Monday 30 December 2013

Irregular Wars - colonial small actions mk. 2?

The experiences gained this year during the writing and production of Song of Shadows and Dust have left me with a hankering to create a heavily revised version or, more accurately, a successor game for Irregular Wars: Conflict at the World's End.

Other than improved writing and production quality generally (and the option of ordering a hard copy of the rules) I am currently thinking about a number of rules revisions which I suspect will
streamline the game.

In the first instance, I feel like the new game would benefit from being more focused - probably on the Americas, with twenty-odd army lists for that theatre but with an appendix discussing how to apply the rules to other theatres and periods, perhaps with several examples - hoplites, Elizabethan Ireland, the 1804 Castle Hill convict rebellion, something like that. Keep in mind that all lists from the original game would be 100% compatible with the new version.

The number of phases in the turn sequence might well be reduced and the use and number of chance cards expanded and emphasised; blackpowder weapons might well become more user friendly. I'm also tempted to introduce an optional point system for more traditional players who don't like the unpredictable recruitment system

If any of the fine wargamers out there have thoughts (am I mad or do you endorse the proposal?) or would like to be involved in any potential playtesting, I'd really love it if you dropped me a line!

... And with that said, I'd like to wish you all a happy, productive and profitable new year. May all your dice rolls be sixes - unless you are giving orders in Hail Caesar - and may your wives and loved ones continue to indulge your hobbies.

Friday 20 December 2013

Snapshot of the last two weeks.

With the traditional Christmas slowdown in work (and current - hopefully temporary - unemployment) I've managed to snag quite a number of games over the last couple of weeks. Here is just a taster of the miniature madness.

We played the largest game of Hail Caesar to date - six commands of Republican Romans (Brett and Conor at the helm) vs. three commands of Seleukids (myself) and four commands of Carthaginians (JB). A bloody affair and a stalemate which could have gone either way several times throughout the night.

It was great to see the 17th century Hollanders and Colonial Spanish back on the table again having a go at each other. Don Brett and Herr Jim played an introductory game of Irregular Wars at the Wee Gamers' Bunker this week which seemed to go down quite well. The Spaniards had the upper hand from the very beginning with more success in the recruitment phase but the Dutch held on quite well. For a while.

 I took my new Apollo and Artemis warband for Song of Blades and Heroes out for their first run last night against some pretty tough Uruk Hai orcs. With lots of high combat factors the game was a bit of a grinder but the divine twins managed to get out of it alive. Apollo spent quite a lot of time lying on the ground being stomped on but his heavy armour miraculously saved him every time. The warband worked well and was nowhere as cheesy as I feared it might be. The figures are on such large bases that there was plenty of room to be ganged up on. Great little game and a good simple introduction for Ivor who is keen to get a handle on the rules before our upcoming SBH competition day next year.

I tested out Song of Gold and Darkness, the SBH dungeon crawl, for the first time as a solo game using off cuts of lino floor tiles as rooms. My Greek inspired heroes, the Order of Chiron were trying to rescue their Amazon, Euryleia, from a cave or grotto held by random enemies. Each 'room' included two counters which bore random numbers relating to a list of potential foes made up of my other warbands. For example, a 1/1 result was an empty room, a 1/3 contained three satyr archers and a 3/3 held a minotaur. Anytime a model moved into the room, the counters were revealed and the enemy models placed. You can see that several of the rooms contain multiple piles of counters as these areas would spawn more monsters to cut off the heroes escape should they manage to rescue the Amazon.

The game was quite a success with fun mechanics and enough randomness to not make it feel too strange playing against myself. In the end the heroes did rescue the Amazon who went on the pulverise several of her satyr captors with some great die rolls. However, to save one character, the Order of Chiron lost two - very 'Saving Private Ryan' of them. The tally of defeated opponents wasn't too far removed from an action movie either: 5 satyr archers, three furies (little fury berserkers) a sabre tooth tiger, a nymph, a witch and a minotaur. There was a goddess and a further satyr involved on the opposing side as well, but they survived the bloodshed.

Season's Greetings to all and very best wishes for the new year!

Thursday 19 December 2013

A big THANK YOU to all those who have bought SSD so far!

In the lead up to the festive season I just wanted to say a very big and heartfelt thank you to all those who have supported the development of Song of Shadows and Dust this year, especially to those of you who have gone out and bought a copy - either as a pdf or as a hard copy. While the author's cut of the profits has not quite been enough for me to by the holiday cottage in Donegal that I've had my eye on, it has enabled me to make a donation of £80 (approx. US$130) to the UNHCR Syria Crisis Urgent Appeal

For me, 2013 has been a bad year. We lost our little daughter, Aoife,  in the summer and we have been left with a huge hole in our lives when there should have been such joy. However, there is some sadness and suffering that we as a community can do something to  mitigate. When I wrote SSD I decided that I would use the proceeds to do something to help some of the weakest and least fortunate. As I have said before, 50% of all royalties from sales will be donated to the UNHCR the United Nations refugee agency. The most dramatic crisis facing the UNHCR at the moment is Syria where somewhere in the region of half of all Syrians have been displaced from their homes and over 10% of Syrians have been forced to flee their country in fear of death and persecution. 

Here is what the UNHCR has to say at the moment on their website:

UN launches biggest humanitarian appeal to help.

After months of conflict, the situation in Syria remains dire. Over 2.3 million Syrian refugees have now fled into neighbouring countries and thousands more are pouring across borders each day - this is one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history.

Now, a massive snowstorm, dubbed Alexa, has brought freezing temperatures, fierce winds and rain and snow, with hundreds of refugees struggling to stay warm and dry in their tents or makeshift shelters.

UNHCR is on the ground providing urgently needed relief to millions of Syrians as the bitter winter sets in - distributing stoves and fuel for heating, insulation for tents, blankets and quilts, mattresses and waterproof footwear.

The small donation made today comes from the sales of SSD in the months of October and November. I was going to wait until the end of the year to make the first donation but felt it better to try and help now than to hold on longer. An amount of £80 is enough to provide basic kitchen equipment to eight refugee families in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan or Turkey. To put that in perspective, the same amount would buy two market-leading wargaming rule books (or two boxes of resin dwarves in barrels) or just over a third of a new Kindle Fire. 

Tuesday 17 December 2013

The ever elusive Artemis.

This lovely not-quite-safe-for-work model is the second of my two kickstarter figures from Crocodile Games, Artemis.

Although she is wearing a cheeky little number (in the most literal sense), Artemis is no easy girl around town. The mistress of animals and perpetual maiden, she doesn't take kindly to lads trying to eye her up. It certainly didn't end well for the last chap, Aktaion, who accidentally saw her having a bath. Turned into a stag so he was and attacked by his own hounds. Nasty.


Together, the divine twins Apollo and Artemis will be used as a two figure Song of Blades and Heroes warband. Their progress can be followed HERE.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Apollo the poser...

Here stands the Crocodile Games Apollo in all his glory; well most of it - he is still wearing clothes thank the gods! As the poster-boy par excellence of the Greek pantheon, I guess it's only right that he strikes a pose.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Song of Shadows and Dust available through Amazon Createspace!

The exciting news today (for me anyway) is that Song of Shadows and Dust is now also available as a paperback book through Amazon. It is published using the Amazon Createspace website which is also used to print hard copies of other Ganesha Games products.

Buy it from Amazon (UK)

Buy it from Amazon (USA)
Buy it from Createspace (USA)
Buy it from Amazon (Germany)
Buy it from Amazon (France)

Createspace/Amazon shipping is reasonably fast so orders placed in the next couple of days should reach your Christmas stocking before the big day!

As a side note, a little procrastination shows that I've got a couple of other books up there too. Well worth a look if you're interested in such things.

Divine kings and sacred spaces: power and religion in Hellenistic Syria (301-64 BC) 

Coins from Asia Minor and the East: selections from the Colin E. Pitchfork collection

Thursday 5 December 2013

WarGods of Olympus Kickstarter comes through!

Now, I'm not one to get caught up in the excitement of kickstarters (on this matter, please ignore my previous post) but by golly I was impressed by the WarGods of Olympus kickstarter from Crocidile Games which ran earlier this year. Once again, I was not sold on the game as such - not that I know much about it but I steer away from any game which requires miniatures from only select manufacturers - but I was sold on the figures themselves.

I was one of 34 backers who signed up at the Painter x2 reward level which cost me US$30 and bought me two so-called demigods, pdfs of all Crocodile Games rule sets and any other specified bonuses that wanted to come my way should the project be funded. Well funded it was. In all, 544 people backed the kickstarter raising US$147,194 for the project. They set out looking for a minimum of USD$25,000, so I'd say that was something of a success.

I decided to back the project because I have, in the past, found it hard to find aesthetically pleasing miniatures of Greek gods, and that is just what the Croc. Games demigods are - or at least, that is what they are based on. I chose Apollo and Artemis and received a mechanical owl for my trouble as a reward.

The wee owl is clearly inspired by Bubo, Athena's pet from the Harryhausen classic, Clash of the Titans (1981) and I'm pleased to say that he made a cameo on the tripe of a remake (2010) as well.

The kickstarter suggested that products would ship in September but I really didn't expect to see anything in-hand this year; and yet here they are. They were not the cheapest figures I've ever bought, but the sculpting is characterful, the casting is crisp, the figures are pretty damn fantastic all told. Very pleased that I helped this company to produce their fairly niche product - now isn't that the pot calling the kettle black. = )

Here they are for scale alongside a satyr from Eureka and a Macedonian officer from 1st Corp. I think Pan has been caught having a bit of a stare at Artemis there, but what does she expect, walking around dressed like that? I figure that I will run my two gods as a fully illegal, two model, 300 point warband for Song of Blades and Heroes. They could never be used legally in a competition as I want them to both be immortals which is a personality trait. Sure, we'll see what happens. The owl on the branch will likely end up as a scenery piece.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

SSD civilians - new possibilities with West Wind

I have been keeping an eye on the progress of West Wind Productions' kickstarter for their new 15mm scale ancients game War & Empire. Now, I can't say that I am hugely interested in buying into their new ruels system as - for my big battle needs - I am having huge amounts of fun with my newly discovered game-I-never-knew-I-needed, Hail Caesar. In the same vein, I have developed a real love affair with 6mm scale armies for big battles.

However, I have been impressed generally with West Wind's preview sculpts that have been showcased. Here is just a taster, but there are many more on their websites and scattered across the interweb.

So, why my sudden interest in the project if I am neither interested in the game they are selling nor the scale : game size ratio? Well, for their civilians of course. One can never have enough civilians and when one wants to brawl in alleyways - as one must! - then one must have enough civilians to brawl with.

I have, over the course of the year, trawled all over the place to collect a nice assortment of ancient civilians, but now West Wind are offering them in packs of 24! I believe the packs have been unlocked in the kickstarter sense, but no sculpts have been made yet. Never-the-less, keep an eye out for these lads and ladies next year!

Friday 29 November 2013

The Battle of Glenavia (or ROMANES EVNT DOMVS) - Hail Caesar in 6mm

Note that this post is picture heavy and may not be suitable for work computers (NSFW) or slower connections. Of course if you are reading this, you've already clicked on the link and it may be too late...

This week saw the invasion of the Seleukid highland satarapy of Glenavia by the loathful lowland Romans. Although the general consensus around our way is that the points system in Hail Caesar is not necessarily capable of producing evenly matched games - the system was never intended for competition play - both forces were composed of roughly 330 points arranged in three divisions.  Why 330 points you ask? Because that is what I currently have painted and it allowed me to run a Seleukid army without any substitutions for the first time.

"All trees present and accounted for sir!" The Seleukid crown prince aids in preparing the battlefield.

The forced assemble and deploy - Seleukids screen left, Romans screen right.

The Romans:
Left - One Roman legion composed of two units each of velites, hastatii, principes and a unit of triarii. They were led by the army general, Brettius Hodgosus.
Centre - Mounted division composed of one unit each of Roman equites, Italian cavalry and two units of nubile Numidians. Their divisional commander was no doubt of noble birth but history has forgotten his name.
Right - Allied division composed of two units of Italians fighting as legionaries and a unit of Italian hoplites. The leader of the Italians has likewise escaped the notice of historians.

The Seleukids:
Right - The royal cavalry division composed of one unit of elite agema cavalry, two units of heavy xystophoroi cavalry and a unit of light Tarantine cavalry. The right was, as usual, led by King Antiochos personally.
Centre - The royal infantry division composed of one unit each of elite agyraspid pikemen, light infantry archers, Kilikians, Cretan skirmishers, skirmishing slingers and armoured elephants. I'm sure their divisional commander had a Greek name. Lets call him Nikolaos.
Left - Arab auxiliaries composed of one unit each of light cavalry, camelry and light infantry. They were led by a local sheikh known to the court as Zabinas the Arab.

The opening turn saw the nubile Numidians flying across the table to screen the Roman advance.

The Seleukid line watches stoically as the Roman war machine stirs to life.

The Seleukid right and centre surge forward into the plain, tying to broaden their front to engulf the enemy. There was obviously a bit of a language barrier between the commander-in-chief and Zabinas the Arab as the left wing stood around discussing the merits of tea. The photo also makes it clear that the language gap between Latin and Oscan was wider than previously thought as the Italian command on the Roman right likewise had problems advancing.

Zabinas finally gets a move on and heads towards the Numidian horsemen.

The Seleukid line continues a steady advance while the Roman legion out paces its colleagues to the right. The enjoys-a-good-shooting-session half (otherwise known as the left) of the Seleukid line punish the Numidians for coming too close and the sly devils are forced to withdraw.

The Tarantine horse on the Seleukid right trot forward and pepper the legionaries with javelins, attempting to slow up their advance while the rest of the Seleukid cavalry formed up in front of the town.

Roman principes and triarii advance to engage the enemy to their front. The brave Tarentines counter-charge to slow them up for a turn, buying essential time for the Seleukid right.

Meanwhile, the two units of hastatii, supported by velites assault the Seleukid agyraspid pikemen and xystophoroi heavy cavalry. The sacrifice of the Tarentines becomes clearer in the bigger picture as their decision to evade would have seen the Seleukid xystophoroi chewed up and spat out by four Roman units.

Instead, the Tarentines break and run, but so do the hastatii fighting against the Seleukid heavy cavalry.

On the Seleukid left, the Arabs start moving into the woods, hoping to assault the Italians on the flank. Luckily the Italian advance was so slow that the sloppy maneuvering of the Seleukid left did not cause too much of a problem.

The Seleukid phalanx forces back the hastatii and velites to their front and as they follow up, are counter attacked by Roman principes supported by Italian horse. On the Seleukid right the heavy cavalry finally forms up, while on the Roman right, the Italians eventually make an appearance. The Arab lights continue to fail to understand that they are requested to go into the woods, not just sit outside them.

The Seleukid elephant-phalanx combo drives back the Romans to their front, routing the principes and shaking and disordering the other units. The Seleukid bow armed lights move forward to reform the central battle line. Two of the Seleukid xystophoroi units start towards the Roman extreme left but do not quite close the gap.

The Italians form a solid line on the Roman right, hoping to punch right through the weak Seleukid archers. However, supported by the elephant corp and Kilikian lights, the archers amazingly hold firm.

On the Roman left, the onslaught of the principes and triarii is too much and one unit of Seleukid heavy cavalry routs while the other is forced back disordered.

Zabinas and Nikolaos got there divisions into a solid (well, almost see-through really) line. Plugging the gaps with light infantry and backing these up with light cavalry and camelry. Nikolaos rallies the archers while Antiochos chats with his xystophoroi about the unhappy consequences of their actions if they choose the withdraw again.

Amazingly, and at great cost, the Seleukid left repulses the Italian attack. The principes and triaii on the Roman left try to assault the worn xystophoroi but do not quite make it into melee, allowing the xystophoroi - led by the king - to counter-charge, hitting the principes alone. The latter collapse in a groaning heap but leave the Seleukid horse in a bad way.

The elite agema cavalry on the Seleukid right seize the opportunity to hit the triarii in the flank.

The Roman veteran infantry crumple on impact and the agema perform a sweeping advance, further obliterating the Italian cavalry.

On their commanders' respective orders, the light infantry unleashed a rain of arrows, sling stones and pointy sticks, driving back the Italian infantry further.

By this stage, the Roman invaders had had enough. With the loss of the triarii and Italian cavalry, both the Roman left and centre collapsed, leaving the Italians on the left with no viable option but to withdraw.

Despite how the photos and write up make it seem, the battle was actually quite a close run thing with several moments throughout where it looked like either of us could have lost. However, as history is written by the victor, I have had the dubious privilege of trying to recall the events of a fantastically fun evening. I am sure we will have a rematch soon enough - and it looks like there will be some Carthaginians joining the fray in the not too distant future. Huzzah for a most enjoyable project!