun the Imperial province of Transflumia. Now he is invading the province of Meditera.

Today's battle came, once again, from Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames. It is scenario 27 - Disordered Defense. A smaller but better commanded army seeks to seize a crossroad from a piecemeal defense.

I also used Thomas's random army lists. The armies for each side are:

  • Redgrave (commanded by Lothar) - 3 Heavy Infantry + 1 Warband
    • I used the Dark Age list for the Redgravians
    • I was going to make the warband into berserkers but I don't have any "warband" figures. I converted it into Lothar's personal bodyguard (The Ravens) and gave them an additional +1 CV
  • Empire - 2 Archers + 1 Cavalry. Reinforcements of 2 Cavalry + 1 Heavy Infantry
    • I used the Medieval list for the Empire
    • I rolled for a unit of Men at Arms, which I ruled to be equivalent to the Redgravian Heavy Infantry
    • Per the scenario, reinforcements arrive on turn 8
I don't have any roads so I used a building to represent the crossroad that is the objective of the game. I ruled that the building is a hamlet at the crossroads. Its structures provide some assistance with defense but cavalry can still penetrate. Here is the battlefield at the start of the game (using my Baccus 6mm figures).
Starting positions.
Redgravians on the bottom of the picture
 Although I used Thomas's scenario and army generator, I did not use his rules. Instead, I went with my own medieval rules, which are generally a modified version of Song of Blade and Heroes and DBA.

And here is a pictorial record of the battle:
The Redgravians advance toward the hill (L).
The Mediteran cavalry charges! (R)
The Redgravians swarm over the archers on the hill and the cavalry.
The Mediterans break off!
The Redgravians advance on the crossroad hamlet of Quadrivium
The Mediteran cavalry regroups and charges the Redgravian flank
After a bloody engagement, the Redgravians drive off the cavalry.
Meanwhile, the Redgravians advance on the hamlet.
And force out the defending archers.
But now Imperial reinforcements arrive!
Archery destroys one Redgravian warband.
Imperial cavalry takes out another.
Lothar's Ravens hold the crossroads.
A Redgravian warband under Sigurd retreats to the hill, and waits.
Lothar stymies the attacks of 3 enemy units.
Meanwhile, Sigurd waits,
Finally, as darkness nears, Sigurd charges into the rear of the Imperial cavalry.
Lothar holds on until nightfall.
As night descends (and turn 15 finishes), the Imperial troops withdraw, leaving Quadrivium in Lothar's hands. The battle is his, but he is furious with Sigurd, who dawdled in providing support to his warlord (he spent 3-4 turns on the hill!).

This turned out to be a fun, back and forth game. At first, it looked like the Redgravians would steamroll over their opposition (archery was notoriously ineffective early on). Then the Imperial reinforcements swept in and seemed like they would wipe out Lothar. Somehow, he managed to hold on until the end.

The command rolls were very streaky. I went until turn 9 without a single command failure, but then I rolled a whole string of them. Late in the game, the Imperials went 2 of 3 turns without activating a single unit. Then the Redgravians went 3 turns without being able to move (leaving Sigurd sitting on the hill).

What's next? Well, I decided that instead of a single, winner-take-all battle for Meditera, I would play out a 3 game mini-campaign using Thomas's guidelines. The side that wins 2 of the 3 battles will control the province. So far, Lothar's invasion is proceeding according to plan. Can he drive out the Imperials in the next battle?

He is Risen Indeed!

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:1-6 NIV)

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Family Game Night featured Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries. Once I completed my 6th destination ticket, I was feeling confident that I would win. I quickly finished another 2 routes to trigger the end of the game. I then began counting my bonus points. I had one destination card (for Honningsvag to Kobenhagen) worth a whopping 21 points!

My awesome 21 point destination ticket highlighted in red
There was only one problem. The end point wasn't Kobenhagen; it was Oslo (the red star on the map). I got it mixed up with another destination ticket I had, and unfortunately I did not have a connection to Oslo. As a result, I lost 21 points, a swing of 42 points! I ended up losing by approximately 10 points. Ooops!