Sunday 22 November 2015

Fayre Winds & Foul Tides

Having already playtested the advanced flying rules for Galleys & Galleons, with all of the aerobatics and the bombing, we felt it was time to crack open the magic box and run various different magical special rules through their paces this weekend. We played two large games; in the first, 500 odd points of creatures of the deep (Triton, sea monster, roc, cyclopes, daughters of Aegir, sirens) took on a significantly smaller force (about 300 points) of Barbary corsairs consisting of a galley (with a pyromancer on deck), two galliots, a xebec and a windwhispering  sorcerer on a flying carpet.

It became apparent early on that while galley-based fleets can generally out maneuver sailing fleets, they aren't a patch on creatures. Not only did the monstrosities  quite literally run circles around the galleys, but the galleys lack of broadside guns made them particularly vulnerable to this particular foe. 

The magical creatures proved very effective but, due to poor rolling, the Barbary sorcerers were rather less so. The windwhisperer on his carpet was doing alright, until the sirens managed to charm the pyromancer on the deck of the galley who then, over successive turns, started setting fire to all of his own friends. In this photo you can see he has just cast a fireball at the carpet rider, setting the carpet alight. In the next turn, the carpet would explode, plunging its rider into the murky depths.

The corsairs finally managed to destroy a creature - but it happened to be the only static one - the cyclopes on their rocky outcrop. The more mobile critters surrounded one of the galliots, overwhelming it and tearing it asunder.

Then the sirens struck again, enchanting the pyromancer...

... and getting him to throw fireballs at the other galliot. It all ended very poorly from there for the Barbary corsairs.


In the next game we evened it up a bit. The same creatures of the deep set their sites on a massed 500 odd point fleet consisting of an airship, an indiaman (with windwhispering magic user on board), two ornithopters, a gyrocopter, a galleon, a brig, a jacht and two flotillas of boats. 

This game got pretty chaotic with so many models. The rules handled them all fine, but the 1m square board with three islands plus the cyclopes (on their own little isle), meant that most of the models were crammed into a tight space in the middle of the table.

In this shot you can see the catastrophic result of just two turns worth of poor prioritising on my part. Both the galleon and indiaman were wrecked through a combination of shallow water and collisions. All of the flyers set up on dice are up there to show that they are flying at a high altitude. 

Meanwhile, too many of my other models managed to fly/sail right off the table because I rolled dice unwisely. About the most effective 'ship' in my fleet were one set of boats that managed to savage the daughters of Aegir (wave nymphs) before being picked on by the sea monster, Triton and the daughters all at the same time.

In this game the roc showed its real worth as a harrier, pursuing the ornithopters and gyrocopter all across the table and using its sharp talons to tear at their canvas and light timber frames.

The second game was, understandably, much less one-sided than the first. Despite my magic user never actually getting to activate in the second game, I think we ironed out any immediate issues with magic. There will be further tweaking to be sure, but at present the two different type of casters and the five different schools of magic each play quite differently giving a nice sense of individuality to you choices when building your fleet. Pyromancers and hydromancers are very aggressive, while  mindbenders and terraformers are far more strategic. Windwhisperers feel perhaps the most flexible... but we shall see what happens with further tests. 

Saturday 21 November 2015

Treasure Islands

The fine gents over at the Historical Gaming YouTube channel have posted another video play-through of a Galleys & Galleons game, this time using the Treasure Islands scenario. Check it out!

In reference to the rules query raised in the video, here is a clarification that will appear in the forthcoming supplement, Foul Winds:

Sluggish special rule

G&G p.18, states that Sluggish vessels require two actions to Come About (i.e., to change their heading up to two compass points). However, on p.45, Sluggish vessels are described as requiring only requires one action to Come About, but when they do so, they may only change their heading by up to one compass point instead of the normal two. Page 45 presents the correct interpretation of the rule. A Sluggish model spends one action to change their heading up to one compass point.

Friday 20 November 2015

Mare Nostrum - Romans for Galleys and Galleons

To my great shame, this nice little fleet has been sitting, undercoated, on the shelf for too long. So this week it got a lick of paint and it's now ready to go toe-to-toe with Cathaginians, Syracusans, pirates or any other maritime monsters my opponents wish to send against me.

All models are beautifully crisp 1/1200 scale vessels from Langton Miniatures. There are three triremes (lower left), two quadremes (lower right), three quinqueremes (centre, two with corvus and one as a command vessel) and two merchants (rear).

The eight war galleys make up a fleet totaling just under 400 points in Galleys & Galleons, ideal for a quick game of ram-or-be-rammed. The merchants only come in at about 4 points each and are there for scenarios rather than to serve as active warships.

A free roster of ancient profiles for Galleys & Galleons is available from the Ganesha Games website, HERE. If space allows, they will also be included in the forthcoming Foul Winds supplement.

G&G Foul Winds - More monsters!

What you fear in the night, in the day comes to call anyway <10 bonus points to anyone who can tell me where that line comes from>. The monsters for Galleys & Galleons just keep on coming, chosen nominally to aid playtesting of Foul Winds, but principally just because I think they are kind of cool. In this post I introduce to you the cyclopes and the roc.

The cyclops Polyphemos loses an eye to Odysseus and his Ithakan sailors on a seventh century BC proto-Attic amphora.
Cyclopes are a feature of several Greek myths. Three 'elder' cyclopes forged the weapons of the gods: Zeus' thunder bolts, Poseidon's trident and the invisible helmet of Hades. A tribe of 'younger' cyclopes lived as primative herdsmen on the island of Hypereia where, led by Polyphemos, they were encountered by Odysseus and his men on their return journey from Troy to Ithaka.

Cyclops hurling  a boulder at a passing galley by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904).
In the Argonautica, book 4, by Valerius Flaccus, the cyclopes are identified as fierce savages who prey on passing travellers:
"The wild Cyclopes in Aetna's caverns watch the straits during stormy nights, should any vessel driven by fierce south winds draw nigh, bringing thee, Polyphemus, grim fodder and wretched victims for thy feasting, so look they forth and speed every way to drag captive bodies to their king."

In book 9 of Homer's Odyssey, Polyphemos is described as hurling boulders at the Ithakan galley:
"He wrenched away the top of a towering crag and hurled it in front of our dark-prowed ship. The sea surged up as the rock fell into it; the swell from beyond came washing back at once and the wave carried the ship landwards and drove it towards the strand. But I myself seized a long pole and pushed the ship out and away again, moving my head and signing to my companions urgently to pull at their oars and escape destruction."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E7 recounts something similar:
"... he tore loose rocks which he hurled into the sea, just missing the ship."

It is this idea of terrestrial monsters hurling boulders at passing ships which allows the cyclopes to fit into a naval wargame.

Ray Harryhausen cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

The roc (known as a simurgh among the Persians) was a giant bird of prey present in the folklore of many peoples around the Indian Ocean and appearing specifically in the tales of Abd al Rahman and Sinbad from the One Thousand and One Nights. Marco Polo was said to have seen a roc so large that it could carry off an adult elephant, while the 16th century account of Antonio Pigafetta insisted that rocs lived on the islands off the coast of China.

A possible simurgh, or roc, on the Nadir Divan-Beghi madrasah, Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
Roc painted by Edward Detmold (1883-1957)
Ray Harryhausen roc from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
My cyclopes are 6mm scale from the mythological range by Rapier Miniatures and stand about 10mm tall to the eye. They come in packs of nine for just over £1 so, although there is only one pose, you can't really go wrong. Yhe scuplt clearly owes a lot to the iconic Harryhausen concept of the cyclopes as horned, goat legged creatures. In Foul Winds they can be used either as a type of Bastion which uses the new Indirect fire special rule, or as an active terrain piece which fires are any model with approaches it.

The roc is a 10mm giant eagle from Eureka miniatures fantasy range. They come with riders, but as these are cast separately, there is nothing to stop you using them as eagles. Rocs already featured in the 'Here be Dragons' section at the back of the core rules (flying creatures with good quality and a mediocre attack) and it's nice to get one on the table. Below are a couple of size comparison photos of how they stack up against 1/450 and 1/1200 scale vessels.

Suitably large, and suitably intimidating along side a 1/450 scale fluyt from Peter Pig.

I just hope the captain of this 1/1200 scale Langton ancient merchant vessel has his ship and contents insured...

Thursday 19 November 2015

... and now for something slightly different

So I have finally entered into the world of Of Gods and Mortals, an Osprey Publishing wargames rule set written by Andrea Sfiligoi, the man behind Ganesha Games. For those of you who aren't already familiar with the game, it allows you to field a deity and their retinue - from any mythological setting - in battles against rival gods. I say that I have 'finally' entered it, because I have been interested in the rules and the concepts behind them since they were first publicly mentioned by Andrea back in 2012(?).

Each player chooses one god, up to five legends (these from a vast array heroes or large monsters), and one or more small units of mortals (each with between four and eight models). So your tabletop force will probably consist of between 12 and 20 models, placing this game firmly in the 'skirmish' side of wargaming. The core mechanic is based on the Song of ... engine, so every model has quality and combat ratings, plus special traits.

The gods are the real powerhouses of the game (as you might expect), but can be overwhelmed without the support of their legends. Mortals are potentially the most fragile parts of any force, but are essential to the force because their faith is the reason the god is there in the first place. They can pay homage to their god to give them extra actions, or can even invoke their god back to the table after they have been banished.

I already had quite a host of Greek myth themed 28mm models which I use for Song of Blades and Heroes, so there was little trouble expanding the collection slightly to allow me to play OGAM.

My complete collection (to date) which I'll break down into gods, legends and mortals below. Most have already featured on previous SBH posts. There are far too many points worth of models here (especially among the legends), so they wouldn't all be featured in the same force.

Two gods - Apollo and (a rather cheeky) Artemis, both from the recent Crocodile Games 'Gods of Olympus' kickstarter. Obviously I can only field on of these at a time, but it's nice to have some variety.

Centauris (lady centaur) from Heresy Miniatures and a minotaur from Uscarl Miniatures. Centaurs can be run in mortal units in OGAM, but I only have one, and I don't really feel the need for more, so I will use her a legend, using the centaur hero Chiron's roster as the basis for her stats. The minotaur is every inch the 'legend'.
Herakles, a dryad and an Amazon hero. Herakles is actually an old OOP Glorantha miniature from Lance and Laser that I picked up on eBay. The Dryad is from Shadowforge. Dryads can be fielded as mortal units, but again, I only have one and that's how she'll remain for the foreseeable future, so she can be a legend too. The Amazon is from Euraka Miniatures. She will be used either as a generic hero, or will be used to flesh out my mortal 'hoplite' unit when needed.

Dark Eye Fantasy Harpy and Demonworld Boar, both courtesy of Ral Partha Europe. These guys have superb customer service and I can't recommend them enough. I originally intended to have a unit of mortal boars, but in my quest to find unharnessed angry boars, I found the Demonworld ones which are actually sold with 15mm riders. I ordered four without really knowing how they would scale in 28mm. When they arrived I was very impressed by the models, but felt they were two big to be mortals, I decided to use just the one as the legendary Kalydonian Boar, sent by Artemis to mess up Aitolia.

Satyr archers. There unruly lads are all from Eureka Miniatures - the panpipes are a scratch-built addition.

'Hoplites' - these are all Macedonian and Successor officer figures from 1st Corp Miniatures. I conceptualise them as Macedonian hypaspists but I'll use the hoplite or elite hoplite profile from the OGAM rosters.

Friday 13 November 2015

Don't fear the Reaper... or maybe you should.

Undead Plaguegalley – Manned by hundreds of animated corpses and spewing forth jets of bubonic gasses, plaguegalleys provide the diseased backbone for fleets of undead corsairs.

Q4 C3

Special rules: Bilious cloud, Brutal, Galley, Intimidating, Veteran NCOs

Thursday 5 November 2015

Here be Monsters

Continuing with my slow preparations for full playtesting of the Galleys & Galleons supplement, Foul Winds (working title), I've just finished up two more monsters totaling around 200 points between them.

Despite being portrayed in all manner of ways in popular media, the Sirens were originally three sea nymphs who served as handmaidens to the Greek goddess Persephone. When she was abducted, the nymphs were given the bodies of birds to help them search for their mistress. Unsuccessful, they eventually settles on the flowery island of Anthemoessa.

Lily Cole as a Doctor Who Siren
Captain Gut's Siren from Ice Age 4
From their island home, the Sirens would enchant the crews of passing ships with their beautiful song, luring the men to their deaths on the rocks off shore.

In Greek art, the Sirens were depicted as birds with either the heads, or the entire upper bodies, of women. It is not always clear what kind of birds the nymphs were supposed to have changed into.

The famous Siren Vase, made in Athens around 480 BC shows Odysseus on his homeward voyage after the Trojan War. He has had himself tied to the mast of his ship while his crew have blocked their ears. That way he could hear the Sirens' song without being able to act, while his mean are deaf to the enchantment.

This funerary statue of a Siren from Athens dates to around 370 BC and shows the Siren with the full torso of a maiden holding the sound box of a lyre. Also, note the webbed feet. The sculptor clearly had a firm idea that the bird part of the body should be a sea bird.

In Galleys & Galleons, the Sirens are treated together as a single flying creature with the Mindbender magical ability which allows them to play havoc on opponent's activation rolls and even to seize momentary control of other models. 

My Sirens are actually 6mm harpies from Rapier Miniatures. As always, Rapier delivers in terms of the quality of the sculpts and, unusually this time, they also delivered my order in a very timely fashion. I was rather impressed. At 6mm tall, I challenge anybody to suggest that these ladies are nasty harpies and not delightful Sirens. They are, naturally, over-scale for my 1/450 ships, but at the end of the day, 1) I want to be able to see the model, and 2) I couldn't find a manufacturer who made 1mm tall nymph-headed birds.

The Daughters of Ægir
My second new creature of the deep is another collection of creatures on one base - three of the (nine) Daughters of Ægir. According to Norse myth, the daughters of the sea-god Ægir and the sea-goddess Rán were personifications of the waves - their names translate to things like 'Foam Fleck' and 'The Pitching One'.


Finding it much harder to source good inspirational material for these moist maidens, I ordered a pack of water elementals from Pendraken's new Warband fantasy range and stuck three of them on a base to represent at least some of Ægir and Rán's offspring. These are actually rather towering models (between 20 and 25mm tall) and very intimidating next to the 1/450 ships.

In the game, the Daughters of Ægir function as a single submersible creature with the Hydromancy magical ability allowing them to manipulate currents and conduct a powerful wave attack.

To finish off with, here is a happy family snap showing 400 points worth of creatures of the deep: Triton, a sea monster, the Daughters of Ægir and the Sirens. Regular pick-up games of Galleys & Galleons commonly only call for 200 points worth of models, but I'm looking forward to using these all together soon.

Pirates get the better of it mostly - three G&G AARs

Two nice Galleys & Galleons after action reports have gone online this week which both go to show that maritime crime really does pay.

Doctor Phalanx has posted a nice report of a game where a merchant fleet tried to avoid a pack of pirate junks and make it to the safety of port. Check it out HERE.

Meanwhile the Hong Kong Society of Wargamers have posted a truly epic account of a huge fleet action which saw combined English and Dutch fleets take on Barbary pirates with a cameo from the Black Pearl! Head over to the society's page HERE to have a look. 

And a third one that I forgot to link to during October, Frank Shandy over at the Raft has been testing his American Civil War modifications for G&G featuring ironclads. Go see, go see.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Playtesting gets underway

Galleys & Galleons: Foul Winds playtesting. Despite some fairly ineffective bombing runs, Spanish flyers finally start a fire on the Dutch cromster Haarlem. The following turn saw the fire spread to the magazine causing the armed merchant to explode.